They gazed in adoration at the brilliant streak of light—their salvation. They knew what to look for now. Raven’s escape pod might have been smaller, but they knew what dropships in the atmosphere looked like now. They’d done so much in so little time, and they were bone-tired.
They had saved Jasper and Finn. Clarke had killed Atom. A little girl—Charlotte—had attempted to kill Wells in his sleep. They’d lost twelve people. They’d abducted a grounder. They’d tortured him. They’d contracted and barely survived a hemorrhagic fever. They were fucking exhausted, and they were ready for a helping hand, no matter how oppressive it would be.
Miller stood behind Clarke, staring gratefully as the dropship fell. They were flanked by their lieutenants (after a fashion)—Syl, Wells, Jasper, Monty and Raven. And Finn, but Finn was barely talking to any of them since they’d captured the Grounder in the woods. Since Clarke and Miller had come back to camp with guns. Since Clarke had steadfastly told him that he had no place pursuing her when Raven was there because she threw herself through space for him.
“Wait.” Clarke breathed, eyes narrowing as the dropship continued to plummet. “Too fast, no parachute?”
They knew what was going to happen before it occurred, but nobody could look away. A brilliant explosion, achingly bright against the pitch black night. A mushroom cloud. Her mother was dead, along with all the reinforcements they’d been praying for.
“Clarke…” Raven breathed, reaching for her friend. But Clarke was already collapsing against Miller, face crumpled in despair.
They were fucked.
“What are we gonna do?” Syl asked quietly. They were in Miller’s tent—the largest—and Clarke was asleep in the corner. Sylvana Cortland was a dark slip of a girl. She’d been friends with Clarke and Wells (and separately, Miller) before she’d been locked up, and had been unfathomably relieved that they were with her when they landed. She had her whole Alpha Station crew. True, she hadn’t anticipated the animosity between them, but she liked to think she’d helped to bridge that gap.
“We need to check out the crash site tomorrow.” Raven replied, glancing at Clarke. “We need to find the black box and any other salvageable material. For the foreseeable future, we’re alone.”
“The Ark’s not responding?” Miller asked. Raven shook her head. They’d been radio silent since the Unity Day pageant. “So we’re alone. For real this time.”
A shaky silence fell over them. Syl’s gut churned anxiously, and Miller’s mouth was pursed so hard that his lips were losing blood flow. “We’re running out of food. And winter is coming.” Monty murmured.
“Yeah, and every fucking time we walk out of camp, one of us gets offed.” Raven grunted.
“Clarke’s so stressed that it practically hurts her to move.” Miller scrubbed a hand over his face. “The number of people she has to stitch up and glue together in a day…”
“And now her mom.” Syl whispered. “God, hasn’t she taken enough?”
“Some people just get the punching bag end of the stick.” Raven muttered.
“So really. What are we gonna do?” Syl asked. She might as well have asked a void, because no one had the answer. Jasper was sitting on the floor, elbows on his knees and head in his hands.
Outside the tent, it was just as quiet. None of the delinquents knew what to say or do. They had a fire going, and Miller was sure that if he poked his head outside, they’d all be gathered around it, simply staring into the flames.
After a long while, Clarke stirred. “Hey Clarkey.” Syl crooned, fluttering to her side. Clarke grimaced, wincing at the headache forming between her eyes. This was why she hated crying.
“I’ll be fine, Syl. I swear.” She replied softly, recognizing Syl’s attempt at comfort. “She just…she died thinking that I hate her.” It came out as a croak, far more unstable than she intended. Wells frowned at her.
“She knew you didn’t hate her. People get mad, Clarke. You had a good reason.”
“I still told her I hated her. And then didn’t speak with her at all.” She shrugged. Honestly, she felt kind of numb to it all. It was just one thing after another down here, and if she took time to grieve, she wouldn’t be able to prepare for the next sucker-punch. “But it’s over now. Now we need to figure out what to do next.”
“We’re kind of at a loss. We were talking about it while you slept.” Miller told her.
“At the rate they’re picking us off, we won’t be able to get enough food to sustain us through winter. And since the smokehouse burned down, we lost half our rations.” Jasper recounted dully.
Clarke pinched the bridge of her nose. “I think it might be time to try diplomacy. Put up a white flag and beg for mercy.” She told them. The notion itself terrified her. If she showed up to talk peace, she’d be vulnerable and possibly (probably) murdered on sight.
“Finally.” Finn snorted. “That’s what I’ve been saying!”
“Doesn’t work so well with a knife in your stomach.” Clarke snapped. He winced. “I’m trying to find the stab-free alternative.”
“How would we even contact them for a truce?” Jasper asked dubiously.
“Well we do still have that one Grounder tied up.” Syl drawled sarcastically. “Cleaning him up and and sending him off might do the trick.”
“Or he would…kill us.” Miller said slowly, as though she’d grown dumber in the last five minutes.
“So we’ll explain before we untie him!” Syl said hotly. “We’re a bunch of dumb kids who were dropped in your territory by stupid adults who don’t know to find their own asses, let alone drop us in the right place. We’re terrified and hungry and we need help. We didn’t mean to upset them enough that we’d become the human version of spear-fishing!”
“Syl…” Miller groaned.
“It’s the best idea we’ve got, Miller.” Clarke sighed. He fell silent and glared around mulishly. “It’s not great, and it’s dangerous, but honestly at this point I’d rather die from a spear than from exposure.” They all grimaced.
“So who’s gonna talk to him?” Monty asked blandly. They all winced, this time.
“Maybe we should all talk to him.” Finn suggested. As much as Clarke (and Miller, Wells and Syl) wanted to scoff at the suggestion, it wasn’t a bad one. “Make sure we’re not forgetting anything, explaining who we are, all that.” Well fuck him for making a good point.
“Fine.” Clarke sighed. “Now?”
“Well, we’re busy in the morning.” Raven chimed quietly, sliding her gaze over Clarke’s face. Clarke’s expression shuttered, but she nodded. They had a dropship to scavenge.
The conversation with the Grounder had gone better than they’d expected. They were expecting him to remain stoic, quietly assessing them as they spoke and offering nothing in return. But Clarke and Syl went doe-eyed and spoke to him like true politicians’ daughters, voices dripping with shame and fear. Clarke offered to patch up his injuries. Syl explained that they were just children, and they were terrified. Clarke told him that they’d meant to drop on Mount Weather. Syl told him they were sent there to die. The collective flinch from her companions helped her case, and he’d finally spoken. His name was Sterling, and if they patched him up and let him go, he’d speak with his leaders. In a day full of pain, it tasted like victory.
The next morning had been brutal. Clarke was practically catatonic while they scavenged the dropship wreck. Raven found Hydrazine, and said she’d need to make a return trip to collect it. Just in case. Miller and Wells were ever-alert on the perimeter, scanning for Grounders and panthers and two-headed deer and whatever the fuck else was on the ground.
Late that night, when they were all huddled around the fire and ready to drop from exhaustion, it happened. A horn, deep and bellowing, echoed through the night, and suddenly every single living delinquent was wide awake and alert. It had sounded from outside the gate. Clarke met Miller’s eyes from across the fire, swallowing visibly. They would meet whatever awaited them together. They were the leaders, and that burden lay on their shoulders.
They stood simultaneously and moved to the gate silently. Syl and Wells followed a few steps behind them. Miller peered through the cracks to see what awaited them. He exhaled noisily. “Horses.”
“Two people. On horses.” He breathed in amazement. “A man and a woman. God, she looks like she’s our age.”
Clarke peered through, too. “You’re not kidding. She’s young. And she also look like she could kill me in about three seconds in twelve different ways.” She grimaced.
“You ready?” Miller glanced at his counterpart. Clarke nodded grimly.
“Let’s do this.”
They pulled the gate open for the two visitors. Clarke was suddenly struck dumb. How did you greet warriors on horseback after they’d killed ten of your people? A moment later, she thanked the sweet lord for Miller, who spoke first. “Welcome. I’m Nathan Miller and this is my partner, Clarke Griffin. We’re the leaders of this camp.”
Slowly (lethally), the woman slid from her horse, never breaking eye contact. She stalked towards them, eyes narrowed, until she stood before them, small but proud. And terrifying. “I am Oktevia kom Trishanakru, hai-seken to Belomi, Haihefa kom Trishanakru.” She barked imperiously. “This is Murphy. He is also Trishanakru, and also a seken.”
Clarke and Miller blinked at her (rather stupidly, if they did say so themselves). The man (‘Murphy.’ Clarke thought, eyeing him apprehensively) sighed heavily and slid off his own horse with a thwack against the forest floor. “She said that her name is Octavia of the Glowing Forest clan. She’s the King’s right hand. My name is Murphy, also of the Glowing Forest clan. I’m a second—a warrior that reports directly to the king. We’re here to hear your surrender.” He declared. Clarke bristled at the bored drawl and disinterested moue.
As though she could hear Clarke thinking, Syl darted forward to grasp Clarke’s wrist in her hand, begging her not to say something unnecessarily aggressive. She exhaled noisily. “We’re grateful that you’re willing to hear it.” Clarke admitted, eyes falling from the pair before them to the floor. “When we landed here, we had no idea what we were getting into. We’d been told our whole lives that it was impossible to live here—that the radiation was too much for a human body to handle. We never meant to trespass, we didn’t even know there was anyone alive here.”
Octavia was watching her through furiously narrowed eyes. “And yet, once you did discover our presence, you didn’t leave. You cut down our trees. You built a camp. You kidnapped one of our people and tortured him in your metal death trap.” She glowered. “These are all acts of war.”
“We’re scared kids. There are no adults here. We weren’t taught to fight. We were barely taught to hunt.” Miller insisted. “We made some truly stupid choices out of fear. But when we tried to take refuge in Mount Weather, one of our people was speared through the chest. Since then, if we step out of camp, we go with the expectation that someone will come back dead. We’re terrified and tired, and we just want to survive.” Sometime during his monologue, he’d moved from insisting to begging.
“The Mountain is off limits to all. Your friend crossed the boundary and had to be subdued.” Murphy drawled.
“We didn’t know there was a boundary!” Clarke cried, panicking. “We were told they had the supplies we’d need to survive, so we just wanted to take what we needed and leave.”
“You can’t leave the Mountain once you’ve entered it. Perhaps whoever speared your friend was trying to warn the rest of you by sacrificing one.” Octavia sneered.
“Maybe that’s true, but how would we know? For all we knew, it was our very existence that prompted it.” Syl added hurriedly. “We swear we didn’t know we were trespassing, and everything since then has been to survive. Especially since we were sent here to die.” She choked, lungs getting a little tight as her anxiety skyrocketed.
Octavia jerked and looked at her sharply. “What do you mean?” She demanded. When Syl didn’t answer, she looked to Clarke. “What did she mean, Clarke of the Sky People?”
“Exactly what she said. We’re considered expendable by our people. They thought that the earth was still toxic, but they needed to test it. They sent the least valuable members of our community here to see if we could survive. And if not, it was no loss.” Clarke intoned dully.
“Your young and healthy are expendable?” Murphy demanded. Finally, a glint of steel had lit his eye.
“In space, nothing matters more than the law. If you’re an adult and you break the law, you’re executed. If you’re a juvenile, you’re imprisoned until adulthood, and then your sentence is reevaluated.” Miller told them sharply. “More often than not, they choose to execute. We were all dead bodies to them anyways. Dead bodies that used too many resources. At least here, they could use us to see if they could come back without dying of radiation poisoning.”
“What kinds of crimes?” Octavia barked.
“Any kind. It’s illegal to drink. It’s illegal to take more that your designated water or food rations. It’s illegal to have more than one child. It’s illegal to be a sibling.” Clarke rattled off. “In adulthood, any of those things would earn you immediate execution. For us, it meant years in prison with only death to look forward to.”
There was something akin to disgust plastered across Octavia’s face, and Murphy was considering them heavily. “What do you want?” He finally asked.
“To live. To survive.” Clarke stated firmly. “I want my people to not be afraid of starving or freezing. Or being speared through the chest or shot in the head. We want to learn, and we want to thrive."
“You want our protection.” Octavia narrowed her eyes again, sliding her gaze across and along them. “That’s a heavy request. Taking on a hundred…untrained children is a heavy responsibility for any of the clans. Worse still, it would be a question of which clan would take you on. You fell on the boundary between our clan and Trikru. They are the ones who have been attacking you. Our scout—the one you tortured—was in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
Clarke blanched, shooting Miller an alarmed glance. He shifted anxiously, too. “We didn’t know.”
“That is becoming quite clear, thank you.” Octavia hushed him curtly. “In any case, you can’t expect any clan to take you in without something to offer in return.” She warned.
“We have technology. Science. I’m a healer, too, I can share medical knowledge.” Clarke blurted desperately. “Please.”
Octavia stared her down while Murphy stared at Octavia, waiting for her decision. Finally, the ferocious girl turned her dark eyes to her companion and nodded once. “Octavia will convey your surrender the King and the Commander. Since you’ve fallen on border territory, there is a larger conversation that needs to take place.”
“Until I return, you will wait in your camp. Do not leave the boundary. I will leave Murphy with you. If you need something from beyond, he may fetch it for you.” She instructed sharply. She focused her gaze in on Clarke and Miller. “I hope you are willing to go to extreme lengths for the good of your people.” She murmured (menacingly), swinging herself back onto her horse.
“We are.” Clarke replied viciously. Octavia stared at her a moment longer before nodding curtly and kicking her horse forward, flying away into the night, heavy braids flicking like whips behind her.
For all that he was stoic, rude, and impatient, Murphy kom Trishanakru was a fucking godsend. Clarke spent the next few days resisting the urge to just…hug him. She would have, if she didn’t think that he’d slip a knife between her ribs.
He’d gone hunting for them, since they’d been forbidden from leaving the walls. One carcass at a time, he dragged in a deer, a boar, and an entire sack full of rabbits. Then he’d eyed them purposefully, and set about skinning them. It didn’t take long for them to understand that it was a demonstration, and they’d swarmed him, watching each meticulous slice with ravenous interest.
He’d carefully cleaned the hide-side of the furs, and left them on their hastily constructed drying rack fur-side down. He stripped meat from the bones and effortfully extracted sinew from the muscle attachments, before slicing it into thread and leaving it to dry as well. “You can’t afford to waste anything you have access to. But smaller furs won’t do much good against cold. Once its dry, I’ll show you how to make the thread soft enough to sew the rabbit furs together.” He’d grunted before trudging away.
Syl wasn’t nearly as intimidated by Murphy as Clarke was, and spent all of her spare time peppering him with questions. Sometimes, Clarke could actually see the tendon in his neck pull taut with the effort of restraining his annoyance.
Timidly, Monty had tottered to Murphy and asked him about a variety of plants. “Some of those grow near.” Murphy grunted.
“Do you think you could get them for me? And…assuming we’re ever allowed to leave camp…could you show me where they grow?”
Murphy’s face twisted in annoyance, but he nodded and stormed back out of the camp. “That one’s wound tight.” Syl commented breezily as she plopped herself down next to Monty by the fire.
“Because you keep harassing him, Syl.” Miller ground out. “He’s gonna kill you.”
“Well, knowing Syl, it’ll be one hell of a way to go.” Raven jerked. Syl just smirked at her.
“If only he weren’t so agitated all the time. And, you know, not totally disgusted by our existence.” Syl drawled. “He’d probably be one hell of a tumble.”
“Why do we let you help make decisions? Clearly you have terrible taste, judgement, and mental faculties.” Miller snapped. Clarke and Wells sauntered up then, and he clammed up.
“Oh, no. What were we talking about?” Clarke sighed.
“Syl’s inability to keep it in her pants despite the very real danger of pursuing the person she wants to pursue.” Raven replied dryly.
“Hey, better pursue it now than when Octavia comes back to let us know that she’s been ordered to eviscerate us on sight.” Syl said mildly. “You know. Work the thirst out before being violently beheaded.”
“I know you think that’s funny, but it’s a real possibility.” Miller growled.
“I’m aware, thanks.” She sighed. “It’s not like I’m going to proposition him. What would I do, show up in his tent naked and say ‘Watching you skin those rabbits was super hot, lets see what else you can do with those hands?’”
Finn choked violently on air and Clarke bloomed brilliant red. Miller just stared at her in shocked disgust, and Wells fought to keep the amusement from his face in vain. “You’re seriously disturbed.” Jasper whispered, horrified.
“That’s what did it for you?” Raven cackled. “Watching him skin rabbits? What the hell, Syl?”
“He’s all meticulous and single minded about it. Like it’s the most important fucking thing. And so good with his hands. They’re really nice hands, you know?”
“Have you ever considered pursuing a nymphomania diagnosis?” Clarke demanded. “Because after Dax, I honestly didn’t think your tastes could get any weirder, but here we are.”
“Dax has a bad attitude and an excess of testosterone. There wasn’t a lot of skill, but there was a lot of acrobatics and aggression. I’m into that.” She replied calmly.
Murphy strode back into camp then, stomping to where they sat and dropping his sack into Monty’s lap. “Your plants.” He grunted, before stomping away again.
“What are those?” Clarke asked, moving closer.
“Spices. Flavoring. Mom had this old recipe book and I’d read it sometimes, wondering what they actually tasted like, and how they made food taste better. I mean, meat is already way better than what we had on the Ark, but these are supposed to make everything even better.” Clarke raised an eyebrow at him. “Some of them have medicinal properties, too.” He defended himself. “I wanted to see if I could make a stew that didn’t taste like cooked rabbit in lake water.”
“Godspeed.” Raven snorted.
The smell wafting from Monty’s self-imposed corner of camp was invigoratingly tantalizing. Apparently he’d made a test batch before cooking everything, and had been satisfied, because when he and Jasper emerged, he was flushing with pride.
“Kids, if you liked moonshine, you’re gonna love this.” Jasper crowed. Murphy stood off to the side, watching blankly as they clamored to try the new-and-improved stew. Monty slapped their hands away and ladled some into a makeshift bowl and handed it to Syl. He whispered something in her ear and shot a brief smile Murphy’s way. His blank stare quickly knotted into a frown.
As Monty served his (miraculous, delicious, life-changingly good) stew to the rest of the delinquents, Syl loped toward him. His scowl intensified. “Since you’re the reason this happened, we figured you should get the first serving.” She chirped at him, holding the bowl out. He eyed it (and her) apprehensively, before taking the bowl from her hands. “Eat with us?”
He considered her for a moment before shaking his head. “I shouldn’t. Just in case Octavia comes back with…unfavorable orders, I’d rather not get attached.” He explained quietly. She blanched but recovered quickly, offering him an understanding smile.
“Then if you get favorable orders, I won’t take no for an answer next time.” She winked before flitting away to rejoin her friends (and get her own serving of stew).
After he ate (the stew was delicious, he had to admit), he explored their camp. They were distracted and were (for once) not peppering him with questions, so he had a chance to really evaluate their capabilities. He was unwillingly impressed by how much they’d managed to accomplish and create in such a short amount of time. There was a considerable amount of ingenuity involved—repurposing everything they could to meet their needs. They’d even made weapons from the debris of their dropship.
He did that a lot in the following days—watching everything and gleaning behaviors and patterns. If a treaty was to be made, they needed to know what the Sky People could do, and how they could use it to their advantage. From what he could gather, they were incredibly resourceful. Their leaders were astute, as well. Clarke and Miller were unfailingly gifted at seeking out their people’s strengths and putting them to good use. They also surrounded themselves with the best and least volatile minds in the camp—seeking their opinions and cobbling together solutions. Solutions that were sourced by their little council and finalized by the two heads in charge.
They were effective and constantly in motion.
On the fifth day, Octavia returned. He heard her horn from far off, sounding through the trees. He was impressed that Clarke and Miller seemed to recognize it, since they froze and turned to each other with grim determination set in the lines of their faces.
They turned to him, and he nodded once. They moved to the gate, their friends falling in behind them, and they rest of their people trailing towards the gate as they pulled it open. There was a stiffness to them that he hadn’t seen when he and Octavia had first arrived. The stress of a potential execution, he supposed.
Octavia dropped heavily from her horse, landing in front of Clarke and Miller. “I have spoken the the Commander—the leader of the twelve clans—as well as my king, and the queen of Trikru. They have agreed to meet with you to try to forge an alliance. Should the terms be unfavorable and none of our clans will take you on, you will be put under a kill order.” She delivered this matter-of-factly. From his place behind the crowd, he could see Clarke’s shoulders climbing to her ears in anxiety. Miller’s (and Finn’s) fists were clenched tightly. One of the younger girls started to cry, and Syl scurried to her side to wrap her in a comforting embrace.
“How will this work.” Clarke asked after a long silence.
“One of your leaders—I don’t care which—will accompany me to TonDC. You will be allowed an escort of four people. There, you will meet with Anya, the Haiplana kom Trikru, and Bellamy, the Haihefa kom Trishanakru. The meeting will be unmediated. The Commander will not attend.”
Clarke and Miller looked at each other. It had surprised everyone when they’d started communicating nonverbally as though they were yelling. Especially since they’d wanted to destroy each other the first week on the ground. A moment later, they were nodding. “I’ll be accompanying you to TonDC.” Clarke announced.
“And your escorts?”
“Would you recommend people who can guard me? Or people who can demonstrate and strengthen my appeal?” She asked.
“The latter. If we want you dead, you’ll be dead, Clarke of the Sky People.” Octavia smiled. “No four guards could outdo an army. No four guards could outdo me.”
“Em pleni, Skairipa.” Murphy barked. “If they’ve agreed to meet, then there’s no need to intimidate them. They’re intimidated enough as it is.” He scolded.
“Shof op, Murph.” She barked, but there was no bite. Clarke turned to Murphy.
“Who do you think I should bring? You’ve been with us for a few days, you’ve observed us. Who do you think would be most valuable?”
Murphy contained his surprise—he didn’t realize that Clarke had noticed his snooping. “I think you know who to bring already. Mostly because you know who you must leave behind.”
Syl grinned at him. He refused to look at her.
“Raven and Monty.” She began. Her eyes darted between her remaining companions. “Syl. Sorry, Wells. You need to stay here to help Miller keep things running.”
“I’m going.” Finn snapped, stepping up behind Raven. “You’re not leaving me behind.”
“Finn…” She sighed.
“Clarke.” Miller muttered. Her eyes snapped to him. He painted on an almost pained look of exasperation that clearly read ‘if you don’t take him, he’s just going to follow you.’
“Fine.” She growled. “But I swear to god, if you do anything stupid—“
“He’ll listen.” Raven assured her, cutting her boyfriend a glare. Clarke nodded—kind of a jerky, irate head spasm—and turned back to Octavia.
“When do we leave?”
“Whenever you’re ready.” She supplied, eyes flitting between the group with a trace amount of unease. “The sooner the better.”
“How long will we be gone?”
“No longer than a week.”
Clarke blanched. She’d never been away from the camp that long. She didn’t have to look at Miller and Wells to know that they were grimacing. “She’s our only healer.” Miller grunted.
“We’ll send someone in her place until negotiations come through.” Octavia assured them. Clarke let out her anxiously held breath and nodded, turning to her escorts.
“Half an hour to gather your things, and leave any instructions you need to follow through on with Miller or Wells.” She instructed before breaking off and striding to her own tent. She only realized that Octavia had followed her once she was inside.
“You should leave that boy with the long hair behind.” Octavia warned. “He doesn’t think his actions through, and that could mean a death sentence for you all.”
“If I don’t bring him and keep an eye on him, he’ll just follow us. He’s dating Raven.”
“Dating?” Octavia’s brow furrowed. “Oh! You mean courting. He is hers, and she is his.”
“Yeah.” Clarke muttered, stuffing clothes and makeshift medical supplies into her pack.
“Do you belong to anyone?” Octavia inquired.
“No.” She gritted out.
“I’ve upset you.” Octavia commented, the barest note of apology tacked to the end of her statement.
“You haven’t. Someone else has. I belong to no one, but someone might still see me as his.” She explained. “It was…upsetting. Learning that someone I thought I could trust was a coward and a liar.”
Octavia stayed silent, considering her closely and letting her pack in silence. When they departed the tent, she went to stand with Murphy and watched as Clarke flagged down two girls—a brunette and a blonde—and started rattling instructions at them. They looked eager, eyes wide with awe and pride that they’d been chosen to step into her shoes. She was a role model to them.
She met Miller, but they didn’t really need to talk. He already knew what to do in her absence, and he also had Wells. If anyone could substitute as a Clarke Griffin mouthpiece, it was Wells. Syl was the next to join them. She and Jasper were their chemists, but she knew that when Jasper got drunk, shit started falling apart.
“Make sure that the solution on my desk is brought to a boil twice a day.” She instructed. Miller nodded. “And…I hate to ask this when we’re about to leave camp, but the latrines…”
“Whatever it is, do it when you get back.” Miller stopped her. “I refuse to do anything that starts with the word ‘latrines’ and involves me doing the literal dirty work while you’re not even here.”
Syl grinned. “Here I am, trying to create flammable gas for you and you’re just ungrateful and lazy. But fine” She smacked a noisy, wet kiss on his cheek. “I’ll do it when we get back.” She turned to go stand with Murphy and Octavia, Clarke right behind her.
“Hey Syl?” Wells caught up to her. He motioned for Clarke to keep moving. “Look out for her. Make sure she doesn’t go full-martyr.” Syl nodded, and moved to leave, but Wells caught her by the wrist again. “And for god’s sake, don’t sleep with anyone until after an agreement has been made.” He warned.
Syl grinned at him widely. “But after an agreement’s made, I can have an orgy? Wells!” She bubbled, mock excited, throwing her arms around him enthusiastically. He batted her away, annoyed but amused. “Everything will be fine.”
“And if it’s not?”
“I’ll do my best to get them out, and get word back to you.” She murmured. “I’ll do my best.”
He nodded, and let her join the group at the gate. Miller was talking to Monty quietly, and they were both flushing and awkward but also concerned and purposeful. He didn’t approach. Just in case, he didn’t want to interrupt them. Raven seemed to have the same idea, and dragged Finn over, rattling off things he needed to remember and remind Jasper of while they were gone. “Finn. Whatever happens, do not do anything that Clarke hasn’t expressly told you to do.” Wells warned him darkly. Finn raised an eyebrow but said nothing. Wells didn’t really have any choice but to take it as acceptance.
He and Miller and the rest of the 100 watched anxiously as Clarke and her escorts left camp. “I hope it goes well.” Miller grunted. Wells grasped his shoulder. He hoped so too.
She was afraid they’d have to make the journey to TonDC on foot, but Octavia and Murphy surprised them—taking them to Octavia’s village first to pick up four extra horses.
(“You belong to each other, don’t you? You can share a horse.” Octavia had said haughtily when Finn had asked why they didn’t have one horse per person.)
The journey was short, but Clarke hadn’t realized how uncomfortable riding on horseback would be. Her hips felt like someone had taken a hammer to them. Seeing her discomfort, Murphy had trotted up to her and showed her how to take some of the pressure from her hips—how to sit in the saddle and stay comfortable.
TonDC was rustic but magnificent. The scraps of pre-bomb buildings made functional and alive again was truly impressive. “Just wait until you see Baltim.” Octavia smiled at her awestruck expression. “It’s where I grew up—the capital of Trishanakru territory. TonDC is Trikru’s.” She explained.
“You live in Trikru territory?”
Octavia nodded. “My chosen—my houmon,” She glanced at Murphy for assistance.
“Fiancé.” He said.
“My Fiancé is Trikru. His name is Lincoln.” She purred, eyes lighting up. Clarke thought it was miraculous to watch her turn from a fierce and threatening warrior into a lovestruck girl. “I live with him sometimes, and the rest of the time he lives with me.” She explained. Clarke nodded.
They tied their horses and made their way to the largest building—the one painted in Trikru’s symbol and flying blood-red banners. Syl and Raven clutched at her hands until they stood in front of the room that held the people who would decide their fate.
“Speak clearly. Don’t avoid the truth, just give it. Hold nothing back.” Murphy instructed in his final offering of advice. Syl glanced at him gratefully, but looked like she was going to be sick. He hesitated for a moment, before placing a steadying hand on her shoulder. She glanced from his hand to his face, before giving him a wavering smile.
They entered the room. There was a table. Four chairs on either side. Two thrones on either end. The one that faced the door held a woman. Clarke felt her stomach seize in fear. She looked like death personified. Her eyes and face were painted with black war paint. She was covered with leather and fur—straps securing the material to her body and securing her weapons to her side. A dagger strapped to her thigh. A sword strapped to her waist. Metal armor curved over her shoulder to rest across her heart. Severe braids pulling her hair from her face. She was beautiful.
She rose as they entered, as did the man in the opposing throne. He turned to greet them.
Clarke couldn’t help but stare. His face was streaked with war paint as well, and his crown was hewn from antlers. He was large. His presence took up an unwieldy amount of space. His armor plating was held in place by a baldric, strapping across his body and securing across his midsection. The armor itself secured what looked like a cape to his shoulder—dark green and heavy. He had two long, curved blades strapped to his thighs and (upon further investigation) had set his hefty sword against the arm of his throne. It was too large to remain strapped to him while he was seated. He looked every inch the indomitable warlord he was rumored to be.
None of that was what drew her eye. It was the harsh line of his jaw, offset by the gentle curl of his hair against his brow line. The freckles that dusted his nose and cheeks like the galaxy. The hint of a smile in the corners of his full mouth and the dimple in his chin. His hands, as they curled over the back of his throne; strong, broad, and calloused. He was a work of art.
“Octavia.” He greeted the warrior at her side. Syl nudged Clarke, silently asking if she was okay. Clarke gave the barest nod. “Murphy.”
“Belomi.” Octavia greeted him warmly.
“Haihefa.” Murphy greeted him perfunctorily.
“Glad you made it back in once piece.” He rumbled, mirth crinkling the corner of his eye.
“Shame you didn’t just take care of the problem yourself.” Trikru’s queen drawled from the other end of the table. Clarke could have sworn her heart stopped beating.
“We’re here to negotiate terms, Anya.” Bellamy scolded her. She rolled her eyes and dropped back into her seat. “Which one of you is the leader?” He asked, finally raking his eyes over the newcomers.
“I am.” Clarke uttered, stepping forward and willing her knees not to shake in terror. “I’m Clarke Griffin.”
“I am Bellamy. If you’re more comfortable with surnames than clans, then my full name is Bellamy Blake. I’m the King of Trishanakru—the people residing in the Glowing Forest and the lands immediately west of it.” He spoke authoritatively. Not unkindly, but certainly not comforting. Deep and rough, with all the potential for menacing violence. He gestured to the queen—Anya. “She is Anya, the Queen of Trikru. You have mostly been on her land, though your vessel fell on the boundary between our clans.”
“Thank you for agreeing to hear us.” Clarke breathed. “It’s an honor to meet you both.”
“Please, be seated.” He gestured to the chairs. Octavia took one side, sitting next to Anya, and Murphy took the other side, seated next to Bellamy. “One of the Kongeda’s healers will be joining us.” He stated, explaining the extra seat. “He will not have any say in the outcome of this meeting. He’s merely here to help us understand your offerings.”
“Of course.” Clarke agreed readily. But she hesitated. Where should she seat herself? Murphy caught her eye and, quickly, flicked his eyes between her and the empty chair on King Bellamy’s other side. The thought itself made her want to vomit from anxiety, but she straightened and took the seat. Syl sat on Murphy’s other side. Clarke almost flashed her a glare, but saw how nervous she looked.
“Your people intrigue me, Clarke.” Bellamy spoke. “Octavia explained your situation. That you were thrown from your home in space to see if Earth was survivable. That in fear, you lashed out violently against Trikru’s warriors.”
“They lashed out violently first! They speared one of us for trying to get across the river.” Finn protested. Raven must have kicked him under the table because he fell silent. Anya’s face twisted in anger.
“The river is the boundary for the Mountain.” She growled. “If the boundary is crossed, the Mountain Men come. With their poisonous gas or just by unleashing their acid fog.”
Syl straightened like she’d been electrocuted. “Their acid fog?” She barked. Her eyes snapped to Raven. “Do you think…”
“Oh my god.” Raven breathed, eyes wide and alight. “That shit is a weapon?”
“It is. We realized it was their doing after a pattern emerged—if too many of our people got past the boundary, the fog would come for them. Now they do it at random in an attempt to keep us controlled.” Bellamy told them.
“If that spear had been meant to kill him, it would have done the job.” Anya growled.
“So instead of killing him, you strung him up as live Panther bait.” Finn griped back. Clarke regretted bringing him already.
“Are your people—you untrained children—good for anything else?” Anya sneered.
“Em pleni, Anya.” Bellamy said quietly. “They’re here to negotiate a surrender and an alliance.”
“It’s a waste of time, Bellamy.” Anya insisted. “Frag emo op.” She pleaded. “Just get it over with.”
“No.” He snapped. Clarke watched as his eyes darkened and his jaw clenched. He looked like he might strangle Anya, were he close enough. “I want to hear what they have to offer to an alliance. Just because we can kill them doesn’t mean that we should.” He ground out lowly. Anya narrowed her eyes at him, but slumped back in her seat and gestured for him to continue.
“They’re resourceful, Bellamy.” Octavia said. “Very good at repurposing the items they have and creating what they need.”
“They are. They found a way to filter their water, they’ve created weapons from pieces of their ship. They’ve created medical equipment.” Murphy began. “And they have experience with technology—they have knowledge from before Praimfaya.”
Bellamy considered them carefully. He glanced around the table, before settling his eyes back on Clarke. “What do you think you can offer us in return for protection and training?” He asked quietly.
“If you don’t mind, I’d like my people to answer that.” She told him firmly. He looked surprised but amused at her boldness, and gestured for her to continue. “Raven?”
“We can give your people a way to communicate with each other over long distances—in battle or on scouting missions.” She cleared her throat nervously. “They’re called radios.” She pulled the pair she’d been working on from her pack and passed one to Anya, and one to Bellamy. “Press that button on the side and speak to it.” She instructed.
Bellamy pressed his thumb into the side of the roughly made walkie-talkie then asked: “What should I say?” Anya jumped when his voice crackled out of the radio in her own hand. Bellamy’s eyes widened dramatically.
“With that, she’d be able to hear you from more than ten miles away.” Raven promised.
“Impressive.” Bellamy granted, sweeping his eyes over the little metal box appreciatively. “And you would teach us to use them?” He made a grumbling noise of approval when she confirmed.
“I’m a healer.” Clarke continued when he’d had adequate to inspect the radio. “And Monty is incredibly gifted with botany. Together we’ve been working on recreating the advanced chemical medications we had on the Ark. I also have a lot of experience with trauma care—healing wounds inflicted in violence.”
“She’s the one who figured out how to outlast the blood sickness.” Murphy commented. Bellamy’s eyes bore through her, shining with dark approval.
“I’m willing to help your people as a healer, and to teach them new methods. I can also help if there’s an ailment that’s escaped you—there might be something that we know that can help.” She offered.
Nyko spoke then. “If I take you to our wounded, would you demonstrate your skill?” He asked. Clarke nodded immediately.
Monty spoke next. “I am both a botanist and an engineer. In addition to the things that Raven can help you with, I can offer flameless light and electricity. Crops that grow in winter. Food storage that guarantees preservation.”
“How would you grow crops in winter?” Anya demanded. “There’s more than a foot of snow. Anything you grow will be buried in ice.” Monty pulled his notebook from his bag—one they’d found in a little bunker. There were two notebooks. One, they’d given to Clarke. Miller had insisted. He knew she liked to draw. The other was shared between the science bundle—engineering, chemistry and botany.
He flipped it open to a blueprint that he and Raven had slaved over before realizing that they’d never be able to pull it off before winter.
“It’s a greenhouse." He explained. “We can keep the inside warm using electricity generated by wind-power, since I’ve heard the river freezes over. Using that same electricity, we can keep the inside lit so that the plants can grow properly.” He explained. “We’ve drawn up the design. We know it would work. We’d just need help collecting the material and building it. Based on what crops you want to grow, we can adjust the size of the greenhouse.”
“And you think you’d be able to accomplish this before first snow?” Anya snorted. “That’s less than a month away.”
“If we get the help we need, we can make sure it’s done. Our biggest problem is that we don’t know where to find the materials. Once that’s done, all we need is a little muscle to help with assembly.” Monty insisted, staring Anya down.
“It’s a good idea, Anya.” Bellamy scolded. “If they can pull it off, It will be very food for us.” He turned back to Clarke. “Anything else?”
“Syl.” She prompted.
Syl glanced at Raven. Raven shook her head, but Clarke could see Syl steeling herself. “I think…”
“Syl.” Raven barked. “Don’t say it until you know.”
“If it’s a weapon, then it can be disarmed.” Syl snapped. Clarke’s eyes widened. She turned pleading eyes on Clarke. Clarke grimaced, but nodded.
“I’m not completely sure. But if the acid fog is a weapon, then Raven, Monty, Jasper and I may be able to disable it. We’d need to collect samples and find out where the distribution source is, but I think we can do it.” She said fiercely, looking Bellamy straight in the eye. “That’s the thing about us. You give us the information, and we’ll find a solution. That’s what’s special about us. We get the job done.”
Bellamy smirked, and Clarke wanted to believe that he was pleased with her fervor. “You believe you can disable the acid fog?” He purred. He glanced between Raven and Syl. Syl looked single-mindedly sure, but Raven looked nervous.
“I do. I think it’s risky, though.” Raven admitted. “But if we can manage to find out what the compound is before getting near the distribution source, we might be in luck.”
He turned to Octavia and started speaking rapidly in his native tongue. She was trying to read his expression. Intrigued would be a good word for it, but so would excited. He seemed enthused by the projects that they’d brought forth, and so far Octavia and Murphy seemed to be on board. They were nodding along and firing responses to his questions.
Finally: “We are open to taking your people in. You would have to vacate Trikru territory, and I’d have to insist on your people coming to live in Baltim. We have space for you there.”
Clarke shot a look around the table. So far, no one was objecting. “I think we can all agree to that. Can we have access to our grave site?” She asked, turning her eyes to Anya.
Anya grimaced. “To vacate you from our land, we will help you move your dead to Trishanakru territory. It is easier that way.”
Clarke swallowed, disliking the idea of disturbing a grave, but nodded. “However, there are some concerns I need to address, and some conditions that must come from them.” Bellamy continued. Clarke’s stomach dropped. “I have been burned by flimsy alliances before. I am offering to merge Skaikru with Trishanakru and become one people, but it needs to be a permanent fix.”
“Bellamy!” Octavia barked, face twisted in disapproval. He held his hand up to silence her.
“For this alliance to move forward, Trishanakru will require a Union.”
Clarke frowned, not quite understanding. She glanced at Anya, who was gaping unflatteringly at Bellamy, which was unhelpful for Clarke's own confusion. So she glanced at Murphy, who winced. “A marriage.” He clarified. “To him.” He jerked his thumb at his king. Clarke’s eyes snapped back up to Bellamy’s.
“Like…partners for life, and baby-making in the name of political unity?” Raven asked slowly. Bellamy grimaced.
“I would have phrased it better. But I suppose so, yes. Ideally it would be more than just political unity.”
Clarke swallowed thickly. “It would be more than a year before any of us could have a child.” She warned. “If that’s the primary purpose, I don’t want you to be disappointed with the results.”
“A child shouldn’t come until the parents are ready for them.” Bellamy assured her. “But out of curiosity, why so long?”
“The Ark fitted all women below a certain age with an implant to prevent pregnancy. They need to be removed for our reproductive systems to resume functioning, and it takes a year or so for the chemicals to cycle completely out of our systems.” Clarke explained.
“Hm. Well, children would be the long-term purpose for a marriage, but until then, just a Queen for a King to band our peoples together.” He told her.
“Did you have someone in mind?” She asked.
“Preferably someone in your leadership, but it doesn’t have to be. I’d rather my wife not be terrified or repulsed by me.” He smirked. “Those are my only requirements.”
“Clarke.” Syl snapped, seeing the wheels turning in her friend’s head. Clarke silenced her with a well-placed glare.
“I accept. As leader of the Sky People, I offer myself.” Clarke declared. Bellamy looked pleased, and smiled kindly. It set her at ease, and she was grateful for it.
“Clarke, FUCK no.” Finn spat, standing. “Are you fucking crazy?”
“It’s not your decision, Finn. And I’m okay with it, so you should be too.” Clarke snapped. Raven tugged on her sleeve, shooting her a pleading look, and Clarke sighed. She looked to Bellamy apologetically. “Do you mind if we take a minute to talk?” She asked quietly. He had been scowling at Finn, jaw clenched. Clarke saw a movement from the corner of her eye, and her gaze dropped to his thigh where his fingers danced along the hilt of his knife. “I’ve already made my decision. I just have to convince my council that it’s the right one.” She murmured. He turned his gaze to her, softening around the edges, and nodded.
“Let us leave them to talk.” He commanded, standing. Anya was still gaping, eyes darting between Clarke and Bellamy. Octavia looked livid, but also anxious.
“Actually, could Murphy stay? He’s been helpful, and his opinion means a lot to me.” Clarke requested. Bellamy quirked the corners of his lips, almost a smile and completely comforting.
“Murphy.” He didn’t have to say anything else.
“Of course, Haihefa.” Murphy agreed. “I’d be honored.”
Bellamy, Anya, Octavia and Nyko swept from the room, leaving the five Sky People with Murphy. “What the fuck are you thinking, Clarke?” Finn snarled. “You want to marry that savage?”
“First of all, wanting has nothing to do with it. We need this. Second, it’s not your decision, it’s mine. Third, don’t call him a savage when he spent that entire fucking meeting telling Anya to back off.” She yelled. “We’re fucking blessed that they’re discussing an alliance when we kidnapped and tortured one of them. This was your idea!”
“I meant making peace! Not selling your body for an alliance!”
“I’m not selling my body, you misogynistic asshole. I’m making a decision to marry someone for the good of my people, and so that I can fucking sleep at night without screaming myself awake."
“Clarke, you can’t keep sacrificing yourself for us.” Syl murmured. “You need to think of yourself. We can find someone else to marry him.”
“I’m not going to ask anyone to do something that I’m unwilling to do myself. I’m not attached to anyone,” She ignored Finn’s irate hiss. “And it’s a good idea. A union between to leaders is a good idea. He has promised to take us in and care for us and for fuck’s sake we need that.” She sighed. “I need that.”
That seemed to convince Syl. “You’re sure you’re okay with this?” She asked quietly. “Married to him. To the king. Being the queen. Sharing a bed with him. Having a kid with him some day.”
“If having sex with Bellamy, King of the Glowing Forest is the price I have to pay for safety and my people’s wellbeing, I think I’m getting the better end of the bargain.” She joked, trying to lighten the mood. “Did you see those hands? I am completely okay with putting my life and body in them. I would have sex with him even if he couldn’t save us.”
Syl snorted. “Fair enough.”
“Are you fucking kidding? What if he hurts her?” Finn snarled. Raven nodded apologetically, though she was distinctly annoyed that her boyfriend was being so protective of his one-night-stand.
“Marriage might mean something different to them. It could mean that he owns you, and can do whatever he wants to you without retribution.” She said.
“Marriage here is a sacred partnership. It ties your lives together. You depend on one another. Bellamy would not have presented himself as a partner if he didn’t believe that he could be your partner in everything.” Murphy declared.
“And she’ll never be in love.” Monty murmured. Clarke flinched. “I support you, Clarke. If this is what you want to do, I’ll be behind you every step of the way. But you deserve to have someone that’s completely yours. Someone who thinks the sun rises and sets by you. You’ve already given us so much.”
Murphy cleared his throat uncomfortably. “He’ll probably kill me for telling you this, so keep it to yourselves.” He stared around them threateningly. Only Monty actually seemed intimidated. “Bellamy wouldn’t have asked you to bind yourself to him if he didn’t believe he could fall in love with you. He believes that attraction is instant and love is a journey or something.” He grimaced as though talking about this was causing him physical pain. “I’m not sure if you could see yourself loving him, so perhaps that’s something to take into account. But he’s heard stories about you. He’s met you. He’s obviously attracted to you. He was genuinely thrilled that you offered yourself for the union.”
“He looked pleasantly surprised at best.” Raven argued.
“Bellamy doesn’t like to show emotion during diplomatic negotiation. Feels that it gives away his position and puts him at a disadvantage.” Murphy waved away their concern. “He was very excited.”
“What do you mean, he was obviously attracted to her?” Finn demanded furiously. “She’s not some sex toy that he can buy with the promise of safety.”
Murphy snarled in irritation, finally reaching his breaking point. “Have you been listening to the conversation? Or are you so convinced that you’re in love with Clarke that you’re going to put effort into ruining your people’s chances? He’s attracted to her. He couldn’t keep his eyes off her. He wants to sleep with her, but won’t until she’s ready, except for the consummation ceremony. She won’t be a sex toy you immature, single minded fool. She will be our queen and his partner in everything. That is what he wants from her.” He bellowed.
They all stared at him in shock for a moment before Clarke collected herself. “Right, well that sounds great to me. I’m still in, and there’s nothing you can say or do that will change my mind.” She chirped.
“Nah, I’m with you.” Syl assured her, clapping her shoulder with her eyes still fixed on Murphy. Her gaze was morphing from shock to appreciation rapidly.
“If you’re sure, I’m with you Clarke.” Raven assured her. “And I’ll do everything in my power to make sure nothing goes wrong.”
“Ditto.” Monty chipped in. “You’re basically our queen already.” He chuckled. “But maybe you can negotiate for Nate to be one of Bellamy’s seconds? So that he doesn’t…I mean.” He blushed. “He only stepped up to take charge because his dad was in the guard. He doesn’t like leading, but he likes fighting and strategy and stuff. He’s good at it.”
“You think Bellamy would go for it?” Clarke asked. Murphy shrugged.
“No harm in asking. Most likely he’ll have one of his seconds train him before actually taking him on as a second.” He replied. “Besides, he’ll be putting all of your people into combat training. That is our way.”
“I’m not okay with this.” Finn growled.
“Well, it’s a good thing I don’t actually care about your opinion. You invited yourself, Finn. I didn’t want you here.” Clarke snapped.
“And you think Miller and Wells will be?” He bit back. “Wells will fight this tooth and nail, and Miller doesn’t want to give up power!”
“Miller basically grew up in the guard, so of course he won’t like pacifism, but he’ll do it because he’s tired and he wants his people to survive. Wells won’t fight this tooth and nail because unlike you, Wells respects me.” She hissed; low, dangerous, and purposeful. She was furious now—eyes narrowed into slits, teeth bared, and breath labored. “And let me tell you right now: If you do anything to screw this up and put all of our people back in danger, I will kill you myself. I’ve had it.”
Raven didn’t even defend him. She looked uncomfortable and a little afraid, but Clarke had a point and they needed this. If she was willing to go through with it, then nobody else had any right to judge or decide for her.
Finn looked like he’d swallowed a tank of gasoline, but stayed furiously silent. Clarke nodded to Murphy, who was smiling at her proudly. He quickly ran to fetch Bellamy and Octavia. Anya and Nyko had departed, since Skaikru’s fate no longer concerned them. “Your decision?” He asked, his voice an echoing rumble in the quiet room.
“Just as before. I accept, and offer myself to you.” Clarke stated firmly, holding his gaze. He smirked at her, clearly pleased, and his eyes took purchase of her—sweeping down the full length of her and back up to her eyes. She flushed under his perusal.
“I’m pleased to hear you haven’t been swayed. Perhaps we should discuss the terms of the alliance further between the two of us.” He suggested lightly. She nodded quickly. “Murphy, Octavia; please find our guests some food and entertainment. Perhaps take them by the training arenas to show them how we teach our own to fight.”
“Pleni, Octavia. We’ll be fine. This is a good thing.” He assured her. She bit her lip apprehensively but nodded, ushering her friends away. “Octavia is my sister. She worries about me sometimes.” He chuckled, glancing after her.
“She’s your sister?” Clarke paled. “I yelled at her. A lot. When she first came to us.”
He barked out a laugh. “She mentioned that. Said you were fiery.” He smiled down at her. He was tall. Jesus. “The room Anya provided me has a more comfortable sitting space, if you’d prefer.” He offered. She smiled tentatively and nodded.
He led her through the halls, asking her questions about her life. She told him about Wells and Miller. She talked about Syl and how they’d been friends before they’d been imprisoned. She talked about Raven and how she’d been so afraid to lose Finn that she’d thrown herself through space in a tin can to find him. She told him about Monty and Jasper, and how they were the closest thing the Ark had to siblings.
“What do you mean?” He frowned. “Are you all single children?”
“The Ark was incredibly strict. They had hundreds of laws, and all of them were to preserve the human race and save resources. Families weren’t allowed to have more than one child. If you had more than one, you’d be executed, and the second sibling would be imprisoned until adulthood.” She told him. He looked disgusted.
“You were a criminal?” He asked disbelievingly.
“After a fashion.” She grumbled.
“What was your crime?”
“Treason. My father found out that the mechanical system that provided us with air was on its last legs. We only had six months of air left, and he didn’t know what to do about it. He wanted to take the problem to the people, to ask them to help find a solution. The council—our leaders—ordered him not to, but he was going to anyways. I heard my parents arguing about it, and that’s how I found out.” She looked down, the memory of her father being sucked out of an airlock was already replaying in her mind. Bellamy ushered her into a room. His room. He sat her down on the little couch and sat next to her, ducking his head to catch her eyes.
“What happened, Clarke. How did you end up imprisoned?”
“My mother turned him in. He was arrested. And, since all crimes on the Ark committed by adults are capital crimes, he was executed. They put him in a room and opened a door into space. He was sucked out into nothingness.” His warm, heavy hand grasped her shoulder, dwarfing it. He ran his thumb across the edge of her collarbone that he could reach in soothing circles. “He’d made a video. It’s…a picture that moves and talks—an echo of something that was actually done or said.” She explained. “So he made one of himself, telling all of the citizens about the system failure. I didn’t realize that he hadn’t stopped recording when I came on screen and told him that I’d help him. So they knew I was a liability, and they locked me in solitary confinement. I was completely alone for a year. Until the day they sent us down here to see if the earth was survivable.”
“I’m terribly sorry for your loss, Clarke.” He murmured.
“The Ark doesn’t matter anymore.” She told him. “They’re gone. I can’t wait for them anymore. The ship that was supposed to bring me my mother is the crash that happened in Trikru territory just a week ago. She’s dead. The Ark has cut off contact. We don’t belong to them anymore. We can’t.”
“You won’t belong to anyone.” He assured her. “I hope you’ll consider me your partner, and that your people will find me a worthwhile leader. But even if they find me lacking, they’ll still have you.” She flushed.
“How is this going to work?” She asked, nervous. “I don’t think people will react the way Finn did, but I don’t expect they’ll be happy about an arranged marriage.”
“Then don’t call it one.” He smiled. “Call it a hard-won union.”
She cracked a grin. “Conniving.” She laughed.
“You’ll return to your camp, inform your co-leader and Wells. The unification ceremony will take place in Baltim. You’ll meet us there in a week, and your people will come the week after. There are purification rituals you must undergo, and your clothes for the ceremony must be made.” She nodded, following so far.
"While you are preparing in Baltim, your people must pack everything that they can. They must be ready to completely evacuate your camp. Our ceremony will be Anya’s deadline. Anyone left in the camp beyond that will likely be under a kill order. Murphy will be with them, and will assess how many of my people will need to assist in your evacuation.” She nodded again.
“Your people will only swear fealty once our unification is complete, so they’ll be swearing it to both of us. I won’t have them kneel to a ruler they don’t know.” He assured her. She smiled at him gratefully.
“Thank you, Bellamy.” He squeezed her shoulder, before letting go. “I actually have a request. Beyond the ones I’ve already made.” She winced. He laughed.
“We’re going to be partners, Clarke. You’ll be my houmon, and I’ll be yours. I should hope that we can ask things of each other.” He assured her.
“That’s actually…well, Miller. He’s my co-leader. He’s going to be stripped of power by this agreement. He doesn’t much like being in charge, but he does like to fight and strategize. I was hoping you’d take him as your second. Like Murphy.” She flushed when he considered her carefully, running his eyes over her face.
“Is he yours? If I hadn’t made this part of the agreement, would he—“
“No.” She shook her head, eyes wide. “No, Miller is in love with Monty. Don’t tell him I told you. He still thinks its a secret.” She blurted. “I don’t have anyone. I’m nobody’s. Nobody is mine. Except you, now.” She blushed horribly. “Please don’t let me keep talking.”
He was smiling delightedly. “I think I quite like it when you talk.” He chuckled. “I am willing to consider your co-leader as a second. I’d need to evaluate his current skill level. If he’s underprepared, I’ll have one of my seconds train him. Either way, if he’d like a strategy seat, I’m more than willing to provide him one. I want your people where they’re most useful.”
“We want to learn, too.” She told him. “We had classes on the Ark—Earth skills. Most of what we learned isn’t nearly good enough, and the rest of it was complete bullshit.” He barked a deep, surprised laugh. “I’m bitter as fuck that they dropped us down here with information that shitty.” She sighed. “I want to learn to hunt and fight. I want to learn how to identify plants and set traps and find water and ride a horse without wanting to amputate my leg.”
He was grinning at her again. “I think all those things can be arranged.” He agreed. “And as for what your people can provide, I have a proposal.” She gestured for him to continue. “It’s similar to a war council. Syl said that when Sky People are given information, you find solutions. We can have an open seminar. People can come to us with their most persistent problems, and Skaikru—operating like a war council—can form solutions based on the severity of the problem.” He looked at her expectantly, waiting for her opinion. She stared at him, lips parted. “Clarke?”
“You’re—“ She swallowed thickly. “You’re brilliant. That’s…it’s brilliant.” She breathed. He flushed, eyes darting around her face. “We’re lucky you’re around, Bellamy. I don’t think anyone else would have been this good to us.”
He smiled sheepishly and glanced down. “I’m one of the few clan leaders who believe we’re capable of more than constant violence over territory. It’s why I put in my support for the Commander. She wanted to unify the Twelve Clans under a single government, and start settling disputes with diplomacy as often as possible.” He told her. “There are things I believe in that are the same as the others. Jus drein, jus daun. Ge smak daun, gyon op nodotaim.”
“What does that mean?” She asked. “And when are you going to teach me to speak your language?” She laughed, prodding him in the arm with her index finger.
“The first—Jus drein, jus daun—means ‘blood must have blood’. Those who spill blood unjustly, must pay the price in kind.” He explained. “If one man were to kill five innocents, he would be required to suffer the pain of five deaths before dying himself.” Clarke grimaced, but understood. “The second—ge smak daun, gyon op nodotaim—means ‘get knocked down, get back up.’ We don’t give up unless we’re dead.” He placed a hand on her knee. “If you’d like me to teach you anything, I will. You’re to be my partner in everything. I’ll teach you Trigedasleng, I’ll teach you to fight, I’ll teach you to hunt, to ride a horse, whatever you want. I’m yours.”
Clarke couldn’t tear her eyes from his, and she could feel her entire body blushing. “Um…how about we start with the unification ceremony and what it entails.” She mumbled. “And uh…maybe a conversation about everything we’ll be to each other?”
“Of course. The ceremony details first?” She nodded. “A week before the ceremony, my people will fit you for your unification clothes and your armor and crown for when the ceremony is complete. There will be a three days of cleansing prior to the ceremony itself. My sister and a close friend of mine will be accompanying you to a hot spring outside the city. Normally my mother would have attended, but she passed away not long ago. Roma is like family, and will likely volunteer to go in her place. Together, they will help you cleanse your body and soul—I’ve never been on the women’s side so I don’t know the details—“ He smirked at her. She prodded him again, this time more of a jab.
“After cleansing, they will braid your hair. Hair is a status symbol—certain styles reflect certain clans. The intricacy of your braids indicates your standing. In ceremony, it’s especially important. Out of ceremony, it’s at your discretion. But most prefer to braid, since it keeps their hair back during combat.” He shrugged. “For the ceremony, Octavia and Roma will braid your hair, and it will be intricate. Then they’ll dress you, and you’ll journey straight from the spring to the common ground where the ceremony is held.”
“With Octavia and Roma?”
“With them.” He confirmed. “They mustn’t leave you alone at any time during the cleansing process. The groom’s family must ensure that the bride is honest and loyal. The same goes for me. You can pick two men to accompany my cleansing.”
“Miller and Wells. But Murphy needs to tell them what to do.” She chirped. He nodded.
“At the common ground, you’ll walk to where I’m seated, and sit across from me. We’ll lay both of our hands on the table, palms up. Our unifier will tie our right hands together, and cut our palms just below fourth fingers. She’ll take small strips of fabric and soak it in the blood on both our hands. Then she’ll have us tie them onto each other, on the fourth finger of our left hands. Then she’ll untie our hands, and we’ll be given paints. You’ll undress—not all the way,” He assured her. “Just down to your chest wrap and underwear, and your closest friends will paint you with whatever designs they please. Mine as well.”
“Why?” She gaped. He dropped his gaze back to the floor, suddenly uncomfortable. “Bellamy?” She ducked her head too, trying to catch his eyes.
“Consummation.” He uttered. “The first night, in order for the unification to be official, we must consummate. We are to leave for however long we please. Our people will celebrate and entertain each other in the common ground. When we return, our paint should be shared. Pressed into each other’s bodies.” She blushed beet red then.
“It is the one thing I don’t savor about this arrangement.” He grimaced. She flinched, and he immediately backtracked. “Not because I don’t want to have sex with you.” He barked, alarmed. “Because I don’t want you to feel forced to have sex with me.” He uttered uncomfortably, looking away again. “I prefer that the people sharing my bed are willing and enjoying themselves."
“That’s…actually really sweet.” She told him seriously. “But I don’t think that’s going to be a problem.” She admitted. His eyes snapped back to hers, darkening impossibly fast. “You’re impossibly attractive, you know. And smart. And fierce. I don’t see myself having any trouble with tumbling into bed with you.”
His eyes were positively molten now, burning from her eyes to her lips, down her neck and over her chest. “Maybe we should…test our compatibility.” He purred. Clarke let out a sort of strangled noise of surprise, but tensed as her heart rate sped. “May I?” He murmured, eyes fixed on her mouth. She nodded.
He raised his hand to cup her jaw. His hand was so broad that his thumb could easily brush her cheekbone while his palm rested on her jaw and and his fingers could rest on the back of her neck. His other hand rested gently on her thigh as he pulled her closer, enveloping her in his presence. He pressed his mouth against hers gently, just a touch longer than a peck. But then he did it again, and again, and again; each one getting longer and more demanding. She found herself chasing his lips each time he pulled away, and moaning softly when he finally fastened his lips to hers.
Soon, she was lost in the feeling of his teeth scraping over her bottom lip and his hands weaving into her hair. She whimpered when his tongue swept into her mouth and along the ridge of her teeth. She mewled when he bit down on her bottom lip again and wriggled closer. He dropped his hands from her hair and wrapped one around her waist and the other under her thighs, hauling her into his lap and clutching her closer, digging his fingers into her thigh and stroking his other hand over her side.
Her hands flew to his shoulders when he dropped his head to her shoulder and dropped hot, wet, biting kisses along her jaw and neck. The hand on her thigh was staying obediently still, only gripping slightly harder when she moaned or shifted her hips against him. His other hand had long left her waist, and was trailing up her ribcage in firm strokes, almost desperate to explore her.
Someone knocked on the door, and it was like being doused in ice water. “Bell, lunch is ready.” Octavia barked from outside the door.
“We’ll be there in a minute, O. Just some last minute details.” He called back. They heard her stomping away, and looked at each other sheepishly. “I don’t think intimacy will be a problem.” He supplied, grinning mischievously.
She shook her head vehemently. “Nope. I don’t think we will.” She blushed violently. “But, um…” She glanced at him shyly. “I’ve never wanted a political marriage. Just politics and sex? I uh…I want to be your partner. I want to know you and trust you.”
“Would you like to be formally courted?” He offered. “That actually might be best. It would give you more time, and Anya would appreciate it if you recognized our traditions.”
“What does that entail?”
“I give you a gift, and you accept it. From then, I will be responsible for proving that I am worth your affection.” He began softly, rubbing his thumb into her ribcage. “We spend time together alone and get to know each other informally. I perform a few ceremonial gestures to prove that I can take care of you, and you do the same for me. Then, when you feel I’ve proved myself, you give me a gift in return to show your acceptance. Then, the cleansing.”
“Sounds nice.” She admitted. “Like something that would help my people adjust, and your people truly see us coming together.” He looked down, and she couldn’t help but think his face had fallen. “And an excellent opportunity to get to know you. You know, before forever.” She said softly, tilting her head to catch his eyes. He smiled at her softly and pressed another kiss to the corner of her mouth, before picking her up so that he could work himself out from under her, and setting her back down on the couch.
He strode to his bag that lay at the foot of his bed. When he’d found what he was looking for, he came back to her, and settled on his knees before her. He held out a jacket. It was made from the softest black fur she’d ever felt in her life. There were straps sewn into it—clearly made for holding weapons. The inside was leather; soft and supple. “Will you accept my gift?” He murmured, staring up at her.
“I will.” She breathed, stroking the fur almost lovingly. “Will you put it on for me?” She asked, standing. He nodded, rising to his feet and helping her step into the coat. It wasn’t as big as she thought it would be. It fell just below her hips, and it wasn’t too loose. She could move in it. He helped her fasten the straps, starting from the bottom and ending at the one that crossed her sternum.
“It’s made to go under armor.” He told her quietly, brushing his fingers over some stray clasps and rings. “You’d strap a shoulder guard here. A breastplate here. We like to move quickly, so we don’t wear much else. I’ll have some thigh holsters made for you. And knee guards.” He smiled. “But the coat will keep you warm this winter, and you can wear it without armor.”
“Thank you.” She told him sincerely, running her hands over the fur. “It’s beautiful.” He blushed. “Did you…did you make this?” She gaped.
“I did. For Octavia. Don’t tell her, I’ll make her another one.” He chuckled. Her appreciation for it grew tenfold, and she redoubled her perusal of it’s contours. “You like it?”
“I love it.” She chirped. “Is there a mirror? Can I see?” He nodded, and pulled her into a washroom. It was beautiful—almost geometric with it’s straight fur panels and intentionally placed straps and buckles. She looked uncommonly dark in it, angular and threatening except for her hair, which fell in soft waves. She shoved her hands into her pocket to fish out the little piece of string she’d been using to tie her hair, and gathered it into a ponytail. That was better. Now she looked cohesive. She looked back to Bellamy, and flushed when she took in his dark stare as it roamed from her head to her toes and back again.
“Beautiful.” He rumbled. “We should go, before my Octavia comes back.” She nodded and went to him, standing on tiptoe to press a kiss to his cheek before darting from the washroom and out the bedroom door. He obviously chased after her.
When they reached the dining room they were both a little out of breath, and Clarke’s eyes were shining. “Sorry we’re late. I think we got everything figured out, though.” Clarke announced as she strolled back to her seat. She looked around the table, taking in the amusement (Raven, Murphy, and Syl), relief (Monty), disgust (Finn) and outright shock (Anya and Octavia). She faltered. “What?” She asked the wide-eyed lady-grounders.
“You…” Octavia she fluttered her hand awkwardly in Clarke’s direction, glancing between her and Bellamy. “Really?”
Bellamy rolled his eyes. “I can answer if you actually ask the question.” He griped.
“You’re formally courting? You gave her a gift?” Octavia squeaked.
“Yes.” He said simply, dropping into his chair with casual aggression. “But on a shortened deadline. Since courting is usually an indefinite period.” He added.
“How long.” Anya barked.
“We figured you should decide. Our minimum was two weeks, so that she could get her people ready to move and still undergo the cleansing.” Bellamy replied. “I’ll stay with her until she’s given me a gift in return. Then I can return to Baltim. That will give me the opportunity to meet her people and explain how we plan to move forward.”
“A month. No longer.” Anya stated firmly. Bellamy looked at Clarke, who nodded.
“Sounds fair.” He agreed for the both of them. He tucked into his meal, and Clarke followed suit. She shot Syl and Raven a nasty glare. They could get their questions in later. For now, she was hungry.
“You two warmed up to each other fast.” Raven drawled as they saddled their horses.
“Already? Really?” Clarke sighed.
“He’s giving you presents—“
“You came in all sweaty and out of breath—“
“We ran.” She rolled her eyes.
“You’re already speaking to each other with your eyes.” Syl purred. “Like you do with Miller, but all dark and flirtatious.”
“We’d already discussed it, so he already knew what I’d say.” Clarke barked. “Get on your horse and shut it.”
“Yes, your majesty.” Syl cackled, curtsying before scurrying back to her horse and climbing on its back. Clarke scowled before clambering onto the back of her own horse.
“You’re ready?” Bellamy asked, trotting up to her on his gigantic black stallion. She nodded quickly and once he was out of earshot, let out a tremendous agitated groan.
“What?” Raven demanded.
“His hands. His chest. His waist. Just…him! He’s so tall! He’s larger than life and even his fucking stallion looks like it was made for a god.” She whined.
“You’re attracted to him. Good.” Raven smiled. “I was worried.”
“You should still be worried. Since she’s going to be marrying a war lord.” Finn bitched. Clarke opted to ignore him.
“I think this is going to be really good.” Clarke murmured. “For our people, and for me. He suggested the courting period so that I could get to know him better.” She sighed. “I just hope Miller and Wells will have my back, too.”
“They want peace, Clarke, and they want to be safe. This is the option that gets us there.”
Raven was half right.
“What.” Wells growled. When they got back to camp with an entire contingent of Grounders, Clarke had pulled Miller, Wells and Jasper aside to discuss the terms of the alliance. Of course that meant they were now having a full delinquent council meeting, and Raven, Syl and Monty were there too.
“What Wells means,” Jasper began placatingly. “Is that he’s unclear about the conditions you just laid forth.”
“No. I mean you’re arranging your marriage?” Wells snapped. Clarke sighed and rolled her eyes heavenwards. “Clarke, come on. You don’t have to do this.”
“He’s right.” Miller grunted. She shot him a glare. “What? If you don’t want to, you don’t have to.”
“I want to.” She bit out.
“Okay, then.” Miller agreed. “And so we’ll be absorbed into his clan, and you’ll be his queen?”
“Sounds fine, as long as you’re okay with it.” Monty beamed at him.
“Clarke. Enough with all the self-sacrificing shit. No way.” Wells growled.
“Look, I want to do this. We’re…compatible.” She coughed. “And I think we’d lead well together. We’ve already got tons of great ideas, and we’ve only known each other for like, three days. We need this.”
“Wells.” Syl snapped. “We’ve already had this argument with Spacewalker. We’re not having it again. She’s happy, we’re getting what we need, it’s happening. Now the question is, are you going to support her or make her miserable by being an asshat? Because she told Finn that you’d support her because you respect her. Was she wrong?” She demanded.
Wells grimaced, but his shoulders slumped in defeat. “Fine. But the second you need to bail—“
“You’ll be the first to know.” Clarke agreed. “I negotiated for you and Miller to be part of the strategy council. I asked for Miller to be trained as one of his seconds, if that’s what you want.” Miller smiled at her gratefully. “I would have asked for you, Wells, but fighting isn’t really your thing.” He nodded, still a little upset. “Good. Last thing—you two will be preparing Bellamy for me in a cleansing ritual before the wedding.”
They were silent for a long moment. “What?” Miller barked.
“I don’t really know the details. You’ll have to ask Murphy. All I know is that two women from his family will be cleansing me, and two men from mine need to cleanse him.” She winced.
“And you picked us?” Miller asked incredulously.
“You’re the closest I have to family.” She shrugged. “Jasper and Monty too, but you know. Leadership.” She coughed. Wells and Miller both looked dumbstruck, then heartbreakingly flattered, then awkward as hell. Jasper and Monty were grinning at her like she was a big bag of weed, and she didn’t quite know how to handle it.
“Of course we’ll do the cleansing thing for you.” Wells grumbled. Miller agreed with a gruff nod, and she supposed that the sentimentality of the moment was a little bit too much for their male psyches to handle without posturing.
“Do we get to meet him?” Miller asked. Clarke smirked.
“Oh, now we’re doing the protective-male-sibling thing?” Raven snorted. “Okay guys.” Clarke’s smirk cracked into a grin.
“I’ll go get him.” She chuckled, ducking out of the tent. She pulled him in a moment later. “Bellamy, this is Nathan Miller, my co-leader; and this is Wells Jaha. He’s like my brother.” She smiled up at him. “Boys, this is Bellamy.”
Both Miller and Wells fixed Bellamy with a steely gaze, and he waited silently for them to pass judgement. “You hurt her, I’ll kill you. Then I’ll hire Raven to burn everything you love to the ground.” Wells barked.
Raven cocked her head. “Aw. That’s sweet.”
Bellamy nodded. “Of course. I’d expect nothing less.” He turned to Miller expectantly.
“Wells said it all, man.” Milled uttered. Bellamy nodded, glancing down at Clarke.
“He doesn’t say much.” She shrugged.
“Miller’s more physical in his communication.” Syl agreed, grinning at Monty. Monty, despite his efforts, blushed so hard that he practically turned purple. Miller just glowered at her.
“Sounds like Murphy.” Bellamy said absently, oblivious to the energy in the room until Jasper choked on his laughter, because of the way Clarke was grinning at him. His head snapped back up to see Syl a little starry-eyed and dazed, and Miller smirking at her like he’d won an argument without saying anything. “What did I say?”
Clarke leaned up to whisper in Bellamy’s ear. “Syl’s wanted to crawl into bed with Murphy since he taught her to skin rabbits.” She chortled. He looked both surprised and unsurprised, disgusted and amused.
He turned back to Syl. “I don’t know if you just want to have sex with him or if you want him to be yours, but if its the first, you can just show up in his tent and tell him what you want. He’s straightforward.” He suggested.
“Thanks for the tip.” Syl choked.
“If it’s the latter, do the same thing, but stick around.” He shrugged.
“I like him. You can keep him.” Raven grinned maliciously. Clarke flashed her a thumbs up.
“Cool. I was gonna keep him anyways.” Clarke retorted. He looked down at her, pleased. “So now that this meet-the-family moment has passed, shall we address the rest of our kids?” She asked Miller. He scoffed.
“Don’t you dare call those miscreants my kids, Griffin.” He demanded before pushing out of the tent haughtily.
“Don’t talk about our kids like that, Miller!” She yelled after him, grin consuming her face. Bellamy was looking at her oddly, warring between amused, confused and jealous.
“Oh my god, SHUT UP!” He bellowed back. He got more muffled, but they could hear him bellowing at the delinquents to get to dropship door—their de facto meeting area since they’d landed.
Once they were gathered, Clarke and Miller stood before them; their council stood along with Bellamy, Murphy and Octavia in a neat row behind them. “We have an announcement.” Clarke called over the symphony of whispers. They fell silent. “Our negotiations for an alliance were successful. In under a month, all of us will be moving—“
There was an uproar—a ruckus of protests. Clarke knew the vein in Miller’s temple was throbbing before he even started yelling “SHUT THE FUCK UP AND LISTEN.” He bellowed. They fell silent again.
“We will be moving. We fell on the border between two of the local clans. Trigedakru wants us gone, and Trishanakru is willing to take us in. We will be moving to their main settlement, Baltim. They’ll help us bring everything with us. Even our people outside the wall.” She said the last part quietly, and a stillness fell over the delinquents. “This alliance is a good thing. They’ll be teaching us to hunt and fight, how to survive winter, and more. They’re taking us in and teaching us. In return, we’re going to help them with technology and agriculture. We’re going to help them to disable the acid fog, which is a weapon. Finally, grounders solidify alliances by marriage.”
The uproar burst forth again violently. Miller growled, lifted his rifle and fired two shots into the air. “Listen.” He snarled. Bellamy gave him an approving once-over before turning his attention back to Clarke.
“I will be marrying Trishanakru’s king.” She glanced over her shoulder at him, and he stepped forward to stand just behind her shoulder. “This is Bellamy. In under a month, we will be following his laws and living with his people. I will be his wife.”
“My queen.” He interrupted. She flushed a little but nodded.
“His queen. We’re uniting.” She declared.
There was silence among them as the crowd took in their leaders’ faces. Miller looked resolute beside her, and Wells looked calm. Finn looked furious, but Raven had the fire of loyalty burning in her eyes, and so did Syl. Monty and Jasper were smiling.
“You shouldn’t have to do this.” A voice rose up. Clarke let her gaze fall on Harper. “You shouldn’t have to give up everything to keep us safe.” There was a series of affirmative shouts.
“What if he hurts you?” Monroe cried.
Clarke held up her hand. “I am choosing to put my faith in Bellamy and his people. I believe we can do better. I believe that with them, we can thrive. I want to go to sleep without waking up screaming. I want to explore without being afraid. I want to feel safe, and I want that for all of you. I believe with everything I have left that we can achieve that with their help. And that they’ll take care of us until we can take care of them too.” She swept her gaze across the 100, eyes lingering on the few who seemed most unsure. “I’m doing this because I want to. For myself, and also for you—not for you despite myself.”
Harper and Monroe, who Miller had affectionately termed Gunner and Slugger, seemed cautiously at ease. Bellamy placed a broad, warm hand on her shoulder and she smiled up at him. That seemed to help the tension bleed from the rest of them.
“We’ll need to start packing our things now. Most importantly, we need to take the Dropship to scrap. If you have any engineering or mechanical experience, report to Raven. Everyone else come see me or Miller to talk about your responsibilities over the next month.”
The crowd divided—about twelve standing off to the side to wait for Raven and Monty, and the rest moving closer to the platform to talk to Miller or Clarke. Clarke looked up at Bellamy, and he looked proud. She smiled. Maybe they could do this.
By the end of the day, Clarke and Miller were both pleased by their progress. They’d been split into multiple brainstorming groups, and each had been assigned a leader to report to.
Miller had been put in charge of the strategy group—working with a Trishanakru warrior to discuss terrain and advantageous tactics that they’d be able to pursue with new tech.
Wells had been put in charge of the group dealing with materials collection and recycling, discussing how repurposing systems and scavenging could be applied on a wider scale.
Jasper and Syl were in charge of the chemical process group, working with grounders to find nearby mineral deposits and determining how they could be utilized. And providing better alcohol for the wedding and any other upcoming celebrations.
On her own, Syl had taken on planning for training group and insisted on Octavia and Murphy’s assistance. She, and a group of the older delinquents, planned out how the younger kids would be trained, and determined what knowledge took precedence. They also planned out how the older kids would be integrated and taught Trishanakru’s methods, from healing to hunting.
Raven and Monty took on what seemed like everything else, from architecture and agriculture to engineering. There were kids working on seed collection and identification, greenhouse planning, heating designs, weapons enhancements, bombs, long-term shelter and more. To be fair, they split those responsibilities fairly equally with the rest of their leaders, but they were still the show-runners.
They were gathered for dinner now. Some of Bellamy’s hunters had gone out while they’d rallied, and there was a beautifully skinned, perfectly roasted deer on the spit over their fire. Clarke was huddled with Octavia and Bellamy, discussing something that looked lighthearted. Syl watched them fondly, glad that Clarke looked less burdened. Miller dropped into the seat next to her and nudged her shoulder.
“Hey.” She smiled at him. “How’s your strategy think tank going?”
“It’s going.” He grunted. “What about you teach? How’s our education gonna go?”
“Not gonna lie, it’ll be brutal.” She muttered. “Just the strength conditioning alone is going to put us on our asses for months. Then the combat training is going to leave us bruised and bloody. The hunting is going to give our adrenal glands one hell of a workout. Field medicine and healing are going to be easiest, but it involves a whole lot of blood and gore. Cooking might be nice.”
“Doesn’t it?” She asked flippantly. Her eyes skimmed back over the crowd, flitting over the soon-to-be royal trio with a smile, then to Raven, Wells and Finn. “It’s weird to think that we’re going to be okay.” She said softly. Miller grunted in agreement, slinging an arm over her shoulder.
Monty and Jasper joined them a little while later, and Miller took to awkwardly staring and making poorly-conceived jokes in a terrible attempt to flirt with Monty. Syl continued her perusal of the crowd, until her eyes landed on Murphy. He was sitting alone, also examining the crowd.
Miller nudged her again. This time, he was smirking when she turned to him. “What?” She snapped.
“Just go talk to him.” He snickered. She snarled. “Hey, he’s…not my type, but not bad looking either. Go get him tiger.”
“Shut up.” She grunted even as she stood. Miller smirked up at her, and Monty and Jasper gave her identical thumbs up. She chanced glances at Clarke, Raven, and Wells and regretted it immediately, because they were all smirking at her too. “You all suck. And you were singing a very different tune a week ago. You said he was going to kill me.”
“It’s weird to see you have a crush instead of just…thirst.” Jasper commented mildly. “That’s why we’re enthused.”
“How do you know I’m not just thirsty but also afraid he’ll murder me for suggesting it?” She shot back.
“Because the notion of being murdered didn’t even cross your mind when you pulled your shit on the Ark.” Miller barked. “And we’re not blind. Anyways, you’re much less likely to get beheaded now than you were before. There’s an alliance now.”
Syl had been arrested for attacking (and killing) a man who was in the process of assaulting a young woman in Mecha. Her intentions had been noble, but the actual killing bit had been the straw that broke the camel’s back. “That was in defense of someone else. This is literally only for my libido.” She denied. “Different circumstances.”
“For god’s sake, just go.” Miller pushed her hip. She glared at him, but loped over to Murphy anyways. He watched her warily as she approached.
“Hi.” She smiled. He nodded at her, giving her a once-over. “You’re alone again.”
“Nobody will tell you that socializing is a specialty of mine.” He snorted.
“I told you I wouldn’t take no for an answer once there wasn’t the risk of Octavia coming back with a kill order.” She reminded him, smiling hesitantly. “Eat with me?”
He continued to examine her. Syl knew that she was attractive, objectively speaking. She might not be everyone’s type, but she was still aesthetically pleasing. Dark hair that dropped to her waist, pin straight and glossy. Dark eyes framed by thick lashes. Sharp facial features—angular cheekbones, defined yet narrow jaw, narrow nose. Full lips. Her body was narrower than she’d like. Sometimes she wished she had Clarke’s body—full, rounded hips and more-than-a-handful breasts. She had narrow hips and her tits were nothing to sneer at, but they weren’t big by any means. She still drew stares, though, and she could usually get what she wanted.
It would help if she knew what she wanted.
“I’m not sure why you think affixing yourself to me is a good idea,” Murphy began, voice a little sharp around the edges. “but it’s not. I’m not looking for friends. I have plenty. I’m here because Bellamy asked.”
She felt like she’d been stung, but she recovered quickly. “Well we’re going to be working together for the foreseeable future. It’s better that we get to know each other so we can work better together.” She swept her gaze down his body, strategy evolving after his declaration. “And I’m not looking for new friends, either. I’ve got a pretty good group. But I am looking for a new bedfellow.” He didn’t want a relationship, friend or otherwise? Fine. But she knew how to nail down a conquest.
He frowned. “That’s not a word I’m familiar with.”
She smirked. “I want to fuck you, Murphy.” She crooned. This was her element, and she was completely unashamed. “Preferably more than once.”
“In that case,” he smirked back at her, icy expression fading. “I think we can work something out.” She grinned in response.
Clarke looked up from her conversation with Bellamy and Octavia, eyes connecting with Miller. He smirked and flicked his eyes somewhere to his right, and Clarke followed his gaze until she saw Syl. She observed, and watched as her friend’s stance changed from cautious to downright predatory. “Looks like Syl’s getting what she wants.” She chuckled.
“What?” Bellamy looked up, scanning for Syl. “Oh.” He grimaced. Octavia looked too, and grimaced harder.
“Syl wants Murphy? Poor girl.” She snorted. Clarke frowned. “Murphy’s not one for relationships. I don’t think he’s ever been in one.” She glanced at Bellamy for confirmation and he nodded.
“Well thankfully, Syl isn’t one for relationships either. At least, not since she was locked up.” Clarke chuckled. “I suggested that she might be a nymphomaniac. She’s probably the most sexual person I know. And she got hot for Murphy after watching him skin rabbits, so I’m not sure that a relationship is what she’s going for.”
Octavia grimaced again, deeply disgusted. “Skinning rabbits?”
“Something about the careful single-mindedness he showed when skinning rabbits that would translate well in bed. And his hands.” Clarke shrugged. Octavia gagged exaggeratedly, and Bellamy’s face crumpled in distaste. She met Miller’s gaze again, distinctly amused. He grinned back.
“Clarke.” Clarke jolted, whipping around in her seat to stare at Finn. “We need to talk.”
“I’m actually already in the middle of a conversation.” She stated. “Find me later if you need to.”
“I need to talk to you now.” He insisted. Clarke shot a glance at Raven and found her chatting with Wells about something that looked work-related, blissfully unaware that her boyfriend was practically perched on Clarke’s shoulder.
“Alright, meet me in the Dropship. I’ll get everyone else.” She said coolly. If he wanted to talk to her, it had better be about something that involved all of them.
“Just you.” He tried. She rolled her eyes.
“Nope. I’ve been forbidden from attempting solo-responsibility. I’ve got enough on my plate.”
“Then I’m definitely not interested. Talk to Raven instead.” She barked. Raven looked up at that, and her expression darkened. She shot the darker girl a little grimace in apology.
Finn, realizing that he now had Raven’s full attention, skulked away. She flicked her gaze back at Miller, whose mouth was set in a grim line. She rolled her eyes again for his benefit. He twitched his head in Finn’s direction. ‘Do you need me to take care of it?’
She flashed him a small smile. ‘No need.’
“You and Miller are very close.” Octavia observed. Clarke suppressed a smile at the tiny note of disapproval. Bellamy just watched, eyes flicking between Clarke, Miller, and Raven.
“We are now. We grew up together, but he was locked up before me. He actually started doing things I disapproved of way before he was caught and imprisoned. And when I was arrested, I was put in solitary confinement. He actually resented me when we first came down. We both felt it was our responsibility to lead, but we had different ideas about what that meant. And he was more popular because he hadn’t been kept away from everyone else, and everyone else saw me as the privileged daughter of the people who locked them up. He resented Wells, too. Got into some nasty fights with him. We’re really lucky that Syl was here, actually.”
“Syl was friends with all three of us. She got arrested way before any of us, but I insisted on visiting her as often as possible, and Wells always went with me. We used to go with Miller too, but once we had our falling out he would visit her on days he knew I wouldn’t be there. She kind of yanked us back together once she got tired of us practically attacking each other.”
“What did they get arrested for?” Bellamy asked quietly.
“Miller was arrested for theft. He stole a holopad—kind of a handheld library—from one of the Guardsmen. It was especially frustrating because he could have just borrowed his dad’s, but he chose to nick one from someone else.” She sighed.
“Killing a man who was forcing himself on a young woman.” She sneered. “Personally, I would have bumped up her food rations and given her a nicer apartment. But the Ark is awful, and doesn’t actually consider context when handing down sentences.” Octavia hummed in agreement, and Bellamy looked both pleased by her assessment and outraged for Syl simultaneously. God she liked him.
“What about your friend Wells?” Octavia pressed. Clarke bit her lip.
“He came down for me. He heard that the Ark was sending the prison unit to Earth, and he committed a crime to get a spot on the Dropship.” She smiled softly. “He actually let me blame him for my father’s death so that I wouldn’t hate my mother. I actually have Finn to thank for that. He pointed out that Wells, despite being incredibly straightforward, was awkward and evasive whenever I started yelling at him about my dad. I realized that just because he was the only person I told, didn’t mean he was the only person he knew. That my mom was the reason my father was executed.”
As much as she hated being grateful to Finn for anything, facts were facts.
“Clarke?” A timid voice sounded behind her. She turned, and found the youngest delinquent staring at her nervously.
“Hi Eleanor.” Clarke smiled gently. “Everything okay?”
“I was trying to move a box, and I cut my hand. Could you help me?” She asked in a small voice, eyes flicking nervously between her and Bellamy. Bellamy offered her a small smile, and she seemed to relax.
“Of course.” Clarke assured her. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.” She told her new companions. She ushered Eleanor to the Dropship, and Bellamy watched her go.
“You like her.” Octavia accused.
“You don’t?” He retorted.
“Oh, I do. But not the same way you do.” She scolded. “You’ve known her for four days. She’s not even close to earning the look on your face.”
“There’s no look on my face, O.” He sighed.
“If you say so, big brother.” She eyed him warily. “But there are a lot of people here who give her a similar look. She’s one of those people. One of the ones that the world falls in love with, just before she leads them into fire.”
“She’d do anything for them. It’s no surprise that they’re devoted to her.” He remarked ruefully. “My eyes are open.”
“I’ll take your word for it until proven otherwise.” She sighed. “I was surprised that you chose to formally court her. You take that seriously.”
“Marriage is serious.” He snorted.
“But it could have been a political arrangement. You’re a romantic. It means more to you than you realize.”
“I actually do realize.” He told her. She remained skeptical, but allowed the conversation to end.
Syl returned to her friends slowly, reluctant to leave Murphy’s side. Miller raised an eyebrow. “Eating dinner with you guys. Sneaking into his tent later.” She shrugged.
“That good enough for you?” Monty asked. She smiled at him.
“For now.” She assured him. They all looked skeptical, but didn’t press her on it. “Anyways, did Jas fill you in on the latrine project?”
“We are about to eat dinner.” He groused.
“Which will end up in the latrines. It’s a logical line of thought.” Jasper offered.
Miller sighed heavily, as though burdened beyond his years. “You’re all disgusting.” Syl laughed at him. “Fine. Tell me about the latrines.” As though he could sense Clarke’s reappearance (which, honestly, maybe he could), he shot a pleading glance over his shoulder. Clarke grinned at him, moving to Bellamy and Octavia to tell them that Miller needed help, before coming to join them.
“Why so sad?” She cooed. Miller glared at her.
“Syl and Jas want to talk about latrines before dinner.” He said, grimacing. Clarke looked somewhere between disgusted and amused.
“I kinda hoped we were talking about Syl’s doomed romance and unquenchable thirst.” She replied dryly.
Syl frowned. “Doomed?”
“Apparently, Murphy doesn’t really do relationships.” Clarke explained. “According to them.” She jerked her head at the siblings. “Or at least, he hasn’t before. But neither have you, so maybe your mutual and continuous thirst will just make a relationship convenient.”
“I’m willing to figure that out later. After I screw him.” Syl allowed. “Sex and survival are my main priorities.”
“In that order?” Miller drawled.
“Yeah, probably.” She chuckled. “Hey, what did Finn want?”
Clarke grimaced, annoyed. “To talk to me alone about personal stuff.” She scanned the campfire for him, before continuing. “I’m worried he’ll do something to sabotage this. Seriously, we’d known each other for ten days when we…made our mistake. He’s acting like he has some sort of claim over me now.”
If Clarke noticed their darkening expressions, she didn’t say anything. None of them had known Finn and Raven on the Ark, so their relationship had been a surprise. Once Raven had become one of their lifelines—one of the people they would step in front of bullets for—their distaste had only grown. Finn was useful—a good tracker and a fearless explorer. Good at identifying resources and flying under the radar. But he’d know that Raven was alive and that there was a possibility she’d come down for days before the wristbands had gone out. He’d been flirting with every girl that looked at him sideways since they’d landed.
Miller couldn’t help but think that he’d attached himself to Clarke because he thought she was a princess who needed a knight in shining armor. After all, that’s why he was with Raven. He’d saved her over and over again on the Ark. The guy had a hero complex, and they didn’t need that. Clarke was her own hero and now, Raven was too.
“I’ll tell Raven to keep an eye on him.” He muttered.
From the corner of his eye, Bellamy stood and moved towards the fire. He watched as he pulled a knife—one where the hilt and blade were the same length—from his waist and started carving and prodding the deer over the fire pit. Then he looked up and caught Miller’s eye, nodding once.
“Time to eat, everyone.” He barked.
One of the things that made him proud—for some reason—was that they’d carved bowls. It was such a little thing. They’d made weapons and figured out how to purify rainwater, but the bowls had been a group effort. Something they’d done so they could stop eating off sticks. With it had come an agreement that mealtimes were peaceful, because they worked hard to make those meals happen.
The 100 lined up, and Miller, Clarke, and Syl helped Bellamy carve and serve them. That was another unspoken rule in camp—one that had been fought tooth and nail once it was noticed. Leaders ate last. If they didn’t have enough for everyone, they didn’t deserve it. Harper and Monroe had thrown a fit once they noticed. Others had taken to bringing them snacks during the day out of sheer guilt. But it motivated them, so they stuck to their guns on the matter.
They got most of the line before it happened. Someone took a bowl from Clarke. “Thanks Grounder Pounder.” Dax sneered. Clarke’s mouth dropped open in shock and she looked like she’d been slapped.
“What the fuck did you just say?” Miller growled.
“You heard me.” He looked smug. “That’s what she is. We heard Finn telling Pascal what happened. That you probably already screwed him so you could cling to power.”
Bellamy let out a soft growl of fury, but Octavia grabbed his arm. Syl pushed herself between Clarke and Dax, flanked by Wells. “You don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about.”
“Literally everything Clarke has done since we landed has been for the good of the group.” Wells snapped.
“So she’s screwing a grounder for us? We all know how she is about her knights in shining armor. Gets all hot for them.” Dax snickered. Behind him, Mbege, Pascal and one of the other girls, Vex, chortled too. Behind them, Octavia’s face was morphing into a scowl, and Bellamy looked somewhere between furious and suspicious.
“Shut the fuck up, Dax.” Syl growled. Raven was approaching now, and Miller, Monty and Jasper were closing the perimeter around them. “I’m not going to let you give her grief for doing what she has to do to save us all. And I’m definitely not gonna let you give her shit for finding a solution that won’t make her miserable.”
“What’s the matter, Dax?” Raven sneered maliciously. “If she’s saved your skin, why does it matter if she’s a grounder pounder? Or did you catch Clarke-itis, too? Is that it? Are you jealous?”
“Pretty sure if I picked up a scalpel for her she’d spread her legs. Nothing to be jealous of.” He smirked. “She’s too easy for that.”
Syl snorted. “Like you’re one to talk. You pretty much came before I took my shirt off. If she’s easy, you’re a hair trigger.”
Dax’s expression darkened. “Yeah, that sounds right. That must be why you were begging me like a little bitch.”
“Everyone knows that I get horny when I’m stressed, Dax. I would have begged a pinecone if it were sentient. You were free, and you were angry. That didn’t make your performance worthwhile.” She laughed.
And then he lunged for her.
Chapter 6: Chapter 6
Lemons ahoy. Merry belated Christmas, fam!
Syl staggered back, clutching her face where Dax had slapped her. Her eyes narrowed. He was still coming for her. Wells pushed Clarke back as Dax swung and Syl ducked, ramming her shoulder into his stomach as hard as she could. Bellamy pulled Clarke back further, tucking her behind him and raising his hand to stop Murphy when he unconsciously moved towards them.
“Fair fight.” He barked. Murphy grimaced, but nodded curtly. Syl shot him a quick reassuring grin. Bellamy glanced at Clarke, and was surprised to find that she looked pleased.
“I’m not worried about her. She’s killed a full grown man when she was fourteen.” She reminded him. “And I appreciate the chance to prove our potential.” He nodded, impressed.
Syl twisted out of the way when Dax grabbed for her again, slamming her elbow into his ribs as she went before kicking the back of his knee, making them buckle. “All this because I insulted your dick game?” She taunted. “It’s a miracle you haven’t attacked more people.” He was back on his feet a second later, swinging at her wildly.
Clarke scanned the crowd. Raven had disappeared, presumably to give Finn a piece of her mind. Jasper looked like he was taking bets, but Monty was watching anxiously, clutching Miller’s arm. She was less concerned with her friends than with the delinquents who looked like they might believe what Dax was saying. She stepped out from behind Bellamy to stand at his side. “From behind you, it looks like what he’s saying was true.” She muttered when he shot her a questioning glance. “I need to be next to you.” He nodded and turned back to the fight.
Octavia snarled in fury when Dax pulled out his knife. “Seim gonplei!” She bellowed, turning furious eyes to Bellamy. He gave her a quick nod, and she launched herself forward, forcing Dax to his knees and twisting his arm to force the knife from his hand.
“It is dishonorable to change the terms of your fight after the fight has begun.” Bellamy barked. “One on one fights are not the same as battles, they come with terms. Breaking those terms is grounds for execution, should the other fighter choose.” He settled his eyes on Syl. Her face was bloodied—Dax had landed a punch that was hard enough to split skin, and a bruise was blooming over her cheekbone. “It’s your decision.”
Syl glared down at Dax. “If you ever suggest that Clarke isn’t doing what’s best for us ever again, I’ll end you.” She snarled. He glared at her mutinously, but the fight had seeped from his shoulders and she could tell that he’d surrendered. “Let him go.” She told Octavia, who nodded and released him, pushing him away disgustedly so that he landed face down in the dirt.
Then, Bellamy spoke just loud enough that he could be heard if everyone remained quiet. “Your leaders came to me for an alliance. If we were the only clan, your technology and additional warriors would have been enough to create it. But we’re not. There are thirteen clans, and they all want to kill you. Without a marriage of our clans, no matter how hard you fight or how much you offer, you’ll be outsiders, and the first to be attacked if the coalition separates. Clarke is marrying me to unite us. So that an attack against Skaikru is an attack against Trishanakru, and the consequence will be a war that we will almost certainly win.” He glared around the crowd. “The suggestion was mine. As a result, your leaders will continue to speak for you, and Clarke can continue to take care of you. You should be grateful that she’s giving up her freedom to choose so that you will survive.”
The doubtful few looked away in shame, and those who’d been concerned for Clarke’s wellbeing, like Harper and Monroe, looked suddenly at ease. “Eat.” Clarke insisted. “Syl, I need to check you out.”
“It’s just a scratch!” Syl whined. Clarke fixed her with an unimpressed and impatient stare. “Ugh, fine.” She grumbled.
Bellamy turned to Miller as they left. “What’s Clarke-itis?” Miller winced.
“I’ll be honest, I kinda hoped you didn’t hear that.” He admitted. Octavia’s eyes narrowed suspiciously. “It’s Clarke.” He shrugged. “She’s all violent passion and tender care and intense as fuck but kind and sweet. She’s…it’s hard not to be in love with her.” He shrugged. “I’m more bent than a fucking circle and I’m a little in love with her.”
“Gay. I favor men.” He shrugged. “If nothing else, she inspires this bone-deep loyalty, thats…I mean, you saw it. Syl was willing to get into a knife fight because someone insulted her. Wells let her think that he’d gotten her father killed so that she wouldn’t hate her mom. Raven’s in love with Finn, but definitely willing to put him in danger to keep Clarke safe. I’m pretty sure the younger kids call her ‘mom’ behind her back, and that the older members are mostly in love with her but also terrified of her.”
“But she’s not with any of them?” Octavia demanded. Miller shook his head emphatically.
“She isn’t. She’s been too…well, terrified, to even consider it.”
“What about that boy—Finn?” She asked, eyes narrow.
“Finn is an ass, and a complete idiot. Don’t waste your time worrying about him, and definitely don’t take him seriously unless it has something to do with hunting. That’s pretty much all he’s useful for.” Miller waved her off. “Nobody here has any claim to her.”
Bellamy seemed at least temporarily satisfied, and Miller hoped it would be enough.
“While I appreciate the help, that was pretty stupid.” Clarke murmured as she dabbed moonshine over Syl’s split cheekbone.
“He had it coming.” She grumbled.
“Oh, definitely. But it probably could have waited a couple more weeks. After you start training and get better at dodging hits.” She smirked.
“Well, fuck you too.”
Syl’s back was facing the dropship door, so she couldn’t see Murphy when he slid past the flap carrying two bowls, but Clarke could. Her lips twitched in amusement, but kept her voice even as she spoke. “Hey, if he’d done more damage, all your hard work would be wasted. If he’d, say, broken your rib, it’d be a lot harder for you to get Murphy to use those hands that you like so much.”
Syl scoffed. “Like I’d let that stop me. He gave me the green light, so there’s nothing keeping me out of his tent tonight.”
From where she was standing, Clarke could see Murphy’s gaze darkening even as he blushed. “Well good thing it won’t be an issue. You’re officially cleared for rough handling.” She winked. Syl stared at her in shock. Clarke Griffin doesn’t wink. “Bellamy and I are having dinner together, so I gotta go. Bye!” She flounced from the room and Syl’s eyes followed her incredulously, until she finally realized that Murphy was there.
“Oh.” Her eyes widened, before narrowing dramatically. “That sneaky little bitch.” She grumbled. “How long have you been standing there?”
Murphy smirked. “Long enough to know that nothing will keep you out of my tent tonight. And that you like my hands.” He leered.
Syl considered him, eyes sweeping his form, suppressing a shiver of delight as his gaze darkened and his gaze raked over her in return. “We should eat.” She murmured. He nodded absently, holding a bowl out for her.
“You fought well.” He commented, eyes still devouring her. “You have potential.” She couldn’t help but feel like there was subtext there.
She shrugged. “It’s easy when you’re up against someone who’s all size and rage with no strategy. They make more mistakes.”
“They’re also harder to predict.” He cautioned. This time, he was serious. “You need to learn to read people’s movements. How the beginning of a move will translate to its follow-through.” She nodded, chewing thoughtfully. She’d always searched for patterns, no matter what the situation. In fights, she’d wait long enough to find her opponent’s preferred sequence before slipping around it. She told him as much. “That’s a good strategy, too. But people become chaotic when they panic.”
They ate quietly, exchanging few words and many glances. Syl was practically vibrating with anticipation, and could only talk about fighting and politics for so long without getting distracted. She finished eating first and absentmindedly sucked the juices from the deer meat from her fingers. Murphy’s eyes snapped to her fingers where they rest against her mouth, and a bolt of desire shot through her once she realized. She swallowed thickly.
“I need to go talk to Wells and Miller for a minute. I’ll meet you in your tent?” She wasn’t sure how she got the words out, since she was basically choking on her own lust. He nodded smoothly, and she envied his composure.
She exited the dropship briskly, heading back towards the campfire. She nodded to Miller quickly to let him know that she wanted to chat, before honing her gaze on Clarke. She and Bellamy were huddled together, murmuring about something or another, and she strode directly up to her. “Aren’t you supposed to be doing...someone?” Clarke smirked up at her. Syl glowered, reached down, and flicked the blonde on the head. “Hey!”
“That’s for not warning me that he was right behind me when I was talking. Uncalled for, Griffin.”
“Like you wouldn’t have said the exact same thing if you’d known he was there.” She grumbled. “But fine. Sorry for helping you get your rocks off.”
“Apology accepted.” Syl sniffed. “And now, I have to talk to Miller, and then I can get my rocks off.”
“Have fun!” Clarke called after her. Syl flipped her off as she strode away.
“I just wanted to know that you’re going to need to replace me on guard duty tonight.” She told Miller briskly. “I’ll be indisposed.”
“I figured. We’ve already got Vex at your post.” Miller smirked. “Don’t strain anything, tiger.”
“What is with you people today?” She barked.
“You’re getting laid. Clarke’s getting married. We’re eating good food, and not getting killed every three seconds. Morale is up.”
“Well it sucks, and I’ve earned the right to fuck without being made fun of, Nate.” She poked him in the chest. Behind him, Wells nodded sagely.
“Ah yes, friendship. Unyielding and completely unsarcastic support of one another. I knew that was the official definition.”
“Zip it, Jaha, or I’m fucking him on your bed.” Wells fell silent, but looked smug regardless. “And just for the look on your face, I’m setting up our fecal purification center next to your tent.”
“The hell you are!” He cried, suddenly looking very unamused. Satisfied, she flipped her hair over her shoulder and gracefully flounced away. “Syl!”
“Tell me about yourself.” Bellamy murmured. Clarke glanced at him. They were sitting shoulder-to-shoulder, facing the fire.
“What do you want to know?”
“You.” He smirked. She nudged his shoulder. “What was your childhood like? What do you like to do? What are your dreams? What do you value in people? Everything.”
“Everything is a lot.” She mumbled. “But I’m the most boring of our bunch. Hope you won’t be disappointed.”
“From what I’ve heard, it’s nearly impossible to be disappointed by you.” He reassured her. She smiled wryly.
“My childhood was privileged. The Ark was broken up into sections. GoSci, Alpha, Farm, Mecha, Factory, and Hydra were the main populated stations. I grew up on Alpha with Wells, Miller, and Syl. We were privileged. Our parents had jobs that were considered important, and we got first pick of everything because of it. Even jobs. My parents were always home on time for dinner. I always knew where to find them. I never had to barter for anything I wanted.” She shrugged. “I was really lucky.”
“That’s why some of them call you princess?”
She nodded. “It’s not meant as an endearment. I made the mistake of trying to get them to be responsible when we landed. Miller had them eating out of his hand in minutes because I was being such a priss.”
“They seem to like you now.” He commented. “Some rather intensely.”
“Well after you’ve sewn up enough injuries and sacrificed yourself a few times, people are bound to come around. And I uh...” She cleared her throat. “Jasper was speared by Trigedakru. I was trying to save him but his wound was infected. Everyone thought he was a hopeless case and that I was seeing hope where there wasn’t any. Until the acid fog hit and we were faced with an actual hopeless case. People started to respect me when I put him out of his misery.” She grimaced. “That’s when Miller cleared the drop ship as my medical center and started to make sure that I got what I needed.”
“How long ago was that?”
Clarke furrowed her brow. Time was somewhat of an illusion here—passing quickly yet dragging slowly. It felt like they’d aged years, but they’d been on the ground for just over a month. “Three weeks ago?”
Bellamy’s eyebrows shot up in surprise. “You work so well together. All of you.”
“We haven’t been here that long. And I was in solitary confinement on the Ark. We got our act together because we would have died otherwise. It was an easy choice.” She grumbled. “As for everything else, I mostly just want to enjoy being here. On Earth.” She glanced up into the trees. “It’s so beautiful, and I’ve barely taken a moment to really see it. I want to paint these trees.”
“You enjoy painting?”
She hummed in confirmation. “My dad taught me how when I was young.” She smiled sadly. “Once I got good, Wells would trade his rations to give me colored pencils as gifts. Mom slipped charcoal onto my meal trays when I was in solitary. Didn’t want me to go crazy with nothing to do.”
“He wants to take care of you.” He observed, not as casually as he’d hoped. She smiled.
“Not in the way you’re thinking. When I said he was like my brother, I really meant that. It’s a mutual feeling, too.” She assured him. “When our parents were in council meetings, we’d all get together and spend hours playing games and watching films. We know each other too well to see each other romantically.”
He smiled apologetically. “Typically, the type of devotion that Wells and Miller give you is only afforded to lovers. Not even our leaders are treated with such deference.” He explained. “Respect, of course. And obedience. But it’s rare for friends to put themselves so boldly in harms way among our people. Octavia would do it for me, and Murphy might as well, but they feel they owe me their lives.”
“I’m sure that’s partially why my people feel the way they do about me.” She smiled ruefully.
“But not Wells or Miller. Or Syl. Any of your council. They’re utterly devoted to you, but they don’t feel they owe you their lives, do they?”
She shook her head slowly, and frowned. She glanced up to take stock of each of her friends. He had a point—why were they so eager to champion her? None of them were paying her much mind at the moment, too focused on something Miller was saying to notice her penetrating gaze. “I’m not sure why?”
“Miller said you were violently passionate, yet tenderly caring.” He smiled at her. She blushed. They’d talked about her? “That it’s hard not to love you because you give all of yourself.”
“I’m sure he was exaggerating.” She mumbled. “He hated me, remember?”
“But not for long.” He disagreed.
“I didn’t win him over. Syl whipped us into shape.” She reminded him. “If she weren’t here to yell at us, we’d still be at each other’s throats. If we weren’t dead.” His mouth twitched in amusement, and she couldn’t help but feel a little accomplished.
“You don’t give yourself enough credit.” He murmured. “Your devotion to your people is clear. It’s inspiring to see in a leader who’s only been in charge for a month. It will take some time for me to become accustomed to it, but I can see why they rise so quickly in your defense.” He reached up and tucked a strand of her hair behind her ear. She fought to keep her heart rate in check.
“You mentioned ceremonial gestures?” She blurted. He smirked at her, but dropped his hand.
“To prove that we can care for each other. Healing, nurturing, and companionship are the bases of the three ceremonies. For the first, one of my people will harm me, and one of your people will harm you—likely just a cut across the palm, and we dress each others’ wounds. For the second, one of us hunts, our priest will bless the animal, and the other will prepare the food. For the third, we spend an entire day in one room, speaking to no one but each other.”
“But…you’re their king. How will you go a full day without speaking to anyone except me?”
“I’ll leave instructions with Octavia and Murphy, and I’m allowed to use hand signals. But I believe they’ll be able to take care of everything I could be needed for for a single day.”
She smiled at him. “Hand signals? Like sign language?” He frowned. “Before the bombs, there was entire language of hand signals to communicate with deaf and mute people. Wells, Miller, Syl and I used to use it to talk without our parents hearing us.”
He grinned. “Getting up to mischief behind your parents’ backs?”
“Only sometimes.” She sniffed.
“Can you show me?”
Her brow crinkled pensively. “What do you want me to say?”
“How about 'There’s a deer’?” He suggested. She pointed, before opening her hands palms forward, and placing them by her head with her thumbs to her temple. He laughed delightedly. “That seems simple enough. And similar to the gestures we use."
It was constantly strange to realize that they shared a common history. Their lives and customs were so different, but she kept finding little pieces that bound them together. “We’ve talked a lot about me. What do you like to do?”
He leaned back against the log. “I’m a good hunter, and I like sparring with my sister. I like to read. My predecessor would look through old bunkers and collect the items there, especially books. We have an entire library of books from before Praimfaiya in Baltim.”
Her eyes lit up. “What’s your favorite book?”
He flushed. “The Odyssey. Do you know it?”
She smiled widely, nodding. “Wells likes epic poetry more than I do. You should talk to him about it.” She suggested. He seemed pleased.
“Books from before Praimfaya are difficult to come by except in Baltim, so it’s hard to discuss with my own people.” He told her. “Especially since so many of them resist learning to read and write in gonasleng. They think it’s enough to have it spoken, since all of the Thirteen Clans speak Trigedasleng.”
“Gonasleng. That’s English?” She asked. He nodded. “Earlier, Octavia said something. When Dax pulled his weapon?”
Bellamy’s eyes darkened with distaste. “Seim gonplei.” He repeated. “It’s a fight one-on-one over a personal dispute. The laws are absolute in Trishanakru. You start a personal fight, then it must be a fair fight. You can’t unsteady the terms once the fight has begun. That’s when it goes from settling a dispute to assault or murder.” He explained. “When they were fighting fist-to-fist, they were on even ground. When he pulled his knife, he broke the law by giving himself an unfair advantage. Had it happened in Baltim, he would have been killed for such a dishonorable act.”
“That’s…well, it’s a little barbaric.” She shuddered.
“The alternative is far worse.” He disagreed. “Our lives hinge on survival. Without a strong deterrent for one-on-one crimes, there would be nothing left. We haven’t had such an infraction in over three decades. Seim gonplei allows aggression and wrongdoing to be handled under a moral code, with the understanding that the victor determines the outcome. It’s a respected tradition, and it allows the people to self regulate their disputes.”
Clarke mulled it over, leaning into Bellamy’s side unconsciously. He smirked, pleased. “Interesting. I guess I don’t know enough to have an opinion, but that sounds reasonable. It still makes me uncomfortable, but I understand the concept.” She murmured.
“From what I’ve seen, your people will have no problem fitting in.” He assured her. “I imagine everything you’ve experienced so far is an adjustment. But you’re all remarkably adaptable.” He lifted his arm and draped it around her, allowing her to nestle farther into his side.
“I hope you’re right.” She told him, quiet and serious. He stroked her shoulder with the pad of his thumb, delighting in the fact that the tension drained from her body as he did so. “There’s so much potential here. This alliance. My people. We’re on the edge of something great, but also on the edge of something terrible. I hope we keep going the right way.”
He smiled down at her. “With you leading the way, I’m sure they will.”
Syl slipped into his tent quietly, meeting Murphy's eyes as soon as she entered. He was unfastening his many buckles, boots already kicked aside. The holsters that held his daggers were already on the little table he’d made for himself when he arrived. His fingers were deftly unstrapping his scabbard. Next, she imagined, he’d unclip his cloak, then his armor, then the jacket that his armor was fastened to. Her fingers twitched, and she strode directly into his personal space, placing her hands over his.
He paused his movements, looking at her quizzically. “It might be difficult to achieve your goals if I don’t take these off.” He reminded her, voice low and purring. She looked up at him through her eyelashes.
“Let me do it for you.” She murmured back. His eyes darkened, and he let his hands drop to his sides. Her hands took over, fingers pulling the strap through the tight metal clip, brushing against his side as she went. She placed the scabbard on the table. Then, she lifted her hands to his shoulders, and unfastened his cape, letting it fall to the floor. Then his armor, then his jacket. Then he was in his thin shirt and she let her hands trail down his front, reveling in the feeling of the rough-spun fabric against her fingertips. She gripped the hem of his shirt and looked up at him again.
His jaw was clenched, his pupils blown wide, and his face flushed. He cocked an eyebrow, and she dragged his shirt up. He obligingly lifted his arms so that she could discard it completely. She drank in the sight of his lean, rippling muscle—biting her lip as she let her hands dance over his skin. Once she got to his hips she let her fingers dip into his waistband, and his control fractured.
He threaded his hands (those hands she liked so much) in her hair and dragged her up to positively devour her mouth. She moaned (pathetically) when he bit down on her lower lip, his grip on her hair tight and almost painful. She dragged his hips towards her by his belt with one hand, other hand immediately going around the back of his neck to pull him closer. She purred when his hands dropped from her hair to circle her waist, dragging her body as close to his as he possibly could and grinding into her, pivoting them so that he could press her against the table.
She was so focused on his hands, his lips, his hard cock grinding into her through their clothes, that she barely noticed him taking her shirt off. That is, until his hands slipped up under her bra to give her breasts a hard squeeze. She broke away from his mouth with a delighted cry, rocketing her hips up into his. He dropped his mouth to her neck, biting and licking as he pressed her back onto the table, roughly kneading her tits. He knew exactly how she wanted to be touched. How did he know that? She arched against him, pushing harder against his body and further into his grasping hands. He groaned and bit her shoulder in retaliation.
He was going to leave marks all over her neck. She could feel them forming. He was groaning at every jump of her hips and growling every time her hand tightened in his hair. She pushed at the waistband of his pants in frustration. “Impatient.” He scolded. He slipped his hands from her bra and slid them down to her ass, picking her up and turning them to deposit her on his bed. He loomed over her as he unbuckled his pants, smirking at the overt hunger in her eyes. Once he was stripped bare, he stood before her as she studied him.
Her brain shut off. He was perfect. She reached out for him, heat coursing through her veins, and wrapped her hot hand around his thick cock. He hissed in pleasure, thrusting into her hand. “Fuck—“ he bit out. “If you had a plan for the night, you better get to it before I take over.” He warned. Her cunt clenched at the dark promise in his voice. That didn’t sound so bad. But first...
She scrambled to her knees, staring up at his face. He groaned again hips jerking as her hot breath fanned over the head of his cock. “I want to taste you.” She purred, pressing a feather-light kiss to the tip. He moaned, fisting his hands in her hair.
“Sounds perfect to me.” He said, and without further preamble, she took the head of his cock into her mouth. “Yes!” He groaned, hips thrusting minutely. He tightened his grip on her hair in an effort to restrain himself, and the little spark of pain thrummed across her body and she moaned around him. She sank lower and lower, until his cock head pressed up against her tonsils. She stayed there, but then ('like an angel’, he thought), she ran her tongue along the bottom of his length and sucked. He swore and thrust again, harder this time. She moaned again and grabbed his hips, clutching him like a lifeline. She looks up at him, drinking in his face desperately. His jaw hung open and his eyes were closed in bliss, and he was starting to make these noises. These perfect noises that were starting wildfires in her body. She squeezed her thighs together, desperate for friction. He tastes good.
She starts moving then—slow and leisurely as she savored his taste and the feel of him hot and heavy in her mouth—drawing back until just the tip remained, before sucking him back in so that her nose pressed up against his crotch. His hands clutched at her scalp, nails scraping through her hair as he tried to keep himself from thrusting into her mouth. “Fuck. Fuck, Syl.” He groaned, head falling back. “Love that pretty mouth of yours.” He thrust again, unable to help himself. “So good, my little warrior.” She moaned louder and pressed him further into her mouth until her lips were securely surrounding the base of his cock and the tip pushed into her throat. She gagged and her eyes watered, but it was worth it for the litany of curses that fell from his lips. “Can I fuck your mouth? Please, let me fuck that beautiful mouth.” He groaned, hands cradling the back of her skull. She looked up again, and caught his searing stare. She whimpered with desire and nodded.
He began to thrust then, holding her head in place as he watched his cock slip in and out of her mouth while she sucked and licked at him desperately. “Touch yourself for me, Syl.” He groaned as he pressed into her throat. “Get your pussy nice and wet for me. Can you do that for me?” She whimpered desperately and spread her knees and dropped her hands from his waist, moving one to play with her (already soaked) cunt and the other to squeeze and twist at her nipples. “Good girl.” He growled, thrusting faster at the sight below him. “So much better than I could have imagined, sweet thing.” At this point, she might get off on his praise alone. “I want to last for you.” He told her. “I want to fuck you like you deserve.” His voice sounded breathless, like he was barely containing himself. “Can I come in your mouth, Syl?” She moaned loudly, moving her hand faster against her clit and nodding as best she could with his hands holding her head still. He swore and sped up his thrusts. “Perfect,” he groaned. “The sweetest, most perfect mouth. Suck harder, sweetheart.” He growled. She complied immediately and he reveled in the desperate moans, delighted whimpers and obscene slurps he was getting from the girl on her knees in front of him.
Before he knew it he was coming down her throat, holding her face as close to her crotch as he could and reveling in the feeling of her sweet throat milking his cock. He stroked her hair, murmuring spent praises as she languidly licked and suckled at him while his breathing returned to normal.
The heat never left his eyes though. He was nowhere near done with her.
What do you when relationships are hard? Work, obviously.
Murphy woke slowly the next morning, utterly satisfied but annoyingly cold. He squinted around his tent—unwilling to completely open his eyes yet—and confirmed that Syl was nowhere in sight. The imprint she had left on the bed was cold, so she’d been gone for a while.
Slowly bringing himself into full consciousness, he listened for the sounds around camp. He had learned early that those sounds were different throughout the day. Near silence in the early hours, a quiet murmur when the sun was up but they wished they were still asleep, chatty and sharp when they’d finally eaten breakfast, then steadily louder until the sun touched the treetops again. They’d slowly diminish back into silence until they were sleeping again.
Now, if he had to guess, the majority of camp had been awake for a long while. He didn’t mind sleeping in. He had guard duty tonight, and he definitely needed the rest after last night. He didn’t know much about her, but he did know this—Syl had stamina.
He slid from bed and pulled on his clothes, unhurried and relaxed. He barely tolerated people on a good day, save Bellamy and Octavia, so he was always a little reluctant to join the fray in the morning. He was just so much better on his own.
Unfortunately, Octavia would track him down and drag him back by his ankles if he went off on his own, even if it was just for a few days. The Blakes got antsy when he disappeared.
He squinted against the sunlight when he walked out of his tent and towards the fire pit. He grunted at the few people who greeted him and slumped onto a log next to Miller. He liked Miller. Miller didn’t talk in the morning. He wished more people would follow his excellent example.
He took in his surroundings lazily—meat over the fire almost fully cooked, various delinquents starting their mornings with quiet words and hazy minds, and Syl chatting with Octavia; chipper, bright and looking like she’d gotten a full night’s sleep. He smirked. She hadn’t.
“Whatever happened, I don’t want to hear about it.” Miller instructed gruffly from beside him. “But she looks pleased and well rested, so thanks.”
“You’re thanking me for sleeping with your friend?” Murphy snorted.
“Thanking you for tiring her out enough that she apparently slept soundly. She hasn’t done that in a long time.” Miller shrugged. “Pretty sure that’s why she’s so keyed up all the time. Can’t sleep without it.”
Murphy frowned. “Why can’t she sleep? She seemed fine to me.”
“She’s really good at pretending she’s fine.” Miller shrugged, prodding the meat to test it. “But even when we were in the Skybox, she couldn’t sleep the whole night through. Anxiety, fear, trauma, the works. I’m pretty sure she has nightmares if she doesn’t exhaust herself to sleep in one way or another.”
Murphy shifted, not uncomfortable but apprehensive. “Should you be telling me this?”
Miller huffed a laugh. “Definitely not. She’d kick my ass.”
“Then…why are you?”
He shrugged. “I’m an all-cards-on-the-table kind of guy.” At Murphy’s obvious confusion, he elaborated. “I say it like I see it. I tell people what they need to know, and let them make well-informed decisions. I don’t wrap it up pretty or sugar coat it. You might need to know this, you might not. Either way, it doesn’t hurt her that you know. But it might help you.”
“Help me what? At best, I’m her horizontal stress relief. Neither of us want more from it.”
“Fair enough. But you’re also going to be working with her closely over the next few months. Between the training program and helping to plan the wedding, knowing that she can’t close her eyes unless she’s exerted every bit of energy she has? It’ll come in handy.”
Murphy hadn’t thought about it, but the guy had a point. He nodded carefully. “Alright, then. Thank you.”
They were silent for a while, until Syl turned from Octavia long enough to notice him. To Miller, it looked like her face lit up. To Murphy, it looked like she was plotting something. To be fair, Octavia was giving him the same look, and Miller hadn’t quite noticed yet. “Shit.”
Miller looked at him, concerned.
“They’re conspiring. Damn. I was hoping that they’d be similar enough that they hated each other and I would be able to live out the rest of my days in relative peace.” Miller’s head snapped back to them, this time taking both women in, and made a soft ‘ah’ of understanding.
“Sucks to be you.” Miller agreed. “On the bright side, breakfast is ready.”
“At least there’s that.” Murphy agreed wearily. “Need any help?”
“Nah, don’t worry about it. Conserve your energy.” He snickered, slicing a hunk of meat and dropping it into a bowl with the stewed greens that he hadn’t noticed muddling in a makeshift pot.
“Morning, Murph.” Octavia greeted him, sliding into his periphery with all the subtlety of an elephant. “Ready to start training these branwodas today?” He grunted in reply, eyeing her suspiciously. “You know, since we’re going to be doing all the training alongside them.” He splutters indignantly.
“What?” He demanded. “Why?”
“That’s how sedas train sekens, Murph. You know that from training with Gustus before you came to Bell.” She grinned at him. “They need to learn, and the best way to show them that the training is worthwhile is to train with them.”
“It’s a different situation and you know it.” He barked. “Completely unnecessary—we’re fully trained and presently active.”
“It’s not about that. It’s about showing them what they can become if they listen.” She nudged him, instinctively turning to take the bowl that Miller offered to her. “And you can show off for your skaigada.”
Murphy cut her a warning glare. “Shof op.” He shot Syl a quick glance, but she was distracted by her own breakfast. “She’s not mine, and she won’t be. I know you’re sickeningly happy with your houmoun, but nothing good comes from attracting my affections. Don’t doom her to satisfy your ideals.” He demanded. She frowned at him sourly.
“Loving you isn’t a death sentence, Murphy.” She scolded. “You can’t…”
“Prove me wrong, Octavia.” He snapped, rising furiously to meet her head on. “Name someone who didn’t heed my advice and isn’t dead or wishing they were.”
She raised an unimpressed eyebrow. “I can name two, stupid, and both of us are grateful to have you in our lives. Now we just want you to be happy, but you’re rather resistant to the idea.”
“I am happy.” He growled. “I have the two of you, I work every day to protect what I love, and I know that despite my warnings, idiots like you and Bellamy want me in your lives. That’s enough for me. Don’t drag anyone else into it.”
“She’s dragging herself into it.” Octavia pointed out, smiling at him fondly now. “And fine. I won’t interfere. But don’t push her away if she decides you’re what she wants. And don’t—“ She interrupted when he opened his mouth to argue. “Deny it. In fact, you’ve already done that. Clarke told me yesterday that she thought Syl wanted more, but here she is crowing about how you were brilliant in bed first thing in the morning. I know what it looks like when someone’s trying to prove that they’re not interested beyond sex. Bellamy is my brother, after all.”
“I’ve known her for two weeks. She doesn’t know me.”
“She’s good at reading people.”
“Octavia.” They glared at each other now, in a test of wills. Miller’s eyes were bouncing between them, absorbing but not interfering. Syl had, thank god, seen Clarke emerge from her tent and had bounded over to shove meat into the blonde girl’s mouth. “Please. Just let it be what it is.”
Octavia glared for a few more long moments before deflating. “Fine. Whatever.”
They settled back down and ate silently. That is, until a horn broke the morning air, and Octavia lit up like a firework, crackling with energy. She shoved her bowl into Murphy’s chest and sprinted for the gates, launching herself bodily at the first man who came through.
“Who’s that?” Miller asked.
Murphy smirked. “That’s Lincoln.”
Clarke nearly choked when Syl bounded up to her and shoved a spoonful of meat into her mouth. “Isn’t it delicious?” The darker girl trilled excitedly. Clarke glared at her, chewing slowly and swallowing. It was delicious. That was no reason to ambush her with excessive amounts of positive energy.
“Why are you so chipper?” She snapped.
“It’s a beautiful morning, we’re starting training today, breakfast is delicious, we’re not going to die, Octavia thinks I have promise, we’re not going to die, Murphy is dominant and skillful as fuck in bed, we’re not going to die,—“
“Fantastic for you, but can I at least eat before you talk my ear off?”
Clarke was not, and had never been, a morning person. In fact, she was rather like a landmine before noon. Of course she was glad to see Syl vivacious and full of energy, but did it have to be here? “C’mon grumpy. Miller’s probably making you a bowl already.”
“Thank god.” She grunted, allowing Syl to drag her over to the fire pit. There was an awkward tension, and besides Miller waving good morning (uncomfortable, she might add), she was allowed to eat breakfast in silence. When the horn blew and the gates opened and Octavia cannonballed into her fiancé, Bellamy emerged and sat next to her silently, grunting when Murphy passed him a bowl.
“Oh you’re perfect for each other.” Syl cooed. “Neither of you are morning people? That’s precious.”
Clarke leveled her with a glare that threatened at least ten different types of murder, but Syl’s mood was determinedly sunshine-y. Bellamy looked down at her with the faintest quirk of his lips, amused against his will. “Have we finally found a flaw in our princess?” He grumbled, voice gravelly with sleep and almost physically rough against her skin. She fought the shiver that threatened to roll through her body.
“I have plenty of flaws. You’ll see soon enough.” She sniffed, barely glancing at him.
They ate in companionable silence—Bellamy giving Clarke the time she needed to wake fully. “I was thinking,” he began when he saw her actually taking in details around the camp. “Now that we have a Trikru contingent here, we can do one of the courtship rituals.” She turned to look at him, eyes wide with surprise.
“It’s been two days.”
“We only have a month. It’s an arrangement, no one will be surprised that the rituals are moving quickly.”
She nodded thoughtfully. “Which one?”
“Healing, probably. They typically go in order, though it depends on the couple.” He explained gently. She agreed quietly, but he could still sense her apprehension. “What’s wrong?”
“I think…the reality of the situation is starting to sink in.” She replied hesitantly. His face shuttered, closing off to her. “No, please don’t be upset. Marriage—it’s something I’ve never even thought about. I’ve never really dated, so it’s sudden. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. And being queen. That terrifies me.” He frowned at her.
“Why? You’re already their leader.”
“But not in a monarchy. We’re more of a democratic oligarchy. Multiple people have hands in making decisions and everyone has a say in the end result. But I’ve never had absolute power.”
“You’ll have me.” He nudged her gently. “And you’ll still have a council to advise you. You won’t be alone, and not all of the burden will rest on your shoulders.”
“And if I make a mistake?”
“Your people love you. Most of them, anyways. They’ll forgive you your mistakes if you’re sincere in your apology. Just keep caring for them, Clarke. You’re not going to abuse your power or make the wrong decision, as long as you continue serving them.”
She gave him a wavering, but grateful smile. “If you could keep reminding me of everything you just said, we should be just fine.” She joked. He grinned.
“Of course, Princess.” She wrinkled her nose.
“Not you too.” She complained. “It took me ages to get them to stop calling me that.”
“Can’t help it.” He replied, tugging on the ends of her hair. “You look like a princess. One of the ones from the stories my mother told us when we were children. Golden hair and eyes like the sky.”
She blushed and batted his hand away, grumbling awkwardly and looking around to make sure none of the delinquents had seen the display of affection. Unfortunately, she wasn’t that lucky. Miller was smirking at her from his spot across the fire, and Murphy looked like he was hiding an identical expression behind his hand. Syl, who was still beside them (which she’d honestly forgotten), was smiling subtly, but not making eye contact. At least one of her friends was letting her have a moment in peace. “Now I remember why I hate Miller. Smug asshole.” She growled.
“He’s happy for you.” Bellamy observed, pleased that her friends were on board with the plan.
“He might be.” She granted. “But he’s being insufferable about it. Just like he’s been insufferable with Syl.”
“You were being insufferable with Syl too.” He reminded her. She made a face, and he laughed. “Looks like they’re going to do their first day of training today.” He nodded towards Octavia, who was helping Lincoln unload weapons from a cart and moving them into the space they’d cleared for their training area.
“No time like the present. Would you like to meet him? With how eager he is to please Octavia, Lincoln will probably be helping her train your people for the duration.” Clarke nodded, finally feeling awake enough to be civil to those around her. Syl rose with them, since she would be spearheading their training efforts. If Lincoln was going to be involved, she’d need to know him too.
They approached the fierce couple, who immediately turned to greet them. “Heya Belomi.” Lincoln greeted him amiably.
“Lincoln.” He greeted his brother-in-law to-be. “Easy trip?” Lincoln nodded in reply, eyes sliding over to Clarke easily. She shifted under his gaze.
“I didn’t expect that you’d formally court her.” Lincoln admitted quietly. Clarke’s stomach sunk. That seemed to be the general consensus, and she couldn’t help but take it personally at this point. Was there something lacking about her that made it so unbelievable? “It’s an honor to meet you, Clarke of the Sky People.” He said, tilting his head to greet her in kind. “Congratulations on finding a way to make Bellamy settle down. We’ve been trying to convince him for years.”
Bellamy gave him a good natured shove in reply. “You have not.”
“Maybe not in so many words. But it’s been implied.” He replied with a small smirk. “You’re just a selective listener.”
Octavia snorted indelicately. “That’s an understatement.”
“Anya told you?” Bellamy asked. Lincoln nodded.
“It’s all she could talk about. She didn’t even tell me what the terms of the alliance were. I had to hear it from Nyko.”
“Is it really that surprising?” Clarke asked, voice coming out far smaller than she intended.
Lincoln and Bellamy both stiffened, and Octavia narrowed in on her like a laser. For the first time since she’d met them, she shrank. “Clarke, come with me.” Octavia demanded, grabbing the blonde’s hand and tugging her away. “Don’t worry, Bell, I’ll bring her back better than I found her.” She shoved her brother’s oncoming hand as he tried to stop her from kidnapping his fiancée.
She dragged Clarke back to her tent, pushing her inside the tent flap. “What was that?” She asked as soon as they were alone.
“What was what?”
“I know you’re not stupid, so please don’t pretend you are. You picked now to be self conscious? You could have done that a week ago when you first agreed to get married.”
“Listen, it’s nothing. Really, I’m being stupid. I’ll get over it.”
“Well maybe I can help you if you tell me what ‘it’ is.”
Clarke considered her carefully, biting her lip. “Okay, fine. I understand that this is just a political arrangement, but is there something about me that’s lacking? Because people seem incredibly surprised that Bellamy would court me.”
Octavia snorted. “Is that all? Oh, good. This will be simple. They’re surprised because Bellamy has refused fifteen different political unions by marriage. You are the first he’s even considered for more than five minutes, and considering how he feels about sacred rites and romance, we’re surprised that he decided to include that in his agreement. We’re not surprised that you’re worthy, we’re surprised that he’s enamored. He doesn’t really do that. Ever.”
“Almost. Once. I killed her because she tried to kill Murphy in an attempt to overthrow Baltim.”
“Oh.” Clarke balked. “Uh…”
“Long ago, doesn’t matter anymore.” Octavia cut her off. “Clarke, listen. It’s not that you’re lacking. Quite the opposite. Whenever I imagined someone for Bellamy, it was someone like you. Maybe not quite like this, and not so…inexperienced with our traditions, but strong willed, honorable, smart and compassionate. You’re also beautiful and it seems like you’re compatible. What else could he possibly ask for?”
“Nope, nothing.” Octavia cut her off again. “Like I said. You’re not lacking. We’re surprised because Bellamy is emotionally stunted and excessively principled. He’s not just in this for the politics, and anyone who’s known him for more than two weeks knows that.”
“You keep saying that. Is that because you actually understand?” Clarke nodded. “Great! Because you’re about to be a queen. You need to know that you’re enough to solidify the alliance, or else it will crumble. If you show anyone except Bellamy that you’re nervous, they’ll go for the throat. Don’t give them the opportunity.”
Clarke nodded, drinking her words like they were salvation. She steeled herself and straightened her spine, preening slightly under Octavia’s approving gaze. “Thanks Octavia. I know you don’t like me much—“
“I like you. And I hope we’ll be good friends. I know we got off to a bad start, but intimidation is my job.” Octavia grinned wolfishly. “If you ever have a question that you don’t want to ask Bell about, come to me. Murphy, too. As Haiplana, we’ll be your seconds too."
Clarke smiled at her, and Octavia’s continuing smile meant it came out strong and appreciative. “Thank you. And, uh….I actually do have a question.” Octavia raised an expectant eyebrow. “Bellamy wants to perform a courtship ritual now that the Trikru contingent is here. Can you…can you tell me what to expect so that I don’t look like an idiot?” She smiled sheepishly. The corners of Octavia’s eyebrows crinkled in amusement.
“Of course.” She gestured for Clarke to sit. “Did he not explain what you would need to do?"
“He said we’d need to harm each other, and then dress the wounds. Most likely a cut across the palm. But it felt so vague. Who needs to be there? How in depth should it be? Is there anything I can do while slicing and fixing him that would offend your people?”
Octavia held up a hand to stem the flow of questions. “First and foremost, as long as you don’t kill him, you should be fine. Do the absolute best of what you know how to do. That will show our people that you intend to give everything you have to offer to the union.” Clarke nodded, absorbing. “I mean it. Usually, when our healers unite, they will injure each other severely so they can show their prowess. Nyko broke his houmon’s arm.” Clarke’s jaw dropped. “It was difficult to watch. Bellamy and I were still quite young. Lincoln poisoned me when it was our turn.” If possible, her jaw dropped further. “Injure him as much as you feel confident healing him. There will be a group of fleimkepas to witness your rituals, along with your people and the contingent. Luckily for Bell, Lincoln brought a fleimkepa with him to help teach your people about our customs.”
“Lincoln poisoned you? Nyko broke his fiancé’s arm?”
Octavia sighed. “Yes. I know, it feels extreme, but you’ve been here a month. You’re proving to everyone around you that you have what it takes to support and care for your partner in this world. That meant something far different where you came from. Here, it means being able to take down your enemies, heal your partner’s wounds, provide your partner with food, care for them when they’re ill, communicate better with each other than anyone else. You’re claiming you can be his other half, and that you can do so to the best of your abilities, and both your intended and your people need to believe it.”
Clarkes stomach roiled and her brow creased. There were so many possibilities. She’d grown up in medical on the Ark. She could show them so much, but how much could she injure Bellamy before they rioted mid-ritual? “How far can I go? How much is too much?”
“Nothing that would obviously kill him. Something that there’s hope for him to come back from.” Octavia said slowly. “But by the look on your face, that means something different for you than for me. So why don’t you tell me your plan before you go through with it, so that I can either tell you it’s a bad idea, or hold back Bellamy’s guards.”
“I’d be more comfortable with that, yeah.”
“How long do you need to come up with something?”
“I can be ready for sure tomorrow morning. Is that too long?”
Octavia shook her head. “Just tell Bellamy that now that you understand the ritual, you need to make a plan and need some time. Tell him you want to do it right.” She smiled.
Clarke smiled gratefully in return. “One more thing. Can you help me get some things?”
A pause. “I suppose that depends on what those things are.”
“A copy of Bellamy’s favorite book and a lot of paper.”
Octavia frowned. “Why?”
“I have an idea for what I want to give Bellamy at the end of the rituals. The gift? But I’m making it, and I want to make something that he likes.” She blushed at the admission. “I’m…well, I’m pretty good at drawing. And I’d like to draw the Iliad for him, but I don’t remember all of it.”
Octavia looked a little shell shocked.
Clarke gaped at her. “What?”
“The Iliad? You know his favorite book is the Iliad? And you’re going to draw it for him? God, he’s going to write you poetry. You two are going to be unbearably cute.” She snorted in disgust and turned on her heel to march out of the tent. Clarke broke out of her shock just in time to call out—
“Octavia! The book and paper?”
A waved hand over her shoulder assured her that it would be taken care of. Clarke stood there a while longer staring after her, allowing the shock of that conversation to seep back in. From the ritual to the final micro-rant, she was staggering under the heft of the unexpected information she’d been thrown.
She needed to talk to Raven and Syl.
“So…your plan, and stop me if I’m wrong, is to stab, poison, and suffocate your fiancé.” Raven relayed slowly. Syl was just staring at her.
Clarke nibbled her lip anxiously. “Octavia said to do the most severe thing that I thought I could heal.” She replied. “Obviously I’m going to run it by her before I do, but the point of telling you, is that I need to know if you can make defibrillators before then. And maybe more suture needles. And bribe Monty for some moonshine.”
“So that you can stab, poison, and suffocate your fiancé without killing him?” Raven repeated, just for clarification. Clarke nodded.
“I’m a little terrified, and also can’t wait.” Syl muttered. “I think there’s something wrong with me. That doesn’t sound like a fun thing to watch. But I want to see their faces when you succeed without killing him? I’m very confused.”
“Apparently Lincoln poisoned Octavia. Nyko broke his wife’s arm. Healers go big or go home, and I’ve been telling them that I’m a healer. Honestly, without that I’m just bossy and pretty lucky, so let’s go big.”
“You say that like you mean it, but you kinda look like you’re going to vomit.” Syl observed slowly.
“Oh. Yeah, as long as I can get a defibrillator, I can take care of all of the ritual stuff. And if not, I just won’t strangle him.” She bit her lip. “I also told her about the gift I’m planning to give Bellamy.”
Both Raven and Syl looked highly affronted at that. “Before you told us?” Syl barked.
“Only-“ She held up a placating hand. “Because I needed her to find some things for me.”
“Spill it, Clarke.” Raven sighed. “All of it.”
Clarke sighed. “Bellamy told me that his favorite book was the Iliad so for my gift to him, I was going to illustrate the story for him. But I don’t remember the whole thing, and I don’t have nearly enough paper. I asked Octavia to find me a copy and paper to draw on.”
Syl frowned. “What about something to draw with”
“We have plenty of charcoal.” Clarke waved her off. “But the paper is a big one. I remember the main points of the story, only in a broad sense. I have a month to make it, so I want to give it as much detail as I can.”
“That sounds great. Super thoughtful, well planned, pretty charming. I’m not seeing the issue here.” Raven admitted.
“It was Octavia’s response when I told her what I was planning. She said that he’s going to write me poetry and that we’re going to be unbearably cute.” Clarke honestly felt a little panicked thinking about it.
“Oh.” Syl blinked.
“Then she cut off the conversation and just…stormed off.”
“And this is…bad?” Syl guessed. Raven looked a little pained, probably suffering from trying to sort out what Clarke was thinking.
“It’s…I mean. No. It’s not. I guess it’s just a lot to process.” Clarke replied. “She’d also just come off a rant about how Bellamy was a romantic, and how he’d never even considered a political marriage until we came along, and that it’s clearly an indication that he’s enamored with me.”
“Clarke, you’re saying these things like they’re bad, but I’m just not seeing it.” Raven sighed, and Syl nodded in agreement. “He’s going to be your partner for life. Your husband. It’s good that he’s enamored with you.”
“And objectively, I know that. And I like him. A lot. Like, a borderline stupid amount. It’s been four days and I also feel like I’ve been hit in the skull and drugged. It’s a lot to take in. He’s already larger than life, and I’m mostly just scrambling to keep everyone alive and happy. I don’t know him nearly as well as he knows me by this point. All I know is that he likes fighting and reading, he prefers diplomacy to war—really, who doesn’t; he’s a closet romantic, and his sister is a human hurricane who just keeps tilting my world view on it’s axis. I’m a little overwhelmed right now.”
“Okay good. We’re taking steps in the right direction communication-wise.” Raven commended her. “Keep going. Tell us what’s worrying you that can’t be fixed by just by spending more time with him. Because we don’t have a lot of time right now, but we’ll have more once we’ve moved. The really in-depth getting-to-know-Bellamy stuff can happen once we’re not under a time crunch and you probably know that, so something about this is freaking you out beyond just the timing issues.”
“What if I end up disappointing him?” Clarke blurted. “What if he get’s this stunning but completely bullshit picture of who I am, and he finds out after he’s married to me? What if he feels more strongly about me than I do about him? Or the other way around? What if he hates my drawings? What if he’s a terrible poet?"
“Oh, okay. This is a normal “Clarke is bad at affection and praise” freakout. Cool.” Syl relaxed, slumping back in her chair. Raven did the same. “Babe, relax. He doesn’t expect that you’ll be the Elizabeth to his Darcy or the Rose to his Jack. Play it by ear, do your best with the cultural stuff, and treat him as your partner who you have sex with and genuine friendship and admiration for. You don’t need to manufacture the romance, the romance will come if it’s meant to come. And if you’d like, I can give him a super-honest Clarke Griffin primer. All of your strengths, flaws and habits. Maybe show him one or two of the sketches you’ve done. Like meeting the in-laws. Since you’ve already met his, it’s only fair that he meets yours. Properly, I mean.”
Raven was staring at her in awe. “That might be the most comprehensible speech you’ve ever made. AND followed up by a solid and reasonable suggestion that doesn’t involve fornication. I’m SO proud.” Syl shot her a smirk before turning back to Clarke, who was pondering.
“You wouldn’t mind? Talking to him about me, I mean?"
“Clarke, you’re getting married to a stranger to make sure we survive. The bare minimum I can do is help your fiancé get to know you.” She snapped. “Of course I wouldn’t mind. When are you going to get it through your head? I’m with you. Even if you weren’t arranging your marriage, I’d do anything for you. You’re my best fucking friend. And, for the record, I’m pretty sure I’m speaking for both of us."
Raven nodded sagely beside her. To Clarke’s absolute horror, she could feel tears welling up in here eyes. “Oh god, don’t cry!” Raven panicked.
“No those are good tears.” Syl assured her. “She’s crying because she finally gets it, and she’s overwhelmed by her love and appreciation. I wish more people would cry over us like that.” She sniffed. “We’re the best. No one understands.”
Clarke let out a watery chuckle. They really were the best.
Octavia dropped herself onto a bench next to Murphy. It was lunch time now, and training would begin soon. He shot her a glance out of the corner of his eye, but she was squinting into the fire as though her words were still forming, so he waited.
“He’s going to fall in love with her.” She finally said, barely above a whisper. “And not just the type of love that comes with time and companionship—true, complete and unshakeable love.”
Murphy raised an unimpressed eyebrow. “Do you honestly think I would have endorsed this if that wasn’t a possibility?”
“You’re not hearing me. She’s going to draw the entire storyline from his favorite book. As her courtship gift to him. And she's all smart and strategic and intense and sincere and passionate and stupidly caring! It’s been four days and he’s already bending over backwards to take care of her. I can’t even imagine what he’ll be like once she gives him that gift? Or once she's slept with him? Or both?”
“No more unbearable than usual. Just with more Clarke.” Murphy replied, bored. “Sorry, are you actually upset that he might be settling down and finding fulfillment?”
“No, of course not. But they’re…I mean, I know they will be a part of our society, but right now? It’s been four days, and they’re still a damn mess. She might have earned this kind of worship from her people, but can you honestly tell me that you think she’s earned it from Bell?”
Murphy pondered that for a moment. No, he supposed that she hadn’t in the most clear-cut sense. Based on what he’d seen with his own eyes in the span of four days, Bellamy was uncharacteristically devoted to his princess. “You’re thinking too small. Sure, they only met four days ago, but he’s heard stories about the Sky People for weeks now. They’ve been causing a lot of trouble. More than any other territory dispute or breakaway clan has caused in decades. Then to find out that they’re all young, brand new to earth, and completely unskilled, but were still able to outmaneuver Trikru, build a makeshift government, outlast the blood sickness? That was impressive in it’s own right. Then she walked into our negotiations prepared to show him what her people could do, and put her people above her own happiness by agreeing to marry him, despite what her advisors felt. He’s added all of those accomplishments to his view of her. I don’t think he’s getting too far ahead of himself. And, for the record, I think Clarke will be good for him.”
Octavia squinted at him, pinning him there with her stare as she sorted through his logic. Eventually (like he knew they would) her shoulders slumped with acceptance. “Fine. But I’m not going to stop worrying.”
Murphy snorted. “Of course you’re not. Worrying is in your blood. Especially about Bellamy. I’m here too, though. When you’re worried, we can talk about it. You don’t have to take care of him by yourself.”
She smirked at him. “I know you mean that, and I really do appreciate it. But tell me it’s not a little funny to think about you saying that five years ago.”
He grinned back. “It’s hilarious.”
Strength training was awful.
So very awful.
It had started off innocuous enough. Syl, Octavia, and Murphy had all agreed that it would be best to break them into groups. That way, the camp could keep running, and people could fit in training along with their regular responsibilities. Lincoln had ridden off into the forest, and then Octavia gathered the first group of trainees. “Lincoln is a mile from this camp. Run to him, then run back. Walk if you need to, but run as much as you can. No stopping unless you feel any sharp pains. If you stop and aren’t injured, you run twice.” She barked.
It didn’t feel bad. Most of them had been running quite a lot. Especially from spears and axes. Most of them made it back in under twenty minutes. A couple stragglers—the younger kids—made it back in thirty.
Then they found out why they were only starting to train at noon. Because they needed time to set up their torture tactics.
Lincoln had apparently climbed twenty different trees so that he could hammer pegs into them. “Everybody pick a tree.” They picked their trees. “Climb up, drop the weight, climb back down. If you think you’re in danger of falling because the weight is to much, drop it.”
Roma frowned. “What weight?” Syl grimaced and Octavia grinned. She pointed to the base of her tree trunk, and that prompted everyone to look at their respective trees. There was a sack, clearly meant to be worn as a backpack, lying against the bark.
“Those weights.” She chirped, snatching hers and throwing it onto her back.
The packs didn’t seem awfully heavy. That’s what they thought until they were halfway up the trees. “Oh shit.” Mbege groaned from his tree.
Yep. Oh shit seemed to cover it nicely.
They took a break—today’s session was supposed to be two hours long, but Lincoln was not as much of a sadist as Octavia, and he insisted they stop to catch their breath after an hour.
“How are you doing?” Murphy murmured, stepping up to Syl quietly. She wasn’t sure if he was being genuine or making fun of her, so she just grimaced. He chuckled softly. “The first time I ran these drills, I vomited on my seda’s shoes. You’re doing great so far.”
If she weren’t already sweaty and flushed, she probably would have blushed. “How’s everyone else looking?”
“Most are better than I expected. Then there are a few who are complaining or simply not taking it seriously.” He frowned. Syl glanced around and sure enough, Dax, Vex, and Blake were shooting the shit as though they hadn’t even climbed. “They all dropped their weights as soon as Octavia’s back turned.” He sneered. “The girl—Vex—hasn’t shut up about how she’s never going to need to climb a tree.”
“Well if they die from sheer stupidity, at least it’s not on us.” Syl sighed. “We’re giving them everything they need to survive, so it’s not our fault if they don’t take it.”
He shot her a look. “Clarke won’t see it that way.” Syl pulled a face.
“No. She won’t. But what can we do? They’ve decided it’s beneath them, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to change their minds.”
Octavia called for their attention then. “We’ll figure it out later.” He promised. She smiled weakly (mostly because she thought she might pass out soon), and watched as he jogged away to stand with the Warrior Princess.
They switched to drills they felt more familiar with—the kind that the Guard units did on the Ark. Push ups, Sit Ups, Burpees, and running laps; all in rotation so that they were constantly moving.
Syl was honestly proud of herself for getting through it without collapsing. Years in the Skybox hadn’t really lent themselves to strenuous physical activity, but she completed the training session without giving up or passing out. At the end, Octavia smiled proudly at her and offered her a water canteen. “Nicely done. You set an excellent example for them.”
“Thanks.” She flushed. “I was pretty sure I was going to die at one point.”
She snickered. “I noticed. But you got through it and didn’t give up. I can’t wait to see you once actually combat training begins. You’ve already got the right instincts, so I can’t wait to see what you can do with training.”
The next group of trainees was on their way over, so she gave Octavia a quick smile before heading back to camp.
Murphy gave her an unimpressed look. “What?” She barked.
“Are you being friendly because you’re plotting against me?” He demanded. She rolled her eyes and Lincoln snorted from his place behind them.
“No. I scared them nearly to death a few weeks ago. I’m trying to show them that I’m on their side now. And Syl truly does show promise. I’ve seen her fight, and didn’t feel concerned for her until that boy pulled a knife. She’s got good instincts, but needs some refinement.” Octavia shrugged. “If she were younger, I’d ask her to be my seken.”
Murphy’s eyebrows shot to his hairline. “That’s quite a statement. Anyone else here you’d take on?”
Octavia thought. “I haven’t seen most of them fight. I prefer intelligent fighters. I’m not known for brute force, because I don’t have it. I’d imagine people like Raven and Wells would learn well from me. That those two girls who yelled during the announcement, too. Miller and his brawny friends would learn better from Lincoln.” Lincoln nodded, agreeing with her assessment.
He narrowed his eyes at her. “And me?”
“Monty and Jasper. Clarke and Finn. The ones best suited to concealment and opportunistic attacks.” She raised an eyebrow, and he grimaced. She was right, of course. He liked Monty and Jasper well enough, but he had no desire to teach Finn anything. “It’s not like all of them will need to be at our level.” She reminded him. “We just need to train them to be self sufficient in conflict, then they can decide if they want to continue their training. Only a handful will be good enough to train personally as hai-sekens.”
His eyebrows shot up. Bellamy doesn’t need any more personal guards.” He reminded her. She raised an unimpressed eyebrow. “You mean for Clarke?”
“Obviously.” She drawled. “Four guards isn’t enough for a King and a Queen. Queen Nia has ten for herself, and had five for Prince Roan before his banishment. We make up for numbers with skill, but they should have four each, and then whatever children they have will require more.” Even Lincoln looked at her in surprise.
“You’re planning.” Murphy gaped. “You’re planning? You don’t even like Clarke.”
“I like her fine. I’m not so pleased with Bellamy’s feelings on the matter, but she’s a good leader and she’s smart. In any case, I don’t want a war so I’ll be doing my best to ensure this alliance holds. I don’t want Clarke to be Bellamy’s Costia.” She grimaced. Lincoln tensed and Murphy inhaled sharply, as though the thought hadn’t occurred to them until now.
They shared a significant look. That couldn’t happen. They turned to the next round of trainees, Murphy catching sight of Raven and Miller in the front. They looked curious and ready, completely unaware of the murderous politics they were being trained to fend off. Octavia, Lincoln and Murphy steeled themselves. They had work to do.