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Lightning Only Strikes Once

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It’s a mistake, a foolish one. She climbs the tower. It’s no one’s fault. It’s a mistake.

Oh, Clarke could blame a whole train of events. She could blame her horror at Wells’ death, her tears at Finn’s; she could blame her guilt at the deaths of everyone within Mount Weather. But the truth is that everyone has a breaking point. And for that breaking point, there’s always someone to blame.

And the person she blames is Lexa.

It’s easy to blame Lexa – her now-pointless love for Lexa is a fire in her heart, burning through her skin and charring her bones, cooking her from the inside out. It’s nothing like the childish warmth she felt towards Wells, her brother in all but name and his poorly hidden feelings. It’s nothing like the hormonal influx of kissing Finn, a boy she never got the chance to completely know and now thinks she wouldn’t have liked if she did. And nothing like sharp-eyed Niylah, who was comfort and a brief pause, but never would have been anything more than brief to her.

Lexa was hers. Lexa was like her. Lexa was the one who made the world pause. It takes as long as it takes, that’s what she would tell Clarke. Lexa would tell her to wait out her grief.

But then, Love is weakness, she would also tell Clarke. And Lexa is the person who sacrificed everything she had, everything she was, for love. Abby sent her husband – Clarke’s father – to his death. Bellamy betrayed her without a second thought and aided the death of hundreds. Finn slaughtered innocents for her, without ever asking if that was what she wanted. I did that for you is the anthem that haunts the past few years of Clarke’s life.

But what Lexa did for her? Lexa saved her people. Lexa saved her. Lexa wanted to make the world a better place.

Clarke no longer thinks it deserves that.

So she stands on the top of the tower. A couple of floors below, Lexa died. Clarke bowed to Lexa, Lexa bowed to Clarke. Clarke spat on her once. Why did she do that? Her anger at the time seemed all-encompassing. Could it have felt that way if she didn’t love Lexa so very much?

Clarke closes her eyes. It’s a long drop, inches away from her feet. The wind is fierce. Rain is starting as she stands there, splattering her face, running down her cheeks like the tears she seems to have run out of. All she needs to do is lean, and gravity will handle the rest.

She leans. She pulls back.

She will not do this, not now, not to Lexa’s memory. Not to Lexa’s dream. Clarke reaches her black-blood-stained hands to the sky, letting the rain start to wash them clean. She will survive. She will not die today. Ai gonplei nou ste odon.

The lightning takes the choice out of her hands. She’s lit up before she can scream.

******************

“Prisoner 319, face the wall.”

The voice is emotionless. The command is heartless. Clarke is in a grey world, with grey walls. There’s a picture of a tower in darker grey against the grey. It isn’t Lexa’s tower, but for a second she thinks it is.

She drew that. A long time ago. Didn’t she? Shit, what’s going on? Is she back in Arkadia? Did she faint? Did the lightning make her pass out? Did Pike put her back in her cell, now that it’s crashed to the ground again? Is this torture?

“What?” she says, faintly. Lost. Alone. Where’s Lexa, Octavia, her mother? The lightning? Where is she?

“Hold out your arm. Your watch. Take it off.”

The note in his voice is unfamiliar to her, after so long, but after a moment she can place it. Dismissiveness. As if she’s not Wanheda, Clarke kom Skaikru. No one has dismissed Clarke in a long time.

He strips her father’s watch off her wrist, and she doesn’t resist. Perhaps she should. But now the watch is associated with the death of Finn and the nameless Grounder. Her watch has added a terrible memory to the wonderful ones inside it. Plus, she has no idea what’s going on. Best not to establish herself as a threat until she’d in a position she can do something about it. He doesn’t seem to know her.

Clarke’s still reeling as she’s marched away. Her mother calls out to her from down the hall – “Clarke, it’s all right, you’re being sent to the ground! Clarke, I love you so much…” – but Clarke has no reply except a confused, vacant stare. What’s happening? What’s going on? Where is she?

And then she’s in the ship, and they’re all there. Finn’s across the room. Wells is next to her. She nearly reaches out to touch his face, his dear, worried face. “Welcome back,” he says, and he has no idea how far back. Suddenly, she does. Wells. The guard. Finn, over there. The drop ship. Twisting her head she can see Octavia, Harper, Monroe, Bellamy, Miller, all unscarred and clean and strangely unreal.

Clarke doesn’t reply to Wells. How can you reply to your nightmares? The world is swimming before her uselessly, her breath coming in terrified pants. Where is she? What is this?
She is back nearly a year ago, before she was herself, before anything mattered as much. The only real memory of this world is the pain of her father’s death. Everything else is grey plastic or iron, wrapping around her world. After the vibrancy of the ground, this world is as unreal as a black and white movie.

Wells’ face swirls in front of her. So does everyone else’s. Finn is suddenly in front of her, floating. Spacewalker, she thinks incongruously. The boy who walked in space but died tied down. “So, you’re the traitor who’s been in solitary for more than a year -” Finn starts saying, but then he frowns, “you don’t look so good -”

And there’s purple lights flashing into her eyes and everything’s a photo negative of what it should be. Clarke recognises the early signs of unconsciousness a second before they overtake her.

*************

Lexa sits bolt upright in her bed, gasping. “Clarke?” she croaks out. But Clarke is nowhere near her. Did she leave while Lexa was healing, headed back to Arkadia?

No one is around her. Her bed is hers alone, her room empty, the door closed. Surely someone should be watching over her sleep after her injury. She thought her fight was over, surely that level of worry merited several healers on full alert. Lexa frowned. She would have to speak to Titus about this lack of both care and security.

Or not, given he was responsible. Perhaps that was the problem – maybe he was being held. Without him, the army of people whose job it was to care for the Heda could be stumbling, uncertain.

She swings her legs out of the bed, straightens up. Looks down at her body. Then blinks. This nightdress was accidentally left behind months ago, when her people ceased attacking the Mountain. Did Titus somehow find it again and deliberately dress her in it to remind her of the event? Surely not. How strange.

There is no pain. Lexa pulls the nightdress upwards, seeking the scar there is sure to be. She hopes it is not ugly – a foolish, childish thought, but she doesn’t want Clarke to find her body unattractive when they next meet again.

There is no scar. Lexa blinks again, staring stupidly at her smooth skin. After a pause, she slowly moves around her room from area to area. Over there is the map of the Mountain she took to Tondc with her, now miraculously unmarked by their deliberations and plans. On the nearby desk her swords lie – swords she left behind when facing the pauna. One of her favourite outfits is in her closet, but she knows that it was sliced in battle with Roan.

Perhaps this is a hallucination to comfort her before her spirit moves on.

The position of the sun suggests it is not yet time to rise. She may have a couple of hours before someone is sent to rouse her from sleep. Lexa returns to her bed, crosses her legs, and inhales deeply. She will meditate and calm herself.

Lexa suspects the person sent to wake her will not be Titus or his replacement, but will instead be Gustus. Whether this is a dream, madness, hallucination or reality, she refuses to greet him with fear.

Lexa is Heda. If the world has become unwound, she will not appear foolish and weak by reacting to it with fear. She will breathe in, and out, and think of Clarke, and work with the knowledge she has.

She will open the door, and face the world as it is.