stedaunon don gon we en kikon ste enti
“...And Fidalgo, in one final fit of madness, scrawled “demons” across the Ark’s hull in his own blood.”
“Aw, come on, Miller, you've been telling that same story to anyone who’s had the misfortune to sit with you for the last week.”
“Harper, a suggestion: shut up.”
“Miller, a suggestion: get some new material.”
Marcus snorted. The kids’ bickering carried clear over to the guard tower, where he’d taken up the late shift so that he and Abby’s schedules might actually have a shot at syncing up for once.
The night was dark and clear. Autumn was in the air -- Arkadia’s first, in fact, since they’d crash landed at the tail end of the last one and spent the remainder of it fighting for their lives. The sun still warmed them all enough during the day, illuminating the riot of oranges, yellows, and reds that the leaves had turned from the bright green he loved so much. The nights, however, had become crisp and cool, and the fire pit had consequently gone back into use.
It was peaceful. Averting a worldwide nuclear meltdown had undoubtedly been the most stressed any of them had ever been, so the refreshing slip back to normal life felt like something of a luxury to everyone from Skaikru to Azgeda.
Marcus adjusted his rifle in his grip and shot a look over at Bellamy. The boy had come far since Pike’s reign -- far enough, in fact, that Marcus had felt confident in adding him back to the guard roster.
Now, seeing the dark shape of him slumped over in a dead sleep in his chair, Marcus reconsidered his generosity.
“You're getting an extra shift for this,” Marcus muttered as he fumbled a bit in the dark to make sure the safety was secured on Bellamy’s own weapon.
“Emori!” A call came from down below. “Emori, come tell us a story!”
“I’m going to see Murphy in medical!” Emori’s low voice called back to what Marcus assumed was Harper.
“Okay, but what if you didn’t do that, and instead came and hung out with us?”
“A compelling argument.” Emori’s voice was getting closer to the pit. “I’m sure Chancellor Griffin has him plenty busy, anyway.”
“Yeah! Plus, we have booze. Come, sit, spin us a yarn. Miller’s shit at it.”
Laughter followed Harper’s statement. Marcus moved to the edge of the tower and got a good look at the gang they’d accumulated near the fire: Miller, Harper, Monty, and now Emori sat at the sunken in pit; Raven and Clarke were relaxing nearby, drinking their own moonshine at one of haphazard outdoor tables.
“I can't wait to have Kane put you on night shift exclusively for a month,” Miller said cheerily.
“Mhm, mhm, and yet we both know that I'm his favourite, so good luck with that.”
Marcus made a note to ask Abby if it really was obvious that Harper was his favourite. She always said he was a softie around them, though how the head of the guard got called a “softie” by a woman whose head barely reached his chin was something of a mystery.
Down below, Harper reached up and tugged Emori’s tunic until the girl had no choice but to plop down next to her. “Okay, Emori. Tell us a story.”
“What kind of story?” Emori laughed, carefully folding her arms across her stomach to pin her hand from any wandering gazes.
“Something scary. Do grounders have ghost stories? You guys have to have ghost stories.”
“Harper...” that was Monty, finally, interjecting to stop Harper’s obvious enthusiasm from overwhelming Emori. A futile effort, Marcus knew, for Emori was professionally unflappable.
“We do,” Emori said, drawing her answer out. “Sort of. Have you ever heard of the dokwocha?”
A chorus of head shakes followed her question. Marcus gave up pretending he was patrolling and settled in to listen with his elbows leaning against the tower railing.
“Well,” Emori began. “Long ago, when the Earth was new ash and the promheda had descended from the stars, there lived the first survivors. The first grounders.
Life then was hard. Black and grey clouds floated where blue used to, and the sun would go missing for months at a time. The grass had burned away and sand filled what once held water. People suffered. People died. But they persevered through a hard wintam and a scorching sontam, and they eventually reached fotam with a meagre harvest to show for their efforts.
But as the days grew shorter and the nights colder, my people began to disappear. Some, they say, went in search of greener Earth, and found Trikru. Some went north, to Azgeda, and some went to the sea, to Floukru. But some...some just vanished into the night.
And then came the dokwocha.”
Marcus furrowed his brow. He’d never heard such a story from Indra, nor from Lexa. It was Raven, surprisingly, to broke the heavy silence that had fallen over Emori’s rapt audience.
“What are dokwocha?” She asked, knocking back the rest of her drink with a swing of her ponytail.
“The dead.” Emori said, matter of factly. She leaned forward so that her tattooed face was cast in shadow by the flicking fire. “One night, when the first harvest moon fell into darkness, the dokwocha came out of the woods in search of the living. They were nothing but shadow, with hollowed eyes and wisps of hands, and they crept into the tents and homes of the slumbering survivors as easily as leaves float upon a breeze.”
“Who were they?” Harper asked, a little shakily. “Were they the ones the bombs killed?”
“No,” Emori smirked slightly. “Their imprints were burned into the rock and the Earth, and there they stayed. No, these were the souls of the ones taken during wintam and sotam. Souls who died unfairly of hunger or disease, or were killed in our first wars. Angry warriors and vengeful keryon who believed their deaths were the fault of the living. Those who refused to pass on.
The day provided respite from the hauntings, but the night brought back the terrors. Dark shapes that floated with no noise and had howls louder than a wolf’s. They grew more and more agitated as each night passed. My people could not rest. Shadows would dash by windows and whispers hissed into sleeping ears; children would be awoken by screams from things the dark hid. Men hung themselves in offering to them, but it was not enough.
On the thirty-first day of the hauntings, just as my people had begun to go insane, the moon reappeared. Promheda herself called everyone left to the Polis square to sequester themselves safely in the light. She tasked the best and sanest with an idea: take what little of their harvest they had left, and prepare a feast. Instead of fighting the spirits, they welcomed them into their homes for a meal and remembrance.
This was the first aosi. Every fotam, thirty-one days from the first harvest, a feast is made in offering to the dokwocha. Grounders gather together all across this land and prepare places at their tables and firesides for those they have lost, to show them that they are remembered and honoured. It keeps the dokwocha at bay.
Otherwise, they will emerge from the woods once more, and demand your lives in return.”
Emori grabbed Harper’s arm and Harper screamed, loudly, breaking the mood of the campfire immediately as a chorus of nervous laughs left the rest of the gathered kids.
Marcus shook his head. He ducked back in the guard tower, kicked at Bellamy’s boot until the boy was awake, and finished out the rest of his shift to the soft sounds of his people giggling and laughing down below.
Abby finished her day-turned-night shift in Medical just as the sun began rising over the treeline surrounding Arkadia. She left the few patients they had in the competent care of Jackson and the training-to-be-competent Murphy, promising that she’d be back in a few hours to check on the tail end of the flu that had swept through the camp.
Arkadia was quite something to look at in the fall. Abby took in the warm oranges and reds illuminated by the spilling yellows of the sun’s rays, breathed in fresh morning air that smelled of grass and Earth, allowed herself a brief moment of wonder at how far they’d come since falling from the stars.
The moment didn’t last long, however. She’d been on her feet for over twenty hours, after all, and bed called to her like she was a sailor helpless to a siren’s call -- or something like that, Luna’s stories never made as much sense as Luna herself usually assumed they did.
Abby took her weary feet in the direction of her quarters and unceremoniously tossed herself onto the tidily made bed with a huff of exhaustion, the door clanging behind her.
“Chancellor,” an amused voice said from her left.
Marcus. Abby peeked an eye open and spotted him reclining on the green couch he’d brought from his own, smaller quarters. He was clearly in the process of removing his boots, but taking a small break to bask in the opportunity to tease her.
“Chancellor,” Abby grumbled into the blankets. “Thought you were on shift with Bellamy.”
Marcus resumed untying his boots. “Ditched him an hour early. He fell asleep on me for a while there, so I thought he earned it.”
“Indeed.” Abby wasn’t really listening. She was already half asleep.
A chuckle came from wherever Marcus had moved to (after fastidiously arranging his boots, she was sure, because you could take the man out of space, but you could not take space military out of the man) before she felt one of his big hands lay itself softly on her cheek.
“Abby,” he whispered. “Come on, love, at least take your boots off before you fall asleep.”
Abby opened her eyes again. He was knelt next to her with his unbearably warm eyes sparkling and his lips quirked into a smile so gentle she thought she might cry from the love behind it. She reached a tired hand out and ran a finger along that beloved, bearded cheek, pulling at his chin until she could bring him close enough to place a soft kiss against his lips.
“Good morning, Marcus.”
He brushed his nose against hers. “Good morning, Abby.”
They helped each other undress. There was nothing overly sexual about the shedding of layers this night -- those times were plentiful and passionate, to be sure, but tonight was about crawling in bed with each other and sleeping until life came to knock on their door once more. So off Abby’s boots, socks, and pants came, and then Marcus’ boots, socks, pants, and shirt went too, and together they lowered the lights in their shared quarters and slipped under the blankets to wrap themselves around each other in a mess of tired limbs.
“I heard a ghost story today,” Marcus whispered into Abby’s free flowing hair once they were settled.
Abby hummed to indicate she was still listening.
“Harper and Miller roped Emori in to telling them scary stories about the first grounders. Apparently they hold some feast called aosi to appease the dead that wander the woods in search of absolution.”
Abby snuggled her nose into the warm crook of Marcus’ neck and smiled.
“Sounds like the grounder excuse for a party.” She murmured, placing tiny kisses against his throat.
“I think it is. She said all twelve clans continued the tradition. Maybe even Lexa.” Marcus absentmindedly began tracing circles along her scarred back under her shirt.
His fingers tripped and looped around marks he’d worshipped in apology over and over, no longer afraid of never finding forgiveness from a woman who had granted it to him the moment he’d left her to find her daughter.
“Hm, we should throw one. What did you say it was called? A...something?” Abby whispered, finally settled with her head tucked under his chin.
“Aosi. Maybe we should. We have more grounders in the camp than we’ve ever had, and Indra could bring Trikru, if she wanted.”
“Sha,” Abby replied in sleepy Trigedasleng. She’d been picking it up over the last few months, to Marcus’ delight. “A celebration sounds nice. We need it after the year we’ve had.”
Marcus nodded. She felt his hand finally come to rest against her back and relished in the warmth that emanated from that point of contact. Skin to skin contact, they discovered, was something they both craved very much.
“Sleep now, Abby,” Marcus whispered against her hair. He pulled the blankets up tighter around them and carefully tucked the edge along her back, neatly creating a cocoon for them to sleep in.
“Mm,” Abby hummed. “Ai hod yu in.”
Marcus kissed her forehead. “I love you, too.”
Arkadia sparkled eerily the night of aosi.
Emori’s tutelage over the last few weeks had not gone to waste -- Raven and Monty’s string lights twinkled all along the outer hull of the Ark, reverse engineered from leftover circuit boards and broken bits of chandelier from Mount Weather; Emori’s feast of sweet breads and cured meats was spread out along cloth-draped tables that stretched from the outside to the covered rover hanger and up into the regular bar area; and Jasper’s “spooky playlist” (his words) played hauntingly from speakers he’d set up through the camp.
Even Octavia had decided to join in with her offer to paint the faces of Arkadia’s children with a paint Lincoln had once taught her to make. Grounders traditionally donned the skulls and bones of their dead, but that was a little too macabre for Skaikru, so Octavia opted to draw white and black skulls on those that showed up to her little corner of the bar. So far, over two dozen kids and adults alike sported bone-like hollows in their eyes and white painted cheekbones, and others still opted to have their hands, arms, and necks painted with Octavia’s interpretation of their underlying skeleton. For Octavia, this was progress beyond their wildest hopes.
Marcus came off shift just as Luna and a few curious faces from Floukru passed through the open gates. Clarke greeted Luna and her people warmly, bidding a special hello to the children Luna had taken in as her own little peacemakers.
The kids darted off to Octavia’s paint station while the adults filed along the candle lit table, where the feast Emori had directed and the Arkadians had prepared was piled onto remnants of Mount Weather’s frankly massive collection of silverware.
“Mister Chancellor,” a smoky voice said behind him, and Marcus turned as Abby sidled up next to him with two tins filled with what he assumed was Jasper’s moonshine in her hand. “You off duty yet?”
Marcus slipped an arm around her waist and liberated a cup from her. “Just handed things over to Miller for the night.”
Abby smiled up at him before raising her cup a little.
“To a night off,” she said, impossibly long eyelashes sparkling in Raven’s light.
He clinked his cup with hers. “To a night off.”
They drank and mingled for a bit, mixing languages (sometimes clumsily) as they slipped from Trigedasleng with Indra to English with Bellamy and Bryan. The high spirits of those gathered was palpable in the laughter and smiles on everyone’s faces. This was one of the first true peaceful gatherings of the official thirteenth clan with the other grounders, and Marcus especially revelled in the chance to learn as much as he could from the people they now called friends.
“Everyone!” Emori called, clapping to get the milling crowd’s attention. “Please sit, it is time for dinner! And do not forget to leave space between you for our honoured guests. ”
A wink and a smirk accompanied her announcement. Marcus glanced down at Abby, who was worrying her lip between her teeth. Neither of them were overly fond of being split up in social situations like this one, so Marcus carefully lead her up near where Clarke, Luna, and Raven (whose face was, of course, decorated with Octavia’s careful white stripes along her brow and cheekbones) were clustering at one of the long tables outside. She’d feel better if she was near Clarke.
“Emori better explain what all this is.” Raven picked up a sweet roll and examined it, flicking at a glazed nut cooked into the dough. “His highness once tricked me into eating Falcon because he didn’t feel like explaining what Azgedan food was like in English.”
Luna smiled gently and gracefully seated herself next to the space Raven left beside her. Marcus, following her lead, placed himself at the end of Clarke and Abby, keeping himself between them and the open gates just beyond their table.
“It is a sweet bread, the first kind our people could make after the fall. You take one for yourself, and place one on the plate beside you as an offering to your chosen keryon .”
Luna picked up the plate and handed it around. Marcus took one for himself and another for the place beside him, watching as Abby and Clarke did the same. In fact, all down the line, everyone was silently following the scattered grounders’ instructions with a reverence Marcus felt a swell of pride at. A year ago, his people had been divided and at war with both one another, and the grounders. Now, they had accepted the grounders as they were -- and that they themselves were not so different from the people they’d feared so greatly.
“So,” Raven drew out, darting her eyes at her dining companions. “Should we just say who we’re saving our spots for, or is that a thing we’re all mutually not gonna talk about? I’m down for either, I just need to know which one we’re going with here.”
“Not one to mince words, are you, Reyes?” Marcus asked, reaching for the tray of meat and selecting a strip of what he hoped was deer.
“Nope.” Raven said, popping the “p” with a grin. “So, Kane, wanna share?”
Marcus glanced at Abby. She was smiling at him in understanding, something sad behind the gently turned corners of her mouth that told him that she, too, felt the pain of the memories being pulled to the surface so casually.
“My mother, Vera.” He cleared his throat.
“Gotcha,” Raven said, nodding quietly, and suddenly Marcus remembered that she, too, had lost her mother. He felt a sort of kinship with Raven at that moment, even underneath all the layers of snark and attitude that usually peppered their relationship.
“Mine’s for Derrick.” Luna volunteered the information before Raven could pry it out of her. She took a quick drink, swallowing hard, but her face otherwise remained strong and stubborn. Whatever pain there was there, she was holding it deep inside her.
“Finn,” Raven offered, indicating the place next to her. “I guess that one was pretty obvious, huh?”
“A little,” Clarke answered, smiling sadly at her. “So is mine, though. Lexa.”
Marcus nodded. It’d taken months for he and Abby to get the whole story of what happened to the mighty Heda the day she died, but Clarke had eventually bitterly retold to the story to him over a campfire up in Azgeda one night. He’d figured out pretty quickly what went on between the two women -- that there was real, complicated love there -- but he’d had no idea Lexa had died for it. Murphy assured him that Titus had died at his own hand, which seemed to be acceptable to Clarke by the slight nod she’d given at his words.
Abby seemed to be watching Clarke closely. He couldn’t see her face, turned as it was away from him to face her daughter, but he could see the hand she briefly lifted to squeeze Clarke’s own trembling one.
“For Jake Griffin.” Abby nodded at the empty space between she and Marcus. “A husband, father, and friend. Without him, none of us would be here at all.”
There was quiet for a moment as everyone kept to their own bubbles grief, remembering those they had lost along the way. Marcus felt a gentle touch on his hand and looked down to find Abby’s fingers lacing with his under the table, connecting she, Clarke, and himself together briefly in a sadness they all understood in their bones.
“Luna,” Raven said, suddenly, pulling everyone from their reveries. “Did I ever tell you how I got down here? Madame Chancellor over there fixed me up in a junker escape pod and shot me down to earth to find Clarke.”
"You did not."
Raven finally tore into her bread and popped a bit of the purpley coloured sweetness in her mouth, groaning happily at the taste. She continued on with the bread still half in her mouth:
“So really, both Griffins got all of us down here, huh? Some of us a bit more slapdash than others, but that’s how I prefer it.”
Raven’s levity seemed to break the melancholy vibe that had fallen over their part of the table, and it was with no small amount of hunger that everyone piled into their dinners. Clarke had released her mother’s hand to receive a platter of greens from Luna, but Abby kept her hand securely in Marcus’ under the table.
Would Jake have minded, he wondered, if his wife held the hand of the man who sentenced him to death in the place that was meant to honour him?
“Marcus, you have to try the bread.” Marcus pulled himself from his thoughts to see Abby glancing at him with wide eyes, chewing carefully. “It’s incredible.”
“Incredible, huh?” Marcus gave her hand a brief squeeze. He lifted his own bun to his mouth and bit into the buttery, spongey softness, feeling his mouth fill with a sweet and nutty flavour that he could only describe as heavenly.
“Oh,” he said around his mouthful of bread. “Emori has to make these every day.”
“She can’t. She said the nuts she used are only found at this time of year. Probably for the best, because I am going to eat about ten of these.” Raven polished off her first piece and reached for a second immediately. “Anyone got any moonshine? And pass the meat, would you?”
Dinner lasted for hours. Emori and her Arkadian helpers had prepared more than a few courses, which meant everyone gathered was stuffed to bursting by the time the fire pits were lit and warm meade was being passed around for whoever chose to stay for what Harper had declared was “Spooky Story Time.”
Abby had no desire for such a thing. She was happily buzzed from the moonshine and her belly full of good food, and all she really desired now was a hug from her daughter and then a good, long sleep (or more, she wasn't picky) in bed with Marcus.
“I’m going to head out now, honey.” Abby caught Clarke before the girl could get far from their table. She held onto Clarke’s warm hand and placed a kiss in her daughter’s palm. “Have fun, be safe.”
“Of course, mom.” Clarke leaned down and enveloped Abby in a tight hug. Jake used to hug like Clarke -- wholly and with his entire body, making you feel like you were the only person in the world. Clarke placed a kiss against Abby’s cheeks, reddened from the alcohol, and whispered a goodnight into her ear.
“Goodnight, Clarke.” Marcus said from beside her. Clarke saluted him sloppily but grinned all the same.
“Bed?” Abby asked, leaning across the space between their seated bodies to rest against his chest. “I’m full and a little drunk and sleep sounds so good right now.”
“Agreed.” Marcus placed a kiss to her hair. “I am...definitely, maybe drunk.”
Abby giggled. They hauled themselves up from the table and made their slow, ambling way through the milling party goers, wishing anyone who waved to them a goodnight.
The halls of Arkadia were much darker than the hangar. Here and there, Abby spotted missing bulbs that Raven and Monty had clearly stolen for their own party purposes. It gave their walk back to their rooms as much creepier quality than she’d expected.
“I am really drunk,” Abby said, reaching out for the cold grey walls to anchor her for a moment. “I didn’t drink that much, did you?”
“No.” Marcus held tight to her hand and squeezed his eyes shut. “We had two glasses at most, right?”
“Right.” Abby nodded and then regretted it -- the world was floating in a strange sort of way, the lights flickering on and off in a manner that made her want to walk back to their room with her eyes closed. “It must have been...way stronger than usual. Just hold tight to me, okay?”
Marcus looked at her with hazy eyes but obeyed, clutching her hand tight as they moved forward once more. One more corner -- one or two, definitely, and then they’d be safe in bed and sleep off whatever the hell percentage of alcohol was in their drinks.
They came to the T junction that usually branched off towards their quarters one way and Medical another. Abby pulled Marcus forward, trying to focus on the swimming wall in front of her --
The lights went out.
And Marcus’ hand fell out of hers.
“Marcus!” Abby cried, reaching out blindly for him. “Marcus, where are you?”
Nothing, then --
“Abby?” Marcus’ voice sounded terrified. “Abby, come towards my voice.”
But her ears weren’t working that way. His voice sounded everywhere and nowhere at once, echoing off of the metal walls of the Ark and hitting her ears incorrectly.
“I can’t -- I can’t, I can’t see, I don’t know where you are! If this is Raven pulling some prank, I’m going to kill her!” Abby fumbled forward a few steps and felt her hands make contact with the hull, finally.
Okay. Left was home. She knew that one.
“I don’t think it’s 100% her fault,” Marcus’ voice said, slowly, sounding far away. “I think they programmed the generators to put the hanger as the electrical priority...”
His voice trailed off, disappearing as though he’d just floated away.
“Marcus,” Abby said again, squinting through pitch black darkness. “Where are you?”
There was nothing. Her head spun, but her vision was dark, her ears unable to pick up even the smallest sound. It was like she’d been blinded and cotton stuffed in her ears, and panic welled up in her the longer she spent clutching the wall behind her for any semblance of something real.
“Marcus?” She asked in a small voice. “Marcus, please. I’m going to head for home. Come find me.”
Abby turned her head in the direction she knew their quarters were. In the darkness, piercing blindingly bright, was a pair of eyes, wider than a coin and shot through with broken capillaries, a cloudy sheen covering the irises -
She could see him. It was dark, and she was no where, but she could see him -- all of him, from his blonde hair to his ripped grey sweater and his scuffed boots. But his face...his face. Sunken, hollow eye sockets surrounded by skin patched with the ice of space, lips chapped and bleeding, mouthing the same words over and over again in a voice she thought she’d never hear again.
Hey, baby. Hey, baby. Hey, baby.
“STOP!” Abby screamed, terrified, and in her fear she reached forward and shoved him, hard, pushing his once familiar body away from her into the black --
She looked down. Her feet were on solid plating again. In fact, everything around her was solid. And bright, so bright -- it was her first quarters, lost to the crash down to Earth, but she was here again, standing in the room she’d lived in with her family, and there he was. There he was, whole and alive and normal , sprawled on the floor with a look of shock on his handsome face.
“It won’t do you much good to just stand there with your mouth hung open, Marcus Kane.” Vera shot him a look. “Come and help your mother, will you?”
Marcus didn’t understand. One minute, he’d been with Abby, and the next he was here. It was somewhere on Earth, that much he knew, but the trees were tall and green with the health of summer, and he could even hear water babbling nearby. And there, just nestled within an arch of trees, was a log cabin with smoke billowing from the chimney.
“Come help...what?” Marcus stumbled around. His feet sunk into the mossy Earth beneath his boots. It was real. The way the air smelled, the texture of the grass, the feeling of ground under him. How was this real? Where was Abby?
“With the tree!” Vera said matter-of-factly.
Marcus finally looked at her. There she was, just as he remembered: short, hilariously short considering his own height, with hair the colour of amber and eyes warm as a summer’s day. She even had her necklace on, the one that contained one of the last clippings of a plant they’d had up on the Ark. The resin rested against her usual soft grey shirt and vest like nothing had ever happened -- like she hadn’t died up in space in an explosion meant to kill Thelonius. Like she wasn't collateral damage in a war Diana Sydney was fighting with time itself.
“You haven’t seen it in a while, have you, love? You’ll be so pleased at how large it’s grown.” Vera led a dumbfounded Marcus towards a tree with a massive trunk. She placed her hand upon it. “Eden.”
The Eden Tree.
Abby didn’t think twice. She hardly waited for Jake to haul himself off of the floor before she was in his arms, wrapping him so tightly in her own that he grunted with the force of it. He was here. He was real. He was Jake.
“Hello to you, too, Abby.” Jake gingerly wrapped his arms around her shoulders like he always had, enveloping her completely in his embrace. This felt right. This was right.
“How?” She asked, pulling away to look up into his eyes. “How are you here? How are we here?”
Jake shook his head. He let Abby go far enough to grasp her hands in his, holding tight to them as he looked down into her eyes.
“Abby, I’m not here.”
Her stomach dropped. Of course he was -- he was here, he was alive, she could feel him, for god’s sake! She could smell the tang of engineering on his clothes and the tea he’d been drinking on his breath, her eyes could see every inch of him, head to toe, all ridiculous six foot whatever of him. Her Jake.
“You’re here,” Abby said, laughing uncertainly. “I’m looking right at you, Jake. God, I’ve missed you.”
“I know you have, baby.” Jake led her to their bed and sat down, indicating the spot next to him in invitation. “Sit. We should talk.”
You’re not here.
There was no telling where the Eden tree ended. Its branches were numerous, reaching up towards the heavens and out towards the hills, crawling and twisting to make a canopy that shielded the little log cabin from harm.
“You’re quite busy these days, aren’t you, Marcus?” Vera said, watering can suddenly in hand as she bustled around the base of the tree. “Stopping a nuclear apocalypse and all that. And Chancellor! I always knew you could do it, if you just showed them who you really were. My kind boy. What an angry man you were for a while there. But not anymore, I can see that now. The ground has treated you well.”
Marcus nodded absentmindedly. He couldn’t take his eyes off the incredibly vision of his mother alive and well, tuttering on about his life as though hers hadn’t ended.
“A lot changed after...what happened.” Marcus said, slowly, shaking his head a bit in the hopes of clearing away what he assumed was a fever dream.
“After I died, you mean.” Vera didn’t even look up from her task. “Yes, I suppose they did. Things always do, don’t they? God has a funny sense of humour.”
“Is that...what this is?” Marcus asked. He didn’t want to know the answer. He didn’t want to live (or die) in a world where he hadn’t said goodbye to Abby.
Where was Abby?
“No, Marcus, of course not. You’re not dead, my love. You’re safe. ‘Tripping out’ is what I think the kids would say.”
“I’m high?” He asked, incredulously. “Mom, that’s ridiculous. I’ve never been high in my life.”
“Well, there’s a first time for everything, Marcus. First time high, first time talking to your dead mother, first time falling in love -- you don’t do anything by half, do you?”
Marcus couldn’t handle that. He sunk down right where he stood, crumbling to his knees onto the sun-warmed grass while his dead mother watered a tree he’d planted in her honour on Earth.
“Mom,” Marcus said, slowly, eyes scanning the woods. “Where’s Abby?”
Where was Abby?
“So...Marcus, huh?” Jake asked, taking a sip of tea from a cup he hadn’t been holding a second ago.
Abby startled. She was holding a cup, too -- a perfect, pristine piece of china, filled with her favourite type of grounder tea.
“I -- what?”
“Marcus,” Jake repeated slowly, a teasing glint in his eye. “Kane, you may recall him from such moments as my sentencing, your shocklashing…”
“I knew what I was doing.” Abby steeled her gaze at Jake. “I’ve forgiven him for that, Jake.”
“Oh, I know you have. Still haven’t quite forgiven me for doing what I did, but I guess it’s easier with me dead, and all.” Jake raised his eyebrows and took a sip of tea.
Abby was floundering. None of this made sense, and it was all annoyingly true. Of course she’d forgiven Marcus for what he did -- he never forgave himself, but that was another matter. Of course she’d forgiven Jake for --
“Nuh uh,” Jake interrupted her thoughts. “You love me, Abby Griffin, but you’ve been mad at me a long time.”
“But I understand,” Abby implored, setting her tea aside to lay her hand on his leg. “Jake, I understand. You were right.”
“Of course I was. I’m Jake Griffin.” Jake grinned that devil-may-care smile that used to send Abby weak in the knees. “Quit changing the subject.”
“I’m not mad.” Abby insisted. “Well, I’m less mad.”
“I’ll take that.”
“So. Marcus.” Jake took another sip. “You fell in love with Marcus Kane. I gotta say, Abby, you have got some guts.”
Her stomach roiled. This wasn’t a conversation she wanted to have with her dead husband. Her love for Marcus and her love for Jake were different, but no less meaningful than the other. Didn’t he know that?
“I know that, Abby, because you know that.” Jake’s tea disappeared. All that was left between them was his open hands, large and soft and waiting for her to slip her own into. “I’m not mad. You know I wouldn’t be mad. You’ve told him that a hundred times.”
Abby gave in. She laid her palms against his own and mapped the lines of those familiar hands with her fingers, feeling the utter realness of the skin beneath her fingertips.
“Maybe I needed to know, too.” Abby raised her eyes to meet his. “I love him. God, do I love him. Every part of him, every flaw and every strength. I love him exactly as he is. And I love you, too.”
“Baby, you have the biggest heart I’ve ever seen. You know there’s room for both of us in there.” Jake reached forward and Abby collapsed into him, clutching at his back like her life depended on it. “I’m just in your mind. Everything I know, you know.”
“I miss you,” Abby said, instead of facing his words. “God do I miss you, Jake.”
“I know you do. But I’m okay. My time is over. Yours isn’t. Keep me with you, Abby.” Jake pulled back just enough to run his hand over the strand of her necklace where his ring rested against her bosom. “I will always be with you, right here.”
“Safe and sound.” Abby said, tears running down her cheeks.
“That’s, right, baby.”
Jake let the rings go. He let his hand travel over her shoulders and sweep, slowly, down her collarbone, coming to rest right over her heart.
“There’s a beat for me in there. And another for Clarke.” He was listening, feeling for each pound of her strong heart. “There’s Raven, and Jackson, and Bellamy, and even Murphy. Octavia, Monty, Jasper, Harper, Miller -- you love so much, and so big.”
Jake took her hand in his and laid it over top of the one on her chest, letting their palms slide side by side so that she could feel her heart, too.
“Right there,” Jake whispered, as a thump-thump pounded beneath their hands. “Do you feel it? There’s Marcus.”
“Mom,” Marcus rasped. Vera still hadn’t answered his question. “Mom, stop.”
She did. Vera straightened with the watering can in her hand, studying his face for a moment before abandoning her task and walking the few steps between them to kneel in front of him, concern all over her familiar face.
“It’s alright, Marcus. She’s safe. Boy, you really have fallen hard, haven’t you?” Vera tilted her head, smiling. “I always hoped you’d find love. I was scared for a while there, you know, when you were so determined not to let anyone in. But then you cried in my arms at the memorial, and I knew something had given.”
“It was you, too,” Marcus whispered. “Losing you.”
“I know.” Vera patted his cheek, brushing his hair out of his eyes. “I know what you know. Look at your hair, Marcus! So long, like I always wanted it to be. The way you kept it so stiff was such a shame.”
Marcus laughed a little.
“Abby thinks so, too.” He sighed. “I’m sorry I failed you, mom. I’m sorry I wasn’t the son you wanted me to be.”
Vera was quiet. She kept brushing back his hair, her touch soothing and motherly in a way he hadn’t felt since he was a child.
“Do you think you’re that man now, Marcus?” She finally said, settling back to look him properly in the eye. “Do you think you’re a man I’d be proud of.”
“I’d like to think so. I really would. What you taught me...what Abby and Earth taught me...I think I’m different, now. Still a bit of the same, but different, too. Maybe how I was supposed to be before the Ark took hold of me. Before I made myself into a man you still called your son.”
“You were always my son. And always yourself, Marcus, don’t you forget that. The military man and the peacekeeper, they’re both you. It’s what you do with those men that matters. It’s how you choose to be with them inside you. And that man, Marcus, that man that you are is loved.”
Marcus reached his arms out and wrapped his mother in a gentle hug. The last time he’d hugged her, he’d been sobbing into her arms, his body heavy with the weight of 300 souls on his shoulders. Now, he held her reverently, as she was meant to be held. Like a son should hug his mother.
“You know I loved you no matter what,” Vera whispered, rubbing his back. “And now someone new can love you the way I always dreamed you would be loved. She adores you, your Abby.”
Marcus pulled away, finally, breathing slowly and evenly. He took a few moments to study his mother’s face for the last time: the crinkles around her eyes, the flutter of her eyelashes, the kind smile that he missed most of all.
And then, feeling lighter than he ever had, he took his mother’s hands in his own.
“I’d like to go back to her now, mom.”
Vera smiled. The sun was shining brightly on her, becoming all encompassing in its warmth, singling out her beloved face as Marcus felt his body begin to relax backward…
Jake hadn’t let go of her hands. They stood at the door to their quarters, now -- though Abby couldn’t remember moving from the bed -- and Jake was looking down on her with a smile that she knew meant goodbye.
“Is he out there?” She asked, looking at the closed door.
“Yes.” Jake leaned down and placed a gentle kiss against her cheek. “Live well, Abby. And find him.”
Tears slipped from her eyes. She stood on her toes to press a fleeting kiss to Jake’s lips one last time -- one last kiss.
“Go get him.” Jake said, and he was smiling.
Abby nodded. She let her hands fall from his and laid them against the bright metallic flash of their door, pushing it steadily until it gave.
Light spilled out into a sea of darkness -- and there, slumped against the wall, was Marcus.
Twin gasps sent Marcus and Abby into consciousness. Marcus sat up first, blinking as the lights of the Ark pathetically flickered back to life along the hallway. Next to him, Abby groaned heavily.
“Marcus?” She asked, blinking to clear the fog from her eyes.
“Abby!” Marcus gasped, reaching for her and cradling her face in his hands as they both drank one another in. “You’re okay.”
“I’m okay. Are you okay?” Abby scrambled her hands along his chest and shoulders, checking for who knew what. “I think we were drugged. I've never even high before. Have you ever been high before? God, your pupils are huge.”
Marcus furrowed his brow. His sluggish brain was struggling to keep up with Abby's rapid fire mouth, but there wasn't much use -- they were both far too drugged to process information more complex than "put bodies in bed and sleep until not high anymore."
“We need to sleep this off and then put whoever drugged us on latrine duty for a year.” Marcus rested his head against hers, briefly, taking a moment to just breathe with her. “I missed you.”
“I missed you, too,” Abby whispered, clutching at his collar. “I really, really missed you.”
Marcus brushed his nose against hers for a moment before gathering the strength to lift himself away from her and back onto his own feet. He helped Abby up with no small amount of groaning on both of their parts.
"I saw Jake." Abby tapped the ring on her necklace to make extra sure he understood which Jake she was referring to. "He told me he was okay with us. Like, me and you."
"My mom said the same thing..." Marcus said, trailing off a bit at the end as he slung Abby's arm around his shoulders and used her waist to steady himself as they walked. "She had a log cabin and a tree."
"Jake had tea! I like tea. I like Jake." Abby stumbled a bit, but managed to right herself with a hand on Marcus' chest. "I like you. A lot. I can feel your heart beat! I like that, too. Good heart. Strong heart."
Marcus grinned dopily even as they stumbled their way into their quarters. Abby suddenly stopped, staring off in the distance for a moment before nodding to herself.
“Tired. Bed.” Abby started pulling her clothes off haphazardly. “Me. You. Bed. Sleep. Now.”
Ah. Now she was getting it.
“All good words.” Marcus pulled his own clothes off down to his boxers and dragged his exhausted body to bed, where Abby was already tucking herself in wearing one of his t-shirts. “Sleep now, thorough scolding of all delinquents later.”
“Mmhmm.” Abby immediately pressed herself up against him and laid her head on his chest, humming contentedly when she could hear his heartbeat beneath her ear.
Quietly, almost in awe, she asked, "Is that for me?"
“Every beat.” Marcus whispered. Abby tilted her head up from his chest and he bent down to meet her, pressing a kiss full of as much love as he could give her against her lips. She kissed him back just as gently.
Silently, she pulled his hand across his chest and laid it flat between her breasts.
“Ai hod yu in, Marcus.”
It turned out that Jobi nuts, even when in season, could go bad when improperly stored. Emori was summarily banned from ever baking again, and Marcus and Abby contented themselves with the knowledge that it was only the batch they ate with their little table group that had been bad.
No one found out what Luna’s trip down hallucinogenic lane had been like, but the new, matching star tattoos on Raven and Clarke’s shoulders told everyone else what they needed to know about theirs.
Aosi was considered as a resounding success and immediately scheduled again for the next year -- barring any nuclear meltdowns or wars, of course.