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Earth I Will Miss

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My soul has been so fearful, so violent;
forgive its brutality.
As though it were that soul, my hand moves over you cautiously,

not wishing to give offense
but eager, finally, to achieve expression as substance:

it is not the earth I will miss,
it is you I will miss.

- Louise Gluck

 


 

The first thing Clarke thinks is: the pain is gone.

The cryo chamber whirs, the cogs turning until she can hear a lock popping open. The glass slides down, and she gets the first taste of air she didn't know she'd been craving.

Madi.

Her feet hit the floor and Clarke looks around. Madi's chamber is still locked, her daughter sleeping as soundly as ever.

"Clarke?"

Bellamy's voice drifts to her and she turns immediately. The Eligius ship is still whirring, the cryo room bathed in orange light, but he's there.

God, he's there.

"What's going on?"

She shakes the need to touch him just to make sure she's not dreaming. How long has it been? Her muscles aren't sore; it feels like it's been minutes.

"Jesus, it's been a hundred years," Bellamy supplies then, already on his feet and checking the monitor. He's grown older - they all have.

Clarke just wishes that they could've had a little more time to be young.

She just wishes Madi had more time to be young.

"Why isn't anybody else waking up?" she asks, crossing the room to get to him. He smells a little stuffy, but a hundred years in a cryo chamber will do that to you.

Bellamy shrugs. The monitor flickers to black and he turns towards her, his features softening.

"I don't know, but their vitals seem fine." 

She knows he's thinking the same thing: maybe this doesn't have to be the end of the world. Maybe it's just a weird coincidence. 

"What do you say we get that drink then?" she proposes at last, wringing her hands. God, it feels awkward. It feels like it was yesterday that she left him behind.

It wasn't that she thought he would die.

It was just that she had to save Madi.

Bellamy hangs his head, laughs into his chest, but there's a glint in his eye when he looks up.

"It was about time." He offers his hand, the sleeves of his dark blue shirt reaching down to his wrists. Clarke takes it, hesitantly at first, and feels the soft, clean cotton there. He's unharmed. They're safe.

For a second, it feels just like the first few moments of Mount Weather. Showers and chocolate cake and the guilt that came when someone startled a laugh out of her.

Now, she thinks she wouldn't even feel guilty. 

She doesn't have it in her anymore.

*

There is so much to discuss and yet, Clarke finds Bellamy laughing with a glass of moonshine at what she said about Mount Weather.

"Did you know I was jealous?" he asks, stirring the cup. The alcohol rocks side to side, and Clarke leans forward. She wants to know this. This is what they could never have.

A moment of some damn peace and quiet.

"Of what?"

Bellamy shakes his head again, meeting her gaze almost shyly. It makes heat flood her body; they're both older now and yet, she looks at him and feels eighteen again. 

Starting up at the last place they left off.

"Monty talked about their chocolate cake and a part of me wished - it's fucking stupid, but I wished I could've seen it through their eyes," he confesses, taking a sip. Then, he rolls his eyes and adds, "Not the draining for blood part, of course."

"No," Clarke agrees, feeling a smile pull her lips upwards. The moonshine pricks at her throat but she smiles anyway. "That part sucked."

For a moment, neither of them speak.

The ship is careening through space, Earth long forgotten. 

They dug up files on the computer, scanned the surface. Couldn't rest without getting answers, as if they were cursed somehow.

Their planet was uninhabitable. When they looked out the window, all they saw was dust. Monty and Harper confirmed it.

Do better.

So Bellamy said, "Fucking typical," and Clarke charted a course for the planet one of the first Eligius missions supposedly found.

Whatever it was, they could figure it out later. 

"It sounded peaceful, when we talked about it during those five years." He exhales, long, and leans back. 

Clarke savours the moment - his muscles straining, the sinews in his neck pulling taut and then relaxing. The wistful look in his eyes, the smile like asking if he even gets the right to remember some of their bloodiest days with nostalgia.

"I wish you could've seen it the way they saw it, Bellamy."

And there's a sliver of light then, a deep green crossing his face. For a moment, Clarke truly means it. For a moment, she lets herself imagine it.

"If you'd been there with me, I think we could've made it work with Mount Weather."

The luminescence shatters through the window and falls on her hands. She reaches for his.

"I'm sorry I was not there." 

His voice is strained, and Clarke rubs a thumb across his skin. Solid and warm. Good. 

Bellamy.

"I know."

*

They fall asleep together, his arms wrapped around her waist, in what used to be the captain's quarters.

When they wake up, Clarke immediately notices two things:

There are scrapes on both their fingers where there had been none last night.

His beard is gone.

The green light remains on his face for a split second longer and then there's nothing.

Just Bellamy, reckless and young and covered in cuts and bruises.

"Bellamy," she whispers, shaking him. He stirs, croaking out something unintelligible and pulling her in. "You have to wake up. Come on."

In a fit of panic, she manages to look around, only to find walls where there used to be metal on the Eligius. 

On the blank wall above their twin size bed, there is a painting of night lit up in colors by the stars in its sky. 

Van Gogh.

"Bellamy, I need you to wake up. Right now."

He jerks out of sleep, rising to seated immediately. 

It doesn't escape her how he checks her first, scans her face for signs of hurt, and then, only then, checks himself and the rest of the room.

It takes him a beat.

Then -

"We're not on the Eligius."

Clarke shakes her head. "No, we're not. We're-"

The words burn in her throat. 

The walls are solid, there's no machine hum anywhere. In the distance, she can hear voices, but they're not battle cries. 

They're just talking, safe and unharmed.

"I think we're at Mount Weather."

*

They're still trying to understand what it means when the door unlocks with the tell-tale sound she remembers from a different reality.

For a second, Clarke thinks she's dreaming. But then she prods the cut on her arm and knows she's not.

"Clarke, Bellamy. It's good to see you're up."

Doctor Tsing strides into the room, accompanied by Maya.

Maya.

God, she looks so healthy. Alive.

She smiles warily at them. There are no blisters on her cheeks, no words of "None of us are innocent " crossing her lips.

"Yeah, I bet-" Bellamy starts but Clarke silences him with a shove of her elbow into his ribs. He shoots her a worried glance but falls back.

Spend eons with someone saving the world, and you don't even have to talk to communicate.

"We have to talk to president Wallace. Can you arrange that?"

Tsing raises an eyebrow, surveying them in a different light. To her, they're still kids fighting for survival.

But Monty's words are still haunting Clarke's thoughts. Do better.

Suddenly, she realizes she intends to.

"How do you know our president?"

Clarke smiles. "Just take us to him."

This time, she doesn't shatter the door window. She doesn't put a glass shard to Maya's throat.

This time, Clarke and Bellamy get dressed in silence, and they walk out through the door. 

"What's your plan?" he asks quietly, falling back so Tsing doesn't hear them. "And how the hell are they alive? Maya doesn't even remember us."

"Time travel."

He sputters, choking on nothing. Probably thinks she's finally lost it. But when they walk by a reflective glass sheet separating the hallway from the Philpott Dam, he sees.

Both of them look like they did the first time they got separated.

They lack certain scars.

Tsing and the guards stop in their tracks, her voice lilting towards them. "Is everything alright?"

"Sure," Clarke chirps back. Even her voice sounds strange to her. She takes Bellamy's hand in hers and says, private only for him to hear, "I know. Come on, I'll explain."

On the Eligius, she chartered a course for Sanctum, just as Monty had told her to. But Sanctum was light years away - out in the uncharted galaxies.

Be careful, he told them, growing old and happy in peace with the woman he loved. Do better

There were things out there that none of them could explain.

The green light. Anomalies swallowing up ships trying to do what Eligius III reportedly succeeded in doing.

Their unstable universe.

And Clarke, wanting to do good this time around.

"Monty said to do better. So that's what we're going to do," she tells him finally. His jaw locks but he nods, sharp. 

They're in Wallace's office, free of any signs of all the violence which took place eons ago. Clarke remembers the oil paint spilling across the room, all that blood, the man dying in front of her.

I bear it so they don't have to.

She is tired of bearing it. 

She is tired of everyone bearing it. Tired of seeing people die and feeling like she had not done enough because she was pushed into a corner and the only way out was to kill everyone to save her people.

It ends now.

"Clarke," Dante nods at her, and then looks at Bellamy. "Bellamy. Welcome to Mount Weather. What can I help you with?"

He motions for them to take a seat and this time, they do. 

Next to her, Bellamy is on edge, and she knows what he must be feeling: the need to itch for a fight, when it just isn't coming.

They're too old, too tired.

So Clarke does what she could not do a century ago. She says, "Thank you for saving our people."

Dante smiles, an honest smile, even if he's got plenty to hide. Give a leader a few years of perspective, and Clarke now understands he had always been their best chance of surviving on the ground.

"How are they?" Bellamy cuts in, leaning forward, and Dante assesses him. Older than Clarke, but perhaps not as dangerous.

The Delinquents must have told him about their leaders. Bellamy, with his desire to fight and protect them. Clarke, with her devious ring of fire.

"They are doing well. The majority of them have been cleared from quarantine. Unfortunately," he starts, a sympathetic gaze softening his features, and Clarke's heart stops, "Miss Reyes won't be able to recover her left leg fully."

"You found Raven?"

Dante nods. "We did everything we could, but the bullet was lodged in her spine."

Clarke looks at Bellamy and finds her surprise reflected on his face.

The first time, they hadn't taken Raven with them. 

"How many of our people have you found?"

"62. The rest were-"

"Dead," Bellamy finishes, looking into the distance. "Grounders."

Dante nods.

"Grounders. Your explosion," he shoots Clarke a weary smile, "stopped them. Miss Reyes and Mister Jordan explained everything."

"I know."

It's different, this time around.

This time around, they know what the people at Mount Weather did. 

They know Dante doesn't like using the Grounders to keep his people alive.

They know Cage doesn't mind at all.

And they know that there is a better solution.

In a split second, Clarke looks to Bellamy. She wants to ask: Are you tired? Do you want to stop losing our people? Do you want to live on Earth, even if it's just for a few more years before the power plants blow us all to hell?

And the most important question, brought about by the strange new universe allowing them to be here: Do you believe in this?

He nods.

Together, they take a leap of faith.

"We know you need the Grounders to keep your people alive. And we have a better solution than draining them for blood."

True to his wisdom, Dante's eyes widen only slightly, and he leans back, motions for her to keep talking.

She swears there is a current of relief shooting through the room.

"A few hours ago, the rest of our people from the Ark arrived to Earth. We have scientists and doctors who can help yours. Plenty of people to willingly donate their blood, too."

"And what is the caveat?"

"Your people won't be able to go back to the ground in this generation. If our genes for metabolizing radiation are as strong as you think they are, maybe your grandchildren will." She understands the pitfalls of this solution. They could just drill their bone marrow, as they once did. 

But Clarke is operating on faith and a few calculations. Mainly faith.

If it doesn't work, well… They'll pull that lever again.

But this time, she wants to do something to stop the violence. Not incite it.

She wants to do something so she doesn't see Jasper kill himself. She wants to see Maya reach old age. She wants to-

God, she wants to help her people live, not just survive.

"You want to mix gene pools?" Dante asks, leaning forward, and Clarke sags in relief. 

"Yes. It's the only solution that doesn't end with both of our people dead."

Dante is silent for a beat, and Clarke feels her heart rate picking up. Next to her, Bellamy leans forward, hands clasped in front of him.

He won't look at her.

She wouldn't look at herself, either. Not if she suggested working with people who hung him upside down and drained him for blood.

But she knows he understands. 

Bellamy may not like it, but he's never stopped wanting to help their people survive.

This is a way of keeping the majority of them alive. Not just a handful.

"And," Bellamy speaks finally, first addressing the floor and then looking at Dante, "there is a much bigger danger we can help you prevent."

"That sounds all well and good, but it's a threat, isn't it?"

Clarke nods.

"We can irradiate Mount Weather. But we'd rather if all of us survived."

Dante swallows, hard.

"How do you know?"

It could still be a dream, Clarke knows. She could wake up on the Eligius, their beloved Earth ripe for the taking. It could've all been a fever dream.

But it'd be too simple, and they never got simple.

"That doesn't matter. Free the people in the cages above medical. We'll talk then."

"You don't expect me to negotiate with blackmailers, surely?" Dante asks, but she knows he's considering it. She'd seen into the heart of him when she killed him.

She knows he'll say yes.

"I do, if you want to help your people live. Because your son isn't going to. Stop the experiments, and we'll help your people find peace. There are bigger dangers to worry about."

"Help us help you," Bellamy adds, gruff. He sounds desperate. They got hope, and now they have weaponized that hope.

They might be making the same mistakes, but they have to try.

"Go get breakfast. See your people. I'll let you know what I've decided tonight."

Clarke lingers behind, Bellamy well out the door. She looks at Dante and realizes that he's old. Frail. 

It's a feeling she knows well.

"You bear it so they don't have to," she repeats his words at him and sees surprise dawn on his face. "So do I. But we no longer have to. We can make sure we deserve to survive."

She's turning around when Dante finally speaks.

"Thank you, Clarke."

And she already knows what the answer will be.

*

Monty is the first to spot them. He launches himself into a hug, and Clarke laughs, feeling tears trickle down her cheeks as the rest of the delinquents swarm them.  

They look happy. Healthy. Fed.

"We're so glad you're here!" Jasper says, parting from a hug with Bellamy. Clarke looks at him, alive and hopeful, and she doesn't regret a thing.

"How are you? Has anyone harmed you?" Bellamy asks, inspecting them all for injuries. There are none. The kids just roll their eyes at him like he's being ridiculous.

This is what she's missed.

"Chill, Bellamy," Jasper tells him, fond. "Try some chocolate cake."

Bellamy looks at her then, just a quick glance, and a pit of warmth grows in Clarke's stomach. 

"Bring me some too!" she calls after them, letting Monty take her to their table. 

The first time, she didn't want to eat their food. She snatched the map out of the introductory folder they'd been given.

But this time, she knows Mount Weather by heart, and she is pretty hungry so she digs in. Lets the chocolate melt in her mouth as the delinquents laugh at the expressions she and Bellamy make.

"It's damn good cake," Bellamy says finally, with an angsty expression like it physically pains him to say that, and they erupt into guffaws again.

The people of Mount Weather come to introduce themselves, ask them about living in space and on the ground. They still hold to niceties, avoiding the subject of their war with the Grounders.

They all know, of course, but all of them extend them the common courtesy of forgetting their traumas, even if for a second.

"Let me know if you need anything," Maya tells Clarke, touching her shoulder gently. "I know it's weird."

And Clarke feels a ton of relief vanish when she can honestly say:

"Thank you. I will."

*

When they woke up on Eligius and found that they could not return to Earth, Clarke's first thought was longing.

Ever since they tumbled to the ground, wide eyed and hopeful in spite of science telling them that they would not survive, she relished in the feeling of the ground. 

The silence.

She would wake up to war drums, but at least there was no machine hum.

Fall to her knees covered in blood, but at least the trees.

The real air.

So when they saw that they could not return, her first instinct was to say: Oh.

Oh, but I want to go home.

Clarke had died on that Eligius ship, too. Without Earth, there was nothing to hope for.

Without Earth, they were as lost as they had always been.

*

Longing is a strange sensation, and it picks up when Bellamy and she are sitting in a quiet corner.

"What about Madi? If we stay here, you won't see Madi."

She saved Madi. She fought for her. In the end, she failed her too.

"If we stay here, Madi will have parents and a good life," she responds, fingers tracing the map of Mount Weather.

Last time, she was looking for exits.

Now she looks for rooms - appreciates the kindergarten and the school. All the kids crowding the hallways during mornings.

Clarke lets herself see the moments in between, the moments that make this worth living for.

"I'll always miss her, but if we do this, she gets to live in peace."

She gets to live without a chip in her head, the imposed responsibility Clarke never wanted for her daughter.

"We'll find her," Bellamy says at last, reaching for her hand. He touches her like he hears her thoughts, and Clarke is grateful. She sees herself reflected in him, and it is this that she has missed. Looking at him and knowing what she can count on - knowing his thoughts as intimately as she knew her own. "We'll make sure she's safe."

"Thank you."

Bellamy chuckles, shakes his head. "It's the least I can do."

After implanting the chip in her head. After jeopardizing her to save their people.

They always made these impossible choices. They never came out as victors, just barely hanging by the skin of their teeth. 

Marching into a new battle.

Suddenly, she feels tired and sags into her chair. There are paintings on the walls, their people milling around with smiles on their faces.

Tonight, they'll have to figure it out.

Tomorrow, they'll go looking for Ark survivors and Octavia. Clarke still remembers her old to-do list, but now has more information.

There'll be plenty of work, trying to save humanity this time around.

But Bellamy offers his shoulder and says, "Come on, rest," and she does.

*

Dante calls them to his office right after dinner.

Clarke knows he's been watching them. The way they talk to the kids, assessing if they mean harm or truly want to help. He probably even saw them talking alone, the degree of removal from their own people.

They bear it so the delinquents don't have to.

And Clarke doesn't know what Dante had seen, but the first words out of his mouth are:

"How do we do this?"

Next to her, Bellamy hangs his head and laughs, relieved. Dante pours whiskey and they swallow it greedily, shaking hands and talking a mile a minute.

Everyone has ideas on how to do this - ensure that the people at Mount Weather don't have to live underground forever, while saving both the Grounders and the Sky People. 

“They’ll never forgive you for using their people,” Bellamy tells Dante, matter-of-factly. Years gave them this - the perspective to know that there are no completely good choices. There is no way that somewhere down the line, a Grounder won’t sneak in and blow up Mount Weather.

“You can’t let them in,” Clarke supplies. Strangely, the words don’t burn in her stomach. She can’t please everyone with the choices she makes. But she can make sure there is a home to return to. “Ever.”

“We’ll let them go.”

“I know, but they won’t forgive you. Let us handle it. There is a woman - the commander of their people. She might listen.”

A part of her has forgotten that in this life, Lexa is alive. In this life, Titus didn’t shoot her because love was weakness and he’d only meant to do good.

In this life, even Lexa will get to live.

But they won’t be friends, they won’t be lovers. 

If Clarke wants to do this, it means never showing love to the people she has nothing else for.

Dante nods, agrees to everything she says. They’re given a guard detail for the next day, to drive to Polis and arrange the release of the Grounders Clarke can almost hear wailing through the walls.

She closes her eyes. Lets go of what she cannot change. Focuses on what she can do.

“Octavia will help,” Bellamy adds and Clarke smiles. In this life, his sister is not Blodreina. 

In this life, they haven’t committed all the atrocities condemning them to the endless journey through the dark universe. 

“It sounds like a plan,” she ultimately says, when the clock has ticked midnight and Dante’s eyes are drooping above makeshift maps. 

“Go get some rest. We’ll meet again in the morning.”

But when they go back to the room, the delinquents already fast asleep, Clarke finds that she can’t close her eyes.

If she closes her eyes, all of this could go away. It could still be a dream, even if it comes with sacrifice. 

She could still open her eyes, only to find that she’s back on the Eligius and there is no home to return to.

“Bellamy?”

He hums on the bunk below her. 

They were even given pajamas - cotton softer than anything she’d ever felt. Worn, but treasured, taken care of. It reminds her of the Ark; they all got very little, but they fiercely protected whatever it was that they could truly call theirs.

“I can’t sleep,” she admits, eyes fixed to the ceiling. The emergency lights are lighting a pathway to the front door, but her bones are too heavy to move. 

She doesn’t expect Bellamy to say anything, but the lower bunk creaks and she can hear him shifting his weight, rising up between beds.

His eyes give off their own light when he looks at her.

“You want company?”

They look like they are eighteen and twenty-three, but their behavior gives their true age away. When she was eighteen, Clarke would’ve been reluctant to say what she needs. She would’ve been reluctant to trust people who tried to kill them in a past life.

But she’s older now, so she smiles and makes room for him on the bed. Curls into his solid shape and exhales when he wraps his arms around her.

“Thank you.”

“Don’t mention it,” he whispers into the top of her head. For a second, he pauses and Clarke can feel the air shift. 

Then, his whole body relaxes as if with a strange resolve, and he plants a kiss on her hair. 

Clarke nuzzles closer, breathes in the smell of him. Laundry detergent, the unmistakable clean smell of it. And something else - something that is so uniquely his that she hasn’t been able to forget it, no matter how much time had passed. 

She presses a kiss to his chest and feels his heart skip, laughs as quietly as possible.

“I hope this is not a dream. I hope we don’t wake up.”

“You and me both, Princess.” His arms tighten around her. “You and me both.”

*

They wake up to hushed whispers and chuckles, and Clarke knows they’re still at Mount Weather. 

Bellamy is sleeping, his warm breath fanning her face, but they’ve shifted in the night and now she’s lying on top of him. When she looks up, her nose grazes his chin. 

“Come on, we all knew it was gonna happen,” she hears Jasper’s voice and turns towards the source. When she cranes her head, she can see the kids grinning at them. Jasper gives her a mock salute. “Good morning, o’ fierce leaders. Did you sleep well?”

Suddenly, she understands what it looks like, and she buries her head back in Bellamy’s chest. This is the one problem she can’t solve.

“Just let us live.”

“Got it, boss! Let’s go, guys. If they want to be late for breakfast, that’s on them.”

The room empties of the delinquents and only after Fox has closed the door behind her does Clarke stir again. 

She looks at Bellamy, only to find him training one eye on her with a smirk.

“They think we’re sleeping together.”

“You heard that?” Clarke asks, shock bubbling out of with a laugh. Bellamy nods and she punches his shoulder. “You could’ve said something!”

Bellamy shifts under her, holding her pressed to him with a hand on the small of her back. His other arm floats lazily behind his head; the perfect image of a cat-like satisfaction. 

“Nah. I don’t mind.”

Clarke shoots him a glare but thinks it’s probably not as fierce as she wants it to be because Bellamy throws his head back and laughs. In the morning light - which is really just artificial yellow light - he looks younger.

She almost forgets that this is their second chance.

When she remembers, it strikes her all over again. 

“We have work to do. Come on.”

*

Lexa first wants to kill them.

It takes convincing from Indra, Octavia and Lincoln, who almost arrive too late, to make her come back around and consider their idea.

By then, Bellamy is holding an ice pack to his cheek, and Clarke’s got a cut on her lip that won’t stop oozing blood.

“I’m really fucking tired of this,” she says, slinking down the wall. Lexa’s guard is keeping an eye on them and she glares at him. “You’d think people would stop punching us.”

Bellamy barks out a laugh.

“At least we know we’re not dreaming.”

It hurts seeing that the woman Clarke loved so much doesn’t even remember her. Lexa speaks to her like they are enemies and all Clarke wants to do is shout: Stop! We used to love each other. You used to care about what happened to me.

Now, there is nothing.

So when Lexa says that she could kill everyone at Mount Weather, Clarke just sighs wearily and responds, “You could. But an eye for an eye makes the whole world go blind.”

“Blood must have blood.”

“Keep telling yourself that. They’re the only ones who can stop the second Praimfaya.”

Lexa considers her seriously now. “We’ve survived the first Praimfaya. We don’t need help from the Mountain Men.”

“This one would be even worse. Everyone who is not a Nightblood would die. You don’t want that.”

“How would you know what I want, Clarke of the Sky People?” 

Because once upon a time, we used to want the same thing. And you died because of it.

“Because I know what the chip in your head is telling you. I know what Becca Pramheda is saying. And I think it’s time you listened to her.”

Clarke no longer feels guilty for all the lies and half-truths that cross her mouth in the days which arrive slowly, but surely. 

She leverages superstitions and knowledge that makes everyone fear her. Dante doesn’t know how she and Bellamy know what will happen, but a part of him is afraid of them.

Lexa raises an eyebrow but nods, solemn, like Clarke is an orifice spouting prophecies at her. 

Even her own mother and Kane, now mercifully alive and clean of addiction, smell like fear whenever Clarke opens her mouth to speak.

She knows too much, and she isn’t afraid to use that knowledge.

Bellamy, on her side, stays quiet unless she fails at words. He trusts her enough to hang back. Sometimes, she wishes people were as afraid of him, but in this life he never worked with Pike. He never slaughtered hundreds at Hakeldama.

In this life, he is still the rebel prince, and Clarke watches herself transform into Wanheda against all odds.

Aftaimheda,” Titus tells her, a bite to his words, and Bellamy moves before Clarke can react. 

He places a hand on her arm, steering her clear of the man, and barks out, “Fuck off.”

“I thought Aftaimheda would be better than Wanheda, but they’re one and the same, aren’t they?”

Bellamy shrugs. “The commander of the future. It’s an improvement.”

She doesn’t think to ask him about Echo until they’re back at Mount Weather, overseeing the release of the Grounders from the cages. They totter out into the hands of Lexa and only a dozen of her most trusted warriors.

They could take the whole damn mountain down, but Clarke has faith that they won’t.

When Echo exits the mountain, Clarke thinks she was so damn stupid.

“I’m sorry about her, Bellamy. I-”

“You forgot,” he adds, crossing his arms, the muscle in his jaw ticking. “I know.”

His expression tells her that he forgot, too, and Clarke wonders what that must mean.

Ever since they arrived to this version of reality, Clarke has been slower. 

She’s been pausing at all the moments she used to glance over. The looks, the exchanges, the taste of that damn chocolate cake eaten in a warm room without the rattle of guns and swords.

So now she looks at her partner and wonders what it all means.

A small, selfish part of her wants to think it’s because of her. 

That she is enough to make Bellamy forget about the woman he’d spent five years with, trapped in space. 

She wants to believe that it’s enough that she, Clarke, takes his hand and says: “I’m sorry.”

But Bellamy’s hand stays immobile in hers, and he just shakes her words away.

“We need to move. Kane is coming tonight.”

*

Mount Weather can heal a lot, but there is one thing it cannot erase: memories.

Clarke remembers what it felt like to hold Madi, and finds herself drawing away from the people she’d been wanting to save. Her mother looks at her and misunderstands. 

Jasper and Monty and Raven and Finn and everyone eat chocolate cake, listen to music, and start hooking up with Mount Weather residents.

Clarke sticks to empty hallways.

Bellamy goes missing for hours on end.

They tell Dante about the power plants and find that Mount Weather can shut them down from afar. 

“Our ancestors thought about every possibility,” he explains, the oil paint staining his hands. The canvas behind him is no longer green - memories of the only time he’d ever been on the ground. 

Now it’s red and golden, the scenes of Clarke’s people and his people eating and laughing together. 

“They just forgot that we could be violent.”

Dante smiles at her. “Not all of us, I suppose.”

Bellamy no longer comes with her to the meetings, and his absence tugs at Clarke. He sleeps in the bunk below her, but they don’t talk. When she wakes in the morning, his boots are already gone. There’s always work to do.

When Raven locks them in a supply closet, it’s been three days since they’ve spoken to each other. 

“You wanna tell me what the fuck happened?” she demands, rearing for a fight. Her old jacket is gone, but there’s a raven hanging around her neck again and Clarke is happy for her. She really is. 

Bellamy crosses his arms. “What do you mean?”

“I mean - you knew about the power plants. And I know about the Grounders. Maya told me. So now I want to know: how? How do you know?”

It was the one thing the three of them agreed on: the Sky People didn’t have to know about the Grounders. They didn’t have to know that for a second, they were in danger. They could still be in danger, even if Clarke did everything she could to mitigate the risks.

Bellamy raises an eyebrow at Clarke. The first time he’s looked at her in days.

She caves in.

Tells Raven everything.

Tells her about the anomaly in space, the green light, the wishful thinking. The lost years, all of the things that happened.

And by the end of it, when Raven is collapsing to the floor, eyes wide and wild, Clarke knows that a part of her remembers.

A part of her remembers the solitary years nowhere. The click of the cryo chamber as it shut on them and they went to sleep. The fighting, the wounding. The impossible choices and even more improbable solutions.

“Time travel?” she asks finally, eyeing them in the sickly half-light of the supply closet. Outside, a man laughs, tells someone he can’t wait for dinner. 

Clarke nods.

“I don’t know how else to explain it.”

“Is it possible?” Bellamy asks at last. Clarke has forgotten about him. He was quiet as she and Raven spoke.

Now, he only has one question, and Raven laughs darkly.

“What isn’t possible? I mean, we thought living on Earth would be impossible for centuries. And now we’re here. We’re at peace.” The look in her eyes then turns cagey, half-hopeful, as if she’s afraid of voicing it. “But thank you. If all of that was supposed to happen, then… Thank you for choosing to change it.”

Bellamy stays long after Raven leaves.

For a second, it’s comfortable. 

Then he says, “I went to see Gina.”

Gina, pouring moonshine up above their heads. People from the Ark had been steadily rebuilding their camp around Mount Weather. Dozens of them went through decontamination protocols every day, exchanging information with the people of Mount Weather who couldn’t see the light of day.

Kane even donated the three space suits they managed to salvage to Raven and Monty, made them repurpose them into ground suits for the residents of Mount Weather.

Clarke said it would give them ideas about living on the ground and jeopardizing the Sky People.

Kane just shrugged and said: We have to try to do better.

So here they were, trying to do better. 

“She doesn’t remember me.”

Clarke’s stomach falls.

“Can you imagine that?” Bellamy asks, a sardonic note creeping into his voice. “I watched her die when Mount Weather was blown up, and she doesn’t even remember me.”

No matter what they did, they couldn’t make everything work. 

Kane and her mom still disagreed with her. Dante’s son still fought when they destroyed the Reaper serum. There were still a lot of people out there, looking for revenge.

“Echo doesn’t remember me. Gina doesn’t remember me. Octavia- I can’t talk to Octavia. She doesn’t remember, but I do.”

The back of his head hits the supply closet wall with a thud, and Clarke hears his sharp inhale.

“Some days, it seems like I’m condemned to you. And you left me to die in the pits.”

“You stuck that fucking chip into my kid’s head,” Clarke shoots back, feeling fury rise in her red and violent and ugly. 

He has no right. 

He has no right whatsoever. 

You left me to die on Earth. You chose everyone else over me. Five years - five fucking years I called you on the radio every single day. Even Madi thought I was going insane. And then you came to the ground and you forgot that we were leaders. Not you. We. You took my kid to save your people, and you shoved that chip in her head. You forgot about me.”

His form in the closet is growing blurrier by the second, angry tears bubbling in her eyes, and Clarke knuckles them away.

“I would’ve never left you if you hadn’t made me do it. You took my friends away, you took my kid away, and you took my partner away. You were the one who left first. So fuck you, Bellamy. You lost girlfriends. I lost so many people I loved.”

And then - 

“I lost my kid.”

She doesn’t know how it happens. 

One moment, she’s still crying furiously and biting her lip so she wouldn’t start shouting, and the other his hands are everywhere, pressing her closer and saying - “I know, I’m sorry, I’m so-”

Clarke is sorry for it all, but she’s tired of being the first one to apologize. 

She’s tired of the people she wants to save looking at her like she’s responsible for their sadness. She’s tired of being unable to do anything.

And she’s so damn tired of the one person she’s got left looking at her like she didn’t do everything she could to keep him safe.

“I don’t want your forgiveness. I don’t want anyone’s forgiveness,” she hisses into his chest and pushes him away. He won’t let go, and she’s glad for it. She’s so glad for it. “I don’t need it. I did everything I could. I’m not guilty.”

It’s a physical sensation, at first - something very heavy lifting from her shoulders. All of her muscles unclenching, relief pouring through her body. 

She’s not guilty.

The realization startles her. It’s enough to make her sag in Bellamy’s arms, uncaring of what he’ll think.

“I was seventeen when we were sent to the ground. I just wanted to survive and then I had to be a leader. It’s not my fault everything went to shit. It’s not my fault the second Praimfaya happened. I did what I could to stop it. I stayed behind so you could survive. And I’m not sorry - I’m not sorry you left. But it’s not my fault.

“None of it is my fault.”

They stay like that for what seems like hours. Bellamy keeps her close and Clarke doesn’t try to leave. 

For the first time in years, her people are safe and as happy as they can be. There may be a lot of work to get done, but not right now. She gets this moment.

She gets to feed herself first.

*

The truth comes out on Unity Day.

They’re all eating and laughing when Clarke hears a commotion by Dante’s table. 

Cage seems to be arguing with his father and even before he’s risen, Clarke knows what’s going to happen.

“I can’t stay silent anymore,” he shouts, attracting all the attention to himself. “It’s not right.”

Like Cage has any preconceptions of what is wrong and right.

“You were going to drain them for blood!”

Now, that attracts attention. Clarke shifts in her chair and scans the faces in the room.

The people of Mount Weather look guilty.

Her own people start by looking confused. That confusion turns into fear. Finally, they settle on anger.

“What the fuck is he talking about?” Murphy asks from the end of the table, and Bellamy makes a motion to rise up. Clarke stops him.

“He’s telling the truth."

The room falls silent. Out of the corner of her eye, Clarke sees the Ark guards moving in closer. 

“We all know that the people here can’t go to the ground. Their bodies can’t metabolize radiation like ours can, like those of the Grounders can. It’s why we donate blood today. It’s why we help.”

There are hundreds of people in the room now, as if drawn by the pull of the truth. Clarke watches them fill out previously empty corners, Mount Weather and Sky people alike.

It could turn into a carnage.

Again, it falls on her to stop it.

“We-”

But Bellamy is quicker, rising to his feet, standing shoulder to shoulder with her. 

“We’ve suffered. A lot. We’ve made impossible choices. But so have the people here, people who have taken us in. There isn’t a thing we wouldn’t do to survive. We floated our own people on the Ark,” he says and looks to Kane. There isn’t a shred of blame in his expression. Just facts. Just things they have to come to terms with. “All to survive.”

God, she’s forgotten about her dad. About his mom. 

“President Wallace did what we had to do on the Ark. He sacrificed some to save others. He did what we did when we lit the ring of fire and burned the Grounders attacking us. It’s not right, and it’s not moral. But it was how a part of mankind survived. Now,” she says and looks at Dante, an incomprehensible look on the older man’s face, “we’re making sure we deserve to survive.”

“What did they do, though?” Finn asks from the end of the table. Raven hits his leg but he just keeps looking at Clarke. 

They always look to her for answers.

“We imprisoned the Grounders and drained them of their blood so our people could get the transfusion they needed to survive,” Dante says. Cage makes a move to speak but it only takes one glance from his father to sit him down. “We planned on asking you to donate blood.”

“They planned on drilling your bone marrow,” Cage supplies unhelpfully and Clarke rolls her eyes. 

“No, my son,” Dante responds, as quietly and calmly as Clarke feels. “You planned on drilling their bone marrow. I wanted to ask them to donate blood.”

“That would never get us to the ground, and you know it.”

“Well, fortunately, Clarke and Bellamy had a better idea.”

Their people watch them all bicker like kids until Bellamy shouts and reclaims the attention.

“They fucked up, alright? All of us have. Kane and the Council floated our parents. They sent us to the damn ground, knowing it could be unsurvivable. I nearly killed Murphy. The Grounders wanted to kill us all for swimming across a river.

“If you think someone here is not guilty of crimes, stand up. Come on.” His face is red, furious. Every word sounds like Clarke said it. It’s the truth, and you can’t resist the truth. “Stand up and say whose hands you think are clean.”

A moment passes in silence and the tension dissipates.

“The plan now is to survive together. And thanks to Clarke and president Wallace, we have a way of not fighting every damn day of our lives. That was always the plan. That’s what we’re doing.”

“How do we know they’re not just going to wake up one day and decide to kill us?”

Some look at their Mount Weather friends when Murphy poses the question. Others only hold their friends closer. Clarke sees Jasper wrap an arm around Maya protectively, chin raised high as if daring someone to make the first move.

“We don’t know,” Clarke says finally. “But we can trust each other. We have to trust each other if we want to survive. Some of you are already falling in love here. Our genes are strong enough to ensure that in one or two generations, every child born here is capable of going to the surface. Until then, we are fed. We are happy. And we are not alone.”

“Does that answer your questions?” Bellamy barks out, frowning. He looks like he stepped off the Dropship two days ago; itching for someone to challenge him.

No one does.

“It sounds fair,” Murphy acquiesces at last. “It beats the Ark.”

He grins, and in a second, the rest of the Sky People are laughing.

At least they have that.

At least the trees and the ground and the fresh air.

*

Ten days later, she finds Bellamy in the art warehouse.

On the sixth level of Mount Weather, they house all the art and books they can’t exhibit anywhere else. There’s no room anymore. Even the Ark houses Monet. 

And naturally, where there are books, there will be Bellamy.

“Hey,” she greets him from the door, leaning against the metal and feeling the cold seep through her shirt. 

These days, they get to change every few days. She gets to wear dresses that are almost pristine - all they need are a few stitches. Bellamy gets them fixed in no time.

In turn, she cuts his hair when it starts falling in his face.

“Clarke, hey. I was just - “

“Hiding?”

He laughs, easy. Something dissipated in that supply closet. On Unity Day, it left for good. 

“Something like that, yeah.”

“You want company?” she asks, parroting his words back to him. It doesn’t escape his notice and he smiles. 

“Yours? Always.”

She crosses the threshold and almost stumbles to where he is, still exploring all the books on the shelves. 

There are encyclopedias he brings to bed, heavy and covered in dust. Their entire room reeks of them, especially as winter arrives and the Sky People move underground to stay warm.

Strangely enough, they don’t feel cooped up. It’s as if some of Mount Weather’s patience transferred to them. 

Or maybe it’s just the fact that they get to be safe and a little happy, not worrying about rations or floating anymore.

Whatever it is, it’s magic.

“You remember when we came here?” she asks him suddenly. The Manets and Piccassos are calling to her, but Clarke keeps her gaze focused on Bellamy.

He looks healthier, too. Sturdier. Muscle sustained by fighting gives way to softness. He looks more human.

Clarke, too, feels more human. 

She wakes up hungry in the morning and thinks about chocolate cake first. There’s no war to plan. Just a day of rebuilding.

“Which time? The first or the second?”

“After Eligius.” She sees his back tense up, but she keeps going. “We were afraid to fall asleep. We thought we’d wake up. How long has it been since you last thought of the past?”

Bellamy turns around, meeting her gaze. She’s half-afraid he’s going to be angry with her, but he’s not. He just looks like he doesn’t have it in him to fight anymore.

Like the happiness extinguished whatever rage there was.

This peace, it’s too precious to both of them. 

Even if some nights they wake up screaming, and no one but their other part can console them.

“Today, I haven’t thought of Madi until I saw Sargeant Lovejoy’s kid.”

Madi is safe and happy. Protected by her parents, the strongest warriors in the Shallow Valley clan. She grows up wild and looks at Clarke curiously. If anyone wonders why Aftaimheda has a soft spot for a particular Shallow Valley kid, they don’t show it. 

“I just can’t believe we’re finally safe,” Bellamy says at last. “We were never safe.”

He says we and Clarke knows he really means his family. Ever since he was eight years old, he’d never felt safe. There was always a precious secret to protect.

Now his baby sister is living with Trigedakru, and forging a new path between three groups who are afraid of what peace means.

“I don’t think I’d have moved a muscle to find out what’s going on at Mount Weather if you’d been here with us last time,” Clarke confesses.

The weight of it leaves her chest and lingers in the air between them.

“We’re all here now. I’m here now.”

“I know. And I’m not sorry for what we went through. Not if it led us to the Eligius, not if it led us here.”

Six months of peace.

Six months of rebuilding.

Plenty of future to look forward to.

Bellamy crosses the distance between them and all the weight vanishes. Clarke doesn’t know where it goes, but she doesn’t care, either.

They’ve all lost a lot. Too much. She keeps stumbling upon people who died once upon a time, but knows they’re safe now. 

Some days, she misses the past so much it feels like it wants to claw its way up her throat and into the world. Wreck it again. Ruin their only chance of peace.

Others, she makes a grave out of her own heart and puts them to rest.

“I’m not sorry either,” Bellamy finally says, and then it’s done.

Then she’s weaving her hands into the soft fabric of his shirt, pulling him so close that their noses touch. His arms everywhere, bunching her up and pressing her close. 

His lips, when they finally break the seal and find hers.

He’s warm and human and comforting and Bellamy. His kiss is demanding, but she wants him to demand.

She rises to his passion with her own and starts laughing at some point, bursts into hysterics at finally getting to be here. Fucked up and happy. 

With him.

“God, I missed you.”

He doesn’t say he’d been here all along. He understands. He’s always understood.

Instead, he tucks a stray curl behind her ear and his warm palm slides down her cheek, right under her chin. He lifts it as if he wants to get a better look - as if there’s still something worth seeing in her.

“I’m not leaving ever again.”

And this time, she knows he means it.

Their world will take a lot of work still, but for the first time in a very long time, Clarke feels like she felt when her feet first touched the ground after seventeen years in space.

Dirty and terrified and, in spite of it all, full of hope.