A/N: thank you to my lovely betas: Maggie aka redstringbanshee, and MJ aka queenclarkgriffine on tumblr, who are both very busy people and yet made time to read and edit the truly amazing typos out of my fic. Also, they are both fucking hilarious and their comments made me laugh so much. Yall are AMAZIN.
This fic will have 3 parts total, and here is the first. I know this fic has a rather dark premise. I was in a dark sort of mood when the idea first came to me partway through season 3A. But it's actually shaping out to be a lot less depressing than I originally thought, which is a nice plus. Still gonna be plenty of angst though because I live for that shit. In any case, I hope you enjoy.
Clarke doesn't know how long she's been hanging upside down in the forest, but she's spent every second of it silently berating herself for being so stupid.
The one thing she knows is that she's making progress.
By "progress" she means whenever she can work up the energy, she hoists her upper body up and works at the knots on the wiry rope that's holding her in the air. She's actually undone a fair amount of them and has dropped several feet closer to the earth. She's onto the last few knots and if she reaches really far down, she can almost touch the ground.
The problem is she's exhausted. She's letting her arms dangle limply at the moment, and when she hears feet crunching in the leaves somewhere out of her line of vision, she can hardly even react.
It takes her only a second to decide playing dead is the best way to go about this situation— not like she really has another option— and closes her eyes so that she can see only a sliver of the world in front of her.
She hears the footfalls come nearer, and then "Clarke?" From behind her.
Her eyes open. "Oh thank god," she exhales. "Bellamy, please get me out of this."
He moves around her and into her line of vision, and his upside-down expression is near murderous. "What is this?" He leans forward to touch her ankle. Clarke hisses in pain as the wiry rope cuts even deeper into her leg.
"Clarke, you're bleeding."
"Just get me down," she says weakly.
He's scanning the forest. "I'm trying." He spots something. "The rope is fixed in that tree," he says, and he looks like he's making to climb it when they hear a distant sound from the forest.
Bellamy freezes and Clarke's heart kicks up to an anxious rhythm.
"New plan," Bellamy says abruptly, shaking his head and coming forward towards Clarke. "Hold on to me." He stands in front of her and she watches as he pulls his ax out from the waistband of his cargo pants. "I'm going to cut you down."
"Hold on to you?" Clarke repeats. "What do you mean?"
"Just put your arms around me," he hisses, tossing a glance over his shoulder before he begins hacking away at the thick wire and rope that's holding Clarke up by her leg. "So you don't fall on your head."
Clark hesitates, because she's eye-level with his crotch, but then he makes an impatient noise and she shoves her discomfort away into the back of her head and reaches her arms around his hips. She's hugging him tightly to put as much weight as she can on him, and that means her head is practically pressed against his groin, but she's turned her head to the side and just hopes he won't see her cheeks redden.
He must notice, though, because he stands rather stiffly as he hacks her down. And then her legs are free and they swing downwards. Bellamy is ready for that, easily catching them both on his shoulder.
Before she can get a word out, he's readjusting her in his arms, into a fireman's lift.
She huffs as he sets off briskly into the forest. "I can walk, you know."
"Not on that leg, you can't," he responds easily. "And you'll bleed all over the place, which will lead them right to us."
She takes a breath to retort but he beats her to it, "Just shh," he chastises, and she feels him cocking his head, listening for sounds, before he sets off again.
"I'm never letting you go looking for herbs by yourself again," he mutters after a few minutes. "From now on, we're not going anywhere alone."
Clarke is affronted, first by the implication that Bellamy lets her do anything, and second by his new vow. "But you're always so impatient when I take you to look for mushrooms—"
"And you always scare away the game when you go hunting with me, so yeah, I'm well aware of the downsides of this approach," he cuts her off darkly. "Still better than the alternative."
"The alternative being independence?" Clarke mutters.
Instead of answering his hand merely reaches up to slap her thigh in playful reprimand. She hides her smile into the back of his jacket, even though she knows he can't see it.
They need these moments of levity, because without them, they are lost.
That fact becomes apparent when they reach the dropship clearing, and Bellamy stops in his tracks, bending at the knees to let Clarke off his shoulder.
She gingerly sets her feet on the ground, testing her weight on her injured leg. Bellamy holds onto her arm in case she falls, but although the wound is bleeding and hurts a bit, it's not too serious.
When they both turn to face the dropship clearing, their work of the past several months extends before them. From this vantage point, Clarke can really see the scope of work they have done.
The clearing around them is no longer flat and grassy; it's filled with small dirt mounds, stretching in every direction. Seeds in every one, a seed that would eventually grow into a single forget-me-not.
One flower for every Sky person.
Back at Mount Weather, Bellamy and Clarke planted flowers for those people, and all the others they could remember who died at their hand. It was their tribute. But this clearing was a special place, reserved only for their people.
Every single one; the ones who died on Earth, and the ones who perished on the Ark, those lost in the Culling. To ensure that no one was left behind in their final journey to the ground. They are all here now; all of their people lie surrounding the dropship, the place where it all started.
Clarke can turn her gaze to the left and tell exactly which mounds are the people from farm station, and she can turn her head to the right and identify her family members and the friends she considered to be family members - she can point out Wells, who she's planted closest to the dropship.
She knows he's already got a grave nearby, which is now overrun with moss and weeds and flowers springing from the Earth, but she thought he deserved to be buried with the rest of their people here, too. It's the least she can do for her best friend now.
Nearly all the ground is covered in the mounds of dirt, but there is one circle that is conspicuously free of them, still flat and grassy; and that's at the foot of the dropship, a little place for the both of them to rest their feet in between planting. Bellamy and Clarke. The only ones left.
It's strange, Clarke still thinks, how that happened. Because somehow, she never saw it coming.
There was no warning: just a slow receding tide, life picking off their friends one by one, the occasional brutal massacre that took many at once, and Clarke hadn't even realized it was happening until it had. But somehow, despite her best efforts, they were all gone now and she cursed herself that she didn't see it until the last massacre where the remainder were wiped out. The extinction of the Sky People.
They had no one left. No one except each other. They were the last survivors. It was Bellamy who voiced it first.
"We're the last Sky people," Bellamy said to her, after they both stopped crying. He almost sounded like he was going to laugh, absurdly enough.
Clarke did laugh, which was more absurd.
"Nothing." Just something she'd told Emerson, a lifetime ago.
Afterwards, the two of them were lost. They sat in the ashes of their people for days, and when they couldn't bear it any longer they wandered. They had no place in mind, but somehow they ended up at the root cellar.
Maybe it was because it was the place where everything had really started between them. It had been that night under the tree that they finally decided to work with each other; it was there that a mutual agreement had been forged in Dax's blood and Bellamy's tears and Clarke's whispered reassurances, that together, they would handle anything the world threw at them.
(The world took that challenge very seriously.)
And yet they were still standing. Swaying, knees close to buckling, perhaps; but holding each other up nonetheless.
They were all that was left in the world, so they returned to that cellar and found almost nothing. It had been stripped bare of all useful supplies, it seemed. All useful supplies, that is, except for a bin of flower seeds. Forget-me-nots, to be exact. The meaning isn't lost on Clarke.
And that was how they'd gotten this idea. Perhaps there was nothing left to survive for but the one last thing they could do for their people: pay tribute.
Now, gazing down on their handiwork months in the making, they are done. They had finished earlier that day, which was why Clarke had gone to aimlessly collect some herbs before she got trapped, and Bellamy'd gone off with his ax under the pretense of hunting. But they both know the truth of what they've been avoiding: after serving their last purpose, they are at a loss of what to do next.
That night they sit at the foot of the dropship as Clarke bandages her ankle and Bellamy coaxes a campfire to life. It's a nightly routine for them: Bellamy starts a blazing fire and they both watch the smoke drift up into the sky, and Clarke's sure she's not the only one who's found herself hoping once or twice that vicious Grounders see it and come running.
Of course she's not that lucky, though.
But tonight it's even more sober than usual. They have no aim anymore, and that fact stands between them awkwardly. Normally, on a night like this, they would be murmuring to each other as they ate, repeating names of people, "Did we make one for that one boy— the one who was friends with Mel?" And "Oh, we forgot that one couple, the Jonson's, they died in the Culling, write them down," and they'd keep track on paper and on the inner wall of the dropship, writing names onto the metal with bits of limestone so that in the morning they'd remember to plant a seed for them. That was what they did; it was their lives.
And now, suddenly, it isn't anymore.
As Bellamy wordlessly hands her a piece of slightly charred rabbit over the fire, she voices her thoughts. "It's so strange," she murmurs, ripping a long piece of meat off the stick. Despite it's blackened skin, it's juicy and tender; she doesn't really register it's taste, though. "I've lived so long only existing to help our people that I don't even remember what life was like before that." He's silent so she goes on. "When I was living for myself."
"Can't imagine," he says, staring into the fire. The light reflects off his irises, setting them alight to a gloriously warm brown. Clarke is reminded by his two words, spoken almost wistfully, that he has not lived for himself since he was six years old.
"I guess we have to learn, then," Clarke says firmly. "There's no one else to live for anymore." She utters those words without too much emotion. They've had time over the years to reflect on all the people ripped away from their lives. It's no longer a fierce, stabbing pain, just a kind of endless ache that surges and subsides with every breath they take. After all their efforts, they failed. The story of the Skai Kru would die with them. "We're the last of our people."
Bellamy finally looks up at her tone of voice and after a pause he says, slowly, "We don't have to be."
She's reaching for another bite of meat when he says it, and she pauses mid-chew to look up at him carefully. He's already looking back into the fire, expression inscrutable. "What?"
She thinks he might be— blushing?, but it's hard to tell with his brown skin and the glow of the fire. "Forget it."
That is, of course, a sure-fire way of making sure Clarke doesn't forget it. "Bellamy," she says, lowering her food from her mouth to focus on him. Her heart is suddenly beating absurdly fast and her throat is rather dry. "Are you talking about having… kids?"
"I don't know," he mutters, gaze still very much fixated on the fire. "I just… you sounded like…" he takes a deep breath and lifts his head, looking her square in the eye, and then he speaks with conviction. "Yes, that's what I meant. If that's what you wanted."
There's a long silence between them, where he's snagged her attention and she's finding it a bit difficult to look at him and yet she can't look away, because suddenly she's imagining them… doing… that...
Her face heats up quickly and she ducks her head, hoping he won't notice through the curtain of her hair. Bellamy's usually freakishly good at picking up on just about everything she's feeling, unless of course she's feeling something about him, in which case he tends to be completely blind. "I used to want that," she says in reply, keeping her voice even while wishing she could douse herself in ice water right about now. "I used to want a lot of things."
She debates saying it— because it's silly— but she knows he won't judge. "I used to want to get married," she reveals.
He smiles a bit at that. "You did?"
She toys with the edge of her threadbare shirt, suddenly feeling shy. "I don't know. I always saw my parents as being so in love, and I wanted that for myself. And mostly just a big, flashy wedding. I know," she says again quickly when he opens his mouth, "it's seems so stupid and childish now, but—"
"It's not stupid, Clarke," he cuts her off softly. "I get it. We all had dreams. Things we wanted."
Something else he's said in the past suddenly comes to the forefront of her memory: I wouldn't even know what to wish for.
She asks the question she didn't ask back then. "What do you want?" She asks, softly.
His gaze is suddenly heavy. "You," Her heart skips a beat before he finishes the sentence, just a fraction of a second longer than it should have taken, "safe."
She sighs, her breath blowing her hair out of her face for a second. "That's not even an answer, Bellamy." Yet, she knows it is. Even when there's no one else left in the world to live for, he still will not live for himself. He lives for her now, and she doesn't know how to feel about that.
Maybe she's less upset than she should be about it because she kind of feels like she's doing the same for him. All they have is each other.
Maybe it doesn't have to be that way, a tiny voice in her head says. She tries to ignore it.
That night, before they fall asleep by the smouldering remains of their fire, Bellamy watches her try to pull the tangles out of her hair with her fingers.
"Here," he says finally, moving across the small space to crouch behind her. "Let me do that."
Clarke drops her hands immediately without argument, because her arms are tired. Every part of her is tired. She feels his long, deft fingers replace her own, carding through her waves of hair and working at the snares gently. He's good at it.
He must have learned for his little sister, but Clarke doesn't ask because he gets sad when he talks about his sister, just like how she gets sad when she thinks about her mother. Besides, Clarke knows for a fact he's learned a lot of things from raising Octavia. He was so good with the younger ones of the original hundred; he could be so gentle and kind with them, or stern if they weren't behaving.
She thinks he'd be good at it— Being a real father.
The thought comes unbidden to her mind, and she immediately tries to shake it off. But she can't. The more she tries to get rid of the thought the more strongly it pushes into the front of her mind, and all the while he's braiding her hair, his breathing warm and steady behind her ear.
She's clutching her knees very tightly when he finally ties the braid off with an old piece of twine and she lets out a relieved sigh when he moves away from her. "Thanks," she manages.
He walks back to where he was sitting, across from her, and offers her a small smile. "You don't act very thankful," he jokes quietly, laying down in the patch of grass. "I've braided your hair countless times, and you haven't returned the favour once."
She smiles too, appreciating the trace of humour. His hair brushes over his eyebrows and curls over his ears, but it isn't anywhere near long enough to braid. "I give you back massages, you ungrateful ass."
"That was once."
She rolls her eyes. "You want another one?"
"I'll hold you to that, for later." And then Bellamy, still lying down, extends one of his arms out in silent invitation.
"Deal," she says with a yawn, and crawls over to him to lie down beside him, her head automatically tucking into his shoulder. After she settles down against him he wraps his arm around her.
It's a nightly thing for them now, to sleep under the stars from which they came. They're blissfully vulnerable here, out in the open, and have yet to be picked off. Clarke isn't really concerned either way. She's here with Bellamy and she wants to be with him until the end, and she wants that end to come with his. Whenever that may be.
When Bellamy wakes, she tells him she wants to leave. He's relieved that she's the one to say it first.
They've laid their people to rest, and there's nothing left for them here. The dropship is now silent where it was once lively, a lifetime ago. It is a graveyard in its own right; the place where everything had started and the point at which, Bellamy thinks, Fate had decided that they were doomed.
He's not sure how long the rest of his life is going to be, but he knows he doesn't want to spend it here. So he asks the question that's left as he stands up, turning his neck from side to side to get the kinks out. "Where are we going to go?"
She stares off into the distance for a moment. He notices most of her hair has been tugged out of her braid overnight, and resists the urge to push it away from her face. "I don't know," she answers, finally looking at him with a calm look in her eyes. "But this time, we're going together. From now on, wherever we go, we go together."
She's sure, he can tell that. He can see it in the set of her jaw, the uptick to the corners of her mouth, and the certainty in her eyes— those riveting eyes; he doesn't think he's ever seen a pair like hers. They are bright, keen with intelligence, and their blueness reminds him of the sea.
He reaches behind him and grabs his jacket off the log he'd thrown it on last night, shaking off any spiders (it's become a habit). "Wherever the hell we want?" he offers dryly. He throws the jacket over his shoulders as he turns back around, quick enough to catch Clarke's eyes lingering on his arms before flicking back to his face.
It confuses him when she looks at him like that. Like she's... attracted to him. Sometimes he thinks he's just imagining it, like wishful thinking. He knows he didn't dream up her blush last night, though.
He hadn't meant to say the thing about kids, in all honesty. It was just a thought. And if he was being completely honest with himself he could see that for them, too. More than anything, a child would give them purpose in their lives again, something they haven't had in so long.
Or maybe he is absolutely fucking crazy, seeing as even just a year ago he'd never even dream that he'd be proposing having kids with Clarke Griffin. Maybe they're both just two very lonely, twisted, and selfish people who would bring a child into a very dark world simply so they would have something to do with their time.
That's probably it.
Meanwhile, Clarke smiles at his terrible joke, and he feels a ridiculous glimmer of pride for making the edges of her mouth curl upwards.
They pack up their meager belongings— it's really not much— and then they're standing at the edge of the clearing, looking back at their handiwork for the last time. The situation should probably have more gravity to it, seeing as this place holds so much meaning to them, but Bellamy doesn't really feel much except vaguely peckish while staring at the broken down thing. Clarke yawns lightly beside him.
Just as he's about to turn and walk into the forest, Clarke says out of the blue, "Should we do the Traveler's blessing?"
Bellamy thinks about it. Those words have made up so much of their heritage on the Ark, it only seems right to repeat it back to their people. "You can do it," he tells her.
She turns back to the scene in front of them. "In peace may you leave this shore," she says clearly. Her voice, and the breeze that stirs lightly about them to ruffle their hair, are the only sounds Bellamy can hear in this moment. "In love, may you find the next. Safe passage on your travels…" she pauses, and Bellamy glances at her to see her brow furrowed. She takes a breath and closes with, "Until we meet again."
Then she bites her lip, looks at him for reassurance. Like, did I do the right thing?
He doesn't even have to ask why she took out the part that she did: until our final journey to the ground. Those words are not needed here.
As they gaze at the dirt mounds that will one day spring forth with flowers, he thinks that perhaps what he and Clarke have done here is even more fitting than they thought, in a macabre sort of way.
He reaches out a hand to bump his palm against Clarke's fingers in a comforting touch. Her eyes still search his expression desperately, but his throat is feeling oddly closed off, so he simply nods.
They leave the dropship behind.
They walk. Time passes. Things are much the same as they were at the dropship: calm, silent, uneventful.
Until they aren't.
It starts when they pass by a river. Honestly, Bellamy knows they shouldn't have stopped, but they did, because Clarke gasped and pointed and said "Look!" And when there was that much excitement in her normally listless voice, Bellamy listened.
"It's that red seaweed stuff," he recalls, watching it float near the riverbank. The same stuff they had to go find at the very beginning, when Jasper was speared by the Grounders, and they managed to save him.
Temporarily, at least.
Clarke's already bending down to roll up her pants around her ankles. "We have to go collect some."
He sighs. He recognizes her tone of voice; she's not to be argued with. He does anyway. "Why?"
"It's useful, Bellamy. What if one of us gets hurt? I hardly ever see this stuff around anymore. This might be our only opportunity to grab some." She starts heading carefully down the riverbank, and with a sigh he follows her down. As they retreat from the treeline, he starts feeling more than a little paranoid. They haven't been out in the open in days; they've been sticking to the forest, and he feels exposed. It's completely stupid, he knows. The Grounders haven't bothered the two of them at all, and it's not like he and Clarke have been trying to hide from them. Quite the opposite, really.
However— and it's not a suspicion he's shared with Clarke just yet— It makes him think they've got something planned. And he's afraid, for Clarke's sake. So he keeps his hand casually resting on the waistband of his jeans over his jacket, ghosting over the gun he's got there. He's got an ax and she's got a knife, but they've only got the one handgun now, and it's only got two rounds.
He hasn't had to use it so far.
He keeps his eyes on Clarke for the most part, but he's also scanning the trees just in case. "You got about enough yet?" He calls dryly.
Clarke is splashing around in the shallow part of the river a little downstream from him, bent over at the waist as she collects large heaps of the slimy looking red plant in her arms. "Ha, ha," he hears her say distantly. "Why don't you be useful and come help me."
He almost smiles to himself at that and begins to walk a little closer to the riverbank, and that's when he sees it.
It's on the other side of the river, and farther downstream; closer to Clarke's side than him.
He thinks his eyes might be deceiving him for a moment, which is why he doesn't immediately shout a warning to Clarke. Hallucinogenic nuts are really the only thing he can think of to explain the giant gorilla crouching silently in the opposite treeline.
He's actually surprised he didn't see it before, but it's camouflaged pretty well. It's darkly coloured with keen, intelligent eyes and looks a lot more intimidating than any picture he'd seen in his Earth Skills textbooks.
It's also a hell of a lot bigger.
For the time being it appears to be occupied, bent over something it's eating that Bellamy can't see.
"Clarke," he says, softly. He doesn't want to scare it. Maybe it doesn't even know they're there.
Clarke doesn't have such reservations. "What?" She calls irritably, splashing around in the river with abandon. He winces. Every loud slosh feels like it's cutting a year off his life.
His hand travels under his jacket and grips the metal of the gun tightly now. "Don't panic," he warns her evenly, "but look to your one o'clock."
She turns her head towards him at his tone of voice, and when she sees the look on his face she turns her head to where he's directed her.
He's looking at the back of her head, but he can see the way her back tenses when she spots it, and he hears her sharp intake of breath and her murmured curse.
He takes his gun out of the holster, taking a step towards her. "Clarke, just—"
She throws a hand out in his direction. "Don't come any closer." She bends down to grab another piece of seaweed and— god, she's trying to kill him early, isn't she?
"Clarke," he hisses, now rooted to the spot at her direction. "That's enough with the fucking seaweed."
"Just this last piece, then we go," she promises. "It'll be good to have a lot of it—"
"All the seaweed in the world isn't going to help you if that thing rips your arm off," he says through gritted teeth. "Leave it."
She looks to be debating it, and that's when the monstrosity looks up and sees them.
Bellamy abandons pretense and points the gun at the thing, clicking off the safety.
There's a good three seconds of silence, and then the gorilla roars.
It's loud, and fucking scary as hell, and the hairs on the back of Bellamy's neck are standing up. "Clarke," he shouts now, because that roar didn't exactly sound friendly, and neither does the way the gorilla is rising to full height.
Clarke takes a step back, trips over something under the water, and splashes backwards. The seaweed tumbles out of her hands and scatters around her in ripples.
The gorilla charges— no, it leaps straight across the river. Straight at Clarke, who's still in the shallow waters of the river. She's backing out now, running up the riverbank eyes wide with fear, but he can tell, the thing is too close and she's not going to make it—
His heart seizes. No. No.
He fires the gun as the gorilla lunges.
The bullet hits, he can see by the way the monster's shoulder is thrown backwards a bit, giving Clarke enough time to take off towards the treeline.
"Go!" He roars at her. She doesn't need to be told twice, in flight mode already as she darts into the trees. Meanwhile, the gorilla has turned its attention towards Bellamy, nostrils flaring with an animalistic anger.
Bellamy turns and runs into the trees, in the opposite direction that Clarke just went in. He hears the monster's heavy footfalls, accelerating as it chases him. It's probably one of the most terrifying sounds he's heard in his life.
One glance behind him and he can actually see the irises of the gorilla as it gains on him.
He runs a little faster.
His heart is leaping as he runs as fast as his legs can carry him— he can't see a damn thing except for brown and green blurs of the underbrush flying underneath his feet, can't hear anything except for his own heart pounding in his ears, and he has absolutely no idea where the hell he's going except away from Clarke—
Something small tackles him around the middle as he's running; unprepared and unbalanced, he falls sideways, taking his attacker with him.
They roll several feet through the forest from their combined momentum and then there's a slope— of course there's a fucking slope— and then they're tumbling, an ungainly mess of limbs down a steep incline. Bellamy doesn't know what's up and what's down for several painful, disorienting seconds, but he sees a flash of blonde hair before they finally come disentangled and continue rolling separately and Bellamy finally gets enough of his bearings to see that they're at the edge of a cliff.
They're just pitching over the edge, and he can't see where the cliff leads, but he has just enough presence of mind to grab Clarke— whatever of her he can grab before she topples to her death, which turns out to be her elbow— and with his other hand scrabble for purchase against the cliff's edge.
Then, finally: a second of silence, and they are motionless.
Bellamy finally has the time to truly catalogue their position right now: His right hand is clutching a jagged rock jutting out of the cliff face, and his left hand is in the opposite direction, holding onto Clarke's elbow. They are dangling off the cliff, anchored only by Bellamy's hand. The cliff's edge is shaped outwards from the face in such a way that their feet are too far away from any footholds to help them back up. In effect, they are dangling into the sky.
He glances down to make sure she's okay. Her eyes are wide as saucers, and there's a scrape across her cheek, and her hair is all over the place, but other than that she seems fine for now. And that's all he can ask for.
Bellamy tries not to focus on the fact that the trees down in the valley below look like pinpricks and instead turns his senses towards the immediate danger.
Bellamy can hear the great beast just beyond the cliffside, sniffing around and shifting on its feet. Neither Bellamy or Clarke dare utter a word to each other, but he looks down at her and she looks up at him with fright etched into her features. He's sure he looks the same. And he holds on tighter, ears straining for more information. For several agonizing seconds they stare at each other and listen to the monster's footsteps as it wanders around where Bellamy and Clarke were rolling down just moments ago. Bellamy's wrist begins to ache from so tightly holding on to the rock face, and he can feel sweat dripping off his nose from the exertion of it.
Then finally— finally— after a good minute, he hears hear the massive gorilla snort and amble back into the trees. It's footsteps fade into the undergrowth, the sounds of it stepping on branches echoing further from a distance.
He holds his breath for another half a minute, until he can't hear a thing except for birds chirping merrily in the distance and he's certain the monster is gone. His arms are shaking with effort now— he experimentally tries to lift himself up. It's not happening. Clarke is heavy on his other arm, and his hand that is anchoring them both to life is barely clinging on as it is. He's being split in two different directions, and the strain on his chest is only too happy to remind him of it. He allows himself a deep breath before he turns his attention to the girl he's clinging to, feeling frustration welling up in his veins.
"Clarke, what the hell?" If she hadn't tackled him, he might've been able to draw the monster over the cliff instead. Instead, they're now stuck in this situation.
"You didn't see it," she retorts between shallow breaths. "It was almost on you, Bellamy. It was about to take your head off. I yelled at you to duck but you didn't hear me."
He breathes deeply through his nose, trying to calm himself. "Always the goddamn hero," he bites out.
Clarke mutters something about the pot calling the kettle black and tries to grab his arm with her other hand. It doesn't work— the way she heaves herself up causes his sweaty fingers to lose their grip and she starts to slide away from him.
She makes a squeaking sound before he finally gets a grip on her again, but now he's grabbing onto her wrist and she's more than ever dangling precariously. It hurts.
She must see the look on his face, the way he's scrambling to figure out a way to get them out of this. "It's okay," she says quietly. "You can let go of me. It's okay."
He grits his teeth and closes his eyes, blinking back sweat. She keeps talking.
His hard grip on her wrist must be agonizing her but she sounds perfectly calm. "Bellamy, it's okay. You can't pull both of us up. One of us should walk away today." Her voice is laden with fatigue and acceptance. And that's what gets him.
His eyes fly open, weariness forgotten as he glares down at her. How dare she? How dare she say that? If anything, his grip on her wrist tightens, and he bites out at her, "You through?"
She blinks from below at this, as if she's not been expecting it. It infuriates him.
He grinds his teeth together with new resolve. "Because that's not happening." She has the gall to say that to him? As if he could just let go of her, and up and walk away. As if his life is worth anything without her by his side. It's nothing. The single reason he hasn't strung himself up with the noose still sitting on the floor of the dropship is because there is still one person he hasn't failed yet. Still one other person who hasn't made their final journey into the ground. And it's her.
A fucking radioactive monkey isn't going to be the end of Clarke Griffin. Not after everything. Not if he can help it.
His desperation translates into frustration that they've even found themselves in this stupid situation. He grinds his teeth together and squeezes his eyes shut, and he channels that rage at the world into his arm.
He starts lifting Clarke with his one hand, grasping her wrist, and it hurts it hurts it hurts. Involuntarily, he opens his mouth and lets his pain out through his vocal cords, by screaming it.
His yell echoes across the canyon, silencing all other noise.
"Bellamy, don't," Clarke says rather sadly from below. He ignores her.
Somehow, the yelling is cathartic; it gives him the strength to lift her just high enough with his one forearm that she can grasp onto his jacket with her other hand and he can finally let go of her wrist. Then she's reaching out as well, scrabbling for purchase on the cliff edge.
She misses the first few tries, and his arms tremble from keeping them both up. The rock he's been holding onto for the past few minutes shifts in its place embedded in the wall. Great, just what they need— less time.
The rock shifts again, and his heart leaps in terror— They are about to plunge to their deaths.
But then Clarke gets a hold of the edge with her hand, solid enough that Bellamy lets go of her other one so she can grab the ledge with both hands. She hoists herself up, shakily; it takes her a few tries, and in between each one he leans in her direction so she can sit against his shoulder to support herself.
She huffs in exhaustion, leaning her head against her arm. "Bellamy, I can't."
"You can do it," he encourages. She's still sitting on his shoulder, so he nudges her thigh with his nose. "Clarke, I know you can." She takes a deep breath upon his utterance of her name and lifts herself, and this time she makes it, her forearms trembling. He watches with relief. She's kneeling on solid ground, out of harm's way finally. He really couldn't be happier right now.
"Your turn," Clarke announces after only a moment of rest, stretching a hand down to him now. He's holding onto the ledge with both hands and now that the initial adrenaline is wearing off he's so tired, this close to just letting go. His arms feel like lead, especially the one that lifted her up. She must see that weariness in his expression because she frowns fiercely and grabs his arm. "Come on," She says sternly, pulling. "I need you too, Bellamy."
It's the callback to the beginning that gives him the incentive to breathe deeply and pull himself up, and together, finally, they manage to hoist him onto solid ground as well.
Neither of them can seem to stand, so he just grabs onto her around her waist and pulls her close. She automatically winds her arms into his jacket to hug him. There's a minute where they just breathe, and Clarke says in a forlorn sort of way, "I lost all the seaweed."
He laughs, and the sound is loud and almost harsh because he's dizzy with relief. On impulse he takes her face in his hands and presses a hard kiss to her forehead. It's an action more for him than for her, to feel her warm skin against his lips and reassure himself that she's alive, she's here, he's not alone.
But maybe it reassures her too, if the way she leans into it even when he tries to move his face away is any indication.
"Clarke, who cares. You survived a giant gorilla," he says against her skin.
Her shoulders shake in a silent laugh. "I've actually seen it before," she says, and he can hear the smile in her voice.
He pulls away briefly to look her in the eye. She's not joking, he can see that. "What?"
She shakes her head and leans her face back into his neck. "It's a long story."
Bellamy can tell she doesn't want to talk about it, which is fair. There's a lot of things they don't like to talk about. That's okay with him; he's content to just be here with her, sharing a companionable silence.
A sudden wailing sound cuts through the air, and both of them startle.
Clarke lifts her head and pushes away from him, glancing towards the sound. "What was that?" It sounds like it's coming from nearby.
The sound starts up again.
Bellamy's already rising, one hand automatically going to his gun but not pulling it out because… the sound is familiar.
Clarke comes to the realization at the same time he does. "Oh my god."
"It's a baby," Bellamy confirms. Now that he's connected the dots, he'd recognize the sound anywhere. Although, this baby's crying sounds a little lower pitched, a little less throaty, than Octavia's ever did.
He banishes the thought immediately from his mind and starts slowly walking forward. Clarke is doing the same. They've only taken a few steps towards the treeline when Clarke points. "Look!"
He turns his head to the left where she's pointing, and he sees it as well. There's something lying near the treeline.
Clarke starts for it immediately, but Bellamy puts a hand out to stop her. "It might be a trap," he warns.
Clarke makes a face at him. "Do we really care? There's a child over there, Bellamy." She brushes off his hand and continues up the slope.
He watches her go for a moment before following with a sigh.
When he catches up to her, Clarke is kneeling over the bloodied body of a Grounder woman face-up in the dirt, nearly hidden away by the tall grasses around them. She doesn't look like a warrior, Bellamy thinks; she doesn't have the armor, or the weapons save for a knife strapped to her hip. The basket lying upturned beside her, with herbs spilling onto the dirt, just confirms that. Bellamy turns his eyes to the body itself— Her eyes are open and unseeing, and there's a long slash down the middle of her tunic, so deep that Bellamy sees parts of the human anatomy that he's only ever heard Clarke talk about. As it is, he nearly gags at the sight. Clarke doesn't seem to have the same reservations.
"Be careful," he hisses, but Clarke's already got her bare hands on the Grounder's shoulder, turning her sideways. And the wailing becomes crystal clear: the Grounder's got a child strapped to her back in a sling.
The child looks to be a boy, but it's hard to tell— he has dark brown hair and green eyes and that's all Bellamy can see from under all the wraps, it's been swaddled up so thoroughly. "Shit," he mutters, and he forgets his own warnings about traps as he slides the straps of his bag off his shoulder and crouches beside the baby, carefully working the sling off the dead woman's back. Clarke helps him get the thing off. As soon as the sling is free, Bellamy works at the tight cloth knots with his thumbs to free the kid.
"No wonder he's been crying," he tells Clarke. "He's overheating in this thing."
"He can't have been out here long," she says, watching his hands work. "This woman died recently. A few hours ago at most." She turns back to the body and murmurs, "That monster probably did it. It looks like a claw mark, doesn't it?"
Bellamy isn't paying attention because he's finally got the kid free and is lifting him up. He looks to be maybe a year old, maybe a little more than that. Bellamy's not sure; it's been awhile since he's seen a baby. It's swaddled in only a loin cloth and a little necklace around the throat, with a golden-painted metal heart on the threadbare string. Some random Grounder trinket, he guesses.
The baby is still crying loudly, and goddamn it because there's a soft part of Bellamy that just gets absolutely melted by children. "Hey, hey," he says softly, bouncing the little kid gently up and down on his arm. "You're okay. You're okay. Shhh." The baby continues crying, but now he's clutching onto Bellamy's arm like his life depends on it, which, it sort of does.
He looks up, expecting to see Clarke patting down the Grounder's body for supplies they can scrounge, but instead she's sitting back on her heels and watching them with an inscrutable look on her face. Then she blinks, realizing he's staring at her quizzically, and turns towards the grounder, her wavy blonde hair falling over her profile in a curtain. "She's got some useful stuff with her," she tells him as she rifles through the Grounder's pockets, sounding a bit— flustered? "Um— she's got those little bottles of antidotes, we can use those…"
Bellamy swipes the baby's sweaty hair out of his face— it's dark, but straight and thin and extraordinarily soft. He's stroking the fine hairs away from the baby's forehead when he sees the dark tattoo on the side of his face, dancing over the curve of his round jaw and stretching towards his forehead. It's a scattering sort of pattern, and he cocks his head at it. It looks like splotches of black, no obvious image forming from it. It's like an inkblot test.
He voices this last part out loud, and Clarke laughs gently, tucking the supplies she's relieved the Grounder of into her pockets. "Then what do you see?"
"Stars," Bellamy replies immediately, angling the baby's head in Clarke's direction so she can see. To him, the negative space looks like twinkling stars of different sizes and shapes. It's like a painter dipped their brush into the night sky and splashed the galaxy-speckled paint across the right side of the child's face. "Going to psychoanalyze me now?"
She cocks an eyebrow at him playfully. "Stars? There's really nothing to add to that, I think."
Bellamy almost smiles but he's too occupied thinking a little further into the situation they are currently in. "Clarke, what are we gonna do with him?"
She delivers him a sharp look. "You can't be trying to say we should just leave him."
Bellamy throws the obvious deterring fact out there. "He's a Grounder."
"He's a baby Grounder!" She sounds outraged. "What, you think he's going to stab you in your sleep?"
"Look, I'm not saying we should leave him," he retorts. "But listen. Obviously his mom's dead but his dad's gotta be alive somewhere, right?"
She sees where he's going with this, begins nodding her head with a little hesitance. "So what's going to happen when the Grounders come looking for him."
Well, Bellamy knows the answer to that question. The Grounders have a way of twisting literally every possible action the opposing party could make into something they can justify stringing them up and cutting them open for. Bellamy's certain he and Clarke would be painted into child kidnappers who have regular tea with the Devil. Combining that with the fact that, well, he and Clarke aren't exactly friends to the Grounders to begin with, and he's left chewing his lip in indecision.
But— his gaze strays back to those large, round green eyes— it's a baby.
"We need to find his people, before they find us," he summarizes his thoughts gravely.
Clarke sighs. "And where the hell are his people, Bellamy?"
Bellamy is silent for a moment. Considering how the coalitions between clans are just a feeble memory of the anarchy that has succeeded them, he has no idea how to answer that question. In any case, it's not the time to be mulling over that right now. He stands, gesturing for Clarke to do the same. They need to get out of here; they've been sitting in the open for far too long, and all the commotion is bound to bring curious eyes to the area at some point. They're pressing their luck.
The kid starts crying as soon as they've taken not ten steps away from his mother, and no amount of rocking seems to do him any good.
Clarke can see Bellamy getting more and more antsy the more the baby wails in his arms, so after a few minutes she reaches out to take him instead. "Let me try."
"You going to convince him you're his mom?" He says sarcastically as he passes the baby off, scanning the treetops with a keen eye. He's been in a bit of a mood ever since they picked the child up.
"Babies are more likely to be afraid of strangers who are male rather than strangers who are female," Clarke informs him. "It's an evolutionary mechanism, since women tend to be caretakers and men tend—"
"To kill them," Bellamy finishes tersely. Clarke notices he's got his hand resting rather firmly on where she knows his gun is hidden as he continues looking around their surroundings. "If the child isn't theirs."
"Right," Clarke says, wondering why she's surprised he understands this because he's proven time and time again to be much smarter than he's been given credit for. "All we have to do is convince him that you're not going to kill him."
"Who says I'm not?" Bellamy mutters darkly, as the kid wails a particularly loud cry. Clarke's not worried. Bellamy's all bark.
Just when she's going to reply, a pungent scent invades her nostrils, so strong she almost drops the child.
She stops in her tracks, though, so Bellamy wheels around wildly, his gun already out. "What?" He says, completely alert. "What do you see?"
She almost laughs. He thinks she's seen Grounders or some other threat, but in reality… "Bellamy, he's crying because he's— well—" She scrunches up her face and holds the baby up in front of her by his armpits. Now that she's paying attention, she notices the cloth swaddled around his bottom is bulging out. "He needs a diaper change, so to speak."
Bellamy's expression is priceless.
It takes them a while to find a source of water, and in the meantime, Clarke braves holding on to the baby for the hour or two it takes— in exchange for Bellamy promising to clean him up when they get to the river.
"And you can take a bath in the meantime," he says to her when they get to the lake. It's a nice location, cozy, not out in the open, with a rock wall on one side of it— one less side to keep eyes on— and what looks to be waist-deep water.
"Oh, no, it's fine," she tries to say, but he waves her off.
"We'll take turns if that makes you feel better." When she doesn't move, he says, "For god's sake, Clarke, wash your hair. I can't even see the colour right now."
She throws her bag at his face for that, and he chuckles a bit as he sits at the water's edge, folding his long legs beneath him and starting to unwind the baby's loincloth.
She stands a few steps behind him and strips, shoving her jeans and panties down her legs in one tug and her threadbare shirt and bra pulled over her head in the next. Then she walks forward and dips her toes into the water.
Bellamy doesn't even look up. They've seen each other naked before—that particular line was crossed back when they were both co-leading a group of teenagers in a dropship. When there's only one source of water nearby for washing, everyone kind of gets used to seeing everyone else in the nude.
(Didn't mean it didn't cause problems— They were horny teenagers, after all. She distantly remembers Bellamy viciously chewing out a group of boys who'd been ogling a few girls out for an afternoon swim.)
But she and Bellamy had always bathed at different times, alternating so that one of them was always at camp. The one time it happened, she remembers being at the stream and thinking she was alone, but she realized after she'd undressed and dipped her toes in the water that he was here, already in the water, too. She even remembers what he said to her.
"You don't have anything I haven't seen before, Princess," he'd said good-naturedly when he saw her scramble to cover herself. His gaze wasn't lecherous at all though, matter-of-fact more than anything.
She'd glared at him, desperately trying to fight off a blush.
"Worried about a power imbalance?" he'd asked in a playful manner, and then without warning he'd planted his dripping arms on the rocks and hoisted himself out of the water in one push. Clarke fought hard to keep her jaw from dropping.
"Consider the playing field leveled," he'd said with a wink before he bent down to grab his clothes and stalk off into the dark.
She remembers thinking he was such an arrogant ass. But then again she also remembers getting herself off sometime later with the thought of his lean, tan body rising out of the water. So she probably has no room to talk.
Shaking off the memories, Clarke dips her toes gingerly into the water, testing it— it's cool, but not unbearable. She looks down at Bellamy, who's scrubbing at the baby's soiled wraps. "Soap," she says.
He holds his hand up to offer it to her, eyes fixated rather studiously on the baby. But when her fingers brush against his palm, his eyes rise almost automatically to meet her eyes, and then quickly back down.
She thinks he may be… blushing?
Probably not, she decides. The colour of his skin makes it hard to tell.
Clarke wades into the creek, shivering slightly as her body slowly gets submerged until she's at waist level, and tries to erase thoughts of Bellamy from her mind as she scrubs at her hair and shoulders with the little nub of homemade soap they have left. Behind her, she can hear Bellamy's quiet, low rumble as he presumably talks to the little Grounder. She can't make out any words from where she is, though.
He tries so hard to act like he doesn't care, but she sees the way his gaze softens when he looks at the child. She doesn't think he can help it. He's just good with kids; she thinks it's been a product of his upbringing.
She hears the baby babbling distantly, and Bellamy's voice again. It's deep and delicious in tone, and somehow it always has the power to loosen her up at the core. God, that voice would sound so good in bed.
She banishes the wild thought immediately from her mind, but it's too late— it's already had an effect. And it doesn't really help when she's standing naked, and has to forcibly stop herself from rubbing her thighs together.
She knows she shouldn't even be thinking this, but— it's not like this would be the first time, she's rather ashamed to admit. Bellamy, he's— objectively— very attractive. And when he's playing with children, it's… doubly so. Seeing him interact with a child again, his protectiveness emerging for someone other than her, has a strange effect on Clarke. The sweet ache she's trying to squelch only starts to pulse again, slowly, agonizingly. She knows, logically, that this is just another evolutionary mechanism. She's supposed to be turned on my men being caretakers, because millions of years ago that was kind of what was needed in a mate. Children benefited from a caring father.
Except, she reminds herself firmly, she has no plans of making Bellamy a father.
His words back at the dropship suddenly echo through her brain.
We don't have to be.
She shakes the thought out of her mind. She's going a little crazy, she thinks. This isn't a world she wants to bring a child into, so why does it feel like she's beginning to seriously consider it? And with Bellamy? That would just be fraught with complications. So no, it's not happening.
To distract herself from the sudden and unwelcome onslaught of feelings, she tries to scrub at her hair with the soap, but the arm that was clutching onto Bellamy's for dear life earlier in the day is sore as hell, and she finds herself barely even being able to lift it. The whole ordeal nearly wrenched it out of its socket. And both arms have already been thoroughly fatigued from carrying the baby around all day.
She tilts her head, trying to get a better angle to reach her hair, but to no avail. After a few minutes of struggling, she's almost resigned herself to grungy hair when Bellamy calls out, "Let me do it."
Her cheeks burn a little bit, knowing he's been watching her struggle. "It's fine," she replies eventually, turning her face just a bit so he can see her small smile of reassurance. He's still sitting on the shore with his pants rolled up, and the baby is fast asleep in his arms. She turns away again, sinking lower into the water.
He doesn't reply, and she thinks that's the end of it with a little bit of disappointment. But after a moment she hears loud sloshing coming from his direction; when she turns her head again the first thing she sees is the baby swaddled up and nestled in a nest of Bellamy's shirt on the shore, and then the vision is blocked by his body as he reaches her.
He's right behind her, chest radiating with heat. She turns back around fast to hide her cheeks flushing with heat. One of his hands takes her left elbow, and the other gently pries the soap from her right hand. "Who knows when we're going to be able to wash our hair again," he says, and all she can do is nod mutely. "Let's do it right."
Bellamy resumes washing her hair, and she closes her eyes and tilts her head back at his soothing ministrations. "You're good at this hair stuff," she jokes weakly, in part trying to take her mind off the burning that has not yet receded from her lower belly.
He sweeps her hair back, fingers brushing against her shoulder blades. "I'd be better if we had shampoo." She can hear the smile.
Clarke sighs, looking down at her hands. It's a quiet joke, but she doesn't take it that way. "We really need to learn how to make better soap." Actually, they need to learn how to make better everything. For most of their lives on the ground, they've been leaders, delegating out these smaller, less existential tasks to others. Clarke thinks she took it all for granted.
And now they're alone, the only ones left… no, Clarke knows she took it all for granted.
Bellamy twists her hair into a rope, wringing it out. He doesn't reply for a long time, but when he speaks he sounds vaguely surprised. "You want to make more soap?"
"Well, yeah," she says, confused. "So our hair doesn't smell, you know. And also so we can clean the baby's clothes properly."
He pauses in working her hair through again, and now Clarke realizes why.
After everything that's happened, neither of them have given any indication to the other that they really care to live anymore. All they've done is exist, day to day. They've been careless with their time, unworried about the uncertainties of the future. And now, here Clarke is, caring about otherwise inconsequential things, talking about how they need soap to clean things and clean the baby they've taken responsibility for. She's talking about making plans for a future.
She realizes after it's too late to take it back— and she's not sure she wants to— what she is really asking him: Do you want to try again?
"Yeah," he says quietly, finally. His hands resume massaging her scalp. "Yeah, we should do that."
She returns the favour and washes his hair after he's done, because it doesn't really hurt her arm to do so, and she really only stops running her hands through his curls when the baby wakes up and starts crying.
They make their way back up to the shore to get dressed. They turn their backs to each other and tug their underclothes on, and then they wash their old clothes, which are stiff with dirt and grime and God knows what else.
While Bellamy washes his blue shirt, the Grounder baby crawls around his lap. Clarke can't help but watch the spectacle out of the corner of her eye. Bellamy looks to be ignoring it until the baby slaps hard at his chest. He pauses and looks down, a small grin crossing his features. The baby tries to crawl up his chest now, reaching for Bellamy's nose, but he easily swats the little fingers out of the way. "Don't even try it," she hears him say, and then he playfully tweaks the baby's nose instead.
He glances up at her, and although she works to keep her expression neutral she's suddenly self-conscious, like maybe he can see right through her indifference. Like he knows she suddenly can't stop thinking about what he said at the dropship and that she's now unable to get rid of the thought of climbing him like a tree.
Their gazes are locked for a millisecond before the baby yawns into Bellamy's shoulder and he looks back down.
"We'll get you home, Junior," Bellamy promises the little kid quietly.
"Junior?" Clarke repeats, coming closer. "That's… cute."
She's amused and it shows; he gives her a look. "I'm open to other suggestions." He turns back to Junior. "We're going to get you home."
Clarke crawls up behind Bellamy, peeking over his shoulder to look at Junior's face as well. "As fast as we can," she agrees. "We'll get you home."
That night when they camp out near a cave, Bellamy starts a fire as usual, but it's small, not drawing attention to itself with a lot of smoke. Clarke diligently rips apart pieces of fish and feeds them to Junior, finding out that he's got some very sharp incisors. She has to chastise him a few times for gnawing on her fingers, and he seems to understand her sharp "No," if his little pout is anything to go by. Bellamy watches them from across the fire, one hand resting perpetually on his hip where his gun is.
They're careful with themselves now. Something's changed.
That night they go to sleep curled around each other as always; but this time, the baby in between them.
In the morning, while Clarke is heating water over their fire, Bellamy suddenly reaches out and grabs her hand.
She gives him an odd look, but he's looking down at her wrist, turning it so her palm is facing up. And that's when Clarke sees.
There are dark blue bruises blooming on her arm, in rough finger shaped patterns. It's from where he pulled her up from the cliff, having clung to her too tightly. Her breath catches at the sight. She hadn't even realized the bruises were there; they don't hurt at all.
He runs his thumb over the marks, a touch so gentle that she can hardly feel it, yet it still zings up her spine and makes her feel a little bit lightheaded.
(She may be a little bit touch-starved. A little bit.)
He lets out a breath, the air whooshing over her skin and raising goosebumps. "I'm sorry." His words are heavy, laden with bitterness, like he's blaming himself for something monstrous.
And that's so… that's so wrong to her that she immediately scrambles to correct him. "Bellamy." She reaches out with her other hand and covers his. "They don't even hurt, and besides, they're there because you saved me. I'm happy to get those kinds of bruises." She offers him a small smile, but he's still not looking at her.
His jaw works. "My mother used to come back home with bruises like this."
Bellamy doesn't talk about his mom a lot, but Clarke knows what his mother did to protect him and Octavia. "This isn't the same thing," she tells him. "You know that. You weren't trying to hurt me. It's okay. They're not bad, they're good," she tells him, running her fingers over his knuckles in what she hopes is a soothing way. She needs him to know she doesn't see them as bruises— no, they are brilliant nebulas softly painted on her skin, a beautiful reminder that there will always be one person who has her back.
He's still not looking at her, still eying the bruises Clarke has now covered with her hand, something haunted in his eyes. When he's like that, she can tell he's staring into an abyss, caught up in memories. And it's up to her to pull him away.
It's what he's done for her countless times. It's what they do for each other. It's what they've always done, and now that they are all that are left, it's more important than ever.
"Bellamy," she tries again, leaning forward until their noses are almost touching to try to get him to look at her. "It's okay. I know you didn't mean to bruise me."
After a moment, some tension seems to relieve itself from his shoulders, and he lifts her wrist the miniscule distance to his mouth to press a soft kiss to her pulse point. "Well, I'm still sorry."
She wonders if he can feel her heart skipping a beat under his lips.
Junior makes a babbling sound, jarring them both out of the moment.
Things change when, a day later, they come across a house.
They round a corner, and there, in the middle of seemingly nowhere, is a huge, sprawling white house— no, a mansion—, with gleaming pillars and huge windows and three floors, and everything else Clarke's seen in the old movies on the Ark.
For all the tests of time it must have withstood, it doesn't look very dilapidated. The pristine white has faded, perhaps, and the lawn is rather wild and long, but it has charm. There's a garage attached to the house that has peeling paint where she can see the wood peeking out. Circumventing the property is a stretch of road that goes all the way around it, almost serving to wall off the property from the outside. One end of the road stretches past the house, far, far, far into the distance of the flat grassland they have found themselves in, and Clarke strains her eyes but still can't see where that road might end.
"It's a highway," Bellamy says with wonder. "Look, Junior, it's a highway." Junior, fast asleep in his sling, pays him no mind.
Clarke's about to wonder how he knows that, but then she looks up and sees the sign. It's a narrow rectangle that stands on a metal pole, green with a white border and faded letters. Clarke knows enough about life Before to infer those faded letters spell out Highway, though she can't make out the number.
"How is it still here?" She wonders aloud. The war should have destroyed everything, but here is this beautiful house in the middle of nowhere, looking almost untouched and surrounded by road. The highway itself is in relatively good condition; but the concrete is worn, riddled with holes, and gnarled with the strength of roots and grasses that have fought their way through it.
She doesn't really expect Bellamy to answer, but he does, and his voice is dark. "It must be one of ALIE's old houses."
The mention of something from their past life— from forever ago— is almost like a cold bucket of water tossed over her head. Her heart beats a little faster, her ears prick up, and she has to work to steady her breath.
He's still staring out at the house. "Jaha told us about the mansion that he found when he went looking for the City of Light. And that ALIE had more. She was maintaining this one, too."
Not anymore, Clarke thinks grimly, shuddering internally at the memory of the lengths they had gone to to shut the AI down.
"The house is still here," is what she says out loud, trying to sound unaffected.
He glances at her, and she thinks he knows just how affected she is by all of this, probably because he is too. "What if someone else lives there now?"
It's a realistic assumption, in most cases anyway. Clarke has her own ideas. "Would they, though?" she asks. "The AI that destroyed the world lived in there. I have a feeling that might tick a few boxes on their superstition checklist."
She sees a smile playing on the corners of his mouth at her retort. "You want to go check it out?"
Not really, she thinks. Superstition might be a big thing for Grounders, but deep down she also feels that unease stirring in her own stomach as well. "There might be supplies," she reasons. "Clothes. Soap. Maybe even food."
"Okay," he says after a moment, recognizing the logic in this. It's worth checking out.
They ever so cautiously creep out into the open and step onto the highway. After so much walking over soft, earthly terrain, stepping onto concrete feels strange, jarring on her knees and uncomfortable on the soles of her worn sneakers.
They cross over the asphalt and make their way through the grassy courtyard. The long weeds brush at her knees, and grasshoppers leap out of their way as they go.
The courtyard is so huge that it takes a good minute to actually get to the entrance of the house. Its rich mahogany and double-doored, with decorated, fogged glass so they can't make out anything within. They pause at the door, and Clarke feels her heart rate kick up because even though she knows logically that ALIE is gone, it doesn't mean being here, in the ghost of ALIE's heart, doesn't leave her severely uncomfortable.
Then Bellamy takes a shaky breath, puts his hands over the door knobs, and twists.
He has to push rather hard before the doors start to open, and the hinges screech with rust when he does. It's loud enough to make her anxious, but once he's pushed them open enough for them to step in, everything seems too quiet.
Clarke peers inside cautiously.
Shielded from nature, the inside of the house almost looks untouched. It's all marble floors and salmon pink walls and New Age paintings hung on the walls of a corridor which stretches the length of ten dropships.
It's… astounding. She's never seen anything quite like it.
The only sounds she hears are their dazed breathing, and the soft touch of their feet to the floor, and the distant squawking of a crow somewhere outside.
There's even a chandelier on the ceiling, Clarke notes somewhere in between marvelling at all the other luxury she's never see before.
In the middle of the corridor, they stop just to take it all in, and Clarke almost feels rooted to the spot.
Junior stirs in his sling, whining and reaching out his little arms, and Bellamy almost without paying attention pulls the baby out and set him on the floor to crawl as he pleases, without taking his own eyes off the splendor in front of them.
Clarke finally voices her thoughts. "Wow."
"Wow," he repeats.
Somehow, the trepidation over ALIE fades. Clarke thinks it has something to do with the innumerable spices and the Kraft Dinner boxes she finds in a cupboard in the kitchen; or maybe the silk sheets on the bed in the master bedroom, or the beautiful, sequin lined princess dress she finds in a closet, or the crib in the corner of that closet.
Bellamy, for his part, is fascinated with the huge wall of books they find in the study, and he spends a good ten minutes just running his finger over the spines before they move on. They find soap in the bathroom— Bellamy waves it at her triumphantly and she laughs— and she finds a stock of pads on the shelf behind the mirror, which she's already looking forward to using the next time she gets one of her very irregular periods, instead of the same rags over and over again. And they're both awed when they turn the tap and there's running water— ice cold, of course, but still.
And then they go downstairs and discover a den where there's a power generator that Bellamy tries winding up and when he does, the TV across from the couch blinks to life for a few seconds, which surprises both of them so much they stumble backwards and fall over each other onto the couch.
There's another door, a simple one, that leads into the garage; and she can see the youthful giddiness that passes over Bellamy's face when he registers the sports car, gleaming and slickly black, that lies there. Although, his excitement fades considerably when he pops open the hood and there's nothing there. It's just a shell.
But then Clarke points out the motorcycle sitting in the back, and he lights up all over again.
While he's trying to turn it on— it doesn't seem to be working, although it appears to have all the parts— Clarke finds two bottles of wine hiding in a crate, and she presents them to Bellamy with a silly grin on her face.
She can't take it anymore, keeping this feeling of giddiness inside her chest. "God," she marvels, hitching Junior higher onto her hip. "I know I said we should just check for supplies but can we stay here? Just for a little while?"
He laughs a little at that, straightening up from where he was examining the motorcycle. "I thought you'd never ask."
"Just a little while," she reassures. She's not sure who she's trying to convince. He just nods and echoes her.
"Yeah. Just a little while."
Life is… truly strange, in a wonderful sort of way, for the next little while. They rather quickly fall into a routine; Bellamy still hunts and Clarke still forages for fresh food (they can't live off just boxed macaroni), but in the evenings they sit with Junior in the living room and they relax, or Bellamy cracks open a book, or Clarke a sketchbook, and it's— Clarke's not going to lie to herself, it's nice.
The first time they think they've found Junior's people, it goes like this:
It's a few days later, and Clarke is picking grasses from the top of a hill to add to the soup. Bellamy's with her, thanks to his newfound vow to stick by her side when she goes out foraging, and Junior is tearing up weeds from the ground in handfuls, making babbling sounds.
Bellamy is keeping watch, apparently, because while she's kneeling in the long grasses she feels his hand on her shoulder. "Clarke."
She instantly reads his tone and glances up, seeing that he's looking somewhere
They're at the top of a hill, where Clarke has been picking edible grasses for soup with Junior strapped to her back. Bellamy's holding their bags and keeping watch, which is why he's the one to notice first, grabbing her shoulder. "Clarke. Stay down."
She looks up at him. He's sinking to his knees as he says this, nodding to somewhere in the distance. She follows his gaze.
There is a man down by the treeline.
This isn't incredibly surprising to see, especially since now that they've left the dropship. They're bound to be finding Grounders all over the place. Clarke shrugs and turns back to her task. While they wait for the Grounder to leave, she can at least gather some more grasses.
Junior chooses that moment to tug on Bellamy's pant leg and burble, "Ba-ba!"
He is way too pleased with himself. It feels so, so damn loud that Clarke winces and Bellamy bows his head as if someone's pointed a foghorn at his ear.
The Grounder turns his head sharply in their direction, and Clarke and Bellamy automatically flatten themselves onto the ground, onto their stomachs. The grasses are long enough to hide them, but the damage is done; he's already heard Junior.
"Now was not a good time for Junior to start learning my name," Bellamy grits out quietly, lips close to Clarke's ear. Clarke doesn't respond, because it's only now she's getting a good look at the Grounder's face tattoos.
They look exactly like Junior's.
"Bellamy," she says quietly. "Look."
He's already looking that way, and by the way his lips part she knows he's realized the same thing she has.
"Look's like Junior's got a dad after all," he mutters.
"But what if that's not what it means?" Clarke whispers back. "What if—"
"Only one way to find out," Bellamy says grimly, and there's no time to say anything else, because the Grounder is now walking in the direction of the hill with a look of suspicion on his face.
Army-crawling is a lot harder than it looks, Clarke thinks, rubbing her grass-stained elbows. They're now watching from the bottom of the hill, and Bellamy's got his gun out and pointed at the Grounder as he reaches the top of the hill where Junior is.
They're both tense, watching the Grounder discover Junior at the top of the hill, and Junior babbling out a nonsensical greeting.
The Grounder man's face immediately transforms into one of astonishment as he realizes what he's stumbled upon. He bends down swiftly, and Bellamy's finger tightens on the gun trigger; but the Grounder is just lifting Junior's metal-heart necklace away from his neck and staring at it with wonder. With recognition, awe, something like happiness in his eyes. His head snaps back up, scanning his surroundings, and Clarke presses herself even flatter against the earth. But there's no need; his gaze is wild, scattered, too emotional to really process things properly. She sees his mouth form the word "Polina?"
The wind does not answer him.
That must have been Junior's mother's name, Clarke thinks, and she's now beginning to feel a strange sinking sensation in her stomach as the Grounder bends down again to the little boy. They've done what they set out to do, which was deliver the baby back to his parent. And now they will be able to move on.
But to what, exactly?
Bellamy blows out a quiet sigh beside her, as if he's thinking the same thing. They've only had Junior a little while, but they've both grown… attached.
Even after everything they've lost, they still became attached. They really haven't learned a thing, Clarke thinks to herself bitterly.
She's just about to half-heartedly suggest to Bellamy they get out of the open when the Grounder very suddenly rips the necklace off Junior's neck, snapping the cord. And then, before Clarke is really able to process this turn of events, the Grounder reaches behind him to unsheathe his sword and raises it above him.
No! Clarke wants to scream, but there's not even time to open her mouth.
Before he can swing, a gunshot rings out, so close to Clarke's ear that she shrieks. The Grounder stumbles, dropping the sword behind him. Then he teeters on his feet and pitches backwards, hitting the grass with a dull thud.
Clarke turns her head to see Bellamy having risen to a crouch, his gun extended, still smoking slightly, and a very murderous look on his face.
Junior, still at the top of the hill, begins to cry.
They don't speak to each other, just scramble up automatically and stagger up the hill as fast as they can. Clarke barely offers a glance at the Grounder; Bellamy put a bullet right between the eyes, with no hesitance at all. And that was the last bullet, she realizes as she watches Bellamy kneel in front of Junior, shielding him from the dead body of the man who tried to kill him. Their last bullet, their last upper hand against the world, and Bellamy used it without any hesitation to protect a little boy they hardly even knew.
"Shh," Bellamy cooes, hoisting Junior into his arms. "Bellamy's here. Don't worry. We're not going to let anyone hurt you." Junior continues to cry.
Clarke snatches the heart necklace from the dead grounder's fingers and turns away to examine it. What was so important about it that the he wanted it? She runs her thumbs over the tarnished surface, and when she feels a small hinge on the side she'd never noticed, she realizes this isn't a just a pretty ornament. It's a locket.
She struggles with it for a moment, not sure how it opens, but when she figures it out it pops in two halves rather easily.
Lockets are supposed to hold photos, but this one has a tiny folded square in it. She pulls it free gently, wiggling it minisculely as to avoid tearing it. She unfolds it to find a piece of paper as large as her palm, and an incredibly detailed drawing of two people on it.
Her breath catches. One is a woman, and she's Junior's mother without a doubt. It's clear as day— The artist who drew this was amazing. Clarke might feel a little envious if she wasn't thinking so hard about who the man in the picture must be.
He's got a large, bushy beard, heavy set eyebrows, and a tattoo on his throat that reminds her of the shape of a scythe.
It definitely doesn't look like the dead Grounder.
Bellamy's still soothing Junior, so Clarke comes up behind them and rests her chin on his shoulder. "Bellamy," she says over the baby's wails, holding out her hand. "Look at this. That's his dad, isn't it? Are they both dead and that's why no one's come looking?" She's still so confused.
He's silent for a moment, but when he does answer her he offers no explanation. "Maybe Junior here's just like us," he says softly. "Maybe there isn't anyone left in the world for him." He looks over his shoulder at Clarke, their faces so close that the hair that brushes against his ears tickles her nose.
She nods. "Maybe he's lost like us, and we should all just stick together."
She reaches for his free hand, and he lets her curl her fingers around his large palm. Glancing at Junior, now sniffling quietly against Bellamy's shoulder, she can't help but feel a sense of relief that they didn't lose him today.
They resume their aimless existence together, but now it's with more confidence; it's with a new, permanent companion by their side.
And that makes it feel a lot less aimless, if Clarke's being honest.
— ONE MONTH LATER —
"Okay, your turn," Clarke says.
Bellamy rolls the dice, gets a six. When his game piece gets to the square, he reaches for one of the designated cards. "It's telling me I can either have a baby and earn life points, or don't have a baby and get twenty thousand dollars."
"How are you going to have a baby by yourself?" Clarke giggles, reaching for her glass of soda. "Divide in two?"
He points at his game piece, a little car with two little people sticking out of it. "I've got someone in my life already, Clarke," he says in a mock serious voice. "And we got married. Jesus, pay attention." He drums his fingers against the game board. They're long and thick and calloused, but Clarke knows for a fact that the pads of them are soft with just the right amount of scratch.
She realizes she's rubbing her thighs together subtly and stops herself immediately. That keeps happening and it really needs to stop.
They're sprawled on the carpet of the living room with an old board game in between them. Junior sits playing with his toy cars beside them, occasionally venturing onto the game board and prompting a scolding from both of them. It's a regular night.
"Married, huh? So are you going for the kid, or the money?" She smirks at him, propping her chin up on her hand.
He returns the smile with a slow one of his own. "Money can't help us down on earth— Junior, get off the board, for the last time."
"It could have, a hundred years ago," Clarke muses, picking Junior up by the armpits and depositing him to the side.
"I want the kid," Bellamy says, putting the card to the side.
Clarke's breath catches; he's said this casually enough, but as usual there's a tension there that Clarke is maybe just imagining— but it's there, nonetheless, and it won't go away, not since he first brought it up, all those months ago.
Maybe if they just talk about it, they could get to the other side of this weirdness, she thinks to herself. But she just doesn't know how to bring it up.
Also, she's not sure that talking about it would have the… rational outcome.
"Your loss," she replies, going for light-hearted but failing miserably. She just sounds breathy instead. She thinks he notices, because his eyes flick up curiously.
"Ba-ba!" Junior complains. Clarke takes this opportunity to tear her eyes away from Bellamy since she apparently can't do it on her own, and she freezes when she sees what Junior's doing.
Junior, on the other side of the room, is… walking.
It's just a little step, but he is. He's walking by himself. He's putting one foot in front of the other and Clarke has to clasp her hands over her mouth because oh god he's walking all on his own.
Across from her, she hears Bellamy's short intake of breath.
Junior's brow is furrowed, like he's concentrating, and he wobbles on his two feet.
Clarke finds herself strangely close to tears. "Here, Junior," she croons, scooting forward until she's a foot away from him and extending her arms. "Come to Clarke."
Bellamy glances at her, and damn if there isn't a bit of a competitive glint in his eyes because then crouches too, on the opposite side of Star and holds his arms out as well. "Don't listen to Clarke, Junior. Come to Bellamy."
Junior has already taken a step, a little baby step in Clarke's direction, but upon hearing Bellamy's low voice, he turns and seems to be frozen with indecision.
Clarke wiggles her fingers, trying to make her voice as soothing as possible. "Junior, baby, come over here. Bellamy's just going to talk your ear off about rifles and other boring stuff." She sees Bellamy shoot her a glare and represses a giggle.
"But Clarke will draw you and that's worse," he retorts to Junior, who's still standing in place, wavering, "and she'll make your ears too goddamn big—"
Clarke finds herself laughing despite herself. She's drawn him in the past, many times, but the one time he brings up is when she was just doing half-hearted sketches of him. "You ass, I didn't draw your ears big—"
"Then how do you explain the fact that I looked like that elephant Dumbo—"
Clarke's positively playfully outraged at this, and she's narrowing her eyes at him— there's a smile in his eyes, he's just fucking with her, she knows that— but then the boy's legs teeter and he starts to collapse to the ground, having lost balance.
Clarke's heart skips, and it's completely irrational because it's not like he's going to fall to his death, he's just going to fall to his knees, but she shoots forward to try to catch him. What she doesn't count on is Bellamy doing the same, so they're both darting forward simultaneously.
Bellamy's arms are longer than hers, so he's the one that manages to catch Junior. Meanwhile, Clarke falls forward so that her forehead knocks against Bellamy's in an ungainly sort of way. Junior remains unharmed between them.
Bellamy, lightning fast, hoists Junior out of the way and to the side of them before he can be sandwiched between their bodies. Clarke feels her cheeks flaring up with heat and she leans her head back. But suddenly there's a hand at the back of her neck, holding her still.
She stares at her lap for a moment before raising her eyes to his. His eyes are dark but solemn, the joking twinkle in them fading fast.
The way he looks at her is a little intense sometimes, like he's staring into her soul. It makes her feel a little breathless right now, with his hand cupped around the back of her neck. Junior gurgles happily beside them, blissfully unaware of Clarke's pounding heart and her increasingly shallow breaths.
"Clarke…" Bellamy's voice is nothing but a raspy whisper, like a piece of sandpaper that's sending tingling throughout her body at just her own name falling from his lips…
Her eyes dart down to his mouth and back up to his eyes. She sees it register in his gaze that she looked at his lips, and he releases a shuddering breath.
She feels the fingers of his other hand on her jaw, the touch light and delicate, but so insistently there. She can't ignore the way they feel like they're searing into her flesh. She can't ignore the way she has to swallow when he tilts his head like he's searching for something, and she's definitely not ready when he pulls her close and leans in.
Before their lips can touch, Clarke is jerked backwards by a tiny hand.
Cheeks flushed, she looks back, where Junior is frowning at his lack of attention and tugging on her pretty silk blouse.
"Mama," he whines, and Clarke freezes. She feels Bellamy stiffen.
"Christ," she hears him mutter.
"Junior, I'm not your…" Feeling doubly frazzled, she smooths back her hair and sighs. "Want to go to bed?" she asks the little boy.
He nods, crawling into her lap.
Half an hour later, Junior is peacefully sleeping in the crib and she dallies unnecessarily long watching him so that she doesn't have to go downstairs. She debates not going downstairs at all, and just going to bed. Because she doesn't know how she's supposed to act around Bellamy now that she almost let him kiss her.
God, that was really not supposed to happen.
But then she hears the hardwood downstairs creaking and him call from the base of the spiral staircase, "Clarke?"
"Yeah, I'm coming," she replies back automatically, flexing her fingers and steeling herself.
But when she gets downstairs again, he's cracking open one of their two bottles of wine in the adjoining kitchen with a soft grin on his face. There's no indication of unease on his face at all.
She exhales, glad that they're not talking about it, and tilts her head. "I thought we were saving the wine."
"Junior took his first steps today," he tells her. "If I'm not mistaken, that's considered a special occasion."
She accepts the glass he offers to her. "Or maybe you're just tired of waiting."
"Maybe," he says agreeably. They clink glasses, a wordless toast to what exactly Clarke isn't sure, but it feels like there's something meaningful behind it.
They wander back into the living room to finish their board game while nursing that bottle of wine, and as the evening goes on their laughter only grows louder, and their cheeks more flushed, and she finds herself taking more opportunities to touch him.
He doesn't reach out to kiss her again, and she's not sure whether to be relieved or disappointed.
Both of them are decidedly more than tipsy when they finish the game.
Bellamy collapses onto the couch after his triumphant win, tugging her into his lap. "I won," he says smugly.
Clarke, now straddling his lap, snatches the bottle of wine from his loose grasp and downs the last gulp, throwing her head back to do so and pushing her chest forward. He nuzzles playfully at her collarbone with his nose while she does. Then she wipes her mouth and throws the bottle to the side. "But I got the last of the wine," she retorts, placing her arms on his shoulders. "So who really won here?"
His lazy grin stills and fades away, and he begins watching her sway on his lap in a way that's more than just amusement. "I think I still did." His voice is raspy, scraping its way into her lower belly.
It makes her heart beat a little faster, and she takes a moment to look at him, really look at him. His skin is glows in this lighting, and it contrasts beautifully with the loosely buttoned blue shirt and sleeves rolled up his sinewy forearms. His lips are right there; beautiful and full and shapely and reddened from wine, and she's wanted to taste that scar in his upper lip since forever. So as soon as that thought crosses her mind, she leans forward without care to kiss him. It's just an experiment, a drunk impulse Clarke is powerless to stifle.
The first touch is just as innocent as a kiss between children. It's soft, a butterfly kiss just to test the waters. Just to see what it would feel like.
(It feels like too much.)
After that kiss she only barely lifts her face away, so that her mouth still brushes his lower lip, as if waiting for him to move away, tell her to stop, that it's not the right time, all of those things Clarke would have told him.
And it's not the right time. There's a logical part of her that knows that she shouldn't do this, she shouldn't do this with the one person she has left— but in the end her hands betray her and they rise to the front of his collared shirt, clutching onto the lapels. "Bellamy," she mutters, trying to say— what, she doesn't know, she just wants him to get it, even though she doesn't even know what 'it' is. One of her hands moves nearly feverishly up and down his chest in indecision, relishing in the feel of his lean muscle against her palm; and then over his shoulder and sliding up his neck to grab a fistful of the silky curls at the back of his head. While she's touching him, he remains perfectly still. He lets her hands roam his chest without touching her back at all. But when she yanks slightly at his hair, something appears to snap in him.
He leans in the extra inch and kisses her again, almost bruisingly fast, and it's exactly what she wants from him. He always knows exactly what she wants. His kiss is so forceful it bends her back a bit, but his hands are now at her waist so she doesn't fall backwards. Her hands curl into his hair as he tilts his head, nipping at her lip to make her open up.
She does it automatically, and that's when— oh, goddamn it— his tongue comes into the equation and she's truly a goner. It's uncanny. She shudders involuntarily and bends herself around his body; he sweeps his hand firmly over the curve of her back in an almost massaging motion. And then he surges forward with such force that she's pushed sideways into the cushions.
She wraps her legs properly around his torso and pulls him flush against her heat, and Bellamy groans into her mouth.
Still, he doesn't move much further; he braces himself on one forearm, while his other hand cups her face and all he does is kiss her. He worships her mouth so well that her toes curl and her body aches, but he doesn't go any further. He just steals her breath with rough kisses, tastes her sighs with sweeps of his tongue, and all the while pressing himself only lightly, nearly tauntingly, against the place where she wants his attention the most.
"Bellamy," and his name falls out line a whine from her lips, but she can't help it. She can't help the way he makes her feel, because he's always been the one holding her together but right now she wants him to make her fall apart.
He stills at her wanton utterance of his name, and then pulls back almost entirely, pushing himself up onto his hands so that his weight isn't on her, and looks down at her.
She stares up back at him, confused. They're both breathing fast.
He licks his lips; blinks several times. His pupils are blown wide and Clarke imagines hers look the same. "Clarke… I can't do this."
Clarke arches an eyebrow and lets her gaze travel down to where she can see his erection straining against the material of his jeans. "You sure about that?" She reaches a hand forward to touch him, but with lightning fast reflexes he grabs her wrist and pins it to the couch.
"You're drunk," he says, almost to himself.
Clarke barely registers this. She wriggles out of his grip, grabs the material of her shirtfront, and pulls it of her head in one fell swoop. She hears rather than sees his response; a sharp intake of breath at all the skin she's exposed.
She shakes her hair free from static and tosses her shirt to the side. His eyes are glued to her breasts, and she smirks. The lacy pink bra she found in the closet upstairs came to some functional use, after all. "You're drunk too," she tells him, running a finger over his bicep. "You drank as much as me. We're even."
He sounds almost amused at this logic. "I'm not sure that's how this works."
She's quickly losing patience with his gentleman act. "Bellamy, stop overthinking it and fuck me."
He stares at her for a long moment, gaze flicking to her lips momentarily, to her breasts again, and then slowly back to her face. "I'll fuck you," he agrees in a dark sort of voice, one that makes her stomach flip until he continues his sentence, "in the morning, if you still want it then."
This is a true outrage, Clarke thinks to herself. Because there's a voice of reason at the back of her head that knows she might not want it in the morning, but Clarke is in the now and she's a little tipsy, maybe, and yeah, maybe a little bit impulsive, but he's just so delicious and wonderful and such a good kisser. God, so good. She wants to know what else he can do with that mouth.
She voices that thought, and she feels his body tense. He squeezes his eyes shut like he's fighting for control, and in the meantime she pouts and strokes his shoulder absentmindedly.
That doesn't help the outcome she's looking for at all; instead, he suddenly reaches over her head and picks up her shirt from where she's flung it on the armrest.
She sighs loudly. "Bellamy—"
"Please don't talk right now," he says. His voice is strained.
She debates talking anyway. He's at the breaking point of his control, and she's sure she could push him over the edge.
(Later, she'll be thankful for the rational part of her brain that tells her not to push it.)
So she lets him wrap his arms around her waist and prop her to sit upright against the cushions, and bows her head when he presents the shirt to her, so he can fit her head through the hole and poke her arms through the sleeves like she's a small child. This is rather embarrassing, she thinks to herself. The one time she took off her shirt just for him, and he forces her to put it back on. She doesn't think she's ever had to deal with that problem before.
She must look a bit chagrined as well, because after he's done straightening her shirt he glances up to her eyes and his expression softens. He leans in and kisses her, a soft touch. "In the morning," he says again.
"Promise?" Her voice sounds delicate, like glass.
He smiles, but it's strained and falls flat quickly. "If you still want me then."
Clarke almost scoffs. As if the alternative is an option. As if it's ever been an option.
But she doesn't say anything; she just falls back into the cushions with a tired sigh, and pats the space beside her in invitation. He hesitates, but in the end he lies down behind her on the wide couch, arms sneaking around her middle to pull her close. She snuggles against him drowsily.
They fall asleep like that.
It's late in the morning, and Bellamy is making pancakes.
He found the batter mix in a plastic, sealed ziplock bag in one of the cupboards, and he's added some of the berries that they collected yesterday to it. Hopefully they'll taste like something.
"Ba-ba," Junior chatters behind him from where he's toddling around the kitchen. Bellamy glances down to smile down fondly at the boy. He only started walking yesterday and he's already practically jogging around the room.
"Yeah, I'm making food," he tells Junior. "So quit it."
Junior, it goes without saying, doesn't quit it. He continues tugging on Bellamy's ankle.
"Car," Junior says. Bellamy knows it's his way of asking him to play.
"Go play with mom— Clarke," he corrects himself quickly, feeling a flush rise to his cheeks even though nobody is there to witness his verbal blunder.
Jesus, talk about a Freudian slip. He's beyond pathetic at this point. When will he get it through his head that Clarke doesn't want their relationship to go that way?
Well, last night certainly didn't help that. Not the way she kissed him, or how she grinded against him. Or the way she tugged her blouse off, revealing perfect tits straining against thin pink fabric. He'd found it exceedingly difficult to tear his eyes away.
He suddenly realized the pancake in the pan is smoking slightly and quickly picks the pan up by the handle, sliding the cake into a ceramic plate.
She was drunk, he tells himself. Drunk. She'd downed more wine than Bellamy, and wine that had been aged for… well, he wasn't actually sure how long. But the fact was, she wasn't in her right mind. She doesn't want him like that. And he knows she's going to wake up today, slightly hungover, and regret it. Because that's what she does. It's kind of why he's making this breakfast, actually. A silent apology, and maybe this surprise will dispel some of the awkwardness.
He rummages in the cupboard above the woodstove, looking for the pancake syrup he knows he's seen. When he turns around Clarke is standing in the doorway, wearing the same blouse and jeans from the night before and hugging herself around her middle. Her expression is unreadable. She looks rumpled and gorgeous in the filtered sunlight, and Bellamy feels his mouth go dry a little bit.
Neither of them say anything for a long moment, so he finally clears his throat and tells her, "I made breakfast." He holds out the plate redundantly.
She glances down at the plate, and then her gaze flickers over his body, cataloguing his appearance. And then her eyes go back up at his face, and for one moment he almost thinks she's going to say it, that she's going to open her arms and say, It's morning, and I still want you. And his heart leaps, because his heart is the stupidest thing about him. And then when she finally speaks it falls somewhere into the depths of his ribcage.
He sighs and turns away to flip the other pancake on the stove. He knows that tone of voice far too well. "We don't have to talk about it."
She ignores him, saying to his back, "I'm sorry about last night."
His fingers tighten on the spatula. He closes his eyes. "That's okay. I figured." He hopes he sounds casual, because he knows his expression isn't. He takes a deep breath, and then he turns around, pan in hand. "Want one?"
She's still hugging herself, standing in the middle of the kitchen. But her brow is furrowed, and she's searching his eyes like she's looking for an answer, but he doesn't have one for her.
It's a sticky moment, but the atmosphere is shattered when they hear barking outside.
They immediately are both tense for different reasons; Bellamy puts the pan back on the stovetop and Clarke's head whips towards the sound.
It's… unheard of to hear sounds around the mansion's immediate vicinity. They see animals, of course. Birds, yes. The occasional deer, raccoons, once even a mountain lion.
But dogs… with dogs come humans. And that isn't good for them.
"Mama," Junior complains from the floor, oblivious to the tension. Without really looking Clarke scoops him up from the floor.
She turns to Bellamy, and he knows what she's thinking with just the glance that passes between them. With unspoken agreement, they make their way to the living room, silent out of habit.
They peer through the window, and there— Bellamy sees them. On the other side of the highway, the boundary between their safe haven and the rest of the world— there are a group of three Grounders, warriors by the looks of the weapons, and a dog, a vicious looking mixed breed, straining on a leash. As Bellamy and Clarke watch in wait, one of the Grounders holds out his hand, and the dog puts his nose against the palm.
He's sniffing them out, Bellamy realizes.
Clarke comes to the same conclusion. "Oh, god, they've found us," she breathes. She glances at him. "Junior's people."
He looks again and sees that the Grounder holding whatever's in his hand out to the dog also has a large, dark beard, tattoos that remind him of scythes, and bushy eyebrows. It's the guy in the picture, in Junior's locket.
He looks back at Clarke, and she's pursing her lips. "We have to be sure this time," she tells him. Any lingering awkwardness between them is shoved to the side, because now they have something else to do. "I'm not sending Junior to his death again."
"I hear you," Bellamy replies, idly wondering if the Grounders will cross the boundary. They haven't worked up the guts just yet, it looks like. Maybe they're not fully convinced anyone's there. "We need a plan."
The plan goes like this:
Bellamy follows him. The bearded grounder, that is.
Over their time on Earth, they've had to learn how to be stealthy. And maybe they're not as good as the best Grounders, but they're decent at it. Decent enough that someone who doesn't guess he's being followed— honestly, why would he?— doesn't realize they're there.
Clarke stays with Junior in the house, and Bellamy is the one to venture out, no time to shower but to just smear mud on his skin to get rid of any vestige of Junior's scent, and then he sets off, following from a distance.
The Grounders meander around the whole property, circling it wearily, and Bellamy's too far away to hear what they're saying, but they're muttering suspiciously. And he does hear one name— Rya, said in reference to the bearded grounder. One of the Grounders puts a placating hand on Rya's shoulder, but he shakes it off. And then, apparently giving up, they head back into the forest.
Bellamy follows them to their village. It's not far from the cliffside where he and Clarke found Junior.
Upon their arrival, Rya and his friends are greeted warmly by others; men, women and children alike. The Grounders don't have a coalition anymore, but their loyalty to the small, close-knit villages stays the same, apparently.
Once he sees where they sleep at night, Bellamy slinks back into the forest and back home.
It's past midnight when he gets back, and Clarke engulfs him in a hug as soon as he steps through the door even though he's covered in mud and dirt and he reeks. Junior's fast asleep on the couch, surrounded by his plastic toys.
"I was so worried," she cries, and he's startled to see tears in her eyes. "You were gone so long I thought— I thought—" He hates seeing her so distressed.
He runs a finger down her cheek in reassurance. It leaves a streak of dirt, and he frowns, licks his finger, and rubs at the spot. She leans into his hand, clutching onto his jacket front. When he's satisfied the dirt is gone, he tells her grimly, "Their village is kind of farther away than I thought. But now we know where to find him."
Clarke follows him to the kitchen when he goes to get a glass of water, standing behind him with her arms folded. "So… It's really him. We found his father."
Bellamy leans against the island, bracing his forearms against the marble counter. His head bows at her words but she can still see his stony expression under the curls that fall over his face. "I know."
Neither feel jubilant.
Rya's schedule consists of searching of all day and then, when night falls, he goes to a tavern.
There aren't many safe places out there, that welcome anyone in with open arms, but apparently even in anarchy the Grounders can temporarily unite in this greasy-looking wooden building lit up from inside like a jack o'lantern to go have a drink.
One night, Rya is leaving the tavern— it's late, fairly dark, and he's alone. The wooden door swings heavily shut behind him, dimming the noise of raucous laughter and music within. He drags a hand over his beard and sighs, and then begins his usual journey back to the village.
But then he hears a sound in the bushes to his left, and even in a slightly drunken state he's attuned to his surroundings and he freezes, one hand automatically ghosting to the knife strapped to his hip. He creeps up on the place where he heard the sound, stealthy and smooth.
Rya sees his two friends who have been helping him search, lying unconscious in the bushes. They've been stripped of their armor and cloaks.
His eyes affixed to his unconscious friends, he doesn't even notice the club that swings heavily at the back of his head.
Clarke is pacing in the cave.
"Stop pacing," Bellamy tells her gruffly. "When he wakes up, we have to put up a united front."
"I don't like this," she whispers, anxiously tugging at the Grounder mask over her face. Bellamy insisted she wear the mask that one of Rya's friends was wearing, since her hair and eye colour are most easily recognizable. They're dressed head to toe in Grounder clothing, and Bellamy's face is shrouded by the hood of a cloak and material wrapped around the lower part of his face.
"I know," he replies. "Just stick to the plan."
Rya chooses that moment to stir and, upon hearing Bellamy's voice, jerk awake.
Clarke backs up a little behind Bellamy, watching Rya strain against the ropes they've tied him with. He's already spitting at them, speaking in Trigedasleng.
Bellamy glances at her; they both know she's better at the language, and more likely to come off as a native speaker.
She steps forward. "Stop struggling," she commands him. Naturally, this does nothing. "We have something of yours."
Rya lunges forward, but his restraints cause him to flop forward onto his stomach. Bellamy is on him like a flash, wrenching him up roughly by the hair onto his knees and pressing his blade against his throat. Bellamy glances at Clarke.
Clarke takes the hint. "I said stop struggling," she says.
Rya's eyes dart between Bellamy and Clarke feverishly for four or five seconds before he finally speaks coherently. "What do you want?" he spits.
Clarke doesn't waste any time; she reaches into her pocket and pulls out the locket. "Does this—"
Rya lunges forward again, almost instinctively, and Bellamy yanks him back, this time pressing the blade harder against the throat. Clarke sees blood beading there. "That's Xander's," Rya yells at them. He sounds crazy. "Where did you get that?"
Clarke glances at Bellamy. He nods, so she turns back. "Is Xander your son?"
Rya glares at her with an expression of utmost loathing. Clarke sighs. They don't have time for this; Rya's yelling alone has drawn far too much attention for her liking.
She turns away, walking towards the corner of the cave. And when she picks up Junior's sleeping form from where he's been lying, Rya surges forward again.
Bellamy sighs— it sounds angry— and whacks the man on the head with the handle of the blade, dazing him enough to pull him back. Then he glares at Clarke, like, tell him.
"Do that one more time and my friend will kill you," Clarke says blandly, adjusting her hold on Junior in her arms. "So, this is your son? Xander?"
Rya shakes with barely restrained rage. "What did you do to him?"
"Nothing," Clarke says.
His face contorts. "Lies!"
He's right, in a way. Clarke and Bellamy didn't do nothing to Ju— Xander. They fed him. They clothed him, they bathed him. They played with him. They… they loved him. Clarke finds herself blinking back tears and is glad, suddenly, that Bellamy forced her to wear the mask. She waits until she trusts herself to speak steadily before she says, "Believe us or not, we want to return him to his family."
"What did you do to Polina," Rya bites out.
"Nothing," Clarke answers. "She was already dead."
"What did you do to my brother?"
Now Clarke hesitates, and can't help her glance at Bellamy. Because if his brother is who they think he is, well, they're not entirely innocent in this respect. This is enough indication for Rya.
"You killed him." He bares his teeth at Clarke. "I'm going to kill you." Bellamy tenses and presses the blade deeper into the skin of Rya's throat, but he doesn't pay it any heed, eyes fixated on Clarke.
Clarke says, weakly, "He was going to kill your son."
Bellamy makes an impatient scoffing sound, and Clarke knows what it means. You really think he'd believe that?
Rya is looking more agitated by the second, so Clarke nods at Bellamy. They've confirmed what they wanted to confirm. And up close, she can see the way the man's eyes stay riveted on his son in Clarke's arms. It's a wild, desperate look, and relief mixed in, all at once.
It reminds her of how her mom used to look at her after a long time apart.
Junior— Xander— stirs in her arms, and Clarke pats his back softly as she reaches down to untie Rya's feet. As expected, he kicks up at her immediately, but the rest of his body is still tied, and Clarke is easily able to dodge his assault
Xander blinks sleepily in her arms, turning his head until his gaze can fix on his father. Their eyes connect, and Clarke notes the curiosity in Xander's eyes. She wonders if he'd even recognize his father. Babies don't have the best memories.
Bellamy shoves Rya forward from behind, sword still pressed to the side of his neck.
"Start walking," Clarke commands him. "And both of you get out of here alive." It's an empty threat, of course, but Rya doesn't know that. She and Bellamy are just trying to get out of here without being killed.
(An old adage from the Ark crosses her mind at that moment: No good deed goes unpunished. Clarke almost laughs, because it's painfully true down here.)
Stiffly, Rya obliges; or rather, he's pushed roughly by Bellamy every few steps, sword pressed against his neck. And when they get to the mouth of the cave, Bellamy shoves him forward rather violently, sending the man forward a few harried steps before he sprawls, hands and body and upper legs still tied, on the forest floor.
Clarke finally extricates Xander from her shoulder. "Okay, honey," she says to him, finding her voice sounding a little less steady than she would like, "It's time for you to go home now." Xander doesn't seem to want to let go of her hair; he's clutching onto the fabric of her Grounder gear as if his life depends on it.
"Mama," he cries out.
Bellamy reaches forward, gently untangling those little hands from Clarke's shoulders so that Clarke can set him down to the ground. Rya doesn't move, watching this exchange with an inscrutable expression.
"Okay," Clarke says, crouching beside him, "go to your dad."
Xander stares up at her, looking confused. Clarke realizes she's still talking in Trigedasleng, and over the past month all he's been subjected to is English. God, what a mess.
Clarke grabs him under the armpits and turns him around forcibly so that he faces his father. "Look, honey," she whispers to his ear very quietly, in English. "Why don't you walk over there to your daddy. Show him you can walk now. He'll be so proud. So, so proud." She strokes his hair soothingly; it's grown so thick and long over the past month. "And you can talk now. You should walk over there and talk to your dad."
The child doesn't move for a long moment, still craning his neck to look over his shoulder at Bellamy and Clarke. Bellamy stays silent, but Clarke can tell his body is stiff; he's restraining himself from speaking to Junior, to say any last words to him for fear of his accent leaching into it.
Clarke wants to tell him it's okay, but she also doesn't want to give Rya more of a window into who they are than they already have.
But then Bellamy crouches down anyway, and he puts a large hand on Xander's back. And he gives him a very gentle push. A nudge, really. And that's apparently all that the child needs.
He begins to walk, slowly, towards his father.
Rya draws in a sharp breath, eyes on his son walking towards him. And Clarke knows it's going to be okay. Rya is probably halfway through his restraints right now, and it's time to leave before things get messy.
But neither of them really want to.
Xander reaches his father, and then he loses balance and falls, right onto the man's chest. Rya laughs, shakily. With relief. It's like he doesn't even see Clarke and Bellamy anymore.
And when he looks up a minute later, he really doesn't, because they've melted away into the shadows.
The double doors to the mansion are easier to open now, after a month of constant use. They swing open with a slight squeak; at the doorstep Clarke and Bellamy stand, staring into the darkness inside the house.
They shed their Grounder clothes as they walk, slowly. Clarke doesn't feel any rush. She doesn't feel anything, really.
She drops the mask to the ground, feeling cool air rush to hit her sweaty forehead, and tugs her scarf off her head. Bellamy does the same.
When they get to the living room, they've more or less gotten out of the heavy clothes. Clarke freezes in the doorway. The couch is still there, still wide, but now it looks less inviting and more formidable. There's a book lying on the table, a big colourful one with large words on the cover. Dumbo. And there's still a scattering of toys like a warzone across the carpet.
Her eyes stray farther, unable to tear themselves away. There's a milk bottle on the coffee table, which has red and purple streaks on the glass. A box of crayons right next to it, with a few of the crayons worn to nubs.
Clarke takes just one step into the room. The feeling that she's walking into a ghost town suddenly overpowers her. She sinks to her knees slowly, among the plastic toys, almost in a daze.
Bellamy's book of Greek myths is on the couch, she notes dimly. She remembers him telling the story of Medusa to Juni— Xander— just a few days ago.
Xander. That's his name.
It's a testament to how little they knew about this little Grounder boy that they didn't even know his name. They referred to him impersonally for over a month, and simply promised to care for him until they found his true home. And they achieved that goal.
So why does it feel like she just lost something?
(Maybe because she did.)
She bites her lip to stop it from wobbling at the feeling of pain that blossoms from her chest and radiates out. And she's so overcome by her own splintering that she's surprised that Bellamy is the one who breaks first.
She hears him behind her, the shuddering, choked breath, and then he sinks to the ground beside her, a large hand over his face.
They have no one left. So she reaches for him, trying to give him support, to give him something other than her own pain.
His head is bowed, so when she wraps her arms around his neck he leans his forehead into her chest. She rests her chin on his head, lets him reach around her waist to pull her closer, and when he says, brokenly, "God, I miss him already, Clarke," that's when she breaks as well. Because:
"Me too," Clarke tells him between shallow breaths. "Me, too."
They try to check in on Xander the very next day, only to find that the entire village has cleared out. Every last one of the twenty or so people who lived there have just up and left.
Xander is lost to them.
Life is muted after that, for a day or two. Maybe longer. Clarke's lost track of time again.
Somehow, that finding of purpose, only to lose it again, is more painful than never having had it in the first place. Because now she remembers what it feels like, to live and breathe and think, Tomorrow.
She wishes she didn't.
First they fed their drive to exist by paying homage to their people at the dropship. Then with Xander. Now…
She and Bellamy don't talk a lot for the next little while. He spends a lot of time staring into space, and Clarke spends a lot of time, like she is now, sitting on the toilet seat in the bathroom, staring at the wall with tears leaking down her face.
God, she's tired. So damn tired of losing people.
She reaches absentmindedly towards the toilet paper roll to rip off a strip to dab her cheeks, but it's empty. She's used them all. Funny; she could've sworn she just put a new one in a few hours ago. So she gets up and crouches to open the cabinet under the sink.
She grabs a new roll from the stack, but her hand is shaking— she can't remember the last time she ate something, actually— and she knocks over a bunch of bottles. They fall out of the cabinet with an obnoxious clatter to the tiled floor.
"Fuck," she mutters to herself. The word echoes around the bathroom as she tries to gather everything in her arms. She tries to shove it all back into the cabinet at once, but a few things fall out as she does.
That's when something catches her eye on the floor.
It's light pink, a narrow thing the size of a pencil but much wider and flatter. Curious, she picks it up and reads the label.
Pregnant, it says, with two dashes next to it. And right below it:
Not pregnant. One dash.
She stares at the pregnancy test for a few moments, and then she thinks about how she felt accomplished that she could put a little baby to sleep every night; and then she thinks about the man downstairs, who had asked her something a very long time ago.
She stands up.
Bellamy's in the kitchen, trying to make something to eat. He figures he should be useful, and a few minutes ago he distantly heard his own stomach rumbling, so making food sounds like something good.
Maybe Clarke will eat, too. Although he's rarely seen her around the house since he broke down in her arms.
His hand tightens involuntarily on the soup mix packet, and he reminds himself to breathe.
(Not that his body needs the reminder. It just keeps treacherously breathing anyway.)
He jumps a little at his own name being spoken; he's gotten used to the sound of his own silence. He turns around and Clarke is standing in the doorway.
"Yeah," he gets out. He wasn't expecting her to come see him on her own. "Want soup? I'm making some." He figures acting like nothing is wrong is the best way to navigate out of this. It's their modus operandi, and he isn't stopping that now.
She takes a few steps into the kitchen. Her fingers drum in a— nervous?- pattern against the countertop. "What kind?"
"Mmhm." She's not looking at him, he notices. He doubts Clarke even heard his answer. She is staring rather intensely down at the space in front of her own feet.
"Clarke?" he prods, tentatively.
She looks up then, at his searching expression. "My implant doesn't work anymore," she says, out of the blue.
He blinks. Once. Twice.
"My birth control implant," she elaborates. There's maybe a faint flush to her cheeks, but Bellamy's still scrambling to catch up. What…? "It's been too long since it was last maintained. I started getting periods again."
He finally manages to unstick the front of his throat from the back. "Why are you telling me this?"
"You told me a while back," she replies in a rush, "that if I didn't want you and I to be the only Sky people left on Earth, we didn't have to be."
"Yeah," he tells her, a little bewildered. "If that's what you wanted." he studies her expression; she's still a little closed off. "But it wasn't, was it?"
Her voice is barely there, a whisper when she replies. "I think it was."
He stares at her, hardly able to believe what he's hearing. She's not done.
"It still is."
— END PART ONE —
A/N: #PlatonicSex and even more #CompletelyPlatonicFeelings and #GrounderFuckery is next guys, thanks for being patient and reading this WAY too long part one (it was supposed to be a 10k intro. Max. haha sorry).
I'm working on parts two and three as we speak. In the meantime, if you liked this first part please consider leaving a review ? You will earn my eternal love and gratitude for that, and well, the fact that I write faster when I have positive motivation is definitely a plus... ;)
okay in any case thanks for reading and i love you all thanks.
you can also hit me up on tumblr: wellsjahasghost