“Calm yourself, Clarke. It’s only a scratch.”
Clarke ground her teeth, sucking sharply on her tongue as she unwound a strip of bloodstained cloth from Lexa’s upper arm. It was most certainly more than a scratch—she could tell that before she even finished removing the bandage—and as she peeled it free, she noticed traces of hardened black blood around the wound, proof that it had bled recently.
“Why didn’t you tell me?” she demanded. This wasn’t at all what she’d had in mind when she had dragged Lexa back to their private rooms after dinner and started pulling off her clothes.
“Because it didn’t concern you.”
Clarke’s eyes flashed, but she continued examining Lexa’s injury despite her annoyance. She prodded its edges, pleased to see that the fluid seeping out of it seemed fresh and that there was no firmness or heat to the surrounding skin. “It absolutely does concern me,” she said, dropping Lexa’s arm and heading over to the drawer where she kept some basic medical supplies.
From behind her, she heard Lexa heave a sigh.
“I didn’t want to worry you.”
“That’s about half as stupid as your first answer. Still stupid, though.”
She pulled out a fresh roll of bandages—why on this beautiful new Earth did Lexa always seem to go through bandages like toilet paper?—and headed for the bathroom. When Lexa didn’t move to follow, she gave her lover a firm look. “Come on. It needs cleaning.”
“I can do it myself,” Lexa protested, but she followed dutifully, coming to stand beside the water basin. Luckily, Clarke could tell it had been refilled recently instead of being allowed to sit throughout the day.
“Of course you can do it yourself.” Clarke found that her annoyance was rapidly fading to sadness as she held Lexa’s arm over the basin, running some of the clean water over it to wash away the worst of the congealed black blood. “The point is, you shouldn’t have to. That’s what I’m here for.”
Lexa didn’t answer, which was just as well, because Clarke wasn’t particularly in the mood to argue with her. Instead, she busied herself scrubbing the cut as closely as she could without breaking the start of its scab open. “What did this?” she asked, her brow furrowing.
“A sword?” Clarke shook her head in disbelief. Lexa’s answer only raised more questions. “You got sliced with a sword and didn’t think this was relevant information for me to have?”
“The cut was dressed,” Lexa stated, her voice soft but firm. “I did not need a healer.”
“What about emotional comfort, Lexa? That’s what lovers do. They come home to each other and say, ‘Want to hear about the shitty day I had? Someone sliced me with a sword!’ And then I’m supposed to say, ‘I’m so sorry you got hurt. How can I make you feel better?’”
Lexa had the decency to look guilty. “I… did not think of it like that.”
“Well, consider this a reminder. If something like this happens again, I want to know about it.” Clarke reached for the disinfectant she had pulled out along with the bandages. “This part is going to—”
“I know. Get it over with. Please,” she added when Clarke gave her a sour look.
Clarke felt guilty as she poured the disinfectant over Lexa’s wound and registered her pained hiss, but she went about her work as quickly as possible. She wrapped the fresh bandages firmly around Lexa’s arm before her lover could follow her instincts and rub at it, placing a kiss on Lexa’s sweat-slicked forehead as a reward once she was finished.
“There. All better. Not so bad letting yourself be taken care of once in a while, is it?”
Lexa didn’t answer. She remained silent, staring at an empty space on the bathroom wall. The last of Clarke’s annoyance evaporated. Sensing that Lexa needed her patience, she waited, gently kneading the stiff cord of her Commander’s shoulder.
“I am… unaccustomed to this treatment,” Lexa said at last, her eyes still far away. “Growing up, I was one of many. I was not even the most promising of my fellow Nightbloods. It was made clear to me on more than one occasion that I was… replaceable. I still am. Heda is made to serve, not to be served.”
Despite herself, Clarke felt her eyes prick with tears. “You are not replaceable, Lexa,” she said, grasping her lover’s shoulders and gazing at her, willing Lexa to believe her. “Not to me.”
Lexa’s lips trembled, as if she might speak, but she didn’t say a word. She simply leaned forward, and the small, vulnerable gesture was enough for Clarke to forgive her and more. She wrapped her arms around Lexa’s waist, holding her close for several long moments.
The blanket of quiet remained wrapped around them for a long time.
“Who cut you?” Clarke asked at last, her face partially buried in Lexa’s neck.
She felt Lexa smile against her shoulder. “Aden.”
“Yes. I… I make an effort to show all the Nightbloods that although they have a duty to our people, they are not interchangeable.”
“Well, your only duty right now is coming to bed with me,” Clarke insisted.
Lexa lifted her head, and when she smiled, Clarke’s stomach unraveled. “Oh?”
“Yes.” She cupped Lexa’s cheek, leaning in for a kiss.
Neither of them did much talking after that.