She hates this room, this empty room with no doors and no windows. The floor and ceiling taunt her with their deceptively tame lack of any real color, and the four walls around her are mirrors. And she faces herself whenever she wakes up, infinitely confined, a thousand girls standing in the middle of this empty room.
This empty room with a chair, to be perfectly exact. But a chair won't do anything for her.
Clarke stares blankly at the mirror in front of her. Solitude is not foreign, it never has been.
It has never scared her before, until now.
Sometimes, she hears breathing that she's convinced isn't her own, an echo of her footsteps that could have very well belonged to someone else. A feeling she never felt, a memory she never had. She loses her name in this empty room, her being, herself. In this room, she is just a woman who exists only in a tiny pocket of space between one moment and the next.
two days before the room
"We have to figure something out," Bellamy says softly.
Clarke's feet dangle off the edge of the cliff, layered and sloping rock offering a paralyzing glimpse of a river below. "We're never going back," she says softly. Maybe with less vehemence than necessary.
"And the others we left behind?" he asks her, kicking his toe against the ground, sending up a small flurry of dust.
"You saved your sister," Clarke murmurs. If she leaned too far forward, she would topple over the edge, be lost to the rocks or the spray of water.
"Why the hell aren't you more worried?" he says sharply. "What about Madi? What will she do without you? Clarke, we have no idea where we even are—"
"Arizona," she says quietly. "Grand Canyon National Park."
She brushes dust off the tips of her fingers as she gets to her feet. A strange urge, weaker than a desire, stronger than an instinct begs her to take that one step, begs her to give her body to the endless blue snake at the bottom of the canyon. "It's called l'appel due vide. French. It means 'call of the void.' It's the urge to jump when you're in a high place."
Bellamy, for the first time in a very long time, looks truly irritated with her. "Clarke, I know you didn't just give up, so let's just—"
"Just what? Bellamy? Break every mirror we see, hoping that one of them will be the way back home? It may have worked that way for Octavia and Diyoza, but it's over for us. The sooner we accept the better."
"The Clarke I knew wouldn't give up this easily," he says, coming to stand in front of her. They are young and angry in appearance, seen by each other the way they were before Praimfaya, but they are still who they were in the aftermath of everything else, old and bitter and wiser.
"You don't know me anymore," she says. Perhaps Clarke had never woken up—maybe this is just some other segment of her brain, another cell in the Skybox. Perhaps now, Josephine Lightbourne lives a life with Clarke's face, while she's subject to the empty, ancient wonders of the world with the man in front of her.
"You saw that time and space is fluid here," he insists, ignoring this last comment, ever the persistent rebel. "You know that there's a way. If we can drive from Los Angeles to goddamn Arizona in less than an hour, you know that it's possible to go back home."
"I actually don't," Clarke replies, walking past him, to that battered Rover. "Not everything is a sign, Bellamy."
He winces a little when she says his name, and if he knows Clarke noticed, he says nothing about it. "So what's your grand plan now?"
"Grow old," she says emotionlessly, climbing into the passenger seat. "Die here."
Bellamy grips fistfuls of his hair. "And you think I'm going to do that, too?"
"I'm not the one who decides when you come to terms with something."
"I left people," he says brokenly, but Clarke can understand the meaning behind it, that he had more waiting for him back in Sanctum than she did.
"You should be glad that we're the only ones left here, unless someone was stupid enough to try and rescue you."
"What the hell is wrong with you?" he snaps, and that dull void in Clarke's gives way to something—a touch of anger, a touch of sorrow.
"What do you mean?" she asks, kicking her feet up on the dashboard.
"You're not helping at all," he snaps. "You and I are supposed to be looking for the solution to this issue together."
"Bellamy, you are perfectly capable of making decisions without me," she counters. She truly doesn't mean to hurt him or make him feel guilty about Praimfaya when she says this—she states a simple, unchangeable fact. "If you really want to find a way out of here, I'm sure you can look for a solution."
"And you just—won't help me."
"There's nothing I can do."
Bellamy looks for a moment as if he would want nothing more than to get into the rover and drive it into the canyon, but when he finally does get his hands on the wheel, he just takes them out of the park.
"What do you want me to say, Bellamy?" she asks.
"I want you to help me get us out of this mess," he says, taking a hand off the wheel and setting it on Clarke's knee. It takes an effort to not move his hand away or flinch—she has to settle with stiffness until he finally takes his hand away. "We both have families to go back to," he says softly.
"Tell me you didn't expect this to be without risks," Clarke replies. "Bellamy, please tell me you weren't that naive."
He just huffs, keeping his eyes glued to the empty road ahead of them.
"After you came back with Hope, you told me that you wanted to go in and save Octavia. And every time we discussed it, you told us that you knew the risks. You promised." Bellamy just stays silent. "Unless you expected us to make it back with her...?"
"Is that a crime now, Clarke? To expect a good outcome?"
"It's stupid, Bellamy," she snaps. "You know exactly what kind of world we live in. We have to be prepared for the worst."
"Do you even want to go back?" he asks her, knuckles white on the wheel. "Are you okay with leaving Madi behind?"
This is below the belt, and both of them know it. Maybe in some other universe, Bellamy would apologize immediately, and Clarke would forgive him. But here, now, he shows no signs of being willing to take it back.
She's got half a mind to demand that he stop the car so she can get out, but being alone in an unknown world has been proven to be very problematic for them.
"Madi has other responsibilities now," says Clarke quietly, trying to deflect the heat he's put on her. "She doesn't need me."
"You don't know that—"
"Don't tell me I don't know how my kid thinks," she bites. "Besides, she—she told me. In a way. Said she'd be okay without me if I chose to go and rescue Octavia. Told me she would get busy with other stuff anyway. Making friends. Adjusting to this life."
She watches Bellamy's throat bob. "How long do you think we've been here?" he asks.
Clarke tries to pretend that she isn't caught off guard by this sudden change of subject, of tone. "I don't know," she admits. They'd been here for a few days, finding the Rover outside the building from which they emerged, with food and water somehow restocking itself every few hours in the back of the vehicle. "We've been here for about three days."
"Not here," he groans. "Out there." In reality.
Clarke gazes out the window, the endless desert, the rocks, the cloudless sky. "There's no way of knowing."
"Please, Clarke," Bellamy says. "We have to go back."
She looks at him then—he's still facing the road, but a muscle in his jaw twitches. "Okay," she says quietly. "Okay. Let's do it."
one day before the room
"We need to go back to where we started," Clarke says. Where the Anomaly had spit them out after they had attempted to return home with Octavia and Diyoza.
"We don't even know where that is," Bellamy sighs. "It's a cliff and an ocean and a lighthouse; that could literally be anywhere."
"Do you remember what side the ocean was on? Like, direction-wise?"
Bellamy frowns. "I—West. The sun was setting there. I still don't see how we're going to figure it out—"
"I don't know, Bellamy. Let's just go on a drive down the West Coast—"
"It would be so much easier if we had a library," he sighs, putting his head in his arms. "To find a book on lighthouses or something." He sighs and lies flat on his back on top of the Rover, one of his arms now thrown over his eyes.
It would have been too easy to give in to temptation and just collapse on top of him, hold him, feel his hair. Too easy to admit that she's safe here, that she even feels something resembling content. To be here, alone with Bellamy, is more peaceful to her than anything else she's experienced in a very long time.
No, she could never admit that. Clarke knows she's a bad person, but to say that she's approaching something like happiness here would cross the line, would destroy every facet and pillar of her being.
"Bellamy," she says, staring at the space on the roof of the Rover, the rectangular object beside his body. She reaches across him, grabbing it; a book. Bellamy opens his eyes and raises his head, a curly mass barely visible through the curtain of her hair. She opens the book, and is greeted by a picture of a lighthouse.
"'Lighthouses of America,'" Bellamy reads, now sitting up. "Holy shit."
"Like a wish coming true," Clarke murmurs, flipping through the pages, going slowly to admire the various views of the ocean, of the coast. For once, Bellamy doesn't seem annoyed by her lack of urgency. He stares at the pictures like a small child, drinking in every single detail, his lips parting slightly in the purest, untroubled wonder. All the places in the world, and all they had known was a vast, endless forest, and pain.
It doesn't take them too long to find their specific lighthouse—"Point Vicente Lighthouse, in Palos Verdes, California," Bellamy says. Clarke stares at the picture, the sky stained in various shades of red and orange by the sunset, the cliff upon which the lone lighthouse sits. At the bottom, there are rocks, a small coastline of jagged boulders. A sure death for someone if they jumped off the edge. Nothing like the Grand Canyon, with that unforgiving river roaring in the depths of the canyon.
"Okay," Bellamy says, looking truly excited for the first time in years. "Road trip?"
It is easy to love him, despite everything else. Despite being far away from him for longer than she had been close to him. Despite the jagged shards of anger they held for each other, despite all of the things they forgave. Despite another woman who has held him the way she wanted to, another woman who now waited anxiously for him just as Clarke had in those six years alone. A woman whom Clarke respects, and yet Clarke cannot find it in herself to not love Bellamy.
Oddly, immaturely, she thinks back to a show she used to watch on the Ark, a story of heroes and betrayal, a story with two people who would cross the universe for each other and continually find themselves torn apart.
"We're cursed," the man had said to his lover. "The bloody cosmos wants us to be apart."
Clarke manages a grin, jumping down to the ground. "I'll drive," she decides, walking over to the other side, but Bellamy stands firmly in front of the door.
"You're a terrible driver," he says, smirking down at her.
"Aren't you tired of driving?" she asks.
"Not particularly," he replies, slowly opening the door, as if Clarke will jump into the seat if he isn't too careful. She might've, because she's aching to do something other than sitting next to him with nothing to do. It wouldn't really be that bad, to just be with him, but she's not in the mood to explain at least five times during the trip why she's staring at him so much.
"You could read the book," he says, glancing down at the object in question in her arms, as if he's somehow heard a few of her thoughts.
"Fine," she sighs, giving him a half-hearted shove. The gesture seems to surprise them both a little, but it feels natural, as if they've done it forever. She climbs into the passenger seat and quickly pulls her hair into an elaborate, which Bellamy tugs on lightly when she's done. She huffs a laugh before swatting his hand away, opening the book. As Bellamy drives, however, her eyes drift shut, the steady hum of the wind lulling her into a dreamless sleep.
The sun is closer to the horizon when she wakes, eyes adjusting to an endless sheet of blue.
"Palos Verdes, California," Bellamy says softly. It's almost sunset, the beginning flames of orange and gold turning his hair brown, adding a gold and hazel tint to his eyes. They drive along the coastline, with Clarke being the closest to the ocean. She continues to look at him, at the way his eyes seem glazed over. Not with tears, not with sorrow, but a blank, blissful sort of peace. Up ahead, the small outline of a tall building stands at the edge of a cliff that juts out from the road they drive on. Clarke's heart begins to pound, at the thought of going back, remembering the blank interior of the lighthouse when they emerged from the mirror.
"This is our way home," Bellamy murmurs, sounding so sure of it, this undeniable fact. He glances at Clarke, a small smile on his face. "We're going home."
Clarke wishes desperately she was happier about that.
The sun is now beginning to touch the edge of the ocean when they enter the lighthouse. Clarke lingers in the doorway, watching Bellamy as he walks towards the mirror and kneels. He stares intently at it, and perhaps, to an outsider, it would appear that he's studying his own beauty, vain and unearthly, a deity of a time long before their own.
She hears his breath shake, perhaps with the realization that is slowly beginning to wash over Clarke like a gentle wave—they're not going back.
He turns his head to her, his expression utterly wrecked, a horrible, crushing sorrow. Guilt pulses all throughout her then—how could she ever be so content with staying here when it meant that Bellamy would lose everything?
Something catches Clarke's eye, then—the reflection. Instead of showing the back of his head, Bellamy's reflection stares directly at him, some odd, unrecognizable emotion on his face. The reflection raises his hands, as if reaching for Bellamy—
She opens her mouth to warn him, but the reflection climbs out of the mirror and wraps his fingers around Bellamy's neck, who immediately tries to throw him off. Clarke rushes to help him, but someone grabs her and yanks her back. She raises her head to see herself, Clarke Griffin, Commander of Death, gazing down at her with merciless contempt.
She does the only thing she can think of—she punches the other Clarke in the face. She doesn't seem too fazed by it, despite the bruise blooming on her cheekbone. A bruise Clarke can feel on her own face.
"Who are you?" she chokes out.
"I didn't think you were this stupid, Clarke," the other one says, approaching her with a predatory gaze. Her voice is blank, emotionless. "I'm you. And a bit of Bellamy, I suppose—"
"What the hell do you mean?" Clarke spits, her fingers curling into fists. The other lunges at her, too fast—she grabs Clarke's arms and shoves her down to the ground, leaning close. Although she looks like Clarke, she's terribly beautiful, her eyes brighter, her features sharper, her hair a shimmering gold. She's more beautiful than Clarke could ever dream to be.
"This whole world is your mind," the other Clarke breathes. "And his. How do you think you got the book? How do you think you got to places so fast?"
"And what the fuck are you supposed to be?" Clarke spits. "My conscience?" Her violent twin only attacks her again, punching her hard in the stomach. Clarke yanks the other one's hair, feeling a horrendously painfully tug on her own braid. Even as Clarke slowly gains the upper hand and starts to beat the unholy shit out of the other Clarke, she feels her energy draining.
And Bellamy—His reflection drags him out of the lighthouse, and Clarke kicks the other one away before running out, seeing him being pulled around the lighthouse, towards the edge. Clarke grabs a rock from the ground, minerals within shining as the sky begins to bleed. Before the other Clarke can even make a move, the real one whirls around and clocks her in the head. Though it knocks the other one out, Clarke's lucky enough to only feel blood start to trickle down the side of her head. She runs towards Bellamy, reaching for his reflection—
At first, Clarke thinks she's done it—shoved the reflection over the edge. But the eyes of the man she glances at are not eyes she recognizes; and with a sinking feeling in her gut, horror blooming as an ache in her chest, heart and head pounding, she glances over the edge to see water, not rocks, swallow Bellamy whole.
(rising sea levels)
Clarke doesn't even notice that Bellamy's reflection has picked up the rock, but before he can swing, she leaps over the edge, screaming until she hits the water.
It had taken some time to stop being afraid of the mirrors.
Clarke remembers the cold sensation of the water fading away as she tried desperately to search the darkness for Bellamy, and her vision was gone too after a while.
She was sure she had died—until she woke up here.
The empty room, the mirrors. And she faced the mirrors for a long time, waiting for her reflection to crawl out and kill her.
It never happened, and Clarke's exhaustion took away her fear and curiosity. When she woke again, there were several sets of fresh clothes on the floor, a bowl of soup. Clarke ate it all immediately, not caring that it could be poisoned, not caring that it stung her throat. But since then, she's been determined to catch the person. Since then, she's been awake for more than forty-eight hours, hasn't had food for more than forty-eight hours.
She stares at herself, waiting, hating herself.
She thinks of Bellamy. For the first time since she got here, she allows herself to think of Bellamy.
Lying dead at the bottom of an ocean—
A scream builds in the pit of her stomach, shooting up her throat but getting stuck at the back of her mouth. She wants to break something, break everything. shatter all of these mirrors, shatter herself into a million pieces. It was too simple—and she was too late. If it hadn't taken five seconds to look for a large rock—
"I hate you," she says to no one, and then louder, facing a mirror. "I hate you."
Clarke's not even sure how or when it happens, but suddenly her fists are connecting with the glass, and she roars in pain, a raw sound that shapes itself into words, a deranged chant.
I hate you.
"I HATE YOU!" she screams at the woman who has murdered hundreds, the woman who was left behind, the woman who could not save the man she loved, the woman who meant absolutely nothing to anyone, not even herself. Clarke picks up the chair and hits it as hard as she can against one of the mirrored walls, sobbing and screaming.
And somewhere, buried deep in her mind, she begins to wonder if anything's behind the wall, and perhaps it's that curiosity that drives her to try and hit the mirror even harder, I hate you—
Cracks spiral through the solid sheet, and with a few more hits, the shards all fall at once, leaving Clarke standing in her white sweatpants and white shirt, in a pile of mirror shards.
A blank brown wall.
She lets loose a truly deranged scream, then, and though it cannot possibly release every emotion she's ever had since this whole horrible ordeal began when she woke up in the Dropship, it eases a small fraction of the pain, the absolute horror inside her. The regret, the emptiness, the feverish desire that she had died in the ocean with him.
I hate you—I'm sorry.
She sits down, broken mirror and all, and cries, harder than she cried after digging her way out of the rubble of Becca's lab. She tears at her hair, screams, and nothing changes, now left with a trillion fewer reflections of herself.
She could not save him.
Clarke stands, even being careful to avoid stepping on the shards as she picks up the chair again. She's going to destroy every mirror in this room, turn all the shards upside down so that she'll never have to look at herself ever again.
Her reflection is marred by the cracks, but Clarke doesn't notice it. She could be perfectly fine with living in this room forever if it meant she wouldn't see her own face again.
A storm of mirrors, a hundred little new ones created by her violence, all fall in unison.
She'd expected a wall—she did not expect people.
People gathered around a rectangular white table—people staring at her.
He looks older than he did in the lighthouse—almost as old as he had been after the defeat of the Primes, his face clean-shaven and his hair in curls instead of his Sanctum waves. He stares at her, his expression one of... regret.
She feels something sharp in her neck, and the floor shoots towards her, lithe, feminine arms catching her before she hits the ground, after her eyes fall shut.
She wakes up in an immaculate bedroom with another set of clothes on the bed by her bare feet. The first thing Clarke does is take a shower, taking the clothes into the bathroom with her. When she emerges, fully changed, she sees a woman sitting on the bed.
Clarke's heart skips a beat. ALIE.
"I'm not—uh, I'm not ALIE," the woman says, massaging her temples. "I'm Rebecca. Well. Becca."
"Pramheda," Clarke breathes, stepping back until her back hits the door of the bathroom.
Becca smiles slightly and nods.
"How the fuck do you know about ALIE?" Clarke asks weakly.
"I know about everything that happened," Becca says softly. "We've been watching all of you for a very long time."
"What do you mean?"
"Maybe I should show you," she says, getting up and walking towards the door. "Come on. Bellamy's waiting."
"Your hair" is the first thing Bellamy says when he sees her. "It's longer."
Clarke just stares at him, completely unable to think of what to say in response to that. Becca clears her throat and leads them down a hallway ending with two black doors. She withdraws a keycard from the pocket of her jeans and holds it to the panel beside the doors. They swing open, revealing rows and rows of what looks like cryo-beds.
She scowls, about to ask what the hell this is, but Bellamy just shakes his head, glancing at her. He takes her and pulls her gently along the aisle, and Clarke stares at the beds.
She sees faces, regular faces that begin to sharpen into familiarity—men and women she knew on the Ark, saw in the halls, a guard who checked on her in the Skybox. They walk farther—she sees Murphy lying there, his face more at peace than she's ever seen it. Miller, and Jackson just a few beds down...
Oh, she's going to throw up.
Bellamy continues to pull her along, apparently not to show her the people lying there—Becca opens another door with her keycard and they enter a large room similar to the Ark control center, something Clarke had only seen once when she was very young, but big and grand enough to remember. There's a large collection of screens lining the walls, and on some of them, she sees Sanctum, like some sort of security camera feed. And on the largest screen of all—
"Octavia," she breathes. Bellamy swallows, finally letting go of her hand. Octavia sits in the Sanctum bar, holding Gabriel's hand tightly as she faces Echo, Murphy, Raven, Emori, Niylah, Jordan, Miller, and Jackson.
"I don't know what happened," says Octavia, rubbing her temples. "I was so sure they were behind me."
"Obviously not," Echo sighs.
"And now he's stuck with Clarke," Raven mutters, and Clarke swallows, looking away from her face. I guess some wounds take longer to heal. Clarke then turns to Becca. "What is this?"
"Six months ago, we took a large amount of people—volunteers," Becca replies, crossing her arms and gazing at the screen. "We designed a digital world, a scenario post-apocalypse. Some were inserted into the Ground setting, and some were placed in the Space Station."
Clarke looks at Bellamy, whose throat bobs as he rubs the back of his neck.
"We've been monitoring the lives of a few select individuals. The two of you were our top priorities, since before you met each other.
"When we first put you into the simulation, you started out as an infant—a newborn. The years of your life that led to our next modification happened in the space of one month. We then made the decision to merge the settings—send a hundred kids to the ground. Plus two," Becca adds, glancing at Bellamy. "We haven't intervened for a while since then, letting things play out. We were expecting Clarke to return to space, rounding out the sim and making it possible to pull everyone out—but seeing as that didn't happen, we put together Eligius—got a few more volunteers to be part of the crew, and sent a space-mining ship your way. When Wonkru and everyone else finally made it into that ship before the Damocles incident, we—I thought it would be best to just be done with it. But after some discussion, we—the government, they decided to keep you in the simulation. So those years where you were asleep in cryo was just a week of system updates."
Clarke presses her hands into her eyes, sitting down in the chair near her. Bellamy's hand lands on her shoulder, giving it a squeeze.
Becca sighs, going silent until Clarke opens her eyes again. The scientist glances furtively around the empty control room before continuing. "Everyone who volunteered was okay with staying in this simulation for however long we saw fit. Even so—I built a backdoor into the simulation; an anomaly in the code."
"Anomaly," Clarke repeats dully.
"One of our subjects, Gabriel Santiago—he went in with a few others about five months before we set up the Space and Ground settings—he was able to find the Anomaly. He's been studying it for years inside the simulation, though he was never able to quite grasp its true purpose."
"The Primes," Clarke says softly. "Was that all just—part of your simulation?"
"We let things run their natural course," Becca sighs, looking apologetic. "The hardships you faced... Mount Weather and Sanctum—it's not something we directly engineered. It's human behavior. It's why we have this sim in the first place."
"The people I killed," she murmurs. "What—"
"Most of the people in Mount Weather were just lines of code," Becca says quietly. "You didn't kill as many people as you thought you did."
Tears begin to sting the backs of her eyes. "What happened when Bellamy and I went into the Anomaly?"
Becca swallows. "The others working on the simulation found out of the backdoor. They opted not to destroy it, seeing some reason in giving the people a choice—but they made it very hard to get out. The Anomaly is a mesh of unfinished simulations, a junkyard of a million different settings. All of our unfinished ideas dumped into that setting the Anomaly created to keep people from getting out. Things got out of hand with this simulation, Clarke," she sighs. "People forget their humanity when they're offered a chance to play God."
"And then?" Bellamy prompts, looking like he's heard the story before but he wants to get to the good part.
"I opened up another smaller anomaly that allowed you and Bellamy to get closer to the surface," Becca says to Clarke. "Instead of taking you back to Sanctum, as the others did with Octavia and Charmaine, I pushed the two of you to the outermost edges of the simulation—the antechambers of your minds, hovering in that state between sleeping and waking, although you guys thought you were just stuck in the Anomaly. Jumping into the water is what brought you back."
"Why did we try and kill ourselves then?" Clarke asks.
"The other scientists built in a lot of defense mechanisms to keep you from leaving the simulation—I set up a connection between your minds, thinking it would allow the two of you to make it out of there more easily. I didn't think that having two of you trying to leave the simulation together would double the defenses. Bellamy, I wasn't worried about—we were able to pull him out just before he died in the simulation. We were more worried about you, thinking that the other Clarke would finish you off. But you jumped into the water for some reason. That's the only reason you're alive."
For Bellamy. I jumped in to save Bellamy.
"Dying," Clarke says softly. "What happens when you die in the simulation?"
Becca looks down at the floor. "Pulling someone out of the simulation is a risky process if you want to avoid brain damage. After someone who exists here dies in the simulation, there's a window of time, the final moments before the actual subject dies. Despite our differences in this facility—we always try our best to rescue everyone. Sometimes we're fast enough. Sometimes, we aren't."
Becca shakes her head. "I'm sorry."
"How come we can't remember our—our real lives or whatever?" Clarke asks.
"They were erased," says Becca.
"Everything that happened," Clarke breathes. "N-none—none of it was real?"
She exhales shakily, tears flowing freely now. "Oh, god. And we—we willingly did this to ourselves?"
"Yes, but—hey," Becca says gently, kneeling in front of Clarke and taking her hands. "Clarke—"
Clarke shakes her head. "It's not possible. This is just some other weird Anomaly thing—"
Becca releases Clarke's hands, standing again. "There are some people who want to see you. Perhaps that will be proof that this is real."
Becca walks several steps ahead of Bellamy and Clarke, providing a little privacy. He reaches for her hand, holding it tight.
"Did you see them?" Clarke asks him. "The people she's talking about?"
"No," he replies, swallowing. "This is the first I've heard of it."
Becca takes them to what looks a common area, sleek and modern and clean, yet looking comfortable at the same time. If Clarke wasn't so distressed right now, she could've admired this room all day long. There are people sitting in couches facing away from them in the back of the room, all talking softly.
"Wait here," Becca says, walking across the vast room and towards the couches. She taps one of the people on the shoulder and they rise, following Becca back to where Bellamy and Clarke stand.
As the other person comes closer, Clarke can feel Bellamy going very still beside her. And when Clarke can fully see who it is, she understands why.
"Clarke," Lexa says, leaving Becca's side to embrace her. "Oh, my god."
Clarke feels Bellamy's fingers disconnect from her own.
Lexa pulls back, scanning Clarke's face. "Are you—are you okay?"
What the hell do you think?
"I'm fine, thank you," she replies, hating how stiff she sounds, hating how awkward this is. In another time, she would've given her heart and soul to see Lexa again, to hold her again—and now, seeing her is like a vague, unexplainable dream. A buried memory, a song that doesn't quite sound as familiar or lovely anymore. A thing of the past, a thing that was once dear to her, and though it still has meaning, it does not belong.
"I know, I know, it's very confusing," Lexa says, running her hands up and down Clarke's arms. "Costia had to explain it to me at least five times—"
"Costia?" Clarke asks.
Lexa looks slightly apologetic. "Clarke, you know I loved you—"
"I—no, it's okay," Clarke splutters. "It's just—she's alive?"
Lexa smiles indulgently, more to herself than anything else. "She is. And—I'm glad you are, too." She pulls Clarke into another hug, holding her tight. She doesn't feel that old flutter in her gut, but she does feel a little more at ease, a little warmer. She pulls away, looking at Clarke with a small smile on her face. "It's okay now, Clarke. We're safe here."
"What's going on, a male voice asks, and Clarke looks over Lexa's shoulder to see a dark-skinned man, standing with his arms crossed. Bellamy steps around Lexa and pulls him into a hug, which the man returns after the second it takes to recognize him.
"Lincoln," Clarke says, releasing Lexa. Bellamy slaps him on the back before pulling away, his eyes glazed.
"Hello, Clarke," he says, hugging her tightly before pulling away with a concerned look. "It's good to see you."
"I—likewise," she breathes.
Lincoln glances sideways at Becca. "Are you going to tell them?"
"Tell them what?" Bellamy asks.
"Neither of you actually died in the simulation," Lexa says softly. "So you have the choice of going back."
"We could go back?" Clarke asks quietly.
"Yeah," Becca says. "The simulation is reaching the end of its course now. We're going to pull everyone out in about two months of simulation time."
She looks at Bellamy. "I..."
"It's a hard choice, I know," murmurs Becca. "And you two have been through a lot—you especially, Clarke. We had to keep you sedated for four days after pulling you out of the simulation."
Clarke's silent for a long time, watching Lincoln and Lexa exchange a glance.
"You have a home nearby," Becca says gently. "Would you like to stay there instead of here?"
"Yes," she says immediately. "Yeah."
"I'll come with her," Bellamy adds, putting his hands on her shoulders.
"Good. Follow me."
She recognizes the place. She's been here, just a few days ago.
"Palos Verdes, California," Becca says, opening the car door. They stand in front of a lovely, one-story house, looking modern yet comfortable at the same time. The front of the house faces the ocean, perched high enough to see the other houses situated on a downward slope to the beach. Bellamy stares at the ocean while Becca guides Clarke to the door. "Say your name."
Something inside the door clicks, the vertical light panel lighting the side turning a bright, electric blue. Clarke opens the door, revealing an open space, touches of furniture that are so her that she doesn't feel out of place in this house at all, despite not knowing where all the rooms are. She navigates her way to a porch that faces the ocean, a few benches surrounding a fireplace built into a prism of stone rising from the floor. Bellamy sits down, crossing his arms behind his head as he drinks in the view, concern and wonder on his face.
"It's so empty," Clarke says softly. "I thought—there were more people in California."
"There was a biological disaster about a hundred years ago that greatly crippled the global population. A virus originating from what was once Wuhan, China. Though it helped with a bit of a resource crisis we had at the time, it was—a tragedy nonetheless." Becca sets a thin tablet down on one of the small tables on the porch. "If you want to return to the simulation for two months then use this to contact me." She rises from her seat. "I'll see you later, Clarke. Bellamy."
"This place is mine," Clarke says quietly once Becca's car disappears from her sight.
"What do you think our lives would've been like here," she sighs, "for us to volunteer to forget it all and live in a fake world?"
"As far as I know, it wasn't that bad," says Bellamy. "Becca told me a bit about our lives here. "You were in med school. I was studying law, and Octavia was in her first year of college. Madi's parents died when she was young. Emori and Murphy were together."
"And you believe it all?" Clarke asks him.
He shrugs, a curl falling over his forehead. "I guess."
"Are you gonna go back?"
"I think so," he replies. "We should be there to help them adjust to society again."
"We," Clarke murmurs, watching the sun disappear beyond the horizon of the ocean.
"What, are you not coming back? You want to stay here, leave everyone in Sanctum behind?"
"I'm not leaving anything—"
"You'll have Madi, you'll have me, you'll have everyone else—"
"They don't want me there, Bellamy," she implores.
"Forgiveness takes time, Clarke," he counters. "Even for us. Especially for us. They may not always show it, but they're getting there."
She stays silent.
"You wanted to be there," Bellamy says, something like muted horror blooming on his face, talking about the world they had been in before returning to reality. "You were happy there."
"You don't have anything to be afraid of back there, Clarke," he insists. "It's over. The Primes and everything else—it's all over."
"Something tells me I'll be in even less danger of dying paralyzed and alone here," she says, so quietly that even she can barely hear her own voice. Bellamy winces slightly, leaning close to touch her arm. "You're right, Bellamy. I did want to be there. I was safe, and—I had what I needed." You. "Peace. Besides, when everyone comes out of the simulation, Madi will come and live with me."
Bellamy groans and covers his eyes. "Clarke—"
"I'm tired," she says. "I'm going to sleep."
She gets up and finds her way to a bedroom, collapsing immediately onto the bed without pulling the blankets over herself, on her side so her knees hang over the edge. After a few minutes, she feels a weight dip into the mattress, a squeeze on her shoulder. The weight doesn't ease any time soon, and within minutes she can hear Bellamy's smooth, slow breathing.
She could give it all up, everything she's ever had, if she could stay in this house with him, watch the sunset over an endless ocean, a world where no one would ever hurt her again.
She doesn't wake up with her body tangled with his the way she would in some romantic story, but she does wake up to the sight of his face, his chest rising and falling slowly. Their hands are intertwined in the few inches of space between them, freckled fingers holding tight to her own pale ones. He doesn't have as many scars as he did back in Sanctum, back in what still feels like the real world to her, but that small white line above his lip is still there. His hands are calloused, but not as much as they were before.
It seems like an eternity passes before she can muster the willpower to let go of his hand, getting off the bed and walking into the closet. She gets ready for the day, stealing one last glance at Bellamy sleeping so peacefully before leaving the house.
The walk to the beach is neither short nor long. She kicks off her flip flops just before she reaches the wet sand.
(i love you)
(i hate you)
Clarke never had the opportunity to really see and enjoy the ocean on Earth. And here, she lives in a house within walking distance of it.
She hates herself for it but—it is easy to develop a true desire to stay here. Here, where the air smells like salt and wind and palm trees, here, where her blood is red and stained all over various places.
It's better that way.
Where Bellamy will go home and be reunited with Echo, live in peace for a few months—then they will come back, still be together, and achieve that happily ever after that Clarke had wanted to have. And she will watch them build a life together, and she will genuinely be happy for both of them despite loving Bellamy. A small sorrow, but perhaps it would be worth it if she could escape the misery that had been her life.
And Madi... it breaks Clarke's heart a little to think of her child being alone for even a day longer. But she'll have Gaia. And she'll come to Clarke after some time.
Clarke wishes she felt more, felt more of a need to go back to her, but now—now she's gotten a taste of being selfish, and she can't let it go.
It's worth it, she thinks again. Worth it if no one will hurt me anymore.
She stands on the beach for a long time, waves crashing into her ankles, looking as though they might pull her out to sea—but Clarke digs her toes into the wet sand, firmly rooted to the ground as the smallest smile begins to bloom on her face.
"You aren't going back, are you?"
His voice does not startle her. Clarke is the wind and sea and the sand and the woman standing upon it, and she's not jumpy or anxious or worried, not at the immediate moment. She turns to face him, her greatest love and her greatest tragedy, his windswept curls fluttering in the breeze.
"No," she says. "I'm not."
(the truth will set you free.)
She's startled to see tears in his eyes, on his cheeks. "No," he chokes out. "No, Clarke. Please."
"I'm happy here," she breathes. "At least, I can be."
"Well, I can't be happy there," he implores. "No, Clarke. I can't be happy without you."
She doesn't know what she was expecting, but it was not that. "Bellamy—"
"It may have been months in there," he breathes. "But I have waited for a hundred years and more. And I—I—please. I can't go back without you, I can't go even two more months without you."
"You were lying dead on a table in front of me!" he exclaims. "And my whole world stopped, Clarke. If I hadn't thought of trying to bring you back, I would've killed myself right there, Clarke. Because I—"
"Don't say it, Bellamy, please—"
"I love Echo," he says. "She's family. But you—you are so much more than that. You are everything to me. You are my entire universe, Clarke."
"I should've said it earlier," he continues, almost feverishly. "But I didn't. But I know it for real now. And I can't do it without you. I cannot live without you. I could live a thousand lifetimes before this one and I still wouldn't have the strength to go on any longer without you."
Clarke chokes down a sob. "Bellamy," she breathes again. An affirmation.
He grabs her by the waist and kisses her, hard and sweet, unhurried yet desperate. And when they run out of breath, he pulls away for less than a second before kissing her, again, and again. "I love you," he says, kissing her forehead, his tears landing on her nose. "I love you." Two kisses on one cheek. "Clarke. I love you so much." Two kisses on another, a kiss on the bridge of her nose. "Please," he says, kissing her soundly on the lips again. "Please, come home."
They pull apart, but Clarke doesn't let him go too far, still keeping one hand in his hair so she can put his forehead against her own. Bellamy. Intoxicatingly beautiful, pure, peaceful. Her universe, as she is his.
"Come home," he breathes, taking her other hand and pressing it to his own heart, tears hanging off of his impossibly long lashes. "Come home and be with me. And then we'll come back here together. And you'll still be with me. And I will be with you. I'm yours, Clarke. Just come home."
"I can't," she says, tears on her own face. "I can never go back there, Bellamy."
"Nothing will happen to you," he promises. "It's all over, Clarke."
"What if it's not?" she asks, putting her other hand over his heart. "All those lives in the hands of a few—if you and I go back in there, they can do whatever they want. They won't have any promises to keep to anyone in this world."
Bellamy leans away from her, not letting go, but going far enough for Clarke to crave his warmth again. His eyes scan the sheet of blue, the waves crashing into the shore. "You're breaking my heart, Clarke," he says with a weak, humorless laugh.
"Bellamy," she murmurs. "What will you say to Echo?"
He turns his head to look at her, so much love still in his eyes that it makes Clarke's world spin. "I have a feeling she's known for some time."
"I won't go," she says after a minute. "I need you to understand, Bellamy. I won't go back there."
He stares at her for a long time. Finally, he takes her hands within his own and presses kisses to them, before looking into her eyes again. "A hundred and thirty-one years and seventeen days," he murmurs, bending his head to kiss her again. "What's two more months compared to that?"
Clarke begins to cry in earnest now, the plea for him to stay with her for that time on the tip of her tongue. But one of them, if not both, have to return, to pick up the pieces of society, to help them come here. He hugs her tight, gently wiping her tears away. "I'm coming back to you," he promises.
"I love you," she whispers against his lips, kissing one more time. She is not afraid to say it. "I love you, Bellamy."
(we're meant to be.)
"Two months," he says quietly, turning slightly so he can gaze upon the ocean one more time. Clarke does the same. "I love you," he murmurs into her hair. "Forever."
She is still looking at the ocean when he walks away.