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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!

Chapter Text

Hope is a waking dream
-Aristotle

 

It’s white- an artificial sort of white that’s brighter than any snow she’s ever seen.

She feels a hard floor underneath herself. The air is stale – not warm or cold, just stagnant as she breaths it in. Her eyes sort of water and her finger tips ache and she feels so trapped that she’s surprised when she’s able to stand all the way up.

There’s a noise behind her, like a door rattling. She turns just as it opens, a duller light floods into the room and her mother is there in the door way – beckoning her forward with panicked eyes.

“Mom-“ she says, “What’s going on?”

She can hear it now, the sound of guards in the cells around them – the chaos and disorganization that interrupts the usually quiet halls. This isn’t right – she still has months before her birthday.

“Clarke,” her mother holds her gaze, “look at me.”

She does, and there’s a warm rush of something in her chest. The words “I’m sorry” are on the tip of her tongue but she has no idea why. Abby’s hands are around her wrist, she waits for the metal clink of a bracelet but it never comes, instead her mother just pulls her closer.

“You don’t belong here,” she says “it’s too soon.”

Confusion and panic are battling in her head. “Mom- I don’t even know where I am. You have to tell me what’s happening.”

She hears her mother’s voice echo from around them- something about being sent to earth- but the woman in front of her doesn’t speak them, instead her mouth rests in a hard line. “You can’t be here.” she finally says.

There’s another echo behind her words- about remembering to take care of herself, but all Clarke can focus on is the feeling of her mother’s hands around her own. The last time she’d felt that – she can’t remember.

“Mom- where have you been? I don’t understand.”

“Clarke look at me. It’s okay. I’m okay. None of this is your fault and I’m so happy to see you, but you can’t be here. ”

When she looks up again Abby Griffin is covered in mud – her face has three linear cuts across her cheek. Her clothes are stained red. In that moment something like realization washes over Clarke, the last time she’d felt her mother’s hands around her own had been in a field – with Abby struggling to turn her last few breathes into a goodbye.

“I’m so sorry.”

The memory stings- it almost throws her off balance. Clarke squeezes her eyes shut and when she opens them again Abby is gone. She’s left alone – with nothing but the white. She spins around, looking for something, anything to help her get the hell out of there – when her eyes land on a canvas of black on the floor, drawn in dark charcoal. What had once been the night sky was smudged –replaced by big white letters that she had to squint to read.

CLARKE FIGHT BACK.

 

 

He focuses on the sun as they walk – watching it rise up through the trees. The forest starts to come to life around them. With every step he takes he wishes this was all just a dream, that he’d just jolt awake.

“We’ll have to rest soon,” Raven says, interrupting the silence they’d maintained for the first three hours of their travel. Raven is clearly dealing with her concern in her own way- making loud and obnoxious sighing noises every couple of minutes. Bellamy continues to ignore her.

“It’s not going to do Clarke any good if we die too,” she snaps.

She may not have meant for it to sound like that – but he glares at her anyway.

“She’s not going to die,” he says.

Raven shakes her head at him. “You think I haven’t felt that? That I didn’t convince myself that there was no way Finn could possibly die until the moment I saw it happen. The universe doesn’t owe you two weeks’ notice Bellamy. You need to start being realistic about this so if we get there and things are- bad – you don’t freak out and burn the whole camp down.”

“This will go faster if we don’t talk,” he says through gritted teeth.

“Maybe for you – the rest of us are struggling to keep up.” She takes a couple of deep breaths and speeds up to keep pace with him, “Bellamy, seriously- what happens if we get there and she’s-“

“Call Wick – get an update,” he says.

“I can’t, signal isn’t strong enough- maybe when we clear that ridge.”

He purposefully slows down to fall back behind her, turning his head to seek out their companions.

“Jackson –“ Bellamy calls out, the man had been dozing off to sleep on his horse, “how long is it going to take for her to heal?”

Jackson scrunches his eyebrows, “Well- that would depend on her injuries.”

“Worst case scenario.”

He’s thankful that no one reminds him that worst case scenario would be her never having the chance to heal.

“If we have to do surgery – it could be weeks until she’s fit for travel.” He clears his throat uncomfortably. “I’ll know more when I can examine her.”

“And you brought everything you’d need for surgery?”

“Yes.”

“And the kid you brought with you?”

“Alexander,” Jackson says with a nod to the young man.

“He knows what he’s doing?”

Alexander opens his mouth to defend himself, but Jackson raises his hand to silence him, “He’s been working with Clarke and I for the past two years.”

“That’s not what I asked.”

“Yes, Commander Blake- he knows what he’s doing.”

Bellamy nods and turns back to face the path in front of them. The snow has melted down so that the grass is peeking up through it. He can feel his horse starting to tire but every moment they aren’t moving is another moment they're waiting and Bellamy Blake has honestly never felt this helpless.

 

He believes in Clarke – in her strength – but at this point he’s not even sure how much of this is up to her.

 

She thinks her foot is caught on a rock – but the water is running so swiftly around her that she’s afraid she’ll lose her balance if she stops moving, so she wiggles it around, ignoring the sharp pains and jabs of the rocks. There’s nothing to grab onto to steady herself and the current is so strong, the water up to the middle of her thighs.

“Hey, whoa, whoa what happened?”

She looks up and sees a hand reaching out to her – dark skin, a t-shirt tattered around the sleeves.

“My foot,” she says- reaching out and grabbing onto him. “I think it’s stuck on something.”

“Okay well pull it out- just don’t break your ankle.”

He turns to face her and she grips his other arm. “Why are we doing this again?” she asks as she keeps trying to wiggle her foot free.

“Doing what?”

“Walking in the middle of a river against the current Wells – it’s stupid.”

He chuckles but when Clarke looks up at him his face is incredibly sad. “I miss you, you know?” he says. “Everything about you is so stubborn.” She glares at him and he laughs, “That’s a good thing. That’s why you’re doing this.”

“Because I’m stubborn?”

“Because you’re a fighter.”

“And why are you here?”

“In case you need a hand.” He grips her wrists and pulls. She almost yells out in victory when her boot finally comes free of the rocks but the water is still knocking her off balance. It’s all she can do to get it firmly planted on the river bottom.

Wells walks next to her – observing her like she’s doing something incredibly impressive. He used to look at her like that when they played chess – she was never sure whether it was a compliment on her part or if he was just so proud of his own capabilities that it amazed him every time she came close to beating him.

“This is exhausting,” she says. “How much further?”

“Not too far – but whoa you cant stop-“ he rests an arm behind her when she pauses to take a breath, “you stop moving forward and it’ll just sweep you back.”

“How the hell do you know so much about rivers?” she pants, “you were terrible in earth studies and you never really got to-“ she freezes and looks at him.

“Clarke you have to keep moving.”

“Wells-“

“I’m serious Clarke.”

“Stop pushing me!” she takes another step so he’ll stop pressing on her back, but shoots him a worried look out of the corner of her eye. “Wells- I think you’re a ghost,” she says.

He laughs- and she’s not surprised because it sounded stupid even to her own ears. “You don’t believe in ghosts,” he says.

“But you’re dead,” she argues, “you were killed, I- I found your body.”

He looks sad then- turning his head and staring up the river. “I’m sorry about that-“ he says.

“Why would you ever apologize to me for dying?”

“Because I came down here to have your back and before I knew it I was gone.”

The pull of the river feels like it’s getting stronger. “Wait this is –where am I? Wells, how is this- what’s happening to me?”

“I’m not sure,” he says with a sympathetic frown, “all I know is that you have to keep moving up this river- even if it hurts, even if it’s exhausting, because if you don’t well... I have no idea what waits for you back that way but it can’t be good.”

Clarke looks up the river – it seems to stay shallow, like there hasn’t been a lot of rain lately – but there would be no way to tell from this distance. “Are you coming with me?”

“I don’t think I can.”

“Wells-“

“It’s like – remember that time I stole that book from the library and you were convinced they’d float me if I didn’t return it?”

“Wells we were seven.”

“And I was terrified to turn it back in and I begged you to come with me but you said no – because they wouldn’t believe that I really meant it if I didn’t do it alone.”

She just stares at him- her long lost best friend who hadn’t aged a day. He was just as right as he’d always been and she knew that – she may have been confused but she knew that much. “Do I look older to you?” she asks with a teary smile.

He nods, “Ancient actually.”

They can’t hug- because the river is too strong, but she grips his hand tighter than she thought possible and blinks tears from her eyes.

“Where does this river lead?” she asks.

“A waterfall I think.”

“What do I do when I get there?”

“You jump.”

On the other side of the ridge, the sun is much brighter.

“She’s still breathing,” Raven tells him. She doesn’t need to- he heard Wick’s voice crackle over the shaky signal on the radio. He’d asked her about a million questions –so many that Raven had gotten annoyed and shut the radio off. “Wasting the goddamn battery to make sure I didn’t fall and scrape my knee," she mutters to herself.

“You still pissed at Wick for falling in love with you?” he says it to piss her off- and it’s spiteful and childish but she had spent the better part of the morning saying everything he didn’t want to hear.

“Yeah actually – I am.” She forcefully pushes a tree branch away from her face, “still think you have a monopoly on caring about Clarke?”

He shakes his head with a humorless laugh. This was not the first time he and Raven had had this conversation. “I never said that.”

“Yeah well you act like it," she says – quietly so Jackson and Alexander can’t hear, “In case you forgot- she’s pretty much the only family that I have.”

“That’s not true," he says, giving her one of those looks he always gave Octavia- I may be incredibly annoyed with you right now but don’t ever doubt for a second that I’m on your side.

She almost snorts, “We can’t be family Bellamy – we’ve fucked.”

He looks behind him to make sure they weren’t overheard and then shakes his head at her. “We were different people then.”

Raven is quiet for a few minutes – but he catches her adjusting on her horse a few times. He’s starting to suspect that her back is starting to bother her.

“You good?” he asks.

“We’re going to ride straight through the day aren’t we?” she asks.

“Yes.” He says without hesitation.

“Well when we do take a break – a short one – I think the Doc has some leaves or something I can chew, like a pain reliever.”

“Raven I can go ahead if-“

“No,” she says, “no I want to be there – I need to be there. Five hours down, seven more to go,” she says, “almost half way there.”

 

 

For a few seconds she thinks she’s been buried alive.

It’s dark – too dark to be above ground - and there’s a stale quality to the air that makes her breathe slower. Her eyes attempt to adjust to the light – but it doesn’t make it any better. She’s panicky because she has no idea where the hell she is and for some reason her boots are wet.

Suddenly the wick of a candle lights up with one small flame and in the glow she sees a face. Finn.

Her instincts tell her to move away from him – to escape his angry eyes, but this time she realizes pretty quickly what’s going on.

“This isn’t real,” she says. “I’m dreaming. This is crazy I have to be dreaming.”

“Yeah maybe – but this feels pretty real for it to be just a dream Princess.”

“Don’t.” she snaps. “You’re dead- I – I killed you.”

“No, I killed myself.” He says slowly – like he’s talking to an injured child, “You saved me from suffering and I meant it when I thanked you Clarke. My blood isn’t on your hands.”

“But it was!” she almost shouts, “literally.”

“So is that why you’re giving up?”

She raises her eyebrows “Giving up?”

“Why else would you be here with me?”

“What is this place?” she asks.

“The bunker I think-“ he says, and adds on a chirpy, “awkward.”

She rolls her eyes at him , but he’s smiling and goddamn has she missed that smile.

“Do you have any idea what’s happening to me?” she asks.

He stares at her for a few seconds and then he picks up the candle and walks towards her. “I think so,” he says. “What’s the last thing you remember?”

She thinks about it, “I don’t know,” she says, “I mean I remember a lot of things- everything – but I can’t think of the last thing-“

“So you’re probably still alive – which is good.”

Her eyes are wide, “What are you talking about?”

“Clarke- I mean I’m no expert, but ….I think you’re dying.”

“Dying? What are you- stop okay, I’m obviously losing my mind.” She looks up when he sits down next to her. “So I’m.... dying and to deal with that- my subconscious wants me to talk to you?”

He shrugs - “This is your party Princess.”

Clarke doesn’t answer him- she pinches the side of her left wrist, there’s not really any pain. If she is dreaming, she’s in one hell of a deep sleep.

“Stop looking at me like I disappointed you,” she snaps, “I have no idea why I’m here or what the hell is going on-“

“I just want you to look me in the eye and tell me that you understand that my death – and the events that led to it were not your fault –“

“Finn.”

“Say it.”

“It wasn’t my fault,” she says. He doesn’t exactly look convinced - but this is the closest she's ever come to feeling forgiven for that night.

“We tried Clarke,” is all he says.

They sit in silence for a few minutes. It’s not exactly awkward, but it is painful. Clarke never imagined how difficult it would be to sit and talk to someone when you know your time is so limited.

“So what do I do now?” she says.

“Your guess is as good as mine. I mean – you’re not ready to die right?”

She glares at him.

“Alright fine- stupid question,” he laughs. “Clarke you are the strongest person I ever met in my entire life. Somewhere deep down inside of you, you know exactly what to do.”

She stands up, “All I know – I just can’t stay here.”

“With me?” he shoots her a small smile.

“Right.”

“Have to get back to Bellamy and the kids-“

She’d glare at him again if he wasn’t smiling. “I didn’t get it for a long time,” he says, “but you two do really balance each other out.”

“You mean we keep each other from succumbing to our basic nature and destroying everything we touch?”

“You’re still way too hard on yourself.” He smirks and sets the candle down – holding his arms out to her, “One for the road?”

She laughs into his shoulder as she hugs him – he doesn’t exactly feel alive, she knows deep down that he’s not really here, but she’ll remember that smile.

When they pull apart – she thinks he’s crying, although it’s hard to see through her own tears. “Finn,” she says “there have been so many other people and I-“

“Always did exactly what you could to keep our people alive. And that’s what you need to do right now.”

“What do I – do I just turn the handle and climb right out. It’s that easy?”

“Yeah Princess- it’s that easy.”

They arrive at the check point before McCoy’s basecamp an hour later than Bellamy planned. Despite the cold they’re all sweating and achy. Bellamy can hear the Alexander kid whispering complaints to Jackson as they move.

Raven does her very best to keep up with him the entire way, but the second McCoy’s men are within sight she drops back.

“What’s wrong?” Bellamy asks, turning in his saddle to look at her.

She stares ahead of them- her hand clutching the radio on her hip.

“Reyes, let’s go.” Bellamy prompts.

“We haven’t heard from Wick in over an hour,” she says. He had told them he’d be away from the radio for while – it’s portable charge was dead and he wanted to be in there with Clarke. The last they’d heard, Clarke was “stable,” not any better, not any worse – just stable. "We have no idea what we’re walking into,” she says.

“Clarke needs us.”

“Yeah I know that,” she clenches her fists and nudges her horse forward.

Bellamy stares at her – that harsh, unwavering one he whips out when someone he cares about needs a special kind of motivation. “I want you to imagine how fucking frustrated you’d be with me if I was freaking out right now.”

“I’m not freaking out.” She says.

“Then what is this?”

“Fuck you Bellamy – we’ve been riding all day, you woke me up in the middle of the goddamn night and I’m so close to losing my best friend that I just want to-“

“Scream, cry, punch someone in the mouth , light everything on fire? I get it.” He leans forward, “but you and me – we’re here to help her, not cry over her body. She’s going to be fine.”

“How in the hell could you possibly know that?”

“Because she’s Clarke,” he says. “You want some grand fucking answer but that’s all I have alright? She’s Clarke and she’s not going anywhere!”

He must be starting to look a little hysterical – Raven is glancing down at her saddle like she’s ashamed for pushing him. Jackson and Alexander had stopped their horses a couple of meters away – they were forcing casual conversation to avoid imposing themselves on the awkward one going on between Bellamy and Raven.

“We need to go.” He starts his horse off again, not looking back to see if anyone is following him. When he reaches the picket line – three men who allow him to pass without any question – he hears the other horses behind him. The closer they get to the clump of tents peeking through the trees up ahead of them – the less confidence he feels. He wants to blame it on Raven – or the exhaustion – but the actual cold hard truth is that they could be too late.

“Bellamy!”

Monroe sees them first. She shoves three or four confused people out of her way as Bellamy dismounts his horse- Raven and the doctors behind him.

“Where is she?”

Monroe- who looks like she hasn’t eaten or slept in the last 24 hours – starts to grab some of the bags from Jackson’s horse, giving them rough directions about which tent to look for, it’s blueish- kind of singed looking on one side, under that big, half dead pine tree, Wick will be outside, just keeping walking straight in that direction.

Alexander waits to help Monroe unload and carry the materials they brought – although its really not that much. Jackson speeds up and makes pace with Raven and Bellamy who take off at an almost jog in the direction Monroe pointed.

“Where the fuck is a half- dead-“

“Reyes!”

They catch a glimpse of Wick around the other side of a tree, waving them over. He looks about as bad as Monroe.

“Any change?” Bellamy asks as they approach him.

Wick shakes his head and the three of them charge past him into the tent.

The first thing that hits them is the smell- something thick and probably herbal. It makes the air feel sticky.

There are three people crowding around a cot that’s been raised by several wooden pallets. On the floor next to them is a disturbingly large pile of fabric – tinged with blood.
Raven is breathing heavily next to him – like an immature idiot he reaches out and grabs her hand, she grips it so hard it almost makes his eyes water.

“Excuse me,” Jackson says, “I’m Dr. Jackson-“

When the two closest women part to turn and look at them –they get their first look at Clarke.

She’s dead.

She has to be. Her skin is pale- almost blue, half of her face looks bruised, her hair is knotted and tossed to the side of her head, her shirt torn from her body and her middle- Raven actually gags.

The woman- Bellamy knows her as Alma, urges Jackson forward, telling him about her stable breathing and the damage she’s observed in the abdomen. She believes that she’s been able to repair all of the internal damage but she wants him to look to be sure before she closes her up.

Jackson starts yelling for his equipment. Alma turns – covered in Clarke’s blood- and looks at Bellamy and Raven.

“Bellamy,” she says with a nod. She turns to Raven “We have not met , my name is-“

“Is she going to live?” Raven asks.

Alma sighs and speaks in clear, well-rehearsed English, “She’s sustained a terrible injury, but her pulse has been strong through the whole surgery-“

“Did you put her under?” Bellamy asks.

“No, no she lost consciousness due to blood loss. She hasn’t regained consciousness since the injury.”

“Is that bad?”

Alma looks at him sympathetically, “It means she’s not feeling any pain.”

“She looks dead.” Raven says, “ she looks –“ she takes a deep breath and shakes her head, “what can we do. How can we help?”

“Right now we need space.”

“Alma we rode for hours to get here-“ Bellamy starts to protest.

“Sit outside and rest- you are only a few feet away, you will know as soon as we finish and then you can sit with her.”

“Jackson?” Bellamy calls over Alma’s shoulder – his eyes are still locked on Clarke, trying to catch the rise and fall of her chest to reassure himself. Jackson looks up from where he had been examining Clarke. “We have some more work to do” he says. “I’ll come and find you as soon as there is news.”

In the end Bellamy and Raven end up sitting with their backs up against trees just outside the tent – when Monroe sees them, she walks over and collapses down next to them.

“What happened?” Bellamy asks gruffly- staring at the tent flap so hard his vision is starting to blur.

“I was up on the lookout point last night,” Monroe says, “Clarke came up to visit me.”

Bellamy opens his mouth and Monroe cuts him off, “I told her she shouldn’t have- that she shouldn’t be wandering around when it was getting dark but she said she had her gun with her and – and then this woman just came out of nowhere. She screamed so loud it didn’t even sound real, and I beat the drum in case it was an ambush, when I looked up Clarke was still trying to pull her gun from her pants. Mine was out of reach so I went at her with my dagger – she had this spear with a pointed wooden tip, halfway through dodging it I noticed it was covered in blood. I tried to look over at Clarke but the woman knocked me to the ground. I got ahold of a rock- and I – I got her off of me. Clarke was already out, bleeding all over the place. I got her down to the path best I could and hauled her to the check point. They radioed Wick to send help and we carried her back. It’s about a two hour hike. She was out the whole time."

Raven leans her head back against the tree and sighs.

“The woman that attacked her,” Bellamy asks “is she still alive?”

“No.” Monroe says, “No I- I took care of it.”

“Good,” Raven says.

Bellamy looks away long enough to give Monroe a reassuring nod. She’s sitting there looking like he’s going to blame her. The only one to blame here is Clarke – but he’s not going to say that outloud to anyone because he doesn’t need to hear anyone tell him how fucked up that sounds. He is angry with her though. It’s crazy, because she’s lying in there dying and he’d hand over any one of his organs if it meant her waking up – but he’s still fucking angry with her.

After about a half hour – when Raven has grown so impatient that she’s taken to pacing back and forth and the crunch of the ground underneath her feet becomes so irritating that Bellamy is talking himself out of screaming at her – Jackson comes out of the tent.

“What’s going on?” Bellamy asks as he shoots to his feet.

“Can we see her?” Raven adds.

“Not yet,” Jackson says he takes a deep breath, “they’ve patched up the internal bleeding the best that they could. It looked good to me. She’ll need a blood transfusion and we’ll have to watch for infection.”

“She needs blood?” Bellamy asks – just as Raven is pulling up her shirt sleeve like Jackson was just going to stick a straw in her arm right there.

“No, no we’ve got that covered. We needed to match her blood type.”

They both raise their eyebrows at him – “Who?”

“I checked before we left this morning - according to the records we had, Kyle Wick. He’s agreed, we’re going to start right away and then it’s just….a waiting game.”

“What are her odds?” Raven asks quietly.

“I don’t- I’m not sure how to answer that,” Jackson says , “I’ve seen people come back from worse – but I’ve lost patients for less. It’s up to Clarke now.”

When Raven and Bellamy don’t say anything he starts to back up into the tent, “Give us another half hour or so and then you can come in and sit with her if you like.”

“I don’t know about you-“ Raven says when he’s gone, “but if it’s up to Clarke- I’d say those odds are pretty good.”

Bellamy nods, but he doesn’t feel any relief. He’s pretty sure he won’t until he actually hears Clarke’s voice say that she’s alright.

“I know this much,” he says, “I had better not hear you giving Wick any shit for the next-“

“Don’t try to pick a fight with me just because Clarke is unconscious Bellamy. Deal with you emotions like a grown up.”

The camp gets dark pretty quickly in the next hour. There’s a strange yowling sort of noise in the distance- Monroe tells him it’s an owl. It just keeps calling and calling – like its waiting for another owl to answer it back over, and over, and over but all it gets is silence.

“Bellamy, Raven.”

They look up and Wick is walking slowly from the tent, bandages wrapped around his arm- a dazed sort of look on his face. Bellamy stands up and pats him on the back, Raven pulls him into a hug.

“Everything go alright?"

“Yeah- I mean I passed out for like a minute but they said that can happen.” He shakes his arm out a little bit and takes a big breath, “she looks better,” he says. “I think it helped.”

“So we can see her?” Bellamy asks.

Wick nods, “They sent me out to get you.”

He lets them go in alone. The rest of the healers have vacated- standing outside the tent gulping down fresh air and water. The smell hasn’t faded much, but the blood is gone.
Wick is right, if it weren’t for the heavy bandages on her midriff, it would look like Clarke was just sleeping.

“Thank God,” Raven says as she leans an arm against the cot, “she looks so much better.”

Bellamy reaches out and grabs one of her hands- shuttering when he feels how cold it is. There’s a small fire in a pit on the other side of the large tent- but there’s not much warmth coming off of it, a fire too big would fill the tent with smoke. “She needs more blankets, or gloves or something," he says.

He slips his own from his pockets and places them on her hands- carefully , like her bones would break. Raven finds a quilt folded up in a basket and covers her with it.

“Now what?” she asks.

Bellamy has no idea. Her hand is so still in his that it’s eerie , but he won’t let go of it. He brushes back some of the hairs on her forehead and sets his face in a glare – like the force of it would startle her awake the way it usually prompts her to meet his eyes when she pisses him off in council meetings. She told him once that his glare felt like “a ray of the sun’s most powerful hellacious light shining right in her eyes.” Whether or not that was a compliment was never clear to him, it certainly hadn’t sounded like one- but that wasn’t anything unusual. Clarke once complimented his abs in a tone that sounded like she’d just come across a crushed spider.“You and you’re stupid perfect fucking abs” she had said as they were arguing during a heatwave, “you act like it’s such a big deal to go without a shirt. Oh no the sun burn, You fucking love it, look at that smirk.”

He wants to laugh at the memory – but he can’t, instead he puts his elbows on the cot, leans down, and bows his head.

“I am so fucking furious with you,” he whispers to her so quietly either Raven doesn’t hear or she pretends not to, “wake up and fight with me a little bit,” he says. “Please.”

When she doesn’t move – even after he squeezes her hand a few times, he leans back and lets Raven get close to her.

“Clarke,” she says- clearing her throat a little bit, “Clarke can you hear me?”

“Clarke, come back.”

Bellamy squeezes his eyes shut and tries to listen to anything but his friend’s pleading voice.

“You have to come back.” Raven actually looks disappointed, like there was a part of her that actually expected that she could reason with Clarke- Bellamy knows from experience that sometimes its impossible to reason with a conscious Clarke.

“Clarke don’t do this,” Raven says, “come back.”

“She may not be able to hear you,” Bellamy says. “Maybe she’s dreaming or something.”

“Well she needs to stop.” Raven moves back down the cot, pulling the blanket so that it covers Clarke’s socked feet.

Bellamy stares down at his …..at the woman who is his partner in everything – something like a best friend and political rival, comrade and failsafe. The amount of affection he feels for this girl is embarrassing sometimes and he knows it. He read the occasional story about the devoted knight when he was a kid, but Clarke doesn’t need him to fight dragons for her, she just needs someone to remind her that she’s important. He fights with her far too often – sometimes just as his own personal method of stress relief. It’s wrong of him – to push her like he does sometimes, but there was always a part of him that worried if he didn’t ignite that fire in her once in a while, all that darkness she hides in her soul would freeze her from the inside out.

“Clarke wherever you are,” he’s done with telling her how angry he is- but that was the emotion he was most comfortable with, what he’s feeling now feels painfully like devastation- like the heart in his chest may actually have a crack in it. “we’re um- “ he looks up at Raven who is watching him with tears in her eyes, “we’re waiting for you. So just- take your time if you need to , but …don’t forget about us because this, this isn’t going to work without you, none of it is. You’re a stubborn ass Clarke Griffin but the second you open your eyes I swear to your god and mine that I’ll forgive you for everything.”

He and Raven spend most of the night in the tent. When Bellamy steps outside to breath the cold air he hears that owl again and his shoulders sink with sympathy – although this time, after it calls out three or four times- whoever it was waiting on finally calls back.

 

She’s lost.

Every tree in this fucking forest looks exactly the same. Somewhere she can smell fire – next will come the smoke and then – if she’s close enough –she’ll hear the screams.

Her feet are achy- there are tears dried under her eyes. She can’t catch her breath.

“Shit,” she mumbles as she leans over and places her hand on her knee, “shit, shit, shit , shit.”

“Clarke!”

She jumps and spins around in a complete circle before she sees her. Her hair is tamer than Clarke had ever seen it- her face void of war paint. Lexa looked alive – even in the midst of a burning forest.

“Lexa what-“

“There is no time,” she says sharply, walking towards her and gripping her arm. “You run in that direction as fast as you can for as long as you can and you don’t stop.”

Clarke rips her arm from Lexa’s grasp. “What the hell is-“

“Clarke- if you stay here you will die. If that smoke catches up with you, you will die.”

“Smoke? What- is it acid fog or-“

“There are people counting on you. You understand that. You can feel it.”

Clarke frames her own face with her hands and tries to resist the urge to scream. “I am so confused.”

“All you need to know right now is that that way means life,” she points to one side, “and that way means death," she points the other way, "so chose.”

“What?”

“Chose.”

“Life- obviously life.”

“Then run.”

“What about you?”

“I have already made my decision.”

Clarke narrows her eyes – she’s about to launch into a speech about not being a martyr that sounds unsettlingly familiar but the silence of the forest is punctured by a harsh scream.

“CLARKE!”

She whips her head back and forth, Lexa doesn’t even seem to react.

“Did you hear that?” she asks her.

“CLARKE! CAN YOU HEAR ME?”

“It’s Raven,” she smiles “it’s Raven, RAVEN!”

“CLARKE COME BACK!”

“WHERE ARE YOU?”

“YOU HAVE TO COME BACK!”

“TELL ME WHERE YOU ARE! RAVEN!”

“See, “Lexa says with pleading eyes, “they need you. You need to go.”

Clarke listens to the fading echoes of Raven’s last shout. “What about you? You can’t just stay here.”

Lexa almost smiles, “I- was unprepared for you Clarke Griffin. People will tell stories about you one day – great stories.”

“You’re saying goodbye?”

“We’ve said goodbye many times.”

“But this one is going to stick isn’t it? You’re not even really here.”

“I hope you remember me.”

“I do.”

“I’m sorry that things weren’t – I am sorry if I ever let you down. It was never my intention. Sometimes people get hurt and-“

“You were a great leader Lexa. I learned a lot from you-“

“And I you.”

“CLARKE DON’T DO THIS. YOU HAVE TO COME BACK!”

“I have to find them.” Clarke says with an apologetic look.

Lexa nods, “Then Run.”

So she does, she runs through the dense forest , runs from the smoke, chases Raven’s voice, she runs until she breaks the tree line.

He’s so tired. His eyes actually ache with it – that and the cold.

His hair is still frozen in places, but the rest of his body is comfortable enough for him to find sleep. Something is shaking him, a warm hand gripped on his shoulder.

“Bellamy,” she whispers, “hey wake up.”

Clarke- he recognizes her voice and his muscles seem to relax. It feels like relief, although he’s not sure why.

“Hey I have to go.”

He forces his eyes open. She’s crouched over him – wearing what looks like his hat and both of their jackets. Her face is pink from the cold and her eyes are frantic.

“Where are you going?” he asks – almost laughing because she’s going to take one step out of this tent and fly right back into the warmth of this bed.

“Someone stole the horses,” she says, “I’m going to have to go look-“

“No,” he says and he’s not sure why he’s so damn adamant that she can’t go anywhere but he knows that he’s not getting up and he’s not letting her either.

“I’m just going to get a head start,” she says, “you can catch up with me later – whenever you’re ready.”

“Clarke you’re not wandering off without me, don’t be stupid. Stay here.”

He pulls on her, she falls forward and he laughs. He should be worrying about the horses – they’re screwed if they’re actually gone, but she’s hitting him lightly in the stomach as she struggles to get her balance and all he wants to do is put as much distance between her and the tent flap as possible. He flips over – pinning her beneath him and laughing when she tells him to stop acting like damn child. “You always do this- you always overreact.”

“I’m not overreacting.”

She tries to sit up but he collapses onto her. “What is wrong with you?” she asks – and it sort of sounds like she’s laughing “how much of that moonshine did you drink?”

“Three sips,” he grins.

“I can’t breathe, get off of me.”

He leans back on his elbows and she takes a big dramatic breath. “You’re in rare form tonight,” she says with a shake of her head, “I don’t have time to play around Bellamy I have to go.”

“Let me get dressed, I’ll come with you.”

“You can’t,” she says.“You need to stay – you have too much to do-“

He sighs and lays his forehead against the pile of furs next to her head.

“What are you so afraid of? You can handle things here on your own for a while.”

“I don’t want you to go.” He mumbles.

“What?”

When he picks his head up she’s staring at him in confusion. Her cheeks are pink- hair frizzy and sticking out from under his hat. Her eyes a hypnotizing shade of blue- almost like they’re faintly glowing in the darkness. He feels like he could list hundreds of reasons why he doesn’t want her to leave – but right now only one of them seems important.
Just as she’s opening her mouth to question him again- he kisses her.

She’s not cold like she should be- like he is. Her skin is warm, her lips smooth, despite the fact that she’d been complaining about how chapped they were for weeks. She doesn’t push him away, so he moves closer to her, his hand tangles in her hair – the hat having disappeared. Her hands rest on either side of his face and the unbelievable warmth of them has him pulling away from her to take a deep breath.

“What are you doing?” she asks – looking up at him with wide eyes.

Suddenly it’s all incredibly serious. He realizes that he’s been looking for her- waiting for what feels like days. The fact that she’s with him feels impossible – every second ticking by is like trying to keep water from running through the gaps in his fingers. His chest is tight – his arms start to shake. Her eyes are still open – desperately peering at him and he’s so goddamn thankful that he remembers their exact color, especially if this is the last time he sees it. “Please don’t leave,” he whispers.

“It’s not forever Bellamy,” she says with a roll of her eyes, “You’ll just have to catch up with me.”

He kisses her again – quick. “No,” he says.

“You can just follow-“

He pulls away and slams his fist down in the space next to her. “I can’t follow you Clarke, I have no idea where you are!”

She lifts her shoulders and gives him a strange look, “I’m right here.” she says.

She looks fainter – fading away like her warm breath in the cool air. “No, you’re not,” he says.

This time she kisses him- and he pins her with his body, hoping that their attachment would keep her from disappearing. With determined hands he wraps her legs around his hips, her arms around his neck. He swears he can actually feel her skin against his- as if it were possible for all of their thick layers of clothing to just melt away. She mumbles his name when he leaves her lips to brush his against her exposed collarbone, and the sound makes him freeze. A horrible ache in his chest throbs like a pulled muscle – and he knows this isn’t real.

She’s still fading. Her eyes are almost grey now and she looks like she might be falling asleep. “Promise me you won’t leave without me.” he pleads into her neck.

“I don’t think I can.“ she says.

A wind picks up from outside and it takes the tent with it.

“Bellamy?” he knows he’s awake – that Clarke is gone, that it was all a dream. His body aches – in an embarrassing way. It’s not exactly the first time he’s had – that kind of dream – about her, but this time it felt so desperate, and not at all in a sexual way. He squeezes his eyes shut as tight as he can.

“Bellamy,” Raven says again- she must know he’s awake because she keeps talking this time. “I sent a messenger out to Blue Ridge,” she says, “to look for Octavia.”

Bellamy rolls away from her because his missing sister is the LAST thing he wants to think about right now.

“She’d want to be here,” Raven says “if she had any idea.”

He glances up at the small window – the only sturdy looking thing in this rickety ass shack – and sees the bright glow of late morning. “I told you to wake me up at dawn,” he snaps at her.

“Doesn’t matter- no change.”

She’s been crying again – the skin under her eyes puffy and red.

He sits up and she averts her eyes so he can adjust his blankets. “What did Jackson say?”

“Same thing, that she’s stable. He doesn’t think there’s any more internal bleeding or an infection he says she just- needs to come back.”

He nods his head.

“Did you dream about her?” she asks. He doesn’t answer – because the dream that’s slowly sinking into the depths of his memory is far too private to share with anyone.

“When I fell asleep in the med tent- I had this dream about a forest, and I could hear Clarke yelling for me – like she was lost and needed me to guide her,” she shuffles awkwardly on her feet, “but the last thing Jackson said to me before I fell asleep was that she wasn’t out of the woods yet so-“

Bellamy holds out his hand, and Raven passes him the jacket he’d thrown to the ground the night before. “Anything else happen last night?”

“Monroe went back out to that rock,” Raven says, “but it’s been quiet.”

“Heard from home?”

“I figured we could radio in when you woke up. They’re probably pretty desperate for news.”

He nods again and with one more shake of his head stands up to prepare himself for another day of waiting.

 

She stands on the edge of the rock – looking down at the tree line.

It’s like everything is frozen- like she’s trapped in a still-life painting. The shadows don’t even move, not with the sun or the wind or the billowing clouds. The drum waits at her feet- and she knows that if anything moves she’ll have to hit it as hard as she can to alert the others – although she’s not sure the sound will even be able to travel.

“You shouldn’t be here.”

His voice doesn’t shock her the way that it should – instead she closes her eyes and smiles. In a way it feels like she’s been waiting for him, to see him one last time. She takes a careful step down and turns to face him.

Jake Griffin stands there with an easy smile and his hands jammed in his pockets. “So where are we exactly?” he asks.

She wants to tell him that its nowhere special – but instead her eyes are drawn to a spot nestled between two rocks- where there’s a faint stain of red on the ground.

“Clarke,” he says- all humor wiped from his face, “I am so sorry-“

“It’s not your fault,” she says quickly.

“Not just for this, for everything.” He takes a step closer to her, “I’m sorry that you inherited all of the poor choices me and your mother made. Everything you’ve been through-“

“No,” she says, “no – my own choices got me here.”

“You’ve saved a lot of lives – that’s all I ever wanted to do.”

“Dad I’ve-“

“I know, and I understand why it’s been so hard for you but Clarke- you have to forgive yourself.”

She takes a step back from him and rests her eyes on the tree line over his shoulder. She’s a grown woman but all she wants to do is collapse into his arms and cry. “I have,” she says “I did what I had to do-“

“You don’t really believe that.” His voice is an exact echo of the one that whispers in her mind every time she says that sentence – sometimes even when Bellamy says it to her.

“Do you?” she asks hesitatingly because in the end isn’t that all that really matters? She hasn’t ever subscribed to a religion – not that she doesn’t believe – but just that she hasn’t really had time to think about what happens after death other than the horrible emptiness that fills the people you leave behind. Knowing that her dad accepts who she is – who she has to be – that would mean something, really really mean something.

“I believe that my daughter is a hero,” Jake says, “she’s an incredibly strong leader who I am so proud of.”

She’s crying. “I lost your watch.”

He smiles. “You’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices.”

She wipes her eyes and looks up into his, “Dad when you die do you- do you forget everything? All those things you think about when you’re trying to fall asleep at night, do you forget about them?”

He thinks for a moment , a crease appearing between his eyebrows. “No, not forget,” he says, “you just feel more…. at peace with them I think.”

She looks around – at the green forest and blue sky, with its bright sun. This is peace – this is as peaceful as she’s ever felt. “If I stayed here with you-“

“It would be easier,” he said with a nod, “but I don’t think that would be fair to all of those people waiting on you.”

She knows he’s right, but for every person who is waiting on her is two terrible memories. “Part of me really doesn’t want to go back-“

“You have a choice –“ he says, and she recalls that she’s been told this before but she doesn’t know exactly when, “one I wish I had had. I left my family against my will.”

“My family is gone.”

“You and I both know that’s not true.”

She cracks a smile and he sits down- extending his arm and inviting her to sit with him.

She tells him about Raven, about how smart she is, and the way she always bickers with Wick, and how she doesn’t walk with a limp anymore - even on cold days. She tells him about all of the plans Monty has, and the way Monroe will braid her hair for her during the summer, and how Harper and her boyfriend want to get married in the spring, with a ceremony and everything.

She cries a little when she tells him about losing Jasper, and never finding Fox’s body, and the way no one can say Miller’s name around Bellamy.

She tells him all about Bellamy – about wanting to help him find Octavia, about him teaching her to use a bow, about his weird love for the horses, and the painful looking callouses on his hands and his dreams about the ocean.

By the time she finishes, she’s sobbing into her father’s shoulder. She apologizes to him for blaming Wells, for not being able to save her mother, for not trusting Marcus. He shushes her – promises her that there’s nothing she needs to apologize for. And they spend what feels like hours talking about everything Clarke can think of, soccer and plants and the snow and the stars.

When it starts to get dark, Jake stands up.

“I think you need to start heading back kiddo,” he says.

It looks like the shadows have moved all at once – half of the forest is concealed in darkness.

“I don’t want to,” she says – more out of fear of never seeing him again than anything.

“Sometimes we have to do things we don’t want to do-“

It’s such a dad thing to say that she almost laughs. He stands there looking at her – tears in his own eyes. “You look like you’re mother you know – only with my friendly smile. You’re mother always looked little intense-”

“Octavia Blake calls that a resting bitch face.”

She doesn’t know why she blurts it out, but it makes Jake laugh nonetheless – even as the shadows start to slink in around his feet.

“I love you both,” Clarke says, “everything would be so much different if you were-“

“We love you too – always and more than anything but,” he takes one more step towards her and lays his hand on her, “death is waiting right around the corner Clarke – for everyone. If you get an opportunity to live you need to take it , for the sake of everyone who didn’t get the choice.” She throws her arms around his neck and he hugs her just as tight as she remembered. “You have to go back Clarke.”

“What if I get lost?” she asks, “it’s dark, what if I can’t find my-“

She blinks her eyes once and he’s gone – disappeared from her arms like a ghost, which…he must have been. A glint of metal catches her eye from the ground and she crouches down to pick it up. Where her father had just been standing is an old watch – beat up and muddy. She smiles to herself and clasps it around her wrist. With one more glance at the valley behind her, she starts to climb down.

 

“Do you ever think about what happens what you die?”

Bellamy cracks an eye open, glaring at Raven from where he’s leaned up against the wooden pallets of Clarke’s makeshift medical bed. “No,” he says harshly.

“It’s weird- people down here, the grounders, they call the sky the heavens. We’ve been up there, there isn’t shit-“

He thinks about Clarke’s many fireside rants about her hatred of the night sky. His stomach sort of aches because he can just barely remember a Clarke who once talked about wishing on stars. “Reyes I’m really not looking to have a philosophical conversation about death with you.”

She turns to face him. “You want to talk about Largent?”

Bellamy lets his head fall back against the pallets – No he did not want to talk about the fact that he’s been gone from camp for less than 24 hours and already Ferris Largent, an old angry man who was once commander of the guard in factory station, is stirring up a bunch of rumors about Clarke being dead and Bellamy running away to find his sister. Monty had told them when they’d radioed in that morning.

It was something he and Clarke had dealt with on a daily basis for the last six and a half years – since technical power over their people awkwardly and tragically transitioned from Abby Griffin and Marcus Kane to he and Clarke. People had a choice of course- Clarke and Bellamy never forced anyone to follow them- especially when they relocated further south. They were patient – at least Bellamy thought so – because he understood how difficult it must be for people who have lived under an intricately structured government their entire lives to put their faith in two people – basically kids – who were criminals on paper. There was a lot of chaos right after the war, when people were trying to figure out who should be in charge. People like Largent tried to step up- but it became abundantly clear after a few incidents of food poisoning and ammunition mismanagement that the old power was not adjusting well to life on the ground.

Bellamy and Clarke decided to migrate – at the advice of the few grounder clans they were amicable with at the time. They gave people the choice to follow. Of course those who remained of the 100 packed up without question- they had all played a vital role in the decision to move - but surprisingly enough all but 13 of the Arkers decided to join them. They left a smoking and desolate Camp Jaha behind them and started over. It was rough for a while – living with that many people in tents as they tried to transport materials to build structures , and a fence. It took them three years to create a home- Bellamy and Clarke certainly didn’t do it alone, but he was damn proud of everything they did do and he certainly thought they had earned their titles – which were technically Chancellor Griffin and Commander Blake but no one ever bothered with them.

Perhaps he’d have to change that.

“You’re going to have to do something about him,” Raven says, “every time something goes wrong he’s talking everyone’s ear off about misappropriation of responsibility.”

“If he has such a problem with the way we do things he can leave – trust me, I won’t chase after him.”

“It does sort of-“ Raven stops and turns back around to face forward, they listen to Clarke breathe for a minute or so and then she blurts out, “what would we do if you and Clarke died?”

He glances at her out of the corner of his eye, “What do you mean?”

“I mean if – if something happened to both of you how would we decide who would be in charge. It would be even more chaotic then Camp Jaha. It’s not like you have a first born that could take the throne.”

“There is no throne.”

“Bellamy-“

“I don’t know, someone would have to step up-“

“And if that someone were Largent-“

“That someone would have to be you – or Monty – or one of the Arkers that isn’t a total idiot like Ms. Badgely or Thomas.”

“And how would we decide that?”

“I don’t know Raven.”

“Well it’s something we should figure out,” she says, “we need a contingency plan, because if Largent was right we’d be screwed.”

Bellamy glares at her, “In order for Largent to be right- I would have to be abandoning the camp, is that really something you think I’m capable of?”

Raven gives him a look that’s almost apologetic, “I think that losing Clarke would change a lot,” she says. “It would be-“

“Why can’t we just sit here in silence? I don’t want to argue with you.”

Raven nods, “Just promise me that when she wakes up, you two will have a conversation about this.” she says, “or produce an heir.” She mumbles the last bit under her breath, and under any other circumstances it may have just made him angrier, but they were both physically and emotionally exhausted – so they both laugh a little bit, a superficial crazy kind of laugh, like they just need to release some emotion but they’re unwilling to cry….and besides they did get some good news (after they heard about the bigot trying to start a revolution back at home) Clarke had moved her fingers this morning.

 

She’s sitting cross legged in the field. The one with the sweet smelling bushes and the redbirds that flock there in the winter.

Her eyes are squeezed shut- she’s afraid to look down because she has no idea which meadow she’s going to see – just a patchwork of wildflowers , completely untouched by people, or a cratered wasteland filled with billowing smoke and the smell of gunpowder.

She knows she’s there – she just doesn’t know when she’s there – or why she’s there – or even how she’s there because she can’t remember the last time she came out here without-

“Clarke,” she hears his voice – and releases all of her fear in one big breath, “I’ve been looking for you for hours – what are you doing?”

When she looks up Bellamy is stalking through the meadow- it’s grasses brown and lifeless but grown up to his hips. There’s a chilly breeze and the sky is a wishy-wash kind of grey. He sits down next to her when she doesn’t respond, his shoulder brushing up against hers. It starts to snow.

“If I were to get lost,” she asks, “and you couldn’t find me. If I were to just leave – would you go to the ocean?”

He doesn’t look at her like she’s crazy for asking such a strange question, he just shakes his head. “No.”

“It’s beautiful there.” she says – though she doesn’t really recall how she knows that.

“You’ve never seen it Clarke.”

She laughs, because he’s right and wrong at the same time. “How long have you been out here looking for me? You look- terrible.” His hair is a mess, his dark shirt stained darker with sweat. His cheeks are a little red, like he’d been running somewhere, running after her.

“Thanks,”

“I mean- I’m sorry.” She sees the exhaustion in his features, the way his shoulders look like their shaking under some kind of invisible weight. “ I didn’t mean to leave, I just-“

“We agreed on four weeks.” He snaps, “and you’re thinking about leaving forever.”

He’s glaring at her- and she swears he must be able to read her mind. She can never seem to hide anything from him – no matter how deep she shoves it down.

“I’m not thinking about it.” She says- but she fiddles with a blade of grass so she doesn’t have to look at him.

“Then what are you still doing here?” he asks.

She looks around desperately and shrugs. She didn’t ask to be there, she just was. “I don’t know where else to go.”

“Go home Clarke” he says slowly, tilting his face to meet her eyes, “ Stop wandering through all these places you’ve moved on from and come home.”

She looks around the meadow – patches of brown grass slowly being covered in snow like the sky trying to throw a veil over a gravestone. It’s there – everywhere . The feeling she was hoping to shake still sits with her even as she realizes that none of this is real. This isn’t the meadow that her friends fought and died on, it’s the one that she keeps in her own mind. The one she returns to every night as she tries to fall asleep. She’s sitting there because despite everything she still feels like it’s all her fault – and she knows its not true, logically, but her gut still twists with the guilt and she’s starting to accept the fact that it might be a long time until that goes away.

“Is that why you’re here?” she says- finally turning to him. “To bring me home?” snow has gathered in his hair- its only a matter of time before he starts to shake it out like a wet dog.

“I think that’s up to you.” he says.

“But you want me to? You’re waiting on me?”

The thing about Bellamy is that Clarke has always known their relationship was a unique one, in a selfish way she’s always sort of felt that it superseded a lot of other relationships. And maybe that was wrong of her- but she and Bellamy had bonded over loss and duty and pain and power. She expected him to be there for her – always, which is why she’d been growing so damn frustrated with his obsession with playing her hero. She didn’t need a hero- she just needed Bellamy, who was her equal, her friend, her partner. That part of her that never leaves the meadow – which may be the most selfish and childish part of her – needs to know that he wants to be by her side, that he’s waiting for her…that maybe there’s something more to it.

“Yeah,” he says.

“You could do this on your own you know-“ she reminds him, “you could, you’re good enough.”

“Clarke it’s – it’s not just about that.”

“What do you mean?”

He looks at her more intensely than she thought possible. “I want you to come home.”

Something about the way he says home makes her smile. She feels so tired – like she’s traveled a long distance but that apprehension she’d been feeling just moments ago has passed. It’s not exactly peace that she feels- but it’s a lot like acceptance. She’s going to hurt every day for a long time – but she’s alive.

She’s alive.

When she stands up, Bellamy stays seated, looking up at her with one of those proud grins.

“Run home,” he says.

“Without you?”

He laughs. “I’ll be waiting when you get there.”

Without another word she takes off – running through the meadow – the snow continues to fall around her, but isn’t even cold against her bare feet.

There’s a swirling sensation behind her eyes – like all the colors of the rainbow and every form of light in existence had been shaken up and tosses into her eye lids. It makes her dizzy, her stomach already queasy and her mouth already dry, she hopes she doesn’t get sick.

She hears snoring somewhere – not from her, she’s pretty sure of that. She’s having some trouble breathing through her nose but a lot of that has to do with the way she’s laying, flat on her back without any kind of support under her head. Her back is cramped – her legs are sort of numb. She decides to shift a little before she opens her eyes and there’s a deep aching pain in her side. Her eyes shoot open when she gasps – expecting to see some giant bear standing over her after taking a bite out of her torso. Instead she sees the tent- her med tent- the one she’d been working in for the last two weeks. The air smells like that damn willow bark that she’s asked Alma not to burn. She moves her head to the side- hoping to see Alma, to get some kind of explanation as to what in the holy hell happened to her, instead she sees broad shoulders and a head covered in messy black hair planted face down in the spot next to her uninjured hip. Her eyes can barely drift all the way down to her feet but she’s pretty sure she sees a dark ponytail laying in the same position.It all sort of hits her in that moment. She went up on that rock with Monroe. The warrior attacked them. She’d been stabbed.

Murdered is what it felt like – like she’d been brought back from the grave- and maybe she had. She lays there and tries to remember where she’s been the last few hours but she can only remember pieces her mother, Wells in a River, a candle in the bunker, Lexa without her war paint, her father’s watch, Bellamy in the snow.

She accidentally moves again- and this time groans a little louder. Bellamy’s head shoots up- he looks at her for a solid three seconds before his eyes widen and he shoots to his feet.

“Clarke?” he says, “Holy shit tell me you’re awake and I’m not hallucinating.”

“If I’m your hallucination you’re doing a hell of a job making this as painful as possible.” Her voice is virtually non-existent but he cracks a smile anyway and crouches down by her face.

“What happened?” she asked – just to be sure. “I remember the woman on the hill-“

“She stabbed you,” he says , “you lost a lot of blood.”

“How long have I been out?”

“Almost three days.” He says- and she can see that its true just by looking at him. “Jackson’s been keeping you hydrated through an IV.” He nods to the bag next to her- she tries not to be pissed that he’d used their good equipment on her.

“Shit,” she croaks turning to look at the ceiling instead of his face, “your furious aren’t you?”

“Sort of,” he says, “but I made you a promise so-“

“What promise?”

“If you opened your eyes I’d forgive you.”

Her head whips back to look at him- too fast – she groans again and this time Raven shoots up.

“Is she- are you- are you awake?”

Clarke just smiles.

“Oh my God, thank God – Bellamy go get Jackson, and Alma – and the kid with the –“

“Alright Reyes – I got it,”

He looks back down at Clarke and smiles- so clearly relieved that Clarke can’t help but feel guilty, “I’ll be right back alright?”

And she hears what he means even if he doesn’t say it: Don’t go anywhere.

She falls asleep for a while – its strange because she still feels like she’s almost awake. She can practically hear Raven whispering to Wick, and Bellamy complaining about how cold it is in the tent, and Alma defending those disgusting herbs she insists on burning. She can hear them- but her eyes are heavy and her body is exhausted. It feels like she’s been hiking for days without sleep, but there’s a part of her that’s afraid that if she truly lets go, she’ll wake up somewhere else.

She used to fantasize about getting lost – it doesn’t seem so great anymore.

When she finally allows her mind and body to fully rest, she doesn’t dream about anything. It’s just a plain sort of darkness. When she’s awoken however many hours later by the sound of Bellamy’s cursing she feels unbelievably relaxed. She has a feeling that Jackson may have drugged her.

“What’s wrong with you?” she asks Bellamy in a rough voice.

He looks up from where he had been clumsily wrapping a bandage around his left hand – his bow hand. ”I- uh,”

She cant really sit up to look properly, but she does her best. “What did you do to your hand?”

“Burned it.”

“On what?”

“On that fucking fire,” he says with a frustrated groan, “I’m the only one here that seems to realize that it’s still fucking winter.”

“You need to calm down.” She keeps trying to sit up, until he puts a hand on her shoulder.

“You need more rest.”

“No, actually that’s the last thing I need – I feel like I took an eight-hour hike through a ghost story.”

He narrows his eyes at her, “So you were dreaming – while you were out?”

She tries to remember the places she’d been, the people she’d seen. Every detail seems to become a little bit less clear as time passes. “I have no idea,” she says, “I’ve never had a dream like that.”

He gives her a look – one she’s used too, like he completely understands what she’s feeling. “Do you remember an ocean?” he finally asks, after a few more moments of staring at the bandage on his hand.

She looks at him with raised eyebrows, “What are you talking about?” She tries to figure it out for herself but the pain in her side is starting to return.

“Did you see an ocean while you were- hiking through that ghost story?”

She remembers water- but a clear, cold stream of it, and Well’s hand around her arm. “No,” she says with a wince, “no ocean. I did see you though.”

“Me?”

“In the meadow.”

“What was I doing in the meadow?” he asks.

She thinks about the warmth in his eyes and the comfort of him sitting beside her- somehow that part wasn’t difficult to recall. “You were telling me to move on from the past and come home.”

“Sounds like something I’ve told you about a thousand times.”

“Yeah well this time it was different, because this time I actually agreed with you.”

“Even though it was just a dream?”

She closes her eyes and tries to focus on anything other than the irritating burning sensation in her side. “Things that happen in dreams can be just as important as things that happen in real life,” she says.

He sort of smiles at her, “You had one hell of an adventure in there huh?” he brushes some hair away from her forehead- not so discreetly checking if she has a fever.

“You’ve never done anything crazy in a dream?”

He eyes snap into this intense kind of focus and he just stares at her for a few breaths before letting out a sigh and leaning back on his stool. “I kissed you in a dream once.”

The absurdity of it makes her think that she may actually still be dreaming, but Bellamy’s hand is still warm against her skin, laid out next to her head so his fingers just barely brush her hairline. He’s real – and she’s never felt so grounded in her entire life.

“You kissed me in real life once too.” She recalls with a small laugh.

Bellamy – who usually turns bright red and storms from the room with every mention of the night – scoots himself closer to her and casually grasps one of her hands. “Doesn’t count – I was incredibly intoxicated.”

“Yeah, I remember.” She tries to adjust herself again, to find a spot that eases the pain a bit. “So how was the dream kiss?” she asks – mostly to distract him from the pained look on her face when she tries to adjust her torso.

“Concerning.” He says- he’s giving her his best politician’s face, the one he generally uses when he has to deliver bad news.

“That bad huh?”

“Clarke-“ he looks around the tent and when he’s satisfied that it’s empty he leans in closer to speak to her. “You and I – are you and I…. and I’ve never hidden the fact that I care about you but I just- I just want you to know, in case anything like this ever happens again, to either of us.”

“You want me to know what?” she asks cautiously.

“You were gone – you were off lost in some dream world and I was off lost in one of my own and we found each other, how does that happen?”

“Because we’re important to each other,” she says and her tone almost sounds defensive.

He shakes his head, “I would have done anything to bring you back,” he says, “and not just because I was worried about running a council meeting without you-“

“Bellamy,” there are tears in her eyes but she’s not sure how much of that is because of the pain, “we’re both tired- and exhausted and- we thought we lost each other so we’re saying things-“

“We’re finally saying things that need to be said,” he says, “ I think there’s a part of me that loves you Clarke- really loves you. I’m not telling you that I’m planning on acting on it, or that I even expect you to reciprocate, but you need to know it.”

“Bellamy,” she says with a frown, “I don’t know what to…”

She gives him a weary look and he sighs dramatically. “This doesn’t change anything,” he says, “its not like it’s something knew. You just needed to know. You need to know that there are people here who love you just as much as the ones you’ve lost.”

She shoots him a small smile – the pain momentarily neutralized by some kind of warmth. “How long have you been rehearsing that speech?”

He shakes his head at her, “I’ve had a lot of time to think.”

For a minute – it looks like he’s about to get up, so she tightens her fingers around his. “Bellamy I’m not saying that – I’m not saying that I don’t-“

“You don’t have to say anything.”

“Maybe not, but I want too. I just – can’t right now.”

If she expects the affection to have disappeared from his eyes, she’s wrong. He’s still looking at her like he would follow her straight into hell if she asked him. She figures that she understands it because she feels exactly the same. All of the things that the earth has thrown at her, all of the people she’s had to say goodbye too, all of the mistakes she’s made – there are days when it’s overwhelming – but then there’s Bellamy, and a crazy part of her thinks that maybe he was the universe’s way of saying Yeah, everything horrible that you could ever imagine is definitely going to happen to you, but here you can have him and we’ll call it even.

Maybe that was love – maybe it wasn’t. All she really knew was that home always felt like wherever he was, even back in the days when she tried to pretend that she didn’t belong there.

He has to leave her there.

He’s needed back at camp and they both know it. Jackson doesn’t clear her for travel for another two weeks.

When she does finally come home – having sworn up and down to take it easy, she spends her first two nights in his bed, sprawled across it, taking up every inch of it so he’s forced to sleep on his camp bed on the floor. He suspects that maybe this is how she’s telling him she’s feeling it too- whatever connection they’ve developed that seemed to transcend a fucking coma.

He won’t hold his breath to hear her say “I love you,” because those words are basically a jinx in her mind, but she choses to be there with him. She choses to be by his side.

Sometimes he wakes up in a bit of a panic because he dreams of her- and the last time he dreamed of her she had been dying. Occasionally Clarke will be in a terrible mood and he’ll just know it’s because she dreamed of the meadow the night before.

The grief is just a part of who they are, but when he thinks about it – really thinks about it – Bellamy is pretty proud of who they are.

He never does get to see the ocean, but when the sunlight catches Clarke’s eyes sometimes – especially when she’s pissed off – the blue seems to ripple, almost like waves. He can see an ocean in her eyes if he really wants to – he can see a lot of things in Clarke.

One winter they’ll both walk through that meadow and Bellamy will help her write out every single name in the snow. Maybe it’ll take hours – maybe their tears will freeze to their faces – but somehow it’ll feel like asking for forgiveness and if they’re lucky – someday – they’ll be able to look up at the stars again.