Hello friendly readers! This is a story that I've been planning out for about a year now. I wanted to start it a while ago, but ended up getting sucked into another story that I only recently finished that wasn't supposed to be as long as it turned out to be. Now that it has been completed, however, I plan on focusing solely on this story for a while. For anyone waiting for news on the sequel to "The Note," it will happen, I promise, but not in the particularly near future. This is going to be a long story, and I want to get a good bit of it out before season three starts (which I, along with all of you, I'm sure, am VERY excited for!). Like I said, I've been planning it for quite a while now, so I think, at least for a while, updates should come fairly regularly, at least once if not twice a week.
Anyway, I hope you all enjoy! Thanks for reading. Oh, and I think it goes pretty much without saying that I do not own "The 100" or any of its characters. Thanks again!
Clarke didn't turned around as she walked away, feeling Bellamy's eyes boring into her. She knew he didn't understand, not really, but she couldn't stay. It wasn't that she didn't want to stay: she wanted nothing more than to be able to spend time with her friends, to help them get through the trauma that Mount Weather had put them through. She wanted to hug her mother, to not leave her side until she was once again up and moving around. She wanted to be able to mourn for those they had lost, those she hadn't been able to save, along with everyone else. She wanted to be able to go home, to remain among her people and let the past simply be the past, forgetting everything that she had done to get them all back there.
But she couldn't. She couldn't forget any of it. She knew that wherever she looked, if she stepped inside that camp there would always be a reminder of what she had done. Those reminders were everywhere, and they were all the very people who she had done so much to save. It was her mother, unable to walk, needing to be carried in a stretcher back to camp because of what had been done to her. It was Octavia, the girl whose glare still pierced through Clarke whenever she looked at her, clearly unable to forget what Clarke had allowed to happen at Tondc. It was Raven, another one who had needed to be carried down from the mountain both because of the destruction of her leg brace and because of what the Mountain Men had done to her. It was Monty and Bellamy, the two who had helped her to bring down the mountain, but had looked to her to make the final decision. It was Jasper, the boy who had once been her friend, but now looked at her with nothing but hatred, a clear reminder that she had been responsible for the death of the girl he had come to love. It was all of this and so much more that made it impossible for her to step foot into Camp Jaha, made it impossible for her to go home.
And so Clarke walked. She walked for hours, her steps taking her farther and farther away from her people. Twigs, leaves and grass crunched beneath her feet, rocks were kicked or stepped on, but her feet kept moving. She didn't know where she was going; she had no destination in mind, only that she had to get away. She had to get away from the people whose faces only reminded her of what she had done. She had to get away from everyone she had ever cared about.
She walked for hours, thinking she had no destination in mind, but suddenly she looked up ahead of her and realized that she had unknowingly walked straight to the drop ship, her first home on Earth, and her first place of mass killing. Her legs brought her up to the fence the original hundred had built, and when she looked through the opening she could still see scorched skeletons lying everywhere. This was where she had killed three hundred Grounders. She now had to remind herself that they had been there to kill Clarke and all of her friends, but that knowledge no longer made her feel better about what she had done. Instead she just remembered how Finn had tried to create peace between the two peoples, and how it had been her idea to bring guns to the possible peace-treaty that had ended before it could even begin. If she hadn't...
She couldn't think of that. Instead she just shook her head and turned around, not stepping foot on that burnt ground. She once again wandered, letting her feet lead her without thinking about it, and this time she wandered for a much shorter period of time before coming to another abrupt halt. Suddenly she was standing outside the bunker Finn had brought her to so many times, and she had to bite her bottom lip to stop the tears from falling from her eyes. This had been their place, hers and Finn's; it had been where they had really come together, both as friends, and then later physically and romantically. And then this had become the first place where Finn had murdered for her. The body of the Grounder was still inside, she knew, more than likely beginning to decompose by now. Nevertheless, this time she stepped forward, deciding to go in. She wouldn't stay, couldn't stay, but she had no supplies other than the gun she still held in her hand and knew that inside were a few things that may help her to survive on her own. Dropping from the ladder, her feet hitting the concrete and creating a small thud, she had to cover her mouth and nose. The stench from the decaying corpse was overwhelming, and she had to swat at the flies that suddenly flew around her face before once again settling on the body at the far side of the bunker. Clarke looked at the corpse, bugs eating away at the flesh that still remained and crawling all over it, and shuddered. She couldn't stay and look at what Finn had done for her for long, so she quickly grabbed a bag and began filling it with supplies and as soon as she had everything she needed she left the bunker, with no plans on ever returning to it.
As she walked, Clarke tried desperately not to think about all of the things that she had done since her arrival to Earth just a short time ago, but the thoughts were nearly impossible to escape, especially after seeing the drop ship and the bunker. In the span of a few weeks, she had lost too many friends and people who looked up to her, and had been responsible for more deaths that she could count. She couldn't imagine what her father would say to her if he could see her now and knew all she had done, and she self-consciously rubbed her wrist where her father's watch once clung to her skin. Finn had given it back to her just before he gave himself up to the Grounders, but she could no longer bare to feel it hanging on her wrist. It weighed her arm down, as though her father knew all that she had done, and she couldn't look at it any more without thinking about Finn, so she now carried it in her pack, doing her best not to think about it.
Clarke did not stop walking until the sun had begun to set behind the distant trees. She found a fallen tree, its trunk thick enough to be a good back rest, and set the single pack that she carried down next to it before she went in search of good firewood. After she had collected an armload, she carried the wood back to her spot by the fallen tree and began building a fire pit, before placing some twigs and thin sticks in it strategically so that it would catch quickly. Pulling her backpack to where she sat next to the pit, she unzipped it and dug around until she found the small box of matches she had found in the bunker. Eventually she would run out, she knew, and would have to resort to striking rocks together to create the heat source, a skill the hundred had learned not long after landing on Earth, and a skill she herself was not very good at. She would have to practice while she still had matches to rely on, but for the moment all she wanted was a fire in front of her, so she struck one of the matches, bringing the small flame down to the twigs set up in front of her, coaxing the fire to life as she fed it more twigs, and then larger sticks until it was big enough to take the couple of larger logs she had been able to find. Once it reached this point, Clarke tucked the box of matches back into her pack, and left the fire in search for more wood, never going far enough away that she couldn't see her fire by the fallen tree.
After a few trips to gather wood, she decided that she had enough to last her the night, and she settled back down, leaning against the tree trunk and watching the fire dancing in front of her. Once again she opened her pack, dug out the single blanket that was inside it and a couple of the small ration packets she had taken from the bunker, along with her knife and gun. The rations at the bunker had been scarce, so after these she knew that she would only have enough left for another day or so, and would soon need to find a more permanent shelter and re-stock her supplies. For the moment, however, she didn't care. She had food, a fire, and a solid tree to lean against, and it was all she needed. She used her knife to cut open one of the food packets, before setting it down on one side of her, while the gun she kept on the other side, ready in case anything came out of the darkness that was quickly falling all around her.
Luckily for her, the night was quiet, and nothing came out of the dark to attack her. Maybe it was because of the fire in front of her, or maybe it was just that, for the first time in months, luck was with her, and anything that might attack her was far enough away that traveling to the isolated girl made the trip not worth the effort. Either way, Clarke was alone, and it was what she wanted.
Clarke did not sleep that night. Even if she had been tired, she wouldn't have let herself; there were too many dangers that could come from the dark around her, and she had no one else to keep watch, so her eyes remained opened. Every now and then she would let them close for a few minutes and leave it up to her ears to detect any signs of danger, but she would always open them again shortly after. She would scan the woods around her, or at least what she could see of them, and kept her fire fed so that the flames never died down.
She spent most of the night staring into the flames, listening to her surroundings, and thinking. She thought about everyone she loved: her mother, Finn, Bellamy and Octavia, Jasper and Monty, Raven, and all of the others who had looked to her for guidance and protection. She thought about all those she had let down: her mother, Finn, Octavia, Jasper, all of the innocent people she had sentenced to death in Mount Weather. She thought about the people who had betrayed her: President Wallace and his son, and how that betrayal had cost their people their lives. Lexa, who had betrayed her only to save her own people. Clarke couldn't think about that betrayal for very long, as that betrayal made her heart ache, and every time she thought about Lexa's face when she had told Clarke that she had accepted Cage's offer, she would feel the tears begin to build up at the corners of her eyes, and she would have to wipe them roughly to keep them from really falling.
Needless to say, it was a very long night for Clarke Griffin. But like every night, eventually the black began to fade into gray, and soon she was able to see farther than just a few feet past the now dim glow of her fire. Rather than wait for the sun to be up fully, Clarke put her fire out, gathered her things back into her bag which she then slung over her shoulder, and when she was sure that her fire was completely out, she began walking again.
This time as she walked, she paid better attention to her surroundings. When she passed a bush that held a number of berries on it, she stopped and studied the berries before deciding they were safe and putting a number of them into an empty food pouch for later that day. Once the pouch was full, she put it back in her bag and grabbed a few more handfuls of the berries, eating them as she walked away from the bush. Later on that day, sometime in the afternoon, she stopped again when she noticed some of the edible roots that the original hundred had found when they first made it to Earth, and picked a number of them, putting them in another empty food pouch. Her stomach was grumbling, having only had the few berries from earlier, so she picked a couple more to munch on, and then continued on. She only stopped when it once again began to get dark, and found shelter this time uphill of a small stream. Once again she built a small fire pit and started a fire before she went out and collected enough firewood for the night, and this time when that was done, she made her way back down the small hill to the stream. After studying it for a moment, she decided it was probably safe, and fell to her knees, dropping the small canteen that she carried with her before scooping up handfuls of water and slurping them up greedily. She knew she must be dehydrated; she had finished all of the water in her canteen sometime that morning and had not had anything to drink since. After drinking her fill for the moment, she dunked her canteen in the stream, filling it before heading back up the hill to her fire pit.
Tonight she leaned against a large rock, and once again had no plan to sleep, the dangers of the woods still very real, but after at least thirty-six hours straight of traveling and no sleep, she found that much harder to do than she had the night before. She was able to fight the heaviness of her eyelids for a few hours, instead distracting herself by eating more berries and roots. When she had finished with that, she picked up a small stick, and began drawing in the dirt around her, but eventually the stick, along with her eyelids, became too heavy, and before she knew it, she was dreaming.
Smoke and screams filled the air, and Clarke couldn't tell which was making it harder for her to breathe. The smoke clung to her mouth and nose, filling her lungs with this poisoned air. The fire was everywhere, all around her, and the heat seemed unbearable, nearly blistering her skin. However, the crackling of the fire was barely audible over the number of screams that filled the air. Clarke wanted to cover her ears, and for a moment she did, until she realized that it made no difference; no matter how hard she pressed the heals of her hands against her ears, the screams pierced through. She looked down as she took her hands away from her ears, and nearly screamed herself: she was standing on a pile of body parts, all bloody, many with bones piercing through the flesh that remained on them.
Looking back up from the pile of appendages she stood on, figures started to take shape, some stumbling through the flames, some already fallen to the ground near her. Most of the people were Grounders, and they were all screaming. Some screamed from pain, others from fury. To her right, she saw Indra, holding the bloody stump that was all that remained of her right arm. She was glaring at Clarke, and her scream was one of uncontrolled fury. To her left, another Grounder who she didn't know laid on the ground, screaming from pain at the large piece of metal that had pierced through his abdomen, the wound bleeding heavily. Octavia stood over him, trying to help him, but when the girl looked up at Clarke, she gasped: half of Octavia's face had blistered, the skin deep red and raw, her hair singed down to her scalp. Nevertheless her eyes gleamed, twin beacons of blame and rage. She glared at Clarke, even as the man continued to scream in pain beside her.
"What have you done?!" she cried furiously, her eyes piercing into Clarke, "How could you have let this happen?!"
At that moment, the ground shook as a second explosion tore through the air, and Clarke watched as Octavia was engulfed in flames, her screams of fury directed only at Clarke.
Clarke jerked awake, her breathing erratic. She looked in front of her, and noticed that her fire had started to die down. She got up, her body shaking, and grabbed a few thick sticks to throw into the fire to build it back up. Only when the flames were once again dancing in front of her did Clarke sit back down in her spot, leaning against the rock once again. Her shirt stuck to her skin, having been soaked from her sweat brought on by the dream, and she shifted against the rock, pulling the damp shirt from her skin. She forced herself to take a number of large, calming breaths, before she could shake the panic that had been brought on by the visions that haunted her whenever she closed her eyes.
It hadn't happened like that. Clarke hadn't been directly in the village when the missile had hit Tondc, but it wasn't hard to imagine what it had looked like at that moment. She had seen enough of the destruction later on when she had returned to what remained of the Grounder's village, even after most of the flames had been put out and many of the people had been dug out from under all of the rubble. Octavia hadn't actually been hurt, but it was a miracle that she hadn't been, and Clarke didn't think she'd ever be able to look at Octavia again without feeling the guilt from knowing that she had all but sentenced her friend to death and it was only luck that had saved her.
Sure, it had been Lexa's idea to leave the village without warning anyone about the danger that was flying towards them all, but Clarke had gone along with it. She knew that Lexa had had a point: the best way to keep Bellamy safe, and to keep the people in Mount Weather from searching for the spy among them, was to allow the missile to hit without warning any of the people remaining in the village. Knowing that it was the only way to take down Mount Weather didn't make it any easier for Clarke as she walked away from the hundreds of people who she knew she was condemning to a horrifying death, but she had done it. She had walked away, and that was only one of the many decisions she had recently made that hung heavy on her shoulders.
As she stared into the fire, unable to keep herself from reliving the horrors she had allowed to happen, once again the night began to fade, and the gray of dawn began to filter in all around her. Just as she had done the morning before, she didn't bother to wait for the sun to actually rise, but rather put out her fire and began walking again as the gray morning surrounded her.
For three more days, Clarke walked aimlessly through the trees. She replenished her food stores as she went, finding berries, nuts and roots to tide her over wherever possible. Once she saw a rabbit and thought about shooting it so that she could stock her meat supply, her mouth watering just thinking about biting into the meat, but decided against it. It was too dangerous to waste the few bullets she had with her, especially when there was no guarantee she would hit it with her first shot. So she lived off what little vegetation she could find and grew used to the dull ache of hunger that developed in her stomach.
During the day, Clarke walked. During the night, she tried desperately to stay awake, knowing the dangers that surrounded her, and knowing the dangers of what her mind would do to her whenever she drifted off. A person can't survive without sleep, however, so every night, no matter how hard she fought against the heaviness of her eyelids, eventually they would drop, and the visions of the horrific events she had allowed to happen would appear before her, their detail agonizing.
The bodies lay everywhere, covering every inch of the concrete floor beneath them. At first glance it was impossible to tell where one body started and another continued. They lay on top of each other, their red sores oozing slowly at every point of contact. Clarke looked down on them and slowly began making out the details of individual bodies.
That one was the man who had served her dinner on her first night at the Mountain. He had given her a smile as he handed her her food. Now his jaw hung open, bright red blisters covering his lips along with every other bit of exposed flesh.
In the short time Clarke had been there, Clarke had heard this woman playing the piano three different times. It had always calmed her slightly, even as she tried to find a way out of there. Her crusted swollen fingers would no longer be able to press the individual keys even if there was still life running through them.
Dante Wallace lay in the middle of all of them, the bullet wound in his chest still bleeding sluggishly even though it was clear his heart had long since stopped beating. His son, Cage Wallace lay beside him, reaching out as though to touch his father, but his hand had never quite made it.
Maya lay directly in front of her, her eyelids blistered and open, her clouded gaze staring directly at Clarke.
It was Maya's stare that jolted Clarke awake, her heart racing in her chest. The images of the horrors she had created at Mount Weather were too powerful, and she could feel her empty stomach rolling, bile piling up in the back of her throat. She couldn't afford to waste what little sustenance she had been able to put in her stomach, so she swallowed, breathing slowly through her nose, forcing her sickness down.
A stick snapped beyond her fire, and with a jolt Clarke grabbed her gun, standing and aiming it towards the noise all in one quick movement. Though the night was slowly coming to an end, there wasn't yet enough morning light for her to see by, but when the figure slowly stepped into the light her dim fire still managed to put off, Clarke wished the darkness would swallow her up again. Her grip on the gun tightened, her arm not lowering as she clenched her jaw hard, her nostrils flaring.
"Hello Clarke," Lexa stated as she stepped towards the fire, her gaze holding Clarke's and ignoring the gun pointed directly at her. At the short distance between them, Clarke could not miss if she pulled the trigger, and yet Lexa acted as though she didn't see the gun at all.
The Grounder looked like she had when they were in TonDC, her clothes simple and her sword strapped to her back. A loose cloak covered her to keep out the chill of the night. From what Clarke could tell she was alone, but that didn't mean anything. Her warriors could be hiding in the trees, arrows and spears already pointed at the blonde. Even if she was alone, Clarke knew better than to believe she was safe. She'd learned never to let her guard down around the brunette, whether she wore war paint or not.
Clarke's fist tightened even further, the grip of her gun biting into her palm.
"Go away," she growled, glaring at the other girl across the fire.
"I cannot go away, Clarke," she replied as she took another step closer, her tone as neutral as ever, and just the sound of her voice caused fury to build up in the blonde.
"Get the hell away from me," Clarke snarled, her anger evident in her tone. "Just get away."
Lexa stopped walking towards the other girl, but rather than turn away, she remained where she was, staring at the blonde.
"I will get away if you return to your people," she informed her, and Clarke frowned, her glare not leaving her face.
"Why should I go back to Camp Jaha? More importantly, what makes you think I'm going to listen to you?" the blonde asked, shifting slightly in her stance but not allowing her gun arm to waiver even an inch.
Lexa continued to act as though the gun didn't exist, a fact that was quickly getting on Clarke's nerves.
"It is not safe for you to be traveling alone, Clarke," the Commander told her, "Winter is about to set in, and you have not experienced anything like it before. You will need proper shelter and supplies to survive. What you carry with you will not be enough."
"What do you care what happens to me?" she lashed out, venom in her voice, and she felt a spark of pride when she noticed the other girl wince ever so slightly, the look quickly wiped off her face the next moment.
"I care, Clarke," Lexa murmured quietly, but Clarke clearly heard the words, though she had stopped believing them days ago.
"No, you don't," the blonde replied, flinging her words at the other girl. "You don't care. You aren't allowed to turn your back on me and then say you care. It doesn't work like that."
"You do not need to believe me," the brunette told her, "I do not expect you to. But you do need to return to the safety of your people. If you remain out here on your own, you will die."
"You don't know that," Clarke bit back, shooting another glare at her.
"I do," Lexa replied immediately. "You are already showing signs of weakening, Clarke. What do you have for food with you? When was the last time you got enough sleep to feel rested? You are pushing your body beyond its limits, Clarke, and if you continue you will push it too far." When the blonde didn't answer, Lexa saw the flash in those blue eyes, and she knew. She had suspected it since she laid eyes on the blonde, restlessly sleeping next to her fire, but the flash confirmed her fear. "Clarke, death is not the answer," she said quietly, and the way the blonde pulled back from her slightly told her she was right. "You do not deserve what you are putting yourself through, and I will not leave you to allow yourself to waste away."
"You walked away leaving me to die before," Clarke accused, her voice low, nearly shaking with the emotion she tried hard to keep inside. "Why would this be any different?"
Clarke watched Lexa close her eyes, watched her chest move as she let out a long breath through her nose. When her eyes opened again, Clarke was almost shocked to see true emotion in that green gaze.
"I did not wish to walk away then, Clarke," she answered softly. "You know that is true. But I had no choice. I had to make the best decision regarding my people, and I made it. This choice has nothing to do with my people. This time I am not walking away until I know that you are safe."
"I'm not going back," was the simple reply. "I can't go back."
Lexa stared at her for a long moment and then nodded.
"Fine. I have a suggestion then," she began, but Clarke cut her off before she could continue.
"And I'm definitely not going to Polis with you, or TonDC, or any of your villages," the blonde spat, and that time the hurt that flashed in Lexa's eyes was clear, nearly making Clarke grin. Rather than letting that show, she just continued to glare.
"I was not going to say you should come to Polis," Lexa replied, holding her head up a bit higher as though to hide the hurt Clarke had noticed. "There is a cave not far from here that I know of. It can provide protection from both predators and the elements. It is also far enough away from your people and mine that you should not be disturbed by either. There you will at least have a chance of survival."
Clarke didn't answer immediately, instead mulling the idea over, though she did allow her arm to relax slightly, not completely bringing her gun down to her side, but not pointing it as directly at the other girl. Though Lexa clearly believed Clarke was trying to kill herself, it wasn't true. Or, if it was true, Clarke hadn't realized it yet. In reality, the blonde had only been roaming the way she had because she didn't really have anywhere else to go. Even just thinking about returning to any of the places she knew of felt as though a spike was being shoved through her chest, so she had walked without any plan of where she was going. Lexa was right though, as much as Clarke truly hated to admit it: if she kept going in the way she had been, she would die, if not from starvation or weariness, then from the cold when winter did finally hit. And as much as she really, really hated the idea of letting Lexa help her, this cave may just solve that problem.
She wasn't ready to give in just like that, however.
"Even if I agree to let you take me to this cave, what makes you think I'm going to stay there after you leave?" Clarke asked. "Unless you're planning on staying with me, in which case there's no way I'm going with you."
"You know I could not stay," Lexa told her, raising her eyebrows slightly. "I must return to my people. And I have no way of knowing if you stay or not, I can only hope that you do. What happens to you matters to me, Clarke."
The blonde's jaw clenched again at that.
"Now," she spat, "Now that we aren't at war. Now that I've killed your enemies for you my life matters to you."
Once again something flashed across the other girl's face almost too fast to see, but Clarke managed to catch a glimpse of it. She couldn't be sure, but she thought that maybe it was shame. Or regret. Either way, it wasn't enough.
"I did not want you to have to do that, Clarke," Lexa replied softly, her shoulders drooping just a bit. "I take no pleasure from what you had to do at Mount Weather."
Clarke did not want to talk about this particular subject. Just to get Lexa to drop it, Clarke dropped her arm completely and quickly grabbed the bag next to her, hauling it over her shoulder. Kicking the one burning log over so that the small flames would die out quickly, she straightened back up and took the few steps to move over towards the other girl.
"Alright, fine, show me this cave," she ordered, one hand holding the strap to her bag while the other hand remained holding her gun, clearly having no intention of putting it down any time soon. Moving closer to the other girl, she saw Lexa's gaze drop slightly and then look up to meet hers again, and her hand reached out hesitantly. Clarke tensed, side stepping the motion. "Don't," she growled, and Lexa's hand immediately dropped to her side. "This doesn't change anything between us, Lexa," she added, her tone hard. "The only reason you don't have a bullet between your eyes right now is because it would mean the end of my people. Don't think that me letting you help me means I forgive you because I don't. I don't forgive you. I hate you. I hate what you did, and what I had to do because of you. I will never be able to forgive you for it. So don't even try. Just lead the way so that you can leave me alone."
Lexa clenched her jaw, and Clarke could see the hurt in her eyes, but she didn't care. The brunette just nodded and turned, walking away, and Clarke followed after her.
They walked for the better part of the day, all in silence. Lexa led the way, the blonde trailing behind her, and at times it was though she could actually feel Clarke's glare boring into her back. The other girl's anger was evident even just in the way she walked, and Lexa had no doubt that Clarke had meant what she said about wanting to shoot her: if Lexa's people wouldn't attack the Sky People at the death of their leader, the brunette would be dead. She believed it, and she even believed that she deserved it, but she knew that Clarke wouldn't do it. Though she had left, her people still meant everything to her, Lexa knew, and she would never be able to put them in harm's way. But just because she couldn't kill Lexa didn't mean she couldn't show her just how much she now despised the Grounder leader, from the way she glared at her to the fact that she never once loosened her grip on her gun.
In all honesty, Lexa didn't care. Clarke could hate her, despise her, and even wish her dead: she was just so immensely relieved that the blonde still lived.
The moment the Mountain Men's offer had left their lips, Lexa's heart had fallen back into the void it had been locked away in years ago and had only recently emerged from. She had wished with all her being that she could have simply reached out and ripped their vocal cords from their throats, ending those words before they had been uttered. But she couldn't reverse time, and the moment she had heard the offer, she knew she had no choice. She had to take them up on it for her people. She could not justify refusing it, and in doing so risking the lives of a countless number of those who looked to her to lead them. The leader of the Mountain Men had known that, and so had used that knowledge to end the alliance between Grounders and Sky People, and in doing so sealing the Sky People's fate.
She would never forget the look of utter betrayal that had been in Clarke's eyes when Lexa had told her. She would always remember how her own heart had wailed in grief as she turned away from the blonde, how each step she took as she walked away had felt as though she had concrete blocks tied to her legs, her guilt and sorrow weighing her down. Once again she had let down the person she cared about. Once more she had been forced to stand back as the one person her heart yearned for faced certain death. Once more she had failed, and with every step she took as she led her people home, she couldn't help but wonder if it was at that exact second that Clarke was drawing her last breath.
So when Lexa learned four days ago that the Sky People had survived, she had barely dared to hope. When she got word of a certain blonde seen walking amongst her people, Lexa's breath had nearly been knocked from her lungs. After believing for days that Clarke had been killed or was trapped and being tortured for her bone marrow, the news of her so gloriously alive was cause for celebration, even if Lexa was the only one celebrating. So it didn't matter how much the blonde hated her: it didn't matter if she never looked at her again with anything other than that glare, or if she never put that gun down around her again. She was alive, and that was all Lexa could have even dared to wish for.
It was the middle of the afternoon when they reached a steep slope, Lexa leading the way up it. They climbed for a few minutes, and when they reached the top, the brunette stopped, stepping to the side so that Clarke could continue on for a few paces. She did so, scanning the area carefully.
Trees still surrounded them, but the mouth of a cave stood only a few yards away. It blended in well with the slope, so that if you weren't looking for it, you might not see it, but because Lexa had seen it, Clarke saw it as well. She stepped forward cautiously, still not completely trusting that they were alone, and peered inside the cave. It was deep, much deeper than it seemed from the outside, and wide, with plenty of space to move around. In the center of the area a small fire pit had already been constructed, and on one side of the cave a stack of firewood had been piled up. As the blonde walked further in, she noted a small pile of blankets wrapped up in the back of the cave, along with a bow and a quiver filled with arrows, as well as two large baskets next to them. Carefully opening one of the baskets, she realized it was a food storage unit, with a sharpened knife resting just inside the cover. In the second she found various survival items, including a line and hook for fishing, bottles of what Clarke assumed was some kind of medicine, and a canteen for water. Taking another look, Clarke realized an extra set of clothes were even folded neatly on top of the blankets. Clearly this was not just another cave in the woods.
She turned to Lexa, who had followed her and stopped just inside the mouth of the cave.
"What is this place?" she asked, her nerves on edge. It almost seemed as though someone lived there, and that had not been part of the arrangement they had made. Though at this point she really should know better than to take Lexa at her word.
The brunette just shrugged as she looked around, her shoulders relaxing, clearly feeling comfortable there. "It is one of my safe places," she answered simply, taking another step inside the cave towards the blonde.
"Safe places?" Clarke questioned, her confusion evident in her tone.
"It was something Anya taught me while I was her Second," Lexa replied, walking slowly around and looking at everything, as though to make sure it was all there. "She told me that a warrior should always have places set up where they can go if they cannot get back to their village or their people. If they are hurt, or if a storm or an enemy cuts them off from those they are traveling with, they must have a place they can get to until it is once again safe to travel." She walked up to the blankets and clothes, running her fingers over them lightly. "She and I found this place, and together we made it into what it is." She drew back her fingers and turned to Clarke, her back straightening again, almost as though she had caught herself before she could say any more than she meant to. "She and I were the only ones who knew about this cave. None of my people will find you, and I doubt any of your people will be traveling this far. You will be safe here, and you will be alone, as you desire."
Clarke nodded, though honestly she didn't really know what to make of any of it. She didn't know if she wanted to live in this cave that had been Lexa and Anya's. She definitely didn't want Lexa's help, or to feel like she owed her anything, and she hated the idea of Lexa knowing where she was, but she could admit that in a way, the cave was nice. It would be a relief to not spend every moment of the day traveling, and every moment of the night trying to stay aware of her surroundings and on the lookout for danger. And the fact that she would be alone, away from everyone she cared about and who cared about her only made it better. Even if she didn't make the cave her permanent living arrangement like Lexa wanted, she could always stay for a day or two while she regained her strength and then leave. With any luck, Lexa wouldn't find her this time, and she wouldn't have to see the other girl again.
This seemed like the best plan for the moment, so Clarke turned to Lexa and shrugged.
"Fine, I'll stay here," she told her, not bothering to mention for how long, "But it's time for you to leave. I told you, I'm not living with you."
Again Lexa looked almost hurt, but she nodded.
"You are welcome to anything in here," she informed the blonde as she began making her way back towards the mouth of the cave. "There isn't much, but it should be enough for your survival. For now, at least."
Clarke didn't say anything, and in her silence she could have sworn she saw Lexa let out a silent sigh. The brunette made it to the entrance and was about to slip out when Clarke called out, "Wait." She turned around and looked at the blonde, questioning her with her eyes. Clarke took a couple of steps towards her and then asked, "How did you find me, Lexa? No one knew where I was going. I didn't even know where I was going."
"When we got back to Polis, I sent a couple of my warriors to watch your camp," Lexa answered honestly, seeing no reason to lie, even as Clarke's jaw tensed once again. "It was necessary to know how your people would react when they learned what had happened."
"You mean you needed to know if they would attack you, because you betrayed us," Clarke spat, and Lexa didn't bother denying it.
"It was necessary," she repeated instead, holding Clarke's gaze. "But instead of finding out your people's plans, they saw you and the others who had been in Mount Weather return. They left as soon as they saw your people return to inform me, and then three days ago two of my hunters informed me that they had seen a lone Sky Person walking in the woods." She paused for a moment, her gaze shifting to the cave wall. "When they described the Sky Person, I knew it was you, and I realized you had left your people. I went to the spot where they had spotted you, and then tracked your movement, finding you at your fire."
"Why bother trying to find me?" Clarke asked, her tone rough. "Why not just leave me alone?"
Her words drew Lexa's gaze back to her, and once again Clarke was surprised to see the amount of emotion in them, even if her voice remained steady as she spoke.
"I told you, I care for you, Clarke," she replied. "I could not leave you to die. Not after I found out you still lived."
Clarke had no reply to that, and didn't try to come up with one. Lexa maintained eye contact for another moment, and then just nodded before she turned away. Once again however, Clarke stopped her before she could leave.
"Did you send them back?" she asked, "Your warriors? Did you send them back to Camp Jaha once you knew we'd come back? Are you spying on my people right this minute?"
Lexa didn't turn around, didn't need to see the accusatory look on the blonde's face.
"I did," she answered simply. "It is necessary."
Clarke's fingers clenched into fists and the hand that still held her gun trembled slightly.
"Tell them to leave," she ordered the brunette, "Tell your warriors to leave, and never send anyone to spy on my people again."
At that, Lexa did turn, twisting her shoulders so that she could study Clarke's face. She didn't mention that Clarke had left her people, that even if she told her she would, her warriors could still be there and the blonde wouldn't know. She didn't tell Clarke that she had to know if her people planned an attack on Lexa's for what had happened at Mount Weather. She didn't argue, didn't even try. Instead, she merely nodded.
"As you wish, Clarke," she replied, and then she turned again, and this time when she stepped forward, Clarke did not try to stop her, and she kept walking until she could no longer feel Clarke's glare boring into the back of her skull.
Clarke watched her until the brunette disappeared in the trees and then stared after her for many minutes, her mind buzzing with too many thoughts and feelings to truly decipher any of them. Finally she just turned around and walked back into the cave, deciding that if she was going to stay for a couple of days, she might as well see what she had in her bag that she could add to what was already set up for her survival.
So there's the first chapter. It's a little slow, I know, but the story is going to be picking up fairly quickly after this. I'm going to try to update later this week, so if you're interested, be looking for it. I'd also love feedback, if anyone's open to giving some. So please feel free to review, message, or follow or favorite, or whatever you want to do. Thanks so much for reading, and I hope to hear from some of you! Thanks everyone!