Basketballs and Broken Ankles
It was the end of March. The time when the weather was mildly warm, but not cold enough, and the grass was at its peak shade of green. The clouds were crossing the blue sky like lazy puffs of swirling cotton and the sun was shining and steady and awake.
Basically the complete opposite of how Clarke was feeling.
She was sleep deprived and caffeine deprived and in a desperate need of either a nap or the worlds biggest cup of coffee,
Instead, she was trailing through the park, frantically texting Octavia who’d called her a half an hour earlier and begged for a ride to work because her boyfriend and brother were currently dueling it out in some scrimmage game and could’t be bothered with taking her.
Clarke was perfectly fine with doing her the favor. Octavia was always bending over backwards doing favors for her or brining her food or coffee and just generally checking in on her and making sure she hadn’t fallen over and died of exhaustion during a particularly hard weekend of studying.
She’d just wished she’d have picked a day when she was less grumpy.
The basketball courts were just around the corner and Clarke could hear the boys playing before even saw them.
“Pass the ball into my hands not into my damn face!”
“I swear, Murphy, I swear if you foul me one more time!”
“Watch and weep, boys!”
The various insults were sprinkled with boyish grunting as they smacked into one another. Shoes squeaked on old concrete and the chains of the hoops rattled together.
It was a symphony of testosterone.
“Clarke!” Octavia called. She was sitting on a low brick wall on the edge of the court, surrounded by gym bags and water bottles.
Clarke waved back and quickly crossed over to meet her.
“Keeper of the sports drinks, O?” Clarke asked with a laugh.
Octavia rolled her eyes.
“Yeah, and sweat soaked t-shirts. Living the dream.”
They turned and watched as the boys were running a play at the top of the key, half with their shirts off and glistening with sweat in the mid-day sun. Well damn. She couldn’t blame Octavia for wanting to spend her day like this.
Could not blame her at all.
“Right?” Octavia smirked, nodding her head appreciatively at the court.
Clarke recognized Lincoln, Octavia’s boyfriend, right away. He was, after all, the reason why the two girls had met. He and Clarke were neighbors in their apartment building a couple blocks over. They’d always been pleasant in passing, quick with a small greeting, but never quite truly friends. That had changed one night when Octavia had started pounding on Clarke’s door at three a.m, shouting something about needing extra towels if she could spare some, a broken broken dishwasher flooding everywhere, and a carpet being ruined.
The rest was history.
Lincoln quickly waved to them after he passed the ball to a tall guy with hair the color of ink.
“That’s Bell.” O actually pointed straight at him.
There was no need, really.
Clarke’s attention was solely on him.
Solely on Octavia’s protective, gorgeous, “such an ass” older brother.
Said inky hair was sticking out in all different directions, some falling onto forehead. His face was chiseled and cocky and freckled and… perfect.
It sounded shallow to base him on just his looks but Clarke had heard plenty about him too. Even though he was an ass (Octavia liked to remind her this at least three times a second when he came up in conversation) he’d basically raised her since birth. Their mother had gotten sick when O was fairly young, but even before that, supporting two kids on her own meant she was never around much. Bellamy had always been the one to take care of her. To pack her lunches before school, to make sure the holes in her ratty clothes weren’t too embarrassing for her, picking her up and taking her places.
He was the role of her father and mother and brother and best friend and everything in-between.
Clarke watches as he ran circles around one of the boys who’d stopped mid-warm up to start texting.
“Come on, Miller. Come on, buddy. Getcha head in the game.”
“I hope to God that that was the last High School Musical reference of the day. I am going to beat the next person who quotes Troy Bolton to death.”
“I see therapy is doing your anger management good, Murphy,” Miller responds, actually looking up for two seconds before finally slipping his phone into the pocket of his basketball shorts with a sigh.
“Screw you,” Murphy bites back.
Their camaraderie is priceless, and Clarke could easily plop herself down next to Octavia and spend the rest of the day watching them play basketball and insult each other. Sadly, her friend is due at work in twenty minutes and they’ll be lucky to get there on time.
“We should probably hit the road,” O sighs, reading her mind.
She jumps down from the wall and grabs her bag.
“You leaving?” Bellamy calls out. He’s got the ball balanced on his forearm and hip.
Lincoln jogs over and grabs Octavia’s face in his large hands, kissing her goodbye quick and sweet. The guys groan collectively.
“Shut up!” O rolls her eyes.
“Hey Clarke,” Lincoln says, squeezing her shoulder as he leans past them and grabs his water from the wall.
“Ah, the infamous Clarke Griffin,” Bellamy calls. He decides to come over and join them and Clarke is suddenly pushing her short nails into her palm to calm herself down- she simply tells herself its because Octavia is due at work and introductions are going to get her there even later. Not because Bellamy is incredibly attractive and his deep voice is basically the equivalent of smooth dark chocolate.
Definitely not those reasons.
“That’s me,” Clarke manages with a smile, though she’s trying to figure out how long she just spent staring at him while he waited for a response.
“I’ve heard a lot about you.”
“All bad and all true, I’m afraid,” she quips.
He’s smiling at her cockily and she’s pretty sure she’s smiling at him like he hung the freaking sun when- oh crap.
Her heart literally drops all the way into her shoes and she wishes that the cracks on the old court would open wide enough and swallow her whole.
“Ex-boyfriend alert at twelve o’clock,” Octavia mutters.
Finn Collins. The son of a bitch. Clarke had not so gracefully dumped him when she found out he was cheating with another girl. Or rather, she was the other woman. He was cheating on his high school sweetheart, his fiancé with her.
They had not ended well.
And Clarke’s stomach still hated her for the cartons of ice cream she’d drowned her feelings in months ago.
“We’re playing these assholes?” Murphy yells it loud enough for the other team to be sure to hear it.
So they’re not pleasant with her ex and his team- friends?- either. Somehow this makes her feel just a little bit better.
“We’re so out of here,” Octavia say’s, grabbing Clarke to quickly get her out of the park. She knew their history, Lincoln probably did to. By the way Bellamy tensed, his body turning as if to shield her from him, he might have known a bit about him too.
Or he just really hated the Mount Weather basketball team.
“For twenty bucks I’ll totally look the other way if you decide to decide to beat them up,” Miller tells Murphy (Clarke later learns that Miller’s a cop and Murphy is toeing a very thin line with his anger management/borderline aggravated assualt)
Murphy slaps an Andrew Jackson into his friends waiting hand immediately.
“Worth every penny.”
Finn decides to look up at that exact second and make eye contact with Clarke.
“Hey,” he calls. “Hey, babe.”
It’s been months since Clarke had angrily stomped out of his apartment and never looked back. She hadn’t even returned any of his stuff. In a fit of (somewhat drunken) rage she’d piled it all up into one box and lit that baby up. But here he is, grinning, eyeing her head to toe like he has a right, and jogging up to meet her with arms open. And he calls her babe?
She lets out a string of expletives and Bellamy really does stand in front of her this time, shielding her.
Clarke has hardly known him for more then ten minutes and she thinks she might be in love with him. Seriously, she could kiss him she’s so grateful.
Or just because.
He has a very kissable face.
“Clarke?” Finn asks, drawing closer.
Oh, right. Focus.
“Why don’t you just turn around now and get onto the court?” Bellamy says, not unkindly, but leaving no room for argument.
“I don’t think it’s any of your business, Blake,” Finn spits back.
Lincoln comes and stands up beside Bellamy.
“I don’t want to talk to you,” Clarke finally manages to speak. She hates the way her voice sounds hoarse.
“Not now. Not ever.”
“Just let me explain. You never did-”
“Seriously. Back off of her, ok?”
“Or what? Are you her boyfriend or something?”
They’re in some weird caveman-ish stand off for what seems like forever, but is really only a tense couple seconds.
And then Finn, stupid, stupid Finn…. He shoves Bellamy. And Bellamy falls backwards into her, but Clarke manages to catch him at the last second, holding him steady.
“You asshole!” Bellamy roars.
And then everyone’s punching and kicking and screaming and it feels like some weird dream that she can’t wake up from. She’s waiting for someone to pinch her.
But then Octavia is opening Gatorade bottles and dousing people in it like some sort of demented basketball baptism and Clarke knows she’d never be able to dream up something like this.
It’s an hour later and the boys are lined up on the wall like obedient little ducklings as Clarke mothers them and their bloody noses and bruised…. well bruised everything.
The Mount Weather basketball team had wisely cleared the courts and the park about a half an hour earlier when they realized that the fight was un-winable.
Murphy’s got a black eye and scraped knuckles.
Miller’s got a cut across his forehead.
Octavia is slowly massaging Lincoln’s shoulder back into place and she apologizes about every two seconds or any time he winces.
Bellamy’s got it the worst. His nose is dripping blood, he’s got scratch marks across his face, and his ankle is swollen up to three sizes too big.
“It’s a good thing you’re a nurse, huh?” Bellamy asks her, offering up a smile even though Clarke knows he must be about ready to pass out from the pain.
“More like a nurse minus the medical degree. My moms the doctor. I’m an artist. She hasn’t talked to me since I dropped out of school, but I guess its lucky for you guys I know my stuff.”
“I guess it is.”
“Collins punches like…” Murphy trails off, undoubtedly about to say ‘like a girl’ but thinking better of it after he saw the way the girls broke up the fight.
“Well Collins punches like Collins.”
The boys simultaneously raise what’s left of their water bottles in a toast.
“I think we should call it a day,” Lincoln winces. “I say we grab a bunch of pizzas and eat ourselves to death.”
Clarke tosses her keys to Octavia.
“Pull my truck around? I couldn’t find parking closer to the courts earlier, but he’s not going to be able to walk far,” she nods in Bellamy’s direction.
Miller, Murphy, and Lincoln follow sluggishly after her as she hurries off.
Clarke hops up onto the wall and motions for Bellamy to move his busted ankle into her lap. He does so, biting down on his lip so hard to deal with the pain that blood appears.
“Is it broken?” he asks after a minute of her fingers gently poking and prodding.
She shakes her head.
“No, I don’t think so. But you’re definitely not going o be able to walk on it for a week.”
He actually gasps when she lifts his foot to start wrapping it up.
“I’m really sorry,” Clarke say’s, quietly.
“For what?” Bellamy grabs his shirt and tries wiping away the dried blood from his nose.
“You didn’t kick in my ankle.”
“No, I didn’t. But it is my fault that it happened.”
“Nah,” and Bellamy puts his hand under her chin so she’ll look at him. Brown had always been a muddy kind of color for Clarke. She’d used it a lot for paintings of an earthy looking nature, but his eyes… His eyes were something entirely. They reminded her of fall and hot chocolate and warmth. So much warmth. Like just looking right at him was like being blessed with the feeling of perfect contentment.
She feels light headed and dizzy and possibly out of her mind.
But brown is, quite possibly, her new favorite color.
“He’s always been an ass. And we’ve been waiting to fight them for weeks. You just helped speed up the process.”
Bellamy is smiling, laughing about it even.
Clarke shakes his head and laughs right back. And it feels good. It feels so good to sit here with her best friends brother and bandage up his busted ankle on the basketball courts at some park she’s never been too. It feels good to know that once Octavia pulls the car around they’ll all cram into the cab and bicker and argue and buy pizza and end up at someones apartment. They’ll spend the entire night together.
“And thank you,” Bellamy says sincerely as she helps him off the wall.
“It hurts like hell, but I’m probably not going to die.”
“Yeah, probably,” Clarke responds. “Like 50/50 chance.”
He slings his arm around her shoulders and he swears its just cause he needs help balancing, but he winks at her.
And O’s right. He is kind of an ass.
But Clarke can’t imagine this day going any differently.
It was, in its own messed up and twisted way, perfect.