Chapter 1: Arson
“Although changed, I shall arise the same.”
- Jakob Bernoulli
on the self-similar property of
Spira Mirabilis, the logarithmic spiral
When I was a child, I heard voices
Some would sing and some would scream
You soon find you have few choices
I learned the voices died with me
All you have is your fire
And the place you need to reach
Don't you ever tame your demons
But always keep 'em on a leash
When I was a man I thought it ended
When I knew love's perfect ache
But my peace has always depended
On all the ashes in my wake
- Hozier, Arsonist’s Lullabye
Time burned .
That was the one thought swirling in the sudden chaos of Clarke’s mind that was strongest. Time burned like a nomonjoka . She felt like her skin would stretch itself inside out, pulling muscle and tendon from bone; tear her into a million little pieces and scatter her into the night sky like so much stardust. The pain lasted for only a moment or an eternity—Clarke couldn’t be sure which—before her downward spiral through pitch black came to an abrupt stop. The wind was knocked out of her, and her body shuddered from the sudden stillness, like the storms Praimfiya had brought just dissipating all at once.
Whatever Josephine had seen in the Anomaly, she’d run from, and in that single chaotic heartbeat Clarke had rushed to the surface like blood to an injury, spilling over the edges of her own body and pooling beneath her own skin. She watched as the Anomaly swallowed Bellamy; heard him say Octavia’s name, his hand clutching an invisible one far smaller than his own. Clarke opened her mouth to call for him, to tell him the child luring him was a lie, wasn’t really Octavia, wasn’t really a second chance.
She opened her mouth, and she meant to cry out, meant to get Bellamy back, but her breath was ripped from her in one swift and violent tear when Lexa appeared before her. The images melted into one another endlessly: Lexa kneeling before her to swear fealty, Lexa’s face leaning in to kiss her, Lexa on her throne twirling her knife, Lexa with her back against the table, Lexa smiling in the flickering candlelight as they lay in bed together. Lexa, and the look of shock as metal tore through flesh.
Lexa, tears in her eyes and blood at the corner of the lips she’d been kissing only moments ago.
Lexa, eyes glassy and unseeing.
Lexa, gone .
Clarke let out a cry of grief as the images that had haunted her, had been seared into her mind for years, played out before her. So real she could smell the faint scent of beeswax and lilac, and a soft sort of tangy sweetness that was all Lexa’s own. The ghostly images before her reached out, swirled inside her mind and on her tongue, coaxing her forward while Lexa’s voice called out to her from within.
“ Klark ... Come to me, Klark... It’s okay.”
Clarke felt her feet moving forward, propelled by nothing but the desire to feel Lexa’s gentle touch on her cheek again, to smell her honeyed hair, to hear her heart beating steady in its comforting cadence one more time. She thought one moment would be enough to hold her, but Clarke hungered for what she had lost and she greedily soaked up the memories; deeper and deeper with each step she took towards the brightly swirling chaos of the Anomaly.
Closer and closer she moved towards Lexa, feeling herself weaken further with every step, and when the Anomaly grasped her, she had no fight left to give it. With Lexa’s memory haphazardly permeating every sense and absorbing into her from every direction, Clarke finally surrendered and sank gratefully into the flickering whirlwind, letting it consume her.
The world tilted sideways briefly, and Clarke landed, finally, on solid ground. She was pulled to it roughly, her knees crashing into the dirt, her palms scraping against impossibly rough stone, abrasions and cuts stinging across her face. She tasted the telltale copper of blood in her mouth and smelled it in the air, mingling with the scent of gunpowder and the piney, thick scent from freshly strung bows. Explosions of gunfire and smoke grenades filled her ears; the crackling of fires and the twangs of arrows being released and zipping through the air.
Lincoln was crouched beside her, his fingers still digging into Clarke’s flesh from where he’d grabbed to pull her behind the rocks. Her wildly searching eyes barely caught the Mount Weather entrance flashing by as Lincoln pulled her to safety, her body twisting instinctively. Bullets whizzed by where her head had been milliseconds ago, her head whipping sideways and back. She opened her eyes and her heart dropped into her throat when her gaze met the magnetic emerald one trained right back on her.
Clarke’s tongue felt thick, her mouth dry and sore like she’d swallowed sand.
“Lexa,” she whimpered, instinctively reaching her hand out to cup the war painted cheek that was as soft and warm as she’d remembered.
Lexa looked at her in surprise, a red flush spreading across the tips of her ears at the unexpectedly tender gesture. They shared a gaze for a moment and Clarke felt her heart thumping erratically in her chest. She was barely aware that Lincoln had blown the lock on the door; everything felt a million miles away. Everything but Lexa.
“We need to get to that ridge and take out the shooters.” Lexa snapped herself out of her own reverie as three more bodies hit the ground around them. Lincoln started to move away from the rock formation they were ducked behind, and Lexa quickly continued, “No! You stay wit—”
“No!” Clarke yelled far too quickly, interrupting the Commander. “I’ll go, I’ve got a gun! When the shooting stops, you get that door open !”
Lexa hesitated and was unable to respond with an argument before Clarke was running toward the ridge, the warriors in tight formation behind her. The Grounders had, as she’d expected, taken her command as Lexa had ordered them to.
Clarke’s chest pounded as she raced through the trees and checked her gun, getting it at the ready. She knew she had precious seconds to think before they approached the shooters, and she planned to use them well.
Obviously, she was back at the fight against Mount Weather, before Lexa’s betrayal happened—but why this moment? Why right before Lincoln saved her? Why not before they got to the door, before she and Lexa had kissed, before they’d made love, before she’d run across the doorway Lexa was coming in? Hell, why not before she’d even landed on the ground? Before she was born?
She had to stop the betrayal from happening—that much was clear. But the anomaly had zeroed in on this exact moment.
Her time was up. Clarke and her borrowed army crept through the underbrush, eyes running over the line of snipers’ silhouettes just a few meters away. She took a deep breath and squinted in the dark, training her pistol on one whose weapon was aimed closest to the door—where Lexa would be—and squeezing the trigger.
The Grounders surged forward around her, and everything was a blur of movement and splashes of blood for a moment. Clarke squeezed her trigger over and over again, and when it was empty, she took her knife out and whirled on the last man standing.
Emerson, with that smug look on his face, like he knew he was going to win. Clarke’s blood boiled, her knuckles turning white as she gripped the knife until her palm ached.
“Not the Commander I would have preferred, but you’ll do. I want to offer you a deal—”
“No.” Clarke didn’t even let him finish, her arm slashing viciously across his throat. His hands went to his neck immediately, his eyes wide in shock as he fell first to his knees and then to the ground. Clarke could not muster an ounce of regret or empathy as the wet gurgles from his throat filled her ears. She watched his pale, lifeless body meet the ground and this time it felt like justice.
She stared at his still form for a moment before whispering, “Jus drein, jus daun, you son of a bitch.”
The Grounder closest to her looked at her with respect, and repeated her. Around her, the cry of ‘ jus drein, jus daun ’ rose, echoing through the trees as they rejoined the rest of the cavalry.
Clarke knew what she must look like; dirty and sweaty, soaked in the blood of the Mountain Men, her chest heaving wildly. But Lexa saw her emerge from the woods, and her eyes closed briefly as she unconsciously let out a sigh of relief.
Clarke wiped blood from her brow, her heart ripping apart inside her as Lexa looked at her with near idolatry in her bright eyes.
“It is done?” Lexa asked, her eyes flicking between Clarke’s own and Clarke’s lips several times.
Clarke nodded firmly, resting her hand on Lexa’s bicep and giving it a reassuring squeeze. “It’s done .” Lexa swallowed hard, her gaze dropping to her arm where Clarke had not let go. Where Clarke wouldn’t let go this time.
Lexa let out a soft gasp when Clarke tugged her closer and pressed her lips to hers. Lexa returned the kiss quickly, unapologetically, and with so much feeling that it brought tears to Clarke’s eyes. It didn’t matter that they were in the middle of a battlefield; that they were in front of an army of thousands.
Clarke held her and wished she didn’t have to let go ever again. She silently thanked the Anomaly, and instinctively chased Lexa’s lips with her own as the Commander pulled back slightly. Her breathing was a bit labored and her cheeks flushed, but Lexa’s face fell quickly when she saw the tears on Clarke’s cheek.
“ Klark , I am sorry. I thought—”
Clarke quickly shook her head. “It’s not that. I’m just—” She closed her eyes briefly. “I thought I wasn’t ready for you, but I am now. And I’m... happy for a second chance.”
A smile slowly spread across Lexa’s face—her beautiful, vibrant, living face. Just then, the army surrounding them cheered wildly as the massive bunker door finally creaked open. Clarke could not hear her response, but she saw Lexa’s lips curl around the words, ‘me too,’ and her heart surged in her chest.
Reluctantly, Clarke let go of her. Lexa faced her army— their army —and jabbed her sword into the sky as she yelled, “ Kom wor !”
Hundreds of bonfires littered the landscape like lightning bugs, dancing and glowing in the chilled darkness of night as far as the eye could see. The woods were filled with the sounds of drumming and singing, and the smells of smoking meat and alcohol provided by the survivors of Mount Weather. Jackson was weaving between the clustered celebrants, making a list of Skaikru willing to donate marrow. The girl who had helped him, Maya, sat at the nearest fire pit in a hazmat suit, laughing as the one called Jasper rubbed her back affectionately.
Lexa couldn’t help smiling a little as she gazed around at the far-reaching festivities: Skaikru , what remained of Maunonkru , and the Warriors of the Twelve Clans reveling in their victory together, sharing food and drink, laughing and getting to know one another. She had dreamed of peace among her people for so long; a world where everyone could simply live among each other, where violence didn’t always have to be the answer. She’d never imagined achieving it to such an impressive degree, nor so quickly.
Titus approached her, bowing his head as he did. “ Heda , I’ve had a bath drawn for you in your quarters when you are ready.”
“Thank you, Titus.” She paused as he, too, glanced around, and she smiled again at his reaction. “Titus, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you smile before.”
He looked back at her with an expression of awe. “What you have achieved, Heda , is unlike anything the Order of the Flame could have imagined. Peace among all twelve clans, even Azgeda , was impressive enough. But this? The Maunon have been an untouchable, formidable enemy. And here they sit with us, in peace, and with Skaikru as well.” He shook his head a little in seeming disbelief. “ Heda , you have... done the impossible. You have brought the world to peace, and that will be your legacy.”
Lexa gazed steadily out at her people, one hand on her knife holster. “Not just mine, Titus. We have all earned this new world; worked for it.”
“You led us to it, Heda .”
“Perhaps. But Clarke led me to it.” She avoided looking at him, knowing how much he disapproved of feelings in general, and those she had for Clarke in particular. “She’s special.”
To his credit, Titus bit his tongue and merely nodded, lingering until she dismissed him with an order to get something to eat and to join in the celebration as much as he could. And when he was out of sight and out of earshot, Lexa turned on her heel and headed for her tent, smiling when she saw Clarke lingering near the entrance.
Clarke’s hand reached out for hers and she could not help noticing how perfectly their hands fit together. Their fingers entwined as they gazed at each other for a moment. Lexa swallowed hard, her heart thumping wildly in her chest as Clarke gently tugged her inside the tent. She followed, spellbound.
“A second chance,” Lexa whispered to herself.
Lexa sat on her throne, surrounded by the natblida novitiates who listened, entranced, as she spoke.
“ Chit bilaik thri bakon gon Heda ?” [What are the three pillars of being a Commander?]
“En uf.” [And strength.]
Clarke smiled from her spot on a dais in the corner, rolling the willow charcoal idly between her fingers and watching the children’s faces light up when Lexa praised them. She shared a gentle look with Lexa before returning to her sketch with a sigh. It was no use; no matter how many adjustments she made, she couldn’t capture the devotion and idolatry on the novitiates’ faces as they gazed upon their Commander. She wondered if her own expression betrayed so much when she set eyes on her as well; if her love for Lexa was as conspicuously crystalline as theirs was.
Clarke wondered who they would be, now that they would grow up; now that Lexa would grow old and grey beside her.
Lexa rode beside her, the rich crimson velvet wrapped around her shoulder and head shining in the noonday sun. The mare’s sides were warm against Clarke’s legs, and the horse’s soft whuffs and whinnies came in a comfortable cadence.
“We bring them peace,” Lexa continued, her smile reaching her eyebrows and beyond as she squeezed Clarke’s hand.
Clarke leaned across the gap between their horses and kissed the Commander softly, her heart fluttering like it was the first time, as it always did. She was beginning to suspect the novelty of Lexa being hers would never wear off.
They exchanged coy looks and subtle smiles as they rode in silence, the only noise the steady cadence of the wheels a few paces back. Nia’s body and disembodied head rested, silent and bloody, among bags of grain and seed.
Ahead, Maya and Jasper waited with a few others near the mouth of the mountain.
Clarke leaned in, keeping her voice low. “It looks strange with the door gone, doesn’t it?”
Lexa smiled again, the smile that was only for Clarke. “It looks beautiful with the door gone.”
“ Heda , welcome!” Maya called out as they slowed their horses and climbed down.
“ Mochof , President Vie.” Lexa bowed her head politely, and her eyes widened a bit in surprise when Maya wrapped her into a brief hug. Clarke smirked at Lexa’s clear discomfort before hugging Maya herself.
Jasper, too, smiled, and gestured at the wagon loaded with supplies. “Please tell me you remembered the—” Clarke smirked once more and pointed to a bucket filled with Jobi nuts; Jasper clapped his hands together. “Clarke Griffin, you return a hero to your people!”
Lexa cleared her throat as two of their attendants unloaded the corpse. “In addition to your trade goods, we have brought the body of the Ice Queen. She confessed to setting off the explosion in the mountain.”
Jasper and Maya’s eyes grew stormy as the body was laid beside its head, and a young man with a fresh scar running lengthwise up his arm spat on the shroud it was wrapped in. “ Nomonjoka !”
“Miller,” Jasper said softly, reaching out to touch his shoulder lightly.
“No!” Miller snapped. “My dad was here that day, Jasper! Pike, too. Jackson was here!” His voice cracked as he broke. Clarke watched Jasper put his arm around Miller as he walked him off from the others a bit, her heart sinking in her chest. She’d loved Pike’s Earth Studies class; had been ecstatic when they found the rest of Farm Station, barely surviving in the frozen wasteland of the Azgedan northern territory.
And Jackson? She’d known him since childhood. They’d spent hours quizzing each other with medical flashcards and watching old surgical videos together on the Ark.
Lexa was squeezing her wrist lightly, and Clarke quickly wiped away tears she hadn’t even noticed decorating her cheeks.
“It’s been hard,” Maya said softly, watching as Miller rejected Jasper’s comfort and stormed off into the woods alone. “On everyone.”
Lexa nodded sagely and glanced at the battle-scarred people unloading the wagon. “Nia has caused much pain in her lifetime. We all grieve with Maunonkru . If there is anything I can do for your people, please do not hesitate to send word to Polis.”
Maya and Lexa shook each others’ forearms as they faded away from Clarke, who reeled as she was torn apart from within once more by the swirling eruption of the Anomaly…
Lexa rode beside her again.
“We bring them peace,” Lexa continued, her affectionate gaze lingering on Clarke as they peaked the final hill before Camp Jaha.
Their attendants cried out and Lexa guided her horse a few steps further before pulling back on the reigns. The road ahead came into their line of sight, and Clarke gasped at the array of bodies in every shade of horrible--exsanguinated and sliced open, and a long line of stakes with still-dripping heads blocking their path.
Lexa tried, moving to her side quickly. “Clarke, don’t look.”
But it was too late. Bellamy’s unseeing eyes had found hers. Clarke fell to her knees as the bile hit the back of her throat and violently passed her lips. The world rocked side-to-side, her body weaving with it as she was ripped out of herself with a keening wail.
She and Lexa were somewhere else.
The Commander’s voice was low and dangerous, a sneer on her face that Clarke hadn’t seen in a very long time but was chillingly familiar all the same. “The world we built here is far from perfect, but it is better than what your people built without Bekka .”
Clarke rocked back on her heels, her face becoming eerily calm as a dark glower crossed her face, her crossed arms tightening as she gazed into Lexa’s darkened eyes with renewed courage. “ My people.”
A panicked expression crossed over Lexa’s face as the more rational part of her brain clicked on and she realized what she’d just said. “I didn’t mean it like that, Clarke. I—”
“How did you mean it then, Commander?” This time, Clarke’s tone sliced through Lexa’s gut with a sting that zipped through every nerve ending in every direction. “Oh, excuse me. Commander Grounder , that is. Because you’re only the Commander of your people, not mine.”
Lexa swallowed hard. “Clarke, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean t—”
Clarke turned on her heel and stopped just short of the doorway. Her voice was quiet but sharp, her body tensed and her head tilting sideways just slightly without turning to face her. “Go float yourself, Commander.”
Flash after blinding flash and Clarke hurtled through space, through time, through herself. She shattered secrets she’d held close, the stinging anger she’d swallowed, apologies she hadn’t meant and ones she wished she’d given. She remembered it all and all at once, and then forgot just as suddenly as she spiraled through the data points of her life. It was analogue and digital and ethereal; at once a beautiful dream tucked inside a haunting nightmare.
Time pulled at her; dissected every action, every emotion, every fleeting thought that had ever passed through her fracturing mind. Her bones turned brittle and broke, legs and arms flung akimbo in a swirling hell that glittered in shards around her. Her heart splintered over and over again as the world disappointed her in the most predictable and surprising ways. Clarke let out a shuddering, feral wail that sounded like heartbreak and despair, like love and joy, like grief and rebirth, all curled around each other like newborns in a nest.
And for the first time, Clarke saw .
Her vision suddenly sharpened, the abrupt chaos of color burning her retinas and ripping into her gut. The world came into focus; this stupid, stunning, messy world that was at once exquisitely beautiful and steeped in suffering. She saw it all at once--the choices tugging at the fabric of time like errant children, infinite realities stretching it in a million different directions. She opened her eyes and breathed in the forevers, letting them turn to embers inside her heart.
Clarke, arguing with Lexa about whether children should fight to the death in Conclaves anymore.
Clarke, holding Lexa’s limp hand as she entered the City of Light in search of the kill switch.
Clarke, her stomach knotting up as she stared at the cubed, gelatinous meat on her plate, the walls of the Second Dawn bunker seeming to close in to the point of crushing her.
Clarke, standing over corpse after corpse, her shoulders growing heavy with mourning.
Clarke, looking at the section of cryo on the Eligius that held the last dozen or so remaining members of Skaikru, her heart broken as she slid into the pod beside Lexa’s.
Clarke, pulled into the Anomaly’s undertow and drowning; using her last breath to scream with all of her might, her vocal chords tearing apart under the strain.
“ Noumou !”
And it all just…
Chapter 2: Ashes
I came in from the outside
Burnt out from the joy ride
She likes to roll here in my ashes anyway
The same kind of music haunts her bedroom
I'm almost me again, she's almost you
I've got some colour back, she thinks so, too
I laugh like me again, she laughs like you
I wouldn't know where to start
"Sweet Music" playing "In The Dark"
Be still "My Foolish Heart, "
Don't ruin this on me
- Hozier, “Almost (Sweet Music)”
Clarke awoke with a head full of future memories, arms stretching out in the dark for Lexa, her panicked hands sweeping around wildly. A strangled whimper exiting her lips when she found nothing but nothing. Her eyes opened into an icy blue gaze that matched her own. Was her own, in fact.
The other Clarke tilted her head a little and seemed to be sizing her up. “Do you understand yet?”
Clarke blinked. Her body moved sleepily as though in a dream as she glanced over the nothingness that held them.
“You do not have to answer if you would rather not. I have all of eternity and beyond to wait for you, Clarke Griffin.”
“You’re not me,” Clarke snapped, but the Other Clarke was nonplussed.
“Of course I am not you. What a foolish idea. I merely thought you would prefer this form for our conversation.”
Clarke’s face flickered with annoyance as she eyed her mirror image. “I don’t.”
“Very well,” the Other Clarke said evenly. It seemed to turn itself inside out with a dizzying spray of explosive light as it shifted into another form.
“Not that one either.” Clarke’s voice caught in her throat, the image of jaundiced skin beside a near-empty pill bottle seared into her memory.
Abby eyed her with disapproval. “This is not a game.”
Clarke glowered with resentment despite the fear that filled her and threatened to overflow. “Then show me your actual form, you coward.”
“You would be unable to gaze upon my true form. Tell me, Clarke Griffin. Do you know what a topological space is?”
Clarke squinted at the thing wearing her mother’s face, but acquiesced. “It’s a math thing. It’s a set of numbers—uh, objects, I mean, and a defined meaning of their convergence.”
Abby’s head nodded a little as she began slowly circling Clarke. “And can infinity exist within a topological set?”
“I.. yes. A set that includes both real numbers and an infinite concept that some of them converge with. Am I getting an explanation for your face or a standardized test to pass?”
Abby’s face smiled a little as she crossed her arms. “Perhaps a bit of both. What do you know of Spira Mirabilis ?”
“Logarithmic spiral, also infinite. The distance between loops increases progressively, but the spiral is always congruent to its original self.”
Abby clapped as she stopped circling, and Clarke had to adjust her stance to look at her. “Well done. Then you will understand why I cannot show you my true form, when I tell you it is because I am the final convergence of a topological space which contains a logarithmic spiral.” Clarke stared blankly at Abby, who regarded her for a moment before muttering, “Perhaps not that well-done. I am the infinity of time and space, Clarke.”
“This form is... It’s fine, okay? I just... what am I doing here? What do you want with me?”
Abby shrugged, idly inspecting her cuticles. “Humans are quite strange, you know. Most things in nature are hard on the outside, for their own protection. Humans? Your bodies are so fragile, but your minds can be so immobile. Even planets move, Clarke. Humans have the unique capability to deny truths that do not agree with them, even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Everyone has moments of their lives they wish they could change, but I chose you because I sensed your mind would be more... flexible.”
Clarke felt dizzy already, and was grateful for the seat that she sensed more than saw as she sank into it. Abby stood before her, regarding her for a moment before continuing.
“You understand by now what is happening, I assume.”
Clarke nodded slowly. “You gave me a do-over, and I took it. I stopped the betrayal, the war, the—” her voice broke and she closed her eyes briefly, unable to verbalize it.
“The bullet from Titus’ gun.” Abby’s face remained neutral and Clarke just looked at the thing wearing Abby’s face with tears of rage stinging behind her eyes. “Do you understand yet?”
“I get to live in a world where I lose Lexa, or a world where I lose everyone else,” Clarke snapped bitterly.
“Forgive me, Clarke. Humans are relatively new, and I forget that your minds can also be soft and narrow. It is not about Lexa; it never was. It is about you , Clarke.”
“ I’m about Lexa.” Clarke’s voice sounded small and childish even to her own ears, and she hated the inherent weakness in it.
Abby inclined her head slightly, studying her. “Are you? Titus warned you it could mean her life was forfeit, and still you would not yield. You chose your people over her.”
Faced with the fear she’d been running from since the moment the light left Lexa’s eyes, Clarke felt herself go still inside. She realized she’d been waiting for this—for someone to tear her open, reach deep inside her chest, and pull out the ugly, painful truth that lay there.
“This is not blame, Clarke. It is simply the way of things.”
“Why?” Clarke’s voice broke and she clenched her fists against the tidal wave of emotions that threatened to choke her. They threatened to drown her or bury her; perhaps just swallow her whole. “Why me? Why now?”
The thing speaking in Abby’s voice seemed almost apologetic when it responded after a pregnant pause. “I do not have all of the answers. I know only that I have a part to play, just as you do.” It seemed to consider her before it continued. “You are medically trained, Clarke. I wish for you to think of your lifespan as a cell, which we will call ‘Cell Alpha’. Alpha reaches a certain point in its development where it will split and become two cells rather than one. Would both of these cells be called Alpha?”
“I guess so. They’re the same cell.”
Abby raised an eyebrow. “Are they?”
“Who cares?” Clarke snapped. “The second cell is Beta, then. Whatever the hell you want. What does this have to do wi—”
“Which is the second cell?”
“The one that split off from the first cell. It’s new, it’s not the old cell.” Clarke was growing increasingly exasperated with Not-Abby’s riddles and began pacing back and forth as they spoke.
“The old cell is not the old cell either, though, is it?”
“It also changed, Clarke. In the process of making the new, the old must first be consumed. Neither cell is Cell Alpha because Cell Alpha has been dead since its DNA began the replication process. Instead, they are Cell Beta and Cell Gamma. And when each of them reaches that development point, they will be consumed to make way for Delta, Epsilon, Zeta, and Eta. All of these new cells carry parts of Alpha with them. Had Alpha not willingly sacrificed its original form to ascend, to become Beta and Gamma, they may exist only as mutations, or not at all. And each successive generation further degrades what Alpha once was.”
Clarke’s hands instinctively reached for something to slam angrily against in her frustration and, finding nothing, clenched tightly against her thighs instead. “What the hell is your point?”
The Anomaly wearing Abby’s face gazed steadily at her, its voice eerily calm.
“This is your mitosis, Clarke Griffin. Will you fight the outcome and disappear, or will you surrender to the process and become part of something far greater than yourself?”
Clarke couldn’t get a response out before she was falling through the emptiness again.
The dozen or so remaining Skaikru were gathered at the edges of the courtyard, along with the entire Grounder population. A group of curious Sanctumites watched in horror as Madi sliced through her opponents easily. The natblidas were strong and well-trained—particularly Aden—but they had not lived alone on the ground after Praimfiya , and it showed.
When the last of the bodies hit the ground, Madi stood slowly and faced the crowd with a haunted look. She swallowed hard, set her jaw, and tied back her wild dreadlocks. Her spine straightened as the sun highlighted the tattoo swirling over her cheek and across her forehead. She was not afraid. She had not been afraid of the natblidas whose obsidian blood she stood in; she would not be afraid of the darkness inside herself , either.
She lowered her head and sucked in a breath as Gaia whispered to the Flame. The whirrs of the Flame’s spindling legs were the last sound she heard before blinding pain overtook her.
Then there was nothing but darkness.
When Madi awoke moments later, her mind felt like it was on fire. Information rushed from one side of her head to the other; names, dates, places. Births and deaths, love and grief. She felt every emotion, including more than a few she did not have language for.
The roar of the people— her people now —dulled suddenly as the crowd began to part. Madi instinctively clasped her hands tighter around the hilts of her Kali swords as Heda Leksa approached her.
“The coward child would propose to replace me as Commander? And with a false Flame, as well. A pale copy of true greatness; a blasphemy performed by the one you call Raven.”
Madi sneered as blood streaks began carving paths across her wounded flesh. “You are not the Commander, Sheidheda . I have seen your crimes; I know what you’ve done. What you are.”
“ And what are you, Madi kom Lowouda-Kliron-Kru , but a fraud? A child! I remain the true Commander as long as this body lives.”
Every muscle in her body was screaming, but Madi kom Lowouda-Kliron-Kru was the rightful Heda . She would not allow Sheidheda to win.
“Then this body will not live,” Madi snarled. She withdrew her swords once more and whirled on Sheidheda with a feral cry.
It didn’t take long.
Within minutes, Madi lay bruised and broken on the ground. Lexa’s body circled her slowly, but the empty chill in her eyes and hungry malice in her smile belonged entirely to Sheidheda.
The image sent a shiver down Clarke’s spine and goosebumps prickled up her arms at the cruelty in Lexa’s face. Madi was bleeding profusely and looked every bit the 12 year old child that she was. Clarke ached to push forward, to save her daughter from certain death, but she was frozen deep within the core of the Anomaly and could only watch helplessly.
Madi’s eyes found Gaia’s on the sidelines, and it was clear from Gaia’s expression that she, too, knew Madi had already lost. Tears welled in Gaia’s eyes as her lips formed around a silent whisper that tore through Clarke like a heated blade.
Yu gonplei ste odon, Madi .
Just beyond the edge of the crowd, Clarke caught sight of Bellamy and herself— no, Josephine, remember? —only a few yards from the clearing where they had encountered the Anomaly. Their forms flickered like static, and it happened faster the closer they got.
Madi now had tears in her eyes as Sheidheda pressed the tip of a sword into her throat and smiled dangerously down at her.
“You would use Lexa kom Trikru ’s fighting skills? The ones which reside in my head as well?” Lexa’s mouth laughed cruelly. “I am almost embarrassed to taste your blood.”
The flicker from the Anomaly spread rapidly throughout the forest to the gathered crowd and finally, to Lexa’s body in a crescent over Madi’s.
The world froze.
As Clarke’s eyes darted around, the flickering turned to a soft, colorless fading between two distinct images. Bellamy’s face faded into Octavia’s, Clarke’s own into Diyoza’s. The courtyard remained full, but the faces within it morphed into unfamiliar ones. Russell Lightbourne stood in a ceremonial robe, speaking to another Prime whose name she could not remember.
She recognized this world.
Her eyes darted quickly to the building she knew held the surgical theater and, somewhere within, Madi— her Madi—strapped to a table. And deep inside Madi’s head lay the only piece of Lexa left in this particular world.
Clarke felt herself jerked back with near bone-shattering force, and then she was standing before Abby’s face once more. Clarke had steadied herself amidst the nothingness, but her mind was still reeling, her heart shaken. She locked a fearful gaze on Abby, her voice fraught with panic.
“No, wait! Please! What happens next?”
The thing that looked like Abby observed her quietly. “It must frustrate you that I do not have the answers you seek, Clarke. I truly do not know what will happen after this moment. That is entirely up to you now. That is your gift, Clarke. Ownership of your own destiny.”
Clarke was appalled. Her eyes were wide and wild, her voice tinged with hysteria and a horrified laugh. “Making me choose between my daughter and the woman I love? That’s supposed to be a gift ? What if neither of them survive?”
“Then neither of them survive. I have already told you this is not about them.” Abby’s face was emotionless, and Clarke had to look away. Her stomach reeled as she struggled to remember what her mother’s eyes looked like when they were warm and alive and calm.
Josephine’s voice suddenly swept through Clarke, a hollow ghostly timbre echoing through Clarke’s mindspace. “ Welcome to yet another episode of ‘No Good Choices’ . What ever will our brave heroine do now?”
It was too much. Something inside Clarke’s heart fractured and she whirled on the entity wearing her mother’s face, ready to physically attack it. She was enraged, horrified, in shock; exhausted and empty as she was, she was nonetheless ready to fight. And then, as Clarke raised her fists, she felt every last ounce of fight go out of her. The face she looked into was no longer her mother’s.
It was Lexa’s.
Clarke shook her head violently. “No. No, anything but this. You can’t—” Her voice cracked into a sob, and tears fell freely down her cheeks. “Please, don’t.”
Bright, mossy eyes softened and plush lips parted to make way for a single, gentle, breath of a word.
“ Klark .”
Clarke weaved for a moment before collapsing into tears on the ground, defeated.
“ Klark , please. We have much to discuss, and little time to do it in. You have to believe it is truly me. Look, beja .”
Clarke could not put a name to the feeling, but a gentle calm washed over her, cleansing and soothing the violence in her wounded heart, and she just knew that it was truly Lexa. She knew it the way she knew the Flame would protect her in the City of Light—with every pulse of her heart and every breath escaping her lungs, with everything she ever was and ever would be.
Blue eyes met green and promptly shattered. Clarke let out a choked sob as Lexa sank to the ground beside her and tenderly wrapped warm, familiar arms around Clarke’s shaking body. They sat quietly in the nothing together for a moment, for a lifetime, for eternity. Clarke lost herself once more in the woman who had so deftly stolen her heart and left her unintentionally hollow.
When Lexa finally spoke again, it was in a whispered voice that seemed to fill Clarke from within her own body and mind--the way Josephine’s had, but far more intensely. “This is a gift, Klark . You must know this by now.”
Clarke responded quietly, her body curling into Lexa’s like a child’s would. “I don’t.”
The sigh that came from Lexa’s lips was not frustrated or unkind; it was the same gentle, bemused sigh Clarke had come to expect from Lexa’s leadership lessons once upon a time.
“I once told you that you were born for this, that I was.”
Clarke held Lexa’s arms tighter around herself, her voice hoarse. “I remember.”
“I was wrong.” Lexa’s matter-of-fact tone was jarring. “We are not born for something if we must be forced into it by blood or circumstance. That is the gift, Klark . You have always fought against what must be allowed to happen—the necessity of my solo gonplei against Roan kom Azgeda , or Madi’s ascension. You wish to fix that which cannot be fixed, which is admirable.”
“If it’s so admirable, then why—”
Lexa interrupted gently, placing her hand over Clarke’s and resting their interlocked palms over Clarke’sheart. “Because this is broken, too, Klark. But it can be fixed. This does not have to be the way things end. You have a chance to let this all go, a chance to let go .”
Lexa gazed into her eyes meaningfully, and Clarke understood. She saw, and she understood, and she was filled with gratitude.
“Will you stay…?” Clarke began softly.
Lexa nodded and squeezed her hand gently. “As long as I am able.” Clarke turned carefully in her arms and met Lexa’s lips softly, unable to tell if the kiss was dampened by Lexa’s tears of relief or her own.
There was no pain this time.
It was as though the Anomaly had no more violence left to give and had simply cast Clarke and Lexa back into its strange dreamscape. Clarke saw the door to Mount Weather slipping into her vision and instinctively held onto Lexa tighter.
“This is as far as I can go. It’s up to you now, Klark . Ai hod yu in. ” Lexa smiled reassuringly and kissed Clarke’s cheek, her voice a whisper on the wind long before Clarke could respond.
Clarke landed in the dirt as Lincoln shielded her body with his own, and took a steadying breath as Lexa spoke beside her.
“We need to get to that ridge and take out the shooters.”
Lincoln started to move away, and Clarke pulled him back with lightning reflexes. Her tone was one of reassurance, though, rather than demand, as she readied her weapon. “I’ll go with her.”
Lexa gazed at her for a split second with something approaching reverence in her eyes before nodding almost imperceptibly. Clarke knew from experience that they had roughly five seconds to spare before they would need to run towards the ridge; plenty of time to do what she needed to.
Clarke held her hand out towards Lexa, her voice surprisingly steady. “Together?”
Lexa’s face brightened considerably, and she offered both her own hand and a fiercely warm smile as she responded. “Together.”
Their hands lingered on each others’ longer than necessary as they rushed into the woods side-by-side. Clarke didn’t know what would happen, or how it all would end. She only knew that she was here, she was now, and she was letting go.
She glanced back to see Lincoln readying their army and for the first time in any of her lives, Clarke was okay with not knowing.
Be not so nervous, be not so frail
Someone watches you, you will not fail
Be not so fearful, be not so pale
Someone watches you, you will not leave the rails
Be not so sorry for what you've done
You must forget them now, it's done
And when you wake up you will find that you can run
Be not so sorry for what you've done
- A.C. Newman, “Be Not So Fearful”