I wanted to tell you things
All the secrets I’ve been keeping
It’s all right in front of me,
But then you just kept disappearing
A good dream, almost
Now I tell your ghost
Line after line, the words just live to remind
The two of us, what we could have been
- Sara Bareilles, ‘Poetry by Dead Men’
Left behind, alone on an empty planet. Her blood both her savior and her betrayer, black as oil and still staining her arm after a tangle with a rockslide in the forest earlier.
The steel walls of the rover seemed colder than usual, the black rain drumming the outside with a hollow metallic clanging beat that seemed to draw her heartbeat into its echo.
Under a pile of burlap that smelled like the Ark, like home, like being held in her father’s arms again, Clarke finally broke.
The tears came quickly and loudly as she choked on the memories, all of them. A small, squealing Clarke, chasing Wells down the hall, giggling and knocking into peoples’ knees. Preteen Clarke sitting on a bed, sloppily braiding her own hair while Wells waxed poetic about Nate Miller and criticized her combing methods. Teenage Clarke, still struggling with a sub-par braiding method, readying herself for the Masquerade dance as her parents quietly discussed the latest problem with the o2 scrubbers in the next room.
Adult Clarke, or so it seemed, huddled under a pile of blankets in a giant tin can, feeling more alone than ever as the winds of Praimfaya raged angrily outside and, it felt, in her heart.
She’d seen Raven’s rocket go up before she lost consciousness. The Ring was lit up in the sky every night, and she knew somehow in her heart that they were all okay up there. They had to be. Just like everyone else had to be okay down in the bunker. The bunker she couldn’t open, that no one could open, with billions of tons of rubble piled onto it.
She’d wanted to save the human race, and somehow the only person left on the ground was a monster who hadn’t felt even remotely human in a very, very long time.
Clarke sat up, wiping her face with some scrap material, her eyes stinging from the effort of expelling the pain she’d been carrying around with her since she’d watched that bullet tear through Lexa’s surprisingly soft flesh. Maybe now she was truly alone in the world, but if she was being honest with herself, she’d truly felt alone since the moment the life left Lexa’s eyes.
She shut her eyes, startling herself when her fist pounded the wall of the rover with a frustration deep enough to draw more of the cursed Nightblood from her skinned and calloused knuckles. There was too much anger and loss to fit in this suffocating steel box; too much to fit inside this suffocating steely-eyed girl. Alone on an entire planet and she still felt claustrophobic.
Through the haze of sandstorms that had quickly followed the path of Praimfaya, Clarke saw dots of flames burning weakly in the distance. Fot not the first time since she’d watched herself bleed black, Clarke’s mind turned to the small metal tin in her pocket.
She’d lied to everyone; everyone except Roan. He knew it was a fake, but he never acknowledged it. His interest was solely in staying alive to lead his people, the way Clarke herself had once felt. But Roan, too, knew the deep loss of the one person who understood you. The girl he loved from Sankru that caused his banishment in the first place. He’d smuggled her back to Azgeda to protect her from the conclave; either from being killed or becoming death.
He’d been lucky to be the son of the most ruthless leader Azgeda had seen in many years, supposedly. The standard punishment for hiding a natblida was a three-day bloodletting just for starters. Roan had whispered to Clarke as they stood gazing over the moonlit stretch of Polis how he’d been trying to die since the day the inky blood of the girl he loved ran beneath his feet. The penalty for being a natblida in hiding was only slightly more severe than hiding one.
Roan knew, and so he let Clarke lie to him and he, in turn, lied to everyone. What difference did it make, anyway? There would be no conclave for years; the time of the Commanders was truly over, and with no one the wiser he saw no reason to rob the mighty Wanheda of the only thing in life she ever truly seemed to want.
And now.. Now, nobody knew. There were no natblidas in space or underground to vie for the small, dirty tin Clarke was pulling out of her pocket for the hundredth time. Roan was dead and, Clarke hoped, reunited with the girl he’d loved enough to die for and to live for.
She slid the tin open and ran her fingertip reverently over the tiny bit of plastic that held a world within.
That held her world within.
She didn’t know if it would work. Maybe it would do nothing, maybe the kill switch had destroyed the worlds contained in the Flame right alongside the City of Light. Maybe it would still kill her, with her recently-manufactured Nightblood. Maybe she didn’t care if it did. There was no one left on Earth for her to matter to either way.
Briefly she wrestled with an increasingly weak sense of self-preservation, but even that side of her seemed well-beaten by her situation and quickly went dormant with half a thought towards brain liquefaction being a more desirable alternative to starving to death.
Clarke lifted the slightly flexible disk up, her eyes roaming over every bit of its’ surface. She felt she knew it as well as she knew her own skin; as well as she’d come to know Lexa’s.
As if propelled by some unseen force holding her hostage, she felt removed from her body as she very softly whispered, “Ascende superius..”
The tangle of wires snaked out of it, reaching out in search of the thick black liquid pumping beneath the surface of skin. As she had so many times before, she watched them writhe and grasp and, upon finding nothing to commune with, slowly retract.
“Ascende superius,” came the whisper again. Like a child who had just figured out a party trick, she repeatedly teased the Flame’s spindly legs into emerging. Taunting the Flame, taunting herself, determined to push herself just a little further into what she knew would ultimately merit a poor decision.
She closed her eyes, remembering the wide, relaxed smile on Lexa’s face after they’d made love. The delicate bend of her arm as she propped her head up to look down at her raised-in-space paleness with nothing short of worship. Lexa’s calloused but gentle fingertips tracing lightly over her collarbones, her ribs. Quickly it turned, as it always did, into the image of Lexa’s now-pale skin, her oceanic green eyes growing wide with shock; the smudge of blood at the corner of her mouth as her body quietly convulsed with the effort of fighting off death.
Her eyes locked on Clarke’s, her hand gripping Clarke’s wrist as though she could force herself to hold onto life. Clarke feeling her own heartbeat slow in time with Lexa’s as the unwavering Heda mask fell away one last time. Shakily, she’d croaked out the Traveler’s Prayer, feeling herself shatter with every syllable.
Lexa, for all her posturing, was afraid to die, as anyone would be in the moment, and her nails had left tiny half-moon marks along Clarke’s arm that Clarke wished would stay forever. With one last soft whoosh of breath, Lexa’s deep mossy eyes went glassy, seeing nothing, and Clarke felt her own lungs empty of air.
It was worse than watching her father get floated. Worse than watching her mother hang herself at ALIE’s behest. Worse than the feeling she’d had watching Lexa walk away from Mount Weather after betraying her. Worse than riding up on three hundred massacred warriors riddled with bullets.
Worse, even than realizing that if she hadn’t run away, Pike would never have gained control, and Clarke wouldn’t have had to swallow the guilt caused by inadvertently betraying Lexa right back with the slaughter of hundreds of her people. Sure, Clarke hadn’t been holding the gun on the protection detail for Arkadia, but she may as well have been.
Clarke felt her veins turn to ice as she relived her worst moments over and over again; as the midnight bloodstains on her hand ceased being her own and became Lexa’s once more.
The blood of the commanders, Lexa’s blood, pumped hard and fast in her throat, in her chest, running through her veins and seeming to reach for the Flame. As though it knew its sole purpose was to bond with it.
Emotions deep in her chest boiled over and her voice was surprisingly firm as she spoke again, almost issuing a challenge to the Flame.
“Ascende superius,” came the command, but what Clarke really meant was ‘Take me, too.’
The spiderweb legs emerged, seemingly more confident than before, as if they sensed she meant it this time, and she curled onto her side before bending her arm backwards to put the Flame in reach of her bared neck.
The pain came quick as a shocklash, every nerve ending in her body seeming to fire off all at once. She convulsed uncontrollably, sending the piles of burlap in every direction. She felt her stomach regurgitate the ration bar she’d had for breakfast as her body flipped face down of its own accord. Her eyes focused on Lexa’s name carved into the stock of her rifle as her vision slowly darkened and she fell into an abyss even emptier than the earth she stood on.