For the wonderful Jess aka greenfaeriefly for inspiring this fic in our rants over what the 100 was not.
"At the end of the day, it isn't where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I'm going and have never been before. "
Bellamy is on level five when they all start dying.
It happens so quickly, there's nothing he can do about it. One moment there are Mountain Men everywhere, pointing guns at him and what remains of his self-made family, and then next their skin is boiling and melting as they fall to their knees, screams unleashed from their lips.
There are a few that remain standing, their eyes wide with shock as they watch their brothers-in-arms succumb to their gruesome deaths, but the guns clenched tightly in their fists soon clatter to the floor as an entire army of Grounders burst through the doors.
A glint of blonde in the chaos of blood and war cries gives him a sliver of hope, and when she turns and flashes a grin at him (it is a weary grin, but nevertheless, it has an air of victory and pride), he knows that they are safe.
As the remaining 32 delinquents find the arms of loving parents, and Octavia finds herself in his, he feels like he can finally let out the breath he had been holding since he first crawled into the foxhole back at the dropship and watched the world go up in flames. For a split second in time, despite the bodies of their enemies lying around them, everything is right with the world.
Then he leaves level five, and he realizes it wasn't just that level.
The entire mountain was contaminated.
He silently thanks whatever God there is out there that Jasper found a spare bone-marrow treatment to give to Maya, and that, after eternities of hushed whispering in the vents, she was finally persuaded to accept it. ("Who will take it if you don't?" he remembers Jasper hissing. "One of Cage's cronies? My friends are already dead, Maya. Let them die so that someone who deserves to live can, not those sons of bitches who killed them")
But as he wanders through the now deserted hallways of Mount Weather, trying to avoid the ransacking and celebrations he knows are going on, he feels no sense of triumph, no glory or satisfaction. All he feels is guilt and destitution.
(It seems to be a common emotion he has nowadays; guilt. He's shouldered the blame for so many things; he's carried the burden of his sins. He remembers the smile on Lovejoy's son's face as he skipped off to school, he remembers the look of shock on Jaha's features as a bullet entered his abdomen, he remembers Lincoln's groan of pain as he drove the awl through his hand, and he remembers watching bodies burn through the night sky like stars falling through the atmosphere. He sees the people he's wronged in his dreams, all chanting guilty, guilty, guilty. It is a nightmare that he can't escape, his own personal hell.)
He sees the apartments of those who helped hide the delinquents; he sees the mutilated corpses sitting on their couches, some of them with their hands still clasped together, or their bodies curled into one another. Jasper's words ring in his ears. "I promised to protect them!" the boy had hissed, refusing to abandon his friends. Bellamy wonders if the revolutionaries of Mount Weather died thinking that he would come in and save them at any moment, just like he said he would. ("Clarke's got a plan," he had promised. "She won't let innocents die.")
(He remembers the time he mistook his co-leader as a weak, privileged princess, incapable of making hard choices. He's been wrong about Clarke before. Just not like this. Not like this.)
It isn't until he stands at the door of the preschool that he collapses to his knees and begins to cry. Silent tears stream down his cheeks like rivers of remorse as he looks through a cracked door, still, tiny bodies slumped forward in their desks, their backs thankfully towards him.
His hands shake as he realizes what they've done.
(Was it worth it? something in the back of his mind asks. Was it worth all of this?)
That is how his sister finds him, his hands, still shaking, covering his face as he lets the weight of all the lives he was supposed to save begin to crush him like he is Atlas trying to hold up the world. Somewhere in the distance, he hears the sound of laughter, and he can't help but feel sickened at the fact that no one else seems to understand that they've killed heroes, they've killed innocents, they've killed children.
"Bellamy?" Octavia asks, and when he hears a slight crack in her voice, he knows that he's not the only one who has understood the crushing gravity of what they've done. (He wants to be in space again, he wants to be in Zero G. He wants to escape this bone crushing heaviness that is pressing on his chest, making it impossible to breathe.) "B-bell?"
"They were kids, O," is all he can manage to choke out. "They were kids."
His sister pauses for a moment before whispering, "So were we."
There is a long silence, where the only things he can register are the distant sounds of the celebration of a massacre and the presence of his sister, Grounder war paint still brushed under her eyes like soil from the Earth they've finally touched, standing behind him.
When he finally speaks again, his voice is hoarse and the words he speaks seem to crack his throat open. "We can't keep doing this," he whispers. "We can't keep fighting, O. We can't keep murdering each other because we think we have…we think we have a right to rule the Ground."
Mountain Men, Grounders, Sky People; they are all the same. They are all Jacob and Esau, Romulus and Remus. They are the same blood fighting over a birthright, an inheritance that they were meant to share, not conquer.
"It can't just be about us, O," he whispers as he feels her hand gently rest against the juncture of his neck and shoulder. (There is a weakness he feels, a sort of inadequacy because he promised he would protect them and now they're dead.) "It can't just be about us."
He does not register if his sister says something in reply. All he knows is the ringing in his ears and acid tears behind his eyes, spilling over, running down his jaw, and hitting the cold, dead cement beneath him like rain (it is evidence of the storm raging inside him).
(The sea in his stomach refuses to calm, and the tightness in his throat does not leave him for months.)
The last straw is when they find out the rations are being distributed unequally.
For weeks now, the three groups had been trying to coexist in peace, but maintaining the alliance with the Grounders was like walking on eggshells and the remaining cured Mountain Men, despite being formally and publicly pardoned, were pariahs to say the least. While they all lived in Camp Jaha, the different factions seemed to have their own subdivisions of the camp, and rarely did someone from one community venture to another.
The strange, almost accusatory, glances sent his way did not go unnoticed whenever he walked over to the Mountain Men's side of camp with his sister. However, the relief that passed Maya's eyes as she saw them enter Sector C of the camp and settle across from her made whatever distrustful stares they were sure to earn worth it.
"How are things here?" Octavia asks in a low voice, careful to not be overheard by any of the other Mountain Men. (A total of 68 had been saved from the massacre in the compound; sixty-eight out of 389. The number made Bellamy to his stomach all over again.)
Maya's shoulders sag for a moment, and Bellamy is struck by how tired she seems, how gaunt and small she becomes when given a moment of respite. "Strained," she whispers in reply. "We're tired. Being on the ground is wonderful, but we're not used to it. I think it's a lot harsher than most people expected, the sun, the elements. Everything."
It's true; he's seen it. He sees how the Mountain Men squint whenever they're outside, how they flinch when a cold wind blows through. They're weak, both in body and in spirit, and what kills him is the fact that he can't figure out how to help them be strong. "Do you have a leader?" he asks. "Someone the people look to?"
Maya nods. "His name is Alekzander. He was Dante's youngest son. " She must have seen Octavia's brows shoot up in surprise because she quickly adds on, "He was one of us though. He tried to refuse treatment. People thought he was just being rebellious, but he really did think what they were doing was wrong. They had to force the treatment on him."
There is a long pause while both parties search for something else to say.
"They look to him," Maya finally continues. "He's smart. Kind, too. He's a lot like his father in that he wants to protect us, but he doesn't want to kill others to do it."
"Dante had no problem murdering all our friends to get all of you on the ground," Octavia hissed right after.
"That's because he thought you had no problem murdering all of our people to save your friends," a voice comes from behind them.
Standing and turning so fast that he knocked over his chair, Bellamy whirls around to see a young man, about his own age, with blonde hair and dark blue eyes staring at them. He looks pale and sickly, like most of the Mountain Men, but at the same time he holds his spine straight and his gaze piercing.
"And I guess he was right, wasn't he?" the man continues, yet despite his harsh words, there is no animosity in his voice. (He reminds Bellamy of the sea for some reason, unchanging, unfaltering, yet deadly if provoked.) Sticking out his hand, he says, "Alekzander Wallace. It's nice to finally meet the famed Blake siblings."
Slowly, warily, Bellamy extends his hand and shakes the man's. "I can assure you that the vast majority of what you've heard about us is inaccurate," he replies.
"Except the part where we can kick your ass," his sister deadpans. (He would've kicked her under the table had he not been so proud.)
The small, tired smile that passes the blond man's face is almost enough to make Bellamy pity him. "I have no doubt of that," Alekzander says. "Do you mind if I join you?"
He's fairly certain that the look on Octavia's face, and his own, greatly discourage the prospect, yet without a blatant refusal, the newest addition to their conversations seems unyielding. Still, as he settles into a seat next to Maya, Bellamy can't help but notice the unusually small portion of food he sets on the table.
The detail doesn't escape Octavia either. "What?" his younger sister snorts. "Did you eat half of your meal before deciding to introduce yourself?"
He knows the look of confusion that passes Alekzander's face is genuine because the same one passes Maya's. "No…" the president's son replies, questions and puzzlement saturating his tone.
"We get two ration packets a day," Maya says softly. "Just like everyone else."
Perhaps it is Maya looking up at him through her lashes that tells him she knows what's going on (The girl had always been too clever for her own good. From finding him strung up to bleed out to her lying her way back onto the elevator with him, he had known that she was a smart one to begin with.), or maybe it was the flash of bitterness and resentment he saw in the tight line of her lips for just an instant. Any which way, his eyes dart to Octavia's for a split second before both of them are standing and excusing themselves before quickly striding to the council's main quarters in the middle of camp.
Two ration packets a day.
The rest of the camp got five.
They burst into the council chamber while Clarke is deep in conversation with Lexa. (He feels his heart stop beating in his chest when he sees the smile on her face as she looks at the Grounder commander. Of all the thoughts running through his mind, all of the things that he wants to scream at her while he grabs her by the shoulders and tries to shake some sense into her, the one that suddenly dominates everything else is the very one that seems to rip his heart out of his chest. She used to smile at me like that, he thinks. But not anymore. Never anymore.)
He's about to hiss at the earth-born girl to get the hell out, but Octavia speaks before he can stitch his heart together enough to spit out the words.
"Sector C is short on rations. They're only getting two packets a day."
There is a long pause, and Bellamy doesn't miss the meaningful look Clarke shares with Lexa in the moments of silence. It takes a split second for him to understand what's going on.
"No," he utters in disbelief. Then again, his voice filling with anger and hurt, "No!" He can only imagine how he must look as he takes a step back, betrayal spreading across his features like a forest fire. "You knew," he accuses. "You planned it! This isn't the goddamn Ark, Clarke! We have enough food to go around without the bullshit hierarchy system."
"Bellamy—" she starts, and how she manages to sound so tired and so patronizing at the same time kills him.
"Clarke is doing what she needs to do to protect her people," Lexa cuts her off. "The Mountain Men are getting what they deserve."
Bellamy is toe-to-toe with the Grounder commander in two steps, his eyes clashing with hers. He can feel her power radiating off of her, and he knows that she could probably snap his neck in an instant, but at this moment in time, he really can't bring himself to care.
"Get. Out." He hisses those two words with so much venom, his tone caught somewhere between jealousy and righteous anger, that he sees Lexa nearly take a step back before she steels herself, and move her hand to the knife at her belt.
Her hand freezes, but her posture does not soften when Clarke whispers, "Lexa, please." (The way Clarke says her name, like it's a prayer or some miracle of nature, makes him want to punch the woman.) As the warrior lets her gaze rake over him, she speaks so quietly that only he can hear, "Watch your tongue, Sky King. Or you may one day wake up without it."
Then, with a whirlwind of damnation and thunder, she is gone.
"You too, O," he says, his voice softening, making his words more of a request than a demand..
There was a time where his sister would question him, would deny his request and insist on staying. But this time, she simply gives him a curt nod, shoots what can only be called a dirty look Clarke's way, and leaves closely behind Lexa.
He takes the silence that ensues to study the girl he thinks he may have fallen in love with. She still wears her clothes of war, the long jacket and studded gloves that he's sure Lexa must have given her. She looks stronger now, more like the leader he's always known she was, less like the vulnerable teenager who just wants to keep everyone safe.
But then he looks into her eyes and he sees the lost little girl who's just looking for a home on this spinning piece of rock, and he wants to hold her, he wants to pull her into his embrace and breathe in the scent of her hair just like he did when she had come back from the dead, when she had come back to him.
"What are you doing, Clarke?" He is proud of how cold his voice remains.
She seems to explode. "They killed our friends, Bellamy!" she yells. "They drilled into their bones and took out the marrow. They tortured them. They tortured you! How can you want to forgive them? How can you want to take them in?" Those blue eyes drill into him, begging him to give her some sort of justification for the sins she has committed. "They killed Kendall! They killed Fox and Molly. They killed our family!"
"And we killed most of their people!" he shouts back. "That didn't stop them from coming back with us! The Grounders killed even more back at the dropship and we still made an alliance with them! Lexa killed Finn and you still-"
"I killed Finn!" she cuts him off with a cry. "I made that sacrifice. I made that sacrifice so that we could get our friends out of Mount Weather. We did what we needed to do to survive!"
"And what do you think the Mountain Men were doing?"
The long silence that ensues tells him he's hit a weak spot. Taking a tentative step towards her, he squeezes his hand in a fist if only to not place it on her shoulder. She looks up at him, confusion, but also determination in her eyes, and god, he marvels at all the hurricane of all that she is, the lightning inside of her, the ocean roaring in her veins. She could be so much, she could change so much, if only she could put aside her anger, her bitterness, her hate, and see clearly.
"Clarke," he murmurs (he says her name like it's a prayer or some miracle of nature). "Clarke, we've done horrible things. Don't make it any worse by doing this too."
She shakes her head, confusion leaving her eyes, replaced by cold, hard, resolve, and straightens her spine, clenching her jaw stubbornly. "No. No, you told me that who we are and who we need to be to keep breathing are two different things. You told me that the things we do to survive don't define us. You taught me that."
He can't believe this is happening. He takes a step back as he feels the horror of her words set in on him, the realization that this is what she thought his words of comfort had meant. (It's like he's staring at Charlotte all over again. You told me to slay my demons when I'm awake, he can almost hear her cry. You told me if I did that they wouldn't be there when I slept!)
He turns away, a scoff escaping him, a humorless laugh stuck in his chest. As he turns back to her, a smile that holds no happiness on his face, he feels sick to his stomach and he wants to kick himself for destroying everything he loves. (It's all he seems to do anymore.) "What we do to survive," he says, "determines whether or not we deserve to survive. No more hiding, Clarke. This is who we are now."
It is as if the light has gone out from her eyes. Her face falls dead and her gaze suddenly turns cold and calculated. "We need to save food for winter," she says, setting her shoulders back and steeling her spine. "The rations will not increase in Sector C. That is my final decision as leader of Camp Jaha."
He bites his lip and nods. "Fine," he replies, and he hates how hurt his voice sounds in his own ears. "I'd like to resign as co-leader," he spits sarcastically, "if I ever held that position at all. Octavia and I will leave tomorrow, and we'll open the invitation to anyone who wants to come with us."
The look of shock on her face gives him no pleasure, and he curtly nods before turning and walking towards the door.
(He doesn't know which is more painful: her not needing him anymore or the fact that she didn't stop him as he walked out.)
In the end, more decide to accompany Octavia and himself than he had originally expected. Word spreads through camp without either of them really saying anything; gossip like that tends to infect most conversations. He had known of the whispers circulating the camp, but nothing had quite prepared him for the sea of bodies all gathered around the gate as he approached the metal structure in the early autumn twilight.
There are at least a hundred of them, maybe two. Most of the remaining Mountain Men have packs strapped tightly to their backs, and a few of the Arkers shift awkwardly from foot to foot. There are a few Grounders interspersed among them, and a few glimpses of familiar faces flash like a mirror in the sunlight as Bellamy recognizes some of the delinquents.
His sister stands at the front of the group along with Miller and Raven, and out of the corner of his eye, Bellamy can see Maya and Alekzander standing with their people. Octavia gives him a sheepish look as he walks up to her. "Apparently we weren't the only ones pissed about the council's rulings," she mutters so only he can hear.
He jerks his chin, acknowledging her words before he turns to Miller with a raised brow. The boy has found his beanie again, but it does little to rejuvenate his appearance; his shoulder sag more than they used to, and his beard still covers most his face, but he still has that aura of quiet strength that prompted Bellamy to first chose him as his second. (He's wearing a guard's jacket under his heavier coat; he should know. He remembers wearing a similar jacket when he was on the Ark, training to be a guard.)
"You hate the Mountain Men," Bellamy says. It is not a question; he knows that the younger boy has yet to forgive those who murdered his friends. He doesn't blame him for it either, but he can't help but wonder why the thief has chosen to go with them, to find justice for the people he believes should burn in hell.
Miller's dark eyes challenge his with a strange mixture of defiance and trust. "I don't care about them," he says "You know I'd follow you anywhere."
Bellamy wonders the pride he feels blossom in his chest is evident in his eyes.
"Monty and Jasper are staying," Raven says, stepping towards them, her bad leg dragging in the dust as she leans on a crutch. "They didn't want to leave Clarke, you know? Harper's on the fence, I told her she's welcome to come at any time." Glancing over her shoulder, the mechanic's dark eyes search for something before turning back and continuing, "Wick was savaging some extra parts from the workshop. He'll be here soon. There was some grounder girl looking for you, too. Shadow? Something like that."
It pulls a smile from Bellamy's lips. "Echo," he replies. There is an odd feeling of relief at her name; it is a feeling he cannot quite place. "Yeah." He pauses, painfully aware of the smirk on his little sister's lips. Clearing his throat, he asks, "What about Monroe?"
Octavia snorts. "She had her things packed before I even went to tell her," she says. "The first thing she said was, 'I'm coming with you'." She tilts her head in the direction of the forest. "She took a couple of delinquents out this morning, looking for a place to set up camp. They were planning to meet us at the dropship."
His thumb latching beneath the strap of his pack, Bellamy glances over his shoulder. He doesn't really know what he wants to see, and he refuses to wonder if a glint of golden hair out of the corner of his eye would really help the dull ache in his chest at this point.
He hesitates, then says, "All these people, they really don't know what they're getting into, do they?" The taste on his tongue is bitter, and he feels a wave of anger, anger that they were pushed to this. "They just want to get away from the Ark and it's rules. They don't understand why we have to do this."
Surprisingly, it's Raven who steps forward. Raising her arm, her finger points almost accusingly towards a spot in the distance. "That was where they killed Finn," she says softly. Turning, she moves her finger in the direction of a small tent to the right of the main section of the Ark. "That was where Abby took the bullet out of my spine. Over there is where I realized I'd never be able to walk without a brace again." She turns back to him, and this time there are tears in her eyes. "This entire place is filled with pain. They're not following you to get away from here, they're following you to somewhere, to some place new. That's all they want, a place that doesn't feel like pain, a place that feels like home."
Letting his eyes travel over the remnants of the Ark for the last time, he bites his lips and then says, "I guess we better get going then. We wouldn't want to keep them waiting."
He expects some of them to linger in the gateway, maybe even a few break off and choose to remain at camp. He wouldn't be surprised; there is no guarantee of their safety once they leave the twisted metal structure of their survival.
(They all follow him out. Every last one.)
Part of Clarke didn't think he'd actually leave. He had been by her side for so long, the idea of him not being there was unthinkable. It's not until she sits down by the fire later that night and notices the substantial amount of people missing from the camp that she realizes something is wrong.
"Where is everyone?" she asks Monty as he sits down beside her.
Swallowing the bite of fish he had just taken (Lexa's people had shown them the best fishing spots in the river, and since that meant fresh meat almost every night, she was ever grateful for it), he looks at her and says, "A bunch of them left with Bellamy."
Her blood runs cold and her throat suddenly closes up. She turns around, her eyes searching for something to tell her Monty's wrong, that the dark haired guard hadn't actually left, or at the very least would be back soon.
She finds nothing.
"Where did they go?" she asks, hating how desperate her voice sounds.
Monty shrugs. "I don't know," he replies, and his own tone is tired and lost, as if he's wondering why he wasn't with them, or at the very least missing someone who's gone. He raises his hand and lets it pass over his face. "I don't know," he says again, this time in a whisper.
(Months later, she'll ask the gaunt boy why he stayed; why he chose to be loyal to her rather than go with his friends. His reply will be simple. "I don't know.")
It takes a lot of travelling, arguing, and hard decisions, but eventually they find a box canyon that's mostly sheltered from the wind and has a system of caves to build their home in.
The Grounders don't want to stay, they hiss of legends and wives tales saying that the valley is cursed. The Mountain Men close their mouths, but Bellamy can tell they feel out of place sleeping in caves as they try to build cabins before winter comes, and the tall walls of stone surrounding them seems to remind the Delinquents of the cages they've lived in all their lives.
("This isn't a home," he says to Octavia in the early morning, while everyone's still asleep and it's just the two of them under the stars. "No one is happy here. No one. How am I supposed to make this a home?")
Still, they split up the duties of the camp and try to build a place to live before winter comes. He takes the Grounders out hunting almost every day, along with a few Delinquents and Mountain Men (teaching them to hunt is much harder than it should be, and the Grounders have less patience than he would like), but they barely get enough to eat at night and with winter fast approaching, he fears the worst.
Despite his best efforts, the camp still seems to be disconnected, as if three people groups are cohabiting the same plot of land rather than one community living together. It weighs over his head night after night, eats away at his soul as he wonders how their camp is any different than Camp Jaha.
It all comes to a head one afternoon as the autumn leaves drift down to the bottom of the valley to rest atop of the roofs of the five cabins they've managed to build. A Grounder warrior, his name is Rorick, refuses to go on a hunting trip they're planning.
"I will not go if those ripas are going," he snarls, jerking his thumb in the direction of the slightly stronger Mountain Men, standing near the path to the top of the canyon. "All they do is slow us down, scare off prey, and eat the meat they have not earned. They do nothing."
Bellamy sees the way the remaining Mountaineers shift back and forth uncomfortably, and puts the man on latrine duty for a week. "Everyone has a place here," he spits back at the warrior with defiance in his eyes. "Everyone is someone."
Later that night, while he sits in his cave trying to map out their survival (he refused to take a cabin himself until they all are built), Echo enters and sits across from him. Her dark eyes drill into him as she says, "The camp is stirring."
He leans back against the wall and replies, "What am I supposed to do? Throw them out? We made this place so that wouldn't happen, so that everyone could be equal."
A small sigh escapes the warrior. "Respect is earned," she murmurs. "They killed our people for decades, and you expect us to just forgive them? The Mountain Men must prove their worth."
He laughs bitterly. "How are they to do that?" he scoffs. "How are they to atone for the sins of their fathers when you won't even give them the chance? If you're just going to act like the rest of your people, why did you follow me in the first place?"
Her eyes jerk to his and he senses anger radiating off of her. "Watch your tongue, Belomi kom Skaikru," she hisses. "I know my place. I know this world you are trying to create, and I am trying to help you create it. I am telling you now that jus drein, jus daun. The Mountain Men will never be fully accepted until they prove that they deserve to be. At least not by the Trigedakru."
She stands to leave, but his hand darts out, grabbing her arm. Whirling around, the fury in her eyes slowly dissipating when she sees the softness in his own. They stay like that for a moment, his thumb gently grazing the inside of her inside of her elbow, all traces of rage fading from her expression.
"You're right," he whispers. "You're right. They need to be accepted, and I don't know how. I don't know how to make this place a home, to bring these people together."
She takes a step closer to him, looking down at him, and gently runs her fingers through his hair before giving a slight tug, pulling his face up to look at hers. "They follow you," she murmurs. "The Hundred know you, love you for the leader you are. The Maunon saw your kindness, the Trigedakru your bravery. You are the one who brings them together."
"Yes," he whispers. "But they can't make homes out of human beings, they must know that. I can't be their home." He tries to keep the despair, the desperation out of his voice as he clings to her in desperation, begging for some direction. "Echo," he murmurs, "Echo, what am I supposed to do?"
Her eyes drill into his with a sort of intensity he has never known, a passion that is only present in the warriors of the earth. "Make them a home," is all she says.
If only it were that easy.
He wakes up the next morning to find half of the camp's inhabitants gone. His mouth feels dry and his stomach is an ocean, waves tumbling and crashing, threatening to drag him under and steal the breath from his lungs.
"What the fuck is going on?" he hisses, his voice furious as he roughly grabs his sister's arm. He cannot tame the frantic look in his eyes, nor the weight pressing down on his chest, telling him that he's failed, that it was all for naught. "Where are they?"
There is anger in her gaze as well as fear as Octavia jerks herself out of his grasp. "Hell if I know," she replies, and despite her mask of rage, he can see that she has the same fear as himself, lurking just beneath the surface of her once porcelain skin. "I woke up and they were gone, Echo, most of the Mountain Men, and a few others.
He runs his fingers through his hair, his mind reeling. Echo, Echo, Echo, his mind chants to him like a mantra. Echo, what are you doing? "Did you ask around for them? Did you ask anyone if they saw anything?" he finally manages to spit out. "Who was on the first watch?"
The look his sister gives him is murderous. "Echo, most of the Mountain Men, and a few others."
It's about midday, after hours of yelling at shooters, angrily pacing back and forth, and a myriad of curse words he had almost forgotten until now, that a voice yells out from near the top of the canyon.
"I see them!"
Sure enough, the whole group of missing warriors are spotted in the distance, carrying bags over their shoulders and hauling something behind them on carts. As they approach, Bellamy can see that Alekzander is in the lead, followed closely behind by Maya and Echo.
As they head down the path, finally reaching the bottom of the canyon, the blonde Mountain Man stops in front of Bellamy and drops the brown sack he was carrying at the rebel king's feet. The contents spill out, and he finds himself staring at an assortment of food, weapons, and medical supplies.
There is a long pause, before Alekzander turns and yells to those who have now come out and were standing around the edge of the gulch. "If anyone else has a question of whether or not the people of Mount Weather deserve to be here, they can come to me. They can also not receive any of the supplies we took from the hidden bunkers surrounding the mountain."
Bright blue eyes clash with Bellamy's brown ones as the son of the former president turns back and locks gazes with him. From behind the man, Echo twirls her knife between her fingers, and raises her brow slightly at Bellamy when he finally breaks away to look at her, a barely perceptible smirk on her face.
"I'd say the Maunon have proved their worth, wouldn't you?" she says, and he can almost hear the laughter in her tone.
He takes in a deep breath and casts one last look at Alekzander before shouting to everyone in the camp, "What are you all looking at? We're going to need some cabins to store these supplies, and they're sure as hell not going to build themselves."
The tension in the air shatters. A loud cheer goes up from every corner of the camp, and the smile that breaks out across Alezkander's face is as radiant as the sun itself. The grounders roofing the single cabin simply chuckle to themselves before returning to work, and the remaining Arkers and delinquents surge forward to help the Mountain Men with their packs.
When Bellamy turns, he sees Octavia smiling at him, Maya and Echo talking quietly with each other, Alekzander and Wick laughing, and for a split second, he finds himself thinking that the only thing missing is a certain blonde princess standing by his side.
A bitter taste passes in his mouth, but he ignores it and forces a small smile that slowly becomes genuine as Raven begins arguing with some of the grounders about where to store the tech supplies, and Monroe lets out a loud yell as she hoists what seems to be a bottle of liquor over her head.
Their home isn't perfect; it's still not even a real home.
But for the first time since leaving Camp Jaha, he feels a sense of happiness and hope that maybe, one day, it might be.
Their newfound unity, however encouraging, only lasts so long. Before he knows it, Bellamy is watching the groups become segregated once again, as Grounders only speak in Trigedasleng, the Mountain Men refuse to speak to those outside their community, and the adult Arkers begin to order around the delinquents again.
Harmony is a frustrating, and slow process, and all too often, he feels as if he is taking one step forward and ten back.
"You can't hate them forever," he tells Miller one day after he caught the boy fist fighting with a slightly older teenager from Mount Weather. (It had taken both Bellamy and Alekzander to separate the two of them, and the former guard found himself immensely grateful in that moment that the president's son could hold his own in a fight.)
The thief snorts and replies, "You wanna bet?"
Letting out a sigh, Bellamy dips a rag into a basin of water and hands it to the younger boy to place over his black eye and busted lip. (The water isn't cold enough, and he doesn't know exactly why they're supposed to do that. Something to do with the swelling? He vaguely remembers Clarke instructing a delinquent with a sprained wrist to do the same thing, and he feels a pang in his chest. Clarke. He wishes she were here. She'd know what to do.) "You're going to have to forgive them," he insists. "They were just trying to survive."
Miller stands so quickly, he almost knocks over the stool he was sitting on. The wet rag is clenched tightly in his fist and water is dripping down his bruised and lacerated knuckles as he snaps, "You didn't see it Bellamy. They killed our friends! They cut into them and took their bone marrow. They nearly killed Harper and Monty; you didn't see how weak they were when we found them. You weren't forced to stand by, to link arms with your friends to try and stop them from being dragged away, only to have more and more of you taken each day. You weren't there, Bellamy! You didn't see it! And now you expect me to look at the people who killed my friends and just say, 'Oh, it's all okay now that you've said you're sorry'? No fucking way. No fucking way."
By the time he finally stops talking, there are tears running down the boy's cheeks as he buries his face in his shaking hands, one still clenching the wet rag with white knuckles. And slowly, carefully, as if he were approaching a wild animal, or a timid rabbit he didn't wish to scare away, Bellamy wrapped his arms around his second-in-command and pulled him into a tight embrace.
He doesn't tell him it is okay. He doesn't say everything is going to be fine. He simply holds him and rocks back and forth as Miller sobs. When Bellamy finally pulls away, he pushes his sleeves up to his elbows, revealing the white scars that run up and down his forearms and biceps.
"I, uh," he starts, then stops, clearing his throat. "I don't normally talk a whole lot about Mount Weather, about getting in." He lets out a low, hoarse chuckle. "People tend to think it's some amazing adventure story…it's not. We had a plan, the plan went wrong, and I ended up being captured while Lincoln reverted back to his reaper state." His finger traces along his scars as he says, "They bled me. Strung me up by my ankles and stuck me with a bunch of IV's and took my blood. That was after the boiling water and metal—" he cuts off, shaking his head as the memories threaten to overwhelm him. "The point is it wasn't a pleasant experience. When I was sitting in that cage, I wanted to kill everyone in the damn mountain, I was so angry. But then I got out, and Maya showed me the mountain and…god, Miller there were kids there. Couldn't be more than this tall," he puts his hand about four feet from the ground, and fights back the tears he can feel building behind his eyes. "They all died when Mount Weather was taken."
There is a long silence, and it is as heavy as the world on Atlas' shoulders. "They're not demons, Miller," Bellamy whispers. "They're not monsters, or freaks, or sadists. They're people. That's all they are. That's all anyone is." He looks into the younger boy's bloodshot eyes. "They just want to live as badly as we do."
Nodding, Miller looks down and wipes his nose with the back of his hand. "Doesn't mean I have to like them," he mumbles, more to himself than anyone else.
Despite everything, Bellamy can't help but chuckle. "No, Nate," he replies. "You don't have to like them."
Later that night, he sees the boy sitting alone near the edge of the fire, a still full bowl of the strange soup Octavia and a few other Arkers had managed to concoct in his hands. The thief's body stiffens as the youngest mountain girl, no older than eleven or twelve, breaks off from the group of Mountain Men she was with and sits by him. Her mouth moves, and she's too far away from Bellamy to hear what she says, but he sees Miller's gruff nod.
The girl's mouth doesn't stop for the rest of the night, and ever so slowly, he sees the tension leave the delinquent's body as a small smile grows across his face.
By the time everyone goes to sleep, he finds the girl curled against Miller's body, snoring slightly, with the boy's black beanie pulled over her thick brown curls. Miller looks up at him, and quickly scowls.
"I still don't like them," he mutters.
Bellamy has to bite his tongue to keep from laughing.
It starts off with just a few people. Bellamy had made a habit of sitting with different people every night, talking to them, trying to understand them, and it just so happened that this night, he found himself sitting next to Octavia, Miller and the girl from Mount Weather. (What was her name? Cora? Cathleen? He thinks it was Cora.) A few other kids sit nearby, as do Echo, Maya and Raven, but all are in their own conversations.
Cora shivers, and pulls the blanket around her tight. (Winter is fast approaching and he can feel the unease begin to settle across the camp as they all begin to wonder if they have everything they need to survive the harsh cold that is already creeping into their bones.) "I'm cold," the little girl complains, and Octavia swiftly digs her elbow into Miller's side as he mutters, "No shit, aren't we all?"
Luckily the eleven-year-old doesn't seem to hear him as she turns her attention to Bellamy. "Bellamy?" she asks, a bashful smile flickering across her face as she addresses the camp leader. "Why does it get cold?"
He finds himself at a loss for a moment as he realizes that he has no fucking idea. (If Monty or Finn were here one of them would be able to give some deep scientific answer about the change in the wind or the phase of the sun or some shit like that, but Bellamy never paid much attention in his earth skills class, and all he knows is that it doesn't matter much how Earth gets fucking freezing in the winter, just that it does.) He looks up at Miller, trying to find some source of help, but the younger boy just shrugs and gives him a look that seems to say, "You're on your own."
"Well," he says slowly, his mind desperately searching for an answer to give to the pair of toffee brown eyes eagerly staring at him. "It all started a long time ago, when there were twelve gods and goddesses ruling the world." (Of course. Revert to mythology, he thinks to himself. Nice one, Bell. You're never going to live this down.) "One of them, her name was Demeter, had a beautiful daughter named Persephone. Demeter was the one who kept everything warm, helped flowers and crops grow so that people would have enough food, and she loved her daughter more than anything. But there was the god of the underworld, and his name was Hades, and he saw Persephone and fell in love with her too. He took her away to his home underneath the earth."
He takes a breath to continue his story, but is cut off when Cora says, "Just like my old home!"
He freezes for a moment. "Yeah." His voice is a fluttering of a feather on the wind. "Yeah, just like your old home." Clearing his throat, he continues, "Persephone's mother was really sad when her daughter disappeared, and she told Hades he had to give her back. But Hades had fallen in love with Persephone, and they had been married, so he refused. So Demeter killed all the crops and plants that the people were trying to grow, and refused to let anything bloom until her daughter was returned to her. That was the first winter."
It wasn't until that moment that Bellamy actually looked up and broke himself free from his storytelling. The camp had gone mostly quiet, and quite a few people were now turned and facing him, listening to him as he weaved his words together to tell the story his mother so often whispered to Octavia and himself late at night. Taking a deep breath, he continued, "Persephone couldn't stand the idea of people dying because of her, so she decided that she needed to go back above ground. At the same time though, she didn't want to leave Hades as she had fallen in love with him. So she secretly took six pomegranate seeds and ate them, pretending not to know that if she ate the food of the underworld, she'd be trapped there. Since she ate six seeds, she is able to go back to the underworld for six months each year, and during those six months, Demeter sends winter to the earth. Then, for six months she goes back to Olympus, their home, and her mother lets the world bloom again."
Suddenly, a voice rings out across the camp. "And what about Hades?"
Looking up, Bellamy sees Alekzander standing a few meters away, his arms crossed across his chest, and looking at him with something between amusement, happiness, and genuine curiosity. "What does Hades do for the six months his wife is gone?"
All Bellamy gives is a small shrug before replying as if the answer is the most obvious thing in the world. "He waits for her," he says. "He waits for her to come to him, and trusts that their love will always bring her back into his arms."
There is a long silence, a silence where he doesn't know what else to say. (He will never admit that a certain blonde-haired princess occupied his thoughts as he weaved words of a dark king and a beautiful summer queen. God, how he misses her.)
Then Echo stands, a small smirk on her face as she says, "Your story is a nice one, Belomi kom Skaikru. But I think we all know the real reason winter comes." She pauses, and he waits for the magic to be broken, for her to speak of the changing of the axis of Earth, or the direction of sunbeams. Nothing could prepare him for her words as she says, "Everyone knows that the great polar bear Noaxis in the north is trying to eat the sun."
She tells of how the bear of the north pulls down the sun with his teeth a little bit every day, making the days shorter and the world colder, until he is able to eat it for a day, a day of complete darkness, before the hunter Yega kills him and takes the sun from his belly to put back into the sky.
It ends up being Alekzander who talks about the Earth's orbit around the sun, and the tilt of the planet, but he does it in such a mesmerizing way that it hardly breaks the magic that they all share that night.
He doesn't know what changed, just that something has. He sees it in their eyes, the happiness, the hope that they might be able to live together and still be themselves, not have to conform to each other.
He sees that this is what home should be like, a place to be content, to rejoice in their differences and love one another for what they are.
Winter will come and they will not have enough blankets or cabins to keep out the cold. But they will have each other, and for now he can believe that will be enough.
It takes a few weeks for Clarke to realize that he's not coming back. She wishes she could say she took the revelation well. (She does not.)
She moves on, ordering people about, running camp just like she always did. But as time went on, she finds herself being harsher, losing her patience with people, dealing out punishments more often. (She clashes with her mother on a regular basis now. It's gotten so bad, the same mother who swore she'd never let her out of her sight again now avoids her.)
She doesn't like it. She doesn't like the person she's becoming without him.
(There are moments when she sees something she knows he'd like, finds an old history book, or tests out a new rifle. She'll turn to look at him with a grin, or places a reminder in the back of her head to tell him about it later, only to stop and realize that they don't even know where he is, where any of them are. It hurts like hell.)
He's not the only one she misses though. She misses Raven and her snide jokes, Octavia's bright smile, Miller's comforting silence. She misses them all, back how it used to be when it was just them on the ground and they lived each day, expecting it to be their last.
They all hate you now, she thinks bitterly to herself. She remembers reading a story back on the Ark. There had been a line she hadn't understood until now. Being a leader is making the people you love hate you a little more each day.
She understands it now. (She wishes she didn't.)
A few of them come to trade two months after they leave. The autumn leaves are now dead on the ground, covered in a thin layer of frost, and the tiniest of snowflakes can be seen drifting on the north wind through the camp.
She is in the council chamber with Lexa and Kane when voices call out that there are people in the distance. As the refugees from "the Gulch" as people are now calling it, Clarke is almost surprised to see the familiar faces of Maya, Octavia, Miller, and Echo, all approaching camp, accompanied by a few grounders she does not recognize as well as Arkers.
(It is difficult to hide her disappointment when she doesn't spot Raven among them. However, her eyes continue to search for a pair of dark brown eyes and curly hair she is sure to be with them.)
"There's enough to be a raiding party," Lexa murmurs beside her.
Whirling around, she feels her eyes widen for a moment. "They obviously come in peace," she says. "They wouldn't want to attack us."
Lexa's eyes narrow for a moment, and it isn't until then that Clarke realizes she has her ceremonial warpaint on. It gives her a strange, vicious aura, as if she is looking for a fight. However, a familiar voice tears her away as her former friends approach.
"We're here to trade," Octavia says as they're greeted with guns and hard looks at the gate. She gives a long, almost disgusted look at the guards standing around her. "Of course we can leave if you don't want us here."
Clarke can feel Lexa opening to snarl that they can get out, but she speaks before. "You're all very welcome here," she says hurriedly. "You always have been." She offers a soft smile in Maya and Echo's direction. "You can stay the night if you'd like. We have a few open tents."
There is a moment's hesitation, before Octavia gives a curt nod, and the remainder of her party splits off in numerous directions. For a moment, the sky princess allows herself to take in her younger friend's appearance. The only sister of the Ark looks different, stronger somehow. She is wearing a mixture of Grounder and Ark clothing, and her hair has been pulled out of the small braids around her head, tied back instead in a tight ponytail, much like Maya's. Any trace of Grounder war paint is gone, and she notices that the black, fingerless gloves on her hand are worn thin with use. She looks tired, the dark circles under her eyes more pronounced than ever, but she holds her spine with a type of pride, strength, and leadership that Clarke had never seen in her before.
The words are out of her mouth before she can stop them. "Where's Bellamy?"
Octavia raises a brow as she turns her attention back to the leader of the Sky 's back at the Gulch," she says slowly, skeptically, as if she's taking in and analyzing every part of Clarke's reaction to the news. "We couldn't bring all our leaders here, so he volunteered to stay back with Alekzander and Monroe."
For a moment, Clarke's head reels. He volunteered to stay back? What did that mean? That he didn't want to see her? That he didn't want anything to do with her? That he didn't miss her as much as she missed him?
Lexa is the one who saves her. "You don't send your leader to make new alliances?" she sneers. "Do you expect us to settle for second-in-commands and splitas?"
The glare Octavia shoots at the commander could kill a man. "We may be outsiders," she growls, "but at least we're not murderers."
A string of words Clarke doesn't understand slips past Lexa'lips and for a moment, she thinks that Octavia is going to lunge at the grounder before she seems to compose herself.
"Clarke?" Octavia asks as she turns to the leader of Camp Jaha, jerking her out of her thoughts. "You're just going to stand there?"
She doesn't open her mouth, and it takes all she has to hold the younger girl's gaze.
Octavia scoffs. "And to think we used to be friends," she sneers. "We'll stay the night and be off first light tomorrow," she continues through clenched teeth. (Sometimes she reminds Clarke so much of a wolf. She has seen this woman howl, she has seen her rage, and she knows that her teeth are as sharp as any beast of the night's.) With those words she turns on her heel and heads off towards the tents where Echo had disappeared to.
Slowly turning towards Lexa, Clarke is barely able to contain her rage as she asks, "What did you say to her?"
Lexa lifts her chin defiantly and replies, "That we will not trade with beggars." When Clarke opens her mouth to speak, the commander cuts her off, saying, "We can't trade with them. If we trade with them, they'll take advantage of our resources and try to last the winter. They need to know that they can't survive without us.
"If we don't trade with them, they'll die," Clarke hisses.
"Some will, yes," Lexa agrees. Pausing, she moves closer towards the blonde princess and says, "but the others will come back. Rebellion can't be tolerated, Clarke. Rebellion breeds doubt, and doubt turns empires into dust. We can't trade with the refugees. If we do, everything will fall apart." She places a hand on her shoulder, and looks into her eyes. "Think about it," she says. "You'll understand."
Clarke spends the better part of the night thinking. As she does, she wanders around the camp, watching the returning delinquents interact with their friends and families. Jasper and Maya remain in deep conversation for the better part of the night, and Harper seems to be completely enraptured by Echo. (Octavia's eyes never leave the fire, and dear god, she reminds her so much of Bellamy.)
But it isn't until the early hours of the morning, when the fires are smoldering ash and the stars are finally fading away, that she finally hears a conversation worth listening to.
Miller and Monty sit close together, deep in conversation by a dying fire. An orange blanket is wrapped tightly around Monty, and Miller is curled in a sleeping bag, both trying to fight off the winter chill.
"…can't be nice there, can it?" she hears Monty say as she sits down behind a nearby tent, careful to not let either of the boys see her. "I mean, you don't have very many supplies, and you have to live with the Mountain Men and the Grounders. That's got to be miserable."
A low chuckle escapes Miller. "It was at first," he admits. "But Bellamy…" he trails off for a second, and when he begins speaking again, well, Clarke's never heard the thief sound so happy, so excited. "I swear, Monty, he's got to be some ancient leader reincarnated or something, like Alexander the Great, or Julius Caesar, or some shit."
"I think his history nerd side is rubbing off on you too much," Monty mumbles, but it does little to deter Miller.
"I'm serious. Like, we all hated each other at first. It was awful. And then, I don't know what it was about him, but everyone started banding together when he asked them to, and it—"
The beanie-wearing boy cuts off abruptly, and there is silence for what seems like years before Monty says, "It what, Nate?"
For a few seconds, Clarke thinks Miller isn't going to answer. That he's going to say "nothing" and roll over and go back to sleep. But she's proved wrong when she hears his voice, considerably softer, say, "It feels like home, Monty."
Home. Her heart aches at the word. When was the last time she had something like that?
"The Ark, the dropship, the mountain…it's nothing compared to this," he continues, his voice still soft, but it has some indefinable quality to it, some type of joy that just seems to overflow. "Everyone cares there, everyone matters, it's as close to peace as I've ever found. I mean, yeah, sometimes we don't have enough food to go around, and it's cold as balls in those fucking cabins, don't let anyone tell you anything different, but…I don't know, man. I'm happier there than I've ever been in my life."
Once again, there is a long silence, the only sound being the popping of the last few dying embers of the fire. Then Miller speaks again.
"You should come back with us."
A short, brutal laugh escapes Monty. "Why?" he says, almost bitterly. "I didn't leave with you guys to begin with. I don't want to be an outcast again, Nate. At least here I can blend in, I can pretend I don't exist. I can't do that if everyone is actively hating me and shutting me out."
Miller's tone is indignant and almost offended. "Did you miss everything I just said?" he asks in disbelief. "Monty, that's the whole point of the Gulch, so we can start over. It's a place where your past doesn't follow you around; you can remake yourself. And besides…" he trails off for a moment before clearing his throat and saying, "I miss you. A lot."
Peering around the corner, Clarke can see Monty open his mouth, only to have Miller hold up his hand, cutting him off without a word. "I'm not asking for an answer now," he says. "Just know that you can come whenever you want. It's open for everyone."
They are silent for the remainder of the night.
The next morning, when the group leaves without any provisions or supplies they had hoped to trade for, Clarke sees Miller lean forward and whisper something in Monty's ear that makes him go white as a sheet. His bottom lip trembles, and the two of them embrace before Nathan turns his back and follows the others off into the forest.
Later that night she finds the young engineer curled up in a ball, crying, in one of the empty rooms of the Ark wreckage. Embracing him, she rocks him back and forth until his breathing becomes steadier. "What did he say to you?" she asks softly.
Monty looks at her through tear stained eyes, wracked with guilt and misery. "He told me I deserved to be happy," he manages to say before bursting into tears again.
Three days later Monty leaves for the Gulch. Jasper is by his side.
"I'm sorry, Clarke," they both say. They don't give a reason for leaving, but she knows. She can see it in their eyes, in the slowly fading lines of despair etched in their faces and the new light of hope lit in their eyes. They're tired of constantly looking over their shoulders, of always planning for the next storm.
They want a home, not a garrison, and they can't find it here.
When the first winter snows come, the Gulch is woefully unprepared. They only manage to build a dozen cabins for nearly two hundred people, which means that they end up cramming an uncomfortable amount of people into the log shelters, and even then, a few of them have to sleep in the caves.
They barely have enough blankets to go around, and as game becomes scarcer and scarcer, Bellamy finds himself panicking as he tries to find any source of food. (The Grounders help, they really do. But in the end, they can only do so much, only feed so many.)
It happens for the second time on a particularly bad night, when nearly every belly except the youngest children's are empty, and thoughts of returning to Camp Jaha loom on everyone's minds. They are all sitting around a small fire when Alekzander stands to his feet.
He clears his throat, looking hesitant for a split second, before saying, "Almost four hundred years ago, on this day, there was a group of men who were dealing with a situation…similar to ours."
He begins to speak of a great leader, general G. Washington, who lead his men, who had been starving for the better part of the winter, across a river to attack soldiers who were withholding their freedom. He tells of how the men of the army had resorted to eating shoe leather, and had been miserable, but in their misery managed to receive training that made them outstanding soldiers.
"Maybe that's what we're doing now," Alekzander says as he ends his story, a wry smile on his face. "Preparing for the battle ahead."
It's a child's voice that rings out across the camp. "Why are we fighting?"
All eyes turn to Alekzander, and the smile on his face grows, as if he had been hoping someone would ask that question. "Don't you know?" he replies, his voice as soothing as a rambling brook flowing over a rocky bank in the summer. "Life is a battle. I still think we've got a pretty good shot at winning it."
They still all go to bed on empty stomachs that night, but any talk of returning to Camp Jaha is gone. Surprisingly enough, the next day they manage to kill a deer.
All he hears for the next month are jokes about eating their shoes.
It is late winter when Clarke sees them again.
The trees are long dead, and snow graces the ground like thousands of tiny ballerinas, performing their final pirouette as they flutter from grey skies to piles of icy snow. Lexa tells her it is particularly cold this winter, that it isn't customary for the nights to be so cold, nor game to be so scarce.
Dusk is falling, and the grey sky is losing what little light it has when Monty and Miller burst through the gates of Camp Jaha, both of their breath caught in their lungs as the wheeze in the freezing air.
Their words are difficult to understand, and it takes a few moments for them to force meaningful sounds past their blue lips (Miller is wearing what appears to be hunting gear, but Monty has only a threadbare jacket).
She catches only phrases at a time. "Hunting accident…Jonas…bullet wound…didn't mean to…" then a word that stops her heart in her chest, "Bellamy."
The world moves in slow motion around her as she turns on her heel and sprints into the med bay, grabbing whatever supplies she can and throwing them into a bag. Quickly pulling her gloves onto her hands, she heads for the door when suddenly a lean, Grounder commander is blocking her path.
"Don't go," Lexa says, and it sounds frighteningly like a command.
Slowly, Clarke takes a step back and stares at the woman, taking her in. "What do you mean?" she asks, trying to hide her aggravation.
"The boy, Bellamy, he is the one who is hurt, correct?" Lexa asks, her eyes sharp and calculating.
A short nod is the blonde's only answer.
Taking a deep breath, Lexa presses her lips into a tight line before saying, "Don't go to him. Say you are needed here." She turns and begins walking away, back into the snow.
"He'll die if I don't go!" she responds. How can she not understand that? (How can she ask her bury her best friend?)
Lexa stops so suddenly, Clarke almost runs into her. Turning around, the Grounder commander places both hands on her shoulder, firmly, as if to shake some sense into her, though at the same time, her eyes soften considerably. "He is the only thing holding the refugees together. If he dies, they will fall apart. They will return here, Clarke. They will come home."
"That's it?" she asks in disbelief. "You want him to die so they are forced to come back to a place that they hate?"
Removing her hands from Clarke's shoulders, Lexa gaze hardens once more. "It is for the greater good, Clarke," she says coolly. "They will not survive much longer this winter if they do not come back."
"No," hisses the girl born among stars. She feels fire and moon dust coursing through her veins, and her bloodstream is hotter than it has been since long before the snows first fell. "No, I'm sick of sacrificing for the greater good. I'm done with it. I'm not going let Bellamy die so that you can have people who didn't want to follow you in the first place under your control again. Do you hear me? I'm not going to let my best friend die!"
There is something that flickers across Lexa's face, something that is so full of agony, and hurt, and misery, that for a split second Clarke just wants to take the girl in her arms. But it is gone as quickly as it came, and she says, "He abandoned you. He left you to go and build his own kingdom. And besides, I thought you didn't care for him."
"I am not having this conversation with you right now," she spits out before pushing past the heda and moving towards the two shivering boys. They open their mouths as if to speak, but she silences them with a simple wave of her hand.
"Explain to me on the way," she says shortly. "From the looks on your faces it's nothing good, and if we want to get to the Gulch before nightfall we can't waste any time."
The two boys look at each other, nod, and before she knows what's truly going on, they're on their way. (She refuses to look back at the sharp jaw and blue, piercing gaze that follows her with every step she takes.)
"Bellamy was taking some of the younger kids hunting," Miller explains as they continue at a brisk pace towards the new alliance's camp. "It all happened so fast, I'm still not quite sure how it all went down, but Jonas, being the trigger happy, son-of-a-bitch that he is, took a shot into the trees without checking for tracks first. He hit Bellamy in the stomach…" The thief trails off for a moment, before whispering, "It's pretty bad, Clarke."
It's only then that she notices Miller's hands, stained red with blood.
Following her gaze, Monty lets out a sigh and grabs some snow off the ground, handing it to Miller who proceeds to rub the white powder over his hands until it turns a pinkish color, his pace never faltering.
"There was blood everywhere," Monty continues where the gunner left off. "In the snow, on everyone's clothes. And Bellamy, he just looked…" he trails off for a moment before saying, "pale. Like he was death itself." The engineer in training shakes his head, as if trying to rid himself of the vision (he's wearing a beanie that looks suspiciously like Miller's old one). "Maya and Lincoln were doing everything they could, but it was obvious that it wasn't going well. Octavia wouldn't stop screaming, Lincoln had to carry her away, Alekzander looked like he was going to puke…Echo was really the only one who was able to keep her wits about her, and even she seemed unnerved. She's the one that sent us to get you."
Clarke continues to drill them on what they remember of Bellamy's wounds until they reach the canyon. She nearly falls as she races down the path to the bottom of the gulch to where numerous cabins are built, a few with smoke coming out of poorly constructed chimneys.
"He's in the one by the stream!" Miller calls after her as she runs. "Be careful not to step on the ice or it'll crack!"
She heeds his warning, and as she bursts through the door of the cabin, her eye catches an exhausted-looking Maya yelling at Jasper to put more pressure on the wound, and a fearsome looking grounder warrior clutching the rebel king's hand tightly. There is a blonde man putting more wood on the fire near the end of the cabin, and there are dark circles under his eyes.
Everyone in the cabin goes silent as they turn to Clarke. There is a moment's hesitation, then she drops her pack on the ground and runs to Bellamy's side. (He looks pale, oh god, he looks so pale it scares her.) There is a towel pressed to his side, and a huge red blotch stains the white linen.
His eyes flutter open for a moment, and he raises a bloodstained hand to graze against her cheek. "Clarke?" he murmurs, only half lucid. "Princess, is that you?"
She wastes no time answer a question he will not remember inquiring. "Is there an exit wound?" she asks Maya. "Did the bullet go straight through?"
The look of relief on Maya's face is indescribable. "No," she says, a small crease of worry still present in her brow. "It doesn't look like it hit anything vital though, it mainly went through his side. He's lost a lot of blood. Lincoln tried stitching him up but—"
"Get the scissors out of my pack," she instantly commands, cutting off the younger girl. "The small one. I'm going to cut the stitches and we're going to have to get the bullet out and cauterize the wound before he goes into anaphylactic shock."
There is little hesitation as Maya darts over and begins shifting through her pack. As she does, Clarke continues throwing out orders.
"Jasper, keep pressure on the wound. Echo, get ready to hold him down, he's going to be thrashing. You," she points to the blonde man in the corner. When he does not respond, Maya hisses, "Alekzander!" and he looks up, his eyes wide. She tosses him the knife that she carries with her. "Heat the blade in the fire, then come over here and help Echo hold him down."
Her commands are carried out with brutal swiftness. As they prepare to scorch the wound closed, she asks, "Where is Octavia? She has some healing skills, she could've helped you."
"I had to sedate her," Maya replies. "She was hysterical, kept screaming that he was the only thing she has. Lincoln carried her out to one of the smaller cottages."
Grabbing a metal tweezer, Clarke pours some alcohol over the instrument before sticking it into the wound and pulling out the fragments of the bullet. He lets out a low moan of pain and all she can do is grit her teeth and continue to pull small pieces of metal out of his side.
When she finally pulls out the last bit of bullet and pushes a piece of cloth between Bellamy's teeth, she is almost ashamed to realize that her hands are shaking. "Alekzander," she calls, trying to steady her voice. "Give me the knife." She feels the warm handle in her palm and pauses, looking up to make sure that those around her are ready.
Then she presses the hot blade against her delusional best friend's skin and listens to his screams.
(It is the sound her heart breaking.)
She sleeps at his side that night, the knife still gripped tightly in one hand, and her opposite arm draped across his chest, fingers pressed against his pulse point. It isn't until the early hours of the morning that she jerks away, her mind racing for a few moments to remember where she is. Rubbing the sleep out of her eyes, she glances at Bellamy's still sleeping form, the man is still out cold, before climbing to her feet and stepping outside of the cabin.
As she steps into the outside world, she sees the early morning sun illuminate what she had nearly missed in the falling night during their travel to the Gulch. The sunlight reflects off the snow around them, and she notices a small stream running through the middle of the camp, mostly frozen over, but thin enough in places that she can see the water running underneath. (She would never admit it, but the place has a sort of beauty within it, a sense of homeliness and peace.)
A voice comes from behind her, pulling her back to the real world. Turning around, she sees Octavia, her eyes rimmed red, a thin jacket over her shoulders, and her arms crossed tightly across her chest.
"Is he…" the girl asks, letting her voice trail off.
"He's alive," Clarke confirms. "He's going to be fine. Give him a few weeks of rest, and make sure he doesn't overexert himself and he'll be fine."
A sigh of relief escapes her best friend's younger sister, and she can see her shoulder lose their tension for a split second. Then she looks back up, her brown eyes clashing with Clarke's blue. There is a long silence before she speaks, and when she does, her voice is colder than the snow on which they stand.
"Thank you, for saving him," she says, but before Clarke can reply, she continues, "but I think it'd be best if you leave now."
For a moment, her tongue feels like lead on her mouth, her stomach drops, and she fears that she may be sick. "If this is about the trading—" she starts.
"This has nothing to do with that," Octavia hisses, a fire lighting in her eyes. Her fingers curl into clenched fists and there is lightning on her tongue when she speaks. "He's happy, Clarke. I honestly can't remember the last time I've been able to say that. He's happy here, without you, and it's taken him so long to get to that. He's worked so hard to build this place, to make it a home for everyone. I won't let you take that away. Do you hear me? I won't let you hurt him any more than you already have."
There is a pause, and Clarke feels the younger girl's words like a slap to the face, stinging in the cold winter air. "I'll…" she trails off, clearing her throat and willing her voice not to crack. "I'll get my things then."
Trudging slowly back towards the cabin, she opens the door and steps inside, half hoping for Bellamy to be awake, half hoping for him not to be. She does not accept what she sees.
The Grounder girl, Echo, has his hand clasped firmly in hers, and her mouth pressed against his knuckles as she quietly whispers words in a language she doesn't know.
(It sounds like a prayer.)
Her head jerks around when she hears Clarke's boots against the ground, her eyes wide with surprise and brimming with tears, until they harden with something that looks all too much like hatred.
"I-I just need to grab my things," she says, her hand grasping blindly for her bag as she doesn't look away from the warrior.
Echo mutters something in a Trigedasleng and spits on the ground before turning back and pressing her forehead against Bellamy's hand.
The healer grabs her things and runs.
"Clarke!" she hears Raven call out behind her. Turning, she sees the mechanic walking towards her with a slight limp, her leg stiff from the brace it is in. Despite everything, there is a small smile on her face, as if she's happy to see her, but trying to hide it. "Do you need someone to go with you?"
"No!" she replies a beat too quickly. "Ah, no. I'll be alright. I know the way back." Slowly, she begins backing away, trying to ignore the flash of hurt that crosses Raven's face.
"Oh," the older girl says. "Well, you know you're welcome here any time."
"Of course," Clarke manages to stutter out, "Of course."
As she walks up the path towards the top of the Gulch, her feet leaving fresh marks in the snow with every step she takes, she can't help but wonder if perhaps Octavia was right. Perhaps she would only bring him misery. Perhaps that's all she's ever brought him.
Either way, she doesn't plan to stick around and find out.
He wakes and she is gone. He does not know whether to be angry or grateful that she did not stay long enough to see him return to the land of the living, but something twists in his gut when he thinks about her and wonders if this time, maybe he could've made her stay, made her come to them. (His memory of her is like a shade, a silhouette, something pulled deep from the types of dreams one does not remember. But oh, how he wants to remember.)
Octavia doesn't let him leave his log prison until the snows have begun to melt.
"I'm fine, O," he whines more times than he can count. "I can't just keep sitting here, I've got a camp to run!"
"The camp will run just fine without you," his sister replies, pushing him back into bed. "You still need to rest."
It doesn't seem to matter that all he's been doing was resting. For weeks actually. And Echo doesn't help much either.
"Stupid sky boy needs to learn to shof op and do as he's told," she mutters under her breath as she tends to his wounds. "Complaining won't get you anywhere."
She's wrong though. In the end Bellamy is pretty sure that it's all his complaining that finally causes Octavia to throw her hands up in exasperation and tell him he can do as he damn well pleases but if he keels over dead it's his own fault.
Setting foot outside after such a long time is like being born again.
He breathes in the fresh air, tastes the flavor of spring on his tongue, and lets out a long laugh. The sun is setting, and the last rays of light are tumbling over the edges of the canyon like a river of light, but there is already a large group sitting around the small fire near the center of camp. Echo is sitting in the middle, her eyes alight with something intense and passionate.
Finding an open seat next to Raven, he catches her raised brow and quickly confirms, "It's all good. I finally convinced Octavia that I'm not an invalid."
The mechanic snorts. "You better have," she replies. "I'm not letting your sister rip me to shreds because I didn't kick your ass back into the cabin the second I saw you out here."
Bellamy suppresses a chuckle just long enough to ask, "So what's the story today?" (It's become almost a tradition. Every night they gather together around a fire and tell tales, legends from every corner of the Ground, from under the mountain, to the open land, to those whispered among the stars. He thinks it's rather beautiful, but then again, he is astronomically biased.) It does not escape his notice that this is the first time Echo has ever been in the center of the storytelling ring.
"The Sobwe-Fisa," Raven replies, her voice barely above a whisper and her eyes never leaving the Grounder still speaking. "It means 'tunnel-healer'. She was the first Grounder to take charge after the bombs. Now shut up and listen."
He does. He leans forward, ignoring the slight pain in his side, and listens to Echo weave images with her words he would've never thought possible. He listens to the story of how the first Grounder commander helped her people band together and form a society deep within the Earth, through abandoned subway tunnels and lost caverns. He listens to how the woman was able to heal with the touch of a hand, how she both sent warriors ruthlessly to their deaths, and guided new life out of a mother's womb. He hears of how she organized the first above ground colony, how she orchestrated the movement from the starving underground to villages filled with food and game. He learns of how she didn't abandon her people to fend for themselves once her death drew near, but rather created the Conclave, a ritual to select the next heda. He learns of how the Sobwe-Fisa still watches over them, how her spirit has returned to the forest and watches over them, even to this day, how she helps the trees bloom in spring and guides a hunter's arrow to find game in the winter.
"The dead never truly leave us," Echo finishes. "There are those who would tell you to forget the dead, that they are gone and must be forgotten completely. They are wrong. We cannot dwell on those we have lost, as that would mean our own death, but we mustn't disregard them. They are the ones who watch over us, who we ask for safety and good health. We do not abandon our own, not even in death. If the dead have not forgotten us, then we should never forget them."
Her eyes meet his from across the camp, and she offers a wordless nod of acknowledgement. He pretends he doesn't see the tears in her eyes.
He is grateful when she returns the favor.
Months pass, and by the time Unity Day rolls around the next year, tensions at Camp Jaha are as high as ever, and it takes a good bit of convincing, as well as numerous visits from Monty, Jasper, and the girl Bellamy saved from the ledge (Clarke thinks her name is Mel), to allow those at the Gulch back for the celebration.
"There doesn't have to be enmity between us, Lexa," she explains for what seems like the thousandth time.
The commander simply glares at her and replies that no traitor should be allowed back in their camp. (Not that it seemed to matter much anyways. The Grounders would be gone soon, heading back to TonDC before the winter snows settle.)
The celebration does not go as intended.
The camps remain almost completely separate, the Grounders refusing to even look at their counterparts, and almost none of the Gulchers attempting to move outside of their circle.
Clarke talks to Raven and a few of the other delinquents, but even she feels Camp Jaha's glares as she ventures away from their fire.
(She sees Bellamy, but does not approach him, Octavia's words still ringing fresh in her ears as if she had heard them yesterday. Still, it is almost comforting to know that he is near her, and she is calmer than she has been in weeks just seeing the way the light from the fire casts across the curve of his cheek.)
Despite the palpable tension among those in Camp Jaha, those in Bellamy's camp seem almost at ease, smiling and laughing among each other as they all huddle around one fire.
(She wishes she could say she doesn't want to be among them, to be part of their memories, part of their home.)
It is late and nearly everyone has gone to bed except those gathered around the Gulch's fire, and she is organizing supplies in the med bay by herself when she hears a familiar voice behind her.
"I don't think I ever thanked you."
Turning, she sees his familiar figure leaning against the doorframe, his hands tucked tightly in his pockets, his clothes ragged and torn.
"For saving me, I mean," Bellamy clarifies. He takes a step into the med bay. "You left before I had the chance."
"Yeah, well, you have some very protective women who like to surround you." The words slip out of her mouth before she has the chance to hold it back. She turns her back again, expecting him to leave, waiting for the awkward shuffle of feet cueing his exit.
Instead, she gets the quiet chuckle that she knows so well, that she's missed so much. "So Octavia scared you off then," he says. "Or was it Echo? Or even Raven? You're right though, they tend to do things without my permission. Sometimes I think they're the ones who really run the camp."
Whirling around, she finds herself staring at what was once a ghost of a man, now completely full and happier than she had ever seen him. Tears are brimming in her eyes as she realizes what she missed, what she could've had if she had only swallowed her pride and trusted his good intentions. The smile quickly drops from his lips as he sees her tears, and she wonders what good she must have done in a past life to deserve meeting someone as…as good as him.
"Why did you leave, Bellamy?" she asks. "Why did you go?"
There is a long silence, before he finally replies, his voice as soft as the wind rustling through the summer leaves, "You know why, princess."
The nickname hits her like a punch in the gut (It had been his name. Finn had called her first, but it had always been his.) and she turns away, wiping her tears away with the back of her hand before continuing to organize their medicine. "How's Echo?" she asks, quickly trying to change the subject, but she can't help but let the venom she feels seep into her voice.
"How's Lexa?" he throws back instantly, his tone no different than hers.
Okay. She'll admit she walked into that one. Trying to soften her voice (and failing miserably), she replies, "I'm just asking because she seemed pretty torn up when you were hurt. Almost as if you were—"
"Friends," he cuts her off, his voice short and sharp. In surprise, she turns back around and sees him leaning on their examination table, his eyes still glued to her, intense as ever. When he sees the question in her brow, he looks away, his eyes darting out towards the campfire through the open door. "That's all she ever wanted to be."
"So you would've been more…" her voice trails off and she damns herself for showing the hurt, for showing the vulnerability.
"No," he replies, a small sigh in his voice. "She knew. She always knew."
Despite the fact that Clarke feels her former co-leader is talking to himself now more than anyone else, she can't stop herself from asking, "Knew what?"
His eyes pull back to hers, brown clashing against bright blue, as he says, "Echo could never settle for half a man's love. She knew that was all I could give her."
Stepping closer to him, she finds herself praying, allowing herself to hope more than she has since she set foot on Earth, that he means what she believes him to. Before she can stop herself, her body is inches from his, and her hand is sliding under his shirt to graze over the scar of his wound, the wound that she herself burned clean that night in the snow. She hears his breathing hitch ever so slightly, and her eyes dart up, lingering on his lips for a split second before meeting his gaze, as she breathes out a single word.
His eyes soften with something she finally dares hope to be love, and his head tilts ever so slightly as he looks down at her. "It's you, Clarke," he whispers, and she can feel his breath on her face. "It's always been you. You know that. You've known that for a long time."
Then she is kissing him, pulling her hand away from his wound and wrapping her arms around his neck. His lips move against hers, his mouth dancing with hers, and she tastes the salt of his sweat on his chapped lips and feels his hands, covered in ratty, fingerless gloves, anchor in her hair.
Kissing him is like nothing she's ever felt before. It's like something she feared she'd never feel again.
Kissing him is like coming home.
When he finally pulls away, both of them out of breath, she can feel the smile on his face and feel the short laugh he gives as he rests his forehead against hers. The fabric of his gloves is rough against her skin, a stark contrast against the warmth of his thumb as he caresses her cheek as he holds her face in his hands.
She wraps her hand around his wrist, leaning into his touch before whispering, "Stay here, Bellamy. Stay here with me."
The moment is shattered. The warmth of his body vanishes as he pulls away and lets out a small sigh, letting go of her face and letting his hands drop to his side. "You know I can't do that, Clarke."
"Why not?" she replies, but she already knows the answer before he speaks.
"They need me," he replies simply. "I'm their leader. They followed me in the first place, and I built a home with them. Now you just want me to abandon them and come back here, just so I can be with you? I can't, princess. You know I can't."
There is a long silence. Of course she knew. She knew him well enough to know that he'd never abandon his people, not even for her. She also knew that if he would, she wouldn't be in love with him.
The people she loved always seemed to put her above everything else, seemed to put her on a pedestal and decide that she mattered more than anything else in the world. Finn did it, even Wells did it, and it got both of them killed.
But Bellamy never saw her for more than what she was. He never saw her as some fallen angel, some heavenly saint who would cure the world of every evil thing. He just saw her as Clarke, the girl he had come to respect and love over time, someone that he would protect because that's who he was.
(Maybe he would be the first man she loved not to die for her, but rather to live for her.)
Apparently she had gone too long without speaking, lost in her own thoughts, because the dark haired man reached down and grabbed her hand, looking into her eyes earnestly.
"You are always welcome at our camp, Clarke," he whispers. "All you have to do is say the word and there's a bed waiting for you and a spot at the fire that has your name on it."
She lets out a soft smile and says, "Octavia said that you were happy without me."
"Octavia also said that Alekzander is into Echo and Alekzander is so obviously into men it's almost painful," Bellamy deadpans, pulling a small laugh from the blonde. When her laughter quiets, he presses a long kiss against her forehead before whispering, "I've waited for you every day since we left, Clarke. I've built a home for everyone else, but it won't be my home until you're there with me."
She bites her lip and nods, waiting a brief second before pressing up on her toes and softly kissing him again. He laughs and puts his arm over her shoulder, guiding her out the door of the med bay and towards the fire.
"Come on," he says. "There's something you've got to see."
Most of his camp is still huddled around the fire when he arrives with Clarke in tow, and despite a few strange glances her way, the members of the camp shift, allowing both new additions room to sit.
"So," he says with a grin on his face. "What story are we telling tonight?"
"Alekzander told Van Gogh already," Maya says, snuggling a little deeper into Jasper's side and burying her face against him when he presses a kiss to the top of her head.
"Rorick talked about the Blood Rain Ceremony," Monty piped up.
"Wick told Achilles," Raven chime in.
"And Oktevia told the story of your Caesar Augustus and his sister, her namesake," Echo says with a smirk before taking another swig of the moonshine.
There is a pause, and all eyes turn to the younger Blake's bright red face before she points an accusing finger towards Bellamy and hisses, "You wipe that shit-eating grin off your face right now, you big bag of dicks!"
The entire campfire, including Clarke, bursts into laughter and Octavia turns even redder before Bellamy finally decides to spare his sister any more embarrassment.
"Okay, okay, okay," he says through his chuckles, and eventually those around him calm as well. "I've got one for you guys."
He begins to speak, conscious of Clarke's eyes on him and even more conscious of everyone else's eyes on Clarke. But slowly, their attention diverts away from the blonde leader and towards the story he weaves in the crisp autumn air. He tells the story he has been saving for quite a while now, a personal favorite, and he will say, all humility aside, he tells it to perfection.
He tells the story of Odysseus.
He tells of the end of a war spanning ten years, of a king trying to find his way home. He tells of Odysseus's blinding the cyclops Polyphemus, angering the god of the sea, and leading to his wandering the ocean for another ten years with the curse that his entire crew would die. He tells of the cannibalistic giants, who destroyed all but Odysseus's ship. He tells of the witch-goddess Circe who turned heroes into swine. He tells of the monster Scylla and the whirlpool Charybdis, where all but Odysseus drowned, the king only surviving by holding onto a fig tree above the whirlpool. He tells of Odysseus's washing up on the shore of an island, of Calypso's beauty, and her love for Odysseus that could never be returned.
And finally, he tells of the king's homecoming. He tells of how Penelope waited for her husband, how she never lost faith, always believed he would return. He tells of how the queen tested her husband, and how none of the suitors could replace him, nor none of Odysseus's lovers her, because they were so similar, so perfect for each other in every way.
Some hours later, when everyone else is fast asleep, Octavia sits beside him, his arm still wrapped tightly around a sleeping Clarke. His sister's eyes dart down to the girl before coming back up to meet his.
"You love her." It is not a question.
He swallows hard and nods, finally allowing himself to let the tidal wave of emotions he's been holding back for so long wash over him. "Yeah," he says, his voice cracking ever so slightly. "Yeah, I do."
Octavia nods, biting her lower lip, something like sadness in her eyes. "I guess I should've known you wouldn't be mine forever," she says softly. "It's just…she hurt you so much, and what if she hurts you again? I won't–"
"You can't protect me from this one, little sister," he whispers and Octavia goes silent, her eyes darting over to Lincoln.
(They both remember when she told him those words, when the Grounder still had a wild, feral look in his eyes and was thrashing against his bindings, trying to reach a red serum that would transform him again. It had been the moment when he realized that he couldn't save her from the horrors of this world. It was only appropriate that she learn the same about him.)
His sister nods. "You deserve to be happy, Bell," she says, "and if she's the one who makes you happy…well, I don't have to like her, but I might be able to forgive her. For you."
He gives her a small smile before murmuring a thank you, turning away from her and directing his gaze on the woman next to him. As the fire pops and cracks softly, he realizes just how similar their story is to Odysseus's. They've spent so much time running, trying to find a home. There's been so much pain, so much loss that they've endured, but he has felt it in his bones, in his blood, for a long time now. They are coming home. He's been looking for much too long, and he has felt closer and closer with every day that's passed.
For the first time in what seems like forever, he thinks that he has finally found it.
Clarke fingers the shoulder straps on her pack, staring intently at the path downward to the Gulch's camp. Her feet shuffle unsteadily beneath her, and she bites her lip, wondering if this was really a good idea, if they'll still accept her.
A few weeks had passed since Unity Day, enough time for her to see the Grounders out of Camp Jaha, transfer leadership completely to her mother and Kane, and finally decide that she was no longer needed there. All this time, and she still felt as if she could taste his mouth on hers and hear his words ringing in her ears.
"I've waited for you every day since we left, Clarke," he had said. "I've built a home for everyone else, but it won't be my home until you're there with me."
She had realized soon after that the only home worth having was the one she could build with him.
Glancing at the dirt path again, she takes a step forward, only to stop, old fears creeping in again. What if he didn't love her anymore? What if Echo decided that his love was enough for her? What if Octavia still hated her? What if everyone still hated her?
Then she remembers his story, his tale of Odysseus and his journey home. Perhaps she is a king who has been wandering for far too long, and is just now coming back to where she should be. Perhaps she is tired, and this is a place to finally rest. Perhaps she is standing on the precipice of something that is the most like home she'll ever see.
Perhaps she is Odysseus, running and running and running, and he is Penelope, waiting for her to come to where she belongs. Perhaps this is how their story ends, their happily ever after. (Or perhaps this is how it begins.)
Summoning all of her courage, she sets off down the path. As she enters the camp, she hears shouts, voice she recognized, voices she missed. She years Monty yell to Miller that she's there, she hears Jasper's whooping and Maya's laughter, Monroe's shouts and Harper's giggles, she feels Raven crash into her side, arms wrapped tightly around her and Wick's comment that he thinks the mechanic loves her more than she does him. Looking up, she sees Octavia and Echo looking at her from a ledge, a few feet above her head. Slowly, a small smile spreads across the younger girl's lips, and the Grounder warrior grants her a barely perceptible nod of respect.
Turning to Raven, she opens her mouth only to be cut off by the dark-haired girl.
"Bellamy's in the back, chopping wood," the mechanic smirks, and Clarke shoots her a grateful smile before turning and walking towards the other end of camp.
As she hears the undeniable sound of wood cracking and soft grunts she recognizes to be his, she steps out from behind a cabin to see him swinging an axe down heavily, splitting a piece of wood in half. She softly clears her throat, causing him to pause and straighten his spine, wiping the sweat from his brow with the back of his hand.
He turns to face her, his eyes meeting hers, and he freezes, going completely still for a moment.
Her heart stops. Should she not have come? Is she too late?
Then, a grin blossoms across his face like a flower in bloom, and her breath escapes her as she sees his dimples, the way his eyes become half moons with happiness. She feels a smile spreading across her own lips, his happiness infectious, and it's as if everything she's been trying to find since forever is right there in front of her.
He looks down for a second, a small laugh escaping him before presses his lips together, still smiling, and looks back up at her. Setting the axe down, he leans against its handle, gazing at her like she's the missing piece of a puzzle he's been trying to complete for a long time now.
(It makes her feel happy. It makes her feel beautiful. It makes her feel at home.)
"Hey, princess," he says, that boyish grin never leaving his face. "Glad to see you finally made it."
They have their first child three years later. They name her Awenasa.
It means "my home."
Come at me, bro.