Chapter Two – One Life Saved Is One Life Saved
“Would you shut her up,” Miller hisses. “You know these things don’t always hunt alone.”
“I’m trying.” Bellamy pushes back the little girl’s dirty, matted hair—she looks about three-years-old. Her face is caked in mud and tears, but he doesn’t find any obvious signs of injuries. She’s just scared. “It’s going to be okay,” he tells her softly, wiping the tears away with his thumbs. “You’re safe now.” She sniffles, smearing snot across her cheek with the back of her hand. He squeezes her shoulders with a smile. “See? You’re okay. Everything is going to be okay.”
“Keep telling yourself that,” Miller mutters.
Bellamy ignores him. “Do you have a name, sweetheart?” The girl blinks at him through a tangle of wet lashes—her chocolate-brown eyes never leaving his. He tries again in broken Grounder, mispronouncing most of the words and wishing he’d paid more attention. She cocks her head but doesn’t answer. He thinks she understands, though.
“God, your Grounder is terrible. Let’s just go. I don’t want to be out here when this storm breaks. I happen to like my skin on my bones.”
The little girl begins whimpering again as soon as Bellamy stands. Her lip quivers, and after years of dealing with Octavia, he knows she’s on the verge of a full-on tantrum. “It’s okay,” he tells her in what he hopes is a soothing voice. “We’re going to take you somewhere safe.”
“What if she has a family?” Miller asks. “Maybe they’re looking for her.”
Bellamy shoots him a look. “I thought you wanted to go home?”
Miller arches an eyebrow.
“We are not leaving her.”
Miller sighs. “Then just grab her. We don’t have time for this.”
Behind them, the sky lights up, and the thunder that follows rocks the ground. Miller’s right—there’s no time to search for a family. Besides, it doesn’t look like anyone’s taken care of her in a long time. Bellamy lifts her into his arms. She weighs almost nothing like she hasn’t eaten in days. How long has she been out here? Where is her family? How could they just abandon her like this?
He squashes the growing anger and wraps his jacket around her tiny, shivering body. “It’s going to be okay, sweetie. You’re safe now.” He repeats it over and over as they walk until, eventually, her breathing evens out and her body goes limp. Bellamy sighs with relief.
Miller side-eyes him. “You’re like a natural at that.”
“That.” He waves at Bellamy and the girl. “Like kid stuff.”
Bellamy shrugs. “I had Octavia to practice on.”
Miller snorts. “I can’t imagine Octavia ever being that small and helpless.”
Bellamy laughs, too. “Small, yes. Helpless, never.” He runs a hand over the girl’s head then rests it on her back, feeling the rise and fall of her breaths. She does remind him an awful lot of Octavia. Fierce and determined. And brave. Octavia had a strength Bellamy always admired even when they were kids. It was what was going to get her through everything that had happened. Everything he’s done to her. He forces down a sudden lump in his throat. Not the time to think about that.
Thunder booms suddenly, startling the girl. She screams then buries her face in his neck with a muffled sob. Her fingers twist into his hair. He whispers comforting words into her ear as they pick up the pace.
“We’re not going to make it,” Miller says, looking back at the mountains.
Bellamy glances over his shoulder. He can no longer tell where the sky ends and the clouds begin. It’s one giant, roiling mass, crackling with electricity and spitting lightning. Icy fingers of fear wrap around his chest, squeezing out the air. “We need to find cover.”
Another deafening clap of thunder shakes the ground so hard he can feel it in his bones. The grip around his neck threatens to strangle him. Bellamy checks the storm again—it’s moving fast to the east cutting them off from the hills around Mt. Weather. He shakes his head. “We’ll never make it. The dropship is closer.”
They veer south in a desperate dash to outrun the outer edge of the storm. With every flash of lightning and roar of thunder, the girl squeezes him tighter, yanking his hair. The air is charged, prickling his skin and making every hair on his arms stand up. He pulls the collar of his jacket over the girl’s head, trying to cover as much of her as he can. Then they run. Faster than Bellamy’s ever run before.
“We’re going to cut it close,” Miller says through gasps.
Bellamy’s lungs burn, but he doesn’t slow. He dodges a boulder then hops a log, barely managing to keep his balance when he lands. Ahead, he sees the dropship towering over the trees. Miller hits the ramp as the first raindrops sizzle around them. Shit. Bellamy ducks under some low-hanging branches then dives into the dropship, rolling with the girl.
Miller pulls the lever before Bellamy’s all the way in, closing the door. He leans against the wall with a relieved sigh. “That was close.”
“No kidding.” Bellamy sits up and attempts to pry open the little fingers tangled in his hair, but the girl refuses to let go. He tries to reassure her with circles on her back like his mother used to do. It always worked with Octavia. At the least, her trembling subsides even if she continues to cling to him like velcro.
“What are we going to do with her?” Miller asks after a while.
Bellamy tucks her hair behind her ear. Her face is streaked with tears though she’s no longer crying. That has to be a good sign. “I don’t know. Maybe we can find a grounder family to take her.”
“That’s probably for the best. They’d know how to take care of her a hell of a lot better than us.”
Bellamy snorts. “Was that ever on the table?”
Miller rolls his eyes with a laugh. “You know what I meant.” He throws a spent shell casing at him, but it bounces off of the girl’s back, startling her. Bellamy glares. “Why’d you do that? What the hell is wrong with you?”
“Sorry,” Miller mumbles. He shoves off the wall. “I’m going to go look upstairs.”
Bellamy slides over to the wall, trying to get comfortable. He manages to get the girl to let go of his neck. She curls up in his lap, thumb in her mouth. His eyes drift shut—his breathing matching the slow rise and fall of her chest. Outside, the storm rocks the dropship, throwing gale-force winds and acid rain at the already battered ship. He wonders how much more it can take. “We’ll be safe for now,” he murmurs into the girl’s hair. I hope.
The girl snorts then presses her face into his chest with a sigh. Bellamy smiles, hugging her closer. Maybe some good came of their mission after all. One life saved is one life saved. It’s not enough to balance out the evil he’s done, but it’s a start. It has to be or… Or what? I can’t live with myself? Can’t keep living? He shakes the thought from his head. He’s not quite that pathetic yet.
And it’s too late to atone for your sins after you’re dead.
He lets the girl’s gentle snores lull him to sleep, and for once, he doesn’t dream of the demons chasing him.