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Clarke remembers two things when it’s all said and done and Lexa can’t decide which one she would rather dedicate hammering industrial nails through her own eyelids to.

Clarke remembers two things:

Clarke remembers a skulking, sullen boy named John Murphy who treats her attachment and reliance on his company like a chore.

And Clarke remembers, of all things, some ancient Skaikru film, salvaged from the old world, about an unpleasant man who is kidnapped by ghosts which brainwash him into being happy about his horrible life and celebrating an annual reverse burglary holiday by some chaotic pagan god who appears to mortals as a fat man who loves cookies and hanging socks on mantels and murdering trees for decoration. Or something like that. Lexa has listened raptly to an enthusiastic summary of the plot at least once a day for weeks and she is still not entirely sure what children are meant to learn from it except that if you’re grumpy you’re more prone to supernatural hauntings.

Which of these two things is worse remains to be determined.

On the one hand, Murphy had proven himself a rather underwhelming ally in the brief time he had been acquainted to her. But on the other hand, Clarke remembers a film about…that more than she remembers Lexa. Or her own mother. Or her friends, or the things they’ve accomplished, or healing, or the names of the seasons, or how to read, or the names and faces of people she has lost, or the number of lives her own hands have taken, or the color trees turn in that one season she can’t remember anymore, or the tracks certain animals leave in soft earth, or that melody she used to hum under her breath when she was particularly distracted and comfortable.

No, those things are gone. So Lexa doesn’t find she’s being uncharitable when she regards the two things Clarke has been allowed to retain with a certain degree of despondency.

Murphy. And a film about a home intruder who favors the color red.

Clarke remembers only two things with any kind of consistency and neither of those things is Lexa.

It’s selfish. She’s not sure of many things, but of that she’s sure. Wanting one of those few things Clarke remembers to be her is selfish considering the hierarchy of things Clarke should remember. But – well, knowing something and being able to do anything about it are two entirely different battles.

“Is that food?”

Lexa startles, stuck stiff with locked knees in the entrance to Clarke’s room with her knuckles white where they clutch at a tray of rapidly cooling food. Every time she enters Clarke’s room it’s another trial – a fresh noose around her throat and the sound of gunfire and panic and bodies dropping like ragdolls, heads lulling at awkward angles and blood pooling like rainfall in thick puddles in the mud. Her teeth grind together and she blinks once, twice, three times to dispel the memory she’s lived every day for a full lunar cycle back into the spot she’s cleared out for it in her brain. She’s offered it lodging. She does not expect it to leave where it has taken up residency, but she does ask that it not be an entirely rude houseguest.

A houseguest.

She wonders vaguely if her predecessors ever referred to their own debilitating trauma as ‘houseguests’. The flame remains traitorously quiet at her musings, though, so she has to believe they would prefer she stop asking them unseemly questions. Heda does not have houseguests and Heda is not traumatized.

Apparently.

“Did I say something weird?” Clarke smiles but it’s guilty and her eyes drift down to the ends of her hair while she tugs at it. Well, what’s left of it after her mother’s frantic sheering and plugging and stitching. It’s mostly gone on one side, but her scalp is hidden still by bandages and soft wrappings. She’s still beautiful. She always will be.

Lexa shakes her head (because Heda is not traumatized, ect.) and forces her feet towards the bed at the back of the room. “No,” she says a little too eagerly before forcing her mouth to slow down. “No. I was lost in my own thoughts.”

“Any idea where I could get some of those?” Clarke was still smiling, if a little less guiltily, and reached out for the tray Lexa was offering her.

Lexa sighs. “What, thoughts?”

Clarke hums in the affirmative and pokes around the tray of food curiously like she’s seeing it all for the first time. Well, Lexa supposes she is. Even insignificant things like Clarke’s unfamiliarity with rice and vegetables shave years off Lexa’s already short life expectancy. Heda may die by the blade, but she is sure they all would have dropped dead before too long, regardless, with the weight of what they know and do. Several of them did, actually.

Mostly she has murder to look forward too, though. Glorified or not remains to be seen. She’s too tired to care. And secretly, she’s fairly certain she’s not going to care much with a blade stuck in her gut whether it looked legendary to her vanguard or more like a stuck pig in a longcoat. She’ll leave it up to them and the generously creative bards.

Surely, dead is dead.

“You’re welcome to mine,” Lexa mutters and she intends it to be a dry end to a painful conversation, but Clarke laughs.

The sound is…it hurts a little. But in a good way and it pulls a small smile into the corner of her mouth. A few moments pass with Lexa standing awkwardly at Clarke’s bedside while Clarke explores, rediscovers, and reacquaints herself with the magic of common garden vegetables. She doesn’t seem too keen on carrots, but the squash and beans appear a worthwhile adventure for her. Lexa’s sure Clarke can’t wait to discover them all over again in a few hours.

Finally, Clarke looks up, startling briefly like she forgot Lexa was there. Lexa can’t help but wonder if it is the hole in her skull or Lexa’s general awkwardness that is responsible. Clarke settles quickly, though, and presses on from where they left off.

“Well?”

Lexa shifts uncomfortably. “I’m sorry?”

Clarke laughs and tries to set her tray on the bedside table before Lexa moves to help her. “You said I could have some of yours,” she clarifies. “Don’t offer if you don’t mean it.”

“I’m afraid my thoughts aren’t particularly pleasant of late,” Lexa murmurs, pretending to adjust the cutlery and dishes on the tray to avoid Clarke’s eyes. They’re still blue. But she can’t look at them without seeing the deep bruises that seem almost permanent, sunken deep into her eye sockets in alternative states of black and blue and green. She fears they’ll be there forever.

“Why?”

There’s some sick part of her that wants to snap, ‘because you were shot in the head’. It’s inappropriate and not what Clarke needs, so Lexa gives a vague wave of her hand. “Affairs are…complicated. As always.”

“Comp-comli-hmm,” Clarke stutters, struggling with the word she means to echo as a question before giving up entirely. It had been a long while before Clarke could speak at all. Even now, many words confound her or escape her grasp. “Difficult?” She tries instead.

“Yes. Consistently so,” she agrees, reaching out absently to pull one of the furs more firmly over Clarke’s lap from where it had begun to slide off the bed. “Farmers are angry about the trading value of their crops and tradesmen are angry about the trading value of their goods and overall everyone seems to think they should be worth the most. Of all things in the madness of current times, I did not expect to have an ego problem on my hands.”

Clarke laughs a little and Lexa decides it was a good idea not mentioning the political and ambassadorial devastation her attack has caused. An essentially successful attempt on Wanheda’s life has been more than a headache personally. Politically, it has been a nightmare.

In all areas that matter politically, Wanheda has been killed.

Or it would be easy if everyone agreed on that. Astoundingly, there is a disturbing majority of ambassadors who think Clarke is going through some spiritual journey or other such nonsense. Despite being the spiritual leader of her people, Lexa can’t help but regard the superstitions of her people as anything less than preposterous at times. Clarke has no idea what her own name is and there are still people who would fear her – follow her, perhaps. Both send fear rattling down Lexa’s spine.

“Are you okay?”

Well considering she’s the only one in the room who hasn’t been shot in the head, she should be fine. But considering she’s the only one in the room who is in love with someone who just got shot in the head, she should be allowed to not be fine. It’s a conundrum to be sure.

“Heda is always fine,” she says instead. But internally she wonders if Heda wouldn’t be much better if she didn’t always have to refer to herself in the authoritative third person. “I’m fine.”

“You look sad,” Clarke counters. She seems to realize a moment later, in the face of Lexa’s surprised stare, that it might have been too forward. “Sorry. I don’t know what I’m talking about. You look…just like you’re meant to look? I think? Just – just ignore me, I’m a few shingles short of a roof these days.”

Instinctively Lexa wants to reach out and grab her hand, but it feels wrong when Clarke wouldn’t even know why. “No,” she says simply, “you’re intuitive.”

The word catches on Clarke’s ears and she wrinkles her nose. “That’s…a good thing, right? That means, uh-“ she taps two of her fingers lightly over the bandage on her left temple and frowns. “It means-“

“Smart,” Lexa offers.

Clarke stiffens a little and looks away. “I know. I – I knew that.”

Okay, Clarke remembers three things: John Murphy, a morally questionable film, and the stubbornness that makes up at least three-quarters of her personality.

“Of course.”

“I did,” Clarke insists, crossing her arms against her chest before Lexa can remind her of her ribs. The fallout is instant and she hisses through her teeth while her arms jerk away from her bruised and broken bones – an unfortunate byproduct of Abby’s attempts to save her daughter’s life.

Without intending to, Lexa had taken a few hurried steps forward, her hands hovering nervously over Clarke’s body. “Are you alright?” She whispers, floundering and unsure where to soothe or help. Bedside manners were not skills Nightbloods received and Lexa felt like a full-grown bear attempting calligraphy. Actually, she felt like herself attempting calligraphy – even worse.

Abby was an artist at the bedsides of the sick and dying – one of the few skills Lexa begrudgingly admired her for. The woman didn’t so much as blink when she told Clarke who she was dozens of time before the sun went down, tireless and patient and everything Lexa wishes she was. Because the two things Lexa feels more keenly every day is tired and impatient.

“Not really,” Clarke grumbles, prodding gently at her ribs with small winces. “Why does it feel like someone broke all my – uh, my-“ her movements still while she digs for words she should know. “My…chest bones,” she finishes lamely, unable to come up with the word she needs.

Lexa looks down at her feet. “Because you broke some of your…chest bones.”

“Ain’t that just the way,” Clarke mumbles to herself, accepting as always. Some days these constant revelations frustrated her, drove her to spitting anger even, when nothing made sense. Most days, though, she merely accepted it all with an air of understanding that they were just bits of information glancing off of her, spinning out into the void nearly seconds after making contact. “Oof. They really – they really hurt. Why does everything hurt all the time?”

Lexa very much wondered that too.

“You’re lucky to be alive,” Lexa offers, and she means it as a comfort but as always she feels she gets everything wrong.

Clarke blinks in surprise. “O-oh. I am?

“Er, well, yes. That is – you’re recovering as Abby predicted…more or less.”

Clarke gives her an odd sort of smile, confused but unwilling to voice it. She nods like she understands, but it doesn’t quell the look of vague panic that seems to plague her constantly. “Yeah. Right,” she says quietly.

Most days, Lexa doesn’t bother, but she doesn’t want to hide things from Clarke so she proceeds with caution. “Do you remember what happened?”

“Um. Kind of,” Clarke hedges, tugging on the ends of her hair again and refusing to meet Lexa’s eyes. Lexa has come to understand what it means. It means she doesn’t remember. It means Clarke believes if she wants it bad enough, maybe she can will it into being. It means she’s embarrassed.

Lexa probes gently, careful not to accuse or upset. “You remember being attacked?”

“Yes.” Clarke nods, creating her own artificial memories from what she’s told. “Yeah.”

“You remember the Ark? Arcadia?”

“The Ark?”

Lexa nods. “The ship you are from. It’s where your mother and your friends live.”

“Yeah. Yeah, okay,” Clarke says more confidently. “I think I do.”

Clarke’s insistence when it came to memory was baffling to Lexa, but Abby did not share this surprise. In fact, Abby predicted Clarke’s tendency toward lying about the extent of her memory loss. It is, as always, a science – or magic, perhaps – beyond Lexa’s grasp. The Skaikru just…know things.

“Do you remember where you are now?”

“Uh, yep. I’m…home?”

The answer takes Lexa by surprise and she’s not sure if it’s a lucky guess or not – it is a fairly general answer and it is intuitive – but it makes her stupidly happy and she decides she doesn’t want to know. She wants Clarke to have recognized, not guessed correctly.

“That’s right,” she says warmly. “You’re in Polis.”

“Polis,” Clarke confirms, rolling the word around in her mouth. “Yeah.”

Two questions left – she doesn’t always ask the first three, but she never forgets the last two.

“Do you remember who you are?” Lexa asks, trying to sound supportive and without condescension. Of all the questions, it is the most likely to bring Clarke’s temper to the surface. She may not ever answer it correctly, but it has brought the most creative deflections (and insults) out of her. “Do you remember your name?”

“The Ghost of Christmas past,” Clarke says cheekily, reaching for the cup on her bedside table in a less than artful attempt at diversion.

Lexa swears that if she never hears reference to Skaikru’s blasphemous films and queer pagan propaganda again it will be too soon. At sunrise, Clarke had claimed to be Ebenezer Scrooge. If Skaikru had not been present to decipher Clarke’s references to that ancient story near the beginning of Clarke’s recovery, Lexa is sure she would have given her up for mad long ago. Not that she’s much farther from that now.

But still.

“Do you remember your name?” Lexa repeats, stern around the edges, but soft where it matters. Soft where she tries. (God, does she try.)

Clarke scoffs – as she is wont to do – and gives Lexa a sympathetic look. “If you forgot my name, you could’ve just asked.”

Despite expecting a wry response, it doesn’t stop Lexa from letting out a small sigh and giving her a flat look. “I did not forget your name.”

“Prove it.”

Lexa smiles at the evasion and gives it up. “Your name is Clarke.”

A flash of recognition passes across Clarke’s face and she nods happily. “Well, alright. Nice save.” As though Lexa weren’t even there, Clarke repeats her own name a few times under her breath, determined yet again to remember it. Maybe she will succeed, but her record is against her.

And that, as always, brings them to the last question Lexa feels compelled to ask at least once a day – sometimes upwards of three or four times if she’s feeling particularly destructive. It is, after all, the worst kind of self-flagellation. It’s masochistic at best.

“Do you remember who I am?” Lexa asks, pitiful with hope even after weeks of asking – pathetic and more in love than Heda has any right to be.

Clarke narrows her eyes like it’s a trick question, her gaze flicking across Lexa’s face like the answer might be written somewhere there. It used to be. It’s not anymore.

“The Ghost of Christmas…present?”

Lexa wrestles unsuccessfully with a scowl that has Clarke giddy with childish satisfaction.

“Wait, no-“ Clarke holds her hands up, fingers wiggling dramatically. “The Ghost of Christmas Future.”

“Clarke I-“

“No, no,” Clarke cuts her off, “you gotta ask why.”

“Why?” Lexa intones flatly.

Clarke leans forward on one of her unsteady elbows – still so weak even weeks after her injury – and levels a look at Lexa so full of life its hard to remember how close she had been to death. “Because all you talk about is my death.”

Lexa, at best, permits the laughter that follows. A memory of a similar conversation tugs and pinches at the back of Lexa’s brain, but she hushes it and wrestles it back into the recesses of her memory – back into the place she keeps all things Clarke. All things she will never have again.

“Be serious,” Lexa eventually sighs. “Do you have any idea who I am?”

Heda does not plead.

And yet.

“You…” Clarke frowns and one of her hands comes up as though she might touch Lexa’s face, but it drops after a moment. “I…”

Lexa tries not to deflate too obviously. “It is alright, Clarke.” After all, she knows it isn’t for lack of trying. If she upsets Clarke too much, she’ll spend the rest of the day with her poor, injured skull throbbing and even more confused than she began it. In their eagerness, they had spent the first week of having Clarke mostly alert bombarding her with questions and information and stimulation. Of all people it had been Murphy who had to kindly request Clarke’s well-wishers, ‘cram their ceaseless bullshitting up their own asses’ before Clarke ‘blew a gasket’. Lexa understood very little of it and all of it at the same time.

“No,” Clarke says quickly, shaking her head. “It’s not. I don’t get a free pass on hurting people because I can’t be bothered to remember I did it.”

Lexa had wondered, when first realizing that Clarke knew next to nothing of her past life upon waking, whether she was even still Clarke. Without our memories and experiences, are we even ourselves? Moments like this proved her wrong. Clarke was, somehow, and in the basest of ways, still very much…Clarke.

“It’s okay not to remember, Clarke. I will remind you as many times as you need me to.” And for today at least, Lexa means it. She proves it with a kind smile, though maybe it’s a little watery around the edges lately. Maybe.

Clarke returns it with something like relief, as though she constantly expects to be berated for forgetting or becoming confused. There’s always a wariness about the Skaikru children as though they are dogs preparing for the next beating. “I – I remember you,” Clarke assures her. “You…work here?”

Surprisingly it makes Lexa laugh. “I – well, yes. I do work here.”

“Am I good or what?”

Lexa rolls her eyes good-naturedly, but agrees anyways. “You’re very good.”

“No, no, you’re supposed to say ‘or what’,” Clarke teases, reaching out absently to take the hand Lexa had rested on the edge of the bedspread. The action takes only Lexa by surprise, because it seems Clarke hasn’t noticed the unconscious habit. In fact, she continues without so much as glancing down at their intertwined fingers. Lexa feels like she’s dying and Clarke feels nothing. “You say ‘or what’. You don’t work here, come on. I can see it in your eyes.”

Astute as ever, Lexa notes. “In a sense, you were correct,” she defends. “It feels like I never stop working here.”

Clarke’s grip tightens. “But you’re more…to me, that is. I’m supposed to know you, right? I’ve upset you,” she frets.

On the contrary, they rarely even get that close to recognition. Lexa shakes her head and tries to ease the tension out of Clarke’s hand by soothing the pad of her thumb over her stiff knuckles. “I’m not upset.”

“I upset everyone. At least Murphy yells at me,” Clarke mutters.

Lexa stiffens. “He should not,” she says sternly. “I will have a word with him.”

“Don’t bother,” Clarke says, gesturing vaguely. “It makes me feel normal. I didn’t even know it was possible to forget about forgetting. Like, he has to remind me that I’m forgetful. Of all things!” Huffing out an exasperated sigh, Clarke blinks heavily and Lexa can see the constant fatigue that plagues her taking over. “I keep forgetting that I’ve forgotten,” she muses quietly.

Lexa nods sympathetically. “It is only temporary,” she lies, because the truth is that she doesn’t know. Abby seems to know everything about injury and recovery and even Clarke’s future is clouded and uncertain to her. The fact that Clarke sits there speaking coherently is nothing short of a miracle. But when all is said and done, Clarke will either forget her merciful lies or she’ll remember them as truths. The moral ambiguity of it requires more agonizing than Lexa particularly has room for of late.

Heda is too busy to agonize.

Or some other such nonsense Lexa has a hard time abiding by.

Clarke blinks some more, eyelids heavy as she sinks back into the pillows behind her, but she still won’t let go of Lexa’s hand. “I guess,” she says uncertainly and it’s clear she only gives in because she’s too tired.

“You’re safe here,” Lexa assures her then adds, “with me. Whatever you forget, this is your home. I will remember for you.”

Amused, Clarke hums a tired laugh while her eyes slip shut. “Very kind of you, Commander. Very generous.”

Lexa thinks something might explode in her brain in that moment, a painful kind of focus snapping her attention to Clarke’s sleepy mumbling. She holds her breath, trying to read a novel in Clarke’s lax face and slow breathing. But it’s just like it has been every other time.

When Lexa can no longer hold her breath, she releases it slowly, forcing herself not to live in a single word – a single recognition – for the rest of her life. “For you? Anything,” she whispers while Clarke sleeps soundly.

 

+++

 

There are lessons Nightbloods are expected to carry in their hearts and on their shoulders and carved into their armor in battle – lessons to keep them strong and immortal and safe. These lessons elevate them, anoint them as gods and pump strength and charisma through their veins with the black of their blood.

Death is glorious. Death is not the end.

(Death is not glorious, though, and Lexa has never felt anything so final as the last rasp of a pained breath or the mist in unseeing eyes.)

Blood must have blood. No life is worth more than another.

(But puddles of red, soaked tunics and crimson dripping from blades doesn’t seize her heart or her stomach because Nightbloods bleed black and the red of death does not remind her of her own. Red is the color of Others. Black is the color of Heda. When men die by her blade it is a red death she cannot empathize with – not in the most visceral sense – and it does not seize her heart with the cold fear of finality. She does not bleed like them. Red is not black. Some blood will always be worth less and that sense of otherness hardens her heart and makes her strong.)

To be Heda is to be alone.

(Always, kind eyes and gentle souls and the cloying, clogging depth of selfless kindness seeks to usurp this. Always love will claw at her mortality more than the most brutal battle, the strongest warrior under her blade. If Heda were truly alone, Heda would have no need of successors. Heda would be immortal.)

(But she isn’t.)

(Heda is never alone and it will kill her again and again and again until the Nightblood runs dry and the line is broken and the flame is lost because love is as inevitable as it is fatal – as rapturous as it is tragic.)

(There will be no coming back from it.)

And so her teachings are, as always, an ideal – a carefully crafted theory of perfection that would surely be successful if it’s theorizer had lived in the vacuum they designed it in. It is a useless theory. Armchair philosophy to whisper to yourself when you’re lost and you no longer have the courage to admit that to be Heda is not to be alone, equal, or glorious in death. To be Heda is to be lost.

Clarke is shot during a festival and Lexa is lost.

 

+++

 

Some days are just worse than others. Lexa knows this from being in a unique position of inheriting a long line of intuition and memory from a lineage of rulers very much used to the notion that life is terrible most of the time. And the one thing the Flame has taught her is that it can somehow always get worse. Lexa likes to attribute her cheery disposition to such positive whisperings in her head.

Clarke gets angry. Frequently.

So at least some things haven’t changed.

Abby is, as always, an impenetrable fortress of patience and clinical professionalism. Despite their many and vast differences, Abby reminds Lexa of Nyko, who handles Clarke in a similarly impressive manner if not on a less frequent basis. But Abby trusts only him when she is otherwise indisposed, so Lexa has to accept that goodwill and mutual respect can overcome even the largest ravines between peoples.

The day is still young when Clarke falls into one of her sporadic episodes of unfiltered rage. Abby discovers that Clarke cannot read and Clarke discovers that nothing is working the way it should be. Or rather, the way she supposes it should be. Clarke cannot strictly remember what she should be able to do, but it does not stop her from cursing at her mother and swiping a handful of delicate, worn books to the ground.

Lexa hears all of this second hand before being summoned by Raven. Heda is not summoned. And yet.

“Commander,” Abby greets, her eyes the only thing giving away the hint of relief she feels.

Lexa dips her head in the shallowest of nods. “Abby?”

“Heda,” Nyko echoes, sketching an awkward dip of his torso from his position crouched on the floor collecting an array of scattered books.

Lexa opens her mouth to return his greeting, but lets the unformed words die in the back of her throat when she spies Clarke pacing angrily along the back wall of her room. Her balance is poor and her eyesight is sending her bumping into furniture on each pass across the back wall. She’s spitting curses under her breath of a variety even more creative than usual. Dryly, Lexa thanks the gods for providing another completely useless memory for Clarke to reclaim from her attack. Gods forbid she forgets anything in her arsenal of blasphemy.

“Why is she out of bed?” Lexa asks shortly, sending a sharp look towards Nyko. She does not trust Abby to heed any of her orders, but Nyko should know better. “She should not be walking around yet.”

“Tell her that,” Nyko grumbles. It is the closest he has ever gotten to disrespect, which leaves Lexa wondering exactly what Clarke has done to the hapless healer.

Abby shrugs helplessly. “She doesn’t understand why she can’t see or read. And she doesn’t remember anyone right now. I don’t think she knows where she is.”

It does happen on occasion, but the incidents of complete confusion had been growing more infrequent of late. Wishful to think they would ever be free of them entirely.

Clarke stumbles into the wardrobe for the umpteenth time and sags against it. “Well,” Lexa says awkwardly, stroking along the hilt of her ceremonial sword. She had been called away from an important meeting of one of her ambassadors’ committees. They showed little understanding. “It seems she’s tiring out,” she offers, wincing at the tactlessness of her own words. Clarke is not an overactive dog that needs to be allowed to chase a shadow until it’s worn out by its own ignorance.

Clarke bangs her knee on the desk in the corner of the room and shouts at it some more.

“Or not,” Lexa sighs. “I’ll handle it.”

It’s laughable. Clarke was the one thing Lexa was never able to ‘handle’. Clarke is not something meant to be ‘handled’. But she can certainly try if it will reduce the number of bruises on Clarke’s shins at the end of the day.

Lexa approaches cautiously, unsure of whether to initiate physical contact or not. She decides against it, merely clearing her throat loudly and offering her arm to the stumbling girl.

“Clarke.”

Clarke whips around, eyes struggling to focus on Lexa. She’s instantly suspicious, shrinking into the wall as much as she can force her body against it. Her nose is bleeding again – just the slightest bit – and she either doesn’t notice or doesn’t care. Abby insists it is normal, not to worry about it – but, well, Heda was born to worry.

“Who are you?” She asks with a quiet, deadly intensity. It is reminiscent of Wanheda’s old authority, but laced with an undercurrent of fear that grips Lexa’s heart in a snug, mildly uncomfortable vice.

Lexa doesn’t move any closer, unwilling to set her off. “Lexa.”

Clarke stares through unfocused eyes for a full minute, deliberate and seemingly without breathing. “Are you…” she trails off and glances to the side out one of the windows. “Are you going to hurt me too?”

“No, Clarke,” Lexa returns, guilt gnawing at the base of her spine. “Nobody’s going to hurt you, least of all me.”

Clarke is still staring out the window, fingers pressed so tightly against the wall behind her that they’ve gone white. Or perhaps it’s a byproduct of the pale quality her skin had taken on of late. “I don’t think I believe you,” she says.

Lexa frowns. “Why not? Why do you think someone’s going to hurt you?”

At that, Clarke releases a long sigh, eyes still glued to the weak morning light filtering over the stone floor. “Because they always do.”

And…well, is she wrong? Lexa cannot deny it, so decides it is not a fight worth having.

“Won’t you come back to bed?” She implores gently.

Clarke seems to be tiring rapidly. “I can’t see,” she says numbly to nobody in particular. “I can’t see well at all. I don’t know what’s happening and I don’t know why. Am I being punished?”

Perhaps. But in the moment it feels more like Lexa is the one being punished. “Not by me. You can trust me,” she tries, offering her arm again.

Clarke finally looks back at her, pushing against the wall to compensate for the sag in her knees. She drags the back of her arm across her nose, clearing the congealing blood from her lip before it runs down anew. “I don’t know anything,” she chokes out. “How do I know that? How do I trust you?”

Lexa considers it a moment before shrugging helplessly. “You can start by taking my arm. After that, we can figure it out as we go.”

And, miraculously, she does.

 

+++