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The Rise and Fall of Clarke Griffin

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THE RISE AND FALL OF CLARKE GRIFFIN

By ChasetheWindTouchtheSky

 

Chapter One

Six Years

 

There are three things Clarke knows at the end of the world.

 

All three are running through her head as she grips the side of the tower, her hands coated with sweat as she wills herself to move further up. Out of the corner of her eye, Clarke can see Praimfaya waging a war against the Ground that it could never win. She tells herself not to fully face it because the implication causes her to sweat in her palms and her legs to freeze. With the raging winds and the height, she doesn't need any more anxiety about what she's doing. So she focuses up, staring at the dish that refuses to align as she does so, telling herself over and over again it's only a little bit further.

 

It's a lie, but a lie that slowly recedes the further she climbs and soon enough, her feet land on a solid platform and she lets out a shaky breath. The fire rages on.

 

There's a hint of clouds wafting in the distance where the rocket launched and Clarke finds her attention caught by it from time to time as she plugs in the device. It screams at her 'Dish Not Aligned' again and all she can think about is how she's left here to die. It's selfish and terrifying, so Clarke shoves it out of her mind as much as she can to focus on the task at hand. Climbing even higher to reach the dish, Clarke tells herself the certainties she has about her life to calm her quivering body down. Whether it's the height or the raging end of the world, she isn't sure. What she does know is it is horrifying and she's alone, so she needs to run through her list.

 

Clarke always longed for a day when she no longer would owe her people anything. It was a selfish thought, yes, but a thought in the back of her mind nonetheless. Leading her people was not one that she wanted, but it was one that was needed time and time again. The burden of their lives weighed on her every step, the words of their distrust and anger shrouding her in black. And whether it was right or not, she desperately wanted a time where she owed nothing else to them - that she gave them everything she had to give and they accepted that it was done. A time when she had nothing else and they gave it to her. There was a dark voice in the back of her head that reminded her that the only way they would accept nothing else was when her body had nothing left to give.

 

Well, she had nothing left to give.

 

So the first of the three things she realizes at the top of the tower is that she is done. 

 

Not only in the sense that she is going to be dead quite soon, but because she has nothing else to give her people. She gave them her time, her mind, her sanity, her blood, her tears, her patience, her anger, and now? Now she gave them her life. They couldn't even ask more of her because she was alone at the end of the world.

 

"I could use a break from keeping you alive."

 

Bellamy's words resound in her head as she thinks this, the offhanded joke aging as poorly as one would imagine in a world so keen on killing them. But she takes some comfort from it as well, knowing that he will be alive, surrounded by people he loves. It's the last gift she could give him - the last gift she could give anyone - and if she could deliver his sister with him as well, she would. He'll finally receive that break he so desperately deserves and she'll be able to move on without knowing she's causing pain to the world. 

 

The second absolute occurs to her on her way down. The way down the tower is much more frightening then the way up. Praimfaya looms closer and rages down the hill and her feet slip as she tries to rush back to Becca's bunker, her arms latching to the sides of the tower as her feet dangles. She can even feel the heat of the radiation through her suit and she sweats; sweats more than she's ever had on the ground. Her skin starts to prickle and roast, slowly heating up into a sear against the rubber.

 

When her feet hit the ground and the roaring of Praimfaya becomes an angry sea, she sprints, telling herself fact number two. She always knew it would end this way. Clarke thought about her death more so than most, seeing as every day brought a new challenge and new threat to it. It was the issue with being so ingrained into the world they created - it is always the most powerful that fall the hardest. As much as she tried to approach her life rationally, she never could escape the bitter fact: Clarke would die young.

 

Once she accepted that, it was easier to go about her time, ducking and dodging trouble without so much of a thought. It pained her to think of the stress it put on her friends for her to care so little about it, but there wasn't much she could do. She knew she'd die young, even before her mother told her the premonition. The world is not kind to one who places herself in front of it. 

 

When she slips and the glass of her mask breaks, the full force of radiation nearly blows her away. Every step feels like she's wading in molasses and her skin is on fire. She can feel as it rips and tears, exposing her even more to the end of the world. By the time she reaches the bunker, every part of her body is on fire. She manages to scramble to get her helmet off, blood coming up her throat in waves until she chokes and vomits on the floor. She barely registers the blackness that she's yet to get used to, her legs crumbling beneath her. 

 

The last absolute strikes her when she collapses to the ground, the earth quakes shuddering around her as dust rains from the ceiling. It's not a particularly happy thought, but one that hits her to her very core. As her eyes close and the world melts around her, she sees the bunker as it was a mere hour ago: filled with people she loves as she steeled herself for the bitter truth that she wouldn't make it with them. She implored Bellamy to listen to her. Even at the time, she could see the panic cover his face as she tried to get him to understand, but it was as if he shut down completely. Not only was he not listening to her, he refused to even have any part of the conversation.

 

Then, they separated.

 

She wanted to say it to him. She was going to say it to him. She had the moment when they were separating and Clarke had a small part of her that knew it would be the last time she'd see him. It's something she wanted to say to him for a while now. It's not the first time the thought had crossed her head, and not even in recent days. Every time he pulled her aside, she found a way to get out of it, telling herself they had time.

 

Then, they had no time.

 

And Clarke found herself in the exact situation that terrified her: opening her mouth to express what she's felt for longer than she cares to admit, and then nothing coming out. Her heart screamed at her to say it, to not be afraid, but in the end, that's all she was. Afraid. Now the world is ending and the third absolute truth that strikes Clarke is not one that surprises her, combined with one that does. Thirdly, Clarke Griffin loves Bellamy Blake.

 

And he'll never know.

 

***

 

The day that marks the sixth year is not a happy one.

 

Clarke considers hiding for the entire day, imploring Madi to leave her alone. Ever since the child came into her life, Clarke poured herself into the responsibility of it. For the longest time, taking care of Madi was a constant in her life that kept her grounded and sane. Every time she felt herself tilt toward despair, she gazed at the small child next to her and reminded herself that this was more peace than she's ever been gifted. She hid her sorrows in the night and when she clung to the radio, doing her best to never let Madi see any of it. 

 

Except not today.

 

Today is one year since they were supposed to return and Clarke's nights are filled with nightmares of rocket ships exploding and walls of fire. Without waking Madi up, Clarke rolls herself off of their bed - they found that sharing kept them warmer in the schizophrenic temperatures and Madi had less nightmares when doing so. Scribbling a note that she'll be home in the evening and placing it on her pillow, Clarke shoulders her rifle and enters the depths of the valley. The further she walks, the more upset she becomes. It's as if six years of loneliness are collapsing on her all at once and she's finally allowed to feel it.

 

And feel it, she does.

 

Clarke forces her body to move until she's in a clearing with a roaring waterfall. The noise of it shatters any tense silence she's wrapped around herself and she can't help it: she screams. She screams louder than she ever has, angry tears rolling down her face. Every piece of loneliness and anger build up inside her in a way she's never allowed herself before. Without thinking too much about it, Clarke unzips her backpack and yanks the radio from it. "Six years!" She yells into the comm. "It's been six years! Why aren't you here? Say something! Say something, Bellamy! Say something!"

 

Her legs give out and she collapses to her knees, unable to support it any longer. "Bellamy, please." She begs, the comm so close to her mouth, it's brushing against her lips. Her entire body shakes and she lifts her gaze to the clear sky. It's spotless and bright, as if the world is giving her one more middle finger to her. There's nothing moving around, no birds, no rocket ships. "You have to give me something. You have to."

 

He doesn't.

 

So she weeps. She weeps for so many reasons, she can't even pin point them all. She weeps for her friends, who she doesn't know if they made it out alive or not. She weeps for her father, whose life was taken prematurely. Clarke often wonders what would've happened if they hadn't floated her father. If they had used his ingenuity, could they have survived on the Ark longer? Or made the Ground survivable? She weeps for her mother, locked inside the bunker. Clarke tries not to think of how they weren't sure they could survive even five years, every day the seal isn't open another nail in her coffin.

 

Nothing has been fair since her feet were placed on the ground and while she tried to not acknowledge that fact, she couldn't today. Not on the sixth year. Lying down in the grass, Clarke listens to the waterfall splash against the lake, its roar overtaking her other senses. Tears leak from her eyes and she lets them; Madi isn't around to see it. No one is around to see it.

 

Taking the comm in her hand, she turns it on once more. "I wanted you to live," she says in a small voice. "I thought I was allowing you all to live. And now you're not here." She has to take a moment, wiping under her eyes. "You need to come back down here. Please. The earth is survivable. I know it probably feels safer up there after everything we've been through, but I need to you come back. Just... come back."

 

The sky doesn't answer. In fact, it does nothing more than twinkle.

 

Clarke can't bring herself to do anything else and the day wastes away. The sky eventually turns to a vibrant pink, the shadows extending so that they reach Clarke's toes. Sitting up, Clarke winces because everything aches. The radio is sprawled next to her, as is the rations she grabbed for the day and never used. She shoves them back into her backpack, but before she can put away the radio, she frowns. Clicking it on, Clarke says, "It's okay if you want to stay up in space. I get it. Our time on the ground had very few good parts. In fact, it's hard to think of them. But if you're debating, if you need convincing, I can tell you some of my favorite parts.

 

"There was that time that Jasper accidentally let loose a wild turkey in the camp. You were so furious and I thought I'd be upset, but watching the turkey chase Jasper around was the funniest thing I'd ever seen. I remember laughing and laughing - laughing enough so that you stopped yelling. You looked at me like I was crazy, laughing at it. And then you started laughing too. We watched as the turkey chased him down, only helping when he climbed up a tree to get away from it. You made fun of him for a week. Or there was that time we stumbled across the flower field. It was just you and me. The 100 were driving you crazy and I needed to get some herbs for medicinal purposes, so we just left. We didn’t even tell anyone, we just… left.”

 

Clarke chokes, her mind deep in thought from the time years ago as if she was wading through the sea of wildflowers now. “I wanted to go where I’ve gone before and you insisted that we try something new. I was so annoyed with you for that – I was convinced you were contradicting me just to contradict me and then we stumbled across the flower field. You didn’t say anything when I burst into tears and I pretended not to notice when your own eyes watered. We stayed there for two hours, simply being.” Clarke sucks in a breath.

 

“You were my favorite part.”

 

The words break and crumble at the end and she has to let go of the radio. It’s too painful to keep talking to no one. Her mind travels to dark thoughts that she can’t shake. She wonders if she’s speaking to an empty Ark. Or if they never survived past the first year. If her words wash over the machinery and their bodies, playing over and over as space laughs at her.

 

Squeezing her eyes shut, Clarke sobs. It echoes in the forest – louder than any waterfall could mask. She allows her grief to become a physical presence in the valley in a way she never has. Clarke lays like this until the sky is dark, a voice in the back of her mind telling her it isn’t time for despair anymore. She knows if she waits too long, Madi will search for her. Hoisting herself off of the ground, Clarke stands up, letting the grief filter out of herself. There's no point in holding onto it when she gets close to Madi. After years together, she knows that Madi still clings to a guilt that Clarke was left behind - something she'll never be able to convince her of otherwise. The last thing she wants to do is make her feel like a burden, and Clarke knows that the tear tracks rolling down her face will not help anything. So she scrubs her eyes, shoves the radio back into her backpack, and shoulders it to prepare for the hike back.

 

There's a resounding sound in the valley and Clarke whips up in time to see a space ship break the atmosphere. Elation electrifies her spine until she watches it loom closer. It hovers close to the valley and she realizes that it's big. It'd been six years since she's seen the rocket that took off, but she knew it was built for only two people. This one hovers before settling to the ground, the leaves and branches unsettled even from where she was. "Madi," Clarke breathes, sprinting toward the village.

 

She curses herself for ever leaving. The wind whips in her hair as she urges her legs to go faster, branches striking her face. She brushes them down again and again, the village finally coming into view. She lets out a shaky breath when she sees that it's untouched. Bursting through their home that they had made, Clarke desperately searches for Madi. "Madi!" She cries. "Madi, where are you?"

 

Madi emerges from the back room, frowning. "Clarke, what's going on? What's the noise?"

 

Clarke winces when there's a resounding snap outside. "Oh my - Madi okay." Trees snap outside the village and a handful of lights shoot through the dark forest. 

 

"Clarke, who is that?" Madi's eyes are frightened, but she asks, "Are they back? Is Bellamy back?"

 

Clarke's lower lip trembles as she rushes to the lanterns and blowing them out. "No, the ship is too big." Clarke states, staring out the window as shadows of figures move closer. "We don't know who these people are and I can't risk them seeing you until we get more information. Madi—"

 

"Clarke no." Madi's words trembled and Clarke knows she's figured out what her plan is. "Clarke, please—"

 

"Madi, we need to be careful. We don't have time to get away." She says, her words catching. "It'll only be for a small while."

 

"Please don't make me go in there." Madi whimpers, but is heading toward the back of the room. 

 

"I'm sorry," Clarke says, her eyes full of tears. She places her hands on either side of her face. Shouts erupt from the village and Clarke can see the silhouettes of armed figures marching through their home. Every once and a while a light flashes on their weapons and Clarke chokes. "You have to go in there until I can lead them away."

 

"What if you can't lead them away?" Madi cries. "I don't want to stay in there."

 

"I'm so sorry, Madi." Clarke kisses the top of her forehead and opens the door hidden in the floor of the house. "You can do this. I'll figure out how to get them out of here. When I do, get the Rover and go to the cave we found when we were exploring the east side, okay? Wait for me there. If I'm not back in three days, I need you to go to the edge of the valley on the route to Polis. Stay out of sight."

 

"Clarke—"

 

"Madi, I'm sorry." Offering Madi her arm, Clarke lowers the small child down, her face wet with tears and her body already trembling. Clarke holds onto her hand as long as she can, only letting go when she closes the door, swiping a blanket over the floorboards after she's done.

 

As soon as she straightens, the door swings open and a flashlight shines in her face, briefly blinding her. "Oh my god," someone breathes and before she can even say anything, there's a familiar click of a gun and her eyesight returns to a pistol pointed directly at her. "Hands in the air!"

 

Clarke puts her hands up, a fear eating away at her stomach that she hadn't felt in years. She hears the commotion behind him, shouts of confusion, and soon there are multiple bodies in the room, all of which have weapons facing her. "Someone's alive?" A person says in the doorway, pushing through. They freeze when they catch sight of Clarke, wincing in the bright light of their flashlights. 

 

Her mind tries to make sense of this, come up with a plan, but it's been so long since she's had to deal with other people, the only thing she can really focus on is how loud they are. Bellows echo in the village while broken branches cause her to flinch. The lights and the people overwhelm her and she can't hear herself think or even will herself to do so. 

 

Because she doesn't say anything, they merely stand there with their weapons trained on her. She contemplates saying something, but a voice in the back of her head that she hadn't heard in six years tells her to play her cards close to the vest. Instead, she clenches her jaw and tries not to think of Madi curled in a ball under the floor, back into the place she hates the most. 

 

The person who shoved through is a tall, thin man with gaunt cheekbones that could only occur from sickness or malnourishment, something Clarke saw often on the Ark growing up. He moves towards her, his presence as threatening as one can be. Clarke wills herself to remain stoic and not recoil, despite her need to get away from the strangers and sound. He stops when he's unnecessarily close to her and she can feel his breath on her face, sticky and foul. Clarke holds her ground, trying to ignore the shiver that runs down her spine when the man brings the gun up to her face. "What do we have here," he says, his voice low as he brushes the barrel of his pistol down the side of her face. Clarke is suddenly very grateful for the hidden space under the floor that Madi grew to hate. "Would've come back down quicker if we knew what was waiting for us."

 

Clarke remains stony. She's not a fool, she knows there's no way she can fight her way out of this one by herself. So she merely fixates her gaze at nothing, making sure there's no indication of Madi under the floor. "I know some people who are going to want to meet the girl who survived the end of the world."

 

Clarke allows herself to be rough housed forward, her foot almost catching on the uneven planks of the floor. It’d been such a long time when her life had been on the line, she wonders if she’s gotten sloppy. When they shove her down the steps, she trips and falls, only just catching herself with her forearms before she hits her face instead. “What’s going on?” Someone shouts, pushing through the crowd of people.

 

Clarke’s surprised to see a woman march up to her until her boots almost touch Clarke’s arms. She frowns at the sight of Clarke, turning to the man who threw her down the stairs. “Explain, McCreary.” She states, the word short and not one Clarke could see anyone arguing.

 

The man name McCreary straightens. “We found her in that cabin over there.” He states, pointing at Clarke and Madi’s home.

 

The woman crouches so that she and Clarke are at eye level. Narrowing her eyes, she scrutinizes Clarke and Clarke cannot remember the last time she felt so stripped down. It makes her uneasy, but she tells herself to remain quiet, remain calm, and to collect intel. “Has she said anything?”

 

“Not a word. I don’t even know if she speaks English and can understand us.”

 

The woman nods, straightening up. “Right. Get the cuffs, have the collar on standby. I’m sure we’ll be able to figure some stuff out.”

 

“Cuffs?” Someone exclaims, rushing up to the two. He’s younger than either, his dark eyes blazing with an indignation that reminds Clarke of Bellamy, but she can’t focus on that. It’s the first time he’s not by her side when trouble is nearby and it makes the presence all the more empty. “She’s not doing anything! We’re on her land!”

 

“And if she continues to not do anything, we won’t have a problem.” The woman states calmly. “But I’m not going to gamble the health of my people because I may be making some stranger feel bad.” She turns her attention to Clarke, who tries to keep her expression devoid of any knowledge. “If you can understand me, I recommend you don’t take my generosity for granted.”

 

As Clarke’s yanked to her feet, she pointedly doesn’t look at the cabin. Anything to get everyone to leave the area, she’s fine with. She hopes that Madi’s sharp instincts will guard her.

 

As they clasp the handcuffs around her wrists, they attach a chain to the center and pull her forward. She allows it with little struggle, desperately wanting to get away from the cabin as soon as possible.

 

Clarke thinks about all the times she’s been in this situation. A hostage in an enemy camp.

 

The answer is zero.

 

Because every other time, she had her friends.

 

Clarke never let despair hit her because she knew that her friends were out there somewhere, figuring something out. Whether it be to help her escape, or simply to move past where they were and try to be better, Clarke took comfort that they were there. Choking on the thought, Clarke is roughly yanked forward and the handcuffs pull against her wrists. Her lower lip trembles as the loneliness kicks in, trying to think of something good. Except there was one absolutely truth above all:

 

No one is coming.

 

***

 

The sixth year in space is not a happy one.

 

Bellamy spends the majority of his day alone, because he knows there’s no way he’ll be able to hide the desperation clinging to every part of him. He runs his hands through his hair as he tries to calm down, pacing in the east wing of the Ark where he knows no one else will be. Or, they won’t barge in on him.

 

Not here.

 

Because Bellamy is standing in Clarke’s cell.

 

It’s something he never discussed with her – never even thought to bring up because there was very little time for small talk. Even in their quietest, most peaceful moments, the two were always separated. Now, as he paces in Clarke’s solitary confinement, he realizes how much he missed that made Clarke who she was.

 

The first time he discovered it, it was by accident. The rest of Spacekru thought it’d be funny to go to their old cells – make it back to where this first started. Monty regaled them with stories about he and Jasper being cellmates, and how they still managed to smuggle in contraband items from behind glass. Harper opened up in a way she never had before, Monty holding her hand as she recounted her worst offence: pregnancy as a teenager without explicit permission. The baby never made it past a few months without proper treatment in space from when she hid, and Harper when strangely quiet upon revealing this. It was clear that it was a story she only told Monty, his own eyes watering as tears streamed down her face. Bellamy remembers being touched that she would trust them with that information – something he treasured.

 

Then, as he wondered on his own as Murphy started telling his own story, he lost all ability to put a rational thought together. Drawings lined the walls and somehow were still intact, even from the year they were gone. Pictures of trees and animals were everywhere, along with an entire wall scratched with marks. Lines upon lines were everywhere and that’s when it hit him: this was Clarke’s cell.

 

Bellamy turns and closes the door behind him, unable to explain why he wanted to be alone in here. He didn’t feel like interrupting Murphy or explaining himself to Raven, but he wanted to selfishly have a moment of her without the rest of them. Sitting on the floor, Bellamy let the drawings wash over him. It occurs to him how unfair the Ground had been to them. All these drawings of trees and life, and all Clarke got was war and bloodshed. His eyes water not for the first time as he hoists himself up and marches over to the scratch marks in the wall, marking every day she was in here by herself. Just the thought makes him a little claustrophobic.

 

So, when it marks the sixth year, Bellamy all but locks himself in her cell, letting himself be calmed by the drawings of trees once more. His fingers brush against the marks, which he’s now added to as the days pass on the Ark. The only free space is now wallpapered with lines. It’s silly, but he feels like he can keep a part of her as long as he contributes to the wall. A part that he refuses to share with anyone else.

 

“Bellamy!”

 

Bellamy is cut out of his reverie at his name, and he almost considers not responding. When he doesn’t, Murphy peeks his head through the door of Clarke’s cell. “Okay, I know you’re like, down or whatever, but you’re going to want to see this.”

 

“Are we able to make it to the ground?” Bellamy asks without budging, annoyed that Murphy even felt comfortable coming in. He knows he’s softened these past six years, the lack of war losing his edge. He doesn’t know how to feel about it.

 

Murphy rolls his eyes. “Yeah, let’s get all that out now before we go meet Raven. Because I’m gonna need you to take your dick-ometer from a ten to your usual four.”

 

Bellamy makes a face. “Sometimes I want to hurt you.”

 

“The feeling is always one hundred percent mutual, I promise.”

 

Bellamy sighs. “What is it, Murphy?”

“There’s some noise on the radio.”

 

That gets his attention. “I thought we couldn’t here anything because of the atmospheric interference.” He says, his curiosity piqued.

 

“Yeah, but you’re forgetting one fact: Raven’s awesome.”

 

Bellamy is taken aback by Murphy’s words, and then it hits him. “She told you to say that.”

 

Murphy snorts. “Of course she did! Now, stop sulking and get your ass to the control room before I decide that my new non-violent outlook on life is stupid.”

 

“You don’t have a non-violent outlook on life.”

 

“Exactly. It already sucks to be you.”

 

Bellamy sighs, taking one last look around the walls that he’s memorized. He falls in line with Murphy, whose relationship has been tumultuous over the years, but their time in space has mellowed. There’s always an undercurrent tone of annoyance, but as if Murphy were his younger brother. The first week of the Ark, when Bellamy was almost useless and completely succumbed to despair, he was grateful when Murphy arrived in his room with the biggest bottle of whiskey he’d ever seen and used the icebreaker, “Do you ever think it’s weird that we both tried to hang the other?”

 

Then, they drank the contents of the bottle until they passed out.

 

Bellamy never realized how close Murphy felt to Clarke until she was gone. In a particularly uncharacteristic fit of honesty, Murphy nursed the bottle of whiskey and responded when he asked, “Clarke and I had an understanding. She always had my back. With the hanging, she let me back into camp. I was there in Polis when Lexa died and I was there when she took the nightblood for Emori. I never really had a family. I didn’t realize my family was more than just Emori until after she died. That fucking blows.”

 

Bellamy was inclined to agree. It did fucking blow.

 

Which is why Murphy seems to be comfortable enough to speak candidly. “Can you please not be your grumpy self today? I know you’re pissed that it’s a year past our original return date, but you need to realize that Raven knows that. And she’s just as upset about it as you are, but she has to keep it together because she has to build the thing.”

 

“What if they can’t get out of the bunker, Murphy?” Bellamy says, allowing himself this honest before they reach the control room. “What if they’re out of the bunker and starving? We don’t know what happened to the earth. All we know is there is only one piece of green that we rotate around every single day – everything else looks like a wasteland.”

 

“I’m not one to be optimistic, but I think ‘looks like’ is the key word.”

 

“Yeah, it could be worse!”

 

“Dude, you need to chill. Take it down, like, five thousand notches. This is exactly opposite of what I want.”

 

Bellamy sucks in a breath. “I need to know that Octavia’s okay.”

 

“Yeah, and we’re all working on it.” Murphy says, clapping his hand on Bellamy’s shoulder. “Emori’s heling Raven, Monty pitches in whenever he and Harper decide to stop christening every freaking room in this Ark. They’ll figure it out. They’re literally the three smartest people left in the human race. And I say that with full confidence because we actually know every single person left of the human race.”

 

“Murphy—”

 

“I’m sorry, bud, but you do not make that list. Unless you think being dramatic is smart.”

 

“Goddammit,” Bellamy breathes, but he can’t help it, a chuckle escapes his throat. Murphy grins to himself as if claiming this victory and Bellamy resists the urge to shove him all the same. But he is grateful nonetheless.

 

It works out for the best because by the time he gets to the control room, he feels infinitely lighter than he had the entire day. They enter to find Emori and Raven hovering over the ship’s radio, the device giving a feedback of static that scratches against his ears. Bellamy winces at the noise. “Um, can you understand any of that?” He asks in lieu of announcing his presence.

 

Raven’s head whips up. “Good, you’re here.”

 

Murphy frowns at the static. “You told me to get him because you could hear something through the radio.”

 

Emori barely looks up. “We can hear something through the radio.”

 

Murphy looks incredulous. “That is wildly misleading.”

 

Raven turns to face them. “We finally got the signal strong enough to break through the atmosphere. If we can increase the frequency to one that will neutralize the radiation, we could potentially get some feedback.”

 

Murphy points at Emori. “Translate.”

 

“We need to strengthen the signal so that we can break through the radiation barrier.”

 

Murphy huffs in frustration and points to Monty, who’s only a few paces away. “Translate.”

 

“Strong signal, hear bunker?” Monty says with a shrug.

 

Bellamy almost chokes out something that is a weird combination between a laugh and a sob, marching over to the group of them in a flash. Echo and Harper join them, Echo’s eyes wide. “We may be able to hear the ground?” She asks, her voice filled with awe. It wasn’t lost on anyone that Echo struggled in space. Unlike Emori, who threw herself into work with Raven once it became apparently she had a quick mind for engineering and the adaptability of someone who had been cast out their whole life, Bellamy saw the woman staring out the window longing at the earth more often than not. He understood her discomfort; returning to the Ground was the most jarring experience he’d ever had – and it was a place his people were theoretically was from.

 

Raven locks eyes with Bellamy. “We’ll be able to hear the Ground.”

 

Bellamy can’t help it – it’s an emotional day and those are the magic words to make him feel even more so. His eyes water as he keeps Raven’s gaze, trying to push every apology he can think of in it. She must get it – of course she does, she’d been his closest confidant since returning to space – and nods with a slight smile on her lips.

 

“Say… please… give me…”

 

Everyone’s heads whip in the direction of the radio, eyes wide. “What was that?” Bellamy demands, the words barely recognizable through the static.

 

Raven flips a few of the knobs, her eyes darting around. “Oh my god,” she breathes. “That was a person. On the ground.”

 

Everyone doesn’t say something for a while. It’s as if all of Spacekru is holding their breaths, afraid to shatter the silence of anything further.

 

All they get is static.

 

“Someone is on the Ground.” Bellamy says, the words sounding like a different language, even though he uttered them. “There’s someone on the ground.”

 

“They got out of the bunker.” Harper says, huddling closer to everyone. “I can’t believe it, they got out of the bunker.”

 

A smile stretches across Bellamy’s face and he can’t believe it. Something in his chest loosens and the homesickness he felt for six years loosens. “They got out.” He repeats. “They got out.”

 

“Just… come back.”

 

The words are distorted and almost unintelligible, but they’re there. “Holy shit,” Murphy says, even he unable to come up with anything sarcastic.

 

Raven places her hands over her face, tears welling in her eyes. Guilt hits Bellamy – he avoided the conversation of returning to earth as much as possible for the past year, because it always ended like this. Bellamy riling himself into a bout of anger with Raven fighting tears in her eyes. He never enjoyed making people cry, but the thought of him casting doubt in her mind of her own abilities was almost too much to bear.

 

“Hey,” he says softly, crouching next to her so he can place a hand on her shoulder. “We’ll get there. I know we will. I believe in you.”

 

“That’s not it,” Raven says, the words hard to understand through her cries.

 

“Then what is it?”

 

“I can get us home now.” Raven states.

 

It’s as if Bellamy falls apart and is put back together all at once. “What?” He hears himself say, but it doesn’t even sound like himself. The word is in the room, hanging, and he wants Raven to catch it.

 

“I can get us home now.” She repeats, bring her hands down her face. “With us able to get through the radiation in the atmosphere, I can use the other radio’s location to pinpoint coordinates. We haven’t been able to reach anything, but we caught whoever radioed at the right place, at the right time. I got enough data to program our return flight.”

 

Bellamy barely sees Murphy lift his hand and point at Emori, his own face covered in shock. “Translate.”

 

Emori barely stumbles through, “Someone turned the radio on right as we fixed ours and got a strong enough signal to reach earth. We haven’t been able to pinpoint the Ground, so we couldn’t take off without risking explosion on an uneven or destroyed patch of land. But that person was speaking from the green patch.”

 

Murphy swears. “Seriously, you two need to work on your explanations.” Aggressively pointing at Monty, he almost shouts, “Translation!”

 

Monty’s eyes widen. “We get to go home.”

 

It didn’t seem real until someone said those words out loud. Bellamy grabs the back of Raven’s chair to keep himself from falling over. He feels Raven’s hand clasp over his own, but it appears as if she needs to be grounded as much as he does. “We get to go home,” Bellamy says to himself, thinking of how he’s thought of nothing than this moment for six years.

 

Raven nods, tears rolling down her cheeks. “We get to go home.”

 

***

 

The actual descent home is as terrifying as Bellamy remembers. He must’ve blocked it out how much he hated getting into space in the first place upon Clarke’s death; he doesn’t understand how Raven loves it so much. The entire ship rattles and he sees the couple grip each other. Raven’s focused primarily on making sure their coordinates maintain course and that the ship doesn’t split into pieces, so he looks around until he finds Echo white-knuckling the sides of her chair. Bellamy reaches out to grab her hand, squeezing with as much force as he can so that she feels it through her suit.

 

He and Echo had an understanding in space. The years on being on opposite sides slowly wore away and there was nothing more than two soldiers who had no people to protect anymore. Instead, they trained. Both taught the rest of Spacekru how to shoot a gun and fight with a sword, often sharing tips with one another for precision. It was comfortable, this relationship with Echo, like two warriors with no one left to kill. There are moments when he sees her skillful hands swing her sword in a way he knew she used against Octavia, or places a blade under one of their throat’s the often reminds him of Clarke. He has to shake the thoughts from his mind when they go there, knowing that there’s nothing they can do to retract the protectiveness they felt for their people.

 

Echo gazes at him gratefully then closes her eyes as the ship catapults to earth. “You’ll be home soon,” Bellamy says to her and she nods.

 

“I’ll be home soon,” she whispers to herself.

 

When the ship contacts the Ground, it’s evening. The entire machine stutters and they collide with the ground with a terrifying clatter, the entire ship shuddering. Bellamy even closes his eyes for it, waiting for something to go wrong. He waits for pain, for the impact, but after the first hit, there’s nothing. Opening one eye, he watches and Raven collapses in her chair, leaning her head back and taking a breath. Then, she pulls her helmet off and sucks in a breath. “Welcome back.” She says, a smiling stretching across her face.

 

Pushing a few buttons, Raven beams as the door of the ship snaps to the ground, revealing nothing but shadows of trees and moonlight. Bellamy hastily takes his own helmet off and it hits him. The crisp, sharp scent of trees and rain almost knock him over. He doesn’t remember it being so powerful. Fumbling to get his buckle undone, Bellamy seriously considers sprinting onto the Ground without a second thought. Instead, he helps everyone up one by one, watching as they stumble onto the ground, breathing in the clean earth air.

 

He’s the last on the ship and he steps onto the ramp, taking everything in.

 

The Ground is breathtaking.

 

He never really noticed it the first time they landed. It strikes him now, his mind wandering to Clarke’s cell where she drew the earth as if it were something to be revered. Maybe it is. He never gave it that honor.

 

Breathing in, Bellamy lifts his gaze to the sky and sees the stars twinkle above him. He can’t believe that he was just up there, longing for the ground within his feet. Everyone is dazedly walking around, as if they all forgot what the earth was like, as if they hadn’t been dreaming about it for years.

 

Without a second thought, Bellamy runs up to Raven and picks her up, spinning her around. “You fucking did it!” He exclaims, unable to stop the joy from his voice.

 

Everyone startles including Raven, but once she regains herself, she lets out a clear, unencumbered laugh that he can’t remember ever hearing while on the Ark. “I fucking did it!”

 

“We’re back!” Murphy exclaims and Bellamy can’t help but add ‘bitches’ to the sentence, his mind on Octavia. As much as he wants to start looking for her immediately, he resists, taking the earth in.

 

He took it for granted before. It was something to fight for – something he thought that was inherently his. And he was wrong. After everything was said and done – after the wars with the Grounders, Mount Weather, and each other – nothing could’ve prepared them for the end of the world. They spent their entire life on the Ground fighting, only for the earth to pitch them out.

 

Bellamy lets Raven down, only to earn a slug in the shoulder. “I can’t believe you doubted me!” She exclaims.

 

Bellamy laughs, really laughs, and says, “I can’t believe I doubted you either!”

 

“When I’m so clearly awesome!”

 

Bellamy opens his mouth to humbly tell Raven how awesome she is, when their joy is cut short when someone bursts through the bushes. His heart nearly stops when the person falters, their feet skidding on the ground the moment they see the group of them. Before Bellamy can do anything, the figure whips a gun out, pointing at all of them.

 

Unsurprisingly, Echo is the one who remains the most calm, Murphy swearing at their luck and Monty putting his hands in the air. She eyes the figure, a small gasp escaping her lips. Then, she says, “Laik yu gon the earth?”

 

Bellamy notices the figure falters. He can almost hear her quick breathing from here and he squints, his eyes finally adjusting. “It’s just a child.” He breathes.

 

“Chon yu bilaik?” The kid says, her voice quavering. Her hands never leave the trigger of her weapon. “Laik yu gon the bunker?”

 

“You’re not from the bunker?” Bellamy hears himself saying.

 

The girl shakes her head vigorously, her eyes watering. “I’m trying to find—”

 

Then she stops.

 

The light from the ship pours on her face as she steps closer. She lowers the gun in her hands and sets it on the ground. The soldier in Bellamy tells him that now is his chance – he should find a way to disable the kid before she attacks them. But like everyone else, he hesitates, unable to move as she strides over to him.

 

Braids line her hair and Bellamy can see why Echo was so surprised. He’d recognize a Grounder outfit if he ever saw one, but it doesn’t make sense if she wasn’t from the bunker. The girl unshoulders her backpack, pulling out a book with pages peaking out, wrapped in leather. She carefully takes one out and places it close to his face.

 

Without warning, she puts her hand close to his face, covering where his beard is, eyeing the page. Bellamy wants to recoil, but finds himself transfixed. He isn’t prepared when her eyes water and she lowers the page and her hand.

 

“Bellamy?”

 

Everyone sucks in a collective breath, Bellamy unable to respond. His hands are still in the air, but he’s focused on this child, her face as innocent as Octavia’s when they made it to the Ground.

 

“W-Who are you?” Bellamy finally manages. “How do you know me?”

 

The girl hands Bellamy the page in her hand, Bellamy hesitant to take it. He isn’t sure what’s on there, but he knows it’ll change their course forever. Taking it gently, he brings it up to the light.

 

And proceeds to almost fall over.

 

Because it’s him. He’s younger, is missing the beard, but it’s him. Except that’s not the part that strikes him the most.

 

He knows those lines.

 

He spent the better part of six years in Clarke’s cell, memorizing her charcoal strokes as if he was present when she made them. The page is filled with them, the carful outlines and shading. He swallows thickly, trying to tamp down any hope he may feel. “W-What, h-how—” He knows he’s not making much sense, but he can’t connect any words.

 

“Clarke always said you’d return one day.”

 

Just hearing her name, Bellamy nearly chokes on hope. He needs to wake up, he needs something to drag him out, because he isn’t sure he can handle her escaping from his fingertips again. “What do you mean, Clarke?” Someone asks, but Bellamy can’t pinpoint who it is.

 

Maybe it’s him.

 

“Please, you have to help me save her.” The small girl pleads, gripping Bellamy’s hand. “She’s all I have.”

 

Bellamy looks to the rest of his family, unable to say a word. “What’s going on?” Raven manages to ask, Bellamy ever thankful for her ability to keep a clear head.

 

“They took her away.”

 

“Who?” Bellamy finally finds his voice.

 

The girl’s expression finally crumbles. “I don’t know.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TWO

Home

 

The one thing that Clarke didn't prepare for was how loud it would be when humans reemerged to the world.

 

She allows herself to be dragged away from her home, each step making her chest even lighter than the last, as long as it took her further away from where Madi is hiding. The air smells like smoke and fire, two things she hadn't allowed herself to be consumed by since Praimfaya. The way the embers from the rocket ship burn her noise makes her nauseous and just like that, she's transported to the end of the world. She does everything she can to block out the day, but her hands start to sweat thinking about it, surrounded by people she doesn't know. They shove her around, but she notices there's a strange stiffness to their movements.

 

Clarke does her best to take in everything she can from her captors, noting from their weathered clothes and out of date rifles. She frowns at this, the weaponry rusted and older than some of the models they used on the Ark. It’s odd and Clarke can’t help but focus on it, even their uniforms outdated in a way that doesn’t make any sense. It’s as if they never moved forward in time after the first apocalypse, stuck in the universe without moving forward. “Keep moving,” McCreary snaps, hitting the back of her head with his gun as they move forward. Clarke doesn’t think that she’s holding them up in any way, but winces as a sharp pain explodes behind her eyes when he does so.

 

“Let’s keep it civil, McCreary,” the woman states, sighing at him. “Let’s not beat her into refusing to tell us anything.”

 

“Usually the beating makes people say things, Diyoza.”

 

Diyoza lifts an eyebrow. “Look into this one’s eyes. You’ll see that she isn’t that way.”

 

Clarke refuses to flinch or give any indication that she’s reacting to what they’re saying, but she tries to observe the woman out of the corner of her eye. She stands erect, her should proud and stature tall. Clarke knows in that instant that there’s no way she could outsmart her. So she remains quiet.

 

She plans to die quiet.

 

They reach the church in the valley, the crew quickly securing her in a chair, tying her wrists and chest. Clarke doesn’t try to move or struggle underneath their hands. Instead, she takes a few breaths and stares straight ahead. Diyoza doesn't say anything for a while. She circles Clarke as if reading her thoughts. In order to calm down, Clarke fixates her gaze on a collection of papers in the back room that she set up years ago. When the drawings of her family and friends overflowed their house, Clarke started posting them places throughout the village in order to comfort her. It would never replace those she lost six years ago, but she takes comfort in their faces and how she chooses to remember them. It calms her down, her hands no longer wringing behind her back while she waits for someone to say something.

 

"I wasn't aware that the earth was habitable." Diyoza finally states. "Granted, I haven't completely caught up with what I've missed, but I still think that the surprise is valid." She steps to the side so that she's just out of the sight of Clarke peripherals. "Although, in hindsight, I should've known."

 

The guy who had come to her side before steps up again. "We don't even know if she speaks English. What is the point of this?"

 

"Oh, she understands Shaw." Diyoza states, crouching so she's eye level with Clarke. "Because of Eligius III."

 

Whatever she says to Shaw must not even make sense to him because he frowns. "What about Eligius III?"

 

Diyoza strolls over to where one of the others hands her a small computer. She flips it open and presses a few buttons, her fingers clumsy over the keys. She ends up finding what she needs because she flips the computer around. "You see, ever since we were able, we've been trying to contact a ship called Eligius III. There's been something jamming our signal, though. Something else was blocking our ability to get other frequencies. And Shaw here went through the records and found this. These recordings started six years ago – right after the earth’s radiation became too powerful to sustain human life. Except, it clearly could. Why don’t we take a listen?"

 

Clarke remains stony, but nothing could’ve prepared her for her own voice resounding in the church.

 

“Hey Bellamy. Part of me thinks Jasper had the right idea. What’s the point if all there is, is pain and suffering? Real cheerful, Clarke. Sorry. Ignore me, okay? I haven’t had water in two days. I need to find some soon, or I don’t think I’m gonna… Anyway. I doubt you can hear me on this piece of crap radio…”

 

It takes everything within Clarke to not react. Hearing her own voice – her desperation when she was at her lowest – it more painful than she’d expect. It felt like a lifetime ago she was at the Ark, trying to decide whether it would be easier to end it then. In her darkest moments in the valley, she’s contemplated the same question. She focuses on her drawings of her family and takes a shuddering breath, keeping her eyes fixed ahead.

 

“Sounds like someone’s having a tough time.” Diyoza states. “Must be lonely at the end of the world by yourself.”

 

Clarke doesn’t respond.

 

“But you’re not alone at the end of the world, are you?” Diyoza asks.

 

Clarke’s heart stops. She thinks of Madi’s hiding spot under the floor and wonders if she’s been able to leave already. Lifting her gaze to Diyoza, she keeps it there – almost challenging her – as if to say she can’t intimidate her. Diyoza doesn’t cling to the bait, merely lifting an eyebrow at Clarke.

 

“I can see fear. In your eyes.” Diyoza states. “Now, I don’t know if this is you in these messages. I don’t know if you’re the one trying to reach contact with someone. But that leaves me two options. Either it is you and you’re trying to reach other people who exist. Or it isn’t you, but that means there’s more of you alive on this planet. Either way, you’re not alone. Which means you either start talking to me, or we’re going to have a problem. You see?”

 

Shaw steps forward. “Diyoza, we shouldn’t be threatening someone who knows this land. What if we need her help?”

 

“Oh, she’ll give it to us.” Diyoza states. Turning to McCreary, she asks, “Did you find anyone else?”

 

McCreary’s startled by the question, stumbling over his words. “Well, she was the only one that was in the house.”

 

Diyoza makes a face. “And you didn’t think to look at the rest of the place? To see if there was anyone else there?”

 

McCreary’s eyes widen. “Well, we were surprised by—”

 

“Enough—” Diyoza puts her hand up. “You think that someone who draws all these photos—” Diyoza goes to where Clarke’s been staring, grabbing Bellamy’s face off the wall and ripping it from their post. “—is all alone? Have you not seen how many different people are posted everywhere? This isn’t the house of someone who’s been living alone their entire life. This is someone who has either an entire people to protect, or someone who lost everything. And I’m not going to gamble which this may be.” She surveys his face, running her fingers down Clarke’s charcoal’s lines. “You have quiet a few of this figure. He must be important to you.”

 

Clarke doesn’t respond, but can’t bring herself to take her gaze off Bellamy.

 

He is. She says to herself, the only place she’s ever felt like is safe enough to admit it. Diyoza doesn’t get that information. No one does. It’s buried deep down, burned in the flames of Praimfaya.

 

“Up.” Diyoza commands, grabbing Clarke’s arm and shoving her.

 

“What are you doing?” Shaw cries.

 

“Finding out if there is anyone else.” Diyoza snaps, dragging Clarke back to her and Madi’s house.

 

The crew shines lights into house, no shadows revealing a soul. Clarke tries not to show her panic – any indication that there might be someone hiding underneath the floor. Diyoza doesn’t seem convinced by her expression. “Search the area. If there’s anyone here, shoot them on sight.”

 

Clarke lets out a gasp, unable to stop herself. Diyoza lifts an eyebrow at the noise, a smirk curling on her lips. “It seems we’ve hit a sore spot.” She murmurs to her. “It’s good to know.”

 

The crew spend the next few minutes tearing their home apart. They rip apart her drawings, run knives down their blankets, and toss the furniture Madi and Clarke doodled on when they tried to wait out a thunderstorm. Clarke tries not to tear up as they destroy the place, taking every touch she put on the home and tearing it to shreds.

 

One of the crew members grab the rug on the floor, lifting it into the air. The handle of the compartment slams against the ground with the thud and Clarke sucks in a breath. The noise settles in the room like a guillotine. Clarke’s heart pounds and she considers screaming out – saying everything she has to.

 

But she has to trust Madi. She has to trust the fact that Madi would do what she told her.

 

If not…

 

Clarke’s stomach turns.

 

McCreary unholsters his gun while Diyoza peers at the door. “What do we have here?”

 

“It was buried under the rug.” Someone says.

 

“This should treat you guys to be more thorough with your searching.” Diyoza snaps, taking out her own weapon.

 

McCreary crouches, his hand outstretched, but remaining on his weapon’s trigger. With a grandiose pull, he yanks the door open, shining a light and the barrel of his gun inside.

 

To nothing.

 

Clarke almost lets out a shaky breath of relief, glad she’s taught Madi well. But she restrains from doing so, nothing but a smirk curling onto her lips. Unsurprisingly, it catches Diyoza’s attention. “How much do you want to bet there was someone under there when you pulled her out of the house?”

 

McCreary lets out a howl of frustration, slamming the door to the ground. When he catches Clarke’s expression, his eyes turn murderous. “Oh, do you think that’s funny?” He asks in a low voice that drips with a venom that stills Clarke to her core.

 

Without warning, McCreary cocks his arm back and strikes Clarke across the face with his weapon, her head searing with pain. It’s forceful enough to cause her to stumble to the ground, her bound hands unable to fully break her fall. She tries to get to her feet as quickly as she can, but he’s looming over her. Giving her a swift kick to the abdomen, McCreary curses at her, his leg lifted for another.

 

“Enough!” Shaw yells, ripping McCreary behind him so that he’s placed in between he and Clarke.

 

“You better watch yourself, pilot.” McCreary states, wiping the sweat from his brow. “Someone might think you’re rooting for the wrong team again.”

 

Shaw clenches his jaw.

 

“And we saw how well that worked out for your last commander.”

 

“McCreary, back down.” Diyoza states, placing her hands up. “Shaw’s right. We don’t want to incapacitate her. But,” the woman reaches down and yanks Clarke up, the world tilting on its axis as she does so. Blinking, Clarke tries to right herself, drops of blood rolling down her cheek. “I think we just proved that you’re not alone. So you’re going to start talking.”

 

“Because that’s been so effective so far.” McCreary grumbles, cracking his knuckles. Clarke knows he’s trying to intimidate her, but of everything she’s faced, he’s not even in the top five most terrifying people she’s met.

 

“Everyone has their buttons.” Diyoza states. “We just have to find them.”

 

Yes. Clarke agrees with her, everyone does have their buttons. Except she would never find hers. Start with Bellamy Blake runs through her mind and suddenly, for the first time in six years, she’s grateful for the distance of space. It no longer feels like this giant void, but a cushion. Now, she doesn’t have to worry about it at all. With Madi long gone in the Rover and the crew on an unfamiliar planet, Clarke can remain stoic. Unperturbed. She can check her mind out in the way she desperately tried to do at the end of the world.

 

“Let’s start from the beginning,” she hears Diyoza distantly say when they get back to the church, but Clarke can’t help but be aggressively unbothered by this.

 

Lincoln taught her how to prepare, of all people.

 

She’d been grateful for his kind heart, but warrior spirit. One rare night, when it was only the two of them in Arkadia in the midst of trying to rescue her friends from Mount Weather, Lincoln pulled her to a far corner of camp with the ominous words, “Clarke, I need to talk to you about something.”

 

Clarke had followed, apprehension running up her spine as she did so. He proceeded to say, “I’m glad I can speak to you privately, because I know that if anyone knew I was talking to you about this, they would not be pleased. Your mother, Bellamy. I’m sure they’d be furious that I’d even think about talking to you about this.” Before Clarke could even respond, he flooded straight into his lecture. “I knew from the moment I saw you that you were a leader. Not just a leader of the teenagers who came to the Ground first, but those all around. Even my people view you as a commander when your own people don’t. That comes with a lot of responsibility and pain. Which is why you need to train yourself to shut off when necessary.”

 

Clarke remembers not being sure what he wanted to discuss, but not expecting that. He continued, “There will be times when people want something from you. And they will do anything in their power to get it. And when they do, you need to shut your mind off. Don’t think of a good memory, because it will be tarnished with whatever you’re about to endure. Think of something generic. Mundane. Don’t focus on people, because it will do nothing more than cause you pain later.”

 

Clarke remembers tears coming to her eyes before shakily asking, “Why are you telling me this?”

 

She can hear his voice as if he was next to her now. “Heroes don’t get happy ending, Clarke. They give until they can’t, and then they become a tragedy.”

 

Which is why Clarke focuses on a blank spot on the wall, her mind wandering to a patch of the forest that wouldn’t grow any vegetables despite how much she tried. She made sure her mind was far away from Madi, from Bellamy, from all of Spacekru. She focused on tomatoes and carrots she never was able to grow, the radiation-soaked ground too infertile and her skills too juvenile for her to figure it out.

 

When Diyoza strikes her across the face, she’s thinking of lettuce and how much she would love the taste of an orange. “Listen to me, we’re going to have a big problem if you don’t start responding. Not only will I send every last man I have to hunt down whoever you’re hiding, I will make them suffer in front of you. Is that what you want?”

 

The man named Shaw puts his hands up. “I don’t want anything to happen to you, but if you don’t start cooperating, there’s nothing I can do to prevent anyone from doing what she just said.” Clarke doesn’t answer. “Now, I have record that someone tried to contact someone in space almost every day for six years. Who else is out there?”

 

“Not almost every day,” Diyoza states. “Every day. They didn’t miss a single day. Do you want to know how I know that? I’ve listened to every single message that was sent. So why don’t we start small? Who is Bellamy?”

 

Clarke is taken out of monotonous headspace to have Bellamy’s face intrude. She tries to get rid of him, but she can’t. In another world, she’d be frantic, worried that he might burst through the door any moment and risk his life again for her. It’s almost comforting now, knowing that can’t happen.

 

Start with Bellamy Blake.

 

The world really has changed.

 

Diyoza nods to McCreary. “Get the collar.”

 

Shaw’s eyes widen. “Listen, you have to start saying something!” He exclaims to her. Rushing over to the computer, he taps the screen. “2,199 messages to one person.”

 

“But not a person on here.”

 

Diyoza reaches for something and it startles Clarke out of her reverie. Placing a rifle in front of Clarke’s face, Diyoza peers at the strap. “So many names. Is this the list of the people you’ve killed?”

 

Clarke would never say it, but in a manner of speaking, yes. All those names she etched on her rifle serve as a reminder of the pain of war – of how quickly life can be ripped away from her.

 

“Oh, I see Jasper. I heard that name mentioned on the radio calls. Someone named Gina, Lexa. Charlotte, Wells. There must be a couple hundred names on here.” Diyoza leans in when McCreary comes back in, his hands wrapped around a piece of metal. “I really don’t want to do this.” Diyoza states softly. “I get it, we invaded your land and you’re trying to protect someone. It’s quite brave, the more I think about it. But I will not sacrifice the safety of my people for a stubborn earth dweller that won’t answer a simple question.”

 

Clarke can’t help but smile at that. She casually wonders that, in a different reality, if she would’ve ended up like Diyoza. Fiercely loyal to her people, constantly trying to find a safe place to live. Of course, she doesn’t respond to the goading. To the names etched on her rifle.

 

She made her peace with the demons that haunt her thoughts a long time ago. While the ghosts of the dead stay with her, she no longer runs from them.

 

Diyoza nods and McCreary snaps the collar around her neck. Shaw makes a noise when they do so, his own gaze falling to the ground. “This isn’t right,” Shaw says at the sight.

 

“Not right?” McCreary seethes. “You’re lucky you are a pilot, otherwise I’d strap one on you as well.”

 

“McCreary, enough.” Diyoza commands and the man falls silent. “I’m going to give you one more opportunity to start talking. And if you don’t, I am going to flip this switch here,” she holds up a controller in front of Clarke’s face. “and you are going to regret not listening to me for the first time. Do you understand?”

 

Clarke’s back in the forest, surrounded by infertile land. She’s alone and there’s a drizzle in the air. Not enough to wet the ground, but to make her hair frizz in the way that makes her wish she hadn’t cut all it off so she can braid it.

 

“Oh my god,” Shaw breathes.

 

McCreary snaps, “I am going to break your legs if you don’t stop with this morality bullshit.”

 

“That’s not it,” Shaw says, not even giving McCreary a glance. “Someone’s hacking into our system.”

 

Clarke’s gaze whips up, finally back to the present. Shaw’s at the small computer, numbers and letters whizzing up the screen as his hands hover over the keyboard. “Hacking into the system?” Diyoza exclaims, ripping her attention away from Clarke. “What do you mean, someone’s hacking the system?”

 

“I mean exactly what I just said!” Shaw cries. His fingers whiz across the keyboard, but he makes frustrated huffs as he does so. “I-I’m trying to lock them out, but every time I try to encrypt something, they’ve already created several backdoors around it!”

 

Backdoors.

 

Clarke shakes her head. No – she can’t even go there. There’s no way.

 

Diyoza watches Shaw work furiously until hesitating. “Okay, now you talk.” She states, her hand hovering over the controller.

 

The moment her thumb flips the switch, Clarke is reminded of the radiation of Praimfaya. Her skin feels as if someone is ripping it apart, her brain unable to think of anything other than painpainpainpain. She lets out an inhumane cry, her hands clenching without meaning to. When the bout is over and her body relaxes, she barely can focus on what’s going on around her.

 

“Do you want to feel that again?” Diyoza threatens. “Tell us who’s doing this.”

 

There’s only one person who Clarke could think of, but it’s impossible.

 

She’s alone in this world.

 

She genuinely considers the possibility she’s dreaming. Or in some hallucinatory state. It seems like days ago, but it was mere hours she was screaming into her radio, unknowingly giving this woman and her crew more information about the end of the world than she ever intended. What if she’s still there, doused in sorrow?

 

“What the—” Shaw says, his hands pausing. “I’m completely locked out.”

 

“How is that possible?” Diyoza snaps, her eyes flitting down the screen, but Clarke can tells she understands about as much as she does. “You are the pilot – you wrote all the security protocols!”

 

Shaw doesn’t answer right away. He stares, flabbergasted at the screen.

 

Then, it’s as if Clarke sees a ghost.

 

Flashing across the code is a bird, pulsing with the rest of the computer.

 

Before she can stop herself, Clarke breathes, “Oh my god.”

 

Everyone’s head whips in her direction, but she can’t see anything past the bird on the screen. Her eyes water and the world blurs, but she still sees the faint outline. “Did they just flip me the bird?” Shaw cries incredulously.

 

“So it is you from the radio,” Diyoza says to herself when she hears Clarke’s voice. A grin curls on her lips.

 

“They seriously took the time to code a bird?”

 

But Clarke isn’t paying any attention. She focuses on that bird like it’s a beacon. A light in the darkness, slicing through when she thought she was smothered by it. She shakes her head at Shaw, the world melting away. She has to say it out loud, it has to be real.

 

“It’s not a bird, it’s a raven.”

 

***

 

“—and is it true you really snuck into the conclave?” Madi’s saying as Bellamy paces behind Raven as she types. It’s almost soothing to hear the steady flow of words from the child, even though his brain can’t focus on anything other than Clarke Griffin is alive at the moment.

 

“Does the gremlin from munchkin land have an off switch?” Murphy groans from a few feet away, his patience thinning as it usually does when he’s feeling useless.

 

Madi frowns. “What’s a gremlin?”

 

Murphy makes a face. “Look in the mirror.”

 

“Clarke said you were funny, but you don’t make any sense.” Madi says. “And you’re meaner than I thought you’d be.”

 

“Look around kid, none of this makes sense!” Murphy exclaims.

 

“Clarke is alive?” Bellamy says not for the first time since the small child barreled into their lives. Madi glances up at where he’s standing, her expression softening.

 

“Yes.” She responds, just like every other time he’s asked.

 

He’s grateful. There’s something grounding about hearing it confirmed. Every minute that passes, he thinks he’s going to wake up. Because now? This all seems like something fake. They’re on the Ground and Clarke is alive. And she’s been alive for six years with nothing more than a child and an unforgiving planet. It’s enough to put him on the ground himself. The only reason he isn’t completely falling apart is because of Raven’s typing, her fingers flying across the keys. He holds onto that steady noise, telling himself to stay in this world.

 

He’s finally back in it, after all.

 

“How’s it going?” He asks her, his voice much lower than he recognizes. It’s rusty and broken, but no one says anything, which he’s grateful for.

 

Raven makes a face. “I’m almost there. Whoever’s on the other side is good, but of course, not as good as me. Well, no one is.”

 

“Less ego, more typing.” Murphy calls.


Raven scowls. “You want to come over here and do it?”

 

Murphy doesn’t respond, crossing his arms and glaring at her. “What took you guys so long?” Madi asks after a moment, when no one else speaks?

 

Harper, who had been near Echo and employing Raven’s carefully stressed ‘stay out of my way while I code’ policy, asks, “What do you mean?” Her voice is gentle, but unendingly anxious.

 

Madi wrings her hands together as she says, “Well, the earth has been survivable for non-nightbloods for over a year now. Clarke said that you were going to come down after five years and we’ve been waiting. What took you so long?”

 

Raven’s hands pause over the keys, if only for a moment. Bellamy sees her face fall, quickly saying, “It was much more complicated that we ever imagined to get back here.”

 

“It’s just,” Madi continues to fidget, her small frame trembling under the moonlight. “Clarke thought you died.” She says the last bit with a hint of disdain and anger, which takes Bellamy more than a few seconds to understand. “She talks in her sleep sometimes – she never would talk to me about it because she doesn’t want me to feel bad – but she didn’t think that she got the power on in the Ark in time. She thought you were dead and it was her fault.”

 

Bellamy doesn’t know what to say. The whole group of them don’t. He wants to comfort the child, but he doesn’t know her and quite frankly, how can he comfort someone when he doesn’t know how to comfort himself?

 

“I always asked why she still had hope.” Madi mumbles. “She just said, ‘We’re still breathing.’ As if that made sense.”

 

Without being able to stop it, Bellamy huffs a laugh, earning him a look from all those around. Madi peers at him curiously, but it becomes clear it’s a story Clarke never told her. He thinks of that day, so many years ago, where she was deciding who would live, and who would die.

 

Like they always did.

 

He aches in a way he’s pushed from his mind, trying to eliminate the presence of her. Except she’s everywhere in the valley now. He sees her in the shadows of the trees, in the colors painted inside the Rover. She’s haunting him like she always did, except this time – this time – he can do something about it.

 

"Okay, everyone pack up in the Rover. We need to see what we're going up again." Bellamy orders, waving his hand toward the car. Madi leaps into action, jumping into the driver's seat without a second thought. Raven smirks at this, lifting her eyebrows at Bellamy as she waves him to ride shotgun.

 

"Wait a second,"

 

Everyone turns to see Echo standing away from the Rover. "We don't even know what we're walking into. She didn't even get a good look at how many people are now in the valley?" She states, gesturing to Madi, who's peering at them from the Rover exasperatedly. "We can't just walk into a trap."

 

Bellamy's at a bit of a loss for words at it, the head and heart coming at him at full force. He sees the ghost of Clarke in front of him, begging him to think with his head before barreling into a valley. "What the hell, man?" Murphy snaps at her, stopping mid-job to go back. "You want us to leave her there?"

 

Echo huffs a noise. "No, I'm not saying leaving her to die. I'm just saying that if we charge into there without planning it out, there's a good chance we'll all be dead. Madi said they had weapons. We know nothing about any of these people."

 

"Echo, they know someone else is out there regardless," Raven says. "I just hacked into their system!"

 

"I don't like it any more than you do, but we can't just charge in there without thinking." Echo states, bristling at the reactions.

 

Bellamy can't help it, he starts to tremble. Every part of himself is screaming at him to run - to charge in there if only to see that she's still alive, but he doesn't. He hears her telling him over and over again - use his head. "Echo's right," he finds himself saying, unable to process what his own mind is doing. Raven and Murphy round on him, eyes wide and opening their mouths in order to swear at him, he's certain, so he continues, "We can just barge in there with no leverage. We don't know who we're dealing with - we don't know how many men. We've been in space and been training, but none of us have even held a gun in six years. We need to think this through."

 

Even though he knows they want to argue, he can see both deflate. "What about Clarke?" Raven asks.

 

Echo opens her mouth, but Bellamy puts his hand up to stop her. "We're not abandoning Clarke, but we have to find a smarter way in. We have to use our heads if we want to get her back."

 

Raven steps up to him, too close for comfort in this moment. She's eyeing him a scrutiny that he hasn't seen since they first got back to the Ark. Her mouth is set in a firm line that is usual when she's trying to figure something out, and then sighs. "Alright. You know we're with you."

 

"Speak for yourself," Murphy mutters.

 

Emori smacks him upside the head.

 

"What's taking so long?" Madi exclaims, rushing over to where they are all speaking. She crinkles her forehead, waving a small pistol at them. "We need to get going!"

 

No one says anything, but merely turn to Bellamy. It's been such a long time since people have really looked to him, it feels out of place like he's put on someone else's shoes. Taking a breath, he says, "Madi, we need to know everything about where you and Clarke have been living, and everything you can tell us about these people."

 

Madi stares incredulously. "I'll explain on the way - we need to go to Clarke now before they hurt her!"

 

Bellamy moves closer to her, the small girl taking a step backwards when he does. He puts his hands up, but doesn't know what to do. While she may know who they are and know stories that Clarke has shared, they're strangers to each other. "We are going to get Clarke, but we need to go back with a plan. I know you don't know us, but you have to trust us."

 

"I know you." Madi states matter-of-factly.

 

She says it with such confidence, it nearly bowls Bellamy over. The curious side of him desperately wants to know what she's been told, but there's no time for that. "Okay," Bellamy breathes, hoping his tone isn't giving the fact that he's ready to fall to pieces away. "Then do you trust that we're going to do whatever it takes to get her back?"

 

Madi doesn't respond right away. She glares and each of them, as if sizing up how truthful the stories she's heard were.

 

Bellamy tries one last time. "If you don't trust us, do you trust what Clarke told you about us?"

 

That seems to work. Madi deflates at the that, giving him nothing more than a slight nod of the head. Bellamy lets out the breath he'd been holding, unsure of what he would've done if she'd taken the Rover and gone back to the valley herself. "Okay, anything you can remember about them, we need to know."

 

"Oh shit, guys," Raven breathes, turning back to her laptop. "They're kicking me out."

 

Murphy whirls at her. "What do you mean they’re kicking you out? I thought your whole thing was no one was better that you?”

 

“Murphy!”

 

“Can you fix it?"

 

"What does it look like I'm doing, Murphy?" She exclaims. "Emori, can you help me? I need to make my signal stronger - we keep cutting in and out."

 

Emori rushes over. "What do you need?"

 

"In the rocket is the transponder that we used to pinpoint the coordinates. I need that, and I need you to strip the wires in order to reconnect it to this machine."

 

Emori nods. Murphy stares at her back as she rushes away. "You understood that?"

 

Emori has enough time to flip him off before sprinting back into the rocket. Murphy grins. "This is the woman I've chosen to love."


Raven doesn't even look up from where she's typing while saying, "Yeah, you dated up hardcore. She's way cooler than you could ever be."

 

"You're exhausting. And so clearly jealous."

 

Bellamy has to trust that Raven has whatever she needs to do under control. "Echo, you're with me." He says, tilting his head as he approaches Madi. Madi runs away from him before he can even say anything, but before he can chase after her, she swings the back of the Rover open and comes back with a few papers in her hands.

 

Crouching on the ground, Madi rolls out the pieces of paper, revealing a map. Bellamy can recognize Clarke's lines anywhere, shading and detail among the trees as beautiful as any of her pieces on the Ark. "Clarke and I have been charting the valley for years now," Madi states, pointing to the northeast side of the valley, where there are a collection of small boxes. "This is the Shallow Valley village where we've been living - it's where the people came." Gazing up at the sky and looking around her, she frowns. "I think we're here." She states, pointing at a patch of trees not too far off. "There's a lake around here where Clarke likes to go when she's upset and doesn't want me to see. She, uh," Madi winces, unable to finish her sentence. "Actually she was out there today."

 

This doesn't surprise Bellamy, but Echo ends up saying what he's thinking. "Did she turn on a radio?" Echo asks at this. "Because Raven said she locked to the coordinates of someone on a radio."

 

Madi bites her lip, clearly uncomfortable. "Um, yeah, we have a radio that doesn't really work. She must've... uh, been trying to get it to work?"

 

Bellamy frowns at this, Monty stepping up to the group. "What are the odds that Clarke would fix her radio on the same day we fixed ours?"

 

"Not great, I'm sure, and I don't even understand half of what is going on." Murphy drawls.

 

Bellamy notices Madi’s not catching anyone’s eyes, nudging the ground with the toe of her foot. It strikes him how young she is, like many of the kids who didn’t make it on the dropship to the Ground. “Makes sense that Clarke would be responsible with helping us get to the Ground again.” Harper states optimistically, giving Monty’s arm a squeeze.

 

“It’s a question for another day,” Bellamy states, doing his best to clear his mind of all the panic his heart is giving him.

 

Madi pushes past it, in a blunt way only a preteen can. “The best way to get back into the village undetected is here.” She points to a small path flanking the village. “The Rover can fit, but it’s tight. It’s how we got some of the scratches on the side.”

 

“The fact that the Rover is even functioning is a borderline miracle.” Monty says. “If the end of the world didn’t kill it, I’m sure a few scratches won’t do it in.”

 

“Clarke says that Raven would be appalled when she checks the engine.” Madi says with a smile. “And that you’d have to teach me to unlearn all her bad habits.”

 

Raven snorts. “I’m sure that’s true. When this is all over, we’ll have a car maintenance lesson.” She glances up from her laptop to wink at Madi. Madi’s cheeks flush and she fixates on the map.

 

“Got it!” Emori calls, sprinting out of the rocket. She hands Raven the device, helping her connect it to her workstation.

 

“Beautiful work, Emori,” Raven mutters, her hands never leaving the keyboard. “Ah ha!” She cries out. “I’m totally in their system – not just the ship they took to the ground, but in their base camp.” Her fingers tap aggressively against the machine, her eyebrows furrowing. “It looks like there are twenty-two of them here,” she mutters. “But I’m getting a lot of data from their base ship. It looks like there’s much more there.”

 

“Why would only twenty-two of them come down?” Echo muses. “If they have an entire army?”

 

“They could just want to be scouting it out,” Monty offers. “They may not know if the earth even has survivable land.”

 

“Or they could’ve had a coup on the ship – who freaking cares?” Murphy exclaims. “We don’t need to know their astrological signs or if they’re a DC or Marvel fan—”

 

Emori sighs. “I told you guys it’d be a bad idea to give him access to all the Ark’s movie collection.”

 

“—we need to know if we can take them.” Murphy finishes over her. “Because they clearly know that someone is here, since Raven hacked their system. But Clarke doesn’t know we’re here. For all we know, they could be trying to get information out of her that she doesn’t have!”

 

The group grows quiet.

 

It pains him, but that thought didn’t even occur to Bellamy. Even Echo doesn’t argue at this point, so Bellamy has to push whatever implication Murphy’s giving them out of his mind. “Right. Let’s get going. We don’t attack right away – we need to figure out how skilled they are and what we’re up against. Raven, is that mobile?”

 

“It’s called a laptop for a reason, Blake.” Raven drawls.

 

“We have guns in the back of the Rover.” Madi offers. “Probably not enough for everyone, but some.”

 

“I’m more a fight with my amazing mind kind of person anyway,” Raven offers.

 

Murphy lifts a hand. “If you do not give me a gun, I will hurt you.”

 

“Come on,” Bellamy mutters, shoving Murphy toward the Rover.

 

“I’ll drive!” Madi exclaims, running toward the Rover.

 

“Why are we letting the hobbit drive?” Murphy cries. “How old are you, four?

 

Madi fixes him a look. “I’m twelve – and I’ll be thirteen in the winter.”

 

“That’s literally over a half a year from now.”

 

Madi scowls, but scoots into the driver’s seat nonetheless. “I know where we’re going and none of you do.”

 

Bellamy can’t help but smirk at the way she tilts her head up in defiance – a Clarke movement if he ever saw one. “You heard the woman, Murphy.” He chuckles. “Get in the trunk where you belong.”

 

“I’m gonna have words with Clarke about how she’s raised her feral child.” Murphy mutters to himself as they all load up. “The nerve…”

 

Bellamy sits in the passenger seat, trying his best not to stare at the child next to him. Her focus is lasered on the road, so she probably wouldn’t even notice in the first place.

 

Bellamy tries not to reel at the information he’s been given in less than an hour, but it isn’t working. He barely has an opportunity to appreciate the fact that he’s surrounded by trees and a dark sky he’s dreamt about for such a long time.

 

“What about the bunker?” He finds himself asking, even though he’s certain he knows the answer. If there was anyone else on the Ground, Clarke wouldn’t be by herself right now.

 

Madi casts him an apologetic look. “We’ve been trying to get them out for years. Polis is nothing but ruins after Praimfaya. We’ve been trying to move the rubble in order to get the hatch open, but it’s too much. We haven’t been able to figure out how to do it.”

 

Sucking in a breath, Bellamy tries not to think of what that means.

 

They were only planned for five years.

 

A hand reaches his shoulder and squeezes. Harper gives him a small smile – her empathy towards others something he’s been grateful for time and time again. “We save who we can save today.” She says to him, his own words echoing in his head.

 

He returns her smile, but knows it falters.

 

“I don’t think you should worry though. They have Octavia.” Madi states. “She’s my favorite. She’ll make sure everyone’s alright.”

 

“What?” Murphy cries from the back as Bellamy finds himself laughing to himself. “Now this is just plain wrong. First of all, we let a carebear drive us like we’re invalids.”

 

Emori puts up a finger. “Okay, no more television for you.”

 

“And she pointed a gun at us the moment we met her. Now she says Octavia is her favorite? There are so many things wrong with this scenario!” Murphy exclaims.

 

“Who do you think it should be, you?” Bellamy teases, if anything that it gives him something else to focus on.

 

“At the very least it should be Raven.” Murphy mumbles.

 

Raven seems surprised, glancing up from her laptop. “Wow, thank you Murphy.”

 

“Oh shut up,” he grumbles to himself. “You’re not that great.”

 

Bellamy laughs at him, only to be brought down in a moment when Madi states, “We’re almost there.”

 

Tension filters through the vents of the Rover as if it were a physical presence. A hand shoots out next to his face, holding a small pistol, which he takes. “Okay, remember. Eye sharp. Don’t fire unless necessary. They’ll hear a gunshot and we’ll lose control of the situation.”

 

Not even Murphy makes a joke, simply nodding as he holds his rifle close. Madi unbuckles her seatbelt, but Bellamy puts a hand over hers. “No, Madi. You’re not coming with us.”

 

Madi scowls. “But I can help you!”

 

“You already have, Madi.” Bellamy insists. “I need you to keep the Rover from sight.”

 

“But—”

 

“You’ve done enough, Madi.” Bellamy states firmly.

 

Madi opens her mouth as if to argue, but she sighs. “You’re just as stubborn as Clarke said you were.”

 

Raven laughs. “Ain’t that the truth.”

 

“Raven, you stay with Madi? Watch the system?”

 

Raven nods, her smiling faltering. “I guess it’s you and me, kid. We’ve gotta save their asses, per usual.”

 

That seems to cheer Madi up, the frown on her face leaving. Bellamy hops out of the Rover, a gun hot in his hand. It feels heavier than he remembers, wincing at the memories of all the lives he’s taken.

 

Monty approaches his side. “We’re not even on the Ground for an hour and we’re already at war.” He says, somewhat bitterly.

 

“Yeah,” Bellamy sighs. “Once we get Clarke, we’ll figure out how to make peace.”

 

“Isn’t that what we always say?”

 

Bellamy doesn’t have an answer for that, because he’s right. So he doesn’t respond. Instead, he crouches low, peering past the first wooden cabin before him. It’s modest, but filled with color and decorations. He feels Clarke here – from the way flowers are planted around the village to the glimpses of interiors he sees in the windows. There’s shouting in the distance, fires raging around the cabins.

 

The group watches as a group surround a fire they’ve made, a figure huddled on the ground, their body twitching. They lean closer to get a better look, then—

 

Bellamy sees red.

 

He’d recognize the flash of golden hair anywhere. Even though it’s shorter and wild from years of surviving on the Ground, he sees her. He sees Clarke.

 

“Enough, McCreary.” Someone says, their voice harsh.

 

Clarke’s body stops convulsion and he watches as she places a hand out on the ground, her fingers digging into the earth. Someone grabs his arm and Bellamy realizes he’s instinctively taken a step forward. Echo shakes her head at him, eyes focused and trained like the years she’d been at war. Bellamy has to let out a shuddering breath.

 

“Now, you’ve played silent and dumb for too long. We know you can understand us and we know that you know who is out there.” A woman strides toward Clarke, towering over her tiny frame, only illuminated by firelight. “I don’t want to have to keep this on until your brain dies, but I will if you don’t give me what I want.”

 

Murphy makes a small noise and Bellamy has to grip him, just like Echo’s got him.

 

Clarke remains quiet, painting on the ground, dirt smudged on her face. She fixes the woman with a lethal glare, a fire in her eyes blazing. It almost takes his breath away. He never thought he’d see those eyes again, see that determination.

 

But she’s right. There.

 

“Wait,” Someone says, working from a small computer. “They’re here.”

 

The group freezes. The woman marches to the person who spoke and demands, “What?”

 

He points to his screen. “I’ve isolated the IP address and the machine that has been hacking into my system. They have a GPS on their device and it’s listed as being close to here.”

 

Murphy swears under his breath and Bellamy finds he’s agreeing. Except he can’t focus on anything else than Clarke, strewn across the earth like she’s about to return to it. Her own eyes dart around and then it hits Bellamy: she knows. She searches for them, her gaze flitting to corners of darkness.

 

Then, they lock onto him.

 

He knows they’re veiled in shadow and that no one would think to look, but he flinches under the scrutiny. Her eyes are on him and he knows she sees him. Her mouth drops open and even from a distance, he can see the fire flicker off her tears.

 

In that moment, the world stops.

 

The woman in charge isn’t oblivious, though. She follows Clarke’s gaze until she hits their shadows. “They’re here!” She yells and then everyone unsheathes guns at the group.

 

“Run!” Clarke shrieks, her voice cracking and painful, like scraping paint from a wall.

 

Gunshots ring out in the area, peppering the cabin they’re hiding behind. “What do we do?” Murphy cries, hand placed over Emori’s head.

 

Bellamy flinches as bullets rain down on them, his heart pumping faster than it has in six years. Peering around the corner of the cabin, he fires a few shots, a few figures crumbling upon impact. “I-I—” he fumbles for words. They aren’t coming for him.

 

Clarke is alive.

 

He berates himself, tells himself to use his head for what feels like the hundredth time in the hour. The only way you’re going to survive up there is if you use this too. Clarke’s words echo in his head and he pushes the part of himself that’s screaming gofightgether aside. “We’re outnumbered.” Bellamy states. “The only thing we had was the element of surprise, which is gone.”

 

He has to shout over the gunfire, closing his eyes.

 

“So what are we going to do, leave her?” Murphy cries. “Again?”

 

“No!” Bellamy shouts and it’s much more forceful than he intends. His chest heaves and he knows he’s on the brink of falling apart, but his family needs him. All of them. “We have to regroup, figure out what to do—”

 

“That sounds like leaving to me!”

 

“Murphy, we’ll be slaughtered if we stay.” Echo says sharply, grabbing his arm. Murphy wrenches it out of her grasp, scowling at her.

 

“Well, it looks like we’ll be slaughtered either way at this point, so might as well—”

 

Headlights shine in their direction, the Rover speeding over the earth. “Get in!” Raven bellows, the doors swinging open. “We heard the gunfire!”

 

The group scrambles into the Rover, bullets embedding themselves in the sides of the vehicle. As Harper climbs into the Rover, Monty’s eyes widen. “Harper – no!” He cries.

 

Monty makes a noise that chills Bellamy’s veins. He whirls to see Monty clutching his arm, blood seeping through his fingers. “Monty!” Harper cries. She grabs him under the armpit and heaves into the Rover, as more gunfire threatens to take them out.

 

“Bellamy, get in!” Someone shouts, but his feet are planted.

 

Because he sees her.

 

Someone grabs her from behind, attaching a chain to the piece of metal wrapped around her throat. They yank back and she all but flies backwards, her feet flinging from underneath her. He moves toward her, unable to stop himself, when someone lifts a machine and aims it at them.

 

It’s a weapon he’s never seen before. It’s bigger than the person is, the figure struggling under its apparent weight. As they drag Clarke onto a ship much larger then theirs, Clarke fighting every step of the way, all he can do is watch as the group boards.

 

“Bellamy, get in!”

 

“Run!” He hears Clarke’s voice through the chaos – through the shooting, through the yells. Her eyes are wide and fixated on him, but she roots him there. She’s always rooted him to the earth when he’s felt like he’s about to float away.

 

A whining sound starts and Bellamy finally notices the heavy machine is lighting up. Snapping back to reality, Bellamy hops inside the Rover, Madi instantly reversing its position – even before he has an opportunity to close the door.

 

It’s not enough.

 

The figure shoots his weapon and it’s as if the earth bows to it. He scrambles to board the ship, leaving the machine to its fate in the valley, just as the ship ascends in the air.

 

That’s not the last thing Bellamy sees.

 

As the impact of the weapon hits the Rover, and the world turns upside down not for the first time on this day, Bellamy sees her. The Rover’s blasted backwards, glass crunching and people screaming resounding in his ears.

 

That’s not the last thing Bellamy sees either.

 

He sees Clarke’s mouth saying “Bellamy,” right before the door of the ship seals shut.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER THREE

 

The moment the door closes, the world is different.

 

Clarke allows herself to be dragged backwards, because honestly? She doesn't think she could do it on her own. Her feet bump against the steps and her head knocks against various uneven parts of the floor, but she doesn't register that. That can't have been real. 

 

It's a very real possibility the shock of invaders, and quite literally the collar, could've altered her perception of reality. It wouldn't be the first time she thought Bellamy was back. Every time she saw him it was in a desperate time of need; when she and Madi fell dangerously ill on a strange bout of acid rain and once again when she drank from unpurified water soaked with radiation. She was so strongly convinced that he had returned to her that she could feel the whispers of his fingertips on her skin, only to awaken from her fevers that it was nothing but a dream. A dream, quite frankly, she wanted to stop having. Because the morning afters were far too painful to endure.

 

"Who were they?" McCreary shouts above her head and she has to accept the facts that they were there, despite all her self-preservation instincts telling her not to hope. He yanks down on the chain connecting her collar and her head slams against the floor of the ship. "Who the hell were they?"

 

"Didn't you hear her?" Diyoza states, placing her hands on her hips. "That was Bellamy."

 

Clarke's eyes widen. She hadn't meant to say his name when the door was lifting, it simply came to her lips and escaped. She wanted to take it back - not put him in danger that he doesn't understand. Because the fact of the matter is, she called him. She called him every day and now these people have record of her pleading for him to come home to her.

 

It's as if Praimfaya never happened. Suddenly, there is an enemy who knows Clarke's softest spots and are clearly unabashed with torture and murder to get what they want. And she delivered her weakness on a platter, in form of painful radio calls. Her fingers curl where they slide against the ground and Clarke tells herself to keep it together.

 

In moments of panic, she reminds herself of simple facts. She hasn't had to do this in a while, but whenever she felt the true weight of the world, it helped her. Her name is Clarke Griffin. She is twenty-four years old. She lived in Alpha Central on the Ark. Her parents are Jake and Abby Griffin. She was sent to see if the earth was habitable when she was seventeen. She was supposed to die in Praimfaya. She didn't.

 

Bellamy Blake has returned.

 

That one sentence plays on repeat in her head as she's dazedly dragged to her feet. Diyoza cocks her head to the side as if to survey her. "That's not the expression of someone who knew they were here." She states to McCreary. "But she does know who they are. Put her in the cell and we'll figure out our next steps."

 

"Our next steps should be to start taking fingers off until she says something!"

 

"That's not how I run things." Diyoza says, stepping closer to him, her eyes firm. "And you should know this by now."

 

"You certainly didn't mind slaughtering the entire ship in order to take control."

 

She smirks, unfazed by his words. "And now I have control. So I don't feel the need to slaughter anymore."

 

If it was supposed to be amusing, it's clear that McCreary doesn't agree. "You don't need a reason to slaughter." He says.

 

Clarke frowns at this exchange, watching the cracks in the new crew come to light. It may have been years since she's seen other people or even thought about this sort of strategy, but it doesn't take too many observational skills to understand what's before her very eyes. Even the crew around them are tense, subconsciously setting themselves within different lines. Clarke watches this carefully, her mind working in a way it hasn't had to in ages. A part of her kinda hates it; she doesn't like that she can't filter the strategic part of her out.

 

Diyoza notices, which Clarke should've assumed that she would. "We should take this to another venue. Shaw, take her to the cell."

 

As far as cells go - and Clarke had been in her fair share of them - it's not bad. The Grounder jails were splattered with blood and dirt, chains hanging from the walls and the scent of death hot in the air. This one reminded her a lot of her solitary cell on the Ark. It was clean and empty, fitted with nothing but a bed in the corner. Scratches line the walls from what Clarke can only imagine is boredom, but it's not the worst hostage situation she's been in. It doesn't even make her top five.

 

In fact, she's grateful to have a moment to herself. It gives her time to really process what is happening, which is desperately needed.

 

They're here. They're actually here. The moment she waited for six years is here, and somehow, she's separated again. Clarke can't help but curse what - at this point - seems like unending cosmic unluckiness. As usual, all she received was a whisper of the people she loved.

 

When would the world allow her to have more?

 

She has to believe that they're alright. As they yanked her onto the ship, she saw the flash of the Rover headlights, which means they either stumbled across Madi - or they were about to meet her. Either way, Madi is taken care of.

 

Clarke has given a lot of thought about dying, and while she doesn't want to die, there were a few things that she always would have to do before she could die. Save her people, save her friends... now save Madi was on that list. She'd done all three things at this point.

 

Leaning against the wall, Clarke closes her eyes and pictures him, standing a few yards away in the shadows. What a welcome back to earth. She'd planned the whole thing out - where he would live, where they would all live. Everything was something for her to hold on to - to move past her isolation and pain. Now that it's back, she gets to feel it behind glass, as if the whole thing was never hers in the first place. Perhaps it never was. She had hoped, though.

 

"I know these aren't the best digs, but hopefully you won't hold it against me."

 

Clarke tilts her head up to see the man called Shaw approaching, his hands against the bars of her cell. He winces at the sight of her, his eyes apologetic. In his hands he holds a cup of what looks like water, but Clarke has been in this situation long enough to know that might not be the case. He reaches through the bars and sets it down, Clarke making no move to take the offering. "I know you don't trust me. Or anyone else here." The man says, bringing a chair over to the edge of her bars. As he does so, she sees that he's now sporting a large slice on his forearm, blood seeping on his jacket. "But I really am not trying to hurt you. I may be the only one who can say that with full confidence, though."

 

Clarke eyes him. She has discovered her first impressions are usually pretty fair - especially since she's been burned enough to see the cracks in the foundation of facade. He seems harmless enough, something about his demeanor much more innocent than those around him. Not to says she trusts him or that he doesn't have an edge to him, but that she's seen the sort of evil at the end of the world and simply does not possess it. 

 

"Did you hurt yourself?"

 

Shaw stumbles when she speaks and she doesn't blame him, but it's amusing all the same. She's been left on a ravaged planet with a child for such a long time, she forgot how funny people are sometimes, even when unintentional. "Oh my god, you scared me." He breathes, placing his hand on his chest.

 

"I'm sitting right here." She states.

 

"Yeah, but you haven't spoken. If Diyoza hadn't heard you herself, I would've thought people were making it up." He says, sitting down at the base of the bars and crossing his arms. "I'm Shaw."

 

Clarke narrows her eyes, but doesn't answer in the way she knows he wants her to. Instead, she focuses on his injury and nods her head at it.

 

He groans, but in a playful way that reminds her of people that she shouldn't be thinking of, and says. "I swiped it when trying to get back into the ship."

 

Clarke thinks about this. She can't help it - she's been mothering a child for too long and it looks deep enough to where it may get infected and her instincts start to bowl her over. "If you have a first aid kit, I can clean and stitch that for you." She offers, because honestly, why the hell not. She’ll take mending people over slaughtering them any day, at this point.

 

That surprises him. "You're a doctor?"

 

With a smirk, she responds, "Simply a survivor at the end of the world."

 

Shaw surveys her for a moment, but seems to accept this as an answer because he gets up. He's back quicker than she expected with a small kit in hand, passing it through the bars of the cell and rolling up his sleeve. "I'll tell you what," he states, reaching his arm through the bars as she strings her needle. "Why don't we play a game? I'll tell you something and you tell me something."

 

Clarke doesn't even look up. "Because one of us is outside the cage while the other is inside the cage and not an idiot."

 

Shaw chuckles. "Fair enough. You can tell me whatever. It doesn't have to be relevant."

 

"I'm not going to help you help your captain get more information on me."

 

That seems to startle him, which it shouldn't. He stumbles over his words for a few moments and then says, "I-I'm not, I mean - how did you - you can't..."

 

"It's what I would've done if I were her." Clarke states calmly, nodding to him. She gently pulls his arm closer to her, pouring some antiseptic on his skin. He winces, but doesn't say anything as she dabs the dried blood with a cloth. "If I met a stranger on a planet who wasn't cooperating and then had someone threaten her life repeatedly, I would send in the harmless soldier to lure her into a false sense of security." Shaw blinks and Clarke can't help but smirk at that. "She's smart."

 

Shaw laughs, ducking his head. "She is, isn't she?"

 

Clarke continues to clean out his wound, scrubbing away some debris at the slice. "Those are the people to fear." She says to herself. "The ones that use their heads."

 

He doesn't respond, but merely eyes her curiously. Then, as if they didn't have a complete conversation, he goes, "I'll start. I come from the military. I got into some trouble when I was a teen and my parents thought it would be best if I enlisted. I never got out. And by the time I could, well—" He gestures at the tin can their flying in.

 

"—the world ended." Clarke finishes for him. "Now sit still, this is going to hurt."

 

"Yeah, because all the digging and cleaning was a walk in the park." He mutters. 

 

"You say that now, but when your arms doesn't fall off in a month, you'll be pleased."

 

"See, I don't think that's an actual apocalypse tip, I think you actually know some medicine." He states. It's harmless enough, but Clarke snaps her jaw shut, knowing this was a bad idea. He stumbles to recover. "I'm not going to—"

 

Clarke smiles and is surprised how easy it comes. "You are." She states. "But that okay. We all do things to protect our people."

 

He frowns at this, an almost inperceivable shudder going through him. Clarke tilts her head at that, quickly going back down to her stitching. Perhaps having a conversation with someone like Shaw isn't the worst idea. If she gave him pieces and he gave her more, she could figure out a little more about the people her have her. "My name's Clarke." She offers.

 

Shaw is clearly surprised at this admission. "Clarke? As in Lewis and...?"

 

That gets a genuine laugh. "No."

 

"Well, you were exploring the earth, weren't you?"

 

"Exploring." Clarke repeats. "Yeah, let's go with that."

 

He grins at this, but it quickly wipes when she slides the needle into his skin, pulling the stitch tight. His next words are strained. "I grew up in Detroit."

 

"I don't know where that is."

 

He frowns. "Well, I suppose you wouldn't, if you survived the end of the world. After the first one happened, I can imagine nothing was ever really the same. How did you survive the radiation?"

 

Clarke eyes him curiously. "How do you know about the radiation?"

 

"That's how the world ended, right? It's why we all went into cryosleep anyway." Shaw mumbles, not staring at his arm. "We were told the earth wasn't survivable and they set the timers until it could heal."

 

"Interesting," Clarke mutters to herself.

 

"Was that not true?" He asks. 

 

Clarke contemplates her answer. "Depends on your definition." She settles on. "I didn't grow up on earth."

 

He recoils. "You didn't? Are you an alien?"

 

"I've seen some weird things in my day, but not enough for aliens." Clarke chuckles. "But if it makes you more comfortable if I say it out loud, no, I'm not an alien."

 

"Sounds like something an alien would say."

 

Clarke can't help it - she laughs. Genuinely laughs, surprised and bright, unable to keep to cool exterior. She knows what he's doing, she knows that he's probably tricking her, but it's nice to have something to talk to, at least with something as silly as aliens. In fact, it reminds her of the conversations she and Wells would get into in space, bored and never-endingly curious about the world around them. So she feels her guard slipping, able to do nothing more than curse the fact that her loneliness is more dangerous than she ever expected.

 

"Are you a doctor?"

 

Clarke jumps at the new voice, tugging on the stitch on Shaw's arm with enough force to make him jump. Clarke lets go of her instruments and they clatter to the ground, scrambling away from Shaw when McCreary steps forward, observing the scene. A smile grows on his face when he sees Shaw's stitched arm and the instruments strewn on the ground. She doesn't respond, but instead glares at Shaw. He places his hands up, the string from his stitch hanging his forearm. "Wait, no—"

 

McCreary grins. "Looks like we're going to be able to find something for your to do."

 

Clarke can't help the pang of disappointment and slight betrayal, even though she knew it was coming regardless. She snaps her mouth shut and putting as much space between herself and them as possible.

 

"Clarke, no—" Shaw says, his eyes wide.

 

"Clarke?" McCreary repeats, his eyes dark. "Seems like the two of you had more time to bond than I expected." Clarke feels the wall of the ship against her back and she presses against it further. "Good thing too. If you were going to talk, I was going to kill you myself. But now you found yourself a reason to be kept alive. Well, that and," his eyes scour her body and she feels it on her like a presence. "Other reasons."

 

If Clarke was closer, she'd spit on him.

 

McCreary claps Shaw on the back. "Good job. Diyoza will be pleased."

 

Shaw's jaw clenches when he does so. McCreary places a control in his hand and says, "In case she gets rowdy. Or if you're bored."

 

Shaw looks like he doesn't want to take it, but does anyways. The air is awkward when it's just the two of them again, Shaw taking a breath. "Clarke, I didn't mean—"

 

"Don't worry about it." She says softly, not making any movement to go back to where he is. "I knew what you were doing and it worked anyway. I really only have myself to blame."

 

"Clarke—"

 

"I'm done stitching you, you can go now."

 

Shaw makes a noise, his gaze not wavering. It's been a while since someone stared so intently at her and she's having trouble not crumbling under it. When she makes no move to get closer to him, he sighs, grabbing the medical tools, cutting the loose stitch thread at the end, and walking out the door.

 

She's alone.

 

Clarke knows she should want this. As long as they aren't here, she's not at risk of being tortured or slipping up. Except she's been alone for so long, it feels like a curse more than anything. More painful. Something that settles in her bones and leaves her cold. Maybe her friends and family weren't her biggest weakness anymore. Sure, they're burrowed in her heart as always. But something darker took residence in the holes they left after six years. Something starved and pained. 

 

Maybe her biggest weakness was being alone.

 

***

 

There's a ringing in the air that some part of Bellamy realizes doesn't exist out of his ears.

 

He sucks in a deep breath, blinking a few times in order to force the world back into focus, although it takes a while. Fires rage around him, which is confusing, especially since any fire in space meant they'd all die soon. Coughing, he leans forward, trying to put the scrambled parts of his brain back together, despite its best effort to remain unfocused. 

 

"Who's not dead, sound off." He hears Murphy groan to his side.

 

Then it all comes rushing back to him. The crew, the explosion...

 

Clarke.

 

He sits up in the Rover quicker than he probably should, the world tilting on its axis and causing him to falter. "Is everyone alright?" he croaks, trying to find everyone. Everyone's slumped in the Rover, a few still, a few groaning. He manages to check everyone's still breathing when he sees it.

 

Harper's bent over Monty, her hands covering his arm. Blood seeps through her fingers as she cries, "Why would you do that?"

 

Monty gives her a plain look. "Do you think I'd let them shoot you?"

 

Bellamy blinks until he understands what's happening and asks, "Monty, were you hit?"

 

"Just in the arm," he groans. "And it went all the way through."

 

Harper puts her hand on Bellamy's arm. "Go make sure everything's alright. We're good here."

 

"Generous use of the word 'good.'" Monty chuckles

 

She rolls his eyes. Once confirming Murphy, Emori, and Echo are alright, he kicks open the back door of the Rover and nearly falls out, smoke and the heat of the fire suffocating him. He has to place his hand on the side of the vehicle as he wanders to the driver's seat.

 

It may be right side up, but the scratches along the doors make it clear its flipped a few times. Bellamy can hear the glass crunching in his ears and he shudders. It could've been so much worse. Smoke is curling from the engine and a headlight is smashed in. "Raven!" He exclaims, sprinting to the car. "Madi!"

 

There's no response, the vehicle nothing more than creaking metal and angry hissing from the engine. Crouching to the driver's side, Bellamy sees Madi's open and panicked eyes, black blood trickling down her cheek. "You're okay," he says softly, putting his hands up to where she's gripping the wheel, even though they aren't moving. "You're okay."

 

His gaze travels to her left where Raven is, who is eyeing the child with concern, but nods when Bellamy looks at her. He sighs in relief. "W-What was that?" Madi asks, her voice rusty and catching.

 

Bellamy instantly turns to Raven, which isn't fair, but figures would have the best answer. "I, uh—" she starts, her gaze a bit starry and eyes slightly unfocused. He makes a mental note to check her head when they get out of the car. "I mean, it felt like some sort of sound compression, but—"

 

"For the love of god, if you start talking about machines when we were just blown up, I'm gonna kill you." Murphy groans, limping over to them. In a small moment of concern, he asks Madi, "You okay, pipsqueak?"

 

Madi turns to face him, her face still white and covered in shock. "I think so."

 

The corner of his mouth curls up into a smirk. "Good. We can't have you dying on us before we settle who is the best around here."

 

She huffs a weak laugh, for which Bellamy is eternally grateful to Murphy for. Murphy, for all his faults, is generally good at relieving tension right when Bellamy needs it, whether it be a bottle of whiskey on the Ark or an off-putting joke on the Ground. "Why don't we get you out of there?" Bellamy asks, opening the door to the Rover and offering her his hand. Madi takes it carefully, twisting out of the car and allowing herself to be helped to the ground, her legs quaking underneath her. Once she's on the ground, she takes a look at the scene before her.

 

As does Bellamy.

 

The village is intact, but the entire area around them is on fire and covered with broken pieces of wood. The cabin they'd been hiding behind now has a gaping hole, revealing destroyed furniture and burnt embers. It does something to his insides, seeing the village like this.

 

Monty stumbles to his side, now with a piece of cloth tied around his arm that's already staining a dark red. "We haven't even been here for even a day and we've already destroyed the village."

 

Bellamy feels sheepish, like he should argue, and so he says lamely, "We didn't destroy the village."

 

"Yeah, someone else did." Murphy says. "If we'd done it, I'd expect full credit."

 

Monty clearly doesn't find this funny at all, but Murphy is unperturbed by it. Fortunately, the tension is cut when Raven hoists herself out of the Rover, stretching her bad leg with a wince. "You okay, Reyes?" Bellamy asks, switching to her last name to try and mask the genuine concern in his voice. 

 

It clearly doesn't work because she smirks at him. "I'm fine, Mom, I just need to stretch my leg after being blown up."

 

Except she flinches as she does so, shooting him another glare as she continues to watch him. He shrugs, not even a little sorry about it. Everyone struggles to their feet, moving closer to each other as if by instinct. "We never should've come back to the Ground." Monty mumbles. "Nothing good happens here."

 

Bellamy knows he should comfort him, but his life started when he got to the Ground. He was able to see his sister not under the floor, he made family he'd never meet otherwise, and he met Clarke. He could curse the Ground that gave him everything just because it had the capacity to take it away too.

 

Madi pushes past everyone, her eyes watering when she sees the destruction to the area. Even places where the shock wave didn't hit, there was evidence of a large mass of people with no care to the area they'd landed in. "My home," she breathes, the words catching. 

 

Raven gives Bellamy a look and he sighs, moving next to her. "I'm sorry, Madi."

 

Her lower lip trembles. "We made it nice for you." She states and Bellamy has to suck in a breath. "All of you."

 

He's vaguely aware that everyone is staring at the small girl, but she's enough in her own world to not notice, which he’s grateful for. Even though the majority of the cabins still stand, she sucks in a few breaths, her body shaking. "Why would they do this?" She asks, wringing her hands.

 

With a confident step forward, Bellamy places a hand on her shoulder. She flinches slightly, but doesn't move away from him. If anything, she moves closer to him and he can't wrap his mind around someone who trusts him so implicitly already. She's trembling, her fists clenching and unclenching as she stares at the wreckage. "I've never lived anywhere else."

 

"It's salvageable, Madi. Once we figure out who these people are and what they want, we can figure out the rest."

 

"After we get Clarke?" Madi asks and her fingers wrap around his shirt, like she's afraid he'll leave her.

 

Instead, he pulls her closer to his side. His heart aches because the gesture reminds him so much of when Octavia was younger. Now she's trapped underground, just like before. "After we get Clarke."

 

"We can't stay here." Echo says, coming up on Bellamy's other side. There's a few cuts littering her face, but nothing serious. "They're going to come back."

 

Madi's eyes widen at this, the grip on his shirt tightening.

 

"Echo's right," Raven calls, hobbling over to where they are. "If they have advanced enough technology enough to blast an entire car upside down and fly in space, I imagine they have the technology to use heat sensors. Once they realize it's only a handful of people and not an army, they'll come back down." Echo nods at this admission, Bellamy sighing because he had an inkling this would be the case. 

 

"Then we should get supplies and leave back to our own ship and regroup." He states.

 

Madi releases him, a quick flash of betrayal on her face. "You said we're going to get Clarke!"

 

"We are, Madi. It's just that—"

 

"We need more people." Echo states, facing the child. Echo doesn't regard Madi any different than anyone else, her gaze stoic. "We can't face an army of hundreds with a handful of people. That will do no one - including Clarke - any good."

 

"What about the bunker?" Raven asks from the side.

 

Madi shakes her head. "I told you, we tried and—"

 

Raven reaches down and grabs the sonic blaster from the ground. "This device was able to blast the Rover - thousands of pounds of metal and technology - over. It even blasted a hole in that cabin over the and took down some trees." She says, gesturing at the devastation behind her. You said that the rubble was too heavy and too much, right?"

 

Monty takes an excited breath, even though it's doused with pain. "We blast the rubble that's covering the bunker door? And Bob's your uncle."

 

Raven groans. "Monty, you know how much I hate that expression."

 

He merely grins sheepishly at her.

 

Murphy frowns. "Can the Rover even drive? I don't know if you remember, but it was just flipped a few times."

 

"Emori can fix it." Raven states, gesturing at her. "She's been helping fix tech on the Ark for six years - a car should be no problem. While she does that, I can look at this blaster and see if I can figure out the settings. And by 'see if I can,' I mean I will figure out the settings."

 

"Your ego is exhausting." Murphy drawls.

 

Raven shrugs. "It's well deserved, though."

 

Bellamy puts his hand up, having been in enough Raven and Murphy's arguments to know that it can go on for a while if left unsupervised. "Okay, you guys do that, and we'll get supplies. Madi, do you guys have medical supplies we can patch everyone up with and maybe some rations for the drive."

 

Madi nods, her anger filtering out. "Yeah, Clarke said we had to be prepared when everyone came back, so we've been storing for years."

 

Murphy snorts. "Sounds like Clarke."

 

Bellamy can't help it - his mouth quirks up a bit at that. "Yeah," he says softly to himself. "It does."

 

Then, Madi's anger disintegrates entirely. "We kept the majority of the supplies in the church. All the cabins were for you guys when you came back, but she didn't stock any food or anything in them."

 

"The cabins were for us?" Harper asks.

 

"Well, sorta." Madi says. "Clarke said as soon as we got the bunker open, they'd go to their sick and wounded, which she said might be a lot since they've been away from natural light and air for so long. But she thought you'd be back sooner and that when we were planning on how to get them out, you guys would want cabins after living in the Ark for such a long time. She decorated them and everything for you. She has a really good memory for that kind of stuff."

 

Bellamy blinks, telling himself his eyes are watering because of the smoke from the fire. "Then let's go to the church," he says, his voice lower and rougher than it's ever been. No one says anything at that, not even Murphy.

 

Madi leads then to the church, stopping short in front of the door.

 

Tables and chairs have been flipped, papers strewn on the floor. In the center of the room is a chair with rope hanging off the back. She approaches the chair carefully. Bellamy wants to rush over and take her away from it, but he doesn't know if he should. Instead, Madi crouches next to the chair, brushing her fingers against something on the ground. Turning around, Madi reveals streaks of black on her palm. Her eyes are watering and she fixates on Bellamy. "They're hurting her." she states, as if it is enough for them to find another way into the sky immediately. 

 

Maybe it is. Maybe they should. Except Bellamy can't get his mind off the bunker and everyone who may be dying in there. "I'm sorry, Madi." He says, even though he knows it's not enough. "We can't get them until we have better numbers."

 

He knows she's on the brink of breaking down, but he doesn't know how to comfort someone he doesn't know. "We will be killed if we stay here, Madi." Echo offers, stepping towards her. "It wouldn't make any sense. You have to think strategically."

 

Instead, Madi recoils even further back, closer to crying than before. Grabbing her arm, Bellamy pulls her away and whispers, "She's not like you, Echo."

 

"She's from the Ground, she should know the reality of war."

 

"If she grew up the same way all the other Grounders did, maybe." Bellamy hisses back. "But she didn't. She grew up in a peaceful valley with only one other person on the planet who kept her alive. She doesn't understand this. She's had nothing but peace."

 

Echo clenches her jaw. Space softened her, but the brutal woman of action always remained dormant underneath. It's what made her such a fierce enemy and even fiercer ally. "We can't have her questioning us every step of the way, Bellamy. She needs to understand what's at stake."

 

"And she does," Bellamy whispers back. "But she is also a child. You need to remember that."

 

"In Azgeda—"

 

"You're not in Azgeda anymore. You haven't been in six years."

 

"I know that, but—"

 

"Echo, trust me on this one. I”ve got this."

 

She stares at him, her eyes sharp. He knows every part of her training is screaming at her to go against him, but in the end, she does nothing but sigh. "Fine."

 

Bellamy nods. Moving toward Madi, he puts out a hand. "She'll be alright." He says, putting as much authenticity into it as possible. “Clarke is strong.”

 

“Aren’t you supposed to have each other’s backs?” Madi asks, her voice small. “That’s what she always said – you always had her back.”

 

Bellamy sniffs, trying to keep his emotions at bay. “Yeah,” he states, his voice thick with emotion. “And she always had mine.” He turns to face her, putting his hands on her shoulders. “We’re not leaving her behind. I promise you. We’re going to come back.”

 

He doesn’t say anything else while Madi scrambles around, gathering medical supplies and other things, shoving them into a few packs as they go. It gives Bellamy a moment to be alone with his thoughts, to have his mind stop long enough to catch up. Honestly, if he hadn’t seen Clarke with his own two eyes, he wouldn’t be able to believe it. He knows that she had nightblood, but they watched the wave of fire descend upon the earth and destroy everything. Without a usable source of water and constant food, he can’t imagine anyone being able to survive such a dead planet.

 

Wandering around the church, he picks up a few strewn papers on the floor. He’s confronted with his own face again, the charcoal smudging and the paper ripped from where someone ripped it from the wall.

 

“They’re going to know who we are.” Murphy says quietly, approaching Bellamy. In his hands is his own drawing, he and Emori together at the rocket. He eyes it fondly and Bellamy knows when no one’s looking, he’ll tuck it in his pocket for safekeeping. “Because of these.”

 

“Yeah,” Bellamy swallows. The thought occurred to him too.

 

“They’ll at least know what we look like and the important people.”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“This is so typical Clarke,” Murphy states, his voice layered with annoyance. But underneath it all? He hears the undercurrent of loss. If Bellamy hadn’t just spent six years with him, he never would’ve noticed. But now, it’s all he can hear. “Make this village for us, set up actual cabins for everyone to live in, decorate it for what we like, prepare rations and plans for hundreds of people, and then get herself kidnapped before anyone can enjoy it.”

 

“Yeah,” Bellamy says again because really, there’s nothing much else to say.

 

Murphy seems to accept that it’s all he’s going to get from Bellamy, because he keeps going. “She just never makes it easy. For once, I just want to be on earth when there’s no kidnapping, no one tries to kill us, and the earth isn’t inhabitable.”

 

Bellamy finally smirks. “You would be so bored.”

 

“Would not.”

 

“You got bored on the Ring.”

 

“It was a good kind of bored.”

 

Bellamy laughs at that. Murphy’s mouth turns up and he crosses his arms. The two of them stay in the center of the room, watching Madi flit around, both pointedly trying not to look at the chair with the ropes and the drops of black blood on the floor.

 

“We’re ready to go.” Raven states, peeking her head into the church. “We need to—”

 

She stops. Instead, she opens the door all the way and enters the church, her eyes wide. “It’s so… colorful.”

 

Madi looks up from where she was. “Clarke liked colors. She said you guys wouldn’t see much in space because the Ark put a priority of function over form.”

 

Raven smiles to herself. “Of course she would put it like that.”

 

Madi hoisted her bursting bag on her shoulder. She waves them over, gesturing to the table she’s standing over. Bellamy approaches, eyes wide when he sees what she has. Guns of various sizes line the table. “We’ve been keeping these in the best condition possible for years. We may need to check them, just to make sure they’re not jammed or anything. Clarke said she doesn’t like shooting guns unless absolutely necessary.”

 

Bellamy nods. They each take what they can carry, going to the door of the church. He hesitates in the doorway, needing one last look in the church. It’s filled with her ghost, hugging every corner and every shadow. It feels like a weight he can’t shake off, something he’ll no longer be able to ignore. In a way, it’s even worse than her cell on the Ark, because it was something they might’ve shared and enjoyed in a different world. A world that was less violent and hateful.

 

A world that didn’t relish in separating them.

 

“Bellamy,”

 

Raven’s soft voice that she saves for him when he’s spiraling startles him. She’s at his side, which means he must’ve waited longer than he intended. She places a hand on his arm and he resists the urge to shake it off. “We have to go.” She states.

 

He nods. “I know, Raven.”

 

The ghosts of their words six years ago resound in his ears and he has to shake his head, as if that would help get them out.

 

She must realize it too, because she states, “It’s not the same.”

 

Bellamy blinks away a few tears. “Isn’t it, though? Because this feels awfully familiar.”

 

“It’s not. We’re just getting reinforcements. Once we have them, we’re coming back. We’ll be back for her. We’re not leaving this time.”

 

Logically, he knows this. In his head, he knows this. But in his heart…

 

Swiping under his eyes quickly, he states, “Then let’s get them.”

 

Raven squeezes his arm. “Let’s get your sister.

 

Despite everything, that causes a smile on his face. “Let’s get my sister.”

 

***

 

The drive to Polis is a bumpy one. After they manage to clumsily stitch Monty up, everyone falls into a restless sleep. Bellamy can’t bring himself to do it – his mind is too active and won’t shut off. He watches as Madi drives to Polis without flinching, her eyes focused on the road. Taking a breath to prepare himself, he asks, “So how many times have you made this drive?”

Madi thinks for a moment. “About twice a month since I met Clarke.”

 

Bellamy bites his lip. He may want to know, but there’s a part of him that tells himself he shouldn’t know. “How long did it take you two to find each other?”

 

She hesitates, probably knowing the weight of the information that he’s asking. In the end, she sighs, “Four months.”

 

“Four months?” He repeats. He tries not to be horrified by this information, needing a few moments to regroup. He tries not to think of Clarke on a barren planet by herself, desperately trying to survive. He fails. “Until you found each other or until Clarke found the valley?”

 

“Until Clarke found the valley.” She responds, her body weirdly rigid and tense. He supposes his is as well.

 

“That’s…” he tries to think of the right word for it, but finds he can barely swallow, let alone come up with an appropriate answer for a child. “A long time.” He finishes.

 

“Yeah,” Madi agrees. “She never talks about it. She always changes the subject when I bring it up.”

 

That sounds like Clarke – the master of compartmentalization. For someone who values using their head, she lives in it far too often. “What kind of stories did she tell you about us?” He asks to relieve the tension.

 

It’s clear Madi’s grateful for it, because she all but melts as she grows excited. “All kinds of stories. But I want some clarification because there are always some holes in them.” Madi says. “Some don’t make sense. So, here we go—”

 

And she starts asking questions. Question after question. Again and again. It’s actually welcome, Bellamy appreciates the distraction on the drive to Polis. People wake up as they talk, everyone interjecting their own version or adding details that Bellamy himself can’t remember. It’s become clear the Clarke’s toned down the stories often, which Murphy often tries to give the brutal details (to which Raven always slaps him for), but there’s one distinct lack of presence in every story.

 

“That was Clarke,” Bellamy says for what feels like the hundredth time. “Did she really not tell you about that?”

 

Madi’s in the midst of getting more information on a watered-down version of A.L.I.E., Murphy all too excited to chime in with, “They gave a girl brain damage right in front of her.”

 

“Murphy!”

 

“What? It happened.”

 

Bellamy frowns. “She didn’t tell you they tortured her for information and she never gave it?”

 

Madi shakes her head. “She never put herself much in the stories – unless it was to say how you all saved her again and again.”

 

Raven cocks her head at Bellamy. “Well,” he licks his lips. “She was every bit the hero we were.” He states. “We all would’ve died without her.”

 

“Many times.” Monty offers weakly from the back.

 

“Screw you guys, I can survive anything.” Murphy huffs, crossing his arms.

 

“Yeah, because for some reason, Clarke decided she liked you and had your back.” Raven chuckles. “You two are weirdly hard to kill.”

 

“Team Cockroach, baby.” Murphy grins. “You always say how I’m a cockroach? Clarke literally survived a wave of death – she’s joined the club.”

 

“I’m sure she’ll be thrilled.” Raven drawls.

 

“Knowing Clarke, she probably will be.” Bellamy says with a laugh disguised poorly as a groan. “She’s got a weird sense of humor.”

 

“It’s why she loves me.” Murphy states.

 

“God knows any other reason someone would,” Emori chuckles to his side.

 

Murphy feigns hurt. “What about my dazzling wit and charm, you little runt—” He all but tackles her, smashing Emori into Echo, who throws them a fierce look.

 

“At least in space, I didn’t have to get tackled by them.” She grumbles.

 

Murphy rolls his eyes. “Shut up, you love it.”

 

“We’re here.” Madi states, pulling everyone out of their bickering.

 

Bellamy leans forward on the dash to get a better look of Polis.

 

“Oh shit,” he hears Murphy breath from the back.

 

Oh shit is right.

 

The buildings crumbled on top of themselves, giant slabs of concrete littered everywhere. Bellamy’s eyes widen at the mess of ruins before him. It reminds him of the images he looked at in his ancient Greece textbooks – it never occurred to him that he would be alive to see a city turn to dust.

 

“Yup,” Madi says after a few beats of their stunned silences. “Sucks.”

 

She hops out of the car, spurring everyone to follow. They trek to the bunker door, covered in rocks and rubble. Madi points to where it lies underneath, saying, “The bunker door is here.”

 

“How in the hell do you even know that?” Murphy exclaims.

 

“Clarke,” Madi says, shrugging. “She said that she was actually under there trying to get in when it collapsed.”

 

Bellamy’s eyes widen. “What?”

 

“Well, not under there, under there. She got out before it all came down.”

 

Bellamy sucks in a breath and Raven places a steadying hand on his back. He really doesn’t know what he’s done to deserve a friend like her. “Okay,” Raven states. “If I understand this tech appropriately, we blast the rubble and it disintegrates. Then we can get in.”

 

“Me.” Murphy states, raising his hand. “Me, me, me, me, I get to do it. I called it.”

 

“Murphy—” Bellamy groans, wiping his face with his hand.

 

“No, I called it. First rule of dibs.” Murphy states, walking up to Raven and grabbing the blaster out of her hands. “Oh man, this is everything I’ve ever dreamed of.”

 

“My boyfriend is the worse.” Emori groans.

 

“Murphy, no, you don’t know what could happen.” Raven snaps.

 

“Does any of us?”

 

“Uh, me.” Raven says. “I put the damn thing together!”

 

“Then tell me!” Murphy exclaims. “I did not just spend six years floating around the Ark on my best behavior to have you take this away from me!”

 

“Best behavior?” Echo cries. “You complained every step of the way!”

 

“So?”

 

“How in the hell is that your best behavior?”

 

“To be fair,” Raven says thoughtfully. “He murdered a bunch of people when we first got to the ground. So technically, it actually was his best behavior.”

 

“See?” Murphy exclaims, gesturing at her. “Thank you!”

 

“Fine!” Bellamy cries. “Fine, you can do it!”

 

Murphy blinks. “I didn’t think you’d give up so easily.”

 

“I really just want this to be over with.”

 

“Your wish is my command.” Murphy grins.

 

Raven points out the controls, taking a few steps back when he hoists it and aims at the rubble. Balancing the blaster on his leg, he cries out, “Witness me!”

 

“Oh. My. God!” Emori cries from behind him, exasperatedly throwing her hands in the air.

 

Except no one else can comment on Murphy’s proclamation because the moment he aims and shoots, the shock wave from the reverb throws him backwards, his head slamming against the ground. “Oh shit, are you okay?” Emori shouts, rushing over to where he is.

 

“That was awesome.” He mumbles, remaining plastered onto the ground.

 

Standing over him, Emori says, “Have I told you today that you’re an idiot?”

 

He grins at her. “Multiple times.”

 

“Still true.”

 

“I love you too.”

 

After the dust settles, Bellamy can’t help but gape. Sure, not everything is gone, but the large boulders have crumbled into pieces, rolling off each other. There’s a layer of rock between the bunker door and them, but before Bellamy can suggest shooting it again, Raven raises a cord. “Now we use the Rover.” She states, tying the cord around the grate on the front.

 

It takes longer than Bellamy had hoped – to be honest, he wished they would’ve just shot the rubble again, even though he knows logically Raven’s reasoning of ‘what if we hurt someone in the bunker by accidentally blowing off the door’ is good – but after a few hours, they manage to clear the entire area.

 

It’s small, the bunker door. They all stare at it for a bit, it as unassuming as anything. “Oh my god, we did it.” Bellamy breathes.

 

“You know, you keep doubting me, Blake.” Raven says with a laugh. “When are you going to learn that I’m never wrong?”

 

“I really don’t know.”

 

It takes some maneuvering and a Raven-built device, but they manage to yank the bunker door open from the outside. Rust and metal crumbles to the ground, revealing a dark room. It seems like lifetimes ago, but as Bellamy descends the stairs, all he can see is Clarke pointing a gun at him, threatening to shoot him if he tried to get out.

 

She didn’t.

 

Honestly, he thought of that moment many times over the years. How she was so ruthless in every aspect of keeping the human race surviving, but she stopped. She was willing to kill so many people countless times in order to keep the human race from going extinct, but there was one time she didn’t.

 

Murphy’s right, he needs to stop living in the past.

 

The group of them go down the stairs, the air thick and stale. It’s hard to breathe. It’s as if it’s a physical presence, worse than anything in space.

 

“Where is everyone?” Murphy asks, voicing the question Bellamy’s certain is going through everyone’s minds.

 

“Let’s go. Maybe they’re somewhere else.” Bellamy offers.

 

As they make their way through the bunker, apprehension and nerves take over. Every room they look into is empty. They appear lived in – maybe even recently lived in. There are clothes strew about, a few beds unmade.

 

A loud cry echoes in the hall and they all glance at each other. “Someone’s alive.” Echo breathes and Bellamy finally allows himself to shiver.

 

“There’s someone alive.” He repeats.

 

They follow the noise, it growing with every step. Soon, there are many voices to be heard and it’s everything he can do to not cry with relief. Until, of course, the closer they get and the more ravaged the voices sound. Madi moves closer to Bellamy, her hands reaching out to his shirt again. He places a hand on her shoulder for comfort, making sure she’s somewhat surrounded by them before they turn.

 

When they round the corner, the sight hits him.

 

Hundreds of people huddle around a chain link fence, slapping it and shouting obscenities below. Bellamy can’t help but startle at this, all of them hesitating before moving forward. But they do, pushing their way to a clear spot. No one around them even registers their movements, their attention focused on whatever is below.

 

That’s when he sees her.

 

His sister sits on a throne above, lines marking her face, doused in a red light. “That’s Octavia?” Madi whispers, cowering closer to Bellamy.

 

He wants to answer, but finds that his mouth runs dry.

 

Is it?

 

Then he’s broken out of his stare when he sees movement out of the corner of his eye. When he gazes down, he gets sick when he takes in the sight. Blood stains the ground from what he can only assume is years of coating, fresh blood glimmering in the light. A few people are trapped in the cage they’ve built, weapons in hand, swinging at each other. Everyone around him is shrieking and screaming at them, cheering when a woman takes an axe and swings it into a man’s neck.

 

Madi whimpers, turning around and pressing her face into his chest, her hands gripping the front of his shirt. He wraps his arms around her instinctively, placing a hand on the back of her head as if to hide whatever sight before him.

 

“What the fuck is going on?” Raven asks, her eyes watering.

 

“Be the last!” Someone shouts next to them and there’s only two people remaining.

 

With a hurried cry, a small boy rushes to the remaining woman. His eyes are wide and he’s gangly, as if he hadn’t fully grown into his limbs yet. Before the woman can register anything, he plunges a dagger into her chest, stabbing again and again until the crowd loses it. The woman crumbles to the ground, the boy staring at the blood staining his hands.

 

Octavia stands, surveying the crowd and the small boy below her. With a moment’s pause, she states, “Not enough to work off your debt, Talen. You will fight again tomorrow.”

 

The boy shrieks as a few figures march into the pit, hoisting him from under the arms as he screaming. The screaming grates against Bellamy’s ears, echoing long after he leaves. The crowd around them are just as excited by the failed verdict as they were by the deaths, slamming their hands against the chains and walls.

 

Octavia surveys them, her eyes flitting down. Her gaze must be caught by the lack of movement where they are standing. Her mouth drops open slightly and Bellamy can see her surprise. She mouths his name, but he can’t even move to her.

 

All he can hear is the boy’s screams and the promise to kill again tomorrow.

Chapter Text

 CHAPTER FOUR

 

No one visits her that night.

 

Clarke fully expected someone to march up to where she sat, but she was left alone for not the first time. She couldn't bring herself to fall asleep, every creak of the ship preventing her from ever drifting off. After six years of solitude, she was used to the quiet of the forest, the wind and rustling a calming presence before sleep. Instead it's been replaced with thundering footsteps and boisterous shouting and Clarke thinks not for the first time that human are remarkably loud.

 

She isn't sure how much time has passed when Diyoza marches into her cell with McCreary and a few other members of the Eligius crew, holding the shock collar remote. The woman nods at Clarke and the men unlock her cell hastily, Clarke doing nothing to help them. She doesn't even get to her feet when they barge to where she is, simply allowing herself to be dragged forward and manhandled toward the exit. "I hope you had a restful sleep, Clarke." Diyoza says, Clarke wincing at the use of her name. She knew that Shaw worked for the woman, but she couldn't help but want to give him more information. He has a trusting face, but there's something more authentic under it all.

 

Clarke doesn't answer, which only makes Diyoza's smile widen. "Get her up and bring her to the communication bay." She instructs and the men hoist Clarke under her armpits and shove her forward. Stumbling for only a minute, Clarke is lead to another room, flashing lights and noises resounding on the machinery. Shaw's sitting at the head seat, his fingers flying across the keyboard. "How's our security?" She asks him upon entering.

 

Shaw glances up to where Clarke's been led, his gaze faltering for a moment. He recovers quickly, answering, "I think we'll be alright for the time being. I've encrypted everything with new passwords changing every hour. If they can hack around that, I don't know what else to do."

 

"Let's hope it won't come to that then." Diyoza responds. She nods her head for the men to thrust Clarke down in a seat a few paces away, wrapping rope around her ankles and hands. Clarke focuses on a spot on the wall.

 

"Yeah, we don't want you to outlive your usefulness, Shaw." McCreary states with a grin, giving Clarke's bindings an extra tug so that they painfully rub against her skin. She doesn't make a noise though. Instead, she stays on the wall, thinking of mundane things.

 

"Now, we know you can talk. We also know you have other people on the planet." Diyoza states, marching around where Clarke is seated. Her hands run along the controller of the collar and Clarke tries not to acknowledge the fact that she's starting to tremble at the sight. "You see, we have logs of every radio call you made for the past six years. We have recordings. And this may come as a surprise to you, but after being with you for twenty-four hours, I don't see that happening, but I listened to them all last night."

 

No, Clarke did not find that surprising. In fact, she would've only been surprised if Diyoza hadn't done that because, quite frankly, it's exactly what she would've done. Clarke tries to think back on all the times she spoke to Bellamy, all the times she pleaded with him, every secret she gave away. Clarke prepares herself for the worst, straightening in the chair she's tied to.

 

"It must've been quite hard, being left on a dead planet to die." Diyoza starts and it isn't what she expected. Clarke expected violence - interrogation - but instead Diyoza stands before her, her eyes soft. She doesn't trust it, anything that the captain is saying. But Clarke is startled enough to stop glaring and maintain eye contact.

 

The woman observes her with a steadiness that must only be achieved from war. Clarke watches as she surveys her like a predator, ready to pounce on her every move. She knows she's tied and in a cage, but there's something unsettling about the the playing with her food beforehand. 

 

"No, I know that there's a bunker. And I assume there's a rather large group of people waiting to get out." Diyoza states, grabbing a chair and sitting across from Clarke. "You mentioned trying to get it open for years. In fact, you mentioned your own mother's down there. Is this her?" Diyoza asks, lifting up one of Clarke's drawings. It is her mother's face, staring at the page back at her. Clarke tries not to show how much she misses her mom and resists the urge to give the woman everything she wants simply to see her again. "She's beautiful. Looks like you. Six years is a long time, Clarke."

 

"What do you want?" Clarke finally snaps, unable to take the toying anymore.

 

A few of the men startle at her words like Shaw had before, clearly not ready for anything she was about to say. Diyoza simply grins, her lips stretching up as she gazes at Clarke like she's stumbled into a trap. "Information." Diyoza answers. "I'm certain we could help you get the bunker open, but I need to know who is down there and what to expect."

 

Clarke's eyes narrow. "You want me to give my people's secrets." She states. "Do you think my betrayal is worth opening a tomb?"

 

Diyoza's smile stretches. "You know, I've been in cryosleep for one hundred years. I watched the world end at our own hand and then I slaughtered everyone on board this very ship once I awoke. I was raised to be a pawn for my country and then hunted when I said no." Clarke tries not to react, keeping her eyes trained on Diyoza. "And even then, I never felt out of control. I was five steps ahead of everyone and now I'm here. One of the last survivors on earth, surrounded by prisoners and miners who were left to die. I've never really had a worthy challenge, it would seem."

 

Clarke frowns. "Why are you telling me this?"

 

"Because I think that you're going to be a worthy challenge." Diyoza says. "It's always dangerous when there's only one person alive who has the information you want. Because that means you can't kill them." Clarke sets her jaw, Lincoln's words running through her head. "Of course, there are other ways."

 

Before she can even register what's happening, someone swings right across her face, knocking her head to the side. Clarke barely is able to regroup when the collar turns on. She convulses in the chair, her limbs on fire. It’s so she can’t think – she can’t breathe. Her wrists and ankles pull against the rope, scraping her skin raw.

 

Then, it’s gone.

 

Choking, Clarke tries to fill her lungs with air and it’s several attempts until she’s successful. She wants to bring her hands to her throat that feels as if they’ve filled it with fire, but she can’t. All she can do is strain against her bindings and choke until her breathing returns to normal. When the world swims back into focus, Clarke sees Diyoza’s face in front of hers. “I don’t want to do this, Clarke. But you have to understand that I will not take my people’s safety for granted.”

 

Clarke’s chest heaves. The worst part is, she gets it. She remembers times she did despicable things to ensure nothing happened to her people. And she can’t fault Diyoza for doing something that she would do herself. It started with Lincoln, desperately torturing him to save Finn, and then the numbers were too great to count. She had to force herself to take the nightblood and not shove Emori in the testing tank.

 

What had the earth turned her into?

 

“I do understand.” Clarke states, trying not to show how terrified she is of the controller in the woman’s hand. “But you must understand, I’ll do what it takes to protect mine.”

 

Diyoza plays with the controller. “Very brave of you, Clarke. You’d light yourself on fire for them?

 

Clarke steels herself, her mind wandering to Praimfaya years before. “Of course.” She responds. “I already have.”

 

Diyoza surveys her, the woman’s hands filled with sketches and Clarke’s certain her mind is full of techniques. She can tell she’s trying to figure out which one will work. Clarke’s ever grateful Madi’s out and even more grateful Bellamy found a way back down. He’ll protect her.

 

Clarke repeats this to herself again and again, like a mantra. Bellamy will protect Madi. Bellamy will protect Madi.

 

“We’ll start with something small.” Diyoza states, scattering a few of Clarke’s sketches in front of her. “Which one of these is Bellamy?”

 

Clarke looks at the faces of everyone she loves. Bellamy, Murphy, Kane. Miller, Jackson, Monty, Jasper. Wells. Finn. Face after face that have left spaces in her heart than no other person than they can fill. She can’t help it – tears well in her eyes as she looks at them and misses them. She misses the people they were before the world ended and the people they could’ve been.

 

She says nothing.

 

“Clarke, I don’t want to make this hard, but you’re forcing my hand. I don’t want to hurt you.”

 

“Interesting,” Clarke states. “For someone who put me in a collar.”

 

Diyoza laughs. “I’ve told people I don’t want to hurt them many times. And I’m finding it first to be true with you.”

 

Clarke tilts her head. “Then let me go.”

 

“You know I can’t do that.”

 

No, she can’t. Clarke knows this, but she suggests it anyways because she’s grasping at straws. There’s no positive outcome of this situation that she can think of. So she stares.

 

It’s unfair, really.

 

Bellamy arrives back to earth and she can’t get to him. They really were like binary suns, always passing each other, but never crossing. She pointedly doesn’t look at his sketch, but wishes she could see his face one last time.

 

“Let me try.”

 

Clarke is broken out of her reverie when McCreary steps forward. He’s staring at Clarke with a look that she’s seen in the most vicious of grounders and she has to suck in a breath. Diyoza glances up, the controller in her hand. “McCreary, we have to be strategic—”

 

“Working for a mob boss was my actual job.” McCreary states, moving closer to her. “It was my job to get information. It’s about time you use my… skills.”

 

Closing her eyes, Clarke prepares herself. Choose something mundane. Lincoln is loud in her head, telling her calmly to remain stoic. Calm. Letting out a shaky breath, Clarke opens her eyes in time to see Diyoza nod.  McCreary looms over her as she still in the chair, waiting for what’s next.

 

“Are you ready?” He asks.

 

As it turns out, she’s not.

 

***

 

They leave her in the control room with a body guard and writhing on the floor. Clarke tries to block out the pain, but she finds that she can’t. Her fingers claw at the collar on her neck, but she instantly regrets it. Placing her hands out in front of her, she realizes that McCreary really did rip her fingernails out – it wasn’t just a dream. Her hands are dripping black blood, while the rest of her body screams in pain.

 

Except she has to block it out. Force it out

 

“Come on, Clarke.” She says to herself, sucking in a breath. “Get up. It is time for you to get up.”

 

And she does.

 

She gets up like she has every other day. Every day that has proven that the earth does not give a fuck about her, she got up. Today is no different.

 

There’s a guard leaning against the door frame, clearly convince that she’s too debilitated to do anything. Clarke hoists herself up, her palms flat on the communication table. It takes every ounce of strength she has left, her legs exhausted from the seizing of electricity. She tucks her chin on the table’s edge, forcing herself up with her forearms as her legs regain feeling.

 

By the time she’s back on her feet, the guard notices the commotion behind him. Before he can reach for the controller at his side, Clarke grabs the first thing she can see – a keyboard – and chucks it at his head. He ducks, only narrowly missing the piece of plastic at the face.

 

He does get slammed with the glass that was next to it, though.

 

Clarke manages to clock the guard right in the face with a glass filled with water, left for her she assumes, and sprints as much as she can to the man. Before he can grab the controller, she grabs it and swings it across his face. The man crumbles to the ground, leaving Clarke to do nothing more than stare at his body. Swiping across his face one last time to make sure he’s out, Clarke throws the controller to the side.

 

Finally, she’s alone.

 

She welcomes it for the first time in years, allowing herself to pretend her body isn’t screaming in pain. When she moves forward, her legs quiver and the earth tilts. “You got this,” she tells herself. “You’ve been through worse.”

 

Horrible sentiment, but true.

 

Clarke looks at the man at her feet. There's a trickle of blood running down his cheek and his breathing is shallow. Staring at the shattered glass littered on the floor, she sucks in a breath.

 

It would be so easy, to kill him. 

 

Just as it would be so easy to become Wanheda again. To make the world worse until she set it on fire. He's right there, beneath her feet. Taking his gun from him, Clarke points it at the man's head. All it would take is the pull of the trigger. What's one more life among the scattered many?

 

Clarke drops the weapon.

 

No. Wanheda was set ablaze in Praimfaya and there she would be reduced to ash. Clarke can't be Wanheda anymore because she no longer exists. And she spent the past six years stitching the pieces of her soul back together until it was patched up. Rough, fragile, but there. It's all she could ever ask for. And pulling the trigger would undo all the tape.

 

Shoving the gun in the back of her pants, Clarke makes her way to the control center. Her fingers fly clumsily across the keyboard, desperately trying to remember what Raven had taught her. Catch the quick words that would spill out of her mouth as she typed furiously. With a few lucky clicks, she manages to get past the 'Welcome' sign. She knows if Raven were here, she would laugh, but Clarke really is trying her best. "I just need a way out," she says to herself, frantically clicking whatever looks promising. 

 

She opens a directory labeled 'Crew Resources,' figuring that it'll be information regarding the ship. Except when it opens, she's greeted to an image of a very sick set of lungs. Clarke recoils, peering at the dark spots riddled all over the chest x-ray. She may only have trivial medical knowledge, but she knows that's not something normal. In an instant, her mind travels to all the things it could mean, flipping through the pages. Every x-ray includes notes that include terrifying messages like 'known murderer of women - male doctor needed' or 'if you touch his knee, he will go for your throat.' This isn't simply a ship of miners, it's a ship of criminals.

 

Clarke lets out a shaky breath. Technically, the 100 were a ship of criminals. Teenagers sent to die for a cause. Teenagers who stole, lied, cheated, and in some instances, murdered too. She reminds herself of the circumstance of her own arrest and tears up.

 

Loosely around her wrist is her father's watch, which she found among the rubble at Arkadia. She never was able to get it working again, but she was able to fix some of the links that had snapped over time. It hangs off her, her arms skinnier than they had been six years ago. She knows the price to pay for the end of the world was her body, but supposes it could've been better. Holding the watch close to her chest, she reminds herself his sacrifice so people could know and live. Raven once threw it in her face, but Clarke realized over time, the woman was right. Perhaps her father wouldn't be proud of the choices she made, but she can choose to make better ones now.

 

"I was told that I could relieve - what the shit--"

 

Clarke whips around to see Shaw entering the room, the door catching on the leg of the unconscious man at his feet. On instinct, Clarke whips out the gun she stole but even feels it tremble in her hands. In that moment, she knows she can't kill him. She feels the pain and panic of the first time she ever killed anyone.

 

Atom.

 

Bellamy was there for that too. He was always there at her worst and most scared. Now they're separated again and her hands are shaking and she doesn't know what to do. "Please," Clarke ends up saying, watching as Shaw's eyes widen. "Please."

 

Shaw doesn't say anything at first. He's holding the door open like he's prepared to shout out it any second, but he doesn't. After a few perilous moments, he steps into the room and closes the door. "Okay, listen. What do you know about motorcycles?"

 

***

 

Somehow, they find themselves in a room by themselves.

 

It's not the grandiose reunion that Bellamy thought he would share with the people of the bunker. He expected tears, hugs, at least a few kind words. If anything, they appeared horrified that Spacekru had stumbled onto the scene - perhaps as horrified as Bellamy was to witness it. 

 

When it became apparent that there were new people in the premises, everything went quiet. Octavia stood up to greet her brother, but honestly Bellamy wasn't sure. Madi pressed herself against him so fiercely, unable to see the sight before her. She trusted him implicitly which only made him wonder further what Clarke had told her about him in the stories she so clearly shared. So Bellamy didn't immediately go over and he wonders if, in that moment, something changed in their relationship. Instead, Wonkru - as they call themselves - asked for Spacekru to remain in an alternative room while the group of them figured out the best way to evacuate.

 

There were several walls of concrete between Bellamy and his sister, but he feels like it's much more. Her features were roughly the same, sharpened by rationing and time, but there was something so inherently different about her eyes that he didn't even know how to respond. He can't hear the talks, he doesn't know what's going through any of their heads, but not a single member of Wonkru went excitedly to the door. Instead, they all looked to Octavia.

 

And she said no.

 

"So I think we can all agree it's a fucking nightmare down here." Murphy states after a while, clearly unable to let the silence go on forever.

 

Bellamy looks to his left where Raven and Harper are next to Madi, telling her silly stories of the Ring in order to get her to calm down. When Murphy speaks, the preteen's eyes whips in Bellamy's direction, clearly waiting a response. They all are. He knows he has to say something because that's his sister, his responsibility, but how can you take responsibility for a person you no longer recognize?

 

"We knew that it would be different here." Bellamy says, his mouth dry. "They've been stuck underground for six years. That would change the way you approach things."

 

"That's not changing the way you approach things, Bellamy, that's changing the way you view humanity." Monty states from the corner from where he's pacing. Bellamy has seen this side of Monty before. He's always been impressed in Monty's ability to have a higher moral compass than anyone he knows, but right now, it feels like he's cracking the foundation of his family. "Octavia didn't change the way they approached life, she turned killing each other into a sport."

 

"We don't know that!" Bellamy exclaims, unable to stop himself from defending her. "We don't know what that really was--"

 

"Bellamy, that was a group of her own people fighting in a pit to be the last person standing!" Murphy exclaims, clearly not down to sugarcoat anything. "And then she told some kid - younger than we were when we first got send to the Ground - that he'd have to do it all over again! Those are the facts and you need to open your eyes."

 

"I swear to god, Murphy, I'm gonna--"

 

"Now can we go get Clarke?" Madi asks over Bellamy's rising voice. She leaves where Raven and Harper are, stepping up in front of Bellamy. She's so innocent and small, it stops the fury he's feeling toward Murphy in its tracks. When no one responds, the girl stumbles forward with, "W-We opened the bunker. They can get out now. You said that we had to open the bunker first, then we could get Clarke."

 

True, he had said that. That is, he said that before he found out the bunker became a new level of hell, even for the earth.

 

"Madi, I--" Bellamy scratches the back of his head because he doesn't know what to say. What can he say - sorry, we can't save your pseudo-mother because my sister has lost her mind? "We need the numbers that the people in the bunker give us if we ever want to get Clarke."

 

"Then we'll have to convince Octavia." Echo states harshly. She wisely stood in the background when they were escorted to an empty room, sliding within the shadows of wherever Octavia was. "If we're going to get anyone to help us, we'll need Octavia's blessing."

 

"What about Clarke's mom?" Harper suggests. "Abby's helped us in the past."

 

"Did you not see what we just saw?" Murphy cries incredulously. "They have a free ticket to the outside and no one even moved a muscle until Octavia made up her mind. And she said no. So they didn't go outside. Do you not see how insane that is?"

 

"Murphy--" Bellamy warns.

 

Murphy waves the word aside. "No, no, you don't get to do that. You don't get to pretend that you're in the right here. Your sister has scared the shit out of these people so much, they don't move unless she says that's okay. That's tyranny!"

 

"Bellamy's right," Raven states, causing Murphy to make exasperated noises. "We don't know what's going on here. And we have to realize that it's been six years. Six years. I mean, we're all different people now, right? It makes sense that they are too." Bellamy lets out a breath, grateful for the support. This, of course, is dashed the moment Raven continues, "But Monty's right too, Bellamy. We may not know the whole story, but the pieces we've got aren't looking good."

 

"I know, Raven." Bellamy states. "But she's my sister."

 

"And we're your family too, Bellamy." Raven says. Raven's always been able to call him out on things no one dared to - even Murphy. He recoils at the bluntness. "Tread lightly."

 

Madi, to her credit, had been relatively patient and calm throughout this exchange. When the moment drops to silence, though, she tugs on Bellamy's hand. "Please can we go back to the valley. They've taken Clarke and they've taken my home."

 

Bellamy looks to the rest of those in the area. They're wincing because they know what he's about to say, but they don't offer any solutions. It's the only choice. "We can't." He states, hating every syllable. "We need better numbers."

 

Tears well in Madi's eyes and he almost breaks down then. She reminds him so much of Octavia when she was younger - full of life and energy, but a vulnerability around her that could only deflate with age. Madi's lower lip trembles as she sets herself. "Do you not care?" She asks.

 

It's as if all of Spacekru sucks in a breath.

 

Clarke's last words of heart and head Bellamy, heart and head, but now he has a child begging him to go back solely to heart. Quite frankly? He's tempted. "Madi," he says, his voice rough as though he hadn't used it in ages. "Of course we care."

 

"You haven't even tried." Madi presses, taking a step back from him. "You keep putting it off. Because you're afraid."

 

"Madi--"

 

"Well, I'm not afraid!" Madi exclaims, her eyes blazing. "They took my home and I'm going to get it back!"

 

Madi turns on her heels to march out of the room and surprisingly, Murphy stands in front of the doorway. "Sorry, pipsqueak, no can do."

 

Madi startles, clearly not expecting anyone to confront her, especially Murphy. "Move." She snaps.

 

Murphy smirks. "Sorry munchinland, no."

 

"I'll make you."

 

"I'd like to see you try," Murphy says, rolling up his sleeves. "But I'll have you know that I'm very hard to kill."

 

Madi reaches in her back pocket and pulls out a dagger, startling everyone but Murphy. Murphy remains unphased in a way only Murphy can be when his life is threatened. "I don't want to hurt you."

 

"I don't want to hurt you either, Squeaks, but if it means preventing you from walking miles in the desert to an unfriendly army, I think Clarke will forgive me." Murphy states with his hands up.

 

"If Clarke dies, it doesn't matter!" Madi shoots back.

 

"They won't kill Clarke." Echo states calmly. Everyone flinches at her voice, even Madi, who turns around to glare at her. Unaffected, Echo continues, "Those people don't know how many of us are out here. They don't know the terrain. They don't know any information. If they have any brain capacity, they will keep her alive for information in order to get an advantage on whatever army is out there. For all they know, there's an entire people living in the valley."

 

Madi takes a moment to consider this. Bellamy should've realized - of course the child Clarke has raised would be logic-driven. "But... but what if they hurt her for that information?"

 

"They will." Echo states and Bellamy wants to groan. Murphy actually does groan, flipping her off behind Madi's back. "What, it's true. They will hurt her for information, so we have to assume that they got it."

 

Madi's eyebrows narrow. "Clarke would never."

 

"You don't know the kind of information someone tortured would give." Echo states. "I was trained to cause as much pain as possible. I've seen the strongest men fall under a few carefully-placed devices. We have to assume that they're working with full information."

 

Bellamy tries not to be sick to his stomach or angry with Echo that she has a point. She's always there for a slice of reality in the best and worst ways. In a way, it reminds him of Clarke from time to time, but with less warmth and more focus on the end goal. Bellamy clears his throat. "Listen, we need to--"

 

"Big brother."

 

The two words are breathed with such awe, Bellamy almost forgets that he just saw a pit of fighting. Octavia stands in the doorway behind Murphy - who flinches, whirls around, and steps away from her - but her eyes are only on him. It's clear from her expression she's hurt that he's not sprinting over to her now, but there's a part of him that always knows how dangerous she it. And for the first time, he doesn't know what it means. "O," he responds, unable to stop his eyes from watering.

 

Before he can stop himself, he takes a few quick strides and she meets him, wrapping her arms around his neck. For a moment, he chooses to forget what he saw. For a moment, he ignores the blood on the walls, the paint on her face. For a moment, he's with his baby sister.

 

"You came back." Octavia breathes in his ear, clutching him close.

 

Bellamy closes his eyes, grateful for how young she sounds, completely unlike the person he saw give an execution only minutes before. Tugging her close, he relishes having his sister back, despite the tension in the air.

 

When they release, Octavia turns to Madi. "Who's this?" She asks.

 

Bellamy can see her mind try to work out if it was mathematically possible for any of them to have a child Madi's age. Madi cowers a bit, her gusto lost. He can tell she isn't sure how to take Octavia as she is. "I'm Madi," she manages, not moving. "I'm from the valley."

 

"We have a lot to talk about, O." Bellamy responds. 

 

Octavia eyes the child. "So it would seem."

 

"Why don't we take Madi out to give you two a moment?" Raven states. Bellamy knows she's thinking exactly what he is. Octavia's not stupid - if she's from the outside, there's really only one way she could've survived. "That way you can catch her up."

 

"Is that wise to leave them alone?" Echo says before she can stop herself.

 

Closing his eyes, Bellamy takes a breath. From the moment Octavia sees Echo, he can see the anger brewing underneath. "What is she doing here?"

 

Echo doesn't respond, but doesn't cower. She was never was one to bend.

 

"One of the many things we should talk about, O." Bellamy states. He nods to everyone, Raven placing her hand on Madi's back and leading them out of the room. Madi casts a glance over her shoulder as she leaves. Once the entire room is clear, Bellamy sucks in a breath. "So. You've updated the place."

 

Octavia doesn't crack a smile. "I wish you hadn't seen that."

 

"Why? So you could hide it?" Bellamy asks, frowning. His mind is going in every direction - he can't figure out what to think. "What is going on here, O?"

 

"You don't understand what we've been through, Bell. Six years is a long time. You can't possibly understand."

 

"Then I need you to make me." Bellamy says honestly. "Because from where I'm standing, it doesn't look good. And I need you to help me understand what could've happened to get to that point."

 

Octavia takes a moment. For a brief, shining second, she looks like she did when they were younger and she was fighting a losing argument. Then her eyes steel. "You need to be a part of Wonkru to understand."

 

Bellamy frowns at this. "What, that's it? I'm not a part of your club and you're not going to even try."

 

"I've learned that holding onto sentiment will never get you where you need to go."

 

Bellamy recoils. It seems ridiculous, but it hurts more than it should. "Holding onto sentiment? Is that what you’re calling our relationship now?”

 

Octavia doesn’t answer right away. In fact, perhaps her silence is answer enough. Instead, she stares at the wall, her jaw twitching. “You haven’t been here, big brother. The world has changed.”

 

“But our humanity has not!” Bellamy exclaims. “O, we have a problem—”

 

“It is not yours to decide that, Bellamy.” Octavia turns to him, her eyes hard. He doesn’t recognize those eyes. He resists the urge to cower, cursing a world who had transformed her underground. Those of the earth return. And those of the sky perish. “I’m in charge. Not you, not Clarke, not anyone. Me.

 

Bellamy almost winces at the mention of Clarke, but thankfully doesn’t. “O, I’m not asking for power. I don’t want it. What I’m asking for is an explanation why you are sending your own people to die in a pit—”

 

“They are enemies of Wonkru.”

 

She says it so quickly, Bellamy wonders how many times she’s said it before. “Then what am I?” Bellamy asks.

 

Octavia sets herself. “It remains to be seen.”

 

“Are you going to put me in a pit, baby sister?” He asks venomously.

 

“Are you coming as a friend or an enemy?”

 

“I’m coming to you as your brother. Your family.” Bellamy exclaims. “I need—”

 

“Blodreina.”

 

The two turn at the voice, Bellamy almost gasping at the sight of Miller. His hand is on his weapon, his eyes gaunt and tired. Years underground have not served him well.

 

“Miller?” Bellamy asks and it snaps Miller out of attention. His eyes flit in the direction of Octavia and she nods. As soon as she’s given her blessing, Miller strides over and embraces him, clapping on his back.

 

“I heard you were back,” Miller says softly in his year. “What took you so long?”

 

“Got lost.” Bellamy returns with a grin. Except it isn’t full because he can’t make sense of Miller asking for permission just to greet him. Her own people terrified of going to the one place they’ve been dreaming for six years.

 

Miller brushes himself off and straightens for Octavia. “We were wonder what your orders were. Some people wanted to know the timeline.”

 

“Did you tell them that questioning me isn’t something that I would recommend?” Octavia says viciously.

 

Bellamy stares. The brutality in her voice finally matches her actions. It’s almost painful to watch Miller startle, before saying, “I’m sorry Blodreina. We—”

 

“We’re going now.” Octavia decides, moving toward the door.

 

“Octavia, we’re not done talking!” Bellamy calls after her, but she doesn’t even hesitate before leaving. Bellamy gapes after her, unable to figure out what to do. “Blodreina,” he repeats to himself.

 

“The Red Queen.” Miller offers with a quick glance.

 

“I got that,” Bellamy snaps, marching after her.

 

Except he can’t find her. The entire entrance is swarmed with Wonkru members and it takes several minutes before he finds his own people. They’ve already scrambled outside, the smell of the loss of humanity too much to bear. Despair, death, blood – all of these are too pungent for those in peace. Once he reunites with them, they all fix him with a look that very clearly says ‘Well?’

 

“We didn’t get to finish our conversation.” Bellamy says, his words dark.

 

“Yeah, probably because she had more of her own people to murder.” Murphy mutters and Bellamy glares. “Please, you’re thinking it. We asked how many people made it – only eight hundred, Bellamy. That’s four hundred people dead. They lost one third of their population. I’m gonna give you two guesses why.”

 

Madi gazes at the two of them. “She wouldn’t kill her own people, would she?”

 

Bellamy doesn’t know how to answer that.

 

“She was supposed to be the girl under the floor.” Madi says softly. “Just like I was…” The girl cuts off. “Nothing’s like the stories Clarke used to tell.”

 

Bellamy shuts his eyes. “Yeah,” he says to himself. “Because they were supposed to be only stores.”

 

He thinks of the Roman gods and kings he told Octavia when they were younger. About the fights and the triumphs over the greatest evils. “Just stories.”

 

Wonkru starts to emerge from the bunker, blinking away the sunlight. They filter out on the destruction of Polis, hands over their eyes. “We should find Abby.” Bellamy says. “See what kind of sickness we’re dealing with, with people underground for so long. See if there’s any way we can negotiate a team for the valley.”

 

The group nods, but they’re clearly transfixed by the people finally seeing the sun for the first time in six years. A few weep, a few laugh, but most are silent. As if the world they experience underground wasn’t real. Wasn’t a part of their lives. They take in the destruction of their once-home and merely float.

 

“What’s that?” Echo points out in the distance.

 

Bellamy turns and sees a black spec getting closer, faster than anyone could walk. Reaching for his gun, Bellamy yells, “Octavia!”

 

She sprints over there, her sword already unsheathed. “Who’s that?” She cries, waving a hand so that members of Wonkru are at her side.

 

“I tried to tell you, but you stopped our conversation.” Bellamy snaps. “We’re not alone.”

 

“No alone?” Octavia spits. “What does that mean?”

 

“Can we discuss this later?” Raven shouts, pulling Madi behind her. “Because someone’s coming!”

 

They get closer and closer, members of Wonkru and Spacekru both unholstering their weapons. All guns are pointed at the figure approaching, unmistakably fast. When they arrive in full sight, they’re on a machine of some sort, crouched over. “Raven, what is that?” Bellamy calls.

 

“It’s—” but her words get cut off by the sound of a revving engine.

 

Guns click around him and Bellamy focuses his sight on the figure leaping off the machine, which tumbles to the side. They’re clearly worse for the wear, tears in their clothes and a metal ring around their neck. Their hands go up to their helmet and everyone lifts their weapons.

 

The figure takes off the helmet.

 

Bellamy forgets what it’s like to breathe.

 

Clarke stands before the entire Wonkru army, hands in the air. They’re covered in black blood and her face is littered with cuts and bruises.

 

But she’s there.

 

“Please don’t shoot.” She says.

 

Her eyes widen and he watches as the realization hits her. Everyone is out. The bunker is freed.

 

Her hands lower, even though the guns don’t. A gasp escapes her lips as the helmet tumbles to the floor. Bellamy doesn’t know whether to laugh or cry. Without being able to stop himself, he breathes.

 

“Clarke.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER FIVE

 

The first thing Clarke sees are the guns.

 

Honestly, she isn’t entirely sure what to do with them. It’d been so long since she was shrouded in such violence, it was like putting her shoes on the wrong feet. She felt uncomfortable. Not afraid, though. She sucks in a breath when no one lowers their weapons, but she does lower her hands. They fall exhausted at her sides as she takes it all in.

 

The bunker is open. She sees the sick, weary, and overwhelmed before her. She sees past the guns and the threat. She sees a broken people, chipped away through the ache of time and fear. It startles her that there’s no joy on any face before her.

 

She’s waited so long for this moment. For her people to be returned to her. Except now they’re unrecognizable, miserable, devoid of any hope that she thought they would see. For a brief moment, she doesn’t feel the pain in her hands where her fingernails were ripped out. She doesn’t feel the pain around her neck, where the collar fits snuggly. She doesn’t feel the ache in her ribs where the blows came.

 

Clarke is surrounded by enough pain to mask that.

 

“Clarke!”

 

She doesn’t have any time to prepare herself for the figure barreling into her front, nearly knocking the wind out of her. The pain is back and it is yelling, but when she realizes who has collided with her, she doesn’t care. “Madi.” She breathes, placing a hand on the back of her hair. Clarke holds the small child tightly, unable to stop her shaking.

 

“Clarke,” the girl whispers and there’s a poorly hidden sob in it, her shoulders quaking. Clarke can hear the crying, like she used to do when she was small and missing her parents and people.

 

Petting the back of her head, ignoring the searing pain in her fingers, Clarke closes her eyes. “You’re okay,” she murmurs. “Everything’s okay.”

 

Holding her out in front of her, Clarke peers into her eyes. “You’re okay, Madi.”

 

Madi’s eyes are filled with tears. “Are you?”

 

Clarke nods, trying to ignore how the metal of the collar scrapes against her throat as she does so. “Yeah,” she breathes. “I’m okay.”

 

Madi lets out a shaky breath, her whole body shuddering as she does so. She steps to the side and looks behind her. Clarke follows her gaze, but before she knows what’s happening, there’s a quick smattering of footsteps in her direction.

 

Then, someone else collides with her.

 

She doesn’t know what to do because her brain isn’t catching up fast enough. It’s only been her and Madi for such a long time, she can’t possibly begin to think of who it would be, so her arms hang limply at her sides, unable to do anything but freeze. Except the person doesn’t seems to care. They wrap their arms around her, almost entirely enveloping her small frame. It isn’t until they place a hand on the back of her head, pulling her closer as if the space isn’t close enough, does she know.

 

“Bellamy,” she whispers and she clasps her hands around his back.

 

Honestly, she’s not sure if this is real. There were times when she was inherently convinced he was back, and it always was nothing more than a painful dream. Except in those instances, they weren’t surrounded by people with guns pointed in her direction. Her entire body is trembling, she can’t get it to stop, but she holds onto him nonetheless. She doesn’t care if this is a dream. She could be back with the Eligius crew and wake up any moment, but if she does, she had a small respite.

 

“Clarke,” he breathes in her ear, his arms squeezing tighter at her word.

 

She isn’t sure how long they stand there. It feels infinite and like a passing second all the same. Before letting go, he all but lifts her in the air, breaking away as if it’s the most painful thing he’s done. Clarke stares at him, taking in his face.

 

Space had been kind to him. It took away the sharp edges, the cloud of guilt and pain that hovered over him with every passing day on the ground. He was softer and more open, his eyes searching her face, as if waiting for any sort of reaction.

 

“You’re here.” Is all she can manage.

 

Tears well in his eyes and he says, “Yeah,” roughly. “I’m here.” Before she can respond, he scoops her into an embrace once more. “You’re alive.”

 

Clarke blinks away a few tears. “Yeah,” she says, her voice cracking. “I’m alive.”

 

“And we’re chopped liver, APPARENTLY.” Someone shouts from behind them and Clarke breaks away to see Murphy jogging closer, cupping his hands around his mouth as he yells.

 

“Oh my god,” Clarke says, unable to stop herself from sprinting over to where he is, despite her body screaming at her that it’s such a bad idea. She all but launches herself at him, Murphy not surprised as he takes her weight. “Murphy.”

 

“What up, Clarke.” Murphy jokes in her hair. “I see you’ve survived the end of the world.”

 

She can’t help but smile at that, the gesture feeling so foreign on her face. “So did you.”

 

“Was that even a question?”

 

Clarke lets go of him, her chest seizing a bit. Raven, Monty, Harper, Emori, and Echo all step forward and she can’t help but start shaking even harder. Taking a few steps back, Clarke separates herself from all of them. She vaguely is aware there are tears streaming down her face and her entire body quivering. The sun is suddenly too bright and the earth too loud, but she can’t hear anything. Separating herself even more so from the group, Clarke can’t help but wrap her arms around herself, reminding herself that if this is a dream, not to get too attached.

 

Everyone’s staring at her as if she’s a feral animal, caught in a trap. A few people even have their hands up gently in her direction, as if they’re afraid they’ll scare her off. Honestly, they might. Because if she wakes up – if this all is nothing more than a pain-induced dream – she’s not going to make it. Her scotch-taped heart can’t take any more. If she wakes up in the hands of the Eligius crew, the ghosts of those she loved nothing more than distant memories, she’s fall to pieces for one final time.

 

Someone touches her elbow gently as she’s backing away from them, startling her. She realizes she’s been holding her breath the entire time and releases one, but it doesn’t seem like enough. Black spots pool around her eyes and the pain is back in full force. Exhaustion tingles on the edge of her skin and she realizes the gravity of everything that has happened.

 

So she goes through the list again of things that she knows to be true.

 

Her name is Clarke Griffin. She is twenty-four years old. She lived in Alpha Central on the Ark. Her parents are Jake and Abby Griffin. She was sent to see if the earth was habitable when she was seventeen. She was supposed to die in Praimfaya. She didn't.

 

Bellamy Blake has returned.

 

Glancing up, she sees him standing next to her, his eyes filled with concern.

 

Bellamy Blake has returned?

 

It’s the last thought she has before the pain is too much and succumbs into darkness.

 

***

 

When she wakes up this time, she’s entirely alone.

 

She can’t help it, a sob snakes up her throat. She knew it was nothing more than a dream. She hates that she was right. Since she’s alone and since she honestly doesn’t care what Eligius thinks, she barely tries to stifle them. Her hands quake at the edge of her lips as she uses her free one to wrap around her screaming ribs, sucking in excruciating breath after excruciating breath.

 

She’s alone.

 

Clarke barely registers she’s sitting on a concrete slab, machines beeping around her. Without thinking or connecting anything, she realizes strips are connected to her chest and she rips them off. Everything is so constricting.

 

Why wouldn’t the world just let her breathe?

 

Sobbing louder, Clarke leans over her legs until her forehead touches the cool concrete, giving her enough shock to stop the looming panic attack she knows she’s working herself toward. Her fingers claw against the cement, screaming that she shouldn’t be using them, but she doesn’t care. She wants to scream out to the world, “Do you hear me? I don’t care!”

 

Except she does care.

 

She cares that she’s alone. She cares that her friends were constantly ripped away from her. She cares that she’s on a precipice that she’s about to fall off of. The issue isn’t that she doesn’t care.

 

The issue is that she cares too much.

 

It’s almost daunting, how much she does. It’s how to destroy a person from the inside out. Praimfaya may have come for her body, but loneliness has come for her soul.

 

Vaguely, she hears a noise in the corner of the room and a pattering of footsteps, and the next thing she knows, someone’s at her front, cupping her face in their hands. It’s startling enough to work herself out of the panic, Clarke blinking several times to try and get the person into focus. Truthfully, she fully expects to see Shaw in front of her eyes, guilt hidden in the corners of his face for how he couldn’t betray his people for the morality of what’s right.

 

Except it isn’t Shaw.

 

Bellamy comes into view, filled with concern, regret, and a few other emotions that Clarke isn’t stable enough to work out. His hands are softer than she remembers, not callused with the use of a gun or sword, but gentle with peace. His thumb strokes against her cheek, catching a wayward tear before it can fall off her chin. Bringing her hand up, she holds his hand there, still unable to fully process the sight before her. “Bellamy?” Clarke asks again because it’s worth repeating.

 

“Clarke, this is real.” Bellamy says, as if reading her mind.

 

She can’t look at him. She can’t, because it’s playing like the last time they saw each other. The feeling in the pit of her stomach that she isn’t going to make it is back. The desperate need to say IloveyouIloveyouIloveyou is back in full force as it was that day, six years ago. To say it before there wasn’t anymore time. Before the death wave hit and she had nothing but ash to comfort herself with.

 

“You came back.” Clarke says, her voice strained against the metal still clasped around her neck. She can’t help the incredulity in her voice and watches as he recoils. “You’re here.”

 

Bellamy nods, opening his mouth, but unable to say anything. He doesn’t move his hands from her face when she drops hers, still stroking her cheek. “You’re okay, Clarke.” He says, more as a marvel than a statement. He says it as if he’s trying to convince himself of the fact, but isn’t entirely sure this is real either.

 

Without thinking – or caring – too much about the implication, Clarke leans in ever so slightly so their foreheads touch, reveling in the fact that even if this moment isn’t real, she gets it. She’s pick the pieces up at a later date, but she isn’t going to shy away from the closeness of someone she’s been waiting to arrive for six years. Bellamy doesn’t seem to mind, if anything, he pulls her closer, his free hand on her back.

 

Clarke tries not to cry – honestly, she really tries – but it’s too much. There’s too much going on. The bunker is released, Bellamy’s back, and she’s with them. She can’t help but weep at the sheer overwhelming nature of it all in the first safe space she’s had in six years. “I’ve missed you.” She says softly, her words cracking.

 

“Clarke, you have no idea.” Bellamy responds and she realizes he’s shaking as much as she is.

 

The two stare at each other for a moment. It’s not uncomfortable. It’s not even strange. It feels like seeing a picture you hadn’t in years, and rediscovering it. Relearning the laughter, the love. The past. Bellamy asks softly, “Clarke, how are you alive?”

 

The question takes her off guard so much, she chuckles. “Honestly? At this point, I think it’s pure spite.”

 

Bellamy chokes out a surprised laugh at that. “I never thought I’d say this, but Clarke?”

 

“Yeah?”

 

“Please never stop being spiteful.”

 

Clarke smiles, really smiles, at him. In this bubble, the world never ended. She was never doused in fire. They were never separated by an unkind universe.

 

There’s a gentle knock on the door and the two break apart. Not sharp and quick, like they’ve been found out. Because if the past six years has taught Clarke anything, it is to say the things you need to say. Be with the people you need to be with.

 

Because you never know when the world is going to end.

 

A head peeks through the door, a thick ponytail swishing behind. Clarke’s eyes widen. “Raven.” She breathes and the woman opens the door all the way.

 

Raven already has tears in her eyes as she enters the room. “I couldn’t let Murphy be the only one who gets a hello.” She tries to joke, but it’s filled with so much weight that Clarke doesn’t believe the teasing for a second.

 

Bellamy doesn’t move per se, but he shifts so he’s on the concrete with her, his hand gently resting next to hers as to not bother her raw fingernails. Every part he can touch is there; their legs, shoulders, hands. The strange thing about it is how it doesn’t feel strange – it doesn’t feel claustrophobic like the hundreds outside or the tiny cell. Instead it grounds her, helps her breathe easy.

 

Raven looks like she wants to sprint, but slowly approaches. Clarke winces. “Sorry,” she mutters softly. “I-I just didn’t…”

 

“Don’t be sorry, Clarke.” Raven says, reaching her. She pulls up a chair so the two are almost eye level. “You saved us.”

 

Clarke can’t help but shake her head slightly. “You saved everyone, Raven. You got them into space.” Raven lets out a rough laugh. Clarke frowns. “What?”

 

“I thought that six years would genuinely change everyone. But you haven’t changed a bit, Griffin.”

 

Clarke can’t help it, but a smile stretches across her face at that. “I suppose it’s true. Because I’d still choose you first.”

 

Raven’s expression softens at that, a few tears escaping. “And I’d choose you.” She responds, her voice husky.

 

The corner of her mouth quirks up and Clarke finally take a fulfilling breath. Nothing seems to be disappearing anytime soon and her pounding heartbeat starts to settle. Bringing up the hand not next to Bellamy up to her collar, Clarke says, “I see that tool bag in your hand. Does it mean you’re going to do something about this awesome new accessory I’m sporting?”

 

“Still sharp, I see.” Raven says, beaming.

 

Bellamy stiffens at her side and she can see his glare at the metal around her throat. With a frown, Clarke says, “You should probably scoot away for this, it’s a shock collar.”

 

“Yeah, no thanks. I’m fine here.” Is the brusque respond.

 

Clarke glances at Raven who gives her an exasperated look. Clarke can’t help but grin at the immediate settling back into her old friendship. She thinks about telling Bellamy, ‘No, you really need to get away so you aren’t electrocuted if something goes wrong’ but isn’t sure if that would be more offensive to Raven or Bellamy. Plus, secretly she wants him here.

 

Not so secretly.

 

Raven gets to work, the quiet tapping of her tools making Clarke a little on edge. She knows that even if something short circuited, it wouldn’t be nearly as painful as the actual usage of the collar, but she can’t help it. Sensing her slight panic, Bellamy hooks a finger under one of hers, careful to not touch the tips of her fingers. It’s a small gesture, but a kind one.

 

“Where’s Madi?” Clarke asks for something to say in the heavy silence.

 

Bellamy chuckles at her side. “She’s harassing Murphy as we speak.”

 

Clarke grins to herself. “That’s something I’d like to see.”

 

“Put them in a room with each other for more than two minutes and it’s a show in itself.” Bellamy says and she can hear the smile in his voice, even when she’s decidedly not looking at him. “She’s a spitfire, that one.”

 

“This may come as a shock to you, but I’m sure you’ve seen Madi at her most mellow.” Clarke responds.

 

Bellamy chuckles at her side. She can tell there are infinite questions he wants to ask, but it’s not the time. Not the time because Raven’s here and she’s in a collar and Clarke’s only moments from falling to pieces again.

 

“Have you seen my mom?” Clarke asks the next pressing question. Raven clicks her tongue at her, clearly insisting she stop talking, but there’s too much going on. But Clarke’s surprised her mother isn’t here. She’s finally together enough to see that she’s in the medical bay in the bunker, the medical equipment beeping around her.

 

Raven and Bellamy share a look that she can sense, it’s so strong. Furrowing her eyebrows, Clarke waits for someone to respond, anxiety creeping into her chest again. Bellamy clears his throat at her side. “Clarke, I think we need to talk—"

 

Raven’s hand must slip at her discomfort because suddenly electricity is coursing through her veins. In an instant, it’s gone. Bellamy startles at this, taking his hand off Clarke’s when the jolt is finishes, eyes wide. “Raven!” He all but shouts.

 

“Sorry!” She exclaims. “This tech is way more complicated than anything we had on the Ark.”

 

“It’s fine.” Clarke coughs, wincing and waiting for her vison to return to normal.

 

Bellamy is glaring at Raven with a look that is clear that he thinks it’s absolutely not fine, but Clarke rolls her eyes at him. “Are you going to scoot away now?”

 

If anything, he moves closer, smirking at her.

 

“You’re right, Raven. We haven’t changed all that much.” Clarke says flatly.

 

“Yeah, Bellamy’s still a child.” Raven states, going back to work.

 

Clarke frowns, wanting to look at Bellamy’s face, but forced to keep it straight ahead while Raven works. Bellamy was never great at hiding his emotions, which is why he was always so easy to talk to. “What do we need to talk about?”

 

Bellamy stills at her side. “We haven’t been able to find your mom, yet. Actually that was what we were planning on doing before you showed up.”

 

“Yeah, way to ruin our plans, Griffin.” Raven says teasingly. Clarke can’t help but smile at that.

 

“Okay,” Clarke says. “I mean, there’s over a thousand people in the bunker. It makes sense that you can’t find her right away.”

 

The silence is deafening.

 

Instinctually, Clarke turns to face Bellamy despite Raven’s protests, the metal collar pulling at her skin. He returns the stare, but it’s guilty. A guilt she doesn’t understand. “Bellamy,” she says slowly. “What’s going on?”

 

“Clarke!”

 

They’re pulled out of their reverie when Madi bursts through the door, running up to her. “Are you okay?”

 

Murphy stumbles in after her. “Clarke, we need to discuss your parenting skills because you have raised a feral beast.” He wheezes, putting his hands on his knees.

 

Clarke leans forward to hug the girl, but Raven yanks the hair on the back of her head. “No, stop it! Let me just focus for two seconds. Murphy, you were supposed to keep the visitor count low!”

 

“Um, why don’t we switch places? I’ll do the crazy technological rocket science and you prevent demon spawn Satan child from walking through this door. Because honestly? I think your job is easier!”

 

Madi giggles at that, flushing a bright red. Clarke can’t help but have her heart swell at it, watching Madi with the people she told endless stories about. Madi has the mischievous look in her eye that she would get right before Clarke knew she was about to walk into a prank, and she’s forever grateful that the preteen has now found a new source of her diabolical schemes.

 

As requested, Madi does remain a few paces away, but close enough for Clarke to know the moment Raven gives the go ahead, she’ll launch herself at Clarke again. Clarke can’t hide her smile and she doesn’t want to, watching Madi argue with Murphy as the two pace in the medical bay.

 

“Can we come in yet?” Someone calls from the hallway and Bellamy snorts at her side. Monty pokes his head in, beaming. “I haven’t been able to say hi to Clarke yet and I was the only one who followed the rules, I want to point out.”

 

“Oh my god, you are such a nerd.” Raven breathes and Clarke assumes this as much of an affirmative as she’ll ever get.

 

Monty, Harper, Emori, and Echo enter the medical bay and Clarke waits for the anxiety to hit. She waits to feel claustrophobic again. The amount of people has increased by so many, she knows she should be panicking. Except she’s not. Instead, she watches as Madi grins at them, flitting around between harassing Murphy to smiling at Monty and Harper.

 

“I want a buffer of three feet while I finish this.” Raven snaps from behind her head.

 

Monty steps up to Clarke, his eyes soft. “You okay, Clarke?”

 

“Never better.” Clarke states and he laughs. But somehow, it’s as if the entire group in the medical bay know it’s true. Honestly, in this moment of time, she doesn’t remember ever being better. She’s surrounded by the people she loves. Her eyes fall to where there’s a cloth around his arm. “What happened there?”

 

“You know. I came back to the ground.”

 

Clarke chuckles. “After this is all done, I could stitch that up for you.”

 

Monty makes a face. “Um…”

 

Peering at her hands where her fingernails are no more, Clarke winces. “Oh, right. I forgot.”

 

“Dude, how did you forget?” Murphy cries. “Do you remember that one time I had my fingernails ripped out by the Grounders?”

 

Clarke makes a face. “I don’t know how I feel about the fact that I’ve been slowly following in your footsteps.”

 

Raven snorts. “Hard same.”

 

“Whatever, you love it.” Murphy says, waving their comments aside. “All I could think about was how I no longer have fingernails. Like, wake up in the morning – boom, no fingernails. Get a drink of water – boom, no fingernails. We’re about to go to war – oh, that’s right. I still don’t have any fingernails!”

 

Clarke waits for the tirade to finish. “Anyway,”

 

The entire group of them – including Emori – bursts out laughing. “God, I missed you, Griffin,” Raven chuckles from behind her. “Very few people can shut Murphy down with just a single word.”

 

“The only reason I’m not eviscerating her with my words is that she’s in a shock collar and she has the Team Cockroach pass.”

 

Clarke laughs and everyone stops. Blinking, Clarke looks around. “What?”

 

No one responds right away. Then Murphy, being Murphy, says, “Dude, we never heard you laugh, even when we thought you were alive. And then we thought you were dead. For like, a long time. It’s hella weird.”

 

Clarke shifts uncomfortably. “Well… deal with it.”

 

Bellamy snorts at her side. “I think we can manage.”

 

“Good.” Clarke states, ignoring the tears that are returning.

 

“Don’t worry, Clarke,” Murphy says with a shrug. “They’ll all be dead soon. Not us, though, because we’re gonna live forever, assholes.”

 

Clarke nearly chokes on a laugh before turning back to Monty. “But my mom should look at that since I may need a few days for my hands to heal.”

 

“A few days,” Bellamy repeats at her side incredulously and Clarke knows they’re about to have some arguments soon. She can’t even dread them. If she was only able to argue with him forever, she’d take it, because then he’d be here.

 

Monty waves a hand from his healthy arm. “No big deal.”

 

“Yes big deal,” Harper says at his side. “Being shot is a big deal.”

 

“It really depends where.” Bellamy muses.

 

“Okay, you don’t get to say anything,” Clarke mentions. “Because you always ignored signals your body was telling you to stop.”

 

“Oo-kay,” Bellamy huffs at her side. “This is so much of the pot calling the kettle black—”

 

“Really didn’t take that long for your two to settle right back in, did it?” Murphy sighs, giving Clarke a wink.

 

Confused, Clarke asks, “What are you talking about?”

 

Madi glances at everyone around her. “He said earlier that the two of you need to get some—”

 

Before Madi can finish that sentence, Murphy wraps a hand around her mouth and pulls her closer. “Demon spawn!” he shouts and she all but collapses into giggles.

 

Eyes widening, Clarke watches the scene and now is grateful she can’t look at Bellamy because she knows that there is a blush on her cheeks that she would not be able to hide. She knows Bellamy is casting glares in his directions because Murphy has the decency to look sheepish, but she can’t be mad.

 

Except that gnawing in the back of her head is still there. No one has answered her question that she’s insisted multiple times. With a resolute inhale, Clarke asks once more, “Has anyone seen my mom?”

 

The silence falls again.

 

Bellamy clears his throat. “Clarke—”

 

“Clarke!”

 

With that one word, there’s an answer to her question. Clarke’s attention whips up when she hears the voice of the one person she’s been waiting for. Her mom bolts into the room, not stopping until her arms are wrapped around Clarke’s neck. “Oh, for the love of god,” Raven mutters when her tools clatter to the ground.

 

But Clarke doesn’t care. Instead she holds her mother tighter, nearly falling apart at the moment they touched. It’d been so long since she had her mom, that she doesn’t care that she’s still collared. She has her mother.

 

“Okay, I’m sorry to be that person, but I am so close. Give me two minutes and I swear, everyone can tackle Clarke to their hearts content.” Raven snaps.

 

Clarke puts a bloodied finger up. “Please don’t tackle me.”

 

That’s when Abby takes in the whole picture. She can see the concern on her mother’s face, her narrowed eyes taking in the cuts and bruises. Raven gets back to work, the noise the only thing filling the room. It gives Clarke a moment to really observe her mother.

 

She’s thin – impossibly thin for a woman who was already slender. There’s a sheen of sweat on her face and dark circles under her eyes. Clarke frowns at the sight of her. She looks like Clarke feels – held together by glue and endless promises of hope. “Mom,” Clarke starts and she tries to get answers from the rest of those in the medical bay, but no one is daring to catch her eye.

 

There’s a final clink and the collar falls off her neck. “Got it!” Raven exclaims.

 

Reaching up for her throat, Clarke winces at the raw skin, her hands coming back with the dusting of black blood. “Ow,” she says breathlessly. “Thanks, Raven.”

 

Raven hops off the observation table. “Don’t be stupid, Griffin.” She says, her ponytail flipping behind her. “You’re up, Abby.”

 

But when Abby moves, it’s halted and weak. Clarke finally is able to turn and face Bellamy, but doesn’t like what she finds there. “What’s going on?” Clarke demands.

 

Abby steps forward. “Let’s focus on you for a moment.”

 

And the panic taking hold of Clarke’s thoughts melts away. Her mom’s hands run down her head, clinically checking her hands and ribs, then the cuts on her legs. She methodically cleans everything and Clarke can’t help but close her eyes because someone else is here.

 

It’s selfish, she knows. The leader in her desperately wants to know what everyone is so anxious to hide from her, but the child who missed her mother wants to be in this moment completely. For the first time in six years, she doesn’t have to pretend everything’s alright.

 

When Abby starts to clean out where her fingernails once were, Clarke tries to hide the pain and decidedly fails. Bellamy reaches out and touches her arm, offering her a comforting smile. So she looks at him instead.

 

She doesn’t look at the raw skin where her nails used to be. She doesn’t look at the collar with a thin layer of black blood staining the inside. She doesn’t even look at those around her, all of whom who don’t leave even though they had every opportunity to do so. If anything, they move in closer, silently watching Abby diligently clean out Clarke’s wounds, flinching as she winces.

 

And she looks at him.

 

***

 

Bellamy likes to think that every crazy thing that had happened on earth was in a weird way, preparation for this moment.

 

He often dreamt about seeing Clarke again. Too often, if he’s being ruthlessly honest with himself. Sometimes, in the darker moments, he wonders if he made her up. That she really wasn’t who he thought she was, and he made her more than she was. To be frank, she was tough. Dark. Violent. Chaos wrapped in flesh that yearned for calm.

 

But as she stares at him, as if holding onto him like a life boat, he knows he didn’t. The thing he always forgot, though, is that she’s just a girl. A storm of a girl, but one nonetheless. As her mother cleans out her wounds, it’s painfully hard to realize.

 

Her eyes are pleading, as if to ask ‘what aren’t you telling me?’, but he can’t right now. He wants to give her a moment. A moment to be with them, be with her mother, before the world ends again. Bellamy can’t take back the past six years and he can’t take back the events of Praimfaya. But he can give her this time of solace, surrounded by her family and friends.

 

When she’s completely, Abby brings her hands up to Clarke’s face. Bellamy frowns at how they shake, not like anything he’s seen. He catches Raven’s eye and he can tell she’s thinking the same thing as him. But neither of them say anything. If anything, everyone turns away to give the mother and daughter a moment of privacy.

 

Clarke hops off the concrete table and marches to where Madi is, placing an arm around the kid’s shoulders. It seems to calm her in a way Bellamy has yet to see, Madi peering up and beaming at the woman before her. “So,” Clarke states in a very Clarke way – demanding, but gentle. “Now you guys are going to spill.”

 

Bellamy sighs. He knows that they wouldn’t be able to hide anything for long, but he genuinely wishes she wasn’t so damn perceptive. Clarke turns to her mom, gesturing to Monty. “Would you mind stitching his arm? He was shot.”

 

Abby’s eyebrows lift as Monty sheepishly moves forward, reaching out. “Of course,” she states. “As for you, please take it easy. You have a few bruised ribs, a mild concussion, and some wounds that’ll need to be cleaned daily.”

 

Clarke grins and Bellamy nearly laughs out loud with relief. “Sounds minor to me,” she says, turning Madi with her as they head for the door. “Walk and talk?” She asks.

 

It’s almost annoying how Bellamy simply jogs to catch up with her. He didn’t expect to ever see her again and now that he has, he’s stunned at how forcefully his feelings came back. It’s like having the wind knocked out of him in the worst way because he isn’t sure when he’s going to catch his breath again. He simply wants to be next to her, not let her go off without him. Never go where he can’t follow.

 

The only difference now is, she doesn’t seem to want to. There was always an edge to Clarke, a question if she would leave everyone. He knew she always had reasons to do so – good ones, even – but it happened so many times, it felt as if he was constantly waiting for her to disappear. Now, she leans into him, as if she wants to be as close to him as he does with her, and he welcomes it.

 

Madi peers up at the two of them. “I’m going to go talk to Raven. I haven’t been able to speak with her alone yet.” She says cheerfully, skipping behind them.

 

Bellamy almost laughs at how perceptive the preteen is, but then realizes, of course she is. She’s Clarke’s. Peering over his should, Bellamy moves close enough so the two are touching shoulders. “She’s really something else.” He comments.

 

“Yeah,” Clarke says wistfully. “Wait until she’s against you, though. You’ve never seen someone so fierce.”

 

“She threatened to stab Murphy.”

 

Clarke makes a thoughtful face. “To be fair, so did you.”

 

Bellamy does actually laugh at that. “Probably why I like her so much.”

 

Clarke smiles to herself. It falters though, and she says, “Okay Bellamy.”

 

She doesn’t even need to answer the question, because he knows. Casting a look at Raven and the rest of Spacekru behind him, he nods and they stop in their tracks. Wonkru had been topside of the bunker since Clarke fainted, breathing in fresh air and ignoring the horrors of the past six years. He leads her through the maze of the bunker, until they get to the fighting pit.

 

Clarke gasps.

 

She moves away from him, the warmth from her proximity gone in an instant. Stepping into the arena, he watches as she takes in the blood staining the floor, the chain-link fence wrapping around the second level. There’s still a few knives scattered on the ground that they forgot to clean up when Spacekru interrupted them, wet with blood. He doesn’t move. Instead, he waits for Clarke to take it all in.

 

When she finally turns back around, her eyes are wet with tears. She doesn’t say anything, but doesn’t need to. Instead, her expression asks everything that needs to be asked. Feeling as if there’s a weight on his chest, Bellamy nods his head slightly and her tears fall.

 

Crouching down, Clarke reaches out and holds one of the knives in her palm, eyes wide. “What did they do?” Clarke asks in a whisper, even though no one is around to hear it. He hears the heartbreak in her voice that matches the one in his chest. “Why?”

 

Bellamy doesn’t know how to answer that. Because he doesn’t know the answer. He can’t even bring himself to say it isn’t ‘they,’ but ‘she.’ “Only eight hundred made it, Clarke.”

 

Clarke’s gaze whips up at him. “What?” She breathes.

 

Bellamy doesn’t know how to hide the shame he felt for it. The Red Queen on her throne, passing judgment on those beneath her.

 

Blinking away a few tears, Clarke scrubs them with the back of her hand. She’s trembling again in the way that makes Bellamy nervous, like she may fall to pieces at any second. And why shouldn’t she? She’s felt the world end in her bones and now been brought to the gates of hell.

 

It’s clear that Clarke wants to ask one last thing, but is holding back. So he knows what it is. He nods, indicating it’s alright. Biting her lip, Clarke asks, “Octavia?”

 

He lifts his gaze up to where the throne made of wire and bones is. Clarke follows it, a small gasp escaping her lips when she finds it. Holding the knife close to her chest, Clarke closes her eyes, the tears finally falling. “We had an opportunity to be so much better.” She says quietly.

 

This snaps Bellamy out of his own guilty-fueled stupor. Striding over to where she is, he places a hand on her shoulder. “We will, Clarke.” He states. “We’ll figure it out, like we always do.”

 

“Aren’t you tired of moving from one war to the next?” Clarke asks. “Do you think the human race will ever tire of fighting each other?”

 

“The human race has got you for that.” Bellamy says with a small smile. “I’ve got you for that.”

 

Clarke laughs. “I really missed you, Bellamy.”

 

“Yeah,” Bellamy says, breathing easy for the first time in what feels like six years. “I’ve been totally fine.”

 

That causes her to laugh, which seems like a feat in such a dark place. Bellamy decides in this moment, he’s no longer going to keep himself at a distance. He’s had six years of distance. So, he places an arm around Clarke and pulls her close, the two of them gazing at Blodreina’s throne. “Your sister is terrifying.” Clarke says, leaning even closer and Bellamy has to ignore the way that makes him feel.

 

“Good thing we’re here.”

 

“We’re such messes, Bellamy.” Clarke chuckles.

 

“True.”

 

“Clarke, Bellamy.”

 

The two turn at the quiet command, startling to see Indra standing before them. Unlike most of those he’s seen, Indra has come out relatively unscathed. She’s older, but underneath the years, it’s still Indra. Clarke clearly feels the same way he does, because both don’t seem to know what to do. “It’s good to see you again,” she says, closing the gap between them.

 

Bellamy almost mutters out “it is?”, but fortunately, he’s not that much of an idiot. Instead, he says, “You too, Indra.”

 

Clarke merely nods.

 

“Your sister has requested both of your presences in the war room.” Indra states and Clarke stills at his side. He resist the urge of flat out refusing and finding the rest of his family. Except, he can’t deny that Octavia is his family and he has to try. He has to.

 

Nodding slightly, Bellamy allows Indra to lead them through the bunker. When they reach the war room, he feels Clarke hesitate at his side. He understands. They’ve seen too much war. They’ve experienced it for too many years. Wonkru may have been content fighting each other, but they both have lived the past six years with a non-violent existence. And both have learned that it’s something worth protecting.

 

“Welcome back, big brother.” Octavia states at the head of the table, red paint covering her forehead. He clenches his jaw at the cold words that seem so foreign to come from his sister. “I’m glad you could join us.”

 

Bellamy resists the urge to comment that they really didn’t have an option.

 

Clarke stays close to him, eyeing everyone at the table. She’s stoic and calm, simply taking in the entire scene. In her hands still is the knife from the arena, which Octavia eyes, so she sets it down on the table as if it burned her.

 

“I bet you can guess why you’re here.” Octavia starts, her attention turning to Clarke.

 

Clarke still doesn’t respond.

 

“You’ve been with the newcomers and have lived on the planet for six years.” Octavia continues. When Clarke doesn’t respond, Bellamy can sense her frustration and lack of patience. It almost makes him proud, honestly. “And now that you’re here, we need to discuss what you’ve experienced.”

 

Clarke narrows her eyes. After a few beats, she asks cautiously, “And what, may I ask, do you plan on doing with that information?”

 

If Octavia was expecting anything, it clearly isn’t this response. She frowns at the question, leaning onto the table for support as she gets closer to Clarke. “What do you mean?”

 

“I thought I was clear.” Clarke says, her expression resolute. It worries Bellamy a bit, watching her stone-faced toward her sister. He’s seen Clarke and Octavia at odds before, but not like this. Not when Clarke isn’t in charge. Because there’s a difference.

 

He never questioned whether Clarke would use her power to destroy Octavia – she wouldn’t. The closest she came was TonDC, which was something he struggled endlessly with, mainly because it was the ruthless strategy that made Clarke such a force. But she would never use her power to hurt Octavia intentionally. But would he trust Octavia not to use her power to singlehandedly destroy Clarke?

 

“What do you think we’re going to do with that information?” Octavia seethes. “They took the only livable area on earth – they took your home. Don’t you want it back?”

 

“Of course I do,” Clarke states. “But I doubt it’ll feel like home if we bathe it in blood.”

 

Bellamy stills. He often wondered what surviving the end of the world would do to a person. Honestly, he thought it would drive Clarke to madness, but instead created something fiercer.

 

“Excuse me?” Octavia seethes, her voice low and venomous. “You must not be hearing me correctly. I am telling you to give me information needed to take down the enemy in the valley.”

 

Clarke doesn’t waver. “You want to go to war the moment you breathe fresh air?” She asks. “Or is it because you tiring of warring amongst yourselves?”

 

The air runs cold the moment the words are out of her mouth. Bellamy watches Octavia reach for the blade at her side, only to stop when she catches her gaze. “You want to tread carefully, Clarke.” Octavia says. “I know it’s hard for you, but you’re not in charge anymore.”

 

“I have no desire to be.” Clarke responds. “But I will not give you information to slaughter more people on this earth. The valley is big enough to share.”

 

“They just tortured you!” Octavia snaps. “They stole your home! And you want to share?”

 

“You want to send your people to war after losing so many?” Clarke asks. “People will die if you storm the valley.”

 

“Acceptable losses for what’s at stake.”

 

Bellamy’s head whips up. “Acceptable losses?” He repeats, unable to fathom the conversation they’re having right now.

 

“Every war comes with a price, Bellamy.” Octavia says.

 

“It’s too high a price.” Clarke states calmly, but clearly aware of all the hands going to their weapons around her. Bellamy steps closer to her, knowing there’s nothing he can do if Octavia gives the word. He doesn’t know how they’ve gotten to this moment.

 

“Clarke.” Octavia states. “I’m going to ask one more time.”

 

“And my answer will still be no.” Clarke responds, her stare not wavering. “I will not give you information to massacre people when we haven’t even tried to make peace.”

 

“Then—”

 

“You can torture me all you want, Octavia.” Clarke holds up her bandaged hands and gestures to her throat. “But I do not break, despite best efforts.”

 

“I would be careful, Clarke.” Octavia says, straightening. “Someone might question whose side you’re on.”

 

“While someone might question what’s best for your people, as opposed what’s best for you.”

 

Bellamy wants to place himself between the two, but instead is forced to watch the two unmoving before him. Clarke tilts her head up before taking a breath. Turning around, she moves to leave the war room, the members of Wonkru startling around them. Bellamy follows, surprised at her indifference of Octavia’s wrath.

 

“Be careful, Octavia.” Clarke says as she leaves. “If you continue to fight the monsters around you, you may be better off looking in a mirror.”

 

The air quiets. Clarke moves forward, not even turning to see the reaction. Except Bellamy can’t help but give one last glance to his baby sister. She’s leaning over the war table, her face doused in red and her eyes full of fire. Her army flanks her and he sees the lethal thoughts coursing through her mind. The question hits him again.

 

If the tables were reversed, would Octavia use her power to singlehandedly destroy Clarke?

 

After looking into her eyes, Bellamy has the answer.

 

Yes. Yes, she would.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SIX

 

Clarke isn’t sure how it happened, but her tent is filled with Spacekru.

 

When the evening came, she grabbed her tent and Madi, wishing everyone goodnight. Except then everyone started following her. Clarke kept gazing behind her shoulder, waiting for everyone to fork off and go wherever they planned to sleep for the night. But then Harper stood next to her, helping her pitch her side of the tent. Then Emori and Raven stretches the top so it connects to theirs, the tent growing four times its size. Murphy claps her on the back when it’s done, playfully shoving Madi inside with a laugh.

 

“Ready for bed?” Bellamy asks, stepping up next to her with a smile.

 

Clarke can’t help but stare at him incredulously, unable to will herself to move forward. What is she supposed to do? Bellamy places a hand gently on her back. “Are you okay?” Bellamy asks, his eyebrows pulling down.

 

Nodding distantly, she pulls away from Bellamy’s touch and heads inside the tent. Everyone’s rolling out their mats, Madi over with Raven chatting cheerfully as she asks if they can sleep next to each other. Everyone passes blankets amongst themselves, chatting cheerfully and closely with one another. Clarke feels like she’s stepping into something intimate, something she shouldn’t be seeing. A hand rests on the small of her back and Clarke flinches, her eyes wide. Bellamy looks even more concerned as she stands there and Clarke shakes her head. “Where am I sleeping?” She asks, pulling away from him.

 

“By me and Raven!” Madi exclaims from the corner and Raven places her hands up confidently.

 

“I stole us the extra pillow at from Murphy.” Raven states, flipping him off. “You gotta sleep with us. It’ll be the most comfortable.”

 

“Well, if I have to,” Clarke says with a stifled laugh, reaching out to Madi, pulling her into a hug. “I suppose I could.”

 

“Like there’s any other option.” Raven says, flipping her hair. She gives Clarke a softer look when she doesn’t immediately walk over. “It’s really good to have you back.”

 

Clarke honestly isn’t sure how to respond. She knows what everyone’s looking for, she knows what they’re expecting, but for those she considered her closest family, she doesn’t know where she fits now. For the longest time, she thought they were all pieces in a larger puzzle, but she never knew that it was a picture she didn’t fit in.

 

Laying down next to Madi, Clarke raises her gaze to the ceiling. She listens as everyone speaks around her, arguing over how they are sleeping. “Come on, Monty!” Murphy exclaims. “I told you this three years ago and I’m telling you this now, I don’t want your ass anywhere near mine!”

 

“You were lying then and you are lying now!” Monty snaps.

 

Madi giggles at her side, but Clarke can’t help the ache in her chest as she listens to everyone. “If you guys argue this entire evening, I’m kicking you both outside.” Echo drawls from the corner. “I can’t sequester myself in a room anymore.”

 

“Can’t we just kick them out now?” Bellamy asks as he settles next to Clarke without even a hesitation. Clarke stiffens at this, but it’s like he doesn’t even care. Before she can argue, his shoulder is touching hers. He scoots away so they’re no longer touching, but she’s very aware how close their heads are.

 

“I second this.” Raven says, raising her hand.

 

Madi laughs, raising hers as well. “Are you kidding me, Gizmo?” Murphy snaps at Madi. “After everything we’ve been through?”

 

“You’re so weird.” Madi giggles, laying her head against Clarke’s shoulder. Clarke hugs her close, trying to fill her mind with sounds of the forest instead of the voices of Spacekru. “This is so cool, Clarke.” Madi whispers to her, raising her head. “Just like you said it’d be.”

 

Clarke winces at that. The members at Spacekru quiet at that, Clarke refusing to keep eye contact with them. “If you kick me out, I will become violent.” Murphy says, the heat in his voice gone.

 

“You are violent every day of every year.” Raven says.

 

“Then I’m already half way there!” He cries.

 

Clarke can’t help but smile to herself. She wonders absently if this is what it’d be like if she had made it on the ship in time. Holding Madi closer, Clarke reminds herself not to dwell. Things worked out the way they should.

 

Bellamy turns his head in her direction as she stares at the ceiling. “You get used to the noise after a while.” He says quietly with a smile.

 

Clarke grins at him. “Doesn’t get quieter?”

 

“I don’t want to lie to you.” Bellamy states.

 

His dark eyes stare at her and she tells herself she needs to look away. Except he hasn’t been there. He hasn’t been in her life for six years. She has to remind herself that. Except he seems so determined to be next to her at all times, she doesn’t know what to do.

 

So she stares at the ceiling of the tent.

 

Everyone slowly drifts off, snoring and heavy breathing surrounding her. Clarke can’t handle all the noise, it feels like an overwhelming fog suffocating her. Once she’s confident everyone’s asleep, she pulls out her arm from underneath Madi’s unconscious frame, and carefully hoists herself out of bed. Clarke takes a moment to look at the scene before her.

 

Harper’s tucked under Monty’s arms, his injured bicep resting on top of her. Echo’s tucked in the corner, but hovering close to Raven, who has placed an arm behind her back so their fingers are touching. Murphy and Emori are tangled up on one another, but Murphy is close to where Bellamy is. They’re all so close, Clarke isn’t sure how to handle it. Her eyes water at the sight of it, and suddenly all she can see is the rocket taking off as the world burns.

 

She leaves.

 

Pushing her way through the flaps of the tent, Clarke exits and takes a breath of the dusty Polis air. It’s the stillness she’s grown to be fond of – not a single soul in sight. Octavia demanded Wonkru stay in the bunker, even though her people longed for nights under the stars. There’s no people out in the streets. Clarke walks among the destruction, feeling her heart settle.

 

Lifting her gaze to the skies, Clarke watches the stars like she used to do every night. Except, for the first time, there isn’t the Ark. She can’t see the bright spot orbiting the earth, like she used.

 

“Different view than I’m used to.”

 

Clarke nearly jumps out of her skin at the voice, whirling around to see Bellamy awkwardly approaching her. He lifts a hand, waving in an odd way that makes Clarke even more uncomfortable. But she feels slightly better because it’s exactly as she feels. “It feels different to me too.” Clarke says softly, offering him a small smile.

 

Bellamy moves closer, almost wincing when he says, “Do you want to go for a walk?”

 

Clarke thinks about this for a moment. She tells herself that it’s a bad idea. She wants to be alone – like she’s always been. But what comes out of her mouth is, “Yeah. I do.”

 

The two of them walk in silence for a while, listening to the wind run through the ruined buildings. Every once and a while, she sees Bellamy shut his eyes and breathe in. She can’t help but grin at that, watching the tension melt from his shoulders as he does so.

 

“We weren’t able to really talk, with everything.” Bellamy starts after a few minutes of walking around Polis. “I was hoping we’d get an opportunity.” He shoves his hands in his pockets. “Man, I don’t even know where to start.”

 

Clarke places a gentle hand on his forearm. “I get that. It’s alright.” She says. “When I don’t know where to start, I choose the beginning.”

 

“Of course you would quote Alice in Wonderland to me, because of course.” Bellamy scratches the back of his neck. “I’m trying to figure out how to talk to you and I don’t know what to say.” He says. “Sorry, after six years in space, I kinda got used to just saying what I think. When there’s only a few people in a space for years, you realize there’s no point in not saying what you need to.”

 

She wants to respond likewise, but finds that the words aren’t coming. “It sounds nice.” Clarke says, panicking. “It sounds like space has been good for you.”

 

Bellamy flinches at that. “I think so.”

 

“I’m glad.” Clarke says, as genuine as she can. “I’m so glad you’ve found peace in space. After everything that happened on earth…” Clarke takes a breath and prepares herself to look at him. She reminds herself this is what she wanted for years. This is what she held onto when there was nothing else. “You deserve it.”

 

“And you don’t?” Bellamy asks before she can even react. “Clarke, are you okay?”

 

Clarke opens her mouth to respond, but finds herself hesitating. “It’s just been a lot. For the past couple days.”

 

Bellamy chuckles. “That’s an understatement.”

 

“I suppose it is.” Clarke says, mainly to herself. “How are you? You’re back on the ground for the first time in six years.” Clarke bites her lip, throwing caution in to the wind before saying, “What took so long?”

 

Bellamy peers at her, clearly trying to decipher how accusatory the question is. She doesn’t mean it to be, but there is an edge to her voice that she can’t mask out. “We couldn’t lock onto to anything in order to get down safety. Raven was doing everything she could, but there was nothing any of us could do. It isn’t until we locked on someone trying to send a radio message was she able to.”

 

Clarke grows cold. “You heard the radio messages?”

 

“Messages?” Bellamy asks, his eyebrows pulling down. “There were more than one?”

 

“I’d, uh, tried to reach out a few times. After the five year mark.” Clarke lies. “With some supplies I scavenged for.”

 

“So it was you.” Bellamy laughs. “I should’ve known.”

 

“Yup, can’t get me out of your hair.” Clarke says uncomfortably, instantly regretting bringing up the topic. All she wants to do is run away from him before she can reveal anything too embarrassing.

 

“Trust me, I don’t want to.” Bellamy answers.

 

The two of them walk among the moonlight, Clarke trying to have the coolness of the earth calm her down. Except every part of her body feels on fire again, like they are at the end of the world. She doesn't know how to move forward. A part of her doesn't want to connect with him at all, because the worst part about love is when a person fills the cold spaces within you and they simply... leave. But the other, louder part of herself tells her that it's been six years. Not only without the person she loves, but her best friend.

 

She needs her best friend.

 

So, Clarke takes a breath, reminds herself of the facts she knows to be true, and smiles at Bellamy without any hesitation. "I'm really glad you're back."

 

Her honesty must startle him because he actually flinches as if she touched him. With a soft voice she can barely hear, he asks, "Really?"

 

She almost aches at the surprise. "I mean, I'm sorry that you're back and suddenly there's a threat, but I'm glad you're here. Selfishly."

 

"I'm really glad you're here, Clarke." Bellamy says earnestly. "I honestly can't believe it. I keep thinking I'm going to wake up." 

 

"Me too." Clarke shrugs. "I'm fairly certain this is a concussion talking."

 

"If that's the case, we've both ended up in a weird alternate reality."

 

"That's your first guess?" Clarke laughs. "Out of all the options, we're in a weird alternate reality."

 

"No," Bellamy chuckles. "I genuinely think this is happening: that is option one. Option two is weird alternate reality. You're surprised after AIs embed things in people's spines?"

"True," Clarke respond thoughtfully. "Maybe that's a benefit of Wonkru - after everything, maybe that AI thing is over."

 

Bellamy doesn't respond right away. He looks to the ground at that, his eyes distant as if he's staring in the bunker. "Bellamy, it's okay." She says gently. "Octavia will be okay."

 

"Will she, though?" Bellamy asks. "We learned about this kind of behavior on the Ark, Clarke. About how destructive it is. And you didn't see the fighting pits. She was having her own people kill each other for sport."

 

Clarke bites her lip. Sure, she didn't see it, but had enough people describe it to her so that she never wanted to. "People get lost sometimes, Bellamy." She settles on. "You and I know that more than most." Bellamy makes a noncommittal noise, so Clarke presses on. "We found our way out of that, remember?"

 

"You and Octavia were never close. I doubt you'll be able to pull her out." Bellamy mumbles.

 

That almost makes Clarke laugh. "I'm not talking about me, I'm obviously talking about you." When he startles, Clarke shakes her head. "You should try to be a bit kinder to yourself. You got me through many dark times on the ground. And she's your sister. If anyone can reach her, it's you."

 

Bellamy avoids her gaze. "It's not just that. I knew being locked underground for years would be difficult after how she was brought up, but I thought I'd be there with her. Maybe I could've prevented this, maybe I could've--"

 

"Bellamy, stop." Clarke states. With a rush of confidence she doesn't know where it came from, she places a hand on the side of his face. "You have to stop taking the weight of the world. You can't control what Octavia does - you never have been able to do that. You can only guide."

 

"This seems like advice you should take." Bellamy drawls, but he doesn't pull away.

 

"Who knows, I may be wonderfully stable now." Clarke jokes. "I've had six years."

 

"Yeah, you have." Bellamy utters, the playful tone gone. "How - how did you survive on earth for six years?"

 

"Nightblood." Clarke says too quickly to ever be believed as casual. "You knew that."

 

"You know what I meant, Clarke."

 

She does. In fact, she knows exactly what he means to the point where everything hurts. She thinks of the days she waited for him to return - for everyone to return - and how each morning, she decided that she would still have hope.

 

"I had Madi with me." Clarke says after a while. "I wasn't entirely alone."

 

Bellamy frowns at this, clearly not the answer he was looking for. But honestly? She can't give him what he's looking for. She can't say the words out loud because once she starts, she knows it'll be too much. "Clarke—"

 

"Stop taking the weight of the world, Bellamy." She repeats. "Sometimes you have to move forward."

 

He doesn't respond to that. The two finish their walk in a companionable silence, Clarke trying not to think too much about how close he is. She will always implore him to give up the weight of the world.

 

She bares it, so they don't have to.

 

***

 

"How is this so understocked?" Murphy complains from the corner, currently sitting on a counter and not helping in the slightest. "You'd think between all the murder and internal crimes, they'd have nothing better to do than make sure their medical bay is prepared."

 

Clarke throws him an unimpressed look as she rebandages Monty's arm, cleaning away specks of blood from his skin. He winces as she does so, Clarke finally able to look at the stitches. They're wonky and uneven, clearly pulling at his skin in a way that will leave a very noticeable scar. "My mother did this?" She asks Monty, frowning at the job. Monty nods. "That's weird, this looks nothing like her work."

 

Monty makes a face. "Her hands were shaking the whole time. I-I mean, I know they're probably vitamin deficient, but it was a little painful."

 

Before Clarke can even consider a response, there's a crash at the other end of the room. Murphy's on the floor with Jackson smirking in his direction. "Why don't you do something useful and help us restock?" Jackson asks. "Instead of taking up bed space?"

 

"Yeah, because they're all being used." Murphy drawls. "And how would I even know what to grab?"

 

"I'll go with him." Clarke sighs. "I'm finished here." She pats Monty on the back and gives him an encouraging smile. "You have to use the sling for a week. I'm telling Harper too, so she keeps you accountable." 

 

Monty makes a face at that. "Fine."

 

"Come on, Murphy." Clarke says. "Where should we go to find supplies?"

 

"Down the hall, take a left, then a right, and it's the third door." Jackson says. "We really could've used you the past six years, Clarke. In a lot of ways."

 

Clarke doesn't know how to respond to that, so she merely offers him a pained smile, grabs Murphy's arm, and drags him out of the room. "You are on earth for a day and already causing trouble." She hisses, only letting go of him when they're past the door.

 

"At least I'm not murdering people anymore."

 

"You need higher goals." Clarke says, but she can't help but laugh at that.

 

Once she breaks, Murphy beams at her and wraps an arm around her shoulders. "How the hell are ya, Clarke? Compartmentalizing all your feelings, yet?"

 

"Murphy—"

 

"What? I just tell it like I see it. I can physically see you shrinking." He shrinks so his chin touches his chest to demonstrate. "I'd like to call this move 'The Griffin.'"

 

"So, you haven't changed."

 

"I'd like to think I updated the hairstyle a bit, thanks for not noticing."

 

Clarke rolls her eyes at him. "Good to have you back, Murphy."

 

"You have no idea how many times I was watching movies on the Ark and I thought of you." Murphy says, gesturing wildly. "There are so many movies out there, I can’t believe they hid them from us! It’s a crime, really. Once we get everyone settled, figure out how we can connect to the Ark again, I'm gonna make Raven find a way to get them down here. Then we're having a movie day. I set aside the ones I thought you'd like."

 

"What?" Clarke asks. "Didn't you think I was dead?"

 

Murphy freezes, suddenly very sheepish. “Uh, yes.”

 

“Why do you have movies set aside for me?”

 

Murphy makes a face. “Okay, what I’m about to say, you’re going to confuse with sentiment and I want to make sure we’re clear that I am not a sentimental person.”

 

“Right.” Clarke has to suppress a giggle. “You’re a cockroach.”

 

“Exactly! I am the underside of the world!” Murphy exclaims, but when he realizes she’s teasing him, he shoves her. “Okay, if you make fun of me, I’m not telling you this story.”

 

“Cross my heart, hope to die.”

 

“Clarke, you of all people should not be ‘hoping to die,’ it’s like asking the earth to murder you.”

 

“Haven’t died yet.”

 

“That’s why you’re on Team Cockroach.” Murphy says smugly. “So. Whenever I watched a movie that I thought you’d like, I set it in a separate folder to watch when I was missing you. Okay? Okay. We must never speak of this again.”

 

He marches forward, quickly picking up the pace so Clarke has to jog to catch up. She knows not to say this out loud, but she’s touched by the thought. So, she merely gives him a side-hug as they maneuver around the bunker, refusing to let go until he finally shakes her off and goes, “Please stop immediately.”

 

She does, but not without giving him a genuine smile. “Thanks Murphy.”

 

“Thank you for staying alive.” He returns.

 

They reach the supply closet almost awkwardly, as if they had given each other undying love confessions. Then again, Clarke supposes they had in their own way. As much as the two of them could. Clarke opens the door and sees the meager supplies and sighs. “We may as well take everything we can carry. I have some stuff in the valley, but that’ll have to remain on hold.”

 

“Sheesh, Clarke. Why didn’t you singlehandedly defeat a new army? And you call yourself Wanheda.”

 

“I never called myself that.” Clarke says, grabbing some cloth. “And I never liked the name.”

 

“Nah, I didn’t think you would.” Murphy says. “Someone so interested in saving lives must hate being the commander of taking them.”

 

“Got it in one,” Clarke mutters.

 

A clanging sound resounds to their left and Clarke looks a Murphy. He merely shrugs, grabbing a few more supplies once the silence returns. Then, a muffled shouting emits through the walls and Clarke sets the supplies back in the closet. “Clarke, what are you doing?” Murphy exclaims, hastily setting his down as well. “We shouldn’t be going to the suspicious noise.”

 

“Come on Murphy. It sounds like someone needs help.”

 

“Someone always needs help. We can’t just be always giving help – oh my god, you’re opening the door. Why are you opening the door? Clarke, have you learned nothing at the end of the world!”

 

Clarke rolls her eyes, approaching the door that the noise came from. Pressing her ear against it, she hears faint, muffled yelling from behind, combined with a painful scraping of metal. She frowns, placing her hand on the doorknob. When it opens freely, the wall of noise barrels against them.

 

Shouting, screaming, pleading, and incoherent growling echoes in the room, chains clinking like a symphony. “Oh my god,” Clarke breathes, placing her hand over her mouth and nose because nothing compares to the smell. It’s rotten and foul, the stench of old blood and rotting bodies dripping from every piece of cement. She walks in, greeted by rows of cells and fencing, desperate hands reaching out to try and grab her.

 

Peering inside, Clarke sees huddle forms, covered in blood and feces. They scramble to the edge of the cells when they catch sight of her, their hands reaching out desperately. Nothing they say makes any sense – it’s not English or Trigedasleng, but rather incoherent ravings and noise. Murphy shuffles close to her, placing a hand on her shoulder. “Clarke, we shouldn’t be here.”

 

“Why not?” Clarke hisses back. “Their keeping their sick in cages.”

 

“I don’t think they have anything wrong with their bodies!”

 

“You can be sick in the head, Murphy! The brain is an organ!” Clarke is unable to mask the disgust in her voice.

 

She watches the people moan and beg as she passes, the stench almost unbearable. When she reaches the end of the cells, she sees a girl in a cage all by herself. She can’t be more than sixteen or seventeen, her hair knotted and matted, reminding Clarke of Madi’s when she first found the child. She’s screaming, her hands covering her face as she does so. It’s an awful sound, worse than nails on glass, but just as visceral. When Clarke sees the beginning of blood trails down the girl’s face, she instinctually sprints to where the keys are hanging on the wall, unlocks the door, and rushes inside.

 

“Clarke, what the actual fuck are you doing?” Murphy cries. “Get out of there!”

 

“She’s hurting herself!”

 

Clarke knees in front of the girl, gingerly placing a hand on the girl’s fingers. At the touch, the girl flinches and leaps so violently, Clarke almost takes a fist to the face. Except when she doesn’t attack, but simply recoils to the corner of the cell, Clarke takes a breath. “It’s okay. I’m not here to hurt you. I’m here to help you.”

 

The girl doesn’t unclench from the ball she’s wrapped herself in, pressing herself further into the stone wall. Clarke attempts to touch her again, this time the reaction not quite as violent. When the girl doesn’t attack, Clarke gently takes her hands away from her face, trying not to react to the lines of broken skin caused by her own fingernails. “You’re okay,” Clarke says breathlessly. “You’re okay.”

 

The girl whimpers. “Wanheda.” She chokes.

 

Clarke bristles at the name, but shakes it off as best she can. “You can call me Clarke.”

 

“Okay Clarke, we need to go—”

 

The moment Murphy enters the cell and places a hand on Clarke’s shoulder, the girl switches. Her eyes snap to something that can only be described as fury, leaping at him. Before Clarke or Murphy can do anything, she sinks her teeth into his exposed forearm. Murphy bellows, swinging at her hard enough to get her to detach and crumble.

 

“Murphy!” Clarke exclaims, rushing to him. “Are you okay?”

 

“Am I okay?” Murphy yells. “She bit me! I told you we needed to leave, I said that we shouldn’t be here—”

 

“No, you shouldn’t.”

 

The two of them startle when Octavia stands at the entrance of the cell, her dark eyes menacing. All of the people clawing to get out of the cells only moment before have retreated back into the darkness. The girl, lips now dribbled with Murphy’s blood, scrambles back to her corner, eyes wide.

 

“What is going on, Octavia?” Clarke snaps, jumping to her feet. “Why do you have your people chained up?”

 

“You can’t expect to stick twelve hundred people underground and not have a few lose their minds, can you Clarke?” Octavia states evenly. “They’re a danger to themselves and to others.”

 

“But this?” Clarke cries, gesturing to the filthy cells and chains. “This isn’t keeping your people safe, this is keeping them contained.”

 

“Sometimes that means the same thing.” Octavia returns.

 

Clarke doesn’t even know how to respond. She sees no light of the young girl she once knew. The first of Skaikru off the ship. She knows how circumstance can change who you are, but the cruelty and iciness of her exterior makes her unrecognizable.

 

“You have to let them outside.” Clarke demands, gesturing at the girl.

 

“Absolutely not.”

 

“I gotta say I can’t believe I’m saying this, Clarke,” Murphy says, holding his bleeding forearm. “But I gotta agree with Octavia. They are dangerous.” When Octavia smiles at him, he makes a face. “Whatever, I still think you’re insane.”

 

Clarke snaps, “You can’t deprive them of seeing the sun again! You can’t keep them in cells down here and treat them like animals! Worse than animal! It’s inhumane! Disgusting!”

 

Octavia lifts an eyebrow. Clarke isn’t sure how she’ll react and honestly, after their confrontation in the war room, she wouldn’t be surprised if Octavia chose to locker her up with them. Which makes it all the more surprising when she says, “Okay.”

 

Clarke is certain she misheard. “Okay?”

 

“Take her topside. Let her see the sun. If you want to risk your life for a deranged lunatic, be my guest.”

 

Clarke nods. Before she can even lay a hand on the girl, Murphy reaches out. “Clarke, no! Can’t you see she’s setting you up?” He whispers. “Whatever is going to happen, it won’t be in your favor?”

 

“That may be so, Murphy.” Clarke says. “But I’m not going to just turn my back on them. Not when they’ve been chained up for who knows how long.”

 

Ripping out of Murphy’s grasp, Clarke moves slowly toward the girl. “It’s okay,” she says. “I’m here to help.

 

Carefully unlocking her from the wall, Clarke moves to unchain her hands. “Please,” Murphy states, stopping her. “Leave the handcuffs on. For me. Just until we know it’s safe.”

 

Clarke hesitates. Then, after a moment, she gives in. Nodding, Clarke hoists the girl to her feet. She stumbles, eyes wide at Octavia. “Don’t worry, I’ve got you.” Clarke murmurs, carefully maneuvering her out of the room.

 

It’s a tough journey out of the bunker with a girl whose legs barely work, but Clarke manages.

 

The moment the sun hits the girl’s face, it transforms her.

 

She lets out a small gasp, her eyes sparkling in a way that Clarke didn’t think possible. The deadened gaze turns watery, the girl holding to Clarke even tighter as they move out of Polis. A few members of Wonkru notice their movements, carefully watching the two. Murphy’s close behind, even at Clarke’s suggestion he simply go to the medical bay, far enough to where he can’t be reached, but close enough to intervene.

 

Clarke settles in a spot under the sun, her hands on the girl’s shoulder. “Feel the sun,” Clarke says, brushing hair out of the girl’s face. Unlike moments before when she cowered away from the touch, the girl almost leans into it, tears starting to roll down her cheeks. “Feel how warm it is.” She says, wiping away a tear. “Feel the breeze.” Clarke states, placing the large chuck of mess that is her hair behind her shoulders. “Feel it on your skin. Do you feel it?”

 

The girl nods, closing her eyes and tilting her head to the sky. Clarke almost wants to leave her in the moment, to truly enjoy everything, but is genuinely afraid she’ll fall over of she does so. She’s so thin, Clarke can feel her bones under her grasp, see her ribs under even her loose shirt.

 

After a few minutes, the girl lowers her head and fixes Clarke with an intense stare. Placing her hands on Clarke’s forearms, she says, “Wanheda, you have too—”

 

A shot rings out and suddenly Clarke is covered in blood.

 

Clarke can barely react when the girl slumps to the side, her gasp failing and the girl’s body crumbles to the ground. Clarke makes a small noise, small gasps of breath barely enough to keep her standing. Blood covers her face and she reaches out and smears it by accident.

 

“Clarke!” Murphy shouts, sprinting next to her and placing his hands on her shoulders. “Are you okay?”

 

Clarke can’t respond. All she do is stare at the lifeless form of the girl next to her, head covered in blood and brain. She trembles, unable to stop, even with Murphy holding her. Turning her gaze to the side, she sees Octavia reholster a pistol, eyes fierce.

 

“What the hell is wrong with you!” Clarke screams, pulling away from Murphy and stomping toward Octavia. “She wasn’t doing anything – she was an innocent!”

 

“Oh, I’m sorry Clarke.” Octavia states. “She grabbed you. I thought she was attacking you.”

 

Incredulous, Clarke cries, “She was still in handcuffs! She wasn’t doing anything! She couldn’t do anything! She was a child!”

 

“I misunderstood.” Octavia says.

 

Clarke almost snaps more, but holds her tongue when several people around Octavia shoulder their weapons. Murphy jogs next to Clarke, tense at her side. “She was a child!” Clarke says, her lower lip trembling. “She was your own!”

 

Octavia doesn’t flinch. She doesn’t even cast a look at anyone around her. Instead, she remains cold, calculated. Her shoulder remain straight and she doesn’t blink. “Lincoln would be ashamed of you!” Clarke shouts.

 

It’s almost like a slap to the face. For a moment, Octavia’s cold façade melts. She flinches, as if Clarke struck her. “Excuse me?” She asks low and dangerous.

 

“You know he was against all of this! He turned his back on his own people to prevent violence!” Clarke yells. She knows she sounds hysterical, she knows she’s losing it, but she can’t help it. She can’t dive into the pit of death again. She will not be the Commander of Death again. “He fought against everything you are!” Clarke settles herself, her entire body still trembling when she seethes, “He would be ashamed of what you become.”

 

Just as quickly as it fell, Octavia regains her composure. A few of her guards lift their weapons toward Clarke, but she places a hand up. They lower, but only slightly. Taking a few steps closer, Octavia approaches Clarke with a smirk. In a voice low enough for only Clarke to hear, Octavia whispers.

 

“If I were you, I’d get cleaned up. Wanheda.”

Chapter Text

CHAPTER SEVEN

 

Clarke can feel the blood drying on her face as she leads Murphy back down to the bunker. She can’t help it – she’s trembling from head to toe, barely able to remember how to get to the medical bay. Murphy’s yelling and stumbling behind her, but she can barely register what he’s saying when her mind is moving too quickly for even Clarke to catch up.

 

When they turn the corner to the med bay, all of Spacekru is around Monty, poorly handling a sling that they’re trying to fit his arm into. They’re joking around, turning at the noise. “Clarke, I’m surrounded by idiots and they can’t figure – oh my god.”

 

The playful chatter stops when they catch sight of Clarke and Murphy. Without even sparing them a look, Clarke rushes over to the sink, turning on the faucet and scrubbing her face. “What happened?” Bellamy demands, moving toward Clarke.

 

Murphy steps in front of him before he can reach her – something Clarke’s very grateful for – and says, “Spoiler: your sister has lost her mind. Expect not a spoiler, because we already knew that and you’re in denial.”

 

Clarke listens to the incoherent noises Bellamy makes as she scrubs the dried flecks of blood off her face. Whirling around, she looks at Raven, who is by Monty, pale. “All scrubbed off?”

 

She’s still in shock, but manages a soft, “Yes.”

 

Nodding, Clarke steps up to the two men. “If you’re going to do something, Bellamy, you need to do it now. Murphy, you’re up. Let’s go.”

 

Murphy tilts his head and says, “Cool, what are we doing now? What’s the plan?”

 

The fact that he’s so ready to follow her with whatever plan she could’ve possibly come up with in two seconds is more endearing than exasperating, so her anxiety melts slightly. “I mean that we need to clean the bite in your arm.” She says, gesturing to where his shirt is ripped and stained with blood.

 

He clearly has forgotten about it because he looks down and goes, “Oh.”

 

“What happened?” Emori asks, rushing over. “Someone bit you?”

 

“Murphy, you tell the story.” She says, pointing at the spare bed next to Monty. “I’m going to focus on cleaning this. Try not to add too many colorful details because Madi’s standing right there.”

 

“You know, Clarke, sheltering her from the way the world works is not a great way to parent.” Murphy offers, hopping onto the bed. She throws him a sharp look. “Jeez, and I used to think you had the disapproving mom stare before. Good god, you’ve been practicing the past six years.”

 

“That’s because I’m the child from hell!” Madi says cheerfully.

 

Clarke can’t help but smirk at that, pouring some antiseptic on a cloth. “This is going to hurt. If you kick me in the face, I’m going to do the same.” She says, crouching by his arm.

 

Murphy doesn’t end up kicking her in the face, but he does say a few words that she figures would get into Madi’s vocabulary eventually, but it doesn’t prevent her from glaring at him. As he continues the story of those locked away and Octavia’s actions topside, she sneaks a peek at Bellamy’s face, which grows more and more incredulous.

 

“No,” Bellamy states, shaking his head. “No way. No way Octavia would chain her own people up and shoot them.”

 

“Do you think that we can’t see the world with our own two eyes, Bellamy?” Murphy snaps, clearly all patience gone. “You think we walked in here and was like, ‘you know what, let’s fuck with Bellamy for a while.’” Bellamy gives him an unimpressed look. “Okay, fine, I would do that, but Clarke wouldn’t! No matter how much I pleaded for Team Cockroach shenanigans.”

 

Clarke sighs, knowing she has to engage, but it’s challenging. Her mind has finally slowed enough for her to truly register what’s going on, but she doesn’t want to. It’s been such a long time since she’s had to think or deal with any of this, and she wishes the respite could’ve been a little while longer. Sucking in a breath, she says, “Bellamy.” The word is soft and quiet, but settles the room into a calm.

 

Bellamy turns to her and she can see the heartbreak on his face. “Clarke, no—”

 

She tapes the bandage to Murphy’s arms and pats his shoulder. “How does it look, Doc?” He asks with a half-smile.

 

“You’ll get to keep the arm and everything.” She responds, giving his shoulder a squeeze.

 

Turning her full attention to Bellamy, she takes a breath. “This may not be my place to say this,” she starts and doesn’t care for the way that Bellamy looks confused by her caveat. “But you have always been the person who can reach Octavia during her darkest times. Now, I don’t know how far that darkness goes, but what she’s doing to her people isn’t right. She executed someone right in front of us who was doing nothing more than seeing the sun for the first time in six years. She can’t continue this. This isn’t how the human race was supposed to treat each other.”

 

“When has the human race ever treated each other right?” Monty mumbles from his bed, where a misshapen sling is wrapped around his neck. Clarke almost laughs at it, moving toward him to re-wrap with.

 

Clarke looks to Madi. “Why didn’t you tell them how to do it? You know how to wrap a sling.”

 

Madi at least has the understanding to look sheepish. “It was really funny watching them try.”

 

All of Spacekru makes an exasperated noise, slicing through the tension that is slowly filling up the med bay. Clarke wraps Monty’s arm, showing Harper as she goes, tightening it around his neck. “If you guys want to talk about it, Madi and I can go to the Rover for a little while. We should probably get some more food in the surrounding area anyways, because I have a feeling it’ll be lean for a little while.”

 

“Why wouldn’t we want you here when we talk?” Bellamy asks sharply.

 

Clarke gazes around at those she lost in space, just as confused. “I’m sure you guys had some sort of way to talk about these things and we—”

 

“Don’t be stupid, Clarke.” Raven scoffs. “We want you here.”

 

Clarke takes a breath, her hand gripping Madi’s arm tighter than she means to, knowing it’s growing to borderline painful. All of them are staring at her like she’s crazy and honestly, she feels crazy. But there’s that part of her that wants to run away from them before the time apart grows to long to ever get back to. “Okay,” she says carefully, letting go of Madi. “We’ll stay.”

 

Bellamy doesn’t respond to that. Instead, he stares at her in the way that Bellamy does when he’s trying to figure something out. She’s been the recipient of this stare many times in the past, but now it feels different. Like he’s reading a language he doesn’t understand and she’s unsure of how to communicate with him.

 

It’s lonelier than her time after Praimfaya ever was.

 

***

 

For the first time since arriving back to earth, Bellamy’s alone.

 

He’s marching throughout the bunker, people passing him in the halls, but he’s alone in his walk. He forgot how much he needed time to regroup when he was feeling overwhelmed. It’s something he realized in space – that when he was feeling overwhelmed with emotion, usually he was only a few breaths from feeling better. And when he took that time, he would let his head be in charge instead of his heart.

 

Just like Clarke told him.

 

Except Clarke’s back now and he’s having a terrible time trying to read her. She’s the same in most ways – quiet, but confident in a way that he’s only seen from someone like Clarke. But for the first time, he sees her second-guessing every interaction she has with him. He can feel her hesitation on him like a presence and it’s driving him crazier than he ever thought possible.

 

Perhaps it’s good that they all kicked him out to speak with Octavia. Murphy eyed him in a way that he doesn’t remember ever seeing on the Ark. It felt… protective – but from what, he’s not sure. All he knows is that Clarke is here and he feels calmer knowing where she is. He knows he’s being irrational, but every time she’s out of sight again, he feels like he did on the rocket, waiting for her to return.

 

He reminds himself over and over that this isn’t the same. It isn’t the same as it was six years ago. The world isn’t ending and he isn’t leaving without her.

 

But isn’t ending?

 

When he catches sight of Octavia, it feels that way.

 

She’s surrounded by soldiers, all covered in armor and weapons that makes him feel like more of an outsider than he already does. As he approaches, they all turn to him and places their hands on their weapons, as if they’re ready to cut him where he stands. He supposes they are, in a way. Octavia gives an almost imperceptible shake of her head and they relax slightly. “I thought I’d be getting a visit from you.” Octavia states, crossing her arms. “Clarke sends her knight to do her dirty work?”

 

Her words bristle against him and he has to tell himself not to react. “O,” he begins, but she cuts him off.

 

“You can tell Clarke I’m not buying her sudden desire to not get her hands dirty.” She continues. “Because we both know when it’s all said and done, she has more blood on her hands than any of us.”

 

Bellamy takes a calming breath, wondering when it came to this. “Octavia, I need to speak with you in private.” He says, eyeing the soldiers around her.

 

One of them steps forward, hands on his weapon. Octavia places a hand on his shoulder and nods. “Come with me, then.” She says. “I’ll debrief you later.” She says to the soldiers around her.

 

They don’t speak as they walk. Bellamy thinks of how he pictured this moment daily on the Ark. Of what he would feel like, having Octavia back in his life. Long walks of silence was nothing what he imagined, nor would it be the pit of dread curling in his stomach that he couldn’t shake.

 

She leads them into an office he vaguely remembers from six years ago. Where he made the decision to leave the bunker to get Raven – one that put him on a path he’d never expect. She closes the door behind them marching to the middle of the room. “Let me guess,” she starts. “You want to tell me that what I did topside is wrong.”

 

He’s so startled by her blatant admittance, that he can’t respond right away. “O-Of course it was wrong, Octavia!” He exclaims. “I was going to try and give you an opportunity to tell me it wasn’t true!”

 

Octavia shrugs. “Those people are a danger to Wonkru. The bunker broke their minds, Bellamy. I’m not going to allow them to wander around, a threat to my people.”

 

“But they are your people, O!” He says. “And I understand not wanting them to hurt others, but chaining them to walls? Putting them in cages like animals? You know how used to put people in cages, O? The people in Mt. Weather.”

 

Octavia’s jaw twitches. “It’s not the same thing, Bellamy.”

 

“How is it not the same thing?” Bellamy asks, trying not to think of his own time in a cage. There are evenings when his subconscious has to choose between which nightmare to relive, but the ones in the cage always had him waking up with a sheen of sweat. “They’re human beings!”

 

“And they are threats.” She says. “I remember you tying Lincoln up when you thought he was a threat.”

 

Bellamy startles at that, his words lost in his throat. “Octavia,” he says gently. “This isn’t a competition. We’ve all done things that we don’t deserve forgiveness for, but now is the time to move forward and try to be better.”

 

Scoffing at that, Octavia says, “Is this why you brought a traitor into my bunker?”

 

Bellamy knew the topic of Echo would come up, but he’s too flustered to be able to give the coherent thoughts he’d been practicing. “Echo has been with us for six years in space,” he starts. “I know Roan banished her—”

 

“She tried to kill me, Bellamy!” Octavia yells, her cold indifference slipping. “She pushed me off a cliff to die! Does that mean nothing to you anymore?”

 

“Of course it does, O!” Bellamy exclaims. “Of course it does! I’ve just had six years of her in space where she’s helped in more ways than one. She’s trained us to fight, she worked well with us to keep the Ark going. She’s a strong asset to any team – keeping her banished would be foolish because she has so much she can offer!”

 

Octavia steps close and says in a dangerously low voice, “You want to offer me a traitor and call it love?”

 

Bellamy recoils. “O, what happened? What happened down here?”

 

“You’re not in charge anymore, Bellamy.” Octavia spits. “For the entire time on earth, you and Clarke were in charge and guess what? People died. All the time. The first 100. Mt. Weather. Bombing of TonDC. Polis. Ali. Everyone died.

 

He knows she’s trying to get a rise out of him, but it’s working. He thinks of their time on earth and knows that everything was far more complicated than what she’s saying, but it’s hard to argue. Because people did die and it was often due to decisions that he and Clarke made.

 

“I’m in charge now, Bellamy. Wonkru are my people and they are alive because of me. And if you have any problems with the way I’ve chosen to leave, then you should leave the bunker.”

 

“O—”

 

“No!” She cries. “You have only ever loved me when you were trying to control me! When you shoved me away under the floor!”

 

It’s as if she slapped him. He’s been struck by Octavia before, and that hurt less than what she’s hurling at him, her eyes wild and manic.

 

“O,” he breathes, tears welling in his eyes and threatening to fall. “You can’t believe that’s true.”

 

“I do, though.” Octavia says, her own tears sliding down her cheeks. “They shoved me away on the Ark and you helped them. You helped hide me under the floor for years.

 

“To keep you alive, O! To keep all of us alive!”

 

“And then when they found me out because of your actions, you were gone.”

 

Bellamy can barely register what she’s saying to him, let alone come up with a response to it. “Because they wouldn’t let me! They floated our mother and they banned me from visiting you! I came to earth to be with you!”

 

“And then you went back to space and I went under ground again.” Octavia continues as if he hasn’t spoken. “And you came back. Only to come here and tell me how to lead my people, who I’ve kept alive for six years! You only care if there’s some way you can control what I’m doing. If I’m under the floor or trapped in the bunker!”

 

“Octavia—”

 

“I am not that girl anymore!” Octavia shouts, far past any point Bellamy could pull her back from. “I am not the girl under the floor! I am in this bunker because I choose to be! And we will get the valley whether Clarke wants to help us or not!”

 

She brushes past him, nearly knocking him over as she does so. Taking a pause at the doorway, Octavia turns back around. “I will execute Echo on sight.”

 

Then, she leaves.

 

Bellamy stands in the room.

 

He doesn’t know where to go, or what to do. So he freezes. He waits for the moment of clarity that usually follows when he takes a moment to breathe, but it never comes. All that remains is a rushing in his ears.

 

“—ellamy. Bellamy!” Someone shouts.

 

Blinking, Bellamy finds himself face-to-face with Madi, who’s standing uncomfortably at the door. “Sorry, are you okay? They sent me to find you to tell you we’re going topside for a little while. And I may have wandered around so I know the bunker the best.”

 

Bellamy can’t help but gape at the child, unable to do anything else. “Oh,” he manages, coughing.

 

“Are you okay?” Madi asks. “You look… weird.”

 

That breaks him out of his meltdown, snorting at the honesty that would only come from a child. “I am feeling weird, to be honest.”

 

She shuffles her feet, wincing. “So I guess talking to Octavia didn’t go well?”

 

Bellamy closes his eyes and sighs. “We can keep on trying. We’re not going to reach her in just a day.”

 

“She’s scarier than I thought she’d be.” Madi admits with a wince. “Clarke used to tell me about the girl under the floor who saved the world. I thought… I thought she would have led everyone well.”

 

“I think we all did, Madi.” Bellamy admits. “And we’ll figure it out. We always do.”

 

“My parents hid me under the floor too,” Madi says, looking up at him. Bellamy frowns at the girl, trying not to reveal how startled he is. “To keep me from being chosen for the Commander position. They didn’t want me to die at the hands of kids who’ve been training their whole lives. Shallow Valley people are pacifists, which is why we are never the commanders. So they hid me.”

 

Bellamy places a hand on her shoulder and crouches down. “They wanted you to be safe.”

 

Madi’s eyes flick up and they’re watery. “They died.”

 

“I’m so sorry, Madi.” He pulls her into a hug, which expects her to resist but she doesn’t. She wraps her arms around him and Bellamy feels the ache of a ghost. He remembers all the time Octavia did this exact thing, clinging to him like a lifeline all the times she was scared too, but didn’t want to admit it. “We’ve got your back, I promise.”

 

“That’s what Clarke always said.” Madi says, pulling away and wiping under her eyes. “She said when you guys made it back here, we’d all be a team.”

 

“Clarke is right.” He states, giving her a wink. “As she usually is.”

 

“Yeah, it’s super annoying,” Madi mumbles. “I never get to win any arguments.”

 

“Between you and I, Madi? I never won any arguments either.”

 

“We can team up on her now!” Madi exclaims and Bellamy can’t help but laugh. “Two against one!”

 

“I think we both know, Madi, that we still will not win that and it will be a bloodbath.”

 

“Bellamy, I—” Octavia storms back into the room, startling when she sees him crouched by Madi. Her face – once filled with fire and emotion – wipes clean as she surveys the girl. “This is the child with Clarke.”

 

Madi steps a bit behind Bellamy, who places a hand out instinctively. “My name is Madi,” she says, her voice smaller than Bellamy’s ever heard.

 

Tilting her head, Octavia narrows her eyes. “You survived the Death Wave?” She asks.

 

Bellamy knows where her mind is going. Before she can continue, Bellamy says, “Synthetic, like Clarke’s. Clarke gave her own bone marrow.”

 

“She performed that surgery by herself?” Octavia asks. “Because I remember Mt. Weather. I’d imagine that’d be very painful.”

 

“You know Clarke,” Bellamy says, his hand splaying on Madi’s shoulder protectively. “Her stupidest ideas come from wanting to save someone.”

 

Octavia approaches, slow and calculating. It reminds Bellamy of the animals they used to hunt when they first got to earth, prepared to take any of them down at a moment’s notice. “That must’ve been scary for you.”

 

Madi doesn’t quiver though. Her voice is surprisingly even when she says, “I had Clarke.”

 

Octavia nods at that. “Seems to always come back to that, doesn’t it?” She says, more to herself than either of them. “Bellamy, I came to make you a deal.”

 

Bellamy frowns, moving even more in front of Madi. She smirks at this gesture, but flicks her fingers and a few people stride into the room, including Indra. Indra nods at Bellamy curtly, her eyes flashing to the child behind him. “We need intelligence on the newcomers since Clarke has suddenly decided to become so tight-lipped about everything. I’m sending Indra to get this and want her take a small team. You were right, Echo would be a good addition to that. And since I have a feeling you don’t trust Echo going with a Wonkru team herself, all of your little space friends can go.”

 

He doesn’t trust it. “Okay,” he says carefully. “I’ll go talk to everyone. Clarke can lead us through the valley and—”

 

“That’s the thing.” She states, putting her hands up. “Clarke has to stay here.”

 

Bellamy almost throws his hands up in the air. “Absolutely not—”

 

“She’s right.” Octavia says carefully. “The people chained up need rehabilitation and she would be the best person for that. You and I both know that’s true. Jackson is tied up taking care of the rest of Wonkru—”

 

“What about Abby?” Bellamy asks. “Surely Abby can take care of them.”

 

Octavia is too still for his liking. “Abby will be helping Jackson. If Clarke wants to help those people, she has to help those people. I will not take my doctors off of caring for Wonkru just because Clarke Griffin is throwing a fit.”

 

Scoffing, Bellamy shakes his head.

 

“Madi can lead you.” Octavia states with a cold smile. “She’s been with Clarke for six years, she has to know the valley as well as Clarke does. Don’t you?”

 

Madi’s hand grasps the back of Bellamy’s shirt and he tenses.

 

“Perhaps even more.” Octavia continues. “Indra, take Bellamy, Echo, Madi, and whoever else you’d like to go with you. Leave first thing in the morning.”

 

“Yes, Blodreina.” Indra says. “Bellamy, I’ll prepare our packs and rations. We should take the Rover to cross the longer parts of the desert.”

 

“I didn’t agree to any of this.” Bellamy snaps.

 

“Do you want Echo to die or not?” Octavia nearly spits the words out. “You’re so protective of your precious like space club, I thought you’d jump at the chance to clear her name.”

 

He doesn’t know what to do. Because the fact is, he’s outnumbered and outsmarted in every way. He glances down at Madi and grits his teeth. "Fine. But we need to talk to Clarke first."

 

Octavia huffs a laugh. "Considering where we are, big brother, it's nice to know some things don't change." Bellamy doesn't take the bait on that one. "You sure you were separated for six years?"

 

"Come on, Madi." Bellamy says, brushing past his sister before he can say anything that'll put them in a tighter spot. 

 

Madi follows close behind and Bellamy doesn't like the way everyone's peering at her as they go. He lied to get her out of there, but he knows that it will only fool a select few. It seems so unfair, how the earth treats children. He leads the girl through the winding bunker to topside where his family chose to stay, outside of the walls that seemed to suffocate those inside. When he reaches the tent, the two charge in, everyone's attention on them immediately.

 

"Everything alright?" Clarke asks, her eyebrows pulling down in suspicion as she approaches Madi. "You okay?" She asks softly and Madi nods, focusing on Bellamy.

 

"Octavia's given us an opportunity to clear Echo's name." He states and the spy's head whips up from where she's sharpening her sword.

 

"She has?" Echo asks, unable to mask the shock and pieces of excitement in her voice. "I was not expecting leniency from someone who controls her people as she does."

 

"Well, this definitely wasn't anything due to leniency." Bellamy explains. "She wants a team to get some Intel on the new crew, and she thought your skills as a spy would be applicable.”

 

Clarke frowns at the exchange. "What's the hesitation?" She asks.

 

Bellamy sighs. He knows that he shouldn't be surprised, but he wishes there was a time when he could slide something things past her. "She wants you to stay." He states and her frown deepens. "She wants your help with the rehabilitation of the people chained up. She suggested Madi lead us."

 

"Madi?" Clarke repeats, incredulous. "She wants a twelve year old going into enemy territory to get intel? Absolutely not." She snaps, pulling Madi closer. Clarke takes a step away from Bellamy and everyone else, which hurts more than it should. 

 

"We wouldn't actually be going into enemy territory. She'd be with us and Indra the entire time and we aren't going to be making any contact with them." Bellamy says quickly, wanting to eliminate the space she just created. "We'd make sure nothing happens, I promise."

 

Clarke observes him, as if she's trying to find any lie in his words. It's painful, but he does understand to an extent. They don't know each other anymore. It's been years of them revolving around each other, and now that they've crashed, she seems to be pulling away. "Well," Clarke says, her eyes narrowing. "It may be for the best. It's clear that Wonkru hasn't let go of their foundational beliefs yet. I'm not sure how safe it'd be for Madi to be here."

 

"Um, are we not talking about the crazy dictator in the room?" Murphy exclaims, waving his hands. Bellamy rounds on him, fully prepared to say something he'd regret later, when he continues. "Clarke should not be left alone with Octavia - she shot someone in the head. What if she missed? It would be Clarke's brains on the ground, not some teenage girl's!"

 

Clarke makes a face at that. "It's very sweet and also I have no idea how I feel about what you just said."

 

"Ignore the words and focus on the sentiment." Murphy snaps. "Your psycho sister is doing this on purpose. Just like she convinced Clarke to bring that teenager on purpose. She's trying to set an example - anyone with half a brain can see it!"

 

"Listen, I'm trying to not punch you in the face, Murphy, but if you keep talking about my sister that way, it's gonna happen." Bellamy says through gritted teeth.

 

"Just do it already, I'm sick of this mellow Bellamy." Murphy drawls. "You have to agree that it's suspicious. Come on."

 

Raven places a hand on Bellamy's shoulder and he almost flinches. "He's not wrong, Bellamy."

 

"Let's not get carried away," Clarke says with a sigh. "I have been on this planet for six years, I think I can handle myself." She states.

 

The moment the words leave her lips, Bellamy can tell she thinks she made a mistake. She winces at her words when everyone flinches, her gaze drifting to the floor. "Look," she starts, putting her hands up. "I just mean that it should be alright. If it means we can start rehabilitating those people, then I’m going to stay.”

 

Murphy scoffs at her. “You can’t seriously be that naïve, Clarke.”

 

“Our responsibility is for more than ourselves, Murphy!” Clarke shouts and it startles Bellamy. It’s the first time he’s seen that spark from her, and honestly he was wondering if Praimfaya had burned it away. Taking a breath, she says quietly, “We have an opportunity to do it again. To do it right.”

 

“But you already lit yourself on fire for everyone, Clarke.” Murphy snaps. “You seriously want to do that again?”

 

Narrowing her eyes at him, Clarke takes a step forward and places a hand on his shoulder. “It’ll be okay.” She states.

 

“Heard that before,” he mumbles, his gaze falling to the ground.

 

Not for the first time, Bellamy marvels at how quickly Murphy’s anger dissipates, his shoulders slumping as he jerks out of Clarke’s grasp. Bellamy clears his throat. “None of us like this, Murphy. But I think it’s the best option.”

 

“And not all of us have to go.” Monty says carefully. “I for one don’t think I’d be a great addition to the team with this gunshot wound. I’ll stay behind with Clarke.”

 

“And do what? Throw algae at Octavia?” Murphy mutters.

 

“I’ll stay too,” Raven says, rolling her eyes at Murphy. “It’s best if I’m not on the move – I can see if I can get back into their system from here. Clarke won’t be alone.”

 

Clarke startles at this, making Bellamy’s chest ache again. “Just,” Clarke starts, wincing. “Please make sure Madi is alright.”

 

Madi crosses her arm and grumbles, “I can take care of myself, Clarke.”

 

She rolls her eyes at the preteen . “I know that, but it never hurts to be safe.” She turns to Bellamy. “When do you guys leave?”

 

“I think in the morning.” Bellamy states. “We shouldn’t be long. We could all fit in the Rover and stow it.”

 

Raven places a finger up. “Should I look at it before you do that? I mean, I love you Clarke, but you aren’t the most technically capable.”

 

“I would like to point out I dug that car out from under sand blown from Praimfaya and got it started after the end of the world.” Clarke drawls, fixing Raven a look.

 

Raven puts her hands up. “We’re all very impressed, I’m sure, but I’m afraid that I’m going to open the hood and see duct tape everywhere.”

 

Clarke hesitates. “I’m gonna shield you from that.”

 

Raven gestures vaguely at her.

 

Bellamy chokes a laugh, earning a glare from both women. “I was just clearing my throat.” He offers weakly and clearly neither believe him. “It’s settled. Myself, Madi, Echo, Murphy, Emori, and Harper will join Indra. Monty, Raven, and Clarke will stay and look after the survivors. It’s just an intelligence mission, it shouldn’t take more than a couple days.”

 

“Here,” Clarke says, ripping a paper towel off and rummaging around until she finds a pen. “Once you hit the tree line of the valley, you’ll want to hide the Rover in the East patch of pine trees. Madi – do you remember the day you got lost?”

 

Madi winces. “Um, yes?”

 

“You want us to go where the munchkin got lost?” Murphy cries incredulously.

 

“Yes, I do.” Clarke states, not taking the bait on his tone. “There are thick trees in that area and a cave off to the side, where you can hide the Rover.” She draws a few lines and a circle and taps the pen. “This is the Shallow Valley village, which is where you guys first saw the crew. I’m assuming they’re going to set up there because of all the supplies.”

 

“Dang,” Madi grumbles. “We stock for years and they’ll probably eat it all.”

 

Clarke shrugs. “Even if they do, we’ll figure something out. We always do.” Handing the paper to Bellamy, she offers him a small smile. “They have technology better than the Ark. Please be careful. Raven, do you know of any radios we could have that would be able to work in that range?”

 

Raven sighs. “If I had a few days, I could probably transmit something, but by tomorrow, no.”

 

“It’ll be okay, Clarke.” Murphy says. “We’ve only survived a million things a million times worse than this.”

 

“Yeah, shockingly, that doesn’t make me feel any better.”

 

Echo steps forward, her movements almost completely silent. She’s fell back into her role on earth, Bellamy marveling at how at peace she seems, even with the bounty of her life at stake. “Are you sure it’s good for you to stay here, Clarke?” Echo states, her words careful. “No one will forget the reign of Wanheda.”

 

When Clarke doesn’t react, Bellamy knows that it’s crossed her mind too. “What do you mean?” Madi asks, frowning.

 

“The Commander of Death who would do anything to protect her people.” Echo continues, her eyes focused on Clarke. “Under years of oppression, there will be some who will look to you. That makes you a threat.”

 

“I don’t want to be in charge again.” Clarke states, her fists clenching. “I don’t want to decide who lives and who dies anymore.”

 

“Which is why they’ll want you to do it.” Echo says. “Those who will look out for people don’t want the power. They simply accept the responsibility.”

 

“Then maybe you should come with us.” Murphy states. “Two Valley freaks are better than one Valley freak.”

 

“Hey!” Madi exclaims.

 

“Can’t get mad if it’s true, pipsqueak.”

 

“If there are people who are sick that Octavia has instructed her medical team not to help, I need to stay.” Clarke counters, even thought Bellamy can tell that there’s a part of her that doesn’t care for the words she’s saying. “And…” She trails off, her eyes growing distant. “I feel like… there’s something going on with my mom. I should probably try to figure it out.”

 

Bellamy looks to Monty, who frowns and rubs his arm absently. “We won’t be gone for long.” Bellamy states, mainly for himself more than anyone else. “And we’ll figure out how to calm Octavia down once we don’t have to worry about her doing something to Echo.”

 

Echo looks to the ground. “I really appreciate this, guys.”

 

Emori steps up to her, placing her hand on her shoulder. “Of course we’re doing this for you, don’t be stupid. We’re family.”

 

Bellamy nods. He stares at Clarke, who’s expression is unreadable. She’s put up barriers that he remembers after Mount Weather – and during if he’s honest. It took him a while, but he knows Clarke Griffin protecting herself when he sees it. “We are.” He agrees, catching Clarke’s eye. She doesn’t drop her gaze, but stares directly at him when he says, “We all are.”

 

***

 

Bellamy finds Clarke in the tent by herself, having excused herself early from dinner. Wonkru rations were tough – tougher than he remembers meat being – and the group struggled to eat them even in their algae-emaciated states. He tried not to be obvious with how much he was watching her, but he couldn’t help it. Years had passed and he couldn’t figure out where he was with her – even after their talks. So, he did what any rational adult would do. He waited five excruciating minutes after she excused herself and then went where he expected her to be.

 

Which was the tent.

 

Pushing up the flap, Bellamy’s greeted to Clarke’s uncovered back. He startles at the sight of it, only covered by a weathered sports bra. But it isn’t the fact that Clarke doesn’t have a shirt on that makes his heart stop. It’s what’s on her back.

 

Logically he knew that Praimfaya would’ve been a terrible death. He watched the flames consume the world, a fire built on chaos and humanity’s hatred raging until it destroyed an entire world. He knew it when he watched the earth burn from the Ark with nothing more than an empty bottle of alcohol on the window sill. Bellamy knew that he had left Clarke to a terrible, painful death of burning alive.

 

What he didn’t know was the lines it would leave on her skin. Dotting down her back were scars, pink and jagged running down her body. There were patches of smooth skin, similar to her face, but they were interspersed throughout. Her entire left arm seems to be made of scars that he can’t bring himself to look away from, but also bring tears to his eyes.

 

“Oh!” Clarke exclaims when she notices him standing at the mouth of the tent like the weirdo he is. She grabs a blanket off of one of the beds quicker than he’s ever seen someone do, holding it up against her bare skin. He can see the red flush on her cheeks as she drops her gaze. “I didn’t know anyone was here.”

 

Bellamy knows he should be saying something about it. About how she shouldn’t be ashamed or that he didn’t even see anything. Except he can’t. He can’t because he has seen something and it’s something that will be played behind his eyes when he sleeps tonight. “I-I’m sorry,” Bellamy says, the words catching in his throat. “I wanted to see if you’re alright.”

 

“I’m fine.” Clarke states, her eyes darting to the exit. He can’t decide if she’s considering running past him or shoving him out. “Just changing before everyone is finished with dinner.”

 

Taking a stride in, Bellamy tries not to take it personally when she mirrors his movement backwards. “Clarke,” is the only thing he can say.

 

She knows.

 

“I thought they’d go away in time – like Luna’s did.” Clarke says softly. “I think it’s because I was out when the wave was coming and there was a hole in my suit.”

 

“There was a hole in your suit?” Bellamy repeats dazedly.

 

“Long story.” Clarke says. “But I…” She flinches. “I never wanted anyone to see.”

 

Bellamy moves closer, pleased when she doesn’t recoil this time. Instead, he reaches a hand out, the question burning behind his eyes that he can’t say. Clarke gives him the smallest of nods, dropping her gaze along with the blanket she’s currently using to shield herself with.

 

He can’t help it, he reaches out once she does so, his fingertips brushing against her skin. She shivers when he touches her and he can’t help but feel that as well. Dropping his touch down her back, Bellamy feels the scars under his hands as if he laid them on her himself.

 

“I know it’s a lot.” Clarke says quietly, her eyes falling to the ground. "It took a while for me to get used to it too. But..."

 

Except he can't take his hands off. Bellamy then does something without fully thinking it through, mainly because he wants to. He spent six years standing in the cell that she once called home, wishing there was some way he could take the events of Praimfaya back. Now, after years of an unkind earth, it gave him that gift. And he, for one, refuses to take it for granted.

 

So Bellamy hugs her.

 

He turns her around and wraps his arms around her, unable to keep himself from pulling her as close as he can manage. Clarke doesn't freeze this time. It takes her only a moment to realize what's happening before she wraps her own arms around his waist. 

 

In a small moment of truth, only given because of the quiet, he hears her mutter, “I don’t want you to go.”

 

He almost doesn’t hear it, but it’s so honest, he holds her tighter. Because he doesn’t want to go either. Bellamy opens his mouth to say as much, but finds its too dry to express of the weight of what he wants to say. So instead he holds her and hope it speaks the words he’s afraid to say.

 

After a while, he realizes he’s just holding her. And he doesn’t want to let go. It’s more than simply a fear of losing her again. He wants to hold her simply because he wants to hold her. “I don’t want to go,” he whispers and he hopes she understands. She understands the words that he’s trying to say instead.

 

Pulling away, Clarke looks up at him. Her eyes are clear of any barrier she built the past few days. “That’s always how it goes, doesn’t it?” She says softly. “Always separating.”

 

In a bout of courage he can’t put his finger on, Bellamy places his hand under her chin and lifts it up to face him. She doesn’t shudder away from him, but instead stares expectantly. “We’ll always find each other again,” Bellamy says, the words coming out clumsy and thick. “We always do.”

 

“Promise?” She asks.

 

It’d be easy to return her question quickly, as if not giving it another thought. He wants to promise, but it seems like in this moment, he needs to ensure the truth he is placing in his words. Nodding slightly, he places their foreheads together. Bellamy isn’t sure why neither of them are uncomfortable with this level of intimacy, but he chooses not to question it. He doesn’t want to ruin this moment. “I promise.”

 

She places a hand on his cheek. “Good.”

 

***

 

The morning they leave is a quiet one. Clarke is still buzzing from the night before, trying desperately to settle her nerves as she emerges from the tent. Moments after Bellamy drew her close, Madi burst through the tent, sending them exploding back as if shocked. Madi merely grinned at the sight – of course she would know exactly what was going on – talking a mile a minute at the two of them. Any intimate moment they once had was shattered, and honestly Clarke can’t tell if she was disappointed or not.

 

Except when she walks out with the child to the Rover, she peers at Bellamy to see if she can find any answers in his expression. When he catches her gaze, his face softens, the corner of his mouth turning up at the sight of her. She ducks her head instinctively, unable to calm the pounding of her heart. It’d been so long since she had anyone look at her the way he was doing now, and honestly, she forgot how to respond. Clarke swears at one point she was smoother, but time had placed rust everywhere.

 

“Hey,” She says when she approaches the group. “You all ready?”

 

“Yes, Mom.” Murphy jokes, shouldering his bag. “I even have my snacks you bullied me into taking.”

 

Clarke gives him an unamused look. “I told you, Murphy, you can’t be over prepared. Just say thank you and move on.”

 

“Yeah, like I’d ever thank you for being obnoxious.” Murphy mutters.

 

Madi giggles at that. Turning to her, Clarke says, “Please don’t become like him.”

 

“We’ll do our best to prevent that.” Harper says with a laugh.

 

“Now remember,” Clarke says, placing her hands on the preteen’s shoulders. “Stay close to Bellamy, he’ll keep you safe.” She thinks about it. “You know, Murphy is a pretty good shot too, if needed. Actually, Harper is by far the best shot of the three.”

 

Bellamy nods. “She is.”

 

Harper smiles. “I am.”

 

“So stay by Harper – she has way better manners anyway.” Clarke states and Madi rolls her eyes. “Remember – this is a track and report mission.” Standing up, Clarke says, “Indra, they’re miners, not soldiers. But it doesn’t mean they don’t know how to fight. Their leader is very strong.”

 

Indra nods. “I would expect nothing less from this world.”

 

Raven steps up and wraps an arm around Clarke’s shoulder and she flinches at the contact. “Just, please be careful, okay? Nothing rash or stupid or—”

 

“Then Murphy shouldn’t go.” Raven offers.

 

“I’m so glad to be getting away from you, Reyes, for a little while.” Murphy groans. “We’ll be on our best behavior, I promise.”

 

“I think we already established your best behavior is still the worst,” Bellamy says, marching in front of Raven and Clarke with his arms crossed. “It’ll be fine. We’ll be back before you know it.”

 

Punching his arm playfully, Raven says, “You better be.”

 

Clarke can’t do anything else but look at him. He’s staring at her with such a soft expression, it almost makes her flush. “Be safe,” she says.

 

“And hurry?” He asks, his tone playful.

 

Laughing to herself, she shakes her head. “Yeah, something like that.”

 

“We need to get going,” Indra states. “I want to be in the valley before nightfall.”

 

Nodding, Clarke moves back with Raven. “Take care, Indra.”

 

“I will, Wanheda.” Indra says, her voice low. Clarke startles at the name. Indra and she never were close, and especially weren’t close enough for her to want Clarke to be in charge. But when Clarke frowns at her, she sees the steely resolve in her eyes. “Stay out of trouble until we return is the best advice I can give you.”

 

“Clarke?” Murphy snorts. “Stay out of trouble? Not likely.”

 

But Clarke can’t bring herself to joke back. Instead, she waves, watching the Rover back out of Polis. Raven and Clarke stay until it’s out of sight, Raven squeezing her shoulder before letting go. “We should probably go in the bunker and get started. While you are helping those in the cells, I’m going to scavenge for parts that we can create into radios.”

 

“I’ll help you find some stuff.” Clarke states. “I’m not sure I’m fully ready to face everyone down there.”

 

“A lot of people?”

 

“Yeah, something like that.”

 

The two walk in a companionable silence through the destroyed streets of Polis, Raven casting glances at her from time to time as they start into the bunker. “So,” Clarke starts, trying to mask her longing when she asks this. “Tell me some stories about the Ark. I think everyone’s afraid to talk to me about it.”

 

Raven laughs, “Can you blame them?”

 

“No, but it is weird you guys won’t share anything.”

 

“I think they don’t want you to feel left out.”

 

“Well, by trying to keep me from feeling left out, you’re leaving me out.” Clarke chuckles.

 

“Pretty bad cycle, isn’t it?” Raven says, with a grin. “Let me see, I want the first one to be a good one. Oh! I’m going to tell you the first time I ever saw drunk Bellamy. It is literally the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.”

 

“Really?” Clarke asks, intrigued. “What happens?”

 

The two make their way through the maze of the bunker, winding down tunnels and paths filled with emaciated people tucked in rooms. Occasionally they ask someone for help finding scavenged technology, but most people keep to themselves. Clarke tries not to ache for them as they huddle around each other, unable to go outside without explicit permission.

 

“He gets even more fiery about history than he is sober! It’s the funniest thing you will ever see.” Raven laughs. “He went on a twenty minute rant about how much of a dick Zeus is. Then, Murphy – because he’s an asshole – put on this cartoon called Hercules just to piss him off. And made a drinking game that every time Bellamy shouted at the screen about how inaccurate the historical facts were, we had to do a shot.”

 

“How did you not die?”

 

“Monty almost did. I switched him to water half way through and he passed out on Harper.”

 

Clarke laughs at the thought of them huddled around a movie, everyone slumped as Bellamy rants at the television. It hurts less than she expected, hearing a warm story about the group of them. She shakes the thoughts of her solitude out, smiling at Raven. “I would’ve like to see that.”

 

“Well, I’m sure we could conspire to get Bellamy drunk again. It’s a sight to behold.”

 

Clarke pushes open a door, frowning at how hard it is to open. Using her shoulder, she shoves it open, fragments of ice sprinkling to the floor. “Oh my god,” she breathes, her breath a cloud in front of her.

 

Raven joins her, her hand going up to her mouth. “Shit,”

 

In rows in front of them are strings of humans, hung upside down and frozen. Clarke moves forward until she’s among their ranks, careful not to touch any of the people hanging from the ceiling. “What is going on here?” Clarke cries, staring at the rows of people.

 

“Clarke, you have to look at this.” Raven says, grabbing a sheet off the wall.

 

Clarke rushes over to join Raven, taking it out of her hands. “Processing schedule?” Clarke reads, frowning. “What – oh my god.” Placing her hand over her mouth, Clarke feels bile rising in her throat. She scans the room until she finds a trashcan in the corner, grabbing it and emptying her stomach.

 

“Clarke, what is going on?” Raven asks, alarmed. “What is – no.”

 

Clarke can tell the moment it hits her. Raven grows pale, paler in the ice box they’ve stumbled in, bodies hanging around them. “No, it can’t be.”

 

“What else could it be, Raven?” Clarke asks, looking where the hooks dig into the feet of those around them. Their eyes are closed, ice blanketing their hair and skin, clothes stripped from their bodies. “We need to get out of here, now.” Clarke says, placing the sheet back on the wall. “Indra’s right, we need a low profile while everyone’s gone.”

 

“We can’t just—”

 

Clarke grabs Raven’s arm and drags her out of the freezer, slamming the door shut behind them. The hallway is empty, but something causes Clarke’s skin to stand on end. She gazes around, trying to find the source of it, but there’s no one in sight. Except she feels someone’s eyes on her.

 

Shaking her head, she tells herself she’s being paranoid.

 

“We need to get out of here,” Clarke says. “We should grab Monty and come up with a plan. But we can’t stay here.”

 

“Clarke—”

 

“Raven.” Clarke says, eyes wide. “We are wildly out numbered. We need to go.”

 

At last, Raven nods absently, her eyes fixated on the door. “You’re right,” she mutters. “Let’s go.

The two of them scramble down the hall, not sparing another glance at the door.

 

Except Clarke never feels like the eyes go off her. She senses them on her skin, covered with a moisture from the ice box. She tells herself it’s nothing but the hanging dead.

 

A part of her knows she’s lying to herself.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER 8

 

The women shuffle down the hallway, Clarke resisting the urge to look behind her should as she does so. Raven moves as quickly as she can in her brace, her hand gripping Clarke’s arm painfully as the two try to get as far away from the ice box as possible. “They can’t actually be eating people,” Raven murmurs into Clarke’s ear, eyes wild. “They can’t actually be eating people.”

 

“If something happened to their farm or other ways to process food, they absolutely can.” Clarke mutters back, flinching when some people come into view. She can’t shake the feeling that someone is tracking their movements, even though there’s no one but innocent passerby’s in sight. “It makes sense though,” Clarke says thoughtfully.

 

“You can’t possibly be arguing for Octavia right now.”

 

“No, of course not.” Clarke hisses. “The people chained up. The mental instability of everyone. I thought the totalitarian rule was to blame, along with the fighting rings. But can you imagine the mental toll it would take on a person to eat a loved one? A family member? To eat a human just in general.” Raven quiets. “I’m surprised there aren’t more people chained to a wall – there had to be a riot.”

 

“Maybe they were the people in the freezer.” Raven mutters.

 

“Raven—”

 

“I’m serious, Clarke. You’ve seen how afraid people are of her. Of how they won’t do anything without her permission. How do you break someone? You make them eat their family or threaten that you will be food.”

 

Clarke shudders. “I can’t keep talking about this.”

 

Raven yanks her the direction of topside. “We need to talk to Monty now. What do we do?”

 

“We need everyone to come back,” Clarke says. “We have to keep a low profile. We can’t start anything just the three of us. We all know Octavia’s trigger happy these days.”

 

When the sun hits her face, Clarke takes a shuddering breath. Even being in the bunker for only a small amount of time makes her skin crawl. She thinks of how the shoulder of the person hanging upside down brushed her own. How the hooks were plunged into their feet and some of their eyes left open. Her brain starts filling in all the detail she was too panicked to see when she was in the ice box. The knife wounds to the side. The broken fingers.

 

Clarke wonders if they all came from the Pit, or if it was unrest in the rooms that were eradicated. Raven turns around when Clarke doesn’t follow her, her gaze spanning across all of Polis. “I had six years.” Clarke says absently when Raven approaches.

 

“What?”

 

“I had six years in a valley with no war. No fighting, no power struggles. Sure, I was alone, but I didn’t have to fight anymore.” When she turns to face Raven, she can’t help the tears in her eyes. “Six years.”

 

“Yeah, I know,” Raven states, placing a hand on her shoulder. “So did we. Sure it was boring sometimes and the food sucked, but we weren’t afraid. But Clarke, you have to see the whole picture.”

 

“What’s the whole picture?” Clarke asks, incredulous. “All I see is the human race destroying each other again. In every way possible.”

 

“We have a chance for peace,” Raven says. “And we have you now.”

 

“I am not worth repeating history!” Clarke exclaims. “If there was a trade of me dying and you guys not having to deal with any of this, I would take it. Gladly!”

 

“Well, I wouldn’t.” Raven snaps, her eyes fierce. It almost startles her, the intensity of it. Clarke has a hard time looking back without crumbling then. “And I know a whole Rover filled with people who wouldn’t.”

 

“Raven, that’s not smart. Think of—”

 

Raven surprises her by wrapping her arms around her and squeezing. Clarke didn’t realize she started to tremble, feeling herself loosen under Raven’s grasp. “It’s too high a price, Clarke.” She whispers in her ear. “That trade is too high a price.”

 

Clare wants to argue, but finds the words are caught in her throat. So she merely hugs back, letting herself have this one piece of selfishness. “Besides,” Raven says, pulling away. “This is all theoretical. Even if you weren’t here, we’d still be dealing with it. It’s easier to deal with it with you here, so deal.”

 

Raven pats her shoulder and the two make their way towards the Spacekru tent, where Monty is surrounded by scraps of metal. He’s twisting them in his hand – his other arm still tied in the sling – and drops things to the ground. “What are you doing?” Raven asks when they arrive, eyeing the pieces of scrap tumbling to the ground.

 

Monty looks up from where he’s tinkering and smiles. “I had a thought.”

 

“That’s dangerous,” Raven says, giving Clarke a look. “Last time he had a thought, it put Murphy into a coma.”

 

“I’m sorry, what?” Clarke cries.

 

“It was only for a day and he got back at me by shooting all my underwear into space.” Monty grumbles.

 

Clarke looks at Raven. She nods. “Oh yeah, he did. Monty chased his bare-ass naked around the Ark. It was hilarious.”

 

“It was mortifying.”

 

“It was us, you literally can’t be embarrassed.”

 

“Watch me try,” Monty grumbles. “Anyways, I found these parts and I was thinking if you increase their sensor radius, we could potentially radio with the Rover. Isn’t there a radio in there that I saw?”

 

“What?” Clarke asks, a little too quickly. Raven’s brows narrow and Monty startles. Clarke coughs, trying to regroup. “What do you mean about a radio?”

 

Monty frowns. “I thought I saw one in the back of the Rover – was there not one?”

 

“Um, yes,” Clarke states, trying to tell herself to calm down. They clearly have no idea what she used the radio for every day, but even so, simply talking about it makes her anxious. “Yes there is.”

 

“Why are you being weird?” Raven asks.

 

“I’m not.”

 

“You totally are.”

 

“It’s been six years,” Clarke states, pulling on her hair. “Maybe I’m weird now.”

 

“And it only comes in waves?”

 

“Anyways,” Clarke says. “You were saying something about contacting the Rover?”

 

“Yeah,” Monty says, sharing a look with Raven. “I found these pieces of scrap and I think Raven could make a receiver.” He gestures at what looks like nothing more than a pile of junk to Clarke. “What do you think?”

 

Of course, Raven starts to circle the junk, picking up pieces as she goes. “Actually, that might work.” Raven says to herself. “Yeah, I think I could wrangle something together.”

 

Monty sighs. “Awesome. I hate the idea that we can’t contact them.”

 

“Yeah, especially now.” Raven mutters.

 

“Why especially now?”

 

Raven turns to Clarke. “Should you tell him, or should I?”

 

Clarke sighs. “I think together would be best.”

 

So they tell him.

 

Telling Monty about what they saw in the bunker goes about as well as expected. Monty slowly grows more and more horrified, covering his mouth by the time they get to the end. “I think I’m going to get sick.” Monty cries, sprinting out of the tent.

 

Clarke and Raven follow him, blinking in the bright sunlight as he crumbles behind a fallen rock. Clarke hesitantly moves toward him, placing a hand on his back as he retches on the ground. “It’s going to be okay, Monty.” Clarke says softly, rubbing his back. “It will,”

 

“How is any of this okay?” Monty asks, wiping his lip. “Are you okay with it?”

 

“You know I’m not.”

 

“Then how will it be okay?”

 

“We just—”

 

“Wanheda.”

 

Both Monty and Clarke glance up at the word, it chilling Clarke’s bones. She almost doesn’t want to turn around at it, the name everything she hated about her life before. But she does, her breath catching when she sees what’s before her.

 

Dozens of members of Wonkru stand in a semicircle around the three of them, their bodies weak, clothing ripped, but eyes filled with hope. Clarke stands from her crouched position, taking them it. A woman moves toward her, her hands outstretched as she does so. “Wanheda,” she repeats.

 

Clarke almost doesn’t want to look inside her palm.

 

When she does, it’s worse than she could’ve imagined.

 

In the woman’s palm is the Book of the Commanders, the pages worn and wrinkled. It startles Clarke that it even survived Praimfaya. She doesn’t want to take it. She doesn’t want what it represents. But everyone is staring at her the way she feels when she’s in the open air. There’s a hope behind their eyes that Clarke doesn’t want to extinguish.

 

The woman takes a step closer. “Please,” she whispers, the word almost lost in the wind.

 

Clarke moves her hand to reach out and—

 

“What is going on up here?”

 

Clarke flinches as though she’s been burned, turning to see Octavia stalk toward everyone. In a movement that Clarke barely catches, the woman slips the book in her pocket and turns her attention to Octavia. Clarke tries to wipe her expression clean before saying, “We were up here for fresh air.”

 

When Octavia reaches them, she lifts an eyebrow at the woman. “I’m sorry, do you have clearance to be up here.”

 

The woman startles, rushing away, the whole group of people following her. Clarke tries to be as neutral as she can, not even following their scurrying back to the bunker. Both Monty and Raven approach and stand by Clarke’s side, which earn them a look. “The whole point of you staying behind was for you to help the people you’ve seemed so invested in. Or was that just for show?”

 

Clarke knows Octavia is baiting her, so she takes a breath. “I was on my way to them now.” Clarke states evenly.

 

“I recommend you go there and straight there.” Octavia says. “We wouldn’t want anyone getting suspicious.”

 

“Suspicious?” Clarke repeats.

 

“We wouldn’t want anyone finding you… wander, would we?” Octavia says carefully.

 

Clarke gets the same prickling sensation she had when they were in the ice box. Without reacting, she says, “Good tip.”

 

She brushes past Octavia without another glance, knowing full well that her stare is on her back.

 

***

 

“Where would be the best place to gather intel?” Indra asks Madi as she drives. No one questioned the woman when she hopped in the passenger seat, the quick map Clarke scribbled on the towel in her lap.

 

Madi’s driving far faster than Bellamy would’ve recommended, but she seems to have a handle on things. “There’s a part of the valley that’s hard to get to if you don’t know it’s there. Clarke stumbled across it in the early years when the weather was getting back to normal.”

 

“Back to normal?” Bellamy repeats, unable to stop himself from pulling himself in between the two. “What do you mean?”

 

“The weather was all over the place the first year after Praimfaya,” Madi says matter-of-factly as she drives the Rover across the barren desert. “Acid rain, lightning storms, hurricanes. It was kinda scary, but we ended up making a system in case either of us were out when that happened. There was a bad acid rain storm a few months after Clarke and I met, but she found this pocket in the valley that prevented her from being outside in it. I think we should go there.”

 

Bellamy moves back to his seat in the back of the Rover, trying not to be too obvious about how much that story bothers him. He’s clearly transparent because Harper gives him an encouraging look while Murphy nudges his shoulder. “Dude, it’s the past. Just take a breath.”

 

Bellamy crosses his arms, annoyed that Murphy of all people is the voice of reason. It just – years after constantly using his head like Clarke told him to, he’s having a hard time using it when it comes to her. Clutching his rifle, Bellamy takes a breath and tells himself that it isn’t because Murphy told him to. Murphy smirks nonetheless, earning an elbow from Harper.

 

“Don’t worry, Bellamy,” Madi says from the front. “It got better. Once the earth started to heal itself.”

 

“And we’re at war again, getting it ready to explode.” Bellamy mutters. “Indra, what are the chances that we can keep Octavia from starting a war with these people?”

 

Indra doesn’t answer for a while. When she does, her voice is tired and strained. “Bellamy, you have been gone for a long time. And I don’t know much about your time in space, but ours has remained shrouded in violence. When it is the only world you know, it is the only world you will engage in.”

 

Bellamy isn’t sure how to respond to that. The other Wonkru soldier in the Rover looks to the ground as Indra speaks, his eyes planted on the flood. “You can’t possibly want to get into another war.” Echo says calmly, despite the glower from the Wonkru soldier. “To lose more life in something that could be prevented.”

 

“No true warrior wishes for war.” Indra states. “It would be foolish to want the rivers to flow with blood. It does not mean that is the way this world is turning.”

 

“It doesn’t have to.” Harper offers and Bellamy can’t help but smile at her, grateful she’s here when he’s feeling as desolate as he is. “We can make it stop turning that way.”

 

“I truly hope so.” Indra says. “Six years is a long time. Long enough to lose yourself.”

 

“Do you think Octavia’s… lost?” Bellamy asks, the word catching in his throat. Thankfully no one – even Murphy – comments on it.

 

Indra stares out the window. “I forgot how green the earth can be.” She says breathlessly once they reach the trees. Echo strains her neck to see as well, Bellamy catching a watery sheen across them. “It’s good to see that in a world of immense darkness, the light can still create something beautiful.”

 

Bellamy doesn’t know how to respond to that. Instead, he returns his attention to his weapon, trying to calm himself with the bounce of the Rover. Echo places a hand on his arm and gives him a rare smile. He tries to return it, but falls short. For something that was supposed to sacred, the world was turning into nothing but dust.

 

Madi loops the Rover around, idling it forward until she parks it in the mouth of a cave. As soon as the engine’s cut off, Echo and Indra both scramble out of the Rover and step among the trees and the grass. They catch each other’s eyes and something unsaid goes between them. Perhaps it’s a truce or perhaps is a shared moment of bliss. Whatever it is, Indra doesn’t glare at Echo with disdain and Echo slightly puts her arms out to feel the breeze.

 

Murphy tumbles out of the Rover, gun in hand, saying, “Now what?”

 

Indra is broke out of her reverie to glower at him. “Now we find the newcomers and we gather intelligence against them.”

 

“Yeah, yeah, I know the whole point of the crazy road trip given by a toddler.” Murphy says, waving his hands. Madi glowers at him, but he smirks. “What I want to know is what’s the plan. We’ve already been blasted out of the air by their crazy guns. Their technology is way better than ours.”

 

“It’s a track and report, Murphy. You know that.” Bellamy states. “We aren’t starting a fight, we aren’t starting a war. We are simply tracking and reporting.”

 

“Sure sure, because these sort of things always go to plan.” Murphy says. “But we don’t even know where they are.”

 

“And they don’t know we’re here.” Indra states, her voice terse. “And we should keep it that way.”

 

“And what’s that supposed to mean?”

 

Emori leans in. “It means shut up.”

 

Murphy looks appalled. “Rude.”

 

“I did mean to shut up.” Indra states. She clutches her gun and tilts her head. “This way.”

 

Bellamy leans into Murphy as he passes. “You got in trouble.”

 

“Shut up, Bellamy.” Murphy hisses. “Now that Clarke’s back, you’re just as insufferable as before.”

 

“I’ll take it.” Bellamy grins.

 

Murphy grumbles at him. “I can’t even be mad at you because it’s like kicking a dog.”

 

Bellamy rolls his eyes. Stepping up toward Madi, Bellamy moves in line with her. “Now, just stay with me. Nothing’s going to happen to you. Just stick with me.”

 

“Of course nothing’s going to happen to me.” Madi say matter-of-factly. “If anything, I’ll be saving you.”

 

“I wouldn’t be surprised.” Bellamy chuckles. “So, how are you doing with all of this? I know it must be a lot for you.”

 

Madi doesn’t answer for a moment. She walks ahead of him a bit, so that the two of them are by themselves. “Well, it’s a lot sometimes.” Madi answers honestly. “But I am excited to meet you all.”

 

“I’m sure,” Bellamy says with a sad smile. “It’s okay to be upset, though.” He offers, hesitantly squeezing her shoulder. Madi tenses but then leans into it, her small hands gripping her gun. “You won’t make anyone mad if you are a little… frustrated.”

 

Madi bites her lip. “Well,” she starts, her eyes straight ahead. “I think that I thought it’d be a little different when everyone was here. I thought that we would just be living in the valley with more people. I didn’t think we’d be fighting. I thought we’d be trying to make a better world. You know, that’s what my parents wanted.”

 

Bellamy startles. “What do you mean?”

 

“I told you they were pacifists.” Madi explains. “They always said once we stopped with the Commanders, we’d be able to really figure out what peace meant. That’s why they hid me under the stairs. They wanted me to be able to choose for myself if I wanted to fight or if I didn’t. It feels like you all are taking away my choice.”

 

Bellamy doesn’t know what to say. He holds his gun close to his chest and his gaze falls to the ground.

 

“And you’re taking away Clarke’s.” Madi states, her stare resolute. The two of them have fell far behind everyone else and Bellamy doesn’t want to catch up.

 

“I’m sorry?” Bellamy asks.

 

“She doesn’t want to fight. She’s said it several times. And your sister is going to make us fight.” Madi says softly.

 

“Clarke,” he says and his voice catches. “Clarke doesn’t have to fight if she doesn’t want to. We won’t make her.”

 

“She will though.” Madi insists. “She’ll do it for me. To make sure I’m safe and we can go back to our home.” Madi says thoughtfully. Bellamy knows she’s right. “And she’ll do the same for you. All of you. Do we really have to do this?”

 

“Madi, they took Clarke and they hurt her. They aren’t here to make peace.”

 

“Did you even try?” Madi implores, finally looking at him. “Did you even try to make peace?”

 

Bellamy isn’t sure how to answer that. He wants to tell her that they did something, but that would be a clear lie. Instead, he holds his gun close. “Madi—”

 

“Yeah, that’s what I thought.” Madi says quietly. “Bellamy,” She states.

 

“Yeah, Madi?”

 

“If it comes down to a choice between you guys or Octavia, or Wonkru, or whatever. I choose Clarke.” Madi says firmly. “She’s all I’ve had for six years. I choose Clarke.”

 

Bellamy looks to the floor. “Yeah,” he states. “I understand.”

 

“Stop talking.” Indra commands, placing her fist up in the air. “Do you hear that?”

“Hear what?” Murphy groans. “I can’t—”

 

“Shut up Murphy,” Echo states, placing her hand up. “I hear it too.”

 

Bellamy strains to hear in the woods, but all he can hear is the faint sounds of birds and wind. There’s nothing but the breathing around him.

 

Then, he hears something else.

 

A buzzing. A buzzing he can’t quiet understand. He gently pushes Madi behind him as they move forward. Bellamy creeps forward. Indra cocks her rifle. “Everyone follow me. And quietly.” She snaps at Murphy.

 

Murphy makes a face, but follows nonetheless.

 

Bellamy steps forward, his gun trained on the noises in the forest.  Madi breathes heavily next to him, her arms brushing against his side as they move.

 

“Indra,” the Wonkru soldier states.

 

“Be quiet, fool!” Indra snaps, whipping her head in his direction.

 

He looks down to his feet and everyone follows him. Underneath his feet is a device, a green light blinking under his heel. “Oh my god,” Emori states, her eyes wide. “That’s a bomb and it’s activated.”

 

“Can you deactivate it?” Murphy cries.

 

“I wouldn’t even know where to start? Not with it activated!” Emori exclaims.

 

The soldier’s face wipes clean. He stares at Indra, his expression neutral. Yu gonplei ste odon.” He states, his eyes shining.

 

Indra freezes. The two stare at each other, Indra’s expression not faltering. Nothing breathes. No one says anything. Then she nods. “Alright, everyone follow me.”

 

“But what about him?” Harper exclaims, gesturing at the man.

 

“There’s nothing we can do now.” Indra states. “Follow me.”

 

“But—”

 

“Follow me. Now.

 

Bellamy looks at the man. He’s straightened up and focused on the world ahead of him. Strong. Resolute. Bellamy doesn’t want to walk away but Indra is already heading out of view. “We’re not going to save him?” Madi asks at his side, gaping at the man who is pointedly not looking at anyone around him.

 

“Come on, Madi,” Bellamy states, ushering her toward Indra.

 

“But—”

 

“The world isn’t what your parents wanted yet.” He says. “We’ve got a way to go.”

 

Madi grows quiet, marching alongside him.

 

They go no more than five minutes before an explosion rings through the trees.

 

***

 

Clarke is looking for sedatives.

 

She rifles through the medical bay’s storage closet, trying to ignore the feeling she has that someone’s watching her. She moves without hesitating, mainly because she’s trying to remind herself that she isn’t being watched. Clarke tries to tell herself that she’s simply not used to having people around. For years, it’s only been her and Madi. There’s bound to be a little weirdness.

 

Pulling out a few bandages, Clarke fills her hands and wishes Raven and Monty were there. Now that people were back in her life, she finds the corners of quiet are too loud. Standing up, Clarke turns and startles. “Mom?”

 

Abby walks through the med bay, flinching at Clarke. “Clarke, what are you doing here?” She asks, her hands trembling.

 

Clarke frowns at her mother, watching the way she shakes. “Mom, is everything alright?” She asks, setting the supplies down. “Are you looking for something?”

 

Abby’s darting eyes stop onto Clarke. “No,” she says hastily. “Why would you ask that?”

 

“Because you won’t look me in the eyes.” Clarke states. She approaches her mother carefully, her hands up. “Mom, what is going on?”

 

“Clarke, now is not the time.” Abby says, her gaze behind Clarke to where the supply closet is open. “I was seeing if Jackson was here.”

 

“No, no,” Clarke says, grabbing her mother’s arm before she can scramble out. “Mom, please talk to me.”

 

Abby shakes her head. “There’s nothing to talk about. I—”

 

“Mom, you were underground for six years. Octavia made fighting pits. You had to—” Clarke catches her tongue. “Mom, I’m here for you. Let me help you.”

 

“I don’t need help.” Abby says, her mouth twitching into a smile. “I was just looking for Jackson.”

 

“No, you weren’t.” Clarke says quietly. “I know this because Jackson is topside, helping people breathe unfiltered air. And it’s the post that both you and him were assigned to by Octavia this morning. It doesn’t end until the evening.”

 

Abby doesn’t respond.

 

“And I know that all of Wonkru was commanded to go topside for these evaluations. No one else was given permission to be down here besides me.”

 

“Clarke, what’s your point?”

 

“I saw Monty’s stitches.” Clarke says, trying to keep herself calm. She sees her mother crumbling before her, all the signs of an affliction she saw on the Ark all too often. An affliction that caused people to be floated once found out. Taking a settling breath, Clarke continues, “I saw how uneven they were.”

 

Shaking her head, Abby sighs. “Clarke, being underground deteriorates dexterity. There wasn’t any sun – all light was filtered and manufactured.”

 

“Mom, there wasn’t any sun on the Ark. All light was manufactured there too.” Clarke states evenly. “And you didn’t have any issues there.”

 

“Clarke—”

 

“What really were you coming in here for?” Clarke asks, turning toward the cabinet. “What were you going for when everyone else was topside?”

 

“Clarke, that’s ridiculous.”

 

"Mom," Clarke says, moving forward and putting her hands on her mothers. She feels the way her skin is waxy and the way it shakes underneath her chills Clarke's bones. "Mom, please, I want to help you."

 

"There's nothing to be helped." Abby snaps, wrenching her hands away. "You don't know the first thing of what you're talking about."

 

"Oh, I don't?" Clarke snaps, turning back toward the storage. "What were you looking for? I would imagine it would've been started initially to help with anxiety but easily addicted to." Clarke says, rummaging around. "Not this, it is for constipation." Clarke mutters angrily, unable to stop the frustration from mounting in her voice. "Not this... here we go!" Clarke finds a bottle of pills tucked in the back of storage. She wouldn't have even noticed it was there if she wasn't speaking to her mother. It was on its side, hidden by gauze, clear that someone didn't want it to be found. "This?" Clarke asks, stretching out her hand to offer it. "This is what you want?"

 

Abby doesn't answer.

 

Clarke takes a breath, trying to calm herself down, but the weight of the bunker is crushing her. The death and violence swirl around her head until it's overwhelming, until she asks herself the question that rolled around in her head for years comes back: what happens to the Commander of Death when there's no one left to kill?

 

Now there's so many people.

 

"Is this what you want?" Clarke repeats, her voice raising. "Huh, Mom?"

 

"You don't understand, Clarke--"

 

"Then make me understand!" Clarke shouts, tears welling in her eyes. "Make me understand what happened down here - why it happened! Please, help me to understand!"

 

Abby bows her head, her eyes dropping to the floor. 

 

"Then take them." Clarke snaps. "If they're that important to you that your work is suffering, take them!"

 

"I think we've heard enough."

 

Clarke startles when a group of people storm into the medical bay, Octavia at the helm. She eyes Clarke with a venom that nearly causes her to flinch, eyes fiery and hard. Stalking to the center of the room, Octavia unsheathes her sword. "You have been caught, guilty of crimes against Wonkru. And for that, you will fight for your life."

 

Clarke reaches out, "Octavia, no. She needs--"

 

"You misunderstand me, Clarke." Octavia says calmly. "Abby will not be fighting alone." With a swift motion, she grabs the medication out of Clarke's hands and nods to her guards. "Lock them both up."

 

"What?" Clarke asks, struggling as her arms are wrenched behind her back. "What are you doing?"

 

"Octavia, please!" Abby cries, the sudden aggression towards Clarke snapping her out of her reverie. Someone else is tying her hands behind her back as Clarke is shoved forward. "She had nothing to do with this!"

 

"That's not what we all saw." Octavia says. "We all heard Clarke offer you the drugs, tell you to take them."

 

It's happening so fast, it feels like the world is spinning. Clarke opens her mouth to argue, but nothing comes out. Octavia herself wrenches Clarke's arm so they're close, Clarke able to feel Octavia's breath on her neck. "Still refusing to fight, Wanheda?"

 

***

 

Madi hasn't said anything for a while, occasionally pointing Indra in what Bellamy hopes is the right direction. It's strange, watching the once almost-feral child grow somber before him, knowing it is the world he's presented her that's done so. Harper lags back so she's close to Bellamy bringing up the rear, Madi far ahead with Indra. "Everything okay?" She whispers, standing close.

 

"This isn't what she expected when we got down here," Bellamy responds, unable to remove the sorrow in his voice. 

 

"I don't think it's what any of us thought." Harper admits. "We'll find peace."

 

"How many times have we said that?" Bellamy asks, unable to take his eyes of her back. "And what are we even doing, having a twelve-year-old lead us?"

 

"Bellamy, stop." Harper states, placing a hand on his arm. "You're getting in your head again. Take a breath and a step back, it's important."

 

Bellamy does as told, only because he can feel his frustration building as they move quietly through the woods. "We always spoke about doing whatever we needed to in order to survive, but what are we going to do once we have? I don't want another needless war."

 

"No one does - not even Indra. You heard her. That's why we have to be involved." Harper says with a kind smile. "We have to be the ones to stop it."

 

Bellamy takes a breath, knowing she's right. He's always felt calmer with Harper - after her time of wandering, she settled into a contentment that he always envied. He sighs, taking a moment to regroup, lifting his gaze back to where Indra and Madi walk. 

 

Something rustles in the bushes.

 

Stiffening, Bellamy leans into Harper. "Harper, I need you to calmly go up to Indra and tell her someone is here."

 

Harper immediately tenses, her eyes narrowing as they do whenever she knows something is about to happen. Without another word, she calmly moves among the ranks, no one even casting her a glance. Bellamy always felt better with Harper at his side, particularly for moments like these.

 

His eyes dart around the woods, trying not to cause any suspicion. He moves closer too, listening to Murphy go on about some movie to Echo and Emori, sliding past them.

 

It happens in a second.

 

The buzzing sound is familiar. It takes him a moment to remember where he's heard it before. It grows louder.

 

It hits him.

 

"Everybody down!" He bellows, launching himself at Madi.

 

The shot echoes in the woods. There's a searing pain in his side, and then there is nothing.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER NINE

The world comes back into focus with a bang and a few swear words.

“—ear to fucking god, if you’re dead, I’m fucking off to Mars.”

“Murphy?” Bellamy says dazedly, Murphy the only person he can think of who would be swearing at him so intensely when he’s fairly certain his head is detached from his skull. “What’s going on?”

“What’s going on is you’re bleeding out in the middle of the Ground, so suck it up, and let me help you stand.”

“What?”

“Oh god, you’re useless. Indra!”

Bellamy really doesn’t think he’s being unreasonable, but he genuinely can’t figure out what he’s supposed to be feeling anyways. All he knows is his chest hurts, there’s a sharp pain in his side, and he’s surrounded by smoke.

It comes back to him sharp enough to take his breath away.

“M-Madi,” he coughs, trying to sit up, but a blinding pain prevents him to do so.

“Bellamy?” A small voice asks at his side.

He’s able to turn his head enough to see Madi curled a few yards away, her arms wrapped around her knees, black blood trailing down her face. “Madi,” he chokes. “Madi, are you alright?”

She doesn’t respond. Her face is buried in her knees and he thinks he sees her shaking, but the whole world is shaking. “Madi!” He shouts, forcing him into a coughing fit.

Madi’s head whips up, eyes wide. “Bellamy?” She manages, tears streaming down her face. As quick as her head popped up, she scrambles over to where he is. “I-I thought you were dead.”

“Many have tried,” Bellamy jokes, but it comes out as more of a pathetic wheeze. “Are you okay?” He doesn’t like the deep cut on her forehead and the fact that she’s holding her side.

“Y-Yeah,” Madi stutters. “You saved me.”

“I did?” He asks, not to be funny but because he genuinely can’t remember. He remembers hearing a noise, a buzzing sounds, and… oh right. “Well, that was nice of me.”

“Bellamy!” Echo cries, shuffling over to where they are. She’s got a few scrapes and bruises herself, but everything seems to be relatively superficial. “Are you okay?”

“Seems to be up in the air at this point.” He groans. “Are you?”

“Fine.”

“And the others?”

“Murphy went to get Indra to help get you in the Rover, Emori is trying to find Harper.”

“Harper’s missing?”

“Bellamy, she—” Echo’s gaze travels to the distance. “She’s right there. She’s got a limp, but seems to be fine.”

Murphy and Indra rush over to where they are, Indra stopping dead in her tracks. “A natblida.” She breathes, eyes wide.

Madi looks up, her face covered with black blood. It takes only a moment of recognition until Bellamy can sense the fear on her. She scrambles away from Indra, but freezes when Indra says, “You must wash that off before we go to the bunker. Be sure that you do.” She turns to Bellamy. “Can you move?”

“Depends which part of the body you want me to move,” Bellamy wheezes. “I can do a perfectly respectable head turn right now.”

Indra isn’t impressed. “Help me. We need to get to the Rover as soon as possible. They’re close.” Indra looks to everyone. “Bellamy, this will be unpleasant.”

“Just like this whole interaction?”

“At this point, I hope he screams.” Murphy says, but his eyes betray him. Murphy puts his hands under his left arm and whispers, “I wish I had recording equipment.”

“I hate you in this moment.”

“And plenty more moments to come, I’m sure. Let’s get you up!”

Murphy was right. The moment they all lift him, he hates him. He hates everyone, actually. In fact, he hates everyone so much, he can’t help a few curse words that slip through his lips. A part of him tells himself to be better since there’s a preteen present, but as they walk him toward the Rover, he’s not sure he cares anymore.

“And I thought I had a bad mouth,” Murphy muses as they hoist him in the back of the Rover. Bellamy can’t stop a yell when they set him down.

“Madi, can you drive?” Harper asks as she and Emori finally make it over.

“Yeah, I think so.” She says, her voice small.

Indra hands her a towel that she pours some water on this. “Clean your face. You’ll be able to see better.”

Madi takes it from her with shaking hands. “My parents were pacifists.” She tells Indra, her eyes wide.

Indra looks to Bellamy. “Okay. Hopefully they weren’t against driving.”

Nodding her head, Madi climbs into the driver’s seat of the Rover. Everyone else follows suit, Bellamy straining his neck to try and see what’s going on. It seems to pull against his skin, causing him to yelp. “I hate everything right now. I don’t think that there is anything that could make me hate the world more.” He says through gritted teeth.

Indra chose not sit in the front with Madi, Murphy offering to keep an eye on her as she drives. Bellamy can’t see from where he is lying down, but he’s certain she’s white knuckling it. Indra kneels next to him, her hands hovering over the wound. “I don’t think it’s anything too life threatening.”

“I’d sincerely like to beg to differ.” Bellamy chokes.

“The fact that you’re saying anything at all is usually a good sign. However, we should have someone look at you the second we get back.”

“Seriously – I hate everything and nothing can increase that.”

There’s a crackle in the back and Bellamy lifts his head. “What’s that?”

“The radio’s making a noise.” Emori states, leaning toward it. “How is that possible, I thought you said Madi said it wasn’t functioning.”

Bellamy lifts his head. “What?”

Emori peeks at it. “Holy cow, it’s hooked to the solar system of the Rover. So it’s always charged and functioning. As soon as you turned on the Rover, it turned on. Madi – did Clarke hook this up to try and contact anyone?”

“Uh…”

“Madi!”

“Emori, dude, chill!” Murphy shouts from the front. There’s some noise and Bellamy assumes that Murphy’s glaring at them all.

“—ello? Hello, can you hear me?” The radio sparks to life again, the words barely legible. “Guys, it’s Raven, can you hear me?”

“Oh my god,” Emori breathes, grabbing the radio receiver. “Raven, is that you?”

“Oh thank god,” Raven sighs. “I have never told you how beautiful your voice is, Emori. How are you guys?”

“Oh, we’ve been better.” Murphy bellows from the front.

Raven doesn’t answer right away. “Raven?” Emori asks through the silence. “How did you even know that the radio was functioning or even in the Rover?”

“Clarke told Monty about it to make him feel better about Harper going without him.”

“So she knew it was functioning?” Emori asks, eyeing Madi in the front. She doesn’t answer.

Bellamy groans. “Emori, leave it alone.”

“I just find that interesting.”

“This is riveting, only catching every few words, but we have a problem.”

“Yeah, our problem is we just got blown up.” Murphy calls.

“Are you guys alright?”

“Minor injuries.” Bellamy chokes.

“That means Bellamy’s beat the hell up, right?”

“Pretty much.” Emori smiles.

“Guys, we have a problem.”

Her voice is hesitant. Raven’s voice is never hesitant. She’s a force, a hurricane of a woman, and right now she’s not even a breeze. “Raven, what is it?” Bellamy asks, not sure if he wants the answer.

“Octavia has charged Clarke with crimes against Wonkru.”

The words are crackling, but they’re as clear as day. But they don’t make sense. None of it makes sense. “Raven,” he says, as if daring her to change her words.

“She’s going in the Pit this evening along with her mother. How fast can you get here?”

***

The cell is stuffy.

Clarke is still. She’s staring at a wall, covered in grime and blood, unable to watch her mother tremble in the corner. Clarke isn’t afraid. “Clarke,” she starts.

“No.”

“Clarke.”

“No.”

The words isn’t loud. She isn’t yelling. It’s soft, but firm.

She isn’t afraid.

“Clarke, listen to me. I have watched many of these fights. If people refuse to fight, she executes them onsite. That’s what she wants. She wants you and I not to fight each other so she can execute us.”

“I’m not fighting you, Mom.” Clarke says, watching the wall that doesn’t change.

Because she doesn’t really see it. Currently, Clarke is sitting in the valley, surrounded by trees. There’s a wind in the air and the sky is clear. It’s one of the mornings where everything is pink and everything looks like it’s in an oil painting. She’s not in a bunker. She’s not about to die.

Clarke’s feeling the breeze.

“Clarke, listen to me. All we have to do is make it look entertaining. We’ll pretend that we’re in a fight, then when the crowd is riled up, you will take the—”

“I’m not fighting you, Mom.”

Why won’t she let her stay with the trees and the sky?

“Clarke—”

“No, do you hear yourself?” Clarke asks, incredulous. “Do you hear what you just said? You said when the crowd is riled up, you want me to kill you. In what possible scenario do you think that will happen?”

Abby places her hands together. “What do you want me to do? You want me to kill you?”

Clarke shakes her head. “I really don’t want anyone to be killed.”

“Clarke, do you hear what I’m saying? We have to choose between one person walking out of this or no one!”

“No,” Clarke says quietly. “No, we don’t.”

“I—”

“Mom, you once told me I was the person who decides who lives and who dies.” Clarke says, finally looking her mother in the eye. Abby recoils at the reminder, actually taking a step back from her. “I’m not that person anymore. I’m not deciding who lives and who dies. I’m not fighting you, and you can’t convince me otherwise.”

Abby takes a moment. She brings her hands up to her lips, shutting her eyes and quaking. Clarke can’t bear the sight of her. A dark part of her mind wishes she could bring the full force of her anger on Octavia – on Wonkru. She wishes she could unholster a gun and show the world how fair it is. She wishes she could light it on fire in the same way it lit her on fire.

Except she sits there.

“What happens to the Commander of Death when there’s no one left to kill?” Clarke says to herself, unable to stop saying it out loud.

It’s a question she asked herself many times in her isolation. The Commander of Death. It defined who she was – even though she didn’t want to be. Bowing her head, she looks at her hands. She’s been covered with so much blood that she’s caused. There’s no way she’ll add her mother to that.

Abby strides over to where she is and sits next to her. Clarke can feel her tremble next to her. “Clarke, you cannot ask me to be okay with your death.”

“It’s not okay, Mom. Nothing here is okay.”

“Clarke—”

Before she can finish her sentence, there’s a loud noise behind them. They turn to see Wonkru soldiers leading someone to the cell, tossing them in with them. Clarke gapes at the small man who crumbles before them, his lip split and forehead bleeding. They can’t put together what’s happening quick enough to help him – he’s on his feet in a matter of seconds.

He’s a small man, must be in his twenties. It isn’t someone Clarke recognizes, but the weather behind his eyes convinced Clarke that he’s originally a Grounder. “Wanheda.” He breathes, a smile breaking on his face.

“Excuse me?”

“I failed, Wanheda.” He states. “I’m sorry for that.”

Clarke frowns. “Failed? What are you referring to?”

“I tried to kill Blodreina.” He states, eyes a bit wild. “I tried to kill her, but I wasn’t able to.”

“What?” Clarke cried. “W-Why would you do that?”

“For you.” He says. “So you can lead us.”

“Oh my god,” Clarke breathes. “No. No, why would you do that? Do you understand what you’ve been sentenced to?”

The man nods. “I’ve been sentenced to death.”

“No, you’ve been sentenced to battle.”

A smile stretches across his face. “I will not end you, Wanheda.”

“Stop calling me that!” Clarke shouts, leaping up to her feet.

“Wan—”

“Clarke.”

Octavia’s voice cuts through the manic energy she’s feeling toward this particular man. She’s standing at the entrance of the cell, towering there in all her bloodthirsty glory. It strikes Clarke that she should be more afraid than she is. Octavia has every upper hand. In fact, she has Clarke’s life at the edge of her blade.

Clarke isn’t afraid.

“Yes?” She asks, turning away from her mother and the man.

“I’d like to speak with you.”

Nodding, Clarke makes her way over to where Octavia stands and move past the open bars of the cell. Wonkru soldiers flank her sides and she doesn’t even give them an ounce of attention as Octavia leads the way.

Octavia opens a door, signals to her soldiers, and closes it behind Clarke after she enters.

It occurs to Clarke that she’s been in this room before, what seems like lifetimes ago.

Gazing around, Clarke remembers this is where she offered to go with Bellamy to get Raven. A decision that changed the course of everything. Clarke tries to remember that person who stood in this room. She just sacrificed everything to try to keep humanity alive, surrounded by the threat of war and extinction. She’d betrayed Bellamy. She was held together by glue and tape.

Perhaps not much has changed.

“Seems like we’re at an impasse.” Octavia states as she paces around the room, Clarke standing still in the middle. Clarke lets the woman circle her like a vulture. She remains still.

“I don’t know if you could call this an impasse.”

“What would you call it?”

“An execution.” Clarke states. “Let’s not waste our time with skirting around the issue.”

Octavia huffs a laugh. “If it were an execution,” she starts, unsheathing her sword. The motion is quick. Seamless. Time underground had not dulled her skills. “I would just kill you right now.” She spits, bringing the blade underneath Clarke’s throat.

Clarke doesn’t flinch. “No you wouldn’t.” She says.

“And why is that?”

“Because you want an audience.”

Octavia doesn’t bring her blade down. But there’s something behind her eyes that betray her. They startled. Clarke knows she’s right. “You’re questioning whether I can kill you in private?” Octavia asks, her words rough.

“No, I’m confident you can kill me whenever you like. I’m simply saying you don’t want to.” Clarke tilts her head up, unblinking. “You want everyone to see you take down Wanheda.”

A smile curls on Octavia. “It’s about time someone should.”

***

“Can we go any faster?” Bellamy growls from the back.

“We’re going as fast as the hobbit’s feet can push the gas pedal!” Murphy shouts from the front. “And I don’t think you rushing a small child will help anything!”

Bellamy all but yells when they hit a bump, rattling his ribcage. “Bellamy, please calm down.” Harper insists at his side. “Madi’s driving as fast as she can.”

Bellamy is forced to stare at the ceiling of the Rover, his mind moving in ways that makes his entire body quake. “No,” he breathes, unable to stop the panic that is slowly creeping in. “Octavia wouldn’t do this.”

“Yes she would.”

Indra hasn’t said a word since Raven managed to get the message across. She sits with her back against the side of the Rover, not looking anyone in the eye. After the loss of the other soldier, it occurs to Bellamy she’s the only one present whose seen it all.

“That is not your sister, Bellamy.” Indra says, her words careful. Precise. “I had hoped that when she saw you, it would pull her from the darkness, but I think she’s gone far too deep.”

“What happened, Indra?” Bellamy asks, turning his head. “What happened to her?”

“There’s only so much something can bend before it breaks. I watched it happen. Octavia came to me on the Ground bent. Bent in ways that people cannot imagine. When Lincoln was executed, I watched her bend again. But the moment she was locked under the ground, I watched her break.” Indra doesn’t look him in the eye. “I’m not justifying it. I’m not justifying the actions that happened in the bunker. The Pit. The loss of humanity. I’m merely saying that Octavia will never forgive a world that bent her until she broke. So she will light it ablaze with the fire from her own body.”

Bellamy blinks away a few tears, frustrated that the thought of raising his hand to wipe them away makes him cry a bit more. “But why Clarke?” He whispers. “Why is she determined to kill Clarke?”

“Because Clarke represents everything that she wasn’t given the opportunity to be.” Indra says. “Clarke was born of privilege, as I’m told. She lead the 100 when you first landed. She decided who lived, who died, and how to attack. She is a fierce warrior of the mind, while Octavia is one of body. Octavia sees Clarke as a threat because she knows that those in the bunker will not have forgotten the legend of Wanheda. The last official Commander was Lexa – someone who was beloved by her people. And Lexa favored Clarke. That sort of loyalty does not go away with a mere show of force.”

“So you’re saying Octavia’s going to kill Clarke to stop a revolution?” Murphy asks from the front.

“That’s exactly what I’m saying.” Indra states. “And if you didn’t consider this an option, you clearly haven’t been paying attention.”

***

Clarke stands at the entrance to the Pit. She hadn’t been afraid, but for the first time in years, she’s forced to acknowledge her death.

“Clarke—”

“Mom, I’m not fighting you.” She says for what feels like the hundredth time.

Once she got back in the cell, the man waxed poetic about her pending victory while her mother cried. Begged. Did everything a mother would do when watching her child accept death. Clarke wonders in the back of her mind what she would do if it were Madi. It softens her to her mom’s plight, but does nothing to soften her resolve.”

“Listen to me, please.” Abby says, marching over to where Clarke is, cradling her face in her hands. “You don’t understand what we’ve done to survive—”

“I know, Mom.” Clarke says. She puts as much implication behind it as possible. Abby’s eyes widen and she stumbles back. “I know. And I love you, Mom. I’m not fighting you.”

“Octavia will—”

“Let Octavia do whatever she will do.” Clarke says. “I’m not that person anymore.”

“Places, now.”

The command comes from behind them and Abby stares at Clarke. There are tears streaming down her face and she’s shaking from what Clarke can only imagine is withdrawal. Turning to face the Pit entrance, Clarke takes a breath.

She is about to die.

Clarke has thought an awful lot of death – more than most she assumes. For a while, every extra day was a surprise. Now? She honestly didn’t expect it to end like this.

The doors of the Pit open and Clarke is face-to-face with Miller. There’s an unreadable expression on his face and he’s holding the door open, intently not looking at her. Clarke moves past him and waits for her to acknowledge her – acknowledge anything about this insane moment – but he doesn’t. He mere looks to the wall.

It’s loud.

There are shrieks and calls all around her. She hears the occasional “Wanheda!” along with a few calls for her death. There’s a pounding in her ears as she watches them. They claw at the chain link fence as if they want to rip her to pieces.

She’s suddenly struck by the memory of Praimfaya descending upon her. The flames cascading toward her as she stood on the tower. It’s back in this moment, except this time, the flames are replaced with people. They claw at her, shout, descend upon her like a fire that’s determined to destroy everything.

Octavia stands from her throne, her skin painted with red and her hands clean as if she hasn’t taken their blood already. The shouts quiet for a moment and she utters one phrase:

“Be the last.”

There’s enough shouting for Clarke to realize it’s started, the man sprinting to the chain link fence to grab a weapon. Clarke stands. She stands and watches humanity destroy itself.

For the longest time, Clarke thought humanity needed to be saved. She never asked herself if it was worth saving.

The man takes a swing at her mother, bringing her back to reality. Clarke watches as her Mom scrambles to pick up an axe close by, her trembling fingers wrapping around the hand. The man swings again, narrowly missing Abby. “Stop!” Clarke shouts, snapping out of her stupor. “Please stop!”

Abby swings the axe at the man, who ducks. “We can’t stop, Wanheda!” The man cries. “This is our only way to peace!”

He nicks her mother’s arm, blood pouring from her shoulder. “Mom!” Clarke cries.

The yelling grows.

It’s suffocating her. The people are screaming and she’s shaking. “Stop it, please!” She cries, running to where there’s a sword on the wall. Yanking it from where it’s mounted, Clarke swings up and parries a blow right before it falls onto Abby’s head. “Please don’t.” She begs, tears in her eyes. “Please stop.”

“I’m sorry, Wanheda.” The man says earnestly. “I know you love your family. But this is bigger than—”

His words are cut short by a swing to her right, blood bubbling from his mouth. Clarke’s eyes widen when she sees her mother next to her, the axe buried in the man’s side. The man drops his weapon, eying the wound. “Ai gonplei ste odon.” He mutters, collapsingin the ground. Clarke crumbles to her knees, placing her hands over the wound.

“Wait, hang on—” She breathes as the cheers from the crowd slowly fade away. All she can hear is her own heartbeat in her ears. “I-I—”

The man brings his hands up and pushes hers off. “For you, Wanheda.”

His head tilts and his eyes empty.

Clarke chokes. She remains kneeling, her hands covered in blood.

The crowd rages on.

“Clarke.”

Clarke can’t turn to see her mother. Her hands are still hovering over the man, even though she knows logically he’s gone. The crowd is yelling – she thinks they’re even throwing something at her – but all she can see is the axe buried in his side.

“Clarke.”

With a moment of preparation, Clarke turns to face her Mom. “Mom, I-I—”

Abby is no longer shaking. In fact, she’s shrouded in a calm that Clarke doesn’t recognize. With a swift motion, Abby swings her arm up and stabs down.

Clarke doesn’t feel anything.

Then she feels everything.

Letting out a cry, Clarke stares at her leg where a small knife is embedded in it, black blood seeping through her pants. Clarke tries not to whimper, but she can’t help it. “Mom,” she breathes, her hands quaking as they drift around it.

“First we survive, then we figure out how to get our humanity back.” Abby says, her words careful. “That’s what we’ve always told ourselves.”

“Just do it.” Clarke states, her chest heaving.

She’s scared.

She’s scared because she’s in the Pit, next to the unseeing eyes of a man who chose to thrown his life down for her. She’s scared because she can hear the calls for her death. She’s scared because her mother is looming over her with a dagger.

“Do it.” Clarke pleads.

“What if we’ve lost our humanity?” Abby asks, her eyes swimming with tears. “What if we can’t get it back?”

“Mom—”

“You have to help us find it.” Abby states.

“Mom—”

Abby brings the dagger across her throat.

***

The drive to the bunker, Bellamy can’t remember. He can’t remember Indra and Murphy helping him out of the Rover. He can’t remember Madi parking it. He can’t remember them rushing in the bunker as quickly as they can. He can’t remember how they got there.

He can’t remember.

There is one thing he can remember.

He remembers the moment he turns the corner to see the Pit. He remembers the shouting and screaming, the bodies on the floor. He remembers looking down and knowing in that instant, they were too late.

And god, he remembers the scream.

He remembers the scream that Clarke Griffin made when she broke.

Chapter Text

CHAPTER TEN

 

They don’t teach you about grief when you start your medical training.

 

Eventually, maybe.  But on the Ark, there was no time for grief. Grief was time-consuming, it was energy-consuming, it represented everything the Ark tried to stamp out: moving with your emotions, taking time to do nothing, and acting again the good of all. In short, grief wasn’t good for survival. To survive, one had to push it to the side, in a pocket of their mind. Never to be opened.

 

Except this didn’t work for someone who had been lit on fire.

 

It was like every nerve was exposed after Praimfaya – she felt everything on a scale she never had before. Every person is louder, every emotion is heightened. Now, as she is on her knees in the pit, her hands covered in her mother’s blood, she can’t hear herself scream.

 

Clarke knows she’s screaming. She’s acutely aware of how it feels as though someone has stuck a poker down her throat that has been warming by the fire. She vaguely can see shapes pounding their fists against the chain of the Pit, shouting or cheering, she doesn’t know. Most of all, she’s somewhat aware of how she’s gripping her mother until her knuckles turn white.

 

She feels nothing.

 

And everything all at once.

 

Somewhere behind her, someone grabs her arms and wrenches them behind her back and drags her to her feet and away from her mom. Clarke struggles against their grips as they pull her backwards and she fights. God, she fights. She fights like a feral animal in a cage, desperately trying to claw their way out. More hands grab her when she manages to wrench an arm out of its grasp. She feels them hold her, she watches herself get pulled further and further away from her mother.

 

Clarke’s still screaming. It doesn’t seem to do anything for the people restraining her. Soon, she no longer can see the Pit. She can’t see her mother and she can’t see the jeering from above. Bars slam against a wall and somehow she’s back into the cell that she started in, although now she’s all alone.

 

Clarke stops screaming.

 

At one point, she collapses back onto her knees. She’s by herself and the world is too loud but she can’t make anything out. When she moves her head around, it’s as if there’s a lag, jerking the world to catch up.

 

Everything.

 

Stops.

 

Starts.

 

Stops.

 

Stop.

 

Stop.

 

It takes a while for Clarke to register that the terrifying noise is coming from her as she can’t catch her breath. She places a hand on her chest and can feel the pounding of her heart feeling as though it would run rampant in her chest. The logical side of her knows that she needs to calm down. That the way the world is tilting and darkness spots her eyes isn’t good. Logically, she knows this.

 

But it doesn’t stop the spiral.

 

Clarke spirals.

 

She spirals as if she’ll never come up from air again. She spirals until her forearms are pressed against the filthy cell ground, her forehead soon joining. Scraping her nails against the cement ground, Clarke tries to use the sensation to snap out of it, but she can’t feel it. She continues to drag her hands across the bunker floor until her fingers start to bleed again, trembling from head to toe.

 

Slowly, the world slots back into place.

 

Clarke isn’t sure how it happens. It always did, though. Every time she thought that she wouldn’t be able to survive something, the world snapped back into place and she was a part of it again. And it did it once more, giving her enough gravity until she was back.

 

She waits for something to cause her to wake up, though. She waits to wake so that she can go back to the way life was. Sure, it was lonely, with only she and Madi. And yes, she looked to the sky more often than she cared to admit.

 

But there was hope. Everyone was alive and there was hope.

 

There is no hope in this bunker.

 

“What have I done?” Clarke asks herself and she curls her fingers one last time until they become fists. They rake against the ground and for the first time she feels it, feels the exposed skin dragging across the cement. She squeezes them so hard, blood beads down her fist as she stares at it.

 

Black blood joins the red on the ground of the bunker.

 

“What have I done?” She asks again, the words breaking.

 

For years, she spent every moment dreaming what she would do when she finally was able to open the bunker. See all of her friends – her family. She spent every day preparing for the moment they would be rejoined and dreamt of the joy they would share. Of the peace they would create and the new world they would live in.

 

Clarke never thought of what would happen if opening the bunker would destroy the world.

 

“What have I done?” Clarke asks one final time, sitting up so she’s on her knees and opening at her hands to look at them.

 

Black mixes with red in a way that makes Clarke sick to her stomach.

 

All she wanted was for humanity to survive. That was always her goal – that was always what drove her. She sold her soul, she sold her life, she sold everything she had to achieve the end.

 

“What happens to the Commander of Death when there’s no one left to kill?” Clarke whispers to herself.

 

Bringing her hands to her chest, Clarke sucks in a breath. The tears falling from her eyes dry and she stays in that position, listening to the loud clanging of feet coming closer to where she is.

 

They say when a person is at their most vulnerable, they can put that grief in a box. They put it in a box in the corner of their mind for another moment when they can truly feel it. They protect themselves from it, they tuck it away. On the Ark, they were always told to tuck it away.

 

So Clarke does.

 

She freezes in her spot, feeling her body go completely numb. Her mind wiping completely blank.

 

“What happens to the Commander of Death when there’s no one left to kill?” She repeats, splaying her hands on her side.

 

Clarke looks up to the ceiling of the bunker.

 

“That’s not true anymore. There’s plenty.”

 

***

 

By the time they made it back, the bunker was sent into complete chaos. Bellamy is leaning against Murphy, his bad leg still tied off and bleeding from the ambush. He watches as they drag Clarke away as she screams, scraping against the people who are pulling her away. He moves quickly to go towards her and he’s stopped by two things: a shooting pain in his leg and Raven rushing to where he is and placing a hand against his chest. He genuinely thinks he would’ve been able to ignore the pain in his leg, but as Raven often likes to remind him, she cannot be ignored.

 

“Bellamy, don’t.” Raven snaps, putting her hands against his chest. “Don’t even think about it.”

 

Bellamy opens his mouth to argue, but there’s so much going on, he can’t figure out what he wants to say. There are a few people staring at the two bodies in the pit with despair, but most people are simply losing it. It’s a sort of fanaticism that chills him to his core. They don’t even look like humans anymore, they are feral and wild, pounding their heels against the chain link fences.

 

“This can’t be… real.” He breathes, the stench of death and panic almost suffocating. “This can’t be—”

 

“Well, it is.” Raven states. “This horrible place is very real. The moment you guys went out, she found a reason to lock Clarke up. The moment you left, Bellamy. She is a coward. She wouldn’t make a move until you were gone. I don’t think she ever expected Abby to do that, I think she thought Clarke would die for her mother.”

 

“She would’ve,” Bellamy says, his mouth dry. “If Abby hadn’t done what she had…”

 

He couldn’t finish the sentence. Turning his gaze back to where Clarke was dragged out, he tries to eliminate the image of his mind. He can’t. He knows it’ll remain in his memory and dreams for the foreseeable future. He’ll hear the scream, he’ll see her being pulled away, he’ll see Abby’s face before she made one, final, honorable act.

 

“We were supposed to be down here,” Bellamy says, staring where his sister sits on top of her throne made of bones and lives.

 

Octavia peers down where they are and they make eye contact. Bellamy searches for his sister underneath the war paint, underneath the scowling, underneath the six years of separation. He doesn’t see her. He doesn’t see the girl that he gave piggy back rides to or the girl who chased butterflies.

 

She isn’t there.

 

“We should’ve been down here. We could’ve been able to stop it. We could’ve—”

 

“Bellamy, stop.” Harper says, placing a gentle hand on his forearm. Bellamy freezes.

 

He’s surrounded by almost everyone he loves. Harper slips her hand into his, Raven still in front of him. Murphy looks at that and puts his hands up. “I want to be supportive, but I’m not touching you.”

 

“Murphy,” Emori breathes, but she laughs all the same.

 

“Truth hurts, sorry.”

 

“We need to find her. Where—” Bellamy licks his lips. “Where do they take people after fighting?” Bellamy searches the area until he finds a familiar face. Well, not familiar. A face he once knew, now marred with six years underground. “Miller,” Bellamy calls, moving closer. “Miller!”

 

Miller holds his gun close to his chest and he’s paled. Bellamy can tell even he is shaken by the events, even if he’s trying not to show it. “That shouldn’t have happened,” Miller says so quietly, that Bellamy isn’t sure that he hears it. “That shouldn’t—” Miller turns to him. “Abby was the most experienced doctor we had. That shouldn’t have happened.”

 

“Miller, I need you to focus.” Bellamy snaps, trying not to let his voice go as unstable as he feels. “Where’s Clarke? Where do they keep the people who’ve just fought?”

 

“I—”

 

“Miller!”

 

“They put them back in the holding cell. Where they were before the fight. Octavia usually gives a call whether she will have to fight again or not, but they had to restrain her, so—”

 

“Fight again?” Murphy asks, eyes wide. “What the fuck is wrong with you guys?”

 

“I—” Miller still can’t stop staring that the pit. “This was supposed to be over once we got out. W-We—” He takes a breath. “You guys don’t understand what it’s like locked in a confined space with people who are starving. People get violent, they don’t care who they hurt. They were getting violent, we had to do something. But it was supposed to stop. It was supposed to—”

 

“Miller!” Bellamy bellows, grabbing the sides of his shoulders. “Where is the holding cell?”

 

Miller seems to snap back into reality. “I’ll take you there.”

 

“Does your boss know you’re going to—”

 

“Shut up, Murphy.” Miller cuts him off and charges forward.

 

It’s the last words that anyway says as they make their way through the halls of the bunker. It’s as if Bellamy sees everything in a different light now. The walls that seem to be covered in dirt, he now knows is streaked with dried blood. The people he left to go find Raven are gone. There’s nothing more than ghosts of who everyone was six years ago.

 

They aren’t the people who tried to survive the end of the world with him.

 

They’re different. Changed.

 

They all were.

 

“You should have someone look at your leg,” Raven says quietly next to him. “Speaking from experience, gunshots that have been left untreated suck.”

 

“It’s fine.” Bellamy says through gritted teeth, trying to ignore the pain.

 

“Is it, though?” Murphy asks. “I can see my hand through your leg. I can see through your leg. That seems like a bad thing.”

 

“It means it’s a through-and-through.” Bellamy manages. “They didn’t even hit bone, what a shit shot.”

 

“And here I thought you grew into a more mature version of yourself.” Raven mutters. “Turns out you’re just as big of an idiot as ever.”

 

They take a turn and it’s as if the air is sucked out of the room.

 

In the middle of the cell is Clarke.

 

She’s kneeling on the ground, her weight shifted onto her heels. Out in front of her are her hands and she’s staring at them. Even from a distance, Bellamy can see them trembling in front of her. Other than that, she’s unnaturally still. If it weren’t for her shaking hands, he would’ve wondered if she were breathing.

 

“Clarke,” he says, stepping up to the bars.

 

She doesn’t move.

 

She continues to stare at her hands.

 

Bellamy looks around him where everyone else is. They’re staring at her as if she’s a bomb about to explode. Her hands are covered in red blood.

 

“Clarke,” he repeats.

 

Her head whips in his direction.

 

He almost takes a step back from the intensity of it. Clarke’s eyes are widen and they’re still wet with tears. There’s something almost manic about the way she’s looking at him. They dart to each person falling on their face and then moving on.

 

“Where’s Octavia?”

 

The words are guttural. Broken. Angry. Filled with despair.

 

Bellamy doesn’t know what to say. He doesn’t know how to look at her. Before, when they walked through the bunker, he could see she was chipped. Like an old piece of pottery from the history textbooks that he used to read about on the Ark. Beautiful, but chipped. Now? Now the entire museum exploded.

 

He can tell.

 

It’s a quiet rage. But Clarke rarely exploded. She simmered until everything caught fire and burned down around her.

 

“Where’s Octavia?” She shouts.

 

It’s loud.

 

So loud that Bellamy winces. It feels like a force. A presence. Building. Growing. Becoming its own wave of fire.

 

When no one answers, Clarke manages to her feet. He can see the black blood from where she’d been injured in the Pit. She doesn’t even wince. Limp.

 

Her jaw is set as she approaches them. Someone recoils by him as she approaches.

 

Wrapping her hands around the bars of the prison, Clarke presses her face against them. “I asked a question.” She says, her voice low. Seething. Angry. “Where. Is Octavia.”

 

“Right here, Clarke.”

 

Bellamy finally flinches back when he hears his sister’s voice. Octavia strides in and pushes her way past everyone. “You bellowed?”

 

Clarke unwraps her fingers from the bars of the cell. She still is slightly unhinged. Tilting her head to the side, Clarke crosses her arms. “I think we need to talk.”

 

“We can talk here.”

 

“What’s the matter Octavia? Are you afraid?” Clarke asks, her voice dropping even lower than it already is. “Are you afraid of the Commander of Death?”

 

Bellamy’s eyes widen.

 

He has never heard Clarke refer to herself as that before. In fact, he knows how much she loathed that title. He had seen her flinch, her look away.

 

Never call herself what she hated.

 

Octavia bristles at the challenge, surveying the guards around her. “Are you trying to goad me, Clarke?”

 

“Is it working?”

 

This isn’t Clarke. It is a shadow of the person he knows. Something snapped and he doesn’t know how to repair it.

 

“Maybe.” Octavia states, moving closer to the bars. “Are you will to risk yourself in a room with me?”

 

“If you’re going to ask yourself a question, I will wait for your answer.”

 

“Oh fuck,” Murphy breathes behind him.

 

Bellamy is inclined to agree. “Listen, we need to take a step back.”

 

“You first.” Clarke states, quiet and even. “I have an appointment.”

 

Octavia stares at Clarke, as if sizing her up. Bellamy knows that in a one-on-one fight, there is no way Clarke can win. Octavia would cut her down before she even tried. But that’s not how Clarke fights. Clarke fights much more cleverly than that.

 

So when a guard unlatches the lock, all he can do is stare to see what she would do. Clarke steps back to allow the door to be opened in front of her, her arms still at her sides. Moving around the bars, Clarke steps into the hallway where they all are.

 

All the guns are pulled and pointed at her.

 

She stares at them defiantly, as if daring them to shoot. Daring them to take on the Commander of Death. She moves without noise next to Octavia, her eyes fierce. “Where should we speak?”

 

Octavia’s hand is hovering over her sword. Bellamy’s surprised to see that even she is weary around the woman, waiting for her to strike.

 

They all are.

 

Except, here’s the thing.

 

Clarke was always on their side. They never had to guess what she was going to do because she told them.

 

It isn’t until that moment that Bellamy didn’t realize how terrifying it must’ve been for those against them. Not knowing what Clarke would do next.

 

He doesn’t know what she’s going to do next.

 

“What’s the problem, Octavia?” Clarke asks calmly when no one moves. “Afraid?”

 

Octavia doesn’t answer.

 

Clarke steps forward when no one else does. Bellamy barely hears it when she says, “You should be.”

 

***

 

It’s been one day.

 

Clarke’s been under constant supervision ever since the Pit, which she should’ve expected. She’s sitting in a room with no windows and a part of her realizes that she gets it. She gets how the bunker went the way it did. It’s been a day since she’s seen the sun and she can already feel herself crawl from her skin.

 

There’s a knock against the door.

 

Clarke tells herself to shut it down. She can’t have the feelings she wants. Not now. Remember her training. Remember the Ark. Everything has to be shoved away or she won’t survive it. She won’t survive any of it.

 

“Hey,”

 

Clarke looks up to see Bellamy at the door, his hands filled with medical supplies. He limps in, reaching out to where she is.

 

Clarke freezes.

 

She shoved everything else in a box. It was in a box.

 

Except.

 

Bellamy had always been a safe space. Even before the bunker and all the insanity. She spent the past six years calling him, daydreaming. Wondering what would’ve happened if she’d been on the Ark.

 

Clarke thought about it. She thought about it so much that she was mildly concerned with her sanity. Every time she held the radio in her hand, she felt tethered to him. Waiting for something that spanned wars, universes, and bloodshed.

 

Something beautiful had to come out of it all, she would tell herself.

 

Something beautiful had to come out of it all.

 

Not anymore.

 

The Universe gave her one final lesson. Happiness is not a right. It is not something that she was owed.

 

It simply was something she would never get.

 

Steeling herself, she puts one last thing in a box.

 

Him.

 

She puts everything they had in a box. The fights, the chances. Gentle brushes, radio calls, pleading. She puts it all in a box.

 

Clarke shuts it off.

 

Shuts him off.

 

“What do you want?” Clarke asks. She surprises herself with how cold it is. She let the coldness run through her. Ice over her veins. Ice over her heart.

 

It’s clear that Bellamy startles at that. He winces as if she’d slapped him, and she supposes in her own way, she had. He recovers quickly, though. Clarke tells herself not to react. He had a way of getting under her skin, but she tells herself not to allow him to do so.

 

“You were injured. I wasn’t sure if anyone saw to it. Especially since—” he cuts himself off.

 

“Since my mother is dead.” Clarke states.

 

It’s the first time she says it out loud.

 

A noise comes out. She doesn’t mean to. It sneaks before she can stop it. A sob. Something small. Something real.

 

Turning around, Clarke tries to control herself.

 

In a box. Put it all in a box.

 

When she’s controlled herself, Clarke scrubs quickly under her eyes and faces him once more. “It looks like I’m not the only one who was injured.” She says calmly, eyeing how he’s favoring one of his legs. “I take it the mission didn’t go as well as we had hoped?”

 

“It did not.”

 

Their words are stilted. Formal.

 

Painful.

 

“Madi?” Clarke asks, her pulse ratcheting up.

 

“Safe. She’s with Harper and Raven right now.”

 

Clarke nods, probably a little too much. So she grab the supplies from his hands and spreads them out on the bench she’d been sitting on. “Sit here.” She orders, gesturing in front of her.

 

“Clarke—”

 

“I said sit here.” She demands, trying to ignore how her lower lip is trembling.

 

She has to separate. Separate herself before she falls apart.

 

She’s falling apart.

 

Bellamy surprisingly listens. When he does, he says uncomfortably, “It’s on my thigh.”

 

“So take off your pants.” She says without thinking too much about what she’s saying. Bellamy makes a small noise and suddenly, that box she’d quite literally been shoving in the back of her mind, is threatening to unlid. “I need to be able to see the wound.”

 

“Clarke—”

 

“Bellamy, will you please not fight me on this?” Clarke asks, trying to keep her voice as even as possible. “I-I need to make sure you’re alright.”

 

She does. If she’s going to lock him away with everything else, she simply needs to make sure he’s alright.

 

Then, she can go numb.

 

It’s clear he’s uncomfortable. He looks around the windowless room, like he wants an out, but there isn’t one. Carefully, he unbuckles his belt and pulls it loose.

 

Clarke had pictured this many times over the six years. It is something that she would be mortified if anyone found out, but she isn’t blind. They’d been dancing around each other for years, it was easier to feel comfort when she felt so alone. This isn’t how she wanted this gesture to go. She wanted it to be so much more.

 

She wanted.

 

Clarke knows what happens when she wants.

 

He’s taking a long time, so Clarke decides she needs to help. Reaching out, she looks up at him, asking permission with her gaze. He leans back, eyes wide. The two of them simply stare at each other for a second before he gives her a slight nod. Wrapping her hands around the waistband of his pants, she helps slide them down his hips. She tries not to react, ignoring the fact that her heart is pounding as hard as it is.

 

Clarke focuses on the wound in his leg, frowning at how red and oozing the wound is. “This is getting infected.” She says quietly. “You should’ve had Jackson look at it when you got back.”

 

“I was distracted.” He whispers.

 

She gets it. It feels too quiet and too loud all at once.

 

Bellamy’s leaned toward where she is as she focuses on his wound, his hands curling into fists as she does her best to clean it. “I’m sorry,” she says as she does so, pretending not to hear the occasional groan as she cleans it.

 

“Clarke,” he breathes.

 

He’s so close, she can feel his breath on her neck. Clarke makes sure that she doesn’t look at him because she knows if she does, their face will be too close. They’ll be too close for her to pretend he isn’t there. She could tuck Bellamy away in a box when he wasn’t in the same room as her.

 

But he’s here.

 

“I don’t know what you spoke about with my sister but—” He swallows. “You and I both know she’s not in her right mind. Don’t get pulled into—”

 

“That is none of your business, Bellamy.” Clarke says quickly. “It has nothing to do with you.”

 

Clarke,” he says with such emotion, it almost stops her right there.

 

Then it does.

 

She looks up to where he is and his face is so close. Their noses almost touch.

 

She has to put him in a box. She has to—

 

Before she can tell herself anything further, he closes the gap.

 

For a moment, she can’t think of anything she told herself.

 

Bellamy moves to pull away, but Clarke can’t think. It’s as if her hand moves up to the back of his head on its own accord and she pulls him closer. Closer, closer. They pull apart just to breathe, but Clarke forgot about what this feels like. The wanting.

 

She pulls him so close that she has to lie down on the bench that she’d been examining him on, Bellamy maneuvering so that he’s leaning over her, his weight resting against her chest. When she takes a breath, her lip drag against his and she pulls him further.

 

down

 

Down

 

Down.

 

She doesn’t want this moment to stop. Because she knows when it stops, it’ll all be over. Running her hands down from his head down her back, she wants to pull him even closer. To be there. A spot in the world that is safe.

 

Stop.

 

Clarke snaps back into reality.

 

Back to a world where she doesn’t get this.

 

Where she gets her family back only for her mother to die.

 

“No,” she manages, pushing him away from her. “No, we can’t.”

 

“Clarke—”

 

“Don’t you understand, Bellamy?” Clarke asks, unable to stop the tears forming in her eyes. “This is – stupid, this is wrong—

 

“Stupid?” Bellamy asks, hoisting himself on his forearms so that he looms over her. “Clarke, this is anything but stupid, this has been coming for years—”

 

“I can’t do this, don’t you understand, I can’t do this!” Clarke shouts, moving his arm out of the way so that she can walk to the edge of the room. “You don’t want this from me. You shouldn’t want this from me.”

 

Bellamy’s eyes are watering. It’s horrible to look at it.

 

Because she seems him. She sees him there, everything she wanted.

 

Six years.

 

Six years and he was here. He came back to her. He wanted. Her.

 

Why would she give the man she loves that death sentence?

 

There is no love for the Commander of Death. She is the unlovable. The only answer loving her would get is death themselves. Her father, Wells, Finn, Lexa… her Mom.

 

Stop.

 

“Keep it elevated.” Clarke says, pressing her back against the wall. “Make sure it doesn’t get too red. Stay off of it as much as you can.”

 

“Clarke—”

 

“Doctor’s orders.”

 

“Clarke—”

 

“That was yesterday.” Clarke says, swallowing. “What we just did, that was yesterday. That was before…” Biting her lip, she tries to regain control. “That was… Today is today. You can’t go back to yesterday. Even if you want it more than anything else in the world.”

 

In the box you go.

 

***

 

Bellamy sits in the war room, trying to ignore how his leg throbs. He’s surrounded by the rest of his family from space. Clarke’s sitting across from where he is, to Octavia’s right. There’s something inherently wrong about that. Something that feels like he’s slipped in an alternate timeline.

 

Murphy catches his eye and lifts an eyebrow. Bellamy can’t bring himself to respond in any way because the only thing he feels like doing at this exact moment is yelling. He wants to yell. He wants to scream. He wants to knock sense into her, he wants to—

 

Wants to go back to yesterday.

 

There was a brief moment. A brief moment when things seem to slot together. The way he’d dreamed they’d be – the way they were supposed to be.

 

The way they deserved.

 

Clarke’s pointedly not looking at him.

 

“Let’s get started.” Octavia states and the idle chatter settles. “After a conversation with Clarke, she has agreed to help with the strategy and attack on the Eligius invaders.”

 

Bellamy’s gaze snaps in her direction, eyes wide. There are a few surprised noises from around the table, but Clarke continues to stare ahead at nothing.

 

“Which means that those who are defecting under the guise of being loyal to Wanheda will fall in line with Wonkru. Clarke will make sure of it. Isn’t that right, Clarke?”

 

“That is correct.” She says, her words hollow.

 

“What fucking game are you playing, Clarke?” Murphy shouts.

 

There are some murderous glances thrown his direction, but Bellamy can’t help but want to know the answer to that question. Clarke doesn’t even look up. She looks at no one.

 

She sees no one.

 

“Which means, with a strong, undivided army, we can take the valley back. They may have more guns, but we’ve been fighting since we were born. They have not been under the same pressure as we have.”

 

Clarke continues to look forward.

 

The conversation of the timeline of the attack continues, but Bellamy can’t hear it. He’s staring at the scene ahead of him. Everything that he didn’t want. Another war. Chances for them all to die. Why did it have to come to this? It shouldn’t come to this.

 

“I have one stipulation.”

 

When Clarke speaks, the growing noise clips almost immediately. Everyone turns to her. Even now, people stop to hear what she’s going to say.

 

“Yes?” Octavia asks, clearly annoyed at the interruption.

 

“These people are led by someone who is not a fool. Who is as strategic as she is ruthless. She will have been able to put together who has been where. She’ll know.”

 

“Know what?”

 

“Know who was in the Bunker. Who was in space. And who was in the valley.” Clarke states, words as empty as ever.

 

“What does that matter?”

 

“She knows I know everyone. She knows.” Clarke continues. Bellamy isn’t sure where this is going, but he doesn’t like it. His instincts tell him to stop the conversation, but he doesn’t know why.

 

For the first time in a long time, he doesn’t know what Clarke’s thinking.

 

He doesn’t know.

 

“Which means if I’m captured again, she will use everything in her power to get all information out of me. About the bunker, about people in space. Before she needed me alive because she wasn’t sure what was going on, but she has knowledge now. She can do whatever she wants to get it out of me.”

 

“What’s your point, Clarke?” Octavia snaps.

 

“If it looks like they’re going to get me, my stipulation is a favor.”

 

Clarke finally looks up. She looks up at all of them. Eyes empty, dry. Resolute.

 

“I need you to kill me first.”

 

Bellamy shouts “No!” at the same time Octavia says, “Absolutely.”

 

Bellamy stares at his sister. The person who once was his sister. “Absolutely not better be what you meant to say, O!”

 

“You are not in charge anymore, Bell.”

 

“Clarke,” Bellamy says, ignoring her. “Don’t do this. Don’t talk like this! If you don’t think we can go to war successfully, maybe we should evaluate our other options. Maybe we should—”

 

Clarke turns her head away from him to face Octavia.

 

“Just be sure to make it between the eyes.”