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All That Remains

Chapter Text

Earth II wasn’t as bad as it had seemed when they first arrived. They still had to adjust to the water being a rich color red because of the algae, and to the only animals around being rodents and lizards, but over all it was Earth-looking and survivable, and that was more than enough for most of them. Adjusting to the new communities and the new rules was going to take some more time than adjusting to the landscape, of course, but they were going to approach the issues one by one.

After splitting the selected land between the people form Bardo, Sanctum, the Eligius crew and Earth, the four little communities were thriving and progressing, and among them everything was more or less friendly. The first months had been the most difficult, it had seemed they weren’t going to make it, after all, but all of the leaders agreed to work together at last, and so now began the era of peace.

It was strange, to say the least, finally being able to say that they got their chance for peace, of all things, after one hundred and thirty years of fighting and bleeding and dying, but here they were now: building villages and societies from scratch, the horizon clear and the future bright ahead of them.

Clarke still couldn’t believe it. She couldn’t believe that her people were finally safe, that no one was coming for them, that there were no deadly treats nor monsters lurking in the shadows. Most of all, she didn’t think she deserved being a part of it, but she had long ago learned that this had never been a matter of deserving, but rather about surviving. And surviving was what she did best, as one Apocalypse after another had proven. So she woke up every morning and off she went to make sure that her people had a chance at surviving, too.

As she walked through New Polis’ main street, the morning foggy and crisp, she saw the villagers starting to emerge from the tents and shelters, the few kids among them making their way to the provisional school. Madi, who had embraced their new way of living far faster than Clarke, kissed her goodbye as they got to the school, and off she went to being a normal kid, at last. The Flame and Sheidheda forever gone, it was her turn of being happy and at peace, and that was, too, more than enough for Clarke.

She continued her path across the village, listing in her head what was to be done that day. The oficial building for the school was almost ready, as where the medical center and Raven’s lab. The residential buildings weren’t going to be ready until a few months in the future, but they could manage. They were grounders, after all, and were well accustomed to sleeping in tents and living amongst nature. Some even seemed relieved to be back at the mud and the trees and the rocks, as if everything was ok now that the strange technology was far away, left in another planet devoured by flames and violence.

Clarke wondered how things were going in the other communities, given that all of them came from more or less functional societies, with hot water and food on demand.

New Polis was the second largest community of the four, but they still weren’t that many people. It took her by surprise some times, when they all gathered for the monthly meeting and she could actually see it: they were three hundred. Only three hundred people, from all of the people from the Ark and the Earth, only three hundred grounders. With the Commanders and Bloodreina gone and their faith shaken to the core, the original clans had emerged back from the ashes, but they were slowly, so slowly, starting to get along.

Clarke found the Local Council’s tent at the end of the street, two guards posted by the entrance. It felt hypocritical to have them there when the Council spent the last eight months talking about peace, but Indra wouldn’t allow it any other way, saying that the appearance of having control was almost as important as actually having control over the community. Clarke didn’t like that idea very much, but Indra had been leading armies since before she could tie her shoes, so everyone was on board with doing things her way.

Five pairs of eyes looked at Clarke when she entered the tent, and she greeted them with a smile that didn’t reach her eyes, which was her default way of smiling nowadays. Indra herself was there, already focused on the rudimental maps of the explored land and the surroundings of New Polis. Sitting around the table were Nate Miller and the three heads from the larger clans: Mor, Georgi and Thea.

“Morning,” Miller said, showing her a smile that was too sincere to be taken for anything but actual kindness. “We were about to begin.”

Clarke reached for the last empty chair and sat across from him. “Sorry to keep you waiting.”

They spent the next few hours going over everything that was left to collect, distribute and build, the state of their growing farms and the products acquired from the hunting and fishing parties. Mor, who was in charge of the hunting and the fishing, suggested that his people could go venture beyond their land’s limits, if only to see what laid ahead. Thea was instantly on him, saying that doing so could threaten the accords with the other communities.

“Let them come with us, then,” Mor said, gesturing with his hand in an uninterested manner. “I just want some freedom back, for me and my people. We’ve been held back ever since Kongeda.” Even without looking at them, Clarke could sense the death stares Georgi and Thea trowed in the man’s direction. Mor seemed to notice, too, for he added: “I don’t mean Lexa held us back, I’m just saying that we’ve been living by strict rules for years, and we are in a land of opportunity, now, and maybe… I don’t know, it’d be nice to go for a walk, see if we find anything interesting out there.”

There was a moment of silence in which Clarke weighted everything the man had said. He did have a point, and she couldn’t deny that she was also curious of what they could find in this new planet, but it was far too risky. They couldn’t afford losing Mor’s people, some of their strongest men and women, when they were needed for building and hunting. They couldn’t lose any people, in fact, because their numbers were already so small and they had to populate and work the lands and build an entire civilisation from scratch.

“You’ll take six men with you,” Indra said at last. Her deep voice made all of their heads turn around and face her. “No women, and no young men, either. And you’ll send word to the other communities. They can send you two people each, if they want to be part of the expedition. Everything you find is to be shared in equal parts with them, as stated in the accords.”

Mor nodded profusely. “Of course, of course.”

“Why no women?” Thea asked, brows furrowed.

“Men are disposable,” Indra answered, and Miller let out a small, contained laugh. “We need the women and the young ones to make more people.”

Clarke was glad she and Indra were on the same page about that, at least.

 

The days went by, and so did the nights, all smashed into one big never-ending climb towards some kind of normality. One week after Mor’s request, his team was ready to leave, people from Eligius and Bardo among them. She attended to the little farewell party at the streets, waved the team goodbye as they wandered into the unknown, and was secretly thankful that none of her friends had made it to the final cut and were safe within New Polis’ limits. Most of them, at least, a voice in the back of her mind reminded her, because she just couldn’t let herself be at peace.

Indra was only a few steps ahead of her, staring at Mor’s team with that unreadable expression of hers. Clarke considered both a relief and an honor to have her as the head of the Council, for she was experienced and strong and knew how to handle multitudes in times of peace, contrary to her, who only knew how to bark orders and make impossible choices at the literal End of the World.

Something more laid in Indra’s face nowadays, though Clarke couldn’t figure out what it was. Maybe it was the responsibility weighing on her shoulders, or the knowledge that her protégé had chosen to settle in Bardo’s village, away from everything she used to be and love, instead of going home with the rest of her people. Or maybe it was the pain of loosing Gaia, which Clarke couldn’t even begin to imagine. No one had dared to mention the former Fleimkepa in the last months, and even though Clarke felt sorry for her disappearance, there was nothing she could do about that, so she didn’t allow more remorse to make a home in her chest.

There wouldn’t be any space left for it, anyway. Missing Bellamy filled every dark corner of her heart.

As the goodbye-party dissolved and everybody went back to their activities, Clarke couldn’t help feeling that she and Indra now shared more than chairs in the Council and a lot of blood on their hands. Both of them had lost loved ones long before coming to Earth II, and both of them were hurting, even if they didn’t allow themselves to feel it. Ever.

 

As soon as she got to her little cabin, Clarke was greeted by the sound of her daughters’ laughing. That was something worth fighting and killing and hurting for: Madi’s happiness. It didn’t surprise her finding Lila with her daughter, that little Trikru redhead who hadn’t care that Madi was an ex-Commander and that her own father had died under her watch, back at the battle for Eden. Lila had befriended her as soon as they had settled on New Polis, and now acted like Madi’s shadow, somehow becoming Clarke’s second shadow in the process.

“Oh, no. Did we miss the team?” Madi asked as soon as Clarke entered the cabin. She was sitting on Clarke’s makeshift bed, on top of her sleeping bag, and Lila was sitting on Madi’s, a bowl of red berries between them.

“They just left.”

“I told you!” Madi exclaimed, now looking at her friend. “I told you they were leaving at noon, not dusk!”

Lila shrugged, a little smirk on her thin lips. “Sorry! My bad.”

“It wasn’t much of a show, anyway,” Clarke offered, starting to take her jacket off. “They’ll be back in two weeks, though, and that may be a little more interesting to watch.”

Madi nodded and hummed. “Yeah, guess you are right.”

The girls resumed their chatter as Clarke tried to figure what to do with the rest of her day. She had always despised the weekends, more now that the village was running smoothly and there were no urgent matters to attend. It was a stupid thing to think, of course, because no urgent matters where a symptom of peace and order, which was their main goal here, but she ached for something to do, somewhere to be. She had once wondered if fighting was all they were, after so long of only knowing that, and was starting to suspect that she finally had her answer.

She could go around the village and ask if anybody needed a hand with anything, although she still didn’t know where she stood amongst the people of New Polis. She wasn’t going to be their de facto leader, like she had been before, because people died under her watch and no one wanted her leading, anyway. But she didn’t know if she could ever become just another neighbour, either. For some she still was Wanheda, bringer of death and a bad omen over all, and for others she was the freak with the black blood that had survived Praimfaya and raised the very last Commander in existence. Yeah, there was no chance for her to have a normal life, by any means.

“You ask her, she’s your nomon,” Lila whispered to Madi, loud enough for Clarke to listen.

“But there’s more chances she doesn’t say no if it’s you who asks.”

“I’m not going to ask her.”

“Why not?”

“Because she’s scary!”

“She’s not.”

Clarke resisted the urge to laugh, making herself busy with tiding up the place instead, but moments later Madi was at her side, piking up her discarded extra jacket from its place at the end of her bed.

“So…” Madi started, folding the jacket neatly.

“So,” Clarke echoed.

“We were wondering if you… if I could… maybe…”

“Yes, Madi?”

Her daughter looked at her with big, hopeful eyes, and Clarke knew that, whatever it was that Madi was about to request, the answer was going to be yes.

“Can I stay at Lila’s tonight?”

Well, that definitely took her by surprise. Clarke couldn’t even remember the last time she had been apart from Madi for more than a few hours, let alone a whole night, but she knew for sure that her daughter had never spent the night at a friend’s house. She had stayed with Raven before, on those occasions when Clarke had to leave town for the General Council meetings at Bardo, but never at a friend’s house.

“Uma and Freya are coming too,” Lila added from her place on Madi’s bed, hope glistering in her eyes as well. “It’s a slumber party!”

A slumber party, no less. What an odd concept.

Seeing that Clarke remained quiet, Madi’s expression started to fall, a frown replacing her previous shy smile.

“It’s not that big of a deal if I can’t go,” she said, “there’s always next time.”

“No, of course you can go, Madi” Clarke said suddenly, surprising even herself. “Lila’s aunt is going to be there, right?”

“Yes, yes! All night long, from dusk till down,” Lila exclaimed, smiling that mischievous smile of hers.

Her aunt was a rather old lady that no one knew how had managed to last this long on their crazy journey across worlds and stars. The woman was almost blind and most definitely deaf from one ear, and probably wouldn’t present herself as much of a parental figure. But this were times of peace, Clarke reminded herself, and Madi and her friends were old enough to take care of each other and fast enough to come get her if anything happened. Lila’s place was just five cabins down the street, after all.

“Then I see no problem in you sleeping there tonight. Just let me know if you need me.”

“You are the best!” Madi celebrated, wrapping her arms around Clarke’s waist and pulling her into a tight hug. “We should go, then. Let’s fetch the others,” she proposed to her friend, and one minute later she had gathered her things and they were out and about, being the normal teenagers they now got to be. “Ai hod yu in, Clarke!” Madi’s words got caught in the wind as they left, her dark curls bouncing at her back.

Clarke didn’t stay at the cabin for long. After the place was tidy and clean and not a single dry leaf remained in the front door, she decided to force herself to just go out. If she couldn’t find anything to do, then she’d go for a walk, or a jog, or she’d go hunting or swimming or climbing trees, anything that kept her distracted. New Polis was quiet and sleepy, the warmth of the bright yellow sun bathed the buildings and the trees that surrounded the village.

Earth II’s plants weren’t green as the ones she remembered and loved, but at least they weren’t aggressive like Sanctum’s. The leaves were a brownish color and the grass was yellow like wheat and soft like moss. The water from the rivers and the lakes was red like some of the soil she had seen back on Earth, but Bardo’s scientists had assured it was safe to consume, as were most of the plants and animals.

As far as they could see, their new home didn’t have drastically changing seasons, or they changed far too slowly for them to notice yet, so they were stuck on an endless spring that had half of the villagers in and out of the med tent, with allergies and mysterious rashes and bug bites. But it was an over all safe place. There where no mayor predators that they had seen, and the climate seemed nice. It rained every few days, which was both annoying and beautiful, for the storm clouds of Earth II were orange instead of grey and white, and the overcast sky looked like a day-long sunset.

Clarke walked up and down the main street and popped into all of the main buildings, offering her calloused hands, but found nothing to do. Jackson was on call at the med tent and forbade her of staying around, since she had been on call the previous day. Raven was up to her elbows on grease, trying to get one of Sanctum’s motorcycles back to life, but said she was enjoying herself in the process, no need for help. Everywhere she went, people reminded her that she wasn’t essential, that everyone was fine without her help.

So she ventured the woods. Fallen twigs and dry leaves crushed under her feet, golden sunlight filtering through the tall and robust tree branches. All was calm in the forest.

For some reason it reminded her of her first days on Earth, more than a century ago: it had seemed like paradise, back then, with beautiful pools of deep, clean water, and greenery all around. Later came the fear and violence and survival, but at first, it had been perfect. Just her and ninety-nine other young criminals, all hungry for freedom. Just her and her people, living day by day. All of her decisions had seemed so big and important back then, and it made her chuckle now, because they seemed almost irrelevant in the distance.

If she could only tell her young self how long and rocky the path was going to be, if she could tell her about the death and pain and sorrow and guilt, would she had done anything differently? She could had prevented some deaths, most of the pain, but ultimately not the destruction of the Earth. Besides, she had learned long ago that no plan was perfect, something always came up, or someone betrayed them, or someone died. Death, at the end, was inevitable. And so was pain.

Clarke hurried to get herself out of her head, to erase from her memory the gentle sunshine and the contagious laughter and the eyes that had looked at her as if she held the answers to all of the questions. There was no point on dwelling on the past.

Upon arriving to Earth II she had promised herself that she was going to leave everything behind. Of course, she couldn’t help that her past would eventually come knocking on her door from time to time, but she wasn’t going to let it consume her. She was going to leave all of her beloved ones behind, the dead were dead, buried and burned and lost in worlds far away. But waving goodbye to complete strangers earlier had made her think of everyone she hadn’t had a chance to say goodbye to, and it made her heart clench with sorrow and her throat burn with unsaid words. So many wounds were still open and bleeding, she was afraid they were going to drain her out someday.

She reminded herself of Madi, who was safe and happy, of Raven and Miller, whose eyes were bright once again, of Octavia, Hope and Echo, who were safe at Bardo’s village, of Murphy and Emori, who on an unbelievable turn of events were leading Sanctum’s people. She reminded herself that every fight and every war came with victims and loses, but also left behind wins and survivors, and that it was her duty to take care of the living. And the living where doing fine, thriving, building villages and lives, learning how to smile and breathe and grow, away from the ghosts of the past.

She picked up twigs and branches on her way back to New Polis, and lit a small fire to keep herself warm during the night. Instead of joining her usual crew for supper, she ate alone in her cabin, and went to bed as the sky turned a dark shade of orange. We are fine, she repeated, again and again, until her eyes closed and she feel into a dreamless sleep. We are fine. But it didn’t made her feel any better.