It’ll be relaxing, they said.
Two weeks in the great outdoors, they said.
You’ll have so much fun, they said.
Liars. They were all fucking liars.
Clarke’s head was killing her. Judging by the blood on her hands, she could safely hazard a guess that she had a decent sized cut on them. Or the blood could be from her scraped knees. She was shaking too. The sun was going down and the adrenaline had worn off. So here she was, sitting on a massive, pre-historic boulder that sat a fatally deceptive mere 3 inches below the surface of the lake. It was literally the middle of the lake too...
This was their first day in the mountains. They’d arrived a few hours earlier, set up camp, and everything had gone well for the most part. Clarke wasn’t keen on camping, especially not full on like this with no running water or any semblance of a latrine. Nope, it was just Clarke's bare ass and the great outdoors. But Bellamy and Octavia were so excited about it that they managed to get everyone else on board. And Clarke? Well, she could have a good time anywhere as long as she had good people and enough alcohol. So it was agreed.
They were on a lake where the Blakes actually owned a house, but Octavia hated their step-father so they reserved a camping site for two weeks that was a good distance away from the house on the opposite side of the lake. Excessive? Probably. But Clarke wasn’t really interested in taking on Bellamy and Octavia’s family problems - not this summer anyway. She had her own life to worry about.
A med school drop out. Cliche’d starving artist (though starving was a stretch because her mother did well as Chief of Staff at NY Presbyterian and supported Clarke…begrudgingly). No direction in life. Not to mention that her love life seemed to be increasingly hopeless with each paramour (and there were a lot of them).
Finn was along for this trip, which was a plus. He’d finally cut his overgrown, floppy mess of hair, and was now looking passably cute (okay, really cute). They’d been flirting a lot for the last couple months. She’d be lying if she said she wasn’t planning on working that angle. Hey, they said it was supposed to be relaxing right? What better way to release a little stress? Finn Collins was easy, cute, and very available. It was just a summer vacay fling - Clarke could do that. Hell, Clarke needed that.
But she wasn’t thinking about any of those things now because now she was stranded on a lake, alone, bruised and bleeding, and it was really freaking cold.
Octavia wanted to go out for an early evening spin in a little outboard motor dinghy. It was narrow, flat bottomed, and aluminum. Perfect for fishing and shallow waters. Clarke was pretty sure Bellamy called it a "Jon" boat - whoever Jon was. It seemed to be a pretty common boat in these parts - cheap and effective. But this was hardly a cheap model, especially that motor, because nothing the Blakes bought was cheap.
Literally, they brought three boats with them for this trip - the Jon boat, a pontoon, and the sleekest speed boat Clarke had ever been in. That didn’t even include the four jet skis they hauled along with them or the fact that their mom held onto the SeaRay for her own use with her husband. The Blakes were ridiculous, honestly, and it was all their fault that she was here right now, cursing her existence (and theirs).
It was a nice ride at first. The lake was calm, smooth as glass. They just glided over the surface. Clarke was enjoying the silence up on the bow, her arm over the side with her hand skimming the water. Octavia was steering, but she didn’t feel the need to talk. They’d spent the last seven hours with their friends, the core group had been fondly nicknamed by Clarke's Dad as 'the Delinquents' due to some incredible bad luck where every single of them managed to get in minor trouble with the law in the same year for totally different things. It'd been endless noise and chatter with them since their departure at dawn that morning. While Clarke loved her friends, she really loved some peace and quiet too.
So did Octavia.
So they relaxed and took in their surroundings. A green forest lined both sides of the lake with endless trees and rolling mountains, some looking like little hills in the distance, some stretching up before them with steep climbs and bald peaks. There was a golden, warm sky shining off the glassy water, signaling an end to the beautiful summer day. The air was crisp and clean here. Clarke felt like she could actually breathe again for the first time in a long time.
Then she was flying headfirst over the bow into the water and hit something really hard. There were screams, whether it was from her or Octavia, or both of them, she didn’t know. She barely had a second to grasp what happened when a shadow loomed over her and she turned around to see the boat in mid-air, capsizing, and about to come crashing down on her head. It was pure instinct when she planted her feet and reached up to catch it just before it hit her.
She caught the boat?
She planted her feet?
They were in the middle of the lake, that wasn’t possible.
Clarke looked over to see that Octavia had been able to do the same. They caught it at the same time and quickly flipped it back over. Octavia had blood dripping down her arm and it was smeared across the sideboard. She took a second to look down and realized, stunned, that they were actually both standing on a giant boulder that lay mere inches beneath the surface. It was just deep enough that the water didn't break on it and it was entirely alone. There wasn't a single other rock around to serve as a heads up. They were too deep in the lake for this to even be considered a possibility. There was no way to see this thing until you were, as they did, flying right over it.
Together, they hauled the boat onto the rock with them, frantic to keep it from sinking, but there wasn’t enough room to get it all the way up and the motor was still completely submerged with bottom half of the boat. Life jackets and ropes and various odd items were floating all around them - the things that could float anyway. Clarke hoped no one had anything they really wanted in there because it was surely at the bottom of the lake right now.
Just like this dinghy should be.
It was filled to the brim with water and the only reason why it didn’t join the rest of their belongings was because of this damned rock.
Fat lot of good it did them. The boat was practically a bathtub now and they had no way to bail it out. Even if they did - it was highly unlikely that they’d be able to get the motor started after being underwater like that.
Octavia reached out, on hands and knees, and managed to snag one of the life jackets that was still close by. There were three others but they were already so far gone that it wasn’t worth chasing them down. She propped it on the sideboard carefully.
“Are you all right?” Clarke asked hoarsely.
It was the first thing either of them had said to each other aside from the screaming and grunts of effort.
“I can’t fucking believe this,” Octavia said, ignoring Clarke’s query as she stared down at the useless piece of trash while they both shivered. “Where the hell did this thing come from? How? Why is there no warning sign or buoy or anything?”
Octavia was barefooted and wearing a bikini with just a tank top, but Clarke was fully dressed with hiking boots on. She was soaked from head to toe and there was no chance of her being able to dry off as quickly as Octavia would.
They both looked around. The lake was empty. It was a remote area to begin with. The same thought crossed their minds: “when will the others realize we’re missing?”
“Clarke, you’re bleeding.”
Octavia finally seemed to actually be that Clarke was in this with her too.
“So are you.”
Octavia scoffed, holding up her hand to show her. “Just a scratch from this monstrosity.” She pointed down at the rock they were uncomfortably perched on.
With half a boat and the two of them, there wasn’t much room to share or move at all really. They just stood as still as they could next to each other.
“What about your leg?”
“Got caught on the boat, I think. Who knows? I’m fine though. It’s your head that’s gonna be a problem.”
“If I had a dollar for every time… No, wait, I’m not going to joke about this. Octavia, we are stranded!”
“Oh, no!” she shot back, dripping with sarcasm as she clapped her hands on her cheeks. “Are we really? How could I have missed that?”
“You weren’t paying attention.”
“Oh, you better back right the hell off,” she snapped, but her defensiveness dropped suddenly when she looked down at the boat turned basin.
Guilt read all over her face.
“I…I’m sorry, Clarke…I didn’t…”
“No, I’m sorry,” she groaned, tentatively resting on the edge of the aluminum side, hoping it wouldn’t cause the thing to slide back into the water (and sink like an anchor). It slipped a tiny fraction of an inch before resuming a semi fixed state. Octavia still had her hand on the side just in case. “You couldn’t have seen this thing, but what the hell are we going to do?”
“Well, first, how many fingers am I holding up?”
Clarke slapped away the three fingers with a glare. “I’m fine!”
“Your hair is matted with blood and you’re paler than I’ve ever seen you. And I’ve seen you in a New York winter, so that’s really saying something. You’re also shaking.”
“So are you,” she pointed out grumpily.
“I’m wearing a bathing suit and the sun is starting to set. Are you honestly going to tell me that your hands are trembling like that for the same reason?”
With a skeptical (and concerned) raise of her eyebrow, Octavia looked down where Clarke had her hands folded in her lap, shaking uncontrollably.
“Yes,” Clarke said, not the least bit convincing.
“Right, okay, well we can’t sit around and wait for them to stop partying at midnight or something to realize we haven’t come back. We’ll get hypothermia.” Octavia looked to the shore. “It’s not that far, I can swim it and hoof my way back to camp. Thank God we didn’t get one of the island spots otherwise we’d be even more screwed.”
Clarke’s vision was starting to blur and that was more terrifying than anything she wanted to admit to Octavia. Also, swimming wasn’t her strong suit. She did just fine, but a half mile swim to shore was not something she was up for after this. She didn’t need to say anything though, Octavia picked up on it at once.
Kneeling down slightly, she put her hand on Clarke’s soaked jeans reassuringly. “It’s gonna be okay. I’ll get help. Just stay here and see if you can keep this piece of shit from ending up in the boating graveyard.”
Octavia didn’t really care what happened to boat, she was just trying to give Clarke something to focus on. Clarke knew and appreciated it.
Unfortunately, as much as she wanted to, Clarke really wasn’t in a position to protest the plan. Her head was throbbing worse than ever and she was having trouble piecing together a coherent sentence. The cold was seeping into her bones and her teeth were chattering.
Octavia’s brow grew more furrowed with concern and Clarke desperately tried to grasp for something to reassure her.
“It’s just the a-a-adrenaline w-wearing off,” she said as she tried to clench her teeth. “I’m f-fine. Promise.”
Octavia was still far from convinced, but they didn’t have a better option at the moment. No one was going to be on the lake this late and they couldn’t afford to wait around for their friends.
“Here,” Octavia pulled off her tank top that had already started to dry and bunched it into a ball before putting it on Clarke’s bloody cut. “Can you hold it there? You’re bleeding a lot.”
“T-thanks,” she chattered with a nod, “but don’t worry, even the shallowest head wounds look life threatening because of how much they bleed. Good thing I clot well. I’m a clotter.”
“That’s not a thing.”
“Totally is. I went to med school.”
“You dropped out of med school.”
“Why are y-you insulting someone with a-a life threatening injury?”
She rolled her eyes. “You just said it wasn’t life threatening.”
“B-because it’s n-not, but you t-think it is so…s-so…there.”
“Crap. We’re gonna have to end this trip before it even started if you broke your head.”
“Go swim a-already! We’re wasting time.”
“All right, all right, but give me your boots. I won’t be able to go as fast on this terrain with bare feet.”
Clarke acquiesced at once, but she fumbled with the laces for so long that Octavia had to do it for her. Once off Clarke’s feet, she knotted them together and looped them over her shoulder.
“Take the life jacket,” Clarke said, swallowing hard as she tried to stay focused.
Octavia refused and instead insisted that Clarke put it on. “I’ll swim faster without it and I’ll feel better knowing you’re not out here completely defenseless.”
Clarke didn’t have it in her to argue so Octavia slipped it on her and buckled it tight. She took a deep breath, looking at the shoreline and back to Clarke.
“I’m fine,” Clarke said, enunciating it with as much clarity as she could to be convincing. “Just be safe and find the others so I can get off this godforsaken rock.”
That seemed to do it for Octavia. She nodded once before diving into the water and started with strong, steady strokes towards the shore.
Clarke watched her, shivering and teeth clattering worse than ever, until Octavia reached the shore. She watched as the tiny figure seemed to sit down and do something (presumably putting on her boots) and then, with what Clarke was pretty sure was a wave, she took off at a jog down the sandy shore, leaping over rocks and fallen logs with a kind of athletic grace and sureness that Clarke would never have. Octavia was a born wilderness girl. Clarke was strictly indoors.
Except for now.
And she was definitely regretting that.
The shoreline curved and Octavia was soon out of sight which left Clarke completely alone. The sky was starting to turn pink and purple as the sun dipped behind the mountains. The temperature dropped instantly with it.
Worst. Vacation. Ever.
She wasn’t sure how long she’d been sitting there, how long it’d been since she’d lost sight of Octavia, but she could have sworn she heard the hum of a motor in the distance. At first she thought it was her imagination, but it got louder. She started to hope it was her friends, that Octavia had been able to get back to them that quickly, but it seemed impossible - even for someone like Octavia Blake.
She didn’t really have the energy to lift her head, but somehow did anyway. When her arm cramped painfully as she moved, she realized she was still holding Octavia’s shirt to her head, pressure to stop the bleeding. She’d completely forgotten about it and had been frozen in that same position the whole time.
“Hey,” a voice called to her - it was unfamiliar and so far away, but it was female. She could tell that much. “Hey, miss?”
Miss? Really? That’s what I am now?
She heard more sounds, the voice mixed with the quiet putter of a motor and she couldn’t separate the two. But then there was someone standing on the rock with her. The evil Jon boat was scraping along the rock as the woman did something to it. Clarke was still shell shocked and fixed to the spot where she was sitting, three inches deep in the water.
There was the voice again, soft and raspy against her ear. She decided she really liked that voice. Hands were on her arms, strong hands, but slim and long. They curled around her biceps easily and gently lifted her until she was standing.
“…in the boat…” she heard floating through the air.
Somehow she managed to piece it together that this woman wanted her to get into another boat. A dry one. One that wasn’t halfway to the boating graveyard. There was some fumbling and a few missteps before Clarke managed to get into it.
Well, fall into it would be more accurate.
The voice was there with her again, helping her upright, undoing the life jacket that Octavia had put on her. Then her wet sweater was being tugged off her and that set off enough warning bells for her eyes to finally fly open, crystal clear with with the rush of adrenaline.
An extraordinarily beautiful girl was sitting in front of her. She was around the same age as Clarke with bright green eyes and a wild mass of dark curls cascading down her shoulders. She was dressed warmly in layers with an open hoodie and jeans. Clarke didn’t think she could blame the bump on her head for the way her heart was racing and how she didn’t have a single word to say.
“Hi there,” the girl said gently, the sweetest little uptick in the corner of her mouth, with those lips.
God, those gorgeous, full, kissable, lips…
“Like I said before, I’m gonna help you get that freezing sweater off before you get sick. I have something dry for you to wear.”
The ‘thank you’ was stuck in Clarke’s throat, along with the ‘you’re a goddess’ and ‘did I die and are you my reward?’
Instead she just swallowed and lifted her arms so that the girl could pull off the heavy sweater. The cold air hit Clarke’s skin almost painfully, but soon she was being covered with a heavy, soft material that was a balm to her frozen body. The girl took off her own hoodie and wrapped that around Clarke as well, zipping it up for her.
“I think your head stopped bleeding, but I should take you to the ranger station anyway. You need medical attention.”
Clarke shook her head and instantly regretted it, wincing.
“Um, no, please,” she rasped, clearing her throat and licking her lips. “I’ll be fine. Just…um…my-my friends?”
The girl regarded her carefully, seeming to weigh whether or not Clarke was in a position to be able to choose wisely for herself.
“What’s your name?” she asked.
There was no hesitation and she said it with clarity. That seemed to be the decision maker.
“Okay…Clarke,” she tested it out with a reassuring smile, using the ‘k’ just a little harder than she was used to.
God, even the way she said her name was like…like…
Well, Clarke didn’t have the words right now, but damn it, it made her feel things, okay?!
“Where are these friends of yours? I’ll give you a ride. Least I can do for the girl stranded on a rock in one of the dead zones.”
Clarke wished she could sit there and watch this girl, listening to her voice for forever.
But she was still pretty cold and she kind of had an idea where the campsite was. At least, she remembered the direction Octavia left in.
So she pointed, wordlessly, and hugged the hoodie around her, tugging the sleeves over her hands to warm them as she sat on the wooden plank of another dinghy, not unlike the hell spawn that was still on the rock. She may or may not have nuzzled into the soft sweatshirt and breathed in just how good it smelled.
The girl smiled again and Clarke’s heart was beating against her rib cage so hard that she had to have been able to hear it.
”All right, we’ll give it a try, but if we don’t find them soon, I’m taking to you to the ranger station, fair?”
”Fair,” Clarke agreed.
”Hold on to the side,” she said as she started the motor up again from neutral and turned them around, her hair flipping over her shoulder as she looked back.
However, Clarke’s sense of balance was nonexistent at the moment and she toppled over immediately. The girl stopped at once, leaving the motor to help Clarke sit upright again. She seemed much more worried than she did a moment ago, not that Clarke could blame her, but she didn’t ask about the ranger station again. Instead, she carefully guided Clarke over to the the far back with her and situated Clarke between her legs on the wooden seat, wrapping one arm around her waist to keep her steady, and used the other to steer.
”Okay?” she asked.
Clarke managed to get out a meek, “Yeah,” but mostly she was just convinced this was all a dream or some kind of incredible hallucination before she died on that rock because beautiful girls did not rescue you in the middle of the rural mountains and undress you only to put soft warm flannel on you and then cuddle you within minutes of meeting…if you could call it meeting when Clarke couldn’t string two words together.
She started up the boat again, going slowly, testing out how well she could steer with Clarke being a bit of an awkward hindrance, but it seemed to be okay with her
It was certainly okay with Clarke.
She felt so warm and soft against her and she smelled faintly of pine and campfire smoke. She was the woods personified. Maybe she was the Goddess of the Forest sent to rescue her.
“You feel really good,” she mumbled before tensing up in sheer mortification.
She said that out loud?!
Jesus, how hard did she hit her head…?
But the girl just laughed breezily, adjusting their position a little to make sure Clarke was secure. She didn’t seem bothered by the admission.
”What’s your name?” Clarke asked, loud enough to be heard over the motor.
She’d come this far making an idiot of herself anyway. What could a name hurt?
Maybe finding out her name would make this more real or perhaps it would prove her right about it being a fantasy/death hallucination.
The wind whipped around them as the boat picked up speed and the arm around her tightened its hold - much to Clarke’s delight.
There were lips against her ear and that same calm, rich voice against her ear again, making her shiver for, finally, another reason than the cold.
”I’m Lexa. It’s nice to meet you, Clarke.”