Bitter and hardened heart,
Aching, waiting for life to start.
Meet me in the morning when you wake up.
Meet me in the morning, then you'll wake up.
She blinked, and clutched more tightly at her blanket, curling around it, and hugging it to her neck. But it smelled like gasoline, and sweat, and she frowned. She jerked up on reflect when she heard the low, gutted moan, and looked around the room, remembering.
She scrambled up, heading for Jasper. He was pale, sweaty. Sick. He looked as awful as the day before.
“How is he?” Finn asked, rising from his crumpled, makeshift bed in the corner.
She touched a hand to Jasper’s forehead. He was feverish. “Bad,” she muttered. “I don’t understand. The antibiotics in that seaweed should’ve worked, but I think he’s worse.” She began to peel off his bandage. It was damp, and stuck to his skin with sweat, blood.
“The seaweed?” Monty said.
She looked around for it. “Wells—” Reality sank into her gut like a punch.
He was dead.
She learned the truth, and got him back, only to lose him that same night. He was killed. Harper found his body. He was stabbed in the neck, and left in the pool of his blood.
She closed her eyes for a moment, refusing to cry. She couldn’t. She needed to focus on Jasper. He was supposed to be better, and he was worse. He arched off the table with a groan, and she bit her lip. If the seaweed wasn’t enough, she didn’t know what to do next.
She got the bandage the rest of the way off, and shook her head.
The skin was infected.
It was like yesterday hadn’t happened. “Fuck,” she breathed. “Fuck, fuck, fuck.”
“What?” Monty asked.
She glanced at him, and her heart clenched at the sight of his face, of his hope, and his fear. “Monty, I’m sorry, I—” She hesitated, and he began to shake his head at her.
She couldn’t save Wells, and she wasn’t going to be able to save Jasper. She was useless.
“How’s he doing?”
She whipped her head at the sound of his voice, and the air was sucked from the room.
It wasn’t possible.
He was dead. “Wells,” she whispered.
For a moment, she was too stunned to move, to think, to breathe, and she swayed on her feet, gaping at him wordlessly. But he took a step towards her, concerned, and she choked on laughter, running at him, and throwing her arms around him, sobbing a little.
Slowly, his arms came around her.
She drew away from him at last. “How?” she asked, sweeping her gaze over him. She took his chin in her hand, turning his face to see smooth, unmarked skin where there should have been a nasty, gaping wound in the side of his neck. “How is this possible?”
“How is what possible?” he asked. His gaze searched his face.
“You were dead,” Clarke said.
“You were stabbed in the neck,” she said. “Harper found your body in the woods.”
“Clarke,” Finn said, questioning.
“Clarke, I’m fine,” Wells said. “Not a scratch on me.” His lip turned up slightly, and his eyes were soft, and bright, encouraging. “It must’ve been a nightmare. I’m fine.”
“Yeah.” She nodded. She wasn’t able to shake her shock. “Yeah, I guess.”
He smiled. “It must’ve been a pretty awful nightmare for you to forgive me,” he said
“Forgive you?” She frowned.
Jasper moaned, and Clarke remembered; miraculously, Well’s death hadn’t been real, but Jasper’s was closing in on them fast. It was very, very real, and it was up to her to save him. She bent over him, pinning his shoulders to the table when he moaned, and thrashed. She needed to cut away that infection, but that wasn’t enough to save him. She cut it away yesterday, and he wasn’t better off. He was dying, and she didn’t know what to do.
“I don’t understand,” she said. “That seaweed should’ve worked.”
“What are you talking about?” Monty asked.
She looked at him. “The seaweed that the grounders used to make the poultice.”
Wells came to stand at her side, leaning in to look at the wound. “You’re right,” he said. “That poultice was made with seaweed. I know this stuff. It’s medicinal.” He looked at her. “If we found more of it, it might be enough to fight off the infection, and save him.”
“We did,” Clarke said. “We found more of it, and gave it to him. Yesterday.”
She stared at him. “You described where to find it, and—and Finn knew where that was, and we went, and we got it. We brought it back, gave it to him, and it worked. Jasper started to improve. He was awake. But . . .” She trailed off at the look on his face, and glanced at Finn, only to see that Finn wore the very same look. “We had to hide from the fog; it was acidic, and we . . ."
“Clarke,” Finn said. “None of that happened.”
“No. No, it happened.”
“Yesterday, we went after Jasper,” Wells said, and his voice was soft with concern. “You made Bellamy come with us, and he was ready to drop you to your death in that trap before we stopped him, and got you up? We found Jasper tied up over a pit, remember?”
“I remember,” she snapped. “But that was the day before. Yesterday—”
“I died?” Wells said.
She opened her mouth, and closed it. She dropped her gaze to Jasper. The infection that circled looked exactly like it looked yesterday. He was in the state that he was in yesterday, and Wells was alive, and it was like yesterday hadn’t happened, like the whole fucking day was a nightmare. But that wasn’t possible; that was insane.
“I think there might’ve been something funny in your food,” Finn said.
She looked at him.
He smiled, and he was amused. “You dreamed up a day that didn’t happen.”
“That’s good, right?” Monty said. He looked at Jasper for a moment, and at Clarke. “That means that the special medicinal seaweed, or whatever—that means it might work still?”
Clarke nodded. “Yes. I—I think.”
“Then let’s get it.”
Jasper groaned, and his back arched up with pain. She pressed her lips together. “First, we need to cut away the flesh that’s infected,” she decided. “Then we’ll get it.”
Wells held Jasper to the table while she began to cut off the flesh.
Octavia stormed in, shouting at her to stop. “You’re killing him!” she exclaimed, and Clarke gaped. This happened already. Jasper woke her with his moans, and his wound was infected, and Octavia stormed in. Was she supposed to believe that her nightmare was a premonition, and she lived this day already, and was living it again?
Bellamy followed Octavia. “You need to keep him quiet,” he said.
Monty glared, but Bellamy wasn’t fazed.
“We aren’t killing him,” Clarke said. “We know what the grounders used for this poultice on his wound. It comes from a seaweed that has medicinal antibacterial properties.”
“Fine,” Bellamy said, startling her. “But you need to find a way to keep the kid quiet until you get back with the stuff, or somebody’s going to break into your makeshift little fortress, and off him.” He stared at her. “Hate me if you want, but you know I’m right.”
This hadn’t happened yesterday. This was different.
Strangely, it upset her.
It should have relieved her. It meant she wasn’t crazy. She dreamed up a day that solved her problems, only for it to turn into a nightmare at the end when Wells was murdered.
But this meant that she dreamed up Wells’s innocence, didn’t it?
She dreamed up that the seaweed had worked, too.
“Somebody, or you?” Finn drawled, and Clarke blinked.
Bellamy didn’t bother to reply to Finn. “Do you know where to find it?” he asked. He was looking at Clarke, and she nodded. “Good.” He turned on his heel, and left.
She frowned. Did she know where to find it? She didn’t. Not if yesterday was a dream, and it was. She must have realized subconsciously that the poultice was made from seaweed, and that was how she was able to predict it in her dream. But the location of the seaweed wasn’t something that she could’ve figured out; that was her mind’s invention.
“The guy’s an asshole.” Finn sighed. “But he’s right.”
“He’s irrelevant,” Wells said. “Let’s clean up Jasper’s wound, and find that seaweed.”
She needed to focus on Jasper, and she was going to.
But the more the day unfolded, the clearer it was that this day wasn’t new to her. She had lived this day before. She had heard this conversation before, had run from this fog before, had hid in this car before. It became impossible for her to believe that she dreamed it, and blame the accuracy on her subconscious. It was too real, too coincidental.
She looked at Wells. “You didn’t turn my father in,” she said.
He dropped her gaze for a moment. “Clarke.”
“Three people knew about his plan,” she went on. “Me, you, and my mother.” She smiled bitterly, staring at him, and ignoring the tears that burned her eyes. “It was my mother, wasn’t it? She turned my father in, and when I assumed it was you, you let me. You took the blame, and you let me hate you.” She knew it.
“You didn’t need to lose both of your parents,” Wells said, soft.
Had her subconscious miraculously been able to predict this accurately, too?
She kept an eye on Wells for the rest of the day, keeping him at her side. She knew what was going to happen next, knew that he was going to be killed unless she intervened. Honestly, it was easy to do. Now that he was forgiven, he was eager to be by her side.
He was eager for them to be friends again. She was, too.
They gave Jasper the medicine, and it was going to work. She knew it.
It wasn’t until later that she remembered Atom.
They were in the camp when she heard somebody say his name, and she was struck with guilt. She left him to die when she could’ve stopped it, could’ve warned him about the fog. There was a shout from Octavia, and Bellamy’s low, placating voice, and Clarke wasn’t able to keep her gaze away from them.
That was when she saw Atom.
He wasn’t dead.
He was fine, didn’t have a blister on him, and Octavia was yelling at her brother for being an asshole, and punishing Atom for kissing her. Clarke blinked, and turned away from them. Atom was fine. Somehow, that part of the day was different. She didn’t know why.
It didn’t matter. He was fine, and Wells was fine, and Jasper was going to be fine, too.
She was exhausted when she curled up on her tarp that night.
But she wasn’t able to sleep. “How are we going to survive this?” she asked. She had been able to right the mistakes of today with some bizarre, radiation-infused, future-telling nightmare, but. What about tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that?
“Together,” Wells said, lying on a bed he fixed up for himself in the corner.
She smiled into the tarp. “Together,” she agreed.
She woke up slowly in the morning, shifting a little, and frowning when her tarp brushed her neck. It smelled like gasoline, and sweat, and there was a low, gutted moan.
She opened her eyes, and scrambled up to look at Jasper. He was sweaty, pale. Dying.
“How is he?” Finn asked, rising from his crumpled, makeshift bed in the corner.
She ignored him, peeling off Jasper’s bandage, and looking at the nasty, infected wound. The sight of it was familiar in the strangest, most sickening way. It was wrong.
Her stomach began to sink while disbelief crept up on her spine.
“How’s he doing?” Wells asked, coming in.
She stared at him and at Finn, and this wasn’t possible, wasn’t real, wasn’t happening.
The boys grew concerned at her silence, and Wells reached out, only for his hand to hover hesitantly at her back. “This poultice that the grounders used,” she said. She cleared her throat. “It seems to have an antibiotic in. Do you know what plant it’s from?” She looked at Wells, and he leaned over Jasper.
“I do,” he said, sounding slightly surprised. He smiled. “It’s a seaweed. It . . .”
He began to describe it, and Finn knew where to find it.
It wasn’t possible, but it was real. It was happening. Again. The day was repeating itself. Again, and nobody seemed to realize it but dumbfounded, disbelieving Clarke.
She made it through the day, going through the motions.
It was the same. It happened exactly the same as the day before and the day before that. The fog, the car, the truth. It was the same. She had lived this day before. Twice.
She went to sleep, and woke up when Jasper groaned.
The day began anew.
She needed air. She pushed her way from the dark, musty, awful dropship, ignoring the boys and their confusion. The sun was warm on her skin, and she closed her eyes, breathing in and trying to will away the panic that was squeezing her lungs, choking her.
She was trapped in some time loop.
She was being forced to live this day over and over and over, and she didn’t know why, or how. Was it a hallucination? Was she sick, and this was a strange, radioactive nightmare? Was she was really on the table where she imagined Jasper was, feverish, and unconscious, and dying from a toxin she ate, or touched, or breathed?
If she was, it didn’t matter. She didn’t know how to wake up.
She was trapped.
It couldn’t go on forever. Either she was going to die, or she was going to wake up from the illness. Soon.
But it didn’t. It continued. It happened day after day, and she wasn’t able to keep up. Had it been sixteen days, or seventeen? Had it been three weeks now? Had it been a month?
She found a routine.
She forgave Wells at the start of the day, telling him that she figured it out. They went for seaweed with Finn, and she got them to the car before the fog overtook them. They brought the seaweed to Jasper, and she made it into medicine, saving him. She ate dinner with Wells, and curled up in her tarp after, going to sleep. She woke up, and did it again.
It became easy, mindless, starting to make her desperate and crazy.
She tried to find a way to break the cycle.
She decided not to go to sleep. If she didn’t go to sleep, she couldn’t wake up to the same fucking day. If she made it through the night, she was bound to make it to the next, new day. But that wasn’t how it worked. She blinked, and she woke up. That night, she looked at her father’s watch while she waited. 11:59. She blinked, and she woke up.
She told Wells. She pulled him aside and started from the beginning.
He was quiet while he listened.
“I know I sound like I’m losing my mind,” Clarke said, “and I think I am a little. But I’m telling you the truth. I’ve lived this day a hundred times before. That’s—that’s how I know that you didn’t turn in my father, and that’s how I knew about the seaweed, and the fog. You have to believe me.”
“I do,” he said. “I believe you.”
He smiled. “I’ve known you my whole life, Clarke, and you aren’t crazy. I believe you.”
For the rest of the night, she wasn’t lonely. They talked about her theories for why she was stuck, and he chimed in with his own. Then she glanced at her watch and panicked. She was staring at him when it happened.
She woke up. She was back at the start of the day, and she was alone.
That day, she thought about walking into the fog.
She didn’t. But if she had, she would have woken up, and it wouldn’t have mattered.
Her routine began to fray at the edges. She wasn’t able to go through the motions, wasn’t able to have this conversation over and over, wasn’t able to live this moment over and over. She couldn't bring herself to leave Jasper to die, or Wells. But she needed a change.
She took Monty with her to get the seaweed for Jasper.
She ate dinner with Harper.
She kissed Finn, and she was tempted to do more. But when he didn’t remember the kiss, she was glad they hadn’t. She learned that Monroe was locked up because she stole little electronic scraps, building them into toys that she traded for medicine for her grandfather. She taught Sterling, Michael, Janie, and Devon how to play poker.
That was the night that she slipped up. It was after dinner, and she was having fun.
She forgot about Wells in the woods until she realized that the sun was beyond the horizon, and it was dark, and she didn’t have Wells at her side. She stumbled for the woods, ignoring the questions the others threw at her back. She needed to find him, needed to protect him.
If she woke up to a tomorrow, she needed him to be in that tomorrow.
She clutched a hand to her chest when she saw him with Charlotte. He was okay. She looked up, around. There wasn’t a grounder in sight. But that made sense, didn’t it? Obviously, the grounder didn’t attack while Charlotte was with Wells, or he would have killed her, too. There was time to get him to safety before the grounder saw them.
“Wells,” Clarke started, and Charlotte stabbed Wells.
Her gaze snapped to Clarke as soon as she did. “I’m sorry,” she gasped. “I had to.”
The explanation tumbled tearfully from her. Jaha killed Charlotte’s parents, and Bellamy told her to slay her demons in the day so that they weren’t there at night, and she murdered him. Clarke was horrified, and when she found her voice, it was to yell at Charlotte until the girl stumbled off into the dark of the woods, apologizing. Clarke knew she ought to follow her, but she didn’t.
She left Wells’s body and returned to the camp, heading into the dropship.
The day was going to start over. It had to.
It did. She woke up, and Jasper groaned. “How’s he doing?” Wells asked, coming in.
“Fine,” she whispered.
“He looks bad,” Finn said, looking at Clarke.
She nodded, and she rose to her feet. “It’s okay. I know what we need to do to save him.”
It must’ve been months before Clarke woke up, and something happened differently.
The day began the same.
She checked on Jasper, cut away the skin that was infected, and explained to the boys that the needed to find the seaweed that was used in the poultice. They left the dropship. The weather was the same. Roma laughed, and Nell coughed, and Devon was making a scene.
Finn slapped a hand to Clarke’s arm.
She looked at him in confusion, and followed his gaze to Bellamy. He was holding a gun.
“What the hell?” she breathed.
That wasn’t right, was it? He looked ready to shoot up the camp, and she knew he didn’t. But when she tried to think about his schedule for the day, her mind drew a blank. He wasn’t going to shoot, though. He couldn’t. She knew this day, and that never happened.
He lifted the gun, pointing it at his temple.
“Fuck,” Finn started, and—
Bellamy shot himself in the head. People screamed and scrambled.
Clarke pushed through the crowd.
He was sprawled on the ground with wide, open eyes, and his brains were splattered in the grass.
She knelt by his side, trying to understand. This didn’t happen, right? It wasn’t that she hadn’t witnessed it before. It didn’t happen. If it did, she would’ve heard about it.
She leaned in and closed his eyes.
Clarke turned, and Octavia was there at Bellamy’s side, too, sinking to her knees beside Clarke. But she was oblivious to Clarke; she was sobbing, touching Bellamy’s face, muttering “no, no, no, Bell, no” under her breath. She clapped a hand to cover her mouth and in doing so smeared her face with his blood.
Clarke rose to her feet, silent. There was nothing for her to say or do.
He was dead.
Octavia pulled at his shoulders, tugging him into her arms, and cradling his head against her chest. “Bell,” she said, pressing her cheek to the top of his head. “Why—why would—?” she gasped. She started to shake her head, and she looked up, looking at Clarke.
“I’m sorry,” Clarke whispered. “I don’t know. I don’t . . .”
Octavia sobbed, and Atom stepped from the circle of people around them to kneel with Octavia. She shook her head, murmuring to him. He touched her back.
Clarke left. She didn’t know Octavia, and she couldn’t do anything for her.
She didn’t understand what the hell was going on. None of this made sense. Not Bellamy killing himself, or Bellamy killing himself on a day that Clarke had lived before, a day that was repeating, a day that he had never, ever killed himself on before. What changed?
Bellamy chose to shoot himself. That meant the thing that was different about today was Bellamy. He acted differently. He chose differently. He chose, and she began to think.
To start, there was Atom.
He died in the fog on that very first day, didn’t he? It was easy to forget, but she was certain.
He was caught in the fog, and when Bellamy didn’t have the courage to kill him, Clarke sank that knife into his neck. It was months ago at this point, but she remembered it.
Why hadn’t it happened again?
Bellamy came into the dropship at the beginning, too. But he hadn’t come in since those first early days. She hadn’t really thought about that change, had easily, carelessly brushed off the irregularity, attributing it to the fact that she was starting to get a move on sooner and was leaving the dropship before he was able to come in.
But that didn’t really hold up to examination, did it?
She thought about the day when she stared at the fog and was tempted to walk into it. To escape this nightmare. She saw Bellamy’s face when he lifted that gun, and she knew.
She assumed that she was trapped in this nightmare alone, but what if she was wasn't?
She needed to talk to him. Now.
She went into the camp, finding Wells. “Bellamy’s gun,” she said.
“I’ve got it,” he murmured, and he touched a hand to his hip. “I thought it might be smart to grab it before Murphy or someone got a hold of it.”
She nodded. “Let me have it,” she said. “I’ll hide it.”
He glanced over his shoulder before he pulled the gun out, pressing it into her hands.
“I’m sorry,” she told him.
“This is going to be awful for you.”
She didn’t give herself the chance to think about it before she put the gun to her temple and pulled the trigger.
She gasped and sat up with a start.
She was back. She glanced at Jasper, drinking in the sight that greeted her in the morning day after day. The clock had reset. She was alive. She shot herself, and she was alive.
She left the dropship and made a beeline for Bellamy’s tent.
He emerged a moment before she reached the entrance, pulling on his shirt. He was alive, and he frowned when he saw her, opening his mouth.
“You shot yourself in the head yesterday,” she said, cutting to the chase.
He stared at her. “How the fuck do you remember that?”
“I remember it because I’ve been living this day over and over again for months, and I think you have been, too. I think we’re both trapped in this same time loop.”
He shook his head. “Unbelievable.”
For an instant, Clarke was overjoyed. She wasn’t alone in this crazy, fucked up loop.
“Do you think there are others?” she asked.
He sighed. “Early on, I tried to figure out if anybody was trapped with me,” he said. “But everybody does the same fucking thing every fucking day, and—” He shook his head, and his gaze seemed to sweep over her. “Including you,” he went on. “I should’ve known. Jaha died that very first night, but he never has since. You’ve been doing it over and over again the whole time, knowing? You aren’t sick of it yet?”
“I’m not about to let my friends die and have tomorrow come,” she said.
He eyed her. “You’re optimistic.”
“I’ll take that to mean you don’t know what’s going on?” She crossed her arms.
“Do you have a theory?” she asked.
He sighed. “Radiation got to us, and it fucked with our heads?”
“Clarke!” Monty shouted. He was anxious, hurrying to Clarke with a shaken, desperate look on his face. He glanced at Bellamy for a moment, but focused his gaze on Clarke again quickly. “Jasper’s getting worse,” he told her, and he lowered his voice a little. “It’s scaring me.”
“Really,” Bellamy said, mild. “Is that hard to do?”
Clarke shot him a look, stepping in before Monty was able to face off with him. “Come on,” she murmured, touching Monty’s shoulder. “Let’s go. I think I know what to do.”
Bellamy wasn’t finished. “You’re wasting your time, you know.”
She ignored him.
“Tomorrow isn’t coming!” he yelled.
She returned to the dropship with Monty, and returned to her routine, and she didn’t see Bellamy for the rest of the day. She tried not to think about him, but it was impossible.
She hated that she wondered where he was, and what he was up to.
He made it clear that he wasn’t bothering with Atom at this point, and she imagined that he was fucking one of the girls, or one of the boys, or picking on one of the younger, sweeter delinquents.
“You okay?” Wells asked. “You’re quiet.”
“I’m tired,” she lied, rolling over in her tarp to face away from him. If she was going to get a partner in this, why him? Why couldn’t it have been Wells who was stuck in an endless, inexplicable loop with her? Or Finn? Or Monty? Or anyone other than Bellamy?
She woke up, and Jasper groaned.
She was short with the boys that morning, but she felt guilty when she looked at Monty, and she told them about the seaweed, explaining that she knew where to find it. She invited Monty to come with her to get it. She needed quieter, easier company for a day.
Outside, the weather was the same: warm, humid, and familiar. Boring.
She hadn’t meant to look for Bellamy, but it was like she couldn’t help it, and his gaze found her, too. He pulled on his shirt, and smirked at her from across the clearing.
“Welcome to the same fucking day, Princess!”
Monty glanced at her in confusion. “Forget it,” she muttered, and he didn’t try to push it.
She wanted to forget about Bellamy, to ignore him, and ignore the fact that he was stuck in this day with her. He might’ve been stuck with her, but they weren’t in this together.
She tried to get to know the rest of the hundred.
She learned from Katie that Dax was a murderer, and from Orson that a man raped Dax’s mother, and Dax murdered that man. She ate lunch with Fox, and discovered that Fox liked to draw, too, and used to want to be a medieval art historian. She learned that Murphy was dyslexic, and that Miller spoke French. She drank with Roma, and learned that Roma was locked up when she was eleven, and wasted a week of oxygen by mistake.
She got to know them, but they weren’t able to get to know her.
In the morning, Fox blinked in surprise at Clarke’s smile, and Roma sneered at her.
It made for a loneliness that ate away at her until she woke up, Jasper groaned, and she didn’t want to wake up. She didn’t want to talk to Finn, or Wells, or Monty. The monotony was awful, the loneliness was worse, and she couldn’t keep living like this.
She found Bellamy at the edge of camp, sitting in in one of the seats from the dropship.
He was cooking over a fire, and staring absently into the flames, and she dropped onto a pair of torn, lopsided seats across from him. “Let’s say the radiation is to blame.”
He glanced at her. “Okay.”
“How are we conscious of it together?” she asked. “How does that work?”
“I guess one of us is fucked up,” he said, “and it’s part of our hallucination that the other is, too.” He paused. “Seems appropriately hellish that my mind sticks me with you.”
She pursed her lips. “Likewise.”
It was quiet.
“What are you cooking?” she asked, leaning in slightly to see.
“Squirrel,” he said. “I was curious.”
It surprised her when he was gave her a piece of the dark, greasy meat. It tasted a lot like rabbit, only tougher, and sweeter. She was growing sick of meat, but this wasn’t awful.
She found Bellamy in the morning, talking with a group of his lackeys. She spared a glare for Murphy, and ignored the rest, looking at Bellamy. “What are you up to?” she asked.
“Going for a hunt,” he said.
“I’ll come,” she said. “I need to learn to hunt.”
The humidity seemed to thicken in the woods, making sweat prickle along her back.
She thought about that night it rained. It was months ago at this point, and it seemed like a lifetime ago. She was trapped in a day that saw only damp, heavy, suffocating heat.
It startled her when Bellamy paused, holding up a hand to quiet her.
He threw the knife without a warning, and the blade sank cleanly between the eyes of a rabbit. She gaped at him. His accuracy shouldn’t have shocked her, though. This day wasn’t new to Bellamy; it figured that he knew exactly where that rabbit was, and when.
Over the months, how many times had he killed it?
“So,” he said, bagging the rabbit. “I guess this means you’ve given up on your friends.”
She glanced at him. “What?”
“You’re supposed to be on your adventure to save Jasper right about now, aren’t you? Instead, you’re in the woods with me.” He raised his eyebrows at her.
“I found a creek that’s half an hour from the camp,” she replied. “The seaweed is there. I’ve lived this day enough that I’m able to save Jasper by about eight in the morning. I’ve got the fog covered, too. I saw it at night, thus I’m able to warn everyone about it.”
“Congrats,” he said, amused, and they continued on their way, starting up a slope.
She eyed him. “You know, you act like I’m ridiculous. But if it were Octavia who’s life was hanging in the balance, you wouldn’t risk it, and you know it. You’d save her over and over, every single time, just in case this wasn’t a hallucination, and tomorrow came.”
“She’s my sister,” he said. “It’s different.”
She shook her head.
Deeper in the woods, he stopped, and pulled a knife from his belt. She blinked. “Do you want to learn to hunt?” he said. “There’s a depot that’s stocked with guns, but it’s a hike. This is easier.” He held it out, and she nodded, taking it. “Okay. Throw it at that tree.”
It missed, arching through the air, and disappearing into the grass beside the tree.
He retrieved it. “Hold it more loosely,” he said. “Like—” He put it into her hand, shaping her fingers around the hilt. “You want your thumb to be lined up with your arm. Right. Don’t bend your wrist to the side when you throw. Keep it straight.” He touched her arm, and moved her hand to mime the motions. “Try it again.”
She threw it, and it smacked off the tree, hitting the spot that she was aiming for.
He nodded. “Now you’ve got to make it stick.”
She was able to land the knife in the tree a couple of times. But when there was a deer in sight after, she threw the knife, and it swung clean over the animal. Bellamy reacted immediately, pulling a knife from his belt in a blink, and throwing, catching the deer before it leapt off.
“There’s dinner,” he said.
He knelt beside the deer, making her frown when he began to cut into the deer right then, right there. But she realized what he was doing after a moment, cutting it carefully into pieces to load one by one into the bag; there was a precision to it, and she was impressed.
“How did you learn to do that?” she asked.
“I figured it out,” he said. He glanced at her. “I’ve had some time on my hands.”
He wiped his hands off in the grass when he was finished, and rose up, slinging the bag over his shoulder. She figured that they were going to return to the camp now, and she started in that direction. “You hate this, right?” he said. “This . . . thing we’re trapped in.”
Her back was to him, and she turned in surprise at the question. “Yeah.”
“What have you done to try to break it?” he asked.
She blinked. “The loop? I tried to stay up at night, but . . .” She shook her head.
“I’m sorry,” she said, annoyed. “What have you done to try to break it?”
“I've done shit to try to wake up,” he said, “and I tried to do the day right. You know, do it like it happened that very first day. Let it play out the way it was supposed to.”
“That way it was supposed to?” she repeated.
“I’m grasping at straws, but at least I’m trying. It’s something.”
“It didn’t work, though.”
“Maybe that’s because I let the day play out like it was supposed to, but you didn’t.”
She stared at him.
“I don’t know what the fuck this is that we’re trapped in. I don’t know if it’s a nightmare, or hell, or what. I don’t know if we’re both really stuck, or my fucked up, radiation-soaked head decided to imagine that you were stuck, too. But what if it’s, like, a glitch, and time isn’t going to start moving until we fix it?”
“Fix it,” she said slowly, “by living the day exactly like it happened at first.”
“Wasn’t that the day that started the glitch? If we’re going to fix it, why repeat that day?”
“It’s worth a try, isn’t it?”
She shook her head. “I’m not going to let my friends die.”
“You don’t have to let Jasper die. In fact, you’ve got to save him like you did before.”
“I’m not going to let Wells die,” she snapped.
“He isn’t real!” Bellamy retorted. “This isn’t real, Clarke! This place, this—” He looked at the forest around them, and shook his head. “These people, your friends? They’re paper. They aren’t real, they aren’t—” He swallowed visibly. “You aren’t saving your boyfriend; you’re keeping us trapped in this hell.”
“You don’t know that.”
“Say I’m wrong,” he said. “Then it won’t matter, will it? Let him die, and we’ll wake up, and it’ll be the same fucking day, and you can rub it in my face. But if I’m right? You really want to live this way forever?” He stared at her. “You think Wells wants you to live like this?”
She scoffed. “You don’t care about Wells,” she said. “Or me.”
“You’re right. But that doesn’t mean I’m not right.”
“Go to hell.” It wasn’t fair. None of this was fair. That she was trapped, and trapped with him, and when he touched her arm, she jerked from his grasp, and turned on her heel.
“I know you care about him,” he said.
“But it might be that he’s meant to die.” His voice was softer. “I always used to think that fate, and destiny, and—I used to think that stuff was bullshit. Part of me still does, but I—I don’t know.” He sighed. “Look. You’re right, okay? If it were Octavia, I couldn’t do it. I know I’m asking a lot. I get it. Just—” He sighed. “Think about it?”
She wanted to yell at him, and tell him that he was a selfish, psychotic jackass.
But he was right, wasn’t he?
“Okay.” She glanced over her shoulder at him. “I’ll think about it.”
She turned away from him. “We should get back to camp. The fog is about to roll in.”
She didn’t know exactly when she made the decision in the week that followed, but she knew it was made when she stopped Wells from going into the woods in the evening, and pulled him into a hug.
“I love you,” she told him. “I’m sorry that I wasted a year hating you.”
“It’s okay.” There was a smile in his voice. “I love you, too.”
She closed her eyes, and clung to him, and tried not to cry when he laughed a little.
He went to get something for them to eat, and she found her way to Bellamy. He sat on his own again, cooking for himself, and his gaze stayed on the fire when she came up.
“Okay,” she said. “Tomorrow.”
“I’ll do it. Let the day play out. See if that breaks the curse, or whatever.”
She spent the rest of the night in the dropship with Wells, talking about their ideas for the future, and surviving on the ground, and reminiscing about the Ark, and growing up.
She woke up, and Jasper groaned.
It was easier than she would’ve thought to make the day go the way it was supposed to.
She didn’t remember that day perfectly, but her friends seemed to, and that made it easy for Clarke. It was like everyone was reading from a script, and her role was simply to take her cues from her friends, and perform her part. She killed Atom, and saved Jasper.
In the evening, Wells went into the woods, and Clarke watched him go.
Harper ran into camp, screaming.
Clarke wanted to hide under the tarp, but she couldn’t.
She got up, and left the dropship. She listened to Harper, and ignored the feel of Finn’s gaze. She followed Harper into the woods, and to his body. She closed his glassy, unseeing eyes, and let Finn tug her to her feet after. She wrapped his body in her tarp.
It was over.
She woke up, and Jasper groaned.
She didn’t have to get up to know what she was going to see when she looked at Jasper, or what Finn was going to say when she turned her gaze to him. She knew this day.
She went by herself to get the seaweed that morning.
From across the clearing, she saw Bellamy.
His face was blank, and he was ignoring the rest of the camp. She understood.
She was glad that she hadn’t lost Wells. She was glad that his death wasn’t going to haunt her for the rest of her life. But there wasn’t going to be a rest of her life. She was stuck.
He found her by herself in the woods that bordered the camp, and thrust the plate at her.
He was holding out a real, actual plate, and it was piled with food: with blackberries and dewberries and raspberries, with small red potatoes, and slices of onion, with a shiny green fruit she didn’t recognize, with a tomato, and her mouth began to water at the sight.
She dragged her gaze up to look at him. “How—?”
“In the woods,” he said. “Do you want it, or what? I made the plate up for you.”
She took it from him.
He moved to sit with his back to a tree.
She didn’t know what to eat first, deciding on a blackberry. It burst in her mouth, and she moaned a little, starting to shovel in the berries, and she reached for a potato. It was warm, and she realized that it was cooked, and the slices of onion were cooked, too. She looked at Bellamy. “This is nice. Thank you.”
He nodded. “Try the weird green fruit,” he replied. “It’s good. Sweet."
“What is it?”
“No idea. But it didn’t kill me when I ate it, so.”
She took a bite hesitantly. It was juicy on the inside, and sweet. “Good,” she agreed.
“Here,” he said. “I saved the best for last.” He pulled a little glass jar from his pocket; there was an inch of purple at the bottom, and when he opened the snaps on the jar, tipping it, the purple trickled slowly down, and out, pooling on top of the new green fruit.
“Honey,” she realized, and she took a bite. It was amazing.
He gave her the jar. “Have the rest,” he said. “It’s not like we can save it for tomorrow.”
In the morning, Bellamy agreed to show her where he found everything. He took her to the thicket of bushes where the berries grew, and it turned out that onions were everywhere, springing up in the grass. He showed her to the potatoes, and the hive where he managed to fish out the honey, and, lastly, to the tomatoes.
She picked a tomato off the plant as soon as she saw it, taking a bite, and it was delicious.
“You’ve eaten that exact tomato before, you know,” he told her.
She licked the juice off her fingers. “It was delicious before, too,” she replied.
She assumed that he wanted to hunt after that, or to return to the camp. Instead, he started off in the completely opposite direction. “There’s something I want to show you.”
“Is it a peach?” she said, following. “I want a peach.”
It wasn’t a peach. He wove his way through a thick, dark strip of trees, and she heard the rush of the water before they emerged from the woods, and were faced with the river.
“This place is gorgeous,” Clarke said. There was a huge blue bird at the edge of the water; it took off at their arrival, and Clarke watched it rise up, and fly off, spreading wide, swooping wings, and blocking out the sun. “What is that?” she asked.
“I think it’s a heron,” Bellamy said. “There are fish in the river, too.”
There was something in his voice, and she looked at him.
“It’s possible for us to survive on the ground,” he went on, “and I think this is the place to do it. It’s got a close, lasting source for water, and we could fish in the water, too, and there's plenty of land for a garden. We could build cabins, and, with the river, there’s the possibility for a mill, too. We build a mill, and we’ve got a shot at bread.”
“You’ve really thought about this,” she said, surprised.
He nodded. “There are the grounders to worry about, but we could really do this. We could survive.”
“Do you think we’ll get the chance to try?”
His gaze was on the river, and his smile was humorless. “I doubt it.”
They walked along the river, getting into an argument over how to build a bridge, and the likelihood that they were going to be able to build a mill, and to find the grain, and to figure out how the fuck to use the mill they built to make bread with the grain they found. The ground began to slope up, rising steadily above the height of the river until they were walking along the edge of a cliff, and the ground was rockier, uneven.
It happened in the blink of an eye.
Her ankle twisted under her, and the ground seemed to crumble beneath her feet.
She would have fallen into the river below them, but Bellamy grabbed her arms, catching her, and yanking her into his chest, stumbling away from the ledge. Breathless, she watched the rocks that made up the ledge crumble, and fall into the water, and she sagged against Bellamy in relief.
“You okay?” he said.
She glanced at him. “Yeah.” She drew away from him. “I’m okay. Thank you.”
“You could’ve let me drop, though. I mean, it’s not like I would’ve been dead for long.”
“But I would’ve had to walk back to camp by myself,” he replied.
She gave him a look, and he smirked.
They continued on their way, keeping closer to the line of trees.
“I have wondered,” she started. “That day we went after Jasper, and I nearly fell into that pit, but you caught me.” She looked at him. “You were going to drop me, weren’t you?”
“I hadn’t really decided what I was going to do before your cavalry came to the rescue,” he said. He tilted his head, and glanced at her, smirking. “But I was thinking about it.”
She raked her gaze over her. “I change my mind. I don’t think you would’ve done it.”
“No?” He raised his eyebrows at her.
“You aren’t a killer,” she said.
He stiffened, and his mouth seemed to draw in, tightening. “I am what I have to be.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
He was silent.
She stared at him. “Why is it you want the Ark to think we’re dead? Seriously.”
“Seriously?” He glanced at her. “Does it matter now?”
“I guess not.”
But she was curious. He wanted to settle by the river, to build a home on the ground. Did the people from the Ark fit into that plan, that dream? If tomorrow were miraculously to come, would he continue with his efforts to keep them from coming down? Why? Was there a specific reason, or was it general dislike? Or was it neither? Were his early, angry tirades against the Ark simply a stupid, angry act of rebellion?
“If it happened, though,” she said. “If tomorrow came. What would you do?”
“Be really fucking glad that tomorrow came.”
She stared at him for a moment, and nodded. “Yeah.” She sighed. “Yeah. Me, too.”
They were back in the woods when the horn went off, blasting through the forest. “Fuck,” Bellamy muttered. “Guess it’s the middle of the afternoon. Fuck. I hate this fog.”
“What’s close?” Clarke said.
They weren’t in real, actual danger; it was impossible for either of them to be in danger of anything. She was going to wake up tomorrow even if she died a long, horrible, blistering death today. But she wasn’t in the mood to die a long, horrible, blistering death.
He seemed to search the trees. “Come on,” he said. “I know where to go.”
They didn’t go far before he bent, and opened a hatch in the ground, ushering Clarke in. It was dark, but Bellamy knew what to do, where to go. She heard the strike of a match.
His face was lit up in the glow of a candle.
“What is this place?” she asked.
“It’s a bunker,” he said. “I found it a couple of months ago. It’s where I got your plate.”
He began to light a cluster of candles, and she took one, starting to explore the bunker. It was large, and seemed to be stocked with everything: food, clothes, supplies. Toys. She looked at the pictures on the table, and it made something hurt in her chest, realizing that this family thought a bunker was going to save them. There was an alcove for a kitchen, and Clarke found a bathroom, too.
She ended up back in the large main room. Bellamy was sprawled on the sofa.
She looked at the shelf of books, pulling off a few to flip though.
The books were dusty, and the pages were yellowing with age, but it was kind of amazing that they were perfectly in tact. Books on the Ark were rare, and were either kept under glass in the museum, or were torn up, mangled things that sold for cheap at the exchange.
There was a shelf of games, too. “I haven’t even heard of some of these,” Clarke said. “I mean, Parcheesi?” She pulled it off the shelf, and read the tagline. “It sounds fun.”
“I’ll pass,” Bellamy said.
She found an old golf club beside a bucket of dusty white balls. It made her smile. Her father used to like to play golf at the sector residential center. She took a ball from the bucket, brushing a little at the dust with her thumb. She had told him that golf was boring. She put the ball on the floor, and took the club, lining up the shot like he’d taught her.
The ball smacked into Bellamy’s foot. He arched an eyebrow at her. “My bad,” she said, grinning.
She leaned the club against the wall, returning her gaze to the games. Monopoly. Apples to Apples. Yahtzee. That was always her mother’s favorite; she used to make Clarke’s father play it with her endlessly, night after night. Clarke’s stomach went tight at the thought of her parents, playing Yahtzee at the table, teasing, and laughing, arguing over her father’s math.
How could she have done it?
She pressed her lips together, and trailed her gaze down the shelf.
“There’s chess,” she said. She reached for it eagerly, and wiped off the film of dust on the top with her sleeve. “Bellamy, there’s chess,” she repeated, moving to sit on the floor.
“I’m supposed to be excited about this?”
“Yes, and we’re playing.”
“Chess,” he said.
“Yes.” She opened the board, and glanced at him. “Come on."
“Rich people’s checkers.”
She huffed. “You know you’re an asshole, right?”
“I don’t know how to play chess,” he said. “I know how to play checkers.”
She rolled her eyes. “I’ll teach you.” She dumped the pieces, unfolded the board. “Come on. I haven’t gotten to play since I was locked up.” She began to arrange the pieces, glancing at him again when he was motionless. “Do you have something better to do?”
He sighed, and came to sit on the floor with her. “I think I would’ve preferred Parcheesi.”
“We’ll start with the basics,” she replied.
She went through the pieces with him, including hints about the importance of each, and explained the object of the game. He didn’t really comment throughout her explanation, but he listened, and when they started to play, he caught on very, very fast. He was good. Unfortunately.
“I hate that you’re good at this,” she told him.
“I’m good at everything,” he said.
“I doubt that. For the record, you don’t actually have to take a year to make a move.”
“It’s called thinking. You should try it. It comes in handy in this game.”
She pushed to her feet. “Is there water in this place?”
“Bottled,” he said. “In the alcove.”
She headed for the alcove. “This day is going to start over eventually,” she said, yelling over her shoulder, “so try to make a move soon. Like in the next hour or so, please.”
The water had a tangy plastic taste, but she drank it, and wandered.
There was a shelf with electronics. She recognized the tablet, and the camcorder. There was a small, stranger cylinder that she realized was a kind of speaker, and when she picked it up, curious, she noticed the small mp3 player that was plugged into the side of it. She brushed a finger over the player, and, to her shock, the screen blinked to life.
She clicked it, and music blasted from the speaker, startling her with the volume.
She closed her eyes for a moment, soaking in the sound; there wasn’t a way to listen to music on the ground, and she hadn’t exactly been able to listen to it in the skybox.
“It’s your turn,” Bellamy called.
Swaying her hips, she made her way back to where he sat on the floor in front of the board. She placed the speaker on the table beside the sofa, and started to dance.
“What are you doing?”
“Dancing,” she said, lifting her arms. “What? Is dancing a rich people thing, too?”
“It is when you’re that bad.”
She scoffed. “You say that like I’m supposed to believe you’re good.”
“I told you,” he said. “I’m good at everything.”
“Prove it.” She raised her eyebrows at him, and continued to dance, circling him.
He nodded. “Okay. I see how it’s going to be. You want to go? Okay.” He pushed to his feet, and she broke into laughter when he started to dance, dancing his way to her.
The song was nearly over, but the next started up immediately, and it was faster, better.
Bellamy turned in a circle while he danced, shaking his hips, and Clarke threw her head back, gasping with laughter before she reached for him, putting her hands on her shoulders, and shimmying for a moment. She grazed a hand around his chest, circling him, and he caught her hand, twirling her; she grinned, and threw her hands up to hover near his head when his hands went to her hips.
“You’re terrible,” she said.
He danced up against her in reply, and she snorted in laughter, dropping her arms to hang around his neck, and swaying her hips with his, making a silly, stupid face at him.
But the song began to trail off, and when the next started up, it was slow, quiet.
Together, they slowed. Stopped. His gaze dropped to her mouth.
Her breath caught in her chest, but he looked away quickly; his hands fell away from her, and he caught her gaze when he began to move away from her, giving her half a smile.
She kissed him.
It was stupid, impulsive, but he responded immediately, deepening the kiss, and stepping in closer, wrapping his arms around her back, and she sank into him, brushing her hands over his shoulders, over his face, pushing her hands into his hair, kissing and kissing him.
This was a mistake; she knew this was a mistake.
But when she gasped for breath, he pressed his lips to her jaw, to her neck, and she clung to him, tipping her head back, and digging her fingers into his back. She hadn’t been kissed in such a long time, hadn’t been held, hadn’t been touched, and she wanted this.
“Clarke,” he murmured, slipping his hands under her shirt to touch the small of her back.
He lifted his head, and she kissed him.
“Do you want to—?”
“Have sex?” she gasped. “Yes.”
She felt him growing hard against her belly, and it made excitement spark up her spine.
He growled into her mouth, sliding his hands to squeeze her ass, and she reached between them, tugging on his shirt, and he broke away from her to yank it over his head; she ran her hands up his stomach, his chest, surging into him. He kissed her, and snaked a hand up to palm her breast, making her arch into his touch, making her gasp when he tweaked her nipple over her shirt. She pushed at his chest, pulling off her shirt, and unhooking her bra.
“Here I thought you didn’t like me,” he breathed.
“I don’t,” she replied, starting to unbutton her trousers. “Take off your pants.”
They stumbled to the sofa, and Bellamy tripped on his trousers, hanging on at his ankles, making Clarke laugh before he dropped onto the sofa, and tugged her into his lap.
She was ready for him, but he kissed her, and brushed his hand up her thigh, cupping her, and sinking a finger into her; he thumbed at her clit, and she closed her eyes, rocking against the heel of his hand, moaning into his mouth when he ducked his head to kiss her breast, when he tongued at her nipple, and his teeth flashed against the top of her breast.
She was dazed when he pulled his hand away from her, and shifted.
He kissed her. “Still?” he said.
“Now that you’ve gotten me all worked up?” she huffed, and he grinned.
“You want me to finish the job with my fingers?” He dropped a kiss to her shoulder, and she heard his smirk when he said, “I’ve seen enough of you to jerk myself off after.”
She gripped his arms, and moved up onto her knees. “Get in,” she said.
His chest shook with laughter, and her cheeks grew warm. But he kissed her, curling his hands around her thighs, and shifting so that he was closer, the tip of him brushing her folds.
She took him in her hand, leaning her forehead against his, and guiding him into her.
She went slowly; her mouth parted inadvertently at the feel of him, stretching her.
His thumb rubbed a circle into her thigh, and she looked him in the eye, seeing that his jaw was locked, and his pupils were blown, but he met her gaze evenly. “You good?”
She nodded, and started to move.
It was rough, uneven.
But she got to set the pace, and he matched it; he was good, picking up on her cues, and it didn’t matter that they were frantic, and sloppy, that they bumped noses when they kissed, and his spit was on her chin, and she was going to have marks on her thighs after.
“Fuck, you feel good,” he panted.
She arched into him slightly, closing her eyes. “You’re welcome,” she said.
He breathed a laugh, and squeezed her ass; when she was close to coming, he knew, and he used his hand to take her over the edge, continuing to fuck her through it.
She panted his name, slumping into his chest, and he grunted in response, digging his fingers into her hips, and slamming up into her; she felt the muscles of his arms flex under her palm, and she started to move again for him, trying to help, and it was enough.
He pressed his face into her neck when he came.
His head dropped to her shoulder after, and they were still, silent, catching their breath.
“The fog is gone by now,” Clarke said.
He lifted his head. “It was gone by the time I started to beat you at chess.”
“You weren’t going to beat me.” She scoffed.
“Then why did we stop?”
She rolled her eyes at his stupid, shit-eating grin, and climbed off his lap. She pulled on her underwear, and grabbed his, huffing when she straightened, and saw that he was staring at her breasts.
He drew his gaze up slowly to her face, then looked up at the ceiling. “Right,” he said. “My bad.”
She tossed his underwear at his face.
She got her bra on, and was reaching for her pants when the hatch started to open. There wasn’t time to do more than look at Bellamy in alarm, seeing that he was shocked, too, before Finn was there, stepping off the ladder, and turning, freezing at the sight of them.
Clarke was in her underwear, and Bellamy was naked on the sofa.
Finn opened his mouth, and closed it.
“Finn,” Clarke started.
“I’ll go,” he said. “Jaha is looking for you, too, but I’ll tell him that you’re fine. That you weren’t hurt in the fog, and that you’re—” He glanced at Bellamy. “—fine.” He left.
She sighed, and turned to Bellamy.
“If it helps, he isn’t going to remember this,” Bellamy said.
She narrowed her eyes at him. His lips began to twitch, and she scooped his trousers up, and threw them at him, hoping the buckle of his belt clipped him in his stupid, smug mouth when he broke into laughter.
She finished dressing quickly, and left the bunker, wanting to talk to Finn. He wasn’t far ahead, and she caught up to him easily. “Hey,” she started. “I know—”
“It’s fine,” he said.
“Is it?” She stared at him, but he was pointedly not looking at her. “Because that’s not how you’re acting.”
“It’s your life, right? Even if you’re being an idiot, it’s your life.”
She took a step, pivoting in front of him, and forcing him to stop. “Right,” she said. “It is my life, and you? Have only been in my life for three days. My relationship with—"
“Your relationship?” He scoffed. “Do you have a history with him, or something?”
“I’m sorry if I hurt you,” she said.
“Don’t worry, Princess.” He moved easily around her. “We’re good. Have fun with him.”
She watched him disappear, heading in the direction of the dropship. She told herself that it didn’t really matter, and it didn’t. He avoided her for the rest of the afternoon, and throughout the evening. But when the day was over, she went to sleep, and that was that.
She woke up, and Jasper groaned.
“How is he?” Finn asked, rising from his crumpled, makeshift bed in the corner.
She stared at him, and remembered what Bellamy said.
“Bad,” she said. “I know what to do, though.”
They were stuck in a reality that wasn’t real, and surrounded by people that were made of paper.
She dropped into a seat across from Bellamy, and stole a potato off his plate. It was hot; she tossed it between her hands at first, blowing on it. He eyed her. “What?” she asked.
“Shouldn’t you be in the woods about now, saving Jaha from the grounders?”
She sighed. “I’m, ah. Taking a night off.”
“I told you,” he said, satisfied.
She decided to ignore his smug little smirk. “You know, it isn’t grounders that kill him.”
“It’s Charlotte. That little girl with the nightmares? I’m serious. I saw her do it once a while ago. She told me that you told her to slay her demons, so. She did.”
“Fuck,” Bellamy said.
She nodded. “Hey, but.” She frowned, and tilted her head at him. “That time I saw it happen. How did I see it? I mean, you haven’t been comforting her through her nightmares this whole time, have you?” she asked. She hadn’t really thought about it before, but. He hadn’t been. She knew he hadn’t been.
“How long ago was it?” he asked.
“I guess it was a while ago.”
“It must have been. I spent a while trying to pretend that tomorrow was going to come, too, you know.” He glanced at her, rueful. “I saved Adam, and comforted Charlotte. I gave up sooner than you, but you must’ve seen her kill him when I was still on that kick.”
“Does this mean that I don’t have to save him every night now?”
“It looks like you’ve already given up on that,” he replied.
It was quiet.
“She, um. She really killed him because of what I told her?”
She glanced at him. “I think you were the trigger,” she said. “But you aren’t the reason. Not really. Charlotte was raised on the Ark, and that’s what the Ark teaches us, right? That killing is how you deal with problems. She twisted your words, but it wasn’t you.”
He nodded. “I hate the Ark.”
“Me, too.” She was going to steal a tomato, but it wasn’t stealing when he held out the plate for her to have her pick.
Bellamy was reading a book from the bunker when she came into his tent, and dropped to her knees, crawling over to collapse on the mess of blankets that covered the ground.
“Murphy is an asshole,” she said.
“Is this news to you?” he replied, keeping his gaze on his book.
She flopped onto her back. “Every single night, I have to listen to him bully that little kid, Max. He’s, what? Thirteen? He’s a kid, and Murphy goes at him until he’s crying.”
“Isn’t that why you always yell at Murphy?”
“Yes. But, I swear, one of these days, I’m going to do worse than yell at him.”
“I mean, I think I’m going to murder him.”
“Go for it.”
She stared at him.
It was dark out, but he had stolen a lantern from the bunker, too, and was using it to read, and it was casting a warm yellow glow in the tent, highlighting the curls in his hair, and the shadow of stubble on his face. She knew that Bellamy was older than the rest of them, and he looked his age in that moment, but he looked somehow softer, too.
“Do you want to have sex?” she asked.
He closed his book.
“You’re easy.” She laughed.
He smothered her laughter with a kiss, rolling her under him. “Yes,” he said. “I am.” He was slower this time, undressing her, and dropping kisses to her neck, her breasts, her stomach. She was messier about undressing him, running her hands greedily up his back.
He dipped his head to her breasts, making her arch her neck when his teeth flashed against her nipple, making her desperate for more; she was breathless with anticipation by the time he nuzzled her stomach, and shifted, hoisting her thighs up over his shoulders. He touched a kiss to the side of her knee, starting to kiss his way up the inside of her thigh.
His breath fanned hotly between her legs, and he pressed his mouth to her.
She curled her fingers in his hair.
“Tell me what you like,” he said, licking his way into her. She yanked on his hair in answer. He got her off in a matter of minutes, using his tongue, and adding his finger.
He rose up on his knees after, stroking her thigh.
“You’re good at that,” she panted.
He smirked. His eyes were dark; his mouth was glinting with wetness.
She pushed up on her elbow, tilting her head. “You want me to suck you off?”
She laughed, and surged up, reaching for him, and hugging his neck when he bent to kiss her; it was slow, and sloppy, consuming, stealing her breath for a moment. She loved long, messy kisses, and Bellamy was fantastic at them, and seemed happy to give them.
But after a moment, he paused, and added “please” like it was an afterthought.
She choked on her laughter, and pressed a hand to his chest, forcing him to shift onto his back. “For the record, this is a first for me.” She took him in her hand.
“You don’t have to,” he said.
“I want to. Just thought you should know. My experience is primarily with vaginas.”
His eyes were bright with amusement. “Noted.”
She dipped her head, swirling her tongue against the tip, and he swore.
It made her smile, and she took him into her mouth a little; his voice was rough when he said her name. She really didn’t know what she was doing, but she used her hand, too, and he was vocal, making it easy to figure out what he liked, and what he didn’t. He warned her when he was going to come, and she released him with a pop, jerking him off, and grinning at him after, leaning in to smack a kiss to his red, slack mouth.
He opened his eyes. “You’re good at that,” he echoed.
His smile was slow, lazy, and she leaned in on impulse, giving him a fast, soft kiss.
She found her underwear, pulling it on, and reached over Bellamy for her shirt. His hand brushed her thigh absently when he sat up, and picked up his book, opening it.
“You aren’t getting dressed?” she said, amused.
He glanced at her. “You are?”
“You’re ridiculous,” she told him, but she dropped onto her back, tugging on a bit of his blanket, and trying to shape it into a pillow. She poked his side. “Read it aloud.”
She found the ball in a bin in the bunker, and she dragged Bellamy to a clearing in the woods as soon as she fished it out, insisting that he needed to play with her now.
It was amazing.
They were in a field, running with grass under them, and the sun on their backs, and breathing in fresh, real air; it was the way that soccer was supposed to be played.
It helped, too, that Bellamy was terrible, and she was winning by a landslide.
She commentated her moves. “Griffin fakes to the left, and—”
Bellamy surged into her suddenly, making her squawk in shock when he hoisted her over his shoulder, and kicked the ball, starting across the rocks that designated her goal, and taking her with him. She yelled, and tried to wiggle from his grasp, but it was impossible. “Ref!” she shouted. “I need a ref! This is a shocking, flagrant disregard for the rules!”
He kicked the ball in, throwing up a hand in the air in victory with a shout.
She pounded on his back in protest, and dissolved into laughter when he began to spin.
Bellamy was grinning when he emerged from the woods at dusk, and made a beeline for where Clarke sat in their seats by the edge of the clearing, prodding a fire to life.
“What?” she said, reaching for the rabbit that he was carrying.
But he kept the rabbit, and gave her the pouch from the bunker that he liked to fetch in the morning, and use for gathering; it was heavy with potatoes, onions, and, to her amazement, strawberries. She gaped at him. “Most of them were rotten,” he explained. “I think it’s the end of their season. I found a few that looked okay, though.”
She bit into one immediately, and moaned.
He was pleased with himself when he sat, and took out a knife to skin the rabbit.
“I love fruit,” she told him.
“I don’t think you understand. I love it, Bellamy. I love it.”
He chuckled, and glanced up from the rabbit to grin at her. But his gaze moved over her shoulder inadvertently, and his face seemed to shutter; his amusement was gone.
She followed his gaze, and saw what it was pinned on: Octavia, talking with a group of girls. She looked at him. “What don’t you give her some of the strawberries?”
“She doesn’t want anything from me,” he said, returning his gaze to the rabbit.
“That’s because she doesn’t know you have strawberries.”
He was silent.
He had told her that they were trapped in a world that wasn’t real, and that these people weren’t real. He had told her that they didn’t really matter. It shouldn’t have bothered him, therefore, that his sister in their warped, repeating reality was mad at him. But it did.
She thought she understood.
Octavia was his sister, and he missed her.
Clarke had begun to brush off the rest of the hundred often, and easily, and she hadn’t felt badly about it a while. But if she wanted to spend a day with them, she could. If she missed Wells, and wanted to have a day with him, she could. It wasn’t real, and it made her miss the real changing, growing Wells, but.
Bellamy didn’t even get a sad, shadowy piece of his sister.
“I got onto the dropship for her,” he said. “I came to the ground for her.”
“She hates my guts.”
“What?” She tried to catch his gaze. “She doesn’t hate you. She—”
“You sure about that?”
“You’re forgetting that I saw you shoot yourself in the head, Bellamy,” she said, and he glanced at her. “I saw you kill yourself, and I saw Octavia’s reaction. Trust me, your sister loves you as much as you love her. Yeah, she’s mad at you, and we’re stuck in the day that she’s mad at you. But you have to know that she loves you.”
He looked at the rabbit. “It was my job to look after her. From the moment she was born, it was my job. My sister, my responsibility. Now she looks at me like I ruined her life.”
“I’m sorry,” Clarke said.
He shook his head. “She’s right to. I did. I’m the reason she was locked up. I’m the reason our mother got floated. It was my fault.” He put the rabbit on their small, makeshift spit.
Clarke hesitated, but she couldn't help it. “What happened?”
“I, um. I took her to a dance. It was a masquerade. Perfect, right? Nobody was going to know who she was, and nobody was going to care. She was nervous to leave the compartment, but I pushed her. I was a guard. I thought that meant I was going to be able to keep an eye her. I wasn’t expecting a solar flare alert.”
“Masks off, I.D.s out,” Clarke said, understanding.
He nodded. “Three days later, they floated my mother."
“I’m sorry.” She bit her lip. “What about you?”
He looked at her. “What about me?”
“I mean, they floated your mother, and they locked up Octavia, but they didn’t—”
“I had an advocate,” he said. His smile was bitter. “Vera Kane.”
“Ironic, I know. Her son floated my mother, but she claimed that it was wrong to hold me responsible for my mother’s actions. I think she’s one of the people who are against the law that accidental second children need to be aborted. She couldn’t save my mother, and O needed to be locked up. To set an example, you know? If they let her get away with living, you’re going to have people who are willing to die to see that their child lives. But I guess I was within the good pastor’s reach. She got me off.”
Clarke didn’t know what to say, but he didn’t really seem to need a response.
“That was the worst year of my life,” he muttered, staring at the fire.
“My mother turned in my father.”
He looked at her.
“He was floated because he knew that the Ark was running out of oxygen, and he thought that people deserved to know, but he was told to keep it quiet. He wasn’t going to, though, so they killed him to keep him quiet. It’s why I was locked up. I knew what he knew, so they needed to keep me quiet, too. It was my mother who told the council what my father was planning to do. She turned him in. She got him floated.”
“They put you in solitary, right?”
“I guess that was the worst year of your life, too.”
“Pretty much. I thought I was going to lose my mind in there.”
For a moment, it was quiet. “You know, you might have,” he said.
The edge of a smirk pulled on his lips. “Come on. You’ve been living the same day over and over for, what? Like a year now? Sounds like you’re a little fucked in the head.”
“Does that make you a figment of my imagination?”
He shrugged. “I am tall, dark, and handsome. That’s a thing, right?”
She gave him a look. He grinned, and turned the rabbit on the spit. She began to fish the potatoes from the bag. It was quiet for a minute. “It hasn’t been a year,” she said.
“How long has it been?”
“I . . .” She huffed, and he smirked.
“Have a strawberry,” he said, consoling. She took one from the bag, and bit into it with a sigh, slumping in her seat.
Pain seized her leg suddenly, making her freeze under him. “Fuck,” she swore. “Fuck.”
“What?” he panted, stilling.
She pressed her heel into his back, trying to will it away, and it worked. “Okay,” she breathed. “Okay. I’m good. Let’s go.” She moved her hips. “Come on. Back at it.”
He breathed a short, huffy laugh, and bent his head to bite at her breast before he pulled out, and thrust in again. She closed her eyes, trying to get back into it; she cupped her breast, and he growled in response, hiking her leg up higher, and driving into her harder.
She gasped, and her face screwed up with the pain.
“What is it?” he said, stopping. “I’m hurting you?” He pulled out, and drew away from her, sitting on his haunches, and sweeping his gaze over her.
She winced. “It’s a cramp.”
“You have a cramp?”
She pushed up on her elbows, and pressed her fingers into her leg, trying to press away the pain. Bellamy nudged her hand away with his, and started to massage the spot, rubbing his thumbs in circles. She nodded. “Harder,” she said, and he pressed his thumbs in. She slumped against the blanket, and he kept at it for a minute. “That’s good. Better.”
“Yeah?” He moved her leg experimentally, lifting it up.
She nodded. “Doesn’t hurt.”
He kissed her, and his hands went to her ass, shifting her against him. But she didn’t really respond, and he paused, drawing away to look at her. “What?”
She scrunched up her nose. “Well, now I’m not really in the mood.” He groaned, and dropped his head to her shoulder. “I’m sorry!” she said, and he rolled off her, onto his side.
“It’s fine, babe.” His tossed his arm over his face, covering his eyes.
It was quiet. She poked his side.
“You want to make out for a while?”
He lifted his arm, and turned his head to look at her. “Yeah, okay. Sure.” She grinned, and moved into his side, seeing the edge of a smile on his face before she kissed him.
She sliced into the weird green fruit, making Bellamy practice the neat, suturing stitch that she taught him on the cut. He was good with a needle when it came to cloth, but.
“When am I going to need to know how to sew up a fruit?” he asked.
She cut her arm. “Have at it,” she said.
She winced when he began to stitch her up. “You did this to yourself,” he reminded her. She glared. His stitches weren’t awful, although he pulled at her skin painfully more than was entirely necessary. But he noticed, and it worked; it encouraged him to practice on the fruit. He learned, got better.
He taught her to darn a sock, and to repair a tear in a shirt, in a pair of trousers.
“My skill was totally more useful,” she told him.
“I’m going to remember that when you come crying to me because you’re sockless.”
He took her to the depot, showing her the guns that were preserved in oil, and teaching her to shoot. He taught her to swing a punch, too, and how to throw off a chokehold.
There wasn’t a lot for them to do beyond this, teaching, and learning.
They spent day after day in the forest, too, exploring.
Clarke drew a map on paper from the bunker. It helped her memory to sketch it out on paper despite the fact that as soon as she woke in the morning, her carefully drawn, carefully measured map was gone. She did it again, and again, until she knew it by heart.
They found a strange, glowing blue fruit. They ate it, and were horribly sick.
They stumbled onto mushrooms, too, and those were delicious.
Clarke looked for plants with possible medicinal properties, and found a lot of them.
They were on their way to the dropship in the evening when little, swirling pinpricks of color began to flash around them. The sky was a dark, deepening blue, and Clarke reached for a flash of purple, trapping it loosely in her hand. She uncurled her fingers.
She was right. It was a firefly.
It lifted off her palm, hovering for an inch, and glowed brilliantly before it took off.
They were everywhere, and in every imaginable color.
Clarke laughed a little when she noticed the glow of pink in Bellamy’s hair. She brushed it off, and touched her palm to his cheek for a moment before she dropped her hand.
“Do you know what I wish?” she asked.
“That I knew what you looked like with a beard.” She scrunched up her nose, and tapped his cheek. “I see you with your smattering of delightful evening stubble, and I wonder.”
“It grows in patchy,” he said.
She grinned. “Perfect.”
He shook his head, leaning in, and kissed her, only to grip her sides suddenly, and yank her in closer, rubbing his stubble against her cheek. She laughed, and pushed him off.
There was a deck of cards in the bunker. Bellamy wanted to play Bullshit, and Clarke suggested good, old-fashioned Go Fish. They used rock, paper, scissors to decide.
“I thought you needed a lot of people for this game,” she said.
“Nope.” He began to shuffle the cards. “I used to play it with Octavia for hours.”
They played round after round on the floor of the bunker, deciding after round number three to up the stakes, and make a bet; the wager they settled on might have been influenced by the fact that they were drinking the whiskey that they found in the bunker.
The loser of the most rounds total was going to spend tomorrow naked.
She woke up, and Jasper groaned. She grinned.
Bellamy hadn’t woken up yet when Clarke left the dropship, but he emerged from his tent soon after, and shock rippled through the clearing when there wasn’t a stitch on him.
He walked calmly to the tarps that were set up to catch rainwater.
Miller was there. He froze when Bellamy came up.
“Hey,” Bellamy said, scooping a cup of water from the tarp.
“Hey, man,” Miller said, hesitant.
Clarke covered her hand with her mouth, laughing so hard that she was tearing up.
“Oh. My. God,” Roma said, and Delia giggled.
“What the hell is the matter with him?” Wells said, coming up next to Clarke.
“Bell!” Octavia yelled. Clarke winced, watching Octavia stalk up to her brother. “What are you doing?”
“I’m getting a cold, refreshing cup of water,” he said. “Would you like a cup?”
She gaped. “Why are you—?” She flapped her hand.
“Oh, why am I naked? Well, my clothes are in the wash.”
Clarke clutched her stomach; there was a stitch in her side from laughter.
It wasn’t until Octavia left in a huff, and the shock seemed to have quieted down slightly that Clarke approached him. He was gathering the supplies to go hunting, ignoring the stares, and the whispers, and the giggles, and she came up behind him, slapping his butt.
She grinned. “How’s it going?”
“I’m great,” he said.
“You look great.”
“You do. The sun really makes your pasty little ass look pastier.”
He smirked. “Keep it up, and you’re going to hurt your boyfriend’s feelings.” He nodded his head to the side, and she glanced over to see that he was nodding his head at Wells.
“That’s like calling Octavia your girlfriend,” Clarke said. “I’m serious. I grew up with him. He’s like a brother to me.”
“Have you told him that?”
“His feelings aren’t my responsibility,” she replied.
Bellamy nodded. “Sure. So. You want to get naked with me, and have sex in front of everyone?”
She tilted her head, and tapped her chin, humming in thought for a moment. “I’m going to have to go with no. But I’ll make you a deal. Declare your deep, passionate, and undying love for Murphy in front of everyone, and I might be convinced to let you touch my boobs later.”
“Deal,” he said.
She drew her gaze pointedly across the clearing to Murphy, and back.
He cleared his throat. “Murphy!” he screeched. His voice turned into a desperate, strangled cry at the end of the name, and Clarke began to laugh.
They left the dropship as soon as possible in the morning, wanting to explore as far as possible. They stopped off quickly in the bunker for supplies, and decided to head directly to the north for now. The forest began to thin eventually, but it went on and on.
They stopped when it was completely dark, and started a fire.
Eventually, the clock struck twelve, and Clarke opened her eyes inside the dropship.
Three days later, they started off as soon as possible again, and headed to the west. It was an evener, easier walk than their trek to the north. There was a creek to follow, and Clarke saw a skunk, which was a first. They stopped for lunch in a small, sunny clearing, and hadn’t been on their way again for an hour when it happened.
Clarke took a step, and the world spun around her.
The breath was torn from her chest, and she was flipped, yanked up violently into the air while Bellamy shouted, trying to grab her, and trying to stop it. But it happened in an instant, couldn’t be stopped; when she recovered from the whiplash, she realized that she was strung up, that she was dangling above the ground by her ankle.
She had walked into a trap.
“Hold on,” Bellamy instructed, and she found his gaze. She nodded. It was fine. She was fine.
She tried to curl up, wanting to test the knot of the rope around her ankle. But she didn’t have the strength to do it for more than a second, and she dropped, feeling sick to her stomach at the blood that rushed to her head, and swaying helplessly in the push of wind.
“I’m cutting you down,” Bellamy said.
She saw him standing at a tree with his knife out, and there was the rope around the tree; that was how she was strung up. She watched him slice through it, and braced for the impact of hitting the ground, squeezing her eyes shut on instinct when she began to drop. But she jerked to a sudden, awful stop, and opened her eyes.
She was dangling only an arm’s length above the ground.
Her gaze flew to Bellamy, and saw that he was gritting his teeth, and straining to hold onto the rope, having snaked it around his forearm. He looked at her. “Ready?”
He released the rope as slowly as possible, and she fell to the ground.
He was at her side immediately, helping her to her feet. “I’m okay,” she assured. She was dizzy, but she was fine. She saw his arm, saw the angry, swelling marks from the rope.
“I’m sorry about the fall,” he said. “It was have you fall, or shoot you in the head.”
“That would have been a perfectly viable option,” she replied.
He shook his head, and smiled against the side of her face before he kissed her temple.
He jerked, and his body went rigid against her. “What?” she started, and he looked at her, and seemed suddenly to cave in. She caught him around the middle, staggering a little with his weight, and over his shoulders, she saw the grounder. She looked down wildly, realizing that there was a knife stuck in Bellamy’s back.
She held onto Bellamy while he sank to his knees, and hugged him to her stomach.
“It’s okay,” she breathed. Even if it wasn’t, it was going to be as soon as the clock was reset at midnight.
The grounders began to emerge from the woods, surrounding them.
It figured that, eventually, they were going to encounter the grounders in some way, shape, or form. But they hadn’t for months upon months, living the day out at the dropship, and in the stretch of woods that they knew, and Clarke hadn’t worried about the grounders in a while, hadn’t wondered about them more than in passing.
“Give me a reason why I shouldn’t kill you,” said a woman.
Clarke gaped. “You speak English.”
It was silent.
“You shouldn’t kill us because we haven’t done anything to you,” Clarke said.
The woman stared at Clarke for a moment, and snarled in a language that wasn’t English. She was a leader, and it was a command; the grounders surged from the trees towards Clarke. They tore her away from Bellamy, and she knew that it was okay, that he was going to be okay as soon as he woke up in the morning. Still. It made some deep, instinctive part of Clarke rear up in a panic to see Bellamy slump onto the ground, groaning, and she struggled, and screamed, and there was a blow to the back of her head.
She woke, and pain seemed to split her head in two.
She blinked at the water that dripped into the eyes, and saw the dark, tattooed face of a grounder. She was tied to a post, and her wrists were bound, held over her head.
That wasn’t important.
Bellamy was swaying on his knees in front of her with a grounder at his back. His face was bloody, battered, and swollen so badly that he was looking at her through slits for eyes. The skin of his fingers was torn up, and her stomach went sour with sickness when she realized that she was able to see bone. She knew what it meant.
He was tortured. They stabbed him in the back, and they tortured him.
“Now let’s see what you’ll say,” said a grounder.
Clarke tore her gaze from Bellamy to look at the man, only for another of the grounders to advance on her with a knife in his hand. She tensed, and met his cold, hateful gaze.
Bellamy released a low, strangled noise, slumping to the ground.
It made the grounder who seemed to be in charge release what Clarke assumed was a curse, and he began to shout in the language of the grounders, slashing his arm at Bellamy. The grounder at Bellamy’s back started to kick Bellamy, and scream at him.
"Stop it!” Clarke shouted. “You’ve done enough to him! Stop it!”
He ignored her.
The grounder hauled Bellamy up, and the grounder with the knife started for him.
That was when Bellamy seemed to jerk suddenly to life: he twisted in the arms of the grounder, catching the grounder off guard, and wrapping an arm around his head, snapping it to the side. Immediately, the rest of the grounders were shouting, advancing, and Bellamy lurched for the grounder with the knife, ducking, and getting slashed across the face. Blood sprayed the ground, and Bellamy turned, caught the grounder’s wrist.
He snapped it, and got the knife, slitting the grounder’s throat, and surging to Clarke.
He sank the knife into her belly.
His nose brushed her cheek. “See you soon, babe,” he whispered. They tore him away from her, but it didn’t matter. The damage was done. She breathed in.
Her vision went black.
She woke up, and Jasper groaned.
She pushed to her feet, tripping a little over the tarp, and ignoring Finn’s question when she headed immediately for the door. The humidity was beginning to creep in like always, and everything was calm, and quiet, was the same, the way it was supposed to be.
Bellamy emerged from his tent before she reached the entrance.
His face was clean, clear. Untouched.
She knew it would be, but relief crashed into her, and she crashed into him, hugging him.
“I’m fine,” he said.
She nodded, and drew away from him, taking his hands. She brushed her thumbs over his knuckles. “They tortured you,” she said. It wasn’t a question, though.
“They wanted to know about the people from the Sky,” he replied. “But when I told them that we came to the ground against our will in an experiment to discover if the ground was inhabitable, and we didn’t know what the rest of our people in the Sky planned to do, they thought that I was lying to them. Nothing I told them was enough to satisfy them.”
“They were going to torture me next,” she said.
“I guess they hoped if it didn't break you, it would break me.”
She bit her lip. “What happened after you killed me?”
“Not a lot,” he said, but she knew that he was lying to her, and he knew that she knew. He sighed. “There might have been some light torture.” His eyes were soft.
She curled her fingers tightly around his. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t worry. I wasn’t really doing that well at that point. I died pretty soon after you.”
She hugged him, closing her eyes, and pressing her face to his neck. He rubbed her back. Monty said her name, and she knew that he was heading for them. “Bunker?” she said.
“Sure.” He pulled away from her.
She leaned up to kiss him quickly just because, and turned to talk to Monty, meeting his desperate, pleading gaze, and reassuring him that Jasper was going to be fine. She knew how to save him; there was a plant in the woods that she needed to get.
They stayed close to the dropship for a while after that, reading the books in the bunkers, and playing the games, keeping to the woods that they knew. They talked about the grounders a lot, too.
“How do you think people were able to survive?” Clarke asked.
“I don’t know. Even if bombs hadn’t killed them, the radiation from the bombs should have. I guess if the bombs were dropped over a period of time, there could have been people who managed to avoid them, and build up a tolerance for the radiation over time.”
“Did the bombs drop over time?”
“Groups could have survived in shelters,” she suggested.
“How long would they need to stay in the shelters?” he said. “Years? Is that possible?”
They debated it endlessly, swapping the tidbits that they knew about the apocalypse, and discussing the grounders, and the possibilities. How many of them were there in total? Were they organized? What was their access to technology? If there were grounders here, were there groups of grounders across the world? How was it possible that they survived?
But their curiosity faded with time. There wasn’t a way to find the answers.
Their caution faded, too.
Eventually, they continued with their exploration.
They headed to the south, and found a large, swampy lake that was impossible to cross. It was like walking into a bog; the humidity was terrible, and the mosquitos were worse; fog swirled thickly around their waists, hovering above the water, and unfurling as far as the eye was able to see in the distance. In a way, it was as incredible as it was miserable.
They began to retrace their steps, escaping the mosquitos, and the day came to an end.
To the east, there wasn’t a lot to find.
They ended up in a field in the evening, lying under a wide black sky, staring up at white pinprick stars that seemed to wink at them, and waiting for the clock to run out.
Clarke knew the constellations, but she didn’t really know the stories that went with them. Bellamy did.
“Cassiopeia,” she said.
“She was the queen of Ethiopia, and she was beautiful,” Bellamy started.
“What did she look like?”
“That isn’t relevant to the story.”
“I want to know.”
He sighed. “She was tall, and had dark, golden skin, and curly yellow hair that fell down her back in thick, beautiful waves. Her eyes were brown, and she smelled nice, too.”
“I suppose that’s sufficient,” Clarke said. “Carry on.”
“Okay. So. She’s beautiful, and she knows it, and she likes to brag about it.”
“Ooh,” Clarke said. “Such a rookie mistake.”
“For the record, these stories don’t require audience participation.”
She smiled, and turned, scooting in closer to him so that rather than pillowing her head on his arm, she rested her cheek against his chest. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I’ll be good.”
He cleared his throat.
It was nearly midnight when it began to rain softly, surprising them. She turned her face up to watch the drops fall, to feel the soft, cool drops prick her cheeks. It was nice.
“What do you think snow is like?” she said.
“Do you think you can feel a snowflake? Does it have a texture? Or is just, like, a touch of cold?”
“I don’t know,” he said.
“I wish we got to know. It’s unfair that we get to come to Earth, but we don’t get to . . .”
He touched her cheek, and she looked at him. His face was wet, and raindrops clung to his lashes when he leaned in, and kissed her soft, and slow. The rain began to pick up. She woke up, and Jasper groaned.
The moment she unearthed the net from a bin in the dropship, Clarke knew what she wanted to do with it. They hadn’t been particularly good at fishing with poles, and this was the alternative. This was the solution. The net was exactly right. Tightly knit, perfectly sized.
Unfortunately, it turned out that fishing with a net was really fucking difficult.
“Fuck it,” Bellamy said, dropping the net, and tugging his shirt off.
She wiped the sweat off her forehead. “Is your plan now to catch the fish in your shirt?”
“I’m going for a swim,” he said. “If I can’t beat the fish, I’m joining them.” He toed off his boots, and started to shuck his trousers. It startled her when he pulled off his underwear, too, before he began to wade into the water. “You coming, or what?” he said.
“There’s a chance there’s a monster in the water that’s going to eat us,” she said.
“That’s a risk I’m willing to take.”
She began to unbutton her trousers, and he grinned.
On impulse, she discarded her bra, too, and her underwear, and splashed in naked after him. The water was cold, and the sun was bright above them, and it was nothing like swimming in the small, crowded pool on the Ark. It was fun, splashing, and floating, and diving under the water to grab at Bellamy’s heel.
There wasn’t a monster in sight.
They spent the rest of the afternoon in the water, and she fucked him on the bank of the river after, laughing at the way their wet, slippery skin made it messy, and at the grass that was stuck in Bellamy’s hair, and on his cheek, tasting the river when she kissed him.
They were at the dropship when the fog rolled in, meaning they were forced to race for cover in the dropship with the rest of the hundred, and wait it out for nearly an hour.
Bellamy talked to Miller for most of the time, and Clarke sat at his side.
She dozed off a little, leaning into him.
It wasn’t noteworthy in her mind, but it shouldn’t have surprised her either when Finn dropped into Bellamy’s seat at their fire that night. Bellamy lost their bet of the day, which meant that he was in the woods at the moment, getting their dinner.
“Hey,” Finn said. “How was your day?
She prodded the fire. “Fine.” She knew the conversation that was going to follow.
“You knew Bellamy on the Ark, didn’t you?” he asked.
“What?” That was new. Usually, he went straight into accusations, and judgments.
“I mean, he went with you this morning to get the medicine for Jasper that you needed, and I saw you guys on the dropship. You drooled on him, and he didn’t bat an eye.”
“I . . . yeah, yes. I knew him on the Ark.”
She blinked. “We got into a fight before I was locked up,” she lied.
Finn nodded. “I’m glad you worked it out. Seems like the guy’s better with you around.”
She didn’t know what to say to that. This conversation was different, and it was strange, disconcerting. She thought that she knew the script for Finn, only for him to do this.
“I have a girlfriend,” he said. “On the Ark.”
“She’s a mechanic. She’s a genius. Raven.”
Clarke stared. “But you were flirting with me,” she said. “Before.”
“I guess I was, wasn’t I?” He was sheepish.
You kissed me, Clarke thought.
“I didn’t mean anything by it,” he said. “Never meant for it to go anywhere. I mean, I like you. I do, and I wanted to . . .” He shook his head. “I know that the ground is supposed to be like some kind of pardon for us, or something. But it feels more like we were banished, you know? I’ve known Raven my whole life, and been in love with her nearly that long, and now—now I don’t know that I’ll ever see her again.”
“You don’t know that,” Clarke said.
He smiled, and drew his gaze from the ground to look at her. “I guess we have only been on the ground for three days. Who knows what’s going to happen tomorrow?”
“Then came Mara,” Clarke said. “She had these dark, crazy curls, and a gap between her teeth that was really cute.” She touched her finger to her teeth. “She was fun. She loved puns a lot. She was in all of my classes the year that we met, and we used to study together. Or we did for maybe a week before it became a euphemism. She was my first.”
“I thought Jenny was your first,” Bellamy said.
“Nope. Jenny was my very first kiss, and I might have felt her up once. But that was it.”
He propped himself up on his elbow to look at her, and amusement tugged on his mouth; he ran a hand up her belly, cupping her breast, and brushing his thumb against her nipple.
Bellamy loved to give soft, absent touches. It wasn’t really sexual. In public, he liked to touch a hand to her hip, or to her elbow; alone, he liked to run his hand up thigh, or over her arm, to graze his fingers along the small of her back because she was on her belly, and he could. It was like when she was near, he wanted the reassurance that she was near.
“What happened with Mara?” he said. “I assume you broke up.”
“We never officially dated."
“I thought I was in love with her for a while, but I wasn’t. I don’t know. It was like we were never allowed to be quiet, you know? Once I realized, it kind of fizzled out.”
“How soon after were you locked up?”
“It wasn’t that long. Two months? I wondered a lot in lock up what she thought about it. Me getting locked up. I never really knew what the council told people about it.”
“I couldn’t tell you,” he said. “It wasn’t something I paid attention to.”
She nodded. “I made out with Finn once.”
“It was nice. I like my kisses to be slightly more interesting, but his technique was solid.”
She laughed. “What about you?” she asked.
“Me,” he said.
“You.” She pushed lightly at his chest. “Tell me about your history.”
He sighed, and dropped her gaze, shifting onto to his back.
She bit her lip. “You don’t have to. It was my idea to talk about this stuff.”
“It’s fine. I made out with a few different girls at parties when I was a teenager. I didn’t really have relationships, though. I couldn’t risk it. Let anybody get close, and what happens when they discover Octavia? So. First time I had sex was about a month or so after O got locked up. It was a one time thing. She was older; I was drunk.”
It was quiet, and Clarke thought he was done.
He wasn’t. “There were more after her,” he said. “Girls I picked up at parties whenever the compartment got quiet, or I was feeling really shitty about myself. It wasn’t ever serious. Most of them weren’t interested in me in the daylight. There were a couple, but I wasn’t interested in me in the daylight, so. Nothing ever happened.”
Clarke wanted to hug him in that moment, wanted to tuck him into her arms, and keep him there.
“That’s it,” he said.
“That’s not it,” she said. She turned into his side, propping herself up, and touching a hand to his chest. He looked at her. “Then you came to the ground, and met me.”
He smiled. “Yeah.”
She ducked her head to press a kiss to his stomach.
He reached out, and tucked her hair behind her ear, and she watched the smile fade off his face, watched his eyes grow serious, grow sad. “Clarke,” he said.
He shifted, making to sit up, and she was forced to move off him, to sit up.
“Bell, what is it?”
He brushed his hand up her leg, and let it settle on her knee. “I killed the chancellor.”
He swallowed visibly. “There was this guard, a commander. Shumway. He was the one who caught O at the masquerade, and turned us in. He came to me before the dropship was launched, and told me that O was on it, and he said that he’d get me on it, too, if I—”
“—killed the chancellor,” Clarke said.
He nodded. “I didn’t know what to do, but I was the reason she was locked up, and they were sending her to the ground to—to die, and I—I had to go with her. I had to.”
“That’s why you didn’t want them to come to the ground,” she realized.
His hand slipped off her knee.
She traced her gaze over his face. He was staring at the ground. “It’s okay,” she said.
“It’s okay?” He looked at her in disbelief.
“She’s your sister,” Clarke said. “I get it. It was wrong, but—doing the wrong thing for the right reason? It’s forgivable. Not right, but forgivable.”
“I’m a murderer.”
She combed her fingers through his hair, brushing it away from his forehead, and taking his face in her hands. “I know what you are, Bellamy,” she told him. “You’re mine.”
He stared at her.
She brushed her thumbs against his cheeks. “Okay?” she breathed.
“Okay,” he said. She closed her eyes, touching her forehead to his for a moment before he tilted his head, and caught her lips in a kiss. She deepened it, wrapping her arms around his shoulders, shifting into his lap. It was going to be midnight soon, but they had a few minutes left.
They found a turtle by the creek that was closest to the dropship, and when they saw the second following closely behind, it became clear immediately what needed to happen.
“What are they doing?” Fox asked, joining the crowd that circled them.
“What’s it look like they’re doing?” Monroe said.
“Go, Flavius, go!” Bellamy yelled.
“You’ve got this, Pokey!” Clarke said, waving him forward. “Come on!”
Flavius began to veer off the left. “Flavius!” Bellamy shouted. “Flavius, no!” Bellamy saw the leaf, and he slammed his fist on the ground. “No, Flavius, no! Stay on task! REMEMBER THE EARTHWORM! The leaf is a distraction! DAMMIT, FLAVIUS!”
Clarke laughed. “This is your moment to shine, Pokey!” she shouted. “Go! Go!”
Her turtle crossed the line.
She yelled, and pumped a fist in the air in victory. “Yes! YES!” She bent to coo at her turtle. “Who’s the best turtle? Who’s the fastest turtle? Is it you, Pokey? Is it you?”
“I demand a rematch,” Bellamy said, crossing his arms.
Pokey began to eat the earthworm.
“Look at that, Pokey,” Clarke said, lifting her gaze up to smirk at Bellamy. “I guess somebody’s a sore loser, and a slow turtle picker.”
She began to sketch her father a lot. Bellamy sat on the sofa with a book while she drew, trying desperately to remember the shape of his eyes, and the angle of his jaw. She was beginning to forget the details of his face, to forget his voice, and his laugh, and his smell. She hated it.
It made sense, though. She hadn’t seen him in years.
She described him to Bellamy, wishing he could have known her father.
“He would have liked you,” she said.
“Really?” He arched an eyebrow at her, skeptical.
He grinned, and she ducked her head, adding the shadow of stubble to her portrait. She bit her lip, assessing the drawing. “My mother is a whole other story,” she said.
“You think about her a lot?”
She glanced at him. “Not a lot. But when I think about my dad, it’s hard to avoid thinking about her, too.” She paused. “I still can’t make it fit. How she did it. She turned in her husband. I want to think she didn’t know what was going to happen, but she had to know, Bell. She had to. I guess she thought it was the right thing.”
“Say it was,” he said. “Would that make a difference?”
“What do you mean?”
He sat up on the sofa. “I mean, you say she turned him in because she thought she was doing the right thing. Obviously, you don’t think she was.”
“People deserved to know the truth,” Clarke said.
“I agree. My point, though, is let’s say that she was doing the right thing. Let’s say that mass rioting was going to happen if he told the truth, and people were going to die. Would that make a difference to you? If she’d done the right thing by sacrificing him, would you be able to forgive her? Because if you would, maybe you should forgive her for doing what she really believed was the right thing.”
She stared at him. “That wouldn’t be enough for you. You wouldn’t forgive her.”
“No. But I’m not you, and she isn’t my mother. It’s not about what I’d do.”
She dropped her gaze to her drawing. There was something off about father’s smile, something missing. “What about your mother?” she asked.
“What about her?”
She looked at him. “Do you think she would have liked me?”
He smiled, and it made her smile, too. “Yeah,” he said, soft. “I think she would have loved you.”
She turned a page in the notebook. “Tell me what she looks like. I’ll draw her.”
“She had brown hair?”
“How about we start with the shape of her face,” Clarke said, and she waved a hand at him. He slid off the couch onto his knees, moving to sit beside her on the floor. He seemed slightly amused, but she was doing this. “Was it longer? Round? More square?”
“It was longer, I guess.” He paused. “It was like Octavia’s.”
They spent an hour like that, sitting on the floor with their heads bent over the notebook. Bellamy began to correct her a lot; it was lucky that she was using a pencil. In the end, the woman that Clarke drew looked a lot like Octavia. She was older, and she was a little plainer, a little colder, but the resemblance was there.
That night, she found Octavia in the dropship with Monty, Jasper, and Finn.
“Hey, Octavia,” she said, sitting.
Octavia glanced at her. “Hey.” She paused. “I saw you hanging out with my brother this morning.” She raised her eyebrows at Clarke. “I thought you hated him.”
“He was helping me get the plant for Jasper,” Clarke said. “He knew where to find it.” It wasn’t a lie.
Octavia nodded, and looked away from her. “I’m surprised he bothered to help.”
“Me, too,” Finn said.
“I’m not,” Clarke said. “He’s a good guy at heart.”
For a moment, it was quiet.
“If he helped get the medicine that Jasper needed, he’s good in my book,” Monty said.
“He is a good guy,” Octavia said, softer. “He’s just really bad at showing it.”
“He is kind of an idiot,” Clarke agreed.
“You aren’t talking about me, are you?” Jasper groaned, and it was like a switch was flipped: everyone gasped, scrambling to the table where he lay. Clarke watched.
Octavia laughed, and hugged Jasper’s shoulders.
I want to know you, Clarke thought. I want you to know me, and to like me.
But that was never going to happen, was it?
Clarke left the dropship quietly, leaving the group to be happy. It was dark out, and she paused, staring at the spark of the fires, and people moving around, eating, talking.
Bellamy was sitting by the fire with Miller.
Mostly, he never bothered with the rest of the hundred. But once in a while, he ended up hanging out with Miller, Atom, or Colin. They weren’t real, but they were his friends.
She headed for them.
Miller saw her coming, and rose to his feet, giving her a nod when he passed her.
She sank into a seat, breathing in the smell of the rabbit. She was hungry.
“You okay?” Bellamy said.
She glanced at him, and found that his gaze was heavy on her face, searching. She didn’t know what he was expecting to find. “I’m fine,” she told him. “Tired.” She smiled, and when he nodded, she returned her gaze to the fire.
It was like something in her snapped when she heard Murphy start in on little, helpless Max again. It happened every single night, and it shouldn’t have bothered her at this point. But it did, and she stalked across the camp towards them. “Murphy!” she yelled.
He glanced at her. “What’s the matter, Princess?” He smirked.
She lost it. She didn’t stop moving when she was close, when she reached him, using her fury to propel herself forward, to shove him in the chest, and he stumbled in shock.
“What the fuck is the matter with you?” he shouted.
“Leave him alone.”
“Or what? The precious little princess is going to beat me up?” He scoffed, and his gaze was hateful; he stepped into her space, glaring, and trying to intimate her.
“You’re despicable,” she spat. “You’re a bully, and you don’t have the brains to be more.”
He began to shake his head. “You’re going to regret that.”
“Why? You think you’re tough?" She raked her gaze over him. "You think you know everything there is to know about me, and you’re bigger, and badder, and tougher?”
“Hey!” Bellamy yelled, pushing through the crowd towards them.
But Murphy didn’t look away from Clarke, and she arched her eyebrows at him in challenge.
He swung a punch, only to be shoved away from her.
“The fuck are you doing?” Bellamy snapped.
“I’m giving the princess a lesson in who’s in charge on the ground,” Murphy snarled.
“You think it’s you?” Clarke said, mocking. Murphy lunged, but Bellamy caught him by the shoulders, and shoved him back. “It’s not," she taunted. "You’re nothing. You follow Bellamy’s orders ‘cause he makes you think you matter. But you want to know a secret? You don’t. You’re as much of a waste of space on the ground as you were on the Ark.”
It was silent.
Bellamy looked at Clarke. “I think that’s enough.”
“What’s the matter?” Clarke said, staring at Murphy. “You don’t have some witty retort?”
“Let’s go,” Bellamy said. He pulled at Clarke’s arm, but she jerked from his grasp. “Clarke.” She tore her gaze away from Murphy to look at him. “We’re done.”
She glanced at Murphy, and pursed her lips. “Fine. We’re done.”
The crowd of people around them parted for her to pass, and Bellamy was at her heels.
He started in on her as soon as they were away from the crowd. “What was that about?” he said.
“What did it look like it was about? Murphy’s an ass, and I’m sick of ignoring it.”
He stared at her. “You realize he’s a kid, right? He’s sixteen.”
She crossed her arms. “I’m seventeen, and I don’t treat people like shit.”
“You just treated Murphy like shit,” Bellamy said. “Do you even know what his deal is?”
“I don’t care,” she snapped.
“He got sick, and his father got floated for trying to steal the medicine to save him. His mother blamed him, and told him so before she drank herself to death. That kind of thing? It fucks you up.” He sighed. “It doesn’t mean he gets to be an ass, but you could at least cut him a little slack. He’s a kid.”
She looked away from him, and the anger seemed to pour out of her like she was punctured, deflated.
“I’m not trying to yell at you,” he said, softer.
“I know. It’s fine.” She met his gaze. “You’re right. I shouldn’t have gone off on him like that. I don’t know what came over me.” She offered up a small, tight smile, and he touched a hand to her arm, pressed a kiss to her forehead.
She had grown restless before, but this was different. This was endless, gnawing at her, and making her anxious. She tried to find new, different ways to fill the days.
But there wasn’t a lot that she hadn’t done before.
She spent a day with a group of chatty, younger girls who she hadn’t really spoken to a lot in those early days when she was making the rounds among the delinquents. They were nice, and gave away pieces of themselves easily; she learned about the crimes that got them locked up, their fears of the ground, that they thought Bellamy was so, so cute.
She took a bath in the creek with soap from the bunker, washing her hair, and combing it out after. It wasn’t her first makeshift bath on the ground, but she put in an effort she hadn’t before. She shaved her arms, and her legs, and there was lotion in the bunker, too.
“This is weird,” Bellamy said. “You’re all soft and nice smelling.”
She frowned. “I feel like I should be insulted by that.”
“I always thought your hair was brownish yellow. Turns out it’s just regular yellow.”
“I’m going to kick you in the face,” she said. But his stubble rasped against her thigh, and her legs opened a little wider for him; she yanked on his hair in annoyance when he smirked into her skin. “Don’t get used to it. I’ll be regular old grubby me again tomorrow.”
He nuzzled her thigh. “I like regular old grubby you.”
Three days later, she decided she wasn’t up for anything that day, and she slit her throat.
Bellamy was pissed. “You couldn’t have warned me before you killed yourself?”
“It’s not like it stuck,” she protested.
He glared at her, and she promised to warn him before she did it again. She pulled him into a hug, and waited for him to relax against her, signaling that she was forgiven.
It wasn’t like she was really killing herself, though.
She decided that she wanted to explore again, to try to go further. It occurred to her in the bunker where they ought to go; she couldn’t believe she hadn’t considered it before.
“Let’s go to Mt. Weather,” she said, turning to look at Bellamy on the sofa.
“Mt. Weather,” she repeated.
“Do you think we’ll be able to make it in a day?”
“It can’t hurt to try, and who knows what we’ll find.”
“If you think there’s a chance we’ll find a strange magical machine that’s going to make time start moving again, I’m in.” He returned his gaze to his book, and it was settled.
They left early in the morning, following the maps from the dropship.
It was afternoon when the canister seemed to tumble from nowhere to land at their feet.
“Run.” Bellamy grabbed her hand.
Gas began to leak form the canister, spreading quickly across the ground, and he pulled at her arm, dragging her along at a stumble for a split-second until her brain caught up, and she broke into a sprint. Bellamy jerked at her hand when another canister rolled into sight, and Clarke looked wildly at the trees, searching for the culprit. But the trees were a blur, and Bellamy swore, and something bit in her neck.
She tripped, and her vision went loopy, stretching, and spinning. “Bell,” she gasped.
In the blur of her vision, she saw the figure in a mask, a suit.
She blacked out.
She woke up, and it was silent.
She blinked. Her eyes teared up slightly at the onslaught of light, but they adjusted after a moment, and she sat up slowly, taking in her surroundings. She was in a completely white, completely sterile room. She was in a box. Her clothes were different, too: white, clean. She touched a spot on her arm. They took blood from her.
Who the fuck were they? Where was she? What the fuck was going on?
There was a camera. She was under watch.
The ground was cold, but she got off the bed, and headed for the door.
It was locked, and nobody responded when she pounded on it, shouting. But she was able to see in the hallway. There was a door across the hall with another round window.
Bellamy, she thought.
She banged on the door, and screamed for him until she was hoarse. It was useless. If he was in that room, he couldn’t hear her, or he couldn’t get to her.
He wasn’t in danger. She needed to remember that.
But she needed, too, to know what the fuck was going on.
It hurt to break the glass, but she did it, and got out. The hallway was empty, quiet, and she gaped when she saw the answer to one of her questions. She was in Mt. Weather.
What the hell?
Quickly, she crossed to the cage across from her own. She looked in the window. He was there, lying on a bed that was identical to her bed. She pounded on the glass, but he was motionless. She tried the handle on the door, and choked on relief when it opened for her.
She ran to the bed, to him.
“Bell!” She shook his shoulder. There was a mark on his arm, too, but he wasn’t hurt. He groaned, and tried to turn away from her. But she touched his face. “Bell, wake up.”
He blinked. “Clarke? What—?” His eyes went wide.
“There it is,” she breathed.
He sat up. “What the fuck is going on? They shot you with a dart, and the gas—”
“We’re in Mt. Weather,” she told him. “I saw a sign in the hallway. I guess there are people in Mt. Weather that the Ark doesn’t know about.”
He noticed her bloody, torn up hand.
“I’m fine,” she assured, and he rubbed her side for a moment.
“Do you know what time it is?” he asked.
He glanced at the door, and looked at her. “What do you want to do? Kill ourselves, get out while we can? Or try to see what we can figure out before the clock resets?”
She hesitated. She was planning on doing the latter when she broke out of her room, but. What was the point? They didn’t really need to know anything about these new, mysterious people in Mt. Weather. They weren’t ever going to have to deal with them.
Bellamy shot to his feet, stepping in closer to Clarke.
Her gaze snapped to the door.
“Don’t be frightened,” said the figure in the suit, holding up a hand. The voice was female. “We don’t want to hurt you.”
“You could’ve fooled me,” Bellamy growled.
“We knocked you out and brought you to this level because we needed you to undergo decontamination. You have been exposed to radiation, and can expose us.”
“Radiation?” Clarke said.
“The radiation on the ground is toxic to myself, and my people. There are those above the ground who are immune, and it seems your people are immune, too. We suspect that intense solar exposure while in space built up immunity in your blood over generations.”
“You know we’re from space?” Bellamy said.
“What does the radiation do to you?” Clarke asked.
“It kills us. Instantly.”
She frowned. “How have you survived?”
“Carefully. Now if you’ll please listen to me. To be effective, decontamination—”
“We want to leave,” Bellamy said. “Now.”
“We aren’t going to hurt you.”
“I don’t give a shit.” He stared at her. “Let us leave.”
“We can help you,” she insisted. “We—"
“We didn’t ask for your help, and we don’t want it. We want to leave.”
“I’m afraid that isn’t possible. Our facility is underground, and sealed against radiation. If we were to open the doors to allow you to leave, it would allow radiation in—”
Clarke frowned. “But you got us in,” she said. “Clearly, you have ways to come and go.”
“I’m afraid that I cannot let you leave at this time.”
Bellamy looked at Clarke, and his fingers grazed her arm, her wrist. She was holding a piece of glass from the window. “I think we’ve figured out enough,” he murmured.
She nodded, and plunged the glass into his neck.
For an instant, she wasn’t able to breathe. She'd killed him.
But there wasn’t time for her to panic on instinct. The woman in the suit shouted, and people in suits began to pour into the room. She needed to act quickly. Bellamy was dead, and she pulled the glass out. She didn’t have a chance to kill herself next, though.
She woke up, and Jasper groaned.
She ignored Finn, and left the dropship, heading directly for Bellamy’s tent.
He emerged, pulling on a shirt. “You get out okay?” he asked.
She nodded. “Clock reset about three seconds later.”
“It would.” He smiled.
“It was smart of you to ask to leave,” she said.
He nodded, grim. “I don’t know what their deal is, but I promise you that it’s fucked up.”
“Doesn’t matter, though. We aren’t ever going to have to deal with them.”
He frowned. “Clarke—”
“Clarke!” Monty shouted. She closed her eyes. She never got more than a minute in the morning before Monty was on her. “Clarke?” She opened her eyes, and looked at him. “Jasper’s getting worse,” he told her, and he lowered his voice a little. “It’s scaring me.”
“It always does,” Bellamy said.
“Don’t worry,” Clarke said, cutting off Monty’s response. “There’s a plant that’ll be able to save him, and Bellamy knows where it is. We were about to head out to get it.”
Monty nodded. “I’ll come with you.”
“No.” She said it sharper than she needed to, and backtracked quickly. “It’s a hike, and someone needs to stay with Jasper, and keep an eye on him.”
Monty agreed, and Bellamy followed Clarke into the woods.
“What are you up for today?” Bellamy asked.
She shook her head. She was heading for the creek, but she didn’t really want to get the seaweed, didn’t want to have to return to the dropship, and deal with everyone.
“What’s going with you?”
“I’m serious, Clarke.
He grabbed her arm. “Clarke.”
She looked at him.
His face was serious, determined, and annoyance was pulling at his mouth, but his eyes were soft, and she began to shake her head, feeling it rise up in her. “What?” he said, gentle.
“It’s starting to get to me,” she murmured. She cleared her throat. “Living like this, it’s—I was doing okay for a while. I was. But it’s like I woke up one day, and it was just one day too many, and I can’t—I can’t take it anymore, Bell. I can’t keep living like this. It’s not living. It’s—existing. The grounders, and Mt. Weather, and—and what’s the point? Why is there this whole big world around us, and we aren’t allowed to live in it?”
He rubbed her arm.
“I have you,” she went on, “and I want to say that’s enough—”
“But do have I you? What if this is all some nightmare that I’ve created for myself? What if you’re not even real? What if I’ve made you up?” Her eyes burned with tears. “What if—what if you were right when you made that joke, and I really have lost my mind, and I’m still in the skybox right now?”
“No.” He shook his head.
“Do you have a better explanation?”
“I don’t know what’s going on,” he said. “I don’t know how we’re stuck like this. It’s fucked up. But I know that whatever the hell this sick, twisted joke is, we’re in it together.” He stared at her. “You aren’t crazy, Clarke. I’m real, and I’m in this with you.”
She pressed her lips together. “I want it to snow, Bell.”
“I want to forgive Wells, and have him remember. I want to get to know your sister. I want to—I want to build a settlement on the river, and grow up, and have a baby with you.” She laughed tearfully, and shook her head. “I want to wake up in the morning, and have you next to me. I don’t even get that, Bell.”
He tugged her into his arms.
“I can’t keep living like this,” she whispered.
She closed her eyes, hugging him closer, and pressing her face into his neck. She wanted to cry, to scream, to fight. But there was nothing to fight. They were stuck. Forever.
She frowned when she bit into the leg of rabbit that Bellamy gave her, and glanced at him to see that his gaze was on her face while she chewed, assessing. “Is it bad?” he asked.
“No.” She shook her head. “It’s good. It’s really, really good.”
He grinned. “Rosemary.”
“You seasoned the rabbit?” she asked, amused.
“It worked, didn’t it?” he replied. “That’s some fucking good rabbit you’re eating.” He was pleased with himself, and he was right to be; the seasoning was perfect, and the rabbit hadn’t ever tasted this good. “I tried something with the potatoes, too,” he went on. “Here. Try it. Here.” He pushed a plate of potatoes at her.
She smiled before she took a small, sampling bite of the potato. Usually, he cooked the potatoes with onions. But this was cooked with an herb. It wasn’t rosemary, but.
“It’s good, right? Different.”
She looked at him. His gaze was bright, and he was eager, hopeful. “Perfect,” she told him. She stood a little to press a kiss to his mouth, and she lingered. “Thank you.”
Her eyes were closed, and she was close, clenching around him while he hit that spot over and over and over, pounding into her from behind. “Bell,” she gasped. “Bell—” She whimpered when he stopped suddenly, buried to the hilt in her.
“You need something, buddy?” Bellamy asked.
Clarke’s eyes snapped open and up to see Wells, standing at the entrance of the tent.
He gaped at her for a moment before he turned on his heel without a word, and stumbled out as quickly as he came in. This wasn’t exactly the first time they were caught in the middle of sex, or even the tenth, for that matter, but Wells had never caught them before, and she stared after him in shock for a moment.
“You okay?” Bellamy said.
She tried to move against him. “Fine.”
He pulled out, and pushed at her hip until she turned, and dropped onto her back. He raised his eyebrows at her, skeptical.
“I’m fine,” she said. “Now c’mere, and finish your job.” She held out her arms.
He grinned, and hoisted her legs up, giving her a slow, dirty kiss before he sank into her, bringing her back to the edge quickly, and taking her over for the third time that night.
But when they were finished, her mind drifted inadvertently back to Wells.
She headed to Bellamy’s tent as soon as she woke in the morning, and he emerged while she was approaching. “Up for the river?” he said, pulling his shirt over his head.
“I think I’m going to spend the day with Wells,” she replied. “I miss him.”
He nodded. “I’ll bring you back a fish.”
“Having seen you try to catch a fish, I doubt that.”
He narrowed his eyes at her. “Okay,” he said. “Okay, I’ll bring me back a fish.”
She gave him a kiss. “Sure.”
In the dropship, she explained to the boys that she knew the plant that the grounders used in their poultice, that it might be able to save Jasper, and she thought she knew where to find it. She asked Wells to come with her, and told Finn that she needed him to stay in the dropship, and keep Jasper safe from Murphy, and his ilk. He was reluctant, but he agreed.
On their way into the woods, Clarke told Wells that she knew the truth.
“I’m sorry I assumed it was you,” she told him. “I’m sorry I—”
He smiled, and she hugged him. “It’s really nice to have my friend back,” he said.
“I’ve missed you,” she murmured. He had no idea.
It was in the car that he brought up Bellamy. The fog was pressing in on the windows, and they were sitting in easy, companionable silence. “Hey, um,” he started, and she glanced at him. “I saw you this morning with Bellamy.” He paused, and it was a question.
“I had to ask him a question about the seaweed.”
He nodded. “You kissed him.”
“I’m not trying to interrogate you, or anything,” he said. “Just—I didn’t know.”
“There’s not a lot to know.”
His smile was wry. “You aren’t really great at lying, Clarke.
She sighed. “It’s complicated.”
“How long have you been in love with him?”
She stared at him.
“I’ve known you my whole life,” he told her, knowing, and she didn’t want to lie.
“To be honest, I—I don’t really know,” she admitted. “It happened when I wasn’t really paying attention.” She bit her lip. “It happened in the moments between time, I guess.”
“This means he isn’t as big of a jerk as he seems, right?”
She nodded. “Don’t worry. It might not seem like it, but he’s one of the good guys.”
“You know I love you, too, right?” she said. She loved him, and even if he didn’t remember one single day from these last years of her life, she was glad he was in them.
He smiled. “I know.”
The fog began to dissipate, and they were able to leave the car before long. They returned to the dropship, and she gave Jasper the medicine while Monty watched on, and Finn ranted about Murphy. For a night, Jasper was saved, and Clarke left the boys to celebrate.
In the clearing, she saw Octavia with Atom, and with Bellamy, too.
“I guess you saved the kid,” Murphy said. “Congratulations, Princess.”
She glanced at him. He had that arrogant, insufferable look on his face, and she sighed. “You don’t have to be a jerk, you know.”
“You know, I think I do,” he said, and he stepped in closer, invading her space. He liked to do that, but it was ineffective; he wasn’t that big, or scary. He was nothing in comparison to Bellamy, whose larger frame crowded her regularly.
“My mother turned my father in,” Clarke said. “She got him killed. You think you’re the only one who’s had shitty things happen to them? You’re not. You’re surrounded by people who’ve had shitty things happen to them. That’s why we’re here, and we’re not the enemy.” She stared at him. “We’re on your side.”
He scoffed. “You’re really going to pretend you give a shit about me, or my side?”
“I’m not the one who’s pretending, John.”
She didn’t wait for his reply. Over his shoulder, she was able to see Bellamy at the fire by himself, and she left Murphy to be an asshole. She didn’t need him to ruin her day.
“Where’s my fish?” she asked, sitting.
“I decided to go with delicious wild turkey tonight,” Bellamy replied.
She smirked, and he grumbled under his breath. “I saw you saved Atom.”
He shrugged. “Happened to be in the right place at the right time,” he said, and he gave her the potatoes to cook while he plucked the turkey.
It surprised her when Wells came to sit at the fire with them. Bellamy glanced at him, and at Clarke, but he kept his thoughts to himself. Octavia was next, dropping onto the seat across from Bellamy, and she brought Atom with her. "Holy shit, is that fruit?" she exclaimed, and Bellamy grinned. Miller was last, and everyone was eager to shovel in the turkey, and the potatoes, and to try the weird green fruit for dessert.
She was happy when she dropped to her knees inside Bellamy’s tent, and crawled into the middle of the blankets, flopping onto her back. She kicked at her boots, getting them off.
Bellamy undressed, and lay beside her.
“I’m glad you were able to make up with your sister,” she said, rolling onto her side.
“She isn’t going to remember in about four hours,” he replied.
“Still. Dinner was nice.” It was nice, normal.
He nodded. “I spent a while with Charlotte today.”
“How did that go?” She knew that Charlotte was messed up, that she was sick, and she was a child, but there was a part of Clarke that could never really see past the fact that she killed Wells.
“I think it went okay,” he said. “I talked to her.”
“What did you say?”
“That you think hurting the people who hurt you is going to make you feel better, but it doesn’t. You feel better by surviving when they don't want you to, and finding people to care about again, finding a reason to be happy. I think she took it well.”
She smiled. “I’m sure you did a very good job.”
He pinched her side.
“I mean it!”
He kissed her, stopping the laughter that was pouring from her. It was a fast, messy kiss that was meant to stop her laughter, to steal her breath. But she slowed it, deepened it.
She smiled when he trailed his mouth to her neck, and his hands tugged at the hem of her shirt. They got it off, and her bra, too, and she pushed her fingers into his curls while he kissed her breasts, using his teeth to leave a mark, sucking on her nipple, working her up slowly, lazily. They got the rest of their clothes off, and she pulled on his shoulders, bringing him close, having him settle in the cradle of her thighs.
He pushed into her.
“I love you,” she breathed.
He stared at her.
“I guess you probably know, but I thought I should say it. I love you.”
He kissed her, and shifted his hips, starting to move, holding her gaze.
“You love me, too, right?”
“Yeah," he breathed. "I love you.” His voice was low, gravelly, and she arched into him, loving his slow, steady thrusts, and the look on his face, and him. “I love you so fucking much,” he whispered.
Her orgasm built slowly, and came suddenly, making her cry out his name.
He buried his face in her neck after, fucking her harder, faster, murmuring nonsensically into her skin, saying love you and everything, Clarke, everything; he pushed her up the blankets a little with the force of his thrusts, and she came again, tugging his face up for a kiss in a daze, and repeating his name, staring at him through heavy, lidded eyes.
She wrapped her arms around his back. “Come on, honey,” she breathed.
His face dropped to her cheek, and he came.
He touched a quick, soft kiss to her mouth before he rolled off her.
It took a while for her heart to slow, and they lay in silence, cooling off. His hand found her wrist, and his knuckles brushed against the back of her head; he toyed with her fingers, and she glanced at him after a beat, tracing the shadows playing on his face.
“Do you think we would have happened if we hadn’t gotten stuck together?” she asked.
He looked at her. “Yes.”
She smiled, and he squeezed her fingers before he turned onto his side to face her, and she mirrored him. She bit her lip. “Do you think you would have fallen for whomever you got stuck with?”
“You sound pretty confident in your answer,” she said, trying to tease. Her neck was warm.
“I am,” he replied, and he reached up to push a lock of hair off her face, smoothing his fingers along her cheek. “I love you, Clarke. I do, and the way I love you? Just—it’s you. I probably would’ve gotten close with the person I got stuck with, but it wouldn’t have been like this.”
She cupped his jaw, and kissed him. “Me, too.”
She nodded. “I’m glad it’s you. I’m glad you’re the one I got stuck with.”
They stayed like that for a while in the quiet, staring.
He saw her close her eyes, and open them slowly. “Go to sleep,” he murmured.
“No.” She was sleepy, but she didn’t want to go to sleep.
He grinned. “Okay.” He shifted closer, wrapping an arm around her, and stroking her back. His palm was warm, soft. “Stay with me.” He chuckled slightly, and she realized that her eyes were closed. She opened them, and saw his smile.
Sweat prickled along her neck, and she rolled onto her back, shifting a little, and sighing, and trying to drift to sleep. But it was impossible to sleep; the heat was oppressive, weighing on her, and she rubbed at her eyes, opening them slowly, blinking at the ceiling.
It was quiet.
She sat up in a panic. She was naked, and sprawled in blankets that smelled like Bellamy, and her eyes landed on him immediately. He was naked, too, and lying on his stomach.
She was in Bellamy’s tent, and the material of the tent was glowing with the light of day.
“Bellamy.” She shook his shoulder. “Bell, wake up.”
He grunted, and turned his face away from her.
“Bellamy!” She pushed at his arm until he sighed, and shifted up onto his elbows to stare blearily at her. “It’s morning, Bellamy,” she said, waiting to see the understanding dawn on him.
“Okay?” he said. His gaze skated over her. “You’re naked.”
She stared at him.
“Fuck,” he breathed, gaping. “This is where you woke up?”
“This is where I woke up,” she said, breathless.
“Fuck. Yeah?” His eyes were shining with disbelief, and more.
She scrambled to tug on her clothes, and managed to get on her underwear, her pants, and Bellamy’s shirt before she needed to know, and she stumbled from his tent with bare feet, and wild hair. It was early, and the camp wasn’t bustling yet, but the map of people that she knew by heart was off. People weren’t standing where they were supposed to, weren’t doing what they were supposed to, and her heart was racing with the realization.
She made a beeline for the dropship.
Jasper was asleep on the table. She yanked up his shirt, and he shifted, making a face in his sleep. His wound was wrapped, and she tugged it down slowly to look at it.
It was healing.
She clapped a hand to her mouth.
“What is it?” Monty asked, sitting up from a pile of blankets. “Is he okay?”
“Tell me about yesterday,” Clarke demanded.
“Yesterday,” she repeated. “Tell me exactly what you remember about yesterday.”
He blinked. “Um, you told us that you knew what plant the grounders used to make that poultice they used on Jasper, and you went to get it with Wells, and, um, this fog—”
She ran at him, laughing, throwing her arms around his neck. “It’s a new day!”
“Yes?” he said.
“Where’s the fire?” Jasper asked, trying to sit up.
Clarke turned, and grabbed his face, smacking a kiss to his mouth in excitement.
“It’s a new fucking day,” Bellamy announced, coming into the dropship.
Clarke laughed. “It’s a new fucking day!”
“Did we think it wasn’t going to be?” Finn asked, sitting up in his little, crumpled bed.
She was crying now, and she touched Bellamy’s arms when he cupped her face, staring at him. “How?” she breathed. “What did we do? What changed?”
“Neither of us woke up recovering from some horrible, radiation-based disease, so we can eliminate that theory,” Bellamy said, grinning. “What’s that leave? Mysterious, twisted magic?”
“Magic?” Finn said.
Bellamy grinned, and Clarke pressed a kiss to his smile, laughing, giddy when she drew away, and unable to resist the temptation to drop a kiss to the dimple in his chin, and to his cheek, to the side of his nose, to the space between his eyes, to everywhere, raining kisses on his face. He laughed, and wrapped his arms around her, kissing her on the lips.
“Did I miss something?” Wells asked, standing in the entrance of the dropship.
“Magic,” Jasper replied.
“We can build a settlement by the river,” Clarke said.
“See it snow,” Bellamy said.
“Taste fruits that aren’t in season in summer.”
“Have people remember the conversations we have with them.”
“See you with a beard,” she teased
“Make a baby.” He grinned, and she flushed.
“What are you guys talking about?” Wells asked, and Clarke realized that she couldn’t simply ignore him, that he was real, that she could explain everything to him, and he would remember, and it made laughter bubble up inside her. “Seriously, Clarke,” he said, concerned. “Is everything okay? What’s going on?”
“Nothing,” she said, looking at Wells. “It’s nothing. It’s a regular, normal day.”
“I think the radiation might be getting to her,” Jasper said.
“We have to worry about the grounders now,” Bellamy said, and it seemed to subdue his excitement a little. “The people in the mountain, too, and we won’t have an easy out.”
“We can do it,” Clarke said. “We’ve got a leg up already, knowing what to expect.”
It was strange to imagine, though, what this really, actually meant.
She didn’t know how long it’d been, but they had to have been trapped in that loop for at least a couple of years if not longer, if not four or five years, getting a do-over day after day. They died, and woke up in the morning without a scratch. Now they weren’t invincible any longer, and neither were the people around them. It was strange, and a part of Clarke wanted to test it out.
But she couldn’t.
Today was different. It was a new fucking day, and it was real. No more do-overs.
“I love you,” she said.
Bellamy smiled, and tucked a lock of her hair behind her ear. “I love you, too.”
“I didn’t know you guys were a thing,” Jasper said.
“Me, neither,” Finn said, colder.
She looked at him. “You shouldn’t give up hope,” she told him. “You might still get to see Raven again. You never know.”
“Yeah,” he replied, clearly taken aback. “Yeah, um.” He smiled. “I hope so.”
Octavia walked into the dropship. “How’s Jasper?” she asked, only to pull up short. Her eyes swept over Clarke, who flushed when she realized that she was standing in Bellamy’s shirt in the circle of Bellamy’s arms. Octavia's eyebrows shot up in amusement. “Well, okay,” she said, smirking.
“In case you’re wondering, your brother is going crazy,” Jasper said. “Clarke, too.”
“I should get dressed,” Clarke said. “We’ve got a lot to do.”
“You sure you’re okay?” Wells asked, and affection for him surged up in Clarke.
She nodded. “I'm fine. It’s complicated, but I promise I’ll explain everything to you later.”
The rest of the day was a blur. It was strange, having people remember yesterday, and knowing that they were going to remember today. She knew that she was acting strangely, too, and confusing people, and probably not doing a very good job of treating people like they were real, and the things that she did mattered. But by the end of the day, she was getting the hang of it.
She was remembering how to live a real, regular life again.
She was afraid to go to sleep that night.
She lay with her arm on Bellamy’s chest, and her chin on her arm, staring at the face of her watch, and waiting for midnight while he toyed absently with the ends of her hair. The hand on her watch hit the twelve, and she tensed up. Blinked. Held her breath, and looked at Bellamy. Blinked, and the hand ticked forward slightly.
It was 12:01.
The day wasn’t reverting, because it was a new day today, and it would be again tomorrow, and the day after that, and the day after that.
She laughed, and scooted up to kiss Bellamy.
She dreamed that night. It had been a long, long time since Clarke remembered a dream; the last that she remembered was a nightmare about her father that she used to have in the skybox a lot.
This wasn’t a nightmare, but the details were fuzzy around the edges.
She was in the woods, and she was content, walking among the greenery, feeling the sun on her neck. She walked into the house, and there was an older, beautiful woman, and Clarke was happy to see her, smiling when the woman reached for her hands, took them.
“You understand now, Clarke,” she said.
“What?” Clarke asked.
“Find me when you’re ready,” she said. She smiled. “I’ll be waiting for you.”
In the morning, Clarke woke to Bellamy’s breath on the back of her neck, and his arm was sweaty where it was thrown across her back. She turned slightly, dropping a kiss to his shoulder before she scooted out from under him, and pulled her hair up off her neck.
There were moments when she missed the glorious temperature control on the Ark.
She frowned, trying to remember her dream.
There was a woman. Her mother? She was going to have to deal with her mother. She bit her lip.
Monty was working on a way to contact the Ark. Jasper was recovering. Bellamy was working with the kids to build a fence around the dropship until they learned what to expect from the grounders. They were moving forward, and Clarke was going to have to deal with her mother.
They were moving forward, and everything was going to change. She grinned at the thought.
If only I don't bend and break,
I'll meet you on the other side.
I'll meet you in the light.
If only I don't suffocate,
I'll meet you in the morning when you wake.