Clarke isn’t sure how much time has passed since Bellamy spoke with her, but the sky is bright blue when the guards come for her. Lincoln isn’t with them, nor is anyone else she knows, but there are five of them just to escort her. She wonders if they’re confused as to why so many of them are needed to escort a small woman, but Clarke knows she could incapacitate at least three of them within minutes.
Wells is dead. I killed Wells.
They bring her to guest bedchambers she’s never been in, in the wing opposite the bedchambers she used to share with Bellamy. The entire room is cleared, save the bed, a chamber pot, and a bath tub behind a screen. Even the fire irons are missing, so she isn’t sure how she’s supposed to stoke the fire, but she supposes a guard will do that. She doesn’t blame them for taking them away. The room also has one window, but it is barred, the spaces between the bars too narrow to fit even a child. She knows the only reason she’s in this room instead of a cell is because of the baby, because she’s carrying the Trikru heir, and that makes her wish they left her in the cell all the more. She doesn’t deserve any comfort, even if it is just a byproduct of her pregnancy.
Wells is dead. I killed Wells.
Three guards leave her in there without a word, but two of them stay - both women. They stand on either side of her door, quietly watching her. Bellamy has realized how dangerous she is, and is trying to compensate for the fact that she was walking amongst them for so long. It is residual fear - the realization that they were so vulnerable and had no idea. Perhaps it makes them feel better, but in reality, it’s quite useless. She could probably get out of the room if she really needed to, if she really wanted to. But where do they expect her to run off to? To escape to?
Clarke would be executed in Azgeda for her failure to kill Bellamy, probably more quickly than she’ll be executed here. The queen would not care about the child, and might even want them killed. There is nowhere else she can run to either. If word gets out that she is Wanheda, every other clan will fight for the chance to kill her. She would be hunted for the rest of her days. Although, she thinks that Bellamy might keep her identity a secret, if only because it looks bad for him that he let her in to begin with. Above all, she’s pregnant. Running anywhere outside of Anapolei would put the child at risk. No, she isn’t going anywhere.
Wells is dead. I killed Wells.
When she walks over to her bed, she finds fresh clothing folded on top of it - all linen, with no zippers or anything else that might be used as a weapon. She runs a hand over the material before laying down on the bed. She isn’t going anywhere, but if it makes them feel better to guard her as the dangerous, cunning monster they believe her to be, then so be it. After all, they aren’t wrong.
Wells is dead. I killed Wells.
The days begin to blur together. Clarke is brought food a few times a day, but she mostly picks at it, never hungry enough to eat. Her view from her window is not terrible, even with the bars, but she doesn’t go near it. She has no desire to watch as the world passes her by. As the days pass, Clarke expects to sob, but she finds she cannot. She feels so empty, so numb, now that she is finally facing what she deserves.
I have dishonored my parents.
I have broken Bellamy’s heart, irreparably so.
Wells is dead. I killed Wells.
Six months - six more months of this. Clarke will live just long enough to have her child ripped from her. It will be one last, singular piece of suffering she must endure before she’s allowed to leave this world. At least the queen does not know about the child...for now, anyway. Clarke supposes it will eventually get out, but she won’t be around when that time comes. She trusts that Bellamy will protect them though. At least she has that.
Wells is dead. I killed Wells.
Weeks pass like this, Clarke thinks. There is no real way to know. She doesn’t go to the window, she doesn’t bathe, and she only stumbles over to the chamber pot when it’s absolutely necessary. She picks at her food, but eats the bare minimum, her appetite nearly gone. She has only her own thoughts to occupy her mind, but her thoughts are cruel, and if she’s being honest, a little redundant.
Wells is dead. I killed Wells.
Sometimes Clarke wonders how they will execute her. It doesn’t scare her like it once did. She feels eager, in a way, to be rid of everything. Ordinarily, Clarke thinks her crimes would warrant a public execution, but Bellamy will probably want to keep her betrayal a secret, even in death. He knows how such things can complicate a child’s claim to the throne, and unless he has another, their child is his only option for an heir.
Wells is dead. I killed Wells.
Clarke rolls onto her back, staring up at the stone ceiling above her bed. She has memorized every crack, every divot in it.
Perhaps they will say she died tragically in childbirth. It’s what makes the most sense, but Clarke can’t help but find that nearly comical. The mighty Wanheda, to die as a tragic victim. To be portrayed as a flower plucked from life too soon. No one would know the truth - that she was never a flower, but simply a snake who choked on her own poison.
Wells is dead. I killed Wells.
No matter how they kill her, death is still preferable to anything else. She has no where to go, no one to go to. In spite of everything, she doesn’t feel afraid. She knows Bellamy will love this child, that their child will have countless others to help him raise them. In fact, in her death, letting this child go might be the best way she can love them. They will be better off.
Wells is dead. I killed Wells.
Nobody comes to see her. That part surprises her, not because she was expecting visitors, but because she was expecting interrogators. But no one comes, and so the days pass from where she lies in bed. Her, and the ceiling she stares at, and the gray behind her eyes when she closes them, somehow always too exhausted to fall asleep.
One day, books arrive in her room with her breakfast. They probably think she’s simply bored, but she doesn’t touch them. She isn’t bored. She’s only waiting, dissolving into nothing as she does.
One day, someone finally comes, but it isn’t who she expects.
Nyko walks into her room, clearing his throat to announce his presence as the guard shuts the door behind him. Clarke briefly sits up in bed to see who has entered, but lays back down when her eyes land on him. She isn’t interested in speaking with him. She just wants to wait in peace.
“Clarke,” he greets her. He’s walks over to her bed when she says nothing, tilting his head as if he’s examining a wounded animal.
“How long has it been?” she asks, eyes still trained on the ceiling. Her voice is rough from lack of use, but devoid of any emotion. Just like her.
“Two weeks. You’re officially at three months. How are you feeling?”
“You told Lincoln?” she asks, finally turning her head to look at him.
Nyko is quiet for a beat, clearly uncomfortable. “I did. I found it odd that you wanted to keep the news from the king. Now - I’m here to check on you, on the baby. How are you feeling?”
Clarke turns to stare at the ceiling again. “I’m fine.”
“You’re not eating.”
“I’m not hungry.”
“Can I examine you?”
Clarke hesitates, but nods after a beat. The question is only a courtesy anyway.
Nyko hovers over her, lifting her soft linen shirt to her ribcage. She watches as he presses on different points of her abdomen, and her breath catches when she realizes that she’s begun to show, just barely. No one else would notice it, certainly not when she’s wearing clothing. In fact, the only reason she notices is probably because she’s lost weight everywhere else. She can see it though - the slight curve. The first physical sign that she’s with child.
“You haven’t bled?” he asks, pulling her shirt down.
Nyko nods. “I’ll check in with you again in a week, but I want you to let the guards know if you have any pain, or if you think anything is wrong. In the meantime, I need you to try to eat the food they bring you - you need to keep up your weight, or the baby will be in danger.”
Clarke nods, but says nothing else, eager for him to leave. She waits until he’s gone before resting her hand on her lower stomach, moving it across her skin. She furrows her brow as she feels the curve of it, swallowing thickly as she remembers Nyko’s words. After that, she begins to eat.
A few days after Nyko visits her, Bellamy arrives in her room without warning. She is sitting at the window ledge, something she started doing the evening Nyko stopped by. She hoped the fresh air would make her feel something, but she isn’t sure if it’s helping. No matter her best efforts, she still feels as if she is walking through what little life she has left as a ghost.
The guards open the door for him without a word to her, and Lincoln and Kane enter the room behind him. Clarke is wide-eyed as she takes him in, feeling relieved she finally bathed the previous night. It’s ridiculous really, to be insecure with her appearance after everything. She’s sure it’s the last thing Bellamy cares about.
Bellamy stops a few feet away from her, and Clarke doesn’t miss how his gaze flickers to her stomach, even though there is nothing to see yet.
“You’re going to tell me everything, every detail,” Bellamy instructs her. Clarke shifts on the window ledge to face him. It’s a little awkward, given that there isn’t anywhere for the three of them to sit aside from her bed. They don’t seem to mind though, and remain standing instead. Bellamy seems too restless to sit anyway.
“I told you I would.”
Clarke tells them everything, in great detail. She tells them that Azgeda never intended to participate in the battle against the mountain, whether it happens or not. Bellamy’s eyes darken at that, an angry glint as he’s reminded that the queen is leaving them half an army short. Still, he doesn’t seem surprised, and Clarke is sure that he knew as much from the moment she held a knife to his throat. Clarke also tells him of the queen’s desire to see an Azgeda nightblood on Heda’s throne.
“You should be careful,” she warns. “She knows I’ve failed by now - she might send someone else.”
Bellamy doesn’t respond to the warning. She tells him about Wanheda next.
“How many?” he asks.
Clarke swallows. She doesn’t need him to specify what he’s asking, but she wonders why he assumed she would count as she did. “86.”
She remembers every single one, has no problem recounting each death to Bellamy. She can’t explain the queen’s motives for each one, but she explains what the queen told her. Clarke doubts there will be anything uncovered by examining the queen’s targets anyway. It’s clear to her now that her targets did nothing more than threaten the queen in some way. Just like Dev, where it all began. It is so glaringly obvious to her now, and the shame from her foolishness feels unbearable.
Bellamy nods when she stops speaking. He’s wearing his mask, the one he used to take off in her presence.
“No,” he snaps, turning around and walking towards the door.
“Would you have already killed me?” she can’t help but ask. Bellamy pauses, tensing, but doesn’t turn around. “If it weren’t for the baby?”
There’s a beat of silence. Clarke digs her nails into her palms.
“I don’t know,” he answers gruffly. Kane follows on his heels, but Lincoln lingers. Clarke looks up at him, unsure of what to say.
“We’ve all got a monster inside us, Clarke,” he tells her. “And we’re all responsible for what it does when we let it out.”
He walks away after that, before Clarke can respond. She wouldn’t know how to respond anyway. Still, his words linger, the truth of them sinking beneath her skin and permeating her bones.
Something shifts in Clarke after Bellamy’s visit. She can’t quite explain it, other than to say that she takes Lincoln’s words to heart. She is all too aware that she only has six months to take responsibility for what she’s done. She can’t fix things, but maybe she can make them just a little bit better. Maybe she can somehow still help make the world a safer place for her child.
Clarke starts eating regularly again, which is easier now that her morning sickness has waned. She also begins each morning with push-ups and other small exercises, determined to keep up her strength. When she feels herself sinking inward again, her insides threatening to crumble, she thinks of her parents. She thinks of her mother, who remained strong in the face of everyone, and her father, who pushed to do better without support from those closest to him. Clarke cannot be the bridge between the clans that he foresaw. She burned that bridge to ashes, razed it to the ground. But she knows she doesn’t have to be useless while she waits for her sentence. She can do something - she can do what Wanheda does best. She can help with the war.
They have less than a month until the battle. Clarke doesn’t know how the plans have been adjusted, knowing what they now do about the queen’s intentions to abandon them. But, for perhaps the first time in her life, she finds her voice. She spends her days asking the guards and servants, and Nyko when he comes by, for any scraps of information she can gather. Yet, none of them answer her, not even to tell her to shut up like they probably want to. Clarke knows it’s possible they simply know nothing, but she has to try.
Just over a week after he first came to see her, Bellamy enters her bedchambers again. Like last time, it’s unexpected and his presence startles her. Despite being caught off guard, she steels herself, knowing this might be her only chance to get through to him.
“Stop pestering my people,” Bellamy warns, without preamble. He’s tense, trying and failing to mask his anger.
“Let me help you - I can, if you just-”
“Are you out of your damn mind?” he cuts her off, expression bewildered.
“I can help you. Keep me in chains if you need to, but let me help. I can - I can do this one thing.”
Bellamy doesn’t answer her. His jaw is clenched, like he has to remind himself he can’t strike her.
“I can’t trust a word out of your mouth, your help is worth nothing.”
“You don’t have to trust me - you have to trust that I don’t want the people in the mountain to die. This is bigger than both our clans. Both of us have people trapped in the mountain, no matter the numbers, and only one of our leaders is planning to do anything about it. Please - let me help you save them. I know it changes nothing, and I expect nothing in return. But - I can help you.”
Bellamy shakes his head at her, leaving without a word. Clarke deflates, knowing that she’s blown her one chance. She allows herself the evening to wallow, tossing and turning through the night as she tries to think of ways she might reach Bellamy, all the while knowing it’s a lost cause.
Clarke has accepted failure by morning, which is why it’s all the more surprising when Harper arrives in her room, holding folded clothing. It’s real clothing, Clarke realizes, rather than the sleep clothing she’s been living in for weeks. Clarke sits up straighter at her presence, not having seen the woman since she was caught.
“You need to change, I’m bringing you to a strategy meeting,” Harper tells her, setting the clothing down on the bed. She doesn’t give anything away, her face a perfect mask of neutrality. Clarke only nods, deciding not to waste her breath on an apology. It isn’t fair to Harper to even attempt one.
Once Clarke changes, Harper instructs her to hold her hands in front of her. Clarke obeys, fresh nerves brewing in her. This is what she wanted, but now she has to face everyone she betrayed at once. She musters any courage she might still possess as Harper and her walk towards the drawing room, the other guards trailing behind. Clarke tries to fight the images from her last time in the room that invade her mind. Her knife to Bellamy’s throat. Him shoving her against the wall, blood dripping from his wound and so many emotions she can’t begin to untangle glistening in his eyes.
Clarke doesn’t have time to dwell on those memories once they enter the room. Her attention is occupied by the death stares she receives from half the room, the other half wearing carefully constructed masks that barely hide their general discomfort.
“I can’t believe this,” Octavia nearly growls, turning to Bellamy. “You were serious, about bringing her here?”
“I can help,” Clarke cuts in, before Bellamy can answer.
“Like hell you can. You’re the reason we’re in this mess. Weeks from a battle with half an army - and you knew from the very start,” Raven snaps at her.
“You don’t have to like me. I’m aware you hate me, and that I don’t deserve your forgiveness, but I have knowledge of Azgeda. I have knowledge of all the clans, all the land - including yours - that I’ve traveled through extensively for six years. I can help you take down the mountain. You’re not going to win this war without Wanheda on your side.”
Octavia clenches her jaw, but says nothing more.
There are only three weeks until the battle against the mountain, and despite Azgeda’s betrayal, Bellamy is determined to move forward with it. Part of her wishes that she could convince him to add a few more weeks to their plan, to give them more time to perfect things, but she’s seen countless others lose that argument over the last couple months. Of all people, she certainly can’t change his mind on this.
In the week since Clarke attended the first meeting, they stumble through a new battle plan. Its foundation is the same as it was, but in dealing with the new numbers, it is riskier. They now have to pull in Trikru reserves that Bellamy didn’t want to send in. Before, even if the coalition’s army was decimated, there would still be a Trikru army at the end of the day. Now, if things don’t go their way, there won’t be much of a Trikru army left. The clan will be severely weakened, just as Nia wanted.
The truth of it is that they won’t truly know what they’re walking into until they breach the mountain. If , Clarke darkly reminds herself. If they breach the mountain. They’ve taken all the precautions they can - sent scouts ahead, accounted for the electric doors, and made a plan to incapacitate the reapers. But at the end of the day, they simply have no idea what’s waiting for them inside.
In the week since Harper brought her to the first meeting, Clarke has been brought back daily for each one since. Some of them look like they’re ready to kill her every time she enters the room, pregnant or not. Octavia, Raven, Murphy, Indra, and Miller wear harsh scowls and won’t respond to anything she says unless it’s a dig of some kind. Others - like Harper, Monty, Lincoln, and Kane - wear more neutral expressions, although they cannot mask the strange mix of sympathy and wariness that sometimes slips through. Clarke doesn’t mind. It’s exactly what she expected, and being allowed to help at all is all she can ask for.
Bellamy remains as rigid as he was the first time he entered her room over a week ago, the raw emotions on display when he was standing in front of her cell scrubbed from every expression and gesture. Clarke tries to tell herself that she doesn’t mind, but lying to oneself is a hard practice. In truth, it breaks her heart and she feels his disdain like an ache in her chest every time they’re in the same room. She is the epitome of her mistakes, her current situation the culmination of a series of wrong decisions that resulted in one shattering conclusion. But she won’t insult him by begging for forgiveness that she doesn’t deserve.
This is how she can help him most - not as Clarke, but as Wanheda - and she doesn’t need or want any thanks for it. Not that she would get any. Her advice is met with a mix of distaste and reluctant respect from the group, now that she’s truly using her voice without reservation for perhaps the first time in her life. She has nothing more to lose, so she shows them just how cold, how strategic, how cunning Wanheda really is. She looks at their plans like puzzle, devoid of the kind of empathy that drowns you if you allow yourself to dip your toe in it. She isn’t afraid to act as the monster. It’s what Bellamy, who has always been too good, cannot do. So they may hate her for it, but if she’s giving Bellamy what he truly needs, then she’s done what she set out to do.
One day, on what would be Clarke’s eighth meeting, Harper doesn’t show up at the usual time. Clarke waits, wracking her brain as to why that would be, trying to remember if she missed a mention of cancelling today’s meeting. By late afternoon, Clarke swallows her pride and asks the guards still stationed at the door inside her room. She hates how she surely sounds - like a forgotten child, left behind and sulking.
To Clarke’s surprise, the guards answer her without any further badgering. “The King is on a trip to Polis. He won’t be back for two days.”
“Oh,” Clarke says dumbly.
It makes her feel just a little better, to know at least she hasn’t been uninvited to the meetings. But Clarke feels new nerves prick her skin at this news. Surely he’s there to brief Heda and the coalition on their new plans. Clarke isn’t nervous that they won’t approve the new plans, if only because the new soldiers are largely coming from Bellamy’s own army. Rather, she wonders what exactly he will tell Heda about her.
Perhaps Clarke has been naive to think that she’ll simply be executed in Anapolei. Perhaps Heda will want her transferred to Polis, interrogated and tortured for more information. Bellamy won’t allow it while she’s pregnant, but once she has the baby, she’s not sure he’ll care enough to stop it. Her life will be nothing more than a bargaining chip, passed around to anyone who wants a piece of her.
The next day feels more monotonous than usual. Clarke had grown used to the daily meetings, which acted as a marker in her otherwise uneventful day. She doesn’t know what to do with herself and is nearly relieved when Nyko comes by to check on her in the late morning. She asks what time they’re expected back from Polis, and to her surprise, he gives her a straight answer.
“Tomorrow afternoon, if all goes well.”
Once Nyko leaves, Clarke finds herself pacing the room as she tries to quell her anxiety. She hates that she let herself fall into some false sense of security, only for it to be be ripped away. Perhaps a punishment worse than death is what she truly deserves, but she was hoping the universe might have mercy on her tired soul.
Clarke glances at the books that she picked up for the first time a few days ago, but knows she won’t be able to focus enough to read. Gaze sweeping across the room as she continues to pace, her eyes land on the fire that went cold sometime in the early morning hours. Being in the throes of spring, it’s unnecessary to light it during the day, and all that remains of it are blackened coals.
Clarke walks over to the fire place and lowers herself onto her knees. She can sense the guards tense out of the corner of her eye, as if she might fight her way out of the room with a handful of coal. Instead, she reaches for the biggest piece of coal that she can find and pulls it out, black dust already coating her fingers. Still on her knees, she shifts so that she’s facing the floor next to her bed, the area hidden from the guards and anyone else who walks into the room.
Clarke hesitates, undecided on what to draw. She wants to draw something that will take her mind off her current situation, but try as she might, all she sees is Bellamy. Her thoughts fall backward from the memory of the knife to his throat in the drawing room, tumbling through all that came before, and landing on the first time he saved her. In that moment, she couldn’t have guessed all the ways he already had saved her, and all the ways he would continue to do so. In that moment, she was gasping for air, was grasping at life, and Bellamy was a simple lifeline. Bellamy was her mother’s voice in the water, dragging her from the depths of death and back to the living.
She realizes it’s the face of the Trikru king, of King Bellamy, gazing down at her with worried eyes. Wet curls stick to his forehead although she knows the rest of him, pressed against her, is dry. The moon is still hidden by the clouds, but stars shine far above him, a canvas, a backdrop, to his strange angelic face. She has the ridiculous thought that she’d like to hold onto the image, maybe even sketch it later.
Clarke leans forward on her knees, bringing her piece of coal to the floor, and does just that.
Clarke is perched on the window ledge hours later, fingers still black and dusty, as she watches the horizon embrace the sun. The window is a small respite from the monotony of her bedchambers, even if it cannot rival the beauty of the city when standing above it in the dome. At the very least, she enjoys taking deep breaths of the spring air that blows through the open window as dusk paints the sky and city a brilliant orange.
Clarke doesn’t turn when she hears the door open, assuming that it’s a servant bringing dinner. She’s not hungry, but she’ll make sure she eats later.
“Trying to figure out how to fit through those bars?”
Clarke whips her head towards the door, Octavia’s voice startling her before she can remember to remain stoic. The guards haven’t yet lit the lanterns, and the room is shadowed with bright orange light from the setting sun reflected on the stone walls.
“I have no desire to escape, and nowhere to go,” Clarke tells her shortly. “What do you want?”
Given the way Octavia has acted towards her during the meetings, she knows that the woman can’t be here with any good intentions. She doesn’t think even Octavia is ruthless enough to kill her while she’s pregnant, but that doesn’t mean Clarke is in the mood for an interrogation. Octavia walks closer to her, stopping a few feet short of her.
“Lincoln says you chose not to kill Bellamy,” Octavia says, ignoring Clarke’s question. Or maybe answering it, in an indirect way. “That you had a clean shot and decided not to kill him.”
Clarke forces her gaze to remain trained on Octavia, refusing to give into her instinct to look away. “And what do you think?”
“I think that even if that were true, it’s only because you realized you were cornered and were trying to save your own traitorous ass.”
“Well it sounds like your opinion has been decided. Do you need something else?”
Octavia’s gaze narrows, a threatening glint in her eyes as she crosses her arms. “I’m not sure it’s even Bellamy’s child.”
This accusation catches Clarke off-guard. In all that’s happened since she was caught, the thought that her child’s paternity might be a question to anyone never crossed her mind, if only because it’s never been a question in her own mind.
Clarke offers a leveled stare, relieved that the shadows hide the way her cheeks and chest flush. “Bellamy was my first and only. There were no others.”
Octavia pauses for a beat, a flicker of discomfort on her face before she masks it. “Your word means nothing anyway.”
“Then why are you here, looking for answers?”
Octavia shakes her head slightly. “I’m here trying to figure out how the hell we were all so easily fooled.”
Clarke is surprised at Octavia’s words, if only because it feels like a concession. She did not expect the other woman to show an ounce of weakness in her presence.
“Well, you weren’t all fooled. I was being followed by Lincoln...was that not why I was caught?”
“Lincoln was returning from Nyko’s when he saw you leave the city. Nyko had just told him you were pregnant, making him all the more suspicious. But it was a coincidence, that you crossed paths that night.”
Another concession, but it doesn’t make Clarke feel any better. It makes her feel sick instead, that she has something inside of her that allowed her to easily fool people so many. Something cold and twisted. If she were a better person, she wouldn’t have been able to stomach it. If she was a better person, she would have failed.
There’s a beat of silence before Clarke speaks again. “Does Bellamy believe that? That the child isn’t his?”
Octavia clenches her jaw, pacing a few steps before turning back towards Clarke. “Seems to be the only thing he does trust you about, regardless of countless warnings from those closest to him.
“You think he’s being weak,” Clarke observes.
“No, I think my brother has a good heart, which is why he needs the rest of us to ensure that it doesn’t lead him astray.”
Clarke nods, understanding the truth of Octavia’s words. Bellamy might not know her, but she thinks that she does know Bellamy.
“You know,” Octavia continues, “I think in a world where you weren’t such a monster, you could have been that for him. The level head that didn’t lead his heart astray.”
Clarke feels her heart ache at Octavia’s words. They are tender, despite the woman’s biting tone, and perhaps they are true. Clarke had never considered that. She had only thought about how Bellamy helped open her own heart to the world, but she had not considered how she could have protected his from that same world. But Clarke is a destroyer, not a protector, and so she shattered his heart instead.
“Yes,” Clarke agrees quietly, voice detached. “If things were different.”
Her words seem to only anger Octavia, the woman tensing as she takes another step closer to Clarke.
“You don’t care an ounce about it, do you? About him?”
Clarke takes a breath before answering. “I don’t know what you want from me.”
Octavia glares for a beat, as if thinking that over herself. “You know what - I want nothing from you. If it were up to me, your throat would be slit the moment the baby is born.”
Clarks huffs at that. “I don’t imagine you’ll have to wait much longer than that, your anger is wasted.”
Octavia raises her brow at Clarke’s words. “You think Bellamy plans to execute you?”
“Of course,” Clarke answers. There is no blame or resentment in her words - it is simply a fact. “It’s what any king or queen would do to a traitor.”
Octavia shakes her head. “If you believe that, then you never knew him at all.”
Clarke remains restless the next morning, her conversation with Octavia weighing heavily on her mind. Mostly, she wonders if Octavia could be right about Bellamy having no intention of executing her. Still, it sounds too good to be true. It’s not something she can allow herself to believe. It will hurt too much if she lets herself believe it, only for it to be yet another thing taken from her.
Of course, she also cannot ignore the fact that, in some ways, not being executed frightens her even more. It’s absurd, she knows, but part of her was relieved that there seemed to be an end in sight. Living through what comes next frightens her more than death in so many ways, and she isn’t sure she’ll have the strength to bear it. Not to mention she still isn’t sure where she could go. Wells was the only home she had, and she killed him. She would not deserve him even if he were still here.
Clarke doesn’t expect to see Bellamy or anyone else until the meeting the next day. It’s dark, with the fire and several candles and lanterns lighting the room, when Clarke finishes her bath. She changes into fresh clothing and returns to her bed to comb out her tangled hair. They were reluctant to give her a comb, but relented. She thinks it’s because no one wanted to be move close enough to her to brush it for her. She’s just finished untangling the last knot when Bellamy walks into the room, simmering with an anger she doesn’t understand.
“Leave us,” he commands the guards. Clarke sets the comb down, wide eyes on Bellamy as he waits for the guards to leave the room, the door shutting behind them. She swallows thickly, trying to understand what she could have done to anger him. She’s told him everything, just like he asked.
“What changed?” he asks. It is more a demand than a question.
Bellamy tosses her sketchbook on her bed. She was so focused on his face, she hadn’t realized he was holding it. Her eyes briefly flutter closed when she sees that it’s open to the letter she wrote. She’d left the sketchbook shoved in her wardrobe, and with everything that had happened, she hadn’t thought of it.
“What changed?” he repeats, each word clipped and enunciated clearly, as if she hadn’t understood him.
“I - it doesn’t matter.”
“It matters to me.”
Octavia’s words rush back to her, sharp and unyielding. If Bellamy finds out about Wells, he will take on that guilt himself, no matter that he isn’t to blame in any way. Bellamy will view it as Wells dying so that he could live. He might think it matters, but Clarke can’t do that. What’s done is done, and she can’t keep inflicting more pain. In the end, it changed nothing. It doesn’t change the fact she came here to kill him, or that she tried to. Clarke told herself all her life that reasons matter. It is how she justified killing so many people at her aunt’s whim. But reasons do not matter when people are dead, when damage is done, when mistakes are irreversible.
“Nothing changed,” Clarke tells him. She isn’t sure she succeeds in keeping her voice steady. “It was a moment of weakness. It changes nothing.”
Bellamy clenches his jaw, and Clarke watches him turn away, walking back towards the door. It surprises her that he doesn’t push her further, and she wonders if he himself was more afraid of the answer than he let on. He doesn’t speak again until his hand is on the door, swinging it open.
“Just because it changes nothing, does not mean it doesn’t matter.”
Before she can respond, he’s gone.
Clarke grows more nervous with every passing day, each day bringing them closer to the battle against the mountain, but she is eager to see through what they started. Eager, and also terrified. There are so many factors that could go wrong. Bellamy hasn’t come to her room since he asked about the sketchbook, and based on their interactions in meetings, the conversation might as well have not happened. Clarke might be convinced she dreamed the whole encounter if he didn’t leave the sketchbook in her room. Clarke isn’t sure whether she’s relieved and disappointed that the conversation was forgotten. Regardless of what she is, she knows that it’s for the best.
Despite having possession of the sketchbook again, and despite itching to draw in it, she hasn’t been able to touch it. That letter to him burns every time she attempts to open it, and so it sits on the table beside her bed, taunting her. The night before they’re due to leave for the mountain, she’s warily staring at it when Bellamy walks into her bedchambers.
Sitting on her bed, Clarke immediately straightens as he asks the guards to leave them. His voice is quiet, nearly gentle. His mannerisms are so much more calm, more somber than anything she’s witnessed since she tried to kill him. Bellamy has been nothing but tense postures and rigid lines, but now he seems...resigned. About what, she isn’t sure.
He walks a few steps closer to her before speaking.
“I’m leaving tomorrow. Early.”
“You? Don’t you mean we ?”
Bellamy raises his brow at her, genuinely surprised. “You thought you were coming with us?”
Bellamy’s tone isn’t cruel, but Clarke’s cheeks still flush with embarrassment.
“I - I know I wouldn’t fight, of course . But I can stay in the staging area, I can help you plan, I can-”
“I don’t expect you to trust me. I know you don’t. You could keep my hands bound for all I care, but-”
“Clarke, stop,” he cuts her off, harsher now. “It’s not about that.”
An unbearable moment of silence settles between them. Clarke feels suffocated by it.
“I cannot have you anywhere near the mountain,” he tells her, speaking slowly. Bellamy pauses again, as if the words he’s preparing are difficult to voice. “You, our child - it is a distraction I cannot afford. If you have an ounce of care in you, you will not make this harder for me.”
Emotion lays thick in her throat, and Clarke feels tears well behind her eyes for the first time since everything fell apart.
Our child. It is the first time that either has voiced that, has acknowledged what is tethering them to each other. Not the child, not his child, not her child. Theirs .
Clarke knows she shouldn’t even be asking to go. She’s surely a terrible mother for wanting to. But she realizes now that it was never about needing to be at the battle. It was about needing to be with Bellamy. Somehow, it is only in this moment that she seems to understand what Bellamy already knew, and what she tried to bury in her subconscious...that Bellamy might not make it back. That after everything, he might not come home anyway.
“Okay,” she murmurs. If this is all he’s asking of her, then she can do it. If this is how she lessens his pain, then it is not a question. When she blinks, a tear escapes, running down her cheek. Once upon a time, he would have swept it away. Instead, he remains where he is, preserving the space between them.
“Okay,” he echoes, turning away from her.
He only makes it a few steps before she calls out to him. His expression is weary, as if he fears what she might say. For the first time since he approached her in the cell, his mask has slipped, although she cannot begin to name the emotions painting his face.
“You will return, and you will meet your child.”
She watches him swallow before nodding, turning quickly to leave. Clarke crawls into bed, hiding from the eyes of the guards that reenter her room. For the first time since the night in the drawing room, her body cannot contain her sobs.
Clarke watches the people gathered around the stables from her window ledge. Everyone she’s spent time with is leaving. Raven will be going into the dam to disable their electricity, escorted by Murphy. Even Monty and Jasper are going, although they’ll stay at the staging area, further away from the mountain. Her stomach twists as she watches each of them mount their horses, leaving until there is no one left. She tries not to read anything into it when she notices how Bellamy looks up towards her window before riding away.
For the first time in ages, she sends a prayer to the spirits of the commanders. She might not deserve any help from above, but the people taking on the mountain do. She hopes that is enough. Clarke thinks of the church Bellamy brought her to, where they shared their first kiss, and wonders if this is how the people from the old world must have felt in such a place - desperately whispering prayers to sacred walls, hoping against all odds that they might be saved.
Clarke opens her sketchbook for the first time, the letter not being enough to stop her this time. Her nerves are too sharp, and she needs the distraction. She’ll be waiting for days, and she can’t work herself up like this. Against her best efforts, she feels sick with worry. Something might happen to Bellamy. There’s a real chance that she’ll never see him again. More than that, there’s a real chance that their child will never meet him - that their child will be orphaned as soon as they’re born.
It’s can’t be good for the baby, all the mindless worrying that consumes her. Still, it doesn’t stop her mind from cycling through their plan over and over again, looking for holes in spite of the fact she can’t do anything anyway. She can’t help but wonder what Nia will think if they do manage to pull this off. Even abandoning them to battle the mountain alone might not be enough to stop Trikru from succeeding, from becoming even more powerful rather than decimated.
Although Clarke initially feels a smug sense of satisfaction at that, she almost immediately feels unsettled by the thought. It’s an innate reaction that she hardly understands, but something tugs at her that makes her feel uneasy. Clarke, Trikru, and the coalition have been so focused on making up the difference and succeeding against the mountain with fewer numbers. It is a risk, and so winning is a stretch, while losing is a fear and likely outcome. But if she was her aunt, she wouldn’t be afraid of them losing, she would be afraid of the, winning. If the queen is afraid of them winning, she will not willingly let it happen. She will not do nothing.
A sick pit forms in Clarke’s stomach as her mind reels. They’ve been so focused on defeating the mountain that they only viewed Azgeda as a liability, or a long-term threat to handle at a later date. But the queen wouldn’t risk Trikru gaining power, wouldn’t risk the coalition she wants no part in gaining power. The queen wouldn’t risk that. The queen would...the queen would ensure Trikru doesn’t succeed. She would ensure it herself.
Clarke digs her nails into the palms of her hands, Roan’s words coming back to her.
She will always be two steps ahead of everyone.
Clarke feels sick, her thoughts tumbling over each other as she tries to think of some confirmation that she’s wrong, but all she uncovers are all the ways in which Nia will make sure that Trikru falls, and the coalition with it. It’s absurd to consider Nia moving against Bellamy’s army and the rest of the coalition army, which is why it didn’t cross anyone’s mind. But they don’t know the queen like she does. They don’t know how ruthless she is.
What if the queen isn’t abandoning the battle, but planning on fighting on the other side of it?
Then, a more horrifying thought crosses Clarke’s mind.
What if Nia isn’t apathetic about the mountain - what if she’s on their side?
Clarke is sure no one will believe her, but she cannot ignore the thought now that it’s appeared. After all, Clarke is certain Nia hates Trikru and the coalition more than the mountain. The enemy of your enemy is your friend, and Clarke can’t be certain that Nia wouldn’t turn to them. Especially since most of the people the mountain have kidnapped are Trikru. The queen might even see it as the mountain doing her a favor. The queen might not even want the abductions to stop.
Clarke stands abruptly, pacing and tugging at her hair. The guards tense, and one of them asks if they need to retrieve someone. Clarke shakes her head. She’s not sure who they would retrieve anyway, given that Nyko has left with everyone else.
In all her life, Clarke has never felt more helpless, which is truly saying something. Even if people are willing to listen to her, she isn’t sure what she would say. That Azgeda is going to attack? That Azgeda is working with the mountain? They would ask her how she knows, and she would say...what? A gut feeling? But she has to warn them. If she’s wrong, then there’s no harm done. But if she’s right, this could cost them everything. This could cost her Bellamy.
“Are you sure you’re alright?”
Clarke looks up at the two guards, forcing a deep breath. She needs to remain calm if she’s going to get out of here. If she’s going to warn them.
“I’m okay,” she answers, voice steadier. “I’m just very nervous. I’m going to change, and then could you escort me to the drawing room? I’ve forgotten a book there during the last meeting, and it would help me keep my mind off my worry.”
“I don’t think-”
“Please. I’m worried sick for them, and I know what you must think of me, but I truly am. The worry is bad for the baby - the Trikru heir - and I’m trying to calm myself. Would you please escort me to the drawing room?”
The two guards look at one another for a moment. Clarke’s heart races, precious seconds feeling like hours.
“Fine,” one of them concedes. “But just for a few minutes, and we come straight back here.”
Clarke forces herself to hold back a smile, one that she feels blooming under impossible conditions. “Thank you, that’s perfect. A few minutes is all I need.”