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The Bruise Won't Heal (the stain stays put)

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In your ruined shirt, on the last day, while
the bruise won’t heal, and the stain stays put,
the red light streaming in from everywhere at once.
You Are Jeff - Richard Siken

 


 

 

It had been a week since everything went down, since the multiple threats were averted, and they’d even managed to get through another eclipse with very little incident. Everyone was beginning to relax, to adjust to their surroundings and make do with what they had.

Madi had taken a few days to recover from Sheidheda’s removal, but she was soon on her feet again, rallying the grounders and spending time with Raven - her savior, she said. Clarke bit back everything she’d wanted to say in response and simply nodded. She’d been doing that a lot lately.

If she was honest with herself, she was doing it far earlier than their arrival on Sanctum, but it had only gotten worse since they defeated the Primes. Everyone else seemed to be moving on, settling down, but she couldn’t. She was a livewire just waiting to be tripped. So she kept her mouth shut.

She was just so tired.

She rarely spoke unless spoken to, and she’d started retreating into herself more and more, spending inordinate amounts of time on her own just to soothe her anxious mind. Not that anyone noticed.

Or so she thought.

“Clarke!” Someone called out, and she could hear footfalls slowing down behind her.

She turned. “What do you want, Gabriel?”

He shrugged, falsely casual, but his gaze was solemn. “Where are you going?”

“On a walk.”

“Could I walk with you?”

She hesitated, but she wasn’t annoyed with Gabriel, not really, so she simply stepped to the side of the path, allowing him room to walk beside her. If he wanted to come with, she wouldn’t object, but she wasn’t going to suddenly start talking.

Twenty minutes passed in complete silence.

Until-

“Why are you doing this?”

She sighed. “And I was actually beginning to like you.”

He glanced over at her, unimpressed. “I mean it, Clarke. You saved everyone, you liberated all these people, but you’re not acting like you did. You’re acting like the world is still on your shoulders.”

Clarke stopped, holding his gaze. “It is. It always will be. Everything is my responsibility. The last planet, this one, the future of the human race, it’s all on me. All the time. So excuse me if I seem a little tired of it all.”

“But why does it have to be you bearing it all on your own?”

And for some reason, that question made tears spring to her eyes. Because no-one had ever bothered to ask. She always bore it, would always bear it, and she had never expected anyone to do it for her, or even to help her, but it suddenly occurred to her that no-one had even bothered to ask. Bellamy tried, back before Praimfaya, when the world still almost made sense. He almost succeeded too, had his shoulder pressed up against hers and ready to take the weight of it all, and then a wave of fire burned the space between them and the world collapsed back onto her spine.

She tried frantically to blink the tears back, but she was too slow and they trickled down her cheeks and flashed in the light. Gabriel’s expression morphed from one of concerned observation into one of sympathy, and he led her over to a nearby bench. When they were both seated, he reached across and gripped her shoulder, anchoring her to reality.

“I’m sorry.”

She laughed humourlessly, drying her tears with her sleeve. “What are you sorry for? It’s not your fault.”

“Still.” He said seriously. “I’m sorry, Clarke. For whatever you’ve been through that has brought you to this.”

His open sincerity should have made her feel better, but instead it just reminded her that the people she had once called her friends - the people she’d known for years and been through hell with - hadn’t noticed her distress. Gabriel, a man she barely knew, had clocked it from a mile away, but none of the rest of them cared. Well, that wasn’t quite true; Bellamy made a point to talk to her every day, and she could sometimes feel his worried eyes on her from across a room, but he had his own responsibilities to take care of.

So the tears fell and she didn’t try to stop them. She was tired of fighting her feelings. Just once, she allowed herself to grieve for the life she couldn’t live. A life of peace.

Gabriel didn’t push her, or even say anything, and she wasn’t sure how long they simply sat on the bench and existed for, but the suns were low in the sky when Gabriel got to his feet and helped her up. They walked back to the dining hall for dinner, her arm looped around his elbow, and he told her stories about Earth from his time.

“...and then I got into a fight with Josephine over which classic movie was better - Clueless or Mean Girls.”

Clarke threw her head back and laughed. “Judging from what you’ve told me, I’d vote for Clueless.”

“Right?! Thank you! Josie always picked Mean Girls, but I think she secretly liked the love story in Clueless.” He sobered for a minute, the memory of the woman he once loved filling his mind, but he soon shook it out again. Clarke wanted to say something, to tell him she understood, but from the look in his eye, she realised she didn’t need to. The dining hall was only half full, so there were plenty of seats available. They sat down in a quiet corner and Gabriel went to fetch some food. When he returned, plates in hand, the smile was back on his face. “So, have you ever heard of Hamilton?”

 

 


 

 

 

Clarke had been so distracted by Gabriel’s stories all night that she forgot to feel miserable, at least for a few hours.

Luckily, Raven was always around to remind her that her happiness was fleeting. She found her the next morning when she was heading towards the medical tent to see if anyone needed her assistance. Not that they did, what with Jackson and the Sanctum doctors already working well together.

“Hey Clarke? Have you see Madi?”

She shrugged. “No, I thought she was with you.”

There was judgement in Raven’s voice when she said, “You’re not keeping tabs on where she is?”

What she wanted to say was, “All due respect, Raven, you don’t know anything about me or how I parent my child when there isn’t a deadly threat hovering over our heads. I trust Madi to take care of herself in peacetime, and frankly, even if I didn’t, I wouldn’t have much say in the matter anymore, since making her a commander robbed her of whatever childhood I was supposed to protect.”

Instead, she pressed her lips together and exhaled through her nose. “If she’s not with you, she’s probably visiting Jordan.”

She didn’t wait for Raven to respond - wasn’t even sure if she would - she just turned on her heel and walked away.

She wasn’t sure where she was going exactly, except that she needed to get away from people before she exploded. Gabriel appeared in her periphery, catching her around the wrist and slowing her down.

“Hey.” He said carefully. “You okay?”

She swallowed her frustration. “Yep. Just, uh, just needed a walk.”

He tilted his head at her, thinking. “You’ve been going on a lot of walks lately.”

“I’m a fan of nature.” She deadpanned.

“I’ll make you a deal, whenever you need to… enjoy nature, come tell me first?” He suggested. “That way if anyone goes looking for you, I know where you are in case it’s an emergency, and I can throw them off if it’s not.”

She hesitated. “Why would you do that?”

“Because I know what it’s like to feel like the blame for every bad thing is on your shoulders, whether it’s deserved or not. And I know what it’s like to be in love with someone even when you don’t want to be.”

She set her jaw, glaring up at him as she tried to take her wrist back. “I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“Hey, hey,” he caught her fingers, “I’m not trying to upset you. I just want you to know that you’re not alone here. And if you need to walk out into the middle of nowhere and cry or scream or do whatever makes you feel better, I understand, and I want to help.”

She slumped, letting him hold her hand with both of his, letting his good will wash over her. She hadn’t felt kindness like this in so long, she’d almost forgotten what it felt like.

She was so tired.

“What’s going on here?” An amused voice cut in. Octavia was standing in front of them, arms folded and a smirk playing at her lips. “You two look cosy.”

Clarke didn’t say anything. Gabriel squeezed her hand one last time before he dropped it, leading Octavia away so that Clarke could slip off the path and into the middle of nowhere.

She waited until she was sure she was out of view before she sank down into the grass.

The world felt a little further away than it was supposed to, like she was spinning on a slightly slower orbit than the planet, and she wanted nothing more than to sink into the earth and realign herself.

Her eyes drifted closed and she tried to relax, but every time they shut a part of her panicked that Josephine was still there, that there was still a threat lurking in the recesses of her mind. The worst idea was that Josephine was gone, and there was still a danger - that she was the threat.

 

 


 

 

 

Another week passed.

She was tired and getting tireder.

Every day that passed felt like another stone laid between her shoulders, weight pushing her down towards the dirt.

She started to wonder why she was even trying to stay standing.

Gabriel seemed to be watching her more and more lately and finding reasons to eat with her in the evenings. She was pretty sure he’d noticed that dinner was the only time she ate anything, but - mercifully - he didn’t bring it up. He just made sure she finished everything on the plates he handed her. It was nice. Overbearing, sure, but nice.

She’d also started noticing, at least in the last couple of days, that Bellamy was watching her too. He never brought it up when they talked, but she saw the way he glared at the back of Gabriel’s head when they sat down. She tried not to think about what that meant. She didn’t have enough energy left to expend on hope.

So that evening, she sat down, Gabriel brought over a plate, and Bellamy kept glancing over at the two of them while he sat with Raven and Echo.

“I thought you were together, you know.” He said quietly, breaking through her reverie. She poked at her food with a fork, not wanting to talk about it, but apparently he did. “When he did everything he could to save you, when he refused to accept that you were gone, I thought there was no possible way that either of you could exist without each other. But ever since… you barely talk to him.”

“I don’t talk to anyone.” She pointed out.

“Except me.” He smiled, but it was stiff.

“Except you.” She couldn’t help the way her eyes drifted over to Bellamy, who was laughing at something Murphy had said. She sighed and dropped her gaze. “It’s fine. I’ll get over it.”

They lulled into an amiable silence in which Clarke continued to push her food around her plate and he scowled down at his own dinner in contemplation. After a few minutes, Gabriel took her plate and put it down on the table, getting her full attention.

“Clarke, you’re sick, and you’re getting sicker.” He said. Well, that wasn’t what she was expecting. She opened her mouth to argue, but he shook his head, reaching for her hand. “You’re constantly wired, you’re not eating enough, you don’t sleep. It’s making you sick, Clarke.”

She fidgeted in her seat, looking down at their joined hands on the table. “I’m just tired.”

“You’re not just tired. You’re putting too much pressure on yourself, and if you don’t do something about it, it’s going to kill you.” He rubbed his thumb over her knuckles soothingly. “You need to talk about it. Whether it’s with me, or Bellamy, or someone else you trust, you need to let yourself unburden, because if you don’t, your health will only get worse. Mental health affects the body too, and yours is terrible.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“I’m serious, Clarke.”

“So am I.” Her heart was thumping, and panic was beginning to cloud her vision. “I can’t talk about it, Gabriel.”

“Why not?”

She got to her feet, pushing away from the table and walking outside into the dark. She breathed in the fresh air and tried to soothe her frantic heart. She could hear him following her, but she didn’t turn around.

“Why not, Clarke?” He asked again, softer.

Her hands clenched into fists and the world was orbiting faster again. “Because I’m afraid… I’m terrified that if I let myself talk, that everything will come pouring out, and I’ll make everything worse.”

He sighed heavily, gripping her shoulder, grounding her. “You’re allowed to not be okay. You’re allowed to break.”

“No, I’m not.” She focussed on his sturdy palm, tried to make the world slow down. “I only just got them to stop hating me, I don’t have any interest in testing that.”

“Maybe you should.”

She turned around to face him. “What do you mean?”

“Maybe you should just let everything out. You’ve been carrying it around for so long, when was the last time you actually told anyone how much it affects you?”

She fell silent.

“I’m not saying you have to do it now.” He assured her. “But you have to do it at some point, Clarke, because if you don’t do it by choice, it’ll either explode out at the most inopportune moment, or you’ll drown in it. It might be in a few days, or a few weeks but it will happen, and it’s either going to hurt you or the people around you, or both. And you deserve better than that.”

When he pulled her into a hug, she didn’t resist, just sort of fell into it, and she realised how much she’d been missing this kind of affection. The person she used to lean on like that had felt further and further away from her ever since they’d returned to Sanctum. After Bellamy saved her life, he’d held her for what felt like hours, made her feel at home, made her feel sane, but things had been too crazy after that to stop for something as trivial as a hug, and the space between them had only grown bigger after that. Gabriel must have realised - because of course he would - that it was something she was missing, and he wrapped his arms around her, holding her tight.

It didn’t feel like hugging Bellamy. Bellamy’s hugs were like coming home, they were like rain after Praimfaya, they were salvation in the desert. Hugging Gabriel felt more like Miller - comfortable and friendly and reassuring, but nothing more than that.

“Hey, is she alright?”

“I’m fine.” Clarke said, stepping back and facing Octavia. “I’m just tired.”

Gabriel snorted, but she ignored him. Octavia, however, didn’t, and her shrewd gaze flicked between them, finally settling on Clarke’s hands, which were shaking slightly at her sides.

Instead of pressing the issue, the younger Blake only nodded. “I’ll walk you back to your room.”

“No, it’s fine, I’m-”

“Not a suggestion.” She said, already starting to walk in that direction. “C’mon, you look dead on your feet. Did you even eat?”

“I tried.” Gabriel held up his hands in surrender.

Clarke groaned and rolled her eyes at him, but she started following Octavia anyway. She could feel eyes boring into the side of her head, and she ignored it, right up until they reached her door. “What?”

Octavia actually looked worried. “You own a mirror, Clarke? You look terrible.”

“Thank you.” She said sarcastically, pushing her door open.

“You know that’s not what I mean. Is it something to do with Josephine? Did the procedure make you sick?”

“No. No, I really am just… tired.”  She admitted. “I’m tired all the time, and I’m tired of being tired. It’s exhausting, and I just want it to stop.”

“Have you-”

“-look, I appreciate the concern, but I really don’t want to talk about it, okay?” She stepped into her room, not even bothering to turn on the light. “See you tomorrow.”

“Alright.” Octavia paused. “But if you need anything - and I mean anything, Clarke - I’ve got your back, okay?”

Clarke nodded in thanks and closed the door, plunging the room into darkness. She lay down on the bed and stared up into the inky air. Sleep continued to evade her, as it had for the last two weeks, and on the rare occasion that it did come, it was plagued with nightmares and flashbacks and remnants of Josephine’s memories.

She was so tired.

 

 


 

 

 

As it turned out, Gabriel was right; everything she’d been bottling up did come exploding out without warning, but it didn’t take days or weeks or even months to happen.

It happened the next morning.

Clarke was having breakfast with Madi - or, more accurately, she was sitting beside her daughter while she ate - when Raven sat down in the empty space across the table from them and started eating, like it was something she did all the time.

“How’s my favourite Commander?” Raven asked, popping a piece of fruit in her mouth.

Madi beamed over at her, but Clarke’s heart was beating a little erratically, anxiety climbing. She couldn’t speak, couldn’t move, so she just sat there and stared down at Raven’s fork, following it as it moved. She didn’t even hear Madi’s response.

Which was probably why she didn’t register that Raven was talking to her until Madi elbowed her in the ribs.

She flinched. “Sorry, what’s up?”

“Raven asked why you look so tired?”

Don’t answer, don’t answer, don’t answer, her brain begged her, but she couldn’t just ignore the question, no matter how hard she prayed.

“Because I’m tired.” She muttered, trying to get a handle on the emotions that were bubbling beneath her tongue, trying to wrestle them back into submission.

Raven looked momentarily offended, but before she had a chance to say anything, Murphy sat down on Clarke’s other side and clapped her on the shoulder. “It’s peacetime, Clarke, lighten up.”

He was almost definitely trying to diffuse whatever tension had sprung up, but his sudden arrival only made Clarke’s brain spiral faster. Her lungs started to join in then, breath coming short and fast. She sprang to her feet and stumbled slightly away from the table.

“Clarke, you alright?” Murphy asked, a hint of genuine concern in his voice.

“Fine, I, uh, I’m going to get some air.”

She left in a hurry, bursting out into the fresh air and searching for Gabriel so she could tell him she was leaving, that she needed to walk away and hide for a few hours.

But there were too many people in the clearing and she wasn’t sure what direction to look, and then Raven’s voice cut through the air, loud and sharp.

“What is your problem?!”

Don’t answer, don’t answer, don’t answer, her brain pleaded again. Just walk away.

“Like I said, I’m-”

“-tired, yeah I heard you. Why is it that you’ll sit and talk to Gabriel for hours on end, but you leave the room the second I ask you a simple question?”

Breathe, walk away.

She took another step forward, but evidently that wasn’t good enough for Raven, who stormed around in front of her, blocking her path. The panic only doubled.

Get out of here.

“What the hell is your problem, Clarke?” And this time, the tone was so disgusted, so bitter, than something snapped, deep in Clarke’s chest.

Fuck it.

“What’s my problem?” She asked, incredulous. “What’s my problem? You’ve got to be kidding me, Raven. I died. I died, paralysed and alone, and then I died again, and both times, the only person who cared was Bellamy. Kane died, my mother died, my daughter almost did- and you have the audacity to ask me what my problem is?!”

Raven blinked, taken aback. “That was weeks ago-”

“-two. That was two weeks ago. I’m not you, Raven, I can’t just wake up one day and decide to be okay with every horrible thing I’ve gone through, or every bad thing I’ve done.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“When Josephine was possessing me, she said that we’ve all done things we’re not proud of to survive, and you said that you hadn’t.” Clarke’s hands were shaking again. “So either, you were lying, or you really don’t feel guilty about any of the things you’ve done to get here.”

Raven scoffed. “Like it even touches the things you’ve done.”

“You’re still bitter that I left Bellamy behind in Polis? Still angry that I pointed a gun at you in the valley?” Clarke asked, and there was a fire growing in her belly now, igniting everything it touched, crawling up towards her lips. “I left Bellamy behind because I begged him not to put the flame in Madi’s head. I knew what it did to people, I’d seen the path of destruction it carved and I had no interest in making Madi a part of that legacy. I wanted that legacy to stop with me. The last commander. Did Bellamy tell you that I wanted to kill Octavia? And that when he said no, that I found another plan? We found another way. It didn’t work, but that doesn’t matter. He didn’t want me to hurt his family, so I didn’t, but when I was chained up, begging, pleading with him not to endanger my child, he walked away. He left me there, and he did the one thing I asked him not to do. Do you have any idea what that’s like?”

Raven opened her mouth to retort.

“No, of course not, you only care about yourself.” She snapped, halting the rebuff in its tracks. The fire was in her throat now. “Bellamy forgave me for leaving him behind, so I forgave him for what he did, but I don’t have to extend any such courtesy to you. I’ve spent every moment since I saw you in the valley beating myself up over ruining things, taking all the blame for everything that happened, again and again and again. Well you know what? I’m done. You know what the last thing you said to me before I died was?”

Raven didn’t answer.

“Cat got your tongue, Reyes?” She was vaguely aware that their disagreement was loud enough that most of the crowd had stopped to watch, but she no longer cared. “You said Octavia was a threat to everything and everyone she comes into contact with, and that the only difference between me and Octavia was that she didn’t pretend to feel bad about it. And then I died, and I guess you’re all more like Octavia than I thought, because not one of you pretended to feel bad about it.”

“Clarke-” Guilt flashed across her face, but Clarke was on a roll now, and she wasn’t stopping for anything.

Every single bottled up thought and feeling was pouring out of her and nothing was going to get in her way.

“In fact, Octavia seemed pretty worried about me. You know who wasn’t? You, when Echo was trying to strangle me to death in front of my daughter.”

“Echo did what?”  Bellamy’s voice said, from somewhere off to her left. “And you didn’t stop her?”

“Bellamy, it wasn’t-”

“-no, my daughter stopped her. My child, the Commander.” Clarke talked over her, tears beginning to well, warmed by the fire under her cheeks. “She’s a child, did any of you even notice that, when you were shoving a malicious piece of technology into her spine?”

“Clarke, I did that to save you.” Bellamy tried to placate her, but it backfired, and she rounded on him.

“I didn’t want you to save me! I wanted you to save her! Did you know that Octavia instructed her guard to kill us before we could leave, all because the chip in Madi's head engangered her rule?”

Bellamy faltered. “No, I didn’t.”

“And the worst part is that I was right! The flame made everything worse! Sheidheda got into my daughter’s head and corrupted her, twisted her until she tried to stab Priya and caught Jordan instead! Jordan who we’d promised to take care of. The flame didn't just put her in danger, it hurt people, and it nearly got her killed.”

“That’s not fair, Clarke.” He whispered. “I couldn’t have known.”

“Fair? You want to talk about fair?!” Clarke yelled, a little hysterical. “Why do I always have to forgive everybody else first? Why are my actions held to a different standard to everybody else’s? Raven, you watched Abby kill a man to bring Kane back, and you forgave her, but I tried to save my daughter and you still hate me for it. How is that fair?!”

“That’s different.”

“How?”

Raven swallowed and looked away.

“You’re all acting like I betrayed you all in the valley, but I’m not sure how that’s even possible, because you have to actually care in order to feel betrayed, and you’ve all made it very clear that you don’t.”

“That’s not true.” Murphy piped up, and she rounded on him, seeing red.

“Really? You, of all people, can say that to me? Murphy you knew I was still alive and you were still going to help Josephine. You didn’t just ignore my death, you actively participated in her efforts to kill me. And don’t feed me that shit about hanging you on Earth, because you know damn well that I tried to stop that.”

“Clarke?” Gabriel appeared in the clearing, eyes wild. He approached slowly, palms out and down in front of him. “Shit, Clarke, take a breath, okay?”

“I CAN’T!”  She screamed. “I can’t breathe! I can’t breathe, I can’t eat, I can’t sleep, but all of you get to move on, like it was nothing!”

“It wasn’t nothing, Clarke.” Gabriel said steadily. “It’s okay. You’re okay.”

“No. I’m not. Do any of you have any idea what it’s like being me?!” She snarled and spun on her heel, jabbing her finger into Bellamy’s chest. “The responsibility I’m saddled with? The decisions I never wanted to have to make? The things I’ve lost?!”

Raven seemed to find her voice again. “We’ve all lost things, Clarke.”

“You think I don’t know that? You think I don’t feel guilty for feeling so broken? But I lost my family, everyone I loved, for six years. Sure, I found Madi, but I was alone. You all had each other, and I waited for six long years for my family to come back, only for none of them to care anymore! I am always left behind, again and again and AGAIN!”

Bellamy looked heartbroken, and she was dimly aware of the varied expressions of the people she had once called her friends - anger, guilt, shame - but nothing mattered to her anymore.

She was so tired.

And she was tired of staying silent.

“Always, always the decisions fell on me. No matter what I did, there was always another sacrifice, always another disaster that I couldn’t prevent. I pulled the lever at Mount Weather to save my people at the cost of theirs. I killed a man I loved to stop his suffering, but it didn’t stop mine. Finn died for me, Lexa died for me, Dad died for me, and I decided I didn’t want anyone else to, so I tried. I went into the City of Light, alone, I climbed up a tower to pull a dish back into alignment and watched the rocket take off, I let you take my daughter and use her in the war that should never have been fought over my home. I sacrificed everything. And I kept sacrificing, for everyone else. I sacrificed myself, over and over and over, but I can’t seem to just die, no matter how much the rest of you would prefer that.”

“Clarke?” Madi sounded like she was crying, but Clarke couldn’t bring herself to look at her. “Mom, don’t say that.”

“I know you don’t want that, Madi.” She whispered. “I’m not blaming you for what happened.”

Madi sniffled. “But I agreed. When Bellamy asked me to take the flame, I said yes.”

“I know. It’s not your fault, you’re just a child.” Her stuttering breath caught in her throat. “Well, no, not anymore, I suppose.”

Tears were dripping off her chin and every muscle in her body was painfully rigid. Her heart was pounding against her blazing ribs and there was fire in her mouth.

“Clarke, can you look at me?” Gabriel asked, but he seemed far away.

Her voice was low now; she didn’t have the energy left within her to yell anymore. “I sacrificed everything and I never got anything in return, not once. All I get is pain and suffering and loss, and yet someone like Echo, who betrayed her king and her people, and even Bellamy somehow got a pass.You lived and loved each other, while I held a gun to my head and prayed for everything to just end. You became a family up there, and when I tried to protect my family, you condemned me for it.”

“I’m so sorry.” Bellamy said, and she knew he meant it, but that only made it worse.

“But your family is the only one that matters, right? You’re morally above me because there are more of you, because you were all trying to do the right thing, but when you tripped ass backwards into putting McCreary in charge, which is what led to the valley falling in the first place, you didn’t for one second consider yourselves at fault, did you? Despite Bellamy and I working to get Diyoza on our side, despite all the good I tried to do, when Madi and I got to the valley, McCreary was in charge and I had to help him or risk my only family dying, again. I don’t suppose that matters anymore. Mom died anyway. So does that answer your question, Raven? Octavia was a queen of blood and destruction and somehow you still hate me more. I died two weeks ago. What’s my problem?!”  She spat out the question like it was poison, and then all the strength left her and she dropped to her knees, chest heaving as she collapsed onto the grass.

Someone reached out, but then a shadow fell over her and a pair of black boots came into view.

“Don’t touch her.” Octavia growled.

“O, what the hell-”

“-I mean it, Bell. Leave her be.”

Clarke barely registered the exchange; her whole body was shivering violently and everything felt like it was too much to bear. Gabriel crouched beside her, laying his hands out on the grass between them, keeping to a safe distance. “Clarke, can you hear me?”

She managed to nod.

“Okay, I’m going to help you up now, okay?” He asked, edging closer. “Miller’s got your other side, is that alright?”

She didn’t move, but she didn’t object, and he gently closed a hand around her arm. Someone else, presumably Miller, did the same on her right, and then she was being hauled to her feet. She leaned heavily against the taller man on her left, barely able to shuffle one foot in front of the other.

Time passed, but she didn’t know how much, and then they were laying her down in bed, draping the covers over her carefully.

“I’m going to get something to bring the fever down, can you stay with her?” That was Gabriel.

“Yeah.” Miller replied, voice hoarse.

"Emori can you soak some rags? We need to cool her off."

When did Emori arrive? 

She wasn't sure, but soon there was something damp on her forehead, and Emori's fingers were running through her hair, deftly untangling knots.

When Gabriel was gone, she felt Miller take her hand. He was sitting beside the bed, and her eyes were open but she was focussed somewhere towards the floor, so she didn’t know what he looked like, but she assumed it was distressed.

“Why didn’t you say something?” He asked, not really expecting an answer, just filling the space. “If I’d have known… I wish I’d known.”

“Wouldn’t have made a difference.” She muttered.

“You don’t know that. I might not be perfect, but I’m not useless. I could have at least distracted you or done something to help.” He sighed heavily. “Do you want me to stay? I don’t have to, if you don’t want me to.”

“No!” She gasped, clinging tighter to his fingers. “Please don’t leave.”

He stayed still, leaning back in the chair beside her bed, and she sunk into the mattress, trying and failing to realign herself with the moon’s orbit again. Emori sank down on the other side of the bed, occasionally offering her a glass of water, but mostly just stroking her hair. 

They sat there in silence for a long time.

It was broken only by Miller murmuring, “I missed you, you know. Stuck down in the bunker, hell, even the last couple of weeks. We’re all that’s left of the original hundred, you, me, Murphy and Octavia.”

“Don’t forget Bellamy and Raven.”

“Honestly I think if Raven was forgotten every now and then, it might do wonders for her ego, bring her down a peg or two.” He pondered it. “Although I think she needs knocking down a lot more than two pegs.”

Clarke smiled and squeezed his hand, letting him know his joke hadn’t gone unappreciated, she was just too tired to laugh.

When Gabriel returned, there were people with him. She recognised Octavia’s hushed voice outside the door, and Bellamy’s low growl, but it was Murphy’s voice that surprised her the most.

“What’s that?”

“A sedative, she needs to rest - the longer she stays awake, the more her body will continue to attack itself.” Gabriel explained.

Murphy said something rude and Octavia snapped back at him, and then Bellamy was talking and Clarke felt panic creeping up her spine again. She felt Emori's hands still on the crown of her head, but before the woman had a chance to say anything, Miller turned in his seat. 

“Hey, how about you all shut up!”  Miller called through the wall.

The arguing fell silent.

Gabriel entered, syringe in hand, and he was talking, probably saying something pacifying, but she didn’t hear it, and then something pricked her neck and darkness clouded her vision. Unlike the last time that had happened, she didn’t see Russell’s face swimming above hers, she only saw Miller and Gabriel glancing worriedly at each other, while Emori rubbed her back.

It felt a lot less like dying, this time.

 

 


 

 

 

When she woke up, Miller’s hand was still in hers, but it was darker in the room, low, dusky light trickling through the window.

She pushed herself up on her elbows, only to feel a hand holding her still.

“Don’t move too much.” Gabriel instructed. “You’ve been through a lot.”

And then the events of that morning came slamming back into view and she wanted to crawl back under the covers and die. “Oh god. What have I done?”

“Tore their little space gang a Praimfaya-sized new asshole,” Miller quipped.

She glanced over at him, at the smile that played on his lips, and suddenly her meltdown didn’t feel so catastrophic. The air felt easier to breathe, somehow. But still-

“I shouldn’t have done that.”

Miller waved a hand. “Someone should have. I’m kinda glad it was you, to be honest. I don’t think Raven would have taken that kind of ass-kicking from anybody else. You made Murphy cry, you know. It was a beautiful sight.”

She snorted. “Shut up.”

“Was that a laugh?” He grinned.

“Almost.” She admitted, doubling her efforts to sit up until she was propped against the headboard. Miller’s hand slipped out of hers and he stretched it, making a show of wincing and groaning.

“You didn’t have to.” She pointed out.

“Yeah, I did.” He said solemnly. His gaze turned a little sheepish. ‘Besides, I didn’t do it for the whole eight hours - some of the time it was Bellamy, sometimes it was Emori, and Murphy even sat with you for an hour.”

That was surprising. She wondered if Emori had taken Murphy out when she started to wake up, a theory that was given some weight when she clocked the way Miller was holding himself, like he was worried she'd break again.  

“I didn’t…” she trailed off. “I didn’t know how angry I was.”

He readjusted his position in his seat, getting more comfortable, as if he intended to stay in that spot and never move. “You’re allowed. You know that, right? You, Clarke Griffin, are allowed to be angry every now and then.”

“I know that, rationally, I just… don’t think I deserve it.”

“Well, screw that.” Miller grunted.

There was muffled talking outside, and Clarke stiffened, but it didn’t take long before it fell silent again.

Gabriel glanced at the door. “You know, Octavia’s been standing guard out there all day, fending off everyone who tried to get in.”

“Really?”

“Really.” Miller nodded. “She even tried to stop Jacks coming in to check on you, until we said it was alright.”

“I don’t know why you’re all taking care of me,” she muttered, self-conscious.

He made a face at her, flabbergasted. “Like you said, it’s always your responsibility - you take care of us. Let us return the favour for once.”

Tears welled in her eyes and she didn’t bother to wipe them away when they slid down her cheeks. She simply smiled over at Miller. “I missed you too, you know.”

“Obviously. Who wouldn’t miss me?” He teased, but there was sincerity in his gaze, and he squeezed her hand again, just once.

There were sounds of a scuffle outside, right before John Murphy tripped into the room, Octavia hot on his heels.

He froze, once he realised Clarke was awake. “Sorry. I didn’t… sorry.”

Octavia looked murderous - which was always a cause for concern - and grabbed a fistful of his shirt. “Sorry Clarke, I tried to tell him to come back later, but he heard you were awake.”

Clarke swallowed her anxiety. “It’s okay. He’s here now, he may as well stay.”

The surprise was evident on Murphy’s face, but that didn’t stop him from sitting down on the edge of the mattress as if scared that if he stayed standing, Octavia would find a way to haul him out on his ass.

The warrior returned to her post at the door, and Gabriel tactfully went with her, leaving just Miller and Murphy in the room with Clarke.

“I’m so sorry.” Murphy said again.

She sighed heavily. “It’s okay, Murphy. You were forgiven weeks ago.”

“That doesn’t make it okay.” He said, sincere.

“I shouldn’t have snapped at you like that.”

“Someone has to.” He said, half a smile on his face. “You know, I missed that, on the Ring. The way you weren’t afraid to call me out, or go toe to toe with me, or joke with me. It took the others a while to get into that rhythm, but you and me, we had that from almost the beginning. From the moment I came back to camp, half-dead, and you tried to save me instead of kicking me out. Bellamy wanted to, but you wouldn’t let him.”

“You were hurt.” She said, like it was obvious, like it was the only choice, and he laughed.

“I deserved to be. But I got better, became a better person, because of what I did to Raven and what Finn did to those grounders. Because of Bellamy and Emori and Abby and you. I was horrible to you when we first touched down on Sanctum. I told you that you’d already had too many chances, and you correctly pointed out that I’d had just as many. You were wrong; I’d been given more. So I need you to know that I’m sorry, Clarke. For everything - for the valley, for the first days on Sanctum, for helping Josephine even after I knew you were alive. After everything I went through to be better, I was still the same selfish cockroach that you refused to let die.”

“You’re not being fair to yourself, Murphy.”

“Shut up and let me grovel, Princess.” He snarked.

She sat forward, hugging his side and resting her cheek on his shoulder. “I don’t want you to grovel, Murphy. I just want…”

“You just want?”

“I want the world to stop feeling so heavy.” She admitted.

“I don’t know how to fix that.” He said, a little helplessly.

She pulled him a little closer. “Just like this.”

He turned enough that he could hug her properly, and his arms banded tightly around her back, making her feel more secure, like a statue with a plinth to support it, like scaffolding keeping her up.

“We’re friends again now, right?” He asked eventually. “Cause I’m getting tired of being the lone member of Team Cockroach.”

She laughed into his shoulder and Miller swore, muttering something about how he definitely made her laugh first, which only made her giggle harder.

And the world got a little lighter against her shoulders.

 

 


 

 

 

Bellamy came in, after dark.

He was holding a plate of food in his hand, and his appearance disrupted the cheery conversation that Clarke had been having with Octavia, Miller and Murphy. He winced. “I just wanted to bring you some food, Gabriel ran into me and told me you hadn’t eaten.”

“I’m not hungry.” She waved a hand.

“He said you’d say that.” He held out the plate. “But I’m not taking no for an answer.”

Octavia looked to Clarke, wondering if she should kick her brother out, but Clarke gestured for Bellamy to sit.

“You know, Jacks is probably getting off shift about now,” Miller said, checking an imaginary watch. “So I might just… head out… but yell if you need anything, kay Clarke?”

“Okay.” She smiled at him.

When he got to the doorway, he turned back. “I mean it, Clarke, don't bottle all your shit up again. It's unhealthy.”

“Thanks, Miller.”

Octavia and Murphy shared a look, and then they both got to their feet as well.

“I’ll get back to the door.” Octavia said coolly, stepping out.

Murphy flashed his teeth at them. “I have to go, there’s an excuse I need to think of to get out of here, and it’s not gonna find itself.”

And with that, he was gone, leaving a smiling Clarke and a mildly exasperated Bellamy in his wake.

Bellamy sat down in the chair Miller had vacated, putting the plate down on the mattress between them.

She picked at the food, eventually putting one of the vegetables into her mouth.

For the first time in weeks, she could actually taste it, actually enjoy it, and she quickly stabbed another piece of food with the fork, until she was almost halfway through the plate with no sign of stopping.

When she was finished, she felt significantly better than she had before, and she moved the plate aside so she could shuffle closer to the edge of the bed. Bellamy, who had been slouching miserably, straightened a little.

His brown eyes were liquid in the lamplight. “I’m so sorry.”

“Don’t be sorry, I’m tired of us being sorry.”

“But I am.” He said, hand coming up to cup her cheek. “I’m sorry, Clarke, for all of it.”

“I’m sorry too.” She said softly. “But we’re always sorry, Bellamy. For once, can’t we just be?”

He didn’t answer, he just pressed his forehead against hers, grounding her more than anything else had been able to do, bringing her back into orbit with the rest of the universe.

She was so tired.

The tiredness didn’t leave with her grievances, all it did was let up for a while.

Bellamy sensed her resignation and pulled back, scanning her face. Rather than trying to say anything placating, he climbed into bed beside her and tucked her against his side. She rested her head on chest, feeling the thrum of his heartbeat beneath her fingertips, and felt the moon slowly turning at the right speed.

The bruise was still there. She had a feeling it would always be there, like a stain. Gabriel had explained it to her earlier, the way trauma affects the mind, the way it changes the fear response, the way it had been altering her state of mind. He told her there were ways to help, but that it would never be something you could just fix like a broken bone or a runny nose. It was something she would have to work through every day.

“You really scared Raven, you know.” Bellamy said.

“I don’t care.” She murmured, and she was surprised to find that she meant it. She had spent far too much time apologising, and she didn’t want to do it anymore, didn’t want to waste any more time feeling bad for someone who wouldn’t extend the same courtesy to her.

“Good.” She could feel his smile against her hair. “But when you’re ready, I think you should talk to her. I told her about what you tried to do for Shaw, how you ran right into danger with no guarantee that you’d be safe.”

“It was only radiation-”

“-that was no guarantee and you know it.”  He scolded, hand coming up around her waist to pull her closer. “I could have lost you there and then.”

“But you didn’t.”

“No, you managed to wait a few more days before you died, thank you for that.” He deadpanned, but there was something a little too raw in his throat for it to sound entirely carefree.

She tilted her head up to look at him. “I’m okay, Bellamy.”

“No, you’re not.”

Clarke couldn’t really argue with that. “Is Madi okay?”

“She’s fine. She sat with you for a while, but Miller convinced her to go spend time with Gaia and Indra. She was just worried. She and Jordan asked Octavia if they could come see you tomorrow when you wake up, maybe bring you breakfast.”

She shifted uncomfortably. “I really don’t like people doing things for me.”

“Well, get used to it; that’s how being a Princess works.”

She smiled sadly, but her heart ached in her chest. “I’m not a princess, I never was.”

“Well you’re not Wanheda, and you’re not Josephine and you’re not anything else, except Clarke.”

“I think I can live with Clarke.” She said, muffled against his shirt. And when he pressed his lips against her forehead and wrapped his arms around her, she realised that she truly meant it. The stains of all the things she'd done might never go away, but the world was still turning, and for the first time in a long time, she felt like she could live with herself.