It had been a week since the last war; it had been a week since Indra and the others had decided to leave transcendence and join Clarke on Earth.
None of them were sure how the Earth was suddenly full of life, as when they departed over 100 years ago, Monty had informed them it was no longer viable to support human life. But as they chose mortality over immortality, they decided to not dwindle on it and focus on the present.
Since the events that had went down on Bardo, the crew had made camp by the lake. Each respective couple had their own tent while those that were single made their own. Indra had made hers more in the forest than on the beach, most comfortable when she was surrounded by the green. It wasn’t big, but it was enough to call home, and when her daughter’s tent was only yards away, she couldn’t complain.
Still, Indra felt alone. Not completely, but there were times where she would find herself on the outside of the group, watching their interactions rather than being engaged. Sure, she had Octavia and Gaia who she was more than comfortable with, but Octavia had Hope, Echo, and Levitt now. Gaia had recently gotten close with Clarke over Madi. While they had others to fall back on, Indra had no one else to turn to.
The one person she used to turn to was no longer alive.
With the craziness of Bardo finally behind them, and what seemed like lasting peace, Indra had more time to think. And a lot of the time, her mind wandered to the man she sent out of an airlock.
The image of him in the airlock, the feel of the lever beneath her fingers, and the cries from Abby—that scene replayed in her head every night before she fell asleep. When she’s awake, she finds herself imagining him on Earth with them. She sees him collecting firewood with Miller, she sees him learning Trig from Gaia while she teaches Hope, she sees him chatting with Clarke about Abby when recounting memories with Jackson, and much more. Every time she finds herself hallucinating him within the camp, a pang of guilt draws her back to reality.
Marcus was dead; Marcus wasn’t here. And while it had been his decision, she ultimately had pulled that lever. She often wondered if she had taken the test, was there any chance of him showing up?
Ever since his death, Indra never had the time to truly process it. That was, until now. Between landing on Sanctum and dealing with the primes, dealing with Sheidheda, and finally activating the last war, Indra never had the proper chance to grieve the loss of her best friend. With all the wars over with and no conflict possible in the future, the reality of the situation came rushing back.
The reality that even though they were together in the bunker for six years, they didn’t spend quality time together. The reality that once they escaped the bunker, they were immediately separated, only to be reunited with him on a stretcher, fighting for his life. The reality that she was in cyro when he finally woke up and almost died. The reality that when she saw him, he was in another man’s body. The reality that while 130 plus years had passed, they barely had a few minutes together.
It haunted her. It haunted her that someone she regarded as her best friend had been taken from her for over 130 years, and when they finally got reunited, he was permanently ripped away from her. Even more so when it was by her own hand. And when Indra saw Marcus at camp kneeling besides Raven, watching as she constructed cooking equipment, that’s when Indra decided she needed to confront her feelings.
Explaining to the group she was going to go scavenging into deeper parts of the forest back by their old bases, she grabbed her sword and disappeared into the green. While it felt like home, there was an empty feeling that never seemed to sprout any sort of completeness. Where Indra was going, she would hope to find something to plant in that empty patch and slowly learn to grow it and heal herself.
She wasn’t sure if it even survived the Hell fire that McCreary created ages ago, but since the Earth had miraculously come back, she had hope it was still alive.
After hours of trekking through the forest and bypassing old buildings she recognized, Indra finally found herself at her marked destination. The landmarks surrounding the target had changed significantly, but thankfully, the ground was still leveled and shaped the same as it was before the third nuclear meltdown. What was more surprising was the fact that the Eden tree was still alive and had flourished plenty since she had last seen it.
The last time Indra had been here was before the second nuclear wave, right after everything that happened with ALIE. Indra had been looking for Marcus, needing an update on the possible night-blood solution Abby was working on, when she found the Ark up in flames. After the fire ran through the whole structure, Indra watched as Marcus left the burnt scene, defeat visible in his shoulders. Following behind him, she saw him approach a small tree on the ground, in which he sat next to.
Staying in the trees, Indra listened as Marcus talked to the tree, but really, he was talking to his mother. He seemed lost; he seemed defeated. Near the end of his conversation with the tree, however, Marcus sounded hopeful. He expressed his belief in Abby to perfect the night-blood solution. When he said his goodbye to his mother, Indra revealed herself.
He was caught off guard and looked a little embarrassed. Indra was quick to dismiss the feeling, stating she would visit her old house to sit by the giant tree where her and her mother would sit for hours, chatting about her father’s war stories. Before Skaikru arrived, she would go there when she felt she needed extra strength or just to revive her courage. She told him it helped her draw strength from not only her mother, but her father as well.
Appreciation washed over Marcus’ features. He didn’t have to tell her explicitly, Indra could tell he was thankful someone understood his need to come out here. As she walked up to him, she asked what the tree meant to him and his mother. Marcus’ soft smile remained for a few moments as he watched the tree in silence. When he looked at her, the look in his eyes was one Indra would never forget.
As he spoke about the history of the Eden tree and his mother, Indra further understood why he came here for guidance. The look in his eyes matched his words and tone; this vulnerability was a side she had never seen from him. It reminded her of the times before Sheidheda attacked Trikru; it reminded her of peace. It gave her a vision of what they could hopefully have one day.
But as Indra set her sword down beside the tree and kneeled in front of it, that peace was not what she felt. She felt guilt. She felt like a traitor. She felt regret. She felt undeserving as she knelt in front of the Eden tree, knowing its history and the meaning it held to the man she was here to honor.
Indra didn’t know where to start. Recount memories? A moment of silence? Apologize? From never having the time to process it, to suddenly having all the time in the world left her paralyzed. She always told herself that a warrior couldn’t mourn the dead until the war was over. For all her life, the war was never ending, so she never got the chance to properly mourn. How the hell was she supposed to know how to proceed?
A slight wind blew by, passing through her hair and sending shivers down her arms. Her eyes scanned the area around her before settling back on the Eden tree. Taking that as a sign he was here and listening, she reached out and stroked one of the tree’s leaves. It felt healthy under her finger tips, not brittle, and it didn’t crumble to her touch. Was that a sign he was okay?
She let it go, watching as it fell back in place. Reaching forward, she let her fingers glide through the leaves, soaking in how soft the leaves felt. Had it survived the third nuclear wave or had it grown back in the time they were gone? For how healthy it felt and looked, along with its size, Indra had to guess it had been around for at least a couple years. Was it waiting for him to come back all this time? Was he here with it?
Indra took the time to scan around once again, looking for any sign he might be here. In the back of her mind, she remembered what Jackson had told the group. Since Murphy and Emori were consciously still alive in the mind drive, they were able to transcend. Not knowing how long one can survive in a mind drive, as Clarke was the longest to do so, Indra had hope Marcus held on long enough for transcendence. Her only doubt was that she never met him there. To keep a hopeful outlook, she figured he had found peace in the mind space and wanted to rest. And if Abby had fought with Simone in hers as well, then maybe she was there with him, and he was happy.
It also helped ease the guilt she felt over pulling the lever. At that moment, the leaves felt like the cold metal of the lever instead of the soft look he had in his eyes. She closed her eyes, trying to shut the memory out; however, in her mind, all she could see was him standing in the airlock, giving her the nod to go ahead.
In peace, may you leave this shore…
Her own voice echoed in her head. It was eerie, just like every time it replayed in her head at night.
In love, may you find the next…
The leaves got heavier in her hand as she felt her hand wrap around the lever. The weight of the metal plus the weight of the decision she was about to make was accumulating into an unbearable load.
Safe passage on your travels, until our final journey to the ground…
A bird in the background cried out, blending into Abby’s cries as her hand tightened on the lever. She felt tears spring to her eyes the same moment they did in her memory.
May we meet again.
As the wind whistled in her ears, it mimicked the sound of the airlock opening and sucking Marcus into space. Her hand gripped the leaves tight as the lever came down, solidifying his fate. She kept her eyes shut, not able to open them and face reality just like how she hadn’t been able to look out the airlock after having pulled the lever.
“Yu gonplei ste odon.”
Saying it out loud at the same time her memory did crushed her heart. It made it real. And this time, she couldn’t escape into war to avoid it.
Taking a deep breath, she eased her grip on the leaves and let them go. She had to remind herself she didn’t want to avoid it; she came to confront his death and honor him. For the sacrifice he made, he deserved to have that and his life honored.
Opening her eyes, she surveyed the tree for any damage from her grip. Much to her dismay, she saw the leaves she had grabbed were now crumbled. They were still hanging on, but they stuck out like a sore thumb in the smooth leaves. Indra connected it to the empty patch in her that always had that loneliness lingering. When she reached out to smooth them out, hoping to replicate that feeling inside her, she jumped back when a different hand reached out and began smoothing them out.
Following the hand to its owner, Indra froze when she found Marcus kneeling on the other side of the Eden tree. He was transparent, just like how he looked when she would hallucinate him next to the others at the camp, but he had never appeared beside her. She didn’t say anything as she watched him smooth the leaves out, afraid if she did, he would dissipate into the air.
As he continued to smooth the leaves out, Indra thought back to Jackson’s words. If he was truly in transcendence, was this his way of telling her? Telling her that he was okay? That he was happy? That he didn’t hold anything against her for pulling the lever?
When one of the leaves was fully smoothed out again, that soft smile formed on his lips. Indra continued to watch as he moved onto the next leaf. Somewhere inside her, she felt a little bit of that empty patch sprout growth. Her hand came to rest over her heart as she felt…solace? Was that what it was?
As he finished smoothing another leaf out, he turned to look at her. She froze again, not knowing how to respond. His soft smile was still there as he watched her. He grabbed another leaf and nodded to another crumbled one. Her eyes drifted to it and then back to him. His smile grew slightly as he looked back to the leaf and began smoothing it out.
Heart pounding, she reached out with the hand that was over her heart and grabbed the crumble leaf he had looked at. His eyes flickered to her for a short second before returning to the leaf he was working on. She reached forward with her other hand and began to smooth it. Each wrinkle she rubbed out, she felt the patch grow more and the more content she felt. Who knew rubbing wrinkles out of leaves would be therapeutic?
Once Indra finished her leaf, Marcus did as well. He reached for another while she hesitated to take another. He flickered his eyes to hers and nodded, smiling a bit more. Her hands moved without conscious thought as they grabbed another leaf and automatically began working the wrinkles out of it. She wasn’t sure why she was hesitant to continue working with him to un-wrinkle the leaves. Was it because she was afraid he would fade out of existence once all the leaves were smoothed out? That he may never come back?
She already knew he wasn’t coming back, in transcendence or not. While him appearing beside everyone at the camp freaked her out, it was nice to see him in what would have been his life had he survived. She also knew him appearing meant she hadn’t accepted his fate and a part of her was hesitant to let him move on. How could she? She had lost her best friend.
When those words crossed her mind, Marcus looked up to her, his smile widening in response. She locked eyes with him this time, and they both stopped smoothing the leaves out. He didn’t move nor did he say anything. He didn’t give her any indication that he was in transcendence and happily resting with Abby.
After what felt like forever, he finally broke eye contact and went back to smoothing out his leaf. Confused, Indra went back to working on hers as well. That healing feeling came back the moment her fingers smoothed out the first wrinkle and Indra bathed in it. As Marcus finished his leaf, she felt a huge wave of relief wash over her. Finishing up her leaf, Indra noticed there were only two leaves left to be smoothed out.
Looking to Marcus, he lifted a leaf up and offered it to her. Watching the leaf and then looking to him, the realization began to dawn on her. As she reached out and took the leaf from him, she felt the guilt she had start to fade. As she brought it to her other hand, the lever from her memories transformed into a feather. And when she began to knead the wrinkles out, the feather was blown away, and it disappeared.
It struck her like a bullet. He didn’t hold anything from that moment in the airlock against her. He never wanted her to feel guilty for having to be the one to pull it. He wanted her to know he’s at peace with his decision and that it was ultimately his choice. He didn’t want it to haunt her anymore.
Again, as if reading her mind, Marcus’ eyes flickered to hers for a short moment. She watched him, stopping her movements for a moment. Marcus had told Indra once that he had learned from Abby that they needed to learn they survived only if they deserved to. From Marcus’ sacrifice to keep the Primes from taking more innocent lives to Abby’s sacrifice to make nightblood to keep the others from burning and taking it herself to save Madi, Indra decided they deserved to survive. And if they were meant to survive, that meant they were in transcendence.
On cue, Marcus finished smoothing out his last leaf. Letting it go, he looked back up to Indra, the soft smile coming back. Indra felt a wave of solace engulf her and she felt at ease for the first time since the last war. He was happy; he was at peace.
And that was all Indra needed for the relief to wash over her. Her shoulders sagged as she let out a sigh. The weight she had been carrying, both unconsciously while on Bardo and consciously since returning from transcendence, was suddenly gone. That patch had sprouted and filled the empty space she had. While it wasn’t fully grown yet, it was a start. Looking down to her leaf, Indra knew what she needed to do be full again.
Before smoothing the leaf out though, she looked to Marcus one last time. He had that same look in his eyes all those years ago when she first found him at the Eden tree. That hope he had for Abby was now hope he had for her—for her to find the strength to move on and find her happiness and peace in what she had now. While Marcus could start that journey with her, she had to take the next steps herself and finish it on her own accord.
When she would take the next step in her grieving process, she wouldn’t be erasing him from existence. She would be transforming the bad memory and somber feelings that tainted every thought she had of him. Soon, she would remember the days in the Polis market more than pulling the lever the airlock. She would remember him fighting for Trikru to be let in the bunker from the outside when his own life was on the line. She would remember the leader who wanted peace over bloodshed. She would remember her best friend.
While regaining a positive mindset of her memories with him, she could fulfill that hope he had for her. She can find her happiness; she too can be at peace. If that was his wish for her, she would fulfill it. She would do that for him, and more importantly, she would do it for herself.
Again, like his conscious was in sync with hers, Marcus reached over and grabbed onto the leaf she was holding. She looked to his hand and then to him. His eyes matched his smile, just like back then, and that’s when Indra knew she was right.
Smiling back to him, her heart squeezed a bit in pain as she moved her fingers to smooth the leaf out. Each wrinkle she got out, the lighter Marcus became. She reminded herself as he continued to fade, she wasn’t letting him go. She was letting herself move on while letting him be at peace.
As it came down to her last wrinkle and her fingers began to smooth it out, his hand disappeared from the leaf. She kept her eyes locked on his, holding onto that hopeful look, knowing it’d be the last time she ever saw it. When she felt the leaf return to its smooth state, she watched as he faded from existence, but not before his lip twitched up slightly.
Staring into the now empty space Marcus had occupied, Indra had the urge to crumble the leaf again, wondering if it would bring him back. But she didn’t do it. If it did bring him, she would be disturbing his peace and not respecting his wishes.
And she would do that. It would take time, but she would do it. Hell, she had all the time in the world to now. Knowing he was at peace offered her the solace she had been seeking, the solace she needed to move on and find her own peace.
Looking down to the Eden tree again, she noticed all the leaves she had crumbled looked like they had never been touched. Letting the last leaf she had worked the wrinkles out of rest on her fingertip, she knew she could finally take those steps to finding her happiness. The empty patch she had felt was getting full—it was still growing, but it was full enough for what she needed in that moment.
She would find her happiness and peace—for herself, for him, and in honor of him. Because if he hadn’t shown her that it was possible after everything they’ve been through, that hope was everything, then she would’ve never thought it possible to find.
Letting the leaf fall from her fingertips, Indra stood back up while grabbing her sword. She looked up the sky, a familiar soft, small smile gracing her face. Making a promise, she whispered, “Gon Ai Breida."