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That Never Was

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AN: Hey all! Just an important reminder that this book will take on a more CANON DIVERGENT look at season three, as my series does follow mostly from Myles/Aggie’s point of view. Because of this, I’ve expanded a little more on what grounder beliefs and customs could be, seeming as most of them tend to come from the Second Dawn Cult. Please keep in mind that NOT ALL OF THE CUSTOMS AND BELIEFS IN THIS STORY ARE CANON. This story is also Trigedasleng heavy, and my Trigedasleng is pretty rusty, so if I get anything wrong, please don’t hesitate to let me know!
I’ve also messed around with the timeline quite a bit, so for the sake of continuity and knowing what the hell is going on, the beginning of every chapter will have a day count. The days will only be shown once at the beginning of the chapter.
If all that’s not quite what you’re interested in, I’m afraid you might not like this story and that’s completely okay! Much love to you all :)

 

Recap of my previous two books; Ghost and Of Everything That Could’ve Been:


Almost 200 years ago, a nuclear war irradiated the Earth. Humanity survived, spread out on 12 International Space Stations that joined to become the Ark. Unbeknownst to those on the Ark, there were survivors still on Earth.


It isn’t until the Ark sent 100 juvenile delinquents and a stowaway to the Earth nearly 200 years after the war in a desperate attempt to save themselves from extinction that they learnt of the Grounders. After the horrific battles between the Grounders and the Sky People, the two joined forces to take down one common enemy; Mount Weather.


Now, after the Grounders left the Sky People to fend for themselves in the middle of a war, those that finally defeated Mount Weather must live with what they’ve done; with who they’ve become.

Chapter Text

Day 137 – Jan. 27

Red eyebrows furrow, staring down at the maps that have the Blue Cliff, Shallow Valley and Woods Clan lands detailed. The square table that the maps lie on is large, two metres by two metres, something her and Jasper had made specifically for mapping. Underneath of the two maps, a white light shines dully through a thick sheet of white plastic panel they'd jacked off of an old caravans shower screen walls. It had been demonstrably easy to start using actual lights instead of candles and lanterns, and it makes their home feel so much calmer, knowing they don't need to constantly worry about things like that anymore.

On the roof, there are several solar panels of different sizes that they had found either completely intact in underground parking structures or in busted up units that were being used as walls or decorations in villages. The task of making a small generator had been a bit more tricky. Thankfully, everything they could ever need and more has survived in concrete tombs that once made up the shopping centres and buildings of the old world.

Reviving car batteries proved to be one of Jasper's strong suits, giving him something to do that had an immediate pay off. One of the rooms in their small abode houses dozens of heavy car batteries they've salvaged to store the power their solar panels give them. Not all of them are in use, seeing as they only ever need one battery to power all of the lights in the house – and then some. A few batteries are wired together, to make sure that a caravans small fridge can stay powered 24/7. The teens can rest easy, knowing that they have enough batteries in the house alone to last them for the rest of their lives.

Down by her sock-clad feet, a low groan sounds. Looking towards the sound, a small smile graces her delicate features at the small calico coloured dog that sleeps under her chair. Myles rubs at the fluffy dogs stomach gently with her foot, before directing her attention back to the two maps stacked on top of one another in front of her.

The map on the very bottom is a basic layout of the lands, village names and keys detailing what's makes up the land there. On top of that one, a more intricately labelled thin sheet of paper displays the locations of supply points nearby. If someone were to just look at the top map, it would look like the mad ramblings of someone who's lost their mind.

Differently coloured circles distinguish the different kinds of structures that they know the locations of, and scrawled lists and markings beside them tell the two best friends when they were last there and the kinds of supplies they've been able to find. It was a crazy world, once upon a time, leaving behind obscure relics for them to piece together. Millions of cars sit, untouched by the bombs, in underground tombs filled with the remnants of their time and the simple, basic things that made up what everyday life would've been like for the billions of people who once roamed this very planet.

Shopping centres, business centres, schools, personal bunkers, bank bunkers, museum bunkers, subways, tunnels, basements, old sewers, zoos, hospitals, military bunkers, some factories and other miscellaneous structures all have underground workings nearby. Some of which are still intact and holding centuries old clothes, jewellery, technology and vehicles that they can scavenge parts from. Only the small bunker Clarke and Finn had dubbed the 'Art Supply Store' has been crossed off of the map with two lines, indicating that there's nothing left inside it.

Looking to her left, Myles' hazel eyes land on a large whiteboard. Raining across it are the rushed and careless scribbling of both her and Jasper; the sharp, long and sloppy letters of the latter being distinctly different than the loopy, small and delicate strokes of the redheads handwriting. Myles knows there's even more gibberish on the other side of the board, the two had run out of space very quickly and had tried desperately to squish in as much information as possible.

The board has the exact coordinates of the Factory, Alpha and Mecha Stations of the Ark, hopelessly trying to figure out where the other parts of the Ark could've landed. Thinking about it makes the red haired teens head spin and throb, knowing that there's a high chance that they'll probably never know for some of them. Only the lands directly around them are detailed as in depth as they are, everything else is in bits and pieces. Grounders near them have warmed up to the two Arkers, but there are still many of them who would rather have them back in space.

Having a tempting bounty on your head doesn't help with that much either. While there are some that like Myles and appreciate her work ethic, most are more interested in the hefty price that's attached to her life.

Turning her gaze away from the whiteboard, Myles leans forward to rest her elbows on the table and her face in her hands. Sitting there for a moment, the redhead slips her hands to rest near her ears as she looks back down at the maps in front of her. Heaving a heavy sigh and raking her left hand through her red hair that barely reaches her shoulders, Myles leans down to pull at one of the maps rolled up under the table. Pausing for a moment, the red haired teen hesitates and flicks her eyes over the labels of the compartments around it before completely pulling the paper out.

Laying the new map out, hazel eyes scan over the markings on it as she straightens it to align with the maps underneath of it and clips two of the sides down to stop it from rolling back up. Ducking back down, Myles pulls up a wad of different small papers and booklets that are clipped together. Dropping them onto the table, the redhead pulls the top one out of the clip and sighs.

It's a faded dark blue, the fragile paper decaying and falling apart in her hands as if it were melting. A yellow rectangle is in the top corner and a faded picture of some kind of lizard or snake is predominantly on the front. Most of the letters are faded on the back, only fragments still able to be seen. Squinting, Myles puts the pieces together in her mind.

'Come and join us', the words would've read in thick letters, 'Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center – open from 9am'. The address is almost entirely gone, but most of it probably wouldn't be of any help anyway. All they need is the street name, and most of them don't provide any insight into their locations on their own, needing other flyers and brochures to help place it somewhere. Most of the address is meaningless to Myles, only the street name ringing a bell.

Jasper and her had worked out which corner the Strawbridge Marketplace had been on this exact street, thanks to an old printed off dental work invoice in someone's car. Picking up an orange pen, Myles makes a line along where they know at least part of the street lays and notes the aquarium was somewhere along there. Clipping the brochure into another pile still tucked away under the table, Myles continues on, working through the pile of rubbish to try to find other supply points.

The red haired teen doesn't halt in her repetitive and mind-numbing motions until the dog under her chair perks up, staring at the lightly coloured wooden door to her right intently. Myles doesn't bother looking up, knowing that there's only one person who could be moving around outside of that door. Sure enough, after a few more minutes, the door opens and Jasper Jordan waltzes in.

He's slender, but not as lanky as he once was, instead he's filled out from all of the running around and training the two of them do. Jasper also carries himself as if he's more sure of himself, trusting more in his movements rather than just flowing with them carelessly. His mannerisms and speech are reserved, the light and airy playfulness barely a shadow of what it once was. They're both dressed in their sleepwear, their dull and faded long sleeved shirts and sweatpants hardly visible under the extremely warm robes they got from leygeda in Yujleda, Broadleaf, two months ago.

"Hey," Myles greets through the pen cap in her mouth, barely flicking her eyes up to look at her best friend.

"Hey," Jasper echoes almost instantly, and two cups of steaming hot coffee get set down on the table, one right between her face and her hands. Red eyebrows pull together in confusion, but her best friend is focussed on the extremely excited young dog bouncing around in front of him. "Hello, Max. Oh, hello!"

Pulling the pen cap out of her mouth and taking a sip of her coffee, "thank you."

"No worries," the short brown haired teen waves off, sitting down across from her and still fussing over Max.

"Can't sleep either?" Myles asks after she's swallowed another mouthful, looking at him properly before glancing down at her work. When he doesn't reply, hazel eyes sweep back up to see his brown giving her a pointed look. Just when she's about to say something else, Jasper leans back in his chair and tugs the ugly patchwork curtain behind him open. "Oh."

Dull sunlight streams in instantaneously as the sun starts to peek over the horizon, the dark night sky she was expecting to see slowly disappearing in shades of dark blue, purple and orange. It's not the first time that this has happened, both teens have had many sleepless nights in the last three months. Nights where they don't even notice that time is passing aren't strange either, but it's been a few weeks since either of them have lost time.

"Have you been doing this all night?" Jasper enquires, taking a drink from his cup and taking a peek at the maps as Max sticks his head in Myles' lap for a pat.

The redhead scratches at the dogs head fondly, "most of it, I guess." Taking a sip of her hot coffee before continuing, "just wanna make sure we know where we're going next."

"Aggie," the brown haired teen demurs, quirking an eyebrow mockingly and squinting his eyes as he scrutinises her. "We did a drop-off two days ago."

"Rule 28, JJ," Myles deflects halfheartedly, turning her attention back to the maps in front of them.

"Really?" Jasper challenges, tilting his head curiously and talking over the lip of his cup, "'no plan, you're a dead man'? You're scraping the barrel with that one."

Snorting obnoxiously, Myles meets his lighthearted gaze, "well, you know me." Max lies down on the floor and the redhead gestures with the pen in her hand while she quirks her eyebrows playfully. "Anything counts as an excuse." Picking up the wad of brochures and booklets, the redhead drops it back down onto the table noisily, "this… is insanity."

"No," her best friend drawls sarcastically, lifting the hand that's holding his cup up to point at the wall beside her and leaning back in his chair to balance on its back legs. "What's insanity is they keep going back to Mount Weather."

"Agreed," Myles agrees, lifting her red brows up high. Arkadia, previously called Camp Jaha, have been doing supply runs to and from Mount Weather by themselves, since Myles and Jasper had both adamantly refused to. "Fuck that place."

"So," Jasper wonders after another moment of Myles staring down at the maps and papers. "What's on the agenda for today, Cherry Red?"

Huffing a short laugh and leaning back into a more relaxed position, "I don't know yet." Flicking her hazel eyes up to lock on her best friends brown, "we could train. Or," Myles points with the hand that's wrapped around her cup like Jasper had done earlier, "finally give that book to Finn."

"How much longer's he got, anyway?" Jasper questions, rocking back and forth on the chairs back legs.

"Pssh… uh," the redhead thinks it through for a second more before replying. "Not this Friday, but the next one. 8th, I think."

"Woah," the brown haired teen exclaims, stopping his rocking and letting his chair sit on the floor normally. "I didn't think it was that long."

Myles hums through another mouthful of her drink, "He lost two days for the trip to Polis, then he lost almost two weeks when he got that flu that was going 'round."

Jasper let's out a low whistle and it's quiet for a beat before he speaks again, "do you know what time they're releasing him?" Myles merely scrunches up her eyebrows in question, "I'm just saying. We've gotta do a drop-off that Friday." A shocked bark of laughter erupts from the redheads throat and a bright smile crosses Jasper's face, "we could drop him off, too. Two birds, one stone."

"Dude," Myles marvels, lifting her hand up, "that's the best ide – "

The red haired teen is cut off by a device from their beefed up radio station letting off a rapid series of high pitched beeps. Both teens shoot up from their chairs, sending them scraping back across the floor loudly. Their radio station is a mess, mismatched cords, wires and radios sit squashed in together on a small desk shoved into the corner of the room. It's not a pretty sight, but it's the best spot to position the antennas.

"What is that?" Jasper quizzes, his carefree and cheeky tone gone and replaced with a seriousness that used to send shivers down Myles' spine.

"Tracking beacon," the redhead answers, staring at the small, hand-held radar that's slightly chunkier than a walkie-talkie. On the small screen, a red triangle flashes with an exclamation point inside of it, and a tiny red arrow flickers amongst the green circular rings indicating the position of the beacon. Tapping a few buttons, the red triangle turns into letters. The word 'Argo' makes both best friends look at each other, Argo Station, or Farm Station, is the Station that both Monty and Jasper are from. "Told you medium-wave disking could reach 500 miles." [AN: it's 'medium-wave DXing', but I thought I'd spell it how she'd pronounce it.]

"They're 500 miles out?" Jasper questions, the realisation that his and Monty's families aren't far out not lost on him as Myles grabs the device off of the table when she stands up.

"Yup," Myles confirms, popping the 'p' sound and rushing out of the room with Jasper and Max on her heels. "Just past the border to Azgeda. Gear up."

"Woah," her best friend interjects, gently pulling her to a stop before her feet can reach the short staircase up. Myles whips around to meet his worried eyes, "woah, woah! You can't go. Not to Azgeda, have you lost your mind?"

"Oh, please," the red haired teen huffs dramatically, spinning back around and following the strange bend in the house by taking the stairs two at a time. "You'll protect me. Plus," Myles pauses with her hand on her door to look at Jasper mirroring her directly across from her. "We've got guns."

"Oh, my god," Jasper groans over-exaggeratedly as both teens slip into their respective bedrooms across from each other, shutting the doors behind themselves. "You're gonna get us both killed."

Myles snorts, but doesn't bother replying, instead whipping off her thick robe and undressing quickly. On the desk beside her bed are her weapons and the braces she secures them to herself with. Starting with her stomach, Myles wraps and clips on a brace that wraps around the smallest part of her waist and sits just a fraction above her belly button. All of the knives and extra magazine clips for her guns are already tucked into their slots, allowing her to move onto her legs.

Similar braces wrap around both of her ankles, a knife on each and a pistol on her right ankle with an extra clip of bullets on her left. Yanking on a pair of long camouflage pants, the redhead quickly slips her belt through the hoops and starts attaching her walkie-talkie and the rest of the weapons that live there. Her arms are next, strapping a brace onto her left forearm and securing more blades and bullet mags, before pulling on a glove. The weapon that straps onto her right arm is trickier, and she needs to shove the dart-like metal arrows into its sleeve after pulling on the glove that connects to its straps. Using her thumb to slide the slim metal rod that runs up to her pointer finger down, the redhead closes her fist to press the rod into her palm to reset the springs that deploy the small metal arrows, just in case she needs to use it.

This weapon, Myles made herself, and it's greatest flaw is that the darts can only be shoved into the tightly wound and hard to move springs moments before attaching it to the brace on her arm. She'd called it the FAWB, much to Jasper's great displeasure, standing for Fucking Awesome Wrist Bow. With all but one of the weapons she wears in place, the red haired teen quickly shoves on a random bra as she hears Jasper run back down the stairs.

"I'll get our food packs ready," her best friend calls, and Myles slips the last pocketknife on the table into the small fabric hold on the underwire of her bra.

"Thank you," Myles shouts over the constant beeping of the tracking beacon, yanking on a long sleeved plain black top that hugs her skinny frame. "I've got the packs."

Quickly shoving her feet into her boots, the redhead doesn't even tie their laces up before hurrying out of her bedroom door with the beeping tracking beacon in her mouth. Running her fingers through her short hair, Myles wastes no time in pulling back whatever will reach into a tiny ponytail. The bottom half of her hair instantly falls loose, barely brushing her shoulders at its short length and Myles rushes past Jasper in the kitchen to get to the packs they had left from replenishing them last night on their small dining table.

The two best friends hadn't bothered much about trying to make things bigger for the two of them, both being happy just making enough for themselves and not worrying about the visitors they'll probably never have. They're both self-exiled outcasts, Myles for being a mass murderer that wants to escape her abusive father and Jasper for being too ashamed of his anguished outbursts to look the others in their eyes.

Myles knows the packs on the table are filled, knows that after they had returned home yesterday that they had stocked them up again, as they do every night. Still, the redhead hastily rifles through them both, counting quickly before zipping them up and slinging one on her shoulder. The redhead picks up the other and begins to turn away from the table when Jasper calls to her.

"Get Max's, too," her best friend prompts, jutting his head in the direction of where Max's pack lives as he pours the rest of the hot coffee he brewed into a thermal travel bottle.

"Max's?" Myles repeats doubtfully, swinging the other backpack onto her shoulder. "He's not ready for that!"

"Aggie," Jasper deadpans, levelling her with an agitated look, shifting to the other bottle. "We've been over this – "

"He's not ready," the red haired teen says with a harsh lilt of finality in her tone.

"He will never be ready if he never comes along for shit like this," the brown haired teen explains and Myles halts in her angry barging over to the back door.

"This isn't a run into a village or a supply scavenge," Myles argues, looking at Jasper like he's lost his mind, "this is Azgeda. Kill your loved ones and shove their heads on sticks Azgeda."

"He needs experience," Jasper stresses, shoving the thermals into emptied medkits that they took from the military supply depot. The Ark guardsmen had left the medkits behind when they saw that everything inside was either missing, ruined or expired. "Or he'll never be ready."

Huffing dramatically, Myles relents, "fine." Storming off into the direction of the pack hanging on a hook beside several sets of keys. Slinging Max's pack over her shoulder as well and picking up the rover keys while she's there, "but if anything happens – "

"It won't," Jasper promises, stepping out of the kitchen with the two repurposed medkits and looking to Myles. "I'll drive." The red haired teen instantly chucks the keys towards her best friend as he opens the back door, calling to Max. "Come on, Max. Come here. Good boy, on you get."

Myles is two seconds behind Jasper before she remembers, and whirls around to rush up to the bench top to grab the book they'd saved for Finn. Spinning back around, Jasper and Max are nowhere in sight, only the vast sea of green that surrounds their house. Slipping out the back door and locking it behind her, Myles grips the thick rope hanging in front of her as she steps off of the short balcony and onto the slab of wood held to a higher branch with the thickly woven rope acting as a makeshift pulley system. The second all of her weight is on it, it lowers down rapidly before halting a step away from the ground.

Stepping off, it shoots back up to hide in the treetops as the familiar hum and roar of the rovers engine greets her, and she hurries over to where the vehicle had been hidden under a blanket of leaves and twigs. Sliding in, Myles whips around to the backseat and the rover starts moving.

"Move, Max," the redhead huffs, chucking the bags into the back beside the dog before facing the front. "I'll switch it to the rovers antenna, so we don't lose the signal."

"Where exactly am I going?" Jasper asks as Myles buckles one of the only two seatbelts in the rover around herself.

"Just head as if you're going to the dropship," Myles directs, "hook around the back of Arkadia. As long as they're not in a vehicle, we'll catch up to them before we have to worry about directions."

"Roger, Dodger," her best friend replies, and Myles snorts with a bright smile at the expression as she pulls their breakfast out from their food packs.

 

"We should probably pull over up here," Myles suggests, looking from the radar in her hands to the forest in front of them. "I don't think Azgeda will take too kindly to the rover."

"Yeah," Jasper replies halfheartedly, slowing the rover to a stop as Myles unbuckles herself. Spinning around to the back, her hand barely touches her bow and quiver that live on the floor behind their seats before Jasper stops her. "Woah, woah. You're not getting out."

"JJ," the redhead says slowly, staring at him with raised eyebrows.

"You have a bounty on your head," Jasper reiterates in the same slow, condescending tone Myles had used.

"What?" Myles stammers sarcastically, "I just wait in the rover, and you and Max handle this?" Jasper doesn't say anything, doesn't need to, just stares at his best friend and waits. Myles huffs bitterly and passes him the radar, "fine."

"Come on, Max," Jasper coaxes, and the calico coloured fluffy dog instantly does as asked. Once Max is on the dirt beside him, the brown haired teen pauses before shutting his door and locking it. "Stay in the rover."

Myles waits until they're a few metres out before whipping around and grabbing her bow and quiver. Sliding out of the car and shutting the door behind herself, Jasper turns to the redhead and slouches in defeat. Jogging up to them, her best friend levels her with a disappointed stare.

"What?" Myles enquires, feigning innocence, but Jasper only shakes his head with a small smile.

"We're so screwed," he mutters, shaking his head and continuing forward with his eyes on the radar as Max starts to growl lowly. "Woah," Jasper breathes, tapping on Myles' arm incessantly, "they're coming really fast."

Myles instantly snaps her head up to squint at the dense forest in front of them. The heavy footfalls of rapidly approaching horses sounds loudly through the overgrown woods and Myles ducks to the side to hide behind a tree. Jasper, having performed this trick with her several times before, saunters forward a bit more, quietly telling Max to stay quiet and to stick to his heel. Someone calls distantly in Trigedasleng and Myles shuts her eyes fleetingly at the confirmation that this isn't Arkers, leaning her head back on the tree that she hides behind as anxiety tingles through her veins.

She hears the horses before she hears another word be said by the group, their galloping hooves thundering across the cold Earth as they neigh loudly. They slow to a stop when they reach Jasper, and Myles' fingers twitch with the nervous need to pull a weapon in dread.

"Hei," Jasper calls merrily and Myles breathes out a deep breath slowly. Myles had learnt Trigedasleng mostly on her own, listening and copying others, putting the pieces together like a puzzle. Jasper had mostly learnt the same way, except he had Myles, who had a slight head start and was able to guide him. One of the best things about learning by ear is that they got to pick up their accent. Both teens can speak Trigedasleng with a Trikru accent, and know how to apply that accent to their English to help blend in. "Bomas ste ai yo op raun hir." [AN: "Hello. Fancy seeing you around here."]

"Chon yu bilaik?" A gruff mans voice demands, and his accent is most definitely Azgedian. [AN: "Who are you?"]

"Trikru," Jasper answers straight away, without hesitating, trilling the letters out like the grounders do. "Ste lufa ai lukot au." [AN: "Tree Clan. Looking for my friends."]

"Ste lufa Wanheda au," another man's voice asserts, and Myles' heart stutters painfully. [AN: "Looking for the Commander of Death."]

"Ait," the teen with the short brown hair appeases, "yu get klin… ai pri os ai get weron Wanheda haden kamp raun…" the men shift on their horses and Max growls. "Ai foshou tel yo op taim yu huk ai op daun chouka." [AN: "Right. You know… I'm pretty sure I know where Wanheda is hiding… I'll gladly tell you if you give me that necklace."]

Someone gets off of a horse and Max starts barking, Jasper shushes him in Trigedasleng but the small dog continues to growl lowly. Myles can't make out exactly what her best friend says, but she understands the Azgeda warrior perfectly.

"Rak yu fecha op, skat," one of the men grumbles when the barking turns into slow rumbles, and two sets of heavy footfalls stalk towards Jasper. [AN: "Control your dog, boy."]

"Ai gouba ogonzaun kom Heda in," Jasper rattles off, taking a few steps back to show them that he means no harm and Myles' left hand presses a finger on part of her glove to make a throwing knife slide out. "Ait, oso na sis choda au, nami?" [AN: "I observe the commanders truce. Alright, we can help each other."]

"Weron Wanheda kamp raun?" A man demands angrily, continuing to match Jasper's steps until he's forced to stop or he'll reveal Myles. [AN: "Where's the Commander of Death?"]

"Ait," Jasper tries to calm the warriors closing in on him. "Tsa jos chil oso au… bilaik nou gaf gonplei in. Oso na – " [AN: "Alright. Let's just calm down… there's no need to fight. We can – "]

Suddenly, one of the warriors grips Jasper and yanks him to his chest, making Max go crazy. The sound of commotion makes Myles spin around the tree, coming face to face with an Azgeda warrior with a knife to Jasper's throat.

"Breik em au!" Myles demands angrily, pointing her right fist towards the group of warriors covered in Azgeda's white war paint as she's pulling the thin metal rod against her index finger down with her thumb, folding her fingers down to hold the rod to her palm. [AN: "Let him go!"]

The warriors all perk up at the sight of Myles, slinking forward predatorily as Max continues to bark and growl loudly. All of their faces are not only covered in the Ice Nations white war paint, but also the scars that distinguish an Azgedian. In place of where other grounders tattoo themselves, warriors and political figures raised in Azgeda all scar their own faces in various shapes and patterns. Their thick clothes meant for snowy weather make Myles anxious, not knowing how many other weapons they may have hidden.

"Dei em ste…" one of the men taunts, raising his bow and pointing it at her but hazel eyes are stuck on the man holding Jasper hostage. Myles' fingers twitch on the blade in her left hand as Jasper doesn't move an inch, looking at her with wide brown eyes. "Os Wanheda-de." [AN: "There she is… The Great Wanheda."]

"Breik em au," Myles warns darkly, tilting her head menacingly and preparing for a fight. "Ai na nou biyo em nodotaim." [AN: "Let him go. I will not say it again."]

The man with the knife to Jasper's throat turns to the warriors behind him fleetingly, huffing a laugh.

"Wanheda vout in em na fir ai raun," the man mocks, tensing his fingers on the handle of the knife to her best friends throat, and Myles swears she can see what's about to happen next. "Ha leyos." [AN: "Wanheda thinks she can scare me. How funny."]

Myles lifts her fingers and flicks her thumb out to shove the rod out of her right palm as the warrior presses the blade of his knife harder into Jasper's neck. The small metal arrow flies, lodging into the warriors blade wielding arm and stopping him from slitting Jasper's throat. Jasper falls forward, yanking the tracking beacon from around his attackers neck, as the Azgedian jolts backwards in shock. Max latches onto the mans arm, growling and shaking his head viciously.

The archers hand twitches and Myles' left hand flings her knife to him, lodging it into his shoulder and making his arrow shoot into the ground. Jasper swings his arm up, his handgun in his hand and pointing at the warrior who had grabbed him. Myles sees the glint of a knife being hurtled towards her and ducks, pulling a sturdier knife from her belt and throwing it at the man. He stands there for a moment, his arms frozen in the air before he falls to the ground with the knife imbedded into his chest.

"Max, down!" Jasper orders loudly when the man who held a knife to his throat grabs another blade, his sights set on the small dog.

"Osir nou gaf sich in," Myles informs the two left as Max trots to their feet, holding her palms up as Jasper steps backwards to her slowly with his gun still raised. [AN: "We don't want trouble."]

Both men continue to stand there menacingly, and the archer yanks the blade from his shoulder. He takes a stuttered step forward despite Max's warning growl, before yanking a long machete from his belt and storming towards them with a bellowing screech. Jasper shoots him twice, but Myles catches the movement of the other man and pulls up her pistol. Shooting the man once in the head, causing the knife he held high in the air to fall from his hand as his body slumps to the ground.

Dropping her arms to her sides, Myles looks at Jasper with an exhausted and exasperated expression that he mirrors. Neither one says a word, they merely stand there and take the moment to have a breath. Jasper breaks eye contact first, but only briefly, to lift up the Farm Stations tracking beacon that's flashing red. Myles bends down and picks up the radar Jasper had dropped in the scuffle, pressing a button to stop the beeping and flashing.

"They landed in Azgeda," Jasper summarises, and Myles rests a hand on his shoulder, rubbing it comfortingly.

"None of us can catch a break," Myles mutters darkly, looking from the tracking beacon to the three dead warriors at their feet. Max is silent now, watching them wearily, as if knowing that Jasper is grieving his parents. If they landed in Azgeda, they're as good as dead. "Alright," the redhead sighs, bending down to start picking up all of the weapons strewn about. "Who's gonna tell Lexa?"

Jasper snorts, "you suggested it." Myles snaps up into a standing position, looking exasperatedly at her sullen best friend. "That's your short straw."

"Fine," the red haired teen huffs in annoyance, bending back down to pick up the Azgedians weapons. "But your cooking tonight."

"Oh, good," Jasper jibes halfheartedly, "then we're eating at Stu's."

Hazel eyes flick to at him, straightening with the weapons in her hands and waiting for him to raise from his crouched position patting down the warrior. He's come a long way, and he's still trying, just like she is. When Marcus gave her the job to look after him for a little while, the boy had come to her as broken as she was, and that fact was what had held them together. And now, it holds him together, just like it has for the last three months.

Jasper straightens and Myles walks with him to the rover, Max sticking close to their heels. Bumping her shoulder into his when he stays quiet for the whole walk to the car.

"By the way," Myles jokes lightheartedly, "buying dinner is not cooking dinner."

 

"We're fucked," Jasper exclaims suddenly with a high and distressed lilt to his voice, flicking his thumbs up from the steering wheel to gesture.

His brown eyes are glued to the path in front of them, keeping the rover between the trees it can fit through and being cautious with what's laying on the ground while maintaining a decent speed. Hazel eyes don't look up at him, instead staring down at the map in her notebook with furrowed red eyebrows. Jasper's words finally reach her, they just take another beat to register.

"The coalition will protect us," Myles replies distractedly, still not looking up from her book.

"No, Aggie," her best friend frets, shifting his left hand on the steering wheel nervously. "This is the end of the coalition. The second people know that they murdered Farm Station, we're all dead."

"It's been three months since their last attack on someone outside of their border," the redhead relays, looking up and starting to actually participate in the conversation. "We haven't heard from or found another Station in that timeframe. What if we use the coalition to get information?" Jasper glances at her briefly and she continues, "find out if there's any other Stations that landed in Azgeda."

"They are not just gonna tell us," the brown haired teen points out bitterly, "otherwise we would've known already."

"Maybe," Myles sighs, looking back down at their map. "But at least then we have some closure. They might just hide behind the fact that it was pre-truce."

"How far out does that put the other Stations?" Jasper quizzes, glancing at her again but remaining focussed on driving.

"No idea," the red haired teen drawls out distractedly, "if we had the coordinates we could probably theorise a smaller radius. They must've collided… when they entered the atmosphere. Factory Station landed just shy of 50 miles east of Alpha, and Mecha almost twice that, but south. How the hell did Farm Station get to Azgeda?"

"No one's said anything about an explosion," Jasper scrunches up his eyebrows in thought, "just wind and giant, fiery – shit!"

Jasper slams his feet down on the brake and clutch pedals, sending the book in Myles' hands to go shooting forward as her hands use the dash to brace herself. Max lets out a short, high pitched, startled whine as his small body jolts forward with theirs from the force. Hazel eyes stare at the tree lying across path in front of them while she huffs shocked breaths and Jasper has his wide eyes staring forward, his body so still it doesn't look like he's breathing.

"You okay, buddy?" Myles coos softly when Max sticks his head between the two front seats, scratching at his fluffy fur.

"That wasn't there a moment ago," Jasper's quiet and panicked voice informs her, his frantic eyes finally moving from the fallen tree to scan their surroundings and his hand pulls up the handbrake.

Myles whips her head around at that, instantly pulling her gun from her waistband, "are you – " the redheads question cuts off when her gaze lands on the clean cut at the base of the tree trunk.

"Pretty sure, yeah," the brown haired boy breathes out in a rush as he undoes his seatbelt, and hazel eyes scan the trees surrounding them quickly.

Jasper jumps up from his seat and launches himself into the back of the rover with Max, twisting the lock on the ceiling and sliding the cover off. Myles stays where she is, scanning the woods around them as Jasper stands up straight to poke his head out of the hole in the ceiling and spin the Gatling gun mounted on the roof of the rover around. Slow ripping sounds make Myles' head spin to look out the back of the rover, and she yanks down on Jasper's shirt to pull him back into the rover as another large tree falls behind them, blocking them in.

The weight of the tree landing on the ground causes the rover bounce ever so slightly, the high suspension on the wheels that's there to aid them in traversing the difficult terrain jolting the car. Wide brown meet equally as wide hazel, before Jasper jumps back up to look over the roof of the rover and swing the gun around.

His spinning body suddenly goes still, and Max barks angrily by his legs, looking up through the small hole in the rovers ceiling. Dread pumps through Myles' veins, knowing that these people have managed to sneak right up to the rover without being seen or picked up by the pair at all. Crawling quickly into the passenger seat again, Myles pops the door open to stick her head up and point her gun at the cloaked man holding a knife to Jasper's throat.

Jasper's hands are raised in submission, and red eyebrows furrow as her mind tries to comprehend the scene as fast as possible. The man is completely cloaked, his whole body covered in a thick black blanket that's been turned into a robe with a hood. He's wearing some kind of mask, and besides the white of his eyes peeking out of the darkness his hooded coat hides him in, there's not a sliver of his skin showing. Myles has no way of knowing what clan he's from, and what they might be able to offer him to leave them alone.

"Breik em au!" Myles shouts the instant she opens the door, and Jasper watches her with an almost exasperated expression. The sight of her makes the man's posture sag and his head move back slightly, almost as if he wasn't expecting anyone else to be in the vehicle. Something moves behind her and she puts her right leg on the passenger seat to pull the pistol from her ankle and aim it at whoever is coming up behind her with her left hand. "Ai sei em, breik em au o ai na bum yu melon klin!" [AN: "Let him go! I mean it, let him go or I will blow your head off!"]

"Miss Mylinski?" A familiar man's voice blurts out, but it's not the fact that he knows her name that makes her expression relax. "Everyone stand down! These are our people."

The accent he speaks with isn't typical of any of the grounders, he doesn't slur over letters to make them have different sounds, doesn't make certain consonants harsh or add a vague trill to his words. Instead, the man speaks with a crisp and clear American accent, and realisation dawns on her that these are Arkers.

Whoever's behind her shifts, breathing out, "Aggie? Jasper?"

"Dad?" Jasper sighs out, sagging in the man's arms and slipping back into the rover seamlessly once the man holding a knife to his throat drops his grip.

Myles keeps the guns pointed at those around her as the back door opens, only lowering her weapons when she hears her best friend embrace his father. A woman's voice she hasn't heard in almost 7 years pipes up behind her and her hands tug at Myles, pulling her off of the rover and onto the ground to give her a relieved hug. Hazel eyes stay on the man on the rover until he steps off, and is blocked from sight.

"Max, quiet," Myles commands and the calico coloured dog falls quiet.

"Oh, Aggie!" Hannah Green, Monty's mother, gushes loudly and Myles returns her hug. "Look at how much you've grown! You were still so little when you were locked away, now look at you!"

Hannah pulls back to look at Myles and the redhead can't stop the kind smile that graces her delicate features. Monty's mother had always been beautiful, in soul and in looks, making even the dark patchwork cloak she wears seem radiant. Her hood and mask sit around her neck, letting her black hair that's tied in a bun be seen in the midday sunlight.

"You look just like your mother," Hannah proclaims, bringing her hand up to Myles' face as the redhead tucks her guns back away and the heart shaped pendant around her neck feels heavy at the words. Myles catches her hand and holds it before pulling one of the women who's always treated her like her own in for another hug. "Where's Monty?"

"In Arkadia," the red haired teen answers, peering at Jasper and his father at the back of the rover. The man who held a knife to his throat steps around the vehicle, his mask and hood down, revealing himself to be Charles Pike. "With the survivors from Alpha, Mecha and Factory."

"You have no idea how good it is to see you," Pike divulges with a huge smile, "never, in my entire career, have I had a student as bright as you. Spent most of your schooling years in solitary, and still managed to be my best student."

Myles pulls back from the hug as Jasper and his father start to approach, while several others slowly step out of the trees. Both father and son are wearing bright smiles and the redhead can't help but match her best friends expression, ignoring Pike's comment entirely. It's the first time he's seemed truly happy and relieved in three months. She never thought she'd get to see his face like that again. Max's tail is seen every now and then in the corner of her eyes, the black fur flopping back and forth as he enthusiastically greets the new faces.

"Uncle Ray!" Myles calls happily, walking up and into his open arms as Jasper greets Hannah with a hug and happy words.

"It's good to see you, rat-bag," Ray tells her, hugging her tightly and pulling back to hold her at arms length. "How are you two doing?" As he asks, he rubs his hands on both teens arms, "you look haunted. Are you sleeping alright?"

"We're surviving," Jasper answers, his expression falling from happy to gloomy. His brown eyes cast around the group, "Dad. Where's mum?"

It's Ray's turn to drop his expression and his touch leaves Myles' arm to have both of his hands resting on Jasper's. He struggles for words for a moment, and Myles' heart clenches with sorrow.

"She, uh…" the brown haired man swallows, pursing his lips. "She volunteered. For the culling." Hazel eyes slip shut in guilt and grief, "she wanted to make sure you had time, that we had time."

Myles opens her eyes to see Ray and Jasper hugging tightly again, Max rubbing against her best friends legs, like he can sense the teens pain. Her eyes flick over the faces around them, taking in the same exhausted and remorseful expressions shown on them all. The two teens aren't the only ones haunted, the people around them look as worn and broken-spirited as they are.

"Lacroix, Smith," Pike barks out to the people around them, "watch our six. Everyone else, I said stand down."

"And Uncle Nick?" Myles enquires softly, stopping her wandering gaze on Hannah.

The woman lifts her hand to gently touch the redheads arm, "no, dear. He didn't make it."

Pulling the woman in for another hug, Myles glances over at Jasper and Ray again, seeing them both watching the pair with sunken expressions. Max quickly makes his way over to Hannah, whining quietly and rubbing against her legs to comfort her. Glancing back at Pike, the redhead voices the question burning in her mind.

"How many of you are there?" Myles pulls back from the hug as she speaks, and Hannah bends down to pat Max.

"Sixty-three," Pike states, making Jasper and Myles' eyes lock in shock. That's low, that's really, really low. Not a single Station of the Ark had under 100 in them when they came down to Earth. "The rest are camped in the mountains north of here. Grounder killers, one and all. Am I right?"

Every single one of the Farm Station survivors immediately shouts 'hoo-rah' in reply, and dread pricks at Myles' heart.

"The grounders aren't a problem," Myles tries to placate, earning harsh looks from the people around them. "As long as you stay off their land and away from their property, they're pretty alright."

"North mountains," Jasper acknowledges, looking at the group with the same fretful expression Myles wears. "That's Azgeda territory."

"I don't care who's 'territory' it is," Pike stops him with a bitter tone, his dark eyes cold and hard. "We landed with over three times as many as 63."

"The Ice Nation can be ruthless," Myles relays carefully, "especially to outsiders crashing something the size of Farm Station into their land. We've got a truce, and several trusted allies backing us up, protecting our people."

"I'll have to take your word for it," Pike comments dully, and Myles and Jasper's eyes meet at his angry demeanour.

"How about we move these trees while you go and get the rest of your people," Myles offers after an awkward beat of silence. "We'll wait here for you, and then we'll take you all to Arkadia."

"It's 50 miles south of here," Jasper adds when Pike falters, "and we're more than happy to escort you."

"Your people will be safe there," the redhead finishes, and Pike lifts his hands up to clap them down on both teens shoulders.

"You're my people," the dark skinned man declares, his expression significantly kinder that it had been a moment ago.

"Sure thing, sir," Jasper dismisses politely, shaking his head slightly. "We'll see you soon."

"I'll stay with the kids," Ray offers when Pike steps back and moves to address the dozen Farm Station survivors standing amongst the trees.

"I'm staying, too, sir," Hannah asserts, sticking close to the teens as they start to make their way to the trees blocking the rover.

"Alright," Pike agrees, before raising his voice to call out to his team. "Everyone but Jordan and Green, let's move out, rendezvous with the others, and bring them back here to get everyone to Arkadia."

"Mount up," someone calls amongst the chorus of 'yes, sir's, "we're going back into hell."

Hazel eyes lock on the brown gaze of her best friend as she quirks a red eyebrow and the survivors start to leave.

"Okay," Ray huffs out, walking towards the rover, "let's get those trees out of the way."

Jasper and Hannah move to follow him, but Myles stops Jasper with a hand on his arm, and Max waits patiently by their legs. Brown eyes look at her, and Myles waits for the parents to take a few more steps away before putting her hand on the back of Jasper's neck.

"Are you okay?" Myles asks, her worried and sincere tone being emphasised by her hazel eyes that flick between his two brown.

Jasper twitches his head to the side, heaving a deep sigh before answering, "I have to be."

Myles keeps her eyes on his, searching in them as she nods her head, "it's okay not to be."

"Not yet," he whispers hoarsely, "when we're back home and they're all gone, maybe. But not yet."

"Okay," the redhead relents, clenching her jaw and squeezing his neck kindly. "If you need a minute to go into the woods and scream, let me know. I'll come with and take the blame."

Huffing a small laugh, Jasper breaks away to walk up to the two parents trying and failing to push the heavy tree by themselves.

"You always do, Aggie."

 

Myles walks with Hannah and Ray between her and the slowly crawling rover that Jasper drives through the woods on her right, with Max between her and Mr. Pike on her left. Most of the young children, about ten of them, are crammed into the back of the rover but the rest of the 63 survivors walk with them. The air is chilly, even though the sun sits high in the afternoon sky, and Myles can't wait for winter to be over.

They're still a long ways away from Arkadia, having only been walking for four hours of the sixteen hour trek. Myles knows they'll need to stop for a rest once the sun starts setting, but she can't help the itching need to keep going. That could just be because she's trying to escape the topic of conversation, though.

"Forty-two," Jasper states dully, his voice detached and Myles' left arm won't stop shaking. "That's all of us that got out alive."

"And Maya?" Ray prods carefully, looking at his heartbroken son with sorrow filled-eyes.

"Dead," the brown haired teen croaks out, "just like the rest of them."

"You did what you had to do," Hannah tells Myles, hooking her arm around her elbow.

"Doesn't make it right," Myles replies blandly, her tone empty and arm jittering.

"You did the right thing," Pike seconds, looking at the teens with a stoney expression. "Kill or be killed. So, is Mount Weather ours now?"

"It's no one's," Jasper snaps harshly, not even turning to look at the man.

"They use it for supplies," Myles explains lowly, wanting the conversation to be over.

"Supplies?" Pike blurts out in surprise, his face scrunching up in aggravated confusion. "It's a nuclear hardened underground city."

"No, it's not," the redhead quickly protests before either her or Jasper can fly off the deep end. "It's a symbol of hundreds of thousands of grounders being brutalised, of Arkers being tortured and killed, of the genocide of hundreds of people. Innocent people being tortured for more than a hundred years."

"There's a truce," Jasper adds morosely, "think about what that will look like."

"We need to think about what will happen when the grounders break that truce," Pike argues confidently. "Because they will."

Myles scoffs, shaking her head and keeping her eyes looking at what's in front of her as anger simmers through her veins. It's silent for a moment, before Jasper's dad pipes up cautiously.

"'They'?" Ray prompts hesitantly, Myles doesn't look to him, but she can see Jasper turn at the question in the corner of her eyes. "You said 'they use it for supplies'."

"We haven't set foot in Arkadia since we left three months ago," Myles clarifies after another beat of silence.

"What?" Hannah quizzes immediately, the worried lilt in her voice sends a twinge of regret through Myles' heart. "What about Monty?"

"Jasper?" Ray breathes, his worry for his son blooming with every heavy second.

"Aggie's spoken to him a few times," the brown haired teen shrugs, his tone low. "I haven't."

"Maybe you should," his father presses gently, "it sounds like it might be healing for you two."

"I can't, dad," Jasper refuses remorsefully, "those first few weeks were… bad. The things I said, what I did… it's not something you can just take back."

"Oh, honey," Hannah sighs, "you know he doesn't need an apology. Monty just wants you to be okay."

Another stretch of uncomfortable silence is broken by Ray again.

"How'd you get over it?" Ray asks quietly, his whole attention on his son, and it hits Myles that the man isn't as put together about his wife's death as he's portraying.

"I didn't," Jasper admits haltingly, "I wanted someone to hate, someone to blame. I didn't have anyone from Mount Weather to be that anymore, and the person who pulled the lever wasn't there, so I decided to just hate everyone."

"You're not anymore," Pike acknowledges, "that's a lot of progress, kid."

"How'd you stop?" Ray continues questioning kindly, "hating everyone?"

"Aggie," the brown haired teen divulges, swallowing thickly and Myles' left arm shivers violently.

"I gave him something else to do," Myles shrugs, acting as if the first few weeks they spent together hadn't been a total shit-show.

Jasper rolls his head against the car seat to glance at her, "you gave me a lot more than that. I couldn't understand it, before. I couldn't see past Maya." His voice still wavers on her name, even now, but it doesn't make him collapse into a wreck like it used to. "Then… I came to stay with Aggie. Monty kept trying to help me, they all did, but Aggie just let me go. Would let me scream until I didn't have a voice left, smash things, get blind drunk and no matter what I said or did, she didn't hold any of it against me. Never made me feel guilty, or ashamed, or like I was broken."

"And then she gave me what no one else could," Jasper states, his voice sounding slightly stronger now. Rolling his head to look at his father, "she helped me understand. I knew before I left what they'd done to her there, but it wasn't until the nightmares that I understood it. It got to the point that I could tell what part she was reliving by how loud she screamed. I got to see how she was living before it, how sleep deprived she'd get and how bad the nightmares were, how her mind worked. And I understood, I understood how it happened."

"Your mum would be so proud of you," Ray tells him, his voice thick with unshed tears as he reaches his hand out grip his sons arm. "I'm so sorry you've had to grow up so fast."

"We landed in the snow," Hannah starts, her voice taking on that dull, distant sound that the teens had been using to detach themselves. "Nick said it absorbed some of the impact. That's why we survived." Her eyes become watery as her throat closes around her words. Myles grips the woman's arm that's still hooked around hers and squeezes it kindly. "The snow looked so beautiful, it – I – Charles?"

"The children were playing in it," Pike continues for Hannah when she starts sobbing. "They were the first to die. Fifteen of them. If not for Nick, would've been more. He pulled four kids back into the ship. All four alive today. They got him when he went back for the fifth. Nick died a hero. We've been fighting Grounders ever since."

"That's Azgeda," Myles tries carefully, her tone small but sincere. "Not everyone down here is like that."

"They are to me," Pike announces, his tone hard and cold.

"That's why we're still out here," Jasper declares, looking from the windscreen to Pike. "Everyone else is happy to sit in Arkadia, but we're the ones who keep the truce held together. We fix what people break to keep us all alive, to keep us from another war."

 

They've been walking for almost nine hours now, and the sun is beginning to set on the horizon. Myles knows they'll need to stop for the night soon, but the familiar itch at the back of her head doesn't ease. It's been there for a few hours now, the feeling of being watched chipping away at her mind slowly.

At first, the redhead had written it off, saying it's probably her being paranoid in such a large group of people. Now, though, Myles isn't sure, and she doesn't want to let the group stop until she knows for sure that no one's following them. Flicking her hazel eyes around the tree line lining the wide, open path they walk down for the third time in the last five minutes, Myles still doesn't see anyone lurking.

Nightfall will be upon them soon, and they'll need to stop, having easily seven more hours worth of walking until they get to Arkadia. Everyone else seems to be oblivious to the paranoid inkling that keeps the red haired teen distracted, only Max joining in on her paranoid glances. The red haired teen doesn't know if that's supposed to mean he senses something, or if it just means that he's sensing her anxiety.

Spinning her head around again, her calculating gaze brushes over the large group she walks amongst as she searches for nothing in the trees. Hannah is walking closer to the rover, sticking directly behind Ray to talk with the kids still in the back of the car. Ray walks beside the drivers side door, having a quiet, but pleasant seeming conversation with his son. Pike is nowhere near Myles now, instead walking ahead and to her left and gesturing as he talks animatedly with some of the survivors.

They've formed a strong bond, much like the delinquents had, something that was necessary to keep them alive and sane. The loyal bond and their obvious hatred of the grounders makes an uncomfortable pit of dread sit in her gut, knowing that they probably won't adjust well to Arkadia's role in this society. It will be a hard and sudden change, and remembering how she handled it herself makes Myles worry for those around her. These people have been through so much, and everything they know will be turned on it's head the second they walk through Arkadia's gate.

Myles had already turned her eyes back to watch where she's going when Max halts. Stopping, hazel eyes turn to watch him as her red eyebrows pull together. Max's eyes are transfixed, his whole body completely still as he stares at one spot in the trees on the groups right-hand side. Everyone continues walking forward, but Myles steps to Max slowly, scanning her eyes on the trees once more.

Something dark flitters through the trees for a split second, and Max growls lowly. The movement was unnatural in the still air, and having a definite answer makes the tension ease from her shoulders.

"Good boy," Myles praises, and the dog snaps his head up to her before staring back at the trees the movement came from. "Come on."

Reluctantly, Max follows Myles as she jogs up to the rover. Swerving around Hannah, and jumping up onto the old pipe that she and Jasper attached to use as side step on the side of the vehicle. Gripping the mishmash of metal pipes and rods they made into a roof-rack, Myles quickly inches forward to get to Jasper's open window.

"Excuse me, Uncle Ray," Myles rushes out, already wedging herself between the father and son duo. "Osir don hon won sich in." [AN: "We got a problem."]

"Chit?" Jasper questions, his relaxed expression twisting up tensely. "Chit kaina sich?" [AN: "What? What kind of problem?"]

"Trikoven-de kaina," the redhead answers, and Jasper instinctually slows down to snap his eyes through the trees around them. "Rasad, raun triklama melkova ona der." [AN: "The shadowing kind. Right, near squirrel hair over there."]

Jasper snorts loudly, looking in the direction and muttering distractedly, "that's so bad."

"Well," Myles huffs, letting go of the roof rack to lean in the window completely. Quirking her red eyebrows up and down playfully even though he's not looking at her, "am I wrong?"

"I see him," her best friend informs her, slowing until the rover's stopped completely. "You drive, I'll handle him."

"Oh, no, no, no," the redhead refuses, gripping the pipes on the top of the vehicle to hold her to the car and stop him from opening the door. "I got this."

"What's going on?" Pike demands, his hard and authoritative voice cutting through the air.

Jasper flicks his eyes from the dark skinned man to Myles, saying, "nothing. We just need a minute." Pike slowly steps back, but Myles can still feel his attention on them. "You and I both know why they're waiting."

"Keep the group moving," Myles tells Jasper, knowing as well as he does that they're after the bounty on her head. "I'll be fine."

"Fine," the brown haired teen relents frustratedly after a moment, letting the rover start to move forward again. "But you're taking Max."

"Rodger, Dodger," Myles agrees, jumping off of the side of the rover to set her boots back on the grass.

"Wait, Aggie," her best friend calls, and the redhead looks back at him.

Jasper rummages around with one hand, keeping his other hand on the steering wheel before pulling two earpieces with their wires tangled together out. He fiddles with them for a second, trying to yank Myles' from his.

"I got it," Myles fondly offers, reaching in and separating the two earpieces, keeping one in her hand.

"Let me know if you need a hand," Jasper instructs his best friend, Myles nods as she inserts one end of the wire into her walkie-talkie and pulls the light beige earpiece up from under her shirt and through her collar.

"No worries," the redhead acquiesces, pressing the small earbud into her ear and flicking the small switch on the back of it. The brown haired teen presses the transmit button on the radio in the car, and a short burst of static sounds in her left ear. "Good to go. Come on, Max."

Myles starts changing direction, inching to the left but making sure to keep hidden by the rover. Unnatural flickers repeatedly echo in her vision from her right, and Myles tries to time this perfectly. Sticking close to a man and nodding to him with an awkward smile, the red haired teen waits for the tree coming up on her immediate left. A cluster of thick trees is just up ahead of the person fluttering between the trees to her right, and the redhead slows her pace slightly to make sure they both reach it at the same time.

"Alright, Max," the red haired teen mutters lowly, getting a look of acknowledgement from the calico coloured dog. "Hide."

Once she reaches the tree closest to her, and the dark figure disappears behind the cluster of trees and bushes, Myles slips behind the tree and stops. Max is down low, flattening himself to the ground beside her behind a bush about as high as her shins. Crouching down low, Myles waits until the corners of her hazel eyes can start to see the Farm Station survivors before quickly slipping forward.

Max follows her, keeping low down and staying silent. Slinking forward a bit more, the redhead passes a few more trees before changing her course and heading in the opposite direction as the Arker's group. Weaving between trees carefully and silently, hazel eyes can still see the disturbance following the Arkers. Creeping across the path they had followed, both Myles and Max move cautiously and with ease, trying to make themselves blend into the Earth.

There's no one behind him, only one man lurking in the shadows with his eyes on the group up ahead of them. The man is tall, his thick and bulky clothing making his tall figure seem stocky and menacing. He walks and creeps through the woods with certainty and poise, knowing exactly where he's going to step without ever having to look down. His clothes are typical of warriors, worn leather that's patched and layered with other fabrics, giving the illusion that he's wearing a net over his clothes. Two swords are tucked into a sheath strapped to his back, the sheath looking almost like a carbon copy of the bag slung over his right shoulder.

Myles and Max stalk him with the same confident and skilled stature, getting closer to him quickly. Commotion to her left gets her attention, causing hazel eyes to tear away from the tall man's back for only a moment. The Farm Station survivors are gathering around the rover, but they're still moving forward at the same pace. Quickly disregarding the movement as the group noticing that she's gone, Myles flicks her eyes back in front of herself and stills.

No one is in front of her, the short second that she'd been distracted, he'd used to his advantage. Instinctively crouching down slightly, hazel eyes scan around before Max's low growl warns her of the man's presence. Before she can even turn in the man's direction, something heavy and hard hits her on the side of her head.

Max's furious roars slur and warp with the blurry flashes of his frantically jumping legs, green grass and fur-covered, worn boots that her tired eyes manage to see before slipping closed.

Chapter Text

Day 138 – Jan. 28

Myles' head aches like a motherfucker, but she's still alive, and that confusing fact is the only thing that's keeping her feet dragging her forward to follow the man holding her captive. Her hands are tied together in front of her, the rope biting into her skin and chaffing uncomfortably as the man pulls at her lagging form. The heart-shaped locket that was once her mothers still hangs around her neck, the metal nipping at her pale skin in the cold winter air. All of her weapons are gone except for her spare mags and the knives in her bra and boots, leaving her sluggish mind to fret about the condition of her fawb glove.

That thing is her baby, having built the entire thing from scratch and spent many sleepless nights struggling to make it actually work. Max and Jasper aren't a concern, the small calico coloured dog wasn't harmed by her captor, only stunned by some sort of blow before bolting to get Jasper for help. Jasper hadn't been happy, her best friends voice chastises her through the ear piece still connected to the radio on her near empty belt frequently, not trying to hide his disdain for this plan.

If Jasper didn't have guns, and didn't trust Myles as much as he does, her captor would be dead by now. Hazel eyes don't need to scan the wilderness around them or hear her best friends voice in her ear to know that he and Max are following them. They'd left the rest of the Farm Station survivors with the coordinates and a map for Arkadia, choosing instead to tag along for this adventure to appease the redheads curiosity.

Ray Jordan hadn't wanted to go with the survivors to Arkadia, but his steps are loud and his body untrained. Unable to accompany his son, and unwilling to join the rest of his Station, Jasper had taken him to their home. This had been hours ago, before the sun had set yesterday, leaving Pike and his group to survive the night in Trigeda territory alone and unsupervised while Jasper chases after his reckless best friend.

"Aggie," Jasper's voice calls lowly through her ear piece. Myles already knows what he's about to say, she's been waiting for him to acknowledge the predicament from the second her boots stopped stepping over the pale rocks of the riverbank to walk through the river. "I can't follow you if you keep walking along the water, I need to get across. Give me fifteen seconds and then cause a diversion."

Myles quickens her pace ever so slightly so her hands aren't being pulled and she can discreetly reach her walkie-talkie. Pressing the transmit button twice to say yes, the red haired teen let's her arms fall slack again as her boots leave the water to walk over the rocks on the other side. Counting one in her head, Myles starts to stumble but catches herself. The man holding her captive tilts his head towards her, giving her a glimpse of the black war paint carelessly slapped across his face through the long and matted braids of his brown hair without meeting her eyes. Two. His hands tug on the twisted vines acting as a rope, making the material rub and scrape harshly against her skin.

"Stay on your feet," the man tosses over his shoulder as she reaches five, not slowing his strides.

A red eyebrow quirks up at the accent in the man's voice, hearing the familiar warped vowel sounds mixed amongst hard consonants with the vague trills indicative of a grounders accent. However, this is different. All of the other Clans have small distinguishing features to their accents, but none of his words have that. It's purposely sluggish, as if he were trying to mask the details of his speech.

The redheads curiosity only continues to grow. If he doesn't want her to know where he's from, and he's not killing her when he has had ample opportunity to do so, what's his plan?

Eight. Myles stumbles once more, one of her boots landing in the shallow water of the rivers edge as she makes sure to swerve closer to the riverbed. Her wrists are tugged on harshly again, and this time when she stumbles, it's authentic. Unable to catch herself from the jolt, the red haired teen falls to her knees on the rocky shore. Ten. Pain explodes through her knees, and she's yanked to her feet by the rope around her wrists, but it's worked, he's closer to the water now.

"On your feet!" The man snaps while her wet boots scuffle over the rocks in an attempt to stay on her feet.

Thirteen. Trying to hasten her steps to get closer to the man and disguise it as her stumbling to remain upright, Myles gets ready for her plan of action. Fourteen. Barely any light shines down on them from the early morning sun, keeping the crisp winter air chilly and the wildlife quiet. Fifteen.

Throwing herself forward with all of her body weight, the redhead sends both herself and her captor sprawling to the ground. Sharp pain pinches at her body as her front falls roughly onto the hard and thick stones of the shore, her bound hands pulling awkwardly to the side as ice cold water splashes all over her back and shoulders from her captor falling into the water. Her radio and ear piece are mostly spared from the water, but the man's whole body gets submerged before he shoots up into a sitting position.

Hazel eyes can hardly see the flicker of her best friend and their dog booking it across the river behind her captors angrily standing figure looming above her, and her panicked scooting backwards across the jagged rocks isn't out of fear. She knows that he's not going to kill her; if he was, he would've done it already. It's to keep him distracted, his brown eyes on hers and not on Jasper and Max ducking into the tree line.

The man's boots chase after her pathetically shimmying form slowly, and Myles squeaks out, "sorry."

"Looks like the great Wanheda's human after all," the man's gruff voice proclaims as Myles stills at state of his face, her curious eyes watching the black war paint melt away with morbid fascination.

Underneath the man's black war paint are the decorative facial scars of someone from Azgeda. Raised white skin sweeps thickly around his eyes from his forehead to his cheek bone, branching off into multiple lines before joining together again, the scarring mirrored in a symmetrical pattern on both sides of his face. This leaves the redhead with more questions than it does answers. They're not heading anywhere near Ice Nation territory, so why is he keeping her alive, if not to give to his queen?

"You," Myles murmurs in exhilaration, sitting up slowly, "just keep getting more interesting."

"Says the great Wanheda…" the man replies, letting his Ice Nation accent shine through unrestrictedly, pulling a water-skin from his soaking wet side and bending down to fill it. "…who doesn't even fight back," looking up while he refills his water, he gestures with his hands that no longer hold the rope she's tied with to prove his point. "Or run."

"What can I say?" Myles huffs through a thoughtful smile, "you're intriguing. Be a shame to kill such an interesting adventure."

"You crave death," the man declares, tucking his water-skin away before stalking over to her and picking up his end of the rope. "Strange sight of a hero."

"A glowing review, Azgeda," the redhead quirks her brows sarcastically, standing up on her own. "I'm flattered."

The Azgedian watches her, squinting his brown eyes and speaking after a moment of thought, "you're steady now."

"Yeah, well," Myles deflects his scrutinising gaze, "my head hurts. Thanks for that, by the way."

"I liked it better when you were quiet," her captor jibes, walking forward and tugging on the rope to pull her after him.

"Oh!" Myles exclaims loudly, an overly-exaggerated bright smile taking over her delicate features. "In that case, Azgeda, let me tell you a little something about military exercises in space."

"I will gag you," the Azgedian warns, not looking back at her as they continue over the rocky riverbank.

"That isn't involved," the redhead rambles, "but I suppose it could be. Brilliant idea, Azgeda. You see, what they do is…" the man halts, spinning around to the mockingly chattering red haired teen and sticking his hand into his bag. "…instead of killing large groups of people and fighting to the death in medieval torture groups, they make you do team building activities." A strip of worn and dirty beige fabric is pulled from his bag, and Myles watches the movement, but doesn't try to pull away from his hands. "That's very rude, this isn't very team-like of you. I think we need to do Inchworm, I feel like we're not on the same page at all."

Her last few words are muffled as the Azgedian ties the fabric at the back of her head, strands of her shoulder length red hair being tugged at and pulled uncomfortably. Myles goes quiet, looking into the man's annoyed brown eyes with an alive twinkle in hers.

"Is this better?" Myles' muffled voice is unrecognisable to her own ears, but her captor seems to understand her.

"It will do," he grunts out, turning back around to march over the rocky terrain.

Its quiet between them again, only the sounds of their own rough and careless footsteps trampling over the Earth. An idea blossoms in her mind, and she decides to keep rambling through her gag in an effort to gauge more information out of her captor.

 

"…she didn't do that, though," Myles blabbers on nonsensically through her gag, "no, not Rosie. She put Venus after Earth, and there was no way she was changing it." The sun is higher in the sky now, and the redheads throat is dry and sore from talking so much. Still, she refuses to stop, comfortable with the fact that she is slowly chipping away at the Azgedian's mind. "She got her ass right up to Mr. Fielding and sai – "

Myles is abruptly cut off when her captor yanks her tied hands to himself and shoves her onto her back on the long grass below them. Landing with a solid thump, a small peep of a squeak bursts from the redheads mouth in surprise. Hazel eyes widen when the man goes to the ground with her, holding her shoulders down and leaning over her body completely with his.

"Quiet," the man orders in a whispered voice, his brown eyes hard with seriousness.

A red eyebrow quirks up, but she remains silent, and the Azgedian slowly leans back. His hands still grip onto her shoulders, pulling her up with him. He stays crouched down, his knees hovering over her sitting form as he twists his head to her left. Myles follows his gaze to see two men in full armour with weapons in their hands and masks over their heads walking carelessly through the same overgrown field as them. Confusion blurs over Myles' features, and her captor mistakes it for not recognising the scouts from their armour.

"Ice Nation scouts," he explains, and the redhead levels him with an exasperated look. Myles isn't confused about who they are, but why they're here. Why her captor doesn't want them to know that they're here. Lexa won't like this, and she knows from experience that they'll take this as an act of war. "Come on," her captor urges quietly, "we back track. Then we go around."

Curiouser and curiouser. Red eyebrows pull together, and she realises that if they go around them, she might not get to know what the fuck is actually going on. Surely, if Azgeda warriors are marching on Trigeda lands, that must be where he's taking her, right? To their queen? Why then, would he not want his people to know? To instead go around them? It's only two scouts, but Jasper needs to get around them discreetly so he can cross the field to follow after Myles.

Flicking her hazel eyes between her captors two brown, Myles screams. The Azgedian holding her prisoner looks disappointed and exasperated, but not surprised. Pulling a sack from his bag, the man wastes no time in yanking it over her head.

"Their deaths are on you," he tells her, and Myles can't help the sadistic snort that bursts from her.

She's unceremoniously wrenched up by her shirt as the sound of three footsteps rush to them. Dread finally pumps through her veins; if there's more than two, how many are there? This was supposed to distract them to help Jasper sneak around them, but what if there's too many and she's just doomed him? Flecks of light shine through the sack over her head, but hazel eyes cannot see what's happening in front of her. Her captors hands still grip the rope, Myles can feel it in his hand as his fingers hook around the twisted vines holding her hands together.

"This is a horrible idea," Jasper murmurs lowly through her ear piece, adding to the redheads paranoia.

Myles is thankful her hands are tied in front of her, allowing her the ability to grab the knife still tucked into the fabric of her bra, if she needs to. Her rising anxiety is less for her own wellbeing, the red haired teen knows and feels her best friend watching over her through the scope of a gun. But, if he's forced to shoot them, it will reveal himself to whoever else is out here.

"Chil, you," her captor tries to pacify the other Azgeda warriors, "ai nou lufa sich au." [AN: "Easy. I don't want trouble."]

"Em kom Azgeda," a man informs the others, his voice sounding slightly higher and younger than her captor's. "Chon dison bilaik?" [AN: "He's Ice Nation. Who's this?"]

Ice cold dread fills Myles' throbbing veins. While her captor might not want to harm her himself and is happy just pulling her happily complying ass along, the same cannot be said for these warriors. Patiently waiting for either Jasper or the Azgedian who's holding her captive to make a move, the redhead can't help the paranoid shiver that runs through her arms or the involuntary twitch that her hands make against her captors.

"Wanheda," her captor discloses, and Myles regrets trying to annoy the man. "Honon gon Haiplana." [AN: "The Commander Of Death. A prisoner for our Queen."]

One of the warriors shifts, stepping around them and Myles' hands twitch against her captors again. Slowly, the new persons footsteps approach them, before the sack is lifted and torn away from her head. Hazel eyes quickly scan the men in front of her, taking in their aggressive posture, outfits and weapons. They're all dressed the same, in typical Azgeda armour, one weilding a machete, one a sword, and the third a bow with an arrow notched. Heads twists and snap to each other, and even with their faces completely covered in masks and patchwork hoods, Myles can see the excitement the three of them bubble with.

"Ai don tel yo op," her captor urges, sensing the men's eagerness as much as the redhead is. "Ai nou lufa sich au." [AN: "I told you. I don't want trouble."]

"Oso na bilaik klir skai, klin woda," the man who lifted the sack from her head gleefully proclaims to the two men behind him. Myles shifts on her feet, getting ready for an attack. "Sis em op." [AN: "We'll be set for life. Take her."]

"Ai nou na teik yo dula daun," the man holding her wrist refuses in the same low tone he's been talking with the whole time. [AN: "I can't let you do that."]

As soon as the words are out of his mouth, her captor completely lets go of her hands and the rope tying them together. Myles doesn't move, staying exactly where she is and watching the Azgeda warriors with a fiery determination in her hazel eyes. Brown eyes halfheartedly glance in surprise over his shoulder at his freed hostage, before looking back at the warriors snapping at him.

"Chit yu dula?" One of the men harshly snap, taken aback by the captor letting her go and pulling his sword and one of Myles' knives that he'd stolen. [AN: "What are you doing?"]

"Ai na hon em in," another man calls loudly over his shoulder, rushing up to Myles. "Frag em op." [AN: "I'll get her, kill him."]

The other two warriors close in around the redheads captor, but she's sure he can handle himself. When the warrior running up to her reaches her, Myles ducks down to avoid his rough hands and slips back up a second behind his right arm. Yanking up her bound hands, the red haired teen quickly hooks them around her attackers neck and wrenches the man's head down. Lifting up her knee quickly, the hard bones in his face crack and crunch as they smash into Myles' kneecap.

Spinning around, hazel eyes see her captor has his sword shoved through one of the warriors stomach as the archer staggers to his feet, dazed, behind him. His bow and quiver are hastily slung over her captors shoulder, leaving the archer with only a dagger. Myles' footsteps reach the archer while her hands pull her knife from its slot in the fabric of her bra and the redhead jumps onto the archers back to bring her bound hands with the knife to his throat.

Her captor turns to them, lifting the bow, notching an arrow and drawing back the string before halting at the sight. The red haired teen is hoping this can end without him dying, but that daydream is discarded abruptly when the archer lifts his dagger in a hopeless attempt to stab her. Hooking her leg up and over his shoulder, her boot lands on his forearm and Myles shoves the weapon away. The archer tumbles from the jolt and shifting of her weight on his back, sending him crashing to the ground.

Myles goes down with him, her tied hands still hooked around his throat and forcing her to the ground. The archer recovers quickly, but Myles recovers even quicker, already on her feet again and ready for the man's angered and hasty approach. His arms are opened wide as he barrels towards her, expecting her to pull something like she had earlier with the other warrior. Instead, Myles flings herself into his arms and swings her hands up to stab the knife into his throat and slash. Blood spurts everywhere, spraying over her face and neck a second before the archer falls to the ground.

An arrow is shot towards her, but it misses Myles by a few inches and her hazel eyes stare at her captor in confusion. It's the first time he's done something to her besides knock her on her head. He meets her eyes for a split second, before focussing on something behind her and approaching her with an unsteady wobble in his steps. Turning around, Myles sees the warrior she had bashed into her knee near where she had left him, with an arrow sticking out of his chest.

"Aggie," Jasper's low voice calls over the radios ear piece still in her ear. "There's a whole Ice Nation army west of us. Pull out or you'll be dead."

"Now that's better," the man praises in a gruff voice, and Myles pulls the gag from her mouth. "It didn't have to be this way."

"There's a whole army here," the redhead repeats, nodding her head to the west end of the field they're in. "What other way is there?"

The man's brown eyes turn in the direction her head indicated to and his body freezes, as if he wasn't expecting the sight of the distantly marching Azgedians. His hands grip her arms and he roughly pulls her down to crouch in the long grass with him. Red eyebrows twitch in curiosity, and her hands go to her walkie-talkie to let Jasper know that she's not ready to end this.

"You want to avoid your own army," Myles relays quietly, her finger pressing down on the transmit button. "You really know how to make an adventure I could never pull out of."

His brown eyes look at her with an almost hesitant curiosity as her finger lifts off of the button discreetly, "your need for an adventure is going to get you killed."

"If you wanted me dead," the redhead deadpans, quirking an eyebrow up in a silent challenge. "You would've killed me already."

"There's still time," the man counters, lifting the fabric acting as a gag from her neck and sticking it back in her mouth before yanking the bloody knife from her hands. He brings a finger up to his mouth sarcastically, pulling the red haired teen up to walk across the field, away from the Azgeda army. "Now shh."

Myles snorts obnoxiously, speaking through the cloth in her mouth, "how boring."

A disgruntled huff and a halfheartedly harsh tug on the rope tied around her wrists is the only response Myles gets from her captor. Following along after his limping form, the redhead keeps her hazel eyes looking at the army marching on Trigeda lands to their left. Their steps are slow and cautious now, deliberately trying to avoid any more scouts that may be roaming around. Worry pricks at her heart, hoping her best friend can use all of their training to stay hidden and safe.

War drums bang on in the distance, and it makes both the redhead and her Azgedian kidnapper falter, bending over slightly to crouch down while they walk. The army is getting closer to the field, walking on an angle and quickly closing the distance between them and the redheads captor.

"We've got a problem," Jasper's anxious and breathless voice informs her through her ear, and Myles instantly starts whipping her head around to search him out. Her heart stills and her steps falter when her gaze lands on Indra, Marcus, Monty and Bellamy walking through the field, where she and her captor had been fighting the scouts minutes ago. Jasper and Max sprint through the long grass behind them, barreling towards them in an attempt to save them from the Ice Nation warriors that surround the field that holds them all. "Keep moving."

It's almost as if he can feel her eyes on him, and knows it's her. Bellamy Blake's deep brown eyes instantly find hers, and even from the tree line she enters across the field, Myles can see his whole posture shift. Snapping her head back to her captor to make sure his attention is on the woods in front of them, Myles' breathing picks up and her veins feel electrified with anxiety. They're passing through the trees, but still the army is getting closer to them, the war drums gradually getting louder.

Abandoning her resolve to not look at Bellamy for a moment, hazel eyes get glimpses of Bellamy sprinting to her before being tackled roughly by both Jasper and the two best friends small calico dog. Deep brown eyes never leave hers once he stands again, desperately trying to ignore the frantically demanding hands of Jasper and Marcus that try to stop him from following her. It looks like there's nothing and no one else in the world besides the redhead to him. Monty and Indra join in on holding Bellamy back, with the formers attention seemingly being tugged in five thousand different directions as he wrestles with what he's supposed to do now.

Feeling confident Jasper and Max have this covered, Myles looks at the wobbly man in front of her once more. Jasper and Monty haven't said one word to each other directly in three months, and the closest they've come to seeing each other is Jasper watching him from a distance. A pang of sorrowful regret sends ice cold pain through her chest, her worry for her two best friends growing.

Myles knows Jasper isn't ready to face Monty, even though the latter has already forgiven him for the atrocious behaviour he displayed before leaving to live with the redhead. Monty isn't the kind of person to hold a grudge about that, even though some of the brunettes words truly affected him. Monty knows that it was all out of pain and grief, understanding that him forgiving his best friend is not the same as his best friend forgiving himself. In truth, Myles doesn't know if there's anything in the universe that could properly ruin their relationship.

"Handled," her best friend huffs through her ear piece, and Myles' shoulders sag in relief, releasing the tension that she hadn't even realised had formed there. "I can't follow you across, I have to wait for the army to pass. Lay low and let me know if the plan changes."

Keeping close to the injured Azgedian in front of her, Myles presses the transmit button twice in acknowledgement. Suddenly, her captors sluggish steps stop altogether, and his bloody hand rests on a tree beside them. His other hand fumbles through the bag slung over his shoulder, pulling out an old brochure with the layout of trains and their paths detailed. A crudely drawn map of the lands is scrawled over top of it, and her captors eyes scan it. Red eyebrows twitch up, her mind already reconciling their position and their need to hide from the army as her gaze scours the map.

Clan symbols are drawn all over the paper, indicating the directions to each of their lands. Two different coloured inks line over the map, a brown and a black. The brown ink looks to be underneath the black, and hastily indicates tunnels and possible paths underground. Black ink crosses over some areas, possibly marking tunnels that are inaccessible or don't lead to anywhere. Landmarks are detailed in the black ink, showing the paths to Polis, specific villages, Arkadia and Mount Weather.

Black squares with small shapes, dashes and scribbles in them mark out where the underground tunnels find the surface of the Earth again, and where hideouts and water can be found. It doesn't take Myles more than a short moment to locate their position and see exactly where the nearest entrance for a tunnel is. Gripping her captors arm with her bound hands, the redhead surges forward and the man easily follows her. He's unsteady on his feet, looking like he's about to fall flat on his face, and a warped sense of concern washes over her for the Azgedian.

Weaving around the trees, the two find the stone brick walls that stand around a staircase which descends into the Earth within moments. There's nothing else to show for it, only the hip height, crumbling brick walls and the two skinny, tall black poles that stand on the ends of it. Green moss and grass cover the decaying stone, but Myles still marvels at the sight when they reach it.

The wounded Azgedian man stops again when they walk between the walls, leaning his hand on the stone bricks and stepping down the first step slowly. Concrete stairs that are overgrown with greenery and discoloured and chipped from age descend into absolute darkness. A hand touches her elbow, and hazel eyes flick up to the man's brown.

"Scream again," the man huffs in warning, continuing to step down the stairs and tugging on the redheads arm, "and we'll both be dead."

Myles steps down the stairs eagerly, disappearing into the darkness before her attacker follows her down. The darkness doesn't stretch for long, beams of early afternoon sunlight stream down through leaf covered grates in the ceiling. It's a subway station, tiled walls with rotting posters and signs keeping them company. An abundance of wires rain down on them from the ceiling and sit scattered across the floor. Concrete pillars and long, old, bright blue seats are placed every few metres.

Her captor shrugs off his bag once they're a couple of metres past the end of the staircase, and Myles takes this as her cue to stop walking. The rope around her wrists is no longer being tugged on or held, the Azgedian either not thinking she's an issue or not caring if she tries to make a break for it. They're surrounded by Ice Nation warriors, so even if she wanted to go, she couldn't.

Leaning her back against one of the concrete pillars, hazel eyes watch her captor start peeling off his armour, stopping when he reaches his tattered, blood covered brown shirt. A red eyebrow quirks up when he gingerly bends down to gather debris to make a fire, and she pushes off of the pillar to do it for him. The red haired teen is silent as she works, her gag is still in her mouth but that's not what's stopping her from talking.

Fretful dread looms over her, the weight of it easily several times as heavy as the curious look the Azgedian man watches her with. It's not until she's got everything ready that Myles pulls down her gag, and she only does it so she can blow on the kindling while she rubs her bound hands down a stick. After a moment of rubbing the stick, a small hint of smoke rises in the dim light, and the redhead keeps her actions going until there's a flame.

Dumping the lit kindling into the fire pit, Myles stands and walks back over to the pillar she had leant against and slides down it to sit on the grotty, leaf covered floor. The air in the subway station is colder than it is on the surface, but instead of pulling her legs up to keep warm, the redhead sits with her legs out straight in a 'v' shape. It's a subconscious move to show her captor that she has the upper hand, making sure he knows that she doesn't fear him and is able to get comfortable.

The man makes an amused huffing sounding, before bending down to drop a knife into the fire. He groans softly at the movement, straightening to remove his brown shirt. Strained grunts fill the air, and Myles struggles not to feel bad for him. Hazel eyes shift to him from her dazed staring at the fire and halt on his back. Intricate scars in a large pattern of curved lines cover the skin of his back, reminding Myles of the kinds of brands that they give themselves in place of tattoos.

Flicking her gaze back to the fire, her hazel eyes can just barely see his athletic and toned muscles tense and quiver with pained movements. Her mind is elsewhere, though, spinning around in circles of Jasper, Bellamy, Monty, Marcus, Indra and Max.

"Another inch," her captors deep voice converses, not turning around to look at her. "And I'd be dead." Tilting his head to glance at her, "Maybe you're not the Commander of Death, after all." Myles doesn't answer or look back at him, keeping her disinterested hazel eyes on the dancing flames. "Now she's quiet."

"I didn't do that to you," Myles reminds him blankly, not shifting her eyes or adding anything to the tone of her voice.

"No," he agrees, nodding slightly and twisting his body towards her, the angry stab wound still bubbling with blood. "But you brought the man who did to us."

"Everything good?" Jasper asks through her earpiece after another awkward beat, and Myles instantly presses the transmit button twice in acknowledgment.

Hazel eyes glide back over to the man's back, "why are you hiding?" Brown eyes glance over his shoulder, "from your own people?"

"Why'd your run away from yours?" Her captor retorts, and the redhead stops, realising that he has a point.

The Azgedian hobbles over to the fire, before bending down gingerly to pick up the knife. Myles can't see his face, or what his hands are doing, but she can hear the sizzle of the blade against his skin and smell the stench of seared flesh. A strained groan drawls out of his mouth as the muscles in his back twitch and flinch.

"The Great Wanheda," the man mocks once the hot blade is no longer on his skin, turning around and walking up to the red haired teen. Myles keeps her eyes on his, even as he holds the blade, glowing bright from heat, so close to her face that she can feel how hot it is. "Mountain Slayer."

"You want me to spit on it?" Myles replies, her tone equally as sarcastic as his is.

"How can someone," he starts, pulling the blade away from her face, "be that feisty and lethal, yet not fight back once?"

"I told you, Azgeda," the red haired teen shrugs one shoulder halfheartedly, "yu ste bilaik nodoben." [AN: "you are intriguing."]

"Me?" The man scoffs, looking at her in disbelief, "what about you, Wanheda? The great warrior that doesn't fight anymore."

"I'm not what everyone seems to think I am," Myles answers immediately, continuing at the perplexed look in his brown eyes. "Someone who's great," the venom in her voice as she repeats the word is almost guttural, spitting the word out as if it were sour in her mouth. "A hero, someone who has power."

"Who are you…" her captor questions slowly, crouching down to match her eye level instead of standing over her. "…if you're not those things?"

"No one," the redhead supplies, diverting her eyes back to the flames flickering in front of her.

"Lot of people out there right now," his gruff voice shoots back, "looking for no one."

"What can I say?" Myles brags, leaning her head back on the gritty pillar and locking her hazel gaze on his brown again. Quirking her red eyebrows in jest, "I'm great company."

The man huffs through a small, amused smirk, "you're not boring." Her captor sits down on the floor in front of her instead of staying in the same crouched position. At the curious glint in her eyes, he continues, "every time I think I know something about you, you prove me wrong."

"Like you're one to talk, Azgeda," the redhead asserts, letting her eyebrows jump around her face jokingly. "You're not actually taking me to the Queen, we're heading a lot further East than her royal low-ness would ever travel, even with that army leading the way."

"There are other buyers," the man confesses to her, "those who are willing to meet my price."

"Hmm," Myles hums distractedly, rolling her head against the harsh surface of the pillar to look away from him. Rolling her head to look back at him, "how much is Skaiku offering? Can't imagine they'd have anything worth your while there."

"They don't," he confirms dully, "not for someone who abandoned them."

A red eyebrow shoots up at his choice of words, but Myles doesn't deny them, "look at us, Azgeda. Branches of the same tree."

"Doubt that," the man replies harshly, his face scrunching up slightly as he mulls over the words. "You took the cowards way out."

"And not being loyal to the Ice Nation isn't doing that?" Myles counters, scrutinising the man in front of her. "Come on, Azgeda. We're both in disguise, living on the lamb, staying away from our people."

"I was banished," he refutes quietly, his voice and eyes hard with bitterness. "Nothing like you. You had a choice."

"Did I?" Myles quizzes, her red eyebrows furrowing. "I didn't in the mountain."

"You defeated our greatest enemy," the man argues, his face lax with his lack of understanding. "We suffered for many years, and you stopped that. Took that power, and ran."

"What your people see as power," the redhead divulges softly, "mine sees as weakness. What I did in the mountain had a great cost, and I'm trying to repay it."

"You can go back," her captor insists, "I can't. You're the way back home to my people."

Realisation dawns on Myles, and a knowing smile slowly creeps across her face. The expression gets a frustrated huff from the Azgedian in front of her, his brown eyebrows pulling together as his long brown hair shakes with the small movement of his head. Myles knows who this is, she and Jasper had heard the story of this man. A tragic tale of a son who was banished from his home and family as part of the agreement for the Ice Nation to join Lexa's Coalition.

"Oh, now… that's a twist," the red haired teen marvels, her delicate features lighting up brightly. Her captor hesitates, his reserved nature showing in the brief flash of uncertainty that dances across his face. Lifting her hands up, Myles opens the palm of her right hand for the man to shake. "Hainofa Roun kom Azgeda." [AN: "Prince Roan of the Ice Nation."]

Roan hesitates, looking from her hand to her gleeful hazel eyes before hesitantly reaching forward to shake her hand slowly. It's a strange and awkward gesture, one that he does more so out of uncomfortableness than respect. The knowledge of that doesn't make the bright look on Myles' face or the giddy jittering in her veins lessen any.

"Does that feed it?" Roan enquires mockingly, but his tone is twinged with curiosity. "Your craving for adventure?"

"It's getting there," Myles assures, "you know, we would already be at Polis if we'd followed the border instead of the river."

Huffing, Roan replies sarcastically, "I'll keep that in mind for next time."

Leaning her head back against the pillar, Myles thinks through the man's words. Roan is obviously very desperate to get to back to his people, and it would only make sense that he would deliver one of the most wanted people right now to her to get what he wants. The grounders believe that when they kill someone, they don't just take a life, but the power of a soul. Someone like Myles, who's taken many lives of people who have also taken many lives themselves, that's a lot of soul power.

It's no surprise Queen Nia of the Ice Nation wants her 'power', the already large expanse of land could easily overtake the surrounding clans if the people there truly believed their queen to have all of that power. What is mildly surprising and makes curiosity itch away at her mind is why Roan wouldn't kill her himself and use that 'power' to force the commander and his mothers hands? Surely, that would be a whole lot easier than escorting the redhead across the territory to bring her to Polis. The commanders soft spot for the Arkers would get in the way of her killing Myles, so there's only two reasons why Roan would think this would work.

One being that he simply doesn't understand the close working relationship the Arkers have with the commander. Lexa abandoned them at Mount Weather, but they still need to be allies and have maintained a mutually beneficial relationship, keeping one another in each other's good graces. The second reason is even simpler, and most probably the truth. Lexa sought out Roan to make him a deal for her. This would explain why he's taking her directly to Polis, why he's willing to kill his own people to get her there alive, and why he's so determined and eager. Why he thinks this will actually work in his favour, despite everything that's happened in the last three months.

"Who is it?" Myles questions softly after a quiet few moments, turning her eyes back to the man. Roan glances back at her, confusion fluttering through his brown eyes. "At home. Who you're trying to get back to." At his blank look, "it can't be your mother."

"How do you do that?" Roan queries instead, and another knowing smile crosses her face.

"I know people," the redhead supplies vaguely, before shrugging and adding. "And I've got someone, too. I left him behind."

"I would never leave her behind," Roan grumbles strongly, and Myles is sure his hard tone is meant to once again highlight their differences.

"What's her name?" Myles asks quietly, but all the Azgedian gives her in reply is a sharp look. Tipping her head, she offers, "if I tell you mine, will you tell me yours?" Roan doesn't answer her again, merely looking at her disinterestedly, "well, we're gonna be here for a while, we gotta pass the time somehow."

"Bellamy Blake," his name rolls off of the red haired teens tongue easily, and she can't help picturing the overwhelming looks of admiration and greed that would take over his sharp features whenever she'd say his name. "A king," scoffing a kind laugh to herself, "tall and handsome. It's the kind of love you don't realise is love right away. You feel it in your gut… it's heavy and whole and true." Hazel eyes stare at the fire as her skin tingles with memories that feel like distant dreams. "Makes you feel like you're drowning, but it feels so good you just can't stop."

"You left him," Roan's gruff voice reminds her, and sad hazel eyes flick back to his confused brown.

"I… saved him," Myles corrects slowly, smirking sadly. "You see, your highness, that cost… the cost of killing people – innocent people… that cost isn't just in the world, or in your soul." Keeping her sincere hazel eyes locked steadily on the man's, "it taints your heart. And Bellamy Blake, he's got enough heart to keep us all going… he doesn't deserve for his heart to be tainted by mine."

Roan's brown eyes are still on her, soaking in her words, "you were protecting him." Myles finally tears her eyes away at the words, pulling her knees up and resting her elbows on them to stare at her bound hands in front of her. It's silent for a moment, but then the Azgedian surprises Myles. "Michi reminds me there's more to life than war. That there is happiness, and… time."

"She sounds nice," Myles tells him, and his tense face relaxes slightly. "Hopefully this army hurries up and you can go home to her."

Something strange cloaks his face, his brown eyes leaving hers as they fall into an awkward silence.

 

All Myles can see through the sack on her head is dull and pale streams of light. She can feel her own harsh and hot breath huffing out through her gag, the repetitive sound mashing with the whispers of people around them. Her feet and legs ache as her stomach rumbles, not having any food and water today paired with the distance she's travelled is wearing her down. A door opens in front of her and the redhead silently pleads for this to be the end of her little adventure with the Prince.

"Wanheda," Roan calls out into the room, and Myles slows to a stop as her shoulders sag. "Kom ai don swega klin." [AN: "The Commander of Death, as promised."]

The hand Roan had been holding the back of her shirt with pushes her down, and the tired red haired teen obediently falls to her knees. His hand leaves her altogether to yank the sack off of her head. Myles' hazel eyes had adjusted to the muted lights shining through the fabric, and the abrupt blinding sunlight from the window behind Lexa's throne completely overtakes her vision. Blinking her eyes for a moment, her gaze sweeps up to the commander standing in front of her throne, Titus and Indra on either side of her. Jasper stands to her right, Max shifting anxiously by his feet, fidgeting as he watches the redhead worriedly.

"Hello, Myles," Lexa greets, and the redhead quickly replies through her gag.

"Yeah, yeah," Myles' muffled voice sounds like gibberish, even to her own ears.

Lexa slowly steps down from the platform her throne sits upon, before coming to a stop directly in front of the Arker. The commanders calculating eyes scan the redhead quickly, and hazel eyes flick to her best friend.

"The deal was for you to bring her to me unharmed," the commander hard and authoritative tone voices her displeasure.

"She kept it interesting," Roan's quick and snide words make the redhead snort obnoxiously.

A brief flutter of amusement shines in Lexa's brown eyes, "I'd expect so."

"I've done my part," the prince of Azgeda states, "now do yours. Lift my banishment."

"I'm told your mothers army marches on Polis," Lexa deflects, speaking as if she expects Roan to have the answers to the questions swirling around in her mind.

"That has nothing to do with me," Roan sneers, and Myles can feel the tension radiating off of him. "Honour our deal."

"I'll honour our deal when your queen honours my coalition," the commander refutes, before raising her voice to address the others in the room. "Lock Prince Roan Of Azgeda away."

Immediately, warriors step forward from their various places around the room to do as asked, and Myles can hear the group of men storming out of the room.

Titus looks from Myles to Lexa, "What now?"

"Leave us," Lexa dismisses, lifting her hands halfheartedly and Jasper takes this as his cue.

Her best friend is by her side in a moment, undoing the rope on her rubbed raw wrists and pulling the gag out of her dry mouth. Max rubs against her side, making small, high pitches whining sounds that break her heart. Both Indra and Titus walk around them to leave, the latter giving the redhead a snarky look. They've never gotten along, the man believing that the Arkers are more trouble than they're worth.

With her unbound, Jasper grips her arms and gently pulls her to her feet, with Max nudging at her, as if to help her up as well. Myles is unsteady on her feet, her tired and hungry body ready for the day to be over.

"Ready to go home?" Jasper asks her lightly, and the red haired teen all but falls into a puddle on the floor at the words.

"Very," Myles huffs, getting ready to turn around when a glance at Lexa stops her.

The commander clearly wants to say something, so the redhead waits, "I'm sorry."

"Nah," the redhead waves off, raking her fingers through her knotty red hair and relishing in the fact that the ends of her hair barely reach her shoulders. "I get it. Good plan."

"The Ice Queen has a plan of her own," Lexa informs her, and both Jasper and Myles' whole bodies shift to take on an almost predatory stance, as if they both expect the Queen's army to barrel through the door behind them. "I had to ensure Wanheda didn't fall into her hands. War is brewing." The commanders eyes flick between the two best friends, "You two have the biggest pull in the clans. I need you."

Hazel eyes lock on her best friends brown, both teens quirking an eyebrow up before looking back at Lexa.

"What do you need from us?" Jasper enquires, and Myles squints her eyes as she waits for the answer.

"More than I'm sure you're willing to do," Lexa answers vaguely, "that's why I'm offering something in return."

"Lexa," Myles' tone has a lilt of warning in it, her tired brain is already over the conversation. "Get on with it."

"I'm holding a peace summit for Skaikru in a weeks time," the Commander starts, and Myles is already shaking her head and turning away. "Myles."

"I'm not going to that," the redhead refuses, her voice hard and unshakeable.

Jasper's hand touches her arm, a silent warning to calm down, "I'll do it."

"I need you both there," Lexa counters, and Myles scoffs loudly in disdain. "They need to see faces they can trust, and you want to get Finn out of here. If you agree, he'll go home with you right now, and we'll consider it even."

Finn's name makes Myles stop. Hazel eyes stare at Lexa, sizing her up and making sure that she's being serious. The commanders expression never wavers, and Myles' eyes sweep over to Jasper's before she sighs heavily.

"Fine," the red haired teen caves, not bothering to hide her resentment of the deal. "What else?"

"All of the clans ambassadors will be there," Lexa divulges, "including the leaders for Arkadia. It is our goal to arrive at an agreement for a peace treaty, but I need to ensure the clans are happy."

"Are they not?" Jasper quizzes, sharing a worried look with Myles.

"Not all of them," the commander confirms, "I have received word that the ambassadors of Delfikru believe my decision to push the coalition for a peace treaty is weak. I would like you to show them that the Sky People are allies that we need, and can make us strong."

Hazel eyes meet Jasper's brown, and both teens convey a silent message through their eyes, before looking back at the commander.

"How?"

 

Myles and Jasper's boots march down the hallway, Max's little paws making cute clicking sounds with every step. The two warriors standing guard on either side of tall, dark brown wood doors look towards them when they hear the small group coming. Both men look at the two teens and their small dog approaching them and shift, recognising their familiar faces. By the time they reach them, the men open the doors for them and nod in greeting.

"Mochof," the redhead thanks them, smiling politely and slipping through the doors. [AN: "Thank you."]

"Chof," Jasper echoes, sticking by Myles' side. [AN: "Thanks."]

"Pro," they both return in kind, shutting the door behind them. [AN: "you're welcome."]

Instead of swerving towards the door to their left, where they normally go, the two teens stick to the right hand side of the room and walk through a singular door on the back wall. Trikru guards stand in there, sorting through the contents of Roan's bag and laying them out on the table. When the two teens pass through the doorframe, their heads snap up to them.

"Bida kom daunde laik ain," Myles informs them, slowing to a stop once they've entered the room. "En's ait taim osir hon emo in nau?" [AN: "Some of those are mine. Is it alright if we get them now?"]

One of the men shrugs, setting down one of the many knives from Roan's bag, "foshou. Oda kom em bilaik roubich, nami?" [AN: "Sure. Too much of it is trash."]

"Mochof," the redhead smiles, continuing forward and beginning the process of strapping on her weapons. [AN: "Thank you."]

Their eyes continue to watch her, seeming transfixed with her fluid motions. As she's strapping on the brace over her abdomen, Jasper leans against the table to slip weapons into the braces she hasn't attached yet.

"I can't believe you," her best friend chastises, and a bright smile breaks across Myles' face. "I'm being serious. It was a stupid plan."

"You went along with it," Myles replies, taking the ankle strap from his hand and securing it on her leg.

"Stupidly," Jasper huffs, and the redhead reaches for the one for her other leg. "You could've died."

"Buuuut I didn't," the red haired teen reminds him in an annoying, sing-song voice.

"Bellamy tried to march alongside the Azgeda army," at the information, Myles' hands still and her hazel eyes snap up to Jasper's. "Stole some clothes and left. I stopped him before he could do anything too crazy."

"You're joking," Myles deadpans, her still shocked hands slowly beginning to move again.

"Nope," Jasper denies, popping the 'p' while Myles straps on her last weapon, her seemingly intact fawb glove. "You two really are made for each other. He hasn't gotten over you. Or your haircut."

"He's better off," the redhead waves the words off, heading towards the door again and halfheartedly tossing another thank you over her shoulder.

Jasper and Max walk right by her side, slipping between two more warriors that guard the doorway on the left wall of the room and walking into the hallway of prison cells. Each cell is the same, most have bar covered windows, but they all have uncomfortable looking beds made of old, ratty blankets on the cold floor. Not much is inside many of them, obviously being designed to hold criminals and nothing more. They walk past several of them, before a man's voice makes them both halt.

"You're still alive," Roan states in bewilderment, and Myles steps up to his cell to lean her shoulder on the wall separating the prisoners cells.

"Sure am," Myles smirks, winking, "I tried to warn you, Azgeda. Apparently, Skaikru are important allies, so I've got some swing, but… I'll do what I can to get you home."

"There's only one way to do that," the Prince tells her in a low tone, making Jasper shift anxiously on his feet in the corners of her eyes. "Commander promised to lift my banishment if I delivered you safely. She broke our deal. I'm willing to strike a new one with you so we can both go home."

"I am home," the redhead corrects him softly, her eyebrows turned up in a sad expression.

"Then you won't have a chance to get what you really want," Roan tries, his voice sounding antsy and nervous.

Smiling sadly, Myles decides to humour the desperate man, "and what is that?"

"Bellamy Blake," the Prince insists, "she is the only one standing in the way of you repaying the cost of Mount Weather."

"No," the red haired teen answers simply, pity seeping through her features. "I won't kill her. That won't help either of us."

"If you do this," Roan persists, "Azgeda will take control of the coalition, and you'll find a strong and grateful ally in the Ice Queen."

"Will we?" Jasper pipes up as Myles tilts her head doubtfully, "from what we hear, your mother isn't fond of playing allies."

"That's because you've been talking to Lexa," the Prince urges, his brown eyes all but pleading the two Arkers. "Look. We're all trying to do what's right for our people. This is what's right for yours."

"I'm sorry, Azgeda," Myles laments, her eyebrows stuck in a worried frown. "If you believed that, you would've taken me to your queen. I'll see what I can do to get you home."

With that, Myles pushes off of the wall to continue down the cells until they reach the one they always come to. When he hears their footsteps approach, his head snaps up and all three smile at each other.

The physical changes Jasper's gone through in the last three months is nothing in comparison to Finn Collins. His hair is even shorter than Jasper's is now, which is only slightly longer than a buzz cut. Gone is his slender and somewhat stocky build, replaced with hard and toned muscles from continuous heavy, manual labour. Like Jasper, his movements and mannerisms are completely different, barely anything left of the carefree and relaxed motions of a rebellious teen.

"Hey," Finn smiles, walking up to the bars and crouching down to pat Max. "I didn't think I'd be seeing you guys today. Everything okay?"

"Sure is," Jasper reassures quickly, his tone happy and light as he pulls the keys from his pocket to unlock the door.

"I hope you've got all your shit in one place," Myles tells him coyly, and the brown haired teen stands up to give Jasper a bro-hug when he enters the cell.

"Why?" Finn asks, breaking away from Jasper after they pat each other on the back to give Myles her own tight hug.

Myles doesn't answer, only squeezes him really tight before pulling back and holding him at arms length by his upper arms. Jasper claps a hand down on his shoulder heavily, standing beside the redhead and matching her wide and happy smile. Max jumps up slightly to nudge his head into Finn's hand, encouraging the brown haired teen to bend over to the small dog and scratch at his ears.

"You're going home," Jasper beams, and the words take a short moment to register in Finn's head.

His hand stills in Max's calico coloured fur, his eyes and expression freezing as his head snaps sharply between them, "What?" Brown eyebrows pull together in confusion, but his tone is light and airy, knowing that the two teens with him wouldn't lie about this. "I've got eleven days left."

"Not anymore," Myles affirms happily, "you are a free man. You got anything in here you wanna take with you?"

"Yeah, uh…" Finn spins around, quickly collecting all of his books and clothes in his arms hastily. With his attention diverted, Max shifts to sit on Myles' boot as he flicks his head up against her and Jasper's legs for pats. Both teens comply, watching Finn rifle around excitedly. "What'd this cost you? Letting me off early?"

"Just one job," Jasper dismisses easily, crouching down to pat Max with both hands.

"One?" The brown haired teen repeats in shock, "just one?"

"Yeah," the redhead sighs, "but it's a doozy. The ambassadors from Delphi had some fancy relic stolen a week ago. It's probably long gone by now, but that's… not really the point of it."

"If finding it isn't the point of the job," Finn starts, straightening and heading back to them with his arms full. "Then what is?"

"The rover's out front," Jasper says lowly, gesturing to the door with both arms obnoxiously while Myles tries to pry some of the formerly titled Spacewalkers belongings from his arms. "We'll tell you there."

Chapter Text

Day 139 – Jan. 29

Tired hazel eyes watch the trees blur in front of her, the late morning sun glares down on them dully through her old dark brown, round sunglasses. Jasper is sitting in the passenger seat beside her, talking over his shoulder to his father in the backseat. They're all exhausted, they've been travelling in the rover for close to eleven hours now, and it's a strangely draining venture. Poor Max is probably feeling it the worst, the young dog is practically vibrating with the energy that he hasn't been able to run off.

Bringing Ray Jordan along for this job is a risk, but the man was adamant that he would not miss out on anymore of Jasper's life. For the entire time that the man has been awake, the two teens have taken turns trying to teach him bits and pieces of Trigedasleng to help him blend in. It's not taken too well, the car ride is barely long enough to help him pronounce the words right, and it's nowhere near long enough for him to recognise the words and their meanings coming from someone else.

Once they crossed the border a few hours ago, the two best friends changed tactics. Now, they're just trying to make sure that they really drive home the need for Ray to let them do the talking. If Delphi's having an issue with the coalition, they might not welcome more Sky People coming to their land, and the Arker's will need to watch themselves carefully. It's politics; all about maintaining images and perception to keep yourself in good standing with potential allies.

Because the people in this clan aren't used to anyone besides the people from Mount Weather using trucks, the group needs to ditch the rover soon and travel the rest of the way on foot.

"Okay, Dad," Jasper exclaims, twisting his head to glance at the backseat. "From the top."

"We're going to Kranat," Ray lists off with a sigh, "which is the Capitol of Delfikru, but it's not the capitol, capitol."

"Polis is the Coalitions capitol," Myles corrects, flicking her gaze around to glance behind Jasper, "which is also the capitol for Trigeda."

"Right," the man confirms, gesturing with his hand in the corner of her eyes. "And we're going to Delphi to meet with the delegate and leader of their clan, Joli and Falo, because someone stole a precious artefact, and art is a real big thing for them."

"Which will be like looking for a needle in a haystack," Jasper huffs, turning his head to look at the redhead. "There's no way it's anywhere nearby."

"How do you know that?" Ray enquires from his seat across the wall of the rover behind his son.

"Most thieves," the red-haired teen explains, lifting some of her glove-clad fingers off of the steering to gesture halfheartedly, "especially if they're stealing shit from Delphi, will take it somewhere else to sell it. They get a better price for it, that way."

"And it helps them avoid people like us," the brown-haired teen adds, twisting around again, "who come looking for the goods." Looking back through the windscreen, Jasper continues. "Alright, old man. How do you greet them?"

"They're not like the commander," Ray answers, "so we don't have to kneel. Shake their hands, but do so gently and drop your eyes."

"Always bring a gift, Dad," Jasper reminds him, and Myles slows the rover down, locking her car door from the inside. "Anything artsy will do, but glass and mirrors are your best bet."

Myles brings the rover to a complete stop amongst some bushes. The small twigs and branches make an awful high-pitched, scraping sound when they brush against the left side of the vehicle before stopping when the rover does. Sighing heavily, the redhead brings her hands to her face to rub under her sunglasses.

"What was the gift we brought again?" Ray questions as Myles grabs her large shoulder bag and slips between the driver's seat and the passenger's seat to make her way through the back of the rover.

"Something I made a couple months back," Myles supplies vaguely, opening the back door and hopping to the ground, feeling her weapons and their braces shift against her skin. "Come on, Max. Come here. Good boy."

Max jumps down onto the ground beside her, panting happily and immediately breaking off into short bursts of sprints around the rover. Hazel eyes watch him, shaking her head fondly with a kind smile on her face.

"There's a bunch of iron furnaces around Trigeda," Jasper states, grabbing a large backpack that holds their medkits and supplies as he holds a rectangular bag carefully in his arms. Slinging the backpack over his shoulder, the brown-haired teen jumps down from the rover, turning back and waiting for his father to follow them out. "Aggie used one of them two months ago to melt down some weapons and a whole lot of glass."

"So," Ray grunts as his boots hit the ground. "We're gonna give them one?"

"Kinda," Myles shrugs, climbing up onto the pipe they use for sidesteps to pull the leaf and twig woven blanket from the cylindrical bag along the edge of the rovers roof rack. "I made one that had the Delfikru symbol in it."

Jasper shuts and locks the back door before walking to the driver's side of the car to help pull the camouflage blanket that Myles tosses to him down. With the leaf blanket secured, the two teens head north toward Kranat. Ray immediately follows them, glancing around nervously.

"With the symbol, huh?" Ray quizzes anxiously, Myles calls for Max before turning in acknowledgment to the man. "That's some foresight."

"Delphi might not be the place that offers the most for things like that," the red-haired teen elaborates as the calico coloured dog comes sprinting up to them. "But they appreciate it a lot more. Rule number ten; don't work the system when you can work the people. Scout."

The familiar command paired with her tone makes the small dog snap into work mode, shooting forward to check out the land before them. When Max senses the coast is clear, he stops and turns to look back at them, silently checking that they're still following him.

"She was trying to make light bulbs," Jasper reveals, snickering lightly behind his hand in a lacklustre attempt to not laugh.

"Happy accidents," Myles sighs. "We wouldn't have figured out how to cater to specific clans if we didn't fuck up a lot."

"What," the brown-haired man wonders, "like, when trading? What things do they trade for?"

"You can trade for anything," his son tells him, calming down and glancing at them both, "food, clothes, shelter, medicine, kapla."

"Kapla?" Ray repeats, a puzzled expression taking over his square-shaped face.

"Kinda like working credits," Myles offers, shrugging with one shoulder. "Little pieces of gold, silver and copper that's melted down and squashed into chunks. Not everyone has them to trade at trading posts or markets, but there's usually a depository in the capitol that gives you kapla in trade for something expensive."

"It's mostly for the rich and shameless," Jasper dismisses, "the commanders and political figures of the world. We give all ours to Arkadia."

Ray's brown eyebrows get stuck together in thought, "but you keep things to trade?"

"Right here," Myles announces airily, tapping a mindless tune on her large shoulder bag that's full of junk. "It's our rainy day fund."

 

"Dad," Jasper calls after a stretch of silence, his brown eyes flicking between the nearing city and his father. "Have you got your ear in?"

"Uh," Ray drawls out, pulling the earpiece that's connected to his own walkie-talkie up under his shirt and through his collar. "I thought you said we're sticking together?"

"We are," Myles confirms, watching as the man sticks it in his ear and switches it on while she pulls up the hood of her dark grey, poncho-style coat.

Max sticks to Jasper's heel, looking up at the brown-haired teen when he adds, "rule number three; never be unreachable."

"God," the man smirks halfheartedly, "you two sure do have a lot of rules."

"Oh," the redhead chuckles, meeting the man's kind eyes, "only about a hundred of them."

"More like two-hundred," her best friend corrects, "all of the rule numbers have at least two different actual rules."

"You guys were always into your codes," Ray reminisces, and the soft look that covers over his nervous expression is like stepping into a time machine.

Memories of the three best friends locked away in the Jordan's compartment in Argo Station and laughing until their sides hurt. Flickers of them crammed into a desk in Orchid's library, sharing ration packs while they read books. The feeling of the uncomfortable 200-year-old mattress under their backs as they all lay squashed together on Monty's bed to tell exaggerated stories to each other. Sneaking into each other's compartments at night when they were lonely, scared, anxious or just bored to talk nonsense to each other until the sleep cycle was over.

It's kind and pure, everything that was good about her childhood brought back to life in one small smile. The images of Monty flashing through her mind and the flutters of his touches squeezes at her aching heart. Those three kids are gone, grown up and thrust into a world that's left them barely a shadow of the kids they used to be. Guilt trickles through her veins, giving her blood an icy sensation in the chilly winter air.

Myles' distracted mind is brought back to the present by Ray's amazed puff of air, and the redhead can't help the smile that stretches across her face. It's a drastic change from anything he's have seen in Trigeda or Azgeda. Past the tranquil woods is a large, bustling village. People chatter away happily, roaming the pathways as kids laugh and play among themselves, rushing around the adults.

Handmade structures are made of the mishmash of scavenged parts from the old world mixed in with lumber, stone and clay, but it makes Trigeda look bland in comparison. Everything is decorated or carefully sculpted, slathered delicately in paint made from wheat and water, with the pigment coming from fruits, vegetables and spices. Reflective mirrors and glass are scattered amongst the houses and village structures, with most being in pieces or crushed up to make something new and dramatic.

Instead of tattoos or identifying scars, most of Delfikru only have face paint, something that they can change from day-to-day to showcase their artistic abilities. Their clothes are fancy, and it's evident just by looking at them that they consider what they wear as its own art form. Patchwork clothes are dyed and seamless, keeping the colour and texture rich and vibrant instead of haggard and worn. Braids in their hair hold fabric scraps, beads and other objects as a form of jewellery, and light coloured natural hair has berries mashed into them to give it a splash of an unnatural colour.

"It's a whole society," Ray marvels, his steps slowing down while his eyes switch between all the people working away and living happy lives.

"This is just the outskirts of Kranat," Jasper informs him lightheartedly, a bright smile across his features. "Just you wait, Pops."

Eyes turn to them as they walk up to the stone path and walk down the randomly sized and cut flat rocks, heading north-west towards the Capitol. Their curious gazes aren't harsh, but kind and welcoming, lifting their hands to wave with a small, polite smile or merely nodding their heads in greeting. Jasper and Myles instantly return their gestures, and Ray quickly follows suit, his smile growing wider in astonishment. Myles isn't worried about hiding her face yet, the villagers aren't a huge concern as most of the bounty hunters that will have a sketch of her on hand will be in the Capitol.

Most of the people who travel to Delphi do so for the art, and it's what puts food on the dinner table for the people who live here. The few who don't come to buy, come to sell their junk, knowing that they'll get the best prices for things that an artistic eye can see potential in. This system makes Delphi one of the best places to travel to for an Arker, as most of the citizens are more interested in their art and what someone from space could offer them.

Kids rush past them, chasing each other carelessly down the winding paths and Ray slows to keep out of their way. It's the complete opposite of everything that the brown-haired man has seen of the grounders so far. These people aren't warriors; they're fathers, mothers, and children, they're artists, farmers and builders.

They're almost half-way through the village when it hits their ears. Music. Soft and warm repetitive strumming coming from further up the trail they walk down. It's a calming sound in the lively village, cutting through the sounds of light chatter, household tasks and the sharp dings of tools and weapons being bashed. The world continues down the branching path, following the line of creatively made and decorated huts.

Ray's head twists and turns, trying to take in everything around him with a look of boyish curiosity on his face. After a few minutes of walking, the village blooms, branching out into noisy city life. Horse's trot along, towing carts carrying working people and barrels through the tightly packed markets. People rush around with determined steps, weaving among crowds of people.

Men and women sit on the pebbled ground in front of a hut that trades in pots and cooking utensils, strumming a teardrop-shaped guitar, banging on small wooden drum barrels and shaking a plate with metal rings on it. Even their instruments are decorated, fashioned with intricate drawings, carvings and paintings behind the strips of fabric dangling off of them. Their mouths are moving, but Myles can't hear them singing over the noisy chatter of trades and easy conversations happening around them.

The next sense that's brought to life is their smell. Freshly baked bread and pies wafts to them, and Ray instantly shifts to follow the scent. Amused hazel eyes lock on Jasper's gleeful brown, letting the man go and following after him, as if they had all the time in the world. It's important that they let him experience this, it's important to show him there's more to grounders than war. These are human beings with families and jobs, only trying to make it to the next day intact, just like them.

Their noses lead them to a small hut, made primarily from differently sized chipped bricks and whole hand-sculpted clay bricks. Across the jumbled blend of different aged and sized bricks is a beautiful golden painting of wheat in a field of crops, the texture making them look realistic. The sun sits almost at the top of the vertical wall, shining a warm glow over the field as large flowers shoot up in random parts. Chopped and stripped wood logs line the front entrance of the hut, and a short elderly woman carefully sets up new plates of small bits of baked goods to sample on a table out front.

Faint singing can now be heard over the lively buzz of the Capitol as they quickly approach the small bakery, and Myles can pick out a few words. It's a song that revolves around the death rites of Delfikru. Arker's have their 'may we meet again' poem, Trikru have 'your fight is over' and the other clan's have their own sayings that resemble their different cultures and beliefs. For Delphi, theirs loosely translates to 'with the blinding colours we came, we leave in screaming colours.' Some villages, typically in the far north of the clans land, change the first 'kola', for colours, to the word 'houpgeda', for rainbow.

Both teens sense that Ray might completely abandon the idea of letting them do the talking, and they both jog up to stick close to his side. Max keeps up with them, happily sticking to Jasper's heel and sniffing as many things as he can, revelling in the few pats he gets from passerby's. The bright look on Jasper's dad's face is almost comical, a ravenous desire in his rapidly scanning eyes that flit over the table of treats. They're all hungry, having spent all night and most of the morning driving, none of them have had anything to eat since their early breakfast.

As if sensing the three hungry Arker's, the woman looks up at them and brightens, watching them beeline for her table.

"Hei!" The cheery elderly woman calls when they get up to the table, her voice wobbling with her hands. "Chit na ai hon yu goufa in?" [AN: "Hello! What can I get you kids?"]

Ray's persistent steps falter slightly when she speaks, and it lets Myles know that he's switched back on from his momentary lapse in resolve. His near ecstatic expression never once wavers, though, and the redhead expects to see both him and his son start drooling any second now.

"Chit yu don hon in disha ku sonop?" Myles answers, a kind smile on her face as she lifts her sunglasses to rest on top of her head. [AN: "What have you got this fine morning?"]

"Ou, osir don hon flufi tous in – " as she speaks, the kind woman gestures to the wooden plates with small portions of food spread out on the table. "Osir jos odon bida meizen shoga. Bomas switous, trigiva en steiks krusa, mel biki op." [AN: "Oh, we've got soft bread – we just finished some beautiful sweet foods. Fancy cakes, fruit and meat pies, melting biscuits."]

"Chit na osir tran kom disha op?" Jasper asks, his face alight with happiness as he watches his father. [AN: "What of this can we try?"]

"Em nowe don tran disha op kaina dina," the red-haired teen explains, gesturing to Ray, and the woman's face blanches. "Chit na bilaik won os stoda?" [AN: "He's never tried this kind of food. What would be a good start?"]

"Ai gada in jos diyo-de," the elderly woman eagerly insists, bending down to pick up another tray from the crate by her feet behind the table. [AN: "I have just the thing."]

The wooden tray she sets on the table has a couple different small, unevenly shaped scones, and her shaky hands grab one of the clean knives that are nestled between the scones. She cuts two up in skinny slivers, revealing one to have the deep blue, almost purple, streaks of blueberries in it, and rich, dark pink in the other from raspberries. Her knife only touches the blueberry scone, until she has the slivers she wants, before switching to the other knife to use on the raspberry one, never once using a knife that had touched something different.

"Tran disha op," the kind lady offers Ray in a wobbly voice, placing one slice of each small scone on a plate and handing it to the man. "Dison laik fustous." [AN: "Try this. These are scones."]

Ray immediately accepts the plate with a wide smile, and his greedy hand picks up the slice with blueberries. Myles, Jasper, and the woman's eyes watch as the man lifts the piece to his hungry mouth with bated breaths. His expression falls with pure bliss, a hearty moan escaping his lips at the taste, earning a shocked laugh from the teens.

"Meizen?" Jasper enquires jokingly when his father turns to him with wonder-struck eyes. [AN: "Beautiful?"]

"Meizen," Ray confirms wholeheartedly, taking another bite and letting out a noise of pleasure. "Oh, meizen." [AN: "beautiful. Oh, beautiful."]

"Na osir hon in won kom daunde ogeda, en…" the brown-haired teen drawls out the last word as he thinks. "Won strik trigiva krusa?" [AN: "Can we get one of each of those, and… A small fruit pie?"]

"En won strik steiks krusa, beja," Myles adds, pulling out a small bag made of thin fabric from the bag slung over her shoulder. [AN: "and a small meat pie, please."]

Shaking out the crumpled fabric bag to straighten it, the redhead hands it to the woman. In the corner of her eyes, two men decked out in armour and weapons walk into view, and Myles instinctively ducks her head so they can only see her hood. They only look like warriors, but it's impossible to tell from her quick glimpse at them if they carry sketches of people with bounties. Jasper's eyes catch her subtle movement, and his eyes flick to her right to watch the men walk past. When the coast is clear, her best friends brown eyes find hers again.

"Ha yo na kof op?" The woman enquires politely, and Myles pulls her shoulder bag to her abdomen to rifle through it. [AN: "How are you going to pay?"]

"Ai gada in bida ayon," the redhead answers, pulling out a handful of small, cleaned gears and round washers from the inside of a car's engine, roughly an inch in diameter each. "Disha pleni?" [AN: "I have some metal. This enough?"]

"Sha," the kind woman smiles brightly, holding out her hand for the metal and passing the bag of food to the red-haired teen. "Chof, goufa. Gada in won os sintaim." [AN: "Yes. Thanks, kids. Have a good day."]

"Yu, seintaim," Myles replies, smiling and beginning to turn away. "Mochof." [AN: "you, too. Thank you."]

Jasper echoes her gratitude and Ray follows suit when he realises it's what he's supposed to be saying. The busy Capitol keeps moving around them, busy chatter of sellers and buyers alike, trying to get what they need. Hazel eyes sweep around for a spot they can sit and eat as her distracted feet keep her shuffling forward, before Jasper steers her and Ray toward some trees by the tree line.

"We'll eat here," Jasper informs them in a low tone once they pass behind the markets, sitting down on the grass under the shade of a tree. "Then go to the capitol building."

"This place is amazing," Ray breathes out in fascination, his wide eyes continuously scanning their surroundings as he lowers himself to the ground.

Myles plops down heavily beside her best friend, crossing her skinny legs on the way down and lifting her shoulder bag and the bag with the food so they don't hit the dirt. It's quieter over here, but the buzz of the capitol can still be heard and seen from their spot, giving them some privacy from the busy life of the citizens.

Everything here is the vague shadows of what the world was like 200 years ago, before the bombs. Pictures in books show a clean and crisp society with everything refined from hundreds of thousands of years worth of experience and knowledge. Here, however, is a cheap emulation of what it once was. They've taken several hundred steps back, and they've lost the way to society's peak performance. Earth doesn't look like it was before the war in the pictures or books they had on the Ark, but a twisted blend of the illustrations of what life was like from the medieval period to the 16th century.

Pulling out the food, the red-haired teen hands the scones to Ray before passing Jasper his small fruit pie and clutching her own. Pulling a knife from her waistband, Myles peels the breadcrumb crust off of the top of her pie. Her hazel eyes jump to Max, his wide eyes watching the three eat with a droopy and sad face. Pursing her lips, the redhead makes a short kissing sound to get the small calico dog to come to her. Resting the meat pie on the ground, Max immediately starts devouring it.

"Mm," Ray grunts in satisfaction, and Myles chuckles, flicking her hazel eyes to lock on Jasper's equally amused brown. Lifting the breadcrumb crust and taking a bite, the redhead shakes her head with a smile while the man continues. "This is the most amazing thing I've ever tasted."

"It's a scone, Dad," Jasper tells him around a mouthful of his pie, "not a rainbow."

"A scone, huh?" Ray repeats, looking at the baked good between bites and turning them over in his hands in appreciation. "Sure beats ration packs and charred meat."

"It's probably denser than they would've been," Myles amends after a moment, tearing off a piece of the breadcrumb crust in her hand and eating it. "Without the technology they used to have, it's the closest you'll get to it."

"How come they haven't been able to rebuild it?" Ray asks, his admiring gaze taking on a more curious, scrutinising look as they pass over the surrounding structures. "They built on top of the ruins of a city, using old materials and putting them together, why couldn't they remake bakeries? Or cars?"

"They forgot it," the redhead supplies while her best friend continues eating, "after the bombs, the few that were able to survive in bunkers probably couldn't use much of whatever was left, anyway. They lived in a world where everything was machine and technology centred – how they got their food, how they cooked their food, how they got their water, how they communicated, traveled."

"Then it was all gone," Jasper finishes with food in his mouth, snapping his fingers and getting Max's attention. Max quickly walks over to him and Jasper scratches at his head. "Just like that, in the blink of an eye."

"Farmers had machines to do most of their work," Myles elaborates when Ray merely looks off in thought. "The everyday person just went to a place like this to get what they needed for food, or clothes – some even had it delivered straight to their doorstep without ever having to lift a finger or talk to anyone. Back then, most people didn't have to do anything, they just had everything handed to them. Water was cleaned by a machine and plumbed straight to their houses, so hardly anyone ever had to go and get it."

"They had time to teach kids math," the red-haired teen continues, "and science and everything else we learnt in school. But after the war, there were no machines anymore to do the work. No technology. Teaching their kids math and science was a waste of time, they couldn't do anything with that, what they needed to survive right then were hunters and gatherers. All of a sudden, a couple generations go past, and no one knows what a car even looks like anymore, let alone how they run. They don't remember recipes, or how to get to the finished products, just vague, handed-down memories of pictures."

"Some fall from grace, huh?" Jasper murmurs, looking at the markets and the people buzzing around them with a distant expression.

"I don't know," Ray counters, brushing his hands together. "This seems pretty graceful to me."

"Yeah, well," the brown-haired teen huffs lightheartedly, wiping his hands on his pants and standing up. "We told you the grounders aren't a problem. They're more scared of us than we should be of them."

"Let's get to work," Myles announces, standing up beside Jasper and brushing herself off. Placing her knife back into its clip on her belt and pulling down her sunglasses. "Kranat's capitol building is just over there."

Max's fluffy fur rubs against Myles' left pant-leg when the group sticks close together as they enter the town centre again. Ray lags a second behind the two teens, trying to follow their lead without winding himself up into a situation where he needs their help. They don't need to travel far down the rocky and mismatched brick path to reach their destination.

The building is within sight now, and it's the stark opposite of Polis. Unlike the commanders tower that has easily 40 different floors, this capitol building is reserved and modest, only being one storey tall. Some of the building is in ruins, the rubble of it collapsed on the far side stretches for a hundred metres with crudely constructed walls made of jagged stone and concrete rubble.

What the building lost in the bombs is only a quarter of the size of the underground bunker that survived underneath of it. Rumours circulated years ago that the cement ceiling had splintered and started to cave in, which is why three sections are completely blocked off and guarded. It's never been confirmed, and shortly after they had started spreading, new speculations about what the ambassadors have hidden in there sprouted out. The inside of those rooms varies depending on who you talk to, but Myles is pretty sure it's simply the most expensive things that they own.

Faded blue strips stutter along the rusted yellow bars that appear in chunks on the old, chipped white walls of the building. Most of the white block letters in the blue vertical stripes are completely gone, leaving only the letters that the capitols name derives from readable, 'KRA N A T.' A large gap follows the last letter, implying that there was once more to the name, but it's been lost with age and damage from the bombs.

As they near the front of the wide and long building, the entrances tall, crumbly, dirty white columns come into view. It's almost twice as high as the rest of the building, standing tall in all its glory. White bars line around the rickety old door that isn't even on its hinges anymore, the empty frames making up the walls. The room juts out of the building, giving the illusion that it's some grandiose gesture just to enter the structure.

When they walk through the open door, the two warriors blocking the entrance to continue into the building straighten and turn to them. Myles pulls down her hood and lifts her sunglasses off of her face to rest on her head again, and the group slows to a stop in front of the men. Much like everyone else from Delphi they've seen, these men wear delicately crafted armour and clothes that they clearly take pride in wearing, based on how well taken care of they appear to be. Their faces have almost identical face paint in the design of red and black arrows, both strictly on the left hand side of their face. Simple, brightly coloured woven fabrics and handmade metal charms from wires and other small scraps are braided into their long hair, attached to their clothes and line their weapons, making light clinking melodies when they shift.

"Hei," Myles greets respectfully, "osir na hon won telon op kom yo bandrona, beja." [AN: "Hello, we would like a word with your ambassadors, please."]

"Chon bilaik as op?" One of the men asks, their eyes scrutinising the three of them and Max. [AN: "Who is asking?"]

"Jaspa en Maiyls kom Trikru," Jasper answers honestly, and the men pointedly look at Ray, "and my dad." [AN: "Jasper and Myles of the Woods Clan."]

"Won tika," the other man replies after a moment, and the two best friends look to each other as he turns to go through the gap in the wall that he guards. [AN: "One moment."]

It's silent, and Myles' hazel eyes roam the room they're in. This isn't the first time she and Jasper have been here, but it's the first time they've come in to work, and not just out of respect. The floor they stand on is a step down from the ground outside and the floor in the next room, leaving them standing on only loose, rubbly concrete and gravel. Whatever was once over the coarse dirt they stand on has been ripped up, torn from the ground and the walls.

They aren't waiting more than a few awkward minutes before an old, worn door creaks in the distance and their heads turn to the disturbance. Blonde hair, slightly longer than Myles', is the first glimpse of the delegate that the redhead can see, and her posture instantly relaxes slightly. A familiar face is always welcome.

"Bandona Joli," Myles greets straight away, stepping forward slightly to offer the woman her hand to shake softly. Lowering her eyes respectfully, "mochof gon ste sis taim op gon chichplei kom osir." [AN: "Ambassador Joli. Thank you for taking the time to speak with us."]

"Otaim won komfi," the blonde-haired woman forces a smile, letting go of Myles' hand to shake Jasper's. [AN: "Always a pleasure."]

"Ambassador Joli," Jasper greets in English. "I would like you to meet my father, Ray, he's come a long way to help out."

Ray gently clasps the woman's hand that's stretched out to him, tipping his head and ducking down in a halfhearted bow of respect. A guarded smirk lifts the corner of Joli's mouth at the man, her expression seeming more genuine and relaxed for the first time since she walked through the door.

"Good to meet you, Ray of the Sky People," Joli announces, before letting go of his hand. Her tired blue eyes cast over the three Arker's, "but I fear you have travelled for no reason."

"Have we?" Myles counters politely, and the woman tilts her chin up in question. "We hear a thief has stolen from the Capitol."

"Your ears do not deceive you," the female ambassador confirms vaguely, her straight and stiff posture never once wavering. "We have already given our best and most loyal warriors the order to find the presh glass that was taken and it's thief." [AN: Presh = "Precious"/"Sacred"]

"We're here to offer the same thing," Jasper insists, gently reaching into his bag and pulling out the glass sculpture that Myles had made months ago when messing around with glassblowing.

It's a simple design; a clear glass block with a large sphere bubble in the centre, the slightly lopsided edges giving it the illusion of being a thick glass cup. Black and red, the colours of the Delfikru symbol, swirl around the bottom of the thin rectangular block. A happy accident that somehow gave the item a more free and happy feel. The colours had ran when Myles tried to figure out how to draw the Delphi symbol in the centre of the sphere without cracking the melted glass, but it's poetic and fits right into the beautiful culture of the clan perfectly. Rich black circles around the glass sphere, with the black ink dripping into straight vertical arrows that point to the centre of the bubble. Bright red arrows poke from the sides of the circle, pointing to the centre, but none of the arrows touch.

There are no little air bubbles or small cracks that the redhead had feared making, the handheld item is the first somewhat successful multicoloured glass sculpture Myles had been able to make. When the colour began to bleed and flow in streaks around the sphere, Myles had wanted to stop right there and throw it out. She didn't, though, instead she decided to use the already 'ruined' product and practice on it without the fear of fucking it up. It was a split-second decision, one that had to be made while the glass was still liquid, and she's still surprised that it had actually worked in her favour.

Joli and the two warriors behind her light up in awe at the sculpture that Jasper carefully lifts from its paper and cloth wrappings in his bag, his fingers trying desperately not to mark up anywhere but the sides of it. The ambassador reaches out her hands haltingly, seemingly mesmerised by the glass sculpture.

"And we hope that you will take this symbol of our loyalty," Jasper continues, nodding to Myles with his head, "that Myles has made for your clan."

"En's sou meizen," Joli praises breathily, holding it in her hands with great care. [AN: "It is beautiful."]

"If you think that's beautiful," Myles suggests kindly with a happy smile on her face, glad to see someone can see the beauty in her mistakes. "Hold it in the sunlight and look at its shadow."

Joli's wide blue eyes are ablaze with excitement when they fleetingly glance at Myles, before she ducks down slowly and gently to let the glass catch some of the sunlight that the midday sun belts down. The sunlight that shines through the empty frames that make up the walls hits their boots and the ground they stand on at an awkward angle, but it still works wonders. Under the bright winter sun's path, the coloured glass shines bright and strong colours onto the rubble that they stand on.

Delfikru's symbol gets projected from the glass, and as Joli stands slowly, she keeps the glass in the sunlight and the image gets bigger the further she holds the glass. The vibrant red and strong black gradually fading in intensity, but not by much, the colours still distinct and prominent. Her two warriors watch with amazed expressions, and Jasper and Myles share a look of victory.

"Kiran," Joli breathes out after a moment, "Kiran will organise a room for you and we will talk about the stolen gotstrecha glass. Come."

 

"… ai don sin em in gontaim," a man's voice states, and Myles presses the cool rectangular device the voice comes from to her face. [AN: "… I saw her later."]

"Okay," Ray concludes, leaning forward with his hands on the decoratively carved wooden table in front of them as Myles' voice echoes the Delfikru warriors statement. "Then they broke in at night."

"Sha," the warrior's voice from hours ago confirms, "em don bilaik em. Em don ste bants." [AN: "Yes, it was her. She was leaving."]

"No," Myles shakes her head distractedly, her hazel eyes scanning over the papers laying over the table, clicking one of the square buttons down the side of the voice recorder to stop it playing. Max is asleep under the table, huffing and twitching as he dreams. "They guard the doors at night."

"Let's go through the facts again," Jasper declares, glancing at his red-haired best friend across from him.

"Six days ago," the redhead huffs out, moving the hand pressing the recorder to her face away to gesture halfheartedly at the book on the table that has her sketch of the artefact, feeling her elbow twist in the palm of her other hand. "An old artefact from before the war was stolen from in front of the kitchen on the main floor across from the main entrance, just up and across from here. It's a sea-lion effigy, made of dark brown ceramics to hold water and with a circular spout on its back."

"They move it around," her best friend adds, "keeping it wherever important guests or the ambassadors are. Which is why it was in front of the kitchen, Falo was having an early dinner with jewel sellers from Blue Cliff."

"Two warriors guard the front and back doors at all times," Myles finishes, "one guard for the effigy when it's not locked away, two follow the ambassadors closely, and Blue Cliff had their own guards. New warriors rotating in every four hours."

"Then it happened during a rotation," Ray suggests, shrugging and looking at the two teens as if it were that simple.

"The guards stay at their posts until they're relieved," Jasper refutes, his brown eyebrows drawn together in thought. "It's designed so that there shouldn't be any reason anything is left unguarded."

"But the effigy was," his father counters. "If they're willing to slip on the sea-lion, why wouldn't they for the door?"

Myles clicks a different button on her recorder, holding it up for the other two to hear clearly.

"Chomouda yu don bants yun geda?" Myles had asked, and the redhead translates for Ray. "'Why did you leave your post?'"

"Ai don gaf kalik op," the warrior had answered simply, "ai nou don gon we gon mou kom bida tika. Non don kamp raun der, you."

"'I had to pee'," the redhead translates, her voice talking over the recorded words she knows are coming. "'I wasn't gone for more than a few moments. No one was even there'." Clicking the button again to stop it, her hazel eyes stay stuck on their hastily scribbled map of the building. "He left his post not long after the afternoon sun started to pass down the entryway walls. He was back before anyone else passed the front guards, and he didn't see anything coming back through the back door."

"Could it have been an inside job?" Jasper enquires, and red eyebrows twitch together in thought.

"If it were," Myles starts slowly, turning the idea around in her head. "It couldn't have been any of the Ouskejonkru, they never left the kitchen and banquet hall."

"So it was the guards," Ray decides, sitting down in a seat and running a hand over his face tiredly.

"Sure," the brown-haired teen hypothesises, leaning forward to rest one of his hips against the wooden table. "But who was their buyer?"

"Buyer?" Ray repeats. "What makes you think that?"

"It's the only logical reason why the guards would steal it," Myles explains, "or cover up for whoever did, and why they still haven't found it when the guards belongings were the first searched. Some fluke, though. None of these guards have ever worked in overlapping shifts before. It's a whole new crew."

"Could be a long con," Jasper tosses out, his brown eyebrows shifting up in thought. "The buyers could've approached them separately."

"And they all got a shift together by chance?" Myles questions, already ruling the option out.

"Maybe it was orchestrated by one of the Blue Cliff people," Ray adds, "get the guards in on it so they can have an alibi."

Red eyebrows remain stuck together as her mind whirs over the details and tries to fit them in with what she knows from her thieving days. Jasper replies to his dad with something about doors, but the red-haired teen is too distracted playing through scenarios in her head.

"Aggie," Jasper calls to her, earning him a distracted hum in response as hazel eyes dance up to him fleetingly. "If it was you, what door would you have gone through?"

"Both," Myles answers without hesitating, causing both father and son to guffaw in confusion.

"Everyone that went in," her best friend states slowly, "went out the same way they entered."

"I would go through both," the redhead repeats, elaborating more as she goes. "Long before the heist, I'd make plans far, far away to avoid suspicion and so I can have a reason to be long gone before they even notice it's missing. I'd time it for an important deal that has everyone distracted, go through the front door first to case out the inside and make sure I knew where the effigy was. Leave when the front is empty, then go through the back door straight away so the doormen aren't clued in. That way, if anyone recognises me on the inside, it'll look like I never left. From there it's simple slight of hand. Rig something to make a noise so it distracts the effigy's guard, and poof."

To make her point, the redhead lifts her hand but pauses blankly in her motion as her thoughts scream at her. Pressing the button on the device in her hand to play the tape of the effigy's guard the day it was stolen explaining where he went, she holds the button under it down to fast forward it a little. A quiet, high-pitched whirring sound comes from the box in her hand, before her finger lifts and the guard's voice fills the room.

"… sonau deimeika don nou step au," the man's recorded voice repeats, "fou ai don kom daun."

"The afternoon sun hadn't moved," Jasper translates when Myles hesitates, "before I returned."

Distractedly, the redhead presses the button to hold down the rewind button, letting go after a short second. The guard repeats his statement, and once his sentence finishes, the red-haired teen rewinds it again to keep the words playing on a loop.

"The afternoon sun hadn't moved," Myles reiterates, staring at Jasper with wide eyes. "He was guarding the effigy in front of the kitchen. The afternoon sun hadn't moved from the main entrance."

Jasper's face stays empty and confused for a beat more before realisation dawns on him, "the kitchen and main entrance face east."

"The sun sets in the west," Ray catches on, his face clouding over with barely contained victory. "Why is he seeing the sun set in the east?"

Myles is already darting for the guest room's door as the words flow from her best friends dad's mouth. Slipping out of the makeshift door and rounding a corner to reach the staircase quickly with her urgent pace. Jasper, Ray and a groggy Max are right behind her, following the red-haired teens determined stride that scales the old steps two at a time and weave around the three Capitol workers that they pass. It's not until their boots hit the old museums damaged, rotting wooden floor that they turn again.

Spinning to march down the wide and open hallways, the group dodges a handful of other people as they head towards the entrance. Instead of continuing forward to the empty glass framework, Myles walks along the wall opposite of it until she reaches the door to the kitchen and dining hall. Coming to a stop in front of the door, hazel eyes turn to the entranceway and scan the rusted bars. There's one lining the very bottom of the wall, and another one every metre above it.

Surely, if someone had planted something reflective, they would've done it on the second lowest row near the door to avoid any suspicion that might arise at the sight of someone ducking down to the floor or reaching up another metre. Hazel eyes flick to the east wall, but no reflecting light shines in the dull early evening sky. Sauntering between the two guards and through the open wall that leads to the entrance, Myles beelines for the right hand side, beside the front door.

"It'll be along this bar somewhere," Myles mutters to the father and son duo behind her, running her hand along the rusted white bar and leaning over to peer into the empty holder pane.

Glass once made up the entirety of the walls in the entryway, but after the bombs, whatever shattered glass remained became a household decoration and is nowhere in sight. Ray and Jasper mimic her actions, checking the framework for anything that could make the effigy's guard think that the sun was setting over there or that would cause a diversion.

"Myles," Falo greets from behind them, his voice tinged with inquisition, "Jasper, Ray. We have made our people aware that an attack against you is an attack against us, but we fear your bounty puts you at risk. You should stay inside."

"I appreciate your concern, ambassador," the redhead replies, not turning around to face the man. "We're just loo – "

"Aggie," Jasper calls, cutting her off and causing her hazel eyes to search out his brown, "found it."

Myles abandons her spot in favour of Jasper's mere inches from the front door. Her eyes don't see it until she's close to it, the narrow shard disappearing entirely into the pane holder. It's a thin metallic shard, lying flat on the bottom of the shallow holder.

"Found what?" Falo enquires, stepping forward curiously to peer over their shoulders.

The red-haired teens pale and slender fingers carefully prop it up to stand up straight along the frame, instead of lying flat and hidden inside of it.

"What distracted your warrior," Myles explains, pulling a small flashlight from her belt and lifting it up high to make the light reflect off of the shard. Sure enough, bright white light glares into their eyes from the shard, demonstrating her point. "This was put here by the thief, so the sun would shine in the eyes of the warrior to distract him while they took the gotstrecha, but they got lucky. All it did was give him an excuse to go for a bathroom break."

"How'd it fall?" Ray asks when Myles lowers her flashlight and tucks it away again. "It wasn't standing like that before."

Jasper grips the decaying main door that has no hinges and shifts it, the door letting out loud, deep shrieks as the bottom of the heavy wood scrapes across the floor. The hinges have fallen apart on the doorframe until there's nothing left to secure it to the door, meaning anyone who wanted to open or shut it would have to lift it or drag it across the ground. Shifting the door makes the frame shake ever so slightly, and the fragment of shiny metal falls flat.

"It fell," Myles announces to Jasper, who immediately opens the door again.

"It's been six days," her best friend declares, "even if it didn't fall from the door shutting and opening, that's a lot of people coming in and out. It wouldn't have taken much for it to fall."

"Are you saying," Falo questions slowly, his tan skin tightening as his brown eyebrows draw in thought, "there was only one thief?"

"One thief with a knack for oddly impeccable and totally unrealistic coincidences," Jasper confirms, and Myles' hazel eyes sweep up to look between him and his dad.

"Looks like we're going to Ouskejon," the redhead proclaims, slipping around the ambassador to walk between the guards and towards their room.

"Hod op," Falo orders as he stops her with a hand on her arm. "Everyone of the Ouskejonkru that came to us stayed with us. We were all in the dining hall, no one left." [AN: "Wait."]

"How often is it that everyone of importance," Myles starts, lifting a red eyebrow in question and tilting her head towards the kitchen door, "is in that room having a meal, with the gotstrecha by that door?"

Falo hesitates before answering, "very rarely."

"The thief was tipped off," Jasper realises, and his words make Falo drop his hold on Myles' arm.

 

Hazel eyes stare through her dark brown tinted sunglasses out of the rover's passenger window, watching the bright shades of green blur under the golden ray's of the morning sun. Slender glove-clad fingers shift distractedly over the cool metal of the rectangular voice recorder in her left hand, feeling the buttons that poke out of the small device. In Myles' lap is her and Jasper's main guide to everything Earth, opened to the map of Blue Cliff territory with the torn out piece of paper that has the sea-lion effigy sketched onto it lying over the top of it.

Ray sits on one of the backseats that runs along the rovers walls, his brown eyes greedily taking in the world around them. Max is lying on the floor in front of him, stretched out and twitching as a vibrant dream plays out. Out of the corner of her hazel eyes, Myles can see Jasper tap the steering wheel absentmindedly with his thumbs, matching the beat playing through the radio from Maya's iPod. It's a catchy tune, the same repetitive notes being played and overlapped with various different instruments and memorable lyrics.

The song is a calmer rendition of a rock song, giving it an easy and caring tone as the man sings about his heartbreak. They've heard the song from the dead girls device before, the familiar words and beat ricocheting around in the distracted redheads mind without permission. Joining the mass of green that's blurring in the distance is part of an old blue sign that's still standing; only the letters 'b' and two 'a's remain readable under a jagged outline of the bottom half of Rock Line's territory. At the same time as the clan's territory marker registers in Myles' brain, a lyric coming through the radio gets her attention.

"… and tonight I lay here losing my mind," the man sings hoarsely, "trying to take back all our wasted time, I can't help myself from askin', 'what more of me have you stolen?'"

It clicks together in her mind, connecting lines between the questions that they know the answers to and those that they don't.

"JJ, stop the rover," Myles calls out, reaching forward for the iPod to stop the music.

"What?" Jasper immediately questions, whipping his head to the side to look at her and hitting the brakes to slow them down to a stop. "What's wrong?"

"The effigy isn't in Blue Cliff," the red-haired teen states with conviction, her knowing gaze locked on her best friends concerned eyes.

"What?" Jasper repeats, his brown eyebrows furrowing further as the concerned expression starts to lift from his face.

"Why not?" Ray asks, leaning forward to bring his head between the two front seats.

"It was stolen six days ago," Myles deadpans, but neither of the other two catch on. "What else was stolen?"

"Nothing," the brown-haired teen answers, starting to shrug before dropping it halfway through and looking off to the side. Gears turn in his mind, trying to connect the same dots that his best friend did. A lightbulb flashes on in his mind and Jasper whips his head to look at Myles with wide brown eyes. "They didn't take anything else."

"Okay," Ray starts, "why wouldn't they take anything else?"

"Because it was a hit," Myles supplies, her voice overlapping with Jasper's as he says, 'it was a hit'.

"Why would anyone in Blue Cliff order a hit on the gotstrecha?" Jasper enquires, his voice rushed. "They're Delphi's biggest jewel suppliers, they don't need an effigy."

"No," the redhead agrees, "they don't need it, but they know who will buy it."

While Myles speaks, she lifts her hand to point at the territory marker sign. Jasper and Ray follow her gesture, and the former straightens, his whole body sagging.

"I don't get it," the brown-haired man interjects when his son puts the rover in gear and starts to move forward again, flicking the steering wheel to enter the clan's territory instead of going around it to get to Blue Cliff. "What's that mean?"

"That's the marker for Rock Line territory," Jasper explains, "Boudalankru land. One of the homes to Leygeda, the biggest festival of markets that we've ever seen."

"Conveniently," Myles adds sarcastically, rolling her head against the car seat to glance at Ray. "Leygeda is being held here in two days. I don't know about you, Uncle Ray, but that is a very tempting coincidence."

 

Even in the dry winter weather, the stunning and captivating wild, rocky mountains, and ridges can be seen through the leaf-less trees. Soft streaks of white appear scarcely over the land as the thin coat of snow that's sticking around for the last few weeks of winter starts to wear away completely. It's no wonder why the people here value stones, rocks and jewels as much as they do, the beautiful landscape that surrounds them deserves to be adored.

Loose rocks and pebbles crunch and shift under their boots, the sound bouncing back at them in the quiet meadow they walk through. Several vendors have already set up shop, organising the stalls that they've erected and conducting business with the few early birds that wander the area. Most of the movement and signs of life don't come from the scarcely and strategically positioned markets, but rather the large woven tent that's always sitting on the far end of the path where the markets will stretch out to.

In two days, this place will be packed and overflowing with noise and excitement. Today, however, people arrive to pick out the spots they want and start getting ready for the chaotic storm that will burst through them mercilessly. Max trots along at her heel, his wet nose desperately trying to sniff at everything they pass. Slowing her pace, Myles twists her head away from the near empty field in front of them to look at the father and son duo that walk beside her.

"Stick with Jasper and lay low," Myles advises, passing him her notebook. "Keep your eyes on the lookout for the sea-lion effigy."

"Okay," Ray agrees through a sigh, sounding anxious about the task at hand.

"You take the west end," her best friend suggests to her, meeting her eyes quickly. "We'll get the end with the brothel and meet up in the middle."

"Sounds like a plan," the redhead acknowledges, lifting her hand up for a high five. Jasper mirrors her, but instead of high fiving each other, they high five themselves. Turning away, Myles tosses over her shoulder, "keep your ears on." Looking down at the calico coloured dog following her closely and leaning down to pat him with a fond smile, "ready, boy? Good boy."

There's only four market stalls along the track on the west end, and a few more branching out from the main path around them. Pulling her brown tinted sunglasses up, the red-haired teens hazel eyes take in the first market stall. It's immediately clear they're all the way from the Desert clan in the Dead Zone, the clan symbol, made up of dark orange and red colours that twist and spiral to make a sun, is plastered all over the small hut.

Wooden branches act as a framework to hold up several blankets of woven weeds and twigs with frail patchwork blankets thrown over the top of it. Handmade tables of branches and chopped logs sit along the inside walls of the hut, with two sitting out front, near the path. Wooden buckets and tubs held together with woven vines and fabrics sit under the tables, every single one of the buckets on the ground overflowing with tan-coloured rocks and stones.

Blankets, sacks and light overgarments designed to protect you from sandstorms and the blazing hot sun are hung up on display on the stall's walls. One of the tables has a wooden tub of various metal scraps, each appearing very worn, melted or broken into parts. Small cactus' sit proudly on another table, cute hand-sculpted clay pots holding them with different clan symbols painted on them. Hot spice bites at Myles' nostrils from the array of spices set out on display on a tabletop, wooden or hand moulded and bashed metal spoons sitting in each bowl. Max sniffs at the table before sneezing and stepping back with a displeased whine.

The woman inside is in her late thirties and busying herself with preparing bags of something else that Myles can't see. Stepping closer to the woman, her head lifts and her tanned skin stretches over her soft features as she smiles happily at the redhead. Her kind and eager smile gives her a radiant glow that puts the gold wire sun necklace she wears over her forehead to shame. Tattoos tinged a dark green with age sit on the side of her neck and her right cheek, a sun and a simple triangle, respectively.

"Hei," Myles greets politely, smiling and glancing over her workshop as the woman replies in kind. "Ai don bida prom, taim dei ste ait?" [AN: "Hello. I have a few questions, if that's alright?"]

"Foshou!" The brown-haired woman gladly accepts, stopping what she's doing and resting her hands on the table between them, making the tan-coloured blanket with a hole for her head shift over her clothes. "Chit ai na sis kom au?" [AN: "Sure! What can I help with?"]

"Disha bam…" the redhead starts, gesturing to the spices, "ha smouken ste emo?" [AN: "These spices… how hot are they?"]

"Emo laik ona reinseden," the Sangedakru woman explains, hovering her hand above the bowls on the far left and sweeping it over the bowls. "Kom kwelen gon yuj. Ha fayafou dula yu op vout bam op?" [AN: "They are in order, from weak to strong. How hot do you like spices?"]

"Aaa… getemon ai," Myles settles on after a moment, "som kom os sting in gon em?" One of her hands grabs a small fabric bag as the other hovers over the spoon for a bowl with a dark orange, half ground powder in it. "Hofli ai as yu op noda prom?" Continuing when the woman's brown eyes flick up in acknowledgment, "ai ste lufa au meizen fleta hak op. Bilaik… som blaken en shannen gon shoun of gon ai bro." [AN: "uhh… surprise me. Something with a nice sting to it? May I ask you another question? I'm looking for beautiful mirror art. Like… something black and shiny for a present for my brother."]

"Ou, ai nou get em in…" the brunette answers, drawling out her words as she fills the small bag to the brim with the orange spice. Her brown eyes shift up from the redhead and move to the left in thought. "Ai get klin Louwoda Klironkru en Podakru gada in bida os diyo don bants odon kom Yujleda las biga Leygeda. Ba Delfikru en Yujledakru otaim gada in fodowin diyo, emo beda kamp raun hir dena. Daun na ge fou dona, beja." [AN: "Oh, I don't know… I know the Shadow Valley clan and the Lake clan have some nice things left over from Broadleaf's last big festival. But Delphi clan and Broadleaf clan always have fantastic things, they should be here soon. That will be four dollars, please."]

"Foshou," the red-haired teen agrees, sticking her hand in her shoulder bag and pulling out some metal scraps. Handing a handful over to the woman, she brightens and readily accepts the mishmash of junk as she hands over the spice bag. "Mochof." [AN: "Sure. Thank you."]

"Mochof," she echoes while Myles turns away, "gada in os sintaim." [AN: "Thank you, have a good day."]

 

It's been a little over two hours now, and Myles approaches her second last stall feeling run dry. No one else has been able to give the redhead any more information, all trying to point her in the direction of their own stalls and giving the same unsatisfactory answer of Delphi. The closest lead she's been able to get from the few markets that were already here, and the others that had started arriving and setting up while she was snooping around, were all contradictory rumours.

Whispers of Shadow Valley and the Lake clan butting heads and sabotaging each other's marketplaces two weeks ago at the Broadleaf Leygeda. Conspiracies of the Plain Riders clan and Blue Cliff having things that could only be found on another clan's territory. The Plain Riders clan, also known as the Ingranronakru in Trigedasleng, supposedly had things you can only get from Azgeda. Bottles of sweet syrup and moose skins, according to a kind old man from the Boudalan clan.

Myles had asked around some more about that information, almost everyone said that it wasn't true in the slightest and they had seen nothing of the like at the festival. An arriving Yujleda man disagreed, however, saying that those things were being sold there, but it was from Blue Cliff and not the Plain Riders.

Sighing deeply, Myles tries to will herself to finish the task at hand as her steps crunch over the pebbly path. Slowing to a stop, her hazel eyes scan the Blue Cliff symbols over the stall that is being erected by three people. One of the women notices the redhead and stops her task to walk around the half setup front of the stall.

"Heya," the blonde-haired woman greets enthusiastically, a bright smile across her face that tells the red-haired teen that she's desperate to sell something. "Ha na ai sis yu au?" [AN: "Hi, how can I help you?"]

"Hofli yu na," Myles smiles back, "ai na ai op yo gada in meizen sesori en ai ste fig raun taim yo hofli gada in bida biga skrap?" Lifting her hand to gesture at a gorgeous black gem hanging from a hand twisted wire stand. "Som bilaik dison?" [AN: "I hope you can, I can see you have beautiful jewellery and I was wondering if you may have some bigger pieces? Something like this?"]

"Bos blinka!" She exclaims with that large, saleswoman smile still firmly stuck in place. "Nou guthing, osir fodowin skrap st'ou kamp raun hir." [AN: "Great eye! Unfortunately, our best pieces aren't kept here."]

"Kei," the red-haired teen drawls out after a beat, getting the sense that she's about to be scammed. "Weron na ai hon emo op? Na emo ste hir, ona Leygeda?" [AN: "Well, where can I find them? Will they be here, in the festival?"]

"Emo ste odi," the blonde woman informs her, turning away from her dismissively to continue setting up the stall. "Ba en's jos gon osir kofona." [AN: They are already. But it's only for our customers."]

"Den ai na sis dison op," Myles calls to keep the woman from walking away, lifting up the black jewel on a handmade chain and levelling the woman with a look that tells her that she's over being toyed with. "'Bos blinka', ait?" [AN: "Then I'll take this. 'Great eye', right?"]

"Nou guthing…" she says slowly, that fucking smile never once leaving her face. Her hand reaches across to grab the necklace carefully from the redhead's hand and place it back onto the stand. "Em nou flou thru bilaik daun. Yu gaf gon gada in som na tel emo op dei osir don sen yu op." [AN: "unfortunately… it doesn't work like that. You need to have something that tells them we sent you."]

"Ai na pudon em op," the redhead states dully, lifting a delicate red eyebrow impatiently. "O na dei nou ge flou thru, ida?" [AN: "I can wear it, or would that not work, either?"]

"Kei…" she drawls out, leaning forward with her hands on the table condescendingly. "Mebi der won chants em na flou thru… ba en's strik. Yu'a gaf gon tich em op yu lukot kom osir kofa." [AN: "Well… maybe there's a chance it'll work… but it's small. You'd need to show them you're a friend of our traders."]

Scoffing, Myles keeps her red brow held up high and her face blank, "en gon dula daun op, ha yu fig raun?" [AN: "and how do you suppose I'd do that?"]

"Yu sou krei gaf'on get in?" The woman asks, and the tired redheads patience is beginning to wear thin. [AN: "you really wanna know?"]

"Taim em hon ai hou in," the red-haired teen shoots back, her red eyebrows dancing around her delicate features. "Sha." [AN: "If it gets me home, yes."]

Blue eyes squint at her for a moment, and a pleased smirk threatens to overtake her over exaggerated smile. Myles knows she's being scammed, knows whatever this woman is about to sell her will have its price bumped, and this supposed secret place where they guard all of their large jewel-art is more than likely entirely fictional. Still, she gives in, for the sake of that little inkling of doubt screaming 'rule number two' over and over again.

"Miya," the blonde-haired lady orders, turning and pulling back the woven blanket that hangs from the stall to block off the back of the small hut. "Mafta ai op." [AN: "come. Follow me."]

Hazel eyes look down at Max, "set raun." [AN: "Stay"]

Myles does as told, slipping past the two continuing to erect the front portion of the stall and ducking through the thick, handwoven blanket. A quick squeeze clamps around her heart and lungs at the sight of the lone chair with a small table made from bamboo and chopped wood beside it. On the table is a large needle with several bottles carved from logs beside it and a wide jar next to a short, but long, box. Piercings, of course.

The red-haired teen makes sure her steps don't falter when her heart does, instead slowing to look back at the blonde with a predatory slouch for further instructions. Her bright smile looks less forced now that she's got the redhead where she wants her, gesturing to the chair with her arm. Breathing in deeply, Myles sits down on the tall wooden chair, thankful that it has a thick fur blanket to give it some cushioning.

"Chit dula oso op gaf stok thru?" She asks sweetly, wiping down her long needle with liquid from one of the bottles and opening the box to look at the jewels in it. "Ai'a fig raun yu siva… o mebi yu snora?" [AN: "what do we want pierced? I'm thinking your ears… or maybe your nose?"]

"Siva, beja," Myles answers through a long breath, eyeing the woman wearily. There's no way this is sanitary, and that she will not get an infection. "Yu dula get klin chit yu's dula op?" [AN: "ears, please. You do know what you're doing?"]

"Ou, sha, sha," the blonde-haired woman waves off, pulling out some earrings. They're all similar, some incredibly long and dangly, and some so short they'd barely hang past the bottom of her lobe. "Ai'a fig raun tu, chit hashta yu?" [AN: "Oh, yes, yes. I'm thinking two, what about you?"]

Sighing heavily, the redhead rubs at her temple quickly as she responds, "Sha. Tu." [AN: "Yeah. Two."]

"Sad som op," she instructs, brushing some of Myles' shoulder length red hair back and wiping her left ear with a wet rag. [AN: "Pick something."]

Hazel eyes scan over the assortment of jewellery before deciding on one of the short ones. Reaching out, the redhead's slender fingers pull forward a pair of earrings. One black gem is wrapped around with a piece of wire that extends high up into a sharp bend that resembles a triangle. Directly under the gem, another small bit of wire that's painted blue is bent in the shape of an arrowhead, hanging off of the wire holding the gem in place. It's short and simple, only referencing Ouskejons clan symbol subtly.

"Os sad klin," she praises, pulling her large needle up. "Sis op won wedaun blou," Myles does as instructed, taking a deep breath in and holding it at the feel of both of the woman's hands framing her ear. "En klir em of." [AN: "Good choice. Take a deep breath. And let it out."]

Breathing out the breath slowly, the blonde woman presses the needle into Myles' ear. A sharp sting burns hotly through the new hole, and the redhead clenches her jaw tightly. The woman grabs an earring and quickly replaces the needle through her ear with the jewel. A heavy throbbing is still present in her ear and the sharp sting of the wire being poked through the new hole makes her shut her hazel eyes and bounce her leg impatiently.

"Yu don dula os op," she commends, "em don krei chil, sha?" [AN: "you did good. It was very easy, yeah?"]

She's still fiddling with her left ear, and Myles takes a deep breath in at the sweetness dripping from her words. Another blast of sharp pain burns through her left ear again, slightly up from where the first had been and Myles' eyes snap open.

"Chit yu dula bilaik?" Myles exclaims, trying to pull her head away from the woman's hands, but she knows it's already too late. [AN: "What are you doing?"]

"Ai don fig raun osir sad in?" The woman replies, her tone overly sweet and patronising. Realisation hits Myles, she's played right into it. "Tu," she repeats, a sly smirk on her face, "tu gon ogeda siva." [AN: "I thought we agreed? Two. Two in each ear."]

Myles' expression stays blank in shock, "yu ste sou sad disha op, you?" [AN: "you're enjoying this, aren't you?"]

 

Her aching ears only aid her urgent steps, keeping her boots marching through the steadily expanding amount of stalls preparing for the festival. Hazel eyes dance around the faces of the few early birds weaving around her, glancing down the paths that branch out. A short whistle to her right makes both her and Max spin, and the familiar short brown mop of her best friends hair comes into view. Ray's head bobs along beside him, looking around in awe at the growing number of markets.

Both Myles and Max jog up to them, and Jasper quickly greets Max with high-pitched coos and loving scratches on his head. Myles' steps don't slow, instead directing the two of them east.

"I might have a viable lead," the redhead informs them, "but she was a scam artist, so who the fuck knows?"

"I wonder how she really feels?" Jasper jokingly asks his dad, keeping up with his best friends pace. "What's this lead?"

"A Blue Cliff jeweller reckons they've got some fantastic art," Myles starts, flicking her eyes at Jasper fleetingly, "hidden away in the brothel."

"Woah," the brown-haired teen interjects, his arm shooting out to grab Myles' and tug her to a stop. His serious brown eyes are wide. "You're not going in there. Besides, we checked it out. They don't have anything in there."

"But," the redhead drawls out in a sing-song voice, quirking a red eyebrow, "you didn't have the key for them to let you in."

"Key?" Ray enquires, his brows furrowing in confusion. "What key?"

Myles lifts her hands to brush her short hair behind her throbbing ears and both of the Jordan's faces drop in shock. Amusement quickly glides across Jasper's face, his expression lightening massively as barely contained laughter starts to slip from his mouth.

"Oh," her best friend snickers in shock. "Oh, my god. Those are some nice jewels you got there."

"Are they red and swollen?" Myles deadpans, her face staying frozen with exasperation. "Because they feel red and swollen."

"No," Ray waves off kindly, a soft, non-judgemental smile lighting up his face. "They're beautiful, Aggie."

"They," Jasper barks out a loud laugh, unable to hold it in anymore, "are so red and swollen. Wh.. why?"

"I was scammed," the red-haired teen huffs out, starting to walk forward again. "I'm very sad, bordering on homicidal, about it. If this doesn't work, that border is going and I'm going to lose my mind." Jasper tries to hold back his chuckling, bringing his hand up to his face and walking behind Myles to try to avoid her death glare. Her best friends laughter cracks at her exasperated façade, and her delicate features brighten as a large smile covers her face, letting out a whiny giggle. "Stop laughing, I want to be angry."

"They are so gonna get infected," the brown-haired teen tells her, leaning forward to get another look at her ears.

"I know," Myles accepts, her tone much lighter than it had been a moment ago. "I'm gonna have to clean them out when we get back to the rover."

"Let's hope this is easy and simple, then," Ray adds, matching the two teens' brisk speed.

The brothel is rather intimidating, especially to any women who need to go through it. It resembles the commander's large tent, except it extends further and there're walls made of the same woven material to block off certain rooms inside of it for privacy. Walking in there as a girl who's not prepared to 'work' is daunting; the people who tend to go into a brothel are usually looking for something in particular. That, coupled with the copious amounts of alcohol that is always supplied to their… patrons, spells trouble for people who don't get their way.

It's not the first time Myles and Jasper have had to walk through one in the last three months, even still, the same trickling of dread plants itself firmly inside of them both. Some people get very handsy, especially if they've had quite a bit to drink, but it's never been too much of a problem, with both teens being experienced in how to handle themselves. The biggest and most dangerous problem a brothel offers them is easily the amount of bounty hunters that love to go in there with their latest payouts to boast about their jobs.

Itching at the back of her mind is the antagonising thought that this might be an elaborate setup, designed to make a fool out of Wanheda and collect the bounty on her head. It's an annoying notion that sends a wave of prickling heat through her veins, emphasised heavily by the ache in her ears.

"Sit," Jasper orders Max when the brothel entrance is only a few metres away. Max obediently sits down, "good boy! Stay."

No one stands by the brothels woven tent flap, leaving the braided hay and fabric material completely unguarded. When Myles reaches it, she slows her steps to let Jasper overtake her and enter first, keeping Ray behind her. It's noisy inside, slow chatter overlaps with sly giggles and low breaths, the atmosphere filled with lust. Lazy body positions of the people laying on long couches covered in thick and fluffy blankets purposefully have seductive undertones, designed entirely to accommodate to the wants and needs of people coming here for business.

Heads turn to them when they enter through the flap, and the slurred chatter of the groups of men being cared for by scantily clad women call out to announce their presence.

"Che'au chi' osi' gada'n hir," a man slurs out, standing up and wobbling on his feet. "Fur'di won!" [AN: "Look what we got here, a ripe one!"]

Jasper's arm snakes around his own back to grip Myles' hand and keep her pressed into his back. Their footsteps don't slow, not even as the rowdy group of men keep getting louder. Myles keeps her head down, and it's one of the first times in three months that she's actually missed her long hair.

"Nou gon yu, skat," Jasper calls out loudly, his tone gruff and firm. "Em's kom osir, kep yo meika in gon yowas." [AN: "Not for you, boys. She's with us, keep your hands to yourselves."]

Mocking calls of disapproval ring out, from the same group of men, but the three Arker's keep persisting through to the back of the room.

"Em's bilaik ona nowait geda, den," a man huffs out cockily, walking alongside of them. [AN: "She's in the wrong place, then."]

A man's hand comes into Myles' sight a split second before Jasper warns him, "yu nou gaf na dula daun." [AN: "You don't wanna do that."]

The man doesn't heed the teens warning, and the second his fingers graze Myles' abdomen, her body jumps into action. Flinging an arm up while the other let's go of Jasper's to grip the hand touching her, Myles slams his head down and yanks his arm in an awkward angle behind his back until a sickeningly loud crack sounds and he screams. Dropping her hold on him instantly, everyone else in the room falls silent, only the sounds of the man's pained groans and whines still echoing in the air. The Arker's march forward, not slowing their pace.

"Ai don lom yu op," her best friend chastises, reaching back to grip Myles hand again. "Nou dula toch em op." [AN: "I warned you. Don't touch her."]

One of the two warriors guarding the wall on the far end of the room shifts when they approach them, eyeing the group up.

"Yo, nodotaim," the warrior states gruffly, "der ste non kamp raun hir gon yo." [AN: "You, again. There's nothing here for you."]

"Nou's der?" Myles enquires, stepping up beside her best friend and locking her eyes on the guards. The other one of them straightens, a flash of recognition dancing across his face and the redhead subtly brushes her hair behind one of her ears to display the earrings. "Yu fousho hashta daun? Ai ste kamp raun gon meija diyo, o laik ai ona nowait geda?" [AN: "isn't there? You sure about that? I am here for business, or am I in the wrong place?"]

Their eyes both find her ears and they glance at each other. A red eyebrow quirks up quickly when they turn their attention back to them, and the man who recognised her squints his eyes at Myles before allowing them to pass.

"No," he informs them, stepping to the side and pulling the tent material up. "Yo laik ona ait geda." [AN: "No. You're in the right place."]

Past the two warriors is a hallway, extending almost the entire length of the large tent. What they can't see of the edges of the tent is marked by more flaps of woven material, and Myles would hazard a guess that those lead to some more private rooms for their top paying customers. Directly parallel to them, roughly three metres in front of them is a slight gap in the tent. It's just enough to let the redhead know that it's another doorway, and with no other warriors to let them in, she stalks forward to pull the fabric aside.

Inside, several warriors wearing heavy armour lounge around on sloped chairs with three strippers preening over them. Two warriors are standing in the room, and they're the first to notice the Arker's in the doorway. A man to her left clears his throat loudly, urging the others to turn and acknowledge them.

"Kei," a man she recognises as Blue Cliff Ambassador Wilko's aide announces, standing amongst the fray of warriors and strippers that sit up in displeasure at the distribution. "Kei, kei. Taim em ste'ou bilaik Os Wanheda-de. Em don ste fop gon yu kom hir op." [AN: "Well, well, well. If it isn't the Great Wanheda. It was a mistake for you to come here."]

"Em don ste?" Myles asks, fully stepping into the room. "Ai don ge tel op dei laik som gon ai hir." [AN: "was it? I was told that something's here for me."]

One of the warriors huffs a laugh, standing up with the rest of his comrades, "en chit don dei?" [AN: "and what was that?"]

"Gotstrecha-de," the red-haired teen answers immediately, her daring eyes not wavering in their challenging glances. "Kom Delfikru." [AN: "the sea-lion. From Delphi's clan."]

"Ai nou fig raun yu na hit ai kof op," Wilko's aide scoffs, as if he finds her hard and determined stance amusing. [AN: "I don't think you can meet my price."]

"Gaf'a fonat?" Jasper quizzes, surging forward and gripping Myles' arm to pull it behind her back while he kicks the back of her knee just enough to let her know to fall. [AN: "wanna bet?"]

The motion sets the room alight with movement, and the redhead can feel Jasper's blade against her throat. Her wince as she falls heavily to her knees is genuine, but not because of the fall to her knees. Her best friends hand, though gentle and kind, brushes against her swollen ear when he brings his blade to her throat. Ray jumps, stuttering in his motions to grip at his son, but the knowledge to trust that they know what they're doing stops him.

"Em melon," the brown-haired teen grunts out, his grip on the red-haired teen tightening slightly in his demonstrative shaking of Myles. "Gon gotstrecha-de." [AN: "her head, for the sea-lion."]

"Jaspa," Myles all but growls, flinging her body around lazily in his grip and wincing at the pain that shoots through her ears at the movement. "Chit jok yu ste dula?!" [AN: "Jasper, What the fuck are you doing?!"]

"Ai gada in moun kofa," Jasper informs her, and the animalistic grunts that pour from her lips feels almost real. "Dison bilaik yo sad in, em gon hak op, o ai na rip em klin en ai lan em op uf gon flosh yo klin. Sad klin." [AN: "I have other buyers. These are your choices, her for the art, or I will kill her and use her power to kill you all. Choose."]

Wilko's aide gulps, staring at Jasper as he holds a struggling and growling Myles close to keep her from getting away. The warriors have their hands on the handles of their machetes and swords, waiting patiently on the Ouskejon aide's command. In the corner of her frantically spinning hazel eyes, Ray shifts uncomfortably on his feet, waiting to be able to understand what's happening and for the horrific scene to come to an end.

"Kei," the man starts slowly, "der ste nou gaf gon yu gada ogeda in. Gotstrecha gon gada." [AN: "Okay, There's no need for you to have both. The sea-lion for the girl."]

At his words, the warriors start to enclose around the Arker's and Jasper's hold tightens, the blade in his hand presses harshly against her skin. Myles stills at the feel, her self-preservation kicking in, even though she knows this is all a big play. When Myles freezes at the blade's rough position, so do the warriors.

"No," Jasper orders, spitting the word out disdainfully. "Lid ai in gotstrecha, en ai na ron yu op Wanheda." [AN: "no. Show me the sea-lion, and I'll give you Wanheda."]

Clenching his jaw, Wilko's aide raises a hand to show he means no harm and slowly walks backwards to the far corner of the room. A large wooden chest lay tucked into the corner, and the man opens it, reaching in to pull the ceramic effigy out. He holds it carefully in his hands, displaying it for Jasper to see clearly.

"Drop em klin shuda," he instructs the Arker, and Jasper's knife holding hand reaches around her to pull her weapons from her belt. Once the blade leaves her throat, Myles knows she needs to struggle again, so she thrashes around, forcing her best friends grip to tighten. "Os. Nau, osir kofon." [AN: "Strip her weapons. Good. Now, we trade."]

Jasper yanks her to her feet, and Myles sees that she needs to turn the dial up to a hundred. Kicking her legs out randomly, she lets out a string of loud curses and bursting growls. Hand's grip at her legs, wrenching her from Jasper's hands, and now her struggling is real. Now, she's putting some oomph into her aimless flinging, buying time for the art piece to be safely in Jasper's hands. The harsh grip on her arms will bruise, especially with her hopeless thrashing in the merciless and brutal feel of a strangers rough callouses that have replaced her loving best friends kind touch.

Hazel eyes flick around the room, the genuine grimace and scowl on her face fleetingly scanning the different expressions around her to plan her next moves. Poor Uncle Ray looks pale and absolutely appalled, not knowing what's going on and too scared to put an end to it. The strippers look uncomfortable and out of place, huddled together at the end of one of the chairs and trying to disappear. Jasper, the warriors, and the Ouskejon's ambassador's aide have mirrored stoic and determined looks chiseled into their stoney faces.

Gently, the black ceramic statue that is tinged brown from age is placed into Jasper's ready hands. Myles doesn't stop or quieten her lazy struggling, patiently waiting for her best friend to give the cue. Jasper takes a slow step backwards, placing the gotstrecha into his shoulder bag and backing up subtly.

"Sou bos dula meija diyo op kom yo," Jasper states slyly, and the words make Myles spring into action. [AN: "pleasure doing business with you."]

Stomping her foot down on her captors forcefully, Myles flings her head back as hard as she can. The hold on her wrists slackens enough while he falls away that she can yank one arm free and hook it around the neck of the warrior standing beside them. Flinging his head down, the red-haired teen shoves her knee up to collide solidly with his face and flicks her elbow up on her other arm to stun the man still holding her wrist. Twisting into the stunned man, Myles pulls her gun up as Jasper fires his and he shoots the man barreling towards her once in the leg to stop his attack. Bashing the butt of her gun into the head of the warrior Myles has pressed herself into, he falls limply to the ground by her feet.

The shot man's pained wailing is the only noise in the room now, accompanying the sound of the strippers cowering in fear, the best friends' heavy breaths and Ray's shocked, stuttered gasps. Tucking her handgun away, Myles walks over to the other two Arker's, lifting her hand up.

"Nice job," Myles praises, and Jasper lifts his own hand up, before they both high five themselves. "I thought you might actually slit my throat for a moment there."

"Me?" Jasper scoffs with his gun trained on Ambassador Wilko's frozen and stunned-to-silence aide, waiting for Myles as she bends down to pick up her weapons and shoulder bag. "You kicked ass."

"You're both crazy," Ray deadpans, his tone quiet and shocked. "This is not what kids your age should be doing in their spare time."

 

Chapter Text

Day 145 – Feb. 4

A heavy sigh falls from the redhead's rosy lips once she and Jasper step through the empty elevator threshold. Jasper instantly moves to the right side with a crudely drawn arrow pointing up etched into the wall, reaching across to the centre of the back wall to flip the small lever that clamps down the brake. Planting his glove-clad hands on top of the rusted lever he stands in front of, Jasper cranks it down and the whole elevator jolts up in the narrow shaft. One of Myles' glove-clad hands finds the cylindrical chain reel that's connected to the hoist along the back wall and twists the short handle to follow the circular shape of the reel.

When Jasper cranks the lever, the elevator lifts a foot, and Myles spins the handle to keep the loose chain wrapped around the reel so it doesn't get caught. It's a simple design, a manual pulley system to use the elevator that survived with the building after the war 197 years ago. This building is by far the tallest structure to have survived the bombs, standing at forty-two different floors, most above but some below ground. The travel up will be long and tiring, seeing as the warriors who usually shift the elevator are not here, but that's the least of Myles' worries right now.

Today at sundown, a peace summit is being held on the very top floor, where Lexa's throne room is. Ambassadors from all twelve clans will come together to discuss a peace treaty with representatives from Arkadia. Marcus Kane is very prepared, having been planning this for the past three months, it's a great relief for him to finally be able to sit down and discuss his visions for the unity of their people. The man has been able to see, especially with Jasper and Myles' close working relationship with the grounders, that peaceful unity isn't just an option, but it has great potential to be a reality.

"Stop fiddling with them," Jasper warns, yanking the lever down again and jolting them up. Hazel eyes glide over to him, her slender fingers still feeling her earrings. "They'll get infected. Again."

"At least there's proper earrings in there now," the redhead grumbles, following each wrenching of the lever with a twirl of the reels handle.

"Thank god for that," her best friend agrees. "The other ones were terrible."

Myles snaps her head in his direction, her eyes widening and her hand dropping from her ear, "they were not!"

"None of them matched," Jasper reasons, a lighthearted smile hinting across his face as he huffs with each crank of the lever. "You didn't have two pairs of earrings. You had four different ones."

"They weren't that bad!" Myles argues, her tone raising in pitch.

"Yes, they were," the brown-haired teen snickers, his eyes gleaming with mischief. "I cannot believe you're keeping them pierced."

"This is not being supportive," the red-haired teen jibes through a giggle, "you're just jealous I'm the one with all the jewellery."

"We do everything together," Jasper protests halfheartedly, shoving the handle down and huffing. "We're switching."

Myles snorts loudly, her playful smile still covering her features, "Okay." Taking his spot by the lever, the redhead has to use her whole body weight to fully swing the lever down. "I didn't know… you wanted to get your… ears pierced."

"I don't," her best friend disputes, spinning the handle of the reel. "We've split up more in the last two weeks than we have in the last three months, and both times you've done things without me. It's rude."

"You should've…," Myles starts, quirking her eyebrow up as a serious look overtakes her face. "Stayed with me then."

"I couldn't," Jasper explains, all trace of mischief leaving his tone. "It would've been intimidating all three of us trying to nose around."

"I know," the redhead huffs dramatically, shooting a pointed look at her best friend.

The look makes his whole body go rigid, and his hand on the handle stops halfway around the chain reel. Ray staying with them has been great, but they're both starting to crack under the invisible pressure that's come from having him around all the time. It's suffocating, in a way, adding someone who doesn't share their experiences, mindsets or thinking processes that have come from figuring out Earth and the grounders. Both teens have been tiptoeing around each other, having had to rehash past events and allow Ray to properly process them has provided a minor setback for the two teens, leaving both feeling like they can't be themselves in their own home.

"What?" Jasper questions, his face blank but his tone serious and Myles' hazel eyes jut to the side, waiting for something else to happen or be said.

"What do you mean, what?" Myles counters, matching his tone and furrowing her red eyebrows in confusion.

She can't do anything until he finishes winding up the loose chunk of chain, and he's too busy pinning her with a vacant look to continue in his actions.

"What?" Jasper repeats, as if that answers his best friend's question. "You know what I mean; what?"

"What, what?" Myles quizzes, her voice slow and drawled out in confusion, tilting her head to the side slightly.

"What about my dad is intimidating?" The brown-haired teen enquires, "he's like a big puppy. Max the second."

"Technically," the red-haired teen deflects, "he'd be Max the first. Because he was first."

"Oh, my god," Jasper gasps, taking his hand off of the handle of the reel to point at Myles. "You think dad is intimidating."

"I," Myles reassures in a high-pitched voice, "I love Uncle Ray. He's great, more… more than great, he's fantastic." Jasper squints his brown eyes at her when she doesn't continue straight away. The look is heavy, and the redhead feels her resolve crack under its weight. "I'm afraid to sleep because he keeps trying to 'fix' things around the house. I still don't even know what he did to the drop-down pulley. Or how he fucked up the gravity-shower when he was trying to make the heating coil hotter."

The water isn't a big concern to either of them; all of the Arkers are fully capable and fine with boiling a bucket of water and using that. It's more of the principle. Countless nights spent awake, using anything and everything that they could remember from books or teachers on the ark and an excruciatingly long course of trial and error to get to where they are now. Both problems Myles has listed are probably easily fixable, and if not, at least now both teens know how to make one from scratch, but they're busy, and it's the principle of it.

Life after Arkadia and Mount Weather hasn't been spent sitting around and doing nothing. The first few weeks were about trying to just live, trying to want to live. Throwing themselves into job after job to give them something to take their minds off of their troubles. Now, days and nights where they struggle to be present and functioning after all that's happened are still a weekly occurrence, if not more, but slowly it's been replaced with running around for the different clans. It's been spent less at home and fiddling with whatever they can get their hands on to make it useful, and more scavenging for supplies for the clans and doing jobs.

Sometimes they can get a break, but when they do, they use it to get their ducks in a row for their next supply hunt or job. Mapping instead of sleeping, practicing and memorising knowledge of clans dialects and their cultures, reading book after book that they can find so they can do more, be more, help more.

Marcus has been reprimanding the two of them for months about how unhealthily they are trying to keep themselves afloat. It had started for Myles with submerging herself in work and supply hunts to keep herself from being focussed on the fact that she was drowning, and when Jasper joined her, it had changed completely. Ever since then, the two of them have been highly reliant on each other to an abnormal degree. Eating the same things at the same time, drinking the same things at the same time, doing everything together, to the point where they're beginning to mould into one person, instead of two.

When Myles had been with Roan, playing along to find out who had offered him enough to make him want to deliver her instead of taking her 'power' for himself, Jasper hadn't eaten a thing. He hadn't even felt inclined to, because Myles wasn't eating with him. This ledge, this wire, that Myles constantly balances on, waiting for a gust of wind to knock her off now has Jasper's weight to it as well. Neither try to cross the wire to the other side, to step away from the ledge, instead they copy each other's movements and stick to one another as if that's all they need to keep their heads above water.

And it's worked so far. Days where Myles can't stop Mount Weather from bleeding over reality have become fewer, and now she has someone who knows what's happening and knows how to handle her when she's stuck to help pull her out. Days where Jasper is so consumed with grief and loneliness that he forgets what it's like to not feel so smothered with despair have become less and less frequent. Now he has someone who's so familiar with that deep pit of pain that she knows how to share the burden and get him to remember something that's not all darkness. Nights where she and Jasper scream until their throats are raw at traumatising memories, or stare at the ceiling and cry their eyes out, they still happen regularly, but now they can sense it. They can feel it coming, whether for themselves or the other, and now they both have each other to sit with through the storm so they don't get completely shipwrecked with no lifeboats.

"He did try to clean our mini-bridge," Jasper relents, spinning the handle of the reel, "and left those awful cloudy marks all over the wood. What the hell even does that?"

"I think he used that…" Myles brushes off, throwing the lever down, "half-mixed abomination… of bleach that didn't go right. And… it's a whole ass bridge."

Jasper snorts, "it's a skinny, half bridge to get from tree to tree because you were too paranoid to have the 'front door' be anywhere near the house."

"Respect the bridge," the red-haired teen counters. "Love the bridge… the bridge keeps us safe."

"Oh, god," her best friend cringes loudly, and it's the only point during this journey up that Myles takes into account the fact that there's no elevator door.

A red eyebrow quirks up and her hazel eyes turn to the opening allowing her to see onto one of the floors they're between. Her gaze meets the annoyed eyes of a female warrior, and Myles quirks her other eyebrow up as she glares right back at the woman.

"Dad was on the other side of the door for the third night in a row last night," Jasper tells her, and Myles cranks the lever down, finally tearing her searing hazel gaze away from the now-disappearing warrior. "While I was having a bucket shower, and he went on this big, long lecture on how we're handling things with the grounders at a 'perilous pace'. Said that rushing into things half cocked and winging it scares him, and he's worried our 'in tuned-ness' will be 'detrimental to our future paths'."

"What the fuck…" the redhead inquires, her eyebrows falling down low, "does that mean?"

"I think he meant with Bellamy," her best friend theorises, "and other… Maya's. He kept pushing about the Monty thing and trying to do things I don't feel ready to do because it's healthier."

"What?" Myles exclaims, and it's her that stops the movement that allows them to escalate this time. "This happened three nights in a row? Why am I only hearing about it now? Sis's before misters!"

"I was trying to repress it," Jasper explains in a dull, lifeless tone, "thanks for reminding me."

"He loves you," the redhead reminds him blandly, his father's words still echoing in her mind as she cranks the lever again. "He's trying to help."

"Yeah, well," the brown-haired teen replies halfheartedly, "you don't move on by someone telling you to move on, and you don't get ready to face your demons by someone telling you to just be ready. No matter how much they love you."

"If he thinks I'm dragging you down," Myles starts, halting in her pulling of the lever to glance over at Jasper fleetingly. "Maybe we're both too close to see it."

"You're not dragging me down," Jasper asserts, his tone confident. "You're the only one who dragged me up, instead of just expecting me to be alright."

"I don't know," the redhead sighs. "I hope so. I don't think I could handle doing something else wrong, especially to you."

"You're not," her best friend assures, and Myles throws down the lever. "If I wasn't happy, I'd let you know."

"Rodger, dodger," Myles acknowledges, Ray and Marcus' concerns still bouncing around in her mind.

Their conversation becomes lighthearted again, and it's only a few minutes more before they're at the very top floor. Myles cranks the lever down, and the elevator jolts up, allowing a small sliver of a warrior's fur-covered boots to be seen. At their arrival, the man ducks down to peer through the elevator and speak to the two of them. He's a familiar face, a warrior they've come into contact with quite a bit in Polis.

"Hei," Osco greets with a small nod, "Heda gaf yo in hit em op ona lou wogeda." [AN: "Hey. The Commander wants you to meet her on the floor below."]

Hazel eyes lock on Jasper's brown, "ou, du os haiheda." [AN: "Oh, good god."]

"Kei," Jasper laughs, walking over to the lever with a down arrow carved into the wall opposite Myles. "Chof, ai lukot. Osir laik kamp raun der." [AN: "Okay. Thanks, my friend. We'll be there."]

"Pro," Osco replies with a smile, standing up straight as Jasper yanks down the lever for them to go down. "Ai na tel Heda op yo's ogud." [AN: "you're welcome. I'll tell The Commander you're ready."]

"This is a travesty," Myles informs Jasper, her red eyebrows high up her forehead.

"It's not that far down, Aggie," he chuckles, shaking his head at his best friend.

"No, I know," the redhead corrects. "Do you know what else I know? She's about to ask us for something. Again."

"Maybe Skaikru aren't here yet," Jasper tries to reason with her, watching her flick the brake before they both walk out of the elevator and onto the floor below the commander's quarters. "And she wants us to go in with them. You know, show that they're under Wanheda's protection."

"Maybe," Myles agrees, walking forward with slow and aimless steps. "But my gut thinks not."

"Your gut's never wrong," Jasper seconds, his eyes doing the same thing Myles' are.

Their bored and aimless gazes scan around the room, taking it all in mindlessly while they wait for the commander. It's not the first time they've been on this level, their wandering actions less to see and more to aide in the passing of time.

A rickety, old chandelier hangs above them, where there were once lightbulbs, there are now candles. The walls separating the hallway where they stand now and some of the rooms around the circular-shaped floor are completely gone. Some only partially stand, and a few still have the walls intact, barring the lack of paint and wallpaper that barely a strip of remains unpeeled. Instead, long, woven blankets of skinned animals and ratty fabric hang over the walls, giving them more than just the framework to look at.

Tables and chairs sit amongst the hallway and litter inside of the rooms that they can see. A couple of them are new, made of new wood or scrap metal, but the others look ancient. The furniture is barely standing, appearing worn and dull, bits and pieces chipped away with age and wear. Mould and splatters of various colours of paint seem to be etched into the wood, staining it in lifeless spots. Whatever fabric or cushioning was on the chairs before the bombs is gone, leaving hand stitched cushions, pillows and throws to make the seats comfortable.

Old picture frames sit spaced out on the walls, faded, almost invisible artwork and photographs worn away. Some are empty, just backless rectangular decaying wooden frames accompanying the banners tucked into the walls visible framework. In one room, a few very low down tables can be seen, one of which has a series of thick blankets over them. They're too low to have been intended for tables or chairs, as they are being used for now. Perhaps they were once beds, and this was once a tower of apartments or hotel rooms.

Footsteps coming down the stairs makes the redhead cease her bored pondering and turn towards the stairwell. Lexa steps down the stairs, meeting both Myles and Jasper's eyes. Her expression is what it usually is, guarded and always hard to decipher, but the ever so slight crease in her forehead being present above her small gold gear tells Myles that she's not happy about something. Slouching and sauntering up to the young woman, Myles comes to a stop beside one of her best friends.

Her hair is mostly down, the top pieces pulled back into several simple braids that rest down the back of her head. Lexa wears her usual getup, the fierce, black, long-sleeved top she wears opens up at her hips, falling over her legs like a long cloak. Fur is stitched onto the fabric, hints of it poking out under the empty weapon straps that cling to her waist. Black tights are worn under the menacing and regal coat, tucked into her tall and heavy worn leather boots. One shoulder has the dense armour she wears in battle, a single shoulder pad with a long, velvety strip of red curtain the length of her long coat raining down from the piece of armour. Thick wrist cuffs with spikes covering them covers both of her wrists, with simple, frayed black fingerless gloves on her hands.

"Myles, Jasper," Lexa greets, her tone monotone and lacking any distinctive emotions. "I am glad you came."

Hazel eyes lock on Jasper's brown fleetingly before responding, "we made a deal."

"Yes, we did," the commander agrees, her words as slow as they usually are. "How is Finn doing?"

"Good," Jasper answers, nodding. "We saw him a few days ago. He's finding it hard to adjust to not having something to do."

"I'm sure he will do just fine," the brown-haired young woman assures, before flicking her brown eyes between the two of them. "I'm afraid I have to ask you to do two things more before our summit."

A red eyebrow quirks up, and Myles stares pointedly at Jasper, saying, "oh, do you now?"

"Yes," the commander confirms, and the redhead looks back at her. "One of the Azgeda delegates is dead, and I fear the recovery job you did in Delphi isn't enough to convince the clans to reach peace."

"Dead?" Jasper questions immediately and red eyebrows furrow, everything they've ever learnt about the grounders beliefs in leadership and 'peace' rushing through Myles' mind. "Is that why there's blood on the path outside of the tower?"

Lexa doesn't answer, she doesn't have to, the 'so?' look on her face and her lack of refusal speaking volumes.

"How did you get him close to the window?" Myles asks, and Jasper swings out his arm to whack her with the back of his hand.

Myles reflexively reciprocates the gesture as Lexa continues, "war is brewing." The commander's hard brown eyes flick between them, "Azgeda is trying to convince the clans that I am unfit to be commander. If they can get all of the clans to vote to remove me, there will never be peace between our people."

"Then forget the peace treaty," the red-haired teen instantly suggests, earning a quick look of bewilderment from her best friend. Lexa tilts her head to show she's interested, "make the summit about establishing a thirteenth clan. Skaikru. They won't get a unanimous vote then."

"My want," Lexa starts, "with the peace treaty has always been for your people to become my people. If they agree to join the Coalition, to become the thirteenth clan, no one would dare to move against them, because they would be moving against me."

"Great," Jasper shrugs. "Are the Skaikru here yet? We'll go tell them the plan's changed."

"They have yet to arrive," the commander states, "but that's not all." Myles quirks an eyebrow impatiently when Lexa merely locks her gaze on her hazel eyes and stays quiet. "Bow before me at the summit," Myles scoffs sarcastically, turning her whole body away. "Someone with your power bowing before the commander will show the clans to respect the Coalition. Bow before me and your people will be safe."

"Bow?" Myles repeats, the word being spat from her mouth as if it tasted bitter on her tongue. "If you wanted the 'power of Wanheda' you should've killed me."

"Aggie," Jasper cautions, and all the redhead does to acknowledge his warning is to look to him briefly.

"Bellamy Blake," the red-haired teen laughs ironically at his name, "is the only person in the universe who can get me on my knees."

Lexa's face brightens, her skin crinkling slightly with an amused smirk, a stark contrast to Jasper's abhorred expression.

"You know," Jasper grouses, his voice strained, "when I told you about the Yujleda girl I slept with on a sack of onions and you said it was too much?"

Myles cringed, scrunching her nose up apologetically, "too much?"

Jasper only nods in reply, bringing a hand up to his face.

"Talk with Marcus," Lexa advises, "but I'm not sure it will be much help without you bowing, and with only one Azgeda delegate."

"Is having only one delegate bad?" Myles enquires, a light going off in her head with an idea. Lexa tilts her head to the side, her eyes alight with the recognition of the redhead's plan face. Hazel eyes swivel to Jasper's brown, watching as the same idea begins to form in his mind. "Because we've got someone who might just be interested."

 

Descending this amount of stairs used to make both her and Jasper's legs weaken and ache with overuse, but now they barely feel a burn. Three months spent with going up and down these stairs, training and walking around clan lands has given them the ability to build muscle and gain endurance. Sure, if someone else hadn't used the elevator to take it back down before the two Arker's finished talking with Lexa, they probably would've taken it. Apparently, the commander had told her warriors to ensure that the elevator remained on the bottom floor so they could give their new guests a kinder welcome, which they wouldn't have a problem with if it wasn't so far down.

Three sets of footsteps step off of the staircase and onto the level that houses all of the prisoners. None of their determined strides falter or slow, even as they round the corner to approach the guarded prison doors. Hearing them coming, the warriors instantly open the doors for them, and no one slows to explain. Once they're all inside the main room, the warrior that Lexa sent with them splits off, going towards the grounders that maintain the prison to explain what's going on.

Jasper and Myles turn in the opposite direction, heading straight for the door that leads to the rows of cells. Barely a glance at them is needed for the guard to open the door for them, and the two teens break their stoic and silent demeanour to mutter a thanks. Their strides finally slow to a stop several cells down, and Myles leans her shoulder on the metal bars locking the prisoner in his cell.

"If it isn't the Great Wanheda," Prince Roan of Azgeda drawls out, a twinge of curiosity in his voice.

"How is his royal highness doing today?" Myles asks, her tone becoming patronising over his royal title.

Roan stands up and slowly walks over to lean against the bars, his Azgeda clothes stripped from him and replaced with Trikru's typical winter wear. A plain black long-sleeved shirt that's been patched by several different textured and shades of dark fabric with small puffs of fur for warmth. The tan jeans are no better, the material ratty and grossly discoloured. The outfit is nothing suited for the wealthy or those with royal blood, leaving Myles to wonder if the choice of attire was a passive aggressive dig from the guards here. His hair is a mess and hanging down loosely instead of having the top tied back in a half-ponytail like it was when they met, looking greasy and unkempt. Facial hair has grown out, scattered in uneven chunks over the bottom half of his face from not shaving for a week, making the decorative scars over his face seem sporadic rather than symmetrical.

"You ready to go home?" Myles continues when Roan merely stares at her in answer to her first question.

This time, his simmering and impatient stance shifts, his hard expression softening into one of confusion. His shoulders slouch and his whole body goes rigid once again.

"What are you talking about?" Roan quizzes, seeming unsure if he's being messed with.

"She pulled some strings," Jasper informs him, and the man's brown eyes switch to him, trying to decipher if he's being serious.

"I promised I'd do what I can to get you home to your lady," the redhead elaborates, "unfortunately, it's not as simple as letting you walk straight out of here."

Roan straightens, sensing where this is going, "what do I need to do?"

"There's a peace summit being held today," the brown-haired teen supplies, "all you need to do is be there to represent Azgeda."

"Why aren't the delegates going?" The Prince enquires, his tone gruff as his dark brown eyebrows sink in confusion.

"They are," Myles corrects, nodding, "but one has… dropped… dead. Suddenly."

Jasper swings his arm out to whack Myles with the back of his hand at the words, and the red-haired teen reciprocates the slap with an indignant squawk. Roan's brown eyes switch between the two for a moment, his hard gaze not holding the hint of amusement that Lexa's had.

The door to the prison cell room opens and Myles can see the warrior Lexa sent down with them enter with his arms full of Roan's clothes out of the corner of her eyes.

"Look," the redhead sighs, "you don't have to do it. But I don't think you're gonna get a better chance than this. All you have to do is sit there."

"Or stand," Jasper interjects eagerly, "standing is good."

"You don't need to contribute," Myles continues, "all you have to do is be present to show the Coalition hasn't broken."

Roan's eyes jut to the warrior waiting patiently behind the Arker's with his clothes, and he straightens, pushing off of the metal bars. Nodding his head slowly, he locks his eyes back on the two teens.

"Okay," the Prince agrees, "I'll be Azgeda's delegate."

"Good," Jasper praises, and Myles pushes off of the bars to turn away before her best friend adds. "You might wanna freshen up, we're only waiting on the Skaikru leaders."

"Wait," Roan calls when the two turn and the warrior walks up to the cell door. "It's happening now?"

"As soon as Skaikru gets here," Myles answers, shrugging with one shoulder lazily. "Oh, and you, uh, might want to take a shower."

"And by might," the brown-haired teen emphasises, "she means you really should. It's very ripe in here, man."

 

They've finally made it back up to the top floor again after waiting for Roan to finish getting ready. The man is cleaned up, his hair brushed neatly and tied back in a half-up ponytail. His facial hair has been groomed meticulously, and he's wearing his Azgedian clothes again, looking as if he feels more comfortable in his skin. Everything about him has changed by giving him back his old clothes and letting him groom himself, his posture is straight and his movements certain.

A few metres before the three of them reach the shut throne room door, Osco stops them.

"Jaspa, Maiyls," Osco greets, nodding his head to the left. "Ogeda Skaikru Heda ste hod op ona Heda hoshon. Hainofa Roun na hod op ona haisidon wogeda-de." [AN: "Jasper, Myles, the Sky People leaders are waiting in the Commanders quarters. Prince Roan can wait in the throne room."]

Myles and Jasper's eyes meet, their steps heading in the direction of Lexa's bedroom instead of the throne room.

"Mochof, Osko," Myles replies easily, breezing past him as Roan opens the door to the throne room. [AN: "Thank you, Osco."]

"Chof," Jasper seconds, following his best friend. [AN: "thanks."]

Rounding the corner, the two guards in front of Lexa's room perk up and open the door, "os gon ai yo op. Emo don's hod op." [AN: "Good to see you. They've been waiting."]

As the door swings open, it lets out a high-pitched creak to announce their presence. All three Arkers in the room light up at the sight of them, but only one rushes forward to wrap the two best friends in a tight embrace.

"Aggie! Jasper!" Clarke calls out happily, her soft features nearly blinded by the bright smile on her face.

"Hey," Jasper chuckles, wrapping an arm around the blonde-haired teen.

Her blonde hair is longer than it was three months, coming down to her waist with strands of it twisted back in braids that glow in the warm orange hue that the setting sun casts upon them. The clothes she's wearing look more crisp and new, like they came from Mount Weather, instead of the dull and worn patchwork fabrics that clothes from the Ark looked like. Still, Myles wraps her arms around the blonde and Jasper, allowing herself to smile at her friend's embrace.

"It's good to see you," Myles states, pulling back to look at Clarke before directing her gaze to the man who's been like a father to her. "But we don't have much time."

"What?" Clarke asks, switching into her serious leader mode in the blink of an eye.

"What are you talking about?" Marcus enquires, his brown eyes clouded with concern as he steps closer to rest a hand on Myles' shoulder.

"Lexa's changing the terms of the summit," Jasper quickly explains, "we're no longer here for a peace treaty."

"What does that mean?" Clarke quizzes, her voice overlapping with Abby's 'what?'

"Is this because of Mount Weather?" Marcus questions, his tone low and Myles almost feels guilty.

Realistically, Myles and Jasper both know that it wasn't his idea to move the Farm Station survivors into Mount Weather. In fact, Marcus Kane had tried to stop it. Unfortunately for them, though, he's no longer the Chancellor, Abby is. The two of them have been passing around the Chancellors pin and the responsibilities it comes with since the first day they set foot on the ground. Apparently, it's Abby's turn to fuck up all of the progress Myles and Jasper make.

"Yes," Jasper asserts, his bitter tone overlapping with the redhead's guilty 'kinda'.

"But, look," Myles tries, "it's not Lexa. It's the Ice Nation." The redhead's hazel eyes stay on Marcus' deepening expression, only briefly glancing towards Clarke to make sure she understands the gravity of the situation. She knows from experience that Abby will need more encouragement than the two best friends have time to give her now. "They want Lexa dead, and they want to take control of the Coalition to further their expansionistic and, and militaristic desires."

"That's Lexa's concern," Abby refutes, not grasping the fact that anyone besides Lexa being in control right now would mean that peace would never be a reality. "Not ours."

"Mum," Clarke protests, looking at her mother as if she's appalled by her words. "You're not listening."

"If Lexa falls," Marcus appeals, his focus on Abby and his tone urgent. "The coalition shatters."

"We'd never get peace like this again," Jasper interjects, shifting anxiously. "There's no way we'd avoid another war."

"Abby," the councillor persuades when the look in the doctor's eyes doesn't lighten. "There hasn't been a single attack since Mount Weather, and that's because of the work Aggie and Jasper have done to keep us in everyone's favour. If they say this is a warning we need to heed, we need to listen." Marcus turns his attention back to the two best friends. "You said there were new terms."

"We become the thirteenth clan," Myles advises, knowing before the words are even out of her mouth that the two Griffin's won't like them.

Clarke blanches, her posture stiffening as her mother guffaws. Marcus looks away, stepping to the side while his mind works hard to think through the idea.

"The thirteenth clan," Abby challenges quietly, "what does that mean? That we follow Lexa?"

"To a degree," the brown-haired teen reasons halfheartedly, and Myles turns her gaze to Clarke's blank eyes.

"It's better than a peace treaty," Myles tries to convince the blonde. "She made the deal with the mountain men to free her people. That included Azgeda and every other clan." Clarke's blue eyes become alight with understanding, "we'll be a part of that umbrella of protection, even from other clans."

"No," Abby refutes, her voice hard and unshakable. "We came here to negotiate a treaty."

"Mum," Clarke spins to her mother, "this is our new Unity Day."

Abby blinks in shock at the words, and Myles quickly interjects, "you've only got two options."

"You can be the thirteenth clan," Jasper tacks on, following her train of thought. "Or you can be the thirteenth Station."

It's a low blow, but it's conveniently and scarily applicable. When the bombs destroyed the old world 197 years ago, the only survivors of the war were thought to be the people living on thirteen different Space Stations orbiting the planet. Now they know it's not true, but they didn't back then; back then, they thought they were the very last of the human race.

In order to 'save' the human race, the United States Space Station, what they now know as Alpha Station, organised for all thirteen to dock together, recreating the biblical analogy of Noah's Ark. When the thirteenth Station, Polaris, hesitated, the USSS blew it up, reducing it to smithereens that floated emptily in the uninhabitable atmosphere of space. They did this to demonstrate to the other Stations exactly what was at stake. This is what they celebrate on Unity Day, the uniting of the twelve remaining Stations to save the human race.

And now, 197 years later, they're at almost the same predicament. To avoid a war where the calamities will be greater than anything any of them have ever seen, they'll have to unite again. Dozens of grounders have told the two teens the same stories of the past commanders. No one has ever tried, fought, and succeeded in joining the clans together, only Lexa. If Lexa dies, so does the coalition, and so does peace.

Abby shifts, her features hardening at the words as she turns to the councillor, "Marcus?"

"The kids are right," Marcus confirms, turning back around to face them. "I've seen the Ice Nation army. And we don't stand a chance against them. We need to do this."

"Mum," Clarke urges, "we don't have a choice."

The doctor turns back to the two best friends; her calculating eyes flicking between them for a moment.

"So we become the thirteenth clan," Abby proposes, clearly unhappy with the idea. "Then what?" Jasper tilts his head, glancing at his best friend as her steady hazel eyes lock onto Marcus'. "What's gonna stop the Ice Nation?"

A red eyebrow quirks up, her tone strong and sure, "Wanheda."

 

Myles' shoes make a loud and distinctive thunk with every step she makes. Her best friend walks by her side, approaching the doors to the throne room to commence the summit. Much like Roan had to get dressed, and Lexa will have had to change into something more… formal, both Arker teens had to as well. The redhead's getup is designed to demonstrate her 'power', and Jasper has dressed to be on her same level, showing that they are a package, sharing her 'power'.

Her dress is a deep, dark shade of green with a long and wide split up her right leg. The material is torn, having the fabric that flows lightly and elegantly down her left leg reach all the way down to her ankle, but the right side stops at her mid-thigh. When Lexa informed Myles that she was expected to wear a long dress, the redhead wanted to make sure that her loaded weapon straps on her legs and high boots were clearly visible. A heavy, stiff gold plate bodice hugs to her figure tightly, illustrating her tiny waist.

There are no sleeves on her dress; the only thing keeping it up and in place is the gold corset she wears on top of it. This is also by design, meant to showcase the weapon braces fully loaded with knives and ammo mags that cover her forearms, wrists and hands. Her corset has skinny shoulder pads attached, securing the bodice to her. On her back, the scars that taunt her with memories of her father are on display, and it's the first time in her life that she's using the marks as signs of strength instead of reminders of weakness.

Shin height thick leather boots with tuffs of decorative fur cloak her feet, the once black leather now splattered with tan and brown hues of discolouration. A thick heel is at the back of her shoes, roughly two inches high. They're short enough that, if she needed to, she could still fight easily, but tall enough to assert some kind of dominance. Straps and small sheath-like pouches wrap around her boots, ammo and knives tucked into their spots and clearly visible.

Jasper wears a long-sleeved blue shirt, but the material is only visible on his right side. On his left, a crisp and clean white sheet of fabric with a long sleeve fashioned in it covers his arm. The long, flowing white fabric wraps around his back and hangs along his right leg, reaching down to his shin. His own golden plate of armour sits lower than the redheads, acting more as a wide belt to keep the white fabric in place and show off some of his weapons.

Black, slightly baggy jeans that have been patched with several other shades of dark grey material with different textures cover his long legs. Several straps and small pouches for weapons have been sewn on with similar material, each slot holding a weapon. Old, rusty buttons and chains line some of the straps decoratively. Shin height flat boots cover his feet, but only the very bottom part of the shoes display the 200-year-old, weather worn leather. Ratty dark grey cloth covered in straps and braces full of his weapons cloak all but the toe and heel end of his boots.

His wrist and forearm weapon braces sit on top of his long sleeves, starting at the tips of his fingers and running all the way to his elbows. A strip of metal taken from a chunk of armours shoulder pad rests on his right shoulder. Rusty chain rains down from the metal on his front and his back, falling to the left to connect to the loaded weapon straps along his waist.

Their intentions are solely to steal the show. Myles has resigned herself to what's about to happen, and if it must be done, she will make damn sure everyone that needs to see it will have their eyes glued on them. She needs the black war paint covering both her and Jasper's eyelids and streaking in matching sharp and neat lines from the bottom of their eyes to their hairlines by their ears to be noticed. Needs the difficult braids in her short, shoulder length hair to be seen as the symbol that it is.

Rule number thirty-two: 'Act like you're supposed to be here, or you'll be eaten alive'.

The second the two guards at the throne room doors see the two Arkers turn the corner, they push the double doors open. A strip of red fabric lines from the door, down the middle of the room, right up the few steps to Lexa's throne, where she and Titus standing waiting.

Titus wears what all of the others in the room wear, typical warrior attire with over-exaggerated stereotypes of their clans. Azgeda has their ridiculous amount of white fur and stripes on their very thick and heavy clothes, Trigeda is wearing Earthy shades of brown with nets, strips of bark and dead plant life as decorative features. Sangeda have their tan coloured layers of sacks and ponchos with suns and small gold ornaments, Yujleda's clothes shimmy with long tassels and the braids of hair from their fallen warriors. Ouskejon are adorned with various jewels and crystals, Delphi with decorative strips of fabric and jewellery braided into their hair and very neatly made clothing. Trishana wear decorative dots on their faces with very modest and reserved outfits, Podakru is covered in small, round pebbles and shells that line their clothes. Ingranrona has the braids of their horses hair hanging from their belts and horseshoe-shaped tattoos, Boudalan both have rocks, stones and bits of old pipes all over their clothes for good luck. Louwoda Kliron proudly displays bright shades of red cloth draped and tucked into their simple and humbly plain clothes.

Lexa, on the other hand, wears a simple yet loud medieval-style dress that practically screams 'bow before me'. The top half of the garment is pitch black and has no sleeves, only thick straps holding it up. It falls in a 'v' shape, with a small sliver of deep red, the shade of Myles' hair, appearing and wrapping around her waist. Under the wide leather and gold plated belt that wraps tightly around her thin waist, the dress turns into the deep red material and falls down to completely cover her ankles. The silky, velvety material has two strips of the black wrapping around her hips before the red takes over.

Her typical black warrior paint is smeared across her eyes, the gold gear present on her forehead and her brown hair falling in complex braids. Black ink lines her right upper arm, three bands with repetitive lines wrapping halfway around her arm, a geometrical heart shape in the middle of all of them. It gives the illusion of two butterflies with their wings open, looking down at one from the top and the other from the front.

A blonde woman dressed up in a fancy outfit, a simple and elegant dress that's nothing like the rest of the warriors outfits starts singing the clan's anthem the second the doors open. All eyes of the clans ambassadors turn to the two Arker's entering, and they stay on them for the whole walk up to the thrones steps. The blonde woman wears a golden headband in the front of her hair to keep her beautiful curls from her face, but a small chunk is free and bounces as she sings long and full notes perfectly.

Jasper and Myles make it to the steps and slow to a stop while the woman starts the second verse, and both teens maintain their steady eye contact with the commander. Both stay standing there for a moment, only breaking eye contact to bow their heads respectfully when the singer reaches a high note. They both fall to their knees, bowing before the commander with their eyes on the floor and shocked movement flutters in the corner of the redhead's hazel eyes.

The brief, pessimistic thought that her high slit in her dress had made her flash them without her knowing crosses her mind, but she chooses to have faith that because Marcus didn't faint and Clarke and Jasper didn't have heart attacks, she should be good.

Neither teen moves a muscle, and, slowly, all of the ambassadors mimic the two Arker's, with Prince Roan being the very first to fall to his knee. Marcus, Abby and Clarke are the last to kneel, and everyone holds the position until the very end of the anthem. After the singing stops, Lexa addresses them to advise them to stand.

"Hail warriors of the twelve clans," the commander declares, her voice loud and strong.

"Hail Commander of the blood," everyone but Marcus, Abby and Clarke reply in unison.

"Rise," Lexa orders, and everyone does. Myles and Jasper step to the side, standing between the Podakru ambassadors and the Arkers. "We welcome Skaikru to our halls, in the spirit of friendship and harmony." Clarke steps to stand beside her two friends as the commander's loud voice bellows out, "and we welcome Myles and Jasper kom Skaikru, legendary Wanheda, Mountain Slayer, both Ghost People."

A loud snort bubbles up inside of Myles, and both Jasper and Clarke reach out to pinch her nose. Swallowing and sucking in her lips, her hazel eyes lock on Roan's brown, finally seeing a shred of amusement. Her red eyebrows wiggle at him jokingly, and her eyes go back to Lexa when her friends remove their fingers from her nose.

"The reason for this summit has changed," the commander informs them, and heads instantly snap around at the words. "We are not here to negotiate a treaty with the Skaikru, but rather to initiate them into the coalition."

The room is suddenly deafeningly, the utter silence that had fallen when the two best friends had entered being consumed with the clans noisy clamouring. Lexa lets the unrest simmer for a moment more before talking again.

"To symbolise this union," the commander announces, and the room goes silent. "The leader of Skaikru must bear our mark."

None of the Arkers in the room hesitate in turning to look at Marcus Kane, the obvious choice is shared among them all. Marcus' gaze sweeps over all of the Arkers and Abby shifts, hesitating before speaking.

"The honour," the doctor whispers, "should be yours."

Marcus pauses, before locking his eyes on Lexa's patiently waiting gaze.

The young woman nods, "present your arm."

A man appears from somewhere behind them, a metal rod with the coalitions infinity symbol in a circle on the end of it. It's burning bright red, the air above it quivering from the heat it's emitting. Obediently, Marcus rolls up his wrist sleeve, offering his forearm to the man.

Myles can't help clenching her jaw and flinching away from the sight as the sound of his pained grunt and his skin sizzling echoes in the quiet room. The stench of burnt flesh reaches her nose a second before the door to the throne room is kicked down.

Octavia Blake's grunt ricochets amongst them as she rushes in the room with her machete drawn and swinging threateningly towards the doors guards. Bellamy Blake drags in one of the guards from the hallway outside of the room, holding him to his chest with his gun to his head and Charles Pike with his gun held high behind him. Everyone jumps back in shock, but Myles takes a subconscious step forward, feeling Jasper step close to her.

"Bellamy?" Myles calls in disbelief, "what the fuck are you doing?"

The Blake brother's deep brown eyes swivel to her, and his expression softens ever so slightly, his gaze sweeping over her greedily.

"What is the meaning of this?" Titus demands, stepping forward to Lexa protectively.

"The summit's a trap," Bellamy's deep voice announces, throwing the guard in his arms to the ground. His eyes find Myles', and he steps towards her urgently. "I need to get you out of here."

Myles steps closer to him instinctively, "what the hell are you talking about? Lexa, what's going on?"

"I don't know," Lexa's furious voice rumbles, her hard eyes boring into Bellamy.

"It's the Ice Nation," the dark brown curly haired man accuses, his eyes as frantic as his hand gripping at Myles, like his hold on her could protect her.

Confusion spreads across Myles' face. Why would the Ice Nation plan an attack on the summit, if they were gonna be dicks earlier and get pushed off of the building? Wouldn't they just play along, wait until the attack to disavow the commander?

Myles shakes Bellamy's arm to get his attention, but the Azgeda ambassadors beat her to the punch.

"These allegations are an outrage," Ivon, one of the Azgeda delegates, fumes, "the Ice Nation never stormed this summit with weapons, breaking our laws, that was the Skaikru."

"Bellamy," the redhead tries, her eyes desperately pleading for him to stop pointing his gun at the man and listen. "You're wrong."

"We're right about this," Pike assures confidently, "the two guards you left behind are dead already." Myles' head spins with the information before coming to the only logical resolution. "We need to go now."

"No," Myles refuses, spinning to look at Lexa, "it's a diversion. Heda, there's no way the delegate earlier today could've known of an attack." Lexa's expression flickers with bewilderment, "he would've had no reason to pick a fight."

"What are you talking about?" Bellamy questions, his hold on his weapon faltering as his wide eyes implore Myles.

"How did you come by this information?" Lexa asks, her authoritative tone booming.

Bellamy's eyes are stuck on Myles' hazel, his weapon dropping down at the conviction in her eyes.

"Bell," the redhead's worried voice shakes, "you're the attack. Where were you?"

The Blake brother gets ready to answer, but before the first word can fall from his tongue, he flicks his gaze to the door and freezes. Doing a double take, the confident stance he had a second ago crumbles at the sight behind them. Octavia follows suit, her wide and horrified deep brown eyes whipping to Bellamy.

"Where the hell is Echo?" Octavia's voice wavers, her fearful expression bleeding into her words.

Echo? Who's Echo?

"Bellamy," Jasper urgently prods, his anxious jittering begging for the man's attention. "You're a distraction. Where were you?"

"Bell," the dark brown-haired girl remorsefully utters, "we were wrong about this."

"Bellamy," Myles calls, shaking his arm when all he does is stare at door vacantly.

"I don't understand," his gruff voice breathes out as Marcus approaches him.

The councillor yanks the gun from his hands and Bellamy can only stare at the men in horror, "stand down."

"Bellamy," Raven's desperate voice crackles across several walkie-talkies, including the ones on Myles and Jasper. "Bellamy, come in."

Bellamy looks down at his waist but doesn't shift to answer it, as if he can feel the message Raven's about to tell him.

"He's here, Raven," the redhead answers, pressing down the button on the device strapped to her arm. "What's happened?"

"The grounders attacked Mount Weather," the mechanic sobs over the radio, and the words have an effect on everyone in the room.

"Casualties?" Jasper enquires morosely, and Myles finally drags her eyes from the Blake brother to search out Marcus'.

The image of Monty and his mother dying with all the Farm Station survivors in a bloodbath flashing behind her hazel eyes.

"It's gone," Raven whimpers, and Myles feels numb all of a sudden, both her and Jasper reaching out blindly to steady each other. "It's gone. They're all gone, Sinclair and I are the only ones left. I'm so sorry. I'm so sorry."

Raven holds the button down, allowing her sobs to wrack through the room.

"Uncle Marcus," Myles' quiet voice calls, and the sound of her voice makes both Bellamy and Jasper's hands grip her arms tightly. "Who was in there?"

"Not Monty or Hannah," the councillor weakly supplies, and the redhead shuts her eyes in relief.

"You should have never moved your people back into Mount Weather," Ivon sneers, stalking forward to stand between the Arkers and Lexa. Myles' hand's grip Bellamy's arm, pulling him into her side to comfort the shaken man. "The Ice Nation did what Lexa was too weak to do."

"Oh, good god," Myles mutters, looking exasperatedly at Jasper, who slaps her chest at the phrase.

"This is an act of war," Lexa seethes, spitting the words out venomously and stepping down the few stairs to stand toe to toe with the man. "Sentries, arrest the Ice Nation delegation!" Immediately, two warriors come and snatch up the Azgedian and haul him from the room. "Including the Prince."

"Woah," the redhead drawls out in shock, ignoring Jasper's warning grip tightening on her arm to try to stop her from abandoning her spot with Bellamy to approach the commander. "He's been here the whole week. He didn't know."

"Friends of the enemy, Wanheda," the commander reasons, and Myles whips her head to share another pissed off look with her best friend.

"That one was low," Myles murmurs, allowing Jasper's alarmed hands to edge her away and Lexa follows. Her hazel eyes go to the other Arkers in the room, "you need to go home."

"If they attacked Mount Weather," Abby agrees, "Arkadia could be next."

"I agree," Marcus announces and Lexa approaches the group of Arkers.

"Go," the commander declares with finality, "marshal your forces. We'll avenge the attack together."

"Team work makes the dream work," Jasper seconds, and both him and Myles raise their hands to high five themselves.

"I'll escort them," Indra offers, guiding Abby and Octavia away. "I hope you kept up your training. You'll need it."

"What do we do now?" Clarke quizzes, flicking her gaze between the two best friends and Lexa.

"You go home," Jasper kindly urges with a shrug. "Team Ghost has handled things like this before."

"No, Aggie," Bellamy refuses, his deep brown eyes bright with worry as his hands try to pull Myles towards the door. "We need to leave. Now."

"We need the ambassadors from the thirteenth clan to stay here in Polis," Lexa informs him, watching the redhead try to pull away from Bellamy's frantic hands.

"You've got Jasper," the Blake brother insists, "it's not safe here for her."

"Bell," Myles assures him, tugging herself away from his hands. "I'll be fine. I'm with JJ."

"And she will be safe here," the commander asserts, "under my protection."

Marcus doesn't even try to argue with it, having seen how both she and Jasper work and trusting in them to stay safe. Exactly like they've done for the past three months.

"Aggie, Jasper," Clarke's worried voice tries, her blue eyes swimming with emotion. "Are you sure?"

There's an undertone to her voice that makes the question seem less about their safety, and more about her hesitation to trust Lexa.

"We'll make sure she keeps her word," the redhead verifies, and it hits the nail on the head.

"Okay," the blonde sags, flicking her still uncertain eyes to the commander.

"Heda," Titus calls, "we must convene the war council immediately."

Jasper hesitates, seeing Marcus and Bellamy still itching to say something more.

"I'll join you soon," Myles tells both him and a patiently awaiting Lexa, and it sets things into motion.

Lexa turns to follow her Flamekeeper out of the room and Jasper surges forward to hug Clarke.

"Be safe," the brown-haired teen tells the blonde, before pulling back to clap Bellamy on the shoulder. "Good to see you guys again."

Taking his departure as their cue, both Griffin's turn to walk through the door and Myles' hazel eyes linger on Pike. The former teacher is antsy, his hard and stony expression stuck scanning the grounders around them from the doorway, his hands twitching as if he expects a fight. His words from a week ago echo in her mind, 'grounder killers one and all'.

"You guys stay safe," Myles orders Marcus, the man missing her subtle glance and giving her a hearty chuckle in reply.

"I'm supposed to be telling you that," the councillor jibes, and Myles pulls him into a tight embrace. "Try not to do something that'll give me a heart attack."

"Rule number forty-seven," the redhead whispers low enough for only Marcus to hear, and it makes the councillor go rigid.

In her extensive list of rules, there are sections and groups of numbers that fall under a category. Jasper and her had the goal of the rules being their own code, giving several numbers multiple different rules to confuse anyone unfamiliar with them all. They all fall under category's, but the only important category to know and recognise is the forties. The forties are the only rules that don't have more than one rule to each number. They're only to be used in absolute emergencies, meant to be a deafening alarm to the recipients.

Rule number forty-seven: 'Wolves arrive in sheep's clothing'.

Marcus pulls back, and the redhead flicks her gaze to a disgraced Pike again, and this time the councillor receives the message loud and clear. Nodding and cupping her cheek for a moment, Marcus turns to leave after clapping Bellamy on the shoulder.

"Aggie," the Blake brothers pleads, his body shaking desperately as he gets as close to the girl as possible. "She left us to die on that mountain."

"She won't do it again," Myles states confidently.

"How can you be so sure?" Bellamy quizzes, his tone becoming frantic. "She will always put her people first."

"Because you're her people now," the redhead relays calmly, her red eyebrows turned up in a worried frown.

"No, we're not," the man insists, bringing his hands up to cradle her face. "You should come home to yours."

Myles lifts her hands to gently pry his hands from her cheeks, shaking her head sadly, "I'm so sorry." A heartbroken look crosses his face, and it crushes the redhead's heart. "I can't. I spent the last three months fixing shit like this. I need to stay."

"Please," Bellamy begs, his gruff voice quiet, "don't do this again."

"I have to," the red-haired teen justifies, her eyes soft with sorrow at the instant switch in his demeanour. He backs up, flinging his arms up slightly and dropping them frustratedly as he steps backwards slowly. "I'm sorry."

And with that, the Blake brother walks out of the door, disappearing into the hallway.

Chapter Text

Day 146 – Feb. 5

The handles of Myles' knives prod her ankles as her heavy leather boots march up the stairs in Polis, her and Jasper's hot and tall travel mugs squished between her side and right arm. Most of her fingers are hooked around three thick wooden handles of steaming mugs made from buffalo horns, the size of them so bulky that the third mug is only being held up because of the two others pressing against it. The fingers that aren't clinging onto the warm wooden handles are crushed into either each other or the warm and coarse texture of the horn-mugs. Stepping off of the last step to get to the floor she wants, the red-haired teen walks down the hallway instead of going up the next flight.

Immediately, the lone warrior standing guard in front of the door where the two Ingranrona ambassadors are staying the night perks up at the sight of her. A polite smile crosses over his sharp features, highlighting the small tattoos above the line of his carefully groomed facial hair.

"Eiii," the blonde man calls, relaxing his shoulders, "em komba raun. Chon bilaik ain?" [AN: "Ayyy, she's back. Which is mine?"]

"Ona twin," Myles answers tiredly, her mind still wracked from the events of the night before. "Sou wodaplei kom kodchuwellen, sha?" [AN: "In the middle. Dash of milk, yeah?"]

"Daun's ait," he confirms, carefully grabbing the mug clamped between the two others. "Mochof, Maiyls." [AN: "That's right. Thank you, Myles."]

"Pro," the redhead replies distractedly, her eyes on the two mugs in her hands as she slowly walks forward. Without the third cup there anymore, Myles feels unbalanced, like she's about to drop the rest of the cups any moment. Two more warriors slowly appear in the edges of her vision, "ait yo skat. Tu kom skap kodchuwellen, rasad thau shogon, lesad kom shogon." [AN: "You're welcome... Alright, boys. Two with half milk, right without sugar, left with sugar."]

"Spichen," one of the men exclaims jokingly, both of them taking their respective mugs appreciatively. "Yu beda na shak op kom osir, ai na hon disha in, foshou." [AN: "Goddamn. You should come live with us, I could get used to this."]

"Ba ha na ai kep yo in ona yo tipa?" Myles counters with a light smile, awkwardly grabbing her and Jasper's mugs from her elbow and continuing past them to reach the room where she and Jasper are staying. [AN: "But how will I keep you on your toes?"]

"Chof, Maiyls," the other man calls quietly, lifting his horn-mug up in a silent cheers. [AN: "Thanks, Myles."]

"Sha, pro," the redhead waves off, pushing her door open and tossing over her shoulder. "Osi'na nestaim." [AN: "Yeah, you're welcome. We'll see you later."]

Shutting the door behind her with her boot, Myles' hazel eyes find one of the two skinny beds in the room. One is unoccupied, the neatly hand-woven blankets straightened and made. The only signs that someone had slept in it is the slight crinkle in the wool-stuffed pillow and the miscellaneous junk piled on top of the side table. A few metres away is another skinny bed, this one with Jasper laying face down and sprawled across the scattered blankets with his arms out wide and his fingers on one side brushing against the floor.

Walking directly up to his bed, Myles sets her mug down on the edge of his side table. Using her now free hand, the redhead twists the top off of Jasper's and holds the steaming coffee under his nose for him to smell it. After a beat, her best friend's nose twitches before sniffing earnestly.

"Is that heaven I smell?" Jasper slurs out dramatically, his face trying to follow the mug over the side of the bed as Myles pulls it away to put the lid back on.

"As close as it gets," the red-haired teen sighs, watching the teen rub at his face and start to roll over. "Scoot."

Jasper obediently rolls onto his back and shifts to lie on the very edge of the skinny bed. Plopping down beside him, the redhead hands him his warm mug then reaches for her own.

"This bed isn't big enough for the two of us," the brown-haired teen grumbles halfheartedly into his mug before taking a huge mouthful.

Myles sighs heavily after taking a swig of her drink, "I miss Max."

"Dad'll take care of him," her best friend replies tiredly, rubbing at his face. "What time is it?"

"The sun isn't up yet," the redhead supplies dully. "I'd say almost six-ish."

"Aggiiiiieee," Jasper groans loudly, the sound vibrating through his side that the red-haired teen is pressed against on the small bed. "Why am I awake?"

"I'm awake," Myles answers simply, lifting a shoulder lazily. "And we need to talk."

Jasper rolls his head to look at her, "I wasn't the only that dreamt of that hellhole last night?"

"They must've given more marrow to the residents than we thought," the red-haired teen theorises, the cogs in her mind turning. "But why would the Ice Nation work with a mountain man? What could they possibly offer each other?"

"Does it matter?" Jasper scoffs indignantly, "none of them is innocent. They're all demonic, happiness-sucking vultures."

"Tell me how you really feel," Myles probes sarcastically, a red eyebrow raising as she looks down at her best friend.

"That place should've been blown up three months ago," the brown-haired teen insists heatedly, "why does it matter what motive the bastard had? Azgeda won't just let them live happily ever after. The fuck probably died the second after the self-destruct code was handed over."

"Okay, so…" the redhead drawls out thoughtfully, staring in front of her with furrowed brows. "Mountain-fuck is dead, and Azgeda gets their war, but how do they see themselves winning a war against the other twelve clans and automatic rifles? They wouldn't make such a bold move without a plan they're sure will work."

That gets Jasper to stop, his frustrated shifting ceasing against his best friend's side. It's silent, the air in the room becoming thick with the weight of the two Arker's heavy thoughts.

"It could be a triple-whammy," the brown-haired teen guesses distractedly, "triple diversion. First diversion is the army marching on Polis, the second is Echo drawing Bellamy to…" Jasper's voice trails off, causing hazel eyes to swivel to his far off brown. "Why did Echo draw Bellamy, Octavia and Pike away?"

"Intel, maybe?" Myles instantly offers, though the scenarios are still playing through in her mind.

"Arkadia," Jasper lists, "us and Indra are the only ones that have radios. It wouldn't've helped with the attack on Hell."

"Because it wasn't for the attack on Hell," the redhead explains, "it was to scope out Polis' defences and make sure Lexa knew of the attack straight away."

"You know what we should do?" Jasper asks after another dull moment of thinking. Myles rolls her head to him in acknowledgment. "Go home and build another extension."

"To... distract the Azgeda army when they come to take our land?" Myles counters slowly, patronisingly.

"No," her best friend refutes, "for dad. That way it gives us all privacy, and it's not tossing him to the wolves completely."

Myles waits a beat before adding hesitantly, "and it'll get him outta Greenie's room."

"Monty won't move in with us," Jasper huffs pessimistically, "he's happy with all them. Not having nightmares and pretending he's innocent." A red eyebrow quirks up subconsciously at the words, her mind recognising the step back he's taken. "I miss him."

"Yeah, I do, too," the redhead empathises, her shoulders sagging in relief at his words. "Maybe he can visit soon, once Ray's settled in his own room."

"Yeah," her best friend's bland and quiet voice cracks out. "Maybe."

 

"Ambassadors of the coalition," Lexa's loud and authoritative voice bellows out in one even tone. The commander sits on her throne with Titus standing by her side, the bright morning sun shining through the window behind them. "Today we honour our covenant." Myles' curious hazel eyes sweep over the seats that have the ambassadors sitting on them until they land on Roan's. The chained man's equally intrigued brown eyes meet hers, prompting an eyebrow twitch that he returns. "The clan that stands against one of us… stands against us all."

"Lid fingadon in," Titus calls to the warriors standing guard on either side of the door, gesturing to them with a 'come hither' motion. [AN: "Bring in the accused."]

Jasper and Myles' eyes lock, before the redhead flicks her head to look at the door, feeling her short ponytail brush against the back of her tall chair. Red hair that's too short to reach her ponytail and barely touches her shoulders swings through the air, gliding over the black hood that's stitched across the top half of her long-sleeved dark grey, form-fitting shirt and wraps around the top of her shoulders.

Trikru warriors enter as the guards open the door, one of their hands gripping an arm each of the Azgeda Queen. Her clothes match Lexa's in their quality and effectiveness, a light streak of dried deep red blood smeared across the fur on her right side is the only sign of imperfection. Long dirty blonde hair is braided and carefully pinned back in an elegant bun, and it's too complicated for the woman to have done by herself. Large facial scarring hooks around both of her eyebrows, the symmetrical pattern jagged and spiky, giving the impression of a crown of thorns.

Dull green eyes find Myles' hazel within seconds of the woman being brought into the room, her silent challenging gaze flicking between the two Arker's. Jasper straightens beside the redhead, but all Myles does in acknowledgement is hold her pointed stares and slowly raise an eyebrow. As she's brought past Roan, Myles can see the Prince's stunned expression at the sight of his mother in chains.

The queen never once takes her eyes off of the two Arker's until she passes them, and not a single person in the room says a word or makes a sound until she's brought right up to the commanders steps. Queen Nia is pushed to her knees once they've stopped, and her hard eyes are now stuck on Lexa.

"Queen Nia of Azgeda has confessed to the destruction of Mount Weather," Titus announces, and hazel eyes squint when they look to Roan, trying to gauge the authenticity out of his shocked reaction. "Resulting in the death of 49 members of Skaikru." The flamekeeper's dark gaze catches the redhead's. "Wanheda, what say you?"

All eyes in the room except for the Queen's and Jasper's also look to the red-haired teen as her strong voice doesn't wait a beat.

"Skaikru demands for justice," Myles answers, her eyes locked on the commander's.

"Azgeda nou badan disha goufo op nowe," Queen Nia snaps disdainfully, tilting her head to the Arkers. [AN: "The Ice Nation does not answer to these children."]

"Shof yu op," Titus immediately declares, glaring at the Queen and successfully shutting the woman up. "The punishment for your crime is death." Hazel eyes swivel to Roan, watching how his face shows hardly any sigh of grief, like he'd resigned himself to the fact already. Murmurs fill the room from the other ambassadors, and dread pumps through Myles' veins when she looks back at the Queen's confident posture. "Do you have anything to say in your defence?" [AN: "Silence."]

"I need no defence," the woman proclaims spitefully, glaring at the commander. "She does." Jasper and Myles lock eyes fleetingly in fear, "today is judgement day. I call for a vote of no-confidence."

Lexa doesn't even flinch, but the ice cold dread pumping through the two Arker's veins electrifies the two best friends. This is what Lexa had been afraid of, the clans unanimously voting for her to be too weak to be commander.

"Take this Queen to meet her fate," Titus demands, pointing at the woman and gesturing to the door.

Two guards step towards her but the woman is calm, and the ambassador for Trishanakru stands from his seat.

"Slou yu rou daun," the old man orders as he rises, "nou Heda noumou." [AN: "Not so fast. Commander no longer."]

"Nou Heda noumou," a Sangedakru ambassador seconds, standing up. [AN: "Commander no longer."]

Ambassadors continue to rise, repeating the same phrase and Titus gestures to them angrily, "take them away, too!"

Guard's grip at the Queen's arms, and surround the delegates when Lexa's voice bellows, "hod op." [AN: "Wait."]

Titus crouches down to desperately plead with the commander, but the young woman merely raises a hand.

"Let her make her move," the commander declares with determined finality.

Quickly, every clan ambassador besides the two Arker's stands, the same phrase being echoed by them all. Roan does not shift, but the other representative from his clan does, standing in unison with the rest. Myles and Jasper's panicked eyes shoot around the faces.

"Heda," Jasper calls, his tone filled with a worried warning as Roan finally stands. "This was her plan."

"It's a coup," Lexa agrees, her usual slow speech emphasised by her dark tone.

"It's the law," Queen Nia's harsh voice corrects, her dull green eyes pinning both teens with a bitter look. "Her law. A unanimous vote of the ambassadors or death are all that can remove a commander from power."

"Sucks to be you, then," Jasper quips instantly, getting a sharp look from the woman.

"It's not unanimous," Myles informs the Queen, her tone matching the commander's slow and dull voice.

"We don't recognise the legitimacy of Skaikru," Queen Nia denounces loudly, her eyes looking the two up and down condescendingly.

"We do," Titus interjects strongly, stepping down to stand on the Queen's level. "Yesterday, Skaikru took the brand. They are the thirteenth clan. This vote of no-confidence fails. All these coup plotters will suffer the exact same fate as the Ice Queen."

The ambassadors heads snap to each other in shock before the Queen settles their nerves.

"She won't take our heads," the Ice Queen announces, "because she knows our armies will retaliate. None of us here wants war."

"We both know what you want, Nia," the commander's strong voice rumbles out authoritatively. Lexa stands from her throne, stepping down the few steps of her platform to approach the woman. "If you think me unfit to command, issue the challenge and let's get on with it."

Red eyebrows quirk in confusion, and Jasper turns to her, but she has no answers for him. Neither one of the two teens have heard of a 'challenge' being issued in place of a no-confidence vote.

"Very well," the woman agrees, her voice as icy as her clan's land, "you are challenged."

"And I accept your challenge," Lexa answers straight away, earning several whispers around the room.

Hazel eyes jut to Roan, as if he could somehow shed some light on the subject. The man appears to be just as surprised by the turn of events as them, watching the scene with a strange detachment.

"So be it," Titus addresses the room, "soulou gonplei." Myles' lungs release a quick breath in a huff of shock, and Jasper snaps his head to her. "Warrior against warrior. To the death. Nia of Azgeda, who do you choose to be your champion?" [AN: "Single combat."]

Myles snaps her head to Roan, feeling even more dread rile up inside of her.

"My son," the woman declares without hesitation, "Roan. Prince of Azgeda."

The blatant shock and betrayal that flashes across the prince's face is undeniable. She's blindsided him, and the redhead can't help but see her father's short black hair and the scar through his eyebrow on the Queen's face now. A warped sense of fear trickles through her veins, either Roan dies and this war will be over, or he wins and it's only the beginning of a new Hell.

"Heda," Titus directs his attention to the commander. "Who will fight for you?"

Lexa, ever-collected, calmly turns and steps up the stairs to sit on her throne. Once she's seated, her hard eyes tell Myles exactly what's about to happen.

"Ai na," Myles replies, her low tone shaking the floor. [AN: "I will."]

"Are you crazy?" Jasper snaps under his breath, his brown eyes wide and petrified as his hand clamps down on Myles' forearm. "There has to be another way."

"No," Lexa utters strongly, "ai laik Heda. Non na throu daun gon ai." [AN: "No. I'm the commander. No one fights for me."]

Titus turns slowly, his terrified eyes locking on the two Arker's.

 

Jasper and Myles' two boots march down the Polis hallway to reach the commander's throne room again. Both teens are on edge, having just spoken to Marcus and Abby about the Mount Weather memorial and election for Chancellor they're having today. If they never hear the words 'Mount Weather' again, it'll still be too soon.

"What if he hasn't done it?" Jasper frets, breathless from anxiety and scaling the flights of stairs again. "Then what?"

"I don't know," Myles grunts out, "pick up shop and move across the country? There has to be grounders over there that aren't constantly at war."

Nodding at the two guards standing on either side of the throne room doors, both instantly push the doors open for the two teens.

"… chit bilaik thri bakon gon Heda?" Lexa asks the seven children sitting on the steps under her throne. [AN: "What are the three pillars of being a commander?"]

The commander's warrior outfit from before is completely gone, the young woman only wearing a black see through lace, long-sleeved shirt over a black tank top and black leggings. Her hair is tied back in the half-up ponytail with braids littered throughout and her black war paint is no longer smeared across her face, making the small gold gear on her forehead the last remaining identifying factor of a commander.

"Noun," a young boy answers confidently, and the two Arker's silently step towards Titus. [AN: "Wisdom."]

"Fiyanes," a girl supplies, before falling quiet again. [AN: "Compassion."]

"En uf," another child finishes. [AN: "And strength."]

"You manage to talk her out of it yet?" Jasper enquires lowly, the question meant for the man's ears only.

"No," he regretfully informs them, not turning to look at them, "but maybe you two can."

"This is fucking insane," the redhead huffs quietly, "the Queen doesn't have to fight, why does she feel like she has to?"

"The Queen's strength is not in doubt," Titus divulges wisely, finally turning to meet their eyes for the first time since they've walked in. "Thanks to your people, Heda's is."

"Lev yo op meija en mema yo in," the commander tells the children, "Yo gada yo rein in kom yo Sheidjus." [AN: "Train hard and remember, you are each worthy of your Nightblood."]

Titus takes this as his cue, stepping forward and clapping once, "Natblida." Every child stands and they instantly form a line in front of the Flamekeeper. "Mafta ai op." [AN: "Nightbloods. Follow me."]

Obediently, all seven children calmly and quietly follow the man to the door, and Lexa stands from her throne.

"Aden," the commander calls to a young blonde boy near the back of the line, stepping down the steps. "Stay." Lexa's eyes find the two Arker's, "Myles, Jasper, this is Aden." Both best friends step forward to them with polite smiles and small nods in greeting. "Aden is the most promising of my novitiates. If I should die today, he will likely succeed me." The words get an instant reaction out of the two teens, Jasper straightens visibly and Myles' left arm tremors violently. A kind smile graces the usually stoic commander's face as she turns to the young boy, "they worry about their people. Tell them what will happen to them when you become Heda, Aden."

"If I become Heda," Aden addresses the two Arker's, his tone unwavering but his already grieving eyes tell a story of how much the boy cares for his teacher. "I pledge my loyalty to the thirteenth clan."

"Mochof, Adin," Myles vows, trying to ignore the dread that the conversation leaves in her bones. "Oso na otaim gran klin gon bilaik gudenof, you." [AN: "Thank you, Aden. We will strive to always earn that."]

Lexa's chin tips up, a bright look blazing away in her brown eyes, "Thank you. Now, go join the others."

Aden bows down, before turning and walking around the two best friends to leave. Myles and Jasper's eyes stay on him, watching him go with the same fearful expressions of their faces. If this is what it's like having a young woman in charge, how could they ever possibly put a child in the middle of a never ending war path? Have a young boy be the centre of any and all enemy attention?

"See?" Lexa breathes airily through a smile, "nothing to worry about."

"Sorry," Jasper grumbles out, turning away from the door to face the commander, but Myles' hazel eyes remain glued to the shut doors the boy exited out of. "Having the fate of our people in the hands of a child doesn't really settle any nerves. That isn't even the tiniest bit worrying to you?"

"Where are his parents?" Myles inquires, finally turning to look at the young woman.

Brown eyes flick between the two teens, "if that's what you're worried about, you worry for nothing."

"Doesn't matter," the redhead amends, levelling the commander with a stubborn look. "You're not dying today. We need a strong and experienced leader to walk us through this, for both our people, or there will be no one left for Aden to be commander over."

"I've sent Indra to raise an army from the villages near Arkadia," the commander informs them, and the weight on the two teens' shoulders shifts. Over the last three months, they haven't just given supplies to Arkadia, but they've built up a rapport with the villages around them. Lexa turns as she continues, "your people are protected, as I vowed they would be."

"It's not just about our people," Jasper corrects, following the commander up to her throne.

"We care about your people," Myles finishes when the young woman turns back to face them. "And you. I've seen Roan fight."

"You've never seen me fight," Lexa counters confidently, and the soft and respectable expression on her face twists into something sour.

"We haven't," the brown-haired teen agrees, "but the way he handled the Azgeda scouts on the way here… you don't stand a chance."

"If you're right," the commander proclaims as a flutter of an idea wiggles its way into Myles' mind, "today's the day my spirit will choose its successor and you need to accept that."

"Like hell we do," Jasper snaps, stepping forward urgently. "I'm not losing another friend."

"JJ," Myles whispers, reaching a hand out to rest on his arm. Her best friend's brown eyes look to her hazel. "We might not have to."

 

Myles stealthily slips through Polis' markets, her black hood up and cloaking her head. Her cautious and purposeful steps steer clear of the group of guards escorting the Queen and her son through the streets, but her eyes never leave them. Every turn they make is anticipated, and quickly followed up by one of her own, slinking in the shadows of the Capitol. They weave around handcrafted structures, heading to a clearing with nothing in it but the pale solid concrete floor for a radius of a couple metres.

The small group halts when they get to it, and the woman exchanges heated words with her son before holding her chained hands up. One guard places a sheathed sword in her outstretched and awaiting hands as another unshackles Roan's. Queen Nia offers the weapon to her son, but Roan doesn't take it, only diverts his eyes to the ground. More words are uttered by the woman, and whatever she says must stir something inside of the reluctant man, because he grips the handle of the long blade and yanks it from its sheath.

Queen Nia walks off with the guards, and Myles stays in the shadows with her hood up, leaning on the edge of a handmade wooden stall around the clearing. Roan turns away from where his mother walks, taking on a predatory posture as he swings and spins the weapon expertly around is his hands. Myles pushes off of the building she was leaning against, sauntering up quietly behind the distracted man's back. When she's only a couple feet away, the red-haired teen stops as she sees his head twitch to the side.

Expectantly, with one last impressive twirl, Roan spins around in place and holds the sword's tip to Myles.

"Is that death I hear stalking me?" Roan questions rhetorically, and the redhead pulls her hood down. "Or just the Commander of Death?"

"Some say they're one and the same," Myles retorts blandly, not flinching back from the man's sharp weapon pointing at her face.

After another quiet moment, the Prince drops his sword down and turns away, "I need to prepare."

"That's why I'm here," the redhead insists, stepping forward and holding her hands up in surrender. "Come at me."

"I thought you were done fighting," Roan presses gruffly, a halfhearted scoff falling from his lips.

"Oh, come on, Azgeda," Myles taunts, taking another step towards the man with a slouched and predatory stance. "You've gotten boring."

No sooner than the last syllable is past her rosy lips, the Prince juts towards her, swiping his long sword through the air to slice at her. His movements aren't as fluid as Myles knows they can be, and there's a reluctant stutter in his motions, like he's only doing it to scare her and is already preparing to stop before the sharp blade is anywhere near her. The redhead ducks and slides to the side the swinging sword came from, shooting back up to hook her arm around the blade, close to the handle.

Her intentions aren't to hurt the man, and she only applies enough pressure on his wrist with her other hand to pinch at his muscles and get him to drop his hold on the weapon. The sword clatters to the concrete, and the Prince makes no more moves at the girl. Myles instantly steps back and let's go of his wrist once the weapon falls from his grip, and the teen bends down to pick it up.

"You're holding back, your highness," the redhead states, holding the swords handle out to him and quirking a red eyebrow with their stubborn gazes locked. "Come at me."

"You didn't come here to fight," Roan barks out accusingly, snatching the sword from her hands. "Spit it out!"

Myles doesn't answer, only holds her arms out wide with her empty palms open in a show of 'come and get me'. Roan huffs frustratedly before twisting the sword around with a flick of his wrist, charging at the red-haired teen. Lifting the weapon up high, the Prince swings the blade down and Myles jumps to the side before quickly dipping her shoulder to lean back to the right when Roan jabs the blade towards her. When he juts the weapon forward, his whole body sings with him, following the movement with one foot subtly stepping towards her. Using this slightly closer proximity to her advantage, Myles shoves her hand against the flat edge of the blade above her leaning form as she immediately bounces back up to stand up straight and lifts a leg to give enough of a push to the man's hip to force him back another step.

Breathing a sadistic laugh, Myles repeats his words from their 'adventure' a week prior, "now, that's more like it."

Roan lets out a harsh breath in disbelief, shaking his head before barreling forward again with his sword swinging up. The red-haired teen leans back as she jumps to the left, lifting both her hands to twist and flick at his sword-wielding arm to use his momentum to change his direction. He's caught on now, and as his body continues rushing into the empty air, he flicks out his ankle to trip her.

Falling on one knee, Myles is just about to use the foot still firmly planted on the concrete to propel her upwards when the prince swings around and stops with the cold metal of his sword lightly brushing against the pale skin of her neck. A smile spreads across the redhead's face, and her brightly shining hazel eyes are locked on his torn brown, as if he's fighting with himself and not the Arker. The look in his eyes makes the smile and alight glint in her own expression fade.

"It's better," Myles jokes, feeling the weight of his anguish sit upon her shoulders as she stands up. Roan pulls his sword away, looking at the ground distractedly. "Not great, but better."

This gets a sarcastic huff of a laugh from the prince, "alright. You like talking. Talk. What do you want?"

"When," the redhead starts haltingly, shifting on her feet and diverting her eyes. "When you unstrapped my weapons… you saw – "

"The scars," Roan answers, finishing her sentence for her.

Hazel eyes snap back up to his, "They're not like yours or... kill marks."

"They looked like battle scars," the prince offers instead, his brown eyes filled with confusion. "They're old. You've been fighting battles since you were a child."

"Yes and no," Myles awkwardly supplies, "it… was more like a one-sided battle. He fought, and I took it, because that's what I needed to do to survive."

"Why are you telling me this?" Roan quizzes, his frustrated confusion only deepening with every word the Arker says.

"Because," the red-haired teen drawls out awkwardly, her eyebrows turning up in a frown, "when your mother said your name, I saw the look on your face. I didn't see you and your mother anymore, I saw me and my father." Roan stays quiet, but his eyes flick between hers, and she continues. "I want to do something, but I can't without telling you first."

"You're going to take Heda's place," the prince guesses, his body going rigid and something strange flittering through his dark expression.

"I think she's a tad bit too prideful for that," Myles admits softly with a sad smile, taking a deep breath. "How much does Michi like your royal title?"

"What?" Roan barks, anger twisting up his features. "You want me to denounce my family? My people would never take me back."

"I don't want that," the redhead tries to appease. "I want you to become king." That makes the man still again, his eyes imploring the Arker with silent questions that she doesn't answer, instead doubling down on her offer. "I've seen the heart of a true king, one who's not just good but great. You have that."

"You want to kill her?" Roan enquires, his empty tone losing the harshness it had held a moment ago.

Nodding regretfully, "if you win, this war will never be over. And if Lexa wins, the Coalition will be pitted against Azgeda. I…" dropping her eyes for a second before finding his again. "I don't know if it's the right thing to do, or if there even is a right thing to do, but I trust that you know your people enough to tell me if it isn't."

Roan holds her eyes for a silent moment, the idea being turned over in his head, "how?"

"I can get close," Myles offers, as if that answers his question.

"She won't be alone," the prince discloses, "she never is... but I can help you do it."

 

It's midday now, the time is passing far too quickly for Myles' liking. The sound of her boots walking down the hallway of Polis' prison cells is slower than her anxious heart-rate, and her left sleeve is predominantly taking over her mind. What she's about to do isn't lost upon her, and if she's being completely honest, the redhead hasn't fully thought it through. Somehow, both she and Jasper keep finding themselves stuck in these positions where there's little to no time, and all they can do is act.

Both rules for number thirty-two echo in her mind. Rule number thirty-two: Anyone can die. Rule number thirty-two: Act like you're supposed to be here, or you'll be eaten alive. Rule thirty-two. Rule thirty-two.

What's a little more blood?

Coming to the very end of the hallway, two guards watch over the door to the Queen's much larger cell, and the redhead slows to a stop. Her posture is calm and straight, giving her an air of confidence and authority that she's sure she shouldn't ever have. The men's eyes watch her, but it's the red-haired teen that speaks first.

"Slak dei door," Myles' loud voice orders when her feet still, adding after a moment of nothing happening. "Beja." [AN: "Open the door. Please."]

"Azplana don biyo nou hangon," one man replies gruffly, neither one moving for the door. [AN: "The Ice Queen said no visitors."]

A red eyebrow lifts impatiently, "kei, yu na tel du op Wanheda gaf telon in." [AN: "Well, you go tell her ('du' is derogatory/sarcastic) that the Commander of Death wants a word."]

The men look at each other before turning and pushing the door open for the Arker. Myles saunters in after the guards, eyeing the Queen's setup. She is eating lunch on a table that none of the other cells have. A young woman with dark brown hair that reaches her armpits and the decorative facial scars of someone from Azgeda tends to the woman's meal. The white and raised scars over her young face stretch across the entirety of her forehead, falling down past both of her eyebrows and lining her cheeks with straight lines that cross over the bridge of her nose. One of her arms is behind her back, the other pouring a drink into the Queen's cup from a large pitcher.

Neither look up from the Queen's meal when they enter, only acknowledging them when one of her guards speaks.

"Wanheda kom Skaikru," the guard introduces her presence, and both of the women look up at her. "Ai Haiplana." [AN: "Wanheda of the Sky People, my Queen."]

Myles walks past the guard, who only stops a few steps into the room before turning back around. Queen Nia shares a pointed look with the young woman standing beside her table, and the brown-haired girl sets down the pitcher to walk over to a wall to the redheads left. The red-haired teen doesn't stop slowly approaching the woman until she reaches the other side of the Queen's table, and it's only then that the woman speaks.

"To what do I owe the pleasure?" Queen Nia inquires blandly, looking at the Arker expectantly.

"What if Jasper and I changed our vote?" Myles' strong voice counters, and Nia tips her head with intrigue.

"Now you're thinking like a leader of your people," the Queen praises, a small smile on her thin lips as she twists a piece of flat bread and a knife around in her hands.

Myles takes this as acceptance and walks around the table to the woman, "I would need some assurances first."

"Skaikru will be safe," the woman pledges, dropping the bread onto a plate.

"And me?" Myles presses, her boots stopping to stand a few steps away from the Queen.

"My quarrel is with Lexa," Nia informs her in a sharp tone, "not you." The Queen stabs the knife she holds in her hand into the wooden table, looking up at the redhead with her angry dull green eyes. "Once she's gone, I won't need the power of Wanheda."

Hazel eyes jut to her left for a second, trying to see the brown-haired young woman standing against the wall in her peripherals.

Returning her gaze to the Queen, "Okay."

"Okay?" Queen Nia repeats in disbelief, her expression is stoic and frozen, but her eyes shine with uncertainty. "You don't want vengeance for the dead at Mount Weather?"

"I make sure to keep my priorities with the living," the red-haired teen deadpans unwaveringly, "and not with the dead." Reaching forward without breaking the eye contact with the woman, Myles yanks the knife from the table. "Oso tai choda op kom jus." [AN: "We bind ourselves in blood."]

Lifting the blade, Myles slices her own palm open, watching as deep red blood the shade of her hair bubbles and pools from the wound. The Queen's eyes watch her, lighting up with pride and joy at the action.

"I see you've learned our oath," Queen Nia states as the redhead pulls the blade from her hand.

Myles wipes each side of the blade on the sleeve of her left wrist before stabbing the weapon back into the table.

"Do you accept?" Myles asks, holding her bleeding hand up and waiting for the Queen to make her move.

The Queen stands, walking around the corner of the table to stand directly in front of Myles. Her dull green eyes stay locked on the redheads hazel, and she pulls the blade from the wood.

"Oso tai choda op kom jus," the woman repeats, her gaze unwavering as she lifts the knife and brings it to her palm.

"Hod op!" The brown-haired young woman calls out urgently, and Myles whips around to see the woman charging for her. [AN: "Stop!"]

She's quick, but Myles is quicker. Her hands grip at Myles' shirt, shoving her backwards towards the table, and the redhead reaches for the brunettes shoulder to fling her arm into her own chest. They both stumble, grunting as they struggle for the upper-hand. Myles shoves her knee up into the young woman's stomach and uses the brief bout of breathlessness it gives her to pull two of her knives and hold them to the woman's throat.

Strangely, the brunette stops struggling, and it takes a second to register to Myles that she is sniffing at her wrists. Hooking her ankle around one of the young woman's, Myles swipes the foot out from under her and the brunette goes crashing to the floor. She catches herself on the table, flinging an arm up and throwing Myles' back down on the table with one hand on her throat and the other on one of her wrists. The redhead drops the knife in her bleeding left hand, the wound stinging painfully from holding the weapon.

"Feisbona," the brunette sneers to her queen, and Myles kicks both of her legs up, one boot lands on the young woman's shoulder and she kicks the girl away from her. [AN: "Poison."]

"We could've been allies, Myles," Queen Nia asserts, wiping the blade off on a scrap piece of cloth and stepping to stand in front of the redhead still half lying across the table. The brunette is back in front of her now, and even though Myles hasn't moved, she leans across to lean both hands on her chest to keep her pinned to the wood. "But instead, I declare you and your people enemies of Azgeda. Ontari, hold out your hand." Ontari, the brunette, immediately obeys, and the Queen slices her palm open. "I'm letting you live, for now, to send a message to Lexa."

Queen Nia squeezes Ontari's bleeding hand above Myles' face, thick, warm black blood raining down on her skin. A Nightblood. How does she have a Nightblood?

"I have my own Natblida," Nia gleefully tells her, continuing to let the black blood spray all over the redhead's face. "And she will be the next commander." [AN: "Nightblood."]

 

Jasper and Titus poke and prod at the dried blood on her face, Titus in order to check its authenticity and Jasper out of sheer bewilderment. They've both heard stories of Nightbloods, people born with black blood, but they've never actually seen their blood. All of their commanders have always had Nightblood, a very rare genetic trait that only those destined to compete for the role of Heda have.

"Cool," Jasper huffs a laugh as Titus steps away, rubbing some of the dried liquid between his fingers.

"A commander from the Ice Nation," Titus grovels, walking over to the commander. "Now all of Nia's provocations make sense. And we played right into it."

"She knew you'd accept her challenge," Myles states, dread pumping through her veins. "If Roan doesn't kill you, she'll never stop until there's another Conclave."

"All the other Nightbloods are kids," Jasper remorsefully adds, catching Lexa's brown eyes as both best friends walk up to them. "They don't stand a chance against a fully grown and trained Azgeda warrior."

"It cannot be changed," the commander informs them, "goes back to the first commander. It's why when a Nightblood child is found, they're brought here to be trained fairly. Or supposed to be."

"Your legacy is no longer secure," a fretful Titus urgently warns, "there is still time to choose a champion. Wanheda is a great war-"

"You know I can't do that," Lexa snaps, walking past her Flamekeeper to cross the room.

"Heda – " the bald man tries again, unsuccessfully.

"Leave us," the commander booms out, her hard voice shaking the room.

Titus gives one last worried look to the two Arker's before turning on his heel and storming out of the room. Hazel eyes watch Lexa stop walking, staring at the wall across from her. The redhead's mind spins and whirs wildly, desperately playing through scenarios and thinking through what she could possibly do.

"Lexa," Jasper calls, walking up to the brunette and staring at her worriedly. "She's got you cornered."

"I can kill her," Myles blurts, and Jasper snaps his head to his best friend. "I can shoot her from a distance."

"No," the commander replies simply, not bothering to turn around and face the redhead.

"You are giving her exactly what she wants," the brown-haired teen raises his voice, his nerves getting the best of him.

"Only if I lose," Lexa counters harshly, turning around to face the teens. "I know you're just trying to help, but there's nothing you two can do here."

"I'm not going to just let you die," Myles bites out, watching the young woman walk even further away. "There are people here who need you."

"If that is to be my fate today," the commander declares, spinning around to look at the redhead. "You must. You're driven to fix everything for everyone, but you can't fix this. I have to do this on my own, and you two have to let me."

"What if we can't?" Jasper retorts, flinging his arms up. "What if we're tired of losing our friends? What if it's us that need you?"

Lexa doesn't say anything, her eyes flicking between the two best friends in front of her. Footsteps echo behind them, and the commander's eyes leave theirs for a moment as the repetitive sounds get closer and closer.

"Heda," Titus announces, his tone downtrodden and defeated. "Taim don kom op." [AN: "Commander. It's time."]

Myles' eyes slip shut and her shoulders drop at the words. They've run out of time.

"Then," Lexa proclaims softly, "this is goodbye. For now."

The commander marches down the strip of red carpet that lines from her throne to the door, walking through the doorway and out into the hall with Titus and the guards following her. Myles and Jasper both heave a heavy sigh, looking at each other in despair.

"We're so fucked," Myles whispers fearfully, "should I just kill the bitch, anyway?"

"No," her best friend breathes, pulling off his glove to lift his hand and lick his thumb to scrub off some of the dried black blood still covering Myles' delicate features. "We need to trust that she knows what she's doing."

 

Drums bang and people chatter noisily, the sound deafening. Myles and Jasper sit in the seats designated to Skaikru among the other clan delegates, Titus standing on the platform in front of them. On the concrete ground in front of the platform are Roan and Lexa, waiting for battle. Titus flings his arms up, holding his palms out and Myles' hazel eyes glance from him to Queen Nia sitting behind him as silence falls upon the Capitol.

Hundreds, if not thousands, of people stand in a large crowd around the two about to battle. Eager eyes flicking around quickly, trying to take it all in. When Myles turns her gaze back to what's happening in front of her, Jasper taps her leg.

"Nightbloods are on the right," the brown-haired teen mumbles quietly to her, and the redhead instantly snaps her head to search them out.

Sure enough, Aden sits among the seven Nightbloods Lexa had been training this morning, their worried gazes fearfully watching the commander and prince.

"Hashta soulou gonplei," Titus' loud voice bellows out for the crowd to hear, and Myles looks back to Lexa and Roan. "Bilaik won hedon noumou: du souda wan op deyon!" The crowd cheers loudly, and Titus lifts his hand to signal to the commander and Roan. "Yo na jomp in." [AN: "In single combat, there is but one rule: Someone must die today! You may begin."]

Titus sits down in the chair behind him, a huge drawing of the Trikru sigil on the tattered banner above him. Every other clan ambassador but Indra and Roan are in their seats with their symbols above their heads, lining the stage and watching with front row seats of the brutal battle that's about to begin.

Roan pulls a sword from the sheath a guard holds out to him, and the crowd cheers again. The prince looks at his mother scornfully, the white war paint accentuating his dark expression. Before the man turns away from the stage, he meets the redheads hazel eyes and quickly looks away again. Lexa marches over to a guard, handing him the shoulder piece with red velvet fabric raining down that she wears and yanks her own sword from him. The crowd screeches in excitement, and the commander meets the Arker's eyes with a reassuring nod.

The prince of Azgeda barrels towards Lexa, and she turns when he's only a second from her, catching his sword with hers. Sliding her sharp blade down his, the commander twists her whole body around and slices across Roan's back as he passes her. Roan is where Lexa stood now, looking up at Myles and Jasper's horrified and worried expressions before turning back to attack Lexa. The commander strikes with her blade three times; the Prince catching each one with his sword and matching her skilled and swift twirls and twists.

Lexa is pushing Roan back, his feet taking small steps backwards with each blow he catches, until his feet firmly plant on the ground. He catches the commander's blade that swipes up by slamming his down on top, and they're at a standstill. Roan's tall and strong muscles pushing down with all his might almost overpowers Lexa, forcing her arms to shake as she tries to push up against him. The commander falls to her knees, but her blade hasn't left his yet.

Roan's mouth moves with words too quiet and far away for the Arker's to hear from the stage, and Myles grips Jasper's hand tightly, earning a tight grip back. Suddenly, Lexa grips his blade with her hand, black blood spilling onto the concrete below them as she forces the weapon up. The handle of Lexa's sword catches the prince in the chin as his momentum slackens and hers doesn't, sending the man sprawling backwards while she flies back up to her feet. He catches himself when he stumbles, correcting his stance and swinging his sword to the commander.

The commander meets his strike and ducks down to avoid his second one, but his grip catches her bleeding hand. Roan's knee slams into Lexa's back, sending her dropping to the concrete. Myles clenches her jaw as Lexa swings her sword up only for the prince to smack her wrist down roughly. The sword clatters on the ground and Roan kicks it away when her hands reach for it again. On her hands and knees, the commander slams her fist into Roan's knee, bringing him down to the ground and gripping his head to slam her knee up and into his chin with a loud roar.

Snatching his sword from his falling form and quickly running to pick up hers, Lexa twirls them around menacingly in the air before taking on a battle stance. Staggering to his feet, Roan rushes up to a guard and punches him in the face to steal his spear. Doing his own spin tricks with the weapon, the two approach each other, their blood splattering in scattered drips all over the old white concrete. Swinging the blade end of the spear at Lexa's head with a guttural battle cry, the commander ducks down and rushes to the side to avoid the blow.

Lexa swings at him with both swords, spinning and twirling with each blow he catches to aid with her momentum. Roan backs up with each strike of the two swords, meeting them with his spear until his spear is caught between Lexa's two swords. They stay like that for a second, before he swipes his blade up one of hers, jerking it from her hand. The commander swipes at him with the other sword, but Roan catches it, knocking it from her hands as well.

In the corner of Myles' hazel eyes, Titus rises from his seat in panic as Roan kicks Lexa square in the chest. The force of the blow sends the young woman flying back a metre before she hits the concrete. Titus drops back into his seat, defeated, and Myles' hand starts to go numb from squeezing and being squeezed so hard. The screeching crowd becomes alight with shocked murmurs, everyone craning to get a view.

Roan stomps up to the young woman as she lay flat on her back, flicking his wrist to toss his spear up in the air and catch it again, pointing it at the commander. The prince puts the spear's blade to her neck before pulling it back up to jab it down into her throat. Lexa rolls away, the blade only catching a chunk of her long brown hair as it makes contact with the concrete. Swinging her legs around, Lexa catches Roan's knee and knocks him down onto his back.

They're both instantly scrambling to their feet, the Prince swiping his spear at the commander who ducks it completely. Roan stabs forward and Lexa catches it under her arm, slamming her fist into his arm to force him to drop his grip on the weapon. Turning the weapon on the prince, the commander slices into his leg and brings him to his knees before smashing the butt of the spear into the man's face.

When all that does is get his head dizzily smacked backwards, Lexa slams it into him again, this time up from under his chin. The force throws Roan back onto the ground, and the commander advances, standing over his fallen form and holding the blade end of the spear to his neck. Queen Nia stands from her seat.

"Gyon op!" Queen Nia's furious and gruff voice shrieks out, "taim yu wan op, taim yu nou na wan op kom Hainofa! Yu wan op kom bushhada!" [AN: "Get up! If you die, you don't die a Prince! You die a coward!"]

"Jok yu!" Myles screeches angrily, standing up and tearing her hand away from Jasper's. [AN: "Fuck you!"]

"Chit yu don biyo?" Ontari squawks, matching the redheads furiously screwed up delicate features and stepping around the back on the Queen's chair to approach the Arker's. [AN: "What did you say?"]

Jasper flies from his seat, his hands pulling at Myles to calm her down and keep her away from the brunettes aggressive advancing.

"Yu don sen ai-" the red-haired teen argues, before cutting herself off when she sees Queen Nia get pinned to her seat with a spear behind Ontari. [AN: "you heard m– "]

The crowd is in an immediate uproar, shocked screaming and cheering erupting deafeningly all around them. Ontari spins around, and the sight of her queen dead shakes her to her core, and Myles' hazel eyes search out Roan. He's still lying on the ground, but he's definitely not dead.

"The Queen is dead," Lexa announces loudly, looking down at Roan, "long live the King!"

"Long live the King!" The crowd repeats, the mantra being shouted at the top of everyone's lungs before it's quickly replaced with the repetitive chants of 'Heda!'

Lexa turns her head to the two Arker's, and they both nod in appreciation and admiration at the young woman, relief lightening their heavy bones.

 

Jasper slows the rover down when they reach the familiar tree with half of a branch cut off that sits in front of a boulder and a cluster of rocks. Coming to a complete stop in the pitch black woods, Jasper looks at Myles in the passenger seat before flicking the headlights off. The redhead has her distracted hazel eyes staring at the dense blackness of the night sky-cloaked forest and one of her hands reach back behind her seat to scratch absent-mindedly at Max's fur. Having to wait a few minutes to let his eyes adjust to the lack of light, Jasper decides to start another conversation with his best friend.

"What do you think he wants to talk about?" Jasper asks, reaching back to pat their small calico coloured dog.

"I don't know," Myles drawls out, rolling her head against the back of her seat to look at him through the darkness. "He either won the election this morning and is so excited he wants to share the news in person, right now, or something terrible has happened and he's so paranoid he doesn't want to say it over the radio."

"He did the code four times," the brown-haired teen recounts, "in a row. Is that like a super-secret-code?"

"If it is," his best friend shrugs one of her shoulders lazily, "I don't know it and I haven't figured it out yet. It's not a rule, rule number four is 'never say you're sorry, it's a sign of weakness'."

"I hope it's just he's excited," Jasper sighs, "we just got to go home a few hours ago." All he gets in reply is a tired hum, and he continues after a moment. "If he wants to talk about the Mount Weather memorial, I might blow it."

"After the week we've had," the redhead agrees, "I wouldn't blame you."

"And we still have to build an extension on the house," Jasper reminds her, earning an annoying whining sound that mimics a drawn out sob in return.

"Don't remind me," Myles whines, sliding down in the passenger seat. "I just wanna go home and sleep in my own bed."

"Ugh," the brown-haired teen grunts after starting to inch forward blind and hitting the brakes again. "It's not too late to go home."

"JJ," she whines through a halfhearted giggle, "yes it is. We're three minutes away from the spot."

"Fine," Jasper relents, inching the rover forward carefully again. "You know, we could still be home, in our beds, right now."

Reaching the hand scratching at Max's ears forward, Myles whacks at Jasper blindly and lazily. Her hand finds Max's kind and appreciative head, getting loving rubs and licks in thanks from the happy dog that missed them as much as they missed him. It's not too much longer when they approach the usual meeting spot, and Jasper comes to a stop once more.

Sighing, the two teens unbuckle themselves and Myles reaches up to turn the dull light on the ceiling of the rover on so they can see Marcus when they talk to him. Opening their doors and stepping out into the crisp and chilly late winter air, Myles scans her eyes around before stopping on movement to her right. Marcus Kane isn't the one to walk out of the shadows, however, but a massively relieved Clarke Griffin.

"Clarke," Myles greets with a smile, opening up her arms to hug the blonde when she rushes up to her.

"Aggie," Clarke breathes, tightly hugging the redhead back then embracing Jasper just as strongly. "Jasper, you both came."

"Sure did," Jasper confirms happily, both teens happy to see their friend again. "How're ya goin'?"

"You called us on the radio," Myles realises, some of the worried tension that had built up from the strange transmissions easing.

"Yeah, I did," the blonde admits, seeming shaken, but still relieved. "I'm hoping I can stay with you guys tonight."

"Of course," the brown-haired teen immediately accepts, a bright smile on his face. "Yeah, you're always welcome."

"Clarke," Myles presses, reaching a hand out and gently gripping her arm reassuringly. "What's wrong?"

"I can't be here," Clarke confesses quietly, shaking her head rapidly. "I can't be here. I'm scared to be here."

"Why?" Jasper enquires, the same overwhelming concern and fear the two girls vibrate with invading his senses. "What happened?"

"Pike," the blonde tells them, her voice thick with emotion, "Pike and everyone from Farm Station and, god, and Bellamy."

"Are they alright?" Myles frets, her red eyebrows furrowing deeply.

"Yes," Clarke corrects, "they're fine, everyone else isn't. They hate the grounders. They want them all dead. At the memorial today, Farm Station survivors threw a big rock at Lincoln and started beating him up."

"Oh, my god," Jasper and Myles echo, disgust twisting up their features.

"Bellamy is in on this?" Myles questions, disbelief screaming through in her tone.

"Not with hurting Lincoln," the blonde elaborates, "but he was just arrested with a whole army of Pike's men. They were trying to storm through the gate with automatic rifles to kill the peacekeeping army." Shock chills the two best friends to the bone, "they don't announce the winner of the election until the morning, but I don't know what good that'll do. Pike's racist influence is spreading like a disease, and I'm scared."

"We…" Myles starts, gently tugging their friend to the open passenger door. "We need to go to Lexa. The Ice Queen is dead, and Arkadia needs to be able to see that the threat is gone."

"Dead?" Clarke repeats in shock, "she's dead?"

"Long story," Jasper sighs, helping Myles lead the shaken girl to the rover. "Climb on up."

Clarke is just about to do as told when she freezes, her body going completely rigid under the two best friends' touch.

"Is that a dog?!"

 

"So," Myles sighs tiredly, looking at her clasped hands as she leans forward to rest her elbows on her knees. "What do we do now?"

"We take them the body," Lexa answers, standing from where she was sitting on the edge of her bed to walk around the room. "Show them the instigator is no longer a threat, and the King has pledged his allegiance to the Coalition."

"If it isn't enough?" Clarke pries, watching the commander with a look in her eyes the redhead has only ever seen in Bellamy Blake's.

"Then," the commander turns to her, "we will order a buffer zone, as done with Finn's time. Anyone outside of a certain distance will be subject to a kill order."

"And you don't want to punish them?" Myles checks reluctantly, "for trying to leave Arkadia with a war plan?"

"Did they?" Lexa counters, tearing her gaze from Clarke to glance at the redhead. "No act has been committed, and those with the intention are prisoners now. We will show them in the morning that there is nothing to fear, and let that be a gift of an easy start to leadership."

"Thank you," Clarke says sincerely, and the heaviness of her tone makes Jasper and Myles' eyes lock in intrigue.

"Thank you," Lexa repeats, "for backing me against your people."

Clarke steps forward, taking Lexa's bandaged hand, "sit down. Let me change that for you."

The commander sits down and Clarke grabs a towel before sitting down beside her and beginning to tend to her wounds.

"Ontari," Myles calls out, "what will happen to her now?"

"Nia's Nightblood?" Clarke verifies, unwinding the bandages on the commander's hand.

"She won't be back until the Conclave after my death," Lexa assures them, watching Clarke's gentle hands work.

"Geez," Jasper exclaims jokingly, "do you ever talk about anything else but your death?"

Lexa gives the teens a sad, knowing smile as the blonde tears off a new bandage and redresses the wound. The two girls keep giving each other quiet, meaningful looks and every time one of the best friends sees it, they lock eyes and make a face.

Chapter Text

Day 147 – Feb. 6

The harsh and rapid thumping of her heart and the frantic breaths wracking her body against the ice cold metal table under her chills her to the bone. Thick metal cuffs clamped around her ankles, wrists and neck feel as though they tighten and pinch at her skin with every agonising second that ticks by with her struggling for her life. Bright white light glaring down at her swirls with the twisted figures of Bellamy Blake, Marcus Kane, her mother, Doctor Tsing and Green Eyes as they crowd around her with absolute loathing in their eyes. Menacing, warped sounds blend with the buzzing of a distant drill and the echoes of voices taunting her, destroying all of her self-worth and crushing any shred of hope she had left.

Her body is in excruciating pain. Blazing fire burns through her left thigh and her abdomen, a steady and piercing ache throbbing through her chest, head, and legs. Cold air brushes through the holes in her head, the heavy metal frame weighing her skull down with a force that the holes in her head only amplify. Thick gunk and dried blood covers her barely dressed body, the tattered dark green tank top, her underwear and her socks doing nothing to keep her injured and dying body warm.

She's shaking uncontrollably, jittering violently against the cool metal slab. Despite the freezing chill in the air, sweat glistens over her skin, dripping onto the icy table she's pinned to. Each breath is hard and short, her body in too much pain to take a full breath, every slight movement sending blinding agony through every inch of her. The world swirls and shifts, faces morphing and slurring in front of her very eyes.

"Why'd you do it?" Her mother's sad voice begs of her, and Myles tries to turn her head dizzily to the woman but can't, the weight of the metal frame screwed into her skull keeping her still. The cool feel of all four of the screws grind hotly and vividly in her head, and Myles isn't sure if it's because they're inside of her bone and flesh or if it's the hair they drilled through carelessly. "Why'd you kill me?" A guttural noise bubbles from her shivering and wheezing lips in reply to her mother as her hazel eyes squeeze closed. "I wanted to live. I wanted a chance, and you took that from me."

Her jittering body convulses with a barely contained sob, sending white hot pain through her tired and destroyed body.

"If I never had you," her mother's hard voice asserts, and the redhead tries to scrunch her eyes closed even harder, as if it could make the hallucination disappear. The skin pulls against the holes in her head, and Myles swears she can feel the skin tearing. "I'd still be alive. I could've remarried and been happy." Desperate gasping cripples Myles as forceful sobs constrict her burning lungs, but the pain is starting to feel distant and muffled, making Myles feel dizzy. The redhead doesn't realise she's opened her eyes, instead finding her unfocused gaze locked on the only thing in the room that isn't blurry; her mother. No one else is in sight, only the auburn-haired woman she misses so dearly. "I could've had a daughter that wasn't so worthless," her mother sneers, her delicate features twisting into a look of bitter disdain. "I could've had a child who made me happy, made me want to stay."

Myles opens her mouth, her lips and tongue moving and her throat vibrating with words that the redhead can't hear, words that don't join her mother's echoing taunts. Her mother pushes off of the wall she was leaning against, stomping across the floor quickly with her arm raised. The sight of her mother storming towards her with the intent to slap her is so strange and unfamiliar that the red-haired teens stomach drops, the feeling so deep and real that it makes her nauseous. Still, she doesn't flinch, not until the woman is mere inches from her and her features shift drastically.

Wavy, auburn hair shortens rapidly, darkening to black and taking on the short haircut of her father's. Her mother's soft and delicate features become sharp and stoney, a scar running through one eyebrow. The sight of her father storming towards her with his arm raised is so familiar and terrifying, even now with all she's been through, that her whole body jolts despite the restraints and the pain in a desperate attempt to scramble away.

It doesn't register straight away that her head moves freely now to look away and scrunch closed her eyes. The heavy weight of the frame gone, leaving only a sharp and persistent throbbing where all five holes are. The ice cold air and the blood trickling from her head accentuates the ache, making it feel as if her brain is slowly melting and pouring from the large burr hole in the back of her head.

"You killed us all," Bellamy Blake's voice states dully, but Myles can't bring herself to open her eyes again. "'No one could ever love a girl with red hair'."

"I took you in as my own," Marcus Kane jibes, and pitiful sobs jar her agitated wounds. "And this is how you repay me? Your father was right about you."

"'Nothing but a lost cause'," Bellamy quotes the man he's never met, spitting the words out venomously.

Myles' mouth moves rapidly, the urgent pleas disappearing before they can even exit her throat. Nothing comes out, but that doesn't stop her from desperately begging for it all to stop.

It does. The room falls silent, only the slurring sound of the buzzing drill and a distantly barking dog bouncing around the small room. Hazel eyes are too fearful of it starting up again to open until pressure is felt on her left arm. Snapping her wide and terrified eyes open, the redhead comes face to face with Green Eyes, Doctor Tsing's assistant. Doctor Tsing leans over her right side, both adults with their hands pressing Myles down on the table. Pure, vicious panic claws through her insides when Doctor Tsing lifts a drill, and Myles' desperate pleading is drowned out by the deafening and screeching buzz of the drill turning on and the loud whine of a dog.

She's so familiar with it, with all the pain that device has done to her, remembers it so vividly and still feels the pain so vividly, that the tool doesn't even need to reach her skin for her to start screaming. It's like she can feel it before it ever touches her, and she thrashes her agonised body around hopelessly under their hold. Another voice flutters through the chaos, echoing in her mind with the words of everyone else, but Myles is too focused on the drill burring into her chest to pay attention to understanding the words overlapping in the air.

Doctor Tsing removes the drill to grab a large needle to extract the bone marrow, and when she brings the needle to her chest to force it through the burr hole and into the drilled bone, Myles flings her arm up unrestrictedly to grasp it. The woman's hands grip both of Myles' wrists firmly, but not harshly, as the teen brings the needles point to the doctor's neck. Her mouth moves, and Jasper Jordan's voice leaves Doctor Tsing's lips.

"Not real," her best friend's calm voice tries to get through to her. "Not real, Aggie." Myles doesn't feel like she's lying on a cold metal table anymore, her knees instead on the cushioning of a bed, and when she blinks her eyes, she sees Jasper in her room under her hands and not Doctor Tsing. "Not real."

Myles doesn't remember sitting up. Doesn't remember pinning Jasper to her bed and holding one of her knives to his throat. She doesn't remember Clarke being there, pale as a ghost as she watches on in panic. In fact, she doesn't remember seeing anything that wasn't this. It's like the change from Mount Weather to their home was so subtle and slow that she doesn't even recognise a difference. Her mind is still stuck in the mindset of her time in Mount Weather, the overwhelming and visceral sense that this is just another hallucination being the only reality that the redhead can grasp onto. What's real and what's not real isn't so black and white anymore, everyone's faces keep changing and everyone keeps saying things, is this so different? She just can't get past waiting for Jasper and Clarke to morph back into Doctor Tsing and Green Eyes.

"Not real," Jasper says again, his voice calm and his eyes non-judgmental. "Rule fifty-four, Aggie. Rule fifty-four."

The words make Myles blink blankly again, her grip falling slack as the words turn over in her head. When had they made the rules? After Mount Weather? Jasper's hands quickly grab the knife when his best friend loosens her grip, putting it back on her nightstand before rubbing his hands up her arms comfortingly. Weight shifts behind her, and their calico coloured dog leans his weight against Myles' side.

"Good," the brown-haired teen soothes, sitting up slowly to not spook her. "It's okay. It's not real."

"What's rule fifty-four?" Clarke asks quietly, leaning forward to rest a hand on Myles' upper arm.

Myles looks down at her hands, watching as they start to shake more and more. Her mind is swimming, being tugged roughly between different realities, and her sluggish brain is confused at why she's feeling the lingering ghost of the pain she was in during the dream if it wasn't real. Max's head bumps against her hands, high-pitched whines escaping his throat as he rubs his side and head against the redhead incessantly to calm her.

"Tell her, Aggie," Jasper encourages, clasping his hand around hers when hazel eyes remain glued to her shaking hands. "What's rule fifty-four?"

"'Start with what you know is true'," Myles' hoarse voice cracks out, bringing her hands that are held in Jasper's to her head to feel for the holes that were once there.

She doesn't find what she's looking for. Instead, she feels that her hair isn't at her ass anymore; it barely brushes over her shoulders. The holes aren't there, only the smooth and slightly concaved skin of healing scars and the short hair that's started to grow over where they had shaved for the burr hole. Hazel eyes flick around rapidly as her breathing becomes fast and erratic, the knowledge that it wasn't real and hasn't been for months crashing into her.

Jasper says something else, but Myles can't hear it over the sound of the blood rushing in her ears at the familiar sight of her room. The only difference to every other night is Clarke's jacket now hangs over the seat by her desk, and her boots sit on the floor near hers. She's not there, and that simple fact sends the redhead on a whirlwind of panic. It felt so real, so vivid, so visceral, and it wasn't. Her legs are moving her off of the bed before she can register it or tell them not to, and her dizzy and lightheaded steps send her crashing into the wall.

Both Jasper and Clarke are right in front of her again, crouched down to her level now that she's on the floor and this time they're trying to calm her breathing down. Max tries to force himself between the two teens, ducking down to wriggle his head under their crouched knees. Myles can't hear the sounds any of them make, can't feel Max's wet nose brush against her ankle. She can only hear the drill and feel the nonexistent ache that's still present in her body from her nightmare.

One of Jasper's hands is on the back of her head, being careful to avoid the spot of the burr hole and Clarke cradles her cheeks. Their mouths move but Myles can't hear them, only the sound of her own muffled and harsh breaths taking over the drill. The only thing she can focus on is the feeling of her thundering heartbeat under their touches and how it's overwhelmingly hard pounding must feel to them.

"Aggie," Jasper distantly booms, forcing her hazel eyes to lock on his brown as her vision stutters. "Start with what you know is true."

"My," Myles starts, her voice hiccupping through her gasps, the tightness choking her lungs not loosening as she speaks. "My name is Agniesźka Mylinski."

"Good," Clarke praises, her worried eyebrows knitted together. "What else?"

"I was – I was born," the redhead continues, squeezing her eyes shut and swallowing dryly over the lump in her throat. "On September fourteenth. I'm 18 years old." Myles' breathing is calmer now, and she can focus on more than just her heart rate. "We're on Earth." Locking her gaze on Jasper's, her best friend merely quirks a brown eyebrow and nods his head subtly, both his and Clarke's hands rubbing reassuringly over her clammy skin. Slowly, her muscles begin to unclench and relax. "I have red hair."

When she doesn't keep going, Jasper merely nods silently, knowing that at this moment in time, that's all she's truly sure of.

"That's okay," Jasper soothes, "Good. You're okay."

Her best friend shifts, and Max instantly uses it to his advantage. Shoving through the small gap between Jasper and Clarke, Max's paws scratch gently at Myles' raised knees. Quickly stopping the pointless action, the dog clambers over her knees altogether to stand over them and force himself in her lap. Myles lowers her knees slightly, and Max shifts, resting the top of his head against the bottom half of the redhead's face.

Clarke breathes out a short laugh, moving one of her hands to scratch at the dog's back and sliding the other from Myles' face to her shoulder. Jasper hooks his arm around his best friend's shoulders, sitting on the ground beside her instead of awkwardly squatting down. Bringing her terribly shaking hands down from her temples, the red-haired teen merely rests them on the shaggy dog's fur and he shifts anxiously again. Rubbing his face against hers and shuffling on his paws before stilling again and keeping his head against hers.

Hazel eyes are still stuck on the spot where Jasper was crouching down, numbness creeping into her veins. Whether it's from the panic attack, or from the sudden lack of pain, Myles doesn't know, and she can't find the will to bring her mind to try to figure it out. Time blurs together, the world becoming nothing more than an empty pit of white noise. Max shifting his weight from the redheads lap and Jasper and Clarke's hands trying to pull Myles to her feet makes her mind switch back on for a moment.

"Come on," Clarke urges kindly, her gentle hands carefully helping guide her to her shaky feet. "Let's go back to bed."

Myles doesn't remember walking over there, just somehow making it to her bed and lying down on it. Clarke crawls over her legs to get to the side she was sleeping on, kindly tugging the blanket up as Max jumps up onto the bed with them. It was crowded when it was only her and Clarke, but with Max there now, it's overwhelming to Myles' frayed and frazzled senses.

Ray's still staying in Monty's room, the guest room that both teens had envisioned their third best friend to occupy. The few hours they had home yesterday before Clarke called them over the radio they'd spent tearing down a wall in their maze of a treehouse. They'd barely begun to gather up the wood for the framework of his own room when they had to stop, and unless Clarke wants to sleep on the couch in front of an open wall in winter, there's nowhere else for her to go.

"I'll go get a blanket," Jasper murmurs, dragging Myles' distracted mind to the present again.

Jasper returns a moment later, a pillow and blanket in his hands. Dumping them both on the ground beside the bed, the brown-haired teen lays down on the ground and reaches an arm up to hold on to Myles'.

Hours tick by with them just like that. Max lying sprawled across both girls as both Clarke and Jasper fall asleep through easy and muttered conversations. It all slurs together for Myles, the numbness taking over for chunks of time and only allowing the redhead moments in between to participate in her friend's conversations. A vicious tug-of-war game plays out in her emotionally drained mind, her awareness of reality being pulled and toyed with mercilessly.

It shocks Myles when she next becomes aware of her surroundings. It's silent, only the melodies of three deep and slow breaths keeping her company. Turning her head to look at Clarke, the blonde is asleep beside her, her worries for Arkadia being forgotten in favour of calming sleep. Leaning up on her elbows, Max perks up from his dozing position across both girls' legs and looks up at her. Reaching her hand out to scratch at his fur fondly, hazel eyes glance down to Jasper's hand resting next to her arm. Peeking over the edge of her bed, Jasper lays asleep on the ground with only a pillow and a blanket to make up his bed.

Sighing heavily, the redhead can't help feeling claustrophobic and carefully sits up fully. When she slides her legs out from under Max, the dog stands and jumps to the ground by Jasper, already sensing the red-haired teens sleeplessness. Slowly and quietly swinging her legs to the ground and standing, Myles pads across her bedroom floor with her sock-clad feet, making her way to her boots and grabbing her fawb glove off of the desk.

 

With one eye closed, Myles looks through the small jagged piece of thick glass wrapped in a wire that connects to a frame that sits around her head. The glass magnifies the inside of the vambrace she's looking at in her hands, making the leather she's just poked a hole in appear significantly bigger. Forcing the small lazily squashed and moulded eyelet through the hole, Myles flips the vambrace over to rest the homemade metal clasp on a hard stone, vaguely shaped like a block. Placing the hole of the equally as messily made stud over the prong of the eyelet, the red-haired teen reaches for a skinny metal cylinder and holds it against one side of the small metal clasp.

Grabbing a hammer with her right hand, Myles bashes the top of the skinny metal cylinder to pinch the leather in the bottom half of the clasp. Banging it once more before switching sides and repeating the process to carefully secure it in place. When she's sure it's in place, Myles drops the hammer and metal cylinder onto the table to lift the leather and tug at it, inspecting it with her magnifying lens to make sure it won't tear or come loose. It looks to be evenly hammered in, and it doesn't budge when she yanks at the leather so she reaches for the ammo cartridge she's made.

The old one was made of cloth and leather to wrap around her forearm with all the small arrows shoved inside. In order to get all of the arrow-darts in place and ready to use, Myles and Jasper would have to insert the arrows individually once the brace was already secured to their arm. It was designed to be flexible and not restrict the arms movement, but it only proved to be a hassle when reloading and gearing up. This is different, taking several extended pistol magazines and dissecting them to make it all work.

Her idea to use an ammo mag had seemed great in theory, though, in practice it had required quite a bit of dicking around. Most of the mags long enough to hold the darts and the spring mechanisms to push them out in the right order had to be extended magazines, but almost all of the extended mags they've found were curved. Obviously, this wouldn't have worked at all, especially if they wanted more than one row of arrows.

So, Myles cut them up and attached the 'walls' of the mags to leather so she could easily access the mechanisms to either improve them in the future or fix any problems that may arise. It's bulkier than the last wrap-around arrow holder, the rectangular shape jutting out ever so slightly and the outline of it being visible on her long sleeve. Fortunately, it doesn't feel heavier when she picks it up, although it is currently empty. Leather straps wrap around the length of it, designed so the buckles can be secured on only one side of the contraption, without obstructing them when opening it up. One strap lines the inside of the mag, reaching from the spring mechanisms to the top of the small leather cartridge to protect a cord that'll fire the darts.

Clipping the arrow-dart cartridge back together into its rectangular shape, the redhead lines the rod that extends the length of the mag to the two bar holders that connect to the arrow trolley. A light sounding click sounds from the vambrace and Max stands from his spot by the Arker's boots to stare intently towards the entrance. Myles presses the four homemade snap fasteners together to clasp the ammo mag to the vambrace and reaches around to buckle the straps so the back of the mag isn't flapping around.

Sounds echo through the rocky walls of the secluded cave she's in and Max huffs happily, trotting excitedly to greet Jasper and Clarke as they walk deeper into the cave. This place is not like their house, which reaches across the treetops of several trees, but underground. They had wanted a place where they could mess around with a bunch of things while minimising the amount of sound they emitted, and they found the perfect place. The hollow, rocky hole Myles is in is connected to a deep cave they found, and when venturing deep inside of it, they discovered that it hooks around and goes underground.

It had taken a couple days to find a discreet spot to start digging a slim entrance to it, like Lincoln had, and once they had, they'd boarded up a wall that leads to the cave above ground. The drop to get into it is slightly shorter than Lincoln's cave, and it doesn't open up for a couple metres, meaning anyone would have to stay hunched over for a minute before they can stand up straight. On the bright side, it means that it's easier to get in and out of, even if they were injured.

"Morning," Clarke calls happily, a smile plastered on her face while she pats Max.

"Hey," Jasper greets, the smell of freshly brewed coffee wafting into the room. Hazel eyes glance up over the small magnifier after Myles pulls the leather mag from her vambrace to slide the arrows into it. Humming distractedly over the clicks the arrows make as they slip past part of the mechanism to keep the arrows firing in order and when she wants them to. Looking back down at the mag to make sure the springs are staying tight and in place, Myles doesn't even notice her best friend walk up to her until a steaming mug is placed on the table in front of her. "Thought you'd be here when I couldn't find you in the house."

The red-haired teen only hums again in reply, too focussed on her task for his words to register.

"This place is awesome," the blonde breathes, her blue gaze sweeping the section of the cave they're in and all of their things. "Are those paintings?"

"Yeah," Jasper answers, watching her and pointing at some before quirking an eyebrow playfully. "Can you tell which ones are mine?"

Clipping the mag shut again, Myles flicks her gaze over the magnifier to them and takes a swig of her hot coffee.

"They're all beautiful," Clarke says coyly, taking a sip of her drink and screwing up her face at the bitter taste. "Where'd you get the paint?"

"We made it," Myles supplies, sliding her wrist into the fawb glove and nodding at Jasper when he looks to her. "Thanks for the coffee."

"No problem," he brushes off easily, halfheartedly pointing at the vambrace. "What'd you do to it?"

"Improved it," the redhead boasts, pulling the wire that's tucked away and looped around a small knob in the strap that protrudes from the ammo magazine. Hooking it up and around the gear that shifts when she pulls the rod to reload. "Ready?" Pointing her closed fist to the chunk of wood they use as a practice board. "Clarke, fire in the hole."

Clarke whips her head around to her and instinctively steps back. Myles pulls the rod along her pointer finger down and presses it down in her fist to reset the arrows, before repeating the action to shoot. Nothing fires, but Myles could feel it shift and hear the click of the arrow locking in place on the trolley. Red eyebrows furrow, and she pulls her arm back to her to look at what's happened.

"How long are we s'posed to be ready?" Jasper goads jokingly, and Myles unhooks the wire that's somehow twisted on the gear that turns when she presses the rod to her palm.

Lifting her fist again, Myles repeats the action of shifting the rod and the arrow fires, lodging in the wood. Clarke jumps in shock.

"Whoa!" Clarke marvels, and Myles clicks the rod back. "How'd you do that?"

"Her wristbow," Jasper supplies as the redhead states, 'our fawb glove'.

Unclipping the rectangular magazine and holding it up for Jasper to see, "no more manually reloading after we've strapped it."

"That's awesome," her best friend praises, reaching out and inspecting the mag as Clarke walks up to the arrow. "How many did you make?"

"Just the one," Myles grimaces, leaning back in her chair and taking the magnifier off of her head. "Took three extended pistol mags, though."

Jasper lets out a long breath, "does it need that much?"

"No," the red-haired teen admits, seeing Clarke go back to being transfixed with the paintings. Her gentle hand reaches out to feel the dried substance colouring the thin wooden pallets. Rolling her head to glance back at Jasper, "but I'd already come to terms with using them. Any solid scrap would do it, just needs it straight to keep it stabilised."

"How long did it take you?" Jasper enquires, putting his mug down to turn Myles' arm over and clip it back onto the vambrace.

"Not long," Myles dismisses, gesturing out the curved rock wall of the cave. "I spent a while cutting up a fuck-tonne of wood. We've got everything we need to make enough of Ray's room for him to sleep in it, but he'll be cold as shit."

"Sweeeeeeeet," the brown-haired teen drawls out, both teens lifting their hands before high-fiving themselves.

Hazel eyes watch the blonde be fixated on the paintings for a moment more, "we've got paint in the third drawer." Clarke turns in acknowledgment to the redhead, "you should paint something."

"We've gotta get to Polis," Jasper interjects, "it's almost sunup."

"Yeah," the blonde agrees, reluctantly walking away from the paintings. "I'm only good at drawing, anyway. I wouldn't even know what to do."

"If you can draw," Myles asserts confidently, "you can paint, and you sure as hell can draw."

"I can't do either," Jasper points out goofily, earning him an indignant slap from Myles, "and you still said they're both beautiful. It doesn't matter if they're any good, it's fun. Especially if you've been drinking."

 

The two warriors open both tall doors in front of Myles and escort her inside. It's a drastic change from the last two weeks, gone are the indecent must haves, given strictly for survival, only extravagant luxuries in their place. A tall ceiling that holds several chandeliers with lit candles keeps the open air sweet and lit. Overdone furniture with cushioning and vibrant, glaring colours litter throughout the beautiful room.

"Maiyls kom Skaikru," one of the guards introduces loudly, stopping a couple steps into the room and the man he speaks to turns from his terrace overlooking Polis. "Ai Haihefa." [AN: "Myles of the Sky People, my King."]

"Mochof," Roan commends, stepping towards them slowly. "Beja, bants osir." [AN: "Thank you. Please, leave us."]

The men obediently turn around and leave, closing the door behind themselves. Myles keeps her eyes locked on the Ice Nation King's, the curious glint in her eyes mirrored in his.

"I'm surprised you're still here," Myles starts, flicking her gaze around his room fleetingly. "But I guess an upgrade like this could even tempt a king."

"And yet," Roan drawls out, his gruff voice carrying a light inflection, "you still came to see me." The reminder of why she's here makes her drop her gaze in regret and hold on to her left wrist anxiously. Immediately sensing the shift in atmosphere, the king drops his bantering demeanour. "What's happened?"

"I'm afraid this isn't a visit, your majesty," the redhead divulges, meeting his eyes again and hoping he can somehow know why she's here so she doesn't have to speak the words aloud. He doesn't, his brown eyes squinting in question at her nervous fiddling. "I've come to ask something of you."

"Well," the King forces a smirk, "it's a good thing I stayed, then." Myles doesn't continue; the guilt creeping up inside of her eats away her words. "Come on. Spit it out."

"Would you…" Myles finds herself losing her words again and diverts her eyes so that she can't see the look on his face when she asks what she needs to. "Would you grant us permission to borrow your mother's body?"

It's silent for a moment, but Myles can't bring herself to look up again.

"You're not looking at me," Roan states, and Myles can't read his gruff tone.

Huffing a nervous laugh, "I feel like it's crossing a line. Like a really big line and I'm crossing it with really big steps."

"Look at me," the king demands, and hesitant hazel eyes start to choppily ascend to his. His brown eyes flick between her two hazel, noting the guilt swimming in them. It reminds him of when she had asked for permission to kill his mother, and it strikes him today even more than it had the day before. "Can I ask something of you?"

A shocked laugh belts out of her, "whatever you need to, Amin." [AN: "Your Highness."]

"Why did you tell me about your father?" Roan asks, his tone firm but curious, as if the question had been plaguing his mind all night.

Myles flinches at the question, the amount her father and the scars he's left her with has come up in the last year feels overwhelming. It's almost like he's here, still breathing down her neck and making her feel like she's a hostage, instead of a human. Roan watches the movement, unsatisfied curiosity oozing from his pores.

"I – uh…" Myles deflects, sparing a glance back up at him to make sure he's serious and not another hallucination lingering from the night before. A determined fire burns behind his brown eyes and her hazel find themselves stuck to them as her words run through her mind quickly, desperately scrambling for a way to explain it. Tearing her gaze away and looking anywhere but at him. "Where I come from, where we lived, it was like this building. Like a kingdom, but made up of twelve parts."

"When we came down," the red-haired teen continues through a deep sigh, looking back up at him with a tired expression and a shrug. "We came down on eleven of those parts. We know where four of them landed. Arkadia is one, there are two others in Trigeda and the one in Azgeda." Roan looks at her expectantly when she stops again, and Myles' left arm jitters anxiously. "My dad was on one of the seven parts we haven't found yet."

"He's still alive?" Roan demands, his brown eyebrows falling down low to match his aggressive tone.

"I protected him," Myles admits haltingly, her eyes leaving his for a moment, but when they meet his again, recognition flitters amongst the slew of other emotions.

The king asks the only question left on his mind, "why?"

"I, uh…" the redhead deflects, her gaze bouncing around the room, "I don't know what your relationship with your mother was like before she banished you…" Her teary eyes get stuck on the intensity of his waiting gaze, "but if I found out that he died – I – it'd – it'd crush me." Tears completely cloud her vision before a hot tear rolls down Myles' cheek and she quickly swipes it away. Nodding her head with small and rapid motions, "he's the only family I have left. He's all I have left."

She's still nodding for a moment after the last word leaves her rosy lips, as if she's trying to convince herself of her own words. It's quiet for a moment, and Roan's pitying and grieving eyes flick down to watch her throat when she swallows to try to steady herself.

"You can take my mother," Roan announces softly, and the sharp change of conversation throws Myles for a second.

"Wha – " Myles blanches, red eyebrows drawing together, "you don't want to know why I need her?"

"No, just," the King lifts a hand to hold out awkwardly in the air between them. "Just bring her to Azgeda when you're done."

"Of course," the red-haired teen vows, sincerity and guilt cloaking her features. "I'll bring her back to you as soon as possible, safely and in the exact same condition."

 

Thick fog dances slowly over the vibrant tree tops in the winter morning air. The pace they're going is easy, merely walking their horses down the grass path. Bushes and trees have been chopped back, leaving them a wide passage through the Earth. Lexa and Clarke ride two horses in front of the two best friends, the four of them and a carriage carrying Queen Nia's body are they only ones on horses. Guards walk with them in pairs of two, two pairs marching in front of Lexa and Clarke, one behind the two best friends and one behind the carriage.

It's eerily silent, the thick atmosphere rivalling the denseness of the fog. Soft and slow thumps of their horses hooves and the huffs and neighs the animals emit are they only things keeping them company. Clarke and Lexa talk quietly, too quietly for the two teens behind them to understand a word that they say. Whatever conversation they're having seems to make the tension in the air around them twinge sweetly, the mutual attraction that's clearly felt by the two of them being voiced in only their body language.

Seeing Lexa at the summit, going to her last night about Arkadia and riding alongside of her today has shown Clarke that the commander isn't as heartless as she tries to portray herself. It's bittersweet that, amongst all this chaos, the two have fallen for each other. The sight of the two quickly becoming close reminds Myles of Bellamy, and her dread-filled mind becomes consumed with thoughts of him and Arkadia.

Jasper instantly notices the shift in her demeanour and turns his head to look at his best friend.

"You don't have to go, either," the brown-haired teen tells Myles, and the redhead flicks her vacant gaze to him.

"One of us has to," Myles sighs, her sagged and lax posture jolting slightly with the horse's movement.

Clarke turns her head to them with her blonde eyebrows furrowed, "you two don't want to go home?"

"It's not home," Jasper huffs out snidely, shaking his head and looking at the trees that pass by his side.

"It's different for us, princess," the redhead smirks sadly, and Lexa turns her head to look back at the two Arker's behind her. "When we left, it had a different name. We were different."

"You left a hero to your people," the commander asserts strongly, "and you return one. The mountain slayer returns with more than supplies, you return with the body of the Ice Queen. You bring them justice."

"We didn't kill her," Myles corrects Lexa, swallowing through the lump in her throat. "You bring them justice, I only bring nightmares."

Pity crosses the commanders face, her tone becoming firm with her next words, as if trying to get the redhead to believe them herself.

"We bring them peace," the conviction in Lexa's tone makes Myles' hazel eyes sweep up to lock on her brown.

Content that the words have struck a chord, the commander faces back in front of her. The words echo in the redheads mind, but dread still sits heavily in her gut. Quickly becoming distracted again, Myles doesn't switch back on until Jasper knocks his boot against hers. Looking up at him, her best friend nods to Lexa and Clarke, and Myles watches as they look at each other with soft expressions and fond smiles.

Quirking her red eyebrows playfully at Jasper, the teen swallows a laugh that threatens to bubble from his throat.

"Heda!" One of the guards at the very front shouts in warning, and all of the guards ready their weapons and charge forward. [AN: "Commander!"]

Myles digs her heels in and pulls on the reins for her horse to come to a stop behind the commander and Clarke, her skinny frame sliding off of the saddle before the horse can even fully halt. Her hazel eyes are glued to the carnage in front of them, mesmerised in horror. She can hear her boots drag across the dirt as she slowly approaches the hundreds of bodies laying where the peacekeeping army had been stationed.

Jasper jumps off of his horse to stand by Myles' side for only a moment, and then he steps down the slight decline to walk amongst the bodies. Clarke's gasping breaths are heard clearly through the silence that fills the group, and Myles' boots find themselves wandering up to her best friends. Hazel eyes scan for any sign of movement in the bodies, any sign of life, but they don't find anything other than unseeing eyes, dried blood and large hordes of flies.

Bending down to crouch amongst the bodies, her gaze sweeps across the hours old wounds. Dread and regret fill her, and her eyes haltingly flick up to meet Lexa's wide brown. As if feeling her gaze, the commander meets her gaze and goes rigid, seeing the look in the Arker's eyes. Flies buzz around her face noisily, but her eyes remain locked on the commander's.

Myles' throat feels tight when she speaks, "they're all bullet wounds."

All the air in Clarke's lungs leaves in one powerful puff, her breath clouding in front of her. Lexa clenches her jaw, sliding off of her horse.

"Chek gon kika au!" Lexa booms out, stalking forward to help pick through the bodies. [AN: "Check for survivors!"]

The red-haired teen stands, walking carefully amongst the carnage and scouring every bullet ridden and blood soaked body for signs of life. Smoke plumes rise from the ground somewhere to her right from a fire that was recently put out, and large puddles of blood melt into the muddy ground. Not a single one of their weapons have been tainted with blood, no scrapes or cuts on their hands from fighting back. None of these people fought back.

Nausea fills Myles' stomach at the sight of all of these people's faces, of those she knew the names of, the families of, and those she only saw in passing when dropping off supplies. They were sent here to protect Arkadia, and they're all littered with bullets for it. Every single one of these people volunteered to protect Myles and Jasper's people because they got to know them, got to trust them, and felt like they owed the two teens for keeping them well fed and clothed during winter. Automatic rifles mowed them all down mercilessly, and they never had a chance to fight back. Venturing further, hazel eyes almost miss the slight twitch of movement to her right. Snapping her head up, Myles couldn't even slow her careful steps down if she wanted to at the sight of a badly wounded but alive Indra.

Indra lies against a log, looking like she scrambled backwards as far as she could when she was wounded to avoid the onslaught of bullets. She's silent, but her chest rises and falls quickly with laboured breaths. When she hears the redheads steps approaching, she tries to look towards her and she grunts lowly in pain.

"Indra," Myles greets, falling to her knees on the blood soaked muddy dirt. "Ai na sis yu au, nami? Ste gonen." Leaning over and pulling off her shoulder pad to inspect her wounds and apply pressure to them. "Heda! Clarke! Get your asses over here!" Indra grunts at the pressure on her wounds, and Myles slips her hand around her back to feel for an exit wound. "Sorry, I need to slow the bleeding." [AN: "Indra. I'm gonna help you, okay? Hold on. Commander!"]

"Yu en Kein don nowe set klin kom emo," Indra pants out tiredly as heads snap towards the red-haired teen. [AN: "You and Kane never belonged with them."]

"Kei, yu get in chit emo biyo," Myles shrugs, "hou bilaik weron tombom kamp raun." [AN: "well, you know what they say. Home is where the heart is."]

"That's one of the stupidest things I've ever heard," the dark-skinned woman declares weakly through her groans, and Myles barks out a laugh as several sets of steps rush up to them.

"Indra!" Lexa calls out, coming to kneel in the mud on her other side.

"Heda," Indra replies breathily, trying to push herself up on her elbows.

"Nope," Myles stops her, holding her down, "uh-uh, stay still."

"What's the damage?" Jasper asks, hovering over the red-haired teens shoulders while Clarke kneels down beside Lexa to search for other wounds.

"Two through and through," the redhead rattles off, hearing Jasper pull open the bag hanging from his shoulder. "Both missed the brachial artery and nerves. I can't tell if there's any splintering or fractures of the bone. Can you wiggle your fingers for me?"

Indra does as told, and Clarke sighs in relief, "missed the neck of the humorous." Spinning to take the gauze Jasper holds out, Clarke leans over the warrior. "Use the bandage – "

"Ugh!" Indra grunts loudly from the pain of suddenly trying to pull away from the blonde-haired teen's hands. Myles and Lexa immediately try to hold the woman still. "Stay away. You're one of them."

"Indra, teik em sis au," the commander urges, and Indra's brown eyes look at her doubtfully, but her movements cease. [AN: "Indra, let her help."]

"Okay, Indra," Myles starts, letting Clarke's hands hold the gauze to the wound as she leans back to feel her blood covered gloved fingers down Indra's arm gently. "I'm gonna need you to make a fist and shake it side to side, just a little."

Indra's shaky hand makes a tight fist and she wriggles it side to side slightly, and relief floods through Myles. The woman is still panting short and loud breathes in pain, her body trembling as uncontrollable grunts and groans fall from her lips.

"Good," the redhead praises, nodding to herself. "That's just the way we want it to be."

Jasper crouches down, "what's that mean?"

"The scapula and acromion are intact," Myles supplies, reaching back to grab more gauze and hold it awkwardly to the exit wounds.

"And there's minimal ligament damage," Clarke continues, looking Indra in the eye. "You're lucky."

"Indra," Lexa coaxes, her tone and expression twisted with disdain. "What happened here?"

"They attacked while we slept," Indra answers breathlessly, making all three Arker's deflate visibly. "Our watch was to the north, looking for Azgeda. They killed our archers first." Myles is shaking her head to herself, wracking her brain for how this could've happened after the army was arrested. "Our infantry couldn't get close. Then they executed the wounded."

"Uncle Marcus would never let this happen," Myles insists, locking eyes with Lexa's fiery brown.

"He wouldn't," the warrior agrees, looking almost offended by the idea that anyone could think this was Marcus Kane's doing. "It wasn't Kane. It was Pike."

Both Myles and Jasper look at Clarke, all absolutely disgusted at the revelation that somehow Pike and his army left lock-up and they didn't have any warning. They could've warned the army, but they didn't because they were sure they'd stay in prison until they brought Nia's body there this morning.

"How could this happen?" Clarke denies shakily, "he was arrested. H – how?"

"How did you escape?" Lexa enquires, her posture leant back and her words slow and murmured, instead of urgent like they were a moment ago.

"Bellamy," Indra informs them indifferently, not meeting any of their eyes.

Shock pumps through Myles' veins, "Bellamy?" Shaking her head quickly, the redhead refuses to believe he'd actually take part in this. "Bellamy was with them?"

"He wanted to spare the wounded," the warrior tells her, "but they wouldn't listen. He convinced Pike to let me live, so I could deliver a message."

Myles' eyes flick to Lexa's, the same stomach dropping dread being mirrored in both of their expressions.

"What message?" Lexa questions in a hard and detached voice.

"Skaikru rejects the coalition," Indra recounts, all the breath leaving Myles as she looks to her best friend and meets his eyes. "This is their land now." It's unspoken between the two best friends, the mutual conclusion of the red-haired teen being the only one willing and capable of fixing this being communicated loud and clear. "We can leave, or we can die."

Lexa leans back until her back is straight, hesitating for a moment before slowly turning her head to the guards they rode in with.

"Send riders," the commander orders them, and Jasper replaces Myles' hands applying pressure to the woman's wounds so she can spring to her feet. Lexa stands when the redhead does, her words and tone unshakable. "I call upon the armies of the Twelve Clans. In a day's time, we lay waste to Arkadia and everyone within its walls."

The warriors instantly agree, turning to walk away, but Myles is already rushing to talk sense into Lexa.

"No," Myles begs, coming to a stop inches from the commander's face. "Heda, I can fix this. This is what I do, let me fix this."

Lexa doesn't reply, doesn't shift her expression from the stoney and stoically emotionless mask she's put on. Fire burns through Myles' veins, knowing there isn't any time to waste and she quickly marches past the commander.

"Hod em op," Lexa calls, and in a second the warriors surround the red-haired teen, turning their weapons on Myles. [AN: "Stop her."]

The redhead doesn't fear them; she and Jasper both know they can easily fight their way out of this mess right now, but Myles would rather them live. Spinning her conflicted gaze to Jasper, her eyes silently beg him to do something so she doesn't have to kill these men. A response doesn't come from him, however, but Clarke.

"Lexa," Clarke exclaims in shock, shooting to her feet and leaving Jasper alone to manage Indra's bleeding. "What are you doing?"

"I can't let any of you leave, Clarke," the commander begrudgingly informs her, guilt chipping away at her heartless facade.

Clarke scoffs indignantly, "so we're prisoners now? Just like that?"

"Yes," Lexa answers quietly, as if she hates to admit it and a look of betrayal crosses Clarke's face.

"Fine," Myles relents, pulling her radio from her waistband and holding it up. Pressing a button to switch it to Arkadia's station and pressing the transmit button with three clicks. "If you won't let me go to see Uncle Marcus, I'll bring him here."

Relief and victory lightens the heartbroken expression cloaking the blonde's features, and Lexa watches Clarke as she smiles hopefully. Flicking her conceding gaze back to Myles, who quirks a red eyebrow impatiently at the motion. All Myles gets in reply from the commander is a slow and short nod.

 

They're inside of Lexa's large tent now, the warriors had erected it once Lexa had made it clear they're waiting for Marcus Kane before anything else is done. Lexa stands in the wide and open expanse of the tent, looking off distantly as she waits. No doubt she's weighing her options, and knowing that fact makes Myles envy Jasper for leaving to get more supplies. Clarke's hands work with Myles', the two of them working together to help Indra's wounds.

Heaving a heavy sigh, Myles moves her hands and the gauze that temporarily covers the stitched closed bullet wounds.

"The bleeding's stopped," Clarke announces calmly, her tired voice accompanying Indra's pained, low noises.

"We're just waiting on JJ for something to help with the – " Myles cuts off as the tent flap flies open, and hazel eyes don't even need to flick over to know Jasper is marching inside. "Speak of the devil."

"Octavia?" Clarke falters, turning her head to look at the tent flap.

Myles' head whips around at the name, seeing Jasper beelining for her with the medicine pack and Octavia at his heels.

"What's happened?" Myles frets, not doing anything once the medicine pack is placed in her hands. "Where's Marcus?"

"He sent me," the Blake sibling breathes out, kneeling down beside Indra's makeshift bed on the dirt. The action reminds Myles why she has the medicine pack, and the redhead opens it. Opening one of the compartments with sterile needles and pulling a needle out before dousing it with liquid from a large bottle labeled 'DISINFECT'. "Indra, thank god."

Carefully holding the needle up to dry in the air, Myles pulls out a vial with clear liquid marked 'MORPH'. Unscrewing the cap with one hand and then stabbing the sterile needle's tip into the vial to carefully pull a couple milligrams out. Octavia and Indra both eye the red-haired teen incredulously as she watches the syringe fill up carefully.

In the corner of her eyes, Lexa steps up to them slowly, her hard brown gaze sweeping over the scene. Pulling the needle from the vial, Myles hands it to Jasper to put the lid back on it while she holds the needle in the air and pushes the syringe in a bit to get rid of any and all air. Little squirts of the clear liquid shoot from the tip before Myles is satisfied that it's safe and ready for use.

"What is that?" Octavia demands, her dark brown eyebrows drawn together as she watches Myles line it up to Indra's bare arm.

"Something we made," Myles says distractedly, pressing the sharp tip into Indra's arm and causing the warrior to flinch at the strange feeling. "Closest thing to what morphine used to be like that we could figure out."

The result is almost instantaneous, Indra's muscles relaxing under Myles' fingertips before she has even finished pulling the needle out. Pain-filled groans and trembling calm down quietly, and Myles yanks the needle end of the syringe off to shove it into the syringe, effectively stopping it from being able to jab anyone or anything else before they can throw it away safely.

"How did this happen?" Lexa grits out, interrupting the easy moment that's fallen over them.

Octavia looks over her shoulder at the young woman, answering as she stands up.

"Kane lost the election to Pike," Octavia supplies, and all three Arker's in the tent snap their heads to the Blake sibling in shock. "Everything's different."

Myles stands, dropping the medicine kit on the ground and stepping over to Octavia to try to satisfy the denial building inside of her. There's nothing in the dark brown-haired teens demeanour that gives away any deception, only fear and sadness oozing from her. Lexa's brown eyes are ablaze with anger, her harsh glare being tossed at every Arker in the tent.

"Your people voted for this," the commander seethes, her tone low and predatory.

Wide hazel eyes snap to the young woman's brown in determined rejection.

"No," Myles denies confidently, shaking her head urgently with her eyebrows high up on her forehead. "No, that's impossible."

"How would you know, Myles?" Octavia spits out bitterly, turning to the redhead slowly. "You haven't been here."

"You don't understand," the red-haired teen pleads with the Blake sibling, as if the teen could change reality. "The grounders army is going to be here before nightfall. I need to see Bellamy. I need to fix this."

"Bellamy was a part of this," the Blake sister reminds her disdainfully, speaking to the anxious and jittery redhead like she's a child. "He's with Pike. What makes you think he'll help us?"

It's clear Octavia's just as pissed as everyone else, but she has the same underlying resentment for the Ark as Myles does, tripling her disgust of the situation. She's lost faith in her brother; she's lost sight of who he is.

"Bell saved Indra's life," Myles tells Octavia, and the words stun the sibling to silence. Octavia fully shifts her head back, staring at the red-haired teen with wide eyes to scour her features for dishonesty before whipping around to look at Indra. Myles turns to Lexa, knowing she's the only one right now with the power to try to stop Myles from doing what she needs to do. "Look," the redhead insists, stepping close to Lexa and trying to reason with her. "If what Octavia's saying is true, that means Pike trusts him. If I can get to Bellamy, he can get to Pike and I can fix this."

"You can't just walk through the gates, Myles," Lexa points out, her face twisted up bitterly. "You've been living with their enemy. If it were me, I'd kill you on the spot."

"I can get in," Myles counters calmly, her confident hazel eyes switching between the commander's two brown. "I can do it undetectably, uncatchably and perfectly."

"It's true," Indra pipes up, gaining Lexa's attention. "You know it's true, you've seen it yourself. She is more than Wanheda to them… she's the Ghost."

It's silent for a moment as the commander's eyes swing back over to Myles. She knows the young woman well enough to know she's studying her, recounting everything she knows of the redhead and piecing together a puzzle that Myles will never be privy to.

"Go," Lexa commands simply, and Myles instinctively grabs Octavia's hand to pull her out the tent with her. "But be quick."

 

One of the many things Myles isn't good at is waiting. Leaning against a table somewhere the redhead had hoped she never had to be again, angst keeps her body fidgeting with unease. Hazel eyes scan around her, seeing the same dull and bland shade of grey that her eyes are no longer used to being the only colour to exist. Nerves and anxiety tremble through her veins, making every sound she hears feel louder than it really is.

Just standing in this room, in this Station of the Ark, is suffocating. Knowing exactly what life can offer outside of these walls, knowing exactly what everyone on this Space Station had to do to survive chips away at her mind. She's no longer eighteen, she's no longer this war-hardened version of herself, instead she's the little girl staring at a door and dreading the moment it opened.

Footsteps march down the hallway outside of the door Myles stares at and she swallows dryly, no longer knowing who the man about to walk through that door is. Pushing her shoulders back and straightening her back, Myles can't help feeling dirty for eavesdropping on the tail end of the two siblings' argument.

"I'm not playing anything," Octavia snaps. "This is who I am. You're my brother. I shouldn't have to tell you that."

The door opens, but Bellamy is looking at the ground. He's haunted, as haunted as Myles is, looking far too tired and worn down by life for his age. Slowly, the dark brown-haired man walks through the threshold before his deep brown gaze flicks up and his whole body goes stiff at the sight of Myles.

Even his eyes are different. They seem darker than they were at the summit two days ago, but maybe that's just from the bags under his eyes. He looks like the same man from the dropship, the only two differences Myles can spot being the high ranking Ark guardsman jacket he wears, his free and messy dark brown curls and his haunted eyes. Neither Bellamy Blake or Myles break their eye contact or move, not until Octavia says her last three words and leaves.

"Now, I'm done," the Blake sister declares, causing Bellamy's surprised eyes to leave Myles for only a moment before she shuts the door behind herself.

It's awkwardly silent, and Myles can't help feeling that his once loving gaze now burns a hole through her.

"You should go easy on O," Myles advises after a brief beat of hesitation. "She's not had it easy."

"What are you doing here, Myles?" Bellamy demands hotly, like just hearing her speak made his patience evaporate.

His tone and the disdainful look he's giving her makes his use of 'Myles' instead of 'Aggie' be heard louder than her own raging heartbeat, sending a sharp pang through her chest. Still, though, Myles can't seem to tear her eyes from his.

"We need to talk," the red-haired teen states softly, hating that she expects the backlash before he even opens his mouth.

"Oh," the Blake brother scoffs, smiling sarcastically. "You've decided that? The mighty Wanheda, who chose the grounders over her own people? Who turned her back on us when we came to rescue you? Now, you want to talk?"

A thousand spiteful comebacks shoot through her mind at his furious and vengeful tone and the words he spits them out with. Instead, however, Myles swallows and pushes off of the table to step towards him haltingly.

"I came to tell you that the Ice Nation has paid the price for the attack on Mount Weather," Myles offers firmly. "That it's over."

"There it is again," Bellamy chides, crossing his arms and looking at the ground with a sadistic smirk. Looking up at her sharply and speaking furiously. "Why do you get to decide it's over?"

"I don't know what you want from me," the redhead admits, her boots planting on the ground a metre away from him. "We did our part."

"We?" Bellamy mockingly questions, his head jutting forward condescendingly.

"Lexa and Roan…" Myles starts to explain, cutting herself off when she realises that it's too complicated for him to possibly understand right now. Sucking in a greedy breath, "the Ice Queen is dead, we fixed it and you and Pike ruined everything."

"Why are you here, Myles?" Bellamy demands lowly, uncrossing his arms and stalking right up to Myles.

"If Arkadia doesn't fix what you've broken," the red-haired teen informs him softly, begging for him to understand. "The twelve clans will wipe you out and I won't be able to fix it for you again."

"Let them try," the Blake brother declares defiantly, and Myles' hopeful resolve falters.

"Please don't tell me that you want another war," Myles whispers thickly, her voice becoming stuck with tears that she tries desperately to not let slip out.

"We've been at war since we landed," Bellamy reasons quietly, his dark brown eyebrows turning up in a worried frown. "At least Pike understands that."

It stuns Myles to silence for a moment, "why is that? Because last time I checked, it was because we ruined their land and burned down their villages."

"You're wrong," the Blake brother asserts confidently, his sharp features twisting up angrily again.

"Am I?" Myles demands, "I'm sorry, were there any attacks in the last three months? Or just the bomb at Mount Weather?"

"I let you," Bellamy divulges scornfully, scrunching up his nose sourly, "and Octavia and Kane convince me that we could trust these people when they have shown over and over who they are. And I won't let anyone else die for that mistake."

"Just," Myles' head is spinning, of all the things she expected to walk through that door, she didn't expect an unrepentant mass murderer. Deep brown eyes stare at her widely, looking maddened by everything they've been through. "Listen, Bell, I need you and we don't have much time."

"You need me," Bellamy repeats blandly after a second of just staring at her stormily.

"Yes," Myles immediately agrees, her red eyebrows raising high and a sad smile of relief daring to peek through her pleading expression. "Yes, I d – "

"You left me," Bellamy reminds her shakily, his tone unwaveringly harsh as dark brown eyebrows fly up. "You left everyone."

"What else was I sup – " the red-haired teen tries, before Bellamy cuts her off.

"Enough, Myles!" Bellamy shouts, lowering his voice when he continues. "You're not in charge here. And that's a good thing, because people die when you're in charge."

Tears glisten in both of their eyes, the words destroying everything that Myles had spent the last three months painstakingly creating to keep herself alive and okay. Bellamy almost looks like he wants to take the words back, but he doesn't. Hazel eyes leave his, taunting reminders of the hallucinations of Bellamy she's seen since Mount Weather echoing in her mind and tempting her with the belief that this isn't real.

"Okay," Myles relents defeatedly, daring to lock her tear-filled eyes on Bellamy's again.

"Okay?" Bellamy snidely repeats.

"Go ask your sister what she thinks," Myles starts, quickly finishing her sentence before Bellamy could talk over her again. He stops, squinting his eyes at her in a patronising way that makes her feel stupid enough to keep talking. "It doesn't mean she's right, you don't have to care at all how she feels, but, god, ask her, because she's the next one walking out that gate and leaving you and never looking back."

It's Bellamy's turn to be shocked to silence, Myles' words reinforcing a fear that's lingered in the back of his mind since they left Mount Weather three months ago. The slack expression that takes over his face is almost enough to make Myles want to cave and go back to begging him to help, but she knows it's no use. Octavia was right, he's not going to help them.

Turning when only silence fills the room, Myles waits another beat before storming past the man and through the door Bellamy had entered through, marching down the hallway to get to the room that leads her out of this hellhole. Hot tears spill down her cheeks, and the redhead angrily swipes them away, never once hearing Bellamy leave the room or turn to follow her. It doesn't take long to navigate through the familiar winding halls, and it's only a matter of moments later that Myles slips through the red strips of plastic hanging from the ceiling to make up a temporary wall.

"Uncle Marcus," Myles breathes out happily, the tears she was fighting moments ago reappearing.

At the sight of the redhead, Marcus surges forward to embrace her in a tight hug that does nothing to help stop her teary eyes from watering. Sniffing loudly and trying to steady herself from the conversation she just had, hazel eyes skim over Abby Griffin and Octavia shifting the metal panel on the wall. Shifting it reveals the small passageway that Myles and Octavia had entered through, and it reminds Myles that there's no time to waste.

"It's okay," Marcus soothes, feeling the girl he's loved as his own daughter try to pull herself together. "We know what happened."

"We know what Pike did," Abby adds urgently, abandoning Octavia at the panel to help figure this out with the red-haired teen. Myles pulls out of Marcus' hug to look at them. "Is there anything we can do to prevent a retaliation?"

"Aggie, hurry," Marcus urges kindly, his soft tone making her want to melt into the floor. "We don't have time."

"We came here to give them Pike," Octavia admits sorrowfully from the panel, already knowing from the look on the redhead's face how Bellamy reacted.

"He's the duly elected chancellor," Marcus explains lowly, "our people knew what they were voting for. Besides, he has the guards and all the guns. Can't get close to him."

"And that's not the way we do things," Abby insists, ever the voice of reason.

Myles' teary eyes lock back on Marcus' determined gaze, lifting a shoulder to shrug helplessly.

"I haven't got any better ideas," the redhead admits shakily, her head twitching to the side with her effort to stay calm.

"She's right," Octavia decides, "maybe it's time we changed the way we do things."

A loud alarm echoes through the hallways and rooms of Alpha Station, a man's monotone voice calling out an announcement.

"Security breach," the alarm sounds, a shrill beeping screeching through after his words that's almost as loud as the realisation that Bellamy told the guard she's here. "Lockdown commencing."

"You need to go," Marcus whispers, urgently tugging Myles towards the passageway. "Now."

"Uncle Marcus," Myles refuses, hot tears completely obstructing her vision. "Come with me."

"I can't," the councillor pleads with her, reaching his hands up to cup her face as the shrill and fast-paced alarm continues to blare.

"Please," the redhead whimpers, tears spilling over her cheeks. "I'm tired, I can't do this again. I can't. I can't."

"You can," Marcus corrects strongly, "and you will, because that's what you do. That's what you're good at." Myles tips her head to the side, defeat coursing through her body and weighing her down. "May we meet again."

"May we meet again," Myles echoes as Marcus pulls her head down to plant a kiss on her forehead before letting her go completely to disappear down the cramped passageway.

 

Myles' rapidly pounding boots cross the Earth beneath her feet quickly, the sound of the thumping rivalling her anxiously beating heart. Darkness cloaks the Earth, the sun finally having completely disappeared over the horizon. The dark evening sky and the white puffs of her own breath that cloud in front of her face make it hard to see exactly what's in front of her. Her boots stomp over sticks and bound over logs and tree roots easily and without much thought, but the slippery mud that greets her with the hundreds of bodies trip her up.

Fire lit torches accompany the warriors standing guard outside of Lexa's large tent, and the second Myles is close enough to be recognisable in the lowlight, one of them disappears into the tent. Myles gets there just as the man slips back out of the woven material, and she doesn't wait for permission before slinking in behind him.

Jasper springs to his feet, and Clarke straightens in her spot next to Indra, but Lexa paces impatiently, barely sparing the redhead a glance.

"Where's Octavia?" Indra immediately enquires, and Myles' fast steps falter before stopping completely in front of the invisible line the commander walks.

"She's still in camp," Myles explains, getting simultaneous shocked looks from both Arker's and the warrior.

"What?" Clarke exclaims. "She hates it there."

"What's happening?" Jasper quizzes, walking to stand so close to his best friend that when they take breaths, his abdomen brushes against her elbow.

Myles doesn't answer, only watching as Lexa paces in front of her.

"Tell us, Myles," the commander urges dully, "how does this end? Have you come up with a way to save your people, yet again?"

"No," the red-haired teen admits honestly, quirking her eyebrows and tipping her head before continuing. "Only you can do that."

"Aggie," Clarke breathes out lowly in warning, but her fearful expression doesn't make Myles falter or slow.

"What happened out there is an act of war," Myles says simply, lifting an arm and pointing bitterly at the muddy field of their dead friend's. "Hell, they even said it themselves. Your army was here to help us and my people slaughtered them in their sleep." Clarke stands in shock, and Jasper reaches a hand out to grip his best friend's arm as her name falls quietly from his lips. "You have every right to retaliate. Every right to wipe them all out. Or, you can change the way you do things."

"Why should she change?" Indra counters confidently, "blood must have blood."

"And how does that end?" Myles shoots back at the warrior, lifting her eyebrows and shrugging lazily. Flicking her hazel eyes back to Lexa's impatient brown. "Even if both armies had fully automatic guns, that still only ends with everyone dead. Heda, what kind of leader do you want to be?" Lexa halts in her pacing to level the red-haired teen with a bored stare. "Kaina-de chon ste flosh klin kom ogeda chants em ste hon in… kos daun bilaik yu hedon? O kaina-de chon ste tich houd-de op fodowin hedon?" [AN: "The kind who kills every chance she gets… because that's your way? Or the kind who shows the world a better way?"]

Lexa steps to stand toe to toe with Myles, and Jasper let's go of the redhead's arm, knowing she has this handled. Something shines in Lexa's brown eyes, and Myles can't quite put her finger on it, but she knows she needs to hold her ground firmly.

"You consider letting a massacre go unavenged..." the commander starts slowly, as if she's more curious for the Arker's reply than anything else. "A better way?"

"If it ends the cycle of death, yes," Myles declares strongly, "if it ends the cycle of unnecessary wars, yes. If it brings peace, yes." Lexa's unblinking eyes stare into Myles', "someone has to take the first step, Heda. What's a better legacy than be the one who does that?" The commander finally closes her eyes, holding them closed for a beat as she slowly turns and begins pacing again. Unwilling to lose this and doom Arkadia, Myles follows after her. "You said to me you want peace, that everything you've done has been to achieve that, but look at where we are! We're on the brink of another war. A war… that you can stop."

Lexa stops walking, locking her softening gaze on the redhead's hazel. When the young woman merely switches her eyes between Myles', Indra leans forward from the pillows she lay propped up against.

"Commander," Indra's incredulous voice prompts, "you can't seriously be considering this."

The commander turns her unwavering gaze to Clarke as she replies, "I'm not considering it." Myles' stomach bottoms out, the feeling of failing again filling her to the brim. "I'm doing it."

"Heda," Indra interjects forcefully, "please – "

"Indra," Lexa cuts her off, and Myles finally feels like she can breathe again. "Our people act as if war is easier than peace. If that's so, should we not try and achieve the more difficult goal?"

Respect flourishes inside of Myles, and she spares a glance at the two other relaxed Arker's.

"Polis will not support you," the dark-skinned warrior warns, "Titus – "

"Titus is my subject," the commander raises her voice, stepping towards the wounded warrior. "They're all my subjects." Lexa lowers her voice again, her tone falling so low and threateningly that Myles swears the ground shakes. "Do you say they will defy me? Will you defy me?"

"No, Heda," Indra amends calmly, "I will not."

"Then let it be known…" the commander announces, turning back to lock her eyes with Clarke's before finally switching to Myles' fleetingly. "Blood must not have blood."

 

They're here again, slowing the rover to a stop in the pitch black and pouring rain at the usual sight of the tree with half of a branch chopped off and a boulder immediately after it. It's different, though, the two best friends aren't alone in the rover anymore as it comes to a complete stop beside the familiar cluster of stones to their left. Myles flicks off the headlights and waits a beat for her eyes to adjust before crawling forward again.

"What's the bet…" Jasper drawls out tiredly, "that since last time it was for Clarke, this time it'll be for someone else?"

"If it is…" Myles plays along, "my money's on Lincoln."

"Lincoln?" Clarke scoffs jokingly, leaning forward in the backseat to bring her head between the two front seats. "Definitely Finn. He hates it there more than Octavia."

"That's who my money's on," the brown-haired teen decides aloud, and Myles flicks her head towards him halfheartedly.

"Finny-boy?" Myles asks, quirking an eyebrow even though neither of the other two can see it.

"No," Jasper corrects instantly, "Octavia, you amateurs."

"Nah," Clarke waves off, "she'll stay if Lincoln stays. Those two are a package deal."

Myles starts hitting the brake again, slowing the slowly crawling rover to a stop.

Tipping her head to the side, Myles states, "only one way to find out."

Unbuckling the only two seatbelts in the rover, all three climb out into the cold rain. It doesn't take more than a second for Octavia Blake's voice to call out to them as two sets of footsteps approach.

"Guys," the Blake sister greets jogging towards them. "We're here."

"Climb straight in," Jasper declares, pushing Clarke gently back towards the rover. "Get you out of the rain."

Clarke switches on the ceiling light when she climbs over the front seats to get into the back and Myles slips back into the drivers seat. The small light illuminates all five Arker's faces, showing the other person Octavia is with to be Finn. Finn clambers into the backseat with Octavia, sitting across from her and Clarke. Jasper shuts his door behind himself and both best friends turn to face the three in the back.

"What's happened?" Myles quizzes, dread pumping heavily through her veins.

"Whatever you said to Bell worked," a drenched Octavia informs them, and shock colours the three. "He's gonna be a double agent for Marcus."

"That's fantastic," Clarke beams, excitement radiating from her.

"He's good at playing the inside man," Jasper agrees, looking to Myles with a smile.

"What else?" Myles enquires softly, "Why'd Uncle Marcus send you both out?"

"He didn't," Finn admits, "I'm not going back in there."

"Neither am I," Octavia adds, holding up one of Marcus' walkie-talkies. "They arrested Lincoln and all the grounders in sick-bay. Kane wants me to be the eyes for whatever Pike plans do outside of the walls, keep me from joining them in lockup and give you two a break."

Myles and Jasper lock eyes.

"Thank god!"

Chapter Text

Day 148 – Feb. 7

Tired hazel eyes stare through the darkness at the wooden ceiling above her. Slow, deep breaths echo from the dark brown-haired teen sleeping beside her. The words uttered by the brother of the girl in Myles' bed the day before are stuck firmly in the redhead's mind, chasing away sleep for the last few hours of the night. Sighing, Myles turns her head to glance out her window at the dark early morning sky.

Carefully sitting up, the red-haired teen presses down with her hands on her bed to regulate the slow lifting of her weight off the mattress. Silently, Myles crosses the room and slips out of her bedroom door. Instead of walking elsewhere in the house or leaving completely, the redhead walks across the hallway to the door to Jasper's room. Quietly pushing the handle made of melted scrap metal down to open the door, Myles steps inside.

Finn sleeps on a makeshift bed on the floor in the middle of the room, dead to the world as Max lifts his head from the foot of Jasper's bed and wags his tail excitedly. As she gently closes the door, a wide awake Jasper props himself up on his elbows. Her best friend is already scooting over on his bed to make room for Myles before her hand ever leaves the door handle. Myles' sock-clad feet pad over the wooden floor to Jasper's bed, scratching at Max's fur when he stands to greet her.

"Can't sleep, either?" Jasper whispers when his best friend flops down to lie beside him.

"Nope," Myles answers just as quietly, and Max walks up the slim gap between the two teens bodies to lie down against their sides. Both teens scratch at the small calico coloured dog's head and Myles turns her head to look at Jasper in the pale moonlight. "Why can't you sleep?"

"It's Mount Weather all over again," he murmurs disdainfully, "Pike's like Cage. A vulture who thinks he deserves nothing less than everything on Earth. Doesn't matter how many innocent people he has to kill for it all."

Myles doesn't reply straight away, thinking over the words. While there are similarities in the overall thinking of the two men, that's as far as the situations alikeness goes. It doesn't stop almost every bad scenario they find themselves sucked into from being twisted and compared to what happened inside of that mountain, however. Maybe it never will, and the dark cloud of its memories that follow the two best friends and constantly plague their thoughts might just be destined to remain so deep a scar that it never truly heals, even after years.

This warped thought process takes a turn in Myles' mind that Jasper hasn't even considered in three months. Bellamy's words echo in her mind, making her head throb with each syllable she remembers falling from his lips. Myles' heart still aches from the torn look in his eyes, like he'd been wanting to say the words for a while but regretted them the second they left his throat.

"That's what Bellamy thinks I do," Myles breathes out, getting Jasper to whip his head to face her and stilling his hand on Max's head. "Kinda."

"What are you talking about?" Jasper quizzes lowly, propping himself up on his elbows. Myles stays silent, not meeting his eyes and instead staring blankly at the ceiling. "You didn't tell me what happened with him."

"You didn't tell me what happened with Greenie," the redhead counters in a hushed tone.

"That's different," her best friend reminds her softly, turning his body to face her when his neck cramps up. "And, as your best friend, I'm obligated to kick Blake's ass if he said anything even remotely like you're like Cage."

"He didn't," Myles amends dejectedly, sighing harshly as the man's words swirl around her mind.

Jasper waits patiently, before gesturing with the arm he's no longer using to hold himself up. "Well?"

"He, uh," the red-haired teen hesitates, "said that I'm not in charge anymore, and that it's a good thing, because all I do is get people killed."

"Bellamy Blake said that?" Jasper asks lowly, and hazel eyes lock on her best friends infuriated brown. "Bellamy Blake, who tried to walk through the Azgeda army, alone, to get to you, said that?"

"Yeah, well," Myles shrugs lazily. "Apparently it wasn't the wholesome, romantic gesture we thought it was."

The empty air that follows her words is thick and heavy, but it's her best friend's silence that speaks volumes to the redhead.

"I'm going to fucking kill him," Jasper declares slowly, his tone dangerously low.

"JJ," Myles drawls out, flicking her gaze between his eyes worriedly.

"Don't try and justify that," the brown-haired teen implores, the angry look never once leaving his eyes. "You walked into a wall in Polis yesterday and you apologised. To the wall."

"He's lost," the red-haired teen informs him quietly, her eyebrows turning up in a worried frown. "What happened in Mount Weather doesn't just affect us. It hurt him, too."

"So, what?" Jasper scoffs softly, "that makes gunning down 300 people who were sent to help him okay? Makes telling you all you do is get people killed okay?"

"Rule fifty-eight, JJ," Myles sighs deeply, and the teen beside her, though still pissed, relaxes slightly.

"'If you start making adult decisions'," Jasper recites, "'keep making them'."

"He's trying to come to terms with what pulling that lever meant," the redhead whispers, "it all looks like the same decision to him. He's lost."

Jasper clenches his jaw before lying back down on his back. His hand brushes through Max's fur again as his head tilts towards his best friend.

"Do you think…" Jasper mutters hoarsely after a moment, "if I stayed… I'd still be as lost as him?"

Myles tilts her head to meet his eyes, thinking it through.

"I don't know," Myles answers in a hushed tone, "maybe. You'd probably be too drunk to shoot a gun."

A halfhearted snort-laugh bubbles from Jasper's throat, making Myles let out a small giggle before clamping a hand over her mouth to stay quiet.

"You're probably right."

 

The morning sun has barely peeked over the horizon, brightening up the land in front of the two teens enough that they don't need their flashlights to see. Hazel eyes are glued to the greenery in front of her, the vibrant colours glaring through the last few weeks of winter. Her centuries old worn and splotchy leather tactical boots seem dull and lifeless amongst the intensity of the green grass beneath them. Tight distressed black jeans are covered in rips and holes that have been lazily patched with an array of different materials, her weapons and their leg braces having to be strapped over top of the tight clothing.

A glimmer flickers in the slowly rising sunlight, and Myles changes direction to walk up to it. Despite the tight jeans, Myles can move freely and comfortably in them as she crouches down to brush her glove-clad fingers through the grass. Over the edge of her gloves are the long sleeves of her fairly intact dark brown shirt; the only signs of its age are its frayed edges and dull colour. A tank top is layered underneath of it, and the layer on top of them all is what's left of a leather jacket.

Once black leather has been bleached with age, taking on splattered and uneven brown tones now. It has no sleeves anymore, Myles had gotten sick of continuously sowing them back on and now only wears it as a vest.

Turning the small shards of glass over in her hand, Myles doesn't stand when she calls out.

"Over here," the redhead states loudly, scanning her hazel eyes around the grass and moss covered area. "I think I found it." Immediately, the sound of her best friend's boots and Max's little paws start heading towards her. "Careful, there's glass everywhere."

"Max," Jasper commands the dog, "sit."

Jasper's worn brown leather boots are what Myles sees of him first as he leans over her shoulder and eyes the grass with her, both looking for the same thing. His form-fitting jeans were once a light blue, years and years ago, but now they're various shades of muted green, grey and brown with age and discolouration. Brown pockets with weapon straps made from scraps of material litter across his jeans, giving his patchwork repairs more than just one purpose.

Standing up, Myles spares a glance at her best friend as she moves to look around more. His long-sleeved dark grey shirt is slightly baggy, lighter shades of grey speckled over the material from age and wear. Long splits run down both his arms, thin black and tan braided thread crisscrossing all the way down does nothing to hold the two pieces of material back together again. Large gashes and tears in his shirt has been patched with strips of material that's several shades lighter than the rest of his shirt, with noticeable holes on his shoulders and elbows having been patched with leather. His flaky black leather jacket covers his sleeved arms and hides the weapons hidden in braces under his sleeves and gloves.

"Are you sure this is where it would've been?" Jasper asks after a few moments of finding nothing more than scattered glass shards. "Hardly any glass for a huge building."

"I found it in the background of, like, three different brochures," Myles explains, shrugging. "It's been two hundred years. It's probably all buried or been jacked."

"How are we supposed to find an entrance then?" Jasper enquires, lifting his gaze from the dirt to the trees and wildlife surrounding them. "Were there any other landmarks?"

"Only other buildings," the redhead sighs, "it was a built-up city. Just look for an old elevator shaft or stairwell. Should lead us straight down."

Their gazes remain fixed on the ground beneath them, shifting foliage with their boots and squinting to see what's there in the dull light the rising sun provides them. A metallic thunk catches their attention, and Myles whips around to look at where Jasper just stepped. Crossing to him instantly, Jasper bends down to lift up a long sheet of heavy metal panelling, completely cloaked with vines and moss. The bright green shades of life don't give either teen even a glimpse of the blue-grey metal it hides and lifting it the slightest bit reveals a dull and dead patch on the ground it had been laying over for a century.

Myles joins him, her gloved fingers slipping over the thick moss covering the top and sides of the metal and grunting to flip it over, trying to get a good look at what's underneath it. Dead leaves, more dense green moss and long, skinny sticks lay across the ground in a square shape, and both teens brush away them all. Another large sheet of metal is under the thin layer of sticks, this one almost bare of any touch of green, only a grimy texture and tinted discolouration painted over it in certain spots.

Both Arker's stomachs drop at the nothingness that is revealed by lifting the last metal sheet. Shoving it over to crash loudly on top of the other metal, the thick scent of musty air chokes their lungs. Coughing at the sudden gust of thick and stale air, Myles pulls a flashlight from her waistband and clicks it on.

They can't see anything down the elevator shaft, not even when Jasper clicks on his own flashlight and shines his white beam down there with Myles'. Despite the smell and the pitch blackness that greets them, excited hazel eyes gleam when they lock on Jasper's shining brown.

"Told you," Myles gloats, clicking off her flashlight and turning to walk back over to a patiently waiting Max.

"Bold words," Jasper jokes, "for someone who's going in first."

Myles stops, turning her whole body around to stare at her giddy best friend in exasperation.

 

Clipping their last locking hook onto the chassis under the front of the rover, Myles stands back up straight and steps back.

"Alright," the red-haired teen calls, nodding to Jasper and Max inside of the rover. "Hit it."

Jasper replaces one foot on the clutch with another on the accelerator and the tires spin in the dirt, pulling the chain tight and slightly swaying the three tall trees they've tightly anchored the hoist to. They both give it a few seconds of Jasper flooring it in reverse to test the strength of how they rigged up their hoist to the trees before Myles nods contentedly and Jasper stops the rover.

"That look good?" Jasper quizzes through the slits in the metal covering the driver's window.

"Yeah," Myles answers distractedly, leaning forward and unhooking it from the car. "It'll hold."

"Sweet," the brown-haired teen mutters, reversing a tad before stopping the rover a metre away from the hole.

Jasper and Max get out of the rover, coming over to Myles as she tugs the chains hanging from where they have secured them to the trees towards the ground instead of directly over the hole in the Earth.

"Okay," Myles mutters to herself, pulling out her flashlight and clicking it on before holding it in her mouth.

Twisting the loop of chain with several locking hooks on it around her right boot, ankle, thigh and left arm half a dozen times before reaching over and hooking the giant loop of chain with no hooks around the back of her right hand to grasp in her palm. The hoist is a very simple pulley design, the large, ugly looking diamond shaped metal box houses a big reel of chain with a heavy clamp to keep the chain from shifting when they don't want it to. Yanking hard either side of the second loop around will either lift or lower something or someone that's attached to the loop with hooks. Even though they've used it hundreds of times in the last three months to move things that weighed too much for the teens to shift and to travel up and down ridiculous heights, using it to descend into complete blackness still makes Myles' stomach feel heavy with dread.

Her left foot skitters over the grass before Myles shifts her body weight to make her fall into the elevator shaft. The chains hold her up, but Myles has to wait for herself to stop swinging before she lowers herself down. Jasper reaches out with one of his hands to help her stop swinging, and his touch doesn't leave her until she's still. Cold metal pinches into her skin through her clothes from the chains being held tight around her, and fear prickles at her heart from looking down at the hole she hangs over. Myles' right foot shakes on the chain it balances on, but the length of it wrapped around her leg and arm keeps her held up steadily.

"You good?" Jasper enquires, his eyes looking from her to the hoist reel above their heads as Max whines and shifts anxiously behind him.

"Peachy," Myles retorts, the word muffled and unrecognisable through the flashlight in her mouth. Yanking down with the side of the loop her right hand is holding, the chains lower her with a jolt. Gripping the loop tightly, Myles keeps her right hand still after each harsh tug to make sure the clamp holds her up instead of letting her fall all the way down. "See you in a minute."

"I have no idea what you just said," Jasper informs her, watching her lower herself until her head is past the level of ground he stands on before turning to take the crates out of the rover.

Even with the sun almost fully up and over the horizon, it isn't until several metres down that Myles sees the concrete floor beneath her dangling form and she halts suddenly. Jasper must hear her hesitation, because his worried voice calls down not even a second later.

"You still good?" Jasper calls down loudly, his voice echoing off the concrete walls.

"Uh-huh," Myles blandly replies, starting to lower herself again with her gaze locked on the two skeletons directly under her.

When her hazel eyes see nothing else that could cause alarm on the floor, she tilts her head to sweep her light around her as she nears the bottom of the elevator shaft. It's no different from any other underground parking garage that they've seen. Hundreds of cars parked neatly in their designated spots with everything in sight made of concrete; the floor, the ceiling, the elevator shaft walls, the pillars and columns. Faded strips of blue, yellow, and white paint mark up the columns and floor, rusted and leaking pipes lining the two metre high ceiling.

Myles stops yanking on the chain when her left boot can graze the ground, and she hops to find her balance a step away from the two skeletons at her feet. Carefully untangling herself from the chains, Myles pulls the flashlight from her mouth and flicks it between the metre wide gap in the concrete shaft she's in. Critters scatter, having found their way in somehow, but the air is thick and reeks of mould, billions of tiny flecks of dust and dirt dancing in the white beam of the redhead's flashlight.

"Made it," Myles states loudly, hearing her voice echo back several times with the repeating sounds of Jasper readying the crates. Her curious hazel eyes scour the rows of cars through the cluttered air, already working out a plan in her mind. "Careful when you come down, looks like they covered it for a reason. Two friends at the bottom."

"Gross," her best friend utters, and Myles puts the flashlight back in her mouth to yank the other side of the loop to raise the locking hooks towards the surface again. "How bad is it?"

"Uh-uh," the red-haired teen unhelpfully supplies loudly, turning her head to glance around her again as the sounds of bugs rustling around reverberates off the walls.

 

Myles stands under the elevator shaft, her flashlight in her mouth and her hands held up to grip the chains wrapped around their sixth, and last, crate. The wooden box is just short of a metre in width, length and height, and is remarkably heavier than the other five of its same size when she tugs it towards herself to avoid the bones on the ground. Jasper's flashlight lifts up and peers down the edge of the box he and Max stand in, staring at the bones.

"Jesus," Jasper murmurs, looking back up at the entrance. "Some fall." Myles grunts in agreement as the crate drops on the ground. Max jumps up, his front paws resting on the top edge of the crate, his nose excitedly sniffing around at the new smells. Jasper lifts the small calico dog up and gently leans over the crates edge to help him on the concrete ground. "Out you go."

Max is off, sniffing everything he can reach and his little paws click softly as he walks around. Myles bends down to unhook the crate from the chains and drag it backwards towards the others after Jasper jumps out. Standing back up, the redhead reaches into the crate for the folded up pallet trolley, setting the two wheels on the ground before clicking the long feet up and pulling out the pole to drag it around.

"I'll take A3," the brown-haired teen offers, leaning back over the crate to pull two almost empty backpacks out and pass one to his best friend as she pulls the flashlight from her mouth. Hazel eyes glance from the chipped and dull orange painted 'G1' on the outer brick walls of the elevator shaft to look at the row of cars to its left labelled with a hardly there blue stripe and 'A3' painted on the columns that are erected between every three cars. "You want A4?"

"Yeah," the redhead nods, flicking her flashlight to the row across from 'A3' to find the row for 'A4'. "I got it." Shrugging the backpack strap over her head to hang to her side so she can easily reach it, Myles walks alongside Jasper to the end of the rows of cars, gradually adding space between them. "So," Myles calls out, swiping her sleeve through the dust on a red car's window so she can see the inside of the door when she holds the flashlight to the glass. "How do you think Finn'll do with Ray's room?"

"Good," Jasper answers, mimicking her actions on a different car across from her. Myles pulls a metal rod with a short, sharp bend in one end and a small crowbar like screwdriver out from her bag. Putting the flashlight in her mouth to see what she's doing, Myles jams the screwdriver in the tiny gap between the car door and the body of the vehicle. "It'll be good for him, too. Give him something to do."

"Mm," Myles hums out distractedly, wrenching the screwdriver to pry open a small gap in the door. The red paint scratches off from the manoeuvre, and the second there's a slight opening, the redhead feeds through the hook end of the metal rod. Hooking the kink at the end on the interior door handle, Myles pulls the rod back towards herself and the door clicks open. Resting the rod and screwdriver on the roof of the car, the red-haired teen pulls the flashlight from her mouth as she crawls into the abandoned car and unlocks the other doors. "It helps everybody."

Somewhere in the garage, Max sneezes loudly and the sound echoes to them. Shining the flashlight around the interior of the car reveals it to be mostly clean and organised. The only signs of disarray are the papers on the passenger seat, the books and umbrella in the back footwells and the coins scattered inside of the empty cup holders between the driver and passenger seat. Scooping up the coins, Myles sticks them in the backpack for safekeeping as she noses around the papers.

The faded ink reveals they're invoice notes for the rental car she's in and the booking confirmation for the hotel that used to be standing above them. Opening the glove box reveals nothing, just leaflets and booklets for insurance and the rental company. Myles reaches her arm down to feel under the front seats before she grabs the books and umbrella from the back and starts to climb out of the car.

"Isn't it kinda funny," Jasper starts, ducking out of the open driver's door and opening the back door of the car he's raiding. "That everyone keeps leaving Arkadia?" Myles pulls the levers for the trunk and bonnet of the car before shutting the front door. "And coming to us? Literally straight for us."

"Clarke's not with us," Myles reminds him, dropping the three rotting novels and the umbrella onto the trolley to pull open the trunk. "Got a handbag."

"Anything good in it?" Jasper quizzes from the backseat of the car he's in. "And she is with us, she's just staying at Polis."

"Cash," the redhead lists, rifling through the contents of the handbag and mindlessly chucking the two hundred-year-old makeup, mints and gum into the empty trunk while sticking the dull and faded cash and wallet into her backpack. "Mints, passport, hotel keycard, sunglasses. She's staying at Polis with Lexa now."

"Only for a little bit," the brown-haired teen compromises, climbing out of his car and popping up the trunk. Jasper walks over to the trolley, dumping a sunhat, a pair of running shoes and a pair of fancy flats before going to the trunk. "She'll be back."

Myles shoots a skeptical look to her best friend's back, "I don't know." Lightly tossing the almost empty handbag with only the two pairs of sunglasses and a pair of prescription glasses left in it to the trolley. Shutting the trunk and walking around the car to get to the bonnet, the redhead continues drawling out her response. "You saw the looks they were giving each other."

"Do you think she's staying in Polis," Jasper starts, pausing for half a second as his focus is on whatever he's looking at. "Because Finn's staying with us now?"

"I think it's that, and," Myles agrees, yanking out the car's battery and setting the heavy box on the ground by her feet. Reaching back in, the redhead retrieves anything she can sell, which includes all the gears and chains she can see and pulling out short pipes and hoses. "She wants to see if she can really trust Lexa. Make sure she keeps her word."

Myles slams the hood, dragging the junk over to the trolley as Max's clicking steps trot over to them. Grabbing the rod and screwdriver from the roof of the red car, the redhead moves to the car beside it.

"All that," Jasper concedes, shutting the trunk and moving towards the trolley. "And Lexa is hot."

 

"I'm just saying," Jasper counters as Myles huffs through the flashlight in her mouth. Her red eyebrows draw together in concentration as a black garment bag hanging from the safety handle above the window obstructs Myles' access to the door handle. After fiddling with the rod for another short moment, the door clicks open. "Maybe it'd be better if we went around them this time."

"And you don't think that'll look worse?" Myles quizzes after pulling the flashlight from her mouth, dumping the screwdriver and rod on the roof before zipping open the garment bag.

"No," her best friend reasons as the redhead lets out an amazed breath. "I think the looks on their faces will look worse."

"Fine," Myles breathes out in a daze. "We'll go around Achon and Dunvi. Come look at this."

Jasper looks up from his car across from her, putting down whatever he'd gathered on the backseat and making his way over to her. They've made a lot of progress; they'd finished their first rows and are now almost finished with their second. The parking garage has another level below them, but they're far from being ready to venture further down. Two of the crates are full of mostly junk or scraps that they can sell, and the weight in Myles' backpack is making her shoulders ache from all that she's found for themselves.

A low whistle ricochets around the concrete structure they're in, gaining Max's attention.

"That's real fancy," Jasper muses, looking at the suit. "Woah."

It's a navy blue cashmere tuxedo suit, in perfect condition, albeit a bit faded. A silky white undershirt is peeking out from under the dark blue blazer, the folded over collar appears to be made of velvet. Hung over the shoulders of the pressed suit is a tie with even diagonal stripes of baby blue and burgundy. Tucked into the pocket over where the wearer's heart would be is a handkerchief, folded over to display the pale, dusky pink and blues of the ombré coloured material.

"There's more," Myles points out, walking around the sleek car to get to the passenger's door.

A garment bag hangs over every door's window, several more lay carefully on the backseat and their footwells. Jasper zips up the suits garment bag as Myles unzips the bag hanging in front of the passenger window. The dress inside is burgundy coloured, the skirt of it long and made of silk to flow and float through the air. Over the bodice is lace that stretches up to cover the shoulders, cinching the flowing material to accentuate a thin waist.

"Must've been for a wedding," the brown-haired teen muses, peeking through the dozen garment bags in the back. "Thirteen different bags."

Myles zips up the garment bag to join Jasper in looking through the ones in the back.

"Must've been a big one," Myles adds, furrowing her brows when the math doesn't add up. "Where's the match for the drivers suit?"

"What?" Jasper asks, looking back through the bags.

"There's six dresses and seven suits," the redhead lists, "three of each in different shades of pink and the others in shades of blue. They all have a matching partner but the drivers suit. Where's the other spouse?"

"Maybe they didn't keep it in the car," her best friend theorises, before both teens halt and lock eyes.

Immediately, both of their gazes break from each other's and they both swing their flashlights to shine on the backseats they're leant over. It's in the trunk.

"I'll pop it," Jasper offers when they both climb out of the car doors.

"Thanks," Myles calls back, walking around to wait at the trunk. Jasper pulls the little lever and the trunk clicks up, allowing Myles to swing it open and peer inside. "Got a bag."

Myles waits for Jasper to come join her before she unzips the bag that lay draped over several plastic boxes, and the beautiful dress inside takes their breaths away. The only pure white on the gown is the bodice and the small flowers and swirls in the lace that drapes over it all, making sleeves that start in the middle of someone's upper arm. Almost translucent and silk mesh-like material disappears, the only way of telling it's there is the patterned lace scattered around. A veil made of the tinted lace material extends the entire length of the gown, several little jewels lining the fabric. The clip is covered in delicate jewels that are shaped like leaves and petals, stretching across in a small strip.

Underneath where the gown tightens and clings to the wearer's waist, the material opens up, fanning out and falling to sit in a dense and wide circle. Bright, untouched white slowly tints with pale dusty pink under the hips, before turning into a pale baby blue at the very bottom. It's subtle and gorgeous, a gown that could never even be imagined in the most intricate fantasies on the Ark or in the villages around them.

"Can you even imagine what this will sell for?" Myles mutters in astonishment, her gaze still adoring the stunning gown.

"Sell for?" Jasper repeats in bewilderment. "Why in the universe would we sell it?"

"You want to keep it all?" Myles questions, looking at the teen beside her.

"You want to sell it all?" Jasper counters in shock, "come on. Don't you see us, walking down the aisle with the loves of our lives in these?"

"I can see you doing that," the redhead appeases, zipping up the wedding dress before the dust-filled air can ruin it.

"But not you?" Jasper enquires curiously, carefully picking up the garment bag and putting it with the others in the backseat.

"Not in anything like that," Myles scoffs a laugh, looking up from the plastic boxes and bags to glance at her best friend as he stands from the back seat. "If it ever comes to it, I'd want something calm and unsuspecting… you know, normal."

"You know," the brown-haired teen mocks kindly, "this used to be normal."

"Well," the redhead drawls out, unzipping the duffle bag to reveal a slew of tall high heels in different shades of the main two colours of the outfits and simple men's dress shoes. "It's been two hundred years. Now they paint themselves and tie literal knots and wear their best dresses and robes."

"Aggie," Jasper replies, "these are now our best dresses and robes."

Myles levels the teen with a short exasperated look before zipping closed the shoe bag and helping Jasper rifle through the plastic boxes of expired makeup for anything useable.

"Okay," Myles sighs, "we'll keep them, but one of us is going to have to take them up now because we'll run outta room."

Jasper stops, looking at her for a moment, then spinning to glance at the full crates behind them, the two that are slowing being filled up and the last empty one. His flashlight's white beam sweeps around to the ramp that leads to nothing but rubble and the collapsed concrete ceiling. There's nothing useful in any of the makeup, so Myles tips it all out and keeps the hair clips, ties and brushes with the plastic boxes.

 

"Oh, please," Myles huffs, leant over another car's open hood as she yanks parts of the engine out. "I'm not that worried about it."

"It devastated both of us," Jasper reminds her, shutting the hood of one of the cars across from his best friend.

"No," the redhead drawls out with a lighthearted giggle, "it didn't. It was a colossal pain in the ass, not a devastation."

Jasper grunts when he lifts the heavy car parts he carries over the edge of an almost full crate, letting out a breath before replying.

"You really expect me to believe," the brown-haired teen goads, walking over to grab his rod and screwdriver and turning to the untouched car beside him. "That when you saw the drop step and the bridge, your first thought wasn't vengeance?"

"Revenge," Myles sighs dramatically, slamming the hood down. "Is beneath me." The red-haired teen bends down to pick up the junk she'd dumped on the ground. "Conspicuous accidents may be on the horizon, though."

"I knew it," Jasper states enthusiastically, standing up straight and looking at her after the door he was prying at clicks open. "Whatever you got planned, you better keep me in the loop. Project Squadriga has been dormant for too long."

"Project Quadriga is us three," the red-haired teen corrects in a strained voice, heaving the heavy car parts up and over the edge of a crate. Jasper stops where he'd started ducking down to look in the car, straightening to keep his eyes and flashlight on his best friend as she walks back to grab her tools before turning to another car. "And squadriga sounds like an aquatic mammal."

"Quad sounds like four," her best friend explains with a chuckle wavering in his voice from a memory Myles must've missed while she was in the Skybox. "Squad is wittier and cooler."

"You're right," Myles relents, her words muffled and unrecognisable through the flashlight held in her mouth. "But it's still stupid."

"I have no idea what you just said," Jasper informs her, and Myles takes the flashlight from her mouth when the door she was jimmying opens. "But if it was an aquatic mammal, do you think it'd be a humpback whale or a really fat sea lion?"

"A beluga whale," the redhead answers without any hesitation, climbing onto the front seats and looking through the pristinely clean inside of the car.

"A beluga whale?" Jasper repeats in disbelief. "We are not a group of bel-loser whales."

"Oh, please," Myles counters playfully, her voice slowing down and her red eyebrows pulling together when the search for absolutely anything in the car turns up fruitless. "Only the cool kids…" the red-haired teen cuts herself off with a grunt as she awkwardly crawls backwards from the back of the car to kneel on the front seats again. "… can change the shape of their foreheads by blowing air around their sinuses."

Pulling the little lever on the glove box in front of the passenger seat makes the door drop down, and Myles' flashlight reveals nothing but papers and booklets. Reaching a hand in and yanking out a handful to flip through with a defeated sigh, the redhead drops them down on the seat to shove shut the glove box when a glint catches her hazel eyes. Hidden under a thick booklet of information about the car, a single gold ring sits untouched.

The ring is smooth and intact, having been protected hidden away in this underground parking garage. Myles' slender fingers pick up the piece of jewellery carefully, the cool feel of it strong enough to be felt through her gloves. It's too large for her fingers, and as she twists it around in her hands, an engraved message on the inside of the ring makes her clench her jaw.

'I will love you forever – S 07-10-38'

Closing her fist around the ring, Myles climbs back to the driver's seat and pulls the levers for the trunk and the bonnet. Her ears finally recognise the silence that's fallen over her and her best friend, and her flashlight's beam swings over to Jasper across from her. Myles can hardly see him in the backseat of the SUV, even as she exits the vehicle completely.

"You good, JJ?" Myles asks, closing the car door, the sound echoing with Max's happy panting.

"Yeah," the brown-haired teen answers distractedly, "this is sad."

"What is?" Myles queries, changing her course from the trunk of her car to walk up to his. Max perks up when the redhead walks towards him again, standing and jumping to bump his head against her hand. Myles instantly bends down to pat him as she walks across, and the sight of the backseats of the SUV sends a cold pang through her chest. "This is sad."

Small screens on the backs of the front seats headrests have a cord that reaches to the radio in the dash, a pair of headphones each hung up over the screens. Underneath the screens are three rows of pockets, instead of the usual one. The first row is several small pockets and holders, each one occupied by something. Bottles filled with coloured pencils, pens and highlighters live on the first row, the second has a tall sippy-cup with a lid, a stack of paper towels and a slim brick shaped item and a plug with a long cord. In the large car seat pocket are several kid's books, ranging from puzzles to colouring in activities to stories.

Jasper flips through a short circular case, discs of different movies and TV shows filling the clear plastic sheets inside. Stuffed toys, dolls, and little cars are shoved into random pockets or laying across the seats and floor.

It's a startling reminder of exactly what was lost in the war. A simple family with young kids whose belongings only survived because they happened to stay in a hotel with a solid underground parking garage.

"You think these will still work?" Jasper enquires, gesturing to the screens with the DVD case.

"I don't know," the red-haired teen mumbles back, reaching over his shoulder to pull out the slim brick object in one of the pockets.

The back of it has small engraved writing that's worn away, and the top has a skinny rectangular slit that has a small card inside of it. Opening it, the device folds out to open almost flat. A large button of arrows sits on one side, and on the other is four buttons of letters. Three other buttons are labelled down the bottom of the two screens that are down the middle of the device, but one button in the top right isn't labelled at all.

"Interesting," Myles mutters, closing the device and tucking it back into its pocket with the long cord.

"Man," Jasper breathes out, shining his flashlight over it all. "We're gonna make some kids very happy today."

"Well, we better hurry up, then," the redhead says after a long sigh, leaving Max and Jasper to walk back over to her car. "We're almost filled up, anyway, and we've still gotta do our checks on the Haven's."

Pulling the unlocked trunk up to look inside, Myles is pleasantly surprised to see a pillow, a full duffle-bag and two thick dark green fabric satchels about a metre long and half a metre tall.

"They should be fine," Jasper waves off dismissively as Myles puts her flashlight in her mouth again, "we haven't had to make any more adjustments since Foxtrot a month and a half ago."

"Yeah," Myles' muffled voice drawls out while her hands unzip the large satchel. Her thought is cut off at the sight of the contents of the bag. Taking the flashlight from her mouth, "Jasper, I just hit the jackpot."

"What'd you get?" Jasper quizzes, climbing out of the car across from her to stride over to his best friend. Max follows him, jumping up to bump against Myles' hand and sniff at the contents of the trunk. "Woah."

Inside the heavy duty garment bag are several full sets of camouflage long-sleeved shirts, pants, a khaki green jacket, and vest. On the shirts are stitched on patches and a name tag that reads 'STEWART' in black lettering, with 'U.S. ARMY' across from it. The United States of America flag is on one sleeve, the colour appearing faded, but still wholly recognisable.

"How much more is there?" Jasper asks, reaching over and unzipping the other garment bag to find the same equipment packed the same way.

Myles unzips the duffle-bag, finding two pairs of boots that are the same size, a camouflage helmet, khaki and camouflage belts, weapon holders and sheaths, flask holder, thick goggles, knee and elbow pads, and casual solid khaki coloured short and long-sleeved shirts. Excited hazel eyes lock on Jasper's ecstatic brown.

"Dude," Myles breathes, "this will outlast all of us. This is military grade, war shit."

 

Slowly creeping the rover forward and into the village, familiar warriors stand on guard but they wear friendly expressions. The underlying grief that taints their faces is a painful reminder of what was wrongfully stolen from them by Pike and his men. Myles is almost surprised that they're not ready to gut them upon arrival for the atrocities their people carried out just yesterday morning. Instead, familiar faces of people they've visited and brought supplies to before greet them with welcoming smiles and relaxed postures.

Pressing her foot on the brake a bit more, the rover comes to a complete stop at the usual drop off point between the chieftains delegation hut and the healers house. The supplies have already been organised by the two teens, separating what they want and what Arkadia usually gets. Myles had left then, gone off with her bow and a slew of knives to bring fresh meat to the villages. While she was gone, Jasper had separated the rest by himself, stashing their stuff from their backpacks to fill them both with additional junk to offer the grounders. Between each drop off, the two of them will need to go hunting again to make sure all the meat they offer them is fresh.

Myles lifts her dark brown tinted sunglasses to rest on the top of her head, locking her eyes on Jasper's as they both slip out of their doors. Jasper shuts his door immediately, but Myles waits a beat for Max to jump out.

"Monin yo," the chieftain of this village, Sauri, greets giddily, "yo's snaptaim deyon!" [AN: "Welcome back. You're early today!"]

"Sha," Myles confirms, smiling widely at the familiar man as she meets Jasper at the back of the rover. "Hofli daun bilaik ait." [AN: "Yeah, we hope that's alright."]

"Osir don gada in kamp raun saut," the brown-haired teen tacks on, climbing into the back of the rover after Myles opens the door. "Osir na granen trei thru op." [AN: "We had to go south. We're working the way up."]

"Ou, nach," Sauri nods understandingly, turning to the warriors beside him to direct them over to the teens. "Sis emo au." [AN: "Oh, of course. Help them."]

"Chon kom disha laik oso?" One of the warriors asks, his hands hesitating in reaching out for the heavy crate Jasper is pushing across the rovers floor. [AN: "Which is ours?"]

"Dison," Myles answers, leaning in through the door and helping pull the wooden crate from the ground. [AN: "This one."]

Two warriors lean in, squishing together as they strain from the weight. When the large wooden box is hanging over the edge of the rover, all hands and positions change to allow for a slow descent to the grass beneath their feet.

"Yo otaim don os gifa gon osir in," Sauri gushes politely, doing nothing more than watch as the group grunts and the crate touches the grass. "Osir don ogud bida osir bomas sawajus, osir ponis nou ron op bitam bushgiva… ba osir gada bida in gon yo. Osir na gada in moubeda taim wintam o – " [AN: "You always take good care of us. We have prepared some of our finest wine, our farm hasn't given many vegetables… but we have some for you. We will have more when winter – "]

"En's ait, wocha Sauri," Jasper laughs kindly at the rambling man, hoisting the bloodied duffle bag with a dead panther in it towards Myles at the back door and passing her the two backpacks. One has miscellaneous junk they didn't know how to sort and split between the villages and the other has the dead squirrels and a wild turkey for the butcher. "Swega klin, you." [AN: "It's alright, chieftain Sauri. I promise."]

Myles quickly slips the straps of the heavy bags of dead animals over her head to lug them around, and Jasper slips from the back of the rover to plant his feet on the grass. Ecstatic hazel eyes lock on Jasper's disappointed brown as he hooks the bag of junk metal scraps over his head and swings the back door shut. The bitter look does nothing to dampen the gleam in the redhead's eyes or the bright smile across her face.

"Ait," Myles happily announces, turning to clasp Sauri's hand and smile widely at him. "Moba, wocha Sauri, ai souda lid disha in gon steikshou-de, ba Jaspa gada in bida diyo gon Akban na sad kom in." [AN: "Alright. I'm sorry, chieftain Sauri, I have to bring these to the butcher, but Jasper has some things for Akban to choose from."]

"Nou bida sich, ai isocha," Sauri promises, smiling and continuing to shake her hand happily for a long, awkward moment. "Gon ai yu op bilaik komfi, nodotaim. Osir na chichplei nestam." [AN: "No problem, my dear. It's a pleasure to see you again. We'll talk next time.]

"Laudnes bilaik strat," the red-haired teen agrees, trying to step away from the man still shaking her hand with the friendliest and most appreciative smile she's ever seen. "Leidon, ai lukot." [AN: "Sounds like a plan. Goodbye, my friend."]

"Leidon, ai isocha," the chieftain echoes, letting go of the teen's hand finally to allow her to fully turn away. [AN: "goodbye, my dear."]

Myles tosses over her shoulder to the group helping Jasper lift the crate as she walks away, "mochof, yo." [AN: "Thank you, guys."]

Just before looking away again, Myles flicks her eyes to Jasper's as they all bend down to lift the crate from the grass. Chieftain Sauri starts kindly talking away about how nice they are to go to this effort, and her best friend's brown eyes shift to lock on hers. Underneath the straining from the heavy weight of the crate and the polite smile plastered on his face, his bitter glare shines through. The redhead's smile only broadens sarcastically, and she lifts a hand to salute to him before turning to face in front of her and finish the task in hand, Max trotting along by her heels.

 

Myles forces her tired brain to drift back into work mode when the village starts peeking through the green trees in front of the rover. Jasper slows the vehicle down as they approach, inching the rover forward carefully and dramatically slowly once the warriors standing guard open the gate for the familiar teens. Heads snap to them, some of the adults giving them judgemental stares and watching the rover wearily as the brown-haired teen keeps the vehicle on the outskirts. Kids run around the overgrown path, and Jasper makes sure he's going slow enough to stop anything bad from happening.

The slow pace they're moving gives the people ample time to warn the chieftain of the village of the Arker's arrival. Not far from them, chieftain Garak leaves a house and makes eye contact with the teens, his emotionless expression giving away nothing. He walks around the weaving houses, huts and paths to come to a stop behind the banquet hall to wait for them. As he stands there with two of his men, Garak watches the rover with an intense yet reserved stare. It makes the hair on Myles' arms and the back of her neck stand on end, electrifying her veins with simmering anxiety.

"You know what?" Myles asks lowly, trying not to move her mouth too noticeably and glancing at her best friend. "I think this is the happiest I've ever seen him."

Jasper barks out a laugh, quickly slapping his hand over his mouth and resting his elbow on the door to appear nonchalant. Sneaking a glance at his best friend, the brown-haired teens expression only brightens when he comes up with his next words.

"You think he crawled up a chickens ass and finally got laid?" Jasper jokes, hiding his smile behind his hand.

A red eyebrow quirks up, and a smile threatens to curl up the edges of her pursed lips. Unable to hide the smile anymore, Myles mirrors her best friend, holding a hand up and attempting to seem like they're not having this conversation.

"Looks like the chicken is the one who crawled up his ass," the red-haired teen giggles, trying to suppress the laughter bubbling up inside of her.

Snickering, Jasper replies with both eyebrows raised and smile still in place, "yeah, good luck with that."

The words instantly sober Myles up, and her head snaps to look at him. A look of utter betrayal crosses her face, anxiety only amplifying her worry.

"No, no, no," the redhead pleads, staring at the side of Jasper's face. "You can't leave me alone with Garak. He's a team job."

"You left me alone with Sauri," the brown-haired teen counters, his tone still lighthearted.

"That's different!" Myles refutes, "Sauri's so nice."

Brown eyes lock on hers, holding her stare for a moment before flicking back to look in front of him.

"He spent three solid minutes telling me how happy he is every time we visit," Jasper deadpans, flicking his completely serious gaze to her frequently. "Three. Three solid minutes, in a row, of only him talking, and of only the exact same phrase fifty other ways while you waited in the rover."

"That's so nice," the red-haired teen tries again, leaning her head back against the chair and forcing a smile to sway his opinion.

"Sauri," her best friend emphasises, "is a team job. It is impossible to escape his blabber alone. Garak is the complete opposite."

"JJ," Myles whines, never once tearing her eyes away from him. "It's noon, do – "

"Yeah, it's noon," Jasper chuckles, "because someone left me all alone with Sauri." Myles pouts over-dramatically, but Jasper isn't phased when he catches sight of it. "I had to listen to why that necklace with the broken off squirrel pendant looked like a chestnut, and 'did you know? The chestnut symbolises the balance between good and bad, life and death?'" The redhead's lips purse with the strain not to laugh, and her best friend sees it, laughing. "Exactly. You get cranky today."

Myles stays silent, her face frozen in a pinched expression to keep herself from laughing as the rover slows to a stop. When Jasper cranks up the handbrake, the redhead cracks.

"Did he take the necklace?" Myles queries, her smile taking over her face.

Jasper looks at her, unbuckling his seatbelt while Max stands excitedly in the back from the movement.

"Yes," the brown-haired teen laughs, drawing out his best friend's laughter. Myles' hands finally start moving to unbuckle her seatbelt as Jasper opens his car door and slips out. "Apparently, it's Fria's birthday soon."

The statement makes Myles cease all movement and start laughing a wheezy, almost silent laugh. Jasper looks back at her when his feet hit the ground and he still has yet to hear her door open.

"What does that say," Myles laughs noisily now, her melodic giggles gliding through the air. "About their marriage?" Her best friend barks out a laugh with a shake of his head, and the redhead continues as she slowly pushes her door open. "Is that good… or bad?"

"I have no idea," Jasper answers through a sobering chuckle that dies far too early.

Curiously, hazel eyes flick over to her best friend and see he's walking up to chieftain Garak and his men. Garak looks bitterly at the two, like their laughing and lighthearted demeanour has somehow offended him. Max is already out of the rover and sniffing at the ground both he and Jasper walk through. Shutting her door and sobering up, Myles walks up to the men as Jasper shakes the chieftain's hand.

"Heyo, wocha Garak," Jasper greets politely, "yo hef. Shopta?" [AN: "Hello, chieftain Garak, men. How are you?"]

"Bos gon ai yo op," Myles adds with a kind smile, hurrying her steps to shake Garak's hand when Jasper steps back. [AN: "Good to see you."]

"Yo laik krakas," Garak states instead, his voice dull and his face expressionless. [AN: "You're early."]

"Osir don gyon saut au," the redhead explains, stepping back awkwardly to subtly inch towards the rover's back door. "Hofli daun nou bida sich." [AN: "We had to go south. I hope that's not a problem."]

"Chit yo gada in?" Garak asks bluntly, and Myles turns at the question. [AN: "What do you have?"]

"Otaim prepon," Jasper answers, following his best friend to the back of the rover and turning back to the men when Myles opens up the door. "Weron yu gaf sen em daun?" [AN: "The usual supplies. Where do you want it?"]

"Raun digongeda," the grumpy man grunts out, nodding for his men to step forward as Jasper jumps up into the rover to drag one of the three crates left to the door. [AN: "In the banquet hall."]

Jasper's gleeful brown eyes lock on Myles' tired hazel, the giddy vengeance in her best friend's eyes only increasing the redhead's exasperation.

 

"No," Garak answers firmly, his hard and bland tone emphasised by the words harsh short 'o' sound. [AN: "No." ('Nou' sounds more like the English no know, 'no' in trigedasleng is a harsh 'noh' sound.)]

"Ahhh," Myles drawls out awkwardly, shifting on her feet uncomfortably inside of their large banquet hall. [AN: "Uhhh."]

Tondc's banquet hall had been an underground cellar, but the one in this village was hand-erected by their people. A mishmash of scavenged materials, chopped wood and variously sized, hand sculpted clay bricks that have been scorched in a fire to harden them. The furniture in the room is the nicest in the village, designed and crafted specifically for special occasions and special guests. Carefully carved wooden cabinets and chairs, wooden tables with cloth draped over them, candles littered around the room, and large animal skins on the floor to act as rugs.

"Yu laik get klin?" Myles continues, shifting her hazel eyes away for a moment. "Yu seintaim nou gaf chek emo au?" [AN: "Are you sure? You don't even want to look at them?"]

"No," the chieftain replies shortly, squinting his eyes at the redhead. [AN: "No."]

"Ai – w – ahh… pshh," the red-haired teen stutters, trying to comprehend the situation and find a way that this ends with the teens in Garak's good graces. "Yu nou gaf in eni yong ayon?" When all the man does is stare at her expectantly, Myles quirks her eyebrows and tries to keep the polite smile plastered on her face. "O bida fleti?" Awkwardly drawling out when Garak's silence thickens the air. "O sesori?" Nothing changes, the weight of the atmosphere around the two suffocating her. "O… geines?" [AN: "I – w – uhh… pssh. You don't want any fresh metal? Or some glass? Or jewellery? Or… happiness?"]

"Dula yu gada geines in ona kram?" Garak enquires dully, and the frustrated sarcasm in his voice is the most she's gotten emotions-wise from the man. [AN: "Do you have happiness in the box?"]

"Mebi," Myles supplies, her eyebrows raised high. "Yu na kof emo op gon kapla?" Silence, only a dead stare in reply. "Em na bilaik stoda kofgeda kom Korkou gon Leygeda." [AN: "Maybe. You could sell them for money? It could be the start for Korkou's (Corco) stall at Leygeda ."]

"Dison wintam don bilaik sou foto ai don otaim ai op," the man divulges gruffly, "ba osir ste kik thru. Osir nou gada in gaf rein gon Leygeda." [AN: "This winter has been the worst I've ever seen. But we survived. We don't have a need for a place in Leygeda."]

"Ai don nou sei yu sou gaf in kofgeda," the redhead explains, her gaze leaving his to quickly glance around the banquet hall. "Jos… mebi em na teik yo gran thru moubeda fleim em au." [AN: "I didn't mean you need a stall, just… maybe it can make your hard work more worth it."]

"No," Garak shoots down simply, "dula yu op gaf sis au gon lid yu prepon in ona rouva-de?" [AN: "No. Do you need help getting your supplies to the rover?"]

 

"Mochof gon yo sis au," Myles huffs as she steps back from the back of the rover, smiling at Garak and his right-hand man, Ridan. [AN: "Thank you for your help."]

"Pro," Ridan assures kindly, and the redhead can see Jasper and Max round a bend and walk down the path towards them a dozen metres away out of the corner of her eye. "En's otaim os gon ai yo op." [AN: "You're welcome. It's always good to see you."]

"Sha, gon osir seintaim," the red-haired teen adds, waiting for Jasper to get to her so they can leave. Smiling brightly and reaching a hand out to clasp Garak's hand, Myles shakes it gently. "Mochof, wocha Garak, gon teik osir in." [AN: "Yeah, for us, too. Thank you, chieftain Garak, for having us."]

"Pro, skaigada," the man replies, someone stumbles out of a house just as Jasper reaches it and Myles pulls her hand back. Quickly sparing a glance towards them, Myles sees her best friend and Max awkwardly stepping back to keep out of the way of the disoriented blonde man and the woman worriedly chasing after him. Writing it off as a drunk man, Myles turns her attention back to the chieftain when he continues. "Mochof gon otaim lid prepon in, moba osir nou na ron yu bida op, seintaim. Taim wintam ste odon, osir na raitfou kof yo raun." [AN: "You're welcome, Skygirl. Thank you for always bringing supplies, I'm sorry we couldn't give you some back. When winter is over, we will pay you what you're owed."]

"Ba'm eintheing," Myles waves off, "osir laik shanen – " [AN: "It doesn't matter, we're happy – "]

Shocked screeching, Max's urgent barks and calls for help cut Myles off, and her head snaps in the direction of the commotion. Jasper bellows her name, but her feet are already darting over to the rover to yank open the front door and grab their first aid kit, counting the seconds in her head. Quickly jumping back out of the rover, Myles bolts over to the blonde-haired man who had stumbled out of the house and is now convulsing violently on the mossy path.

"Nou stil em!" Myles barks out, sprinting towards them. "Non toch em op!" [AN: "Don't restrain him! No one touch him!"]

"Yo don sen em in," Jasper calls out loudly, gesturing to the gathering crowd as Myles falls to her knees beside the violently seizing man. Her hands lift the man's head carefully to keep it from the hard path under him, the shaggy blonde hair rubbing against her gloves harshly with his forceful jerking. Awful gargled choking sounds belt from the man, but that's not what's worrying the redhead. White foam bubbles from his lips, the fluid in his lungs not only heard, but seen, and not slowing down. "En bak op! Nau. Teik em bida mouda!" [AN: "You heard her. Everyone back up. Now. Give him some space!"]

"Dison kom au fou?" Myles asks, flicking her gaze up to the hyperventilating woman that followed him out of the house. [AN: "This happen before?"]

"No," the distraught brunette answers immediately, shaking her head and staring wide eyed at the man. Jasper kneels down on the other side of the man, looking everywhere to make sure there's nothing nearby that the man could hurt himself on. "No, em don stomba yeson op haken. Em don bilaik ku, ba em don hon in foto las nat." [AN: "No. No, he woke up yesterday sick. He was fine, but he got worse last night."]

"Maks," Jasper chastises the barking dog, "shof op." [AN: "Max. Quiet."]

The dog obediently falls silent, allowing the murmurs of the crowd to be heard clearly with the convulsing man's thick choking. Anxiety prickles at Myles' skin when the first minute bleeds over to two and the shaking man shows no signs of his seizure ending.

"Why isn't it stopping?" Jasper questions worriedly, and Myles shakes her head frantically, wide hazel eyes staring at the man's head cradled in her hands.

"I don't know," Myles breathes out, her heart rate going up with every agonising moment this man struggles.

"Chit osir dula op?" Garak quizzes, and it's the first time either Arker has ever heard him concerned. "Chit osir dula op?" [AN: "What do we do? What do we do?"]

"Non," the red-haired teen answers quietly, her voice being drowned out by the crowd's whispers, the man's choking and his brunette friend's sobs. [AN: "Nothing."]

"Non na hod em op," Jasper elaborates, sitting back on his heels and looking at the chieftain. "Ogeda oso na dula op laik set raun." [AN: "No one can stop it. All we can do is wait."]

"Come on," Myles murmurs to the man seizing under her. "Come on. Come on."

"Chit don kom au?" Garak's authoritative voice booms out, and the brown-haired woman standing near them only weeps louder. [AN: "What happened?]

"Ai nou get in!" She cries, her shaky voice rapidly trying to explain. "Em don fiyon sou foto, em ogeda don kom au sou snap! Em nou don drein daun enthing kom yeson. Ai don hon em in woda, ba ogeda em don biyo laik em don fiyon sou foto!" [AN: "I don't know! He was feeling so bad, it all happened so fast! He hadn't drunk anything since yesterday. I gave him water, but all he said is he was feeling worse!"]

"Em nou don slip daun?" Myles asks, her quick words not stumbling like the woman's had. "Wak em melon op?" [AN: "He didn't fall? Hit his head?"]

"No," the distraught woman doesn't hesitate, not even for a second, shaking her head frantically. "No, em don kamp raun ona bag." [AN: "No. No, he stayed in bed."]

"What's that face?" Jasper whispers to his best friend, and hazel eyes sweep up to his.

Shaking her head, "I don't know." A harsh breath is released from the redhead's lungs, her gaze sweeping over the seizing man. "I don't know. It's been three minutes; it should've stopped."

"Epilepsy," the brown-haired teen lists off thoughtfully, "head trauma, fever. What else causes seizures?"

"A lot of things," Myles stammers nervously, "withdrawal, heatstroke, severe infections, kidney failure, not having enough electrolytes." Whipping her head back up to the shaken woman. "Em don gada in agrou got?" [AN: "Has he had an upset stomach?"]

"Em don fiyon sishaken," her voice wobbles and quivers, "ba daun's em." [AN: "He felt nauseous, but that's it."]

The blonde man finally stops seizing, his violent shaking coming to an almost complete stop. Quickly, Myles moves one of her hands from his head to help Jasper's hand roll the man onto his side. No more gargled groans and grunts escape his throat, but cream coloured foam pours from his lips onto the moss-covered path under him. A collective breath is let out throughout the crowd, the sound echoing in the now still atmosphere. Red eyebrows knit together in thought as the sounds play over in her head and somehow feel wrong.

Jasper starts to say something to the people around them, but Myles shifting her hands from holding the man in the recovery position halts him. Squeezing his cheeks gently, his rigid and tense jaw makes it difficult for Myles as she ducks down to see if there's anything obstructing the man's throat after the foam slowly bubbles to a stop. Nothings there, and her hand on his tensed face makes her realise what else is wrong.

"What are you doing?" Jasper quizzes in confusion when Myles pushes the unconscious man back onto his back.

"He's not breathing," Myles answers quickly, feeling for a pulse before swearing under her breath. Placing the heel of one of her palms on the breastbone in the middle of his chest, the redhead places her other hand on top and presses down with her upper body weight. "One… two… three…"

"What are you doing now?" Garak demands, stepping forward hastily.

"His heart isn't beating," Jasper supplies, and the few members of the crowd who understand English gasp. "She's beating it for him."

When Myles gets to thirty, she swipes the bottom of her shirt over his face to get rid of the frothy bile and tips his head back to open his airways. Breathing a breath into his sour and bitter mouth, his chest rises and falls with the air. Doing compressions again, Myles wipes her mouth on the shoulder of her sleeveless leather jacket and repeats the process. This lasts several minutes before Jasper leans over and presses his fingers to the man's throat.

"Aggie," her best friend breathes out quietly, but Myles won't look up at him or cease her movements. "He's gone."

Shutting her eyes, Myles stops pumping the heel of her palm into the man's chest. Breathing out a long breath, the redhead sits back on her heels and removes her hands from the man. Flicking her drained hazel eyes up and locking gazes with her best friend, the woman hovering over them starts wailing in grief.

"Sis osir au!" A man shrieks behind Jasper, dragging a violently seizing teenager from the hut he was inside. "Sis au!" [AN: "Help us! Help!"]

Jasper follows his best friend's gaze, looking behind him at the screeching man and the teen having a seizure. Red eyebrows remain knitted together but raise slightly at the scene, dread twisting her gut painfully.

"Em laik stedaun," a woman wails from somewhere behind Myles, and Jasper whips around to look at the new voice. [AN: "He's dead!"]

Chaos breaks out, people clamouring as another man calls for help across the village.

"Jasper," Myles calls out, staring wide-eyed at the brown-haired teen. Jasper looks at her, and the redhead pulls the collar of her shirt up to cover her nose and mouth. "Did you touch him?" Her best friend pales, remembering the sickness the grounders intentionally gave to the delinquents and Myles scrambles back. "Quick, douse your hands. Don't touch anything. Cover your face."

 

"Kei," Myles drawls out, holding a cloth over her mouth and nose and lifting up the small pen flashlight from the medkit. "Kep in yu blinka au en chek ai au." [AN: "Okay. Keep your eyes open and looking at me."]

The short black-haired woman does as told, and Myles flicks the little light between her eyes. Both brown eyes respond normally, no signs of sluggishness or over-sensitivity. Pained grunts echo in the dimly lit room repetitively and worry chips at the red-haired teens chest.

"Os," the redhead nods, and the woman calms slightly. "Slak yu spika." [AN: "Good. Open your mouth."]

Her mouth opens unrestrictedly, revealing absolutely nothing out of the ordinary.

"Daun's os," Myles announces, clicking off the small flashlight and using the back of her ungloved hand to feel the woman's face and neck. "No mesej kom haken-de." [AN: "That's good. No signs of the sickness."]

"Maiyls," a man calls from across the room, sitting beside his wife with his arm around her. The dirty-blonde haired woman twitches violently, uncontrollable jerks and spasms affecting her body so strongly that Myles can see the muscles under her skin clenching. Gruff grunts escape her clenched jaw, dazed blue eyes staring blankly in front of her with dilating pupils. Her jacket's been removed, her heavily pale skin clammy and sweaty from her fever. "En's kom au mou foto." [AN: "It's getting worse."]

Standing up from her position crouched in front of the black-haired woman, Myles stalks across the dimly lit room. The house is packed, everyone who had contact with the sick and deceased crammed into the room. People sit on the floor, but almost every single person is against a wall, desperately trying to put as much distance as possible between them and everybody else. Some people have the same uncontrollable muscle spasms, varying in intensity and distress.

"Kei, Wikga," Myles greets, crouching down in front of the couple seated on the floor. The woman's unfocused and dilating eyes look to the redhead, pained grunts and groans belting out of her unceasingly. Myles doesn't lift up her flashlight for her to check her eyes or throat, the last three with these symptoms started seizing at the first sign of stimulus and the redhead is trying to keep that from happening again. No one of the sick have come out of a seizure alive today, and Myles needs to figure this out before the body count rises again. "Yu ste hoden kom oso?" [AN: "Okay, Wickga. You still with us?"]

"A – muh – sh – a," Wikga grunts out through her tightly clenched jaw, demonstrating she's still conscious and aware. [AN: "Yes."]

Wikga's head jerks continuously, her facial features twisting and pulling with her uncontrollable twitching. There's not a muscle in her body that isn't spasming painfully, torturing the poor woman slowly. Between her twitching and jerking movements, the redhead sees something that makes her red eyebrows furrow in confusion.

A grin is on the dying girl's face, and the cogs in Myles' brain whir faster and faster. Is she grinning because her face is twitching up into a grin? Or is the twitching covering up the grin?

"Aggie," Jasper calls through the door, knocking shortly. "You okay in there?"

"Ai na komba raun," Myles tells the couple, "taim em ste mou foto, sen em daun ona graun." [AN: "I'll be back. If she gets worse, lay her on the ground."]

Standing back up straight, Myles strides across the room to reach the door Jasper is on the other side of.

"I'm fine," the redhead huffs, "we're not making any progress in here. How's it out there?"

"We've lost four more," Jasper answers, and Myles' eyes slip closed. "The quarantine isn't working."

"It might work better if we knew what we were up against," Myles counters. "It's not like the thing we had at the dropship. It's not transferring with touch."

"What does that mean?" Garak asks frustratedly, his gruff tone thick with his accent.

"It means people aren't getting sick by being around other sick people," her best friend explains. "Aggie, you think it's in the air?"

"I don't know," the red-haired teen sighs. "Maybe? What'd the four you lost eat in the last 24 hours?"

"One had chicken," Jasper lists, pausing as he either checks something or thinks back. "One parsnip soup with leek, one bread and lamb, and the last one had an onion stew because they 'had a headache'."

"All different families?" Myles quizzes, red eyebrows scrunching up.

"Yeah," the brown-haired teen confirms, "only two of those had contact with each other, and one of them had contact this morning with one of the dead."

"The dude with the headache," the redhead starts slowly, turning over the info in her mind. "He the only one with symptoms from before today?"

"She's the only one that had symptoms at all," Jasper informs her. "Everyone else was fine until the twitching."

"That means," Myles drawls out thoughtfully, looking behind her at the room of people. "There's only been three deaths of people who had symptoms before the twitching and fever."

"We have two with twitching," Garak adds, "and three more who think they are sick."

"I can fit two more in here," the red-haired teen offers, looking back at the wooden door.

"We've already put them up somewhere else," Jasper quickly skates over. "We need to stop the spread."

"Maybe we're not working with one bug," Myles suggests after a short beat of silence. "Maybe it's different strains of the same bug with different presentations?"

"Maybe," her best friend agrees halfheartedly, "it could just be different immune systems. Winter could be making it move quicker. You ever seen something like this before?"

"Never," Garak denies, "headache, bad stomach, muscle pain, blood, never this."

"We could try – " Myles starts, before getting cut off by the loud shrieks and calls of the people in the room with her.

"Maiyls!" Dian, Wikga's husband, calls, "en's kom au!" [AN: "Myles! It's happening!"]

Myles rushes back over to the couple, and she finds Dian hovering over his wife worriedly as she seizes on the floor.

"En chil au!" Myles barks out, falling to her knees beside the dirty blonde-haired woman. "Teik em sin thru." [AN: "Everyone stay calm! Let it finish."]

"Teik em sin thru ste dula op non!" Dian argues over the choking sounds of his wife. "Dula som op!" [AN: "Letting it finish does nothing! Do something!"]

"Bilaik non ai na dula op," the redhead says remorsefully, looking the worried man in the eyes. [AN: "There's nothing I can do."]

"Beja," Dian pleads, sorrow twisting up his grief-stricken features. "Nou teik em wan op." [AN: "Please. Don't let her die."]

There aren't words Myles can say. She can't promise him she'll walk out of here, everyone else that has reached this point could not be saved. All she can do is keep her sad eyes on his and try to convey her comfort. After a few long moments, the seizing stops and the exhausting task of trying to resuscitate the dead woman begins. During this, her husband screams and pleads, but when Myles' hands finally stop after ten minutes, all he can do is stare down at his dead wife and stroke her hair in denial.

Heaving a heavy and tired breath, Myles leans back on her heels, fighting the overwhelming feeling of defeat and hopelessness threatening to tear her down even further.

"Maiyls," a young man, not much older than her and Jasper, calls to her. Glancing over at him, her hazel eyes instantly lock on his twitching arm and leg. "Ai laik neson?" [AN: "Myles, am I next?"]

Myles doesn't answer, but the beautiful young lady standing beside him does.

"No," the teen promises him, her voice thick as a lump forms in her throat. "No. No. Daun's nou ste kom au. No." [AN: "No. No. No. That's not happening. No."]

"Paia," the young man refutes gently, looking down at her like he's already resigned himself to his fate.

"No, no," Paia refuses, shaking her head and snapping her gaze to Myles'. "Em seintaim nou laik haken." [AN: "No, no. He's not even sick."]

Standing and walking over to her medical supplies, Myles douses her hands in alcohol before holding her chunk of cloth over her face and grabbing her small flashlight. The small beam of light shines in a skinny stream when she clicks it on, coming to a stop in front of the teens.

"Kep yu blinka ona ai," Myles orders kindly, holding up the flashlight. His dark eyes blink rapidly for a moment, unused to the invasive light. When his eyes finally calm down enough, Myles flicks her wrist and watches his pupils. They dilate, sluggishly at first, before widening and shrinking erratically when she's not moving the light. Clenching her teeth and swallowing, the redhead continues. "Os, slak yu spika nau, beja." [AN: "Keep your eyes in me. Good, now open your mouth, please."]

His throat isn't swollen, but it's instantly clear that his jaw has started to tighten and lock. Up close, Myles can see the small twitches under his skin as his muscles begin to quiver uncontrollably. It must be clear on her face when the red-haired teen pulls her flashlight away, clicking it off, because Paia becomes near hysterical.

"No," her wavering voice pleads, "no, em seintaim nou ste fiyon haken!" [AN: "No. No, he doesn't even feel sick!"]

"Chit dula yu fiyon op?" Myles asks gently, staring at him curiously. [AN: "What do you feel?"]

"Baud," the young man replies simply, "noudaun." [AN: "Stiff. Restless."]

Red eyebrows pull together in thought, and her gaze slowly turns around to search out one of few people in this room that is actually sick.

"Ha daun laik kom au?" Paia implores the redhead, but Myles is already striding across the room. [AN: "How is that possible?"]

"Blinka ona ai, Kara," Myles commands, and the sick woman obliges. Lifting up the small flashlight and shining it in the woman's eyes before speaking again. "Os, nau yu spika." [AN: "eyes on me, Kara. Good, now your mouth."]

Kara's throat is irritated, but her symptoms are nothing like any of the other sick; they're typical flu symptoms. Her mind whirs in confusing circles, desperate to figure it out. There haven't been any threats or attacks made on the village, so it must be natural or internal. If it's natural, it's not from an environmental cause otherwise everyone would be sick. What's getting them sick? What do they all have in common? It's not by touch or food, what else could be a pattern that wouldn't be widespread?

"Maiyls?" Paia calls, "chit kom au?" [AN: "Myles? What's happening?"]

"Yu don gada in eni woda deyon?" Myles quizzes Kara, ignoring the couple behind her. [AN: "Have you had any water today?"]

"Sha," the woman divulges, and Myles' shoulders slump in defeat. "Dison sonop, sef em don kom las nat." [AN: "Yes. This morning, but it was from last night."]

The rest of her answer makes the redhead perk up again, standing up straight and backing up to address the room.

"Eyon chon don gada in woda kom deyon," the red-haired teen announces, "teik au yo meika op." [AN: "Anyone who had water from today, raise your hand."]

Everyone who is symptomatic raises their hands and several friends of those who've died go pale.

"Ai don ron Loiko op bida woda disha sonop," the brown-haired woman who was chasing the blonde man before he died reveals, horrified. [AN: "I gave Loiko some water this morning."]

And then, Myles hears it. The distant clinking and creaking of the well in the middle of the village. Dropping the cloth from her face and dumping her flashlight on top of her medkit, Myles races out of the front door. She's almost at the well when Jasper catches sight of her and runs up to her with Max at his heels.

"Aggie, what the hell are you doing?" Jasper asks, concern seeping thickly through his tone.

"Nou toch op daun," Myles demands, yanking the bucket from the woman as she unties it from the rope hanging down into the well. [AN: "Don't touch that."]

The woman must recognise the redhead because she tears herself away from the Arker's and holds her hand over her face. Looking into the bucket, Myles can't see anything but ordinary water.

"What's happening?" Jasper questions again as Myles bends down to sniff the water.

"What is the meaning of this?" Garak booms, storming up to them. "You should be with the sick, or you will get all us killed."

"They're not sick," Myles supplies, dipping her finger into the water and dotting the liquid on her tongue. A very faintly bitter taste that resembles the smell of the dead's frothed bile makes the red-haired teen spit onto the ground. Turning to Jasper, she lists off the symptoms. "Fever, agitation, restlessness, violent twitches and muscle spasms, lockjaw, sardonic smile, and brain death an hour after the symptoms start."

"This is why you need be with the others," the chieftain declares as Jasper looks off thoughtfully.

Her best friend's brown eyes find hers again, "the first death, the lady said she'd just given him water."

"Everyone who has symptoms or died today has one thing in common," Myles states, keeping her eyes on Jasper's.

"They all drank water today," Jasper realises. "Someone poisoned the well."

"No one is sick," Myles repeats, looking at Garak as realisation takes over his stoic features. "They've all been poisoned."

"Omas, snap," Garak orders, turning to the men behind him. "Tel en op gon flosh klin emo woda ogeda." [AN: "Omas, quick, tell everyone to destroy all of their water."]

Immediately, the man rushes off to do his task without another word.

"How do we clean the well?" Jasper enquires, looking down into the deep well.

"Bleach the shit out of it," the redhead sighs, locking eyes with Jasper and snorting. "Literally."

"What kind of poison?" Garak inquires, pulling the bucket towards himself and sniffing it like Myles had done.

"I only know one that causes a sardonic smile," the brown-haired teen explains. "I don't know what you guys call it, but we call it strychnine."

"One of us should go get as many hands as we can," Myles suggests, "and all the bleach and saline we have."

"I'll do that," Jasper offers, stepping away from the well. "Get lots of buckets and tubs to hold enough water to last them a few days."

"Wish Monty and Clarke were here," Myles grumbles quietly. "I have no idea how to help them until you get back."

"Mugwort and mistletoe can be used to as a muscle relaxant," her best friend tosses out, "but I don't know what that'd do for this."

"Why not?" Garak demands, not understanding the complications that could have.

"People die from strychnine poisoning," the red-haired teen starts with a heavy sigh, pushing away from the well to walk towards the gate. "Because of the postictal depression that follows a seizure. It basically jolts the body enough that after the seizure, it paralyses the muscles you need to breathe or for your heart to beat until your brain dies." Locking her eyes on Garak's, "using a muscle relaxant might just make that happen faster."

 

"Myles?" Octavia Blake's voice faintly calls from a couple hundred feet above her.

"Down here," Myles' voice echoes loudly up the cylindric chamber she's in, bent over and scooping up the shallow water her boots stand in.

"Jasper said you needed help," the dark brown-haired girl enquires, her voice echoing as she talks down into the well. "Do you need me to come down?"

"Depends," Myles answers, standing up straight. "Do you have the bleach?"

"Yeah," Octavia confirms, making the redhead bend down again to set the bucket down, "and the saline."

"Alright," the red-haired teen sighs, "I'm coming up." Myles grips onto the short rusted rods and nooks lining straight up on one section of the well's wall, designed to act as a ladder. A twisted pit of dread forms in the redheads stomach, and Myles hopes that none off the steps will come loose or break off. Heaving herself up and over the rim of the well, Myles smiles at the Blake sister. "Not much going on at Arkadia?"

"Not when I left," Octavia states, "Finn's taking my place." Nodding to herself, Myles lifts up one of the large ceramic jugs of bleach, popping off the swollen wood they use as a plug. "What do we do?"

"Pour this in," Myles supplies, holding the jug upside down over the well and pouring the pungent liquid down the sides. Octavia mimics her, lifting up another jug of the bleach. "Make sure you get down the sides, we don't want any of the poison sticking around."

"And this won't poison them?" Octavia scoffs, but still doing as instructed.

"Nope," the red-haired teen huffs, shaking the near empty jug to make sure it's all out. "This'll kill and neutralise the poison, then we drain it, fill it with water and drain it again. In a few days, they'll drain whatever water seeps back in, then it should be safe to drink from."

"This is all you needed help with?" Octavia quizzes in confusion, shaking her empty jug before pulling it back to herself.

"Nope," Myles refutes, lifting the wooden circle that covers the well to protect the water inside. Sliding it over the top of the well with Octavia's help, Myles scoops up the two bags on the ground by the Blake girls feet. "Now, we need to use the saline to help flush the strychnine out of their blood and hope the mugwort is enough to keep them alive until it's over." Starting to walk over to the house with the poisoned villagers still in it, hazel eyes glance back at Octavia. "Then, we need to figure out who poisoned the well. Your Trig any good?"

"Lincoln's been teaching me some," Octavia tells her, her voice low and pained at the mention of her in-prisoned boyfriend. "But it's still rusty."

"Well," Myles offers kindly with a soft smile, "you're about to get some practice."

 

After flicking the thin homemade tube of saline, Myles rolls up her sleeves and reaches for the alcohol. Dousing her leather glove-clad hands, the redhead holds them up to allow them to dry for a moment before looking to Octavia.

"Okay," Myles sighs, "last one. Ready?"

"Yep," the Blake sibling answers, her dark brown eyebrows twitching up. Subtly, Myles glances at the man they're crouched in front of to prompt the teen to start talking. "Kei, Erson, yu ste ogud?" [AN: "Okay, Erson, are you ready?"]

"Ai fig raun den," Erson states nervously, fidgeting with his right arm laid out straight with his palm facing up. [AN: "I think so."]

The mugwort tea has softened their twitching and keeps their limbs clenched, but not so tight that they're in pain. Tanned skin is held taut, the muscle underneath tense with sluggish and muted jolts.

"Nou get daun," Myles assures in a light tone as she readies the unused and sterile needle and IV catheter. "Em jos sting yu in gon won tika, den yu na gada dauntaim in gon bida nabit." Looking to Octavia beside her, she continues. "Tairapon, beja." [AN: "Don't worry. It only stings for a moment, then you can relax for a few hours. Tourniquet, please."]

"Here," Octavia obliges, wrapping the band around Erson's upper arm above his elbow.

Myles swipes a new and unused strip of alcohol-soaked rag over the skin, positioning the needle to puncture the prominent vein she can see.

"Strik sting in," the redhead mumbles distractedly, pressing the needle into the skin and reducing the angle she's advancing it in. [AN: "Little sting."]

"Osir na gada in yu figa fou yu get em in," Octavia yabbers, trying to keep the man's attention away from the needle in his arm. A little bit of flashback blood enters the catheter tube, and Myles advances in a little bit more, knowing this means she's successfully entered his vein. "Chit yu dula op?" [AN: "We will have you better before you know it. What do you do?"]

"Ai gran op ona rench," Erson answers, and Myles pulls out the needle, securing the makeshift cannula in place with a strip of clean bandage and taking off the tourniquet. [AN: "I work on tools."]

"Daun laik ku," the Blake sister converses as the redhead carefully inserts the primed IV tube into the cannula. "Gran op ona ething krei nau kom gou, nami?" [AN: "That is cool. Work on anything crazy lately?"]

"Jos bida ponis skrish," Erson thinks on it for a short moment, watching Myles' hands screw on the tubing and secure it down by wrapping it up in bandages. The redhead unrolls the basic clamp on the tubing ever so slightly, watching the drips start to flow down the basic and repurposed tubing from the bag of clear liquid pinned up on the wall above them. "Ai don won pyudihok nou tona sintaim kom gon." [AN: "Just some farming shit. I did a halberd not long ago."]

"Ait, Erson," Myles announces, sparing Octavia who looks like she doesn't understand what he just said. "Yu na fiyon som kaina azen." [AN: "Alright, Erson, you're about to feel something kinda cold."]

Hazel eyes watch the liquid and keep her eyes plastered on the cannula to make sure nothings gone wrong, before applying a little pressure where the catheter is in his vein. The dripping saline solution slows to a stop, resuming only once she's removed the pressure. Content everything's working as it should, Myles pulls off her leather gloves and starts packing up while the sounds of the rover rumbling to a stop and its doors shutting sounds from outside.

"Ogeda odon," the redhead declares with a smile, "osi'a komba raun dena, kep yu gonz in hoden." [AN: "All done. We're gonna come back soon, keep your arm still."]

"Sha, Wanheda," Erson agrees, and Myles scoops up their bags. [AN: "Yes, Wanheda."]

The second both Octavia and Myles are out of the door; they're greeted by the sounds of water splashing. Turning in the opposite direction of the well and heading towards the sounds, the sight of Ray standing in the back of the rover and passing jugs of water to Jasper to hand down a line of people comes into sight. At the very end of the line is the two best friend's large metal tub sitting on top of a fire-pit that they're pouring the water into. Garak stands nearby, overseeing the activity before his eye find the two approaching teenagers.

Approaching them, Garak enquires, "how are our sick?"

"Good to go," Myles informs him with a tip of her head, "they've all had some mugwort tea to stop the twitching and seizures and they've all got cannulas to help flush out the poison."

"Suspects?" Jasper asks, walking up to the three of them and joining in on the conversation.

"That's actually what we've come to talk to you about," the redhead tells the chieftain, much to Octavia's surprise.

"We did?" Octavia repeats, furrowing her eyebrows and fixing Myles with a baffled look.

"What do you need?" Garak quizzes, eyeing the red-haired teen disbelievingly.

"Well," Myles continues, not batting an eye, "we've already questioned all the sick and everyone they had contact with, now we're gonna need to question everyone else."

"I will get my man to spread word," the chieftain replies, turning to seek out his men.

"It'd be best if we could have them all in the same place," the redhead tacks on quickly, hoping the warrior won't see the conspicuous words for what they are. "Somewhere we can have quick access to them all, but also be private, you know?"

"The banquet hall it is," Garak promises, "I will gather them at once."

Myles smiles, trying to hide the victorious gleam in her eyes behind a polite façade as the man walks away. Jasper steps closer to his best friend, practically vibrating with excitement at what this means. Octavia, oblivious to the hidden message behind the red-haired teen's words moves to head towards the banquet hall, but Myles gently grips her elbow to stop her.

"What?" Octavia inquires, looking perplexed. "Aren't we going to question them?"

"Not even close," Jasper reveals in a low tone, smiling widely at the Blake sister.

"What are you talking about?" Octavia questions, eyeing the two best friends coy and ecstatic smiles. "You just said – "

"I lied," Myles states honestly, "rule twenty-seven."

"What's that mean?" The Blake sibling asks again, beginning to feel frustrated with how lost she is.

"'There are two ways to follow someone;'" Jasper recites, "'first way, they never notice you. Second way, they only notice you'."

Octavia still looks completely confused, so Myles fills in the missing pieces.

"We need them all away from their homes," the redhead answers with a bright smile, "so we can search them."

 

"Jasper," Octavia calls into the walkie-talkie, her voice crackles through the earpieces in all of their ears, but Myles can hear her voice coming from the room across from her. "Tell me again what we're looking for."

"The easiest way to make strychnine is with seeds or bark from its tree," Jasper reminds them all, and Myles opens the handmade wooden cabinet to rifle through someone's pantry. "The bark is smooth and ashen, the leaves are smooth, shiny, and oval shaped. The seeds look like hard, flat, round disks and are dark grey and covered in hair."

"That sounds like a lot of plants," Octavia grumbles to herself, and Myles huffs when nothing but ordinary spices and herbs are in the cupboard.

"We still clear, Uncle Ray?" Myles asks lowly, walking out of the kitchen to enter another one of the bedrooms.

"Not a soul in sight," Jasper's dad tells them, and Myles ducks down to lift the stitched sack of a mattress and look under it.

"There's nothing plant-related in there," the Blake sibling informs her as she enters the room Myles is in. "Have you checked over here?"

"Not yet," the redhead admits. "I just finished in the kitchen." They rummage around in near silence, neither one of them saying much of anything until Myles reaches the clothing cupboard. Shutting the last rickety drawer, Myles drags the piece of furniture off the wall and lifts up her flashlight to shine it down the wall. "Woah," she breathes out, getting Octavia's attention. "Gimme a hand with this, please."

"What is it?" Octavia quizzes, striding across the room to help Myles lift the dresser and shift it from the wall. Moving the dresser reveals a hole dug into the hardened mud and wood wall, and both girls look to each other in excitement. "That was quick."

Crouching down above the filth and grit that lived under the cupboard, Myles holds her flashlight up again to look into the hole. A small wooden bowl is all that is squashed in there, and the redhead picks it up. Disappointment floods through her at the sight inside and sniffing it only confirms her fears.

"Don't get too excited," Myles warns morosely, "it's not strychnine, it's weed."

Placing it back in the hole with a dramatic sigh, the two girls shift the dresser back.

"Damn," the Blake sister scoffs, "there's too many people here."

"Not anymore," the red-haired teen murmurs, hooking her flashlight back onto her belt. "Come on, this house is a bust." As they're walking over to the window at the back of the house they broke in through, Myles lifts up her walkie. "Another dead end. We're moving on."

 

"Is Clarke going to come back," Octavia enquires bitterly, "or is she going to avoid us some more?"

"She's not avoiding 'us'," Myles divulges, "she's avoiding Finn. Huge difference."

"No difference to me," the Blake sibling gripes, earning an eyebrow twitch from the redhead. "You both abandoned us for this, for Polis."

"I didn't do anything," Myles explains lightly, carefully trying to tread over this topic. "I – "

"Exactly," Octavia announces before the redhead can continue.

Levelling the dark brown-haired girls back with a pointed stare, "I didn't abandon anyone. Jasper and I kept the alliance alive and strong until Pike and Abby wrecked it. Kept bringing supplies." Scoffing to herself, "if that's abandoning people who didn't even want me in the first place, fine. I'll wear that, too."

"Bellamy wanted you," the Blake sister declares, "Monroe wanted you, Miller wanted you, Monty wanted you, we all wanted you."

"Is that right?" Myles inquires sarcastically, meeting Octavia's imploring gaze. Dark brown eyebrows raise, her head tilting to the side as she waits for the red-haired teen to make her point. "You told me we're done." The reminder of their conversation as they were marching on Mount Weather seems to take the dark brown-haired girl aback. "And that was before I murdered a whole society to save our friends. No one wants that hanging around."

"You did what you had to do," Octavia states, her voice hard.

"Yeah," the redhead drawls disbelievingly, "lot of good that's done. We're exactly where we were, just with different people."

"No," the Blake sibling refutes, completely abandoning her task to talk animatedly with Myles. "You don't get to do all that, do what you did to save everyone, and then act like you're the bad guy. Like we didn't need our leader."

"You had your leaders," Myles reminds her, briefly glancing at her before moving away from the bedroom to look through the simple kitchen.

"We both know the only reason anyone listened to Bellamy and Clarke," Octavia starts, following the redhead. "Is because you trusted them, and everyone trusted you."

"And that worked out so well for everyone," the redhead mutters disdainfully, her heart aching painfully at the memories of everything she's caused. "Half of us died in the war at camp because I wanted to stay. People died in that missile attack because I trusted Lexa to warn her people when I could've done it myself, even with the language barrier. Everyone in Mount Weather is dead, including some of us, because I wasn't fast enough. Farm station survivors got blown up because I didn't fight Abby hard enough on not letting them in. Three hundred people, three hundred of our friends, volunteered to keep Arkadia safe from any more Azgedian attacks because they trusted us, because they knew us and were our friends."

Sighing harshly, Myles slams the cupboard door shut and leans a hand on the wooden table to steady herself as she rubs one of her aching temples.

"This is why everyone looks to you," Octavia admits after a moment of watching her, but her tone is still bitter. "You saved more people than anyone else ever wanted to. You mourned the loss of people who weren't even ours. You fought for all of us, and now you're turning us away like a coward."

"I'm not turning anyone away," Myles raises her voice, tearing her hand away from her face and staring at Octavia like she'd grown a second head. "What I did didn't just tarnish my name, but all of ours. I'm fixing that."

"You're 'fixing that' by leaving us with nothing," the Blake sister rebukes, "by running away from it."

"Okay," Myles relents, too tired and frustrated with everything going on to deal with this any longer. She'll never win this conversation; she was a monster for not saying anything before the missile dropped on Tondc, but apparently leaving Arkadia is worse. Bellamy Blake might not be so wrong after all. Getting back to work, the redhead distracts herself with the task at hand. "Think what you want."

Octavia scoffs scornfully, turning away and storming into the room she was in before.

 

"All clear," Ray's voice tells them in their ears, and Myles and Octavia slink forward quickly, Jasper mimicking the action across from them. Max and Ray's backs are to Jasper, allowing his son to be almost completely obstructed from the girls' view as they all sneak behind another house made of mud, sticks, hay and decaying scavenged parts of the old world. "You're good, there're no eyes on us."

Myles doesn't answer, not even when Jasper mutters a half-assed 'thanks' into his walkie. Instead, she clicks her radio twice in acknowledgement. Neither teen stops walking around the back of the home Myles and Octavia hide behind until they come to an uneven hole in the wall, only chopped logs fastened together with twine keeping the window shut. Reaching up as far as she can, Myles pushes the small wooden door to get it up enough to start tipping over.

On the inside, the top of the small wooden door is hooked onto the wall above it with braided vines, but the redhead knows how to work around this. Pushing the edge of the wood along the bottom of the window inside, Myles forces her fingers under them and shoves up. The loop of vine hooked around something on the wall above the window slips off, allowing the wood to fall inside.

Crouching down, the redhead cups her hands and holds them with their palms facing up. Octavia puts one boot into Myles' awaiting palms and uses it to step up and crawl in through the window. The thin teen's body weight makes the redhead's knees shake, but she only needs to hold the light girl up for a few short seconds. As soon as Octavia is through the window and her boot is no longer in the red-haired teen's hands, Myles brushes her gloves on her pants before jumping up to grip the windowsill. Pulling herself up quickly, Myles drags herself up onto the windowsill and hooks her legs inside.

It's second nature to her, and she'd be lying if she said this didn't thrill her. This is what she did on the Ark, sneaking around, manoeuvring through any air vent she could see - it's what she was made for. Myles is convinced there's more of this pumping through her veins than blood, more of this in her DNA than the genetic information of either of her parents.

Slipping into a room, Myles' first target is the bed. This house has a rickety wooden bed-board; three buckets sit on the floor underneath to hold up the wooden planks that lay under the stuffed sack of their mattress. Lifting the mattress and the tied together chopped planks reveals nothing but rocks inside of all three buckets. Bending down, the redhead rifles through the buckets to make sure nothing else is in there before dropping down the bed-board and mattress. A small desk in the corner of the room is an unusual sight, and it's where Myles heads next.

Literacy went out the window almost two-hundred years ago. Whoever survived the nuclear war was forced to abandon any semblance of what they were taught in order to learn how to survive. If any books survived with them, reading them would've been seen as a waste of time due to the pressing issue of finding water that wasn't contaminated. Finding food, gathering supplies, and scavenging materials to survive in a barren and radiation soaked Earth become the only priority.

Eventually, those who survived repopulated, but the pressing need for them to also be hunters and gathers in order to survive prevailed any other academic luxuries. That's where they are now. Most people don't know how to write, and even less know how to read. Instead of writing letters to each other, drawing has become the most meaningful and common form of expression. The only people who do happen to know how to read or write have taught themselves, making their knowledge and awareness on the subject far too undeveloped to understand literature or teach others.

It's for precisely this reason the only things on this desk are drawings and attempts at spelling a name. 'Dojes', 'Doujes', 'Dujis', 'Doujs', 'Doujis', 'Dojis' and various other similar spelling diversions scatter at the tops and backs of each drawing. Charcoal smudges mark up the parchment to make drawings of animals, people, places and plants, the black powder stains soaked into the wooden desk. It's bittersweet, in a way, someone wants so badly to just simply learn how to write their own name, but society's downfall has held that information hostage.

Gently flicking through the various strips and chunks of thin parchment to look at all the drawings, Octavia enters the room behind her.

"What is it?" Octavia asks, stepping up beside the redhead and looking over her shoulder. "Drawings?"

Myles hums, unable to describe the unsettling and pressing feeling in her gut. When she starts to get to the very bottom of the scattered pile, her hands freeze. Her stiff posture gets the attention of the Blake sister who'd turned her attention to under the desk, but hadn't moved away.

"What?" Octavia enquires, standing up straight and watching as Myles drags a drawing of the well out from under the other miscellaneous sketches.

"Something doesn't feel right," the red-haired teen mumbles distractedly, red eyebrows furrowing.

"They drew a well," the Blake sibling states disbelievingly, and Myles keeps shuffling through the pieces of parchment. "That doesn't mean anything."

"It's not a well," Myles corrects, "it's this well. Theirs." The redhead's whole body deflates at the next drawing she takes an interest in, dragging it to sit above the well. Looking at Octavia, she finishes. "That's a strychnine tree."

Octavia meets her gaze, and they both instantly start searching the room with more energy.

"Okay," the dark brown-haired girl comments, scurrying through a crate of drawings and charcoal beside the desk. "Then we need proof."

"It'll be here somewhere," Myles agrees, dropping to the floor to look under the wooden dresser. Tearing open a drawer, nothing but fabrics and clothes are inside, so she moves on. When she goes to yank open the third drawer, a heavy weight sits inside on it and water sloshes at the movement, making her halt. "O."

The Blake sister rushes over to her as she carefully pulls the drawer open. Inside, large, dying leaves are cupped and curled around handfuls of almost perfectly round, flat seeds. They look like unwashed mushrooms, flattened and shrunk down to form a small disk. Short stalked and small oval shaped shiny leaves that were once a deep green shade are dying and turning brown, little funnel-shaped flowers with a pungent smell are wilted beside them. Some of the hard, ashen coloured seeds are crushed into a powder, scattered across the wooden drawer. Next to the plants is a small clay, unevenly moulded pot, quarter filled with water.

Floating inside of the water are the funnel-shaped strychnine flowers and crushed up chunks of the ashy seeds.

Locking her hazel eyes on Octavia's deep brown, Myles lifts her walkie-talkie from her belt.

"JJ, we found it."

 

"Gona," Garak calls, turning his head over his shoulder as they group march towards the banquet hall. "Lid fingadon – " [AN: "Warriors, bring the accused – "]

"No," Myles cuts him off, "der bilaik nou gafen gon daun." [AN: "No, there isn't a need for that."]

"Hod op," the always stoic chieftain commands the warriors trailing behind them, coming to a stop himself. When he stops, the Arker's do as well, and his attention goes back to the four of them. "I do not appreciate people going under me." A red eyebrow quirks up impatiently. "You have done this your way, I will do this mine." [AN: "Wait."]

"And if the evidence has been planted?" Jason inquires, "whoever it was left a hell of a lot behind."

"That means their intentions weren't to kill anyone," the redhead finishes, waiting patiently for the man to understand.

"How will you know, then?" Garak demands, his frustration shining through unrestrictedly. "How will you know who?"

"She'll know the second she sees them," her best friend vouches, his tone strong and sure.

"They didn't plan on anyone dying," Myles reiterates, eyebrows raised high as Octavia and Garak listen intently. "That means whoever it was is still waiting in the banquet hall. They'll be on edge, so on edge that they won't leave until they feel like they've been cleared."

"Because they'll be too afraid of looking guilty," Octavia realises, and the redhead nods.

"Rule number thirty-five, wocha Garak," the red-haired teen divulges, "'always watch the watchers'."

Turning around to walk to the back of the banquet hall, the others follow and Jasper adds.

"Statistically," Jasper reasons, "women use poison more than men, but their intents are almost always to kill. If the suspect is older, they'll be on alert, but they won't run."

"They'll feel more in control," Myles explains when the others look lost again, "they have experience, and will feel like they can control the outcome of the conversation."

"The young always run," the brown-haired teen declares, looking over his shoulder at the group. "On the Ark, down here, doesn't matter. Whenever someone young is in trouble, they always run."

Opening the back door of the banquet hall leads them into a small room. Behind one of the doorways is a set of four steps, and they continue up them to reach the dead end. It's a small little platform, slightly raised from the main floor of the banquet hall, and it's where the commander's throne would sit when she comes to visit. Hazel eyes scan the crowded room of people who've obediently waited for an hour and a half.

Most people talk animatedly or seem withdrawn and grief-stricken, some settling in-between those two types quietly. Anxiety from the day's events and the deaths of their people has affected them, making distinguishing the paranoia of a guilty person slightly harder. Red eyebrows furrow, before relaxing a bit. Tapping Jasper's arm, Myles gestures out into the crowd.

"Fidgety," the redhead whispers, "wide-eyed, alert, by himself."

"Wocha Garak," Jasper says lowly, gaining the man's attention. "Teen boy with blonde hair, in a green shirt on the left. He live in that house?"

"Yes," Garak confirms dully, nodding and the sharp movement makes the teen's green eyes look to them, his whole body straightening. "Doujis. He is the one?"

"Only if he runs," Myles murmurs distractedly, keeping her eyes on the teen as he stands and inches towards the door.

Suddenly, Doujis starts taking full steps backwards and Myles and Jasper both step down the platform's steps and into the main room. The teen turns his whole body and starts shoving through the crowd harshly, booking it for the door.

"Sis em op!" Garak's loud voice booms out darkly as Myles and Jasper break into a sprint. [AN: "Grab him!"]

"Max!" Myles shouts to the small calico coloured dog weaving through the crowd much faster than the two Arker's, bounding after the fleeing blonde teen. "Get him!"

 

The sun's setting, basking the two best friends in the fading orange glow as they pack their supplies into the rover. Doujis' pained groans and pleas for forgiveness echo throughout the village, coming from within the crowd around the main fire pit where their water is being boiled. Myles sighs heavily before looking down at Max lying on the dirt by their boots.

"Alright, boy," the redhead instructs gently, "up you get."

Max obediently stands up, jumping up into the back of the rover, getting praising pats from the two teens in return.

"Good boy," Jasper coos, and Myles smiles before her attention is dragged back to the teen dying not far from them. "We did good." Hazel eyes look at him in disbelief, making sure Max is out of the way so she can shut the door. "He wouldn't have accepted any other punishment. Twelve lives for one. That'll be quick. We stopped it from becoming more."

"O and Ray had the right idea to leave," the redhead grumbles, shutting the back door and leaning against it. Staring at the backs of the people in the crowd, Myles shakes her head. "He's just a kid. He wasn't trying to kill them."

"Wanting them all sick enough," Jasper sighs, leaning on the door beside her with his side against hers. "So he could be the 'hero' of the village, the only strong, 'useful' one, is what got him here."

Myles snorts as a dark thought crosses her mind, "is it just me… or does everything and everyone still sound like Hell to you?"

"I was literally thinking that as I said it," her best friend agrees, "it all sounds like Mount Weather."

"That cannot be healthy," Myles mutters, pushing off the car door and starting to walk around to the driver's side.

"No," Jasper confirms, pausing until they both reach their doors and pointing at Myles through the open passenger and driver doors. "But it's a lot healthier than being from Hell."

The redhead mimics him by lifting up her hand and pointing at him, raising her eyebrows and tilting her head as if to say 'you have a point there'. Both teens let go of their doors and raise their hands for high-fives, but high-five themselves instead.

With kind smiles, they both crawl into the front seats of the rover when a man shouts urgently from the gates of the village. Thundering hooves skid to a stop, the man's loud voice replacing them.

"Slak dou au!" A man bellows, "slak dou au! Ai gaf min op!" [AN: "Open the gate! Open the gate! I need to enter!"]

Myles hesitates with her hand on her door, but Jasper doesn't, shutting his firmly.

"No," Jasper refuses, eyeing his best friend sitting in the driver's seat. "If you don't start driving, I will. We've done more than our part. I want a long shower."

Hazel eyes look at him, and Jasper can see her give in, can see her arm relax and start to pull the door closed when the man's next words stop them both.

"Slak dou au! Ai gaf Wanheda in!" [AN: "Open the gate! I need Wanheda!"]

"Fuck," Myles huffs, pushing her door open as Jasper opens his door slowly, leaning his head on his seat and drawling out a long whine of 'no'. Standing beside her open door, Myles doesn't make a move to walk to the gate, instead calling out. "Teik em min op!" [AN: "Let him in!"]

The crowd is starting to draw nearer to the ruckus happening at the gate now, the pained noises of Doujis lessening to whimpers and groans. At the gate, the warriors on guard oblige, lifting the gate and carrying it open. A grown man on a chestnut-coloured horse barrels in, sprinting straight for the two Arker's.

"Chit yu gaf kom osir?" Jasper asks when the man skids his horse to a stop in front of the rover. [AN: "What do you want from us?"]

"Yo hon op drop diyo of, sha?" The man demands desperately, sliding off of his horse and approaching the teens with a look of absolute despair and madness in his eyes. [AN: "You find lost things, yes?"]

"Mebi," Myles replies unhelpfully, "kep op ona chit yu don drop of." [AN: "Maybe. Depends on what you've lost."]

"Ai nomfi," the deranged man pleads, "em don ge ban klin bilaik nou taim pas wintam don stot au." [AN: "My daughter. She vanished two months ago." not the literal translation, literal translation; "she vanished not long after winter had begun" – my reasoning for this is because the only way of keeping track of weeks/months/years for grounders relies solely on the seasonal weather. We'd round up and say 'in two weeks', they'd say 'in (x amount) of days after/before (notable seasonal change)'. We'd say 'two months ago', they'd say 'approx. (x amount of time) after this season ended/this season began']

 

Rule number 12:- Remember the Twelve Disciples; water/hydration, food/food prep, clothing, shelter/bedding, fire, first aid, hygiene, tools, lighting, communication, protection and defence

Chapter Text

Day 152 – Feb. 11

Myles' tired brain swirls in confusing tangents, the sound of her two friend's deep, steady breathing keeping the repeating voices from days before company. Hazel eyes scan the chunks of parchment in front of her, desperately trying to piece it all together. Flicking her right hand hard out towards the cave's open floor, Max's paws excitedly clatter and skid along the stone and loose dirt on the ground. His urgent and happy panting echoes and disappears down the length of the cave the flickering candlelight doesn't reach before coming back to her. Max's panting is louder and more harsh when he comes back, the thick, short rope in his mouth made from braided t-shirts that his breath huffs around emphasising the sound.

"… em otaim dula op, nami," a young boy's, Sanli's, recorded voice babbles as Myles waits with her hand open and held down low. Max trots up to her, placing his head in her hand and dropping the slobbery thick rope before excitedly jumping back and waiting for her to throw it again. Myles doesn't disappoint, repeating the hard throw but never tearing her attention away from the recording or the papers in front of her. "Ai mema em we." [AN: "She always does, though. I miss her."]

"Chit moubeda em don tich yu op?" Myles had asked, and her mouth moves along with the words she knows will come as she waits for Max to bring back his toy. [AN: "What else did she teach you?"]

"Tona en tona diyo," Sanli chatters happily about his sister, and the slobbery rope is placed in her hand. Myles gives Max a quick pat and scratch before he jumps back, and the second he does, the redhead lifts her arm and chucks the toy. "Em skrab daun sontaim gon ai nau, sef tel ai op emo den ai na ste kyon grounen op." [AN: "Lots and lots of things. She writes me stories now, instead of telling me them so I can keep growing."]

"Ou, sha?" Myles enquired kindly, her voice soft and high-pitched, jarringly contrasting the harsh and repetitive clicking of Max's claws as he runs around happily. "Chit kaina sontaim?" [AN: "Oh, yeah? What kinds of stories?"]

"Emo ste otaim fodowin!" Sanli recounted, and the red-haired teens eyebrows remain furrowed in thought as her hand is patiently waiting for the calico-coloured dog to return. "Der laik dison hashta chichplei kom tainstepa en insek en emo's sou nodotaim gon op gon kru, en emo fis op binch seifas en biga hou gon ponk klin kru." [AN: "They're always the best! There's this one about talking ants and bugs and they're constantly fighting off the people, and they make silly traps and big homes to confuse the people."]

"Daun's sennes krei ku," the redhead had replied, the slobbery rope nudging into her hand still doesn't deter Myles from listening to herself gently encouraging the young boy to keep talking. [AN: "That sounds cool."]

"Sha, emo laik," the boy prattled on, his recorded voice undeterred by the throwing of the toy or the soft groan Clarke let's out as she stretches and rolls over on the floor across the table from Myles. "En der bilaik Hainofa en Hainofi gon foto wizplei op en biiiigas bis," days ago, Sanli had paused and his whole body had sagged at this part of the conversation. Across from Myles, Clarke's head peers over the top of the table when she sits up, bringing a hand up to brush over her knotty, long blonde hair and wipe at her face tiredly. Max's happy pants and clattering steps keep the room from being silent while Sanli finishes his thought. "Ba em ste gougenas hashta em." [AN: "Yeah, they are. And there's princes and princesses fighting evil magic and huuuuge animals… but she's annoying about it."]

"Why are you listening to that again?" Clarke's tired voice drawls out over the recording, but Myles' eyebrows remain furrowed in thought and her hazel eyes stay glued to the scattered bits of parchment in front of her.

"It's the most honest one we have," the red-haired teen answers distractedly as the recording of her keeps questioning Sanli and Max deposits the toy in her hand again. "Gougenas?" [AN: "Annoying?]

"Sha," the child sighed and Myles lifts her arm to fling the rope, "emo otaim kom inayu… ba ai vout op daun weron emo but tush op en wan op bilaik yontsleya gon ogeda moun kru." [AN: "Yeah, they always fall in love… but I like the ones where they kick butts and die heroes for all the other people."]

"Honest?" Clarke's drowsy voice questions disbelievingly over the boys excited chattering, pulling herself up to sit in the seat across from Myles. "Her parents aren't lying, they want her home more than anything."

"Daunde sennes pri fodowin," the redhead had agreed kindly. [AN: "Those ones do sound pretty amazing."]

"She's not saying they're lying," Jasper placates over the recording, his voice groggy and drawled out from his spot on the floor to the redhead's left. "Just that Sanli's too young to understand the difference between important information and useless information." Jasper grunts as he stretches out, sitting up slowly and watching Max bound back to Myles' awaiting hand. "He's more likely to give useful info than anyone else because he's not trying to separate what's helpful and what's not. He's just talking."

"Sha, emo laik," Sanli's eager smile can still be heard through the recording, and what's heard even louder is how the smile slipped almost instantly from his face and voice. "Nomon en nontu fleim emo klin, nami." [AN: "Yeah they are. Mum and dad hate them though."]

Myles isn't going to lie; she didn't hear a word Jasper had just said. Instead, her whole focus was on the recorded voices he was talking over.

"Ou?" Myles had prompted, her soft and gentle tone hard to discern over her friend's voices. "Hakom emo fleim emo klin?" [AN: "Oh? Why do they hate them?"]

"No," Clarke argues, and Max whines, tapping Myles' unmoving hand with the slobbery rope in it. The redhead hasn't chucked it, her mind too focussed on listening to the recording under the sounds of her two friends. "Her parents are worried sick. We went over everything they did that week, several times. They told us everything."

"Emo nou vout tona diyo op," the young boy had sighed out, his mumbled and slightly fearful tone echoing in Myles' mind. [AN: "They don't like a lot of things."]

"Daun souda bilaik snoren," Myles tried to pry, wishing she could go back to when this conversation had taken place to ask more questions. [AN: "That must be boring."]

"We can't know that," Jasper counters, standing up and dragging his feet over to his best friend to pluck the rope from her hand and toss it for Max. "The only way we're gonna find who took her is getting as much info from as many people as possible."

"Em laik," Sanli huffed out, "osir nou teik eni lukot kom hir seintaim o kamp raun osir lukot. Osir gada in na kom hou fou sondaun otaim sintaim." [AN: "It is, we can't even have any friends over or stay at our friends. We have to be home before sundown everyday."]

"What if no one took her?" Myles asks, her voice quiet and detached as her finger presses the pause button.

"What are you talking about?" Clarke questions, her blonde eyebrows drawing close and her face screwing up in confusion.

"You thinking she's a runaway?" Jasper enquires, leaning his hip on the edge of the table and looking between the two girls.

"I'm thinking," the redhead starts, "both parents admitted to being strict. No sleepovers, no dating, no being out of the house before sunup or after sundown. It's all work, no play, all the time."

"Everyone said Acha is happy," the blonde-haired teen reminds them, her disbelieving tone drawled out slowly. "Why would she run away?"

"Sanli isn't happy," Jasper shrugs. "Maybe she just hid it because she was afraid of her parents?"

The words click something in Myles' mind, and the redhead rewinds the tape a little bit. Pressing play again, the redhead holds up the device to tell the other two to listen.

"…na diyo," Sanli's voice states again, "em skrab daun sontaim gon ai nau, sef tel ai em op den ai na ste kyon grounen op."

"'She writes me stories now'," Myles translates, clicking the pause button again, "'instead of telling me them so I can keep growing'."

"Grounders don't teach each other how to write," the brown-haired teen reiterates, and Myles starts scrambling through the parchment and books on the table to pull out the stories Sanli gave to them. Clarke stands up, her eyes scanning the writing on the papers. "Her parents don't know how to write. Who taught her?"

"The spelling is all over the place," Clarke points out, "even for Trig, but it's neat."

"Because she taught herself," Myles realises, "sounded it out. It's why letters are backwards and half done. She's only seen writing on whatever signs have survived."

"So…" Jasper begins, looking up at the two with him. "If it's neat for someone who taught themselves, how long has she been practicing it?"

"What was she writing before these?" Myles finishes, her victorious and alight hazel eyes dancing between her two friends. "And why is she hiding them?"

 

Sticking her head around the corner slightly, Myles signals to the two behind her when there's no one looking towards them. Jasper, Clarke and Max slink forward, quickly ducking behind the home they've come back to search. Myles is right behind them, reaching up to unhook the wood blocking the window and pull herself up. Hazel eyes sweep the house, making sure it's empty before letting the other two Arker's know it's clear.

"Max," Jasper orders quietly from below her as she slips from the windowsill and onto the floor, "stand guard."

Clarke's hands grip the windowsill and Jasper lifts her up towards Myles, who helps pull her in. Once Clarke's boots are firmly on the floor, both girls help Jasper crawl in after he jumps up. Myles quickly and quietly sticks her head into the rooms in the house, just to make sure no one is asleep in one of them, before stopping and staying in Acha's room. It's barren, compared to the other houses they've been in. Most houses with children who live in them have toys and all sorts of handmade things to keep them company, but Myles'd never be able to tell that children lived in this house just from looking at it.

A bed, a simple handmade dresser and a stack of parchment and charcoal on the floor is the only sign of someone living in this room. Biting the inside of her cheek, Myles can't help the disappointment that floods through her at the reminder of what little hiding places there are in this room.

"Okay," Jasper breathes out, "I've never been a fourteen-year-old girl, so this is on you two. Where would you hide something?"

"In the walls," Myles immediately states as Clarke answers, 'the bed'.

"Bed," the brown-haired teen points at Clarke, before directing his finger to Myles, "walls. I'll take the dresser, maybe it'll get me into character."

Myles snorts obnoxiously, "I don't know…" making her way over to one of the hay, mud and wood walls and scrutinising it with a playful glint in her eyes. "You sure do drink like a fourteen-year-old girl."

"There is no point in having a drink we have at home," Jasper relays pointedly, "when we go out. If we're at a bar, I'm having something new."

"Okay, 'trigiboba'," the redhead teases, a bright smile across her face.

"Hey," her best friend calls defensively, as Clarke snickers, "it was good! You're just jealous that I'm cool and can get all the cool drinks."

"If cool means barely even alcoholic," Clarke chimes in, huffing when she drops the sack of a mattress back down. "Then you're definitely cool."

"It has gin in it," Jasper counters, stopping looking through the drawers to stare at the two teens with him in betrayal.

"It's like," Myles starts, giggling, "three parts berries and one part gin."

"No, it's four parts responsible," the brown-haired teen states, getting a barked laugh out of the redhead and a scoffed giggle out of Clarke. "Really! Think about it, it's so tasty you want more than one of them, but it's so responsible you'd need a couple of them to get tipsy."

"It's marketing," the blonde explains through a chuckle, and Myles' laughter dies down when she spots a strange crack in the dried mud and stick walls under a log-framed windowsill. Crouching down, Myles pulls her flashlight up from her belt straps and clicks it on to shine the light on whatever's between the cracks in the wall. "To get you to trade more."

"Exactly," Jasper doubles down, "it's responsible for all involved. Everyone's happy. It's a happy drink." His attention turns to his now silent best friend. "What'd you find?"

"Clothes," Myles answers, her tone drawled out in confusion as her hands pull the bundled material from the slim gap in the wall.

Holding them up, it's immediately clear to the group why the missing teenager would hide them. Revealing shirts that would only cover to the bottom of her ribcage, very short shorts and skirts and tops with only one shoulder or nothing at all over the shoulders. Very frilly, fancy bras that look like they were handmade with great care and by someone who's experienced in making them custom shock Myles.

These undergarments and some of these clothes had to be handmade and mended, whereas the shirts and shorts could've easily been chopped off by Acha herself.

"Those are nothing like anything in here," Jasper informs them, yanking out another drawer and holding up very modest and simple shirts and pants.

"She got these made," Myles replies, and Clarke comes over to stand above her, leaning down to inspect the clothes. "Her family won't let her work, where did she get kapla or something worth trading?"

"More than that," Clarke corrects, "everyone we've spoken to says she'd never be caught dead wearing anything like this. Where is she wearing it?"

"We're gonna have to talk to Kaila again," Jasper sighs, "that kid is the devil incarnate."

"I thought everyone in her village said the same thing," the blonde-haired teen queries, moving back over to the bed when Myles shoves the clothes back into the wall. "That she is a perfectly behaved angel whenever she visited her?"

"Rule 57, Clarke," Myles reminds her, moving over to examine more of the walls for similar gaps.

"'Conform openly'," the brown-haired teen recalls for their friend when she only stammers in response. "'Rebel surreptitiously'."

"We tried lying to our people in Tondc," Clarke tells Myles, "and that didn't work at all. You really think a fourteen-year-old can lie to two whole villages and not get caught?"

"I think," the redhead drawls out, crouching down and shining her flashlight up and down the back wall to check for gaps. "That when you give people too many rules, they learn how to work around them. Like on the Ark."

"I betcha her parents don't know about the hidden clothes stash," Jasper points out, "and, I bet when she visits Kaila every week, the villagers doesn't always see her. They go off and do their own thing, away from Acha's hyper-restrictive parents."

"And Kaila is going to tell us now," Clarke sarcastically enquires, "after a week of not telling us anything because we found some clothes?"

"Your pessimism is highly annoying yet highly accurate," the brown-haired teen commends with a sigh, pushing the last drawer closed and starting to walk across the room. "But, if she's helping Acha run away, she might be nearby."

As Jasper is walking, one of the chopped log floorboards tied together with woven straw and mud bends down a little, and the teen stops, snapping his head down to his boots. Myles stands, scanning the wall up to the triangular sloped ceiling of logs, hay, mud, and sheets of patchwork fabric. Hazel eyes don't tear away from the walls until she sees Jasper crouch down in the corners of her eyes.

"You were both wrong," Jasper announces, pulling up one of the randomly sized chopped logs that's come loose from the hardened mud that's been carefully scratched out on one side.

Underneath the floorboard is three huge piles of something wrapped in cloth and a small wooden box with precisely carved five-point stars scattered along its sides. Both Myles and Clarke move over to Jasper, crouching down and peering into the hole in the floor as Jasper places the piece of wood down. Clarke's hands reach in for one of the cloth-wrapped piles, and the second her hands come in contact with it, the pile parchment inside crackles and crinkles. Bright hazel eyes lock on her two friends equally as victoriously gleaming faces.

"It was in the floor."

 

They're sitting in the rover on the outskirts of the Hurin village, Kaila's house not far from sight. Myles is sitting in the back with Clarke and Max, reading over the writings on the parchment. Some of them are stories, some rants about her overly controlling parents, but most of them are journal entries. Both girls are sitting on the floor instead of the seats lining the walls of the vehicle, the parchment and thin wooden chunks spread out over wherever they can reach in an attempt to organise what's there.

Sitting in front of the pile of unsorted pieces of parchment is the wooden box. It's rectangular and short, the wood sanded down smoothly to accentuate the dark swirls and lines dancing on top of the pale colour hiding underneath. A small dip in one end of the top allows for someone to push and pull the lid off, sliding it through the grooves carved into the sides. The box sits opened; the lid laying on the floor beside it, revealing the bizarre contents inside.

A dried deep red rose, the red-purple shade darkened with time, sits carefully nestled beside sketches of birds and the night sky. Flat stones with stars painted on them in a dense, bright white gloopy paint peek out from under a pinecone with one end completely dipped in white paint. Quite a lot in this box of jumbled knick-knacks seems to relate to stars, whether with them drawn, painted onto something or carved out, like the thick sanded down wooden star leant up against one side. On top of everything, however, are two crowns wrapped into a circle with braided straw hay. Sticks, dead leaves and dried, wilted flowers protrude up all along both crowns, but they both have one distinctive difference.

Among the leaves, sticks and flowers of one crown, is a carefully carved and sanded little wooden bird, connected to the crown by little holes where hay is hooked through to secure it to a stick. The other crown holds a wooden star, much thinner and smaller than the one in the box, but secured to the headpiece the same way.

Clarke is still very new to Trigedasleng, making the writing a much more difficult task for the blonde to piece together alone. Despite this, Clarke can pick out the words she knows and what she can decipher as coming from the languages lexical source of English to figure out which category her chunk of writing belongs to. Brushing some of her long, waist-length blonde hair behind her ear, Clarke sighs and leans over to show Myles what she's looking at.

"What's this line here say?" Clarke enquires, pointing to a line in the writing with Kaila's name in it.

Myles takes her hazel eyes off of the off-colour parchment she was reading to look at the one her friend is holding out to her.

"'I don't know why they can't understand'," the red-haired teen translates haltingly, the half-finished letters, no punctuation and misspellings requiring her whole attention. "'That I need a life. They don't understand, not like Kaila's parents, not like anyone's. I have found them again today…' uh… 'killing'? 'Tearing apart'? I don't know what she's trying to say there. 'Ransacking'? 'My room… always'?"

"Parents didn't say anything about going through their rooms," Jasper mutters, sitting in the drivers seat and watching Kaila's house from a distance to see if the girl leaves.

"'They took the stories for Sanli'," Myles continues reading, "'and done away with who all said of adventures because they be disrespecting his authority'."

"Thanks," Clarke says when Myles hands her back the parchment. "I'll put it with the rants."

"I wish there was a way to date all these," the redhead huffs out dramatically, "all we've got is when she's at Kaila's and when she's home."

"Is it just me…" their blonde-haired friend starts, "… or is the pile for Kaila's house a lot smaller than it should be?"

Hazel eyes glance away from her own sheet of parchment again to look at the piles, furrowing her red eyebrows in thought. Jasper turns back slightly for a quick second, before facing the front again. Myles immediately starts flicking through the large mess of a pile of unsorted writings, trying to quickly find a reference amongst them that would indicate Acha was in another village than the two they know of.

"Maybe she didn't write about it," Jasper offers, "because she was happy there? She only seems to rant about things she can't talk to anyone else about."

As Myles is flicking through the different sheets of parchment, instead of finding anything that would show her in a village besides Astia, Acha and Sanli's village, the redhead finds a similar phrase repeated over and over. Pulling up a story she'd written, Myles scans the parchment quickly, before looking back at the story she'd put down a moment ago to check for more about Kaila's house.

"What is it?" Clarke asks, leaning forward to read the stories and see what Myles is seeing.

"JJ," Myles calls, handing the two stories to Clarke before picking up a handful of more stories and flicking through them. "Can you pass me the sketch of Acha?"

"Yep," her best friend answers, reaching across the front seats to grab their hand-stitched notebook from the passenger footwell. The teen quickly flips it open to the sketch of the missing girl before reaching back and handing it to Myles. "As you so desired."

"What's wrong with it?" Clarke inquires again when all the red-haired teen does is switch her focussed gaze between the stories and the sketch.

"All the princesses in the stories," Myles slowly states, her distracted mind sluggishly allowing the words to tumble out as she checks more stories. "She uses the same words to describe herself. All have long ash-blonde hair, green eyes and a heart-shaped face."

"And?" Jasper urges, looking over his shoulder at the two of them.

Myles holds up the sketch of Acha instead of replying, but both teens straighten and Clarke rifles through the stories.

"They're all her," the blonde reiterates, scanning bits of parchment. "'Hainofi' with 'folau bounj' hair, 'nulif' eyes and 'tombom' face." [AN: "Princess", "ash blonde", "green", "heart".]

"Maybe she just isn't creative," Jasper guesses, feeling like he needs to be the voice of reason. "Her family doesn't exactly inspire great uniqueness."

"'Great uniqueness'," Myles repeats, searching through the stories for another familiar phrase, "like teaching yourself how to write?"

"Yeah, okay," the brown-haired teen relents, "what's it mean?"

"About her?" Myles supplies, "absolutely nothing. What does, though, is this." The redhead holds up a piece of parchment in each hand with a finger pointing at a specific line on each. "They all have 'Hainofa's with 'modi' hair, 'wonkou' eyes and 'the heart and strength of a man'." [AN: "Prince", "brown", "chocolate".]

Clarke is instantly scrambling through the different stories again, trying to verify if this is indeed the case.

"Are they all the same names?" Jasper inquires, turning his body to face the backseat, flicking his eyes to Kaila's house every now and again.

"No," Myles answers, "the Princesses all have 'ch' in their names. 'Archa', 'Chara', 'Naichi', 'Leicha'… 'Sacha'."

"All the Princes start with a 'T'," Clarke informs them, her eyebrows pulled together and held down low as she scans for a frequent combination that could make up 'Prince _'. "'Taiga', 'Teitim', 'Tibi', 'Tora', 'Tua'."

"Well," Jasper sighs, grabbing his bag and opening his car door. "Looks like we have to go annoy people again."

 

"Heyo," Clarke greets the three people standing behind the makeshift counter squished inside the front of the butchers. [AN: "Hello."]

The woman smiles, abandoning her position overseeing someone skin a squirrel in front of the boarded off smoker and curing room. Seeing the black-haired lady look directly at her and walk towards her specifically, Clarke nervously shifts and glances at Myles for backup. Only raising a red eyebrow in question, the redhead remains silent in the hopes of letting the blonde get more practice communicating in Trigedasleng.

"Ha osir na sis yo au?" The woman replies brightly, her soft and happy expression calming Clarke slightly. [AN: "How can we help you?"]

"Uh…" Clarke starts before reciting the words they're hoping someone will recognise with a very distinguishable accent that labels her as a Sky Person. "Osir trana lok op skat kom modi melonkova en wonkou blinka?" [AN: "We're trying to find a boy with brown hair and chocolate eyes?"]

"Mebi yu get o mema in du kom feisnes-de?" Myles butts in casually, adopting a typical Trikru accent with their distinctive trill. [AN: "Do you know or remember someone like that?"]

"Ou, loda raun hir," the woman laughs breezily, "osir gada in mou kom daun gon enthing bilaik, nami?" [AN: "Oh, lots here. We might have more of that than anything else."]

"Na yu fig eni tagon raun?" Myles presses lightly, "kom skat?" [AN: "Can you think of any names? Of boys?"]

"Maa…" she drawls out thoughtfully, looking away from them to stare in the distance as she thinks. "Der bilaik Ikas, Orkan, Buch, Navi, Uridj." [AN: "Umm… There's Icas, Orkan, Buch, Navi, Urridge."]

"Sha, mochof," the redhead nods, stepping back and preparing to leave when the lady looks back at them blankly. [AN: "Right, thank you."]

"Mochof gon yu sis au," Clarke thanks, turning around with Myles and following her back out of the butchers. [AN: "Thank you for your help."]

"Damn it," Myles huffs out around a long sigh, heading towards the next trading hut.

"They didn't even give us a name with a 't' in it," her blonde friend echoes her dismay, strolling along beside Myles.

 

"Hei," Myles greets a man opening up a bar, awkwardly ducking down to make sure he notices their approach. When his green eyes lock on her hazel, the redhead continues. "Osir lok skat op en osir ste fig raun taim yu mebi don sin em in?" [AN: "Hello. We're looking for a boy and we're wondering if you've seen him?"]

"Chit's em feisnes bilaik?" The man answers, standing up straight and eyeing the two girls with suspicion. [AN: "What's he look like?"]

"Modi melonkova," Clarke describes vaguely, shifting on her feet slightly as she switches holding her weight from leg to leg. "Wonkou blinka." [AN: "Brown hair, chocolate eyes."]

"Ai get bida in," he supplies, just as vaguely. [AN: "I know a couple."]

"Na yu huk osir op kom tagon?" Myles implores, squinting slightly at the man. [AN: "Could you give us the names?"]

"Orkan," the man tosses out with a shrug, "Navi, Toga – "

Both teens leap at the name, but Clarke speaks first "tel osir op hashta Toga." [AN: "Tell us about Toga."]

"Chit yo gaf get in?" He questions, the girls instantaneous response to the name catching him off-guard. [AN: "What do you want to know?"]

"Weron Toga shak op?" Myles queries, her expression relaxing as it becomes clear through the man's body language that he'll cooperate. [AN: "Where does Toga live?"]

"Saut kom kofkova," the man gestures around the winding buildings. "Won-de kom nulif dou en thri bouda stergeda. Chomouda? Chit dison hashta? Em nou ona sich, sha?" [AN: "South of the fabrics trading post. The one with a green door and three stone steps. Why? What's this about? He's not in trouble, is he?"]

"Osir jos gada in bida prom gon em, you," the red-haired teen appeases him, "chit yu na tel osir op hashta em? Chit em bilaik?" [AN: "We just have some questions for him. What can you tell us about him? What's he like?"]

"Em ste os goufa," the man recalls honestly, "nou sich nowe." [AN: "He's a good kid. Never any trouble."]

"Gada?" Clarke asks, having trouble following what's being said. [AN: "Girl?"]

"Mebi won kom falou bounj melonkova?" Myles tacks on, trying to help get the point across. [AN: "Maybe one with ash blonde hair?"]

"Em gada in won kom modi melonkova," he explains, and both teens frown, "ba nou bounj. Em ona sich seintaim? Emo don chek au ku nou taim kom gon. Don gada in os taim gon Toga eidon wintam breshin." [AN: "He has one with brown hair, but not blonde. Is she in trouble, too? They looked fine not long ago. Had a good time at Toga's eighth winter celebration."]

"Hod op," the redhead starts, her shoulders already sagging in defeat before the man can confirm his statement to her. "Em's eit yo?" [AN: "Wait. He's eight-years-old?"]

"Sha," the man nods, his expression becoming bleak and suspicious once again. "Chomouda? Chit's skechi?" [AN: "Yeah. Why? What's wrong?"]

Hazel eyes lock on Clarke's confused blue, replying, "non. Bet non." Looking back at the man they're talking to with a sigh. "Mochof gon yu sis au, ba Toga nou chon osir ste lufa au. Moba gon yu gou." [AN: "Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Thank you for your help, but Toga's not who we're looking for. Sorry for your time."]

"Ba'm eintheing," he responds as the two teens turn and start walking away with Clarke glancing between Myles and the man repeatedly in confusion. [AN: "It doesn't matter."]

"What's happening?" Clarke quick-fires off at her red-haired friend, but her steps continue following her. "That's the first 't' name we've gotten."

"Toga," Myles states in a slow breath, clicking her walkie-talkie's transmit button to signal Jasper to get somewhere where he can talk. "Just turned eight."

"That's what you said, right?" Clarke's face falls as her mind tries to understand what just happened and their walking comes to a stop to the side of the path. "Em's eit yo."

"Eit is eight," the redhead explains, "yo doesn't just mean plural yu, it also means 'years old'." Her blonde-haired friend's shoulders slump in defeat, and Myles impatiently clicks her transmit button again. "They don't have a dating system. Sometimes they count how many days into a new seasonal change the kid was born, but birthdays tend to be decided by how many winters, summers, springs, autumns they've seen." Clicking the button again, Myles mutters to herself. "Come on, JJ."

"How many times are you gonna do that?" Clarke implores, bringing a hand up to her earpiece, like the sound of the static clicking is bothering her.

"I'll stop when he answers," the red-haired teen answers in a huff, pressing button again.

"Doing that four times," Jasper chastises his best friend through their earpieces. "Isn't going to get me to answer any faster. The early bird gets to wait for the late bird."

"And yet…" Myles drawls out mockingly, "it still got you to answer."

"I'd agree with you," the brown-haired teen reasons as Clarke chuckles behind her hand, "but then we'd both be wrong, and that's just embarrassing."

"Shop talk, JJ," the redhead reminds him, "all we've got is an eight-year-old Toga. Any luck on your end?"

"You want the short answer or the long one?" Jasper asks, and Clarke and Myles lock eyes eagerly.

"Both would be good," Clarke tells him, awkwardly glancing around at the village folk minding their own business around them.

"Short answer; I've got nothing," the teen replies, making both girls sag exasperatedly, "long answer; I've got absolutely, stupendously not one single thing. Except rumours that Kaila is the one with the secret boyfriend."

"That doesn't sound like nothing," Myles prods as Clarke keeps looking around, feeling antsy from the lack of progress they've made with this in the last week. "Any clue on who it is?"

"Some weaselly, pimple faced teen that her dad hates," Jasper recites, "get this, apparently he's the son of Snobby's father's arch nemesis. A family rivalry thing that goes back to their grandfathers burning down some café."

"Who's café?" Myles quizzes quickly, getting Clarke's attention again.

"Who burnt it down?" The blonde questions instead, sending a pointed look to Myles that only gets an amused eyebrow twitch in response.

"No one knows which one did it," the brown-haired teen supplies unhelpfully, "just that their families hate each other for it."

"That's not why they hate the boy," Myles decides, earning a confused look from Clarke at the confident statement.

"How do you know?" Clarke enquires, her expression furrowed in intrigue.

"The only reason," Myles declares certainly, "no one knows who did it, and why they're both so pissed is if they had some sort of stake in the café to begin with. The one who didn't do it would be pissed they've lost their stake, and the one who did it would pretend to be pissed so they don't look guilty. I bet they're related, that's why they hate the boy."

"That's ridiculous," her best friend denotes, "but I love it and I totally agree. Us against the princess. How much are we betting?"

Clarke sighs harshly, turning around and bouncing on her heels anxiously.

"Princess is antsy," Myles states, "we'll talk about it later. Did you get a name?"

"Alista," Jasper informs them, and Clarke's impatient shifting stops suddenly. "Doesn't start with a 't'."

"At least it has one in it," the red-haired teen comments, breathing in deeply as her blonde-haired friend taps her arm. "Yeah?"

"What if," Clarke begins slowly in thought, staring at something behind Myles and making the redhead turn around curiously. "She said he was a man because he is a man."

Red eyebrows start to furrow before her hazel gaze lands on him. A short and stocky teen, about the same age as both the Arker's. This makes him an adult, and not the fourteen-ish year old boy they were looking for. His short hair is slightly shaggy and brown, his focussed eyes a deep shade of chocolate brown barely glancing up from the wooden pole he's meticulously carving. It's straight, but curves in at the bottom and top, probably to be used for a piece of furniture instead of a weapon. People move around behind him, dirt covered burly men dumping arms full of logs into a crate behind the young man and clapping him on the back before stalking back out of the simple gazebo style hut.

"Hey, JJ," Myles calls into her walkie, her gaze still stuck on the brown-haired young man. "Can you bring the trinket box over to us?"

"Sure," he replies easily, "Where are you two?"

"Woodworkers post," the redhead reveals, stepping towards the sheltered hut. "Down from the bar."

"Rodger, dodger," her best friend answers immediately, and Myles hooks her walkie away on her belt.

There's no real doors to the woodworkers post, only a braided mess of straw and hay laid on top of a simple wooden frame. The material doesn't stretch for the length of the open frame, covering the top and only coming close to the ground on one side. It's sectioned off inside, not with walls, but a clear empty space dividing each station. Tools and sharpeners are hung up on a sturdy stand, carefully sculpted to hold the weight of several thick axes underneath the little shelf of knives.

Hung over the stand, strips of leather slathered with hide glue has crushed shells and stone infused into the dried sticky substance. Beside it, burnished cow ribs hang alongside the makeshift sandpaper's. Laying on a sideless shelf between the axes and the knives are variously sized saws and mallets. Wooden tenons pile up and stick out to the side of the knives, copious amounts of braided twine and hay looped around them and tucked between them.

The young man is so focussed on the wooden pole he's carving carefully; he doesn't even look up when both Arker's enter the post. One of the burly men from before is using his axe to choppily strip the bark from some of the logs they've carried in just out the back of the post. He looks up at them, but doesn't shift or cease in his movements when he sees the two of them going straight to his coworker.

"Hei," Myles greets with a polite smile, and the brown-haired young man jolts, snapping his head up to them. "Ai laik Maiyls, en dison bilaik ai lukot, Klark." [AN: "Hello. I'm Myles, and this is my friend, Clarke."]

"Ma.. hei," he says back, and Myles quickly holds her hand out for him to shake to gently prompt him to introduce himself. "Ai laik Tibrik. Meika's slak." [AN: "Um.. hey. I'm Tibreek. Nice to meet you."]

"Tibrik," the redhead repeats, shaking his hand. "Ai fig raun yu bilaik chon osir lufa au." [AN: "Tibreek. I think you might be who we're looking for."]

"Ai?" Tibrik questions, his expression tightening ever so slightly before he shrugs stiffly. "Ha ai na sis yo au?" [AN: "Me? How can I help you?"]

"Yu get in gada kom Hurin?" Myles enquires, "du kom tagon Acha?" [AN: "Do you know a girl from Hurin? Someone with the name Acher?"]

"Maa… nou ai na mema in," he brushes off, his eyes darting to the right quickly as he thinks. His head shakes in a small and stiff movement before shrugging. "Ai nou get in eni Acha." [AN: "Umm… not that I can recall. I don't know any Acher."]

"Yu get klin?" Clarke presses, tugging at the bag hooked over Myles' shoulder and pulling out a notebook opened to a sketch of the missing teen. "Em nou bilaik lukot feisnes?" [AN: "Are you sure? She doesn't look familiar?"]

"No," Tibrik insists, shrugging one shoulder stiffly and holding his brown eyebrows raised. [AN: "No."]

Hazel eyes squint at him, but neither teen backs down. Something moving in the corner of her eyes makes Myles turn to see Jasper and Max entering.

"Dofo, Jei-Jei," Myles calls to her best friend, looking back at Tibrik with sparkling eyes. "Cheket, Tibrik hir nou get in eni Acha nowe." [AN: "Hey, JJ. Check it out, Tibreek here has never known any Acher."]

"Daun's ait?" Jasper enquires, sauntering to a stop beside the two girls and glancing over the young man's work on the wooden pole. Tibrik shifts on his feet, casting a quick look at his coworker stripping wood outside and bringing a hand up to his face as Jasper pulls Acha's trinket box from his bag. "Yu nou don sin dison in nowe, seintaim?" [AN: "Is that right? You never seen this, either?"]

Tibrik's face immediately pales and his chocolate eyes widen, his fidgeting body becoming still at once. His eyes flick up to them before twisting around quickly to glance at his coworker.

"Chit yo gaf?" Tibrik demands, lowering his voice and leaning over his table towards them. [AN: "What do you want?"]

"Bida dulasei na laik os," Myles prods, and Tibrik sags before shifting forward urgently again. [AN: "Some honesty would be nice."]

"Em don ai lukot," the young man divulges lowly, his eyebrows still raised in that 'believe me' look. "Ai don na sin em in taim em komba raun gon hang em lukot au, you. Kaila." [AN: "She was my friend. I'd see her when she came to visit her friend. Kaila."]

"Chit mou yu get in?" Clarke quizzes, and the stiff young man snaps his head to look at his coworker again. [AN: "What else do you know?"]

"Non," Tibrik insists, "non, daun's ogeda." [AN: "Nothing. Nothing, that's all."]

"Pri os shaini," Jasper muses pointedly, looking down at the trinket box. [AN: "Pretty nice gift."]

"Ai don tel yo op," the young man promises, "em don ai lukot." [AN: "I told you. She was my friend."]

"Yu get klin yu gaf daun bilaik yu sontaim?" Myles asks lowly, leaning on the table to get close to the brown-haired man when she speaks. When all she gets in reply is a pointed stare and his frozen expression, Myles leans back and opens her bag, pulling out a sheet of parchment. "Yu don get in Acha skrab daun kom geifou, sha?" Tibrik pales, his nervous twitching and paranoid glances gradually getting worse. "Tsa ai op, ou dison laik os won. 'Hainofa Tibrik ste sis ai meika op, en ai kom au drop of ona em wonkou blinka. Bilaik fos gou ai nou gaf chek skaifaya au, en em ste biyo – " [AN: "Are you sure you want that to be your story? You know that Acher likes writing stories, right? Let's see, oh this one is a good one. 'Prince Tibreek takes my hand, and I get lost in his chocolate eyes. It's the first time I don't want to look at the stars, and he says – "]

"Kei!" Tibrik snaps, reaching out to tear the piece of parchment away, but Myles is faster. His name wasn't really in the story, and if the young man calls her bluff, that could cost them whatever information he holds. He's breathing harshly now, his frantic eyes wide and his body jittering urgently. The man behind him stops, looking at them and starts to make his way over. "Radi, ai na bants gon bida tika." [AN: "Okay! Raddy, I'm gonna leave for a few minutes."]

Tibrik rapidly strides over towards the back corner, on the opposite side of Radi, and ducks under the section of material hanging from the roof. Jasper, Clarke, Max and Myles are right on his heels, making sure he doesn't try to make a run for it. He doesn't; instead, the brown-haired young man waits and leads them a few metres out of the woodworkers post before turning back to them. The frazzled expression and jittery movements still hold one thing from before, and that's his eyebrows are still raised high, which doesn't sit right in Myles' gut.

"Kei," Tibrik sighs, and it's the first time his eyebrows shift down. "Mebi osir don mou kom jos lukot." [AN: "Okay. Maybe we were more than just friends."]

"Em ste fotin," Jasper states disdainfully, not hiding his animosity for the young man in front of them. [AN: "She's fourteen."]

"Ai get in," he insists, and it's the only thing Myles feels he's been honest about. "Ai get in." [AN: "I know. I know."]

"Weron em ste haden?" Myles enquires, squinting her eyes when his faux and over-exaggerated 'believe me' look reappears. [AN: "Where's she hiding?"]

"Ai nou get in," Tibrik huffs out in aggravation, "osir don split klin sintaim feva fou em ban klin." [AN: "I don't know. We broke up many days before she disappeared."]

"Chomouda?" Clarke asks, picking up the pieces from what she can understand. [AN: "Why?"]

"Em don huk klin," the young man describes, and while Myles can buy that Acha would be clingy, Tibrik's shifty eyes and twitching fingers speak louder than his words. [AN: "She was clingy."]

"Yu gaf osir gon wich daun in," Jasper drawls out disbelievingly, "Acha don ron we kos yu split klin seintaim?" [AN: "You want us to believe… Acher ran away because you both broke up?"]

"Sha," Tibrik nods, jumping onto the teens words quickly. "Daun's chit don kom au." [AN: "Yes. That's what happened."]

"No," Myles drags the word out, scrunching up her face and ignoring the twang of concern Tibrik's falling expression sets ablaze in her gut. "No, ai fig raun bilaik som mou." When chocolate eyes only stare at her and the young man shrugs stiffly, a movement his body doesn't sing with, Myles continues. "Geril, oso ogeda get in em don get in ha gon kik thru kom em renon hedplei. Nou hod em op nowe, hakom em na fig raun nouseim nau? Weron yu ste haden em?" [AN: "no. No, I think there's something more. Come on, we all know she knew how to survive with her parents rules. Never stopped her before, why would she think different now? Where are you hiding her?"]

"Ai nou haden em!" Tibrik exclaims, huffing frustratedly and lifting his arms up, his eyebrows still in the same raised, deceptive position. The way he says it or the words he uses isn't what makes both Myles and Jasper pause, but it's what he doesn't say. Jasper leans his head back, his posture slouching ever so slightly as he locks his eyes on Myles', sharing a knowing look. Clarke goes to say something else, her body leaning forward in preparation for the words she's thinking of, but a hand on her arm stops her. Tibrik catches the motion and misreads it. "Cheket? Ai tel yo op dulasei, you." [AN: "I'm not hiding her! See? I'm telling you the truth."]

"Kei," Jasper replies simply with a half-hearted shrug. "Yu nou ste haden em. Ba, yu get in weron em kamp raun." [AN: "Okay. You're not hiding her. But, you do know where she is."]

"No, ai nou," the young man persists, his restless and fidgety posture only getting more paranoid. "You." [AN: "No, I don't. I swear."]

"Ku," Myles breathes out, taking a step backwards and slouching her shoulders obnoxiously, leaning back to take on a predatory stance. "Den yu nou na gifa in taim osir tel op bida kru hir bilaik yu don ste ses op kom fotin yo gada." [AN: "cool. Then you won't mind if we go tell some of the people here that you were sleeping with a fourteen-year-old girl."]

"Hod op," Tibrik calls out, chasing after the few steps Myles had taken with an urgent spring in his anxious steps. His hands grip her arm tightly with wide, fearful chocolate eyes and it puts Jasper on edge. Jasper pushes his way between them, keeping both girls behind him. "Yo gada in nou figon chit dei na dula op gon ai. Em na flosh ai klin." [AN: "Wait. You have no idea what that'll do to me. It will destroy me."]

"Ena?" Myles shoots back, keeping her hazel eyes stuck on his frantic gaze. [AN: "So?"]

Tibrik pauses, and he visibly deflates before his antsy behaviour starts up again.

"Kei," the young man huffs out lowly, speaking too quickly for Clarke to understand most of the words he's saying. "Ai nou split klin kom Acha. Ba ai nou get in weron em kamp raun. Ai don sin em in en kom of em der gyon au. Daun's em, you." [AN: "Okay. I didn't break up with Acher. But I don't know where she is. I dropped her off and let her go. That's it."]

"Kom em of taim?" Jasper asks, and Clarke shifts on her feet anxiously at his slow tone. [AN: "Dropped her off when?"]

"Sintaim feva kom gon," Tibrik answers, "fou twin-de wintam. Ai bilaik las chon don sin em in." [AN: "Many days ago. Before the middle of winter. I was the last person to see her."]

"Weron yu don bants em?" Clarke questions, her blonde eyebrows furrowed deeply as she tries to recall the words she's learnt and follow what's going on. [AN: "Where did you leave her?"]

"Saut," the young man supplies vaguely, clenching his jaw and darting his eyes to the side quickly, "tu sintaim strech au." [AN: "South. Two days walk."]

"En em jos…" Myles starts, scrunching up her expression sarcastically, "don bants em seingeda? Em strik bro?" [AN: "And she just… left her family? Her little brother?"]

"Em don gon raun kom em nontu," Tibrik explains away, his eyebrows twitching before quickly returning to his 'believe me' look, a small, subconscious smirk pulling up the left side of his mouth. "Em don bilaik fiyon rek. Em jos don gaf in gon ron we, en em don." [AN: "She had a fight with her father. She felt horrible. She just wanted to get away, and she did."]

Myles looks between Jasper and Clarke, and both Arker's meet her gaze almost instantly.

"Kei," the red-haired teen decides with a firm tone, but relaxed delicate features that start to brighten with excitement. "Yu na tel osir op opleis yo tu don gyon au. Ething yo don gouthru klin, ething yo don sin in." [AN: "Okay. You are gonna tell us everywhere you two went. Everything you passed, everything you saw."]

"Nou ban enthing au, nami?" Jasper adds when Tibrik starts getting fidgety again, bringing a hand up to his face and brushing through his brown hair. "Osir gaf get in ogeda skrap kom graun yo don sen yo fut daun." [AN: "Don't leave anything out. We want to know every grain of dirt you stepped on."]

 

"We need another plan," Myles sighs out, keeping her hazel eyes fixed on the surroundings whipping past the rover. "Too much can go wrong with A and B."

"Wait," Clarke interjects, leaning forward in the backseat to stick her head between the two front seats, resting an arm along the passenger seat as she does so. "We have plans? We haven't even found where they went yet."

"Acha is dead," the redhead deadpans, locking her confident gaze on Clarke's shocked blue. "The people in Arkadia aren't."

"No," Clarke refuses, "there's no way Acha's dead. She just ran off, and we can track her when we get to where she was dropped off."

"Sorry, Princess," Jasper butts in, "Aggie's right, we should prioritise project Cactus over doing nothing while we wait to see something that probably doesn't exist."

"You think she's dead," the blonde turns on him accusingly, staring at him as if she hopes he'll say something to disprove her statement. Huffing a sigh when nothing more comes from the brown-haired teen, her blue eyes lock back on hazel. "Okay. Fine. Why do you think she's dead?"

"He only talked about her in past tense," Myles explains, "'she was clingy', 'she was my friend', 'she felt horrible', 'she wanted to get away'."

"Because it happened two months ago," Clarke reasons, "two months in the past!"

"Or," the red-haired teen drawls out sarcastically, "because she's dead and he's a murderer."

"You both are so negative," Clarke goads, "would it kill either of you to be positive for one moment?"

"I can be positive," Myles declares defensively, a smile beginning to shine through her voice. "I'm positive he's a murdering asshole."

Jasper snorts a laugh, quickly lifting his left hand from the steering wheel to lean his elbow on the door and place his hand over his mouth. Myles watches the movements her best friend makes to stifle and kill his bubbling laughter with her mouth held open as chuckles clench her stomach and get stuck in her throat.

"You both," their blonde-haired friend starts, light, airy laughter betraying her harsh words. "Are awful. Not everyone is an asshole, you know."

"Yeah," Jasper agrees, sliding his hand from his mouth to his jaw momentarily to speak his next words clearly. "Except for the fact that everyone is an asshole."

Myles leans forward in her seat, smiling through the giggles that escape from her throat. Their laughing eases the weight the redhead's words seemed to have put on Clarke's shoulders.

"Fine," Clarke relents, easy chuckling still dancing over her words. "We'll worry about Acha when we get there. What are these plans you've got?"

"Bad," Myles informs her instantly, her laughter dying down in her serious tone.

"Plan A is our containment plan," Jasper divulges to their blonde friend, "'Asleep'. Keep Finn's and Octavia's eyes on them, diverting them from the villages to give Kane, Monty and Bellamy enough time to recruit more into the defectors army."

"We," the red-haired teen continues, gesturing to the three of them half-heartedly, "are to keep Lexa, the clans and the villagers happy. Make sure they know Arkadia can be contained and handled internally."

"Keep Arkadia asleep," Clarke summarises, "have our inside men get the pieces into place. Just like Mount Weather."

Myles and Jasper sober up even more so, both best friends turning to stare at Clarke like she'd grown a second head. Jasper keeps flicking his eyes back to the windscreen, watching where he's going while also pinning Clarke with the same offended stare Myles has twisted in her seat completely to give.

"What?" Clarke feigns innocence, already knowing the answer, but wanting to pry the conversation out of them.

"Mentions of Hell," Myles states slowly, "with it's alternative name also need to be contained."

"It's bad juju," Jasper tacks on, his voice dead serious, "real bad."

"You guys talk about it all the time," Clarke shoots back, looking at the two best friends like they're overreacting.

"Strictly for healing purposes only," the brown-haired teen supplies. "And not when comparing plans."

"You call it Hell," the blonde scrutinises, "how is that healing?"

Myles fake gasps, getting an exasperated look from Clarke, "who's side are you on?"

"Yours," Clarke answers honestly, "it isn't healthy."

"Don't listen to her, JJ," Myles tells Jasper, twisting back around in her seat to face the front again. "She's just bitter she's not avoiding Finn by being shirtless in Polis right now."

"At least," the blonde jokes, "I have someone to be shirtless with."

Both teens in the front whip back around to look at her again, Myles with her mouth held wide open and Jasper with twinkling eyes that flick between her and the Earth the rover tramples over in front of them. Myles raises her hand towards the blonde and Jasper awkwardly reaches his palm out behind himself.

"Ooh," Jasper exclaims, and Clarke high-fives the two hands held out towards her. "Double burn!"

"That's big," Myles smiles widely, hazel eyes gleaming brightly. "I'm so proud of you."

"Only you would be for that," Clarke replies, chuckling. "Okay, Plan Asleep is at a standstill. What's Plan B?"

"The worst of the two of them," the brown-haired teen informs her, and Clarke lightheartedness deflates.

"What?" The blonde questions, her thin eyebrows furrowing imploringly. "Why?"

"'Backfire'," the redhead sighs out, "is if things go awry. It's a putdown scheme. Pike's army gets out of hand or crosses another line; take care of them before Lexa has to do it to pacify the clans."

"This is all we've got?" Clarke demands frustratedly, shaking her head. "You're the Ghost! You've spent the last three months fixing things like this."

"No," Jasper corrects tiredly, "we've spent the last three months preventing things like this. In one day, Pike and Abby destroyed the months of progress we made with Hell. One day. One morning destroyed everything we've built for Arkadia in the clan's and the villages."

"So, what?" Clarke scoffs, disbelievingly, "we just do nothing? Make them fix it themselves?"

"They can't fix it themselves," the brown-haired Arker announces, but Myles slouches in her seat, ideas turning around in her head. "They've done nothing but prove that since they landed down here. We can't do anything until the inside passes us intel or has their own army or they kill another 300 innocent people."

"So we're sitting ducks again?" Clarke continues, "is that all we can do?"

"If it walks like a duck," Jasper starts, "quacks like a duck and is sitting, it's us."

"What if," Myles speaks up, her words slow and thoughtful, "we had a failsafe plan?"

"A failsafe plan?" Clarke echoes, leaning forward so her head is between the two front seats again.

"What are you thinking?" Jasper inquires, flicking his lightening but still serious gaze over to her.

"I'm thinking," the redhead begins thoughtfully, as if testing the words out as she's saying them. "Rule twenty-four."

"'When in doubt'," Clarke recites one of the first rules the two best friends drilled into her head perfectly, but her tone wavers with uncertainty. "'Always know your way out'?"

"A plan to somehow solve this from the inside," Myles confirms, "get the grounders held prisoner out safely when it starts going south."

"Keep them safe," Jasper finishes, his voice just as slow as his mind catches up with hers. "While we're on our way and getting into position. A backfire plan for 'Backfire'."

"Can they do that themselves?" Clarke quizzes, "I thought we needed one of us to help them out?"

"They do," Myles answers, "unless there's a big enough distraction that everyone leaves the prisoners behind."

"Or leaves them with a few guards," her best friend keeps going for her, "that they can take out themselves. Have Marcus or Monty slip them the key for the cell, distraction, take down the remaining guards, get to safety, wait for us."

"One of us will need to track them down," Myles theorises, "get to them before anyone on the inside realises they're gone and there're defectors."

"That'll be Finn," Clarke guesses, "Octavia is with the villages, so Finn is with the patrols around the border. Finn grabs them and takes them… where?"

"We have a couple hidey-holes," Jasper divulges, "caves. Not far, but hidden."

"It will depend where shit hits the fan," Myles sighs, "okay, Finn is their escort, I end Pike's influence, what else?"

"I'll be with you," Clarke decides, nodding to herself. "If we can't sway Pike's army, we'll sway Lexa. Jasper and Octavia can find all the prisoners and take them to safety while we keep them distracted."

"We'll need to dig up Rover 2," Jasper tells Myles, and Clarke almost does a double take.

"Rover 2?" Clarke questions, "as in, more rovers?"

"There's six of these rovers," Myles elaborates for Clarke, "and two big troop trucks that we jacked from Hell and did up. We've got one car that has the same kinda build as the rovers that we found in an underground parking garage. It was all souped up with all sorts of gear for hunting and four wheel driving, so we dissected it and one of the rovers we didn't take. Made it run."

"When we have some spare time," the brown-haired teen offers, "we'll teach you how to drive."

"Thanks," Clarke beams, leaning her arm on the back of Myles' chair again as leaning over awkwardly becomes uncomfortable.

"It's easy," Myles brushes off, wanting to get back to planning. "You'll pick it up fast. What kinda distraction do we think? Get Finn to take pot-shots at the gate? Have Monty fritz the whole system? Stage a brawl? A ka-fucking-boom?"

"Clarke," Jasper calls, flicking his gaze towards her fleetingly as he drives. "You're new to the Ghost team, what do you think?"

 

Red eyebrows are furrowed deeply, the tense look emphasised by Myles' frustrated and gloomy hazel eyes that stare through the metal slits in the passenger window at the absolute nothingness that they pass. The easy conversation that her two friends are having around her wafts through the air, but she doesn't pay attention to a single word. Pessimistic thoughts bounce around her mind in a never-ending echo, repeating the exchange they had with Tibrik and screaming everything they know about Acha. It's wrong, Myles knows it, her gut knows it, yet somehow, she just can't put her finger on what's wrong.

Silence fills the air, but it makes no difference to Myles. To her, this is what it sounded like in the rover before, the background noise nonexistent compared to her racing thoughts. Jasper flicks his eyes towards her slouched and standoffish posture before his voice drags her from her mind.

"Aggie," her best friend calls tiredly, "what do you think? Does nine make more sense being 'nain' or 'nai'?"

"No," Myles responds distractedly, barely even registering the question.

Jasper looks back at her, "just… relax." Myles rolls her head against her chair to meet his eyes as he looks from the path in front of them to her. "We've got a plan for everybody, a backup plan, a backup backup plan, and a backup for that one, just in case."

"That," the red-haired teen sighs dramatically, pulling herself up to sit up properly and look through the metal slits windscreen. "Is not what I'm thinking about."

"What are you thinking about?" Clarke enquires kindly, leaning forward towards her.

"Stop the rover, JJ," Myles says instead, and the dead seriousness in her voice makes the brown-haired teen immediately press down on the brake.

"What?" Jasper quizzes, in both perplexity and concern as the rover all but skids to a stop suddenly. "What's wrong?"

"They didn't go this way," the redhead declares over Max's frustrated huff, looking back down at the book and papers in her lap.

"How do you know that?" Clarke asks and furrowed red eyebrows face her when Myles twists around fully in her seat so her body awkwardly faces Jasper.

"We've been driving for almost four hours," Myles points out dully, gesturing towards the metal slits in the windscreen, where the late afternoon sun starts to colour the edges of the light blue sky with warm tones. "At the speed we've been going, there's no way they made it this far in two days, even if they didn't stop."

"Maybe we just haven't gotten to where they went yet," the blonde-haired teen reasons, her eyebrows drawing close in thought.

"We haven't passed one thing he claimed they saw," Jasper adds, shaking his head, "not off in the distance, nowhere."

"What are you saying?" Clarke implores defensively, already drawing lines between this conversation and the one they had before about Acha's probable demise.

"Unless a large, forked tree," the brown-haired Arker answers, recreating the image with his arm, "that's leaning over completely horizontal but is still in the ground and growing leaves, and giant rocky lines in a mountain somehow got swallowed by the Earth, we're going the wrong way." Clarke looks defensive again, opening her mouth to retort, but Jasper beats her to it. "We haven't passed any of the ruins or farmland Tibrik said they saw. A sunflower and wheat farm that stretches 300 acres and a sheep farm almost twice that with storage houses all over the forest around it doesn't just disappear in two months."

"Even if she isn't dead," Myles tries when Clarke still looks indifferent to the idea. "He'd still lie, because he's protecting himself." Their blonde-haired friend relaxes at the words, and Myles presses on to make sure both teens are on the same train of thought as she is. "He had no idea we knew. When we showed up, he had no intentions of admitting he knew her."

"You think it was all a lie?" Jasper questions, his expression twisting as he thinks over their interaction with the young man.

"All the landmarks?" Myles queries back, already shaking her head. "No, he gave them up too quickly."

"He gave us south quick, too," her best friend reminds her, and Clarke straightens.

"Because we put him on the spot," the blonde realises, snapping her head to look at both friends quickly with her soft features brightening. "He didn't know we knew, and he wasn't going to admit it, which means he didn't rehearse an answer."

"I think," Myles looks between her close friends, "the landmarks are real, I just think they're in the opposite direction, because – "

"Because he answered so quickly," Jasper confirms, nodding along with his friends idea. "He didn't have time to think of a lie, so instead of saying the truth, he just said the opposite."

"We need to go north," Clarke states, an underlying current of giddiness beneath her serious tone.

 

The rover rolls to a stop, but the headlights stay on. Myles is the first to open her door out of the two best friends, having already undone her seatbelt with the fidgety energy sitting in the vehicle for most of the day has left her. Slipping from her seat, one hand stays on the open passenger door to keep it held open for Clarke and Max, the other slipping down to her belt to pull up her flashlight. Clicking it on, the sound doesn't echo; it doesn't bounce off the trees and woodlands surrounding them. Instead, the sound disappears into the blackness of the night with the sound of Jasper's door opening and closing.

Clarke's boots hit the ground behind the redhead mere seconds before Max's energetic panting reaches her ears. The sound keeps the silence of the still leaves and the eery chirping of crickets and nightlife company. Everything is still as Myles sweeps her white beam of light over their surroundings, looking for hints of what happened two months ago. Jasper and Clarke's lights join hers quickly, moving around sluggishly as they inspect the world around them in the dead of night.

Nothing around them jumps out at Myles, and she swings her light around to glance up at the slope before them. Clarke pulls at the passenger door, the cool metal leaving the touch of Myles' slender fingers before slamming shut. Switching her flashlight around, the redhead tries to think of what's the most likely course.

"How likely," Jasper starts, his calm, contemplative voice sounding loud and harsh in the still, cold air. "Is it that they stopped here?"

"I'm not Greenie," Myles answers back, slowly inching forward and scrutinising the land. "I can't answer that with any amount of accuracy, but up there would have the best view of the stars."

"And if they didn't reach here by nightfall?" Jasper questions again, "if they just kept going?"

"This is the third place we've stopped at," Clarke interjects, trying to follow Myles slowly and carefully so as not to disrupt whatever scenario she's playing through in her head.

"Third time's the charm?" Jasper begrudgingly mutters, "is that what we've come to?" No one answers him, and the teen huffs tiredly, walking away from his friends. "I'm waiting in the rover."

"Aggie," the blonde-haired teen calls softly, watching the redhead stop and shine her flashlight up the jagged slope. When she gets a hum in reply, she continues. "What are you doing?"

Spinning around, Myles shines her light vaguely southwards of them.

"Hurin is about two days walk that way," the red-haired teen states, shifting her flashlight ever so slightly to indicate something through the trees that they can't see. "Couple hundred yards east is Stauto's farmland. They would've had to walk through it to have time to spare, but Stauto didn't see them."

"Because they went around," Clarke finishes the thought, following Myles when she turns back around and starts slowly ascending the slope.

"If they went straight to save time," the redhead continues, "this would've been directly in front of them. I can't figure out if they would've went up this way, or on the other side."

"Or if at all?" Clarke guesses, and Myles' hum of agreement is almost drowned out by Jasper calling for Max and following the two teens up the slope. "I thought you were waiting in the rover?"

"I can't let you two do nothing in the middle of the night alone," Jasper replies, stomping up the slope behind them as Max jogs up, his small paws trampling over the cloaked forest floor.

Max's head bumps against Myles' hand and leg a moment after Clarke coos at him when he passes her the same way, before rushing in front of them all to reach the top first. Myles takes her time, scanning her flashlight around as if she could see any evidence left behind from the first half of winter two months ago. She's not surprised to see absolutely nothing, but it does little to relieve the pitifully heavy sense of tiredness and powerlessness that floods through her veins. Her sense of hopelessness lifts when she reaches the top.

Their small calico coloured dog is what she sees first, standing in front of a tree to her left with a leg raised high as he marks his territory. All the breath leaves her lungs in a thick cloud in front of her face when her hazel gaze catches sight of the bright moonlight and starlight cascading through the leaves above her before piercing the hilltop unrestricted in the middle. Trees teeter out towards the very centre of the small hill, allowing for a clear view of the stunning sight above them. Early morning winter fog is not in the air yet, leaving the sparkling night sky appearing crisp and gorgeous.

The sense to hit her next is smell. A part of Myles' mind tells her the strong far-away stench is from Max, but he's been well hydrated the whole day and hasn't eaten anything out of the ordinary. It's a heavy smell, but it's hidden away, as if under several sweet layers of the forest. Hints of strong urine and bitter, stomach churning musk that reminds her way too vividly of Pauna's zoo and the military supply depot they found the guns in so many months ago.

"Woah," Jasper huffs out in amazement, his sentiments echoed by Clarke's slow puff of air. "This was worth leaving the rover. Smell sucks, though. Stauto must drop off his manure up here, fertilise the trees."

"Sick bastard," Myles jokes halfheartedly, her nose scrunching up slightly the longer the smell hangs in the air.

Myles tears her eyes away from the sky first, resuming her scouring gaze and stepping forward a few more steps. Max trots up to her, sniffing the ground and happily shoving his head against her limply hanging hand for a pat. Scratching absentmindedly at his head, the redhead keeps looking around, scanning the three clusters of boulders near the centre for signs of the runaway teen. Still, nothing jumps out at her, and when Jasper and Clarke shift behind her, Max turns to them and waltzes over for more pats.

Without him by her side, the red-haired teen moves closer to the boulders, crouching down to carefully examine them for manmade scratches or grazes. The leaves and grass below them won't hold any answers for them, so Myles sticks to tree trunks and rocks. Someone like Acha wouldn't want to miss a sight like this, wouldn't want to forget it, surely something must be left behind or have been taken as a trinket. This far away from their villages, surely they'd be safe to scratch a lovey-dovey message into a tree or on their front row seats to their view of the stars?

"Acha definitely would've stopped here," Clarke decides, tearing her eyes away from the sky to glance around. "Even with the smell. Someone that in love with the stars would know just from looking at the hill, there'd be a view like this."

"That's what I'm hoping," Myles mutters, more so to herself than the friends with her.

The Arker's steps are near silent, a far cry from the careless pitter-patter of Max's paws scrambling to smell everything he can without straying from their loving hands.

"How hard do you think it is," Jasper enquires after a silent moment, and Myles glances at him on her way over to another cluster of large stones. "To train a dog to sniff out scents?"

"Probably as hard as it is to train one to do anything else," the redhead replies, shrugging halfheartedly.

"Some dogs can track scents from months before," Clarke tells them, "while others can only smell things twenty-four hours old. If you wanna train Max to track things, it wouldn't help. Rain and snow taint the scent."

"How do you even know that?" Jasper asks slowly, perplexity shining heavily through his tone.

"From third year Earth Skills," Clarke reminds him, her tone accusatory. "Earth Skills was mandatory. How do you not know that?"

"Correction," the brown-haired teen announces over-dramatically, and Myles goes to shoot an exasperated look to her best friend before halting, her whole body going rigid. "First and second year Earth Skills were mandatory." Myles raises slightly from her crouched position, maintaining a bent over posture and reaching a hand out slowly, keeping her gaze fixed on one spot. "I took additional Chem after that."

"Max," Myles calls, the urgency and breathiness in her voice immediately alerting the other two. The dog in question looks up at her at his name, the slender decaying human arm still in his mouth and detaching from the body it came from, the skin covered in bugs and insects melting off the bone. Clarke screeches, and Myles' stomach twists painfully with nausea. "Stay."

"Drop it," Jasper orders thickly, copying the redhead's hunched over and slow approaching demeanour. They're both being careful and slow, their tones low and authoritative, but strong with their commands. "Now, drop it."

Max lowers his head, but his jaw doesn't open to realise the dead girl's arm. Carefully inching forward some more, Myles fights the urge to swallow the lump in her throat.

"Good," the redhead coos darkly, both her and Jasper continuing forward very slowly to not spook him. "Drop it."

Slowly, as if he's in trouble, Max let's go of the arm and slinks backwards, his paws slipping slightly on the downward slope behind him. The second he lets it go, both best friends lunge forward to shoo the dog away, and order him to sit down out of the way. While Jasper sorts Max out, Myles scrunches up her face sourly as she looks over the dead body of a young, teenage girl. Long ash blonde hair is matted with god only knows what, knotted and rotting near her head.

The girl is unrecognisable, even after memorising the sketch of her living. Two months of decomposition has melted her away, all that's left of her hanging on grotesquely to her clothing material and being eaten away from her bones. Her stomach has collapsed, the organs having melted away weeks ago.

"Fuck," Myles mutters, pulling her shirt over her nose. The smell seems twenty times worse now that she's been disturbed, or perhaps it's just because now Myles knows what it is. "Fuck."

"Please tell me that's not Acha," Clarke all but pleads, her voice teary and wavering.

Jasper approaches haltingly in the corner of Myles' eyes as she crouches down to the body before deciding to stop a few metres away from them.

"Can you tell what killed her?" Jasper enquires morosely, his tone as defeated as the other two feel.

"Not with all the bugs," Myles grimaces, hating that those words ever had to leave her mouth. "I can't see fucking anything. Fuck."

"She's really decomposed," her best friend states obviously. "Is it possible she's only been here two months?"

"She's not covered," Clarke's quiet voice wavers, stepping forward haltingly and staring at where Myles' flashlight reluctantly shines. "If she was buried, I'd say no, but in the air, even in winter, even – "

"It's her," Myles answers instead, trying to spare her emotional friend who'd been the only one of them to actually have hope from needing to say the words aloud.

Flicking the light around a bit more and leaning so she doesn't need to get too close, hazel eyes scour for something to tell her this was an accident. Silently begging for an answer to take to her family and give them some kind of peace in this pain. Myles doesn't find that, though. Instead, as she's leaning back up from hovering over Acha's legs, she flicks her gaze and light up to the dead teen's head again, going rigid.

Disgust and dejected defeat wash over her so quickly and so strongly that Myles is certain she's going to pass out or throw up. Neither happens, she just stays frozen until Jasper shifts anxiously behind her. Clenching her jaw, hazel eyes glance up at Clarke hesitantly, hating herself for having to ask this of her friend.

"Clarke," Myles calls out weakly, her tone thick with dread. The sound of her voice makes the blonde flinch back, but she doesn't say anything. "I need you to tell me if this is what I think it is."

Slowly, Clarke reluctantly steps around the dead body in a wide circle, coming up behind Myles. Myles knows she's trying to stay as far away as possible, trying to do what she's been asked without actually doing it. It's for this reason that the redhead doesn't try to speed her up, just lets her take her time. Eventually, the blonde leans close to Myles, keeping her body millimetres from the red-haired teens as if Myles could protect her from the sight she's about to see.

"There," Myles prompts quietly, shifting her hand holding her flashlight still stuck on it ever so slightly to show where the Arker needs to look.

Clarke is so close to the redhead that Myles can feel her tense.

"Oh, my god," the blonde breathes out, sounding breathless and stunned to silence.

"What is it?" Jasper frets, the severity keeping the air thick and the anxiousness of being the only one who doesn't understand what's going on makes him take half a step forward.

"Foetal bones," Clarke whispers remorsefully, "they're small, haven't hardened or fused yet. Maybe eight weeks?"

"What does that mean?" Jasper quizzes morosely, though Myles knows he already knows what this means and feels it as much as they all do.

Everything Tibrik said sprints through Myles' mind. Every action, every twitch, every paranoid glance.

"Ai nou get in eni Acha." [AN: "I don't know any Acher."]

"Em don ai lukot," the young man divulges lowly, his eyebrows still raised in that 'believe me' look. [AN: "She was my friend."]

"Kei," Tibrik sighs, and it's the first time his eyebrows move down. "Mebi osir don mou kom jos lukot." [AN: "Okay. Maybe we were more than just friends."]

"Em ste fotin," Jasper states disdainfully, not hiding his animosity for the young man in front of them. [AN: "She's fourteen."]

"Ai get in," he insists, and it's the only thing Myles feels he's been honest about. "Ai get in." [AN: "I know. I know."]

"Osir don split klinsintaim feva fou em ban klin," Tibrik huffs in aggravation. [AN: "We broke up many days before she disappeared."]

"Em don huk klin," the young man describes, and while Myles can buy that Acha would be clingy, Tibrik's shifty eyes and twitching fingers speak louder than his words. [AN: "She was clingy."]

"Hod op," his hand is gripping Myles' arm tightly with wide, fearful chocolate eyes that put Jasper on edge, and he pushes his way between them, keeping both girls behind him. "Yo gada in nou figon chit dei na dula op gon ai. Em na flosh klin kom ai." [AN: "Wait. You have no idea what that'll do to me. It will destroy me."]

Looking over at her best friend and locking her sad and defeated hazel gaze on his brown, Myles connects every lie and half truth with everything that's before her.

"She didn't leave because she had a fight with her dad," Myles grits out around her clenched her jaw, "she and Tibrik left together, because if anyone found out something happened between an adult man and a fourteen-year-old girl, he'd be 'destroyed'. They'd kill him."

"So he killed her," Clarke finishes, her tone strong even though her voice whimpers. "Because she was pregnant."

Rule Number 5:- The best way to keep a secret? Keep it to yourself. Second best? Tell one other person - IF YOU MUST. There is no third best.

Chapter Text

Day 156 – Feb. 15

Myles is sitting at the table in the cave again, staring at her fingers and humming as they fiddle with the coarse strings mimicking her mumbled tune. No matter how much she stares down at them, fixating on each string and the sound they make, it's hard for her to remember exactly how they made them. She doesn't remember carefully collecting sheep and cows intestines from her own kills or that of a butcher's. Doesn't remember patiently waiting and travelling all over with Jasper to find anyone with mulberry silkworms at the beginning of winter.

In fact, she can't even tell looking down at them now and listening to their dull and bright notes that those threads of silk she tried so hard to find are hidden beneath the sterilised and cleaned wound animal gut she strums and presses down on. Only fixating on sore fingertips, the skin hardened and gradually becoming accustomed to pressing down on the hard strings in awkward patterns.

Her mind is elsewhere, straying from the indents on her fingertips and focussing on the words bouncing around her mind. Counting syllables and trying to pick words that sound smooth and flow easily in a song. Myles is far too busy figuring out exactly what she wants to say and exactly how she wants it to sound for anything else to even be a thought in her head. Sliding her hand up the skinny bridge, Myles presses down with the very tips of her fingertips on her left hand. Holding down certain strings in different places to make the different sounds of the notes and chords she wants when she plucks or strums the instrument, ignoring the dull bite of her fingertips. Her right hand dances across the belly of the guitar, gliding in the same rhythm it has been for hours now.

It doesn't look like it would've two hundred years ago, probably doesn't sound like it did either, but it's the closest thing to it they can get their hands on. Mount Weather had a piano and several other instruments, proper ones from before the war, but the two best friends couldn't bring themselves to venture inside to get them. The body of the guitar she plays is narrow, the belly deep, the waist nowhere near as pronounced and dramatic as other guitars looked in the pictures from the Ark.

Sighing, Myles pauses in her tune to slip her hands to where they need to be to get the sound of the beginning of the last chorus. Repeating the steady and strong notes, the redhead mumbles the words she already knows she wants.

"Is this what they call heartbreak?" Myles sings softly to the tune she strums, matching every inflection in her tone to the notes she plays. "What makes your soul quiver and quake? Sittin' with only blood left on my sleeve, not knowin' who to grieve." The beat picks up as her hands move faster over the strings, keeping the sad sound but making it sound loud and harsh. "Is this what they call heartbreak? When you lose all that's at stake? My heart's no longer in its case, carried away with every lost face. Is this what they call heartbreak?"

Keeping the momentum for another moment, Myles mumbles incoherently the tune she wants the words at the end of the chorus to keep. They've not been decided on yet, though, she knows where she wants them and what they need to sound like to fit with the beat. Myles' hearty and confident strumming calms, going back to the simple tune from the very beginning of the song.

"I'd be lying if I didn't say," the red-haired teen breathes out, emphasising certain words and drawling them out to fit in the slower tune. "I miss you more than yesterday. Your silence speaks like the ghost, of decayed trust and almost." Slowing down her notes and strumming, Myles hums for the lines she doesn't yet know what she wants to say. "The best thing I can do, is what's right by you. Like you did for me, by stoppin' and settin' me free." Max's paws enter the cave, clicking and trotting on the rocky ground calmly down the narrow and short passage to reach the redhead. "I've loved you through the rough, and now I'll love you enough, to let you go. Like you let me…" strumming one last time, slowly, "go."

"That's sad," Jasper states, walking towards her and Myles looks up at him. "Good. That's what I was looking for."

"Okay," Myles replies slowly, squinting her eyes, "right."

"I can't sleep," her best friend elaborates, sitting on the floor in front of her and lying down. He's still facing her with his knees bent up by her own, looking up at her from his spot on the rocky ground as Max walks around them both, looking for pats. "Because I'm miserable. I went to wake you up and force you to be miserable with me, but you cheated."

"I didn't cheat," the red-haired teen counters calmly, tilting her head condescendingly and keeping her gaze locked on Jasper's. "I won."

"You won," Jasper echoes sarcastically, barely contained laughter bubbling over his words, "at being more miserable than me for one night. Congratulations."

"Thank you," Myles jokes back, giggling, "it was a monumental achievement. I'm going to write it down and hang it on my wall."

Jasper barks out a loud laugh, and Myles' face scrunches up as she laughs at their stupidity. Their laughter dies down, and the brown-haired teen is the first to break the comfortable silence that falls over them.

"Man…" Jasper breathes out, and Myles looks from her absentmindedly strumming fingers to look at him. "No wonder Clarke likes it at Polis more."

"She has every reason to like it at Polis more," Myles agrees. "She doesn't get woken up in the night for trauma, she gets sex."

"I bet," her best friend wonders aloud, his voice distant with thoughtfulness. "The commander is great in bed."

"Dude," the redhead interjects, pulling her eyebrows down low and pausing in her mindless strumming to level Jasper with an exasperated look. "Really? Lexa?"

"Clarke is so bossy and proper," Jasper defends his point, lifting his hands and gesturing to Myles as if he's talking to a child. "She probably has a chart of the best positions and makes a plan."

"Exactly," Myles doubles down, "she knows what she wants. She's a perfectionist. All that pent up energy she always has has to go somewhere."

Jasper props himself up on his elbows, looking at his best friend like he's just had an epiphany. Myles stares at Jasper, patiently waiting with her hands frozen on the guitar.

"Oh, my god," the brown-haired teen mutters, "control freak equals freaky in the sheets."

"That's what I'm saying," the redhead exclaims, "she had dudes with girlfriends falling to their knees in front of her. She has the commander in the palm of her hand. That girl has some huge appeal. And she's hot."

"That's just unfair," Jasper mutters, lying back down on the floor. "But also so awesome. That's our friend, how cool is that?"

"Very cool," Myles concedes, nodding to herself and strumming the strings again.

"Okay," the brown-haired teen decides with conviction, "we had our happy moment, let's go back to being miserable." Myles snorts obnoxiously at that, but Jasper isn't finished. "D.J., hit me with that sad song."

Obediently, the redhead strums the notes again in the tune she's played repetitively over the last few hours. There's no embarrassment, no shame, no judgement. Monty, Jasper and her have the kind of friendship where it's just there. They can say or do just about anything, and they'll either have the others full support or they'll be told exactly how ridiculous they sound or look. And it's always okay, while it may bruise feelings, they are never left feeling like they need to hold back.

So, knowing that Jasper will either love or hate the song passionately, Myles plays it without the fear of either. They all know it's for their own good, every time they do or say something stupid, it's pointed out in the kindest, most 'I love you anyway' way that it's just okay.

"I've been tongue tied," Myles sings softly, drawling out the notes and adding inflections to her tone to match the tune she plucks the strings with. "For as long as I've been alive."

 

They're both lying on the floor, Myles having migrated to laying beside her best friend after a little while. Sitting at the table had suddenly felt too far away from Jasper, even though he was lying right there beside her. It's simple and easy, reminiscent of their time on the Ark. Yet, darkness chokes the air, reminding them constantly of everything they've seen. Max lies on the cool stone by their feet, stretched out and twitching at every loud noise the two best friends make.

"… they did not!" Myles exclaims, her red eyebrows pulled together and held down in frustration.

"Yes, they did," Jasper counters lightly, a bright smile shining through his words.

"No, they didn't," the redhead continues, turning her head to stare at her best friend with her ear against the cool ground. "It was very clearly Clarke from the very beginning!"

"I'm telling you," her best friend informs her through a chuckle, no trace of deception in his calm tone. "That's why no one stepped on your toes at all." Myles only continues to stare at Jasper, her mouth held open in shock. "I said the deaths in Trishana were suspicious and we needed riders out there because an attack on an isolated clan in that much snow would be a huge fucking loss. And everyone, everyone thought I was an idiot. You were the only one who agreed, and everyone shut up."

"Oh… my god," Myles breathes out, her pinched expression falling lax as she wraps her mind around the idea. "That's mortifying."

"It's not," the brown-haired teen insists, chuckling, "it's just funny."

"No," the redhead rejects lowly, bringing a hand to her head and looking back at the glistening cave ceiling. "Do you think Lexa knows?"

"Of course Lexa knows," Jasper states, turning his head to level his best friend with a pointed look. "It's her kingdom."

"She doesn't think it's true, does she?" Myles asks, cringing strongly, "that's so awkward."

"She's spent the last three months with us," the brown-haired teen reminds her. "That means she's spent three months listening to talk about 'ooh, Bellamy Blake', 'oh, his big heart'." Myles reaches the hand farthest from Jasper out, slapping his arm halfheartedly. "'Those eyes, ooh'."

"I do not sound like that," the red-haired teen argues indignantly, looking at him.

"Yes, you do," Jasper tells her, bringing a hand to her arm and holding it gently, staring into her eyes. "And I'm telling you this because I love you; you were so unbelievably wrong."

"Wha – why?" Myles inquires, all joking and frustration leaving and being replaced with curiosity.

"He's an arrogant, self-serving jackass," her best friend declares, "who only cares about himself."

"No, he isn't," the redhead shoots back straight away. "He'd do anything for Octavia."

"Fine," Jasper relents, looking at her with raised eyebrows and daring her to question him again. "He's an arrogant, self-serving jackass who only cares about himself and Octavia."

Rolling her hazel eyes, Myles replies, "this is a very over-dramatic reaction for saying something stupid in the heat of the moment."

"That's not why I'm saying it," the brown-haired teen informs her, "it's why I'm saying it out loud to you, but me and Monty have thought this since we landed."

Myles props herself up on her elbows as she stares at her best friend dumbfounded.

"Why didn't you guys say anything?" Myles enquires, her tone soft and puzzled instead of accusatory.

"We did," Jasper shrugs, a dopey smile on his face, "just not to you."

"He's not that bad," the redhead insists, gesturing with her hands exasperatedly and making the rocky ground pinch at her elbows.

A lot of memories run through her mind, every single one of them leaving a bittersweet pang in her heart. There're the images that leave a sour taste in her mouth; every cocky, egotistical comment or statement that drew in a loyal crowd, every woman who left his large and extravagant tent disheveled or barely dressed with a blush tinting her face. But all of those memories are followed up by the same sweet thing; Bellamy unable to mercy-kill Atom, leaving with them to find Jasper, not running away – despite everything, loving her.

Jasper quirks an eyebrow silently at his best friend's defence of the Blake brother, and Myles drops her head back in response, her hazel gaze stuck on his.

"He's all bark," Myles informs him confidently, hopefully, "he says whatever and he doesn't follow through with it."

"Except when it comes to killing 300 of our friends," Jasper reminds her dully, "in their sleep."

The words make the redhead deflate, her shoulders falling lax and her body slumping. Heaving a heavy sigh in defeat, Myles lies back down on the ground, staring at the jagged stone ceiling of the cave.

"You still love him," Jasper whispers, it's a statement and not a question, but his best friend still answers it as if it were.

"Do you still love me?" Myles whispers back, her tone empty and hollow.

"Of course," her best friend promises strongly, "it's not that same thing. You saved us all by pulling that lever, he saved no one by pulling the trigger."

"What if he thought they did?" She murmurs back, "I killed friends, too."

"Maya…" Jasper swallows, his dead lover's name coming out strained. "And everyone else in the resistance… they might've been friends, but they still needed us and the grounders dead to live."

Myles turns her head towards her best friend, but doesn't meet his eyes, both teens instead staring vacantly somewhere in the other's general direction.

"Not dead," Myles counters softly, "there weren't many resistors. We have plenty of people who could've donated marrow and lived."

"And what would that do?" Jasper questions, and the redhead knows his harsh tone isn't directed to her. "They would've lost everything, everyone, for what?"

"To live," the red-haired teen answers, "to love."

"Would that be worth it to you?" Her best friend asks, finally looking at her eyes again. Myles meets his gaze, shaking her head lightly against the cold rocky ground. "Me, either."

"If you don't hate me," Myles starts slowly and quietly, expecting a bad reaction. "Why do you still hate Monty?"

Jasper tenses, but he doesn't snap at her, instead taking his time to think through the words.

"I don't hate him," he states so quietly that his voice wobbles, "I don't think I ever did. I hated everyone else, Monty… Monty was someone I could blame and have it mean something. Blaming Bellamy did nothing, but blaming Monty felt like it made a difference."

"Do you think 'cause it hurt him?" Myles enquires softly, watching her best friend's face.

"I don't know," Jasper answers, dragging one of his shoulders on the ground slightly to shrug. "Maybe."

"What do you think will happen?" Myles questions curiously, and Jasper meets her eyes again. "When Pike isn't chancellor anymore?"

"Depends," the brown-haired teen offers vaguely, "if it's a big thing, a lot of people might die. If it's a little thing, Marcus will probably become chancellor. Open the door between them and the grounders. Lincoln will probably leave, anyway."

"I don't see anyone going back," the redhead adds, getting an eyebrow quirk and a huff in agreement from her best friend. A smile breaks across Myles' face, "Clarke will move in with Lexa."

"Fingers crossed," Jasper announces, holding a hand up with his middle and pointer finger crossed over one another. "We didn't have the space for dad."

"I don't mind her visiting," Myles decides after a beat, "but this back and forth might kill the last shreds of sanity I have left."

"That's what's killing yours?" Jasper quizzes in faux shock, "the tension between her and Finn is stampeding over mine."

Giggling lightly, "it was rough at first… but now it's kinda funny."

"It's not funny," her best friend insists, laughing. "It's sad. He thought he had another chance."

"He looks constipated wherever someone mentions Lexa," Myles details, giggling.

"You masochist," Jasper accuses playfully, chuckling through the words. "The poor dude is all alone."

"Finn's fine," the red-haired teen assures him, calming down from her laughter. "He's with us."

"That's the saddest part," her best friend counters, bursting out into laughter.

"We're all alone," Myles agrees, her tone light and happy. "But we're all alone together."

"Speak for yourself," Jasper declares, his laughter dying down to appear serious.

"Ha!" Myles barks out, "oh, god, here we go again."

"You're just jealous," the brown-haired teen teases, "I have suitors bowing at my feet."

"She was not bowing at your feet," the redhead chortles, snorting to herself. "She told you the farm was a two-hour walk north from their house."

"She was hot," Jasper reminds her, "and she was flirting with me."

"She was not flirting with you," Myles chuckles out instantly, her breaths wheezing from her laughter. "You said 'I value my breath, but you can keep taking it away' and she laughed."

"That's flirting," Jasper insists, his brown eyes bright with laughter as he looks at his best friend. "You'd know that if you didn't get with someone so quickly. This is what we like to call 'the game'."

"Is 'we'…" the redhead tries to joke through her giggling, "… you and the other single people?"

"You're part of that group now, Aggie," Jasper reminds her playfully. "I'm teaching you the tricks of the trade."

"Of being alone?" Myles huffs out jokingly, "because we've got that down pat, my dude."

"Of pulling babes," the brown-haired teen announces, "rejection just means you're too funny for them to compete with."

"Is that what we need to be working at?" Myles asks, her laughter dying down but the bright smile plastered over both of their faces still firmly in place. "Being funny?"

"Exactly," Jasper confirms, lifting his hands up and gesturing into the air as if he's making a chart. "80% jokes only needs 5% pity and you've got the recipe for catching anyone."

"What about the other 15%?" The redhead queries, her chest and stomach bubbling laughter that hasn't made its way out of her throat yet.

"That's only for the pros," the brown-haired teen divulges and giggles erupt from his best friend again.

"Is it?" Myles giggles, "or did you forget how to do math?"

"No comment," Jasper supplies vaguely, suppressing a laugh before both teens burst out laughing.

Footsteps echo into the cave behind them, but they're both too far gone into their hysterics to pay any attention to it.

"Hey, guys," Finn calls out as he steps inside, Max lifts his head up in acknowledgment and both teens crane their necks to look behind them while keeping their heads on the cool stone.

"Hey," Myles echoes with a bright smile, her laughter dying down, and Jasper salutes the teen. "Octavia out?"

"Yeah," the brown-haired teen confirms, his tired eyes droopy and his short hair messed up. "We swapped over a few hours ago."

That statement sobers both teens up rather quickly. If they switched over a while ago, it must be after sunup by now.

"Rough night on parasite watch?" Jasper inquires, a touch of concern shining through his goofy tone.

"Nah," Finn answers, "it was nice and quiet. Got to sleep most of it. The same group from Argo went out early again."

"Earlier than usual?" Myles queries, the way the teen has stopped halfway into the cave not sitting well in her gut.

"Same time," he brushes off, "just before Octavia's watch. That's not why I'm here."

"What's up?" Jasper enquires seriously, reaching a hand out quickly to add. "And don't say the sky."

"Clarke called over the shortwave's station," Finn informs them, and both best friends sit up at that. "There's a problem in Polis; they need you both."

"What kinda problem?" Myles quizzes, keeping her worried and confused gaze on their friend as Jasper and Max stand up and stretch.

"She didn't say," Finn shrugs tiredly, his shoulders seeming heavy in the short motion. "Just that it's important and they need you to get there."

"Alright," Jasper sighs, leaning back as he stretches his back from lying on the stone ground. "Dad still asleep?"

"Yeah," the brown-haired teen nods once, "late shift hit him hard. You comin', gorgeous?"

"No," Myles refuses instantly, meeting Jasper's exasperated eyes. "We haven't even thought of an excuse yet."

"It's nowhere near Ascension Day," Jasper assures her, but Myles is having none of it.

"Ascension Day?" Finn echoes, his face twisted up in confusion.

"Celebrating the previous commanders," the brown-haired teen explains, and the redhead continues, standing up.

"They measure how high the snow reaches," Myles elaborates, "on this half destroyed statue of a horse. Three days after the snow touches the highest point it ever reaches in winter, they celebrate it."

"Exactly," Jasper counters calmly, "we're nowhere near that."

"It's the middle of February," the red-haired teen exclaims, looking at her best friend like he's lost his mind. "Winter's almost over."

 

Huffing dramatically, Jasper looks at his best friend as they step off of the last flight of stairs to reach the highest level in the Polis tower. He says nothing straight away, and his silence makes the redhead meet his eyes. Darkness clouds his brown eyes, a look that's unfortunately too familiar on them both since Mount Weather. The brewing tensions between Pike and the grounders hasn't been sitting well in either of their guts, especially since he's proved him and his army aren't afraid to be the first to draw blood.

Bellamy has left both best friends indifferent, which does nothing to halt the backwards steps they're both taking in their recovery. Sleepless nights were finally beginning to teeter out, going days without a blink of sleep before collapsing had turned into getting at least a few hours every night, even if there were nightmares. Now, both best friends find themselves up all night more often than not. War hangs above their heads once more, death surrounding them and picking them apart with grief, guilt, and shame.

Jasper has words on the tip of his tongue, has had them there since the two of them got within seeing distance of Polis. It has left him eerily silent, and while it's not a strange sight on Jasper now, it's still unnerving. Fidgeting hands, shaky steps and quickly glancing eyes haven't calmed down, only getting worse with every step they've taken. Sighing heavily, Myles knows whatever he needs to say can't be said in front of Lexa, and she decides if he really needs to say them, it's now or never.

"If you've got something to say," Myles tells him, halting her steps to look at her anxiously fiddling friend. "Now's the time."

"We should just go," Jasper blurts out lowly, spinning his head to glance around the hallway nervously, his gaze lingering on the two warriors standing guard at the throne room door.

Lifting her red eyebrows high, the redhead stares at Jasper in shock, "you want to go back home?"

"No," the brown-haired teen corrects, "go, go." Myles clenches her jaw, following his eyes down the hallway to the guards. "We don't owe these people or the asswipes at Arkadia anything."

"If we go now," Myles whispers, locking her hazel eyes on Jasper's brown. "Pike will start another war, and their guns will wipe everyone here out."

"That's not our problem," Jasper counters frustratedly. "We've fixed everything for them, if they want to fuck it up, that's on them."

"And the people here?" Myles queries quietly, getting an angsty eye roll in reply. "I don't want to repeat history. There needs to be survivors with this one."

"There are no survivors," he snaps, "there's no winners, there's nothing. There's only more wars."

"Just," the red-haired teen tries to placate exasperatedly, lifting a hand up and hovering it in the air between them. "Just calm down. If Arkadia did anything, Lexa wouldn't call us all this way to talk it out."

"Yes, she would," Jasper argues, "she'd do it so we'd be out of the way of their army."

"Then we would've heard something from Finn and Octavia," Myles rationalises, much to her best friend's dismay. Scoffing, the brown-haired teen turns his head away, looking at the wall and shaking his head before reaching a hand up to his forehead. "What's got you so antsy?"

"I'm tired," the teen answers instantly, looking at his best friend warily. "I'm tired of wars. I'm tired of death. I'm tired of it all. Aren't you?"

"Yeah," the redhead nods, not missing a beat, "you know I am. If – if you wanna go… go." Jasper tilts his head, looking at Myles like he knows that they both know he won't go without both of his best friends. "When it's over, we'll come find you."

"It'll never be over," Jasper argues, furrowing his eyebrows in agitation. "There's always going to be something else. Hell, even in the villages there's death and fighting and pain."

"Well," Myles shrugs, shaking her head quickly while her mind scours for something helpful to say. "Don't go to a village then." Jasper stops, looking at his best friend exasperatedly. "If you didn't want to come, you shouldn't've come. I'll handle this."

"I'm not saying I didn't want to come," the brown-haired teen declares lowly, "I just want to make sure if we're here for another war, we're on the same page."

"Are we ever not?" Myles asks, studying the teens anxious, yet friendly demeanour.

Jasper stops again, his fidgeting dying down at her words, "I – just." Taking a deep breath, his brown eyes flick over to the guards patiently waiting for them to finish so they can open the doors. "Obsessing over making ourselves useful keeps us distracted. Keeps us alive, but there are moments when we're doing nothing that we don't want to die. Like this morning. We weren't doing anything, but we were fine."

"Okay," the redhead breathes out slowly. "You want a break, but not too much of it so we don't blow our brains out."

"And not too close," Jasper tacks on, "but not too far so we can still distract ourselves."

"You think we say 'fuck everyone at Arkadia'," Myles enquires seriously, trying the idea out on her tongue, "and start on one of the Havens by ourselves?"

"If we're saying fuck Arkadia," the brown-haired teen muses, "we could use one of the far out ones. Down between Shallow Valley and Broadleaf. Build a new base there, far away from anyone else. Middle of fucking nowhere."

"Great," Myles states, preferring the lightening of the heaviness that was choking the air between them. "We'll figure it out after this."

"If it's some war shit – " Jasper grumbles out once the red-haired teen starts walking forward again.

"I'll handle it," the redhead offers, cutting him off and stopping. "You can handle Ray or Finn or… something." Pulling out the flask tucked behind the water-skin clipped to her belt, Myles holds it out to Jasper. "Here."

"I have my own," the brown-haired teen reminds her, taking a step forward to continue to the throne room but halting in confusion.

"Yeah," Myles agrees, lifting a delicate eyebrow up high, "and you're still spiralling. Chug it and let's get this over with so we can go home."

Taking the skinny flask, his hand kindly pulls the cool metal away from his best friend with a look of admiration and gratefulness radiating from his brown eyes. Myles doesn't drop her hand completely once the lazily painted over rust spots leave her fingertips, instead waiting patiently as Jasper tips his head back. After two large gulps, Jasper hands the strongly smelling alcohol back to the redhead who immediately mimics his action to drink the rest of the liquid. A pleasant burn blossoms in her chest, erupting up her throat, the sensation hanging around a moment after the cool metal leaves her mouth and is tucked back in behind her water-skin.

"Thanks," Jasper breathes out, his posture and the inflection in his tone relaying to Myles his calming demeanour.

Striding forward to get to the guards patiently waiting at the throne room doors, it's instantly apparent to the redhead the complete change in atmosphere. There's no thickness in the air anymore, the stress and tension that was weighing her best friend down having gone almost entirely. Whether it was the drink or the talk, Myles doesn't know, and she's run out of time to figure it out.

The guards don't make a move as the two Arker's near them, neither one saying a word even as the two teens stroll to a stop in bewilderment. Quickly glancing at each other's puzzled expressions before speaking, Myles can't help the new trickling of dread squirming around in her gut.

"Osir kamp hir gon hang Heda au," Myles states, her tone more blunt than it had been with Jasper. [AN: "We're here to see the Commander."]

"Em kamp raun em ridon," one of the men answers, nodding his head towards the doors to Lexa's room down the hall. [AN: "She's in her quarters."]

Myles follows the motion to see the commander's bedroom doors and the two warriors standing guard outside of them. Sweeping her gaze back to Jasper, the redhead takes a small step backwards, turning her body slightly towards the bedroom. Her hazel eyes seem to convey her uncertainty of the strange and unfamiliar circumstances, and Jasper lightens the air somewhat.

"Osir nou na ai op som osir nou gaf ai op," Jasper drawls out, "nami?" [AN: "We're not gonna see something we don't want to see, are we?"]

The other warriors face twitches, but his expression remains stoic, "smak dou fos." [AN: "Knock first."]

"Ah," Myles mutters out unhappily, her shoulders slumping in displeasure and meeting Jasper's eyes once more before turning tiredly. "God."

There's a weighted reluctance to their steps now, making them feel like they're dragging their feet to reach the next door. Neither teen has a chance to knock on the commander's bedroom door, however, as the two warriors instantly open both of them the second the two Arker's get close. Inside the large and luxurious bedroom, Clarke lies on her side on top of the covers of the wide bed, drawing on some parchment with bits of charcoal. Lexa halts in her mindless pacing by the foot of the bed, both young women looking up at their visitors.

Upon seeing her two friends, Clarke quickly climbs off of the bed to stand beside Lexa, matching her short steps in acknowledgment towards the teens.

"Good morning," Lexa nods to them, before diverting her gaze to the men behind them quickly. "Lid in ofon kom Haihefa." [AN: "Bring in the King's gift."]

Turning to glance at the men closing the doors behind them in confusion, both teens' curiosity spills over their dread pleasantly.

"What'd Roan give you?" Myles implores, scrunching together her eyebrows.

"Nothing," Clarke supplies with a shrug. "It's not for us."

Jasper quirks an eyebrow, "then whose gift is it?"

"Wanheda's," Lexa explains, her brown eyes locked on Myles' surprised hazel. "The messenger said this is both proof of Azgeda's loyalty to the coalition and an answer to a yet unanswered question."

"Well," the redhead replies awkwardly, shuffling on her feet slowly. "I don't know how many more questions the man can have. What is it?"

"We don't know," Clarke sighs, elaborating when the other Arker's only look at her with perplexed expressions. "We were waiting for you."

Looking at Jasper with a red eyebrow quirked, the boy utters, "well, this'll be interesting."

The doors behind the two best friends open suddenly, and Jasper and Myles both turn around to face Titus entering, his arms falling from the wooden doors to his sides. Titus' steps don't falter or slow, continuing into the room and veering to the left-hand side of the doors. Immediately behind the Flamekeeper are four warriors, their hands carrying a wide, skinny crate made of red-tinged wood with Azgeda symbols carved into the sides of it.

It's long, yet its height is less than half as high as the length is long. Morbid curiosity tugs Myles' feet forward a step and a half. Her red eyebrows are stuck in their furrowed and down position, watching the men lower the crate to the ground just inside of the doorway. The size of the crate itches unpleasantly at Myles' mind, the last conversation she had with the King replaying in her mind as Titus comes to a stop beside her.

It's a coffin.

"The gift from King Roan kom Azgeda for Wanheda," Titus announces, staring at the commander with a brief sideways glance to Myles in acknowledgment. "As you requested, Heda."

"Mochof, Titus," Lexa replies, her gaze switching to the redhead's hazel eyes. "Are you ready to see what's in the box or not?" [AN: "Thank you, Titus."]

"You want to open a coffin in your bedroom?" Myles counters, her red eyebrows raising imploringly at the commander. Lexa merely twitches an eyebrow impatiently, and the red-haired teen let's out a long sigh, taking a tentative step towards the crate. "Yeah."

"Allow me," Titus declares, holding out an arm with a large dark purple coat sleeve dancing underneath like a wing. Myles stops, and the Flamekeeper turns around to face the crate completely to gesture to the guards in a short and controlled swirling motion. The warriors move before his arms have fallen slack again, his hands holding one another against his abdomen. "Open it."

Jasper looks at Myles with a lighthearted look on his face at the ridiculousness of it, but the redhead's hazel eyes are on the crate she steps toward slowly. Something about the way she stalks forward unsettles Jasper, or perhaps it's just the curiosity of it all, and her best friend follows closely behind her. Shifting the small rusted metal and wooden plates that lock the lid of the box shut feels like it takes an eternity, but the wooden top is lifting up before Myles has even ceased her cautious steps.

Myles' blood runs cold and all the breath leaves her lungs, her slow steps halting at the sight of the bloodied and restrained yet alive man. Even with the blood and grime caked on his pale skin, the redhead recognises exactly who he is. He hasn't looked up yet, the sunlight streaming in from the commander's bedroom window behind the Arker's blinding his vision. The smell of days old blood and urine clogs her senses, choking the air.

"Carl Emerson," Myles breathes out in shock, repeating the same words the man had said to her and Marcus over and over again. Emerson looks up, his eyes squinting at the red-haired teen and his face twisting up bitterly. Jasper's frozen directly behind the redhead, but Myles wasn't paying enough attention to notice if it was because he recognised the man, or the name falling from his best friend's tongue. "Mount Weather Security Detail."

In an instant, the beaten and bloodied man springs from the box with a guttural and muffled roar through his gag. Myles is so shocked she doesn't move, doesn't flinch, doesn't blink, but Jasper does. Emerson is too quick, having gotten the element of surprise on both Arker's and barrels into the two of them before they can even register his approach.

Falling to the floor with the mountain man's whole weight on her body brings the red-haired teen back to the present. Reaching her right arm up, Myles crosses it over both of their bodies to grasp the right side of his face and slam him down to her right. Jasper, having fallen down with them both, surges forward from his spot on the ground, tackling the screaming man before he can clamber back on top of her.

"Get the fuck off of her!" Jasper growls out, coming up onto his knees and shoving the angrily scrambling forward man away.

Emerson tries to fly past Jasper, scrambling to get his feet planted on the ground to have that advantage over Jasper and leap around him. Myles scatters to her feet when Jasper yanks the middle-aged man towards himself to keep him away from his best friend, already sensing what would happen next.

Flinging his chained hands around and up, Emerson smashes them into Jasper's face and Myles barely hears Clarke's panicked screeching over the deranged man's muffled roars.

Jasper's head whips to the side with a nasty gash on his cheek just as Myles reaches for Emerson's bound hands to wrench them away from her best friend, and the man pounces on her again. He drops his weight on top of her, the redhead's head hitting the ground much harder this time with him crushing his weight much higher on her body. Emerson's hands quickly reach for her throat, clamping down as hard as he can with his chained together hands. Hazel eyes bulge out as her hands fly up to his and his face, but her gaze is transfixed.

Emerson's skin has turned a bright shade of red under the deep shade of dried blood coating his beaten skin. Green eyes are clouded and bloodshot, pure hatred and murderous rage tinging the colour muddily. Veins pop out on his forehead and his neck, the skin pulled tight with his clenched muscles. Myles kicks her legs, trying desperately to jolt his weight enough to be able to reach her boot to his leg or abdomen to shove him off of her.

"Stop him!" Clarke screeches, appearing above them both and trying to yank on his shoulders.

"Get him out of here!" Lexa bellows, storming over to hover around Clarke protectively as her warriors tear the deranged and screaming man from the red-haired teen. Emerson wasn't obstructing Myles' breathing for long, but the release of his brutally strong grip from around her throat is so relieving it physically hurts. Strained and loud gasping chokes at her lungs, and Clarke's kind hands fuss over her body as she tries to roll on her side. "Put him in a cage, now!"

Jasper is by her other side in the blink of an eye, rubbing a hand across her shoulders. Huffing and gasping pathetically, Myles reaches up quickly to grasp onto his hands to anchor herself enough to pull herself up. Getting the hint immediately, her best friend grips her hands back and helps her into a sitting position. Clarke's hands prod at her neck, her slowly calming breathing still feeling and sounding strained and wet.

"Is she okay?" Lexa asks, standing beside the Arker's and crouching down to their height.

"Mm," Myles hums, coughing wheezily at the unpleasant feeling of her throat vibrating with anything over than greedy gulps of cool air. "I'm fine."

Hazel eyes flick up, getting a quick glimpse of the struggling and screaming mountain man kicking and flailing aggressively as he's hauled out of the room by Lexa's warriors.

 

Clarke's hands continue the same worried actions they have been doing for the last fifteen minutes. They're sitting beside each other on a bed in the room under the commander's that's designated for the Skaikru ambassadors. Her gentle and kind fingers prod at the aggravated skin on Myles' throat as hazel eyes watch her best friend pace fretfully. They all know her throat is fine, a little sore, but that's the extent of the damage.

Myles also knows the reason Clarke's mother-henning her isn't because she's worried about the damage; it's because she's anxious. It's the same reason Jasper is pacing back and forth wildly, an itching energy pumping through their veins naggingly.

"Of fucking course it was Emerson," Myles huffs, bouncing both of her legs frustratedly. Flicking her hazel gaze from Jasper's angrily stomping form to Clarke's distracted blue eyes, the blonde takes a second before meeting her stare. "We heard him getting the marrow. We knew."

A response doesn't come from the quietly steaming blonde haired teen, but her best friend.

"Why does everything…" Jasper rants in a dangerously low tone, "literally fucking everything always lead back to that place. Why? What fucking good does that do?"

Just as Jasper's finishing up his last sentence, he grasps an empty hand-sculpted vase from the table he paces in front of and chucks it across the room. It doesn't shatter completely, a large chunk of the decades old clay cracks off when it first hits the ground and it crumples in on itself as it rolls to the side. Clarke flinches at the sound, her fingers jumping against the red skin of Myles' neck. The blonde heaves a sigh, bringing her hands down and watching the equally angry brown-haired teen stalk back and forth.

Myles isn't as angry as her two friends are; instead, she's frustrated and embarrassed. They should've known it was Emerson. He, Dante and Cage are the only three that they knew for sure had the marrow, and the other two are dead. With everything that's happened the last few weeks, there's only one way this can end. No wonder they're all so frustrated.

"What else could he have done?" Clarke's quiet and reluctant voice asks, elaborating when Jasper only scoffs and flicks his hands around his head in aggravation. "They were watching us since we landed. What other intel could he have given to Azgeda?"

"Nothing that'll matter now," Myles murmurs, her voice barely heard over Jasper's loud, 'anything!'.

"You think Roan will really help us?" Clarke implores the redhead, her voice tinged with sour disbelief as Jasper rants to himself under his breath.

"He gave him to us," the red-haired teen shrugs halfheartedly, staring at her best friend worriedly and trying to decipher his furious mutterings. "I trust him."

"It's not him that's the problem," Jasper exclaims, momentarily stuttering in his pacing to look at Myles with the same maddened look in his eyes that Bellamy had. "If they were only after the fucking mountain, they would've executed Emerson the second he gave them the codes. They didn't."

"They kept him and tortured him," the blonde finishes, and Myles clenches her jaw.

"Roan's just become King," Myles reasons slowly, "not everyone will accept that straight away, but he won't let an army – "

"Unless they overthrow him," her best friend explodes, bringing both his hands to his head and pulling on fistfuls of his short brown hair.

"If they had any other plans," the redhead tries to placate when both of the other two only seem to get more restless. "They would've done them by now. They wouldn't've waited this long after Nia's death."

"What are – " Clarke starts, her voice dying out suddenly when a sharp and short knock sounds on the door.

"Min yo op," Myles calls, her anxiously bouncing legs becoming still. [AN: "Enter."]

The doors to the spacious and expensively decorated bedroom opens, revealing two warriors. Only one of them steps inside, the woman staying at the doorway respectfully.

"Heda gaf in ogeda Skaikru bandrona na kom raun," the man announces in a strong and level tone. [AN: "The commander calls for the presence of the Sky People ambassadors."]

"Mochof, shilkru," the redhead replies, standing up from the bed she and Clarke sit on and locking her hazel eyes on Jasper's in a warning to calm down. [AN: "Thank you, guards."]

His brown eyes simmer with a dark burning hatred for Mount Weather and his arms and legs bounce in restless discomfort, but his pacing ceases and he bites his tongue. Clarke stands up beside Myles, following her calmly out the doors of the Skaikru ambassador's bedroom doors that the two warriors hold open for them. Jasper slinks behind them, following them with a reluctant stutter in his steps that the two warriors following behind them all ignore.

Taking the stairs two at a time, Myles breathes in a deep breath, steeling herself for the outcome she knows is the only viable option. It does nothing to curb the uncomfortable and painful squeezing of her lungs, or the pitiful weight sitting in her gut, or even the lump that's found itself in her throat. Unfortunately, this situation isn't unlike anything she and Jasper have had to contend with the last three months, and it bears a striking similarity to most of the problems she's had to weasel her way out of in life.

They can all hear the commander and her Flamekeeper when they step off the last step, their two muffled voices tossing out bickering words Myles can't quite make out. Meeting Clarke's awkward glance with an eyebrow quirked, the Arker's steps falter for a second as they weave amongst the few ambassadors and chieftains that exit the throne room doors. As soon as they reach the doors, the commander and Titus' hushed, arguing words from behind the throne become a lot clearer.

"You are letting her cloud your judgement – " Titus lectures, and Myles' red eyebrows twitch together in confusion.

Are they arguing about the commander's relationship with Clarke or her friendly allegiance with Myles?

"I thought you were supposed to be loyal!" Lexa snaps in a dangerously low tone.

Something wavering in the commander's strong voice makes Myles slow her steps and flick her hazel eyes to her friends and around the people leaving the throne room.

"I am," the Flamekeeper counters heatedly, his eyes locked on Lexa's in a fiery battle. "But you are too personally in – " Titus cuts himself off when his eyes glance over to the three figures entering the throne room. His pale brown eyes dance over Clarke, but his whole posture shifts and something flickers across his face when his eyes land on Myles. Turning his whole body to them as Lexa looks to see what's caught his attention, Titus states the Arker's presence. "Here they are."

Lexa's eyes flick between the two best friends before settling and softening on Clarke, but Titus' glaring gaze is still stuck on Myles. Stepping forward and slouching back predatorily, Myles quirks an eyebrow at Titus.

"You wanted to see us," Myles relays, turning her eyes back to the commander. "Heda?"

"Yes," Lexa confirms, her tone calm but deathly seriously as she steps down the steps of her throne to stand in front of the teens. "I need to discuss the fate of the last Mountain Man."

"I believe he deserves death," Titus interjects gruffly, crossing his arms and staring at Myles in a silent challenge.

Myles meets his eyes, raising an eyebrow slowly and not daring to back down once.

"They can speak for themselves, Titus," the commander snaps harshly, whipping around to look at the man pointedly. The Flamekeeper pulls his head back ever so slightly, swallowing and pressing his lips shut. Content he won't interrupt again, Lexa turns back around to face the Arker's, looking to Clarke first. "Clarke?"

When a short beat of hesitation follows, Myles tears her eyes away from Titus to look at Clarke.

"Titus is right," Clarke declares evenly, and the redhead can't help how her head sinks forward and her mouth falls open in shock as her eyebrows furrow.

"What?" Myles instinctually blurts, utterly perplexed on how they could've possibly wound up on different pages about this.

Jasper stays silent, not tensing the same way Myles does in shock, not reacting at all to their friends damning words. Lexa, on the other hand, reels her head back, her pink lips falling open and slack in the same disbelieving confusion Myles' had. Her whole expression and body language displays how taken aback she is, and if the redhead wasn't so shocked herself, she'd be counting down the seconds until the commander gets offended by how hypocritical this is.

"You see?" Titus calmly calls out, slowly stepping down the steps to reach the commander's side.

"Just," Myles objects, flustered, holding a hand up and towards the bald man. "Shut up for a sec," turning back to Clarke, the blonde refuses to meet her bewildered hazel eyes. "Have you lost your mind?"

"Aggie," Jasper agrees, his eerily relaxed voice finally getting Clarke's blue eyes to look away from the commander's steadily angering brown. "They're right."

Whipping around to stare at her best friend in absolute shock-horror, "they're what now?" Jasper doesn't elaborate, instead meeting her appalled eyes calmly. His silence and stillness reinforces the words, and Myles shakes her head to try to clear the headache that's starting to form. "What, and I cannot stress this enough, the fuck."

"It is human nature to need vengeance," Titus continues, his words grinding in the red-haired teens mind and making her roll her eyes. "Only once satiated can there be peace. That is our way."

"That was your way," Myles emphasises, spinning her now fearful eyes around to look at the man in annoyance.

"Clarke…" the commander breathes, locking gazes with the blonde and flicking her brown eyes between Clarke's two blue. Clarke doesn't look away, but her mouth twitches with words she doesn't try to say. At her lack of reply, Lexa's demeanour changes, her nose slightly scrunching up as a bitter look twists at her features. Her eyes become still, staring into one of Clarke's blue and hardening at the blonde's stance. "So, blood must not have blood applies only when it is my people who bleed?"

The commander's tone is soft and quiet, the harsh undertone rumbling through her words is enough to make the redhead's blood run cold. Myles shakes her head, staring at her friend with the same betrayed expression she's held ever since she voiced her agreement with the Flamekeeper. Clarke doesn't say anything, however, but doesn't look away and the redhead scoffs obnoxiously.

"This is different," Jasper defends, and a sarcastic laugh bubbles out of his best friend's lips.

"Oh?" Myles goads, swivelling her head to look at him again, her lightweight, shoulder length red hair swaying. "How?"

"That was about stopping a war," Clarke answers darkly, and the redhead whips her head back around. "This is about finishing one."

"No, it isn't," the red-haired teen denounces, "the war on Mount Weather finished the day I pulled the lever."

"Really?" Jasper counters, shrugging over-exaggeratedly. "Then why is he alive?"

"I'm sorry," Clarke interjects when Myles goes to respond, locking her eyes on the redhead fleetingly before looking to Lexa again. "But if you want my advice, I agree with Titus."

"They all deserve to die for what they did," Jasper seconds. "None of them is innocent, especially not him. He deserves to die."

"I'm not looking for advice," the commander informs her darkly, "I'm looking for a decision."

Sensing Lexa doesn't want the hypocrisy of taking his life, Titus quickly adds to the conversation.

"He was gifted to Skaikru," the robed man appeals to Clarke and Jasper, switching his gaze between them only and avoiding Myles' eyes. "The crime he stands charged with is against your people."

"He wasn't gifted to Skaikru," Myles reminds them, locking her eyes on the commander's. "He was gifted to me."

"Your council remains divided," Lexa states collectedly, her respectful and infuriated eyes locked on the redhead. "You've been who I've looked to for decisions for your people since the day I met you, but you've chosen to not stand alone." Clenching her jaw, Myles bounces her legs at the words and the reminder that she's once again found herself in a leadership position she loathes. "So, what will it be then, Myles? Banishment from our lands forever? Or death by forty-nine cuts from your hand?" Lexa fleetingly glances at the other two Arker's, shifting her weight from one foot to the other as she prepares to walk away. "You have till sundown for your council to come to an agreement."

On cue, the commander circles around the Arker's and walks down the strip of red carpet to leave the throne room. Titus and the three Arker's remain, Clarke and Jasper looking at each other, but Myles' gaze remains fixed ahead at the throne. Guards that were scattered about the room follow Lexa obediently, and the Flamekeeper watches them all leave before his eyes land on the redhead.

Hazel eyes flick to meet his almost instantly, and the smug gleam in his pale brown eyes reminds Myles of the predicament they're in.

"Could you give us a minute?" Myles implores bluntly, the lump in her throat making her voice sound unrecognisable to her own ears.

"Of course," Titus agrees, bending over in a small, respectful bow before circling around them to leave the room.

The red-haired teen doesn't move her eyes from staring vacantly at the spot where the bald man's tattooed head had been, not until she hears the Flamekeeper pull both doors shut for their privacy. Sighing heavily, Myles' shoulders relax from her shocked, rigid posture. Bringing a hand up to her face to rub one of her temples, tired hazel eyes finally dance over to her best friend. Jasper's already shaking his head, his breath huffing through his nostrils sarcastically.

"So much for being on the same page," Myles mutters, stepping forward a few steps to walk away from them before she turns and looks at her friends.

"You can't be serious," Jasper scoffs, stepping backwards and looking around the room with his head still shaking side to side.

"Aggie," Clarke appeals, staring unwaveringly at the redhead. "Think this through."

"I am," the red-haired teen sighs, meeting her blue gaze. "We can't expect the commander to completely uproot the way they've lived for centuries and then do exactly what we've spent the last three months asking her not to do."

"Then what are we s'posed to do, huh?" Jasper exclaims, spinning around and looking at his best friend frustratedly.

"Do you think I want to live in a world," Myles starts, the skin around her nose twisting up in disgust. "Where there's someone from that fucking mountain out there?"

"It sounds like you do," her best friend argues, hunching forward as he gestures sharply.

"Pulling the lever didn't just save us," Clarke reminds her hotly. "It saved the grounders. He tried to kill us – "

"But he didn't," the redhead counters, "and he's alive because I didn't kill him." Hazel eyes are dark and stormy, locked on Clarke's brightly blazing blue, the weight of Mount Weather hanging heavily in the air. "He's alive, because he's got our marrow in him. Mine, or Monty's," at their best friend's name, Myles switches her eyes to lock on Jasper's. "Or Fox's. Or Gavin's. Or Jessica's. Or Harper's. Or Sca – "

"Exactly!" Jasper explodes, flinging his arms up aggressively. "He doesn't fucking deserve to live!"

"Does Pike?" Myles shouts back, furrowing her eyebrows. "And the rest of the army that gunned down – "

"This is nothing like that!" Clarke interjects, cutting the redhead off. "Two hundred years of slaughtering grounders and draining their blood!"

"Which is exactly why I'm ending the cycle of violence," the red-haired teen states calmly, levelling Clarke with a strong and unshakable stare.

The words make her fall silent, and Myles can see the cogs turning in her mind as she understands and recognises the words. It's the same words Myles had used days prior when she was convincing Lexa not to start a war with Arkadia over the 300 slain warriors. Clarke's silence and slowly relaxing posture only serves to escalate Jasper's jittery and bubbling anxiety.

"Killing him does the same thing," Jasper declares, and hazel eyes slip closed before locking on his brown tiredly. "Rule number fifty-eight, Aggie."

"That's exactly what I'm doing, JJ," Myles assures softly, spying Clarke shift on her feet uncomfortably in the corner of her hazel eyes.

"No, it isn't," the brown-haired teen refutes, throwing an arm up in the air. "You're trying to avoid it!"

"Rule 58…" Clarke starts slowly, her voice unsure. "… is 'mothers are unpredictable', right?"

"That's 56," the redhead corrects, "58 is 'if you start making adult decisions, keeping making them'."

"No one," Jasper states haltingly, his tone low and drawled out in pained seriousness. "From that mountain was innocent. None of them." Looking at her best friend sadly, pity for him seeps into her hazel eyes. "They all took the blood treatment. They all took lives. They were all happy to keep doing that if it meant they could live. He is no different, and now it's time to finish it."

"If I do that," Myles replies calmly, matching his low and slow tone. "It shows the commander and every grounder on Earth that that's okay." Jasper tilts his head in frustration, but his resolution doesn't waver. Myles continues, stepping a half of a step towards him. "That a life for a life is okay. That Finn should've been tortured and killed because it's okay. That I should die, and Monty, and Raven, and Clarke, and you." Finally, his resolve shifts, his hard stance chipping away but the anger and resentment continues to build deep within him even as his posture relaxes. "We need to end the cycle of violence so there can be peace. Killing him would only end the cycle of peace we've started."

"He deserves it," Jasper says calmly, his voice thick and his posture slouched with his head dipped back in pitiful defeat.

"So do I," the redhead whispers, "but after all I've done, if I'm allowed to live, he is, too."

"We're not the same as him," Clarke grits out scornfully, and Myles locks her eyes on the blonde's blue. She doesn't say anything, knows no amount of arguing will sway either of their opinions on that fact, so she doesn't even bother. Silence hangs in the air for a moment before Clarke disrupts it. "He gave the self-destruct codes to the Ice Nation. Blew up his home and our friends. If we don't kill him, he'll try to hit us again."

"Azgeda won't help him anymore," Myles shrugs, her tone soft and tired.

"He tried to kill you this morning," Jasper reminds them bitterly, "we can't know he won't try again."

"It'll be one against Polis," the red-haired teen offers disinterestedly. "One against Arkadia."

"One who knows how to wire bombs," the blonde recalls, "he tried to blow the door in Mount Weather. He knows how to use guns. If he gets the advantage, he could do a lot of damage."

It's silent again as Myles weighs her options. A solution pops into her mind, but it's not one she's happy with. Immediately, her eyes flick to Jasper's to find his brown gaze already watching her. His brown eyebrows raise at his best friend in encouragement as her knee juts out nervously.

"What if there might be a way…" Myles starts hesitantly, already knowing and expecting the backlash that's about to come from her suggestion. "… to figure it out… directly…"

"He tried to kill you an hour ago!"

 

Myles sits on the edge of her bed in the Skaikru ambassador's room on the floor below Lexa's room. It's looks almost exactly the same as it did a few short hours before, except this time Clarke is nowhere to be seen. She'd stuck with Lexa once the meeting with Emerson had been arranged, and now all there is to do is wait.

And that's what she does. Myles sits on the edge of the bed, hunched over with her chin resting in one of her hands as her elbow digs into her tight black jean-clad knee. Hazel eyes follow her worriedly pacing best friend, trying hard not to roll her eyes when he starts up the same conversation they've had a dozen times already.

"This is a really stupid idea," Jasper warns her, a distinctive hint of worry trembling through his words.

"I know," Myles sighs distractedly, her voice making his anxious brown eyes meet hers.

"You shouldn't be going in there alone," her best friend frets, his voice jittering with his stressed and jerky movements. "He tried to kill you this morning."

"He won't do that again," the redhead asserts in an emotionally drained tone, lifting her head from her hand and letting her arm fall forward limply. "And I won't be alone."

"Oh, yeah," Jasper scoffs sarcastically, "because last time the guards were a big help."

"Lexa gave them orders," Myles replies dully, "they'll listen."

"And if they don't?" Jasper enquires in concern, but Myles knows this isn't really about what might happen to her.

"Then," the red-haired teen starts, "Lexa will let you kill him."

Jasper halts, his whole body going to completely stiff and still at the words. It's not until the look of utter concern and pity fills his brown eyes that Myles realises the implication of her words. Of course Jasper picked up on it before her; they've spent the last three months going between thinking life wasn't worth it and they aren't worth life. Trying desperately to scrape together anything and everything that could give them meaning or a purpose, clinging to each other through it all.

Swallowing thickly, Myles doesn't dispute the implication that weighs heavily on their hearts. Neither does Jasper, though he looks like the words are on the tip of his tongue. Slowly, when his best friend does nothing but drift her hazel eyes away, Jasper's posture slumps sadly. Stepping towards her, Myles turns her whole head away from him as his mouth opens with comforting and loving words already forming in his throat.

Knocking at the door stops him, distracting them both from the tense atmosphere in the room. Hearing the short knock makes hazel eyes swing to the doors as she springs to her feet. Sharing a brief look with her restlessly worried best friend, Myles calls out to their visitors.

"Yo na min op," the redhead says in greeting, nervous dread growing heavier and heavier in her gut. [AN: "You may come in."]

Two men in heavy armour and sporting large machetes and swords step in, one being the man who escorted them around hours before. It's time.

"Em's ogud," one man informs them with a curt nod, only stepping a foot into the room out of respect. [AN: "He's ready."]

Breathing in deeply to try to steady the static crackling through her veins, Myles locks her eyes on Jasper's quickly with an elegant eyebrow raised before walking towards the door.

"Mochof," Myles nods at them, slipping out into the hallways and heading straight for the stairs. [AN: "Thank you."]

"Mochof," Jasper echoes, following closely behind her and copying his best friend when she takes the stairs two at a time. [AN: "Thank you."]

"Pro," the men chorus out, slowly going up behind them. [AN: "You're welcome."]

When they step off the staircase, Jasper gently grips Myles' blotchy deep maroon coloured long sleeve to stop her. Clenching her jaw, Myles slows to a halt, looking up at her slightly taller best friend as the two guards stop on the stairs behind them.

"Are you sure you're okay with this?" Jasper asks, his tone soft and caring.

"I just wanna get it over with," Myles sighs, her eyebrows raising high tiredly. Shaking her head slightly, her shoulder length hair brushes against her shoulders. "I don't want to have to see him again."

"I'll be at the door," the brown-haired teen assures her protectively, "if he tries something – "

"I will yell for you," the redhead finishes with a slight chuckle, her hazel eyes softening.

"I was going to say," Jasper corrects her, leaning in close and lowering his voice. "If he tries something," brown eyes flick between her two hazel seriously, "kill him."

"Yeah," Myles promises, the seriousness and worry evident in his tone and features making it physically impossible for her to refuse his request. The word doesn't appease him, it's only when she nods her head that Jasper relaxes and glances at the two guards waiting patiently on the steps. "Either way, when it's done, it'll be over."

"Yeah," Jasper agrees, nodding his head and letting his grip fall slack.

Jasper steps towards the throne room, but Myles heaves another steadying sigh before following him. He stops again when he reaches the door, turning to look at Myles who's only a second behind him, hardening her features and squaring her shoulders. Only meeting his brown eyes for an instant, the redhead locks her gaze on the throne room guards and nods her head once.

Obediently, they both reach forward and push open the doors for the Arker. They step inside, obstructing her view into the room for a split second. Emerson stands on the red strip of carpet under the thrones stairs, his arms tied to a wooden post behind him. Guards and warriors litter the room, standing in pairs of two around Emerson. The mountain man is still in his bloody and torn clothes, but now there's a grey sack covering his head loosely.

"Give us a minute," Myles orders the guards in the room in a loud and strong voice, getting a frustrated look from Jasper as he reaches for her arm.

Myles dodges him pointedly, stalking into the room. At the sound of her voice, Emerson jerks and grunts under his restraints, and hazel eyes watch the movement as the guards walk around them. Slowing her predatory steps that the mountain man can't see to a stop, the redhead waits until she hears the guards shut the doors behind themselves to lift the sack.

Emerson grunts, his harsh breaths emphasised under the greying tan material as Myles grips the sack and pulls it off of his head in one fluid motion. The mountain man's wild eyes lock on her hard hazel instantly, his nostrils flaring with his loud breaths. His throat bobs against the thick leather collar fastened tightly around his neck and chained to the post behind him.

"Carl Emerson," Myles recites, her hard hazel eyes unblinking. "Mount Weather Security Detail."

"I've heard what they call you now," Emerson sneers, leaning as far forward as the leather collar around his throat will allow him, straining his voice. "Wanheda, Commander of Death."

"Flattering," the redhead goads, tilting her head to the side and squinting her eyes mockingly. He doesn't reply, only jerks one of his arms in a halfhearted display of aggression as his nose and the skin above his upper lip scrunch up in disdain. "At least, more flattering than telling Azgeda the code so they could destroy the mountain for you."

"I didn't destroy Mount Weather," the mountain man replies calmly, his voice taking on a softer tone that makes Myles' stomach churn and her left arm twitch. "You did. Three hundred and eighty-one people." Myles can't help the flutter her eyes do or the slight twitchy movement her head makes. "One hundred and eighty-two men." Nausea floods her senses, the black pit of self-hatred widening in her heart. "One hundred and seventy-three women. Twenty-six children." Diverting her eyes for only a second to clench her jaw and harden her stance once more, Myles fights to regain control of herself and get the upper hand again. Rule 16. Rule 16. "Two of them were mine."

Locking her cold eyes back on his hatred-filled dark green, "you and your president gave me no choice."

Emerson screams, jolting forward in his restraints as his skin turns red and veins bulge over his face and neck. Myles hates this. She hates that there's a reason for this man's murderous rage. She hates that she's the one who gave him this reason. Hates that innocent people died because of this man's rage. Because of her decision. The angry movements don't make her flinch, her hard stance doesn't shift, but her eyes leave his for another moment at the memories of all the blistered and bloodied dead bodies in Mount Weather.

His heavy breathing huffs out a quiet and short sarcastic laugh that brings her eyes back to his. Emerson's body is still again, only moving with his harsh breaths, but he stays leaning as far forward as he can.

"What's the matter?" Emerson quips darkly, and a red eyebrow raises pointedly when a beat of silence follows. "You don't like to be faced with your demons?"

"Your fate is in my hands," Myles informs him, relaxing her raised eyebrow slowly. "If you want mercy, you're doing a bad job at persuading me."

This time when he laughs, it's not a quiet huff, but a low and dark chuckle that's immediately distinguishable as a humourless laugh. It feels almost wrong that the action lessens the discomfort in Myles' gut. She knows this is about to be the deciding factor that'll appease the Arker's council enough to come to a decision.

"I don't want mercy," the mountain man states with a large smile that falls into a deep frown quickly. "I want revenge." And there it is, but Myles waits, staying silent for a beat to drag more out of the rabid man. "I want you to suffer the same way that I've suffered."

A dark smile crosses Myles' face and the redhead turns, stalking back down the carpet towards the throne room doors. Perhaps she had just wanted a reason to kill Emerson, and that's why she pushed so hard to be the one to do this. She wanted him to be the catalyst to his own demise, to take some of that weight of making the decision off of her shoulders. And now she has it.

He wants revenge, to cause as much pain as possible. He's a danger; it'd be reckless to let him go.

"You can kill me, Myles," Emerson calls out, almost desperate to say the words. Myles clenches her jaw at the words, nodding shortly to the two guards who remained at the doors. "But you can never escape what you did." The warriors open the doors and Myles walks through them, locking eyes with Jasper who instantly matches her steps. "My pain ends today. Yours has just begun."

Out of all the last words the man had said, these are the only ones that make Myles stop. Jasper stops, too, both whipping around to look at the closing throne room doors. The words repeat over and over in her mind, her hard resolve of finally having made a firm decision flying out the window.

My pain ends today. Yours has just begun.

My pain ends today. Yours has just begun.

"Fuck," Myles mutters, locking her eyes on Jasper's, who's still glaring at the doors.

"What happened in there?" Jasper quizzes, putting a hand on his best friend's back and gently guiding her to the stairs.

"I decided to execute him," Myles answers with a sigh, stepping down the stairs slowly. "But I think I just changed my mind."

"You think?" Jasper echoes, confusion and resentment for the mountain man still rumbling through his voice. "He doesn't care if we execute him. Why wouldn't we?"

"Because," the redhead starts, stepping off on the floor below the throne room. "He wants to die for his pain to end."

"Fuck," Jasper repeats, tilting his head back and relaxing his shoulders as his mind comes to the same conclusion as the red-haired teen.

"Fuck indeed," Myles agrees, coming to a stop at the Skaikru ambassadors room. "What do you want to do?"

Jasper brings a hand to his forehead, rubbing above his eyebrows roughly as he thinks through the situation.

"If we banished him," the brown-haired teen questions lowly, dropping his hand from his face, "what's stopping him from coming back?"

"Put a kill order on him," Myles shrugs, resting a hand on the door, "drop his ass out of any clans territories and send riders with sketches to let them knows he's dead on sight."

"Clarke will be pissed," Jasper adds, and Myles shakes her head with a helpless shrug as she pushes open the door.

Myles makes it all the way inside, her hand leaving the wooden door entirely before she realises there's someone else in the room. Stopping in her tracks and staring dumbfounded at Titus pacing on the opposite side of the room to the beds, Jasper shuts the door just as Myles speaks up.

"Titus," the redhead greets suspiciously, and Jasper whips his head around as the man comes to a stop. "Can we help you?"

"What are you doing in our room?" Jasper queries, his tone slightly sharper than his best friend's had been.

The bald man just looks at them, not saying anything until Jasper furrows his eyebrows questioningly and juts his head forward impatiently.

"You spend so much time talking about peace," Titus announces, his words slow and proper. "I think it's time we made peace with one another, don't you?"

Something doesn't sit right in Myles' gut, and the suspicious look never leaves her delicate features.

"I wasn't aware," Myles answers, matching his slow speech, "that we had something that needed making peace."

"Your values and mine seem to be in conflict, always," the Flamekeeper elaborates, and Myles' expression relaxes as she tips her head back slightly.

"Well," the red-haired teen converses lightly, gesturing to the chairs around the table in the middle of the room. "Maybe we can find some common ground."

Both Arker's walk over to the chairs awkwardly, Titus' eyes flicking between the two of them continuously.

"You said conflicts," Jasper prods cautiously, sitting down in a ratty, patchwork patterned chair and glancing from Myles to Titus with squinted, distrustful eyes. "Are there any you had… specifically in mind?"

"Yes," Titus confirms, nodding once, "I appreciate the predicament you're both in." His pale brown, empty eyes switch between the two of them before halting on the redhead. "Especially you, Myles. I do. After convincing Lexa not to avenge the massacre of our army," the bald man's sharp tone isn't lost on Myles and it makes her harden herself once more, "it must be hard for you to choose to take your own revenge." Diverting her eyes with a sarcastic twitch of a red eyebrow, Titus continues unfazed. "Perhaps now you realise how difficult this new policy will be for our people to accept."

"What happened on that field," Myles begins, her tone unshakeable as her hazel eyes sweep back to his. "Didn't happen to your army. It was ours." Titus twitches, his jaw already moving to interject. "It was our friends. It was their families. It was people we saw every two weeks."

The Flamekeeper stills, letting the red-haired teen finish.

"We felt that loss," Jasper chimes in, "mourned the same as their villages."

"What happened to them was a crime done by only a few," Myles finishes, and the relaxed understanding Titus had started to hold evaporates. "That doesn't justify wiping all of our people out."

"Did you not wipe out his people," the Flamekeeper challenges evenly, and the words make Myles' left arm twitch and Jasper flinch. "For what only a few of them did to yours?"

"No," Myles answers just as evenly, "I did it for what they did to yours, too."

"You're leaders," the bald man appeals, glancing between them and disregarding her words. "Lexa listens to you." Titus leans forward, clasping his hands together and resting his arms on his knees with his eyes still going between the two of them. "Help me to protect her. Help me to protect Clarke." Suppressing an obnoxious snort, a sarcastic smile breaks across Myles' face as she looks to her best friend to see his reaction. Jasper doesn't meet her eyes, instead keeping his squinted, doubt-filled eyes on Titus. "'Blood must not have blood,' is folly. Our people will not accept it and I fear – " hearing the man cut himself off drags Myles' eyes back to his, her expression slackening. "I fear it will get them both killed."

"Our people," Jasper reiterates pointedly, "isn't just the people in Arkadia. It's your people, too."

"And we will not," Myles tacks on firmly, her eyes staring at the Flamekeeper unblinkingly. "Help you do something that leads to a war for our people."

Titus' eyes twitch, the flicking between the two Arker's slowing down dramatically as the silence drags on. His arms jump slightly on his knees with barely restrained twitches, making his body jolt from his position leant forward. Darkness swirls in his brown eyes, leaving a thick, bitter smell in the air.

After another awkward moment of the three of them staring each other down, Titus finally nods minutely with his eye still twitching. Grinding his teeth, the bald man stands from his seat, letting out a long breath.

"Then we're at an impasse," Titus declares, looking between them as if waiting for something else.

No one says anything more, so the Flamekeeper nods once more to them both and slowly walks around them to head for the door. Both best friends stare at his retreating form, neither one daring to remove their eyes from Titus until he closes the door behind himself.

Brown eyes meet hazel, both with their eyebrows held up at varying heights.

"What the fuck?" Myles states quietly, looking back towards the shut door and moving her hand in a small motion against the chair to point her fingers at the door.

"Is it just me…" Jasper enquires, "or does that dude always make your creep-o-meter go haywire?"

"You know what this means, right?" The red-haired teen asks softly, looking at her best friend seriously.

"Rule 16?" Jasper guesses, solidifying their resolve on what to do with Emerson.

"Rule 16."

 

Men and women bang on drums in the throne room, and Myles stands between Clarke and Jasper to the left of the commander's throne, watching them. Chieftains and clan representatives stand alongside the walls of the room, patiently and quietly standing in the place where their clans ambassadors would stand. Emerson is in the same place he was when Myles paid him a visit, chained by his wrists, ankles and neck to a post. He's facing the double doors that lead in and out of the throne room, doing the same thing everyone else in the room is doing.

Waiting for the commander.

A group of footsteps echo down the hallway and Myles straightens, flicking her eyes to Clarke and then Jasper. The double doors push open to reveal two warriors marching in front of Lexa and Titus, and two behind them. Both of the warriors at the front part, allowing the commander a clear look at Emerson, but she does little more than keep her eyes on him as her unfaltering steps go around him. As the brown-haired young woman is going around Emerson, her eyes switch to Clarke, and her gaze stays on her as she finishes passing the mountain man.

Once Lexa ascends the few steps that lead to her throne, she turns to face the room and raises a hand to silence the drum players. The room falls silent, everyone awaiting the commander's words.

"Osir hit choda op nat," Lexa's strong and commanding voice declares, "kom tona gou fou nau, hashta ai op hef na wan op." Jasper and Myles lock eyes, amusement dancing in their mirrored expressions. If there was any doubt left that she didn't want to kill this man, it would've disappeared at her choice of words and her bland tone. As if sensing the redhead's mischief, the commander's eyes turn to her and Myles meets her stare. "Wanheda." [AN: "We come together tonight, as we have countless times before, to watch a man die. Commander of Death."]

Lexa pulls a dagger from a weapon strap around her thigh, stepping down one step to hand it to one of her guards. The man obediently grasps it, walking over to the restrained man in the centre of the room and holding the knife up for the red-haired teen.

"Vengeance is yours," the commander finishes in a lifeless tone, not even looking at the redhead and Myles takes that as her cue.

Reciprocating one last reassuring glance from Clarke, Myles stalks down to stand in front of Emerson. Her posture is leant back obnoxiously, her stance nothing but predatory. Hazel eyes lock on Emerson's dark green, one of them oozing smugness and the other pleading for the sweet relief of death. Myles can't help feeling giddy, knowing full well she's going to thoroughly enjoy this.

Coming to a stop in front of Emerson, Myles accepts the dagger with a small smile and short thanks. Turning it over in her hands, Myles slowly circles around Emerson, switching her gaze from the last mountain man to Lexa only when she's between Emerson's back and Lexa. Tossing the knife up with a small flick of her wrist, the redhead catches it with a grip near the tip of the blade and quickly pegs it at the second step under where the commander stands.

The blade sticks out of the carpet-covered ground and several shocked gasps echo in the room, but Myles' bright eyes are watching Lexa light up with amusement. Pleased brown eyes finally look up to lock on Myles once again.

"No," the red-haired teen announces strongly and loudly, earning indistinct murmurs from the others in the room.

Titus' face twitches as Jasper and Clarke smile proudly from their spot across from him. Myles slowly stalks back around to face Emerson when the guard who was holding her knife returns to his place beside Lexa's throne. Emerson is breathing harsh rapid breaths, his whole body shaking against his restraints. Infuriated dark green eyes get stuck on Myles' hazel as she comes to a stop in front of him again.

"I don't know if your death would bring me peace," Myles divulges, loud enough for those in the room to hear her reasoning, but soft enough to portray her sincerity. "But I know that if it did, I don't deserve it."

"This man must die," Titus' angry voice declares, rushing down the steps to come face to face with Myles. Raising his voice into a bellow, the man lifts his arm to point at the commander. "If Skaikru will not take his life, then Heda will."

"Heda," Lexa bellows back, "will speak for herself. Enough, Titus."

"What the hell is this?" Emerson's quiet and panicked voice questions, and Myles shakes her head.

Deciding to speak honestly, Myles supplies, "if I killed you, I wouldn't be doing it for what you've done. I'd be killing you for what I've done." Emerson flicks his eyes between hers, and Myles raises her voice to address the room. "Ai ron disha hef em sonraun op." Murmurs fill the room again, and the redhead turns her hard eyes from Emerson to stare into Titus' furious brown. "Jus nou drein jus daun." [AN: "I give this man his life. Blood must not have blood."]

Emerson screams in a fit of rage, and disinterested hazel eyes look back at him. His face is bright red, his veins popping out as he yanks against his restraints. Myles doesn't tear her eyes away from the enraged, screaming man, not even as the crowd in the room chatters in loud voices to one another.

"Hosh op!" Lexa shouts authoritatively, making the room fall silent. "Emo kripon kom Maun nou na ge gada in kom won hef. Wanheda," Myles finally tears her eyes away from the seething mountain man to look at Lexa again, "knows this. Her actions show us a promise for a new future. A world in which violence does not always answer violence. A world in which our children can flourish without the shadow of death." [AN: "Quiet! The crimes of the mountain cannot be answered by one man."]

At the world children, hazel eyes look back at a now silent Emerson. Tears shine in his eyes, spilling down the dried blood coating his cheeks. The eerie quiet in the room makes Myles look back at the commander to find her already looking at her. It's a guarded look, one that Myles has learnt means she's looking for approval. Nodding subtly, enough for the young woman to discern, proud relief floods her usually stoic features. Hardening her eyes as she looks back at the crying man in front of her, Myles watches as he, too, hardens.

"This prisoner is banished from my lands," the commander announces. "He will live. But he will live with the ghosts of those he has lost." Emerson's hardened expression breaks, a wet sob escaping his throat, but hazel eyes don't look away. "Haunted until the end of his days by the knowledge that he is the last of his kind."

Myles steps forward to get right up close to Emerson, and Titus' eyes watch the movement curiously. When she's toe to toe with the beaten and bloodied, crying man, the redhead stops, her eyes locked on his.

"May you live forever."

 

A knock at the Skaikru ambassador's room makes the two best friends look up from re-strapping their weapon braces. Curiously locking their tired eyes with eyebrows quirked cautiously, Jasper calls out a greeting.

"Yo na min op," the brown-haired teen allows, glancing at the doors as Myles lifts her left leg up to rest her boot on the table. [AN: "You can come in."]

The doors push open and two sets of footsteps enter the room, causing hazel eyes to flick up from watching her hands strapping her weapons on her ankle. Clarke and Lexa shut the doors behind themselves, their expressions soft and relieved of the day's stress.

"Hey," Myles greets, stopping her motions and putting her leg down to step towards their visitors. "How're they handling it?"

"Good," Lexa supplies, and Jasper nods, straightening above the backpack he's refilling with their supplies to focus his attention on the commander. Turning away from the bag on his bed and mindlessly turning over one of their notebooks in his hands, Jasper waits for the young woman to continue. "I understand it was a difficult decision for you all to come to. I hope you know what you've done honours a strong and prosperous peace."

"Nah…" Jasper brushes off with a dopey expression on his face. "That might be part of why Aggie did it, but for us," the brown-haired teen gestures with the book between him and Clarke. "It was more petty than that."

Curious brown eyes switch between them before squinting at Clarke accusingly.

"Petty?" Lexa questions, an amused inflection betraying her curious tone. "How so?"

"Rule number 16," Clarke answers, her eyes soft and loving as they stare into Lexa's.

The commander's head tilts to the side, her gaze leaving her lovers to look between the two other Arker's in confusion.

"'If someone thinks they have the upper hand'," Myles recites, supplying the answer for the young woman's silent query.

"'Break it'," Jasper finishes, elaborating almost instantly. "He wanted Aggie to kill him."

"He wanted to have the upper hand on his own fate," Lexa realises, a proud gleam in her eyes when they lock back on Myles'. "Sparing a punishment for one that doesn't answer violence with violence, while also delivering the vengeance that was craved."

Myles quirks an eyebrow, tipping her head to the side and lifting a one-shouldered shrug with a kind smirk. Clarke smiles, her blue eyes leaving her two friends to glance at the bags and weapon straps that have been packed up.

"You guys leaving?" Clarke asks, a strange high pitch to her voice that makes the redhead lock eyes with her best friend.

"Yeah," the brown-haired Arker nods, mockingly suspicious eyes squinting at the love-birds. "Don't tell me you're getting married already."

"No," Lexa denies calmly with a friendly smile, looking at Clarke who lets out a shocked laugh. "An equally treasurable celebration in which your presence would be appreciated."

Myles' hazel eyes sweep over to a defeated Jasper, "told you Ascension Day was soon."

"Is it this week?" Jasper enquires, awkwardly shifting on his feet.

"You could say that," Clarke replies lightheartedly, though her expression has darkened so as to say 'just accept the damn invitation already'.

"It is tomorrow after first meal," the commander informs them, watching the best friends shocked faces mischievously. Clarke shakes her head in disappointment at the two of them, her mouth falling open in disbelief. "Only one of you need come."

Instantly at the words, the two best friend's expressions relax as they bring their fists up to hold out between themselves. Their bodies still face the two lovers, and Clarke's completely appalled expression is almost laughable when they start to bounce their fists.

"You can't be seri – " the blonde-haired teen lectures, getting cut off by her ever patient girlfriend.

"Let them do what they must," Lexa assures Clarke, watching the two teens faces expectantly.

"Shoot!" Jasper calls, and the two best friends fists stop bouncing to open on their weapons of choice. It's only then that the two of them look down at their hands, and Myles slump as Jasper cheers. "Rock crushes scissors!"

"Please tell me," Clarke scolds worriedly, watching Myles heave a sigh and Jasper walk around in a small circle with his arms held up high in celebration. "This isn't how you've been making decisions for Arkadia."

"It would be my honour," the redhead tells Lexa softly, ignoring the blonde's words, "to celebrate Ascension Day with you, Heda."

"As it should," the commander quips, raising her brown eyebrows slightly. "It is customary to bring the commander a gift."

"I know that's bullshit," Myles immediately calls out her lie, lifting a hand up to point at Lexa. "But I will bring you some candles."

The commander's expression brightens but Clarke makes a face, the blonde's lecturing blue eyes soften into a plea and her shoulders drop.

"Please, no more candles."

Chapter Text

Day 157 – Feb. 16

Stepping down the last step at the end of a flight of stairs, Myles turns to enter the hallway instead of going down any more floors. It's eerily silent, even for this early in the morning. If not for the candles on tables, resting on shards of metal jutting out from the wall and sitting in the place of lightbulbs in rusty, decaying chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, the hallways would be pitch black. The first soft rays of the morning sun peek through the windows, leaving most of the inside of the tower blind. Pinkish and light golden hues rain in from holes in the walls, soft sunlight spilling out from under the gaps of doors that accommodate those already awake.

Myles continues down the hallway until she reaches one of the old Tondc ambassador's rooms, knowing which one of the few surviving village-folk lives inside. She wasn't there for Emerson's sentencing yesterday, but there's not a chance that she would miss today, even if the village she was chieftain of no longer exists. Ascension Day is one of the few major celebrations grounders have, and it's the only one completely founded in their religious ideology. Son-Wamplei, 'sun-death', and Son-Gyonplei, 'sun-ascension', are widely celebrated holidays in grounder culture. Though there are heavy ties to grounder theology, people have celebrated the winter and summer solstices for thousands and thousands of years.

Grounders throw a feast when Son-Wamplei begins on the shortest day of the year, to spend the longest night enjoying their year's prosperous and hard labour. Celebrating the 'end of the seeding season' with gift giving, villages also light symbolic fires with their most well-fed animal or best yielded crop of the year tossed in there in honour of the spirits of the previous commander's. Various plants and poisons give the flames an unnatural hue, and the specific colours used vary from clan to clan. Women and men use this time to dress their nicest before the cold weather worsens, citing it as their last opportunity of the year to wear their best dresses and clothes.

Son-Gyonplei is a much louder celebration than the winter solstice. The summer solstice parties are held to glorify a new beginning, and thus marking a new year after the cold and dead winter. Hymns and songs prevail all the way through the longest day of the year, single women wear flower crowns in the hopes of starting the new year with love. Single men have the largest leaf they can find tied around their wrists for the same reason. Those that find someone they take an interest in exchange their hopeful, accessorised offerings, and they are a main decoration if they ever have a marriage ceremony. Bonfires are held after celebratory feasts where people tie one strip of fabric from their winter clothes to a stick to burn as a thank you to the spirits of the Commanders for keeping them warm and well-fed during the winter.

Ceremonies and beliefs differ slightly from clan to clan, but the underlying current of their belief system always stays the same. Jasper and Myles refer to the grounder ideology as 'Cela', a nickname of the North American shrub known informally as 'bittersweet'. Grounders, however, simply refer to it as 'The Order', the name sometimes extending to accomodate the words 'flame' or 'spirit'. Their theology walks the line of harmless beliefs that mask a tragic way of living. Things like believing in an eternal soul and holding dear innocent symbolic rituals or traditions, while turning sour and barbaric in a split-second with their hard stance on things like capital punishment and training children to be warriors, only to throw them into wars to kill each other.

Out of all the differing superstitions and traditions the clans practice in, there's only one they all celebrate in complete unison, The exact same way; Ascension Day. Today is the day that rain nor shine can stop the war-chiefs and ambassadors from disgracing the Commander by not being in unanimous attendance. It might even be the first year in decades that a royal from Azgeda be in attendance, instead of merely sending in their representatives to spy on their Nightbloods.

It's why Myles knows she is here and can't avoid her. It's why she only stops at her door and no one else's. Why she knocks on it, despite the early time of day. A red eyebrow quirks up when no response comes from her short and firm knock on the door, but she waits another moment before trying anything more.

"Taim yu nou slak dou op," Myles warns the woman inside, "ai'a ban praya-de we en min op idowe." [AN: "If you don't open the door, I'll lift the lock and come in anyway."]

"Gon we," Indra's gruff voice replies, her tone hard. [AN: "Go away."]

With a raise of her eyebrows and a tip of her head, Myles feels the ends of her shoulder-length red hair brush against the skin of her shoulders where her long-sleeved grey shirt is too overstretched to cover her tank top straps. Pulling out one of her knives from her belt, the redhead pokes it through the crack in the door above the wooden door-handle and slides it up until it hits a rusted metal bar. Pushing up with the blunt top edge of her blade, the metal bar lifts and Myles starts gently pushing on the immovable wooden door handle so she doesn't accidentally lock herself back out of the room if the rod falls down.

Entering the room, the dark-skinned warrior refuses to look at her, only tilting her head in her direction.

"I said," Indra repeats as Myles shuts and locks the door, tucking her knife away. "'Go away'."

"I know," Myles tells her, her hazel eyes taking note of the rags the woman is dressed in. "And I said I was coming in anyway."

It's a far cry from the armour the warrior typically wears as a trophy, or the respectable outfit the chieftains wear on special occasions to represent their village. The ratty shirt is sleeveless, two or three sleeveless vests layered on top of one another for warmth, only thin, dark grey fraying fingerless gloves that extend to her elbow covering her arms. A stained and discoloured white patch of cloth covers the woman's right shoulder that was wounded ten days ago, the edges tucked under the layered shirts. Her pants are a baggy and loose material, thick for warmth, but not any nicer than the rest of the woman's clothes.

Myles takes a slow step past the small table in the corner of the room beside to door towards the bed the warrior sits on, Indra's eyes never meeting the teens. Clothes rest on a table across the room, but a jacket and a poncho with a large hood rests on the small table by the door. Weapons sit on the dining table in the middle of the room with chairs around it, all neatly placed with care. Coming to a stop next to the warrior at the head of the bed, the redhead lifts an arm halfheartedly to gesture at the woman's injured right shoulder.

"I hear you've been staying in Polis," Myles implores, trying to get the prideful warrior to speak.

"You should know better than to question what the Commander tells you," Indra states, her brown eyes hard as they stare at the wall the bed is against.

A red eyebrow quirks at the despondent tone, "didn't say I didn't believe her." Squinting her hazel eyes at the woman, Myles tips her head to the side and continues. "How's the arm?"

"Wounded," the warrior answers shortly, turning her head slightly towards the Arker but keeping her eyes on the wall.

"Have you been doing the exercises?" Myles enquires after a long beat of silence.

"They're not 'exercises'," the woman all but sneers, her voice spitting out the word like it offended her.

"Fine," the red-haired teen huffs, "have you been doing the stretches?" Indra doesn't respond, and Myles waits for another short moment. "Can you show me them?"

Indra rolls her eyes, her whole head singing with the exasperated movement, but she complies. Hazel eyes watch the woman's fist clench, the muscles and tendons of her forearm flexing under her skin. Lifting the arm slightly, Indra twists her wrist and stretches out the tendons that reach up to her shoulder halfheartedly. The motions aren't fluid, and it obviously causes the woman pain, but that's to be expected in the morning. Sleeping on her shoulder during the night irritates the healing muscles, yet the rough demonstration of the simple exercises to keep the muscles from breaking down from under-use shows how well her injuries are healing.

"That's good," Myles commends, nodding slightly, her tone lighter with relief. "You can start lifting things. Start very light and work up, use pain as a cue for what's too much." Indra doesn't respond, just lets her arm relax down onto the bed beside her. "You can go home, Indra. There's no reason the healers here – "

"I have no home," the dark-skinned warrior mutters darkly, "the mountain saw to that."

"You were overseeing Reva," the red-haired teen reminds her, starting to continue before Indra cuts her off.

"They wouldn't want me there," Indra counters surely.

Red eyebrows fly up in disbelief, "they wouldn't want Trikru's best warrior protecting their village?"

"I am not even a warrior," the woman denounces, her hard, self-loathing brown eyes finally locking on the redhead's hazel. It's fleeting, however, as her gaze breaks off to stare at the wall again. "Not anymore. If I had died on that field, I would have died a warrior."

"Oh, Indy," Myles jibes, tilting her head to the side over-dramatically.

"Do not call me that," Indra rumbles, her voice threateningly low.

"You don't like Indy?" Myles probes, trying to redirect the woman's anger away from her internal battle. Fiery dark brown eyes snap to mischievous hazel, her expression stoney with silent threats. Clicking her tongue to mask the victorious smile starting to spread across her face, the redhead adds. "Ai fig raun wocha Indi tag yu in sou toli mou beda." [AN: "I think chieftain Indy suits you much better."]

"Do not…" Indra seethes, standing from the bed in one fluidly furious movement. The warrior stands in front of Myles, stepping so close to her that their noses almost touch. A red eyebrow quirks, hazel eyes shining at the woman who squares her shoulders and attempts to tower over her even though they're the same height. "… call me that name."

"Oh, good," the red-haired teen beams, "you're up." Leaning over with a step awkwardly to grasp the jacket on the table beside the door, Myles straightens back up and holds the garment up to the warrior still standing close to her. "We're going to the markets."

"Ha," the dark-skinned woman quips seriously in a lifeless, unamused, monotone voice, not making a move to grab the jacket from the teen's hands. "I may be weak, but I am not stupid."

"No," Myles drawls out condescendingly, as if speaking to a child. The redhead applies a slight amount of pressure with the hand holding the jacket up to Indra's left shoulder to gently stop her turning to get back on the bed. "You're neither of those, which is exactly why we're going to the markets."

Deadly serious and stoic features don't shift once, "I should kill you for antagonising me."

"Actually, let's go with that," the redhead agrees, lowering the arm with the jacket completely and raising her eyebrows imploringly. "That saves me from having to get Lexa a candle."

For the first time since Myles entered the room, an expression other than self-pity and self-loathing crosses the warrior's face. Humour dances around in her dark brown eyes, an almost sarcastic glint brightening her features.

"What kind of fool," Indra prompts the Arker, a faint ghost of a tiny smile gliding across her lips, "brings the Commander a candle as a gift on Ascension Day?"

"This fool," Myles supplies obviously, lifting her arms up halfway to gesture to herself. "Why? You think two candles?"

"Taim yu don nou leyos," the warrior states, stepping away to walk purposefully over to the hood on the table and picking it up. "Yu na ste daun." [AN: "If you weren't funny, you'd be dead."]

Lifting her arms in exasperation, Myles replies as Indra drapes the fabric hood over her head and shoulders.

"Hakom ste hon Heda in flika bilaik leyos?" [AN: "Why is getting the commander candles funny?"]

 

Titus stands beside the throne his Commander sits at, his body turned away from the two Arker's standing behind the lit fire-pit bowl and facing the Nightbloods lining the wall opposite to them. Village chieftains, advisors and high-ranking representatives from across the twelve clans gather on the side of the room the two Arker's are on, quietly and respectfully overseeing the ceremony. Myles and Clarke are standing up straight on the platform Titus, the Nightbloods, Lexa and her two main guards are elevated on, both teens being careful to present themselves appropriately.

It's a demonstration of being held in incredibly high regard standing where they're standing. Having the privilege to be asked to commemorate the previous Commander's is one thing, but to be offered a place in the room that is at the same level as the current Commander, her most trusted guards, her Flamekeeper and all of the potential next Commanders is almost unheard of. The eyes of the guests in the room continuously flick to the two Arker's, curious and bitter looks varying in intensity from them all.

Indra, Titus and the Nightblood children never glance at them though. Instead, the children stare in awe at the Commander obediently, watching her brown eyes wait on the throne room doors for the last of her guests to arrive. Small hands protect the flames of the candles only they hold, and hazel eyes can't help looking back at the children and dreading the day they ever are forced to 'fulfil their destiny'.

Lexa has become a large part of Myles' life, the young woman having taken on the roles of a dear friend and trusted ally. The day she dies wouldn't only be a travesty for the relationships she's formed with the Arker's, but for those poor children obediently standing attentively to her left. If Lexa dies, one of those children will have to take on the responsibility of the twelve clans. They will have to spend the rest of their life fighting and holding a weight that is too heavy to ever graze their shoulders.

To stop herself from staring at the children Lexa has spent her time as Commander carefully and lovingly training with her whole heart, hazel eyes glue onto the fire-pit bowl behind them. The bowl in front of the two Arkers is lit, kindling and cloth burning away gracefully, but the bowl on the other side of the Commander isn't. Instead, small delicate flames dance on top of the candles Myles dragged Indra out of bed at the crack of dawn this morning to buy with her.

Finally, the last two representatives from the Plain Riders clan walk through the door, their steps springing with anxious trepidation of what being late could entail for them. Lexa merely lifts her chin up higher as the guards at the doors close the two doors behind them, and Myles' eyes catch a glance at Indra before she looks back at the Commander. The hood the warrior wears to hide in the shadows is pulled up over her head, the woman's never moving gaze on Lexa patiently.

"Taim don kom op gon stot au," Lexa announces, her voice strong but kind. Her attention turns to the Nightbloods to her left, addressing them specifically and hardening her voice ever so slightly. "We gather here on this Ascension Day to honour the Commanders that came before me, those who live on within me," Lexa's eyes stop on Aden's, her most promising student, for a beat, "as I would live on within one of you." [AN: "It's time to begin."]

Men shout from outside of the throne room, arguing in Trigedasleng, and everyone's eyes turn to the door. It cuts the sentiment the Commander gives short, her expression hardening with displeasure. Hazel eyes lock on Clarke's quickly, both of their eyebrows twitching together in confused shock. Not a second later, the two doors burst open, causing the guards on either side of them to draw their weapons preemptively.

"Fleimkepa don swega klin bilaik osir na ge sen in!" A man's gruff and angry voice declares, forcing his way through the guards that were waiting outside of the throne room. [AN: "The Flamekeeper promised us we would be heard!"]

He's not alone, several other large and armed men behind him following him in closely. The aggression from other grounders on what they consider a holy day in their culture doesn't sit right in Myles' gut. Her boot takes a shocked step towards them, her hands itching for where her weapons braces would be if she were wearing them. A burning and heavy weight replaces the empty places on her skin where her weapons are usually strapped, regret pumping through her veins. Clarke's hand quickly grasps the redhead's elbow, stopping her from taking another step.

"Titus," Lexa's low and collected tone bubbles out quickly with her well-controlled fury, "what is this?"

The Flamekeeper bends down close to the Commander's ear, whispering something that neither Arker can hear. Myles tries to take another step toward the slowly approaches intruders, but Clarke tightens her grip. All but one raise their hands, coming to fall to their knees on the carpet. With the rest of the group on their knees, the one in the back who remains standing pushes forward with a grunting hostage both Arkers recognise instantly.

Cold fear spikes through Myles' heart as she pulls her arm from Clarke's shock-slackened hold, hazel eyes widening and becoming infuriated as they watch Octavia get pushed forward. The man holds her long dark brown hair to the back of her throat roughly, blood and dirt covering the youngest Blake sibling's tan skin.

"Kom yu meika of em!" Myles demands, speedily stepping down the few steps below the Commander's throne. [AN: "Get your hands off of her!"]

Before her boots even step off the last step, one of the men who had fallen to their knees stands, swinging a machete out towards Myles to halt her. He stops the weapon from swinging at her, and it's immediately clear that he's not doing it to hurt her, but scare her enough to make her stop. Realising she has a second to her advantage, the red-haired teen grips the blunt top edge of the blade and yanks it to yourself as whispers and murmurs of shock echo in the room.

Quickly readjusting her hold on the blade end, Myles shoves the handle into the man's face and flicks her wrist to twist the weapon when she lets go off the blade end. The man who held the weapon to her falls back to the floor, and she catches the machete with her hand now gripping the handle end, holding the blade to the man holding Octavia by the back of her throat.

"Em pleni!" Lexa's angry voice shouts, but Myles keeps the blade to the man's throat, her hazel eyes staring at his blue. [AN: "Enough!"]

"Wigod ai op," the long-haired man who shouted and barged in first pleas, "hashta min klin ona disha presh sintaim, Heda." The man stands, using the thick stick in his hand to help him up. "Ai laik Semet kom Trikru. Wocha kom Rendon, en ai kom op hashta raitnes." [AN: "Forgive me for intruding on this holy day, Commander. Chieftain of Rendon, and I come seeking justice."]

"Raitnes?" Myles scoffs, trying to shuffle her feet forward to reach Octavia's shoulder enough to wrench her out of the man holding her captive's hands. [AN: "Justice?"]

"Gouva yu klin," the Commander orders, her tone hard and authoritative as the man holding the back of Octavia's throat steps back with each inch Myles steps forward. "Chomouda yu don sis op Okteiva kom Skaikru gon honon?" [AN: "Explain yourself. Why do you hold Octavia of the sky people prisoner?"]

"Em laik honon kom wor, Heda," Semet informs them, his voice raising on 'wor' to emphasise the weight of the situation. Hazel eyes flick to the man at his words, only to find them already on the bloodied, bruised and burnt teen. Shocked echoes of the word chorus from the chieftains in the room. "Don ge lid hir na sin in kripon-de kom omon kru." [AN: "She is a prisoner of war, commander. Brought here to bear witness to the crimes of her people."]

"Kripon?" Myles asks, a lump of dread forming in her throat. "Chit kripon?" [AN: "Crimes? What crimes?"]

"What happened?" Clarke's voice finally travels down the steps as she moves to stand beside Myles.

"Skaikru attacked their village," Titus elaborates, and Myles' eyes blink quickly, her fingers twitching on the handle of the machete she still holds at the man holding Octavia. "Because their warriors were lost when your people massacred the army we had sent to protect you, their village was defenceless."

"Beja, Heda," Semet pleads earnestly, and hazel eyes flick to Clarke when she sees her blonde hair fly through the air from the corner of her eyes. "Ai beja yu daun. Goch osir klin." [AN: "Please, commander. I beg you. Avenge us."]

It's silent for a moment, and Myles can feel what's about to happen before it does. The man holding Octavia by the back of her head has never let his eyes stray from the redhead, and he opens his mouth with a dark smirk.

"Jus drein jus daun," he exclaims, setting off a chant of the phrase throughout the room. [AN: "Blood must have blood."]

Tilting her head to the side in frustrated exasperation, hard hazel eyes stay locked on his as she pulls her weapon back to herself and flicks her wrist. Catching the blade end, Myles swings the weapon to smash the handle against the side of the man's head and she yanks Octavia away from the group when his grip loosens and he stumbles back. The machete clatters on the ground as her hands quickly drop it to pull the gag from Octavia's mouth before reaching down to undo her hands.

"Thanks," Octavia mutters morosely, her spiteful tone betraying her grateful words.

Myles doesn't reply, her eyes locked on Clarke's wide and worried blue as the chant continues.

"Wamplei gon Skaikru!" Someone shouts in the room, and Myles' head whips around to search it out, her hands stuttering in their motions to untie Octavia's hands. [AN: "Death to the sky people!"]

"Yu na spek daun ona disha wogeda!" Titus rumbles out loudly, and Myles turns back around as the restraints on Octavia's hands fall loose to lock her eyes on Lexa. [AN: "You will respect in this chamber!"]

Lexa's brown eyes are simmering in anger, soft features ever collected. Her eyes aren't on any of the people in the room, but the floor in front of her. As if feeling Myles' eyes on her, infuriated brown eyes flick up to meet her hazel.

 

Lexa's quick strides speed ahead of the Clarke, Myles, Titus and her guard's, not slowing until after she shoves open her bedroom doors. Her fast pace dies down almost halfway into the room, her feet reaching there before anyone behind her reaches the threshold of her room.

"How dare you bring this to me on Ascension Day!" Lexa roars, still walking forward with restless energy.

"I did not bring this here, Heda," Titus corrects her, causing Myles to snort obnoxiously as the guards shut the doors after they pass through them, leaving them in peace. "You did."

"Jok yu," Myles exclaims, stopping suddenly and scrunching up her face in disgust at the tall, bald man's back. [AN: "Fuck you."]

The Commander also stops, spinning around quickly to stare at her Flamekeeper in shocked rage. Her eyes flick to Myles' for a second before tilting her chin up. Myles wonders for a moment if this is because Clarke is here, and the Commander is smitten with her. Getting spoken to this way in front of the person she's fallen for is an extra hard slap in the face, especially coming from a man who's supposed to be a confidant to the leader of the twelve clans.

"Against my advice," Titus continues, his tone hard and loud with the words he angrily spits out wetly, and Myles steps forward to stand beside Clarke between him and Lexa. Crossing her arms and raising a red eyebrow at the bald man. "You made Skaikru the thirteenth clan. They rejected this, murdering hundreds of your people." It's still a sore subject, the pang of friendly faces Jasper and Myles will never see on a supply drop off ever again emphasised by the words 'your people'. "And yet, on the very field where they died, you decided to forgive the killers. But this provocation is proof. Blood must not have blood has failed. All that can stop this now is war."

It's silent for a moment after Titus finishes ranting, the man breathing harshly. Clarke and Myles are still staring at him, the latter shaking her head with a bitter look twisting up her delicate features. Finally, Lexa looks up from the ground, her sights set on the two Arker's.

"Clarke?" Lexa prods gently, her tone deathly serious but soft. "Myles?"

Titus scoffs, arguing instantly, "their opinion in this matter is not exactly unbiased."

"He's right," Myles replies quickly, a sarcastic smile touching her sour expression. Looking at Lexa with a serious and honest face, the red-haired teen continues when the young woman's brown eyes show no signs of stopping her. "You know we'd do anything to protect our people, but that's not just the people outside of Arkadia walls." Lexa lifts her chin up, her eyes locked on the redhead, and Myles' face twitches as she bites the inside of her cheek to control her emotions. "The people who died on that field weren't just yours, they were ours. Rendon, too."

"Lexa," Clarke appeals, stepping closer to the Commander with her voice soft and pleading. "We know them. Not everyone agrees with Chancellor Pike. Kane doesn't. Octavia doesn't."

"Your people did not vote for Kane," Titus cuts her off spitefully, his tone emphasising 'your'.

"Some of them did!" Clarke counters, matching his aggression as she turns to him.

"We have a plan," Myles reminds the Commander, her hazel eyes remaining steady on the young woman's. "If we need more time, set up the buffer zone."

"And you believe your people will take him out themselves," Lexa seeks confirmation, her strong gaze not wavering as her voice becomes quiet.

Brown eyes flick to Clarke when Myles shows no signs of backing down, and the blonde nods confidently. Lexa's eyes stay stuck on Clarke's, the silence itching away at Titus.

"If they don't," the bald man insists, his voice shaky with rage. "If instead they use this time to plan their next attack. We must act now, Heda!" The Commander's eyes leave Clarke's, looking off to nowhere behind the blonde as Titus continues, stepping up towards the young woman. "Make an example of the thirteenth clan. Show the other twelve what happened when they defy you. You got them back when you killed the Ice Queen, but the Coalition is still fragile. If you don't act now – "

Lexa simply raises a hand in the air, and Titus falls silent. The young woman doesn't meet their eyes, and Clarke and Myles look at each other as anxiety crackles through their veins.

 

The endless chattering and murmurs in the room don't cease immediately when Lexa raises her hand like she did with Titus, but they quiet down gradually until they're silent. Lexa keeps her hand held up until the room is completely silent, hard brown eyes looking over the room in aggravated frustration. Myles leans all of her weight on one leg, letting the other twitch and bounce with anxiety. Octavia's dark and fiery deep brown eyes flick up from the ground she shares with everyone else in the room to the Arker's standing beside Lexa before her gaze settles on the Commander.

A burn mark on her forehead is infected, melted skin slimy and yellow with puss. The sheen of it glistens in the sunlight from the window behind the throne when she turns her gaze up to the Commander directly in front of her.

"Today," the Commander's strong voice announces evenly, her eyes finding Clarke's, "I call upon the armies of the twelve clans to march on Arkadia." Octavia bristles at the words, her infuriated deep brown eyes looking at her two friends in utter disbelief. Murmurs in Trigedasleng fill the room, and Lexa allows them to chatter for a moment before continuing. "Not to attack, but to contain."

Titus looks shocked, swinging his head to stare at the Commander as if he didn't believe she'd actually do it. Octavia's expression softens as the room falls silent, and hazel eyes finally meet her deep brown. The Blake sibling lifts her head up, a glaze of respect for them sweetening her eyes.

"We will blockade the thirteenth clan," the Commander reiterates, not flinching from her spot before her throne as chieftains step forward to her in anger. Seeing people surge forward, staring up at Lexa in betrayed shock makes the red-haired teen tear her eyes away, looking at her and Clarke's boots while the blonde keeps her fretful eyes on the exasperated crowd. "We will keep them from the lands they wish to possess. We will give them time to take out their leaders from within."

Something makes Clarke stiffen, and Myles glances up at her to follow her blue gaze to Octavia. The Blake sibling's face relays that she can't seem to decide if she still wants to respect the two of them. It's a condescending look, one that brings the conversation Myles had with her in Corco over a week ago back to mind. She thinks they're abandoning Arkadia, and everyone inside of it. Thinks they're pawning off the work, the responsibility, the fight to themselves instead of helping them.

"Once they rise up against them," Lexa finishes, and Myles looks to her to avoid the Blake sibling's accusing eyes. "Then we will welcome them back as one of us."

Disgruntled words are tossed around the crowd once again, but Myles keeps her eyes on the Commander's. While the Arker's don't believe the grounders religious beliefs, Myles understands that to them, she's powerful. Wanheda holds a power to them, and her standing in solidarity speaks volumes. One glance from Lexa has a silently fuming Titus addressing the room in an emotionless voice.

"You heard the Commander," the Flamekeeper states dully, "send riders. Tell your armies to set up a buffer zone around Arkadia. Five miles should be enough to keep them away from our villages. What are their orders, Heda?"

Lexa turns her head, and Clarke turns to meet her gaze. Brown eyes don't look into hazel, her eyes only locking on blue. The Commander knows Myles understands why she has to do what she's about to, and she knows Clarke won't like it. Slowly, Lexa turns her eyes back to the eagerly waiting crowd.

"Any Skaikru caught across the line will be subject to a kill order," the Commander provides in one steady breath.

Clarke goes rigid, one of her legs taking a shocked step forward. Myles doesn't blink, doesn't flinch, not even as Octavia whips her gaze back to them with a look of searing betrayal. Finally, when Clarke doesn't find whatever her silently pleading blue eyes were searching for from the Commander, her shoulders slump. A pale hand grips the redhead's upper arm for support, and Myles instantly lifts her other arm to wrap her fingers around the unsteady blonde's hand in comfort.

"Heda," Semet's grovelling voice implores, stepping towards the throne's stairs with stuttering and limping steps. "I do not understand. How is this vengeance?"

"It is not vengeance, my brother," Lexa discloses softly. "It is justice."

"Skaikru killed my sons," Semet raises his voice, the empty pit of having nothing left to lose in the man's eyes makes Myles take a step forward, only to stop from the shaky hand still on her arm. "And my brother and my wife! If the spirit of the Commander will not protect us, then what will?!"

"You mind yourself, Semet," Titus warns calmly, the man's erratic behaviour unsettling him as well.

Huffing, Semet turns to the crowd behind him, screaming out his next words.

"Wamplei gon Heda!" Semet roars, yanking a dagger from a pocket on his pants, spinning around charging up the few stairs separating him and Lexa. [AN: "Death to the Commander!"]

Myles wrenches her arm away from Clarke, striding forward in a flurry of panic, but Titus beats her to the assailant. Lexa takes a few steps back as Titus intercepts the attack by grabbing Semet's dagger wielding hand and shoving it back with a twist. Taking the blade from the grief-stricken man, Titus slashes him across his chest with brutal force. In a desperate attempt to defend himself from another vicious and deep swipe of his own dagger, Semet lifts a hand and tries to push the bald man away. Titus grips Semet's shoulder, stabbing the dagger upwards and into the man's chest and avoiding his defensive hands.

Everything goes still, and Myles' footsteps stop, her boots planting into the ground in shock. It only then she registers the loud mutterings coming from the shocked people in the room with them, but hazel eyes can only stare at Semet as Titus shoves him back from his shoulder. The rapidly dying man falls backwards to the floor, the people from his village who stormed the room with him falling to their knees beside his body, weeping over his last spluttering breaths.

The Flamekeeper calmly turns, stepping back up a step to be on the same level as Myles and Lexa.

"Blood must have blood," Titus whispers to Lexa, and Myles tears her eyes away from the dead man on the ground in front of them to stare in horror at the Flamekeeper.

 

Guards march in front of them, their stoic and emotionless movements no match from the icy chill of the anger the Blake sister expels from her pores. She's furious, her silence on the short journey screaming louder than words ever could and Myles takes a breath to prepare herself. Turning the bend, a sickly feeling of dread and relief floods her senses at the sight of the Skaikru ambassador's room under the throne room. The two guards escorting them there push open the doors, their eyes glancing around the room quickly as Myles and Octavia walk inside behind them.

Content there's no danger in the room waiting for them, the guards walk out after Octavia's fuming strides enter. Myles doesn't stop walking until she's standing in front of the bed, but Octavia does. She stops just inside the room, and the redhead can feel the judgement radiating off of her.

"No wonder you two wanted to stay," Octavia grumbles once the guards shut the doors, leaving them to have some privacy.

"Surrounded by problems that need fixing," Myles mutters, "just where I want to be." Octavia huffs out a scoff, and Myles looks up from the hand she was running over the furry blanket on her bed to look at Octavia's back. "You sure you're okay?"

"Yeah," the dark brown-haired teen replies unconvincingly, looking around the room with condescending eyes.

Rolling her eyes, Myles asks, "why didn't you radio?"

"I had it under control," Octavia answers hotly, her deep brown eyes snapping to the redhead's with simmering rage. A red eyebrow lifts, breaking off from their locked stare to scan the injuries that she can see. Frustrated, the Blake sister sits down on the table to the left of the bed, and Myles copies her by sitting on the bed. "Look, I'm fine. I saw Indra in the crowd. Why wasn't she with Lexa?"

"Uh, Indra's having trouble…" Myles drawls out haltingly, trying to respectfully describe the blow to her pride that the warrior hasn't been able to recover from. "Healing," she eventually decides on, deep brown eyes flicker with confusion and the redhead hastily adds. "That's - that's not something we can fix right now, O."

"Okay," Octavia accepts, standing from sitting on the table to walk up to Myles with a lost expression. "So what do we do?"

Once again, someone is looking to Myles like she, and she alone, holds all the answers, like she is the only one who should hold the weight of it all. Something that the last three months has given her is the opportunity to not have to hold it all alone. It's shown her that she can confide in others, get other ideas and share the burden.

But Jasper isn't here. Marcus isn't here. Finn isn't here. Clarke and Lexa are in the Commander's room.

"I'll go talk to Lexa and Clarke," the redhead reasons, standing up from the edge of the bed.

"You just did that," Octavia snaps angrily, "and you came out with a kill order on all of us. That's the second time that she left us all to die."

"How else are we gonna enforce it?" Myles points out calmly, shrugging one shoulder lazily. "The clans want a war, O. Lexa is trying to keep them from wiping us all out."

Octavia stares into Myles' hazel eyes for a moment before scoffing a short, humourless laugh.

"I wouldn't be surprised if Clarke was still defending her," the dark brown-haired teen divulges, turning away. "But you're the Ghost. You don't need to rely on her to help us."

"I – " the red-haired teen starts, cutting herself off abruptly to stop herself from snapping in frustration. Taking a breath to collect her thoughts, Myles looks back up to Octavia's waiting gaze. "I'm gonna go talk to her, see what I can do." Quickly striding past the Blake sibling to head for the door, the redhead tosses over her shoulder at the pissed off teen. "Just – just wait here, okay?"

Myles barely rounds the bend to reach the staircase before she hears the Skaikru ambassador's room door open again. Sighing to herself, Myles doesn't look back, knowing there's only one other person in the capital that Octavia would trust for guidance.

Taking the stairs two at a time, the redhead finds herself back on the highest floor once again, and her movements don't falter or slow as she strides down the hallway. A familiar guard is standing outside the Commander's bedroom, and when the other prepares to tell Myles to go away, he pushes open the door for her. Smiling and muttering a quick thanks to the guard who recognised her and knows to let her in, Myles walks into the large and luxurious bedroom.

Clarke looks up from the parchment paper she sketches with charcoal on from her spot lying across the large bed. Lexa doesn't move an inch, though, not even as Clarke sits up on the bed. Instead, the young woman remains sitting up straight with her legs crossed on the rug on the ground at the foot of the bed. The curve of the end of her bed frame means her lower back isn't against anything, but her shoulders barely brush against the wood as she keeps her spine straight and shoulders back.

The Commander's eyes are closed, her breaths slow and calm, her entire demeanour a stark contrast to Clarke's restless fidgeting. Myles' steps don't slow, walking directly towards the Commander.

"How's Octavia?" Clarke enquires, her voice strangely strained from the conflicting position she finds herself in.

"Fine," Myles utters, unconvincingly, only coming to a stop beside Lexa to sit down with her legs crossed beside the young woman.

"She's angry about the kill order," the Commander states, already knowing the dispute that just happened.

"Yep," the red-haired teen chirps, closing her eyes and mimicking the young woman to her lefts posture.

"So am I," Clarke declares, crawling over the bed on her knees to look down at them from the foot of the bed.

Whatever Myles is supposed to be feeling, she isn't. She isn't magically as calm and collected as Lexa is, and it makes her open her eyes and look at the young woman. Lexa answers Clarke, not opening her eyes, and Myles closes hers again when she's sure she's doing exactly what the Commander is.

"How else would you have me enforce a blockade?" Lexa inquires, getting only a sigh from Clarke in response.

"That's what I said to O," Myles informs them, and Clarke moves on the bed above them. "Is this actually supposed to be doing something, or is it all just bullshit?"

"You need to open your mind to it," the Commander tells her calmly, and the redhead snorts obnoxiously.

"That sounds like something people say," the red-haired teen counters, "when they want you to believe bullshit."

Lexa breathes a light chuckle out through her nose, and Myles feels Clarke peer her head over the bed frame again.

"Yeah," the blonde agrees, "someone tried to kill you today. How are you this calm?"

"Practice," Lexa supplies, her breathing never straying from its calm and steady pattern.

Myles lasts ten more seconds before huffing out dramatically and slouching forward.

"This isn't working," Myles declares, resting her elbows on her knees and resting her cheek in one of her palms. A hint of a smile dances across Lexa's face, and the redhead taps the tips of one of her boots on the ground anxiously. "So, when are we leaving?"

The Commander opens her eyes, her straight posture and calm breathing never faltering as she locks her eyes on the redhead beside her.

"We're not," Clarke tells her, and Myles twists her head to look up at her blonde-haired friend at the end of the bed.

"We're not?" Myles repeats, red eyebrows drawing together in confusion as her hazel eyes switch back to Lexa. "How are we gonna enforce the blockade from here?"

"Riders will make sure Arkadia gets the terms and conditions of the buffer zone," the blonde explains, and hazel eyes flick off to stare at the wall in thought.

"There are things that need correcting for the clans," Lexa informs the redhead, and hazel eyes lock on hers again. "We may be drawing a line, but who's to say you can't choose to stay on this side of it?"

As if answering the Commander's question, one of the guards outside of the door speaks very loudly, his voice echoing into Lexa's bedroom.

"Ai don tel yu op," the guard argues, and Myles rolls her eyes dramatically at the voice trying to talk over him. "Bilaik em nou na ge get daun." [AN: "I told you, she was not to be disturbed."]

"Well," the redhead sighs, sitting up straight, "I know someone who might."

Another small smile graces the Commander's face and Clarke rolls her eyes, raising a blonde eyebrow at Myles with an amused expression taking over her features. Lexa faces forward again, closing her eyes but Myles watches the doors as they open and Titus stalks in. His footsteps falter at the sight of the two Arkers, a pinched look cloaking his serious expression. Titus comes to a stop a metre away from the rug Lexa meditates on.

"Wanheda," Titus addresses, and a red eyebrow twitches in acknowledgment. "Blockade goes into effect at dawn. I've made arrangements for you to take one of our fastest horses."

"Thank you," the redhead tells him, neglecting to mention that should she leave, Rover 5 is stashed an hour walk from the capitals edge.

"Actually," the Commander corrects, opening her eyes and looking at her Flamekeeper. "I've asked Myles to stay in Polis with Clarke and I as my guest."

A disdainful look crosses his face at the mention of them both staying in Polis, and Myles guesses that decision was also against his advisement.

"Clarke, Myles," the bald man implores dully, "will you excuse us?"

The red-haired teen nods awkwardly, standing up from the floor and walking over to the door. Clarke takes a moment before following her out, and when Myles spares a glance over her shoulder, she can only guess it's because Lexa looks pissed. Waiting at the door for the long blonde-haired teen, Lexa and Titus only stare at each other heatedly, the tension in the room building quickly.

"You go," Clarke says after the doors shut and Myles turns, prompting the red-haired teen to look back at her in confusion. "I'll just wait here."

Nodding slowly, "yeah, okay."

Sighing heavily, Myles goes down the stairs slowly, buying herself time before she has to face Octavia and tell her it's better that she stays in Polis. When she gets to her room, however, her anxiety turns out to be in vain. Octavia isn't back yet.

 

Myles knows she can't do it. She also knows staying is for the best. One twisted part of her argues with another, both screeching that they know what the right thing to do is. Lexa is wise beyond her years, something their religion supposedly has an answer to, although the redhead just believes it's experience, and not the spirits of those before her. If she says Myles can do more here, help more here than that must be what's right.

Right?

Every part of what made her the Ghost begs her to go to Arkadia. To take that rider and get one of their rovers and stop anyone else from needlessly dying. What if Pike orders the guard to fire all their automatic machine guns at the blockade? What if she can save more innocent grounders who are only trying to help them from digging themselves into a deeper pit by just going? What if the right thing to do is listen to what made her the Ghost?

But… if she listened to that part, to what made her the Ghost, she'd be listening to Wanheda. She'd be listening to the part of her that made her pull the lever to irradiate Mount Weather. How can something that compelled her to do that, be right?

Her internal quarrelling is brought to an end when the door to her bedroom opens. It's been a few hours since Myles last saw Octavia and turning from absently staring over Polis to see the Blake sister entering her room isn't surprising. What is, though, is the victorious look on her face that fades the second she catches sight of the redhead's conflicted hazel eyes. Shutting the door with a huff, Octavia walks up to the red-haired Arker with slow steps, silently pleading for an answer Myles isn't sure she can give.

"She told you," Octavia guesses, her tone bitter, "you could stay, didn't she? Is Clarke staying, too?" Myles doesn't answer, only diverting her gaze to the floor before swinging it back to the large window overlooking Polis. Octavia finally reaches her, her steps slowing to a stop. "What did you say?"

"I didn't say anything," Myles tells her, raising her red eyebrows in a worried frown to convey her honesty.

"Myles," the Blake sister protests, looking at the redhead like she's a stranger. "We both know that Pike won't obey the blockade. We need to stop him before more of our people get killed, and only you can do that."

Her last few words make the red-haired teen look away, hating the weight that follows her because one day she helped people as a distraction. Shaking her head self-pityingly, Myles turns back to Octavia.

"I can do more for them by being here," she tells the Blake sibling, already expecting the backlash that'll come.

"You can't, Myles," Octavia exclaims, leaning forward condescendingly.

"It's what I've been doing for three months," Myles reminds her, not breaking eye contact.

"And look where we are now," the dark brown-haired teen snarks, her eyebrows twisting in concern. "We don't have time for this." Shaking her head, Myles looks away again and Octavia grips her hand softly. It's so unlike the way Octavia's been treating her since the missile in Tondc that it catches Myles off-guard, and her hazel eyes go down to their hands before meeting the teen's eyes. "Look, we need you. We need the Ghost."

The redhead blinks quickly, trying to stop the onslaught of negative emotions that wash over her with painful reminders of what happens whenever she's in charge. The silence makes the pleading look in Octavia's eyes go cold, her tone becoming hard.

"The blockade goes into effect at dawn," Octavia states, the atmosphere turning thick and sour again. "You have an hour to say your goodbyes to Clarke and whoever else." Hazel eyes flick down, and the Blake sister drops her hand to turn around and stalk back to the door. She stops halfway there, but Myles is too busy turning the words over in her head and fighting with herself and her demons to realise until Octavia speaks. "If you're not there," Myles looks up, looking at Octavia's back. The Blake sibling turns around, meeting the redhead's eyes. "You're not the person I thought you were."

With those last parting words, Octavia walks out the door, shutting it behind herself. Taking a shaky breath in, Myles brings the long grey sleeve that sits over the back of her wrist up to her nose. Breathing erratically, the redhead desperately tries to stop the feelings of hopelessness and worthlessness that threaten to cripple her under the weight of the world on her shoulders.

 

Rounding the corner, Myles' steps falter when she sees there're no guards outside of the Commander's bedroom. Flicking her head to shift her shoulder length red hair, Myles licks her lips and takes another steadying breath before finishing the walk up to Lexa's room. Coming to a stop, Myles raises her hand to knock when the sound of distant laughter and chatter float up the staircase. Turning to crane her head and check if it's the Commander, or her guards, the redhead huffs a defeated breath when it's not.

Deciding just to knock on the bedroom door, and if Clarke or Lexa aren't in there, to just leave with only telling the guards, Myles knocks firmly on the door.

"Are you in there," the red-haired teen calls over-dramatically, not expecting a reply, "oh, almighty Heda kom pauna?" [AN: "Commander of Gorillas."]

"Yes, Myles," Lexa confirms, her voice airy in a way that the redhead has never heard before.

Taking this as approval to come in, Myles pushes open one door and strides inside. It's not even a second after her hand leaves the door and her eyes sweep the room for the Commander that Myles' steps halt. The clothes Clarke and Lexa were wearing today are bunched up haphazardly on the floor around the large bed both girls lie in. Clarke carefully holds the blankets up to her bare shoulders, a faint blush tinting her cheeks as Lexa props herself up on her elbows with the blankets completely covering all but her bare arms and shoulders.

"I didn't mean to intrude," Myles amends, taking half a step back awkwardly.

"It's alright," Lexa forgives, an easy smile on her face that brightens blindingly when Clarke giggles and looks to her, their eyes meeting. Putting on the most professional front she can muster, the Commander turns her eyes back to the redhead. "When are you leaving?"

"Leaving?" Clarke echoes, her bright and relaxed expression falling slack with worried confusion. "What?"

"Now," the red-haired teen answers, turning slightly to lift a hand in the general direction of the Skaikru ambassador's room. "I just need to grab all my weapons."

"No, Aggie," the blonde argues, trying to sit up while keeping the blanket covering herself. A pang of remorse settles in the redhead's heart, knowing how carefree and happy the two were a moment ago. "The guard will recognise you and you will be the first thing they take aim at. Just think about it for a minute."

"I have," Myles informs her, shifting her eyes between them. "I appreciate the offer, but I can't. I'm sorry."

"Don't be," Lexa brushes off, her gaze kind and respecting.

"Why are you letting her do this?" Clarke's worried voice demands of the young woman in bed with her. "This is ridiculous."

"She has to go back to your people," the Commander answers, her eyes only leaving the redhead's for a moment to look adoringly at Clarke. Lexa addresses Myles directly when she speaks next. "That's why I always listened to you. It's why you're you."

Tilting her head to the side and quirking a red eyebrow sarcastically, "it's why I'm tired."

"Aggie," the blonde-haired teen pleads for her to listen as Lexa huffs through a smile. "They'll kill you."

"They'll have to catch me for that," Myles waves off the concern, trying to lighten the tense worry that thickens the air.

"May we meet again," Lexa announces, and the second she says it, Clarke starts frantically trying to pick up her clothes over the edge of the bed while keeping herself covered.

"May we meet again," Myles echoes, taking it as a dismissal and turning around.

"No, Aggie," Clarke calls out to her, but Myles doesn't turn around, only opening the bedroom door and walking through it. "Just wait."

"Let her go," the Commander lovingly instructs her girlfriend, and the redhead can hear the reply even after she turns away from the shut door.

"Let her go?" Clarke exclaims, causing Myles to breathe in deeply and release the breath slowly as she walks down the hallway to the staircase. "She's going to get herself killed!"

Hastening her pace to get to her room and leave before Clarke can talk Lexa into stopping her, Myles rounds the bend and heads straight for the staircase. Stepping down the stairs quickly, her shoulder length red hair bounces against the exposed skin of her shoulders where her grey long-sleeved shirt's neck is over-stretched. Getting off on the floor underneath the Commander's, Myles strides over to the door to her room.

The events of the last few weeks replay through her mind in a long strain of flashing thoughts. If push comes to absolute shove, she'll execute Pike, and Arkadia can handle the rest internally. What's a little more blood, right? After all, she's Wanheda: the one who commands death.

Pushing open her door, the red-haired teen is so wrapped up in her thoughts that it isn't until she's more than a metre inside the bedroom with the door shut behind herself that she sees him. Jonathan Murphy, unconscious, beaten, bloody, gagged, and chained to one of the chairs around the dining table in the room. The second her eyes catch sight of him, her stomach bottoms out, dread and fear propelling her worried boots forward hastily.

Crashing to her knees in front of him, her shaky and urgent hands yank at his chains for a short second before she realises its hopeless. Lifting her pale hands to feel for his pulse, her hazel eyes can see him breathing as they take in his injuries.

"Johnny," Myles' fast and panicked voice calls breathily, cupping his feverish face with her hands. "Johnny."

"He's alive," Titus states, stepping forward from the place along the wall he was blending in with.

"What did you do to my friend?" Myles sneers, her enraged hazel eyes staring at the bald man slowly walking towards them.

"Your friend," the Flamekeeper emphasises, and Murphy groans, scrunching his face up as the redhead's slender fingers stroke the clammy, battered skin of his face and neck to comfort him. Ducking her head down to try to see his eyes when the teen twists his body to avoid the sunlight in the room, the redhead doesn't move her hands from cupping the teen's face. "Was caught stealing from people on their way to the Polis market."

"Hey, hey," the red-haired teens soothes, Murphy's eyes finally opening to look at Myles as he becomes more aware. "You're okay."

Dark blue eyes lock on the redhead, and he instantly starts tugging on his restraints. After using her gentle hold on his face to steady his drooping head for a moment, Myles reaches around for the knot in the cloth gag at the back on Murphy's head.

"Please don't do that," Titus warns, brandishing a pistol and hearing his voice sets Murphy off.

Murphy wrenches hard at his restraints, groaning and shouting muffled words Myles can't make out through the gag in his mouth. His loud and forceful struggling makes the redhead worried for his safety, and her hands settle on Murphy's shoulders so they don't accidentally smack into his head when he thrashes around.

"It's okay," Myles shushes the teen, but all she gets in response is crazed, dizzy head shaking and muffled, gibberish pleas. Writing it off as being harmed by this man and being fearful of his motives, the redhead turns her attention away from the fighting teen to raise her hands in a show of surrender. Slowly rising to her feet, hard hazel eyes try to gauge the situation. "Titus, what's this about?"

"I'm sorry it had to come to this, Myles," the Flamekeeper offers darkly, his words and menacing approach making Murphy screech through the gag. "Truly, I am."

"Titus, put the gun down," Myles pleas, slowly stepping away from Murphy to figure out who's the intended victim of his gun. "Octavia and I are leaving right now, just let me take my friend, and we'll go. I'll repay whatever he stole."

"Wish I could," Titus laments, lifting his arm high to point the gun at Myles. "Lexa will never execute her duty while you live."

"Think, Titus," the redhead says seriously, stepping away from Murphy with larger steps so he can't accidentally get shot if this untrained man misses. The panic from before is mostly gone, knowing he wants to shoot her and not Murphy. It lingers, however, as she isn't sure yet what he will do to Murphy after she's dead. "They'll know it was you."

"They'll think it was him," the bald man insists, breathing harshly and flicking his eyes to the teen violently fighting his noisy chains. "Skaikru weapon in the hands of a Skaikru thief. Clarke will be devastated, and Lexa might even be angry enough to declare war!"

Titus pulls the trigger, and Myles ducks down, crouch walking quickly to get farther away from the man as he shoots again. Both shots miss, and the redhead grabs a chair, swinging it at him as she dives toward the table with her weapons on the other side of the door. The door opens as Myles is about to pass it and Titus shoots twice more from the floor he fell on when ducking the thrown chair, making Myles stops in her tracks.

It's as if the world moves in slow motion, everything feeling miles away and muffled, distorted with shock.

"Titus?!" Lexa roars, turning around and shouting down the hallway. "Guards!"

"Murphy," Clarke breathes, surging towards the screaming teen fighting roughly against his bloodied restraints.

Thundering steps march distantly down the hall, and hazel eyes turn haltingly to Murphy. The shaggy brown-haired teen doesn't stop yanking or shouting, his movements not allowing Clarke to get a look at him and dark blue eyes stuck on Myles. He's not staring at her eyes, but her stomach. Myles doesn't look down until Clarke looks over at her and pales.

Seeing Clarke stare at her stomach shatters the illusion. Before her hazel eyes have time to look down herself, the searing burn and heavy pull of thick blood weighing down her shirt floods to her senses. Deep red blood pools rapidly, soaking through her shirt as Titus' pleas for forgiveness fall on deaf ears.

"Aggie," Clarke breathes over the ringing in the redhead's ears, abandoning Murphy's side as the numb sense of nothing is replaced with the overwhelming feeling of everything and it knocks Myles' knees out.

She doesn't feel herself go crashing to the floor, but the never-ending feeling of falling starts only when one of the Commander's guards catches her. Clarke and Lexa are crowding over her swimming vision before she registers herself blinking, the buzz of movement in the room suddenly sounding deathly silent. Hands press down hard on her stomach, making every piercing, sharp gasping breath even more excruciating.

"Help me get her to the bed," Clarke demands Lexa and a guard, stopping him from following the others escorting Titus out.

"Fight, Myles!" Lexa orders as strong hands lift her, carrying her to the bed quickly.

"I need something to stop the bleeding," Clarke instructs over the red-haired teens wet and rapid gasps. The Commander leaves her side, rushing to get her girlfriend what she needs. "You'll be okay. Just lie still, okay?"

"Unchain him!" Lexa commands the guard, a second before reappearing beside Clarke.

"Lie still," the blonde pleads, taking the clothes Lexa hands her and pressing them into the wound. The strained squawk that bursts from Myles' throat at the hideous sensation of rough material being forced against her wound is overtaken by desperate, thick gasps. "Stay with us, you're gonna be okay." Chains clang loudly several times as they clatter on the ground, the sound echoing louder than Myles' wet, struggling breaths. "You're okay, you're okay."

"You are strong," Lexa tells Myles earnestly as the weight dips on the bed, a bloodied and beaten Murphy appearing from the redhead's other side. "Be strong and fight."

"What do I do?" Murphy's choked up and shaky voice implores the blonde rapidly, "what do I do?"

"She's losing too much blood," Clarke wobbles out in a panic, frenzied blue eyes sweeping around the room. Her gaze stills on something, "over there. Pass me that medkit."

"Johnny," Myles gasps out weakly, the sound wet with the metallic taste coating the back of her throat and her tongue thickly. Murphy's hands stay away from her stomach where Clarke works to try to stop the bleeding, one of his hands coming up to rest beside her head to hold himself up as the other holds her arm tightly, like it's a lifeline. "I'm sorry... I'm sorry."

"No, I am," Murphy refuses, his voice wavering. "I tried to warn you but I couldn't."

"Not – not that," the redhead struggles out, and Lexa sprints back with the medkit, holding it open for Clarke to tell her what she needs. "I'm s – sorry for ta – tak – ing Bellam – y's side – wi – with Char – lo – "

"You already apologised," the brown-haired teen reminds her quickly, "I forgive you. Don't do this."

"You're gonna be fine," Clarke promises shakily, her voice cracking loudly. "Okay? Just stay still."

"I'm sa – ying," Myles continues, her gasps becoming larger and drowning her in a sea of pain, "it b – because – I ne – ed you – to do – some – thing for – me."

"What?" Murphy agrees instantly, fidgeting as if he'd been waiting his whole life to repay this favour. "What is it?"

"I ne – ed you – to le – leave," the red-haired teen gasps out, her agony making spots appear in her dizzy, swirling vision.

"No," the teen shakes his head rapidly, the motion slurring in foggy hazel eyes, "no, I'm staying. Who else is gonna bug you enough to stick around?"

"You – u've seen," Myles reasons, "too ma – ny pe – ople – die. I'm – n – not goin' – to b – e on th – that list."

"Because you're not going to die," Clarke begs tearfully, swapping the blood-soaked material on the teen's stomach with another shirt, the material squelching. "Just hang on. Stay with us."

"Don't you dare give up," Murphy warns her halfheartedly, and hazel eyes fight to stay open as a heavy weight tries to drag them down. "You don't get to give up. Stay awake."

"You will not die," Lexa promises her sternly, "do not be afraid. None of my people will ever harm you again. I swear it."

Hazel eyes droop shut, her chest stuttering softer and softer as the gasps of breaths become harsher and farther apart with lack of air. Murphy jolts Myles' arm and taps her sweaty and pale face frantically at the realisation.

"Hey," Murphy calls, glazed over and unfocused hazel eyes swinging to him dizzily, "stay awake. Don't close your eyes."

"Go," Myles begs weakly through a crack in her voice, her tired mind foggy.

"No," Murphy refuses stubbornly, his tone wet and shaky. "No, I'm not gonna do that." Hazel eyes slip closed, her breathing deflating before the lack of air and Murphy's panicked fingers drag her delirious mind back to muffled awareness. "Don't do that. Look at me. You didn't leave me." He doesn't need to explicitly say it was the day his dad was floated, Myles just knows it, and he knows that she does. "I said and did a lot of things and you never left me alone. I'm staying."

Myles goes to respond, but her tongue feels too heavy to move, only an incoherent string of gibberish from choking on the thick blood in her throat escaping her rosy lips as her eyes roll back into the deep, black abyss of unconsciousness.

AN: Hey, all! I know this is very canon-divergent, but please rest assured that I have plans to rectify it. Please bear with me! Much love

Chapter Text

Day 158 – Feb. 17

A constant throbbing pain forces Myles' foggy mind back to consciousness, her throat thick with metallic tasting blood. Coughing wetly, half dried, clumpy blood bubbles from her mouth as blinding pain makes her gasp. Pitiful groans escape the struggling red-haired teen from the pain the movements only escalate, the gasp inadvertently causing some of the thick blood to get sucked down her scratchy throat. Her weak and heavy feeling body is helpless to stop herself from choking, the forceful coughs clenching her wounded abdomen torturously and keeping her burning lungs begging for air.

Myles' torment is brought to an end after an agonising moment by two hands roughly and quickly rolling her onto her side. As her body rolls to the right, the material of her shirt and the blanket covering her sticks to her, dried blood fusing the materials together and to her skin.

"You're okay," Murphy mutters, patting his palm on her upper back to encourage her to spit the thick blood coating her throat. "Spit it out."

The sound of her friend's voice makes Myles flinch, the words bouncing around her aching head loudly. Screwing her already shut eyes closed, the redhead's harsh choking eases suddenly, the thick collection of her own blood sliding from her throat to her mouth. Opening her mouth and trying to force her thirsty and weak muscles to spit, the warm blood slips past her parted lips.

It's only then that she registers she's shivering. The sensation of warm, thick, half congealed liquid slowly falling past her chattering teeth to drip from her shaking lips swirls in her disoriented mind. A disgruntled hum follows the blood that leaves her mouth, the bitter tang of copper remaining in her mouth and filling the air. One of Murphy's hands leaves her back, and the hand on her exposed shoulder from the overstretched collar of her long-sleeved grey shirt shifts on her cold and clammy, pale skin as he reaches for something.

"Good," Murphy murmurs, the hand that left her back returning to wipe a dry cloth on her jittering blue-tinted lips. His hand brushes against her face as he drags the rag lazily over her mouth, the warm feel of his skin extracting a contented breath from Myles. "Okay."

Murphy pushes her to lie on her back once again, the movement sending a jarring and weak groan from Myles as her wounds tug painfully. Tender and raw flesh pull and stretch on the few stitches she had gotten while unconscious, and the redhead's dizzy mind stumbles over the fact that she needed stitches.

"You c'ld be a doct'r," Myles slurs out weakly, her voice cracking from thirst and shaking as she shivers. Groggily twitching her eyebrows in a failing attempt to pull her eyes open, the redhead continues quietly. "You'r' pr'tty good at t'at."

"I don't want to be a fucking doctor," the teen grumbles, moving away and flopping down in one of the seats in the Skaikru ambassador's room.

"Mm," Myles hums in reply, all she can manage when she can't force her body to chuckle. Slowly opening her eyes and blinking blearily at the blinding light in the room, the world refuses to quit spinning and blurring for her dizzy and oversensitive hazel eyes. "W'at do you wan'a be, then?"

A long pause makes Myles try to pry her eyes open again, the heavy weight holding them down lightening the longer she forces her blurry and unfocused eyes to stay open. Gradually, the familiar room becomes clear, even in the dull, dim light of the intrusively rising sun.

"I don't know," Murphy finally answers, and tired hazel eyes sweep over to him.

He's as disheveled as he was the last time she saw him. Bloodied and beaten, the skin around the wounds she can see are the only parts of him that aren't tinted with dirt. Dark blue eyes almost look black in the lowlight peering in from behind him, the dark circles under his eyes only accentuating the warped tinge his features have taken on. Swelling irritated skin is almost sickly pale, even in the soft pinkish hue that peeks into room from the early morning sky. Murphy had sharp features before, but now they're even more prominent, as if the already skinny teen had lost weight.

Questions swim sloppily around Myles' tired and sluggish mind, the queries never once being spoken aloud. The last time she heard something about the Arker, he'd left with former Chancellor Jaha. In the days leading up to them leaving, Myles had brought up killing the man to Murphy. Is the physical changes a psychological byproduct of being a murderer? Or is this from being a 'thief', as Titus has referred to him as? Had Titus saved him from a thief's fate to bring him up to take the fall for the murder he was about to commit, or did he hold Murphy prisoner first?

"Are you okay?" Myles asks when the teen only looks off at nothing, licking her dry and shivering lips.

"Yeah," the brown-haired teen drawls unconvincingly, "Clarke cleaned me up."

"Mm," the redhead murmurs, rolling her head on her pillow to look around the room. "Whe'e's the Pri'c'ss, 'nyway?"

"With the Commander," Murphy supplies slowly, tilting his head against the chair he's slouched in to nod to the door. "Left last night and locked the door."

"It's proc'd're," Myles explains, her weak voice dipping. "Flamekeeper's are s'posed t' be a Commander's mos' trust'd conf'd'nt, their spir'tual advis'r. She needs t' get her kingd'm in ord'r."

"Apparently," he tacks on gruffly, raising his eyebrows high. "A world class psycho, too. Good to see you've been making friends." Myles snorts obnoxiously, groaning immediately after when it sends a wave of white hot pain from her stomach. "How long does it take to get a kingdom in order?"

"Don' know," the red-haired teen mumbles, shaking her head before stopping when nausea fills her and scrunching together her eyebrows in thought. "Losin' a Flamekeeper 's a big h't. They'll need t' hol' a trial. Lexa is pro'ly holed away in her room wit' Clarke 'til her rid'rs come back wit' 'nother Flamekeeper."

"Hot," Murphy retorts, causing Myles to let out a huffed breath in place of a laugh.

"Tell me 'bout it," she quips, quirking her eyebrows amusedly, "Jasp'r thinks s – "

Myles stops, stilling every small movement. Jasper. Jasper will be so pissed she got shot. Why isn't he here? Clarke mustn't have radioed him… because they're blockading Arkadia and he needs to stay there. That means Jasper is with Finn, who've probably heard about the attack on Rendon from their watch on Arkadia, and Octavia –

"Oh, fuck," Myles breathes out, snapping her head to look at the window, seeing the gradually warming pink tones of the early morning sun rising.

"What?" Murphy questions dully, seeming completely uninterested until Myles tries to sit up. Clenching her teeth together hard, Myles ignores the searing pain exploding in her abdomen to push herself upwards. "Woah. Hey." The brown-haired teen is on his feet in an instant, rushing over the girl who's groaning and hissing in pain from her own movements. "Hey. You just got shot, stay in the damn bed."

"Uh-uh," the redhead refuses, lifting a frail and shaky arm to weakly push at his arms that gently push her back down. "I got'a go."

"Like hell you do," Murphy snaps, looking at her like she's an idiot. "We're locked in and you have a hole in your stomach." Reluctantly, Myles stops trying and failing to fight the brown-haired teen, but her worried gaze finds the window again. "Geez."

"Di' Clarke cat'h O'tavia?" Myles quizzes, looking back at Murphy with such a serious and concerned expression that it immediately grounds him.

"I don't know," he shrugs, looking lost as he sinks back down into one seat.

"Dammit," the red-haired teen curses, her words still slurring slightly, "O's goin' to be so pissed with me."

Murphy breathes a short, sarcastic laugh, "I think you're worrying about the wrong Blake." Myles stills again, staring at the teen in shock. "He's gonna lose his mind." How could she forget? Murphy left before everything happened with Mount Weather. He doesn't know Myles and Bellamy aren't together anymore. He doesn't know about Wanheda. "What?"

"I don' think he'll be upset at 'll," Myles divulges quietly, her voice strained.

"I don't see the King of worshipping every piece of dirt you walk on," Murphy starts, disbelieving chuckles bubbling under his dull words. "Not being upset at all that you were shot and almost died."

"You've b'n gone a long time, Johnny," the redhead laments softly, shifting her eyes down to stare at nothing.

A tense silence fills the air, and Myles can feel Murphy scrutinising her, searching for an answer to a question bouncing around his mind. When she doesn't elaborate further, the brown-haired teen sits up straight in his chair and leans forward with his arms on his knees.

"Okay, I'll bite," the teen shoots back. "What the hell happened that could make Bellamy Blake hate you so much that he wouldn't care if you died?"

Hazel eyes flick back to his dark blue, the golden hue the rising sun has cast into the room illuminating most of his face properly now. The unshakable look in her eyes shakes him, as if he didn't think she was being serious until right now. Three months worth of loneliness, longing and guilt crashing together in a sea of swirling hazel locked on the haunted and tortured storm in his dark blue.

"I did som'thing re'lly bad," Myles whispers, the dark and haunted look in his eyes seeming nonjudgmental.

"What'd you do?" Murphy instantly asks, his tone losing all traces of sarcasm and humour.

"Do you remember…" the girl starts wearily, fearing having to say what she did aloud to someone who doesn't know. Her voice shakes with emotions that have spent the last three months silently festering, only emphasised by her weak and raspy voice coming from her shivering lips. "Mount Weather couldn't leave the mountain bec – "

"Because they couldn't breathe the air," the teen finishes, his brown eyebrows drawing together. "They were draining grounders blood and drilling into you to fix themselves."

Tears fill Myles' eyes, her head nodding quickly, "they... they wouldn't let them go, so I…" Myles tears her eyes from his again, looking at the chair beside him. "I reversed the airlocks t' irradiate the whole mountain." Murphy's posture changes slightly, his leant forward position relaxes, his arms going slack on top of his knees now he's not resting his weight on them. Finally, hazel eyes lock back onto his dark blue, finding understanding and respect muddied in them with haunted remorse. "I killed them 'll."

"Why wouldn't they let them go?" Murphy inquires after a quiet moment, his tone soft.

"The marrow worked," Myles tells him lightly, lifting a shoulder in a lazy shrug. "They were curin' themselves, but they were killin' our friends t' do it."

"How many made it out?" Murphy enquires next, fully engrossed in the story.

"Forty-two," the red-haired teen informs him, adding, "but that was aft'r they got the team sent fr'm Arkadia as well."

"What the hell is Arkadia?" Murphy reiterates, "an Ark theme-park? Do they watch people starve and refuse to give them medicine to remind them of the good ol' days?"

"Didn' use t'," Myles remarks scornfully, furrowing her red eyebrows. "Now they're under new leadership. They changed the Camp Jaha name aft'r Jaha left. Guess who was voted Chancellor by the people?"

"Dylan Blythe," the boy counters almost immediately, without needing to think of an answer.

Myles lifts her head up in shock, staring at the teen in frustrated shock.

"Boldface Liar Blythe?" Myles repeats, her words for the first time since waking not slurring and her red eyebrows drawn together and held down low.

"Ah," Murphy tsks disapprovingly, lifting his fingers on one hand from the chair's armrest to halfheartedly shake a finger towards the redhead. "That's the only qualification for chancellor. Having no self-respect and integrity are occupational hazards."

"Charles Pike," Myles reveals after a beat, her tone soft with the memory of their first day on the ground.

Monty leans in and lowers his voice, dead serious. Peering around as if afraid Murphy, who was nowhere in sight, would hear.

"He was just messing around," the black-haired teen recalls under his breath, "and Pike punched him."

Aggie pales and her eyes widen, "what!?"

"Yeah," Jasper nods, repeating his words in a mockingly silly, deep voice, "said the 'key to survival is to never stop fighting, this is life or death, no one is coming to help any of you.'"

"Charles Pike?" Murphy echoes, disbelief and anger coursing through his veins so strongly that Myles can see it throbbing underneath his pale skin. "The teacher? The Earth Skills teacher who didn't know jack-shit about anything? That Charles Pike?"

"The one and only," the redhead sighs, humming discontentedly when her wound tugs painfully.

Murphy scoffs, bouncing his legs with the restless energy of anger. Shaking his head bitterly, the teen glares at the wall.

"What was his big promise for the Ark, huh?" The brown-haired teen grovels, "free punches for everybody? Is that how he got the votes, 'if you don't pick me, I'll knock you out'? 'Help me win, or I won't help any of you'?"

"Something like that," Myles murmurs, leaning her head back as a heavy wave of tiredness washes over her weak body. Murphy scoffs, and the redhead rolls her head on her pillow to look at him. "He's more of the brute force, shoot everyone who doesn't agree, kinda guy. Azgeda blew up Mount Weather when Arkadia started moving their people in, and Pike gunned down an army of three-hundred grounder warriors in their sleep with automatic rifles. People who were volunteers to help protect them against another attack from Azgeda."

"Holy fuck," he bursts out, disgust twisting into his angry expression. "Was that part of his campaign promise?"

"He tried to do it before he was elected," Myles explains, "Marcus stopped him. That night, he was elected. The grounders were dead by sunup."

"And I thought my last three months were batshit crazy," Murphy grumbles, looking away as his restless energy only continues to escalate.

Hazel eyes watch him for a moment, her lightheaded mind trying to figure out if it's a good time to ask. Murphy has been prone to uncontrollable, rage-filled outbursts ever since his dad died, but Myles doesn't fear him. He seems more grounded, in control. Like he understands the object of his anger isn't in the room, and even though his voice still belts from his mouth as if it is, Murphy doesn't act on it.

"Where were you for the last three months?" Myles enquires softly after a moment, everything she remembers about him leaving and what she and Jasper have learnt about the grounders crossing her mind. Dark blue eyes look at her, and she presses on. "Did you ever find that cult? Sonchageda?"

"Sunka – what?" Murphy quizzes, the flash of recognition that appeared in his eyes disappearing entirely.

"Sonchageda," the red-haired teen clarifies, "the City of Light."

"Ah, Jaha's new overbearing," the teen sarcastically replies, "hippie religion. Praying to technology that ended the world."

"Wait," Myles halts him, lifting a heavy hand up weakly as her mind spins in utter confusion. "What to the what?"

"Long story short," Murphy begrudgingly elaborates, "the City of Light is a fantasy place made by an A.I. where brainwashed fanatics go to never feel pain or hate or envy."

"That's boring," the redhead informs him, before continuing to figure out what he knows about the cult. "I haven't heard A.I. before."

"Yeah," the brown-haired boy confirms dully, "this bitch in a red dress. A.L. – "

"A.L.I.E.," Myles finishes, tilting her head up and scrunching together her eyebrows in thought.

"How'd you know that?" Murphy quizzes, leaning forward on his knees again.

"Myths among the grounders," the red-haired girl tells him, "someone every few years comes back from finding the City of Light. It's only ever one survivor, one person who found it. They preach about this all-knowing, undying goddess in red." Murphy's face twists in confusion, carefully listening to the other Arker. "They promise a life without pain, without anger, without betrayal to those who devote their lives to her. Only the most loyal followers get given the Key to this perfect paradise and can see her."

The brown-haired teen thinks for a moment before asking, "what happens after they get the Key?"

"They die," Myles answers shrugging, "everyone we've spoken to say days after the new leader reaches a village, they all die or disappear without a trace." Something dark crosses the teen's face, his body straightening as dark blue eyes switch away from Myles. "Legend says every village with bodies left behind looks like they were massacred by their own weapons. They turned them on themselves."

"She's still doing it," Murphy breathes, his voice soft and airy. "She still thinks it's the root problem."

"What are you talking about?" Myles prompts, and it's her turn to be confused.

"A.L.I.E. was made before the end of the world," the brown-haired teen recites speedily, anxiously. "She was supposed to make life better for mankind, that was her core command. She thought the root problem was too many people, so she hacked nuclear launch codes." Hazel eyes widen, her brain running a million miles a second to keep up with the information. "It wasn't politics that started the war, it was an A.I."

"How do you know all that?" Myles quick-fires, wanting access to wherever he found this out.

"Her," Murphy supplies simply, about to continue when Myles cuts him off worriedly.

"You have the Key?" The red-haired Arker questions, trying to figure out what that means in terms of an A.I. in her groggy mind.

"No," he shuts down, shaking his head frustratedly and gesturing with his hands. "It's a chip. This big. You swallow it."

"It's a drug?" Myles tries, perplexed.

"No!" Murphy huffs, using his hands to show how small the chip is. "It's like a computer chip. It's got the corporate logo on it, that's why I'm here."

"What's the logo?" Myles enquires, thinking it through.

"An infinity symbol," the brown-haired teen gives the answer, and it clicks into place for Myles.

"That's the Commander's sacred symbol," the redhead informs him. "It's all related."

"Do you remember the rumours on the Ark?" Murphy presses, "about the thirteenth Station?"

"Yeah," Myles nods, "Polaris. Alpha blew it up when they hesitated to dock together on the first Unity Day."

"There's an escape pod in the basement," the teen lowers his voice, leaning forward nervously as if this was a secret. "Where that man kept me. What do you call him? Flamekeeper." Myles nods, listening intently. "There's an escape pod down there with Polaris printed on it, but the 'a' and 'r' are burnt off. I think A.L.I.E.'s creator was on there. Becca – "

"Bekka," the redhead breathes out the name at the same time, and Murphy leans back in shock. "Bekka Pramheda."

"What does that mean?" Murphy asks slowly, his frustration still lingering as he tries to solve this with her.

"Becca the First Commander," Myles translates, switching her hazel between his dark blue.

"She escaped," the brown-haired teen mutters to himself. "I knew it."

"Wait," the redhead interjects, "you said you found all this out from her."

"Yeah," Murphy nods eagerly, "A.L.I.E. was inside this mansion on an island across from the Dead Zone. Jaha locked me in the damn bunker under the lighthouse. There were tapes of them, of Becca and her friends working on A.L.I.E. Of them after the bombs were fired, trying to survive in the bunker. A.L.I.E. is a hologram, she's all over the mansion, all over the videos."

"Why'd he lock you in the bunker?" Myles implores him, racking her foggy brain to keep up.

"He said he had to work on something for her," the brown-haired teen brushes off, thinking on it deeply like he's trying to remember what it was. "Turning some… I don't fucking know – turning some nuclear warhead into a power supply or something."

Tense silence fills the air, the same question bouncing around both of their minds. Why would A.L.I.E. need a power supply from a nuclear warhead? What is she planning?

"If you're right," Murphy laments after a thoughtful beat, leaning his arms forward on his knees again and fiddling with his hands nervously. "My girlfriend's in trouble."

"You have a girlfriend?" Myles snaps her head up to look at him, smiling brightly. "That's amazing, Johnny. What's her name?"

"Emori," he provides with a small smile, instead of his usual sarcastic smirk.

"That's a beautiful name," the redhead smiles back, and he huffs happily to himself.

"Beautiful girl," Murphy counters easily, not missing a beat. "I met her and her brother on the way to the island. They robbed us," he pauses to laugh, getting a contented huff and a smile from the redhead. "Told us how to get there. They find and steal technology, bring it to A.L.I.E. and go. When Jaha finally let me out of the bunker – "

"Finally?" Myles echoes, "how long were you in there?"

"Eighty-six days," the brown-haired teen answers gruffly, his tone detached as he looks at Myles with cold, dead eyes.

"Oh, my god," she sighs out, red eyebrows raising in shocked concern. "Alone?" Murphy looks down, nodding slowly before haltingly meeting her eyes again. "Murphy, that's horrible. Are you okay?"

"Dandy," he quips dully, but Myles isn't buying it. Her concerned look elicits a long sigh, adding. "Could be worse. I could've been in Arkadia, gunning down allies." A shocked laugh bubbles from Myles' throat, but gets cut off short when her stomach explodes with pain. Squeezing her eyes closed, Myles tries to regain control of her breathing. Jolting the wound has aggravated it, making every small breath painful. "Her brother ate the chip."

Hazel eyes open and Myles rolls her head to look at him again, breathless from pain. Sweat glistens on her skin, making her stick to the clothes and blankets already drenched in her dried blood. Red eyebrows pull together, a crease forming on her forehead.

"Damn," the redhead squeaks out, quickly shutting her eyes again when a new wave of pain washes through her.

"Yeah," Murphy agrees, "she wanted to go look for him. Talk some sense into him. I told her not to, he… uh… he held her hostage for the fucking A.I. His own sister."

"We'll find her," Myles promises honestly, and dark blue eyes lock on hers, relaxing slightly. "Jasper and I spent the last three months doing stuff like that. Show the clans we can help."

"Thank you," Murphy says, so sincerely and seriously it makes Myles want to laugh.

Instead of laughing, though, she smiles weakly, swallowing as her dry and thirsty throat begs for something to drink. The weight that had fallen over the room eases, leaving them in a comfortable silence. Myles finally works up the courage to figure out the damage, lifting a heavy hand dizzily to feel her stomach under the blanket.

Clarke tore open the bottom of the shirt, and pale, slender fingers instantly come into contact with several layers of bandage. Swallowing dryly again and closing her eyes groggily for a moment, Myles brings her hand up to weakly push the blanket away. It's heavier than she remembers, making a strange crackly sound from her dried, deep red blood. Once the blanket is moved over a little bit, the redhead lifts her head up to look down.

Her dried blood coats everything thickly, soaked into all of the blankets that Myles can see. The dark jeans she wears and her grey shirt are both tainted with her blood, leaving no doubt in her mind as to why she's so foggy-minded and freezing cold. A surprised hum rumbles its way out of her throat, and her hands sway and move around shakily when she checks for more injuries.

"You scared Clarke," Murphy states suddenly, making Myles drop her head back to roll on the pillow and look at him. "She had to dig the bullet out, but you went into hypo-volcanic shock."

"Volemic," the red-haired teen corrects, "hypovolemic shock."

"Whatever," the teen waves off, his careless portrayal not fooling Myles for a moment. "Shock."

Silence falls over them again, the only sounds being pitiful grunts as shaky hands reach out and pull the blanket back over her pale body.

"You did good," Murphy announces, and the redhead closes her tired hazel eyes, quirking her eyebrows.

"For not dying?" Myles quips, "thanks, I do that everyday. It's a bad habit I'm trying to quit."

"For Mount Weather," the brown-haired teen elaborates, his tone serious and dark blue eyes honest when Myles looks at him. "If you didn't do what you did, they'd never stop. You saved everyone by doing what you did."

"Except for them," the redhead whispers, breaking eye contact. "We had people in that mountain helping us. Jasper fell in love. They weren't all enemies."

"Yes, they were," Murphy insists calmly, softly. "Even if they didn't kill any of us, if they didn't need any of us, they spent two-hundred years draining grounders dry. There was no coming up here without a war. They had guns. You saved everyone."

Hazel eyes finally look back at his dark blue, "for what?"

 

"So," Myles drawls out, watching Murphy pace mindlessly in front of the doors. The redhead is wide awake now, but the pain is still making her groggy. She's no longer shivering, her body slowly calming down from the near dear experience she had. "Chris let her out. Why would he have access to her?"

"Because he was Becca's assistant," Murphy explains exasperatedly, having gone over this multiple times. "Very close with each other."

"No, I mean," the redhead corrects, swinging out an arm to gesture. "Why would he have enough access to her to let her out if his boss was in space?"

"I don't know," he scoffs, shrugging, "I'll go back to two-hundred years ago and ask him." Myles rolls her eyes over-dramatically at the teen. "'Hey, y'know that A.I. you just let out like a fucking idiot? The one who hacked nuclear launch codes to start a world-ending nuclear war with the whole world? Yeah, before you film a suicide note and shoot yourself on camera, explain how you let her out'."

"He had to have known," Myles declares, and Murphy looks at her. "There's no way I go to space and leave an intelligent, independent computer program in the hands of someone who doesn't know its intentions."

Murphy stops pacing, thinking the words over. It's quiet while he mulls over the ideas and videos he remembers.

"Maybe," Murphy mutters unhelpfully, pacing in front of the doors slowly again. "He was devastated." The brown-haired teen slows before stopping again, tossing out. "They seemed close in the video where he showed her A.L.I.E. chose Becca as her avatar. Their hands were all over each other. I think she said twice they had to get back to work."

"Okay," Myles nods, thinking it through quickly. "Maybe they had a more than professionally friendly relationship. She was blindfolded and trusted completely in him."

"Both very touchy," he murmurs to himself, before raising his voice for Myles to hear clearly. "He didn't go on Polaris with her. Maybe he wanted to see her?"

"It's an A.I.," the red-haired teen finishes for him, "it's designed to be intelligent. To learn. It got out of control."

"Fucking idiots," Murphy insults, looking aimlessly around the late morning sunlit room.

"I have another question," Myles announces after a moment of silent contemplation. Murphy's frustrated and bored dark blue eyes lock on hers, and she takes it as permission. "Since we know Becca came down, why is society so backwards? We've been thinking only everyday people in bunkers survived, but there was an accomplished scientist down here. Besides the mountain, the closest thing to technology we've seen is a well with a lever you use to wind up the bucket."

"Ask Pike," the brown-haired teen snidely remarks, "his barbaric thinking is contagious."

Humming, the redhead rolls her head away, muttering, "hopefully not for long."

"How is this plan going to work without you?" Murphy enquires, and Myles looks back at him. "Your plans need you and Clarke to stop the clans from wiping Arkadia out. The wind is gonna knock you out. What's the backup plan?"

"That is the backup plans backup plan," Myles sighs frustratedly, "I didn't take into account getting shot by Titus. Or what another attack on a village would mean because we thought we had steps in place to prevent it."

"Why – ," Murphy starts but he cuts himself off, whipping his head to look at the doors he's been pacing in front of. Stepping up to them, Murphy pounds on the doors before shaking them loudly, trying to get the attention of whoever he just heard walk by. "Hey! HEY! Myles is having a seizure!" A red eyebrow raises delicately, quietly watching the teen. "Get Clarke! We need help! Myles is dying!" Nothing else happens, no one shouts back in response to the teens screaming or the brutal assault he's doing on the locked doors. "AH!" The brown-haired teen yells in frustration, stopping his loud shaking of the doors to punch them twice. "Damn it."

Heaving a deep breath, Murphy turns away from the doors to pace right in front of them again. It's so calm, the comfortable silence almost deafening after the teens screaming and frantic shoving against the locked doors. Myles patiently watches him walk calmly back and forth, waiting with a faint smile.

"If you say I told you so," Murphy threatens, his tone rumbling but the redhead only smiles wider. "I'll smother you in your bloody fur blankets."

"Try bleeding next time," Myles offer instead, and the brunette-haired boy stops, looking at her like the suggestion is beyond stupid.

"It didn't work the first two times," he exclaims, lifting his arms in aggravation. "You bled out three hours ago. You're dead now."

"If she doesn't feel at least a little guilty," the red-haired girl decides, "for not coming to my pretend rescue once today, I'm gonna be offended."

 

"I hate you," Murphy declares in a serious tone, lying across the bed at Myles' feet.

Myles would look at him if she could, but in order to be able to see him, she'd have to lift her head forward until her chin touches her chest, or she'd have to lean her upper body up. Both are wildly uncomfortable and cause pain, so she does neither. Instead, Myles furrows her red brows dramatically and sweeps her arm out in a wide gesture. He probably can't even see it; the dim candlelight of the only candle Murphy lit is barely illuminating the table it sits on in the early evening darkness.

"It'd work," Myles justifies, Murphy shifts at her feet and the redhead can feel him looking at her from the bottom of the bed.

"I don't care," the brown-haired teen announces strongly. "I'd like to live, thank you very much."

"I'm just saying," she continues, unfazed. "They'd have to acknowledge it."

"I'm just saying," Murphy rebukes sarcastically, "I'm not doing it."

"Johnny," Myles appeals, flopping her arm down onto the bed beside her. "What is the worst that could happen?"

"They could be having sex," he answers instantly, his voice hard with his confident answer, "and hear me."

"Oh, please," the redhead denounces, tipping her head back in exasperation. "That's a cop out."

Murphy sits up to look Myles in the eyes, "coming from the one who can't do it."

"I'm wounded," Myles reminds him in an overly sweet voice, lifting her arm again to gesture to her stomach. "Don't you want to get out here?"

"I can't," Murphy refutes, gesturing to Myles with his arm when she only raises a perplexed eyebrow at him. "You're wounded, dumbass. How am – " Myles struggles not to laugh, bringing a hand up to her brightly smiling face and the other to the bandages across her stomach as if it could protect her from the pain laughing would ignite. Trying to hold in her laughter fails, choked giggles pain tries to strangle bubbling out of her rosy lips. Agony blooms in her abdomen, tugging harshly on the stitches there. The brown-haired teen's expression hardens in frustration. "Do I even want to know?"

"'Dumbass'," the redhead tries to mimic the way the teen says it through her pain-filled chortles, the word sounding strange coming from his mouth.

His expression lightens, his mouth twisting to the side to stop the smile trying to break out across his face. Turning his head to look away and shaking it disapprovingly, Murphy huffs to himself in amusement.

"You know," Murphy drawls out, "I've been told there's a fine line between being funny and being an asshole." Giggles start to die out to amused melodic hums, hazel eyes scrunching shut as searing pain continues from her muted laughter. "It's good to see you walking down it with me."

"I wouldn't want you to be lonely," Myles replies, her voice breathless as her amused sounds disappear finally. Silence sits thickly in the air, and Murphy turns his face back towards the redhead to lock eyes with her. It's heavy with the weight of expectation, an amused glint in his eyes daring her to start again. "'Dumbass'."

"Fuck you," the brown-haired teen tells her, his smile shining on his battered face to match hers.

"And let you cheat on Emori before I get to see you happy again?" Myles declines seriously, "I think the fuck not."

"Don't flatter yourself," Murphy rebukes, dropping back down to lie across the bed by her feet. "I know I can get drop-offs for free. Keep that criminal record to theft."

"And murder," the red-haired teen adds, "genocide."

"Bonus badass points," he justifies, "of, you know, saving everyone cancels out the criminal part. At least, that's what I've heard."

"From who?" Myles challenges, the humour gone as quickly as it came, the dark cloud of remorse and haunting memories casting over her once again.

"A little girl," Murphy describes, a slight sarcastic wistfulness to his voice, "who used to steal so others could survive. You might know her, a hideously generous heart that gives my brain cavities," Myles snorts, rolling her eyes and turning her head away. "Depressing need to always jump in front of bullets, bright red hair, painfully unfunny – " Myles lifts one of her legs under the blanket, shoving it halfheartedly towards the brown-haired teen in an unconvincing threat to get him to shut up. "Kicks like a paralysed toddler."

"Dude," the red-haired teen huffs disbelievingly at his words, "getting a hot girlfriend has made you soft."

"Nah," he dismisses after a beat of thought, "it's probably from being around your over-dramatic ass all day."

"That'd do it," Myles agrees, breathing in deeply but stopping short and closing her eyes tightly when pain ripples through her.

The silence that falls over them is heavy, the lighthearted banter evaporating into the chilly, darkening evening air. Still, windless air sits in the room as if weighed down by the silent screams of the two teens' dark, troubled minds echoing loudly into the abyss of night. It's a strange contrast to how easy it's been with them all day, having a vast scope of things to catch up on. Without the easy line of thoughts to follow, the weight of their trauma thickens the air like a memory resting on the forefront of their minds, clogging every sense of theirs.

"No offence," Murphy offers after a long stretch of time that floats by easily, "but what the fuck are we even doing?"

"Waiting," the redhead answers blandly, turning her head to look at the door across the room to her right through the faint darkness. "I hope they bring up some fresh water. My scraps and waterskin aren't going to last us another day."

"I'm still pissed the flask was empty," Murphy announces bitterly, and a shocked laugh huffs out of Myles' mouth.

Jasper and Myles had chugged all of the alcohol in her flask two days ago, when they came to Polis to figure out what to do with Emerson. The reminder of Jasper makes a strange pit form in Myles' gut. By now, the first riders sent out on Ascension Day have given the terms and conditions for the blockade to Arkadia, and the blockade has been formed. Octavia and whatever group she left with would be almost there, if they're not with the warriors already.

They haven't heard anything, which must mean everything is going as smoothly as possible. Maybe that's where Clarke and Lexa went, and why they're not here. The Capitol is still in lockdown, meaning the Commander is still searching for and initiating a new Flamekeeper or they both left to enforce the blockade. A reluctantly relieved wave lightens the weight of dread in her blood; for once, they can handle it on their own. For once, Myles doesn't have to be the one they all turn to and ask what to do. For once, the weight of the responsibility to keep everyone alive doesn't have to fall on her shoulders.

"Y'know what we should do?" Myles asks out of nowhere, trying to distract herself from the thick air settling in her chest with the familiar bubbling feeling of needing to cry. Murphy's head rolls towards her, the blankets he lies on tugging gently at the movement. "Sketch Emori. Something to show around and figure out where she's been."

At the idea, Murphy sits up and pushes off of the bed, striding across the room to where the redhead's bag and medkit sit on the floor against a short cupboard.

 

"It doesn't curve until a bit higher," Murphy corrects, gesturing with the hand that isn't helping hold the hand-stitched notebook of parchment up so the redhead can draw without putting pressure on her stomach.

Sitting up had been a strenuous task that had caused her stitches to bleed, but the bleeding stopped ten minutes ago. Myles had given up, content with only halfway sitting up. Directly on her left, Murphy sits up straight, looking over the weak red-haired teen's shaky hands as they carefully mark up a piece of parchment with Emori's face in charcoal. She's not Clarke, and can't do all the detailed shading with anywhere near the accuracy the blonde can, but she can get a damn close likeness. In order to get the kind of effect Clarke gets when shading, Myles does better with a variety of colours, instead of just the black that charcoal gives you to work with.

They've only been working on the drawing for about a half hour, and it's already looking decent. It's most certainly enough to get an accurate memory from someone who's seen her, the young woman easily recognisable from the sketch.

"Like…" Myles enquires slowly, carefully raising the tattoo that covers from a smidge above the tip of the teen's nose to above her eyebrows. "Here?"

"Bit more," the brown-haired teen urges, tilting his head forward to keep a close eye on it. "Yeah, about there."

"And it's a curve, right?" Myles checks, "like the shape of her eyebrow?"

"No," Murphy denies, "like a rainbow to her temple." Myles starts slowly lining it with a gentle pressure that'll allow her to fix it if necessary. "Like that, yeah."

"That looks like her?" Myles quizzes, moving her hand out of the way and scrutinising it in the flickering candlelight as if she could know if it was wrong.

"Yeah, it's a like photo," Murphy agrees, reaching his free hand out to gesture unhelpfully. "But the tattoo goes from her nose, across her face on the left side."

"Like the rainbow?" The redhead inquires, hovering her hand over the teens nose without touching the charcoal to the parchment again.

"Yeah," the brown-haired teen nods once, "a thin line from the bottom, down here, and it ends here like a bird flying with its wings open flat." Myles had been following what he meant until he said that, and now her hazel eyes only blink blankly at the drawing trying to figure out what that meant. "And above it here is like a shark's tooth, but rounder."

"Okay," Myles says slowly in confusion, "can you expl – "

Myles cuts herself off when her walkie-talkie crackles to life on the cupboard with her weapons and their braces.

"Aggie, Clarke," Jasper Jordan, one of the red-haired teen's best friend's, calls over the radio, his staticky voice rushed and panicked. "Come in." Myles snaps her wide hazel eyes to Murphy, but he's already crawling off the bed and walking over to it. "Aggie, for the love of god, answer."

"Yeah," Myles breathes out after clicking the transmit button when Murphy jogs it over to her. "Yeah, I read you."

"Are you still in Polis?" Jasper asks, his breathless voice wavering in confusion.

Hazel eyes sweep up to Murphy's dark blue as he sits on the edge of the bed beside her.

"Yeah, I haven't left," the redhead answers, her perplexed expression matching his. "Is Clarke not with you?"

"No, I don't know where the hell she is," the brown-haired teen crackles out anxiously, "I need you both here." Murphy straightens, and ice cold dread chills Myles to the bone, her hazel eyes falling from the other Arker's to stare at nothing. Panic swirls in her mind, her best friend's freaked out voice squeezing her lungs tightly. "Our failsafe's bombed. Arkadia is critical red, we – "

"Wait," the red-haired teen interjects, the shortwave radio signal cutting out slightly as Jasper hovers over the antenna with jittery movements. "Slow down. What the hell happened? Is the blockade up?"

"The blockade formed before noon," Jasper informs them, "Pike went to hear the terms with Bellamy and some other asshat, but the dick shot them. They're rejecting the blockade."

"Listen to me," Myles responds seriously, her heart thumping under her skin painfully around her bullet wound. "Polis is on lockdown. If Lexa and Clarke aren't there yet, you need to initiate the original Plan B."

"We tried that this morning," her best friend refutes immediately, making frantic hazel eyes lock back on the wide and shocked dark blue eyes of Jonathan Murphy. "They know we have inside men, they found the bug. They set us up. We thought they were going to gun down the whole fucking blockade, but it was a ruse. Sinclair tried to jam the automatic rifles in the armoury, but they were watching him. They arrested him," it's enough for Myles, prompting the redhead to try to pull herself up through pitiful grunts. Murphy presses down on the red-haired teen's shoulder gently, but Myles brushes him off, rolling onto her side to swing her legs over the edge of the bed and to the floor. "So we tried the riot. Started it in the cell to get them to come in and break it up, it went only downhill from there."

"Stop it," Murphy snaps at her, standing up to tower over her and keep her on the bed. "You're gonna split your stitches."

"They need help," Myles refuses, trying to weakly push away his hands as the arm holding the walkie slowly pushes against the bed to ease her into a seating position.

"Marcus was supposed to grab Pike," Jasper continues, undeterred from the argument Murphy and Myles are having that he can't hear because she's no longer holding the transmit button. At the sound of Marcus' name, the man who's loved her like she's his daughter, Myles stills, looking at the walkie-talkie. Murphy's demeanour shifts, conflicted dark blue eyes staring at the redhead. "Get him out while his army was distracted, but they knew."

"You can't go," Murphy reminds her, holding her shoulders as one of her arms wraps around her throbbing stomach, feeling warm blood bubble on the wound from the combination of adrenaline and moving.

"I don't know how they found the access panel in Engineering," Jasper tells them, not knowing the conversation going on over his voice.

"Why not?" Myles counters through clenched teeth, trying to push herself up to stand from her sitting position with a strained groan as sweat drips down her clammy skin.

"And knew that was his way out," the brown-haired teen's crackly voice chatters, "but they were waiting."

"You've been shot," the Arker in front of her argues firmly, looking at the redhead like she's lost her mind. "You can barely sit up. You can't help them."

"Marcus was just arrested," Jasper finishes, and any hope of the red-haired teen staying in Polis flies out the window.

The heavy weight of dread that was pumping through her veins with the pain the simple movement punishes her with shifts, finding a home on her heart. Pleading hazel eyes remain locked on Murphy's hard gaze, both Arker's seeing the others slowly warp into a soft, defeated expression.

"When you were in that lighthouse," Myles starts quietly, but surely, "watching those videos, did they happen to show you how to drive?"

Murphy blanches, his eyes widening comically as his head juts forward in shock.

"Aggie?" Jasper calls over the radio urgently, his anxious voice filled with concern.

"Drive?" Murphy echoes, giddy confusion swimming through his tone, "the thing people used to do in cars? That drive?"

Myles tilts her head to the side, replying, "if you don't know how to drive, then we have no other choice. I have to get up." Hazel eyes flick between his two dark blue, lifting up the walkie-talkie and pressing the transmit button again. "I hear you, JJ. We're on our way."

Chapter Text

Day 158 – Feb. 17

After all these years of knowing the sarcastic little shit that is Jonathan Murphy, Myles would have never guessed she'd be where she is right now. One hand grips onto the bedsheets covered in her own dried blood that are braided with the bedsheets on Jasper's bed around the emergency rope from her pack. Her elbow presses awkwardly into her side from clutching onto the rope, keeping the pack slung over her head held securely to her ribs.

John Murphy is crushed into her other side, one of her arms wrapped around him tightly. His arm squeezes her to his side, the weapons in her braces pinching roughly into Myles' pale skin. They shift, Murphy anxiously adjusting his footing and causing them both to sway in the short windowsill. Both of their gazes are staring up at the material tied in a knot around the metal bar that frames the large window, the other end of the rope has been tied tightly around one of their legs each, trapping them together. The beam once made up the metal framework of a wall that was knocked out in favour of a luxurious window, but now it's their lifeline.

The pitch black night sky does no favours for them, the moonlight their eyes have adjusted to is only enough to see down the side of the forty-storey tower. Murphy gives one last forceful yank on the braided materials, testing its hold and Myles cringes. It's only a small movement, hardly a jolt, but it's enough for burning pain to erupt over her stitches. Dried blood from moving around clings to the stitches, every small movement causing the thick, dried gunk to pull at her stitches and her skin.

"You know what I just realised," Murphy states, looking from the knot that's tied to the beam down to the floor before finally glancing at Myles.

"That you're still stalling," Myles guesses, not playing into his game of trying to distract himself and put off what they're about to do.

Murphy tilts his head to the side, dark blue eyes looking exasperatedly at the redhead.

"Are you purposefully trying to emasculate me every time you say that," the brown-haired teen snarks, "or is it a symptom of your pride being hurt?" A red eyebrow quirks, and Murphy shrugs stiffly. "Just curious."

"Take a breath," Myles instructs, gently tapping the hand that's wrapped around him against his side to encourage him. "We're okay. We're only testing it."

"Yeah, well," Murphy scoffs, "testing it is immediately followed by jumping out of the window to plunge to our deaths, sorry if that doesn't fill me with enthusiasm." Murphy leans forward, looking down the long side of the Polis tower to see the ground. "If you listen closely, you can hear us hitting the ground allllll the way down there."

"Johnny," the red-haired teen appeals, dragging his attention away from looking at how high up they are. Dark blue eyes look at her hazel, flicking back up to the knot above them even though they're not relying on it yet. "I've done this before. We're gonna be fine."

"I know I spent the last twenty-four hours banging on that door," he responds dully, "but when I said 'I can't wait to get out of here', this isn't what I meant."

"I know," Myles patronises, trying to say anything to get them both out of this fucking room. "I'm proud of you."

"No," Murphy drawls out loudly, a dark, humourless smile across his face as he huffs a breath out his nose. "You have to be at least a level six friend to patronise me when we're hanging to our deaths."

"We're not hanging," the redhead corrects, a giggle erupting from her mouth.

"Yeah, laugh at me," the brown-haired teen mutters, scoffing bitterly. "It's not like I'm only doing this because you're my only friend."

"I am not," Myles refuses, flicking her hazel eyes between his two dark blue to check if he's joking.

"There has never been," Murphy doubles down, staring at her deathly serious. "And probably will never be anyone who I trust to hang out of a fucking window to our deaths with."

"You have Emori," the red-haired teen reminds him, lifting her eyebrows in a worried frown. Murphy does a double take to look at her like she's so stupid it amazes him. His face is holding a deeply insulting, condescending look that only the teen in front of her could manage. "Girlfriend has friend in it. That counts."

"If you are friend-zoning me for my girlfriend," Murphy threatens, "I am going to throw you out the damn window."

"I'm not friend-zoning you for Emori," Myles assures through an amused, carefree chuckle. "We've got this." Her laughing tone dies out seriously, her hazel eyes staring imploringly into Murphy's eyes to convey her sincerity. "There's no one in the universe I have more faith in than you." An old look of gratitude and admiration that Myles has seen in his dark blue eyes before swirls around carelessly. It's a look she's seen ever since she started slipping his family supplies, and it reminds her of how far this boy has come. "We're survivors. You and I are like cockroaches, we're bastards to kill." Murphy scoffs a laugh, smirking to himself and looking up at the knot. "A little drop has nothing on us."

"A litt - ?" Murphy repeats, leaning over the windowsill to look down again. "That's a hundred floor drop!"

"It's only, like," the redhead defends, and the Arker looks back at her, "forty floors."

"That's thirty-nine floors too many," the brown-haired teen remarks surely.

"Good," Myles tries, jumping on his words. "Then it's a good thing we only need to go down one floor."

"Yeah," Murphy retorts sarcastically, "good thing."

"Hey," the red-haired teen taps his side again, trying to get him to look at her. "We got this. How badass will it sound to Emori when you tell her you scaled the outside of Polis."

Murphy looks over the edge again, shifting his grip on the rope and looking back up at the knot on the metal bar.

"If we survive," Murphy drawls out morosely, "and you tell anyone that I was anything other than a badass, I'll gut you."

"I won't," Myles promises, lifting her legs to take her weight off of them. The sudden weight the rope has to hold up makes them sway rigidly as Murphy hesitates again. "It's just a test."

Reluctantly, Murphy takes his weight off his legs one by one, relying wholly on their grip on the rope to hold them up. Searing, white hot pain burns from Myles' stitched up bullet wound and spreads across her side at the straining position. Their arms shake on the rope, but their tight grips on it remain strong. It holds, letting them swing slightly from the weight shift and keeping them completely off of the floor. The extra length of braided bedsheets hangs down in a large hoop, grazing the floor beneath them.

Murphy shakily hums a disappointed sound as Myles tugs on the rope, triple checking the beam's sturdiness. The fabric rubs roughly around their wrists, their thighs and their backs, leaving behind angry red marks. About a metre and a half of extra length hangs under them, only enough to allow them to reach the window below. This keeps the reliance of holding their weight on the rope wrapped around their thighs, their wrists and around their backs, rubbing the skin there raw. Their ankles are spared from these small burns, the extra length allowing the end of the braided rope to sit comfortably around them.

The contraption works, and relief floods Myles' senses, knowing that they won't stay stuck in this room for any longer. They're halfway done, all they need to do is repeat this, but out the window.

"Good," Myles strains out, looking from the metal bar to Murphy's pale face. He's still staring up, and the redhead reaches a foot to the ground to pick up her weight. "See?"

"I was kinda hoping it wouldn't work," Murphy mutters once his boots touch the floor. Myles sighs, leaning over to sit on the short windowsill with her legs hanging down and looking back at Murphy. He pauses, yanking on the rope once more before trudging onto the windowsill. "At least if we fall, we'll die."

"We'll be fine," the redhead states again, flicking the extra length of the rope over the ledge.

Murphy slinks down beside her while Myles tugs tight the rope wrapped around their bodies. Pressing themselves close together, they wrap an arm around the other again. The brown-haired teen keeps his arm and wrist wrapped around the rope above Myles' grip, carrying most of their weight. His arms jitter, wobbling to make sure they're both secured and ready to go. Dark blue eyes glance down at the hideous drop beneath their legs.

"Whoo," the brown-haired teen huffs out, looking at the girl who's crushed to his side before looking up at the knot again. "Okay. Okay. Tell me how we're doing this again. One foot, then hand, yeah?"

"Yup," Myles agrees, trying to make her voice sound light and confident to counteract the nerves the boy beside her oozes. "The rope will keep us close to the wall, that's what we want. Step down a little bit at a time, then let the hand inch down a little bit. Never let go."

"Never let go," Murphy echoes, his words dripping with sarcasm. "You really think that'll be a problem?"

"We're okay," the redhead reminds him, nodding and remaining calm. "I'm holding below you, so if your hand slips, I'm the failsafe to hold us up while you get your grip again."

"Yeah," the brown-haired teen shrugs rigidly, "yeah. That simple, huh?"

"You ready?" Myles asks, keeping her grip tight and strong.

"No," Murphy replies, his tone hard and obvious. "I just push off?"

"Just push off," the redhead reassures, "we've got this."

"Okay," he pants, leaning forward, "okay. Okay."

A scraping on the double doors to the Skaikru ambassador's room halts them, both of their heads whirling around to stare at the noise. After a beat of hearing a metal rod dragging against the door, the two handles tilt down and the doors open. Clarke and Lexa strut into the room, the blonde's expression falling when she doesn't see anyone on the bed across from the door.

"Oh, thank god," Murphy huffs in relief, and both lovers snap their heads to them.

"What the hell are you doing?" Clarke exclaims, rushing forward as Murphy scoots off the windowsill, hopping on the floor to free his leg from the rope.

"The door was locked," Myles answers, turning to face them and lifting her legs to dangle them into the room with a pained cringe on her delicate features.

"Are you kidding me?" Clarke raises her voice, her expression pinched in frustration. Her hands stop Myles from leaning forward to untie the rope around her leg, her blue eyes levelling a pointed glare into the redhead's hazel eyes. Flicking down her frustrated gaze, Clarke's gentle hands pull up her shirt to check her wound. "You could've torn your stitches. It wasn't through and through, I had to dig the bullet out. You could've done internal damage. You don't have much more blood to lose."

"That makes it more fun," Myles quips, furrowing her eyebrows mockingly and locking her gaze on Lexa's amused yet reserved brown eyes.

The darkness that swells in the Commander's tired eyes strikes Myles, the pit of dread sitting heavy in her gut getting heavier at the sight.

"Apparently," Murphy drawls, stepping away as the rope they'd tied around his leg comes loose. His hands chuck the material to the ground, taking another couple steps towards the door. Stopping and turning his body to face the Arker's, Murphy lifts his arms in a shrug. "It's 'recklessly tempting death' in self-loathing time."

"You popped three stitches," Clarke lectures, standing over the red-haired teen in the windowsill. "You need to – "

"You need to listen to your radio," Myles counters, looking away from the eerily silent Commander to look up at her blonde friend as she cuts her off. "We need to go. Like, two hours ago."

"Go?" Clarke echoes in confusion, her hands stilling before pulling away from her friend entirely. "What happened?"

"Pike is an asshole," Murphy reminds them all, his tone bland, "with an obsession for anarchy."

"Marcus and Sinclair were arrested," the redhead relays with urgency, stirring into action. Myles pulls herself up gingerly with a pained grunt and a hand on the metal bar framing the window. Clarke's hands shoot out to steady her, trying to take all the strain off her injuries for her. "Pike shot the men who delivered the terms."

Clarke freezes, her body stiffening as her wide, frightened eyes snap to Lexa. The Commander has her head tilted back, a strange, disheartened look of apathy in her brown eyes that leaves a sense of foreboding hanging in the air. Nausea swims and swirls in the redhead's gut, her weak and pained body struggling to not get overwhelmed by the heavy sense of loss stuck in her throat.

Queries flash through Myles' mind, each one getting lodged in her throat and never reaching her lips. Murphy switches his weight from one foot to the other, his posture falling at the exchange.

"We still can't leave…" Murphy's dull voice enquires slowly, "can we?"

"Titus' trial is at sunup," Lexa announces stoically, locking eyes with the scruffy brown-haired teen.

"Wait," Myles blurts out in shock, getting the Commander's attention again. "He's still alive?"

"We've had our own problems here," Clarke informs her, her words snipped with tired frustration. "He's the only Flamekeeper."

"Being without a spiritual advisor leaves Polis," the Commander reveals, her soft words slipping past her regretful lips. "And my reign weak. Weaker than the peac – "

"Weaker than the peace we've fought to uphold does," the red-haired teen finishes for her, the young woman's usual slow-paced words weighed down by controlled emotions.

"The crimes Titus stands charged against," Lexa tells them, looking between Murphy and Myles with a tired look. "Isn't only against my authority, it's against your lives. I ask for you both to be present for the trial, but Murphy kom Skaikru is free to leave, if you wish." Dark blue eyes immediately snap to the two Arker girls, a nervous hesitance in his gaze. "I am afraid, Myles, that I must ask you to stay. The sway of Wanheda is large, and without the protection of a Flamekeeper…"

"Look, Lexa," Myles starts, but Clarke interjects, shaking her head with her eyebrows worried.

"You're in no condition to stop Pike and his army," the blonde scolds, staring at the pale and clammy redhead. "Jasper, Finn and Octavia can handle it." Disbelieving hazel eyes look away from her friend, staring at the ground and bringing a hand up to rub her aching temples. "If they need more hands for the plan, they have Ray and the resistors inside. They'll be fine."

Hazel eyes swivel back to the Commander a moment after Clarke finishes, blood red eyebrows pulled up in a worried frown.

"You know everything I've done to work alongside you," the red-haired teen laments, "to be your friend, to protect you and your people, even against mine." Her eyes flick downwards as her rosy lips open and close silently, her words leaving her for a second. "I don't know what I can do here that'll help. If you want me here for the trial, then of course I'll sit in, but I don't know how to help you more than your guards can."

"I no longer know who here I can trust," the Commander divulges in an airy whisper, her eyebrows raising. "All I know is I can trust you and I can trust Clarke."

Myles' eyes find the floor again, her resolve cracking. Her thought process is shaken, and they're trapped once again. The redhead nods her reluctant head twice, lifting her slow and apologetic gaze to Murphy.

"If you stay for the trial," Myles offers softly, shaking her head in small movements as her mind whizzes through what to do. "I'll give you the map so once I'm done here, we can meet and find Emori."

"Don't bother," Murphy grumbles out, feigning disinterest and tapping one of his hands on the other before raising one to rub his nose. "I'm with you. I haven't made any terrible decisions lately. I'm starting to get bored."

"Thank you," Clarke tells him, her voice soft with pleasant surprise.

"I appreciate your understanding and your support," Lexa addresses Murphy. The brown-haired teen takes a step back, shrugging and fidgeting on his feet. Myles reaches a weak hand to her loose belt, pulling her walkie-talkie off the clip as Clarke's kind hands continue to help steady her. "I wish for you to know I will not let what Titus did to you be minimised or overlooked. You will get justice, Murphy kom Skaikru."

"Justice is overrated," the exhausted brown-haired teen drawls out. His dark blue eyes look down at his hands as the redhead brings the walkie to her mouth to call for her best friend. "Lasted this long without it, why waste my time with a fairytale now?"

"JJ?" Myles talks into the walkie, lifting her finger off the transmit button to share a sad look with Murphy at his words. Silence is all that answers her. "JJ."

"I thought I gave my people justice," the Commander discloses. "That the Commanders before me brought them justice, but I have learned justice is not vengeance, and you cannot have peace without justice."

"Anyone read me?" Myles asks, lifting her finger off the button again to look at Clarke with a worn down expression.

If they can't reach any of their friends, they'll keep waiting for help that won't arrive.

"Why isn't he answering?" Murphy enquires, a stormy look in his dark blue eyes as he furrows his eyebrows.

"No one's home," Clarke answers, before trying to reassure the red-haired teen whose anxiety continues to climb. "They'll figure it out. It's why we had all those plans, right? They'll be just fine."

Taking a deep breath in, Myles cuts it off suddenly when pain explodes in her abdomen from the gunshot wound.

"So," Myles starts, clipping her walkie back onto her loose belt and limping towards the Commander and Murphy. "You got any idea how you want to pursue this? With Titus?"

"Traitors in the villages get Death by a Thousand Cuts," the Commander describes, "and then they're fed to the bugs. Traitors against the Commander… it's customary to start with fire. Take their hands, tongues and eyes before starting the cuts." Murphy pales, shifting on his feet with bubbling anxiety. Lexa's brown eyes flick up to Myles' and the redhead recognises the look in her gaze; she's looking for validation. "But that doesn't invoke the peace we've fought for, does it?"

A small smiles touches the redhead's rosy lips, huffing a relieved breath out of her nose as the other two Arkers relax.

"No," Myles agrees, "it sure doesn't."

"We can't just banish him," Clarke announces, her tone unsure as her eyes switch between them. "It worked for Emerson, but it won't for him."

"It will if he knows what we swapped it for," Murphy asserts, rubbing his nose in a quick motion that betrays his confident words. "Fiery mutilation isn't exactly a very modest death for someone that self-righteous."

"I don't know," the red-haired teen mumbles slowly, quirking a red eyebrow. "I think he'd be too ashamed of dishonouring you. He wouldn't dare touch clan lands again."

"No sense worrying about it now," Lexa sighs, "the council still needs to be convened. It will be decided tomorrow." The young woman's brown eyes lock on Clarke's, having a conversation that seems too loud to come from a wordless exchange. Dark blue eyes watch the interaction curiously, before sharing an amused look with Myles. After a short moment, whatever reminder she was getting from her blonde-haired girlfriend prompts her to continue. "Being without a Flamekeeper does not only affect my spirit, but that of my Natblida. I have organised a training exercise for tomorrow to prepare them for what may be to come. Tonight, we will have dinner, to calm the uncertainty."

"Food?" Murphy inquires, already turning to gesture towards the doors. "I'm in."

 

There haven't been many times Myles has had the honour of sitting at the Commander's large table with so many people present. Lexa sits at the head of the table, Aden on one side and Clarke on the other. The Nightbloods sit together down one side, Murphy and Myles sit beside Clarke across from them. Around them are the handful of the clans highest ranked chieftains that make up the war council. Myles is glad to have gotten rid of the grey long-sleeved shirt covered in her blood, feeling a lot more comfortable in fresh clothes that don't crackle and tug on her wound with every movement. Myles pushes up the long sleeves of her faded light green shirt to expose her thin wrists, and leans forward to continue eating.

An array of food lays down the centre of the table, beautiful smells of cooked and seasoned meats and vegetables wafting through the air. Freshly baked bread, plain and oat, and others with nuts and fruit release a heavenly aroma that spills into the hallway. Candlelight flickers across shiny fruit, casting dark shadows in the bowls of soup across the table. Pitchers of juice, water, and alcohol keep the guests entertained, people reaching to grasp one and pass it down regularly.

Carefree chatter is as deafening as the sound of knives scraping against the flat, scorched clay plates holding their meals. Murphy's relaxed posture tenses every time Firo, a council member raised in Shallow Valley, talks to him. Even though it takes him by surprise, Murphy responds as if it doesn't. Leaning over her plate to look at the man on the other side of Murphy, Myles smiles despite the booming pain the movement incites inside of her.

"You only say that," Myles teases, "because you're happy you're not sitting next to Jasper."

"Rah!" Firo exclaims in amusement, pointing his knife at the redhead. The 'Y' shaped tattoo on his forehead crinkles as his eyebrows raise in a joking manner. "He smells the same." Murphy huffs a laugh, coughing to avoid choking on the food he's still chewing. The black-haired man with braids of red fabric matted into his long hair taps Murphy's shoulder, leaning over towards him. "I thank the spirits of the Commanders for you not talking the same."

"Nah," the brown-haired teen drawls with a smirk, swallowing his mouthful and prodding his food. "He's good."

"Good at talking," Myles quips, placing her flat, two-pronged fork down to pick up her cup of wine and lean back in her seat. "Don't lie, you miss him a lot."

"I don't miss him chugging all our wine," Firo boasts, and Murphy's body rocks as he chuckles to himself.

His dark blue eyes look up at the Commander on Myles' left, and his hand places his fork down to tap on the redhead's shoulder. Myles hums into her cup of wine in acknowledgment, bringing the cup back down to pay attention to her friend. Murphy gestures lazily at the Commander with his knife, and her hazel eyes turn to look at the head of the table.

Lexa is standing, pouring a dark orange juice into the Nightbloods cups to refill them, her soft smile and loving words showering them. It's a wholesome sight, a perfect example of the Commander's relationship with the children. The Commander sits back down, the smile never once leaving her soft features as she looks to Clarke. When she speaks to the blonde, her bright eyes radiate warmth, before turning back to the children with unconditional love.

"She's like their mother," Murphy murmurs, leaning close to Myles to keep their conversation private.

"She raised them," Myles whispers back, leaning to Murphy to utter the words. "When a Nightblood child is found, they're brought here, to the Capitol, to train to become the next Commander."

"Mm," the brown-haired teen grunts, fascinated by the exchange. "So much for the bloodthirsty, barbaric warriors we expected, huh?"

Hazel eyes lock on his dark blue, "there are no good guys, Johnny. Only survivors tell the story."

 

Myles' hand rubs across her forehead, tired hazel eyes staring at the Commander sitting across from her. The first few rays of sunlight pour in through the window of the throne room, illuminating the low table they sit at in a soft, dull glow. She's slouched in the wooden chair she sits on across from Lexa and her girlfriend, the hand against her forehead propped up by the elbow on her armrest.

Murphy mirrors her position in a chair about a metre to her left, but his posture is even more careless than the redhead's. Reclined almost flat, Murphy lies across his seat diagonally with his arms crossed on top of his chest. He takes a deep breath in, his whole body lifting with the motion as he recognises the second the words leave Clarke's mouth that it won't work.

"They will not accept a mere flogging," Lexa's booming voice denounces, "not for this."

They've been at this for a while, trying to make sure they don't come to the war council with a plea for mercy without adequate options for a replacement punishment. Murphy, even though spared of having to sit through many of these over the last three months, has immediately figured out exactly how draining it is. Appeals to humanity should be enough, but it's not; not in a society where Capital Punishment has been the norm since the war two-hundred years ago.

"The other ones are public, right?" Murphy offers, bored, "so make it public."

"Instead of everyone here getting a chance with the knife," Myles adds, "let them flog him, then banish him."

"They will demand something more permanent," the Commander refuses, "than a flogging."

"If it's in the same spot," Clarke tries, "it'll break the skin and scar."

"It's something," the red-haired teen amends when Lexa stays silent, Myles' dejected tone betraying her optimistic words.

A shrill female's voice echoing screeched screams drags their attention to the throne room doors, Murphy and Myles craning their necks. Lexa shoots up from her seat, straightening her back and squaring her shoulders. The Commander walks to the strip of red carpet that lines the floor from the doors to her throne, Clarke following at her heels. Myles stands gingerly, an unsettling, heavy sense of foreboding plaguing her senses. Murphy hesitates, straightening and flicking his gaze across the other three before rising from his seat.

"What's happening?" Clarke asks, snapping her eyes from her girlfriend to the doors.

"I don't know," the Commander supplies slowly, her tone low in anticipation for whatever is coming from down the hall.

After a moment more of a girl shrieking wordlessly, the throne room doors burst open. Two guards drag in a screaming woman covered in black blood, their strong grips holding onto the struggling woman. She flails under their hands, her movements becoming purposeful and controlled when her brown eyes land on the Commander. An expression that Myles can only describe as hunger twists up her features, and the redhead recognises her through the blood.

It's Ontari, the Nightblood Azgeda had hidden and trained. She's dripping in thick, wet black blood, the tan coloured sack tied around her waist smeared with it. Myles' heart pumps hard and fast, stepping forward once in shock with her gaze glued on Ontari thrashing violently. Ontari tries to wrench her arms away from the guards again, and, this time, they let her.

"Chit dison bilaik?" Lexa's hard and authoritative voice bellows, unfazed brown eyes watching Ontari fall to her knees when the guards let her arms slip loose. [AN: "What is this?"]

A large, dark smile breaks across the blood-covered young woman's face. Black blood covered hands grasp the sack around her waist while she stands, determined hands slipping with the fresh blood. The knot in the material comes loose, and Ontari dumps the contents on the floor.

Myles freezes, her blood running cold and heart freezing before thundering in her chest. Hazel eyes can do nothing but follow the pale and lifeless severed heads as they land on the floor with a wet thud and roll towards the Commander's feet. They're the severed heads of all seven Nightblood children Lexa has raised and trained. Clarke reaches for Lexa, steadying the Commander who's trying desperately to collect herself from the shock.

"Yu nou ste rein fleimon-de," Ontari declares, her loud voice bouncing off the walls. Lexa's hardened and enraged brown eyes flick up from the heads of the children she cared for and loved as her own. "Yu nokoma klin osir komfon ogeda. Ai gada in throudon yu, en yu na slip daun thau yu Fleimkepa." [AN: "You are not worthy of the Flame. You disgrace our ancestors. I challenge you, and you will fall without your Flamekeeper."]

"Actually," Myles interjects when Lexa's nostrils only flare and her chest heaves. She speaks in English for the sake of the terribly confused Arker standing beside her nervously, not able to understand a word being thrown around. Ontari's disinterested and power-hungry brown eyes turn to her, her frightening glare intensifying. "You have to be an ambassador or a delegate to challenge the Commander."

"You," the black-haired woman growls, her features twisting up in fury.

The Azgedian charges forward and Myles doesn't flinch away, instead her hazel eyes watch as the guards snatch her arms and yank her back to the carpet. Their hands stay on her, forcing the woman to stop fighting. Her chest heaves with rapid breaths and her dark brown eyes are set ablaze.

"You're neither," Myles finishes pointedly, causing Ontari to wrench an arm free from the guards.

"The Order of the Flame," Ontari continues, scoffing a mocking laugh at the redhead and looking back to the Commander. "Knew you were weak when you started abolishing our ways. Dishonouring the traditions we hold dear for our survival." A burst of dark laughter bubbles from Ontari's throat, "you have no Fleimkepa. There is no one to stop me from killing you and taking your place. You have no Spiritual Order."

"Yes, she does," Myles refutes, lying through her teeth and stalking towards them at an obnoxious pace.

"Oh?" Ontari taunts, laughing and turning her body towards the red-haired teen. "You and Clarke could never become Fleimkepa, Wanheda. No Skaikru ever could."

"She wasn't talking about her or Clarke," Murphy's even voice pipes up, sauntering forward to stand between Lexa and Myles. "She's talking about me."

"And who are you?" The Azgedian sneers, bitterness twisting up her face to cover her shock from his words.

"Ai Fleimkepa," Lexa confirms, easily following the lie in a low rumble even as her voice shakes. "And you will respect him in this chamber. Guards!" Immediately, the guards swarm Ontari, but the young woman fights them, thrashing and shrieking. "Lok em daun!" [AN: "My Flamekeeper." "Lock her up!"]

Yanking her back towards the throne room doors, Ontari kicks and screams, trying to throw herself loose from their grip.

"Ai na frag yo op!" Ontari hollers, her voice and screeches disappearing down the hall. "En ai na laik fousen Heda!"[AN: "I will kill you! And I will be the rightful Commander!"]

Lexa looks to Myles when Ontari's shrieking reaches the staircase and they drag her down. The hard, detached look in the Commander's eyes remains, even after the throne room doors swing shut and the Azgedian's voice disappears down the stairs.

"We'll be having an execution today after all," Lexa declares quietly, switching her gaze to the severed heads on the floor and falling to her knees.

 

Murphy shifts on his feet behind Myles, all three Arker's standing close to the throne where Lexa sits. Clarke has a hand on her arm, but Myles and Murphy only stick close to offer the grief-stricken young woman comfort. Hazel eyes glance around the pitying and grieving faces of the council members sitting around the room. It doesn't take more than a moment for her gaze to get stuck on the same place Lexa's is.

The guards had cleaned up where the children's heads had fallen. Only smears of black blood leaving a vague trail in the hallway to the throne room remain, mocking them. Instead of a physical reminder of what was on the floor in front of them two hours ago, there's only a memory that will haunt them all. Those children were sweet and innocent, they were young and deserving of a fate that bears no resemblance to the one they got.

Shifting her weight from one foot to the other, the red-haired teen can't stop the soft groan that slips from her throat. The longer she's on her feet, the more pain she's in. It's been getting worse at a steady and relentless pace, the day's events not allowing her a moment to recuperate. Myles is still lightheaded from blood loss, the increasing pain making her dizzy mind swim. Her head pounds, as if the silence in the room is being beaten into her skull.

"What's taking so damn long?" Myles mutters, her pain making her irritable.

"You should sit down," Clarke instructs softly, "you're really pale."

"That isn't what I asked," the redhead retorts, bringing a hand up to her head and licking her dry lips.

"Sit down," Murphy orders, his tone lacking the gentleness the blonde's held. Hazel eyes look at him for a fight, finding his expression soft with concern and not matching his hard voice. Slowly releasing her breath, Myles relents, carefully inching herself to sit on the ground beside Lexa's throne, feeling Murphy's hands guide her down. "I didn't mean here."

"Wha – you said sit," Myles blurts in genuine confusion, hearing the Commander breathe out a small breath harshly.

Footsteps march down the hallway and towards the throne room, not faltering in their steady pace. The guards at the doors push them open when they approach, inviting the two men to walk in empty handed.

"What is this?" Lexa's rumbles, vibrating with anger and frustration.

"Titus kom Trikru is dead," one of them announces loudly, shocking the room.

Whispers and murmurs flutter through the council, Murphy's 'son of a bitch' getting lost in the commotion.

"How?" The Commander asks accusingly, causing everyone in the room to fall silent again.

"Slit his own throat," the other answers without hesitating, and Lexa allows herself to look shocked.

"Are you sure?" Lexa verifies, her tone low and confident as she collects her composure.

"Sha, Heda," one replies while the other nods, maintaining their attentive and respectful demeanours. [AN: "Yes, Commander."]

"Lid in Ontari kom Azgedakru," the Commander orders in a detached voice, and the two warriors turn to do as asked. [AN: "Bring in Ontari of the Ice Nation People."]

Myles' tired mind is still foggy from blood loss and pain, the conversation taking a moment for her to fully grasp an understanding of.

"Damn," Myles whispers, shocked.

"It's not the first death of the day," Lexa utters back, stone cold, "and it won't be the last."

"Can we abandon the peace thing," the red-haired teen implores with furrowed eyebrows. "Just for her? I say we do all Capital Punishments in one."

"Gee, letting her off that easy, huh?" Murphy quips dully, and the redhead rolls her head to look at him.

"Oh, come on," Myles urges, quirking her red eyebrows sarcastically. "You're not – "

"Aggie, Clarke," Finn Collins' frantic voice crackles over the radio. The quality dips a couple times as he positions the antenna in the right direction for the time of day. "If you can hear me, come in."

"Yeah," Myles answers after hastily unclipping the device, feeling a familiar heavy knot twist deep in her gut. "What's happened?"

"Where the hell are you?" Finn demands, his voice coming out rushed and panicked.

"Polis," the redhead replies, his frantic words making her own speed up. "We got held up. What the hell happened?"

"All the prisoners in lock-up were sentenced to death," Finn's fast voice reports. Myles' hand holding the walkie-talkie falls away from her face slowly in shock. "All the sick grounders, Kane, Sinclair, Lincoln." Wide hazel eyes look up, locking instantly on the Commander's worried brown and Clarke's terrified blue. "We're trying to break them out, but we need help. How soon can you get here?"

"Go," Lexa commands them, looking from Clarke to the two Arker's on her left and nodding in assurance. Murphy and Clarke's hands are already reaching to help pull Myles up before the Commander can finish. "I will handle the trial. Go save your people."

"We're on our way now."

 

Myles has her teeth clenched so hard that the muscles of her cheeks, jaw and throat quiver. A groan shakes the tense muscles when rover five jolts as it goes over a large tree root on the trail in front of them. Hazel eyes slip closed for a brief second, before opening again to guide Clarke. Her mind swims, blurring the bright green surrounding the uneven terrain Clarke floors the rover through. Even though she's in pain and has lost a lot of blood, Myles' tired, stressed, and foggy mind still recognises the path they take. Hints of tire tracks provide a calming validation to the redhead's recollection, letting her know they're still going the right way.

The rover loses some of its speed, making the red-haired teen roll her head to look at the steering wheel. Myles curses under her breath when she hears the sound that's been the bane of her and Jasper's existence for the last few months. The rover splutters, a strange whirring sound rumbling through it and a tired sigh pours from Myles' nostrils.

"It's okay," the red-haired teen mutters, gingerly pulling herself to sit up. "We knew it was gonna happen."

"What do I do now?" Clarke asks, furrowed blonde eyebrows and wide blue eyes glancing from the dashboard to her feet.

"Take your feet off the pedals and pull up the handbrake," Myles explains, twisting around to look at Murphy and reach a hand out. "Nothing else will work on a flat battery. Can you pass me the pack?"

"You can't lift it," Murphy refuses, already walking to the back doors and carrying the heavy charger with him.

Huffing to herself, Myles opens the door and slides out, scrunching her face up at the pain the movement blinds her with. She hadn't bothered with her seatbelt or the weapon brace that goes around her waist, her abdomen far too sore to even consider the notion.

"No, I'll do it," Clarke offers quickly, unclipping one of the only two seatbelts in the vehicle.

"It's easier if I do it," the redhead waves off, waddling to the hood of the rover and facing it as Murphy walks up beside her.

Reaching a hand under the little lip on the hood, Myles' pale, slender fingers reach for the knob that locks it shut. Clicking it open, the red-haired teen starts to pull up the metal covering. Pain burns in her stomach, making her stop and lean over the bullbar for support.

"I got it," Murphy takes over, picking it up and holding it up with ease. "What do I do?"

Hazel eyes look up, bringing a hand out to pull up the thin metal rod tucked to the side of the hood. Sliding it up, Myles moves it to catch the hook at the end in a hole in the hood, letting the rod hold the metal up for them.

"Can you put the pack up here?" Myles requests, looking down at it on the ground.

"Yeah," the brown-haired teen replies, bending down to pick it back up and swing it to drop on the bullbar.

Reaching over, Myles unzips the front of the pack, reaching in and flicking three switches. Once they're in the right order, she twists the knob and presses on the button to start the charger. The heavy box makes a soft, high-pitched whirring sound and rattles, gently vibrating on the bullbar. With it on, the redhead pulls off the cylindrical plug that's attached to a thin metal hose and clipped onto the side of the charger. Holding it in one hand, the other flicks the locks on the battery in the rover. After unlocking it, the cap that protects the port slides away, and Myles presses the plug into it.

The sound the charger makes changes, becoming a quiet, dull thumping noise as the shaking intensifies. Myles leans forward, keeping one hand holding the cylindrical plug in the charging port and the other on the bullbar for support. Hazel eyes stare at the dial on the charging pack wearily, watching the already small number deplete.

"How long does this last?" Murphy enquires, holding the vibrating charger on the rover.

"The charging or the battery?" Myles questions back, looking to him.

"Both," the brown-haired teen amends, intrigued dark blue eyes scanning the mechanical interior of the rover.

"It won't take long to drain the charger," the redhead shrugs. "Two minutes maybe? It'll be enough to get us to Arkadia with a little to spare. Let's hope JJ's has more charge left in it."

 

"…all clear in Corridor F," the chatter comes over the radio. "Advancing south to Mess Hall."

They've been listening since they got within range, patiently waiting to hear the commotion that's happening and devise what plan of action to take. Hazel eyes are preoccupied, leaning forward in her seat to make sure Clarke parks the rover somewhere that won't give away the position of the cave.

"Corridor B is clear," another voice talks, "no sign of the intruders."

"A little bit further," Myles instructs quietly, "slowly get her into the bush." Clarke does as told, slowly inching the rover into the discreet position they want. Once the rover is exactly where the redhead is comfortable leaving it, she nods, looking to her blonde-haired friend with a proud smile. "Perfect. Told you you'd pick it up quick."

"It's amazing," Clarke gushes, turning the rover off. "Why did I put it off for so long?"

Myles opens her door with a smile, sliding out carefully and hearing her two friends press their doors shut. Copying their quiet actions, Myles slinks forward with purposefully silent steps. She keeps her hand over her walkie to hush the chatter on the radio from the Ark guardsmen, feeling it buzz from muffled words under her fingers. Swerving around a bend and ducking under a low rocky ledge leads the redhead to a large cave system. Slowing down to make sure Clarke and Murphy are following her, Myles continues forward to follow the soft gold dancing glow of a small fire.

A quick, soft sound rustles a second before Indra steps into view. The warrior's stance holds the self-respect the woman felt she lost on the field where Chancellor Pike and his men gunned down her army. Her right arm is in a sling, protecting it from being overused or being immediately within reach for an attacker to use to their advantage.

"Snap kom dalop, nami?" Indra's hard voice greets them, but her dark brown eyes don't harbour the animosity her words suggest. [AN: "Took you long enough."]

"Ah," Myles tsks, relaxing her approach now that she knows the cave is clear and safe. "I like to think of it as fashionably late."

"Aggie?" Bellamy calls, and the echoing sound of chains rattling drags her further into the cave out of intrigue. Rounding the rock wall Indra stepped out from, Myles sees Bellamy Blake is sitting on the cave floor. Chained to the rock, desperation is clear in his deep brown eyes and urgent voice. "Aggie, thank god. Unchain me, I can help."

"Would you look at that?" Murphy drawls out in amusement, coming to stand beside Myles when she raises a delicate red eyebrow at Indra. "Oh, how the mighty have fallen."

"Shut up, Murphy," Bellamy snaps, frustrated.

"Why is he chained to the wall?" Myles asks Indra, looking at her seriously and without a shred of doubt in her voice, knowing she has a reason for it.

"Mess Hall is clear," a voice crackles out from the walkie-talkie on Myles' loose belt. "Holding positions."

"He's been helping us from the inside," Clarke defends, her strong voice drowning out the voices coming from the radio. "He's on our side."

"I don't trust him," Indra informs them sternly, her dark brown eyes boring into the man.

Myles lowers her hazel eyes, understanding the reason he's here is Octavia wanted him out of Arkadia. Here, he's out of harm's way, and it eliminates the possibility of their plan somehow reaching Pike. In order for them all to be safe, he has to stay here. In order for Indra to feel like she's doing something to help, in order for her to feel safe with him, he has to be restrained and guarded.

"Aggie," Bellamy pleads, tilting his head to the side as he sees her accept the woman's answer. "It's a suicide mission. They've tripled security, he – "

"We know that," Myles cuts him off, locking her regretful hazel eyes on his. "My plan accounts for the guards to be quadrupled."

"Let me help," the curly dark brown-haired man begs, pulling on his chains. "If anything happens to – "

"If you think Myles or Jasper would let anything happen to Octavia," Murphy interjects seriously, "you deserve to be chained up."

"Where is Jasper?" Clarke panics, looking at Indra.

"Collecting the prisoners and guiding them out," Indra answers, looking to Clarke first before her gaze falls on Myles. "Plan S."

Myles tips her head back in acknowledgment, "with them all?"

"Yes," the dark-skinned woman confirms, "Jasper and Octavia are inside, handing them out. She's angry."

"Yeah," Myles huffs out, "I figured. Polis went on lockdown."

"Lockdown?" Bellamy echoes as Indra turns her head to the side, shock covering her sharp features.

"Chit don kom au?" Indra inquires, a tremble of uncertainty and fear in her tone. [AN: "What happened?"]

"Fleimkepa-de don bastab Heda in," the red-haired teen relays in a hushed tone, stepping close to the warrior. "Em don gouthru klin fou em sadon klin." Sparing a glance at the restless Blake brother, he's still tugging on his chains and looking at Myles like she's betraying him. Even though he can't understand her, Myles steps even closer to say the next words to give Lexa as much privacy as she can. "Natblida don flosh klin ogeda." Indra snaps her head to look at Myles, whipping her head to stare at Clarke and Murphy for verification. "Ontari kom Azgeda laik Natblida, em frag emo op ogeda disha sonop. Heda ste hed daun." [AN: "The Flamekeeper betrayed the Commander. He committed suicide before his trial." "All of the Nightbloods were killed. Ontari from the Ice Nation is a Nightblood, she killed them all this morning. The Commander grieves."]

Indra steps to the side in a daze, reaching her left hand out to a rocky wall of the cave to steady herself. Myles looks back at the other two sadly, and Bellamy catches both actions.

"What?" Bellamy quizzes, dread and fear in his voice as his hands still in their motions against the chains. "What happened?"

"Don't get your panties in a twist," Murphy snarks bitterly. "It's nothing that affects you."

"It will should – " Indra snaps in panic, stopping herself for a moment. "May Keryon kom Heda forbid it, if Lexa falls and an Azgeda Natblida becomes Commander… we're all doomed." [AN: "the Spirits of the Commanders."]

"That's why we were late," Clarke finishes softly, looking from a nervous Bellamy to Indra. "Without a Flamekeeper – "

The blonde stops, unable to finish her sentence out of fear that voicing it will make it come true.

"Unit Four," Chancellor Pike calls over the radio. "What's your status? Are the prisoners secure?" When only silence follows, hazel eyes flick between Clarke and Murphy's gazes. "Unit Four!"

"What if they haven't got them out yet?" Clarke frets, and her concerns reignite Bellamy's.

"Look," Bellamy pleads, "he trusts me. They have no idea I've been handing off information. I can help."

"Bell," Myles apologises, "I'm sorry." The Blake brother deflates, and Myles turns to Clarke. "If they haven't got them out, we go ahead with the backups."

"Medical," another voice crackles into the cave, "two guards down. Alpha Station corridor E. Need assistance now."

"Are you sure?" Bellamy's drained and begging voice enquires, his eyes only on Myles as the fight leaves him completely. "Are you sure it'll work?"

"She's Wanheda," Indra reminds him evenly, taking her hand off the wall to stand up straight, "the Ghost. You should know better than to doubt her."

"That's the nicest thing I've ever heard you say," Clarke mutters in astonishment, but a sad smile crosses Myles' face.

"Because you're leaving," Myles breathes, half of a sweet smile on her face and no trace of judgement in her voice.

"Leaving?" Clarke repeats in confusion, the sound of the chains rustling echoing sharply.

"No, you can't leave," Bellamy refuses in a flurry of panic. "O needs you."

"She doesn't need me," the warrior corrects him, reaching her left hand out to cross over both her body and Myles' to rest on the redhead's left shoulder. Myles copies the action, bringing up her right hand to rest gently on Indra's injured shoulder. It's a gesture she recognises as a show of great respect among high ranking warriors and chieftains, crossing an arm to rest a hand on the other's furthest shoulder. The redhead doesn't hesitate to mirror Indra's movement, appreciation shining on her delicate features. "She has Wanheda."

"Ride safely," Myles tells her kindly, the sad look in her eyes never leaving.

Indra claps the hand on Myles' shoulder down, before sliding it up to cup the back of her neck. The redhead copies the movement to cup the back of the woman's neck, and Indra leans her head forward.

"Hed emo op ogeda gon klirnes," Indra orders her, flicking her stern dark brown eyes between the teen's hazel. [AN: "Lead them all to safety."]

"Ai na, ai sis kom keryon," Myles replies, and Indra claps her hand on her shoulder once more before turning to leave. [AN: "I will, my sister of soul." This is Myles' way of returning Indra's compliment/approval.]

"So, you're leaving?" Murphy demands, shrugging obnoxiously. "Just like that?"

Indra stops walking to the cave's exit, turning to look back at him.

"I am a mother," Indra declares strongly, "the Commander grieves the loss of children. No one should ever understand that pain."

"There's something else you should know," Myles calls out before the woman can turn away again. Reluctant hazel eyes look up to the woman's dark brown, trying to think of a way to convey how heavily this affects Lexa. "They weren't just slaughtered. Their heads were delivered to her feet."

"Azgeda's cruelty knows no restraint," Indra grovels out when she recovers from the shock. "I will aid her as you've aided me."

With those last parting words, Indra turns, dashing out of the cave with a fierce determination in her strides. Myles watches after her until she's out of sight, then turns her attention back to the others in the room once the woman's steps are out of earshot.

"I didn't know she had kids," Bellamy says under his breath, and hazel eyes glide over to look at him.

He's not looking at them, his gaze instead focussed on the ground. Empathy cloaks his quiet and timid features, radiating off of him in heavy waves.

"We had dinner with them," Murphy utters, "they're good kids." Realising his mistake, he rubs his nose with one hand, a nervous habit of his, correcting himself in a detached, dark tone. "Were."

"Okay, S," Harper McIntyre's voice whispers in a rush through the walkie, "come in."

"Go ahead," Octavia answers, and red eyebrows furrow as Myles looks to Clarke and Murphy.

"S?" Bellamy inquires in confusion, talking over Harper's hushed voice. "Why are they using the radio?"

"Because we want the guards to hear them," Myles answers distractedly, trying to hear the dirty blonde-haired teen's words.

"Stay where you are," Harper instructs under their voices, "repeat. Stay where you are. The exit is not clear."

"This isn't part of the plan," Clarke frets, making Bellamy bristle.

"How many guards?" Octavia questions, and Myles talks over them to calm their nerves.

"They're improvising," Myles reasons, trying to quench the dread bubbling inside of her. "A distraction."

"Too many," Harper supplies immediately, "I said 'stay put'."

"Calling all guards," Monty Green, best friend to Myles and Jasper, interjects through the radio. "The prisoners are headed for the main gate."

Sparkling hazel eyes lock on Clarke's blue, "told you."

"The prisoners are headed for the main gate," Monty repeats hastily, "over."

"Unchain me," Bellamy implores them, breaking the quiet moment of relief that fills the air. "Bring me into the plan."

"They're already getting them out," Murphy restates. "Unless you want to become a magnet for Guard bullets, I don't see what you can do."

"I can help," the dark brown-haired man counters aggressively, his tone sure. "They can hand them off to me when they reach the fence."

"That's why you're here," Myles promises, drawing the Blake brother's attention. "This is the meeting place." Deep brown eyes soften, looking into the redhead's honest hazel. "We need someone to guard them here, and until they're all here, we need to make sure you don't go anywhere near Arkadia."

"If I knew that was the plan," Bellamy offers in a huff. "I wouldn't have fought back." Myles doesn't say anything, only sparing a hesitant glance at the other two Arkers. "I won't go anywhere."

Reluctantly, Myles' eyes flick back to his, no one making a move to unchain the young man.

"Team Two," a voice crackles out of the radio, "we're at the main gate. There's nothing here."

"Negative here," someone else confirms, "all clear."

"Do you think they made it?" Murphy enquires, a worried lilt to his dull tone as he shifts his weight from foot to foot anxiously.

"There's a small passageway," Myles reveals, "hidden in the wall in the Maintenance Bay off Corridor E. It's a straight shot under the fence. There's two more ways they could've gone, but it's a tighter squeeze and they come up before the fence-line."

"Old habits die hard, huh?" Murphy marvels, an amused smirk lifting up one side of his face.

"They said Corridor E was clear," Bellamy shakily recalls. Myles looks back at him in time to see his panicked deep brown eyes flick back up to hers from the floor. "They won't make it."

"They already have," the red-haired teen assures him, continuing when his stressed demeanour doesn't relax. "Plan S is for 'Stash'. They never left Corridor E."

"I have a message for the traitors in this camp," Chancellor Pike announces through the walkie-talkie. Myles' eyes leave Bellamy's, her red eyebrows furrowing as angst builds in her gut from his dark and ominous tone. "There will be an execution today." Worried hazel eyes turn to Clarke, both teens wearing matching expressions of fearful resolve. "Either turn yourselves in or the other grounder prisoners will die in your place."

"Fuck," Myles huffs out, already moving to the exit of the cave with her hand extended to Clarke. "Keys."

"Aggie, what are you doing?" Bellamy's fretful voice demands, panicked worry screaming through his uneven tone. Clarke hesitates for a moment, then pulls the keys from her pocket and tosses them to Myles with a worried frown. "You can't go in there, it's a suicide mission!"

"They'll turn themselves in," Myles declares urgently, catching the keys and turning on her heels to sprint out of the cave.

Adrenaline thumps through her veins, cloaking the ache and throbbing of her gunshot wound.

"For the record," Murphy drawls, following her and not staying with Clarke and Bellamy. "I hate this idea."

"Then stay with them," Myles counters, ducking under the rocky ledge they entered through, vaguely feeling her stitches tug.

Murphy doesn't, though, instead following her and matching her speedy pace.

"Nah," the brown-haired teen brushes off, "I hate it, but it's better than sitting with them and doing nothing."

"Good," the redhead agrees, skidding slightly as she abruptly slows her running down when they reach the rover. Looking over at Murphy and shaking the keys to get his attention, she tosses him the keys with a smile as she continues to the passenger door. "You can drive."

"You know," Murphy drawls, catching the keys and rounding the rover while Myles opens the passenger door and climbs in. "I'm starting to warm up to this idea." Murphy opens the driver's door, sitting in the seat and looking to Myles. "What do I do?"

"Put the key in the keyhole," the red-haired teen explains, leaning over and tapping the side of the steering wheel it's on. "Turn it as far right as it goes, then press the button on the top there."

Murphy does as instructed, neither teen worrying about a seatbelt. The rover rumbles to life, and a bright smile spreads across Murphy's face.

"Now what?" The excited brown-haired teen asks, looking to the redhead and resting his hands on the steering wheel.

"Push down on the last two pedals," Myles leans over to check he's doing it right, "the brake is the middle one and it won't go all the way down. Only use your right foot for the brake and accelerator. The far left is the clutch, once the clutch is all the way in, drag this," Myles shakes the gearstick, "into gear 1. Right here." Murphy does as she tells him and Myles takes off the handbrake for him. "Good. Now take your foot off the brake and slowly replace the foot on the clutch with the accelerator on the far right."

The rover revs up and moves forward, the bright smile never once leaving Murphy's face.

"When the rover makes an angry thunder sound," the redhead relays, "press the clutch down and shift up the gears one at a time." Levelling the teen with a pointed but soft look. "Push the accelerator to the floor and don't hit a tree."

 

"Here," Myles shouts, "stop!"

Murphy presses on the clutch and the brake, skidding the rover to a sudden stop. Myles and Murphy both get pushed forward from the sudden stop, and Myles is already opening her door.

"Twist the key towards you and pull it out," the redhead commands, slipping out of the rover.

As soon as her boots hit the grass and without shutting her door, Myles climbs onto the roof with pained grunts as cold rain softly spits on her.

"What the hell are you doing?" Murphy demands, the rover falling silent once he does as told. The teen slides out of the rover, looking up at his friend with a shocked expression on his face. "You're crazy."

"It's the fastest way in," Myles retorts, reaching up to grip the branch above her and pulling herself up onto it with a loud squawk of pain.

Despite the blinding pain that shoots through her, Myles doesn't stop or slow, knowing that the execution is happening now. Quickly shuffling across the branch and feeling it dip down as she steps on the thinning wood, the redhead hears Murphy climb on top of the rover and muttering curse words under his breath. When the branch looks too close to the electric fence for her comfort, Myles jumps forward.

The sense of her stomach rising to her throat as she falls is brought to a sudden and agonising end when she hits the ground. White completely cloaks her vision as her legs give out, making her stumble to her knees. Clambering forward to get to her feet again with her vision slowly coming back, the ringing in her ears finally registers. Leaning forward with a hand on her knees and the other wrapped around her abdomen, the ringing gradually fades to nothing but her pained and struggling, wet gasps.

A thump behind her and a hand on her back and arm tugs her forward, reminding her of the situation at hand. Swallowing around the lump of nausea in her throat, the redhead runs, allowing Murphy's hands to yank her along.

"You're okay," Murphy promises her breathlessly, "come on. Come on."

Looking up and willing herself to run faster, Myles looks around at the shocked faces of a handful of Arker's spread out over the grounds. They don't make a move to them, but the fact that not a single one of them is wearing a guard's uniform unsettles her. Slowing suddenly and reaching down to grab her spare, small pistol from her ankle strap, Myles straights again and hands it to Murphy. Murphy mutters something to her, but the redhead doesn't hear him.

The thick wave of adrenaline that pumps through her at the sight of a large circle of a gathered crowd coming into her view drowns out his words. Sprinting forward, hazel eyes dart around for where the commotion is stemming from. In front of Alpha Station, facing the small gate to the south-east of Arkadia, two guards push Lincoln forward. Pike stands in front of him with a dozen guardsmen behind him in solidarity, silently urging the Chancellor on.

Myles' whole abdomen burns, hot, thick liquid bubbling from her stitches that she can feel pull and tear with every movement. It doesn't just burn from the aggravated injuries, but the reminder that the weapons brace that wraps around her waist is still in Polis. She'd been way too sore to put the seatbelt around her in the rover, and even the thought of strapping weapons around her tender waist had sickened her. Adrenaline throbs in her veins, making the blood seeping from her wound taint her faded light green shirt speedily. The blood weighs her shirt down, joining the rain in making the material feel heavy on her shoulders.

They push Lincoln onto his knees in the wet dirt, the light rain muddying the ground and sloshing at his weight. Pike says something as the guards step back from Lincoln, and the reserved look his face, even from this far away, frightens Myles to her core. A guard behind Pike looks to the side, his eyes immediately falling on the two teens sprinting towards them through the soft rain. Clenching her teeth, Myles watches Pike raise his arm to point the pistol in his hand at Lincoln's head. Forcing her legs to go faster, Myles reaches both of her hands to her weapons straps on her loose belt.

Yanking out her knife in her right hand and her pistol in the left, the redhead grips them desperately. Myles swings her right hand out hard as the guardsmen yells and raises his rifle to the teens, thrusting her knife to the group. The blade leaves Myles' slender fingers and Murphy skids to a stop, yanking up his weapon. At the same time, the redhead's left hand brings her pistol up to catch it in her still outstretched right hand.

A bullet fires, but it's not from Myles, Murphy or any of the guards behind Pike.

"Stop!" The guardsmen who saw them bellows, pointing his rifle at the two of them as Pike's hand flies to the side. "Stop or we'll shoot!"

In the blink of an eye, all the guardsmen behind Pike have their guns trained on the two teens, and Myles slows to a jog, her boots slipping in the wet mud. Pike looks up at them, and Lincoln swings his head to the side, a gash across the side of his bald head dripping blood down to his ear.

"Back away from my friend," Myles orders, continuing forward and hearing Murphy follow hesitantly after her.

"Lower your weapons!" The guards shout over each other, all with their sights set on the two teens.

Myles keeps her gun trained on Pike, stepping forward to stand closer to Lincoln. Pike looks from the two teens to his right hand, the gun he held in it now flung to the ground from the force of the knife lodged deeply in his wrist. Red blood, the same shade of the stain quickly growing on Myles' shirt, pours thickly and rapidly from his almost severed wrist.

"Don't shoot!" Hannah Green yells to the guardsmen. "They're one of us!"

"Guards," Chancellor Pike orders, his voice thick, "arrest Miss Mylinski and Jonathan Murphy."

"Yes, sir," one replies instantly, and Myles moves her gun from Pike to shoot at the guardsman's feet when he steps forward.

As soon as they stop moving towards them, Myles moves her gun back to Pike. She finally stops, standing directly in front of Lincoln to protect him from the Chancellor. Murphy comes to a stop behind her, a step behind her and Lincoln, shifting on his feet in the mud.

"All I want," Myles relays seriously, "is for him and everyone in lock-up to walk out of those gates. Safely, and unharmed."

"You've seen what these people can do," Pike starts as one of his men wraps a tight tourniquet around his forearm and the redhead immediately interjects.

"I have," she agrees, "which is why I am advocating for them."

"They're murderers," the Chancellor argues, "they left our people to die in Mount Weather. They blew up our people in that same mountain."

"That wasn't Lincoln," Myles corrects him, a red eyebrow quirking, "it wasn't any of the grounders you've imprisoned."

"They're all the same," Pike counters, his tone so sure and intense that Myles understands why so many people bought into it.

"Myles," Lincoln calls from his spot kneeling on the ground behind her. "It's okay."

"No," Myles refuses, blinking heavily and lifting her eyebrows high as her mind swims with fogginess. "It's not."

"They'll kill them," the dark-skinned man pleads quietly, and Murphy shifts on his feet, the mud smacking and sloshing under his boots.

"I will not let you," Myles informs the Chancellor sternly, "or your men kill any more innocent people."

"Myles," Murphy mutters anxiously, inching forward half a step. "We're in over our heads here."

"He's right," Pike promises her, "you did a good thing on the Ark. But there are some people who don't deserve to have the Ghost help them."

The name, the pseudonym 'the Ghost', makes some of the guard's hesitate, their holds on their wet rifles shifting.

"Sir," a man Myles recognises, but can't remember the name of, calls out, stepping forward reluctantly. "The Ghost wouldn't do anything to jeopardise Arkadia."

"The Ghost is a traitor now," Pike announces, "and she will receive the same punishment we give to traitors. Arrest them."

"You want to execute them?" Hannah Green blanches, the black hair framing her face sticking to her skin from the rain. "Sir, with all due respect, they're kids."

"I have given you all an order twice," the Chancellor bellows, still cradling his right arm to his chest. "If I say it a third time, I will arrest you all for insubordination."

"You don't even want to try having peace?" Murphy snarks, "what, not being able to punch kids in the face doesn't appeal to you?"

"This isn't happening," Myles speaks up, raising her voice. "I won't let you kill people for the crime of wanting to try having peace."

"You can't stop this," Pike denounces, his tone sure and unwavering. "There will be an execution today."

"You're right," the red-haired teen agrees, hardening her resolve. "There will be."

Myles pulls the trigger, watching as Charles Pike's head tips backwards and a bullethole appears in his forehead. Blood sprays out of the back of his head, splattering thick, red mist over the guards behind him as people gasp and shout in shock. Pulling the magazine clip from her gun, Myles holds both the empty gun and the mag in separate hands, showing everyone she isn't going to do anything else.

What's a little more blood?

"Ghost," one of the guard's calls, stepping towards her with three others. "You are under arrest for the assassination of Chancellor Pike."

"No," one of the guards that hesitated refuses, stepping forward and shoving away the guards swarming the two teens. "They're right. We had peace until we moved the Farm Station survivors into Mount Weather. The grounders were ready to align with us over their own people."

"And look where we are now, Rivers!" The man snaps, gesturing in a short motion with his rifle. "In the middle of another war!"

"The Commander does not want a war!" Myles interrupts, shifting on her feet to steady herself as a wave of dizziness and tiredness washes over her with the cold rain. "She has the Coalition ready to dismiss the massacre two weeks ago. All they want is peace."

"They want to consume us!" A man shouts, "they want to own us!"

"All they want is for you not to gun them down," Murphy remarks bitterly, "again."

"Think about it," the first man, Rivers, implores, "we had peace before we moved Argo into Mount Weather. It's been two weeks since we killed the army, they haven't retaliated."

"What do you think the fucking army surrounding us is for!" The guard shouts back.

"They asked for Chancellor Pike," one the other guards answers, "one life for the three hundred we took."

"We can have peace," Myles adds when tensions remain high, but everyone only murmurs to each other. "We have to at least try. For our kids, our future."

"Stand down!" A guard orders the others with their weapons still on the two teens.

"Murphy," the redhead mutters quietly, "it's okay."

In the corner of her eyes, Murphy lowers his pistol, holding his hands up like Myles to show he's not a threat. The grip on her bullet magazine and her empty gun loosens without her consent, the two objects falling to splash in the mud at Myles' feet. Blinking blearily, the redhead tries to focus on the group of people still surrounding them.

"She killed the Chancellor," a man interjects, his words slurring together in her fading mind, "we can't just let her go."

"He was going to execute the grounders," Rivers reminds him, his voice sounding distant, "and our own councillors. You heard him. He had no intention of letting any of them go."

Suddenly, Myles feels like her stomach rises to her throat as the world tilts. The sensation of falling stops as abruptly as it started when Lincoln's cuffed hands reach forward to catch her from falling into the mud.

 

She doesn't know how long she's been sitting here. It could be hours since she left medical, much to doctors Eric Jackson and Abby Griffin's dismay. It could've only been minutes. The seconds blur together, becoming one long moment that lasts what feels like an eternity. Her hazel gaze doesn't move, only her blinking eyes and steady breaths displaying she's still alive.

One of her pale, slender fingers twitches on the gun in her right hand, her skin brushing against the dried mud from when she had dropped it. The cool feel of the chain of her necklace and its heart-shaped locket sits against her other hand. It had become heavy and hot, the locket seeming to bore into her with the weight of every life she's taken. Distant throbbing in her temples and stomach has become dull and muffled, swept under the rug of numbness that cloaks Myles.

Faded green stained with heavy, drying blood the same shade as her hair is still wet, hanging heavily off of her skinny frame like it's trying to smother her. Dragging her down deeper and deeper under the waves of self-loathing and remorse. She's drowning. The burning feeling of suffocating that makes it feel like her head is going to explode plagues every sense of hers, trapping her.

The door opens to the large, claustrophobic room she's in and two sets of footsteps enter. Neither one of their owners says a word, doing nothing to announce their presence. A fluttering thought leaves a sickeningly sweet sense of hope in her chest, telling her that it's two of Pike's most avid supporters coming to repay the favour.

They walk amongst the crammed rows, before turning to walk down the slim aisles Myles sits squished between. Myles still doesn't move her eyes from the one box directly in front of her that they're locked on, doesn't utter a greeting, doesn't flinch.

"Thought you'd be here," Jasper Jordan mutters, his footsteps slowing to stand beside her.

He slides down to sit beside her, his leg flush against the redhead's left leg and his body heat radiating onto her side.

"Aggie," Monty Green's shaky voice calls, "what are you doing with that?"

She knows he's talking about the gun in her hand, but she can't bring herself to look at him.

"I'm not gonna shoot myself, Greenie," Myles' bland, emotionless voice says instead.

"She won't," Jasper seconds, looking up at their best friend. "We've done this before."

Hesitantly, Monty steps over both of them to stand on Myles' other side. When he sits down, he doesn't sit with his back against the same row as his two best friends, instead sitting down against the other side to face them both. Monty's legs sit almost on top of the red-haired teen's muddy boots, but he doesn't make a move to shift away from them. His hand hooks over her thin shins, not caring that the drying mud transfers onto the long sleeve of his guardsman's uniform.

"I don't like seeing you with it in your hand like that," Monty voices his concerns gently, "you doing it before doesn't make it better."

"It's comforting," the redhead divulges, her voice monotone. "Knowing you have the cure to pain in your hand."

"Okay," the black-haired teen decides, quickly grabbing the loaded pistol from her loose grip. He places it on the ground beside him, away from her reach. "That really doesn't make me feel any better. Why would you even think that?"

"You didn't tell me when I radioed," Jasper scolds halfheartedly, "that you'd been shot."

Myles hums in acknowledgment, waiting a moment to speak again.

"I read in a book," the red-haired teen whispers, needing to say the words so they're not trapped in her mind forever. "Mass murderers kill four or more people in one location in one period of time. Serial killers kill multiple people in multiple locations multiple times. Spree killers kill multiple people at one time in multiple locations. I'm all of them."

"You're not any of them," Monty promises her softly. "You have a reason."

"They have reasons, too," Myles murmurs, her words shaking. "Pike had reasons."

"You did it to save people," Jasper comforts her, his tone so certain that Myles is tempted to believe that it's enough.

But it isn't.

"Pike did, too," the redhead counters, her voice so quiet it wobbles.

"No," Monty corrects, squeezing Myles' ankles, and it's the first time her hazel eyes leave the box in front of her. "Pike thought he was keeping people safe. You actually saved people."

At what cost? The simple, three word question bounces around her mind, but she doesn't say it out loud. He must see it in her eyes. He must see her whirlpool of darkness that swallows every good, hopeful, comforting thing into oblivion. Monty's expression falls, and it fills Myles' heart with sorrow to know she's the one who took it off her best friend's face. Unable to take someone else she loves thinking the horrible things she thinks about herself, she flicks her hazel eyes away. They go straight to the same box in front of her she's been staring at since she got here.

"Here," Jasper offers, nudging his flask of alcohol into her now empty right hand. Myles accepts it without a word, bringing it to her rosy lips and tipping her head back to get a good mouthful of it. Swallowing it with a vague grimace at the strong taste, the redhead hands the flask to Monty. "Clarke's pissed at you for tearing your stitches."

"I didn't think I'd ever see you drink," the black-haired best friend mutters, but it's more out of concern and empathy than judgement.

"Is she pissed that I tore my stitches," Myles croaks slowly after a moment, "or that I tore her small wound into a big wound?"

"Both," Monty answers, nodding and spacing out the syllables of his next words, "definitely both." His demeanour shifts, only slightly, but it's enough for the two best friends who grew up with him to notice it like he'd screamed it. Both lock their eyes on him, waiting for him to say what's on his mind. "Talking about being angry at you… so am I. Kinda."

"I'm sorry," the redhead tells him, and it's the first time since they sat down that her voice holds any form of emotion.

"You could've came with me," Jasper discloses, his voice soft and quiet.

"No, I couldn't," Monty refutes in a scoff. "The night you left, you told me you hated me. That it wasn't fair you had to be the one with nightmares and pain, but I had all that, too."

"I'm sorry, Monty," the short brown-haired teen vows, "I didn't mean that. I – I was so hurt and – and lost that I – "

"Needed someone to blame?" Monty guesses when his best friend cuts himself off and doesn't continue.

"Yeah," Jasper nods, looking at the Asian teen remorsefully.

"I was, too," the black-haired teen informs him, "hurt and lost. I needed my best friends."

"I'm sorry," Myles tells him, not trying to explain or excuse it, a nagging feeling of his imminent rejection stopping her.

"I know you had to," Monty mumbles after a quiet beat. "I just wish I didn't have to be the one that got left behind."

"You can come home with us," Jasper invites, "we built a house with a room for you in it."

"My mum's here now," he politely declines, his head giving a small twitch as if he was thinking of shaking it.

"You can visit," Myles clarifies. "It doesn't have to be forever."

"Yeah," Monty smiles, nodding, "that'd work. Would be good." This time, the silence that accompanies them isn't tense, there isn't the weight of unspoken words in the air, even though they have a lot to catch up on. Hazel eyes switch back to the box, not having to search it out amongst the crates and lookalikes surrounding it. "Maybe you should ask Raven. She's had it really hard."

"They can't fix her leg?" Jasper enquires, his tone soft with empathy.

"Nope," the black-haired teen drawls out, "been in a lot of pain. Abby thinks it's nerve damage, can't do anything about it."

"You can drink," Jasper quips halfheartedly, holding out his hand for the flask back from their best friend.

Monty hands it back, and Jasper takes a gulp before passing it back to Myles.

"Got a new job," the red-haired teen announces after taking a swig, handing the cool metal flask to Monty. "The City of Light."

"Mm," Monty hums in recognition through a mouthful of alcohol. "The thing Jaha went to find?"

"Yep," Myles confirms, "and he found it." Turning her head and eyes to look at Jasper, she continues. "As bad as we thought."

"Gross," Jasper remarks, and Myles looks back at the box.

"Why?" Monty quizzes. "What is it?"

"A cult," the brown-haired teen provides, shrugging like it's nothing.

"A cult with a flair for genocide," Myles elaborates mockingly. "Nothing brings in new loyal followers like the promise of a life without pain or suffering or death."

"All for the low, low price of devoting your life to worshipping an invisible woman," Jasper joins in. "Who can magically cure you of anything your heart desires if you're the lucky winner. Where they get you is you have to kill your whole village to prove yourself worthy to her."

"Super gross," Monty agrees, making a sour face.

"Why are we going after them?" Jasper asks, turning his head to look at their best friend.

"Because," the redhead supplies, "Jaha is the new earthly mouthpiece for this invisible woman in red. Johnny has a girlfriend who has a brother who is his right-hand man."

"Wait," Monty halts her. "Murphy has a girlfriend?"

"Yeah," Myles nods once, "smoking hot, too. He didn't tell me this, but I think she's a Frikdreina."

"What's that?" Monty questions, looking lost. "Is that a cult thing?"

"It means she has a deformity," Jasper explains. "Grounder superstition believes that people with deformities are stains on the bloodline and should be killed or abandoned."

"Mega gross," the black-haired teen mutters with a cringe.

"Mega cruel and fucked up," the redhead agrees readily. "She went looking for her brother and Jaha. They're hunting for new followers."

"New victims," Jasper corrects, "how are we s'posed to track them? Everything we know about the cult is from years ago."

"Well," Myles starts to sigh, cutting it off quickly with a groan when pain explodes through her. "Let's hope it stays that way."

"I think I get it now," Monty admits gently after a moment. "I get why you left and didn't come back. You're doing the Ghost thing, trying to balance out the bad in life with good."

"Something like that," the brown-haired teen shrugs, "sounds more heroic putting it that way, though."

"It is totally heroic," Monty asserts, looking at the two of them like they're strangers. "What did you think it was?"

"Suicidally stupid," Jasper answers without a second of hesitation. Turning his head to look at Myles, he continues. "Which is exactly what going after the City of Light is. We'll never get close."

The words repeat in Myles' mind, an idea forming slowly in her head. Her hazel gaze flicks away from the box for a second as she thinks it through. It clicks in her mind, and she turns to Jasper with raised eyebrows and a mischievous glint in her eyes. Jasper wasn't paying attention, but turns to meet Myles' eyes when he sees her look at him in the corners of his.

"Oh, no," he instantly refuses, stubbornness and a slight touch of fear glazing over his features. "No. No. Just no. We are not joining a cult."

"Yes, we are," Myles defends, mirroring his stubbornness.

"No, we're not," Jasper objects, his tone unshakable.

"I think I also get the suicidally stupid part now," Monty interjects with a hesitant tilt of his head. "That's an insane idea."

"Insane enough that it could work?" The red-haired teen implores, a light lilt to her voice.

"Maybe just insane," Monty shoots down instantly, nodding to himself.

"Citizens of Arkadia," Marcus Kane's voice calls through the P.A. system, filling every nook and cranny of Alpha Station. "We've had a rough few weeks, but I want to assure each and every one of you that it doesn't define us. It doesn't define our peace."

Myles looks at the only box she's been staring at, locking her gaze back on it as the councillors voice wafts through the cluttered and overcrowded room.

"We had three months of peace," he continues, "three months where two of our own worked tirelessly to open a door between our people and the grounders. And they succeeded. We were able to trade with the villages and the people sharing this part of their land with us. We were able to return that generous favour by opening our medical wing to them."

"But those two fought tooth and nail to show the grounders that not only could we have peace with them... We could earn it. Those two are children, and, I believe, the greatest representatives of our future. Jasper Jordan and Myles, who many of you know as the Ghost, but I am very proud to say that I helped raise that beautiful young lady."

Hearing the man who's done nothing but love her as if she were his child speak about her, Myles turns her head into her shoulder. Her shoulders shake, the force of barely restrained sobs quivering her back and shoulders. Wet tears slip down her face, and Myles squeezes her eyes shut, feeling her best friends grip and rub on her arm and leg in comfort. Breathing in jagged and wet, sharp breaths only makes the pain in her abdomen worsen, but she can't stop. Hearing the only person she's ever sought to make proud speak about her with his voice heartfelt and filled with pride causes her to finally break.

"They've made sure we have peace," Marcus carries on, "built such a strong alliance that even after what we've done in these last few weeks; massacring the army that was sent to protect us from further Ice Nation attacks… Telling them we want nothing to do with their offer of a peaceful alliance… Sending out teams to eradicate villages – even after all of that, the grounders are still willing to offer us peace. To open their doors to us, without fear or judgement."

"I know many of you are worried about this peace. That you are afraid it will mean they own us, that they can force us into battle, but that isn't what we've been offered. We've been offered a family. We've been offered a choice to have a say in what laws are passed and what we have to abide by. They don't want to own us, force us into battles or trades like we're slaves." Myles sniffs, wiping the tears off her face and squaring her shoulders to pull herself back together. "They don't want to live among us or force us to live among them. They want us to live alongside each other."

"I am proud to tell you all: this offer still stands, no matter who the Chancellor is. There are laws that we must abide by to have that peace, but they're no different to ours. No murder, no theft, no kidnapping or assaulting – a peaceful society, where we have the choice to trade or to keep, to visit or stay at home, to make friends or keep to ourselves. And I am even more proud to tell you that is entirely because of two brilliant, strong and caring children of ours. Let them be the beacon of hope in times when you are unsure or afraid of this alliance."

"I know I am not your Chancellor, and I may never be, but I would like to have peace. For ourselves, for our children, for our future. I would like nothing more than for you all to join me in a leap of faith that Jasper Jordan and Myles have spent the last three months carefully preserving, nurturing and building from the ground up for us. Thank you."

"That's our cue," Jasper murmurs, hearing the distant sound of applause echo through Alpha Station.

"Okay," Myles nods, sniffing and readying herself to go out there and fish out Murphy, Finn, Octavia and Jasper's dad.

"Clarke left with rover one," the brown-haired teen states, standing up. "So we've got rover five."

"Nooo," the redhead whines, dramatically slumping her shoulders. "It's flat."

"Why's it flat?" Jasper questions in confusion.

"I don't know," Myles complains, "it only had quarter charge in it when we left Polis."

"That's not right," the brown-haired teen counters, looking down at his two best friends.

"If it's an electric car," Monty offers, leaning forward in preparation of standing up. "I can look at it."

"Could you please?" Myles asks politely, relaxing when her best friend nods and stands in the skinny aisle.

Myles flicks her gaze to the box in front of her again, the cold necklace chain burning her fingers with shame. Monty and Jasper extend their hands for the redhead to grasp so they can help pull their best friend up, but Myles hesitates. Slowly, the red-haired teen rests the heart-shaped locket onto her chest and accepts the boys' hands. Standing hurts a lot more than she remembers sitting down in the cramped row did. Strained groans escape through her clenched teeth and make her jaw ache, one of her elbows reaching out for a box to steady herself.

They both let go of her hands, and Jasper turns to walk down the row and leave, but Myles makes no move to follow. Jasper stops a few steps away, turning to look at them with a concerned expression when he sees Myles staring vacantly at the box.

"Aggie?" Monty calls quietly, trying to drag her attention away from the crate.

It works, kind of. Blinking erratically a few times as she makes up her mind, Myles inches her hands up to the back of her neck.

"What are you doing?" Jasper frets, eyeing her unclasping her necklace. "You haven't taken that off since you gave it to Bellamy at the dropship."

"It's not mine anymore," Myles mutters, the empty weight around her neck making her heart feel hollow.

The redhead cradles the necklace in her hands, bringing the locket to her rosy lips for a quick kiss. Gently, Myles lowers her hand into the box, sliding the necklace out of her hands as if it is the most precious thing to ever exist. And it is, to Myles at least, which is exactly why she's leaving it.

She doesn't deserve it.

Pulling her hand out of the box, Myles takes a step back, glancing at the letters she's stared at since entering the storage room.

'N. Mylinski Office – West Corridor D'

 

They could hear them before they walked through the threshold to enter the Mess Hall, but the commotion inside still jars them. It's a stark contrast to the silent storage room, and all Myles wants is to find her friends and leave. A few faces turn to them and brighten, but Myles redirects her eyes and continues weaving through the crowd to get away from them. Jasper and Monty smile, apologetically and thankfully respectively, chasing after her.

Hazel eyes flick around, spotting Finn talking with Wick and a woman wearing an engineers uniform and turns towards them. She doesn't make it very far, quick movement in the corner of her eyes stealing her attention. Lincoln stands with Nathan Miller and Bellamy Blake, the grounder waving the three best friends over. A dark patch of Myles' blood stains the front of his dark grey shirt, a flush of embarrassment washes over the redhead at the sight.

Looking back at her two best friends, the redhead slows with her halfhearted attempt at stalling. Monty speeds up, steering Myles towards them and she releases a long breath through her nose.

"Hey," Miller greets with a large smile, stepping forward quickly to hug Myles and slapping a hand on the boys' backs. "It's so good to see you."

"You, too," Myles smiles back, patting the teens back as he wraps her in a big hug.

"Where's your necklace?" Bellamy asks, worried lines appearing on his forehead.

Jasper scoffs, "like you care."

Myles rolls her eyes, pulling out of Miller's hug to shoot a pointed look at her best friend. Lincoln steps up to stand beside the redhead, putting a hand on her arm and squeezing before letting his arm drop.

"Woah," Monty exclaims, "where'd that come from?"

"We're mad at him," Jasper explains, and Myles shakes her head.

"He's mad at him," the redhead corrects, shooting an apologetic look to Bellamy who looks mortified.

"Why are we mad at him?" Monty implores Jasper, readily going along with the idea as confusion cloaks his face.

"He told Aggie he's glad she's not in charge," the short brown-haired teen elaborates, "because when she's in charge she gets everybody killed."

"Dude," Myles' other best friend blurts, looking at Bellamy with a betrayed look muddying his dark eyes.

"That's harsh, man," Miller tells Bellamy with a disappointed shake of his head.

"You told him," Bellamy accuses Myles, his tone hard.

"Excuse me," Jasper argues, pointing at himself, "best friend extraordinaire. Of course she told me."

"I met your friend," Lincoln says, looking to Myles and putting a halt to the altercation building up around them. "Murphy. He told me you're going after the City of Light."

Something in the dark-skinned man's voice tells Myles that there's something else he's wanting to say, so instead of answering, she squints at him. Whatever she's hoping to find, she doesn't, only seeing a patient and kind man with a cleaned bullet scrape on the side of his bald head. It's an unusual sight on the man who's normally upfront and straight to the point, this easy patience, waiting for Myles to give him some cue.

"Yeah," Jasper confirms, but Myles keeps silent, squinting at Lincoln and trying to see what he's looking for.

"It's a pretty big job," Lincoln vaguely states, and the redhead quirks an eyebrow, hearing the implication louder than the words.

"I didn't realise you were looking for work," Myles counters, her voice as vague as his.

"Looking for work?" Miller echoes, looking at Lincoln in shock. "Are you thinking of leaving?"

"It's safe for you here now," Bellamy reasons, "you and O can stay here without feeling trapped."

"I need a break," Lincoln divulges, "from – "

"All things Ark?" Jasper interrupts, sensing that the polite man wouldn't say it himself. Lincoln nods, seeming reluctant to accept such a blunt statement in front of people who might take offence to it. "You're talking to the right people, then."

"Does Octavia know?" Myles asks softly, looking between his dark brown eyes and already knowing the answer.

"I don't think that will go over well," the grounder brushes off, shifting uncomfortably at the question.

"She hates it here even more than I do," the redhead promises him, "and, trust me, I fucking hate this place. She'll be fine. What could go wrong?"

"What's this City of Light thing anyway?" Miller enquires, looking genuinely interested in knowing.

"Is that what you were telling Indra about?" Bellamy adds, and Myles starts shaking her head.

"No," the redhead denies, "it's some cult."

"Think Jonestown," Jasper describes, lifting his eyebrows high and gesturing with a small hand motion.

"Except more than once," Monty fixes, "with smaller groups."

"And an invisible woman," Myles tacks on, watching the other two Arkers clueless expressions.

"In red," Lincoln finishes, furrowing his eyebrows in confusion. "What's Jonestown?"

"A cult that orchestrated the mass suicide of over 900 people," Monty explains quickly, and Lincoln's face goes blank.

"I don't think the City of Light has ever done that," Lincoln refutes, his voice airy in shock.

"What have you heard about it?" Myles questions, scrunching together her eyebrows and listening intently to the man.

"Legends," the dark-skinned dismisses, continuing when the redhead lifts a prying eyebrow. "They come back from finding the City of Light, say they've seen a woman in red who guided them to it with strange birds. She holds promises of a paradise without pain and sadness, without death. Very few get the Key, then everyone in the village dies. The legends say they turn their weapons on themselves, giving their souls as sacrifice for one to take the Key."

"See?" Jasper points to Lincoln, staring at Myles. "Joining to get on the inside is the stupidest stupid plan you've ever come up with."

"I love you, Aggie," Monty announces, "but I'm with the drunk."

Jasper swings an arm out, smacking Monty on the chest. Monty quickly copies, smacking Jasper back with the same betrayed expression on their faces. Chaos descends upon them, a childlike hand smacking war breaking out. Myles is about to roll her eyes when her hazel gaze lands on someone in the distance and she stops.

"I'll meet you and O out front in an hour," Myles informs Lincoln, smiling politely at Miller and Bellamy. "It was good to see you."

"You, too, Aggie," Miller replies with a smile, watching her as she turns away.

"Aggie, wait," Bellamy calls, circling around the others to surge toward her. Myles stops and the Blake brother hooks around to stop in front of her. Deep brown eyes are soft and apologetic, a sea of things he wants to say roaming just under the surface. "Can we talk?"

"I can't," Myles shakes her head, trying to school the emotions that rise up in her from the last handful of encounters they've had.

"Please?" Bellamy prods, his deep voice kind and soft, pleading in a different, more subtle way than the way he had in the cave.

"I have to go," the redhead declines, looking at him sadly, "I'm sorry."

Bellamy sucks in his lips, looking to the ground before meeting her eyes again. The undercurrent of that look, that loving, adoring look, dances in his eyes. It had been there, hidden under a dozen other emotions and thoughts when he saw her in Polis, and when he saw her with Roan. When she came to see him after the massacre on the muddy field, though, it was completely gone. Looking back on it now, perhaps it had been swimming under the surface of other, louder emotions this morning, but it's out on full display now.

"Will you come back?" Bellamy questions, his tone broken with the expectance of rejection for his actions.

"Maybe," Myles hesitates, "we'll see. I need to go now, Bell."

"Yeah," the Blake brother nods dejectedly, sniffing and stepping backwards. "Okay."

Myles walks around him, feeling his deep brown eyes following her through the crowd. The redhead doesn't stop walking until she's in front of Murphy, and he turns to her as soon as she approaches.

"We're about to leave," the red-haired teen informs him, "just waiting on Lilo to get Octavia and JJ to get everyone else."

"Yeah, about that," Murphy drawls, moving his knee anxiously and reaching a hand up to rub his nose. "I might stay here. Make sure she'll have a place to go when you find them."

"Okay," Myles nods, understanding that everything they've seen has made him scared for what they'll find when they locate Emori. "That'll be nice. Being around people and not doing reckless stunts with me."

"If I get bored," the brown-haired teen tells her with smirk, tipping his head to the side and gesturing to her. "I know where to find you."

 

"Ugh," Ray Jordan groans in disgust from the passenger seat beside Jasper in the driver's seat. "That's horrible."

"Yeah," Myles agrees, looking at the body of Chancellor Pike wrapped in a cloth covering on the floor in the back with them. "It was really, really bad."

"How'd Lexa take it?" Finn asks quietly, like he's afraid of knowing.

"Really, really bad," the redhead answers again, nodding slowly.

"I can imagine," Jasper huffs out, "she raised them. Loved them."

"I think," Myles announces, "she's the only one I'm okay with them reverting back to old ways to punish."

"Wouldn't matter, anyway," Finn mutters, "at this point, she's already done that."

"I hope she enjoyed it," Ray grovels, "doing that to children, who could ever?"

"Someone who doesn't want to risk not becoming the Commander," the redhead drawls, tapping her boots on the rover's floor.

"There's Lincoln," Jasper calls back in confusion to Myles, signally her to get ready to open the back. "He's alone."

"Alone?" Myles echoes, opening the back door and climbing out to see for herself.

Lincoln walks out of the main gate, heading towards them in a calm pace. The rain has stopped, so the man's at no risk of getting wet again, and he takes his time.

"Hey," the red-haired teen greets him, raising her voice to make sure he can hear her. "Where's O?"

"She's not coming," Lincoln answers, his tone strange and strained.

"What?" Myles quizzes in confusion. "Why not?"

"She's angry with you," the dark-skinned man explains slowing his steps as he finally reaches the rover.

"For being late?" Finn queries incredulously through the metal slits in the back passenger side window. "She got shot and Polis went on lockdown."

"That," Lincoln confirms, "and for killing Pike." When the words only make Myles even more perplexed, he elaborates. "She thinks you didn't have the right to do it. You stole it from her and Indra."

"Well," Myles stammers as she slides her hand off the rear car door, unsure of what to say or do. "I'm sorry. Does she want me to apologise to her?"

"No," the grounder insists, "she doesn't want to see you."

"What… do we do?" Myles asks, feeling lost and remorseful.

"Leave," Lincoln supplies, walking around Myles and giving her a reassuring squeeze on her arm before climbing into the back.

Myles hesitates in shock, turning and climbing into the back in a daze.

"You don't want to stay with her?" The red-haired teen verifies, feeling guilty for taking the man away from her friend.

"She doesn't want me to," Lincoln laments, sitting down heavily and leaning his head on the car wall. "She broke up with me."

"She broke up with you?" Jasper repeats, turning around in his seat and not moving to turn the rover on.

"She's angry at me for wanting time," the dark-skinned man sighs, his whole body drained and worn down.

"Is she angry about needing time away from the Ark," Ray enquires knowingly, "or about wanting to spend that time with someone she's mad at?"

Lincoln doesn't answer the question directly, instead locking his eyes on Myles'.

"I'm sorry," Lincoln promises, "I tried to tell her – "

"No, it's okay," Myles assures him, leaning forward and clapping a hand on his knee gently before sitting back. "She's – she's new at relationships and friendships. All she grew up knowing is Bellamy and their mum. She's still learning. She'll come around."

"I hope you're right. I love her."

Chapter Text

Day 161 – Feb. 20

Myles' body jolts, forcing her awake. Thin metal shaped into cans with small rocks inside clatter and clash, interrupting her peaceful slumber. The sound immediately makes her alert, sliding her bare legs over the edge of her bed as her hand yanks away the blanket. Her rapid heart thumps harshly under her skin, rivalling the beat of her sock-clad feet thundering on the wooden floor. She races across the floorboards in her room to reach her weapons on her desk, steady hands shooting out. A soft burn throbs away at the stitches covering her four-day-old bullet wound, increasing the tempo of its persistent ache.

Grabbing only a pistol and a flashlight, Myles rushes over to her bedroom door and wrenches it open. Jasper bolts from his room, both teens flying out in a similarly disheveled fashion. Lincoln stands in the middle of the house with Max and Finn, staring out of the empty window frame with squinted eyes.

"What was that?" Lincoln quizzes when he hears the two best friends sprint into the room.

"Alarm," Myles rushes out, not slowing her steps to get to the back door.

Max is by her bare legs when she reaches the door, his small body vibrating as he growls. As soon as the redhead swings open the door, the calico-coloured dog squeezes between her pale legs and the door to beat her outside. Jasper's hand brushes against Myles', his body heat warming her cold legs pleasantly as he follows close behind her. The red-haired teen has to slow down when she reaches the edge of the balcony, only a metre away from the door. Stretching a goosebump-covered leg out, Myles rests it on the small wooden level of the drop pulley.

"Max," the redhead whispers with her hand grasping the rope of the pulley, feeling her stitches pull at the movement.

Obediently, Max steps between the rope and onto the level with Myles' hand guiding him to make sure he doesn't fall off. His weight immediately makes the small platform descend, and the redhead shifts her weight to accommodate the drop. The pulley jolts to a stop a step above the ground, and Max hops off as quickly as he got on it, leaping off in the pitch black dead of night. Myles steps off of the platform, letting it shoot back up to the trees with no weight on it to bring it down. She doesn't wait to see the others get down, instead following her dog through the dark woods with hasty, quiet steps.

Her stitches tug unpleasantly, making the skin feel like it's tearing under the heavy and urgent thumping of her heartbeat. Baggy long sleeves threaten to catch on tree branches, tempting the risk of alerting the intruder as Myles uses them to disguise her dark shadow. Max warns them he's found the intruder, his bark loud, ferocious and unceasing in the empty woodlands. It lets the Arkers know the culprit that set off the alarm is human, and not another animal accidentally running into it.

They had received word the night of Pike's death that Ontari had fled before her trial. Lexa has handpicked warriors from every clan to go out scouring the earth looking for her, but they haven't come back with any news. After the interactions Myles has had with Ontari, she expects the Azgedian to be the disruption that's woken them all from their slumber. It makes her heart race and veins crackle with jittery anxiety, knowing that a woman capable of slaughtering seven innocent kids and delivering their heads to their guardian's feet is sneaking up to her home.

Forcing herself to go quicker for the last few metres, Myles swerves to the left of the barking to come out around a tree for protection. Behind her, beneath the sounds of Max's loud and harsh barking, are the soft rustling sounds made by near silent footsteps running towards them. Finally slowing her pace down, Myles swings her arms up and halts half behind a tree. Coming to a sudden stop reminds the red-haired teen why she'd gone to bed without pants on. The air no longer feels cool against her pale skin now that she's stilled, but thick and uncomfortably warm in the windless night.

"Hod yo op!" Myles orders, clicking on her bright flashlight with her tone hard and authoritative. "Chit yo - ?" [AN: "Stop! What do you - ?"]

"Gyon yo meika op!" Jasper's rough voice demands, not registering his best friend's sudden halt. [AN: "Raise your hands!"]

"Chil yo au," Indra's steady and unfazed voice calls from the darkness, one arm in a sling and the other holding onto her horse's neck. [AN: "Calm down."]

"Indra?" Lincoln breathes in surprise, and Myles shines her light onto the familiar woman standing beside the dark-skinned warrior with her own horse.

"Maks," the red-haired teen commands slowly. Myles lowers her arms partway, pointing her gun and flashlight to the ground but her arms don't fall to her sides. "Shof op." [AN: "Max, be quiet."]

"My apologies," the familiar woman standing to Indra's right amends, a shake wobbling the warrior's tone. "I did not mean to frighten you."

"It's okay," Jasper accepts readily, stepping forward to shake the chieftain's hand. "Wocha Gresi, sha?" [AN: "Chieftain Gressy, right?"]

"You're a long way from Inera," Lincoln states, stepping forward to shake her hand.

"Inera?" Finn echoes, coming to stand beside Myles. "That's out west, yeah? Past Corco?"

"Yes," Gresi confirms, nodding and shifting restlessly. "That is right."

"Wocha Gresi has come very far," Indra interjects, staring the Arker's down. "Heda recommended we meet with you when she arrived at Polis before sundown."

"How is Heda?" Myles asks, a pit of dread tainted with grief swirling in her gut.

"Troubled," Indra reveals, "the loss of the Natblida and her Flamekeeper weakens her, leaving her open for attack."

"That's not why you're here," Lincoln reminds them, his voice drawled out with curiosity.

"Coming from the Capitol in the afternoon and arriving in the middle of the night," Jasper continues. "You had to be going fast. Must be important?"

"Yes," Gresi nods, her tone wavering as if rippling in a lake of unease. "I hear Wanheda Pramblida and her people find those lost." [AN: "The Commander of Death" "First red-blooded Commander."]

"Unfortunately," Myles grumbles through clenched teeth, the painful pit in her gut deepening.

Her mind plagues her with the memories of what happened last time someone asked them to look for a missing person. Myles diverts her gaze, only lifting her eyes to search out her best friend's. Jasper's shining brown eyes are already on her, a sea of regret mirrored in them.

"Chon yo don drop of?" Lincoln enquires, stepping towards the chieftain with evident concern. [AN: "Who have you lost?"]

"Gada," the warrior answers, and the redhead can't help the instinctive hesitant step back she does. [AN: "A girl."]

"No offence," Jasper mutters, "but the last lost girl we found was dead. We haven't got a track record of happy endings."

"She's six," Indra's hardened voice divulges, making all four stiffen and the best friends' hardened resolve crack.

Myles wouldn't be lying if she said she has absolutely no shred of inclination to find the girl if this is anything like last time. Finding Acha's rotting body sticking out of her very shallow grave is not something Jasper and Myles are eager to experience again. Especially if they're looking for a six-year-old. They're doomed without the advanced law enforcement they had on the Ark, which was no comparison to the revolutionary high-tech equipment they had before the bombs.

On Earth, besides the armies and warriors most villages raise, there's no law enforcement. Here, they tie their doors and windows shut and hope it's not hot enough to warrant leaving one propped open. The rich make large wooden locks with randomly placed small blocks of wood in holes to prevent a locking bar from being pulled out. Only those with a stick that have vertical bars in the exact same pattern can unlock them by pushing up the blocks and freeing the locking bar.

It leaves most crimes unavenged and unsolved. They don't have a way to track someone down if they don't leave footprints; they have no way of finding and comparing fingerprints or DNA. The knowledge needed to find the perpetrators has almost entirely died out, leaving only common sense and witness testimonies to put the pieces together.

"Six?" Finn demands, "how the hell does a six-year-old go missing, and the Commander sends you here instead of out there to look for her?"

"Because she didn't go missing," Myles supplies slowly, watching Gresi's haunted expression.

"The night was normal," Gresi explains, "but she was not in her room when the sun rose."

"How long ago did this happen?" Lincoln presses, antsy with the chieftains shaken demeanour.

"Last sunrise," Indra replies steadily, patiently waiting for the Arkers to accept the task.

Dipping her flashlight down to the ground subconsciously, Myles looks back over at Jasper. His vague silhouette doesn't move, and the redhead questions for a moment if he's already looking at her. Finally, his body rocks forward twice before his head turns toward her. She can feel, even with Lincoln and Finn between them, that he's hesitant. Haunted with the memories of how everything else they've thrust themselves into has ended.

Thieves they catch are subjected to a thief's punishment, varying slightly from clan to clan and ranging from cutting off hands to cutting off heads. Most thieves get blamed for other thefts without proof or much reason to believe they're the same culprit, simply because they've proven to steal in the area before. Murderers and those committing assaults pay with their lives, the circumstances of their crimes and the clan's diversifying capital punishment laws deciding on how much they should suffer first.

Jasper and Myles have seen a lot of these punishments be dealt in the last three months. Using their ability to snoop around and converting their thieving ways into investigative tools was supposed to be easy. It was supposed to right the wrongs they've been a part of; to clean the filth they've found themselves covered in. Finding stolen belongings, dead teenagers and uncovering a perverted man's disgusting indiscretions seemed like they were doing something good... Until their screams started.

The screams and cries of those who've done wrong and gotten caught with the help of the two best friends echo loudly, piercing through their skulls. It's avenging the victims, sure, but it's an empty justice. A life for a life, an eye for an eye, a hand for a loaf of bread.

Even so, there's the same desperation, the same need for validation burning under both of their skins and crackling in their veins. A selfish need to be self-less, to prove they are worth their place in the universe and to cure the never-ending ache of hopeless loss that only continues to grow. So, Myles tips her flashlight in a halfhearted attempt at conveying a shrug and raises a delicate red eyebrow even though Jasper can't see it.

"It's not been twenty-four hours," Myles reasons, a dark, twisted sense of liking the pain and hardships this inflicts bubbling over her reluctance. This pain is good because it distracts her from the rest of her pain. "Could still be alive."

"Let's also hope no one's been through the house, then, if we're being that blindly optimistic."

 


 

"Non," the little girl's mother's voice wobbles, a hand holding her swollen, pregnant belly, "bet non. Osir jos. Rundo don gaf in mou granen, osir nou don gada in toli taim." [AN: "No one. Absolutely no one. Only us. Rundo's needed to take on more work, we haven't had much time."]

Hazel eyes scan the wall down from the open windowsill to the floor. She notes every chipped log and groove and checks to see how it lines up with the hardened and scorched mud fusing the walls together. Finding nothing out of the ordinary, her gaze flicks up to look at Jasper's back. He sticks his head around the fabric hanging from the ceiling that acts as a door to one of the rooms in the hut, peering inside. It's a small family and a small house to fit the three of them. The main area of the home is on an open plan, not leaving much room for someone to hide. No walls or doorways separate the kitchen from the living areas, the only 'doorways' being the rooms blocked off with a wall of long fabric.

"Yo don gada in eni hanga kom nau?" Lincoln asks, staying with the dishevelled and heartbroken couple in the centre of the house. [AN: "Have you had any visitors recently?"]

"No," the father answers, his gruff tone as thick as the air and Jasper pulls his head out of the doorway to look past one of the other two across from it. "Nou na kom yeson. Bida osir lukot don sen raun kom osir." [AN: "No. Not until yesterday. Some of our friends came to sit with us."]

"Emo don min op em wogeda?" Myles interjects, scanning the walls to make sure no one could've squeezed through anywhere. [AN: "Did they go into her room?"]

"No," the mother wavers, and the redhead looks back at her, "jos wocha Gresi. Osir nou don gada in jova-de gon kom daun der nodotaim." [AN: "No. Just chieftain Gressy. We didn't have the courage to go back there again."]

Content there's nothing in the main room that she could see herself breaking in through, Myles looks to Jasper and takes a slow step towards the parents and Lincoln. Jasper ducks his head back out of the fabric acting as a door to look at the others in the house. His brown gaze lingers on Myles' before sending a pointed look at Lincoln to make sure he's on the same page.

"Osir na chek au em wogeda nau," the dark-skinned man tells the parents respectfully, "taim daun bilaik kei?" [AN: "We're going to look through her room now, if that's alright?"]

"Sha," the father agrees readily, hurrying forward to reach the doorways where Jasper stands. "Auda – " [AN: "Yes, through – "]

"Em's ait," Lincoln tells the man, resting a hand on the frantic father's shoulder. "Ai bro." [AN: "It's alright, my brother."]

"Osir nou na toch won diyo op," Myles assures the heartbroken parents, watching the helpless slouch in their shoulders fall down even deeper as they step close to each other for support. "Ai swega yo klin." [AN: "We won't touch a thing, I swear it."]

They don't say another word, nodding and gripping each other's arms as their weary expressions follow the three guests moving around their home. Jasper waits by the third doorway with his hand on the fabric hiding the missing girl's, Paipa's, room. Once Lincoln and Myles approach, the brown-haired Arker lifts the long sheet of fabric up for them all to peek in.

It's simple and modest for the small family, a small dresser in the room's corner and a crate full of handcrafted toys. Drawings on scraps of parchment and thin bark are pinned to the walls, much like the rest of the house. The small bed is covered by a hand-woven blanket, and it's nicer than anything else they've seen in the house. A skin of a bear lines the floor like a rug, shifted to lie on the half of the room closest to the door.

In the centre of the room beside the bed and in front of the closed window is a track of carved out sticks and small bits of wood fashioned together with vines. Disc shaped and almost spherical pebbles sit on the floor, one lone round rock sitting at the end of the elaborate track. With the window closed, the room is dark, and Jasper pulls up his flashlight to turn it on and shine it over the room. Besides the unmade bed that looks as if someone rolled out of it, nothing seems amiss.

As the Arker is moving his flashlight's white beam around slowly, specks of something that stands out as out-of-place draw Myles' attention.

"Bring the light back under the window," Myles implores, furrowing her red eyebrows and waiting for the beam to obey her request.

The parents shift, hesitant steps inching forward at the foreign language but they stay back.

"What is it?" Jasper implores curiously, obliging the order and allowing the hand holding up the curtain to dip down.

"They must've been watching her," the redhead ponders, cogs whirring in her mind to align the pieces.

"How do you know that?" Lincoln queries, bewildered intrigue bubbling over his words.

"Because he came through that window," Jasper answers, his brown eyes finding what caught his best friend's hazel. "And only that window."

"See the dirt?" Myles prompts the tall grounder, tilting her head back to talk to Lincoln. "They knew that this was her room. They didn't have to look around. She was targeted."

Jasper gives his flashlight one last cursory glance around the room before stepping inside of it and returning the beam to the tiny clumps of dirt on the floor between the window and the girl's bed. Lincoln and Myles follow him in, and the red-haired teen surges forward to open the window, avoiding the traces of dirt on the floor. Lifting the wooden slab reveals the looped vine is large, allowing the slab to move around easily instead of securing it shut on a peg in the wall above the window.

This would've made it ridiculously easy for the intruder to enter the room, and he or she wouldn't have struggled to lift it open. The window's slab falls outside, the redhead's hand guiding it down to rest against the side of the house. Myles scrutinises the windowsill as Jasper crouches by her boots, feeling Lincoln peer over her' shoulder. Lifting a gloveless hand, her fingers brush over the coarse wood of the windowsill as she leans her weight on her gloved hand on the wall. Her bare pointer finger slides purposefully up and down a short, deep scratch carved in the wood.

It starts out with a sharp indent and teeters out as it swipes into the girl's bedroom, like something had dug in when coming inside and not on the way out. If it was a blade, Myles would expect to see a long scratch and not the short flick that's there. The girl could've awakened when the kidnapper climbed in, forcing them to pull the weapon quickly to ensure Paipa's silent compliance?

"They had to pull themselves up," Lincoln muses, running his palm over a small curled scuff mark.

"Maybe someone did see something after all," Myles seconds, leaning out over the windowsill to look at the mess of light brown dirt under the window.

"I'm no Greenie," Jasper announces, and Myles leans back into the room from peering over the windowsill. "But I don't think it rained here the other night."

"It didn't," Myles agrees, crouching down and a painful pull in her very tender abdomen. "What's that got to do with anything?"

"The dirt's stuck together like it's wet," the brown-haired Arker tells her, and Myles curiously reaches out to pick up a small dot of the dirt and roll it between her bare fingertips.

The dirt is dark brown and flakes apart when she rolls it; the feeling cool and damp, even after about 24 hours.

"A farmer?" Lincoln inquires, bending over to look at them. "It's different to the dirt outside."

"Okay, Ghost," Jasper declares, standing up with a sigh and looking down at his best friend. The red-haired teen is still crouched over the small clumps of wet, dark soil, her red eyebrows furrowed. "Walk me through it. How would you do it?"

"Leave work," Myles mumbles, looking up from the dirt on the floor to look at the glassless hole in the wall that is the young girl's window.

"The farm," Lincoln follows her train of thought, shifting his weight from his left leg to his right.

"They wouldn't have lifted the window," the redhead continues, standing up and pulling the slab inside to show the other two how loose it is. Hooking the long loop on the peg on the inside wall above the window, Myles only lightly pushes on the top of the slab. Instantly, it falls outside, knocking against the mud-slathered wooden wall of the house loudly. "They knew it was loose. They would've been ready to catch it."

"Scuff mark," Jasper acknowledges, "part of their shoes had to be leather. What's that?"

"Don't know," Lincoln answers, referring to the small scratch and Myles pulls the bag slung over her head to her sore stomach to pull out their notebook. Lifting a small cylindrical object wrapped in cloth, Myles licks the sharp tip before putting it to her parchment. Scribbling down with the pointed end of a thin stick of charcoal wrapped in a cloth and tied together with twine, the grounder continues. "Might be from a struggle. Paipa tried to get back inside and they grabbed her with the hand holding their knife?"

"We should check outside," Myles advises, her delicate red eyebrows furrowed as she details their observations in her book.

"They left a mark on the window," Jasper agrees through a deep breath, knocking his knuckles on the windowsill once. "There'll be a mark down there."

Hazel eyes quickly flick over the words she's jotted down, checking if she's missed anything as Jasper and Lincoln brush past her gently. Everything's there on the paper in her soft, looped letters that glide across the dark tan coloured parchment. Their thoughts contained in neat, sloped words from the awkward angle and her hasty writing. The sound of the parents' wobbly and nervous voices make Myles look up, closing the hand-stitched notebook. She shuts it with her finger still inside, protecting the charcoal from smudging while it dries.

"Chit yo don dig au?" The mother queries urgently, a strangled wobble in her voice. [AN: "What did you find?"]

"Osir nou don sen yo klin," the father explains, his tone as grave as his wife's. Myles steps forward, ducking under the fabric acting as a door to join her friend's with the parents. "Osir nou get Gonasleng in." [AN: "We didn't understand you. We don't speak English."]

"Osir hofli gada in bida figon," the brown-haired Arker divulges kindly, "kom weron gon chek au." [AN: We might have a few ideas of where to look."]

"Em bilaik kei osir gon chek au mounsad kom yu hou?" Myles appeals, keeping her expression soft. [AN: "Is it alright if we check the outside of your home?"]

"Sha," the woman nods rapidly, quickly wiping a hand over the wet tracks under her red and puffy eyes. "Sha, yo na dula daun op." [AN: "Yeah. Yes, you can do that."]

"Mochof," Lincoln replies, the man of little words walking around the distressed parents with a nod. [AN: "Thank you."]

Giving the couple an awkward, sad smile, Myles follows the tall grounder to the front door, pausing behind him when he opens the door to look at Jasper. Her best friend is right behind her, and he takes the silent cue to turn to the parents. Slipping out the front door, Myles steps down the flat side of the large chopped rocks that make up the three stairs to their house. The rocks wobble at her weight, but the movement is so subtle and slight that the redhead doesn't pay it any mind.

"Mochof don teik osir in kom chek raun op," Jasper's voice floats down to her, but Myles tilts her head back to look up instead of at him. [AN: "Thank you for letting us look around."]

The air is thick and sticky, warming their skin and tightening their chests. Above them, the morning sky plagues the village with various shades of grey. Clouds block the sunlight, giving the daylight a dark, glum grey tinge. Finally stepping off the last step and onto the dry brown dirt beneath her, Myles looks to her right to see Lincoln. He's waiting past the corner of the house, and she can tell from the tense skin on the back of his bald head that he's glaring intensely at the dirt.

Walking up to the tall grounder, she purses and smacks her lips to get Max's attention, hearing the rock stairs wobble under her lanky best friend's weight. Max happily trots over from the kids down the scraped dirt path to the two best friends, coming to walk alongside the redhead's right leg. His calico-coloured shaggy fur brushes against Myles' tight jeans, rubbing against patches of different shades of black. Myles' fingers scratch lovingly at his head when he lifts it up to bump against her hand, huffing a happy breath.

If it will rain, whatever prints they left behind will be gone very shortly, but judging from Lincoln's tense posture, it wouldn't make a difference. Once the dirt that runs along the sides of the house come into view, though, Myles stops, perplexity taking over her delicate features.

There are footsteps left, but they're almost undistinguishable. You can't see where one ends and the other begins; just an endless slew of boot prints mingled and smeared together. Curious hazel eyes scour them, looking for any sign of the little girl and finding none. It's not a surprise she doesn't see any, only a fool would snatch a young child from her room and bring her out into the middle of the village. Stepping forward with a few cautious steps, Myles bends over to get a closer look at the dirt. Edging around it, the redhead keeps close to the neighbouring structure to not disturb the dirt or grass.

"Max," Jasper calls to the dog, and Max obediently turns to him, stopping where he stands. "Stay."

Max sits, watching the three of them attentively and not moving from his spot. Myles walks around the side of the house, turning the corner in a large circle to avoid any boot prints that might be pertinent. Lincoln is the first to follow her, sticking close behind her and looking over the dirt at their feet with the same focused yet skilled expression. Jasper copies his red-haired best friend, leaning over to scrutinise the ground, making Max whine and fidget with the itching desire to follow them.

Coming around the back of the house, the grass obstructs the dirt, making all three need to crouch to get a good look. The dirt is dry and smudged, boot prints blurring together and stepping over each other. Red eyebrows furrow even deeper, her hazel eyes staring hard at the soft impressions on the dry ground and trying to piece together a route.

A loud rumble of thunder cracks through the sky, booming in their ears. Myles looks up, parting her lips in frustration before looking back down with a nervous haste to find what she's looking for before it rains.

"There," Lincoln points to the ground directly under the little girl's window.

Small footprints mark up the ground in three places only, disappearing almost instantly. They're somewhat fresh, most of them still intact from the morning before. Hazel eyes snap around, glazing over the sharp downward scuff mark on the house's wooden wall and turning her attention back to the ground.

"Those boots," Myles mumbles, reaching an arm out to help balance her weight so she can get as close to them as possible. "Face the window, coming from the left, leaving to the left."

"They're deeper leaving," the grounder corroborates, nodding his head and Myles creeps forward in her crouch.

"He carried her away," Jasper says in a sigh, standing up and stepping towards the mark on the house's wall. "The mark is thick. Boot's soles are layered."

"Lilo," the redhead mutters, ducking her head down low to inspect the prints with careful eyes. "Do you see this?"

Lincoln hovers over her shoulder, his crouched posture still taller than her, reaching a hand out to rest his weight on two fingers on the ground.

"You can't see it on the tracks coming in," Lincoln announces, getting Jasper's attention.

"Can't see what?" Jasper asks, stepping up behind Lincoln's shoulder to get a look.

"You can," Myles denotes, "but only on those sides. See the stitching, JJ?" Jasper leans over, casting his vague shadow over their shoulders. "You can see it all the way around when he's leaving, not when he's coming in."

"She's small," Jasper reminds them, "wouldn't weigh much."

"It's not her weight," Lincoln corrects. "It's the stitching."

"They've gone over the outside edge of their boots so much," Myles elaborates, "you can see that side of the stitches clearly."

"Okay," the brown-haired Arker declares, standing up straight. "We're looking for someone who works in the farms late, has layered leather soles, and walks on the outside edge of their feet, which are heavily stitched." Myles looks up at him at his tired and sarcastic tone, and her best friend lifts his arms exasperatedly. "If only they'd carved their name in the bottom of their shoes."

 


 

Rapping her knuckles on a door to a small house in the village made from half destroyed and rusted metal sheets and a car door, Myles takes a deep breath in. The air is heavy and hot, sitting in her chest thickly and her sweat making her thin bandages stick to her stitches uncomfortably. Silence follows for a beat, and Myles turns her head to glance through the weaving mud-hardened houses to search out her two best friends.

As if sensing her impatience, the door scrapes open, only some rope and twine acting as a hinge on the stacked wooden logs halves.

"Heya," Myles greets the man with a wide smile, "ai laik Maiyls, en ai don kom op hir gon kof yu op shika doteip en haka yu op brana shika. Yu bilaik ste gaf in?" [AN: "Hello. I'm Myles, and I've come to offer you boot repairs and to make you new boots. Are you interested?"]

"Shika doteip?" He queries slowly, shock colouring his features. [AN: "Boot repairs?"]

"Sha," the red-haired teen confirms brightly, "jos lid ai in ogeda yu shika en ai na doteip emo op." [AN: "Yep, just bring me all your boots and I will fix them up."]

"Ai bilaik gada bida in," he decides hesitantly, sizing her up for a moment before starting to turn away from the door. "Hod op won tika." [AN: "I do have a few. Wait a moment."]

"Nach, ai lukot," Myles replies, the smile slipping when the man turns away. [AN: "Of course, my friend."]

As the man walks away, Myles pulls her notebook from the bag hooked over her head and resting against her side. Flipping it open, her hazel eyes scan over the list of names she's already promised some kind of service for their boots. A promise that she will now have to uphold somehow. They'd decided to go this route, instead of using the chieftain to force their hands because they didn't want to risk spooking the kidnapper. With a storm hanging thickly in the air, they don't need any more evidence getting destroyed.

Besides, who wouldn't want a free pair of shoes? Especially if they have a long history of destroying a part of their shoes so bad that the stitching is prominent in their tracks. Approaching footsteps drag the redhead's attention back up to the doorway, her bright smile reappearing.

"Disha laik oma shika," the man informs her, coming back to the door with three pairs of boots in his hands. Myles tries not to let the overwhelming weight of dejection and hopelessness show on her face, slipping the hand-stitched notebook back into her bag. If they find Paipa and she ended up the same way as Acha, the red-haired teen doesn't know how she'll be able to handle that again. And then she'd still have to go on to make all these damn boots. "Dison ste gaf fisa in." [AN: "These are my boots. This one needs patching."]

"Yu na teik ai in gon chek emo au?" Myles implores, lifting a hand halfway to gesture at the shoes halfheartedly. "Ai gaf in gon get in chit ai na gaf gada in kom Leygeda." [AN: "Can I look at them? I need to know what I will need to get from the Market Festival."]

"Sha," the man nods, lifting his arms with the boots in them off his chest invitingly. "Dula op bilaik yu souda." [AN: "Yeah. Do what you must."]

"Chof," the red-haired teen smiles, reaching forward with her gentle hands and grabbing a pair from his arms. [AN: "Thanks."]

Hazel eyes scour the leather sole, already knowing it isn't thick enough to make the scuff marks on the window and wall of Paipa's house. Still, she turns them both over, checking the stitching on the bottom of the soles to see if they match the imprints left on the kidnappers tracks. The wear on the bottom of the shoes is normal, the boots in good condition for a woodworker.

"Dison laik os," Myles commends, masking her disappointment with a fake smile. "Don pudon op kom gifa in." [AN: "These are good. Worn with care."]

 


 

Heaving a heavy sigh, Myles knocks loudly on the door again. Silence follows once more, and the redhead peers around the side of the house to hear or see if someone is home. Finding no signs of anyone home, the red-haired Arker takes a step back, looking to the sound of nearby chatter and splashing water. Three women and two men are washing laundry in a very large rock-brick tub, scrubbing the garments against a flat stone. After scrubbing them, they drop them into buckets of cleanly boiled river water to soak overnight.

With one last glance at the house in front of her, Myles pivots and heads towards the washing pit. Easy chatter and rough grunts from exertion float through the air, only calming lightly when one of the women looks up and spots the Arker. Plastering another friendly smile on her face, the redhead approaches them.

"Hei," Myles greets, "ai ste lufa Rinou au. Em laik raun?" [AN: "Hi. I'm looking for Rinou (Reno). Is he around?"]

"Ma…" the woman who noticed her drawls out, "ai nou mema in bilaik ai sin em in deyon." [AN: Um… I can't remember if I've seen him today."]

"No," one of the men huffs out, wringing out the garment and turning to dump it into the bucket of clean water to soak. "Em don gon Yujleda we. Emo kof op tona fisa prepon moubeda kom Leygeda. Kawalin otaim kof raun toli os, sei em nou komba raun gon bida sintaim." [AN: "No, he went to Yujleda (Broadleaf clan). They offer many more healers supplies at their Leygeda (market festival). Kawalin always pays very good, so he won't be back for some days."]

"Aa," the redhead mutters, smirking gratefully. "Mochof." [AN: "Ah, thank you."]

Turning on her heel, Myles reaches for her bag again to make a note beside his name when whispers behind her halt her momentarily. Her footsteps continue to walk away, but her hands have stilled on the notebook, only holding it half out of the bag. Their whispered words are unintelligible, all except for one. A very clear 'Skaikru' tells Myles exactly what's happened, forcing a sigh out of her lungs at the hint that maybe their intel wasn't entirely honest.

Pulling out her notebook and charcoal pencil, Myles licks the now dull tip of the charcoal. Flipping open the hand-stitched pages, she stops when she lands on the list of names she offered to visit. The redhead puts a cross beside his name, scribbling down in delicate handwriting that Rinou hasn't been in the village since Leygeda. Shutting the book with her finger trapped inside to keep the pages from smudging, Myles shoves them back into her bag and looks around.

Standing in the distance to her left is Lincoln and Jasper, Max lying on the ground by their feet. They're talking to each other, occasionally looking over to the redhead to see how she's fairing. If Myles were to guess, she'd guess they had finished their rounds already and were waiting on her. Picking up her speed to a lazy and slow jog, the red-haired teen goes up to them with a relieved sigh.

"Any luck?" Myles asks, switching her hazel eyes between the two and scratching at Max's head when he stands to bump her hand with his head.

"Nope," Jasper announces loudly. "I'm afraid we were disgustingly wrong about how easy tracking down these shoes would be."

"Two aren't here," Lincoln adds, his friendly tone and demeanour stunted by the subtly of his short words.

"Make it three," the redhead sighs, looking up as a loud crack of thunder rumbles the darkening late morning sky. "Rinou," Myles continues distractedly, before focussing her attention back on them. "Is in the Capitol of Podakru, selling his goods from Leygeda at a much steeper price."

"Ah," Jasper clicks his tongue, looking at Lincoln with a deathly serious expression. "The life of a corrupt businessman. No matter how bad life gets, you're always rich on Lake People land."

"Who are you missing?" Myles enquires, scrunching together her eyebrows in thought.

"A late night woodworker," Lincoln supplies with an amused smile and a small shake of his head. "And someone from the farms."

"Well," the red-haired teen huffs out, frustrated. "I'm all out of dark soil areas."

"Maybe they were passing through," Jasper offers, "and the dirt is from one of the paths."

Myles brings a hand up to her head, holding the heel of her palm against her temple as she turns to look towards the village borders. Jasper's used to this, this hopeless dejection of an impending downward spiral already starting, but Lincoln isn't.

"We'll stop," the grounder decides, resting a hand on the anxious redhead's shoulder. "Have lunch and wait for them to come back."

"What if they don't?" Myles questions worriedly, her red eyebrows lifting dramatically. Dropping her hand from her head, Myles shakes her head back and forth, feeling her shoulder-length, wavy red hair swaying. Hazel eyes find Jasper's knowing and mentally drained brown, her head still shaking. "If this ends up like Acha, I… I can't do that again. It's too much death. I can't do it again."

"Someone's gonna die anyway," her best friend morosely tells her. "This time it won't be the kid."

The redhead doesn't say anything, but her haunted hazel eyes gives her disbelief away. Lincoln steps forward, gently using his hand on her shoulder to guide her away.

"We'll have lunch and wait it out."

 


 

"They don't trust us," Myles mutters, her hands hovering over her flat, wooden plate on her knees and pulling apart some of her leftover bread.

"They trust you," Lincoln corrects. "It's me they don't trust."

"They're people," Jasper drawls out, leaning back on the wooden log he's sitting against. "They'll kick dirt at you and call you a traitor, but whenever they need something..." Hazel eyes swivel to her best friend, quirking an eyebrow at him as she drops the bread to pull her shirt from her sweaty chest and fan herself. "Any help is good help, right?"

"I've seen what your people can do," the grounder divulges. Myles looks around absentmindedly, her gaze flicking over to the gate constantly to check for people coming in and out. "The technology they have. Your help is the best help."

"Our help," Myles corrects, locking her determined hazel on his brown. "Our people."

"Octavia," Lincoln grits out after a moment, his jaw clenched. "Was my people. I never fit in anywhere else."

"And you think we do?" Jasper quips, gesturing between himself and his best friend. "The booze-loving chemistry dork with two left feet and the generous kleptomaniac with an unquenchable thirst to solve everyone's problems?"

"We're outcasts," the redhead labels, looking down at her hands before looking around them again.

"You attract people," Lincoln tells her seriously, looking to Jasper. "Everyone likes you," looking back at the red-haired Arker, "and everyone listens to you. You're the first Rouzblida Commander. That isn't a title our people give out easily." [AN: "red-blooded/roseblood"]

Myles snorts obnoxiously and a bright, crooked smile stretches across Jasper's face.

"They should've called you that," the brown-haired teen decides, lifting his water-skin to his mouth. "Instead of Wanheda."

"Rouzheda," Lincoln tries, shaking his head. "Doesn't have the same ring to it. Wanheda, Heda Pramblida." [AN: "The Commander of Death, the first Commander with red-blood."]

"Lilo," Myles smiles kindly at the young man, bringing the conversation back to where it started. "You'll always fit in with us. You'll always be our people."

She sees it in his dark brown eyes, the flash of recognition. Lincoln remembers hearing those words from the redhead twice before. Once when they were chasing the sniper taking potshots at Tondc, and once when they were out front of Mount Weather, watching their army retreat. It's not the words that hold a dear meaning to him, but a promise hidden under them. A promise of a family. No matter how big or small, and even after three months of separation, the promise still stands.

"You'd say that about him," the dark-skinned man nods his head to a stranger passing by, "if he asked."

"Then you shouldn't say you have no people," Myles doubles down kindly, watching the stranger walk away before flicking her hazel gaze back to the gate. Locking her eyes on Lincoln's and quirking her eyebrows sarcastically, the redhead mimics his nod to the same stranger. "You've got him."

Lincoln huffs an amused breath through his mouth, an easy smirk turning up the left side of his face as he looks down at his hands.

"Aw, look at us!" Jasper exclaims rather loudly, a blindingly bright, dopey smile across his face and he leans forward to clap a hand on one of each of their shoulders. "One big, awkward and suffering family!" The brown-haired Arker shakes his hands, rocking both Lincoln and Myles for a moment. "Surviving with our hands tied behind our backs and using only pure luck and stupid decisions."

"And disastrous solutions," Myles adds, lifting a hand to Jasper.

Jasper mimics her movement, raising a hand as if to high five each other, but instead they high five themselves. Thunder snaps loudly through the air around them, the dirt underneath their feet rumbling at the long sound. Max lifts his head up from the ground, looking up at the sky the same way most everyone left outside does. People buzz about, putting coverings of cloth and wood over small buildings and fire pits. Workers drag tools, supplies, tables and chairs under cover, tugging coverings over open walls and doorways. Market stalls, butchers and linen shops all copy the home-owners by shutting their windows to keep the nearing rain out.

"The storm is almost on top of us," Lincoln states distractedly, his eyes still turned up to the dark grey midday sky.

Movement behind Lincoln draws Myles' attention away from the dreary clouds floating heavily in the sky. Turning to him, hazel eyes flick over to look at the man riding in through the west gate. He's completely dry, only one rough streak of dark mud with grey flecks in it is up the front of his light brown long-sleeved shirt.

"Mustn't be coming from the west," the redhead states slowly, watching the man curiously as his horse trots towards the stables.

"Okay," Jasper drawls, "I know I'm usually the one with no idea what's going on, but if you're seeing that from the clouds and I'm not, then I need to quit drinking. And maybe muffins, too."

"Not from the clouds," Myles corrects, reaching out a leg when Lincoln meets her eyes and turns to follow her gaze, but Jasper doesn't. Knocking her boot against her best friend's to get his attention, she tips a small nod to the man. "He's dry."

"What's that on his shirt?" Jasper asks, the dead seriousness in his voice making Myles' hazel eyes flick up from the distant man's boots instantly. "Right breast pocket."

"I don't know," the red-haired Arker mumbles, staring with furrowed eyebrows at the shiny piece of metal attached to his shirt.

"Looks metal," Lincoln describes, "sharp points."

"He would've had to pull himself up through the window," Myles reminds them, standing up. "That could've left the scratch."

The strides the redhead takes makes the fawb glove covering her left hand and the weapon braces on her body stick and unstick from her skin wetly. Jasper and Lincoln match her determined pace easily, their walk becoming more brisk when the man disappears into the stable. The man and his horse turn to enter the stable, showing a similar streak of dark grey is up his back, light grey gravel seeming to stick on top.

Hastening her pace to an urgent jog, the redhead only slows down again when she swerves in through the stable doorway. Myles' steps falter when her hazel eyes don't immediately find him again, panic rising in her chest. Lincoln and Jasper come up by her side as her gaze lands on the man, watching him slide off of his horse in a stall. Plastering on a smile, Myles channels the Ghost once more and walks over to stall he's rode his chestnut coloured horse into.

"Heya," Myles greets, smiling even brighter when the man turns to her in acknowledgment. His expression hardens on the red-haired teen, not lightening or loosening up as he casts his gaze over the other two with her. The brooch pinned to his shirt glistens in the lowlight of the incoming storm, the thin and pointed petals of a flower rusted with age. "Osir ste lufa au kru kom gada shika in gon doteip emo op. Yu bilaik ste gaf in?" [AN: "Hello. We're looking for people with boots to repair them. Would you be interested?"]

"Os Wanheda-de gaf doteip shika op?" The man scoffs, taking the crudely made leather reins from the horse's mouth. Turning to hang them up on the stall wall, the man continues as he moves to shove past the three in the stall doorway. "Ai nou wich yo in." [AN: "The Great Wanheda wants to repair boots? I think not."]

"Mebi yu na gaf huk osir op gon chip?" Jasper prods, pulling a thoughtful face sarcastically. "Osir neson prepon throu in na gada leda in… taim yu gaf bida in… nau bilaik taim-de." [AN: "Maybe you want to give it to us for free? Our next supply drop has leather… if you want some… now's the time."]

His brown eyes flick around them for a moment, his resolve only hardening and Myles knows exactly what he's about to do. Raising a delicate red eyebrow in a silent challenge, Myles shifts her feet to be ready to chase after him. Taking the bait, he pretends to shrug, stepping back a step. Abruptly, he bolts to his left and jumps through the open space between the separating stall wall to get into the stall to his left.

Myles and Lincoln dart over to meet him there before he has the chance to hop the gate, Jasper instead opting to race to the stable doorway. The man gets a hand and foot on the gate in the new stall just as Lincoln and Myles reach him, and he tries to pull away quickly. Lincoln doesn't let him, abandoning Myles' hands on the man's leg to reach in and yank the brown-haired man over the gate by his muddied shirt.

He doesn't come easy, shouting wordlessly as Lincoln throws him to the ground and kneels a knee on his back to keep him down. Myles immediately goes for his feet to grip his boots, but the man kicks at her frantically. Clambering on top of his rapidly moving legs, Jasper appears beside her to hold his legs down for her.

"Sis ai au!" The man bellows, his voice coming only a second after another clap of thunder. "Sis au! Skaikru ste jomp ai op!" [AN: "Help me! Help! Skaikru are attacking me!"]

"Ste hoden!" Myles barks out through struggling grunts, tearing away the cloth that wraps around his leather boots to secure them to his ankle. [AN: "Stay still!"]

"Hod yu gonplei op!" Lincoln orders assertively, one hand pinning the arm he's not knelt on to the ground, and the other holding the back of his neck. [AN: "Stop fighting!"]

Pulling off a boot, Myles quickly flips it upside down, already knowing the thickness of the sole is exactly what they're looking for. The same gravelly substances that's swiped up his front and back are on the bottom of his shoes, and Myles wipes it away from the stitching to see it clearly. Dark grey, almost black small rocks are sharp and hard, very rough to the touch of her gloveless right hand. Yet, the small grains of light grey crumble from her slight pressure.

Hazel eyes scan the stitching, her heart thundering in her chest as a distant rumble in the sky suddenly becomes a deafening roar above them. The white flash of nearby lightning flashes over their faces, mirrored in Myles' best friend's eyes. Holding up the bottom of the boot for the other two to see as the man continues to flail under their weight, Myles pulls off the other boot. Looking down, the redhead can feel how both of her friends freeze at the boot, allowing for the man to jostle them harshly.

Quickly swiping a gloveless finger over the stitching around the edge of the sole, hazel eyes glance back up to her two friends. Her pale finger can feel the thick stitches, even through the grit. They're exactly the same as the prints.

 


 

"Oso nou na as yu op nodotaim, Jiou," wocha Gresi warns the man sitting directly in front of Myles. [AN: "We aren't going to ask you again, Jiou." NOTE; Jiou is the Trig spelling, the English equivalent would be 'Geo' from 'geographic'.]

It's déjà vu, at least, it is to Myles. Almost. Somehow, her world keeps repeating itself, sending her back and forth as if to rub in her face how wrong she was, how bad she did. Sitting directly in front of her, so close their knees touch, is the man who was wearing the shoes the kidnapper wore. His name is Jiou, and he's tied in chains that pinch his skin to the chair he's sitting in. Myles is sitting in a chair in front of him and staring him down in the chieftains tent. Adrenaline pumps uncomfortably around her stitches, burning through her veins in a way she can't ignore.

Rain has yet to break through the dark clouds looming above them, but the air is finally lightening, feeling cooler to the touch. It does nothing to calm the tension rising in the tent as all Myles can think about is how similar of a predicament this is to Carl Emerson. A wild wave of panic and doom crashes inside of her, the urgency of the situation only escalated with the stormy weather.

If she's still alive, she could freeze to death in the late winter thunderstorm. She could be out there, lost, hurt and afraid.

The last time Myles was in this position, she let Carl Emerson go, which turned out to do nothing but become a giant hinderance. It still is. The burden still sits on her heart with the knowledge that his still beats, pumping genetically engineered blood from the marrow drilled out of Myles' friends. That was a mistake, and she won't make that same mistake again. She can't make that same mistake again.

"Ai nou get in," Jiou insists, his arms jolt in his chains, a movement his body doesn't sing with. "Ai don lufa em au, seintaim bilaik yo ogeda." [AN: "I don't know. I've been looking for her, same as all of you."]

"Weron yu don gada in moka?" Myles quizzes, her tone as void and empty as her hazel eyes that bore into him. [AN: "Where did you get the mud?"]

"Ai don slip daun ai gapa," he answers quickly, his voice clipped short. [AN: "I fell off my horse."]

"Tu taim?" Jasper implores incredulously, "yo ste fleim klin daun-de kom au, jos nou sha?" [AN: "Twice? Don't you just hate when that happens?"]

"Spicha," Myles accuses, leaning forward to get even closer to him. [AN: "Liar."]

It's self-preservation, Myles knows it is. A desperate need to be seen as a force to be reckoned with instead of a victim or a target. Just one more thing her father instilled in her, this masochistic longing for a fight so she doesn't feel like a victim – like the only victim. Perhaps that's another dark and selfish reason she became the Ghost. A want to be seen as something more than the bruises and scars her father left on her pale skin. To see how bad others have it, so she could know she wasn't the only one suffering.

"Jos tel osir op," Gresi commands strongly, and the man looks away from Myles' dark and stormy hazel eyes to look at the warrior. "Ai laik yu wocha, em bilaik ai hedplei." [AN: "Just tell us. As your chieftain, I command it."]

"Ai nou get in hashta chit yo ste chich op," Jiou claims, feigning innocence with a smug smirk and half shrug. "Ai nou na wan op kom kripon ai nou sin thru." [AN: "I don't know what you're talking about. I will not die for a crime I didn't commit."]

"Sen ai in," Myles rumbles out threateningly, her harsh gaze boring into the man's dishonest brown. "En sen in toli kefon. Ai jos gaf get in weron Paipa kamp raun. Tel ai op dei, en yu raitness nou laik torchplei." [AN: "Listen to me, and listen very carefully. I only want to know where Paipa is. Tell me that, and your justice won't be torture."]

Jiou's jaw shifts strangely, and then he spits. Thick, warm saliva lands on the side of Myles' nose and her eyes instinctively close. Jasper calls out something, shoving forward to yank the man's shoulder back against the chair he sits on. Calmly, the redhead raises her left hand to wipe the spit that slides down her face off with the cloth of her fawb glove before opening her fiery hazel eyes.

"Skaikru nou get raitnes in," the man sneers, matching the fury in the red-haired Arker's eyes. [AN: "Sky People don't know justice."]

It hardens Myles' already forming resolve. They need answers, and they need them now. Once it starts raining, all bets are off, they'll never find her body. Marcus and Abby stopped Myles from getting the answers they needed from Emerson, she won't make that mistake again.

"Clarke," the Blake brother leans forward and takes the bloody spike out of her hands. Clarke stops and turns around to face the two, listening to what the tall man has to say. "Who we are, and who we need to be to survive are very different things."

Without breaking eye contact with the man, Myles reaches the fingers of her right hand to her wrist, slipping a knife from the weapon brace strapped there. In one fluid motion, the redhead stabs the blade into his thigh. She can't see Lincoln's reaction, only able to see that Gresi and her two bodyguards don't flinch. Jasper does, however, but Myles can't tell if it's from the action, or the shocked yell the man belts out as he flings his head back.

"Yu koken nomonjoka!" Jiou shouts, bringing his head back forward to look between his leg and Myles' eyes with his wide brown gaze. [AN: "You crazy motherfucker!"]

"Osir don tel yu op," Myles reminds him darkly, her chest already heavy with remorse and her mind becoming fuzzy with detachment. "Osir nou na as yu op nodotaim." [AN: "We told you. We won't ask you again."]

"Taim ai tel yo enthing," the man remarks, breathless from rage. "Ai na wan op. Ai nou na wan op wamplei-de kom natrona." [AN: "If I tell you anything, I will die. I will die a traitor's death."]

"Yu nou na," Jasper agrees, knowing his best friend enough to see her beginning to spiral. [AN: "You won't."]

"Ai swega yu klin," the red-haired teen tries, her voice all but pleading for him to tell them so she can stop. "Ai na ge foshou yu raitnes ste snapnes en nolaudnes." [AN: "I promise you. I will make sure your punishment is swift and painless."]

"Yu nou na swega daunde klin," Gresi interjects loudly, her tone hard as stone and slicing through the air icily. Hazel eyes slip down from Jiou's in frustration, glaring at her blade imbedded in his thigh and his red blood seeping around it. "Chon don gada yu in gon let thru hir?" [AN: "You cannot promise that. Who here gave you that authority?"]

Flicking her exasperated eyes up to the chieftain, it takes everything in Myles' power not to freak the fuck out. Jasper hangs his head in the corner of hazel eyes and Lincoln huffs with the same annoyed energy the redhead expels.

"You need to offer him something," Lincoln advises the warrior in a clipped tone, "in exchange for information."

"We have all the information we need," Gresi decides, and fear prickles at Myles' heart. Hazel eyes snap back onto the man's brown, the crazed urgency to bring this girl home tainting the hostility that was there. "The crime he bears witness to was of a child."

"Don't you want to bring her home?" Jasper enquires hotly, "give her a proper Trikru burial, or is it more of a convenience thing to you? Oh, I can't see her, fuck the family?"

"This is our way," the chieftain finalises, and Myles' heart pumps harder in her chest. "He will never tell us, knowing the laws he has broken."

"Wanna bet?" Myles snarks dully, steeling herself once more. Flicking her hard hazel eyes between his two stubborn brown, the redhead's hand clenches on the handle of the knife in his thigh. "Em laik kiken?" [AN: "Is she alive?"]

"Yu laik son swima op ona rein," Jiou smirks, and Myles twists the knife. [AN: "You waste your time."]

Jiou clenches his jaw tightly, tipping his head back and grunting loudly. Myles stills the knife, letting the breathless man huff in relief before she asks her next questions.

"Weron yu don slip daun ona moka?" Myles questions, her voice thick through the icy chill of the hurricane smashing through her chest. Jiou's enraged brown eyes lock on her hazel as warm, thick blood touches her fingers. "Yu don slip daun, o Paipa don gon yu op seintaim?" [AN: "Where did you fall in the mud? Did you fall, or did Paipa fight back?"]

He doesn't answer, only clenches his jaw stubbornly and Myles twists the knife again. Jiou throws his head back, grunting through clenched teeth and Lincoln places a hand on a steadily spirally Myles' shoulder.

"Yu don biyo em yuwas," Lincoln interjects over the man's strained and muffles noises of pain. "Yu ste wan op idowe. Tel osir op." [AN: "You said it yourself. You're dead anyway. Tell us."]

Myles can't take it anymore. Can't take causing him pain and it not getting anywhere. It's not working; she's failed again. The image of a body much smaller than Acha's flashes through the redhead's mind, the faces of Paipa's distressed, pregnant parents echoing mercilessly. She's let them all down, again.

Hot panic and piercing hopelessness explode in Myles' chest, her heart heavy with remorse and self-loathing. Her lungs constrict, making it hard to breathe and her urgent heart jumps up to her throat. The red-haired Arker yanks her knife out of the man's thigh to stand, quickly striding out of the chieftain's tent. Jasper says something, but it sounds far away and muffled under Jiou's grunts as if they were water. The world smears and slurs together, Myles' body feeling overwhelmingly far away yet the pain is so vivid her stomach churns with nausea.

Flinging the tent flap out of the way, the dull grey light the stormy sky casts on the world is blinding. It blurs over the colours of the village, or maybe it's just Myles' stumbling steps veering dizzily off to the side? The feeling of her best friend's hands steadying her reaches her before his or Lincoln's worried words do, their voices dying unheard in the still air. A block of colour passes in front of her, and Myles reaches a shaking hand out to use it to balance herself.

Instead of keeping herself steady, the hyperventilating red-haired Arker falls onto the arm she reaches out, her side colliding with a log wall. Max's hurried and urgent barks float in through the hazy fog loudly, sounding as if he's doing it right by her ear. A second after the sound breaks through the static occupying her mind, the calico-coloured dog is in front of her, desperately trying to stand in her lap.

When did she get on the ground? Feeling his small, calloused paws standing on her legs, his soft, shaggy fur brushing against her chin and the wetness of his nose against her neck comes almost too quickly for her sensitive senses. It does the job, though, reminding her of her two friends' hands that had followed her out of the chieftain's tent. Lifting her trembling and heavy hands to wrap around Max and anchor herself, her dizzy hazel eyes sweep over to the two crouched down with her.

"You're okay," Jasper insists strongly, his voice soft with care and love for his best friend. Understanding those two words breaks the panicked spell that keeps all human sounds hidden. The static and fuzz in her mind isn't static or fuzz, it's her own erratic breaths sounding deafening to her own ears. "Tell me something true. Tell me something real."

"Breathe, Myles," Lincoln urges kindly when only panicked breaths escape her mouth, placing a hand on the back of her neck to keep her present with them.

"I don't – " Myles starts, her voice cracking breathlessly. "I can't – I – "

"Tell me something real," her best friend repeats, not understanding the distressed swirl in her mind isn't because she got trapped by old memories.

"I failed," the redhead whimpers out immediately, shaking her head and feeling Max's soft fur rubbing against her wet chin.

"You didn't fail," Lincoln asserts, his words heard over Max's loud whine as he shifts on his feet in Myles' lap, rubbing against the redhead.

"You offered him something better," Jasper insists. "You did the right thing, and he didn't take it. We tried everything else."

Thunder rumbles through the sky above them, and Myles sucks in a greedy breath to try to steady her breathing.

"We need to find the mud," the red-haired teen decides shakily, nodding to herself and rubbing her hands up Max's fur lovingly.

"Once it starts raining," Lincoln agrees, "we'll never find the tracks."

"Okay," Jasper breathes out, looking up at the sky and standing up after squeezing Myles' arm kindly. "I'll go tell Gresi and her musclemen."

Myles takes a hand off Max's side to rub at the wet tears that had slipped from her eyes. Jasper turns away, and the young calico-coloured dog pulls his head from under her chin at the movement. He lifts a paw with a high-pitched whine, tugging the redhead's hand away from her face before pressing the flat top part of his head into her cheek. Smiling and huffing a laugh, Myles pats down his head before scratching behind both of his ears.

"He's very well trained," Lincoln commends with a smile, reaching out and rubbing the dog's fur fondly.

"Nah," Myles brushes off, swiping her thumbs out to slide up and down the dog's cheeks. "He was a good dog before we found him." Pulling her head back to look Max in the eyes. "Weren't you, bud?"

 


 

Myles remains bent over, her hazel eyes scrutinising the dirt she walks over to the left of the rover slowly crawling between her and Lincoln. The horse tracks are bountiful, and there's no way they could discern which is from Jiou's horse, and which is from someone else's. What they're looking for is offshoots, places where only a few branched off to go somewhere that wasn't on this path. Jiou came back after he left with Paipa, and then he left again early this morning, so there'd be at least four sets of prints.

A deafening thunder clap lights up the sky with a flash of lightning, the clouds roar drawling out quietly before booming loudly again. It makes Max pause in his careless trotting beside the rover, his little head looking up at the sky. His ears twitch back and his wagging tail dips, halting before whipping back and forth happily again. Harsh and freezing winds blow through the trees, making the wood bend tauntingly. Myles can't help how her feet stutter when the wind knocks past her, her sore body weak and tired from the panic attack earlier.

Stress and exhaustion accentuates her senses, emphasising the pain from her bullet wound. Feeling irritable, Myles huffs dramatically and flings her arms up.

"This sucks," Myles mutters, looking up as another rumble echoes in the sky and little wet spits of rain start to gently fall on her pale skin. "It's about to start raining. This double sucks."

"The rain will wash away any tracks," Lincoln reminds them again, and Jasper stops the rover.

"Should we give up on the tracks?" Jasper inquires thoughtfully, "or is it fuck-this-shit-o'clock already?"

"Splitting up might buy us some more time," the red-haired teen suggests, looking around her.

"Splitting up sucks," her best friend complains. "You're triple sucking us needlessly."

"Yeah," Myles agrees distractedly, nodding to herself and not listening to the brown-haired Arker. "Give up on the tracks. Look for the two types of gravel."

"I'll take the north," Lincoln offers, already turning and walking away. "We'll meet back here in a few hours."

"Alright," Jasper huffs, moving the rover off the path. "I'll stick with west, but I'll have you know this plan quadruple sucks. We'll all get soaked."

"We've got 200-year-old whiskey at home," Myles tells her best friend as he slides out of the driver's door.

"That, my paranoid, red-haired best friend," the brown-haired Arker states dramatically, walking west with Max by his heels. "Is what I call; worth it."

"See you in a bit, JJ."

 


 

If Myles didn't know any better, she'd think it is hailing with the sharp, piercing force the rain belts down on her with. It's blinding; the hand she holds up against her red eyebrows to protect her eyes does nothing except provide a convenient ramp for freezing cold water to run down her face. An unending stream of thumping raindrops obstructs everything, making the world in front of Myles unrecognisable. She's shivering from the freezing cold rain she's drenched in and the strong wind that accompanies it, everything much too icy for the end of winter.

"Paipa!" Myles screams out through chattering teeth, using her left hand to steady herself on a tree as the brutal wind shoves her around in the slippery mud. Nothing but long bouts of thunder answer her, lightning snapping through the sky brightly. Even louder crashes of thunder follow shortly after the white flash, the loud volume only threatened by the merciless pellets of rain. "Paipa!"

Ice cold wind knocks her back, sending her slipping backwards a few steps before she steadies herself in the sloppy, wet dirt. Forcing herself forward feels like she's pushing against someone's arms, but it's only the invisible grip of the wind. Her stomach throbs, keeping the wound present in her mind as water bullets shoot down at Myles. Chattering teeth and blue tinted lips part again to scream the young girl's name, trying to yell over the thunder and deafening rain thumping down around her.

"Paipa!" The redhead bellows, continuing to step forward and look around her when her boot slips into a shallow dip in the uneven ground.

In a panic, Myles' right hand tears away from shielding her eyes to catch her fall as her left arm flails in the air to balance herself. Her fingers land in the same slippery muddied-dirt her boot slid in, the liquid gunk thick and cold on her pale fingers. The strong winds find her again, pushing her to her left and sending her left hand onto the wet ground to stop herself from falling on her ass. Gritting her teeth, Myles waits, knowing that if she tries to stand up now, she'll probably end up falling into the mud.

After a moment, the sharp wind starts to die off, and the red-haired Arker uses her hands in the wet mud to push herself up. Stepping forward with careful steps, Myles wipes her muddy hands on her soaking wet jeans and walks back out of the uneven patch of dirt. Bringing her hand up to protect her eyes again, her walking pace stutters as she looks around her to try to see through the curtain of pouring rain. It's not even three more steps forward when she slips again, and her panicked flailing doesn't catch her fall.

This hole is deeper, and Myles slides her side down the short side of it. Her wet shirt and soaked bandages stick to the mud, riding up and making her side sting as it grates across the ground. Hissing to herself and staying lying in the muddy dirt for a moment, the redhead can't help the endless loop her mind goes in. Screaming to herself in her head 'holy shit, that fucking hurt' while the throbbing in her stinging side and tender stitches intensifies.

"Fuck," Myles barks out, tilting her right hip off the mud to let the rain thump down on the scrape around to her back to clean it. "Oh."

The sight stops her. It's not a bad injury, certainly not the worst one she currently has, but it will bruise. No, what stops her is what washes away with the small dots of deep red blood the shade of her shoulder-length hair. Unnaturally dark dirt muddied with the rain is what she's slipped in and what coats up the back of her. If it were just the dirt, Myles would probably walk away from this area and continue to move on, but the dirt isn't alone.

In the mud is small, sharp dark grey, almost black shards of rocks. Exactly like what was in the single mud streaks up Jiou's back and front. Gently pushing herself up to sit up straight in the dirt with a pained cringe screwing up her wet face, Myles wipes her right hand on her soaked jeans. Holding her hand up to her eyes, her hazel eyes scan the surrounding mud, finding the very dark grey shards littered loosely around her.

Dirt dips and creates warped holes, small and incredibly large immediately around her, no seeable stretch of the earth level. It's all jagged and rough, dipping and swerving in a way Myles has only seen in a few places. The sight makes the realisation dawn on her suddenly; it isn't gravel. This must've been where some of the heaviest fallout of the bombs and missiles dropped, sending bits of roads flying.

It's not gravel, it's bitumen from a road. Which means the light grey bits of gravelly rock came from the same place. She's close. Stumbling to her feet with clenched teeth, the red-haired Arker whips her head around to look through the blinding rainfall. The dark grey rocks are scattered across the mud, but where Myles had just fallen moments before hadn't had any, so she keeps going forward.

After walking and sliding through the gritty mud a dozen metres, the Earth dips inwards as if a creek was there. Instead of a creek, there's only a tiny trickling of muddy water that the redhead is almost convinced is from the rain. Whatever had once flown through here has either long dried up or been redirected elsewhere. An itching feeling in her gut makes her stop, looking around the dirt in the near empty creek bed.

Flashing through her mind is pictures of roads from books on the Ark. Sometimes, if there was flowing water or an uneven path where they wanted to put a road, they'd have to level it. They made small bridges to protect the water from cars and constant travellers, leveling large stretches of terrain to build a road upon. The crumbling light grey rocky substance could've been gravel, or it could've been 200-year-old cement.

Deciding she's come this far, Myles turns to follow the dip of the empty creek-bed. Fighting the freezing wind and heavy rain makes the short walk seem like an eternity. Myles' boots slip and slide in the slowly filling creek-bed, the mud having already washed off her sopping wet clothes from the beating rain. The rainwater collecting in the small creek pit flows back towards the redhead, hard rainfall splashing up on its surface.

Myles sees why almost immediately after that fact registers in her mind. The dirt of the creek-bed has suddenly flattened to sit at an even height with the dark dirt around it. Puzzled hazel eyes flick up, her struggling pace stuttering in shock. What was once a dramatic crater in the earth made from a bomb's blast is now a subtle, wide hole. Its edges have softened in the two centuries since it was made, life walking through it aiding in nature's gradual overgrowing process.

Light grey concrete in a thick block has been blown up, scorched and shattered all around her, falling into the subtle crater. It spread both little and large chunks of the crumbling cement out on her side of the hole, tiny flecks of it sitting amongst the small bits of bitumen. Dread bubbles up in her, pumping rapidly through her chilly veins and warming her up.

Jiou didn't fall off his horse or slip when fighting the child; he was in the massive pit of rumble. Jasper was wrong, there is no hope for the girl. Paipa is dead, and Myles is about to find her small body. Stopping at the edge of the large crater, Myles drops her right hand from her eyebrows. Her eyes stare over the broken concrete, dreading and begging for a hint of where the child's body lay hidden. With her chest heaving dejectedly, the redhead lifts the edge of her drenched shirt to press the transmit button on her walkie-talkie.

"I think I've found where he took her," Myles calls through the radio, raising her voice to compete with the raging thunder and the pouring rain's volume. "An hour and a half walk southwest of the rover." Static cracks in her earpiece, the rain on both ends rendering whoever's voice just came through unintelligible. Red eyebrows furrow and Myles pulls the walkie from her belt when the radio transmission of a voice is drowned out by loud rain and thunder. "I can't hear you. Come again?"

"Shit," the red-haired Arker curses to herself when the earpiece clicks and tries to deafen her with the sound of the storm from one of her friends. Their voice is still undistinguishable, so Myles uses their own version of Morse code to tell Jasper, silently hoping he'll go get Lincoln. "H," Myles mutters to herself, pressing the transmit button in two dashes. "E," one dash, "R," dash, dot, dash, "E."

Slowly slipping down the sloppy crater, her earpiece crackles with Jasper's response.

"F," the red-haired Arker mumbles after hearing two dashes, a dot and then another dash, catching herself from falling when another gust of wind barrels into her. "A," dash, dot, "R," dash, dot, dash. 'Far'. Stopping and looking back to see how far off she veered, Myles thinks hard before she replies with 'HR' for 'hour'. "H… R…" Turning back to look at the mound of concrete rubble and exhaling heavily, Myles adds on 'hole' so they know what to look for. "H… O," pressing three dots, "L," then a dash, dot, and two dashes, "E."

The reply is almost instantaneous, the two letters 'RD' to signify he's understood and is on his way. Breathing in deeply despite her sore stomach and back, Myles keeps descending the crater until the concrete chunks prove to be an obstacle. It's like it was all stacked on top of one another, and the whole pile was knocked over to the side Myles is approaching from. The debris had been thrown away from the centre where the explosion started, its forceful wave blowing it over to one side.

Unable to get any closer on this side for fear of tripping or being pushed by the wind into the chunks of concrete, Myles walks around it. One end of the small, broken bridge is flat and protrudes from the side of the crater as if it could still be functional. Stepping up onto the flat concrete that's on a bit of an angle, the destroyed bridge holds her weight easily, allowing her to walk on it without it wobbling.

Carefully walking to the edge that crumples in on itself, Myles peers over with her arms held out to try to counteract the harsh wind. Panicked, blurry eyes search through the heavy rainfall for any signs of the concrete being shifted, any signs that someone was here to bury a body. Anything that would've been here is already washed away, all traces of foul play being long gone. Getting to the edge, Myles sits on the concrete before stepping off onto the ground, even though the bridge isn't too much higher than the dirt.

Sighing heavily in frustration, tired and dejected hazel eyes flick around the concrete. Nothing jumps out at her as pertinent, there's no clue, no tracks – nothing. Moving to turn around, the red-haired Arker stills. At the flat end she had walked on to get to the other side of the small concrete mound, there's a small gap. It's thin, but it's enough that Jiou would've been able to slide in and out.

Nausea swirls in Myles' stomach, queasy with the thought that she had walked over the exact spot where the six-year-old's body had been left. Hesitantly moving towards it, the redhead crouches down to peer in. It's dark, and when Myles pulls her flashlight and clicks it on, the first thing she sees is the streak of gritty mud on the top of the concrete ceiling. Jiou didn't get the mud streaks from falling; he got them from crawling.

"Ah," Myles grunts to herself, putting the flashlight in her mouth and gingerly lying on her stomach in the mud puddles under her boots. "Fuck me."

The fresh scrape up her side and around her back stings harshly at the thundering rain pounding down on her, but Myles persists. Using her legs and her forearms, Myles edges her thin, wounded, and tired body through the small gap. It's a bit quieter once her head is under the cover of the concrete bridge, the sound dull and muffled instead of deafening. She can hear her own rough breath huffing past the flashlight in her mouth, intensified by the sharp bursts of pain crawling plagues her with.

A dark feeling chokes her lungs for a moment in the dark undercover area, the light the gap would spill inside of it being blocked with her skinny frame. The flashlight beam on the collapsed chunks of concrete to her left is the only thing keeping her mind present. It's the only thing stopping her from spiralling. Phantom pain haunts her body and the small, dark enclosed space threatens to send her into a fit of panicked madness.

It's too reminiscent of the aftermath of the battle at the dropship four months ago, the day the Mountain Men grabbed her. She'd gotten pinned under one of the tunnels with a support beam through her abdomen and had to claw her way out, covered in her own thick blood. The memory of that day and everything that happened in Mount Weather after it keeps her on alert as she crawls her way through the mud and slosh inside.

Shifting to her right makes her still halfway inside of the gap. Several things rush through her paranoid mind, halting her ears from being able to discern what kind of sound it was. It could be the concrete shifting in the wind, 200 years of people and storms weakening it just enough for it to collapse on her today. It could be wild animals, their scavenging noses bringing them to the scent of fresh death, and they view the redhead as a threat to their meal. It could be the murderer, whether it's Jiou after somehow escaping his fate in Inera or someone else that they didn't even consider. They could be sitting in here, having come to move the body once the Arker's and Lincoln started sticking their noses in, but the storm thwarted them.

Myles' pulse thunders with a strength and a loudness that the thunder raging on outside would be weary of, dread keeping her body heavy and frozen. Haltingly lifting her left forearm from the thick, wet mud she lays in, Myles goes as slowly as possible to keep any wild animals from attacking. Her body remains tense, seized by an imminent threat she's yet to identify but prepared and ready to fight it off. Inch by inch, her muddy left hand takes the flashlight from her mouth and slowly turns it to her right.

A concrete column that has the middle of it broken down greets her, two small bare feet sticking out just in her sight. Light hope flutters through Myles' chest, her whole body relaxing at the sight.

"Paipa?" Myles asks, already knowing the answer and shuffling forward some more to be completely inside.

"Sha?" The little, wobbly voice of the terrified young girl replies. [AN: "Yes?"]

There are no wild animals, no murderer, no dead body. Scuffed boot prints and small footprints mark up the strip of dry dirt where the rain can't reach. It's cramped, neither Myles nor the 6-year-old can stand up inside of here. Paipa is just short enough to sit without having to duck her head down, but she's alive.

"Hei," the redhead breathes out happily, quickly dragging her legs in and crawling on her hands and knees to the gap in the wall. Making sure she isn't pointing the flashlight into the young girl's face, Myles smiles in relief at the sight of a barely hurt but terrified blonde girl. Her little hands are tied to one of several thick, rusted metal rods secured deep in a block of concrete. "Ai laik Agi. Ai don kom op gon lid yu in hou." [AN: "Hi. My name is Aggie. I've come to bring you home."]

Paipa pants harshly and rapidly at the words, tears filling her blue eyes.

"Hou?" Paipa echoes, her voice breaking with Myles' heart. [AN: "Home?"]

The little girl repeats the word with far too much pain a child should ever have to feel. It's like she genuinely believed she'd never see the outside of this concrete hellhole. Myles tries with all her might not to let the comforting smile on her delicate features falter or the heartbroken tears in her hazel eyes fall.

"Sha," Myles promises sweetly, scooting inside more so she can reach the girl's binds. "Ai na teik in ban dison we, nami?" [AN: "Yep. Can I take this off?"]

"Mm-hm," Paipa nods, sniffing her tears back sharply with her harsh breaths.

"Kei," the red-haired teen mutters, putting the flashlight back into her mouth to untie the poor girl. The restraints are tight and it has rubbed her little wrists raw, the young child shivering in her sleep gown. Myles continues lightly when they fall away, letting the little girl's arms go free. "En der em laik." [AN: "Okay. There we go."]

Immediately, the child surges forward, tightly wrapping her little arms around the redhead's mud-slathered and rain-soaked waist. Despite how wet and muddy she is, Myles quickly wraps her arms around her too, holding her tightly so she knows she's safe. Pulling the flashlight from her mouth, the redhead whispers soothing words to Paipa.

"Soukei," Myles murmurs softly, holding the child close and holding the back of her head as she cries. "Soukei. Yu ste klir nau." Rocking them both back and forth, Myles reaches a hand for her walkie-talkie. "Yu ste klir." Paipa's small hands clutch the back of the redhead's drenched shirt, her little fists holding on with all her might as she sobs. "Soukei." [AN: "It's alright. It's alright. You're safe now. You're safe. It's alright."]

With the hand holding her walkie-talkie, Myles clicks out five letters in the three best friends' code. A.L.I.V.E.

 


 

Dull pokes bounce on Myles' forehead as she distractedly taps the wrapped, blunt end of her makeshift charcoal pencil against her skin. Hazel eyes scour the parchment in front of her, flickering candlelight dancing over the scribbled letters and lines. It reminds them they're using candlelight to save power since there wasn't much sun today to recharge their batteries. On the large square table they built for maps is a map of all the Dead Zone and surrounding villages. Each village that sits close to the border has a star marked next to them.

On top of it are three open hand-stitched notebooks, describing what they've done thus far. They have gotten some info on Emori's movements but very little on Jaha and Otan's in the last two days. Since Pike's death, they've been tugged from place to place with everyone else's needs, one thing after another taking up their time. After the day they've had today, they're lucky they still have time to spare after showering and cleaning up to look over all this. Myles made a promise, and no matter how exhausted she is, she plans to keep it.

They know little of Emori's movements, every new piece of info reaching the group long after the teen has fled. They've had a few sightings of Jaha and Otan, but their movements are much more eractic and vague. Jasper and Myles are working with the idea that Emori, Murphy's girlfriend, would have crossed the Dead Zone to get to A.L.I.E.'s mansion almost immediately after Murphy was taken to Polis. A.L.I.E., if Murphy's right and Jaha took something the A.I. can communicate with him through, should've coordinated a meetup point for Emori, her brother and Jaha. Strangely, their paths couldn't have strayed further from each other.

Which means, frustratingly, they can't track down Jaha and Otan, because A.L.I.E. isn't leading Emori to them. The group didn't cross the Dead Zone to try to catch up with the thieving teenager due to the fact that she had almost a week's head-start. Having been pulled away to Polis, Arkadia and the different clans has greatly diminished the group's abilities, leaving them to organise sightings to try to pinpoint where to even start looking. Their inability to find Jaha, someone who couldn't be more out of place if he tried, does not bode well for them.

Tracking down Jaha had been an easy idea when they thought of it. A Sky Person with no understanding of Trigedasleng trying to convert the villages to his death cult? He'd stick out like a sore thumb, even with Emori's brother, Otan, translating everything. They've already been to all the villages surrounding the Dead Zone, letting them know there's a high bounty if they bring the three of them to Wanheda alive and unharmed.

Now, it's just a waiting game, trying to put themselves into the mind of an A.I. to figure out their next move.

"We should check on Arlis and Emau tomorrow," the redhead mutters, making Jasper look up from carelessly tossing a ball up in the air and catching it.

"Because they're on the border to Azgeda?" Lincoln queries, leaning over to glare at the map like it'll give him the answers if he stares at it harshly enough.

"They had a rough winter," Jasper supplies, leaning back and rocking on the chairs back legs. "Vulnerability is a cult's favourite cake flavour."

"You know what makes me sad?" Myles asks out of the blue, tearing her distracted eyes away from the map to look between her two friends. "The only people in Arkadia who have ever had cake were the ones tortured by Mount Hell."

"That is sad," Lincoln agrees slowly, like he isn't sure where this is going or what pertinence it has.

"Tragic, really," the brown-haired Arker voices, throwing the ball up and catching it.

"Lilo," the redhead calls, gesturing with her hand at the man standing beside her vaguely. "What's your favourite kind of cake?"

"Berry," he answers easily, without having to think about it.

Jasper, abhorred, lets his chair fall forward on all four legs, stopping his motions with the ball.

"Oh," Jasper states jokingly. "You're one of those psychos."

"Fruit cakes are good," Myles defends in confusion. Jasper raises his eyebrows, a dopey smirk on his face that tells his best friend he's thought of something sassy to say. "Don't," the red-haired teen warns when he opens his mouth, "say it."

"Don't say it," he repeats sarcastically, "or don't… say it?"

"Dude," Myles marvels playfully, "I must've been in a whole lot of mud if it got in your ears, too."

Lincoln huffs in amusement, "you were covered in mud."

"You looked like the abominable mud-man," Jasper laughs easily, leaning back to rock on the back legs of his chair.

"Moka-Heda," the redhead giggles, "I'll be surprised if I don't find mud washing off me in the shower tomorrow."

The word tomorrow reminds Jasper of something, and he turns his head to look out the glassless window, nodding towards the shortwave radio in the room's corner.

"It's getting late," the brown-haired teen sighs out, letting his chair fall forward again. "We should check in with Clarke and Lexa before they get too distracted."

At the names, Myles stands, but instead of heading towards the radio set-up, she walks out the door. Max follows by her heels, bumping his head up for pats that the redhead gives him as she strides across their house. The sound of Jasper's chair scraping against the floor floats through their home sharply.

"You can't avoid them forever," Jasper calls out to her knowingly, a sad lilt in his tone.

"I'm not," Myles replies simply, taking the short, winding stairs two at a time.

"Aggie," her best friend tries to reason, his voice coming from the main room instead of the map room now. Myles bends down to grab her boots and leans over to snatch her jacket off the back of the chair in her room, quickly descending the stairs with them both in her hands. Jasper's eyes are sad and knowing as they watch one of his best friends, a warped and haunted understanding in them. "They don't blame you for what happened to the Nightbloods."

"I know," the redhead shrugs stiffly, yanking on a boot when she stops under the hook on the wall that holds the rover keys.

"You're still avoiding them," Lincoln informs her, his tone kind as Myles yanks on the other boot before bending down to tie them up.

"No," the red-haired teen drawls out, fussing Max lovingly before standing up straight again, grabbing the keys and stalking over to the back door. "I'm not. I'm just conveniently not home."

"We're trying to have a serious conversation," her best friend announces, trying to block her path to the door.

"And I'm trying to politely avoid it," Myles shoots back, swerving around Jasper to leave.

"Where are you even going?" Jasper enquires, following her to the back door.

"Out," Myles supplies vaguely, "I'll be back in a few hours." Stepping off the back patio and onto the drop pulley, the redhead turns and says to her friends. "If Finn radios, I'll go pick him up."

And with that, Myles drops down out of their treehouse and onto the ground. Letting the pulley reel the platform back up to the treetops, the redhead turns and makes her way over to where they parked the rover in the bushes. Tugging off the stick and leaf blanket, Myles opens the door as she bundles up the noisy and scratchy sheet. Tossing it over the driver's seat and into the back, Myles dumps her jacket on the passenger seat. Slipping into the rover, the redhead doesn't wait to shut her door before she shoves the key in the ignition and starts the rover.

She makes it ten minutes away before she slowly comes to a stop. Heaving a deep sigh, Myles locks her hazel eyes on the empty passenger seat. When she moves the rover again, she flicks the wheel and turns to head in the opposite direction.

 


 

Words cannot possibly describe how much Myles hates this place. Hazel eyes have seen too much to ever justify seeing these walls again, and yet, here she is. Leaning her back against the cool metal, she waits, like she's spent the last hour doing. She's tried at least three different times to leave, but once she walked through that door, she just couldn't walk back out of it.

So, she stays. Counting seconds, like she used to do. Waiting for a bomb that would only shake her world to detonate. Except… this doesn't scare her the same way. It ignites her blood, but not because she's afraid of him walking towards her, because she's afraid he'll walk away. Her mind continues her endless string of nervous loops until the door opens.

Bellamy Blake walks into his compartment, and Myles pushes herself off of the wall when he shuts the door behind himself. It isn't until that movement that his head snaps towards her, and his whole body stills. His hands stay frozen on the zipper of his guard's uniform, as if they're both waiting for the other to say something.

Slowly, his hands fall down to his sides and he turns his body towards her. It's in his deep brown eyes; surprise, pain, remorse. A deadly triple-threat that would break even the strongest of wills and toughest of minds. Still, though, the underlying current of that look, the one he only looks at her with that screams adoration and love, is there.

"I… uh," Bellamy starts, looking away and clearing his throat quickly before continuing in a gruffer tone. "I didn't think you'd come back."

"I wanted to make sure you and O were okay," Myles answers the unasked question, and his demeanour instantly shifts to something sour.

"Let me guess," the Blake brother snarks sarcastically, hardening himself and glaring at the wall to her right. "You came here to fix things." Myles doesn't take her eyes off him, a sick part of her knowing this was always how it'd end up. "Wanheda, the peacemaker."

"Maybe I can help," the redhead offers after she swallows thickly, expecting the worst.

"Well, I don't need your help," Bellamy retorts, and hazel eyes finally break away.

It's in this very moment that Myles understands. She understands why her mum didn't leave, didn't take her baby and run for their lives. Why she didn't do all she could to keep them safe on the finite space on the Ark. Myles also understands something about herself, too. Why she would return to the compartment she shared with her father after her mother had committed suicide.

Even after all they've done, together and apart, even after every spiteful, horrible thing that's been said; Myles can't help going back to Bellamy Blake. His love and attention is so pure and intoxicating that she'd always keep coming back, even after it's been long gone. She expects it, anyway, doesn't she? Besides Marcus Kane, this is all Myles knows love to be. It took her years to understand something was wrong, that not every kid she saw grew up seeing their mother beaten regularly. That the first thing they can remember comprehending wasn't their mother on her knees pleading to just put the baby back in the crib, she'd do anything if he just put the baby down.

When Myles lost her mother at four, she finally started to understand that this was wrong, but not that wrong. She still thought everyone had to deal with being abused, her father just took it to an absurd extreme. Myles had spent until they put her in solitary believing that every man hit his wife and kids, mistreating and betraying them in the most vile of ways. Hell, even now she still expects it in love, in relationships, because it's all her father raised her to expect.

As if feeling her eyes leave him, his deep brown eyes look at her. Myles doesn't hesitate to meet his gaze, and she can see it. Every wall Bellamy Blake has spent the last three months painstakingly erecting falls when his eyes lock on her hazel, and she can only watch. Tears glisten in his eyes, his lips parted as his tongue absentmindedly grazes his bottom lip. His expression is one of grief and remorse, the two demons dancing together on his sharp features.

"Aggie," Bellamy's voice has lost its harsh gruffness, now it dips with emotion. "I've lost her."

Myles doesn't know how to fix this, but she knows she'd do anything to ease his pain.

"Give her time, Bellamy," Myles advises softly, her expression kind and her red eyebrows raised in a worried frown.

"All she sees is the blood on my hands," the Blake brother refutes, shaking his head in distress and shrugging helplessly.

"It may be there," she promises sincerely, "but Lincoln and the grounders in sick bay know it was never going to be theirs."

"Some of them do," Bellamy murmurs morosely, "there's only two there." Hazel eyes leave his for a split second, her mind racing as she tries to find the right words. "The rest left."

"Okay," the red-haired teen relents slowly, "maybe they don't, but you didn't want anyone to get hurt." Disbelief flashes through his teary deep brown eyes, so Myles presses on. "You tried to stop it."

"Yeah, well," he mutters, looking to her right quickly before locking his sad gaze on hers again. "It's not enough."

"Jasper and I," Myles starts, knowing Bellamy well enough to know she needs to give something of herself for him to accept she's sincere. "Have spent the last three months working hand-in-hand with the grounders." A look of guilt crashes through his expression, but Myles continues. "Brought them supplies. The peacekeeping army were people we knew. People we had dinner with. Who took their kids to meet us so they could thank us for giving them warm clothes for winter. People who volunteered because we asked them to."

Myles is getting choked up, and the Blake brother takes a step towards her like he's itching to hug her but he stops himself.

"People whose families we had to break the news to," the redhead continues. "After standing in a field surrounded by their massacred bodies and having to convince Lexa not to wipe everyone here out." Bellamy looks like he's going to be sick, his deep brown eyes torn from Myles as if he's scared to see his own reflection in them. "And I forgive you for the hand you had in that."

The Blake brother's shocked eyes snap back to hers, tears spilling down his cheeks. His hand quickly swipes at them, but the look on his face says it all. Bellamy Blake has been waiting since that day for someone, anyone, to tell him they forgive him.

"What do you do," Bellamy's shaky voice begs, "when you realise you might not be the good guy?"

"Maybe there are no good guys," Myles whispers, softening her tone when she continues to assure him. "Octavia will forgive you eventually. The question is; will you be able to forgive yourself?"

"Forgiveness is hard for us," Bellamy divulges, his tone weak as another tear slides free only for him to swipe it away. Myles nods knowingly, understanding exactly what he means. There's more he needs to say, the redhead can see the words sitting on his tongue as he works up the courage to say them out loud. "I was so angry at you for leaving." The red-haired teen tilts her head the side, a heartfelt apology written all over her delicate features. "I don't wanna feel that way anymore."

It's Myles' turn for guilt to wash over her. Knowing that it caused turmoil for him makes her insides churn, but a tiny, thankful smile sweetens her sorry expression.

"Maybe my, uh…" the redhead tears her eyes away to look down at her fiddling hands before returning them to his gaze. "My preaching is a bit hypocritical. You're not the only one trying to forgive yourself."

"I hate this," Bellamy's voice breaks, his heartbroken and distraught expression deepening. "I wish I pulled that lever alone. I hate seeing you hate yourself for saving us."

Myles wants to deny every bit of what he just said. She wants to scream that she's glad he didn't have to do that alone, and wishes he didn't have to do it at all. But looking into those deep brown eyes… she just can't. She can't bring herself to look away, either.

"Who we are," Myles repeats his words from so long ago softly, "and who we need to be to survive are very different things, Bellamy Blake."

Something inside of him snaps, and the Blake brother surges forward. One of his hands cups the side of her face as he crashes their lips together greedily. His other hand is on the back of her neck, holding her to him while he pushes her back a step to press their bodies against the wall. It's a primal instinct how their lips move together and her body arches off the wall to press against his, something that feels necessary for survival. Myles' hands find themselves in his hair, tugging and pulling gently on his soft dark brown curls.

Bellamy Blake is intoxicating. His musky scent of pine and sweat is all she can smell, his soft curls and sharp features all she can feel, his full lips and warm tongue all she can focus on. Their tongues dance together as if pulling apart for even a second would kill them, their lips desperate and drunk on the other's. An endless sea of one another, no point of separation between them as thundering hearts and soft breaths flutter over their skin. Bellamy's hands slip down her neck, his touch lovingly grazing her skin and taunting her sensitive senses. They move to pull her against him by her skinny waist as he pushes her back against the cool metal wall, tightly trapping her with his all of his weight.

His hands stay there for only a fleeting moment before ducking down at the same time as his head. Parted lips only stray for a split second as Bellamy's hands slip