Bellamy stepped out of the tent stiffly, running a hand through his hair. He needed space to think, to work out the story Clarke had retold, but more importantly, he wanted the image of broken skin out of his head.
What kind of people formed the Ice Nation? What sort of brutal tribe would have the capability to inflict that? But it was a question that had no answer. People did what they could to survive, and sometimes, that meant becoming less than human.
He wasn't defending them, though. And Bellamy could relate to how Clarke must've felt, trapped in a foreign place and bleeding before strangers. He'd been tortured, yes, but not nearly eviscerated. Clarke was someone he didn't really picture as damaged, even when she left. He'd understood her then. Clarke hadn't run away, she'd simply decided on a different path after walking one too soaked in blood to view clearly anymore.
And when she had, he'd conjured an image of her joining some distant tribe and surviving among them. That one day she'd be back. But he hadn't expected it to be like this.
"Bell?" Octavia stepped in line with him but he quickly waved her off. "Not now, O."
But Octavia wasn't easy to deter. "What did Clarke tell you?"
Bellamy walked, heading nowhere in particular, just simply to away. "You'll know soon enough," he said.
His sister grabbed his arm, but he pulled out of it. "Listen to me," Bellemy whirled on her. "You are not to leave camp again, got that?"
Octavia's brows furrowed in confusion. "Bell, you can't just order-"
"I can," he deadpanned. "And I am. Just for once, don't fight me on this. Do not go beyond the fence. Promise me."
She must've seen something desperate in his eyes, one that read beyond simple brotherly protection. She studied him carefully, gauging his reaction before speaking. "What happened to her out there, Bell?"
Bellamy looked away from her, glancing once back at the tent he'd come from. "All I know is she's right. We haven't seen everything," He breathed. "We're just getting started."
Clarke hissed out a breath as her mother dabbed alcohol on her cut.
It was the only wound Clarke informed her she had, planning to soak her other wounds in the privacy of her tent. Perhaps she shouldn't have revealed the extent of damage to Bellemy, but it was the only way he'd understand. For her message to really reach him. And that was that the Ice Nation was a group of cruel grounders, merciless in their pursuit of power.
A shiver trickled its way down her spine and she forced out a calming breath, trying to remind herself that she was, for the first time in months, safe. It didn't help to keep the memories away, though, or the irrational fear she'd wake only to be back in that cold room, massaging her feet to keep away the frostbite.
"Clarke?" The word penetrated through to her and snapped her out of her reverie. She glanced at her mom, only to realize she'd been calling her name. "Yeah?"
"Honey, are you...?" A hundred questions clung to that one and there was a part of Clarke that wanted to cave in and tell her mother everything. It was that last remnant of her that still bore the piece of a little girl, a young princess drawing on cell walls. But Clarke had buried that piece, and in its place stood something much stronger and much less innocent.
"I'm okay, Mom," she lied coolly, arranging her face so it wouldn't belie her words. "I am."
Abby stared at her dubiously."Are you ready to tell me where you've been?"
Clarke nodded. In a way, sharing it first with Bellemy aided her in getting through it a second time. It made it easier to skip bloody details and leave a vague impression of it instead. To her mother, it didn't sound like a gory tale of a hostage left to die, but the managed escape of her barely-scathed daughter.
Exactly how she wanted it.
"I think we should call a meeting. I'll send for you when everyone's collected, okay?" Her mom said and Clarke nodded once more. When she left, Clarke hopped up and scrounged around the Med bay, pulling out bandages and disinfectant. She stashed it in her jacket before ducking out, trying to slip by unnoticed into her tent. Once there, she dropped her supplies and began stripping down to her bra, easing her shirt over her head. Every movement pulled on her lacerated skin, causing pain to scorch up like fire. She bit down on her lip, ignoring the bitter taste of blood that filled her mouth.
She snatched up a cloth and doused it in alcohol, taking a shaky breath before twisting back a hand and pressing it to the cut easiest to access. Her knees shook as it burned against her flesh, as hot and searing as being branded. A groan escaped her and tears threatened to spill but she blinked them back. Her hands trembled as she moved on to the next one.
Halfway through, her legs buckled, and Clarke tore off a piece of another cloth to shove it in her mouth.
She wouldn't let anyone hear her scream.
Before she could get the gag out fast enough to tell him to wait, Bellamy dipped his head into the tent, his gaze locking on her.
She knew what he was seeing. Not a girl barely clothed, but a girl covered in more cuts than clothing.
"What is it?" She asked, dismissing the intrusion. At least it had been him and not her mother. She could be grateful for that, at least.
Bellamy didn't speak. Clarke saw his hands clench and unclench as he looked away, at every other point but at her."The meeting," he said, voice steely. "Abby sent for me to tell you to come to the Council Room in fifteen minutes."
Clarke nodded. "Fine," she said, attempting to not sound so strained. "'Ill be right there."
She took back the other cloth and soaked it again. When Clarke didn't here Bellamy leave, she cast him a glance. "You don't have to stick around for this," she said through gritted teeth.
She tried to twist around for one of the higher lacerations, but the action just caused it to open further, sending an unbearable stab of pain down her back. Against her will, she gasped, dropping the cloth to keep herself upright.
But a pair of large hands held her steady, placed gently over her arms."Clarke?" Bellamy asked, much closer now than she remembered him being. She looked at him, ignoring the concern and blatant anger she saw there. "I'm fine," she said, breath ragged.
"Right," he chastised. "Lie down."
He picked up the cloth. "You're just making it worse. Now lie down before you fall down."
"Clarke." His tone hardened, becoming unyeilding and she complied, albeit hesitantly. She rested her head against the pillow, trying to breathe past the pain. "You don't have to help," Clarke told him, unable to see his face.
He acted as if he hadn't heard her. "This is going to hurt."
"Wait," Clarke pointed to the other torn but of cloth and he handed it to her. She shoved it in her mouth, and gave him a thumbs up.
He pressed the drenched cloth over her cuts, and it took all her willpower not to scream. What came out was a muffled cry as black dots erupted over her vision. She clenched her hand so tightly, they bit half-moons into her palms.
When Bellamy brought down the cloth again, her nails broke the skin. Clarke watched, almost transfixed, as a bead of red snaked its way down her palm, and dropped from the heel of it. Then it was covered up by a larger hand, and Clarke grasped it gratefully, holding it until her knuckles turned white. She focused her attention on the feeling of Bellamy's hold, even as the pain exploded and her back was consumed in fire.
She didn't let go.