i won't let you go / baby, i don't care what your past is / i don't need no answers / just have faith in me
- safe with me, sam smith.
clarke leaves camp jaha, haunted by the fallen mountain. she leaves bellamy behind who offers her forgiveness. she walks past the gates, away from the sense of security it offers. (they should lock her up, she is the one who is dangerous, she is the one who committed the massacre of three hundred lives. it only feels right to be outside of those gates rather than inside.) she walks away from the friends she saved from death, away from jasper who cannot look at her the same way he did when they first reached the ground, away from monty, from octavia, from raven, from her mom.
she walks into the trees, taller than her by a mile, into the darkness. all she has are her handgun, the clothes on her back and the faces of the innocent people she murdered in her mind. when she sleeps, she either dreams of their lifeless bodies; their burnt skin, dead eyes, mouth half-open as if trying to scr—
or she dreams of nothing, abstract colours, patterns. she likes those better, but it doesn't make her feel any lighter. she always wakes up even more exhausted than before she closed her eyes, even more weighed down. (there were no variations in her dreams— nightmares— they were all mostly screaming children, screaming innocents, their never-ending chant of murderer, maya's burnt face begging, pleading for her life, cage wallace and that infuriating smirk he wears.)
she wanders in the woods, comes across a panther once, kills it with two shots of her handgun. she's left with eight bullets in her clip.
she unknowingly travels east, for roughly three weeks.
(it could have been more than that, if you asked her. months, years, decades, they all seemed to be an endless blur of sunrises and sunsets.)
she wakes up one morning to the sounds of screaming. (at first she thinks its another nightmare; her eyes are closed but she can feel the rough bark of the tree she's leaned up against, and the tips of her fingers are cold and she hears what sound like horse hooves, but there weren't any horses in the mountain, so what—)
the clop, clop, clopping of hooves on the ground sounds closer now and clarke blinks her eyes open, willing her body to move and hide herself. the screaming is louder now than in her head, and she manages to sneak in between bushes, closer to the source, to investigate what's going on. her heart is hammering in her chest and her mouth is dry — when was the last time she had a drink? — when she sees smoke, and flames, and grounders—
they wear the ice nations band around their arm, the colour blue on some of their faces, and she recognises one of them as quint's second, before he raises his sword and slashes another man's throat. the colour of blood being spilled on the ground causes clarke to fall backwards, to get away from here, to hide.
but it's too late and she's forced to press herself against a tree and beg to someone, somewhere, that she's not seen.
she's not, thankfully, because quint's second, argos, lets out a yell— a cry of victory, before pointing his bloody sword at a woman. clarke can see the woman's back, her shoulders trembling, but her head raised in defiance as she's knelt over the dead man's body. argos speaks to her, clipped native tongue that clarke does not understand a word of, and she does not reply.
to clarke's right, a lanky child, no older than twelve, shoots an arrow right into argos' arm. it happens too fast; argos yells out in pain and the child is captured by his men, the woman, who has taken the opportunity to run, barely makes it ten steps away from where she knelt, when her eyes widen and she gasps quietly, (and clarke is sure that they've made eye contact). the woman opens her mouth as if to shriek, but instead nothing comes out and she falls to her knees, bowing her head, and it is only then that clarke notices a knife, a throwing knife, embedded in her back.
(the healer, the medic, in clarke automatically calculates the exact position of the knife in her back. it looks like it's stuck between her fourth and fifth rib, possibly piercing a lung, on her left hand side. clarke does not know how deep it is, but she knows if the woman does not get help soon, she'll drown in her own blood.)
her feet are telling her to move, to help, and the woman is still kneeling and struggling to keep her head up, and argos is coming closer, and now the woman is coughing up blood and clarke is frozen when she realises—
—there is a bundle wrapped around the woman's torso.
there is a child's hand, sticking out of said bundle, trying to clutch at the woman.
oh, for the love of— it's a baby.
and argos is behind the woman, yanking out the knife and earning a pained yelp from her, and clarke has her gun in her hand, pointed between argos' eyes, and she doesn't pull the trigger fast enough because he slits the woman's throat and she's falling over.
falling over the baby.
argos knows, because he hears the child whimper, he hears the following wail, and he turns around and walks away, and clarke is shaking and she pulls the trigger, and a shot rings out. for a second it drowns out the noise of nature, the terrified shrieking somewhere within the village, the burning wood, the swords clashing—
and that second is gone, and argos slumps forward, unmoving.
and all clarke can think is he's dead, he's dead, he's dead—
the baby is still crying and clarke is trembling on her feet, pressing palms on the woman's body (dead, dead, dead, dead) and taking the squirming child into her arms before running as fast as she can into the woods. she can hear more yelling, and they've probably found argos' dead body by now, along with the woman's, and clarke woke up today and got blood on her hands (literally and figuratively) and the baby has taken to whimpering instead, and oh god— there's blood on its cheek, its mother's, warm and wet— and its green eyes, glistening with tears are looking up at clarke.
and for a moment, she remembers another pair of green eyes, standing out in black kohl. her chest aches and her brain betrays her some more by thinking of those lips and the way they curled around her name and she can't breathe—
she can't breathe because she's just ran across the woods with a gun in her hand and a baby in her arm, and she slumps back against a tree and takes a moment to get herself together. the child is still whimpering, and she uses the blanket loosely wrapped around it to wipe the blood away, and she shushes the child, quietly begging for silence, for peace, for safety. the child wraps its tiny fingers around hers, and clarke rocks her arm, and hums quietly.
it isn't until the child is sleeping quietly, after she has managed to make a fire to keep both of them warm while the child babbled tiredly in her lap that she's realised—
she killed a man today.
she watched a whole village burn down.
she saw the death of a woman, a mother.
she hasn't eaten since last night, and she's so fucking thirsty.
and when she looks down, her blue eyes meet green, and she's filled with dread. how the hell is she supposed to take care of a baby?
it's the morning after, (the definition of the phrase has developed greatly since she arrived on the ground), and clarke decides to pick berries and mush them to a soft consistency to feed the now crying, hungry child. it's the berries that monty taught her to pick, the ones that aren't poisonous, the ones that don't cause hallucinations, the ones that are safe.
clarke's arms are getting tired from holding the child, her, switching from her left arm to her right, rocking and bouncing and trying to calm her down.
(she discovered the child is a girl last night, when she smelled something foul in her arms and remembered that children cannot control anything, not even their bladder. it took nearly two hours to change her, because the water in the stream nearby was too cold and clarke was exhausted, and the clothes that covered the child are gone now— clarke does not and will not deal with the fact that it will happen again soon, and the blanket, the only thing covering the child will suffer the same fate of her soiled clothes, she does not want to deal with that, not yet.)
the child spits the berries out when clarke gently pushes them into her mouth. clarke tries again and the child bites her.
(that is how she discovers that the baby has teeth, and is not an actual baby, more like a toddler. clarke estimates her age to be around one or two, as she shakes the pain away from her bitten hand.)
the child freezes, then opens her mouth to wail again, but her eyes are on clarke and they're almost apologetic, like she's realised she has hurt clarke. and clarke obviously cannot bring herself to be angry, not even close, so she holds the child closer to her, soothing her with by humming. she tries to feed her again after the child gets tired of crying, and she only receives a scrunched up face, an indication of what these berries taste like; sweet, tangy.
(she only spits out the crushed berries twice after that: first, when she feels a hard pip on her tongue. second, when she decides she's finished and she's bored. clarke would let out an exasperated sigh, similar to the one her mother used to give her.)
she grins cheekily at clarke, and tries to claim her nose in her tiny fingers.
eventually, when clarke's thirst was sated but her hunger was not, and the child was entertained with her golden hair (a contrast to her own dark locks), clarke decides to head back the way she ran, to the village, to see what had happened, to see if there were survivors. it takes about an hour, and she recognises the bushes she hid in— and she holds the child tighter in her arms— and peeks through them.
she hears yelling, she recognises trigedasleng, and she recognises the voice in front of her.
"tel heda op, em don ge frag op." it's indra, standing over the man clarke killed, argos. the woman's body had been dragged away, her blood leaving a trail. "tell the commander he has been killed."
clarke recognises one of indra's seconds, a young boy, barely a man, clarke remembers his dislike for them, the sky people. he nods and walks, following the blood trail, towards the centre of the village, where other corpses lie.
clarke's eyes follow him and he reaches someone, with long braids and a red sash from her shoulder to her hip, her face free of kohl, and clarke—
clarke, for a moment, forgets the child in her arm and jostles her a bit, and the child lets out a squeal, and then indra's sword is flashing out of its sheath and she's stepping over argos' body and towards the bushes and clarke does not know whether to run back, towards the stream and away from here, or to jump out of the bushes and reveal herself.
she doesn't get to decide, because she hears lexa's voice, "indra." the woman raises a hand and keeps her eyes in the bushes, and lexa gets the hint and now her sword's out too and they're both carefully stepping towards clarke and the child— the baby— oh god.
the baby is slipping out of clarke's arm, because her arm is going numb and she needs to switch her to her other arm, but that will cause the bush to shake, and indra and lexa are getting closer and the baby is slipping and—
clarke jostles the child back into place, her arm aching for relief, and the bush betrays her and shakes and indra closes in and pushes the leaves out of the way, revealing them.
(the last thing lexa expects to see is klark kom skaikru kom goufa, clarke of the sky people with a baby.)
it's when the baby coos, raising one of her hands to reach for this new person, that clarke brushes her hand against the gun and lexa's eyes widen by a fraction. "clarke," the way lexa's tongue curls around her name nearly makes her shiver, and she stands up from being crouched down, and switches the child to her other arm, and lexa withdraws her sword, returning it to its sheath and resting her hand on the hilt, and indra is following suit.
they don't see her as a threat. clarke has no idea what to say. all she can think of is the way her heart was torn out of her chest when lexa spoke to her last, her eyes glistening with unshed tears, her unwavering voice murmuring, "i'm sorry, clarke," and "may we meet again," and the lever, and the shrieking voices with their bodies burning—
she doesn't want to talk about that, not right now, not with a child babbling happily in her arms, not with indra glancing between her and said child, not with lexa standing there, eyes trained at her, asking a million questions but not one out loud.
so clarke says something that connects her to their current predicament, "i killed him."
and indra and lexa, who have seemingly forgotten about argos' dead body behind them, turn their heads when clarke gestures towards him with her still numb left hand. "i shot him with my gun, he killed this baby's mother."
lexa nods and glances at the baby, her eyes softening a bit, then she says, "he is a traitor."
so are you, clarke thinks bitterly, but she bites her tongue and indra echoes what lexa said, "natrona," and turns around and begins hauling the body away. "traitor." indra's second jogging towards her to help her.
"how did you get here, clarke?"
and now she feels her right arm beginning to numb, the child is small for her age (for what clarke thinks is her age) but she's heavy when you've been holding her all day, and clarke doesn't answer the commander, just readjusting the baby and checking if she's okay, if her eyes indicate tiredness, if her mouth is curled into a frown.
but the baby's fine, and she seems unaware of the tension between the new people in her life, and she babbles some more and earns an affectionate smile from clarke. (she likes clarke.) lexa doesn't seem to mind that her question goes unanswered, and she seems to sense clarke's aching shoulders, "you can put her down, she can walk."
clarke doesn't ask how she knows that, and she would love to give her arms some rest, but her heart beats a little wildly at the thought of this child walking on the ground, away from her. (it's because she has constantly associated the ground with the word danger, and that is one thing she will never put this child in, not if she can help it.)
the fact that she has become attached to this child after one night doesn't alarm her. it's the fact that lexa looks at the child and speaks, "yu gaf breik kom em au, goufa?" and clarke isn't well-versed in trigedasleng to translate fast enough. "would you like to roam free, child?"
the child grins at lexa, "sha!" she claps her hands excitedly. "yes!"
clarke doesn't know what lexa had just said, but it has something to do with the current fact that the child now looks up at her with a grin, and she's squirming, as if trying to get down. and clarke's numbing arm loses grip and the child's feet are on the grass and her toes wiggle and the blanket around her is falling. lexa has an amused glint in her eyes and she kneels before her, tying the makeshift toga around the child properly, and brushing her fingers on her sides, making the child giggle.
and clarke? clarke's looking down at both of them with fondness, forgetting for a moment that there's a blood trail next to them, a growing number of corpses in the centre of the village, and that this child, this child is probably hers now.
they don't speak— lexa keeps her distance, but she's still close enough to hear if clarke ever said something to her, and clarke is pretending that lexa is even there at all. she's focusing on the child, who's now clutching her hand and looking around the village with curious eyes, looking for the familiar faces.
this used to be her home, she took her first steps near the healer's hut, where her brother stayed for nearly a month after coming home from a hunt with a broken leg and a hilarious tale of being chased by a boar bigger than him. she didn't understand things then, she only had a year of her life, but she laughed when her nontu laughed, and grinned along with her nomon who would shake her head disapprovingly but nod along as he retold the story.
(her brother was seven and he was her knight, carrying her around on his back and creating adventures for her and whispering nonsensical things into her ear to make her laugh.)
this used to be her home, she spoke her first word by the boulder near the bushes clarke hid in, she was on her twelve year old sister's lap, she was nearing her first birthday, and she clapped her hands and said, "sanch!" her sister laughed, surprised to hear her baby sister speaking, but not surprised at the particular word. "lunch!"
(her second word was nou. her nontu, he laughed heartily when he asked her if she wanted to nap, and she had replied with, "nou," a serious expression on her adorable face. "no." that word was spoken just outside their hut, which was now only ruined smoking embers.)
now the child is around a year and half old, and she's clever for her age, and she's only spoken those two words all her life, and today she spoke her third. "houm!" her finger pointed at what once was her family's hut. "home!"
clarke can see the confusion in the child's face, and she's tugging at clarke's hand and repeating the word over and over again, trying to make clarke understand, and she does. she understands and it's breaking her heart, because the child knows exactly where her houm was, but it is not home anymore.
clarke bends down to pick up the child, holding her close and the child begins to cry, because she's confused, because what happened to her home? because where is her stubborn bro and her brave sis? because where is her nontu with his braided beard and her nomon with her warm hazel eyes? because clarke is not stepping forward to where she is pointing, to where her home once stood. lexa takes her pointing finger and closes her hand around the child's, and whispers something clarke couldn't hear, and the child whimpers and lexa says, "emo gonplei ste odon."
"their fight is over."
the child understands, and clarke's heart couldn't possibly break anymore now, because this child is barely two and she understands, and she's clutching clarke's hair in her tiny fists, and she mutters a quiet, "nou."
lexa lets go of the child's hand and watches clarke soothe her, and she's mesmerized for a while, because clarke loses that haunted look in her eyes for a moment and kisses the child's forehead, rubbing her palm on her back. she hums quietly and they're both close to each other, letting a child grieve. (clarke thinks she is too young to know how loss feels, too young to feel anything other than overflowing happiness.)
and everyone around them is stealing glances at the skai prisa and the trigedakru heda and this child, standing in front of their late fisa's hut, their late healer's hut, his daughter in the arms of the skaikru who felled the mountain. the commander knows who this child is, the gift this child bears, but clarke does not, and clarke does not yet understand her significance to the child. clarke does not yet understand that she is all this child has now.
clarke learns that a messenger managed to escape the massacre and alert the commander in tondc. (the word massacre falls from indra's lips and clarke is reminded of the boy who massacred eighteen people for her, murmuring, i found you. finn's eyes flash in clarke's mind and she is reminded of the boy who massacred eighteen people and was tied to a post. death was his fate and clarke gave it, clarke gave death, and death, and death—)
the commander's troops were too late. they arrived to find a village burned down and all of its inhabitants dead, some mutilated, some in their own pool of blood. they did not go down without a fight, as there were six corpses, marked with the ice nation's band, corpses lined up separately from the villagers.
(lexa also separates the child's family. clarke counts a mother, a father, a boy and a girl. she recognises the girl as the one who shot the arrow at argos' arm. she holds the child tighter.)
the child has been silent for a while, only occasional sniffle and deep breaths, and it's only a matter of time before she wails her grief, as should anyone who lost everything the day before. the messenger, the other survivor of this massacre besides the child, walks up to clarke and nods in greeting. "skai prisa," he starts, "sky princess."
clarke bristles at the title, but he continues, "the child is stegeda prisa, her name is dany."
(later, lexa translates for her: "village princess.")
clarke repeats her name in her head, dany, dany, dany. the child looks up when she hears her name. she recognises him, the tall lanky young man who has been trying to court her sister, the messenger, marko, answers the questions clarke was asking yesterday when she was clutching this child with a wildly beating heart. "she is only one year old, two in four months. her father was the healer, and her mother was heda kom ronwekru."
(and much later, lexa explains: ronwekru was composed of stragglers, traitors, bandits, raiders, thieves, runaways. those banished from their lands, or managed to escape their fated death.)
(lexa would then say, you would have fit right in, clarke, because she ran from her people. she ran from the people she saved.)
(clarke would then say, so would you, because she betrayed clarke. natrona, clarke would bark.)
this child was the village princess, not that clarke would know what that means, but she had a title, so she must be important. this child's mother was the commander of this village, so she was definitely important. this child's name is dany, and clarke is soothing dany's back and holding her close as they watch the bodies burn, and clarke's eyes meet lexa's across the flames, and she knows, she cannot do this alone.
it turns out lexa had planned for her to not do this at all. she approaches clarke after the bodies have been turned to ashes, her warriors are now trying to salvage what they can of the village, asking marko what this hut was for and whose it was, since he was the only one who knew.
(dany knew too, she knew a lot of things, but right now all she wants to do is hold onto clarke.)
"clarke, i can take her." lexa glances at the child who was now nuzzling her face against clarke's neck.
"no, it's fine, she's not that heavy anyway—"
"i meant, i can take her from you. we are going back to tondc to bring the supplies, and i will take her with me. i'll take her to the capitol, to polis. there is an orphanage there, she can settle—"
and clarke hates the idea of being separated from dany, and she hates the idea of dany being left in an orphanage, and she hates the idea that lexa can just take her away and do this.
she firmly says, "no," and dany's arms hold tighter around her.
"she's not yours to worry about, clarke." she's not yours to keep.
clarke wants to say, 'i can take care of her,' but can she? clarke hasn't eaten since yesterday morning and all she's fed this child are mushed up berries, and she can tell that weather is getting colder and she's going to have to find shelter for the winter and this child, this child will need more than what clarke is right now, an anguished girl who has too many problems to sort out. she can't take care of herself, let alone a child.
clarke manages to say, "i can't," and meets lexa's eyes, "i can't let her go."
"it's not healthy to depend on a child to make your problems go away. you are haunted, clarke, by the mountain."
you are haunted by costia. you felt something for gustus.
no, no, no. clarke shakes her head, "i'm not letting you take her." she steps back and lexa remains where she stands.
she sighs, "you cannot care for a child, not when you're wandering aimlessly in the woods." and before clarke can ask how she knows that, lexa says, "my hunters have seen you, you left your people to become solitary, to regain yourself." there's longing in her voice but it is unwavering, "you have yet to achieve that, how is this child going to help?"
and clarke realises that she's right. clarke's nowhere near herself, before the mountain. "she needs someone, lexa." she shuts her eyes and it's when clarke says her name, everything seems to flash behind her eyelids. the missile, the march towards the mountain, the pauna, the kiss—
"let someone else care for her, clarke. she is not yours to worry about." lexa repeats.
she is not yours to keep, is all clarke hears.
the child is sleeping in her arms now, and clarke has already decided what she's going to do. "i won't let you take her." and lexa lowers her head slightly, glaring now, and she continues, "i'll take her to polis myself."