Clarke sat on the bottom of the steps to Sanctum's castle watching as the fires caused by the rebellion were put out, the dead were disposed of, and people searching for their loved ones were reunited. She didn't really know when she sat down here or even really why she did, maybe it was the relief at no longer needing to pretend to be Josephine that caused her to sink down to rest the moment she realized the battle was over. Maybe it was the joy of finally saving her people without the great personal cost situations like this always seemed to cost her. Or, more likely, it was Spacekru reuniting in the distance, holding each other and crying out as each member of their family came back to them without serious injury.
It was a touching reunion, to be sure. But it was also one that gave Clarke the distinct feeling that it would end if she tried to join in. Of course, she knew that most, if not all, would be happy that she was alive. They'd probably even be grateful that she helped bring down the Primes. Maybe some would even hug her when they saw her, probably Madi and Bellamy, maybe even Echo. Bellamy had told her how ready Echo had been to go to war when she found out how Clarke had died. And Clarke had died. It didn't matter that Clarke was still alive, she had felt herself die. Felt herself become nothing, only to suddenly become something again. And sitting there on the steps of Sanctum, surrounded by people but feeling as lonely as she did during those six goddamned years made her wish, just a little, that she hadn't been brought back. That after spending years of her life fighting and suffering, the world would have just let her rest. Hadn't she sacrificed enough of herself? Hadn't she carried this burden long enough? Was that so much to ask for? Some peace? Didn't she, out of everyone, deserve to just die and stay dead?
Was it weird that she missed Josephine? Just a little bit?
Yes, Josephine was by far the most unsettling rival Clarke had ever had the displeasure to fight against. Yes, having Josephine in her head made Clarke miss the simple days when Allie was her biggest concern. But - and believe me, Clarke was tired of having to always justify and acknowledge the buts in her life - but, Josephine was also the nicest reprieve Clarke had ever experience. Clarke might've helped end the world, or had slayed the mountain, or had been on the wrong side of history many times, but at least she did it for the greater good, no matter how little that excuse helped comfort her when all was said and done. Josephine, though, was evil. Maybe not in the way some of her past adversaries were, but Josephine cared only for herself; refused to sacrifice her own wellbeing; did awful things and walked away feeling no guilt or remorse. In some sick way, it was validating for Clarke to see someone who was exactly what her friends accused her of being and know without a doubt that while Clarke was many things, she was not that.
"Mind if I sit here?" someone asked over her shoulder.
Clarke twisted her head to see who it was and wasn't surprised to see Gabriel. She shrugged and looked away as he dropped down next to her.
"How'd you get that?" she asked, vaguely gesturing to a still bleeding gash across his forehead.
"Ahh, umm Layla, Xavier's sister, couldn't resist getting a punch in. It's only fair, I guess."
Clarke snorted, "It's not like you choose to come back."
"Yes, well, she doesn't see it that way."
Clarke turned to look at him, "Can I ask you a question?"
Gabriel studied her for a second then shrugged, "I guess that's only fair, as well, considering everything you've done for my people."
"Why did you choose me over Josephine? I mean, you loved her. Like, really loved her. And she loved you, for centuries."
Gabriel was quiet for a long time. He sat there besides her staring out at Sanctum for so long that Clarke thought that maybe he wouldn't answer.
But he did. "Besides the fact that Bellamy and Octavia would have killed Josephine and I immediately if I didn't save you?" he asked, giving Clarke a bitter smile, "I guess it came down to our time was over."
Clarke let out a snort at the cliche of his answer.
"I mean it!" he argued, "Look, humans aren't meant to love from afar for very long. Yes, I loved her, more than you could ever know. And she loved me, I have to believe that. But we didn't love each other. Does that make sense?"
At Clarke's blank look, he grew frustrated.
"I loved a girl who choose to run away from Earth in search of a brand new world. Who was happy classifying new species and trying to get me to kiss her when I should have been working, right? That girl died much too soon when her father cut her throat. And I spent the next few decades fighting to bring back someone who didn't exists anymore. I brought back a girl whose father killed her and who had been dead for a very long time. And I wasn't the same person she loved anymore. I wasn't the young kid who let her distract me when I should've been working. I was a guy who tried to cheat death and bring back someone who should have stayed dead. We didn't love each other anymore. We loved the idea of each other, we loved who we both once were together. And eventually I had to accept that she wasn't the same anymore, that we weren't ever going to to be the same anymore. Does that make sense?"
Clarke had been so enraptured doing his rant that she hadn't even realized that she had been staring at him until he turned to look at her and she quickly looked away. She immediately locked eyes with Bellamy across the clearing, who it looks like had just finished hugging Murphy again, and she swore she could feel her heart breaking just a little bit every time she had to see who he became without her.
"Yeah," she whispered, "It really does."
And in that moment she realized what she had to do.