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sleepless nights and starless skies

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Clem didn’t even notice how little sleep she was getting until she’d nearly fallen over at a slight breeze.

It had been a week since the attack from Lilly. A whole week and they’d made almost no progress on finding the raider’s hideout. Abel wasn’t talking, and while Clem didn’t want to resort to torture, that may be what had to happen. She didn’t want AJ to see that, or the other kids, for that matter. But he needed to talk, and soon. For Louis, Aasim and Omar.

In that week, she’d been so stressed out between planning, interrogating Abel and keeping the school free of walkers that she’d gotten maybe 30 minutes of sleep a night. If that. Normally the adrenaline from being on the road would keep her going, but it wasn’t enough at this point.

Clem and the other kids had holed up in the main building, sleeping in the office so they wouldn’t get separated in case they needed to run. There was no hope of fixing the gate, so instead they barricaded the front door at night and someone kept watch from the balcony with Marlon’s bow.

It was Clem’s shift tonight, and AJ had wanted to join her, but he looked just as drained as she felt, so she sent him inside to sleep. He’d fallen asleep in seconds, the firefighter toy Tenn had given him clutched tightly in his hand.

Clem snapped upright when she realized she was starting to doze. Exhaustion was beginning to set in but Clem could barely lay down without feeling guilty. Louis was out there, being forced to do the raider’s bidding. To do Lilly’s bidding. Clem couldn’t sleep while Lilly was still breathing and Louis was still gone.

“Hey.” The voice nearly made Clem jump out of her skin, and she whirled around to see Violet, her hands raised. Another side effect of sleep deprivation: everything had Clem on alert. “Whoa, hey, it’s just me.”

Clem sighed as Violet sat down next to her. “Why aren’t you sleeping?”

“I could ask you the same question.” There was a bite to Violet’s tone, and Clem flinched. Violet wasn’t stupid, nor blind. Clem had pretended to ignore the concerned looks she’d been getting from her girlfriend for the past week. “Clementine,” Violet said more firmly when Clem stayed silent.

“I’m on watch duty tonight.” Clem shrugged, avoiding Violet’s gaze.

“That’s not what I meant.” Clem knew that. Of course she did. But the last thing she wanted to do was sleep. “You could at least pretend to sleep.”

Clem shook her head. “Vi, I didn’t save Louis. I could’ve. I didn’t. And now he’s in the hands of… her.” Just thinking about Lilly made Clem’s blood boil, and Violet had never seen Clem get truly angry. She wanted to keep it that way. “If I’m sleeping, I’m not doing everything I can to get him back.”

Violet went silent, and Clem thought for a fleeting moment that she might have accepted defeat. When she spoke, her words startled Clem more than anything else. “Do you regret saving me?”

Clem couldn’t believe what she was hearing. “What?”

“It’s just… you act like you could’ve saved us both, but you know you couldn’t have. But you blame yourself for Louis, since he saved your life and all, and he’s the reason you’ve been losing sleep.” Now Violet was the one avoiding Clem’s gaze, and she was fiddling with the hems of her shirt. “Do you wish you had saved him instead of me?”

Clem reached over to grasp Violet’s hand and softened her voice. “Vi, look at me.” Violet reluctantly turned her gaze to Clem, guilt in her eyes. “I could’ve saved you both. If only I was faster, if only I hadn’t been attacked by Lilly. But I wasn’t, and I saved you. If I could go back, I would do it again.”

Violet’s lips stretched into a sad smile. “See, Clem? You’re the reason I’m alive. You’re the reason any of us are alive and not stuck in the raider’s camp right now. Instead of all of us, they only got three of us. And that’s thanks to you .”

“But… Louis-”

“I want to slit that bitch’s throat for what she did to Louis, don’t get me wrong.” Violet’s voice dropped to a whisper. “And Minnie.”

Clem’s heart clenched. It was horrible of her to feel jealous, she knew, but she couldn’t help but wonder what it would be like if Lilly wasn’t lying, if Minnie really was alive. She shook the thought off. That wasn’t important right now.

Violet snapped out of her thoughts, moving her gaze from the ground over to Clem. “But you’re no use to anyone if you can barely stand on your own two feet. I can take watch. Get some sleep.”

Clem knew she was right, and also knew that Vi wasn’t about to take no for an answer. She cast a glance back into the dark room where the other kids were sleeping soundly, then back at Violet. “Please don’t leave,” she begged, her voice below a whisper. Clem had never felt more desperate in her life, but the last thing she wanted right now was to be alone.

Violet nodded in understanding. “Come here.” She wrapped an arm around Clem’s shoulder to pull her closer. Clem shifted so that she was laying on her side with her head resting on Violet’s thigh, and instantly felt herself beginning to drift off as Violet’s hand combed through her hair.

Clem let out a sigh of contentment as Violet pressed a gentle kiss to her forehead. “Hey Vi?” She mumbled sleepily, barely keeping herself awake.

“Yeah?”

“Thank you.”

Clem didn’t need to be awake to know Violet was smiling. “Anything for you, Clementine.”