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Book III: What Remains

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When sorrows seem to find you day after day
You leave a dream behind you every step you take
Well sometimes there is not an answer for the heartache we feel.
Sometimes we have to shatter, before we can heal.
Been a long and lonesome winter, with the curtains drawn.
The distraction of our struggle drowns out the cause.
But the sun shines warmer, when you are chilled to the bone.
The welcome is so much sweeter when the prodigal comes home.
When there are no words and everything hurts
This moment is in the making
So keep walking that line, another step and you'll find.
This life is for the taking, so take it now.
Soon we are going to look back to see what remains
When trouble is behind us and everything has changed.
- Elenowen, “For the Taking”

 

THEN: 43 Days After Praimfaya

 

Clarke carried Madi, trailing Lexa and Aden as they walked down an unfamiliar corridor.

 

Madi was twirling her fingers through bits of Clarke’s hair, one forearm resting across Clarke’s forehead as she whined a little. “But what kind of surprise is it?”

 

Lexa and Clarke laughed, and Lexa called back, “It would not be a surprise if we told you what it was, strikon.”

 

Madi laid her head against Clarke’s and gave them her best pout and saddest voice. “I don’t like surprises..”

 

“I do,” Aden said firmly, hopping over the lines separating the metal plates that made up the floor of the Ring. “Surprises are fun.”

 

Madi harrumphed and buried her face in Clarke’s neck, clinging to her tighter. She actually liked surprises too— she loved them, really. But maybe if they thought she didn’t, someone would tell her where they were going. 

 

Clarke chuckled and rubbed Madi’s back a little bit. “Don’t worry, Grumpy Bear. We’re almost there.”

 

“One of these days you have to tell me about this grumpy bear you always speak of, Clarke. Why is it so unhappy?” Lexa shook her head a little, reflexively reaching out to steady Aden when he tripped over a shoelace he didn’t know how to tie yet.

 

Clarke just laughed harder, and Madi lifted her head to watch. She liked to see Clarke laughing. She had a big smile—the biggest one Madi had ever seen, really—and when she laughed, her eyes glittered like there was magic inside of them. Madi thought that Clarke might have a secret bottle of happy that lived inside her; something that nobody else had, something that was uniquely Clarke’s. 

 

If your happiness lived inside your heart, Madi thought that Clarke must have a much bigger heart than other people. She’d asked her about it once, and Clarke laughed a big, beautiful laugh, one that showed all of her teeth and crinkled her nose, and filled her eyes with sparkling that looked like stars.

 

She’d told Madi that maybe that was true, but if it was, it was only because Madi and Aden and Lexa took up all the space inside her regular heart, and it had to keep growing because she loved them more and more every day, until her heart overflowed with happy. 

 

Madi traced her fingertip lightly over the wrinkles at the corners of Clarke’s eyes as they stopped in front of an unfamiliar airlock.

 

Lexa pointed to a small engraved plaque beside it that had strange markings on it. “Aden, can you read this?”

 

Aden bit his lip and squinted his eyes, carefully following the short lines. Some of them, Madi knew. Raven had just taught her the letter ‘P’ that morning, and how it started words like “pots” and “pans” and “planet”, like Earth. She recognized the letters, but they didn’t make any sense. Madi tugged on her earlobe a little, as she usually did when she was cranky, and wished Aden would hurry up so they could see their surprise.

 

Aden spoke slowly, carefully, as he sounded out the sign. “F-ah—”

 

“F-ih,” Lexa gently corrected. “See, that’s an ‘i’, but there’s no other vowel, so it’s a short ‘I’.”

 

“Fill.. Film?”

 

“Good, Aden. And this one?”

 

“Pode?” Aden shook his head quickly. “No, it’s ‘Pod’, right? Film Pod, it says Film Pod.”

 

Madi tugged at her ear a little harder while Lexa and Clarke both praised Aden, and she squirmed a little. She didn’t know what a ‘Film Pod’ was, and she was worried that was the whole surprise, a stupid sign for Aden to read and show off.

 

Clarke jostled her slightly in her arms. “Hey, no ear-pulling, you’re gonna be dragging your ears on the ground when you grow up if you keep doing that.”

 

Madi dropped her hand to play with the watch on Clarke’s wrist instead, but with a grunt, so Clarke would know she wasn’t happy about it. 

 

Lexa smiled and opened the airlock. They walked into the strangest room Madi had ever seen. There was nothing in it but lots and lots of chairs. It looked like a million people could sit together in here, but the chairs were all facing a wall, which seemed silly.

 

Madi decided she didn’t care if her ears dragged on the ground and went back to tugging on one as Clarke carried her to the chairs that were closest to the wall. Lexa and Aden sat down, and Clarke shifted Madi in her arms a little, leaning in to Lexa.

 

“Here, sit with Lexa for a minute, okay? I have to go get your surprise.”

 

Madi let herself be transferred into Lexa’s lap instead, wrapping one of her tiny braids around her fingers and holding it against her cheek. Lexa always wore her hair the same way, and Madi’s favorite part was all the little braids that were hidden like secrets among the patterned ponytails and loose waves that surrounded them. 

 

Clarke disappeared for a minute, and came back empty handed, sitting next to Aden. “Okay, Raven. Hit it.”

 

Madi didn’t see Raven anywhere, and was about to whine about the surprise when the wall in front of them suddenly lit up as bright as the sun. Madi let out a frightened squeal and curled tighter against Lexa.

 

“It’s okay, strikon,” Lexa said soothingly, stroking her back comfortingly. Aden was tensed, but trying to pretend it hadn’t startled him too, as Clarke rubbed his arm reassuringly. “Watch, look at the light.”

 

Madi tentatively peeked out from where her face was hidden in Lexa’s hair as the light changed, and suddenly there was music playing. A big castle was on the wall now, with brightly colored explosions happening around it in all the colors of her wax sticks, and maybe more than that. Madi couldn't believe her eyes and ears, and slowly lifted her head away from where she’d been trying to hide it moments ago.

 

Some letters came on the screen, and then even more letters, but Madi wasn't angry at them anymore, because different music was playing. Something that sounded like singing voices, but it sounded more like the Azgeda songs Echo sang to her than the ones Murphy liked to dance to. It was beautiful, even more beautiful than Clarke’s laughing. Madi watched, enchanted, as a picture of the sun appeared with so many bright colors she couldn't even count them all before they changed again. 

 

Suddenly, the wall was full of drawings of all kinds of animals. Some of them, Madi recognized from her lessons with Luna—there were birds, and zebras, and even an elephant. Some of them, she didn’t recognize at all, and a few of them looked downright silly or scary. It took her a moment to process the new information before she realized something astonishing.

 

They were moving.

 

The animals were drawings, but they were somehow alive, too.

 

Beside her, Aden slid from his seat in a trance, settling on his knees on the floor and staring at the moving pictures with his jaw slack. The picture showed hundreds of animals, and then followed a bird as it flew over all of them and landed near—Madi gasped. Could it be? 

 

Biga sofstepa,” she whispered in awe. Lions were her absolute favorite, and there was a picture of one right in front of her, with his beautiful hair blowing around in a breeze Madi couldn’t feel.

 

She didn’t want to look away for even a heartbeat, but she spared a brief glance anyway. She saw Clarke leaning over and kissing Lexa, and they were both smiling. Their eyes were wet when they rested their heads together, and then Madi had to look back at the pictures on the wall to follow the very skinny pauna that was walking towards the lion. She didn’t worry, though, because she knew Clarke and Lexa were having happy tears, not sad ones, and Aden was leaning back against their legs on the floor, and Madi was safe and warm all wrapped up in Lexa’s arms.

 

Madi thought to herself that she was the luckiest girl in the whole earth and space, all put together, and she wanted to be this happy forever. Her heart would fill up and overflow like Clarke’s. It would grow bigger than the whole universe with all the happy she would collect, and someday she would be a grown-up that threw her head back and crinkled her nose when she laughed. 

 

She would smile, and laugh, and love—all of it, big enough for everyone to see and her eyes twinkling like starlight. Just like Clarke.

 

NOW: 2199 Days Without Lexa

 

Madi sat at the table with her face buried in a book and gnawing idly on one of her braids as she read. Aden, his shoulder length hair tied back in a tight braid that rested flush against his scalp and revealed the shorn sides of his head, snatched the book from her hands as he passed by.

 

“Hey!” Madi snapped, grabbing for the book unsuccessfully, her dark eyes narrowed. “Give it back, skrishmelon!”

 

Aden just shook his head and stretched up to put the book on a nearby shelf far too high for Madi to reach. “No way, strikskrish. You know the rules. Dinner time is family time.”

 

The collection of braids woven with feathers and small bits of hardware on Madi’s head clanked together as her head spun towards him. “You’re so bossy! Jeez, Aden, who died and left you in charge, anyway?”

 

Aden’s teasing grin faded quickly, his face tightening. Madi felt the blood drain from her face and her stomach turning when she realized what she had said. “I didn’t mea—”

 

Aden shook his head quickly, waving her off. “It’s fine. I know.”

 

Echo and Luna joined them at the table, engrossed in conversation. Madi silently slumped lower in her chair, her face stormy and jaw set. Aden reached out to try to reassure her with a gentle pat on her shoulder, but Madi just shrugged him off and watched sullenly as everyone else joined them.

 

Well. Almost everyone else.

 

The group made small talk while beginning to load up their plates. Madi, having lost her normally voracious appetite, mostly focused on pushing her food around her plate. She just wanted dinner to be over. She just wanted to go back to her room, curl up in her favorite chair, and go back to reading about Arya Stark learning to sword fight in peace.

 

“Madi?” Luna’s voice was gentle with concern as she tilted her head to study her from across the table. “Ste ogud?”

 

“I’m fine,” Madi grunted the blatant lie, then paused. “Actually, I don’t feel so great. Can I be excused?”

 

Luna glanced up the table, exchanging a look with the others, and after a pause, it was Echo who spoke. “Sure, Madi. Just leave your plate, I’ll take care of it for you.”

 

Madi stood, ignoring Aden’s gaze on her. “Mochof.”

 

Once she was out of earshot, Murphy addressed the rest of the table. “What was that about?”

 

Eyes turned to Aden, who merely shrugged and quickly busied himself with his dinner. 

 

Murphy took Madi’s plate and dumped it into his own, continuing to talk around a mouth full of food. “I mean, she seemed even more ’moody hormonal teenage girl’ than usual. Didn’t she?” He glanced to Roan to back him.

 

“Maybe she’s thinking about the fact that we’re still here after six and a half years.” Roan grumbled, wincing when he realized what he’d just done. Every head turned towards him, and he immediately felt awful when he saw the look of guilt on Raven’s face. “Skrish, Raven. I’m sorry. I know you’re trying.”

 

“She is.” Luna’s voice was firm as she rubbed Raven’s leg gently under the table. 

 

“I know.”

 

Raven tried to shake it off, but her eyes dulled with sadness growing behind them. “And anyway, we had an agreement. You brought up the time, you get to choose your punishment. Dishes, latrine, or Clarke?”

 

Roan groaned and rubbed his face. “Come on, Raven. It was an accident..” But there wasn’t a single sympathetic face looking back at his and he knew he’d already lost that battle. “Fine. I pick Clarke.”

 

Murphy paused mid-bite to mutter, “I would have gone with latrine, personally.”

 

Raven shot him a withering look and unapologetically grabbed a handful of the fried potato slices he’d taken from Madi’s plate as punishment. “Shut up, Murphy. Clarke’s been through a lot. She’s still going through a lot.”

 

Murphy, mollified by both her point and the loss of his crisps, nodded a little. “Yeah. I know. I’ll fix her a tray, I’ll be on kitchen patrol tonight.” He stood up and grabbed his and Madi’s empty plates before anyone could respond and moved quickly out of the room. He didn’t think he could take the stifling tension in the air much longer without snapping anyway. He was more than happy to have an excuse to abandon that particular ship before it got any more depressing and claustrophobic.

 

“Family fun night,” he muttered to himself once he was out of earshot, but there was no vitriol in his tone. Truthfully, he felt more sad about it than anything else.

 

The remainder of the meal was practically silent as the others retreated inside their heads. 

 

 

 

Clarke lay quietly beside Lexa’s unmoving form in their bed. Tubes and wires seemed to be going in every direction, and the only sound besides the hum of the machines clustered beside them was the soft whooshing of the ventilator filling and emptying her lungs for her.

 

She played idly with the long, neat braid before her, gently untwisting it and combing her fingers through the loose ringlets it produced. 

 

“Maybe we’ll wash your hair tomorrow. It’s only been a few days since last time, but it’ll feel good, don’t you think?” She sighed lightly. “I know, my braiding skills are really lacking. I can ask Echo to do it instead, if you want. Aden’s gotten pretty good at it too. I think Madi’s a little jealous, cause hers are always a mess. Just like mine.”

 

Clarke pushed herself up, taking a brush from the nightstand and beginning to run it through her hair slowly.

 

“I know he hasn’t been here in awhile. I guess he’s been training pretty hard. You should be proud of him, he’s an amazing fighter now. Luna told me he dropped Roan like a sack of apples the other day and didn’t even break a sweat.”

 

Clarke paused, lowering the brush. “I already told you that, didn’t I? I’m sorry. You must be really tired of hearing all the same shit over and over. There’s not a whole lot going on up here, though. Every day’s the same.”

 

She stretched a little, cracking her back and then her knuckles. “Maybe Octavia will come by, too. That’ll be nice, won’t it? To see Octavia again. She’s doing really well these days. I know it took a long time, but she’s really strong. She just needs to have faith that Bellamy and Lincoln and everyone else are okay down there. She has to know that everything is going to be okay, and she won’t be alone forever.”

 

Clarke’s throat tightened up and she unconsciously leaned in a little closer, her voice growing softer. “None of us will be alone forever. We’re gonna find out way back to the ground, all of us. And Octavia will be back with Lincoln and Bell, and you’ll be back with me. We’ll get to see Mom and Kane again. And things will be so much better. No more wars, no more Conclaves. Just you and me, and Madi and Aden, and everyone we care about. It’ll be so much better. You just have to believe that, Lexa. You have to have faith, that’s all.”

 

Clarke searched Lexa’s face intently, looking as always for the slightest twitch or shudder; for any sign that Lexa was still in there and still Lexa.

 

As always, the sign did not come.

 

 

Lexa sat facing the wall, her knees pulled to her chest with her chin resting on them. She listened to Clarke’s quiet babbling as she scraped her thumbnail roughly against the wall.

 

Scritch, scritch, scritch, she heard.

 

Skrish, skrish, skrish, she thought.

 

When she had finished, she wrapped her arms around her legs and glanced over the sea of superficial scratches that covered the cold, dark cinderblock wall.

 

Becca stood on the other side of the bars with her arms crossed and a look of annoyance on her face. “I would offer you a pen and some paper, but I don’t expect you’ll take it today, either.”

 

Lexa scowled, not even bothering to glance at the mildly imposing figure in her peripheral. “I want nothing from you, natrona.”

 

Becca merely shrugged. “Suit yourself.”

 

When Becca had gone, Lexa rested her chin on her knees again and turned her gaze to the scratched wall. Her eyes traced a path across all 2,199 marks and landed on the first one she had made. 

 

“One, two, three..” Lexa whispered to herself as she began counting them once more, keeping her voice quiet. Quiet enough that she could still hear Clarke’s murmured words snaking their way into her subconscious. They wrapped around her like a favorite cloak, and she breathed them into herself, letting them keep her warm and safe in this vile, empty hell.

 

 

Chapter Text

Everything gets broken

Everything turns golden

The city keeps us waiting

You can watch me folding

The day into pieces big enough to break

Some seasons I just cannot shake

We are all working for something we hope we can save

What I wouldn't give for a plastic heart

That knows how to live faster than I’ve ever learned

- Fort Frances, “Plastic Hearts”

 

 

 

THEN: 71 Days After Praimfaya

 

Clarke grunted as her sword met Lexa’s, the force of it sending a loud clang vibrating through her body. Her left foot faltered slightly, and she found herself on the ground with the wind knocked out of her.

 

Lexa pressed the blunt tip of the practice sword against her chest and looked down at her smugly. Clarke swatted it away with an indignant huff, but let Lexa help her back onto her feet.

 

“You cheated,” she whined, and it was Lexa’s turn to huff.

 

“I did no such thing, Klark. You are a sore loser.” Lexa gestured at her with the sword, but then leaned in and kissed Clarke softly, to reassure her that she was joking.

 

“I am not, because I didn’t lose. You cheated,” Clarke insisted as she grabbed the edge of Lexa’s sleeve and tugged her close for another kiss.

 

Lexa sighed softly, tucking a few stray strands of hair behind Clarke’s ear gently, her fingertips lingering to trace the shell of it. 

 

“You did that thing with your tongue on purpose, you know that gets me hot..” Clarke protested, tugging her sleeve playfully as they kissed once more lightly.

 

They were interrupted when Echo pressed two fingers between her lips and released a short but very loud whistle. 

 

“Hey, if you two want to grope each other, go do it somewhere that’s not here. Some of us are trying to train.”

 

Clarke blushed a little, but Lexa was nonplussed when she whispered conspiratorially, “She is just upset that she is not being groped right now.”

 

Raven, who was carefully stretching her legs with Luna’s assistance nearby, let out a little snort. “Nowe. I get groped regularly and I still think you two are gross, so..”

 

“Why did we let them spar together, anyway? Don’t we have a rule against that now?” Octavia asked as she searched the rack for the katana she wanted to practice with.

 

Clarke put her finger up. “Uh, that rule was not unanimous, so it doesn’t count.”

 

“I want a recount,” Echo said, carefully flipping the bo staff sideways and cursing when it slid from her hands again.

 

Clarke shrugged as Lexa grabbed their waters from the table and brought them back over. “Anyway, I was supposed to spar with Roan today, but he didn’t show up.”

 

Octavia had located the katana—slim, slightly curved, and totally balanced, thanks to Roan’s unmatched craftsmanship—and gave it a few test swings, slicing through the air. “He and Murphy were probably up late in the film pod again.”

 

“Thanks for that image,” Clarke made a face, and Raven started coughing on the laughter she tried to choke back. Echo, Lexa, and Luna just looked mildly confused.

 

Octavia shrugged. “Not all of us have the love of our lives up here, you know. We still have needs and only so many tablets to go around.” 

 

“Okay, okay,” Clarke said apologetically. “Point well taken.” 

 

Octavia smirked at her a little, and Echo, who along with Lexa and Luna, had apparently figured out what they were talking about, came closer and began adjusting her stance with a smirk as well.

 

“Another round, Klark?” 

 

Clarke toweled off her forehead as Lexa twirled the sword against the ground, and shook her head. “I’m beat, Heda. I’m gonna go make sure Roan didn’t get into the spoiled veggies again or something.”

 

Lexa nodded and gave her a brief kiss as Raven volunteered to take Clarke’s spot for sparring. “Hod yu in, Heda.”

 

Hod yu in, Klark.”

 

 

Clarke didn’t know what, exactly, she’d expected to find when she checked Roan’s room—probably just him sleeping, or relaxing with a book. What she definitely had not expected was to find him with a piece of charcoal and a large swatch of crumpled paper. So engrossed was he in drawing on it that he didn’t even notice Clarke had come into the room. 

 

Clarke edged forward quietly, trying to get a glimpse of the page, and was utterly stunned by what she saw. 

 

Roan was good. Really good. Maybe even better than she was, if she was being honest. He’d drawn an entire world that popped off the page so realistically it made her gasp. There were trees, mostly pine, that looked like they were swaying in the breeze that was causing snow to rain off them. The very edge of a river passed through one corner, the water seeming to sparkle as if it were truly in motion. The entire forest seemed to breathe on its own, and Clarke felt like she might cry. He’d somehow captured the feeling she’d had the first time she stepped out of the dropship; something she’d never felt her own works depicted accurately enough.

 

“Roan, that’s amazing,” she murmured quietly.

 

Roan startled at the interruption and looked at her in surprise, quickly flipping the large paper over to reveal one of Jaha’s campaign posters. “Skrish, Clarke. I didn’t hear you come in.” He paused, clearing his throat awkwardly. His cheeks and ears burned red and he shifted uncomfortably. “Uh, but.. Thanks. For the compliment. And sorry, for missing our sparring block, I lost track of the time.”

 

Clarke shook her head a little. “No compliment, it’s just the truth. And it’s okay, plenty of time to spar these days, anyway.” She paused, sizing him up a little. “I didn’t know you could draw, much less this well.”

 

Roan shrugged uncomfortably. “I’m alright. I never got much practice. My mother thought it was inappropriate for a future king to spend his days with ‘dirty hands and whimsy on his mind’.”

 

He said it nonchalantly, but there was a world of pain burning behind his eyes that screamed out to Clarke like a siren, and she felt any minor jealousy she’d been harboring about his superior talent melt away instantly.

 

“I’m sorry,” Clarke said very honestly. Roan just shrugged again, clearly uncomfortable with the entire situation. “Can I show you something? It’ll only take a minute, then I’ll let you get back to it.” Roan nodded a bit and followed her out of his pod and down a hallway he hadn’t been down before.

 

“Where are we going?”

 

Clarke shrugged as she opened an airlock. “You’ll see.”

 

There was a giant wardrobe of some kind in the corner of the room they’d entered, and when Clarke opened the doors to it, he couldn’t believe his eyes. He’d come by plenty of charcoal over the years, but never in his life had he seen anything that could remotely compare to what lay before him.

 

Dozens of jars of pigments and brushes, wax sticks in every color imaginable, buckets of charcoals and even some actual pencils. Rolls of canvas sheets and stacks of thick paper. Roan felt his insides shake as he took it in while Clarke watched him with nearly a look of pride.

 

Unable to tear his eyes away from the creative feast that filled his vision, he merely said incredulously, “Are you kidding?”

 

Clarke beamed at him and patted his back lightly. “I know. The first time I saw this, I was about four years old, and I cried for like, an hour because I couldn’t have any of it. I still remember the very first real pencil I ever held. It was one of the best moments of my entire life.”

 

Roan swallowed to steady himself a little, and turned to face her, his voice softer than he’d ever heard himself be before.

 

Mochof, Clarke. Thank you.”

 

Pro, lukot,” Clarke responded, still smiling. Roan reached out and clasped her forearm and they shook, sharing a meaningful look.

 

When she’d left, Roan ran his fingers delicately over the treasure cache before him, and his heart felt like it had unfolded from the tiny spot he’d kept it crammed into all these years. He sat with a canvas at one of the tables and began to sketch something new. Something that he had found suddenly burned into his mind as clearly and deeply as the forest he’d grown up in was.

 

He carefully formed the pencil he held around Clarke’s face, and then Lexa’s cheek pressed to hers. He worked studiously, falling into some empty space in his mind where the volume had been turned down on everything else. 

 

He drew Raven and Luna holding hands beside and just behind Clarke. He drew Murphy reaching for a silver bag of crisps tucked into one of his pockets, hair just slightly askance and a mischievous smile on his lips. He drew Echo with her arms wrapped playfully around Octavia from behind, and Octavia’s hands holding Echo’s forearms as she leaned into her. 

 

He drew Madi and Aden in front of the others, with Clarke and Lexa’s hands each resting on a set of small shoulders. He drew them all smiling, and drew himself in the rear of the cluster, with his arms spread as though he could fit them all into an affectionate hold at once and not let them go. He drew them all happy in that moment, despite the pain they all had suffered and had yet to suffer. 

 

He drew and drew, and as he did, he wondered if this was what family was supposed to feel like.

 

 

NOW: 2199 Days Without Lexa

 

Roan headed through the furthest airlock left on the remainder of the Ark’s ring, meal tray in hand. The hall was dark and silent, as usual. He followed the low hum of machinery to the one room that wasn’t pitch black, and took a steadying breath before he entered. 

 

It was a toss-up which Clarke would be present—or not present. She might be laying on the floor, totally unresponsive to any stimuli, or curled up in a corner crying. Rarely was she sober or even conscious. Once, Murphy had tried to wake her and she’d awoken savage and wild; ripped at him with nails and teeth and a feral howl. After Echo had stitched his cheek, they had decided as a group it was probably safer not to wake her. 

 

There were days—sometimes weeks, even—where she almost appeared functional. She’d be in the film pod with Madi on her lap watching an old movie, or helping Aden study his mathematics homework from Raven. Sometimes she’d even show up for family dinner in clean clothes, her hair washed and tucked into a neat ponytail. 

 

But as time went on and Lexa didn’t wake, and they didn’t figure out how to get back to the ground, those times became scarcer.

 

Roan glanced around the room, lit only by the bright screens on the equipment. “Clarke?”

 

There was no response at first, and then a slight shuffle followed by a murmured, “Go away.”

 

Roan glanced in the direction of the sounds as his eyes adjusted.

 

Clarke lay on her side in the double bed, resting against Lexa’s side with her arm slung across her protectively. Her eyes were locked on Lexa’s abdomen, watching as the ventilator forced her chest to raise and lower in a steady cadence.

 

“I brought you a tray,” Roan said quietly, setting it on the nightstand. Clarke blinked silently. He sighed and began to turn from her, but paused. “I know it’s not.. really my business. But Lexa would hate this for you. Clarke, you must know that.”

 

Clarke’s face darkened slightly, her voice tight and the stench of alcohol on her breath practically overwhelming. “You’re right. It’s none of your business.”

 

Roan worked his jaw briefly, debating with himself whether to let it go, but letting it go clearly hadn’t been working for the past six years, and he couldn’t stop thinking of the look on Madi’s face. 

 

“Actually, it’s a little bit my business, because that’s how family works.”

 

“Get out,” Clarke muttered tiredly, turning her face into the side of Lexa’s neck.

 

Roan sat in the armchair facing Clarke’s back in silent defiance, crossing his arms.

 

Clarke’s voice grew louder, his resistance agitating her even further. “Get out!” 

 

“No.”

 

“Get out or I’ll make you get out.”

 

Roan just shook his head. “I’d like to see that, with you in this state.”

 

Clarke’s breathing grew heavier and she actually sat up, turning quickly on the bed to face him. Her voice took on a dangerous tone. “Roan.. this is the last time I’m gonna tell you. Get. The fuck. Out.”

 

Roan just looked at her a bit sadly. “I care about you, Clarke. We all do. You can’t keep going like this.”

 

He watched as her eyes flashed with rage before she launched herself at him with a cry of frustration. He’d been expecting it and accordingly, caught her as he quickly stood. She twisted and jerked against his hold, her arms and legs flailing in their quest to connect with him. Roan tightened his grip as she writhed and slammed her fists against his chest.

 

“Let me go!” She yelled, aiming a fist at his kidney and connecting. 

 

He barely blinked. “No.”

 

“I’ll kill you!” Clarke’s voice was a wild shout as she struggled against his grasp. “I’ll kill you, nomonjoka!” She pounded against him with every once of strength she had, but he just stood there, unmoving, holding her in a bear hug as she launched every bit of aggression she could at him.

 

Her voice grew louder and louder, her punches weaker and weaker, and still Roan would not give an inch. It was only after nearly a half hour had passed that Clarke finally reached the end of her small supply of energy. She melted into Roan’s arms, sobbing quietly, all of the fight having gone out of her. 

 

Roan loosened his grasp slightly when he felt her go slack. Her head was turned slightly into his chest as she cried. “Just go.. Please just go..” She begged weakly, and he responded by rubbing her back gently. “Stop.. I don’t deser—I want you to go.. Please. Just leave me alone.”

 

Her grief was downright palpable and cut through him like a knife. Roan tilted his head down towards her, his voice becoming gentle, as though he was speaking to a child. “You don’t deserve what? To eat? To cry? To be loved?” He tilted his head a little further. “To live?”

 

“It’s my fault,” she spat bitterly. “It’s my fault.”

 

This time, when she pulled away, Roan let her. She sat on the edge of the bed she shared with Lexa’s body, her face streaked with sweat, tears, and a bit of drool. She used the collar of her shirt to wipe some of it away with shaking hands as she continued. “I knew something was wrong. I should have.. done something. Made her take the Flame out or.. Or..” Clarke bit her lip and shook her head a little.

 

Roan sat in the arm chair once again, leaning to rest his elbows on his knees. “Do you honestly think there was any force in the universe that would have gotten Lexa to remove the Flame? Or do anything she didn’t want to, for that matter?”

 

“I could have,” Clarke whispered childishly. “I could have made her.”

 

They both knew it wasn’t true, and so they sat quietly for awhile, before Roan leaned forward a bit more. 

 

“Even if that were true—and we both know it’s not—don’t you think you’ve been punished enough? Don’t you think Madi and Aden have?”

 

Clarke’s head shot up quickly with a glare trained on him. “What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

 

Roan folded his hands on his lap, his voice low but not unkind. “It means that there are two very damaged kids out there, growing up without both of their mothers, who think they’re being punished, too. Who think they aren’t enough for you to love. To live for. Clarke, you can’t change the past—not yours, not theirs, not Lexa’s. But you can change their future, and all you have to do is show up.”

 

Clarke’s eyes welled up quickly, the hot tears burning with anger and humiliation as they began to fall. She began to open her mouth, but quickly realized she didn’t know how to respond.

 

Sensing he’d possibly begun to actually reach whatever part of Clarke was left inside her zombie-like shell, Roan stood up and regarded her quietly for a moment. 

 

“Before we left the ground, you told Echo we had to do better. Is this what you meant? Is this the ‘better life’ you and Lexa dreamed of for them?” He glanced pointedly around the room. This room that she had once shared with a vibrant, living version of Lexa and the two children they meant to raise together. The room she now shared with, in effect, an empty shell of Lexa; a living corpse. Roan’s voice grew even more quiet and wavered slightly with the weight of his own emotions. 

 

“This place is a tomb, Clarke.”

 

He didn’t wait for a response this time, and shut the door quietly behind himself as he left.

Chapter Text

Stop crying, stop crawling

Can't you see that I have stopped falling

We were good at faking forever

I get it, whatever

Am I gonna miss you? Hell no

Baby, watch me up and go

Straight up, don't blame you

I'll never be the one to make you better

Whatever

In my bed, late at night thinking of how you held me tight

And will I be lonely when I wake? 

- Ingrid Michaelson, “Hell No”

 

 

 

THEN: 470 Days Without Lexa

 

Madi carefully stirred the broken pieces of an oat cookie into her vegetable broth, watching Aden out of the corner of her eye. He quietly chewed on a yeast roll with a faraway look in his eyes. She stretched her leg out as far as she could and kicked his shin under the table. 

 

“Stop,” he snapped, sliding himself and his plate over slightly, putting himself out of her reach. She stuck her tongue out at him and went back to disassembling and reassembling her meal for a few minutes. 

 

Raven, Murphy, and Luna sat further down the table together, eating with one hand apiece as they continued going through the stacks of books and papers they’d been playing with all day. At the other end of the table, Echo and Roan were having what looked like a deep conversation Clarke wasn’t paying attention to, and every so often one of them would say Lexa’s name. Octavia sat just slightly adjacent to herself and seemed to be in the same alternate universe Clarke and Aden were absorbed in.

 

Madi shifted in her seat, poking at a potato slice with her fork and wishing someone would talk to her, at least. She picked up the potato chunk and leaned back just enough to see her target. She carefully aimed it under the table before flicking it with deadly precision right into Aden’s unlaced boot.

 

“What the jok?!” Aden yelled, hopping up from the table on one foot. Madi giggled, then felt her cheeks quickly turn red as every single head except Clarke’s turned towards them. 

 

“What happened?” Echo asked, watching Aden pulling his boot off and fishing inside it for the potato slice.

 

Aden snorted with anger when he couldn’t grab the offending vegetable on the first try. “The little idiot threw food in my shoe. Skrish, Madi, sometimes you’re so stupid, I can’t stand it!”

 

“Aden,” Octavia scolded with both warning and disappointment in her tone, but it was too late; the damage was done. Madi felt herself growing smaller inside at his words, her embarrassment covering her like a blanket as she shrank down in her seat.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said quietly, her chin resting on the table. 

 

Aden finally grabbed the potato and whipped it angrily to the floor before putting his boot back on. “Whatever. You’re just a dumb baby, anyway.”

 

He didn’t even ask to be excused before walking out of the dining hall. 

 

Madi felt hot tears stinging behind her eyes as Octavia reached over to rub her back lightly, and she shrank from Octavia’s touch. 

 

“He didn’t mean it, Madi. Older brothers are just jerks sometimes, it’s kind of their job.” 

 

At the end of the table, Clarke hadn’t moved a muscle throughout the entire incident, and Madi felt something tightening deep inside her chest and growing darker as it did.

 

“I wish we just left him on the ground,” Madi spat petulantly, pushing her plate away. 

 

Octavia didn’t say anything, and when Madi looked up at her, she wished she hadn’t. Octavia’s face was tight and growing red as she struggled against the tears welling in her eyes. 

 

“No, you don’t,” she said quietly, with a waver in her voice. Madi felt bad immediately, but didn’t know how to take back what she’d said any more than she could take back what Aden had said. How could you take back someone else’s feelings, even when you caused them?

 

“I’m sorry,” she whispered again. 

 

“It’s alright.” Octavia nodded a little, giving her one of those fake smiles adults used when they lied to you. She quietly got up, taking her plate and Aden’s with her as she too left the dining hall without another word.

 

Madi felt the dark thing growing inside her chest get even tighter.

 

Luna slid down the table closer to her and rested her hand on her shoulder, her melodic voice kind as always. “It’s okay, Madi. They just need a little time to cool off. Why don’t you finish eating, and then you, me, and Raven can go watch a movie in the pod? Maybe we can even get Murphy to come, and share some of his chips with us?” 

 

Luna smiled gently. Madi really wanted to watch a movie. Luna and Raven were the nicest and most fun people on the Ring. Well, after Murphy, anyway, and now that Aden was a big jerk. They never even yelled, no matter what. She started to nod, started to feel better, started to think maybe it wasn’t so bad after all. 

 

Then she saw Clarke stand and walk out of the dining hall in silence, not even bothering to clear her plate. Not even acknowledging what had just unfolded. Not even telling her that boys are dumb when they become teenagers, or that she was disappointed that Madi was throwing food and being disrespectful to the grown-ups. 

 

Not even looking at Madi.

 

For a minute, Madi wondered whether she might be invisible but only to Clarke, and then the dark, sick thing in her chest pulled itself even tighter. Tighter than she thought it could be, and it nearly hurt for a split second before she felt it rip apart within her.

 

“No, thanks,” Madi said coolly. “I don’t like movies anymore. They’re for babies.” And with that, she got up and left the dining hall, her full plate left for someone else to take care of. She heard someone call after her—either Murphy or Roan—and then heard Echo tell them to let her have a minute to herself.

 

Madi walked down the winding hallways she knew better than the back of her own hand by now. She’d always been afraid of the dark, even though the dark had been what protected her, and she paused at the first unlit hallway. Her hand reached up for the light switch, but stopped just short of it. 

 

Only babies were afraid of the dark.

 

Madi set her jaw and dropped her hand, taking a slow, tentative step into the dimmed section of corridor. What was there to be afraid of, anyway? Surely the sick thing in her chest was darker than this hall, anyway. You can’t be afraid of the dark if your insides are made up of dark already. She took another step, and then another, her small shoulders squared as she stalked fearlessly down the increasingly darkened hallway, feeling braver and harder and stronger with each passing moment. 

 

It turned out nothing that might have lurked in the darkness was scarier than what was lurking inside herself.

 

Madi slammed her palm on the airlock of her bedroom with unnecessary force, pretending for a moment that it was Aden. She watched the door close and tried not to think about Aden and how mean he’d gotten. She tried not to think about how she’d hurt Octavia’s feelings when she just missed Bellamy and was trying to be nice. She tried not to think about how mean she had been to Luna, who was always nice to everyone no matter what. She tried not to think about how Lexa would be really upset and disappointed in her.

 

Mostly, she tried really hard not to think about how Clarke didn’t care about her at all. But as she flopped down onto her bed and started to cry into her pillow, beating her fists against the mattress beneath her, that was all she could think about.

 

Nobody wanted her. At best, maybe they just felt sorry for her. The little girl with no parents, whose brother hated her, who was just stupid and mean, and a sofon. 

 

“I wish I was still under the floor,” she whispered to the darkness in her room and in her mind. “I wish I died under the floor. I wish I didn’t make everyone leave, I—” But she couldn’t finish her whispered list, because the tears were coming too hard and fast for her to speak through them.

 

Madi buried her head under the pillow and screamed into the mattress, where no one else would hear it.

 

If they were even listening.

 

 

 

NOW: 2199 Days Without Lexa

 

Madi flicked her airlock door shut and unplugged the wire to the switch, effectively sealing herself in. She rested her forehead against the wall in the dark for a moment, taking a few steadying breaths, but it didn’t help. With a frustrated groan at herself, she clenched her fists and paused briefly before slamming them into the wall. She did it again, and again; punching the wall until she felt the skin on her knuckles splitting and saw the black smears they were leaving behind.

 

A strange sort of whine emerged from her throat as she choked back her tears, refusing to give in. She picked up the pace, beating her fists against the wall as images flowed through her head. 

 

The Fleimkepa with the tattoos around his bald head, grabbing a screaming Aden. Her mother, held back by two large men, screaming and begging them not to take him. Her father on the ground, throat slit, his arms still stretched towards Aden as the life drained from him. 

 

Their home, nothing but rubble and ash on the ground. She watched from deep inside her grandmother’s coat as her mother sobbed to anyone that would listen that her daughter was in there. Her mother, ushering her under the floor over and over again. The Fleimkepa returning for her only to find that she had died in the suspiciously unfortunate fire. 

 

Curling up between the corpses of her mother and grandmother, who were executed for causing the death of a natblida. 

 

And then the evacuations began, and Madi found herself alone and forgotten once more. Left waiting and wondering whether she would prefer to starve to death or be killed by Praimfaya.

 

Madi battered her fists against the steel wall for every person that had abandoned or been lost to her, and when she ran out of names she dedicated each blow to something she still had left to lose.

 

She reached the end of that list much more quickly.

 

Tired and bloody, she slid to the floor and stretched out on her stomach. She pressed the knuckles of her left hand between her lips, letting the copper taste fill her mouth and turn her stomach. It was stronger than crying, anyway.

 

It hadn’t been all bad on the Ring—not at first, anyway. 

 

The trip had been terrifying, of course, and around every corner seemed to lurk a new button or switch that made something unexpected happen to startle her. But she’d been with Aden, and Clarke, and Lexa. She had felt loved and wanted and happy. 

 

And then Lexa was gone.

 

And then Clarke had disappeared.

 

And then Aden had left her, too.

 

He still loved her; Madi was pretty sure of that. But as he’d gotten older, he’d had less time and interest in her silly, childish games and stories. He didn’t want to play Fleimkepa vs Wanheda anymore, and he didn’t want to run up and down the Ring’s shining hallways on invisible horses to save a damsel in distress. He didn’t want to train with a baby, because she wasn’t strong enough for him anymore. 

 

He didn’t even want to throw peas into her hair at dinner anymore, and he’d usually liked doing that even if they were a little too old for food fights. 

 

Aden had just gone and grown up one day, and he’d done it without her.

 

The worst part was that now she didn’t have any interest in the silly games and stories anymore, either. She’d grown up too, but somehow she still couldn’t catch up to Aden. Somehow, even when she pushed herself as hard as she could, barreling towards adulthood like the wildebeest stampede from The Lion King, and finally, finally, finally started to gain ground.. it still wasn’t enough. 

 

Somehow, no matter how hard she worked or how quickly she caught up, she still ended up left behind anyway.

 

Chapter Text

I thought that I could take it from here

I thought that I was calm in the clear

I thought that I was doing so well

Like everything was under a spell

Now it's getting harder

Go on and tell me just how I could allow

All that's light to end up somehow

Where it's getting darker

I never loved you fully in the way I could

I fought the current running just the way you would

And now I'm stuck upstream and it's getting harder

I'm like fallingwater

- Maggie Rogers, “Fallingwater”

 

 

 

THEN: 683 Days Without Lexa

 

Luna hummed quietly to herself as she washed the dinner dishes, handing them to Aden for drying. Aden stacked the dried plates quietly, lost in thought. Luna was one of his favorite people to spend time around. Her presence was somehow always reassuring without being intrusive. 

 

Murphy could be fun, but he liked to make jokes and Aden always felt like he had to be a captive audience; reassure Murphy that he was being successfully entertaining. Usually he didn’t mind much, but tonight he just wanted to be quiet for a little while.

 

Roan was a cool guy, too, but the opposite of Murphy. He didn’t talk a lot, but unlike with Luna or even Octavia, the silences between he and Roan always felt heavy and sort of awkward. Raven was a mixed bag—some days she was bouncy and wanted to chat, other days she seemed quiet and very sad.

 

After Luna, Echo was his favorite person to spend time with these days. She was the only one who didn’t treat him like he was still a little kid. She spoke to him like he was a friend, and he felt more respected by her than anyone else because of it. 

 

His favorite thing was when Echo would tell him stories about the ground. He’d been pretty sheltered, living in Polis and having only other natblida children for company since the time he was six or seven. Lexa had told them cool stories sometimes, but they were usually the kind with a Big Lesson at the end. Echo told him stories that were sometimes scary, or sad, or just funny. His favorites were stories about other Commanders—ones he had never met or even heard of. 

 

His favorite Commander was still Leksa kom Trikru, and Echo had smiled when he told her that—and said Lexa was her favorite, too. She also had stories about when Skaikru fell from the sky, and how Wanheda defeated the Mountain Men all by herself, and lots of stories about the mysterious and secretive Trishanakru, and the famed Trikru warriors.

 

But all of her best stories were about Azgeda, of course. Queen Nia had ruled with an icy fist, terrorizing even her own people, even her own son. Not since Sheidheda had anyone even seen a leader so ruthless and cunning nor with a blacker heart. But the people of Azgeda had stayed strong and one day, the evil Queen Nia was slain by Heda Leksa kom Trikru. Everyone cheered because Prince Roan became King Roan. And when he had taken over Azgeda, everyone was much happier.

 

He was replaying in his head the story of the evil Queen Nia’s attempt to destroy the coalition when he realized Luna had spoken to him. His cheeks flushed with embarrassment. 

 

“Um, sorry, Luna. I didn’t hear you.” 

 

Luna smiled lightly. “I asked what planet you were circling, strikon.” She tapped the side of his head playfully, and he shrugged a little.

 

“I was thinking about some of the stories, you know. About the ground.”

 

“Oh, yeah?” Luna hummed, beginning to wipe down the kitchen appliances. That was another reason he liked Luna. She gave you an opening to talk, but never made you talk about stuff if you didn’t want to.

 

“Did you ever meet Queen Nia?”

 

The plate Luna had picked up slid from her hands and shattered on the floor, startling them both. Luna’s face flushed, and she cursed under her breath as they both dropped to the ground and began gathering the ceramic shards.

 

“Be careful. They’re sharp,” she said quietly. 

 

Aden bit his lower lip, feeling uncomfortable in her presence for the first time. “Did I say something bad?”

 

Luna paused, closing her eyes briefly and shaking her head a little. When she opened her eyes, her voice was softer than usual. “No. No, you didn’t say anything bad, Aden. I just—ah, I wasn’t.. expecting that, that’s all.”

 

“I’m sorry.” Aden shrank a little, angry with himself for upsetting Luna, even if he didn’t entirely understand why. 

 

“No, it’s okay. Come here, niron.” Luna sat with her back to the cabinets and patted the space next to her.

 

Aden set the pile of shards he’d been collecting down and obediently scooted next to her, relaxing his shoulders just slightly when she put her arm around them. “I didn’t know Queen Nia personally, strikon. She spoke to me only once, right before my Conclave.”

 

“What did she say to you?” Aden scratched at a scab on his knee before resting his cheek against it to look at her.

 

“That she believed I would be the next Commander, and we could have a strong alliance.”

 

Aden chewed idly at his thumbnail until he realized what he was doing, and that it wasn’t a very grown-up thing to do. He quickly dropped his hand from his mouth, tracing a random shape into the floor instead. “How come you’re not the Commander, then? Did you still make an alliance with her?” 

 

“I would not have made an alliance with her, ever. She hurt a lot of people that I cared about very much, like Echo, and Roan, and Lexa. She killed my friend Costia.” Luna took a breath and continued softly. “And I am not the Commander because I ran away from the Conclave. I did not want to kill anyone else.”

 

Aden frowned a little. “But you’re not really killing someone. It’s just to see if the Commander’s spirit chooses you, so it’s not the same as just killing somebody.”

 

Luna’s face grew heavy with sadness, and it made Aden’s stomach upset. Luna was always happy, so while Aden wasn’t entirely sure what it was, he knew he had definitely said something bad this time. His thumbnail found its way between his teeth again. “I’m sorry.”

 

Luna smiled a little bit and rubbed his back before standing up and putting her hand out to help him up. “You didn’t do anything wrong. It just makes me sad to think about it, that’s all. But you don’t have to worry about any of that. The time of Conclaves is over, right?” 

 

Aden stood up. “Right.” He went back to collecting the shards of broken plate, but paused after a minute, still in a frog squat as he looked up at her again. “But Luna, what about when Lexa dies? If there’s no more Conclave, then how will the Commander’s spirit be able to find the next Commander?” 

 

Luna’s shoulders went very stiff, and she took a very long time to respond. When she finally did, her voice was quiet, but sharp like the edge of a knife at the same time.

 

“I honestly don’t know, Aden.”

 

NOW: 2199 Days Without Lexa

 

Aden scarfed down dinner as quickly as he could. There was a vibe in the air that was nothing short of stifling, and all he could think about was getting out of there and retreating to his bedroom. Sitting in the quiet, reading the comic books Murphy had loaned him, and pretending to be a normal teenage boy.

 

He felt bad about what happened with Madi. He’d meant to comfort her, to reassure her that what she’d said hadn’t hurt. But he’d never been that good at lying, and the truth was that her slip of the tongue had shattered something inside himself that was already broken. 

 

Aden excused himself from dinner quietly, his mind wandering as he headed to the gymnasium.

 

They didn’t talk about Lexa.

 

It wasn’t an official rule, of course. It didn’t appear on the worn old poster Clarke and Luna had drawn when they first came to the Ring. The one that used every single color they’d been able to scrounge up from the old art supply closets, and said things like “No counting the days out loud”, and “Family Dinner every night, no excuses (Raven that means you! <3)”.

 

Aden’s favorite rule was #7, though. Aden and Madi get hugs every day from everyone, no exceptions!

 

They’d gone around the room, taking turns coming up with rules together, and if everyone agreed, you got to add it to the chart yourself. Madi didn’t know how to read or write back then. She had wrapped a chubby little hand above Aden’s on the purple wax stick he’d chosen for the task and stuck her tongue out of the corner of her mouth as she concentrated on following his careful, deliberate strokes. 

 

In the beginning, they’d talked about Lexa all the time. Everyone said things like, “She’s just sick, but she’ll get better”, and “Lexa will be so impressed with you, Aden.” But time moved forward, and they talked about her less and less. Days without mentioning her turned into weeks, and then months. 

 

Aden watched Madi grow smaller and more quiet. He watched even Luna giving up hope. He watched Clarke grow more and more sad and angry, and yell at people more. He began having nightmares that were so realistic, he couldn’t shake them off for hours afterwards.

 

One night, he’d had a dream that Lexa had died. It was the night before he faced the Conclave, and the girl who had attacked them with Echo came to attack him again, when he was asleep in his bed. He dreamed she’d cut him very deeply, hurt him badly, and her bloody face smiled as she watched him die. He woke up crying and shaking and calling out for Clarke, but she didn’t come.

 

He had crawled out of bed and padded down the long corridor in his bare feet to Lexa’s new room. It was dumb, but he thought maybe he would feel better if he just saw that Lexa was still alive and there wouldn’t be a Conclave ever.

 

Quietly, he crept into the room in med bay, trying not to be scared of all the things that were plugged into Lexa. He approached her slowly, searching her face for reassurance as he crawled into the bed next to her. He curled up against her side and whispered into the dark, “Lexa? I’m scared.”

 

Lexa didn’t answer, but her chest was moving, and none of the machines made the angry beeping that scared everyone. He tilted his head up a little and watched her until the tears on his cheeks had long since dried there. He watched, and listened, and waited, but there was a feeling growing heavy in the pit of his stomach. 

 

Everyone said Lexa was still in there, but for the life of him, Aden couldn’t see how that was possible. The body before him belonged to her, but doubt that she was still using it began to blossom within him.

 

That was the moment he’d begun to suspect that Lexa was, in fact, Gone-with-a-capital-G, and that adults would lie to you about things so they didn’t have to talk about them.

 

And now, as he began to lay into the punching bag without wrapping his hands, he understood it all. Lexa was dead. She had been dead for a very long time by now, and eventually even Clarke would realize that. And she would unplug the machines, either because she had lost hope or because they had figured out how to get back to the ground. Lexa would be really gone, then, and her spirit would need to choose the next Commander, and there would be a Conclave after all.

 

That was why Aden trained every day. Even when he’d accidentally eaten spoiled vegetables from the garden and spent all night throwing up, he’d gone to the gym bright and early. He’d thrown up into a cup in between sets. He had made his body hard; lean and muscular, a breathing sculpture of strength and brawn. His muscles strained until they became thick cords beneath his skin, his practiced feet practically dancing across the ground as he forced himself into his opponent’s space and kept them moving. He had become adept with every single weapon they had—swords, dual-wielding knives, spears and staffs, even guns. 

 

Aden had a plan.

 

He would make his body stronger than anything. Stronger than steel, stronger than anything anyone could dream of, and he would fight in the Conclave. He would kill all of them, and he would do it easily. He would protect Madi as much as he could. He would fight all of the other novitiates by himself; all at once, if he had to. He would stand victorious only briefly. He would kneel before Madi and hug her. 

 

He would whisper in her ear, “Ai hod yu in sentaim, Madi.” Then he would stand and face the bloodthirsty crowd and cry, “Ste kiken, Heda!”

 

And then he would take his favorite dagger—the one that he carried on his belt every single day, the one that had belonged to Lexa—and he would slit his own throat. He would turn his back to Madi, so she didn’t have to see it. So she wouldn’t know; not until his body had fallen, lifeless and bleeding, into the pile of the other natblidas he had slain.

 

Aden would die, and his remains would salt the earth to give rise to Heda Madi kom Louwoda-Kliron Kru. The Commander’s Spirit would have no choice. Madi would be safe and alive, and Aden would be wherever Lexa had gone after her body; the same place Clarke was trying to go. 

 

And one day, hopefully when Madi was a very old Commander and her gonplei ste odon, they would all be together again. And maybe—just maybe—they’d be happy again, too.

Chapter Text

Good lord hear my cries

I've run out of wasted time

Dead just floating out to sea

Good lord give me peace

From life long of pain and greed

But not yet, I’m not done paying for my crimes

Don't listen to any word I say

I'd say anything to make you feel okay

I'm not who I thought I was, not today

Cause I got bad blood, bad blood

You dont want none of what I have

- Alison Mosshart & Eric Arjes, “Bad Blood”

 

 

 

THEN: 5 Days Gone

 

Lexa lay on the cot in the back of her cell, facing the wall. She carefully scratched a diagonal line into it with her thumbnail, crossing off the four vertical marks that were already etched into the block. Five days. She had been in this cage for five days. 

 

Behind her, on the other side of the bars, Becca let out an annoyed sigh. “Lexa, you’re being petulant. You can have a real bed. You can have your books, a cup of coffee. Paper and pencil,” she said pointedly as she watched Lexa continue scratching at the wall.

 

“I want nothing from you,” Lexa’s voice was quiet but very firm, her jaw clenched. The mere mention of coffee sent her mind rocketing back to the argument she and Clarke had before her first seizure, and she felt her chest growing heavy with regret. 

 

Becca scooted the chair she sat in closer to the bars and leaned against them. “Lexa. I did not put you in here because I want you to be miserable. I put you in here for the same reason I put Sheidheda in here. To protect our people. Your people, Lexa.”

 

Lexa rolled back just enough to turn her head and stare Becca down with a glare. “This does not help our people. You just cannot stand that we were making the world better than you managed. You put me in here because you are jealous and selfish, and mad with power. Jok yu of, Bekka.”

 

Becca crossed her arms, her jaw tightening. “It’s your choice, Leksa. You can lay here like a miserable strikskrish in an empty cell until Clarke moves on if you wish. I personally would be using this time for something marginally productive, but suit yourself.”

 

Lexa shut her eyes tightly when she heard Becca’s chair scrape backwards as she stood. Lexa took a steadying breath as she heard Becca’s footsteps heading for the door.

 

“Becca?” 

 

The footsteps stopped. “Yes? Change your mind already?”

 

Lexa took a deep breath to steady herself, her voice unapologetically firm when she spoke.

 

“Clarke is strong. She doesn’t give up, even when she should. She will never move on.”

 

Becca didn’t respond at first, and Lexa began to think perhaps she’d just left the room too quietly to hear. But then there was a quiet sigh.

 

“That’s unfortunate for both of you, then. Your shared stubbornness will cause you far more pain than I alone ever could.” Lexa felt her eyes welling up as Becca’s footsteps retreated and she was, once again, left alone with her thoughts.

 

NOW: 2199 Days Gone

 

Lexa had stayed true to her word, accepting nothing that Becca had to offer. Becca had brought her several books that sat gathering dust in the corner, and even a few potted flowers from Lexa’s own mindspace—some of her happiest memories, Becca had said.

 

But Lexa was immoveable. She did not even care what memories they were—happy ones would only make this worse. She did not care about the books—all of her favorites were perfectly recorded in her head already anyway. And she did not care that Becca came to visit every day, even if only briefly, trying to justify her actions and convince Lexa to partake in something, anything at all that wasn’t sitting idly. 

 

And so Lexa spent her days working out as much as was possible within the confines of her cell, and her nights with eyes closed, re-reading her favorite tales in her head. She also spent a lot of time considering why Becca was so dead-set on trying to make Lexa comfortable where she was, even after all this time.

 

There was a reason; there had to be a reason. Becca was brilliant, cunning, ruthless, and manipulative. There was a reason, an ulterior motive, to everything she did. Lexa couldn’t help but feel that if she could suss out Becca’s true motivation, it might be the key to getting out.

 

Sheidheda had surprisingly lost interest in taunting Lexa fairly quickly. The first few months were filled with his tiresome ranting and insults, but eventually he’d given up when he couldn’t provoke a response from Lexa. He still enjoyed tearing Becca apart, and Lexa had to sheepishly admit that she quite enjoyed when he did that, as well. 

 

Becca entered just around sundown, as she usually did. She delivered a meal tray to both of them, each loaded with their favorites, as she usually did. Sheidheda dug in immediately, as he usually did, while Lexa once again ignored hers.

 

There was something different in Becca’s face today, however, and Lexa immediately began trying to work it out without making it obvious that she was searching Becca’s tensed face. Something was happening; something must be going on to justify this sudden change in routine.

 

Becca sat quietly on the chair beside Lexa’s cell. “Sochu, Leksa?”

 

Lexa just glowered at her, making note of the tiredness in her voice and the concern in her eyes. “You ask that as if you care.”

 

“I do,” Becca snapped. Lexa startled slightly at the unexpected emotion in her voice. “You’re so single-minded, Lexa. I wouldn’t have you in here if I didn’t care. I wouldn’t have tried to save you from being brainwashed by Clarke and the sky people if I didn’t care. You were one of the finest Commanders we have ever had until that skayon came into your life. I care very much, Lexa, do not doubt that for one moment.”

 

Lexa watched in disbelief, her eyes widening a bit. Becca’s unusual anger became palpable as she stood and slammed the chair back up against the wall before storming out the door. 

 

Lexa blinked quietly, murmuring to herself. “What was that about?”

 

She was startled once more when Sheidheda let out a deep laugh. “Can you not see it, Lexa? Can you not smell it on her, stronger even than the stench of death? Bekka Pramheda is filled with fear. I can taste it seeping from her pores, thickening in the very air we breathe. It’s intoxicating.” He inhaled dramatically, exhaling a contented moan.

 

“Fear of what?” Lexa held as steadily as she could, despite the growing discomfort in the pit of her stomach. The air felt sour, turned toxic and stifling by Sheidheda’s palpable joy in the face of the vulnerability of others; the humanity he did not possess that lurked in them. He practically fed on it. His voice alone nearly sang of death and suffering, and made her insides quail with disgust. She swallowed it down as much as she could; she did it because she needed to know what he knew. Ruthlessly cruel and born of nothing short of evil though he was, he was also incredibly smart. Smarter than even Becca herself.

 

Sheidheda laughed once more, sending a deep chill down Lexa’s spine. “What could Haiheda fear here, in this mindspace, where she would live forever and rule over every Louheda that ever lived or would ever live? What can an immortal be afraid of? You do not need me to answer that for you. You are many things, Lexa, but a fool is not one of them.”

 

Lexa spoke slowly as a theory began to take shape inside the quiet part of her mind that belonged only to her. “An immortal fears mortality. It is all that remains for them.”

 

Sheidheda gripped the bars, pressing his scarred face to them with a renewed darkness in his voice. “Bekka has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure her continued survival. She fears death, Leksa kom Trikru. Even here, in this beacon of eternal life, she fears that death is coming for her. Yet there are only two ways death’s outstretched claws would stand a chance to reach her here. One is mutiny, as you well know. The other..” 

 

Lexa breathed out slowly. “The destruction of the Flame.”

 

“Very good.”

 

“It is not good,” Lexa responded, her voice growing suddenly cold. “If the Flame dies, so do we all.”

 

She could practically sense the dark smirk that overtook Sheidheda’s face before he bared his teeth in a foul grin. “We who remain only in the Flame would die, yes.”

 

Lexa’s brow furrowed as she thought about it. Like Becca, Sheidheda always had a motive, an angle, an endgame in mind. He’d made the connections for her far too easily—Becca fearing true death, Lexa’s existence outside the Flame. Perhaps he thought if he helped, he would be presented with an opportunity to escape the Flame alongside Lexa?

 

No. Sheidheda was far smarter than that. He had been watching her for six years and seen her resilience, her defiance. He would not believe Lexa would ever put him in a situation to escape, even inadvertently. Lexa would happily suffer a permanent death rather than allow even the slightest chance of Sheidheda finding his way back to the world.

 

“You are thinking very loudly, Leksa, but still you are correct. I am not fool enough to believe that. I wish for the Flame and all within it, myself included, to be destroyed. Perhaps you will live, but that is of no consequence to me. You will live a short, average life and then you will die and leave nothing behind. The Flame will be gone. We will be gone. The time of the Commanders will be over, and it will be the time of anarchy and destruction. Without leadership, they will kill each other and themselves. They will believe the death of another is a step towards their own survival. The garbage, so to speak, will take itself out.”

 

“Why does it matter? You would not be there to witness it.” Lexa tried—though quite unsuccessfully—to keep the curiosity out of her voice, and Sheidheda merely gave her another chilling grin.

 

“Perhaps I will find a way to witness it, and perhaps not. Regardless, I will know it is coming, and that will please me. Regardless, I will know I will no longer be an animal in a cage, crushed under the thumb of Bekka Pramheda.”

 

She hadn’t thought it possible, but his face darkened even further, his lips curling into a sneer, his voice thick with disgust. He nearly spat the words from his lips as though they left a foul taste in his mouth. Lexa supposed they did.

 

“Powerless. Impotent. Weak and pathetic, just as the rest of you. As though I am not better than all of you, as though I am not stronger and smarter. It is nothing short of blasphemy that I remain caged at the whim of another.” His voice lowered further, his serious tone becoming ever more dangerous. “I would see it corrected, Lexa. At any cost. Even if it means an alliance with the weakest Commander our world has ever known.”

 

His voice grew darker with each word, and Lexa felt a shiver go through her when she realized he was telling the truth about his motives. The only thing worse for Sheidheda than his own death was being brought to his knees by someone. Kept powerless, kept hungry and wanting for eternity. In a strange sort of way, she and Sheidheda shared the same desires and fears, and that particular thought made her feel mildly sick to her stomach.

 

Her voice was steady despite that. “I am not weak.”

 

“You are weak,” Sheidheda snapped, his words marinated in disgust. “Your love makes you so.”

 

Lexa leaned against the bars as far as she could, positioning herself so Sheidheda might see the smug look on her face and the steadiness in her jaw and hands when she responded to him.

 

“My love is what will free both of us from these cages, and you know it.”

 

A booming laugh shook its way out of Sheidheda’s throat as he slid his arm between his bars and extended it to Lexa. Lexa, feeling sick inside at the knowledge that this was the only way to have even the most remote chance, extended her arm as well and grasped his forearm. His nails dug into her own arm as he squeezed, the look of cruel amusement on his face intensifying.

 

Winnes ste na gyon op kom disha hukop, Leksa.”

 

Lexa gazed back with renewed strength behind her flashing eyes, everything about her oozing confidence. “Oso gonplei nou ste odon, Sheidheda.”

 

Sheidheda laughed again as they released each others’ arms, and Lexa couldn’t help the smug smile that crossed her own lips. This alliance was the one thing that even Bekka Pramheda—despite all her planning, all her power, and all her intelligence—would never see coming.

 

The very thought warmed Lexa from deep within her soul, and she found herself laughing for the first time in six years. She could feel the irrefutable certainty of it in the air, on her tongue, crawling beneath her flesh, and settling there confidently. She knew it to be true as surely as she knew her own name, knew her own destiny, knew her love for Clarke.

 

This was a battle she could—and in fact would—win.

Chapter Text

I was talking to you

And I knew then it would be a life long thing

But I didn't know that we could break a silver lining

The girl come undone, I tried to downplay it

And I'm so sad, like a good book I can't put this day back

A sorta fairytale with you 

All in all was a pretty nice day and 

Didn't know when we'd be back and I 

I don't, didn't think we'd end up like this

- Tori Amos, “A Sorta Fairytale”

 

 

 

THEN: 3 Days After Praimfaya

 

 

Clarke lay reclined against the pillows with Madi resting on her chest. Her thumb was in her mouth, and tears were still drying on her cheeks, but she was significantly calmer now that she’d been allowed to sleep in ‘the big bed’ again. Beside them, Aden lay on his side with his head resting against Lexa’s shoulder. He looked much more relaxed as well, despite his claim that he just wanted to keep Madi company, too. 

 

Clarke couldn’t blame them; she was feeling pretty relaxed as well, listening to Lexa’s soft but animated voice as she told the story.

 

“So the Commander agreed to meet with the Skaiheda to discuss an alliance. She was angry that her people had been hurt, but she wanted very much for a better choice than punishing all of Skaikru for the actions of one person. But when Skaiheda came to the meeting, the Commander could not be as mad as she wanted to be, because Skaiheda was the most beautiful person she had ever seen.”

 

Aden tried to stifle a yawn. “Did Skaiheda think the Commander was beautiful too?”

 

Clarke flushed a little, smiling at Lexa affectionately. “She did. In fact, Skaiheda was so surprised by how beautiful she was that she forgot what she’d even come to talk to the Commander about.”

 

“What did she do?” Madi asked around her thumb, curling a few strands of Clarke’s hair around her fingers and pressing it to her cheek with a sigh.

 

“She just babbled about anything she could until she remembered what she wanted to say.”

 

Lexa smirked lightly at Clarke over Aden’s head. “The Commander knew she was stalling, but secretly, she didn’t mind, because it meant she got to spend a little more time with Skaiheda.”

 

Aden, whose eyes were already half-mast and threatening to close on him, yawned again. “Did they make an alliance?”

 

Lexa smoothed his hair back gently, catching Clarke’s gaze again as she said softly, “Eventually.”

 

Madi mumbled quietly, her eyes fully closed and a sleepy slur on her tongue, “En emo don kik raun ste shanen otaim?”

 

Clarke breathed softly, her free hand finding Lexa’s around the kids and lacing their fingers together. “Yes, Madi.” She squeezed Lexa’s hand gently with a contented sigh. “They did live happily ever after.”

 

Aden smiled softly as the last vestiges of sleep overtook him, and Madi’s lips curved around her thumb as she grew heavier on Clarke’s chest.

 

Ai hod yu in, Heda.”

 

Lexa shifted carefully onto her side, sliding her arm from beneath Aden’s head and propping her own up on her elbow. Gazing into sparkling pools of blue, her voice was soft and filled with admiration. “I love you too, Clarke.”

 

 

THEN: 38 Days After Praimfaya

 

 

“Clarke, this does not feel safe.”

 

Clarke smiled as she led a blindfolded Lexa carefully down the hall, holding her hand. “I promise I won’t let you walk into anything. Trust me.”

 

Lexa unconsciously squeezed her hand a little, a small smile playing at the corners of her lips. “I do trust you, Clarke.”

 

Clarke ran her thumb gently over Lexa’s knuckles. “Stop for a minute.” She hit a button on the wall and the airlock before them whooshed open. “Okay.” She began leading Lexa again, but they didn’t go very far before stopping this time.

 

Clarke put her hands on Lexa’s hips and guided her to turn a bit until the backs of her legs thumped lightly against something. “Sit. Can you feel the chair?” Lexa nodded and reached back to feel it as she lowered herself down. 

 

“Can I take the blindfold off now?” 

 

“Not yet,” Clarke said with a smile, kissing her forehead lightly. “Two minutes.” 

 

Lexa sighed softly, but relaxed back in the seat a little, trying to figure out where they were based on the feel of the chair. She quickly realized they must be somewhere new, because the seat did not feel like any of the ones Lexa had become familiar with. 

 

Wherever they were, Clarke had moved away from her and Lexa felt mild discomfort settling in her chest. Surely, Clarke hadn’t gone far, but being sightless felt more anxiety-inducing without Clarke’s touch accompanying it. Luckily, Clarke was barely absent a full minute before she returned and settled into what Lexa assumed was a similar chair beside her.

 

Clarke didn’t say anything. She just slid her hands gently over Lexa’s cheeks, raising tiny goosebumps across her skin. Clarke’s fingers found their way around the back of her head and gently pulled the knot out of the blindfold. 

 

The worn fabric slid free easily, and bright green eyes blinked in the dimly-lit room despite being unsure of what it was they sought. Finding nothing of interest, they settled instead on twinkling blue eyes and an impish smile. 

 

“What is this place?” Lexa asked, glancing at the strange room filled with chairs. There were dozens of them, and they all faced in the same direction.

 

“Something occurred to me last week,” Clarke began. “When you were ranting about that book you were reading.”

 

“Jurassic Park?” Lexa asked, smiling a little. “I was not ranting. It was merely a very poor plan, and if those scientists were so smart, they would have known that.”

 

Clarke laughed softly, her nose crinkling slightly and stars sparkling behind her eyes as she did. Lexa was nearly overwhelmed with the urge to plant kisses across her face; to worship every inch of her infectious smile and mischievous eyes the way she deserved. “I’m on you and Ian Malcolm’s side, Heda. But I thought you might enjoy this anyway.” She gestured at the room.

 

Lexa’s brow furrowed as she glanced around. “What is ‘this’?”

 

Clarke raised her arm, sticking her thumb in the air, and Lexa had only a moment to wonder before the wall they faced brightened significantly. Strange sounds began to play loudly, and Lexa watched in disbelief as moving images appeared on the wall. 

 

Clarke’s gaze was trained solely on Lexa as the words “Jurassic Park” appeared onscreen, and she was not disappointed. Lexa gasped when she read them, her eyes growing impossibly wide, her cheeks flushing and jaw practically on the ground. 

 

Klark..” Her voice was a breathless whisper of disbelief.

 

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you about this place. I didn’t want to get your hopes up and find out the film pod wasn’t operational, or the films had been destroyed or something.”

 

Lexa’s gaze moved back and forth between Clarke’s face and the screen before them, unsure of which view was more impressive. Her eyes watered as she opted to look at Clarke with deep affection in them. 

 

Clarke stuck her lower lip out in a playful pout. “Forgive me?”

 

Lexa’s face remained awed but serious, her voice soft as she reached out to cup Clarke’s cheek. “There is nothing to forgive you for. Klark, this is..” 

 

She worried her lower lip between her teeth for a moment, trying to come up with the words to adequately describe her feelings at the moment. If such a word existed, Lexa had yet to come across it. She shook her head a little, rendered speechless. Clarke smiled and raised the shared arm between their seats before pressing closer to her. Lexa curled up against her, resting her head on Clarke’s chest as they both turned their eyes to the screen. 

 

 

It seemed like almost no time at all had passed when a list of names began to scroll up the screen, signifying the end of the movie. Lexa, who had spent the entirety of the evening pressed against Clarke as much as possible, shifted a bit but didn’t pull away; not yet.

 

“Thank you, Klark.” Her voice was gentle; still in awe. The characters she’d enjoyed reading about so much had truly come to life in this movie in a way that was at once baffling and awe-inspiring.

 

Clarke smiled and kissed the top of her head softly. “Honestly, it was mostly Raven. She figured out how this place worked and got it up and running again. I just picked the movie.”

 

Lexa lifted her head and shook it briefly, turning her gaze back to her. “Not just for this. For everything. For being my everything. For being you.”

 

Clarke’s eyes welled up quickly, and she didn’t bother to wipe them away as Lexa leaned in towards her. Clarke’s lips instinctively parted as they met with Lexa’s at the halfway point. They kissed softly, Clarke’s hand reaching to cup Lexa’s cheek in reverence. 

 

 

 

THEN: 82 Days After Praimfaya

 

The tip of Clarke’s tongue just barely stuck out the corner of her mouth as her hand moved with a wild grace across the page. Lexa was asleep, stretched out on the couch beside her, her head resting on her thigh. The book she’d been reading was still clutched to her chest, rising and falling with each breath that passed through the serene smile of her lips. 

 

The cushions from the other couches in the common area were piled up around an armchair, and Aden’s head was emerging from a gap between them. Roan’s crown was perched precariously on his head, and kept sliding down his ear on one side.

 

“Ai laik Queen Nia, en ai gaf loda jusdreinen! Ai na frag Wanheda op! Ai gaf in Wanheda melon!”

 

[I am Queen Nia, and I need more bloodshed! 

I will kill Wanheda! I want Wanheda’s head!]

 

 

Madi jumped off the arm of the chair onto another cushion with a cry. She had one of Murphy’s shirts on her head, with only her face visible from the sleeve stretched around her head. She shook her head wildly and let out a roar.

 

Ai laik Haihefa Simba en ai kamp raun hir na shil Wanheda op!” 

[I am King Simba and I am here to protect Wanheda!]

 

 

“Weron Wanheda kamp raun? Ron ai ridiyo op!”

[Where is Wanheda? Speak true!]

 

 

Aden pushed a cushion away and stood, pointing a ruler at Madi. “Yu gonplei ste odon, Simba! Ai laik Azplana en ai na frag yu op, branwoda! 

[Your fight is over, Simba! I am the Ice Queen 

and I will kill you, fool! ]

 

 

Clarke looked up from her page with an eyebrow raised, her voice stern. “Aden, language.”

 

Aden’s cheeks reddened slightly. “Moba, Klark.”

 

Unfortunately, it was too late. Madi hopped onto another cushion and pushed her own ruler into Aden’s chest, parroting him. 

 

Branwoda! Branwoda Azplana, ai na sis op ain wimplei!” 

[Fool! Foolish Ice Queen, I will take my victory!]

 

 

Clarke clicked her tongue. “Madi, we don’t say branwoda. That is a grown-up word, and not a nice one.”

 

Madi leaned on the arm of the couch, poking her finger at Lexa’s sock-covered foot. “But Simba is a grown-up.”

 

“Well, Simba’s mommy doesn’t like to hear bad words. And if Simba and the Ice Queen can’t fight with each other nicely, they won’t get to watch a movie tonight with Echo.” Clarke raised her eyebrow again.

 

Madi slumped onto her knees with only her chin resting on the arm of the couch and pouted harder. 

 

“C’mon Madi, you have to finish killing me!” Aden poked her lightly, before she could start whining. She heaved a very large sigh, but shook her t-shirt mane back into place as she stood. Aden straightened the crown on his head, and fell back into the cushion fort, knocking it down. He sprawled on his back in the pile and let out a long groan. 

 

Ai laik Queen Nia en ai gonplei ste odon.. Yu ste winnes, Haihefa Simba!” 

[I am Queen Nia and my fight is over. 

You are victorious, King Simba!]

 

 

Clarke smirked lightly as she went back to sketching them, tilted crown, tee shirt mane and all. Lexa sighed softly and shifted just a bit in her sleep, nuzzling her face closer to Clarke’s stomach before settling again.

 

Madi hopped from one pillow to the next, following the scattered path of them around Aden as he lay prone and groaning dramatically on the floor. As she hopped, she sang a very off-key and very uniquely Madi tune that appeared to be blended with songs from the movie and one of Echo’s Azgeda children’s songs.

 

Haihefa, sofstepa, hakuna, matata! I can’t wait to be sofstepa! Simba means no worries! En yu gonplei nou ste odon! Haihefa matata, hakuna sofstepa!”

 

Lexa shifted on her lap, stretching as she opened her eyes just in time for Madi’s grand finale.

 

Sweeping her mane over her shoulder, Madi hopped onto the cushion-less couch and raised both arms in the air, belting the end of her song dramatically.

 

“Azgedakru fous en Simba ste shanen! 

Hakuna haihefa matata! 

Oso step klin gon yu trap nat, 

en oso na shil yu op! 

Nou worrieeeeeees!” 

 

[Ice Nation Army and Simba are happy! 

Hakuna king matata! 

We march on your camp tonight! 

We will protect you!]

 

 

Madi threw her arms out to the sides and bowed. Lexa and Clarke began an energetic round of applause that Roan joined in on from the doorway where he’d apparently been lingering. Madi bowed a few more times, thriving on the attention. 

 

Aden dug his way out of the cushion pile, approaching Roan as he dropped into one of the chairs and offering him the thinly formed bone crown. “Mochof, Roan.”

 

Roan tilted his head a little with a smile. “Pro, Aden. Why don’t you hang onto that for awhile, though? It looks better on you, anyway.”

 

Aden’s eyes grew large as saucers, his jaw slightly agape in disbelief. “R—Really?”

 

Roan nodded, and Aden practically weaved with excitement, his cheeks flushing as Roan gently placed it back on Aden’s head, bowing his own to him. “Ain haihefa.”

 

Madi, still wearing Murphy’s shirt, climbed onto the couch and into Lexa’s lap. “Aden, can I wear it sometimes? Simba is a king, too.”

 

Aden grinned and took the crown, putting it carefully on Madi’s head. It immediately slid down around her face, so only her eyes were visible above it. Aden tried to help her adjust it, but it was far too large for her head, and Clarke, Lexa, and Roan were all laughing; big belly laughs as Madi’s face twisted into a dramatic pout. 

 

“Stop laughing,” she whined, curling against Lexa, who wrapped her arms snugly around her.

 

“We are not laughing at you, strikmelon,” Lexa said softly, rocking her gently. Madi thought that probably wasn’t true, but it made her feel better anyway. 

 

Lexa was really good at that. 

 

Chapter Text

I miss the sound of your voice and I miss the rush of your skin

And I miss the still of the silence as you breathe out and I breathe in

I miss the sound of your voice, loudest thing in my head

And I ache to remember

All the violent, sweet, perfect words that you said

If I could walk on water, if I could tell you what's next

I'd make you believe, I’d make you forget

I miss the pull of your heart, I taste the sparks on your tongue

I see angels and devils and God, when you come 

On, hold on, hold on, hold on, hold on

So come on, get higher, loosen my lips

Faith and desire and the swing of your hips

Just pull me down hard and drown me in love

'Cause everything works, love

Everything works in your arms

- Matt Nathanson, “Come On, Get Higher”

 

 

 

 

 

THEN: 17 Days After Praimfaya

 

Clarke emerged from the bathroom freshly showered, wearing a tattered robe and toweling her hair dry as she stepped into the living quarters proper. Something seemed slightly.. off, to her, and it took her a moment to realize what it was. Lexa looked up from their bed where she, predictably, had had her nose tucked into a book. She closed the volume and set it on the nightstand, smiling at Clarke from behind her glasses.

 

“Good shower?”

 

“Mhm.” Clarke nodded a little distractedly, glancing around the room once more before it hit her.

 

Oh.

 

Her brow furrowed a bit. “Where are the kids?”

 

Lexa’s smile slowly grew, a mischievous glint in her eyes. “They are next door. In their own beds.” She paused as Clarke’s eyes widened slightly. “Well, Madi has most likely moved into Aden’s bed by now.”

 

“But they’re not here,” Clarke said slowly, the corners of her mouth beginning to curve upwards.

 

Lexa shook her head, maintaining a nonchalant tone. “They are not here,” she agreed.

 

“It’s just us?” Clarke took a step closer to the bed, her stance already unconsciously shifting to something far more predatory, more aggressive and anticipatory. Lexa pushed the blankets off her chest and to the side. She wore a thin white t-shirt but no pants, and Clarke felt her breath hitch in her throat. 

 

As though she could read Clarke’s thoughts—and she probably could by now—Lexa smiled and casually rested a hand on her own lower abdomen. She traced a fingertip idly over the edge of the simple black underwear she had on, and her gaze remained locked onto Clarke’s. 

 

“It is just us,” Lexa said coyly, biting her lower lip. Clarke watched, her pupils starting to dilate, as Lexa slid the tip of her middle finger just under her waistband, running it slowly from one hip to the other.

 

Clarke felt herself growing wet so quickly it was practically pathetic. They’d managed to sneak in an hour together here or there since they’d come to the Ring, but rarely. It had been nearly a week before Madi and Aden had begun sleeping in the bunk-bed rather than Clarke and Lexa’s bed. Clarke had been convinced it would be months if not years before they’d sleep in their own room. 

 

Lexa smirked lightly when Clarke neither responded nor moved after a minute or so. “Are you coming?” She patted the bed beside her.

 

That did it. Clarke snapped back into the moment, attempting to get a hold of herself as she moved closer to the bed. “Not yet, but I’m embarrassingly close,” she admitted.

 

Lexa snickered lightly, but the look on her face was pure lust as Clarke climbed onto the bed, crawling towards her with hunger in her eyes. Lexa instinctively put her arms out, wrapping them around her as Clarke slid up her body until their lips met.

 

Clarke felt positively feral as she kissed Lexa hungrily, sliding her tongue past parted lips and coaxing Lexa’s into an increasingly feverish dance. A soft moan nearly sounding like a growl came from somewhere deep inside Lexa’s throat, spurring them both on. Lexa’s hands slid to Clarke’s ass, then around her hips to fumble with the tie of the robe. Clarke smiled into the kiss when she felt Lexa struggling with it. She broke the kiss, but just barely. Her lips lingered against hers as if they were magnetized as she smirked lightly.

 

“Having trouble, Heda?”

 

Lexa’s only response was a frustrated whine at both the damnable belt and the loss of Clarke’s mouth pressed to hers, and Clarke laughed softly. She sat back on Lexa’s legs, deftly pulling the knot out of the belt and shrugging the robe off her shoulders.

 

Lexa’s eyes glazed over, her pupils dilating rapidly as she took in the sight of Clarke, her mouth going dry as Clarke pitched the robe onto the bed behind her.

 

“You, too,” Clarke whispered, sliding her hands under the hem of Lexa’s shirt. 

 

Lexa obediently raised her arms, allowing Clarke to pull her shirt off. It joined the robe on the floor and Clarke quickly pressed her lips to Lexa’s once more, kissing her hungrily as she pushed her back onto the pillows. Clarke stretched her body over hers, wrapping her hands around Lexa’s biceps. She guided Lexa’s arms up to the pillow. Her hands tightened around Lexa’s wrists, effectively pinning them over her head, and Lexa moaned softly.

 

Clarke shifted to position her hip against Lexa’s center, straddling her thigh at the same time. She rolled her hips, starting a slow grind that was already raising goosebumps across Lexa’s skin. Lexa squirmed beneath her, lifting her hips to seek the pressure she so craved, but Clarke was expecting it and quickly pulled her hips back and just slightly out of reach.

 

Lexa let out a soft whine of frustration again, mumbling against her lips. “Beja, Klark.. Ai beja yu daun.. Toch op ai..

 

Clarke’s eyes twinkled with mischief as she shifted Lexa’s wrists into one hand before lowering her head to continue the kiss. Her free hand slid down her arm slowly, drawing blunt nails in a light trail over her shoulder and ribs. Lexa shivered beneath her touch as Clarke’s nails slowly circled her nipple, already stiffened to the point of near discomfort, and Lexa broke the kiss to gasp her name.

 

When Clarke’s head descended and her warm tongue traced the same path over her breasts her nails had taken, Lexa became mildly concerned she might actually lose consciousness. She arched her back, lifted her hips, and whimpered Clarke’s name, but Clarke anticipated her every move and continued to deny her.

 

Klark,” Lexa begged breathlessly. “Ai gaf yu..”

 

“I’m right here.” Clarke flicked her tongue against her nipple with a smile, drawing a soft cry from her. Lexa let out a sound that was somewhere between a moan and an indignant huff as Clarke shifted just slightly once more, straightening her back. Clarke guided Lexa’s arms down her sides as she repositioned herself, and Lexa quickly became aware that Clarke was as wet as Lexa herself was, if not more so. Her throat constricted momentarily when she felt Clarke grinding her soaked heat against Lexa’s thigh.

 

Clarke rolled her hips slowly, streaking Lexa’s thigh with her arousal. Her breathing grew rapidly more labored as she ground against Lexa’s thigh, her grip on Lexa’s still-restrained wrists tightening as she got closer to release.

 

Lexa watched with a thirsty gaze as Clarke held her down, using her body to get herself off and denying Lexa in a way that was turning her on to a degree well beyond what she’d anticipated. Supporting herself on Lexa’s captured wrists, Clarke’s hips rocked unapologetically and she tilted herself just slightly to one side, a breathy moan slipping off her tongue as her clit throbbed with the intensified rubbing and new angle.

 

Lexa watched through eyes that barely contained any trace of green, her pupils blown by the overwhelmingly hot scene before her. She was dizzy with lust, her head filled with nothing but Clarke. The feel of her arousal spreading across Lexa’s bare thigh, the groans that were increasing in both frequency and volume as she shamelessly rode Lexa, the shudders hitting her shoulders first as she approached her crisis.

 

Lexa’s own arousal was flowing thickly into the black underpants she was unfortunately still wearing and had most likely ruined. Clarke seemed barely aware that she was there, so focused was she. Her lack of acknowledgement turned Lexa on even more, and she knew Clarke knew it, too. She slid easily against Lexa’s soaked thigh, her own arousal creating a near slick that made Lexa wish she could reach her tongue to her thigh, even if only for a second.

 

Clarke’s body rolled and trembled as she used Lexa, and Lexa’s hands itched to be freed to slide over every inch of the near-alabaster skin before her. But that’s not what Clarke wanted right now. Right now, she wanted Lexa to be her toy, a captive audience drawn to the edge of arousal and denied permission to go over it—and Lexa was all too happy to be exactly what Clarke wanted her to be just then.

 

When Clarke came, it was always the most frustratingly beautiful sight. Her head thrown back, jaw clenched as her body stiffened and trembled, a fresh wave of arousal shining between her thighs. She breathlessly chanted Lexa’s name, and it sent a shiver through Lexa’s spine. Every bone in her body felt like it was reaching for Clarke, begging for permission to press her fingers into her core, to slide her tongue over and between parted folds. She wanted Clarke to ride her face instead, and for the rest of the night. For the rest of their lives, preferably. She wanted to pull orgasm after orgasm from between Clarke’s muscular but soft thighs. She wanted to drink from her soaking center like someone lost in the desert for days who’d just discovered an oasis. 

 

Lexa wanted to come herself, too, but less than she wanted to make Clarke come over and over again until they both lay limp and exhausted, and then she wanted to make her come more anyway. Clarke, still shuddering lightly and her skin now gleaming with a sheen of sweat, remained resting on Lexa’s thighs as she came down from her crisis. She hadn’t meant to, but in the throes of her orgasm she’d clamped her hands so tightly around Lexa’s wrists that they were already beginning to bruise.

 

The sight of it set a new fire aflame deep in Clarke’s gut as she raised her eyes to meet Lexa’s. Lexa gazed back at her like a wolf debating whether it was worth the risk of an armed farmer to feast on his chicken coup, and Clarke gave her an innocent smile.

 

“See something you want, Heda?” she teased.

 

Lexa nodded, clearly having trouble deciding where she wanted to be looking at that moment. “Several things.”

 

Clarke slowly leaned over, tightening her grip on Lexa’s delicate wrists as she brushed her lips across the shell of her ear before whispering in it.

 

“Too bad. You get what I want to give you.” Lexa shut her eyes tightly, moaning deeply from the back of her throat as her hips twitched. “Do you like that idea, Heda?” Lexa nodded quickly. “I can’t hear your brain rattle, answer me.”

 

“Yes, Klark. I like it,” Lexa breathed out, unconsciously rolling her hips as her arousal grew even further. 

 

“Good.” Clarke closed her teeth around her earlobe, giving it a little tug. “Tell me what you want, Lexa. Tell me, so I can decide if you’ve earned it or not.”

 

Lexa shuddered again at her authoritative tone, tilting her head to give Clarke’s mouth and tongue more room to play. 

 

“I want you, Klark, beja. I want to touch you, I want to taste you, I want—” Lexa cut herself off with a soft gasp when Clarke scraped her teeth over her throat and bit the crook of her neck playfully.

 

“So you don’t want me to touch you?” Clarke mumbled before sealing her lips around a spot just beneath Lexa’s ear, mercilessly sucking at her flesh until it too began to bruise.

 

“Y—yes, I want you to—” Lexa’s hips jerked violently as Clarke marked her, the sensation and thought of her claim setting her clit throbbing even harder. “Jok! Klark, please..”

 

Clarke leaned back on her thighs, pretending to consider it for a brief moment that nonetheless seemed to Lexa to last forever. Finally, Clarke shook her head, a dark mischief in both her eyes and tone.

 

“No. I don’t think you’ve earned me touching you yet, Leksa.”

 

Lexa whimpered. She wanted Clarke’s hands all over her. She wanted her own hands all over Clarke—spreading across her flesh, dipping inside her. Nails scratching over her spine, fingers thrust deep inside her, drawing out the wetness Lexa would die to have on her tongue in that moment.

 

“Make me come again, and I’ll think about touching you.” Lexa was all too happy about her assignment; more so when Clarke continued, lazily curling the end of Lexa’s hair. “How do you want to make me come, Lexa? I want you to choose how to fuck me.”

 

Lexa shuddered hard, the throbbing between her legs immediately growing more desperate. “My mouth, beja, I want to taste you.”

 

Clarke smiled and leaned down, brushing her lips lightly against Lexa’s with a devious smile and soft voice. “Okay.” 

 

Lexa was disappointed when she quickly pulled away without making good on the tease of a kiss; but the disappointment faded rapidly when Clarke reached for the robe at the foot of the bed and pulled the belt of it free. 

 

Lexa watched, feeling like her brain was on fire as she raised her arms above her head once more.

 

“Good girl,” Clarke cupped her cheek affectionately for a moment before wrapping the worn cloth belt around one of Lexa’s wrists. Lexa’s hips canted in response to the praise, and she briefly wondered which was throbbing harder—her clit or her heart, which already felt like it was nearly beating out of her chest. Lexa watched, entranced, as Clarke bound her already-bruising wrists to the headboard, her tone firm but affectionate. 

 

“Have to make sure my good girl isn’t tempted to cheat with your hands,” Clarke murmured as she sat back against Lexa’s hips, taking in the sight of her. She couldn’t help it; she found herself running her hands over Lexa’s sides, watching the wispy hairs on her arms stand on end from the featherlight touch. 

 

Clarke slid her hands over her breasts, rolling Lexa’s already painfully hard nipples slowly between her fingers as she squirmed beneath her. Lexa arched into her touch as much as possible with Clarke’s weight settled on her hips and her arms bound over her head. Lexa whimpered when Clarke’s hands began to knead the small handfuls of her breasts, pinching her nipples and tugging them a bit as she did. 

 

Lexa felt like her head might explode from the sensations, and she was finding herself confused about which she wanted more—her tongue on Clarke or Clark’e tongue on her. Seeming to sense this, Clarke shifted down a little, cupping her hand over Lexa’s center and rubbing gently through the drenched panties.

 

Lexa’s back snapped into an arc as she cried Clarke’s name, barely able to restrain herself from coming. Clarke’s lips curled into a wolflike smile as she slid down a bit further, straddling her shins instead. Clarke leaned forward, tracing her tongue up one inner thigh and down the other. When her tongue pressed the crotch material between Lexa’s folds, Lexa shuddered and spread her legs as far as she could.

 

“You taste so good, Heda. I swear, I could go down on you forever. I wanna live with my tongue in your pussy, die still drinking from you..” Lexa pulled against her bonds. The combination of the filth coming from Clarke’s mouth and Clarke’s mouth opening wide to cover her soaked core completely was driving her out of her mind.

 

Clarke sucked at her lips and clit through the material, unabashedly trying to swallow every drop of Lexa’s arousal she could find. When she circled her tongue around her swollen clit, Lexa’s twitches and jerks began to gain a clear purpose. Clarke, well aware of how close she was, reluctantly lifted her head, licking her lips slowly.

 

Lexa let out a cry of protest. She’d been so close, practically there. “No, pleas—” She opened her eyes quickly, trying to catch herself, but of course it was too late.

 

Clarke grinned at her, her lips shining with Lexa’s arousal. “No, huh? Do you think I’m wrong, and you’ve earned a come?”

 

Lexa shook her head quickly, her face awash in desperation. “No.. No, I haven’t earned it.”

 

“But you argued anyway, right?” 

 

Lexa’s face flushed, her eyes lowering slightly. A mistake, because all she could think about now was the incredible pair of breasts before her that she also really, really wanted in her mouth or on her hands. 

 

Clarke let out a soft hum when she realized Lexa was starting to sink into her head, the temptation of subspace probably too much for her, and she smacked the inside of her thigh lightly to center her. 

 

Lexa jumped a little bit, and a moan escaped her lips. 

 

“Maybe I was wrong, and you’re not such a good girl,” Clarke wondered aloud, brushing a few stray hairs off Lexa’s forehead before tracing her thumb lightly over her eyebrows. 

 

Lexa looked nearly crushed. “I’m sorry, Klark. I can be good.”

 

“Can you?” Lexa nodded emphatically, overtaken with the need to please Clarke in every sense of the word. “Then show me. Show me what a good girl you can be, and maybe I’ll let you come.”

 

Clarke lightly smacked the inside of her other thigh as well, relishing the breathy moan that escaped Lexa’s lips. Clarke slowly slid her way back up Lexa’s prone body, leaving a shining trail of her arousal up the center of her abdomen, accented by reddened marks where her hands smacked against tender flesh just hard enough to confuse pain and pleasure in Lexa’s already-straining mind.

 

Lexa licked her lips in anticipation of having Clarke’s soft heat pressed against her mouth, her body jolting with the electric shock of the light slaps Clarke was marking the progress of her movement with. Lexa would be covered in hand-shaped red spots for the rest of the day, at least, and the thought sent another shudder through her. She was dangerously close to the edge once more, and announced as much with a soft cry when Clarke’s palm connected with her oversensitive nipple. 

 

“Please, Klark, I’m—I’m about to..” 

 

Clarke lifted an eyebrow, her center nearly upon Lexa’s chin. “Don’t you dare come before I let you. If you do, I’ll spend the rest of the night spanking and edging you, and I won’t let you come again until sunrise.”

 

Lexa’s eyes flew open in shock; she definitely thought that would be something dangerously close to murder, considering that she felt like she was going to die from not coming already. Clarke merely cupped her cheek, her tone becoming gentle once more. “You won’t though, will you? You won’t come until I let you, cause you wanna be my good girl.”

 

Lexa gazed back with nothing short of adoration, and briefly wished she was untied so she could trap her arms around Clarke’s neck and pull her impossibly close. It was probably good that she was bound, though, because she thought if she had Clarke in her arms at that moment, she might never be able to physically let go of her again.

 

“I’ll be good, Klark. Beja, I’ll be your good girl, ai swega em klin.” Lexa begged earnestly, her desire readily apparent in her eyes and the slight purse of her kiss-swollen lips.

 

Clarke smiled and ran her palms lightly down Lexa’s extended arms. “Show me, hodnes.”

 

Clarke moved carefully, setting her hands on the headboard for balance as she slid forward on her knees, shifting until she was straddling Lexa’s face as comfortably as was possible. Lexa moaned, her tongue quickly stretching up towards her, and moaned even louder when it reached its goal. 

 

Clarke gripped the headboard tighter when she felt Lexa’s tongue pressing between her dripping folds, both of them moaning in unison. Lexa couldn’t help straining against her bonds; the desire to grab Clarke’s hips and pull her closer was overwhelming. Her hands ached to touch somewhere else, to meet Clarke’s soft, warm skin with her own—but she didn’t want her hands untied either, and the dichotomy of her desires started curling up in her chest against something resembling anxiety.

 

 Clarke—as usual—somehow seemed to anticipate Lexa’s sudden need before Lexa was fully aware of it herself. Before Lexa could figure out what the answer to her seemingly conflicted cravings was, Clarke was sliding her hands off the headboard and instead into Lexa’s bound ones. Their fingers entwined and Clarke felt Lexa relaxing under her once more. She repositioned herself so her weight entirely rested on her knees, her thigh muscles already complaining at the stretch. She’d pay later for the extra strain on her legs, but it was worth it. Lexa’s emotional comfort mattered a lot more to Clarke than a couple of strained quads, and Lexa wanted to hold her.

 

Truthfully, it wasn’t entirely selflessly motivated. Clarke really wanted to hold Lexa, too.

 

Clarke held Lexa’s hands tightly as she lowered her hips further. She let out a guttural moan when she felt Lexa’s practiced tongue tracing her entrance teasingly before darting inside her all too briefly. Clarke grunted in disappointment when Lexa’s tongue retracted, but then her tongue quickly began circling a path around her throbbing clit, and Clarke could no longer remember what she’d been disappointed about.

 

Lexa was in her glory as she tilted her chin up, her mouth opening wide enough to cover Clarke’s dripping slit as her tongue expertly traced and played with her swollen lips.

 

“Lexa.. Fuck,” she gasped. Clarke had thought she’d be able to hold out a little longer after getting off once, but that possibility was crumbling to ash with impressive speed. Her thighs screamed as she tried to hold herself up without putting more strain on Lexa’s arms, but her orgasm was barreling towards her at light-speed and all she could do was hope not to smother Lexa. Or drown her, Clarke thought punchily as she felt her body letting down a fresh wave of arousal. Lexa wrapped her lips around Clarke’s clit and sucked the pulsing bud hard.

 

Clarke arched her back and gasped Lexa’s name as she came hard. Her fingers curling into Lexa’s tighter, her mind going blank momentarily as she trembled, her muscles taut well beyond comfort, and stars exploding in the darkened spaces behind her eyes. It lasted longer than usual, and Clarke, shuddering and nearly crying at the intensity of it all, slumped forward and rested her forehead against the headboard.

 

Lexa took advantage of Clarke’s exhausted pause to continue licking the spots she could reach, desperate in equal parts to capture every drop, to worship at the altar of the woman she loved, and to prove she was a good girl—a girl who deserved to come, too. 

 

After a moment, Clarke moaned softly and began to shift back down Lexa’s body slowly. Lexa grumbled her disappointment at the loss of Clarke’s warm center from her tongue, and Clarke laughed softly.

 

“So cranky..”

 

Lexa pouted just a bit, and Clarke was sure her knees would’ve gone weak if she’d been able to feel her knees. She smiled as she settled against Lexa’s side and ducked her head, capturing her lower lip between her own and tasting herself on Lexa’s tongue as she deepened the kiss. Lexa moaned softly, her hips lifting in search of contact.

 

Slowly, Clarke broke the kiss, gazing into Lexa’s eyes and losing herself momentarily in the deep well of love and affection that were directed back at her.

 

Ai hod you in. So much, that sometimes it hurts,” Clarke whispered. 

 

The softness behind Lexa’s gaze somehow grew even softer, and her voice trembled with emotion when she responded softly. “Ai hod yu in sentaim, Klark.”

 

Clarke cupped her cheek and softly kissed her once more, but only briefly. Lexa let out a soft whine of protest at the briefness, and Clarke laughed softly. “Don’t you want your reward? You were such a good girl, you made me come so hard.” Clarke ran her nails lightly over her abdomen, circling her navel with featherlight touches. “Don’t you want to come, too, Lexa?” She ducked her head, kissing across Lexa’s breasts softly as she moaned an affirmative response.

 

“Tell me,” Clarke demanded softly, dipping her tongue into her navel and tracing the tip around the edge of it.

 

Lexa squirmed under her, her voice growing huskier and catching in her throat. “I want to come, Klark.. Beja, teik ai..”

 

Clark slid her fingers under the leg bands of Lexa’s panties on either side, slowly sliding them off her hips. “You’re soaking wet, sofon. You really like being my good girl.”

 

Lexa’s eyelashes fluttered as she shifted just a little, repositioning her arms. Clarke pulled the underwear free of her legs and showed them to her. Lexa’s cheeks turned bright red when she realized how drenched they actually were.

 

“Don’t be embarrassed,” Clarke said knowingly. “I love how wet you get for me, how much you want me..” 

 

While she was speaking, Clarke’s fingers had begun dancing lightly over Lexa’s inner thigh and tracing a path up and around her hipbone, across her lower stomach, around her other hip, and back down to the inside of her opposite thigh. 

 

Lexa trembled at both her touch and the anticipation of even more of her touch. She wasn’t disappointed; Clarke ran her nails slowly over the creases of her thighs, her voice lowering a bit more. 

 

“How does my good girl want to come? Fingers or tongue?” Clarke stroked her thigh idly.

 

“Yes,” Lexa said desperately, and Clarke couldn’t help but laugh at the pouty desperation in her voice.

 

Clarke cupped Lexa’s drenched heat lightly at first, aware that she was likely already overstimulated and needed to be eased into a firmer touch. Lexa’s back arched off the bed with a gasp when she felt Clarke’s first touch. It was too much; overwhelming, and not in the good way. Lexa shuddered slightly at the almost painful sensation, and quickly sought Clarke’s gaze with her own.

 

“I know,” Clarke whispered. “I’ve got you.”

 

Clarke rubbed Lexa gently—but not too gently—keeping her pressure steady and strokes predictable as she eased her back from the edge just enough to relieve some of her more unpleasant discomfort. Lexa began to relax after a few minutes of Clarke’s soothing touch, and she made a soft noise of complaint when Clarke’s hand left her again.

 

“Patience, Heda.”

 

Lexa shuddered lightly as Clarke ducked her head, running her tongue over the gentle curves of her hip and kissing her way slowly down her inner thigh and back up. She was careful to avoid her clit as she kissed a soft curve over her heated mound before starting the process over on her other side.

 

Lexa writhed beneath her, the belt digging into her wrists as she strained against the bonds to no avail. Clarke’s hands gripped her hips in mid-thrust, and Lexa spread her legs apart as far as she could, moaning her name softly. 

 

Clarke gazed at her for a moment, marveling that this breathtakingly beautiful woman, this astonishing-in-both-mind-and-heart goddess of a creature, could be real; let alone could want Clarke as badly as she did. Clarke ran her fingertips lightly back and forth over Lexa’s slit before pressing gently into it. Lexa arched hard against the bed as Clarke easily slid two fingers deep inside her with no resistance. 

 

Clarke’s voice was husky and incredulous as she guided a third finger carefully into Lexa’s dripping core. “You’re so wet, Lexa. God, you’re so hot, I can’t eve—” Clarke interrupted herself to briefly run her tongue over her clit.

 

Lexa cried out, pulling against the headboard and thrusting her hips, trying to pull Clarke’s hand deeper within her grasping walls and seeking more of her tongue. Clarke pressed as deeply into Lexa as she could, relishing the stretch of her fluttering muscles as they wrapped around her fingers.

 

Lexa gasped her name breathlessly, her hands clenching into fists as they found a shared rhythm. Clarke fucked into her slowly, turning her hand a bit with each controlled stroke, finding new spots inside Lexa to drive her crazy. Her tongue sought out the swollen, sensitive head of her clit and toyed with it, knowing it wouldn’t take much at this point.

 

Twisting and writhing against her bound arms, Lexa could hardly breathe as Clarke lightly scratched blunt nails along the inside of Lexa’s front wall, and Lexa felt the inside of her head snap like a rubber band as she came harder than she ever had in her life. She nearly shouted Clarke’s name as her body arched over the bed, shaking violently all the while. 

 

Clarke’s tongue worked relentlessly to capture every drop of Lexa she could, seeking every dip and swell of her. Lexa moaned and shuddered as her body fell limp against the bed again. Her chest heaved as she gulped in air desperately, her face and chest flushed. Clarke ran her tongue softly over the length of her as she gently worked her fingers free. Lexa grunted softly at the loss, her eyes still half-closed.

 

Clarke smiled and coyly sucked her fingers clean, starting to pull the knot of the belt loose. Lexa’s arms fell limply to the bed, and Clarke curled up against her side, rubbing her stomach gently.

 

“You okay?” She whispered, kissing the shell of her ear. Lexa just smiled tiredly, sliding her hand over Clarke’s arm and guiding it around her waist as she cuddled closer to Clarke. “I’ll take that as a yes,” Clarke teased softly, kissing her head.

 

“Mm,” was all Lexa could manage in her nearly-asleep state. “Shhh..” 

 

Clarke laughed softly, holding her close and burying her face against the back of her neck. She wrapped one leg protectively over Lexa’s and relaxed into their embrace. After a few minutes, she couldn’t help herself. She brushed her lips lightly over the tattoo on the back of her neck, planting kisses in a perfect rendition of the infinity symbol.

 

“You’re amazing,” she said softly. “I can’t even believe you’re real sometimes, or how lucky I am.”

 

Lexa smiled tiredly again and slowly rolled onto her side to look at her. Her face was still flushed, but serene in her afterglow. She looked ethereal and peaceful, soft and sleepy. “I am the lucky one, Klark.”

 

“I mean it.” Clarke was smiling, her tone soft and solemn but filled with awe. “I don’t know what I did to deserve you, Lexa.” Clarke’s voice grew even softer. “Whatever it was, it was the best thing I’ve ever done in my life, and I wish I knew what it was so I could do it over and over again. You’re so much more than I deserve.”

 

Lexa’s face seemed almost sad when she replied, “That is not true. You deserve the world, Klark.” Clarke deserved the earth, the stars, the sky, the universe. If Lexa could, she would throw a rope around the sun and moon at the same time, pulling them into her arms so she might give them to Clarke, solely because she deserved no less than everything in existence.

 

“Even if that was true—and it isn’t—I don’t want the world.” Clarke’s voice was soft and serious, her eyes bright and intense as she rested her hand over Lexa’s chest, right where her heart still beat frenetically. “I want you.”

 

“You have me, Klark.” Lexa gave her a tired but playful smile, curling tighter against her. 

 

“You will always have me.”

 

 

THEN: ?? Days Without Lexa

 

 

Clarke didn’t know how long it had been. Days had quickly bled into nights that turned into days again. People came and went, sometimes bringing trays of food or a change of clothes with them. Sometimes bringing nothing but the sickening stench of their own grief with them.

 

Clarke tried to be appreciative, but mostly she just wished they would all go away. She wasn’t in the mood to hear Luna crying, or watch Madi shaking Lexa’s arm and begging her to wake up while Aden tried to explain things to her. She didn’t care what Murphy had whispered as he held Lexa’s lifeless hand. She didn’t want Raven and Echo dispensing hopeful statistics and logic, Roan’s quiet presence made her want to punch him, and Octavia wore her layers of grief like a cloak and it turned Clarke’s stomach.

 

She knew these thoughts made her a terrible person. She was surrounded by people who loved her and wanted to make things better, and all she wanted to do was scream and throw things at them. She didn’t deserve them, just like she never deserved Lexa.

 

Maybe, she thought as another gulp of moonshine streaked its burn down her throat until it settled, a raging fire in the pit of her stomach. Maybe that was why this was happening. She’d always known she didn’t deserve Lexa; didn’t deserve the happiness borne of the life they shared. Didn’t deserve the friends they had, the family they’d built together. Maybe the universe agreed.

 

Either way, this was her fault. Clarke could be sure of that much, at least. 

 

She finished off the jar and twisted the cap off another as she shifted on the armchair Roan had brought in for her days ago. Or maybe it was weeks ago. Maybe it was this morning. 

 

Did it even matter?

 

Of course it didn’t. Nothing mattered, Clarke screamed at herself internally. That’s the whole point. Lexa isn’t here. She’s gone, and so nothing matters. You can die, you can live. You can eat, or breathe, or bathe, or not. None of it makes any difference. This timeline is set, and there’s no secret passage escape route. Nothing that can undo the pain.

 

Clarke couldn’t imagine how her mother had survived losing her father. It made her feel sick to her stomach the first time she thought it, but the only conclusion she could come up with was that they must have loved each other less. Because Clarke couldn’t even begin to care about their people, or the human race, or anything else. 

 

With Lexa gone, it all seemed like a waste of time and energy. So what if the human race didn’t survive? It was all part of the circle of life, right? 

 

Clarke felt the vaguest pang of guilt, thinking of Madi in her homemade mane, and it clenched up like a rock inside her stomach. Madi and Aden needed Lexa, too, but none of them would have her. They would have to learn to live with it, same as herself. 

 

Clarke unscrewed the top of the jar and took a long drink, picturing the fiery fluid coating the walls of her stomach and burning away the rocklike-feelings that remained in there. She burned down the emotions she could, and whatever might have remained after the moonshine and sedation pills she’d dug up, she would merely ignore until they went away. And, well, if they didn’t go away, she would just have to learn how to live with them. How to live without Lexa.

 

They would all have to learn how.

Chapter Text

If I’m a loser, baby, by the end of this

I’m a loser, baby, fair and square

How the world seems to look so simple

When you got the means to look from way up high

How the world seems to get so messy

When you got the time to ask “how” and “why”

I’ve cleaned every bit of dirt from my nails

But the soil seeped into my blood

It doesn’t matter how far I go

I can’t seem to shake where I come from

- Emily Kinney, “Same Mistakes”

 

 

 

 

 

THEN: 0 Days After Praimfaya

 

Clarke stood up from the bed and crouched down to look into Octavia’s eyes, which reluctantly met hers after a brief hesitation. “We’ll get you through this, Octavia. I know we aren’t Lincoln or Bellamy, but we care about you. We love you, too.”

 

Ai tombom ste shada,” Octavia whispered, her voice cracking.  Clarke leaned over and kissed her forehead softly. Octavia’s eyes fluttered closed briefly as a fresh wave of tears threatened to spill from them. Clarke grasped Echo’s hand briefly before turning and heading out, closing the door quietly behind herself.

 

Echo quietly went back to stroking Octavia’s head in her lap, trying to bring some measure of comfort to her despite knowing there was no comfort to be had. Octavia’s freshly-bandaged fists were clenched to her chest and her shoulders trembled as she cried softly.

 

They sat like that for another hour or two, until Octavia had exhausted what little energy she’d had left after the day’s events. Echo just held her, resting back against the headboard and sinking into her own head as well.

 

After awhile, Octavia shifted a little, turning onto her back and looking up at Echo. 

 

“Can I ask you something?”

 

Echo opened her eyes, curling her fingers through Octavia’s hair. “Anything, niron.”

 

“You.. killed a lot of people, right? I mean, before?”

 

Echo’s body unconsciously tensed, her voice slightly strained when she responded after a moment. “Yes. I did.”

 

“Do you still see all of them? When you go to sleep?” 

 

The tension quickly melted from Echo’s body at the soft, pleading tone to her voice. She looked down, meeting her gaze, and replied honestly, “Yes.” She paused, and Octavia stayed quiet, letting her work it out in her head. “Sometimes I’m not even asleep, and I still see them. Sometimes they’re chasing me. Sometimes I just watch them die. Most of the time, I..” Echo paused, swallowing back the lump in her throat.

 

“You’re killing them, over and over again,” Octavia finished in a whisper. Echo nodded, finally glancing away. Octavia’s voice was even softer when she spoke again.

 

“Me, too.”

 

“We have to remember them, though,” Echo continued after a few minutes had passed. “Because if we forget what we have learned, how will we ever change or grow?” Octavia looked at her expectantly, and Echo sighed softly. “I’ve killed a lot of people. It’s.. terrible to live with. I did terrible things. But they’ve.. shaped me. As a person. When Ontari and I came for the natblidas, I don’t think I’ve ever been more pleased to have my ass kicked. It made an awful pit in my stomach, thinking of killing these children who hadn’t done anything wrong, who were a threat only to Her power,” Echo nearly spat whenever she spoke of the Ice Queen, and Octavia couldn’t really blame her. “But I am glad I was so good at killing that she chose me for the mission.”

 

Octavia’s brow furrowed. “Glad? Why?”

 

Echo tucked her hair behind her ear gently. “Because had I not been there, had I not hesitated when I sensed you behind me.. I would not be here now, in this.. skaistegeda.. with people who feel like family. I wouldn’t be here, trying to comfort ain breida and wishing for all the world that I could make her pain disappear.”

 

Octavia’s eyes welled up quickly, and she pushed herself up to sit facing her. She reached out, wrapping her arms around the back of Echo’s neck and leaning in to rest her forehead against hers. “Yu sou laik ain breida sentaim, Ekou. Even if you are completely full of shit.” Octavia smiled a little bit. “‘I sensed you behind me’, as if. I totally kicked your ass.”

 

Echo laughed lightly, giving her a hard nudge. “I’m such a good friend, I’ve even let you believe that this whole time.”

 

Octavia smiled a little wider, then her face grew solemn, and Echo rubbed her arm lightly. “Chit's skechi?” 

 

Octavia sighed a little. “This.. this might seem weird, but.. would you stay?”

 

Echo tilted her head unsurely. “Where would I go?”

 

“Your own room. Your own bed,” Octavia shrugged, picking at the blanket beneath them. “I don’t—It’s not, romantic or anything. I just..” Her voice began to crack a little. “I’m just really scared to be alone right now. Lincoln and Bellamy, a—and being back in this.. joken place, and ju—” Octavia cut herself off, shutting her eyes tightly as they welled up once more. She hated herself in that moment; hated herself for showing so much weakness, even if it was only Echo. Hated herself for craving human connection after a life spent running away from it.

 

Echo’s voice was soft when she responded, “You are not the only one, Okteivia.”

 

She lifted her gaze once more, studying Echo’s face briefly. “I know. Bellamy told me.” 

 

Echo’s cheeks reddened quickly, and Octavia continued quickly. “I won’t tell anyone. A—and I think it’s great, my brother and my best friend. I just.. I don’t know why you guys want to keep it low-key so badly.”

 

Echo shrugged a little. “It is just.. new. For both of us. And Bellamy is a leader. Our peace under the Coalition is still new, and there are many people that believe Lexa should not have pardoned me, much less given me such a high ranking job. Right now it is better for us all that no one know the Skaikru Gona and the Azgedan Loufa are together.”

 

Octavia nodded slowly, and it hurt her to realize that Bellamy had probably only stayed behind because she hadn’t wanted to return to the Ring. She’d only wound up here by accident, and now Bellamy was trapped an entire atmosphere away from the woman he’d fallen for because of her. Her chest felt heavy with the weight of her grief, the weight of her guilt.

 

“It is not your fault,” Echo said softly. 

 

“What are you, a mindreader now?” Octavia mumbled, but there was only sadness in her tone.

 

“I lied to Bellamy. Like Clarke lied to her mother. He believed I would be coming back to Arkadia with you, but that was never my intention.”

 

Octavia looked at her in disbelief. “Why?”

 

“I knew you didn’t want to come back here. I didn’t want him to have to choose between you and I. ” Echo shrugged, gazing down at her hands. “My mother loved the sky. The stars. She and I would sit together at night, and she would point to them, to the shapes they made, and tell me the names she had given them. I love Bellamy, but I.. I wanted to see the stars. I had to see them. Gon ai nomon.”

 

Octavia, her eyes watering as well, reached out and gently rested her hand on Echo’s arm, her voice very soft. “Yu nomon na don somines hashta yu.”

 

Echo swallowed hard. “Yun sentaim.”

 

Octavia shifted and laid down again, resting her head on the pillow and trying to think of anything besides Bellamy and Lincoln; trying to keep her heart from remembering how broken it was. Quietly, Echo stretched out on the bed as well and pulled the blanket up over them as she slid closer to Octavia. She rested against her back and wrapped her arm around the other girl. Octavia rested her arm over Echo’s and relaxed against her.

 

Reshop, strisis,” Echo said softly, closing her eyes.

 

Octavia, feeling the panic in her chest settling just a little bit, closed her eyes as well. “Reshop, breida.”

 

 

 

NOW: 2199 Days Without Lexa

 

Echo had fallen asleep in the lab again.

 

A cup of coffee was still half full and practically ice cold, but as she lifted her head off the book she’d been reading, she sipped it anyway. With her free hand, she rubbed at the deep creases the stack of books and files had marked into her cheek while she slept. 

 

She could rarely sleep anywhere else these days. 

 

The only way she could shut her mind off enough was by filling it with facts and figures from her books. Many of them were medical, but there were a lot that weren’t. She had textbooks on other sciences, on engineering and mathematics and world history. There were biographies about people from the past who had done amazing and awful things, books about the wide variety of cultures and beliefs systems that had once diversified the planet. Books about space travel, about cooking, about animal husbandry and military life. Fictional books about broken people and wild adventures and crazy, deep love. 

 

Echo had never imagined there could be so much information in one place. Raven had been more than happy to help her with the harder texts during their early days on the Ring, when Echo still had trouble reading longer words. Raven had given her a tablet like the one she fixed for Lexa, which was nice. The tablet book let her tap on words she didn’t understand and would tell her what it meant and how to pronounce it. 

 

Still, at the end of the day, Echo preferred the paper books that were more like the ones she’d grown up with—rare though they had been, even in a queen’s world. They just had a feel to them, a texture and a smell and some other more abstract sensation that she couldn’t identify or quantify, but knew she liked. It was comforting in a strange but familiar sort of way; these aged relics that sometimes cut her fingertips and crinkled when she turned the pages. The way the words and pages slipped beneath her skin and wrapped snugly around her entire being, like a sofon swaddled and protected in her mother’s arms..

 

Echo quickly clamped down on her mind before the rush of memories could make her spin out, but she could tell it was already too late. An explosion of faces filled her mind quicker than she could empty it, and she pushed away the book she’d been reading in her frustration as the anxiety settled in for the night.

 

“Damn it,” she muttered, pushing herself up out of the chair. She braced herself against the desk and slowly stretched out her cramped muscles.

 

“You keep falling asleep at the desk like that, you’re gonna grow a hunchback, you know.”

 

Echo smiled as she looked up to see Octavia lingering in the doorway, her arms crossed. “I don’t think that’s how that works.”

 

Octavia shrugged. “You’re the doctor, not me. It can’t be good for you, though.”

 

“It’s not, but..” Echo blew a few stray hairs off her forehead as she straightened up the desk a little, readying it for tomorrow’s work. “What are you doing up at this hour?”

 

Octavia shrugged again, her gaze drifting sideways to avoid Echo’s. “Nightmare?” Octavia nodded almost imperceptibly, and Echo pushed the chair in before going over to her. She rubbed Octavia’s arm lightly before resting her hand on her shoulder gently. “You wanna talk about it?”

 

Octavia shook her head rapidly, leaning into Echo a bit and closing her eyes briefly. Echo wrapped her arms around her shoulders and kissed the top of her head softly. 

 

Yu gaf na ron yumi op bida riden?”

 

Sha,” Octavia took Echo’s hand in hers and turned off the light in the lab. They walked quietly through the sleeping ship back to Octavia’s room, both of them instinctively tightening their grip on the other as they passed the hall Clarke had moved herself and Lexa’s body to. It was dark and eerily silent as usual, lacking even the smallest sign of life.

 

Roan’s door was closed, which was very unusual for him and probably indicated that his delivery to Clarke had been worse than usual. Murphy’s door was open, but he wasn’t in his room. The other doors were all closed, and Madi’s outer light was out. Echo nudged Octavia lightly and jerked her chin towards Madi’s door. 

 

Octavia glanced at it and sighed. “She must’ve disconnected the airlock again. I told her to knock it off. One of these days she’s gonna get stuck in there.”

 

“Why does she keep doing this? It’s not like anyone is going to burst in there without permission.” Echo’s stomach felt sour at the idea of Madi winding up trapped in there.

 

“I guess she doesn’t trust that’s true.” 

 

“She doesn’t trust, period.” Echo murmured sadly.

 

“Can’t really blame her,” Octavia let go of her hand and moved closer the airlock, pounding on the solid metal. “Madi! Are you okay?”

 

It was only a moment before Madi’s voice called back, “I’m fine! Gonot raun.” 

 

Octavia rolled her eyes and pounded the door again. “Plug the airlock back in and I will.” 

 

A minute passed. No response, besides Madi turning up the music she was listening to loud enough that they could make out the song’s lyrics. Or they could have, if it didn’t sound like incoherent screaming rather than singing, anyway.

 

Getting aggravated, Octavia began pounding the door over and over again, determined to be louder than the blasting music. “Madi Griffin, plug that joken door back in right now or I swega I will break it down and you won’t even have a door anymore!”

 

There was a loud slam from within that sounded as if Madi had thrown something at the door, which she probably had. It was followed by a loud string of impressively creative expletives in three different languages, and, finally, the panel lit up once more.

 

Shanen nau?” Madi snapped through the door.

 

“Never been happier,” she snapped back dryly, continuing down the hallway with annoyance still plastered across her face. Echo just barely heard Madi call Octavia something obscene before she followed her down the hall and into her room.

 

“Is it just me or is she getting worse?” Echo glanced down the hall before closing Octavia’s airlock. 

 

“It’s not just you. I’ve never had the urge to smack the skrish out of a kid before, but lately it’s all I think about.” Octavia dropped onto her bed with a huff, kicking her shoes off. Echo rummaged in one of her drawers, pulling out a soft pair of shorts and a tee shirt with some musical group from before the world ended the first time printed on it. “I know she’s had it tough, but we all know it’s Clarke’s fault, and I’m kinda tired of taking her punishments for her,” Octavia continued thoughtfully, kicking off her pants before scooting back on the bed.

 

“We’re all tired of it,” Echo admitted as she began getting changed. “But what are we gonna do? You’re the closest thing she’s got to a mother already, and, I mean, Clarke would have to actually show up for Madi to interact with her.”

 

Octavia grunted her agreement, curling up on her side. “I don’t know, but that’s not gonna happen as long as we’re up here. Clarke won’t let go. Even if we had a way back to the ground right now, I honestly wonder..” She trailed off as Echo climbed in the other side of the bed.

 

“What?” Echo stretched out on her side as well, resting against Octavia’s back. 

 

Octavia bit her lip, rolling back just enough to meet Echo’s gaze with her own worried one. “I wonder if Clarke would even go with us.”

 

Echo could tell she felt guilty about the words before they even left her mouth, and she wrapped her arm protectively around her, her voice quiet. “I doubt it, strisis.”

 

Octavia rested on her side, curling back into Echo’s comforting embrace. Her voice was thick with sadness and regret.  “Yeah. Me, too.”

 

She thought of Bellamy and Lincoln and whether they thought she and the others were even still alive. She thought of Abby, fearing the same. She thought of Madi’s anger, and her self-imposed isolation and Aden’s stoicism and cold distance, and she wondered how devastating it must have been for them to realize they weren’t enough for Clarke.

 

Then she briefly imagined being in Clarke’s position—remembered how she nearly was, and how Clarke and Abby were able to save Lincoln and by extension, herself. She thought about how it could have all gone very differently—as she all-too-frequently did lately—and how things might still end up regardless.

 

“O, I can’t even imagine what you’re feeling right now—

Actually, I can, and that’s why I’m so sorry. 

I know you’re in hell, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon.”

 

Ai tombom ste shada,” she whispered into the dark.

 

She knew in the darkest depths of her fractured heart, what the worst part of it all was. No matter what happened, the pain of this particular past couldn’t ever be cleansed. It had left it’s mark on all of them already. It had broken Madi and Aden already. And no matter how you sliced it, you revealed the same cold, hard, ugly truth.

 

It was just way too late for a happy ending. 

Chapter Text

The air was smoking and the streets were dry

And I wasn't joking when I said good bye

So why do I feel like something's been rearranged?

You know, taken out of context I must seem so strange

And I'm singing now because my tear ducts are too tired

And my mind is disconnected but my heart is wired

Somebody's got to be interested in how I feel

Just 'cause I'm here and I'm real

- Ani DiFranco, “Fire Door”

 

 

 

 

NOW: 2200 Days Without Lexa

 

“How did you get so good at this?” Aden watched his reflection in the glass as Murphy carefully worked his hair into sections of delicate twists and braids.

 

Murphy shrugged a little. “I spend a lot of time with Raven and Luna.”

 

Aden glanced upwards on the glass, watching Murphy’s face. “Could you teach me?”

 

“I could try. I’m not really.. good at teaching people.”

 

Aden lifted an eyebrow. “That’s gapaskrish. Earth Skills is my favorite lesson after gonplei.”

 

“Sure.” Murphy gave his hair a gentle tug. “Watch the lip, short stack. If Octavia hears you cussing, she’ll blame me.”

 

“I’m taller than you are.” Aden responded good-naturedly. 

 

 Yu ste odon, smartass.” Murphy gave his hair another tug before tying the last braid into into place.

 

Aden leaned forward, turning his head first to one side, then to the other, admiring the neat collection of twists that was pressed tightly to his scalp down the center of his head. The sides were starting to grow out a little, but shaving them back down could wait. It might give them something to do tomorrow, at least.

 

Aden had never anticipated being bored in space, but it didn’t take long for him to realize every day here was exactly the same. Sure, there might be a different movie down in the film pod—though they had all seen all of them more than a few times by now. Dinner varied slightly, but always came from the same pool of options. Murphy and Luna tried really hard to find new ways of combining and accenting their options, but there was only so much one could do with the hydrofarm, really. 

 

When he and Madi had grown too old for games of play-pretend—or at least, when he had—the days became even more regrettably dull and repetitive. Sometimes Aden found himself, inappropriate though it was at his age, wishing they could throw the cushions to the floor and chase each other around them again. He tried not to think of it often, though. Because thinking of himself and Madi playing on the furniture, squealing and running around the Ring in bare feet, laughing all the while, led his brain down a path that he couldn’t bear to travel. It logically made him think even further back, to those first nights on the Ring. Curled up with Madi in the bed, both of them safe and happy in the comfortable space between Lexa and Clarke.

 

Aden would never admit it out loud, not even to Madi or Murphy or Echo—but his heart ached when he thought of those days. Sometimes, in the deepest, darkest recesses of his inner self where his nightmares still lurked, a memory of something harshly terrible--or worse, relentlessly joyful--would lurch forward in his sleeping mind, and he would wake up shaking, crying. A grown man like him, nearly sixteen years on, sitting wrapped in a blanket in the middle of the night with the tears of a child on his face. Broken and weak, wanting nothing more than to pad down the hallway in his bare feet again, climbing into the big bed and curling up between Clarke and Lexa. 

 

It was embarrassing. It was pathetic, and immature, and it was shameful. He would bet his dagger—the one that Lexa had given him, to make him feel safe the first night he and Madi slept alone on the Ring—that Madi didn’t lay around fantasizing about something so childish. Madi didn't spend her time craving the close embrace of a parent like that, craving something they'd never had before or since. And she actually was a child still. He had no excuse for his stupid, naive dreams.

 

“Aden? You okay, bud?” Murphy’s voice snapped him out of his thoughts, and his cheeks reddened quickly, as though Murphy might see inside his head and see the shame that swirled within. 

 

“Oh, uh.. yeah. Sorry, I just.. zoned out, I guess.” Aden gave him a reassuring smile.

 

Murphy cocked his head to the side a little, seeming to study him, and Aden had a brief flash of worry that his thoughts really were written all over his face. But then Murphy nodded, dropping his eyes a little, and started straightening up the salon area, getting it ready for whomever might use it next.

 

Aden slid from the chair, swallowing his thoughts down deeper inside him, and began helping. “Thanks. For doing my hair for me again. I really will learn how to do it myself some day.”

 

Murphy smiled. It was a small one, but genuine. “I don’t mind it. Gives me something to break up the day, right?”

 

Aden nodded, just the barest hint of a smile curling the corners of his own lips. “You won’t always be around to do it for me, though, and Madi is terrible at braiding, so..”

 

“Bold of you to assume I won’t outlive you. They don’t call me a cockroach for nothing, you know,” Murphy teased as he closed the drawer of combs. “I’ll probably outlive all of you.”

 

Aden laughed, bending down to tie his shoelace, which had come undone yet again. “Maybe that’s the skills class you should be teaching us. Cockroach Survival.”

 

“Earth Skills isn’t a far cry from it, let me tell you.”

 

Aden leaned on a countertop. The salon area was sparkling clean, but he liked spending time with Murphy, and he couldn’t really bear the thought of going back to his quiet, empty room just yet. “Really? Cockroaches spend time learning what plants are edible and what water is safest to drink?”

 

Murphy shrugged, pulling himself up on the counter to sit. “Survival is survival. If you can steal from, trick, or convince someone else, great. But when you can’t, you definitely want to know which mushrooms are edible and which ones will make you strip naked and run through Polis screaming about bees stealing your honey.”

 

Aden cracked up. “No way, that didn’t happen!”

 

“Oh, it did. Ask Raven. She was the one who convinced me and Bellamy that the bees had given up and we could put our pants back on.” Murphy smiled to himself, shaking his head a little. 

 

Aden was laughing uncontrollably at the notion. “That’s the kind of lessons we need in Earth Skills. Which mushrooms make you hallucinate bees.” 

 

“You know, my Earth Skills teacher back on the Ark actually set stuff on fire in class. He was almost kinda cool back then.”

 

Aden felt strangely at ease here, where it was just him and Murphy, talking and joking with each other like they were friends rather than teacher and student, or kid and pseudo-co-parent. For all his dry wit and sarcasm, Murphy always seemed to actually listen and even care what Aden had to say, even on the silliest of topics. The feeling was practically a drug, and he wasn’t quite ready to let the high end just yet.

 

“Did he die on the Ark?”

 

Murphy shook his head a little. “He made it to the ground. He.. it was Pike.”

 

Aden’s eyes widened a little. “Like, the Pike, the one from Audaskai?” Murphy confirmed as much with a slight nod and a sort of faraway look in his eyes. “Wow. How did he go from being a cool teacher to a terrorist?”

 

Murphy shrugged. “If I knew why people did the things they do, I’d be a lot smarter than I am, kid.” 

 

Aden opened his mouth to reply, and was interrupted by a loud crashing noise that sounded like windows shattering. It was immediately followed by the faintest sounds of screams. He and Murphy both glanced towards the airlock door before exchanging a look. Murphy hopped down off the counter. 

 

“Probably Clarke. I should..” He gestured towards the airlock as he headed for it, and Aden set his jaw. Of course Clarke would choose the exact minute he had started to relax, started to enjoy himself just a little bit, to have a meltdown. 

 

Aden allowed himself one very annoyed huff before he turned on his heel and followed Murphy towards the sounds of the screaming.

Chapter Text

Everything is quiet, since you're not around

And I live in the numbness now in the background

I do the things we did before

'Cause I don't see you anymore, since the hospital

I felt you long after we were through.

And the plans I make still have you in them

Cause you come swimming into view

And I'm hanging on your words like I always used to do

The words they use so lightly, I only feel for you

I only know this because I carry you around, in the background

- Third Eye Blind, “The Background”

 

 

NOW: 2200 Days Without Lexa

 

Clarke hadn’t slept at all the night before. 

 

She kept replaying Roan’s words over and over again in her head, and the taste of them lingered on her tongue like something gone sour that she couldn’t spit out. She lay awake all night, her arm wrapped around Lexa’s unresponsive body, rolling the words around her tongue until it was sore, until her brain was on fire, until she felt drunk on emotion.

 

Madi and Aden were fine. They had an entire ship full of people to parent them, to kiss scraped knees and teach them to tie shoelaces. They had full bellies and warm blankets, so they were already growing up better than anyone born on the Ark had. What the hell did Roan know, anyway? What was his experience with kids, besides the ones his mother kidnapped and turned into monsters?

 

Clarke reached for the moonshine on the nightstand and pushed herself up enough to take a few gulps of it. Fuck Roan and his nonsense, she thought. He said what he said because he’s given up on Lexa, too. Everyone’s given up on her, and they’re all going to feel stupid when she wakes up and sees that they all moved on, that none of them care anymore.

 

“But I’m still here,” she whispered to Lexa. “I’m still here, I know you’re still here, and I’ll never give up on you. Nowe.”

 

When Octavia came through the doorway, Clarke’s head was already fuzzy from the half jar she’d drank so far, and she wasn’t really in the mood to deal with anyone.

 

Gonot raun,” she muttered into the dark.

 

Octavia responded by turning on the overhead lights, and Clarke practically hissed as she turned her oversensitive eyes toward the pillow.

 

“I really don’t give a skrish about your hangover, or your cave-vision, or whatever your problem is right now. You need to come with me.”

 

“O, what the hell?” Clarke grunted, her face buried in the blessed dark of the pillow.

 

“Seriously. It’s Madi.”

 

Clarke paused and turned her head just a little bit, squinting in the harshness of the brightly-lit room. “Is she hurt?”

 

“I don’t know. She came to breakfast, and her knuckles were torn up really badly. Like she was punching the walls. I tried to talk to her about it, and she stormed off. She locked herself in her room and pulled the wire for the airlock. She won’t answer me, and there’s been nothing but dead silence from her room since then.”

 

Clarke laid her head back down again. “She probably just forgot to wrap her hands before training, and you guys jumped up her ass about it. You embarrassed a teenager. She’ll calm down.”

 

“Clarke, she was calm. That’s why I’m worried. She might have hurt herself again, and we can’t get into her room. She didn’t forget to wrap her hands. She hasn’t even been to training in three days.”

 

“What the hell do you want me to do about it, Octavia?” Clarke snapped crankily. Part of her was jealous right now that she hadn’t thought to close the airlock and pull the wire herself, because then she wouldn’t have Octavia buzzing around her like the world’s most obnoxious jusdreina. 

 

She didn’t see the anger flashing across Octavia’s face, nor the sudden set to her jaw and clench to her fists. She also didn’t hear the dangerous tone she used when she responded, “Madi is having some kind of crisis, Clarke.”

 

Aggravated and imitating her clipped tone, Clarke snapped back, “Then go take care of it, Octavia.”

 

Octavia, overwhelmed with Clarke’s lack of concern and the pungent stench of alcohol that filled the air in the room, started to lose control. “Why don’t you go take care of it Clarke? Why don’t you go take care of anything at all? You know, she might come out just from the shock of you doing anything besides sitting around feeling sorry for yourself and getting wasted!” Octavia was ramping up now, the knuckles of her clenched fists turning white with the stress. “Jesus, Clarke, do you even know what day it is? What year it is?”

 

“What does it matter?” Clarke muttered tiredly. She really didn’t feel like dealing with this; not so soon after Roan had flipped on her. What the hell was in the water that was setting everyone off lately? They were miserable, and she was really tired of being a punching bag.

 

“It obviously doesn’t to you,” Octavia shook her head, her tone wavering back and forth between rage and sadness as her own feelings started to spill out. The sight of Clarke not even sitting up, not being willing to even open her eyes all the way when Madi was obviously falling apart, woke up some kind of sickness in Octavia’s heart that was determined to escape this time. “Nothing matters to you, does it, Clarke? Not even Madi.”

 

Clarke slowly pushed herself up to a sitting position, and glared at Octavia. “Madi does matter to me.”

 

“Then get your ass up!” Octavia snapped. “She needs you.”

 

“No, right now she needs someone who knows how to fix an airlock.”

 

This time, Clarke saw Octavia’s eyes flashing from disbelief to rage.

 

“That’s it,” Octavia said, her voice strained and very soft. Before Clarke could ask what was it, Octavia had grabbed the crate of moonshine off the counter.

 

“What are you doing?” Clarke shifted towards the side of the bed.

 

“Helping you,” Octavia replied shakily as she quickly headed out the door with it.

 

Clarke’s heart hammered its fear against her chest as she slid out of the bed and followed after Octavia. She squinted even harder in the harsh hallway light and put one hand up to her forehead like a visor. 

 

“Octavia, where are you going? I’ll go talk to Madi, okay? Just put the crate back!” Octavia kept going at a brisk pace, even weighted down with a dozen jars of liquid and a heavy metal crate. She’d clearly been training hard, and Clarke had little hope of catching up to her. “Come on, O. I’m sorry. Just put the crate down and we can go get Madi!”

 

They passed by Madi’s airlock, which was still closed and powered off, and Clarke felt more panicked when she realized Octavia was headed towards the room that held Monty’s repaired still. 

 

“Octavia! Stop!”

 

Jok yu of, Klark. Disha gapaskrish ste odon.” Octavia didn’t slow her pace a single heartbeat, and Clarke’s legs were already growing sore. This was more physical activity than she’d had in six years, and her muscles were screaming their dissent.

 

Clarke hated herself for it, but she began crying as she watched the space between her and Octavia growing larger and larger. “Octavia, please stop! Please! I’m begging you, don’t do this!”

 

Octavia rounded the corner into the common room, weaving easily between the couches and chairs. The room where they’d set the still up was in an airlock just off it, and Clarke really started to panic. 

 

“Octavia! What are you doing? Octavia, stop! Please!”

 

Clarke skidded into the common room just in time to see Octavia standing at the airlock, the still visible just behind her, her face red with anger and the effort of jogging across the Ring with 70 pounds of moonshine. 

 

Clarke’s face was red as well, soaked in sweat and tears, and she gasped for breath as she leaned on the back of a couch, her gaze locked on Octavia.

 

“Octavia, please don’t do this. You don’t have to do this, okay? Just.. put it down, and we’ll go talk to Madi together, okay?”

 

“No,” Octavia said quietly. “I’m sorry, Clarke. But I have to do it.”

 

“Do what?” Clarke’s voice shook wildly, and both of them were starting to cry. “What are you going to do? Octavia, please..”

 

“What we should have done years ago. It’s our fault.. My fault. We let this happen to you and I—I’m so sorry,” Octavia’s voice broke a little. “I’m sorry I let this happen to you.”

 

“If you’re sorry, then don’t punish me,” Clarke said earnestly. “Please, Octavia, don’t do this to me.”

 

Octavia swallowed hard, her voice soft. “I’m not doing it to you, I’m doing it for you. I’m really sorry, Clarke.” She leaned back, the tendons in her arms straining against the weight as she swung the heavy crate. Clarke moved as quickly as she could to try to stop her, but she was nowhere near fast enough. 

 

Octavia launched the crate at the still sideways and let go.

 

“No,” Clarke cried as her hands grasped Octavia’s arm far too late. She let out a choked sob and watched in shock as the jars shattered as one, spilling their contents all over the place. The still quickly collapsed under the impact, the rigged-up pieces pulling apart easily as it rained alcohol and shards of glass. The glass collection vat, which was nearly full with the current batch, shattered when the edge of the crate hit it as well.

 

Clarke’s eyes went wide and she weaved on her feet, feeling like she might pass out. It was all gone. She drew in quick, panting breaths as she fell to her knees, just staring at the mess in distraught horror. 

 

Octavia was still crying as she moved away from the door. Her heart pounded in her chest as her mind swirled with a toxic mixture of guilt, anger, regret, and worry. She just stood, watching Clarke sob so hard it was nearly silent. Her face was a deep crimson, and her arms were wrapped around herself as hysterics wracked her body.

 

“I did it for you, Clarke. Someday you’ll understand,” she whispered softly. Clarke gave no response as the moonshine slick on the floor spread, lapping at her knees and carrying shards of glass on its waves. At first, Octavia thought she might not have heard her, but then Clarke grabbed the back of the couch and pulled herself slowly to her feet.

 

“You did it for me,” Clarke repeated in a harsh whisper, a cruel undertone of enraged amusement thick in her voice. “You took away the one thing that helps me, the one thing that makes me feel the littlest bit human.” Her voice was rapidly growing louder and angrier. “I won’t understand, because I would never do something like this to you! You’re not helping me, you just ruined everything!”

 

You ruined everything,” Octavia countered, her voice raising and tone growing even more emotional. “We could have all had such a good life up here together, and you ruined it! You ruined it, and you ruined yourself, and we all just stood here and let you!”

 

“I’m just trying to survive!” Clarke yelled, slamming her hand on the back of the couch, her words punctuated with heavy sobs and gasps. “I’m trying to fucking survive, Octavia, and you just took away the one thing that helps! The one thing that—that lets me—that I can still—breathe, without her!”

 

Octavia’s eyes flashed, tears rolling freely down her cheeks. They streaked the tattoo that cupped her eye in a swirl and fell rapidly to the floor as her emotions shook her to her very core.

 

“You think this is what she would want, Clarke? What would Lexa say if she were here right now?”

 

Clarke’s face grew so red it was nearly purple, and her fists were clenched tightly to her sides. “She is here.”

 

Octavia ignored her. “You know what I think she would say? I think Lexa would tell you that life is about more than just surviving, that we deserve better than that.”

 

Clarke’s eyes widened as much as possible, her face quickly paling as the blood drained from it. The words sliced through her like a sword had been driven through her chest, and she suddenly couldn’t breathe.

 

Octavia felt kind of terrible for using something Lexa had told her in confidence to hurt Clarke, but she also thought Lexa probably wouldn’t mind if she could see Clarke right now. Honestly, she’d probably be more pissed that Octavia had let things get this bad than she would be about Octavia weaponizing their first kiss to get through to Clarke in this moment.

 

“You remember that first night here on the Ring? What you said to me?” Octavia continued, her voice far louder than it needed to be. I had just lost my brother and Lincoln. Just gotten back to the place I was held prisoner for 16 years, and I was slipping. We all know it, and all I wanted to do was die, and you said something to me. You said, “We need you, especially Lexa. You can’t disappear on us, Octavia, we need you.” Where is that belief now, Clarke? Where’s that logic now? Where are you now?”

 

“I’m right fucking here! Because Lexa does need me! She needs me to be here, with her, taking care of her. Talking to her, treating her like a human being, cause I’m the only one who does!” 

 

Clarke’s voice was breaking in an unsettling combination of anger and grief and psychosis all at once. Her words seemed to be shaking in cadence with her shoulders as she raised her breaking voice further. “Lexa is the one that needs me, Octavia! The rest of you act like she’s gone, you just ignore her, when she’s right here! I’m the only person around here who even cares about her!” 

 

Octavia couldn’t have stopped herself even if she’d tried. 

 

The rage that had been curled up in her chest suddenly broke through the entire series of dams she’d built around it. She felt like she was observing from somewhere just slightly adjacent to her body as her arm swung back and her open palm connected hard with Clarke’s left cheek, letting off a crack that echoed off the metallic walls. Clarke’s hand immediately went to her already-reddening face, her jaw hanging open as she gazed at her in shock.

 

Octavia didn’t flinch. She took a step closer to Clarke, her anger clearly painted on her face, her fists and jaw clenched and knuckles white. “You have a lot of nerve, Clarke. Lexa is the best friend I’ve ever had. You are not the only one who cares about her, and you never were. We all care about her, and for whatever stupid, naive, fucking gapaskrish reason, we still care about you, too!”

 

Clarke swallowed hard, trembling under the weight of Octavia’s words and her own emotions. “You—It’s not the same. You have your brother, you have Lincoln. Lexa is al—”

 

I swega em klin, Clarke, if you say Lexa is all you have, I will knock you out and float you myself.” The dangerous look in her eyes suggested she wasn’t just making an empty threat, and Clarke instinctively cringed as Octavia’s voice grew still louder and louder. 

 

“First of all, fuck you for saying that! You have us, all of us, including two kids that came here thinking this was the best dream they’d ever had, and now they’re stuck in a fucking nightmare. Second of all, fuck you again. I lost Lincoln, too!” Octavia felt the tears increase tenfold, streaming ever harder down her cheeks, but she was long past caring. 

 

“I don’t know if he’s alive down there, or if I’ll ever even be able to get down there and find out. I lost him and my brother, and then I lost two of my best friends, too, even though they’re right here, still breathing on this nomonjoken ship!”

 

Aden and Murphy came through the other airlock at that moment, having apparently heard the crashing and screaming, and paused in the doorway, both unsure whether or not to intervene. Murphy instinctively rested his hand on Aden’s shoulder, and, upon noting the ruined still and massive puddle on the floor, opted to stay quiet and let things play out. At least, for the moment.

 

“You all gave up,” Clarke’s hands were clenched into fists, and she spoke mostly through her teeth, her jaw tightly set. “I can’t. I can’t give up on her like you did.”

 

Octavia shuddered and felt herself break. “She’s gone, Clarke! Lexa is gone, and we all miss her. I miss her so fucking much, it feels like a knife in my gut. The difference is the rest of us are still going, we’re putting our energy into raising her kids for her and being alive, while you lay around all day, getting trashed and talking to a ghost!” 

 

She sank against the back of an armchair, cradling her face in her hands as she sobbed, shaking like a leaf. “You’re so fucking selfish! You’re not the only one in pain! You’re not the only person who lost her, Clarke!” 

 

Octavia looked back up at Clarke, her voice devastating in its desperation, a scream that barely came out a whimper as Octavia felt the last bit of herself shattering with the weight of her own words. “I lost her, too!” 

 

Clarke let out the deepest, sickest sob she could have imagined. It felt like the world had tilted sideways and she no longer had a clue how gravity worked in this new orientation. Her arms hung limply in front of her as she sobbed hopelessly. 

 

“She’s not gone.. She’s still in there, I know she is.” Clarke protested weakly, the fight starting to go out of her, the unimaginable sadness taking her over as well.

 

When a response came, it was very matter-of-fact and came not from Octavia, but from the doorway they’d entered through only moments ago.

 

“No, she’s not.”

 

Clarke and Octavia both snapped their heads around at the same time to see Madi in the doorway. Her gaze was stormy, her knuckles torn and actively bleeding from fresh wounds, making it clear what she’d been doing behind the disabled airlock door.

 

“Madi. That’s not true.” Clarke swallowed hard, through her tears. She lowered her eyes, glancing down at Madi’s bloody hands and feeling a sharp pang of guilt go through her. Obviously, Octavia had been right to be concerned about her, and it pulled on Clarke’s stomach to realize it.

 

“It is true,” Madi said with a frown, her voice firm. She crossed her arms, her face tightening up in anger, her eyes flashing. “Lexa isn’t in there. If she was, she’d have woken up by now, but she hasn’t. She hasn’t woken up, because she’s never coming back. Don’t you know that? Lexa’s gone, Clarke, and she’s not coming back.”

 

Clarke blinked in disbelief, searching desperately for words to respond, but not finding any. 

 

“Madi, that’s—” Octavia started quietly, her stomach turning as the already stifling tension in the room grew steadily thicker. Murphy felt Aden beginning to tremble slightly, and wrapped one arm around his shoulders, gently pulling him into a hug that Aden seemed grateful enough to sink into and hide his own tears in.

 

 Madi just spoke over Octavia like she hadn’t said anything, her voice starting to tremble and crack in her throat. “That’s the truth, Clarke, and you know it. Lexa is dead.”

 

“Shut up.” Clarke had managed to find her voice, and raised it further for good measure.

 

Madi was unperturbed, the glare on her face growing darker. She gave Clarke a cold, stubborn look, and raised her voice as well, her arms dropping to her sides. “She’s dead!”

 

Aden turned slightly further, his shoulders beginning to shake with his own crying as he tried to hide his face in Murphy’s chest. Echo, Raven, Luna, and Roan stepped out of the furthest airlock, engaged in conversation and apparently blissfully unaware of what they were walking into. The airlock opened just in time for them to hear Clarke yelling through her tears. 

 

“Shut up, Madi! You can’t talk to me like that!”

 

“I can’t talk to you at all!” Madi snapped, her dark eyes growing wild with emotion. “You don’t care what I have to say. You never have. You don’t care about me! Lexa left and then you left, because you don’t care!”

 

 The others watched in stunned shock as Madi finally lost whatever was left of her cool as well, tears filling stormy eyes before escaping down her cheeks.

 

 “All you care about is Lexa, even though she’s dead! She’s dead! Lexa’s dead, Clarke, and you might as well be, too!” She screamed wildly at Clarke, rapidly hitting the point of hysteria as the horrible truths bubbling in her chest finally overflowed. 

 

“Whoah, okay!” Echo’s eyes were wide as she reached out to grab Madi’s arms and pull her away from Clarke. “That’s enough, Madi.” 

 

Luna rushed to help her, and it took both of them to drag a struggling, sobbing Madi towards the airlock before they came to blows. Raven and Octavia were struggling to hold Clarke back, and Murphy and Roan quickly moved to help. They stood side-by-side directly in front of her, turning their bodies into a wall between her and Madi, effectively caging Clarke in to prevent her from following.

 

“Shut up! You don’t know what you’re talking about!” Clarke yelled, her voice taking on a fresh an edge of hysteria as she tried uselessly to push Roan and Murphy out of her way.

 

“Okay, Madi, noumou. Let’s—” But Madi wasn’t even hearing Echo’s voice.

 

“You’re dead, Clarke! Lexa’s dead! You’re both dead and I wish I was!” Madi screamed as she wrenched against Echo and Luna, twisting her arms against them, trying to corkscrew her way out of their hold. “I wish I was dead, too! I hate you! I hate you!”

 

Echo gave up on trying to reason with her for the moment and instead helped Luna pull Madi, who was still screaming and flailing, out of the room, with a still-crying Aden hot on their heels. Madi’s voice reverberated off the metal walls as she continued sobbing her screams in Clarke’s direction.

 

“I hate you! I hate you, I hate you, Clarke!” Madi’s violent wailing grew sadder and quieter as they took her further down the hallway. 

 

Roan quickly grabbed an increasingly shaky Clarke as she tried to move around him. She opened her mouth to yell back again, and he released one of her shoulders to clamp his hand quickly over her mouth instead. He let Clarke twist in his arms weakly for a very brief moment before steadying her when she was forced by exhaustion to give up. He moved his face close to hers, gazing steadily into her eyes for a minute. When he spoke, it was in a very measured but very serious tone, and his jaw was clenched tightly.

 

“That is your daughter. She’s still just a kid, Clarke. She’s in a world of pain, and she has every right to be. Remember that before you say something to her that you can’t ever take back. She’s a kid. A kid that you love.”

 

Clarke’s eyes were all that was visible around his hand, and he saw them narrow in anger first, and then, very slowly they began to widen with disbelief. After a minute or two of silence, finally they filled up rapidly with guilt and shock at what had just happened—and maybe, just maybe, the hint of a dawning realization of what had really led up to it. 

 

Roan dropped his hand from her mouth, watching the proverbial light bulb going off over Clarke’s head as it all crumbled down on her. Her face was a quickly morphing mask of emotions—guilt, denial, anger, sadness, regret, grief, pain. It was like she’d been filled with only one emotion all this time, but suddenly that shell of pain had cracked and split, the entire range of human emotion had been geysered forth from within. 

 

For Clarke, it felt like she was feeling all of it for the first time in her life. It felt like waking up, almost, and discovering your life had burnt to the ground while you slept, blissfully unaware that you were sleeping on a pile of ashes that used to be something beautiful. It was heartbreaking and irrational, and more painful than anything else had ever been in her entire life. It felt like her skin being scorched in the radiation chamber, and she weaved unsteadily with the weight of what had just dropped inside her.

 

 

Clarke gasped in absolute horror at herself and quickly covered her face once more with her own hands. It took Roan a moment to understand the slurred whispers that poured out from under her alcohol-soaked breath in a rushing torrent.

 

“What did I do? Oh, god.. W—what did I do? What did I do, what did I do, what did.. What did I do..”

 

Octavia and Raven exchanged a glance with Murphy, who had been silent this entire time. He didn’t break the silence before he turned and walked through the airlock leading the way Clarke and Octavia had come, just shaking his head a little as he did.

 

Meanwhile, Clarke finally collapsed under the weight of it all. She slumped to the floor in tears, her hands still covering her face, the spilled moonshine soaking into her clothing. A few shards of glass pushed their way through her pants as well, but she didn’t even notice. Octavia couldn’t help feeling responsible for the entire display, but she also couldn’t help thinking that it had all been something Clarke needed to hear. She couldn’t help thinking that there had probably been no hope for Clarke at all outside of smashing the still and destroying everything the joken thing had produced.

 

Walking on eggshells around her clearly hadn’t been working for any of them, and least of all Clarke herself.

 

Raven wiped away a few tears of her own as she used Roan’s arm and the back of the couch for balance to lower herself to the floor behind Clarke. Once she was safely down, her braced leg stretched out to the side to avoid the spilled booze, she tentatively reached out to Clarke. At her initial touch, Clarke shuddered instinctively, but Raven just wrapped her arms around her anyway. As she enclosed Clarke in her arms, Clarke let herself be guided back, sobbing helplessly. 

 

Raven pulled Clarke tightly against her chest, wrapping her arms as snugly as possible around her waist. She rested her chin on Clarke’s shoulder and began swaying with her slowly, rhythmically. Her voice was low and sweet, like the whisper of a soft ocean breeze, as she gently rocked Clarke and sang against the shell of her ear.

 

Ai giv ai op gon nemiyon kom lanik-de. Ain laudnes, ain fleim op..”

[I give myself to the miracle of the sea

My pain, my anger, washes away]

 

Clarke hadn’t realized how much she’d been craving a warm, responsive, comforting touch until that moment. 

 

As Raven held her and sang her the now-familiar lullaby, it occurred to her that she couldn’t remember the last time she had been held with affection. Hell, aside from Roan grabbing her yesterday—which he’d done only to stop her from pounding her fists into him—she couldn’t remember the last time she’d been held at all. She couldn’t remember the last time she’d held Madi, and she bet Madi couldn’t remember either. Suddenly, she couldn’t blame Madi for hating her and in fact, she kind of hated herself, too. More than she had just a little while ago, which had already been an impressive amount of self-hatred.

 

Clarke gasped and choked on her sobs as she very suddenly found herself considering if Madi, Octavia, and Roan had a point after all. The sobering thought was like the white-hot flash of a bullet seared straight through her gut, and she felt bile rising in the back of her throat as it did. She tried to flinch from the thoughts she’d spent so much time and moonshine running from, but found she couldn’t get away this time. The realization was absolutely crushing and suddenly tore into her from a million different directions, like she’d been dropped from a great height into a massive bucket of broken glass and had no choice but to swim out while being sliced to ribbons.

 

“Beja, krasha-de sen klir ai, kom sof daun ai gada kamp raun..”

[Please, let the waves release me

From the suffering I carry with me]

 

Maybe they were right. Maybe Lexa really was gone. 

 

Maybe Clarke had gone and buried herself alive right alongside her. 

Chapter Text

I'm not a selfless man, I’m not a man of wealth

If I had all the world, probably give it to myself

But the trees begin to walk and the ground begins to talk

Hold my place, don't you give up on me

Hold on... Hold on...

Reach, it's not as bad as it seems

I cleanse in the river for somebody else,

For anyone but myself

- Imagine Dragons, “The River”

 

 

 

THEN: 104 Days Without Lexa

 

 

Music played in the background as Murphy braided Raven’s hair for her. He stood at the bedside with Raven sitting on the bed in front of him. Her braced leg was stretched out towards the foot of it, her toes barely brushing against Luna’s leg. Luna sat facing them with a large bowl in her lap, slicing up the potatoes they’d pulled up for dinner and humming along with the music softly.

 

Every so often Raven’s leg would twitch of its own accord, her toes clenching within her sock and a brief grimace of discomfort crossing her face. 

 

Luna looked up at her knowingly. “Do you need—?”

 

“No pills,” Raven shook her head a little, inadvertently tugging a strand of hair out of Murphy’s hand.

 

Murphy poked her shoulder gently. “Hey, can we stick with verbal responses until I’m done up here?”

 

Raven rolled her eyes. “I don’t need my hair braided, you know. I happen to like my ponytail. It’s kind of my trademark.” She continued quickly as Luna’s mouth opened once more. “I don’t need the pills, either. I just need more of a distraction than someone yanking my hair out at the roots ‘cause he’s bored.”

 

Murphy retrieved the hair he’d dropped and Luna leaned in, a gentle smile playing on her lips. “A distraction, huh? How about the usual?”

 

Raven smirked lightly. “Right in front of Murphy?”

 

Murphy groaned. “Seriously, Reyes. Haven’t you broken my balls enough already today? I’m pretty sure there’s a limit to how much you’re allowed to harass me in a single day.”

 

Raven started to shake her head again, but quickly stopped before she pulled her hair free once more. Murphy’s braids really did look quite nice, and she liked the seemingly endless amount of styles he came up with, despite her teasing. “Nope, no limit. Not a unanimous rule, so it doesn’t count.”

 

Murphy just rolled his eyes.

 

“I’ll start,” Luna volunteered, closing her eyes. “We’re on the deck of a huge ship, one where you can barely see the whole thing from one end to the other. It’s a clear morning at sunrise, and everything shines and shimmers in the sunlight. The sky is lit up pink, purple, and orange, and the sea is calm, with gentle, rolling waves. Just before the horizon, we can see a family of wodabis dancing and jumping on the surface.”

 

Raven was swaying gently side-to-side, as thought she could feel the gentle waves Luna was describing, a soft, serene smile on her lips. She sighed softly, as did Murphy behind her. He had finished tying off her braid, and his hands rested on her shoulder. His eyes were closed too, as he felt Luna’s mind-picture pulling him in. He could practically feel the warmth of the rising sun on his cheeks and forehead, and practically hear the mirthful chirping of the dolphins as they swam around the large ship.

 

Luna sighed softly after a few moments, and opened her eyes. “Who’s next?”

 

“Me,” Raven volunteered quickly, scooting back towards the headboard on the far side of the bed. “I have a really good one.” Murphy climbed onto the bed with them, resting back next to Raven as Luna set the bowl of sliced potatoes aside.

 

They closed their eyes and Raven instinctively rested her intricately braided head on Murphy’s shoulder. “We’re out in this really remote Arctic region. The air is colder than we’ve ever felt—almost as cold as a cryo tank. There’s a light breeze swirling around us, carrying these giant, fluffy snowflakes on it, making them dance through the air. There’s a frozen lake, too; so clear it’s almost blue. And when it gets too cold, we go inside this little wooden cabin, and there’s a warm, crackling fire going..” Raven trailed off, relaxing against Murphy, her eyes sparkling with the pleasant thoughts as Luna met her gaze.

 

Raven nudged Murphy lightly. “Your turn.”

 

“I don’t know, I’m bad at this, Rae.” Murphy sighed heavily. 

 

Raven rolled her eyes and nudged him again. “Nobody is bad at playing ‘Anywhere But Here’. It’s impossible to be bad at it.”

 

Murphy smirked, and Raven was already regretting her words before he suggested, “Back on the Ark, in the skybox?”

 

Luna stretched her leg out just far enough to thump against Murphy’s calf with slightly more force than was necessary. “Why are you such a pain in the ass?”

 

He shrugged, his trademark smirk and half-smile crossing his face. “Just playing to my strengths.”

 

“Liste—” Luna started, when there was a sudden, rapid banging on their airlock door that startled all of them.

Raven sat up a little so Murphy could hop out of the bed. All three of them exchanged a worried look as he slammed his hand down on the button. The door slid open to reveal a panting, red-faced Octavia.

 

“What’s wrong? Is it Lexa?” Luna asked quickly, already shifting out of bed as well.

 

Octavia shook her head rapidly, gasping for breath like she’d just run a marathon. “It’s Madi. We can’t find Madi.”

 

 

It was Octavia who eventually found Madi. 

 

Luna was sitting cross-legged on the bed with Madi curled up against her chest, her thumb in her mouth. Raven was beside them, rubbing Madi’s back comfortingly. Murphy stopped in the doorway beside Octavia, who looked absolutely crushed.

 

“Where was she? Under the bed?” He asked, his eyes on Luna as she rocked Madi gently, singing to her in a whisper.

 

Octavia’s jaw was tight, her arms crossed. Every muscle she had was tensed as though readying for battle as she shook her head, a stormy expression on her face. Murphy stood quietly beside her, waiting for a response with his eyes darting between Madi, Luna, Raven, and the dark look on Octavia’s face.

 

A moment went by before she responded in practically a whisper, “Under the floor.”

 

He must have heard her wrong. “The floor?”

 

“This is my family’s old room. She found the Hole and..” Octavia trailed off before her voice could crack. She looked to the ceiling, trying desperately to hold back the tears that threatened to escape. 

 

“Jesus,” he whispered, feeling his heart drop into his stomach. “Why would she.. I mean, after spending so much time there.. And Madi’s scared of the dark, so why..?”

 

Octavia took another moment to steady herself, and her voice came out low and gravelly. “An animal might hate its cage, but that’s where it goes when it’s scared anyway. It’s familiar, so the animal feels safe in it.”

 

If it was possible, his heart dropped even further down his gut, and he felt like he might get sick as he gazed at the tears dried on Madi’s pink cheeks. Something tightened in his chest as he glanced around the room once more. “Where’s Clarke?”

 

Octavia’s face darkened further, and her tone was laced with equal parts anger and disgust.

 

“Where do you think?”

 

 

Clarke was unconscious on the floor when he found her, slumped beside an empty jar.

 

Murphy leaned over and grabbed the jar, setting it up on the countertop. He slid his arms under Clarke’s legs and shoulders, his muscles straining as he lifted her awkwardly off the floor. 

 

“Thank god you hardly eat and Raven’s been kicking my ass into shape during training,” he told her unconscious form, struggling as he slid her onto the infirmary bed. Once he had her settled, he adjusted the back of the bed so it was nearly sitting up and put a bedpan next to her. “So when you boot, you don’t choke on it this time,” he explained as though Clarke were listening.

 

Clarke, of course, did not respond.

 

Murphy dragged a chair between her bed and Lexa’s and sank into it, rubbing the soreness from his forearms. He had intended to stand guard until Clarke woke, but as the minutes ticked by, the image of Madi crying and stuffing herself beneath their feet began to wear on him. He remembered all too well what it felt like to be trapped in a cage, to be held against your will. He couldn’t imagine it happening as a small child; nor being so terrified that all you wanted was to be back inside that cage. It broke his heart and made the fire that flickered deep inside himself begin to rage.

 

“Clarke,” he said, shaking her shoulder lightly. “Clarke, wake up. Come on.”

 

No response.

 

Clarke!” He raised his voice further and shook harder, eliciting a muffled groan from her throat. “Clarke, get up!” 

 

Her eyes blinked halfway open slowly, and her face crumpled into a grimace as she glanced around quickly in a haze. 

 

“Clarke, you need to get up. Ma—” He didn’t get a chance to finish before Clarke’s hands shoved him away violently, with a pained grunt. Twice as determined now, he grabbed Clarke’s arm, trying to steady her so she would listen. “Hey! Clarke, listen. Madi was—”

 

With a strength Murphy had definitely not anticipated, Clarke rolled sideways and raked the nails of her free hand deeply across his face, immediately drawing blood. She cried out as she twisted both against and with him, sinking her teeth into his forearm. He let out a scream of pain and tried to wrestle out of her grasp. She slashed at him wildly, feral with rage and totally out of her mind.

 

Echo and Roan skidded into the room, having heard the cries as they headed down the hall, and Roan immediately grabbed for Clarke. His strong embrace enclosed her like a cocoon as Echo pried her clawing fingers from Murphy’s arm and helped him away from the bed. Clarke twisted and screamed in Roan’s arms, but he barely blinked as she tore at his skin with her nails.

 

Gonot raun! Gonot raun, jok yu of!,” she slurred. The words mixed with tears as she finally slumped in Roan’s grip, tapped of energy.

 

Murphy stood in disbelief at what had just happened. A thick stream of blood ran down his right cheek, where her long, unmanicured nails had dug into his flesh and ripped it away. He stared at Clarke, collapsed and shaking in Roan’s unyielding arms, as Echo gently inspected the gash in his cheek.

 

“This needs a stitch or two,” she said softly. Murphy didn’t respond; there was too much happening in his head for him to process anything else at the moment. Echo laid her hand gently on his shoulder, her voice barely a whisper. “John? John, come with me, okay? Let me clean that up. Roan’s got her.”

 

That seemed to do it. He turned slowly and silently, letting Echo guide him into the exam room across the hall. He said nothing as he sat on the narrow cot in the room and stared blankly ahead as Echo began to clean the impressive wound. Even the sting of the antiseptic didn’t so much as make him blink. 

 

“Do you want to tell me what happened?” Echo offered kindly, collecting what she needed to close the gash. 

 

“You saw it. I just.. I tried to wake her from her booze nap, and she just..”

 

Echo paused briefly with her back towards him. She felt an overwhelming tightness in her chest, a burning pain at how ugly everything had gotten so quickly. But she knew she couldn’t afford to get emotional when she had work to do. She was still a novice, and that was at best. Aside of a few loose teeth and some mild injuries from training—and, of course, regular check-ups on Raven’s leg—she hadn’t practiced much medicine without Clarke at her side. It began to turn her thoughts dark as she realized that she was well and truly on her own at this point; fully responsible for the health and well-being of everyone on board the Ring. Including Clarke.

 

She took a deep, steadying breath as she brought the small tray to the bedside, and grabbed a bottle of saline and a small stack of gauze. Her voice was soft as she began dabbing around the edges of the wound. “No wonder Madi was scared.”

 

Murphy’s gaze finally met hers, his eyebrows furrowing. “Clarke? That’s why she was hiding?”

 

Echo bit her lip and nodded. “She was supposed to be napping, and she snuck down here to ask Clarke if they could watch ’En Haihefa Biga Sofstepa’ and..” She shrugged slightly as she readied her needle. 

 

Murphy’s face darkened quickly. “She didn’t —”

 

“No,” Echo replied quickly. “No, she didn’t hurt her. She just screamed at her and told her to go away.”

 

Murphy let out a hiss as she began stitching his face. It was painful, but he knew they had minimal amounts of anesthetic left after Lexa’s surgery, and a long time before any of the medicinal herbs in the hydro farm would allow them to make more. Assuming they could even figure out how to make more without Clarke’s help. He could bear it; he’d certainly bore worse in his lifetime than a couple of pokes with a sharp instrument.

 

“I’m sorry,” she said quietly. “I know it’s painful. And it’s probably going to scar. I haven’t really.. It’s my first time, you know.”

 

Murphy just shrugged one shoulder. “Then we’ll have matching scars, I guess.” He gazed up at her without moving his head, and she caught his eyes for a moment. They shared a small smile before he winced as she carefully worked a second stitch into the cut. 

 

“Mine will always be more impressive,” Echo said good-naturedly, as she tied it off. “I think two will be enough. It’s pretty tightly closed, but if you notice it starts bleeding again or anything just.. Come see me, okay?” 

 

“Sure thing, Doc,” Murphy said, turning his head just a little to see his reflection in the shining metal tray. “Looks kinda badass, actually. You did a good job.”

 

Echo let out a breath she wasn’t entirely aware she’d been holding, and smiled a little again as she quickly and carefully laid a bandage over the wound. “I hope so. I’m no Clarke, though. She’s an.. artist with this stuff.”

 

Murphy’s face darkened a little again. “We don’t need Clarke. We need you, Doc,” he said, emphasizing what she assumed was her new nickname. “Clarke doesn’t want to be part of this family anymore, and that’s fine. We’re all we’ve got, and we’re all we need.” Before Echo could respond, he stood up, checking his reflection one more time. “I’m gonna go make sure Madi’s okay. Thanks, Doc.”

 

Echo bit the inside of her cheek and nodded. “Sure thing. I’m just gonna clean up in here and make sure Roan doesn’t need me to stitch something too by now. I’ll be right behind you.”

 

Murphy inclined his head a little before he headed out, taking the long way around the medical wing to ensure he didn’t pass by Lexa’s room again. He wasn’t entirely sure if he was ready to see Clarke or whatever damage she had wrought in the past half hour; not yet, anyway.

 

Echo waited until his footsteps had faded completely—until she knew full well and certainly that she was alone—before she closed the exam room door and turned her back to it. She slid down the wall until she was sitting on the floor, her knees pulled up to her chest. She rested her forehead on her knees and finally, finally, finally, let herself cry.

 

 

NOW: 2200 Days Without Lexa

 

 

The hallway looked strange with the lights on.

 

The soft whirs and muted beeps of machinery crept into the silent hallway, maintaining their soft, steady rhythm as Murphy made his way through the door. Lexa’s room looked even stranger in the light, and the sour sting of stale alcohol lingered thickly in the air.

 

He brushed it off the best he could as he pulled a chair up to the bedside and dropped into it.

 

Lexa lay still as always, her hair loose on the pillow beside her. His eyes tracked from soft curls to the plastic tube that sat slightly sideways between chapped lips. They followed the tubing as it curled into the air above her head where it met with a dozen other tubes and wires—some tracking her vital signs, some hydrating and feeding her. A thin, clear tube pumped various medications into the PICC line that nestled into her bicep—carefully placed in the empty canvas of skin that lay in the hollow of her tattoo.

 

He watched the numbers flickering slowly; some of them changing with each beat of her heart, others steadily climbing as they marked various volumes infused. Even growing up on the Ark surrounded by tech, he remained overwhelmed by the sheer amount of equipment required to replace the essential functions of the body. 

 

Your body was such a compact thing to be so uncomfortably complex. It didn’t take up much space, even if you were someone the size of Roan. Then, within that unbelievably tiny space, you had two hundred and six bones, dozens of organs, and probably thousands of nerve endings, muscles, tendons, and other assorted connective tissue. By comparison, you needed an entire room’s worth of machinery to do the same job the body was designed to do with such seeming ease. It was near startling to realize, and it had not seemed to sit any better within his gut after six years than it did the first time he saw it all.

 

Murphy studied Lexa’s face quietly for a minute before sighing.

 

“I’ve gotta be honest. I don’t know if you’re still in there. And as much as I want my friend back, I really hope Clarke’s wrong. If I thought there was something out there to pray to, I’d pray every day that she’s wrong.” He paused, idly tapping his thumb against his knee as he mulled his thoughts over. “‘Cause if she’s right, it means you’ve been trapped in your own body for the last six years, and I wouldn’t even wish that on the guy that floated my dad.”

 

He rummaged in the pocket of his cargos and pulled out a small packet, tugging a homemade potato chip from it and chewing it thoughtfully. His gaze traced over the army of machines at Lexa’s bedside for another minute before continuing. “I bet this sounds pretty ironic coming from a cockroach, but the only thing that scares the shit out of me more than dying is being half alive.” He pointed another chip at her as though she were present for the conversation, raising an eyebrow a bit. “I’m guessing that’s something else you and I have in common.”

 

Murphy watched Lexa’s silent, unresponsive face for a few more minutes as the storm began raging inside his head. He imagined her hearing his words and being unable to respond, imagined himself in the same kind of hell she must be in if Clarke was right. He imagined his friends—no, his family—trapped, alone. Silenced, like they were all back in the skybox on the Ark, or the isolation cells and cages in Mount Weather. The thoughts tightened his throat until he could barely breathe. He nearly choked on the crisp in his mouth and quickly leaned over to get sick into the trash bin.

 

When he finished throwing up, he was only marginally surprised to find his cheeks were rapidly growing damp. He sat back and clasped his hands together tightly in his lap, slouching in the chair with his head hanging down as a quiet, fractured sob involuntarily slipped from his throat. 

 

No. Not now. Not ever, preferably; but definitely not right now.

 

Murphy’s jaw clenched tightly as he struggled to hold back further tears, and, finding himself in need of a distraction, he stood and glanced around the room.

 

“If I were a secret stash…” he murmured, thinking of his hidden packages of crisps ferreted away in his own room. His eyes fell first to the chest of drawers. He went over and tugged them open one by one, feeling only marginally guilty for digging through Clarke’s belongings. “Bingo.” He pulled out a nearly full jar of moonshine and set it on the dresser, glancing back at Lexa. “I’m good, you gotta admit it.”

 

He continued narrating his quest to Lexa as he pawed through the room and, when he had searched every inch there was, he pulled a fairly fancy flask from behind the headboard triumphantly. All told, there were six containers with varying amounts of liquor in them that he’d gathered.

 

He sat on the edge of the bed on Clarke’s side, and traced his fingers lightly over the design on the bottle. It was extraordinarily intricate and appeared to be gold; or at least, gold-plated. It had to have come from the Chancellor’s quarters, he figured. There were few people from the Ark that could have owned something so clearly expensive, even in a credits economy.

 

He looked at Lexa again and twisted the cap off the flask, raising it to her, his voice sadly dry. “Here’s to us. Lexa, the alive-slash-dead, and Murphy the hero-slash-thief.” He tilted his head back and took a gulp from the flask, letting out a dry, heated cough as the liquid stung his throat and burned behind his eyes. “You don’t mind, I assume. Place already stinks to hell of booze and depression, a little more of both shouldn’t even be noticeable.”

 

He took another swig, his eyes stinging and watering just a bit as he continued looking at his friend’s unresponsive form for a few long, silent minutes. The warmth of the alcohol began to spread in his gut, dulling his thoughts. “You know, if I thought Clarke was right, I’d probably pull that plug myself, Lex. Not just for you, and not even for Clarke. Mostly for Aden and Madi. Those kids..” He shook his head a little, trailing off and fingering the flask slowly again. 

 

“They’re starting to remind me of myself. Of Raven. Not now, you know. Now? We’re both awesome, I don’t have to tell you that. But as kids. Really.. just. Messed up, and alone, and guilty and scared and..” He took another, slower sip, closing his eyes briefly and sighing to himself as he searched for the word, and his voice was very small when he found it.

 

“Unwanted.” Murphy nodded to himself shortly before knocking back the last of the flask and sliding off the bed. 

 

He gathered the bottles and jars he’d found in his arms and went into the attached bathroom. He paused briefly before setting them on the sink as another idea came to him. He lifted the lid covering the toilet tank and winced internally as he stuck his hand into the reconstituted water. He pulled out a package of tightly wrapped silver tape and shook it near his ear, smirking at the telltale sloshing. He peeked out the door as if it mattered to Lexa and shook the package triumphantly. 

 

“The Godfather. Nice. At least your girlfriend appreciates the classics.”

 

Satisfied and somewhat proud of himself, he peeled back enough of the adhesive to expose the top of the bottle concealed within. One by one, he removed the other tops and dumped the jars into the toilet until the bathroom smelled worse than the rest of the suite. He silently flushed it all away and grabbed an empty burlap bag hanging on a nearby hook—one he recognized as belonging to Lexa herself—and silently loaded the emptied containers into the bag before shouldering it. The flask was far too nice to be floated, so he stuck it in his cargo pocket after rinsing it. 

 

He paused in the doorway and looked back at Lexa once more, his head fuzzy and tongue thick as the drink began to really hit him. His earlier joviality faded quickly as bits of reality began to wind around his blurry mind and seep in once more. When he finally spoke, his slightly slurred voice was so soft, he could barely hear it himself.

 

“I’m sorry for all of it, Lex. I know what you’re thinking right now.” He imitated the sweeter, softer tone Lexa had always used when watching others in pain—as though she was afraid to inadvertently cause them more with too harsh a tone. “It is not your fault, John.” 

 

He dropped the imitation, shifting the bag on his shoulder. “I appreciate that, Lex, but it’s not the truth, and we both know it. I saw it. I saw it a long time ago, you know. And I didn’t do anything about it.” He swallowed hard. “If you’re in there, if you.. know what’s going on? Don’t blame it all on Clarke. It was her, but it was me, too. It was Octavia, and Raven..” His voice caught, his throat tightening once more. “It was all of us. Jasper’s girlfriend was right.” Murphy’s voice wavered slightly, and he couldn’t be sure any longer if he was addressing Lexa, or himself, or the universe as a whole—but it didn’t really matter, because it would still be true regardless.

 

“None of us is innocent.”