Clarke’s eyelids scrape against her eyes like sandpaper when she tries to open them. They’re crusted and so heavy that it’s as if anvils have been tied to her lashes. Her whole body feels heavy like that, and reluctant to come out of the utter bliss of unconsciousness. But her arms lift her hands to her sockets to clean them, further pulling her up from the dark depths of sleep and into the waking light. And she regrets it, because that first real glimpse of light brings a throbbing headache into awareness.
And that’s all it takes for her brain to start taking a painful inventory. Her head feels like it’s been packed with cotton and razor blades, her blood replaced with a thick sludge. The landscape of her skin stings with random lacerations that have scabbed over and are pulling taut, but these small cuts are the least of her aches. Her leg… she almost can’t find words. It feels like someone took a sledgehammer to the meat, turning it into a bloody pulp of singing nerves. And the bone inside feels like someone is grinding a saw against it with every pump of her heart.
Her heart… it may be the very worst of her aches. It feels hollow, but it’s the kind of emptiness that pangs and makes itself known. It’s as if the wounds dotting the muscled flesh aren’t bleeding outwards, but inwards, touching the vacant spaces inside and filling them with a unique agony.
Everything hurts, and just like before she feels the need to move, to try and get away from herself, to try and get out of herself. This is the same desire that sent her seeking solace in the woods the night that the Mountain fell. But it did no good then, and it would do no good now, especially when the thought of moving is almost as anguished as a physical attempt.
She just can’t. She’s helpless, exposed, and trapped like a turtle on its back. So she lies still and lets her mind find its pace, to catch up with itself and all of the negative stimuli engulfing her.
“I was beginning to think that you weren’t going to wake up.”
The voice is low, gravelly, that of an enemy that became a friend, and she finds the strength to turn her head and blink the bleariness from her eyes until his dark shape comes into view.
“Be-,” she tries but her voice cracks and fades.
She clears her throat but it’s no use. It’s too dry. She licks at her lips and grimaces at the cloying taste of dry copper in the corners of her mouth. Her lips are chapped and her tongue and teeth feel like they’re made of gravel.
“Here,” that same voice says and she feels something cool and wet against her lips.
Without thinking she opens her mouth and begins to gulp at the water. It rushes in torrents down her parched esophagus with a strange relief that quickly turns sour when it hits her stomach. She turns away and coughs, laying her head back on the pillow to let a spell of dizziness pass.
“Bellamy,” she says, her voice still rough but now audible.
“Heya, Princess,” he says. “I’d ask how you feel, but…” Clarke watches as he gives her the once over. “If how you look is any indication…,” he finishes with a smirk.
Clarke smiles, a choking laugh bubbling for just an instant before she regrets it.
“Don’t make me laugh,” she says.
“Sorry… not sorry,” he replies.
The levity lasts another moment before his dirt smudged face becomes serious again.
“How are you really,” he asks.
Clarke has to wonder for a moment why every question is so loaded. Why can’t it ever be easy or, at the very least, straight forward? She wishes that someone would just once ask her what color the sky is or what year it is, just something that has an answer that she doesn’t have to struggle with.
This question isn’t a simple one, of course. Her body is a heinous ball of pain, but she knows that this isn’t what he’s asking. He wants to talk about that empty, squeezing, torn lump of muscle hiding behind her ribs. And honestly, she has no problem telling him that she’s not okay. Bellamy is the sort of person that, once you get passed all of the bravado and posturing, can be truly decent. He just needs a push in the right direction. Left to his own devices though… Well, if nothing else, he can keep a secret. Besides, he already knows that she’s not okay. He knew the night that she left, and he was the only one that she told.
She’s not sure why she chose him. Maybe it’s because he was just there, or maybe it’s because she has grown to depend on him so much, or maybe it’s because she cares for him deeply. Or, maybe, it’s because he’s the only one on earth who knows the darkness that she carries in her heart. He shares it. He was there, his hand holding hers as she did something monstrous. Whatever the reason, the willingness to share is there, she just doesn’t know what to say.
She doesn’t know how she feels. Maybe she feels nothing or maybe she feels so much that she can’t figure it out, but either way, it’s all convoluted and confusing. Somehow though, seeing him there, above her, a smirk on his mouth and the tell-tale warmth in his eyes, she feels better. It’s as if that familiarity is healing a little of her hopelessness, and she has to wonder why she was running from it.
She can’t help but wonder if it was really bad enough to leave the people she’s come to love, her family, the one hundred. She searches his eyes and easily finds that brokenness that only the two of them share because only they understand what it means to commit genocide. He tries to hide it, but it’s only thinly concealed behind the veil of this dark lashes. And he can see it in her too. Maybe others wouldn’t pick up on it, but she has to turn away from him because of it.
She can’t look at him, and that’s why she had to leave. It’s not because of him or the others, though they’re part of it. She had to leave because she can’t handle the shame that she feels within herself. No matter what’s true, every look, every murmur about a person no longer here, she is reminded of what she’s done and who she’s become.
She lifts her heavy head and tries to focus on her leg, to make sure that it’s still there, and it’s with relief that she finds it intact. It looks normal for the most part, if not for the splint and bandages that have added bulk and the deep purplish bruising that makes it looks almost surreal.
Unfortunately, shame or not, there will be no running this time.
She lays her head back down, immediately tired even after so little effort.
She still doesn’t know what to say to him, but she can feel him staring at her, expecting something from her. She doesn’t understand how he can stand to look at her, but she knows that she has to say something to appease him.
“I’ll be okay, one way or another,” she says.
He nods and sits back down in the chair that he was in before she awoke and she closes her eyes, wishing that she were still asleep.
“What happened to you,” he asks. “Lexa said that you fell, but no one believes her. Did the Grounders do this to you?”
She frowns and shakes her head no, but then she’s not so sure. She tries to remember what happened and how she got back to the Ark. There are large chunks of time missing in her memory, vague images of the forest and then voices and then the healer’s hut at TonDC. And of course she remembers her talk with Lexa. It would seem that the Commander stands out even when under the effects of duress and delirium.
Lexa’s always had that effect on Clarke. She’s stiff in posture and harsh in her demeanor, but there is an undercurrent to it all, as if Clarke can tell that she wishes to be gentle but truly believes that she can’t and shouldn’t. It’s almost as if she’s an innocent – someone trapped – a slave under the whip of her own command. If ever there were a physical representation of the caged bird cliché, Lexa would be it, only it’s worse than that because not only has she bound herself up, she’s bound herself in a cage far too small.
Whatever Lexa’s reasons are for doing that to herself, it draws Clarke in and makes her want to help. But every time that she tries, she’s attacked and forced to retreat and leave Lexa helpless in her suffering. But more than that, every time she tries, not only does she lose someone she cares about, she loses an important part of herself. It’s as if to know Lexa is to be shaped, and molded, and ultimately, destroyed by her.
Honestly, it infuriates Clarke. She knows that should hate Lexa, and she really wants to, but for all that she says and does to placate that desire, the truth of the matter is that she doesn’t, she can’t, not even when she should. It was the same story with Wells, with Bellamy, with Finn, with Murphy, and even with her mother. She gets angry. She refuses to allow the object of that anger the peace of knowing that she’s forgiven them, but she’s forgiven them all the same.
“I-I fell,” she says. “I think… it’s all so blurry.”
Bellamy looks down at the dirty hands in his lap and fidgets with his fingers. The curls of his long hair hide the majority of his face in shadow as he nods his head.
“Are you okay,” she asks of him.
He looks back up at her but she doesn’t return his gaze, choosing instead to pick herself up just a little and focus on the cuts and scrapes that line her skin. They’re mostly healed, pink and thin, the scabs flaking away. Most of them were merely scrapes where the brambles caught her on her way down and ultimately saved her life by breaking the majority of her fall. Some of them needed stitches though. She can tell by the zipper like scar of a straight line with small dots along the sides. But the stitches are long gone and the cuts almost closed.
She can’t remember why she’d fallen, but something niggles at the back of her mind.
“A lot’s changed since you left, Clarke.”
Clarke finally looks over at him. He’s staring at the floor now as if it will open and swallow him whole.
“Like what,” she asks.
He doesn’t speak and some dark emotion flits over his semi-hidden features. She finds it to be a little frightening. As if he’s okay with being swallowed up.
“Bellamy,” she asks again, snapping him out of it.
He runs his hands through his hair and gets to his feet.
“Bellamy, what’s going on?”
“Things just aren’t like they used to be.”
“What does that mean,” she asks again, trying to sit up to talk to him.
“Come on, Clarke,” he exclaims. “Everything- every-one is… different.”
Clarke’s mind whirrs as she watches her friend struggle with some manic, unreadable emotion. And for all that she doesn’t understand of what he’s saying, she really does get it. Understanding isn’t always the predecessor to knowledge. Sometimes, we learn about things before we understand them. And usually when that happens, we’re learning about things that we shouldn’t know about at all, at least not if the one hundred year-old fairytales of suburban life are in any way true.
She should know how to clean a home and cook a meal, not how to fire a gun and kill a person. She should know how to raise children, not torture the Red from a Reaper. She should be there when her parents are old and help them that last peaceful step into mortality, not what it’s like to watch her father sucked into a vacuous void to boil to death in an oxygen free atmosphere.
But that’s not the world she lives in. She knows what she knows and she understands little. Some things just are, like the air and the water and the earth.
Clarke hates it, but she’s grown to accept it. That was something else that she and Bellamy had in common. But right here, right now, he’s not coping with that knowledge. Something’s different – off. It’s like she’s missed something and he’s trying to say it without actually saying it. It’s making her uncomfortable, making her feel shameful. Again, she can’t look at him so she focuses on her leg this time. The color of the bruises would suggest time and healing beyond that of a good night’s sleep.
“Bellamy, how long have I been asleep?”
He doesn’t speak and again she can feel the weight of his stare.
“Bellamy,” Clarke tries again, this time braving to look at his face.
And she can see that something’s poised on the tip of his tongue but he’s not saying it. He’s trying to swallow it and it’s choking him. Frustrated, she scans the room for something that will give her a firm grip on what’s going on, but this new information only compounds problems in Clarke’s mind. She was at the Ark when she passed out. But the stark, white, sterile walls of the Mountain facility stare back at her and make her feel sick.
“Bellamy, how long have I been asleep,” she tries a little louder.
He diverts his eyes and clears his throat. “Uh, about a week.”
“What,” Clarke asks as she sits up straighter and tries to swing her legs to the side of the bed. “A week…?”
Bellamy steps in front of her and places a gentle hand to her shoulder to stop her.
“Come on, Clarke. Just relax. You’re going to make yourself worse.”
“Why have I been down a week?”
The look that Bellamy gives Clarke tells her that he knows the answers to her questions but he won’t say a word if she doesn’t sit back. With a sigh, she reluctantly nods her head in agreement to his unspoken request but she doesn’t move back any, even when he eases his grip on her. And he doesn’t move away any either, and there’s this moment where he’s close to her, where he’s almost holding her, and he finds that he doesn’t want to let her go. Even when she looks like a broken doll that’s been glued back together, he finds her to be beautiful. But more than that, he knows how exceptionally strong she is. Truth be known, he’s missed her fiercely.
He berates himself for feeling that way about Clarke. There’s no way that she would ever consider him, and for good reason. He’s the boy that made her life hell when they landed, the one who wouldn’t listen and worshiped anarchy. He’s the boy that, when he’s honest with himself, once tried to drop her to a messy death but, at the last minute, decided not to. He’s betrayed her again, and just like then, he has no idea how to tell her.
How do you tell someone that you love that you’ve wronged them on purpose? Is it really valid when you believe that you did the right thing for them even when you know that they don’t agree? He knows that Clarke won’t see it any other way. Even he has trouble reconciling it. What’s worse is that he owes her. It was her kindness that helped him get past most of his anger when they first landed.
He’s selfish and he knows it, but he wants her, even when he doesn’t deserve her. He’s not a good person. He’s nothing like Finn. For all of her trouble, his anger is still there. He knows that he’s still capable of terrible things because he does them daily, not just to others but to her. He keeps convincing himself that these terrible things aren’t so bad, or that they’re unfortunate but necessary.
But the truth is that he’s wrong. He just can’t admit it because he needs something to be simple, and as such, he knows that everything about him is steeped in perfidy. Even he doesn’t trust himself, so why should anyone else, let alone Clarke?
Clarke looks up at him, an inscrutable look on her face because neither of them can tell what she wants in this moment. She’s bruised and scraped and smudged with dirt and he just wants to kiss her. He can’t help but wonder what it could hurt if she decided that she didn’t like it. She couldn’t possibly think any worse of him than he thinks of himself. Besides, it’s not like she’d have the strength to hurt him even if she did try to slap him.
And she’d try to slap him. Both of them are sure of that…
A scream pierces through the wall to their left and both of them jump. Bellamy releases Clarke and together they stare at the wall in awkward silence. There’s no window to the other room. They can’t see anything except for the tasteful Monet that’s seems exquisitely out of place with its riot of color against the sterility of the wall. While the sound worries and frightens Clarke, Bellamy is unfazed by it and that’s all the more unsettling for her.
“What the hell’s going on, Bellamy?”
He looks at her again as the screams become tortured whimpers.
“The Reapers,” he says.
This makes sense to Clarke so she relaxes just a little. “The rehabilitation’s working?”
“For the most part,” Bellamy says. “But we only caught a handful of them. The minute they saw us, they ran into the tunnels and collapsed the roof. They were ready for us. We only found a little of the Red on the ones that we caught, so we assume they stowed the whole cache down there.”
“They knew you were coming,” I ask.
He nods. “They may be feral, but they’re smart, and when it comes to their drugs and their food…” Both of them grimace. “They’re organized.”
Clarke is almost surprised by this news, but after thinking about it, it seems realistic to her. The Reapers don’t fight each other, only outsiders. They were docile with the Mountain men while getting their injections, and they worked the tunnels as a crew despite the monstrous effects of the drug. It’s reasonable that they’re sentient enough to find a way to keep their supply and freedom.
Clarke’s definitely regretting waking up now. It’s as if everything is getting worse by the minute. The agreement with the Grounders was contingent on this one thing, and that one thing isn’t as easy as it should be.
“Does the treaty still stand?”
Bellamy’s face falls.
“Clarke, there’s been a slight… change of plan.”
“What happened,” she asks urgently.
“We didn’t take the treaty.”
“What,” Clarke almost shouts. “Why?!”
A glint of anger sharpens Bellamy’s eyes. His posture becomes more rigid and he sets his jaw.
“Lexa wanted to rule us, to become some sort of… Queen,” he says the last word with no small amount of venom. “Did you really think that we would agree to that, Clarke?” He looks at her with utter incredulity. “Were you really willing to agree to that?”
Angry tears well in Clarke’s eyes. “Of course I didn’t want to do that, but there’s no other way to stop all of this nonsense. So yes, I thought that you, the others, and the rest of our people would put peace before pride.”
“Pride,” he repeats with offense. “It has nothing to do with pride.” He assumes an angry stance, looking right into her eyes and pointing at the ground with each of his arguments to emphasize them. “She’s been trying to kill us since we landed, she’s killed countless numbers of us, and she betrayed us and left us to die, Clarke! And now she wants to rule us?!”
He shakes his head and breaks his posture. “No, this isn’t about pride. It’s about survival. And she will have us all in chains or dead before she’s satisfied. And you…” He gestures to her in a defeated way. “You’ll let her.”
The anger coursing through Clarke’s veins isn’t all for Bellamy. Part of her is angry at Lexa because part of her feels the same way that he does. And it would be so easy to give in to his logic. It would allow her to draw a line in the sand and pick a side. She wouldn’t have to feel guilty or worried about what happens to the Grounders, to Lexa. She could just hate and act on that hate, and oddly enough, they’d probably win. It would be easy. So, so easy…
But Clarke can’t do it. She can’t stop caring. She keeps making these mistakes, letting people die for no reason, and they’re innocent people. She has to stop it; she needs to stop it, if not for peace’s sake, then for her own conscience. She straightens up and sets the line of her own jaw. “So what, Bellamy? They hurt us so we hurt them until one or all of us are dead? Is that how it’s going to be?”
He takes a deep breath and softens a little, though he’s still intensely serious.
“No, Clarke. We’re going to end this.”
Clarke feels shaky as she asks, “What does that mean?”
Bellamy takes a seat and looks down at the floor, his voice taking on a clinical detachment as he explains.
“The council wasn’t going to submit to Lexa, so Abby pushed back. She told Lexa that we would be moving into the Mountain and remain free of the Grounders. We’d still take care of the Reapers, but that was more for our benefit than theirs.”
Clarke scoffs. “There’s no way that Lexa would allow that…”
Bellamy agrees, looking up at Clarke from under his lashes. “No, she wasn’t going to.” His eyes harden. “She threatened to kill Abby and Kane where they stood for suggesting it, but Abby was prepared. She told Lexa that they’d already sent a party to the Mountain to clear it and if the Grounders didn’t let us relocate peacefully, we’d kill the Reapers and blow them to hell with another missile.”
Clarke’s heart nearly stops beating as it takes up residence in her throat. With every word out of Bellamy’s mouth, her people are more and more damned, and all because of their own hubris.
“It was a lie, but Lexa let us go,” he says with a shrug. “She didn’t have a choice.”
“Lexa won’t stand for that,” Clarke replies angrily. “We’ve signed our own death warrant.”
And with those words, Clarke leans back heavily against the headboard of her bed, finding no way to get her people out of the twisted mess they’ve created. She was asleep for an entire week and helpless to stop it. It’s as if she’d been taken out of the picture by fate.
“Yes,” Bellamy agrees again. “But fortunately for us, we don’t need them to leave us in peace. We’re here. We have the missiles. And as soon as we’re done salvaging the Ark for scrap and relocating everything, we’re going to release a planned strike against all of their territories.”
This is the Bellamy that Clarke remembers: petulant and selfish, willing to sacrifice any and every one for his own agenda, even when he knows that he’s wrong. And by the way that it’s his turn divert his eyes in shame, he must know that he’s wrong.
“My mother won’t let that happen…”
His expression becomes pity. “Clarke, she’s the Chancellor…”
Clarke almost feels numb with that declaration. Apparently her people, her mother, they all feel the same way.
“Even Kane,” she asks absently.
“No,” Bellamy says. “He still wants to become the 13th tribe.”
That’s a small comfort to her. At least one person has kept their mind in this mess, though it’s obviously been for nothing.
“Why didn’t he stop this? Mom would listen to him.”
Bellamy sighs. “Kane was outvoted. He tried to commit treason and he’s being held for his crimes and awaiting trial. Abby’s not sure how to deal with him yet.”
All of that comfort that she was just feeling is gone. That leaves only her, and with a busted leg what can she possibly do? She has no way to get word to Lexa. Her frustration is so great that she wants to hit something. She could have stopped it if she’d had a chance, if she’d been awake. Why wasn’t she awake?
Something cold and sick coils in the pit of her stomach as she realizes that Bellamy and her mother would have known that she’d stand in the way just like Kane. And while Abby would do what she needed to do, even float her own husband, she would do everything she could to stop Clarke from getting in the way in the first place.
“Why did I sleep for a week,” Clarke asks.
“Why did I sleep that long? I had already slept and woken up, so it wasn’t the concussion. I should have woken up…”
“What did you do, Bellamy?”
He sighs, knowing that he can’t lie to her successfully. “What we had to, Clarke…”
Suddenly she feels very alone, and honestly, very scared. She can’t trust anyone – not Bellamy, Jasper, Monty, not even her mother…
“What did you do to me,” she asks in a small but angry voice.
He exhales. “Indra gave O some mossy stuff that the Grounders use as a sedative.”
“Octavia is helping you,” she asks surprised.
“No,” he says. “I swiped it from her before she escaped.”
Bellamy nods, his eyes refusing to meet Clarke’s.
“You locked up your own sister, and Kane, and you drugged me…” He nods again, still diverting his eyes. “Is there anything else I need to know about? I mean, you’re about to murder an entire continent full of people for no reason. You’re clearly capable of anything…”
At this he finally looks at her. His eyes are sad, almost black they’re so deep and almost glinting they’re so sharp. It hurts Clarke to think that she trusted him. And it hurts him to know that he’s killing what little of her trust there was in the first place. It would seem to her that no one cares anymore but he does. He hates it just as much as she does.
Unlike her, he could do something about it.
It would seem to Clarke that the radiation made monsters of what was left after the world’s destruction. Clarke wants to reach over and rip the IV from her arm and run as fast and far away from him, from Lexa, from her mother, from the Mountain, from this whole situation, as possible. But she can’t. And she knows that any sudden movement, word, even the faintest of suggestions of leaving will get her locked up too.
Or maybe worse…
But she still needs to try.
She glances around at the white walls and has to release a humorless laugh at the irony of her situation. Her people belong in this place. They’re just like the Mountain men: cruel and foolish. And just like them, she’s just as trapped in this bunker. She can do nothing. All she has left is words.
“This is wrong, Bellamy, and you know it.”
“No, Clarke, it’s not wrong to survive.”
“We don’t need to do this to survive!”
“You said it yourself, Lexa won’t let it go. There’s no other way.”
She stares him down, willing herself to see the good in him again, to find it and tap into it. That’s how she’s always done it before. Reason and logic don’t work so well with Bellamy because compassion has no reason or logic. It’s senseless to do good. It’s thankless and there are no real rewards. Mostly though, it’s dangerous. When you love someone, when you help them and try for them and sacrifice for them, you open yourself to be irrevocably damaged, you open yourself to uncertainty.
Surely some piece of that is still alive in him?
“Bellamy, listen to me. You don’t have to do this. Help me get out of here. Help me get to Lexa. I can fix this.”
“Clarke, don’t talk like that. It’s treason.”
“It’s reason, Bellamy, and you know it. No one has to die!”
For a moment she believes that she’s reached him because he lowers his head and takes a few long minutes to do what she can only assume is consider what she’s said. But when he faces her again, she knows by the sickly sad look in his eyes that his need for safety has come first. And he knows that he’s just a coward who wants an easy way out for the people he loves. And both of them know that knowledge isn’t always understanding.
Neither of them understand why this particular issue is the way that it is, but that doesn’t change the reality of the situation.
“Where’s Abby,” Clarke asks, choosing to stare into her lap. Only this time she looks away not in her own shame, but because she can’t bear to look at his.
“She’s next door with that Reaper. She’ll be here to see you as soon as she’s done.”
“Good. You can leave then.”
“Clarke, you know as well as I do that sometimes you have to kill to survive.“
He puts his hand on top of hers just like he did in the control room when they opened the doors, and just like that, his shame is hers too and she can’t help but consider those words to be a calculated move on his part. She closes her eyes, yanks her hand away, and chokes on the lump in her throat, for the loss of her friend, of her family, of any semblance of a peaceful life.
“I said you can leave,” she says quietly.
“I said go!”
With that, she looks over and stares hard at him. And for that instant that he looks back, she can see this twisted sense of remorse in his eyes. It’s just not enough for her, and it won’t be until he stops this. He has a choice, right then and there. She gives him a chance to redeem himself in that instant. But he looks away ashamed, gets slowly to his feet, and quietly exits the room, the door snapping shut behind him.