Nobody ever has to find out
what's in my mind tonight
You dream of Clarke hanging pale and drained in the mountain. Her skin is ice cold and frosted white except for the places showing bloody bone cut open and exposed. You cut her down and lay her gently on the ground. As you brush the matted hair from her face her eyes open. "Lexa?" You flinch back but strong fingers wrap around your wrist and keep you close. "Not yet," she says and draws you in. Before her lips can meet yours you wake.
Indra stands over you with a halo of dawn skies and black branches behind her. "Heda, this is unsafe." She leans down to take your arm and drag you to your feet. "You're already injured."
You sway, still unsteady even with the hours since you stopped drinking, and your eye hurts. "Oh that was just a conversation I had with, with Sky Prisa." You roll the ‘r’ in Prisa smiling until you stumble and have to hold fast to Indra's shoulders.
The woman tuts at you as she does with the youngest seconds.
"I am trouble for you," you grumble stepping one foot in front of the other.
Indra grunts with effort as she guides you over roots and stones to the city's edges.
"The world is trouble for me," Indra replies carrying much of your weight forward. Indra cares too much at all times and you wonder if that keeps her more safe or in more danger.
"How many Heda's have you pledged yourself to?" You ask as you hobble past tents and into alleyways.
"Enough." Always succinct.
There's a sigh in your lungs but it doesn't come out as you wonder just how old Indra is. Older than most warriors you know.
"Were they all this much trouble when they were young as me?"
"Heda's are always young as you," She replies.
You think she's not answered you but then realise what she means. A Heda never grows much older than you are now before her soul needs to find a new life. Indra is always trailing after strong girls with sharp minds and haunted hearts.
"You must be tired of picking up after this old soul." You're starting to feel melancholy, the spectre of death too close for comfort in your dizzy haze.
You lose your grip of Indra's shoulders and she lets you fall to the ground, your already bruised backside dropping onto wet cobbles. She kneels down and sits on her haunches, gripping the back of your hair to bring your attention back to her.
"Yes, I am tired," Indra says. "My soul is tired of trailing after yours. But our people need a leader with a General who puts Heda's best interests first. You carry the burden of their survival, and when the weight of command is more than one girl can bear, I carry you."
Your heart aches at the sincerity in her voice. "Did any of your other Heda's fall for an untouchable spirit?" You're babbling in a stupid dangerous way and Indra tries to shush you before pulling you back to standing.
"You have a big heart, Heda. You have always shared it with others." There's a bitterness in her voice you think you recognise. Indra has loved before, might even have loved her Heda before.
She leaves you at your door before you can ask her any more. "You need to rest. Go to bed and sleep."
You nod and cross the threshold into your home. "Thank you Indra." She nods, walks away, and doesn't accept your thanks.
It's late in the day when you wake, later than you'd wanted and the sun is too bright. Your head is thumping with your pulse and churning in your stomach. Your body aches all over, there's a gash on your wrist and your face ache's as if you were in a fight. Touching the ridge of your eye, last night in the woods emerges from the haze and you let out a groan.
Sitting up in your bed you rub the sleep from your eyes and see that the girl from last night is gone. You sigh and flop back onto your pillows. Even worse than the gibberish that earned you the black eye from Clarke was your behaviour. That moment in your doorway with the girl is clearest in your mind. The way you looked at Clarke and she at you, as you pulled the girl in harder; you played a game of wanting and having all while staring at Clarke, thinking of Clarke.
The beautiful and wholly alive Skai Prisa stumbled back into your life with hate in her eyes, a belt of knives on her thigh, and you wanted her. You want her still.
Levering yourself out of bed, you swallow back the bile rising up your throat, bathe and dress, leaving your hair out to dry across your shoulders. A loose dress is comfortable in the rising temperatures, and it's too late in the day to leave for the farms now.
You want to see Clarke, to apologise. You don't know what you can do for her, if there's anything that she will let you do for her. She is justified in looking at you in the way she does. Whenever you close your eyes you see clearly that moment you walked away from her and from her people, see the pain you caused her. You know it was right to take the deal to save your people no matter how much it cost her, no matter the ache in your own chest. You would do it again in a heartbeat.
Clarke doesn’t answer when you knock. There’s too much between you to walk away so you open the door regardless and she's there in the balcony's sun watching people in the street. She’s clean and still dressed in sleep clothes, the sun lights her hair and her face appears almost peaceful. Her body is tense though. The shaved side of her head more visible as she listens to your approach.
"Why did you make your hair like this?" The pain in your head stops you considering your words. Or maybe that’s just what Clarke does to you, makes you incapable of thinking.
"You don’t like it?" Her voice is flat and you’re close enough to see that her eyes are the same. Clarke touches her hand to her temple pushing fingertips through the fuzz on her left side.
"No, I like it," you say. "Very much."
Her shoulders are bare exposing scar covered skin. A wide stretch of discolouration marks her right arm and shoulder. Her gaze flickers to yours then away and you wish you could still read her as well as she reads you.
"I am curious." Such admissions feel simple with her here.
She lets out a sharp breath through her nose. "Well, you know what curiosity did to the cat."
"I am not a cat," you say even though you know the idiom. You hope that she’ll laugh.
"I can hear better." Clarke scrubs her fingers over her scalp again then drops both her hands to the balcony rail.
There are scars in lines around both her wrists. Left by rope, you think, tied for many days and you wonder about the skin you can’t see. She pauses for so long you think she won’t say anymore.
Then she adds, "I lost my hearing in the right ear. Needed to make up the difference." She gestures with her right arm and you can see the scars on her shoulder are from burns as well as lacerations. An explosion.
"Hurts," you say thinking of a similar scar wrapped around your calf.
Clarke nods and looks away from you. "Bonus of shaving it back is how much you can feel in the air around you."
She must worry about being stabbed in the back. You have the same concern but you also have a life time of training to help keep you safe. Clarke has nothing but instinct and will.
"Do you have any plans now?" It might be a bad question. You wonder if she still means to kill you.
Clarke looks at you for a long time, her eyes flickering to the dark bruise surrounding your eye. "No," she says and you take a shaky breath at recognising the lie.
She agrees to come out with you for breakfast.
"I’ll need something to change into," she says gesturing to damp clothes hanging around the room to dry.
You offer your own clothes, she follows you to your cupboard and picks out pants along with a loose fitting shirt. She strips down without a care for your presence but you turn to the wall anyway. After last night you can’t pretend she doesn’t affect you. She knows she does. As you examine the plaster you decide you’re glad to know she’s not carrying any more weapons.
On the street the sun is hot and bright and you feel the pounding in your head getting worse. Clarke watches in her peripheral and smirks when you wince at the sounds of children squealing. "Heda," they yell out for you. You wave at them but don’t meet their gazes knowing they’ll want you to play.
You take Clarke to the far side of the markets for your favourite hangover cure. You pay the fruit seller for both your your breakfast and Clarke's. Clarke sniffs at her fruit and the cured beef pieces as if checking for anything dangerous.
"You’re safe," you tell her but she doesn’t believe you.
The fruit is fresh and delicious as always and Clarke gives in to her hunger. You see her first real smile as she bites into some Mango and you want to kiss the juice from her lips. "New?," you ask, looking away from her.
She hums a yes hunting around for another piece in the mix. You offer her yours and she accepts despite herself. She doesn’t say thank you but she’s still smiling so you don’t mind.
The fruit seller is watching you both with a smile of her own. "Would you like some more?"
She holds out another bowl. You look at Clarke but she hasn’t heard since the woman is on her right side. You accept the bowl for her and Clarke’s little smile gets brighter.
The Polis centre square is clear of any sign of the festival and you regret Clarke not experiencing it. She could have seen what their sacrifice brought to the people of Polis and all the surrounding regions. There was so much life on festival night, and you know Clarke has seen too much of death.
Walking with Clarke in the sun you can see there’s more scars on her arms and on her face. Silvery and white in some places against the tan of her skin which is darker than you remember.
"Why did you leave?" The questions keep falling from you and she turns away every time.
"You know what I did."
You stop walking because you do know but you don’t understand how she became this. You don't know what experience pulled all the life from her eyes as if she’d never even experienced it to begin with.
"You did what you had to," you assure her.
Clarke stops with you. "Yes, and then I left."
"They thought you were gone." You don’t say the word dead.
"I guess they still do."
You keep walking, understanding that you must be the first familiar face Clarke has seen in a long time.
"It’s peaceful here," she says as you pass the edge of the square and wander into a row of houses.
Some people wave at you but most continue in their business, likely not recognising their Heda, dressed as you are. "We are at peace," you say.
"And what do you know about peace, Commander?"
You remember a time before battle when she told you she had no plans should you survive. She's told you there was more to life than survival, yet she couldn't imagine herself in a time where that was possible. Now she’s here, having seen and done the things she never thought herself capable of, and she is broken, without purpose.
She is still waiting for an answer. What do you know about peace?
"I’ll show you."
It takes time to reach the fields on foot so the day is almost done by the time you arrive. Workers are dragging in the last of their crops. Clarke looks around with wide eyes taking in everything at once. She knows you’re watching her and touches the scars on her arms self consciously.
You want to take her hand but resist knowing that’s the last thing she wants.
"We had hydro farms back on the Ark." Clarke’s voice is low and tremulous. "I knew they were small but I thought I could guess what a real farm looked like." She peers up at the sky blue and clear, at the shadows cast by each plant row and the workers in their colourful shawls and hats, the green overflowing growth. "I got it so wrong."
"Better than you thought?" You want her to say yes. You want her to tell you that all of earth is more beautiful and more alive than she could have imagined. You want her to smile again.
"Bigger," she says. "Everything here is more than I imagined."
Everything is more, and you know that includes prosperous farms and blue skies, but that also includes fear and death, pain and terrible loss.
You can see it in her eyes. On the ground, even beautiful things terrify her.
As the sun disappears they’re invited to eat with the families off the fields.
"Come enjoy food you pulled from the ground, Heda." The lead farmer, Ren jokes with you happily and you translate his words into english automatically.
"You work with them?" Clarke asks.
Ren is still smiling at you so you nod. "We are at peace," you say again. In Trigedasleng you agree to join their meal and Ren gives a small cheer then bows with no small amount of mockery.
"You’ll bring your friend?"
You ask Clarke and she accepts.
"There will be a few disappointed girls around our fire tonight, I think." Ren walks away with a hooting laugh and you choose not to translate that part.
Clarke looks like she can guess his words but makes no comment.
She rushes instead to help a woman that is struggling past under the weight of her produce. The woman hands over her basket gladly and you pick another up from the ground to follow behind them. Clarke moves among your people with an ease you wouldn’t have thought possible. She nods at the woman who babbles at her in a language she doesn’t understand and whenever the woman looks up for a response Clarke says ‘Sha.’
Her almost smile tears at your heart and you realise that she is at her most comfortable when helping, when she is taking care of others. As dinner is prepared she makes herself useful, chopping up vegetables and laying out plates on the long timber table.
She laughs when the others laugh and the smile almost meets her eyes.
You’re seated together when dinner is spread out as a feast; it’s the kind of meal which can only happen in summer with fresh meat, vegetables and sweet wine. The kind of meal that brings strangers together as family, and coaxes well loved stories out to play. You’re asked about the black eye and you lie but no one seems to mind.
You translate in a hurried murmur to Clarke who leans in so close your nerves tingle. You drink more than you should but so does Clarke and she doesn’t pull away when your arm bushes hers.
"You don’t have to translate everything for me," she says looking at your half finished plate.
"I don’t want you to miss anything." You don’t want her to miss a single moment of your people’s joy.
"I understand enough," she says.
Ren sneaks up behind you. "Skai Prisa is a quick learn," he says in stilted english. In Trigeda he asks Clarke if she wants the last ear of corn from the bowl in front of her.
Before you can say anything she puts her hand on your arm and replies. "Dawn like yaun." Her phrasing is terrible and you can’t help but smile as Ren laughs, dives in for his food and rushes away. She looks at you like her point is proven.
"That is close enough," you concede.
"So stop, Leksa. I can get by." She looks down as she says your name. It’s the first time she's said your name since she arrived. You hope it isn’t the last.
You both drink too much yet not enough, and you refuse the offer of a place to sleep knowing that they don’t mean in separate beds. You walk away with a woven basket of potatoes, corn and onion and you try to force a reminder into your mind to repay them tomorrow. Clarke is smiling more easily and accepts a hug from a little boy that had taken a liking to her. He kisses her cheek with a blush then runs back to his mother and you push down the irrational jealousy.
Clarke shakes her head. "At least someone liked me."
You look at her confused, moving down the path back into the trees that separate the city from her fields. "They all loved you."
"Not the girl sitting across from us. She was glaring at me all night." You don’t remember any girl and tell her as much. "Tall, gold-brown eyes and hair. By the way she looked at you, I’m guessing she’s," Clarke hesitates, looking for the right word. "A screamer?" she adds at last with a smirk.
You’re still confused until something clicks and you blush, glad for the dark so deep in the trees. The truth is there might have been a girl there, maybe two that you’d taken to bed but you wouldn’t know. Clarke was the only girl you saw all night. Anyone else was background.
"Oh," you say stupidly.
Clarke doesn’t push you any further. "They seem so happy there," she says, her smile dimming.
"They have a lot to be happy about." You hope to remind her of the part she played. "You did that."
Clarke shakes her head and turns away.
The alcohol draws more words to your tongue, or maybe it’s just Clarke that breaks down your cautious walls.
"You made those families whole again. Because of you they live in peace without constant fear of being taken, of having their children snatched away in the night."
"No don’t." Clarke stumbles away from you and the warmth of the fire seems very far away.
"Why not? Why won’t you see the good of what you did?" You grab at her arm but Clarke snatches it away as if burned.
"You weren’t there!" She shouts, tears already in her eyes. "You walked away, you took your fucking army and you left me there. You didn’t see the bodies, you didn’t have to—" her voice chokes off. "Do you know how many people I’ve killed? Do you know the first—?" she breaks off and looks away.
"My men. I sent them there to kill you." You know she knows this. Had accepted this.
"Wrong," she spits out. "I had blood on my hands from the first week on the fucking ground." She looks up at the sky hoping for stars, you think. "It was so beautiful when we opened that door. And then everything went to hell. The first time the acid fog came through we had no idea."
Her voice gets softer, lower and she fiddles over the scars on her wrist as words keep poring out.
"Atom was trapped outside. When I found them, Bellamy was there with a knife in his hand. Fucking 'Whatever We Want' Bellamy was sitting there looking at this kid," she’s crying now, tears streaming down her cheeks. "His friend was begging to die. His eyes were white, burned away, every part of him covered in blisters."
"I’ve seen it." You know what a man sounds like when he begs for death.
"Another year in the clinic and I would have been a doctor, a healer. Did you know that? I know a hundred ways to kill someone. I took the knife. And I pushed it into his throat exactly where I knew it would kill him the fastest. And it was easy. He was a kid. I killed him and I felt. Nothing. Like killing him was—. I felt nothing." She looks at her hands as if for evidence of guilt.
You don’t understand. "I’ve seen you. You feel, Clarke. I know you do."
"Oh you know?" She spins around and pins you with a look so fierce you take a step back. "Do you know how I felt when I sunk that blade into his neck," she paces back and forth spiralling into a rage. "How I felt when I killed three hundred of your men, when I shot through Lincoln to kill the man behind him, when I pulled that lever and murdered children?"
She yells at the last words and swings a fist into the trunk of the nearest tree. Both fists slam into the bark, horrible thumps and cracks sounding before you can pull her away. She spins and tries to hit you instead. She’s too close, jerks in your arms and tries to pull away but you’re stronger than she is. You pull her into your chest until she gives in and falls against you.
You hold her close, murmur soft nonsense into her ear stroking her hair. "I can’t," she tells you. "I killed all of them and I felt nothing."
"But you saved so many." You don’t let go, you won’t let go. She mutters something else that you can’t hear. You think she says the word monster and know she’s talking about herself. Destroyer the Trikru called her. "You’re not a monster," you say and squeeze her closer. "You couldn’t have done the things you have if you were. A monster has no mercy. A monster doesn’t put herself in harms way for those she loves, a monster would not have made the decisions you have because they would not have been asked to. Your people chose you, Clarke."
"I don’t want to be here. I don’t want to exist.’ She’s begging and your heart aches.
You pull her closer as she falls into thick heavy sobs.
"You have to kill me. Take the guilt and the pain and the burden. I don’t want it, I’m not strong enough. Kill me please take all this away. Be what they need me to be so I don’t have to."
"Who needs?" you ask. She’s not making sense and her words are slurring.
"All of them, everyone. They want too much. I can’t, I can’t be anything for them. It’s your fault. You owe me." She pushes away from you then. "You owe me." She thumps a bloody fist into her chest. "Kill me, please."
"No." You owe her life not death and she has no right to ask it of you. "I will not."
You remember when you thought she had tried to poison you. The betrayal you felt more keenly than you should have, like something precious had been torn from you. She glares at you now and demands you take her life, demands that you be responsible for extinguishing the light from her eyes.
"I won’t let you die."
"Fuck you," she spits.
You take a step toward her and she lifts up both her fists but you grab her arms tightly. "Fuck you," you shout back to her. She continues to glare and when she leans in you think you’re ready for whatever she might say. But no words come and she kisses you instead.
"Fuck you," she says against your lips and kisses you again.
She breaks from you, sprints away through the trees and you can only follow, dress tangling around your legs. She dashes back toward Polis and you wish you were playing, that your heart was beating fast for the game and not for the chance that Clarke will do for herself what she demands from you.
She races ahead and you catch up with her outside of your home. She leans against the door exhausted and crying.
"Clarke?" you question in a quiet voice.
She doesn’t reply and when you lay a gentle hand on her shoulder she turns into your arms, her knees giving way so you have no choice but to support her through the door and upstairs. She doesn’t open her eyes until she’s in her bed and you try to leave.
"Wait." She grabs your arm.
Not tight enough that you couldn’t pull away, but her hand is a gentle anchor pulling you down. You kneel on the bed and she turns to her side, posture rigid until you lie next to her, chest to her back, knees tucked in behind hers, arm wrapped over her side. She pulls your hand under her chin and you can feel more scars along her collar bone. You rub the back of your thumb over the raised flesh and Clarke sighs, voice cracking with a sob. You hold her tight against your chest as tears soak her hair.
"I’m sorry," she cries over and again.
You remember words that had been a comfort to you. "When the weight of command is more than one girl can can bear, I will carry you." You kiss her shoulder and cheek, and tell her everything will be brighter in the morning.