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The Price of Peace

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CHAPTER ONE

 

 

The funeral was on a Wednesday.

 

Funerals were never a big deal on the Ark. Bellamy can count the number of funerals he went to on one hand, because they only did any celebration if the person who passed was someone of importance. Even then, he didn’t care about anyone they were mourning, but instead he looked at the clock, counting the moments until it was over. Then, when they were on the Ground, the original 100 died one after another, they didn’t have time for any fanfare.

 

So this is the first funeral Bellamy is a part of that makes him feel like someone’s punched a whole in his chest. Echo’s standing near him, close enough so he can pretend she’s touching him, but even she is afraid to be near him. His entire family are doing nothing more than staring at him, or the ground, or the gravestone. They feel fragmented as well, hovering around each other as if afraid to go anywhere near. Near each other, near the other Grounders.

 

Near the empty grave.

 

Bellamy doesn’t cry, though. He knows he should, but at this point, he doesn’t feel anything. He doesn’t feel anything other than empty.  Someone’s talking in front of him, saying something about the importance of life, and there’s a woman screaming in the front. It takes Bellamy a while to realize it’s Abby. Kane is hold her, propping her up with his arms and she shrieks against his shirt. She’s crumbling before everyone’s eyes. It’s not a beautiful destruction. It’s painful and sharp, like needles lodging themselves in his spine.

 

He wishes he felt it. He wishes he felt something.

 

Instead, all he can do is stare at the gravestone in front of him. Madi is a few paces away, her eyes filled with tears, but stoic in a way he never expected the fiery teen to be. A few wayward tears skate down her cheek, but she’s staring ahead. Bellamy never wanted to admit the changes he saw in her after giving her the Flame, but they’re clear as day now. Gaia stands a few paces behind her, as does the majority of warriors who were once Wonkru, expressions clean. No one goes up to her.

 

There isn’t anyone who can, now.

 

He can almost hear her voice in his head, rolling her eyes as she tries not to say I told you so in a way that tells him that he’s wrong again without too much sarcasm.

 

Clarke Griffin

 

The name stares back at him.

 

Bellamy wishes he felt something. He wishes he felt the sorrow. The anger. The betrayal. All he sees is her name.

 

Funerals weren’t a big deal to him.

 

Until they were.

 

***

 

They met the residents of the new planet two weeks upon landing. Bellamy frowns when Madi steps forward, all twelve years of her, flanked with Clarke who’s crossing her arms as she approaches. No one even pretends to move with the two of them, a fierce team. Bellamy feels odd not being up there with Clarke, as if he’s not doing something they should. She doesn’t even look back to him, but falls back into a role she hates. Clarke does it though, because it needs to be done.

 

He does move close enough to be in earshot, the rest of the Spacekru joining him. Raven catches his eyes and lifts an eyebrow, so he shrugs. He can sense the subtext (‘How are we back in this situation’), but he focuses on the man before him and the guns trained on them.

 

“Interesting strategy, having a child in charge.” The man states, eyeing Madi. He startles a bit, but not from the child, but when he turns his attention to Clarke. Bellamy would give money to have seen the look she gave him. He’s a stately man that is weathered through trials, salt and pepper littering his hair. He stares at Clarke and Madi with a cool indifference, as if he’s sizing the lot of them up, which Bellamy supposes he is. Doesn’t mean he won’t take his hand off his gun.

 

“The Eligius crew was not a summer camp,” the man continues. “We are under no obligation to give you anything.”

 

“We’re not asking for you to give us everything we need.” Clarke states, the members of Wonkru restless behind her. Bellamy forgets the length at which the Grounders are loyal to the Flame, clearly unhappy that Clarke’s taken charge. Except Madi doesn’t seem to mind. In fact, he can almost feel the relief rolling off her in waves, the twelve-year-old hovering closer to Clarke. “What we’re asking is for assistance to understand the terrain and to figure out a way we can live peacefully.”

 

“Why would we do that?” The man asks. “What would we get in return?”

 

“We have farmers, doctors, engineers.” Clarke states. “We can work out a deal. Not to mention, we’re all that’s left of the human race. That has to count for something.”

 

The man isn’t distressed by this. “The human race never did anything for us. It sent us to die while filling our lungs with cancer. It abandoned us on a hostile planet and left us to figure it out. That’s what the human race did.”

 

“I understand.” Clarke says and the man snorts. “I’m not lying, I do understand. I was sent to a hostile world to die and figured it out as I went along.” She states and Bellamy can feel everyone around them stiffen with the tension behind her words. “Humanity has done horrible things to each other since its conception. I think it’s time to break the cycle. We have an opportunity to start over. All we’re asking is that you give us that chance.”

 

The man’s eyes narrow. Everyone holds their breath as he thinks about it. “My name’s Russell.” He states, offering his hand to Clarke. Clarke takes it without hesitation.

 

“Clarke.” She states.

 

“I’m not sure why you have the tiny tot with you.” Russell says, nodding to Madi. Madi’s hands instinctively reach for her sword, Clarke gently placing her hand over the teen’s. Russell’s eyebrows lift again at the motion. “Bodyguard?”

 

“Commander.” Madi snaps, her eyes darkening.

 

“I didn’t realize we’ve gone back to the middle ages.” Russell states calmly.

 

“I don’t think sniping is the best way to start a new relationship.” Clarke says quickly.

 

“Neither is stabbing, but call me old fashioned.” Russell quips.

 

Putting her hands up gently between the two, Clarke clears her throat. “We can work out the details another time.”

 

Russell thinks about this for a moment. “You can come. I don’t want the toddler.”

 

In a quick movement, Madi unsheathes her sword. “Excuse me?”

 

“Children shouldn’t play with toys that they could hurt themselves on.” Russell states.

 

“I’m sorry, but Madi needs to be there.” Clarke states, raising his hands even higher.

 

Russell smirks. “As long as her guardian is present.”

 

Clarke doesn’t flinch.

 

“I’ll be there.”

 

***

 

It’s three months since Clarke left. Or, rather, was forced to leave.

 

Bellamy passes what used to be Madi and Clarke’s house, looking into the window as if he’d see her there. Bellamy has known Clarke to be absent in many different scenarios, some willingly, some forced. When Russell suggested that Clarke stay with them for a while, Bellamy watched the color drain from her face. To anyone else, they wouldn’t notice a change, but he watches her hands clench.

 

Clarke didn’t look at anyone. Bellamy turned to face Madi, fully expecting her to argue to the point. Except she doesn’t. He startles at this, waiting for Madi to say something. When she doesn’t, he can’t stop himself from saying, “No!” The words bursts out before he can stop it, and everyone whips their head in his direction.

 

Including Clarke.

 

Her blue eyes pierce him, watery and filled with fire. He can’t bring himself to look away. It’s the most intimate expression he’s shared with her since he can remember. She’s staring at him like he’s the only thing that’s keeping her from floating away. Redness creeps into her eyes and all he wants is to make it go away.

 

“I’m sorry?” Russell asked that day, his impish eyes growing malicious. “What did you say?”

 

“You can’t just take Clarke.” Bellamy continues, trying to ignore everyone’s gaze on him. “We aren’t trading people. That was not part of the deal.”

 

“You want us to have a relationship?” Russell asks sharply. “Then you need to prove that you are willing to part with something important. And I think it would be beneficial to have Clarke in our world, so we can understand each other. She’ll gain insight to my people, and I will gain insight to you.”

 

“What’s there to understand?” Bellamy exclaims. “We are people who want to find a way to live well. You don’t need any of us – especially Clarke – to understand that!”

 

“It’s not about understanding wanting a good life, boy.” Russell states and Bellamy’s anger rises. He’s feeling the balance of head and heart disappearing, leaving him to only feel rage. “What I want is insurance.”

 

“Insurance?” Clarke repeats, finally tearing her attention away from Bellamy.

 

“It’s clear that you play an important role within this world.” Russell says.

 

“I think you overestimate my importance.” Clarke states quickly.

 

Russell’s gaze flitted to Bellamy. Bellamy knows in that moment that he’s transparent. “I don’t think I am.” He says. “It won’t be for long. You’ll live with us for a while and then you can return to your people.” Clarke lifts an eyebrow. “You won’t be a prisoner, Clarke. You will be able to return home.”

 

Clarke’s gaze falls to the ground.

 

Bellamy can’t believe his ears. “Madi, you can’t possibly be okay with this.”

 

Madi doesn’t respond right away. She turns her attention to Indra at her side, who lifts her eyebrow at the insinuation. Clarke doesn’t even look at her. Gaia steps forward and whispers something in Madi’s ear. Madi’s eyes water, but she sets herself. “If Clarke goes with you, you will leave us in peace?”

 

Russell nods. “You have my word.”

 

Clarke looks to the sky, her hands on her hips. Bellamy knows that she’s keeping herself from falling apart, as Clarke does. He doesn’t even need to hear Madi’s decision. He knows.

 

Hearing it is painful nonetheless.

 

“Alright.”

 

Clarke doesn’t look anyone in the eye. Bellamy gazes at everyone, waiting for someone to argue, but no one does. They’ve done this before. One life for many. He’s offered, she’s offered… they’ve offered people up. Time after time, they’ve decided who lived and who died. He gets it.

 

And he hates it. “No, that isn’t—”

 

“Bellamy, please.” Clarke snaps.

 

Bellamy stops mid-word at her exclamation. “I’ll see you first thing in the morning.” Russell says with a grin.

 

Clarke leaves without a word.

 

Bellamy rounds on Madi once Russell leaves. “What are you thinking?” He cries.

 

“I’m thinking of what is best for my people.” Madi says, her words even with a maturity that makes his hair stand on end. “And it isn’t forever.” Madi says, but Bellamy wonders if it’s more for herself than him. “She’ll come back.”

 

Bellamy stares. “Madi—”

 

“I have to do what’s best for what good for the most people. Clarke taught me that.”

 

Bellamy knows in some small part of him, she’s right. He can almost hear Clarke’s voice in his head, telling him to think with his head instead of his heart. It’s something he’s heard for years and years. And for the first time, he wants to ignore it.

 

Storming away from the group, Bellamy follows Clarke’s path until he reaches her cabin. They’d been building them as quickly as possible, Madi getting the first cabin due to her Commander status. He goes up to the door, reaching for the door handle before he sees it through the window.

 

Clarke is standing in the middle of the room, her arms wrapped around her chest. One hand is up against her mouth as she cries, crumpling further to the ground until she has to place her free hand to the floor to keep her from laying down. Her forehead touches the ground as she cries, curling upon herself. Bellamy feels like he’s watching an intimate moment he shouldn’t be privy too, but at the same time, he can’t ignore it.

 

Opening the door, Bellamy barges into cabin but Clarke doesn’t even move. Without a word, he places his hands on her shoulders. She weeps and he holds hers, not saying a word.

 

If Bellamy knew it’d be the last time he’d have the opportunity to say something to her, he would’ve said something. Anything. Perhaps all the thoughts he kept locked up would come rushing out. Perhaps he would finally tell her what he’s thought over the years that have separated them and brought them together. It’s been three months since she left with Russell, with nothing more than a casual wave to a sea of indifference to her life, and Bellamy passes the cabin a few times a day. Sometimes when he passes a window, he sees her there, hand over her mouth and silently crying in what she thinks is privacy. Raven often makes fun of him for it, telling him that it’s probably best that she’s gone. People can cool down, figure out how to deal with this new Clarke.

 

The Clarke forged by fire.

 

Sometimes he wonders how often she cried by herself. He thinks back of all their time together and he can only think of a few times where she broke down in front of him. She faced the battle of earth with a stony passion, only cracking in quiet moments in between. Now he wonders how many in betweens he missed.

 

***

 

The announcement was on a Monday. A half a year after she left.

 

Bellamy spent the entire day building houses at the edge of the property. It was awkward at first, working with Miller. Miller stood next to him, casting glances at him every few minutes. As the days passed, he felt the tension melt from his shoulders. He would make a casual joke and then Miller would tell him about his relationship with Jackson. The curt talk turns into casual silence, which morphs back into something resembling normalcy.

 

The day they call the announcement, Miller’s in the middle of a story about how Jackson accidentally used poison ivy to treat a child his first year in the medical profession. Bellamy finds himself laughing, Miller hammering to the beat of it. “—he tells me this as we are about to have sex for the first time, when I asked if he was clean.”

 

“You’re joking.”

 

“I am totally not.”

 

“You guys are just the dream couple, aren’t you?”

 

“I’d like to think so.” Miller says, his eyes sparkling. His smile falters. “Listen, Bellamy. I know we’ve had our differences—”

 

“Putting me in the murder pit would do that to a friendship.”

 

“—but I’m sorry. The six years in the bunker were… horrible. Not that it’s an excuse, but, I thought loyalty was the most important—”

 

“Miller, stop.” Bellamy states, putting his hand up. “I get it.”

 

“You do?”

 

Bellamy sighs. “Sort of? We’ve all done shitty things.”

 

“We sure have.”

 

“Let’s just… start over, okay?” Bellamy says. “We have a new planet, might as well start fresh.”

 

Miller smiles. “I could get on board with that.”

 

“Yeah—”

 

A horn rings out in the air, Bellamy and Miller looking up. “The emergency horn,” Miller says distantly. “I’ve never heard that before.”

 

The hammer almost falls from Bellamy’s hands. “Yeah,” he says softly. “We better go see what’s going on.”

 

By the time they reach the town center, everyone is already there. Someone places a hand on his back and he sees Echo standing next to him, her eyes filled with worry. “Madi asked for you to come to the front.” She says. “They delayed the announcement until you arrived.”

 

“Announcement?” Bellamy repeats. “What is it?”

 

“I don’t know.” Echo says. “They won’t say.”

 

Bellamy shoves his way through the crowd until he reaches Madi, who steps closer to him. She peers up, her eyes watering. “They say they need to tell us something.” Madi whispers to him and her hand twitches as if she wants to grab him.

 

Bellamy sees Russell standing in front of them all, the mischievousness that he’s grown used to gone. It makes the knot in Bellamy’s stomach grow as he stares.

 

“What do you want?” Madi asks, her voice calm in the midst of the chaos.

 

Russell steps up. “I would like to say that I am terribly sorry for the news I’m bringing.”

 

Madi’s voice finally wavers. “What do you mean?”

 

Bellamy moves closer to the teen.

 

Russell takes a breath. “I am deeply sorry to let you know that Clarke has passed away.”

 

It’s as if someone shoved his head underwater. Suddenly there’s a rushing in his ears and he can’t hear anything else. In fact, there’s nothing playing around them. He can’t understand the words that just were said. It isn’t until someone asks for a clarification until he hears again.

 

“She got sick,” Russell states, his words quiet. “And before we knew what was happening, she was too sick to recover.”

 

“Too sick to recover?” Someone asks and Bellamy can’t react before Abby’s shoving past him, her eyes wild. “We have doctors here! Why the hell didn’t you bring her here?”

 

“As I told you, she got too sick too quickly. We didn’t realize how bad it was until it was too late.” Russell states. “Her immune system couldn’t handle the atmosphere. I’m not sure, but she had black blood. And not naturally. It looks like too many tests on a human before the human broke.”

 

“How dare you,” Abby snaps, stepping into his space, waving a finger in his face. “How dare you suggest we did anything but—”

 

“I didn’t mutate my daughter’s genes.” He responds calmly. Abby takes a step back. “None of us are at fault here. She got sick and she passed away.”

 

Abby’s eyes water, tears rolling down her cheeks. “Where is she?”

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“Where is Clarke?”

 

“I’m sorry,” Russell states. “We can’t release her body because we’ve already cremated her. Our people was very distraught at her passing. Even though we only had her for a short time, she was beloved quickly. And so they were very opposed to releasing her back.”

 

“But she was our people!” Bellamy shouts, moving forward. “You had no right! You don’t get to make that decision!”

 

Russell lifts an eyebrow. “I believe I had every right. She was under my care when she passed and was integrating herself in our world. Many of those considered her our people.”

 

Madi remains very quiet. She stands in front of everyone, her gaze focused on Russell. He doesn’t flinch under it, but catches sight of her sword at her side. There are a few tears that escape does her cheeks, Bellamy resisting the urge to reach out. “Give us Clarke back.” Madi states, her voice cracking. “Now.”

 

“There’s nothing too—”

 

“Give us Clarke back!”

 

Her words echo in the area, loud and commanding. Bellamy flinches at the noise, reaching toward the team. She wrenches herself out of his grasp. “Now!”

 

“I’m very sorry for your loss.” Russell states. “There was nothing we could do.”

 

Bellamy bows his head and repeats, “Nothing we could do.”

 

***

 

So he stands at a funeral. He stands there, the name carved in stone as if she was never there. He thinks sometimes it would’ve been easier if she wasn’t. Sure, they never would’ve made it this far if that were the case. If he hadn’t had Clarke, the all would’ve died the moment they touched down on the Ground. But at what cost?

 

Raven stands a few paces away, glaring at the tombstone. She hasn’t said much to anyone since the announcement of Clarke’s death came, Shaw confiding with Bellamy that she won’t leave her work station even long into the night. Her eyes are dry and hard, as if angry with Clarke for leaving. He knew their relationship fractured in the events of earth, Raven standing closer and closer to Echo as everyone faded away. He never said anything about it.

 

He never said any of the important things.

 

Now they’re here, standing at the headstone of someone who saved their lives more than he can remember. He wonders if she died as she lived: alone. Shaking his head, Bellamy scrubs the idea from his mind. He can’t bring himself to think like that. He’ll shatter if he does.

 

Russell emerges from the shadows, Wonkru’s weapons trained on him in moments. Madi stands before all, her expression stony as a few wayward tears roll down her cheeks. She’s hardened by this, Bellamy can tell. But she doesn’t reach for her weapon, like she had so many times. She merely stands before them all, looking at the plot of the person she once loved most in this world. Bellamy thinks not for the first time that if love were enough, she’d still be here.

 

Of course, love is never enough.

 

Madi doesn’t even glance up to Russell, but he approaches her anyways. “I know you don’t want me here,” he starts. “But I found this in her room and I thought you may want it.”

 

He extends his hand and holds something out for Madi. She finally turns to him, staring at the item he’s giving her. Bellamy can’t help it – he tries not to strain his neck to see, but when Madi takes it from his palm, he doesn’t need to.

 

Her father’s watch.

 

Just the sight of it elicits another sob from Abby, who all but crumples in Kane’s arms. It’s clear Kane recognizes it as well, because he closes his eyes and simply guides them to the ground, holding her close. “I don’t want this.” Madi says, her voice scratchy and cold. “I can’t have this.”

 

The harshness of her words startle everyone in the area, even Gaia placing a hand on the girl’s shoulder. Madi shakes it off, her head whipping back and forth in an angry shake. “I can’t be a true Commander with this. All I will see when I look at this is what I’ve done.”

 

Gaia starts softly, “Madi, you did what needed to be done for your people—”

 

“Enough!” Madi screams and her voice cracks, the tone of a scared twelve-year-old finally dripping through her tone. “I did what you all wanted! I sent Clarke away so we could live in peace! What more could you possibly want from me?”

 

Bellamy can’t look away. He watches the child crumble, the weight of every commander before her sinking her further and further into darkness.  He considers going up there to comfort her, but in the end doesn’t need to. Whirling around, Madi searches the group until she catches his eye, marching over to where he is with the watch in her hand. Without a word, she shoves it in his chest. He almost drops it, his finger looping around the clasps. “Madi—”

 

“She would’ve wanted you to have it.” Madi says, her words clipped. “You were her favorite person, in the end.”

 

“Madi, you know how much she loved you.” Bellamy says, but his words don’t sound like his own. They’re foreign and raspy, like he’s forgotten how to speak ever since the announcement came. “She would’ve done anything for you.”

 

“And we all saw how well that turned out for her.” Madi says, glancing up.

 

Her eyes are big and impossibly wide. He sees the child staring back for a moment, the cloud of the commanders lifting until the only person in front of him is Madi. She reaches out, her small hand wrapping around his wrist and pinning him there, her fingernails painfully digging into his skin.

 

“I can’t believe I killed her.” Madi whispers, but she may as well be shouting in this melancholy quiet.

 

Bellamy places his hands on her shoulders and looks into her eyes. “You did not kill her.”

 

“I may as well have.” She responds, a few more tears falling from her cheeks. “I had a responsibility to the safety of my people, I had a responsibility to try and keep us from war. I had a responsibility for peace.”

 

Russell tilts his chin up. “One of the things you’ll learn, kid, is peace never comes without a price.”

 

Madi whips her head in his direction, eyes hard. She unsheathes her sword in a swift movement, pointing the blade in his direction. “Then you had your price. You will leave. Now.”

 

He nods, retreating back into the forest.

 

She’s shaking. Trembling from head to toe in a way that doesn’t look healthy and is honestly terrifying Bellamy to his core. Except how can you comfort someone, when your own is out of reach. “We will get through this, Madi.” Bellamy says softly, wishing he believed his own words. “I know we can.”

 

The girl drops the blade. In a moment of clarity that he knows she is ignoring the commanders before her, she rushes to him and wraps her arms around his middle. Madi clings to him in the same way Octavia used to, filled with emotion that topples out of her. So he stands there and lets the girl cry. He glares at any of the Grounders who look on with confusion or disgust at the action, daring them to say a word against them.

 

After all.

 

Wednesday is for mourning.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWO

 

“Come on, Bellamy. Let’s go for old time’s sake. Traveling? Potential death? Good times.” Murphy says at the breakfast table, all of Spacekru sitting on their own as the members of Wonkru surrounding all the others.

 

It’d been a year since the funeral, that spot on this new planet one Bellamy avoids with every ounce of intent he has. No one really says anything about it, but Bellamy thinks it’s because they don’t really want to go their either. The world continued to turn, just as earth did many times when they lost people. Bellamy chooses not to talk about it, just like everyone else.

 

So when Murphy asks him to go into the neighboring city to work on a trade agreement, he’s less than incline. In fact, he’s surprised that Murphy is so forward for it, he says, “Murphy. Kindly shut up.”

 

“Come on, Madi specifically asked for you and ever since she became officially a teenager, she’s become wildly insufferable. Well, that and when she started commanding a blood-thirsty army.” Murphy shrugs. “Toss up which one is more annoying.” Emori rolls her eyes and nudges him.

 

“Shockingly, I don’t want to go into that city.” Bellamy grumbles, pretending he doesn’t see everyone share a glance. “Pass.”

 

“But it’s boring peace agreement bullshit. You love peace agreement bullshit.” Murphy offers. “Remember that time on the Ark you made us listen to a speech about the fall of the Roman empire and I drank myself half way to death? It’ll be like that, but with less whiskey?”

 

“I think whiskey would help this more.” Bellamy says.

 

“Bellamy,” Echo says cautiously and he sighs.

 

“I don’t want to go there.” Bellamy states. “I—”

 

“Bellamy.”

 

The cool voice wafts over to them and Bellamy closes his eyes. He understands it’s his fault. He put the Flame in her head and then brought her to a world that destroyed her mother. But whenever he looks Madi in the eyes, he no longer sees the twelve-year-old who saved his life when he dropped down to earth. They’re hard and cold, all fire gone behind them. All warmth extinguished.

 

Bellamy looks up anyway. “Madi.”

 

Madi approaches him, covered in the Wonkru garb, complete with cape. Despite their planetary neighbors being a bit more modern in their attire, Madi remained in her Commander outfits, Wonkru doing the same. The only person who hadn’t continued to adopted the attire was Octavia, who found a handful of jeans and rough t-shirts. It was odd seeing her in anything other than a warrior’s armor, but it’s the usual these days. Bellamy wasn’t able to bring himself to speak with her, even as the months pass. She occasionally tries to catch his eye, but he always looks away.

 

It’s all too much.

 

“We’re going to the city in order to procure some supplies for the winter.” Madi states. “We barely handled the cold last year, and even with the new cabins, I’m afraid it’ll be as terrible.”

 

“That’s a smart move.” Bellamy says, unable to stop himself from matching her cold tone. It’s all so very exhausting. “It’ll be good to prepare.”

 

“I’d like you to join me.”

 

Bellamy tries not to show his frustration. It’s an invitation, sure, but it’s a command. She’s putting up pretense because of who she once was, even though there’s an edge in her voice. Bellamy eyes Echo to her side, who is pointedly not looking at either of them. “Then I’ll come.” He finally manages.

 

“Good.” She states, nodding. “We leave in an hour.”

 

It isn’t until Madi is out of earshot does Murphy say, “Look at that, the gang’s all back together.” He says, clapping his hands together. “All of us, wandering to a distant city with the unknown before us.”

 

“There’s no unknown,” Echo states, returning to her food. “We’ve been there several times.”

 

“You know what I mean!”

 

“Why are you so excited about this?” Raven asks, throwing him a suspicious look. “You’ve always hated this kind of stuff. If I recall, you tried to convince us that we should get a tract of land so we didn’t have to deal with Wonkru ever again.”

 

Murphy doesn’t seem perturbed. “And you all rudely voted against me.”

 

“Then what’s the deal?” Raven snaps. “Why do you want us to go there so badly?

 

“Madi’s going.” He states, dropping his gaze.

 

“So?”

 

Murphy sighs. “God, enough with the third degree. Madi may be the Commander, but she’s still thirteen. And she, uh… lost the person who used to have her back.”

 

“She has a whole army to have her back.” Echo snaps.

 

“It’s not the same way, and you know it.” Murphy says, harsher than anyone expects. “I think we should have it now. For her.”

 

He doesn’t say her name, but it’s like a weight looms over them. Bellamy glares at him for something to do, but he knows deep down he’s right. The watch that hangs from a chain around his neck feels heavier than it normally does, hidden between the fabric of his jacket.

 

“Well, we don’t have a choice anyways.” Bellamy says with a groan. “Looks like we’re heading out.”

 

“Heading out!” Murphy claps his hands. “Roll out, son!”

 

Raven bites a carrot on her plate. “You’re getting weird with age.”

 

“I age like a fine wine.” Murphy says, running his hand down his chest. “Just ask Emori.”

 

“Please leave me out of this.”

 

“What’s the point in having a partner in crime if you don’t back me up?” Murphy exclaims.

 

Despite the fact that his day just got infinitely worse, Bellamy can’t help but snort. The knot in his chest loosens a bit.  He laughs in spite of himself, getting up from the table. “I should pack then. These are always longer trips than we expect.”

 

Echo goes to stand up, but Raven beats her to it. “Let me help you. I won’t be going because I have to work on the security, so I have some free time.”

 

Bellamy doesn’t say goodbye before he leaves. When they are away from the eating area, Raven says, “You need to stop biting everyone’s head off.”

 

“Excuse me?”

 

“You’ve been in a bad mood for the past year and it’s time for it to stop.” Raven states with a smile.

 

“Raven, come on.”

 

“Don’t ‘Raven, come on’ me. You know what I’m talking about. You did this after Praimfaya and you’re doing it now. You’re lucky we love you, otherwise you’d be living by yourself.”

 

“Raven—”

 

“Listen.” Raven states, stopping the two of them in the middle of the area. “You brought me back when I was struggling. So don’t think of this as an intervention and more of kind word from one of your dearest friends: stop being a fucking asshole.”

 

Bellamy tries not to grumble at her. “Raven—”

 

“Then this is an intervention. We need to move on.”

 

***

 

Two months after the funeral, Bellamy only saw Raven four times. At first he was too much in his own head to really notice, but when there was a moment he saw her grab some rations and disappear, it occurred to him that he hasn’t spoken with her in a while.

 

Bellamy frowns at this, taking a small bite of his rations as he eyes her. "Have any of you spoke with Raven recently?"

 

The collective silence is deafening. There's an uncomfortable cough, then Shaw raises a tentative hand. "Actually, I've been wanting to talk to you guys about that, but it hasn't really felt like my place." He says. 

 

"Shaw, when are you going to get it in your thick skull that you're a part of this unhappy family." Murphy drawls from the end of the bench.

 

Shaw gives him a small smile, but the apprehension doesn't leave his face. "I don't know what to do anymore. She doesn't sleep, she barely eats. I rarely even see her - she's just at that work bench of hers night after night... I keep trying to talk to her, but every time I do, she yells or locks me out. I don't know what to do anymore."

 

"You should've said something." Emori says quietly. "We could've helped."

 

"Well, I'm saying something now." Shaw states. "I don't know what to do anymore. Every time I try to talk to her, she pushes me away. I didn't even think she and Clarke were that close - they almost never spoke to each other."

 

Another unsettling silence drifts over them. "That was the issue." Echo states, her voice very even. Bellamy is trying to figure out what she's hiding, but as usual, he can't. "They were very close. But they had things to work through."

 

He can't listen to this anymore. Standing up and slamming his hands on the table, Bellamy flinches when everyone stares at him. "I--" He starts, but it's like the words are caught in his throat. "I'll go talk to her.

 

Before anyone can argue with him, he stalks away, realizing he's made his hands into fists without realizing it. Making his way through the in-progress village is difficult because it's everything he had hoped his time on earth would be. They're not just securing the area, they're working to try and make it a home for everyone who lives there. Everything was settled, everything was finally in place, and he feels like ripping it all down. 

 

Perhaps it isn't the best thing to go to Raven and talk about her attitude when he wants to rip everything to pieces, but it's where he's at. He doesn't cast Madi's house a glance for fear of what vision he might see in the window, stomping until he reaches Raven's office. It's not much, but they had it worse on earth. She's got a workbench and a collection of tools they've traded with the neighboring city. As he expected, she's leaned over the bench, a mask in front of her face as she holds a torch to something mangled before her.

 

"Raven," Bellamy calls and she doesn't respond. He isn't sure what to say. How do you comfort someone when you aren't sure how to comfort yourself? "Raven we need to talk."

 

"I'm busy." She mumbles, leaning closer to the flame. The smell of burnt metal is making Bellamy's head hurt as he stays there, but he knows he can't leave.

 

"You've been busy for two months, it seems." Bellamy says. Raven doesn't stop torching. "You know, you've done this before."

 

"Fascinating." Raven states, still not looking up. 

 

Bellamy approaches her workbench, careful not to be anywhere near the flame, and leans against this. "You need to stop."

 

"Go away, Bellamy."

 

"No, actually. I'm not going to." Bellamy states, his voice gruff. "You're pushing Shaw away and you're pushing us away. Now, you think that it is easier not to get close with us because of whatever bullshit you've convinced yourself of, but we're family."

 

"Go away, Bellamy."

 

"I said no, give me that." In a swift motion, he manages to take the blowtorch away from here, which is good, because he's convinced she'd use it on his face if given the opportunity. He turns it down and sets it aside. "Have the balls to look me in the eyes."

 

Raven whips her head in his direction, snapping her mask up. "What do you want, Bellamy?"

 

"I want you to come outside, eat with us, and deal. The only way we're going to get through this is together - just like on the Ark. If I didn't have you pulling me back, I'd never have made it through that first year. Hell - the second or third. I definitely wouldn't be with Echo right now if it weren't for you."

 

"What do you want me to say, Bellamy?" Raven asks, her tone a little wild and crazy as she throws her hands up in the air. "You want me to say sorry? You want me to say I'm sad?"

 

She's practically screaming the words at him and Bellamy is infinitely more relieved she no longer has a torch in her hands. "Well, are you?"

 

Raven's eyes blaze. "Am I what?" She screams.

 

"Sad? Sorry?" Bellamy asks, his own voice raising.

 

"Of course I fucking am!" She all but screeches, her chest heaving. "Are you happy now? That I admitted it?"

 

"Of course I'm not happy!"

 

"Neither am I!"

 

"Fine then!" She shrieks, lowering her arms. Neither of them say anything for a while. Tears well in her eyes and Bellamy pretends the same isn't happening to his. Raven takes a few deep breaths, unclenching her fists as she sits on a stool. "This isn't how it was supposed to be."

 

Bellamy sits on the stool next to her, dragging it over until their knees touch. She crouches, placing her hand over her face while the other braces against the bench. Small cries start and Bellamy reaches out to cover her hand with his, trying his best to give Raven space. Not scare her off. She rarely breaks down and usually when she does, that means an ice-out is happening next. Sucking in a few breaths, Raven says, "It wasn't supposed to happen this way. I didn't want her to die."

 

"Of course you didn't, Raven."

 

"I didn't even say goodbye!" Raven exclaims, ripping her hand from underneath his. "I-I didn't even care that she was going. I actually made a point not to say goodbye. I was mad because I felt like she changed. She always had our backs, no matter the cost, and I didn't even know how to deal when we weren't on the same side. And looking back on it now - did we even make the right choice?"

 

Bellamy startles. "What?"

 

"I know it was the only thing anyone could think of, giving the Flame to Madi. But we made a twelve-year-old in charge of everyone. We destroyed her childhood."

 

"We didn't, Raven." Bellamy states, lowering his head. "did."

 

"No, we all supported you. We all stood behind her. We all looked to her when we went into cryo. We looked a girl who is only twelve-years-old, who only had one person on earth to keep them alive, and said, 'if you don't do this, that person will die.' What sort of people do that?" Raven asks, each word a further dagger to the chest. "And then we punished Clarke for not wanting that to happen? For protecting the one person she had to survive with for six years? And for what?"

 

Bellamy bows his head. It's not new information - it's things that Bellamy thinks to himself with the sun sets and he's left only to his thoughts and the sound of Echo breathing at his side. But hearing them thrown at him is even more painful than he can imagine. Bellamy genuinely thought that he was the only one who felt this way. "I know, Raven." Bellamy says, because he does.

 

That seems to do it.

 

That seems to reach her.

 

Raven breaks down, grabbing his hand and collapsing onto his legs, her shoulders shaking as she cries. Bellamy struggles not to completely break down with her, but he knows that he has to remain her rock for this to lead to a positive place. So they sit there, the sounds of Raven's cries growing louder.

 

Once she settles, she straightens, her eyes red and swollen. Gripping his hands tighter than she ever has, she asks, "What do we do now, Bellamy?"

 

Bellamy takes a moment to answer, because he knows it's an important question. "We do better." He answers. "You with me, Reyes?"

 

The corner of her mouth quirks up at that. With a small chuckle, she looks him straight in the eyes. "Always."

 

***

 

Bellamy's last conversation with Clarke was a quiet one. It was an offhanded conversation about the weather - the kind of conversation you expect to have with people until the end of your life. It was so generic that Bellamy can't even remember exactly what he said. He's tried a few times, but never had an answer.

 

The last important conversation he had with Clarke was one that haunts his dreams. 

 

It was in the early morning. Bellamy couldn't sleep, like he sometimes can't, the nightmares of earth far too fresh for the likes of sleep. When he stepped out of his tent, he was greeted to a silent village, not even the early risers rummaging around. The sun wasn't even up, the vast stars and two suns blazing in the sky. He strolled throughout the village, trying to acclimate to the strange animal noises around him. 


Then, something moved in the corner of his eye. 

 

His hand instinctively goes to his hip where a gun usually lies, but there's nothing there. However, when Clarke strolls out from behind one of the tents, a backpack slung over her shoulder, he startles. "Clarke?"

 

She nearly jumps in the air. "Bellamy? What are you doing up right now?"

 

"What are you doing up right now?" He shoots back.

 

"I asked you first!" She exclaims.

 

"I can't sleep." Bellamy says sheepishly. "I thought I'd go on a walk."

 

"I get that." Clarke says with a comforting smile. "I have trouble sleeping a lot too."

 

The suns start to crest over the planet and the red in the sky makes it look like Clarke's hair is on fire. It's breathtaking in a way that Bellamy can't explain, burning with a force that he thought may have been lost to her. 

 

"Your turn," he coughs when he realizes he's been staring at her far too long. 

 

Clarke gives him a humorless chuckle. "Well, it's the quietest part of the day."

 

"What do you mean by that?"

 

Clarke shrugs. "When people aren't awake, they can't avoid me, can they?" She jokes, but it falls painfully flat. "I dunno, I like a moment in the day when it doesn't feel like I'm letting everyone down."

 

Bellamy opens his mouth to argue, but there's really nothing he can say to that. He's watched how Raven avoids her, the furious glares from Echo. He's seen Madi distance herself as Gaia implores her again and again that love is a weakness. He's seen it all. 

 

"How do you feel about some company?" He settles on, feeling like a subject change would be in both their best interest.

 

"Sure," she says with a smile. "But, you can't avoid me if we go on a walk together."

 

"I promise, I'll keep it three steps behind you - maximum."

 

"That's not creepy at all." She laughs, cocking her head to the right. "Let's go. I'll show you something I discovered the other day."

 

He falls in line with her and they march in a companionable silence. He's more comfortable than he remembers in ages - that is, until he realizes that this is the first time the two of them have been truly alone since arriving on the planet. For some reason, that makes his palms sweat and he’s overthinking every movement. Clarke doesn’t seem to be afflicted by the same discomfort that he’s managed to wrap himself in, pointing out passages here and there, explaining different things she’s found.

 

“Holy crap, Clarke, I think you’ve discovered more on your morning walks than everyone else combined.” Bellamy comments as she shows him a small lagoon that she apparently stumbled across a week ago.

 

She laughs. “Well, everyone else is actively liked. The one thing benefit of being hated is the fact that you don’t really answer to anyone. I can see why Murphy liked it for so long.”

 

“No one hates you, Clarke.”

 

She lets out a hard laugh at that. “Oh, so they just don’t want to be around me?” Bellamy hates the bitterness in her voice, tinged with despair. “It’s fine, I suppose I deserve it. This way!”

 

She gestures for him to follow her down a narrow path, their feet quickening to not cascade down the hill. “I’m serious, Clarke. No one hates you.”

 

“They do, but like I said, I get it. I deserve it. I made some bad choices. I was just… afraid.” She sighs. “What I don’t understand is why you don’t hate me.”

 

“What?” Bellamy startles. “Clarke, I told you—”

 

“That Madi talked to you, sure.” She says. “But I know you, Bellamy. I’ve known you for over seven years. And sure, we were apart for the majority of that, but I know you. And you wouldn’t simply forgive someone without a good reason.”

 

Bellamy feels slightly cornered. He isn’t sure if he should tell Clarke he knows about the radio calls. She’s never mentioned them to him, even when he’s asked straight out what she did. She always found a way to leave the conversation, a slightly panic overcoming her. He doesn’t understand. He doesn’t understand why she wouldn’t want to let him know, unless…

 

He shakes his head. Of course it’s not that.

 

“She told me something.”

 

Clarke stops walking and puts her hands on her hips. “She told you something.” When Bellamy doesn’t immediately respond, she pries, “Well, what did she tell you?”

 

He definitely feels cornered now. Bellamy knows the moment he says it, the dynamic will change. The joking, slightly teasing Clarke will go away. And the panicked, defensive one will take her place.

 

Nonetheless, he really doesn’t have a choice in the matter.

 

“She told me about the radio calls.”

 

The reaction is immediate. Clarke stiffens, her eyes widening. He can even seem them dart around, as if she’s seriously considering making a break for it. The logical side of her clearly wins over, because she responds evenly, “That was not hers to tell.”

 

“Now, it’s my turn.” Bellamy says, almost annoyed. “What I don’t understand is why you didn’t tell.”

 

Clarke turns around and continues further. “There was nothing to tell.”

 

Jogging to catch up with her, Bellamy grabs her arm and whirls her around. “God, Clarke stop running away from me, please.”

 

When she turns to face him, her walls are up. Eyes hard, arms crossed against her chest, Clarke is a fortress. Bellamy’s faced this Clarke many times, each as frustrating as the last. He can’t help his anger rising up – as though she had a reason to be annoyed with him? “Why didn’t you tell me?” He asks again. “That’s something that you could’ve mentioned. You tried to radio me for six years?”

 

“What does it matter now, Bellamy?” Clarke cries, throwing her hands up in the air. “So what – I called you. Anyone else would’ve!”

 

“But you called me. Not Raven – who probably would’ve been smarter since she was trying to get us back down. Not Monty, not Murphy. You called me. Why.”

 

“You’re my friend!”

 

“They’re all your friends!” Bellamy insists. Honestly, he isn’t sure what he wants out of this conversation. But she’s here and he’s here and they’re actually talking and he wants something and—

 

“What good would it have done?” Clarke asks, her words a bit manic. “What good would it have possibly done? I know you Bellamy – you take on the weight of the world. It’s too heavy! I’m not going to tell you that.”

 

“What if I wanted you to?”

 

“It doesn’t matter!” Clarke shouts and her voice disrupts a few birds in a nearby tree. But Bellamy doesn’t tear his gaze away. In fact he wants to get closer.

 

So he does.

 

He gets close enough to tilt his head down far enough to maintain eye contact. Her chest rises and falls and they’re almost touching. Something dormant in him awakens – something he pushed deep down the moment he slammed the door of the rocket shut. It almost scares him, how fiercely his feelings come back with her looking at him in earnest.

 

“Things have changed Bellamy.” Clarke finally says, her voice quiet and tragic. It breaks at the end, and although her eyes are dry, they’re reddening around the corners, threatening to change. “It doesn’t matter anymore. Things have changed.”

 

She’s right.

 

They have changed.

 

Bellamy doesn’t want to move though. Clarke doesn’t either, the two of them impossibly close and impossibly far at the same time. Like the binary suns rising over the vast land, they don’t touch. They don’t cross.

 

They simply float.

 

It’s Clarke who breaks first. “We should be getting back,” Clarke says with a wry smile. “If I recall, you’re scheduled on a hunt today. They’ll be annoyed they have to wait for you.”

 

Bellamy scratches the back of his neck as he takes a step back. “And they won’t be annoyed they have to wait for you?”

 

Clarke laughs. It’s painful to hear. Sad. Angry. Alone. With a shake of her head, she moves forward. All he can hear is her footsteps and a faint:

 

“Nobody waits for me.”

 

***

 

Bellamy stays at the back of the group with Echo and Murphy. They enter the city, their guns tucked in their holsters, but Madi’s surrounded by Wonkru soliders. They’re greeted at the front gate by the ambassadors of the people, their smiling faces almost too bright for Bellamy to handle.

 

The city is vast – bigger than anything Bellamy’s ever seen between the Ark and the Ground. They don’t just have houses, but buildings and actual cobblestone roads – the benefit of living here for over a hundred years. He knows in his heart that trading and setting up allies with them is the smartest thing to do – use your head, Bellamy – but there’s no place he wants to be least.

 

Every time he’s here, he sees her face.

 

He sees her when he turns corners and passes street vendors. He sees her cold smile that day in the woods, repeating the phrase that will haunt him forever: “No one waits for me.”

 

So he stays in the back.

 

They pass a group of women carrying a few boxes, chatting amongst each other. One clips their shoe against a rogue cobblestone, sending her box flying and tumbling to the ground. She places her hands out in front of her to stop her fall, scraping her palms as she does so.

 

On instinct, Bellamy rushes to her side to help her to her feet, grabbing her arms and lifting. “Are you alright?” He asks, concerned.

 

The woman laughs. “Just clumsy, thank you.”

 

Bellamy reaches down for the wayward box, handing it to her outstretched hands. Then he freezes.

 

Dripping down her wrist is black blood.

 

Bellamy doesn’t hand her the box. Instead he stares at the blood, now snaking trails down her forearm. “Oh my god.” He breathes.

 

Her eyes follow his gaze and she snatches the box from his grasp. “Thank you for helping me,” she rushed, her voice panicked.

 

“Wait,” Bellamy states, putting an arm out.

 

The woman sprints and Bellamy moves to take off after her, but someone catches his arm. “What are you doing?” Echo hisses.

 

He doesn’t respond. All he can do is watch the woman run away, black blood dripping down her arms.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THREE

 

“Dude, you need to let me in on whatever face journey you’re going on right now.” Murphy hisses at his side, Bellamy trying with every part of him to remain calm. His hands are pinned on at his sides as his mind replays the blood rolling down the woman’s wrist again and again. “Because you look like you’re about to take a swing at someone, and while I would love to see that Russell guy clocked one, I think it’d be a bad idea.”

 

It can’t be. It can’t be. It can’t be what he’s thinking. It can’t be.

 

“Bellamy.”

 

Bellamy’s head whips up when he hears his name, Madi brushing past a few people to reach him. She stands in front of him, her shoulders squared and proud. “Would you care to join me for negotiations? I think you should be there. Clarke told me a few stories of how good you are in councils.”

 

Hearing her name out loud is like a slap. The black blood is still dripping in his mind. Every once and a while it surprises him again, how much he misses her. He never thought he’d miss her more than he did that first year after Praimfaya, but he does. It hits him in waves – like a tidal wave that crashes against him, then ebbs. But then the coastline recedes and smashes against him all over.

 

“She may have been remembering things through optimistic glasses.” Bellamy manages to get out, his mouth dry.

 

“Maybe,” Madi says. “But I don’t think so. Everything else she told me about you is true. So I imagine this is as well.”

 

Bellamy clenches his jaw. Five minutes ago, the last thing he possibly wanted to do was come face to face with Russell again. He hadn’t seen him since the funeral and he would be pleased if he never saw the man again.

 

But that was five minutes ago.

 

Now, there’s no other person he’d rather see.

 

“I’ll be there.” Bellamy states. “Let’s go.”

 

Both Murphy and Echo whip their heads in his direction, both expressions incredulous. Even Madi seems mildly surprised, her cool exterior dropping for only a brief moment. “Oh,” She states. “Okay then. Let’s go.”

 

“I want to go.” Murphy says abruptly, eyeing Bellamy.

 

Now Madi is definitely surprised. “Excuse me?”

 

Murphy laughs, trying to break the palpable tension. “I’ve always wanted to see these things, but I’ve never been invited.”

 

“That’s because you have terrible manners.” Echo says coolly.

 

Murphy doesn’t even pay her attention. “So Madi, are you going to break my heart?”

 

Madi hesitates and Bellamy knows he’s won her over. With a curt nod, she turns on her heels, clearly expecting them to follow. As soon as she’s out of earshot, Murphy whispers, “Seriously Bellamy, what is going on?”

 

“That woman I helped had black blood.”

 

That causes both of them to stop in their tracks. Bellamy whips around and says, “Listen, you guys either have to follow me and remain calm, or you can’t follow me.”

 

“Bellamy, you can’t be serious.” Echo snaps, trying to keep her cool. “You must’ve just thought you saw something.”

 

“Yes, I saw black blood dripping from that woman’s arm.” Bellamy whispers back.

 

“Come on, Bellamy, you can’t keep doing this!” Echo cries. “You did this on the Ark as well, you can’t hold onto her when—”

 

“She was alive then, too!” Bellamy snaps back.

 

“Oh my god,” Echo says to herself. “Do you hear yourself? Clarke is dead, Bellamy. How many times to we have to go through this?”

 

“Echo, this is not the time to have this discussion,” Bellamy hisses, turning to Murphy who is oddly silent throughout off of this. In fact, he looks thoughtful. “How in the hell are you quiet all of a sudden?”

 

Murphy makes a face and starts, “Well, I—”

 

“Bellamy, Heda is looking for you.” Indra states, surveying the three of them. “She thought it was clear to follow.”

 

“It was.” Bellamy states. “We just needed a moment.”

 

“Moment’s over.” Indra states. “This way.”

 

“Time has softened you, Indra,” Bellamy says with a smirk as he marches next to her. “You used to just shove your gun in my face.”

 

Indra grins at his side. “I got tired of your sad puppy eyes. It was like kicking a wounded animal. It’s not fun when your opponent is so much weaker than you.”

 

“Yeah,” Bellamy says with a smile. If anything, she’s calming him down a bit. “That’s what I thought you’d say.”

 

They walk through the cobblestones, the large buildings looming over them. He feels a little itchy, antsy at the buildings around him. Indra seems to be just as uncomfortable as he is, so he lifts an eyebrow. She senses this as he knew she would, and she keeps her voice low, Madi a few paces in front of her. “I know that Clarke and I were not the closest of people on this planet or the last one. But I respected her as a leader and a person.”

 

Bellamy can’t bring himself to look at her. All he can see is black blood, black blood, black blood.

 

“I know people weren’t pleased with some of her actions before we left earth. But I understood them. I’ve always understood Clarke Griffin. I knew her moves before she thought of them, I knew her plan before she put it into action.”

 

“How?” Bellamy asks. “How could you possibly know something like that?”

 

“Because if you know the person, you know how they are. And Clarke always fought for people she thought were her family.” Indra takes a pause. “Madi was all she had for six years and we lit the valley on fire. She did not deserve the raking across the coals that everyone was so fond of. And I do not relish shaking the hand of a people who finally succeeded in killing her.” Indra looks at him. “She did not deserve an anonymous death and I do not want to stand in a room with them. But we must.”

 

Bellamy sets himself. “I know, Indra.”

 

“I’m simply reminding you, remember I didn’t shove a gun in your face, so let’s not give me attitude.” Indra says, a playful tone in her voice. “I’m saying that in this instance, we have to use our heads.”

 

Bellamy stares.

 

“We must use our heads and ignore the calls to our hearts in this instance. It is the curse of the gentle heart in a warring world.” Indra says. “And in this instance, we must be firm, but practical. This is a good trade.”

 

“I know.”

 

“This is a good move.”

 

“I know.

 

“Good.” Indra says without looking at him. “As long as we’re clear.”

 

She quickens her pace so she’s next to Madi, Bellamy feeling the absence as soon as she’s gone. Murphy replaces it as quickly as it’s made, whispering, “Somebody got in trouble with the principal.”

 

“Shut up, Murphy.”

 

“Did she tell you not to act like a jackass in there?”

 

“In a very Indra way.”

 

“Of course.” Murphy laughs. “You solid?”

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“Are you solid, Bellamy?”

 

Bellamy doesn’t know what to say?

***

 

A month after the funeral, Bellamy finds Murphy half into the bottle. Or full in the bottle, he’s not sure. But there was a bottle and Murphy was on the floor, so whatever combination is there was, it was clear who was the winner. The only reason he knew about it was because Emori came into his tent, panicked.

 

“John isn’t okay.” She says while she’s walking through the door. Bellamy looks up from where he’s reading at a table.

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“John isn’t okay. He somehow found some booze and he’s just… he’s not well and I was thinking you could talk to him.”

 

Honestly the booze sounds like a good idea. But Bellamy’s seen Murphy in a low place and it’s not pretty. Echo cocks her head at him where she is in the corner and Bellamy sighs. “Go ahead and have my dinner, Emori. I’ll come back when ready.”

 

She nods.

 

The moment he steps into their cabin, he smells it. Smells the alcohol, the despair. Bellamy peers around, trying to find him. Then, a pair of feet come into view on the other side of a makeshift bed. “Good idea, sleep on floor before you inevitably launch yourself out of bed. Prevent the concussion preemptively.” Bellamy says, sitting on the mattress made of hay and looking down on the crumbled human before him. “You look great.”

 

“Fuck you, Bellamy.” Is the groaned response.

 

“No thanks, it’d never work out between us, darling.” Bellamy drawls. “Consider drinking a glass of water. You may not want to become one with the floor.”

 

“Seriously, go fuck yourself.”

 

“Not with you in the room.” Bellamy takes a breath. “Come on Murphy. We’ve been here before.”

 

“Actually, we’ve been in this exact situation before. You. Me. A bottle of whiskey. The death of Clarke Griffin. It’s our thing. We should get t-shirts.”

 

Bellamy snaps his mouth shut, it hitting him like a stab in the heart. He knew Murphy would deal from the bottom of the deck, he knew Murphy was in pain, but it still hurt. He tries not to let it bother him, but it’s still fresh. It’s only been a month since Clarke was officially announced dead and he’s done everything he can to keep her out of his thoughts.

 

Which means all he’s done is think about it.

 

But it’s in private. He doesn’t share this part of himself with anyone. He only had stolen moments with Clarke before she left and he selfishly wants to keep them for himself. But Murphy’s on the floor, he’s  drunk, and Bellamy can’t think of any good reason why he shouldn’t be.

 

“You still there?” Murphy babbles after a while. “You haven’t said anything inspirational.”

 

“I don’t have anything inspirational to say.” Bellamy says honestly. “In fact, I’m torn between asking you for a drink or not.”

 

A hand shoots up with a barely filled bottle of whiskey. Bellamy takes it, takes a swig, but pointedly doesn’t give it back. Murphy waves a hand at him and makes a noise. “Did you know Clarke could handle her liquor?” Murphy asks after a moment. Bellamy doesn’t answer, but he doesn’t really need to because Murphy goes right into his story. “We were in Polis and locked in a room for several days. I learned a lot about Clarke in that time. Did you know that she can sing? Her father taught her and apparently they used to make up lyrics together to drive her mom crazy. Did you know that?”

 

Bellamy tries to keep it together and fails. “No. No, I didn’t know that.”

 

“And she can also hold her liquor. I found this out because she matched me drink for drink in that room. I didn’t think it was possible. But by the end, she did a handstand and I almost broke my hand.”

 

Bellamy snorts. “She drunkenly did a handstand?”

 

“Yeah. Clarke was surprising.”

 

Bellamy hates the word ‘was.’ He hates how much it’s real. “Yeah, she was.”

 

“I think somewhere along the line, we forgot she was a person, you know? That she was a person with feelings and things she loved.” Murphy puts a finger in the air. “I think it started after Mount Weather. That whole ‘Wanheda’ bullshit. She started being a legend. But she was just this eighteen-year-old stuck in war. She’s younger than both of us.”

 

“Murphy, I know all of this.”

 

“I was with her when Lexa died, did you know that?” Murphy says. “She barely cried. She moved on. She stopped being a person to people and she took it. She stopped being a person to me.” Murphy stares at the ceiling. “I was the person who didn’t judge her. The person who watched her do drunken handstands and cry over her dead girlfriend. And I fell into the trap I watched everyone else did. And she died before I could say I’m sorry.”

 

“That makes all of us.”

 

Murphy splays out on the ground. “Who am I to judge? Have you seen me? I think that’s why she liked to talk to me so much. Who am I to judge?” Murphy sniffs once and Bellamy feels better knowing he’s not the only one. “I did anyway.”

 

The silence is heavy between them. Bellamy wants it to end, but it feels too important. Important to feel the weight of loss.

 

“Did she ever tell you about the time she and her dad pranked the entire Ark?”

 

“What?”

 

“When she was fifteen, her dad found a way to hotwire the lights to cut out when the Council was giving a really boring speech.”

 

“That was Clarke?”

 

“And her dad, yeah. No one ever caught them because no one even thought to ask.”

 

For the rest of the night, they share stories. It loosens something in his chest, having someone to talk about Clarke with. He doesn’t know why he didn’t think of Murphy, but he should’ve. So Murphy tells him stories Clarke shared, Bellamy chiming in with a few of his own. The evening ends with nothing more than an empty bottle, Murphy’s unconscious sleeping form curled on the floor, and Bellamy looking at the ceiling, wondering when Murphy knew more about her than he ever did.

 

***

 

It’s an hour into the trade negotiation when he can’t handle it anymore. “Where are Clarke’s things?”

 

The question is so abrupt, Indra doesn’t even hit him.

 

In fact, everyone’s so startled by the outburst, no one says anything for a few moments. Echo stills at his side, cocking her head in a way that says that she’s surveying him without anyone realizing it – it’s a wonderful and frustrating fact of having a spy as a girlfriend. After a minute of silence, Russell clears his throat. “I beg your pardon?”

 

If he were in a more rational state, Bellamy probably would’ve reached the conclusion that this was a fair question. Except he’s not feeling too rational these days and the man who delivered the news of Clarke Griffin’s death is standing a mere few feet in front of him and he’s having a hard time feeling anything but rage. Bellamy lifts his chin defiantly. “You brought us back her father’s watch. But Clarke lived here for six months. Now, Clarke wasn’t a particularly materialistic person, but she had belongings. Clothes, knick knacks. And she wrote everything down and drew everything in sight. I find it hard to believe that she didn’t have a sketchbook or two on hand while living here.”

 

Russell’s eyes narrow. “What are you insinuating?”

 

“I’m not insinuating anything.”

 

“Bellamy.” Madi’s voice is harsh, far more than he ever expected from a thirteen-year-old.

 

“No, no,” Russel says, waving his hand. “I’d like to hear what he has to say on this matter.”

 

Now, if Bellamy were using Clarke’s advice and using his head, his head would be telling him that they just successfully negotiated trade with a potentially hostile neighboring people. That they reached the agreement that Wonkru would train Eligius doctors and the Eligius people would share supplies and teach them how to cultivate its land. This, of course, is if Bellamy was using his head.

 

He was not.

 

“I thought I was being very clear.” Bellamy states, not even casting a glance at Madi. “Where are Clarke’s things.”

 

“Well, Mr.—” Russell starts, nodding his head.

 

“Bellamy. Bellamy Blake.”

 

“Mr. Blake. Like I said, Clarke made herself very loved in her short amount of time—”

 

“I don’t care if she married into your freaking people,” Bellamy snaps.

 

“Bellamy!” Indra says sharply.

 

“The fact of the matter is,” he speaks over her. “Clarke was one of us. She was ours. And you not only took away our ability to have a proper funeral, but you have confiscated her belongings. I would like to know where they are.”

 

Russell doesn’t respond for a moment. In fact, his expression is frustratingly blank as he takes in Bellamy’s rage. After a while, he stands from the table they’re all seated at and walks out of the room.

 

“Bellamy, have you lost your damned mind?” Indra snaps at him as Madi glowers. She’s clutching the table in a way that shouldn’t be intimidating for someone so small, but Bellamy knows the truth.

 

He knows what’s really going on in her mind. She’s wondered the same things. Sure, she gave Bellamy Clarke’s father’s watch, but Madi grew up with Clarke. Clarke taught her how to draw – how to paint. She knows the depths of Clarke’s love for the arts, despite the world constantly turning her to war.

 

Unfortunately, love is a weakness.

 

Or so she’s told.

 

“It’s a legitimate question.” Bellamy says when Madi doesn’t immediately rush across the table to impale him.

 

“Are you coming?”

 

Everyone whips their head in direction of the door, Russell standing there, clearly annoyed. “I’m sorry?” Indra asks, the only one currently keeping her head.

 

“Well, I’ve been accused of withholding precious items of a dear friend, so I thought we’d go and get them together.” Russell says. “Unless, of course, you’d like to yell at me some more.”

 

Bellamy decides not to take the bait, because he’s not about to kick a gift horse in the mouth. Instead, he’s the first out the door, ignoring all protocols and making sure he’s close to Russell as the man leads them out of the building and down the street.

 

“You don’t like me,” Russell states as the two men walk down the cobblestone together.

 

“No.”

 

“You don’t know me, but you don’t like me.”

 

“I have no desire to know you.”

 

Russell chuckles. “It seems like everyone in your village would disagree. It’s crucial to your survival that you get to know me.”

 

“I’m a maverick.”

 

“I haven’t decided whether I believe you or not.” Russell says. “Because I would be inclined to believe you were telling the truth, but you follow a child. So, I’m not sure.”

 

“You don’t understand.”

 

“No, I don’t. Clarke wouldn’t even explain it when she was here. Not even when I asked nicely.”

 

Bellamy looks up at that. “So did you ask not nicely?” He asks, his words clipped.

 

For some reason, this amuses Russell and he laughs. It takes every ounce of self-control not to swing at the man right there, so Bellamy simply waits for him to quiet down. “You may be an asshole, but god, you’re an entertaining one.”

 

“I don’t understand how you can find any of this entertaining.”

 

“No, I suppose you wouldn’t, would you?” Russell chortles, but in the end settles down. “Bellamy, I did not relish in telling you the news of your friend – girlfriend, comrade, whatever she was to you. I was surprised myself when I found out.”

 

Bellamy startles at that. “Found out?”

 

“I found Clarke Griffin to be an intelligent and witty individual. I asked her to join me because I knew that she was the person who knew the most. Specifically because she watched. Wrote everything down. Drew everything she saw. And despite the fact that there was a clear, mounting tension between her and the rest of your people, I saw how important she was. I wanted someone who knew your people inside and out and meant something. I never meant to take that away from you.”

 

“Yet here we are.”

 

“Yet here we are.” Russell repeats. “Cruel how life can be, right?”

 

“You have no idea,” Bellamy mutters.

 

Russel nods his head behind them, Bellamy all but forgetting there were more people in the back. Everyone in Wonkru is gaping at him incredulously like he’s lost his mind – and honestly, he may have. But there’s no point in focusing on that now.

 

“Here we are,” Russell states, opening the door to a large building, windows lining its walls.

 

“Where exactly is here?” Madi asks, finally catching up with them.

 

Russell pauses. There a woman behind a desk, reading a book and only casually glancing up. Once she catches sight of the group, she stands, eyes wide. “May I help you?”

 

“Do you have that box of Clarke Griffin’s belongings?” Russell asks. “These are our neighbors and they were asking for it.”

 

“I thought we wanted to hold onto that for further—”

 

“Not anymore.” Russell says, cutting her off. “Please go retrieve it for me.”

 

“For further what?” Murphy asks, shoving his way in front.

 

Bellamy almost breathes a sigh of relief. He’d been waiting for Murphy to use that big mouth of his and he knew he was already pushing his luck with Russell.

 

“Don’t worry about it.” Russell says with a tight smile. “To answer your question, Commander Griffin, we are in the government housing development where Clarke stayed during her time here. I’d offer to take you up to her room, however, it’s already been reassigned, so all you’d see is another person’s stuff strewn about.”

 

“Clarke stayed here?” Madi asks, her voice small.

 

It’s odd, whenever she switches like this. When she feels like a child again. They’re rare – even rarer these days – but whenever it happens, it almost knocks Bellamy off his feet. Now she’s standing there, her eyes wide and helpless, like the small girl he met over a year ago.

 

The switch seems to throw Russell off as well, because he softens and his words become less clinical. “Yes.”

 

“Were there other people?”

 

It’s the question of a child. Russel nods. “Yes.”

 

Madi swallows, taking a step back so that she’s closer to Indra. “So she wasn’t alone?”

 

Russell eyes Madi curiously. He’s clearly thinking his answer through, and after a few moments, he finally says, “No, Commander Griffin. She wasn’t alone.”

 

Madi nods, her eyes shining. She peers at Gaia, who’s a few steps away. Gaia reaches out and Madi flinches, her cold exterior resurfacing. “Well, at least that’s something.”

 

Bellamy shares a look with Murphy. He doesn’t know how Murphy became the only person in this group he trusted not to call him insane, but Bellamy supposes life is weird enough. Murphy lifts an eyebrow slightly and Bellamy tries to put every ounce of the feeling ‘later’ in his expression. He’s not entirely sure how to do that, but Murphy gives him a slight nod.

 

After a few more minutes, the woman returns, a box in her hands. “The belongings of Clarke Griffin.”

 

“Thank you, Mandy.” Russell says, picking up the box. He walks over to Bellamy and hands it to him. “I hope this’ll give you what you’re looking for.”

 

Bellamy peers inside the box. There’s not much in there. Clarke’s jacket sits on the bottom, worn and covered with tight stitching. On the side is a metal figure that Clarke kept with her as much as her father’s watch of a two-headed deer. And on top is a sketchbook.

 

Giving Murphy the box, Bellamy reaches in and grabs it. His hands are shaking and he can’t seem to get them to stop, but he continues anyways. When he opens the page, he has to suck in a breath.

 

She’s everywhere.

 

He recognizes the lines. He recognizes the handwriting. Drawings of people on the street, notes from meetings – it’s all there. Bellamy flips through, unable to curb his selfishness and have this moment just him and Clarke’s sketchbook.

 

When he flips the pages, he’s greeted to a torn seam. And then another. “There are pages missing.” He states, frowning. When Russel doesn’t respond, he looks up. “Why are there pages missing?”

“As you stated before, Clarke was a veracious note taker. While I’m happy to return her belongings to you, I’m not keen enough to give you confidential information.”

 

Before Bellamy can argue, Indra beats him to it. “I thought that the whole point of Clarke living with you was for you to exchange information.” She asks calmly, but a hint of bite behind her words.

 

“While we were exchanging information, there were some notes that we deemed a bit too conflicting to divulge to you.”

 

“Clarke would’ve told us whatever was in here, if she were still alive.” Murphy says, his words more serious than Bellamy’s ever heard them.

 

Russell’s icy exterior returns. “I suppose we’ll never truly know then, won’t we?”

 

***

 

The walk back is a quiet one. Once the Wonkru village is in sight, Bellamy leans into Echo and Murphy. “Echo, get rations for the group. Murphy, gather Emori, Raven, and Shaw. Meet back at our cabin in five and make sure no one follows you.”

 

“What about the kid?” Murphy asks quietly.

 

Bellamy groans. He doesn’t love the idea of involving Jordan, but especially with Clarke gone, Bellamy feels endlessly responsible for the kid. Jordan latched onto Clarke in a way he never – or anyone for that matter – expected. Clarke, in her isolation, would keep an eye out for him, taking Monty and Harper’s words to heart. Despite the snide remarks, Jordan never let it deter him from his friendship with her.

 

“I think we all know that leaving him out is more dangerous than including him,” Bellamy says, his mind wandering to the time they left him out of a building plan and two days later, a cabin collapsed because of ‘helping.’ “Grab him, but don’t tell him why.”

 

“Got it.” Murphy nods, shuffling away.

 

Echo doesn’t go, though. Her eyes are sharp and she’s looking ahead, the way she does when she doesn’t want to tip him off for her emotions. “Whatever you’re going to say, just say it.” He mutters, trudging his way in camp.

 

“You can’t be serious with this.”

 

“Echo—”

 

“No,” Echo says, rounding on him. “Bellamy, you are looking for ghosts where there are none.”

 

“How do you know that?”

 

“How do I know that?” Echo asks, incredulous. “I know that because we had a funeral for her.”

 

Without a body!”

 

“I can’t believe—”

 

She cuts off, her eyes darting in the direction of where Abby, Kane, and Diyoza are sitting. In her hands, Diyoza holds Hope, who is babbling on as babies do. As it turns out, having the first born child on a new planet makes people forgive you more easily than others. The three, while definitely outcast from the general group, are tolerated through Abby’s medical skill, Kane’s humanitarian views, and Diyoza’s shining ability to both be powerful, yet motherly.

 

They all stare at the two of them curiously, Abby looking like she wants to come over. It occurs to Bellamy that Abby may have wanted to go to the city that killed her daughter too, but knew she didn’t have the clout to ask. Bellamy nods at them for lack of anything else to do. “Echo, please,” he says, finally. “We can talk about this as a group.”

 

Echo surveys him for a moment, before turning on her heel and stalking toward the ration station.

 

Bellamy shoves his hands in his pockets, calming when he feels the edges of the sketchbook. With as little gravitas as he can manage, he makes his way toward his cabin. Before he can get there, someone grabs his arm.

 

Bellamy whirls to see Indra facing him, stoic, yet suspicious. “You want to inform me what that was all about?”

 

“What what was all about?” Bellamy asks, knowing playing dumb won’t necessarily work, but it’s bound to get him in the least amount of trouble.

 

“You know what I’m referring to.” Indra states. “What happened to using your head?”

 

“What says I’m not?”

 

Indra doesn’t respond right away. Letting go of his arm, she says, “Do not chase the dead, Bellamy. They cannot greet you.”

 

Bellamy clenches his jaw, unsure of how to respond.

 

Before she leaves, Indra turns. “However,” she responds thoughtfully. “If the dead answer you, I’m the first person you tell.”

 

It startles him enough that he hears the words, “Okay,” coming out of his mouth. Indra nods, marching away from his cabin.

 

Bellamy quickly steps inside before he can cause even more suspicion, startling when the majority of the people are already present by the time he got inside. “What took you so long?” Murphy exclaims. “I assumed this was an urgent thing.”

 

“It is and urgent thing, but when you’re trying not to look suspicious, sprinting is generally frowned upon.” Bellamy retorts. Murphy makes a face, but doesn’t press it. “Did Murphy tell you anything?”

 

“Naw, I was waiting for you to get here.”

 

Bellamy can’t help but quirk a smile at that. “Thanks.”

 

“Are we going to start a book club, like I suggested?” Jordan asks, raising his hand.

 

Murphy groans. “The whole point of raising your hand is to ask permission to speak. You can’t speak and then raise your hand, it defeats the purpose of raising your hand.”

 

Jordan looks around. “Do I have to raise my hand every time I want to speak?”

 

Bellamy says “No” at the same time Murphy says “Yes.” Glowering at him, Bellamy says, “No, of course not, Jordan. But this isn’t about a book club.”

 

“Can we revisit the topic of a book club at a later date?” Jordan offers. “Because I have a lot of thoughts about the book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone that I think would be very enlightening.”

 

“Aw man, Harry Potter,” Shaw smiles. “I haven’t thought about those books in… well… over two hundred years. God, sometimes I forget how old I am.”

 

“Yeah, easy there, Grandpa.” Raven laughs, patting him on the shoulder.

 

“Can we like, focus for two seconds please?” Murphy snaps, slamming his hand on the dining table.

 

“Jeez, what the hell is wrong with you, Murphy?” Raven snaps. “Usually you’re all about wasting time.”

 

“Not right now, I’m not.”

 

“Yes, why don’t you tell everyone why we’re here.” Echo says coolly from the back, her hands crossed.

 

Bellamy tries not to let that ruffle him. “When we were in the city, I ran into a woman with black blood.”

 

The reaction is instantaneous. Raven shouts, “What?” at the top of her lungs while Emori’s eyes widen. Jordan looks around, confused, while Shaw doesn’t really react, but simply looks between Echo and Bellamy. “You can’t be serious.” Raven says.

 

“Do you really think this is something we’d fucking joke about?” Murphy asks.

 

“Are you sure?” Emori asks, eyeing Echo.

 

“Of course I’m sure.”

 

“Are you, though?” Echo snaps. “Bellamy, you are still in mourning and then were forced to go into a city that killed someone you cared about. There are many reasons for something like this!”

 

Bellamy can’t help the incredulity building inside of him. “What are you saying? You’re saying I didn’t see what I think I did?”

 

“I think it’s a very plausible possibility, yes.” Echo states, unperturbed by the people staring at the two. “You have never been able to let Clarke Griffin go – not on the Ark, and not here.”

 

“This is not about letting Clarke go, this is about a woman with nightblood in a city that would’ve never been exposed to it in the first place.”

 

“Are we sure?” Shaw asks, his tone calm enough to get Echo to uncross her arms and settle, while Bellamy takes a breath. “I mean, what was the timeline?”

 

“There’s no way they could’ve had nightblood.” Raven states. “The timeline doesn’t work out. You guys were in space when the world ended. And the world ended at the hand of a scientist named Bekah and her AI Ali – Bekah was the first one who genetically mutated her blood. There’s no way they would’ve had the recessive gene.”

 

Murphy takes a breath. “I may not have understood any of that, but it sounds like they got the nightblood from Clarke.”

 

“It’s the only logical solution.” Bellamy says, pulling her sketchbook out of his pocket. “Now, we don’t know much about Clarke’s time there, but we do have this. I was studying on our walk back and it’s pretty much drawings and random thoughts—”

 

Murphy rolls his eyes. “Thanks Clarke, the one time you choose art over your logical brain.”

 

“—but there are a couple pages missing at the end.” Bellamy talks over Murphy. “There had to have been something on those pages, otherwise they wouldn’t have torn them out.”

 

Raven frowns. “How do you know Clarke didn’t tear them out?”

 

Murphy snorts. “Our main man Russell all but told us they ripped them out.”

 

“May I?” Raven asks, reaching out. Bellamy hands her the sketchbook and she looks at it. “Maybe there’s something we can make to figure out what was on there.” She says to Shaw and he nods. “We have scrap equipment and maybe there’s something we can use – UV light, pressure points.”

 

“Possibly,” Shaw states, touching the page. “We have some abandoned tech on the ship we could scavenge.”

 

“It’ll take some time,” Raven says to Bellamy, reaching out to give him the sketchbook back. “Weeks, maybe.”

 

“Are you fucking kidding me right now?” Murphy snaps, snatching the sketchbook out of Raven’s hands. “Are you serious? How did we ever think we’d survive without Clarke, for the love of god.” He mutters, tearing a back page out of the sketchbook.

 

“Murphy, what the hell?” Bellamy cries, restraining himself from lunging at him.

 

“We don’t need a genius engineer or a genius pilot to figure this one out, Sherlock.” Murphy says, shaking his head. “What we need is a common criminal with some basic common fucking sense.”

 

He grabs a pencil off the table, places the loose sheet of paper under the sheet after the tear-out, rubbing the pencil across the page. As the lines of graphite run across, white lines are pressed in the paper, revealing marks not seen before.

 

When he’s done with the whole page, he extends the sketchbook to Bellamy. “Weeks to build a machine, for the love of god.” Murphy drawls with an exasperated sigh.

 

Bellamy looks down to see the graphite revealed marks. “Pressure points from the previous page. That’s smart, Murphy.”

 

“Yeah, I’m not mechanical engineer, but I can lift launch codes off you like a motherfucker.” Murphy says, lifting an eyebrow at Raven. She sticks her tongue out at him and he flips her off.

 

“It’s a map.” Bellamy says, running his finger down it.

 

“How can you tell?” Emori asks, straining her neck.

 

“I’ve seen how Clarke maps things before.” Bellamy states, unable to take his eyes off of it. “She showed me maps she’d been making of the planet in the morning, just a few weeks before she left.” His words drift, thinking about their last conversation in the woods. “She charts things in blocks and makes symbols for what she sees. See here – these triangles are woods. If she makes a ‘C,’ it means it’s a cave. The X’s were impasses.”

 

Emori points to a few lines on the paper. “There are X’s all over here. That doesn’t make sense though, because she’s in a city. There wouldn’t be anything blocking her.”

 

Shaw lifts an eyebrow. “There’s more than one way to make an impasse.”

 

“Wait,” Jordan says, raising his hand. “What are you saying with all this? Are you saying that Clarke may still be alive?”

 

“Jordan, for the love of god, when you raise your hand—”

 

“Can we please not get into this again?” Raven groans.

 

But Jordan’s not paying attention to either of them. He’s staring at Bellamy, his eyes bright and filled with hope, in a way that only someone who hasn’t been crushed by the world could be. “I don’t know,” Bellamy responds.

 

“Yes you do.” Echo all but shouts. “We all know that Clarke is dead.”

 

“Then how do you explain the nightblood—”

 

“Were you in a shadow?” Echo asks. “Did she get dirt in her palm when she fell? Was there something in your eye?”

 

“Echo—”

 

“All of these are more logical explanations than the Eligius crew using Clarke to harvest nightblood. You can’t just start this because of something you think you saw.”

 

“I know what I saw.”

 

“Bellamy, we have been in peace for a year and a half.” Echo states. “Do you understand that? We have not been at war, people haven’t been hungry or stuck under a bunker. We have neighbors that don’t actively want to kill us and we’re on a planet that we can breathe on and live on. What possible good could come from any of this?”

 

These are all valid questions. Bellamy knows this. In fact, he has Clarke’s voice in the back of his head saying “Leave it be. Use your head.”

 

Everyone looks to him. Even Murphy’s ruffled by her point, his anger simmering into a mere frustration. Bellamy sucks in a breath. “We don’t know why they would want nightblood.” He says evenly. “What they would be using it for. There has to be an intention behind it.”

 

“You didn’t see—”

 

“I did see.” Bellamy says, calm. “I know what I saw, Echo. And you’re right. We have peace. But for how long? And at what price?”

 

“Oh my god,” she laughs, her words hollow. “I can’t believe I’m here again.”

 

“Where?”

 

“I am not competing with a dead Clarke Griffin. Not again.”

 

The cabin grows silent. Bellamy hears the blood rushing in his ears and he sets the sketchbook on the table. “Would you mind giving us the room?”

 

Everyone is clearly relieved, as they all but stumble over each other to get out of the cabin.

 

When the door closes, Bellamy finds he’s having a hard time looking at her. Echo doesn’t have that problem because he feels her gaze intently on him, like she does before she goes for a strike. “What did you say?” His is low and ragged.

 

“You heard me correctly.” Echo states. “I already went head-to-head with a dead Clarke Griffin. On the Ark. I lived there, and you hated the fact that I made it and she didn’t. You didn’t forgive me for three years for everything I did – but that one, I think took the longest.”

 

“Echo, that’s absurd.”

 

“Is it?” She asks. “Because we’re here – yet again – arguing over Clarke’s life.”

 

“We don’t know that she’s dead!”

 

“Yes, we do! We do – you just don’t want to see it!”

 

“Look at the facts, Echo.”

 

“I am! I am looking at the facts. I am seeing a distraught man think he sees nightblood of a dead friend of his the first time he’s been back to the city that killed her. I’m seeing a man who wants us to figure out and potentially ruin the working relationship we have with our peaceful partners over one person. A dead person, no less!”

 

“Stop saying that.”

 

“Why? It’s true, Bellamy. Clarke is dead. She died in Eligius camp.”

 

“Stop.”

 

“We had a funeral for her a year ago.”

 

“I said, stop.”

 

“I’m not saying this to be cruel, Bellamy. I’m saying this because you need to hear it and you’ve been avoiding it. You need to hear this because you’re about to do something monumentally stupid because you’re grieving.”

 

“Echo, stop!” Bellamy shouts. “This has nothing to do with grieving and everything to do with the fact that we never saw her body. We never knew anything they were talking to her about. The fact that we never even had a return date for her. No one even asked! She simply went with them and we never knew when she was coming back.” Bellamy wipes his hand down his face and snaps, “I am not crazy. I am not seeing things. You aren’t seeing things and you’re letting your opinions of Clarke cloud your judgment.”

 

“She left you to die, Bellamy!” Echo shouts, her eyes watering. “She left you to die and you just forgave her, like it was nothing!”

 

Her words drop and fall in the cabin, weighing both of them down. Bellamy isn’t sure when he felt this distance to Echo, but he’s noticing it now. A void between the two.

 

“Echo,” Bellamy says quietly. “I am not having this conversation with you again.”

 

“You forgave her. Like it was nothing. Like the fact that she left you to die at the hand of her sister was nothing!”

 

“Echo!”

 

“It took you three years for you to forgive me for almost taking your sister’s life. And it took you only three days to forgive Clarke Griffin for almost taking yours?”

 

There it is.

 

Bellamy doesn’t know how to respond. He licks his lips, wondering when his mouth became so dry. He looks at Echo, sees the tears in her eyes. It’s rare that Echo cries. Bellamy can count on one hand the amount of times he’s seen it.

 

“It’s not the same.”

 

“How is it not the same?” She snaps, her words hard.

 

“You weren’t there, Echo. You weren’t in the bunker those few days.” Bellamy says, as soft as can be. “I manipulated her. I manipulated Madi. I was standing there, thinking that my sister was going to execute Clarke and I was the only person who could do anything about it. I told Clarke that we would go to the valley together and protect Madi. I told her all of this. She wanted me to release her and the three of to find you guys. She wanted to escape.”

 

Bellamy takes a seat at the table and places his head in his hands. “I told her we’d leave together. We’d figure out how to get the valley back. And she asked me to unshackle her.” Looking up, he sees Echo has taken a seat as well. “I left her there. I left her chained so I could do the one thing she asked me not to. That she begged me not to. I knew – well, I know Clarke. I know what it’s like to have her on your side. She had one person to keep her sane for six years. And I did the one thing that she asked me not to.”

 

“You did it to save us, Bellamy.” Echo implores, reaching out across the table. She grabs his hand and intertwines their fingers. Bellamy barely feels it though. Instead, he feels the stuffiness of the bunker. He hears the screaming and pounding against metal in his ears.

 

“Yeah,” he says, his voice rough. “But do you ever think, Echo, there were two people who lived in Eden. Two people to cultivated it, made it a home. When the human race destroyed the planet, two people found a way to keep it alive.”

 

Echo doesn’t move.

 

“And we destroyed both of them.”

 

Bowing his head, Bellamy looks at the lines in Clarke’s sketchbook. “I know what I saw, Echo.”

 

Echo doesn’t respond. She keeps her hand there and Bellamy thinks he’s gotten through to her. She peers at him. “Okay,” She states, taking her hand away.

 

Bellamy can’t help but smile at her, his eyes watery. “Thank you, Echo.”

 

“But if you do this, I can’t be with you.”

 

“Wait, what?”

 

Echo stands from the table. “If you insist we do this, I can’t be with you.” She repeats. “I said it before, I refuse to compete with a dead Clarke Griffin.”

 

“Echo, please—”

 

“No, Bellamy.” She says softly, no hint of malice in her voice. No anger. Just sadness. “I didn’t think much of it, when you traded our one bargaining chip with the Eligius crew on earth for her. Almost three hundred lives for one. I didn’t think much of it when you invited her to the council, days after she left you to die, asking for her opinion. But now you’re willing to risk our peace on this planet for her.” She laughs, a tear falling down her cheek. “I’m not competing with a dead Clarke Griffin. If you have to do this, I can’t be with you.”

 

“Echo, I—”

 

Before he can get a word out, she leaves the cabin.

 

Bellamy sits at the table, stunned. He doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t move. It feels like moments ago, the cabin was filled, and now he’s entirely alone.

 

He sits in silence for a few minutes, his mind running through everything that just happened. Bellamy almost gets up to try and process everything when the door opens. Whipping his head in the direction, Bellamy expects Echo to walk back in and is surprised to see Raven give him a sad smile. “I just saw Echo,” she says, closing the door behind her. “You alright?”

 

Bellamy opens his mouth, but no words come out. “I-I,” he licks his lips. “I think she just broke up with me.”

 

Raven nods, making her way to the table and sitting down. She reaches out and grabs his hand, just as Echo had done only moments before. “I’m sorry.”

 

“You don’t sound surprised.”

 

Raven makes a face he can’t quite understand. “Well, I guess… I’m not entirely surprised.”

 

“How are you not surprised?”

 

“Bellamy, you’ve been mourning Clarke for a year. It hasn’t been easy for any of us, but can you imagine watching the person you love mourn over another woman? That can’t have been easy for her to watch.”

 

Bellamy doesn’t know what to say to that. So he asks, “Is she right? Am I going to risk destroying the peace we’ve worked so hard to get?”

 

Raven sighs. Looking him straight in the eyes, she says, “Yes.”

 

He huffs, not even sure what to do. Running down his free hand down his face, Bellamy shakes his head.

 

“But Bellamy,” she starts. “So are you.” He peers at her through his fingers. “Bellamy, you and I both know that there rarely is a right or wrong. We’ve seen it time and time again – the Grounders, Mount Weather, Ali. The Grounders were protecting their land that we invaded. Mount Weather wanted to go outside and not be locked in a bunker for their lives. Ali thought the only way to protect humanity was to take away all pain. There is never a right or wrong – we live in the grey area. We’ve always lived in the grey area.”

 

Bellamy squeezes her hand. “Is she right? About Clarke?”

 

“What does your heart tell you?” Raven asks.

 

He’s spent a long time trying not to listen to that. Honestly, he thought the aching was from loss. It never occurred to him that it may be something more. He locked his feelings for Clarke away a long time ago. When he shut the door of the rocket for them all.

 

“You guys always were something. The timing was never right. There was a war. There was another war. There was something to stop. Clarke was leaving, you were recovering. But I watched it all happen. From the day I crashed landed by shitty rocket on the Ground, I watched it all. I saw you be enemies, then become real friends. I saw you challenge each other, have each other’s back – become enemies again. I saw you hate each other, love each other, and die for each other. That’s… that’s not something everyone gets, Bellamy.”

 

Bellamy closes his eyes. He thinks of the way Clarke’s hair looked like it was on fire that morning and how he never saw her look so alive. “Do you think she’s right about the nightblood?”

 

“No.”

 

The answer is so fast, Bellamy opens his eyes.

 

Raven smiles. “Even spies can let their feelings get the best of them. If you say you saw someone with black blood, I believe you.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“So what do we do?”

 

“Like I said.” Raven states, squeezing his hand. “We live in a world where there’s no right or wrong. There are just choices. What do you want to do?”

 

“What?”

 

Raven gestures behind her. “Because there is a group of people waiting outside this cabin for your call. Whatever you decide, we’re in it with you. If you choose to let this go, we will all let this go. Even Murphy. Although, we may need to tie him up for a while to get the swearing out of his system.” Bellamy snorts. “But if you want to pursue this, if you want to investigate what you saw, we’re in it too.”

 

“Even if it could cost us peace.”

 

“Even if it could cost us peace.” Raven states. “But it’s your choice. You saw the woman, you made Russell give you her sketchbook. It’s up to you.”

 

Bellamy looks at the sketchbook on the table. It’s still opened to the page that Murphy covered in graphite, revealing the small lines across the page. He sees her handwriting, her lines on the paper.

 

“If we do this, this means I lose Echo.”

 

Raven winces. “Honestly Bellamy? You lose her regardless.” Bellamy bows his head. “She’ll still support you in this because she loves you and she’s loyal. But I think choosing to have this conversation meant more than you expected.”

 

“Yeah,” Bellamy says with a sigh. “I suppose you’re right.”

 

“I usually am.” Raven beams. It falters though, as she asks, “So what’s it going to be?”

 

Bellamy takes a breath. He thinks of the woman with the blood. The sketchbook on the desk. The cryptic words from Russell. “I think we have some shit to figure out.”

 

Raven’s smile stretches. “Good answer.”

 

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOUR

 

After Charlotte’s death a few weeks after they were on the Ground, Bellamy found himself arguing with Clarke. Again.

 

Sure, he would tell people he couldn’t stand her – her privileged, smug, distracting person – but honestly, arguing with Clarke was slowly becoming one of his favorite parts of the day. She was everything he hated about the Ark – entitled, loud, and presumes she knows it all. The worst part? The damned woman knows it all.

 

So when he marches into his tent and Clarke’s standing there with her arms crossed, he ignores the way a rush of excitement hits him.

 

“What do I owe the pleasure of Clarke Griffin’s presence?” Bellamy asks, peeling off his jacket, which is currently sticking to him.

 

Clarke doesn’t even smile and that thrills him even more. “We need to talk.”

 

“You know, sometimes I wish that ‘we need to talk’ with you would just mean talking.” Bellamy states, stripping off his t-shirt. His entire body is covered with sweat. His body hasn’t acclimated well to the Ground. Having been stuck in regulated space tubes all his life, he never understood ‘humidity.’ Spoiler: he hates it.

 

“Are you really getting naked right now?” Clarke asks, exasperated.

 

Bellamy finally turns around, putting his arm through his shirt. “See something you’re interested in?”

 

“I came in here interested in having a conversation, and now my interest is dwindling, if that helps.”

 

Bellamy snickers. “You really know how to dampen a mood, don’t you? I have it on good authority that it only gets better the lower you go.” He winks at her.

 

“Good god, okay, Bellamy focus.” Clarke says, pinching the bridge of her nose. “I’m actually trying to have a conversation.”

 

“And we are having a conversation. It’s not my fault that you can’t focus when I have my shirt off.” Bellamy says. When Clarke still doesn’t crack a smile, he sighs. “God, fine.” Pulling his shirt over his head, Bellamy steps toward her. “What is this about?”

 

“I’m worried about winter.”

 

“Winter.” He repeats. “Clarke, it’s fall.”

 

“Yes, that’s the season before winter. Should we teach you the months in the year next?” Clarke asks.

 

Bellamy gapes at her, his face twisting up in preparation to yell, but the corners of her mouth turn up. He points at her. “Oh my god, you made a joke.”

 

“I can joke.”

 

“Since when?”

 

“You’re an inspiring subject, what can I say.” Clarke says, chuckling to herself. “Bellamy, I’m worried that because we’ve been in regulated air for our entire lives, we will really struggle with a Ground winter.”

 

“You are aware Grounders are actively trying to murder us, right?”

 

“Yes, and on the off chance we all survive that, I’m going to be pissed off if we all freeze to death in a month.”

 

Bellamy opens his mouth to argue, but doesn’t have an argument. Honestly, he agrees. “So what do you have in mind?”

 

“I think we need to hunt.” Clarke says, ticking things off her fingers. “We need fur and we need to figure out how to keep warm. Also, I think we should pair up the younger kids with an older kid.” Her eyes drop to the ground and Bellamy knows she’s thinking of Charlotte. He can’t help but lose his bravado as well. “The younger kids aren’t good at speaking up for themselves – especially when it comes to survival things. I’m talking food, clothes. The other day I saw Lauren scavenging outside the wall, because she gave her rations to others and didn’t have any for herself.”

 

Bellamy scowls at that. “Who’s taking her rations?”

 

Putting her hands up, Clarke shakes her head. “I’ve already taken care of that situation, but you know there will be so many more.”

 

He does.

 

“So I think we need to plan and prepare.” Clarke continues. “Otherwise, it won’t matter if the Grounders kill us or not.”

 

Bellamy looks at her. Clarke, on a superficial level, isn’t scary. In fact, he probably would’ve been staring about a foot below her face if he met her on the Ark. He never expected someone so righteous and strong-willed to be a criminal, but here they are. “Alright.” He agrees. With a groan, he sits on his bed. “I wasn’t kidding when I said I wish you would come in just to talk.”

 

Clarke joins him on the bed, which surprises him. Their shoulders are almost touching and she puts her hand in her face. “I hate being in charge.”

 

Bellamy quirks an eyebrow at her. “You’re the one who wanted to be in charge.”

 

“No, I didn’t.” Clarke snaps, her fierceness blazing. “I’m afraid of what will happen if I don’t.”

 

“You have that little faith in me?” Bellamy asks, teasing, but a part of him genuinely curious on the answer.

 

Clarke pauses, turning her head to face him. “No, I have a lot of faith in you.”

 

Bellamy startles at that as well. “You do?” He asks, annoyed at how incredulous his voice it.

 

“Yeah,” she nods. Sighing, Clarke leans back on Bellamy’s bed, staring at the top of the tent. He can’t help but look at her.

 

God, she looks young. It almost makes him feel uncomfortable, her staring at the ceiling of her tent. “How old are you?” Bellamy asks.

 

He regret’s it instantly. Clarke lifts an eyebrow and smirks at him, her eyes teasing. “No, not like that.” Bellamy says far too quickly. “It’s just, I can’t imagine someone young having the amount of arrogance you do.”

 

She laughs and Bellamy tries to ignore the fact that he beams at that. “I’m eighteen.” She states. “I had three more days in isolation before my birthday.”

 

“And then you would’ve been floated.”

 

“Then I would’ve been floated.” Clarke states, her eyes distant. “I was counting the days.”

 

The words are soft. Bellamy looks down at her, her hands wringing in her lap. “I spent a year waiting to die, you know.” She continues. “There’s not a lot to do in isolation, so you end up thinking about death a lot. Have you thought a lot about dying?”

 

Bellamy’s thrown by the question. “Is this your idea of just talking?”

 

Clarke shrugs. “You want to talk about freezing and planning some more?”

 

He can’t help it – she makes him laugh. “Well, yeah.” He says. “Clarke, I lived on the Ark. And not some fancy Alpha station – of course I’ve thought about death. My mother had a second child and I spent my entire life hiding her. I thought about death every day.” When Clarke doesn’t respond, he pauses. “I’ve thought about death since I knew what it was. And you know what my conclusion is?”

 

“What’s that?”

 

“I’m not interested in it in the slightest.”

 

Clarke snorts. “Bellamy, how old are you?”

 

“Twenty-one. Why?”

 

“You seem awfully arrogant for someone so young.” Clarke says, smiling. Bellamy laughs out loud at that, leaning back until he lies flat on the bed as well. He feels a bit tense next to her, like he’s suddenly very aware of his hands. He makes sure he doesn’t touch her, no matter how much he wants to. Clarke opens her mouth, then snaps it back shut, clearly avoiding his eyes.

 

“Out with it Griffin.”

 

“I really don’t feel like being viciously mocked.”

 

“What if I viciously mock you just for the hell of it?”

 

“Bellamy—”

 

“Come on, out with it. You have something on your mind, just say it.”

 

“I think we should have a word.”

 

Bellamy frowns. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

 

Clarke huffs. “Listen, you and I don’t always agree. In fact, it’d be easier to list what we do agree on, because what we don’t agree on is so high.”

 

Bellamy snorts. “Are you telling me this so I can argue with you? Because I love our little spats too.” He turns his head and grins at her.

 

She’s close. Close enough to where he can see the flush on her cheeks and the thin sheen of sweat on her forehead. He reminds himself that it’s an astronomically bad idea. Clarke is his ally, she’s the only other person he can trust to use her brain at all times.

 

Yet, she’s so close.

 

“I think we need a word.” Clarke repeats. “Or a phrase or something. For when we need the other to just agree.”

 

“Just agree?”

 

“When one of us is so certain something’s wrong, that the other needs to have their back. No questions asked.”

 

Bellamy laughs. “You want me to agree with you without asking any questions? Not likely.”

 

“I’m serious, Bellamy.”

 

“I am too, Clarke.”

 

Clarke glares. “Listen,” she rolls to her side to face him, supporting her head with her hand. “I don’t mean we blindly agree with each other. I mean if there’s a time where one of us is so certain that something isn’t right, the other is there for them. Is there to help them. Just be there – support – no questions asked. It goes both ways, Bellamy.”

 

“You would support me with something you’re ill-informed on?” Bellamy says. “Also not likely.”

 

“If you said the phrase, yeah.” Clarke says so earnestly, Bellamy’s inclined to believe her. “This isn’t easy. Sometimes we’ll need each other’s backs.”

 

Bellamy bites the urge to poke fun, mainly because it’s entertaining, but he admits she has a point. “Okay.”

 

“Okay?”

 

“Okay.” Bellamy nods.

 

“Okay.” Clarke beams at him. “It needs to be something that means nothing to anyone else.”

 

“With this crowd, that’s not hard.”

 

“Bellamy!”

 

“Come on, we’re surrounded by idiots, even you have to admit it.”

 

Clarke leans forward and collapses on his arm, giggling. He smirks to himself, pleased. “That’s mean, Bellamy.”

 

“I don’t think anyone’s ever accused me of being too nice.”

 

“True.” Clarke says. “Maybe irrational.”

 

“Perhaps our phrase should be Vade retro Me, Satana.” Bellamy mutters.

 

“Did you just call me Satan?” Clarke exclaims, eyes wide.

 

“You speak Latin?”

 

“Did you call me Satan?”

 

Bellamy bursts into laughter. “Not you, just for our phrase or whatever!”

 

Get off my back, Satan?” Clarke cries. Then, she joins his laughter. “Leave it to you to be an asshole in Latin.”

 

“I like to keep my insults cutting edge.”

 

“It’s a dead language!”

 

“You’re the one who wants to talk about death!”

 

Clarke puts her head in her hands. “You are simply impossible.”

 

“And you love every second of it.”

 

Clarke smiles. “Yeah, I suppose I do.” This whole conversation is a surprise. It makes Bellamy feel a bit warm and he wishes it’ll pass. “What about veritas odit mora.”

 

You speak Latin?”

 

“Like you’re the only person here who could speak Latin.”

 

“I cannot believe you speak Latin.”

 

“I can’t believe you speak Latin.”

 

Bellamy thinks about this. “I read to Octavia. All about history and whatnot. I wanted to understand it, you know?”

 

Clarke turns back toward him. “My mom taught me. Apparently there is a lot of Latin in medical history. She wanted me to be informed.”

 

“To bad you were thrown in a cell for the rest of your known life.”

 

“I’m out now.”

 

“Damn, I’m with a hardened criminal!” Bellamy jokes. “As for your suggestion, I think it’s too on the nose. Truth hates delay? The very fact that we are agreeing blindly is contradictive.”

 

“How are you such a nerd?” Clarke asks, unable to stop her laugh.

 

Bellamy looks at her, incredulous. “I can’t believe you called me a nerd.”

 

“Well, it’s true!” Clarke says. “Why are we even arguing in Latin?”

 

“Because I doubt anyone else on this planet speaks it.”

 

Clarke seems to think about this. “That’s fair. Okay, your turn.”

 

Bellamy genuinely thinks about it. “What about… Alea jacta est?

 

Clarke doesn’t respond right away. She looks to the ceiling. “I like it.”

 

“You do?”

 

“I do.” Clarke states. “I’m actually surprised you even agreed to this idea. I thought you’d make fun.”

 

Bellamy can’t help but find it a little adorable how she blushes. “It’s a good idea.” He admits. “It’s hard being in charge, isn’t it?”

 

“Yeah,” Clarke says thoughtfully. “The die is cast.”

 

Bellamy nods. “The die is cast.”

 

“Okay.” Clarke says.

 

The two lie on the bed for a little while without saying anything. Bellamy doesn’t remember ever being able to take a moment. Not on the Ark, definitely not here. For the first time, he feels like he’s able to breathe. There’s no one under a floor. None of the 100 are asking for anything.

 

They’re just existing.

 

And damn, he wishes it could be this way forever.

 

“Anyways,” Clarke says, hoisting herself off the bed. Bellamy tries not to show how disappointed he is, but he sits up. Clarke moves toward the entrance of the tent. Before leaving, she hesitates. “Bellamy?” She asks.

 

Bellamy looks up. “Yeah?”

 

“Are you scared?”

 

Bellamy is startled one final time. He opens his mouth to snap back, but he sees her eyes. They’re open and honest. “Yeah.” He finds himself saying.

 

Clarke nods her head, unable to meet his eyes.

 

“Good.” She says quietly. “Me too.”

 

***

 

“I can’t believe we’re doing this out in the open.”

 

“Murphy—”

 

“We’re literally sitting in the mess hall.”

 

“Murphy—”

 

“I just can’t believe you want to have this conversation now with everyone just feet away.”

 

Bellamy runs his hands through his hair. “I really want to punch you.”

 

“I always want to punch you, you’re not special.” Murphy snaps. “Why are we doing this out in the open?”

 

“Because if we keep on meeting in the cabin, people are going to get suspicious.” Bellamy insists.

 

“But—”

 

“Can you please not argue with me for like, five minutes?”

 

“I’m clocking it now.”

 

Bellamy turns to Raven, who’s next to him. “I’m gonna kill him.”

 

Raven smiles. “But then your life would be so boring.”

 

The group of them are currently sitting on a bench in the mess hall, huddled together. Bellamy knows that it isn’t the best situation, but he knows a few people are already suspicious. And currently, those people are sitting a few tables away, staring at them.

 

Abby, Kane, and Diyoza are chatting, but Bellamy catches them looking in their direction. “We’re going to have to say something.” Raven says quietly, following Bellamy’s eyes.

 

“Not yet.”

 

“They’re going to figure out soon.”

 

“I know.” Bellamy says when Abby catches his eye. Except this time she doesn’t look away. Abby stares at him, whispers something to Kane while maintaining eye contact. “But not right now.”

 

Raven nods at his side.

 

“So, what’s the next steps?” Jordan asks, his voice a bit too loud. Murphy glowers at him and Jordan all but jumps. “So what are the next steps.” He whispers.

 

“Now we look even more suspicious!” Murphy cries, throwing his hands up. “For the love of god, Bellamy, I’m begging you. Can we please talk about this somewhere that isn’t in the middle of the damn mess hall?”

 

“Actually,” Bellamy says thoughtfully. “I may know a place.” Bellamy stands up from the table. “Follow me.”

 

He nods his head and everyone stands, confused but at least willing. Bellamy tries his best not to look around, but catches Madi’s eye as he leaves, the dark eyes of the teen following him. Except it isn’t the child who is, it’s the Commander. Turning away, Bellamy is determined not to see the reaction. He’s relying on Murphy and Jordan for that.

 

Nodding his head, Bellamy starts on the path that Clarke brought him to so many months ago. His chest aches as he thinks of the small lagoon Clarke showed him that morning. If he’d known where the world would take him, maybe he would’ve made her stay there longer.

 

Even simply thinking of Clarke makes him feel a little guilty, Bellamy sneaking a look toward Echo, who is walking toward the back. She stares straight ahead, her expression frustratingly neutral. He supposes that’s fair. Instead, he focuses on the person jogging to catch up with him. Jordan skips next to him, his bright eyes shining. “Where are we going?”

 

“Somewhere no one knows.”

 

“How do you know it and no one else does?”

 

Bellamy takes a breath. “Clarke showed me.” He responds.

 

Jordan doesn’t respond right away. “Do you really think that there’s a chance Clarke may still be alive?”

 

Bellamy casts a glance behind him, glad everyone else seems to be in their own conversations. “I hope so.”

 

“Yeah,” Jordan says softly. “Me too.” They walk deeper into the forest, the suns shining through the branches. Jordan smiles. “I still can’t believe that I’m here. Mom and Dad used to talk about how beautiful the Earth was – in the small moments of peace.”

 

The two lead the pack of people, Jordan turning to look at the sun peeking through the trees. “Dad was always talking about the plants. He said that while he and Mom chose space, he would always miss the green.”

 

Bellamy thinks of Monty, his passion for peace and the Earth. “That sounds like Monty.” He says. “Monty always understood things three steps ahead of everyone else. The Ground didn’t deserve him.”

 

Jordan beams at him. “That’s what Mom always said. I think they’d say the same for you.”

 

Bellamy is caught off guard by that. He can’t help it – his emotions have been at the surface so much lately, tears well in his eyes. “Monty was better than all of us. You take after him, you know.”

 

It was Jordan’s turn to turn toward him. “What?”

 

Bellamy smirks at him. “People don’t think you’re a nuisance, Jordan.” Bellamy states. Jordan recoils, his usual sunny demeanor dampening. “Don’t think I don’t see that you think it sometimes. We don’t think you’re a nuisance. We just are… protective, you know? Your parents were very important to us and we want to make sure we do right by them.”

 

“I just feel like, sometimes, you guys think I’m a chore.”

 

“You’re not a chore, Jordan.” Bellamy says as earnestly as possible. “We’re worried.”

 

“Why are you worried?”

 

“We’re worried because your parents trusted us to keep you safe. And we want to keep that trust. It’s not because you’re a chore. It’s because we worry about breaking that trust.” Bellamy states. “We want you to be safe.”

 

“And I want to help.” Jordan says. “I spent my life on a space ship. I’m finally surrounded by trees and lakes and other people. Clarke was one of those other people. And she always had my back.” Jordan beams at him. “She never made me feel unwanted here. She always… included me. I lost my Mom and Dad in a moment. I went into cryosleep and they were gone. They were the only people I’ve ever known.” Jordan looks to the ground. “Clarke included me in things. I want to help.”

 

Bellamy claps him on the back. “You will. You’re on our team, Jordan. Don’t ever think you’re not.” Then a thought occurs to him. “Hey, what do you feel about moving in with me?”

 

“What?”

 

“As you – and probably everyone knows – Echo moved in with Murphy and Emori. I know you’ve been staying with Raven and Shaw after Clarke left, but what do you think about moving in with me? We could get another bed the room, shouldn’t be a problem.”

 

Jordan stares. “Are you serious?”

 

“Of course I’m serious! What do you say?”

 

Jordan smile stretches across his face so much, it looks a little painful. “Yeah! Hell yeah!”

 

Chuckling to himself, Bellamy nods. “Alright then.” Brushing a few branches away, Bellamy gestures to everyone. “This way.”

 

He leads the group into the clearing, everyone taking a breath once they enter it. It’s entirely secluded by trees and hills, dipping into a lake that sits at the tips of their toes. Even Echo forgets her anger for a moment and pushes past everyone, her eyes twinkling as she takes in the planet. Bellamy knows what the earth means to her, no matter which planet it’s on. “Clarke showed you this?” She asks quietly, standing next to him.

 

Bellamy isn’t sure what to say with an ex-girlfriend who is also an important part of his life. He settles on, “Yes.” Because it’s true and hopes it’ll prevent any further questions.

 

“When?”

 

“A week before she went with Eligius.” Then, because Echo’s staring at the lagoon like she used to look at the trees on the Ground, he adds, “I haven’t been able to come back here since that day.”

 

Echo nods, her eyes watering, but still. “I understand.”

 

Once everyone settles, Bellamy prepares himself. “I don’t think anyone else knows of this place.”

 

“They’d definitely be here making out if they did.” Shaw nods.

 

Raven smacks his arm.

 

“What?” He exclaims.

 

“I expect that from Murphy, not you!”

 

Shaw puts his hands up. “You all were thinking it, I just said it out loud.”

 

Murphy points at him. “My man.”

 

Burying his face in his hands, Shaw waves away the comment. “Please continue.”

 

“Right.” Bellamy states. “Like I said, I don’t think anyone else knows of this place, so we can speak candidly.”

 

Emori raises her hand. “Why don’t we start with the elephant in the room?”

 

Bellamy freezes, decidedly not looking at Echo. Coughing, he says, “I’m sure I don’t know what you mean.”

 

Emori looks around, incredulous. “Come on, are we just not going to talk about it?”

 

Murphy grows solemn and mutters, “Emori…”

 

“Fine, I’ll ask.” Emori snaps and Bellamy prepares himself. “Why aren’t we telling Madi about this – she is the Commander.”

 

Bellamy startles, too relieved to not have to explain his break-up with Echo to respond. Even Echo looks surprised, which is difficult seeing as she usually is one step ahead of everyone else. “What do you mean?” Raven asks when no one answers.

 

Emori throws her hands up. “She’s our Commander. Clarke was her Mom. If she knew that we had information that would potentially reveal something about her time in Eligius or the fact that there is the smallest possibility that she could be alive, don’t you think we should tell her?”

 

No one answers right away, but the answer is incredibly obvious. With a sigh, Bellamy states, “No.”

 

Emori grows more incredulous. “Bellamy—”

 

“Emori.” Bellamy states. “We can’t tell her.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“You remember the incident.” Bellamy says quietly and Emori snaps her mouth shut. “We can’t tell her.”

 

“We don’t know that she will do that—”

 

“You’re right, we don’t. But we can’t take that chance.” Bellamy says. “Madi is thirteen years old and in charge of one of the last remaining human groups on earth. Her mother died and she responded as you would expect. If we come up with something concrete, sure, we’ll let her know. But I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to tell her that we think something may be going on when all we have is black blood and a sketchbook.”

 

“Bellamy—”

 

“When we have something, we’ll tell her.” Bellamy insists. “But we have to have more.”

 

Emori grits her teeth. Bellamy knows she’s fighting against her instinct. Every part of her culture she was raised on. Sure, she bonded with Raven in space and was outlawed before she could crawl. But the history of the Commanders are with her. Nodding, Emori quiets.


“Okay,” Bellamy states. “Let’s get started.”

 

***

 

It’s been a month.

 

Bellamy isn’t sure how it’s been a month, but it’s been a month. It’s been a month where life simply moved on, uninterested in the sorrow that wafted over everyone like a cloud. Bellamy pretends that he’s alright with the fact things simply move on, because he’s good at it. He’s good at pretending.

 

Perhaps one day the pretending will become reality.

 

“Again!” Someone shouts in the distance.

 

Looking up from his breakfast, Bellamy asks Miller at his side, “What’s going on over there?”

 

Miller cocks his head. “You must be crazy if you think anyone tells me anything anymore.”

 

“Come on.”

 

“Well,” Miller sighs. “I overheard some people say that the Commander has increased the mandatory defense training.”

 

Bellamy blinks. “Madi’s raised the defense training? How do I not know about this? Did she have a council meeting without me?”

 

“From what I heard, she didn’t have a council meeting at all. She just said we need to be prepared for all scenarios. Sounds like overkill to me, but what do I know, I spent the past six years supporting a dictator.” Miller says half-jokingly.

 

Not that Bellamy doesn’t love talking about his estranged sister, but he likes it even less right now. He can hear the clang of metal and shouts of combat in the distance. Pushing his tray away, he absently says, “You can finish my rations.” to Miller, stepping out of the bench he’s in.

 

The yelling gets louder as he marches out of the mess hall, his pace quickening when he hears the commanding shriek.

 

“I said, again!”

 

Bellamy breaks into a full sprint until he reaches the training area, a small patch of grass not covered in large trees. Members of the Wonkru army are there, along with a few of the Eligius members who served in the military before the world ended. Madi is stalking around them as they train, her steps precise and lethal as she surveys them. “This is not the kind of army we need!” She shouts at them. “We will do it again and again, until I am convinced that we will not be slaughtered onsite!”

 

A few members of the army exchange glances that Bellamy catches – and thank god Madi doesn’t – so he approaches Indra, who is standing off to the side. “What the hell is going on right now?” He whispers to her, her focus not shifted from the training. The men and women clash into each other again, weariness clear on their body.

 

Indra watches. “We received the orders today.” She states.

 

“Orders, Indra, what orders?”

 

“We are going to be attacking the Eligius settlers by the end of the week.”

 

The words make sense separately, but he’s having a hard time putting them all together as a whole. “I’m sorry, you want to run that by me again?”

 

“Madi gave the orders this afternoon. We’re going to be launching a strike on the settlement.”

 

“You have to be kidding.”

 

“I do not kid, Bellamy.”

 

He knows that’s true, but nothing’s making sense. “Why the hell weren’t we told about this?” He asks. “We have council meetings – hell, everyone I’ve spoken with knows nothing about it.”

 

“It’s been on a need-to-know basis.”

 

“And you don’t think I need to know?” Bellamy cries. Indra still isn’t looking at him and it’s finally driving him absolutely crazy. “Indra, come on. You can’t possibly think this is a good idea.”

 

“It is not my job to have an opinion on that.”

 

“You’re her second! It’s absolutely your job to have an opinion!”

 

Indra falters ever-so-slightly and something loosens in his chest. Bellamy doesn’t feel quite as manic as he waits for Indra to formulate a response. “Of course I do not relish the idea of going back into war. But my Commander ordered me to do so.”

 

“Well, my Commander didn’t even tell me about it, so I have no reservations telling her this is a ludicrous idea.”

 

“And why do you think she didn’t tell you?”

 

Before Bellamy can retort, there’s a clash and someone’s thrown from their feet, their arm sliced open. It’s one of the former Eligius members, his arm dripping with blood. “On your feet!” Madi shouts from the side.

 

Except the man doesn’t get up from his feet. He stares at his arm where blood is pouring out, his face twisting into something of anger. “No.” He states, kicking his sword to the side.

 

Madi freezes. In a second, it doesn’t matter how small she is. The way her head cocks in his direction is otherworldly and Bellamy feels his own heart skip in his chest. “No?” She repeats, her words dripping with venom.

 

The man has the decency to hesitate, even if for a moment. But then he scrambles to his feet, his hand clutched around his arm, where blood is slipping through his fingers. “You heard me. No.”

 

Indra stiffens at Bellamy’s side.

 

“I’m not going to risk my life for some angsty teenager I don’t know. You’re training us with swords? Do you even realize we’re not in the Middle Ages?” The man asks. “You’re strutting around like we’re in some sort of Mad Max wannabe movie and for what? To go to war with the only other human beings on the planet?”

 

Now, Bellamy may not know what ‘Mad Max’ is, but he admits to himself the man has a point. That doesn’t matter, though. Because Madi is unsheathing her sword and striding to him, the blade glinting in the sunlight. With a quick motion, the blade is under his throat before anyone has an opportunity to do anything.

 

“The last time I checked, swords don’t run out of ammo.” She says darkly. “And the last time I checked, I was your Commander.” She presses the blade against his neck, drops of blood trailing down his skin.

 

“Madi!” Bellamy shouts, sprinting onto the training arena. “Madi, stop!”

 

Running in between the two, Bellamy shoves the sword away with his hands. Madi almost swipes it back up, but when she sees Bellamy, instead she snaps, “What are you doing here?”

 

“I suppose that’s a valid question seeing as you called a war council without the council!” Bellamy shouts back, putting his hands up. “Madi, what are you doing? What are you thinking?”

 

“I’m thinking that the Eligius group made an attack on our people and that should not go unanswered.” Madi says viciously. “To not respond would be to show weakness.”

 

“Madi, Clarke got sick.” Bellamy implores, but as he said it out loud, the words catch. He hears it and he knows that Madi hears it. In fact, despite being embarrassed, he’s certain it’s the only reason that she isn’t threatening him more now. “C-Clarke—” He has to take a breath. “Madi, they didn’t assassinate her. She got sick and passed away.”

 

“If she was here, that never would’ve happened!” Madi retorts, but her eyes are watering and the sword in her hand is shaking ever so slightly.

 

“Madi.” Bellamy says again. “She wasn’t here and she got sick. We cannot go to war over that.”

 

“But I want someone to pay!” Madi screams and it’s like dropping a rock in water. There’s a loud shout… then silence. Madi knows all eyes are on her, but she doesn’t try to wipe away her tears. “Someone needs to pay!”

 

Slowly lowering his hands, Bellamy says, “Madi, it’s no one’s fault.”

 

“That is a lie!” Madi seethes. “It’s everyone’s fault. Clarke and I were fine in the valley, we were fine by ourselves. Then you guys arrive and the valley is on fire and the entire planet is destroyed!” She shouts, pointing her blade at the Eligius members. “We come to this planet for a few months and now Clarke is dead! It’s everyone’s fault.”

 

Taking a small step forward, Bellamy hesitantly puts a hand on her shoulder. He can see the world weighing down on her, threatening to suffocate the teen. When Madi doesn’t attack him when he does so, he crouches down so they’re eye level. “Madi,”

 

“Everyone took away my family.” Madi states, her eyes red and swimming with tears. “You all took away my family. Someone needs to pay.”

 

“It doesn’t work like that.” Bellamy responds. “Life isn’t all about being fair. If it were, the Earth wouldn’t have become inhospitable. Monty and Harper wouldn’t have died trying to find a place for us to live. And Clarke wouldn’t be dead.”

 

“How do I stop feeling like this?” Madi whispers, the sword dropping from her hands as she puts them out. “Please Bellamy, how do I stop?”

 

Bellamy can’t help but have tears of his own, but this seems too important to wipe them away. “We have to be here for each other. Revenge won’t make it stop. It’ll make it never end.”

 

“If we take them out, maybe it’ll go away.”

 

“It won’t.” Bellamy insists. “It won’t.”

 

Madi doesn’t say anything for a while. Her hands are at her sides, fists clenched. He can see the warring Commanders in her head as she tries to figure out her next move. He sees it in her eyes. Love is a weakness, attack with full force, don’t let anyone take your power.

 

She’s thirteen.

 

Nodding to Indra, Bellamy stands and says to her, “Let’s call a council meeting. Just to get a few more opinions.”

 

Madi vaguely nods, allowing herself to be led out of the area, while Indra calls the end of the training session.

 

***

 

“My eyes are falling out of my head.”

 

“Gross.”

 

“I mean, they’re literally on the floor.”

 

“Gross!”

 

“I will never be able to reattach them.”

 

“Okay, no more studying for you.” Raven snatches a book out of Shaw’s hands. Bellamy’s sitting at the table with a few members of the group who aren’t asleep on the floor. All except for Jordan, who is asleep on the table, his hands splayed out in front of him. “Bellamy, it’s getting late.”

 

“I feel like I’m missing something.” Bellamy mutters, flipping through the sketchbook. “It’s right in my face.”

 

Raven walks over and places a hand on his shoulder. “We’re not going to figure it out in a night. If we get sleep, we’ll be able to think better. We can pick it up in the evening.”

 

“I know you’re right,” Bellamy says, running his hands down his face. “It’s just the only time we have is after everyone’s asleep. It doesn’t leave a ton of opportunity.”

 

“It’s the safest option and you know it.” Raven says. “If anyone finds us working on this, there could be trouble.”

 

“Do you think—”

 

“No, we’re right to keep it from Madi.” She cuts him off. “We can’t have her using the power of her army to tear down the front door. We have to do this smartly.”

 

“Yeah, I know.” Bellamy groans. “Okay, let’s kick everyone out.”

 

Raven wakes up Murphy and Emori, the two startling so quick, they knock into each other. “What is it? Who’s died?” Murphy asks.

 

“No one, it’s time to sleep.” Raven laughs.

 

“I’m so confused as to what we were just doing then.” Murphy groans. He nods to Bellamy. “Any luck?”

 

Shaking his head, Bellamy sighs. “No, it just filled with drawings.”

 

Murphy frowns at the pages Bellamy’s open on. “These are the last ones before the map?” Bellamy nods. “Man, Clarke’s got a thing about leaning against poles.”

 

“Yeah, she used to go on about something called contrapposto.” Bellamy says with a yawn. “Something about their body positions.”

 

Murphy snorts. Then he looks at the page and points. “Main, they have street signs, we should have street signs.”

 

“That would require having streets.”

 

“Semantics.” Murphy waves his comment aside. “I don’t want them thinking they’re better than anything than us.”

 

“So you want us to win in regards to street signs?”

 

“You know what, I’m tired and I can’t deal with your negativity right now.” Murphy says, clapping him on the back. “See you in the morning.”

 

Everyone filters out of the cabin, Bellamy shaking Jordan’s shoulder. “Hey man – if you sleep like that, you’ll mess up your back.”

 

“I’m in my twenties.”

 

“Actually, you’re over a hundred years old, old man.” Bellamy laughs. “Come on up.”

 

Jordan grumbles, but slowly makes his way to the bed. Bellamy blows out the candles surrounding the kitchen, the cabin growing dark. Before he can get to them all, there’s a knock at the door. “Come in!” Bellamy calls, keeping a few candles lit. “Forget something?” He asks whoever approaches him.

 

He freezes when Kane walks through the door.

 

Kane, despite scaring everyone with his injury, seems to be better than Bellamy can ever remember seeing. The year and a half of peace softened him even more, his hair growing more grey and his eyes growing more kind. “Kane.” Bellamy breathes.

 

“I figured I’d wait until everyone left before I approached you.” Kane says good-naturedly. “Didn’t want to make it awkward for everyone.”

 

“Just me.”

 

“Just you.” Kane nods. “Well, due to the late hour, I suppose I’ll get right to it. What did you see in the city?”

 

Bellamy knows he shouldn’t be surprised, but he is at the bluntness of the question. Unsure of how to respond, Bellamy sits down at the table and motions for Kane to join him. He does, leaning on his elbows. “Come on, Bellamy. You knew this conversation was going to happen.”

 

“Abby ask you to come?”

 

“She thought you’d be a bit more amenable to me. Plus, I don’t think she knew whether she wanted the answer or not. I’m here to soften whatever it is.”

 

Bellamy peers at him. “I don’t want to tell you.”

 

“Why is that?”

 

“Because we have nothing concrete yet.”

 

“But you saw something.” Kane says. “You saw something shocking enough for you to convince all of your friends – including John Murphy – to work into the night on it.” Bellamy doesn’t respond. “You saw something that you’ve been avoiding both Madi and Abby ever since, and are choosing not to tell either. Which mean, you saw something that had to do with Clarke.”

 

“Would you like some water?” Bellamy asks, simply so he can have something to hold.

 

“I want you to answer my question.”

 

“What do you want me to say, Kane?” Bellamy asks. “I don’t want to say anything until we have something to say.”

 

“Listen Bellamy, I understand why you are keeping this from Madi. Honestly, I do. We all narrowly avoided another war over this. But you choosing not to tell Abby, myself, and Diyoza is foolhardy. We can help you get something concrete.”

 

Bellamy knows Kane has a point, as he usually does. Except he can’t hear Abby cry again. He can’t hear her break down. He doesn’t want to give her hope, only to have her crash. Not when… “I can’t.” He says. “I can’t say this and be wrong. Especially not with Abby.”

 

“You’re afraid she’ll relapse.” Kane states.

 

“Yes.”

 

“And since Clarke was the one who brought her out of it last time, you don’t think she’ll recover.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Because Clarke isn’t here.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Kane doesn’t answer for a while. Bellamy thinks he’s gotten through to him, when Kane says, “Don’t you think that if something was going on with Clarke and she was left out of it and something happened, what you’re afraid of will happen anyway?”

 

Bellamy can’t even respond.

 

“I know you’re afraid. Hell, I’m afraid. Ever since they announced Clarke’s death, I’ve been waiting on pins and needles for Abby to relapse. But she hasn’t, Bellamy. She hasn’t. And that’s saying something because you and I both know that no one would’ve batted an eye about it. So tell me what you saw and I will determine whether to tell her or not.”

 

Clarke’s sketchbook is across the table. Kane follows his eyes to it and he frowns. “What’s that?”

 

“Clarke’s sketchbook of her time with Eligius.”

 

Kane doesn’t reach out for it. “How did you get it?”

 

“I asked for it.”

 

“Why?”

 

Bellamy takes a breath. He knows telling Kane this will mean the group gets bigger. That there’s more likely for someone to say something. For them to be caught. But there’s nothing he can do.

 

It’s the only choice.

 

“I saw a woman with black blood.”

 

***

 

The lagoon become the place people would come for lunch. Discuss theories and findings. In a strange way, it made Bellamy feel more connected with Clarke – everyone discussing her last few days in a place she showed him. It made his chest ache, but he does care. It reminds him of what there is to gain if he’s right.

 

He’s surprised Abby hasn’t crashed any of their evening sessions since discussing with Kane. However, he does notice the three of them aren’t eating in the mess hall as much and there’s a look in Diyoza’s eyes that Bellamy isn’t sure he cares for. Perhaps Kane really did just report back and they’re leaving them out of it. Unlikely, but strange.

 

What he doesn’t expect is Octavia to charge into the clearing one morning.

 

Echo unsheathes the sword at her side, which must be an instinctual thing. A pretty good one, if Bellamy’s being honest. See Octavia in this place makes the rage that he feels for her boil back, and it takes every ounce of him not to yell at her. “What are you doing here?” He snaps, only raising his voice a little, which he feels he should get credit for.

 

Octavia pulls the sleeves of her shirt down. Stripped away from the makeup and armor, she reminds him of the girl he used to read to. The girl who made him come to earth. “I need to talk to you.”

 

“The feeling isn’t mutual.” Murphy states, crossing his arms.

 

“I-I don’t care.” Octavia says. He hasn’t heard her voice waver like that in a while.

 

Nevertheless, he can’t just let it go. “Octavia, please leave.”

 

“You guys are researching about Clarke.”

 

“How did you know?” Echo snaps, stalking toward her with her weapon.

 

Octavia is unphased by that. “Because I know. When you’re the most hated person on the planet, you hear things more since no one is talking to you.”

 

“Is that supposed to make us feel bad?” Raven asks.

 

“No.”

 

“Then leave.”

 

“No.” Octavia says. “Now, none of you may not want to speak with me, but you’ll want to hear what I have to say.”

 

“And why is that?” snaps Murphy.

 

“Because I was the last person to speak with Clarke.”

 

It’s like she’s charged at all of them. Bellamy takes a step back and even Echo falters with her weapon. “I-I’m sorry, what?” Bellamy chokes, unable to make sense of it.

 

Octavia really does look young. The blood is washed, the power stripped away. “Clarke and I used to talk. Well, rather, I used to talk and Clarke used to listen.”

 

“I’m sorry, I’m still stuck on the fact that you were the last person to speak with her?” Murphy cries out. “How the fuck is that true?”

 

“Like I said, we used to talk.” Octavia insists, wilting under the glares she’s receiving. “When you’re the most hated person on the planet, it’s lonely. So I went to the second most hated.”

 

Bellamy recoils at that. He wants to argue, he wants say that she’s out of line. But he finds he can’t.

 

Because it was true.

 

“I didn’t mean for it to become a thing. Clarke just listened to me when I was having a bad day once. She didn’t say anything. I mean, honestly? She didn’t need to. I know she disagreed with me on everything. But she still listened.” Octavia bows her head. “After a while, it became a thing. Once or twice a month, we’d go on a hike, Clarke would chart the land and I’d talk. It was nice.”

 

“Listen, J.R.R. Tolkien, what the hell are you talking about?” Murphy shouts.

 

“When she left with the Eligius settlers, I realized how much talking helped. And I was going a little crazy after she left having no one to talk to, so one night I snuck out to the city?”

 

Bellamy can’t help it, a flash of protectiveness floods over him. “I’m sorry, you did what?”

 

“No one includes me in anything, no one talks to me.” Octavia states. “No one even noticed! I was gone for like three days and everything was the same when I got back.”

 

Running his hand down his face, Bellamy cries, “I cannot believe you snuck out.”

 

“Yes you can.” Murphy drawls. “She’s always didn’t think rules applied to her.”

 

Octavia opens her mouth – probably to retort back – but doesn’t. “Listen, I just wanted someone to talk to.”

 

Bellamy seethes, trying to resist the irrational urge to demand that she leave. “When was this?”

 

“Two months before she died.”

 

“Two months?” Raven shouts, her anger back with force. “And you never said anything?”

 

“No one ever listens to me – what would I say?” Octavia yells back. “People leave the room when I get there, how would I say something?”

 

“What happened?” Jordan asks. There isn’t malice in his voice. There isn’t anger. In fact, he’s so calm it seems to calm everyone else. “Did she say something?”

 

Octavia is visibly relieved by Jordan’s question. “At first it was normal. I was just talking and she listened. But… there was something off. She seemed on edge. She wasn’t saying anything, kept looking at her window. And before I left, she said something. Something I thought you would want to know because I think she wanted me to tell you, but didn’t want to say anything out loud.” She gestures at Bellamy.

 

His curiosity outweighs his anger at the moment. “Why would you think she wanted me to hear it?”

 

“Because you’re the only person I could think of who would even know what it means.” Octavia says sadly. “You always were a bit of a history nut.” Bellamy frowns, confusion the only thing he’s feeling anymore. “She said ‘alea jacta est.’ Or something like that. It’s not Trig, I don’t know what language it is.”

 

The words are distant, like a memory. Something he knows is important.

 

When it hits him, it hits him hard.

 

“What did you say?” he whispers, his eyes widening.

 

“Does that mean something to you?” Octavia asks. “Was I right to think of you?”

 

Bellamy can’t feel his feet anymore. “Bellamy, are you okay?” Raven asks gently, touching his shoulder. “Do you need to sit down?”

 

“No,” he hears himself saying, but maybe it’d be for the best.

 

“What does it mean, Bellamy?” Murphy asks, but his voice is distant.

 

“It means we need to have each other’s back, no questions asked.” He says to himself.

 

For a moment, he’s back there. He’s back in the tent when they first landed on the ground. Before massacres, before wars. Just the 100. Just Clarke.

 

Bellamy remembers the way they lied on their backs, staring at the ceiling. And how relieved she was when he admitted he was scared.

 

 “But what does that mean?”

 

Bellamy swallows thickly, but he still is in that tent, all those years ago.

 

“It means help.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIVE

 

“Again.”

 

“Bellamy, I’ve told you everything I know.”

 

“I said, again.”

 

Octavia lets out a sigh, placing her hands on her hips. Pinching the bridge of her nose, Octavia says, “It’s like I said, I met with her two months before the funeral—”

 

“And waited over a year to tell me!”

 

“When was I going to tell you, Bellamy? Honestly, when?” Octavia shouts back.

 

Bellamy’s glad he asked everyone to leave. It’s been a while since he’s been alone with his sister. In fact, it’s been since she put her in her chamber, and even then they weren’t alone. It’s causing him to take a harsh look at the situation. The way Octavia shifts on her feet, hesitant and timid – two things Bellamy hadn’t seen from Octavia since she was a small child.

 

He hates the idea that he caused this. In a twisted way, he feels at fault. He always has admired his sister’s strength, but hated her lack of control. Bellamy always sought to control her without acknowledging the simple fact: she cannot be controlled.

 

He couldn’t, nor Indra, nor Wonkru. A bunker that survived the apocalypse couldn’t.

 

Octavia’s voice softens. “When, big brother.” Her eyes are shining from the sunlight that streams through the trees.

 

Somewhere in the distance, Bellamy can hear animals maneuvering around, species he’d never seen before eyeing the two of them. Running his hand through his hair, Bellamy takes a breath to calm down. “Tell me again, O.” He says, the bite out of his tone.

 

Octavia nods almost imperceptibly, but launches into the story. “Two months before the funeral, I went to the Eligius city to see Clarke. I found her building by asking around – the city is laid out very clearly. It’s like a grid. When I figured out which building she was staying in, I managed to find a way in.”

 

“How?”

 

Octavia purses her lips, having answered this many time already. “They have key cards for their buildings. I stole one from someone and didn’t even glance at the receptionist.”

 

“Then what?”

 

“Then, I found Clarke’s room. I entered and she was sitting by the window, drawing.”

 

“What was she drawing?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Octavia—”

 

“I said I don’t know.” Octavia says. “I don’t remember. I wasn’t paying attention. It was over a year ago.”

 

Bellamy drops his gaze to the ground. He tries to calm down, he tries not to be filled with frustration, and he fails absolutely miserably. “Why didn’t you tell me?” He asks again.

 

Octavia doesn’t snap at him this time. She merely breathes, defeat etched on her face as if someone sculpted it there. “Bell, when would I have. You never even stayed in a room I was in. You would leave every time I came near you. So tell me, when would I have been able to tell you?”

 

Bellamy knows there’s no answer. He also knows that Octavia has a point. Cutting through the rage and anger he feels toward her, there’s a small amount that he directs toward himself.

 

“Do you hate me this much, big brother?” Octavia asks, choking on the words. “Have I hurt you that much?”

 

Sucking in a breath, Bellamy says, “I don’t hate you, O.”

 

“I don’t believe you.”

 

“I don’t.” Bellamy insists. “I just… I don’t understand you. I don’t know who you are.”

 

“I’m your little sister.”

 

“No, you’re not.” Bellamy says, the words calm, but he’s unable to mask the hurt that lies within them. “My little sister wouldn’t have done the things that you’ve done. My little sister—”

 

“What would you have had me do, Bellamy?” Octavia cries. “Wilt underground? Die trapped under the floor?”

 

“I would’ve thought that someone who had her choice stripped away from her, her entire life, wouldn’t do the same thing to who her own people she claimed she loved!” Bellamy shouts back. “You sentenced your own people to death so they wouldn’t leave you, not because you loved them!”

 

“Well, the people who love me tend to leave too!”

 

Bellamy stares. He hears the blood rush in his ears and feels a tingling in his fingers. “You can’t be serious.” He whispers. “I couldn’t get back to you and you know it.”

 

“I know, that’s not what I meant—”

 

“I was trapped in space in order to survive! You’re not the only person who was trapped somewhere, Octavia!”

 

“I know, but—”

 

“I did everything I could to get back to you, do you understand? It didn’t take six years because I was having a great time up there—”

 

“What about Lincoln?” Octavia snaps.

 

It’s as if she’s hit him. It reminds Bellamy of that day in the cave as she struck him again and again. He took it. He felt like he deserved it.

 

He betrayed her.

 

Octavia chokes back a sob, a few tears escaping. “What about Mom?”

 

Bellamy takes a step back, it’s too much. “So this is what it is?” Bellamy asks, his voice low. “You blame me for their deaths, and you had to go on a rampage? You had to destroy opportunity after opportunity for peace? You couldn’t stop yourself?”

 

“That’s not what I mean—”

 

“Then what do you mean, Octavia?” Bellamy shouts, gesturing so wildly, she flinches. He hates it. But that’s where they are. “You’ve experienced loss, so it justifies what you’ve done?”

 

“That’s not what I’m saying.” Octavia states. The two stand across from each other like they’re about to attack, which Bellamy supposes, they have been. “I’m saying that you never gave me an opportunity to tell you about Clarke. I didn’t even know if the message was for you. I had a strong suspicion, but when I came back, every time I approached you, you left. Then… when she died, I… I figured I’d have to live with that.”

 

Bellamy doesn’t move.

 

Her lips quirk up in a sad smile, tears rolling down her cheeks. “I love you, big brother.” She manages, her chest heaving. “And I’m sorry for what I’ve done. I didn’t want Clarke to die. In fact, I may be one of the only people where that sentence was one hundred percent true. I needed Clarke to remain sane. The past year without her has been tougher than I ever anticipated. I want to help find her.”

 

He doesn’t respond.

 

“Please, Bellamy. Please let me help.”

 

***

 

“Should we have another Unity Day?”

 

Bellamy startles from where he’s sitting under a large tree with branches that are sharp and otherworldly, looking up from his book. Clarke smiles down on him – the soft one that she seems to only save for him – and hands him a piece of fruit. He takes it, still surprised, and gestures that she sit next to him. Surprisingly, she does.

 

They’re shoulder to shoulder, looking out at a foreign forest with monsters and complications they can’t even imagine. And they’re simply sitting there.

 

Bellamy remember when they touched the Ground and figured out they weren’t alone, the first thing he wanted was a wall. Something to keep everyone out. Keep them safe.

 

Now, the two of them are looking at a world that could be even more unfriendly than the last, and the last thing he wants is a wall.

 

“Another Unity Day?” Bellamy asks, amusedly. “Because our last one went so well.”

 

Clarke laughs at that, bright and sparkling. Light in a way he hadn’t heard from her in a long time. She picks at her own fruit, eyes focused ahead at the vast forest. “Not like that. They mean for Wonkru. Or whatever we’re supposed to be called now. The Ark, the Grounders, Eligius – everyone. For the first time, we’re not actively warring against each other. Kane suggested a Unity Day. Or something like that.”

 

Scratching his chin with his book, Bellamy thinks about this. “It’s not a terrible idea—”

 

“So you hate it.”

 

“I don’t hate it. It just feels weird celebrating something that – the last time we had a Unity Day celebration, it ended with you almost being shot with an arrow and an all-out brawl with the Grounders.”

 

“They’re on our side this time?” Clarke offers.

 

“You have me there.” Bellamy chuckles. “What do you think?”

 

“I think it’s a terrible idea.”

 

Bellamy gawks. “And you’re sitting here, arguing me for it?”

 

“We haven’t argued in a long time, I felt like something was missing.” Clarke sneaks a glance at him, smirking. “I think that on a new planet we should come up with new celebrations. New traditions. I think that if we continue to look to repeat the past, it’s only a matter of time until we start repeating what we don’t like.”

 

“So did you say that?”

 

Clarke’s smile falters. “No.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“I don’t think people really care what I have to say these days.” Clarke gives a hollow laugh.

 

“I do.”

 

The words are out of his mouth before he can stop them. Clarke whips her head in his direction, her expression surprised and soft. A smile twitches at the corner of her mouth and she looks down, a motion she always does when trying to hide how she’s really feeling. “I know,” she responds softly.

 

They return their gaze before them, their legs straight out in front of them, toes almost touching. Reaching behind her, Clarke pulls out a sketchbook and opens to a blank page, starting to draw. Bellamy returns to his book, grateful for an opportunity to simply sit in silence with some. To feel their presence without engaging.

 

To feel less alone.

 

After a while, his book begins to lose his interest and he finds himself sneaking glances at Clarke’s sketchbook. It’s filled with trees and people, figures he recognizes from the group – a few he doesn’t. She must feel his eyes on her, because she asks, “May I help you?”

 

“Just watching.”

 

“I thought you were reading.”

 

“I got bored.”

 

“What are you reading?”

 

Bellamy tilts the title close to her, revealing the words The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire. Eyebrows lifting, Clarke chuckles, “I can’t imagine why. Must be a real page turner.”

 

“I’ll have you know that Roman history is not inherently boring, I’ve simply been reading it for far too long.”

 

“Sure,” Clarke laughs. “Don’t spoil anything for me, though. I’d love to read how it turns out.”

 

Bellamy makes a face at her. “Okay then, why don’t you teach me something?”

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“If you’re so superior to a history textbook, teach me something.”

 

Clarke eyes him. He knows that she’s sizing up how serious he’s being and whether it’s worth taking the bait. He can’t help it – since landing on the planet it’s been nothing but council meetings and tough decisions. He rarely has a moment to himself to read and he’s decided that he really doesn’t want whatever this moment is to end.

 

“Okay,” she ends on, flipping her sketchbook back a few pages. “This is called contrapposto.”

 

“What?”

 

Clarke’s pointing at a few sketches where figures are bent, their legs bent and heads turned to the side.

 

“It basically means counterpoise. You see how the weight is distributed to one leg, kind of giving them a relaxed state? Painters and sculptors love this pose because it gives a dynamic pose, while still maintaining a weight balance. Do you see?”

 

He really doesn’t, but her eyes are lighting up and she’s sketching quick lines as she explains. “It shows muscle deformations, but doesn’t look uncanny. Do you see the way the hips are in a different direction than the head? It gives him gravity and weight. You want to know the direction of the head? Have him look away.”

 

“How do you know this?”

 

Clarke blinks. “I’m sorry?”

 

“I don’t mean to be nosy, but it’s not like they taught art on the Ark – it wasn’t functional. It couldn’t be made into a job that benefited everyone. Then you were in isolation – then on the Ground. How do you know this?”

 

Her expression softens. “I just… love it, you know? It’s nice to be able to do something with my hands that is constructive, but not destructive.” She gestures to all around them. “It’s really beautiful, you know?”

 

“It is,” Bellamy says. “But that doesn’t answer my question.”

 

She laughs and he joins her, Clarke closing her sketchbook. “Freedom of Information Act. All archives are available to the public upon request, as long as it isn’t a detriment to your Ark responsibilities.”

 

Bellamy can’t help the smile curling on his face.

 

“Just how,” she says, nudging the book at his side. “I imagine you got the information about the rise and fall of Rome. I can’t imagine that would be helpful information on the Ark.”

 

“It would be if we needed to start a new civilization.”

 

“It’s a good thing you know it, then!”

 

Snorting, Bellamy returns his attention the trees. They really are beautiful. They’re beautiful in a different way than the trees on earth – they’re a little more menacing, but exciting. They wrap around each other and leaves fall from them in piles on the ground.

 

“I really hope we do better this time.” Clarke whispers.

 

Bellamy doesn’t respond, but he agrees.

 

“At one point, I think we let the terrible things we did to survive mount, so we kept using other terrible things as a yard stick. Instead of asking ourselves who we were before the terrible things started. We used our previous actions to measure how bad something would be, instead of measuring it with the people we were when our feet hit the ground.” Clarke says, trailing off. He knows her mind is back on that day, as is his. Excited, terrified. The Ground was such a mystery and they were all so innocent for criminals. “I hope we do better this time.”

 

“We will.” Bellamy says quickly. Clarke turns toward him.

 

“Promise?” She murmurs.

 

Bellamy finds himself nodding. “We have each other and we know what that means now.” Reaching over to her hand, he takes it. It’s cold, sending a shiver up his spine. Giving it a squeeze, Bellamy smiles at her. “Promise.”

 

Clarke laughs. “Cross my heart, hope to die.”

 

***

 

The evening Abby, Kane, and Diyoza stride through his cabin door is the second night Octavia is also allowed in. Bellamy grows anxious at their sheer size, but he isn’t sure what to do. Murphy’s so annoyed at Octavia’s presence that he barely acknowledges the three new additions, but Bellamy stands. “Abby.” He states, unsure of what to say.

 

Abby gazes around where all the pages of copies of the map lie on the table, quick sketches they made to duplicate the one hidden in the sketchbook. Without saying anything in return, she picks one of the pages up and runs her fingers down it. When she finally looks at him, there are tears shining in her eyes. “So do you have anything?”

 

Bellamy glances at Kane, who nods. He did tell her, but she’s more reserved than he thought she’d be. “Not much. Feel free to look through the sketchbook. All we’ve really figured out is that Clarke thought something might be happening.”

 

“How do you know that?”

 

Bellamy turns to Octavia, who approaches Abby carefully. The two woman have some sort of silent conversation, words that were left unsaid in the bunker pouring out now in whatever exchange is happening. After a while, Octavia goes into the story of her time in the Eligius settlement, Abby only asking a few questions from time to time. It’s much less hostile than Bellamy’s turn, to which he has to return his attention back to the map to keep from flushing.

 

Fortunately, Diyoza steps over, Hope strapped to her chest and sleeping. “This is the map?” She asks.

 

Shaw looks up from where he’s studying it for what seems like the hundredth time. “Yes. I feel like there’s something here, but I can’t figure it out. Can I get an extra set of eyes?” He asks, handing her a copy. Diyoza takes it while bouncing Hope up and down, a hand pressed against the baby’s back.

 

Shaw lets out a relieved sigh. “She’s got a great eye for these things.” He says.

 

“Yeah, military strategy is right up her alley.” Echo says from the corner, where she’s eyeing the woman carefully.

 

“You understand that I had a baby, I didn’t lose my ability to hear, right?” Diyoza says, not tearing her gaze away from the map.

 

“You understand that I wanted to hear you?”

 

Diyoza makes a face that seems to say something along the lines of ‘fair enough’ and continues to study.

 

“Do you think Clarke is alive?” Abby turns to Bellamy, the copy of the map trembling in her hands.

 

Again, Bellamy turns to Kane, unsure of how to proceed. Kane doesn’t offer any answers, so Bellamy decides honesty is the only thing he can rely on. “I don’t know.” He answers.

 

Abby steps toward him, now holding the map close. “But you have a theory.”

 

Taking a preparation breath, Bellamy responds, “Yes.”

 

Abby sets herself. “I know you’re afraid for me, Bellamy. But being coy isn’t going to win you any points here.”

 

“I’m not being coy.” Bellamy states. “I’m being realistic. And I don’t see any good coming from me explaining my theory.”

 

“It’s good for me.” Abby says, her words gentle. “It’s good for me to hear what you’re thinking. You’re the one who started this. If you hadn’t seen the woman on the street, none of this would’ve happened. If you hadn’t insisted they give you her belongings, none of this would’ve happened. I want to know what you’re thinking. I want to know what your goal is.”

 

Bellamy looks to his family for support, but all are giving him the same expression: ‘you have to.’ “Abby, I honestly don’t know if Clarke is alive.” He starts. When Abby tries to cut him off, he talks over her. “I don’t. But I do think she was alive when they told us she was dead. I think that they refused to give her back not because she became ‘beloved,’ but because there was no body to deliver. I think something happened and they learned about nightblood. Whether Clarke accidentally told them – or they saw themselves, I think they found out and took alternative action.” Bellamy finds his hands shaking, so he has to steady himself against the table. “I don’t know if she’s alive now. But I think she was alive then. And that’s enough for me to keep looking.”

 

Reaching out, Abby extends her hand to Bellamy. He flinches, unsure of what’s coming. A slap – a yell. Except neither come.

 

Instead, Abby grabs his shoulder and pulls him into an embrace. She wraps her arms around him and holds him tight, her body quaking. After a moment of hesitation, he returns the gesture. Bellamy hugs Abby, giving the woman as long as she needs.

 

When Abby breaks apart, her tears have fallen. “Thank you.” She whispers, clutching his shoulder.

 

“How did you navigate around the city having never been there before?” Diyoza asks Octavia abruptly, causing everyone to jump.

 

Octavia’s standing in the corner, her arms folded across her chest. “I’m sorry?”

 

Diyoza actually turns her attention toward her. “How did you navigate around the city having never been there before? This map isn’t complete.”

 

“It’s like I told Bellamy, it’s a grid system. It wasn’t that hard to—”

 

“Holy shit, a grid system.” Shaw breathes, his head whipping up.

 

Diyoza nods.

 

“Oh my god, I need the sketchbook.” He says, reaching a shaking hand out to Murphy, who currently has it. Murphy hands it over quickly, surprised enough to not even comment. Shaw flips through the pages quickly, eyes wide.

 

Ripping a blank piece of paper from the back, he lays it over his copy of the map, sketching lines and flipping pages. He makes a few noises from time to time, the only one doing so. Bellamy isn’t sure what’s going on, but he feels like he can’t break it, watching Shaw draw lines over his blank sheet of paper.

 

The pencil drops.

 

“Holy shit,” Shaw breathes, scooting his chair away from the table and staring. “Holy shit.”

 

“Okay, holy shit what?” Murphy cries.

 

That seems to snap him out of it, Shaw flinching as if he just realized everyone was still there. “I was in the United States Armed Forces.” He says.

 

It isn’t exactly what Bellamy expected him to say. Fortunately, Murphy beats him to it. “Come fucking again?”

 

“I was a pilot in the US Army.” Shaw repeats, eyes still wide. “I was trained in seeing patterns that civilians wouldn’t. It was my job to see patterns civilians wouldn’t. I was trained.”

 

“I’m going to throat punch you if you don’t start explaining your internal meltdown over there, I swear to god—”

 

“The city is laid out on a grid system.” Shaw states. “We’ve been forgetting that these people came from Earth. I grew up in Detroit, but we also have New York, Los Angeles, Seattle. They lay out cities in a grid system because it’s easier to navigate. These people came from those cities – they’re ancestors and grandfathers were from those cities. We’re on a different planet, so it feels like they’re alien, but they’re from the same back yard I’m from – where Diyoza’s from. And they brought that sensibility here. It’s a grid system.”

 

Shaw takes Clarke’s notebook and flips a few pages back from the map. “She loved drawing nature because she was locked away for so long – she told me that once. She told me she loved drawing trees and people, because she never saw trees or people. And all these drawings stopped at a certain point.”

 

Bellamy reaches out and takes the sketchbook, flipping through to see Shaw is right.

 

“I’m trained to see patterns that most wouldn’t see.” Shaw states again when everyone remains gaping at him. He reaches out to grab the sketchbook again. “Three pages before the map, Clarke switched to these street signs. She started with the street sign outside of the building she stayed in – you said this was her building, right?”

 

Bellamy isn’t sure where he’s going, so he gives him a curt, “Yes.”

 

Shaw nods. “Very odd – street sign after street sign with people leaning again them. But they’re all in same position. Except—”

 

The moment it dawns on him, Bellamy nearly chokes. “The hips and the head.”

 

Shaw nods. “From what you remember Clarke saying about contrapposto, she said that the hips and the head have to be facing away to keep a sense of gravity, right? Balance. Right?” Shaw puts the sketchbook on the table. “Look at these street signs – north, south, east, west. Eligius is using cardinal direction for their grid system – they aren’t aliens, even though they’re living on a foreign planet. They’re from our neighborhoods. They’ve charted their city the way we would’ve charted ours.”

 

Shaw lifts the sketchbook. “Clarke included the names of these signs – with the letter according to the cardinal direction.”

 

“What does that matter?” Murphy exclaims. “We don’t know what any of the streets are! How would we even know where to go?”

 

The moment Murphy yells the question, it strikes Bellamy. “The head has to be in a different direction from the hips to remain balance.”

 

Shaw nods. “One more thing. That ‘X’ for impasse? That isn’t a Clarke thing. That’s a me thing. I’m the one who taught her that. I told her about it when I noticed she was charting the land. I suggested she indicate any land that was unreachable with X’s – we used to do that too when scouting.”


Raven falters. “You did?”

 

“I’m sorry,” Shaw states, glancing around. “I-I didn’t have a problem with Clarke. I didn’t understand why everyone did. I was friendly with her. She… I only interacted with her for a small amount of time, but I felt her side, you know? We took everything away when we landed and then tortured her for it.” Shaw catches Diyoza’s eye. “I was friendly with her.”

 

“I’m not criticizing.” Raven says softly. “I-I just didn’t know.”

 

Shaw shakes his head. “I-I taught her this. I told her army stories. I told her Detroit stories. I never realized how much she was listening.”

 

Shaw places the sketchbook on the table and points at it. “She didn’t just draw us a map. She gave us directions.” He points to the first drawing. “Left on Union St. Right on Park. Right on Orchard. She knew that they would get suspicious. She probably even knew they’d confiscate her things. So she came up with a way to give us directions.”

 

Bellamy stares at the drawings of the people leaning against the street signs. Licking his lips, he swallows once before saying, “How can you be sure?”

 

“I’m not.” Shaw states. “But I was trained to see patterns.”

 

“So it’s a pattern,” Echo states. “That doesn’t mean much.”

 

Diyoza lifts an eyebrow at him and Shaw sets himself before saying, “Except this.”

 

Pushing the piece of paper he drew up, a copy of the map underneath, Shaw says. “No impasses.”

 

Glancing down, Bellamy sees the lines running down the roads. In Shaw’s tiny print, he’s listed the names of the streets, lines following paths on the roads.

 

Not a single time do they run into an ‘X.’

 

Returning his attention to Shaw, Bellamy asks, “You’ve trained in seeing patterns?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“How sure of this are you?”

 

“Not positive.” Shaw says. “But I’d say eighty percent.”

 

Bellamy turns to Octavia. “You said you stole a key card to get into the buildings, right?”

 

Octavia says softly, “Yes.”

 

“What are the chances you kept it?”

 

All she responds with is a smile that stretches across her lips.

 

***

 

“You have to.”

 

“I know.”

 

“You have to.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Then what are you doing still sitting here?”

 

Bellamy huffs, eyeing where Indra is eating munch. Raven elbows his side, and he groans, “Raven, I said I’m going to!”

 

“Well, that’s really interesting because you’re still sitting here.” She snaps.

 

Bellamy makes a face. “She’s going to be upset with me.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I told her—” Bellamy sighs. “I told her if I found anything out about Clarke, I would tell her first.”

 

“You did what?”

 

“In a manner of speaking!” Bellamy cries. “I mean, I didn’t explicitly say it, but it was heavily implied.”

 

“Do you really think Indra is going to care about that difference?”

 

“No…”

 

“Get your ass over there before I beat you up myself.” Raven says, smacking his shoulder until he gets up.

 

Approaching Indra is a daunting thing on a good day, but today is one he doesn’t wish to. He knows he has to, but he isn’t sure how she’ll react and that is something he doesn’t care for in regards to Indra. So when he approaches her table, he says, “Hey.”

 

Indra lifts an eyebrow. “Hey,” she responds, her voice already suspicious. She’s flanked by Gaia and a few other soldiers. When Bellamy doesn’t say anything further, she nods to everyone. “Would you excuse me?”

 

Bellamy moves to leave, Indra following at his side. He leads her further away from the village, Indra only hesitating to whisper, “I hope you intend to be more forthcoming once we’re alone.”

 

“I will.”

 

With that one promise, Indra doesn’t say another word until he leads her to the lagoon.

 

She gazes at the beauty of the area, a brief moment of her hardness dropping as she takes in the surroundings. “This is a beautiful place.”

 

“Clarke found it.”

 

With those three words, she’s back at attention. “Did she?” She responds.

 

Bellamy isn’t sure how to start. He tries a few times, each failing. He isn’t sure why he’s nervous speaking with Indra, but it’s there. A presence weighing on his chest that he can’t shake.

 

“Bellamy,” Indra says carefully. “Have ghosts been speaking to you?”

 

He nods.

 

Indra doesn’t react. In fact, she remains so neutral, it makes him want to scream. He waits for her to say something, but when she doesn’t, he says, “We need to look for something next time we’re in the city.”

 

That gets a reaction out of her. “Do you think it’s wise to bring our treaty to shaky ground?”

 

“I think they’ve already caused an earthquake. I simply want to see what remains.”

 

Indra seems to contemplate this for a moment. She surveys Bellamy for a while, as if trying to find cracks in his truth. When she finds none, she says, “What do you need from me?”

 

“I need to be on the team to retrieve the goods from the treaty in two days. I also need it to include, Shaw, Echo, Murphy, Raven, and Abby.”

 

Indra cocks her head at that. “Do you think Abby should be involved?”

 

“I think if we don’t involve her, she’ll find a way to come regardless. We can either let her or be ruined by her.”

 

She mulls this over, her hands clenched at her sides. “Are you certain?”

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“Are you certain?” Indra states. “If I find a way to get you included, risking the peace we’ve so delicately won, I need to know you’re certain.”

 

Bellamy doesn’t answer right away. Instead, he looks at the vast trees around him, similar to the ones he and Clarke sat at times in silence, reading and drawing. “No.” He answers honestly. “I’m not certain.” Standing square to face her, he presses on, “But I am certain that no one will be comfortable with peace unless we find out.”

 

Indra stands there, eyes hard. She appears as if ready to fight, which should scare Bellamy more than it does.

 

Her fists unclench.

 

“We’ll tell Madi that Abby wanted to return to the city to gain closure on Clarke.” She states. “No one would question a mother’s grief. Are we sure Raven should come? Wouldn’t she be more valuable here and her leg limiting?”

 

“I’m going to be honest with you, Indra. Raven will find a way to run us over if we don’t let her come.”

 

Indra huffs something most likely disguising a laugh. “Alright then. Two days from now.”

 

“Two days from now.”

 

Nodding, Indra moves to stalk out of the lagoon. Before she does, she brings her hand up and smacks the back of Bellamy’s head. “What was that for?” He exclaims, rubbing it.

 

“You were supposed to tell me first.”

 

Bellamy grumbles. “Yeah, yeah. A few things came up.”

 

“I do not care for excuses.” She states before rushing ahead of him.

 

***

 

The day they head into Eligius is a tense one. Bellamy stares at the group surrounding them, checking their weapons.

 

He has nothing to say.

 

Murphy comes up next to him, grabs his shoulder and squeezes, not an ounce of humor in his face. Bellamy nods in return, unsure of what to do. A nausea hits him.

 

What if he’s wrong?

 

Echo and Indra are right. He is risking the peace they’ve worked so hard to attain. If his instinct is wrong, he could send them into a war.

 

Then again…

 

He looks at everyone preparing, standing close to one another before they leave. It can’t just be him. They have to feel it took. It’s not a crazy fever dream, it’s not grief. She’s alive – he can feel it.

 

She has to be.

 

“Let’s head out.” Madi says at the helm, motioning everyone to follow.

 

Bellamy follows without a word, everyone else joining them. The usual conversation held on these journeys is absent and it’s taking him all his energy to keep himself from retching. He doesn’t seem to be the only one – even Murphy is keeping his comments to himself.

 

When they reach the city, Abby strides to the front. “I know this is a trade mission, but I was hoping to use this time to see where my daughter lived.”

 

“I’d like to go too.” Raven states. “I wasn’t here last time.”

 

“We can show them.” Bellamy says. “I’ll catch up with you.”

 

He doesn’t ask for permission. He dares Madi to challenge him.

 

There’s something behind her eyes that makes him wonder if she knows. If she knows the planning – the conspiring. He wonders if her instincts are taking over and who is in charge – Madi, or the Commanders.

 

“Alright.” She states, motioning Indra and the other soldiers to follow.

 

Bellamy could almost fall over with relief as he makes his way through the city. “Shaw, up here.” He says, willing himself not to look behind him. “Do you have it?” He whispers.

 

“Yeah,” Shaw responds. “Once we get to her living quarters, I’ll be able to take it from there.”

 

When they do, Abby stops in front of the building. She lifts her gaze up the concrete walls, eyes seeing past anything that is of this world. Placing a hand on her shoulder, Bellamy asks, “Are you alright?”

 

Abby doesn’t turn her head. “Do you wish upon stars, Bellamy?” She asks.

 

The question startles him. “I’m sorry?”

 

“I do.” Abby says. “Ever since I got to the Ground.”

 

Bellamy hesitates. “No,” he starts. “But if I did? I know exactly what I’d wish for.”

 

Abby finally turns to him, a smile stretching on her face. “Let’s do this.”

 

Bellamy motions to Shaw, who takes the map out of his pocket. The streets are relatively sparse, but it’s not like they don’t stand out. In a sea of loose shirts and cotton pants, they’re clothed in military attire and armor. Bellamy tries not to pay attention to the weird looks they get as they make their way through. Clarke once told him if you enter a place with confidence, people are rarely to question you.

 

If only he had such confidence in his theory.

 

“We’re here.”

 

Shaw stops and they all stumble to stop with him. A large building looms before them, blocking out one of the two suns as they gaze up. Bellamy approaches the door, pulling the handle. It locks in place, Raven pulling out the key card given to them by Octavia. She hovers it over a sensor and the handle loosens, locking down. He pulls it open, ushering everyone inside.

 

Everything is sterile. It reminds Bellamy so much of Mount Weather, it makes him almost vomit in the foyer.

 

“May I help you?”

 

They all jump when someone speaks at the front, smiling, but eyeing their attire. Abby pushes past everyone, a smile on her face. “I’m so sorry, I think we’ve gotten lost.” She says sweetly. “We’re here for a trade meeting with Russell and I’ve gotten turned around.”

 

The woman behind the desk lets out a sigh of what Bellamy can only imagine is relief. “You’re actually in the wrong quadrant of the city. Here, let me show you—”

 

As soon as the woman moves to pull out something, Abby jabs her neck with something from her pocket. Bellamy startles when he recognizes the pocket anesthetic they used on the Ark in hand. Abby turns when the woman is slumped at her desk. “I kept a few extra, figuring I’d need them in an emergency.” She states. “Seemed appropriate.”

 

“Hell yeah, it is.” Murphy says, a smile stretching on his face.

 

Abby ushers on the other side of the desk, patting the woman down until she retrieves another key card. “I figure the one Octavia stole is just to get into buildings, but not anything specific.”

 

“Good call,” Raven states. “We need to hurry. If they are sophisticated to have key card access, they’re definitely recording right now.”

 

Abby rushes to the door behind the woman, swiping it at the sensor.

 

The door unlocks and opens, the group of them rushing inside.

 

“Oh my god,” someone breathes behind Bellamy.

 

Once he gathers his bearings, Bellamy takes it in.

 

There’s vials of blood everywhere.

 

Black, red – it lines the walls in test tubes and IV tubes, strung from the corners and vats. Bellamy tries to find anyone in the area working, the laboratory shockingly clear of employees.

 

“It’s because we’re here.” Shaw states, as if reading Bellamy’s thoughts.

 

“They know?” Murphy hisses.

 

“No, no.” Shaw says, putting his hands up. “For the trade deal. They aren’t going to be working on something from our own while we’re in their backyard.”

 

Bellamy moves forward further into the lab, unable to take it all in. Test tubes of black blood are everywhere – it’s almost too overwhelming to take in. Raven moves beside him and grabs his arm, causing him to flinch. He’s grateful that she’s there to ground him.

 

“Bellamy.”

 

The word is soft.

 

He turns to see Echo facing the back wall, unmoving. Striding over to her, Bellamy asks, “What is it?”

 

“Do you remember the cages?” She asks, her voice rough.

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“They stuck us behind a wall.” Echo states, her eyes watering. “They stuck us behind a wall because they couldn’t bare what they were doing to us.”

 

Bellamy mirrors her gaze until he sees it.

 

“They stuck us behind a wall so they didn’t have to watch what they were doing.”

 

She’s staring at a door. Not just a door. A door in the corner of the room, doused in shadow. A door connected to the only wall with machines drilled into its base.

 

“They couldn’t stand to watch it, Bellamy.” Echo says, a tear sliding down her cheek.

 

Bellamy can’t help but freeze. He takes a breath. And another. And another.

 

“They couldn’t stand to watch it.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIX

 

There’s a story Clarke used to tell him.

 

In the quiet moments they had alone, where no one was dying or no one was asking them to kill. When Clarke was the girl with the paintbrush and Bellamy was the boy with The Odyssey. When they were both people instead of figureheads, waiting for the next person to toss their hats into a competition they never asked for.

 

She used to tell him about a woman made of fire who raged across the world, unable to stop the destruction she caused. As her footsteps continued across the earth, she lit everything ablaze. Sometimes, it was good. Sometimes she drove evil out, filled their lungs with smoke and their skin boiled until they were no more.

 

But people didn’t remember those times, she would tell him.

 

They only remembered the times where she touched them with fire, destroying everything she ran into. They cursed her, told her to leave. Shamed her for simply existing. “But you invited me here,” the woman would say. “You pretended you loved me when I took down the evil next door.”

 

“We didn’t know the evil was you.” They would respond.

 

Except she didn’t know how to not be of fire. So she traveled the world, setting everything she touched ablaze, desperately wishing someone would offer to keep her warm for a change.

 

***

 

“—ellamy. Bellamy. Bellamy!”

 

“W-What?” Bellamy flinches, almost dropping the gun in his hand that he barely feels. He holds it in his hands, but the only reason he knows this is because he hasn’t heard anything fall to the floor. Instead, his focus is on the door in the corner, out of the reach of the light, as if it were something to be ashamed of.

 

Turning around, Bellamy takes everyone in. No one’s moving. Everyone’s staring at him, like he’ll know what’s behind it. He doesn’t. He doesn’t know how to comfort them, because he isn’t even sure that his own heart is working.

 

When a hand comes up to his shoulder, Bellamy all but drops to the ground, whirling wide-eyed at the culprit. Echo smiles at him weakly, her eyes watery and red. “Bellamy.” She states softly.

 

He turns back to the door.

 

“Okay,” he says, but his voice doesn’t sound like his own. It sounds rusted and foreign, like someone else is in control. Maybe someone else is. Sucking in a breath and placing a steadying hand on his weapons, Bellamy says, “Eyes sharp. We don’t know what’s on the other side.”

 

No one answers.

 

He can hear the buzzing of the machines as if it’s in stereo in his own his. He hears his breath like he’s never heard it before – resounding and panicked. Every step is thunder.

 

Grasping the handle of the door, he opens it, pointing his gun down the hallway. He’s greeted to old brick, musk, and grime, mold snaking up the walls in the damp area. Once he surveys left and right, he fully steps into the hallway, lined with nothing more than dirt and despair. “Clear,” the foreign voice says, impersonating his own.

 

As he makes his way down the hall, everyone follows behind, but he doesn’t hear their footsteps. Instead, he hears nothing more than the dripping of water from the ceiling and his own breath. When they reach the end of the hallway, there’s a turn. He holds his weapon up, but it trembles in his hands. He doesn’t even peer around the corner – he can’t bring himself to do so.

 

“We’re with you, Bellamy.” A voice says behind him, but he barely registers it.

 

Bellamy moves around the corner.

 

When he does, the planet stops in an instant.

 

Bellamy often thinks of the woman in the story. The woman who destroyed the earth trying to find a place to belong. He wondered what would happen to someone like that, unable to stop making a difference wherever they stood – regardless of whether people wanted it or not. The woman who was born of fire and change, but wanted nothing more than to be of quiet and gentleness. He thinks of the people who turned her away, who were afraid. How would they eliminate the woman of fire?

 

They’d cause her to drown.

 

The figure at the end of the hall barely looks human. They’re slumped against a wall, arms chains and lifted over their head in a way that doesn’t seem natural or right, bones propping themselves up with no regard to anatomy. The figure’s head is lolled off to the side, a thick collection of matted hair covering their face.

 

They’re nothing but bones and skin.

 

Bellamy thinks someone may say something, but not one moves. They’re all frozen in this moment, pulled by gravity and circumstance, forced to drift in the universe.

 

Without realizing he’s even doing it, Bellamy moves toward the figure, kneeling down in front of them. He sets his weapon aside, certain he wouldn’t be able to shoot anything with it at this moment anyway, his hands ghosting the cuffs that are keeping the person’s left arm above their head, hand dangling there black and blue. In their side is a tube, currently clamped and filled with nothing but the tint of black, cut off from whatever lies on the other side of the wall. The skin is angry, infected, and horrible to see.

 

Bellamy’s hands hover over the hair. The hair matted by dirt and sweat, covering their face. He moves to brush it aside, afraid of what he’ll see. Afraid of what will happen when he moves the hair aside.

 

He does anyway.

 

When he does, he almost lets out a strangled cry when a set of deadened, blue eyes stare back to them. They appear to not be seeing, but they’re there, observing all the same. “Clarke,” he breathes, pushing her hair all the way back. He’s afraid to do anything else – he’s afraid to touch her, move her, jostle her in any way.

 

The moment he breathes her name, there’s another figure at his side. Abby runs her hands up the tubing currently in her side and arm, her breathing ragged. Bellamy knows he should move out of the way, but it feels as if everything’s stopped.

 

“These are nutrients,” Abby’s saying beside him, her words clinical despite the tears rolling down her face. Her quaking hands run up her side, hesitating at the hem of a dirtied shirt that’s been torn and useless. “It’s what’s keeping her alive when she c-can’t—” A sob escapes despite Abby’s best efforts and she places her hand across her mouth. Bellamy knows he should comfort her, but he still can’t move.

 

The others have joined them now. Bellamy thinks someone might be saying anything, but without any prompting, he places his fingers on her neck – the way she taught him all those years ago when they made it to the ground. Something moves underneath his fingertips, weak and sluggish.

 

It may as well have been lightning.

 

“She’s alive,” Bellamy says, unable to stop the cracking in his voice. “Oh my god—”

 

Raven crouches next to Abby, putting her hands on the woman’s shoulders. “I’m so sorry, Abby, but what do we do.”

 

The woman is falling apart. Bellamy know the woman should have the opportunity to fall apart, but holy god, she’s alive. Abby clutches her hands together, her entire body physically shaking as she fights with herself to calm down. No one says anything. No one rushes her. Murphy crouches next to Bellamy, his eyes wide, with an expression he’s never seen on the man.

 

“Okay,” Abby breathes. “Okay.”

 

Hastily scrubbing her eyes, the woman returns to the IV in her arm. “So this bag is nutrients. They must swap it out whenever it’s low. I don’t know what this one is. I recognize the solution components on the bag individually, but I don’t recognize them as a collection. What we’ll have to do is take these with us.”

 

Bellamy finds himself nodding, as if he understood any of the names himself.

 

Abby runs her hands down the cuffs, her fingers sliding across the metal. “Raven, did you bring your tools?”

 

“O-Of course.”

 

Raven doesn’t sound like Raven either. Perhaps none of them are themselves at the moment. It feels like they’re in an alternate reality. Raven brings clamps up to where the cuff is locked, her own hands slipping. “I-I—” she says, her eyes red. She tries again, but the clamp slip from her fingers and clatter to the floor. “I-I’m sorry.”

 

“Let me.” Shaw states, coming up behind her and gently placing a hand on her back. He bends down and picks up the clamp, letting his hand slide off her back in order to get the tool in position. With a swift motion, there’s a snap and the cuff swings open.

 

Her arm doesn’t fall.

 

It stays there, as if her bones had built themselves a fortress to remain intact. Abby surveys it and says, “I don’t know how conscious she is. If she is, this will be painful. Her arm is out of its socket, so we’ll need to lower it and pop it back in. Someone will have to hold her just in case.”

 

“I’ll do it,” Bellamy says, his voice low. “I’ll hold her down.”

 

“Be careful not to press too hard. We don’t know how much pressure she can take right now.”

 

Bellamy shifts to directly face her, saying, “I promise, Abby.”

 

“One,” Abby counts. “Two—”

 

“Wait.” Echo breathes behind them.

 

“Why in the world would we wait?” Abby exclaims, losing it ever so slightly.

 

“She tracked you, Bellamy.” Echo states, pointing at her face. “When you moved to the front, her eyes followed.”

 

Sure enough, when he faces her again, her eyes are directly on him. They’re no longer absent and glassy, like they were when he pushed her hair out of her face. There’s something behind them – something present and alive. “Clarke,” he says softly, dropping his hands from her shoulders to brush against her cheek. “Clarke, can you hear me?”

 

“You’re not supposed to be here.”

 

When she speaks, someone gasps. It may be him. Honestly, he’s not sure.

 

Not even Clarke sounds like herself. Her words are ragged and scratched, as if dragged across glass. A part of him questions whether he even heard something, but due to everyone’s reactions, he knows she had to have said something.

 

“We’re here, Clarke.” Bellamy says, his turn to lose it a little. He brushes his thumb against her cheek, her skin dry and rough. “We’re here for you.”

 

“I wish you would leave.” She states, tears welling in her eyes.

 

Bellamy drops his hand. He tries to not show the shock and hurt, but very clearly fails. “Clarke, what are you talking about—”

 

“I can’t have you here anymore, Bellamy.” She states, a tear falling down her cheek. It pools at her chin and stays there, shaking along with her. “I can’t handle you leaving anymore. You promised you wouldn’t be back.”

 

The realization hits him like a tidal wave and he places both hands on the sides of her face. “Clarke, this is real.” He states, unable to stop his own tears. It’s everything he can do to not freaking out over the fact that she’s alive, conscious, and apparently used to seeing him. “Listen to me, this is real. I’m not leaving. None of us is leaving.”

 

“No one ever means to leave,” she says, closing her eyes. “It just happens.”

 

Her words are hollow. Empty. Like something scraped out of a jar, empty and futile. He hates the sound of it. It doesn’t sound like her, it doesn’t look like her, it isn’t her.

 

Except it is.

 

“P-Please go away.” Clarke says, her eyes shining. “Please.”

 

“Clarke,” Bellamy states, putting every ounce of assurance he can in his voice. “Do you trust me?”

All he receives is a shake of the head, the motion muted and painful, her jaw clenching as she does so. “Go away.”

 

“Clarke, do you trust me when I tell you this is real and we’re here, and you’re getting out?”

 

Her eyes open and she looks at them. They’re glassy and distance, no longer filled with the fire from moments before. “Do you think this is purgatory for Mount Weather?” She asks, her voice hushed and raw.

 

No one moves.

 

No one breathes.

 

Bellamy almost drops his hands, but something keeps him present. Her eyes drift away when he doesn’t answer, her lips drooping. “Clarke,” he says, panicked. When she doesn’t respond, he tries again. “Clarke!”

 

“Bellamy, hold her down.” Abby commands, holding her wrist and shoulder. “We have to hurry. We need to do this now.”

 

He doesn’t move. Neither does Clarke.

 

“Bellamy!”

 

“Right,” he says, snapping out of his reverie.

 

Placing his hands on her shoulders when he can, Bellamy nods to Abby. Abby breathes in deeply and starts her count over. On ‘three,’ she swings down and there’s a horrible popping sound that will never leave Bellamy’s memory. Someone sucks in a breath behind him when her shoulder goes back into its socket.

 

She doesn’t move.

 

“I-Is she still alive?” Raven asks, gripping Shaw until her knuckles turn white.

 

Abby doesn’t move for a second. Instead, her hands hover above Clarke’s head, trembling until they run down her hair. Bellamy moves simply because it’s something to do, Abby kneeling in front of her daughter. “Clarke,” she chokes out a sob, breaking down once more. Her hands move from her head to her neck, Abby closing her eyes as she listens.

 

Seconds drip by like molasses.

 

“Heartbeat’s there.” Abby states, her words like a hurricane in the storm of a woman she is. “Shaw, can you get her other hand down. Raven, do you have scissors in that bag? I don’t want to take this tube out because I have no idea how they’ve attached it. It’s clamped, so we should just be able to cut it. I’ll hold the IVs while we transport her, but someone needs to—”

 

“I’ll do it.” Bellamy says before she can finish the sentence.

 

Abby nods and no one argues. He doesn’t expect anyone to.

 

The rest of the process goes quickly and slowly at the same time. He allows Abby and Shaw to take charge, happy to do nothing more than make sure her chest is slightly rising and falling. Murphy and Echo guard the hallway while Raven hands Abby what she needs.

 

“They’re going to notice she’s gone.” Echo states once Clarke is officially separated from the wall.

 

No one responds for a moment. “What the fuck are you saying?” Murphy states, his words low and venomous in a way Bellamy hasn’t heard in a while.

 

“I’m saying they’ll know she’s gone. And on a trade day, they’ll know we took her.” Echo says carefully.

 

“Are you saying we leave her?” He spits.

 

Bellamy stares at Echo. He doesn’t respond, because he can’t. He peers at her, waiting for any hint of malice or contempt that she had for Clarke shine through.

 

It’s not there.

 

All he sees is the logic of a spy. The thought no one wants to hear, but everyone needs to. “Of course not,” she states. “I am merely saying what we need to be aware of when we return home. Of what we are creating.”

 

“We know.” Bellamy says. “We know what this does.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Abby places Bellamy’s hands at the base of her neck and hips. “Make sure to support her head here. We don’t know what the fragility of her bones and muscles are. If she’s been here long, there’s a severe chance of atrophy. So we need to be careful.”

 

“Yes ma’am.” He responds.

 

Crouching next to her, Bellamy lifts. She’s light, even lighter than he expected her to be. It scares him in a way that he doesn’t voice – rooting itself in his bones. Every step they take closer to the exit, he’s scared. He knows there’s a chance they have to fight their way out. He knows there’s a chance that they’re already about to be ambushed.

 

She’s so light.

 

When they reach the lab, Bellamy winces in the light of the fluorescents above him. The black blood in containers around him makes him nauseous and he has to suppress the very real urge to set it all on fire.

 

“What the hell is going on?”

 

Whipping his head up, Bellamy sees Russell charge through the door of the lab, Eligius guards flanking his sides. In an instant, Echo, Murphy, Shaw, and Raven aim their own weapons at the group of people before them, not an ounce of hesitation with them. “What should we do, Bellamy?” Murphy asks, his gun steady.

 

When Eligius unholster their own weapons, everyone tenses further. All he can do is think of the person in his arms and the need to get out of the city – now – but his planning isn’t working. “Let us by and we won’t have a problem.” Bellamy states, proud of how still his words are.

 

“We won’t have a problem?” Russell snaps. “You incapacitate one of our citizens, break into a secure building and—”

 

There’s a loud crashing noise and several of the Eligius soldiers crumble to the ground, leaving only Russell standing. Everyone flinches as they do so, Bellamy almost letting out a noise of relief when Madi steps out of the shadows of the lobby, Indra and other Wonkru members flanking her. “What’s going on?” She asks darkly.

 

“Your people have violated so many ordinances, I could tear up our treaty right here!” Russell cries. “In fact, you just assaulted my citizens and—”

 

“Bellamy.”

 

Indra’s word is hard and searching. Desperate that she didn’t just command her soldiers to break the treaty for nothing.

 

Bellamy moves out from behind the line of those with their weapons still pointed at Russell.

 

Madi freezes. She takes a step toward Bellamy, but then stops herself, her eyes wide and impossibly young. “Bellamy,” Madi breathes, searching his face for any sort of lie.

 

He can’t answer. There’s no need.

 

Madi stands between the unconscious Eligius and the line of her own people who still haven’t put their guns down. Seconds pass.

 

In a swift motion, Madi brings out a small dagger and swings down, plunging it into Russell’s leg. He lets out a cry and falls, blood seeping through his pants. “What the hell—”

 

“Bring him too.” Madi states, pocketing her dagger as she nods to her soldiers.

 

“You know what this means, Heda.” Indra says evenly, surveying the number of unconscious on the ground. “Leaving them here and taking him.”

 

Madi pauses. Her small hands grip the blades at her side and Bellamy can see the war in her head.

 

Then he sees it when she notices the vials of black blood. The machines. The tubes. He watches it hit her and her expression fill with fire.

 

Without so much as a blink, she says, “Let them come.”

 

***

 

He remembers the day they landed on the new planet.

 

Bellamy remembers being strapped in his chair, his heart pounding in his chest as they made their descent. They had an opportunity to start over. They had an opportunity to fill the world with kindness instead of douse it in blood.

 

Hope is a powerful drug and it made him tingly as they broke the atmosphere. Sure, it may have been the velocity and the traveling, but he couldn’t help but find himself beaming at the landing. Everyone else clutched their seatbelts, fear and panic in their eyes. Some even shut them.

 

Then he caught sight of her.

 

She leaned forward. She strained to see the planet, eyes filled with hope and light. The color from the binary suns lit her up and she was the woman on fire, filled with the idea of finding a place to belong in the universe. Lit up with the flames stars and made of stardust.

 

She was infinite.

 

***

 

“Get out.”

 

“No.”

 

“Get out now.

 

“No!”

 

“Bellamy, I need you to leave!” Abby cries, a little manic. “I am not doing this to punish you or keep you away. This is a small space and I have Jackson here to help me, and I’m barely keeping it together myself. And I can’t have you in here, your presence just looming. It’s distracting. I need you to leave. I will send Jackson to give you updates when I have them, but right now I need to get my mind in the mode of surgery and you standing there with that face isn’t helping!”

 

Bellamy doesn’t move, no matter how much he knows she’s right. He can’t. He can’t because Clarke’s lying on the table, unnaturally still and not looking like Clarke. The person on the table is impossibly small. She was never small. She was infinite.

 

“Let’s go.” Someone says next to him, their hands on his shoulders. They’re leading him out of the med tent and for some reason, he’s letting them. Once they’re outside, the suns beaming down on him, Bellamy registers Echo next to him, corralling him away. “You need to let her work. For Clarke.”

 

Bellamy is acutely aware that he’s nodding. Logically, he knows she’s right. But he’s having a hard time listening to that right now. His entire body is tingling and he feels like he should be doing something, but isn’t sure what. Echo leads him to where the group is sitting in the mess, everyone surrounded by cups of water they’re not drinking.

 

No one even looks up when they get there.

 

Moments later, a group of people sprint in their direction. Jordan, Octavia, Emori, Kane, and Diyoza are at their sides, eyes big. “Is it true?” Jordan asks before he even stops running. “Is it true?”

 

Someone must answer him, because he stops asking.

 

“She’s with Abby?” Octavia asks, hand over her mouth.

 

Someone must answer that too.

 

Because Bellamy isn’t paying attention. Instead, his attention is caught by Madi stalking someone to his left, Indra, Gaia, and others flanking her. Without so much as another word, Bellamy moves toward them. “Hey!” He shouts, running over. “Hey, stop!”

 

He stops in front of Madi, eyes wild. “You’re questioning him.”

 

“Out of my way.”

 

“I want to be there.”

 

“Absolutely not.”

 

“I have to be there!”

 

“No!” Madi shouts, her hands twitching at her sides. “You’ve been lying to me for weeks. You expect me to simply allow you to be there?”

 

“We didn’t lie to you!” Bellamy exclaims. “We didn’t tell you because we weren’t sure whether we were right.”

 

“I should’ve been consulted!”

 

“So you could what? Break down their doors?”

 

“Whatever it took!” Madi shouts, stepping toward them so they were close enough to touch. He knows she wants to unsheathe her sword – he knows the Commanders are telling her to execute him on the spot. She doesn’t, though. “You created a coup that could’ve been—”

 

“Been what, Madi? How would you have done it differently?”

 

“I could’ve been prepared!” Madi shouts. “I could’ve been prepared for war instead of walking into a treaty meeting and having it end with treason!”

 

Bellamy takes a breath, struck with the realization she does have a point. His gaze flits to Indra, who doesn’t meet it. “Please, Madi. Let me be there. I know certain things from Clarke’s sketchbook that could be helpful.”

 

“Interesting how that worked out.” Madi says darkly.

 

“I’m coming too!”

 

They all turn to see Murphy jogging to meet them. “Absolutely not.” Indra says sharply.

 

“I don’t know what your deal with me is, Indra. I’m a good guy if you get to know me.” Murphy says with a wink.

 

“That’s why.”

 

Murphy sighs. “Listen. I’m not just saying this because I want to look that man in the eye when I threaten his life. Because I do. Because he looked us all in the eye and lied to us. But I’m also coming because there may need to be some stuff done that no one else wants to.”

 

Bellamy cocks his head. “Murphy—”

 

“No,” Murphy states. “I know we’re trying to be better people and try and make up for our mistakes on earth, but I don’t see this as a mistake. And Bellamy, once you simmer down, you’ll regret anything you do because you don’t want Madi to do it. That’s how it started on Earth, isn’t it? I’m not sorry for saying I want this guy to face what he’s done.”

 

Indra observes him. “Okay, I think he should come.”

 

Murphy smirks. “I knew I’d wear you down.”

 

“One doesn’t need to care for a predator to acknowledge their use in the world.”

 

“I’m gonna take that as a compliment.”

 

Madi clenches her jaw. “Fine. You two can come. But if I say you have to leave, you have to leave.”

 

Pushing past them, Madi charges forward. “Murphy, you are not going to torture that man.” Bellamy states in a low voice.

 

“I know that and you know that, but there’s no way shortcake knows that.” Murphy says. When Bellamy gapes, he presses on, “Dude, I need to be doing something too. I may not have been kicked out of the medical bay, but I can’t help there. This is something I can do.”

 

Bellamy softens. Clapping his hand on Murphy’s back, he turns to follow Madi, who has disappeared in a tent. When they join them, they’re greeted to Russell tied to a chair with a tourniquet on his leg to stop the bleeding.

 

When they join Madi and Indra, Russell looks up. “I shouldn’t be surprised you’re involved. If I were a betting man, I would say you lead the charge on this.”

 

Bellamy may be feeling a bit out of control right now, but not enough to take the bait. Instead, he simply crosses his arms.

 

“You’ve set war into action today.” Russell states. “I hope it was worth it.”

 

“It was.” Bellamy says before he can stop himself.

 

Indra shoots him a warning glare, but he doesn’t care. All his energy is pushing of the figure so small on the surgical table.

 

“Was breaking into our laboratory so critical?” Russell asks. “What did you even hope to find there?”

 

Bellamy frowns. “I’m sorry?”

 

“You used trade to gain secrets on us? For what cause?”

 

“Are you fucking with us right now?” Murphy snaps.

 

“Murphy—” Bellamy warns.

 

Madi puts her hands up and everyone quiets. “We did not break a treaty. Whatever treaty we may have had was void due to your actions.”

 

“My actions? What in the—”

 

“Deceit, kidnapping, attempted murder. These are all acts of war.” Madi says evenly.

 

Russell takes a moment. A flash of confusion wipes across his face as he says, “Is this really about the girl?”

 

“So you deny it?” Madi snaps.

 

“Deny what? We were never hiding anything. I told you that she passed away—”

 

“That’s funny, because she’s currently lying on the surgical table as we speak.” Bellamy states.

 

Russell doesn’t react at first. Instead his eyes narrow as if he’s trying to figure out if they’re joking or not. “That is impossible—”

 

“Stop the act, asshole!” Murphy shouts.

 

“Either get it together or I will ask you to leave.” Madi says, putting her hand up. Murphy snaps his mouth shut. “You can stop playing coy. Clarke is back here and your people have kept her captive as a science experiment under the guise of neighborly trust. Tell me right now what you’ve been doing and you may be able to keep your life.”

 

Russell tilts his head up, “What are you talking about? Clarke Griffin passed away—”

 

“Enough!” Madi bellows, enough force for even Bellamy to bristle. “Stop lying to me!”

 

“I saw the woman with black blood.” Bellamy says before Madi can go down a violent path. “We saw the lab of black blood. There’s no use in lying.”

 

“You are the ones confused.” Russell states. “That laboratory is meant for vaccinations and medical research. Whatever manifestation of grief you’ve created has found the wrong outlet.”

 

“God,” Murphy hisses under his breath. “I’m officially sick of this guy. There’s really only one way to find out.”

 

Murphy presses his hand down on Russell’s leg. The man shouts, straining against his bonds. “Murphy!” Bellamy cries, moving to grab him.

 

But Murphy lets go as quickly as he pressed. Bringing his hand up, Murphy frowns at the red blood dripping down his palm. “Huh,” he says.

 

Bellamy stares at the red blood. For a moment, he wonders if he’s made the whole thing up in his head. Except that doesn’t make sense because he saw the lab just like they just rescued Clarke.

 

“Not important enough to make the cut, huh?” Murphy says. “Expendable, are we?”

 

“What are you talking about?” Russell exclaims, his words strained.

 

“Clarke is alive!” Madi shouts and Bellamy can see her cool slipping. “Clarke is alive and you have been experimenting on her and I want answers!”

 

“Clarke Griffin is dead!” Russell bellows. “You people have lost your touch with reality. She is dead – I was told she was—”

 

“You were told?” Bellamy asks. “You mean, you never saw her body?”

 

Russell stops. “I am you Ambassador, I am here to service our relationship.”

 

Murphy scoffs. “So that’s a no.”

 

“It is not my job to question it. I was told she passed so she passed!”

 

“Oh my god,” Bellamy breathes. “He doesn’t know.” Turning to Indra and Madi, he repeats. “He doesn’t know.”

 

Madi whirls back to him, unsheathing her sword and bringing it under his throat. “If you are lying to me, I swear to god—”

 

“What would I lie—”

 

“What is this?”

 

The words are frantic, causing everyone to search the source of the noise. Abby barrels through the tent, panicked and covered with black blood. In her hands is the second IV bag, smeared with black. “What is this?” She cries, shoving it in Russell’s face.

 

“I-I—”

 

“You people had Clarke hooked up to it and she’s going into shock once we took her off. I recognize some of the chemicals – a combination with nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator.”

 

“A—”

 

“It increased blood flow and widens blood vessels!” Abby cries, as if she’s startled that he doesn’t know. “But there are other chemicals in here – addictive chemicals. And my daughter is going into shock and I need to know what it is, otherwise she won’t make it in the next hour, let alone the night!”

 

“Clarke’s dying?” Bellamy asks, unable to make sense of anything she’s saying.

 

She doesn’t even look at him. “Tell me what this is. Tell me!”

 

Russell gapes at her. “Clarke Griffin is dead—”

 

Abby swings at him. His head jerks to the side at the force, Bellamy startling and grabbing her. “Abby, no!”

 

“Tell me!”

 

“He doesn’t know, Abby!” Bellamy shouts, struggling with her resistance. “He doesn’t know!”

 

Abby settles, her arms going limp. A few tears skate down her cheeks as she stops fighting. “I don’t care if he didn’t know what they were doing. He’s complicit.”

 

“We know.” Bellamy says softly, but all that’s ringing through his head is she won’t make it in the next hour, she won’t make it in the next hour.

 

Abby lets out a strangled cry, lifting the IV bag over her head. “I won’t let it end like this.” She says, her words hard. “I’m not going to let it end like this.”

 

Before she leaves, she hesitates at the door. Facing Russell, she states, “If she dies, you won’t have to worry about any of them. Not the Commander, not her soldiers. You’ll answer to me.”

 

Then she’s out.

 

***

 

Bellamy often wondered what happened to the woman made of fire.

 

After a while, every fire goes out.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

Clarke remembers the first time she saw the Ground.

 

Moments before, she was arguing with someone she never met about the toxicity of the planet, the logical part of her brain screaming at her to body block anyone who tried to open the dropship door. The second the dropship door was opened, all those thoughts were gone.

 

The earth was such a special place, for the first few hours.

 

The trees were taller than anything she ever imagined and the way the light streamed through their branches was a thing of beauty. The moment her feet were on the ground, she understood art. She understood all the paintings she snuck to see in the archives. She understood The Waterlilies, she understood Starry Night. She understood Rothko, Monet, Caravaggio, Basquiat – she understood them.

 

They painted world for what it was: beautiful, terrifying, horrible, breathtaking, gentle, wild, and free.

 

The moment her feet were on the ground, Clarke could never unsee her understanding of art. Within her blood ran the colors of the flowers, her eyes shined with the rays of the sun. Clarke became part of the earth, no longer able to be contained within anything – a box, a cage, not even the Ark.

 

When her feet hit the ground, Clarke Griffin became fire.

 

***

 

At one point, someone dragged a table and a few chairs outside of the medical tent.

 

Bellamy sits in one facing the tent square on, his hands folded over the table as he leans. He’s surrounded by his entire family, people drifting off to sleep as the hours drip away. After a while, light footsteps come up behind him and Jordan stands up from his seat. Madi takes his place next to him, not facing Bellamy, but the tent as well. “Did he say anything else?” Bellamy asks.

 

“No,” Madi states. “I think you’re right, I don’t think he ever knew.”

 

“What do you want to do now?”

 

“I want to sit here and wait for an update.” Madi says, her voice wavering. Her small hands fold on the table, the armor she wears clinking as they do so.

 

“And after that?”

 

“Depends what the update is.”

 

Bellamy doesn’t have a response to that. He can hear commotion from inside the tent, Abby yelling something unintelligible to Jack, followed by a clattering of instruments. “We couldn’t tell you, Madi.” Bellamy says.

 

“I know.”

 

“We had to be sure.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Please don’t see this as a—”

 

“I know.” Madi insists. There isn’t any anger in her voice. No malice. Only exhaustion. “I would’ve marched on Eligius in a second. I would’ve burned that city to the ground. There isn’t a single Commander – or person here – who could’ve stopped me.”

 

When her hand comes up, Bellamy turns to see her scrub away a few tears. Her entire face is red and swollen and she’s hunching over the table, shrinking on herself. “Sometimes I think Clarke was right,” she says, brushing away a few more. “About the Flame.”

 

Bellamy peers at the child, completely falling to pieces, but unable to really do so. “I do too.”

 

“Do you think she’ll be okay?” Madi asks, finally facing him.

 

Bellamy has to look away back to the tent. He can’t get the image of turning the corner and seeing the person sitting before him, arms propped up and strung as if they weren’t a person at all. His minds travels to the funeral a year ago, when he indignantly asked about where her body was.

 

It was there.

 

It was there in that moment. His instincts screamed at him that something was wrong. The voice in the back of his head that drove all his decisions on the Ground – his heart – screamed that something was wrong. And he ignored it, let logic and the veneer of peace cloud any judgment he once had.

 

One year.

 

Standing up quick enough to knock over his chair, Bellamy mutters, “Excuse me.”

 

It’s happening too quickly. He feels the panic setting on – all the adrenaline from the day filtering out of his system and anxiety is rushing back to him. He thinks there may be someone following him, but he doesn’t stop to look. Instead he quickens his pace through the village, his feet carrying him away from everyone.

 

Bellamy doesn’t stop until he can’t hear anyone anymore. Where the voices of Wonkru no longer carry and he’s surrounded by the otherworldly sounds of the forest.

 

Alone, he crumbles.

 

Placing a steadying hand on a nearby tree, Bellamy chokes out the sob that’s been lodged in his throat since he’s turned the corner in the lab. Every ounce of composure he forced himself to maintain dissipates. Using his free hand to cover his mouth, he goes to his knees before they collapse.

 

One year.

 

So he cries. He cries in a way he hadn’t allowed himself at the funeral. That he hadn’t allowed himself when he saw the black blood. When Echo broke up with him. When Octavia approached him. When Kane knocked on the door. He cries because for the longest time, he was by himself and ignored it. He never realized how much it meant to him to have Clarke look out for him on the Ground. To have someone take the burden of decisions. Even with his family in space, even with their democracy-like structure, he knew that if he asked something of them, they would do it because there was a line.

 

When a hand touches his shoulder, he jerks back, jumping to his feet. He scrubs under his eyes as quickly as possible, fortunately the shock of another person snapping him back. When his vision comes back into focus, Bellamy looks at Kane, who has his hands out like he’s afraid of frightening Bellamy away. “Bellamy,” Kane says softly. “Bellamy, it’s alright.”

 

“It’s not alright!” He shouts, even surprising himself. He doesn’t mean to yell. He doesn’t mean to lose it. But he’s losing it. For the past year, he kept it together, trying to remain calm for Madi, for Abby – for Spacekru. Now he is losing it. “It’s not! How can it possibly be alright?”

 

Kane sighs. “I suppose you’re right.” He answers gently.

 

Bellamy can’t stop the tears rolling down his cheeks, nor does he necessarily care at this point. It’s him, Kane, and a new planet. And if the planet has a problem with it, Bellamy will burn it to the ground. Running his hand through his hair, he continues, “A year, Kane. A year! They were doing that for a year, and we didn’t even know! We didn’t even try to figure anything out. Do you understand that?”

 

“Yes, Bellamy—”

 

“We figured it out in two weeks. It too us two weeks to put the messages Clarke sent us together. But we didn’t even start until a year had passed!”

 

“Yes, but—”

 

“No buts! No, no more!” Bellamy shouts, gesturing wildly at him. He’s surprised when Kane doesn’t flinch, his expression still infuriatingly calm. “We sent her there, do you understand? We sent her there without even checking anything out! We were like, ‘hey peace sounds good, here’s a sacrificial lamb!’” With a wild gesture, Bellamy swings his hand against the tree, pain exploding in his wrist. Letting out a cry, he holds it to his chest, scowling at the blood dripping down his palm.

 

“Feel better?” Kane asks from him behind him.

 

“No.” Bellamy snaps.

 

Kane moves toward him, slow but deliberate. He reaches out expectantly to Bellamy and the man sighs, offering him his hand. “Abby’s been teaching me a few triage things.” Kane states, carefully surveying it. “In case we ever get separated. I think it’s a good idea for all citizens to know at least basic first aid. I was going to suggest it at the next council meeting.”

 

Bellamy clenches his jaw.

 

“Not broken, might have a minor sprain. I suggest not fighting the wilderness anytime soon.”

 

Shaking his head, Bellamy snaps, “At any given time, we could’ve started. I could’ve insisted about Clarke’s body or her things. I could’ve made him take me to the city. I could’ve—”

 

“—Octavia could’ve told you she’d seen Clarke.” Kane cuts him off. “She could’ve insisted that you talk to her. Madi could’ve forced them to give her all of Clarke’s belongings. Abby could’ve gone to the city to see Clarke’s living situation. We could’ve put a time limit on Clarke’s time there. These are all things that could’ve been done. But the fact remains that there is one constant in all of this.”

 

“And what’s that?”

 

“They wanted to experiment on Clarke, and did.” Kane places his hands on Bellamy’s shoulders. “That has not changed, if you started a year ago or now.”

 

“But she was there for a year.”

 

“Yes,” Kane states, eyes watering. “She was. And she was saved from a terrible end of her life by you. Yes, we need to evaluate what brought us here. We need to evaluate how we were so careless with the life of one of our own. But not today. Today is not the day to do that.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Because today is the day to be there for her. We can yell and scream about what brought us to this moment another day. Today is for hope. Today is for prayer. Today is for family and friendship to someone who has had none for far too long. We cannot burn the world to the ground while we still walk it, Bellamy.”

 

Bellamy’s gaze falls to the ground, his lower lip trembling. “I failed her, Kane.”

 

“You saved her, Bellamy.” Kane says, squeezing his shoulders almost painfully. “You found answers where there were none and you put a plan into action that had almost no chance of success. You saved her from a life chained to a wall. Now,” Kane states, straightening. “We will find answers. We will make a plan. But you get to take a breath now and know you saved her. You saved her when no one else was looking. Stop putting the weight of the world on your shoulders. You did that on Earth, and now you’re doing that here. The gravitational pull is stronger, so it’s even heavier.” Kane smirks, but Bellamy can’t bring himself to join him. “Tomorrow, we’ll start finding answers. Today is for hope.”

 

Without another word, Kane pulls Bellamy in for an embrace. It strikes Bellamy as odd, how small he feels. Bellamy never really knew what it was like to have a father on the Ark. Fact is, he didn’t have one. He spent his entire life trying to make up for it with Octavia – with the 100. It was very rare that he had a moment to let someone else take it.

 

For a moment, he does.

 

***

 

It feels like days have passed when Abby finally emerges from the tent. Jackson had come out and said that Clarke was stable a while before, Bellamy understanding Abby’s need to have a moment alone with her daughter. When she does open the tent, Bellamy stands without thinking.

 

She’s not covered in blood.

 

It’s the first thing that strikes Bellamy. Her surgical garb is off and her hands are clean. Abby’s eyes are red and wet. “I think she’ll be alright.” Abby says.

 

Even though Jackson said Abby was positive earlier, the relief that comes with Abby proclaiming it is instant. He hears Murphy let out a breath next to him, Raven holding Shaw tightly as she glares at the woman to keep tears from falling. “I still don’t know what the serum was, but I think I was able to detox Clarke enough to keep her heart from stopping.” The woman continues, wringing her hands as she does so. “It means, along with malnutrition and severe dehydration—”

 

“She’ll be recovering from addiction.” Murphy finishes, his words clipped.

 

“Yes.” Abby says quietly. “I’d like someone with her at all times, in case there’s any chance of—” Abby shuts her eyes. “I mean, I’ll be there.” Abby takes a breath. All the clinical nature of a doctor washes away and there’s nothing more than a mother. “I’m going to go wash up, give you all an opportunity to be with her.” Everyone stands and moves toward her, but Abby puts her hands up. “I was thinking, at first, maybe just Bellamy?”

 

Bellamy freezes. The woman eyes him and he’s never felt as vulnerable as he does in this moment. When he doesn’t move right away, Abby approaches him. They’re inches apart, Bellamy able to see the tire and exhaustion all over her face. She places a hand on his cheek. “Thank you.” She whispers and moves out of the way.

 

Bellamy stares at the flaps of the tent, as he has all day. For the first time, he’s truly afraid. A part of him doesn’t want to go in. A part of him wants to live in this half-limbo, where he knows she’s alive but doesn’t have to see what a year in captivity would do to a person.

 

Stepping forward, Bellamy lifts the tent open.

 

Abby didn’t clean only herself up, it seems.

 

Clarke lies there, eyes closed, her hair no longer matted and sticking to her skin. It’s dry and rough, but as blonde as he’s ever seen it, pushed out of her face and surrounding her head. No longer is she in the ragged garb from the laboratory, but in one of the few medical gowns they had stored on the Eligius ship for emergencies.

 

She’s impossibly small.

 

Murphy was right. Bellamy would never admit this to anyone, but a year ago, he was right. Somewhere along the way, they all forgot she was a person. They forgot that behind the woman who stood alone, at the entrance of Mount Weather, there was an eighteen-year-old. Behind the woman who performed surgery on Finn in a storm, there was a girl. Behind the woman who injected herself with nightblood, there was an artist. Behind the woman who faced the Death Wave and won, there was a friend.

 

But Clarke Griffin has never seemed small.

 

He reaches for her, but finds himself hesitating. Her skin is so pale it almost seems translucent. He can see the bruising around her wrists and a few cuts on her face. They’ve wrapped her wrists where they’ve been pulled raw from the cuffs and covered her feet to where there used to be grime.

 

Wrapping his hand around hers, Bellamy stifled a cry.

 

She’s so cold.

 

“I’m sorry,” he says, his voice catching on every syllable. It takes a moment for him to collect himself, but Clarke isn’t responding. “I-Im so sorry, Clarke.”

 

She remains quiet and still.

 

He holds her hand. He holds her hand until people poke their heads in and join him. He holds her hand until Abby returns with Kane. He holds her hand until everyone starts to drift off around him.

 

He holds her hand until he drifts off himself.

 

***

 

“We need to figure out what our next steps are.”

 

Bellamy grumbles when Indra enters the medical tent where he, Madi, and a handful of others are. He knows that Indra is right, but he’s finding it hard to care at the moment. Madi’s asleep at Clarke’s feet, her arm looped over Clarke’s leg and head resting at the edge of the cot. “Now?” Bellamy asks, even though he knows the answer.

 

“We’ve taken in a prisoner of war.” Indra says. “For all we know, Eligius is on their way now to strike.”

 

“They’re not.” Raven says from the corner of the room, rubbing her eyes. She nudges Shaw at her side, who startles awake. “We’ve put in surveillance and sensors all around the dividing lands. If they were approaching, we’d know about it.”

 

“Nonetheless, we may have started a war. I would like to be as prepared as possible.”

 

“Why haven’t they attacked?” Murphy asks from his seat. “They had to have known it was us in the lab. They have to know Russell’s missing. Why haven’t they done anything?”

 

“Because they know they made the first strike.” Echo states calmly from the back. Bellamy has been surprised – and grateful – for her continued presence in the medical tent, despite everything. “If we attacked the lab, it was because they stole one of our own. This isn’t an unjustified response, so they’re trying to figure out what next steps should be.”

 

“Should we give Russell back?” Emori asks. “As, I dunno, a gesture? Of peace?”

 

“Do you really want peace with these assholes?” Murphy snaps.

 

“I want it more than war!”

 

Madi startles awake at the exclamation. She dazedly looks around at everyone, follows them to Indra, then takes a breath. “Is it time?”

 

“Yes, Heda.”

 

“Alright.” Standing up and brushing herself off, Madi cocks her head in a fashion that is not Madi and all Commanders. “We need to have a council to discuss what to do.”

 

“Now?” Murphy exclaims.

 

“When do you suggest we do it? When Eligius is at our border?” Madi asks.

 

“You know what, why the hell not?” Murphy snaps. “We’ve been in surprise wars and planned out wars – neither have gone well. So yeah, let’s wait until they knock on our door!”

 

“John,” Emori warns.

 

Rubbing his eyes, Murphy says, “Can’t we have a break? Can’t we just wait for her to wake up and tell us what is going on?”

 

“What are you talking about?”

 

“Sure – we committed an act of war.” Murphy states. “We assaulted some guards and kidnapped our Ambassador. But they kidnapped one of our own and was harvesting her for nightblood. And we have no idea why.”

 

Indra glares at him. “We can’t solve that problem right now. What we can do is prepare in case our people are attacked.”

 

“Raven and Shaw already said we have that covered!” Murphy exclaims, gesturing at them. “They’re nowhere near us right now. I don’t see—”

 

“Murphy, calm down.” Bellamy says gently.

 

Murphy stood up at some point, his expression wildly and minorly murderous. When he realizes he’s pacing, he places his hands on his hips and takes a breath. “Fuck this,” he breathes, storming out of the medical tent.

 

Emori stands to follow him, but Bellamy says, “Let me.” Before following him out.

 

He has to run to catch up with the man, who’s storming across the village. “Murphy, come on, you can’t do this again.”

 

“Do what?” Murphy shouts without stopping.

 

“Go off on your own like you did on the Ark!”

 

“Excuse me?” Murphy seethes, turning around. Sure, Bellamy knows it’s a low blow, but at least it got him to turn around. “What the fuck did you just say?”

 

“Murphy, Indra is being logical—”

 

“By telling us to get off our asses and go to war?”

 

“That is not what she said and you know it.” Bellamy snaps. “She’s being second in command when the commander is not in a mental place to make decisions.”

 

“And there’s a reason behind that!”

 

“Indra is doing her job and you need to calm down.” Bellamy says. Murphy opens his mouth but Bellamy cuts him off. “We have your back, Murphy. We have Clarke’s back.”

 

“Yeah, since when?” Murphy yells, causing Bellamy to recoil. “Aren’t you afraid that it’ll repeat all over again?”

 

“What?”

 

“The moment Clarke wakes up and we’re in war – don’t you think it’ll all repeat over again. In every war we’ve been in, we’ve all had to sacrifice so much. But we always put Clarke at the head. You don’t think they’ll make some sort of deal to get her back for peace? They were willing to risk war to experiment on her – don’t you think they’ll offer to keep the peace if we give her back?”

 

Honestly, the thought never occurred to him. “They might.” Bellamy answers.

 

“See?” Murphy shouts.

 

“But does that mean we let them?” Bellamy bellows back. “Sure, they may make the offering, but does that mean they get her? Does that mean we give her over?”

 

“We already did that once!”

 

“And we’re not doing it again!” Bellamy shouts over him. “Murphy, we are not doing that again.”

 

Murphy purses his lips and lets out a few choice swears. “What if Madi gives the order?” He asks, voice low as he peers around to see if anyone’s listening.

 

“She won’t.”

 

“She’s done it before. She’s put her people first before.”

 

“She won’t.”

 

“She’s got thirteen voices in her head that tell her otherwise, Bellamy.” Murphy snaps. “It’s one life. It’s one life in return for what could be hundreds. You really think she won’t do that again?”

 

Bellamy looks at the man. Like everyone else, there’s rings under his eyes and he’s in the same outfit he’s had on a day ago. Bellamy remembers the night of drinking and his distant eyes staring at the ceiling.

 

“If she does,” Bellamy states, mouth dry.

 

“When she does.”

 

If she does,” Bellamy cuts him off. “We run.”

 

Murphy startles. “What?”

 

“If she does, we run.”

 

Murphy eyes him, as if trying to decide whether he’s lying or not. Extending his hand out, Murphy says, “Promise?”

 

Bellamy takes it without hesitation. “Promise.”

 

“I still think I’m right about the nightblood thing. We should figure out what is going on.”

 

“No one’s arguing with you, Murphy. They take issue with the constant swearing.”

 

“Get fucking used to it.”

 

“You don’t think I have?”

 

“Guys!”

 

Jordan sprints up to the two of them, his eyes wide. “Guys!”

 

Bellamy faces him and stills. “What is it?”

 

“She’s awake.”

 

Bellamy and Murphy exchange a glance, only taking a beat before sprinting back toward the medical tent. When they arrive, there’s a large huddle outside, featuring a very pissed off Raven and a calming Kane. “We’ve been kicked out.” Raven snaps, arms crossed.

 

“There is too much going on—” Kane tries to answer, but Bellamy pushes past him.

 

Once inside the tent, he sees her.

 

Abby’s near her head, her stethoscope pressed against her chest as she speaks to Clarke. Clarke is answering, but Bellamy can barely hear her soft voice. Abby glances up with watery eyes, Clarke turning her head to follow her gaze.

 

When she looks at him, the world stops.

 

Unlike in the lab, her eyes are shining and aware. She isn’t avoiding his gaze, she isn’t barely able to keep her eyes open. She’s looking at him.

 

The world stops.

 

A tear rolls across the bridge of her nose as her mother continues to perform her examination, dropping to the floor. With a motion that looks far too painful for what it is, Clarke slightly moves her hand from her side, her wrist dangling off the edge of the bed. He can see the bruising peeking out from under the bandages, but what’s more is he sees her fingers extend towards him.

 

In an instant, he strides over to where she is, taking her hand in his. He doesn’t say anything. He isn’t sure there are words in English – or Trig or Latin, for that matter that could express what he’s feeling in this moment. Relief, sorrow, hope. None are strong enough.

 

So he doesn’t say anything. Instead he holds her, focused on how her gaze doesn’t stray away from him. She only closes her eyes when Abby reaches her dislocated shoulder or incision sight, eyes closing with a few tears escaping. Clarke doesn’t cry out though. She remains quiet focusing on Bellamy as he does her.

 

There’s so much he wants to say.

 

So he says nothing at all.

 

***

 

Clarke remembers the first time she saw the Ground.

 

It’s a rare moment when Clarke finds herself alone.

 

Time has passed in nothing more than a blur, stitched together in pieces she can’t understand. She reminds herself quietly that this isn’t a dream more often then she doesn’t, telling herself over and over again. She fights to stop herself from recoiling when Bellamy is near, flinching when Raven steps forward, or doubling over when Madi walks through the tent.

 

She knows she isn’t entirely successful. She sees it behind their eyes – the hurt and despair when she does so. But Clarke’s having a hard time stitching the right tapestry of what’s going on. So she’s remained quiet, unspeaking when everyone is around. Afraid of what might come out of her mouth, afraid of what will open up if she lets it.

 

Honestly, she isn’t sure. Time passed her in blocks, memories locked away tight. Medically, she knows it’s a survival technique. The brain does what is has to in order to survive. In practical application, it makes her want to scream.

 

She can’t remember the last time anyone’s left her alone, so when she wakes up and no one is present in the medical tent, she finds the few items around her that are convincing her that she isn’t back in Eligius and this isn’t a horrible hallucination. She looks to her right and sees Bellamy’s coat on the chair, a promise that he’ll return shortly. On the back wall she sees the chart that she made of the vascular system to help train new doctors. Next to her, she sees her mother’s scrubs folded in a chair.

 

These are things she never hallucinated.

 

Placing her weight on her wrists, Clarke tries not to cry out when she attempts to get herself up to a seated position. She never wanted to do this in the presence of everyone, her babysitters eyeing her and watching her endlessly. She supposes she should be flattered, but it’s overwhelming. For one minute to close your eyes, locked in a lab, and the next to be surrounded by everyone you dreamt about.

 

Pulling the blanket off her legs, Clarke starts to take stock. She runs her fingers over the bandages on her wrists, closing her eyes when she remember the chains. It’s like she’s still there. She feels the metal against her skin. She feels her bones cry out as they weigh on her. She smells the mold around her, hears the dripping of the pipes.

 

Recoiling from herself, Clarke blinks a few tears from her eyes. Instead she moves down to where there’s a bandage on her stomach. She doesn’t remember that day. She doesn’t remember the day they put it in her, or why. She remembers screaming though. Crying. Begging. Everything she never thought she’d do, she did. She remembers that feeling it in her side felt like a violation every day. When she shifts in her medical cot, she feels it ghost against her skin.

 

Finally, she goes to her legs. Outwardly, they don’t seem worse for the wear. There is bruising up her skin and scratches here and there, but they seem fine. And that’s the issue. They seem fine. Logically, Clarke knows of atrophy. She knows of the necessity of moving muscles and deterioration if you don’t. “Come on,” she says, hitting one of her thighs. “Come one!”

 

Distantly, Clarke can hear animals and people outside the medical tent and something snaps.

 

She’d been locked away for so long. Her heart longs for the Ground. It longs for the sky, for the trees. The beauty that reminds her that the universe may not be so bad. The beauty that made her understand Monet. Picasso.

 

Hoisting herself on her wrists again, Clarke ignores the shooting pains she feels up her arm as she manages to dangle her legs off the edge of the bed. Looking around to see if anyone is here to yell at her, she scoots forward. When she leans far enough for her feet to touch the ground, she startles at the cold. Medically, she knows she’s not paralyzed. She knows she can feel things. But it startles her all the same after a couple days of simply staring at her legs in fear.

 

She can hear birds outside.

 

In a swift movement, she puts all her weight on her feet. Immediately she crumbles to the ground, her legs doing nothing to support her. She lands on her elbows, the stitches in her side screaming and her shoulder bursting with pain. Clarke lets out a cry of frustration, slamming her good hand on the ground. “Dammit,” she breathes, unable to stop her tears. It’s silly, medically she knows what’s wrong. “Dammit!” She repeats, hitting her thigh in frustration.

 

Pressing her forehead to the ground, Clarke allows herself a moment to crumble because no one’s here. No one can see how far Clarke Griffin has fallen. On the ground, covered in bandages, unable to get up.

 

“Oh my god, are you alright?”

 

Clarke whips her head up at the voice, a new wave of anger with herself hitting her. She weakly throws one last fist at her thigh, her face crumbling her free hand.

 

“Let me get Abby—”

 

“No!’ Clarke exclaim, putting her hands up. Through her tears, she sees Murphy crouched with her, his hands hovering as if he’s afraid to do anything.

 

“Oh my god,” he breathes. “You spoke.”

 

It occurs to her that she hadn’t. Clarke spent her time afraid of what would come out, so she said nothing. Wiping her eyes and under her nose, Clarke tries to calm down. Except her legs won’t support her and she’s on the ground locked away like she has been.

 

“What were you thinking?” Murphy exclaims, putting his hands under her arms as he tries to hoist her to her feet to get her back to bed.

 

“I want to go outside.” Clarke states. Her voice is rough through disuse, it barely sounds like her. It hurts to talk and she winces, Murphy still moving her to the bed. “I-I want to see outside.”

 

“Clarke, we just got you back. You can’t think I’m stupid enough to help you go outside.”

 

“Yes.” Clarke states, staring at him. Her eyes are burning and she wants to scream at everything. “Please, Murphy. I need to see it. Please.”

 

Murphy surveys her. His expression is frustratingly impossible to read as she holds her up, her feet drifting against the ground as they are close to the cot she’s supposed to be in. He glances at it, and then the tent opening. “Outside?” He asks and she knows he gets it.

 

He knows.

 

Nodding, Clarke grips her hand with his.

 

“God, I’m gonna get yelled at by your mom.” He mumbles, hoisting her close to his side to have a better grip on her.

 

A smile stretches across her face. The movement feels foreign and strange, but something chips away that felt lodged in her throat. Murphy returns it, his eyes watering. He doesn’t say anything, but Clarke isn’t sure he needs to. She feels him holding her up, eyes glassy and filled with something.

 

He steps out of the tent with her at his side.

 

It’s drizzling.

 

It’s so shocking that Clarke flinches, Murphy grasping her side to keep her from falling over. The moisture hits her face and something in her breaks to pieces. Putting her arms out, she feels the droplets of rain against her skin and her hair stands on end.

 

Everything hurts. Everything aches. But in the first time since she can remember, she feels alive.

 

People are rushing over and Clarke thinks they’re yelling. Murphy must say something in response because the noise stops and she focuses on the sounds she hasn’t heard in ages.

 

There’s a bird somewhere, singing in the distance. The sky may be grey, but it’s grey with various shades and hues, purples and blues lying underneath. Wind rushes through and she feels it against her skin, closing her eyes.

 

She feels it all like she’s never felt it before.

 

Clarke remembers the first time she saw the Ground.

 

Unable to stop it, Clarke breaks. She breaks into all the pieces that people had taken. She cracks and crumbles, completely relying on Murphy to keep her upright as her face twists and shatters, a sob escaping her throat. She feels the wind, sees the trees, and cries as if they’re distant friends she never thoughts she’d see again.

 

Bringing up a hand to her face, Clarke covers her eyes and mouth as if that can keep people from staring at her. Because she knows they’re staring.

 

All she can hear is the wind. All she feel is the rain. All she can taste is blood.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHT

 

Murphy’s been banned from the medical tent.

 

Bellamy catches him stalking around the outside, glaring at anyone who goes in and out. While he understands why Abby is punishing him, he isn’t sure anyone else would’ve done anything different. When Murphy brushed the flaps of the tents, Bellamy nearly bowled him over when he saw who he was taking with him. But he saw the second the mist hit her skin. He saw the look on her face as she took in the sky. He can’t remember the last time she looked like that.

 

For a moment. For a moment, he didn’t see the woman chained to the wall. He didn’t see the woman who closed the door on the dropship. He didn’t see the woman who pulled the lever at Mount Weather. There was a flash of peace on her face.

 

Bellamy finds himself in a chair in the medical tent, watching Abby do a routine checkup as Clarke sits with her hands in her lap. She’s not looking at him, just as she hasn’t since the day she woke up and extended her hand out to reach his. When Abby leans her forward to press her stethoscope against her bare back, Clarke scrunches up a face, but doesn’t make a sound. Her hands curl against the blankets draped over her legs.

 

He fights the urge to do anything, so he simply uncrosses his legs.

 

“Okay,” Abby states, lowering the back of her gown down. “You still sound good, but I’d like to keep you under observation for one more night before moving you to my cabin.”

 

Clarke’s head whips up at that.

 

Abby doesn’t acknowledge that. “And Bellamy has volunteered to help you with your exercises to get your legs back to health.”

 

Finally, she turns to him. She must’ve been wondering why he was stalking her tent. Bellamy would’ve been here regardless, but he was grateful Abby gave him an excuse anyway. Her eyes are sunken in her head, surrounded by dark circles and tired lines. But she doesn’t blink. He knows it’s important to not tear away the gaze, but it’s hard to.

 

Because it’s moments like this when he realizes how much has passed.

 

“Bellamy, here are the exercises. Don’t push too hard in the beginning. Just do one or two and we’ll work our way up, alright.” Abby steps over to him and hands him a book. “These here.”

 

Neither of them say anything.

 

“I’ll step out, Bellamy feel free to holler if you have any questions.”

 

Abby leaves the tent.

 

Bellamy doesn’t move right away. He’s finding it hard with her stare on him. The book that Abby hands him feels like a weight in his hand, more so than his sketchbook ever did. After a while, he hoists himself up out of the chair and makes his way over to her side. Her hands are still curled around the blanket as he approaches. “Clarke,” he says and she drops her gaze.

 

He has no idea what’s going on in her head and it’s infuriating. She barely keeps someone’s gaze for more than a minute, doesn’t cry out even with Abby’s check-ups, and doesn’t say a word. Clarke is hard to read on a good day, but it was like she built up an entire embargo.

 

Reaching out, he hesitates. “May I?” He asks, his voice quiet.

 

Clarke moves her arm further away, ever so slightly.

 

He tries to ignore the flash of hurt that strikes him, taking a breath. “I-I—” He starts, but isn’t sure what to say. “Clarke, may I please take your arm?”

 

Clarke doesn’t move at first. Her fingers twist against the fabric of the blanket. Then, after a while, she shifts her arm ever so slightly in his direction. Bellamy takes it gently, placing his hand on the other side of his legs. “May I?” He asks, his hand a few inches away.

 

Again, she takes time. Her eyes close and tightly, Clarke away somewhere else. With a small nod, she braces. Bellamy tells himself that this is to be expected. That it’s everything he should be prepared for. But he’s not.

 

Taking her leg and being careful of her shoulder, Bellamy carefully shifts her until her left leg is bent. “Does this hurt?” He asks, his voice even softer. He’s afraid of speaking any louder. He’s afraid of shattering her.

 

She shakes her head.

 

Bracing under her thigh, Bellamy presses up gently. She doesn’t respond. In fact, she turns her head away from him, staring at something against the wall. He sets it down and does the other. Placing a hand on her side, Bellamy turns her so that her legs dangle off the side of the bed. She continues to turn her head away from him as he places a hand on his knee.

 

There’s a small noise.

 

It’s subtle, but he’s so aware of Clarke, he almost drops her hand. With her head turned, a sob sneaks out. “Did I hurt you?” He asks, panicked.

 

Shaking her head, she keeps her chin planted on her shoulder.

 

“Clarke—”

 

She doesn’t look at him. When she settles, he tries once more, but there’s a cry again. “Clarke, I’m so sorry, where am I hurting you?”

 

She shakes her head again. But there’s another sob. And another. And another.

 

“Clarke—”

 

Her legs dangle there, her hand stays over her mouth as she tries to hide from him in that moment, as she shatters anyway.


They never go back to the exercises.

 

***

 

Clarke has thought about her death often. More than most, she assumes. For the longest time, she thought every day was her last, and not in a carpe diem sort of way. She thought that if she fought for her people – fought for the human race – a death would be a worthy sacrifice. For the first time (except for a moment of Praimfaya), she’s been surrounded by what she viewed would be death as a release.

 

It’s a thought she would never voice out loud.

 

Though as she sits in the hospital bed, her skin feeling as if it’s on fire, Clarke tries her best to ignore the people who are zipping in and out of the tent. She watches how everyone treats her as if she is made of glass, and she supposes she is. Glass that’s already been chipped away.

 

Drip, drip, drip.

 

There’s a steady noise to her left that’s been sounding all morning. A steady drip. She shuts her eyes, trying to drown the sound out. It’s just so steady. So regular. Playing over and over. It makes her skin feel like it’s itchy.

 

“Are we having meetings in here now?” Murphy asks as he bursts through the med tent’s flaps, taking a bite of apple as he does so. Clarke jumps at the noise, causing everyone to look in her direction. Murphy, god love him, doesn’t keep her eye as he continues. “Because when I can’t find anyone, I just come here.”

 

“Hey!” Abby shouts when he’s in there. “I put you on probation.”

 

Murphy puts both his hands up, the apple in his mouth. “I thought my sentence was lifted!” He says, barely understandable.

 

“Don’t cross me.” Abby states without looking up from what she’s doing.

 

Murphy casts a glance in Clarke’s direction, wide eyes and exaggerated. Clarke knows that she should be smiling back at him, but she can’t find it in herself to do it. She doesn’t even know how.

 

“Raven, Madi’s looking for you.” He says.

 

Raven’s been in the back of the room, not saying anything to Clarke, but sneaking glances at her whenever she thinks Clarke’s not paying attention. That’s the issue, though. She’s never not paying attention anymore. “What would she want right now?”

 

“She was wondering if there was any movement on the boarder.”

 

Raven fixes him a look. “Since the last time she asked me an hour ago? No. Why isn’t she asking me herself? She knows where I am.”

 

No one says it, but Clarke knows. She doesn’t need Murphy to say that Madi’s not walking in here and asking herself because this is where Clarke is. She doesn’t need him to say that.

 

Clarke knows.

 

“Who’s watching it right now?”

 

“Some Eligius dude.” Raven says waving her hand.

 

“Are they qualified for that?”

 

“Do you mean are they qualified to look at a screen and go ‘hey – there’s an army about to attack us?’ Yeah, I think they’re fine.”

 

“I miss this side of you.” Murphy says, plopping into an empty chair. “Hey Abby, this is more or less helpful with us all hovering?”

 

“Don’t make me rethink your access to this tent.”

 

Drip, drip, drip.

 

Clarke twitches at the sound, wishing it would stop. If she’s wishing for things, she wishes everyone would leave. And furthermore, she wishes the memories that are coming at her in waves would stop.

 

Because there are times she’s back in the lab. She can smell the mold and hear the buzzing of machine all around her. The ache in her should is present – the day it slipped out of the socket a painful blur. Everything is a blur.

 

Drip, drip, drip.

 

“Maybe we should clear the room.”

 

The words are distant. Tinny. Blinking, Clarke realizes her hands are clutching her legs, turning her skin white. A few tears are streaming down her face and she can’t quite see.

 

She isn’t sure when she got like this. Her entire body is stiff and shaking.

 

People file out and Abby tries to catch Clarke’s eye, but she makes sure she doesn’t find it. After a while, she’s alone. Letting out a shaky breath, Clarke releases her own legs, angry red scratch marks where her nails once were. “This is real,” Clarke says to herself. “This is real.”

 

“Hey.”

 

Clarke startles, surprised when Octavia ducks in. “Sorry, I saw everyone leave and since they still aren’t technically talking to me, I thought I’d come see how you are doing now. I hope that’s okay. I can leave.”

 

“No,” Clarke finds herself saying. “You can stay.”

 

Octavia makes a face. “They said you weren’t talking.” When Clarke doesn’t answer that, Octavia moves further into the tent. “How are you?”

 

Clarke can’t help but let out a humorless laugh at that. “Real great.”

 

“Exactly what I thought.” Octavia says with a smile.

 

She’s different than Clarke remembers. The cloud of melancholy that wafted over her at all times isn’t quite as present and the hard lines have softened. “How long has it been?” Clarke asks suddenly, unable to tear her gaze away from the softened Octavia.

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“I-I—” Clarke trails off, biting her lip. “I lost track of time. How long has it been?”

 

Octavia grows uncomfortable in an instant. “Oh, I don’t know if this should come from me—”

 

“Why?” Clarke asks. “Why shouldn’t it come from you?”

 

“Because, I’m not…” She groans. “Tact isn’t my area of expertise.”

 

“That’s why I’m asking you.”

 

“We should get your mom or—”

 

“Octavia.”

 

Octavia stops talking. “Clarke, I…” Licking her lips, she repeats, “This isn’t my thing.”

 

“I’m asking you, Octavia.”

 

With a sigh, Octavia looks her in the eye. “Six months after you left with Eligius, they told us you were dead. It’s been a year since your funeral.”

 

Clarke unclenches her fists.

 

It’s odd. The knowledge dislodges something in her chest as she tries to process it. Sniffing a few times to try and stop herself from breaking down right there, Clarke heaves a breath.

 

“Oh.”

 

Is what she says.

 

It’s like she’s back there.

 

It’s strange, the corners of her mind trying to protect her. She remembers her time against the wall in pieces, like the way someone would skim a book. There were pages she didn’t remember at all. But every once and a while, her mind would latch onto something and she’s back there.

 

“This is why I didn’t think I should be the one who told you.” Octavia says quickly, an edge of panic in her voice. “I actually thought they already told you! I—”

 

“No, no,” Clarke says, rubbing her eyes as a few tears leak out. “I-It makes sense. I mean, for the body to atrophy at the rate mine has, it has to have been…” Swallowing thickly, Clarke says roughly, “I mean, I should’ve… I-I know logically—”

 

“Clarke, we didn’t know.”

 

“Y-Yeah, I got that.” Clarke states, scrubbing away more tears. She’s not doing this right now. She’s not falling apart – again – and it won’t be in front of Octavia. Looking to the ceiling of the tent, Clarke breathes in. Out. Then a few more times.

 

Octavia’s still standing, eyes wide as if she’s confronted with a bomb. Which, Clarke assumes, she is. “Clarke, we didn’t—”

 

“I said I know.”

 

The words are deliberate. The end of this conversation.

 

So she goes straight into the next. “I have a favor to ask.”

 

Frowning, Octavia asks, “From me?”

 

“Why are you surprised?”

 

“No one asks me for anything these days.”

 

Clarke softens, forgetting all the long conversations they’ve had. It makes her like the idea she’s about to ask even more. “Well I am. Is there anyone else living in your cabin?”

 

“Do you really think anyone would want to live with me?”

 

“Me.”

 

“I’m sorry, what?”

 

“Me. I want to live with you.” Clarke states. “I-I—my mother told me earlier that I would be moving in with her and Kane—”

 

“Which makes sense!”

 

“—and I was wondering if you’d be okay if I moved in with you.”

 

Octavia’s face goes blank. “I-I’m sorry, what?”

 

“Can I move in with you instead?”

 

Octavia looks around. “You can’t possibly be talking to me.”

 

“Who would I be talking to?”

 

“I don’t know?” Octavia exclaims, gesturing wildly. “Isn’t there someone else who you’d rather stay with? Like, literally anyone else?”

 

“No.”

 

“I don’t understand!” Octavia cries. “I can’t just—”

 

“Please, Octavia.”

 

Octavia stops moving around frantically and stares. “You’re serious about this.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You want to move in. With me.

 

“Yes.”

 

“God,” she breathes, pushing her hair back. “Yeah, okay. If you can convince your mom to let you not live with her, I have the space. It’s not like anyone’s lining up to take it.”

 

“Thanks.”

 

Drip, drip, drip.

 

Shrugging her shoulder so her ear rubs against it, Clarke says, “There’s one other thing.”

 

“Okay.”

 

Clarke thinks about the wall. The chains, the machines. The mold and darkness. Fever dreams that were never real.

 

Taking a breath, she says quickly, “Can you please take over my exercises?”

 

Octavia stills at that. “I thought Bellamy was doing those.”

 

“He is.”

 

“And you want me to?”

 

“Yes. Please.”

 

Octavia still hasn’t moved. It’s odd seeing her so still because the woman is always in motion, even when thinking. Her face falls. “Clarke, I don’t know. I mean, Bellamy just started to let me be in the room. If I come to him and ask to take over that, I—”

 

“I know it’s a lot to ask, but Octavia, I’m asking. Please.”

 

Octavia mulls this over. When she speaks, it isn’t the question she expects. “Why are you talking to me?”

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

Gesturing to outside the tent, Octavia says, “Everyone’s been saying you aren’t talking to anyone. There was a brief plead with Murphy, but you haven’t spoke to your mom, to Bellamy. Raven, Shaw, anyone who helped get you out of there. It’s been driving everyone nuts, but they’re afraid of even breathing the wrong way with you. Why are you talking to me?”

 

Clarke’s expression falls. Playing with her hands, she thinks of everyone who’s been in and out of the medical tent the past few days. She thinks of the exercises, her useless legs, aching shoulder. The ghost of the tube in her side. “Because I can’t tell them what they want to hear.” Clarke mutters.

 

“What?”

 

When she looks up again, her eyes are shining through tears. “I can’t tell them what they want to hear.” She repeats louder. “They want me to tell them why it was like that – why I was in captivity. They want me to tell them what Eligius is planning on doing with the blood and what we talked about when I lived with them. I can’t tell them what they want to hear.”

 

Octavia approaches her slowly. “Why not?”

 

“Because I don’t know!” Clarke shouts, flinching when she jostles her shoulder in the wrong way. She sucks in a breath to keep herself from crying out, but it doesn’t stop any tears or redness she knows is present on her face. “I-I don’t know, o-or I can’t remember, or—” Letting out a frustrated cry, Clarke starts over. “It’s like this: every time I try to think of something, I’m back in that room. I’m back there and it feels like I can’t breathe, I can’t think. I can’t move. A-And I-I start to panic a-and—”

 

“Clarke.”

 

Octavia rests her hands on top of Clarkes, now next to the bed. Clarke doesn’t know when she got so close. “Like that,” Clarke says jokingly, the words falling flat. “I-I can’t remember. I know that information is somewhere, but every time I try—”

 

“You’re back in the lab.”

 

“I’m back in the lab.” Clarke repeats, scrubbing her eyes. “And I open my mouth to say something to them – something they want to hear, and I can’t stop from panicking.”

 

“So you don’t say anything.”

 

“No. I don’t say anything.”

 

Clarke looks at her hands. Her fingers are thinner than they’ve ever been, scrapes running up her palms from who knows what. Her wrists are still bandaged, but she can see the hint of bruising snake to her palms. “I-I don’t want to keep going back there.” She says quietly. Glancing up to Octavia, she asks, “Does that make me selfish?”

 

“No, Clarke.” Octavia sits on the bed, careful not to go anywhere near her. “That makes you human.”

 

“I feel very, very human these days.” Clarke laughs bitterly.

 

Octavia glances around the medical tent. “So, take exercises away from Bellamy, huh?”

 

Wiping down her face, Clarke says, “Sorry, that was a dumb thing to ask. I shouldn’t have—”

 

“I’ll go talk to him now.” Octavia says, leaving before Clarke can argue.

 

***

 

“Feel free to wait inside his office.”

 

Clarke startles at the noise, busy sketching an errand boy in the corner who is currently pretending he’s invisible, shoving his face with snacks that she’s certain are supposed to be for the people in the office. She frowns at her drawing, only partially complete, but stands up nonetheless. “Thanks.” She says, stepping inside the office.

 

The woman closes it behind her, startling Clarke. She figured they would want her watched at all times, like they’ve been doing relatively consistently since she arrived in the Eligius camp. But when the door closes, Clarke takes a look around that she wouldn’t be able to do anytime else.

 

There’s not much décor. Despite having a couple hundred years to advance their city, scarcity seemed to still reign through the world. There’s a painting on the wall that Clarke steps up to peer at. It’s of the way the binary suns rise over the planet. The two suns cause a breathtaking array of colors that Clarke wishes she had enough paint to replicate, but instead is stuck with the charcoal she finds around the industrial district.

 

“Sorry to have kept you waiting.”

 

Flinching slightly, Clarke whirls around to see a man stride in. She’s met him a few times, but he remains elusive when it comes to conversation. When she received word that he wanted to speak with her, she couldn’t hide her surprise. “Justice Mulroy.” Clarke says. “Good to see you.”

 

“Beautiful painting, isn’t it?” The Justice says, pointing where Clarke was looking. Seating himself behind the desk, he gestures for her to follow him. Clarke seats herself on the other side. “I don’t think it quite captures the beauty of the sunrise, but what really could?”

 

“It is beautiful.”

 

“I figured you would like it, seeing as you are always buried in your sketchbook.” The Justice is a composed man, thin yet sturdy. Unwavering. There’s an intelligence hiding in his eyes that Clarke finds intimidating. He speaks only when absolutely necessary, and Clarke has yet to see a moment where his words weren’t the final ones. “I’ll bet you are wondering why you’re here.”

 

“The only answer I could think of is that it has to do with my request to return home.”

 

“Yes, I knew you were a sharp one.” Justice Mulroy states. “I shouldn’t have underestimated you.”

 

It strikes Clarke that it’s an odd thing to say in this situation, but she chooses not to comment on it. “When Russell asked me to stay with you, he said I could return home. It’s been five months since I’ve seen my people.”

 

“Have we not been hospitable to you?”

 

“O-Of course you have.” Clarke states. “Very hospitable. But I do miss my people. Even if it were only for a brief moment, I’d love to go home and see them.”

 

“Don’t you think it’s odd that I haven’t received that request from your Commander?” Justice Mulroy asks. His words hurt Clarke more than she’s willing to let on, using every ounce of patience she has to keep her expression neutral. “I would’ve expected there would be a request by now.”

 

“I’m sure they’re quite busy trying to get their own city up and running on a foreign planet.” Clarke says evenly.

 

“Or it could be the downside of having a child emperor – they don’t pay much attention to the details.”

 

Clarke purses her lips, telling her any response would be foolhardy.

 

Leaning across the desk, Justice Mulroy folds his hands. “Until I receive a written request asking for your presence back at your camp, you’re stuck with us for now. I think we’re learning a lot from our time together, don’t you?”

 

Clarke doesn’t care for how close he’s made the two of them. “Yes, sir.”

 

“And you wouldn’t want anything to jeopardize our new friendship, would you?”

 

“No, sir.”

 

Returning to his seat, Justice Mulroy points to a device on his desk. “Do you see that metronome?” He asks. “It was my grandfather’s. He was a part of the original Eligius III mission to find a new hospitable planet. He was a musician because the government thought it would be necessary to include the arts when creating a new world. Of course, a paintbrush can’t protect you from a bombing, but it’s a nice sentiment. He played the guitar beautifully, I’ve heard old records. He kept that metronome in pristine condition, gave it to my father, then my father gave it to me. Do you know what a metronome does, Clarke?”

 

Clarke is trying to conceal how tightly she’s holding onto her sketchbook. “It keeps time.”

 

Justice Mulroy flicks the pendulum. It swings back and forth. Steady.

 

Click, click, click.

 

“Isn’t it calming to listen to? Knowing the next beat will be right around the corner? One, two, three. One, two, three.” He says, bring a hand up and swinging it in the air. “It’s a constant in an unfriendly world. One, two, three. One, two, three.”

 

Click, click, click.

 

“You know, even though our government paid to have a few artists go with us to travel the universe, we don’t have a lot of them now.” Justice Mulroy says. “They turned into soldiers, as life tends to make artists.” Gesturing at the painting on the wall, he states, “That’s why this is so rare. It was one of the first paintings on the planet – and one of the only. We’re only now rebuilding out program.”

 

Click, click, click.

 

“Now, you are from Earth. I am from Earth. We had one sun. It’s a marvel, right? Now we’re on a planet with two.”

 

Clarke holds her sketchbook, listening to the steady metronome.

 

“We’ve only just begun to scratch the surface of what humans are capable of. I’ve read the history of our people. War, destruction, violence.” Justice Mulroy waves his hands. “It’s the product of resources being in the hands of few, and people fighting over what’s left. We have an opportunity to be greater – to lead a charge of superiority.”

 

“We’re not fighting against anyone, sir.” Clarke states carefully. “There are only so many people.”

 

“It’s how it all starts, though, isn’t it Clarke? You’ve seen it with your own eyes. Someone who diligently sketches as much as you do with the blood behind your gaze? The world turned you into a soldier. Replaced your pencil for a gun, am I right?”

 

She doesn’t respond.

“We have an obligation to lead people into a future that not only protects the human race, but improves on it. We must improve what’s been broken.”

 

Clarke still remains quiet.

 

After a few moments, the Justice straightens. “As for your request, it’s denied.”

 

***

 

“You have to give her time.”

 

Bellamy looks away. “I know this.”

 

“We can’t expect she’d be the same. Being a prisoner of war changes people in ways—”

 

“I said I know.”

 

Bellamy puts enough force in his voice so that Echo drops it, but he doesn’t miss the exchange of looks around him. Bellamy stabs at his rations, unable to say anything further.

 

He knows. He knows logically hat everyone is saying.

 

But he aches for his best friend. He aches for her opening up to him, in ways that were reserved for him alone. It’s unfair, but it’s there.

 

“I still think what I did was very brave.” Murphy states off to the side.

 

Raven glares at him. “Leading Clarke into the rain?”

 

“Yeah, you’re a real Lancelot.” Bellamy mutters.

 

“Incurring the wrath of Abby Griffin – the top candidate here that could murder you and make it look like an accident!” Murphy argues.

 

“I’m pretty sure no one would’ve batted an eye if she murdered you in public.” Raven grumbles.

 

“Why are you angry with me?” Murphy snaps. “I mean, you’re a raging asshole on a good day, but you’ve taken it to new levels.”

 

“Fuck off, Murphy.” Raven shoots back, standing up from the bench they’re all that. “I have to check on the surveillance points.”

 

Raven stalks away, leaving Shaw to grimace apologetically. Bellamy watches Raven walk away. “How are you doing there?”

 

Shaw shrugs. “You know, she’s upset and when she’s upset, it usually comes out in anger.”

 

“Tell her to direct it to someone else.” Murphy says with a mouthful of food.

 

“But you’re such an easy target.” Emori jokes, rubbing his arm.

 

Bellamy isn’t distracted by them. “Do we need to talk to her?”

 

“Naw, I think she didn’t really think Clarke would be alive, to be honest.” Shaw says uncomfortably. “I mean, I didn’t either, if I’m being truthful. We both thought that this was something we all needed to do to gain closure – and if they were planning something, figure it out. Neither of us was actually expecting anyone to find.”

 

“Yeah,” Bellamy states, his mouth dry. “I get that.”

 

Shaw looks to where Raven isn’t anymore. “I think she needs to work through it alone. Figure out what having Clarke back means.”

 

“Well tell her that being a raging asshole isn’t nice.” Murphy says. “And that others won’t be as forgiving as I am with my gracious heart.”

 

Shaw chuckles. “I’ll be sure to pass along the message.”

 

“Bell!”

 

Bellamy turns to see Octavia trudging toward him and he stiffens. It takes every ounce of him not to get up and leave, but recalling the consequences of him doing that last time, he restrains himself. “O, what do you want?”

 

“I need to talk to you.”

 

Murphy takes another bite. “I love dinner theater.”

 

Bellamy glares. “Okay, what do you want.”

 

Octavia puts her hands up. “Now, know that you’re going to be mad. And I’m aware you’re going to be mad. And before you get really mad at me, know that I’m doing what’s best in this situation.”

 

“O!”

 

“Clarke asked if I would take over her exercises for the foreseeable future.”

 

It’s as if she slapped him. His entire body and brain short-circuits, but no understanding is reaching him. He’s vaguely aware everyone is looking at him, his anger gone in a second and replaced with the sting of hurt. “I’m sorry, what?”

 

Octavia winces. “And, she asked to move in with me instead of her mother.”

 

“I’m sorry, what?”

 

“I didn’t ask for it!” Octavia cries, now that everyone is joining Bellamy in his incredulity. Even Murphy stops eating to gape. “She just asked me if I didn’t mind taking it over and I don’t think I really have any place telling her no, so I just—”

 

“You agreed?” Bellamy shouts, unable to stop from yelling. He untangles himself from the bench and looms over her. “Are you insane? What were you thinking?”

 

“I was thinking that someone who went through something very traumatic asked me for a favor, so I said yes!” Octavia yells back. She steps away from him, putting her hands up. “I don’t want to fight about this, big brother. I wanted to talk to you about it—”

 

“Does Clarke remember the amount of times you tried to kill her two years ago?” Murphy cries. “The amount of times you tried to kill Madi? How you singlehandedly almost destroyed the human race?”

 

Octavia’s jaw clenches. “Listen, I’m not here to fight, I—”

 

“Because I’m more than willing to remind her if necessary!”

 

“Murphy, stop.” Bellamy says, his words clipped. Returning his attention to Octavia, he says, “No.”

 

“I’m sorry.”

 

“I said no, absolutely not. That’s insane.”

 

“I’m sorry, big brother, I didn’t come here asking permission. I came here to tell you as a courtesy.”

 

“O—”

 

“Bellamy.”

 

Bellamy is reading to scream – ready to yell – but the moment Indra says his name, all his gravitas goes away. Without breaking his attention away from Octavia, he asks, “Is it time?”

 

“Yes.”

 

With a huff, Bellamy marches toward her. As they move away, he returns his attention back toward Octavia, who’s still standing there. “We’re not through with this conversation!”

 

Indra peers at him curiously. “Conversation?”

 

“I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

“You know, I spent six years with your sister in the bunker.” Indra offers. “I was her second for years. I trained her. If you need any assistance, I may be your best bet.”

 

“Last time I checked, you weren’t speaking with Octavia either.”

 

“True,” Indra says thoughtfully. “But I’m speaking to you.”

 

With those words, Bellamy deflates. “I’m just tired.”

 

“Yes, I can imagine you would be.”

 

When they reach the cabin, Indra nods at the guards outside the door. As soon as they open it, the two stalk through. Bellamy sets his resolve, trying to ignore the way Octavia’s proclamation has twisted a knife in his stomach. He nods at Madi, who’s standing in front of Russell.

 

The man doesn’t look too much worse for the wear. Sure, his hair is more ruffled than Bellamy’s ever seen and there’s a bandage on his leg, but it’s nothing compared to the sights of his own prisoner. “Thanks for waiting.” Bellamy says to Madi, who merely returns her attention to the man.

 

“Okay, this is how this will go.” Indra says. “We will ask you questions and you will answer. If you refuse, we will use force. We do not want to use force. But we are willing to do so if that’s what it takes.”

 

Russell sighs. “I’ve told you many times that I didn’t know anything about Clarke Griffin. I was told she was dead and reported as such. In fact, I’m not even entirely convinced you’re telling me the truth. For all I know, this is some tactic in order to weaken my own people. I think—”

 

Madi turns and nods at Indra. Indra places a hand on Bellamy’s arm before motioning to the guards. Frowning, Bellamy follows her gesture. When the cabin door opens, his mouth runs dry. “What the hell are you think—” He cries, but is cut off when Madi fixes him with a sharp glare.

 

Flanked by Abby and Kane, Clarke steps in the room, every footfall careful. He can see her shaking in their grip, a thin sheen of sweat on her face as she stares at her feet in concentration. Carefully, the two help her inside, Abby’s expression unreadable as she leads her daughter inside. If Bellamy were a betting man, he would imagine she likes this about as much as he does.

 

When Clarke catches sight of Russell, she freezes. Abby and Kane motion to move her forward, but she stops trying. Russell’s eyes widen when he sees her, breathing, “Clarke.”

 

Clarke only stares at him, her mouth falling open.

 

Coughing slightly, Russell doesn’t tear his gaze away. “T-This can’t be possible.”

 

Clarke’s hands grip Abby and Kane tighter – Bellamy can tell. “This was a bad idea.” Abby says suddenly. “I thought so, I should’ve put my foot down—”

 

“Russell,” Clarke says.

 

It’s impossible to decipher the one word. It’s the first Bellamy’s heard Clarke utter since the lab, and he can’t make any sense of it. It infuriates him that he can’t figure her out anymore, Clarke locking away anything that he once could pick up on. Truthfully, he understands it. Selfishly, he hates it.

 

“I don’t have any information.” Russell states, his hands twitching. They’re tied behind his back and he’s knocking against the chair wood, his zipper striking it again and again. It’s steadying and nervous, tapping again and again.

 

Tap, tap, tap.

 

Bellamy notices once he starts his nervous tick, something flashes across Clarke’s face. She grows pale and he almost says something, but Russell cuts him off, his words hurried, “I swear I don’t know. I didn’t know it was happening. I’m your Ambassador – I was sent to deliver the news of Clarke’s passing. I didn’t know it was bad information!”

 

He continues to tap his hands against the chair.

 

Tap, tap, tap.

 

“Will you please stop that?” Clarke says, her words so quiet, Bellamy isn’t sure she said that at all. “Are we giving him back to Eligius?”

 

“We obviously can’t.” Madi states. “We took him as a prisoner. Returning him will allow him to share anything he’s picked up from here.”

 

“Returning him will be mercy.” Clarke says softly. Tap, tap, tap. “Will you please stop that?” She repeats.

 

Russell’s losing his composure a bit, says, “If you let me return to my city, I’ll run an investigation.”

 

“Because you investigating the crimes of your own is something that will happen.” Indra states. “I hate to be the person who brings this up, but the only solution may be to—”

 

“We’re not executing him.” Bellamy states. “We’re not starting that cycle again.”

 

Clarke’s head whips in his direction and it takes every ounce of self-control to maintain composure. Her eyes are watery, she’s relying too much on Kane and Abby at the moment, but she’s looking at him like he’s the sun. It confuses him more than anything, thinking of her request to Octavia only moments before.

 

Tap, tap, tap.

 

“Stop it!” Clarke shouts, her rough voice cracking.

 

She clamps her hands over her ears so quickly, Abby and Kane lose their grip and she’s on her feet by herself a second before she tumbling to the ground. Her hands remain on her head as she pleads for someone to stop it, Bellamy staring in shock.

 

“I told you this was a bad idea!” Abby yells, hoisting her under her arm along with Kane.

 

“Stop, stop, stop, stop,” Clarke begs.

 

The tapping continues after she leaves.

 

***

 

Surprisingly, Abby granted Clarke’s wish of being given a moment by herself as she tries to calm herself down. She knows her mother and Kane are close by – has a feeling Bellamy may have left the cabin as well – but Clarke tells herself not to think about it. Instead, she sits on a small stone wall outside, listening to the sounds of the animals and the wind as she tries to catch her breath.

 

Holding her chest, Clarke breathes again and again. Soon, the shakiness recedes. After a few minutes, it calms. She tries to wipe the tears away, but they’re soon replaced the moment she does.

 

She does calm after a while. Clarke runs through the list she’s been telling herself of things to remember when she thinks this isn’t real. She looks at the trees and sees how the leaves have a slight tint of blue – something that earth vegetation rarely had. She observes the sky and sees how it’s always faintly tinted orange because of the binary suns.

 

Letting out one final shaking breath, Clarke puts her head in her hands. “I could’ve called this one.” Someone says as they sit next to her.

 

Clarke turns with every intention of telling the person to go away, but is startled enough to see Diyoza that she doesn’t right away. When Diyoza shifts next to her, she eyes Clarke, “Whoever thought that’d be a good idea was a fool.”

 

Clarke swallows. “It was Madi’s.”

 

Diyoza lifts an eyebrow. “Interesting.” Diyoza leans forward. “I’ve seen this many times. Especially with young soldiers returning from war. They can’t handle the atrocities around them. It’s nothing to be ashamed of. The fact that you’re functioning at all is pretty surprising.”

 

“I don’t want to be like this.”

 

“No, I would image you wouldn’t. I know you have a background in medicine, but I think you need to hear this anyways. You need someone else to hear it.” Diyoza gazes in front of her, like Clarke. “In order to survive, your mind put certain things in a box. It locked them away, so you could survive. So you could continue functioning. You sealed them away. But,” Diyoza continues. “It’s not a perfect system. There’s keys your brain made to open it up. To trigger it without warning. You don’t know what they are, until you know them.”

 

Clarke’s lower lip trembles. “And what might they be?”

 

“My money is on the tapping. Not just tapping, but any steady beat. Over and over again.”

 

Clarke blinks and a few tears fall. “Why would that be something?”

 

“I don’t know,” Diyoza says. “And maybe one day you will too. But right now, all you know is that it opens the box.”

 

Clarke closes her eyes and listens to the planet. “Do you have any?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Does it go away?”

 

“Not in the way you want it to. The box starts staying open, which means you’re able to grow accustom to it. Every time won’t be as violent. You learn to live with it there, like it is a part of who you are. Which, I suppose it is.” Diyoza folds her hands. “Whoever thought it was a good idea doesn’t understand the price of trauma. It was foolish.”

 

Clarke swallows. “Well, she’s thirteen.”

 

“I’m beginning to understand why you fought so hard against this. Seems like it was a lateral move.” Diyoza says. Eyeing Clarke, she asks, “How are you feeling now?”

 

“Better.”

 

“I mean overall. With everything. Now, people tend to not run to me of all people with gossip, but I’ve heard rumblings. It seems your whole space team is upset you’re not talking to them. Abby’s pretty upset about it to – especially when you asked not to live with her. No one is willing to ask you why. But I don’t have that sort of tact, so I’m going to ask you why.”

 

“It’s like I told Octavia—”

 

“No, that’s what you’re telling yourself.” Diyoza cuts her off. “You’re telling yourself it’s because you don’t want to let them down. You’re telling yourself that because you can’t really face what the truth is.”

 

“Oh, am I?” Clarke snaps, a little annoyed. “And what, may I ask, is the truth?”

 

“The truth is you’re angry.” Diyzoa states calmly, not rising to her frustration. “You’re angry that it took over a year for them to figure out. You’re angry because the last time you saw them, they let you go with those people without a fight. I’m not an idiot—”

 

“I don’t think anyone would ever mistake you for an idiot.”

 

“But everyone was upset with you, so they didn’t think twice before you went with them. They let you get eaten alive. You’re upset because you think they were angry with you and that affected their indifference to your suffering. You’re angry because you’ve been a prisoner of war and no one noticed.”

 

Clarke holds herself for a moment. The wind is making such a beautiful noise. It’s gentle around her. “I don’t want to be,” she whispers. It feels like it should be a secret. Her darkest thoughts out there for everyone to hear. “I-I don’t want to be angry.”

 

“And I don’t think anyone would mistake you for cruel, Clarke.”

 

“I-It’s just… I think back and no one put in a request for me to come back. No one looked for me when I was there. No one—” Clarke breaks off. “But it’s not their fault. They were told I was dead. They had no reason to believe—”

 

“You gave us every clue. Every indication. No one tried, and you’re angry because now you’re dealing with picking up the pieces that someone else broke.” Diyoza cuts her off.

 

“I don’t want to be angry.” Clarke says. “It’s not fair. To anyone.”

 

Diyoza snorts. “Since when has any of this been about being fair? Listen, I’m going to tell you something, Clarke. If you try to ignore the fact that you’re upset, that you’re hurt? It’s going to manifest itself in different ways. If you ignore the fact that you tried your best to warn everyone, you will lose it more. You need to accept and embrace the fact that your feelings are justified and valid. Any other response will lead you preventing yourself from healing properly.”

 

“But it’s not their fault.”

 

“Everyone who doesn’t speak up is complicit in a tragedy.”

 

Clarke doesn’t have a response to that. Then, her mind wanders to a previous memory. “Bellamy wasn’t,” she states.

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“Bellamy wasn’t silent.”

 

“Yeah,” Diyoza chuckles. “I’d give him a break if you can. He was the one who started this whole thing – against logic, might I add.”

 

Standing Diyoza faces Clarke. “Be kind to yourself. God knows, life hasn’t.”

 

***

 

Bellamy ends the day with a cup of tea. He’d never really had tea before this new planet, people finding herbs to steep in water. At first it seemed silly, but as the days passed he found it calmed in ways he couldn’t figure out how to do so otherwise. So he sits, listening to Jordan’s snoring in the next room as he sips a drink.

 

There’s a gentle knocking on his door, causing him to look out the window at the darkness surrounding him. Frowning, he gets up and opens the door. As soon as he does, he panics. “What are you doing here?” He cries.


Clarke stands before him, leaning against his doorframe. “I’m here to see you.” She says.

 

Every rational part of his mind is saying that this possibly the most monumentally stupid thing she could be doing at this moment. But the other, less rational part of him, aches because he misses her. “How in the hell did you get here?”

 

“Diyoza helped me.” She states as if it should be obvious. “I asked her to give us some privacy.”

 

“Oh my god, come in before you fall over.” He moves to grab her around the waist, but hesitates. All he can think of is how she asked Octavia to take over her exercises and how she flinches whenever anyone is near. “Can I?”

 

Nodding, Clarke leans into him as he wraps an arm around her waist. He carefully brings her inside the house, helping her into one of the chairs at the table. Without asking, he pours the remainder of his hot water into a cup and drops a satchel of herbs inside it, sliding it to her. She takes it without question, wrapping her boney fingers around the mug. Clarke doesn’t take a drink, but brings the cup closer to her chest.

 

She doesn’t say anything.

 

Bellamy waits, despite itching for some sort of information. It’s the first time he’s been able to really take her in, without feeling like he’s violating trust of some kind. Sure, she looks mildly better than when they found her, but Bellamy reminds himself it’s not a particularly high bar.

 

“Please don’t be upset with Octavia.” Clarke finally says. “She’s just doing what I asked.”

 

Bellamy clenches his jaw, trying not to snap that he’ll be upset with Octavia if he wants to. “I-I—” He starts, but can’t seem to put into words what he wants to say. “I understand.”

 

“Do you?” Clarke asks, holding the mug closer.

 

“I don’t know.”

 

The corner of her mouth quirks up at that. He supposes that sound be considered a win, but when her eyes water, his expression falls. “I-I sorry, I—”

 

“Don’t apologize,” she states, scrubbing her eyes. “This isn’t your fault. I just… looking at you sometimes, I—”

 

“You’re back in the lab.” Bellamy repeats, his fears being realized. When Clarke startles, he continues, “I had my theory.”

 

“Bellamy, you have to understand—”

 

“I do.” Bellamy states, unable to keep the sorrow out of his voice. “When we found you, you didn’t believe I was real. You were asking me to go. You were demanding that I leave you alone.”

 

Clarke glances at him. “It started shortly after everything. I’m not sure of the specific timeline.” She says quietly.

 

“Listen, you don’t have to—”

 

“I want to.” She states. “I want to explain to you. Why I-I—” Licking her lips, she says, “Why I have a hard time around you. Why I asked Octavia to take over.”

 

Bellamy feels something rising in his throat, and he barely manages an, “Okay.”

 

“It started soon after being moved to the back.” Clarke says. “The first time I saw you, I thought you were real. I-I was convinced you figured everything out and were there to…” She cuts off. “I realized it wasn’t, though. The next time, I was a little weary, but you were right there. I swore I could touch you. You looked so real and you were saying things you would say, and I… I needed it to be true. Time and time again, I let myself believe you were there. Sometimes we would just talk. Sometimes you would say something that made me hopeful. Somewhere along the line, I wasn’t happy to see you anymore.”

 

Bellamy bows his head. He wants to hide his cracks from her, but isn’t sure if he’s allowed. Not when she’s showing him hers.

 

“After a while, I started to see the signs it was all fake. I could tell. I stopped looking at you. I begged you to leave.”

 

“How could you tell?” Bellamy asks, his voice low.

 

Clarke wipes under her eyes. “There was a sort of sheen, if that makes sense. Like oil on water. Something that didn’t look all the way natural. And then your eyes. I could never get your eyes quiet right, it seems.” She states. “If I looked into your eyes, I knew.”

 

Bellamy is taken back to the lab, how she determinedly wouldn’t look at him. How when he tried to do exercises, she made sure not to catch his gaze.

 

“When I look at you, there’s a moment.” Clarke states. “There’s a moment when—”

 

“You’re not sure whether you’re back there or not.”

 

Clarke bites her trembling lip. “I’m not trying to hurt you, Bellamy.”

 

“No,” Bellamy says, blinking away the sheen of water from his eyes. “I know you’re not.”

 

“I-I’m afraid that if, I look at you, it’ll all go away.” Clarke says, her voice quiet and broken. “I’ll realize that I haven’t got your eyes right a-and—”

 

“You’ll be back in the lab.” Bellamy finishes. His tea is left forgotten, growing cold in the evening.

 

Clarke closes her eyes. “It’s not fair to you.” She whispers. “I-I know it’s not—”

 

“Clarke.” Bellamy states. He instinctually reaches out for her, stopping when he sees her wince in preparation. “It’s okay.”

 

“It’s not, though.”

 

“It really is.” Bellamy says.

 

“It’s not.” Clarke says to herself. “Will you come here for a moment?”

 

Bellamy isn’t sure if he should. He won’t let on to Clarke how much this conversation hurts, nor will he be the one to hurt her any further. But when she shifts in her seat so her legs are off to the side, he stands, unsure of how he can tell her no. Approaching cautiously, Bellamy stands in front of her, kneeling.

 

Her eyes are squeezed shut and she’s shaking from head to toe. It doesn’t look healthy or safe, but as soon as her knee brushes against his side, Clarke reaches out, eyes still closed, until she grabs his face on either side. Biting her lip, she opens an eye, then another.

 

He can’t remember the last time they were this close. He can feel the tremors in her hands, but all he’s focused on is the blue eyes staring back at him. Clarke brings her hands up to under his eyes, surveying him. “See,” she murmurs. “This is what I could never get right.”

 

Her hands are cold against his skin, but he’s resisting every urge to grab her hands in his. He lets her fingers brush against his skin. “What?” he asks, mouth dry.

 

“Warmth.” Clarke says, her thumb brushing his cheek. “You’re real.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You got me out.”

 

Bellamy is feeling something in his chest crack, so his words are broken when he says, “Yes.”

 

Her lower lips trembles until her entire face falls. Grabbing his shirt, Clarke pulls him closer until her forehead presses against his chest. With careful hands, he presses them against her back, pulling her in. Putting his chin on the top of her head, he holds her and lets her cry. Lets her weep. He restrains himself from falling apart because now is not the time. Now is not the time to be anything but there.

 

She’s impossibly small.

 

And impossibly important.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINE

 

For some reason, they think it’s best to send Indra.

 

Bellamy kind of gets it. He doesn’t enjoy the prospect of raising his voice at Indra, nor does he enjoy the idea of her brandishing her weapon at him when she inevitably unsheathes it at his unabashed candor. That said, he doesn’t want to speak with her at all.

 

“Bellamy, we need to open the conversation.”

 

“No we don’t.”

 

Bellamy brushes past Indra. “Bellamy, we need to open the—”

 

“No, we don’t!” Bellamy all but shouts, snapping his jacket in place. “Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m on watch for the next ten hours.”

 

“I got you out of that.” Indra states, not even moving to catch up with him. “Miller will be taking your place.”

 

She doesn’t need to, because he whips around. “I’m sorry?”

 

“I think that you participating in the watch will be distracting toward your council responsibilities.”

 

Bellamy tries to clamp down on his anger, but he’s struggling. Because ever since Clarke showed up at his door, he’s unable to get her expression out of his mind. The haunted, terrified, hopeful, and longing look she gave him, her hands cold against his skin. It’s haunted his dreams ever since.

 

He's spent the better part of the last week trying to keep a wide birth from Clarke. Honoring her request is harder than he anticipated. Often he catches she and Octavia practicing exercises in an open field, Clarke struggling to get her atrophied legs to function. It’s all he can do to keep himself from going over there whenever her legs falter and Octavia almost not catching her. Or entirely not catching her.

 

His mood has been declining accordingly.

 

“Was anyone planning on asking me about any of this? Or were you planning on talking to me at all? Can I go outside of my cabin?” he asks. “Have you and Madi decided that I can leave my own cabin?”

 

“Bellamy, you know that we need to get answers. If we’re about to go to war, we need to have as much information as possible. And I know that she’s really struggling, but—”

 

“Are you serious, Indra? Clarke’s been back for two weeks and she needs to be given time to—”

 

“We don’t have time, Bellamy and you know that!” Indra shouts. “She knows things that would save our lives. You don’t think Clarke Griffin would want to share that information with us, no matter the personal cost?”

 

“Of course she would!” Bellamy bellows. “Don’t you see that’s the issue! She would absolutely be willingly to go through everything she has been trying to ignore in order to save people. It’s on us not to ask that of her!”

 

“We don’t have a choice! We don’t have a choice. It’s horrible, but there’s nothing we can do about that. We need to get the information that Russel can’t – or won’t – give us.”

 

“Raven and Shaw haven’t seen anything on the monitors. We haven’t heard anything from Eligius. We have time—”

 

“We don’t have time!” Indra shouts, her hands hovering over her sword as Bellamy expects. “We don’t have time! When do you think will be the right moment? When they’re marching on our village? When they’re shooting at us? You know as well as I do that death comes when you least expect it. And I will not wait by as you throw all our lives in jeopardy because you’re afraid.”

 

“Are you not afraid, Indra?” Bellamy snaps. “Are you not afraid?”

 

“Of course I’m afraid! Only a fool would be on the cusp of war and not be afraid!” Indra shouts, stepping toward him so aggressively their chests almost touch. “And that’s why, as much as it pains me to say, we need to get Clarke in a room with the council and she needs to give us information that we can use to protect ourselves!”

 

“No!”

 

“Dammit Bellamy, use you head!” She shouts. “You know I’m right! You know we need that information! And I don’t relish in the idea of making her relive it, but that’s where we are! So you need to either get onboard, or you need to remove yourself from the situation!”

 

Bellamy clenches his fists, unable to respond. He turns away from Indra because he honestly can’t look at her in this moment. “You can’t ask me to ask her.”

 

“Bellamy—”

 

“Don’t ask me.”

 

Indra grows quiet. “I wouldn’t do that.” She states.

 

Whirling around, Bellamy asks, “What?”

 

Indra says, “I didn’t come here to ask you to talk to Clarke. I came here as a courtesy.”

 

Bellamy thinks of Octavia’s proclamation just days before. “Seems like everyone is all about extending me courtesy these days.”

 

“It’s because people respect you, you idiot. But we have to move forward. And unfortunately I do not have a choice in this matter.” Indra takes a breath. “We’re ordering Clarke to come to this evening’s council meeting. I won’t make you ask her.”

 

Bellamy sucks in a breath. “We were supposed to be better, Indra. We were supposed to be better this time.”

 

“I know.” She states. “Maybe we’ll get the opportunity some day.”

 

“This is wrong. This is wrong and you know it.”

 

“It is. It is wrong, but it’s less wrong than the other options.” She strides past him, going for the door. “And right now? That’s good enough.”

 

The door closes.

 

***

 

“Come on, you have one more step in you!”

 

“No, I don’t.” Clarke grumbles, gripping Octavia’s forearms. “I really don’t.”

 

“You do!” Octavia shouts. “Get off your ass and walk, dammit!”

 

“You’re such an ass!” Clarke shouts, her legs crumbling underneath her. Before she can fully faceplant onto the ground, Octavia takes all her weight. “Dammit!” She shouts, punching herself in thigh when it falters.

 

“Yeah, punch your leg! That’ll show it!” Diyoza yells from across the field, bouncing Hope on her knee. “Don’t be such an ass to yourself, Clarke. It’s unsportsmanlike.”

 

“Why are you even here?” Clarke shouts at her.

 

“I thought we bonded.” Diyoza drawls. “I’m here for moral support.”

 

“How about some actual support?”

 

“I’m good.” She says, making a face at Hope. “Right? Am I good? Are we good?”

 

Octavia is very bad at hiding her smile. “Having a baby’s softened her.”

 

“Okay, I’m being real here, my legs are killing me.” Clarke says. “Please, can you help me down?”

 

“Yeah, okay.”

Octavia gently lowers her to the ground, Clarke letting out a sigh once she’s sitting. “This sucks.” She says, hitting the ground half-heartedly.

 

“Yeah, it does.” Octavia agrees, joining her. She cocks her head and Diyoza comes over, holding Hope. Hope makes a happy noise, reaching her hands out to Clarke, who startles.

 

“May I?” Clarke asks.

 

“Don’t be ridiculous. The only reason I’m talking to you is because I hope you’ll be a babysitter.” Diyoza laughs, offering Hope to her.

 

Clarke takes Hope, who still reaches out and scrunches her fingers until she is able to touch Clarke’s face. Clarke softens at her touch, all the frustration with her barely-functioning limbs and weak body filtering away. Smiling at the baby, Clarke taps Hope’s nose with hers. “Hey there,” she says softly as the baby giggles.

 

Brushing back her wispy hair, Clarke says, “How do we go from here to this?” She says, unable to stop the watering of her eyes.

 

Octavia and Diyoza don’t answer right away. She knows they’re giving each other a look, but she focuses on baby Hope to keep herself from breaking down right there. When they take to long to answer, Clarke continues, “We have to do better. We wanted to for Monty and Harper, but for everyone. For Hope. For whatever future we’re supposed to have.”

 

“We all want to leave the world better than when we came into it.” Diyoza says. “They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions.”

 

“Well, if there is a hell, we all are gonna have a party once we’re all there.” Octavia says, nodding her head.

 

Clarke snorts, smiling broadly at Hope. “I am so in love, I can’t handle it.”

 

“Welcome to my world.” Diyoza states. “I never thought I could love anyone, honestly. After my father was murdered, I thought love was a weakness – that’s some bullshit I wish I knew was bullshit then. You tell yourself things to survive. Love isn’t a weakness. Anyone who tries to tell you that is doing their best to manipulate you. Love is what keeps us going.”

 

Clarke focuses on the baby’s face. Clarke can’t remember the last time she’s seen someone so small. So innocent. “I don’t think I can have kids.” She says thoughtfully, grinning when Hope grabs her cheek.

 

“What?”

 

“I don’t think I can have kids.” Clarke repeats. “After everything.” Her smile falters. “We never tell people the casualties of war aren’t always war – sometimes it’s parts of you.”

 

Octavia’s voice is gentle when she speaks. “W-Why don’t you think you can have kids?”

 

“Praimfaya.” Clarke states. “I was outside when the Death Wave hit. That amount of radiation – no one would be able to survive that normally. And since I did, I have to believe there are other ramifications to that.”

 

Octavia looks to Diyoza. “Have you asked someone to check you out?”

 

Clarke bows her head. “What good would that do? Just another thing the Ground took away from me.”

 

“Clarke—”

 

“Clarke?”

 

The three of them look up from where they sit to see Shaw approach them. He looks more uncomfortable than Clarke’s ever seen him, unable to look Clarke in the eye. Or Diyoza for that matter. He doesn’t need to say a word for Clarke to know what’s going on.

 

“They want my report of what happened when I was with Eligius.” Clarke states to Shaw, who rubs the back of his head.

 

“They want you in the council meeting this evening.”

 

Clarke feels like her entire body ices over at the confirmation, even though she knows it’s coming. Sucking in a breath, Clarke hands Hope back to Diyoza and tries not to curl onto herself. For a moment, she’s back, chained against a wall, her body unable to move. She isn’t removed until Octavia reaches out, grabbing her hand and pulling her back into reality.

 

Clarke peers up to Shaw. “Would you like to sit for a little while?” She asks.

 

Shaw startles. “You aren’t going to yell?”

 

Clarke sighs. “No,” she says. “I don’t feel like yelling at you.”

 

“Yeah, what did you do to draw the short straw?” Diyoza asks, patting the ground. “Why don’t you sit and stay a while? We were just talking about what war took away from us – I figure you have a few stories that may be applicable.”

 

Shaw looks at the three women as if they’re trying to trap him, which Clarke supposes they might be. But he ends up crossing his legs in the grass, sitting with all of them. “Heavy topic for such a beautiful day.” He says, sighing with relief. “I thought you might try to fight me.”

 

“I can barely get off the ground, do you think I’d be able to fight you?” Clarke laughs.

 

“I believe that you are creative and that goes a long way in war.” Shaw says with a half-grin. “I don’t underestimate you, Clarke. Even now.”

 

Clarke can’t help but smile to herself at that. “Nor you should.”

 

Diyoza hands Hope to Shaw, who giggle excitedly. “She loves him.” Diyoza groans. “I would say it’s a bad sign, but maybe she’ll have better taste in men than I do.”

 

“That’s not hard.” Octavia breathes.

 

“You wanna say that again, my dear?” Diyoza says flatly.

 

Octavia merely laughs. Shaw holds Hope close to his chest, turning back to Clarke. “You don’t have to be okay.”

 

“Seems like no one’s okay these days.” She mutters. “Shaw, what would you do? Tactically, with everything that’s going on?”

 

Shaw flinches. “What do you mean?”

 

“You know what I mean.”

 

Shaw looks at her the way he used to, before she went to Eligius. When they would have a cup of coffee early in the morning, trading war stories. Frowning, he holds Hope closer. “I would want to know what they wanted the nightblood for.”

 

Clarke stiffens, closes her eyes, and tells herself to breathe.

 

“And I’m not sure if you know. You may, somewhere, in the back of your mind. I don’t know. But I know that I would want to know everything.” Shaw states. “Of course, that is my military training. I would want to know everything possible to protect Detroit. Protect everything – and everyone I love. I would want to know, no matter how cruel it was. I would want to save Detroit.”

 

Clarke doesn’t say anything else. Her hands curl in the grass.

 

***

 

The truth is, Bellamy has seen Clarke drunk.

 

It was two months after they found the new planet. Tensions were running high within their group and Clarke was receding further and further away from her associations with the council. It wasn’t until he knocks on the door of their cabin, hoping to find Madi in regards to some Wonkru training does he stumble across a drunk Clarke.

 

It’s different than he imagined. Clarke was always such a serious person, he always expected a drunk version of her to be a more extreme version of that. What he wasn’t expecting was her legs barely visibly through the corner of the wall, waving jovially for him to join him. “Bellamy!”

 

“Clarke.” He chuckles, joining her on the floor.

 

“You know, I owe you a drink.” Clarke states, offering him a jar of something. Where she got it, Bellamy isn’t sure, but it’s half empty and smells like it could peel paint off of walls. “Why don’t you join me?”

 

Bellamy thinks about it. It’s a bad idea. He’s never truly experienced Clarke drunk and isn’t sure now is a good time. But Madi’s not in the cabin and Echo went to sleep long ago, so he finds himself saying, “Why not?” before joining her on the ground.

 

Bellamy decides to sit across from her so he can look into her eyes. Clarke is great with walls, but she can rarely hide behind her eyes. Facing her, Bellamy grabs the jar from her and takes a swig. “You do owe me. I can’t believe you remember.”

 

“I’ll never forget that day.” Clarke says, swiping the jar from him and taking a drink. “Never.”

 

Bellamy takes it back. “Me neither.”

 

“I wish I could.”

 

“Me too.”

 

He takes another drink. “So. Not that I haven’t wanted to see this, but what inspired this particular choice?”

 

Clarke steals the jar back and puts back a big pull, a few tears leaking out of her eyes. When she pulls it off her lips, she holds it to her chest and Bellamy instantly regrets his question. “Oh, Clarke, I—”

 

“Madi asked me to step down from the council today.” Clarke says, clutching the bottle. “After Russell’s comments to her – about me being her parental guardian. They – she, I guess – thought that it made her look weak.” Clarke’s lip trembles. “I suppose it does. How does the Commander fight against the Commander of Death?” She closes her eyes and takes another drink. “I hate that nickname.”

 

“Me too.” Bellamy offers, prying the drink out of her hand. “I was always partial to ‘Princess’ myself.”

 

The corner of Clarke’s mouth turns up. “Me too.” She says so softly, if he wasn’t focusing so intently on her, he would’ve missed it.

 

Drinking from the jar, Bellamy says, “It’s a foolish decision. Your opinion is needed.”

 

“Don’t be ridiculous.” Clarke says, stealing it back. “My opinion hasn’t been needed since Praimfaya.”

 

Bellamy startles. “Clarke—”

 

“You know it’s true.” Clarke sighs. “You guys don’t need me anymore.”

 

“We do, Clarke.”

 

“No, you don’t.”

 

“We do.

 

“Bellamy, you can’t speak to that.”

 

“Fine, I do.”

 

Clarke stares at him, her bright eyes dim with alcohol and expression falters. “Bellamy—”

 

“I don’t know what people are thinking and I’m not going to lie to you.” Bellamy states. “But I need you.”

 

Clarke holds her drinks. “You don’t.”

 

“Who are you to tell me what I need.”

 

Clarke’s eyes flit up to him. “Maybe there was a time you did. There was a time when you and I were necessary. You still are. I’m not.”

 

“Clarke—”

 

“Please, just let me drink this and melt down.” Clarke cries. “Because tomorrow I won’t be able to melt down. Tomorrow, people will find out I’ve been asked to step down and they’ll want me to show any sign of weakness. And if I’m going to melt down, I’d rather it not be in the eyes of everyone who’s waiting for it.”

 

Bellamy knows she has a point. He wants to argue, but he knows it’s a losing battle. So instead he grabs the jar, takes another pull, and sets it in between the two of them. “Okay, then melt.”

 

Clarke frowns. “What?”

 

“You want to melt, melt! I won’t say anything.”

 

A giggle escapes her throat. “Bellamy, come on—”

 

“I’m gonna ask you questions and you have to answer me.”

 

“I’m not going to answer anything I don’t want to, thank you very much.”

 

“You are clearly not drunk enough for this game.”

 

“Neither are you!”

 

“Then get me my own glass!”

 

Clarke laughs. “No, we can share. Because we’re supposed to be sharing, right?”

 

“Depends on who you ask.” Bellamy murmurs, swiping it. “Do you even want to be in the council? Making those decisions again?”

 

He almost takes his words back, but Clarke seems to be thinking it over. “I don’t know. After the Death Wave, I thought I was done with all of that. But I thought I was done altogether, so what did I know?”

“Not funny.”

 

Clarke takes the drink and points at him. “Kinda funny.” She says, drinking. “I mean, I never thought I’d be in charge of anything. I was supposed to train to be a doctor and then live an average life on the Ark.”

 

Bellamy snorts. “Yeah, you screwed that one up.” He says, causing Clarke to laugh. He would never says something like that, so maybe the alcohol is affecting him more than he anticipated.

 

“I don’t really want to be in charge. I mean, I’ve never really wanted to be in charge, but I was so afraid all the time of what would happen if I didn’t voice my opinion, that I kinda asked for it.” Clarke says.

 

“So maybe this isn’t the end of the world?”

 

“Do I want to spend hours in the council arguing over land rights? Obviously not. But do I relish the idea of Madi cutting me out in all the ways that makes her look weak to Wonkru? Also obviously not. It reminds me of Lexa a bit – and not in a way I care for.”

 

Bellamy narrows his eyes. “What do you mean.”

 

Clarke waves him aside. “It doesn’t matter.” She states. “I need to stop focusing on the past, it seems.”

 

“Through history we learn from our mistakes.” Bellamy offers. “Actually, if the human race looked to its past more, perhaps it wouldn’t have blown itself up.”

 

“Twice.”

 

“Twice.” He agrees. His feet are feeling a bit tingly, which he knows is a warning sign, but it doesn’t stop him from taking another drink. He likes this too much – this honesty he rarely gets from Clarke. From himself, for that matter. “I have a question for you.” He says before his rational mind can stop him.

 

“Hmm?”

 

Bellamy stares her directly in the eyes. “What were you going to say to me that day?”

 

Clarke knows exactly which day he’s referring to. He knows she does. Even when she says “Which day?” offhandedly, he knows she knows.

 

“Praimfaya. Before we were separated.”

 

He watches a flurry of emotions scatter across her face. A few times she opens her mouth to say something, but apparently thinks better of it. Finally she says, “What were you going to ask me at the river when you thought we wouldn’t see each other again?”

 

Bellamy’s taken back to that day. It seems like such a long time ago – except like it’d just happened. He remembers the relief he felt when he pulled open the body bag and it wasn’t her – so much so, he felt guilty for it. “I asked you first.” He says petulantly, because it’s the only thing he can think of.

 

Clarke smiles at that. “Well,” she states, grabbing the jar, almost empty, between the two. “I’d imagine what we planned on saying was relatively similar.”

 

“Yeah,” Bellamy says, stealing it back and lost in a different time. “I suppose it was.”

 

***

 

Bellamy arrives to the council tent a bit early, hoping to calm himself down before anything happened. What he doesn’t expect is Clarke is already there, sitting in a chair with her legs in front of her and hands in her lap. He almost walks right back out when Clarke looks up at him, blinks, shudders, and returns her gaze to her lap. “Uh, I can come back.” He states, trying not to crumple under her untrusting gaze.

 

“No, its okay.” Clarke says. “I got here early because I didn’t want an audience as Octavia helped me walk. I know that I’m not tip top shape, I don’t care for highlighting it.”

 

“Yeah, you never have.” Bellamy chuckles, taking a seat across from her. There’s an entire table in between them.

 

Clarke smirks. “You know, I’ve been thinking about it. This is the first council meeting I’ve been invited to since Madi asked me to leave.” She says. “You’ve redecorated.”

 

“Yeah, the old tent we used to meet in was just too drab for Murphy.”

 

“I should’ve figured Murphy would’ve been the catalyst.” Clarke says with a weak smile. “Can I ask a favor?”

 

“Of course.”

 

“Can you sit next to me?” She asks, unable to look him in the eye. “I-I’m afraid of this meeting. Now, if you tell anyone that, I’ll deny it, but I’ve been dreading it since I realized this all wasn’t a dream. I knew it would happen, but…” Trailing off, she focuses on her wringing hands. “Would you sit next to me? A-And say something if I can’t.”

 

Bellamy feels like, for the first time since he can remember, that he can breathe. Carefully getting out of his seat, he makes his way toward Clarke, seating himself next to her. “Of course, Clarke.” He states.

 

The corners of her mouth turn up. “Thank you.” Clarke says.

 

He tries to indiscreetly scoot his chair over next to her, but it makes an awful sound that causes her mouth to turn up at it. “I miss you.” She says softly, untangling her fingers. Leaving one dangling off of the chair’s arm, she extends it enough for Bellamy to take it.

 

They’re cold, like every other time he’s embraced her since they’ve gotten back. But he squeezes them and they grow slightly warmer, as does her. Like the sleep that’s been avoiding him gradually comes back and he’s able to catch it. “I miss you too,” he says honestly because it seems like the time for it.

 

“I miss my best friend.” Clarke states, staring at the map that’s curled on the table in front of them. “And I hate that it’s hard for me to look at you, because I miss you.”

 

“I’m not the biggest fan myself.”

 

“Please know I want to.”

 

“I do.”

 

“Alright.”

 

“Alright.”

 

He does know. It’s the curse of him and Clarke. Like the binary suns revolving around the planet, never touching each other. He holds her hand and fixes his gaze forward, never reaching hers. It’s their curse. One he doesn’t know how to break, but one he’ll continue to fight until he finds a way.

 

“Good, you guys are here.” Indra marches into the tent and Bellamy’s surprised when Clarke keeps his hand, no matter how conspicuous. “I was hoping you’d get here beforehand. Clarke, I wanted to walk you through the intentions of this meeting.”

 

Clarke holds his hand tightly. “I thought the intention was for me to tell you what I know about Eligius.”

 

“It is – to an extent. They want you to give a full account of what you experienced up until you can’t remember. Any detail – anything. Nothing is too small.”

 

Clarke nods, unable to answer.

 

“Please don’t be thrown by what might be perceived as cold questioning. You have to remember, there are thirteen commanders in the Flame. They’ve survived their fair share of wars and are going to be encouraging harsh questions.”

 

Bellamy tries not to reveal too much of his displeasure on his face. “So you’re here to tell Clarke not to hold Madi accountable for her actions.”

 

“You and I both know the Flame comes with responsibility.” Indra snaps, eyes sharp. “One we all knew the consequences of.”

 

Bellamy clenches his jaw, knowing he can’t say anything.

 

“Do you understand, Clarke?”

 

Clarke nods, still looking at the map on the table. “Do you think humans will ever tire of war?”

 

“I don’t know.” Indra replies. “But I do believe in balance. And I know I will never tire of a sunrise.”

 

Clarke smiles to herself as people filter in, no one seemingly surprised at the two close to each other. Bellamy nods to Raven to come sit close, who only narrows her eyes and seat herself on the other side of him while Shaw takes the open seat on the other side of Clarke. Bellamy frowns at this, trying to get some sort of non-verbal answer out of Raven, who merely folds her arms an looks ahead.

 

Shaw nudges Clarke’s side. “Just remember the breathing techniques I taught you. And if you ever feel overwhelmed, it’s alright to take a break.”

 

Clarke shakes her head at this, squeezing Bellamy’s hand.

 

When Madi enters the room, she scans until she finds Clarke. It’s the softest her expression has been in over a year, and it’s almost heartbreaking to see. Bellamy all but holds his breath when Madi hesitates, staring at Clarke.

 

He knows she wants to run to her. Clarke even leans forward, her eyes shining.

 

When Madi turns to go into the Commander’s chair, Clarke falters. She shifts in her seat, closing her eyes. Bellamy watches as everyone pretends not to notice, squeezing her hand.

 

“Clarke, I imagine you know why you’re here?” Madi starts.

 

“You wanted me to recount everything I remember in Eligius.” Clarke states. “Anything that could explain their need for nightblood.”

 

“Correct.”

 

There’s a strange ticking sound somewhere in the cabin. Bellamy frowns at it, the noise scratching the back of his mind. It’s annoying more than anything, but he can’t help but notice how Clarke stills as she starts.

 

“Originally, I mainly sat in on low-level government meetings.” Clarke says, growing pale. “Meetings where not much was said or done.”

 

“What were the topics in the meetings?” Indra asks carefully.

 

“Borderlines and food rations – things we would meet on, but not in a high profile way. They didn’t like my taking notes, but after a while, I brought my sketchbook so many times, they just seemed to give up.”

 

“What did you sketch about in those meetings?” Madi asks.

 

“I-I—” Clarke stammers, eyes falling. “I think mainly the people? I figured if I took notes of anything important, they wouldn’t let me continue to bring things in. It wasn’t until a few months into my living there was I invited to more secret meetings.”

 

“Who attended them?”

 

Clarke winces, her lip trembling as she tries to remember. Bellamy looks around for the source of the ticking noise, but doesn’t find one. “U-Uh, um, a lot of government officials.” She scratches the back of her neck and winces. “It sounds like there’s something…” Trailing off, she continues. “But the leader of Eligius is a man who goes by Justice Mulroy.”

 

“Who’s that?”

 

“He’s sort of the equivalent of the Chancellor or Commander.”

 

“Why have I never met with him?” Madi demands, eyes blazing.

 

Clarke glances around the room, as if looking for something. “He doesn’t interact with the public often. I can count on one hand the amount of times – is someone clicking something?” She asks and everyone startles. She pulls her hand out of Bellamy’s in order to gesture around the room. “I-I think someone is – or maybe – I think that there’s a—” She smiles off handedly at everyone. “There’s a painting in his office – can you hear that?”

 

Bellamy casts a glance at Shaw, who looks more murderous than he’s ever seen him.

 

Shaking her head, Clarke continues, “Justice Mulroy is brought for the big picture decisions. He’s the one who turned down my request to—seriously, is no one else hearing that?”

 

“Clarke, is everything okay?” Bellamy asks cautiously.

 

“Yeah, I just… it’s…” Taking a breath, she says, “Anyways—”

 

“Maybe we should stop.” Shaw offers, eyeing the room. “We can pick up another day.”

 

“We need answers as soon as possible.”

 

“No, I can—” Clarke starts, but then her eyes grow distant.

 

Suddenly there’s a loud noise outside of the cabin, slamming so hard the windows rattle. “What the hell—” Indra breathes, standing to look toward the door.

 

Bellamy isn’t looking at the door though.

 

Quicker than he can explain, Clarke is on the ground, hands covering her head and entire body quaking from head to foot. “Clarke?” He asks, eyes wide. Falling to his hands and knees, he brings his head eye level with hers, still planted against the floor. “Clarke, are you okay?”

 

“Please don’t.” She breathes, barely intelligible through her arms. “Please don’t.”

 

The ticking sound still is playing on. Bellamy whips his head up, but Shaw seems to have caught on before he has. “Whoever is doing that better shut it off before I do something I won’t regret later.” He demands, glaring around the room. Everyone glances at each other, trying to decipher the source of the noise.

 

It stops.

 

Bellamy doesn’t have time to figure out who was the culprit or even what it means. Instead, he lies on the ground next to her and says, “Clarke, listen to me. You’re not there. Clarke, you’re not there.”

 

“Please don’t.” is the plead in return. “Please.”

 

The door swings open to the cabin, causing everyone around the table to startle. “What is going on?” Madi demands, eyes wild at the unfolding chaos before he.

 

“Please don’t.”

 

Miller strides into the room. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but there is a representative of Eligius here.”

 

Even Bellamy ices over at his words. He’s afraid of getting off the ground, so instead, he grabs Clarke’s hand again, hating how she shudders under his touch. Madi stands at this. “They sent someone?”

 

“A group of people, actually. Not an army, but negotiators. They want to have a peaceful meeting regarding the return of the Ambassador.”

 

Madi nods. “Okay, when did they have in mind?”

 

“They say Clarke has to come.”

 

Bellamy can’t help but still and glance to Murphy, who’s leaning across the table at this. “I’m sorry?” Madi asks.

 

“They say if an agreement is to be met, Clarke needs to be present as our Ambassador of their people. That it is the way diplomatic relations should be held.”

 

“Are they insane?” Murphy shouts from the other side of the table. “They think that we’re just going to send her back to them? Like nothing happened?”

 

“I don’t think that’s what they meant.” Miller says. “I think they just want her present for the meeting as a representative.”

 

“Just like they wanted her present in their city as a representative?” Raven snaps, rounding on Miller.

 

He puts his hands up. “I’m just the messenger.”

 

Madi hesitates. Bellamy whips his head in her direction. “Madi, you can’t be seriously entertaining this! There’s no good reason they want her there!”

 

“Please don’t.”

 

“Tell them we’ll discuss it. And tell them I want Justice Mulroy present if we’re ever going to have any negotiating.” Madi states and Miller nods, leaving the cabin. Her stony expression falters. “How’s Clarke?”

 

Murphy shoots a glare in his direction, the knot in Bellamy’s stomach only worsening. Finally, she turns her head toward Bellamy, her eyes swimming with tears. “Do you know what the issue with horrible things is?” She asks, her voice rough. “All the things we do to hide it from ourselves.”

 

Bellamy doesn’t know how to answer that.

 

“Mount Weather used a wall and a sterile hospital in order to keep themselves from really looking at what they’re doing. That makes sense. I wouldn’t want to see it either.” Clarke continues, words almost monotone.

 

Bellamy points at Shaw. “Get Abby, now.”

 

He’s out the door before Bellamy can say anything else.

 

“Other people use art, did you know that?” Clarke asks, untangling her hand from her hair. She brings it next to her face, her fist close to her chin. With a single finger, she reaches out and taps the floor in a steady rhythm. “Isn’t that terrible?”

 

“Clarke,” Bellamy states, brushing her hair out of her face. “Can you try to sit up?”

 

Her finger taps against the ground again and again. “But I think that’s because humans always repeat history. It’s like a waltz, you know?”

 

“Please, try to sit up—”

 

“One, two, three, one, two, three,” she mutters to herself. “Peace, war, death, peace, war, death, one, two, three, one, two, three…”

 

“What the hell is going on here and why wasn’t I informed?” Abby snaps, throwing the door open. As soon as she catches sight of Clarke on the ground, she yells, “Don’t just stand there! Get me a glass of water!”

 

Bellamy allows himself to be shoved out of the way, Abby running her fingers through her daughter’s hair. He chooses to ignore the things the woman is saying because it feels too intimate to listen in on. Instead, he moves toward where Murphy, Raven, and Shaw are huddled in the corner. “Guys,” he says in a low voice, making sure not to catch the attention of Madi or Indra. Madi’s focused on Clarke in a heartbreaking way that Bellamy can’t give too much thought to at the moment.

 

“Bellamy, it’s time.” Murphy states.

 

Taking a breath, Bellamy shakes his head. “It’s not time, Murphy.”

 

“Dude, you said—”

 

“I know what I said.” He states. “It has to be an absolute last resort.”

 

“They’re already talk about her—”

 

“Going to a meeting, Murphy.”

 

“Does that look like a person who can handle that kind of meeting?” Raven gestures at Clarke and Abby on the floor. “Far be it for me to agree with Murphy—”

 

“Rude.”

 

“—but he has a point! I mean, Clarke won’t even interact with me. Shaw is teaching her techniques to help her anxiety… she’s not even standing on her own yet! How are we going to justify sending her back to the city that’s doing that to her?”

 

Bellamy clenches his jaw. “We can’t.” He admits. “But if we leave right now before peace negotiations, we could be condemning everyone to war and death.”

 

“This is bullshit!” Murphy hisses. When Madi turns to them, Raven smacks his arm. “You promised.”

 

“And I’m still promising. But trust me when I say now’s not the time.”

 

Murphy shakes his head. “Before we knew she was alive, it was all go, go, go. Figure stuff out, no matter the cost. But now that she’s here and back, we have to be cautious to not anger anyone?” He throws his hands up. “Whatever. If anyone needs me, I’m on my way to be banned from the med tent again.”

 

Raven and Bellamy watch him slam the door behind him. “He has a point, Bellamy.” She states.

 

“He’s annoying like that.”

 

“I’ve been with you on this, but—”

 

“I know, Raven.”

 

“Okay.” Nodding to Shaw, the two of them follow Murphy out the door.

 

Bellamy doesn’t leave, though. He stays until Abby is able to coax Clarke up. He stays as she speaks to her. He stays after they leave, Madi and the rest of the council following after.

 

He stays until the suns settle.

 

Approaching the table, he peers at the map. It’s odd it’s never occurred to them to make it into one piece. He looks down to see pieces of Clarke’s sketchbook from her early morning hikes tacked together, showing the different areas of the planets. Running his fingers down the river that separates their village from Eligius, Bellamy closes his eyes.

 

He stays until he can convince himself that he’s making the right decision.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TEN

 

Clarke is sitting out on the edge of the village property, in sight from the mess hall, but far enough away to take a breath. After finally being able to walk with only the help of a cane, Clarke manages to get up one morning and hobble her way somewhere quiet.

 

It’s the first time she’s been alone since coming back to the village, unable to shake her babysitters, no matter how good intentioned they are. She lets out a shaky breath as she watches the sunrise illuminate the sky with brilliant colors. Clarke dreamt about this. She dreamt about the colors that were so different to the ones in the cell. For every grimy green, there was a brilliant crimson that lit up the sky. It kept her going – the concept of more, when ‘more’ seemed so unreachable.

 

Stretching her legs out, she tries to ignore how her body protests at the simple movement. Sure, they’ve grown stronger and the aches and pains have dulled, but it’s still there, like a presence that isn’t likely to go away anytime soon. Clarke pulls her sketchbook out of her back pocket, the pages shoved back together after weeks of study. Exhaling, she opens the first page, running her fingers down the page.

 

The first few drawings are innocent enough. In fact, Clarke vaguely remembers drawing them. Despite her anger and sorrow about being asked to go with Eligius, she remembers being fascinated by the buildings and the infrastructure built within a matter of two centuries. She remembers sketching the trees they’ve allowed within their city limits, amazed at the way their organic shapes held up against the harsh concrete.

 

As she goes further into the sketchbook, Clarke’s chest seizes. She can note the moment she started drawing strategically, instead of creatively. Her mind is filled with the frantic lines and quick sketches she would do in between her escorts to and from meetings. When her security detail doubled for ‘her safety,’ but she knew it was simply for them to keep an eye on her.

 

Slamming the sketchbook shut, Clarke tells herself she’s out. She spoke with Diyoza privately on how she dealt with her own trauma from the war – Clarke can’t imagine someone who was a Marine turned revolutionary wouldn’t have some coping mechanisms – and she recommended telling herself things she knows to be true.

 

So Clarke tries it.

 

Her name is Clarke Griffin. She’s now twenty-six years old. Her mother is Abby Griffin. Her father was Jake Griffin. She grew up on the Ark space station. The Earth was destroyed. She had a hand in—

 

Clarke shakes her head, setting the sketchbook aside and doing her best to focus on the sunrise before her. She’s so focused on the colors in the sky, she doesn’t hear the crunching of leaves or footsteps until they’re right beside her. She startles, looking up to see Raven standing above her, ponytail swinging from her quick walk. “Should you be out here by yourself?” Raven asks, frowning.

 

“Probably not.” Clarke answers honestly. “I can’t stand not being independent, though.”

 

“So once you were able to move your legs at all, you decided to go rogue. I get that.” Raven says, taking a seat next to her. She offers Clarke a small cup of coffee in a tin mug, the drink steaming.

 

Clarke isn’t sure how Raven got her hands on something so valuable in these parts, but supposes Raven could get anything she wanted if she put her mind to it. Taking it gratefully, Clarke holds it close to feel the warmth against her skin. “I suppose out of anyone, you would understand.” Clarke mutters, taking a sip.

 

Raven doesn’t respond, but drinks her own. “You know, I’m fighting with Shaw right now.” Raven says, plowing right into whatever conversation she came to say. Clarke should’ve expected it – tact was never her strong suit.

 

“You are? What about?”

 

“You, mostly.” Raven states. “About what you need, how to deal with you, what we should do. He’s under the impression that I should wait for you to come to me.”

 

Clarke almost laughs at that. “Clearly you took his advice.”

 

“I’ve never been particularly good at following orders I don’t agree with.” Raven smirks. “Nor am I good at leaving something that needs fixing.”

 

“You think we need fixing?”

 

“Don’t you?”

 

Clarke holds the cup of coffee close to her chest. The tin burns a bit against her skin as she holds it there, the steam tickling under her chin. “I suppose we do.”

 

Raven’s smile falters into something humorless. “I’ve been thinking about what I’d say to you, once you were back. I wrote a few things down – practiced them on Jordan. He accepted my apology every time, but I don’t think he’s capable of not accepting someone’s apology, you know? So I figured he wasn’t that helpful in the long run.”

 

Clarke can’t help but smile at that.

 

“Then I thought I’d try to explain it from my side, but everything I came up with sounded like I was blaming you.” Raven sighs. “Which wasn’t what I wanted either.”

 

Raven leans back on her elbows, her ponytail swaying against the grass, eye lit up by the colorful sky. “Then I started thinking, what would I say to people if I had another chance?” She says distantly, eyes watering. “I thought of Finn, and how if I had time with him before he died, I would tell him that I would always cherish him as my first love. That I wasn’t angry and didn’t blame him. And that I thought he was a good person, even in the end.” Raven turns to Clarke, her eyes shining. “I think he would’ve liked to hear that.

 

“I would tell Sinclair that I never really had a father, you know? Someone to look up to – who would have my back no matter what. Someone I could learn from, but also lean on. I would tell him I loved him and every day I had with him meant so much to me.”  Raven sucks in a breath.

 

“And I would tell Clarke Griffin, that even though I wasn’t born with a sister, I was given one.” Raven states, her words trembling. She looks Clarke in the eyes and Clarke feels exposed – raw. It takes everything she has not to avert her gaze, feeling her own tears welling. “I would tell Clarke Griffin that, even though I held her to a high standard – higher than anyone else, giving her hard times in the worst scenarios – it’s because I knew she could handle it. Because I’ve never met such a strong, fierce, and clever person. I would tell her if given another chance to say something to her, I would say that I love her. And I’m sorry for everything that happened and my part in it. And if I ever made her feel like I didn’t care, or didn’t love her, I’m sorry for that too. Because nothing could be further from the truth.”

 

Clarke wipes a few tears away, but doesn’t really see the point, seeing as they both are slowly descending into blubbering messes. Clarke tries to remember the last time she saw Raven cry, and can’t put her finger on it. Something about that makes her feel safe with Raven in this moment. “I love you too, Raven.” Clarke says. “I think that’s why it hurt so much.”

 

Raven nods, pinching the bridge of her nose as she tries to collect herself. She sucks in a few shuddering breaths as she calms, Clarke placing a hand on her shoulder. “I thought you weren’t on our side anymore.” Raven says, her words cracking. “I didn’t know how to fight against you while still loving you, so I convinced myself I didn’t.”

 

Clarke thinks to her last time on earth, as if she can feel Echo’s chokehold in this moment as Raven watches. Doesn’t say a thing. Sipping her coffee, Clarke says, “I suppose I get that.”

 

“It doesn’t excuse it.” Raven says. “Doesn’t excuse any of it.”

 

“We all made decisions then,” Clarke says. “Decisions we wish we could take back.”

 

“I wish the universe would stop fucking with us.” Raven says, scowling at the suns. “Even on a different planet, it’s still an asshole.”

 

“Trust me, I’m painfully aware.” Clarke says, stretching out her legs.

 

“Yeah, I suppose you of all people would be.”

 

The two sit in a comfortable silence, sipping their coffee, their legs strewn out in front of them. Clarke has always admired Raven’s perseverance through her injury, but isn’t sure she ever understood the challenge it brings until this moment. She still has hope that one day she’ll be able to regain her legs entirely, while Raven’s remain strapped in a brace.

 

“So where do we stand?” Raven asks bluntly. “Sorry, I suck at small talk.”

 

Clarke lets out an easy laugh. “It’s refreshing to know not everything’s changed.” Setting her empty mug aside, Clarke genuinely thinks about it. There’s an underlying anger that she can’t shake – and underlying anger toward everyone that she can’t seem to smother, despite her best efforts.

 

Then again, she longs for the intimacy she once shared with people. Clarke looks at her life and thinks about how she spent most of it alone. Locked away in solitary, on the Ground after Mount Weather, roaming the earth after Praimfaya… locked in a cell in Eligius’ city. She’s been alone more than she’s been with people and there’s a part of herself that never really recovered from the pieces she missed. She’s always looked at everyone as if separated by glass – or more realistically, cell bars.

 

Her anger is present. Frustratingly present. But she doesn’t have any hesitation when saying, “I think we all need to move forward, otherwise we’ll be stuck doing what we’ve done before.” Clarke takes Raven’s hand. “You’ve made more broken things work in the past, haven’t you?”

 

Raven beams. “I’m a wizard with broken things.”

 

“I’m not worried about it at all.” Clarke says with a soft smile. “Plus, it won’t be just you. You’ll have help. I may not be as good with equipment as you, but your boyfriend said I was terrifyingly creative, so that has to count for something.”

 

“Yeah, he’s a big fan.” Raven snorts. “He told me when we first got here I was being stupid by not talking to you.”

 

“Can’t say I disagree with him.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” Raven sighs. “It’s not often that I like to admit that I’m wrong, but this is one of those rare instances. We shouldn’t have pushed you away. And we should’ve fought harder for you to stay with us. Sending you to Eligius without so much as a background check was foolish and you’re the one who had to pay the price. I’m so—”

 

“Raven, I get it—”

 

“No, please, I need to say this.” Raven places a hand on top of the one Clarke has on hers. “It was wrong. And I’m so sorry for my part in it.”

 

Clarke nods. “Thank you.” She says, because she isn’t sure what else she should say. A part of her wants to say that she doesn’t need to apologize, but for the first time, Clarke realizes, she needs to hear it. She needs someone to say they didn’t react the way they should’ve. “That means a lot.”

 

“I should’ve come to you sooner. I would’ve, if Shaw hadn’t been trying to convince me it was a bad idea.”

 

“Honestly?” Clarke thinks about it. “I don’t know if we would’ve had this ending if it were sooner.”

 

“Don’t tell Shaw that.”

 

Clarke can’t help but laugh at that, and a few seconds later, Raven joins in. They feed off of each other and there’s something that loosens in Clarke’s chest. Her heart, which feels like it’s been plastered back together, chips off a bit of ice and she feels a little more like herself.

 

“Oi!” A shout echoes across the valley and soon the two are bombarded by a very sleepy Murphy. He plops next to Clarke, offer her a morning ration, and then stretches across her to give one to Raven. “Has anyone told you two that it is very early in the morning?”

 

“Then why are you awake?” Raven asks, taking a large bite.

 

“I have watch in two hours. Apparently the only thing they think I’d be good at is being shot at.”

 

“You are very good at that.”

 

“Woah, too soon.”

 

“It’s been almost two years!”

 

Clarke is happy to have the two of them speak over her, her quiet morning of solitude turning into something quite louder, but nothing she minds. In fact, she feels a bit warmer, a bit lighter, like the way the sky is changing before her eyes. “You should be put on the mess staff.” Clarke says offhandedly. “You’re an amazing cook.”

 

Raven says “He is?” at the same time Murphy proclaims “I am.”

 

“How long are you on watch today?” Clarke asks.

 

“They have us breaking into six hour shifts with a half hour break in the middle. Although I don’t know why we’re doing – they sent the negotiators, they wouldn’t attack before we have talks.”

 

“Do you think Madi will approve Russell going back with them?” Clarke asks, more to herself than a general question.

 

It doesn’t matter, because Raven answers anyway, “What would we do with him now?”

 

“I can think of a few things,” Murphy mutters, chewing his breakfast.

 

“Let’s keep it PG.” Raven states.

 

“It’s literally just the three of us, I think we can handle it.”

 

“Are you guys going?” Clarke asks, trying not to be too conspicuous with how much she wants the answer to be yes.

 

“I mean, they definitely need my amazing diplomatic disposition,” Murphy says, putting his hand against his chest. “I don’t think they’ll find anyone else more qualified.”

 

“Time has mellowed Murphy,” Raven laughs on her other side. “And I’d like to look these assholes in the face.”

 

“Fuck yeah.”

 

“You guys realize that the point of this is not to go to war, right?” Clarke asks, but she finds herself almost laughing all the same.

 

It’s not unnoticed by the other two, and they continue on about how much the group needs their diplomacy, and Clarke lets herself not be alone for a little while.

 

***

 

“Are we correct in our information that you have medical training?”

 

Clarke glances up from her sketchbook at the voice. She’s currently seated in a small park in the city up against a large tree, the shadows providing enough shade so she doesn’t sweat under the two suns. She’s enjoying working on some sketching by herself after a painfully dull meeting in the morning, giving her some time to calm down before the next.

 

“Uh, yes?” Clarke says, mainly because she doesn’t ever remember telling them that or how they would even get that information. “I do have some basic medical training.”

 

Russell steps into view, his silver hair glimmering in the bright sunlight. “I know it’s your personal time, but I was hoping I could convince you to come with me to our medical center. We’re a bit short staffed – and since the original crew was equipped with limited staff, medicine isn’t something we have in high commodity around here. I mean, we train as much as possible, but it takes more than a few courses.”

 

Clarke hoists herself to her feet, putting her sketchbook inside her bag. “I mainly learned from on the job training. My formal training ended around seventeen.”

 

“That seems like a story for another day,” Russell says with an easy smile. It would be simple to trust him without thinking too much about it. He’s charming in a way the Ground never afforded any leaders. They had to make too many decisions to be effortlessly easy with words. “Perhaps one of these days I can convince you to experience some of the more pleasant things our city has to offer. Not everything we do is a three-hour seminar on zoning restrictions.”

 

“I’d hope not,” Clarke offers. “Wouldn’t quite be the society someone would get excited about.”

 

“Oh, I know a few people who would love it if they could argue about that all day.”

 

“Then they really found their calling, didn’t they?”

 

“They really did.” Russell smiles. He takes them down a few winding roads, off the regular path of the city streets. “So, you’ve been here three months. What do you think so far?”

 

Clarke thinks about this for a second before answering. She knows she can’t be entirely honest – nor can she ignore it. Sure, the circumstance of her arrival to the city was less than ideal, but she still was her people’s Ambassador. “It’s all very impressive. Everything you’ve built in only two hundred years.”

 

“We had the great fortune of not needed to reinvent things. We simply had to remember how it was done in the first place. We had a bit of a leg up.”

 

“Still,” Clarke continues. “Sewage, city streets. Even functioning electricity. You’ve compressed hundreds of years of human invention into only two. I’d still think that’s impressive.”

 

“Thank you.” Russell peers at her. “Any feedback?”

 

Clarke knows not to take the bait. “I’m still making good use of my time while you’ll still allow me.”

 

“Well, we’ll be delighted with your presence as long as we have you.” Russell points down an alleyway and Clarke tries to tell herself it’s nothing. “You’re an interesting people. Violent, but I suppose you had no other option. We still haven’t really discussed what happened on earth, but if it was something that caused billions of people to become hundreds, I’m sure it wasn’t good.”

 

Clarke doesn’t respond to that.

 

“I do think we have a lot to learn from one another.” Russell continues. “There’s certain attributes your people have that I think we could learn a lot from. We’ve grown soft in our times here.”

 

“I don’t think it’s wrong to be soft.” Clarke counters. “We were all soft before the Ground hardened us.”

 

“Yes, I suppose you would view it that way.” Russell muses. “Anyway, here we are.”

 

He stops them in front of a large building with a red cross on it. “One of the first things our ancestors built was this medical building. They knew that regardless of the planet, it had the possibility to be hostile.”

 

“How was it when they first arrived?”

 

Pushing the door open, Russell waves her in. He greets the receptionist and the two are led to the back, where there are rows of beds lined. “It was challenging, as one can imagine. Despite being hospitable, it was a new climate, a hostile planet. Poisonous flora, alien fauna – it took our people years to figure out how to survive, and even then, they lost half their people.”

 

“I’m so sorry.”

 

“Well, we’re all here, aren’t we?” Russell gestures to the rows of beds, ladened with the sick. It startles Clarke at how many people are there. Dozens of sick Eligius lie in beds in carrying states of duress, moaning or crying. “I know that you’re here on a peace keeping mission, but any help you could give them would be appreciated more than you know.”

 

“Of course.”

 

Clarke moves into the room, eyeing all those who lie there. People flit around the beds, but Clarke understands what Russell’s saying – there are far too many sick for the amount of staff they have. Approaching an unattended bed, Clarke goes to the side and takes an elderly man’s hand. “Hi there. My name is Clarke. Would you mind if I took a look at you?”

 

The man jerks to attention at Clarke’s touch, eyes wide. “You have to help me.” He moans, pulling her close.

 

“That’s why I’m here.” Clarke insists. “I’m going to pull back the blanket, okay?”

 

When he doesn’t protest, Clarke pulls back the sheets and has to stop herself from gasping. Sores line his body and his skin is pale. Ghosting her fingers over the sores, Clarke has to shake her head. “No,” she breathes. “It can’t be.”

 

She doesn’t look up from her work, though. For some reason, she has a feeling half of this exercise was seeing what her reaction would be. So Clarke goes to work, putting a neutral expression on her face, and whispering kind words when she knows she can’t alleviate the pain.

 

***

 

It’s the night before the negotiation that Clarke decides she’s had enough. Her legs are strong enough to walk in small amounts, and definitely enough to walk on her own, so she waits until the village is quiet before sneaking out. Octavia isn’t in their cabin as she usually avoids confined spaces as much as possible – even cabins – so she doesn’t necessarily have to explain herself as she leaves. Clarke does, however, have to be weary of where Spacekru is because after her reconciliation with Raven, their protectiveness seems to have grown. She’s even caught the eye of Echo, whose stood several yards away, but surveying how she manages to get around now that her legs are helping a bit.

 

Opening the door to the cabin, Clarke peers around, trying to see if anyone’s lurking. She doesn’t spot anyone right off the bat, so she decides to take her chances, stepping into the clearing.

 

Her legs aren’t totally back and she has to ignore how they ache when she moves them forward, but she’s so thrilled she can use them, she can’t bring herself to complain too much. Even walking across the clearing hurts them a bit more than she’d like, but she’s determined.

 

It’s been far too long.

 

Clarke doesn’t even knock. She simply swings the door open and hears a collection of voices in the back room. Following the noise, Clarke sets herself when she sees Madi and Gaia at a table, pouring over maps and plans for the following day. They don’t even look up until Clarke clears her throat.

 

When their gazes snap up, Madi’s eyes grow wide. Clarke tells herself not to be deterred, focusing on Gaia. “I’m sorry to interrupt, but may I have a moment with Madi privately?”

 

Gaia’s eyes flick to Madi with the question, to which Madi nods. “Of course. I’ll see you first thing in the morning, Heda.”

 

“Thank you, Seda.” Madi says, watching her as she leaves the cabin.

 

It’s odd, how uncomfortable Clarke feels.

 

It occurs to her it’s the first time she’s been alone with Madi since she left for Eligius and something about that breaks her heart in a way that she could never express. “Madi,” Clarke starts. Moving around the table, she continues, “I like what you’ve done with your hair. It’s shorter than I remember.”

 

Madi’s hands go up to her braids. “It kept hitting me in the face.” Madi admits. “Gaia cut it a few months ago. No one could braid it like you did to keep it from tangling.”

 

Clarke smiles to herself at that, thinking of a simpler time when she would braid her hair in the sunlight on earth. It seems like such a long time ago, but Clarke has to remind herself that they’d destroyed the planet only two years prior. It’s painful to think about.

 

“I should teach someone then.” Clarke offers. “We can’t have the Commander stopping to fix her hair.”

 

Madi breaks into a grin at that. “I’m sure the other Commanders would be mortified.”

 

“Well, they can deal with it.” Clarke says playfully, but Madi’s grin falls all the same. “So, I’ve missed you. I was hoping I’d get an opportunity to catch up before tomorrow.”

 

Madi clears her throat. “Oh, yes. We can talk about the plan to—”

 

“No, I don’t really want to talk about that.” Clarke says, pointing to the chair. “May I sit? My legs aren’t quite what they used to be.”

 

“Oh, yeah!” Madi cries, almost tripping over herself to grab it. It strikes Clarke that it’s the most Madi-like action she’s seen in quite some time, she can’t help but chuckle. “I should’ve—”

 

“Don’t worry. I’ve got it.” Clarke says, pulling out the chair and sitting. “So, what has been going on the past year and a half?”

 

“Clarke—”

 

“What kind of stuff has Gaia been teaching you?” Clarke continues conversationally. “I see Indra has made it in your ranks as your second, which I think is a great choice. Indra was always such a strong—”

 

She shouldn’t be as surprised as she is when Madi launches herself at Clarke, wrapping her arms around her neck.

 

Madi’s cries grow as time continues, her shoulders shaking as she clutches Clarke’s shoulders. Clarke wraps her arms around the child, pulling her closer. Even though Clarke is precariously perches on a chair, she manages to maneuver the teenager so that she can collapse on a piece of it and weep.

 

She isn’t sure how long they sit there, but Clarke doesn’t care. Clarke lets Madi cry for as much as she is capable, the teen all but collapsing on her. When she quiets, Clarke takes out a few of her braids and runs her fingers through the kid’s hair like she used to when they looked up at the stars. “I-I’m so sorry,” Madi whimpers, the words almost too small to hear.

 

“This isn’t your fault.” Clarke states. When Madi begins to shake her head, Clarke puts her hands on either side and makes Madi look at her. “Madi, I’m serious, this isn’t your fault. You were doing what you thought was best for your people. We’ve all made decisions that have come at a cost.”

 

“I made a decision the Commanders wanted me to!” Madi cries, her face crumbling. “All of them! One person for the safety of an entire people! They said it was such an easy choice!”

 

“It was­—”

 

“Not for me!” Madi exclaims. “Because I need you! I do! And they don’t get that! No one does! I’m supposed to be strong and leader, but it’s so hard, Clarke! It’s so hard and I’m scared all the time and I—”

 

“It’s okay,” Clarke whispers, pulling Madi back in an embrace, running her fingers through her hair. “You are going to be okay.”

 

“I thought I killed you!”

 

Clarke stills at that and shuts her eyes. It’s far too much to put on a child. Every fear – every panic she had about Madi taking the Flame is staring her right in the face. She has to give herself a moment to calm down before she can say anything. “Firstly, you did not kill me. One, because I’m not dead. And even if I were, it would not be your fault. Do you understand me?”

 

“But—”

 

“Not your fault.” Clarke puts her in front of her. “I’m here for you, do you understand. Not as Wonkru or a part of your army. I’m here for you. Because I love you.”

 

Madi’s face cracks. “I love you too.”

 

Pulling her back in for a hug, Clarke says, “That’s enough for me. Do you understand?” She feels Madi’s hands grip her shirt tightly. “You’re enough for me. I don’t need you to be a commander. I just need Madi. You’re enough for me.”

 

Clarke stays the night. They talk until the sun starts to rise, raising beams of light into the cabin. It isn’t until Madi starts to drift off, the two in her bed while Clarke scratches her back, does the teen mutter, “What if they want you back for peace? What if they make me give you back?”

 

Clarke tries not to have a visceral reaction to that in front of the child. She’d be lying if she said it didn’t cross her mind, but she also isn’t sure if she can handle thinking about it too much. “I would do anything for you, Madi.” She responds, knowing the teen may not even be aware of what she’s saying with how tired she is. Even less of a possibility is that she even understands the answer.

 

Clarke leans her head against the wall, saying to herself softly, “But I really wish you wouldn’t.”

 

***

 

The morning they start their journey to the neutral agreed upon negotiation site, Bellamy’s anxiety has seemed to have tripled overnight. He’s expecting a tough journey, a tense group of companions, and a long day. What he doesn’t expect is both Octavia and Diyoza marching over to him as he shoulders his bag before going to meet up with the group.

 

“Are you sure this is a good idea?” Octavia is saying before she’s even next to him. “Clarke has just recently been able to walk again and this is four miles to the agreed location. Not to mention, I don’t think it’s a good idea to send her to confront the people who did this to her. I heard about what happened in the council meeting.”

 

“Then you join a very long list of people who don’t like this.” Bellamy sighs, running his hand down his face. “Listen, O, I appreciate your concern – I honestly do – but I can’t think of any other solution here. We can’t just keep one of their own, especially in protest of them having one of ours. All we can do is hope that the conversation goes well.”

 

“And if they ask for Clarke back?”

 

Bellamy closes his eyes, shutting that option out as he has for the past two days. “We’ll cross that if it’s suggested. Right now, I’m simply focused on keeping us out of war.”

 

“But we’re all so good at it.” Diyoza drawls, holding Hope on her hip. Bellamy opens his mouth to retort, but she smiles at him. “I’m not here to argue with you. Octavia and I know we’re not invited to this summit, but I wanted to convey this to you. As you’ve probably figured out, tapping and steady noise are a severe trigger to Clarke right now. I’m not sure why – I don’t even think she knows why – but anything of that nature is going to elicit an extremely violent response out of her. And if she’s in the room with those people, it’s going to be worse than the council meeting.”

 

Bellamy nods. “I know.”

 

“There are a lot of signs you can look out for if something is happening and she doesn’t say anything. Shaw will know the signs, but I always think it’s good to have a second set of eyes in case on of you are distracted. If she starts sweating without warning, starts looking all around her, shaking. These are usually signs that something’s triggering her and she’s on the verge of a panic.” Diyoza continues. “Now, I don’t know if the council was deliberate or not, but people are going to have to get aware really quickly about what they can’t do around her.”

 

“Right.”

 

“And if all else fails and you can’t do anything to stop it, know that sometimes a tight embrace can help with a panic attack. There’s something about constricting a person’s limbs when their panicking that helps them recalibrate. When they’re able to focus on the pressure of contact instead of everything else, they can regroup.” Diyoza finishes. “And remember, the final rule.”

 

“Which is?”

 

“Have fun and be yourself.” Diyoza smiles, bouncing Hope up and down.

 

Bellamy can’t help but snort at that, releasing some of the tension that he was inevitably building up. “I’m certain that’s important in a peace negotiation.”

 

“You’d be surprised.” Diyoza says seriously. “Never try to con a con man.”

 

Octavia crosses her arms. “Just… be careful, alright? I don’t like the fact that you’re going with a small group – without any back up.”

 

“That was a part of the agreed upon terms. Small delegation teams.” Bellamy says, even though he’s had the same worries. “It’ll be okay. But actually, while we’re gone—” Bellamy takes a breath. “I know it’s a lot to ask, but could you two maybe ask around about the tapping in the council meeting? It seems odd that something that specific to Clarke even happened. I dunno, I just have a bad feeling.”

 

“I was thinking the same thing.” Diyoza states. “I’ll ask around, see what I can kind.”

 

“I won’t ask because people won’t talk to me, but I’ll try to find something out.” Octavia offers. “Be safe big brother.”

 

She leans in to give him a hug, but the two of them falter. Sure, Bellamy’s talking with O again, but there’s something that’s still inherently broken between the two of them that he can’t bring himself to follow through. Instead, he simply nods and thanks them, turning toward where the group is huddling.

 

When he jogs to join them, Murphy drawls, “About time. I thought we were going to have to leave you. And I would hate to be murdered by you for leaving you.”

 

“Do you really think after everything, you’re the one who’ll kill me?” Bellamy jokes.

 

“You never know,” Raven offers. “He’s scrappy.”

 

“I am.”

 

Bellamy nods to Echo, who’s watching this all go down with amusement. She catches his gaze and offers a small smile – a kindness in such a tense prospect. Echo elbows Murphy for the fun of it, which launches him off into a rant that Bellamy knows by his tone has no end in sight. He uses this opportunity to find Clarke, who is tying her shoe at the back of the group next two Shaw, who is talking easily to her. She glances up at him with a smile as Bellamy approaches. “Anyways, I’m going to make sure Raven brought the radios. Hey Bellamy.” Shaw states as he leaves.

 

Now, there’s no way in this reality or another that Raven forgot anything, but Bellamy appreciates privacy offered by Shaw. “Hey,” he says as she straightens.

 

Clarke’s mouth turns up. “Hey.”

 

Her eyes narrow as she stares at his, letting out a small sigh of relief that he never would’ve caught if he wasn’t looking for something. “This is real,” he says all the same with a smile.

 

“I know it’s silly.”

 

“It’s really not.” Bellamy sighs and turns toward where the group is beginning to make their way out. “You up for this?”

 

“No place I’d rather be.” Clarke rolls her eyes.

 

“Seriously, Octavia mentioned you were just able to make long distances.”

 

Clarke laughs. “Now is the perfect time to test that theory.”

 

“Seriously, you don’t have to do this.” Bellamy says. He wants to offer her an out. Bellamy knows she won’t take it, but knows no one’s offered. There’s a small part of him that yearns for her to take it, to say that this is enough.

 

She doesn’t even respond.

 

“We could just go.” Bellamy continues. “Just take off somewhere. Forget everything else. I mean, you have great survival skills obviously. I’m fairly positive Murphy’s incapable of dying. Raven and Shaw can set up anything we need. Echo is an amazing hunter, so is Emori. Jordan is still learning, but he has an optimism we can literally find nowhere else.” He turns and smirks at her. “We could take off.”

 

Clarke snorts at that. “Wander into a new planet and hope it works out?”

 

“Hey, we’ve done it before. Besides, what’s wrong with a little chaos?” He asks, winking at her.

 

“You are ridiculous.”

 

Bellamy revels in the fact that she’s laughing at him. When she stumbles over the ground, Bellamy reaches out to stop her from falling. He holds her there, the two of them close. “I’m serious, Clarke.” He murmurs. “Let’s go away from here.”

 

Clarke grips his forearms. For a moment, it looks like she’s considering it. The group is pulling further away, but she doesn’t seem to want to break it either. Staring in his eyes, Bellamy feels stripped and raw. The intimacy feels like an energy between them – one both has no desire to break. “Maybe one day.” She finally says with a soft smile.

 

That always seems to be the answer.

 

Nodding, Bellamy smiles at her. “One day.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER ELEVEN

 

The two suns are particularly bright, beaming down on Bellamy as he hangs in the back with Clarke. They’re a bit of away from everyone else, but Bellamy actually appreciates it. He hasn’t been along with Clarke since the beginning of the council meeting, and he can’t help but feel something missing now that he’s really embraced the fact that he’s alone. Sure, he has his family from the Ark, but since he’s been avoiding Clarke, he’s felt distant from everyone else. It hasn’t gone over his head that Murphy speaks with her time to time, Raven made a pass at conciliation, and no one could avoid Jordan if they tried.

 

As he walked through the forest of the strange planet, Clarke next to him shouldering her bag, he takes a moment to appreciate having her close. This is the first time in ages that he’s felt like an united front with Clarke – he thinks of all the times in the bunker the two of them spoke, but it all was twisted in the end.

 

“You know, I think about being outside a lot more than most people I think.” Clarke says out of the blue. She closes her eyes as she walks and takes a breath. “There’s something very calming about being outside.” Opening an eye, she smiles at him. “Sometimes I’m nothing more than a deep breath away from not being in a cell. Listening to the sounds of the Ground, the wind rustling through the trees. You know, it was hard in isolation on the Ark because I’d never been on the ground.”

 

Bellamy stiffens at that. Clarke rarely spoke on her time in isolation, and when she does, he isn’t really sure what to do. It seems like something so personal – so intimate – that he’s afraid of saying the wrong thing. He isn’t sure if anyone else has had these conversations with her, but if he were a betting man, he’d guess no.

 

“But I have to remember sometimes that there’s wind that can blow through my hair. I can feel the ground underneath my feet. When I’m cold, it’s because there’s chill, not because the machines are freezing.” Clarke turns her head toward him and smiles softly. “Did you miss it on the Ark?”

 

Bellamy, albeit startled by the question, takes a moment before answering. “Being back in space was like going to black and white after living in color. Even though we were safe, even though it was the first time we were able to take a breath,” Bellamy remembers being stuck in the steel tube after escaping it and how claustrophobic it felt. Everything was wrong – the steel under his fingertips felt fake and the air circulating was stale. “I remember the first time I breathed in the ground air.”

 

“I remember that. I thought you were going to kill us all.”

 

“And I thought you were a loud-mouthed, privileged, ridiculous worrier.”

 

“Okay,” Clarke says, putting her hands up. “Your thoughts were way meaner than mine.”

 

“You thought I was killing everyone. You definitely win meaner.” Bellamy chuckles. “Honestly, you surprised me. I thought since I was older, people would just listen. You made my life a living hell, constantly arguing, making people want to follow you and not me.”

 

Clarke shrugs. “After a while, it was just fun.” Her eyes grow distant. “I sometimes wonder what would’ve happened if I hadn’t said anything. Just hung back and appreciated being on the earth.”

 

“We all would’ve died.” Bellamy states without hesitation.

 

Clarke frowns. “I’m sorry?”

 

“If you hadn’t stepped forward, I would’ve scared them into cutting off the Ark.” Bellamy says. “The Grounders would’ve killed Jasper, we would’ve gone to war, and we would’ve lost. It was your idea to use the dropship as a weapon. It was you who kept us healthy in a new environment.” Bellamy shrugs. “We would’ve been killed, and the Ark would’ve lost air, thinking we were all dead. We wouldn’t be here without you. I wouldn’t be here without you.”

 

Clarke’s mouth turns up a bit, but she drops her gaze. “It was simpler then. Things seemed so black and white. Right and wrong. But everyone had reasons to protect their people. Just like we did.”

 

“I suppose that’s how it is always.”

 

“Do you think that’s the case now?” Clarke asks, her words careful. Bellamy whips his head in her direction, unsure of what to do. “Do you think we’re back in a Grounder situation. A people trying to protect their land while we try to convince them why we deserve it more?”

 

Bellamy doesn’t answer right away. He ponders it. Really gives it time to process. But all he sees is Clarke chained against the wall and her skin stretched across her bones. “Maybe,” he says, his words tight. “But that doesn’t justify what they did to you.”

 

Clarke is quiet.

 

Bellamy decides that this means he can continue. “We used to think trading lives was justifiable. I traded lives for Octavia, hell, you traded lives for me. We were categorically putting certain lives above others. I think…” Bellamy sighs. “I think we forgot that we’re human too. We put people above others that we don’t know. I want to make myself very clear here, Clarke.” Bellamy stops in front of her and puts his hands up. “I don’t care what anyone says about their people. I put you before them.”

 

Clarke doesn’t even try to push past him. Her eyes are shocked and she stares at him – really stares – incredulous that he would say anything. “I’m sorry?”

 

“We have an opportunity to start over, Clarke.” Bellamy says, realizing he means so much more than what he’s simply saying. “Somewhere along the way, we thought people were numbers – wars were merely strategic. Monty and Harper say we need to be better and I think sometimes circumstance forces our hand into war, into new scenarios. But we forgot who was important to us – who are family was.”

 

Bellamy takes a moment.

 

He doesn’t know if it’s right. He doesn’t know if he’s merely making everything worse or if he should walk away now. But something seems to have shifted. She’s not looking like she’s afraid of him. Like she wishes he would stop. She’s looking at him like she can’t believe that he’s saying it – that she wants him to.

 

“So, no, to answer your question.” Bellamy states. “I don’t think this is like the Grounders. The moment they took you, they forfeited their capacity of moral high ground. They lied, they kidnapped, and they put you in a situation no one should never have to be a part of. They did this without any cause. Without any catalyst. I don’t have to worry about right and wrong here. I know what’s right.”

 

He feels oddly bold, outside in forest without anyone in earshot. He knows that they should be moving forward. Bellamy knows this, but he doesn’t care. Not sure what’s coming over him, he carefully puts his hand up against her face, just like she’d done to him in his cabin only a week prior. Surprisingly, she doesn’t flinch. He fully expects her to, but instead she’s still merely staring at him. “This is not a battle of land. This isn’t even a battle of moral high ground. This is wrong. And for the first time, I know looking back on it, I will be right.”

 

She doesn’t respond right away. For a second, he thinks she leans into his hand. “You know,” Clarke states, her words wavering ever so slightly. “I don’t think I ever thanked you.”

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

“I-I was thinking about it last night.” Clarke says. “I don’t think I ever thanked you for everything you did.”

 

“Clarke—”

 

“There was no reason for you to look into it. There was no reason for you to believe I was alive. Yet, you did it anyways. And convinced everyone else to. So thank you.”

 

“You don’t need to thank me.” Bellamy says, shaking his head. “I’d always—”

 

“Dude, are you guys coming or not?”

 

The shout all but makes them jump away from each other, as if the moment wasn’t of this earth. Something private for the two of them, that not even their friends were privy to see.

 

Bellamy shouldn’t be surprised when Murphy trudges his way over, the two now a foot apparat. “Seriously, you get stuck or something?”

 

“Um, my legs were hurting a little bit.” Clarke answers without looking at Bellamy. “Bellamy stayed behind while I stretched them.”

 

Murphy’s annoyance falls. “Oh, sorry. We should’ve offered to take a break.”

 

“We’ve only been walking for like, twenty minutes.” Clarke continues smoothly. “We can’t stop every I ache.”

 

“We damn well can. They can wait on us, the bastards.” Murphy drawls. Then, he wraps an arm around Clarke and leads her forward, regaling her with a story from the day before.

 

They aren’t more than a few yards ahead when Clarke turns to look at him. He tells himself that it’s to make sure he’ll catch up, but there’s something about her expression that he knows that he’s merely lying to himself.

 

***

 

It’s been two weeks since Octavia left her room.

 

Clarke paces, unable to sleep – unable to think. She tries to think of a way to get a message back to her people, to anyone, but she knows she’s being watched. If they think she doesn’t see the people turn corners as soon as she looks behind her shoulder. Even the room that she once marveled at – it had a bed and running water – slowly revealed itself for what it was: a prison.

 

Wringing her hands, she flips through the pages of her sketchbook, trying to figure out anything else she could draw that wouldn’t be suspicious.

 

Clarke wonders how far she would get if she ran. If, on the way to her next meeting, she simply bolted. All the people who were pretending to walk on the street fully alert, ready to take her down. Sitting on her bed, Clarke tries to get herself to a calmer state. If they are watching her, she shouldn’t be flitting around the room.

 

“Come on, Octavia,” Clarke says to herself, peering at the chair where she once sat. “Get him to listen to you.”

 

A pounding on the door makes Clarke all but fall off the bed, taking a moment to settle her nerves. By the time she reaches the door, her expression is neutral. When a figure that she’s never seen before stands on the other side, she tries to hide how her anxiety spikes up. “May I help you?”

 

“Hello Clarke, I’m Nathan. I work at the hospital.” He says, offering his hand. “We’re having some emergencies in the clinic and were hoping you could lend a hand. Russell says that you helped out in the clinic a few times and I was hoping you’d be willing to reprise your roll tonight.”

 

Clarke looks behind her shoulder, even though she knows she’s alone. Her imagination keeps making her think that someone will come – someone will approach her in the night as her heartbeat skips and she can’t seem to close her eyes to rest. In fact, if she’s really being honest with herself, she continues to wait for Bellamy to march through the window.

 

She shouldn’t get her hopes up. It was so long ago, it seems like it was a different lifetime. It all but was. Different planet, before the second end of the world. She and Bellamy were closer than they ever had been. No, there’s nothing more than years of tension and silence.

 

“Of course.” Clarke says quickly when she realizes she hasn’t responded. “Just let me get my jacket.”

 

Walking in the Eligius streets at night are scarier than she expects. There’s a chill in the air, the sky a deep red while the second sun sets. People scurry about like shadows as they quickly make their way to the hospital. When they reach it, Clarke is startled to see Justice Mulroy standing at the entrance.

 

“Clarke, thank you for coming this evening.” He states, opening his hands. “I appreciate you being willing to call upon this late hour.”

 

“O-Of course.” She states.

 

Her instincts are screaming at her. She knows there’s something wrong with all of this. The moment she caught sight of the elderly man’s sharp eyes, she knows she needs to get out. Clarke resists the urge to look behind her.

 

What if she ran?

 

The door closes behind her when the guards at the front shut it, and she swear she hears a click. Telling herself it’s nothing, Clarke moves forward. “What is the emergency?”

 

Justice Mulroy smiles. “Why don’t you follow me and we’ll discuss it?”

 

Clarke does finally turn at that.

 

It occurs to her for one, final time:

 

She is totally alone.

 

***

 

The closer they get to the agreed meeting location, the tenser Clarke gets. Bellamy can physically see her tightening, her hands clenching into fists and releasing when they grow white. Occasionally she’ll look behind her, but when she does, she finds him only a few paces behind, making sure she won’t stumble after the long walk. When she catches his eye, she lets out a sigh of relief and moves forward.

 

But now she hasn’t unclenched her fists in a while and he can see how unsettled her legs are as they traipse across the forest. “We’re almost there,” Indra states, pausing her charge in the front. “We’d like to convene before coming into sight of the Eligius crew.” She shoves Russell to the ground, who had been stumbling alongside she and Madi this entire walk, his leg still patched up. Bellamy can’t help but feel some level of justice for that.

 

Everyone stops at this, Bellamy not able to help himself from noticing how Raven, Murphy, and Shaw move a little closer to Clarke once Russell is facing them all. Madi steps forward. “This is not a final council. We are not going to be making decisions in regards to any aggressive action, nor are we going to be giving up anything.” Her eyes flit toward Clarke who is unnaturally still. “We are here to return their civilian and discuss how we will move forward as two people who cohabitate the same planet.”

 

“So, on what level do we want to interact with them?” Murphy asks. “Between ‘light them on fire’ and ‘pretend they don’t exist,’ where are we?”

 

“Murphy,” Indra warns.

 

“I thought it was a valid question.” Raven offers.

 

Surprised, Murphy says, “I don’t know how to respond to you being on my side.”

 

“That’s how you know you’re right.”

 

“Ugh, you ruined it.” Murphy groans.

 

“Let’s not get into the weeds of the negotiation pitfalls.” Indra says, speaking over them. “We know what they have done and we know how everyone feels about that. What we don’t know is the kind of arsenal they have. They have been here for two hundred years and we grabbed everything we could carry before destroying earth. So remember that while we have the moral high ground, we do not have the strategic high ground.”

 

“Indra, this isn’t Star Wars.” Murphy mutters.

 

“I have no idea what that means.”

 

Bellamy shakes his head. “It means that we never should’ve given Murphy access to the Ark movie system when we were in space. Sorry, Indra.”

 

“Guide of you, I am.” Murphy states.

 

“If I threaten him, will he stop?” Indra asks.

 

“Probably not.”

 

“God help me,” Indra states, pinching the bridge of her nose.

 

Except Murphy is staring at Clarke, who is mainly focused on the ground. His smile falters a bit and all annoyance Bellamy was feeling toward him filters out when he understands. “So what is the purpose of this meeting?” Bellamy asks, unable to stop his words from being clipped. “Because I know we’re trying to prevent war, but I have to agree with Murphy here.”

 

Murphy scrunches up his face. “Ew. I don’t like it.”

 

“I have no desire to interact with these people after this moment.” Bellamy continues. “In fact, if given the opportunity, I would never interact with them again.”

 

“As popular as that feeling may be, Bellamy, I don’t think it’s the most reasonable in this situation.” Indra says. “We can’t ignore them. You remember how our two factions got along in the beginning.”

 

Bellamy clenches his jaw. “I’m not saying we go to way, I’m simply saying we don’t give them any attention.”

 

Madi puts her hands up. “We’re going to be late. Remember that this is not an antagonistic mission. We’re here to give them their citizen back and try and broker a deal that limits our interaction as much as possible. Let’s go.”

 

Bellamy cross his arms, unable to tamp down his anger. He’d been focusing on Clarke so much, he hadn’t realized it was rising, building up out of control. Letting out a shaky breath, he barely notices when Murphy steps beside him, the two of them pulling up the rear as Shaw helps Clarke move forward.

 

“I can’t believe we’re fucking doing this.” Murphy grumbles, his voice low enough so that only Bellamy hears. “We can’t possibly have a relationship with them after what they’ve done.”

 

“You heard Madi, I don’t think we’re going for a relationship.”

 

“I don’t care what Madi has to say, honestly, she’s two years old.” Murphy stands in front of Bellamy and puts his hands up. “So I’m going to ask you again: were you serious when you suggested we run from here if they try and take Clarke again. Even if it means leaving everyone for war while we escape?”

 

Bellamy doesn’t answer.

 

He thinks about the reality of his suggestion. Murphy doesn’t pull any punches, nor should he. He thinks about leaving everyone there to figure out how to survive. To let Indra die. To let Kane. Diyoza. Miller.

 

Murphy’s eyes narrow. “That’s what I thought.”

 

“Murphy—”

 

“We’re going to fall behind.” Murphy snaps, shoulder his bag and jogging to catch up.

 

Bellamy can’t be here again. He can’t be trading lives. “Let’s just get through this,” he says to himself, quickening his pace to catch up.

 

The agreed upon clearing is full by the time they reach it. Clarke stops when everyone comes into view. Bellamy isn’t even she she’s aware she’s stopped. He can see her shaking and when he reaches her side, her eyes are unblinkingly wide. “You’re okay, Clarke.” Bellamy says softly when people start to turn around. “We’re all here.”

 

“They’re going to ask for me back.” Clarke states, her words trembling. “I-I—” Squeezing her eyes shut, she says, “Is it bad I don’t want to go?”

 

Bellamy all but answers Murphy’s question then and there. “Clarke, you don’t have to.”

 

“I do.” She states. “The rule was, if we were even going to have a discussion, I had to be present.”

 

“It’s a shitty rule.” Bellamy snaps. “They’re going to try something. And they can quite frankly get over it.”

 

“Just please promise me something,” Clarke states. “Whatever happens, you won’t let them get at Madi.”

 

“Clarke,” Bellamy says, not sure how this conversation flipped in this way. This resolution. “Clarke, nothing’s going to—”

 

“They can’t find out about Madi.” Clarke speaks over him, her eyes watering as she watches Madi, Indra, and Gaia approach the people in the clearing. “They have to think it’s only me.”

 

“Stop right now—”

 

“Promise me, Bellamy.” She says, whipping her head in his direction. She reaches out and grabs the cuff of his jacket, her fingers curling around the fabric. “Promise me.”

 

“No.”

 

The moment he says the word, her eyes widen and she lets go of him. “Excuse me?”

 

“I’m not promising you something when you’re acting like you’re about to go in there and give yourself up to them. You cannot go into that meeting and resolve yourself that you’re staying with them. I won’t allow it.”

 

“Bellamy—”

 

“No!” He all but exclaims. “We let you go before – that’s on us. They asked you to go with them and we let them have you, but they don’t get you, this time, do you hear? Are you listening to me, Clarke, I won’t allow it.”

 

“It could be the difference between war and peace, Bellamy.”

 

“Then war it is!” Bellamy cries and Clarke looks over his shoulder to see if anyone is listening.

 

Setting herself, Clarke says with every ounce of fervor she would when they landed on the planet, “You will promise me this, Bellamy Blake.”

 

“Not likely, Princess.”

 

He can tell he’s thrown her off with the use of the nickname, like they would argue so many years before. But he needs to snap her out of it – make her see the insanity she’s asking him – and he’ll throw whatever he can to make her see. “Bellamy.”

 

“You can’t possibly ask me that!” Bellamy all but shouts – the only reason he doesn’t is because he doesn’t want anyone else hearing their conversation. “Do you understand what it took to convince people to even look for you? I thought I was losing my mind, I thought that I had finally really lost you. So you can’t stand there and be all noble and sacrifice yourself again when you know how much you mean to the people who are in that meeting! I won’t promise that unless you promise me you’re not going to offer yourself up at the first sign of trouble.”

 

“Use your head, Bellamy.”

 

“It’s not either or, Clarke! That is something I learned from our last few moments on earth. I used my head and I shut that door to the rocket, leaving you to die. I used my head and put the Flame in Madi after you begged me not to, leading to you leaving me in the pit. Hell – I used my head to follow Echo’s and Diyoza’s plans and we nearly got slaughtered because I didn’t think of the emotion behind what Kane and Diyoza felt. You have to have them both, you can’t just choose one or the other.”

 

“I’m not asking you—”

 

 

“Clarke, I said no. Listen, I’m never going to stop caring about Madi and making sure she’s alright. You know that. You know that I wouldn’t put her life in jeopardy. But what I won’t do is let you go in there and give up. I won’t promise to make sure everything’s fine if it means that you’re not!”

 

“It’s the price of peace, Bellamy!”

 

“It’s too high a price!”

 

He stares down at her, trying to implore her with everything he has. He feels like he’s losing it a bit, like he did all those years ago when she was trying to prepare him to run the world without her. He never said what he wanted to say then and he feels like he’s running out of time now.

 

“Okay, I don’t know whatever face journey you two are going on,” Murphy states awkwardly, marching up to them. “But there’s, like, a negotiation going on, I don’t know if you’ve noticed.”

 

Clarke tears her gaze away and stalks in his direction, not even giving Murphy the time of day. Murphy’s anger towards Bellamy must be gone because he asks, “What was that all about?”

 

“She’s upset with me.” Bellamy snaps, gritting his teeth.

 

“Why?”

 

“Because I won’t let her hand herself over to Eligius under the guise of protection of Madi.”

 

Murphy’s eyebrows raise. “You know what I like about you two? You both have such effortless, easy conversations.”

 

“Shut up.”

 

“Seriously, if she wants to be pissed at you for that, we can form a line. She’ll have to be pissed at everyone here.”

 

Bellamy marches forward with him. “I don’t think she’ll have a problem with that.”

 

“Yeah, she’s got a lot of rage for someone so small.”

 

Bellamy snorts. “She definitely does.”

 

They make their way into the clearing where everyone’s gathered, Bellamy trying not to give any reaction to the fact that he instantly hates everyone in front of him. There’s an elderly man ahead of them all, eyeing him with curiosity as they approach, flanked by soldiers with guns that remind him of their first few days on earth.

 

Bellamy falls in line behind Madi, making sure to place himself directly behind Clarke who’s at her side. Her focus is solely on the man up front, her hands clenched once more.

 

“Clarke,” the man says with a smile that shows no teeth. Clarke visibly flinches at that, shuffling on her feet. “I cannot begin to say how much I appreciate your willingness to meet in person.”

 

She doesn’t respond. Honestly, Bellamy feels the bile rising in his throat as the man talks. He’s in a suit that seems wildly inappropriate for being outdoors, but is shockingly unwrinkled. All of his soldiers are far enough behind him for Bellamy to have no reservations on guessing who is in charge.

 

“We’re not here for whatever mind games you’d like to play with Clarke.” Madi snaps. “We’re here merely to start conversations of how we will remain peaceful after your egregious actions against our people.”

 

The man tilts his head, his gaze still not leaving Clarke. It’s all Bellamy can do to not wrap his arms around her and pull her away – a feel he is all too familiar with in his time leading with her. He must be obvious, because the turns to him. “You must be the person who broken into my medical facility.” The man states, eyes flitting to Bellamy.

 

Bellamy knows he can’t take the bait. “I rescued one of my people from you.”

 

“By breaking into my medical facility.” The man smirks. “I’m Justice Mulroy. And you are?”

 

Bellamy feels like there’s a larger game being played, but he isn’t sure what board is even down. “Bellamy Blake.” He responds, crossing his arms.

 

“Ah, Bellamy Blake.” Justice Mulroy states. “I should’ve known you’d be the one to lead the helm.”

 

That startles everyone enough that the cloud of tension rattles ever so slightly. “Excuse me?” Bellamy asks, words careful.

 

“You can’t expect a foreign craft to land on my planet and me not take the human component into consideration, can you now?” Justice Mulroy laughs. Bellamy doesn’t miss how Raven and Shaw’s heads whip toward each other, sharing a look that he reminds himself to ask about later. “But you’re right, this isn’t why we’re here. We’re here because you kidnapped your Ambassador.”

 

“Yeah, because you really should be talking about kidnapping here.” Murphy drawls behind him.

 

“Murphy, shut up.” Indra snaps. Surprisingly, he does.

 

Indra shoves Russell forward. “It was not our intention to keep him. You have to understand the position you put us in when we discovered you were experimenting on one of our own.”

 

“Experimenting is a strong word—”

 

“What would you call it, then?” Madi snaps, her hands hovering over where her weapons are sheathed.

 

“Solution to the greater good!” Justice Mulroy exclaims with a smile.

 

The fact that he’s so unabashed about it is throwing Bellamy off. He was ready for denial, he was ready for aggression, he was ready for everything he’s encountered in his life. What he wasn’t ready for was unapologetic acceptance.

 

“People miss you, Clarke.”

 

Clarke stiffens and Bellamy almost shouts at him. He’s having a hard time controlling himself, and if the people around him shifting anxiously are any indication, so are they.

 

“You have no idea the help you give us during your time in our city.”

 

“Enough.” Madi states, words sharp. “I will not stand here and listen to this.”

 

“Do you know how many people have died since you left, Clarke?” Justice Mulroy continues and Bellamy reminds himself that lunging at him isn’t the best idea. Instead, he turns to Murphy, who glares. “There was so much progress! I never considered you a murderer, my girl.”

 

It’s as if the moment freezes.

 

Bellamy isn’t sure he heard this correctly. He can’t possibly have heard this correctly. Clarke has frozen and paled, taking a small step back.

 

“You remember our conversation? Do you remember what we agreed upon?” Justice Mulroy continues, his sunny disposition slipping. “We were nothing but hospitable and you choose to run away?”

 

“Hey—” Bellamy snaps, unable to listen to this any longer.

 

“Do you understand the life lost, Ms. Griffin? Are you truly the person who should be choosing who lives and who dies?”

 

There’s a gasp.

It’s so small, he barely hears it. Clarke takes another step back, her legs faltering. She almost falls into him as she backs up, her breath short. Bellamy panics – all the signs Diyoza mentioned to him are there, but he feels like it’s too late. “Oh my god,” her small voice squeaks out.

 

She turns around and runs.

 

***

 

The thing Clarke has learned about panic attacks is this: there’s never a good time or place to have them.

 

So when her chest seizes and her hands tremble and she can’t breathe and she can’t think and she can’t see and she can’t hear and ohmygodohmygodohmygod

 

There’s a pounding that she thinks may be her heart, but it may be her footsteps. She hasn’t tried to run since getting out of the lab, but she’s running. If there was any possibility, she would run until she was far enough away from everyone. Run until she could collapse without anyone around. Run until she was safe.

 

Except she stumbles.

 

She stumbles and goes flying into the ground, leaves and dirt covering her front. She spits them out, dried leaves tangled in her hair, but she doesn’t even see the shape of them. Everything is blurry, everything is spinning, the ground is cold, her hands are cold, there isn’t enough air, there isn’t enough—

 

Suddenly, a pair of arms wrap around her and squeeze.

 

“What are you doing?” Clarke exclaims, clawing at whomever is behind her. “Let me go! Let me go!” She cries.

 

She’s back there. Her arms are chained up and there’s a tube in her side and she can feel the cold brick against her back. “Let me go! Let me go!” She cries, doing everything she can to fight who’s got her. “Leave me alone, please, leave me alone!”

 

“—not—stop—I—not alone!”

 

The words they’re saying come in and out as her vision swims.

 

Except after a while, the pressure against her chest drags her back to reality. Something about it hurts, but in a way that brings her back to earth. One breath comes in, another goes out. She feels their chest rise and fall behind her and she tries to follow it. “Please,” she whimpers, but she isn’t sure what she’s begging for now.

 

“I’ve got you,” the person says, their voice roughly. “You are not alone, Clarke. I’ve got you.”

 

After a while, she sags, exhaustion hitting her hard. The person shifts so she can get her arms out, gripping their forearms as she catches her breath. Her feet all but ghost the ground with how much of her weight the person is holding, but after a while, she places them down and merely leans against the person.

 

It isn’t until she focuses on the person’s arms around her waist does she know who it is.

 

Honestly, she should’ve known immediately, but she doesn’t turn to face him. She can’t. “You should be at the negotiations.” Clarke says, her voice sounding like she’d run sandpaper down it.

 

“No, I shouldn’t.” Bellamy says from above her, his chin all but resting on the top of her head.

 

“They need you there. To remain focused.”

 

“Indra has good control of the situation and Madi. I trust her to keep the peace while I’m away.”

 

Clarke opens her mouth to tell him to leave once more, but can’t bring herself to do it. Instead her chest heaves. A sob escapes before she can’t stop it and she buries her face in her hands. “I don’t know who I am anymore.” Clarke admits, because she’s tired and he’s Bellamy and they’re them. “I don’t know how to fix myself this time.”

 

She can feel Bellamy rest his forehead against the top of her head, his breathing warm on her neck. She knows it’s not intentional, but it feels so intimate, she leans into it. Clarke can’t remember the last time someone was so close to her and now that someone is here – on her side – she’s falling to the earth like water through fingers.

 

“Clarke,” Bellamy starts, his voice low. “You are not expected to fix everything all the time, even yourself.”

 

Shaking her head, she says, “I can’t be this person. I can’t be this person who falls apart. I can’t—”

 

“I’ve got you, Clarke. Do you understand me? I’ve got you.

 

Squeezing her eyes shut, she grips his forearms. “I can’t ask you for anything.”

 

“You didn’t ask. And you don’t have to.” Bellamy states. “Actually, I wanted to offer something and I want you to keep an open mind.”

 

“Okay?”

 

“I know you asked to live with Octavia because you were struggling with seeing us – seeing me – and everything was overwhelming. But you and I know that while Octavia is great with a sword and tough love, she’s not great with emotional stuff or dealing with people going through that.”

 

Clarke actually chuckles at this, thinking of the few times she’s looked like she’d rather take on the Eligius army alone than deal with Clarke melting down in front of her. “Yeah,”

 

“So, I wanted to suggest that you move in with me.” Bellamy states, not even taking a moment for her to digest what he’s asking. “I’ve got space, Jordan is there, but you know him, he’s pretty flexible and happy, weird kid. I think it’d be good, Clarke. I really do.”

 

“I don’t—”

 

“Please. It’s not just for you.” Bellamy says sharply enough to that he repeats it, much softer, “Not just for you.”

 

Clarke closes her eyes, still wrapped in his arms and all but collapsed on him. There are birds in the distance and she feels the wind. She can feel Bellamy on her back, the rise and fall keeping her amongst the trees instead of gone in the stars.

 

It’s a bad idea. There’s so many reasons it’s a bad idea, Clarke doesn’t even have the capacity to think of them all.

 

But she thinks of how she desperately wanted to feel safe. For over a year and a half, all she wanted was to not feel like the earth was collapsing all around her. And in this moment, it isn’t.

 

That must be what overtakes her long enough to say:

 

“Okay.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWELVE

 

There’s a window in the cabin.

 

Clarke sits on the cot they managed to wrangle into the space, on the other side of Jordan by the wall. She sits on it, her feet dangling off the side of the bed so that her toes feel the cold floor and nothing else. It sends shivers up her spine, but the for the first time, she isn’t reminded of how the stone felt against her back. Her shoulders still ache, but it doesn’t feel like her arms are above her head. Her legs still get needles, but she remembers how to move them. Her side still pulls, but the ghost of the tube is finally gone.

 

She looks out the window.

 

Clarke spent a lot of time wondering what it looked like outside while chained to the wall. In fact, there were days when losing herself in her own mind was the only thing that got her through. Closing her eyes, she feels the sun against her skin and even through the windows it warms her in a way the lab never could.

 

She hears Bellamy and Jordan sleeping in the beds next to hers, the gentle snoring helping calm her nerves when she wakes up in a panic, suddenly back in the lab. The suns are rising over the planet and filling the sky with vibrant pinks and deep purples. Rays of light shine to where she sits, wide awake, when the rest of the world is sleeping.

 

Before she knows what’s happening, a tear slides down her cheek and she brings her hand up to wipe it away. The suns are so beautiful and her wrists are free. There’s breathing behind her to remind her that she’s not alone.

 

It’s such a startling revelation, she doesn’t realize it when someone gets up behind her. It isn’t until they sit down on the bed next to her and face the window that she’s looking at, their weight dipping the cot, does she realize she’s not the only one awake.

 

“What are you looking at?” Bellamy asks next to her, his voice rough and filled with sleep.

 

“The suns.” Clarke returns, letting the warm from the light reach her.

 

It’d been so long since she was able to simply marvel at the sun. She shuts her eyes again and tries to make the memories of the lab go away. She focuses on Jordan’s breathing. She focuses on the warmth.

 

She focuses on the weight next to her.

 

“Did you sleep?” He asks, his words careful. Deliberate.

 

Clarke doesn’t respond to that. They both know the answer to that. Her feet never left the ground. They felt as though they had weights tied onto them, dragging her further under. Sleep was nothing more than a vessel for nightmares, and the quiet of the cabin would be filled with screams. She couldn’t do that to them on the first night.

 

The morning always scared her. That the dream of being with people she loved was nothing more than a hazy delusion. Not today, though. Today there’s a window and she’s looking out of it. There’s a weight next to her that reminds her she’s not alone.

 

For the first time, she feels as if she’s with the sun.

 

***

 

“So, how’s living with Clarke?”

 

Bellamy blinks when Murphy asks him a question, rubbing his eyes blearily as he tries to force down some breakfast. “Uh, fine?”

 

Murphy plops down in front of him with his morning rations and fixes him with an unimpressed look. “Really? You’re going to try and convince everything’s fine?”

 

“It’s been one night, Murphy.” Bellamy says, trying to avoid eye contact with him.

 

“Still.” Murphy grumbles.

 

Honestly, Bellamy isn’t sure what to say because he doesn’t know how to feel himself. He didn’t think Clarke would actually agree, let alone move in once they got back. When they took her cot from Octavia’s cabin, Clarke simply stared at the small window that was against the far wall and it was enough for Bellamy. Shoving his and Jordan’s beds closer, they placed hers directly under the sun.

 

When she looked out of it, it looked like she knew answers to the universe that he would never know. Except when he found her this morning, it seemed like she hadn’t moved. He fell asleep to her sitting at the side of her bed, staring at one of the many moons that revolved around the planet. When he woke up, she was still there, staring at the sun.

 

He catches sight of Diyoza and waves her over, the woman balancing Hope on her hip. “Hey! I wanted to catch up with you.” He says when she approaches him. “I was wondering if you had found anything out.”

 

Diyoza tilts her head to the side and Bellamy realizes she’s looking around. When she doesn’t respond right away, Bellamy almost suggests they go back to the cabin when she cuts him off. “I’ve heard rumblings that you know of a place that has a beautiful lagoon. I’d love to see it and bring Hope there to play in the water.”

 

Bellamy nods. “We should do that this afternoon.”

 

“I would like that.”

 

Murphy frowns. “Did you guys just like… set up a date or something?”

 

“For someone so clever, you’re an idiot.” Diyoza says while making a face at Hope to make her laugh.

 

“Oh my god,” someone says, stalking over to where they’re sitting. Bellamy is startled to see Octavia power walking at full force at him, her hair waving behind her. “Why didn’t anyone tell me that Clarke was moving out of my cabin?”

 

“You were on watch last night.” Bellamy offers, although there is a small part of him that feels a little bad. They should’ve left a note, but all he could think of was the longer they waited, the longer it would be until Clarke could sit down – despite the fact that she insisted her legs were okay.

 

Murphy takes a bite of his breakfast. “Yeah, what’s the big deal?”

 

“The big deal?” Octavia cries, sitting down across from Diyoza and gesturing wildly at Bellamy. “They are roommates!”

 

“Oh my god, they were roommates.” Diyoza says in a monotone voice, bouncing Hope up and down on her knee. When everyone turns to her, confused, she shakes her head. “Nevermind.”

 

Octavia makes a face at the woman, but blows past it. “Bell, do you think that’s a good idea? She asked to not—”

 

“O, I didn’t make her.” Bellamy snaps, unable to keep himself from losing his temper a bit. When Octavia recoils and opens her mouth, Bellamy cuts her off. “O, I appreciate you feeling protective of her, but you have to trust me when I say that I know what I’m doing.”

 

“I do trust you, Bell, with everything except when it comes to Clarke!”

 

It feels like she slapped him. Blinking, his words are low. “I beg your pardon?”

 

“Bellamy, you lose all… rationale when it comes to Clarke.” Octavia presses forward, her eyes blazing. “Need I remind you what you did to me when—”

 

“Stop it, now.” Bellamy snaps, smacking his hand on the table to cut off any possibility that people would understand what she’s saying. “That’s neither here nor—”

 

“It is here and there, Bellamy, and you know it.” Octavia returns.

 

Bellamy looks at his sister, really looks at her for the first time in a while. The new planet had been kind and cruel to her all at once, which he doesn’t understand. The darkness behind her eyes has slowly dissipated, leaving nothing but sorrow and despair. With the makeup of Wonkru long since washed off, she looks as young as he remembers her, trapped under the floor of the Ark.

 

She’s home and a stranger rolled into one.

 

Tearing his gaze away, Bellamy shakes his head. “It’s really not.”

 

Licking her lips, Octavia settles herself. “Bell,” she starts, reaching out to touch his hand where it stayed splayed across the table, but he yanks it out of her grasp before she can. Octavia is outwardly hurt for only a second when she says, “It’s not just dangerous for her. It’s dangerous for you too.”

 

Bellamy tries to focus on the sky, knowing all eyes are on him. Clenching his hands into fists, Bellamy doesn’t respond. As he tries to avoid them, he sees Clarke in the distance, who’s standing next to Jordan in line at the ration station. She says something to him and Jordan places a hand on his chest and laughs, his whole body shaking with the weight of it. As he does, Clarke smiles slightly back, her lips parting ever so slightly. The light from the sun makes it seem that she’s made up of fire and stars, glittering around everyone there.

 

Bellamy is reminded of the day they landed on the planet when hope was something more than a concept. It moved all around them and blazed behind her eyes. Now she’s standing yards away, looking like starlight again and he doesn’t realize he’s been holding his breath.

 

“Fuck,” he breathes, bowing his head.

 

Murphy snorts across from him. “Well said.”

 

“Guys, we have a problem.” Raven says as she and Shaw stalk over quickly, looking over their shoulders. Clarke seems to catch their anxiety because she places a hand on Jordan’s shoulder and the two of them shuffle over. Raven nods to Shaw and he pulls a notebook out of his jacket pocket.

 

“Spoiler alert: you have so many problems.” Murphy drawls without even looking up.

 

“Stop talking.”

 

“Make me.”

 

Bellamy frowns, leaning forward toward them. “Everything okay?”

 

Clarke and Jordan join them, the former concerned. “What’s going on?”

 

Raven takes the pad of paper and scribbles something on it. Lifting it up, she reveals the following message: Not here.

 

Clarke looks up and catches Bellamy’s gaze. It’s been a while since he’s been able to understand what she’s thinking with a mere glance, but in this moment, he does. He nods at her and she gives the group a fake smile. “Jordan and I were thinking about exploring later. I told him about this waterfall I found before everything went down and he’s always wanted to see one in person.”

 

Bellamy nods. “Actually, I was telling Diyoza that I wanted to take her to the lagoon that you showed me. But thinking of it, I’d like to see the waterfall as well.”

 

Clarke glances at everyone. “Just a warning, it’s very loud at the waterfall. So maybe Hope shouldn’t come.” She says, eyeing Diyoza.

 

Diyoza smirks. “I’ll find a babysitter. When would you like to go?”

 

Raven takes the pad of paper. Now.

 

“I think you guys have evening watch.” Clarke says after her eyes flit to the pad. “Sooner would be better than later, I think.”

 

“Agreed.” Bellamy says with a nod. “I’ve always wanted to see a waterfall.”

 

“I think I remember that about you.” Clarke says with a soft smile. “I’m going to get a pack.”

 

“I’ll come with you.” Bellamy says, getting up so quickly, he all but hits Diyoza by accident. When Murphy gives him an unimpressed look, he says quickly, “My stuff is the same place her stuff is.”

 

Octavia widens her eyes. “Yeah, imagine that.”

 

“O—”

 

Octavia puts her hands up. “I didn’t say anything.”

 

Bellamy all but glares at her as he stands, but he realizes this is the first time that he’s spoken with Octavia without wanting to leave immediately. For a small moment, he felt like they were siblings again. She peers at him and he can see the optimism in her eyes and Bellamy fights the urge to tell her to leave him alone. Except when Clarke turns and observes the sight before him, her eyes softening, Bellamy can’t stop himself from saying, “You should come too, O. It should be nice.”

 

Octavia blinks. There’s a second when all the death melts away. Everything that happened between them disappears. “Yeah?” She asks, her voice small.

 

“Yeah.” Bellamy answers, turning around before he cracks even more.

 

Falling in line with Clarke, Bellamy tries to ignore the fact that now standing beside her his skin feels like it’s itchy. He flexes his hand, trying not to touch her. “That was nice of you.” Clarke states as they walk. “I’m sure she really appreciates it.”

 

Bellamy rubs the back of his neck. “It would’ve been weird not to invite her when she was sitting right there.”

 

“You can pivot all you want, it was really nice.” Clarke states, moving as close as two people can be without touching. “I’m not in any position to state an opinion with you two, but she really misses you.”

 

Bellamy resists the urge to close the gap between them. “There’s still a lot of stuff between us.”

 

“There’s always stuff.” Clarke says. “And then there’s war. I think sometimes we have to learn how to forgive the stuff.”

 

“What if there’s too much of it?” Bellamy asks before he can stop himself. “What if… what if after everything, there’s too much and we can’t move past it?”

 

Clarke chuckles quietly. “Bellamy,” she says, her voice full of light. “When I met you, you had done everything you could to protect your sister. And everything you’ve done since then was to protect her.”

 

“Except when I needed to protect you.” Bellamy states, stopping to face her. When Clarke frowns, Bellamy opens his mouth to continue, but the words die in his throat. “With the algae.”

 

“That was to protect everyone.” Clarke says, placing her hand on his arm. It feels like she’s set his skin on fire, but he tries to remain emotionless. “And everyone knows the pain that it caused you.”

 

“Clarke, I—” Bellamy cuts off, unable to go through with it.

 

Anything he says to her will be drowned in a sea of history they’ve wrapped themselves in. He stumbles over his words and concludes that there’s nothing he can say that will make any sense.

 

“O almost killed everyone.” Bellamy settles on, wincing at the cop out. “There’s too much—”

 

“No, there isn’t.” Clarke states, facing him. “Everyone is here one minute and gone the next. We never know when we’ll lose someone else. You need to tell people you love them when you feel it. You never know when you’ll miss the opportunity.”

 

Bellamy sucks in a breath. He tries to summon words that he’s attempted to say to her many times. You never know when you’ll miss the opportunity.

 

He almost did.

 

Nothing comes. “Maybe,” he says, licking his lips. “Maybe you’re right.”

 

“I know it’s a rare occurrence.” She laughs, stepping further forward when they reach the cabin.

 

Bellamy takes a breath before following her.

 

By the time they’ve gathered their things, everyone’s at the edge of the village. Bellamy walks up to them, Murphy giving him a plain look that he can’t even acknowledge. Clarke shoulders her backpack. “Ready?” She asks.

 

“Oh, you have no idea.” Murphy states.

 

She moves forward, everyone following her lead. Fortunately, it gives Bellamy an opportunity to grab Murphy’s arm. “Can you not?”

 

Murphy shrugs. “I mean, I can. But I choose not to.”

 

Bellamy puts his hand out. “We can’t be doing this anymore. There are more important things—”

 

“Aw, fuck it, Bellamy.” Murphy cries exasperatedly. “There’s never a good time. Dude, we have been at war since we landed on that stupid planet. It’s been eight years since we landed. It’s time for us to realize that we need to stand up for each other. And if you’re too afraid to do that—”

 

“I’m not afraid!” Bellamy shouts at him. “There’s too much going on!”

 

“There is so much going on always.” Murphy states. “Monty and Harper said we need to be the good guys. Honestly? That means something different to everyone. To me, it means protecting those I care about. I care about Emori. I care about Raven, Shaw. Echo. I care about Clarke. She’s my sister.” Murphy takes a breath. “And I care about you.” Murphy makes a face. “Ugh, I hated every second of that. Float me now, please.”

 

Bellamy smirks. “I didn’t know you felt this way.”

 

“Okay, I take it back. Float you.”

 

Bellamy feels the anxiety loosen in his chest a bit as he peers at the group waiting for them. “We’re holding everyone up. We should probably catch up with them unless you want to have another moment.”

 

“Get away from me.”

 

“Come on, Murphy!’ Bellamy calls after him as they make their way toward the group.

 

“I’m ignoring you!”

 

Bellamy laughs to himself, settling his nerves. Jogging to catch up with the group, Bellamy is startled when someone grabs his arm. Miller rushes up at him, his gaze reaching the group of them walking. “Bellamy, what’s going on?”

 

“Nothing—”

 

“Bullshit!” Miller exclaims. “You guys did the secret thing with Clarke and now you’re doing it again? I thought you said we were moving past everything.”

 

“We are, but—”

 

“I want to come.” Miller states, crossing his arms. “I’m with you this time, Bellamy. I’m—”

 

“Miller.” Bellamy says, gripping his shoulders. “Okay. I wasn’t trying to exclude you, I just—”

 

“Don’t think I’m a part of the group anymore.” Miller finishes, his head bowing. “I get that, I really do. So I’m volunteering. I’m making you remember that we once were friends.”

 

“Miller—”

 

“I’m not taking no for an answer. Octavia’s there.” Miller states. “And it’s just us now. You, me, Octavia, Clarke, and Murphy. That’s it. We were the original 100.”

 

“101.” Bellamy says offhandedly. Then he really takes in what Miller said, his mind travelling to the other ninety-six people who came down from the Ark with him. The people who trusted Bellamy with their lives – who were willing to live and die at his hand. The wall he set up against Miller crumbles a bit. “Fine, you can come, but you have to realize that what we’re talking about—”

 

“Scouts honor.” Miller states. The man jogs to catch up with the rest of the group, Bellamy watching the throng make their way through the trees.

 

It was supposed to be different this time.

 

They weren’t supposed to be on the edge of war. They weren’t supposed to be conspiring against their own leader. They were supposed to have a soft time – a time where the planet was gentle. Bellamy never got his gentle time. “Soon,” he says to himself, only because no one is around. “We’ll get it soon.”

 

He never let himself hope for it on earth. There was too much war – too much pain – for him to ever take a breath and hope for something kind. It wasn’t until he was sequestered on the Ark that he realized what a gift serenity is. Perhaps that’s what they should’ve been fighting for all along.

 

Jogging to catch up to the group, Bellamy falls in line next to Raven, who is eyeing him curiously. “Everything alright?” She asks, her voice low enough only so Shaw can hear.

 

“Of course.”

 

“I notice we have an addition.”

 

Bellamy sighs. “We can’t keep him out if he knows. It’s more dangerous if we exclude him.”

 

“It’s dangerous if we include too many people.” Raven offers. “And he isn’t the most trustworthy on a good day.”

 

“Yes, he is.” Bellamy states, unable to stop the wave of protectiveness he’s feeling toward Miller or any of the original 100. “Miller is endlessly loyal, which is why he got wrapped up with Octavia in the first place. He won’t say anything.”

 

“You don’t think he’s loyal to Madi now?”

 

“I don’t.” Bellamy says as they trudge along. “I think he’s loyal to the 100. The original group.”

 

Raven smirks. “You realize that doesn’t include you or I.”

 

“We’re honorary members.”

 

Bellamy can tell the moment Raven reaches the same conclusion he had only minutes before. “This is it.” Raven states, her gaze falling on where Murphy’s helping Clarke over a particularly large fallen tree and where Miller awkwardly places himself next to Octavia and they share a quiet conversation. “This is all that’s left.”

 

“Yeah,” Bellamy says, his mouth dry. “We’re all that’s left.”

 

Raven smiles at him. “We better make this count, then. For everyone.”

 

Bellamy nods, returning the smile. “For everyone.”

 

Raven reaches out and places a hand on his shoulder, giving it a squeeze. Bellamy can’t help but place his hand over hers for a second, before the two drop it. They’ve never been outwardly physical, but he knows what Raven’s feeling in that moment.

 

“We’re here.” Clarke states, gesturing for everyone to follow her.

 

When Bellamy pushes back some branches obscuring his view, he joins everyone in stopping at the area. A waterfall crashes down on rocks larger than anything he’s ever seen, the water and spray showering them with a mist that makes it slightly easier to breathe. Sunlight is streaming through the trees and the sound of the water roars over them. Clarke waves them closer, closing her eyes for a second as she faces the waterfall. The water splashes against her face and her smile broadens and for a moment, there’s peace across her features.

 

Bellamy is stuck staring, wondering why the world had to take so much of them. This sort of radiance should be left in the world.

 

“Remember to breathe, buddy.” Murphy grins, placing a hand on his chest and slapping his back as he passes. Bellamy can’t help but feel a little sheepish, but he trudges forward to where she is.

 

Once they’ve surrounded her, Clarke turns to Raven. “So, what’s going on?”

 

Raven motions for Shaw to come closer. “They’ve been bugging us.”

 

Bellamy startles. “What?”

 

Raven pulls out a piece of paper from her pocket, which is a copy of one of the maps Clarke made before going with Eligius. There are red marks all over it – circles across the ground. “We’ve been looking for them since we got back. We thought it was odd that Justice Mulroy mentioned something about having strangers on his planet and not doing research. We found the first one last night. They’re planted all over the village.”

 

Murphy swipes the map out of her hands. “What the actual fuck? These are everywhere?”

 

“Stating the obvious.”

 

“But… what the fuck?”

 

“No one ever wonders ‘why the fuck.’” Shaw offers.

 

Raven rolls her eyes. “So not helping.”

 

Shaw shrugs.

 

Echo steps forward, her eyes sharp as they usually are when she’s trying to figure out a puzzle. “How did they plant them? They’re everywhere.”

 

“We don’t know that.” Raven states. “And we don’t even know if we found them all. We just started looking and they’re everywhere.”

 

Diyoza frowns. “How are you finding them?”

 

Shaw points to the map. “They have a very specific radio frequency. Once we found one, we were able to tap into the frequency and figure out general areas of where they are. We haven’t been able to sweep the surrounding area, so we weren’t sure how far they set them.”

 

Diyoza cocks her head to Clarke. “Good call on the waterfall, then.”

 

Bellamy doesn’t care for the look of surprise flash across her face at the compliment. “So, what does this mean?” He asks, pushing past it.

 

“It means they’ve known.” Raven states. “We don’t know how long they’ve been listening, but they’ve known.”

 

“Which is why they chose to take Clarke.” Diyoza states and everyone startles in her direction. “It’s no secret that you guys had her on the outs from the beginning. They probably thought that it would be easy to get information out of her, seeing as she was so isolated. Not to mention, she’s Madi’s mother, so she probably knew more than most. It was the perfect target.”

 

Clarke bites her lip, her gaze falling to the ground. Bellamy know she’s back in the time before Eligius and he considers for a moment placing a hand on hers to remind her she’s no longer alone. He doesn’t get the opportunity when Murphy says, “But that means they heard us.”

 

Everyone looks at him, confused.

 

“They heard us.” Murphy states. “We spent weeks trying to figure out if Clarke was alive and planned the entire escape in your cabin. If they bugged us, they would’ve known we were coming. They could’ve hidden Clarke somewhere else. They could’ve guarded the place.”

 

“They wanted you to find me.” Clarke says, her voice so soft against the crashing water. But Bellamy can hear it, as if it were the only noise in the area. “They wanted you to find me.”

 

“Why would they want that?” Echo asks, her words clipped. Her eyes dart toward Bellamy, who is losing the feeling in his hands.

 

“You were dying.” Diyoza finishes, her words as gentle as she can make them. Murphy whips his head up, nostrils flaring at the admission, but Diyoza speaks over him. “They weren’t able to use you for much longer. They needed us to rescue you so you could talk about who else had nightblood.”

 

Clarke’s eyes widen. She reaches out and grabs Bellamy’s forearm, steadying herself. He knows what she’s going to say before she says it.

 

The water drowns out the one word, but no one needs to know what it is.

 

“Madi.”

 

She starts to tap her finger against his wrist, her eyes in distant worlds. Before Bellamy can call her to come back to this one, beg her to remain next to the waterfall, she’s down.

 

Tap, tap, tap.

 

***

 

There's a moment when the world stops.

 

Clarke knows she's being marched to the end, but her feet guide her forward. She's thought a lot about death, but she never expected to greet it alone in the world. She can hear the footsteps against the marble as if it were her own heartbeat, counting down the moments until she breathed her last breath. In a weird way, it's calming, making her way down the hallway. Justice Mulroy is prattling on about needing her opinion on something, but she knows. Clarke isn't a fool, nor does she take Justice Mulroy as one. 

 

They both know.

 

"Clarke, do you remember the painting that hangs in my office?" Justice Mulroy's question brings her out of the stupor she's in. There's clacking of shoes all around her and they sound so loud in this moment.

 

"The one of the binary suns?" Clarke asks after a pause.

 

"Yes, I knew an artist like yourself would know the one."

 

Clarke nods, trying to ignore how the guards flank her. She's used to guards around her, but she's never felt quite as small as this moment. Even in the worst of times, she knew her people would be trying to find her. Perhaps that wasn’t the worst of times. Perhaps the worst of times was being entirely alone without hope.

 

“You see, when we first landed here, our people learned to tame a wild planet.” Justice Mulroy continues as he opens a door, gesturing Clarke to follow.

 

When she enters the room, there’s a propped up examiner’s table. There are buckles around the side that are left open and machine beeping along the walls. Clarke sucks in a breath.

 

This is it.

 

Her lower lip trembles. She can’t help it. Her heart is racing faster than she remembers it ever doing and her eyes start to water.

 

Justice Mulroy is saying something, but she can’t put the words together.

 

“Clarke?” Justice Mulroy states and she’s brought back to this world. “Clarke, would you mind sitting down? Or do you have something to say?”

 

Clarke tries to get herself to stop shaking. No one was coming. They never were. “I-I—” Clarke says when someone places a hand on her back and pushes her forward hard enough to make her stumble. She trips forward, catching herself before she reaches the table. “Alea jacta est.” Clarke states, the words getting caught in her throat.

 

No one’s here to hear them.

 

“I’m sorry?” Justice Mulroy asks, his smile widening.

 

She swallows, unable to stop herself from quivering. “Alea jacta est.” She repeats to herself.

 

Justice Mulroy frowns. “I haven’t the slightest idea of what you mean. If you don’t mind getting in the chair, we can continue our discussion.”

 

“Why don’t we drop the pretenses?” Clarke says, finally able to face him. She knows her eyes are read and tears are threatening to fall. She knows she’s visibly shaking. But she takes every ounce of her resolve and says, “Or would you like to pretend some more?”

 

Justice Mulroy’s mouth turn up into a smile, a wolfish grin plastering on his face. “Get in the chair, Clarke.”

 

Clarke turns to face the chair. The straps hang from the side, unbuckled and menacing. Stepping forward, Clarke maneuvers herself until she’s lying down, her hands clenched into fists. Without so much as an explanation, the guards flank her again and start to strap her into the hospital bed, tilted up enough so that she doesn’t have to lift her head to look at the Justice.

 

The Justice places his hands together. “I marvel at your courage, Clarke.” He states, starting to move around her, so she can only tell where he is by his voice. She focuses on the ceiling, the leather straps cold against her skin. “To greet this like a friend.”

 

“Do not mistake my calm for gentleness.” Clarke says. “I have burned worlds for less.”

 

Justice Mulroy looms down on her, smiling. “I would never mistake you for anything, Clarke.” He states. When he moves back up, he gestures to someone Clarke can’t see. “We need to lift the mood a bit. It’s growing too grim.”

 

There’s an equipment table next to her. The person sets a metronome on the table and Justice Mulroy flicks it once it’s down.

 

Tick, tick, tick.

 

“Such a steadying noise, don’t you agree? Really calms a person down.”

 

Clarke can’t say the same. Her heart rate is ratcheting up and everything is slowly becoming more claustrophobic.

 

Tick, tick, tick.

 

“Back to what I was saying,” Justice Mulroy continues. “Our ancestors tamed this land. This unforgiving, but viable land. Except what they didn’t anticipate is that the binary suns caused a problem. Coming from earth, we weren’t expecting the increased levels of radiation. Our life expectancy shortened. People started to die earlier and earlier. Children got sick and never recovered. Our bodies couldn’t handle the dual suns.

 

“But not you, right Clarke? I’ve heard word that you survived the end of the world. The wave of radiation that eliminated life on the planet.”

 

For the first time, he’s said something that startles her. “How do you know that?”

 

Tick, tick, tick.

 

“The only person who stayed above the ground. Or were you, Clarke?”

 

Clarke’s eyes widen. Madi comes to her thoughts and for the first time, she panics. Snapping her mouth shut, Clarke refuses to look at the Justice. “Come now, Clarke. Let’s not get shy.”

 

Clarke swallows.

 

Justice Mulroy frowns. “Such a disappointment. And here I thought we were becoming friends.” Justice Mulroy approaches her head. “We can make a deal. If you tell me everyone who can survive a nuclear catastrophe, it doesn’t have to be this way. We don’t have to do it this way.”

 

Clarke shuts her eyes.

 

Sighing, Justice Mulroy moves. “I had hoped we could do this without any unpleasantness. If you will.”

 

There’s a click and suddenly there’s a sawing sound next to Clarke. She squeezes her eyes closed further, her fingernails digging into her palms as the machine whirring grows closer. “It’s just me.” Clarke states, her words shaking. “Just me.”

 

Justice Mulroy gives a short laugh. “Now, now, Clarke. Friends don’t lie to each other.”

 

The machine grows closer.

 

Tick, tick, tick.

 

“Steady beat isn’t enough, is it?” Justice Mulroy says over the drilling noise. “I think we need to have something else play over this unpleasant behavior.”

 

Clarke hears them move around until there’s a faint noise that follows the beat of the metronome. “E pensando di lei.” The airy voices sing out, barely covering the drill. Clarke’s entire body is shaking as she opens her eyes to see several figures above her, instruments in hand. “Ego dominus tuus.”

 

“It’s a beautiful piece, isn’t it Clarke?”

 

Tick, tick, tick.

 

“Io sono in pace.”

 

“I am in peace.” Justice Mulroy states, his hands waving in the air to the beat of the metronome. The people sing, their words dripping with emotion. The woman warbles as the man meets her in tune. “This is what gives us peace, Clarke.”

 

She’s busy eyeing the drill before her. “Please,” she breathes, the word almost lost.

 

“You can stop this, Clarke.” Justice Mulroy states. “You know what you have to do to stop this.”

 

Clarke doesn’t say anything. She doesn’t struggle. She sees the instruments at her side and the ones in front of her.

 

All the lives that were lost under her hands. All the lives that were given with her decisions. Every human on earth who felt pain because of her actions. This is the moment. This is the moment they demand their retribution and their voices to be heard.

 

“Do you have anything to say before we begin, Clarke?”

 

Clarke takes a steadying breath, waiting until her body stops shaking. When it does, she raises her gaze to him. “I have learned that the world is not kind to those who take without fear of consequence.”

 

Justice Mulroy’s smile widens.

 

Clarke sets herself, the instruments closer. “It may not be at my hand, but fire will consume you.”

 

They bring the drill to her skin.

 

Tick, tick, tick.

 

***

 

“Bring her this way.”

 

Bellamy listens to Diyoza as she points him to the waterfall. “It’ll be cold, but hold her under that. It should help.”

 

Bellamy doesn’t respond because he’s afraid to open his mouth. Instead, he does exactly what she instructs him to do, holding Clarke in his arms, her limbs sagged over and feet dragging on the ground. The moment she started to tap against his wrist, he knew something was coming. When she let out a little gasp, he grabbed her before she could fall. Her hands flew to her ears, covering noises none of them could hear. He could barely hear Diyoza’s instructions over his own panic, hoisting her up as she pointed to the waterfall.

 

Placing his back against the powerful water, Bellamy sucks in a breath as the coldness takes his breath away. He holds her there, though, the water washing over them. He tries to ignore how it’s like needles down his back, the two soaked in seconds.

 

Clarke’s head whips up as she gasps, her hands clawing at his forearms as she looks around, the waterfall spraying her face. “What—”

 

Bellamy drags her over to the underside of the waterfall, where nothing more than the spray can reach them. Diyoza has long since left, everyone on the ground and gazing to where they are. Bellamy can’t hear what they’re talking about, but he knows they’re as worried as he is. Setting Clarke down so that her back is against the rocks under the waterfall, Bellamy slides next to her. “You’re alright.” He says.

 

Clarke locks eyes with him, hers widening. “It’s the suns.” She says, tripping over her words. Her eyes are wild and she’s looking around her like she wants to escape, but the words are pouring out. “Bellamy, it’s the suns. They’re sick because they can’t handle the radiation. They weren’t alive on the planet when it melted down either time. On the Ark, we were saved by solar radiation exposure, like why Mt. Weather wanted us. The Grounders survived the initial nuclear meltdown. But they knew I survived Praimfaya because of the bugging they did when we got here. They knew I had a genetic mutation.”

 

Bellamy grips her arms. “Clarke, I need you to breathe—”

 

“Diyoza’s right, they knew. They knew before they ever asked—”

 

“Clarke, please—”

 

“—and they’re looking for a way to survive on this planet, just like Mt. Weather.” Clarke swallows, holding onto Bellamy. “They want Madi, Bellamy. That’s what they want. This whole trade negotiation they plotted – everything.

 

“It was always about Madi.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THIRTEEN

 

“So what do you want to do?”

 

Clarke is pacing in the cabin, her legs aching, but she can’t give herself any time to think about that. Bellamy has asked her this question so many times, it no longer even feels like a string of words anymore. Every time he had, she opens her mouth and then snaps it shut again, completely unable to string any set of coherent words together.

 

Jordan is staying with Octavia for the night, which Clarke is certain was orchestrated by Bellamy. Despite Octavia very loudly saying, “Jordan, do you want to have a sleep over in my cabin?” and Jordan glancing at Clarke like she’s a lost puppy, then receiving a kick in the shins from Murphy, Clarke would’ve been able to sense the set up from the beginning. The moment they all got back, Jordan grabbed his things and left, leaving Clarke alone with Bellamy and her thoughts.

 

She doesn’t know which is more dangerous.

 

Her fingers rake against the table in the room, scratching up and down the wood as she tries to digest everything. Every once and a while, she realizes she’s holding her breath, and she tries to indiscreetly let out a shaky one that Bellamy catches every time.

 

Clarke can’t help but think about her time with Eligius. Now that it’s all coming back to her, she doesn’t know how to be. She can hear the ticking over and over, like a countdown before she’s no longer a person to those in the camp. The haunting notes of the opera play in her ears again and again, whispering her to go to sleep and live with nightmares. She feels the drill against her skin, hears the scream she let out, and shudders at the pleas that followed soon after.

 

The universe is filled with monsters. But perhaps the footprints they leave behind on the soul are worse than any bite.

 

Clarke stares at where her hands are clawing at the table, splinters in her fingertips deep enough to draw blood, but she can barely feel it. Taking them off the table, Clarke stares at the beads of black blood. It trickles down a few fingers, Clarke never hating the sight of it more.

 

Vaguely she’s aware that Bellamy is moving beside her, but she doesn’t face him. Licking her lips, she finally states, “I don’t know.”

 

Lackluster response for the long while they’ve stood in silence, but it’s true. Clarke is currently trying to push down the panic and bile that’s rising in her throat and doing a poor job of it. “They can’t have her.” She manages, still not looking at him.

 

“They won’t.”

 

“I won’t allow it.”

 

“They won’t.”

 

Clarke brings a quaking hand up to her mouth, unable to stop the thoughts of the lab from rushing back. Now that she remembers the first day, it’s as if they’re all piling up and waiting to suffocate her. Rubbing her temples, she tries to keep herself from getting overwhelmed, but is failing.

 

“What do you need?”

 

Clarke shakes her head because she doesn’t know. Her mind travels to the years before on Earth, before it ended one final time. “We have to tell her. And Indra and Gaia. Everyone needs to know what we’re up against.” Clarke finally concludes. “Lack of communication never helped any of us.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Clarke finally turns to face him and he’s giving her an expression she can’t quite figure out. “That’s what you want to do.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Then why didn’t you just say something?”

 

Bellamy shuffles. “Wasn’t my conclusion to put on you. I figured you’d get there on your own.”

 

Clarke sighs, sitting in one of the chairs at the table. She waits for Bellamy to join her, before saying, “It’s all coming back in flashes.”

 

“Clarke, you don’t have to—”

 

“And sometimes I feel like I’m making it up. That it couldn’t have been like that. Then there’s something too real about it. Too sharp. Too—” Clarke grasps for words to explain it, but she can’t. “You know, I’ve thought about Mount Weather almost every day since it happened.”

 

Bellamy freezes across from her and she knows that he’s back there too. She still can’t read his expression, which is infuriating, because she used to be able to know exactly what he was thinking from a quick glance. But she’s rusty at it these days, and that aches more than her legs ever could.

 

Because he’s home. And Clarke knows that to make a home a person is offering yourself to the possibility of change. It happened to her, all those years ago, as she couldn’t say what she felt as they were saying goodbye before Praimfaya rained down on her.

 

Because she wasn’t ready to say goodbye. She knew that the moment was goodbye, not just goodbye for now. And then time took everything from her. It continued to take, and take, and take.

 

It took her home from her.

 

Now he’s sitting across from where she is and looking at her and she can’t figure out what it means.

 

“I used to think that if I could…” Clarke bows her head. It was so long ago, but it’s stamped on every part of her. “That if I could save the human race, maybe I could stop seeing all their faces whenever I closed my eyes.”

 

“Clarke,” Bellamy says, but she barely hears it.

 

“Then the world ended anyway.” Clarke says with a hollow laugh. “Three times. I mean, I was only present for two, but I’m sure the other one wasn’t great.” Gritting her teeth, she says, “I know the price I had to pay for Mount Weather. I know the lives I took that day. I know that whatever nightblood solution to radiation Eligius is trying to come up with is just what Mount Weather was doing. And I already purged the world of them, so this is what I get for that, right?”

 

“Clarke, no.” Bellamy states, getting out of the chair and crouching next to her. “You can’t possibly think—”

 

“Why not, Bellamy?” Clarke asks. “We were never the good guys because there were no good guys. Everyone was looking out for their people and I happened to be better at killing large amounts of them than everyone else. I deserved what Eligius did to me because of Mount Weather. But I won’t let them have Madi. They can’t.”

 

“When are you going to get it through that head of yours that you are not alone in this?” Bellamy all but snaps at her. “And you did not deserve what they did to you!”

 

Clarke’s hands grate against the table again. “You don’t know that.”

 

“I do—”

 

“You don’t.”

 

Bellamy wraps an arm around her and pulls her to the ground where he is. It’s an uncomfortable position, but she really doesn’t care that the moment. Clarke knows rationally that someone must’ve told him that pressure is good for panic attacks, given his sudden need to hold her whenever she’s on the brink. Irrationally, she doesn’t care.

 

“You never should’ve left after Mount Weather.” Bellamy states.

 

Clarke is so startled, she almost stops quaking. Ever since their confrontation years ago, they never talked about the day. It’s one of those moments that hung from her like fabric, wrapped around her arms and legs enough so she couldn’t get rid of it. She can remember smelling the trees and the bile in her throat. She wanted to sneak away so badly, but Bellamy had come to stand next to her.

 

She let herself dream. She let herself dream for a second that she could stay with him. But all the faces of the dead stared back instead.

 

“You shouldn’t have.” Bellamy says forcefully when she doesn’t respond. “Not because of any leadership or Ark bullshit. You should’ve stayed because you needed us. You needed someone to help you realize that Mount Weather was an impossible situation. You needed someone to tell you that ‘bearing it, so no one else has to’ is bullshit. Everyone manipulated you into thinking you had to be the one to make the decisions, but that’s not on you. It’s on everyone else who was willing to put it on you.”

 

Clarke wants to argue – she wants to tell him that he doesn’t understand. Words fail, as they sometimes do.

 

“You shouldn’t have left.” Bellamy repeats. “Not because of any obligation to the Ark, but because I could’ve convinced you that this isn’t on you. Because I don’t know how to tell you that you do not deserve what they did to you. But I’ll tell you. I’ll tell you every day if I have to.”

 

“You don’t get it, Bellamy. I killed them all.”

 

“Do you not understand the circumstance?” Bellamy asks, placing his chin on the top of her head so he can pull her closer. “Do you not realize that the Grounders left you at the entrance of Mount Weather? That you told them many times to let everyone go, and they refused? Everyone forced your hand again and again – you escalated because no one was listening. I-I—” Bellamy takes a breath. “Listen, I need you to know that what you went through is not because of Mount Weather. This is humans do cruel things to one another when they’re scared.”

 

“This can’t happen to Madi.” Clarke breathes. “This is why I didn’t want her to have the Flame, why I didn’t want her to be in charge.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I didn’t want her to turn into me.”

 

Neither of them say anything for a moment.

 

Clarke isn’t sure of what else there is to say. She finally said it out loud. Everything she never wanted.

 

Clarke thinks of the girl who fell to earth from the sky like a star. A star that had been scuffed and damaged, only to be on a planet looking to steal light. Every decision she made, everything she ever did, took pieces of that light away from her. She became less of a person, less of a human, and each pull of the trigger was easier.

 

She isn’t the hero.

 

It’s too much to put on a teenager. Because she was that teenager. And she was consumed.

 

Clarke knows Bellamy is fighting for the right words, but there are none because it’s not something that can be argued.

 

“I wish you knew.” Bellamy whispers.

 

“Knew what?”

 

He doesn’t answer her. Instead, they merely sit on the floor, waiting for the planet to grow cold.

 

***

 

It takes all but five minutes to call an emergency council meeting, Bellamy pulling Indra aside. He appreciates that Indra doesn’t even question him when she pulls Murphy, Miller and herself off of duty, stalking through the village to find Madi. Bellamy searches to find a few other people himself, appreciative for the time alone.

 

They’re falling into the trap again. Everything Monty warned them about was coming back. But he isn’t sure how to protect the people he loves without delving into more violence. He tries to think of what Monty would say if he were here. He probably would try to use vegetables to save the world. Laughing to himself, Bellamy allows himself a moment to miss his friend deeply.

 

Raven moves to where Bellamy is, saying, “Wow, I can’t believe Clarke was down for looping everyone in and letting Madi know they are aware she’s a nightblood.”

 

“Her idea, in the long run.” Bellamy states.

 

“You didn’t have to convince her?”

 

“No, she came to the conclusion herself.” Bellamy says. “Did you guys turn off the frequency for the council area?”

 

Raven nods. “We slightly changed the channel, so they’re hearing atmospheric noise around the village on the west sector. The only advantage we have right now is that they don’t know we’re aware they’re bugging us.”

 

Bellamy thinks about that. “Is there any way to reverse the frequency so that we can listen to them?”

 

Raven frowns, losing herself in thought. “Maybe,” Raven says slowly, clearing her mind among the wires. “That’s a great idea, though. We can use every advantage we can get at this point.” The two of them approach the Council cabin, Raven pausing. “How bad is it going to be in there?”

 

“Honestly? I have no idea.” Bellamy states. “You know that Clarke thinks she deserves what happened? Because of Mount Weather?”

 

“Of course she does.” Raven sighs. “That girl needs a large helping of emotional stability. Hell, we all do at this point.”

 

“That’s why we have to stay together.” Bellamy states. “Bad things happen when we separate.”

 

“They really do, don’t they?” Raven laughs. “Alright, let’s do this.”

 

The two make their way into the cabin, which is surrounded by the entire council already. “Good, you’re here.” Indra states. “Shaw has requested Diyoza join, as she has been instrumental in strategic planning.”

 

Shaw winces at that, standing next to Diyoza. “I just think if we’re going to be dealing with Eligius tactically, we need her mind on it.”

 

“I agree.” Bellamy states with a curt nod. “It’s an ‘all hands on deck’ situation.”

 

“Glad to be of service.” Diyoza says with a smirk. But the humor doesn’t reach her eyes.

 

Then he realizes he never got the opportunity to ask her about the tapping. Given her expression, he knows one thing to be true: the culprit is in the room.

 

Clenching his jaw, Bellamy tries to remain stoic, but he knows the second Diyoza understands that he’s figured it out. She keeps her cool, but lifts an eyebrow at him and gives an almost imperceptible nod. Bellamy’s certain no one else saw it because no one else was looking for it.

 

“We’re here to discuss some information.” Bellamy started when Indra indicates at him to do so. “Raven and Shaw made the realization that Eligius has been bugging us since we landed.”

 

Madi’s head tilts in a very Commander-like way. “Then why are we discussing this here?”

 

“We gave them white noise of the village, similar to the video loop we gave these guys.” Raven says, gesturing at Diyoza. “They shouldn’t know that we’ve figured it out and we should have privacy. They’re currently listening to that bullshit music that your crew is so fond of.”

 

“I tell them all the time to play something with a decent beat, but they’re philistines, the lot of them.” Diyoza groans.

 

Raven chuckles.

 

“But does that mean that they are going to be striking us soon?” Indra cuts in. “Since there was a formulated plot to get Clarke back?”

 

“That’s the thing,” Bellamy starts, sucking in a breath. “We think—”

 

“We think that they know you’re a nightblood.” Clarke says to Madi, who recoils slightly. “We think that the trade negotiations they set up before you found me was to get you alone, if possible. Because we think they knew you had it and were looking for another donor.”

 

Indra remains as calm as always, but Gaia at Madi’s right, looks stricken. “You think they’re plotting to take the Heda?”

 

Clarke bristles at the name, but continues. “We think so. We think that they allowed the group to find me so they could figure out who else had nightblood. And we have to assume they figured it out.”

 

Madi peers at Clarke, her eyes young. “And you told me?”

 

Clarke takes a breath. “You need to know so you can protect yourself and your people.”

 

Bellamy is grateful everyone in the vicinity is allowing the two of them to have a moment. He knows how hard that must be for Clarke to take a step backwards, but also how necessary it is.

 

“We shouldn’t have let Russell go.” Madi hisses to Indra, eyes dark. “He has to know that we were being bugged.”

 

“There’s no point in living in the past now, Heda.” Indra states. She turns to Raven. “Have you located all of the devices.”

 

“We think so. I’d like to do another sweep and push the boundary a bit, but at least the ones immediately in the village, we have documented.”

 

“We need to discuss what needs to be done to protect the Heda,” Gaia states, putting her hands up.

 

“We need to discuss how we’re going to avoid war.” Madi states, going back to her Commander cool exterior.

 

“We discussed going to finish the trade negotiations at the meeting,” Indra states. “Perhaps that’s not appropriate.”

 

Bellamy glances at Clarke. She’s a bit pale, and he knows it’s because she’s having the exact same thought as he is. In fact, she turns to him, eyes wide, staring from across the council table.

 

He knows.

 

“We have to go.” Bellamy states, tearing his gaze away. “We have to go to the trade negotiations.”

 

“Are you insane?” Murphy cries. “How did you reach that conclusion?”

 

Clarke’s clenching her fists at her sides as she does when she tries to keep herself together. “Because it’s strategically the smartest thing to do.” Bellamy says. “They don’t know we know Madi’s the target. They don’t know we know they’ve bugged us.”

 

“They don’t know we know they know we know they know.” Murphy prattles on, motion with his hand. “The only important thing is I don’t know why you think it’s a good idea.”

 

“Because strategically, it is.” Diyoza states.

 

Bellamy continues, “We can prep for anything that happens. Raven and Shaw are going to reverse engineer the devices so we can listen to them.”

 

“Can you do that without them noticing?” Indra asks.

 

Raven and Shaw share a look. “We’ll need to look into it. I think if we take one down, they won’t get suspicious. These devices get stepped on for all we know. We’ll need some time to figure it out.”

 

“You have three days.” Madi states. “Because that’s when we told them we’d travel to Eligius.

 

“Okay, we’ll use every second of that, then.”

 

“Yeah, I better not run into you guys making out.” Murphy snaps. “No time for that nonsense.”

 

Raven rolls her eyes. “Real rich, coming from you.”

 

“Well, I’m not reverse engineering hardware, am I?”

 

“You wish.”

 

Murphy snorts. “I really don’t.”

 

“I think we should also try and engineer something for their people to stop the sickness.” Clarke says quickly, not looking anyone in the eye. “I think we should talk to my mom and see if she can come up with a non-nightblood option. Perhaps look at the genetic makeup and see why it’s so resilient to radiation.”

 

Murphy goes back to being angry in a second. “Are you actually insane? You want to help them after everything?”

 

Clarke sighs. “At one point, we have to stop responding to violence with violence.”

 

“Rude, I love violence.”

 

“I’m aware,” Clarke says, a small laugh sneaking out of her and loosening her shoulders. She reaches out and grabs Murphy’s arm. “We should try this as well.”

 

“Monty was right, Murphy.” Bellamy says. “The cycle has to stop at some point.”

 

Murphy makes a face that is one Bellamy is very familiar with – the one that says very plainly that he wants to punch Bellamy in the face. “What the hell,” he states, reminiscent of their time on the Ark. “Let’s try to be the good guys.”

 

“We will be the good guys.” Bellamy states. “For Monty and Harper.”

 

Clarke smiles to herself. “For Wells.” Her eyes are distant.

 

Raven states, “For Finn. Jasper.”

 

Murphy sighs, “You guys aren’t going to try and makes us put our hands in and have a moment, are you?”

 

Raven bursts out laughing. “Leave it to you to ruin the moment.”

 

“I have no idea who any of these people are.” Shaw says to Diyoza.

 

Clarke smiles at him. “You would’ve liked them. Good guys never survive war.”

 

“Screw you, Clarke, I’m amazing.” Murphy states.

 

She squeezes his hand. “We need to give my mom a sample of nightblood to work with.”

 

“I’ll do it.” Madi says instantly.

 

“Absolutely not.” Clarke says.

 

“Clarke, maybe—” Murphy mutters.

 

“No.” Clarke says, shaking her head. “Absolutely not. It’s just one donation, it’s not the end of the world.”

 

Bellamy shares a look with Murphy. He considers arguing, but knows there’s no winning this one. Clarke may be willing to allow Madi go to Eligius under threat, but he knows that leniency will only go so far, so he doesn’t push it. “I’ll go with you.” He offers instead.

 

“I’ll be fine, guys.” Clarke says, but the humor is stiff. “Seriously.”

 

“Yeah, we all believe you.” Murphy states, rolling his eyes.

 

“Then it’s settled.” Madi states, the worry of a teenager replaced instantly. “Raven and Shaw will work on the bugging devices, Abby will work on a new solution for radiation poisoning to help peace, and we will continue negotiations in three days.”

 

“And will be packin’ a lot of heat when we go back to Eligius.” Murphy mutters.

 

“No big guns for you.” Bellamy says.

 

“You’re no fun.”

 

“Dismissed.” Madi says over the two of them.

 

People start to file out, but Diyoza steps close to Bellamy. “Follow me,” she whispers and then reaches out to another person and drags them along.

 

Before he can exit the cabin, Diyoza blocks the door and closes it. “Alright, we need to talk.”

 

Bellamy looks at the person she directed it toward, his heart stuttering when he sees Gaia confusedly standing before him. “What is going on?”

 

“Now, I’m doing this only with Bellamy, so you should appreciate that.” Diyoza states calmly. “Because I’m sure you would not want this conversation in front of your Heda, or whatever the fuck it’s called.”

 

Bellamy’s eyes widen. “You’re joking.” He states.

 

Diyoza shakes her head. “No.”

 

Bellamy takes a breath to settle himself, but he’s having a hard time thinking straight. Anger feels like sharp knives running up and down his side, growing more and more vibrant as seconds pass. He thinks of the way Clarke looked after the council meeting, the fear and panic.

 

“What is this about?” Gaia asks, but there’s something in her expression that leads Bellamy to think she already knows.

 

“You were tapping in the council meeting that sent Clarke into a panic attack. I’m certain Madi wouldn’t want anyone knowing her second in command was intentionally traumatizing her own mother.”

 

Gaia purses her lips. “You have no proof.”

 

Bellamy almost snaps at that. “Are you kid—”

 

“I’ve got this, calm down.” Diyoza states, putting her hands up. “I have witnesses. I have proof. Now, you should be grateful we’re doing this here instead of in public. So I’d start talking.”

 

“Clarke is unstable.” Gaia snaps. “She is a liability to Heda. She’s always been one, but now more than ever. Clarke being alive and in the mental state that she is, is going to cause Heda to make emotional decisions.” Gaia takes a breath. “I saw the way she tensed when we were questioning Russell. Just with tapping. She lost it. The Clarke Griffin I remember doesn’t lose it. She is damaged and that runs a risk for our people.”

 

“She was damaged protecting your people!” Bellamy shouts, unable to control himself.

 

“Keep your voice down, we don’t want anyone coming in.” Diyoza states, but her words are dripping with venom.

 

“I know that, Bellamy.” Gaia says softly. “I know the sacrifice she gave. But now – on the brink of war again – people need to know that they can’t turn to Clarke Griffin. They have to turn to the Heda or we will all die.”

 

“So that’s what it was?” Bellamy asks, voice low and dangerous. “A fucking power play? Clarke is Madi’s family and—”

 

“Don’t you see the danger, Bellamy?” Gaia asks. “The danger in having someone so fragile around? I didn’t mean to make her react so extremely, I didn’t. But we cannot be looking to Clarke Griffin for answers anymore. The time of Wanheda has passed. She cannot be the Commander of Death when she can’t keep herself together.”

 

Bellamy steps toward her without thinking and Diyoza puts a hand between them. “Bellamy, either calm down, or you have to leave. As for you,” Diyoza faces Gaia. “You will never do anything like that again. Trauma isn’t a button to push or a game to play in whatever political strategy you have. You may be loyal to the commanders, but that loyalty is going to cause your own commander to kick you out if she finds out what you’ve done.”

 

“My responsibility is to my Heda. I will not let our people be destroyed because no one is willing to face the reality of the situation.”

 

“Then perish.” Diyoza states. Bellamy’s eyes widen at her and she sighs when she realizes it. “It would be so much easier if you were alive when I was alive. This would be much more satisfying.”

 

It’s odd enough so that Bellamy can actually steady himself. Once he has, he returns his focus to Gaia. “In a weird way, I get it. I do. You’re worried because Madi’s legitimacy is questioned among Diyoza’s men. And some of Wonkru since she’s so young. Everyone who lived in space didn’t have the Flame. We don’t have the history. But I want you to know this.

 

“I was there when Lexa executed Gustus. I watched it happen. She didn’t even hesitate. He tried to frame us in order to start a war and stop peace. She strapped him to a pole and executed him publicly. Now that voice? Lexa? Is in Madi’s head. As is every other Commander before her. What do you think all those Commanders will tell her to do if she finds out you’re manipulating for a security of power?” Bellamy asks, no humor in any syllable. “So I recommend never trying something like that again. Because if you do? This conversation will no longer be private. It will be as public as Gustus’ execution with an assured similar ending.”

 

Gaia clenches her jaw. “I’m just trying to protect my Heda.”

 

“Don’t do it this way. I assure you it will not end as you hope. And if you do. Perish.” Bellamy turns to Diyoza. “Did I do that right?”

 

A rare smile breaks out on her face. “Close enough.”

 

He frowns. “It doesn’t have the same gravitas that you had.”

 

Diyoza claps a hand on his back. “Just wait until I tell you about free real estate.”

 

***

 

Clarke stands in front of the medical tent with Murphy by her side. “You sure about this?” Murphy asks, the usual sarcasm gone.

 

“Yes.”

 

“Seems like a lateral move.”

 

“I take it you’ve never played chess?”

 

“Yeah, board games weren’t as known. Not everyone could be born in the Alpha Station.” Murphy says, nudging her side. She gives him a weak smile. “You sure you don’t want me to come in there?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Clarke, I could—”

 

“No.” Clarke states. “I don’t want anyone in there.”

 

Murphy doesn’t respond and surprisingly doesn’t say anything else when she pushes back the tent flaps.

 

Her mother is standing there, instruments set on a table to the side. Clarke finds it a bit harder to breathe, ticking resounding in her ears as she stares at them. “—arke. Clarke. Clarke!”

 

“Yeah?” Clarke asks, whipping her head up.

 

Abby stands before her, concern across her features. She follows Clarke’s gaze to the bed, saying, “You don’t have to do this.”

 

“Yes I do.”

 

“It is a safe and relatively harmless procedure. It wouldn’t be painful for Madi to go through.”

 

“No.” Clarke is almost startled at how raspy her words are. Her throat is dry, reminding her of the time she was stuck in the desert after Praimfaya. She’s just as scared. “I can do this.”

 

Clarke moves toward the chair, placing a quivering hand to help herself climb onto it. Her entire body trembles as she lies down, lifting the hem of her shirt up for her mom. The wind from outside the tent chills her bones, as if kissing her goodbye.

 

Tucking her arms under her chest, Clarke places her head down and between her fists. Her mother goes to grab a few instruments and Clarke shudders, unable to stop herself. Her eyes fill with tears and in moments they’re dripping down her face.

 

“You know, when I first met your dad, it was because he kept injuring himself.” Abby states from behind her, the metal very quiet behind her.

 

“Really?” Clarke asks, her word small and child-like, as if she hadn’t watched the world end twice.

 

“Yeah, it was the most ridiculous thing. The first time it was because he broke his thumb when something fell on it. I remember marveling at how good looking it was, and then marveling at his complete stupidity.” Abby chuckles. “For someone so engineering smart, he made the dumbest decisions.

 

Vida Cor Meum is playing in her head, but the warmth from her mother’s voice is like a life raft that she clings to. Squeezing her eyes shut, Clarke tenses into her fists, trying to drown out the soundless opera around her.

 

“Two days later, he cut his palm. The day after, bruised his ribs falling off of something. I thought he was injuring himself so he could see me again and again. In all actuality, he was just a bit of an idiot.” Abby laughs and it’s so gentle, the opera stop for only a moment. “But he always made me laugh. Which was good for me, because everything seems so bleak on the Ark. He had such a great laugh. Did I ever tell you the time he shut down a section of the Ark so we could have a private date?”

 

“No.”

 

“Oh, it’s a great story. Good thing Kane isn’t here, because I’m pretty sure he got blamed for it. Let’s start from the beginning.”

 

And like that, Abby prattles on. She tells story after story of her father, laughing and growing somber. She talks over the metal instruments, only taking a moment to warn her before something touches her skin. So Clarke listens. She listens, and listens, and listens.

 

After a while, the opera stops.

 

***

 

Here’s the thing: Bellamy never has time to breathe.

 

It’s something he knows about himself, because whenever he rests, someone dies. So he throws himself into a goal – into a project – into anything, just to keep the casualty count low.

 

Except now? Now Raven and Shaw are working, Madi is preparing for the trade negotiation, and Clarke is sleeping a few feet away because she decided to put herself through hell again and no one could come up with an argument why it was a bad idea. Now all he can do is wait for the negotiations and hope that Raven and Shaw find a solution.

 

He hates it.

 

Bellamy always loved the strategic. The tactical. There’s something calming about making plans and ensuring safety for everyone he loves. But there’s nothing to plan. Everything is done. All he can do is wait and that allows his mind to catch up with his heart. It’s never an easy sync, it seems.

 

So when he sleeps that night, his mind rolls over everything they’ve lost since they left the Ark the first time. His mind is littered with the ghosts of the dead, faces haunting him the moment he shuts his eyes. Whenever he thinks about how much he wants to save those he loves, he remembers everyone he’s lost. It’s as if his mind greets the dead in quiet moments.

 

When he dreams, he sees Charlotte. He sees Gina. He sees Jasper, Lincoln, Monty, Harper, he sees everyone and then he sees Clarke. They all move around him, whispering things that chill his bones and haunt his mind. Everything is too quiet and too planned and too much, he—

 

“Hey.”

 

The small voice startles him awake.

 

Bellamy doesn’t know when he fell asleep, but he does know the suns were in the sky and now the moons have taken their place. Clarke is sitting on his bed carefully, her skin illuminated in the cool moonlight in a way that seems so otherworldly, she fits into this place they were all trying to live in. Hesitantly, she reaches out and places a hand on his shoulder. “Are you alright?” She asks.

 

Bellamy sits up in his bed, running his hands down his face. “Shouldn’t I be asking you that?”

 

“Pain isn’t a competition, Bellamy.” Clarke says gently, scooting closer. “You’re allowed to need help too.”

 

Bellamy looks at her, really looks at her. The moonlight is making her hair glitter and eyes shine in a way he hasn’t seen. But what strikes him is how soft she is. The harsh lines of Wanheda and the dripping of blood is long gone. Gaia was wrong: Clarke didn’t come back fragile, she came back soft. Gentler, more cautious than she was. The woman forged of fire disintegrated to ash and left a girl made of starlight.

 

“You’re okay.” She states when he doesn’t do anything other than stare. “Is it alright if I join you?”

 

Bellamy nods, shifting so she can sit next to him, the two of them as close as two people can be without being on top of each other or falling off. He’s hyper aware of every movement he makes, his heart racing no longer from the nightmares.

 

Clarke stretches an arm around him. “Is this alright?”

 

He nods again.

 

Running her fingers through his hair, Clarke hums to herself as she does so. For a moment, he’s taken back to the woods all those years ago as she held Atom as he died. Perhaps the Grounders were wrong. Being the Commander of Death wasn’t something sharp. It was embracing people on their worst day – the day it all ended. “My mom was telling me stories about my dad today.” Clarke says quietly. “During the procedure. He used to do this when I had a bad dream.”

 

Bellamy feels the tension leave his shoulders and tells himself not to overthink it. Not now. The soft melody Clarke hums drowns out the night noise, and even more so, the voices of the dead.

 

“I get nightmares too,” Clarke states.

 

He doesn’t respond because of course she does. They all do.

 

So, he allows himself this.

 

He allows himself to be present with her, with no war. He doesn’t know if they’ll be fighting again. He doesn’t know if there will be more lost to haunt his dreams.

 

What he does know is, as he drifts off to a dreamless sleep to Clarke singing softly next to him, is that the suns will rise in the morning. His friends and family will be there.

 

Despite what the ghosts try to tell him, he is not alone.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FOURTEEN

 

When he wakes up, there’s a weight next to him that takes him a second to process. He thinks of how long it’s been since there’s been someone next to him that he panics. Then glances down.

 

Curled at his side is Clarke, her arm wrapped carelessly across his chest as she uses the rest of him as a pillow, the one placed on the bed long since strewn to the floor. Freezing, he isn’t quite sure what to do. They’ve never been this close before, even in their best days. But the lines have smoothed on her face and she looks so young. It’s hard for him to remember sometimes that she’s in her mid-twenties. Their time on earth feels like it spanned lifetimes, but really, their time together was short.

 

Her breathing is easier than he’s heard it in weeks and she’s calm. Reaching out, Bellamy brushes the hair that’s covering her face away. Logically, he knows he should move. He should get up and start the day like he does every day.

 

He doesn’t want to.

 

There are so few quiet mornings in the universe. They’re scattered among the stars to be found. One thing he has learned over time is that when you find one, you hold onto it. Cherish it for what it is. Because Bellamy doesn’t know when they’ll get another one like it.

 

Or if they ever will.

 

Her breath shallows out and he knows she’s woken up, even though she hasn’t moved. Her fingers are cool against his chest as they stay splayed there. Placing a hand on her back, Bellamy chooses to look out the window where the suns are rising. For something so beautiful, it causes so much damage.

 

He feels the grip around his chest tighten. Clarke pulls herself closer to him, adjusting her head so that her nose touches his bare skin.

 

Feeling bold, he pulls her closer and she doesn’t argue.

 

They lie there for a few minutes, listening to the entire village wake up. There are shouts, there’s laughter, there’s barking of orders. Outside of the cabin, the world is ready to move on. Move forward with war. With the plans to destroy another day.

 

Inside the cabin is safe. It’s quiet, in the sort of way where you can hear the breathing of someone else. Someone you love. Someone whose life is worth protecting.

 

Somewhere you can protect them.

 

***

 

“You know, you are very good with kids.” Diyoza says to Clarke as she holds Hope, making a face at her until she giggles.

 

“It’s something new,” Clarke says with a chuckle. “Kids never liked me on the Ark.”

 

“God, you were a teenager, I hope they didn’t.” Diyoza chuckles. “Now, it’s serendipitous timing for me because I want to recruit you as one of my baby sitters.”

 

Octavia rolls on her stomach, perfectly content to stay a good foot away from the baby. Balancing her chin on her hands, she says, “You realize you have the only child in the entire camp, right? I’m pretty sure people would give you their left arm to babysit.”

 

“And here I thought people were giving me their left arms as a sacrifice to my immortality.” Diyoza scoffs.

 

“That too.”

 

“Good.”

 

Clarke smiles. She’s glad to be outside with these two women, away from the planning and research. A part of her feels like she’s not doing enough, but every time she thinks about walking into the council cabin or the medical tent, she feels panic seize her chest and she isn’t sure what to do. So, instead she plays with Hope and listens to Octavia talk about the gossip around the camp that she doesn’t really care about.

 

Although, at this point, she isn’t really listening.

 

Clarke can’t help but think about the morning, wide awake. She told herself that she needed to get away from him – go back to her own bed – but couldn’t bring herself to do it. Once Bellamy fell into a deep sleep, Clarke stayed awake. She stayed awake and looked down at the man sleeping in her arms and felt a rush of something she hadn’t experienced in years.

 

It took a long time for her to realize her feelings for Bellamy. She shoved them down on their time on earth, telling herself over and over that love is a weakness and being the Commander of Death had a certain responsibility. She had a responsibility to protect the people she loved by keeping them at an arm’s distance from Death. Something she wasn’t particularly good at because, well, everyone died. Wells, Finn, Lexa… they all died because she loved them.


Clarke watched the original 100 die and the earth perish and she loved them all so much too. She loved her father more than she loved anyone on the Ark and she saw the moment his soul left his body. She’s said goodbye to them all and they never returned to her.

 

But Bellamy.

 

She never said goodbye to him. She never let him say goodbye to her. She couldn’t bear to hear the words from him. She couldn’t say goodbye.

 

So as the moons from the universe drenched the cabin in a silver glow, Bellamy asleep under her arm as she ran her fingers through his hair, Clarke felt.

 

She felt something she hadn’t felt since everyone came back to the ground. She shoved her feelings for Bellamy somewhere deep inside her that couldn’t access. When she left him at the bunker, they clawed at her chest, begging to be realized, but she remained firm.

 

Everyone she loves dies.

 

Yet, he’s here.

 

As he fell asleep under her hand, Clarke thought about the lab at Eligius. About how he came to her in the cold nights, where the brick from the chamber froze the skin on her back. How he held her hand when her tired bones couldn’t prop herself up anymore and gave way. How he spoke to her when she felt so alone. How he wasn’t real, but felt real and was a space where she could hide when there was no place around her to do so.

 

She was afraid to let him go. Perhaps it was selfish. Perhaps she should force him out of her life so he has an opportunity for something quiet. The girl made of fire will never be able to offer him quiet. But Clarke is selfish. Instead, she held him there, listening to his breathing in a way she never could in the lab because he was never truly there. He was here. Real, alive, and under her fingertips.

 

“—to Clarke. Earth to Clarke!” Octavia shouts and Clarke startles, causing Hope to giggle in her hands. “Or random planet to Clarke, I don’t even know at this point.”

 

Diyoza waves her hand. “Unimportant part of the sentence.”

 

“Sorry,” Clarke mutters. She hands Hope back to Diyoza, wiping her hands on her pants. “I was just thinking.”

 

Octavia and Diyoza share a look that Clarke doesn’t miss, but can’t bring herself to care about. When she doesn’t say anything further, Diyoza states, “You know you can say whatever you want here. We won’t judge.”

 

“We are literally the last two people on this planet who can judge anything anyone says.” Octavia drawls. “We destroyed earth together.”

 

“I’d like to think that was McCreary.” Clarke says to herself.

 

“Yeah, fuck that guy.” Octavia looks at Diyoza. “Why’d you ever sleep with him?”

 

“We all do stupid things sometimes.” Diyoza shrugs. “And fortunately, or unfortunately depending on how you look at it, all that unearned confidence makes him a really great lay.”

 

Crinkling her nose, Octavia says, “Actually, I really could’ve gone my whole life without hearing that.”

 

“If you want to bring up my sexual history, you have to deal with the consequences.” Diyoza comments, unruffled. “Do you realize it’s been over two hundred years since I’ve had sex? I think that it has to be some sort of record.”

 

Octavia snorts, rolling to her back. “We all are in a bit of drought.”

 

Diyoza taps her nose. “Maybe if you were getting laid on the regular, you wouldn’t have condemned your entire people to death.”

 

“Yeah, that was it.” Octavia snorts. “We shouldn’t be joking about that.”

 

“Life is fleeting and existence is a prison.” Diyoza states.

 

“You have the weirdest sense of humor.”

 

Diyoza winks at her. “If you were growing up when I was, you’d understand.” She says with a laugh.

 

Clarke is happy being on the outskirts of this conversation, the two of them prattling back and forth about things that don’t matter. Sex, jokes, and at one point, a very long story Diyoza gives them about a place called Santa Monica that she stayed at one summer involving a bottle of whiskey and a guy who claimed he was a part of One Direction, whoever that was. It’s nice. It’s nice to have a space where people understand the pressure and pain of being in charge, but don’t need to talk about every decision. They’ve simply decided to move on and have done so.

 

“Clarke.”

 

When Clarke glances up, Raven’s standing above her, arms crossed. Shaw reaches them as well, quirking an eyebrow at Diyoza. “She telling the One Direction story?”

 

Diyoza nods to him. “It’s a great story.”

 

“Why would he have been in Santa Monica picking up chicks with a bottle of whiskey. That makes absolutely no sense.”

 

“Shaw, are you honestly trying to argue that anyone wouldn’t want this?”

 

Shaw runs his hand down his face. “I am so tired and so uncomfortable.” He groans. Turning to Raven, he says, “Please talk to Clarke so I can chew my leg out of this bear trap.”

 

“You’re the one who decided to question it. You only have yourself to blame.”

 

“Being a mother has mellowed you out.”

 

Diyoza only chuckles in response.

 

“My Catholic mother would lose her mind if she knew the conversation I was having right now.”

 

“I think your Catholic mother would be more upset with the fact that you helped blow up a planet.”

 

Shaw’s eyes widen. “Do not tell my Catholic mother that!”

 

Diyoza rolls her eyes. “When is the last time you slept?”

 

“A certain amount of hours ago. Please don’t ask me to calculate it because math is hard.”

 

Raven waves their nonsensical conversation aside. “Moving on.” She states and Shaw is clearly relieved. “We’re here because we did it. We managed to reverse engineer the device and we can hear something, but we’re not sure what we’re picking up on. We were hoping,” Raven trails off, wincing. Glancing to those around her, she sighs. “We were hoping you could come and listen to it and maybe identify where we’ve picked up a frequency on.”

 

Clarke stills for only a second. “Of course.” The words come out but they don’t quite sound like her own. She’s vaguely aware that people are looking at her – studying her to see if she’ll freak out. But she doesn’t. “Of course, let’s go.”

 

Raven falls in line with her as they make their way to the workshop, whispering, “You okay?”

 

“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be.”

 

“You don’t have to pretend with me, Clarke. You realize you’re a pretty shitty liar when you’re upset.”

 

Sighing, Clarke says, “It’s fine. I’m fine.”

 

“No one believes you.”

 

“Well they should.”

 

“Come on.”

 

“What do people want me to say?” Clarke whispers, trying to keep her voice low enough so prying ears can’t hear. “That I’m about to freak out? That I’m losing my mind?”

 

“If that’s what you feel, yeah.” Raven says. “We want to know how you are. Good, bad, we want to know. Listen, I know you still probably don’t trust us. And frankly? I don’t know if I would trust us either after everything. We’ve only had you back for a couple weeks and a lot of shit has happened and we’re about to throw everyone into more of it. I don’t know if you can trust me, but I want you to trust me.”

 

Clarke bites her lip. Raven’s keeping up with her, or people are lagging behind because they know the two need a moment. It feels too familiar in the worst way. “I-I just feel like we’re going down that path again.”

 

“What path?”

 

“War.” Clarke says. “Every time we’re in one, we end up doing things to compromise who we are under the guise of protecting people. Me, worse than anyone. I’m afraid we’re going to get in too deep and be exactly where we were as Earth was dying.”

 

“That’s fair.” Raven says carefully. “But what about you specifically? How are you doing?”

 

“I…” Clarke tries to think how to answer that. She thinks of how in a couple days she’s going to have to go back to the place that took her and her heart skips. “I am okay.” She settles on. Raven scoffs at her, but she insists. “I am okay. I’m not thrilled to go back, but Madi needs me there and there’s no way I’m sending her into a city that wants to harvest her blood without being by her side.”

 

“They could make a play for you too, Clarke.”

 

Raven voices the fear that has been itching in the back of her mind, something she’s been trying to shove aside, but can’t. “I know, Raven.”

 

“They were trying to find someone else because you were dying.” Raven continues. “But you’re not dying anymore.”

 

“I know, Raven.”

 

“I’m just saying, maybe you shouldn’t go—”

 

Clarke whirls on her. “Who told you to say this? Was it my mom? Bellamy?” Clarke snaps. “Madi?”

 

Raven’s eyes flash and for the first time since she’s been back, Clarke feels her anger. “It’s me, dumbass!” Raven shouts. “Do I have to have a motive to care about you? Do I have to have a secret person pulling the strings behind me, telling me to give a shit? No! I don’t need your mom, I don’t need, Madi, and I sure as hell don’t need Bellamy reminding me to give a fuck. I’m worried because I love you, you absolute fucking walnut!”

 

Clarke snaps her mouth shut, trying to figure out what to yell back, but then a laugh escapes her lips. Then another. And another.

 

Before she knows it, a smile breaks out on Raven’s face and she’s laughing too, the two of them losing it. “I can’t believe I just yelled at you.” Raven says through her laughter.

 

“I can’t believe you called me a walnut.” Clarke replies back, giggling through her fingers. “I don’t know what to do when someone refers to you as a nut.”

 

“Honestly, I’ve been spending way too much time with Shaw. His swears are like listening to a Catholic child have an internal battle with a sailor.”

 

She can’t help it, it makes her laugh harder.

 

“You don’t trust me or think I care because I watched as Echo was going to kill you in Shallow Valley.” Raven states, sobering up and taking Clarke with her.

 

Clarke’s startled by the accusation. So much so, that she responds, “Yes.”

 

Nodding, Raven says, her smiling stretching across her face again, “I can be such a dick sometimes.”

 

Clarke finds herself grinning back. “Yeah, you can. But then again, so can I.”

 

“You totally can.”

 

Wrapping an arm around Clarke’s shoulders, Raven says, “That’s why I choose you.”

 

Clarke ducks her head, not sure what to do with Raven showing such warmth. But the two lead their way into the workshop where people have already gathered, Octavia, Diyoza, and Shaw awkwardly filing in behind. “What took you guys so long?” Murphy cries once they’re inside. Gesturing wildly at Raven and Shaw, he snaps, “I swear to god, if you were making out—”

 

“More like Clarke and Raven.” Shaw mutters. His eyes widen when he realizes what he said. “I meant making up, oh my god, I need to sleep.”

 

“Yes, you do.” Raven states, patting his shoulder. “Why don’t you go sit on the work bench?”

 

“Are you really calling a substitute, really?” Shaw exclaims. “In the final minutes of the fourth quarter?”

 

Raven shakes her head. “For the last time, I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

 

“I do, actually.” Clarke says with a chuckle. “You gotta let him finish the play, coach.”

 

“See?” Shaw says. “This. This is why I like you.”

 

Diyoza groans. “Shaw becomes very affectionate when he’s tired.”

 

“We all need positive reinforcement sometimes, that’s what my mom used to say.”

 

Raven shakes her head affectionately at him, turning toward the main workshop table. “We may not have slept in almost two days, but we got it working.” Raven pulls the device from the middle of the table. It looks unassuming, this device. In fact, it looks like the pods they used to put all over the Ark to deliver announcements. “Now, we think it’s somewhere in the control room, because the feedback should be where they’re listening from. But we’re not sure, there’s a lot of white noise in the background.”

 

There’s footsteps behind them and Bellamy and Indra march inside the workshop. Bellamy hesitates only for a second when he lays eyes on Clarke. They didn’t say anything, in the morning. Instead, after allowing herself a long bout of selfishness, Clarke hoisted herself out of the bed and sat on the edge of it, unsure of what to do. He didn’t seem to have been able to find the words either, so they merely sat in more silence. Then, throwing caution into the wind, Clarke reached out, cupped his face, and kissed his cheek.

 

She’s only done that a few times in their time on earth, none of which comforting. But she wanted to let him know they were alright and didn’t know how else to do so.

 

So she kissed his cheek, stood up, and got ready for the day.

 

There’s a lot being said in that hesitation.

 

Murphy leans close to Raven. “Anyone getting a weird vibe in here?”

 

“Murphy, go back to your side of the table.” Raven snaps, but she lifts an eyebrow at Clarke that says you owe me an explanation.

 

Clarke ignores it.

 

“We heard that you got the devices up and running.” Bellamy states, as he settles next to Clarke and crosses his arms.

 

“Yeah, that’s because I told you, you melodramatic—”

 

“Shut up, Murphy.”

 

Raven puts her hands up. “Yes, which is why we’re all gathered here today.”

 

Shaw puts a finger up. “It sounds like a wedding.”

 

Raven waves his comment aside. “Ignore him, he’s half asleep.” Flicking a sensor on the back of the device, a crackling sounds in the area. Clarke leans in, trying to understand anything being said on the other line. “It was a lot clearer before.” Raven says, frowning.

 

Shaw, whose deliriousness seems to have waned not that there’s a problem, scoots close. “Do you want me to boost the frequency?”

 

“Can you?” Raven asks. “Without causing any feedback on their side?”

 

Shaw grabs a few tools. “I think we can boost it a bit without them noticing.”

 

“Good, give that a try.”

 

The two of them flit around the table, shooting ideas back and forth while everyone simply tries to keep up. Clarke knows from experience that keeping out of Raven’s way is usually for the best, but if she’s not paying attention to the chaos before her, she has to pay attention to the very real tingling in her hands. Bellamy’s presence is too close for her to handle without her heart doing things it hasn’t done in years and it’s positively the worst possible moment – surrounded by people she wants to keep her thoughts from.

 

Bellamy leans closer to get a better look at what the two are doing, certainly innocent enough. But Clarke finds that she’s holding her breath the closer he is. She does her best to look as uninterested as possible, which is honestly the worst thing she could possibly do. Every movement feels wrong and every second passes in the course of a minute.

 

“—there isn’t enough.”

 

“What… you… last?”

 

Words crackle over the radio and finally Clarke has something else to focus on. “Got it.” Raven breathes triumphantly.

 

“—check back.”

 

“They said… after trade.”

 

“—come on. They don’t even know – there has to be screening… not everyone – restart humanity.”

 

“Restart humanity?” Murphy groans. “Those are two words that should never be used in the same sentence.”

 

Clarke can’t help but agree, but she places her hand up to quiet him. Faint rolling and the tinkering of instruments are in the background. She hears faint voices – sick voices. “Oh my god,” she breathes. Everyone turns to her, waiting. “It’s the hospital. They aren’t monitoring us from the government building. It’s the hospital.”

 

***

 

The day before they make the trek to Eligius, Bellamy finds himself with Jordan, cleaning out his gun. Clarke is somewhere with Madi and Indra, planning how the negotiations should be handled, since she’s the Ambassador. Bellamy tried to argue that she shouldn’t take that role too close to heart, seeing as their treatment of her, but it was like every other argument they’ve ever had. Once Clarke made up her mind, there was no turning back.

 

While he couldn’t convince her to stay, what he could do it clean his gun. And since Jordan had never done so before, having been left out of the training due to being brought up pacifist by Monty and Harper, never learned. Bellamy points the parts out as he takes them a part, offering Jordan towels as they work.

 

Jordan’s usual sunny disposition isn’t present, which worries Bellamy. He tries to think of the last time he’s seen the kid so mellow, and can only think of the anniversary of being put in the cryochamber by his parents. Bellamy tries to think of what day it is, but ends up certain they aren’t even close.

 

Not wanting to pry, he continues to clean his gun and waits.

 

Fortunately, it never takes long with Jordan. “Are you worried about the trip?” He asks, his words drenched with worry.

 

“Yeah,” Bellamy states, wiping his gun down. “Very.”

 

“Do you think anyone will get hurt?”

 

Sucking in a breath, Bellamy states, “I don’t know. There’s always a possibility, though.”

 

“Then why are we even going there? Eligius hasn’t attacked us yet. Maybe they won’t. Maybe we can just move forward.”

 

Bellamy sighs. It’s a nice thought. An innocently optimistic one, but a nice thought. “They have triple the fire power than we do. They have a settled and built up civilization. We’re still recovering from our own war and building our own infrastructure. We would be living in constant fear of whether they would attack us or not.” He scrubs a little too hard. “We can’t just wait for them to decide to wipe us out.”

 

Jordan doesn’t respond right away. He keeps glancing at Bellamy, opening his mouth, then thinking against it. After a while, he says so quickly Bellamy barely understands him, “Dad always said that you have to do the things that scare you as soon as you can.”

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

Jordan winces. “Sorry, it’s just… Dad and Mom said I was named after his best friend.”

 

Bellamy drops the piece of his gun that he’s working on because he can’t focus on it. “Jasper.”

 

Jordan nods. “I heard a lot of stories about Jasper. Dad took that guilt to his final days, I think. I think he always believed out of all people who were lost, he could’ve saved his best friend and failed. He says in the quiet moments he would get too comfortable. He would think, ‘oh, I can tell them how I feel tomorrow.’ ‘I can talk to them next week.’ He used to always say that even in a quiet life, there are no promises. No absolutes. The only moment you can count on is the one that you’re in. The one that you’re living.”

 

Bellamy tries not to think of Monty and Jasper as he first met them, carefree and wild. He’d never known a friendship like the one they shared, never had a person who he grew up with and couldn’t live without.

 

“He said it was important to tell people how you feel when you feel it. Because the universe is unkind and the world unjust.” Jordan states, setting his own gun down. “I think… if you’re scared, you should tell people. You know, that you care.”

 

Bellamy sucks in a breath.

 

Jordan’s staring at him in that way Jordan does that makes him feel like he’s doing something wrong. He loves the kid, but he also has a way of making Bellamy feel like he’s lost pieces of himself. If anything, he’s grateful there’s one human on the earth who was brought up with love and calm in the land of chaos and destruction. Clapping Jordan on the back, Bellamy gives him a warm smile. “If you’ll excuse me.”

 

“I’m gonna leave all this here, because I don’t think I can put it back together.”

 

Bellamy snorts. “Yeah, please don’t try and reassemble a gun without me present.”

 

Jordan beams. “I’m gonna see if Murphy and Emori are busy tonight. Murphy said he’d teach me this game he used to play on the Ark when you guys were up in space.”

 

Bellamy tries to remember all the games Murphy came up with to occupy himself on the Ark. Each game is more horrifying than the last, so he slowly states, “I don’t know if—”

 

“I’ll probably stay the night,” Jordan says, grabbing his coat and opening the door. “See you tomorrow!”

 

“Wait!”

 

Before Bellamy can even yell a protest, he’s out the door. Sighing, Bellamy grabs his own coat and makes his way out into the cool air. The chill bites at his skin as he places his arm through the sleeve, his breath swirling before his face in the cool. People are hurrying to their own cabins to escape the chill, Bellamy tugging his coat close to him.

 

He walks around, unsure of what he’s really doing, but grateful to be somewhere outside. The cold brings his nerves on edge, watching everyone rush around and try to build a home for themselves. It’s sad, how easily they’ve been unearthed. Everyone desperately is clinging to the hope that there will be another day, but he isn’t sure.

 

Making his way through the smoke of the dimmed fires, something catches Bellamy’s eye. In the back of the mess tent, at the furthest bench, sits Octavia. She’s drinking something, watching the fire dance before her. It illuminates all the harsh lines that the world placed on her.

 

Moving toward her, Bellamy sits across from her, her expression startled as he does so. “O,” he starts, facing her.

 

“Bell,” Octavia breathes, setting her cup down. “Shouldn’t you be getting ready for tomorrow?”

 

“I am.” He says. Bellamy isn’t sure how to speak to her – how to be her brother after everything. Everything wedged them apart and he feels it. But then again, he sees his little sister. He sees the girl terrified of being under the floor. He sees the girl who demanded piggyback rides. He sees the girl who looked to him for everything. “I don’t know what’s going to happen when we’re there, O.” He says, his words clipped. “For all I know, they are aware we’re bugging them now. Or that they will take Clarke and Madi and just run.”

 

“Bellamy—”

 

“So I wanted to say, because I feel like I need to say it to you after everything.” Bellamy states, his eyes watering. “Is that I love you, O.”

 

Octavia’s hard face cracks. He watches it break to pieces, her lower lip trembling. “Bellamy—”

 

“I think everything will be fine. But in case it isn’t, I wanted you to hear it from me. Not question it for a second.” Bellamy says. He reaches out to where her hands are gripping the cup she’s drinking from, hands turning white. “I know we have a lot of stuff to work through. But I want to.”

 

“Big brother,” she breathes, taking her free hand and placing it on top of his. Her eyes are swimming with tears as her nails dig into his hand almost painfully. It’s like she’s afraid that he’ll change his mind and leave her. “I love you so much.” She cries. “I know I’ve hurt you, I’ve hurt everyone. But I love you big brother. And I’ll do whatever it takes.”

 

Bellamy scrubs his eyes with his free hand. “Me too,” he admits.

 

“I should be going with you.”

 

“You know why you can’t.” Bellamy states, thinking of all the Grounder politics. The sight of Octavia behind Madi could cause a revolt. “But I will come back and we’ll figure it out.”

 

Standing up from the table, Bellamy moves to leave. Before he can do so, Octavia pulls on his hand that she hasn’t let go, and wraps him in a hug. She buries against his chest like she used to do when they were kids, before all the war and the death. “I love you,” she says, her words quaking, as if she needed him to hear it one final time. “I love you so much.”

 

“You have no idea, O.” Bellamy states, placing a hand on the back of her head. Shutting his eyes, he holds her.

 

This could be the last time he sees her. Honestly, they could simply kill everyone and take Madi and Clarke. But Bellamy’s been through enough war to not know what’s going to happen. Pulling away from her, he says, “May we meet again.”

 

Octavia’s face falls, a few sobs escaping. “May we meet again.”

 

Turning from her, Bellamy stalks away, wiping his eyes.

 

Bellamy’s thought a lot about death – probably too much at this point. People have died in his arms, he’s killed innocents, he’s thought he was about to die himself. Something about the trip tomorrow eats at him. He’s watched the world burn to the ground, he’s watched his world burn to the ground.

 

He’s never been able to say it. He told himself on the Ark if he had been given the opportunity, he would say it.

 

He marches throughout the village until he finds her. It takes an absurd amount of time, but in the end, it should’ve been easy. She’s standing at the far edge, her hands on her hips and looking at the starlight.

 

Bellamy tells himself this is the moment.

 

This is the two standing at the river, parting for what he thought would be forever. This is the two in hazmat suits, separating at the end of the world. This is him pleading with her in Polis to be with her people (with him).

 

This is them after Mount Weather.

 

Sucking in a breath, Bellamy strides over to where she is, her head tilted up at the stars. Settling next to her, he follows her gaze.

 

The stars are breathtaking. The lights twinkle and shine in a way that’s different from earth – they fill the sky until it feels unreal. As if they’re a part of them – a part of the universe that will outlive them forever.

 

One star flies by, leaving a trail of light behind it. “A shooting star,” Clarke breathes next to him. “Can you make a wish on this kind of shooting star?”

 

Bellamy can’t help but smile at her words, echoed from what feels like lifetimes ago. “I know what I’d wish for this time.” He says.

 

Clarke turns to him, eyes shining. “Yeah?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

Taking her face in his hands, he kisses her.

 

He kisses her before he talks himself out of it. He kisses her before the world can decide to tear them a part again. He kisses her because tomorrow he doesn’t know what will happen, but he has control of today and he’s learned that he’s never guaranteed more than that.

 

A small part of him panics that it is a bad move, but her hands curl against the fabric of his jacket and pull him closer.

 

There are pieces of his life that imprints on his soul. That makes him the person he is. He used to be ashamed of so much of it – horrified at the person he became, instead of the man his mother raised. Over the years that panic softened and he bears his past as it built his future.

 

When they part, all he can hear is their breathing.

 

It overtakes the world. Clarke hesitates before lifting her gaze to him. “Why?” She breathes.

 

“I never said it.” Bellamy states. “Any of those times before. I could’ve, and I don’t know why…” He winces, but still holds her there. Refusing to let this moment slide before the world forces their hands again, he continues, “You have to know. After all this time.”

 

Shaking her head, Clarke says, “We can’t be that for each other, Bellamy.”

 

He tries to ignore the way his chest aches at that, and instead asks, “Why?”

 

“Everyone dies.” Clarke states with the certainty of someone who has looked at death and greeted it.

 

“I know, Clarke.” Bellamy says. “Aren’t you tired of that making you afraid?”

 

Clarke doesn’t answer right away. She doesn’t try to run. If anything, she holds him tighter, her fingers curled within the fabric. “I can’t drag you into this,” she whispers. “I can’t do that to you. Please.”

 

Place a gentle hand under her chin and tilting up, Bellamy says, “Since I don’t take orders from you, I’m gonna need a better reason.”

 

She lets out what sounds like a half-laugh, half-sob, burying her face into his chest as if she’s waiting for him to leave her. At this point?

 

She’ll be waiting a long time.

 

“I can’t lose you too.” Her voice is so small, he barely hears it.

 

He should’ve expected this. He knows Clarke, he knows the weight of the death she carries on her shoulders because it’s the same weight he carries on his. The only difference is, he knows what sharing it can do for the soul.

 

“I told you, Clarke.” He says pulling her close. “You’ve got me.”

 

She doesn’t pull away.

 

Instead, they stand under the sky, just as intimate as their time in the morning. If Bellamy could steal these moments and keep them to himself forever, he would. He supposes that’ll be the next step. Finding the calm and gentle pockets of the universe.

 

Together.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIFTEEN

 

Inside the cabin is cold.

 

Bellamy insisted that Jordan made plans with Murphy, so Clarke was less paranoid when he pushed the two small cots together so that they could lay under the stars. Clarke tells herself it’s selfish, but she doesn’t know how not to be selfish in this moment. He lays next to her, arm wrapped around her shoulders so that he can hold her there. Perhaps he doesn’t want to let her go either.

 

Tucking her face into his side, she breathes. She breathes in the air of the cabin, quiet and calm. She breathes in the night before they go back to Eligius. She breathes in him.

 

Clarke never thought she’d have this. Her love was tainted by death and dressed in blood. If she was a better person, she would have Bellamy leave right now. But she can’t.

 

His fingers runs up and down her arm as they lie there, pulling her into sleep. “I’m scared.” She says before she can stop herself, the words falling like stones in the sea in the room.

 

His grip tightens at that, as if he can keep them here. She knows he can’t, but she appreciates it all the same. “Me too.” He responds, his words low as if he’s afraid someone else will hear them.

 

Bellamy’s in a thin shirt that she grips, pulling him closer to her. “I can’t watch you die.” She says softly, her words trembling.

 

There aren’t many times when you can speak the secrets of your heart. Secrets you guard with every strength you have within yourself. Building up walls around them because you can’t let anyone use them against you. Every time someone slips through and takes something, you lose a piece of yourself.

 

Of your heart.

 

Yet here she is, offering it to him anyway. As damaged and cut as it is. “Clarke,” he breathes, trying to figure out what to say.

 

Clarke moves past it because they’re in the cabin and no one else is around. “What would it take for you to stay behind?” She asks. Leaning up, Clarke balances her arms on his chest so she can really look at him. “What would it take for you to stay?”

 

Bellamy’s eyebrows pull down, stricken. His eyes scan her face, flitting around as if trying to find the humor or lie within it. When she doesn’t take it back, he states, “Clarke, you know I can’t do that.”

 

“Please.” Clarke says, her words trembling. “Please, Bellamy. Stay here. Stay with your sister and Jordan. D-Don’t come to Eligius. You know too much and they know you too much. Please, just stay here and—”

 

“Clarke—”

 

“No, listen to me.” Clarke continues over him, too terrified to stop talking, stop pleading. “Madi and Indra and Gaia will all be there, so there will be a large group of leadership that will no longer be here. And if anything goes wrong—”

 

“You can’t honestly be serious.” Bellamy states. He’s so incredulous, Clarke catches her words from pouring. “You can’t be asking me to stay behind.”

 

“Bellamy, please—”

 

“No.” Bellamy states. “No, you can’t ask me to do this.”

 

“Bellamy, just listen to me.” Clarke states, moving so she’s sitting cross-legged on the bed. “If anything happens—”

 

“If anything happens, I’m going to be there.” Bellamy says. “You can’t ask me to stay.”

 

“You have to use your head here—”

 

“I am! It’s you who isn’t!” Bellamy exclaims. He reaches out and grabs her wrist to pull her closer, which she fights for only a moment. He manages to pull her onto his lap so that they’re facing each other, grabbing her face. “Listen to me, Clarke—” When Clarke shakes her head, unable to bring herself to look him in the eyes. “Listen to me. I don’t know what’s going to happen tomorrow. It may go well or there may be a fight. But we are not separating here. You are not going to deal with this alone. I know I’ve promised this before, but here me when I say, we are going to do this together.

 

Clarke isn’t sure why the cracks in her walls are fracturing even more now, but she’s feeling herself work herself in a respectable panic shortly. Everything comes back to her all at once; the way the lab smelled when it was wiped down, like bleach but with the undercurrent of blood. The way the they turned out the lights when they kept her on the wall. The way the IV bag smells when they replaced it and some dribbled down her arm that she couldn’t move.

 

The way she said goodbye to everyone she loved without them ever hearing a word.

 

The only thing protecting her from being executed on the spot was the black blood running in her veins that she’s grown to despise.

 

Bellamy doesn’t have that.

 

“Clarke, you cannot ask me to stay, because I can’t.”

 

“You won’t.”

 

“I can’t.” Bellamy insists. “I can’t stay here while everyone I love is in Eligius.”

 

“What?” Clarke asks, the words taking a while to sink in. “What did you just say?”

 

Bellamy wipes away one of her tears with his thumb. “Clarke—”

 

Her eyes widen and something horrified burrows into her chest.

 

Her father, telling her he loves her, moments before being floated. Wells’ lifeless body strewn outside the wall, only the day after their reconciliation. Finn, strapped to the pole and ready to be tortured, telling her he loves her as he dies at her own hand. Lexa, light emptying from her eyes as a bullet meant for Clarke took her life.

 

“No,” Clarke states, placing her hand against his mouth. “W-Why would you say that?”

 

Bellamy grabs her hand and pulls them down. “Because I love you.”

 

“You can’t.” Clarke states, unable to stop the panic rising within her chest. “You—”

 

“Don’t think I have much of a choice in the matter.” Bellamy chuckles, but there’s something behind his eyes that belies any real humor. “I wasn’t lying before. We are doing this together.”

 

“But I have to protect you.”

 

From myself is left unsaid.

 

Bellamy doesn’t wait for her to say it back. In fact, he doesn’t wait at all. What he does is he pulls her forward so that she’s pulled up close to him, the two of them pressed against one another as he wraps his arms around her. Clarke isn’t sure when she started quaking, but she’s trembling in his embrace nonetheless, the eyes of dead haunting her vision.

 

He holds her there. Clarke thinks of the amount of times she’s truly felt safe in the world since she left the Ark. She can count them on one hand.

 

So she holds him back. The words ‘I love you’ are stuck on her lips, unable to be unleashed onto to the world. Because what happens when you love the Commander of Death?

 

You die.

 

***

 

Bellamy shoulders his bag as he steps out of the cabin, the cot long since cold from where Clarke left an hour ago to visit her mom for an update on a radiation treatment. He thinks of the panic in her eyes when he even considered uttering the words ‘I love you,’ and expression that Bellamy is certain is going to haunt him in their travel today. They’ve lost so many people over the years and yet she wears them as if they were weights that’s only intention was to sink her further down to the ocean floor.

 

Stepping out into the sunlight, he’s greeted by Murphy and Raven, who wave him over at the ration tent. When he reaches them, Murphy smirks, “So, you sent Jordan to my cabin?” Murphy says, waggling his eyebrows. “Did you finally strap on a set and make a move?”

 

Raven presses her hand against his face. “You do not need a ‘set’ to do anything, but did you?”

 

Bellamy makes a face. “What will it take for me to get out of this conversation?”

 

“Details, obviously.”

 

Bellamy sighs. “I mean, there’s not much to say! Why don’t we instead talk about our strategy we’re going to use to the potentially deadly city we’re about to enter?”

 

Murphy snorts and waves his comment aside. “Dude, we’ve quite literally been there and done that. No this? This is the first time you have ever expressed you undying love to Clarke. I’m way more invested in that.”

 

“Hard same.”

 

Murphy makes a face. “You’re right, you’re spending way too much time with Shaw.”

 

“What can I say? His vernacular is rubbing off on me.”

 

Murphy sticks out his tongue. “Only rubbing I ever want to hear about you two.”

 

“Okay, this is going to a very weird place,” Bellamy frowns, putting his hands up. “I’m going to go talk with Indra and—”

 

Raven and Murphy each grab an arm and pull him back. “No escaping!” Raven exclaims. “There’s no time for escaping. Don’t use the fact that we’re distracted against us. Why won’t you tell us what happened?”

 

Bellamy wrangles his arms away from them and sighs. “Listen, it was fine, can we just drop it?”

 

“Okay,” Raven states, placing her hands up to block him. “You telling Clarke how you feel is in no way just ‘fine.’ Explain now before I decapitate you?”

 

Murphy groans. “Come on, Reyes, I need you to take it down, like, five thousand notches.”

 

“He’s annoying me.”

 

“I annoy you all the time and you’ve never threatened to decapitate me.”

 

“That you know of.”

 

“Listen, I told her I loved her and she kinda freaked out, okay? She all but begged me to stay in camp today and asked me why I would even say I loved her.” Bellamy states. “I really don’t want to be having this conversation right now.”

 

Murphy and Raven share a look that Bellamy doesn’t care for. “Well,” Murphy says slowly. “You were kinda expecting that, right?”

 

His response throws Bellamy off. “I’m sorry?”

 

Raven places a hand on his shoulder. “I mean, you know Clarke isn’t the most forthcoming about how she feels on a good day, right?”

 

“Are you saying that I did something wrong?”

 

“No, no!” Raven exclaims, putting her hand on his shoulder. “I just mean, you know… she freaks out about that kind of stuff.”

 

“Then what was I supposed to do?”

 

“Exactly that.” Raven states. “You needed to tell her how you felt. We don’t know what’s going to happen and you and Clarke have been circling each other for far too long. But keep in mind, the girl hasn’t had the best track record with relationships – romantic or otherwise.”

 

Murphy nods. “I mean, far be it for me to butt into your love live—”

 

“Since when?”

 

“—but look at the history. We all watched her mercy-kill Finn. I was there when Lexa died. She basically sacrificed herself for all of us to live, only to be caught in the dead middle of a terf war that ended up with her adopted-child beind thrown in the center and leading everyone.” Murphy states with a wince. “Clarke isn’t good with feelings. Take it from me. Because I’m amazing with them.”

 

Raven narrows her eyes. “Need I remind you of how you isolated yourself on the Ring for three years because you couldn’t handle your feelings with Emori?”

 

“Why do you have to live in the past, Raven?” Murphy exclaims. “God, the nerve of some people when I’m out here, just trying to grow.”

 

“If I haven’t said it lately, you guys are the worst.” Bellamy states, but he’s unable to stop the smile from stretching across his face.

 

“Murphy knows.” Raven says, beaming back. She wraps her arm around his and they start to move throughout the village, linked together. “For what it’s worth, I think it was good of you. It was good of you to finally say it and I think it was good for her to hear it to. Especially before we go back to that city.” She squeezes his arm. “Although I think I speak for everyone when I say we would consider it a personal kindness if you didn’t do anything stupid while in Eligius. Would hate for Clarke to prove us right.”

 

“Yeah, that’s what we need to worry about,” Bellamy grumbles, but there’s no heat in it. He looks down at Raven on his left, and then to Murphy trudging along to his right.

 

It occurs to him that life is odd.

 

Raven, the woman who he almost killed upon landing on the Ground for fear of his own life. The woman whose friendship he built off of snark and one-time sex. The woman whose intelligence stuns him and somewhat fears, and determination that encourages him to move forward.

 

Then Murphy, the man who he hanged and then hanged him. The person who caused him to put his finger on the trigger of his gun more times than he’d like to admit, whose life had been such a conflicting question to him. The man whose loyalty hasn’t wavered in years, who had his back when he thought no one else did. Whose ingenuity and resourcefulness kept him, and all of them alive.

 

If you feel it, say it.

 

“You know I love you guys, right?” Bellamy blurts out with about as much levity as a hammer.

 

Raven snorts at his side and Murphy rolls his eyes. “Yeah, we got that big guy,” Murphy says, clapping a hand on his shoulder. “All the inspiration speeches about teamwork tipped me off.”

 

“Not to mention, everyone loves me, so I just assume.” Raven states, squeezing his arm again. “And you know we love you too, right?”

 

“Speak for yourself.” Murphy states. “I’m still in ‘friendly acquaintance’ mode.”

 

Bellamy snorts, unable to stop himself. The three walk to the council cabin where everyone is meeting before they take off toward the city. He’s grateful for his family, where ever they came from.

 

Bellamy didn’t know when he snuck onto the drop ship, he wasn’t just going to the Ground.

 

He was finding his own home.

 

Shoving the door open, Bellamy isn’t surprised to see everyone surrounding the table already. Shaw looks infinitely better – sleep kind to him. He reaches out to Raven and she dislodges herself from Bellamy and embraces him, laughing as she pokes fun at him. Clarke is by her mother and Madi, her mom explaining the two a few things.

 

As if she feels his gaze on her, Clarke looks up to where they’ve enter. Her expression softens and she gives him a small smile, one that he rarely sees directed toward anyone but him. He can’t help but return it, earning him an elbow from Murphy. “Get a fucking room,” Murphy whispers as he passes him to stand next to Echo and Emori.

 

“I take it back, you are the actual worst.” Bellamy mutters back.

 

Murphy ceremoniously flips him off as he goes.

 

Bellamy doesn’t care, he moves toward Clarke and stands next to her, in between her and Abby. Abby lifts her eyebrows at the gesture but smiles to herself in response. Clarke mouths, “Hey” when he approaches, the two of them standing far too close for anyone to think anything hadn’t happened. Before he can react, he feels her hand move close to his, a couple fingers wrapping around her own. He startles at the move, but something fills his chest at her touch and he can’t help but wonder if this is how she says all the things she’s too afraid of.

 

“Okay,” Madi states, tilting her head up.

 

Clarke releases their hands.

 

“We have a meeting with Justice Mulroy later today, so we should start our trek now. Let’s do a quick round of updates before we leave. Raven? Shaw?”

 

Raven and Shaw nod at one another. “We’ve been having people listening to the hospital round the clock.” Shaw states. “Nothing really said of importance. It does sound like they are getting sicker and they’re running out of whatever they made while Clarke was captive. They sound desperate.”

 

Bellamy watches as Clarke flinches at that.

 

Raven seems to notice too, because she continues, “They haven’t realized that we’ve been listening to them, though.”

 

Madi gives them a curt nod of approval. “Who will stay and listen to the device while we’re gone?”

 

“Actually, we’re going to bring it with us.” Shaw states, giving Raven a quick exchange of looks that Bellamy doesn’t quite understand. “You know, as security.”

 

Bellamy narrows his eyes and he can tell Clarke is thinking the same thing. Neither of them say anything, though, allowing Madi to continue.

 

Madi turns to Abby. “Any success in a cure for their radiation poisoning?”

 

Abby rummages to her side and pulls out a bag. “I’ve been able to recreate some of the properties of nightblood, but they aren’t sustainable. I need more time.”

 

“We don’t have anymore time.” Gaia states at Madi’s left. “We must leave. If this is the only think that’s protecting the Heda, we should bring more soldiers.”

 

“We can’t.” Bellamy snaps, unable to hide his disdain for the woman. Diyoza shoots him a look when his words clip and he regroups. “We can’t storm in the city with an army for trade negotiations. That’s like asking to escalate the situation.”

 

“We can’t leave the Heda unprotected—”

 

“The Heda can hear you and says we will continue as planned.” Madi states, not even giving either the time of day. Bellamy still can’t help but find it eerie how she moves so calculatedly. “We can’t offer them a solution for trade, but we can let them know we’re researching it.”

 

“Perhaps we can suggest a combined effort.” Clarke offers. “We may not have the answer now, but between our doctors and their facility, we can come up with a better solution.”

 

“Oh yeah, that sounds great.” Murphy drawls. “Let’s come up with a solution in the same place they tortured you. Sounds fun.”

 

“Murphy—”

 

“I’ll make snacks, we’ll throw a party.”

 

Emori places a hand over his mouth. “My love, please shut up.”

 

Murphy pulls her hand down. “Aw, you know I can’t handle it when you call me my love.”

 

“Do as I say or I’ll change the name to something more violent.”

 

Murphy waggles his eyebrows. “With all these witnesses?

 

Everyone groans.

 

Indra, who had been relatively quiet up until this point, moves forward. “Remember, this is trade negotiations. This isn’t war negotiations. We have to go in with the thought that we are going to create a better relationship between our peoples. If we shoot first, they escalate second. The main goal is to find a way to create peace.”

 

“Our main goal is to protect the Heda.” Gaia corrects.

 

“Peace, Gaia.” Madi interjects. “No amount of protection will be enough if we’re at war again. Alright, everyone, let’s head out.”

 

Everyone starts filing out of the cabin, Clarke grabbing Bellamy’s hand once more and holding him into the room. Abby’s eyes flit down to it and she smirks. “I’ll let them know you two will catch up.”

 

The door closes, leaving the two alone.

 

It’s strange, of all the times the two have been alone, Bellamy’s never been nervous. He’s been anxious for the word around them, sure, but he’s never been nervous to be alone with Clarke herself. Now? Now he isn’t sure where her head is at and the two of them are about to be going to a place neither of them want to go.

 

Clarke moves in front of him. “I’m sorry,” she says, voice quiet even though no one is around. “I’m sorry I freaked out last night.”

 

“You don’t have to be sorry, Clarke.” Bellamy returns. “You realize we’re in this together, right?”

 

She gives him a quick nod, but he knows her well enough that she doesn’t believe it. “Listen, you have to remember that the Grounders will get sick too, after a while. So whatever solution mom comes up with to save Eligius will need to be used on the original Grounders. Because, remember in Mt. Weather, how much more effective our blood was due to our exposure to intense solar radiation.”

 

Bellamy’s been here before. He’s heard this kind of worry in her voice before. It’s almost a nightmare hearing it again – panic seizes in his throat as she maintains sharp eye contact with him. “Clarke—”

 

“And remember that worst case scenario, everyone still fits on the ship. So if there is a war, you can escape for a bit. Or even negotiate from the sky.”

 

“Clarke, stop—”

 

“Oh! And here’s the thing I’ve never told you about the Flame. Sometimes the voices are so powerful, you can’t hear yourself think.” Clarke talks over him. “I only had it in my head for a short amount of time, but you can’t really hear yourself. So when Madi closes her eyes or looks like she has a headache, it’s because the Commanders are all talking over her own thoughts. That’s when you have to make sure to get her away from everyone and help her think.”

 

“Clarke!” Bellamy shouts, gripping her shoulders. “This is not goodbye.”

 

“But I love you too.” Clarke says.

 

When she says the words, everything freezes. Or rather, he wishes it would. The universe has a nasty habit of continuing on when he wishes desperately that it would stop. “What?” He breathes, unable to formulate any appropriate response.

 

“I love you, Bellamy.” Clarke says and her face crumbles at that.

 

Pulling her close to him, he places a hand on the back of her head. “This is not goodbye.” He says through gritted teeth.

 

The world wouldn’t be that cruel, would it?

 

To bring them back together, only to separate them for good?

 

***

 

There’s a line of guards outside of the Eligius entrance.

 

No one said much on their march to Eligius and honestly, Clarke was relieved. She spent the entire time being surrounded by people she loves and there’s nothing more she’d rather do than just feel them around her. It’d been so long since she’d been a part of a group and really felt a part of it. It was almost poetic how afraid she was. All the times she’s marched into war, she steeled herself for it.

 

This time?

 

This time, she’s terrified.

 

She watches as Madi leads the charge, her eyes hard and resolute. She knows everyone surrounding her is watching, waiting for her to freak out. But Clarke can’t right now. Right now, she has to be certain they’ll make it out alive. Then she can freak out.

 

“We’re here for arranged trade negotiations.” Madi states, her voice even. “We have it scheduled with Justice Mulroy.”

 

The guards eye the group of them. Clarke knows that they are wildly outnumbered, but is certain they are an intimidating cluster to behold. Clarke peers past the guards and sees the tall buildings looming over her and tries to keep calm.

 

As if he can sense it, Bellamy approaches her side and takes her hand, squeezing it. The small action allows her to finally let out a shaky breath. No one says anything and frankly, she has no intention of letting go. When the guards finally allow them to filter in, she breaks apart, falling in line next to him.

 

“Place your weapons here.” One of the guards say, bring a tub up as they make their way in.

 

Clarke knew they would be less than welcoming of any weapon, but she tries not to panic too much as everyone starts unholstering their weapons. Setting her gun inside the box, she also reaches into her boot and pulls out a knife that she’s kept there since her valley days. As they pat Raven down, always hiding weapons in places that Clarke Marvels, they find the bugging device in her pocket.

 

“It’s not a weapon.” Raven states. “Actually it’s your own technology. I’m here to return it.”

 

The guard stares at it, then Raven. He must recognize something because he moves to put it on the shelf behind him, but Madi stops him. “We need that as a reference point in our negotiation.” She states calmly, moving toward them. “As you can see, it’s your own technology we’ve discovered. Unless, of course, you think it’s dangerous. Then it begs the question of why it was on our land in the first place.”

 

The guard doesn’t move right away. The device remains in his hands, outstretched. Finally, he returns it to Madi, who gives it Raven. Placing it in her pocket, Raven gives Clarke and Bellamy a look that belies any innocence.

 

Marching through the streets of Eligius, Clarke tries to keep herself calm. Her feet take her on streets that are far too familiar, winding roads she explored as she tried to figure out solutions that she failed to do so in time. Everything around her feels like it’s closing in, and yet she moves forward.

 

When in doubt, move forward.

 

They pass the hospital and Clarke frowns. She went into that building many times and she never saw any indication they were bugging their village. Clarke stares at it, as if the building itself would tell her the secret. It doesn’t.

 

So she focuses on her breath and keeping her trembling to a minimum, even as she moves forward.

 

They enter the government building that Clarke had walked into many times during her stay at Eligius. The familiar scent of disinfectant and musk hits her nose and she wrinkles it, trying to tell her body to calm down. It’s fighting against her, telling her to run and she’s having a hard time coming up with reasons not to listen to it.

 

Vaguely, she senses Bellamy, Murphy, and Raven moves closer to her, as if they think there’s some sort of wall they can use to protect her. As much as she appreciates the gesture, it merely makes her all the more claustrophobic.

 

They enter a room in the back where a large table is set in the center. There are guards lining the walls and sitting at the front is Justice Mulroy and Russell, along with a few people whose names she’s forgotten over the course of time. The sight of Russell does something to her – it’s like scratching at a memory she can’t quite grasp. She searches again and again, to no avail.

 

Madi seats herself close to them, followed by Indra and Gaia. Clarke moves onto the other side of the table, her skin itchy the closer she gets to the group of them. Sitting down, she tries to hide her smile as Bellamy seats himself immediately next to her, crossing his arms and glaring at the men in front of them.

 

“Thank you for coming,” Justice Mulroy states, his smile stretching across his face so broad that it almost looks painful. “I appreciate you making the trip.”

 

“We have a lot to discuss.” Madi states.

 

Clarke still can’t help but think of the hospital. Why would the hospital be the one that was bugging them? She glares at Justice Mulroy, as if somehow he’d be able to give her the answer. Placing her hands in her lap, she picks at her fingers where no one can see.

 

“Yes, it would seem so.” Justice Mulroy says. “As discussed at our meeting in the meadow, I would like to solve this as peacefully as possible.”

 

“Then we are on the same page.” Madi continues. “We too would like to move forward peacefully. As indication of that, we have our doctors looking into a solution for radiation poisoning for you. In order to help heal your people.”

 

Justice Mulroy’s eyebrows lift. “Is that so?” he says. “Any progress?”

 

“It’s preliminary research, but—”

 

“Clarke.” Justice Mulroy states and Clarke does her best to not seem too affected. She realizes she’s holding her breath and tries to discreetly let one out without causing too much a stir. “Have you given any thought to my offer?”

 

“You offer for her to give herself up?” Bellamy snaps at her side. “That wasn’t so much an offer as it was a threat. One we don’t take lightly.”

 

“It wasn’t a threat, my dear boy.” Justice Mulroy explains, his hands waving in the same way they did when he put the opera on. Clarke’s heart jumps in her chest and she knows she’s on the verge of panicking. In a desperate attempt to calm down, she reaches out to Bellamy, grasping his hand the moment he finds it. He takes it, his jaw clenching at the patronizing name. “Clarke, don’t you see the power you have in this moment. You have the opportunity to affect real change and progress on our world. You have the opportunity to decide who lives and who dies.”

 

Clarke stills at the admission.

 

“I have no interest in being the person who chooses who lives and who dies.” Clarke states, her throat dry. She’s so grateful Bellamy’s here, he’s next to her, keeping her down on earth. It’s moments like these when she feels like the slightest gust of wind will come take her away and will never return.

 

“Clarke, I don’t think you understand the gift it is to be the person who decides. A power most people don’t get to have.”

 

“I’ve had it.” Clarke states, finally lifting her head to face him, expression cold. “And I can say from experience I have no desire to do so again.”

 

But the hospital.

 

The hospital won’t leave her mind. She knows it means something, but she can’t figure out quite what it means. She turns her gaze to Russell, who’s staring at her. He’s still beside Justice Mulroy, his face unreadable. Clarke searches her mind for something – anything – that would give her the missing pieces to put everything all together because it’s simply not coming together.

 

Russell tilts his head. Madi continues to speak with Justice Mulroy, Indra and Gaia cutting in from time to time.

 

“I do think we have a lot to learn from one another.” Russell’s voice plays in the back of her mind, the first time she ever went to the hospital. The distant memory stays there, planted, like a tattoo. “There’s certain attributes your people have that I think we could learn a lot from.”

 

“Well, I’d like to set up a timeline for a continued cure research.” Justice Mulroy’s saying. Clarke is brought back to the present, everyone around the table slightly less tense then a moment ago. “We’ve been choosing who gets the black blood carefully, but as you know, there’s always unrest when choosing who gets to receive a gift as cherished as life.”

 

Russell’s eyes narrow at that. No one else is looking at him, but Clarke can’t stop.

 

“We’ve grown soft in our times here.”

 

The moment it hits her, she lets go of Bellamy’s hand and lets out a small gasp. “The hospital.” She breathes and everyone looks at her, confused.

 

Russell stands. “It seems as if this meeting is over.”

 

Justice Mulroy frowns at the movement and says, “What in god’s name are you doing? We certainly aren’t finished here.”

 

“I say we are.” Russell states, pulling something out of his back pocket. “After all, you’re the one who always says it’s a privilege to decide who lives and who dies.”

 

He reveals a gun and aims it at Justice Mulroy’s head. Without hesitation, Russell fires, Justice Mulroy slumping onto the conference table, black blood splattering across the walls. Clarke leaps, everyone around the table rushing to their feet. A few people reach to their sides for their weapons, grabbing nothing but air. “Figures,” Russell states, looking at the black blood. “Small amount of a cure and you make sure you’re on that list.” Pocketing his gun, he nods at the guards. “Grab ‘em.”

 

Before Clarke can even register what’s happening, someone grabs her arms and wrenches them behind her back. “What, no!” She exclaims, struggling in the grip.

 

She watches as Indra slams the head of one of the guards into the table, earning her a gun to the face. Everyone else moves to do something similar, but they’re too met with the barrel of a gun. The guards outnumber them three to one, all armed and all aiming weapons in their faces with cold indifference.

 

No one moves.

 

Her arms are wrenched so far behind her back that it’s painful. “What’s that thing you guys said to each other when you came with us, Clarke?” Russell asks. “May we meet again? I knew we always would.” He nods at the guards. “Grab the kid too.”

 

“NO!” Clarke shrieks, struggling in the grip as a few guards reach for Madi. She moves to attack them, but with a swift movement, they strike her across the face and she blinks dazedly. “Stop!”

 

“Come on, Clarke.” Russell states. “I think you always knew it would end this way.” He nods at the guards and Clarke hears the guns click. They move everyone backwards toward the door, putting space between the group and Clarke and Madi. Clarke feels the sting of tears and she doesn’t know what to do. Clarke always knows what to do, but everything escapes her.

 

Turning to the guards, Russell states. “Execute them.”

 

“No!” Clarke screams, pulling harder and harder against the people who have her arms wrenched behind her back. She shoulder hurts and she can feel it grinding closer to dislocation again, pain shooting up her neck. “No, please! I’ll do anything! Anything!”

 

She looks at Murphy with his hand over Emori, eyes widen. Shaw and Raven standing next to each other, in disbelief. Diyoza and Echo’s hands up, prepared for a fight she doesn’t know how to do. Indra and Gaia staring at Madi. And Bellamy.

 

Bellamy looks as if he’s contemplating running toward her, several guns pointed at his head. Tears well in his eyes and he’s looking at her the way he did before Praimfaya, when they were about to be left forever.

 

“N-No—” Clarke sobs, unable to control it anymore. “P-Please. Please don’t.”

 

Russell tilts his head. “A little late for that, huh?”

 

As the guards drag Clarke and Madi away from the group, she only hears one last thing before the door slams behind her.

 

“Shoot them.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIXTEEN

 

Clarke can only hear the blood rushing in her ears.

 

Her hands are still wrenched behind her back, two guards close at her sides. Peering to her left, Madi struggles under the grip of the men, even her Commander training not able to get them out of this situation.

 

Everything she fought against. Every nightmare she had. They all were converging into this moment. All of her friends were being led to their death and now they have Madi and every part of her brain is short circuiting.

 

Clarke thinks of the last time she was here. In this exact moment. Standing at the entrance of Mount Weather, her friends all stuck inside while she was abandoned at the gate. Alone. Waiting on the precipice of war, no more than a few weeks past her eighteenth birthday, unsure of how she was going to save everyone she loves.

 

Perhaps the Eligius was purgatory. Perhaps it was everything that she was afraid of the day she pulled the lever. Every second that dripped by in the lab was one more drop of blood that she had to offer to the world in forgiveness. It demanded a pound of flesh, but then it demanded more and more. Finally, she gave everything she had and she was left nothing more than…

 

Empty.

 

One time, Clarke told Bellamy the story about the girl on fire. A girl who wandered the world, looking for a place to belong. Who wished someone who cause her to feel warmth.

 

Because she wasn’t actually made of fire.

 

She lit herself on fire for others, destroying everything in her path, and then most tragically, herself.

 

Madi makes a noise when one of the guards wrench her arm tighter behind her back and something snaps within her. All the fear, all the panic that she feels melts away and she sees the scared teenager beside her. The teenager that shouldn’t have to lead an army to war. Make decisions of life and death.

 

Clarke Griffin the teenager never made it out of Mt. Weather. She died there, her hand on the lever, scattered among the bodies of the innocent.

 

This will not be the death of Madi.

 

“Madi,” Clarke utters in a low voice. “Sen in kom me.”

 

Madi’s head whips up, eyes widen and watery and Clarke makes a face at her not to react. She drops her gaze to the ground, but Clarke can tell she’s straining to hear. One of the guards tilts his head, but she sucks in a breath. “The gon ste next kom yu. Nou chek au.”

 

Madi’s jaw twitches.

 

Russell stops from where he’s walking. “What are you saying?”

 

Her heart is beating in her chest, but there’s no turning back now. “Do yu mema in chit taught yu hasta gonen biga den yu?”

 

Madi’s tilts her head slightly, giving Clarke an almost imperceptible nod. “Hey!” Russell whirls around and stalks over to Clarke. “None of that,” he seethes, grabbing the back of her hair and yanking her head back. Clarke winces at the force, but she tells herself to focus. She can panic later. “You have to accept this, Clarke. You’ve lost.”

 

Clarke glowers at him, trying to think of the best moment to finishes her thought.

 

“My people have been dying since our ancestors landed here. The life expectancy isn’t more than fifty. Fifty.” Russell states. “And the Justice was using the cure as a way to levee his way into an ideal society, choosing who lives and who dies as best to serve his purpose.” Russell huffs. “Then you started to die and he made a list. A list of people who deserved to live.”

 

Clarke’s eyes widen. She tries not to let every life she’s ended rush back at her and focuses. Focuses on the lives in front of her, the lives she’s desperate to save.

 

“Everyone of my people deserves to live.” Russell spits. “And if that means your people have to die, so be it.”

 

“Mema in yu strik.” Clarke states. “Lan op em.”

 

“I said enough!” Russell takes his weapon and swings it across her face.

 

Clarke blinks, the pain momentarily blinding her as she tries to see straight. There’s a slight gasp to her right and then a howl of pain.

 

Madi steps on the foot of one of the guard’s who has her arms, elbowing him in the groin. He folds over, Madi moving to the next guard. She pulls a small blade out of the folds of her clothes, swiping it across the side of the other.

 

Russell turns to face her, incredulous, so Clarke knows it’s her opportunity. Swinging her head back, she smashes it into his forehead so he stumbles backward. The guards loosen their grips enough for her to wrench her arm out of their grasp and back into them with enough force to throw them. “Madi!” Clarke exclaims.

 

Without a beat of hesitation, Madi tosses another small dagger to Clarke. Clarke grabs it from the air, accidentally blade-side up, wincing as it swipes against her skin. Flipping it handle-side up, Clarke jabs it into the leg of the remaining guard. “Come on!” Clarke shouts, reaching out to grab Madi’s shoulder. The teen reaches her hand and wraps her fingers around it. The two make their way down the hall, sprinting as fast as they can when—

 

“Wait.”

 

There’s a click of a gun behind them and Clarke freezes. She places Madi in front of her and slowly turns her head, to see Russell standing yards away, gun pointed at her.

 

Clarke spent over a year in the cell. She thought about every day what she would do when she got out. Despite the pain and the suffering she felt, Monty’s words still played in the back of her head.

 

Be the good guys.

 

“You can’t leave, Clarke. Not this time.” Russell states. “And if I have to take you bleeding out, I will.” He readies the gun and Clarke turns to face him head on.

 

Clarke has thought a lot about evil. What it looks like, in what form it’s materialize in next. For the longest time, the biggest evil was when she looked in the mirror. Perhaps there is no absolute evil. Perhaps evil is bred through desperation. Desperation of one’s life, one’s self. Shrouded through the guise of empathy.

 

“It doesn’t have to end this way.” Clarke states, using her left arm to shove Madi further behind her. “We told you in the negotiations that we’ll try and find a cure. A cure that isn’t built on the lives of others.”

 

Russell huffs. “You come here, saying you destroyed earth. What is keeping you from destroying our planet? The only people I can protect are my own and they’re the only people I will protect.” He brings his gun up to eye level. “I’m sorry, Clarke.”

 

Before he can do anything, a shrill noise bares through the speakers surrounding the building. It’s high and painful, causing Clarke to wince and cover her ears. Russell does the same on instinct. The moment his hands are up, Clarke shoves Madi forward. “Go, now!”

 

“What was that?” Madi cries as they sprint.

 

“I don’t know, but I’m not complaining.” Clarke shouts over the noise, the two of them sprinting out of the building into the sunlight. Clarke blinks and looks around, watching as the people on the street cover their ears at the painful noise.

 

“Where do we go?” Madi cries when people start catching sight of them.

 

Clarke peers around, her mind working too fast for any coherent response. Then something hits her. “I have the perfect place.”

 

***

 

“Hands on your head!”

 

Bellamy grits his teeth as he does what he’s told, trying not to shout as a strong hand wrestles him to the ground on his knees. The guards have taken them to the back of the building, in a courtyard that’s fenced off by concrete. There are speakers everywhere as they are throughout the city, as if ready to announce their deaths the moment the trigger is pulled.

 

Glancing down the row, Bellamy tries not to lose it. All of his family kneel in a row before him, all glaring at the men with guns pointed at their faces. He tried to fight out of it, but there were too many. Too many men with too many guns. Tears sting his eyes as Murphy places his hands carefully on his head as he throws a heartbroken look to Emori. Diyoza and Echo face the barrels of the guns with a stoicism that he can’t help but be mystified and proud of, while Raven and Shaw share a look.

 

Though, not a look that he expects. Raven turns her head to Shaw and gives him a slight nod. Shaw clenches his jaw and slowly places his hands on the back of his head, glowering at the guard.

 

They were so close to peace. Bellamy truly thought that this was their opportunity. Their opportunity to be better – to do better. But all it earned them were guns to their heads and the destruction of their people.

 

For a moment, he allowed himself to believe it. He allowed himself to hope. Everything seems so close to their reach, and yet it fell away again.

 

Shaw lifts an eyebrow, not lost by Bellamy.

 

Carefully, Raven places her hand in her pocket. “I said hands on your head!” One of the guards shouts, shoving the gun so close to her face, Bellamy sees Shaw’s resolve waver.

 

“Hey, asshole!” Shaw snaps.

 

Before the guard can retaliate in any way, Raven pulls the device out of her pocket. Pressing down on the top, Raven says quietly, “You may want to cover your ears.”

 

Now, the sentence as a whole doesn’t make a ton of sense, but Bellamy has learned one thing over the years. If Raven says jump, you better fucking leap off the building. He moves his hands to the side of his hands and a shrill sound blasts through the entire streets. The guards startle at the pained noise, so high pitched that it causes them to crumble.

 

“Now!” Shaw shouts, leaping to his feet and tackling one of the guards.

 

Bellamy doesn’t need more than a second before he scrambles to his feet. He reaches out and pulls down a gun from one of the guards, swinging at him so he crumbles to the ground. Bellamy can sense those around him taking the guards by surprise, Bellamy shouting, “Don’t shoot them!” over the noise. “We can’t draw attention!”

 

“But I love shooting people, for fucks sake!” Murphy snaps, elbowing someone in the throat.

 

“We need to work out your anger issues, babe.” Emori yells, swiping under the legs of a guard who falls to his feet.

 

Bellamy turns the gun he stole around, jamming the butt of it into the face of a guard. He falls, unconscious.

 

Everything takes a matter of seconds.

 

Raven releases her pressure on the device, the shrill noise ending. “We don’t have much time until they realize it was us.” Raven states, pocketing it. “We need to figure out where to go next.”

 

“I’m sorry!” Murphy exclaims, slamming his fist into a guard that stirred awake so he stills. “Are we not going to talk about how you two made a secret Plan B and didn’t tell any of us?”

 

“I always have a Plan B.” Raven says matter-of-factly. “Do you honestly think I would come to one of these negotiations without a Plan B? After everything?”

 

Murphy gestures wildly. “You could’ve warned us so we didn’t think we were about to fucking die!”

 

“We were about to fucking die!” Raven snorts. “I just had an alternative solution.”

 

“Alternative solution,” Murphy scoffs. “Fuck you, Reyes.”

 

Emori pats his arm. “He’s just upset because he showed emotion to everyone over there, thinking he was going to die. And we all survived like idiots.”

 

“We won’t survive for much longer if we don’t move.” Indra states, brushing herself off. “We need a plan.”

 

“We need to get to the Heda.” Gaia states, rushing forward. “You guys know where the lab is, right?”

 

“We can’t just go to the lab.” Diyoza counters. “They’ll be expecting us. There’s no way any of us are getting in there alive.”

 

Shaw raises his hand. “For the last time, Shaw, you don’t need to raise your hand in times of peril, this isn’t fucking mass.” Murphy groans.

 

Shaw isn’t impressed. “What about the hospital? Clarke said that’s where the control room is set up and Raven and I made all those backdoors. Maybe we can reach the village for help.”

 

“Now there’s an idea.” Diyoza states.

 

Shaw opens his mouth to continue when a shot rings out.

 

Everyone startles to see a guard stand before them, his gun trained on them. “Everyone, put your hands up.” He says, his voice shaking.

 

“Damn,” Murphy groans. “Who forgot to knock this one out?”

 

“Hands up!” The guard shouts.

 

Even though everyone has a gun in their hands, they’re all at their sides. Bellamy knows that they can get him, but he can’t ensure no one else will get hurt. Everyone stares, unsure of what to do. “I said hands up!”

 

The guard moves closer, steps calculated. Bellamy moves in front of everyone, placing his hands up. “Listen, we don’t want any more violence.”

 

“Put your fucking hands in the air!”

 

“Shit,” Murphy breathes behind him.

 

Bellamy carefully sets the gun to the ground, keeping his hands up. “Listen—”

 

The guard cocks the guns and aims it at his head. “Enough talking. Stay where you are.”

 

The gun moves closer. He knows his mind is playing tricks on him, but he can feel the cold on his forehead. “Now the rest of you.” The guard states. “Put them in—”

 

There’s a flurry of movement to behind him.

 

A figure hoists themselves over the concrete wall, swinging their legs over and dropping to the ground. Before the guard can register what’s going on, the figure swipes and Bellamy’s face to face with a bloodied sword pointing directly at his chest through the guard. “What the—” he breathes, staring at the sword rammed through the chest of the guard.

 

It’s yanked out, the guard slumping to the ground, revealing a very wide-eyed Octavia.

 

“O,” Bellamy breathes, slowly lowering his hands.

 

“Big brother.” Octavia breathes, launching herself at him.

 

She wraps her arms around him and pulls him closer, Bellamy still too startled to even understand what’s going on. He holds her, only pulling apart because nothing’s making any sense. “Wha—how are you even here?” Bellamy gapes. “How did you get past the guards?”

 

“I told you I’ve snuck in here before.” Octavia states, as if the answer was obvious. “To visit Clarke. I told you I know how to move around this city.”

 

“I think what he really means is ‘why the fuck are you here, seeing as you weren’t invited?’” Murphy shouts over him.

 

Diyoza rolls her eyes. “Seriously? She’s here because I invited her.”

 

Bellamy turns to her. “Really?”

 

Diyoza shakes her head. “You guys are really exhausting, you know that? Why in the hell would you bench your best fighter on a mission like this one, when the stakes are so high? You guys wanted me to be involved in strategic planning? I told Octavia to follow us and sneak inside the walls in case something went wrong.”

 

Murphy scowls. “What is it with everyone making plans without telling anyone about them?”

 

“Listen, you guys can either accept the fact that keeping Octavia in the village was a bad call and be grateful she just saved our lives, or we can go back in time, not have her join us, and everyone can quite literally die mad about it.”

 

Shaw snorts. Everyone turns to him, incredulous. “What? I actually got that reference.”

 

Diyoza holds out a fist and he bumps it.

 

“I don’t understand your humor.” Murphy grumbles.

 

“That’s because you have none.”

 

“Okay,” Bellamy puts his hands up. “Before we get into the exhausting argument of whether Murphy has a sense of humor or not—”

 

“What is with these people thinking I’m not funny? First Madi, then Diyoza—”

 

“—we need to go to the hospital and see if we can contact the village. We’re going to need all the help we can get.”

 

Bellamy peers at everyone, almost everyone he loves still standing next to him. He feels the absence of Clarke and Madi, clenching his fists as he nods to everyone.

 

“Let’s go.”

 

***

 

Clarke ushers Madi to follow her, the two of them peeking behind a building. The shrill noise is long since gone, the people wandering the streets all the more suspicious. “Okay,” she states. “We need to get into there.”

 

Madi glances where she’s pointing. “In the building you lived in?”

 

“You know where I lived?”

 

“They showed us when they gave us your sketchbook.” Madi says. “How do we get in without being noticed?”

 

Clarke tilts her head. “Non-lethal force. Remember, we don’t want to go down the path of violence again.”

 

“I know.”

 

Frowning, Clarke turns to Madi. “Speaking of which, how did you get the knives past the guards?”

 

Madi shrugs. “I hide them everywhere. I figure if I have a lot, the chances of them finding them all is small. Plus, I think they feel weird patting down a child.”

 

“Thank god for that.”

 

Clarke grins and then gestures for Madi to follow, the two making their way across the streets as discreetly as possible. As soon as they make their way into the building, a cheerful, “How can I help you today?” greets them. Clarke winces, wishing this was one of the only times Nancy would take her break.

 

Turning to face the woman, Clarke sighs. “Clarke?” Nancy asks, confused. “I thought you died.”

 

Clarke steps forward. “I’m really sorry for this, Nancy.”

 

“For what?”

 

With a swift motion, Clarke places her hand on the side of her head and swings down, slamming it into the desk. Nancy slumps over and Clarke hoists her into a closet. She makes a face as she places something against the door with a heavy sigh. Madi touches her arm. “She’ll be alright.”

 

“Yeah,” Clarke mutters, trying to shaking the violence off her fingertips. “Let’s go.”

 

Clarke and Madi run up the stairs of the building, Clarke skidding to stop at her door. With a swift kick, the door flies open and Clarke ushers the two inside, setting a chair under the door handle. “Why did you want to come here?” Madi asks, breathless.

 

“When I realized that they were considering using me for something other than peace keeping,” Clarke states, rushing over to the bed. “I started stockpiling in case anything happened.” She throws the blankets and pillows off to the ground. With a quick motion, Clarke shoves the mattress up and then smiles. “Thank god they didn’t check everywhere.”

 

Clarke tilts the mattress against the wall, revealing a selection of guns taped to the back. “I’d been stealing them from time to time throughout my time here, just in case.”

 

Madi stares. “You really thought something was wrong.”

 

“Well,” Clarke says, ripping one off and handing it to her. “At first I thought it was paranoia from everything. Hyper vigilance and all that. We’d been fighting for so long, I thought maybe I’d really snapped. So I told myself I was making it up, people weren’t actually following me, people weren’t actually tracking my every mood.” Clarke rips off the other two and pockets them. “I should remember to listen to my instincts more.”

 

She gives Madi an easy grin, but is startled to find the teen with her hands against her forehead and eyes shut. She’s set the gun down on a side table and is muttering to herself. Clarke places the mattress down and crouches before her. “The Commanders are telling you to turn me in, aren’t they? To make a deal with Russell to keep me here in return for the safety of your people.”

 

Clarke knows this. She knows this because she knows how the Flame works. Everything she fought against. A single life isn’t important for the sake of the greater good.

 

Madi doesn’t really need to answer for her to know.

 

Madi opens her eyes and they are swimming with tears.

 

“Yes.”

 

***

 

Getting into the hospital is easier than Bellamy expected. From their research, Raven and Shaw were able to pinpoint exactly where the control center was and they made their way through the city with almost no incidents. Bellamy knows that Russell will send someone to look for them the second he realizes they’ve escaped, so he can’t help but continue to look over his shoulder as they make their way through.

 

They’re able to incapacitate the staff at the hospital quickly and painlessly enough, Monty’s voice reminding him over and over the choices their making. He carries him friend with him, grateful for the comfort and closeness. Bellamy leads the charge through the hospital, aiming his gun past corners and gesturing for everyone to follow.

 

When they enter the main floor of the hospital, Bellamy is taken aback.

 

Sickness is everywhere.

 

The beds are full, people sleeping uneasy in them. The group steps into the room, filled with the sick and no one else. Bellamy passes the beds, seeing the pained eyes of those with sores, his mind filled with memories of Praimfaya. Every moment in the acid raid. Every child killed. Every person pleading for their life.

 

He knows everyone behind him is lost in that world two, no one saying a word as they make their way through the beds.

 

“It’s up here,” Raven states, her words rough.

 

She leads them through a set of doors, Bellamy happy to leave the sick out of his mind for a moment. Their greeted to a wall of radios, each blinking steadily before him. There’s one in the middle that has a red light, Raven pulling out the device in her hand. “Thank god, they didn’t get suspicious.”

 

“Thank god Clarke isn’t here, otherwise she’d quite literally throw herself at all the sick people,” Murphy mutters.

 

Bellamy purses his lips at that.

 

Raven reaches out to the first radio, flipping the switch. Holding it to her mouth, she says, “Hello, this is Raven, does anyone copy?”

 

Static fizzles on the other end.

 

Pressing the button again, she states, “This is Raven, do you read me?”

 

They receive nothing but static.

 

Sighing, she sets it down. “We need people to be near the device and know enough about this stuff to answer.”

 

Murphy gapes. “Is there anyone there who would?”

 

Bellamy turns to Diyoza. “Don’t look at me,” she states. “I’m fairly certain Shaw was the only one in my crew that had an ounce of technological skill. I think we had a guy who couldn’t even rewind videos.”

 

Bellamy closes his eyes.

 

“Should we go back?” Shaw asks. “Go back and prepare for a fight?”

 

“We can’t leave Clarke and Madi here.” Bellamy states. “They think we’re dead right now. If we leave, they’ll be waiting for an attack. Now’s the only time we have the slightest upper hand.”

 

“We can’t fight anyone with a ragtag group of delinquents, Bellamy.” Diyoza states. “This isn’t an uplifting afternoon special.”

 

“Can you make sense, for like, once?” Murphy explains.

 

“Well, what’s the other option?” Diyoza states. “We don’t have the numbers, we don’t have home court advantage – hell, we don’t even have home planet advantage. They aren’t going to kill Clarke or Madi. They need them to survive. If we go back to the village, at least we can prepare.”

 

“We can’t just leave the Heda here.” Gaia snaps. “It’s is my job to protect her—”

 

“It’s your job to protect the Flame.” Murphy snaps. “Let’s at least pretend to differentiate.”

 

“..ello? Hello? Can… me?”

 

“Oh my god,” Raven breathes, grabbing the radio. “Hello? This is Raven, who is this?”

 

“Thank god – it’s Miller.”

 

Bellamy’s eyes widen. Murphy breaks into a smile and he pumps a fist in the air. “Motha-fucking Miller.”

 

“Thank god you were always about ‘share skills in case of emergency.’” Raven breathes, holding the radio close. “And thank god Miller isn’t an idiot.” Pressing the radio button, she says, “Miller, we need help.”

 

“Sometimes I wish we would just talk about normal things.”

 

“Yeah, we have to do that another day.” Bellamy states, grabbing the radio. “We have a problem.”

 

There’s a moment of silence on the other side. “Of course you do. What’s up?”

 

“We need you to mobilize the army and bring them to Eligius. They have Clarke and Madi.”

 

“What?” Miller cries on the other end. “Are you actually insane? No one here will listen to me! Don’t you remember the last time I was in charge?”

 

“That was years ago and we need backup, Miller.” Bellamy insists. “We aren’t going to make it out without it.”

 

Miller swears into the radio. “I don’t know—”

 

“Miller!” Bellamy shouts into the radio. “You want redemption for two years ago? Now’s the fucking time.”

 

Murphy makes a face. “Oh shit. Bellamy said the ‘f’ word.”

 

Bellamy puts his hands up. “Not now, Murphy—”

 

Then someone opens the door to the control room.

 

***

 

Guns set on the table, Clarke moves Madi so that they’re away from the windows. She’s curled up on herself, her back against the wall, looking younger than Clarke can remember. Her chin is on her chest and she buried her face in her knees.

 

Sitting in front of her cross-legged, Clarke reaches out. “Madi,” Madi buries her face further. “Madi, please look at me.”

 

After a bit of coaxing, Madi peeks up from her knees, eyes red. Clarke smiles warmly at the teen, brushing strands of hair out of her face. “Hey there.”

 

Madi crumbles.

 

Clarke can’t help but have her hair stand on end as she sits in front of the teen, eyes flitting around as she waits for someone to barge in. Taking Madi’s hands in hers, Clarke says, “Listen to me,” When Madi shakes her head, she insists, “Listen to me. It’s alright.”

 

“How is it alright?” Madi cries, tears rolling down her cheeks. “They’re telling me it’ll be better. That I can solve everything if I give you up – again! They want me to do it again!”

 

“Well,” Clarke says carefully. “What do you think?”

 

“What?”

 

Clarke scoots closer to the child. “If the Commanders weren’t there. What do you think?”

 

Madi’s frowns, as if she’s trying to figure out whether Clarke’s messing with her or not. “Like hell they can have you!”

 

Clarke can’t help it, the corners of her mouth pulls up.

 

She thinks about all the times she’s was in Madi’s position. Pulling the drop ship door closed, sentencing Finn and Bellamy to death. In Mt. Weather, pulling the lever. The bomb in TonDC. The list of the 100 they chose to save of Skaikru. Even down to her death in Praimfaya.

 

The world is too heavy to place on a single set of shoulders.

 

Madi buries her face again, saying something that Clarke can’t quite make out. “What did you say?” She asks, leaning closer.

 

Madi peeks out from under her fingers. “I don’t want to be the Commander, if that means giving you up.”

 

***

 

Bellamy stares at the woman standing before him.

 

It’s as if he’s sent back in time. He’ll never forget those eyes. Those hands.

 

The black blood.

 

“You.” The woman breathes.

 

“You.” Bellamy returns. “The woman on the street.”

 

“The man from the different planet.” She says. “What are you doing here?”

 

“What the fuck do you think we’re doing here?” Murphy exclaims. “Saving our people from your people!”

 

Bellamy shuts his eyes and sighs, “Basic semblance of tact, Murphy.”

 

The woman recoils at the snap, her eyes watering. “We had no idea.”

 

“I’m sorry?”

 

Biting her lip, she says, “They simply told us there was a cure. We thought they had been trying to find one. We didn’t know how they got it. I-I never would’ve – we never would’ve.”

 

“Then why did you run away from me that day?” Bellamy asks, unable to stop the accusation from his voice.

 

“We killed one of your people.” The woman states. “We all thought you were here for retribution.”

 

The radio crackles in the background. “Hello? Anyone? This is Kane and Abby.”

 

Diyoza sighs with relief. “Finally, someone with half a brain.” Snatching the radio out of Bellamy’s hands, she says, “Kane, it’s Diyoza. We need backup here ASAP.”

 

The woman’s eyes widen. “You’re coming to kill us?”

 

Bellamy looks around.

 

Be the good guys.

 

“It’s Abby. I’ll make sure they file out now. Considered it handled.”

 

Murphy snorts. “Told you. She’s terrifying. She can kill you and make it look like an accident.”

 

But Bellamy’s focused on the woman. The sight of the sick surrounding him. Everything that’s lead him to this point. Then, something occurs to him and a warm smile stretches across his face.

 

“Not necessarily.”

 

***

 

“Madi,” Clarke states, grabbing her shoulders. “You listen to me. You are enough, do you hear? You don’t have to put the weight of the world on your shoulders.”

 

“But what about my people?” Madi asks, her eyes watering. “They’re my people.”

 

“It isn’t fair to ask one person to take the responsibility of every decision.” Clarke says, the words resonating with her in a way she’s never heard before.

 

Her own actions play before her eyes as she thinks about it. They flash before her, There are no good guys replaying in her mind. “It’s not fair,” Clarke states. “To expect one person to shoulder the burden. And yes, they’re your people. But they’re my people, they’re Indra’s people, Bellamy’s people, we are all in this.”

 

Madi’s tears fall. “Will you still love me? If I’m not the Commander anymore?”

 

“I will always love you, Madi.” Clarke states, gripping her arms. “Commander or not. The biggest question is, what do you want?”

 

Madi doesn’t say anything for a moment. Her hands grip her knees and she stares at the wall, then Clarke, then the guns. Placing her hands against the sides of her head, Madi settles. Leaning in, Madi whispers something in Clarke’s ear.

 

The moment the words are heard, Clarke reaches out and pulls her into a hug. “Never doubt my love for you.” She states, clutching the small child.

 

Madi holds her, then pulls away. “I can’t do anything else until we do it.”

 

Hoisting herself up to her feet, Clarke helps Madi up. Standing being her, Clarke states, “Incepto ne desistam.”

 

Madi’s eyes widen and she shrieks, threads of the AI spidering out of her neck. Clarke catches her as she stumbles forward. Clarke flinches as Madi shrieks, the Flame burrowing its way out of her neck. Pulling it out and pocketing it, Clarke holds the teen who slumps forward.

 

She breathes.

 

Seconds pass like eternities. Clarke waits for the teen to wake up, tears welling in her eyes. “Come on, Madi.” Clarke breathes, holding her. “Come on.”

 

“Clarke?”

 

Madi’s eyes flutter open and Clarke sucks in a breath. Holding her in front of her, Clarke wraps her in a hug, squeezing her tightly. “Oh my god,” she breathes. “Madi.”

 

“Clarke.” The teen grips her shoulders, shaking from head to foot. “Oh my god, I’m so sorry.”

 

“Don’t be.”

 

“I can’t believe I let everyone convince me.”

 

“It is not your fault.”

 

“I can’t believe I sent you away.”

 

“Listen to me,” Clarke says, pulling away from her, her hands on her shoulders. “There is nothing to forgive.”

 

“I let the Commanders—”

 

Clarke smiles. “I got you, Madi.”

 

Madi sighs, the first relaxed expression she’s seen on the teen in years. Shutting her eyes, Madi gives a small smile. “It’s quiet.” She states, a tear skating down her cheek. “For the first time in years, it’s quiet.” Madi sucks in a shaky breath and focuses her attention on Clarke. “What do we do now? Go back to the village for a fight?”

 

“I don’t know about you,” Clarke states, reaching for the guns on the table. “But I’ve already left Bellamy to die once in my lifetime.” She hands a shocked Madi a gun. “I don’t intend on ever making that mistake again.”

 

“Do you really think they’re alive?” Madi asks, eyes widening.

 

“I don’t know.” Clarke states. She reaches under the mattress one last time, pulling out a shotgun. It took her two weeks to figure out how to smuggle it to her room, which included stealing a trench coat from a poor old man on the street. She opens the barrel to check the ammo, and sets herself. “But I want to find out. What about you?”

 

“It could be dangerous. You trust me to go with you?”

 

Clarke smiles. “We’re a team, remember? I always trust you.”

 

Madi beams so widely, it almost looks painful. “Oh hell yes.”

 

She sounds so much like her younger self, Clarke wants to cry with relief. Instead, she cocks the gun and faces the door. “Hell yes, indeed.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVENTEEN

 

Once upon a time, there was a girl filled with hope.

 

She was dangerous, that girl. Because hope, unchecked, is as dangerous as a weapon. It can fuel wars more than gasoline, it can cut through vitriol sharper than a knife, and it can extinguish the fire of hate easier than rain. Hope, when wielded right, can destroy the foundation fear is built on.

 

The easiest way to destroy one filled with hope is to end to make them think hope no longer exists.

 

Once upon a time, there was a boy filled with compassion.

 

He was dangerous, that boy. Because compassion in the worst of times, can stop bloodshed. It can cause the earth to stop spinning and demand more. It can make humans remember that they’re simply humans and not pawns in someone else’s pain.

 

The easiest way to destroy one filled with compassion is to tell them he will receive none in return.

 

The easiest way to never destroy them is to put them together. One will always give hope while the other will reach out to help.

 

They will be infinite.

 

***

 

“How many minutes do you think we have left until we’re all executed for real?” Murphy asks, his eyes belying any calm he may be pretending to have. Even though the woman has since closed the door and they’re finally able to be in the hospital control room by themselves, he hasn’t stopped peering at the door as if he’s waiting for it to swing open. Bellamy figures it’s a natural response to everything they’ve ever been through, but it’s making him more nervous than anything.

 

Fortunately, Indra steps in. “Whether we are executed or not, there’s nothing we can do but wait for Miller to travel here.”

 

“What are we going to do for three hours?” Murphy cries.

 

“Disemboweling you seems like a good use of my time.” Indra states.

 

“You keep talking like that, I’m gonna think you don’t like me.”

 

Indra heaves a sigh.

 

Bellamy’s close to the radio, wringing his hands. Logically, he knows that they can’t travel throughout the city safely and there’s really not much they can do while they wait for their people to show up. But sitting in the control room with the equipment, waiting for updates from Miller, is a torture that he hasn’t felt in a while. Raven places her hand on his and gives him an encouraging smile, as if she knows exactly where his head is.

 

“We’re on the move.” Miller’s tinny voice crackles through the radio and they all startle, even though they’ve been waiting on something.

 

Bellamy takes the radio. “Good. Keep us updated on your progress. We’ve got some friendlies inside.”

 

“You let the citizens speak to Murphy?”

 

“Of course, the only way we can convince people we’re the good guys.” Bellamy chuckles, appreciative for the small joke. “You’re going to have some resistance at the gate, but we’re going to see if we can take care of it.”

 

“Please tell me Raven’s not making more bombs.”

 

Raven scoffs and steals the radio. “As if anything, including this city, could survive me.”

 

“Someone should warn them.” There’s some noise in the background and Miller huffs a breath. “Alright, I’ll check in later. Over and out.”

 

Bellamy takes the radio back. “Be safe. Over and out.” He peers at everyone, who are currently leaning in as if that’ll help them hear more. “Okay. Help is on the way.”

 

“We have to assume that the guards woke up from the courtyard.” Diyoza states. “Besides the one that Octavia shanked, they all were still alive. We only have so much time until they realize that we escaped. I think we need to barricade the hospital.”

 

“There are sick people here,” Shaw says, frowning. “We can’t risk their lives because ours are in jeopardy.”

 

“We don’t have to risk their lives.” Diyoza states. “If their own people want to attack while they’re still in here, that’s on them, not us. I know that you all have been trying not to engage in violence, but the way I see it is, either we engage or we die.”

 

“There has to be another solution.” Bellamy states. “If we wait and see if that woman—”

 

“Bellamy, do you honestly think that she is going to give us – people she’s never met – her loyalty over her own people?” Diyoza asks. “The human race is community-driven! No matter what morality we like to think we innately have, we have ties to our own people that always overshadow that. I know I’ve done that, and I’ve heard enough stories to know that you’ve done that. Sure, what their people did was wrong, but they were trying to find a solution to keep themselves alive after inhabiting a new planet. Who could say you wouldn’t do the same?”

 

Bellamy doesn’t say anything for a moment. Everyone looks at him, and he knows that they all agree with her. He can see the way Indra tightens her grip around her sword and the exchange between Raven and Shaw. In the back of his head remains Monty’s voice, pleading to be the good guys. He spent his life trying to find a new world for them. A place that they can call home and cultivate it, not destroy it.

 

“Perhaps once,” Bellamy finally says. “Once I would’ve done anything to protect my family. When I got to the ground, it only meant Octavia.”

 

Octavia startles and glances at him, eyes wide. He remembers the way the earth smelled when they opened the dropship door. How he nudged her forward to be the first person to return to the ground. After all those years of being shoved under the floor, she was free.

 

“Then it grew. It grew to people I hated. People I was indifferent to. People who I never considered would be as important to me as they ended up being. Then the end of the world happened. And suddenly it wasn’t a people or a tribe. It was the human race and it failed. The best and worst came out in everyone and I realized it’s because everyone was scared.”

 

Bellamy takes a breath and steps up to Diyoza. “We can’t let fear run our lives. Turn us back into what we tried so hard to avoid. Yes, I want my people to live. And yes, if it comes down to it, I will probably fight. But war made me a murderer.” Bellamy’s gaze flits to Indra, who’s staring right at him. “It made me do things that I have to work through ever day. And if there is a single chance that I can prevent myself – and everyone else here and in the city – from doing? I’m going to do it.”

 

It occurs to Bellamy that this is the first time since their first encounter that he’s stood up to Diyoza. They started like chess players, and are ending just the same. Diyoza lifts an eyebrow and licks her lips. “Alright then.”

 

Bellamy nods, not wavering an inch. “Alright then.”

 

***

 

“Take my hand,” Clarke breathes, sprinting into the shadow behind some builds. Madi reaches out and grasps Clarke, the two of them sprinting across the road. It’s odd, there aren’t as many people out and about as there were when the two escape, causing the hair on Clarke’s arm to stand.

 

They make their way into an alley, Clarke peeking past the brick of the building. “Where do you think they took everyone?” Madi asks, eyes wide. It’s startling the difference in her countenance in even the past ten minutes. Clarke can see the darkness lift from behind her eyes and young teen slowly emerge.

 

“There’s a courtyard in the back of that building. I’d imagine that’s where they went to be executed.” Clarke states. “I don’t love the idea of going back to that building, but I don’t know what else we can do.” Clarke takes a breath, kneeling in front of Madi and grabbing her shoulders. “Okay, listen to me. If we’re going to do this, I need you to listen to everything I say. I know you’re probably still reeling from the Flame, but in this moment, I’m in charge. Do you understand?”

 

Madi gives Clarke a rough nod.

 

“Which means, if I tell you to run, you run. If I tell you to leave me, you leave me. If I tell you leave the city, you leave the city. Do you understand?”

 

“But Clarke—”

 

“No buts here.” Clarke says. “If we’re going to do this, you have to listen to what I am saying. I can’t go into that building worrying that you will run off or go rogue. If we’re doing this, I’m in charge.”

 

Tears well in Madi’s eyes. “Okay.”

 

“Okay.” Clarke breathes. “Let’s do this.”

 

Clarke lets go of Madi’s shoulders and peers around the building. “Okay, it doesn’t look like there’s anyone here. Unfortunately we have no time to scout of what sort of surveillance they have, so we’re just going to have to run.”

 

“Do you think we’re going to make it out of here?” Madi asks, her voice trembling. “Do you think we’ll be able to get out of here and save everyone?”

 

Clarke doesn’t answer right away. Sure, the odds are not great. She has no idea where her family is and she has no idea how much they’re tailing her, just like the did before.

 

But she has hope.

 

“I hope so.” Clarke says. “And I won’t stop fighting until we do.”

 

Madi nods. “Me too.”

 

Clarke smiles warmly at her. “I hope you know how much I love you.”

 

“I do.” Madi says. “I’m ready to save the world with you.”

 

Clarke almost laughs. There’s so much she never shared with Madi, despite the endless stories she told. She never told the girl how it felt to stand outside of Mount Weather, alone and betrayed. She never told the girl how painful it was to shoot Dante Wallace, because he was someone she saw herself in. She never told Madi the agony she felt pulling the dropship door before Bellamy could get in or how she lost herself for months in the woods due to the weight of her actions.

 

Saving the world comes at a price. A price that must be given willingly.

 

“Let’s do it right this time.” She responds warmly. The guns she’s shouldered feel heavy on her back. “Let’s find our family.”

 

***

 

When the group emerges out of the control room, the majority of the hospital has been vacated. There are a few people in the beds that are too sick to move, but even the nurses are no longer mulling about. “Either your friend warned them to leave a potential war zone, or we’re about to be ambushed.” Murphy states, frowning at the sight before them.

 

Bellamy nods at Diyoza and Shaw, the two of them raising their guns and scouring the area. He watches as the two of them clear the area, and he approaches one of the few beds with a patient in it.

 

The woman isn’t terribly old. She couldn’t be more than forty-five, her face weighed down with wrinkles that exclaim the planet has not been kind to her. Her body is covered in sores and she’s in a fit of uncomfortable sleep. Bellamy thinks of his time in a cage and being strung upside down. As if on cue, Echo stands next to him, eyes dark on the figure before them. “It doesn’t justify it.” She states, words cold.

 

“Now’s not the time for this discussion.”

 

“You’re thinking it too.” Echo says. “Would you kill a healthy person to save someone who is sick?”

 

Bellamy watches the woman. “I would put my energy in finding a cure instead of wasting time on valuing one life more than others.”

 

“That woman isn’t going to do what you want her to. She’ll be potentially condemning her entire people.”

 

“If your world is predicated on killing people who are different, then maybe that world deserves to be destroyed.” Bellamy states, tearing his gaze away from the woman. “And I have no interest in being a part of it.”

 

He turns away from the bed and goes over to where Raven and Shaw are standing, both more nervous than he’s seen either of them in a long time. “What is it now?”

 

Shaw puts his hands up and Raven groans. “Fine, I’ll say it. We think Diyoza has a point.”

 

“Don’t put this on me too!” Shaw hisses.

 

“Well, you were just saying you agreed with her two seconds ago.” Raven snaps, rolling her eyes. “Listen, Bellamy, I know we all want to believe that the human race can be better than it once was, but this is a different human race. This isn’t the same human race that went through Praimfaya or Mount Weather or anything else. This is a group of people who have been living here for almost two hundred years and think that they’ve finally had a solution to their problem.”

 

Bellamy clenches his jaw. “What’s your point?”

 

“The point is, I think we need to assume that the woman, despite feeling bad about it, isn’t going to sell out her own people to a hostile enemy. We think the plan is great, but not the part where we’re relying on a stranger to figure it out.”

 

Bellamy hates the fact that he agrees, even though he wishes that the universe was different. “What do you recommend?”

 

“We go.”

 

“No.” Bellamy states the second the words are out.

 

Raven pushes Shaw forward. “We have to think—”

 

“No, it’s dangerous, Raven.” Bellamy snaps, a little louder than he meant. “You can’t go out there—”

 

“It’s dangerous here too!” Raven exclaims and everyone turns to face them. “We’re sitting ducks here – Diyoza’s right, they’re going to figure out we weren’t executed and they are going to be looking for us. Russell was the one who set up the surveillance – Clarke figured that out. He’s going to come here. We have to go.”

 

He feels like he’s with Raven on the ship again, asking for his permission to sacrifice her happiness – and life – for him. “Raven—”

 

“I’ll go with her.” Shaw states, finally stepping in between the two. “I have combat experience behind enemy lines in my time in the US Army. Bellamy, these people barely have an army. They have a police force because they haven’t needed anything – they’ve been the only people on the planet. They can’t fight like we can, they don’t have the experience. Their ancestors weren’t military – hell, they weren’t even miners like our crew. They were sent to find alternative life. They’re explorers – scientists. Even though they outnumber us and have been here longer, we’ve been fighting longer.”

 

“That’s the point, Shaw.” Bellamy urges. “Is not to fight.”

 

“This will make it so we don’t have to.” Shaw insists. “I have seen all kinds of war. War over religion, war over power – war over trade and goods. Humans have always fought each other because they believe in a scarcity mindset. We just need to remind them that overpowering is not the answer. And this is the best way to do that. Minimal damage, no casualities.”

 

“But you guys could—”

 

“Russell can come in here and shoot us all any second. Miller and the army have two hours until they reach the gate. We have to do something.” Raven states. “It’s the smart thing to do.”

 

Bellamy knows she doesn’t need his permission. It is the smart thing to do, but he doesn’t want to let anyone out of his sight.

 

The last time he let someone out of his sight, she almost died.

 

Bellamy was used to letting Clarke do her own thing. It was Clarke. Everyone – including himself – said that it was best for the people. He watched her leave that day with Russell, refusing to look anyone in the eye. They’d left her alone for so long – perhaps even before the deal. When they returned to earth, she was still alone.

 

He wants everyone around him, where he can be certain they’re still alive. He doesn’t want to make the same mistakes over, but feels like he needs to hold Raven here. Protect anyone and everyone with everything he has. There’s too much blood on his hands – and too much spilt at his feet.

 

“We got this.” Raven says, her eyes watering as if she can hear his thoughts. “We knew that this could happen with us coming here. We’ve been at war before and somehow we’re still here. You have to trust us.”

 

Bellamy sucks in a breath and nods to them. “Alright. Do you think you can make what you need in time?”

 

Raven rolls her eyes. “Look at who you’re talking to and ask that question again.”

 

She runs to the supply closet to get what she needs and Bellamy grabs Shaw’s arm. “I swear to god, nothing better happen to her.” He mutters. “I know you love her and I know that you’re trained for this, but she is precious cargo, do you understand? That woman is my sister and I know she can take care of herself, but if anything happens, I’m holding you personally responsible and will rethink my less-than-violent outlook on life on the sole fact that I’m confident Monty would agree with me here.”

 

Shaw blinks, but the surprise is only for a second. “Copy that.” He smiles.

 

Before he can stalk away from him, Bellamy grabs his arm one last time. “And take care of yourself too.” He saw with an easy grin. “I’ll be equally pissed if anything happens to you and still hold you responsible.”

 

Shaw gives him a warm smile. With as much levity as he can put in the phrase, he says, “Copy that.”

 

***

 

“Over here.” Clarke whispers, tilting her head toward the government building. Madi recoils at it slightly, all her cool exterior melted now that the Flame is out. Clarke places a hand on her back. “You can stay here. I’ll check it out.”

 

“No,” Madi says swiftly. “I want to go.”

 

“Madi, you don’t have to. You can stay here, out of sight.” She says, desperately wishing the teen will take her up on it, even though she knows she won’t. “This is not on you.”

 

“We’re a team.” Madi insists, eyes becoming resolute. “I only want to be with you.”

 

Clarke reaches out, trying not to get too emotion in this instance. They’re still in war, they’re still fighting for their lives. But for the first time since the earth ended for a third time, she’s felt her family is back to her. “Okay,” she breathes. “Remember our deal, though.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, you’re the boss.” Madi drawls.

 

Clarke rolls hers eyes. Turning her attention to the government building, she says, “We might have better luck from the courtyard out back. I remember in my time here they used to take people back there in disagreements. There’s some cover from the foliage they’ve planted, we might be able to see what they’ve done over the wall.”

 

Motioning for Madi to follow, Clarke sprints until she reaches the edge of the wall around the courtyard. Madi sneaks behind her, the two flattening against the brick. Clarke places her hands down. “Put your foot here, I’ll hoist you up.” Clarke states, peeking behind her shoulder.

 

Madi does as instructed, reaching up to the edge of the wall and pulling herself up. “Oh my god,” she breathes.

 

Clarke freezes. Her adrenaline has been putting her mind into ‘plan’ mode for so long, she didn’t even pause to think what might be on the other side of the wall. Her palms start to sweat when she thinks that she may have just helped her family to see the death of her other family. Clarke’s eyes water, the woman unable to stop herself from doing so.

 

Is she ready to see Bellamy’s body?

 

She knows the answer to that question.

 

Nothing would prepare her for it.

 

Suddenly, she’s afraid. Clarke takes stock of everything that’s happened between the two of them. She put humanity in front of everything time and time again. She watched A.L.I.E force her mother to hang herself, and chose to say nothing for the human race. She tested herself on nightblood for the human race.

 

But Bellamy?

 

She couldn’t even pull the trigger, even though she genuinely thought she was saving the world.

 

Perhaps they were the binary suns that circled this planet. Always revolving around each other, never finding a moment in time to meet. Perhaps their few days together was nothing more than the suns passing each other before they end the human race for a final time.

 

Maybe they are nothing more than suns in orbit, never meant to touch.

 

“—larke! Clarke!”

 

Madi’s voice finally breaks through her thoughts and Clarke peers up at the teen. “Uh,” she licks her lips. “Everything… alright?”

 

“You have to see this.”

 

Clarke severely begs to differ. But she knows there’s nothing that she can put on the child worse than what she’s just done. Gripping the side of the brick, she hoists herself up on the edge of the wall, doing everything in her power to prepare for what she’s about to see.

 

When she swings her leg up to sit atop the wall, she winces before facing the courtyard.

 

Clarke gasps.

 

Guards litter the lawn of the courtyard, unconscious. There’s one in the center of the grass that’s surrounded by a pool of blood. Clarke can barely feel her fingertips when she takes in the sight, not a single member of her family in sight. “Oh my god,” she breathes.

 

“I told you.” Madi says. “They managed to get away.”

 

Clarke lets out a shaky breath that she didn’t realize she was holding. “Maybe they managed to escape.” Clarke chokes, a few stray tears falling at the sight.

 

“No.” Madi states, confident. When Clarke turns, confused, Madi says, “Bellamy would never leave you here.”

 

Somewhere, deep inside her chest, Clarke knows the girl is right. Even though it makes no logical sense, even though he should’ve led everyone out of the city, she knows what Madi said is true:

 

He stayed for her.

 

Bellamy was all heart.

 

She can’t help it, a smile tugs on her lips. “We have to find them.” She manages, unable to take her eyes off the unconscious clump of guards on the ground. “If they stayed here for us, we need to show them we’re okay.”

 

“But how?”

 

Clarke looks around her, trying to figure out how in the world she’ll be able to find them. Her eyes fall on a building stretching high above any of the others – the community living center that she spent all her lonely nights. With a sigh, she says, “We need to go there.”

 

Madi almost laughs, struggling to say, “Are you saying we need the high ground?”

 

Clarke’s eyes widen. Whirling on the teen, she says, “Tell Murphy and die.”

 

***

 

“Bellamy, what do you want us to do when we get to the border?”

 

Miller’s voice breaks through the radio and everyone turns to him. “Are we fighting our way through? Are we asking to be let in? What should we do?”

 

Everyone is looking to him. When he landed on earth, he took power. He took leadership. But through his time on the Ground and with Clarke, he’s understood that being a leader isn’t simply power. It’s control over lives – who lives and who dies. It’s a burden people take too lightly – and want too much.

 

He glances at everyone around him. From Diyoza to Echo, Murphy to Emori, Octavia to Indra and Gaia. They’ve all been through so much together, one separate sides and the same ones. Yet…

 

Bellamy used to think that family was only the people who shared blood. He was – and is – one of the only people with a sibling in the universe. He catches Octavia’s eye and feels his resolve crumbling. Everything seems to drown out and all he can hear is his breathing. The thudding of his heart.

 

They all come back to him in flashes. Atom, Gina, Maya, Lincoln… face after face plays in front of his mind as everyone looks to him for answers as he had wanted the moment his feet touched the Ground.

 

Taking the radio, Bellamy presses the button. “Don’t start with force.” He states. “If you can, express your intention. If they respond with force, stand your ground.”

 

Everyone sucks a breath.

 

“Copy that.”

 

***

 

Clarke pulls herself up on the ladder, choosing to focus on the rungs instead of how high she is off the ground. Pulling herself up, she swings a leg over the roof of the building and leans over the side of the building to help Madi up. Madi takes her hand and manages to get on the roof safely. The two stand, wind whipping through their hair as they take in the surrounding land.

 

They’re greeted with a vista that Clarke’s never truly taken in.

 

Clarke sent her time on the Ark wishing for the Ground. She spent her time on the Ground wishing to be somewhere else. And she spent the time on this planet wishing for home.

 

It never occurred to her how beautiful it was in its own way, with spanning forests and lakes scattered around. The two of them are surrounded by buildings, but there are trees as far as she can see, disappearing in the binary sunlight.

 

“Do you see them?” Madi asks, rushing to the side of the building.

 

Clarke reminds herself that war takes away the beauty of the earth. She’ll have time to appreciate it another day.

 

Like always.

 

“Can I have the rifle?” Clarke asks, taking off the shotgun strung over her shoulder and handing it to Madi. Madi ducks under her own and hands it to Clarke. Clarke sets the rifle on the edge of the rook and peers through the scope.

 

All she sees is are strangers in a sea of enemy territory.

 

***

 

“We have to go into the streets.” Bellamy states, grabbing a few weapons they laid out on the bed. Everyone startles at the admission, but they’ve been listening to the conversation between their people and Eligius long enough to know it’s not going as peacefully as Bellamy had hoped. “We need to meet them at the gate. Otherwise we could have some causalities.”

 

“What about Raven and Shaw?” Emori asks, although she’s grabbing her gun all the same. “Won’t they come back here if they’re successful?”

 

“If they’re successful, I think we’ll all know pretty quick.” Diyoza states. “Bellamy’s right. The time for waiting is over. We may not know where Russell is, but we finally have some numbers on our side. This may be our only chance.”

 

No one has any arguments against that, so Bellamy takes the opportunity to face everyone. “Okay guys,” Bellamy says to the anxious group before him. “This is it. This is the moment it counts.” He holds the gun in his hands and it feels heavier than he can remember. “Throughout our entire lives, we’ve made decisions – good or bad – that we thought were best at the time. Decisions we made for our people or… ourselves. Decisions that affected the entire human race, whether we meant it or not.”

 

He swallows. Everyone’s staring at him and he feels his hair stand on end. Even Murphy doesn’t have a smart remark to add, his eyes as afraid as everyone else’s. “We’ve all made excuses for what we’ve done. Me more than anyone. But Monty reminded us that we can be better. That we need to be better.” Bellamy grips his weapon. “Whatever happens, we have to make decisions that will be for the greater future, not just for the greater now.”

 

Without a hesitation, Bellamy throws the doors of the hospital open.

 

***

 

Clarke’s sighs in frustration as she peers through the scope. “I can’t see them.” She says, dropping the gun. Her eyes water and for a moment, she believes they’ve left.

 

It wouldn’t be the first time.

 

Clarke can’t even blame them. She insisted that Bellamy use his head. Leaving her and Madi to the fate of Eligius would prevent a war. She couldn’t blame anyone for doing what they thought was best for the greater amount of people.

 

She doesn’t even want to look through the scope, though. It’s as if seeing the barren city would remind her that hard decisions follow her wherever she goes. She can’t blame Bellamy for doing something she would’ve done only years ago.

 

However, she allows herself a little hope. Peeking through the scope of the sniper rifle, Clarke scans the city once more. The streets are barren and empty, just as before.

 

But then, something catches her eye.

 

She stares through the scope, telling herself it’s a mistake. She’s seeing things.

 

Because for a second there, it seems like there’s an entire army at the gate.

 

***

 

“Eyes sharp!” Bellamy calls out behind him as the group runs through the city. The streets are all but deserted, Bellamy knowing the guards have awoken and warned the city of their escape. It doesn’t deter him, though. Holding his gun out in front, he runs through the streets toward the gate.

 

Yelling sounds in the distance and he quickens his pace, everyone following behind him. The closer they get, the more intelligible the words are. Motioning for the group to follow behind him, they shuffle behind a pillar close to the entrance.

 

“—buddy, we don’t want anyone getting hurt.” Miller’s voice breaks through the muddling voices. “We’re here to get our people and then leave.”

 

“We have it under strict instructions not to let anyone in or out of the city limits.” One of the guards is saying, their gun pointed at Miller’s head. To his credit, he doesn’t flinch. If anything, Miller leans slightly into it, as if daring the man to pull the trigger. “We cannot permit your entrance.”

 

“We can either do this the peaceful way, or the less than peaceful way.” Miller states, stepping forward. “All we want is our people.”

 

When he moves closer, the entire line of guards focus their sights on him. Bellamy holds his gun tightly, turning to the rest of them and putting up a hand.

 

No one moves.

 

Miller doesn’t flinch. He doesn’t even reach for his gun.

 

Waving for everyone to follow him, Bellamy steps quietly behind the guards. Pointing his gun at the back of someone’s head, he states, “Want to reevaluate that?”

 

The guards hesitate for only a second.

 

Their hands go in the air.

 

***

 

Clarke watches the group huddled at the gate of the city slowly filter in. She peers through her scope and sees Bellamy’s figure at the head of the group and she lets out a breath.

 

He’s alive.

 

Setting her gun down, Clarke sits at the base of the wall. It occurs to her in that moment, she didn’t believe he was alive. Her fingers trace the edge of the gun. She was willing to trade the human race for Bellamy.

 

Is he important?

 

He is.

 

***

 

Bellamy knows the moment everything changes.

 

When everything will be determined. He’s known this very few times before. Where the weight of his gun becomes a part of who he is and he’s destined to be a line of history in the war of a planet.

 

They make their way to the center of the city, the entire army of Wonkru behind him. They’re clad in armor and primitive weapons, but he knows that these warriors will outlast the stories of any one person. He holds his gun against his chest and moves forward with pride.

 

Russell comes in sight.

 

There’s a group behind him and Bellamy knows there’s more hidden in places he can’t currently see. Bellamy casts a glance at Diyoza at his side and she doesn’t seem perturbed by the army before them. Perhaps she’s made peace with dying. Perhaps she doesn’t think they will. Whatever it is, it helps Bellamy propel forward until he can see the sweat glistening on Russell’s brow.

 

“I see that things have been a bit messier than I’ve anticipated.” Russell states, stopping before Bellamy.

 

Bellamy isn’t sure how to respond. He peers behind him, every human left of the population on earth standing, ready to fight. It emboldens him in every way he needs. “Your oversight is thinking we’d be willing to trade one life for many. You forget that every human life is worth saving.”

 

Russell tilts his head. “I should’ve known that you were going to cause trouble. All the signs were there.”

 

“Regret not killing me where I stood?” Bellamy asks.

 

“Maybe.”

 

***

 

“What’s going on?” Madi asks at Clarke’s side. Her pistol is pointed at the Eligius square where everyone is gathered. “What should I do?”

 

“Stand down.” Clarke states, still unable to pull her gaze from the scope. She watches as Bellamy and Russell move closer together, her finger hovering over the trigger.

 

***

 

“You have to understand,” Russell states, moving closer. “My people come before any semblance of morality.”

 

Bellamy looks at the gun in his hand and then the one in Russell’s. “Funny, I used to tell myself the same thing.”

 

***

 

Clarke freezes when Russell aims his gun at Bellamy’s head. And panics even more so when Bellamy leans into it, placing his forehead directly on the barrel.

 

***

 

Bellamy doesn’t flinch. The metal of the gun feels cold on his skin, but he leans in anyway. He ears the guns behind him click and knows the entire army has their sights on Russell.

 

Logically, he isn’t sure who wins this. Sure, they’re more trained. But Bellamy doesn’t know what Russell has up his sleeve. All he knows is that sometimes standing up for what’s right is more important than any war. He sees Lincoln’s resolute eyes before his execution. He sees Maya’s strength when she realizes the radiation of the air was about to kill her.

 

Bellamy leans into the barrel of the gun.

 

***

 

Clarke has thought of this moment.

 

She’s thought of the moment of taking the life away of the man who tortured her for a year. She’s dreamt about it – seeing the light leave his eyes.

 

Everything she’s fought for – her sanity, her life, her… ability to breathe. It was all in this man’s hands. She watches as Bellamy approaches him, his eyes hard and filled with resolve. She wants to yell to him that they’re alright – they’re free – but knows the wind will steal her words away.

 

She sets her scope to Russell, aiming at his head.

 

***

 

Bellamy all but taunts Russell to pull the trigger. He can see in the man’s eyes that he wants to. Regardless of the outcome – of the many causalities – he wants the man to know who brought him down.

 

“My people will die because of your actions.” Russell finally spits, not even dropping the aim for a second.

 

“We offered peace.” Bellamy states, not flinching. “We offered resources, we offered research. We told you we had people working on a solution – a vaccine. You chose not to believe us and steal our people. You can’t believe that we would be alright with that?”

 

“Do you think we’d be alright will going quietly into the night?” Russell counters, flicking the safety off the gun.

 

It takes everything Bellamy has to not visibly recoil.

 

Then, the city explodes.

 

***

 

Clarke all but ducks for cover.

 

The entire city shakes at the explosion, smoke billowing from the corner of the city. She wraps an arm around Madi as it does so, the two of them ducking as a fire breaks out.

 

Once she holds Madi close, she peers over the roof edge to where a building collapses from the bottom, the entire structure folding on itself.

 

***

 

Russell stares at the smoke.

 

“You have an option here.” Bellamy states, eyes flitting to the destruction.

 

“That’s… the lab.” Russell states, words breathless.

 

Bellamy can’t focus on the pain in his voice. The despair.

 

The lab collapses on itself, glass and concrete showering the entire block as it crumbles to it’s planetary grave. Russell can’t bring his gaze off it, Bellamy taking an opportunity to shove the gun aside.

 

“Either leave my people alone, or suffer further consequences.”

 

Russell turns to him, wide-eyed. “You’ve condemned my entire people to death!”

 

***

 

A single shot rings out.

 

A person falls.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER EIGHTEEN

 

The funeral was on a Wednesday.

 

Perhaps she knew in some part of her, her death was being acknowledged. Her chest hurt and she couldn’t breathe and for the first time, she felt like this was who she was. The girl chained to the wall.

 

When she’s in the cell, it’s loud.

 

On the days that Bellamy doesn’t come to her, Clarke feels like she’s aware of every single noise that echoes in the area. Down the hallway, the roof leaks and water dribbles to the ground, plopping in a melodic beat that makes her chest ache and brain scream. Somewhere she thinks that there’s an animal loose in the cell because there’s scratching – oh god, the scratching – that burrows in her mind and she has dreams of them running their claws up and down her skin.

 

However, the loudest thing? The loudest thing when she’s by herself is the silence from her people.

 

Clarke isn’t sure how much time has passed, but she knows enough has to know they aren’t coming for her. The silence is as damning as the silence before she left with Russell, something in the back of her mind telling her it’s the last time she’ll ever see her people.

 

The silence paves the way for her own anxiety, and she uses the repercussions to think of every decision she ever made. Closing the dropship, pulling the lever, staying in Polis, climbing the satellite tower, leaving Bellamy… letting everyone go.

 

There are few times in her life that Clarke has thought that she’s had enough. Sitting here on a dank floor, alone and pain shooting down her arms, Clarke thinks it. Because the world will not remember her as a good guy or a bad guy. They will not remember her as the Commander of Death, they will not remember her Wanheda.

 

She’s left, tied to a wall.

 

The world will not remember her at all.

 

***

 

Clarke is having a hard time looking away from the smoke from the lab. She doesn’t need to be down on the ground to know that the lab’s collapsing on itself. Peering over the edge of the roof, Clarke is able to catch the glass shattering out and smoke billowing through the windows. Fire and chaos shiver through the foundation until the entire building trembles and shakes, collapsing to the ground.

 

Even though the two of them are far away, Clarke can feel the tremors in the building and keeps her hands over Madi, who wraps her hands around her head. She watches as Russell steps closer to Bellamy, his gun trained on him, the guards behind him inching forward as well. Except even from here, she can see their hesitation in their movements as they wearily eye the Wonkru army.

 

It hits her.

 

Eligius never needed an army before they landed. Sure, they needed enforcement, but they were a collection of contractors and scientists. They poured their resources into building a world and not defending one. Clarke thinks of her time in Eligius and how rare it was to see the guard out. How rare it was for them to be running drills, simply because they didn’t need it.

 

Until they landed.

 

What is it about the other that brings out the worst, most violent, of the human race?

 

Peeking over the ledge, she sees Bellamy still talking, the Wonkru army shouldering their weapons as they wait for a start. Everyone is waiting for a start. Everyone is waiting for that one person to make the first move. It’s as if the world is holding its breath, wondering when humans will destroy it one last time.

 

When Russell presses the gun to Bellamy’s forehead, something inside of Clarke snaps. Something inside of her that has been paralyzed by fear of this place – by the repeat of events that she couldn’t bring herself to work through. She’s been through wars, she’s been through loss – she’s seen pain and overcome it, but here, on this place, she felt loneliness.

 

Except for Bellamy.

 

Clarke remembers there wasn’t complete silence. Even when she was leaving, there was one voice. One voice who yelled, one presence who followed her, who didn’t let her leave without even the smallest fight. Even when she was by herself in the cell, he became a safe space to hide in.

 

Her hands shake as she places the front of the sniper rifle onto the edge of the roof, adjusting the scope.

 

***

 

“We have not condemned your people to death.” Bellamy states, trying not to show too much concern for the gun resting on his forehead. “We have prevented your people from using your technology to torture ours. It is your decision whether you will condemn your people to death. Because sure, you may have lived here longer than we have. You know the land and have an infrastructure. But we have been fighting for our lives for years. Sure, you have the numbers. But we have the history.”

 

The guards behind Russell clutch their guns nervously, but to their credit, stand their ground. Bellamy knows what the army behind him looks like. In the clean streets of Eligius, the armor of Wonkru must be terrifying. Paint covering their faces, cloaks and weapons littering their bodies. The eyes of warriors who have stared death in the face and won.

 

Sometimes a weapon can be more than simply a blade. It can be the fear of the resolve to match.

 

“We made an offer.” Bellamy states, now talking to everyone in the area. “We offered our help and knowledge with radiation poisoning. You don’t have to take our people to get healthy lives. We’re willing to help you find a cure. What we’re not willing to do is sacrifice our people at your hands for peace.”

 

“It is one person!” Russell yells, the gun shaking. “Are you willing to trade peace for the life of one prisoner you love?”

 

Bellamy’s startled by his outburst, but he takes it in. Really, takes it in. There’s no hiding it from anyone. He’s said the words in private, but now it’s time to say the words out loud.

 

“You ask too high a price.” Bellamy says softly. “We don’t trade lives for profit. Never again.”

 

“We’re getting close to a solution.” Abby pushes through the ranks of the army. “We need time and access to your sick. We can help you. There’s always an answer. We can help.”

 

Bellamy can sense the dissent rising behind the man. He can see it in their eyes. Russell clenches his jaw and then presses the gun further, scraping against his forehead.

 

Then, something startles him

 

There’s a beam of light.

 

A green laser light shines on the forehead of Russell, matching where the man is currently pointing the gun at Bellamy. Bellamy frowns at that, causing Russell to do so as well. “What?” He asks, looking up to where the spot of light is. “What is this?”

 

“Is that a laser sight?” Bellamy hears Diyoza say behind him.

 

“You’ve infiltrated my city.” Russell states. “We didn’t have any activity of you guys anywhere except outside the border. How did you manage to get people throughout the streets?”

 

“We didn’t,” Bellamy says softly. “We—”

 

The moment it hits him, it occurs to everyone else.

 

“Clarke mothafucking Griffin has the high ground!” Murphy yells, thrusting his fist into the air.

 

Indra turns to him, points, and says slowly, “Star Wars?”

 

A smile breaks out on Murphy’s face. “Yeah!”

 

“The fact that no one has slit your throat out of sheer annoyance is astounding to me.”

 

Diyoza leans close to Octavia. “It’s true, but she shouldn’t say it.”

 

Russell doesn’t say anything for a moment. He keeps his gun there and Bellamy knows that there still is a good chance he’s not walking away from it. Sure, the war won’t happen. There’s too much chance of death and a guard that is under qualified. But this is a man trapped in the corner. A man put in a cage and willing to fight his way out.

 

“This is not how this ends.” Russell states. “This is not how this ends.”

 

Bellamy tries to indiscreetly raise his gaze to the source of the light.

 

***

 

She could do it.

 

Clarke could so easily do it.

 

There’s a dark part of her who wants to. She wants to pull the trigger and have the person pay for what he did to her. Sure, Justice Mulroy was at the front of the operation, but it took Clarke all but a minute to realize who was pulling the strings in the background.

 

He took so much from her. Her life was comprised of people taking pieces from her. It happened so small, she isn’t sure she noticed. A piece there, a piece here. Suddenly, she was fragmented and chipped in ways she never expected. She was no longer whole.

 

Then they had the audacity to ask her why.

 

Clarke stares through the scope, able to see the green laser light on his forehead.

 

She could so easily pull the trigger.

 

No one would question it. She’s killed for less. Much less.

 

Be the good guys.

 

Clarke lets out a cry in frustration, a few tears rolling down her cheek. Finger hovering over the trigger, Clarke tells herself to pull it. It’d save Bellamy, it’d save her people. One less evil in the world.

 

But…

 

He was trying to protect his people.

 

Is that so wrong?

 

***

 

There are times when the world really does stop. It continues to rotate, time passes, but everything living pauses together in unison.

 

The world is pausing.

 

Bellamy knew being the good guys wouldn’t be easy. It never is when circumstance places their hand over yours and demands you shed blood. He’s been fighting against it since they land, but a part of him feels weary. Will being the good guys always mean violence?

 

The green light is shaking. He knows what must be going through Clarke’s head. Every life they’ve ever taken, they’ve made excuses for. Reasons as to why they took them.

 

The green light moves down and lands on Russell’s thigh.

 

A shot rings out.

 

Russell collapses at the noise, another shot exploding in the area. It takes a second for Bellamy to register it.

 

Pain hits him all at once and in full force, so much so he stumbles. “Bellamy!” Someone shouts but it’s sounds distant.

 

He doesn’t fall though. Bringing his hand up to his face, it comes back with blood dripping down his fingers. Someone grips his shoulders and he blinks, Abby’s face coming into view. “Look at me, look at me.” Abby breathes, her hands hovering over his cheeks.

 

“He shot me.” Bellamy says, a bit dazed. He knows that it’s an obvious expression, but it’s the only thing that’s running through his head at the moment. “He shot me in the head.”

 

“Yes he did.” Abby states, wiping the blood from his brow. “But it looks like he missed as well. Just a graze. Head wounds tend to bleed a lot, so it looks a lot worse than it is.”

 

“Do they tend to feel a lot worse than they are, because it doesn’t feel great.” Bellamy states and the entire world shifts on its axis.

 

“Okay, okay,” Abby states, her hands up to brace him. “Let’s not move too quickly because while he may not have shot you in the brain, you still had a serious head injury.”

 

Bellamy blinks a few times, trying to convince the world to stop moving. “Should I be convincing them not to shoot us?”

 

“I feel like you’re a bad example of that.” Murphy states, approaching the man and clapping him on the back. “Besides, as usual, the high ground wins.”

 

Bellamy barely is able to make sense of what the man is saying when he watches as the guard sets their guns down.

 

***

 

The moment Russell falls, Clarke breathes.

 

She can’t hear his scream, she can’t hear what he’s saying. All she can do is watch him collapse to the ground, his hands splayed at his side.

 

Clarke looks at the man, his eyes squeezed shut in pain as he places a quaking hand over his leg. Through the scope, she can see the blood trickle through his fingers.

 

Still red.

 

It occurs to her. He was saving himself for last.

 

Crouching behind the edge of the roof, Clarke slides down the brick. He bore it, so no one else had to. The gun falls from her hands and clatters at her side, Clarke shutting her eyes and breathing.

 

Breathing.

 

She tries to think of the last time she breathed easy. It felt like a chore – like something she no longer would be able to do without thinking. Because every breath reminded her that it was hard and the world was unkind to those who wanted to thrive. Instead, she sucks the air in her lungs and breaths and breathes and breathes.

 

“Are you okay?” Madi asks tentatively at her side, scooting over so she’s sitting cross-legged in front of her. The teen already looks lighter, the darkness behind her eyes fading and the weight of the world slowly shifting off her shoulders. The girl reaches out to touch Clarke’s arm, to which Clarke wraps her hand around.

 

“Yeah,” she says and it’s honest. Real. “Yeah, I’m okay.”

 

“We should go down and join them.” Madi states, starting to scramble up from her seated position.

 

“Wait.” Clarke states, holding her hand and keeping her there. Madi startles, crouching back down to where she was. “Before we go and join the others, we need to do one thing.”

 

“What?”

 

Reaching in her pocket, Clarke pulls out the Flame where she’s kept it. It glints in the sunlight, resting in the palm of her hand. It seems so innocent for something that’s caused such chaos and war. Clarke can’t help but loathe the sight of it, for all it’s taken away. A part of her wants to chuck it right there, but instead she says, “Your decision.”

 

Madi blinks. “What do you mean?”

 

“You got rid of it to save me, just like you took it to save me. You being the Commander has always been about circumstance and you should choose whether you want this life for you.” Clarke raises her hand. “If you want to be the Commander and you want that life, that’s your choice. You made a decision to be what the people needed in a highly emotional situation. You took it out because you knew the Commanders would convince you to give me back. Now?” She smiles at the girl. “Now, it’s just you and me. No one’s around to pressure you. No one’s watching. If you could choose, just for you, what would you do?”

 

Madi reaches out and grabs the Flame from her hands and places it between her fingers. It catches the sunlight, glinting. So much pain and loss in one piece of machinery. Madi gazes at it, then places her hand onto the back of her neck. Biting her lip, the girl looks up at Clarke. “I can choose? Whatever I want?”

 

Clarke nods. “Whatever you want. I’ll support you no matter what.”

 

Madi frowns at the Flame. She looks to it, and then to Clarke. With a breath, she raises it up. Clarke shuts her eyes, unsure if she wants to watch this happen again.

 

Throwing it onto the ground, Madi rams the heel of her boot into the A.I., grinding it until it’s nothing more than a collection of wires and shrapnel.

 

Clarke actually jumps backwards at the response, unable to stop her growing smile as she stares at the collection of shattered parts. “Um… wow.” Clarke states, a laugh catching in her throat.

 

Madi sighs. “That felt awesome.”

 

“It looked awesome.”

 

“My family spent their entire lives trying to protect me from that. They lied to the Commander – the Conclave. Hid me under the floor.” Madi’s eyes water. “Was willing to be executed in order to keep me safe.” Madi reaches out and hugs Clarke, pulling her closely. “Nothing good can come from years of war. We have a fresh start. We shouldn’t be bringing our old wars with us.”

 

Clarke reaches out and wraps her arms around the girl. “Spoken like a true leader.” She says quietly.

 

***

 

Bellamy is confused.

 

Sure, he was shot in the head and sure, he wasn’t expect people to lay down their weapons, but everyone is talking so fast and he isn’t sure what’s going on. He’s seated on a bench with a rag to his head, now soaked with his blood, while Octavia sits next to him, railing on his decision to risk his life again.

 

He’s missing pieces in and out of conversations. A few yards ahead, Indra is standing, speaking with a few people at the front line. She’s calm, but direct, Abby and Kane close by.

 

Maybe he can rest.

 

“Bellamy, oh my god, did someone shoot you?”

 

“No, I’m just trying a new look.” Bellamy groans, turning to see who’s yelling at him. Raven sprints down the road at him, Shaw close in tow.

 

Running up to him, Raven skids to a stop and stares at Bellamy. “Oh my god, what did you do?”

 

“Why do you instantly think that I did something?” Bellamy groans.

 

“Because usually when someone shoots you, you did something to piss them off!”

 

Murphy leans close to everyone. “Huh. It sure is nice when it’s not me.”

 

Shaw glances around. “Looks like things have calmed down. What happened?”

 

Murphy shrugs. “Oh, you know. Bellamy made an inspirational speech about humanity and working together and then someone tried to shoot him in the head. Exactly how you’d imagine it’d go.” Murphy purses his lips. “You know, I’ve thought about shooting Bellamy in the head so many times when he was giving speeches, and now that I’ve discovered that it won’t kill him, I may have to surprise him.”

 

“Surprise him with murder?” Shaw asks. “Judas, no.”

 

Murphy makes a face. “I hate the fact that you were born in a different time.”

 

“Technically I’m your elder so you should listen to me more.”

 

“Raven, control your man.”

 

“Naw, I’m good.” Raven says. “Seriously, Bellamy, are you okay? You’re are literally dripping blood everywhere.”

 

“Yeah, yeah,” he breathes. “You guys alright?”

 

Raven rolls her eyes. “Obviously. Diyoza was right though, we ran into your friend at the lab, but she wasn’t trying to take it down, she was trying to evacuate everyone out of there in case we decided to take it down.”

 

“Please don’t tell Diyoza she was right.”

 

“Too late, I already heard!” Diyoza calls from a few yards away.

 

Chuckling, Raven continues, “It was good, though. It meant there weren’t workers in the building, so when it went down, no one died.”

 

“I shouldn’t have assumed that she would be fine with helping us when she didn’t know us as anything other than hostile.” Bellamy sigh, a blinding pain in forehead growing. “I don’t know a single person who would’ve just trusted us just with our words.”

 

“Maybe that’s the point.” Diyoza says, approaching the group. “The issue was we didn’t even try to get to know them. Or vice versa. If we share land, we should share ourselves too. We need to get to know our neighbors.”

 

“Being a mother has softened you.” Shaw says, nudging her arm.

 

“Shut up.”

 

Bellamy takes the rag from his face when Octavia hands him a new one from the stash Abby gave her. He drops it on the ground and presses it against his face, wincing. “You wanna hear something crazy?” Raven asks, looking around. “Since that woman was able to clear out the lab before we blew it up and Clarke shot Russell in the leg and he shot you in the head—”

 

“Rude, I’m sitting right here.”

 

“—this ended without casualties. On the Ground, I feel like we didn’t even go a day without someone dying.”

 

Murphy jabs his thumb in Octavia’s direction. “You forgot about how Octavia shish kabobbed some guard.”

 

“But she only stabbed one person when she could’ve stabbed ten.” Raven counters. “That’s growth.”

 

“Guys, I’m sitting right here.” Octavia states, waving her hand.

 

Raven and Murphy say at the same time, “We know.”

 

Bellamy peers at her, to see if her eyes fall. If she crumbles even a bit. Instead, the corners of her mouth turn up. She doesn’t move, nor do they ask her. She sits among the people she came to the ground with, people she fought alongside with, people she hurt and hurt her.

 

They all stay.

 

Miller trudges up to the group, swinging his weapon across his shoulder. “Indra’s working things out, but I think the general consensus is we have a lot to figure out. Fortunately Abby’s calming them down with talks about blood and genetics and radiation—”

 

“What are you even talking about?” Murphy cries.

 

“I dunno. Science.” Miller shrugs. “Looks like I took a three hour walk for no reason.”

 

Murphy snorts. “You’re such a dick, man.”

 

“You should really look in the mirror before you call someone that.”

 

Shaw smiles. “You know, when you’re not marching to murder me, I think I like you.”

 

Miller makes a face. “Are we… joking about that?”

 

“What, too soon?”

 

Murphy rolls his eyes. “It’s been two years, let’s move on, people!”

 

“Bellamy, how’s the head?” Abby asks as she, Indra, and Kane approach them.

 

Bellamy stands, which isn’t the smartest thing in the world because everything tilts again. “You know, still on my shoulders.”

 

“Age hasn’t made you less stupid with injuries.” Abby sighs. “We’ve agreed to open peace discussions. With the assassination of their Justice and Russell now facing capital crimes, they’re going to be restructuring things. It’ll give our people an opportunity to heal and come up with a plan on how we want to approach our two cities.”

 

Kane grins. “Shockingly, when Murphy wasn’t there, no one threatened us.”

 

“You love it.”

 

Footsteps sound in the back of Bellamy’s mind. He thinks that it’s his headache, but they’re getting louder. And then everyone turns at the noise.

 

There’s a streak of gold, a flash of movement, and then something collides with him.

 

Honestly, it almost knocks him over.

 

Dazedly, he struggles to put the pieces together, but a set of arms wrap around him. They squeeze and the person sets their chin on his shoulder, breathing, “Oh my god.” They breathe.

 

“Clarke.” He sucks in a breath, only taking a second to return the embrace, no matter how dizzy he feels.

 

Although, it didn’t occur to him that he wasn’t breathing fully until she’s in his arms. Even though logically he knew she was somewhere else, seeing her, holding her, touching her – it all goes away.

 

They’re all okay.

 

Pulling apart, Bellamy takes her in – really takes her in. The suns are high in the air and it brightens her eyes in a way that makes them sparkle like the stars in the night. She’s smiling at him and everything is warm. Although it falters, Clarke asking, “What happened?”

 

Murphy cups his hands over his mouth. “Someone shot him in the face! It’s hilarious!”

 

“What?”

 

But Bellamy can’t even focus on that. All he can focus is that Clarke’s standing in front of him, alive and well, and they aren’t going to war.

 

It’s almost seems unreal.

 

Placing his hand on the back of her head, Bellamy pulls her in close again, except this to kiss her. He brings him so close to him there’s no space, tangling his fingers in her hair as he explores her mouth without the hesitation of a goodbye. No, Bellamy kisses Clarke because he wants to and because for the first time, he isn’t afraid that tomorrow will be their last day. He kisses her because he loves her and she’s here and they’re both alive.

 

“Now there’s something I never thought I’d see.” Octavia says playfully behind them and Bellamy can’t help but grin into the kiss.

 

“Yeah, I was hoping I’d never have to go through it.” Murphy’s voice sounds. “Abby quick – how bad would it be for me to bleach my eyes?”

 

“…bad.”

 

“Shit.”

 

Except he doesn’t care. He doesn’t care because he knows where everyone is. They all survived and around him.

 

They’re home.

 

***

 

It’d been two days since they’ve returned home. Once everyone returned to the village, Clarke thinks it hit them all at once. They’d been on the planet for two years, but she thinks in the back of everyone’s mind, they were simply waiting for war. Clarke’s departure marked a potential for things to be taken, and she often wonders if people – even subconsciously – they took that as a sign of future war.

 

Except when they return from Eligius – everyone weary from the trek – no one sets down their guns. Everyone stands in the center of the village and looks around. Everything looks the same. In fact, there are even some dishes left out from the quick evacuation.

 

But everything’s changed.

 

There’s a weird laugh from somewhere in the middle of the crew. Then another. Clarke startles when Madi laughs at her side, carefree and childlike. Then so does Shaw. Soon there’s a cheer and more laughter, and people start setting down their weapons and hugging. Reaching out, Clarke hugged Madi tighter than she remembers doing since the Flame, the child returning the gesture.

 

Of course, the two days were not filled with only delight.

 

Once the destruction of the Flame was revealed, they had another problem. Fortunately more people were against the Flame as a concept that Clarke realized – Eligius voicing being uncomfortable with a child ruler, as well as the original Skaikru. Then some of the grounders came out until Indra set her hand on an infuriated Gaia and stated, “It’s time to respect our past, but move our sights to the future.”

 

Which is why Clarke stands outside the Council cabin.

 

Madi’s nowhere near and that makes her lighter than she’s been for years. Knowing that she’s somewhere else – far away from tough decisions no child should ever have to make – fills her with a joy she can’t express. So she moves, her head up high, not deterred from the glares given to her by Gaia as she passes. Settling next to Bellamy who’s already there with Raven at his side, Clarke smiles.

 

They’re all here. Bellamy, Raven, Shaw, and Diyoza. Murphy is next to Emori and Echo, while Octavia and Miller remain close to Abby and Kane. Indra and Gaia stand together, Indra leaning in to whisper something to Gaia, whose expression relaxes.

 

“Well, we find ourselves in an interesting predicament.” Indra states when no one starts. “Fortunately, we’ve got some time to restructure, as they are figuring out that process as well.”

 

Kane folds his hands. “For its many faults, I’ve always been partial to the structure of the Ark.”

 

“Of course you have.” Murphy mutters.

 

Clarke hides a smirk and Bellamy shoots him a glare.

 

It doesn’t seem to bother him at all. “A council, as this one, with a leader. Not dissimilar to what we had with Madi, but one that is chosen through their experience as opposed to lineage.”

 

“Commanders were given knowledge that was passed down—”

 

“From a world that no longer exists.” Indra states. “We’re not having this conversation again, there’s nothing we can do. The Flame was always fragile and I think Clarke and Madi’s escape was more important than making sure it came back.”

 

Clarke doesn’t even flinch. Sure, she may have told Bellamy what happened in private, but there’s no way she’ll broadcast that the Flame met the business end of a steel toe boot.

 

She doesn’t regret it.

 

“How do we start?” Emori asks, Clarke grateful for her ability to stay on task.

 

“We don’t have time for a full election before we make our way back to Eligius.” Kane states. “We don’t have time for nominations or a traditional democratic process. So we’ll need an interim leader in the meantime.”

 

“Okay, okay,” Murphy states, waving his hands. “I’ll step up and fucking do it. Then I’ll make a rule saying I’m in charge forever.”

 

“That’s a dictatorship,” Diyoza says. “So no… and also no.”

 

“You can admit it if you’re scared.”

 

“Scared of you being in charge? Absolutely.”

 

Clarke can’t help but smile at that. She catches people looking at her – looking at Bellamy – as if they’re waiting for one or the other to volunteer.

 

She takes a moment to truly think of that and what it means. Being in charge again. She often thought about it – about how desperately she wanted the human race to survive. How she spent every second trying to make sure it did. And the fact is…

 

It did.

 

Glancing up at Bellamy, she smiles warmly at him and he returns it. There’s something behind his eyes that makes her realize he feels the same way. That he’s done with being in charge. As is she. “What about Indra?” Bellamy asks, turning.

 

Indra blinks. “I’m sorry?”

 

A grin stretches on his face. “What about Indra for interim leader?”

 

Clarke’s never seen Indra so startled before, she even trips over her words. “W-What? I don’t think that—”

 

“That’s a great idea.” Kane states. “You’ve served every Commander I’ve known. You know strategy, but you’re level-headed in crisis. I can’t think of anyone better for the job.”

 

“It is very flattering, but—”

 

“What’s your hesitation?” Bellamy asks. “Do you not want the role?”

 

Indra doesn’t respond right away. She glances around the room where everyone is staring. “Is this what you all want?” She asks carefully.

 

“I think it’s a great idea.” Clarke states. “I can’t think of anyone better.”

 

“I agree.” Octavia says. Clarke wasn’t sure she would say anything in her first council meeting after everything, but the amount of warmth aimed toward the woman is palpable in the cabin. “Wholeheartedly.”

 

“Me too.” Miller states. “It’s how it always should’ve been.”

 

Indra stares at everyone, then turns to Gaia. “And you?”

 

Gaia looks at her mother and the two share something Clarke understands. She understands the anger, defiance, love, confusion, and strength there. After a second, Gaia melts. “I would be honored to follow you.”

 

Indra crumbles, but for a second. Then she steels herself, faces the council, and says, “I accept.”

 

Clarke can’t help but beam at the woman, many people doing the same. “What do we do now?” Shaw asks.

 

Whatever the hell we want.

 

The phrase plays in her head startingly. It was such a long time ago, and she can’t help but glance up at the man who uttered it so many years ago. Before she can stop it, she snorts. Clasping her hand over her mouth, Clarke fails to not giggle. Once. Twice.

 

“What is going on?” Bellamy asks, looking down at her.

 

Then there’s a laugh across the table. Clarke peers up and sees Murphy with a shit-eating grin and she knows. A full laugh escapes her lips and Murphy joins her, two unable to stop any of it.

 

Miller nudges Octavia and the two poorly hide their laughs. “What is happening right now?” Kane asks and Abby merely shrugs.

 

Raven leans over to Octavia, who whispers something to Raven. Without hesitation, Raven bursts out laughing, not even trying to hide it. Bellamy frowns at everyone.

 

“It’s clearly something from the original 100.” Abby shrugs. “Some inside joke.”

 

Then Bellamy’s eyes light up and his face scrunches into a frown. “You have got to be kidding me!”

 

That’s when they all lose it. All five of them. Clarke can’t help herself, laughter is pouring out of here, like something was finally wedged loose after all these years. Murphy’s doubled over the council table while Raven nudges Bellamy in the ribs.

 

“I don’t know what’s happening here.” Indra says. “What are we doing, is this meeting over?”

 

“Whatever the hell we want.” A handful of them say in unison and Bellamy groans.

 

“I’m going to take that as a yes.”

 

But no one responds. Instead they laugh, really laugh, like the world didn’t end. Like they hadn’t lost all their friends. Like they hadn’t been sent as guinea pigs to die.

 

For the first time, they laugh like the children they never got to be.

 

***

 

When Bellamy enters their cabin in the evening, it’s quiet and filled with candles. His back ache, but in a good way. In a way tat reminds him that he’s alive and that he no longer has to fight. The weight of leadership and death have rolled off his shoulders and he steps in, eyes adjusting.

 

He isn’t sure what he’s about to walk into, but he wasn’t ready to find Clarke on the ground, surrounded by papers and candles, furiously sketching. “Hey,” he says softly, not wanting to startle her.

 

Clarke turns and looks up, smiling at him, her eyes warm in the candlelight. “Hey,” she responds.

 

It still takes his breath away, that smile. It was so rare for so long, but he can see the darkness lift from behind her eyes. How all the pain that they shared is leaving both of them and yet still they stand. “What are you doing?” He asks.

 

He’s surrounded by faces he never thought he’d see again. Looking at them is sharp and painful, but beautiful. Bellamy supposes that’s the world they get to live in, and reaches down to grab one. “I had an idea.” Clarke states, chewing the end of the pencil. “An idea that I wanted to run past you.”

 

“Yeah?”

 

Clarke nods. “A discussion for another night, though.” She states, standing up and facing him.

 

She reaches out and pulls him close, placing her head on his chest. Bellamy’s been startled at how much she reaches for him, but it occurs to him that perhaps she’s suffering in the same way he always had. They’ve had too much loss for two people, and they cling to those who are here.

 

Reaching up for him, she places her hand on the back of his neck and pulls him closer to her. He braces himself on the bed behind them and leans down over her until she brings him with her.

 

That’s the thing about binary suns. They revolve and revolve, never touching.

 

Because if they did? If they finally collided?

 

They would change the universe.

 

***

 

“Jordan! Come here!” Madi cries, waving her hands. Jordan jumps from where he was sitting and rushes over. “You have got to see this.”

 

Clarke smiles when the two start talking excitedly as she points at a plant that illuminates in the dark. Jordan starts chattering endlessly about it, Madi laughing at him. Bellamy must catch her watching, because he comes over and places an arm around her shoulder. “What’s that face?”

 

“I’m just… so glad she has an older-brother like figure now.” Clarke says, unable to stop smiling at the two. “Now that she’s no longer a Commander, she can be a kid. And from what I’ve seen, older brothers are what every sister needs.”

 

Bellamy ducks his head in the way he usually does when someone gives him a compliment. “They’re alright.” Leaning in for a quick kiss, Bellamy unravels and approaches the front. “Alright, everyone listen up!”

 

Everyone in the area looks up from where they are. There are a few fires scattered here and there, figures huddled by them. But it’s everyone Clarke knows and loves. She moves over to where Raven and Shaw are, Miller and Octavia sobering their laughter to face Bellamy. Even Murphy stops what he’s doing and glances to where Bellamy stands before the newest structure in the village.

 

It took a while for them to figure it out.

 

Between Raven and Shaw, it’s all they’ve been working on, despite Indra saying they’ll have to go back to defense measures someday. But she understood why they needed to do this.

 

Behind Bellamy sits a massive greenhouse, the small plants barely visible through the glass. Above the door is a sign, painted by Clarke only a few days ago:

 

Monty Green-house

 

Bellamy reaches into his jacket and pulls out a mason jar. “Firstly, I would like to thank Murphy for taking over the job of making moonshine. Monty bequeathed him the recipe in one of the tapes, and I’m sure you will make him proud.”

 

Murphy makes a face. “Don’t make it weird.”

 

Bellamy laughs, free. It’s almost dazzling, seeing him like this. Smiling and warm and light. Clarke leans closer to Raven and places a head on her shoulder, the woman holding her in return.

 

“Monty left us with a legacy.” Bellamy says, his tone growing serious. “He told us that we had to be better. To be the good guys. He gave us this planet as his dying task and it’s up to us to uphold the legacy he’s made.” Turning to face the greenhouse, Bellamy lifts up the moonshine. “He always said green was good.”

 

Clarke can’t help but laugh, her eyes watering. The ache and loss is present, but it’s now manageable. Because Bellamy is there, Raven’s at her side, and she’s surrounded by people she loves.

 

“Monty always challenged us to be kinder. Better. And so, we christen this greenhouse in your name. They used to christen ships before they went to sea. To weather the dark storms. To prepare before what comes next. But voyages don’t have to be war. Exploration doesn’t have to contain violence. And moving forward can mean moving up.”

 

Bellamy takes the mason jar of moonshine and slams it against the greenhouse, the glass shattering and dripping onto the ground.

 

“Fuck yeah!” Murphy cries.

 

Everyone joins, shouting and laughing and crying. Or doing all three.

 

Clarke squeezes her eyes shut, allowing a few tears to roll down her cheeks. Raven reaches out and squeezes her shoulders, laughing as she does so. Jumping down from where he stands, Bellamy offers Murphy a hand, who takes it. And then in a quick move, Murphy pulls him in for a hug, breaking it off as quickly as he made it. Reaching to his side, Murphy hands Bellamy something and the man smiles at him warmly.

 

When Bellamy strides over to where Clarke is, she sees the jars of moonshine. “You know,” Bellamy says playfully. “I think you actually still owe me a drink.”

 

Clarke takes one of the jars and says, “Do I now?”

 

“And I have it on good authority that you can hold your liquor.”

 

Clarke makes a face at Murphy behind him, who merely flicks his fingers and grins. “Do you now?”

 

Bellamy reaches out. “Wanna test that theory?”

 

“Bellamy Blake, are you trying to goad me?” Clarke asks.

 

“Only if it’s working.”

 

Clarke screws off the lid of the jar and takes a swig.

 

“Brave Princess,” Bellamy says quietly, pulling her closer.

 

Clarke can’t help but lean into him slightly. “You are as insufferable as the day I met you.”

 

He leans closer, smiling. “What’s wrong with a little chaos?”

 

Clarke can’t help but feel her chest warm. It’d been so cold for such a long time. So quiet around her. And yet, she hears Madi’s laughter alongside Jordan’s as they explore the world. Feels Raven close by, sees Murphy making faces. Everyone is simply so close, and she can’t help but feel herself relax.

 

For the first time, not only does she not feel alone.

 

She isn’t.

 

***

 

That isn’t to say the nightmares disappear.

 

The panic attacks erase.

 

The pain dissipates.

 

Clarke wears it every day, as she would put on a shirt or put up her hair. It’s as real as the scars on her back and the aches in her shoulder when the weather is colder. The only difference is she feels the weight and love of those around her and is able to remind herself that she’s no longer alone. She’s no longer afraid to look into Bellamy’s eyes and see the warmth gone. That this all a dream.

 

Even so, every once and a while, when the panic is too high and the logic is out of her grasp and Clarke shudders, Bellamy knows and is there. He holds her hands and runs them down his face. Grabs her and holds tight until she can catch her breath. Stays in bed long past the rise of the suns.

 

It’s a Thursday when it happens.

 

It’s appropriately grey outside, the clouds covering the suns. Negotiations with Eligius are in a few days and a semblance of normalcy is found in the village. Indra quickly becomes a respected leader, the original Eligius crew even following her without question in a way they would’ve never done with Madi. The promise of peace truly feels prevalent around them and everyone is able to breathe.

 

Able to mourn.

 

“You okay?”

 

Bellamy’s voice sounds behind her, his hand reaching out to run along her shoulder. His thumb runs along her skin, still bare, as she stares at the shirt she’s laid out for herself. Clarke shivers at his touch, then leans into it. “Yeah,” she states, grabbing it off of the bed and throwing it over her head. “Are you?”

 

Bellamy reaches out to her cheek and gives her a quick kiss. “Yes.” He says. “As strange as that sounds, yes. This is a good idea. I think we all need it.”

 

“I agree.” Clarke states. “For the first time, I feel like we’re on the right track. And we’re all together.”

 

“We’ve said it enough, it’s about time to make it true.” Bellamy smiles, leaning in for kiss.

 

It’s quick, yet comforting. Like something they’ll do every day for the rest of their lives. For the first time, it occurs to her that it’s probably true. And not for a day or a week. For longer, something more constant.

 

Permanent.

 

“Let’s go.” Clarke says, breaking of the kiss.

 

Bellamy groans playfully, even though he’s willing to be led out.

 

Before they leave, Clarke grabs a stack of papers on the table and the two step out of the cabin. Everyone’s already there – and a few people she didn’t expect – waiting in a group as they pass. Even though they smile, everyone’s a bit somber. Stoic. Clarke smiles at them, hides the papers in her jacket, and leads the way.

 

She walks through the forest as she had so many times by herself. She would travel this land, hoping the woods and air would bring her the peace she couldn’t find on earth. It never did. Instead, she was forced to let it feed into her isolation, feeling dark and bigger than anything she expected.

 

But now?

 

People follow behind her, taking care of the path she set. Stepping over a fallen tree, Clarke waves. “It’s just over here.”

 

Clarke stops when she reaches the edge of the water line, a sea stretching further out than she can see. “Woah,” someone breathes behind her and everyone approaches it carefully.

 

“You found this?” Bellamy breathes, eyes on the horizon. Wind whips his hair in his face and there’s something beautiful about it that takes her breath away.

 

“You guys really didn’t explore at all, did you?” Clarke asks, smiling at him, but it falters.

 

Raven and Shaw set wooden boxes down, filled with candles. People start to light them, the flames flickering on the dark wood. Pulling the sketches out of her jacket, Clarke looks at the first face.

 

Her father.

 

She hands it to her mom, who hesitates before it. Then Wells. Jaha. Gina. Jasper. Monty. Harper. Lexa. Lincoln.

 

Face after face is placed in the box. Even faces she didn’t know. Diyoza’s father, who the woman told Clarke about over drinks one night, describing every detail of his face with tears in her eyes. Indra’s husband, lost in a war before Clarke ever set foot on the earth.

 

Clarke picks up a few boxes and steps out to the sea. Setting them down into the waves, she watches as the light from the fire flickers off their faces.

 

They all fought for it. They were the price. The price too high and too painful. But the price nonetheless.

 

The price of peace.

 

Clarke stands with the water up to her thigh, Bellamy joining her. Raven and Murphy and Miller and Octavia. Everyone.

 

Clearing her throat, Clarke says, “In peace may you leave this shore.”

 

“In love may you find the next.” Bellamy continues, his words catching.

 

Raven blinks a few tears. “Safe passage on your travels.”

 

“Until our final journey to the ground.” Murphy recites.

 

Octavia squeezes Miller’s hand. “May we meet again.”

 

Clarke, and others, murmur, “May we meet again.”

 

Others say their own words. Clarke hears Shaw give a prayer, Indra whisper words in Trig.

 

It’s an outpour of love in many ways, and a goodbye in one.

 

Reaching out, Bellamy grabs Clarke’s hand as they watch the boxes with their loved ones drift away, still able to see the lights on the water. The two face the people they love, mourning in ways they were never given on the ground.

 

“Still okay?” Bellamy asks, his words rough.

 

“Yeah. You?”

 

“Yeah. I’m home.” He states, leaning closer. “We’re home.”

 

Clarke knows there’s always chance for something else. More war, more violence. Lives lost that should’ve never been given.

 

But perhaps the universe is done with them. They’ve paid their debts. They've paid their price.

 

As the two look out on the horizon, surrounded by everyone they love, watching those lost to them drift away, Clarke thinks Bellamy may be right.

 

They’re home.