Author Notes: Shorter chapter! I thought this was supposed to be the end, but it seems it is not. Updates will be slower, as real life has picked up, but I hope y'all stick with me! I hear tonight's ep was a good one, I can't wait to watch it tomorrow morning! Thanks for the reviews! I love hearing what you guys have to say.
If You Shake My Hand, That's For Life
Clarke checked her watch, and just managed not to sigh audibly. Bellamy and Finn had been bickering back and forth for going on fifteen minutes now, and neither one was budging on their position. Bellamy was firmly anti-any-and-all Grounders. Finn, much like Octavia would have, was arguing the opposite. Bellamy had initially been incredulous, pointing out Finn's recent, nearly fatal injury. Finn had pointed out that they had been trespassing in the Grounder's territory, and the Grounder had recently been bashed in the head with a rock, which may have put him in a violent mood.
Octavia, Finn had pointed out, had spent more time with the Grounder than any of them, and she thought he was a good guy.
Octavia, Bellamy had countered, hadn't spent a lot of time around people and maybe was not the best judge of character.
"Octavia," Clarke had interjected, "isn't here, so maybe you should stop speaking for her? Unless you want me to go get her?" Finn probably would have agreed, but Bellamy gave her a dirty look and had returned to arguing with Finn about the Grounder's possible motives.
Clarke, when asked, had tentatively sided with Finn. Monty, after what had happened to Jasper, was with Bellamy, though neither Clarke or Monty were as invested in the argument. Clarke thought that, with the conflicting information, they had no way of knowing if either side was correct. She thought that they should wait, and gather more information. Neither Bellamy or Finn was content with that outcome right now. They were arguing in circles though, and Clarke's attempts to move them along had pretty much been ignored.
If she were Raven, Clarke thought idly, she'd have made a crack about them needing to get a room, and then probably asked to watch. They'd have shut up, at least, and it might have been amusing to see if it was possible for Bellamy Blake to be embarrassed. But she wasn't Raven, and so she tried (and failed, so far) to inject a bit of rationality into the discussion.
Clarke picked at a hole that was forming at the hem of her pants, and tried to reign in her temper. This meeting had started out so promisingly, too. Bellamy had started by laying out a plan to organize the remaining former prisoners into small groups, each with a captain of sorts. The captain would be responsible for keeping track of the members of their group, checking in with them in the morning, at midday, and before bed. That way, should anyone else go missing, they'd know far sooner, and any rescue mission would be more likely to succeed.
Together, the four of them had roughly organized the groups according to skill set. While in the long run it would be smart for people to move around to different teams and develop different abilities, for now and until their odds of survival wasn't quite so slim, they all agreed to put everyone where they were the strongest, to maximize productivity. Working off of Jasper's list they'd managed to form groups with a mix of ages, and they'd carefully distributed the delinquents that could prove to be difficult, or rebellious, with the captains thought able to most easily stand up to them.
Clarke had worked to keep a neutral expression on her face, so she wouldn't trigger Bellamy's latent defensiveness, and derail the meeting with another fight. She'd admitted (to herself) that he was intelligent, but the solid, strategic thinking he was laying out for them was another surprise. This wasn't just day to day he was setting up – this was long term. A whole new society.
Clarke's group, the healers, was the smallest - she'd been assigned Octavia, who already had a head start, Cyrus - a burly, but quiet and fairly unintimidating 16 year old boy. She hadn't really interacted with him but Bellamy had insisted she choose one of the larger boys, pointing out that, as had happened with Finn's surgery, they might at some point need the muscle. Clarke had chosen the least offensive option offered. The fourth member of her group was Vada, one of the youngest girls who nonetheless struck all of them as being bright and observant. The idea was to have Vada stick close to base camp to deal with the routine cuts and scrapes that happened, while the other healers went out with hunting and scouting parties, where the most severe injuries seemed to occur. Clarke was fairly certain that Octavia would only be going out with Bellamy, or one of his main minions, but she'd let Octavia fight that battle.
Bellamy had two hunting groups to oversee (and three of the more concerning delinquents) while he'd selected Monroe and Miller to each lead another. Monty had the biggest group, which they were going to call the gatherers. Monty, though he'd been a little hesitant at first, had several good ideas and he'd spoken more animatedly as the meeting went on, and Bellamy seemed receptive. They had a plan to begin cultivating plants in the spring, rather than risk picking the surrounding area clean. He'd also suggested that anyone who was planning on leaving the camp on a trip with the potential to last longer than a few hours be given a crash course in edible plants. That way, if someone was lost, cut off some way, they'd at least be able to feed themselves.
They'd organized groups of builders, who'd be responsible for the wall, and who would need to begin constructing more permanent structures, able to withstand the elements. They'd set a deadline, the beginning of November, when according to the info from the Ark, the weather would begin to turn.
Finn was in charge of several groups of scouts, though he'd be doing it in a hands off way, for now. They'd informed Bellamy of the bunker Finn had found, as well as the vehicle they'd sheltered from the acid fog. Finn's job would be to seek out such remnants of the past and strip them of anything useful. Clothes and blankets were a priority, as well as tools that they could use (or copy should what they find be too far degraded). For now, Raven and a couple of those who'd been on engineering or mechanical tracts would go out with the scouts. As of right now, the only task around camp for them would be the communication systems, but the hope was that going out with the scouts would yield enough parts for them to build devices that would help the group at large. Monty had hopes for some kind of two way communication device that outgoing groups could use to keep in touch with the home base, and possibly a way to loop the solar panels in the drop ship to a kind of refrigerator to preserve food, to start with.
There were a few towns marked on the map that could be reached in a day or two and while they'd all acknowledged that they might, in the future, have to make a run for them, they decided that at the moment the risks outweighed the rewards.
They'd all agreed that everyone at camp should carry a weapon, and Bellamy had put forth the idea that they all learn at least basic fighting techniques. Clarke saw the wisdom in that, but she was a little leery, as it meant that she was now going to be spending several hours a week with Monroe. She was pretty sure she'd end up with at least one black eye, that the other girl would make seem like an accident.
Sentries would now be posted at the gate, and comings and goings monitored more closely, and there would be a 24 hour perimeter watch, with everyone being required to take shifts.
Discussion about security, and learning how to fight, had led to discussion about the reason why they needed to learn how to fight, which in turn led to the current, seemingly never ending discussion about the Grounders, and the end of their, nearly friendly, collaboration.
Clarke idly stretched her legs out, and leaned back on her palms. Her foot knocked into Bellamy's knee, but he barely glanced at her. Monty had his head tipped back against the side of the drop ship, and appeared not to be paying attention any longer.
Finn was saying something about respecting the boundaries, and living in peace with the Grounders, when something clicked in Clarke's brain and she blurted, a little too loudly, "Boundaries."
Three heads swiveled towards her, Monty merely curious (perhaps a little sleepy) while both Bellamy and Finn were looking at her as if they were wondering if she'd become a little slow.
"Yeah, good of you to have been paying attention, Clarke."
She waved Bellamy's sarcasm off, "No. It just occurred to me. What if you're both right? We assumed that the river that runs along Mount Weather was a boundary, and Jasper was speared for crossing it, right?"
"Well what's the point of boundaries?"
"To…" Finn started slowly, though she could see her point was beginning to dawn, "divide territory."
"And why would you need to divide territory…" Clarke said.
"You think that there's more than one group of Grounders," Bellamy deduced.
"I think it would make sense. I know you don't want to hear it, Bellamy, but Octavia is convinced that the Grounder who took her was trying to protect her, and he did do a good job on her leg. Think about it, if he was planning on keeping her captive, why would he make it easier for her to get around?"
"And he warned us, with the horn," Finn had made that point before, but Bellamy was reluctant to accept it.
"And you guys were pretty far away when John, Roma and Diggs were killed. Maybe you crossed another boundary."
"Are you seriously arguing that they should be forgiven for killing three of our group, Clarke?" Bellamy fixed her with a hard glare.
"Of course not! But, with the way things are down here… I imagine they're pretty protective of their resources and accustomed to taking drastic measures to protect them."
"So you're thinking that we must have landed on neutral ground, then?" Monty asked.
"It would explain why we haven't been attacked here," Clarke reasoned, "so maybe landing off course was a boon."
"This is all well and good," Bellamy spoke up, "but guesses and assumptions aren't going to get us anywhere. Say there are good Grounders and bad Grounders? How are we supposed to tell the difference? Especially without risking more lives? I'm not about to just send people out in all directions to wait to see if they get killed, just to figure out where we're not allowed to travel.
Clarke didn't have a response for that, because she wouldn't be willing to take that chance either.
"Maybe," Finn ventured, "Octavia could…"
Bellamy cut him off with a vicious look, "If you're about to suggest using my sister as bait, Collins, you should think twice."
Finn shrugged, pragmatic as always, "I wouldn't say bait, but if she wants to…"
Bellamy went to lunge for Finn, but Clarke grabbed for his forearm, and held him in place. He turned angry eyes on her, but she spoke before he could, "We would not put Octavia in danger. I will not put her in danger. I promise."
Bellamy held her eyes for a few moments, before he nodded, and then relaxed. "And we don't mention this to her just yet, got it?" Clarke said and looked pointedly at both Monty and Finn until they nodded.
"She was pretty sure that he didn't understand her, anyway," Bellamy pointed out.
Clarke had been thinking about that, and she didn't buy it, so she said as much, "More than 90 percent of people in this area of the world were English speakers, so I think it's unlikely that the Grounder couldn't understand her at all. I mean, we all read books in school, from hundreds of years ago, and understood them."
"Uh, I understood that they were boring," Monty interjected, and Clarke smiled at him, happy for the break in the tension.
Before Bellamy or Finn could pick up their argument, Clarke spoke up, "I think we need to table this for now. We're not getting anywhere. How about for now, we play defense. We learn how to fight, and we instruct everyone who's leaving the walls to be on guard, and to keep their eyes open for anything that might help us figure out what to do about the Grounders."
And so, they'd adjourned the meeting. She could tell that Bellamy hadn't been happy to leave on that note, but he'd managed to bite back any protest and he had and left, planning to track down Miller, Monroe and the others to explain their new duties. He'd barely acknowledged Finn, while leaving, but had asked her to meet him in his tent later, saying that he had one more thing to go over with Clarke alone, so she had agreed to stop by. Monty had left shortly after, telling Finn that he would be by tomorrow.
Alone, for the first time since they'd taken off for different missions, and he'd returned unconscious and bleeding, Finn simply stared at her. Clarke avoided his gaze, and he sighed, "Clarke…"
"I need to check the wound, make sure it's not showing signs of infection," she told him, reaching back to her training for that cloak of professionalism she had learned from her mother and the other doctors on the Ark.
"Because undressing will somehow make this less uncomfortable?"
"Don't," she told him flatly. "You're injured. I'm the closest thing we have to a doctor. It doesn't have to be uncomfortable. But if you'd prefer for your girlfriend to be here…"
Finn's mouth compressed, but he raised his shirt above the wound, and Clarke began to remove the bandages, "Can't I explain? Just a little?"
"You really don't have to."
Clarke eyed him, noted the determined expression he wore, and knew he wasn't going to let this go. Finn had proven nothing if not persistent in the days since she'd met him. "Fine. You have until I clean and redress this, and that's it. Got it?"
He didn't waste any time, "I've known Raven since we were kids."
"She told me. You were the boy next door."
"And you've met her. She's amazing. But…"
"She worked as hard as anyone to save your life, Finn. Despite knowing what happened with us, so think of that before you start with the 'buts.'"
"But," Finn continued, "I never really saw anyone else. We were always together. She's my best friend."
"I'm familiar with the concept," Clarke said drily.
Finn opened his mouth to reply, but thought better of what he was going to say, and paused for a moment before continuing, "She kissed me, one day. When I was almost fourteen. And after that we were always together, as more than friends, until I was confined. And then 17 months later, you're nagging me on a drop ship to earth."
Clarke furrowed her eyebrow, "That's real nice. I was the first girl you saw in over a year, so boom…"
"No! Clarke, you weren't the first girl. You were hardly the only girl in that ship, if you remember. I saw you. I liked you. Had we met before, somehow, on the Ark, I think I still would have."
Clarke drew in a breath, and turned to discard the cloth she'd used to clean Finn's stitches, "I don't know what you want me to say to that."
"Say you liked me too. Say…"
Clarke cut him off, "You know that I did. And you also know that I wouldn't have, quite as much, had you, at some point mentioned Raven," she began applying a new dressing.
"I know. And maybe that's why I didn't," Finn winced and she looked at him incredulously, "wait. That came out sleazier than I meant it to."
"Yeah it did."
Finn ran a frustrated hand through his hair, "I mean… I saw Raven once a month once I got locked up. Supervised, so we didn't talk about anything real. And then I was on earth, she was on the Ark. I didn't know if I'd ever see her again."
"But your wristband…"
"I didn't want her to think I was dead, Clarke! My parent's either."
Clarke placed her hand on his shoulder, to prevent him from rising any further, "Calm down so you don't set yourself back." Finn subsided somewhat, so Clarke continued, "Look. The why's don't matter. Not really. We were stressed and scared, and lonely, and it happened. We'll call it comfort. There's no changing that. But Raven's here now, and she loves you."
"I know," Finn said quietly.
"She loves you, and I barely know you," Finn started to protest, but Clarke spoke over him, "It's true. I don't know anything about your parents, or your life on the Ark. Whether you love her the same way she loves you… Only you can make that decision. And I can't, I will not, be involved in that. I like her, and I'm not interested in being the other woman."
"So… what? We pretend we're strangers?"
"So, Finn, you figure it out. Figure out what you want, how you feel, but keep me out of it. I'm out of the equation. I'm not going to come between you two, and I'm not pining for you, either. We'll be friends, or allies, and we'll work together to survive, that's it."
"So your feelings…"
"Are irrelevant, and mine to handle as I choose. Now, your time's up. You're set for the night. I'll see you in the morning, and if everything looks good we'll talk about moving you into a tent tomorrow night."
"Thank you, Clarke. For everything. I'd be dead, if not for you."
"Not just me, but you're welcome. What are friends for?"
Finn rolled his eyes, "Can I give you some friendly advice?"
"Maybe?" Clarke said warily.
"Watch yourself. With Bellamy."
Clarke sat back on her heels, surprised, "Where did that come from?"
"He was a few seconds away from letting you be skewered, not too long ago, I don't trust him."
"I'm not brain damaged. I remember. I also remember that his first instinct was to stop me from falling, and then he hesitated. I'm pretty confident that, whatever else Bellamy Blake is, he's not a murderer."
"Okay," Finn held up a palm in an appeasing gesture, "I do trust you, Clarke. Completely. I just want you to be careful."
"You're my friend, Finn. Not my keeper. I'm going to work with Bellamy, because that's what's best for everyone. So I'm going to trust him, unless he gives me a very good reason not to."
"Other than 90% of his actions since we've landed?"
Clarke met Finn's eyes, becoming impatient, "None of us have been batting 1000 since we landed."
Finn looked puzzled, "Huh?"
"Baseball?" Finn shook his head, still puzzled. "Nevermind. It means none of us has made all of the right calls, you and I included. And we need Bellamy. Most of the people outside won't follow anyone else now, if they ever would have. And I think that he's trying, which is good enough for me." Finn nodded, grudgingly and Clarke stood up, and turned to leave. "Goodnight. Rest."
Clarke found herself shaking her head as she climbed down the ladder. She'd just defended Bellamy to Finn, and she'd dismissed Finn's concerns with barely a thought. Clarke had always been stubborn, resolute in her opinions, to a fault. Once made up her mind rarely changed. Wells had often teased her about it, and had been a victim of that tendency, in the end. Earth had forced her to change, adapt, grow up.
She'd thought Bellamy was the enemy, that he would get them all killed, but she'd been wrong. He wouldn't thank her for defending him, but she'd continue to do so, because Clarke's gut told her he'd earn it.