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Unsteady

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“They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.
For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.
Death cannot kill what never dies.”
-William Penn

 

When the snow melts – you’ll see a field here.

Wide and green, framed by thickets of bushes that smell beautiful in the spring . The hill to the east almost blocks the sun as it rises every morning – you’ll get lost in a shadow standing there, falling behind the rest of the world as night turns to day.

There’s a story here – hundreds of them in fact - thousands of final heartbeats and last words clinging to each blade of grass the way the snowflakes do as they melt. You can hear it – parts of it – when the wind blows through. It shakes the trees, echoing like a death rattle, one last shaky breath of life on hallowed ground.

It’s enough to make you sick if you truly understand it. The notion that what was once a literal hellscape could morph into something so picturesque is unsettling if anything. It’s almost enviable – how the rain can wash the blood from a battlefield, the screams fading into gentle hums, the bodies absorbed into the earth and their final resting place sprouting colorful bundles of wildflowers.

It’s eerie.

She’s thankful when the snow covers it – because then it’s impossible for her to strike a match and watch every blade of grass, every ant hill and bee hive, every flower grown by the Earth to cover the blemishes of human nature – burn into oblivion.

“Clarke, we need to keep moving.”

She doesn’t hear his words so much as the tone of them. His well-timed whisper shatters her daydreams like a gunshot hitting glass. She’s thankful for it, though she hardly has time to tell him.She nudges her horse forward. It’s footsteps are silent as it treks through the snow. 15 inches last they’d measured it, more than they’ve seen in a few years. Ill-timed as ever.

“We’ll take a break when we get over the ridge,” he calls.

“You know how this ends?” she says. “We go all this way – and no one is there.”

He almost looks hopeful when he turns to face her, as if knowing they’re traveling to meet no one would actually be something of a relief to him. “They’re always there,” he finally says, “a snow storm isn’t going to change that.”

Cold is starting to seep under her gloves- the fur had grown wet the last time they’d stopped, when she’d slipped and dropped her water-skin because she’d been leaning to watch a redbird eat from a frozen bush. She has a weakness for that color – and the very few ways that it could actually be beautiful.

When she looks up again he’s eyeing her, like he himself can feel the numb ache of her palm. “We can trade,” he says. “if your fingers are starting to hurt-“

“I know what frostbite feels like,” she snaps. “I’m fine.”

He doesn’t look convinced. “Your hands are more important than mine. You lose a finger, we lose a surgeon. I’d still be able to pull a trigger.”

She rolls her eyes – at his subtle self-deprecation and the fact that he called her a surgeon, which is just an insurmountable mountain of bullshit.

“We won’t have time to build a fire until we camp,” he says- as if she had asked. “You’re not going to last another six hours with wet gloves.”

“Bellamy if you keep talking about my gloves, I swear to God-“

“You’ll what?” he whips his horse around and faces her, his forehead scrunched in frustration. “In another hour you won’t even be able to make a fist.”

She scoffs – it’s time to defuse the tension , even if she knows that she’s the one that started it. “We need to keep going,” she reminds him.

His eyes are dark and irritated – she doesn’t bother to argue when he brings his horse closer, rips off his gloves, and holds his bare hands out to her. “Then stop fighting me,” he says.

They ride for another hour- and then both simultaneously decide that they need a break, coming to rest under tall pine trees bowing under the weight of the snow storm.

“It’ll all be melting on the way back,” he says conversationally, unscrewing his water-skin with shaky hands.

“Rivers are going to run muddy for days.”

“I just hope the wind doesn’t kick up- I don’t want to deal with a bunch of down trees when we get back.”

“We’d be lucky for the lumber.”

“We’ve got more than enough lumber.”

“Unless we have a long winter.”

“We won’t.”

She takes a few steps away from him and he stares off into the sky. There’s nothing to see- just three or four shades of white – but it’s better than looking at his face, staring at her like her thoughts are written in short hand across her forehead.

“You wanna talk about it?” he asks gruffly.

“Not at all.”

“Then stop thinking about it –“

“I can’t.”

“We’ve got a lot in front of us Clarke – we can’t deal with any of it if we keep staring over our shoulder.”

She turns and raises an eyebrow at him- “You say that like someone who can actually sleep through the night.”

“Why do you do this?” he asks. “We have this conversation every time we come out here.“

She doesn’t respond.

“What do you want to do Clarke- write their names in the snow and say a few words? We’ve beaten that horse to death, dug it up, and beaten it again – it’s exhausting.”

“It would take hours to write all those names-“ she whispers.

“And your tears would freeze to your face.”

She glares at him- his cheeks pink with cold and frustration, but he seems to realize that he’s crossed a line. He holds his hands up and breaks eye contact. “I’m not doing this now. We’ll both end up having to apologize to each other and I don’t have the energy for that.”

He turns away to fiddle with the saddle bags on his horse – suddenly Clarke feels like a mourning parent again, like she and Bellamy had lost a child and were still trying to learn how to look at each other without feeling sick. It was accurate in a way – but the comparison made her colder.

“Let me have my gloves back,” she says gently.

He shakes his head.

“Bellamy- please don’t put me in a position where I’ll have to amputate one of your fingers.”

“Don’t guilt trip me – trust me there are layers of callouses keeping my hands from freezing.”

She walks towards him and reaches for his hands, trapping them between her own and shaking her head when she feels the rough grip of frozen fabric.

“We should have brought an extra pair.”

“None to spare” he reminds her.

“We’re making good time- we can camp early.”

“Maybe.”

He pulls his hands away from her – gently steps around her to fiddle with the saddle bag again.

They’ll keep fighting- if it’s not the field it’ll be the gloves- somehow that’s comforting.

The white of the sky turns grey – the setting sun dragging the horizon down the color spectrum until even the snow around them starts to look black.

They make quick work of setting up camp – the tent that had been battered and mended so many times that it’s only benefit was giving them some shelter from the wind. Bellamy takes three small pieces of dry wood from one of the saddle bags, enough to start a fire even if it will be difficult to keep one going. Clarke lines the inside of the tent with every fur and pelt they’d brought with them and places the wet gloves on a stone next to the fire when Bellamy nods at her hands as a reminder.

They still have rations, thin strips of meat that they can heat over the fire and berries that have frozen together- but they’re running low on water, they’ll have to trudge down to a stream first thing in the morning. Until then they could just melt some snow.

There’s a comfortable silence between them- something that anyone close to Bellamy knows to be grateful for. They’re almost machine like- transitioning from task to task, picking up where the other left off when they get distracted. Soon enough there’s nothing left to be done. They’re huddled close to the fire, Bellamy has resorted to cleaning his rifle to avoid conversation even though his fingers seem to twitch away from the cold metal against his will.

Clarke feels a little light headed- dehydrated probably. She’d avoided eating much of the meat, fearing that it would only make it worse. The berries thaw out about the same time her gloves do. She pops them into her mouth one by one- trying to keep her mind occupied.

She recites a mental list of everything she needs to remember – extend hunting territory east of the river before winter, controlled burns, open trade with Appalachians, what is that flower with the purple buds and yellowish leaves?

Bellamy has a list of his own- a compilation that’s basically a million questions sprinkled into a wish-list for their people.

This yearly conference of all the clans to the south of the Susquehanna was trying for both of them- it always was, but it was Clarke and Bellamy who made their mark on the peace treaty, so it was Clarke and Bellamy who must represent the interest of the sky people, a name they had not yet been able to shake despite eight years on the ground.

When an ache settles in under her eyebrows Clarke leans back and takes a breath of air- it stings her throat, un-warmed by the fire and freezing cold and her subtle gasp is enough for Bellamy to look up from his well-groomed weapon. He doesn’t ask her what’s wrong – out of the corner of her eye she sees him look up. Together they stare into the inky black sky that used to be home. The snow clouds have parted in spots – pulled apart like a spider web, you can just barely see the stars.

“I almost like it when I can’t see them,” she says. “I look at a star and there’s this – irrational part of me that thinks it’s one of our people. Someone who was floated sometime in the last hundred years- burning up thousands of miles away."

Bellamy grunts, “Who says it’s not?”

“There were stars before we were floating people.”

“Before they were floating people.”

Clarke doesn’t acknowledge his frustrated tone- she just keeps talking as if he wasn’t even there. “The next generation- our kids, they’re going to think the stars are beautiful. They’re going to be amazed by them- spend hours staring up at them and trying to find patterns and shapes and stories- just like people always did. But us? We’ll just look up there and feel sick.”

Bellamy leans forward and pokes at a log with his fire stick- adjusting it so the burning red embers of it’s bark face out towards her- it gives her something else to look at.

“It’s the way we used to look at the earth,” he says, “before we knew.”

She thinks about the observation deck on the Ark – that perfect sphere of the most vibrant blue and green she’d ever seen resting just out of reach. She’s dreamed of seeing the night sky from the ground, drawn it, painted it. Now she sleeps under it nearly every night and would be happy to never look at it again. She wonders what it would be like to see the earth from far away now- knowing that it wasn’t just floating there waiting for them.

They talk about firewood for a while- Clarke even breaks into a smile when he tells her a story about one of the young boys in camp successfully cutting down a sapling. It’s the second time he’s told her about it in so many weeks- but that tends to happen a lot between them and she genuinely doesn’t mind.

About an hour later he starts to spread the embers of the fire into a dull glow – he tells her to sleep first, that he can sit up on watch, but she can see the exhaustion in his eyes. He’ll fight her until they both pass out unless she can come up with a good excuse. So she tells him her stomach is aching and she won’t be able to sleep until it passes. After two minutes of him trying to be her doctor and diagnose the exaggerated stomach pains he finally ducks into the tent. The snow seems to soak up the sounds of the night around them so as soon as he falls asleep she hears his soft snores.

Time passes in a strange way when it’s like this- when there’s nothing to watch to actually see it pass. It reminds her that things were happening here on earth before they had even landed – time keeps going no matter where you are. It rains in deep forests, snows on mountain tops, storms hundreds of miles out to sea. Things happen even if people aren’t around to witness them. Words are a human invention. The earth is self-sufficient and would go on living even if there weren’t anyone around to describe what was happening.

When she’s exhausted herself with thought and her extremities are stinging with cold, she puts the fire out and crawls into the tent. Bellamy would want her to wake him up- but they’re both so tired and they’ve got so much more ground to cover in the morning. She’s a light sleeper. If anything or anyone came close to camp she’d wake up.

It’s a risk- but Bellamy always says she’s growing reckless in her old age.

Just to be safe she sets his rifle right in front of the entrance to the tent as she ties it shut- clicking on the safety just in case one of them were to step on it.

There’s not much room. She elbows him in the face as she struggles to get under the furs. He just grunts- and she’s thankful that he doesn’t wake up. He’d definitely berate her and go sit watch himself and she’s so cold that the loss of his body heat would be a kill shot to her morale.

When she’s settled in – nudging herself between him and the side of the tent - she lets herself relax and in the long sigh she lets out his body turns and wraps around hers. There was a time when she would have panicked the moment his arm encircled her waist, but they’ve been through this before. His body is chasing warmth- Bellamy is a survivor, even when unconscious. Sometimes she thinks he may be imagining that she’s someone else. She never does – because her interest in that kind of relationship died a long time ago. So when she feels him pull her to his side, his breath against her hair she squeezes her eyes shut, “It’s just Bellamy,” she tells herself, “he just wants you to be warm- he wants you to live.”

She falls asleep, trying not to think about how easy it is.

A groan wakes her up what feels like a few short minutes later. As her mind stumbles out of sleep she thinks it might be Bellamy- but he’s turned away from her now, their legs tangled and one of his elbows digging into her side. She hears it again and shoots straight up.

Bear.

She’d seen four since they’d relocated. Two of them were dead, one of them stood over the body of a girl named Mona. This one sounded close, way too close for comfort. With very coordinated and quiet movements she leans forward and reaches for the rifle. It’s freezing cold against her fingers, but she’s focusing now on freeing her body from the furs without drawing attention to them.

Bellamy stays asleep right up until she clicks the safety off- the sound seems to override his exhaustion. There’s rustling noises from outside of the tent and then he’s reaching for her.

“Bear.” She whispers- trying to keep the gun from his reach, the last thing she needs is for him to succumb to his hero complex and go charging out there.

“Give it to me,” he says into her ear.

“No, just wait – it might leave.”

“Clarke-“

“It sounds small.”

“If it’s a baby – the mother will be nearby.”

“I thought these things were supposed to sleep through the winter.”

Hibernation they’d called it in earth studies – but none of that really mattered. These bears weren’t anything like the bears they learned about in earth studies. They were larger- with strange shaped spines and claws that were often awkward and misshapen. The earth was still healing from what humans had done to it – if these creatures actually understood what had been taken away from them, Clarke wouldn’t blame them for wanting to kill every person they came across.

The noises get closer, Clarkes pulls the rifle up – Bellamy reaches around her to adjust it, “You’re shaking- let me,” he whispers.

“I’m shaking because I’m cold- I’ve got this under control, go back to sleep.”

“Are you fucking kidding?”

Suddenly the noises stop- like the bear may have just realized they were there.

“If I have to shoot this thing- it’s mother is going to find us and rip us to shreds,” she says, so quietly she wonders if he even heard her.

“Just be quiet,” he mumbles. He sits all the way upright behind her- one hand on her waist and the other just waiting to snatch the gun from her hands. It’s still quiet – Clarke starts to wonder if it might be worth it to try and scare it away, if it is only a baby and it’s gigantic mother isn’t watching ten feet away.

“I’m sorry I didn’t stay on watch,” she says suddenly- whispers it like a secret on her death bed.

“Better that you didn’t," his grip on her tightens.

They shouldn’t be speaking – but the silence is so unsettling she’s afraid that the first noise is going to shock her into blowing a hole through the tent.

It moves again- so close she can almost see it’s shadow sniffing at the tent. She’s preparing herself when all of the sudden Bellamy moves from behind her and she almost falls backwards. Her finger slips off of the trigger and he’s able to grab the gun, shooting to his feet and pulling at the ties of the tent.

She only has time to hiss “Bellamy-” before he’s leaned out and fired a shot into the night.

There’s an awful groan and he shoots again- then silence.

She wants to kill him- but she’s too focused on waiting for the sounds of the mother’s charge.

It doesn’t come.

“Stay here,” he says, squeezing his feet into her boots and disappearing into the darkness.

“I cannot believe you just fucking did that,” she sits up to follow him- she can see the faint glow of their only lantern through the tent fabric. “Every living thing within fifteen miles heard that shot Bellamy –“

When she’s crouched in the entrance of the tent Bellamy steps in front of her, “Don’t come out here,” he says.

“Why?” her eyes are wide- she thinks maybe he’s seen more of them coming towards their camp, but he just shakes his head.

“Because it’s- it’s little,” he almost looks ashamed – she’s not sure if it’s because of the assumed innocence of the animal or the fact that he’d just wasted two bullets. “I don’t see anything else- it must have been lost, gotten separated.”

“Can we-“ she’s about to ask if they can use it, but the question dies on her lips when it only seems to make his face fall farther.

“You go to sleep,” he says. “I’ll take watch.”

“Bellamy-“

“Clarke, I’m not looking for a fucking argument.”

He and the lantern disappear and she sinks back into furs that are much colder.

Everything she and Bellamy had done- the people they’d killed, the friends they’d lost- and they were both losing sleep over the death of a predator just because it was young. She and Bellamy weren’t killers – at least, they hadn’t been until the universe had forced their hand. She had always thought it would get easier – but it didn’t. They had to make it an impulse – choosing to take a life when their own survival was on the line. Most of the time that choice was scarier than the threat itself.

When she woke in the morning Bellamy had camp nearly packed away. She glanced around for the bear but only found a mound of snow with a dull bloom of red around it’s edges.
She looks at him- and he answers the question she’d almost asked hours ago. “Wasn’t big enough,” he says, “We need to go. We’re almost out of water.”

 

 

The snow had stopped, but the way the wind was blowing you couldn’t tell. Every once in a while a powerful gust would come through- one that almost sent Clarke into the river while they were filling their water-skins. With both of their gloves dry- they had little to argue about. Bellamy was still in a mood from the events of last night. She knew what he would say even if he didn’t say it. I jumped the gun- what a waste of life.

He was moving at a much quicker pace than yesterday – they had originally planned to camp one more night, but Clarke was pretty sure he was trying to get to the Gated Grounds before night fell.

The Gated Grounds had once been some kind of – outdoor amphitheater. It was a few short miles from the land of the Potomac clan – largest in the area by far, since Ton DC was abandoned. Bellamy and Clarke had the second furthest distance to travel out of the six clans in their alliance. Trying to do the trip in less than two days was stupid.

“Bellamy,” Clarke finally says when she sees him start to get frustrated with his horse, “we haven’t taken a break all day.”

“We’re almost there.”

“No, we’re not and if you kill the horses it’s going to take us even longer.”

He turns and shoots her a glare, but doesn’t slow down. In the end her spiteful nature wins out and only a few moments later she pulls her horse to a stop and waits quietly for him to notice – which he does almost immediately.

“What are you doing?”

“Resting the horse.”

“Clarke we don’t have time-“

“We’re not supposed to get there until tomorrow. We have plenty of time.”

“You really want to camp out here again?! Out in the open in the freezing cold?!”

“How is this any different from every other time we’ve made this trip? Are you worried the mother bear is hunting us down for revenge?”

“I just want to get there, do what we have to do, and get back home.”

“Me too.”

“I’m freezing fucking cold and tired and starving, my ass hurts from sitting on this goddamn horse, and I wasted two bullets on a bear last night – a baby – and I’m not feeling great about it.”

“Okay.”

“So I don’t want to stop and rest.”

“I don’t think it really matters what you want Bellamy.”

He stiffens – he knows she’s right. It never is.

“We can stop for an hour,” he says. Surveying the horizon like it’s a map laid out in front of him. “We can make it to that campground before dark- we stayed there a few years ago-“

“I remember.” She dismounts from her horse and starts to dig through her saddle bag. “We’re low on food,” she says, “all we have left are some of those mushrooms.”

She tries to keep the disgust out of her voice as she says it – she can’t afford to be picky, even if she finds even the sight of those mushrooms completely repulsive. He knows that of course and with a not-so subtle eye roll he dismounts from his own horse and pulls a bow from it’s strap on the saddle.

“I’ll hunt tonight.”

“You don’t have to do that – we can last on the mushrooms”

He makes one of those noises – like he’s trying desperately to contain a laugh, “Clarke you can’t even say the word without looking like you’re going to puke.”

“We once ate raw fish,” she reminds him. “I think I can handle some mushrooms.”

“I actually didn’t think the fish was that bad.”

She glares at him, or tries to, there’s a smile slipping onto her face. “It was the worst and you fucking know it.”

His laugh might as well be the sun- warming the cold air between them, making it so she can actually breathe again.

Travel comes easier that day. They talk about a lot – from his new found talent of sewing to her absolutely disastrous attempt to cut her own hair. He’s relaxed enough to laugh- but she notices that his bow is mounted on his shoulder in place of the rifle.

It’s strange sometimes the things that get to them- the tiny isolated incidents that revert you back to suffocating guilt even after you’ve spent years learning how to breath properly under the weight of being a leader. She almost asks him if he wants to talk about it- but by then it’s started to rain, and although its much warmer than the snow and ice that fell the day before it doesn’t make their trek any easier.

“Well this is going to be a disaster,” Bellamy practically shouts to her over the sound of the heavy drops hitting every surface around them, “two feet of damn snow is all going to melt at once. I hope they’re smart enough to stay away from the creek.”

She thinks of home and how the children sometimes like to venture down to the small spring that cuts through their territory. It’ll be running stronger, but it shouldn’t pose too much of a flood risk, none of their structures are in low lying areas.

“It’ll be fine,” she says. Their people aren’t idiots. He just worries – all the time. It may not even be raining back there. “How much longer do you want to-“

“I want to make it to those cabins.”

“Bellamy-“

He turns, “Are you alright?”

“Yeah- I’m fine, but it’s pouring down-“

“Let’s just make it there, it’s only another two or three miles.”

It takes them nearly two hours. By the time they arrive at the dilapidated old wooden buildings you can hardly even see the brown of their foundations peeking through the snow. The rain is a little lighter, because the trees above them serve as a sort of canopy and Clarke is grateful for that- not only because she’s weighted down by wet clothes, but the poor horses have really been through an ordeal the last couple of days.

Bellamy makes a fire – and Clarke tries not to be annoyed with him as she pulls the wet clothes from her skin. They’ll only be able to dry a little at a time – and her extra clothes don’t feel much warmer despite having been in the saddle bags all day. When she’s warm and dry enough to function – she gets to work on the tent, using the extra length of thick canvas they usually place underneath for warmth as an additional rain-barrier on the top of the tent.

Bellamy starts to prep his bow to hunt but Clarke stops him. She’d rather suffer through the mushrooms than have him wandering around the forest in the dwindling light soaking wet and half way to hypothermia. She helps him strip from his heavy coat and fur-lined snow pants. It’s still freezing , and the rain is still misting through the trees, so she sits him by the fire and gives him a fur pelt to cover up with. His clothes are unlikely to dry overnight- they’ll probably end up half frozen in the morning. Again-she tries not to be annoyed with him, a snarky Well we made it to the cabins are you happy now? waits at the tip of her tongue- but he’s miserable and trying to conceal the fact that he’s shivering so she keeps her mouth shut.

“Why don’t you go lay in the tent,” she says. “It’ll be warmer.”

“I’m fine.”

“I’ll be okay out here.”

“I know that. I’m fine.”

It takes an hour or so- but he stops shivering eventually, and he even cracks a smile when she chokes down that first mushroom. He raises his eyebrows – and maybe he’s thinking about all her complaints about the stars and the snow and the meadow, because he tilts his head and asks her if she actually likes anything about this place.

“The first time I felt the wind- I thought it was incredible,” she admits. “I mean- we were constantly worried about running out of air and down here there’s so much of it that it can actually topple trees.”

“I fucking hate the wind.”

“So what do you like?”

He shrugs – “I never thought I’d ever get to ride a horse.”

“You’ve been complaining about riding the horse all day.”

“I don’t always mean what I say.”

He must see her face fall – because he sits up a little straighter. “Look- I uh- I’m sorry about yesterday. What I said at the meadow-“

“Yeah, I know you are.”

“It fucking kills me too, just so you know.”

“Then why can’t we just take another route?”

“Because part of surviving down here is being able to live with every decision you’ve made. We have to face it Clarke- at least once a year.”

He finishes his mushrooms. She sits there until the silence becomes uncomfortable.

“I had a dream last week,” she says with a small smile, “about Jasper.”

She half expects him to lock up and change the subject – the way she would if the situation was reversed - but instead he smiles. “Oh yeah?”
,,
“Yeah we were – I guess we were fishing or something because we were down by the stream and he kept humming and I kept telling him to stop and every time I did he’d just laugh and tell me to guess the song. He was facing me- on the other side of it and I just remember thinking, if I get over there I’ll push him in,” she lets out a laugh, “but I couldn’t get to him for some reason and he just kept humming. I don’t remember how it ended.”

Bellamy nods and scoots a little closer to the fire.

“I told Monty,” she says, “because I thought it would make him laugh.”

“Did it?”

“For a minute.”

She stares down at the snow melting around the base of the fire – digging the toe of her boot into the mud.

“I just- I think it bothered him that I was the one. If any of us get to see Jasper- it should be Monty.”

“Maybe he does.”

“It’s like-“ she takes a deep breath, “do you remember the fire last week, where they were talking about ghosts?”

The fire crackles between them- Bellamy meets her eyes. “I remember – I wasn’t really listening to them but I remember.”

“They were telling stories- about seeing people in the woods, hearing their name called when they’re alone. Common consensus seemed to be that our land was extremely haunted.”

“You disagree?”

“No, I know it’s haunted- just not by ghosts. There’s no such thing as ghosts.”

She had once told him about Finn- about seeing his face through the trees in the days after his death. He must have remembered because he raises his eyebrows at her in question. “If ghosts- if people could actually come back and somehow make contact- they would have, all of them. My father at least- Wells, my- my mother.”

“Maybe it’s not a choice,” he says. “People see what they want to see Clarke- what they need to see.”

“It doesn’t really matter,” she says, “dreams are different than ghost stories.”

“I dream about the ocean,” he says.

“You still want to go?” Her voice is tense, it’s been a topic that they’ve debated for years. He wants to move closer to the coast, but that would involve so much more renegotiating - at least if the whole group went. There’s nothing keeping Bellamy from that “retirement” that he always joked about.

He nods, “I mean its- it’s something O and talked about.”

She doesn’t bother to ask him if he’s heard from her recently, she knows the answer is no.

“It’s a long trip,” she says. “I don’t think it’s in the cards for the whole group but if you-“

“Clarke-“ when she looks up at him he’s glaring at her, his messy hair framing dark eyes, “don’t.”

“Don’t what? I’m just saying that if you wanted to-“

“Why would I do that?”

“Why wouldn’t you?”

He’s quiet long enough that she’s pretty sure he’s thinking about it – about how good it would feel to start over somewhere - to just be an average person and not a leader.

“No,” he says with a shake of his head, “no I’m not going to just leave.”

“Bellamy- no one would blame you for wanting-“

“Clarke!” he snaps, “I’m not going anywhere- not without you.”

She tries not to look at him- as his words seem to expand in the distance between them, soaking up all of the air and warmth.

“I mean- you and everyone else-“

“Yeah, I know what you mean.” She says quickly. He keeps looking at her – but not in a grateful way. After about a minute of silence he shakes his head. “No – actually you know what? I do mean you. I’m not going anywhere without you, not after everything we’ve been through. We agreed to do this together and that’s how it’s going to be. That’s how it needs to be.”

“You don’t need to stay somewhere that makes you miserable just for my sake. If you want to go look for Octavia-“

“Octavia will come back when she’s ready.” He recites it the same way he always does, although this time it sounds more desperate than confident.

“All I’m trying to do Bellamy is tell you that I would understand. There are days when I wish I could be lost- that I could just wander off into the forest and disappear.”

“I would find you,” he says, “I would have too.”- and it’s not a grand gesture or powerful admission , it’s just the truth- one that even he is reluctant to admit.

Her mouth hangs open- and for the first time in a long time she feels like he may have misunderstood her. “Bellamy – if you left I would understand, but I would hate it,” she says. “and I would probably worry everyday about where you were – and whether I was screwing everything up. I’m not telling you that I want you to go. I don’t. I just don’t want you to be trapped.”

“I’m not trapped,” he says. “I’m right where I need to be – freezing cold in the middle of nowhere with wet clothes having a painfully awkward conversation about feelings over the worst fire I’ve ever built.”

She laughs at the bitterness in his voice and he lets out a relieved breath. The rain continues to fall- the warmth of it melting the snow and leaving a spooky sort of fog floating at eye level around the trees. Their fire isn’t working. As soon as the sun sets Clarke starts to shiver again. Bellamy brings out the jar of moonshine they were supposed to present as a gift at the conference.

“Bellamy don’t.” she warns.

“It’ll warm us up.”

“No it won’t – it’ll only make us think we’re warmed up.”

He takes a big swing with a spiteful smile and holds the jar out to her. She pushes it away.

“Go to bed Clarke,” when he uses that tone, the Clarke always sounds a lot like Princess. “Seriously, you took first watch last night. It’s my turn.”

So she sits around and argues with him for the standard five minutes or so- but as he continues to sit there with his moonshine , it becomes pretty clear to her that she’s only wasting her own valuable time to rest. She takes the top layer of her clothes off and leaves them in a pile in the front most corner of the tent. It’s not as warm as it was the night before- but after some maneuvering she manages to cocoon herself under enough furs and falls asleep just as the sound of raindrops hitting the top of the tent gets louder.

When something wakes her up – something that is thankfully not another wild animal – the rain is almost roaring. T
the tent is practically shaking with the force of it- in fact it’s very possible that it’s actually hail. She feels Bellamy before she sees him, pulling at the furs she’d contorted around herself and mumbling about how ridiculous she is. She prepares herself for him to shake her awake and tell her it’s her turn for watch, but he doesn’t. He just fumbles around to remove his wet clothes and sinks down next to her with a few groans of frustration. When his freezing cold arm accidentally brushes against some of the exposed skin of her back she jumps.

“Move over,” he hisses .

She inches over – completely unwilling in her exhaustion to vacate her comfortable position, but it’s not enough for Bellamy who decides to move her himself. With one arm around her waist he turns her to face him, scooting under her to rest his head on their make-shift pillows and allowing her to lean her head against his shoulder.

“You are freezing fucking cold,” she says angrily.

“Warm me up,” he says suggestively.

She snorts loudly, and his chest shakes with quiet laughter.

“Oh good, you’re drunk.” she says.

“No, I’m just freezing fucking cold.”

She turns a little further into him – sighing like she’s doing him some great favor, and in a way she is. Every inch of his body feels like ice. It almost goes too far when he grabs her leg under the knee and lets it rest across his hip – but he’s still laughing a little, like he expects her to freak out about it so she just presses her face into his shoulder, ignoring her burning cheeks, and his icy skin, and the fact that he doesn’t exactly smell great – neither of them do.

She almost falls asleep and then he leans down to whisper to her.

“Clarke?” he asks.

She grunts.

“Do you have a bad feeling about this?”

“About what?”

“This conference.”

She sits up a little and looks at him- his eyes are closed, his hair still wet.

“This trip has been a disaster,” she says, “the snow came a month early, we had to deal with the bear, it rained today – we’re both exhausted and stressed out. That’s probably all it is.”

He doesn’t respond – a few moments later she hears his snores.

That night she dreams that someone steals the horses.

“So did you leave any moonshine for the conference?” she asks.

She’s a good ten feet behind him as they urge their horses up one of the last inclines before they finally, finally make it to the conference.

“I had three sips.”

“They’ll know it if you water it down.”

“Only if you tell them.”

“Are you serious? Have you tried that stuff McCoy usually passes around?”

“You mean the jet fuel with chunks of peaches in in? No, I don’t enjoy physical pain.”

They arrive an hour or two ahead of schedule. The conference hall is still being arranged – it’s basically just a series of stumps arranged in close quarters around a bonfire but there is a certain degree of ceremony to it.

Clarke and Bellamy are greeted just as they usually are – handshakes and nods and offers of food and drink. They chat briefly with some other clan leaders as the tie up their horses- they answer questions about the snow, the rain, how it will effect crops in the oncoming spring. It’s all very typical – but there is an underlying tenseness that no one seems to be commenting on. Bellamy shoots Clarke a knowing look when he realizes that she feels it too.

“Do you have a bad feeling about the conference?”

When the sun starts to set the fire is lit. Leaders take their seats on the stumps around the fire – Bellamy and Clarke always stand, so that it’s clear they’re at the same level. One at a time each of the seven clans throws a handful of dirt into the fire and repeats a phrase that to the best of Clarke’s understanding means “Live together, Die alone.”

They speak in common tongue for the most part- basic English – but every once in a while someone’s accent or dialogue seeps through and Clarke and Bellamy have to struggle to keep up. Such is the case with McCoy- an older bearded man who leads the south-eastern most part of their alliance. His people lived in what used to be known as West Virginia. His speech was guttural sometimes – words ran together if he spoke too fast, which he usually did. He was a vivacious man with constantly dirty hands and a large hat made of some kind of singed straw material. He usually only reported in about local fires or flooding and some issues with his cattle. This time – for the first time in the five years they’d been doing this – McCoy stood and took his hat from his head, holding it to his chest and bowing his head.

“Today I ask fer help,” he says slowly, “our lands had been invaded by south’ners. Four mine had died at their hands.”

Bellamy tenses next to her- the rest of the circle breaks out into a momentary burst of surprised noises – leaders whispering to their seconds and hands .

“We do not know em’, haven’t seen a one. They come like ghosts- speak a strange tongue.”

“When did this start?” Clarke squeezes her eyes shut – it always stings a little bit when Indra makes an interjection, sitting in a spot that should have been Lexa’s . Bellamy adjusts himself so the he’s blocking her view of the Potomac’s side of the fire – Clarke almost lets out a bitter laugh because he would have done the exact same thing had Lexa been the one sitting there.

“Start a' harvest” McCoy says, “thought it was rouges – but they’re organiz’d – planning sommen we think.”

“What are you planning?” Willa, of the Shenandoah Clan asks, “to do battle?”

“Our numbers er too small.”

Clarke shakes her head, all of their numbers were too small if it was a large clan- they all claim that they’re “together” but they live in a widespread area over three hundred miles- with groups as small as 140 people. The Skypeople actually had one of the largest populations – although that wasn’t for other clans’ lack of trying.

“What do you know about them?” Bellamy asks, “how do you know they’re southern?”

“Clothes,” McCoy says, “their voices – we hear stories bout sand people – lands with no water out west. They’re lookin for better land. Men are always looking for better land.”

“And they’re hostile?” Clarke asks, “they’ve been aggressive?”

McCoy nods, “Killed four of us- arrows through the heart, two men out huntin, ‘nother two findin a lost cow. Shot em dead- left ‘er bodies fer us ta find.”

“McCoy, by our treaty you have the right to ask for volunteers.” Adam of the Chesapeake says, “if your lands are threatened, we all are.”

“We don’t go to war lightly,” Willa reminds them.

“Especially when we don’t know the enemy,” Bellamy chimes in in an annoyed voice. He gained a lot of respect from the grounders after Mount Weather- tense as things were and baring all of the tragedy that followed – in a time of relative peace the others appreciated his heroics, it was Clarke they were weary of. “We don’t know their numbers, their weapons, their strategies. We don’t know where they’re coming from or-“

“We go on the defensive.” Hurley- the son of the elderly clan leader of the lands that were once the city of Philadelphia, says with a slam of his fist, “we show we aren’t weak.”

“The most we could do is establish a perimeter until we know more.” Clarke says- though she looks at Bellamy like she’s only really talking to him. He nods at her but then his eyes drift off, deep in thought.

“We need time,” Indra says, “we plan tonight but we need time to collect warriors and weapons.”

“Travel as well,” Willa chimes in.

“We can handle ‘em for a time.” McCoy says, “but they can overrun us if there’s more of ‘em than we know.”

“It’s not worth the risk.” Bellamy says, “Hurley’s right, they need to know we’re not weak. If they’re looking for land and haven’t outright attacked- they probably aren’t looking for a fight.”

“So we give them one?” Clarke asks skeptically, “we’ve worked really hard for peace.”

“N it’s bein threatened.” McCoy says.

“This alliance is fragile,” Hurley says, Clarke has always been impressed with how well-spoken he is even in his native dialect. “We must protect it at all costs or risk falling apart.”

The list that Clarke had been reciting in her head for days falls at the wayside – they spend that evening talking about spontaneous war- basically sending their people out into what is being characterized as hostile territory in hopes that it will scare off whoever these people are.

She’s quiet most of the meeting- not because she disagrees – she hates it but she’s long since accepted that violence was a way of life here – but because in addition to the 30-40 soldiers the treaty requires them to provide, either she or Bellamy (or someone given a leadership position in their stead) must take leadership over those soldiers. She can tell by his focus on the conversation that Bellamy fully intends to take that role.

They call the meeting almost three hours later, when the moon has risen high in the sky and a dull wind is blowy wispy snow flurries around the fire. Everyone is worried – Clarke can see it in their eyes and feel it in the air. She knows that none of them ever want to live in fear again, the way they had with Mt Weather, but their reflexive instinct of raising an army is concerning. It’s what destroyed the earth in the first place.

As people begin to go their separate ways, Bellamy tells Clarke to wait for him so he can go speak to Hurley. Usually they don’t get along – Bellamy says he’s pretentious – but battle tactic seems to be a common interest of theirs. Although, Clarke thinks bitterly, Hurley would never be asked to take up a rifle and march with the troops – Bellamy would do it without anyone asking.

Suddenly that image expands in her mind – Bellamy walking through the wilderness with his rifle looking for this mysterious “ghost” enemy. He’d put himself in danger- he’d do anything to protect the somewhat peaceful normalcy they’ve cultivated over the years and that used to be something Clarke really appreciated- but now it just makes her nervous.

It’s stupid what she does- and she knows it’s stupid, but the thought of losing someone else, it almost makes her feel dizzy. While Bellamy is still talking enthusiastically with Hurley, Clarke approaches McCoy – as they all promised that they would before leaving the next day- and informs him that she will be leading her group to his lands in two weeks.

He narrows his eyes at her a bit – takes a quick look over her shoulder at Bellamy before shaking her hand, nodding, and thanking her.

Whatever non-spoken agreement she and Bellamy had to discuss it is now void and she feels guilty knowing that. She almost wishes that the jars and clay cups of various homemade alcohols had actually come out that night – it would make the dull ache of remorse in her gut seem less distracting.

Bellamy rests his hand on the small of her back as they walk through the darkness to their campsite. They didn’t bother to put up the tent. It’s still a bit cold but doesn’t seem like the snow flurries will continue through the night. They should be able to sleep comfortably next to their fire – one at a time – because they may be in “friendly” territory, but there’s really no such thing on this planet.

He recaps his conversation with Hurley and Clarke listens without saying much. While they build their fire he asks her if she’s alright, and she just shrugs and shoots him a smile.

“I guess you were right about having a bad feeling about this conference,” she says.

He shoots her a look, like he can see the reflection of that meadow in her eyes. Normally she would be incredibly annoyed, but his are the only looks that don’t make her feel like she’s being pitied.

“So I guess we have a decision to make,” he says diplomatically, sitting down on the thin bedroll they’d laid out on the ground.

Clarke lays flat out on hers – deciding she’d rather look at the damn stars than lie directly to his face. He won’t be able to change anything when he finds out – that would make them look incredibly immature. He’ll treat this like a betrayal – at least until she can make him understand why this couldn’t be their choice. The time has come for Bellamy to stop devoting his entire life to her well-being.

“We should sleep on it,” she says to the stars, “I’m exhausted and overwhelmed –“

“Did you eat anything?”

“Yeah, I’m fine.”

He probably nods, though she still won’t look at him. “You can sleep,” he says, “I’m alright for a while.”

“Okay,” she says quietly, turning on her side to face the fire but squeezing her eyes shut. She can still feel his eyes on her and that’s almost as unsettling as actually looking at him.

“It’s gonna be alright Clarke,” he says.

She cracks an eye open and he’s almost smiling at her. He’s made up his mind – she can tell.

“Yeah, I know,” she wants to talk to him, to tell him how much it means to her that he’d walk so willingly into war so she didn’t have to face it again, to thank him for wanting to protect her not because he thinks she’s weak but because – for some reason- he believes in her. She’ll tell him the truth in the morning – and that reassuring smile will disappear from his eyes.

She wakes up to bright sunlight and a hiss of curse words almost as vibrant.

When she finally opens her eyes the fire is out, Bellamy’s bedroll is gone- packed away in the saddle bag. Their horses are untied and grazing in the small patch of grass between the thick trees. Bellamy is messing with his rifle again – something must have jammed because he’s glaring at it so forcefully she almost feels sympathy for it.

A yawn escapes her when she sits up and Bellamy’s head whips around. She notices that the glare actually seems to intensify when it lands on her – and she remembers the horrible conversation they need to have.

“Bellamy-“

“We’re leaving.”

“Wha-“

“Get up, get packed up.”

She shoots to her feet because it looks like he’s about to rip her bedroll out from under her.

“We need to-“

“No, we don’t need to do anything,” he says with a snide smirk she hasn’t seen in years, “I talked to McCoy this morning, he let me know what was going on. So first let me just thank you for those two minutes I stood there staring at him like an idiot while I tried to figure out what he meant by ‘tell Clarke the trails will only be passable by horse if the snow clears.’”

“I know you’re angry-“

“Angry? You think I’m angry? No, no this goes far fucking beyond being angry.”

“Let me explain myself.”

“No,” he snaps, “get the horse packed up and lets go- trust me you don’t want to do this here.”

It’s not worth arguing, because he’s right this is not the place for them to hash this out. She’s in the wrong and she knows it. She’d have been furious with him if things were reversed.
So she packs up the horse in record time- they say farewell to those they pass on the way out, both smiling so their excuse of needing to get home as soon as possible is believable.

She doesn’t even try to speak to him until they stop for their first water break, nearly three hours into a journey spent in silence colder than the winter wind.

With a sigh – and a look on her face that she hopes seems as apologetic as she feels, she reaches out for him, “Bellamy – “

“Don’t” he rips his arm out of her grasp “do not fucking touch me.”

“I apologize that I made a decision without you,” she says calmly, “but I made the right one. They need you at home-“

“I don’t want to hear you’re heroic fucking speech Clarke. Get the hell out of my face.”

“How long,” she winces as he kicks a tree branch out of his way, “how long do you need until you can talk about this like a rational-“

He turns around and in three quick strides his finger is in her face, “If you’re going to wait for me to just accept that fact that you went behind my back to make a major decision that effects both of us- you’re going to be waiting a long ass fucking time,” he takes a breath and turns around to stalk back in front of her, “goddamn it, it cannot believe you did this!”

“One of us had to go!” she tries to reason with him, “I knew it had to be me, but I also knew that you’d fight me on it because you’re so goddamn stubborn- Bellamy, look at me!” she grabs his shoulder and he shoves her away.

“Clarke I’m fucking serious, don’t touch me.”

“If we can’t have a conversation about this-“

“No, right now we can’t have a conversation about this alright? I don’t want to talk to you- I need to think. So just leave me alone. Can you do that?” he storms further up the path- cursing as he goes. She pauses and lets him get a good distance ahead of her. He needs time to- diffuse himself. She still feels horrible, she needs his reassuring eyes more than anything but she’s not going to get them anytime soon, not until he realizes she did what she did to protect their home. She’s a medic- if she goes along they’ll have her spending most of her time in a field hospital- if Bellamy goes? He’s a damn good shot, frontlines material.

She just saved his life.

And maybe he knows that.

He ignores her until they camp that night. He pointedly sets his bedroll out by the fire despite the fact that she pitched the tent. She tries not to roll her eyes at how spiteful he’s being – somehow any criticism of his behavior would feel a bit hypocritical.

Finally, after he disappears to hunt for over an hour and comes back with two tiny squirrels, he sits down across the fire from her and meets her eyes.

“I can’t believe you’re doing this to me.” he mumbles. It’s the first time she’s heard his voice all day – it cracks a little, like the cold has dried his throat out.

“I’m not doing anything to you” she snaps.

“You’re going into war – back into war-“

“We both knew this would be a possibility the minute we signed that treaty.”

“Yeah. You know what – we did. And we agreed as equal fucking partners in this to discuss it.”

“I know.”

“Instead you play this fucking martyr ass hero card, go behind my back, and expect me to be thankful?!”

“You know damn well why I did what I did and it wasn’t to be a hero, it was to keep your ass off of the front lines – and don’t look at me like that, this was directly out of your playbook, this has you all over it. For once I was the one that stepped up and pushed you away from danger instead of in front of it and I’m not going to apologize for saving your fucking life.”

“And what about your fucking life?!” he whisper yells – because it’s unwise to draw attention to themselves in the middle of this dark, snowy forest, especially when they’re both so distracted.

“I’ll be fine,” she says.

“It’s war Clarke- no one is going to be fine.”

“Can we please just- stop fighting about this? I’m exhausted.”

The sun hasn’t even set all the way. He scoffs ,“go, I’ll keep watch.”

“That’s not what I meant-“

“Yeah well I think some distance apart would do us both some good.”

His gaze is still so furious that she can’t help but want to escape it. So she crawls into their tent and takes deep breathes until she’s calm enough to drift off to sleep. He never wakes her up to take watch – she’s not even sure if he slept at all. He says exactly four sentences to her for the rest of the trip.

“Let’s go.”

“Stop for Water.”

“Camp here.”

“Keep up.”

When they reach the border of their property – he breaks off from her, taking the long way around to the storage sheds and root cellar. He’d say he was checking on the smokehouse if she asked. She doesn’t.

The next night they gather the camp around the central fire.

Clarke tells them about the scouts from the south – the warriors that had been pushing the boundaries just to the west of them. She tries to downplay the threat- because they really don’t know much about these people and she doesn’t want to cause a panic. She tells them that in two weeks at least 30 of them must make the trek out to McCoy’s camp at the base of what he called Dylan’s mountain. She tells them that she will be leading the group and anyone interested should submit their names to her by the end of the week. She tries to make it sound like it was a decision she and Bellamy reached together. It’s not all that convincing, mostly because he stands behind her with his arms crossed and doesn’t say a damn word.

That week people approach her almost constantly. She turns Monty down – and a few other people with concerning health issues, or who are simply too important to the day-to-day operations of the camp to risk, like Raven- who is obviously siding with Bellamy. In the end 46 men and women volunteer- including Wick and Monroe. Having Monroe at her side is an undeniable relief and having Wick means having radio connection with home – another undeniable relief.

When the day comes for them to leave – Bellamy is still avoiding her as much as possible. They’ve spoken – but they’ve been short, incredibly tense conversations born out of necessity. People have noticed – but no one comments on it and she doubts that Bellamy has discussed it with anyone. He doesn’t exactly want to advertise the fact that she’d went over his head the way she did.

Everyone gathers to see the troops off – Monty wraps her in a big hug, Raven lectures her and tries to avoid the goodbye that Wick is patiently waiting for. Bellamy chooses not to make an appearance and that is unacceptable in so many ways that Clarke drops all of her gear onto the ground.

One of his men, Avery something- or- other, walks by her - nearly tripping on her pack. She sticks out her arm to stop him. “Where is he?” she asks with raised eyebrows.

The kid looks around nervously, “I don’t know who-“

“Where is Bellamy?”

“Oh- um,I think he’ll be here soon.”

“That’s not what I asked.” She tightens her grip on his arm a bit.

“He was back at lumber when I saw him this morning,” he says.

She lets go of him and stalks off – ignoring the excuses he yells at her back.

She finds him exactly where the kid said he’d be- in the middle of sectioning off an old pine that had fallen in the forest during the snow storm. He’s swinging the hatchet furiously – he’ll pull something in his back again.

She clears her throat – loudly – but he doesn’t even pause to look up. She continues to stare at him with wide eyes, “Bellamy?” She repeats his name twice before he looks up at her.

“What?” he snaps, jerking up and accidentally clipping his finger with the hatchet, “son of a bitch,” he mumbles.

“I’m leaving,” she says in a tone that sounds as furious as it does confused, “were you just not going to-“

“Of course I was,” he says as he sucks his bleeding finger into his mouth.

“Well you’re cutting it pretty close.”

He straightens up and walks over to her – still holding the hatchet in his hand. “Bye,” he says with a stubbornly sarcastic wave of his hand.

“Stop being a fucking child,” she hisses at him- completely over-dramatic tears of frustration in the corner of her eyes, “I understand that you’re angry with me-“

“No Clarke, I don’t think you do,” he says with a step towards her. “You’ve been walking around here acting like this was some grand plan that we orchestrated together and that’s a goddamn lie. You went rouge and-“

“I am literally on my way out of here,” she says, “I have no idea how long it’s going to be until I see you again, is this really the last conversation you want to have with me?”

He chucks the hatchet to the side stares down at the ground for a moment. She can practically see him counting to ten – trying to reign in all the frustration and anger. “Four weeks,” he finally snaps, “four weeks and if you’re not back I’ll come and get you myself.”

She rolls her eyes, “That’s not how this works.”

“Four weeks.”

Despite the fact that he still looks like he’ll shove her away if she gets to close, she opens her arms to him- it’s incredibly awkward and uncomfortable but they both need it and she knows it. Apparently he does too – with one small sigh the anger slips from his face and he takes a step towards her, his big hands basically covering her back as he pulls her into him.

“May we-“

“No,” he says “don’t do that.”

“If you need anything radio Wick and-“

“Yeah that goes both ways.”

“Bellamy-“ she pulls away from him and meets his eyes, “I don’t want to leave here with you angry at me-“

He just sighs. “You come back in one piece Clarke and I promise you all will be forgiven.”

She smiles – squeezing her eyes together to keep herself from getting too emotional. “So I’ll uh- see you soon?”

“Yeah,” he says squeezing her one more time before pulling away, “you fucking better.”

It wasn’t war the way Clarke always pictured it – the way Clarke had experienced it – in an open field or with very clearly drawn boundary lines between the good guys and the bad guys.
This was like trying to plug holes in a sinking ship – small group of hostiles, speaking a language Clarke was unfamiliar with would hide amongst trees, scale ridgelines, wait at the banks of the river and slowly take out their defenses one at a time. It was frustrating – as if it would be easier if their entire army would just attack them all at once, even if Clarke knew that numbers probably wouldn’t be on their side.

This was like watching vultures stake out their prey- one horrible big bird at a time would land near the dying animal- slowly and causally inching closer, then another would show up, then another, until all the surrounding trees were bowing under the weight of the beasts.

The good news was that the attacks were not increasing in frequency. McCoy believed that the mystery clan was sizing up the alliance- trying to determine whether there was a weak spot. It was all conjecture- so far they hadn’t been able to capture one alive to interrogate them, but Clarke thought they were doing a decent enough job defending themselves. Best case scenario – they decide it’s not worth the fight and move on.

Like she’d expected she’s spent most of her time in their medical tent- dealing with those few unfortunate enough to come in contact with a hostile (which is what McCoy called them). Clarke was working closely with Alma, another healer, and together they’d managed to save nineteen badly wounded men and woman – only losing twenty three, most of which died in one single fire set in a dry patch of forest while they camped.

Most of the time everything was calm – but Clarke still felt the constant pecking of those vultures and eventually the calm became frustrating. She started to venture out to guard stations along the border – the ones within hiking distance. Usually she accompanied Monroe who laid out on a flat span of rock just a few hundred feet up Mount Dylan and watched the edge of the forest line. Armed with flares Raven had built and a loud drum of grounder design, Monroe was basically the gate keeper of their base camp. When someone was approaching the forest she’d alert groups of warriors on the ground. It was a desperate attempt to determine exactly where these hostiles were coming from- and it had not yet been successful.

“Anything?” Clarke asks as she climbs over the last few boulders to reach the spot Monroe occupied.

“Nothing,” she mumbles, “as usual.”

She keeps one eye on the ground but turns subtly to Clarke. “How is this ever going to end?” she asks, “if they won’t make a big move and we know nothing about them?”

“I have no idea,” Clarke says, sitting down next to her with a huff, “this isn’t like building a fence around a camp- I don’t understand how we can possibly protect miles and miles of land from an enemy that comes and goes out of nowhere.”

“I mean it’s been over two weeks,”

“Nineteen days.”

“and we’re still just sitting here waiting. Meanwhile good people are being attacked and there’s nothing we can do about it. Seriously Clarke-“ Monroe lowers her voice as if someone might hear, “McCoy is basically sentencing people to death when he sends them riverside.”

“It’s the weak spot,” Clarke says, “gotta have boots on the ground to defend the weak spot.”

Monroe huffs, “I’m more concerned with how many we’re putting in the ground.”

Clarke gives her an uncomfortable look.

“I’m not blaming you or anything, I just mean-“ she stops suddenly and shoots straight up, “did you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Clarke asks, looking around in the fading light.

Monroe stays silent for a minute- but then settles back down, “My ears play tricks on me sometimes,” she explains “it’s the way the wind goes across these rocks. You shouldn’t be here though-“ she says, “it’s going on dark.”

“I’ll walk back with you when you get off duty.”

“Point is you shouldn’t have walked here by yourself.”

“I had my gun.” Clarke hears it this time- something that sounds like a rustle. “Monroe maybe you should-“

The next thing she knows there’s a powerful scream, a woman, dressed in some kind of dark fabric charges from the small grove of trees above them- she slides down the rock face faster than they can get to their feet. Monroe beats once on the drum – Clarke grabs for her gun. The noises the woman is making are so disorienting that for a moment Clarke thinks she’s accidentally shot herself – once her hand closed around the cool metal of its handle she felt a horrible bursting pain in her lower side, there was a warmth spreading through the pain – like someone had just dumped a bucket of scolding water on her. She gasps for air, cursing herself for her own stupidity when she realizes that there was never a gun shot.

She sinks down to the ground – because the earth feels like its spinning around her and despite the setting sun everything is getting brighter. She sees Monroe’s outline – fighting with that woman, but soon enough their shadows become indistinguishable.

Something is wrong with her. She should be able to open her eyes. The medical part of her brain –whispering as it’s slowly being smothered by pain tells her that she’s probably going into shock. With one shaky hand she presses the tender spot on her abdomen – her fingers come away a vibrant red – brighter than any redbird she’d ever seen.

Someone yells her name- or something that sounds a lot like it.

Then she blacks out.

 

...

The sand is hot under his hands – the water not much cooler as it washes up over his feet.

He takes a calming breath. The only sound in his entire world right now is the ocean, it’s a dull sort of melody that he could definitely fall asleep too. He closes his eyes and leans back in the sand on his elbows. He enjoys this – being along. He enjoys every precious minute of peace and quiet he can get.

Suddenly, something in the air changes. He opens his eyes – expecting to look out and see storm clouds over the water, instead he catches a glimpse of pale gold to his left. Clarke is sitting there. Her knees brought up to her chest, rubbing her eyes with her hands like she’d just woken from a nap. She’s wearing a white shirt he’s never see before, her hair is down - which is as unusual as it is impractical - especially when the wind whips it around her face like that. But she looks out at the ocean and her eyes are bright- totally amazed. He tries to remember the last time he’d seen her like that.

“You dream about the ocean," she says with a laugh and the shake of her head, “You’ve never even seen the ocean- how did you make it look this beautiful.”

He’s not sure what she means by him making it - but he laughs anyway. “I’ve seen pictures.”

“I’ve never seen a blue like that.”

She turns and meets his eyes- and suddenly his mouth feels dry. He knows that particular shade of blue better than any other he’s ever seen. It must have been an incredibly long time since she’d seen her own reflection- but still he doesn’t really see how anyone could forget eyes like that.

“I imagined that it would be louder,” she says. “With the wind and the waves,”

She picks up a handful of sand and releases it into the wind, watching it with amusement. There’s something strange about the way it moves - slower than it should, much slower.

“Clarke,” he says. An unsettling feeling fills his chest like liquid iron. “What’s going on?”

“What do you mean?”

He sits up and looks around at the deserted beach and tries to think of a context in which this would even be possible. The coast is hundreds of miles away. Where are their people?

“What are we doing here?” he asks.

“I thought you dreamed about the ocean all the time?” she says with a halfhearted smile as she tosses a shell into the surf.

“No not- “ he squints at her “are you telling me that I’m dreaming?”

“Is that unusual,” she jokes, “for me to be in your dreams?”

She seems farther away all of the sudden- he could have sworn a minute ago she was right within his reach, now it’s like the tide is pulling the beach apart between them.

“Clarke-“ he shakes his head and tries to stand up, but his feet are sinking into the sand, “something’s wrong.” He’s not sure how he knows – he just knows. He can feel it, he can see her moving farther and farther away from him.

“Clarke seriously, what are you doing here?”

Her head tilts and then her eyes narrow. Her hair stops moving, but he can still feel the breeze around them, it’s picking up the sand as he still struggles to get to his feet.

“I don’t know,” she says. She looks over her shoulder, staring at something Bellamy can’t see. “I think I have to go.”

“Go? What do you mean go? Go where?”

“I-“ she stands up, her arms gripping her stomach like she’s in pain, “I don’t know – I just have to go.”

He sees the red now, staining the sand where she was sitting, blooming on the fabric around her arm.

“What happened to you?” he asks- stopping his struggling for a moment as an aching fear sets into his gut. “You’re bleeding, what happened?”

She looks down and opens her arms – it looks so much worse than he thought.

“Clarke- you’re” he struggles harder to free his feet, “you’re really bleeding, what the fuck happened?”

“Bellamy I don’t know-“ she panics, “I seriously don’t know.”

“Stop moving!” All he has to do is get to her.

“I’m not-“

“Clarke-“

A wave- enormous and unexpected - washes over him. The sand around him seeps away. He can’t get a grip on anything- all he can see is this dull grayish-brown color that looks nothing like the blue water they’d been looking at just moments before. The next breathe he takes- he’s in his own bed. Sitting straight up and panting like there was actually water in his lungs. The beach is gone, the water is gone, Clarke is gone – but the feeling isn’t.

Something is wrong.

He struggles to dress in the darkness of his quarters – it’s not dawn yet, but judging by the light purple of the sky it’s close. Reyes is living all the way cross camp – sharing with Clarke – so Bellamy could walk the path to their little cabin with his eyes closed- which he practically does since he forgets to grab a lantern before he sets off. When he arrives the door is unlatched – he would find that annoying if it wasn’t so convenient. When the throws the door open he takes the first left into the largest room of the little house and there is Raven, sprawled across her bed with a fire dying in the hearth.

With no remorse or hesitation Bellamy walks right up to her. “Reyes get up,” he pushes against her shoulder. “It’s an emergency, get up.”

“What- what is it?” She cracks an eye open.

“You’ve gotta radio Wick.”

His intensity sort of startles her awake, she leans forward onto her elbows and shakes her head. “Why, what’s wrong?”

“I don’t know –“ he says, “something happened.”

“Something happened where?” She asks.

He doesn’t know how to answer that, somehow telling her he saw Clarke bleeding out on a beach that doesn’t exist doesn’t seem like the best way to convince her of anything.

“Clarke.”

She raises her eyebrows, “What are you talking about?”

“I need you to radio Wick and check on Clarke.”

“Are you having some kind of fit- I thought you were off the moonshine-“

“Do I look like I’m joking?”

Apparently he doesn’t – because with a few muttered curse words Raven is up and out of bed pulling on her jacket and leading the way out of the house and down the short path to her lab (a smaller shack built of sheet metal and spare parts from the exodus ship.) She doesn’t ask him any more questions – but she seems to slam everything she possibly can, telling him without actually using words that if he’s wasting her time she’ll destroy him.

“Wick- signal back.” She says into the handheld radio.

Static. She glances up at Bellamy who nods at her.

“Wick- emergency – signal back.”

The static breaks a few times, and then his voice comes through, “Not a good time Reyes.”

Raven looks a little surprised that he responded. She adjusts the volume on the radio and rubs her temples. “I need a status update on Clarke,” she says, “is she at basecamp?”

Static again.

“Did we lose signal?” Bellamy asks.

“No,” she says, she turns the volume back up and tries again, “Wick?”

“Is Bellamy with you?” Wick asks.

Raven looks nervously over her shoulder. “Yeah?”

“I’ll call back in ten – let me-“

“Wick,” Bellamy grabs the small radio, “what the hell is going on?”

He can practically hear him fumbling on the other end, “Look uh- I haven’t seen her yet, so I don’t know how bad it is.”

It feels like the air has been sucked out of the room – if Raven wasn’t taking this serious before she certainly is now. She grabs for the radio but Bellamy moves it out of her reach. “How bad what is?”

Wick is silent for a second, the static interrupted two or three times as he seems to struggle with what to say. “Clarke was hit,” he says, “call came over about an hour ago. She’s being transported back to base.”

Bellamy’s hands start to shake, “Hit with what?!”

“Monroe said abdominal stab wounds- probably a spear or an arrow.”

“Oh my God,” Raven mumbles- resting her head in her hands and taking a deep shaking breath.

“You don’t know how bad it is?”

Wick takes his time to answer again, “She- Monroe told me to call you, I was going to wait until they got here but- she said you needed to know.” Bellamy forces his eyes shut as Wick’s voice becomes audibly thick with emotion. “I uh- it doesn’t sound like they think she’d gonna make it man.”

For a brief second he can practically smell the blood on the beach, he can see that look on her face – confused and terrified. “I’m leaving now,” he says “tell McCoy to expect me at his gates in twelve hours.”

“Bellamy-“

“Tell her I’m coming.” God it sounds so stupid, but it makes Raven jump up, “Me too.”

“No, Reyes.”

“Put the fucking order out Wick,” Bellamy yells, “two- no four- man team arriving in twelve hours or less. I don’t want to get held up by some fucking picket line- and until we get there you just- you stay with her.”

“Okay,” he says, “over and out.”

It’s lucky Bellamy doesn’t break the radio when he practically throws it back to Raven, who immediately starts prepping their portable comm.

“Get Monty,” he tells her, “I’ll get the horses ready, you get Monty and Arthur and anyone else you can scrape together. Meet me at the stables.”

“We don’t have provisions ready –“

“We’ll hunt on the way. Wake Jackson up, tell him to choose an assistant. He’s coming with us- and Reyes, bring your gun.”

 

Part 2 coming soon! Really soon, I promise!