explain what sir

Children Don’t Do The Things I Do

Originally posted by jamiebarnes

Pairing: Bucky x younger Reader

Warnings: SMUT GOOD LORD, lil bit of sir!kink, spanking, hair pulling, swearing, orgasm denial, reader dresses like a little girl (idk what that’s called lmao)

Summary: Reader is much younger than Bucky. The youngest Avenger at that. They come home from grocery shooping just to overhear Bucky, Tony, Clint, and Steve talking about her and her childishness.

Word Count: 1,994

 

A/N: Reader is 18+ and i literally know nothing about anything hahahah

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theformallynamedblog  asked:

I am not the person who asked for deaf Taehyung but i was wondering if you could make a little drabble where u 2 meet and u know a little sign language but once Taehyung starts rapid fire signing ur like lmao boy pls I'm not that good. N while u r trying to sign Taehyung just thinks it's really cute how hard you are trying n refusing to let his friend/interpreter Jimin help you

It’s a pleasant and warm afternoon on a Saturday with one of the things on your list to take a time out by a cafe. However, the walk there was a little… something out of the ordinary than you were used to.

You see a guy struggling to get his message across with his hands, a raging man opposite him raising his voice every possible second and scaring any passersby. When you pause for a moment to see that it’s sign language, of which you understand a part of, you’re making your way over to hopefully resolve the problem.

He’s lost out of his mind, only struggling so much to sign anything he could possibly think of that you’re able to pick up the sentence of I didn’t steal!

Your reflexes are quick to come in between the pair of them and it confuses them to keep quiet (on the other side, at least). Hands coming up to offer as a way to show you mean no harm, you vocalize it to a man that’s about to turn red (borderline purple), “Sir, I think he’s either deaf or a mute and he’s using sign language to talk to you,”

Even though he’s pissed, he’s levelheaded to ask: “W-What is he saying, then?”

Mustering up any bit of memory you have with sign language, you manage to ask him what happen?

I saw his wallet drop. I tried to return it to him but then he shout at me. Called me a liar, thief.

With an inkling of what he meant, you face the man and explain what you understand: “Sir, he saw your wallet fall and he was only trying to return it to you. He wasn’t stealing from you,”

“…oh,” You only offer him an awkward smile, reaching out to pat his shoulder as he rubs the back of his neck, “Could you help me say I’m sorry?”

“Sure,”

Digging in the parts of your mind for what the heck sorry signs as, you remember it after a couple of seconds to sign to him: he said sorry.

It’s ok.

“He said it’s fine,”

“Thank you, by the way,”

“It’s nothing,”

Said guy greets you a nice day and heads on his way, making sure to wave goodbye to someone he almost ran down with his words and voice earlier. Luckily, he has some sense in him to realize he’s in the wrong and - “Yes?”

You can barely catch up with what he’s trying to say, hands moving in a speed where in the beginning you decipher a thank you but soon after it’s an act of not knowing a single thing he’s saying. There’s hints of gratitude with relief here and there but altogether, you’re a goner if you’re trying to interpret what he says. At least on the bright side… he’s cute?

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand what you just - oh my god,” You finally realize he’s deaf, which is why he can’t hear a single word you’re saying and let’s just say your mind has gone blank to remember what slow down or wait is. Your fingers clamp in front of you, hoping for someone or something to help and apparently help is nearby when - “Hey!”

You look over his shoulder to see someone jogging up to the both of you and upon reaching, it seems like it’s someone this stranger knows when his tensed shoulders sag down.

“What’re you doing?”

His curt tone sends you to step back and it elicits a small wince from the guy who hasn’t stopped signing since he said his thanks. The two of them sign back and forth, communicating before you and it’s not long until - “You helped him?”

“…I guess,”

“He said you understand sign language. Really?”

“I know a bit here and there. Luckily I understood the words he used,”

“Thank you so much, miss…?”

“Y/N,” You offer your hand, with a small smile and he accepts it, “I’m Jimin and this is Taehyung. He’s-”

“Deaf. I think I picked up on it earlier,”

“Ah, so-”Jimin gets interrupted when Taehyung tugs on his shoulder, only to quickly send a message to make him-”Really? You can barely talk to her and you want me to tell her she’s cute?”

You can tell they’re both so close, Taehyung doesn’t even need to see the sign version of what Jimin had just said. Grabbing onto Jimin’s arm to shake it with a frown, Taehyung’s version to say please?

Jimin only rolls his eyes, turning to you, “He thinks you’re cute,”

“I heard it the first time,”

“Hey, um, this might be a little sudden but I think Mr. Cassanova over here wants to get to know you so is it okay if we have coffee?”

You look at Taehyung look at Jimin and when you make eye contact, it’s endearing how he wants to look at you but shies away by hanging his head low to the ground. Chuckling, you nod, “Sure I mean, I was already planning to have some so why not?”

From there, Jimin signs something to Taehyung that lifts the corners of Taehyung’s mouth into a grin, automatically doing the same to yours and Jimin at the sight of this domino effect.

((you’re really pretty, y/n.

thank you, taehyung.

you’re welcome.

“this is going to be one hell of a love story.”))

Mr. Barnes Will See You Now (10)

Prompt: 50 Shades of Barnes. VERY LOOSELY BASED!!!

Note: I do not own any of the characters or story line.

A/N: I am so sorry this took so long! I am the worst person ever apparently! I will be getting to the asks that have been sitting in my box forever too! Been off a hella long time! This is fairly long to make up for it I hope?

Word Count: 1580

( Part 1 ) ( Part 2 ) ( Part 3 ) ( Part 4 ) ( Part 5 ) ( Part 6 ) ( Part 7 ) ( Part 8 ) ( Part 9 )

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Creepypasta #256: Resort Connection

Thoughts of Thai food from the place around the corner cluttered my concentration as lunchtime crept ever closer. No one makes hotel reservations in December. By now, virtually all rooms were booked and the best rates were a summer memory. Still, there is always a chance for a last minute booking so I waited, at the ready, for anything resembling a call.

Two clear tones signalled an incoming call. I glance at the clock. “Of course, just before I clocked out,” I thought to myself.

Putting on my dressiest phone voice I responded to the call. “Thank you for calling the reservation center, this afternoon. How may I help you?”

“I’m at the front desk of the Towers and they say our reservation has a problem” the woman explained, with a hint of desperation.

Forgetting about the proximity of lunch, I leapt into action. “I’m terribly sorry about the issue. Please tell me your name and the location you booked a stay at.”

“I’m Sandra Henshaw and I’m staying at The Bainbridge Towers and Resort,” She replied.

Unsure of the location, I did a quick search in the computer. “Are you sure that the location you are staying at is one of our hotels? I can’t find it in the system.”

“I dialled the number provided by the desk,” her tone sharpening.

“Where is the hotel located?” I query.

“Montserrat, it’s in the Caribbean.”

I search again, for any hotel in the region, in an attempt to justify my pay. The news is not getting any better. At this point, I can only hope she is merciful.

“We don’t have any hotels in the region, Ms. Henshaw. Because there has obviously been some critical miscommunication please allow me to direct you to customer care where we will attempt to find a solution for your evening lodgings.”

“You can’t be serious. I booked this over th—

I grasped at my headsets as a powerful rumbling ricocheted in my eardrums. Whatever had caused that noise disrupted the line leaving only a low steady dial tone. I quickly checked my hearing, narrowly donning my gear in time to address the next call.

"Thank you for calling the reservation center this afternoon, how may I help you?” My voice is a distant canned vaudeville star as I struggle to focus on the customer’s reply.

“This is clearly unacceptable,” the man’s voice full of intent and authority he continued in detail. “I have stayed at your company’s lodgings for nearly two decades. This is the only time I have ever arrived only to have the clerk inform me that the reservation was not completed properly. I’ve flown a great distance and hopped several islands. Would you please just get me into my room?!”

“Would you be attempting to check into the Bainbridge Towers and Resort, Sir?” I asked, fearing the start of an epic computerized clusterfuck.

“Yes, I am. I saw the commercial for the opening during last year’s finale of Friends and decided to book on a whim. My family was overdue for a summer getaway,” he continued - clearly frustrated at having to explain himself.

“Um sir, what time of the year did you say it was?” I asked as my brain started to nit-pick what he told me.

“Today is July 18th and instead of relaxing poolside with my kids we are currently standing in the lobby of a hotel in a foreign country with no place to stay. You need to fix this,” he said with a slowly raising voice.

“Well, according to my computer I-”

“I don’t care what your computer says - be creative and think of som-” the abrupt end of his voice was followed by another thunderous rolling roar through me headset. My fingers vibrated as I used them to shield my ears, reacting quick enough this time to avoid the same inner ear ringing as last time.

On a second hearing, I detect anguished screams from a panicked crowd. It’s muffled but I can hear dozens of voices cry out for assistance. Someone in the distance is providing reassurance and then silence engulfs the line.

Barely able to process, I take the next call on instinct. It’s only half-way through the customer’s complaint I regain focus at the sound of the phrase “Bainbridge Towers and Resort.”

“Miss ….”

“Geraldine.”

“Miss Geraldine, is there any type of disaster occurring in the lobby? Anything that sounds like hell’s bowels exploding in surround sound,” I ask, knowing full well how the request for information sounds to a rational person.

“No, and is this some kind of joke?”

“Believe me, Miss Geraldine. I wish I could say I was kidding. All I know is that I have been receiving calls from several guests at the hotel where you are staying. No one’s booking is right and I keep getting disconnected due to something that almost sounds like an explosion in the background. But if everything is fine, then it must be an equip—-”

This time I hear the screams a few seconds before the rumbling engulfs the speaker. Shock, terror, and pleas for salvation fill the line as I listen helplessly.

My numbness is only interrupted by another voice at the end of the line as a call starts anew.

“Hello? Hello? Is anyone on this line? I’m stuck at my resort due to a booking error. Is there anything that -”

I interrupt the elderly gentleman on the other end of the line. “Get out of Bainbridge Towers, now. You need to seek shelter immediately. Some sort of disaster is about to occur.”

“Where can I go? I have no room anywhere? That’s why I’m calling you. Some grand opening you have here. Nothing but dozens of people unable to check-in, littering the lobby on whatever phones they can find,” he said.

“No, you don’t understand. I need you to flee the hotel at once for your own safety. Something is going to happen to everyone. Tell everyone to leave, now,” I pleaded.

“Now see here, I’m 82. Just how far do you think I want to be —”

Again, the line cuts out in tormented confusion. Again, I can’t help anyone. Again, I listen to the death cries to those around the caller. Again, I pick up the phone.

“Are you in Bainbridge towers?”

“Not according to the reservation desk,” replies a confused younger gentleman.

“Get out of there, now. Get everyone to flee for their lives before whatever is coming hits the hotel,” in desperation my voice is demanding the attention of the caller. Only afterwards do I realize this breach in etiquette.

“I don’t care who you think you are, but I booked a suite under the Honeymoon package and I will not tolerate this occasion being marred by your rudeness. I need you to -”

I hang up the phone and set the computer to stop receiving calls. I close my eyes and wonder how long the gentleman stood livid at my insubordination before being engulfed by his fiery fate. Maybe his bride was arriving later and she is still okay. Maybe, I’m just stressed and need a break.

I clock out slightly early for lunch and immediately regret my actions as my boss walks by.

“I’ve been meaning to speak with you today.”

My veins freeze, hoping that no one has been monitoring my last batch of calls.

“You are the new hire, aren’t you” she said. “I forgot to warn you about one of our yearly … instances,” she said apologetically. “The 13th of December is always heavy on calls from Bainbridge Towers. Eventually you learn to just place them on hold and tell them someone is on the way to assist them.

"Wait,” trying to balancing relief, fear and annoyance I asked, “So, this was all just a hazing? Did everyone get a good laugh at my expense?”

“You misunderstand,” she said. “Dec 13th is always when we get the calls from July 18th, 1995. That was when our hotel on Monserrat was lost due to an explosion from a volcano previously believed to be dormant. There is nothing we can do to help them, other than pretend we are directing them to customer service.”

Not sure I really believed her explanation, I sat stunned.

“Oh, and you don’t have any friends or family in any place called Nevada, do you? And you aren’t planning on being in that area around October 2023 or 2024. Those connections aren’t as good, so the details are a bit fuzzier,” she said matter-of-factly.

“Why, what happens then?” I asked, allowing my curiosity to take the bait.

“Work on February 23rd to find out, or don’t. I strongly recommend don’t.” She said, without looking back as she returned to her office.

As I head out for Thai food, I make a mental note to use whatever vacation time I have on Feb. 23rd.

Credits to: danatblair

oh my god my english professor was talking about interpretations and opinions of literature, and he was trying to make a comparison, but…. “they’re like assholes, ok, everyone has one”

the squire (3/3)

[part one] [part two] [ao3]
wordcount: 11k (33k total)
notes: this is it! the final chapter! please let me know what you thought, i’m always a slut for feedback. And the story won’t stop here, there’s a sequel already being planned so stay tuned for the continuation of this world. 

He heard footsteps on the other side of the door.

Groggy, dragging footsteps. A grunt at the sound of his knock and then the footsteps. If Wells’ room was laid out anything like Clarke’s was then he could practically picture the table he heard Wells knocking into before hearing his soft curse, muffled both by the thick wooden door between them and the hiss of breath Wells let out as he swore.

Impatient, Bellamy knocked on the door again, his fist pounding painfully into the wood.

“A moment, please,” he heard Wells grumble angrily as he padded his way across his chambers, over to the door.

He’d clearly been sleeping, if the red mark left from the pillow on his cheek was anything to go by. Not that Bellamy had expected anything else. The ball had ended hours ago, everyone in the castle had been in bed, and they’d all thought Clarke had gone to bed hours ago, too.

Wells pulled the door open, staring at him blankly, waiting for him to speak. Bellamy worried his lip, wondering exactly how to explain what he was doing.

“Sir Bellamy,” Wells sighed. “I’m sure whatever it is, it’s very important, but next time if I could request that you wait until the sun has at least risen? I’d appreciate it–”

“It’s Clarke,” he said. Wells eyes blew wide and for one stupid, simple moment he thought it was because he’d used her name, like they were friends, like they were equals. He hurried to correct himself. “It’s the princess,” he tried again, but Wells was already stepping aside, reaching out to grip onto his arm and drag him into his room, glancing down the corridor before he pulled the door closed behind them

“What’s happened?” Wells studied him for a moment, watched the way his hands wrung together in front of him, pulling at the skin at his knuckles, the way his feet weren’t quite still, the way he wouldn’t quite meet his eye, the way he chewed on the inside of his cheek. Bellamy felt small under his gaze, but he didn’t know where else to go.

“She’s run off, hasn’t she?” Wells broke the steady silence between them. He shook his head. “She does that.”

His voice was sad, like he’d spent too many nights pacing his bedroom waiting for her to come knocking on the door, letting him know she was alright, she was back, she’d blown off all the anger in her and she was okay now. Like he’d gotten used to her running instead of talking.

“But you know that, I think.”

Bellamy’s head snapped up, his eyes meeting Wells’.

Wells rolled his eyes. “You were the knight.” He huffed out a laugh, chuckling at a joke Bellamy didn’t quite get. “The one Clarke was sneaking out to meet, the one who was teaching her to use a sword.”

Bellamy didn’t say anything. He didn’t think anybody knew about that. Didn’t think Clarke would tell anybody. Didn’t think she’d admit to it, that she dressed up like a kitchen servant and had a lowly, second rate knight teach her how to defend herself in the dead of night. He’d thought that had been something she’d kept hidden, tucked away, a secret she didn’t want let out.

“Look,” he said. “I–”

“She wouldn’t have stopped either way, it’s good you were there.” Bellamy watched as Wells’ lips twisted up at one smile, trying to shove down his smile. He didn’t even want to think about what could possibly be going on his Wells’ head. He didn’t even really want to think about what was going on in his own head. It would be too much, too much for the moment, it would distract him and confuse him and he could already feel a nervous warmth itching up his neck, so he pushed it side and stopped Wells before he could carry on any further.

“I can’t find her. We were in the armory, we were sparring during the banquet, and we–we got in a fight and she got mad and ran away.” He dropped his eyes down. “I haven’t seen her since.”

Wells was already pulling his boots on, grabbing his sword from the table in the middle of his room–Bellamy was right, it was set up just like Clarke’s but in reverse–strapping it into his belt.

Bellamy felt a small weight lift from his back as Wells clapped him on the back, motioning for Bellamy to follow him.

“She’s probably fine,” he said. Bellamy nodded. She was probably fine. Clarke could take care of herself.

He pushed back the thought of the burgeoning unrest he knew about in the lower towns and the storm she ran out into, or the fact that she wasn’t disguised like she normally was when she left her rooms at night, but in a big, beautiful gown, soaked down, an easy target, a clear outside.

She was probably fine.

***

Things change.

Her dress was covered in mud, six inches deep from the hem at least, and splattered all up the rest of it, splashing up onto her bodice as she ran quickly, her world blurred by the rain and her fuzzy eyes, not able to focus on anything. She felt her breath wracking in her chest, pushing her lungs up against her ribs painfully with each ragged step she fell forward, moving, moving, moving, further from the castle, from Bellamy, from everything she was supposed to be there, everything she wanted to be but couldn’t, just away from it all.

Things change.

The words were ringing in her ears, reminding her with each step how stupid she was, how foolish. How that was all she would ever be.

Things change.

She didn’t know where she was going. She knew a few people in the lower towns, but none who would take her in without Harper, and Harper wasn’t likely to help her out without Monty. She remembered the look in Harper’s eye when she found out who Clarke really was, the hesitation, the fear, the flicker of nervousness while she decided to trust her or not. Monty made her human to them, made her worth listening to, without him she was a princess out of place, unwelcome in the towns, uneasy on her own.

She thought of the border towns, where she’d gone on her last few runs with Finn. Streets, narrow and winding, right by the edge of the forest.

She was there before she’d even realized what her feet were doing.

The rain was still pounding down, hard and thick, swollen drops smacking into her skin, drowning out her senses, but she closed her eyes, steadying her breath.

In. And out.

Things change.

In. And out. In. And out.

She felt the air fill her lungs slowly, expanding against her ribs, lifting her chest, and then seeping out slowly between her lips.

There was a crack behind her, a foot snapping a branch and she froze, breath caught halfway in her throat.

“Well,” a gruff voice said. “What do we have here?”

She felt a long, spindly hand reach out and grab her arm, pulling her in roughly, a thin, bony body pressing into her back, keeping her in place. She pushed back against the arm barring her in, but it just gripped her tighter, a laugh bubbling out of her captor.

“Careful there, princess,” a husky voice said, dripping into her ear, warm and sticky, heating her whole body in a way that made her want to slip out of her own skin. “Don’t do anything reckless.”

Clarke made her body go limp. If she didn’t struggle they might think she was giving up.

She twisted her neck around to look at the person holding her into place. It was a lean face, full of dirt and grime, with scars running up both cheeks of the woman holding her in. When she noticed Clarke turning toward her, she gave her a slow, sickly smile.

“That’s it, princess,” she said. “No point in doing something stupid, right?”

Clarke felt a growl growing in her chest, but she bit her cheek, pressing it back. She tried to remember what Bellamy taught her all those nights ago, about what to do when you’re stuck or captured. How to get yourself out of it, or at least gave yourself enough room to have a head start.

But she couldn’t remember any of it. All she could feel was the press of a blade into the fabric at her back, a warning or a reminder of what was happening, she wasn’t sure, but it was enough to cover her throat in a thin layer of bile.

She swallowed a breath. She couldn’t do nothing. No matter what happened, she wasn’t going to sit by and let herself be captured or killed without fighting back. She felt her chest tightened as she decided what to do, lifting a foot slowly off the ground to kick back into her captor but before she even got the chance she heard another snap of a twig, and then a thud, and the woman whose arm was wrapped around her was falling to the ground.

Clarke scrambled up, prying herself out of the the loose grip of the woman, now lying unconscious on the ground, and shuffled back, her hands in front of her, staring at a girl, a young girl, probably just a few years younger than herself, standing with a thick tree branch gripped between her fist, looking down at the unconscious woman with a scowl.

Her head was spinning.

“What–” she started but the girl shook her head, tossing the branch aside.

“We don’t have time for that,” she said, already walking past her. When Clarke didn’t immediately follow her she called over her shoulder. “Come on. You need something less ridiculous to wear if you’re going to be wandering around down here.”

Clarke watched her for a moment longer, listening to her heavy footsteps crack against the branches under her, waiting for her heart to stop beating triple time in her chest, but when it wouldn’t slow, she gathered her tarnished and tattered skirts up in her hands, chasing after the girl with the dark hair.

***

Her name was Octavia.

She told her that when she shoved a cup of mead into her hands, pouring one for herself and plopping down into the chair across from her.

“I’m Octavia,” she said. “Here. Drink up, it’ll warm you up.”

She’d given Clarke clothes to change into, turning toward the small fire on the other side of the room to give Clarke some privacy as she’d changed. Clarke had shrugged out of her dress, peeling it away from her skin where it suck from the rain and the mid caking it onto her. She’d looked around the room, a bed in one corner, a table in another, a fire on the wall between them, and felt immediately guilty for taking from the girl.

“You don’t have to–” she’d started, but Octavia gave her a cold stare that looked eerily familiar, so she’d shut her mouth and taken the clothes from her.

“Having the princess in any home is a risk in these parts,” she said. “This is just as much for me as it is for you.”

Clarke stilled at that. Octavia wasn’t wrong, she knew most of the townspeople weren’t fond of the royals anyway, but there were groups she knew–from her runs with Monty and Harper and Finn–that hated them, wanted them out of power, wanted them dead. Hearing it from Octavia’s lips made a cold chill run up her spine and she wondered if she was really safe with her hear, on the border streets, far far away from anyone who knew her.

“And what side of that line do you fall on then?” Clarke asked, careful to keep her voice steady.

She heard a scoff behind her.

“Don’t worry princess, my brother works in the castle,” she said. “Whatever side he’s fighting on, I’m with.”

“Your brother works in the castle?”

She pulled the thin shirt over her head. It was tight around her chest, Octavia’s frame was much smaller than hers, and the sleeves clung a little too close to her skin. But it was better than the gown.

Octavia was studying her carefully, a curious look in her eyes, deciding whether or not she wanted to tell Clarke what she was thinking. Eventually she sighed, shrugging as she took a sip of her own drink before speaking.

“He’s a knight.”

She said it like a challenge, like she was daring Clarke to laugh or call her a liar, or something, but she didn’t. She just sat back and asked.

“A knight?”

“Yes,” Octavia growled. “I know you royals think that only noblemen should be knights but he’s the best one they’ve got.”

“I don’t–”Clarke started but she let her words die off. Octavia was right, only noblemen were allowed to be knights. That’s the way it had always been. She’d never even thought to question it. It made more sense for the nobles with land and tenants and power to be the ones to fight for the kingdom instead of asking the people who were just scraping by. But she’d never thought about if a commoner wanted to be a knight.

“He’s the only one in the guard who cares about people who aren’t the royals. The rest of them don’t trouble themselves with thinking about who lives and dies,” she spat.

Clarke felt a flare of anger rise up in her chest, for people like Wells and Lincoln, for people like Bellamy, for the good people in the castle guard she knew, who helped her when she lost her father, or sparred with kids in the towns. She opened her mouth to argue, but Octavia carried on.

“He was teaching a girl to fight,” she said, a sliver of a proud smile working its way onto her face. “Like he taught me. Just a kitchen servant too, nobody special.”

Clarke felt her heart slow in her chest, each beat pounding into her ribs, like the air around her, like time itself was slowing down. It couldn’t be. She wasn’t understanding. But a small lump formed in her throat waiting for Octavia to prove her wrong.

“Might not seem so special to you, learning to fight,” Octavia said, standing to tend to the fire. “But not everybody’s born with a golden guard around them.”

Her words were dipped in bitterness, hard for Clarke to swallow. But she was right. She was lucky to have been born where she was, born to be who was, to have what she has. She was lucky to have knights surrounding her in case something went wrong, and to have someone there to teach her when she asked.

But none of that meant she didn’t care that her people didn’t have all that.

“What was her name,” the words slipped out of Clarke’s mouth before she could stop them. “The kitchen servant?”

Octavia turned to her, an eyebrow raised but a blank expression masking her face.

“Why?” she asked. “Gonna have them thrown in the stocks?”

“When was the last time you heard about anyone being thrown in the stocks?” Clarke bristled. “Just tell me the damn name, I want to…help her. If I can.”

Octavia didn’t look like she believed her. She nibbled on her bottom lip poking at the fire, like she was trying to figure out what game Clarke could possibly be playing, and what trap she might be falling into if she told Clarke the name. But eventually…

“Griff,” Octavia said. “The girl’s name was Griff.”

Clarke felt woozy. Like the air was too warm and too sticky and too tight. Pressing in on her and pushing her, making her sway from side to side.

“God, you look like shit,” Octavia said walking back toward her, picking the cup up from the table in front of Clarke and setting it aside. “I think that’s probably enough mead for now.”

“How?” The word felt like it was ripped from Clarke’s throat, desperate and anxious. She needed to know now.

“How what?”

Clarke cleared her throat, steadying her breath, giving herself a moment to cool and collect herself. To make it seem like curiosity instead of a burning wonder.

“How did your brother become a knight?” she asked. “Only nobles become knights.”

Octavia rolled her eyes. “He lied, princess.” Unnerving, to hear that title sound so similar from a different set of lips. “Shocking, I know. There’s more scandal in the court than you think.”

He lied.

She didn’t know what to do with that. It was too much. After weeks of being punished and pushed away and berated, feeling small and stupid and guilty for lying to him, she finds out he was doing the exact same thing to her. Since they met, since she said her name was Griff and he sauntered across that field, telling her how to stand and how to swing and how to duck, he was lying, lying to her about everything.

And weeks after her own truth was out there, her own lie festering out in the open for everyone to see, he didn’t bother to tell her any of it.

He had a sister, living out in a hut in the lower towns, where he grew up.

It was too much and she couldn’t deal with it all. All she wanted was for the room to stop spinning and the aching bruise on her arm to go away. She wanted to go home.

Slowly, she stood up, pushing the chair back from the table.

“Thank you,” she said, her own voice sounding strange in her ears. “For helping me and for giving me the clothes.” She didn’t even feel herself speaking, she didn’t know what she was saying, she just wanted to get out of there. “You can come to the castle anytime. You’ve got a place there–if you want it. But I have to go home now.”

She was nearly out the door when she heard footsteps behind her. Octavia was pulling a cloak on over her shoulders, shrugging at Clarke’s confused look.

“My brother’s in charge of your safety,” she said softly. “If something happens to you on the way back, he’s going to get punished for it. I know these streets better than you, I can get you home quicker.”

Clarke nodded, swallowing, and then followed Octavia back out into the streets, wondering when exactly her life got so confusing.

***

The streets were never quiet at night. He remembered that much.

It had been a long time since he’d gone down at night. One day out of the week another knight came to watch Clarke, and Bellamy got a day off. And he would loop through the old, dank streets, back to the hut that was too small and too dingy for Octavia. But she wouldn’t leave.

He barely got her to take food and money from him as it was. He couldn’t get her to move out of the hole they’d called home for so long.

But he hadn’t walked the streets at night in a long time. Not since he started living in the castle.

And all the noise rang familiar in his ears. The humming and the shuffling, the buzz of people moving and talking and living that was hard to hear unless you knew it. Suddenly he felt like he was ten years old, sneaking around with his friends at night, nicking food from shops and carts while everyone else went to sleep.

“Bellamy,” Wells pulled him out of his head. He waved him over with a finger to his mouth. “Over here.”

Bellamy shuffled over to him, crouching behind the empty cart Wells was squatting in front of. He heard it too, heavier footsteps, someone not quite used to sneaking around the lower streets at night, walking with a heavy gait, not knowing how easy it made it to spot them.

Clarke came out of the shadows, dressed in clothes that weren’t her own, clothes he knew. They were a little too tight on Clarke, restrictive right in the shoulders, made for a slightly narrower frame but stretched from years of wear making the fabric thin. He knew that shirt.

He jumped up, walking over to Clarke quickly, grabbing her elbow.

“Clarke–” but she wrenched her arm away from his hand right as he felt a blade to his back. Clarke opened her mouth to say something, to yell or protest or something, but he just rolled his eyes.

“Very funny, O.” He turned around, facing his sister. “Put down the blade before you actually hurt somebody.”

She sheathed the dagger, smirking at him. He heard Wells come up behind them, mumbling something to Clarke, confused about who this was and where she went and what the hell was she wearing, but he was pulling his sister into a hug and he didn’t care about any of it.

Not at the moment.

“You saw me like four days ago,” Octavia teased him.

He flicked her nose. “Things aren’t good O,” he said. “Especially around here. Forgive me for being worried.”

In truth, he missed her. Everyday, he missed his sister. He’d wake up somedays, forgetting where he was and how he got there, thinking he was still down in the lower towns cramped in a corner next to O, feeling his stomach growl, waking up to figure out where they were going to steal food from that day.

And then he’d remember where he was and how Octavia was still down there all alone, not as hungry, but alone, and he’d hate himself a little bit for not being able to get her to go with him.

Octavia just rolled her eyes at him.

“Come on,” she said. “Let’s get the princess home so you don’t get sacked. I don’t want to have to start stealing from Old Man Pike again.”

He turned back around to Clarke, but she wouldn’t look at him.

“Clarke–” he started again, but she cut him off.

“It’s Princess Clarke,” she snapped. “Remember? Gotta be honest about who we are, right?”

He stepped back, startled by the sudden anger boiling under her words. She wouldn’t even look him in the eye. A far cry from the girl who stood in front of him asking him why they couldn’t go back to how it was.

When she did raise her eyes they were hard and cold, daring him to say something, to challenge her, to play this game, to spar with her until one of them gave up and that’s how they decided who won all of games, the simple moves and countermoves, taking points away with each blow that knocked the other down.

Maybe a few weeks earlier he would have done that. Maybe he would have let her anger wash over him, let her yell at him and prod him and scold him until her face turned blue, but too much had happened for her to pretend like just because she thought she knew something, she had the upper hand now.

“Let’s go,” he growled. “Princess.”

He took her arm, walking forward, waiting for Wells to follow his lead, make sure she didn’t run away again while Clarke huffed between them. He ignored Octavia’s confused glance, staring straight ahead down all the winding, narrow rows, weaving between shops and homes, the quickest route back to the castle that he knew, so he could bring Clarke back to her room and be done with the whole night.

Suddenly, Clarke stopped.

Bellamy grunted, turning to face her.

“We don’t have time for detours, princess,” he said, feeling his patience wear thin. “Let’s go.”

But Clarke didn’t move.

She was frowning, a crease between her brows as she stared off past him at something behind his shoulder. He twisted, following her gaze over past the buildings and the carts, to where two figures stood off in a dark alley, just barely visible in the shadows.

One was big, wide and tall, dressed furs and covered in dirt, the markings of the clans. He towered over the other, a hood over his head to hide his face. The other man was small, thin with floppy hair. He knew his face, he’d seen him before but he couldn’t place where.

“What…” Clarke murmured as the larger man slipped a small vial into the others hand, and then it clicked. He’d been the man in her room, the one she wouldn’t tell him about. Bellamy wrapped his hand around her elbow, pulling her forward with him.

“We really don’t have time for this,” he grumbled.

“Who’s that?” Octavia asked from behind him.

He kept moving, making sure Clarke was steady beside him. He felt her twist in his arm, looking back toward the alley. He felt a knot tighten in his stomach and he couldn’t explain it. He didn’t know why it mattered to him whether Clarke cared about the man or not. Whether he got to know who Clarke really was from the beginning, or if she lied to him too. How often he snuck through the window and slipped out again before Bellamy saw him. Why she wanted to stop and talk to him so desperately.

“He’s nobody,” Bellamy growled. “Keep moving.”

***

He followed her into her room when they got back into the castle, like he thought she was going to run away again. Like he could stop her if she wanted to. Like he had any right to tell her what to do or scold her for anything, after he’d done nothing but lie. Lie and lie, time and again.

Lie and hate her. Hate her for lying. Maybe for reminding himself what he was. Hard to forget about all the lies and the secrets spinning around in your own head when you suddenly got a hold of somebody else’s.

He closed the door softly behind him, leaning against it for a moment, watching her.

“What you did tonight,” he started, his voice low, staring at the ground. “Was reckless. It put you in danger, and it won’t happen again.”

She scoffed, kicking off the boots Octavia had given her. Pushing her heel against them she slid them across the floor over to him.

“You can give those back to your sister.”

She watched him suck in a breath, pulling his bottom lip in between his teeth.

“Clarke–”

She shook her head. She couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe he thought he could stand there and try to explain himself when just a few weeks ago, when the situation was reversed, he wouldn’t let her get a word out. It all felt fake, like she was living in some weird dream.

“Don’t,” she snapped. “For weeks you’ve been stomping around behind me, an angry shadow, skulking behind me, watching me, judging me, refusing to let me speak for more than a minute at a time, saying you’re mad at me for lying, for pretending for a few nights a week to be somebody I wasn’t, all the while you’d been lying to me the entire fucking time like it wasn’t the same damn thing–”

“The same thing?” Bellamy scoffed. “You think it’s the same thing?”

His face was getting red, his eyes dark and hard as he pushed himself off of the door, taking slow steps toward her. She could almost hear the anger growing, rumbling inside his chest as he moved closer, daring her to stop him. She wanted to stoke his anger, make it flare, make him feel how she felt.

“Pretend all you want, Sir Bellamy,” she spat. “You’re nothing but a lying street rat who wasn’t sly enough not to get caught.”

He stepped back like he’d been slapped. She wanted to smile, to stand taller because she’d finally won a round, but she felt smaller. Felt sick. Like she’d tripped face first into a freezing puddle of muddy rain water and was slipping, trying to stand straight but she couldn’t.

“What about only a fool tells his secrets to someone he barely knows?”

His voice was small. She glanced down and watched his hands grip each other, clenched in front of him. His head was ducked, staring at the boots she’s kicked in front of him. She felt a strange itch in the tips of her own fingers, an urge to reach out and smooth away the tension coiled there.

Instead she stepped back, nodding to herself.

“It’s a good thing I didn’t tell all my secrets then,” she said. “I didn’t know you at all.”

***

He felt the silence push off of her in waves.

When she opened the door in the morning, stalking out to meet her mother in the throne room, brushing past him with a space between them that felt heavy, he felt it. Blocking him from getting closer than three steps behind her. When she rushed through the castle’s corridors to visit Monty in the physician’s quarters, like a wall outside that door keeping him from stepping through. When she went out on the grounds to train with Lincoln he was trapped over on the side, each swing of her sword, each grunt, each step she took toward Lincoln, dancing around with him on the field, reminded him of where he was supposed to be, away from her, behind the wall she’d pushed back up between them.

He watched her train, startled by how calm she looked, how easy the sword moved with her, so different than he’d seen just the night before, clashing against his own, her face scrunched up in anger and fear, all of it smoothed away as she sparred with Lincoln.

He felt the stone in his stomach grow heavier.

She wiped her arm across her forehead, swatting at the little beads of sweat threatening to slip down her brow into her eyes. She was smiling. Talking with Lincoln, splashing water from the bucket on her face, she smiled at him, lifting her sword back up.

Her gaze flickered over to him for just a moment, barely even a second, but long enough for the smile to drop off, just as she met his eye.

***

He was three steps behind her, just like he’d been all day. Following her from no closer, like he was afraid what would happen if he did.

She’d spent all day not talking to him, trying not to talk to him, trying not to even look at him if she could help it because if she did all she would think about were questions she wasn’t even sure she wanted answers to.

Why did he lie? Why did he never tell me? Why did he never tell Griff? Was he ever going to tell me? Or was he too mad about one mistake I made to ever let me that close again?

Spinning around and around in her head the questions made her dizzy. So she didn’t think about them. She pushed them away, and he was shoved with them, distant and blocked away from her, for whatever small distance she could manage.

It had been working too.

Until she was on her way back to her chambers to change out of her training clothes and into something to meet her mother in, when she felt a hand wrap carefully around her elbow and pull her aside before she could make sense of what was happening.

It was the room from before, she realized. The one he’d hidden her in when there was the attack on the lower towns the night before he’d been stationed as her guard.

It was smaller than she remembered. More of a closet than a room, with just enough space for the two of them to squeeze into, a few inches of empty air between them.

Bellamy pulled the door shut behind them, the soft click of it latching the only thing she could hear besides her own breathing, heavy and labored, still not back to normal from her practice.

“What do you think–”

“Princess,” he said, but it wasn’t like the night before. There was no bite to it. No venom behind it. It was pleading and soft and just open enough for her to bite down on her own lip and let him finish. “Please.”

She sighed, grumbling as she leaned back into the wall, her arms crossing over her chest.

“Only if you stop calling me that,” she said.

A flicker of a smile played at the corner of his lips, but it was gone before she could let it sink in.

He relaxed a bit though, some of the tightness in his shoulders easing as he leaned toward her to speak, low as if he was afraid someone else would hear them, locked away in the closet.

“No one can find out,” he began, slowly. His voice was tentative and fragile, too proud to beg, but desperate enough to ask. “I don’t know what Octavia told you, about what I did, and how I got here, but you have to keep it a secret. Please.”

It wasn’t quite what she thought he was going to say. Foolishly she’d thought that maybe, just maybe, he’d pulled her aside to ask her to forgive him, to tell her that he was wrong to react how he did when he found out her secret, that he was only putting on a show because his ego was wounded. That now that they were back on level ground, he could look past it, be her friend again if she’d let him.

But he just wanted to make sure his own secret was safe. She shook her head at herself for being so naive.

“Fine, Sir Bellamy,” she said, and he frowned. “I promise I won’t tell anyone. Now please move, these clothes are soaked through and I’d like to be able to change before–”

“Clarke,” he interrupted. He brought his eyes back to hers then, wide, and sadder than she remembered. He took a step forward, filling the small gap of broken air between them. He looked like he was about to argue, to block her in and work her up, like all those nights ago, goading her until she snapped. But then he sighed, letting his head drop before speaking again.

“I would have told you, you know. Back before I knew who you were.”

“Oh,” she said. It was good, she thought, that there was some version of herself out there that he trusted. She wished it was the one he knew now, but it was good. That’s what she told herself. “Okay, well.” She swallowed unsure how to go on.

“I know you’re angry,” he continued. “And I know you think it’s the same, but it’s not.”

“It is,” Clarke growled.

“It’s not!”

His voice cried out, angry, but a desperate sort of angry. His brows were creased, his entire face folded in on itself, trying to hide what he was feeling, but his breath was heavy and labored and his eyes were boring into hers with too much intensity for a person who claimed not to care.

“It’s…it’s not the same, Clarke,” he said. “Don’t you see that? Can’t you understand that?”

He shook his head. His hand reached out to the hem of her practice shirt, catching it between his thumb and his forefinger, rubbing the pads of his thumb across the worn, thin fabric. It was thinner and more plain than the clothes she usually wore, and it was soaked through, almost to the hem, with her sweat from training. She thought for a moment that it wasn’t too different than the clothes Octavia had shoved in her hands the night before, or the ones Wells had given her to sneak out in, when she slipped into the armory, pretending to be a lowly kitchen servant named Griff.

She caught his eyes boring into the thin fabric of the shirt, his fingers still running back and forth along the hem, and she wondered if that’s what he was thinking. That she could be Griff now, a servant girl trapped in this closet with him. Not a princess, not a task, just a kitchen maid only inches from him, already close enough to count the freckles on his nose.

Suddenly it felt much too warm in the closet beside him.

He started again.

“When you lied,” his voice rumbled lowly from his chest. “You made yourself someone lower than you are. You pretended to be my equal.”

I am, she wanted to say, but she couldn’t. She knew that’s not really what she was.

But she wanted it, she so desperately wanted to go back to how she felt those nights out on the practice field, unafraid to say what she wanted or be who she wanted, to be happy with whomever she wanted.

“And now,” he said. “I’m lower than I was before. Not a noble, not a knight, not a merchant, nobody respectable. A street rat.” He spat the word, looking disgusted with himself. “Someone miles below Griff. Someone you can’t even see.”

I can. The words were stuck in her throat, clawing their way up, choking her up. She reached her hand out, just inches in front of her, placing it on the forearm of the arm still stuck fast to the bottom of her shirt.

“Bellamy,” she said. He seemed to startle out of his thoughts when she said his name, yanking his hand away from her and stepping back. “I–”

“Don’t,” he said, flippantly, turning back toward the door. “I didn’t say it for you to pity me. I said it so that you know, what you did? It’s not the same as what I did.”

And suddenly she was alone, the cramped closet feeling entirely too large for just her.

***

She walked a bit slower after that.

Only when he would begin to lag behind, a few steps further away than usual, he noticed, she’d suddenly walk so slow that three of his steps covered one of hers and soon they’d be walking side by side again.

He felt a permanent flush over his face then, her eyes always on him, and he wasn’t sure if the cold burst that fluttered through his stomach every time she brushed past him was from nerves or embarrassment, but he knew it was only his own fault. For pulling her in for trying to make her understand.

The only thing he made clear was that he was even further below her than she thought she knew. And that he achingly, desperately wished it weren’t so.

Which was, looking back on it, ill-advised.

Because she knew, now. She must have figured it out within moments of him latching that door behind him. Just exactly how much things had changed for him.

She caught his eye and smiled over her dinner plate and he felt something very dangerous bloom in his chest.

***

“You seem unusually happy,” Octavia said to him, ripping into the fresh loaf of bread Griff had snuck him from the castle kitchens. She’d wrapped it up in a thick blue cloth, handing it to him the night before, still warm like she’d kept it toasting by a fire until she’d brought it to him.

“It’s not unusual for me to be happy,” he protested nibbling on a small piece, trying not to groan at the taste.

It wasn’t like he didn’t eat. And he wasn’t eating scraps or moldy bread or rotten meats or berries that had just gone bad like he had before he’d worked his way into the guard. But rarely were the knights ever given anything that good. It tasted like Griff had plucked right from the princess’s table, and brought it to him.

“It’s that girl, isn’t it?” Octavia smirked over at him. “That kitchen girl you’ve been training.”

He rolled his eyes. “I’m not training her, I’m teaching her.”

“You’re wooing her is what you’re doing.”

Bellamy nearly choked on his food. He glanced up at Octavia who was staring at him with a knowing look on her face, looking even more smug with every nibble she took out of her half of the bread.

He pictured Griff sitting beside him, along the wall after they’d finished practicing. Tired and sweaty, her cheeks red with heat, a few beads of sweat working their way down and across her forehead, but a wide smile overpowering her face. She looked pleased every time a new blister showed up on her palms, like the pain was nothing, like it was a mark of what she could do, what she could withstand to get there, and he felt a small prickle just behind his ribcage.

He schooled his face into something serious.

“I’m not wooing her,” he insisted.

“A kitchen maid too far below you?”

She was teasing, he knew that. Trying to goad him and joke with him, like they always did. It was different for her ever since he moved into the castle, and he didn’t think she noticed that she did it, but she liked to remind him with little remarks like those, exactly where he came from. Exactly who he was.

“She doesn’t care about things like that,” he snapped.  

“Bell,” she said softly. “You know I didn’t mean it like that.”

He nodded. He knew that. It wasn’t her fault he was overly sensitive about all that. If anything, it was his own fault. Forcing himself into a place he didn’t belong. Always feeling like someone knew his secret, like he’d be thrown back into the streets–or worse–when they found out.

“She’s scared,” he said. Octavia nodded, like he didn’t need to explain to her, but he plowed on anyway. “No one should be left feeling vulnerable like that. If an attack happens on the castle, you think they’re going to send guards down to protect the servants?”

He pictured Griff, down in the kitchens, flour on her face, her awkwardly fitting clothes soaked through with sweat from the ovens, sneaking food to the kids who ran around the castle grounds, the knights who were nice to her, to other servants.

“They aren’t going to station guards in front of the kitchens.”

Octavia nodded again.

“It’s a good thing you’re doing, big brother,” she said, reaching over and patting him on the shoulder. “But you’re thick in the head if you think that I believe for a minute that it’s your honor as a knight that’s taking you down to that practice field five nights out of the week.” He opened his mouth to protest but she cut him off. “Maybe it started out that way, but you have to face it. You want to woo the kitchen girl.”

He felt a nervous flutter in the pit of his stomach, her words ringing around in his head as he pictured Griff reaching out for his hand, rubbing the salve on it to soothe the blisters they got from sparring so long. It was nothing, he told himself.

He was just helping out a friend.

***

The bells were ringing out, startling Bellamy awake from where he was slumped, practically snoring against the outside of Clarke’s door.

He jolted upright, the back of his head slamming painfully into the wood behind him.

He scrambled to regain his balance, to get his bearings back, while there was shouting all around him. He heard footsteps pound into the floors of the stone corridors, running in both directions, voices ringing out from around every corner.

The bells, he reminded himself.

Then he stopped, a cool breath slipping out of him. The bells. They were under attack.

Those same bells were the ones that rang out the night the lower towns were attacked, when he’d found Griff running down to the armory, getting ready to fight in a battle she wasn’t ready for.

His hands felt numb as he fumbled with the door, slipping off the handle in a cool sweat more than once before he managed to pull it open.

“Clarke!” he yelled running in, knowing, deep in the pit of his stomach, exactly what he would find there.

He’d hoped she would prove him wrong, He’d hoped she’d be there, sitting at her table, sketching, or sleeping in her bed. That he’d find her sitting perched on the edge of her mattress, reading.

He felt the cool breeze from the open window wash over him, sending a long shiver up his spine, as his chest tightened, all of the airs pushed out of his constricted lungs.

He slammed his palm against the window.

“Clarke, dammit!” he shouted, though she couldn’t hear him.

He slammed the window shut, wishing only for a moment that he could feel the glass cracking against his hand from the force, and then he tore from the room.

***

She couldn’t see Monty.

There was smoke and flames spitting out at her everywhere she turned. Screams from every side flooded her ears, coming in as waves, drowning out any other sound in the alley. Someone had knocked her down as they ran past her, shoving her onto her knees, her hands scraping against cool stone as she fell, the skin of her palms cracking, little trickles of blood seeping out from the small wounds.

“Monty!” she shouted, scrambling up. She wiped her palms on her trousers wincing at the pain for only a moment before she held her hands out in front of her, feeling her way through the crowd. “Monty!”

She felt bodies knock into her from all sides, going in every direction. They didn’t know what way to run. She didn’t know where the attacks were coming from, or who. All she knew was that one minute she was walking side by side with Monty, dropping supplies off at their last house, when she heard the thunder of footsteps and then the first home went up in flames.

After that everything was a blur.

Monty had been pulled from her side, she’d been shuffled around and spun in every direction, knocked down repeatedly, all the while the panic around her grew and grew.

She felt a hand wrap around her elbow and pull her, spinning her until she faced her left hand side, prying her away from the crowds. She couldn’t quite make out who is was, but her heart sped in her chest at the sight of a mop of brown hair ahead of her, pulling her out behind him.

When she squeezed herself out of the crowd they stopped, Finn turning around and greeting her with a smile.

“Oh,” she said. “Finn.”

“Hey, princess,” he said. She scrunched her nose up at the name. “Let’s get you home, shall we?”

It was eerie, seeing him so calm in the midst of all the chaos. Flashing her a smile and a wink, not shaken at all by what was raging around him. It felt off, it left a sour taste in her mouth, and Clarke wanted nothing more than to rip her arm from his grip.

“Where’s Monty?” she said, straining her neck to look for him. Finn reached for her arm again, trying to shuffle her further away from the chaos.

“He’ll be fine Clarke,” he said, sounding bored. “Harper’s out looking for him too. Come on, you have to get back to the castle.”

“I’m not leaving without Monty!”

More screams filled the air, and she saw it, the fire, spreading wide and long down the street, chasing the feet of those trying to outrun it, and suddenly she didn’t have a choice anymore. She was being pushed along by those running behind her, Finn keeping a tight grip on her, pulling her along when he felt her slow down or resist.

It was pointless. It was either run or be trampled. She couldn’t navigate her own senses, there was too much going on, so she let herself be pushed and pulled along, eyes watering from the smoke, skin bruising from the blows and the bodies that slammed into her.

Yanking her to the side, Finn twisted them down a narrow alley, the same one Octavia had led her down just nights before, and soon they were back within the walls of the castle grounds.

“You have somewhere you can go?” he was asking her, but she felt like she was underwater. She was coughing from all the smoke in her lungs, and she couldn’t see, her eyes watering too much for her vision to clear. The sounds of all the screams were still ringing in her head, over and over and over, stuck in her ears, and she couldn’t hear anything else. Finn’s hands gripped her shoulders,” shaking her. “Clarke! You need to go somewhere safe to hide, can you do that?”

She thought of the room Bellamy had shoved her into the first time this had happened, the one she’d been back in only days before. She found herself nodding without realizing she was doing it.

“Okay,” he said. “Okay. Go there. Go there now.”

“What about you?” she asked. He couldn’t go back into the towns, it was too dangerous. He didn’t know how to fight, he had no weapon. He’d get hurt. He had to hide too.

“I’ve got something I need to take care of,” he said. “Clarke! Go hide, now. Go!”

And then she thought it must have been all the smoke still swirling around her head, making her hallucinate, but instead of turning around and going back into the towns, Finn pushed forward into the castle without her.

***

She was dressed like Griff when she barreled into him, the flimsy trousers and ratty shirt, missing only the cap from the top of her head, and for a moment he thought he was dreaming, that this was all just a memory from the attack from the weeks before, and he felt the temptation to pinch his arm, to wake himself up.

But then he noticed the dirt on her face, the blood dried on the palm of her hands, the way her hair was matted around her face.

“Clarke–”

“Bellamy!” she cried, noticing exactly who it was, gripping her shoulders, steadying her so she wouldn’t tumble to the ground. She felt light under his hands, like if he let go she would tip over without any push. She snapped back to him, her eyes taking in his disheveled state. She ran her thumb over a small scorch mark on his shirt, fingers swatting off the clumps of dirt that still clung to the fabric. She raked her eyes over his face, pausing where he knew a red mark rested on his cheek. “What happened to you?” she breathed.

“Your window was open. I went down to the towns looking for you, Octavia said she saw you with that man, the one from the alley, heading back in this direction–” he stopped short, catching his breath. She wasn’t even listening to him, her eyes were darting all over the corridor, and she was fidgeting, prying herself away from his grip. “Clarke!”

She jerked her eyes back up to him.

“We have to go,” he said, afraid of exactly how much desperation was slipping through his tone. “We have to go now, come on.”

He started down the opposite direction, his hand on her arm, pulling him with her but she didn’t move. “Clarke!”

“He’s still here,” she said, quietly. “Said he had something to take care of.”

“Clarke,” Bellamy walked back over to her. His hands rested gently over her shoulders. “Who are you talking about?”

“He knew,” she whispered. “He must have known, he wasn’t even surprised. Bellamy he smiled.”

“Who?” he asked again. “Clarke who are you talking about?”

“Finn!” she yelled. He remembered the smirking boy from her room, the one she wouldn’t tell him about. The one Octavia told him was friendly with the forest clans, who lived out on the edge of the towns, appointing himself the ambassador between worlds, between people.

She was moving down the hall, chasing after whatever hunch she had about Finn’s business in the castle, and Bellamy followed her, keeping his hand on the small of her back, He wasn’t losing track of her again. Not tonight.

***

It seemed to happen in slow motion. One minute she was shuffling along the walls of the corridors, Bellamy pressed into her side, his body covering hers anytime there were footsteps coming their way–his job, she reminded herself every time he flattened himself against her, he’s not worried, it’s his job–and then the next she was standing, out in the middle of her mother’s chambers, watching Finn pull a vial from his pocket, tipping it forward so it dripped inside a goblet on her mother’s table.

“What are you doing?”

Her voice was barely more than a whisper, but Finn whipped around at the sound of it, the vial dripping out onto the table as he turned.

“Clarke–”

“What are you doing?” she asked again. She stepped toward him slowly, each step heavy, and reached out her hand for the vial but he tipped backwards on his heels, pulling it away from her. “What are you doing?”

She said it over and over and over again, watching his face twist up with guilt or fear, or whatever it was, demanding an answer she already knew. Bellamy stayed steady behind her, his hand still resting on her back, where it had been all night, never leaving, reminding her.

“They’re coming, Clarke,” Finn said. A shaky hand was pointed toward the door. She’d expected him to sound smooth and confident like he always did, expected a small smirk to pull up the corner of his lips, but there was nothing. Desperation and fear, and a hollowness she didn’t recognize in him. “Burning down the villages and pillaging the towns, and they’re going to ride in here and take the castle too.”

She shook her head, willing the tears she felt about to burst from her eyes to go back down, to wait, because it was too much, it was all too much.

“We can stop this, Clarke,” he said. “Isn’t one life worth saving the lives of your people?”

She felt a white hot rage wash over her, starting from the tips of her toes, pressing into every inch of her as it worked its way up to her head. She lunged forward, knocking into Finn’s arm, sending the vial tumbling to the ground and landing with a crack.

Finn pounded on the table, a small, anguished cry slipping out from his lips.

“Get out!” she screamed.

Finn reached for her, but Bellamy snapped an arm out in front of her, grabbing Finn’s arm and twisting it back behind him, pinning Finn in place.

“Please,” he said, and she saw stray tear work it’s way down his face. “We can stop this, we can save them.”

She shook her head.

“And what then?” Bellamy’s voice was faint, scratchy. “You think this will stop a war? You think one death is enough?”

He looked like he was about to spit in Finn’s face. She’d never seen him so angry. The only time it had ever even been close was the day he found out who she really was, but it was a different sort of anger then. A soft, broken fury he pulled over himself by choice, not the hard and cold anger that was rolling off of him now.

“You have to go,” Finn whispered.

She felt Bellamy’s hand on her shoulder.

“He’s right, Clarke,” he said. “Come on, we have to go.”

She watched the liquid drip out among the broken pieces of glass at her feet as her vision blurred. Her arm swiped roughly against her eyes, brushing away the tears that hadn’t fallen as she let Bellamy guide her out of the room.

“Wait,” she said, still following him. “Wells–”

Bellamy shook his head.

“Wells is waiting for us in the east wing of the castle,” he said, checking up and down the hall to see if it was clear. “Come on, we have to move.”

She let the sound of their feet slapping against the stone floor lull her away from what was happening. She felt like she was out of her own body, watching from the outside as Bellamy stopped, pressing the hilt of a dagger into her hand with one raise of an eyebrow.

“If we’re separated,” he said by means of explanation.

Before she could think to hard about it, his face was ducking down to hers, his lips pressing, rough and chapped, against her own. She felt his hand grip tighter in her hair, like he was afraid she was already gone, and she breathed in the smell of the fire and dirt and soot that covered his skin.

Then they were moving once again, creeping through the shadows, hiding in her own home, making their way to the gate at the east wing.

***

She tossed Wells a stick. “Come on,” she said. “You said you could beat me and now you have to prove it.”

Wells reached down, picking the stick up from the ground. “I can beat you,” he insited. “But I’m a better friend than you, so I won’t.”

Clarke picked up a clump of dirt at her feet, knocking her stick into it, spraying it all over Wells.

“Fine,” she said, swinging it around to rest on her shoulder. “I’m just trying to help. You are going to be a knight one day after all.”

Wells stuck out his tongue. “Why don’t we do something to help you practice? How’s your curtsey coming?”

He pulled his branch out in front of him just in time to block the blow from Clarke. She stuck her tongue out right back at him as she pulled back and straightened up. She adjusted until she was in some sort of position that felt right, the stick out in front of her, her feet wide apart, motioning to Wells to come forward, to play along.

“Alright, Griffin,” he said rolling his eyes. “Just this once.”

***

“There’s too many,” a voice mumbled in his ear. Bellamy turned to his right to see Wells looking out at their only escape route, flooded with armed men from the forest clans. “There’s no way we’re going to make it past them.”

Wells met his eye, biting his lip. He watched as Wells’ eyes flickered to Clarke, to himself, to the army standing between them and their only way left out of the castle. He nodded to Bellamy.

It clicked in Bellamy’s head, what Wells wanted to do, and he opened his mouth to protest, but Wells clapped him on the shoulder before he could.

“See you on the other side, brother,” he said, and before Bellamy’s hand could cling on to any part of him, his hand, his arm, the sleeve of his shirt, Wells was out, exposed in the open, his sword shaking in his right hand.

“Wells!”

Clarke wriggled beside him, trying to push her way out with Wells, but Bellamy wrapped an arm around the front of her, holding her in place.

“Don’t make it for nothing,” he whispered in her ear. She struggled in his grip, still trying to get out to Wells, but Bellamy’s hold was too strong. She went limp and he was able to drag her along the open wall, crouching down low, hiding her against his chest, until they were slipping out of the gate, the sound of swords clashing behind them.

He stopped, pulling her up to face him. Her eyes were red and watery, puffed up along the outside, but she held herself up straight in front of him.

He held his arms out and she walked into him, her face buried into the dirty fabric of his shirt. He pulled her in close, one hand over her hair, the other resting on her back. He hoped his breathing was heavy enough still that she couldn’t hear the banging from behind the wall or the yelling and burning they’d left behind.

“I’m sorry, Clarke,” he said, but the words felt small and hollow, not nearly enough. He pressed his lips to the top her hair and hoped she knew.

***

Clarke pressed her nose harder against Bellamy’s shirt, wishing that it would all go away, that she would wake up to find it all was just a horrible dream.

Footsteps pounded behind her, nearly blending in with all the other noise around them.

“Well,” a voice from beside her said. “Isn’t this touching.”

Suddenly there were hands on her hair, yanking her backwards out of Bellamy’s grip. She watched as his eyes widened, watching her get ripped away from him. Another came up behind him, a blade to his throat, daring him to move.

“Bellamy–” she said.

He gripped the arm of the man behind him, keeping the blade from cutting his skin, just as she snapped back, crashing her skull into the nose of the man behind her, hearing a sickening crack as it made contact. The arms dropped from her, going up to his nose to stop the blood gushing forward and she had just enough time to scramble down and grab the dagger Bellamy had given her.

“Clarke,” she heard Bellamy whisper, desperate. She glanced up at him but his eyes were wide and stuck on something behind her. “Griff!”

And then everything went black.

***

She woke up to the smell of a fire burning and she jolted upright, thinking she was still in the towns, still beside the burning houses. After a second she realized she was laid out on a small patch of grass, some strange cloak draped over her as a blanket. The woods. She was in the woods.

She felt a hand on her arm.

Looking to her side, she found Bellamy lying next to her, propped up  on one elbow, his other hand resting on her forearm. His thumb swept back and forth across the skin there.

“You alright?” he asked.

“Where are we?” she asked.

“There was a group outside the wall,” he said. “Waiting. They knew people were going to try and escape through the exit in the east wing. We think the soldiers Wells distracted were meant as a diversion.” We? Clarke could hear the faint sound of voices in the distant, the smell of food being cooked over a fire, but she didn’t know who else made it out. “They knocked you out, and were about to do the same to me, when these guys showed up.”

He gestured around him, at a camp Clarke hadn’t noticed she was sleeping in.

“Who’s here?”

Bellamy shrugged. “Some have been living here for years. Not with the forest clan, just outside them. Others are just the scraps of whoever is left.”

Wells? she wanted to ask. Monty?

But the look in Bellamy’s eye told her everything she needed to know.

He bumped her shoulder, brushing a strand of hair out of her face and forcing a smile. “Welcome to your new kingdom, princess.”

***

The camp was run by a girl named Raven. She was loud and blunt, and told Clarke right away that she didn’t care whether she was the princess of every kingdom in the realm, or the girl who emptied the chamber pots.

“You can stay here,” she said to her. “Make camp as long as you like, but if you’re going to stay with us, you’re going to have to help.”

Bellamy guided her around the camp at first. He told her that it was a group of outlaws. They lived in forest territories between borders, stealing for food and clothes, never camping in one place for too long. They took people in after the attacks within the city, but most were there for a safe resting spot, to recuperate a little, before moving on, west, into the bordering kingdom.

According to Bellamy, the group of rebel soldiers had gotten a hold of the castle.

“We think Wells might still be there,” he mumbled into her ear one night around the fire. “Sort of like a royal prisoner, since they couldn’t get you.”

The pang of guilt was sharp and quick, but faded easy enough when she reminded herself that maybe if it weren’t for that, Wells might have already been killed.

“No word from Monty yet,” he said.

“We have to get Wells,” she said.

He nodded, she knew he would. Her mind flashed back to all those weeks ago, to the man standing in the shadows, watching a lonely kitchen maid swing a sword wildly at a dummy, to the man who stepped out and offered to help her, the man who lied for years, put his life on the line, because he wanted to help somebody else.

“Can’t do it on our own,” he said. “We need a plan.”

Clarke glanced around the camp, the fire dancing in front of her, making the faces glow orange around her. She stood up, walking over to where Raven sat on the other side of the fire, Bellamy’s footsteps crunching behind her.

“I need your help getting back into the city,” she told Raven.

Raven raised one eyebrow at her, a slow smile curving up her lips. A man huffed out a laugh beside her. “You better give me a good reason for that, princess,” she said.

Clarke glanced back at Bellamy. He was biting down on his lip as he watched her, and odd sort of fondness playing in his eyes.

“You survive off raids, right? Picking off carts that travel through here?” she asked. Raven only nodded. “What if I could help you raid the castle?”

Raven studied her for a moment, deciding whether or not to believe her. Eventually she say back on her elbows, smiling up at Clarke.

“Careful, Your Highness,” she said. “You just might actually fit in around here.”