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Leave This World Behind

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When Clarke meets the Summer King, she knows him for what he is, and he sees her as potential. If he’s lucky, she’ll return his affections and maybe become a Summer Girl, dancing through his Court for eternity, sometimes spending her days in his bed.

When Clarke meets the Summer King, it is early autumn, and she is tired and irritated and a little bit scared of this ancient monster wrapped up in the skin of a teenage boy.

It is entirely unfair, she thinks, that they always seem to take the form of teenage boys and girls. Youth comes too naturally to them.

When Clarke meets the Summer King, there is another fey with him—a girl, stunning and dark-featured and stern-faced. There is an Arctic wolf at her hip, masquerading as a Siberian Husky. A human child who doesn’t know any better stops to pet its fur.

“My name’s Finn,” the Summer King says, and he smiles. His hair is long and tousled in a way that, if Clarke was a little more human, might have made her heart ache. But as it is, she can see the true angles of his elongated fey bones, and she barely manages to swallow the bile.

“Not interested,” she bites out, and leaves them both gaping in the comic store. She’s only a little smug about it.

Finn, and the wolf girl—Raven, Clarke later learns, though not because she tells her—take to following her around. Sometimes they approach, and sometimes they linger some yards behind, Glamoured and entirely sure she can’t see them. She lets them think so, partly because it’s habit by now, and partly because it just isn’t worth the hassle to tell them. She’s confident that eventually Finn will tire of her rejection, and move on.

He doesn’t.

He enrolls himself in her school, without Raven this time, but with a new fey. He’s dressed up as a boy too, a little older than Finn, with brown skin covered in freckles. While Finn is all gentle words and honeyed smiles and fond affection, this new boy is somber and dark-eyed, and Clarke likes him better for it. He seems unhappy to be here, as he should.

Octavia warms to the boys instantly, something which only sours Clarke’s mood further. They’ve been best friends since Abby agreed to let Clarke approach public school at fourteen, after ten years of homeschooling in the safety of their townhouse.

“I just don’t want you to get hurt,” Abby said, miserable, on Clarke’s first day of high school.

“I know,” Clarke promised. “I’ll be careful.”

While Clarke spends most of her time angry at the fey, her mother has spent the majority of her life in crippling fear of them. She became borderline agoraphobic when Clarke was still an infant, and managed to land a job as a phone-based medical consultant. She’s never bothered telling Clarke why, but she’s a clever girl; she can put the pieces together.

She’s never known her father, and there must be a reason she can see the other side. There must be a reason she hears voices when she presses a hand to old trees.

“That one’s mine,” Octavia whispers, leaning up across her desk so Clarke can hear. She follows Octavia’s feral grin, set on Finn across the room. He’s grinning back at them, and offers a wave. Octavia winks back, while Clarke glowers and slouches down in her seat.

“You can have him,” she mutters. “Both of them.”

Octavia rolls her eyes. “Wells won’t dump you just for looking,” she grumbles. Octavia doesn’t really understand monogamy, or why anyone would choose it.

Clarke rolls her eyes back. “That’s not it,” she says, because it isn’t. She and Wells have known each other since they were kids—his father is one of the only people her mother still interacts with—and they’ve recently tried out dating. It’s new, and still a little awkward, but it’s going well. “They just rub me the wrong way, you know?”

“Mm,” Octavia says, because she doesn’t know, but she doesn’t want to argue. “I wish that one would rub me the right way,” she smirks.

“You don’t even know his name,” Clarke says, amused. She’s pretty sure Octavia’s just infatuated because they’re new, and so she’ll admire them from afar for a few days, maybe flirt or try to copy their notes, and then move on to her next fling.

“Do too,” she argues, and then pauses. “Something simple,” she guesses. “John?”

“You’re terrible,” Clarke shakes her head, and turns back to the lesson.

The fey that attack her outside the pool bar are not Finn or his partner or Raven—they are different, more twisted, like shadows her eyes can’t really keep track of, which makes it easier for them to slam her up against the brick wall.

This is it, she thinks as their claws dig into the skin of her neck and sides and shoulders. This is how I’m going to die—mom’s gonna be pissed.

And then the claws and the sticky-sweet-hot breath and tittering laughter is gone, replaced by growling and whispered words that sound suspiciously like Shakespearean curses.

Clarke opens her eyes—they’d closed at some point, though she didn’t remember blinking—to find Raven’s wolf tearing into one of the shadowy fey. Raven herself has another unconscious at her feet, and she looks altogether annoyed at the situation. She glares at Clarke sharply and snaps, “Learn to protect yourself!” And then she whistles, and her wolf follows her down the alley and into the night.

“What the fuck,” Clarke says to no one, and then readjusts her windbreaker so Abby hopefully won’t notice the cuts already beginning to heal on her skin, and stomps home.

“I’m moving,” she declares, slipping in through Wells’ open window. She’d started sneaking into his room at night when they were kids, mostly because she was lonely, and they’d watch movies on his computer with the volume turned low.

“Where to?” Wells asks, amused. He opens his arms so she can slide into them.

“Antarctica,” she decides. There probably aren’t any fey there, or if there are, she can probably get them eaten by a polar bear. “Or under your bed; I haven’t decided.”

“You want to be the monster under my bed?” Wells teases, and Clarke stiffens, for obvious reasons. His words are too close for comfort, and he seems to notice her discomfort. “I’m just kidding,” he soothes. “I won’t make you stay under the bed.”

“Do you think monsters exist?” she asks, voice thick. It’s dark, so he probably can’t see her face, but she’s sure everything’s written in the lines there. Wells holds her a little tighter.

“Yes,” he says, honest as always. “But you’re not a monster.”

I might be, she wants to say. I’m already halfway there. But she just stays quiet until he falls asleep, and then slithers out the window just before dawn.

“You look like shit,” Octavia says, falling into the seat beside her. “Long night with the boyfriend?” she waggles her brows suggestively.

“I was jumped last night,” Clarke waves a hand nonchalantly, and Octavia goes very mean very quickly.

“What? By who?” she demands, clearly planning to hunt them down and bareknuckle brawl them. Clarke’s pretty sure Octavia could take a fey in a knife fight, but she’d probably try to sleep with them first. She’s basically a praying mantis.

“Some guys,” Clarke says vaguely. “I’m okay; a good Samaritan stepped in and chased them off.”

“A good Samaritan?” Octavia raises a skeptical brow. Clarke shrugs.

“She didn’t tell me her name.” Not a lie—Clarke can’t lie. Even when she was a kid, Abby used to brag about her honesty. She’s learned a few tricks since then, how to bend and twist and cripple the truth, but never break it.

“Jesus, Clarke,” Octavia scowls, probably equally mad that it happened, and that she wasn’t there. Octavia has recently taken up Judo, and likes to show off. This would have been the perfect opportunity. “Does your mom know?”

“I didn’t want to worry her,” Clarke says truthfully. Abby might have put the bars back on her window, the padlocks and security boxes back on all the doors. Clarke spent ten years in that cage—she’s probably more scared of going back to that, than she is of the fey.

“Well, next time,” Octavia warns darkly, “They won’t get away.”

So far, Clarke has managed to avoid the fey boys by taking the longer routes between classes and eating lunch in the girls’ bathroom handicap stall. She does her homework while she eats her sandwich, and sometimes reads a little. This strategy works for her, until it doesn’t.

“Knock, knock,” Finn says, nonchalantly walking through the newly opened stall door. Clarke frowns; she’s sure she’d locked it. He sits gracefully across from her, close enough that his knees just touch her own, and eyes her open textbook. “You’re quite the studious one,” he says with a smile.

Clarke scowls back at him. “And I prefer to study alone, hence,” she waves a hand around at the stall and looks at him pointedly. He pretends not to notice, which is infuriating. “So, if you don’t mind...” she trails off, waiting for him to catch on.

Finn grins. “Oh, I don’t mind at all,” he assures her, and plays with a strand of her hair. “Has anyone ever told you, you look like the summer? Gold hair, sun-kissed sun, cornflower eyes…”

Clarke bats his hand away with a scoff. “No, no one has told me that, because it’s ridiculous—you’re ridiculous, and I’d like you to leave.”

He frowns, clearly still confused as to how she hasn’t been swept away by his charm. Every other girl at their school is clamoring for his attention, but Clarke is here, hiding in the handicap stall, trying to avoid him. He’s probably never had to suffer this sort of rejection before, Clarke thinks gleefully, which makes it even more painful for him. He’s like a puppy who’s only just discovered some dogs bite back.

He does leave, she’s sure only because he’s too bewildered to really fight her on it, but the day is ruined for Clarke after that; she can barely see the words on her page. Everything seems out of focus and overwhelming, and she knows what that means, so she counts her breaths forwards and backwards and then in French, until her mind clears again.

Fey are easily distracted, flighty creatures. Focus does not come easily to them—at least, the ones Clarke has encountered. She’s sure there are stronger fey, higher up on the ladder, that can easily control their own thoughts—but they aren’t the ones that consign to spending time among humans. They aren’t the ones tripping little kids, or tying hair in knots while they’re sleeping.

Clarke meets Wells in the parking lot after school, and he waits with her for Octavia. Octavia and Wells aren’t friends, but they’re friendly enough, mostly for Clarke’s sake but she likes to think they’re at least comfortable with each other. Neither of them really have other friends—Wells has the debate team, and Octavia has whatever easily influenced girl has taken to carrying her books for her, or whatever boy is half in love with her enough to let her copy their homework—but. None of them are really friends, so much as acquaintances or, in Octavia’s case, peons.

Usually the three of them hang out at Octavia’s trailer, which she shares with her elderly grandmother who doesn’t speak English, and she and Clarke watch Korean dramas while Wells works on that week’s letter to Amnesty International.

“I can’t chill today,” she says in place of hey, guys. “I have a date.”

This in itself is not unusual—Octavia nearly always has dates. Clarke, frankly, is a little surprised she doesn’t cancel on their faux study group more often. But she seems embarrassed, and maybe a little nervous, which is definitely strange. Octavia doesn’t do nervous, and Clarke is suitably unnerved.

“With who?” she asks, trying for mildly interested, but it comes out a little sharp. Wells eyes her curiously.

“You don’t know him,” Octavia snaps defensively, and then winces. “His name’s Murphy,” she admits, as a sort of compromise. She probably won’t let Clarke meet him until after the fourth date, if there is one, and even then she won’t let Clarke be alone with him for any length of time until after the seventh. There’s almost never a seventh. Clarke can’t really remember any of Octavia’s previous boyfriends’ names, to be honest.

“Murphy what?” Wells asks, mildly interested. Wells knows practically everyone in their town, and if he doesn’t, his father does.

“Murphy nothing,” Octavia says, irritated. She’d probably meant to be leaving by now. “Murphy’s his last name. His first name’s John.”

“Oh, the tattoo guy,” Wells says amiably. Octavia looks at him appraisingly, while Clarke just stares.

“Yeah,” she nods, as Clarke asks, “How do you know Murphy-the-tattoo-guy?”

Wells shrugs. He knows everyone. Octavia shrugs back, a little exasperated. “I’ve seriously gotta go, sorry,” she says, not at all apologetic. They watch her go before heading to Wells’ eco-friendly Kia.

They go to his house, because Abby is always home but Thelonious never is. They curl up on his bed to do homework, watch Whose Line Is It Anyway? and make out a little. Clarke heads home just as the sky starts to bleed orange.

She’s nearly to the side door, the one that leads into the kitchen, when she feels a wave of chill burst from the hydrangeas. Raven steps out into view. She glances at the steel insets in the door—Abby had it commissioned—with grudging respect.

“I guess you do know a few things, after all,” she says wryly, and Clarke scowls.

Her Glamour is that of a beautiful young woman, but her true form is just as breathtaking, and not really that different. Her real skin’s a little blue around the edges, her hair a little more silver, her eyes wider and deeply set, with huge expanding irises. Her jawbone could slice butter, and she has an extra joint in each long, skinny finger. Clarke realizes she’s been staring, which is not good, and Raven’s looking at her knowingly.

“You know what I am,” she accuses, eyes narrowed. “What we are.” We meaning Finn and the other boy, probably.

Clarke could deny it. She’s spent her whole life denying it, sometimes even to herself. She knows it’s too dangerous for them to know—knows that if they found out, they would swarm and torment her, or worse. She knows there are some that consider people like her a risk, a threat to be eliminated. She should deny it.

“Yes,” Clarke says, head raised and defiant. Raven’s a good deal taller than her, even as a human, so Clarke has to tilt her neck to meet her eye.

Raven nods, considering. Then, “You shouldn’t stare,” she chides. “It’s too obvious. I couldn’t tell at first, but you’re getting annoyed, and that makes you sloppy.”

“Well then stop being so annoying,” Clarke snaps, and Raven fixes her with a look that says you are proving my point, you know. Clarke glares back at her.

“You’ll fall in love with him,” Raven says in a bored tone. “Everyone does. It’s inevitable.”

Clarke snorts. “I doubt it. He’s insufferable.”

Raven shrugs. “He’s a King,” like that should explain it.

“He’s a child.”

“Regardless,” Raven waves a hand. “You’ll fall for him, and he’ll ask you to take the test.” Here, she fixes Clarke with a heavy stare. “Say no.”

“I’ll say no anyway,” Clarke says, exasperated, and a little annoyed at being told she’s going to fall for the boy-King’s empty words. She’s not some child, blinded by the promise of love. She’s not even a romantic.

Raven eyes her a little skeptically but doesn’t argue. “Don’t stare,” she warns, and then steps back into her mother’s flowers and disappears.

“That’s not fair,” Clarke calls out indignantly. “Anyone would stare at that!” She leans forward to study the place where the fey had just stood, only to see the square of grass has frosted over. She breaks off a few of the crisp blades, and crushes them in her hands.

She’s still thinking of Raven when the other fey boy slides in beside her. Wells has a stomach bug, so he couldn’t drive her and she’d had to catch the bus. She eyes the freckled fey, trying not to be obvious. He raises a brow at her, so evidently she doesn’t succeed.

“Let me guess,” she says, “He’s tired of me saying no to his face, so he’s sent his, what? Adopted brother? Cousin-by-marriage? Best friend?”

The boy’s lips quirk, just a fraction. “Something like that,” he agrees. “Though you are wrong; Finn did not send me. Raven did.”

“Raven,” Clarke echoes. She’d known the fey woman was friends with Finn, but she’s never seen her with this boy.

He nods. “She asked me to keep an eye on you,” he glances at her, almost teasing. “She said you needed protection.”

Clarke huffs. “She caught me on a bad day,” she defends, and then thinks. “Okay, two bad days,” she amends. The fey boy laughs, but it doesn’t sound like a normal fey laugh—tittering and musical. His sounds rough and low, like the scrape of dried leaves in the last days of summer.

“I am Bellamy,” he offers, but he doesn’t put out a hand, so she doesn’t either.

“Clarke,” she says shortly. She may like him more than Finn, but she still doesn’t like him. She definitely doesn’t trust him. “You know I can see you?” He stares back at her, so she clarifies. “Like, see you, see you.” She grimaces. How well-said, she thinks darkly. Eloquent.

Bellamy seems amused. “Raven said something to that affect, yes.”

Clarke scowls. “She told me I was too obvious about it,” she scoffs, “And then goes and tells you!”

“Oh, I knew already,” Bellamy assures her. “No human girl can resist Finn, so it stands to reason you are not a human girl.”

“I am too human,” Clarke argues, only a little petulantly because, well she can’t be sure, can she? The fey’s logic is fairly sound. Bellamy looks unconvinced but keeps quiet. “What does he want with me, anyway?” she asks. She’s been wanting to for a while, but couldn’t without letting on that she knew what Finn was. Now that her secret’s out, she doesn’t have to be so careful.

“Finn chases whims the way a dog chases squirrels,” Bellamy says scornfully. “You are the latest in a very long list.”

“But why?” Clarke pressed. She doesn’t need to be told she’s not special—she knew she wasn’t the first Finn had tried to charm.

Bellamy studies her from the corner of his eye. The bus is pulling into the school’s lot now, so there isn’t much time for him to answer her question, and she thinks he might be stalling. “He believes you could be his Summer Queen,” he admits.

Clarke stares blankly. “Why the hell would he think that?” she demands. Bellamy shrugs.

“Something to do with your lineage,” he says. “Apparently your father was of our Court, some years ago.”

“Your Court?” Clarke asks, figuring that question is probably safer than anything involving her father.

“The Summer Court,” Bellamy nods. “We wake the earth after Winter has passed.”

Clarke thinks of all the faeries she’s seen over the years—tricky, childish things that liked to play games and pranks and laugh like hyenas. She studies Bellamy, with his straight back and even shoulders, his firm jaw and serious eyes. He is a different fey, and stronger too, to be able to sit and speak easily inside the metal bus.

“So you’re what, a Summer Prince, then?” Clarke muses. Bellamy laughs again, more leaves scraping comfortably through the air.

“Not at all,” he shakes his head. “I am merely a guard, a confidante when he wishes it.” He glances down at her, and his gaze is so warm she thinks she might get sunburn. “I am no Prince,” he says softly.

“And I’m not a Queen,” Clarke says back. “So neither of us is royalty.”

“I believe the similarities end there,” Bellamy smiles, and the bus has stopped so they file out with the others.

He follows her around for most of the day—she’ll catch him in the hallways, or the backs of her classes. She eats lunch in the cafeteria for the first time that week, hoping to ask more about the Summer Court, and maybe even her father, but she can’t find him.

She has yet to see Finn all day, which is no real tragedy. Instead she eats with Octavia, chipper after her successful date.

“When do I get to meet him?” Clarke wonders.

“I don’t know about that,” Octavia grins. “I wanna keep him to myself for a while.”

They walk together to class, and Octavia sits in front because she’s hoping that might convince the teacher she’s paying attention so she won’t be called on. Clarke sits behind her, which is how she sees the ink crawling out from the neckline of Octavia’s shirt. She pulls on the material to see the tattoo clearly. It’s still a little inflamed, clearly new, and not yet finished. It’ll be relatively large when complete—a pair of thick black feathered wings spanning both shoulder blades. Octavia squirms out of Clarke’s grip, crossly.

“I got it a couple days ago,” she snaps. “Don’t freak.”

“I’m not,” Clarke says, and she isn’t. Octavia turns eighteen just two months after her, this year. She knows she’s wanted a few tattoos for some time, now, so it isn’t exactly a shock. And anyway, it’s not like she’s bothered by it; it’s Octavia’s body, she can do what she wants. “Is it for Murphy?”

Octavia rolls her eyes. “No, Mom. Murphy did it, yeah, but I went in the shop because I wanted the tattoo. Murphy’s just an added bonus.”

Clarke shrugs. “It looks nice,” she says, and goes back to her worksheet.

She finds Raven waiting for her, leaning against the hood of someone’s Jeep. The wolf isn’t there, and Clarke glances around suspiciously, thinking it might be hiding in the pines.

Raven tosses her head towards the car. “Get in,” she says, and slips into the driver’s seat.

Clarke should probably say no; not many fey can manage themselves in the kind of metal vehicles are made out of, and the ones that kind are the kind of strong that only comes from being alive for centuries, which she’s pretty sure she shouldn’t mess with.

But if Raven wanted her dead, she could have done it at any point between now and when they met, or she could have let those shadow fey do the job for her, so. Clarke isn’t really sure she has much to lose, at this point, and she definitely has more questions.

“Where are we going?” she asks, deciding to start with something simple. She checks her seatbelt, just in case; she isn’t sure how well a fey, even one as obviously powerful as Raven, can drive.

Raven rolls her eyes but doesn’t answer, cranking up the radio to blast The Ramones, back in their Rocket to Russia days. Clarke eyes the fey curiously, but Raven ignores her, keeping her eyes on the road. She drives perfectly, with both hands at ten and two, and checks her mirrors meticulously every three minutes. Clarke feels a little bad for ever doubting her.

She drives them out to the edge of town and then farther, all the way to the old abandoned hydro plant. She parks in the little cleared bit of forest floor next to the concrete ruins, and then leads Clarke confidently through the crumbling building, out to the stone ledge that crosses over the ravine. She strides purposefully to the center, and then sits to dangle her legs over the edge. Clarke follows a little less surely, stumbling only a few times, before crouching slowly beside her. They stare down at the yellowing trees below their feet, at the river a little lower. Finally, Raven turns to her, eyes sharp and focused.

“Hold out your hand,” she orders, and Clarke only hesitates a little. Mostly she just doesn’t want Raven to think she’ll follow unquestioningly. Then she puts up her hand, palm up. Raven lays her own over it, clutching firmly, and Clarke bites her cheek until it bleeds to keep from flinching.

Raven’s skin burns, like too-cold ice, and Clarke’s own flesh is beginning to feel raw beneath it. Finally, Raven releases her, and holds her hand up for her to see. The skin of her palm and fingertips are blistered, as if burned by fire or hot oil. Clarke’s is rubbed red and raw from the cold.

“Bellamy said you didn’t believe you were a Summer fey,” Raven shrugs, rubbing at her wounds. Clarke cradles her hand a little petulantly.

“I didn’t say that,” she argues, feeling sort of bitter—did she really need to burn her? “I said I wasn’t the Summer Queen. And I’m not.”

Raven shrugs again, staring back at the trees. The concrete beneath her has grown pale with cold, and it’s spreading a little too close to Clarke’s thighs for her liking. She scoots a few inches away just in case.

“So you’re a Winter fey?” Clarke asks. She’d sort of guessed, after the frozen hydrangeas, but she’d still like to clarify. Raven gives her a raised brow as if to say, really, you need to ask? “So why are you helping the Summer King?”

Raven smiles wryly. “The Summer and Winter Courts are not enemies,” she explains. “We are two halves of a whole; pieces of a puzzle that can only be completed one we have each done our jobs. It is in our best interest to help one another, when necessary. Besides,” she turns back to the ravine. “Your King and I grew up together.”

“He’s not my King,” Clarke says hotly. “You can keep him.”

Raven eyes her sharply. “That is not your choice to make,” she snaps. “You were born to Summer, and so Summer is your Court, and Finn is your King.”

“Bullshit,” Clarke snaps back—she’s not about to be forced to kneel to some flirty monarch who doesn’t understand the word no. “Were you born in the Winter Court?” she demands.

Raven sobers. “No,” she says softly. “I did make this choice. But I was human, once, and so I could. You were born to your Court; this you cannot change. So you should probably get used to it.” She stands quickly, sharp enough for Clarke to flinch. She offers her a hand, to help her up, but Clarke just glares at the offending limb and struggles upright on her own. Raven watches in amusement, and then laughs a little pointedly, before striding back towards the woods while Clarke shuffles slowly after her.

Raven drives her to her house and by the time they arrive, the sun is beginning to set. “Try not to be killed in the night,” she chirps as Clarke slides out of the car, and then pulls away.

Clarke doesn’t bother sneaking into Wells’ that night, instead sending him a quick sweet dreams text, and then tries to fall asleep.

Wells sleeps the bug off and offers to drive her to school the next day, but Clarke decides to take the bus, so she can interrogate Bellamy some more. The fey gets on at the fourth stop after hers, and she moves her bag so he can sit beside her.

“You reserved me a seat,” he observes, pleased. Clarke shrugs, a little uncomfortably. She still doesn’t want to like him, but he’s making it kind of difficult.

“You owe me some answers,” she shoots back.

He grins a little darkly. “Actually, I don’t,” he chirps. “You have said yourself, you’re not a Queen, and certainly not mine.”

Clarke scowls. “Fine,” she amends. “I would very much like you to answer some more questions. You up for it?”

He purses his lips, maybe in thought, but probably mockery. “We shall see,” he decides. “It depends entirely upon what you ask.”

“Who was my father?” she demands. She’s still not sure she’s ready for the answer, but not knowing would probably be worse.

“I do not know,” Bellamy admits. “He left the Court before I joined.”

“When did you join?” Clarke asks, curious. He’s certainly old—he seems entirely unaffected by the metal around them—and she’d sort of assumed most fey were born to their Courts like she apparently was.

“Sixteen human years ago,” he says, and she must look surprised because he chuckles. “How old do you think me?”

“Old,” Clarke says, because really she’s not entirely sure what the average lifetime for a fey is. She’s pretty sure they’re immortal, but.

Bellamy laughs. “I am two hundred and eleven years this Winter,” he says.

“That’s old,” Clarke huffs. “See? I was right.” She hesitates, unsure how far she should push him, but she really is curious. “Why did you join the Court?”

Bellamy’s face sours a little, though she can tell it’s not directed at her, but more like the world in general. “My sister,” he admits. “She was stolen, and offered to a human mother as a changeling. Finn promised to help me find her.”

“That’s awful,” Clarke frowns. “Have you found her yet?”

“Yes,” Bellamy sighs. “She is convinced she is a human girl. She remembers nothing of Faery.” Without really meaning to, Clarke finds herself patting his arm in comfort.

“If there’s anything I can do to help,” she offers lamely—he has the Summer King helping him, what could she possibly offer that Finn can’t? But Bellamy smiles down at her warmly.

“You already have,” he says, and Clarke sits up with a jolt.

“I’m,” she falters, feeling sort of like an idiot, but she goes for it anyway. “It isn’t me, is it?” Bellamy stares at her for a moment before erupting into laughter. It goes on for some time, and he loses his breath, while she stares a little sullenly. “It was just a guess,” she mutters, but he waves it away.

“I only laugh because—to think we might be related!” She nearly takes offense, but then he holds her arm up to his in explanation, displaying the stark contrast in color. And yes, if she’d only stopped to think about it, she might have realized his features were much longer, and darker than hers, and she had no freckles anywhere, while he was covered in them. So she laughs too.

Octavia is waiting with Wells by the time the bus pulls up, and Clarke and Bellamy are still chuckling as they step out.

“What’s so funny?” Octavia says, in place of hello. She eyes Bellamy curiously, scrunching her nose up in thought. “Have we met?”

“We have Biology together,” Bellamy says, voice a little strained. Clarke chalks it up to nerves at Octavia’s intimidating beauty. It’s nice to know even feys aren’t immune to her.

“Huh,” Octavia says, turning back to Clarke. “So? What’s the joke?”

Clarke rolls her eyes and says, “You won’t get it, but since you’ll just hound us until you know—it’s that we’re not related.” She waits while Octavia’s eyes glaze over in confusion. “See? Told you. Now come on, we’ll be late for class.”

Wells doesn’t say much to anyone, but he gives Bellamy a friendly nod and asks how he’s liking their school so far.

“It’s adequate,” Bellamy decides. “The history lessons need a bit of work.”

“That’s what I’ve been saying,” Wells agrees. “Big history buff, are you?”

Bellamy shoots Clarke a conspiratorial smirk, and she tries not to laugh at the absurdity of her life. “Something like that,” he agrees.

 Wells has a debate meeting after school, and Octavia has a third date—which, in itself, is a miracle—so Clarke is left standing awkwardly with Bellamy in the parking lot as the last bus pulls away.

“I don’t have a car,” he apologizes, and Clarke snorts.

“I figured, since you ride the bus and everything,” she teases, and then shrugs. “So we’ll walk. I have to go to the comics shop, anyway.” He nods and follows her down to Main Street, keeping just a little behind and to the right, probably to minimize any possible threats. She’s pretty sure Finn’s assigned him to keep an eye on her but surprisingly, she doesn’t really mind all that much. The bruises from the shadow fey have healed by now, but it was still a sharp lesson; she isn’t really equipped to take them on, alone.

The comics shop is run by a middle-aged man named Jackson, but Clarke’s never actually met him, since Jasper works the afterschool shift, which is the only time she ever shows up. She isn’t necessarily an aficionado, but she’d found an old box of classic Avengers in the attic that her mom said belonged to her dad, so she figured she’d at least do a little research.

Also, Jasper helped turn her onto Fables and The Sandman.

There’s also a pretty big manga and anime section, which Clarke recently discovered is definitely her thing.

Jasper, as usual, is sprawled against the counter reading one of the new products—something with a lot of color, action, and impossible torso-to-waist ratios. He glances up as the bell above the door rings, and grins once he sees Clarke. He takes in Bellamy behind her, and his eyes go a little wide. Clarke doesn’t blame him; a fey, even in a human Glamour, is almost overwhelming to look at.

“Hey, Jas,” Clarke chirps. “This is Bellamy, and he knows absolutely nothing about the glory that is animated storytelling. Care to educate him?”

“Oh man,” Jasper says, slipping back into the easy excitement that comes whenever he gets to talk shop. “You are in for such a treat, dude—we just got the original Hellcat in—but first, which Batman; Nolan, or Burton?”

Bellamy glances at Clarke with a mixture of desperation and disdain, and she just barely manages not to choke. “I’m afraid your education must be a little clearer,” he says.

“Think of him as an alien baby,” Clarke suggests. “Fresh from the womb and ready for knowledge.”

“Awesome,” Jasper grins, and shuffles through the store, collecting different comics to toss in Bellamy’s arms, with vague explanations like this was the absolute first example of the Byronic superhero, and this one’s story is kinda overdone, but the heroine is so freaking badass!

By the end, Bellamy is the proud owner of three Fables issues, and a copy of The Sandman, along with a handful of X-Men First Gen’s, and Deadpool. Jasper’s just finished ringing him out when Clarke sees a shadow pass outside the window.

She turns to find it’s not a shadow, but an extremely dark fey, dressed in a pair of tight dark jeans and a loose band tank. His face is angular, and his Glamour is a pale, thin boy with stark eyes, jagged hair and a metal bar through his lip. It moves as he smiles down at the girl beside him, holding his hand.

He’s smiling down at Octavia.

Bellamy goes rigid beside her, glaring out at the two in disgust and surprise, and all at once the realization hits her. It’s sort of painfully obvious, to be honest.

Octavia’s your sister?” she hisses, and Bellamy only nods tensely, gripping his plastic bag so tightly his knuckles are glowing white.

“Whoa, really?” Jasper asks, excited all over again. “I didn’t know O had any siblings!”

“He’s, uh, estranged,” Clarke stutters, grimacing up at Bellamy in apology, but he’s not paying the two any mind, eyes still focused fully on his sister.

The oblivious couple ducks into the tattoo parlor across the street, and Clarke knew the fey must have been Murphy, but now she knows, and she finds herself scrambling after Bellamy as he chases his sister.

The tattoo shop has a bell like the comic store, so their arrival is less than subtle. Octavia is perched on the front counter, while Murphy lounges in a chair, and they both turn to glance at the new visitors.

Murphy barely offers Clarke a glance before turning to Bellamy with a smug sort of dare in his eyes. He’s goading him, and Clarke is instantly furious.

“Clarke?” Octavia asks, wringing her hands nervously. She’s trying to mask it by sounding annoyed. “What are you doing here?”

“What, so you’re the only one who can get a tattoo?” Clarke snaps. Bellamy looks at Octavia, outraged.

“You got a tattoo?” he asks, and Octavia bristles.

“What the fuck,” she hisses. “You don’t even know me!” And at that, Bellamy seems to deflate. He looks positively ready to dissolve into the floor and then stay there to live out his very long, possibly endless life. Clarke grips his elbow roughly, as if to say not today, damn it.

“We saw you outside,” Clarke says, still holding onto Bellamy, reluctant to let go. “From the comic store. Thought we’d say hi, so. Hi.”

“Well now you’ve said it,” Octavia says curtly, still eyeing Bellamy heatedly. He wilts under her stare. “So you can go.”

“Lovely to meet you,” Murphy calls from the chair, and Clarke would think he seemed bored with it all, if it weren’t for the quiet spite brewing in his eyes. She can feel Bellamy burning up with hatred, so she tugs him towards the door.

“The pleasure was ours,” she shoots back. Murphy doesn’t feel like Summer or Winter, but instead just hollow. The thought makes her shudder, and suddenly she can’t wait to leave the store. She aches to take Octavia with her, but she’s pretty sure it would go horribly. Next time, she tells herself, and drags Bellamy outside.

“What is he?” Clarke asks on the walk to her home. “He felt…empty,” she shivers at the memory. Where usually she felt throbbing life, unbearably warm like Bellamy or Finn, or cold like Raven, with Murphy she had felt nothing but an ache, like hunger.

Bellamy glances down at her, a little impressed. She can still feel the anger emanating from his skin. She hasn’t let go of his arm. “A Dark fey,” he says, like a curse. “He’s the King of the Dark Court.”

“Dark Court?”

“Did you really think there were just two?” Bellamy scoffs. “There are dozens, all over.”

“What does it mean that they’re all in Phoenix?” Clarke wonders.

“Not all,” Bellamy corrects, and then frowns. “But more than is usual, certainly. As for what it means, that I cannot say.” Clarke squeezes his wrist a little, mostly in worry, and he glances down at it as if noticing for the first time that they’re touching. He wrenches his arm from her grasp, panicked. “You musn’t touch me,” he says, more scared than angry. “We do not know what it might cause.”

“What?” Clarke asks dumbly. She’d feel embarrassed, if she wasn’t so confused. Bellamy’s neck goes red and blotchy, which she hadn’t even known fey could do, and he sighs.

“What do you know of the types of fey?” he asks wearily. They’re nearing Clarke’s block, which means they must have walked almost three miles.

“Not much,” she admits.

“I thought as much,” he says. “I am a Gancanagh—have you heard of it?” Clarke shakes her head. “My skin causes certain...reactions in humans. Mostly, addiction.”

“What, like,” Clarke pauses, trying not to laugh, “They’re constantly trying to jump your bones?”

Bellamy grimaces. “Yes,” he shakes his head. “It is most unpleasant.”

Right,” Clarke says wryly. Bellamy catches her eye and glares.

“I assure you, there is nothing enjoyable about being grabbed at on all sides by mobs of lustful humans.”

“Yeah, I guess that would put a damper on the mood,” Clarke muses. “But I’m not human.”

“You are half human,” Bellamy points out. “So we cannot be sure.”

“Well I was holding your arm for a while, and I’m not feeling any sudden urge to rip your clothes off.”

Bellamy gives her a look. “Indeed,” he deadpans, and this time she can’t swallow the laugh down.

“I just can’t believe,” she wheezes, “You are actually a sex faery! You’d make a killing as a prostitute.”

Bellamy ignores her for the rest of the way.

When they reach her house, he hesitates, suddenly nervous—which is absolutely ridiculous after the day they’ve had, and Clarke just doesn’t have the patience for it.

“Spit it out,” she commands, and he cuts his eyes at her.

“Octavia,” he starts, “Have you known her long?”

“A few years now,” she says, gently. “She’s doing really well—passing her classes, breaking hearts, taking over the world. You should be proud.”

“I am,” Bellamy agrees. “I just wish I could tell her.”

“You can,” Clarke shrugs. “I mean, we’ll have to. Soon, probably—I don’t want Murphy leaking all that shadow gunk on her, and anyway, she deserves to know.”

Bellamy still looks a little doubtful, but he agrees, and then disappears into the earth. Clarke stares at the ground incredulously.

“You all have got to stop doing that,” she huffs, and then marches inside.

Raven is waiting at the end of her bed when Clarke wakes in the morning. She gives an undignified scream, and Raven glares at her crossly.

“Seriously?” she sneers.

You try waking up to some stranger at the foot of your bed,” Clarke says hotly.

“I’m not a stranger,” Raven says, offended, and Clarke rolls her eyes.

“What do you want?” she demands, pulling her comforter up around her shoulders. She’s only wearing a tank top, and it’s old and a little small, and she’s just not sure she knows Raven well enough to feel comfortable half-naked in front of her.

Oh, hi Raven,” Raven says in a mock-version of Clarke’s voice. “Nice to see you, good morning! How has your day been?

“Oh, hi Raven,” Clarke deadpans. “What the fuck do you want?”

Raven tsks, but doesn’t argue further. “An endless amount of persimmons, and knee-high snowdrifts,” Raven declares. “Finn’s in trouble; we don’t have much time, so throw on another shirt and let’s move.”

Clarke scowls, but pulls on a sweatshirt and follows Raven out to her Jeep. They drive to the cemetery on the outskirts of town, and Raven comes dangerously close to running into a headstone as she parks on the hill. She leads Clarke to a mausoleum with an angel statue, eroded so its face is blank and mossy. Clarke follows Raven through the cracked granite door, and into the darkness.

“I don’t mean to question your competency at leading a rescue mission,” Clarke says, clutching the back of Raven’s shirt in the black. “But do you think we could get some light in here?”

Raven ignores her, so Clarke just sighs and digs her fingers into her shirt a little tighter. Finally, the path peters out into a dome, illuminated dimly by some oil lamps strung up on the stone walls. Clarke can tell they’re underground, can feel the earth’s heartbeat beneath the soles of her shoes.

“Where are we?” she asks, lifting a hand to touch the limestone, but there is no life in it.

“The Dark Court,” Raven says. “Or at least at the door. It’s been a while since I’ve been here, so give me a minute while I remember which way to go.”

“You don’t know where to go?” Clarke asks, trying not to panic, and failing.

“Of course I know where to go,” Raven snaps. “I just have to remember, first!”

While Raven is remembering, Clarke explores the cave. There are three possible paths, each darker than the last as they curve away from the lit dome. She lifts one of the lamps off the wall and shines a little into the first tunnel, but it curves so all she can see is more carved stone.

“Got it,” Raven announces, clearly proud of herself, and snatches Clarke’s lantern to lead the way down the third tunnel.

It leads them to a gate, made of iron so rusted it would probably fall apart at one touch, but to Clarke’s surprise, Raven shrinks away from it. “Old iron,” she grimaces. “Stronger than the new stuff. It burns.”

Clarke shrugs and leans forward to push it open easily, only a little smug. They pass through into a shadowy cell, lined with more of the rusted iron. Raven cringes and leans into Clarke instinctively, so she puts a protective arm around her, trying to avoid the shivers her cold skin sent down Clarke’s spine.

In the center of the room lays Finn, skin tinged blue and chest still. They rush forward to collapse on either side of him. Raven goes to check his pulse, but Clarke grips her hands tightly. “Don’t,” she orders. “You’ll make him even colder.”

Raven sucks in an angry breath, but nods, dropping her arms back down. Clarke leans her ear to Finn’s mouth, and feels the tiniest of breaths puff up against her skin. It’s chilly and shallow. She puts a hand on both his cheeks, and breathes into his mouth, holding his nose closed like she’d learned in health class. She does intermittent chest compressions, but she isn’t really sure what effect they might have on a fey.

As she presses down, she asks “What happened?” She breathes for him again and then goes back to compressions.

“Murphy,” Raven spits. “He’s hoping to force your hand, and make you become Queen.”

Clarke breathes for him again and then pants, “Why would I do that?”

Raven eyes her grimly. “Because then you’d be able to save him.”

Clarke says nothing, just continues CPR until her fingers cramp and her lips are chapped. If anything, Finn’s breathing has slowed even more, and Raven’s crying angry tears that leave her cheeks frostbitten and form little shards of ice on the dirt floor.

“I don’t know what to do,” Clarke admits shakily. She can feel her own warmth draining with each moment she keeps hold of Finn, but he’s still dangerously blue. “Where’s Bellamy?”

“I’m here,” Bellamy strides in, looking grave in a dusty gray suit. He kneels down beside her, taking her hand in his gloved one. “I know you don’t want to be Queen,” he says slowly, and Clarke pulls away.

“No,” she says. “No! There has to be something else.” She isn’t about to let herself be forced into a throne.

“You know there isn’t,” Bellamy says sternly, eyes flickering to Raven, tears still rubbing her skin raw. Her hands keep twitching, and Clarke knows she’s barely holding herself back from clutching at the Summer King.

“I don’t want it,” Clarke whispers, gripping Bellamy’s fingers hard enough to bruise, but he doesn’t wince or go to move them.

“I know,” he says, apologetic. Then he gently pries her hands away and scoops Finn up over his shoulder. “We must hurry,” he says, and turns to lead them back down the path. Raven grabs Clarke’s hand along the way and clutches it as they run.

He takes them through the first tunnel, far longer than the other two, until they emerge from the side of a grassy hill. The air is warmer, with the fresh scent of mid-summer, and bluebells bloom wildly across the field. An open-sided alcazar sits some yards away, and Bellamy strides towards it purposefully. A hammock is strung up between two of the pillars, and he lays his King gingerly across it. A handful of strange-looking girls, and even some boys, peek out from behind pillars and crumbling walls to watch them.

“Welcome home, your Majesty,” Raven mumbles, still clenching Clarke’s hand, which has gone numb from the cold.

“What is the meaning of this?” An older-looking fey comes marching from the innards of the alcazar. Clarke is a little surprised to see the lines in his face, and gray in his hair; she’d assumed all fey took a youthful form. He stares at the newcomers sternly, before worriedly glancing at the King.

“Not now, Marcus,” Bellamy says gruffly. “Raven,” he calls, “The Staff.”

Raven nods and lets go of Clarke, who clenches and unclenches the feeling back into her fingers. Raven gives a shrill whistle and some moments later, her wolf comes rushing out of the hill, a thick branch of Hawthorne clutched in its jaws. It drops the Staff at Raven’s feet, but she doesn’t move to touch it, instead looking pointedly to Clarke.

In the end, it’s easier than she thought it’d be. She stoops and wraps a fist around the wood, and stands as a wave of sunlight fills her pores with a pleasant burn. She feels wind in her veins and hot rain on her skin and the scent of lilies in her lungs as they expand with Summer. She feels the steady pulse of the earth and its life fill her up until she might burst with it. Time, she realizes, is neither endless nor temporary—it simply is, and so Summer exists timelessly, on and on and on, and her with it.

When she opens her eyes, she is crying, and newly sunburned and awake. She turns first to Bellamy, who nods and smiles a little before kneeling on the ground. “My Queen,” he says, and as Clarke glances about, she sees the strange girls and boys, and even the older fey falling to the ground in adherence.

She looks to Raven, who smirks and says, “Don’t even think about it—I’m not bowing.” And then she looks to Finn, with flushed cheeks and blinking eyes as he stirs awake on the hammock.

Raven rushes to his side, but Clarke doesn’t; she’s done what was needed, and now she has some sort of magic sunlight staff, which is a little strange, and she has a throne, which is even stranger. She doesn’t need a King too and, watching Raven as she presses little frosty kisses to Finn’s happy smile, she’s sure she doesn’t want one.

She looks back to Bellamy, feeling equally refreshed and utterly exhausted, and says, “Take me home?”

Bellamy shakes his head a little, amused. “You are home,” he says. Clarke glances around at the meadow and crumbling alcazar and frowns.

“I’ll need to pack a suitcase.”

Bellamy laughs and nods his head towards a little round hill to their left. Raven jogs over to them just as they reach the slope, looping an arm between each of theirs. Clarke’s realizing she’s surprisingly tactile, now that she doesn’t hate her.

“Don’t think you’re getting away from me so easy,” she teases her, and Clarke rubs her cheek against Raven’s shoulder affectionately.

“You’re more than just childhood friends,” she guesses, and Raven glances back at Finn sadly. He’s sitting up on his own now, with one of the Summer Girls perched on his lap as he tells the crowd about his kidnapping.

“He thought I might be his Queen once,” she says, and turns back to Clarke with a smile. “I’m glad I wasn’t, though. There’s not enough snow here, and anyway now I’ve got my own throne that I don’t have to share with anyone.”

“You’re the Winter Queen?” Clarke asks, feeling stupid that she hadn’t guessed it sooner.

“The one and only,” Raven agrees as Bellamy peels back the side of the hill like a trapdoor, and they all scramble in.

They push out of the ground like sprouts, directly in front of Abby’s hydrangeas, covered in dirt and sweat and summer air.

“Holy shit.”

Clarke looks up sharply to find Octavia and Wells staring back at them, wide-eyed and wholly stunned.

Clarke is still clutching the Staff, and waves it a little in greeting. “Uh, surprise?”

 

“This is crazy,” Octavia says, collapsing on the grass beside Clarke. She’s probably repeated the statement a hundred times by now, but Clarke doesn’t argue with her. It is a little crazy.

They’re on one of the bluebell hills, overlooking the alcazar and watching as the Summer fey celebrate. They’ve built a bonfire, stretching up into the sky and casting everything around in a low orange light. It’s night in the Summer Court, though time here is relative and non-specific. It could be noon in Phoenix; Clarke’s still getting used to the whole thing.

“I can’t believe I’m a faery!” Octavia laughs wildly up at the sky. She’s said that nearly a hundred times, too, but Clarke smiles regardless. She’d taken the news remarkably well.

(“I pretty much always knew I was different,” she’d said as soon as Bellamy told her. “I mean, I thought maybe I was just going to be like a Judo prodigy or something, but this is way better.” Then she’d turned to Clarke soberly and said “You know what this means, right? We’re gonna have to tell your mom.”

Abby hadn’t taken the news half as well, but it wasn’t as if she’d had much of a choice. She wasn’t anxious to alienate her only living family, even if Clarke’s skin was looking a little green around the edges.)

“Believe it,” Raven says, folding down on Clarke’s other side. The grass browns beneath her legs as she sprawls out, but Clarke ignores it; she’ll roll around on the patch tomorrow, and bring it back to life.

It hadn’t taken much to rid Octavia of her Glamour—Bellamy had plucked a pebble from his pocket, and had her look at her reflection through the hole in its center, and then a corner of her skin had peeled away, like the edge of a plastic container. She’d pulled it back gleefully, until all her sharp angles and extra joints and blown out irises were free.

She has a real pair of wings now, small and translucent, and she keeps shifting absent mindedly so they flap about.

They’re eating fresh blackberries and drinking mulberry wine, so their mouths and fingers are all sticky and stained, and Clarke smells like bluebells and firewood, and she’s a little lightheaded from the alcohol. The Hawthorne Staff is cradled in her lap like a child, which she’d probably feel silly for if she were more sober.

Across the field, Finn is dancing with a few of his Summer Girls, and some boys, as Bellamy and the rest of the guard stand watch. Mostly, he’s watching his sister, but Clarke doesn’t mind; it’s been years, after all.

Octavia is still a little awkward around the brother she’s never known, and can’t really remember, but earlier Clarke had seen him showing her how to braid rose thorns, so she’s confident they’ll be okay.

Mostly she worries for Raven, glancing back and forth between the Winter Queen and the Summer King as he peacocks for girls that aren’t her—but Raven’s looking more pleased than Clarke has ever seen her, and her head is just barely pressed against her hip bone. It’s a little chilly, but Clarke doesn’t mind.

A few of the stranger fey are wearing old reed-drums slung low on their waists, beating them with the heels of their hands, or elbows, or hollowed reeds. It’s an archaic rhythm, and she recognizes it deep in her bones, just like the pulse of the earth and the ticking of Summer.

Octavia doesn’t seem as familiar with the tune, and she makes a face. “Can’t you request something different?” she wonders. “Like Britney Spears, or Juicy J? I mean, you are their Queen now.”

Clarke tips her head in thought. She doesn’t really mind the drums, but she wouldn’t mind something a little more lively. She turns to Lexa, her advisor, sitting delicately on her knees some feet away. “Could I?” she asks her.

Lexa turns to her Queen, and Clarke has to fight a blush—Lexa is as beautiful as the rest of the fey, but she’s something else, too, and Clarke hasn’t quite figured it out yet. Mostly she’s beautiful. “You could ask of the Court whatever you wish,” she says.

“Definitely Britney,” Octavia says with a nod, and Clarke grins, calling out the request.