the fire might linger and fade away
the shadows run from yesterday
She recites the number like a colorful poem, breathes it through her teeth in earnest, and lets it echo in her head as if there is nothing else there; as if the pressure of absorbing new information every moment of every day isn’t linked to the survival of her kind, as if it doesn’t overwhelm her.
The image of the two digits forms behind the darkness of her temporarily closed eyelids. It’s the only silver lining she’s come across in the past few weeks and she intends to cling to it.
Her eyes flutter open, her unwavering stare pinning the product of her thoughts to where it’s engraved on. Fifty-nine, the sign on top of the door before her reads. It is like every other label she’s seen on Alpha Station, like every other indication there are people breathing, living, struggling inside.
Yet, it intimidates her in the oddest ways possible, making her belly ache in anticipation. She hasn’t waited too long for this – just a couple of days – but it certainly feels like a lifetime to her. (A lifetime of inertia and inactivity, where all she did was weigh not only her options, but also their consequences.)
She knows her nervousness is not exactly misplaced, considering how much loss affects people, breaking them and altering them beyond recognition – she has experienced that firsthand. She knows she has nothing to lose anyway.
She reaches forward, her hand hovering over said sign, her fingers tracing the figures. She releases a breath that has been long overdue, before she finally gathers all the courage she needs to knock.
When she receives no response, she knocks again, her fingers curling to create a smaller, tighter fist. The metallic entrance finally gives way to something – someone – she hasn’t been expecting to see.
The young man sizes her up with his dark brown eyes, his mouth pressing to form a tight line of contemplation. He has a shaven head and a barely distinguishable trace of dark stubble on his face. He isn’t much taller than her, and he can’t be much older than her, either, she presumes.
Her mouth opens and closes like that of a fish as she desperately seeks for words that don’t seem to come, while her arm falls by her side, joining the hand clutching the crumpled piece of paper that got her here in the first place.
“Can I help you?” asks the stranger.
Her gaze moves downwards for a split second, where the ink stands out on her notes. She nods. “You must be Mr. Nathan Miller. I’m Clarke.” She offers her free hand for a handshake and he takes it after what seems to be a quite long moment of hesitation. She doesn’t blame him.
“I don’t understand,” he murmurs.
“I’m looking for your roommate,” Clarke rushes to explain. “Bellamy Blake,” she adds, barely oblivious to the tremors the last couple of words generate, making the hair on the back of her neck prickle and stand on end. It definitely isn’t the first time she’s said his name out loud ever, but it’s one of her first attempts to voice it in weeks nevertheless.
If Miller notices her sudden shift in demeanor, he doesn’t let it show.
“He’s – he’ll be here shortly,” he informs her. “Do you want to wait for him inside?”
She thinks about declining. She thinks about turning her back on him and departing. She thinks about returning to the routine that has been trying to dominate her daily life for a while now and wondering when the next chance to do something about it might come her way.
“Sure,” she replies, following him in his assigned dorm room until the door is shut behind them. He tells her to make herself comfortable and she chooses to sit on the only chair by the small table.
They don’t talk much. They start a conversation about settling down in space. (Truthfully, the idea still feels a little surreal to her. There’s no real place to come home to, no solid ground for her feet to step on and sink into. There’s only infinity and uncertainty and endless darkness.)
Her smile is watery when he answers her question about the luck of his family, because both his parents and younger siblings are safe and sound, getting used to this new reality, adapting to the changes, while hers aren’t.
She fixes everything with a small cough and folds her hands in her lap, collecting more and more details about him, keeping her mind awake and alert.
His father is in the guard. He’s a cadet, training to follow in his footsteps. The more she relates to him and subtly reminds him of the true purpose of the Alpha Station’s creation, the more he relaxes and opens up to her.
The end of the World War was marked by a nuclear apocalypse that killed everything and everyone on Earth. It left no more room for conflict, especially among the members of the people who wished for peace from the very start; the scientists and engineers of every nation who have been responsible for the construction of thirteen operational space stations, the kids who never really managed to grasp the full meaning of childhood and innocence – just about everyone supporting the idea enough to push it and promote it, to make it happen.
The Griffin family has been one of the most passionate and active supporters of Alpha Station for years, what with Jake Griffin as the head engineer and his wife, Abigail, as one of the most important doctors ensuring a safe medical future.
This project has taken up most of Clarke’s teen and young adult life. It’s what she grew up with and what she was taught, what she knows, the reason why she will never be Nathan Miller’s – anyone’s – foe, but rather an ally. What she needs is his recognition of that.
A key turns on the door and the room goes eerily quiet.
Their attention is quickly captured by the movements of the intruder – who isn’t an intruder at all. Clarke notes that Miller busies himself with something trivial as she straightens her posture. She eventually opts for standing, taking a bold step forward, moving just enough to be noticed.
And she is noticed, faster than expected, if possible.
Bellamy’s expression is carefully twisted in a combination of perplexity and surprise. For someone who has been hasty to appear hostile and obnoxious by always providing her with a piece of his mind or provoking her or simply picking up a pointless fight with her, he sure is slow to react.
He breathes her name, at last. “You are – alive,” he points out. The unprecedented relief at the sight of her, at the tiny bob of her head that she offers in return, makes her weak at the knees. She has been so undeniably positive that he has despised her – and that she has hated him right back – that she cannot comprehend the way her heart hammers irregularly beneath her ribcage, not even a tiny little bit of it.
Before she can register her actions, or somehow feel repentant about her train of thought, she’s close to him, around him. Her arms trap him, hands greedily gripping at his warmth, as the rest of her tries to accept him, to embrace him, to take him in – all of him. Her affections aren’t returned after a long period of time, but at this point, Clarke can’t seem to care.
Only, she does.
His thumb touches the sliver of naked skin beneath her jaw and his full lips part just above her scalp when he exhales and her vision becomes misty at how much this is for both of them and –
Her breathing comes a little easier now.
“I invited Bellamy to sit with us at lunch tomorrow.”
Abby’s puzzlement is short-lived, gradually transforming into comprehension. “Bellamy Blake?” she inquires. From the tone of her voice, Clarke gathers her mother is having a hard time digesting the information. Whether it is because it was never a secret her daughter’s feelings towards him resembled anything but fondness or because bringing pieces of a troubled and painful past into a relatively secure future is unusual, Clarke doesn’t know.
She doesn’t need to confirm they are referring to the same person. Abby beats her to it.
“Octavia’s brother,” she concludes. “I remember having his file in my hands a while ago. He’s a guard, isn’t he?”
Clarke shakes her head, frowning ever so slightly. “Not yet.”
There wasn’t a reason for her mother to mention Bellamy was on the first ship that made it to Alpha Station, not really. But they’ve been here for more than a whole month and she feels like she would have liked to find out sooner one way or another.
“Oh, well,” Abby sighs. “I suppose there’s no harm in him having lunch with us.” She takes off her robe as she moves around, putting everything in place. It’s been a quiet day at the infirmary, so Clarke perks up when it’s time for her to help Jackson, her mother’s right hand, clean up instead of just stand there with her hands tied.
Jackson circles her playfully, ruffling her hair like she’s never told him not to, like there won’t be a zillion different kinds of knots in her hair when she brushes it before bedtime, like she isn’t already twenty years old for God’s sake.
Just when she’s about to protest for the umpteenth time since her role as an intern, a rare shadow of a smile caresses her mother’s mouth and Clarke remains quiet.
She is all too aware asking for her loved ones to be brought back from the dead is impossible. However, wishing for her mother to indulge in miniscule moments of happiness with her, to truly be with her, is merely improbable and this is where the difference lies.
Lunch with Bellamy is a disaster.
The mess hall is filled with familiar noises, like the chatter of families, friends or just acquaintances relishing the small break from their fast-paced jobs and worries, and the occasional clatter of cutlery. At the same time, nothing seems louder than the silence among the three of them, piercing through Clarke in disappointment.
There is a lot to be shared – they were once neighbors, after all – and Abby is the first to make an effort. Her questions are simple, hurtless. Still, Bellamy manages to somehow take offense at everything and nothing, responding curtly and in one word, chewing his food with a little more vigor than necessary, his jaw locking and unlocking. He attacks her, sometimes slyly and indirectly and sometimes not, and she strangely enough takes it, accepting and withdrawn.
Clarke watches the interaction with round eyes, like it’s a horrific car accident about to take place and she is physically unable to look away. (Like it’s a nuclear bombing and she’s stranded in space, watching it all unfold from above, knowing her father and closest friend might not escape, helpless.)
Bellamy hastily finishes his meal and excuses himself with his tray at hand, storming off without bothering to come up with a decent or plausible explanation. None of the Griffin women questions him.
Abby explains to her later that his shortness and anger emanates from his loss. She doesn’t look at her then, but Clarke understands. She understands that everyone deals with things life throws at them differently, even if it means lashing out or shutting down. She also understands that if anyone has a right to feel wronged and wounded, it’s Bellamy.
Bellamy who had a mother and a sister destined to be on the second ship that would eventually reach Alpha Station. Bellamy who loved them fiercely and cared for them with every single fiber of his being. Bellamy who doesn’t have anything. Not anymore.
Abby doesn’t say a word after that and Clarke feels like her throat is clogged, her fork scratching absentmindedly against the surface of the plate. She wishes her father were here to fill the dreaded quietness with his awful puns and his laughter.
The next time she sits at the same table as him at the mess hall, she is fully prepared for the scorching glare coming her way. She has taken the seat opposite him, making no move to squirm on it or reveal any similar signs of low confidence.
“If this is an extension to last week’s invitation, I think I’ll pass,” he snubs, nose scrunched up in displeasure.
Clarke scoffs. “Just – relax, okay? My mother is at the medical center, no lunch break today,” she states. The sneer is a seemingly permanent feature on his face, as are the crinkles in-between his dark brows, but the tension slowly rolls off his shoulders in waves. She doesn’t mention the small victory, already knowing it will be anything but that if she does, but the satisfaction enveloping her is particularly gratifying.
“Not that you had any reason to behave like that,” she mumbles.
He clears his throat once or twice, maintaining an iron grip on the edge of the table. “You don’t know if I had a single reason. You don’t know anything,” he growls, putting emphasis on each and every word of his last sentence.
“I think I do,” she insists. “I think you are not the only one who wishes things never ended up like this. You know—”
He cuts her off. “I don’t seem to recall asking for what you think, Princess,” he growls.
She points her fork at him in accusation. “Don’t call me that.”
“Don’t act like you deserve to be called that,” is his answer.
She huffs, taking a few precious seconds to herself, hoping they are enough for her to cool off, if not for both of them. “Forget it,” she instructs gently. “Arguing doesn’t lead anywhere. It never has. This isn’t why I came here,” she admits.
She breaks their staring match after a long period of silence, diverting her attention to her food. There’s a great amount of matters of significance that need to be taken care of after her lunch break and she’s already wasted some of it by taking Bellamy Blake’s bait and losing control of the tiniest traces of sanity she’s left. Again. What a surprise.
She is taken aback when he speaks. “Why did you come here?” he demands, the volume of his voice dropping by the end of his sentence, as if he is battling with himself in order not to bite her head off. She believes it is out of plain curiosity, as he never showed true interest in her. Or maybe loneliness does, in fact, deprive people of their instinct to avoid bizarre situations. Perhaps, they actually seek them, seeing traits they never saw before, appreciating aspects they would never dream of.
“I miss her,” Clarke confesses in the end. She doesn’t need to elaborate further. Their concern for Octavia – his little sister and the only honest friend she’s had for the last five years – had been one of the very few things they had in common. They may have butted heads, screamed until their throats were hoarse, ferociously disliked one another, but they would always agree when it came to her. She was basically what linked them together from the beginning.
(She probably is what links them together now, at this instant. She is what made Clarke linger on his name when she had the list of survivors in her hands. She is what made Bellamy engulf Clarke’s smaller form when he first saw her after so long, and what made him hesitate to let go first.)
As soon as Bellamy looks down, it is clear to her there is no chance he’ll reciprocate. It is equally clear there is no chance he hasn’t accepted her presence by now.
She moistens her lips and eats with him. He doesn't go back to his duties until her plate is licked clean.
It isn't until three more meetings with him within the station – some of them random – that Clarke appears outside his dorm room for a second time, uninvited. Nostalgia drives her absolutely mad, that much is deducible.
She remembers visiting the Blakes at least once or twice per week when she was still in middle school and for the most part of high school as well. She would sit with Aurora in the kitchen as she brewed the kind of tea that was too much for her children’s preferences. Clarke would talk to her about school, her complaints, and her deepest desires – the ones she was too timid to openly share.
She would roll her eyes whenever Bellamy opened the door to greet her with a caustic comment and with that idiotic blue letterman jacket (the one he still owns somehow, even though most of their clothes were claimed and equally divided inside Alpha Station). She would pretend putting a label on him was spot-on, that he matched every definition of the characterization jock and followed every behavioral pattern.
Clarke steps into the room when he lets her, willing herself not to smile at the sight of his jacket. The temperatures are still toyed with until they can hopefully be completely stabilized and, if she dares to comment on his attire, his wounded pride will gladly allow him to freeze under her watch.
He makes her sit on his well-made bed and his hands disappear under it, pulling a medium-sized box; probably the only full box he was allowed to keep. She peers inside when he opens it with careful, delicate movements. She doesn’t recognize a lot, but there are objects evidently meaningful to him. She watches him concentrate fully on the task at hand as he digs inside, muttering in frustration at the mess.
He finds what he has been searching for, finally. He sits next to her.
It doesn’t take more than some milliseconds for her to catch on, and when she does, she lets out an involuntary gasp. He holds out a bronze, old-fashioned ring for her, exhaling deeply when she doesn’t take it.
“She got it when we were on a school trip. Freshman year. I have one, too,” she declares.
“She told me,” Bellamy retorts. “She wanted to keep it in this box. She separated her belongings as if she knew she wouldn’t—” He rubs his temple with his two middle fingers, soothing it. “I should have been on the second ship. I should have been with them.”
“No,” she argues. “You couldn’t have known they wouldn’t make it.”
“A fool could have known,” he grunts.
“Do you think I would have let my father die? Do you think my mother would have?” she reasons. “This life we’re living – it just isn’t the same,” she exclaims.
He snorts. “You really have no idea, do you?” Trying to help him break free from the vicious circle he’s trapped in is pointless, unless he sees past his illusion that the situation is someone else’s fault; her fault. Trying to interpret that in a language he comprehends and accepts is even more pointless. (He doesn’t listen to her. He never has and he never will.)
“You have a fascination with lists,” he reminds her. She waits for him to continue, to shed light on what he insinuates that she’s blind to. She waits some more.
“I just thought she’d want you to have this,” is all he says, pushing the ring her way.
She blinks, rubbing her hands on her jeans, drying the cold sweat. “I can’t,” she croaks. “It feels wrong to have both of them. I know it sounds incredibly stupid because I haven’t worn this in quite some time, but someone – she – was out there and it felt like – like I could—”
Like she could reach out and feel her. Like she could gain strength from the bond she shared with a person who truly believed in her, like she could hold onto it for dear life and jump into anywhere and anything and still know someone would be there to catch her.
Octavia was nothing like her and everything like her at the same time. They were always in sync, never apart.
“What do I do with it?” Bellamy blurts out, holding the item awkwardly between his thumb and index finger.
“Anything. Keep it,” she suggests. She stands on her feet without warning, startling him. “I’m – I’m gonna go,” she announces.
“Okay,” he says.
She tries to ignore them, to pretend like they don’t exist. She obediently completes all tasks thrown her way, making up excuses, figuring out ways to be of assistance and make herself useful, putting all her energy in trying to focus on anything else. She tries to push them away.
It doesn’t work.
Bellamy’s words swirl around her head until it aches, taunting her. So she fills in the gaps herself, making sense of nearly nothing.
He wants her to have the list of survivors on Alpha Station. He wants her to read the names again. He wants her to look and dig, just a little more, just a little deeper.
So she does.
She hears his voice in her head when she connects the puzzle pieces and when she curls into a ball in the safety of her own bed and when all she wants is to convince herself he’s so very wrong, although, deep down, she knows she’s figured it all out.
She hears his voice when she opens her mouth and dares to call the people on the list for what they are; important people. People this place wouldn’t survive a week without.
Differences don’t matter up here. It’s what they’re told. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you’re from. You matter. Your life and your rights – they all matter. (Differences mattered before. The ghost of that sick logic, of that correct logic, will haunt them no matter how many years go by. It is what cost everyone their families, yet it is the main reason why everyone remains oblivious to it.)
She finds her ring and slips it on her pinkie, bringing it to her lips. She rocks herself to sleep before her mother returns.
It isn’t until the first few weeks have passed that Clarke fully comes to the realization life on Alpha Station is something she will have to get accustomed to over time. Routine is mostly easy to follow through, as she’s read and studied all about people living in space in the tender years of her adolescence.
Most importantly, she’s heard all about it. Before the completion of the most significant task, when all kinds of conflicts first started to build among the nations, her father voluntarily took part in scheduled space missions – missions that turned into something more regular, permanent and extended when the need was great.
Sometimes, he’d be gone for whole weeks, making sure constant progression was something his crew took for granted and everything ran smoothly. Everyone had a family to return to, after all, loved ones to warn and shield from harm, children to tell stories to.
Those were Clarke’s favorite sort of stories. Kings and queens and enchanted realms never brought true excitement to her and that only somehow intensified as she got older. Instead, she always looked for something that was missing, something bigger, something to make her heart rate accelerate and her azure eyes to turn into large saucers in astonishment and acknowledgement.
Her father’s stories piqued her interest, fitted her peculiar tastes and quenched her thirst for the immense world of stars and moonrises, for the thrill of an adventure and the vast nothingness they could once explore together. The narrations’ heroes were real, which is what truly touched her and had her lying awake for hours at night, scheming and weaving extraordinary images somewhere in the deepest, most complex corner of her brain.
(He was real and he was a hero. He was always her hero.)
Still, even after all this time, there are familiar parts of her asphyxiating inside, fighting with hands and claws to rear their head and breathe, to come to the surface. There’s her longing and dreams for the achievement of greatness, there’s that lasting itch for her to be someone and mean something. She wants to take after Jake Griffin who sacrificed everything for his daughter and wife to live, for his people to deserve a future. She wants to be someone’s hero.
And then there’s the fear; cold and paralyzing. It ties ropes around her, gripping at her, curling around her neck, immobilizing her, leaving unseen marks on the paleness of her skin. (She feels them. She could swear she does.) The fear makes her shudder. The shudder, in turn, pushes her to stand back, to be obedient and lenient. Where there is no oxygen, there is no fire – her fire.
She draws what’s familiar to her.
She puts the last pencils she can get in her restless hands to good use, the colorful ends furiously scratching against blank paper, giving life to things she cannot put to words but feels them in her bones, things that eat away at her.
She chooses her colors carefully, putting thought and order in the fierceness of her instincts. She picks red for Bellamy’s anger and black for all that she’s lost. Green and brown represent her homesick heart. But gray is the color running out first. She draws grief, monotony, a prison of four walls. Gray threatens to swallow her whole.
She finally learns the truth about the second ship. She mulls the supposed trifles and coincidences over in her head until the pain is insufferable and the denial is a word she’s sick of. She doesn’t try to get answers from slip-ups, nor does she beat around the bush.
She watches her mother’s eyes well up when she admits to being perfectly aware of the malfunction in the second ship. The system failure was certainly not unfixable, but there was no shelter to be found before the bombs. The rest of them couldn’t have made it.
Her father’s determination to save what was left of their nation and prevent panic from arising ensured him his death sentence. Her mother accepted it. She chose to live with it, just as she chose to risk Clarke’s trust in her, and just as she chose to let her daughter live in the dark for the rest of her days.
Bellamy doesn’t have to be told. He knows.
She thinks of moments of comfortable silence during lunch time. She thinks of truth and trust. She thinks of their cease fire.
She doesn’t let herself lean on him, not too much, but the bluest of pencils rests in the palm of her left hand for the first time since she let herself enjoy her personal free haven. She draws their alliance.
One day, Hannah, one of the interns working according to a schedule similar to Clarke’s, stops her outside of medical. The girl looks both anxious and curious in the strangest of ways when she calls her name, so Clarke forgets all about satisfying the growl in her stomach.
“Have you heard about Epsilon Station?” Hannah wonders, her voice barely above a whisper.
Clarke’s brow furrows. “What about it?”
“They have more than us. Comforts we don’t have. Essential equipment we lack,” she lists. None of these facts are unknown or hidden from any of them. Some nations are wealthier, stronger than others. Hannah goes on. “There’s talk about merging our two stations,” she says.
Two stations could merge. They could benefit from one another. They could maintain the peace each one of them encourages.
It doesn’t feel real, not until Thelonious Jaha, the elected leader of Alpha Station, calls everyone’s attention on a Wednesday afternoon and makes the announcement.
“I have faith in humanity and what it is capable of. I have faith in our wish to accomplish a common goal,” he claims. Clarke sees, once more, his gift to deliver speeches and make people believe every word of them. A palpable feeling of security creeps up inside her, making an effort to nestle there.
Despite the leader’s inspiration for blind trust, all inhabitants of Alpha Station are on edge when the two stations actually become one. There is a mess hall, greater than what they have been used to thus far, and they are all introduced to it the moment the merging is official. There are unfamiliar faces, different accents. There is a handshake between Jaha and Marcus Kane, the current leader of Epsilon Station.
There is Bellamy, right there, with her. He feels her looking and gives her his full attention, his hardened gaze accurately mirroring her dubiousness. (She is not alone in this.)
Living with the people from Epsilon Station is hard. There are new rules, new arrangements of accommodation and constant suspiciousness clouding the judgment of every passerby. Work is more stressful and pressing, and this is where Clarke interacts with them the most.
She feels the weight of the ring on her one hand and the pressure of her father’s watch on the other. She is lucky she still has a chance to deal with hardships in her life, while others were robbed of it. She cannot afford to be ungrateful.
It will be worth it. Someday, all of this will be worth it.
She repeats every phrase like a mantra, aiming to come to terms with it.
Not everyone from Epsilon Station is unfriendly and aloof. Not everyone is like John Murphy, the new roommate of Bellamy and Nathan who doesn’t help the situation with his rudeness, his sass and his occasional sneer.
She meets Raven when she comes to medical for a mandatory check-up. Truth be told, she meets a lot of people, but the dark-haired woman strikes an impression with her wry smile and sarcastic banter. They have lunch together sometimes, when Bellamy’s schedule changes and he can’t keep her company.
Then there’s Jasper and Monty, who always manage to be loud enough when it comes to announcing their presence within a ten meter radius. They joke and bicker, always projecting the bright side of every situation. Bellamy tolerates them in small doses, scares the hell out of them with his sour mood and icy stare and brings them down to earth the minute they take things a little too far for his liking, patronizing and scolding. (They learn to adore him.)
Although Clarke’s usually silent, overcome by fond memories and Octavia’s evident absence, she takes joy in her little escape from cruel reality, refusing to let it go.
Life goes on.
When Abby is gone from their shared dorm, Clarke prefers the privacy and the quiet to Murphy’s watchful eyes or Nathan’s clumsy interruptions.
Bellamy doesn’t protest. He lounges on her bed without giving much thought to it, always with an old book about history or mythology in his hands, his body sprawled on her mattress in just the right way, letting her have the required amount of space to draw.
On the days she feels daring enough, she concentrates on his face; the harsh lines and the sharp edges giving the impression he’s daunting, threatening, impossible to approach, and the faint dotting of freckles across his nose somewhat smoothing out his cool exterior.
He is nothing like most people think. He is nothing like she thought.
She watches as he closes his eyes, breathing slowly through his nose, letting his head fall back against the wall of metal, the book falling heavy on his lap. He grimaces once or twice, his eyelids squishing his thick eyelashes. She is fascinated.
She stares unabashedly, expecting him to open his eyes swiftly, suddenly, to take her by surprise and deprive her of her chance to commit every part of him to memory.
She grasps her pencil, chewing her bottom lip, wondering where to start. If it’s one of his good days, he’ll let her go through with it.
The tip snaps and Clarke curses under her breath. He’s looking at her, too, now, she knows. She hopes it is one of his good days, she muses as she eventually decides to push her luck, to stretch his limits.
“Do you think we’ll ever go back?”
He lazily brings an arm behind his head, massaging the nape of his neck. It’s probably stiff by now. “Do you want to go back?” he challenges, his tone a tad bit more indifferent than she’d like.
She sighs, frowning. “Why do you always have to answer my questions with questions of yours?” she complains, hardly capable of concealing her impatience.
He shrugs, offering a half-smile that never makes it to his eyes. “I’m just saying,” he begins. “Not everyone would abandon this safety. Even if it’s temporary.”
There is a long pause, where neither of them speaks. She can acknowledge their safety, that’s for sure. But she would give anything to have one last moment with Octavia, to share one last, decent goodbye with Aurora, to have one last talk with her father.
“You’re right,” Clarke agrees. “There’s this woman from Epsilon Station. She’s pregnant,” she tells him, flinching at the word, a violent shiver running up her spine at the thought. “Seven months.”
“I wouldn’t do that,” she promises. “There’s so much at stake already. I would never endanger a life willingly.”
He hums quietly. “I’ve never thought about kids.” (I won’t think about kids now.)
He says nothing more. He doesn’t need to. He won’t fight her opinion on this matter, not when his runs along the same lines.
“Hey,” Raven calls, patting the seat beside her. “The duo just left – they’d been looking for you. Do you have any idea what these two morons put me th—”
“Have you seen Bellamy?” Clarke interjects urgently.
Raven closes her mouth, head moving backwards in surprise. She shakes her head in denial. “He didn’t come at all. I thought he was with you.”
“I have to go,” Clarke blurts out.
“I have to go,” she reiterates needlessly. “I’ll talk to you later.”
She doesn’t make it to his dorm room. She finds him standing by the closest window, hands clasped together behind his back, eyes trained forward on the glass, unseeing. He must notice her movements out of the corner of his eye, if her reflection doesn't already give her away before then.
She walks by his side, touching her shoulder against his arm. He tenses.
“We missed you at lunch,” she says.
“I already ate,” he lies. She follows his line of vision. Earth; round and blue. Earth engulfed by a veil of shimmering radiation.
“Bellamy,” she breathes.
“If you don’t need anything—” She parts her lips to object, but he’s fast, watching her with eyes of steel through the glass. “I can’t deal with this right now, Clarke.”
“I do,” she answers in a small voice. “I need to show you something.”
Before she can give him the time to respond, she drapes her backpack over one shoulder, extracting a sketchbook from inside. She flips it open to the first page, pushing it to his general direction. He spares a curious glance its way, raising an eyebrow at it. Bellamy remains silent even when she offers her explanation.
“It’s empty,” she points out. “I thought this could be some kind of memory thing. For her.” She pauses. “To honor her birthday.”
To remember her. To stop waking up in the middle of the night with her forehead drenched in perspiration, pushing and pushing herself to paint Octavia’s face in her head, desperate for a reminder that’s been slipping away from her. To stop being scared she’ll open her eyes one day and have forgotten.
Bellamy turns to look at her properly then, life sparking in the dullness of his gaze. “And you’ve always been so good with words,” she continues. “I thought you could help me write something nice.”
She takes a chance, approaching him once again, linking her arm through the loop of his. He disentangles his hands, letting them follow Clarke’s lead, breathing heavily. She intertwines their fingers, thumb moving in feathery circles over his slightly protruding veins. She notes how exhaustion has weighed down on him, the physical and mental struggle wearing him down.
He gulps. “I wouldn’t know where to start,” he rasps.
She squeezes his hand, leaning over his general direction as relief floods her bit by bit. “We’ll figure it out,” she vows, a newfound confidence lacing her tone.
He averts his eyes, fingering the ring on her pinkie. Just when she convinces herself he’s lost in thought, he speaks.
“I could write about Jake, too,” he proposes after he clears his throat and her chest tightens. “He was a good man,” he says sincerely.
Her throat feels dry all of sudden. He wraps a steady arm around her shoulders, pulling her close, gently squeezing her forearm. The bag falls by her feet with a thud, some of the contents spilling out.
She stifles an unintended gasp on his shirt, softly thanking him in a murmur. She nods her head a couple of times, pressing her cheek against him.
“All in time,” she tells him.
They are to each other what they miss the most from their lives, filling up the blank spaces and the missing roles of responsibility. Sure, they still fight like they used to, but she cares now, and that’s what prompts her to make an extra effort, to see things from his perspective and take a step back when necessary, to pay attention to the little things he does for her or every reaction to the most trivial of situations.
He cares, too. He brings her dinner after a hectic day, when she can’t seem to catch a break, and he talks to her. (He talks to her about his family and her family. He reminisces about what he knew of her father and reminds her that her mother is someone she’ll have to live with.)
He is at her door when the pregnant woman’s water breaks late at night and Abby leaves her to rest. (Resting is the last thing on her mind, but she’s just so tired.) She’s chewing her nails when she lets him in, scrunching her nose at him when he halts her actions, wordlessly scolding her for her bad habit, his fingers squeezing her knuckles.
She receives his unspoken message and allows her posture to relax.
They don’t work on the memory book that night. He reads her the story that granted Octavia the uniqueness of her unusual name instead and lets her curl up against him, limbs entangled and sides pressed together. His voice is deep and low while nearly indiscernible hints of fondness creep in, making Clarke’s eyelids droop before she can really register it.
“Stay,” she requests, her hand gripping his sleeve before he goes. He only hesitates for a minute, wetting his lips, giving in.
They crawl under the covers, squirming and turning until they’re comfortable, content regardless of the narrow margin. They share her pillow.
“Goodnight,” she whispers, inhaling and exhaling softly. After some minutes, when his breathing evens out somewhat, Clarke opens her eyes.
Although she can’t see much, the noncommittal sound he makes at the back of his throat reaches her ears, making something she cannot place stir and tickle her insides. She watches him watch her, feels him chase her drowsiness away without even blinking.
She feels the desire to be in his head, to just ask him, when he moves. His hand is on her cheek, brushing strands of hair out of the way, before he falters, her sharp intake of breath startling him. She tilts her head, breathing erratically against his palm.
He touches her; her nose, her mouth. He lingers there, fingers ghosting over her bottom lip. Goosebumps rise on her skin at the anticipation of the unknown and she does her best to suppress her need to wiggle her toes. She tries not to think too much. (Because she can. Because she probably should. Because there are lines that remain uncrossed, lines they’ve been carefully treading away from and breaking their self-enforced rules could throw both of them off.)
He doesn’t pull her flush against him, like she expected. He does, however, free her lips just in time to cover them with his. His hand cups the back of her head, closing the remaining distance. Her mouth moves under his, leisurely at first, experimenting. They soon find a faster pace, settling for it. She parts her lips as they get acquainted with his, kissing him until she’s all out of breath.
Bellamy finally pulls back, quietly grunting. None of them presses for more.
Her mouth opens again, starving for oxygen, but she conceals it with the back of her palm, trapping a yawn inside.
Bellamy’s arm snakes around her waist. “Get some sleep,” he advises huskily, stealing one last peck from the corner of her mouth.
(She doesn’t think at all.)
They kiss a lot.
She doesn’t overanalyze it, no matter how her lips always seem to find a way to his, sucking, caressing, tasting. She doesn’t feel like there is a point in overanalyzing it. It gives her the impression of a somewhat natural progression of the odd relationship blossoming between them; a relationship based on loss and need. (Needing him is certainly unsettling, and she doesn’t call it for what it is most of the time, subtly ignoring it. Though, it seems so trivial compared to what everyone is forced to be put through in this station for the sake of survival that her grip on him is a little tighter when she clings.)
She learns Bellamy uses his mouth to say what he can’t put to words; a mere greeting, an outburst, a victory, an achievement, a release. I trust you. Be safe.
She doesn’t notice a change in her, a contingent shift of her standard, invariable emotions, until she’s with Raven.
Raven’s body language does enough to betray her anxiety, if her nonstop blabbering isn’t already an unusual indication. She’s seeing someone. (Sort of, she adds for good measure.) His last name is Wick and he’s mature, older, interested. He knows how to act around her, he is aware of how to get around her defenses and quietly knock them down with his humorous monologues and repartees.
“You work in medical,” Raven says then, taking into consideration Clarke’s bafflement. “Well, you must have heard of the new birth control method.” Right. The implants.
“Yes,” Clarke confirms.
“Could you maybe – help me out? Tell me what you know,” her friend clarifies.
Clarke breathes in and out, in and out. She thinks about the other day, when Bellamy’s hand slipped beneath the hem of her shirt, exploring, fondling. Warmth seeped into her and blood rushed in her veins, skin flushed and hot as she guided his hand to her beating heart, her hipbone, under her underwear.
(He’s going slow to the point of frustrating her, slower than she’s ever seen him be. She has seen the girls he used to court back in high school, she has heard them and she has suffered through every detailed complaint of Octavia’s. He was voracious when it came to physical contact, treating sex as a means to an end, ridding himself of harsh reality’s tension, coming off as manipulative – a self-seeker. He seems to be afraid of something.)
Clarke lifts her gaze decisively, meeting Raven’s questioning one.
“No. I’m coming with you.”
Murphy doesn’t make a habit of lurking behind her. He doesn’t make a habit of addressing her at all actually, which is why hiding the signs of bewilderment from her expression isn’t something she bothers with as soon as he proceeds to follow her movements in the dorm room – his dorm room, as she makes a mental note to herself.
But then again, she rarely shared his living quarters with him for more than ten minutes before. Bellamy was never absent, and if he was, Nathan wasn’t.
“I heard our people have voted for the Council.” She crosses her arms over her chest, curious about the conversation he’s decided to strike up. “Abigail Griffin was elected – that’s your mother,” he points out, eyebrows arching up, completing his sentence with mock surprise. His voice carries something strange; foreign and disconcerting, threatening to derange her equilibrium.
“That would be her,” she affirms, wary of the derisive sound he elicits, a sound dangerously close to a muffled chuckle. “I don’t understand where the problem is,” she bites out, irritated, willing herself not to take offense. Quite frankly, there is no reason for him to offend her.
She averts her eyes from his just for the briefest of moments, acknowledging his roommates’ entrance with a fading smile.
“I believe you and Blake are close enough. Maybe he could enlighten you about the purpose of history, since he is so obsessed with it,” Murphy suggests.
Her response is intuitive, her attention shifting to Bellamy. Nathan moves discreetly, disappearing out of Murphy’s visual field.
“What’s going on?” Bellamy demands.
“Yet, here we are, making the same mistakes all over again. Repeating them. How do you think people feel about that?”
“I don’t know what they feel,” Clarke replies, taking a generous step towards him, invading his personal space. “But I know what they should feel. They should be grateful they are alive, let alone healthy. They owe that to the Council. Its members weren’t elected by chance,” she reasons.
“Spoken like a true privileged,” he snorts.
Bellamy grabs his arm, shoving him backwards. “Cut it out, Murphy,” he barks.
“What are you gonna do?” Bellamy clenches his jaw, his fingers bending inwards to create a fist so the shaking will stop. His lack of response gives Murphy the chance he needs to keep going. “Nothing,” he taunts spitefully. “That’s what you’ve been doing all this time. That’s what you’ve been supporting by tagging along with her. With them.”
“Don’t push your luck,” Bellamy threatens, raising his hand in warning before him. Clarke stumbles back. “I swear to God, you have no fucking clue what you’d be getting yourself into.”
Murphy gestures vaguely towards Clarke’s general direction. “She’s all talk. But when she isn’t hiding behind the Council’s protection—”
Bellamy grabs him from his collar, backing him up against a wall.
“Bellamy,” she hisses. “Leave him. He won’t dare to act on anything.” He doesn’t oblige her. He doesn’t even spare her a glance. “There will be consequences, you know that.”
“Don’t fuck with me,” he growls.
“I’m not,” Murphy retorts. “Even if I was, it’s not like you’re the one with the knife. So you’re not exactly in control here.”
Bellamy takes the bait. He loses it. He takes a swing at him, elbowing him when he ducks in an effort to avoid the blow. He attacks him until his knuckles ache, until Murphy fights back, giving as good as he takes.
She screams at them, panicking when they tumble on the ground, wrestling. Miller tries to break them up for the third time the moment Murphy’s head hits the back of the bed and Bellamy straddles him, his fingers locking around his neck, blocking his airway.
“Nathan! Do something!” she commands. He does, cursing as he violently rips Bellamy’s arms off Murphy, yelling at him to snap out of it.
“Bellamy,” she shouts. “You’ll kill him, please,” she implores. His name echoes on the roof of her mouth, over and over again. She pulls at him from behind, clawing at his back, helpless tears brimming in her eyes. She trashes and kicks, her breathing shallow and inadequate, her lungs burning, requiring air. Nathan's arms wrap like the tightest of vines around her middle, preventing her from intervening more than she already has.
She swallows back a sob, when the moment Bellamy fully comprehends what he’s doing dawns on him. His pupils dilate in terror, his hands trembling as he wipes at his mouth, dirtying them with blood. He dries them on his thighs, spreading the aftereffects of his actions, and then – then there’s blood everywhere.
He holds onto the wall closest to him, desperate for leverage. Murphy coughs in the background, inhaling soundly.
“Get up,” Nathan orders. “Both of you. You need to clean up before anyone gets here.”
Clarke retreats. This is on her. This is the price she has to pay for being Octavia’s substitute even in the most meaningless moments of her brother’s life. This wouldn’t have even happened, if it weren’t for her. This wouldn’t have happened, if she hadn’t sought him out, if she hadn’t been persistent in earning his attention, his respect, his trust.
She is Murphy, lying on the floor, defenseless. She needs air. She needs to go.
She turns on her heel and bolts before he can hold her back, before he can break her, before she turns putty in his hands again.
She hears him call out her name. She forcefully clears her vision, eliminating any traces of wetness, speeding up.
She counts the moments of torturous solitude in the fingers of her hands, chin propped up on the knees drawn to her chest. She’s cold here, on the library’s floor, behind the bookshelves full of medical information. She’s so very cold and there’s nothing she would like more than to erase the guilt inside her, to steady her breathing and snuggle under the warmth of her blankets, for once craving her bed since her short time here.
But her mother is already home and a conversation between them – one revolving around what’s on her mind of all things – is out of the question.
She doesn’t know what she would have preferred to do, had she suspected footsteps would be heard only minutes after her self-enforced isolation. She has gotten familiar with the distinctive sound, light and cautious despite the weight that’s being carried.
He pauses just as he spots her, a few feet away, procrastinating. She looks away. A sigh wheezes through his lips before his gait resonates across the aisle all over again. He crouches down, taking a seat beside her, his back leaning against the wall.
“I’m sorry.” Her nails dig in her calves. “Clarke. I’m – I didn’t mean to – fuck,” he says.
“It wasn’t your place,” Clarke protests, her voice quavering. Anger finds its place in her tone the moment he lowers his head. “You had no right – you have no right to get in the middle of anything I can handle on my own. Those were nothing but empty threats. No one has permission to possess a knife or make use of it, unless—”
“He does. Murphy. He has a knife.”
“Well, he isn’t allowed to have one,” she insists.
“What difference does that make?” he snaps. “You are naïve, if you think nobody can touch you without your consent simply because they aren’t allowed to.”
She runs her hand over her hair, fuming, fingers knotting in them. The blood boils in her veins, worms its way up her reddening face and makes the tips of her ears hot. “You have got to stop this at some point.”
“Stop what?” he asks testily.
“That, right there. Being so unreasonably irate, acting like I’m perpetually disappointing you. I’m not a child, Bellamy. I’m not your sister – I’ll never be anything close to the person she was. No one will do that for you. No one will ever be worthy of a bond that doesn’t even exist anymore.”
“Don’t you think I know that?” he cries darkly.
She puts distance between them, jumping to her feet, towering over his form. “She’s gone,” she gasps out. “She’s dead and you have no power over that. You can’t protect her anymore.” She shakes her head repeatedly, backing away. “You can’t protect me. I don’t want you to.”
She can feel her sanity abandoning her, receding. It’s dust, filtering through her quivering fingers. It’s ice – her insides – melting into nothing.
She turns her back on him for a second time, her feet moving of their own volition. He doesn’t follow her. (She doesn’t want him to. Maybe if she repeats that, if she breathes it out, if she says it loud enough, she’ll believe it.)
She trips on the chair at the end of the dimly illuminated aisle, panting as her elbow crashes against the study table, easing her fall. She supports herself on the edge, collapsing on the chair with a strangled noise of defeat.
Her hands cover her ears, pull at the roots of her hair, press against her closed eyelids. They fall limp against Bellamy’s, paralyzed by them, engulfed by them. By him.
He lowers himself in order to share her eyelevel, sitting on his heels.
“I can’t go home like this.” Her words are fruitless, needless.
“We can’t be here. We’ll be caught and—”
He touches a finger to her lips, sealing them. He shushes her.
“Miller’s on patrol. Nobody’s coming,” he promises. He doesn’t talk for a while, searching her face for something, his gaze softening with a small puff of air. He doesn’t let her talk, either, withdrawing his hand after some long moments.
“Okay,” she whispers. Alright.
Bellamy doesn’t rise to his full height, but moves upwards, propping his weight on the lower part of his legs. He touches her collarbone as he leans in, thumb massaging the skin behind her ear in circles, the pads of his fingers lightly scraping the back of her neck, barely moving.
He takes her upper lip in his mouth, his teeth scraping gently against it. His eyes are open and so are hers, observing him when he pulls away. Her attempt to gauge his reaction, to predict him, is strangely futile. There’s nothing to see beyond the acuteness and the intensity – the candor and the want.
It dawns on her then. This isn’t about Octavia.
This is about her. This is about him waiting for her acquiescence and her acceptance, for the confirmation he has the potential to be someone other than the monster he’s made himself out to be, the relentless, agitated beast he allegedly tries to repress.
This is about them; what she feels deep in her bones, sizzling, igniting, setting her skin and her soul on fire.
She kisses him soundly, urgently. Their mouths clash and their teeth graze. Their hands wander and feel and aim to satisfy the unappeased hunger they’ve grown so familiar with these past few weeks. They are insatiable, coveting.
She twines her arms around his neck, hanging, barely resisting when he pulls her to him, effortlessly manipulating gravitation. Her hand gropes the metal table blindly, locating, estimating, using her heightened senses to climb up when he backs her up against it.
He detaches his mouth from hers and they habitually fight for dominance, settling for an unprecedented balance instead. The table moves beneath her, knocking against the wall with a loud crash, and Bellamy’s feet trail the series of events with swiftness and an unforeseeable precision.
Her hands fall flat on the cool surface of the desk only for a moment, soon finding shelter on the bareness of his taut stomach, hovering, travelling upwards. He shivers at her cold touch, cloaking the natural reaction with a spasmodic dive for her parted lips, stealing a bated breath before his descent. He lingers on the pulse point on her throat, mouth hot and moist and reassured, feeling the thrum of her heart.
Her nails scratch his flesh sporadically, sometimes deliberately and some others unintentionally, the fabric of his shirt gathering in the curved hooks of her fingers. He pauses, assisting her, hurriedly pulling the hem over his head.
She pants at his grunts and gasps at his throaty moans, whimpering at the vibrations of his voice. His tone is low and deep, his words calculated and fiery on the expanse of her skin.
She has missed this terribly. It’s been so long since she last gave in to her carnal desires and suppressible needs that she remains indecisive. She wants him to be fast and unrelenting, void of regret and second thoughts. She wants him to be slow and fervent. She wants him to deliver each and every one of the promises dangling from his lips, burning the tip of his tongue. (She wants to hear them all. The promises he can keep. The promises he can’t keep. She wants them to be etched on her body and she wants him to taste them.)
He helps her sit up on the table, their fronts pressed together after her blue jumper lands on the floor by his. She identifies the coppery flavor of blood on the split corner of his mouth and the swell on his cheek and he silently urges her to retract the gentleness in her touch, making the ultimate decision for her.
He opens his mouth right above her hipbone, blowing a hot exhale, nearing her hot center until she pulls him by his hair with a shake of her head, hands fisting in them in a different, impatient demand.
He fucks her on the frigid table, holding her underwear to the side with the curl of his thumb, waiting until nothing but the necessary barriers are out of his way. He pushes her on her back, holding her down by her waist when he sinks into her for the first time, palming her breasts, enthralled by the pebbling tips and the arising goosebumps.
They are cold and sweaty by the time their hips rotate and thrust in a harmonized dance of delight that will leave them both powerless and defenseless. His movements are sharp and hard on her request, the table forcefully banging against the wall. She carelessly hits the back of her head in the process, the impact making her dizzy and lightheaded.
He cradles her head, his gaze drawing her attention to it and he swallows, his erratic motions stalling considerably. She presses her heel on the plump flesh of his backside, wordlessly spurring him on, guiding him with her rugged, rhythmical breathing.
She whimpers when he refuses to look elsewhere, as though the enormity of her presence chokes him, entraps him, mesmerizes him only now. As though he finally wraps his head around the fullness of him filling her up. As though he sees how all unthinkable flaws of his complete hers, molding and fitting like puzzle pieces over time.
It ends with noises of struggle and contentment and clammy foreheads resting on top of one another. They share a long breath before a bittersweet feeling settles inside her, squeezing her heart in pleasant agitation.
Clarke’s eyes drift shut for some seconds, as she keeps track of small things around her. Ruddy marks fading from the broadness of Bellamy’s shoulders to his abdomen. The unusually odd feel of his fingers linking with hers. The pressure on the tenderness of her chest or the softness of her curves, where his hands were.
The marks mean nothing when it comes to possession and dependency. They are not one another’s. (She will never be anyone’s.)
But they are a reminder her connection to Bellamy isn’t a mere fiction of her imagination. They are a reminder that even though she doesn’t support his supposed obligation to create a safe harbor for her, she isn’t alone in this; the pain and the suffering, the small and fickle pleasures and the relief.
They are allies. Companions. Partners.
When the watch in Clarke’s hand indicates a new day is ahead of them, Bellamy promises to do right by her and report Murphy’s knife. In return, Murphy reports the thorough truth of the events that followed his illegal act – his need to feel protected, as he claims.
Clarke doesn’t read too much into the man’s threats, not until she comes face to face with the consequences of Bellamy’s actions herself.
She arrives at work in the early afternoon and he’s there before her, clad in the only pair of boots he owns and a blue uniform she’s never seen him in before, one that’s constructed differently than that of a current guard. A janitor’s uniform.
He breaks eye contact sooner than she tries to initiate it, lowering his head at her questioning look.
“Clarke,” Jackson calls, noticing the silent exchange. “You need to get started. Abby needs you,” he prompts.
Bellamy gives a small boost to the bucket with the side of his foot. His hand wraps around the pole of the mop, his fist clenching until his knuckles turn ashen. She waits for him to look at her one last time. (She waits and waits.)
“I’m sorry,” she mouths when her disbelieving grimace melts away and she finally follows the direction Jackson did earlier.
She eventually meets the notorious Wick during lunch. Bellamy’s on duty and Raven plops into the vacant seat next to Clarke’s, pulling an extra chair for him, raising a challenging eyebrow at Jasper, who freezes to inspect the new addition to their table, his bite half-chewed inside his mouth. Harper elbows Monty under the table, and he stifles his surprised gasp with a somewhat exaggerated grin.
“You can just call me Kyle,” Wick corrects Raven’s introduction with a quiet sigh, placing his tray on the dining table.
Raven is strangely nervous at first, fidgeting with her napkin to the point of crumpling it. It doesn’t take long for Monty to engage them both in a conversation about the progress engineering has made, genuinely curious about their research. They talk fast in response, with synchronized gestures and obscure terminology, completing the inevitable gaps in each other’s sentences.
Raven’s knowledge is limited when it comes to the dangers on the ground, so, after some minutes, the attention is fully focused on Wick. He talks about the careful planning of missions to Earth, about the estimation of the imminent decrease in ration levels, about the possible construction of the first dropship.
Clarke knows what he’s saying. They are nowhere near ready to go back, to set foot on the ground, to inhale the earthy scent of the forest or the salty smell of the ocean. But they will be, someday.
She thinks about Bellamy. She thinks about how her heart is filled with hope for someday and how much she wants to share that with him.
Raven catches her traitorous smile. She nudges her foot in acknowledgement.
Clarke starts collecting moments; little ones, like lunchtime and the preciosity of alone time with Bellamy. There are moments of clarity or moments of intimacy and closeness.
There are the creases marring his facial features when he makes an effort to concentrate on what intrigues him greatly. There are the sounds she coaxes out of him with her mouth and fingers. There are the images of agitated pleasure when she moves above him, underneath him, around him; when she enfolds him with all her might. There are the freckles on his nose, the dark halo of mussed curls on top of his head, the well-defined lines of his limbs and slender fingers. The taste of him and the feel of him.
There is the chain around his neck, heavy with the weight of Octavia’s ring, resting on his sternum, never failing to take her breath away.
She counts those moments – all of them – in the trembling fingers of her hands and holds them close to her, desperate for the fleeting warmth elaborately wrapping like a vine around her still beating heart. Desperate for the illusion – it sure seems like one – that things are looking up, that they are still so blissfully good.
In the end, they get ripped out of her grasp violently, surreptitiously evaporating from her mind. It becomes harder – hard – for her to hold on to them when the problems start piling up and death and misfortune are all people talk about around her.
One of the twelve remaining space stations (Delta Station) gets blown up without any warnings, leaving nothing but floating debris and terror in its wake. She thinks this is the worst of it, the point where everyone finally lays down their weapons and surrenders to their luck, anticipating the sight of humankind’s finish line.
And then the announcement is made by the Council itself; there is a failure in the oxygen system. The Station is breaking down. Artificial air is not sufficient for them, not anymore.
She is at the infirmary, taking a lady’s blood pressure when the first black spots start to appear. She is incapable of ignoring the nuisance in her vision for more than a few seconds, ultimately giving in to her pressing need for a break.
She calls for one of the interns, passing him the stethoscope in restrained relief, apologizing to the old woman in a hurry. She passes by her mother’s patients waiting to be examined and lets her feet instinctively lead her to the main desk, barely getting the chance to catch her breath when she sits down.
She leans her forehead on her fist, wringing her mind for explanations. She is trained to be a doctor, for heaven’s sake. She should know better than to attribute her overwhelming vertigo to fatigue.
Just when she believes she’s gotten through it, she leaps from her seat, losing her balance in the process. Her hand reaches out for some kind of leverage, bringing a stack of neatly piled papers down with her.
She shakes her head, patiently waiting for the fog to clear out. She clings to what she can; facts, numbers, obligations, faces. Moments.
(One of them stands out the most and Clarke clings some more. She hears a commotion. She hears laughter. She smells Aurora’s tea and sees the spark in the blue of Octavia’s eyes. She feels her fire, burning so bright, and her hand extends to touch it, to remember what being devoured by the flames is like. She cries out.)
She’s on the floor until she feels a little better, until Jackson finds her and brings the rim of a cup to the seam of her lips, gently forcing water down her throat. The cup is half-empty when Abby asks him to take her place, requiring some moments with her daughter.
Abby makes her sit on the chair all over again.
“This is it,” she whispers softly, stroking her golden hair. “That’s it for today. You’ll wait in line with the rest of them.”
“Sweetheart, it’s standard procedure,” Abby reassures, choking on her last words. “It will only take a couple of minutes.”
Clarke opens her mouth to protest, forecasting the lack of words before she presses it shut. She helplessly twirls the ring around her pinkie, nodding with a long sigh of resignation.
As she makes her way home, persistent fingers lock around her forearm, the strength confining her.
The blaze in Bellamy’s eyes is one she hasn’t been familiar with before; tenacious and menacing. It’s warmer than the sharpness of his glare during a heated argument, yet simultaneously grimmer than what his confrontations with her have slowly evolved to.
“You’ve been avoiding me,” he accuses.
She squirms out of his grasp, breaking free. She levels her stare with one of her own. “Things have been busy for the past two weeks,” she reminds him reasonably.
“Don’t,” he instructs, the warning creeping in his words. “We haven’t spoken in four days.”
“Four days,” he repeats. There’s something strange in the way he presses his lips tightly together in finality, waiting for her denial, expecting for a confession of sorts. He sizes her up rapidly, as though she’s hiding from him and –
He knows. Still, she lets him speak first.
“Monty’s sister is sick. She was at medical when you lost consciousness,” he reveals.
“I didn’t lose – fine,” she grumbles at the incredulity adorning his features. “I was dehydrated. Oxygen deprivation has made matters worse for most of us. Monty’s sister is anemic. It’s nothing unusual, nothing we haven’t faced before,” she says. She cringes at the double meaning, her throat constricting.
(It’s fixable. It’s reversible.)
Bellamy notices. She interrupts his attempt to retort.
“I should go,” she tells him. “If things have settled down by dinner, I’ll come find you. Tomorrow.”
It just isn’t enough for him. (It wouldn’t have been enough for her, either.) Her choice of words is poor and unpromising, the phrases she’s uttered inadequate. She’s doing that thing with her hands again; pressing them on her sides, sheltering them behind her back so she’ll stop flouncing.
“Hey,” he addresses her, easily catching up with her, his long strides giving him an unfair advantage. “Hold on.” His hand hovers between them indecisively, before he allows it to drop. He must have reached an odd conclusion about touching her and the way she feels about it. Something shatters within her at the thought.
“D’you want to talk?” he asks, gravel filling his voice.
She breaks. “It doesn’t matter,” she murmurs. “It won’t.”
She watches as false hope morphs into confusion. “I don’t follow,” he admits.
It’s fixable. It’s reversible. Or is it?
It’s not, she decides when she looks at him. It’s her battle to fight, her decision to make, but Bellamy deserves to be aware of the truth as much as she does. It’s not.
So much for bearing it so he doesn’t have to.
“I’m pregnant,” she breathes. “I wasn’t supposed to be. The implant should have worked out, but it just—” She pauses. She swallows practically nothing, her mouth parched. “There was a mistake. I should have it looked at after – after,” she says, her last word spoken in a disheartened whisper.
Bellamy takes a step back from her, his instinct for support faltering. She takes a good look at him for the first time in a few moments. His stance is not remotely close to that of an offended man. But he seems reserved. Lost. Wary.
“What are you gonna do?” he inquires pressingly. There is a defensive edge to the tone of his voice, a distress.
Clarke’s shoulders slump. “You know I can’t have a child. We couldn’t possibly – we couldn’t,” she echoes.
“So what you’re saying is—”
“No,” she rushes to cut him off. She can’t hear him articulate the words she’s been punishing herself with all these days. She’s all about facts and order and precision, but not now. Not about this.
“No, we’ve talked about this. You said you never wanted kids. You said that.”
“You did. You were in my dorm, my bed. You were reading the Iliad of Homer,” she says in a panic.
He brings a frustrated hand down his face, eyes sealed tightly. He breathes through his nose, scoffing. “I know when that was. I said I hadn’t thought about them. I never said I would—” He curses, his breathing forced and labored.
She wants to ask him to point out the difference to her. She almost does.
“Were you going to tell me at all?”
The silence is her enemy, her doom. It stretches between them, leaving room for him to process her implicit answer fully, painstakingly. Voices break through the quiet, clueless strangers passing them by in the corridor. The sounds ebb away after some time, vanishing in the distance.
“I’ve thought about this,” she swears to him. “We are not at war anymore. The oxygen failure turned out to be a glitch. But there have been casualties. There will be more, another malfunction, another inconvenience to our living arrangements. This – this fraud of a world we’re living in – is so incredibly unstable. I can’t do this to a person I have a choice in giving life to.”
“You can’t base your life on fear of the unknown, either,” he hisses.
She bites the inside of her cheek to the point of nearly drawing blood. She doesn’t know if he’s doing this because he’s thought about it or because he’s petrified of the guilt that will keep him awake at night – she’ll be the one with the blood on her hands and he’ll be the one to let it happen.
She clears her throat. “This isn’t up for discussion,” she announces. “I’m doing it. Whether you support it or not, it’s the choice I’ve made.”
“There’s no going back after this,” he snaps. She recognizes this for what it is; a last out, a last display of hardly restrained emotions from his part. She knows when she won’t take it he’ll blink, the muscles of his jaw will work, he’ll exhale.
“I know.” Even now, there’s no preparing her sensitive stomach for the violent churn at the sight of his blank stare – a glance she’s evidently managed to decode and learn so much from. If the situation were different, she might have shaken the anger and the anguish out of him, fully prepared for his upcoming outburst. (Now she retreats.)
He nods, his expression unreadable. He’s right there, in front of her, within touching distance. He’s miles away from her. She hates the uncertainty when his name rolls off her tongue.
“Come find me at dinner,” he says, effectively throwing her words back at her, giving her the power she’s entitled to. Just like she wished. “If things have settled down by then.”
A sick part of her wishes he’d yelled at her so that she would shout at him right back. She wishes he’d been irrational and livid. She wishes he’d been like what she’s used to, what she’s learned to approach.
Her heart flops inside her chest.
That night is the first one she truly cries in months.
She leans into her mother’s welcoming embrace at last, burrowing her face against her shoulder with a tremulous sigh, gripping the bed sheets in her clenched fists.
She’s a mess, with her bloodshot eyes and runny nose, her inhales coming in short, uncontrollable gasps. They get smaller and inefficient as she reciprocates her mother’s affections, muffling her ridiculous hiccups on her shirt. The palm on her back moves rhythmically, slowing her accelerated heartbeat, soothing her.
She cries until she’s all out of tears and energy. She cries until it’s time.
And, when it’s time, she wills herself to clam up, camouflaging her apprehension with a mask of confidence. A confidence she hasn’t come to terms with deep inside, where the mayhem of objections eventually falls apart. A confidence that impels her to hold her tongue and lie when she’s asked for the umpteenth time if she’s positive and has no second thoughts about this. This is for the best.
She is instructed to wear a light blue robe before she lies on the table, eyes drifting shut as the warning comes and she feels the sting of a needle piercing through her skin. She catches her mother’s gaze, feels her hand squeeze her fingers, and hears her words of encouragement.
They’ve talked about this. They’ve exhausted every possibility, every thought and every alternative. If anyone has her back in this, it’s the woman who gave birth to her.
“It’ll be okay,” she promises.
Clarke is still very much alert when someone touches her bare knee, strapping it to the table gently after her defying kick. The sedative works faster than she’d like, faster than wait and please register in her head, faster than her voice has the ability to carry out her prayers and reach her desperate ears.
A scream burns her throat.
Wait, she begs of the darkness. It doesn’t.
Clarke agrees to one day off and nothing more than that.
She doesn’t need her mother’s constant fussing and worry or the unavoidable tension that will undoubtedly take root between her and Bellamy, should she seek him out. All she needs is someone who won’t feel sorry for her, someone who won’t patronize her, someone who is in the dark about her situation.
Raven spares her no special treatment when she visits, commenting lightly on her wretched appearance and her ludicrous frown. She offers a lopsided smile of triumph when Clarke snorts in response, filling her in on what she’s missed the past few days.
Raven doesn’t ask further questions and their easy conversation revolves around what seems to be within Clarke’s current comfort zone. She even pats her arm a little, asking her to get well soon. It’s friendly and warm, deliberately unsuspecting.
She doesn’t mention the apparent fight with Bellamy once, much to Clarke’s gratefulness.
Although she has noticed the alteration before, the different number and the different material the current sign on his door is made of, she never truly stopped to acknowledge its symbolic nature until now. Things have changed since she last stood here with her heart in her mouth.
Months have passed. People have suffered; they’ve become stronger and they’ve matured. Acquaintances, friendships, bonds have been made. Fear has made its appearance, it has decreased and it has risen all over again.
Her anxiety and timidity are the only familiar parts of her, she notes as her palm repeatedly slaps the door. She takes a step back after a few knocks, bracing herself for his presence. The door swings open, just as she expects.
His dark hair is wet and unruly from his shower, his lips parted in shock upon seeing her.
“Clarke,” he greets. His mouth closes at once and he blinks the surprise from his eyes.
“Can I – uh—” She makes a vague gesture with her hands, pointing to the half-open entrance.
“Yeah,” he stutters, shaking his head. “Yes, of course.” He grants her entrance and she watches as he hastily puts his damp towel on the chair.
“I won’t stay long. I have a shift at the infirmary in an hour,” she informs him, refusing to sit. “I remembered Murphy and Nathan don’t return sooner than that, either.”
“They’ll be gone for another two hours,” Bellamy confirms. After a beat, he continues. “I tried to get in touch. You shouldn’t have had to go through that alone. I tried,” he lets her know. She knows he’s thinking he shouldn’t have allowed her to go through with it without giving her another perspective. He’s thinking he should have fought harder.
“So I’ve been told,” she assures before he starts beating up himself even more for it. “I needed some time.”
He bends his head in awareness, moving closer. “I’m sorry,” he says. “I was an ass. I’m so sorry.” He extends his hand, touching her forearm, her elbow. “My family was torn apart, torn to pieces, and I had no power over that. You’re all I have.”
She turns her hand upside down connecting her palm with the underside of his, holding on when his fingers latch onto her.
He’s changed, too. He’s been a son and a brother. A neighbor and an enemy. Someone familiar when she was in the process of adapting to this new life. Someone she could put her trust and faith into. A friend; her best friend. A lover.
A father. She tells him that.
“I didn’t do it,” she professes. “I wanted to, at first. But then I was scared – I’m still so scared, Bellamy. If I do this, for real this time, I need you to tell me it’s what you want. I need you to tell me you don’t want this baby, because I don’t even know what I want anymore.”
He is speechless for a long moment before he has the ability to recover. In the end, he hugs her tightly, crushing her against him until she melts into him. They become an extension of each other. “I can’t do that,” he replies, his voice hoarse against the crown of her head. “It’s family. My blood. I just can’t.”
Realization hits her hard, harder than reality always does. They’re doing this. He wants them to do this.
“We don’t know anything about babies,” she reminds him. “I know all about the theoretical part, but I have nothing when it comes to walking the talk,” she babbles.
“Hey. We can get through this,” he vows when they break apart.
(She doesn’t have to ask him to never leave her, never turn his back on her again. She doesn’t tell him how she lost her balance, how his absence only intensified the hollowness inside her. She doesn’t have to.)
She has a particularly strong desire to believe him. At some point, she might as well do that.
Bellamy carries out his promise.
The following months are hard and challenging and full of constant change, but he’s there through all of it.
He’s there when her belly is round, the baby growing and stirring inside, sometimes making its presence known with soft butterfly flutters and some others with stubborn kicks. It takes longer than usual for her to feel anything at all, which introduces her to a whole new level of petrifying fright. (Losing the little person she’s so emotionally invested in is not an option to consider, not anymore.)
He’s there when all the stations are unified, forming the Ark. The crowd is a lot bigger and the threats a lot more perceptible, but they are prepared for them now – certainly better than before.
And he’s there when they are allowed access to their own dorm room, a small residency of sorts, after one station is forged from the many. Getting their hands on that license is miraculous, since, usually, only married couples are considered qualified for a pending petition.
(Living with him is rough and nerve-wracking. When she enters her third trimester, their fights exhaust her, draining every last bit of her remaining energy. Living without him is even more stressful.)
Their son is born some weeks after they’ve settled down, announcing his arrival with a shrill screech, confirming Bellamy’s supposedly secret fear. (“I’ve only ever known my way around girls”, he said when the gender was first revealed to them.)
He is pink and tiny and so very fragile, with scarce tufts of dark hair on top of his head and Clarke longs to hold him and never let him go, to teach him everything she knows about this cruel world they’ve brought him in and shield him from it. They don’t name him after the people they lost. Bellamy, speaking from experience, declares that children don’t need to carry around ghosts for the rest of their lives.
But he looks up at her through her father’s eyes and she knows that’s enough. He’s enough; enough to fill the painful void in both of their hearts and pacify the trepidation inside her, enough to arrest Bellamy’s attention and have him wrapped around his tiny little finger in just a matter of milliseconds. She marvels at how Bellamy’s heart easily expands, making room for both of them in it. She allows herself to stare, pupils dilating more and more with the warmth crawling up her spine, hypnotizing her.
So she stares, breathless, when he tells her he loves her for the first time that night. It’s not like she is blind to that, not like she has ever dared to doubt that, but he’s never actually articulated the words, not out loud. She’s family – his family. She gets that – feels that – now.
For the first time in a long time, neither of them feels guilt for surviving in favor of those they’ve been deprived of, for taking the place of someone who could have lived on the newly formed Ark, someone more deserving of the daily routine they had slowly created for themselves.
For the first time in a long time, Clarke feels like she can breathe again, like she belongs where walking on eggshells is a foreign concept.
This wasn’t supposed to happen, she’d said. Maybe it was.
This is her home now; her child’s home. Maybe, someday, the years of her childhood will be a part of a charming narration, a fairy tale.
Bellamy is lulled into a slumber on the chair next to her infirmary bed. Maybe she’ll love this home more than any other.