No one drove the Jeep Wrangler apart from Clarke. Those were the rules. It wasn’t that she didn’t trust them, but, well, she didn’t trust them. She wanted to believe that they wouldn’t take off without her, or they wouldn’t drive to the wrong place, or crash the car stupidly, but she couldn’t. So Clarke drove and when she was tired they’d stop and take a rest, usually in the middle of the day so they wouldn’t have to explore in the dark. Clarke slept in the driver’s seat, pushed back so it lay flat, while the others slept or searched the area.
Ark was a long way from Polis, and they spent days this way. Their supplies were supposed to last three people for two months, but with the extra hitch hikers, they were down to a month’s supply. Luckily, Octavia hadn’t been exaggerating when she said that Bellamy was a good shot. On the fourth day they reached a supermarket that looked fairly untouched, and Bellamy shot down fourteen walkers without blinking, as Octavia grabbed supplies. They returned to the car, smiling and unfazed, and Clarke wondered if Octavia even needed to learn how to kill with a brother like that.
But apparently so, because on the sixth day of driving, Clarke emptied the boot out, and lifted up the carpeting. Hidden amongst the spare tire were knives, guns, and a baseball bat, that she’d collected on her travels.
“Oh my gosh,” Octavia breathed, and lifted the machete, testing its weight. “Why do you have so many?”
“Always need to be prepared,” Clarke responded. She fished out a pistol and checked the magazine before handing it to Octavia. “I’m sick of you not knowing how to protect yourself,” was her explanation, as she returned all the supplies. While Bellamy was exceptionally pissed, when Octavia showed him her new weapons, he only took it out on Clarke once.
“Don’t you fucking come to me when she’s dead because you couldn’t take on a herd of walkers by yourself, because she didn’t know how to defend herself,” Clarke threatened, and Bellamy shut up. The next day, she saw him showing Octavia how to hold the gun properly, and the day after, when they were sat by a field of corn, Octavia practicing with her machete on the crops.
After a week, Bellamy and Clarke found that they worked well together. Monty was a wreck, but they both managed to delegate work, and while Raven was hesitant about taking orders from the stranger, even she realised that his ideas weren’t worthless. He sat in the front with Clarke at least ninety percent of the time, and she didn’t find herself minding. Clarke liked the company that he brought.
After thirteen days, they reached Ark, and Bellamy asked why they had gone there.
“I mean, it’s Ark,” he said as Clarke filled up the tank. Monty, Raven and Octavia had gone to scout out the store, and see if there were any survivors or supplies left, and the two stood by the car, guns loaded. “That place is the breeding ground for the wealthy – I doubt there’s a home that hasn’t been looted yet.” Clarke snorted, rolling her eyes.
“I grew up there,” she told him. His face was blank, and he leaned against the car.
“You grew up in Ark,” he said simply. She nodded. “Man, if capitalism still existed, I would have a right speech prepared for you,” he grinned. Clarke laughed, leaning through the window to check the fuel gauge.
“I would love to hear it sometime,” she replied. “I have one in return about smashing the patriarchy – but I totally agree about a lot of the points about self-serving rich jackasses.”
“I didn’t even make the speech and you stole my main point,” he joked, rolling his eyes. Clarke grinned back.
“I’ve heard the speech before,” she replied. “But I bet yours is more eloquent.”
“All my speeches are eloquent,” he agreed. “But seriously, Ark,” he continued. “Are we heading back to your house, or what?” Clarke shrugged, she’d had two weeks to think about it, but she still didn’t know where she was going. It had been over three months since the outbreak – Wells surely wouldn’t be there, would he?
“There’s a couple of places I want to check out,” she said slowly. “Mine is one of them, yeah.” Bellamy just nodded, looking up as the others returned, empty-handed. Clarke climbed back into the car.
“Off to the castle, then,” Bellamy said, shutting the door behind her.
They started at Clarke’s house. Or, well, mansion.
The driveway took over a minute to get through, hundreds of metres of concrete, weeds growing either side from the grass that hadn’t been cut in months. The sculptures made from bushes that used to decorate the lawn were now overgrown, and the shapes couldn’t be discerned. There were broken windows at the front of the house, and Clarke bit her tongue to stop her from crying. Her childhood home had been defaced, and she stepped out of the car slowly, taking it all in.
The door was open, just slightly, and Clarke checked the ammo in her gun before nodding the rest of them forward. They each took separate rooms, stepping slowly through the house, over smashed vases and overturned plants. The cabinets in the kitchen were bare and all that was left in the fridge had long gone mouldy. Clarke moved slowly upstairs, once they’d agreed that downstairs was empty, and her friends moved behind her.
She knew the pathway to her room like the back of her hand, and the door was shut, just like the last time she saw it. Clarke wondered if walkers could die again – would they starve or just continue, living on in their post-life phase, no matter what? Clarke nodded for Monty and Octavia to head down to her parent’s bedroom, and for Raven to check the other hall, while Bellamy followed her slowly towards her bedroom.
She glanced at him when she reached the door, and even though he seemed confused, his nod was supportive. Clarke turned the handle, pushing the door open, and moving in.
It smelled like death, and in front of her was the long-dead body of her father. Clarke felt winded, like the breath was lost from her lungs as she looked at the walker, dead on the ground. There was a pool of brown-grey blood, and a hole in his forehead, and Clarke turned away, facing Bellamy.
She didn’t have to look at him to know he was staring at the body too, and his arms automatically opened, clutching her to his chest.
“It’s okay,” he whispered, and Clarke held her eyes shut, pushing her face against him. Her breathing became rapid and her legs felt like jelly. Bellamy held her up, still, solid and calm. “It’s okay,” he promised.
“They ransacked everything,” Octavia told her, when they were downstairs again. Clarke sat on the sofa, legs pulled up against her chest. Bellamy sat next to her, an arm around her shoulders and her head propped up against him.
“What’s the point in looting one of these places?” Raven asked. “It’s worthless during an apocalypse.”
“Bandits, probably,” Octavia replied. Clarke raised her eyebrows, though she didn’t care too much. She’d heard briefly about the bandits, but had never encountered them. “They’re ruthless, practically soulless at this point. I heard they kill each other and anyone who they don’t like, no questions asked.”
“We don’t like to talk about bandits,” Bellamy said, his voice loud enough in the room to quieten his sister, but still low and soft. “If we run into them, we leave – we don’t try to reason with them, just hand over our stuff and go.”
“Hand over our stuff?” Raven asked incredulously. “Why?”
“Because that’s all they care about,” Monty replied into the silence; the first full sentence he’d said since Jasper’s death. “It’s a world where not even death matters anymore – possessions are all that’s got any worth anymore.” The others stared at him, and he stood.
“We shouldn’t stay here,” he continued. “We have a long time until it gets dark – I’m sure there’s a more secure place somewhere else.” Clarke swallowed, nodding.
“You’re right,” she agreed. “We’ll head to Wells’ house – hopefully he’ll be there.”
It was only a few minutes in the car to reach her best friend’s home. Like her own, the gates out the front were destroyed, and Clarke drove in without having to use the security options. Bellamy peered out of his window, eyebrows raised.
“How did any of you have so much money?” He asked. Clarke focused on the road in front of her.
“My mother is a brain surgeon and my father founded Griffin Enterprises-“
“Aren’t they an engineering company?” Raven asked. Clarke nodded.
“Something like that – but it was big and important, and made lots of money.”
“And this guy?” Octavia questioned.
“His father is a member of the senate,” Clarke replied. “And I’m sure there’s some old money, too – we’re all old money around here.”
“Not like it matters now,” Bellamy muttered. Clarke sighed.
“No, I guess not.” She parked up by the front of the house and sat there, staring at the windows, half broken but the rest intact. Then she glanced at the other cars.
“That one’s not theirs,” she said quietly, nodding to a junker down the side. It was out of place with the house, and the town cars that would be in the garage.
“So, strangers?” Raven suggested.
“Or Wells,” Clarke shrugged, opening the door. They headed up to the house, looking around them as they went. It was quiet; Wells’ estate had always been so, but never this much. It was like something was waiting for them.
Monty was at the front of the group, a solid expression on his face as he pushed open the front door. It creaked into the darkness, and he stepped through the gap, trying the light switch at the side. Nothing happened, and the other four followed him in, fingers by the triggers. Octavia hefted her machete, and Clarke stepped into the atrium, looking about. Chairs and tables were turned on their sides, paintings ripped down from the walls and glass from the windows, lying smashed on the floor.
No walkers, though, and no signs of life.
“Spread out,” she hissed. “No one heads upstairs yet.” They made their way through the lower floor, slow steps, cringing when they made the glass crunch under their shoes. But there was nothing – the kitchen staff had long gone, and the cabinets were mostly empty. A thin layer of dust was spread across the furniture like a blanket, and Clarke wondered if anyone had even been in there since the outbreak.
They joined back together at the foot of the steps, and she and Monty went first, careful to stick to the outside where the stairs wouldn’t creak. Upstairs, everything was just as bad. Broken furniture and a few smashed windows. There were streaks of graffiti across the walls; obscene words and long lines of red ink.
“Bandits,” Bellamy whispered, confirming Clarke’s thoughts. If they’d been here, there was no chance that Wells would be still, too. He would be dead, a walker in the house, trapped in a room like her father was. Clarke swallowed, pressing forwards. They each took different rooms, carefully turning the knobs and pointing their guns into the rooms – but no walkers emerged and no one living did, either.
Clarke wandered through Wells’ bedroom, picking his rucksack off of the floor and grimacing.
“What is it?” Raven asked from the doorway. Clarke looked up, before emptying the contents of the bag out onto the bed.
“He took this with him to university,” she explained.
“Which means he came back,” Raven continued. Clarke nodded, looking over the textbooks he’d brought with him – they were probably in his bag at the time of the outbreak, and didn’t take them out. She moved around the room, filling the pack with his clothes that he’d left behind, and a few photos, tearing them out of the frames and placing them into the smaller pockets.
“But he’s not here, so he’s probably dead,” Clarke finished. When she’d filled the bag, Clarke swung it onto her shoulders, taking Wells’ baseball hat from the desk where he’d left it when he went off to university and placing it backwards on her head, like she did when they were kids. Raven sighed in the doorway.
“I’m sorry.” Clarke nodded but didn’t move otherwise, just standing in the room and looking around all that was her best friend. Raven left and Clarke took a moment to memorise the wallpaper, the trinkets on the shelves, the canvases of her artwork that he’d hung on the walls. Then she followed her friend out, meeting the others at the top of the stairs.
“It’s empty,” Bellamy confirmed, shaking his head. “No one’s here.” Clarke looked about the landing, before her eyes crossed a painting. She paused, before walking up to it, and taking it off the wall. Behind it was a safe, and she punched in the code that Wells had told her, years before.
The safe was empty, like everything else in the house, but it did remind her of something else.
“The bunker,” she whispered.
“The bunker.” Clarke turned around, a new gleam of hope in her eye. She moved forward quickly, jogging down the stairs as her friends followed closely behind. Clarke wove her way through the house, making her way back to the kitchen, and to the pantry. It was filled with only rotting food – nothing sustainable, otherwise – but the overturned milk on the floor, puddling white onto the tiles, hid the seam of the hatch.
Clarke kicked the milk bottle away, smiling to herself as she twisted the lock. The door was heavy, and she hefted it by herself until Bellamy ducked down beside her, taking the weight off of her and pushing it open. The torches were glowing at the bottom of the shaft, which Clarke took to be a good sign of life. She swung her legs over the edge and onto the ladder to start the descent.
“Wait, Clarke,” Bellamy stopped her, putting his hand on her forearm. She ignored the tingles she felt rush through her nerves. “Anyone could be down there – good or bad. And if it is Wells, he might have turned – he might be a lurker, okay?” She swallowed, averting her eyes, before nodding.
“I need to know,” she replied firmly. Bellamy nodded and Clarke started climbing down, one rung at a time. Half way down, Bellamy started the descent too, and by the time she was at the bottom, Raven was also there. Clarke cocked her pistol and starting to slowly trudge down the hallway – torches were lit against the walls, but the corridor itself was tiled perfectly, only dust marring its surface. Clarke didn’t like the way her footsteps echoed in the hallway, but she continued forwards anyway.
At the end of the hallway was the door – it was heavy duty, with a code and a wheel that needed to be turned. Bellamy joined her.
“What is this place?” He asked.
“A bunker,” she replied. “Nuclear apocalypse, zombie apocalypse, bomb threat – the whole place is practically impenetrable.” Raven and Monty appeared next, Octavia following at the rear.
“Do you know the code?” Raven asked, nodding towards the keypad. Clarke swallowed.
“I think so, if they haven’t changed it.” She moved forwards, squinting her eyes at the buttons. “Wells and I used to come down here to play when we were kids – it was the ultimate hiding spot from our parents.” She pressed in the nine digit code slowly, carefully, and watching the red blinking light turn green. Then, she started to turn the wheel on the door, Bellamy joining her immediately and fighting against the squealing sounds it made.
Eventually, the door started swinging open, and Clarke moved her way into the bunker. She was faced with a gun pointedly shakily at her head.
Her friends all pulled up their weapons immediately, to point at the stranger, but Clarke just laughed.
“Nice hat,” the stranger grinned.
“Wells,” she breathed, relieved. Wells lowered his gun just in time to be tackled into a hug. He laughed, too, kissing her temple and holding her tightly.
“Clarke – I can’t believe you’re alive. I went to your house… Your dad…” She nodded.
“I know – but you, you’re alive, fuck.” She squeezed him tighter, eyes clamping shut. He smelled stale, but she didn’t doubt that she smelt no better. Wells was alive, thin but strong under her arms, and she grinned into his clothes.
They pulled apart and made the introductions with the rest of her team, before sitting down across the sofas. The door had been shut behind them, and the six ate dried reserves quietly for a moment.
“Where did you go?” Wells asked at last. Clarke shrugged.
“Everywhere – I kept out of the way for ages, and ended up in Texas, Raven and I went to Wisconsin from there. We went really far West before finding the Drop Ship in Polis – that’s where Marcus and my mum are.” Wells raised his eyebrows.
“Have you seen my dad?” She shook her head.
“His flight was delayed, the day of the outbreak – he never arrived.” Wells’ lips pressed into a thin line and Clarke nodded.
“I didn’t see my mum, either,” she continued. “We had to leave the camp before she got back from scouting.” Her best friend raised his eyebrows.
“Why?” Monty spoke up this time.
“We brought a walker into camp,” he replied, his voice devoid of emotion. Monty hadn’t cried since the first few days, just hardened all of his soft edges. Clarke nodded and Wells sighed.
“I came right here from Harvard,” he explained. “No one was around – I checked all of the houses that I knew people in. A few families were holed up, but nothing substantial. Then, these cars started coming through the neighbourhood – massive trucks about a month in. They broke into every house, one by one, and just took everything. Completely destroyed the places.”
“Was my dad still a walker when you went to my house?” Clarke asked first. Wells nodded.
“He was on the floor, but leapt up when I opened the door to your room. I left him like that, left immediately after.” Clarke nodded. It was the bandits that shot him down, then.
“And the bandits came here, too?”
“Is that what we’re calling them?” Wells questioned. “Bandits?”
“It’s what everyone calls them,” Bellamy responded gruffly, not looking up from his food. Wells didn’t seem put off in the slightest and nodded.
“Then yeah, they came here, too. They tripped the alarms when they busted down the gates – I took what I could and came down here.” Everyone was silent, Wells’ face half lit golden by the small lights. “They were up there for ages, just going through everything, taking all the food that would last. I heard a few gunshots, too – I went up a day after they left, found one of those zombies just walking about. I killed him and buried him out in the garden.” Clarke nodded solemnly.
“How much longer can you last down here?”
“A couple of weeks, I think. This bunker was supposed to last for years – it was supposed to be stocked with enough to survive any apocalypse.”
“Well you’ve had two months’ worth,” Clarke nodded.
“Yeah – but there’s only enough for one person.” She furrowed her brow in confusion. “One bed, enough food for one person to last – it’s all made for one, Clarke, how didn’t we see that?” Clarke stayed quiet, mulling over her friend’s words. Thelonious Jaha made a bunker fit for one. She pulled her best friend into a hug, and they stayed like that for a while. The room was silent, and eventually the group nodded off to sleep. She’d never thought of Thelonious to be a bad father, but she wondered about his motives in that moment, and if he was still alive.