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This One's for the Faithless

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This one's for the lonely, the one's that seek and find,
Only to be let down time after time.
This one's for the torn down, the experts at the fall.
Come on, friends, get up now, you're not alone at all.

---

The return from Mt. Weather was quiet. Exhaustion was heavy on their shoulders, the shock from everything hadn’t worn off yet, and it was easy to pick up their feet in silence, to relish in the feel of the sun on their skin, to remind themselves that it was over.

It was over. They made it out, and it was over.

Bellamy listened to the sounds of the forest, feeling the chill of a breeze tease at his neck.

Clarke was next to him. Her elbow brushed his, and she touched a hand to his shoulder to steady her feet when they were forced to navigate a rocky, jagged patch in the woods.

She stumbled once, and he caught her arm. She nodded at him.

There was a distance in her gaze, and he knew her mind wasn’t with him, or with their slow, tired trek. He kept an eye on her after that. When was the last time she slept? Or ate? When was the last time she remembered that she couldn’t give everything in herself away, and expect to survive?

He didn’t think she spoke a word in over eight hours.

The ghost of a smile pulled at her lips when they stumbled onto Lincoln, and when they paused for a break, she listened intently when Wick explained how they were captured, and Miller’s father talked about the events that brought him into Mt. Weather with Abby, Kane, and the others.

Other than that, it was like Clarke wasn’t there.

He knew there were things they needed to talk about. He knew neither of them was going to be okay for a long, long time. But it was over. They did it. They’d have time to talk later, time to make peace with everything they’d been forced to do. They’d do it together.

They walked in silence, and it was enough for now.

Except it turned out there wasn’t going to be a later. There wasn’t going to be time for them to talk. Their time was up. They weren’t going to shoulder everything together.

She didn’t want to.

Her feet started to slow the closer they came to Camp Jaha, and she didn’t stream in with the others. He waited for her, but she wasn’t going in. She didn’t want Bellamy’s forgiveness, didn’t want him to carry the burden with her, echoing the words of a broken, desperate man.

The shock of it left him confused, desperate.

He wanted to ask how she was going to survive, when she was going to return, what they were supposed to do without her. He wanted to ask what about me? But he didn’t.

If this was what she needed, he’d give it to her.

He’d let her go; he’d care for their people.

He turned away before she disappeared into the trees, walking into the camp without her.

He didn’t bother with a drink. He made his way to his tent, crawling onto the blankets that served for a bed. It wasn’t hard to fall to sleep, but it was easy to wake up. The smallest, slightest noise, and he jolted up. He was on his feet as soon as the sun rose up.

He wasn’t going to dwell on Mt. Weather, or on Clarke.

It was over. It was time to move on. There were things to do, winter to prepare for.

People were in a daze after everything, and things around the camp were quiet, sluggish.

Bellamy organized a group to hunt with him, and it ended up mostly his kids; there was Miller, Monroe, Nick, and Ray, and Miller’s dad, too. They were able to catch a deer along with three quails, a rabbit, and some odd little pig with brown skin, and curly tusks.

They weren’t back at the camp for long before Octavia came at Bellamy with a knife.

“It’s time to remove that mop on your head,” she told him. He didn’t put up a fight.

She hacked at his hair while he glared at a group from the Ark, trying to cook the deer. Monroe skinned it earlier, and she’d done a good job, but now the group needed a delinquent to show them how to cook it properly; they were going to burn the skin, and make the meat tough.

He was about to shout at Ray to get that deer away from them when Abby found him.

“Have you seen Clarke?” she asked.

His chest tightened with guilt. “She took off,” he said.

“What? Why?” Abby frowned. “Who’s with her?”

“Nobody. She couldn’t deal with it, with what she’d done. She said she needed to be on her own for a while, and she left.” He forced himself to meet Abby’s gaze.

He expected her to start in on him, but she didn’t.

“I see,” she said. “Okay.” She turned away from him, seeming to sway on her feet before she took off. She looked like Clarke in that moment; it was in the line of her back, in the way she carried herself, the way she walked, and Bellamy dropped his eyes to the ground.

He knew there was going to be a conversation, though. There wasn’t a way to avoid it.

Octavia told him to wash up as soon as she finished. His reflection was distorted in the water, but he was able to see how short Octavia cut his hair. It hadn’t been that short since he was a teenager, since before there was blood on his hands, staining them black.

He’d started to splash water onto his neck when Kane strode up to him.

“We need to figure some things out,” he said.

Bellamy followed him to the Ark. He passed Miller along the way, jerking his head when Miller caught his eye, and Miller started after them. They found Abby at Raven’s bed; Wick pressed a kiss to her temple before he rose to his feet, nodded at Bellamy, and left, leaving them to their meeting, to their council.

Raven looked good, better. “How are you?” Bellamy asked.

Her response was a nod, and a short, tight smile.

“It’s going to start to grow very cold, very fast,” Kane started. “We need to prepare. To stock up on food, and start to build real, actual shelters. We aren’t going to be able to survive the winter in tents, or cram everyone on the Ark. The sooner we start, the better.”

He looked around the group, but nobody was about to argue with him.

“What about Clarke?” Abby asked, drawing her gaze up from the ground.

Kane hesitated. “What do you want to do?”

“I want to go after her,” she said, swallowing. “But—” She looked at Bellamy.

It startled him. Kane looked at him, too, waiting. Expectant.

He knew what he wanted to say. He wanted to go after her. He wanted to drag her back to the camp, to her people, to him. His chest tightened with panic when he thought about her, about where she was, and how she was. He was desperate to follow her, to find her.

“But she doesn’t want us to,” Bellamy said.

He’d tried to help her the way that she’d helped him, and it hadn’t been enough.

He couldn’t worry about her, about how she’d fare, and whether she’d find her way home eventually, or make a home with strangers, learning to forget the friends she’d killed for. He needed to worry about those friends, to look after their people like she’d asked him to.

“She doesn’t need us to go after her,” Raven said. “She knows how to survive.”

Miller nodded.

“Okay,” Kane agreed, and that was that. Abby didn’t try to argue. It was decided.

No one was going after her.

They’d trust her to return when she was ready, and to look after herself in the meantime.

---

The camp was directionless without an enemy, but they started to organize for winter, and it worked. It gave everyone something to do, and it was what everyone needed.

They started to assign tasks to everyone in the camp.

There was a detail for felling the trees, cutting off the branches, and preparing the logs to be built with, and a detail for building the small, squat cabins with those logs, and Bellamy worked on that detail the most, liking the way it felt to build, to ache from the work when the day was done.

There was a detail to refortify the fence, too, and a detail to patrol it.

There was a detail for hunting, and for smoking the meat to make a store for winter.

Kane was right about winter; the cold seemed to sweep in suddenly, completely, arriving in the morning with the frost on the grass, and it jolted the camp with energy; people were nervous about winter, and ready to pull their weight to prepare for it, to survive it.

It surprised Bellamy how readily people took orders from the delinquents.

Kane was in charge of the stores for winter, but Bellamy took charge of the construction, and Miller became the head of the patrols. Lincoln started to teach everyone to speak Trigedasleng while Octavia began to teach those willing how to fight, and Harper became her shadow, carrying a knife from Octavia with her everywhere.

The days grew shorter, and it was easy to see them pass, easy to get through them.

He tried not to think about Clarke.

But her absence was a ghost that refused to relent, that sat with him, that stayed with him, and he knew that she trailed after the others, too. She was supposed to be there, but she wasn’t, and it was impossible to ignore the wrongness of her absence; it was everywhere.

---

He thought a lot about how he could have done things differently from the start, what it might’ve been able to change. If he hadn’t been an arrogant, selfish jackass, would it have made a difference? If he’d earned Clarke’s trust at the start, would it have mattered?

If she’d fallen for him rather than Finn, it could’ve changed things.

Finn wouldn’t have massacred a village in her name, which meant Clarke wouldn’t have stuck that knife into him.

Could it have done more? Could it have set off a ripple in the water, and changed everything?

But it was impossible to change the past. To choose different, better words to comfort a scared little girl, and not destroy a radio that could’ve saved three hundred lives.

Even if he hadn’t been an asshole, she wouldn’t have fallen for him.

She liked the soft ones, the sweet ones. That wasn’t Bellamy; it never had been.

But if she’d fallen for him at the start, she might not have left him on his own. She might have believed that they were in this together, that she didn’t have to do this alone, and she’d have taken his hand that day, walked into Camp Jaha with him.

That was wrong, too, wasn’t it?

Even if she’d fallen for him at the start, she would’ve left him in the end.

She needed to recover on her own, and he needed to believe that. But he’d been alone for a year, and it’d been the worst in his life. He couldn’t imagine what it might be like to crave the quiet, the isolation. How could that be what she needed? How could she bear it?

It would destroy him, but she’d chosen it.

The how didn't matter. Neither did the past. She was gone, and the story wasn’t going to change because he wished it would.

---

It wasn’t long before the delinquents started to talk about going after her. They remained a group separate from the adults, sharing their supplies, their evenings, their schemes.

“She doesn’t have to be on her own,” Monty said.

“How would we find her?” Miller asked. “It’s not like we know where she’s going.”

“She couldn’t have gotten far,” Monty insisted, and Harper nodded.

“What’s the point?” Jasper asked. His voice was louder, harder, drawing their gaze to him. He hadn’t spoken a lot since they’d returned, and he was the only person who seemed to look worse now than when they’d arrived at Camp Jaha; his face was gaunter, the circles under his eyes were darker. “She wanted to leave.”

“She wasn’t thinking,” Monty said.

“That’s her problem,” Jasper snarled. “Let her rot.”

It was quiet.

“She did what she had to do,” Monty started. “I did what I had to do.” His voice broke a little, and there was a plea in the way he looked at Jasper. “We didn’t have a choice.”

“No.” Jasper shook his head. “Don’t you dare try to—you had a choice. There’s always a choice, and you chose to murder them. To murder people who’d helped us, and you—Clarke said jump, and you jumped, and you know what? You want to go after her? Fine, go after her, and stay gone with her.”

Monty stared at him, and it was quiet. He rose to his feet.

Jasper scoffed.

It pulled at Monty, making him turn back. “I didn’t—” He stopped.

“What?” Jasper spat. He stood, and his face was contorted with fury, with hate. “What?” he repeated. “Say it. Try to defend yourself. Try to tell me how you aren’t a murderer.”

“Hey,” Miller growled.

Jasper ignored him

“Come on,” Jasper said. “Let’s hear it.” He shoved at Monty’s chest.

Monty stumbled, and Bellamy grabbed Jasper’s arm, only for Jasper to turn, to swing a punch at Bellamy. Bellamy’s punch knocked Jasper to the ground, and it was silent.

“I know you’re hurting,” Bellamy said. “But it doesn’t give you the right to be a dick.”

Jasper got up slowly. “I guess you’d know,” he said. “That’s your specialty, isn’t it?” He sneered at Bellamy. “I guess you’re glad that Clarke left. Now you get to be the king, right? Now you get to decide who lives and who dies.” His eyes burned into Bellamy.

He’d been like this for a month, and they’d let him, tiptoeing around him.

It was over. Bellamy was done with new, cruel Jasper.

“You’re right,” he said. “There were children in that mountain, and people who’d helped us, and we killed them. But the truth is they weren’t innocent.” He paused.

But if Jasper wanted to argue, he didn’t.

“They existed because they killed people,” Bellamy said. “Because they bled people to death. Do you know what that looked like? I can tell you. They did it to me. They sprayed me with a hose, and ran tests on me, and put me in a cage when I was cleaned up, and ready to drain.”

Jasper swallowed visibly, looking away from Bellamy.

“They drugged me, and strung me up on hooks, and drained my blood, and I wasn’t the first. How many thousands of people do you think they killed like that? How many people do you think they turned into livestock, and bled dry? I’m sorry about Maya. I am. She helped me. We’d be dead without her. But we had to do it.”

“You didn’t—” His jaw was clenched, and the words were low, tight.

Bellamy wasn’t finished yet. “Are you saying we should’ve let everyone die? Are you going to look me in the eye, and say that Harper and Miller and Rosie and everyone should’ve died the way Fox died?” His gut clenched at the words, remembering the way she’d breathed his name, hugged him.

She’d trusted Bellamy to get her out, and he hadn’t.

“We could’ve figured out another way,” Jasper insisted.

“There wasn’t another way,” Bellamy said, shaking his head. “It was them, or it was us. I chose us. I did. I pulled that lever with Clarke. If you want to punch somebody, punch me. If you want to hate somebody, hate me. But look me in the eye first, and tell me to my face I should have let our friends die.”

Jasper looked him in the eye. “I hate you,” he said.

He pushed his way past Bellamy, ramming his shoulder into Bellamy’s arm.

Guilt churned in Bellamy, and it didn’t help when he met the gaze of the others. His eyes caught on Rosie, who used to share a tent with Fox, and he looked away quickly. He cleared his throat, looked at Lincoln. “Kane wants to try to map the woods. Do you think you can help with that?”

---

It was worse at night. His exhaustion made it easy to drift into sleep, but it wasn’t enough to fend off the nightmares; they chased him, trapped him, mutating every single night.

Children laughed, and he felt the blood pulsing in his head, draining.

His skin blistered with the spray of the hose the way that it blistered on the faces of the innocent, and there was Maya, and Clarke, and the cage shrank until the metal bit into Bellamy, and he tried to reach out for Octavia, who was six, wearing her hair in pigtails, screaming for him while the radiation mapped her skin.

He woke abruptly, and his throat burned from screaming when he gasped in a breath.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” Octavia said, brushing the sweat off his face with her sleeves.

He nodded, sat up, trying to breath in. But the nightmare continued to play in his head; he curled his hands into fists when he felt Lovejoy’s throat stain under his palms, jerking a moment later when there was a rustle against the tent, and he reached for a gun, aimed it.

Octavia grabbed his hands. “Hey. It’s the wind, Bell. It’s okay. It’s the wind.”

He looked at her, lowering the gun. Gently, she took it from his grasp.

“There were children,” he told her.

Octavia’s arm slid around his back, and he sank into her embrace. “We’re children, too, Bell,” she whispered, “and you saved us.” She clutched him, cradled him. “You saved me, Bell,” she said. “I knew you would. I knew I’d be able to count on my big brother.”

He nodded, willing the storm in his head to calm. “I’m okay,” he breathed. He wasn’t.

She kissed the top of his head. “I know. I’m okay, too. We’re okay.”

But her arms stayed around him, holding so tightly that it hurt. He was glad. She was real, there, safe, with him. He closed his eyes. There was nothing to greet him in the dark.

---

December brought icy, pelting rain that sent people to Abby in droves, and it was obvious that they weren’t ready for winter. The cabins weren’t finished, and the stores were short, and how were they supposed to distribute the blankets fairly, to keep everyone warm at night?

“We aren’t going to be able to do this on our own,” Kane started.

Bellamy assumed that he meant the stations of the Ark that might’ve survived the fall. But as far as he knew, Raven hadn’t been able to get into contact with anyone yet.

That left them to send out a group to search for survivors.

He knew there were those among his friends who’d sign up for it, who continued to hold onto the hope that their parents could’ve made it. But it’d be dangerous to go now that winter was there, and he knew immediately that he was going to put his foot down. Nope. Nobody was leaving until the weather started to improve.

He thought about Clarke, huddling under trees to escape the ice.

How are you managing? Have you found some place warm, some place dry?

“We need to reach out to the grounders,” Kane said.

Bellamy stared at him.

“Hear me out,” Kane continued. “Lexa made a choice to protect her people—”

“She left us to die,” Raven said. “Tell me you haven’t forgotten that. Lexa bartered our lives after we put her in a position to, after we got somebody on the inside, and we turned off the fog. She used us, and turned on us, but now you want to ask for an alliance with her. Again.”

He sighed. “I know it sounds—”

“Who are we going to sacrifice this time?” Raven spat, glaring at him.

“We don’t need an alliance with them to survive,” Bellamy said.

“Do you really want to stake our lives on that?” Kane replied. “I believe that Lexa didn’t want to betray us. That she made a tough choice, but we can’t judge her for it. I believe she’d agree to an alliance now.” He paused. “Clarke would agree to an alliance.”

Would she?

“Clarke’s gone,” Raven said. “She left. This isn’t about Clarke. This is about us.” She looked at Bellamy. “Let’s put it to a vote. Who wants to tell the grounders to go fuck themselves?” She raised her hand, raising her eyebrows at Kane before she bothered to check whether the boys would raise their hands, too.

They did. Miller raised his, and Bellamy met Kane’s gaze before he raised his hand.

Kane sighed, but he didn’t try to argue. The conversation was dropped.

But for the rest of the day, Bellamy thought about it.

If she were there, would she have sided with Kane? Would she have said it was a mistake to believe they’d be able to survive the winter without an alliance? Or would she have agreed with Raven, thought that Bellamy was right, and they couldn’t trust the grounders, didn’t need an alliance with them?

He didn’t know, and it didn’t matter what she would’ve thought. She wasn’t there.

He remembered the way Raven snapped that Clarke’s gone. She was. She left. He wasn’t supposed to have to do this on his own, but he was forced to. She left, and she wasn’t going to return no matter how much he wanted her to, no matter how much he expected her to.

That was the thing, wasn’t it? For months, he’d expected her to.

From the moment she’d left, he’d been waiting for her, believing that it’d only be a few days, a few weeks. That he’d turn from his work on a cabin to see her, and she’d be home, striding towards him with that sad, careful smile that she’d learned on the ground.

But it’d been nearly three months. If she were going to return, she would have by now.

She must've found a group of grounders to live with, must've started over without her friends, without her mother. Without him.

It wasn’t going to happen. He wasn’t going to get her back.

The anger that started to build in him weeks ago overtook him suddenly. He wasn’t going to do this to himself. He wasn’t going to imagine how it could’ve been different, or agonize over the decision that she’d have made. She was gone, and he was done with her.

---

He gave the cabins to people one by one; as soon as a cabin was built, he moved a group in, and people were happy to go in groups, knowing there weren’t going to be enough otherwise. He was glad; he was determined to get the kids into cabins before it started to snow, and he didn’t need them to whine about roommates.

He found Monty at dinner. “Got a cabin for you. Who do you want to shack up with?”

Monty blinked. “I don’t know.” He paused. “Do you want to share a cabin?”

“I don’t think Jasper wants to share a cabin with me,” Bellamy said.

“Oh, um. I’m not—we aren’t going to share a cabin. Trust me, he doesn’t want to share a cabin with me either.” He smiled tightly at Bellamy, and dropped his gaze.

Bellamy felt like a dick. He should’ve know that Jasper wouldn’t want to share a cabin with Monty, but, well, it was hard to remember they weren’t talking now, that it was likely their friendship was over, and where Monty went, Jasper didn’t necessarily go, too.

“Okay,” Bellamy said. “Us, and?”

He’d moved Octavia into a cabin already with Lincoln, putting them with Harper, Katie, and Monroe, and he’d assumed that he’d eventually claim a bed in the corner of their cabin when the cold became more than his tent was able to handle. This worked, too.

They ended up with Miller in their cabin, and his dad, and Raven, which meant Wick, too.

It was crowded, but it was enough.

Bellamy was jerked from a nightmare when Miller snored loudly. The blanket was a vice around his legs, and his hands were shaky, cold, stained in blood, but Miller’s dad let out a louder, deeper snore, and Bellamy returned to the cabin, to the rustle of sheets when Monty turned in his sleep, to his friends.

Who’s there when you get nightmares?

Someone farted.

He waited for his heart to calm. Raven cursed, stumbling over something, and something turned out to be Miller. “What the fuck is your problem?” Miller grunted.

“I have to pee,” she hissed.

She opened the door, bringing in the cold, and it cooled the sweat on Bellamy’s forehead.

---

Octavia found Bellamy in engineering with Monty when the envoy arrived at Camp Jaha.

“What do they want?” Miller asked, falling into step with Bellamy.

It turned out that Lexa sent the grounders to request a meeting with the commander of the Sky people to discuss the possibility of an alliance. Octavia scoffed, but Kane spared a glance for Bellamy before he told them the Sky people were happy to discuss an alliance.

“Do you speak for your commander?” asked a grounder.

Kane nodded. “Yes.”

For a week, Bellamy was holed up in the Ark with Kane, Abby, Raven, and Miller. They didn’t know what the grounders wanted, but they argued over the possibilities, and what they’d ask for in return, whether there was anything they needed they’d give anything for.

Lexa was at the gate exactly a week after her envoy.

Octavia saw her in, leading her into the Ark. Indra was behind her, and she was allowed in to see the council with Lexa, but Octavia made the guards stay at the door, and they obeyed at a nod from Lexa. Octavia came in last, closing the door, and there was silence.

“I was under the impression this meeting was with your commander,” Lexa said. Her eyes landed on Bellamy, sitting at the end of the table.

“Clarke wasn’t able to make it,” he said.

“I see. Where is she that she was unable to attend a meeting she agreed to?”

“On a journey,” Octavia said.

Lexa’s glare cut to Octavia. “To where?”

Octavia smiled. “It’s spiritual.”

It was clear that Lexa was pissed.

“Our leadership is a council,” Kane explained, “and we are that council.”

Lexa skated her gaze from Kane to Abby, and on to Raven, to Miller, and finished with Bellamy. “Bellamy of the Sky people,” she said. Her eyes were cold, appraising. “The tales of your triumphs over the mountain are many. You are a legend among my people.” She paused.” To have you in an alliance with us would be a great, great honor.”

He stared at her, and hatred was a smoky, heavy weight in his stomach. For what she’d done, for the lives she’d taken. For Fox. For Orson. For how she’d forced them to massacre the mountain, putting that blood on them. “Why do you want an alliance?” he asked.

“The alliance of the clans is broken,” Lexa said. “The enemy that united us is gone.”

“Such a shame we killed them for you,” Raven said.

“Hold your tongue,” Indra snarled, but Lexa raised a hand to quiet her.

“I know that I broke an alliance with Clarke to protect my people,” she continued, “and have given you no reason to trust me. But there is war on the horizon, and it is in your interest to side with those who know you, and do not wish your death. That is I, and my people.”

“If we agree to an alliance, you’ll help us with this winter,” Kane said.

“Yes.”

“We don’t want a war,” Abby said.

“It will come to you whether you wish it or not,” Lexa replied.

“I don’t believe that.” Abby glared at her. “I’m not about to lead my people into a war on your behalf, on your word, especially when your actions speak louder than your words. You say that you betrayed Clarke to protect your people, yet you allowed a missile to fall on your people.”

Lexa wasn’t fazed. “I made a choice that was necessary at the time.”

Bellamy stared at her, and he hated her.

“You allowed them to die for you,” Octavia spat, “screamed blood for blood, and walked away before you spilled a drop. You aren’t a leader. You’re a liar, and a coward.”

“Octavia,” Kane said sharply, frowning.

“Do you really think you’ll be able to survive a war with the Ice Clan?” Lexa asked. “I assume that means Lincoln hasn’t told you about them. Even if you think you are prepared for the winter that is to come, I assure you that you are not for the winter they’ll bring to you.”

“What is the Ice Nation’s qualm with you?” Kane asked.

“It began with disputes over territory,” Lexa said.

“How does that concern us?” Abby raised her eyebrows at Lexa.

Lexa stared at her. “I know that you do not want a war. I understand. Truly, I do. But war is necessary for survival. It is unavoidable. It is a sacrifice that—”

Octavia scoffed. “Here’s the deal, Commander.” She sneered. “You might’ve been able to brainwash Clarke with your bullshit about sacrifice and leadership and love is weakness, but Clarke is gone. You want to know why? She was forced to slaughter everyone in the mountain to save us, and it destroyed her. That’s on you. Congratulations. Now you have to deal with us. Cut the bullshit.”

It was silent.

“I am sorry to hear of Clarke’s fate,” Lexa said. “She, too, is a legend among my people.”

“She didn’t ask to be a legend,” Bellamy said, and he despised her.

Lexa stared at him. “If you decide an alliance is in your interest, you know where to find us,” she said. “To show that we are genuine in our offer, we have a gift for you.” She nodded at Indra, who opened the doors, spoke quickly in Trigedasleng, and stepped back to allow a grounder to carry in the pelts.

“Thank you,” Kane said. “I hope you will give us time to consider your offer.”

“Yes,” Lexa said.

She strode from the room, and Indra followed, although her gaze lingered for a moment, and Bellamy thought at first it was on him. But it wasn’t; it was on Octavia, who stood next to where Bellamy sat. It didn’t matter. Indra followed Lexa, and the room was quiet.

“Well, I think that could’ve gone better,” Kane said.

“You know you’re never going to get us on your side about this, right?” Miller asked.

Kane sighed. “I think I’m coming to see that, yes.” Abby touched a hand to his arm.

Bellamy moved to his feet. He knew that Kane was going to want to discuss the alliance, and that they needed to decide how to distribute the pelts, and, yes, Octavia was right when she muttered to Raven that they ought to check that the grounders hadn’t infected their gift with anything. There were things to do, but he needed a minute.

He wandered from the Ark, around the back. The sun was bright, warming the air.

It made him angry in a shaky, uncontrollable way to talk to Lexa.

To hear her say Clarke’s name, and ask for her, and act like she hadn’t—

He knew that Clarke agreed not to warn everyone in Tondc about the missile. She’d told him in the mountain, in the moments between decisions, confessing it shamefully, and dropping her gaze when he looked at her. He’d told her that it was what she’d needed to do, and she’d replied that she hadn’t warned Octavia.

It was like she’d wanted him to hate her.

But he hadn’t. “You should’ve,” he’d said, but he’d forgiven her. He hadn’t known how not to. He’d forgiven her, though he hadn’t said it; there hadn’t been time, and he’d assumed there would be. That they’d talk about it later, and hash it out, and make it right.

Then she’d left, thinking that she was the monster that Lexa made her into.

She hadn’t wanted to listen to Bellamy, to trust him the way she’d trusted Lexa.

He hated Lexa.

He shook his head, and slammed a fist into the side of the Ark, swearing at the pain that smashed his knuckles, and shot up into his wrist. He shook his hand, and punched the Ark again, and again, and again. His hand was slick with blood when he leaned his head against the Ark at last, trying to catch his breath.

He hated Clarke.

“What’s going on?” Harper asked.

He snapped his gaze to her. She frowned at him, and he watched her put it together when her eyes swept from the blood on the Ark to his bloody, battered hand. “I needed to punch something,” he said, shaking his hand at the pain. “It was this, or the commander.”

She nodded. “I would’ve punched the commander.”

“Yeah.” He laughed a little, ducking his head. “That would’ve been the smart choice.”

“Come on,” she said. “I’ll wrap it for you.” He followed her into medical, gritting his teeth when she started to clean the scrapes. “They put me in a cage, too,” she said.

Startled, he looked from his hand to her face.

But her gaze was on his knuckles. “They took me first. It was after we’d started to figure out that something was wrong, me and Miller and Monty and Jasper. We learned about the Ark, and—and we were going to come up with a plan, but this guard pulled me aside at dinner, and he knocked me out.”

She turned away from him to grab a bandage, and it was quiet for a moment.

He didn’t know what to say.

“I woke up on a table, and they started to drill into me. They did it over and over, and put me in the cage at night, and I was—I’ve never been that scared.” Her voice was tearful now. “Then they brought Monty in, and we traded off after that. I’d watch them drill into him, and he’d watch them drill into me, and I—” She cut off.

It was quiet. “I’m sorry,” he murmured.

She tied off his bandage, and looked at him. “I’m sorry to make you listen to me,” she said, “but I wanted you to know—I wanted to thank you. Thank you for saving me.”

“Clarke saved you,” Bellamy said.

Harper nodded. “I know. I know it was you both. I would thank her, too, but. But I can’t, can I?” She looked at him sadly, almost bitterly. “Do you know Jasper used to call her mom behind her back?” She smiled humorlessly. “What kind of mom leaves her family?”

It was the first time he’d considered the fact that Clarke hadn’t left him. She’d left them.

“She needed to be on her own for a while.”

“Right,” Harper said. “She saved our lives, and couldn't live with the guilt of it.”

He touched Harper’s arm. “I’d do it again,” he said. “I’d go through it again.”

She hugged him. It was awkward, but she started to laugh when he patted at her shoulder, and kissed his cheek.

---

The cold seemed to seep into everything, but they were ready for the chill. The cabins were built, and they were stocked up on wood, on jerky, on potatoes and onions and grain, and, to their relief, it turned out that the pelts from the grounders weren’t infected.

Bellamy knew that it was going to be tough in February, in March.

That food was going to be short despite their stores, and the cold was going to lay them out with the flu, and with every other disease that made Abby wring her hands. But.

Things were starting to get better, to get easier.

Monty was able to make a batch of moonshine, and they drank the whole thing in a night.

It was one of those bright, clear nights with the stars in swirls across the sky when Miller pushed to his feet, swaying on his feet while he chugged his drink; he tossed the cup aside, strode to where Monty sat, and ducked his head to smack a kiss to Monty’s mouth.

Immediately, Monty grabbed at Miller’s shoulders, deepening the kiss.

Octavia whooped, and Raven whistled, and Bellamy grinned into his cup.

It snowed only a week after that. Bellamy woke up to a scream, and he was terrified for a moment, but a loud, gleeful shout made him relax, and he pulled on his coat before he stumbled from the cabin with Raven at his heels. It fell in flat, fluffy flakes that melted on his palm when he reached out a hand.

Octavia stood with her face tilted to the sky, trying to catch the flakes on her tongue.

Bellamy grinned, and Raven laughed.

It turned into a squeal when Wick grabbed her waist to hoist her up, spinning her.

Jasper appeared at the door of his cabin, looking up at the sky. He reached out his hands, came into the clearing slowly, hesitantly, starting to laugh, and his eyes caught on Bellamy’s stare. His smile gave way to something quieter, something sadder, but, after a moment, he nodded at Bellamy.

Bellamy nodded, too.

The snow was gathering on the ground, and Jasper squatted to scrape it up.

Monty spun in surprise when Jasper lobbed the small, crumbling snowball at his back. He stared wide-eyed, slack-jawed at Jasper for a moment, but Jasper grinned, and Monty’s face broke into the biggest, brightest smile before he knelt to make a snowball of his own.

Bellamy tilted his face up, feeling the cold of the snow graze his cheeks.

Where are you right now? Is it snowing for you, too?

He was struck with a snowball, and snapped his head to the culprit to see Octavia with a giant, shit-eating grin on her face. He scooped up snow, chasing after her, catching her easily, and smashing the snow into her hair. She screamed, and flailed, and laughed, and Miller threw a snowball at Bellamy’s back.

Bellamy turned. “That’s how you want it to be,” he said, shaking his head.

“Bring it!” Miller shouted.

By the end of the morning, his fingers were red, scratched, and numb, and he’d lost the feeling in his toes, and in the tips of his ears, and he thought this might be the happiest he’d ever been in his whole life, crowding into a cabin with his friends to warm up after.

Three days later, the boar took a piece of Bellamy with him when Bellamy killed him.

His tusks rammed into Bellamy’s side, and Bellamy stumbled at the force of the blow, at the pain that sank into him like a spear; his leg twisted under him, and he stabbed his knife into the boar while they tumbled to the ground. His vision turned dark at the edges.

Monroe screamed, and he was gone.

He woke in medical with Abby at his side. “You’re okay,” she assured.

He blinked, coming to. He was sore, and there was a dull, gray pounding behind his eyes. “I’m okay,” he said roughly, and she beamed at him despite the circles under her eyes.

Her smile in that moment was Clarke’s. He closed his eyes.

It turned out that in addition to a tusk in the side, the boar decided to give him two broken ribs, a nasty bruise on his hip, on his shoulder, and across his face, and a sprained ankle.

But he recovered, hobbling his way from medical on crutches.

He was showered with attention, hearing people call to him in excitement from across the camp. He was greeted with pats on the back, and kisses to the cheek, and awkward, one-armed hugs. It hadn’t been more than a week, but people treated him like they hadn’t seen him in a year.

“We thought we lost you,” Octavia said, exasperated.

“Nope,” he said. “You’re stuck with me.”

She rolled her eyes, and pulled at his chin, turning his face for her to inspect the spidery, yellowing bruise that spanned his cheek. “Better,” she decided. He grinned at her.

---

February brought thick, heavy snow, and it wasn’t a week before the weight of the snow on a branch caused it to snap, and it crashed into a cabin, breaking through the roof.

Bellamy ordered the kids to scale the other nearby trees to saw off branches.

But he climbed onto the roof of the cabin to repair it himself. It was Kit’s cabin; at twelve, she was the youngest of the delinquents, and Bellamy planned to make damn sure the roof of her cabin wasn’t going to collapse on her when it snowed again.

He didn’t think he hated anything in this world as much as he hated snow.

He was prodding at his handiwork with the handle of the hammer to check how sturdy it seemed when Miller called up to him. “Just a minute,” Bellamy growled, speaking through the nails held between his lips. He took a nail, lining it up, and started to hammer it in.

“You want to come down for this,” Miller said.

Bellamy glared at the roof. “If nothing’s on fire, it can wait.”

“Clarke’s back.”

Bellamy hammered his thumb. He swore, turning to glare at Miller, and there was Clarke.

She was beside Miller.

She was back.

He opened his mouth, and the nails started to spill from between his lips. He sputtered, and everything seemed to happen at once: he lost his footing, the hammer went flying, and he spat the nails with a shout, starting to slide off the roof. But he grabbed the railing before he catapulted to his death, and it was silent.

He breathed in sharply at the pain of the stitches in his side.

“You okay, man?” Miller asked, amused.

Bellamy glared at him, and dropped to the ground. He looked at Clarke.

She was paler, and much, much thinner; the lines in her face stood out starkly. She wore the clothes that she’d left the camp in months ago, and her hair was short, cutting off at her shoulders, and it was impossible, but she was really, truly there, right in front of him, back.

“You’re back,” he said.

Her eyes were bright, and her mouth seemed to wobble. “I’m back.” She smiled.

“Why?”

She stared at him. “Um.” Her eyes shuttered, and the expression on her face was familiar now. “I need to warn the camp about something,” she told him.

He nodded.

He assigned James to finish with the roof, and Miller went to grab Kane, and Raven, too, while Bellamy went to medical for Abby. They were going to meet in the Ark.

But as soon as Miller took off, Bellamy wished he hadn’t.

“Where is everybody?” Clarke asked.

“In their cabins, mostly,” he said. “Come on.”

He started for the Ark, and Clarke fell into the step with him wordlessly. He didn’t know what to do, suddenly aware of the way his arms swung when he walked, of the need to slow his pace to match her steps, of how Clarke was back, and he was nervous to be next to her, walking in silence.

Abby gasped as soon as she saw them, and had Clarke in her arms in a breath. Clarke laughed a little, hugging her mother. “Oh, my baby,” Abby whispered, and tears spilled out when she closed her eyes. They pulled away at last, and Abby asked Clarke how she was, when she ate last, when she slept last.

“I’m fine, Mom,” Clarke said, smiling, and Bellamy allowed himself to look at her more closely in that moment; she was distracted by her mother, wouldn’t see.

Her lips were chapped, cut up, and her fingers were wrapped in little cloth strips. She moved her shoulder awkwardly. Had she hurt it? She was gone for nearly four months.

Where did she go? What did she do? Why was she back? Was she going to stay?

She looked at him, and he looked away quickly, avoiding her gaze.

They went to meet the others.

Kane smiled warmly when he saw her, squeezing her shoulder, and Raven laughed, and pulled her immediately into a hug. Bellamy hadn’t been able to see her face when her mother hugged her, but he saw it now, saw the way her eyes widened in surprise at first, and squeezed shut when she returned the hug.

“I missed you,” Raven said.

Clarke nodded. “I missed you, too.” She turned, and Bellamy looked at the table.

“Nathan tells me that you have something to warn us about,” Kane started.

“Yes,” Clarke said. She cleared her throat. “I saw Jaha. He found me in the woods. He was crazy, raving and wild eyes and—I think he might honestly have lost his mind.”

Kane frowned, and Abby touched a hand sadly to her mouth. But they allowed Clarke to go on without a word.

“It was hard to understand what he was trying to say, but I knew that he was desperate to relay something to me. He was raving about her, and I couldn’t get him to explain who her was, but he ranted about how she’d destroyed the world, and now he’d brought her a missile to do it again.”

“He came to Earth on a missile,” Kane said.

Clarke nodded. “I started to get him to calm down, promising that I’d help him stop her, but, um.” She smiled wryly. “That was when Emerson showed up.”

“What?” Bellamy asked sharply.

Clarke looked at him. “He shot Jaha in the head,” she said.

“Oh, my God,” Abby breathed.

Bellamy stared at Clarke. What about you? What did he do to you?

“I got away from him,” she said. “He ran after me, but once his bullets were out, I was able to fight him.” This time, she looked away from Bellamy. “I killed him.”

“Good,” Miller said.

Clarke glanced at him, and nodded a little, looking at the rest of them. “There’s a chance that Jaha was crazy,” she said, “and we don’t have to worry about some mysterious her who wants to destroy the world, but.” She paused, and Kane nodded.

“We shouldn’t risk it,” he agreed.

“We have to go to the City of Light,” Clarke said. She didn’t leave room for argument.

It was decided. They were going to get a group together, and leave as soon as possible; there wasn’t a reason to put it off. Clarke made it clear that she planned to go, and Bellamy agreed to Kane’s suggestion that they go, too, and that Miller, Raven, and Abby stay to look after the camp. Bellamy thought Miller was going to protest, but he cut it off with a look. If he was going, he needed Miller to stay. Miller nodded.

“Now you need to rest,” Abby said, looking at Clarke, “and you need to come to medical with me.” She looked at Bellamy. “I think I need to take a look at those stitches.” Her eyes flickered pointedly to his side, and he noticed the spot of blood that stained his shirt above his injury.

“Right,” he said. He must’ve torn them open during his tumble on the roof.

“What happened?” Clarke asked, frowning at his shirt.

“Bellamy made friends with a boar,” Raven said.

“I’m fine,” Bellamy said, and Raven made a face at him.

The group started to disperse. Kane told Clarke that it was good to have her back, and he left with Miller, discussing rations. Raven told her they’d talk at dinner, and Bellamy assumed that Clarke was going to head to Abby’s quarters while he went to medical with Abby, but she followed them. There was a line in medical, starting with a woman who cradled her red, swollen wrist to her chest. Abby sighed.

“Go on, Mom,” Clarke said. “I can fix up Bellamy’s stitches.”

Abby smiled at her, and her gaze was tender in a way that made Bellamy look away.

He sat on the stool at Clarke’s direction, and tugged off his shirt. She was suddenly close, bending over to look at the stitches, and her fingertips were cold on his skin. “It looks like you pulled the skin a little, is all,” she said, and he nodded at the top of her head. She cleaned off the wound, and straightened.

Their eyes met. “How have you been?” she asked. There was a strange, hopeful lilt to her voice, and he didn’t know what to do with it.

“Fine,” he said.

He started to pull his shirt on, and Clarke stepped back. “Good.” The word came out too quickly; it sounded off. “I’m glad.” She smiled at him without teeth, looking down.

“Hey, um.” He stood, cleared his throat. “I’m glad you’re back.”

She nodded, and tilted her head up to look him in the eye. “Me, too.”

He hesitated for a moment, but the others got to hug her, and he wanted to hug her, too. He’d missed her, and he’d known that, yeah, but he hadn’t really known it, hadn’t allowed himself to acknowledge it until she was there, and, well. He took a step in, and her face seemed to soften, to open up to him.

He hugged her.

She rose onto her tiptoes, and her arms wrapped around his neck.

He closed his eyes, wanting to make it last, and the world around them narrowed until the world only was them, until it was the press of her breasts against his chest, and the smell of her sweat, and the way she turned her face into his, curling her fingers into his shirt like she was holding on with everything in her.

There was a wet, retching cough from one of the patients, and it broke them apart.

She fell onto her heels, smiling hesitantly at him.

If he told her he’d missed her, would she say she’d missed him, too? Had she? "You should help your mother with her patients,” he said. She nodded, and he left.

---

The news that Clarke was back circled the camp quickly over the course of the day. Bellamy was bombarded with questions about her. How is she? Where was she? Where is she? Is something the matter? Is she going to stay? Why is she back? Did she say why she left?

He lost it by noon. “Open your mouth, and I’ll close it for you,” he growled at a girl.

Sadly, it didn’t stop the questions for long.

She emerged from Abby’s quarters at dusk. The camp was busy at that moment; people tended to hide in their cabins during the day, but they ventured into the cold to collect their dinner, and Clarke looked ready to retreat when she saw the crowd in front of her.

There was something about the apprehension on her face that made Bellamy angry.

He left her to find her way to a meal, and retreated to his cabin with Octavia at his heels.

The delinquents were a family in a way, yet within that family was his family, the group that seemed to have become Bellamy’s friends without his doing: Miller, Monty, and Jasper, Octavia and Lincoln, Harper, and Raven and Wick, and they ate their meals in his cabin.

It wasn’t long before Raven came in with a plate in her hand, and Clarke at her side.

“Clarke!” Monty exclaimed.

He was the first to hug her, and she smiled into his shoulder.

Jasper pulled her into his arms next, making her eyes wide. For a moment, her arms hung in the air with her shock. But she returned his embrace after a moment, laughing, and Bellamy looked at his jerky when he noticed her blink rapidly at the wetness in her eyes.

“It’s about time you got back,” Jasper said.

Clarke nodded. “It’s really good to see you,” she told him.

Her gaze turned on the rest of the group. Wick smiled, and Harper smiled briefly at her, too, but there was coldness in the formal, pointed way that she stayed where she was perched on the edge of Miller’s bed, continuing to eat her dinner like it was any old day.

Octavia wasn’t as subtle as Harper. “Look who’s back,” she said, unimpressed.

Her eyes narrowed when Clarke chose simply to smile, and to sit next to Bellamy.

“Tell us where you’ve been, what you’ve been up to!” Monty said.

Clarke blinked. “I’ve been in the woods, mostly,” she said. “I was following a river for a while, and I went up in the mountains, and explored, I guess. I learned which plants are edible, and which make you really, really sick.” She smiled ruefully, and Monty grinned.

“Okay, Magellan,” Octavia said. “Now tell us why it was you left.”

For a moment, the quiet was awful.

“I needed some time alone to deal with everything,” Clarke said at last.

Octavia nodded. “I guess it didn’t occur to you to turn to your friends to help you deal with everything. Or, you know, to be there for them when they needed your help.”

Clarke stared at her. “I’m sorry if I hurt you, Octavia,” she said.

Octavia scoffed.

“Lay off, O,” Bellamy said.

Octavia muttered to Lincoln, who kissed her temple.

“How long are you back for?” Harper asked.

“She’s back to warn us about the City of Light,” Miller said.

“I’m back to stay,” Clarke said, and it was sharp, final. “I mean, I’m—I am going with the group to the City of Light. But I’m returning with them, too. I’m staying.”

“Good,” Raven said, biting into her potato like it was an apple.

Clarke smiled, and it was quiet.

“Well, aren’t you going to ask what we’ve been up to?” Monty asked.

She laughed. “Yes, of course. What have you been up to? These cabins are unbelievable.”

For the rest of the evening, they caught her up on everything that’d happened at the camp, on the cabins and the romances and the fights, on the way the council worked, on the debacle with the squirrel that hurled nuts at people, on Monty’s plans for a greenhouse.

Clarke was happy, smiling and nodding and laughing.

Bellamy was quiet.

He wanted her to look at him, but didn’t know what to do with her closeness when she did, wanted her to be uncomfortable with the fact that she’d left, but was pleased with himself when his comment about the squirrel made her snort in laughter, and grin at him.

She left eventually to spend the night in Abby’s quarters on the Ark.

Lying in his bed in the dark, he stared at the ceiling, and he thought I guess it worked.

She wasn’t able to bear their company after Mt. Weather, but now she was better, now she was happy, now she was back to stay, and he was angry. If it worked, he didn’t understand why she’d bothered to come back. But she had, and now she was acting like she hadn’t left in the first place. Wasn’t she sorry that she’d left them? Left him?

He was able to avoid her in the morning, and ate lunch with Octavia, went on a hunt in the afternoon, discovering it was easy to dodge her the next day, and the day after that.

She was back, but it didn’t change the fact that she’d left.

It seemed like it’d been what she needed, and he was glad that she was better. But.

Three days after her return, they left for the City of Light.

The group that ended up going was small. Kane recruited three Ark guards to go with them, and he was going, too, of course. Bellamy was going, and Clarke, and Octavia insisted on coming, which meant that Lincoln was coming, too. Together, the eight were going to be scouts. If they were able to handle the situation, fine.

But if they weren’t, they’d radio to Raven for back up.

Harper saw them off at the gate, nodding eagerly to whatever Octavia said, and hugging Bellamy. “If you aren’t back soon, we’re coming after you,” she told him, and he grinned. He didn’t notice Clarke’s gaze until Harper’s gaze seemed to slide over her, and she left.

“She’s mad at me, isn’t she?” Clarke asked softly.

Bellamy hoisted his pack over his shoulder. “Can you blame her?” he said. He didn’t wait for Clarke to reply before he started off, and Octavia found her way to his side.

---

Something about the road sent him tumbling back into the nightmares that hadn’t gripped him in weeks.

He crawled through the vents, trying desperately to reach Octavia, but it wasn’t Octavia; it was that boy, sobbing for his father, and the radiation melted his face. Bellamy tried to carry him to safety, but he was chained like an animal, and he was hanging, feeling the blood rush to his head, drain from his body. There was Clarke, standing in front of him, but he couldn't speak, couldn't ask her to help him, and she shook her head sadly at him, telling him that she had to go, leaving him, and he screamed for her—

“Bellamy,” Octavia whispered, “hey, hey, it’s okay, hey, you’re safe.”

His arms were free, and he scrambled for his gun.

“Bell, it’s okay,” Octavia repeated. “It was a nightmare. Just a nightmare.”

He came to, focusing on her face. She knelt next to him, and the sky was a blanket above her head, and it was a nightmare. It was over. He nodded. “I’m okay,” he murmured.

He thought he was done with these nightmares. He thought he was better.

“You’re okay,” Octavia echoed softly. She kissed his forehead.

It wasn’t until after she’d returned to her blankets that he rolled over, and saw Clarke.

Her eyes were open, and he realized she’d seen that. It made sense; if he’d made enough noise to wake up his sister, it figured that he’d have woken up Clarke, too. “Sorry,” he muttered. Clarke shook her head a little, making a noise in her throat. He closed his eyes.

It was hard to sleep after that, but he managed.

In the morning, Octavia came up to him while he rolled his blankets. There was a grin on her face, and her hands were behind her back, holding something. “What?” he said.

She thrust the bowl at him to reveal an apple that she’d cut in to slices and sprinkled with cinnamon. He took it slowly, raising an eyebrow at her. In reply, she whipped out matches, lit one, and stuck it in a slice. “Quick!” she instructed, beaming. “Make a wish!”

He laughed, and blew out the match.

She clapped, surging up on her toes to kiss his cheek. “Happy birthday!”

He didn't know where she'd gotten cinnamon, but he didn't care. He ate the apple slowly, savoring the taste of the cinnamon, and hadn’t finished yet when they were packed up, and back on the road. Octavia was at the front of the group with Lincoln, and Kane walked with the guards in the middle, leaving Bellamy to pull up the rear with Clarke.

“Happy birthday,” she said.

He glanced at her.

“It looks good,” she added, nodding at the slices.

“I’m not sharing my special birthday apple,” he replied.

She scoffed, and he bit into a slice with a smirk. “I wasn’t asking you to.”

“Sure.”

She pursed her lips at him. “How old are you?”

“Is that a criticism, or a question?”

She paused. “It was a criticism, but now I’m curious. How old are you?”

“Twenty-four.”

“Oh. Wow. I knew you were older, but. You’re old.”

He eyed her. “I can see how a fifteen-year-old might think that.”

“I’m eighteen.”

“Sure.”

She rolled her eyes, and gasped, grabbing at his arm. His gaze snapped to where she was looking, to see what she saw, and he aimed his gun, and Clarke stole a slice from his bowl, popping it into her mouth, and smirking at the shock on his face when he realized.

“You’re unbelievable,” he said, shaking his head. “You’re a child.”

“But at least I know how to share,” she replied, cheerful.

He grinned at the ground, and it was quiet while he finished the apple, and they started up a hill. But there was something he’d wanted to ask her since she’d told them about Jaha. “The City of Light,” he started. She glanced at him. “What do you think it’s going to be?”

She frowned. “I don’t know.”

“Jaha didn’t . . . ?”

“Nope. He managed to avoid a description in his ravings about his destiny, and her.”

They continued to discuss the possibilities while they walked, and their theory by the end of the day was grounders with technology, including the technology not only to isolate themselves from Lexa’s clan but also possibly to have been the cause of the apocalypse.

It wasn’t a lot, but it was a theory.

No matter what, this is what Bellamy knew for certain: they weren’t going to split up. They were going stay together, do this together. He wasn’t going to lose her. Not again.

---

Lincoln told them that the woods were going to give way to desert within a day’s walk, and that was the road to the City of Light. But when the sun was directly above them, grounders emerged from the trees, and Bellamy didn’t have a chance to lift up his gun.

The grounders weren’t about to hurt them, but they were going to delay them.

It turned out that the army of the grounders under Lexa was camped in their path, and the scouts were convinced that the people of the Sky were sent to spy on the army, which meant they needed to be marched into the camp to explain themselves to the commander.

Lincoln attempted to dissuade them, but he was ignored.

The moment they were brought into the camp, people started to recognize them.

Bellamy heard them shout his name, and Clarke’s, and he watched Clarke seem to shrink in on herself when she heard them, when the whispers about her greatness followed her name. Her face went hard, and her eyes shuttered at the awe in the whispers, at the praise.

They were stripped of their weapons, and brought into the tent where Lexa was.

“Commander,” Kane greeted.

Lexa was seated on what Bellamy imagined was supposed to be a throne, and she nodded carelessly at Kane before her gaze flickered unseeingly over the guards, to Octavia, to Lincoln, to Bellamy, and landed at last on Clarke. “Clarke of the Sky people,” she began.

“Commander,” Clarke said.

Lexa stared at her. “I was told you were lost to your people.”

“Then you misunderstood what you were told.”

Lexa seemed to assess her. “I assume you’re aware that you’re trespassing.” She raised her eyebrows at Clarke. “My scouts have reported sightings of warriors from the Ice Nation, whom we are at war with,” she said. “You’re lucky you weren’t killed on sight.”

“We’re on our way to the City of Light.”

“Why?”

Clarke glared at her, and Lexa waited. “That’s our business.”

“If you intend to continue, you’ll make it my business.”

“Our friends went to the City of Light, and we haven’t heard from them.”

Lexa sat back in her seat. “If your friends went to the City of Light, they are lost to you. Nobody returns from the City of Light. It is a place that criminals, cowards, and fools believe is going to save them, only to lose their souls to it. Continue, and you shall, too.”

“That’s your opinion,” Clarke said.

It was quiet.

Lexa turned her gaze away from Clarke at last, looking at Kane, and at Bellamy. “If you wish to continue on your journey, you may. I ask only that you accept my hospitality, staying the night at my encampment, and continue in the morning.” She looked at Clarke.

Clarke looked at Bellamy.

He glanced at Lexa for a moment, and nodded at Clarke.

“We are glad to accept your hospitality,” Clarke said. “Thank you.”

From the corner of his eye, Bellamy saw Octavia’s lip curl in something like a smirk.

His sister didn’t like Clarke, but he knew in that moment that she was feeling the same vindictive pride that he was at the cold, flippant tone in Clarke’s voice.

Lexa glanced at a grounder, speaking to him in Trigedasleng, and nodded at Kane. The grounder nodded, leaving the tent, but Lexa wasn’t finished with them yet. Her gaze returned to Clarke. “I wish to speak with you alone, Clarke of the Sky People,” she said.

“I don’t think that’s necessary,” Clarke replied.

“It wasn’t a request.”

“Thank you for your hospitality, Commander,” Kane said, and he started to leave. Their guards followed him, and after a moment, Octavia went, too, with Lincoln at her heels.

Bellamy looked at Clarke.

“Go,” she said. “I’m fine.”

He nodded, eyeing Lexa, and brushed a hand against Clarke’s back on his way out.

To his surprise, the grounders filed out after him, and he realized that Lexa meant it when she claimed she wished to speak to Clarke alone. He didn’t like it, but it was better, he supposed, than to have Clarke in the tent with Lexa as well as guards who’d kill for Lexa.

He didn’t know what to do with himself now, though.

The grounders showed them where to set up their things, and the guards from the Ark, Peter, Lars, and Macy, started to pitch their tents. Kane wanted to try to talk to the grounders, hoping to learn more about the City of Light, and Lincoln agreed to translate for him. Octavia started a fire, muttering about how this was a waste of their time, how they were about to sit on their asses for an afternoon.

“Why do you think Lexa wanted to talk to Clarke alone?” Bellamy asked.

Octavia glanced at him. “To get into her pants, probably.”

“What?”

“Lexa’s got a thing for Clarke,” Octavia said. “Or she used to.”

“What about Clarke?” he asked.

Octavia shrugged. “I’d like to think she isn’t about to mack on the woman who betrayed us and left our people to die. But she isn’t who I used to think she was, so who knows. But I’ll bet—” Octavia frowned, looking over Bellamy’s shoulder, and Bellamy turned.

“Bellamy kom Skaikru,” Echo said.

She looked good, healthier; there was color in her skin, and her face was fuller.

“Echo,” he said. He glanced at Octavia. “This is my sister, Octavia. O, this is Echo.”

Octavia greeted Echo in Trigedasleng, and Echo nodded.

“I know the tales of Octavia kom Skaikru,” she said. “I am honored to meet you.”

Octavia nodded, and glanced from Echo to Bellamy for a moment before she claimed that she needed to find Lincoln. She wasn’t able to hide the way her lips twitched up in amusement before she turned her back to them and left.

“Might I join you?” Echo asked, nodding at where Bellamy sat.

“Sure.”

Echo sat. “I hoped to see you again,” she said. She paused. “I wanted to tell you that I’m sorry my people allowed your people to fight our war for us.” Her eyes were dark. “It disgusts me that we agreed to a peace with those animals rather than take the blood they took from us.”

He nodded. He didn’t know what to say, but it didn’t matter.

“I have a gift for you,” she said, and she presented him with the knife. “It is forged by our smiths, and given to honor the greatest of the warriors in my clan. For my life, I give it to you.” The handle was a dark red wood with swirling, intricate designs, and the blade was curved dangerously at the tip.

She took his hand, and placed the handle in his palm, clasping his hand.

“Thank you,” he said.

She looked up, rising to her feet. “Clarke kom Skaikru.”

Clarke rested her hand on Bellamy's shoulder.

“It is an honor to be in your presence,” Echo said, bowing her head.

Clarke jerked her head in what Bellamy thought might’ve been an attempt at nodding, and it seemed to satisfy Echo. She spared a glance for Bellamy and left, and Clarke sat beside him. “I hate when they do that,” she said. “I don’t want to be some great legendary warrior.”

He tucked the knife into his bag. “Me, neither,” he said. “But I think that was a way to thank you. She was in Mt. Weather, and she knows you’re the reason she got out.”

“Did you meet her in Mt. Weather?” Clarke asked.

He nodded. “She helped me,” he said. He paused, adding wryly, “she was in the cage next to mine.”

Clarke stared at him. “I didn’t—” She stopped.

It was quiet.

“Did Lexa ask you for an alliance?” he asked.

She nodded. “I told her that I didn’t see a reason for an alliance, which I learned was what you told her when she asked a month ago.”

“Kane wanted an alliance, but the rest of us don’t trust her,” he said.

“I don’t either.” Her voice was bitter.

He glanced at her. “Was there something between you?”

It took her a moment to reply. “Yes,” she said at last. “I guess there was.”

“Do you love her?”

She looked at him, and seemed to consider. “I could have. But I didn’t yet, and I can’t now.” She shook her head. “I might be able to understand why she did what she did, and I guess after everything, I can’t really hold it against her. But I’ll never be able to trust her. And after everything, I don’t think I can love somebody I don’t trust. I know I can’t.”

“You can,” he said. “Hold it against her.”

She raised an eyebrow at him. “How? I’m the same as she is.”

“You’re not,” he said. How could she not see that? How could she not see that Lexa was to blame for everything? “There’s a difference between killing your enemies, and betraying your friends. You did what you had to do, and she did what she wanted to do.”

“She chose to let our people die to save her people,” Clarke said, “and I chose to let the people in Mt. Weather die to save our people. It’s the same, Bellamy. It’s the same. Those children in Mt. Weather weren’t my enemies. Maya wasn’t my enemy, and I—”

“Do you regret it?”

“What?”

“Do you regret it?” he repeated. “Do you wish we hadn’t done it?”

She stared at him. “No.”

“Then you have to learn to live with it. Do you think I’ve forgotten about those kids, or Maya? Do you think I’ve forgotten about the lives that we took? I haven’t. I’m never going to. But I’m not going to regret that I saved my sister either, or our friends. I won’t.”

“I have learned to live with it,” she said.

He eyed her doubtfully. “Have you?”

“It took me a while, but I have.” She paused. “Bellamy, I know I—I know I left, that I walked away when you asked me to stay, and I left. But I didn’t mean to leave you.”

He looked away from her.

“I needed to be alone for a while to remember why I made the choice I made,” she went on softly, “to realize that I didn’t have a choice. I don’t regret what we did, Bellamy. I don’t. Yes, there’s always going to be a part of me that hates the monster I had to become, but—but who you are, and who you have to be to survive are different things.”

Her gaze warmed his face, but he couldn’t look at her. “Good,” he said.

“Bellamy—”

“Bellamy!” Octavia called.

His head snapped to where Octavia stood with a group of grounders. He looked at Clarke. “I should . . .” He tilted his head at Octavia, and Clarke nodded. He moved to his feet, only to pause. “I’m glad you’re doing better with everything,” he said. She smiled tightly, and he left.

---

He was alone in the mountain, searching desperately for Clarke. But whenever he heard voices, he stumbled into the corridor to see that nobody was there, and there was Fox, gasping his name in relief while blood pooled in her skin from the drills, and the screaming from the grounders in the cages made it impossible for him to hear the sound of his own strangled cries.

He rattled his cage, and the heat of a fire licked his face.

“Bellamy! Wake up, Bellamy!”

He jolted from sleep to see Clarke’s face.

But the screams continued to echo in his head, and Clarke tugged on his hands, trying to get him up, and he realized it wasn’t in his head, that the camp was ablaze, was under attack. He looked around wildly for Octavia, and his eyes latched on her in hand-to-hand combat with a grounder.

Clarke grabbed his shoulder a moment later, forcing him to duck, and he followed her lead when she crawled behind their tents to where the guards from the Ark were.

“This isn’t our fight,” Lars said, seeing them. “We need to get out.”

“How do you suggest we do that?” Clarke snapped.

“Fight our way out, and meet at the desert,” Macy said. She looked at Bellamy. “Get to your sister, and we’ll get to Kane, and we’ll meet at the desert.” She paused. “This isn’t a village. There aren’t children. This is the camp of an army, and it isn’t our fight. We refused an alliance with the Tree people, and we don’t have a qualm with the Ice people.”

She was right.

Clarke nodded.

Lars checked to see that the coast was clear, or as clear as it was going to be, and they made a run for it at once. There was a shout, and a grounder leapt at Bellamy, but he spun, taking out the grounder with the butt of his gun, and they reached Octavia right when she sank a spear into her attacker.

Bellamy grabbed her arm. “We’ve got to go.”

“I can’t,” she said, wrenching her arm from his grasp.

“O—”

“They took Lincoln!” she shouted. “This is a raid for prisoners, and they took Lincoln!”

“Did you see where they took him?” Clarke asked.

“That way,” Octavia said. “To the woods.”

They took off together, and grounders came at them, slowing their progress, but Clarke shot the first, and Octavia slit the throat of the second. “There!” Clarke screamed, and Bellamy followed her gaze to where Lincoln stumbled along the line of the trees in front of them, looking ready to pass out.

He must have escaped his captor, but he wasn’t going to make it far.

They made it to him, and he blinked dazedly at Octavia. “Run,” he panted. But Octavia started to haul him up, and Bellamy helped; they got his arms over their shoulders, and that was when the grounders surged from the woods. Clarke shot the first, and the second, but the third was faster than she was.

Bellamy raised his gun, shooting him a moment before he speared Clarke.

“Take Lincoln,” he ordered. “I’ll catch up.”

He shot a grounder that ran at him, ducking the attack of another before clubbing her over the head, and Octavia was at his side, swiping her sword to cut the calves of a grounder. He started to shout at her to go, and a knife slashed his arm. He spun, blasting his attacker away with a shot to the belly, and—

He was knocked to his knees at the blow of a hammer to his back.

His gun was wrenched up, slamming into his face. His vision went black at the edges.

But he looked up, sucking in a breath, and there was Octavia in hand-to-hand combat, and there was Lincoln against a tree, shooting Clarke’s gun, and there was Clarke, running to him. For him. Time slowed, and stopped, and he saw the start of the scream on her face. Sudden, splintering pain stabbed the back of his head.

---

He breathed in, coughing. He was gagged. He blinked, and his face was covered; the red of the sun seemed to glow in the weave of the cloth, making his eyes water, and it smelled like rot. He blinked, and remembered. His head rang with a dull, throbbing pain.

He was on his side, lying in snow. He was damp, cold.

His hands were behind his back, and his wrists burned at the rope that bound them.

He flexed his arms, trying to assess his injuries. He turned his ankles, and there wasn’t a pain in his side, or in his back, and he decided that other than the blow to his head that knocked him out, the grounders hadn’t touched him. If he needed to, he’d be able to run.

But when he tried to push up on his elbow, there was a shout in Trigedasleng.

He was kicked in the stomach, and he gasped for breath.

Hands yanked at his arms a minute later, hauling him up onto his knees. There were a grunt to his left, and a shoulder knocked with his. The cloth was torn up off his head suddenly, forcing Bellamy to blink rapidly at the onslaught of bright, blinding sunlight.

He was in a line of prisoners on their knees, gagged.

In front of them, a grounder with a scar over his eye was yelling.

Bellamy tried to translate his shouts, but the grounder was speaking quickly, and with an accent, and it was impossible. Suddenly, the grounder chopped his arm in the air, shouting so furiously that spit gathered in the corners of his lips, and a prisoner in the middle of the line was yanked onto his feet, and shoved until he was visible to the others.

He was returned to his knees a moment later, and they tore off his gag.

The leader of their captors strode to him, and snarled at him in Trigedasleng.

In response, the grounder spat in his face.

Bellamy flinched in surprise when, a moment later, the grounder was speared through the face. He screamed, and jerked, and seemed to choke. His body crumpled to the ground.

The leader chopped at the air, shouting, and a prisoner was shoved from the line. Her gag was torn off, and something was said to her in Trigedasleng. She yelled a reply, and Bellamy knew to look away this time before they killed her. The leader chopped at the air, and a prisoner was shoved from the line.

Bellamy grit his teeth. He was going to die. This was it.

He stared at the brown, muddy snow on the ground while he listened to death after death, waiting. Anger burned in his gut at Lexa, at how she’d detained them. If it weren’t for her, he’d be on his way to the City of Light with the others right now. Six were dead when there was that same, repeated growl in Trigedasleng, and the reply came in English.

“My people refused to join an alliance against you,” she spat, “but they will now.”

Clarke.

Bellamy’s scream was muffled on his gag, and he struggled to push up to his feet, only for a hand to yank at his collar, for the tip of a spear to dig into the back of his neck.

She started to turn at his scream, but the leader grabbed her chin.

“Your people,” he spat.

“I am Clarke kom Skaikru,” she snarled.

“If you are of the Sky, what were you doing in the camp of the usurper?” he asked.

“I was scouting the land with my people when their guards spotted us, and demanded we have an audience with the commander. She wanted an alliance with us against you, but we refused. Kill me, and my people are going to join in that alliance, and massacre you.”

For a moment, it was silent.

“The legends of your greatness have reached our ears, Clarke kom Skaikru,” he said. He dropped her chin, and barked an order at a grounder in Trigedasleng. Clarke was pulled to her feet. “Today is not the day you die." He jerked his head at the grounder beside her, who grabbed Clarke’s elbow, started to drag her off.

She resisted. “My—”

Pleni!” The leader shouted, smacking her across the face. She was knocked to her knees, and a grounder thrust a cloth over her head.

But she wasn’t going to be killed.

The leader chopped an arm through the air, and a prisoner was thrust at him. His gag was taken off, and he was given a moment to speak before a knife cut from the crown of his head, down his face, to open his throat, and he screamed, choking on his blood before he died.

The next to be killed was a girl who couldn’t have been older than thirteen.

Only a dozen of the prisoners were left when Bellamy was pushed up, forward.

They returned him to his knees, and tore off his gag.

“I’m sorry,” he growled. “But I don’t speak grounder.”

Clarke shouted, flailing so wildly that she knocked away the grounder at her side for a moment, and she was on her feet. “He’s mine!” The grounder shoved her back to her knees, but she continued to struggle. “He’s with me!” she cried. “Touch him, and I’ll—”

They clubbed her in the stomach, taking her breath, and silencing her.

The leader glared at Clarke, returning his gaze slowly to Bellamy.

“You are from the Sky, too,” he said.

“Yes.” His heart was pounding in his throat.

The leader stared at Bellamy for a moment before his lips curled up into a sneer. “Two is unnecessary to please our queen,” the leader said. “Should I kill you, or the woman?”

“Me,” Bellamy growled.

Clarke shouted, and a grounder snarled at her in Trigedasleng.

The leader hadn’t taken his eyes off Bellamy. “Your people are loyal to her,” he said.

“Yes.”

The leader slashed his arm, giving an order, and Bellamy was yanked to his feet. His face was covered with the cloth. They weren’t going to kill him. Not yet. He was dragged from the line, stumbling when he was halted suddenly, pushed to his knees, and there was somebody at his side.

“Bellamy,” she breathed.

He turned into her, crowding her, and she pressed her face blindly into his cheek.

They stayed like that while the others were killed. His arms started to pulse at the pain of the bindings, at the angle that he was forced to kneel in, but he didn't care, focusing on the line of Clarke’s body against his, straining to hear a voice he knew.

But as far as could tell, Octavia wasn’t taken, and neither was Lincoln.

One by one, the prisoners from Lexa’s army were killed.

They listened to what they weren’t able to see, the tear of flesh, the splintering of bones, and at one long, guttural scream, Clarke pressed in closer to Bellamy. He closed his eyes.

---

The cloth was torn off their heads, and their hands were untied. But they were pushed to their knees, and spears were pressed to their neck before a canteen was shoved at them.

Bellamy coughed on the water in his eagerness, passing the canteen to Clarke.

One of her eyes was swollen, and her lip was cut.

But she nodded at him, and he saw the reassurance in her gaze. I’m okay.

The grounders bound their hands in front of them this time, tying the ropes to the back of a cart, and the army was on their way, weaving through the trees on foot, on horse, and with their prisoners in the middle, struggling to keep up with the cart that yanked on their arms.

“What happened after I got knocked out?” he asked.

He kept his voice low, quiet, hoping their captors weren’t going to bother to listen in.

“They started to drag you off,” Clarke said, “and I chased after them, and got knocked out, too. The last thing I saw was Octavia, stabbing a grounder. I don’t know about Lincoln.”

He nodded. They hadn’t been captured, and he was going to believe they hadn’t been killed. He lowered his voice further. “What do you know about these people?”

“Not a lot,” she admitted. “I know their queen likes to decapitate her prisoners.”

He glanced at her. “Great. That’s great.”

“Right?”

“It’s fantastic.”

“I’m thrilled about it.”

He was dead on his feet when the army slowed at last, setting up camp for the night. They were cut from the cart, only for the ropes that served for their leashes to be thrown over the branches of a tree, forcing them to spend the night with their arms strung up over their heads.

---

The further they traveled, the colder it grew. The snow under their feet was thicker, and his fingers started to crack with the cold, and bleed. They were strung up every single night, struggling more every single day to keep up with the pace of the cart they were tied to.

Clarke tried to talk to the grounders. They ignored her.

But they kept an eye on her, and it wasn’t the way you watched a prisoner. It was with a wary, expectant awe. It was as if they imagined she was about to lash out wildly, to escape her bindings, and tear them limb from limb, seeking vengeance, and slaughtering them.

If she noticed, she didn’t say a word.

Three days in, Bellamy stumbled, and he wasn’t able to break his fall.

The cart wasn’t about to stop, dragging him through the snow. He tried to get up, but it was impossible with the yank of the cart on his arms; he was helpless to do anything. Clarke shouted for the cart to stop, but it was useless, and a whip slapped across her back when she tried to dig her heels in, to force the cart to stop.

Her knees buckled under the blow, and the cart pulled at her arms. She fell.

Bellamy swore, and tried desperately to get his footing, to get up, and have the chance to get to her, but he couldn’t. They were dragged for close to an hour before the army stopped at noon, giving them the chance to push to their knees, and stagger to their feet.

He looked Clarke over, checking for injuries.

Her face was battered from the ground; her cheek was bloody, swelling.

“I’m fine,” she told him, and the words came out slurred.

“You’re not,” he muttered.

She smiled grimly at him, making her face contort in a horrible way. “Neither are you.”

It was a wonder they were able to stay on their feet in the afternoon.

They stopped for the night at last, and Bellamy struggled to keep his eyes open, struggled not to collapse on the ground as soon as the cart slowed to a stop. They were allowed a canteen of water between the two of them, and a leg of rabbit to share, too, and they were strung up as soon as they finished the meal.

Bellamy allowed his arms to hang from the start, aching at the strain.

He didn’t have the strength not to.

He was sore, and exhausted, and it didn’t help that his stomach hurt with hunger, or that the wind burned his skin. He closed his eyes, trying to imagine warmth, a bed.

“Bellamy,” she said.

“Clarke.”

There was a pause. “Do you hate me?”

“What?” He opened his eyes.

“Do you hate me?” she repeated. “Octavia told me . . . ” She trailed off.

He turned his head to look at her. “She told you I hate you?”

“No, but.”

It was hard to see her face in the dark, but he knew she was looking at him.

“Why would I hate you?” he asked.

“I left.”

He closed his eyes. He didn’t have the energy for this.

“I don’t hate you.” He hadn’t hated her in a long, long time, didn’t think he’d ever actually hated her. He’d resented her, and he’d disagreed with her, but he hadn’t hated her. Not even when he'd wanted to, when he'd thought it’d make him feel better to hate her.

“But you hold it against me,” she said. “My leaving.”

“It’s fine, Clarke.”

“It’s not. I know it’s not.”

He wrapped his hands around the rope, pushing up on his tiptoes to relieve his shoulders for a moment. “I don’t hate you," he said. "If you really want to know, yeah, okay? Yeah, it was hard when you left, and I wanted to hate you. You left, and—" He swallowed thickly. "—and it was up to me to look after the kids, and deal with the grounders, and—and all the time I was thinking about you, and worrying. You were like my goddamn shadow, and I couldn't get away from you.”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered.

“I don’t hate you,” he said. “I hate that—fuck, Clarke, I hate that I wasn’t enough to make you stay, but I don’t hate you. If it did, things would’ve been a whole lot easier.”

It was quiet.

“I didn’t leave because there wasn’t a reason to stay," she said. "I had to go.”

“I know.” He didn’t want to hear that sadness in her voice, that pity. “It wasn’t about me. I know.”

“Do you?”

Even in the dark, it was possible to feel her gaze on him. He stared at the ground.

“Bellamy, I couldn’t stay. It’s hard to explain, but I couldn’t. Once I was alone, it was like I remembered how to breathe, and being out in the woods, being out on my own, seeing it snow, and—and I know it sounds stupid, but it started to make things okay again—”

“I get it,” he said. “It’s what you needed.”

Listen to me,” she said, demanded, pleading with him. “I’m trying to tell you that it wasn’t about you when I left, but it was when I came back.”

He looked at her.

“Out on my own, I got the chance to think for the first time in such a long time, and I thought about you. I thought about you, and I missed you, thinking about what you were doing, and how you were, and—and I thought about how time would pass, and you would forget about me, and I hated it. It was selfish—it is selfish, and I know I don’t deserve you, but I was out there, and—and the truth is that Jaha gave me the excuse, but it was you—I came back for you.”

She paused, and his heart burned in his chest.

“You’re my best friend,” she told him. “I don’t want to lose you.”

“You haven’t,” he said. He tightened his hold on the ropes. “You won’t.”

She didn’t reply for a moment, and he wished it wasn’t dark, that they weren’t strung up, that it was possible to see her, to know what— “Unless we’re decapitated,” she said.

He choked on a laugh. “Yeah,” he murmured, closing his eyes. “Unless that happens.”

---

The day after that was the worst yet. His body was stiff from the night, from the cold and the exhaustion and the hour that he was dragged after the cart the day before, and he wasn’t going to be able to go on like this for long. He knew it was the same for Clarke.

The trees around them seemed to grow thicker in the morning at least, which meant the army was forced to slow, and it was easier to keep up with the cart.

Still, the day seemed to go on forever.

But at last Bellamy watched the sky change to pink, to orange, darkening; the moment the cart rolled to a stop, he sank to the ground, hoping it was going to take a while for a grounder to untie the ropes from the cart, to have them strung up in trees for the evening.

He was beamed in the head with a canteen, and he glared murderously at the grounder.

But he drank, and shared the canteen with Clarke.

They were given jerky to share while the grounders went to work, setting up a camp.

“We’re going west,” Clarke said. Her voice was grim.

He glanced at her. “Is that bad?”

“I don’t know. But we’ve been going directly north for days. Until now.”

They weren’t able to sit for long before a grounder was at the cart, untying the rope. It took them a moment to rise to their feet, making the grounder snarl at them in Trigedasleng. “Give us a minute,” Bellamy snapped. The grounder opened his mouth, and an arrow sank into his throat.

“The fuck—”

Clarke shoved Bellamy to the ground a moment before the arrows started to rain from the sky. The camp broke into chaos around them immediately. It was an attack, and the grounders weren’t prepared, shouting and scrambling and struggling to form a defense in the growing, shadowy dark.

They were in a clearing in the woods, and it was easy to pick them off.

He stumbled for the cover of the cart, only to see that Clarke was behind, stopped.

He cursed, and started for her.

The horse at the cart reared up when an arrow struck his side, taking off.

Bellamy reached Clarke at the body of the grounder, and there was a knife in her hands; she was trying to cut at the ropes that bound her hands. He made it to her, and grabbed the knife from her grasp. It was easier for him to cut the ropes for her, freeing her hands, and she cut the ropes that bound him a moment later.

It was in time for the attackers to pour suddenly from the trees.

Their faces seemed to glow iridescently in the light of the torches. They were grounders, but they weren’t a clan that Bellamy knew. It didn’t matter. They were going to be distracted with the Ice people, and the Ice people were going to be distracted with them.

This was their chance to make a run for it.

“Let’s go,” Bellamy breathed.

They wove their way through the battle, trying to keep to the ground, trying to dodge the fights. He grabbed up a spear, only to use it a minute later, leaving it in the belly of a grounder, and taking the grounder’s ax. Clarke was leading the way, leading them to the line of trees that the attackers hadn’t come from.

They made it to the trees, and nobody was at their heels.

But they weren’t going to risk their freedom yet; they continued to run, stumbling in the dark, grasping at trees to keep them on their feet, waiting to hear a shout, to hear footsteps after them. Bellamy stumbled, and Clarke grabbed his arm, dragging him on. They ran and ran; his lungs were ready to burst, and his legs burned with the effort.

The sounds of the fight seemed to fade at least.

Clarke slowed, and stopped, bending over with a gasp, and he brushed a hand against her back, sinking to his knees next to her, trying to catch his breath.

“Where do we go?” Clarke asked.

He shook his head. He didn't know, and the cover of the trees made it impossible to see more than foot in front his face. Even if they wanted to go on, they weren’t going to make it far.

“We should’ve tried to grab food, or water, or—”


“Clarke,” he said, panting. “Let’s call this one a win, and worry about the rest later.”

She nodded.

Through the dark, her gaze found his. He pushed up to his feet, reaching for her. She was easy to gather into his arms, seeming impossibly small in that moment. She pressed her good, uninjured cheek to his chest, clinging to him, and he closed his eyes, kissed the top of her head because he could, because he wanted to.

---

He fought to keep his eyes open as long as possible before he gave up, and gave in, waking Clarke. “I’m sorry,” he murmured, but she shook her head, yawning and straightening up from where she’d slept with head against his shoulder, and she pulled on his arm until he settled his head in her lap.

He closed his eyes.

The next thing he knew, Clarke was shaking his shoulder to wake him.

He blinked, seeing that it was lighter out. The sun wasn’t up yet, but it was going to be soon, and Clarke was right to wake him. There was a chance they were going to be followed, and they needed to get a move on. He stretched. He was sore, but he was better than he’d been in a while.

It was Clarke’s idea to eat the snow, saying it’d keep them hydrated. It tasted like dirt.

She wanted to check on the wound in his side, too, pushing up his shirt to inspect the stitches. They were caked in old, dry blood, coloring them brown, and the skin that surrounded the cut was tinged sickly yellow, green, and fading brown. But according to Clarke, it wasn’t infected. He was going to have a nasty, raised scar, but he’d live.

That was fine with him.

“I say we go east, and try to go back the way we came,” Clarke said.

“Works for me.”

They started off, and he swung his arms, turning his shoulders. For days, his hands were tied, and it hurt in the best possible way to be able to move his arms freely again. His wrists were red, raw circles, though, stinging with pain when Clarke inspected them for infection. Her wrists looked the same.

“If they are infected, what are you going to do?” he asked.

“Worry,” she replied.

They walked until the sun was directly above them, and they needed to stop for a minute, to sit, and scoop up snow to parch their thirst. The woods began to thin when they continued on their way in the afternoon, and he thought that was good, that it meant they were going the way they came, but Clarke wasn’t certain.

“This doesn’t seem familiar,” she insisted.

She was right.

The trees thinned and thinned, and Bellamy slowed to a stop when he saw.

“That’s . . . ” He stared at the gray, crumbling structures.

“It’s a city,” Clarke whispered.

It seemed to emerge suddenly from the trees, but he suspected it wasn’t built within them, that it was the trees that weren’t where they were supposed to be, having crept in slowly to swallow up the city in the years since it was abandoned, and now it was hidden among them.

“I know this isn’t the way we came,” Bellamy said, “but . . .”

Clarke nodded.

In minutes, they’d crossed into the heart of it.

The buildings seemed to be sinking into the green of moss, vines, and growing, climbing trees, and the ground was crumbling under the feet. They stepped over large, weathered pieces of concrete, passing cars that were blanketed in leafy green plants, and saw the sun reflect off the glass that remained in the shell of a building.

They came up on a building that seemed mostly in tact.

It was impossible to resist the temptation to wander in. The trees were making their way inside, too, growing up slowly around the contents of the building, and a bird sang at them from where it perched in a window. They realized the place was a store, and it was larger than it seemed from the outside.

“What do you think it sold?” he asked.

“Clothes,” she decided, nudging her foot at a grotesque porcelain mannequin on the floor.

Further in, they found the large glass displays. The glass was dirty, but it was possible to see into one of the cases to the contents within: several colorful, glittering necklaces, bracelets, and sets of earrings glimmered at them. It’d been a century, and that jewelry sat untouched, waiting for somebody to stumble into the store.

“Glass wouldn’t disintegrate like wood, or plastic,” Clarke said.

He nodded, and searched around, finding a groove in the glass, and figuring out what to do. The glass on the side of the case made a high, awful grinding noise, but it slid open slowly when he pushed at it, and he reached in, picking the thin silver chain with the little blue jewel.

He held it out to Clarke, and she eyed him in amusement, biting her lip.

“What am I supposed to do with that?”

“It’s a necklace,” he said. “You’re supposed to wear it.”

She raised an eyebrow at him, but she took the necklace, and put it on, fiddling with the fastening for a moment, and touching a hand to the jewel hesitantly after it caught. She cleared her throat. “We should try to see what else we might be able to salvage,” she said.

They returned to the street, and began to wind their way from store to store.

One giant store was overflowing with battered, rusting kitchen supplies. Clarke found a bowl that hadn’t rusted yet, and wasn’t growing moss either, and Bellamy checked the counter at the back of the store, discovering a neat, untouched stack of green canvas bags in a cabinet. They were on their way out when he spotted the knives.

They startled a scruffy little animal in a store that was overflowing with mannequins, and found the remains of some giant, abandoned nest in a store that must’ve sold furniture.

There was a store that sold pillows, blankets, and towels, and it was a mess.

The pillows were torn up, and their fuzz was moldy; the blankets were mostly ruined, too: some were shredded, some looked to have been chewed on, and most were splattered with mildew. Honestly, it was disgusting. But they picked at the mess, scaring off a rat with three curly tails, and found a couple of blankets that were acceptable if faded, and slightly moth bitten.

It wasn’t dark yet, but it was going to be soon, and they needed to find a place to rest.

“How about that fancy hotel lobby?” he suggested.

Clarke nodded, and they started for it. “I have a plan,” she said.

He glanced at her.

“Let's keep going east through the city tomorrow, then veer off south. That way we lower the chances that we’ll run into the grounders, searching for us. Once we make it south, I’ll hopefully figure out where exactly we are, and I can get us back to Camp Jaha. We’ll figure out what to do about the City of Light from that point.”

He nodded. “The world hasn’t ended yet. I think we’ve got some time.”

Her hand flew to his chest suddenly, stopping him. He frowned, and followed her gaze.

There was a dog at the side of the street, eating something noisily. It was a large, loping animal with muddy, matted fur. Bellamy raised the ax, taking several slow, silent steps towards the dog until something made a crunch under his foot. The dog looked up at the sound, revealing a bloody snout, and a missing eye.

It saw Bellamy and growled, showing off yellow, bloody teeth.

Bellamy took a step back, and another, and another. It snarled, and—

“Come on,” Bellamy whispered.

It took off for him.

He dug his heels into the ground, raising the ax, and Clarke made a low, strangled noise a moment before the dog leapt, and Bellamy nailed it with the ax, killing it with the blow.

“That’s dinner,” Bellamy said.

“That’s a year off my life,” Clarke said, pressing a hand to her heart.

He dragged it to the hotel, skinning it while Clarke gathered up broken, rotting furniture to burn, and kindling from the trees that sprouted up in the lobby. It took a while to get the fire going, but she managed at last, and he constructed a small, crude spit to cook the dog on.

They basked in the warmth of the fire, and scarfed down their dinner as soon as possible.

Mostly, it was quiet while they ate.

Bellamy left the warmth to gather up snow in one of the bowls they’d scavenged.

It melted easily over the fire, and they drank it up. Clarke prodded at the fire a little, and he watched her, thought about how she used to be awful at this, at starting a fire, and handling the littler, day-to-day stuff that it took to survive on Earth. But she’d learned.

She’d had to; she’d been on her own for months.

He watched her for a moment, and couldn’t help it. “What are you thinking about?”

She glanced at him. “How the city wasn’t bombed. I guess the radiation from the places that were must’ve seeped in, and. Or people thought it was going to be bombed, and they evacuated.” Her gaze was intent on the fire, and it was quiet for a minute. “Do you think that—that at the end, some of them were ready for it? That they were tried of—of running, and of fighting their fate?”

“Not all of them,” he said.

She looked at him.

“It might’ve been a relief for some, but for the ones who had people left?” He shook his head. “They’d have kept running, and kept fighting right up until it was over. It’s one thing to give up when it’s you, but when you’ve got somebody to fight for? You’re never going to be ready to give up.”

She nodded. But there was more, and he was going to say it this time.

“Hey, I’m—I’m sorry,” he started.

She glanced at him, drawing her brows together.

“That I made you think I hated you,” he said. “I’m sorry. I think there was a part of me that wanted to punish you, but it was stupid, and I’m sorry.”

Her gaze went soft, sad. “It’s okay.”

He nodded. “I need you to know that I’m glad you left. It was what you needed. I get that now. It was hard for me to understand for a long time, and, honestly, it was hard for me when you got back, ‘cause I was happy; seeing you, and having you back, and—I was really, really happy. But I was hurt, too, ‘cause I’d missed you—I’d missed you so fucking much. It hurt that you’d left, and that didn’t just go away when you were back. It has now, though. I get it now. I’m sorry I didn’t before.”

She nodded, and gave him a small, wobbly smile, dropping her gaze to her lap. “Bell.”

“I’m not done yet.”

She laughed softly. “I’m sorry.” She looked at him. “Go on.”

“If we have to keep running, and fighting, and that’s our whole life, okay. That’s our life. I’ll keep running, and fighting. I’m with you. No matter what, I’m with you.”

She stared at him, and her eyes were bright, shining with tears.

“I’m done,” he said.

His heart was beating so quickly that he heard it in his ears, felt in his stomach.

Clarke rose to her knees, and her hands went to his shoulders, to his face, sliding into his hair. His throat was dry, and, for a moment, he was terrified, desperately wanting things he wasn't supposed to want. She leaned in, touching her forehead to his, and his hands hovered at her hips, shaky. She pressed a kiss to his cheek, to the corner of his mouth. He tilted his head up, and she kissed him on the mouth.

It was only a brush of her lips against his, and she paused.

"I'm not too late, am I?" she whispered.

He shook his head.

He kissed her.

She deepened the kiss slowly, moving in closer; his hands took her hips to steady her when she climbed into his lap, straddling his thighs. He ran his hands up her back, and she scooted in closer, breathing in sharply when he moved his lips to her throat, dropping kisses along the soft, warm skin.

He sucked at her pulse, making her arch her neck, and curl her fingers into his hair.

“Bellamy,” she gasped, and it was everything, hearing his name on her lips.

She pulled on his hair, drawing him up for a desperate, bruising kiss. Her hands moved to his back, pushing at his coat; he broke away from her to shrug it off, and tugged his shirt up and off, too.

He kept a hand on her back, and slid a hand to her thigh before he shifted up, taking her with him, and lowered her to the ground. Her hands burned against the skin of his back, and he bucked into her inadvertently when he settled between her thighs, and she locked her legs around his waist.

He kissed and kissed her, and drew up at last to pull her shirt up. But her face was flushed with the heat of the fire, and the swell of the bruise on her cheek gleamed with sweat.

“You’re hurt,” he said.

She smiled. “I noticed,” she replied, and there wasn't any doubt on her face, any hesitance.

Her hands curled around his arms, and he nodded.

He kissed her, and helped her to take off her jacket, her shirt. He lowered his head, brushing kisses along her pale bare skin, feeling her belly tremble under his lips; he was overwhelmed with the smell of her, the taste of her, and he closed his eyes for a moment, nuzzling her stomach.

Her nails scraped against his scalp, and he shuddered.

He pressed kisses up to the line of her bra, and breathed a kiss to the swell of her breast. She rose up on her elbows, and his hands were shaky when he unclasped her bra, revealing full, pale breasts and puffy pink nipples. He was impossibly, painfully hard now; she pushed on his head slightly, and he didn’t have to be told twice, bending to kiss her breast, swirling his tongue, and sucking her nipple into his mouth.

Her hands burned down his back, and up his stomach, and she panted his name.

He groaned against her breasts, and rose up, moving to his feet while starting to unbuckle his trousers. He was forced to kick off his boots to get them off, and Clarke sat up, tugging off her boots before yanking her trousers down and off, and taking her underwear with them. She looked up at him and smiled, opened her arms, reaching for him.

He swore, and tripped to his knees with his trousers around his ankles.

She laughed softly. “You’re an idiot,” she breathed.

“You’re beautiful,” he replied.

She was warm and soft and beneath him, and she was everything.

She pushed at his chest, forcing him onto his back.

Her skin seemed to glow with the light of the fire, and it was hard to breathe at the sight of her. Bruises were littered across her skin in starbursts, and he wanted to kiss them away, to find the scars hidden in the softness of her skin, to trace his tongue along the dusting of freckles that circled her hip. She pulled off his trousers, and his gaze traced over the curve of her back, the sway of her breasts. She kissed his shin, and his thigh, and tugged off his boxers, kissing the jut of his hip. The tips of her breasts grazed his erection, and he groaned.

He sat up, needing to touch her, and she moved into his lap.

She took his head in her hands, and he gripped the backs of her thighs.

He breathed a kiss to the bruise above her breast, to the bruise on her shoulder, and her fingers pressed into the muscles of his arms when he bit softly at the skin of her neck.

She gripped his shoulders, and tilted his head back with the force of her kiss.

She reached in between them, rubbing her fingers against her folds, and he choked on his breath at the sight; a moment later, she took his erection in her hand, and he closed his eyes at the feeling of her slick, warm fingers around him, dropping his head to her shoulder for a moment.

She rose up onto her knees, and his hands moved to her hips, lifting her up.

Her eyes glittered darkly with the light of the fire, and she moved a hand up to grip the back of his neck, pressing her forehead to his when she sank onto him at last.

Her breath hitched, and her lips parted, and she was warm and tight and fuck.

“I love you,” she gasped, digging her fingers into his neck.

He stared at her.

“It scares me, but I—” She shook her head, and he kissed her, feeling her lashes brush wetly against his cheek. “I love you,” she mumbled, pushing up on her knees, and he pulled her back, grinding against her. “I won’t leave you again, I won’t, Bell, I promise.”

He kissed her cheek, her neck, the slope of her breast. “I love you,” he breathed.

She kissed the top of his head, murmuring into his hair.

He lifted his head up to look at her, and she hugged his neck, picking up the pace.

He caught onto her rhythm, thrusting up into her, and she keened when he leaned in; that was it, that was the spot, and he drove into her over and over, feeling her clench around him. He was desperate suddenly to see her come, and he slid his hand around her thigh, brushing his thumb against her folds.

Her eyes stayed on his until he saw it overcome her.

She threw her head back, crying out softly, and digging her fingers into his shoulders.

He moved his hands to her ass, holding her to his chest, and rose to his knees. She hugged his shoulders, kissing at his ear before he lay her out beneath him, and renewed his thrusts. She traced her hands up his back. “Bellamy,” she whispered.

He groaned, driving into her.

“Bellamy,” she repeated, breathless. “You like it when I say your name, don’t you? Bellamy." Her hands cupped his face. "My Bellamy.”

He kissed her. “One day soon,” he panted, “I’m going to make you scream it.”

He brought her to the edge again, and went over with her this time, coming when she tightened around him, and she continued to clench purposefully around him while he softened inside her.

He collapsed onto her, panting.

It took him a moment, but he kissed her cheek sloppily, and rolled off her, reaching to pull her into his side, to press a kiss to the flush in her cheek. He was exhausted, and overwhelmed, and, fuck, he loved her, and he wanted to stay like this forever, wanted to keep her warm and soft and safe in his arms for always.

But they needed to get up, untangle their legs, get dressed.

“If you leave again,” he said hoarsely, “I’ll follow.”

She stared at him for a moment, then closed her eyes, nosing at his cheek. “Good.”

---

Clarke kept a look out while Bellamy slept first, waking him in the dead of the night to switch. He sat up and rubbed blearily at his eyes, glancing at her in amusement when, without a word, she laid at his side, snuggling against his thigh, and using it for a pillow.

He’d slept with his head in her lap, but this worked, too.

She made a little snuffling noise in her sleep.

He stared at her, and, gently, brushed her hair away from cheek, tucking it behind her ear.

They set off early in the morning, eating the last of the meat from the night before while they walked. The streets began to narrow, and the buildings turned boxy, growing uniform, and were lined with windows. “Apartments,” Clarke realized. It was strange, thinking that people used to call these gray, weathered shells their home.

“Did I tell you about the gorilla?” Clarke asked.

He frowned. “What?”

“I fought a gorilla.”

“I’m going to need you to start at the beginning,” he said. She grinned.

They started to notice the cellars in the afternoon, lining the buildings. Bellamy agreed with Clarke’s guess that they were shelters, and they decided to investigate. They approached one at the foot of a particularly tall, towering building, finding a padlock on the door. It was rusted after a century, and broke easily under his ax.

There was a ladder, and Clarke went in first.

She was able to find a switch while Bellamy followed, and a light flickered in the ceiling with a loud, toneless buzzing. “Generator,” he said, nodding at the contraption in the corner. This place was smaller than those they’d found in the woods, but it was a shelter.

There were shelves lined with supplies, and furniture: a table, chairs, a bed, a wardrobe.

Bellamy wasn’t about to risk a try at the food, but there were cases upon cases of water in flimsy plastic bottles, and they drank until it hurt, putting several more bottles in the backpacks that they found. They used it to wash up, too, splashing water on their hands, up their arms, and on their faces, their necks.

Clarke washed her wrists, and Bellamy’s, tearing a t-shirt into strips to bandage them.

There was a ton of clothes, shirts and jeans and sweaters and socks.

He thought Clarke was going to cry with joy at the bras.

They stripped off their torn, muddy clothes without a thought.

He glanced at her when she was pulling on new, clean underwear, taking in the sight of her with only the underwear on, and that necklace. She caught his gaze, and raised an eyebrow at him, straightening shamelessly. He allowed his eyes to linger on her legs, on her breasts.

“I’m not supposed to have sex with you right now, right?” he said.

She rolled her eyes, smiling to herself when she turned away to put on a bra.

He pulled on trousers and a clean white shirt, and took the sweater that she tossed at him, finding a coat to go over that. She picked corduroys for herself, and a bright red sweater that dwarfed her. “How do I look?” she asked, slipping into a heavy brown coat.

“Hot,” he said.

She kissed him. “That’s what I was going for.”

To Bellamy’s disappointment, the owner of this shelter hadn’t felt it necessary to store a gun, but they packed the backpacks with matches, oil, and clothes for their friends. Clarke found a notebook that she wanted, too, and a pencil, and he took a pack of cards.

He was tempted to investigate the cellars that they passed after that, but it wasn’t worth their time; they wouldn’t be able to carry more than they were hauling with them now.

They neared the edge of the city that afternoon, coming up on a plain of snowy, barren land that stretched until it met with the sky. They turned to the south, heading for the trees in the distance. Clarke guessed that within three days, she’d know where they were.

---

But they didn’t make it that far. They crossed into the woods that afternoon, stopping for the night, and hadn’t been on their way in the morning for long before the forest grew rocky, slanted, and they were forced to head in a ravine, following a small, frozen creek. That was when he heard it, and he glanced up, into the trees. Nothing.

He looked at Clarke, noticing the glint of steel in the sun from the corner of his eye.


His gaze snapped to it, and he saw the face, saw the arm jerk.

He grabbed Clarke around her middle, yanking her back a moment before the spear flew through the space where she'd stood, and stuck in a tree.

In an instant, they were under attack.

 Grounders seemed to pour from nowhere, and Clarke scrambled to pull a knife from her backpack while Bellamy swung his ax at the first, feeling the sting of a sword graze his thigh, and turned to meet the next. There weren't more than a handful, but there were certainly more than two, outnumbering Bellamy with his ax, and Clarke with her antique kitchen knife.

Clarke was quick, darting under the swing of a sword, and coming up to stab the grounder in his side. But there was a grounder at her back, raising his spear.

“Clarke!” Bellamy acted on instinct, throwing the ax.

She ducked at his yell, and the ax sank into the chest of the grounder.

But there was a grounder at his back now; he spun in time to grab the spear that was thrust at him, tussling with the grounder for control. Clarke shouted, and a blow to Bellamy’s side knocked the breath from him: they'd clubbed his sore, stitched up side, and he staggered at the pain, losing his grip on the spear, falling to his knees.

He collapsed at the kick to his stomach.

Then a foot pressed into the now open, bleeding cut in his side, and his back arched off the ground at the burning, blinding pain. He blinked, trying to breathe though the pain.

But things were suddenly, terribly still now, and he blinked, saw a grounder above him, another with a sword to Clarke's throat, and a third, a woman, appraising them in disgust. Clarke's gaze was panicked, meeting Bellamy's from where she was on her knees. She was pinned in place with the sword, and he wasn't about to move for the pain that left him dizzy, useless.

They were done, were back where they were only days ago.

The woman snarled in Trigedasleng, and Bellamy was hauled to his feet. His arms were wrenched behind his back, and rope bit into his stinging, bandaged wrists. He grit his teeth at the pain, looking at Clarke, holding her gaze while they bound her hands, too, and forced her to her feet.



---

It wasn't an hour before his vision started to darken at the edges. His feet seemed to twist under him, and he couldn't manage put one foot properly in front of the other, swaying while he walked; he couldn’t manage to breathe properly, to draw in enough air to fill his lungs, and his chest hurt with the effort.

“We need to bandage your side,” Clarke murmured. "You're losing blood."

“I don't think that's an option,” he said, gritting his teeth.

Clarke was silent for a moment. “We need to stop,” she yelled suddenly, glaring at the back of the woman. “Hey! My friend is hurt! We need to stop!” They ignored her, and she turned abruptly, facing the sword that was pointed at her back, and forcing the grounder to stop, too. “I need to bandage his side,” she insisted.

The grounder swore at her in Trigedasleng.



“Let me check the wound, and—”

Bellamy blinked, and it was hard to drag his eyelids back up, back open. “Clarke—”

“This isn’t a negotiation, honon.”

“He needs—”

He stumbled to the side, crashing into the ground.

Bellamy!”

He blinked, taking a slow, gasping breath, and Clark was at his side, leaning over him. But she was torn away a moment later, and he tried to focus his gaze, to find her; the grounder with the pockmarks on his face had an arm around her, holding her to his chest.

“Let me look at his side,” Clarke begged. “I'll bandage it up. Let me—”

The woman in charge ignored her, coming to stand above Bellamy. “Get up.”

He pushed up onto his elbow, wincing, and made it to his knees before the dizziness crashed into him like a wave, and he bent over. “Give—” he panted. “Give me—” a minute. Just a minute, just to catch his breath. He lost his balance, falling onto his side.

“His stitches are torn, and he’s bleeding!” Clarke exclaimed. “I need to—”

The leader barked an order at the others in Trigedasleng, and Clarke screamed. She knew what it meant, and Bellamy realized, too, when a grounder started for him, lifting up a sword. He tried to move, but it was useless, and he blinked away the blackness that swam up at the effort. His eyes went to Clarke.

“Let me bandage him up! Please!” she cried. “Let me—!”

“He requires more,” the leader cut her off. “Rest, and care, and we do not have time to waste on either.” She nodded at the grounder. “Frag em op.”


“Kill him, and you destroy your people's hope at an alliance with my people!”

“What makes you think we desire an alliance with you?”

“Your leader sent you to hunt for us, didn’t he?” Clarke demanded. “We’re valuable—!”

“The queen needs only one from the Sky to gain the answers she desires.”

“Let me bandage him up, and we’ll come with you willingly. Kill him, and I’ll—”

Pleni! This isn’t a discussion! The clans of the south might fear you, Clarke of the Sky people, you, and the carnage you leave in your wake, but those born in ice fear nothing, and no one.” She yelled in Trigedasleng, and drew her sword, stalking to Bellamy.

Clarke yelled, struggling in the arms of the grounder.

He stared at Clarke.

He was glad he'd told her. He was glad she knew.

“No,” Clarke told him, meeting his gaze, and her face contorted with anguish, with a scream. “No, no—!” She fought wildly against the grounder, but it was useless.

From the corner of his eye, Bellamy saw the leader lift up her sword.

He closed his eyes, and Clarke screamed, and there was a shot.

Clarke gasped.

He opened his eyes, blinking at the blur of the sky above him.

His gaze found the woman, swaying on her feet, and he dropped his eyes from the shock on her face to see the red that bloomed across her chest. Then came another loud, popping bang, and red bloomed at her stomach, wetting her lips when she mouthed a word, and collapsed to her knees, falling on her face.

There was a shot, and the grounder with the spike in his nose was dead.

The grounder with Clarke in his grasp shouted furiously, and made to slash Clarke across the throat with a sword. But he took a bullet to the forehead, and Clarke surged to Bellamy immediately. Her hands brushed his face before she was taking off her coat, and balling it up to press to his side.

“You’re okay,” she told him.

Harper was the first to emerge from the woods.

He choked on his breath at the sight of her, sliding down the slope towards them with her hair tossed up in a ponytail and a gun in her hand, and the others came after her.

There was Miller, and Monty, and Octavia, running for him. His eyes locked on her.

She was okay. She always was.

“I told you we’d come after you,” Harper said, smiling.

He laughed roughly, closing his eyes at the pain to his side, and a hand slipped into his. He opened his eyes to see his sister. “Hey, Bell,” she breathed, squeezing his hand, looking to Clarke, nodding when Clarke started to explain that they needed to be certain that he wasn’t bleeding internally, and sew the wound, and—”

“Here,” Raven said, pulling a kit from her bag. Wick was next to her. “I think this’ll help.”

In white block letters, it was labeled medical, and Clarke cried out in relief, grabbing the bag from Raven, who smiled at Bellamy when he caught her gaze. Jasper appeared at her side, and there was Lincoln, too. They crowded Bellamy, and he closed his eyes, feeling hands on his side, yanking up his shirt.

He winced at the pain.

“You’re okay,” Clarke repeated.

He opened his eyes to meet her gaze. “I’m okay,” he promised. She smiled, and nodded, and she was everything he saw in that moment, blocking out the sun when she leaned in, and brushed a kiss to the corner of his mouth. Lincoln started to talk about moss to stem the bleeding, and Octavia snapped at Jasper not to drop the bandages in the mud. Bellamy closed his eyes. “I’m okay,” he breathed, and it was true.

---

He passed out early on, waking up when he was lifted up into the air, and he realized that they'd put him on a blanket, and were carrying him like he was on a stretcher. Raven saw his gaze, and her lips rose up in a smile before he faded off. He woke up when Clarke wanted him to eat this, and drink that, and he did, then drifted off.

He woke up when cold, mean fingers poked at his side. “The fuck?” he grunted.

“I’m checking your stitches,” Clarke said. “Don’t worry.”

“It’s good that the pain woke him, right?” Octavia asked. “That’s good.”

He frowned. “‘S not,” he muttered.

“It is,” Clarke said, pressing a kiss to the bare skin of his stomach before she pulled his shirt down, and zipped up his coat. He thought he heard Monty ask a question, but he didn’t catch the words, and he gave into the tug of sleep consciously this time, liking the feel of Clarke’s fingers in his hair.

Eventually, he woke up to stay up.

He stood, and was able to walk, and they were on their way to Camp Jaha at last.

Jasper was eager to explain how the group came to the rescue.

Peter returned to Camp Jaha with the news that Kane was injured, that Lincoln saw the Ice people take Clarke, and assumed they took Bellamy, too. Miller put a group together to leave in the morning, and they made it to Lexa’s camp, met up with Lincoln, recovering from a knife to his back, and followed the path that Octavia took, catching up to her soon after.

They hadn’t made it far before they ran into the Clan of the East.

“The what?” Bellamy asked.

“The grounders with that white, shimmering paint on their faces,” Clarke explained.

It turned out that the Clan of the East was friendly, knew Lincoln, and were happy to explain to him that they slaughtered the army of the Ice Nation, but they hadn’t seen prisoners from the Sky, and didn’t know their fate. They agreed to allow the people of the Sky to search in their territory for them, however.

Three days later, they heard a scream, and it was Clarke.

Jasper asked Bellamy about the city. “What was it like?” Clarke started to protest that she told him what it was like. “Your description was, like, it was gray and creepy and I brought you a sweater,” Jasper replied, dismissive. Clarke huffed, and Bellamy grinned.

Impulsively, he reached out to tuck her hair behind her ear.

She smiled at him.

“Oh, my god,” Raven said. “You guys totally fucked, didn’t you?”

Clarke stared at the trees in front of them. “Got a problem with that?” she asked.

Jasper whooped, and Raven laughed, and Miller said I told you to Monty. Clarke flushed, grinning at her feet for a moment. But a moment later, she glanced hesitantly at Octavia, only to look away when Octavia looked at her.

Octavia threw an arm suddenly around Clarke’s shoulder.

“He’s your problem now,” she said, smacking a kiss to Clarke’s cheek.

The look on Clarke’s face was so suddenly pleased, so suddenly happy that Bellamy wanted to throw his arm around her shoulders, too, and press a kiss to her cheek.

They traveled slowly, making a point to stop often for Clarke to check on Bellamy’s side. It didn’t matter that he was better. He knew he’d lost a lot of blood, but he wasn’t going to keel over suddenly, and they didn’t need to stop every damn hour to baby him. They did anyway.

The further they talked, the warmer the air grew. It turned heavy, humid.

They were trying to return to Camp Jaha, but Clarke’s plan to circle the path that the Ice people were likely to be on was precarious, taking them on a route that was unfamiliar even to Lincoln. “I’ve never been to these parts,” he explained. “My people believe this land is haunted with the ghosts of the dead.”

They decided to cut to the west, and that was when Monty saw the shelter.

“Do you think it’s a bunker?” he asked.

“It’s above the ground,” Harper said.

They approached it, circled it. But there didn’t seem to be an entrance, and when Bellamy looked at Clarke, she met his gaze with growing, solidifying worry in her eyes. She wanted to go, and he agreed. There was something off about the bunker, or whatever it was.

“I don’t know what it is,” Miller said, “but somebody’s inside.”

Bellamy glanced at him, and followed his gaze to a small blinking light in the wall of the building: a camera, watching them.

“Can I vote we leave now?” Jasper said.

“I’m with Jasper,” Wick said.

But it was too late to run. The door started to open from the inside, and Bellamy swore, raising his gun. The group backed up, getting ready; Harper, Miller, and Raven raised their guns, and—

Murphy?” Clarke exclaimed.

It was impossible, but there he was, standing in front of them in clean, fresh clothes with his hair slicked back, and not a scratch on him. “Whoa,” he said, raising his hands up in surrender. Bellamy lowered his gun. It was really, seriously John fucking Murphy.

They gaped at him, and Murphy sighed.

Slowly, he lowered his hands. “It’s about time you dicks showed up,” he said, leveling Bellamy with a dry, irritated look. “You know the world’s about to end, right?”

fin.

This one's for the faithless, the ones that are surprised,
They're only where they are now regardless of their fight.
This one's for believing if only for it's sake.
Come on, friends, get up now, love is to be made.