John Murphy is late.
He’s usually punctual, Lexa has lectured him enough to last a lifetime and he’s figured it’s a good trait to have.
Only this time he’s really, really late.
He was supposed to be there before Lexa and Monty Green teleported into the Leader’s mind. He had to make sure no complications happen and he had to keep Clarke safe.
He surmises he’s really late when he sees Clarke standing over Lexa’s unconscious body with a bewildered look on her face.
‘Griffin, we have to go.’ He quickly grabs hold of her arm, gently, gently, not even waiting for her to respond. ‘Come on, Woods’ orders.’
‘I heard Costia.’ Clarke speaks softly, mostly to herself.
Damn it, John. How do we get out of this without Woods killing us?
‘Griffin, you just need to calm down. I’ll bring you to your room.’ He tries to get Clarke to breathe properly. He notices the further they go from Lexa’s room, the noise in Clarke’s mind builds up more and more. He hears people from around the Institute and from people even further away.
He leads Clarke to the couch set up in her room, where she sits down and the noise is even louder and she’s wincing every five seconds.
‘Are you okay?’ Murphy looks at her from across the room, his arms and legs crossed as he regards Clarke with the slightest bit of worry.
‘I’m fine.’ Her voice is hollow and he could tell she is obviously not fine.
‘Should I get a doctor here for that headache?’ Murphy has never been a good telepath. It requires true human connection to work properly and he’s quite averse to that but he can feel Clarke’s pounding headache.
‘I’m used to it.’ Clarke raises her eyes to level with Murphy. ‘Was that really Costia in Lexa’s mind? Didn’t she die? Please answer honestly.’
Another thing Woods trained him well in is how to lie without lying. When your brain thinks it’s the truth and accepts it as truth, then it is the truth.
‘I can hear you thinking. Just tell me.’ Clarke is not angry, she’s not scared. She’s lost.
Murphy thinks he could just easily make this scenario disappear, he could design a different outcome for all of this, especially since Clarke isn’t particularly well equipped to protect her mind against manipulation.
But he is not on the job. This is Lexa’s life and he considers her a friend. He’s hoping he’ll be able to do her truth justice.
‘Costia’s dead, Clarke.’
Clarke immediately starts shaking her head, ‘I definitely heard her inside Lexa’s mind.’
‘Our minds are capable of manifesting different abilities. Teleportation, mind reading, divination. But we’re not able to use all of these abilities. Like genotypes and phenotypes, we all have these abilities, we just aren’t able to express or manifest them. Which abilities we can use depends on many factors.’ Murphy considers asking one of the Institute’s advisers to help him explain but Clarke seems to understand well enough. ‘Woods’ powers, she doesn’t like that term by the way, involve mental manipulation. She’s able to control her mind to manifest any and all of the abilities possible. Not just her own mind but others as well.’
‘I don’t get how all this is connected to Costia, whom you say is dead, being in Lexa’s head.’
‘When Costia died, Woods was overcome with grief and she, unknowingly, managed to take and absorb Costia’s consciousness into her own.’
Clarke looks like she might have to vomit and Murphy quickly searches the room for the nearest available container. It seems that the current noise filling her mind is more than what she’s used to.
‘I thought it was Lexa who made the noise go away.’
‘It probably is Lexa. The Costia that exists in her head is not able to manifest her powers in this world. Only inside Lexa’s mind.’
‘How could she… How is this even possible?’
‘Our potential is limitless. The manifestation of our abilities are endless. Unfortunately, we are bound to our physical bodies which have countless limitations.’ Murphy remembers all of his training. Not just the mental training but the physical development he had to undergo, Lexa told him it was important so he didn’t end up dead before he was supposed to. ‘Costia died because her powers are too great for her to control.’
‘But Lexa is able to keep her abilities in check?’
‘No.’ Murphy laughs and for the first time, Clarke seems frightened. ‘She wasn’t able to keep her powers restrained unconsciously after Costia died. The Leader, along with Gustus and Lincoln, set up psychic shields so she wouldn’t start blowing up people’s heads unintentionally.’
‘But she’s still able to use her telepathy…’
‘She’s able to use a minute portion of her abilities. Even that is considered dangerous.’ Murphy remembers what Lexa always told him, People are afraid of what they don’t know. However, after knowing, they become even more fearful. ‘Even here, people are wary of her abilities. There are many who thinks her powers, along with the Leader’s, are better off locked away.’
Clarke is quiet as she tries to ease off the pressure and the pain from the noise in her head.
‘Lexa loves you. I’m sure of that.’ Murphy assures her. ‘I didn’t even have to use my powers to create this scenario. Lexa rarely does anything for herself. It’s even rarer for her to do things that make her happy. I think you make her happy. Really, really happy, Clarke.’
Murphy blows things up for a living. Literally and figuratively. He handles sophisticated explosive mechanisms and homemade IEDs. He takes people’s lives and their wants and puts them on his mind’s chalkboard and builds scenarios for them to live happily.
It’s not something he can do for himself. He doesn’t even want that.
Lexa taught him to always be punctual and how to lie and survive torture. She also taught him to live selfishly, and that truly to do that, you always have to put others first.
‘I want to talk to Costia.’
John Murphy has been blowing things up for as long as he can remember. He knows making things explode is a lot easier than putting them back together.
When Murphy first met Lexa, they were in detention.
He had just arrived at the Institute and a week later he’d been reprimanded by the discipline master because half the books in the library disappeared under his watch.
He might have transported them to Africa or whatnot. Whenever the librarian tried to access his brain, all he could find were Spanish newspaper headlines.
Murphy was introduced to Lexa by a loud thud. She had been levitating on the desk when the assigned teacher activated her psychic lock and Lexa’s abilities were negated.
She fell on the floor and gave the teacher an annoyed look. When she noticed Murphy looking at her, she smirked and lifted herself off the floor.
‘You’re the new kid.’
Murphy just nodded at her. He stared straight at the teacher and realised she had not moved since Lexa fell on the floor.
‘You’re making time stop.’
Lexa nodded back at him. Murphy was amazed and terrified at the same time. Most of the ESPers he had encountered were capable of menial things, mind reading, telepathy, and telekinesis. He hadn’t met anyone like him.
His abilities allowed him to alter reality, the reality that he interacted with directly. Everything around him within 10 feet, he had control over. People, things, even the environment.
‘What are you doing here?’ Murphy asked her, thinking hard about whatever he could do to avoid certain death.
‘I was fighting with my brother.’ Lexa laughed at something Murphy couldn’t see or hear. ‘You’re funny, John.’
‘I didn’t tell you my name.’ God, shut up, John, she might decapitate you, here and now. All of the memories Murphy had had in his 15 years on this earth is very quickly flashing before his eyes.
‘You refer to yourself as John in your inner monologue. You sound different inside my head.’ Lexa smiled at him and held out her hand. ‘Hi, I’m Lexa and I won’t be taking your head off. Not today, anyway.’
‘John Murphy, pleasure.’
Murphy was certain Lexa’s a government agent sent to kill him or absorb his powers or…
‘John, I’m a sixteen year old girl and you can easily break my arms and legs if you wanted to. Of course, you won’t be able to. But you could. Hypothetically.’
Murphy decided to turn the conversation away from losing any limbs or breaking bones. ‘How come your brother’s not here?’
‘He lost. He’s in the hospital wing, crying like a baby.’
John, she’s not joking, don’t laugh.
Murphy laughed out loud and Lexa went back to her desk and lied back down on the floor, just as she was before their conversation started.
Time stopped stopping and the next day, Murphy altered his timetable to share a few classes with Lexa Woods.
Lincoln doesn’t move from sitting down while cross-legged in the middle of the Institute’s quiet room.
‘I was late.’ Murphy keeps his distance from him, as he has always been wary of Lincoln’s abilities. He always asked Lexa about it, It doesn’t seem real. Astral projection? I mean, what other dimensions is he going into?
Lexa’s reply was the same every time. What about your gift? How are you sure it’s not just in your head?
‘I won’t be able to come back and help you deal with this, John.’ Lincoln’s voice sounds far off and his eyes remain closed. ‘I’m convening with other ethereal travellers at the moment.’
Murphy wants to laugh at his use of the word ‘ethereal’, because no one would ever think that descriptor and Lincoln at the same time.
‘Clarke wants to talk to Costia.’ He thinks that emphasising those names would bring about the gravity of the situation.
It does not work. ‘Are you asking for permission? Lexa is not here. Technically speaking, I am not here in this plane as well. It’s up to you, John.’
Murphy considers all the possibilities and gives his answer slowly. ‘I don’t think it’s a good idea.’
‘Why is that?’
‘Costia’s crazy, you know that.’ Murphy remembers the time there was almost an uprising in the Institute and it only ended when Costia played Kanye West’s Paranoid over the sound system and declared all of them to be idiots who needed to get their crap together.
‘Yes, she is.’ Lincoln shifts very slightly and Murphy thinks it’s because he’s trying to hold in a laugh. ‘John, do you know why Lexa likes you?
Most of the time, the answer to this question is because John does whatever Lexa tells him to, no muss, no fuss.
The truth, however, is much simpler.
‘Because we’re so much alike.’
‘You can handle this, John. Just like you’ve handled everything that life’s thrown at you.’
Again, Murphy wants to laugh in his face. He’s dying to point out that being able to go into an astral state, doesn’t give him license to dish out monk advice.
He wonders how Lexa is able to keep a straight face whenever Lincoln goes into these ‘ethereal gatherings’.
‘She’s my sister and she loves me, that’s how, John.’ Lincoln takes a deep breath and there is a change in the atmosphere of the room. As if it’s been filled with sand or dust that he cannot see. ‘Let Clarke talk to Costia, help her, try answer questions she may have.’
‘I’m not sure if Woods would like that though.’
‘Lexa is wandering in my father’s mind. We don’t even know if she’s coming back.’ Lincoln’s energy shifts into something stronger than the one overwhelming the room. ‘You have to go now, John. I have some bad company over. Take care of Clarke.’
Murphy quickly exits the room and it locks on its own after he steps out. He knows Lexa would prefer to tell Clarke about everything herself but since she’s not around, Costia is the best source available.
Murphy heard his name echo in the nearly empty corridor and the person who called him out striding quickly toward him.
‘Costia…’ His brain attempted to remember her last name and failed. That meant he didn’t know. He never forgot anything. ‘…I don’t actually know your last name.’
‘It’s Black.’ Costia stared at him with her arms crossed. Usually, when he was with them (them being Lexa, Lincoln and Costia), he would just observe little things and something about Costia and her powers scared him. Even more than Lexa’s abilities. He was also aware that she knew he was scared.
‘Just like your soul, then.’
Costia giggled and shook her head. ‘Save the snark, Murphy. I’m here to talk about Lexa.’
‘Woods? Why?’ Murphy had never been the go-to for anything about Lexa. Except when trying to find ways to annoy her incredibly.
‘You’re my only rival for her, Murphy. So to speak.’
Murphy laughed loudly, had to wait for a minute to regain his balance and realised that Costia was serious.
‘You’re not kidding?’
‘You’re basically her best friend.’
‘I don’t think we’re even friends, Costia.’
She made a disapproving noise and rolled her eyes before continuing. ‘Shut up, John. We both know that’s not true.’
Lexa was Murphy’s friend. She’s your only friend, John. He helped her and Lincoln out with homework, she brought him to conditioning training and they played pranks on the students together.
‘You know that she’s painfully gay, right?’
Lexa told him, sometime ago, he couldn’t really remember when. He shrugged and said ‘Okay’ and she smiled and they went on to manifest paper aeroplanes that hurt like a bitch when they hit you. They ended up helping the custodial services for a week and had this powers locked for a month.
‘I know but is she painfully gay for me?’
‘What’s the use of nigh omniscience if you still had to ask?’
‘She’s blocking me.’ Costia sighed and looked pensive, as if she’s been trying to break through Lexa’s psychic shield for weeks and failing. Lexa had probably been doing that.
‘Well, she’s got good reason to, no?’
‘Just ask her. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. I mean, with all the mind reading going on in this place, you’d think everyone would know already.’
Costia smiled at him and offered a light pat on his shoulder. ‘Thank you, John.’
She had not walked away more than ten steps before looking back and eyeing him suspiciously. ‘Did you do this?’
Following the first rule of surviving torture, all you have to do is, deny, deny, deny. ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about.’
Of course, he knew what she was talking about. All it took was a few alterations to their timetables, their shared (and natural) distaste for cafeteria food, some coupons to the trade bazaar at the Institute, and voila.
Lexa would never tell Costia on her own. She had it stuck inside her head that seeking things to make herself happy is a waste of time and all she had to do was focus in developing and mastering her gift.
She didn’t wallow in sadness or anger, she was just indifferent to the opposite. Rather, she had always thought it was better not to be too happy or content. That it lowers your guard and made you lesser.
She didn’t have to worry about that. John had it covered.
Murphy walks to Clarke’s room to inform her of their upcoming meeting with Costia, only to be greeted by a well-placed punch by her friend, Raven Reyes.
‘What the hell did you do to Clarke, jerkface?’
After checking that his nose isn’t broken, it is, and swallowing whatever amount of blood started to pool in his mouth, he replies. ‘Nothing.’
‘She’s basically catatonic in there.’ She grabs his shirt and shakes him as best she could. A few seconds after making contact with his clothes, she winces and immediately lets go.
‘You’re a messed up dude.’ Raven says as she rubs her temples.
‘Thank you.’ He remembers she has psychometry and offers an apology. ‘I’m sorry.’
‘What did you see?’ He wanted to know. It’s not like he didn’t know, he was there, he did all the things he did and his memory ensured he would never forget. But he would like a reference about how people objectively view what he did.
‘Explosions, people screaming, blood.’
That about sums up his job. He knows Lexa would never hold it against him, she considers emotional and mental attacks worse than physical ones.
‘Seems about accurate.’ He lets her steady herself against Clarke’s door before continuing. ‘I need to talk to Clarke, we have things to discuss.’
‘Octavia and I will be in there with you.’
‘That would be for Clarke to decide.’
They find Clarke sitting on the couch, staring at Octavia, but not really. She looks up when Murphy enters and stands in the middle of the room.
‘I want to talk to Costia.’ She repeats her request.
‘Who’s Costia?’ Octavia asks no one in particular.
Raven, who seems to have absorbed some information and memories from Murphy answers her. ‘She’s Lexa’s ex-girlfriend, who’s dead.’
‘How’d you know that?’ Clarke and Octavia turn to her at the same time.
‘When I touched him.’ Raven points at Murphy, who shrugs, impressed.
‘You did what?’ Octavia hits her on the shoulder.
‘O, it’s my psychometry.’ Raven rolls her eyes at her.
‘Sorry, he just gives me the vibe of someone who would exchange information for inappropriate touching.’
John, you have to protect your honour. ‘Excuse me, I have been water boarded, electrocuted, and hanged and have never given up any information.’
‘That’s true.’ Raven quietly vouches for him.
‘Fine, let’s go back to Clarke wanting to talk to Lexa’s dead ex-girlfriend.’ Octavia shifts them back to more important topics. ‘Do you like, need a spirit medium? Also, why do you have to do that?’
‘She’s inside Lexa’s head.’
Raven and Octavia stay expressionless, waiting for Clarke to burst out laughing and declare everything as a joke. She does not.
‘I told you before, she could blow up people’s heads, we need to go now ASAP.’
Clarke shakes her head and that silences them. ‘We’re not going anywhere. We’ll wait till Monty gets back. I just want answers.’
Hours after Costia’s funeral, Murphy brought Lexa food since she missed breakfast and lunch that day.
He knocked once and entered the room, their usual signal. If Lexa didn’t want anyone to enter, she would lock the door. It was that simple.
He found Lexa lying on the bed, staring at the ceiling, still wearing her formal clothes from earlier. He had to escort her away from the funeral before it finished because she started laughing during the eulogies. She wasn’t even able to give her own at the service.
‘I brought food.’ Murphy expected the room to be a mess, maybe clothes and furniture flying or an overly emotional piece playing but there was none. There was no clear sign she was grieving.
‘She’s in my head, John.’ Lexa spoke softly, he did a double take to confirm the voice was coming from here.
‘Of course she is.’ He was not feeling sad, he felt disappointed. He thought Lexa would be stronger than having hallucinations of Costia.
‘I hear her talk and laugh and make jokes, it’s like she’s not gone.’
He had never been a good telepath, he was terrible at connecting with people and right then, he was afraid of what he might find inside Lexa’s head.
‘She’s speaking to me as if she’s right here beside me.’
Murphy set up the food on her desk and he heard Lexa laugh and giggle twice. ‘Costia said to thank you. For everything, John.’
‘She’s saying take care in your mission tomorrow. Don’t get killed because I would probably go insane, for real.’
Murphy stopped moving and realised he had not told Lexa about his mission tomorrow.
‘John, I think you have to call my father and ask him to come here.’
Murphy nodded quickly and called Lincoln to bring the Leader into Lexa’s room. He was not allowed back in there and he didn’t see Lexa until a week later.
Murphy brings her back to Lexa’s room and Clarke asks Raven and Octavia to wait in the hospital wing’s lobby, deciding that they did not need to be in the room. She assures them she will be okay.
Once they reach the door, Clarke exhales and relaxes but her face is wary.
‘Headache’s gone?’ Murphy asks carefully.
Clarke nods while keeping her eyes on the door.
The room has been set up the same way as the Leader’s. The similar telepathic amplification devices are installed in the room and the glass pane separating them from Lexa is identical to the one in her father’s room.
Clarke robotically sits on the couch on the other end of the room directly opposite Lexa’s prostrate body. Murphy moves towards the communication controls and turns it on. He keeps to his side of the room, away from Clarke, not wanting to see Lexa lifeless and unconscious.
‘Cos?’ He calls out loudly.
Moments later, Costia’s voice echoes inside their heads. (John, good to hear from you.)
‘I brought Clarke. She wants to ask you some questions.’ Murphy nods at Clarke, motioning she can talk to Costia now.
(I apologise for startling you earlier, Clarke)
(That must have been a terrible surprise)
(What did you want to ask?)
Murphy notices Clarke’s throat has gone dry and she couldn’t muster any words in reply to Costia.
‘Clarke’s just…’ He tries to lie in the best way possible but knows with Costia, it’s not going to work. ‘Clarke’s not sure how to handle all this, Cos.’
(I told Lexa to tell her)
(But you know our friend)
(Kind of gutless when it comes to the people she loves)
Murphy can describe Lexa in a million ways but a coward is not one of them. He sees Costia’s point though.
(She was scared Clarke would hate her)
(That what she feels for Clarke would be invalidated by my presence inside her mind)
(She’s almost sure she cannot love Clarke wholly without removing me completely from her memories)
(She’s even considered lobotomy, unconsciously, of course)
(You know how Lex is, incredibly dramatic)
Clarke’s listening and her doubts do not lessen, the questions flood her mind, just like the quiet that Lexa’s presence brings.
‘Her silent histrionics are amazing. I don’t know how you coped with them.’ Murphy smiles at the memories of their little fights, whenever Lexa would act like her age, not full of regal authority or duty, but just like a whiny teenager.
(I loved her)
(That was enough to cover all the stupid, childish things she did)
(You hear that, Clarke?)
(Because I am dead)
‘How is this possible?’ Clarke finds her first question. All the things that Costia had said are echoing in her mind.
(I have no idea either)
(I was dying then afterwards I find myself seeing what she’s seeing and feeling what she’s feeling)
‘You have nigh omniscience, how could you not know?’
Costia takes time to answer. It’s quiet and there’s dead air inside their heads. Good pun, John.
(I think it’s what nigh means, it’s not absolute, it’s not complete)
(I knew a lot of things, I did not know everything)
‘Do you know how Lexa brings about the quiet in my head?’
(Your telepathic abilities allow you to hear people’s thoughts, anyone’s thoughts really, once you learn how to focus it properly)
(My guess is that since Lexa’s mind is locked and protected threefold, it nullifies your powers whenever you’re near her)
‘So she doesn’t have nigh omniscience too?’ Murphy cuts into the conversation, his face frowning.
(That’s what Lex is afraid of)
(No, John, Clarke does not have nigh omniscience)
(Spoiler alert, they grow old together, happily together and die weeks apart)
Clarke is dumbfounded at the pronouncement and it renders her quiet.
Murphy laughs loudly at what Costia said before quipping, ‘Couldn’t you have told Lexa this?’
‘She must have hated that, she never liked divination.’
(She did, like that time I told her about Dumbledore)
‘She really lost it then.’
Clarke takes a deep breath and asks Costia another question, ‘So they’ll be able to make it back safely? With her dad?’
(I don’t know)
‘But you just said…’
(The future does not stay constant, it keeps changing with every decision we make)
(What I know to be true today might be different tomorrow and the next day)
‘Do you think she’ll be able to come back?’
(I hope so, Clarke)
(I’m kind of rooting for the two of you)
(Come by again, I’ll tell you more stories about Lex)
(John, don’t be a stranger)
‘We’ll visit again soon, Cos.’
The end of visiting hours are announced over the speakers and Clarke takes one last look at Lexa before letting herself be led out of the door by Murphy.
‘You okay?’ He cautiously walks by her side, hoping she won’t have a fit or faint.
‘Loads better, I guess?’ Clarke replies, with less uncertainty than she had earlier.
‘You probably know this already, Clarke, but we’ve done terrible things here. It ensures our survival.’ Murphy stops walking and she follows suit. ‘Lexa’s been trained to forego emotions and think about the greater good all her life. But she chose you. I think she will keep on choosing you. You have given her a better choice than just surviving.’
Clarke’s blue eyes are steady against Murphy’s. She nods once and says, ‘Thank you, John.’
John Murphy was busy dismantling an explosive when Lexa burst into the room, fresh from her trip from an Academy overseas to look for a master of teleportation.
‘You’re late. Had trouble?’ He focused on the wires surrounding the device and Lexa just sits across him on the table.
‘I met someone.’ He couldn’t place her tone, he always had trouble identifying infections.
‘Is that good or bad? Are they also looking for the same master teleporter? Anya was not happy you didn’t see her before you went and days ago she was freaking out because you were late.’ He pulled off his glasses and gloves when he looked up and Lexa had the biggest smile he had ever seen on her face since Costia was alive.
‘It’s great, John.’
Lexa rarely smiled or called things great, this person must be a robot sent to kill you, John.
‘It’s me, John.’ There was a glow emanating from her, sparkle in her eyes. Literal sparkle.
‘I take it this someone was a girl?’
‘You sound like one of those goofs in the sappy movies Lincoln loves.’
‘I think I am.’ Lexa nodded aggressively and Murphy was surprised the sparkle did not disappear after he insulted her brother.
‘You love this person? After two months?’ He quickly disabled the explosives mechanism because he might actually flip the table in front of him.
‘Her name is Clarke.’
‘Does she know about Cos?’ He tapped against his temple and Lexa looked away.
‘Woods, come on.’
‘I know, I know.’
‘If this blows up in your face, I am not cleaning it up.’
‘Cos says that it will and that you will.’ Lexa smiled as she relayed Costia’s message.
‘You think Raven Reyes would make a good addition to us?’ Indra asks him, her steel gaze unmoving.
‘She hit me really hard and I think she concussed me.’ Murphy attempts to make a joke but quickly regrets it because it does not register as a one in Indra’s mind.
‘I mean, with Woods being on leave and all, we might need manpower.’
‘You want to recruit her?’
‘She’s not just good with psychometry, she’s strong and she’ll make a good addition to the explosives squad.’
‘There is no explosives squad, Murphy.’
‘Exactly, with her on board, there could be.’
Indra is quiet as she digests what Murphy has said, weighing pros and cons and consulting telepathically with several members of the Institute’s council.
‘If she agrees, she will be evaluated.’
He nods once and sighs. ‘Okay, so I’ll call her into your office.’
‘You have to make her say yes, Murphy.’
Murphy shakes his head because he had just gotten his nose set this morning.