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Skin to Win

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It was all Raven Reyes’ fault.  Clarke slurped her chocolate protein smoothie and took a roundabout path across the crowded dining facility.  Yes, the four of them had made a deal.  But she’d never expected it to be her turn so quickly.  Harper was hardly around to begin with, and she’d assured them that she only needed a few: as novelties, and “just in case.”  And Octavia…she’d hardly seen Octavia in the last two days.  Ever since she met that Canadian snowboarder by the wax truck—Linus? Lincoln? Landon?—she’d as good as vanished.  If she hadn’t heard the door ease shut at two in the morning and seen Octavia’s gear bag appear and reappear in their suite, Clarke would have wondered if she’d even come up for air long enough to keep her training schedule.  But presumably Logan (or whatever his name was, she guessed Octavia must know it) provided his own—or at least Clarke hoped he did—because Octavia hadn’t made a dent in the suite’s supply.  And she for damn sure hadn’t herself, she thought wryly.  Her events were less than forty-eight hours away and she needed to keep her focus.  Maybe afterward she’d let herself have some fun, there was quite a bit of eye candy on offer.  She finished the last of her smoothie and scoped out a group of impossibly blonde, tanned competitors laughing and chatting at a nearby table, their trim forms apparent even beneath their tracksuits.  She didn’t recognize the language—Norwegian? Swedish?  With bodies like that, does it even matter?  One of them eyed her up and down appreciatively as she passed and the corner of Clarke’s mouth curled in a faint smile, but she quickly dismissed the thought.  Focus, Griffin!  Competition first, play later!  But God, it had been so long….

Clearly Raven Reyes hadn’t gotten that memo, though, because she’d managed to breeze through their suite’s entire stockpile of condoms in just three days.  Clarke shook her head, awed despite her irritation.  She chucked her empty smoothie cup in the trash receptacle and squared her shoulders as she approached the machine.  A deal was a deal.  She turned the handle and flinched at the loud ch-chunk noise the dispenser made as it spat out the foil-wrapped package.  She scooped it up furtively, flushing awkwardly at the knowing glances the telltale noise drew from people at tables in the vicinity.  An impish smirk lit her face as an idea took hold.  Sure, it was kind of embarrassing, but at least she could ensure—or make as certain as she could—that she wouldn’t have to go through this again.  She cranked the knob again.

*****

Lexa scowled and pushed her grilled chicken and kale salad around her plate with her fork.  It had been a frustrating couple of days.  They hadn’t been able to train because the weather had been so windy and bitter cold that the officials shut down the slope.  Lexa chafed at having her routine thrown off balance.  That little bit of extra time to process could mean tenths of a second—the difference between silver and gold.  Or not making the podium at all.  An acrid sensation twisted in Lexa’s gut at the memory.  And today, they’d finally gotten their first look at the hill and their first practice ski, and she’d lost.  To Anya.  Oh, the time didn’t matter—it was her first of four training runs and it was really just about getting a feel for the course so she’d be ready for the real deal.  But it still galled her that Anya had clocked a faster time. 

Across the table, Anya munched on her bacon cheeseburger and studied Lexa shrewdly.  “Are you about done pouting?”

Lexa ground her jaw.  “I’m not pouting.”

Anya smothered a grin.  She swiped a French fry through ketchup and popped it in her mouth.  “Whatever, short stuff.” 

Lexa glared at her.  “I told you to stop calling me that,” she groused.  It had been Anya’s nickname of choice for her ever since she made the Olympic team as a scrawny, gangly, but lightning quick sixteen year old.  She’d been bursting with raw talent and insecurity back then; a less scrupulous colleague might have used that youth and vulnerability to play mind games and sabotage a potential rival.  Instead, the older woman had taken her under her wing: taught her how to carry herself like a professional skier, shown her how to harness the mental toughness that had become such a hallmark of her performance.  Thirteen years later, Anya was her training partner, her best friend, probably the closest thing she had to a sister.  Lexa still hated losing to her.

Anya’s amusement grew.  “You’ll always be short stuff to me,” she said fondly.  “But I’ll stop if you’ll get your head out of your ass and quit sulking.”  

Lexa gave her the exasperated huff of a younger sibling and Anya returned a pointed look.  “I know,” Lexa finally conceded, slumping back against her chair.  “The time’s not really the issue.  I’m just pissed off that I didn’t take a better line through the upper section, I probably could have picked up a half a second there, easy.  I can’t afford to leave that kind of opportunity on the table.” 

“You’re skiing tight.  You can’t let the pressure get to you,” Anya replied, popping another fry. 

“I know,” Lexa said, a hint of strain in her voice, “but sometimes it’s hard not to.  It could be my last shot, Ahn.”

“That’s true for any of us,” Anya countered.  “It certainly is for me.  But if it is, why not relax and enjoy yourself this time?”

“I’m enjoying it,” Lexa insisted.

Anya rolled her eyes.  “Spending all your time in the fitness center or analyzing tape is not ‘enjoying’ it.  It’s the Olympics.  Go socialize.  Watch some events.  Meet some people.  Relieve some of that stress.”  She waggled her eyebrows suggestively.

“Anya.”

“What?  Lex, in case you haven’t noticed, there’s over a thousand smoking hot women here, and everyone is looking for some stress relief.  Even someone with as little game as you should have no problem.” 

“I’m here to compete, not hook up,” Lexa said.

“Who says you can’t do both?”  Anya leaned forward with a wolfish grin.  “C’mon, when’s the last time you got laid?”

Too long.  Costia.  “We are not having this conversation,” Lexa said stiffly.  She avoided her friend’s gaze.

“Suit yourself.  But I’m not going to pass up the chance for some companionship.”  Her eyes seemed to track something over Lexa’s shoulder and a wicked gleam sparked.  “In fact, I think I’m gonna call in my favor.”

Lexa sat up.  “What, now?”  She and Anya had a long-standing bet, going back to when Lexa first earned the number one spot in the World Cup rankings.  When Lexa came in first in training—as expected—Anya sprang for smoothies afterwards.  But if Anya outpaced Lexa on a training run, she got to call in a favor, no questions asked.  If she bested her on race day…Lexa almost shuddered.  It didn’t bear thinking about.  But Anya usually savored her favors—rare as they were—like a fine wine, waiting for the perfect opportunity to strike.  It was unlike her to call one in so quickly. 

“Yup,” Anya said in a suspiciously jovial tone.

“Okay,” Lexa said slowly, waiting for the other shoe to drop.

Anya sat back in her chair and folded her arms.  “You are gonna go get me some condoms.” 

Anya!” Lexa spluttered.  “You don’t even—”

“I might.”  Anya was imperturbable.

“But I’ve never….”  Lexa was completely nonplussed.

“…never bought condoms?”  Anya said drolly.  She smirked at Lexa’s discomfiture.  “Well, there’s always a first time.  Think of it this way, at least you don’t have to pay for them.”  She ignored Lexa’s dirty look and nodded at the dispensers on the far wall.  “I think five ought to do it.  Off you go.”

Lexa gritted her teeth and got up to march across the cafeteria.  She didn’t catch the broad grin of anticipation that spread across her friend’s face.

*****

Lexa’s self-consciousness increased as she crossed the room, sure that everyone was watching her and whispering.  She focused straight ahead, refusing to look to either side.  There was already a blonde woman using one of the dispensers, and Lexa slowed her pace to give her time to finish her transaction and leave so that Lexa could have some privacy (or at least as much privacy as one could have in a dining hall crammed with world-class athletes).  But the stranger just kept turning the handle.  Lexa stood behind her and watched her jam packet after packet into her jacket pockets.  Lexa’s bewilderment soon outpaced her embarrassment, and she took in the other woman with curiosity.  Slightly shorter than herself, built a little stockier, with broad shoulders and curvy hips and the firmly sculpted thighs of…maybe a skater?  Lexa tried not to stare, but the stranger’s workout leggings hugged her ass perfectly, and really, it would be rude not to appreciate such a view.

The vending machine raid went on for what seemed like an eternity, though it was probably only a minute or so.  Lexa’s patience wore thin and she finally said snidely, “Damn, save some for the rest of us.”

Clarke whipped around, but her biting retort died on her lips at the sight of Lexa.  Her jaw dropped and she stammered, “Holy shit, you’re Lexa Woods, America’s Sweetheart!”  Her mouth clamped shut in horror once the words left her mouth.  Oh, shit, you did *not* just say that!  Real smooth, Griffin! 

Lexa bristled and looked taken aback, maybe even insulted.  Clarke, tongue-tied, backpedaled and hastened to explain, but her word vomit snowballed with every sentence.  “I’m sorry! I mean, that’s how the media and sportscasters talk about you on TV all the time—‘America’s Sweetheart’”—Clarke affected a voice and threw up her hands in air quotes, causing a few condoms to spill out of her pockets onto the floor— “and it was funny, so me and my friends started calling you that.  You know, when we talk about you.  Which is never.” 

Clarke gulped and ripped her eyes away from Lexa’s chiseled jawline and lips that looked even fuller and softer in person than in the promotional photo that Clarke had taped in her locker back home.  Raven liked to tease her about the photo and for fangirling over World Cup skiing just so she could crush on follow Lexa’s races and interviews.  (Ok, so maybe Lexa Woods was a more frequent subject of conversation than she realized.)  Clarke hated it when Raven was right, but in this case it didn’t matter, because she was never ever admitting to Raven—or her other friends—that this embarrassing encounter with her secret crush the skiing superstar had taken place.

Lexa was still kind of miffed, but she bit back a laugh at Clarke’s characterization of the breathless media adulation that dogged her, especially as a heavy gold medal favorite and one of America’s most recognizable Olympians.  She knew the press coverage every fourth year brought welcome attention to her sport, which tended to soldier on out of the limelight the other three years.  But on a personal level, she loathed the relentless media fawning, the rounds of insipid interviews, and the ubiquitous cameras that captured and preserved some of her rawest emotions, both high and low.  Clarke’s irreverence was refreshing, even if she was obliquely mocking Lexa in the process.  Eyes the same intense blue of the sky on a bright, cold day on the snow and a breathy rasp of a voice that ignited a tingle in Lexa’s belly certainly didn’t hurt.

A tiny grin flitted at the corner of Lexa’s mouth.  She nodded at the hoard of condoms that stuffed Clarke’s pockets to overflowing.  “Big night planned?” she asked dryly.

Clarke glanced down, as if she’d completely forgotten what she was about.  “What?  Oh, God, no, I’m a biathlete!” she blurted.  She blushed crimson when she realized what she’d said. 

Lexa cocked an eyebrow and her grin widened to a smirk.  “Really?”  she drawled, casting her gaze up and down Clarke’s figure.  Her outward cool masked her unexpected frisson of excitement that Clarke Might Be Available.   

Lexa’s open admiration made Clarke flush even harder, not from embarrassment this time.  Her jacket suddenly seemed uncomfortably warm.  “Yeah.  I mean, I’m both,” she babbled, and immediately wanted to kick herself for digging the hole deeper.  She forced herself to ignore Lexa’s thoroughly distracting grin and took a deep breath to gather herself.  “I am a biathlete,” she said firmly, “but these aren’t for me.  My suitemates and I made a deal,” she explained.  “We agreed to take turns refilling our rooms’ stash.  But one of them must have had a damn orgy and used them all, and it was my turn.  So I decided to get so many that she couldn’t possibly use them all, and I wouldn’t have to do this again.  Although knowing Raven, she’ll just take it as a challenge,” she muttered.

Lexa breathed a secret sigh of relief at the explanation and didn’t notice Clarke’s eyes narrowing.  “Wait a minute,” Clarke said slowly.  “Why do you need condoms?  I thought you were—” 

“Oh, I am,” Lexa assured her.  “Believe me.  No, I lost a bet to my partner.  My training partner,” she added quickly, noting the little downturn of Clarke’s lips.  “Anyway, how did you know that?  I mean, I’m out, but I keep my private life pretty quiet.”

Clarke shrugged evasively, not wanting to give away the depth of her infatuation with the skier.  “Um, I probably read it in a magazine or something.”  Her pocket buzzed insistently, and she fumbled for her phone amid the sea of condoms, dropping a few more on the floor before she managed to silence it.  “Shit, I’m late for a team meeting.”  She looked up at Lexa with regret.  “I’ve gotta run.  It was nice meeting you.  I swear I’m not usually such a disaster.”  She gestured at the stray condoms scattered on the floor.

Lexa was enthralled by Clarke’s adorably rueful grimace.  “You’re not a disaster.  Well, maybe just a little,” she amended with a chuckle.  “It was nice meeting you, too.  Maybe I’ll see you around,” she said, a little flicker of hope kindling in her chest.

“Yeah, I hope so,” Clarke said warmly.  She turned to leave, but Lexa stopped her.

“Wait!  Uh, what’s your name?” Lexa asked, with a hint of vulnerability that Clarke found endearing. 

“Clarke.  Clarke Griffin,” she called, walking backwards for a few steps, not quite wanting to break their connection. 

Lexa watched her wind her way to the exit.  Her heart thumped quickly as she silently willed Clarke to look over her shoulder for a final peek on her way out.  When she did, Lexa broke into a smile and did a mental fist pump.  A warm glow suffused her as she walked back to the table and dropped into her chair.

Anya was focused on swirling chocolate syrup and frozen yogurt with her spoon.  “So, how’d that go?” she asked nonchalantly.

“Fine,” Lexa sighed with a dopey smile.  Her eyes sharpened at Anya’s smug grin, and it finally dawned on her.  “You didn’t actually want any condoms.”

“Not even a little bit.”  Anya scooped some more fro yo and prodded for details.  “So?”

Lexa shot her a repressive look, but she was actually eager to spill.  “Her name is Clarke and she’s a biathlete.” 

Anya snickered and muttered, “If she wasn’t before, I’ll bet she is now,” into her cup of yogurt.  “Did you get her number?”

Lexa froze.  “Shit!

*****

Lexa cruised along on the stationary bike.  Her headphones dampened the noise in the fitness center down to a dull murmur and her mellow playlist helped ease her adrenaline rush.  Today had been a far better outing—no new favors for Anya, thank God—and she felt a lot more confident on the slope.  Her eyelids drooped as she reran the course in her mind.  A light poke in the ribs startled her and she whipped her head sideways to see Anya trying to get her attention.  She pulled her headphones down to drape around her neck.

“Don’t fall asleep on me,” Anya teased. One of Lexa’s special talents was her ability to doze off in just about any environment.  It helped calm her nerves on race day, but at times led to a certain amount of mockery. 

Lexa rolled her eyes.  “That was one time, and it was years ago.”  

“Yeah, and you fell off the bike and faceplanted.”  Anya laughed at Lexa’s put-upon expression.  She gestured at the entrance.  “You were so out of it, you didn’t even notice who just walked in.”  Lexa followed her pointing finger.  Clarke.  Lexa’s pulse quickened and she batted Anya’s hand down. 

Anya!  Stop, she’ll see you!” she hissed.

“That’s kind of the idea, Lex,” Anya said, muttering useless under her breath.  “Hey, Clarke!” she called out.  Clarke heard her name and swiveled her head around with a little frown, trying to locate the source.  Her face lightened when she saw Lexa.  She headed toward them. 

“What the hell, Anya?!  I would have talked to her.”  Lexa’s nerves spiked.

“Uh huh,” Anya said, unconvinced, ignoring Lexa’s glare.  “Now you definitely will.  Oh, and you’re welcome,” she said with a wink.  She hopped off her bike and gave it a quick wipe down, then gathered her gear.  “Ok, I’m going to get a shower.  Have fun,” she singsonged.  “And for God’s sake, get her number this time!”  

Clarke came up just as she was leaving.  Anya gave her a nod and a searching look before she made her exit.

“Clarke, hi!”  Lexa said brightly.  Her hands tightened on the handlebars as she took in the bounce of Clarke’s ponytail, her way her electric blue spandex leggings gripped her thighs, and sweet baby Jesus, her cleavage tank top.  She’d noticed Clarke’s boobs last night, of course she had; she’d have had to have been blind not to.  But that jacket really hadn’t done them the justice they deserved.  Lexa felt a little lightheaded and eased her pace; if she fell off this bike, Anya would mock her till the end of time. 

“Hi, Lexa.  I hope I’m not interrupting,” Clarke said, eyeing Anya’s retreating back over her shoulder. 

“No!  Not at all,” Lexa said quickly.  “Sorry, I should have introduced you.  Anya’s my best friend.  She can be a little…intense.”  

“Mind if I join you?”  At Lexa’s assent, Clarke arranged her water bottle and towel and mounted the bike.  She programmed a light cardio routine and forced herself to concentrate on her own workout rather than Lexa’s legs, lazily cycling away beside her.  She popped the cap on her water bottle and took a long pull, because after being outside in the dry cold, she probably was dehydrated.

They worked out in silence for a moment, minds racing for a entrée into conversation.  They both opened their mouths to speak at the same time, and the resulting jumble of words made them laugh and swept away the awkwardness.  Clarke told her about her day: a morning of dry-firing drills, investigating the unusual international cuisine options in the dining hall with Raven, then a final equipment check to make sure all her gear was prepped for tomorrow’s event.  Lexa was fascinated by a sport so different from her own.  As they sweated alongside each other, she peppered Clarke with thoughtful questions, curious to learn how it worked, what drew Clarke to it; really, what made Clarke tick.

“So you fire in between heartbeats?” Her brow furrowed in amazement.  She was quickly coming to realize that Clarke was far more collected—and formidable—than last night’s chance encounter suggested.

“Yeah,” Clarke said.  “Well, it’s more like sprinting up ten flights of stairs and then firing in between heartbeats,” she clarified with a grin.  “You know, I’m impressed that you know this much about it.  Most Americans don’t.”

Lexa shrugged shyly, but the compliment warmed her all over.  She wasn’t about to admit that she might have spent several hours on the internet last night reading up on biathlon in general and a certain blonde biathlete in particular.  

Clarke fell silent, then shook her head and said simply, “I don’t know how you do this.”  Lexa looked puzzled, and she clarified, waving a hand at the room.  “Just...it’s the Olympics.  How are you so calm?”  Lexa ducked her head and smiled to herself.  Clarke assumed she was laughing at her and got a little defensive.  “I know it’s business as usual for you, but this is my first time.  It’s nerve-wracking!  I know once the race starts, muscle memory will kick in and I’ll go on automatic, but I can’t stop overthinking.  I checked my equipment three times because I’m terrified of forgetting something tomorrow.  Last night I even dreamed that I showed up on the course in nothing but my underwear and I’d forgotten to load my rifle!”

Lexa’s mind wandered at that delicious mental image.  She shifted uncomfortably on the bike saddle and changed the subject to get her thoughts under control.  “Wait, this is your first Olympics?  I thought you were in line to make the Sochi team.”  Too late, she realized that this was information a new acquaintance probably wouldn’t have been privy to.  Clarke gave her an inscrutable look, and she reddened at being caught out on her curiosity.  “I’m sorry, it’s not my business,” she said awkwardly.

Clarke blew out a slow breath that had nothing to do with her workout exertion.  “I was.  I was one of the top contenders, was favored—expected—to make the team.”  She pedaled harder and gazed blindly across the gym.  “But then my dad died in the middle of the qualifying season.  I tried to compete, wanted to.  He would’ve wanted me to.”  She shook her head.  “I couldn’t get my head straight, though.”  She finally met Lexa’s eyes with earnest intensity.  “That’s why these Games are so important.  I know I probably won’t medal, but I want to make him proud.  But damn, it’s all so overwhelming!”  Her shoulders slumped.         

The silence stretched between them again.  Lexa sensed that this was not a subject Clarke shared lightly.  She chose her words carefully, conscious of the implicit trust Clarke had extended to her on the basis of a fledgling, yet undeniable connection.  “Clarke…I’m terrified most of the time.  I’m terrified of letting myself down, my coach, the team, disappointing my fans.  Shoot, disappointing the damn country.  It’s not business as usual—you said it yourself, it’s the freaking Olympics.”  A touch of awe and passion crept into her voice.  “How many people would kill to be in our shoes?  How hard have we worked, and sacrificed, and bled to get here?  Sometimes it terrifies me just how much I want it,” she mused to herself.  “Maybe it seems like I’m calm, but it’s just how I’ve learned to cope.  I focus on what I can control, keep moving, think about what comes next.  I don’t allow myself to stop and feel too much, because if I do, it is overwhelming.” 

Clarke listened intently.  “So you just block it all out?  All the emotion?”

“I try to.  It just gets in the way of execution.”  And it’s less painful in case everything you’ve strived for, pushed yourself beyond your limits for, poured your soul into your whole life, comes abruptly crashing down around your ears….      

A frown creased Clarke’s forehead.  “I could never do that,” she said slowly.  “Tuning out the noise when I’m taking my shots, sure.  But when the race is done, I want to experience the moment, the feelings, all of it, whether it’s good or bad.  Otherwise, what’s it all for?”  Her brief glance seemed laden with meaning, and Lexa wondered whether they were even talking about competition any more. 

Lexa was suddenly aware of how much she’d let her guard down, and to a virtual stranger.  Despite her blithe remarks about staying in control and keeping a tight rein on her feelings, Clarke had an uncanny way of disarming her defenses completely.  And if she let any of their conversation slip to the wrong person, it would be all over social media in a heartbeat.  No, Clarke was a distraction she really couldn’t afford.  And yet, having made this connection, she didn’t want to lose it.  A tiny, rebellious voice, the one she buried deep and almost never gave credence, reared her head and shouted, “What IS it all for?

Lexa regretfully slowed her pedaling to a halt, also realizing that she’d been on the bike far longer than she intended; her light cardio cooldown had morphed into at least half an hour.  She got off the bike and toweled off her neck.  “I’ve been at this too long, I’ve got to stretch,” she explained.  Clarke nodded understanding, but almost lost her balance on her bike when Lexa moved into the open space in front of the machines and began a regimen of yoga poses.  Clarke fumbled for her towel and mopped away a sudden outbreak of sweat.  She knew Lexa had an amazing body; her ski suit left no illusions on that score, but the suppleness and grace of her movements in those dark gray compression leggings should have earned her penalty deductions for rampant rules violations.  Clarke drank her in with greedy abandon.  She wouldn’t normally ogle so blatantly, but Lexa was intent on her breathing and posture and oblivious to the attention, and when would she ever see such heartstopping beauty in the flesh again?   

Clarke made liberal use of her water bottle.  She was glad she had when Lexa concluded her stretches and returned to the bike to collect her things.  Damp, wispy strands of hair escaped her ponytail and hung down to frame her face.  “I’m going to the sauna to finish up.  Do you want to come?”

Clarke’s brain glitched at the prospect of Lexa, clad in nothing but a towel…or even less…sleek curves glistening through a haze of steam, a stray bead of sweat breaking free and trickling past her clavicle and over the swell of her small breasts onto Clarke’s waiting tongue…do I ever want to come.  “Uhh, no,” she stuttered instead.  “I don’t think I have time, I still need to stretch.”  She shut down the bike and climbed off. 

Lexa kicked herself because her meditation exercises had just cleared Clarke’s intoxicating fog from her mind, and here she’d let her burst back in with a single glance.  And—shit.  Her eyes widened as she realized that Clarke might have gotten the wrong idea about her sauna invitation—or maybe the right one, her reckless inner voice taunted. 

Clarke cut in with a question that eased her distress.  “Um, what are you doing later?  Are you free for dinner?”  

Lexa nodded vigorously, aware that she probably seemed overly eager, but not really caring.  “Dinner sounds good.”  She produced her phone and they exchanged numbers, agreeing to text when they were cleaned up and ready.  This time, it was Clarke who cheered silently when Lexa snuck a parting glance over her shoulder.  Despite her rubbery legs, Lexa floated all the way back to her dorm.  

Take that, Anya!  Who doesn’t have game *now*?

*****

A short while later, the two women met up outside the entrance to the main dining hall.  Neither of them was alone.  And neither of them looked pleased about it.

“Hi, Lexa.  I hope you don’t mind, I ran into my roommates on the way out and they decided to tag along.”  Clarke said.  She introduced Raven, Octavia, and Octavia’s new special friend, Lincoln.  To her surprise, he, Lexa, and Lexa’s friend, Anya, were already acquainted.

“We met a few years ago, when we were all in Whistler for training,” Lexa explained.  She greeted Lincoln warmly and exchanged pleasantries with Raven and Octavia.  “This is Anya, you crossed paths at the gym, but I didn’t get a chance to introduce you properly.”

Anya gave Clarke the same penetrating onceover she had earlier, but was otherwise polite.  Introductions out of the way, the six of them headed inside.  Lexa and Clarke hung back and let the others go on ahead. 

“I’m sorry about this,” Clarke said, quietly, so her friends wouldn’t overhear.  “I didn’t mean to ambush you, I know you probably get tired of fans throwing themselves at you.  But Raven’s not one to take no for an answer.”  She wasn’t about to embarrass herself by telling Lexa the whole story.

Lexa laughed.  “It’s fine, they’re your friends.  It actually doesn’t happen as much as you think.  And trust me, I know the feeling.  Anya’s kind of the same way.”  

They all selected their meals and sat down.  To Clarke’s relief, Raven and Octavia were on their best behavior.  When she’d finally caved—under Raven’s eagle-eyed interrogation—and admitted that she was meeting Lexa Woods, America’s Sweetheart for dinner, the two of them had squealed and bounced up and down on the edge of Raven’s bed until she’d agreed they could come along.  Raven hadn’t explicitly threatened blackmail if she’d refused, but Clarke could tell from her skeptical expression that she didn’t quite believe Clarke’s story that she just happened to “bump into” Lexa in the gym.  Clarke had said they could join her at dinner mainly to forestall Raven worming the rest of the story from her.  She was just starting to relax and enjoy her conversation with Lexa when Raven turned the tables on her.

Raven waited until Clarke took a big bite of her burrito, then asked Lexa sweetly, “So Lexa, you and Clarke just met at the gym this afternoon?” 

Lexa nodded and munched on her meal, oblivious to Clarke’s frantic chewing and wide-eyed head shake.  “Yeah.  Well, actually last night—” she jumped at the press of Clarke’s foot on hers and tried to interpret Clarke’s repressive facial expressions and adjust her story on the fly “—I, uh, saw Clarke in the cafeteria,” she finished lamely.

Anya watched the whole exchange and weighed in with a shit-eating grin.  “Aw, Lex, it was more than that.  You must have spent fifteen minutes talking to her by the condom machine.” 

Raven’s eyes danced with glee and she fixed rapt attention on Anya.  “Do tell,” she cooed brightly.  Clarke closed her eyes in resignation as the whole episode came tumbling out.  Raven convulsed with laughter at Anya’s secondhand description of the encounter.  “Biathlete?  Oh my God, Clarke!”

Clarke huffed.  Raven would never let her live this one down.  She was trying to think of a witty riposte when she felt the gentle weight of Lexa’s foot on hers.  She raised her eyes to Lexa’s and caught the apology in them. 

Clarke returned a reassuring look.  Not your fault.   

Are you ok?

Clarke gave a small, swift nod.  She cut her eyes at Raven and rolled them.  It’s fine.  Raven being Raven

Lexa glanced at Anya and then back to Clarke and shook her head in wry understanding.  They smiled at each other.

Octavia had abandoned Raven and Anya’s conversation, which by now had devolved into hysterical laughter and a running critique of Clarke’s and Lexa’s respective ineptitude (“Clarke changed her sweater four times before we came down for dinner!” “Lexa couldn’t decide which flannel to wear tonight.  Hello, it’s flannel!”).  Instead she watched Clarke and Lexa’s wordless exchange with growing smugness.  Finally, during a lull in the raucous conversation, she gestured at the two of them and wrinkled her nose.  “Gross,” she pronounced.

The rest of the table stared at her in bafflement.  Octavia rolled her eyes and elaborated.  “The hearteyes are ridiculous.  Seriously, you just had an entire conversation without words.”  Raven and Anya hooted with laughter, but Clarke and Lexa looked nonplussed.  

Clarke’s face heated and she jutted a fork in Octavia’s direction, as if to skewer her.  “Oh yeah?  Pot, let me introduce you to kettle,” with a pointed look at Lincoln. 

Octavia looked at Lincoln and her face softened into a smile.  He smiled back and put an arm around her shoulder.  She snuggled happily into his side and arched her eyebrows at Clarke, as if to say, “So?” 

Lexa came to Clarke’s defense.  “It’s not hearteyes,” she protested.  “I just felt bad for embarrassing Clarke in front of her friends.”  

Anya cocked her head to the side and pursed her lips with deceptive innocence.  Lexa recognized what was coming and glared daggers at her, but Anya had been frustratingly immune to Lexa’s death stare for years.  “Huh.  I guess you didn’t see the look on your face last night while you were trolling through those biathlon videos.”  Anya caught Raven’s eye and grinned conspiratorially.  “Hours, it was.  She’s usually asleep by 9.” 

Heat crept up Lexa’s neck and she studiously avoided Clarke’s face as the rest of the table laughed at her expense.  She resolved on the spot to run Anya into the ground in their next workout.  

Lexa breathed a sigh of relief when the conversation finally turned to safer topics.  She still couldn’t bring herself to look at Clarke, sure that Anya’s loose tongue had made her look like a stalker and torpedoed her chances.  Her usually healthy appetite waned and her dinner curdled in her stomach.  She was only half-heartedly listening to Octavia’s tale about the North Korean cheerleaders when she felt a familiar pressure on her foot again.  She finally looked at Clarke across the table and joy crackled in her chest at the small, encouraging smile she found and returned. 

Moments later, the roiling in her belly settled lower and morphed into something altogether different when Clarke’s foot shifted upward and slowly stroked up and down the slope of Lexa’s calf.  If it felt that good through the top of Clarke’s sneaker and her pants leg, she could only imagine how Clarke’s caress might feel skin to warm, bared skin.  She took a greedy gulp of water, but nearly spat it back out at the sight of the deep blue of Clarke’s eyes and the impish twitch at the corner of her mouth.  Warmth curled between her legs and she fidgeted in her seat.  Much as she wanted to keep up the subtle teasing, she knew she was liable to embarrass herself further if she didn’t curb it soon.    

Lexa shot a regretful glance at Clarke, then set her glass down on her tray with a thud and stood up abruptly.  She floundered for an excuse to make her exit, but everyone else took it as their cue to leave, too.  They disposed of their trash and left the cafeteria.  Octavia and Lincoln were once again wrapped up in each other.  Anya and Raven, meanwhile, had lost interest in embarrassing their friends for the time being and were locked in a heated debate over the merits of coconut oil. 

“I don’t care if it is a good massage oil, I’m not leaving the trainer’s table smelling like a damn Piña Colada!” Anya said adamantly.

“Nah, more like a Painkiller.”  Raven waggled her eyebrows and grinned.  Anya outwardly groaned at the bad pun, but the corners of her mouth quivered with the effort of holding back a smile.  “Besides, who said anything about the trainer’s table?”  Raven leered suggestively.

Anya scoffed, but she didn’t reject the insinuation out of hand.  

They passed one of the recreation facilities on the way to the exit.  Raven halted and nudged  Anya with her elbow.  The familiarity caught Anya by surprise, but she didn’t take offense. “Hey, look,” Raven said excitedly, “it’s one of those big gaming rooms.”

Octavia chimed in, “Ooh, I call dibs on—”

“We are not playing Tony Hawk with you, O, you’re a goddamn snowboarder!” 

Octavia pouted.  “Fine,” she grumbled.  “Let’s see what else they have.” 

Raven sized Anya up thoughtfully.  “How are you at Mario Kart?” 

Lexa opened her mouth to respond, but Anya cut her off with a sharp glance.  “I can hold my own,” she said impassively.

Raven whooped and rubbed her hands together.  “All right, it’s on!”  She called back to Clarke and Lexa.  “You guys coming?”  She snickered at Anya’s muttered comment. 

Clarke demurred.  “Can’t.  My race is tomorrow, I need to get to bed early.”  She leveled a stern glare at Raven.  “So be quiet when you come in.”

Raven crossed her heart and held up her pinky.  “Swear.  Lexa?”

“No, I should get to bed, too.  I’ve got some slalom drills and another training run in the morning.  As does Anya,” Lexa added archly. 

Anya laughed at the prim expression on Lexa’s face.  “Don’t worry, mom, I won’t be late,” she promised. 

They said their goodnights and separated.  Despite the cold, Lexa and Clarke took their time walking back to their apartments, neither of them quite ready to call it a night.  Lexa longed to link her arm through Clarke’s and hold her close.  She thought it might be too presumptive, though, and she kept her hands balled tightly in her parka pockets.  They finally reached their building and stamped their feet once inside to warm up.  Clarke’s suite was on a lower floor, and Lexa insisted on walking her to her door.

“So, this is me,” Clarke said, turning to face Lexa outside her room.  Lexa was standing so close Clarke was sure she could hear her heart pounding its way out of her chest, or at the very least, feel its reverberations thrumming through Clarke’s body.  She opened her mouth to say something, anything, but Lexa beat her to it.

“I had a nice time tonight.  With you,” she said softly.  She slanted her body closer to Clarke’s and reached up a trembling hand to tuck a stray curl behind Clarke’s ear.  Her eyes drifted slowly over Clarke’s cheeks, still flushed from the frigid night air, down to focus on her lips, so pink and faintly wet and just barely parted.  From Clarke’s behavior at the dinner table, Lexa thought her attention was welcome, but she’d never been good at reading signs and she didn’t want to go too far.     

Clarke watched Lexa’s eyes dip and thought she’d never seen quite that shade of green.  She unconsciously edged into Lexa’s space and murmured, “I did, too.  Lexa,” she rushed out breathlessly, “can I kiss you?”

Lexa didn’t give her the chance; she leaned in and captured Clarke’s lips with her own instead.  It was tentative at first, just a tender brush of her lips against Clarke’s, but she moved with more confidence as Clarke responded.  Her hands crept up to span Clarke’s waist.  Clarke draped her arms around Lexa’s shoulders and relaxed into her embrace.  Lexa sucked Clarke’s lower lip between hers and traced the tip of her tongue along it, marveling at its soft give and the small, pleased noise Clarke made.  Clarke’s hand rose to fist in the curls at the base of Lexa’s neck and draw her closer, and before she even realized it, Lexa had crowded Clarke’s back against her door.  Her thoughts were blurred by Clarke’s warm, plush curves pressed into her own, the sweetness in the wet slide of Clarke’s mouth, the soft tickle of her hair against her cheek.  She changed the angle to deepen the kiss, but Clarke pulled her mouth away with a gasp.  They stood there panting, still holding each other close, pulses racing, lips tingling.

“Wow,” Clarke whispered, shook.  “That was….”

“Yeah.”  Lexa ran her tongue over her own lips and closed her eyes with a shudder at the faint remnants of Clarke’s taste on them.

Clarke slid her hands down to rest on Lexa’s shoulders.  She forced her eyes to focus.  “I really do have a race tomorrow….”

“I know.”  Lexa stepped back just a little to give Clarke some space, but she didn’t let her go just yet.

“I’ve wanted to do that ever since you walked in tonight wearing that flannel and that cute little beanie.  Actually, longer.”  Clarke exhaled and braced herself.  “Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but I’ve kind of had a crush on you for a while.”  She blushed even deeper, but persevered.  “Like, I follow your races and…I might have a photo of you in my locker.  But that’s not why I wanted to kiss you just now.  I mean, it is, but it’s not the only reason….” 

She fumbled for the right words, afraid she’d royally screwed things up.  Lexa took pity on her.  “It’s ok, Clarke, I understand.  I mean, I am the number one downhiller in the world, I’d have a crush on me, too,” she teased, grinning widely.  Clarke relaxed and shoved at her gently, not enough to really push her away.  Lexa kissed the tip of her nose.  “Really, it’s ok.” 

“I just never expected to actually meet you.”  Her eyes shone as she took in Lexa’s soft smile.  “And it turns out you’re…more.  So much more.” 

Lexa felt a lump in her throat and she pulled Clarke in for a hug, not trusting her self-control if she kissed her again.  “So are you,” she whispered into Clarke’s hair.  They finally, reluctantly, parted, Lexa reminding herself that she had to go because Clarke had an event to rest up for.

“Would it be ok if I came to cheer you on tomorrow?” Lexa asked shyly.

Clarke thrilled at the thought.  “Yes!  Totally!  I mean, if you want to.”  She tried to reel in her eagerness.

Lexa smiled.  “I do.  All right, I’ll let you get to bed.  Good luck tomorrow.  I’ll see you at the finish line.”

“Goodnight, Lexa.”

“Goodnight, Clarke.”

Chapter Text

“Lexa!  Lex!” Anya swore under her breath and increased her pace to a trot to catch up to her friend, who was nudging her way through the crowd at the Biathlon Center with single-minded purpose.  Anya put a hand on her arm to slow her down.  “Lexa,” she said loudly, almost in her ear. 

Lexa whirled at the contact.  Anya almost laughed at the impatience on her face.  “Lexa, slow down!  We’ve got plenty of time.”  Lexa opened her mouth to protest, but Anya said firmly, “We do.  The race doesn’t even start for another half hour.”

Lexa eased up, but continued moving toward the bleachers.  She hated the whine that crept into her voice.  “Yeah, but the website said to arrive one to two hours ahead in order to get good seats.”  She waved an irritated hand at the crush of people that surrounded them, as if to rest her case.

“I don’t care how hot you are for Blondie, I’m not about to freeze my ass off for two hours just so you can gaze longingly at her from a distance.”  Anya relented at Lexa’s annoyed frown.  “Oh, don’t get your panties in a wad.  Raven’s already here, she saved us seats.  She texted me while you were getting changed.”  She held up her phone in a mittened hand as proof.

Some of the tension washed out of Lexa’s shoulders and her face lightened.  Anya rolled her eyes.  “Unbelievable.  When I said ‘stress relief,’ I meant get your rocks off, not declare your undying love and book a U-Haul.”

“It’s not like that,” Lexa insisted, ignoring the way her heart had leaped at “undying love.”  She’d only just met Clarke, they barely knew each other, it was far too soon to bandy about words like love.  Wasn’t it?  Of course it was.  After all, there was so much she didn’t know about Clarke: Where did she grow up?  What did she like to do off the snow?  Cat person or a dog person?  What was her favorite book?  Did she even read?  Chucks or Vans?  Was she the quiet evening type, or did she get wild at parties?  Was she ticklish?  Was she a morning person?  Did she like to cuddle?  Big spoon or little spoon?  How would she look in the morning, early morning sun rays glinting off her hair?  What would her face look like when she came….Goddammit, Anya.  Lexa glared at her, realizing too late that she’d just played into Anya’s hand.

Anya just chuckled at her obvious daydreaming.  “Quit trying to hide it.  You’re so Lextra,” she teased.

Lexa’s cheeks reddened.  “Shut up,” she grumbled.  “Anyway, you’re one to talk, texting with Raven.  Since when do you give your number out to a woman you just met?”

Her feeble counterpunch failed to land.  Anya replied imperturbably, “I knew you’d want to see Clarke race, but you wouldn’t be able to talk to her beforehand, whereas Raven was going to be here and could give us directions and shit.  And unlike you, I’m not a useless lesbian.”   

They finally reached the bleachers and Anya scanned the seats while Lexa sputtered for a reply.  “There she is.”  Anya threw up an arm, and moments later a dark-haired woman in a USA parka about halfway up in the stands stood and returned the wave with both hands.  “You go on up, I’ll be there in a minute.”

Lexa looked confused.  “Where are you going?”

“I told Raven I’d bring her a hot chocolate,” Anya said casually, looking away with studied indifference.

Lexa had known her long enough to pick out the odd note in her voice.  She raised an eyebrow.  “Since when do you fetch drinks?”  Lexa would have sworn she saw Anya’s cheeks color, just a fraction, but it had to have been a quirk of the sun off the snow, because surely Anya wasn’t blushing.  Anya didn’t blush.   

“It’s not fetching,” Anya huffed. “I told her I’d bring her one if she saved seats for us.  So, really, I’m doing it for you.”

Lexa grinned.  “Right.  Well, in that case, I’ll take one, too.  With lots of marshmallows.”  Anya gave her a dirty look, but set off for the concessions stand without further comment. 

Still smiling from getting the last word with Anya for a change, Lexa climbed the bleachers until she reached Raven.  “Hi, Raven.  Thanks for saving us seats.”

“Anything to increase Clarke’s cheering section.  You guys are cutting it kind of close, though; race is gonna start any minute,” Raven admonished.

“I know,” Lexa apologized.  “We would have been here sooner, but my slalom practice took longer than I expected.”  She’d made sure to allow extra time, but the drills had still run long.  It had taken supreme self-discipline to force herself through her usual thorough cooldown when all of her impulses screamed to jettison her careful routine and rush off to see Clarke.  “And then Anya took forever to get ready, I was sure we were going to be late.” And miss Clarke.  She fretted at the very idea, until she noticed Raven’s grin.  Shit.  She closed her eyes and sighed in resignation.  “We’ve got plenty of time, don’t we.”

“At least half an hour before it starts, and Clarke’s not even in the starting pack,” Raven said, enjoying Lexa’s embarrassed fluster.  “But good to know that Clarke has a new number one fan.  Really, though, I’m glad you guys made it,” she continued, her eyes tracking Anya’s progress through the crowd.  “Octavia bailed to go watch Lincoln in the half pipe.  Sitting here by myself for a couple of hours was gonna get really boring.  And cold,” she added a little louder for Anya’s benefit, when she finally appeared bearing three steaming cups.  Her lips curved in a smirk.  “About time, Hunter.  Funny, when you said you’d bring something to warm me up, I didn’t think you had cocoa in mind.” 

Anya shot her a look and shoved one of the cups at her.  “Here,” she said gruffly.  “Don’t burn your hands, it’s pretty hot.”  She jerked her head at Lexa to motion her to one side, then squeezed into the seat in between Lexa and Raven. 

Raven’s smirk turned wicked.  “Oh, I can think of some better ways to warm my fing—”

“Here’s yours, Lex,” Anya said, deliberately talking over Raven. 

Lexa hid her smile and accepted the cup.  She took a sip and let the hot liquid seep through her, slowly warming and grounding her.  She took in the portion of the course that was visible from the grandstand. The starting and finish lines crossed directly in front of the stands, with the firing range opposite on the far side.  Several giant video screens displayed various points on the course and would presumably offer footage of the different skiers once the competition began.  The racers milled about the starting area, waiting for their cues.  Lexa strained for a glimpse of golden hair, but she didn’t see Clarke yet. 

Lexa tuned back in to Raven and Anya’s byplay just in time to catch the tail end of a dispute. 

“It was bullshit and you know it!  I don’t know how you managed to cheat at Mario Kart, but believe me, I’m going to figure it out!”

“Just accept it, Reyes.  You’re not as good as you thought,” Anya replied smugly.

“Oh, I haven’t had any complaints.”  Raven’s eyes glinted at the not-so-subtle challenge. 

Lexa snorted and cut off Anya’s no doubt sexually-charged rejoinder.  “So I take it Mario Kart went well?  Especially considering that someone didn’t get in until after midnight.”

Anya preened at Raven’s disgruntled scowl.  “Someone kept demanding a rematch; I couldn’t just walk away and leave my title undefended.”

Lexa leveled a stern look at her.  “Even when it’s the Olympics and you know you have a ski in the morning?”

“Jesus, I said I was sorry for waking you up, no need to go all ‘Commander’ on me,” Anya said.

“Yeah, and if it happens the night before we race, I will end you.”

“Lexa, you know I’d never do that,” Anya said seriously.  Lexa stared at her icily for a few beats more, long enough to wilt even Anya’s bravado, then let her poker face crack into a smile.

Relieved annoyance crossed Anya’s face and she gave Lexa a friendly push.  “Ass.”

Lexa elbowed her back and laughed.  “Had you going, though.”   

“Commander?” Raven broke in, looking puzzled.

Lexa and Anya abandoned their juvenile shoving match and directed their attention back to Raven.  “I get kind of…focused…before races,” Lexa explained lightly.

“Focused.”  Anya scoffed in derision.  “That’s one word for it.  She gets intense as fuck on race day, damn near bites everyone’s heads off,” she confided to Raven.  “Right before her first World Cup win, Indra—our coach—said Lexa surveyed the slope like a commander preparing to vanquish her enemy.  It intimidates the hell out of the younger skiers, but they all work harder to try to imitate her.”

“Too bad it doesn’t have the same effect on the veterans,” Lexa muttered.

“Yeah, when you’ve held someone’s helmet and goggles while they puke before their first big race, it tends to shatter the illusion,” Anya snarked.  Lexa made a face at her and sipped her drink.

“So if Lexa is the Commander, what’s Anya’s nickname?” Raven asked.

Lexa perked up.  “Oh, you mean she didn’t tell you?”  She smiled sweetly at Anya, who was shaking her head no.  Lexa leaned across Anya’s body and said in a conspiratorial whisper, “Bowser.” 

Anya glowered at Lexa.  Raven barked out a laugh. “Wait, what?”

“Yep,” Lexa said smugly, popping the ‘p.’  “She’s the ski team champ at Mario Kart.  You actually did pretty well, considering.  I don’t think I’ve ever beaten her.”

Raven’s jaw dropped and she looked accusingly at Anya.  “You played me?”

Anya’s lips twitched, but she merely shrugged and said, “Shouldn’t make bets if you don’t know who you’re up against.”

Raven’s eyes narrowed, but Lexa silenced her before she could reply.  “Look, they’re about to start!” 

Raven threw Anya a look indicating that the conversation was far from over, but she let it go for the moment and they turned their attention to the track.  The crowd cheered as the first wave of competitors were announced and lined up.  The starting gun cracked and the event got underway.  Lexa bounced impatiently in her seat as the second wave of skiers set off.  She finally spotted Clarke in the third group and pointed.  “There she is!”  The three of them clapped as Clarke took her mark and waited for her turn.  Her hair, held back from her face by a wide, knit headband, glinted gold in the thin sunlight.  Even from a distance, her determination was apparent in the tense set of her shoulders.  She jabbed her poles into the ground vigorously when her start finally came and quickly built up a rapid pace.  Lexa craned her neck to follow her around the starting track until she passed out of sight over the far ridge. 

“And now we wait,” Raven said. 

The starting group soon started to trickle into the stadium for their first shooting pass.  Raven produced a compact pair of binoculars—“not my first rodeo,” she commented dryly—and they shared them back and forth until Clarke glided into view.  Raven wordlessly handed the glasses to Lexa.  Clarke was breathing hard from the exertion, but as Lexa peered intently at her through the binoculars, she visibly calmed herself and aimed her rifle.  Lexa unconsciously held her own breath and felt her pulse jump with every shot Clarke fired.  She exhaled in relief and joined in with Raven and Anya’s cheers once Clarke made it through the first round, safely hitting each target.  Lexa admired the grace and efficiency of her movements as Clarke quickly reslung her rifle across her back and hustled out of range.

Lexa’s nerves eased and she watched the steady flow of skiers sweep through.  She cheered and groaned clean shots and missed targets with the rest of the crowd until Clarke came around for her second shooting pass.  She eagerly raised the binoculars, not even realizing that she’d failed to offer Anya or Raven a turn.  Even though Lexa had been watching the other competitors, it still caught her off guard when Clarke slipped off her rifle and dropped fluidly to the ground to fire from a prone position.  Lexa’s fingers tightened on the binoculars and she sucked in a breath at the sight of Clarke’s legs splayed wide to brace for her shot.  She lost track of Clarke’s targets, instead taking in the smooth lines of her body, her ass and thighs taut in her bright blue racing suit, her body so still and controlled.  Lexa’s thoughts drifted, imagining spreading those warm, firm thighs and making Clarke quake and lose control beneath Lexa’s searching tongue….  Anya’s and Raven’s cheers snapped Lexa out of the vision, and she belatedly joined in.  She held the binoculars to her face until her blush abated, not noticing the shared grin between Raven and Anya. 

The final two laps seemed to pass in a blur, though in actuality they took over twenty minutes.  Lexa’s heart was in her throat, binoculars long forgotten as Clarke lined up her final shots.  She hissed a tiny “yes” and clenched her fist at each hit.  She shouted loudly when Clarke made her last shot and sprinted for the finish.  Clarke crossed the line and sprawled face down in the snow in exhaustion, shoulders heaving as she clawed air into her lungs.  She slowly rolled over, still gasping.  Lexa’s own chest swelled with emotion at the exultant smile on Clarke’s face.  As she sat up, though, Lexa saw the moment suddenly overwhelm her.  Clarke’s face crumpled and she slumped her shaking shoulders over her knees.

Raven saw it, too.  She turned to say her goodbyes to Lexa and Anya so she could go to Clarke, but the words died on her lips at finding Lexa already on her feet, concern apparent.  Raven eyed her sharply.  Apparently satisfied, she nodded swiftly and headed down the bleachers, confident that Lexa would follow. 

“Anya, I’m going to—”

Anya stopped her with a gentle squeeze of the shoulder.  “Go,” she said simply.  “I’ll catch up with you later.” 

Lexa nodded acknowledgement and hurried after Raven.  She caught up with her by the waist-high barricade that separated the standing-room-only section from the finish line area.  Neither of them had the proper trainers’ credentials to get any closer, so they shouted and waved to get Clarke’s attention.  By now, she’d gotten to her feet, detached her skis, and moved out of the competition zone, but she still seemed dazed.  Relief crossed her face when she heard Raven and Lexa call her name and she quickly made her way over to them. 

Raven reached over the wall and wrapped her in a fierce hug, clasping Clarke’s head against her own, and whispering urgently as Clarke’s shoulders shuddered again.  Lexa averted her eyes, not wanting to intrude on such a personal moment.  Her own composure frayed at the all too familiar bittersweet pang of pure joy tempered with unimaginable sorrow.  Hers was an old wound, long since scarred over, but still with the capacity to sting.  She ached for Clarke, knowing how much stronger the fresher absence hurt.

Clarke finally disentangled herself from Raven.  Her eyes were red behind her shooting glasses and fresh tear stains streaked her cheeks, but her face brightened at Lexa’s presence.  “Lexa, you made it!”

“Told you I would,” Lexa said.  Seeing Clarke’s emotions threaten again, Lexa didn’t hesitate: she drew Clarke into her arms and held her as closely as she could with the fence in the way and Clarke’s equipment still strapped to her back.  She cradled Clarke’s head against her shoulder and stroked soothing patterns through her hair.  “You were amazing out there,” Lexa murmured, just loud enough for Clarke to hear.  “Your dad would be so proud of you, you did great.” 

Clarke sighed into Lexa’s shoulder, but the words and Lexa’s touch seemed to settle her.  She let go of Lexa after a long moment.  “I’m sorry I’m such a mess,” she said, with a choked laugh that sounded like a sob. 

Lexa tsked at her.  She took off a glove and eased Clarke’s shooting glasses onto her head.  She gently wiped Clarke’s tears away with her thumb.  Clarke’s cheeks were splotchy from tears and exertion and her face was cold, but her skin still seemed to sear Lexa’s hand.  “Shh.  You’re beautiful,” Lexa said quietly. 

Clarke leaned into her palm and they both closed their eyes for a moment, forgetting all about Raven, the crowd, the race still going on behind them.  “Thank you for coming to watch,” Clarke said softly.  “It means a lot.” 

“Wouldn’t miss it.” 

Someone in the background shouted Clarke’s name and she straightened up.  “That’s my coach,” she said, finally coming back to herself.  “I should go, I have to deal with the weapons protocol and get my equipment squared away.  And then stretching and showering and all that good stuff.  Can I catch up with you later?”

“Sure, just text me when you’re free.”

Clarke said her goodbyes and went to find her coach.  Lexa watched until she disappeared into the scrum of athletes.  Raven took in Lexa’s soft expression and shook her head, holding back her own smile. 

*****

“America’s Sweetheart and America’s Biathlete.  So gross,” Raven pronounced in mock disgust, setting her cafeteria tray down on the table across from Anya.

Anya rolled her eyes.  “Tell me about it.  I think the only time she’s shut up about Clarke is when she’s on the slope.” 

Lexa looked up from her broiled salmon and quinoa in exasperation.  “Will you quit?  That’s so not true.”  She was already regretting her decision to eat with Anya and Raven.  The two of them had clearly teamed up in an unholy alliance to make her personal life a living hell.  She’d hoped to have dinner with Clarke again, but she still hadn’t heard from her—she checked her phone again just to be sure—and she couldn’t afford to wait any longer to eat and possibly throw off her digestive routine right before a race.  The race.  Though if she’d realized she was in for a tag team of mockery, she’d have just grabbed something to go and eaten in her room.

“Uh huh,” Anya said flatly.  “So the hearteyes you’re making at your phone right now has nothing to do with Clarke?” 

“No,” Lexa said, avoiding Anya’s gaze and instead concentrating on her meal.  “Hey!”  Anya’s hand snaked out and grabbed Lexa’s phone just as she forked up another bite.  Lexa lunged at her across the table.  “Give that back!”

“Mm, your reaction time needs work,” Anya said, casually leaning back in her seat and holding Lexa’s phone just out of reach.  She keyed in the passcode and waited for the screen to come up.

“What the hell, Anya!  You stole my password?” Lexa screeched in outrage.

“Psht.  Like I had to,” Anya sniffed dismissively.  “You’re predictable as fuck, and you’ve had the same code for ages.”

Lexa sat back, stunned, mentally resolving to update passwords on every account she owned and perhaps de-list Anya as her emergency contact and beneficiary while she was at it. 

“Yup.”  Anya smirked and held the display up so that Raven could see it.  “I guess you’re just reading about biathlon results because you’ve become such a huge fan of the sport in the last, oh, two days.  Heart.  Eyes.”  She turned to Raven and sighed dramatically.  “I’ve created a monster.”  The two of them dissolved into laughter.

Lexa practically snarled as she snatched her phone back from Anya’s unresisting hand.  “You’re the worst!  So what if I was checking the results?  Did you know that Clarke scored the best US women’s biathlon finish ever?”

“Oh, so she’s a strong finisher?”  Anya smirked.  She and Raven tittered at Lexa’s red face.  Fortunately for Lexa, her phone finally beeped with the message she’d been waiting for, and she pointedly ignored their ribald innuendos in favor of texting Clarke. 

Raven laughed at how Lexa buried herself in her phone.  “I’m sure Clarke can’t wait to give her some tips on scoring.” 

“You would know,” Anya muttered. 

“What’s that supposed to mean?” Raven asked with a puzzled frown.

Anya shifted uncomfortably.  “Never mind.  I shouldn’t have said anything.”

Realization dawned on Raven and she barked an unamused laugh.  “Oh, right.  The condoms.”  She put her fork down and ticked off points on her fingers.  “Ok, one, it’s none of your goddamn business who I screw.  And two, for your information, that’s not what I used them for.  Some of the speed skaters got into a water balloon fight with the Swedish hockey team and they needed reinforcements.  And three, it’s none of your goddamn business who I sleep with!” she snapped.  She tossed her napkin on her unfinished plate and scraped her chair back as if to leave.

Anya leaned across the table and reached out her hand to grab Raven’s arm, but stopped before she actually touched her.  “Raven, wait!  I’m sorry, ok?  I know it’s not my business.  Shit.”  She hung her head and scrubbed her forehead with one hand.  Raven scooted her chair back in, somewhat mollified by the genuine remorse on Anya’s face. 

“I don’t even know why I said that, I’m never judgy like that,” Anya said ruefully.  She held up both hands in a conciliatory gesture.  “You could’ve hooked up with the whole Swedish hockey team if you wanted—it’s your body, and your decision.”

“Damn right it is,” Raven stated emphatically, her ire fading.  She picked up her fork again and waved it at herself.  “And don’t think they didn’t try.  They were falling over themselves to hit this.”

“Anyway, don’t take this the wrong way,” Anya continued, with careful nonchalance, “because even if you had slept with the whole Swedish hockey team, it wouldn’t change anything but—” she glanced at Raven “—I’m still kind of glad you didn’t.”

Raven tilted her head to one side and a cocky smirk lit her face.  “Well, maybe not the men’s team,” she said slyly, and winked.

Anya snickered and rolled her eyes at Raven’s smug attitude, and the tension between them lifted.  Lexa had been too absorbed in texting Clarke to even notice.  She finally clicked her phone off and stowed it in her jacket pocket.  “Clarke just got back, but she said she’s too tired to make it for dinner,” she reported.

Raven reached for her own phone.  “I’ll see if she wants me to pick something up.”

“No,” Lexa said quickly, scarfing down the last bite of her entrée.  “I already told her I’d bring her dinner.”  She gathered up her trash and placed it on her tray, ignoring her friends’ knowing hums and smirks.   

Anya looked at her mischievously.  “Guess you’ll find out how fast she finishes after all.”  Lexa’s jaw fell open and she hurled a napkin at her.  “Her meal, Lexa.  Jesus, get your mind out of the gutter,” Anya scolded mockingly.

Raven chimed in, her eyes sparkling with glee.  “Now, Anya, I’m sure it all depends on what Lexa brings her to eat.”

Raven and Anya cackled at Lexa’s embarrassment.  Lexa closed her eyes and counted to five to will away the heat in her cheeks, then leveled an evil glare at the two of them.  “I hate you both.”

Fine, we’ll stop,” Anya conceded, still smiling.  “For now.  Go see your girl.” 

This time Lexa couldn’t tame her flush.  “She’s not ‘my girl,’” she mumbled, tamping down the little thrill she felt at just saying the words.

“Uh, after seeing the two of you after her match—she totally is,” Raven corrected.  She scrutinized Lexa closely and her voice hardened.  “Unless you don’t want her to be.  If you’re just looking for a hook up, that’s between you and Clarke.  You don’t strike me as the type.  But if you just want to get laid, you’ve got plenty of options, don’t jerk my friend around to do it.”

No.”  Lexa ran a hand through her hair and tried to articulate her frustration.  “It’s not like that at all.  I just…I like her a lot, ok?” she admitted, blushing furiously.  “And she told me she had a crush on me—”

“Oh my god, so much,” groaned Raven.

“—but we haven’t really talked that much, what if we don’t have much in common after all?”  Lexa appealed to Anya.  “What if she realizes I’m just a big dork instead of this glamorous athlete?”

Anya shot a see what I’m dealing with glance at Raven and mouthed useless, then turned to Lexa.  “Ok, first of all, it’s when, not if, she realizes you’re a big dork, if she hasn’t already, because you are utterly incapable of hiding it.  No, hear me out,” she insisted, seeing Lexa deflate.  “The point is that she already knows that and she likes you anyway.  And second, she’s just as big a dork as you are.  You literally met her stuffing her pockets full of condoms.  For someone else,” Anya said flatly.

“I so wish I had seen that,” Raven said under her breath.

“Lex, don’t get in your head about this,” Anya counseled.  “Clarke’s a pretty girl.  She likes you.  You like her.  Just hang out and see what happens.  It really is that simple.”  She glanced at the clock.  “But considering that it’s been hours since her race and she’s probably starving, the longer you make her wait for food, the worse your chances are gonna get.” 

“Shit, you’re right,” Lexa hopped to her feet and fumbled with the pile of trash on her tray.

“I’ll take care of that,” Anya said, shooing her off.  “Go see your—Clarke.” 

“Yeah.  Thanks, Ahn,” Lexa said quietly.

“No problem, short stuff.” 

Anya and Raven watched Lexa walk away in shared incredulity.  “How can a gorgeous, successful, and from all accounts, intelligent adult woman be so clueless?” Raven marveled.

“I blame it on the performance-enhancing drugs,” Anya mused.

*****

Lexa picked up Clarke’s food order and headed back to the dorm.  She knew she had no reason to be anxious, but the butterflies in her belly beat a frantic rhythm of anticipation with each floor the elevator ticked past.  Finally faced with Clarke’s door, she took a quick breath and rapped on it before she gave herself too much time to think. 

Clarke answered the door in a USA Olympics hoodie and a pair of faded, navy gym shorts.  Her hair was piled atop her head in an untidy bun.  She looked as relaxed as Lexa had ever seen her.  “Hey, Lexa.”  Clarke greeted her with a warm smile and invited her inside.  Lexa caught the sweet scent of her shampoo as she edged past her into the room.  She breathed a little deeper and her grip on the paper bag tightened.  Clarke closed the door behind her and beckoned for her to follow her in, past the tiny kitchenette, shared bathroom, and the connecting hall to the suite’s other bedroom.  “Thanks for doing this,” she said over her shoulder.  “I really wanted to meet you for dinner, but by the time I got back it was already late.  And I’m too tired to go back out.”

Lexa frowned disapprovingly as she followed Clarke into her bedroom.  She gave it a cursory glance; but for the color of the comforters on the matching twin beds—blue, to her own red—it closely resembled her own room.  “You have to eat, Clarke, you had a pretty intense race.” 

Clarke sat down on her bed.  She smiled at the adorable concern that furrowed Lexa’s forehead.  “I had a protein bar and a banana right after, I was too keyed up to eat.  And I would have asked Raven to bring me dinner, but since you offered….”  She shrugged lightly and grinned.  “It was really no contest.”  She looked at Lexa expectantly.

“Oh!  Sorry.”  Lexa kicked herself for standing there like a fool drinking in the freshly-scrubbed glow of Clarke’s skin.  She hastily handed over the bag, grease stains just starting to show through on the side.  She unzipped her parka and shrugged out of it.  She was searching for a place to put it when Clarke’s low moan beside her triggered a sudden tingle of goosebumps.  She turned to see Clarke, eyes closed, beaming beatifically as she inhaled the food’s aroma straight out of the bag.  She wasn’t aware that she was staring until she realized Clarke had said something.

“What?”

“I said, I hope you don’t mind if we hang out in here, I’ve got a tight muscle and I’m supposed to alternate heat and ice on it tonight.”  She held up the heating pad she was about to put on her leg. 

“Of course.”  Clarke cleared her laptop out of the way and unwrapped her double cheeseburger and opened a packet of ketchup for her fries.  Lexa kicked off her shoes and took a seat on the bed next to Clarke.  Their legs brushed together in the cramped space, and Lexa had never been so grateful for a tiny twin bed before. 

Clarke tucked into the junk food with gusto, having earned every calorie, she insisted, an endearingly defiant twinkle in her eyes.  They chatted about Clarke’s race and Lexa’s upcoming events while she ate.  It didn’t take Clarke long to polish off her burger, and seeing Lexa’s wistful look, she insisted on sharing her fries.  (“I really shouldn’t, Clarke, I have a strict pre-race diet.”  “Shut up and help me eat them, half a dozen fries aren’t going to kill you.”)  Clarke balled up her trash to put it back in the bag, but frowned as she noticed another paper-wrapped parcel in the bottom of the bag.  Lexa’s pulse jumped as Clarke fished it out and unwrapped it.

“Raven said you liked chocolate, and the bakery stand had chocolate chip brownies.  I thought you might like a treat,” Lexa said shyly. 

Clarke’s delighted smile made the tips of Lexa’s ears turn pink.  “That’s so sweet!  Thank you!”  On impulse, she leaned over and pressed her lips to Lexa’s.  She only meant it as a quick peck—not that she’d thought it through at all—but Lexa’s lips were warm and soft, with just a hint of salt from the fries, and so, so responsive, and before either of them knew it, they were kissing in earnest. 

Lexa cupped Clarke’s cheeks as they kissed.  Her hands drifted to the nape of Clarke’s neck and higher, fingers threading in Clarke’s messy bun and loosening the silken waves.  Clarke’s mouth opened under Lexa’s, deepening the kiss.  She inched closer, until her body pressed against Lexa’s, so warm and solid, and warm, and really, really warm….

“Ouch!” Clarke yelped into Lexa’s mouth, and they jerked apart abruptly.  Clarke reached down and pulled the heating pad out from where it had gotten squished between their thighs and had started to burn her bare skin.  

“Shit, are you ok?”  Lexa’s voice was low and her breathing was uneven.

“Yeah, it just got really hot there for a second,” Clarke stammered.  “It’s fine.”  She risked a glance at Lexa.  The becoming flush on her face and the wet shimmer on her lips were almost enough to make Clarke chuck the heating pad aside and crush their lips together once more.  She had no idea what Lexa was thinking though, so she held herself in check.  It was a near thing. 

“I, uh, should probably switch to icing now, anyway,” Clarke said awkwardly.  She started to push herself away to get up, but Lexa stopped her. 

“No, don’t get up.  I’ll get it.”  Lexa hopped up, a little agitated, and darted into the kitchen.

“There’s a cup of water in the freezer, it should be frozen by now,” Clarke called after her.

Lexa braced both hands against the front of the refrigerator and leaned into it, just out of Clarke’s line of sight.  She exhaled slowly.  She couldn’t remember the last time her body had hummed with this kind of electricity—if it ever had—and just from a kiss.  She wanted nothing more than to return to the bedroom and kiss Clarke again, kiss her silly, and more—because she knew with certainty that if she sat next to Clarke again, felt the heat radiating off those soft curves, caught the flash of desire in those deep blue eyes, that she wouldn’t be able to stop.  And as much as she badly wanted to throw caution to the winds and pour herself into Clarke until they both shattered with pleasure, the intensity of that desire frightened her.  Despite Anya’s and Raven’s pep talk at dinner, her anxieties came rushing back and she couldn’t quite shake them. 

She also couldn’t stay in the kitchen any longer, or Clarke would start to wonder.  She grabbed the ice cup and went back into the bedroom.  Clarke’s smile dimmed a fraction at the stiffness in Lexa’s shoulders and the slight distance she put between them when she sat back down on the bed and handed over the ice. 

“The brownie’s really good,” Clarke said.  “You want some?”  She broke off a chunk and offered it to Lexa, but she declined.

“I really shouldn’t, I try to keep my sugar intake pretty level before a race.”

“Oh.  Ok.  So I was just planning to watch Netflix until I crashed tonight—are you interested?”

Lexa nodded agreement and smiled, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes.  Clarke retrieved her laptop and set it up between them.  Her nerves mounted as they waited for Netflix to load, until she finally blurted, “Is something wrong?”

“What?  No,” Lexa said weakly.

“Shit.”  Clarke closed her eyes and let her head thump back against the headboard.  “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have kissed you.”  She kept talking, without giving Lexa a chance to get in a word.  “I didn’t mean to, but you were so sweet, and I got carried away.  I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”  She glanced at Lexa, sitting dumbly beside her, trying to make some kind of sense out of Clarke’s words.  Mistaking her silence for agreement, Clarke babbled on.  “I guess I assumed too much, I thought you were into me, but I must have misread the situation, and I’m so sorry for overstepping boundaries—”              

“What?”  Lexa shook her head in confusion and shifted sideways to face Clarke directly.  “No, that’s not it at all.  I am into you, Clarke.”  She hesitated, then met Clarke’s eyes with shining green.  “It almost scares me how into you I am.”  

It was Clarke’s turn for confusion, but Lexa’s admission at least relieved her escalating anxiety.  Lexa continued, “At dinner, Anya called you my girl, and it kind of…freaked me out.  Not in a bad way,” she rushed to assure, taking Clarke’s hand.  “It surprised me…kind of scared me…how much I liked the idea,” she said, trying to gauge Clarke’s reaction.  “And it’s crazy, right?  I mean, we just met, we don’t know anything about each other.”  Clarke’s eyes slid sideways and her cheeks pinked with a hint of guilt.  Lexa smiled at her expression despite her own nervousness.  “All right, so I don’t know much about you,” she conceded wryly.  “It’s just…how can I feel this strongly about someone I’ve only just met?”  She waved an exasperated hand at the Netflix screen.  “I mean, I don’t even know if you’re a Star Trek or Star Wars kind of girl!”

“I’m a biathlete, Lexa, I like them both,” Clarke quipped.  Lexa rolled her eyes, but it made her relax.  Clarke squeezed her hand and smiled.  “I get it.  I mean, I’ve had a crush on you for a while and I might have read a few magazine articles about you,” she cleared her throat as a faint flush crept over her cheeks.  “I don’t know you either, though, not really.  But isn’t that the whole point of hanging out, dating—to get to know each other?” she asked earnestly.  “Because that’s what I’d really, really like to do.”      

Lexa smiled back and linked her fingers through Clarke’s.  “Yeah, me too,” she said quietly.

Without letting go of Lexa’s hand, Clarke closed up the laptop and set it on the bedside table.  She cozied up to Lexa until their bodies touched again, both of them slouching back against the pillows and headboard.  “All right, what do you want to know about me?” Clarke prompted.

Lexa shifted onto her side so that she could see Clarke better.  “Um…favorite color?”

“If you’d asked me a few days ago, I’d have said red.  But now…” Clarke’s eyes sparkled with meaning and she said, “I’d have to go with green.  Come on, that’s too easy.  Ask me something else.”

“Ok.  What’s your favorite thing about biathlon?”

Lexa listened to Clarke explain her youth and how it all began.  She was enthralled by the deep husk of Clarke’s voice and the way she talked with her hands when she grew animated.  Lexa suddenly realized, though, that if Clarke was talking with her hand(s), she wasn’t icing her leg.  She raised herself onto her elbow and scanned the bed for the discarded ice cup.  She held it up and looked sternly down her nose at Clarke. 

Clarke rolled her eyes and broke off her reply to reach for the cup.  “No, keep talking, I’ve got it,” Lexa said.  She peeled away the waxed paper exterior of the cup to expose the ice.  “Where do you want it?”

“My left quad.”

“Ok.  What do you do when you’re not training?”  Lexa balanced on one elbow and brought the ice to Clarke’s leg.

Clarke hissed at the cold contact.  “The usual, I guess.  Hang out with friends, go to movies, binge watch shows on Netflix, read—”

So she *does* read.  Lexa tried to pay attention to Clarke’s reply, but the firm, bare expanse of Clarke’s thigh and the way the ice raised gooseflesh and made downy, golden fuzz perk up offered an entrancing distraction.  She tried again gamely.  “No, I mean…like with your life.  What will you do when your biathlon career is done?” 

The gentle circles Lexa was rubbing over Clarke’s thigh with the ice were quickly eroding Clarke’s concentration, especially when Lexa’s hand slipped.  The contrast of Lexa’s warm hand on Clarke’s chilled flesh made them both bite back gasps.  Clarke’s voice grew strained, but she still tried to keep the conversation going.  “I’ve been working on my grad coursework to become a physical therapist in the offseason.  I’ve just got a few more credits left and my internship and board exams, and I’ll be a licensed PT.”  She bit her lip, trying not to moan, and kicked it back to Lexa.  “What about you?”  

Lexa snuck a peek at Clarke’s face and swallowed heavily at the storm of blue she found.  “Probably coaching,” she stammered.  “I’ve been approached about some television work, but I can’t say I’m ready to go over to the dark side yet.  It’s kind of fun being the experienced vet, working with the young kids.”  Lexa’s voice faded as she watched the ice melt and leave wet tracks across Clarke’s skin.  She longed to run her tongue over those rivulets and trace them higher, to find out if Clarke was just as slick and wet elsewhere.  

Lexa unconsciously leaned closer, shrinking the space between her body and Clarke’s.  She was still trying to hold it together, but her questions were becoming more breathless, and neither of them seemed able to ask or answer anything requiring much thought.  “Cats or dogs?”

“Cats.”  Clarke’s eyes found Lexa’s and didn’t look away.  “Ice cream flavor?”

“Um, moose tracks.”  Lexa’s hand had almost stilled on Clarke’s thigh and her eyes zeroed in on the tiny beauty mark just above Clarke’s upper lip.  The narrow slice of air between them thickened.  Lexa licked her lips.  The timbre of her voice dropped an octave.  “French toast or pancakes?” 

“Ask me that again in the morning,” Clarke murmured, and then her hands were in Lexa’s hair and the ice went flying and Lexa was lowering herself to kiss Clarke again.  Lexa abandoned the pretense of control and pressed Clarke into the mattress, mouths fervent and wanting, legs tangling restlessly in an attempt to get closer.  They lost themselves in the greedy suck of tongues and the gentle pinch of teeth on sensitive skin.  Lexa’s hand eased under the edge of Clarke’s hoodie.  Her eyes fluttered shut once more at the heated flesh beneath and Clarke’s encouraging moan as her hand edged upward along the curve of her breast.  Clarke tugged insistently at the hem of Lexa’s sweater.  Lexa lifted up long enough to shuck it off and to help Clarke out of her sweatshirt.  They froze for an instant to take each other in: Lexa balanced on her arms, biceps flexing as she hovered above Clarke, pebbling nipples jutting through her sports bra, and Clarke’s boobs juddering beneath the lace of her bra with each labored breath. 

Lexa dropped her hips and brought their bodies together again.  She didn’t bother masking her pleased groan at the hot quiver of Clarke’s abs tensing against her own.  She kissed a searing path down Clarke’s neck.  She reveled in Clarke’s enthusiastic pants as she worked her way lower.  She  swiped her tongue slowly over the crest of Clarke’s breasts, nipping and teasing them into hard points under the fabric.  “Clarke,” she breathed, in between gentle bites and caresses, “can I?”  She looked up at Clarke, dark eyes burning bright.

Clarke nodded vigorously and twisted to help Lexa strip away her bra.  She unleashed a guttural whine when Lexa’s mouth skated over her once more, hot and wet, and with no barriers this time.  Lexa took her time layering kisses along the underside of Clarke’s breasts and dragging her lips and the pads of her fingers over the tender flesh.  She lapped and sucked each tight bud until they were rosy and aching.  Clarke moaned and arched into her, her fingers clenching in Lexa’s hair.  Each stroke of Lexa’s tongue heightened the throb between Clarke’s thighs, until it was both too much and not nearly enough. 

Clarke ran her hands down Lexa’s back, skimming through her increasingly unruly curls and catching on the straps of her sport bra.  She slipped her fingers under the band, forcing Lexa to lift away from her chest.  She felt a fresh wave of heat pulse through her at Lexa’s kiss-bruised lips and the dark desire glowing in her eyes.  “Please?” Clarke asked.  She toyed with the edge of Lexa’s bra, keen to feel the powerful muscles stretch and play beneath Lexa’s velvety-soft skin. 

Lexa smirked at her eagerness and sat back on her haunches.  She tossed her head and swept her hair over one shoulder.  Clarke nearly choked.  “You’re fucking evil.”  She pushed herself into a sitting position, determined to peel away Lexa’s bra and wipe the smug off her face.  Lexa lifted her arms and Clarke was just about to pull her bra up and off, when she heard the door to the suite swing open.

“Clarke?  Are you home?”

“Shit!  It’s Octavia!” Clarke hissed.  “Uh, yeah, just a minute!” Clarke called through the open bedroom door.  Lexa hopped off of her with alacrity and they both scrambled for their shirts, Clarke forgoing her bra in the interest of preserving her modesty.  Octavia strolled across the threshold just as Clarke yanked her hoodie back into place.  Lexa, meanwhile, was trying to unobtrusively salvage her sex-mussed hair.

“Hey, Clarke, how did your race—oh, hi, Lexa, I didn’t know you were here.”  Octavia shrewdly took in their rumpled clothes and flustered faces and awareness dawned.  “Oh, shit!  Am I interrupting?” she cooed in a teasing lilt.

“Yes!” “No!”  Clarke and Lexa looked at each other.  “Kind of,” Clarke admitted, turning even redder. 

Octavia smirked.  “Sorry.  I’ll leave you to it.  Next time close your door.”  She began to leave, but Lexa stopped her. 

“No, it’s ok.”  Lexa turned to Clarke and took her hand.  “I should go.”  She wound her fingers regretfully through Clarke’s, conveying that it wasn’t her preference. 

“You don’t have to,” Clarke said softly, just so Lexa could hear.

“I don’t want to,” Lexa admitted.  “But I’ve got an early ski in the morning, and if I stay, we won’t get any sleep.”  Her eyes burned into Clarke’s.

Clarke throat bobbed with a swallow.  She nodded.  “Right.  You should go.  I’m going to Octavia’s snowboard cross competition tomorrow, but…text me when you’re done?”

They both closed their eyes as Lexa pressed a lingering goodnight kiss to her forehead.  “I promise.”            

Chapter Text

Clarke huddled deeper into her parka and resisted the urge to check her phone.  Again.  Not for the first time, she wondered why the hell she couldn’t have taken up a warm weather sport.  Beach volleyball, perhaps.  Or at least something indoors, so that she wouldn’t be sitting outside freezing her ass off and losing the feeling in her toes—despite her warmest wool socks—in order to support her friends.  She clapped dutifully as the next snowboarder crossed the finish line.  The dull impact stung her hands, but at least it stimulated blood circulation and warmed her, if only a little bit.

On the giant television monitor, another competitor prepared to hit the top of the course.  Raven nudged Clarke and said loudly, so as to be heard over the crowd noise and piped-in music, “This is it!  There’s only five more left, Octavia’s guaranteed a spot in the next round as long as her time's faster than this chick’s.”  Clarke nodded and forced a smile.  She was rooting for Octavia, of course she was, but her mind was elsewhere.  Raven watched her fidget with a wry smirk.  “You could at least pretend to give a shit, Clarke, Octavia is your friend,” she scolded teasingly.

“What?”  Her words cut through Clarke’s distracted funk.  “Of course I care, Rae,” Clarke said irritably, eyes following the snowboarder’s progress through the course on the monitor.  “But you know she’s got this.  We could’ve skipped the prelims and just shown up for the quarterfinals instead of sitting here turning into popsicles.” 

Raven’s smirk spread.  “Wow, somebody’s grouchy today.  Remind me never to cockblock you.”

“Raven!”  Clarke flushed.  She elbowed Raven and glanced around to see if anyone had overheard before directing her attention back to her friend.  She ignored the mirth on Raven’s face.  “It wasn’t like that.  Lexa and I…we didn’t…nothing happened,” she claimed stubbornly.

Raven cocked her head.  “Not what Octavia said,” she singsonged cheerfully.

Damn Octavia and her big mouth.  “Fine.  We kissed, ok?  It wasn’t a big deal,” Clarke insisted, struggling womanfully to repress thoughts of the velvety sear of Lexa’s lips trailing down her neck, the gentle scrape of Lexa’s teeth nibbling across her breasts, the eager jolt between her thighs when Lexa drew an aching tip into her hot mouth and sucked….

Raven’s voice broke her out of the delicious reverie.  “Uh huh.  Tell that to your face.” 

Clarke took in Raven’s smug expression and it hit her.  “You didn’t even talk to O,” she stated flatly. 

Raven shook her head no and laughed at Clarke’s groan.  “Nope.  But now I can’t wait to hear what she has to say.” 

Clarke made a face at her.  “Whatever.  It doesn’t have anything to do with Lexa, I just didn’t sleep well last night.”  It was true as far as it went.  She’d gone to bed soon after Lexa left, but she was too aroused to nod off, too consumed with fantasies of Lexa’s tongue skimming slowly down her lower belly, the whisper of her hair glancing lightly over Clarke’s trembling thighs, the wicked glint of green as deft fingers slicked through her, hesitant with anticipation before dipping inside.  She’d thrashed back and forth in the cramped twin bed, tormented by Lexa’s faint fragrance on her pillow.  She’d almost resorted to sliding a hand down her overheated body to relieve the sticky ache between her legs.  She’d refrained, though, reasoning that with her luck, Raven would return just as matters came to a climax—quite literally—and she’d wind up doubly frustrated and no closer to sleep. 

“Could’ve fooled me, you were out cold when I came in.”

Clarke looked at Raven curiously.  “Yeah, I didn’t even hear you.  Must have been pretty late.  What were you up to, more Mario Kart?”

“Yeah, something like that,” Raven said vaguely.  Just then the snowboarder completed the course and Raven craned her neck to check the time.  She whooped loudly.  “Too slow!  Octavia’s through to the quarters!”  She hugged Clarke with excitement. 

Clarke smiled, a genuine one this time, both for Raven’s exuberance and Octavia’s advancement.  She listened to Raven’s animated chatter about Octavia’s chances in the quarterfinals for a few minutes until her attention waned again and her phone’s weight grew heavier in her pocket. 

“Ok, bullshit it’s not about Lexa,” Raven said dryly, noting her inattention.

“What?  What about Lexa?” Clarke’s brow furrowed in confusion.

Raven rolled her eyes.  “Jesus.  You didn’t hear a word I just said except for ‘Lexa,’ and you’ve been making eyes at your phone and sighing all morning.  What the hell is with you?”

Clarke reddened at being called out.  “It’s nothing.”  She chewed her lower lip under the weight of Raven’s stare and finally said, “Lexa said she’d text me when she got done with her training run this morning.  I thought I would have heard from her by now, that’s all.”  It wasn’t all, of course, not by a long shot.  Clarke knew how she’d felt last night, with her pulse thudding in her ears and Lexa’s hands making her burn all over; her feelings hadn’t changed in the cold light of day.  But maybe Lexa’s had.  Sure, she’d said she wanted to get to know Clarke, had seemed to genuinely mean it, too—but what if that was just in the heat of the moment?  She was a superstar, after all, she probably had gorgeous women lining up to date her.  What could she possibly see in an unknown biathlete?

Raven read the uncertainty on Clarke’s face.  “I’m sure it really is nothing,” she said confidently. “Their start times probably got pushed back—Anya said the wind has been a bitch all week.”

“Yeah.” 

“Clarke.”  Raven waited patiently until Clarke’s eyes met hers.  “You know Lexa better than I do, but I think she’s legit.  You didn’t see her yesterday at your race, she didn’t take her eyes off you the whole time.  And dinner last night—” she snickered and rolled her eyes “—she’s as much of a mess as you are.”  Clarke relaxed at that and Raven continued playfully, “Besides, have you seen you?  I mean, you’re no Raven Reyes,” she allowed with faux modesty, a laugh bursting free at the lighthearted shove Clarke gave her.  “But she’d have to be crazy—or blind—to turn you down.” 

Raven’s own phone buzzed in her pocket and she broke off the conversation to fish it out.  She checked the screen and then held it up to Clarke, as if to prove her point.  “See?  Anya.  They probably just got done.”  She put the phone to her ear and answered.  “Hey.  Yeah, she’s here, we’re watching Octavia race.  What?  Shit.”  Raven’s face tightened as she listened and she shot a swift glance at Clarke.  She turned away and put her thumb in her other ear to filter out the crowd noise so she could hear better.  “Is she….Yeah….Yeah, I’ll tell her.  Bye.  Oh, hey, Anya,” she rushed out before the call disconnected, “be careful, ok?” 

Raven ended the call.  Clarke, sensing something amiss, eyed Raven with concern.  “Anya said they got a late start,” Raven began, but Clarke cut her off.

“What’s wrong?” she asked bluntly.

Raven held up both hands.  “Ok, don’t freak out,” she cautioned, words guaranteed to generate the opposite effect.  “Lexa crashed on her training run.”

Blood rushed in Clarke’s ears and a cold heaviness roiled her gut.  She didn’t hear the rest of what Raven said.  She wasn’t aware she’d stood up until she felt Raven tug at her sleeve.  “Clarke.”

“How is she?  Is she ok?” Clarke demanded.  She fought the urge to rip her arm free and run toward the alpine slope until her lungs burst.  Her butt hit the bleachers with a thud as her legs gave out from under her.  She’d followed alpine skiing enough to know just how dangerous it could be—the slightest miscalculation of terrain, body weight and balance off by just a fraction, the merest imperfection in the ski blade’s surface—and the results could be catastrophic.  Crashes weren’t uncommon, but at those speeds, any impact could result in devastating injuries—or worse.  Every spinwheeling accident she’d ever seen played through her mind in slow motion, and she shook her head to drive away the horrific images.  Raven’s mouth formed words, but Clarke still couldn’t process what she was saying.  “What?”

“I said,” Raven said slowly, “Anya doesn’t know yet.  She’s still at the top of the hill, she has to wait for her run.  She said they took Lexa off on a sled—”  Clarke’s legs tensed, as if to jump up again, and Raven squeezed her hand to keep her attention—“but the medic told their coach over the walkie that she’s conscious and she waved at the crowd.  Their coach is getting updates, but she stayed with them on the slope, so Anya thinks it can’t be too bad.  If it was bad, she’d have left.”

Clarke released a shaky breath, slightly relieved, but not completely convinced.  “Did Anya say where they’re taking her?”  

“She thinks the training facility, so the docs and her trainer can check her out.”  Clarke pulled out of Raven’s grasp and bounded to her feet.  “Rae, I gotta—” She waved a hand at the finish line, unable to finish her thought.

“Go.  Octavia will understand.  When you find Lexa, call me?  Anya’s pretty rattled, she can’t find out anything; she said if you catch up with her first, to pass along an update.”

“Yeah, of course,” Clarke said distractedly, already making for the exit.

*****

Clarke barged into the training facility like a whirlwind, her parka gaping open and her beanie askew.  She didn’t really know where to look, or if Lexa was even there.  If she was with the doctors, or worse, transferred to the hospital—and Clarke adamantly refused to let herself consider that eventuality—Clarke knew she stood little chance of locating her.  She was too on edge to do nothing, though, so she prowled the building, checking every open changing space and workout area and treatment room. 

Clarke finally found Lexa soaking in an ice bath in the hydrotherapy area.  She was sitting in one of the giant, stainless steel tubs talking to a large, bearded man in a USA Olympics track suit, presumably a trainer or physical therapist.  Some of the weight lifted from Clarke’s shoulders at seeing her alert and conversational, with good color, and seemingly relaxed.  She let out a long breath and throttled back from the edge of panic.  Lexa saw Clarke come in and acknowledged her with a raised eyebrow and a tilt of her chin, but otherwise her attention stayed focused on her trainer’s instructions.  Clarke was too manic to sit down.  She paced the far corner of the room, finally shrugging out of her parka and hat and dumping them on a nearby trainer’s table when the warmth and humidity of the room made her sweat.  She pulled out her phone and texted Raven a quick report while she waited for Lexa’s consult to end.  Raven replied with a thumbs-up emoji just as the bearded man departed, casting a quick, appraising eye at Clarke on his way out.  As soon as he cleared the door, Clarke crossed the tiled floor to the tub. 

“I guess you heard,” Lexa said laconically.  She sat back in the chest-deep ice water and draped her arms over the rim of the tub.  She was wearing just a black sports bra and a pair of nylon running shorts.  Up close, there were dark smudges under her eyes and she looked tired.

“Yeah, Anya called—”

“Shit, I need to get a hold of her,” Lexa groaned, letting her head thump against the basin. 

“I texted Raven and she’s on it,” Clarke interrupted.  “Lexa, are you all right?” she said urgently.

Lexa made a dismissive noise.  “Yeah, I’m fine.  I’ll be sore for a while, got some bruises, but the X-rays didn’t show any breaks or fractures.”  She held up her hand to show her ring finger and pinky splinted together.  “Sprained my finger.”  Her eyes sparkled and she leveled a cheeky smirk at Clarke.  “Don’t worry, it’s my left hand.”

Clarke’s belly clenched despite her worry and she couldn’t contain an exasperated snort.  “Jesus Christ, Lexa, how are you so fucking calm?”

Lexa scoffed and opted for bravado.  “It was no big deal, I felt my skis burning out and I tried to correct and just…slid out.  I’ve had worse.”

Clarke stared at her in disbelief.  “‘No big deal?’”  The pitch of her voice, usually a low rasp, notched upward under the strain.  “You hit the ground doing eighty miles an hour!  They carted you off on a fucking sled!  Lexa, you could have—”  She couldn’t finish the thought, instead biting her lip and throwing up her hands and clawing them through her hair to hold her shrieking emotions in check.

Lexa absorbed the wild, glistening blaze in Clarke’s eyes, the tense clench of her jaw, her high color, the rigid set of her shoulders.  The depth of Clarke’s panic finally sank in.  Lexa’s shoulders rose with a sharp inhalation as she realized just how deeply Clarke’s concern affected her.  She’d learned long ago to compartmentalize: thinking too closely about what might happen made it impossible to strap on her skis and get back on the mountain day after day.  That way led to overthinking and tentative skiing that could get one seriously hurt, or else phobias that sometimes ended careers.  She wasn’t an adrenaline junkie by any measure, but she’d built her career on challenging the razor-fine line between brilliance and recklessness, and she had the scars to show for it.  Lexa knew that to a certain degree, Clarke understood that—she had to, to perform at a world-class level herself.  But biathlon didn’t entail the same potential for serious harm as downhill skiing.  It was one thing to accept the danger one’s self, but an entirely different matter to stand by helplessly as the person you cared for risked life and limb.  Lexa was used to assuming those risks herself, but it had been a long time since anyone other than Anya had worried to this extent on her behalf.  The distress Clarke radiated shook her far more than she could have imagined. 

Lexa pushed herself up and clambered awkwardly out of the tub.  Water puddled at her feet as she quickly blotted herself somewhat dry with a towel and wrapped it around her shivering body.  Clarke reached for her before she’d even secured the towel.  Lexa looped her arms around Clarke’s waist and whispered, “I’m ok, Clarke.”

Clarke rested her forehead on Lexa’s and tried to steady her uneven breaths.  She cupped Lexa’s face with both hands, smoothing the pads of her thumbs across cheekbones.  Their noses brushed, the lightest of touches, and then their lips met in a tender shudder of reassurance and comfort.  Clarke’s hands roamed restlessly as they kissed: over Lexa’s shoulder blades, down the long, powerful muscles of her back, along her hips, needing to touch, to physically confirm that Lexa was ok.  She unwittingly nudged Lexa backward, until her hip bumped against the edge of the tub and Lexa let out a pained yelp.

Clarke pulled back, concerned, and gave her a questioning look.

“Hurts.”  Lexa explained succinctly.  “The ice helped, but…I’m sore,” she admitted.

“Show me?” Clarke asked softly.

Lexa hesitated and looked over Clarke’s shoulder to the open doorway, where the clatter and echo of voices intruded.  “Not here.”  She took Clarke’s hand and led her through a closed side door into the women’s showers.  “I’m supposed to take a hot shower anyway, to keep the muscles from getting tight.”  She stepped back from Clarke and slowly unwound her towel with clumsy fingers.  She knew her running bra and shorts weren’t immodest and she wasn’t revealing anything more than she would on a hot summer run, but the deep hue of Clarke’s eyes made Lexa’s skin prickle with heat despite the bone-deep chill of the ice bath.

Clarke watched Lexa hang her damp towel on a shower stall hook.  She knew she was staring, but from the hitch in Lexa’s breath, the attention didn’t offend her.  Lexa’s skin was still pink from the cold, but that wasn’t the only reason for the slight shiver Clarke detected.  Clarke drank in the sharp notch of Lexa’s clavicle, the dark swirl of the tattoo that encircled her bicep, the shallow rise and fall of her chest.  She lingered on the outline of Lexa’s nipples underneath her bra, convinced that she saw them hardening further before her eyes, yearning to feel them pucker tightly under her tongue.

Lexa twisted sideways to display her injured side.  The movement drew Clarke’s gaze lower, past the ripple of her abdominals, to where her waterlogged shorts hung low on her waist and clung to her thighs.  Lexa raised the hem of her shorts several inches to expose angry, purpling bruises and abrasions that began mid-thigh and extended upward over her hip to her ribcage.   

Clarke’s hand shot to her mouth.  “Oh, Lexa,” she said brokenly.  Her eyes pricked with tears and her other hand rose on its own, as if to touch.  She quickly drew it back.

“It’s ok, Clarke, you can touch me,” Lexa encouraged quietly.

Clarke looked at her with eyes still glimmering at the pain Lexa had to have experienced.  “I don’t want to hurt you.”

“I think I’ll hurt more if you don’t,” Lexa whispered, her throat tight.

At that, Clarke inched into Lexa’s space and touched a tentative hand to her side.  She soothed light fingers downward, slowly, carefully, tracing the edge of the bruising, but not contacting the damaged area directly.  Lexa’s cool skin warmed rapidly beneath Clarke’s grazing fingers.  She trembled at Clarke’s touch and Clarke stopped immediately, afraid she’d gone too far.

“No, it’s ok,” Lexa said, her breath soft and humid on Clarke’s cheek.  “Keep going, you’re not hurting me.”

Clarke resumed sketching the outline of Lexa’s injury with her fingertips until she reached the waistband of her soggy trunks.  She checked in with Lexa, a wordless glance; Lexa just nodded slowly, dark eyes never leaving Clarke’s.  Clarke’s heart hammered erratically as she eased the shorts down Lexa’s hips, leaving her in simple black underwear.  Clarke’s own hand trembled as she followed the burgeoning bruise over the curve of Lexa’s hip.  On impulse, she bent down and kissed the tender flesh at the top of Lexa’s thigh, just near the crease of her groin.

“Oh, fuck,” Lexa hissed.  Her hand found Clarke’s head, gentle pressure not-so-subtly encouraging her onward.  Clarke feathered delicate kisses over the taut muscle, the brush of her lips too light to cause pain, but enough to stir an exquisite ache between Lexa’s legs.  Clarke’s lips lingered on Lexa’s skin; she felt herself getting worked up by the way Lexa’s chilled flesh heated at her touch, the ragged breaths and the tiny whimpers that leaked from her throat, the drag of Lexa’s fingertips against Clarke’s scalp.  She looked up from her crouch to find blatant need and want on Lexa’s face, and something in Clarke snapped.  She surged to her feet and crushed her mouth to Lexa’s, weaving a hand through the fine curls at the base of Lexa’s neck to hold her steady.  Lexa’s moan rumbled through them both as she opened her mouth to grant entry to Clarke’s seeking tongue.  She answered Clarke’s urgency with her own, kissing her back hungrily, desperate to feel alive, to feel Clarke.

Clarke crowded Lexa into an empty shower stall, barely retaining enough presence of mind to yank the curtain closed behind them before pressing her against the tile, mouths still locked in a raw collision of nipping teeth and messy, slanting tongues.  Their hands moved with frenetic energy, anxious to lay each other bare.  Lexa pawed Clarke’s hoodie off and was fumbling for the button of her jeans when Clarke brushed her hands aside impatiently.  Urging Lexa’s arms upward, she tore her lips away long enough to rip Lexa’s bra up and over her head in one quick, fluid motion.  She palmed Lexa’s breasts with both hands, savoring their soft yield.  She rolled the hard points with her thumbs, provoking a deep moan from Lexa that Clarke swallowed with another kiss. 

Clarke’s mouth blazed kisses across the hinge of Lexa’s jaw and down the graceful column of her neck.  She paused at the hollow of her collarbone to leave a not-so-gentle bite that made Lexa gasp, then assuaged the sting with a tender kiss.  Lexa’s fingers wound in Clarke’s hair as she ventured lower, kissing and licking over the swell of Lexa’s breasts with the flat of her tongue until she finally captured a stiff nipple between her lips.  The swirling, sucking, biting heat of Clarke’s mouth on her chilled skin made Lexa cry out again and clutch Clarke to her.    

Clarke’s hands and mouth ignited a flame that threatened to consume Lexa, inside and out.  Her nerve endings sparked with so many competing sensations: the wet of Clarke’s mouth exploring her body; the smooth silk of her hair between Lexa’s fingers; her lush warmth pressing Lexa against the cold tile at her back.  Everything suddenly felt so intense and electric, and Lexa craved more.

“Clarke,” she pleaded in a low, breathy voice.  “I need—”  She broke off with another deep groan because Clarke looked up at her through her lashes, a sliver of vibrant blue rimming eyes gone dark, her lips still wrapped around Lexa’s nipple, and Lexa’s ability to form speech evaporated.   

She didn’t need to talk at all, because Clarke understood.  She read Lexa’s frantic need to feel alive, felt almost overcome with it herself, because Lexa could have died, Clarke could have lost her before they’d even really found each other, and the need to feel, to touch, taste, immerse herself in Lexa nearly overwhelmed her.  Clarke released Lexa’s swollen, saliva-slicked nipple and she reached for Lexa’s waist to tug at her underwear.  Lexa’s scrabbling hands helped shove them down, but neither of them could be bothered to strip them all the way off because there was no time, Lexa could have died, and there was no time to waste.

Lexa parted her legs and then Clarke was there, spreading her, and Lexa was more than ready.  She bit her lip and keened as Clarke stroked through the slick that greeted her, once, twice, coating her fingers, and then plunged two fingers inside without further preamble.  Clarke pinned Lexa against the shower stall with her body and drove into her, gasping herself at the hot clench of Lexa’s walls around her thrusting fingers.  She kissed Lexa fiercely, almost mimicking her fingers’ action with her tongue as she licked into her.  Lexa finally wrenched her mouth free to draw oxygen into her burning lungs.  Her breath came in shallow puffs amid a litany of choked curses interspersed with Clarke’s name. 

Both of them forgot about Lexa’s injuries in the sheer intensity of the moment, Lexa so inundated with sensation and pleasure that her bruises didn’t even register.  Clarke slid her free hand up the back of Lexa’s unbruised thigh and urged her leg up, up, hooking around Clarke’s hip, the angle enabling Clarke’s stroking, curling fingers to reach even deeper.  Lexa clung to Clarke’s neck and back for support.  Her heel dug into Clarke’s side and her blunt nails scored tiny half-moons into Clarke’s flesh, a sting Clarke didn’t even notice through her own surging adrenaline.  Lexa’s forehead rested against Clarke’s, their shuddering breath mingling in the scant space between them.  Lexa’s eyes squeezed shut in concentration.  Her hips bucked against Clarke’s pumping fingers, the tension coiling in her core, straining for just that little bit more that would hurl her over the edge.  The liquid sounds of Clarke’s hand in motion and Lexa’s soft pants of “fuck” and “yes” and “Clarke” echoed around them.  And then Clarke’s palm slipped across Lexa’s clit and her fingers crooked just so, and Lexa was flying.  Her back arced off the tile and she came with a guttural groan deep in her chest and a gush around Clarke’s fingers.  Clarke kissed her again, deeply, to muffle the sound, but in that instant she really couldn’t be bothered if anyone heard because Lexa was beautiful and quivering in her arms and alive.           

White-hot pleasure burst through Lexa and even Clarke’s mouth couldn’t contain the muted cries that tripped from her lips.  Lexa’s hips rocked with each pass of Clarke’s hand as she stroked her through her release.  Clarke’s motion gradually gentled, and finally stopped altogether when it became too much and Lexa shied at the pressure.  Clarke didn’t withdraw her fingers right away; rather, she remained inside, cupping Lexa softly with her palm, careful not to brush her oversensitive clit, consumed with the need to prolong the connection between them.  Lexa held on to Clarke tightly, breathing hard, eyes still screwed shut.  The rush in her ears began to clear.  She vaguely processed Clarke’s lips humming tiny kisses and incoherent murmurs against the sweaty wisps of hair at her temple.  When Lexa finally opened her eyes, the competing emotions that she saw flickering behind Clarke’s brilliant shimmer of blue—awe, joy, pride, desire, and perhaps even something more—nearly stole her breath away again.  A sudden fullness—physical and emotional—flooded over her.

“Clarke,” Lexa murmured hoarsely.  Her voice cracked on the end.  Her vision misted as she struggled to articulate the wave of sensation that swelled within her.  Unable to express it in words, she touched her lips to Clarke’s and let her kiss convey the depth of her emotions.  The tang of salt soon interrupted the sweetness of the kiss, and Lexa felt dampness on her cheek.  She couldn’t tell if the tears were hers or Clarke’s, because when they separated, a similar wet sheen stained Clarke’s cheeks, too.

Clarke was leaning back in, perhaps to speak, perhaps to resume kissing Lexa—because once she’d begun, she couldn’t see a good reason to stop—when footsteps squeaked to a halt just outside the shower stall and a strange voice cut in.

“Lexa?”

Lexa went rigid and froze.  “Shit!” she mouthed at Clarke.  “It’s Indra--Coach Forrester,” she whispered. 

Clarke’s eyes widened.  “Do you think she heard...?”

“When you’re done…showering…I’d like an update on your injury and we need to discuss your status for tomorrow.”  Clarke didn’t need to have met the woman to hear the dry, sarcastic lilt in her voice.  Her body heated with embarrassment.   

Lexa’s cheeks were pink, too.  “That would be yes.”  Louder, she called to her coach, “Uh, I’ll be out in a few minutes.”  She lowered her leg back to the ground, grimacing at the slight cramp that had set in, and then sucking in a deeper breath, almost a whine, when Clarke finally slipped her fingers from their snug harbor between Lexa’s legs.

“I’ll be outside,” Indra said tersely.  Her footsteps faded and the outer door snicked shut behind her.

“I hope I didn’t get you in trouble,” Clarke said ruefully.  “I’d say I’m sorry, but….”  Her eyes gleamed and her lips quirked upward.  “I’m really not.  Sorry.”

Lexa grinned.  “Don’t be.  I’m not, either.”  Her smile dimmed slightly as she continued.  “I mean, I’m sort of sorry our first time was in a locker room shower, that’s not really how I imagined it.”

Clarke’s smirk turned devious.  “Oh, so you’ve thought about it?”

The tips of Lexa’s ears reddened.  “Maybe,” she muttered evasively. 

Clarke edged closer again and draped her arms around Lexa’s shoulders.  “Mm, how did you imagine it?” she husked.

Lexa wet her lips and her eyes dipped back to Clarke’s mouth.  Her hands clenched with the effort of resisting the urge to strip the rest of Clarke’s clothes from her body and show her exactly what she’d pictured.  “Clarke,” she warned, “if I’m not out of here soon, Indra will be back.  If she interrupts us again….”

Clarke blanched and backed away, lifting her hands in the air.  “You’re right.  I know, you’re right.  But God, I look at you, all naked and gorgeous, and I just wanna….”  She shook her head without finishing the thought.

“I know,” Lexa said, dark eyes raking a meaningful glance down Clarke’s body.

Clarke hid her own blush by bending down to retrieve her hoodie.  She put it back on and said, “So I’ll see you later?”

Lexa made a face.  “Probably not tonight, I’ve got an early curfew and a strict race-night routine I need to stick to.”  Her voice softened.  “I’ll call you before I go to bed, though.”

Clarke smiled.  “Ok.  And I’ll be there to cheer you on tomorrow.”

The joy that brought to Lexa’s face made Clarke’s heart expand until there was almost no room left in her chest for air.  “I’ll see you at the bottom of the hill, then.”

Clarke nodded and stepped out of the shower quickly, before she changed her mind about tempting Indra’s wrath.  She heard the water cut on as she left the locker room the way they’d come in.  Her step almost faltered when she walked back into the hydrotherapy room.  An older, dark-skinned woman who had to be Lexa’s coach stood stoically beside a trainer’s table, arms crossed, regarding Clarke shrewdly. 

Clarke felt skewered, but she steeled herself and inclined her chin in greeting as she gathered her parka and beanie from the table.  “Coach Forrester.”

“Clarke,” Indra acknowledged with a brusque nod.

Clarke’s cheeks flamed on her way out the door. 

Yup, definitely heard us. 

Chapter Text

Clarke sipped her coffee with a grimace and let her eyes drift absently over the spectators gradually filling the bleachers for the women’s downhill skiing event.  She’d dragged Raven to the Alpine viewing stands a full half hour before the recommended arrival time, determined to claim a spot as close to the front as possible in order to have a clear view of Lexa, and so Lexa could see her.  Normally Raven would have balked at a plan that entailed waiting for nearly two hours, but she’d been unusually acquiescent this morning.  Clarke had had too much of a one-track mind to notice.  Once they’d arrived and taken seats, though, fatigue set in, and Clarke caught herself yawning despite her anticipation.    

Clarke clutched the paper cup with both hands, partly to absorb the last glow of residual warmth from the now-lukewarm drink, and partly to contain her restlessness.  Coffee had seemed like a good idea at the time, but it really wasn’t helping with her jitters.  Last night had been yet another long night of fitful sleep (and Clarke reflected that she really did need to get a good night’s sleep soon, even if it was the Olympics).  She’d left the trainers’ room yesterday hopelessly worked up from her encounter with Lexa.  She’d pushed her body through a punishing workout in the hope that its sheer physicality would unspool some of her pent-up tension.  It had worked for the moment, but the feelings came flooding back at dinner as she gave Raven a fuller account of Lexa’s condition.  She carefully glossed over the sex, but her faint flush and faraway gaze would have betrayed what she wasn’t saying to eyes far less shrewd than Raven’s. 

After dinner, Clarke had spent the better part of the evening on the phone with Lexa, talking about everything and nothing, basking in the smile in Lexa’s voice and the slight scratch as sleep crept in.  They’d hung up when Lexa began to nod off, and Clarke wished for nothing so much as to be tucked in beside her, watching her face smooth into slumber.  Clarke was tired, too, but she couldn’t drop off.  Anxiety for Lexa’s race and her injury, her own churning, overwhelming emotions, and—not least—her body’s physical desires thwarted sleep yet again.  Not for the first time, she’d cursed the shared living arrangements in the Olympic dorms (because of course Raven had returned to the room and gone to bed at a reasonable time for the first time in days).  She’d briefly contemplated taking matters into her own hands in the shower that morning, but ultimately decided not to.  Sure, the physical release might have offered a momentary respite, but she knew only Lexa’s touch would truly satisfy her; anything else was just pale imitation.  Given the way Lexa’s dark eyes had devoured her earlier, Clarke was pretty confident that she wouldn’t have much longer to wait—provided that they could ensure some privacy, she thought, her mouth twisting in wry amusement.            

Raven had been uncharacteristically subdued all morning.  Her voice seemed all the louder for her lengthy quietude and jolted Clarke’s attention back to the here and now.  “Look, they’ve posted the race order.”  She pointed at a giant monitor, now displaying a list of competitors.  They scanned the list quickly, eager to locate particular names.

Lexa’s name popped up in the fifth spot.  A fraction of the tension in Clarke’s shoulders eased.  “Fifth, that’s good,” she murmured to herself, nodding approvingly. 

“Anya’s in tenth,” Raven said uncertainly.  “Is that good?”  The tense furrow of her brow gave away her own anxiety, and Clarke finally understood Raven’s silence. 

“Yeah, usually.  It’s complicated, but they choose race positions based on World Cup rankings and a number draw.  The top-ranked skiers have the best shot at choosing the better slots,” Clarke explained.  “It’s better to go earlier in the order because the course will get rougher as more skiers track over it and the weather conditions change.  Especially on a sunny day like today—melted snow will make ruts, and the wind’s supposed to pick up later.  Lexa really lucked out,” she mused.  “She likes it when there’s a few skiers in front of her so she can get one last report on how the course is running, plus she likes it when her main competition—the Italian—goes before her so she knows what she’s up against.”

Any other time, Raven would have teased Clarke for her arcane knowledge of a sport she only followed because of a crush on a girl, but today she merely nodded and took it in.  “How’s Lexa feeling?” she asked, trying to distract herself with idle conversation.  Clarke huffed a breath of frustration and Raven realized she’d inadvertently touched a nerve with her lack of tact.  “Shit, Clarke, I’m sorry—”    

“No, it’s ok.”  Clarke waved her off.  “It’s just that I don’t know.  I texted her good luck earlier, but I didn’t want to bug her this morning, she needs to focus.  The bruises looked pretty bad yesterday, but she didn’t seem to be in a ton of pain and she had a good range of motion,” she said.  Her mind flashed unbidden to urgently keening hips, humid breaths rasped in her ear, the slick cling around her fingers….   

“Uh huh.  And how would you know about her ‘range of motion?’” Raven inquired innocently. 

“Must have overheard her trainer,” Clarke muttered, looking away.  Her flush deepened.  Raven’s smug grin spread, but she opted not to pry any further for the moment. 

Clarke changed the subject.  “So, you and Anya?”  she asked casually, drinking the dregs of her coffee. 

“Maybe.  I don’t know.”  Raven shrugged and stared unseeingly at the video screen.  Clarke assumed she’d gotten the brush-off, but then Raven continued.  “Neither of us were looking for anything, but….” She glanced at Clarke and her tone softened.  “I like her.” 

Raven’s honesty caught Clarke by surprise.  Raven wasn’t one to admit her feelings openly; usually she deflected and avoided the semblance of vulnerability with sarcasm, innuendo, and bravado.  In Raven terms, acknowledging her attraction to Anya meant that she really really liked her.  Before Clarke could formulate a suitable comeback, the PA announcer interrupted the conversation with a barrage of Korean, French, and English, signaling the start of the race.  Clarke noted the relief that crossed Raven’s face and she admonished her mock-sternly, “Oh, no, you don’t.  When the race is over, we’re having this conversation—you’re not getting off that easily.”

Raven made a face at her.  “Bet you don’t say that to Lexa,” she sassed, snickering at Clarke’s red-faced elbow nudge.        

They tabled the conversation when the race started.  Clarke impatiently watched the first few skiers navigate the course on the big screens, her tension mounting with each contestant.  Lexa’s turn came quickly.  She poised over her skis in the starting gate, poles at the ready, an unfamiliar guard on the left grip—must be for the sprain, Clarke thought idly—all tightly-coiled energy waiting to bound free.  Clarke leaned forward on the edge of her seat, heart in her mouth, as Lexa pushed off at the start and progressed through the course.  Her hips and knees swiveled side to side through each turn, angling in tandem and nimbly absorbing the impact and G-forces.  Clarke marveled at the smoothness of her run, her tight tuck and seemingly effortless landings on the jumps.  She clutched Raven’s arm convulsively and hissed, “Holy shit,” as Lexa took a gate sharply and came in low on a sweeping S-turn in the bottom third of the course.  The bold line shaved precious milliseconds off Lexa’s time, and Clarke was struck with just how aggressively she was attacking the course.   

Two minutes seemed like an age, but Lexa finally streaked over the finish line.  The scoreboard flashed green—first place—as Lexa circled to a halt, skis throwing up a broad arc of snow.  Clarke surged to her feet and cheered herself hoarse.  It was only when she released Raven’s arm to clap that she even realized she was still holding on to it.  Lexa waved a hand to the crowd in acknowledgment as she glided over to the contenders’ holding area.  She slid to a halt, shifted her mirrored goggles to the top of her bright red helmet, and shielded her eyes with one hand as she scanned the crowd.  Her face lit up with a wide grin and she gave a little wave when she located Clarke, just half a dozen rows back, still cheering madly.          

*****

It took several minutes for Lexa’s heartrate to subside to an approximation of normal.  Operating sheerly by rote, she shed her skis and handed her gear off to an equipment technician, just as she had innumerable times before.  She donned her parka with alacrity, grateful for its warmth in the bitter Korean cold, particularly given her secret superstition.  She snugged a navy USA Olympics beanie down over her ears and slipped on a pair of aviator sunglasses.  Thus fortified against the elements, she dutifully made her way to the media tent and fulfilled her obligations there with a couple of quick, token sound bites. 

Lexa retreated back to the holding area when she’d completed her post-race rituals.  The dazed feeling of unreality slowly abated; her adrenaline spike receded and anxiety took its place as she awaited Anya’s imminent run.  The descent felt like eternity on the slope, but in real time the moments passed quickly, and Anya was soon zipping down the course.  Naturally, Lexa wanted the gold for herself, but few things would have made her happier than to have her best friend beside her on the podium.  Her fists curled in her pockets and she silently urged Anya to fly through the turns.  She erupted in a loud whoop and a flurry of claps when her teammate finally crossed the line.  It wasn’t quite enough, though; Anya’s time placed her in fourth, with two-thirds of the field still to come. 

Lexa met Anya at the edge of the holding area with a big smile and a hug, but she knew all too well the acute ache of disappointment her friend was feeling.  Meanwhile, a piercing whistle and a chant of Anya’s name went up as Anya made her way out of the competition area and over to where Lexa stood.  Lexa laughed and pointed out the source: Raven, waving her arms and beaming down proudly.  Anya rolled her eyes and gave a half-hearted salute in reply before turning her back, but Lexa had known Anya long enough to know that the tiny quirk of her lips meant that she was secretly super chuffed, even though she was pretending to ignore the attention. 

Lexa grinned and said, loudly enough for Anya to hear her over the crowd noise, “You never get to give me crap about having a cheering section ever again.”

Anya scoffed, “Whatever, short stuff,” but a little smile hovered on her lips.

Anya waited with Lexa as the rest of the field completed the course.  Lexa’s nerves ratcheted upward with each competitor.  She unconsciously held her breath as each one neared the finish, then let it out in a rush when their time flashed red on the screen.  Though outwardly cool, Lexa had to fight the impulse to look to Clarke after each skier as the competition wore on and her butterflies mounted.  Clarke’s confident demeanor steadied her each time Lexa sought her eyes.   Lexa’s time was still holding up with just a handful of racers left, and then there were only two and she was assured of a medal, and then the last skier hit the finish and it was over.  Lexa Woods: gold medalist.  She had done it.  

Anya enveloped Lexa in a ferocious hug, which she belatedly returned, still a little stunned at the outcome despite having led most of the way.  Anya’s congratulations were a hazy buzz in her ears, and the sense of dazed surrealness persisted even after Anya released her.  It wasn’t until she saw Clarke jumping up and down in the stands beside Raven with a jubilant grin splitting her cheeks that reality punched through and elation finally washed over Lexa.    

*****

To both Clarke’s and Lexa’s chagrin, USA ski team officials and Lexa’s coach hustled her off the course as soon as the event concluded.  Clarke knew she’d had little chance of speaking to Lexa in person—the stands were too distant from the competition bowl—but she still felt a little pang of disappointment.  As the news of Lexa’s victory spread and the replays popped up on the internet, social media, and TV monitors scattered throughout the Olympic Village, Clarke realized that perhaps the involuntary separation was a blessing in disguise.  The Olympic Village’s protective bubble had blocked out most of the media frenzy of the outside world.  Ironically, given that Clarke had fangirled over Lexa herself, she’d let herself get lulled into thinking of Lexa as just an ordinary girl (although Lexa could never be ordinary).  The media fanfare provided a sobering dose of reality: Lexa was a skiing legend who lived much of her life in the public eye.  That didn’t dissuade Clarke from wanting to be with Lexa—if anything, she was more determined now that she’d gotten to know the true measure of the person behind the famous exterior.  But she hadn’t really considered the implications of making their affections more widely known.  She wasn’t sure how she felt about having her life upended by the press.  Just as importantly, she didn’t know whether Lexa would want their relationship—and was it even a relationship yet?—broadcast far and wide at this juncture.  All in all, it was probably best that Clarke hadn’t gotten the opportunity to congratulate Lexa on the course in the public view.  Still, she had every intention of congratulating her—thoroughly—in private later on.

Clarke texted Lexa with plaudits—punctuated with smiley faces, skis, and 1st place emojis—and asked her to call when she could.  She and Raven returned to the Olympic Village for lunch, which they spent buzzing over the race and pretending to ignore the deafening silence of their phones.  Afterward, Raven went to meet Octavia and Lincoln to watch the US women’s hockey game, but Clarke begged off.

“I’m beat, Rae,” she said, barely suppressing a yawn.  The emotional rollercoaster of the morning—really, the past several days—had dissipated, and she felt herself crashing.  “I need a nap.”      

Raven just grinned.  “Better sleep now, cause you know you won’t be sleeping later.”

Clarke rolled her eyes at Raven’s knowing smirk, but she didn’t disagree.  They parted ways and Clarke headed back to the dorm, her body feeling more sluggish with every step.  Even though she was tired, she still couldn’t quite switch off.  She changed her clothes and puttered around the room, ears perked for her phone’s chirp.  She was trying to reason away her disappointment at not hearing from Lexa so she could sleep when the phone finally rang.  Clarke lunged for it on the nightstand—thankful that Raven wasn’t around to mock her eagerness—and answered breathlessly on the second ring.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Clarke, it’s Lexa.  I’ve only got a few minutes, but I wanted to return your message.”

Lexa’s voice instantly perked Clarke up.  She curled up comfortably on her bed to talk.  “You were amazing out there.  I’m so happy for you.  I wanted to tell you earlier, but….”  Her voice trailed off as she tried to put her hesitance into words, before deciding to save the conversation for another time.  Screw it.  Just enjoy the moment, there’ll be plenty of time to talk about serious stuff later. 

Lexa misinterpreted Clarke’s meaning and laughed ruefully.  “Yeah, I probably should have warned you that it would be a zoo.  Still, I’m glad you came.”

“Me, too,” Clarke said simply.  “How do you feel?”

Lexa exhaled and said slowly, “I’m not sure.  Good, obviously—but it still doesn’t really feel real.”  Clarke smiled fondly, picturing Lexa’s flush of pride and the tiny, confused furrow on her brow.  “I haven’t really had time to think about it, it’s been such a whirlwind.  I had to talk to reporters, then I had to see Gustus—my therapist—and have my leg worked on.  I just now got a moment to myself to shower and get cleaned up.”  Lexa paused, and Clarke wondered if she was also recalling the heavy pulse of desire, tongues questing over smooth, bare skin, fingers dipping between her thighs….

Lexa cleared her throat and continued, her tone a little breathier than before.  “Anyway, this is the first chance I’ve had to slow down, and I just…wanted to hear your voice.”

“I’m so proud of you, Lex,” Clarke said softly. 

“Thank you,” Lexa replied, equally softly.  “It meant a lot to look up and see you in the stands.  Would you—” she paused again.  Clarke waited patiently for her to marshal her words and get them out.  “I’m allowed some tickets for family and friends tonight.  Would you want to be my guest?  If you’re coming, I mean,” she added hastily.  “I just assumed—”

“Yes,” Clarke cut her off firmly.  “I’d love to.  And of course I’m coming, like I’d miss seeing my—” oh shit, what even *are* we? She can’t be my girlfriend, not yet, but she’s not just a friend, shit shit shit “—you—win a gold medal.” 

Lexa didn't pick up on Clarke’s panic.  Her relief and pleasure washed through the phone.  “Great.  I’ll give Anya your ticket and you guys can coordinate.  Speaking of Anya, I should probably go, she’ll be back with food any minute,” she said reluctantly.

“Oh, I thought—never mind.”

“What?”

“It’s nothing, I guess I thought we could have dinner later,” Clarke said sheepishly.  She felt silly for thinking it, of course Lexa would have other commitments.

The regret in Lexa’s voice oddly made Clarke feel a little better.  “I want to, but I’ve got another stupid press conference afterward and I don’t know how long it will run.  I’d much rather see you,” Lexa grumbled.  Clarke smiled at her put out tone and almost missed her question.  “But I will, later?  See you?”

“Promise.  Ok, I’ll let you get back to it.  Ask Anya to text me?  I’m going to nap for a bit.”

Lexa’s groan of envy was almost obscene.  “I would kill for a nap.  I wish I was in bed with you.”  She realized how the comment sounded and backtracked.  “Not for that!  Well…” she amended, “ok, not just for that.  God, I’m tired, Clarke,” she confessed.

Clarke laughed at Lexa’s stammered explanation, but her own pulse quickened at the thought of Lexa’s body curled beside her, naked and warm, her arm thrown casually across Clarke’s middle, steady breaths tickling the back of Clarke’s neck.  “Ok, well, try to squeeze in a nap if you can, cause I’ve got plans for you later,” she warned in a suggestive lilt. 

“I am suddenly very awake.” 

*****

Clarke bounced impatiently in her seat beside Raven.  She hadn’t thought to ask Lexa if she could spare a ticket for her friend; either Lexa had anticipated the request or—more likely—Anya had asked to bring a plus one, because she met Clarke at the venue with tickets in hand and Raven on her arm.  Clarke spared the huddled-together pair an envious sidelong glance.  It wasn’t quite dark, but now that the sun had dipped behind the mountains, the temperature had dropped even further.  She shivered as a blast of wind whipped through the arena, and reflected wryly that the odds of convincing Coach Indra—sitting impassively on her left, her expression nearly as wintry as the surroundings—to cuddle together to pool their body warmth were somewhere between zero and nonexistent.   

Raven craned her neck as the VIP section filled around them.  “Is this everyone?”  She asked Clarke curiously.  “Did Lexa’s family make the trip?”

Clarke hesitated.  She’d shared some of her own complicated family situation with Lexa, but Lexa had been noticeably reticent about her own family.  Clarke hadn’t wanted to pry.  She vaguely remembered reading about an accident, but she couldn’t recall details, if, in fact, the article had even contained any.  “I don’t think so,” she said slowly, reluctant to discuss Lexa’s private life without her knowledge or permission.  “Anya?” 

“Some of our other teammates came to watch, but she doesn’t have any family,” Anya answered quietly.  “Her parents died in a car crash when she was 18.  She basically came to live with the team after that.” 

We are her family,” Indra interjected firmly.  She shared a brief look with Anya, who nodded acknowledgment, before casting a speculative eye at Clarke.  The fervor of Indra’s reaction startled Clarke, but she met the coach’s stare steadily.  Indra held her gaze for a beat, then turned her attention back to the arena with a sniff that might have been amusement.   

Clarke was understandably shaken by the revelation.  Lexa’s remarkable tenderness and the muted tremor of her body as she’d comforted Clarke after her own race suddenly clicked into place.  Clarke had so many questions, but she knew it was a conversation best had with Lexa herself.  She pushed the past to the back of her mind and focused on the here and now. 

The stage lights came on to begin the ceremony.  Medal presentations for ski jumping came first, and everyone stood in respectful silence as the gold medalist’s national anthem played over the PA system.  While the recipients were being ushered off the stage to make way for the next group, Anya got Clarke’s attention.  “Hey, so here’s the plan for tonight.”

Clarke looked perplexed.  “There’s a plan?”

Anya said, “Yeah, we’re going to hit some of the parties at the international houses.”

Beside her, Raven nodded vigorously and added, “I hear the Swiss house is off the chain.”

“Um, Rae, does anyone even say ‘off the chain’ anymore?” Clarke raised a skeptical eyebrow.  She ignored Raven’s affronted huff.  “Lexa didn’t say anything about—”

“She doesn’t know yet,” Anya said glibly.  “But this is a big fucking deal.  She’s busted her ass for years, sacrificed so much, for this—this one moment—and I’ll be damned if she doesn’t take the time to let her hair down and celebrate.”

Clarke hummed agreement.  She really couldn’t fault Anya’s logic; after all, her own plan involved making quite sure that Lexa enjoyed the moment.  “Fine by me.  But Raven—” she pointed at her sternly “—so help me, you are sleeping somewhere else tonight.”

Next to her, Indra’s smothered groan and muttered lament about things I can’t unhear distracted Clarke so that she missed the suggestive squeeze Raven gave Anya’s thigh.  “Yeah, I kind of figured that,” Raven grinned.  “Don’t worry, I’ll clear out.”  

The PA announcer signaled the women’s downhill presentation was about to begin, and the group immediately quieted and directed their attention to the podium.  The three medalists walked out and waited just off-stage with a Korean usher for their turns.  Anya had her phone out recording the whole thing.  Clarke snapped a few shots, but then lowered her phone to watch.   The bronze and silver medalists received their medals first, each of them taking their moment in the spotlight to wave and pose with the hardware.  Clarke only had eyes for Lexa.  She projected a confident, larger-than-life aura on the slope, but here, under the bright lights, she seemed so small, even in her bulky USA parka and ski cap.  She looked outwardly calm, but Clarke’s discerning eye noted the nervous bounce in her stance.  

It was finally Lexa’s turn.  The announcer called her name and proclaimed her the gold medalist and Olympic champion.  Lexa took a deep breath and stepped onto the uppermost middle platform and waved to acknowledge the applause.  She bowed her head for the Olympic official to loop the ribbon over her head, shook his hand, and then faced the crowd again and raised both arms overhead in triumph.  Later, Clarke would be grateful for Anya’s photographic diligence, because she was so utterly caught up in the moment and the beatific smile on Lexa’s face that she completely forgot to take pictures.   

Lexa spotted her friends in the nearby VIP section.  It didn’t seem possible, but her face blazed even brighter when her eyes locked onto Clarke.  Clarke’s own cheeks felt like they might burst from the breadth of her smile.  A hush fell over the crowd as the familiar strains of the “Star Spangled Banner” played over the sound system and the medalists’ flags were slowly hoisted aloft.  The medalists and most of the audience turned their attention to the flags, but Clarke’s focus stayed on Lexa.  She saw the precise moment that the full magnitude of her accomplishment finally hit home.  Lexa sang along with the anthem quietly, then her lower lip began to quiver.  A single tear spilled over and streaked down her cheek, and her shoulders heaved as she sucked in a deep gulp of air.  Clarke swiped away tears of her own at seeing Lexa fully present in the moment, finally allowing herself to take in the full scope of her emotions and achievement. 

When the song ended, the winners raised victorious arms aloft once again and took a few minutes to pose for group photos on the podium.  Media requirements satisfied for the time being, the athletes detoured to the VIP section to greet family and friends before the ushers shepherded them away.  The other, less well-known athletes enjoyed the interaction in relative privacy, but thanks to Lexa’s celebrity status, photographers hovered in the background capturing footage even of these personal moments. 

Lexa’s guests pressed to the front and met her at the edge of the roped-off area.  Indra beamed proudly—Clarke was surprised her stoic mask didn’t shatter—and tugged Lexa by the forearm into a gruff embrace.  Anya likewise hugged Lexa and whispered fiercely in her ear; both women scrubbed dampness from their cheeks.  And then Lexa was standing before Clarke, eyes bright and luminous, and so radiant that Clarke almost forgot how to breathe.  Lexa saved her tightest hug for Clarke.  They clung together for a long moment, until one of the ushers cleared her throat impatiently.  As she finally pulled out of their clinch, Lexa kissed Clarke: just a light, lingering brush of lips at the corner of her mouth and a quick, searching gaze.  The gentle touch triggered a giddy, lightheaded rush as Clarke’s blood raced southward; it was decidedly not the casual buss of a friend, and Clarke thought perhaps that answered her question.

 *****

“Lexa, I swear to god, if you don’t stop whining, I will never make you that pineapple-banana kale smoothie you like again,” Anya warned, marching her friend toward the international houses.

Lexa started to sass her, then thought better of it.  She doubted Anya would follow through on it—Anya liked that smoothie too much herself—but then again, she wasn’t prone to making idle threats.  And avocado toast simply wasn’t the same without the kale smoothie.  “I’m not whining,” Lexa protested.  “I’m tired.  Why do we have to go out?”

“To cut loose and celebrate and have some fun,” Anya replied flatly.  “And don’t give me that ‘I’m tired’ line, I know damn well you’ve got enough energy to stay up all night banging Clarke.  Besides, you had a nap this afternoon—you were sound asleep when I brought you dinner.” 

They reached their destination before Lexa came up with a suitable comeback.  Outside the Swiss House, a small throng of people clustered around a giant log stump, boozily playing a game that involved whacking nails with a hammer.  Inside, athletes from a dozen or more countries crowded around bar tables, sampling various types of Swiss cuisine and alcohol.  “There they are.”  Anya spied Raven and Clarke standing toward the back and threw up her arm in greeting.  Music thumped louder as they made their way over, and through the rear doors Lexa saw a sea of bodies dancing on the outside plaza.

“What took you guys so long?” Raven demanded.

“It was like pulling teeth to convince grandma here to come out to a club,” Anya said.

Lexa was saying hello to Clarke, but she didn’t miss Anya’s snarky response.  She flashed her friend an annoyed look.  “It’s late!  It’s almost ten o’clock already.”

“Like she planned on sleeping tonight, anyway,” Anya muttered in an aside to Raven.  The two of them snickered.

Lexa reddened.  “You know clubs aren’t really my thing, and I’ve got another event to prepare for.  I can’t afford to lose focus,” she protested halfheartedly.  It was hard to remember why partying with her friends was a bad idea when Clarke was looking at her like that, blue eyes dark with promise and her fingers gently twining with Lexa’s own beneath the table.           

“It’s not for another five days,” Anya retorted.  She clasped Lexa by both shoulders and said firmly, “Lex, you can afford to celebrate this gold medal before you start stressing about the next one.  Let yourself live a little.  You never know how many more moments like this you’re gonna get, you gotta enjoy them while you can.”

Raven put it more bluntly.  “Lexa, when’s the last time you got drunk?”

“A while?” Lexa said vaguely.  She couldn’t really remember the last time she let herself lose control—maybe the holidays?  Longer?    

Raven gestured at the shot glasses arrayed before them on the table and grinned.  “Well, drink up, Johnny, you’ve got some catching up to do.”

Lexa relented and picked up one of the cups.  She sniffed suspiciously at the sparkly liquid.  “All right.  But just for a little while.”  Raven and Anya cheered quietly and scooped up their own shots.  Clarke nudged Lexa’s hip with her own and gave her a sly, private smirk, and the bottom nearly fell out of Lexa’s stomach.  Oh, shit, do I need a drink.  She took a deep breath and steadied herself to take the shot. 

Clarke put a hand on her arm.  “Wait, wait, wait!  A toast!” she insisted.  

Lexa blushed and tried to demur, but Anya motioned for them all to raise their glasses and clink them.  “To Lexa Woods, gold fucking medalist!”  They all whooped and tossed back the liquor.

“Oh, holy shit, what the fuck is that?” Lexa choked out, slapping her empty shot glass down on the table with a gasp.  Her throat burned all the way down, as if she’d swallowed molten lava. 

Raven grinned and slapped her on the back.  “Goldschläger.  Here, want another?” 

Fuck, no!  Are you trying to kill me?”  She gave Raven an accusing look through watery eyes.

Anya took pity on her.  “I’ll get the next round, what do you want?”

“Something lighter.  Beer.”

Anya nodded assent and cocked her head at Raven.  They ventured to the bar.  Once they were gone, Clarke closed the distance and pressed her lips to Lexa’s.  It was a mostly innocent kiss, but with the promise of so much more.  “I hope that was ok, I’ve been wanting to kiss you since you walked in,” Clarke murmured, her lips nuzzling against Lexa’s cheek.

Lexa’s arm crept around Clarke’s waist to keep her close.  Her lips still tingled, but now it wasn’t just from the liquor.  “Of course, why wouldn’t it be?”

Clarke gave a tiny shrug and glanced pointedly at their surroundings.  “Not sure how you felt about PDA.” 

Lexa smiled.  “It would be kind of hypocritical of me to object, considering that I want to kiss you pretty much all the time.”  Her eyes flickered from Clarke’s eyes to her mouth and she was bending her neck to connect their lips again, when she felt a swat on the back of her head.  “Ow!”  She jolted back and glared at Anya.

Anya tsked at her.  She and Raven plopped four clanking bottles and four more shot glasses on the table in front of them.  “You can make out with your girl later, we’re here to socialize.” 

“What the hell, Ahn, I said something light!” Lexa exclaimed. 

“I got you a beer.  And the lemon drop is light.  Well, lighter than goldschläger,” Anya conceded.  “C’mon, loosen up a little,” she wheedled.

Lexa groaned.  “Fine.  But no more shots after this.”  She looked at Clarke with intent.  “I don’t want to get drunk.”  She tipped her head back and did the shot.  As Anya had promised, it tasted much better than the last.  Lexa was licking the sweetness off her lips when she caught Clarke following the swipe of her tongue with barely concealed lust.  Lexa smacked her lips slowly and gave Clarke a naughty smirk.  Clarke tore her eyes away and gulped her own drink with a noticeable shudder. 

Raven looked back and forth between the two of them with a flat, disbelieving stare, and then said to Anya in mock disgust, “I swear, these two assholes.  Fucking. Heart. Eyes.”

Anya sighed helplessly and threw up a hand.  “They don’t even know they’re doing it.”  She clicked glasses with Raven and they drank their shots.  “But Lexa’s clearly going to have a good time tonight, so my work here is done.  Want to dance?”

“Thought you’d never ask.”          

Anya answered with a wolfish grin.  She tapped Lexa’s shoulder and interrupted her tête à tête with Clarke.  “You two can stay here and eyefuck if you want, but Raven and I are going to dance.”  They ducked out before Lexa could muster a reply.       

Clarke leaned into Lexa’s body.  Her breath was hot on Lexa’s neck as she murmured, “Oh, believe me, I’m not just gonna eyefuck you.”  Her eyes sparkled at the blatant longing on Lexa’s face.  “But first, dance with me?”  She arched a smug eyebrow and offered her hand.  Lexa accepted it without hesitation and followed the music and Clarke outside.                

Twenty minutes later, Clarke decided that dancing with Lexa was both the best and worst idea she’d had in ages, because fucking hell, Lexa could move.  Clarke should have known she’d be a good dancer given how fluid her movements were on the slope, but even so, the sinuous sway of her hips in time with the pulsing bass was pure sin.  The shots they’d had earlier only compounded the torture by loosening Lexa’s body and lifting some of her inhibitions.  She pressed her body close enough to Clarke’s that their soft curves grazed with every movement.  Her hands skimmed down Clarke’s sides and came to rest on her hips, locking them into a shared, not-quite-dirty rhythm.  Lexa’s fingers eventually strayed to the thin swatch of bare skin that was exposed when Clarke’s top rode up.  The teasing, feather-light touches edged steadily higher and set Clarke’s whole body aflame.  

It should have been cold in the open air, but between the portable heaters, the exertion of dancing, the press of bodies around them, and their own shared heat, the pair found themselves sweating.  Clarke gathered the mass of her hair in one hand and lifted it off her neck to cool herself down.  Lexa’s fingers tightened at her waist and before she could stop herself, she’d lowered her head to nuzzle soft kisses over the gloss of sweat at Clarke’s neck. 

Fuck,” Clarke gasped. 

Lexa brushed her nose along the edge of Clarke’s jaw.  She finally drew back and looked at Clarke with heavy-lidded eyes gone dark with passion.  She wet her lips and ripped her eyes away from Clarke’s lips to whisper urgently, “Clarke, can we please get out of here so I can touch you the way I want to?”

God, yes.”

They collected their coats and made their way back to the dorm, not so much drunk as giddy with each other and with anticipation.  Wayward touches and eager, stolen kisses made the walk take longer than it should have, but soon enough they found themselves in front of Clarke’s suite.  Unlike the first time Lexa had walked Clarke to her door, this time there was no hesitation, only certainty.  Clarke pulled Lexa into the apartment and into a heated, open-mouthed kiss.  They stumbled awkwardly into Clarke’s room, smiling against each other’s lips as they bumped into furniture, working each other out of coats and caps and shirts and shoes as they went.

Lexa backed Clarke into her bedroom and promptly closed the door by pinning her against it with her body.  Their kisses deepened, turned dirtier.  Clarke moaned happily at the slick suction of Lexa’s tongue on hers and the hot press of her skin.  Her hands made a shambles of Lexa’s hair as Lexa’s mouth meandered, dotting soft, wet kisses mixed with the occasional scrape of teeth down the column of Clarke’s neck, along the line of her shoulders, through her cleavage.  Lexa’s hands, meanwhile, ranged over Clarke’s breasts, coaxing her nipples into hard nubs through her bra and making Clarke arch into her palms with a whine. 

Clarke expected—wanted—Lexa to strip away her bra altogether, but Lexa instead shifted her attention lower.  Her hands, faintly calloused from gripping ski poles day in and day out, trailed down Clarke’s sides and gently traced the outline of her ribs.  The contact was so light as to almost be ticklish, and Clarke’s breath came faster as she imagined that blend of rough and soft caressing her everywhere.  Lexa paused at the button of Clarke’s jeans.  She sought Clarke’s eyes, wide and starkly black in the dimly-lit room, with an unspoken question of her own.  Clarke licked her swollen lips and nodded.  Her eyes flicked back to Lexa’s mouth and she hauled her in for another kiss as Lexa unzipped her jeans.  Lexa slipped a hand inside, edging beneath the elastic of Clarke’s underwear and through her springy tuft of hair, until she reached her core.  They gasped into each other’s mouths when Lexa’s fingers stroked through her heat, tentative at first, gently parting her folds and exploring her.

Fuck, Clarke,” Lexa groaned.  She kissed Clarke again, hard.  The thinking part of Lexa’s brain short-circuited, until all she could process was wet and Clarke and warm and now.  It might have been the alcohol that emboldened her, or the abundant slick she found between Clarke’s legs, or the eager whine that tripped from Clarke’s throat as she touched her.  Lexa swallowed Clarke’s whimper of protest and withdrew her fingers.  She raised them to her lips and, locking eyes with Clarke, slowly sucked Clarke’s wetness off of them, mmming her pleasure at the flavor.

Clarke made a little choked sound and Lexa couldn’t hold back any longer.  She dropped to her knees and—with a little clumsy assistance from Clarke—peeled away Clarke’s jeans and underwear.  Clarke’s hips bucked against Lexa to try to nudge her backward to the bed, but Lexa was having none of it.  She held her in place with an iron grip and very nearly growled, “Spread your legs for me, Clarke.”  

The dark hunger on Lexa’s face, the rasp in her voice, and the torturously slow kisses she was pressing just above Clarke’s pubic bone had Clarke so fucking turned on, but her mind tried valiantly to resist even as her body obediently widened her stance to make room for Lexa.  “Lexa, what are you doing?” she gasped out.  “Oh, fuck—” her head thumped back against the door as Lexa’s tongue trekked lower “—baby, you won the gold, I should be on my knees for you.”    

Lexa smirked up at her with traces of Clarke’s arousal glistening on her lips.  “Maybe later.  You said you wanted to know how I imagined our first time.”  She lowered her mouth back to Clarke and licked a broad stripe from her opening to her clit, effectively ending the conversation.  Truthfully, she’d imagined their first time a little slower, more deliberate, softer, but her desire had been building all evening and that first taste of Clarke had proved to be her undoing.  Now that she was here, with Clarke open and wanting and beautiful before her, she could think of nothing she wanted more. 

Lexa wasted no time, but dove straight in.  There would be time to work Clarke up slowly later; right now Lexa needed to taste her and feel her shatter on her tongue.  She steadied her with both hands and licked greedily into Clarke’s heat.  Lexa’s nose bumped against her clit as she swirled her tongue around Clarke’s entrance, probing just inside and gathering her arousal, before retreating.  Clarke was already so close that it only took a few more purposeful swipes and some gentle suction on her clit, and then she was crying out.  Her wetness spilled out to coat Lexa’s tongue and chin.  Lexa hummed at the sensations and kept lapping at her, hoping to topple her into another release, but Clarke keened and her legs started to buckle. 

“Lexa, bed,” she pleaded.  She tugged at Lexa’s wild tangle of hair. 

Lexa scrambled to her feet, looking smug at Clarke’s breathlessness.  She guided Clarke the few steps to her bed and they collapsed into it together.  Before she could pick up where she’d left off, Clarke claimed the upper hand with a quick twist of her hips that left Lexa splayed on her back beneath her.  She dropped her weight to hold Lexa still, then leaned in and kissed her own flavor off Lexa’s cheeks and lips and tongue.  From Lexa’s little pants and the caress of her hands up and down Clarke’s spine, she had no complaints about this turn of events. 

Clarke eventually broke the kiss and sat back on her haunches to unsnap her bra.  Lexa’s hands came up to cup her breasts, but Clarke gently batted them away.  “Not yet,” she chided.  She laughed at Lexa’s disappointed whine.

Clarke took her time divesting Lexa of the rest of her clothes.  She peppered kisses and gentle sucks and whispers of praise over each newly revealed swath of skin.  She savored the smooth warmth of Lexa’s flushed skin, the salty tang of sweat on the underside of her breasts, the staccato flutter of her pulse at the base of her throat.  Lexa’s squirms and moans of encouragement spurred Clarke on.  She outlined the dark spiral of Lexa’s tattoo with her tongue and worked her way down Lexa’s body.  She traced the quivering line of Lexa’s abs and lower belly, first with her fingers, and then with her mouth.  Lower, she dragged her fingers through the slick nest of curls at the juncture of her legs, making Lexa hiss and cant her hips upward.  And then lower still, Clarke bent her head to Lexa’s trembling center and returned the favor. 

Afterward, they lay tangled lazily together, both spent for the time being, but unable or unwilling—or both—to stop touching.  They explored each other with careful wonder: gentle kisses nuzzled to shoulder blades; the delicate glide of finger pads over hip bones and inner elbows and navels.  Clarke couldn’t stop smiling as she basked in Lexa’s sated glow.  She tenderly mapped Lexa’s body, tracing lovingly over each of her too-many scars with fingers and lips, and prompting Lexa for the story behind each one. 

The shiny vertical line below her right knee?

“Blew out my ACL at the World Championships three years ago.” 

The jagged ridge on her bicep, mostly obscured by her tattoo?

“Broke my arm training in Colorado.”    

And the thin white line on her upper thigh?

“Sliced it on a lawn chair when I was four.” 

And then Lexa rolled to face Clarke and their touches turned more purposeful, until their fingers slid home and they stopped talking in words.

And this, this, was how Lexa had imagined it.

Chapter Text

Lexa woke by degrees to a satisfied, languid heaviness in her limbs, a powerfully itchy nose, and an uncomfortable fullness in her bladder.  She was disoriented at first, not from waking in a strange bed—she traveled often enough that she’d grown accustomed to sleeping in unfamiliar surroundings—but from the solid, warm weight on her chest and belly.  She cracked an eye to a field of tangled blonde hair across her face that obscured her vision.  That explains the itch, she thought, twitching her nose to ward off a sneeze. 

Clarke.

Lexa gently lifted the fall of hair away with her free hand—her left arm was still twined around Clarke, holding her close—and tucked it behind Clarke’s ear.  Her lips curved in an involuntary smile at the sight of her.  Clarke’s head was pillowed on Lexa’s bare chest, just above her left breast.  Over my heart.  One arm was slung possessively across Lexa’s middle.  The sheets had drifted down to their waists in the night; beneath the covers, Clarke’s left leg hiked up and hooked over Lexa’s own.  She was clearly still sound asleep.  Lexa had no way of knowing whether Clarke always slept this deeply, or if last night’s exertions—Lexa warmed at the recollection—wore her out, but oh, how she wanted to find out. 

Lexa lifted her head slightly to get a better angle of Clarke’s face.  Not too much, she didn’t want to wake her.  Her smile softened.  Clarke’s lips were parted and a tiny strand of drool dribbled onto Lexa’s body.  As Lexa’s own body came awake, she felt cool air waft over the damp patch of skin with each of Clarke’s steady, even breaths.  Her pulse thumped heavily when she noted that Clarke’s mouth lay just scant inches from her own breast.  Lexa’s nipple perked eagerly as her body came to the same realization, fondly recalling Clarke dragging and swirling her tongue across the tight buds before engulfing them in the wet heat of her mouth.  Lexa shifted at the warmth the thought roused in her lower belly and was reminded of the discomfort that had woken her in the first place.         

Lexa hated to disturb Clarke, but she really needed the bathroom.  She tried to ease out from under Clarke without waking her, but the movement caused her to stir.  Clarke’s nose wrinkled.  She grumbled incoherently into Lexa’s shoulder and burrowed even closer.  Lexa would have found it adorable under other circumstances, but the pressure was exacerbating her situation.  She sighed regretfully and nudged Clarke more strongly, dropping a light kiss on the crown of Clarke’s head.  “Sorry, baby, but I’ve gotta pee,” she murmured.  Clarke whined, but Lexa could no longer postpone the inevitable.  She rolled awkwardly from beneath Clarke and shuffled, naked and yawning, to the suite’s shared bathroom. 

Physical urges seen to, Lexa returned to the bedroom and paused in the doorway.  She leaned against the door frame and stood quietly, drinking in the riotous golden wave now strewn across the pillows.  The late morning sun filtered through the blinds and dappled the creamy expanse of Clarke’s back with a buttery glow.  The sheets slipped low enough to expose the smudge of dimples at the swell of her ass.  How did I get so lucky?  A lump formed in Lexa’s throat and she almost lost track of how long she’d been standing there, until Clarke’s sleep-roughened voice snapped her out of her reverie.

“Are you just gonna stare, or are you gonna come back to bed?”

The mattress dipped under Lexa as she sat on the edge of the bed beside Clarke’s drowsy form.  She smoothed a caress along Clarke’s shoulder and down her back, lightly following the line of her spine.  Clarke made a contented noise and curled onto her side to face her, smiling.  She took Lexa’s hand in hers and pressed a kiss to her palm.  Lexa’s mouth went slack and whatever she had been about to say hung up in her throat, because Clarke’s new position revealed her boobs and Lexa was not awake enough to conceal her open admiration.    

Clarke’s lazy smile turned to a smirk at her distracted expression.  “Morning.”

“Morning.”  Lexa bent down and kissed her, a mostly chaste brush of the lips.  She pulled away before the kiss could deepen too much, all too conscious of her own sour morning breath.  Clarke hummed and tried to drag her back down into the bed, but Lexa held back.  “I should probably get going.”

Clarke groaned and toyed with Lexa’s fingers, unwilling to let her go.  “Already?  Why?” she whined. 

“It’s after ten o’clock, Clarke.  Raven’s probably going to come home any minute.” 

Clarke made a dismissive face, as if the location of her roommate was of no importance.  “She probably crashed in Octavia’s room, now that Harper’s gone home.  Stay.”  She drew Lexa back down for another kiss, this time a little more heated. 

Lexa spoke against Clarke’s lips, her reply interspersed with kisses.  “I’m gross, Clarke.”  Kiss.  “I have terrible morning breath.”  Kiss.  “And I’m all sweaty and sticky from last night.  I need a shower.”

Clarke’s fingers wound in the tips of Lexa’s hair.  “You don’t hear me complaining,” she teased, fixating on the wet sheen of Lexa’s bee-stung mouth.  “I just want to get you sweaty and sticky all over again.”  She brushed the corner of Lexa’s smile with her lips.  “But if you really want a shower, I’d be happy to help wash your back.”  Her tongue grazed along the curve of Lexa’s bottom lip, savoring Lexa’s little judder of breath at the suggestion and the sensation.  “I can probably find you some clean clothes that’ll fit.  Or not,” she whispered, a purposeful glint in her eyes.

Lexa’s resolve wavered and her body warred with itself.  She was hard-pressed to find fault with Clarke’s plan, but…. She finally pulled back reluctantly, shivering at the deep hue of Clarke’s half-lidded eyes.  “Next time,” she promised.  “But really, I should go.”  

Clarke, finally fully awake and alert, scooted into a sitting position.  She frowned.  “Is something wrong?”

Lexa’s eyes widened and she rushed to reassure her, even as her face heated under Clarke’s scrutiny.  “What?  No!  Nothing’s wrong.  Nothing to do with you,” she insisted.

Clarke wasn’t convinced.  “Lex, are you freaking out?”

Lexa’s heart clenched at the concern laced in her question and the vulnerable, uncertain flicker in her eyes.  She reached up and cupped Clarke’s cheeks with both hands, warm thumbs smoothing over cheeks as she looked her squarely in the face.  “No,” she said firmly.  She threw restraint and propriety and hygiene to the winds and kissed Clarke with all the desire she’d kept in check.  When they finally parted, she rested her forehead against Clarke’s, both of them breathing hard.  “Ok, maybe a little,” she admitted sheepishly.  “You’re so…God, Clarke, amazing.” 

Just then, Lexa’s stomach made a loud, insistent gurgle.  Lexa reddened and averted her gaze.

Clarke sat back and looked at her.  A grin spread across her face as realization dawned.  “Is that why you’re acting weird and trying to bail on me?”

Lexa gave a defensive huff.  “I’m not trying to bail on you.  I do need a shower.  But….” The words finally came rushing out in embarrassed torrent, complete with pink cheeks and pleading eyes.  “Clarke, I never sleep in this late and I am starving.  And Anya says I’m a bitch when I get hangry, and I didn’t want you to see me like that first thing in the morning, especially our first  morning, and—” 

Clarke shut her up with another kiss.  Lexa felt her smiling against her lips and she relaxed into it.

“Lex, why didn’t you just say you were hungry?”  Clarke broke the kiss with a laugh and an eyeroll.  She dropped a final kiss on her shoulder and gave her a nudge.  “It’s fine.  I should get a shower and find some food, too.”

Lexa moved around the room reclaiming pieces of clothing.  “I just need a snack to tide me over,” she protested, still flushing under Clarke’s grin. She saw Clarke’s mouth open and the naughty gleam in her eye, and she shot a withering look at her to stave off her no-doubt smartass innuendo.  “I’ve got some yogurt in my room,” she said, buttoning up last night’s wrinkled shirt, “and I’ll get cleaned up.  But I want to have breakfast with you.  Or lunch.  Brunch.  Whatever.”  She leaned back in to kiss the smirk off Clarke’s face.  “And then I want to take you back to bed until dinnertime,” she said in a husky voice, making her meaning clear in no uncertain terms.

Clarke gulped at the thick promise in her tone.  She nodded eagerly and sent Lexa on her way with a squeeze of her ass and a spring in her step.

Clarke flopped back on the bed after Lexa left.  Her head was still spinning, and she couldn’t wipe the goofy smile from her face.  Scratch that, she didn’t want to wipe the goofy smile from her face.  Maybe it was a good thing that Lexa left for a bit so she could gather her bearings.  Not that she wanted Lexa to leave, she never wanted her to leave—

Shit, Griffin, you are in so deep.

And yet, Clarke couldn’t bring herself to be concerned, it felt too good.  She knew they had  important matters to talk about.  They still hadn’t discussed the kiss after the medal ceremony and the implications of being public with their affections.  And they’d be returning to the States in a little more than a week: Clarke to New York, and Lexa, presumably, to Colorado.  They had yet to talk about what that meant for their fledgling connection, or if, indeed, they even wanted to pursue what would certainly mean a challenging, long distance relationship (for Clarke the answer was unequivocally yes, but she couldn’t speak for Lexa).  There was undoubtedly hard sledding ahead, but for right now, this very instant, Clarke was content to just be in and enjoy the moment.  It was more than just the afterglow of really good sex; simply being with Lexa made all the rest of the noise fade away.

Clarke was starting to motivate herself to get in the shower when she heard a knock at the door.  She hastily threw on gym shorts and a t-shirt and went to answer, wondering if Raven or Octavia had lost their keys.  But to her surprise, Lexa stood on the other side of the door, still in last night’s clothes, hair still as wild as when she’d left just ten minutes before.  She had a peculiar expression on her face and her complexion was an odd combination of pale and pink.

“You must’ve set a record for showering,” Clarke joked.  She stepped aside to let Lexa in.

“Yeah…about that,” Lexa said.  “Do you think I could shower here and borrow some clothes after all?” she asked shyly, scrubbing the back of her neck with one hand.

“Sure,” Clarke said, leading Lexa back into her room.  She gave Lexa a puzzled look.  “What happened, did you lock yourself out or something?”

“No.”  Lexa’s voice sounded strained.  “But let’s just say there’s no danger of Raven coming home any time soon.”

“Oh.  OH.”  Clarke’s eyebrows briefly shot to her hairline before relaxing into a grin.  “So she and Anya—”

“Don’t make me relive it, Clarke,” Lexa interrupted, closing her eyes as if in pain.        

Clarke snickered.  She dug some clean clothes out of her dresser and laid them out for Lexa.  “The sweater might be a little big on you.  There’s a pair of underwear, too, if you’re ok with wearing mine.”  She shot Lexa a mischievous glance, adding, “Not that you’ll have them on for long, anyway.” 

Lexa licked her lips and stepped closer.  Her hands fell naturally to Clarke’s hips.  “Is that right?”  Her eyes drifted to Clarke’s mouth.

“I don’t make the rules,” Clarke sassed.  She flashed on a vision of slowly peeling her own panties down Lexa’s long, slender legs and felt a wave of arousal pulse from her core.  “I was about to jump in the shower.  I won’t be long.  Or…you can join me and we can be done quicker,” she babbled, aware on some level that shared showers never turned out to be “quicker,” but too conscious of the heat in Lexa’s stare and the warm intrusion of her fingers coasting under the hem of her t-shirt and up her ribcage to care. 

Lexa’s breath was humid in her ear.  “I was promised help washing my back.”

“I’m a woman of my word,” Clarke murmured.  And then her hands were in Lexa’s hair, reeling her in for a kiss, mouths urgent, licking into each other feverishly.  Her fingers soon fell to Lexa’s shirt, undoing the top few buttons that Lexa had fastened just minutes earlier.  Lexa made to shuck Clarke’s t-shirt over her head, but before she could manage it, Clarke broke the kiss with a reluctant suck of Lexa’s lower lip.  “Ok, you were right,” she said, breathing hard.  “I have got to brush my teeth, I can’t focus on kissing you when I know my breath is disgusting.”

She dragged a laughing Lexa into the bathroom.  Lexa turned on the water to let it get hot and undressed down to her underwear while Clarke brushed her teeth.  Once finished, Clarke smacked her lips and beamed at her.  “Minty fresh.”  The pair traded places.  “I don’t have an extra toothbrush, but you can use mine if you want.”

Lexa grimaced and said, “Gross,” but took the toothbrush anyway.

Clarke rolled her eyes.  “Considering where your mouth’s been, you’re lucky I’m offering.”  Lexa spluttered her amusement through minty foam.  She watched through the mirror with eyes gone big and dark as Clarke stripped off her clothes and got in the shower.  Lexa followed in short order, stepping under the spray and gathering Clarke in her arms and pressing her against the tile. 

“Now what were you saying about where my mouth’s been?”

*****

Forty-five glorious, hair-raising minutes later—Clarke was glad the biathlon had already concluded, because she was almost certain she’d strained a hamstring—the pair stumbled out of the shower and off to the dining hall.  Lexa couldn’t remember the last time she’d breakfasted so late, but she was smiling too broadly to care about the havoc wrought upon her careful dietary regimen.

The next several days were much the same.  Lexa still had training sessions and preparation for her upcoming giant slalom competition, and she sternly forced herself to adhere to her meal and sleep schedule.  But otherwise, she spent most of her free time wrapped up in Clarke: in Clarke’s bed, between Clarke’s thighs, breaking in a sweaty, keening wreck around Clarke’s lips and fingers.  They mostly had Clarke’s bedroom to themselves; Octavia had all but moved in with Lincoln, and when she wasn’t shacked up with Anya in Lexa’s room, Raven had decamped to the suite’s other bedroom.  They’d seen little of their friends since Lexa’s medal ceremony, until the morning of Raven’s ski halfpipe final. 

Clarke and Lexa made their way to the halfpipe venue together.  After a brief text exchange, they located Octavia, Lincoln, and Anya in the stands and joined them.  Anya gasped in mock surprise when they strolled up, arm in arm, and took their seats.  “Look who finally came up for air!”  She grinned at Lexa’s exasperated glare and gave her head a gentle shove with a mittened hand.  “I was starting to worry.”

“Yeah, I got your texts,” Lexa replied dryly, swatting Anya’s hand away with a scowl.  “Thanks for that.”

Anya’s cheeky grin widened.  “C’mon, Lexa, you know Indra would have your ass for not hydrating.  What kind of teammate would I be if I didn’t remind you?”

Lexa shot her a testy sidelong glance.  “I could say the same to you.”  

“I’ll have you know I’ve been sleeping in my own bed,” Anya said virtuously. 

“I don’t know about sleeping,” Lexa snarked.

Clarke stretched across Lexa to chip in her two cents.  “Yeah, and only because Raven came back to our suite to get a good night’s sleep before her competition.”

“Yeah, about that—she told me it was a good thing she brought earplugs,” Anya fired back.  She smirked at the matching blushes on Lexa’s and Clarke’s faces.  She leaned closer to Lexa and said quietly, “You know I’m happy for you, short stuff.” 

Lexa glanced at her.  Her face glowed with the shy smile she’d been unable to contain for the last several days—really, since she’d met Clarke.  “Me, too.”

Clarke and Lexa got comfortable and chatted easily with their friends while they waited for the event to begin.  And if anyone noticed the way Clarke snuggled into Lexa’s side, or the stolen glances and private smiles between them, they were tactful enough—for the time being—not to mention it. 

The conversation slowed once the competition began and athletes began making their way down the halfpipe.  They cheered and gasped at each trick along with the rest of the crowd.  From time to time, Lincoln—a snowboard halfpipe specialist himself—pointed out some of the more technical aspects or explained why certain tricks were particularly impressive.  Anya grew quieter with each successive skier, until finally it was Raven’s turn.  When Raven dropped into the pipe, Anya went so still that Lexa wasn’t even sure she was breathing.  Clarke and the rest of the group clapped with each soaring spin and flip, but Anya sat stiffly, hands clenched beneath her thighs gripping the edge of her seat, until Raven touched down for the final time.  Only then did she leap to her feet and erupt in a wild flurry of cheers. 

They all sat back down once Raven exited the bowl and headed back up the slope for her second run.  Lexa bumped shoulders with Anya and gave her a quick, reassuring smile.  Anya nodded gratefully, but didn’t speak. 

Conversation picked up again as they sat through the rest of the competitors and waited for the second run to begin.  With the end of the Olympics less than a week away, the topic naturally turned to life after the Games.  Octavia announced that she was planning to join Lincoln in British Columbia for several weeks of vacation and training.

“‘Training,’ right,” Clarke snickered under her breath, the air quotes apparent.

“Lincoln’s going to teach me some tricks,” Octavia insisted. 

Clarke just laughed harder.  “Yeah, I bet he is.”

Octavia made a face and flipped her the bird.  “Shut up, Griffin.  Like you’ve got any room to talk.  You’ve probably already booked a one-way U-Haul to Denver.”       

Clarke felt Lexa tense next to her.  “What’s that supposed to mean?”  She played dumb, in the hope that Octavia would let it go, or change the subject, or something, because while she and Lexa had talked in the abstract about sharing bits of their lives—introductions to friends, or showing off favorite hangouts and haunts—they hadn’t said anything concrete about the nuts and bolts of sharing a life and how that might work, or if they even wanted to attempt it.  Not yet.  The clock was ticking on their time together; they both knew it.  And yet Clarke still hadn’t worked up the courage to give voice to her desires and articulate the hazy, half-formed notions that had been churning ever more insistently in her brain over the last several days.  Lexa hadn’t spoken up either.  There had been a few moments when she’d looked at Clarke with so much lo- emotion shining in her eyes that Clarke had thought she might, but each time she’d swallowed her words, even as her expression grew impossibly softer.  And it had all happened so quickly that a not-insignificant part of Clarke still couldn’t believe that Lexa Woods, America’s Sweetheart, could possibly choose her. 

No such luck.  “All right, maybe not a U-Haul,” Octavia conceded.  “But you’re gonna go visit Lexa, aren’t you?  I mean, she is your girlfriend, right?”

Clarke’s face flooded with color.  Her mind raced and her mouth worked soundlessly, trying to find the words through her raw panic, until she felt Lexa take her hand. 

“Yes,” Lexa said simply.  Clarke’s heart lurched and hammered faster with a sudden swell of joy.  She whipped sideways to look at Lexa in wide-eyed surprise, their friends and the rest of the stadium receding into the background.  Lexa’s jaw was tight—one of her nervous tells—and the tips of her ears had gone pink.  She risked a peek at Clarke, a glance full of trepidation and longing and hope, and an answering smile spread across her face at the expression of delight on Clarke’s.  “Will you, I mean?  Be my girlfriend?” she asked softly, her bashful demeanor a contrast to her bold speech. 

Clarke squeezed her hand in reply.  “Yes,” she whispered back, leaning in for a slow, sweet kiss.

“Oh, thank God.”  The palpable relief and happiness on Lexa’s face made Clarke giggle, and she kissed her again. 

Anya tsked at Octavia in mock reproval as the happy couple nuzzled into each other. “Now look what you’ve started.”  When the kissing continued with no signs of letting up, she poked Lexa in the side.  “Hey, keep it in your pants, there’s children here.  They don’t need to be scarred for life.” 

Lexa made a disgruntled noise, but she took Anya’s point and reluctantly emerged from the clinch in a breathless daze.  “Whatever,” she scoffed good-naturedly.  She tucked Clarke’s—her girlfriend’s—hand more securely in her own.  “I nearly had to rinse my eyes out with bleach after walking in on your shenanigans.  Talk about scarred for life.”

“Yeah, well, we thought we were alone.  What’s the matter, Woods, did you need some tips?”  

“Not at all,” Clarke murmured dreamily, a little louder than she intended.

Anya barked out a laugh at Clarke’s embarrassed flush and Lexa’s smug preen.  “Touché, Griffin.  Anyway, what are you guys going to do once we get home?” Anya asked curiously, holding Clarke’s eye.  There was a hint of challenge in her voice, not just directed at Clarke, but at Lexa, too.  But Clarke recognized the seemingly innocuous question for what it was: the concern of a best friend and big sister.  

“We haven’t really talked much about it,” Clarke said slowly.  Her hand tightened on Lexa’s to quell her nerves.  She shifted so that she could gauge Lexa’s reaction and took a deep breath.  If she can woman up, so can you.  Go big or go home, right?  “I wasn’t going to say anything yet, but…I have to do an internship to complete my PT program, and I was thinking…I could try to find something in Colorado.  Maybe even with the ski team.” 

It was Lexa’s turn to look pleasantly flabbergasted.  “Clarke.  You’d do that?  But—what about biathlon?”

Clarke shrugged a little self-consciously.  “I always figured this would probably be my last Olympics, but I could still train out there, if I decided I wanted to pursue it.”  She leaned closer and said softly, “It’s still just an idea, I was waiting to see how you felt about it before I did anything.  But…I’d like to give us a try.”  If you’re willing.   

Lexa’s smile was blinding.  She drew Clarke into her arms.  “Yes,” she breathed in a shaky whisper.  “Yes, I want to try us, too.”  She brushed light, gentle kisses to Clarke’s temple, across her cheek, finally joining their lips once more, with little care for the crowd that surrounded them.          

Anya groaned and cast her eyes skyward.  “Jesus, take the wheel, I had to ask.  I swear, we can’t leave them alone for two seconds.”  But the grin that tugged at the corner of her mouth gave the lie to her annoyed façade. 

The competition had continued apace while all of these momentous, potentially life-altering decisions were made, and before they knew it, Raven was up and in the chute again.  She landed her first two passes with her characteristic panache, but catastrophe struck on the third.  She got a little too much air, over-rotated on her descent, and jammed the edge of her ski on the landing.  She wasn’t off by much, but the impact caused her knee to buckle sideways at an awkward angle.  She hit the ground hard, with a gut-wrenching scream that was audible even in the stands.  She briefly writhed on the ground in agony, then went still, but for her fists clenching and unclenching as she tried to channel the pain. 

Anya let out a hoarse, anguished cry when Raven hit the ground, as if the air had physically been punched from her chest.  The blood drained from her face.  Before the medics even reached Raven, she turned and shoved her way past Clarke and Lexa, heading blindly for the exit.  Clarke and Lexa followed hot on her heels, faces drawn and grim. 

*****

Clarke helped maneuver Raven and her crutches into the rear-facing seat of the golf cart.  She hopped in beside her and directed the driver to take them to the Olympic Village.  Raven sagged back against the seat in relief.  She looked uncomfortable as she rubbed her left knee. 

“Is it hurting?” Clarke asked with concern.

Raven grimaced.  “I need to ice it again and get off it for a while, but not as much as you’d expect.  It’s the damn compression bandage—it itches, and I can’t get to it with my pants on.”

“I knew we should’ve left sooner, you’re gonna be sore.  You probably shouldn’t have tried to come at all,” Clarke fretted. 

Clarke.  I’m fine,” Raven said, with a slight edge to her voice.  “What else was I going to do, lay around the room and feel sorry for myself?  Fuck that.  It’s the Olympics, I may never get another chance to experience this.  Especially now,” she muttered to herself.  “Besides, then you would’ve felt like you had to stay with me, and I knew you were dying to see Lexa race.”

“Right, I’m the reason you dragged yourself halfway across Korea on one leg to freeze your ass off watching giant slalom,” Clarke scoffed.  “You wanted to see Anya race just as bad.”

Raven didn’t miss a beat.  “Damn right.  This was probably her last race before she retires, I wasn’t about to miss it.  I’m just disappointed for her that she ended with a DQ.”  Her face clouded with regret. 

“Yeah, well, if you have a setback because you overdid it this morning, Anya’s gonna murder me, not you.”  

Raven groaned.  “Don’t be so sure about that.  I swear, she’s tried to keep me in bubble wrap for the last two days.  She’s barely let me get out of bed!  She helps me put my bandage on and get dressed, swaps out my ice packs before I even ask, brings my meals to me—I think she’d even feed me if I let her.”  Raven pretended to be annoyed by such attention, but the soft light in her eyes gave her away.  “And the sex…Clarke, she’ll hardly let me touch her!  I mean, not gonna lie, I’m not gonna say no to being the center of attention, because the woman has skillz.”  She flashed a cheeky grin at Clarke, but then frowned.  “But driving her crazy and making her scream is half the fun,” she continued petulantly.  “I keep telling her there’s nothing wrong with my tongue—

“—O-kayyy, this is really more information than I ever wanted to have,” Clarke said loudly, cutting her off.  She studied Raven.  “You’re really serious about her, aren’t you.”  A statement, not a question.  Raven’s radiant, crooked smile and the watery shine in her eyes were answer enough.  Clarke wrapped an arm around Raven’s shoulders and squeezed.  She rested the side of her head against her friend’s.  “I’m happy for you, Rae.  Anya’s crazy about you, she about lost her shit when you got hurt.  Lexa said she’d never seen her upset like that before.”    

Raven’s shoulder shuddered against Clarke’s.  “I just—I want all the time I can get with her, you know?”  She cleared her throat and straightened up.  Her tone lightened.  “Anyway, you should be glad I’m crazy about her, too.  I mean, it worked out for you this morning.”

Clarke looked at her, puzzled.

Raven gestured expansively at the golf cart they were riding in and grinned.  “Got you a free ride to the slope, didn’t it?”  Clarke rolled her eyes and laughed.  “Beats hoofing it all the way there and back in the cold.  Stick with me, Griffin, we’ll go places in style.”

Raven’s phone buzzed.  She dug it out of her pocket and checked the screen.  “Speak of the devil.  Hey, babe,” she said, answering the call.  Clarke did her best not to eavesdrop on their back-and-forth; fortunately, it was a brief conversation.  Raven hung up and said, “Change of plans.”  She tapped on the driver’s shoulder and asked him to take them to the Lodge instead.

“What’s going on?”

“Anya says Lexa needs your help.”

*****

The golf cart driver let them out at the entrance to the Lodge, a swanky ski resort and hotel complex that predated the Olympics.  Most of the Olympic tourist activity centered around the International Village, but the Lodge was a hub for athletes, coaches, Olympic staffers, and the press.  Due to its proximity to the Alpine venue, many skiers opted to kill time between runs in the Lodge’s dining room, cafés, or its expansive, timber-vaulted main hall rather than trek all the way to the fitness center or their dorms. 

Clarke helped Raven negotiate the bustle of activity surrounding the entryway.  Anya was waiting for them just inside the foyer.  She’d turned her equipment and boots over to one of the technicians, but she hadn’t changed out of her red racing suit yet.  She’d peeled the top half down for comfort and looped the arms in a knot around her waist, revealing the dark gray USA Ski Team thermal layer beneath.  She nodded a swift, perfunctory greeting at Clarke, but her eyes lit up when she saw Raven.  She kissed Raven’s cheek in greeting.  “Hi, sweetie, how’s the knee?”

Clarke’s eyebrows shot toward her hairline.  Sweetie? she mouthed to herself in disbelief.

The pet name didn’t faze Raven.  “It’s fine.”  Anya looked at her askance and Clarke’s jaw dropped as her usually unflappable friend wilted under the shrewd, penetrating stare.  “Ok, it’s a little sore,” she admitted. 

Anya threw Clarke a dirty look that had her raising both hands in helpless protest.  She quickly ushered Raven to a nearby leather club chair where she’d dumped her duffle bag.  “You promised you’d take it easy,” she scolded.  She set Raven’s crutches to one side and helped her get settled in the chair.  “You said you’d go home and rest if your knee started to flare up.”  She pulled up another chair and plumped a throw pillow for Raven to prop her leg on, clucking at her with concern all the while.  “I told you it wasn’t worth making your leg worse just to see me race, I was a long shot to medal anyway.”  The glow in Anya’s cheeks and the soft light in her eyes, though, gave the distinct impression that she was nonetheless tickled fit to burst that Raven had shown up just for her.      

After getting Raven comfortable, Anya turned on Clarke with a frown.  “Why weren’t you keeping a better eye on her?  You know she’s too stubborn for her own good.”

Clarke threw Raven a flat I-told-you-so look.  Raven stifled a smile.

“…look, Clarke, I know you can’t see anyone else when Lexa’s around, but Raven’s your friend, and injured, and—” 

Anya,” Raven interrupted her with a hand on her arm before she could work up a full head of steam.  “Stop.  Clarke’s been great.  I’m fine.  You know the doc said it’s better for me to keep it as limber as I can, even though it might get sore.”  She pulled Anya down to perch next to her on the arm of her chair.  Her hand drifted down Anya’s arm to catch and clasp Anya’s hand and give it a squeeze.  “My leg could have been falling off and I’d still have stuck around for your run.”    

A small, genuine smile lit Anya’s face.  Clarke would have sworn she was seeing things, because Anya’s cheeks looked pink, and surely that wasn’t possible?

Clarke cleared her throat awkwardly.  She hated to interrupt their moment, but it felt more private than she should be privy to and, more importantly, made her think of Lexa and thus their reason for coming to the Lodge in the first place.  “So you made it sound like an emergency on the phone.  What’s going on?  Where’s Lexa?” she asked, scanning the room for her girlfriend.

Anya sighed heavily.  “It’s not an emergency, exactly, but Lexa needs your help.  She’s just too hardheaded to realize it.” 

Clarke’s face clouded in confusion and concern as Anya explained.  “She’s in the lead after the first run, but the conditions on the course were pretty tricky and she didn’t ski as well as she expected.  And the Italian is right on her heels.  She’s freaking out, but she won’t admit it,” Anya said bluntly.  “She’s wound way too tight, and if she keeps it up, she’s going to ski tight and maybe blow her shot at a medal.  Indra and I have tried to talk her down, but she’s gone into her fucking Commander mode and there’s just no reasoning with her when she’s like this.  Right before I called you, we got word that the start time for the final run’s been pushed back because of the weather.  That’s just going to give her more time to stew and make it worse.”         

Clarke frowned.  “Shit.  But you’ve trained with her for years.  If she won’t listen to her partner or her coach, what makes you think I’ll have any luck getting through to her?”

Anya shrugged helplessly.  “Honestly?  I don’t know that you will.  I’m grasping at straws here.  But she’s different with you.  If anyone can get through to her and settle her down, it’ll be you.”

Clarke nodded apprehensively and took a deep breath.  “Where is she?”

*****

Lexa was holed up on the back side of the Lodge, in what was normally the resort’s conference facility.  The US Ski Team had reserved a private lounge for the duration of the Games so that athletes could have a quiet space away from the media’s and the public’s prying eyes to rest and relax while they readied for their events.  All the ski team athletes and coaches had access, but Lexa had the room to herself today.  Women’s giant slalom was the only event on the day’s agenda, and the other American competitors had either disqualified—like Anya—or failed to earn a top-30 finish that would advance them to the second run.  Anya let Clarke into the lounge and took her leave.        

Like the rest of the Lodge, the lounge gave off a welcoming, rustic vibe with exposed, rough-hewn woodwork, plush leather chairs and sofas arranged tastefully around the room, and a deep-set fieldstone fireplace along one wall.  The wet bar in the corner was stocked with healthy snacks and bottled water.  Floor-to-ceiling windows comprised a section of the far wall, flooding the room with natural light and spectacular alpine views. 

Lexa stood in front of the window looking out, utterly still but for the faint bob of her head in time to the music playing over her noise-canceling headphones.  She still had her parka on over her racing suit and her hands were clasped tightly behind her back.  Her stiff posture was apparent even from across the room.  As Clarke approached her, she could see in the window reflection that Lexa’s eyes were closed.  She came up behind her and gently laid a hand on Lexa’s shoulder.

Lexa whirled on her.  “Goddammit, Anya, I told you to leave me alone,” she snapped without thinking.  Her eyes widened and her tone softened when she realized Clarke, not Anya, had disturbed her.  She eased her headphones off and let them dangle around her neck.  “Clarke!  What are you doing here?”

“Anya called,” Clarke said.

Lexa blew out an annoyed breath.  “Of course she did.  I swear, she and Indra both.  They act like this is my first race, like I don’t know how to handle the pressure.”

Clarke hummed noncommittally.  “Is she really so wrong?”  When Lexa opened her mouth to protest, she gave her a pointed look.  “You did just jump down my throat.” 

Lexa paused for a beat as the realization sank in.  “I’m sorry,” she said, chastened.  She began to pace a little, too on edge to remain still any longer.  “I didn’t mean to yell at you.  I get hyper focused before a race, it helps me stay sharp and visualize what I need to do on the course.  Then when I actually get out there, it’s all just instinct.  Listening to my playlist helps channel my nerves, but….”  She waved a hand at her headphones.  “It isn’t working too well today,” she confessed.    

Clarke quirked an amused eyebrow at the tinny strains of music still emanating from the headphones.  “Is that ‘Eye of the Tiger?’”

Lexa colored slightly and switched it off.  “Shut up,” she grumbled good-naturedly. 

Clarke laughed and took Lexa’s hand to stop her fidgeting.  “I’m just teasing.  Whatever works.”  Her smile faded and she grew more serious.  “Except that you said it isn’t working today.”

Lexa gave a frustrated head shake.  “Usually running through the course in my mind beforehand helps me relax and get in the zone.  But today—I’ve already skied it once, and I’ve been over it dozens of times, but I still can’t shake these jitters.”

Clarke pulled Lexa gently by the hand to the sofa and made her sit down beside her.  “You’re overthinking it.  You know that.  Once you’re on the slope, you’re going to be fine.  You were born for this.”

Lexa let her head flop against the back of the sofa.  “I know.  But I can’t help thinking, what if this is my last shot?  What if this is my last Olympic race, my last chance at a medal?”  She looked at Clarke with eyes troubled by doubt.  

“Then make it a hell of a race,” Clarke replied, smiling.  She put a finger to Lexa’s lips to silence her retort.  “Lex, I can’t begin to imagine the weight you’re under every time you go out there, all the expectations everyone has for you, the pressure you put on yourself.  And I’m not going to  spout clichés at you about winning versus how you play the game—you’re the best in the world.  You’ve worked your whole adult life for moments like this, of course you want to win.  But not long after we met, you told me you never let yourself get too much in the moment, that you were always looking ahead to the next thing.  Well,” she shrugged, her blue eyes glistening brightly, “maybe there isn’t a Next Big Thing.  And if this is it—don’t you want to just let go and feel it with everything you’ve got?”      

“Maybe I do,” Lexa murmured.  Her gaze dipped to Clarke’s mouth.  Without further thought, she surged toward Clarke and kissed her, one hand gently cradling her cheek and holding her steady.  It caught Clarke off guard and she let out a startled “meep,” but she quickly gave herself over to the achingly slow, warm glide of Lexa’s lips.

“I was talking about skiing,” Clarke gasped when they paused to catch their breaths.  “But this works, too.”  She sought Lexa’s lips again and sank her hands into Lexa’s curls.  The kiss quickly turned deeper, hungrier, and Clarke soon had Lexa pressed back against the sofa cushions.  She’d just lifted up on one knee to straddle her when Lexa tore her mouth away with a gasp. 

“We—we should stop,” Lexa stuttered, but the soft noise she let out when Clarke lowered herself into her lap and her tight grip on Clarke’s hips completely contradicted her feeble argument.

Clarke sucked a slow path of wet, scorching kisses along the underside of Lexa’s jaw and down her neck, following the heavy throb of her pulse.  “Or…we could keep going,” she whispered, smiling against Lexa’s skin when she moaned and tilted her head back to grant Clarke fuller access.  Clarke’s mouth descended lower even as her hands came up to work Lexa’s parka off her unresisting shoulders and shove it out of the way.  “Why do you even have this on?” she wondered aloud, “It’s not even that cold in here.”

“Clarke….” Lexa tried again. 

“Come on, Lex,” Clarke coaxed.  She alternated soft bites and little nips along the hollow of Lexa’s collarbone in between her words.  “Studies show that orgasms before events help athletes perform better.  It’s science.”  She brought her mouth back to Lexa’s to make her case with another lengthy, searching kiss that left them both groaning. 

Clarke linked her hands behind Lexa’s neck and sat back just enough to look her in the eye.  She’d always taken the heart skipping a beat as a fanciful exaggeration, but the sight of Lexa made a believer of her: her heavy-lidded eyes, locked on Clarke’s own and gone dark with passion; pouty, trembling lips, slightly parted and begging for attention; the delicate apples of her cheeks streaked with color.  Clarke couldn’t explain her sudden, all-consuming, almost physical imperative to care for Lexa in whatever way she could, but she knew she had to respect Lexa’s wishes.  “We can stop if you want, of course we can,” Clarke said quietly, tipping her forehead against Lexa’s.  “But you said yourself you couldn’t focus.  I can help you relax, baby.  Can I do this for you?”

Lexa’s gaze flicked from Clarke’s eyes back down to her mouth.  She licked her lips and murmured, “I can’t argue with science,” then crushed their mouths together again in a messy, eager collision.  In case there was any lingering doubt, for good measure, she seized the hem of Clarke’s sweater and quickly, insistently, tugged it up and off.  Her hands smoothed up the long planes of Clarke’s back to fumble with her bra strap, but Clarke broke the kiss and gently batted her hands away. 

“Later,” she said firmly.  “This is about you.” 

Lexa cast her eyes over Clarke’s breasts, full and round and trembling with every ragged breath, and gave her a roguish grin.  “Oh, believe me, this visual is all about me.” 

Clarke snorted and rolled her eyes.  She reached for the collar of Lexa’s lycra ski suit.  Lexa’s breath hitched when she began to work the zipper down and Clarke met her eyes and held them until she’d unzipped the suit to her waist.  But when she eased the suit open and off Lexa’s shoulders, instead of a thermal base layer, she found nothing but bare skin and Lexa’s small, firm breasts, their pink caps already tight with anticipation.

Clarke’s mouth fell open even as her hands automatically fitted themselves to Lexa’s breasts as if by muscle memory, thumbs grazing over her nipples.  “Lexa…you’re…are you…?” 

Lexa arched her chest into Clarke’s palms.  “Yeah.  It’s…kind of a silly superstition.  Skin to Win.”  She hissed her pleasure as Clarke lowered her mouth and licked lazy circles around first one firm peak, then its twin.  Her breathing stuttered when Clarke drew a nipple between her lips and sucked, gently at first, then harder, until she elicited a reaction from Lexa.  “My first big race…I did it on a dare…but then I won—” one, possibly both, of them groaned “—so I had to keep doing it.  Oh, fuck, Clarke!”  Lexa’s hands shot up to clasp Clarke’s head to her breast as her talented tongue laved over and around the sensitive tip.    

After a long moment, Clarke released Lexa’s nipple with a slick pop.  “So you mean that every race I’ve ever seen you in, you’ve been naked under this suit?”  She tugged the lycra down to Lexa’s waist. 

Lexa nodded, catching her breath. 

Clarke shook her head, dazed just by the thought.  “Do you have any idea what this is going to do to me from now on?”  She leaned back in to kiss her, tongue thrusting slow and deep, until a moan rumbled deep in Lexa’s throat.  “I have so many questions,” she murmured, sucking gently on Lexa’s bottom lip.  “Don’t you get cold?”

“I don’t usually have it on this long,” Lexa managed.

“How do you keep your headlights from showing?” tweaking Lexa’s kiss-swollen nipples and making her shiver.  “What do you do when you have to pee?”                    

“Clarke?”

“Mmm?”

“Just shut up and kiss me.”

Clarke laughingly obliged, trailing her fingers over and around Lexa’s breasts and sides, pressing her back against the sofa cushion again, and kissing her silly, until their hips began an unconscious grind.

“Shit…Clarke….Baby, can we move things along?” Lexa panted, strain apparent in her voice.  Clarke drew back, concerned.  “No, don’t stop!  It’s just…I don’t have another suit.” 

“So?”  Lexa squirmed beneath her and the penny dropped.  Clarke smirked and leaned in to husk in her ear.  “Is this making you wet?”  Lexa whimpered at her tone and nodded, face flaming.  Clarke edged her hand down Lexa’s belly and into her suit, skimming her fingers gently over the little patch of hair on her mound, finally sliding home in the liquid heat between her legs.  Lexa cursed at the touch and canted her hips for more.  Clarke hummed her delight and quickly slid down Lexa’s body, peeling her suit over hips and down thighs as she went. 

Clarke knelt on the floor between Lexa’s legs and paused for an instant to take her in: hair falling loosely over the tops of her breasts, eyes dark and locked on Clarke, stomach muscles taut with anticipation, ski suit tangled in a useless heap around her ankles, sleek, golden thighs splayed wide, and Lexa’s very center, deep pink, slicked with her need, and eager for Clarke’s touch.  “So beautiful,” she murmured to herself.  She used both hands to scoot Lexa closer to the edge of the sofa and shuffled between her thighs.  She knew she didn’t have a lot of time to work with, but she couldn’t resist a few delicate, lingering kisses to her inner thighs, each one inching higher, until her mouth was finally where Lexa needed it most. 

Clarke closed her eyes and breathed deeply just as she covered Lexa with a wide, open-mouthed kiss, letting her humid warmth and earthy scent wash over her.  She weaved her tongue up and through her folds, dipping just inside her entrance, gathering Lexa’s arousal and letting the musky flavor burst on her palate.  Lexa’s strangled cry and impatient hip buck reminded Clarke that much as she might wish to, there wasn’t time to draw Lexa’s pleasure out.  She set to her task in earnest, slicking her tongue through Lexa, up and back, the occasional teasing swirl over her clit, seeking out the places she’d already learned Lexa enjoyed most, gently at first, and then with firmer strokes.  She built Lexa up steadily, neither wasting time, nor rushing her to a not-quite-satisfying conclusion. 

The room filled with Lexa’s quiet moans and curses and the liquid sounds of Clarke’s mouth moving through Lexa’s arousal.  Clarke smiled when Lexa’s hips finally began to circle against her face in a tighter, more focused grind.  She reached out blindly for Lexa’s hand and brought it to her own head, encouraging Lexa to twine her fingers in her hair and guide the pace that would send her over the edge.  As Lexa’s movements sped up, Clarke latched onto her clit, sucking and lapping at the taut bud until Lexa went rigid and clutched Clarke’s mouth to her tightly.  The last thing Clarke heard before Lexa’s thighs clapped against her ears and she hurtled across the finish line was her own name tumbling from Lexa’s throat in a hoarse, choked cry.      

*****

Clarke fell back against the mattress, lungs heaving for air, throat scratchy from calling Lexa’s name.  One arm draped over her forehead and the other flopped uselessly amongst the rumpled mess of sheets at her side.  She couldn’t feel her legs.  “Fuck. Me. Lex,” she gasped, struggling to catch her breath and regain her equilibrium.  The sheets rustled and warm heaviness flowed over her as Lexa crawled her way back up Clarke’s body from between her legs. 

“I’d say I just did.”  Clarke heard the smug satisfaction in Lexa’s voice, but it was too much effort to lift her head, so she just snorted instead.  She let out pleased little hums at the kisses Lexa trailed in her wake, warm and wet, with just a hint of her own sticky arousal that still lingered on Lexa’s lips and chin.  She groaned in contentment as Lexa finally stretched over her full length.  There was a faint clink of metal and Clarke felt a cool pressure just over her heart as Lexa lowered her body onto Clarke’s.  She opened her eyes and saw her own joy reflected in Lexa’s bright gaze and unfettered smile. 

“Are you ever going to take those off?”  Clarke teased.

Lexa raised up on her elbows to survey the two shiny gold discs that dangled between their chests.  “Probably not for a while,” she admitted, still glowing with her achievement.

“Mmm,” Clarke said, dragging Lexa’s head down for a thorough kiss.  “Fine with me.  I think it’s super hot that my girlfriend—” her hands slid to Lexa’s ass and gave both cheeks a firm squeeze “—won double gold.  I’m so proud of you.”  She kissed her again, beaming into it.

“I love hearing you say that.”

“What, that I’m proud of you?”  Clarke gave a little laugh.  “Always.  Babe, I’d be proud of you if you came in dead last.”

“Well, yeah, that too.”  Lexa smiled sheepishly.  “But I meant you calling me your girlfriend.  You have no idea how happy that makes me.”

“Oh, I might.”  Clarke grinned and kissed the tip of her nose.  Her smile turned wicked.  “In fact, why don’t I show you how much.”  She reared up and twisted her body to flip an unresisting Lexa onto her back.  Now with all the time in the world, Clarke lavished leisurely kisses over Lexa’s magnificent body.  She savored the soft give of her skin and the increasingly noisy, gorgeous sounds Lexa made as Clarke’s fingers and mouth drove her inexorably up and over another peak. 

Later, they lay tangled together in the aftermath, sweat cooling on their bodies and heartbeats slowly regaining their normal rhythm.  Lexa mused thoughtfully, “You know, Clarke, skiers are superstitious.”  She angled her head to look at Clarke, trying unsuccessfully to keep a straight face.  “With a result like this, I might just have a new pre-race ritual.”

Clarke laughed loudly and snuggled against Lexa.  “God, I hope so.  I love Skin to Win.”

Lexa wrapped an arm around her and folded her close.  “I just love you.”