The forest was dense and overgrown; the thick moss and vines hanging off every branch and coating the ground made the place look like a green fuzzy wonderland. But it wasn't enough to make the group's walk a chore —in fact, most of them were enjoying themselves as Jasper and Monty stared wide-eyed at every new area and detail, taking in the forest's glory. They collected plants here and there, shoving them away into their pockets, and giggled as they whispered ideas for new 'recipes.' Eve could only hope that included actual medicinal uses.
Since they'd left the drop site, the forest had been nothing but quiet. Every now and then, the thick leaves would shiver against the breeze, and the sun's glow shimmered with them, and that was all it was for hours: peaceful and uneventful. But she still couldn't shake the heaviness in the pit of her stomach. It grew as they dwelled further through the giant trees and thick fog as if the forest itself was bearing down on them—looking down at them from its towers of bark.
It was the gravity, she reasoned. Her body just wasn't used to the weight.
Making her way down a steep hill, Eve came to an area where purple flowers grew modestly on dirt patches and rocks. She gave them a glance before moving over to a tree. Up ahead, the floor flattened into a plateau, but she couldn't tell for how much more was in the distance. But they couldn't be far from Mount Weather now. A few more hours, they'd have the food and be returning to camp.
But what would happen once the food arrived? How would it be rationed? Who would be in charge of managing the distribution? What would be her role in assisting Clarke and Wells in securing their hold on it if she couldn't show face? Assuming she wouldn't be discovered before their return. So far, Octavia had remained uninterested in anything that didn't involve Collins or the other boys, her inattentive behavior shielding Eve from recognition. But how long until her luck ran out?
More importantly, what would happen when it did? Would Octavia do something malicious? Of course, Octavia was angry, but it hardly made her vindictive.
Eve nearly laughed at the thought. On the Ark, anger and vindication walked hand in hand, and she had the scars to prove it.
As she waited for them to catch up, the vibrant color of purple rested in the corner of her eye. She turned her head to see a flower growing from the roots of the tree, its purple petals spreading from its dark purple center. A pretty little thing that Eve, for the life of her, couldn't remember the name to. During her tutorial years, agriculture and botany hadn't exactly been her forte. She'd dedicated so little time to those studies, but now that she was surrounded by the stuff…maybe she should've given it a little more effort.
"Now that, my friend, is game," said Jasper.
Eve glanced a look over her shoulder to find Octavia grinning like a schoolgirl as Collins slid a flower over her ear. Her eyes twinkled up at him, and when he smiled back, Eve was surprised she hadn't thrown herself at him.
Stepping over a large protruding root, Clarke walked past Eve but then stopped. She turned around and gave her an inquiring look.
"They're lagging behind," Eve explained, shrugging over to the group.
A scowl twisted Clarke's delicate features, and Eve watched with amusement as Clarke stomped her way back to them, her lithe voice cutting through the forest like a blade as she gave them a good scolding.
"Come on, Clarke," Collins said. "How do you block all this out?"
"Well, it's simple," Clarke replied with a trail of irritation. "Why haven't we seen any animals? Maybe it's because there are none. Maybe we've already been exposed to enough radiation to kill us."
The group went quiet, their optimistic attitudes dissipating.
"Sure is pretty, though," she mocked. "Come on." Clarke turned away and continued on their path, her dark boots trampling over the pretty flowers.
Eve fell into step with her, a smirk spreading across her face.
"What," she asked.
"Oh, nothing," Eve replied, though she couldn't stop smiling. "You just remind me of your mom, that's all. Never scared to say it like it is. Never scared to tear people a new one."
Clarke smiled. Her gaze dropped to the ground as they walked side-by-side, her hands tightening around the straps of her backpack. "If my mother were here, everyone at the ship would've listened."
"True." Eve could almost feel Clarke deflate. "But your mother isn't here…. You are." She met Clarke's gaze. "And those kids don't know it yet, but at some point, they'll be looking to someone for answers, for direction, and right now... you're the only one that can give them that." A small smile crawled back across Clarke's face. "You and Wells."
And then it dropped, molding back into that stern scowl. "Not Wells," she huffed. "He doesn't think about anyone but himself."
Clarke turned away, her lips pursing into a fine line as she tried to conceal her seething contempt at the mention of his name, at the idea of being compared to someone as treacherous as he.
"You can't hate him forever," Eve told her. "Eventually, you guys'll need to talk it out."
"There's nothing to talk about. My father was executed because of him. He was supposed to be my friend. I can hate him forever."
Eve sighed. "Clarke…he got himself locked up and sent down here so you wouldn't be alone."
"I never asked him to do that."
"Exactly. He did it because he cares about you."
"Then why did he betray me?" Clarke snapped, turning to Eve with fiery eyes. The others were too busy chatting to hear Clarke's outburst, but it hadn't eluded Collins's acuity. Thankfully, with a quick remark about nearby plants, he steered the group away.
Eve sighed. "I don't know."
Clarke's shoulders lowered, and her gaze trailed off with a look of disappointment, as though she'd hoped to find an actual answer. Pursing her lips, Eve stared out into the forest. The thought of revealing the truth to her father's execution crossed her mind, but she knew it wouldn't bring the girl any peace, only more pain. Clarke didn't need the truth. She needed something more, something genuine and earnest.
She needed to move on.
"Listen," Eve began, drawing her attention, "this place"—she nodded to the forest—"is a second chance. A second chance for those who aren't proud of the things they've done. It doesn't make those things right or disappear…but we all need to heal, Clarke. Otherwise, we're just living in the same shit as before."
They stared at each other for a long time, Clarke pondering her words. Then, finally, the anger subsided; the crease between her eyebrows disappeared, and her eyes softened. "You're right," Clarke said. "If the air doesn't kill us, Earth should be a fresh start. For everyone." She nodded. "I'll talk to Wells...when I'm ready."
An irrepressible smile spread across Eve's face as a familiar spark of determination twinkled in Clarke's eyes once again. "Good." Eve turned away and continued walking. "Because if I have to watch that guy mope for one more day, I'm going to scream."
Clarke snickered. "Moping is what he does best."
"Shit. Remind me not to ever be on your bad side."
"Alright." Eve stopped at a plateau of rich grass, its sweet, dewy scent filling the air as it stretched a few hundred meters into the distance. She looked up, her eyes squinting under the sun's beaming light. "This is a good spot."
"Finally," Jasper exhaled. "I need a break." He traipsed around the broken trunk of a fallen tree and plopped himself down, his arms wrapping loosely around his knees as he brought them towards his chest. Clarke walked past him, retrieving a bundle of sticks from her bag. Jasper furrowed his brows at her. "Isn't it kinda early for a fire?"
"It's not for fire," Collins answered, appearing next to him. He leaned against the end of their newfound bench and watched as Clarke jabbed a stick into the ground. "It's to make sure we're going the right way."
"This line," Clarke directed to everyone, pointing to the rod-shaped shadow created by the stick, "is west," she moved to the end of the shadow and then jabbed a shorter stick into the endpoint. "The shadow will move and show us east. We have to go northeast."
"Maybe you should've paid more attention in Earth Skills," Monty teased, plopping down into the empty space next to him.
"Look who's talking!" Jasper gave his friend a playful shove. "You'd sleep through the whole class!"
"That's because I already knew what they were teaching." Monty reciprocated with a shove of his own and nearly sent Jasper falling back.
Jasper regained his balance and shot him a glare. "Well, not everyone can be from farm station, Monty."
The friends bickered on like an old married couple, arguing about the technicalities of their conversation and the fact that one didn't need to be from Farm station to learn Earth Skills until Jasper's gaze drifted over to Octavia. "Shh, shh!" He patted Monty's shoulder with the back of his hand and nodded subtly to the young girl as she walked around the trunk to Monty's side.
"So, now what?" Octavia asked with a bored tone, brushing her long dark hair over her shoulder as she sat, crossing a leg over the other.
Jasper and Monty stared at her, mesmerized.
"Now we wait," Clarke replied, letting out a breath as she looked down at the pillar of sticks, pleased with the setup.
"What are you eating?" Finn asked
Monty froze, a dark brown ball between his nimble fingers as he realized everyone had turned to look at him with an inquiring expression.
"Blue Camas," he replied simply, holding the object in the air.
As he went on to give them an educational lesson, Eve walked off into the near distance, her gaze focused on the stretch of forest still ahead of them.
Clarke appeared at her right, her face buried in the map. "It should be a couple more miles," she informed, "then we'll be at Mount Weather,"
"How many more?"
"Seven, give or take a few. It's hard to tell on this thing."
"It's all they would give me," Eve said, not hiding the bitterness in her tone, "and I had to beg for it,"
Clarke sighed. "Figures."
A loud rustle surrounded them as a sea of dead leaves tumbled forward, brushing past their boots. The heavy wind that carried them pushed against Eve's back, edging her towards the dense forest. She stared at it until the trees began to extend, growing taller and thicker. The floor stretched further into the distance while the opaque fog filled every space and crevasse.
The heaviness in the pit of her stomach grew to an unsettling amount.
She shut her eyes and took a deep breath, soothing away the tunnel vision. She tried to move past the eariness that'd been gnawing at her since they came across an animal a few hours ago, a four-legged creature with brindled fur and a fluffy tail. A deer, Clarke had deduced, and evidence that Earth wasn't toxic. Though the deer's second head was a bit disconcerting, that wasn't what bothered her.
She opened her eyes to see the green forest in its normal state. "We should go back," she said.
Clarke's blonde head popped up, and she looked at Eve like she'd been the one to grow two heads. "Go back? Why?"
Eve turned toward Clarke. She shot a glance past her shoulder to see the others chatting while Collins kept his hawk-like gaze on Clarke and her, remaining as attentive as always. "It's not safe to be out here on our own anymore. We'll recruit more people and return tomorrow."
Clarke furrowed her eyebrows, the map hitting her thighs as she dropped her arms. "Recruit more people? No one wanted to help us."
"By the end of today, they'll be too hungry to say no."
Clarke let out a frustrated sigh, looking around for a moment before shaking her head. "I don't understand. We've come so far. Why wouldn't it be-" she paused, and then it dawned on her. "The deer."
Eve leaned in, keeping her voice low. "A hundred years ago, this place was home to some of the most dangerous predators. Hundreds of them. And if a deer survived, then so did they."
According to the Ark's wildlife archives, the area harbored a high count of apex predators, and unless they wanted to become part of the food chain, they needed to avoid them as much as possible.
But that didn't keep Clarke from frowning, her gaze trailing across the forest as defeat washed over her.
"No," she declared. Then, with a shake of her head, she carefully folded the map back into square. "We can't go back without those supplies. They're counting on us."
Was she insane?
"This is dangerous. These kids are untrained and unarmed."
"But you aren't," Clarke countered. "I know you can protect us."
Eve's eyebrows shot up her forehead. "You can't be serious." She was. "Against a bear? A wolf? I don't think so."
Clarke pursed her lips and tilted her head to the side, giving her a doubtful look. "I know you have a gun. Kane wouldn't have sent you without one."
An exasperated sigh escaped Eve's lips, and she felt she would strangle the blonde. But, instead, she took a deep breath and dug deep, finding the patience to remain calm. "Clarke," she said carefully, "we are leaving."
Taking the map into one hand, Clarke tilted her chin in a show of defiance. "You're not in charge anymore, Logan. So this isn't your decision."
"We've got east!" Jasper chimed from afar.
Ignoring him, they stared each other down. Neither willing to surrender.
Running her tongue over her teeth, Eve contemplated her next move, wondering what it would take to get her to listen, to get them to listen. She couldn't force them…or could she?
Maybe she could threaten them. Brandish her gun around like a maniac and bark orders until kingdom come. Make a few extra enemies. Why not?
No, it wasn't practical. And like Clarke said, she wasn't in charge anymore. So it wasn't her decision, it wasn't her problem, not really….
"The hell it isn't." Eve pulled the hood from her face, feeling the cold wind waft against her face as she swiftly brushed past Dr. Griffin's daughter.
"What're you doing?" Clarke demanded, her footsteps following behind.
"Listen up!" She called loudly, catching the group's attention. "We're going back to the ship."
A unison sense of confusion overtook the group. With furrowed eyebrows, Finn pushed himself off the improvised bench and asked why while Jasper and Monty looked at each other. Octavia remained unmoved, her emerald eyes now fixated on her.
If there was ever a time to risk exposure, it was now.
"No, we aren't," Clarke opposed, placing the folded map into her back pocket.
Eve looked at her with gritted teeth. "I will not put this group in danger."
"What?" Jasper's exclaim was echoed by Monty's, both springing from their seats with panicked looks.
"What is she talking about, Clarke?" Collins asked, shooting Eve a look of suspicion.
Clarke remained silent, glancing at each member of the group as they waited for an answer. Finally, she sighed. "There could be more animals in the area…dangerous ones."
"Like what?" asked Jasper.
"Bears," Monty murmured, shrinking into himself.
Jasper looked at him and then at the group with a raised eyebrow. "Can't we just, like, avoid them? I mean, they're more scared of us than we are of them, right?" He looked back at Monty, who shook his head slowly.
"Not when they're hunting you," Collins replied, folding his arms across his chest as he examined the ground.
"Bears will attack if they're hungry," Eve added, glancing at Octavia, who continued staring with calm and observant eyes, seemingly unperturbed by the sudden revelation. Eve wasn't sure if that was a good or bad thing. "And considering humans haven't been around in a hundred years, I doubt they'll be intimidated. Wolves hunt in packs, and cougars attack from behind."
"Damn," Jasper murmured. "There goes the neighborhood."
"It's true," Clarke announced. "The longer we stay out here, the greater the risk we'll run into something. But everyone is depending on us to get those supplies. Mount Weather is less than ten miles away, and so far, the only thing to cross our path is a deer."
"With two heads," Monty added.
Clarke frowned. "No one is forcing you to do anything. If you want to go back, we can… it's your choice."
The group stood in solemn silence. The trees and bushes rustled in the wind as they contemplated what they wanted to do. Should they go back with nothing or risk being mauled for the good of the human population?
The first to move was Collins as he made his way back in the direction they'd traveled from. Everyone watched as he did, Clarke slowly nodding with downcast eyes. He stopped and looked around as if he were searching for something. Then, finally, he picked up a stick that was tall enough to reach his shoulder and began to collect more, placing each one under his arm until there were six, and then strode back to the group. "There haven't been any animal tracks other than the deer's," he said, handing Clarke a stick. She mindlessly accepted it, her eyes remaining on Collins as he dropped the sticks into a pile.
"You can track?" Clarke asked, amazed.
Collins gave her a smile before standing next to her, turning to the others. "If we run into something, we'll be ready," he announced. The bottom of his makeshift staff hit the ground. "I'm gonna keep going. What about you, guys?"
Monty and Jasper traded glances.
After a while, Jasper took a step forward. "Well," he said, "if a bear does decide he wants Human for dinner, all I have to worry about is outrunning you." He pointed his thumb over his shoulder at Monty before picking up a stick and moving to Collins's side.
"Thanks," Monty grumbled. Then, taking a deep breath, he shook his head and proceeded to arm himself as well.
Standing all together, the staff-wielding warriors looked at Octavia as she sat on the dead trunk, her green eyes meeting their gazes. She glanced at the last two remaining sticks and then at Eve with an impassive expression. Eve couldn't tell what was happening behind those bright, green eyes, but she hoped it wasn't anything rash. At this point, they needed Eve alive to complete the mission or risk being eaten.
After a long time, Octavia pushed herself off and dusted the wooden debris off her palms. Then, she ambled over to the two sticks, picking them both up before turning toward Eve. Octavia stopped in front of her and looked her in the eye, her green orbs piercing into Eve's blue ones. Her face was like stone.
Extending her arm, Octavia offered a stick. "Let's go," she said, jerking her head toward their destination.
Hesitantly, Eve accepted it and watched as Octavia walked away, the others following suit. All except Clarke.
"I'd feel better if you came," Clarke said with a pleading expression. "But I'd understand if you chose to go back."
Eve released a breath she hadn't realized she'd been holding. Then, turning to Clarke, her eyes landed on the mottled stick held firmly in the girl's hand. She shot her a deadpan expression. "Yes, because I'm going to leave you out here with this." The dry bark of her own stick flaked into the air as she held it out with derision. It was a stick—a blunt one at that. Maybe they could whack a bear to death.
Making a very unladylike sound of disgust, Eve spurned it back into the forest. "Gimme that," she grumbled, unsheathing her knife from her boot. Then, snatching Clarke's stick away, she began shaving the end into a point as she stomped off toward Mount Weather, ignoring the fact that she could feel Clarke smiling to herself.
Doctor Griffin's daughter was going to be the death of her.
After an hour or so, Jasper and Monty lightened the mood with jokes and stories of their ingested and inhaled herb adventures. One time, Monty said, they'd been growing a special kind of Psilocybin in secret, selling it to earn some extra rations. That was until one of the agriculture technicians mistook them for regular mushrooms. Luckily, they'd managed to retrieve the stock, but not before half of Farm Station ended up running around chasing small creatures inside of walls. While Monty continued on, talking to no one in particular, Jasper made it his mission to spark a conversation with suddenly-so-quiet Octavia, asking questions about her interests and preferences, only to gradually realize that a person that'd spent their whole life hiding under the floor didn't have much to share.
Either that or she was too busy digging a hole into Eve's back with her stare. She wanted to talk…just not to him.
Eve continued clearing the area, keeping her eye out for any other freaky-looking animals until a low sound caught her attention. She came to a stop and listened. A faint, sort of shushing that came from the right. Moving cautiously, she reached a bank of large boulders and found a broad crease cutting through the land; water rushed down rocks and then poured into a placid stream.
There wasn't supposed to be a river.
"They're gonna kill more people, aren't they?" Monty's voice came solemnly.
Eve didn't have to ask to know what they were talking about now. She looked over her shoulder to see a shadow move over Clarke's expression, knowing full well the answer would be yes if they didn't convince the Ark otherwise. The green lights on Eve's wristband were still brightly lit, and the apparatus hadn't given any indication of malfunction.
All was still good as far as she knew.
Through the cracks of the bristled canopy above, rays of sunlight felt warm on her face as Eve looked up at the sky and imagined Marcus in the control room, obsessing over the monitors—scrutinizing every detail and possibility that the mission had or could fail—all while maintaining his usual reticent demeanor.
She smiled. At least it'd bring Marcus some comfort knowing she hadn't died just yet.
"Good. After what they did to me, I say, float them all," Octavia spat, using her stick as a cane as she sauntered past the group. She gave Eve a look as if she would say something before continuing on toward the river bank.
"You don't mean that," Jasper said, following after her.
She watched as Octavia stood at the edge of the river, entirely marveled by the water. She looked her age, youthful, and almost happy.
"Hi," greeted Jasper. After a few seconds, Eve blinked, realizing it'd been directed toward her. Turning her head, she found Jasper gazing at her, his goggles still fastened securely over his forehead. He swallowed hard. "I'm- I'm Jasper."
She glanced past his shoulder to make sure Monty hadn't suddenly disappeared from his side and then replied, "Marie."
He grinned with delight as if he hadn't expected her to answer. Before he could say another word, something caught his eye, and then he turned back to Octavia, the grin stretching wide. "Oh, damn," he sighed. "I love Earth."
Eve's head snapped toward the river, and her jaw dropped. The brunette had all but completely undressed, standing atop a large boulder with a devilish smile plastered across her face.
"Octavia, what the hell are you doing!" Clarke exclaimed.
Then, without a care in the world, Octavia leaped forward, her legs swinging in the air as she disappeared below.
"Octavia," Eve shouted.
She sprinted forward, panic consuming her. Please don't drown. Please don't drown. Please don't—
But, then again, how the hell could Eve even save her if she, herself, didn't know how to swim? And what would happen when Bellamy discovered that his little sister died under her supervision? His wrath would know no bounds.
Please don't die.
She leaped onto the boulder and looked down at the water, expecting to find the younger girl flailing about, only to be met by a pair of green eyes peeking out from the shimmering green.
The others appeared next to her, all just as confused.
"Octavia… I can't swim," Jasper said
"I know, but we can stand." She smiled suggestively before standing to reveal that the river was only waist deep.
"Wait, there's not supposed to be a river." Clarke frowned, looking over at Eve.
Brushing back the strands of hair that dislodged during her little dash to nowhere, Eve shrugged. "Your guess is as good as mine." Ninety-seven years was a long time. Long enough for landmarks to change. But really, she was too annoyed to give a shit.
"Well, there is," Collins pointed out. "So, take your damn clothes off!"
Eve narrowed her eyes at Clarke, who was watching the young man a little too eagerly. "Clarke," she said. "We don't have time for this."
"We've been walking for hours, Clarke. We deserve a break," he countered, giving the blonde a suggestive grin.
Eve shook her head with a stern look, but her objection, like everything else, was ignored. Clarke grinned and began to remove her shoes. Eve rolled her eyes as the other boys followed suit, Jasper eyeing Octavia as she played in the water.
"Come on. Have some fun for once." Collins smirked.
"I'm good here," she muttered, not caring for wet undergarments or wet hair. The humidity was already wreaking havoc on the latter.
As they wrestled their clothes off, Eve turned her attention to the other side of the river, which looked much the same. More forest, more dirt.
Everything was dirt here.
Sighing, she wondered how long it'd take for everyone to finish playing in the water. Thirty minutes? An hour? Maybe she should find somewhere to—
"Octavia, get out of the water!" shouted Jasper.
Faces snapped in Octavia's direction, and as the young girl turned around with a confused look, the water rose into a bubble behind her. Something big swam just below the surface, approaching quickly. When Octavia's eyes landed on it, she didn't move a muscle. Only stared with shocked horror.
"Now!" Eve urged, leaping to the perch. "Get out now!" She extended her hand to her, but it was too late. With a yelp, she was pulled into the water by a dark, lengthy creature. It circled away and dragged the poor girl further into the river.
"Octavia!" Jasper shouted helplessly as the water came to a still, and the beautiful brunette disappeared. "No…"
"Shit! Where is she?" Eve frantically moved about, searching the green river for anything resembling a dark silhouette. "Does anyone see her?"
No one answered.
Eve turned to Clarke. Her mouth was agape, her arm buried inside her backpack, clearly unable to formulate a response or an idea. The others weren't much different.
The thought of diving into the river and hoping for the best crossed Eve's mind...
A loud gasp tore through the air, springing everyone out of their induced paralysis. Eve spun around to find Octavia in the middle of the river, screaming and waving her arms frantically as the creature dragged her across the water.
"What the hell is that!" Monty shouted, stepping up onto the higher boulder for a better look. He frowned as Octavia shrieked for help. "We have to help her!"
The creature swam past them and then took his newfound meal to the deeper end of the river, where she would surely drown.
"Jasper!" Eve called, catching his attention. His eyes were frantic, and his breathing was heavy. "On me! Come on!" Small stones crunched beneath her boots as she dropped from her perch and ran off, Jasper shortly following suit.
"How are we going to save her?" He shouted as the two caught up to the creature, his eyes fixed on the panicked girl in the water.
She ripped off her jacket and tossed it to the side, and then unsheathed the knife from her boot. She had not a goddamn clue, but she had this, and it was better than nothing because returning to camp without Bellamy's little sister wasn't an option.
The reptile suddenly released Octavia, leaving her to flounder in the deep water as it swam in the opposite direction for whatever reason. Reaching the end of the shore, Eve placed her knife on the rocks before jumping into the freezing water that made the showers on the Ark seem like a hot tub.
"I've got you!" she told Octavia as the girl flailed. "Grab onto me!"
She clung onto Eve's shoulders, gasping for air once her head was above level. Eve struggled to not drown beneath her weight, kicking against the void to maneuver them nearer.
"It's coming back! It's headed right for you guys!" Clarke shouted from afar.
Eve looked over, seeing the reptile's dark silhouette dart back towards its meal.
"I've got her!" Jasper knelt over the edge and extended his arms. He glanced over at the creature that was now a few meters away. "It's coming!"
Octavia managed to clamp onto Jasper's hand. He pulled her forward and scooped her out of the river. By the time Jasper looked back, Eve was reaching for her only means of defense, its carbon steel glistening in the light. She snatched it off the rock, her fingers wrapping around the synthetic fiber, and held it close. A frosty breath escaped her lips as she lifted her gaze to meet Jasper's. He stared back, frozen, breath hitched in his throat. She knew he could see the fear in her eyes.
And then he was gone within a flicker of a moment as Eve was pulled into the depths.
A line of air bubbles escaped between Eve's lips as the serpent dragged her just below a shimmering sheet of glass. Streams of light glistened through like a window to another world, and she nearly forgot where she was. Nearly.
A pain that shot up her nostrils brought her back to reality, her scream muffled by the water around her. She lunged forward, grasping at the shimmer, but when something like shards burrowed deeper into her right leg, she only managed to lose more bubbles. Panic overtook her, and she unleashed a flurry of attacks, jabbing her knife into its long body, only to hit impenetrable scale after scale. The current rushed faster around her and the burning in her nose intensified, and she knew she had seconds before the water found itself into the wrong pipe.
Gripping onto her panic and last breath, Eve used all her energy to lift the knife. Then, with one final hard thrust, she brought it down like a spear.
The hilt hit scaling, but the blade slid into flesh without any opposition.
The beast thrashed and jolted, and just as she thought a chunk of her calf would tear off, it released her. The snake's long tail slithered past her, bumping into her as it did, and then disappeared into the undergrowth, injured but undoubtedly alive enough to fight another day.
Eve lunged for the surface, but it was no use. She was out of breath and out of time. Swimming was out of the question, and the river was too deep to stand in. Maybe if Eve sank fast enough, she'd be able to push off the floor and rise to the surface. But what then? What would she achieve other than extend her slow and agonizing death?
She looked up at the wavy sheet of glass above, watching the fragments of light glisten and twinkle through, and wondered what Marcus was doing now. Was he standing in the control room watching her vitals spaz out and feeling as helpless as she was? Most likely not. With the systems failing and worried parents demanding answers about their surreptitiously sacrificed children, Marcus had too much on his hands to be lollygagging around.
At least he wouldn't have to watch her die.
Eve continued to sink, slowly and effortlessly, as the light shimmered over her. She closed her eyes, ready to let go when a low rumble moved through the water. She turned her head. A pair of legs in dark trousers strode through the thick swaying vegetation, and then everything attached appeared out of a burst of bubbles.
It was her salvation.
It was Collins.
With pursed lips and a dark mane of hair floating behind him, he extended his hand through the water like a sword, reaching out to her with, and for a moment, Eve believed in angels.
Her hand latched onto his, gripping for literal dear life.
"He's got her!" Monty's cheer rang loud as they resurfaced.
Eve coughed the water out of her lungs as they were dragged back to shore by a long, green vine wrapped around Collins's arm. She stood, but then her leg gave out from under her. He caught her before she fell back into the water. Looking up at him, droplets of water trailed down his glistening dark hair, concern etched across his delicate features as he looked back at her. She was beginning to understand the allure Octavia found in Spacewalker.
Her face twisted into a grimace as she shifted her weight. "It's my leg," she told him.
"She's hurt!" Clarke shouted, hastily releasing their line. She spun around, brushing past Monty before turning back to wave them in. "Get out of the water. Hurry!"
Collins nodded in response and then, without another word, scooped her up into his arms. Eve clamped onto his shoulders, wide-eyed and genuinely surprised by his strength.
"Set her down here." Clarke gestured to the ground, flinging a dead branch out of the way. Collins obliged and carefully lowered Eve.
She inhaled sharply as she turned her leg to assess the damage—fresh blood glistened as it leaked down her ankle, the back of her pant leg was shredded, and Clarke wasted no time in ripping whatever was left of it in half, revealing a large gash in her calf.
The group made a unison hiss of disgust.
"It's not deep," Clarke informed, her voice steady, but Eve still caught the hint of panic in her voice. "But it could get infected. We'll need to make sure it stays clean. We need bandages."
Eve went for the nearest source and tore the bottom section of her camisole off, and handed the piece to Clarke. She preferred being half-naked to dying from infection. With the efficiency and confidence of a war veteran, Clarke took the cloth without hesitation, wrung any water from it, and then wrapped it snugly around the wound.
After she was done, Clarke sat back on her knees, examining her handy work. "Looks good," she said with a pleased nod. "Can you stand? Oh, wait! Not so fast!" Her objection fell on deaf ears as Eve pushed herself to her feet. "You need to stay off it as much as possible—and keep it elevated!"
"I'm fine," Eve said, ignoring Clarke's insistent look of concern and the searing pain in her leg. Instead, she glanced around the riverbank, searching for the only dry piece of clothing she had. "Did anyone see my jacket?"
No one spoke for a long moment before Monty finally let out a low 'oh.' He stepped forward and held it out to her with an awkward smile. "Sorry," he offered. She accepted it, not missing the quick once-over he gave her before he retreated back to Jasper's side. Boys.
"Thanks," she said. Eve weighed the jacket in her hand and was relieved to find it didn't feel any less heavy than when she took it off.
"What we should be doing is getting as far away as possible," Collins said, making everyone turn to look at him. "We'll set up camp over there for the night." The group nodded and shuffled their way toward the forest.
Eve slipped the jacket with a heavy sigh, not at all pleased by the way her clothes clung to every part of her body. Uncomfortable could not begin to describe how she felt.
"Where'd you get that?"
She turned her head to find Collins giving her a suspicious glare. He nodded at the ground, and she dropped her gaze. The steel of her knife winked back at her with a glint of light. She bent down and picked it up, giving it a quick examination, before slipping it back into her boot. "It was a goodbye gift," she replied with a clipped tone. Collins had saved her life, but that didn't mean they were best friends now.
Irritation rolled in waves over her body. She had a hole in her leg, the expensive polyester of her jacket was ruined, and her hair smelled like mildew. For all she knew, animals had been defecating in that river for the last century. She was not in the mood for an interrogation.
Eve straightened, looking anywhere but his face because otherwise, she was going to punch it. Instead, she settled with a half-truth. "A guard."
Collins raised an eyebrow. "Why would a guardgive you a weapon?"
She dragged her tongue over her teeth and then faced him with a deadpan expression. "Because I caught him cheating on me. And he figured this would be a good apology, considering all his others meant shit to me." She lied, of course, but nothing cranked up the awkwardness like a lover's quarrel.
"Oh," he said, his gaze shifting, embarrassed that he'd asked.
And that was the end of that. Eve turned to leave, ready to push through the struggle of a busted leg when he spoke again. "Then he really did care about you."
She paused, confusion crossing her face. When she turned back, Collins's brown eyes stared back at her with a solemn warmth, as if he remembered something from long ago. "He risked his life for you," he clarified, "so you'd have a chance down here."
Eve blinked. Was he defending this imaginary douchebag, or was he just stating facts? Either way, she hadn't expected this reaction from him, out of all people. After the stunt he pulled on the Ark, she thought nothing more of him other than a selfish and thoughtless prick…but as he stood there with a warm smile, telling her that someone (that didn't exist) did, in fact, love her…
Maybe she had him wrong.
"I guess he did," she finally said.
He nodded. "Well, good thing he did," he looked past her shoulder to the other, "because we'll need it to build shelter. It'll get colder as it gets darker."
"Yeah," she found herself saying, "anything you need."
Collins smiled at her, and she couldn't help but smile back.
"Do you need help?" Clarke's commanding voice cut through the air, a tinge of impatience lingering in her question.
"Yes, if you don't mind." Eve lifted her arm.
"I'll do it," Collins interjected, taking a step forward. He smiled at Clarke and gave her an assuring nod. The wariness on Clarke's face melted off, and she nodded back happily before walking away. Eve watched Collins's gaze as it followed Clarke, a gleam in his eye, and the corners of his mouth perked as if she was the sweetest thing he'd ever seen.
After a long moment, he turned his face toward her, his eyebrows furrowing at her expression. "What?" he inquired.
"Oh, nothing." Eve looked away, trying to hide her smirk. "Nothing at all."
He stood there for a few more seconds, eyes narrowed at her suspiciously before they rolled. "Come on," he smirked, knowing she'd caught him staring. Not that he did much to hide it. He was practically gawking at her.
He bent at the knees, and she happily accepted his assistance.
The group found a spot a few hundred meters within the woods, but upon Collins's suggestion that they move further from the river to avoid animals, they settled a quarter mile in and began cutting down and collecting wood to build a shelter. Monty and Jasper wanted to construct a Teepee to go on some spiritual journey with their pocketed herbs, while Collins wanted a lean-to shelter, a more practical conception in Eve's opinion.
The Teepee endeavor was quickly shot down by majority rule.
Pouting, Jasper elected to help Collins cut down a long, thin tree for the frame while Monty and Clarke—against Eve's protests—left to harvest vegetation for a late-night meal. With arms folded tightly across her chest and a scowl hammered across her face, Eve watched as Doctor Griffin's daughter and Monty—their only means of fixing the communication links at the dropship—walked off into the distance, his voice cutting through the ambiance as he spoke in detail of the different kinds of plants they could keep an eye out for on their forage.
Once they were out of view and Eve could do nothing but wait for their return, she plopped herself onto the grass, mentally cursing the pain in her leg as she fidgeted with a set of sticks and spruce root cordage lying before her. Her task at hand and only contribution at this point were to make a fire for the night to keep the group warm and ward off animals, especially of the two-headed variety.
Placing a flat, long plank beneath her right knee, she leaned into it to hold it in place and then inserted a thin stick into a V-shaped notch she'd carved in. Having set her needle, she looped the spruce root around it and then tied either end to another stick. And like a bow sliding across a violin, she spun the needle. She turned it slowly at first to establish a rhythm, letting it drill into the base, and then gradually increased her speed. A while later, a sweat broke out across her forehead as she worked vigorously to produce something that resembled smoke, but after multiple snaps of the needle, nothing emerged. Nothing, but a mound of frustration.
With a grunt, she chucked the broken needle into the forest and then sat back in defeat, her forehead plopping into her hand. God, could she be any more useless? She took deep breaths, trying to think of anything but the throbbing in her leg or the hunger growing in her belly.
She should've accepted Marcus's protein packets when he'd offered them to her.
"What're you doing?"
Eve's head popped up.
She found Octavia idling by with her hands buried in her pockets, her trousers a dark shade of blue from her dip in the river. Glancing over her shoulder, the boys were still working on the shelter. The primary support and walls were standing, but they still needed to insulate it with debris. Why Octavia wasn't helping them finish up was beyond her.
Eve looked down at her pathetic setup, the sight of it making her more tired by the second. "Failing at Earth skills," she mumbled with a dismissive wave of her hand. She'd work on it again when Clarke and Monty returned with some food, she decided. At least then, she'd be able to think. Leaning back onto the palm of her hands, Eve tilted her head back and closed her eyes, shamelessly letting out a sigh of relief as she extended her leg out, instantly feeling the pressure alleviate from her calf.
The cool breeze wafted against her cheeks, and the only sounds were those of rustling leaves and the boys meandering in the near distance—a stark and pleasant contrast from the constant clattering and humming of the Ark.
"Can I try?" Octavia's soft voice broke through the ambiance, and Eve remembered that Bellamy Blake's sister was still standing there, with every ability to end her short time on Earth.
Cranking her eyes open, Eve lifted her head to see Octavia's emerald eyes fixated on the small pile of sticks. "Do you…do you wanna try," she asked.
Octavia shrugged and crossed her arms across her chest. "I've never done it before. Bellamy tried to teach me, but we had to use plastic pieces."
A smile stretched across Eve's lips, and she lowered her head, holding back a chuckle at the thought of Bellamy trying to explain friction fire on plastic. It wasn't the worst way to teach someone, but the idea of it was so…innocent.
Well, gotta give him credit for trying.
Eve sat up straight. "Here"—she patted the spot next to her—"I'll show you. Maybe it'll make more sense now."
Octavia peered at the area for a second, a hesitant look on her face as if she was unsure of herself, but she limped forward anyway, one hand on her injured thigh. With a struggle, she kneeled next to Eve, glancing at her before grabbing the bow and pin. "So, how does this work?" she asked, staring cluelessly at the pieces.
"You want to make this stick spin"—Eve pointed to the piece in Octavia's left hand and then at the notch in the plank—"in this hole and fast enough to create…friction. With enough of it, it'll combust and ignite the tinder in the hole."
Octavia thought about it for a moment and then nodded, placing the needle in the notch and then moved the bow back and forth. "Like this?"
"Yes, exactly. Go steady and then up your speed until you've got a good rhythm."
After a nod of understanding, Octavia began spinning the needle slowly at first as she concentrated on her movements. However, it didn't take long before she'd picked up the pace and found a good balance. Eve watched closely as Octavia worked, the girl's brows furrowed and eyes filled with the utmost concentration. She didn't stop even when it was clear that her arms were getting tired and her hands were cramping, nor did she indicate she wanted to quit. Instead, Octavia continued, seemingly wanting nothing more than to ignite the tinder—nothing more than to accomplish the goal.
One thing was clear—the Blakes were relentless, and it ran in their blood.
"Oh, my God." Octavia stopped, her eyes widening. "I did it!" she squealed, turning to Eve with a wide grin. Eve smiled back and reached for a ball of dry grass she'd put together, handing it to her, and with a few simple instructions, Octavia was now staring at a ball of glowing smoke in her hands. "Jasper!" Octavia shouted, presenting her achievement above her head. "Look! I made fire!"
Jasper was more than eager to heed her attention as he abandoned Collins and then scurried over to her, amazed as she placed the ball into the constructed fire pit as if it were the first time he'd ever seen something being lit up.
The ball of fire settled nicely in the pit, the smoke and flames growing as it spread to the other collected fibers, remaining well within the borders of the large rocks lined in a circle. Then, with a few more handfuls of dry grass and feathered wood, the fire was ablaze, and its warmth was a welcoming embrace.
Eve kindled it with a long stick, glancing at teenagers as they giggled with joy, the yellow flame glimmering in their eyes. She smiled to herself. It was nice seeing Octavia enjoying herself, not at all in the pissy mood she had been in all day and for once, not thinking about how much she hated the Ark or how much she wanted it to die.
Half an hour later, Collins was finished with the shelter. He trudged over to them, handing Eve's knife back to her with a quick thanks before plopping down next to Jasper, utterly spent. "Thanks for the help," Collins retorted.
"Octavia started a fire," Jasper boasted, ignoring Collins's look of disdain.
Collins raised an eyebrow. "Good job," he told her, making her blush a shade of pink. Then, with a heavy sigh, Collins stretched his arms over his head and then laid back onto the grass. Within a few minutes, his eyelids were shut, and his snores accompanied the ambiance surrounding them. Octavia and Jasper continued on, talking and giggling to each other.
Some time passed, long enough for the sky to turn a dark shade of purple, the sound of crickets to appear, and the cold to linger just outside of their small ball of heat. Eve's eyelids grew heavy, and her head bobbed as she fell in and out of sleep. She couldn't remember the last time she'd been this tired. That fight with the snake had taken more out of her than expected.
"We're back!" Monty's cheerful voice woke her up with a start. She found herself staring back at Collins as he sat up with a jolt, looking as dazed and confused as she did. Monty knelt by the fire and presented his shirt in a bowl-like fashion. Fresh berries, roots, and sprouts, Eve discovered. None of it dry like they served on the Ark.
Her stomach grumbled at the sight.
"Here." Clarke kneeled next to Eve, presenting a collection of large, green leaves in her hand. "For your leg," she explained. The leaves were broad, oval-shaped, and had a smooth, veiny surface. Clarke popped a few in her mouth and chewed. "Pull up your pant sleeve," Clarke ordered, her words muffled.
Eve carefully unwrapped the piece of hardened cloth and tried not to wince as dried blood peeled off with it. Clarke leaned closer to examine the area, her eyes roaming and searching before sitting back up. "Doesn't look infected," she said and then spit the chewed leaves into her own hand. "This poultice will make sure it doesn't."
The young medical apprentice gently applied the poultice onto Eve's wounds and then rewrapped the cloth around it, her slight grimace showing that she wasn't too happy to be reusing a bloody makeshift bandage. But pleased with her handiwork, Clarke shuffled away to move onto Octavia's thigh, the brunette making an unceremonious sound of disgust as Clarke repeated the process.
It seemed like everyone was just as hungry as Eve because, within a matter of minutes from settling in, the food had disappeared, leaving them with the only consolation that they'd be heading out to Mount Weather in the morning for real food.
Eve could hardly wait.
When the sun finally set behind the mountains and night draped over the sky, the group began to retire into the lean-to shelter, leaving Eve and Octavia to sit next to the campfire. Octavia assured Jasper that she'd join them once her clothes were dry enough, but an hour had passed, and the young girl was still sitting there, an arm draped over a bent knee as she watched Eve prod at the fire.
"Thanks…by the way," she said quietly, her eyes remaining on the radiant heat.
"Hm?" Eve was lying on her side, her hand supporting her head while the other aimlessly poked the developing charcoal. She tilted her head to see Octavia's thoughtful expression and then turned back to the fire. "Oh. No, you're a natural. If only mister Pike could see it now," she chimed.
"Who's Mister Pike?"
Eve paused and silently berated herself for forgetting that Octavia had never received a formal education. Everything she knew was second-hand knowledge from her mother and brother—which explained why Bellamy had been at the top of his class and one of the best Earth Skills students on the Ark. He had to make sure to be able to reteach everything to his little sister.
"Um, he teaches Earth Skills…back on the Ark, I mean," replied Eve.
Octavia's eyes narrowed, and she slowly nodded as an amused smile stretched across her face. "Yeah. He's the guy that completely lost it and attacked Murphy."
Eve frowned. She continued poking until red sparks leaped out to settle on the rocks. She tossed the stick aside and sat up, her leg remaining stretched out. "Mister Pike can get a little…intense when it comes to survival. It's what makes him a good teacher."
"Sure," Octavia clucked. "When he's not beating up on kids."
Eve chose to say nothing, knowing Octavia was still young and inexperienced and, quite frankly, didn't understand the weight of being responsible for others. It wasn't easy, and Charles Pike had one of the most critical jobs on the Ark: to teach the minds of their future generations. So when he found out about project One Hundred—found out that students he'd once taught and cared for were being sent to their deaths…it didn't sit well with him. Murphy's insolence had only managed to throw him over the edge.
"We've all made mistakes. Some more than others," Eve decided to say, more to herself than anyone, and then drifted her gaze towards the darkness of the forest. Only the strong survive. Those words were printed across a banner that Mister Pike kept suspended from the classroom ceiling. Only those with the strength to do what needs to be done can survive, he explained. Those who push through the pain and come out the other side stronger than before…are survivors.
For a long time, Eve wanted to be that person he painted so assiduously with his ideologies and principles, with his strong words and passionate teachings. A person he could take pride in. And she was—had been—for years. Years of 'doing what needed to be done,' of following orders, and pushing through the pain. Years that had done nothing but strip her of her soul.
Mister Pike taught how to survive the wilderness, but he never taught how to survive the dreams—the nights of waking in a cold sweat, or the horrible, churning in her stomach that appeared every time she looked into the eyes of someone whose loved one she condemned and delivered to death.
He never said the pain would survive with her.
And now it was everywhere.
The very thought of returning tomorrow made her wish the ground would split open and swallow her whole if only to avoid the pain that ripped her from the inside.
She could feel Octavia looking at her, but she didn't return her gaze. She didn't dare.
"Yeah," Octavia murmured after a long time and then returned her attention to the fire, tossing a large stick into it. It burst into a large flame, and the girls watched as it roared and then settled. "Anyway, I meant thanks for saving my ass back there. I'd be snake food right now if it weren't for you. So thanks."
Eve chortled softly. "It's not like I had a choice. Your brother would kill me if anything happened to you." The smile on her face faded as she wished she didn't mean that last part.
"I knew it," Octavia snarled, surprising Eve. She hustled to her feet, anger etched across her face. "I knew he wouldn't just let me leave. First day and he's already treating me like a kid. Well, you know what?" Octavia paused and then limped over to Eve with a hardened scowl and hands balled into fists. She stopped and leaned forward as if to spit acid in Eve's face. "You can tell him I don't need a fucking babysitter!"
Octavia spun on her heel and stomped towards the shelter while Eve sat there, still in shock and confusion. Did Octavia really think she was on good terms with Bellamy? Let alone speaking terms?
"Octavia." She called out, but the girl wouldn't stop. "Octavia!"
"What?" Octavia barked, spilling around.
Eve paused, contemplating if it was a good idea to have this conversation. She wanted to distance herself from the Blake siblings as much as possible, but as it would seem, she wouldn't be so lucky, especially now that Octavia had been injured. Bellamy would have questions and demand answers.
Sighing, she gestured for her to sit back down, and when she didn't, Eve raised her eyebrows. "Sit," she ordered, not in any mood to argue. She was much too tired for it.
The brunette hesitated for a few seconds, clearly as an act of defiance, before she hobbled over and sat back in her spot, arms crossed over her chest and very much willing to throw another tantrum.
Keeping her voice low, Eve glanced at where the others slept and then leaned closer. "Your brother didn't send me…in fact, he has no idea I'm here."
Octavia blinked, her mind processing the information, and then her shoulders relaxed, unfolding her arms. "Oh…so he did let me go." A small and giddy smile stretched across her face.
Eve resisted the urge to roll her eyes. "Yeah, with five complete strangers, remember?"
"Wait, so you didn't help him get on the ship?"
"No," she shook her head. "No way. I have no idea how he got on board." But someone helped him.
"Then what are you doing here?"
A chilled breeze rushed around them as Eve's blue eyes stared into Octavia's green ones, a hundred thoughts running through her head. It was clear now that she didn't know what happened and, thankfully, held no grudge because of it. She was a blank slate, and Eve wasn't sure what to say. Should she tell her everything? Explain all the details of that day of the masquerade dance and possibly ruin Bellamy's chance at rekindling his relationship with his little sister just when he was getting her back? Would she be so cruel?
No. Eve was many things, but spiteful was not one of them.
She looked down at the metal band around her wrist, seeing the vibrant lights and remembering Marcus's sad eyes when they said goodbye to each other. "I'm paying for my mistakes," she whispered, trailing her fingertips over the edge of the band. "As we all are."
"Yeah? Well, I guess my mistake was being born then."
Eve lifted her head and stared out into the forest, running her teeth over her tongue. She was pretty done with Octavia's bitching, she decided. The Blakes weren't the only ones that suffered at the hands of Ark law, and they wouldn't be the last.
"Your mistake was going to that dance knowing the consequences," Eve said, turning to look Octavia in the eye. The truth sucked, but so did what happened every day to everyone on the Ark.
"Screw you!" Octavia spat, motioning to get up, but Eve held her down, her hand firmly around her forearm.
"And you wanna know what my mistake was?" Eve said through a tight jaw.
"Not really," Octavia retorted, trying to pull her arm away, but Eve was stronger.
"Ever trusting your sell-out of a brother!" The words burst out before she could stop them, and they were heard as clear as day. It was only when the silence dragged between them that Eve realized she was squeezing Octavia's arm. A white hand impression was left behind as the older girl retracted her hand.
Eve blinked, feeling the shame wash over her. None of it was Octavia's fault. She was the real victim. She didn't deserve her anger. No, that was for someone else.
"I'm sorry," she whispered and backed away, averting her gaze to the ground. So much for keeping that shit inside, Logan.
Instead of giving her a piece of her mind like Eve expected her to, Octavia's brows furrowed. She leaned in, keeping her voice low. "He did something," she whispered. Eve shook her head, but the young girl scooted closer anyway. "What did he do? Tell me."
The fire's light and warmth danced across their skin as Eve sat in silence, regretting having said anything and deciding it would have been better if Octavia just hated her. At least then, the conversation could've been about convincing her to keep her secret—not about trying to protect Bellamy—who didn't deserve the effort.
"He protected you," replied Eve, and before Octavia could say another word, she looked back at her with pleading eyes. "Octavia, you can't tell him I'm here. You can't tell anyone. People here won't take too kindly to someone like me. Do you understand?"
Octavia swallowed hard and then nodded. "Yeah."
"Thank you." Eve let out a breath, feeling a massive weight lift off her shoulders. She turned away, dusting some debris off her pants. "You should get some sleep. We have a long day tomorrow."
There was no movement, but after a few seconds, Octavia began to shuffle, grunting as she pushed herself off the ground to stand. Eve could feel her looking down at her, wanting to say something but then turned away and headed toward the shelter.
Hanging her head over her shoulders, Eve pinched the bridge of her nose, suddenly feeling very tired. Maybe it was the hunger or the fatigue, but whatever it was, she needed to get her shit together. A distracted soldier was a dead soldier, Marcus always told her.
"He liked you." Eve turned her head to find Octavia standing at the entrance of the tent, her eyes doleful. "I know he did."
Eve thought for a moment and then gave her a consoling smile. "Maybe," she said. "Goodnight, Octavia."
With downcast eyes, Octavia pressed her lips together and nodded. Eve watched as she ducked into the small entrance and disappeared.
Taking a deep breath, Eve settled her eyes onto the fire once again. She felt better knowing—or at least believing that Octavia would keep her word. But how long would she stay secret? She couldn't hide from Bellamy forever. It was a small camp.
Leaning back, Eve tugged at the hairband tied around her hair, working on releasing her hair. Maybe she could blackmail him—threaten to tell Octavia the truth about her arrest? Would he believe her? Or perhaps she could just—
"What the hell," she murmured, dropping her hand. A broken hair tie rested on her palm, laughing up at her, knowing full well that long hair and humidity did not mix. She couldn't believe it. She'd used this hairband for years, and now all of a sudden, it just snapped? When she needed it most? Eve hadn't bothered to bring extras.
Ugh! She spurned it into the darkness.
Now she was pissed.
Bringing her long, dark hair over her shoulder, she spent the rest of the night detangling it, listening to the mysterious and disembodied sounds of the forest and every so often hearing the others talk in their sleep. It was a long night of watch, but it wasn't anything she hadn't done before…except on the Ark, there hadn't been any wild animals ready to make her into dinner.
Welcome to Earth.
Where everything tries to kill you.
"Looks secure," said Collins as he pulled at a thirty-foot rope that he created from a collection of vines.
It was morning, with the sun high in the sky, the air crisp and fresh, humidity clinging to every surface. And with a look of death hammered on her face, Eve sat on a moss-covered rock a few feet away, arms firmly folded across her chest as she watched Collins recheck the rope's integrity. The bags under her eyes felt heavy, her back ached something terrible, and she was starving.
If they didn't reach Mount Weather soon, she was going to lose her mind.
The grass crunched, and twigs snapped as Jasper trudged up the slope that overlooked the river, his easy grin making the day a little more annoyingly brighter as he grinned at Eve and then at Collins, clearly excited for what they were planning to do.
"So, we just swing across?" Jasper asked, and Collins nodded. "Nice."
"Just don't let go," Collins warned, leaning back to test his weight.
"You wanted to go first," Clarke shouted from below. "Now quit stalling. Mount Weather awaits!" She stood at the edge of the river, waiting alongside Octavia and Monty.
A warm smile stretched across Collins's face as he gazed down at Clarke, widening when she returned one of her own. Eve couldn't help but roll her eyes. Ever since they spent the night walking around in utter darkness—for an hour—looking at glowing plants and whispering God-knows-what, they wouldn't stop trading long glances and soft smiles.
Eve swore she would strangle them both.
"I'll go first," she declared and pushed herself off the rock to stand next to Collins, giving Jasper a sharp glare when he opened his mouth to protest. He quickly shut it. She gave the same look to Collins, but he didn't falter, his expression furrowing with concern.
"Are you sure? I think I should. You know, just in case," he offered, but she ignored him, already taking the rope from his hand, and when he didn't let go, she turned to him with a firm expression.
"I'll go first," she repeated. "And in case it does break, you can just jump in after me again—or don't. Either way, I'm going first." Collins stared at her, seemingly contemplating his next move. She shot him a deadpan expression. "What? You wanna wrestle it from me, pretty boy?" She could take him any day, even in her current condition.
He looked offended, and she couldn't care less. She was tired and in a hurry. Sue her.
"No, it's fine…go ahead," he relented, however, uncertain. He released his hold on the rope before taking a step back to stand next to Jasper, giving the boy a wary look before folding his arms across his chest.
Eve gave him an appreciative smile, and he forced an awkward one back. She turned away to examine the thick collection of vines, checking that they weren't old or falling apart, and then pulled on the rope with all her weight. It didn't make any odd or worrisome sounds, and the tree branch it extended from only dipped slightly.
It'd hold her weight.
"Come on, let's go," Clarke urged.
"Screw it. Here goes." If she thought about it anymore, she knew she'd chicken out. Eve took a few steps back before running forward and then jumped, wrapping her legs around the rope and holding on to dear life as she swung across. She felt the adrenaline rush up into her chest, her eyes widening with a mixture of fear and excitement as she headed towards the other side. Small glimmers of the sun's reflection against the water gleamed up at her, and the cool air wafted through her hair.
Was this what it was like to fly?
Her short travel came to an end, and she landed with a hard thud, cringing as a raw pain shot up her leg. She'd meant to land on her good leg, but with the way she'd fallen, with no grace at all, she fell right on the one with a hole in it.
"Are you OK?" Clarke's worried voice traveled across the river.
"Just peachy," she mumbled to herself, rolling onto her side with a groan. She lifted a triumphant fist into the air anyway, and a loud, cheerful howl from Jasper and the others followed. After a few minutes of deep breathing, she rolled onto her knees and slowly rose to her feet, groaning as she tried to keep as much weight as possible off her injured leg. Barely standing, she looked up and pulled her hair out of her face for a view of the new forest before her. It looked much the same: quiet, massive, and overabundant. Nothing had stirred as she waited and listened, hearing nothing but the wind and rustling of leaves.
It looked clear.
She turned around to inform the others, but Jasper had already lunged forward, whooping and howling as he swung across.
Eve hastily limped out of the way before Jasper could crush her. He came flying through the air, his leg hitting a pile of driftwood before his body unceremoniously landed with a hard thud. A poof of dust burst around him.
Eve grinned down at him as he blinked away his daze. "Welcome to the other side," she greeted.
Jasper lifted his head, seemingly surprised that he made it. He turned to her and grinned back. Quickly jumping to his feet, unharmed and excited, he peered across the river and then threw his fists in the air. "We are apogee!" he howled with all his might.
The others cheered, clapping and throwing their arms in the air as they whooped with laughter.
"You did it, Jasper!" Clarke shouted back, and it made him howl even more. He jumped in the air, waving his hands as he spun around to do a little dance, and Eve couldn't help but laugh.
"Come on, Clarke! You got this!" Jasper cheered, throwing another fist in the air.
The smile on Eve's face dropped when Collins offered the bundle of vines to Clarke. Clearing her throat, Eve straightened her back and fixed her eyes on the young blonde.
It was Doctor Griffin's daughter's turn.
Eve found a seat on a stone bend, waiting in case the vine snapped and sent her into the river or if her landing was too rough or—
"We did it!" shouted Jasper. Eve looked over her shoulder to see him holding a large metal tattered sign over his head that read MOUNT WEATHER, followed by other wording too faded to decipher. "Mount Weather! Whoo!"
They made it. Finally.
Relief washed over Eve as Jasper shook the sign with elation. Finally, their journey was coming to an end, and the group would finally be able to eat something real. Not to mention, she'd get some sleep. Her grumpy ass was beginning to feel better already.
And then something dashed across the air, too fast to see, but it hit Jasper and sent him flying back ten feet, his body hitting the tree behind him with a slam.
Eve's eyes widened to the size of the moon.
A massive stick protruded from Jasper's chest. He'd been speared. Speared.
She spun around, her eyes frantically searching the other side for any indication of where it'd been launched from—but there was nothing. Only more green. Her eyes darted over to the group, seeing the panic overwhelm them as they did the same.
"Run!" Eve shouted at the top of her lungs, making everyone turn to her, and then she saw it—saw him rising from the bushes only a couple hundred meters from the group, his clothing smoothly blending him into the underwood. His arm rose and then pulled back. A long, pointed stick was clutched in his hand.
Reacting on instinct, she flung herself to the side and rolled off the bend, falling back into the river before hearing a loud clunk strike at the spot she'd just been sitting on. The water felt cold but was only waist deep, and she wasted no time in making her way back to shore, keeping her head low behind the rocks. Then, taking a deep breath, she paused and turned around to see the others were hiding as well, crouched in line behind a boulder. They whispered amongst themselves, and when it seemed they'd come to a decision, Clarke turned her head, her bright blue eyes meeting Eve's across the river. She looked scared and conflicted, almost apologetic.
Eve's stomach dropped. They were going to run for it.
No, he was there…on their side.
She shook her head frantically, and Clarke gave her another apologetic glance before turning away and dashed out from underneath their hiding place to follow Collins into the forest. Eve watched as they disappeared into the bush and towards the attacker, knowing she could do nothing for them now. They were on their own. And so was she.
Her heart pounded against her chest. Her blood rushed like a current—the sound of it against her eardrums was almost deafening. After a few calming breaths, Eve swallowed down her fear and carefully stood to peek over the bend. The area where she'd last seen the attacker was clear, and she saw no movement other than the steady flow of the river. She turned her eyes to Jasper, who was slumped against the base of the tree, his eyes closed and body eerily still.
He didn't look remotely alive.
Eve ducked back behind her cover and crouched, listening as she reached into her jacket and retrieved her pistol from its holster. She slowly racked the slide to place one of twenty bullets into the chamber and then pulled back the hammer with her thumb, the clicking of it all amplified in the dead silence of the forest.
If Jasper was gone, she'd have to find safety and then a way back across the river and hope to God that the group could run fast enough to find help. But Octavia was injured, and the poor girl wouldn't have the strength to keep up. So the group would have to leave her behind, and God help them if they did. Camp wouldn't be any safer if Bellamy learned of it.
She shook the idea from her mind. They wouldn't, not in a million years, especially with Clarke among them. But, either way, this was bad. Very, very, bad.
How the hell were there people down here? No one was supposed to survive the end of the world. That's why it was called the end of the world!
A low groan resonated from a distance, and she jumped up, pistol ready in hand, to peek over the bend again. Her eyes landed on Jasper. His eyes were still closed, but his head swayed ever so slightly.
Another groan escaped his lips.
He was alive.
Swiftly leaving the safety of her cover, she made her way towards him, pistol securely in hand as she kept her eyes and ears out for anything being flung her way.
Nothing did, and it was then she knew the attacker had gone after the group. God help them. She kneeled next to Jasper, placing the handgun to her side. "Jasper," she whispered. He didn't respond, his body motionless. She frowned, not at all liking the paleness of his face. Placing two fingers on his neck, she waited, and after a few seconds, she felt it—his pulse. It was weak but existent. She exhaled a sigh of relief. "Thank God."
"Help," he mumbled.
"No, no, no, don't talk," she whispered to him, placing a hand on his shoulder to calm him down. He went silent again, much to her relief. The last thing she needed was him moving that thing in his chest. She was no doctor, but she was pretty sure a spear to the chest would call for staying as still as possible. Sighing, Eve turned her head to look across the river, wishing Clarke was there.
Seriously, what the hell was she supposed to do? The Guard taught her some medical protocols, mainly first aid, but nothing that could treat a penetrated chest plate, perforated lung (maybe?), and, possibly, internal bleeding. She didn't even know if he could be moved.
Fuck! What the hell do I do?
Eve turned back to Jasper to tell him it was all going to be OK, and she would figure it out, but as soon as she did, she realized someone was standing over them. Looking up, it was the same man from across the river, his face covered by dark smears and a mask, and the last thing she remembered was the darkness in his eyes before his heel connected with her head.
Thanks for reading!
Again, sorry to anyone that's already read these chapters. I've been trying to clean up them up and condense them so they make for longer reads. Hopefully, it won't be long now before we get to the new material. However, I do appreciate you sticking around. You are the bestest!