Why does she even bother to continue this fight?
Maybe it was because of the innate will to survive, or maybe it was just her need to protect those she loves and cares for.
But by God is it hard. And she doesn't doubt that it gets harder.
Even before the world went to hell, Clarke had always risen up to the role of caretaker. Her friends often teasing about how she's like another mother to them, the need to scold almost second nature.
She didn't mind the banter, more often than not joining in herself. It's not like it wasn't true, after all.
Back then, she had never even imagined that one day her way of protecting someone would be by gripping cold metal in her palm and sending a bullet through flesh. She wasn't by any means a violent person and even the thought of harming another in any way sent uncomfortable ripples through her stomach.
She could remember the day that all changed.
First, it was all of the electricity. Every news station being cut off while they desperately tried to warn people of the oncoming danger. Their last words, still haunting Clarke to this day.
"The dead are rising."
They had been in school during the broadcast, everyone breaking out in a panic when the lights suddenly flickered before turning off completely. Phones quickly losing their signal despite desperate fingers wishing them to work.
The teachers had tried to keep things calm and orderly, but ultimately they were overrun and some had even hightailed out of there alongside the students.
Maybe it had been the shock, or maybe Clarke's instincts just weren't as quick. Because she had just stayed sitting in her seat, eyes glued to her hands that were shaking against her lap. People shoving and tripping themselves all around her as they rushed to get out of the room.
Even with those heavy words still rolling around her mind like a broken record player, she felt oddly... Light. Like her mind had floated away and had taken away the panic she should have been feeling during that moment.
She had been so out of it, her mind was so gone, that she never even comprehended when Bellamy had charged into her classroom. Octavia and Raven right on his heels when he rushed over to Clarke, his eyes a perfect mixture of concern and panic.
"Clarke!" With his own trembling hands, Bellamy reached out to cup the blondes completely neutral face. His eyes struggling to catch Clarke's downcast gaze. "Clarke, Clarke look at me. We need to go, now.'
The pure desperation in Bellamy's voice, along with the harsh tug to lift her up was more than enough to snap Clarke out of her stupor. The frantic movement causing her legs to tremble under her weight like a new born deer taking its first steps.
Everything around her was a messy blur of colours and noise. Octavia's frantic breathing mixing in with Raven's constant yelling making her ears ring as her eyes attempted to regain any kind of focus.
The only thing she could comprehend was Bellamy's tight hold on her wrist as he dragged Clarke down the empty hallways. Her legs struggling to keep up with his pace.
When they reached the flight of stairs, a harsh intake of air left Bellamy's lips. His protective urges making his body step to the side in hopes of stopping Clarke from seeing whatever lay below. His hand trembling in her hold.
Not understanding the sudden change, Clarke instinctively circled her hand around Bellamy's wrist. Her eyes trying to find the cause and instantly regretting it when she found the sight waiting for them at the bottom of the stairs.
It was only by an impulse that she managed to turn away. Her eyes meeting Raven's panicked gaze as the woman fought against her tears while holding the equally disturbed Octavia. The pair holding to each other as if the other would disappear otherwise.
Seeing the raw terror on everyone's face, Clarke decided that the next steps would be from her choices.
With that in mind, she took in a deep breath. Her hand reaching up to gently tap Bellamy's shoulder so he could look her in the eye. " look at me, " her words came out soft, her maternal need to soothe kicking in. "I want you all to keep your eyes up, okay? We're gonna get out of here, we're gonna be okay. Trust me?”
Turning towards the other two, she received a determined nod from Raven, Octavia still trying to stop herself from looking.
Making sure that her hold on Bellamy's hand was firm, Clarke waited until Octavia reached out to take his other one before moving. Her steps deliberately calculated so she could get them out of there as efficiently as possible.
Halfway down, and she almost gagged at the smell. Her ears picking up on stuttering whimpers, Bellamy's throat bobbing with the need to swallow down the bile clawing at the back of his throat.
Raven keeping her eyes firmly skyward as she tried to not take in any deep breathes, and Octavia had buried her nose against Bellamy’s shirt in case she stopped breathing altogether.
Clarke didn’t know what was worse; the smell, or the dead body it was coming from. The horrible sight making her want to curl up into a ball and hide under layers of blankets. Knowing then that her life wasn't going to be so simple ever again.
Ignoring the bile scratching against her throat, Clarke held her nerve and continued to get them out. Her heart aching with the knowledge that it wasn't going to be the only corpse she would face.
"Hey, Griff?" the whispered nickname made her look back, Raven's wide fearful eyes staring directly at her. "What are we going to do?"
"I'm taking us to my house, " she croaked out. Her throat constricted since she was refusing the urge to both vomit and cry. "It's the closest, and my mom will help us." With technical communication not working, Clarke was unsure how long it would take to reach everyone, but maybe they could figure something out when they were.... Well, as far away from there as possible. Or even if they could reach anyone.
But they will. The must.
With an idea now set in motion, Clarke’s desire to get them out of the school became all the more prominent. Her thumb unconsciously sending any resolve she possessed through the gentle swipes on Bellamy's skin. A slight squeeze against her hand showing his appreciation.
Because of the darkness of the hallway, Clarke had failed to notice some factors from her previous position at the top of the stairs. Namely, the growing splatter of red liquid pouring from the corpse's side. The thick, viscous liquid nearly sending her to the floor, hadn’t Bellamy pulled her back just in time.
She hoped the world outside was nothing like this.
“Clarke! To your right!”
With the handle of her knife held securely between her fingers, Clarke sent the blade through the oncoming corpse, it’s lifeless eyes twisted to the side just like its jaw.
It had been three years since that last cut off news broadcast. Three years since she had first come across that dead body at the bottom of the staircase. Three years since the world became a living nightmare.
She had changed, they all had. Just not in the way any of than expected.
After finding her mom, they had all grabbed as many of the necessities they could grab before piling into the car, the roads reading nothing but havoc as vehicles and humans alike attempted to evade the bloodied bodies that were tearing flesh apart while their victim screamed in agony.
Clarke could remember her mom’s attempts to be comforting, but nothing could drown out the sounds of a humans realisation that they were going to die.
It took them a while, to ‘adjust’ to their forced new life. But Clarke knows they hadn’t adjusted to anything, they’ve just become better at hiding what they truly feel.
Never around each other, though. Never around each other. The four of them – only 18 when this bullshit had started – would often confide within each other, and no one else. Not even Abby, despite her best attempts to console and soothe away the fears that still managed to creep into their eyes before they could stop it. It’s not like Clarke wanted to shut her mother out, she was, after all, going through the same exact situation as the rest of them; but she couldn’t help it.
Herself, Bellamy, Raven and Octavia – they had been with each from the very second it all started, they had all been there to witness that first body, and so a part of them was never fully rested unless they were together.
Raven had even joked, (something that she had done less of, but Clarke will take any familiarity she could get, ) that they were like soulmates. The four of them. And Octavia had laughed when she had immediately turned towards her and Bellamy and quickly added: “sibling soulmates are a thing I’m calling it!”
It had been easier, during that moment. And Clarke cherishes it as much as she can.
Withdrawing her knife from the rotten flesh never did get easier, even when Clarke had convinced herself that these weren't people, that they weren't even alive.
She met Bellamy's gaze, sending him a short nod to quell the questions swirling in his gaze.
They had run too short on food, meaning that they were forced to stay out longer and travel further in hopes to scavenge any remaining shops that had already been stripped clean a long time ago.
Clarke usually shared her runs with Raven, but a close call had left the aspiring mechanic injured and unable to move without being in pain. So today she was paired with Bellamy, and between the two of them, they had found the equivalent of absolutely nothing.
“We'll find something tomorrow,” Bellamy barely looked like he believed her, but he didn’t comment. Merely growled under his breath and turned back around towards the direction of their camp.
They had found others, through the years. And together they’ve formed a home – or rather, something similar. With Abby in charge for the most part, sharing the responsibility with Marcus Kane.
There had been fewer walkers than usual, encouraging the pair to venture further than they usually would with just two. But they were becoming desperate, however, as Clarke looked up into the sky and noticed how quickly night was approaching, she hoped that the desperation wasn’t going to be their downfall.
“Clarke, Clarke get down, someone’s coming.”
Following Bellamy's lead, they quickly ducked behind a rundown car, peeping through the broken windows to see if they could find the others.
And that’s when Clarke first saw her.
The woman, standing only a little taller than Clarke herself, dressed all in black with the glint of a sword at her side. She was beautiful, enchanting, and oh so dangerous, and Clarke, with the harsh drum of her heart against her chest, found herself being pulled against her will towards this stranger.
“Clarke, ” ignoring Bellamy, Clarke took a stand. Immediately gaining the attention of the stranger, her eyes so green it felt like Clarke was running through a forest, and she never wanted to stop.
Clarke didn’t. She couldn’t.
Not with the strangers eyes on her.
“You,” another woman, blonde, eyes that promised nothing but pain took a step forward. Her weapon pointed directly towards Clarke's head. “Speak, girl; what do you want?”
“Food, ” Clarke eyes we’re still holding strong against the vivid forest, “my people - we're looking for food.”
The blonde looked ready to kill her where she stood, but the enchantress held her arm out before a word could be said. The blonde taking a step back despite the obvious objection shining in her eyes.
“What is your name?”
Hard, authoritative, and oh so smooth.
“Well, Clarke,” the roll of her tongue against her name has never sent tingles down Clarke's spine before, the urge to close her eyes and take it in frightengly hard to ignore. “Let us discuss discus.“
Lexa. That was her name; Lexa Woods.
And Clarke, she only became more and more enchanted the more she learnt about ‘The Commander.’
Raven and Octavia would often find themselves teasing her about it, but she gave them no mind. It was true, after all; at least, she thinks it is. She’s had crushes before, after all, yet none of them felt like this.
She didn’t know how to make of it, so she didn’t. She had people to keep alive, anyway, so it wasn’t like she had the ability to really think about her unknown feelings towards Lexa. And even if she did, she would probably just end up either more confused or annoyed, so it truly wasn’t a situation she could win.
Well, that was until Lexa had kissed her one night, under the stars, and all of a sudden the situation she was losing was an ultimate victory. Even if she still wasn’t entirely sure on why her heart was swirling with this... Unnamed emotion.
But it felt right, so it couldn’t be all bad, right?
Either way, Clarke had kissed Lexa back, and again, and again, despite not knowing how she felt. Because Lexa was just so... Much. In a good way, of course. And to having something good in the world they were living in was rare, so Clarke had promised herself early on that she would protect what she shared with Lexa, because she wanted, needed – to have this, to have Lexa.
And Lexa, well, despite her blank exterior, she wasn’t shy of expressing herself around Clarke when the two found themselves alone. The only other person Clarke had seen her this animated around was Anya – the woman who had pointed a gun to her head when they first met – but the blonde was spending a good amount of time with Raven, and so Clarke wasn’t given the opportunity to see much of Lexa's personality when she was around the older woman.
Of course, even Raven wasn’t enough to keep Anya's perceptiveness of their budding... Relationship? If the slight glares were anything to go by.
Anya wasn’t subtle, Clarke noticed. Especially when it came to her interest towards her friend or her protectiveness towards Lexa. The latter being something that Clarke could tolerate, at least, since listening to Anya and Raven flirt was something she really didn’t want to listen in on.
(At least she now knows who to go to if she ever needs a spare bit of rope.)
Still, what she and Lexa shared, even after that first kiss, was progressing, even if the label of it was not. Clarke wasn’t bothered by it, though – except she totally was, especially when she caught someone trying to flirt with Lexa, despite the obvious lack of interest she was getting in response. Lexa's eyes catching Clarke's before she politely excused herself to go over to the blonde, a small, genuine smile gracing her lips when they were closer.
Clarke really liked that smile, because it was just so Lexa.
“Clarke,” her spine never stopped tingling from how Lexa says her name, and now she's almost completely sure Lexa knows the effect it has.
“Hey,” Clarke grins, “just wanted to let you know that I'm leaving for my run.
Even when it was decided that their people would join together, Clarke never slacked with her responsibilities.
But at Lexa's frown, she knew what was about to come, “I still don’t understand why you refused the job to help with your mother.”
This particular discussion was sweet the first time it happened, how it was just bothersome. “You do know why.”
“Not really,” Lexa muttered, tearing her gaze away to the floor. The world outside the protective barrier of the walls was cruel, and Lexa wasn’t sure what she would do if one day Clarke didn’t return.
Or worse, if she did, but as a monster.
Taking Lexa's defined cheeks into her palms, thumbs rubbing over the bone, Clarke waited until their eyes met before she spoke, “this is something I need to do, okay? Besides, now that you managed to join our people, there is a lot more medically trained staff to help out.”
Lexa's fingers we’re warm over her own, her eyes glistening like they always did when she was being honest, open, “I just don’t want you to be hurt.”
“I know,” kissing Lexa was always a cheap way to get her to give in, but it was also irresistible; and Clarke didn’t think she would ever tire of it. “Try not to worry too much, okay? I’ll be back before you know it.”
She could feel the blood pouring from her leg, and for a moment she felt light, calm.
But realization always likes to bitch slap you in the face, and boy did it sting.
At first, she had thought she had been bitten, and her first thought was about Lexa, and what she would say or maybe even is she should return at all. But then she looked at her leg, and the lack of teeth marks kicked her heart back into overdrive.
She had been lucky, but she knew the feeling of the cold, bony fingers around her ankle wasn’t going to be leaving her memory anytime soon.
When she did return, she headed straight for her own room. And that was her first mistake, because she always sort out Lexa when she returned, and so immediately she knew something was wrong.
The blood stand cloth almost stopped her heart, but Clarke was quick to restart it. Her soft touches and reassured words like a match to her skin, always leaving her warm even on the coldest of days.
“I’m okay,” being whispered against her lips after every kiss, their bodies pressed together so tight that it was hard to distinguish Lexa from Clarke and Clarke from Lexa.
But none of it mattered, Clarke came back to her, so nothing mattered to her.
They had slept soundly that night, lulled by each other’s heartbeats as they resonated through their souls.
A few days pass, and Clarke says something that has Lexa stopping dead in her tracks.
“What did you just say?”
“I said I –“ and that’s when Clarke pauses, lifting her attention from the drawing in front of her to Lexa, her eyes wide with dreaded realization. Not at all thinking she had just said those words without much thought, but then, as she looked back down from Lexa's own widened eyes, to her half-finished sketch of the woman across from her, she finishes where she left off. “I love you.”
She loved her. She loved Lexa.
Without a moments hesitation Lexa was across the room, wrapping her arms around her like Clarke was her lifeline, her everything and – oh.