Clarke was the first one to get hit by the fever. Because of that, she was the first to recover. Everyone else in camp was still drifting in and out of nightmarish consciousness when she finally managed to sit up and rub the flakes of blood off her face. She knows that she still has blood smeared like some form of war paint, but she is fighting a war here and hasn’t had time to clean it off.
She had known that something like this could happen oh so easily. They had been raised in space, just like their parents and their parents before them. It was only a matter of time before their weakened immune systems met something they didn’t have on the Ark. But she hadn’t expected this. Sections of camp are now covered in mud that she knows is hydrated with blood instead of water. But she doesn’t think about that.
Clarke is fighting the war against this virus, disease, plague, whatever it is. She’s lost too many battles already, the youngest and the frailest slipping between her fingers before she could manage to coax life back in to their pale bodies. But she’s won others, Miller and Raven and Octavia rousing from their fevers to help her. As the days pass they start to save more people than they lose. As the day pass, Clarke begins to feel like she’s actually doing some good.
In the end, they lose eight people. Eight children condemned to an environment their bodies never should have had to face. But the rest of them wake, clean themselves off, and get back to life. Except for one person, one man who Clarke can’t believe isn’t strong enough to throw off the fever like a fur blanket. Bellamy Blake.
She had started his treatment first, telling herself it was because he would be the most helpful in treating the others. He would be able to tell them what to do, and they would listen. But as the days crawl on and everyone else wakes up, the pragmatism fades. She needs him, needs his faith in her. So Clarke takes it upon herself to make sure he recovers. She moves him back to his tent and sets up next to him, determined to make him better.
There’s not that much she can do, if she’s being honest with herself. She takes a cloth and cleans the blood away whenever new streaks of it leak from the edges of his mouth. She mops at his feverish brow, keeps track of his vitals and tries to get some cooled seaweed tea down his throat in the moments when he’s semi-conscious.
He never sees her, even when his eyes open. She remembers what it’s like, seeing demons everywhere while seeing nothing at all. When Bellamy shouts and thrashes and coughs up blood, she strokes his face with a hand that must seem freezing on his overheated skin. She talks to him and convinces herself that she’s helping. But deep down inside, she knows the fever just has to run its course.
She worries. When Bellamy falls quiet, she worries that he won’t ever make noise again. When Bellamy screams, she worries that his suffering will never end. When he coughs up blood, she worries that he won’t have enough left for his heart to pump. She worries when she’s awake, and when she sleeps she has nightmares of waking up next to a corpse.
But then, the fever breaks. She wakes up one day from one of her rare bouts of fitful sleep and Bellamy’s eyes are open. Not just open, they’re looking at her and seeing her. Clarke feels her face break out into a smile and sits up to feel his skin. Still a little warm, but he feels human again.
“If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re worried about me, princess.” His voice is shaky, as is his grin, but at least he’s speaking and not screaming.
“Hardly. But there’s no fun in letting a fever kill you.” He laughs at that and her smiles grows even more.
“You’re all about fun these days, aren’t you?” He tries to push himself up into a sitting position, but it’s clear that the disease has left him weak. Clarke helps him without him needing to ask, getting a mumbled thanks.
“Everyone knows that I’m the most fun one in this camp. Fever must have messed with your brain if you can’t remember that.” He chuckles again at Clarke’s response, but then he sobers.
“How many are still sick? Have we… have we lost anyone?” Of course, even immediately after fighting off a disease he would still have more concern for those who he’s chosen to protect. It’s one of the things Clarke has always respected about him.
“You’re the last one to wake up. Eight didn’t.” And she feels his pain when his face crumples at the thought of eight lives, eight children, lost. Lost due to the decision they had made, the first decision they had made together.
“Bell, I’m sorry. You have no idea how sorry I am.” She hangs her head and stares at her hands clasped on the fur blanket, unable to meet his gaze and see what it might hold, “If I hadn’t stopped you from killing Murphy, if I hadn’t made you banish him, this never would have happened.”
“Hey, don’t.” He places one of his hands over hers, “Clarke, look at me.”
And she doesn’t see the contempt or judgement she thought she would see in his eyes. She sees acceptance and support, not just for that decision, but for every part of her. Everything she needed him back for, he gives to her.
“Don’t you ever apologize for stopping me from killing someone. It’s who you are, you save people. And we made that decision together, so if there’s any blame to be had, it lands on both of us. You’re not alone in this, Clarke, not anymore.” There’s a hint of ferocity in his gaze, too, that makes her feel like she has no choice but to rely on him, to believe what he tells her.
She doesn’t fight it, the feeling that she can count on him. She knows it works both ways. In their strength and in their weakness, they are equals. Right now Bellamy has the emotional strength for the both of them, to face the problems raised by the most recent catastrophe. Clarke has the physical strength to wipe the sweat from his body, feed him, and make him healthy again.
When she deems him healthy a few days later, they are on equal footing again. He’s helped her through her guilt, she helped him through his weakness. They step into the sunlight as equals, partners, and leaders. Clarke knows that no matter what happens next, they’ll get through it together.