I'm waking up at the start of the end of the world,
But its feeling just like every other morning before,
Now I wonder what my life is going to mean if it's gone,
Can you tell me what was ever really special about me all this time?
But I believe the world is burning to the ground
Oh well, I guess we're gonna find out
- Matchbox 20, 'How Far We've Come'
There was a lot going on in Lexa's head, making it very hard for her to focus on the sword coming at her. She just barely managed to block it before swinging her own. She expected him to block or parry as well, but when he leaned back quickly, letting her sword zoom right over him, she stumbled with the force of her swing hitting nothing. She caught her balance and beamed back at her opponent with pride as she lowered her sword.
"Bos, Aden! That's the key: you must anticipate their moves before they make them."
Aden's cheeks reddened as a bashful smile took over his face. Lexa glanced across the way, feeling the increasingly frequent tug inside her mind as she watched Luna introducing the other natblidas to spear fighting.
This is the future of the Commander's world?
The coward and the traitor training the next generation to
go against everything the Commander stands for, too?
The human race is better off dead than in these hands.
The past Commanders in her head had never been so overwhelming. Normally they only came to her in her sleep—in her dreams and memories—or when she actively sought them through Mensfigwon. Lately, though, they had been considerably more active, both while she slept and while she was awake. She was beginning to feel like she was never alone in her head anymore and it was both confusing and exhausting.
Clarke sat at a picnic bench just to the side of the south yard. She was going over a large stack of papers and maps with a tablet in one hand, pouring over it all with Raven and Gaia, who was paging through the journal of Bekka Pramheda. It had been just over a month since they confirmed that Praimfaya would once again sweep the planet, at least twice as hungry and destructive as it had been the first time.
Gaia handed Raven the journal as she stood and clapped, calling out, "Miya, natblidas! Sanch!"
As the kids raced for the remaining tables, Aden took a detour, heading towards Clarke and hesitating a few yards away when he saw she was busy. He was just starting to turn away when Clarke, feeling eyes on her, looked up from the tablet and smiled. "Hai yun, Aden?"
Aden bowed his head to her shyly, his freckled cheeks aglow. "Skaiplana, I won my duel against Heda."
Clarke set the tablet down, smiling even more. "That's great, Aden." She leaned forward, crinkling her nose and whispering conspiratorially to him, "She's gonna be all grumpy now, you know."
Aden's cheeks reddened even more as he hid a giggle behind his hand.
"Aden, miya!" Gaia called out, her eyebrows raised sternly.
"Later, Aden." Clarke waved her fingers at him, smiling as she turned back around to see Raven was looking up at her from across the table. "What?"
"He's got a little crush on you, Skaiplana."
Clarke made a face. "You're ridiculous. God, that name's really not going anywhere, is it?"
"Definitely not, "Lexa piped up from behind her, joining them at the table and leaning over to kiss her cheek. "My queen. How are you doing with.." She gestured at the pile of scrolls on the table. "All of this?"
Clarke sighed softly, leaning into her a little. "Not nearly as well as Aden."
"I wouldn't necessarily say that," Raven piped up, turning the journal around to face them. "Lexa, do you recognize this?"
Lexa leaned over and pulled the journal closer, furrowing her brows as she studied the hand-drawn map. It seemed familiar, but she couldn't fully comprehend it. She felt as if she were looking at it through a shroud; faintly recognizable, but too dark and blurry for her to completely understand. She felt both Clarke and Raven's eyes on her as she struggled to make sense of it, unconsciously rubbing her temple.
She rubbed her forehead tiredly, letting out an aggravated sigh. "I feel like I do, but I can't place it."
"It's okay, Heda," Clarke said softly, reaching out to rub her back comfortingly.
Lexa pushed the journal away with mildly more force than was necessary, her voice and muscles tensed with frustration as she leaned just out of Clarke's reach. "No. It is not okay, Clarke. This could help us."
Clarke and Raven exchanged a look across the table as Octavia approached and dropped into the seat beside Raven, straddling the bench and setting a large basket on the table. "Pencils down, bitches. It's time for a lunch break."
Raven smirked a little. "Don't let Gaia hear you talking to Heda like that, you'll give the poor girl a heart attack."
Clarke instinctively reached out to pat Lexa's back, but stopped herself at the last moment. When Lexa was in this kind of mood, her shows of affection were more often than not unwelcome; something she tried to be aware of and not be hurt by. They'd only just barely gotten to the point of feeling comfortable enough with each other for those little gestures, when Lexa had instead begun rejecting Clarke's touch in her moments of emotional discord.
Instead, Clarke fished out an apple and held it out to her. "Here, you'll feel better after you eat something. Maybe even think more clearly with some sugar in you."
"No. I won't, and my thinking is just fine," Lexa snapped, standing up from the table and shoving the journal away roughly. She winced briefly when the headache she'd begun to get intensified, causing a throbbing that felt like it was vibrating her entire skull. "I will feel better when we stop being useless and figure this skrish out." With that, she turned on her heel and headed towards the tower entrance, ignoring the hurt look on Clarke's face and the concerned looks on everyone else's.
Octavia watched her go and, once she was out of earshot, turned to Clarke and Raven. "It's getting worse." Clarke nodded in silent agreement, swallowing hard as she watched Lexa's retreating figure worriedly. "What set her off this time?"
Raven pulled the map back to her side of the table and slid it in front of Octavia. "She said she recognized it, but couldn't place it. We need to figure out where this is."
Octavia grabbed an apple from the basket and took a bite, furrowing her brows as she studied the map. "Why?"
"We think it might be where Becca's lab was. If it's still there.." Raven trailed off, also helping herself to an apple.
"I think this is just outside Sector 4. See these markings here? I think this is a stretch of desert, full of old solar panels. Lincoln and I pass about a half mile outside it on the way to Sangedakru territory."
Raven looked at her dubiously. "You can see it from half a mile away?"
"When the sun hits them from overhead, it reflects for miles."
Clarke had remained silent throughout the exchange, totally zoned out as she stared in the direction Lexa had left in. She didn't snap out of it until Raven reached across the table and patted her wrist lightly. "She'll be okay, Clarke. She's just under a lot of stress right now. We all are."
"Yeah. Yeah, I know." Clarke's response was barely more than a whisper, obviously not buying into that theory. "Excuse me." She stood and set the tablet down, heading in the direction Lexa had gone, her face a mask of concern.
She felt fairly guilty for abandoning them, especially when they might have just found the most important and helpful information yet, but she couldn't sit there talking about maps and Becca and the end of the world when Lexa was in that kind of state.
All Lexa would tell her was that the past Commanders were more present; that they were unhappy with her choices. She didn't say it specifically, but Clarke knew the choices that angered them most certainly included herself and their shared quest for peace and alternatives to blood having blood. The clenched jaw and knit brow that usually accompanied the chorus of voices in her head had been happening more frequently, as had her headaches. Frankly, Clarke had more than a few concerns about what was going on inside Lexa's head these days, both mentally and physically. For not the first time since she learned of the Flame and its purpose, it scared the hell out of her.
Clarke took a deep breath as she headed up to the Commanders suite they now shared, trying not to be self conscious as people paused in the halls to bow to her. She simply didn't have enough mental real estate to deal with her apparent new role in Polis Tower; one that was worlds away from the prisoner she'd been here not all that long ago.
Lately, even Lexa's frequent reminders that the Flame couldn't hurt her or control her weren't enough to reassure Clarke that everything would be okay. Actually, Clarke found herself becoming more and more convinced that nothing was going to be okay. If the headaches were any indication (rather than the coincidence Lexa claimed them to be), that meant the Flame actually could hurt her.
In fact, it already was.