Lexa loves this time of year.
The autumn holidays come to a close one by one and pumpkin spice flavored everythings are gently pushed aside in favor of peppermint flavored cocoas and candies and baked goods until it’s difficult to remember that there were once other flavors to choose from.
The beginning of December in the city brings a flurry of snow that crunches under her feet as she stomps her way down the sidewalk in the early morning. It’s dark, as it always is this time of year. The atmosphere has her yawning into her palm as she presses her shoulder against the stubborn, frozen door of the coffee shop.The few old-timey streetlights cast a soft glow and stand witness to her struggle until the wood gives way suddenly and she can slip inside the shop.
The lights inside flicker on one by one as she hits the switches. In the window, the illuminated snowflakes begin twinkling back and forth, highlighting the snow that sits caught in the corners of the panes. Above the counter, the large menu of espresso drinks and holiday features are framed by twinkling lights. And from the ceiling, paper snowflakes slowly turn with the current of heat that begins to flow through the place.
It’s warm, and quiet, and with the way the snow is coming down outside, covering the city in a blanket, everything feels still.
Exams ended last week so Lexa is the lucky soul that gets the opportunity to open the shop in the morning. She doesn’t mind so much though. There’s something about the quiet, with the fresh snow drifting by the window, and the gentle shuffle of the extra-early morning crowd as they hide their yawns long before the main caffeine rush crowds the counter.
Lexa starts up the machines, listens to their hums and watches as their lights blink on. Her apron is reached for and tied snuggly at the base of her back. A sharpie is snagged from the countertop and finds its place in the pocket at her front. It’s all part of her routine. She doesn’t know what she’d do without it.
Raven on the other hand...
The door bursts open, smacking against the wall with a flurry of snow and cold wind as Raven releases a creative string of swears that Lexa interprets to be about the weather and holiday traffic and something else that sounds like Spanish.
“‘Morning,” Lexa greets her, as she does every morning.
“Why does winter have to be so. fucking . cold !” is the chattered response she gets as Raven shuffles past and unwraps the giant scarf from around her neck and shakes snow off from her jacket to the floor.
“Technically it’s still fall.” Lexa informs her over her shoulder as she goes to straighten up a few of the tables before customers start arriving. There are some books lying around that she puts away and a stack of day-old newspapers she flips through absentmindedly on her way to the recycle bin.
“You’re not helping,” Raven glares, hanging her coat on the hook in back.
“I know,” Lexa responds, not looking up from her perusing. Weather prediction says there’ll be snow for the rest of the week.
Raven is tying her apron around her waist when she rolls her eyes and grumbles, “You’ve gotten so snarky since you started dating the blonde bombshell.”
Lexa tosses the papers in the bin with a grin, making a mental note to tell Clarke about the latest nickname Raven has for her. They have a list going that’s hanging on Clarke’s fridge that’s been growing at an amusing rate. So far “the cheerleader from Heroes” is Clarke’s favorite.
Lexa’s mind goes to the previous night and thinks about warm fires and good company she smiles wider unknowingly, a soft expression overtaking her face.
“Ugh, gross,” Raven says as she catches sight of Lexa’s expression. “Go be dopey about your girlfriend somewhere else.”
Lexa just laughs under her breath and keeps organizing the tables into a somewhat coherent manner. She finds a few books that look strange even for the notorious collection of the shop but ultimately ends up shrugging and wedging them into a free space on one of the bookshelves. She also finds what looks like a half a set of tarot cards and stares at them interestedly before setting them in what she likes to call the “Lost and Found but mostly Lost” section of the shop, which really just happens to be an old shoe box in the back full of oddities. Clarke likes to pick through it sometimes, something about lost things having special kind of properties, occasionally picking out an odd thing or two that have been left behind for a long time. Lexa never really got a good explanation on that one.
At the end of her cleaning duties Lexa turns around and surveys her work.
The odd assortment of tables and old chairs that have experienced some wear and tear over numerous years sit in a manner that is welcoming, cleared of any of yesterday’s remnants. The large electric snowflakes in the window continue to blink on and off, their intermittent glow lighting up the tables in front of the window that sits out of the range of the overhead lights. Raven is preparing the bottles of peppermint and gingerbread flavorings to be added to every other drink that will be topped off with a heavy amount of whipped cream.
It all says, or rather yells really, that the holiday season is here and Lexa smiles at the sight. The shop feels cozy and festive and the only thing that could possible be missing is a roaring fireplace in one corner. She hasn’t mentioned the idea however, because she’s sure Raven would jump at the chance of trying to open up some walls with her small hoard of tools in the back room.
Lexa loves this season. The cheer, the giving, the sugar-fueled everything, the gently-falling snow. The way people seem to just get so caught up in the feeling of what’s happening around them, how everything just feels good for a little while.
It’s her favorite time of year.
Clarke hands over a wad of crumpled bills from her pocket absentmindedly, scrolling through her phone for messages.
The cashier bags her toothpaste, milk, and other miscellaneous grocery items and hands it over in a overly-large brown paper bag as Clarke pockets her phone once again.
“Happy holidays,” the woman tells her with a customer service smile as Clarke takes the bag from her, shifting its weight to her right side.
Clarke blinks back at her for a moment before looking around and noticing the giant posters advertising Christmas sales, holiday getaways, and eggnog recipes you can’t live without. “Oh. Yeah, I guess it is.”
Clarke shifts the bag to her chest to hold with both hands and begins heading home. She wracks her brain for the date and realizes that at some point it had slipped into mid-december when she wasn’t paying attention.
She mulls it over as she walks, absentmindedly casting the gentle snowfall coming down away from her body so that it doesn’t soak into her thin jacket. It’s cold, she’s sure, judging by the way her breath clouds as she exhales, but she doesn’t feel it.
A couple walks by, swinging large bags from big box stores imprinted with holiday-themed logos. They hurry past Clarke to head into another store and she catches a snippet of conversation having to do with too many gifts and too little time.
Clarke doesn’t ever think about this time of year much to be honest.
Her friends are typically off with their families somewhere, enjoying the benefits of being wealthy and having magic at your disposal. Octavia had always tried inviting her along but Clarke had never wanted to impose. There was that and the fact that though Octavia and Bellamy were some of the greatest people Clarke knew, their parents were not Clarke’s biggest fans.
She can’t say she blames them. Most parents wouldn’t be ecstatic about their kids being friends with someone who was expelled from academy and is, for all intents and purposes, an outcast from their community. Still, it usually means she’s on her own for the month of December, but she can’t say she’s really thought about it too much.
Clarke’s breath curls out of her mouth as she stops for a moment outside her building, brown paper bag still pressed to her front.
Somewhere, coming from one of the windows above her head, is the sound of soft music. She can just make out Bing Crosby’s voice singing the words to “White Christmas”.
She stands, head tilted up, standing at the entrance to her building long enough to have the doorman give her an odd look.
The song ends. Shakes herself out of it and heads inside.
Lexa steps out of the coffee shop into the afternoon light and sighs a breath of relief, spreading her arms wide and turning her gaze upwards in demonstration of her freedom.
The morning had been crazy. Her manager had the bright idea of doing a two for one sale on all holiday drinks and hadn’t expected the drove of people that would arrive to take advantage. That and they had sold out of reindeer cookies by mid-morning and Lexa had to be the one to tell all the mothers and their upset children that they would have to come back tomorrow to get them. Raven had been no help in placating the masses because Raven “doesn’t deal with that shit”. Who knew having to be the grinch all morning and ruin Christmas for small children could be so exhausting? The idea of going home and sleeping for the next two days quickly starts to sound like a fine idea.
“Excuse me,” comes a voice from behind her, interrupting her thoughts. The voice has her smiling even before turning around. “Have you seen my girlfriend? She’s about yay high, wears glasses, works too much?”
Lexa grins. “I don’t know, is she also conventionally good looking?”
“Oh, definitely,” Clarke says, nodding seriously as she looks at Lexa with her arms crossed, leaning back against the front of building. After a moment she fails to hide her grin and pushes off the wall of the brownstone and comes to stand in Lexa’s space, angling her head up slightly from the height difference. “The glasses definitely help.”
She’s grinning completely now and Lexa can’t help but match it, self-consciously pushing up the side of her glasses with the base of her palm. Clarke is inches away, totally in her space and enjoying every second of it.
“Hi, yourself,” Clarke says, smoothly. “How was work?”
“Not too bad.”
“Mhmmm,” Lex says, finding it as difficult as always to think clear thoughts when Clarke stands so close.
Clarke, lips twitching as if she knows exactly what she’s doing, presses forward to brush her lips briefly against Lexa’s. After only a brief moment, however, she pulls back with a small chuckle. “You taste like candy canes,” she laughs.
“Sorry,” Lexa says, slightly dazed. “There was an extra holiday mocha that was going to go to waste as I was heading out.”
“Can’t be wasting that kind of stuff,” Clarke whispers into the sliver of space between their faces, watching the way Lexa’s glasses make her eyes appear even bigger and greener than usual.
Clarke kisses her again briefly and then turns away, “I like it.”
Lexa grins and follows, helpless to do anything else.
“I’ll take note.”
And then they’re both grinning and Clarke is reaching back with her hand and wiggling her fingers for Lexa to grab hold.
Lexa intertwines their hands and they start walking down the sidewalk side by side. They weave between the people rushing to work or to class or god knows where, content to go at their own pace.
“Sometimes I think you forget your gloves on purpose,” Clarke says sometime later, holding up their intertwined hands and eyeing Lexa as they walk.
Lexa hums innocently, “I would never.”
Clarke rolls her eyes but soon enough Lexa feels the now familiar tingle-like static running up the connection and soon she feels warmth start to seep through her fingertips, up to her palm, and wrap around her wrist and arm.
“You’re lucky I like you,” Clarke tells her with a shake of the head.
“You tell me that a lot.”
“Because it’s true.”
After a few steps, however, she hears Clarke whisper, “It’s okay, I’m lucky you like me too probably.”
“Hey,” Lexa says much later, looking up suddenly from where she was trying to get Ember to do a trick in exchange for a small chunk of cranberry muffin - they ran out of blueberry early in the day and she was trying to made do but the dragon wasn’t too inclined to agree. “What are your plans for the holidays?”
Clarke looks up from the leger she’s scribbling in and meets Lexa’s eyes with a confused expression. “What do you mean?”
Lexa gives up trying to get the small dragon to shake in exchange for the treat and instead just tosses it to him. He gobbles it up in one swallow and scampers away before Lexa can try and get him to do anything else. “I mean, are you… I mean, where are you spending Christmas?”
Clarke shrugs, leaning over the counter as she scribbles. “Wasn’t planning on going anywhere.”
There’s silence in the room for a moment.
“Do you not celebrate or…?”
Clarke puts down her pen. “It’s not that, it’s just…” she shifts from foot to foot as she thinks for a moment. “After my dad passed away and I got kicked out of school, the whole family celebration just sort of… doesn’t happen? I don’t go home, if that’s what you’re asking. I couldn’t even imagine the expression on my mom’s face if I turned up on her doorstep expecting a stocking with my name on it and turkey dinner.” She lets out a light laugh.
She doesn’t seem upset by the idea, which is probably the most heartbreaking of it all to Lexa.
“So, what do you normally do?” Lexa asks, watching her closely.
Clarke rests her palms on the table, leaning her weight against it as she searches her mind. “Usually? Not much. Sometimes I’ll go down to the corner store and pick up a carton of eggnog if it’s on sale and a packet of candy canes and maybe watch some movies? I like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and that’s usually on. I tend to spike my eggnog a bit hard though so I usually spend the night on the couch.” She lets out a laugh as she goes to fetch something from the back room for a moment.
She seems oblivious to the fact that Lexa’s heart is breaking a bit for her as she watches her move around the shop.
“How about you? What do you get up to?” Clarke asks, setting the things she’s carrying down.
It takes Lexa a second to respond, she’s so caught up in her own tangle of thoughts trying to digest what Clarke has said.
“Oh, um, my family usually travels on Christmas. We do presents and whatnot on Christmas Eve but we skip the whole fancy dinner.” She wracks her mind, rifling through the memories until a gentle smile pulls at her lips. “My dad usually makes this spiced apple cider drink from scratch though, and it’s just... the best. We all sit around the tree and swap gifts that evening and then get ready to go. And then it’s a mad dash to the airport. My brother, Aden, is ten, so he’s always forgetting things and it’s just this insane scramble as everyone tries to make sure they’ve remembered to pack everything. And then we all get to the airport and take bets on what he’s forgotten anyways.” She’s so caught up in her own ramblings it takes her a moment to notice Clarke watching her with a soft expression, chin in her hands.
“Where are you guys going this year?”
“My parents got tickets to some small town in Spain,” Lexa answers, looking out the window and taking in the chilly weather. The idea of sunshine seems incredibly distant.
“That sounds amazing. You’re going to come back so tan.” Clarke laughs at the idea and starts scribbling in her notebook again. “If you’re going to the beach you better come back with some photos.”
“Yeah,” Lexa responds, distracted. Ember has returned to sniff around her hands and she absentmindedly scratches beneath his chin as she thinks.
Clarke tosses her keys on the counter of her apartment and shrugs out of her coat with a drawn-out sigh. She tosses that somewhere too soon after and heads for her kitchen, toeing off her shoes along the way.
It had been a long day at work.
With the holiday coming up, now barely more than a few days away, everyone seems to be out shopping for one thing or another and Clarke’s shop has been crowded wall to wall all day. She has a list of backorders she now has to fill because people emptied the shelves by mid-morning, scooping up her new amber glass paints and smoke sculpture kits. She could barely keep up with it all.
She pours herself a glass of wine from the half-finished bottle of white in her fridge and fetches her slippers from her room, fully intent on snuggling into her couch and watching some violent movie or other on netflix and ordering in food.
Her phone rings and she answers as she snags the pile of mail on the floor near her door that she missed on the way in, wedging the phone between her ear and her shoulder as she sorts.
“Hey, ‘O,” she greets.
“Hey… “ Octavia starts distractedly and there’s some muffled noise on the other end in which she can briefly hear her say goodbye to someone before Octavia returns and says “Lincoln says hi too, but he’s gone now.”
Clarke smiles as she flips through the envelopes in her hands. Junk mail. Junk mail. A coupon for half off a spa treatment using water with triple healing casts. She reads the back of that last one for a while, half listening to Octavia talk about wrapping up her classes and getting ready to head across the country to visit old relatives with old money and even older houses.
“ -- And I know it will probably be fine, but my family does have some assholes mixed in and I’m afraid they’re going to give Lincoln a hart time because they’ve never met him and he didn’t go to Arcadia and I don’t know, I’m probably making a bigger deal out of it than I need to. Bellamy is no help of course, I think he might be enjoying the fact that there’s someone else for people to pick on this year --”
Clarke lets Octavia ramble on with a smile on her face, tossing the junk mail in the trash and saving others in a pile on her counter.
There’s a red envelope towards the bottom of the pile and Clarke looks at it curiously for a moment before her movements still. She eyes the familiar loop to the cursive writing in her name, the delicate swish of the pen stroke connecting all the letters together neatly.
“-- Clarke? Helloooo?” She hears Octavia’s voice break through the fog. “Did I lose you?” There’s some shuffling and then she can distinctly hear “piece of shit phone” before a sound that can only be Octavia banging her phone against her palm.
“I’m here,” Clarke says quickly, shaking herself out of it and, after hesitating a moment longer, tossing the letter in the trash. “Sorry. Sorry -- I just spaced out there for a moment.”
“Yeah,” she says quickly, then more measured: “Yeah. I’m good. It’s fine.” She takes her glass of wine back to the living room. “So when do you and Lincoln head out?” she asks, changing the subject.
“Tomorrow morning. Early flight - blegh,” she complains and Clarke can hear her rummaging around in her kitchen cabinets for something.
“You’ll live,” Clarke chuckles.
“Are you sure you don’t want to come with us? We can probably whip you up a ticket, you know, show up to the airport, give a tap to the computer, bam.”
“As much fun as seeing your family give Lincoln the third-degree would be, I think I’m going to pass. Your parents don’t exactly like me, remember? Something about me being a horrific influence?” She says it with a light smile but there’s still something small and stubborn in her stomach that twists.
“Ugh, remind me why I’m going?”
“You’ll live,” Clarke repeats, shaking her head even though her friend can’t see it.
“Well if you change your mind and wanna tag along for a ride, let me know okay?” Octavia asks, though they both know it’s pointless.
They have this same conversation every year. Octavia invites Clarke and Clarke politely declines, not wanting to intrude and especially in a place she doubts she’d be welcome.
She huffs out a laugh, “I appreciate that, but you know the holidays aren’t my thing.”
“Alright alright, I’ll let Clarke the grinch be.”
“I’m not a grinch, but thank you.”
They hang up soon after and Clarke sighs and settles into her couch deeply, scrolling through Netflix options and putting the conversation and other things from her mind.
“So you don’t put up any kind of decorations? Nothing?”
Clarke shrugs and unwraps the scarf from around her neck. “I don’t really do the holidays. Too much fuss for just one person, you know?”
“I mean, I love them sure, but again, it's just me. So no.”
Lexa hands over the latte across the counter before resting her palms on it to think. Clarke empties a sugar packet into the drink and watches her, one eyebrow ticked up, waiting for more questions.
“Do you dislike decorations?”
“Not at all. Just never really saw the point of the effort.” She licks the stir stick before tossing it in the trash. She shrugs, indifferent.
Lexa nods and stops peppering her with questions but frowns as Clarke goes to find her usual seat.
“Okay but what about christmas cookies?”
“What about them?”
“Do you bake any? Receive any? Eat any? Baked goods that are 70% sugar and 30% fat are the hallmark of the christmas season. It’s not christmas without them.”
“Does this count?” Clarke asks, taking a bit of the reindeer cookie Lexa had held aside for her all morning, watching with amused eyes as her feet dangle over the side of the armchair.
Lexa huffs, “No.”
“Then I guess no.”
“Hmm?” she answers distractedly as she scrolls through her phone.
She closes the tab on Spain airline flights and looks up.
Raven is looking at her with one eyebrow raised. “What’s up with you?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’re spacing out every five fucking seconds. Can you just focus for the rest of your shift so we can get through this peppermint hellfest?”
Lexa shakes herself out of it and pockets her phone. “Right. Yeah. Sorry.” She stands from where she had been leaning against the back counter. “It’s just that Clarke doesn’t have anywhere to go for Christmas and I’m trying to see if I can bring her along with my family but the flights are all booked and --”
Raven holds up the palm of her hand, stopping the outflow of words “Nope. I do not get paid barely over minimum wage to play therapist to your love life.”
“Right. Sorry,” Lexa says, rubbing the back of her neck and trying to put the thoughts from her mind. She makes a mental note to search a bit more on her break.
Lexa must look particularly downcast or still stuck in the deep recesses of her mind because Raven tilts her head back and groans at the ceiling before turning to speak again.
“Have you considered that maybe she doesn’t mind being alone on Christmas?”
Lexa’s brow constricts. “Just because someone doesn’t mind being alone for the holidays doesn’t mean they should have to be.”
Raven just shakes her head and turns away again. “That’s what I get for trying to reason with a hopeless romantic.”
“I’m not a hopeless romantic,” Lexa argues, oddly affronted.
Raven gives her a tilted-head look. “You literally draw heart foam art every time your girl is in here. You’d probably give her flowers every day too if it wasn’t winter.”
Lexa’s mouth drops open to argue but nothing comes out. “What’s wrong with that?” she asks instead.
Raven just shakes her head.
The days fly by quickly.
It’s a flurry of holiday rush as people traverse across the city and the country and run between stores and homes trying to purchase and deliver as many gifts as possible as the clock to christmas ticks down down down. The snow doesn’t make things easier and it sits in large piles on sidewalks with the help of the snowplows who runs through the streets without enough frequency to do much good.
Everyone running left and right and Lexa is working most days and preparing to meet up with her family and Clarke is in the shop more often than not making sure stock is full to meet the demand of the season. They don’t see each other much except for a few hours here and there and the days pass by.
All too soon it’s Christmas eve morning.
For once it’s not snowing, but the air is cold and stings your lungs a bit when you breathe and Lexa is standing with a suitcase in one hand and a bus ticket in the other and is trying to pretend like she isn’t ordinantly upset about the circumstance of leaving.
Her ride is probably minutes away, ready to head upstate to her parents’ house where she can hop on a plane to the other side of the country.
“You’re not going for that long,” Clarke promises with an encouraging smile when she notices the incredibly downtrodden look on Lexa’s face.
Lexa says nothing, but nods nonetheless.
She did everything she could and it wasn’t enough. The few flights that were still going out because of the incoming storm were fully booked as people filled up spots in an effort to get home to loved ones. Even if she could convince Clarke to somehow magic her way into it, she would never agree to take someone’s spot. And then how could she explain that Clarke just magically managed to appear on their trip?
“You’ll be back soon. And I’ll be here,” Clarke tells her, appearing unaffected. “I want postcard though. I feel like that’s not too much to ask for.” She’s grinning as she squeezes Lexa’s hand, sending a bit of warmth through.
“I’ll try. But no promises, I might be too busy getting tan,” Lexa jokes, as she tries to force a smile.
The bus pulls up to the curb and the people waiting in the bus shelter begin lining up to get on, eager to get out of the cold.
They clearly don’t have much time and Clarke quickly pulls her into a deep hug. “Say hi to your family for me, okay?”
Lexa nods into Clarke shoulder. “I will. And I’ll bring you back something really good.”
“Yeah. I’m going to send you the best postcard I find.”
“Thank you. That’s all I ask.” Clarke holds onto her a little tighter for a moment and Lexa can hear her mumble a quiet “I’ll miss you” into her shoulder that breaks her heart a little bit.
They pull apart finally and Clarke holds her cheeks with ungloved but warm hands and pulls her into a deep but brief kiss.
She separates them before they get too caught up in it. “Alright. Off you go.”
Lexa turns towards the bus and is about to hop on before she turns back around at the last moment, shifting on her feet.
“Oh. I um. I know we didn’t really talk about getting each other presents. But I got you something,” Lexa says, adjusting her glasses before quickly digging around in her bag for the gift with the slightly crumpled reindeer wrapping.
She hands it over into Clarke’s hands who cradles it softly in speechless surprise.
“Oh…” Clarke finally manages, looking down at the wrapping before looking up to see Lexa stepping away again.
All the other passengers have loaded and the driver is looking their way pointedly through the open door.
Lexa is looking at her as if she’s trying to read her face for something as she backs away. The pinch between her brows means she’s clearly unhappy but can’t seem to figure out what to do about it.
With a final sad smile that doesn’t meet her eyes she walks onto the bus. There’s one more glance back and then the doors are closing. The bus rumbles and begins to move, crunching the snow beneath the tires. Clarke hand waves a small goodbye as it pulls away from the curb and soon disappears around the corner.
Clarke stands at the bus stop for a long time, breaths puffing out and curling into the air, holding onto her gift carefully with both hands and watching the tire tracks in the snow where the bus left.
Eventually she decides to walk home.
Her feet sink into the deep snow and she adjusts the knit hat on her head as it collects the flakes that have just started coming down, carefully cradling her gift against her side. It’s still early enough and she’s not entirely sure what she’s going to do for the rest of the day. Opening the shop sounds like an exhausting endeavour at this point.
The streets are much quieter than they had been earlier. People seem to have finally settled - resigned to the fact that the holiday is pretty much here and now they should just head inside and indulge in warm drinks and fattening food, happy that they’ve gotten all the present-buying that they could have. Clarke passes through a few neighborhoods on her long trip back and sees a few people rushing inside the homes with a bottle of wine tucked under one arm and presents under the other.
Her feet guide her towards the center of the city and the building she calls home and she wonders about which chinese delivery places near her building will still be open tonight.
She stamps the snow off her shoes inside her front door and leaves them there as she enters her quiet apartment. The lights are left off and she enjoys the slightly grey glow from the cloud cover outside her window, so she leaves it that way as she settles onto her couch.
Clarke yawns and wonders if Lexa has made it there yet, checking her phone for responses that aren’t there to messages she sent a couple hours ago.
After a while of flicking through made-for-tv holiday movies and she’s sunk as far into her couch as she possibly can without disappearing into it, she eyes the wrapped gift she set down on her coffee table when she first came in. There’s not much point in waiting until tomorrow, right?
She holds onto the wrapped gift for a moment of two, debating, before she carefully begins pulling off the wrapping.
It’s… a mug?
She looks at it carefully, turning it from side to side. It’s a nice mug, sure, a medium-light blue colour with etchings around the side. But she’s a bit befuddled until she sees the stamp on the bottom into the fired clay:
-Mystic Coffee Club-
Reserved for Clarke Griffin’s use in shop
Clarke holds it even more carefully than she had been before. She shakes her head because she doubts there even is a coffee club at the shop. Lexa probably made it up just for her.
Sometime later she falls asleep on the couch, the tv softly making noise in the background, cradling the mug to her chest.
There’s a loud, violent buzzing sound that startles Clarke awake. It starts and stops and starts again before cutting off altogether harshly. She scrubs a hand across the front of her face as she gets her bearings.
It takes her a moment in her befuddled state to realize that it’s someone ringing her apartment from the building intercom. (Her friends always let themselves in by appearing directly outside her front door - or directly inside her door if it’s Octavia).
She stumbles over to it quickly and after fumbling around a bit in the dark, finds and presses the button on the console. “Uhhh… hello?”
There’s the sound of some muffled shuffling but she gets no response after, just static.
She tries again “Hellllooooo?”
“Cl -- I’m --” the words are eaten up by static again before getting cut off completely. She shakes her head and gives up.
“Alright, just hang on. Just give me a moment,” she scrubs at her face again, trying to wake herself up. “I’ll come down and see what the fuss is.”
She sighs and tugs some boots on and slips out the door. It’s a long minute in the elevator, hands digging into her pockets, but when she gets to the bottom she finds herself tilting her head in confusion as the doors slide open.
She stares out the narrow glass window on the building’s front door and the elevator nearly starts closing again before she quickly steps out of it.
There’s a tree. A large evergreen, to be exact.
She opens the door curiously.
“Sorry,” comes a breathless and slightly muffled voice. “I couldn’t manage to keep the button pressed and still hold onto this thing.”
“And let me tell you, it was no easy feat getting this across the intersection on seventh. I think I lost a few branches and may or may not have knocked a few people over.” She leans the tree against her shoulder precariously so she can hold a few of the branches back to look at Clarke clearly.
There’s a long pause before Clarke is able to say anything, mouth opening with numerous sentence beginnings.
“Are you just going to stare at it or are you going to help me bring this thing inside?”
“What are you doing here!?” Clarke eventually sputters out, her mouth finally working, eyes wide at the girl who is poking her head out from beside the tree.
“Does the tree not make that obvious? I’m here to decorate your place for you. I honestly thought that would be a pretty clear message.”
“No, I mean --” Clarke continues to sputter for a moment, too shocked to form words in a string that makes sense. “I -- You -- You’re supposed to be in Spain!”
Lexa shrugs as best she can in her predicament, adjusting the santa hat on her head that Clarke just noticed. “I got as far as my parent’s house before turning around. Spain will still be there.”
“They understand. My brother too.”
And Clarke is still staring at this girl who is now just giving her this knowing smile at Clarke’s shocked expression.
Lexa nearly lets the tree topple over sideways when Clarke rushes into her and pulls her into a deep hug, stumbling them both back onto the sidewalk. Clarke has to blink back some of the emotion welling up behind her eyes and there’s a branch or two poking her in the side but she doesn’t let go for some time.
Lexa, for her part, just holds on as tight as she can to both Clarke and the tree and says, “I hope the tree isn’t too much. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the idea of having to drag it back for a refund if you don’t like it.”
Clarke pulls away as a smile cracks across her face, wiping her eyes with bubbling laughter that’s still full of disbelief. “Where did you even get it??”
“Not important!” Lexa says quickly, standing upright and working to keep the tree balanced. “What’s important is that it’s freezing outside and I could actually use a bit of help before I topple over. I’m not entirely sure I’ve got the arm strength to pick this thing back up again if that happens.”
Somehow they manage to haul the thing inside the lobby, leaving a trail of pine needles and some wide-eyed neighbors in their wake. They stare with skepticism at the small elevator for a moment, mentally measuring the tree and the angle before opting for the stairs as a safer option. Safer perhaps, but no less of a struggle.
“Are you actually lifting your end or are you just pretending to?”
Clarke’s mouth opens and closes in indignation. “I am lifting it! Did you have to get the biggest tree in the lot?”
Lexa hums and lifts her side a bit higher, prompting Clarke to have quick hands or drop her side, “I never said I got it at a lot.”
“Please tell me you didn’t chop this down in the park.”
Lexa just makes a non-committal noise.
They struggle for a good fifteen minutes and only make it up three floors before Clarke drops her end on the landing and holds her hands up. “Nope. Forget this.”
Lexa is about to argue about leaving the tree in the stairwell but then watches with wide and curious eyes as Clarke rubs her hands together and then, with a burst of magic, sends the tree upstairs with a small ‘whoosh’ .
“We should have thought of that earlier.”
“It’s a good thing you’ve got tall ceilings,” Lexa says, adjusting her santa hat to see a bit better as they both stand back and admire the large tree that leans against an open wall in Clarke’s living room, threatening to topple over at any moment.
She looks over at Clarke to see the other girl looking at the tree with critical eyes, almost like she’s still not entirely sold on the idea that it should be there.
She turns to Lexa suddenly, concern pinching her brow. “Are you absolutely sure you don’t want to try to catch a last minute bus back.” It’s a similar rendition of the same question she asked multiple times as they were hauling the tree up the stairs.
Lexa just shakes her head, smiling. “Yes. I am absolutely sure. You’re stuck with me and my decorations whether you want them or not.” Clarke opens her mouth as if to object again before falling silent, something like uncomfortable guilt settling over her.
Lexa just sends her an encouraging smile she goes and rummages around in Clarke’s hall closet for the box of christmas supplies she stashed there last week. She tosses a few coats out of the way before procuring a large box with “XMAS” scribbled across the side in large red pen that looks like it was written there over a decade ago.
“ Did you hide that in there?? ” Clarke asks when she spots what Lexa drags out, following her incredulously.
“Maybe,” Lexa says, dragging the box out into the open.
“Oh my god, you were going to try to make me decorate at some point!”
“ Maybe ! Or maybe I was just keeping it here for safe-keeping,” Lexa responds defensively.
Clarke just shakes her head and walks away.
Lexa isn’t entirely sure what it is that will sell Clarke on the idea of the holiday but she figures that some string lights and a few paper snowflakes here and there couldn’t hurt.
In the end it takes them forever, though most of it is Lexa’s doing anyways. Lexa blames the fact that Clarke’s place is rather huge. But still, she has enough string lights filling the box that she “borrowed” from her parents’ attic to string from corner to corner and hang a few snowflakes in front of the large window showing the snow coming down outside in fat flakes.
Clarke is a good sport for the most part, mostly just shrugging and following Lexa’s lead as she runs around and hangs everything up.
“Are you having fun?” Lexa asks at one point as she stands precariously on a bar stool to hang some lights from the curtain rod.
“I’m enjoying the fact that you seem to be having a blast turning my place into a winter wonderland,” Clarke compromises, hands on the sides of Lexa’s legs to balance her.
“Oh just you wait Clarke Griffin,” Lexa jokes, Clarke can see her smile reflecting in the window. “You’re going to be so in love with my decorations you’re not going to know what to do.”
“Uh oh,” Lexa says sometime much later when the hour hand on the clock is teetering towards the double digits and the sky outside sits deep and dark. Only the lights of adjacent and faraway buildings can be seen through the window, bright flecks in the otherwise black. Lexa’s holding onto the edge of a string of lights in the center of Clarke’s living room with one hand and holding the tree up in the other, tangled in the middle of it all. “I think I miscalculated.”
“How so?” Clarke asks after taking a sip from the wine in her hand. Her hip leans against the kitchen counter as she tries to cover up a yawn and failing.
“I don’t think I saved enough for the tree,” she says, looking at the set in her hands and then at the tree she’s holding up and then to the walls that now have multiple sets of lights ready to be turned on. Clarke can see the calculations she’s trying to do in her head, where she’ll have to take some down to compromise. Lexa taps her chin with the hands that hold the lights and Clarke watches, wine glass curled against her cheek, as a serious expression overcomes Lexa’s face as she thinks it through.
Lexa’s eyes light up suddenly and she starts going off on some sort of excited tangent about being able to rework the lights so that maybe they don’t have to be over the window, or maybe if she moves the tree… , but Clarke doesn’t really hear any of it. Everything feels sort of fuzzy and soft and she’s staring at this ridiculous girl standing in the middle of her living room with a stupid santa hat on. This girl, who gave up time with her family and christmas traditions to make sure that Clarke wasn’t alone. And now here this same girl is, after dragging over a tree she got from god knows where, trying her damned hardest to bring as much holiday spirit into Clarke’s living room and the love she feels in this moment hits Clarke like a freight train.
It overwhelms her in a wave, and she feels it all welling up inside of her and she shakes her head at the ceiling and silently asks anyone that might be listening how this girl ended up hers.
“I think I got it!” Lexa proclaims, turning and making the tree tilt precariously. “If we take the lights from that wall down, and we move the tree closer to the window, we should just be able to make it. Though I still haven’t figured out how we’re going to stand the tree up without a tree stand…”
She doesn’t notice that Clarke has moved to stand next to her until she’s kissing her, one hand cupping her cheek. She pulls away, enjoying the way Lexa’s eyes are lidded and then slowly open in confusion as Clarke gently makes her drop the lights and presses the wine glass into her hand.
“Hold onto that for a sec for me, will you?” Clarke whispers, all soft smiles and feeling and a realization that shimmers under her skin and tingles like pinpricks of energy waiting to be let loose.
Lexa sends her a confused look but says nothing as she watches as Clarke takes a breath and reaches out a hand towards the tree.
Branches poke at her arms as she stretches her palm to meet the center of it (did Lexa really have to get such a big tree??) and she closes her eyes. Clarke takes a breath and then pulls at her magic and sends it trickling out.
The particular cast she uses is careful work, something that requires slow precision. The tree, however, despite her slow movements, reacts instantly to her, reaching out to meet her magic as she lets it flow through the bark, the branches, and each of the pine needles. The tree seems to stretch with the energy, faint crackling sounds coming from the bark.
She doesn’t usually work with trees much. They’re more wild than her plants in a way - like to explore and grow big in multiple directions and connecting that instinct to magic can lead to some interesting effects.
“Woah…” she hears Lexa murmur from behind her, prompting Clarke to open her eyes.
The tree is upright now, standing from the wide, gnarled roots that have sprouted from its base to twist around each other and the various furniture nearby. It looks as if it grew straight out of the floorboards. Clarke takes a step back and looks up with a critical eye, taking in the fact that it looks like it grew about a foot or so too, standing tall with fuller branches that are a deep earth green. She smiles in satisfaction.
“You said you wanted some lights too, right?” she asks, looking the tree over.
She glances over her shoulder, “You’re gonna wanna watch this next part closely.”
Clarke shakes out her arms a bit and tilts her head from side to side to loosen up. The magic is tightly coiled at her center still and she focuses and starts working it to an even sharper concentration. Where the last part had been slow, this next one is much less so.
She closes her eyes again.
She presses her palms together, fingers pointed opposite directions. She starts sliding them against each other, dragging friction as she runs fingers over palms. She can feel the sharp pinpricks hum from her fingertips and radiate down her wrists and sinking into her arms. It’s wild and erratic and she tries to bring it together to something coherent and tangible with physical effort as it fights her.
A sharp point of it jumps out and bites her knuckle causing her to flinch in surprise. She grits her teeth before doubling down on it, forcing it together. Her eyes remain closed but soon the light from her glowing hands presses against her eyelids and she knows its working.
In a quick movement she pulls her hands apart - a snap of sound followed by a soft, electric hum. Between her hands, held carefully by her fingertips, is a string of bright glowing light.
Clarke turns and chuckles at the wide-eyed expression on Lexa’s face as she stares at the display of magic in front of her.
“Will this work?”
The room is glowing. That’s really the only way to describe it.
The tree stands with outstretched roots that curl their way across the corner of the room it has claimed for itself, gripped to chairlegs and footstools and standing tall and proud. Around it in a circular pattern towards the top, glows the lights Clarke brought about. The string of them skips and sputters softly on occasion, as if it has a life of its own, and for all Lexa knows it very well just might. In a way it dances and she can’t take her eyes off of it as she lays stretched out on the couch with Clarke providing a comfortable weight on top of her. The animated frosty the snowman movie is on tv in the background and Lexa is enjoying the occasional huffs of laughter at the inaccuracies in the magic depicted that Clarke lets out.
They're both a little bit wine drunk. Empty glasses sit next to empty bottles on the table and Lexa feels decidedly content and warm.
There are a handful of ornaments that Lexa had dug out of the box, not nearly enough to fill the tree but enough to give the idea. She’s not sure whether they just somehow fed off the magic Clarke gave the tree or the lights but now they occasionally rearrange themselves or adjust their positions on the branches until they seem more satisfied.
Clarke is absentmindedly dragging her fingers lightly over Lexa's arm, causing goosebumps to rise as a tattoo in the shape of a bird slowly circles, following the pattern that Clarke traces as her head rests below Lexa’s chin.
“How did you even do that? With the lights?” Lexa asks, wine making the words slow, leaving her mouth with a heavy tongue. She watches a glass ornament in the shape of a polar bear slowly climb a few branches higher until it settles on a top one and appears to look out over the room.
Clarke lets out a sleepy sigh from where she rests on top of Lexa. She hums, thinking in the quiet for a moment, eyes scrunching in tipsy concentration. “Magic is a form of energy, in a way. And when you move it from one space to another… it’s like there’s this shedding of energy and you can kinda… ,” her face scrunches even more as she tries to think of a way to describe it that Lexa might understand. “It’s kind of like static? Except not at all. Actually, scratch that, it's nothing like static.”
Lexa chuckles, curling a lock of Clarke’s pink hair around her finger. “That was very helpful, thank you.”
There are some candles on the coffee table that snap and sputter and they both settle back into the quiet for a few moments.
“Thank you,” Clarke whispers quietly after a few moments, still looking at the tattoo.
“Hm?” Lexa asks, sleepily. For what?”
Clarke meets her eye and the blue presses the breath from Lexa’s lungs for a moment. Raven was right, she totally is a hopeless romantic.
“For the tree. The decorations. For your never ending attempts to make me smile even though some of those attempts are ridiculous. For…,” she lets out a puff of breath from between her lips, “well, everything.”
“Well if I had known you’d be so bad at decorating I definitely would have done it sooner,” Lexa says. Clarke swats her arm. “Ow!”
“I’m trying to be genuine here for a minute.”
“Sorry. Go on.”
“I just… I wanted to say thank you. For giving up Christmas with your family for me, that can’t have been easy --”
“Don’t forget Spain. I gave up Spain too.”
“Oh my god would you shut up for a second, I seriously wonder sometimes why I love you.”
They both still for a second as they process what she said.
“Did you just say you love me?”
“It kinda sounded like you did.”
“Well you heard wrong.”
There’s a long stretch of silence where they both sit there, Lexa wrapping her arm a bit more comfortably around the girl resting on top of her.
Eventually, among the quiet room with the gently moving candles and the humming lights Lexa says, “But, for the record... I think I might love you too. Or, you know, whatever.”
“Okay,” Clarke says after a moment, voice muffled against Lexa’s shoulder. “Thank you.”
Lexa presses her smile into the top of Clarke’s head. “Merry Christmas, Clarke.”