The ground always called to her. The sight of green and blue, so far away and yet so beautiful. Clarke never believed she’d see it, not after she’d been detained and tossed into jail. Yet now, as her feet hit soil and her lungs soaked in the cool relief of fresh air, she knew she’d believe in anything.
As soon as she made it out the door, Clarke grabbed a map and ran off to avoid the insanity of the others. The cheering was bad enough to hear sensitive ears but the sudden burst of pheromones, the alphas all trying to battle for top dog from the moment they stepped foot outside. A frustrated growl built in her throat, her body trembling from the effort of keeping her head up and not bowed in submission. She could see the others trying to fight it too, the betas just giving in while the other omegas were a mix of immediate submission and stubborn fight.
Gritting her teeth, Clarke settled on a rock just outside of the drop ship party zone. They weren’t in the right area, they’d landed too hard, and yet no one else seemed to care. Looking at the area around them, she moved towards an overlook nearby when she heard low battle growls coming from the group.
The alphas would fight, a leader would be set, and every omega under them would suffer. As it always went. Well Clarke wasn’t going to become just another Ark omega, not on the ground.
“Clarke!” Her head jerked up, watching as Octavia ran towards her. Not exactly the person she’d expected but, then again, she was an omega too.
“Hey. Trying to escape the idiocy already happening?”
“Yea.” She groaned, sitting on a rock near where the map was laid out. “My brother is winning so far but some of the weaker ones are getting angry, starting actual fights instead of just pheromone bullying. It’s going to be a mess tonight.”
“Probably.” Clarke, frowned, glancing up for a moment. “I’m not planning to let a group of idiot alphas rule my life now that we’re off the Ark. I didn’t deal with it up there so why would I do it down here.”
“So what are you doing?”
“See that mountain there?” She pointed across the way, waiting for Octavia to give a nod. “That is Mount Weather. It’s where we were supposed to land. They dropped us on the wrong damn mountain.”
There was a quiet moment, where Octavia looked between the mountain and the map. Clarke sighed, rolling it up when the other omega gave a deep groan as she realized what Clarke already knew.
“We’re going to have to go find the supplies, aren’t we?”
“Yep. If we want to survive, we have to get over there. Or at the very least, see what we can find along the way. If there’s one big shelter created there, there have to be more.”
“Right. So how are we going to convince a bunch of knot headed alphas to follow your idea?”
“They can follow or not, that’s up to them. If we can explain to some of the others, maybe some of the betas instead, then we’ll have enough hands to carry supplies back to the drop ship.”
Octavia considered it before nodding, looking up at the ship as she considered.
“I don’t know anyone up there, other than Bellamy, so you’ll have to pick who we should bring.”
Clarke was a little wary of Octavia, a little iffy about bringing the excitable omega, but she knew she needed allies. Strong omegas would be helpful against the alphas she knew would try to enforce their own versions of Ark law on the ground.
“Will your brother listen?”
“I thought he might but he’s being weird.” Octavia frowned, her scent spiking with anger. “He was the first one to start flexing his power, the others just followed his lead. I’ve never seen him act like this.”
“Okay, divide and conquer. I’ll run up along the edges of everything and see if any betas want to go for a walk. You try to talk to your brother and if he won’t listen, grab an omega or two that are still fighting against their bullshit.”
Octavia took off before she could say anything else, running into the fray and disappearing quickly. Clarke sighed, dusting the map and folding it as she followed her up.
“Hey princess, coming back to see who’s winning?” With a deep sigh, Clarke turned to face the alpha in question.
“Finn right?” He nodded, puffing up for a moment until he realized she wasn’t reacting at all. “Why aren’t you in there fighting with the rest of the idiots?”
“I didn’t feel like it. We’re on the ground now, why do we have to act like it’s the Ark.”
Clarke watched him carefully. He seemed nice, charismatic and for all accounts she’d say he was telling the truth. Except that his words smelled perilously like a lie and it was then that she realized he was holding his power in. Most likely, he fought and lost. Still, an ally is an ally so she bit her tongue.
“Oh. Alright. Do you want to go for a walk?” The shift in subject seemed to throw him and he perked up for a second, a little smirk touching his face. “The ship dropped on the wrong site, we have to go get supplies from the right one if we want to be okay. No one’s going to listen to an omega right now so I’m going with whoever agrees to help. So, do you want to go?”
Sharp eyes caught the way his shoulders tightened, the slight flash of red in his eyes before he relaxed again. He was frustrated, angry, and doing his damnedest to hide it. She was starting to regret offering this to him when he smiled, shrugging one shoulder like it made him look more innocent.
“Sure, I’ll help. Who else do we need?”
“Octavia went to try to convince her brother. Otherwise, we need a few people to carry things back. Do you know any betas?”
Finn blinked, seeming surprised that she didn’t ask for alphas, before he ran around the group a bit. He returned with a beta and an omega, both boys looking a little relieved to be leaving the hot mess happening behind them.
“This is Jasper.” The beta grinned at her, adjusting the goggles on his head while Finn turned to the omega. “And that’s Monty. They’ll help.”
“Hey!” Octavia came running back down, looking beyond frustrated. Clarke could see Bellamy behind her, looking like he wanted to follow before another alpha started to puff up in front of him. “He’s not coming. This little bid for power is more important apparently.”
“Alright,” Clarke looked at each of them. Three omegas, one beta and one alpha. Definitely a messy crew but she could work with it. “This should work. Five of us should be enough to drag supplies back.”
“You sure this is enough?” Finn looked a little unsure and Clarke knew he was uncomfortable. Following an omega wasn’t exactly the norm.
“Not really but with the amount of alphas on this drop ship, I doubt we’ll find many others to agree.” From her best guess, half of the entire drop ship were alphas. The other half were a mix of beta and omega. In that group, she could see most of them already bending under the power battle while the rest squirreled themselves back onto the ship. “They’re afraid of the ground and of the alphas that are fighting right now. This many alphas? That bullshit will last well into the night. Then I’m sure some of them will try to force claims on the only omegas they know are here with them.”
She spoke plainly, ignoring the anxiety wafting off of Monty as Jasper tried to comfort him and the anger spiking from Octavia. Finn was a mystery, looking like he wanted to be upset but he was holding his scent down.
“So let's go.” Octavia moved forward, stepping up next to Clarke. “We’ll bring back what we can and if they want more, then they’re welcome to get their own damn supplies.”
Clarke bit back a grin, pointing out the direction they needed to go. It was a long walk but it’d be worth it.
At least she believed that for the first two hours. It was then that Finn was starting to drive her insane. Monty and Jasper never seemed to stop talking but it was kind of a comfort, knowing that the beta was trying to keep the mood light. Octavia would run off and then dart back with some kind of flower or insect in her hands. It spiked Clarke’s heart rate every single time she took off but she didn’t ever want to restrict Octavia again. Not when she knew exactly where she came from.
She could handle them, she could deal with their talk and the running around. It was Finn’s constant mood swings that drove her insane. Every time Octavia did something, there would be a flash of his pheromones in the air. When Monty would stumble or Jasper said something a little too loud, a whisper of a growl would slip from his throat.
Most of all, when Clarke would correct their route or try to rally them into focus, whenever she made a move to lead, he would lose that hold on his power. It would flash, quick as a snake before he got it back but it was enough. She felt it slide across her skin, and would see the flash in his eyes.
It was keeping her on edge.
His power level let her know she’d been right, that he’d lost the alpha fight and was trying to seem like he wasn’t like the rest. Why he was doing that, she wasn’t certain, but it was making her teeth itch.
“Clarke!” Octavia bounded up to her, looking more like a wolf in it’s home than a human who just met the earth that day. “There’s a river!”
“What?” Pulling the map forward, she frowned when she didn’t spot any water landmarks in that direction. “There shouldn’t be.”
“Well there is.” With a huff, Octavia grabbed Clarke’s hand and dragged her forward. “We should take a break, grab some water.”
“Octavia, we can’t waste time.”
“C’mon, princess. A few minutes to catch our breath won’t ruin anything.” Finn sounded way too confident, like he’s suddenly found an in for something. With a grunt, Clarke followed along, watching Jasper and Monty run forward to the water's edge.
She settled down to check the map while the others splashed one another, shaking her head when she heard one of them hit the water fully. Looking up, she caught Octavia running back up the bank, soaking wet, while Jasper took off away from her.
“Guys don’t go too far, please. I don’t want to waste too much time.” Monty gave her a little smile before he ran off too, kicking up water with each step. She trusted them to be alert, two omegas pretty much confirmed that, but they didn’t have her senses.
Ever since she was a baby, her dad had trained her to be aware of all of her senses. Omegas and alphas had better senses than betas to begin with but Clarke’s were specifically honed. Her parents could only shield her from so much on the Ark, could only keep so much alpha behavior away from her, so her father made sure she could sense every single action they would take. Everyone had good senses, possibly a little dulled from life in space over the years, but Clarke’s were worked to be better.
It’s why she could hear the little pebbles shifting under Finn’s feet, how she could smell the sweat pouring from his face even with his pheromones concealed as they were.
It made her hackles rise.
“What do you want, Finn?” She heard the jolt before she felt the power spike. His surprise spiked with anger before it flattened out to curiosity. To her, it all stunk of the same lies he’d been spitting since they met.
“Relax, princess. A minute by the water isn’t going to ruin your time frame.”
“Yes, well, sorry if I don’t trust your expertise.”
There was a moment where Clarke tensed, where she closed her eyes and wished she could make her teeth sharper like the others could.
It passed quickly when Finn just huffed and sat down. Clarke relaxed, minutely, and plotted the rest of their path. In the minutes that went by, Clarke had to bite down more growls than she’d ever uttered in her life. Finn kept flexing his power at random, kept letting little flashes of pheromone sneak into the air around them. At one point she glanced back and caught sight of red eyes and fangs. He didn’t notice her looking and she rolled her eyes at the frustration in the set of his jaw.
Whatever he wanted to get out of her, he wasn’t about to get it.
“Clarke! Look!” Jasper’s voice bounced off the rocks as he rushed back, Octavia and Monty on his heels. A broken piece of a sign was clutched to his chest. He dropped next to her on the ground when he got close enough, slapping the metal to the rock.
“Mount Weather.” Her voice was a whisper as she traced the letters. “Where did you find this?”
“There’s a broken bridge down a little ways, it was in the debris. It pointed across the river, the direction you said to go.” Octavia leaned over, following the path Clarke had drawn with her finger. “I think we’re right on track.”
Clarke didn’t hear a word she said.
Her senses were focused, honed in on the sign. It was faint, barely there, but it was clinging to the metal. It smelled of an alpha and not an alpha she knew. Glancing up, she let her eyes trace the other side of the river, following the lines of every tree in the vicinity.
“Clarke?” Snapping her head up, she met Octavia’s worried gaze. “Are you okay?”
“Show me where you found this.” As she stood, Clarke pocketed the map and brushed the rocks from her knees. “I need to check something.”
“Uh okay.” The look on Octavia’s face was wary, cautious, but she walked off toward where Jasper and Monty were waiting.
She ran, forcing them to keep pace until they all spotted the bridge. As soon as they got close, Clarke could smell it. Markers, places alphas had scented to be sure that only their packs could reside there. Multiple scents littered the trees, faded and weak but still there. It had been at least a week since they’d done it but even so, they weren’t supposed to be there.
No one was supposed to be on the ground.
“Fuck.” Clarke’s breath stuttered in her chest, her eyes frantically searching the opposite banks.
“What? Clarke, what is it?” This time Finn stepped closer, looking across as well to try to spot what she was looking for.
“We’re not alone. I can smell alphas, multiple, across the river. It’s faint, maybe a week old or so, but they’re there. I thought we’d only need to worry about animals on this trek, but it seems there's people on the ground after all.” She grit her teeth, trying to ignore the way her skin felt uncomfortable with Finn so close. Having this alpha so near when unknown alphas were hidden in the trees was doing nothing for her nerves.
“How? I thought everyone was dead! How can you even smell that anyway?” Clarke looked back at Jasper and gave a little shrug.
“As long as I’ve been alive, I’ve been honing my senses. My dad taught me, to keep me safe. If Octavia and Monty focus hard enough, they could probably catch the scent too.”
They all knew omegas had the best sense of smell but the idea seemed to startle the other two, like they've never even considered a heightened smell could be useful.
It was Octavia who tried first, closing her eyes and sifting through everything around them. When she started to look frustrated, Clarke handed her the sign instead. She got the hint and soon enough, her eyes flew back open.
“She’s right. I can find the scent on the sign.”
“So now what?”
“We need supplies but I’m not risking lives like this. If they’re peaceful, we can come back after we learn more. For now, though, we need to avoid crossing the river.” Clarke looked back to the trees, scanning once more. “Let’s go back, we can do a wider search around to see if we can find any other bunkers or wild nuts and berries we know aren’t poisonous.”
They all agreed, though Finn looked ready to argue before he stopped himself.
“What do we tell the others?”
“We keep it secret. For now, while they’re all acting like top alphas, it’s going to be a bloodbath if they run off to fight. We tell them after, in a day or two when everyone settles a little bit. I don’t want to risk anyone.”
“Even the alphas?” Octavia smirked and Clarke rolled her eyes a little.
“Even the alphas. Though, I’m mostly considering the omegas and betas. If the strongest alphas run off to try to be top dog with who knows what out here, then the lower ranked ones will try to force mate bonds before they can get back.” She turned her gaze to the other omegas, giving a pained smile. “When I said a bloodbath, I meant for us.”
With that thought looming over their heads, the group marched back into the trees. Clarke felt a stab of regret, the want to cross the river and take her chances threatening to take over.
Anything but to go back to the dropship while the fighting was happening. Anything to avoid the inevitable claim hungry alphas that would swarm all the omegas in camp.
Still, she wouldn’t risk Octavia and Monty, wouldn’t leave Jasper to face the consequences of losing an omega. Finn would have been fine and that realization bugged her the most.
“Clarke? It’s getting dark, should we try to make camp or keep going?” Monty spoke up, obviously just as hesitant as her to return to the drop ship.
“Lets see if we can find a cave or a door to something nearby. If not, then we should go back. We don’t have much with us and I doubt it’ll be too safe at night.”
Another hour and Clarke was ready to give, the light was almost entirely gone and she almost gave the word to go back when Octavia ran up to her.
“I found something!” She looked absolutely pleased with herself, dragging Clarke along until they hit the mouth of a cave. “There’s a scent here but it’s faded, old. Some supplies are inside so I think it’s used as a camp. It should be safe enough, though, since it seems no ones been here in a while.”
Clarke stuck her head in, sniffing around before she leaned out with a nod, “Even if they do some back, this is a beta scent. Hopefully betas aren’t like our alphas down here.” They both gave little nervous laughs before Clarke gently headbutted Octavia with a low purr. “You did good, Octavia. Thank you.”
The omega puffed up, grinning as she took off to grab the others.
Carefully moving in, Clarke glanced around the cave. It looked like nothing special on the outside but once you rounded a corner, it opened into a larger space. Furs were piled in one corner, set up to be used as beds, while other supplies littered the floor. She spotted a little hole in the rock that bubbled with water,
“Anything useful?” Jasper poked his head in after her, grinning when he spotted the furs.
“It’s a good place to rest for the night at least. Plus there’s fresh water. We can try to salvage the supplies here if they’ve been here long enough but I don’t want to steal if we don’t have to.”
“Probably a good idea. I’m fine with sleeping here but I don’t want to piss off any locals.” Octavia’s voice bounced off of the walls as she sat down on one of the furs. “We can scavenge more berries in the morning. Maybe even try to hunt something.”
“You just want to prove that omegas can be useful down here.” Monty’s voice was teasing but his eyes were serious.
They all knew it’s exactly what needed to be done.
As they settled in, Clarke rolled her eyes when Finn settled near the back. He was the alpha in the group, the supposed big bad protector, and he made sure he was in the most defended position. Clarke arranged the others into a circle, a tight nit central area to be sure they had their backs covered. Then she settled just by the bend near the entrance.
If the alpha wouldn’t defend them, then she sure as hell would.
It was still dark out when Clarke startled awake, her breath catching in her throat when she heard the scratching outside. Carefully, she reached out to grab a rock and then slipped around the bend as quietly as she could. Some areas of the trees were glowing, crawling moths and mushrooms littering the area, just enough for her to be able to see.
Keeping low, she tried to scent the area. Her heart was lodged in her throat, her body barely able to keep her pheromones from fluctuating. She closed her eyes, breathing deep and then getting even lower when she smelled the same beta that had been in the cave. Eyes wide, she scanned the open field around the mouth of the cave.
“Hello?” Clarke cursed the little waver in her voice, the spike of anxiety she could smell pouring from her in waves. She tried to control it, to calm her heart rate. “We’re not here to cause problems, we just needed a place to sleep. I promise we won’t take anything.”
She felt foolish, speaking into the trees, but then an arrow landed a few feet in front of her. It wasn’t fast, very obviously thrown so it wouldn’t be seen as a threat, and a small bag was tied to it. Hesitantly, Clarke reached out to grab it, scurrying back to the cave as soon as her fingers wrapped around the wood.
Inside the bag was a small bundle of dried meat, flint to start a fire, and a note. Curious, Clarke pulled out the dirtied paper and bit her lip, hoping it was in english.
We will not harm you if you stay in peace. I will help you, omega, but not the alphas on the hill. We can smell their arrogance for miles.
Clarke frowned a little, playing with the paper. It sounded like something good, even if they didn’t want to include the alphas. Really, Clarke was fine with that if all they wanted to do was fight on the ground. Moving forward once again, she stepped a little further into the dark.
“I’d love to accept help but there are other omegas and betas on the hill, too. I can’t abandon them for my own sake. If you can help us, maybe get our alphas to calm down enough to listen to reason, then maybe we can find a way to work together in peace. I left one place of horrors to get down here, I don’t want to face another.” Taking a deep breath, Clarke sat down on the ground. She played with the flint for a moment before she gathered a small circle of rocks, piling in a little pile of sticks to set alight. It was a small fire, barely enough to warm the area she sat in, but it was enough to release the tension in her shoulders.
This time, the answer was more direct.
A large man walked silently from the treeline, moving close enough to be lit by the fire. He sat down, making sure he kept his hands in view and his neck at a slight angle so Clarke wouldn’t see him as a threat. His scent washed over to her a moment later and she recognized it instantly.
“Is this your cave?” He nodded slowly, tossing over another bag. This one was larger and she saw it had more food held inside.
“Eat. We saw you had no food at the river.” The voice startled her, enough that she nearly dropped the bag. He seemed surprised, like he never expected to catch her off guard, and she noticed it turn to something like anger when she hesitated to take a bite.
On the Ark, omegas ate last and they got what was left. She knew she was underweight already, what must she look like now with dirt on her cheek.
“Will you have any?” There was a crease of anxiety in her voice and she knew she stunk of fear. She hated it, cursed it, but couldn’t stop it even as she tried.
“No. It is for you.” His voice softened, like he was speaking to an injured animal. “I will not harm you, I swear it.”
Taking a deep breath, Clarke took a piece and slowly began to eat. The taste spiked across her tongue, reminding her just how hungry she was, and she felt the fear begin to dissipate. She ate in silence for a few moments, making sure to save enough for the others, before she looked back to the beta.
“My name is Clarke. What’s yours?”
“Lincoln. I was patrolling the area when we saw you fall from the sky. The commander ordered me to see who landed here and so I watched.”
“So you saw all that alpha bravado bullshit?” He seemed confused for a moment and Clarke shrugged. “I mean, all the fighting on the hill.”
“Ah. Yes. They are very foolish. Even if they were to find out who to lead them, none are stronger than the commander.” Lincoln’s eyes studied her for a long moment, confusion tinting them. “Why do you not exert your own strength? I saw you on the water, the tension in you when that alpha played his games, and yet you did nothing.”
Now it was her turn to be confused.
“I’m an omega, I don’t have the power to fight.” Something flashed in his eyes, dangerous and yet she knew it wasn’t aimed at her. “What?”
“Whoever told you omegas have no power lied. Omegas are strong, like alphas, just in a different way.”
“I’ve never had any power.”
“Then you’ll find it. You’ll need it here, to survive in the wilds. Within a pack, an omega is a strong asset.”
Her mind spinning, Clarke rubbed a hand over her eyes. She wondered, just how she could have any power. How anything within her could just now show for eighteen years, when it hit her.
“The suppressants.” The words were whispered, only furthering the confusion on the betas face. “They made us take suppressants to keep us from going into heats and to be sure no pups happened if they weren’t supposed to. If I’m supposed to have power, if all omegas have power, then they must have been keeping those down as well with the pills.”
Clarke knew he wasn’t fully following, knew she was speaking too quickly and too frantically for him to catch on entirely. Her last suppressants were taken just before her last heat so they’d be wearing off soon, another week at most. A thrill of excitement spiked in her blood. If this were true, if omegas were more than the Ark led them to believe, then this could change everything.
“You said others are up there.” Lincoln breezed past her revelation, his eyes watching her carefully. “How many do you have?”
“From my best guess, about fifty are alphas and another fifty are a mix of beta and omega. More betas than omegas, though. From what I could scent on the ship and my time in lock up, then there will be about thirty betas and twenty omegas. Including the people I have in the cave.”
The beta nodded slowly, focusing his eyes on the fire. With a light sigh, he leaned forward.
“The commander has allowed me to make a deal but she is wary of the alphas. No one wants to deal with them if they will not follow our laws. However, if you stand as the leader of these hundred on the hill, then we may be able to make a deal.”
“Me? I would be named leader?”
“You were the only one to try to find food, to look for ways to protect and provide for your people. Whether you realize it or not, today you took up the mantle of leader.”
“They won’t like it. I want to make a deal, I want to agree to this, but I can’t control them. Even if I do have power as an omega, if it’s held down by what I think it is, then I won’t be able to do anything for a week. Even then, I have no way of knowing if they’ll listen to me.”
“So we include them in the deal but we make a different kind of offer.”
“What do you mean?”
“Omegas and betas will be pardoned for any fight they put up, for we know it will have been done in fear. If they choose to honor your choice, then they will be welcomed no matter what. The alphas, however, must prove themselves. They are welcomed as long as they obey our laws. If they try to fight us or go against you or the commander, then they will be punished. Exiled if need be.”
Clarke thought about it for a moment. It was probably the best offer they’d get and to receive it so quickly after hitting the ground was a blessing she didn’t want to overlook.
“Alright. I agree. I’m not sure exactly what I’m agreeing to, but if it’s better than the Ark or that mess at the drop ship, then I’m fine with anything.”
Lincoln chuckled as he stood. She watched him, still a little wary at his size but she breathed easy when he kept his head bowed.
“The commander would like to speak with you in the morning. She will come here when the sun is high with a few others. Do not be afraid, they will not harm you. Then, you will get more information.” He turned to go but hesitated a moment. “Be safe, Clarke of the sky people, and do not trust the alpha following you around like a dog. I do not like the way he watches you.”
She smiled at that, her heart warming a little at the way he looked at the cave entrance.
“Thank you, Lincoln.”
With that, he was gone, disappearing back into the trees without a sound.
Clarke stayed by the fire until it died, watching the embers flicker as she tried to process everything that had happened in the past day.
She’d been drugged, forced into a ship, dropped to the earth with a bunch of power hungry alphas, then found others still alive on earth who wanted to help her.
Well it was more than her mother had done for her that day, at least. She growled in frustration at the memory of Abby stopping her in her frantic escape, telling her to relax and using her pheromones to lull Clarke into submission so she could be darted. It wasn’t her fault, really, Clarke would have had to go either way.
It still sucked.
“Clarke?” Octavia’s voice snapped her out of it. She didn’t know if she’d falled asleep by the fire or if she’d simply been so stuck in her own mind, but when she looked at the other omega, she realized the sun was shining through the trees. “Are you okay? What are you doing out here?”
“Are the others awake?”
“Jasper and Monty are. Finn keeps growling when we try to get him up.” Clarke rolled her eyes as she nodded, patting the ground next to her so Octavia would sit.
“I spoke with the beta who lives here last night.”
“The grounder?” Octavia’s eyes were wide, interested.
“Yea, it’s what we started calling them after you found the scent yesterday. I think Jasper said it first.”
“Well, yea. Anyway, he made me a deal and I’m supposed to be meeting with their commander here soon.”
“Clarke!” The yell was whispered but still urgent, Octavia’s hands reaching out to grip at her leg. “What happened? Tell me everything!”
So she did. While splitting some of the remaining jerky and berries, Clarke explained everything Lincoln had told her. Octavia seemed to feel as she did, like it may be too good to be true but anything was better than the Ark.
“Well I’m with you.” The omega rubbed the back of her neck, glancing into the cave. “I’m sure Monty and Jasper are too.”
“Yea, well, Finn can make his own choices. Like I said before, I’m more worried about omegas and betas down here. We have fifty alphas who grew up on the Ark laws and now they’re allowed to run wild, that doesn’t bode well for us. So if this pact means safety for all down here, then I’m signing us up.”
“Why don’t we send Finn off?”
“What do you mean?”
“Well if he’s rude as hell to this commander when she shows up, then who knows what he could ruin. Monty and Jasper will be alright, I’m ready to just sit and listen, but I don’t know if we can trust Finn to do that.”
“I agree but if we ask him to go and he comes back, or worse just hides in the trees to watch us, then it’ll be worse when they get here. I don’t trust him with this either but I’d rather him be here then out there ready to try to attack like an idiot.”
Octavia grunted in frustration but agreed. She went inside to warn the guys while Clarke waited by the remnants of her fire.
“You made a deal?” She groaned when Finn stormed out of the cave next. She could hear Jasper and Monty speaking to Octavia inside and she was relieved when they sounded excited, pleased with her decision. Of course Finn would have the problem, being the only alpha out with them.
“That I did. I’d appreciate it if you stayed here and didn’t run off to tell the others yet. I’m waiting for the commander to show up so we can talk about the terms more thoroughly.”
“Why didn’t you ask us?” There was an anger in his voice, low and trying to be hidden but very much present. She knew her next statement would just be fuel on the fire.
“They see me as the leader. They will make a deal with me and only me because I have been chosen to represent all those who fell to earth as the leader of the pack. So I really didn’t think I needed to defer to you on this, Finn.”
The spike of anger that came was expected but it still sent a spike of ice down her spine. She wasn’t afraid of him but any flex of alpha power left her on edge. Clarke didn’t need to turn to know his eyes would be red, his teeth sharp and bared, but she ignored his posturing. Instead, she steadily kept her eyes on the fire and put all her effort into refusing to submit to his idiocy.
When he realized he wasn’t going to get anywhere, Finn’s pressure receded. He reigned in his power and Clarke let out a breath of relief when she couldn’t scent his pheromones any longer. She wanted to growl, wanted to throw him into the river, but instead she slowly turned to face him.
“Are you finished throwing a tantrum?”
He had the decency to look sheepish, though Clarke figured it was another act. Any tiny fragments of trust she had for him had been vaporized by that display.
“Yea, sorry, I’m still a little groggy, I didn’t mean to react like that.”
Clarke huffed at him, ignoring the aggravation he was trying to conceal, and watched the trees. She could scent them, coming slowly forward. It wasn’t long before she could also hear them, obviously making noise so they didn’t startle anyone. The others ran out just in time for a group of six to come through the trees.
Lincoln sent her a reassuring smile as he stepped forward. Next to him stood two alphas, two omegas and another beta. The alpha in the middle caught Clarke’s attention. From the scent, the barely held back power and her clothes, the omega guessed that this was the commander.
She stood, shakily, trying to conceal the fear and nerves she was cursing herself for having. Looking back at the others, Clarke gave Octavia a reassuring smile. “Wait here.”
When three out of four nodded their agreement, Clarke walked closer to the other group. Her hands curled into fists at her sides to keep them from shaking when she stopped just a foot or two away from the commander. She clenched her jaw, swallowing down any feelings that may make her seem weak, and then bowed her head in the way Lincoln quietly showed her.
“Hello.” As she straightened up, Clarke caught the slight worry coming from the group. “My name’s Clarke. I’m not sure if I’d call myself the leader but I suppose I’m the most responsible of the group right now so I’d like to talk to you about the offer Lincoln gave me last night. I’m inclined to agree to any deal if it means protection for my people.”
The alpha just watched her for a moment, eyes flashing to the others and then back to her, as if she were considering something. Then she relaxed, ever so slightly, and waved for Clarke to walk with her.
They moved forward, leaving both groups behind, so they could speak alone.
“I welcome your plain way of speaking, Clarke of the sky people. You are brave, acting as you are when the alphas in your group are so volatile.” The commander looked at her curiously before tilting her head. “May I also speak plainly.”
“Yes. Please, just be truthful about all of this.”
“Alright.” The alpha straightened then, a mild anger rolling from her shoulders but Clarke could tell it wasn’t aimed at her. “The way those alphas behaved was a disgrace. Fighting so blatantly for power when there are no terms, forcing omegas and betas to submit just because they could, and then the fearful whispers my people heard of forced mating bites.” A low growl rumbled from the commander and Clarke couldn’t stop the flinch that happened. The alpha saw it and immediately stopped the sound, her face blatantly guilty. “I am sorry, I did not mean to growl so openly.”
“It’s alright.” Clarke was a little mystified. She’d never had an alpha so truthfully apologize to her before. Alpha apologies were always tinged with a lie or drenched in a condescending tone that said they were looking down on Clarke’s omega status. This one, however, was so entirely truthful, that she even flashed her neck to Clarke for just a moment.
It was fast, so fast that no one else would have noticed, but Clarke did and it made her heart thunder in her chest. The commander gave her a show of submission, unflinchingly and absolute.
“My name is Lexa. Heda Leksa kom Trikru. I am the commander of the twelve clans, I keep them together within my coalition and I would extend a hand to your people to be welcomed in as a thirteenth clan.”
“Why? I appreciate it and I’m inclined to accept but we’ve only just landed here, why would you help us?”
“I wasn’t going to at first.” Lexa sighed, “When Lincoln reported back about the actions of your alphas, I was fearful to allow them anywhere near my people. However, when he described you and talked about how much fear was coming from the omegas and betas, I knew I couldn’t ignore it. My offer to be the thirteenth clan is open to all of your people, as Lincoln said, but I am only extending it because of you and the very obvious need to take your omegas and betas away from those alphas.”
“How would this work?”
There Lexa hesitated, looking like she didn’t know how to explain something she feared Clarke wouldn’t like. Then the alpha straightened and took in a deep breath.
“I have two offers to give you. These are the extreme options but we do not have time to go over any others. If we wait, the mountain will come down upon you all and I will not risk any lives.”
“The mountain?” Confusion rolled off of Clarke in waves, causing Lexa to stumble a little.
“I am explaining this badly.” A hand went through the alpha’s hair and it struck Clarke then that she was nervous. She didn’t want to upset her, didn’t want to possibly cause a panic within the omega. It was sweet, she was obviously trying to make sure Clarke knew she wasn’t like the alphas from the ship, but she needed her to be straight forward.
“Heda.” That got the alpha’s attention, her eyes immediately focusing on Clarke. “Please just explain as if I were an alpha. I appreciate you working to not overpower me but I need to know my options. If you see me as their leader, please speak to me like I’m their leader.”
“I apologize.” Lexa bowed her head a moment. “I do not mean to treat you as if you are not a leader, a few of the clans within the coalition are run by omegas so I am used to that. What I am not so used to is working with omegas who come from a place where alphas are allowed to act as yours do, I do not want to cause any discomfort.”
“You won’t.” Clarke smiled a little and then straightened her spine to try to look as powerful as possible. “If you keep your scent the way it is, I’ll be fine. Please, continue.”
Something like pride flashed across Lexa’s face, her lips ticking up into a smile before she mirrored Clarke’s posturing.
“Very well. The only way to complete a quick welcome into the coalition is to find a common ground alliance. Otherwise, we would have to travel to the main city, my home, and speak with the council to come to a comfortable agreement on why and how the new clan would join. There is no time for this, however. I will explain our enemy soon enough.” Lexa glanced towards the river a moment, her lip pulling up in a snarl and it occurred to Clarke that Mount Weather was very possibly the mountain she’d spoken of before. “The two options I have for you are both difficult choices but I beg you to know that I do not wish to force these choices upon you. You must make them as the leader of this clan but I do not revel in causing you this decision.”
“I understand, Heda. What are my options?”
“One option is to simply cut out the alphas. I do not trust them, they will have to learn our ways and restructure their minds. In this option, the thirteenth clan would just be your omegas and betas.” Clarke frowned at that so Lexa pushed on. “The second option is more straightforward but it is also more life changing for you.”
“Before you continue, Heda, I do need to warn you that more of us will come.”
Tilting her head, Lexa’s eyes narrowed as she studied Clarke. “Explain.”
“There are more in space. We were sent down as a test, to see if we could survive on the ground before they started to evacuate the rest. Our home up there is dying and if they don’t follow, they will all die as well. My people will not be pleased with an omega leading them, especially not one as young as me, so I’m not sure I can guarantee anything I agree to. I want to, I need to, but I think I trust my own people even less than you do.”
Lexa sighed, agitation tensing her shoulders even as she kept her pheromones down. Clarke appreciated the effort immensely.
“I will extend these offers to all of your people, Clarke, but if they do not follow you, they will be banished from the clan. Skaikru will become the thirteenth clan and those who wish to not be exiled will join you. They can dislike it if they wish but to survive, they will need to learn.”
Clarke smiled a little and nodded, her heart squeezing in her chest as the conversation rerouted to her options. She knew where Lexa was going with this, at least in some way, and she knew it would be the option she took no matter what.
Even if she hated most of the alphas on the Ark, she wouldn’t doom them.
“Your other option.” Lexa paused and then breathed out slowly. “If you were to tie your clan to one of my own, they would be open to accepting all that you wanted to keep within your clan. However, if you were to tie your clan to me specifically, then Skaikru would be welcomed as the thirteenth clan entirely.”
“You mean, if we mate then your people would see this as an act of, what, love?” It sounded too easy, too simple. Why would they accept a whole clan because of a mating, especially when the mating was between their commander and a random omega. Lexa just looked confused, a little hurt, before her eyes cleared in understanding.
Now all that shone in the alpha’s eyes was pain, but not for herself. Clarke could see it wasn’t quite pity but instead a pained expression for what Clarke had escaped.
“My people thrive on the act of love. We fight, we have wars, we do what we must to survive, yes, but to all of the clans, the pack is the most important thing. The coalition was created out of love, out of the need to come together to defeat a common foe. It stays together out of love for one another and the people's love for me, and in return my love for them. If I explain that I became enamored with the strong omega that fell from the sky, my people will do all they can to integrate your people so that we may continue to live in peace together.”
Clarke’s heart ached, the sincerity in Lexa’s voice turning her knees to jelly. She nearly collapsed until the commander reached out to grasp her shoulders. It was a supportive gesture, one meant to hold her steady, and to the others it would seem entirely innocent. Suddenly her appreciation for the alpha in front of her turned to a strange affection in her chest.
“You’re enamored with me, huh?” It wasn’t an answer, simply a tease for Clarke to regain her ground, but the flush that spread across Lexa’s cheeks caught her off guard. She thought it would be a lie but maybe it wasn’t.
“I find you intriguing, Clarke. If you were to agree, I would do all I could to make sure you would not regret choosing me as a mate. We would not need to bite right away and I would never force you to do so so quickly.” Licking her lips, Lexa blinked and suddenly, Clarke was seeing why she was the commander. As the mask of the alpha slipped on, strong and warm all in one, her heart thundered in her chest. “I’d do anything to keep you happy, to keep you well, and would never cause you distress or harm. Love is a choice, Clarke, and discovering it is sometimes not as easy as we would like, but I would choose to love you with my entire being if you chose to join our clans. I want you to find peace on the ground and if I can provide it myself, then I will happily do so.”
Tears burned in Clarke’s eyes, her throat tight as she took in everything Lexa said. She didn’t think she was ready for a mate, didn’t even know if she knew how to love an alpha, but so far this world was everything she needed. If mating Lexa meant safety, meant she could give her people a chance to live. If it meant she could have a chance at something like happiness, she’d take it.
“So, Heda.” She cursed how her voice broke, how it trembled. Lexa ignored it, giving Clarke her dignity and a moment to gather herself. “How do we go about setting up a mating to make my people the thirteenth clan?”
The brilliant smile that lit up the commander’s face just reaffirmed that this choice, her only choice, was going to be something wonderful.