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Modified Independence

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Chapter 1

Clarke could hear someone downstairs talking to Raven. The voice was unfamiliar. She tried to roll over in bed to look at her alarm clock, but she was stuck. She cursed fucking Nia for talking her into orienting her bed the way that it was.

Nia was her full-time aide. Ever since Clarke had had her accident, Nia had been with her. Her mother had hired her to help Clarke throughout her day, and it had been a nightmare ever since. Her mother meant well, but since she lived in another country, she had rarely been able to visit her daughter, despite her injury. She had spent a week with Clarke after her surgery, but after that, Clarke had practically been on her own. Nia had been hired to help, but she was usually anything but helpful. The older woman showed up to work for the paycheck. When Clarke complained about her to her mother, her mom simply said she was being over-reactive.

The only thing that made life better was that Raven had moved in with her. She and Raven had been best friends since childhood, and Raven had begged Clarke to let her move in after the accident. Clarke finally agreed after she thought she would go insane with only Nia to keep her company.

Raven had breathed new air into her life after her surgery. The jovial woman was always upbeat and positive, giving Clarke the support she needed without being patronizing. She downplayed Clarke’s deficits, and often helped Clarke find new ways to do things. Raven was the only thing keeping Clarke from spiraling into an abyss of depression.

Everyone else in Clarke’s life had essentially abandoned her. Sure, they had kept in contact for a while after the surgery, and even came to visit a few times, but Clarke could feel how her new self made them uncomfortable. They didn’t know how to deal with the fact that the fiercely independent woman they used to know now needed help; a lot of it.

Even her fiancé, Finn, had left. He hadn’t even tried to hide the fact that he despised the new version of Clarke. He acted like it was her fault that she was the way she was when, in fact, it was his fault. He was the one who was driving the car the night that they had crashed. He was the one who pulled out in front of someone, and he was the one who got to walk away whole, without even a scratch as evidence that something had even happened.

 

Clarke sighed and tried again to roll over, pushing aside her anger and self-loathing. It had to be early, because the sun was just barely beginning to shine in her window. Since it was apparently going to be one of ‘those days,’ she stayed on her back and waited to be helped. Most days, she could get herself out of bed, but on one of ‘those days’ the left side of her body decided to be uncooperative. It made the simple task of trying to get out of bed nearly impossible.

She stayed on her back thinking about how much she hated her life right now. She was grateful to be alive, but it didn’t mean that she didn’t hate moments like this. Before Finn had pulled out in front of the oncoming car that smashed into her side of the vehicle, her life had been great. She was the art world’s newest rising star. Her art was being featured in many of the high-end galleries across the city, but now, she couldn’t even hold onto a paintbrush to save her life. The one thing she had truly loved in life had been taken from her by the fiancé she thought loved her. She had been fortunate that news of her unfortunate accident had rocked the art world. Every one of her works had sold, and it had left her with money to buy the home she currently owned. With that money, and a trust fund from her father, she was able to afford her daytime aide. Sadly, it was her mother who hired the aide. She had no say in who was hired to care for her, and it had led to a deep resentment and fissure in her relationship with her mother. To top it off, she was unable to fire her current aide, Nia, because of a contract that had been written up by her mother’s lawyers and the home health agency that employed the foul woman. She still had five months and three days before Clarke could fire the bitch. Come June 3rd, no matter how long it took Clarke to say the words, she was going to tell Nia exactly what she thought of her.

Today was January 1st, and it should have brought joy to Clarke to start a new year. In years past, she had strived to keep her New Year’s resolutions, but this year, she hadn’t even made any. She was struggling to make it through each day. She couldn’t think beyond that.

New Year’s Eve had been a bust for Clarke. Raven had invited her out to a small gathering at Lincoln and Octavia’s house, but she hadn’t been in the mood. It made her uncomfortable to be around her friends now. They would all welcome her and engage her in conversation for a while, but because her speech was often delayed, or difficult to get out, the conversations would lapse, and she would end up in a corner silently watching everything going on around her but not really being able to interact. Raven assured her that things would get better, and she would remind Clarke that the doctors anticipated that she would make a full recovery in the next twelve to fifteen months, but Clarke had a hard time believing it. It had already been four months, and yes, she had gotten better, but then she would have setbacks, like the one she was having today, and she didn’t know how she was going to make it through another day.

One bright spot was that Nia had broken her ankle. She would be out for the next eight to twelve weeks, and Clarke couldn’t have been happier. It lessened the time she had until she could fire the woman. For now, she could only hope that her new aide was better than Nia.

Clarke rolled her eyes to the ceiling when she heard Raven and the newcomer coming up the stairs. She could hear Raven telling the stranger that it was probably going to be a bad day since she wasn’t out of bed yet.

“Don’t worry though,” she heard Raven say, “she will warm up to you. You seem a lot nicer that Nia. That woman has a stick up her ass as long as China is wide.” Clarke heard laughter.

“Thank you, Miss Raven. I will strive to do the best I can for the patient.”

Clarke let out a soft curse. She hated being called a patient, and as soon as she had a chance, she would rip into her new aide and let her know exactly what she thought of being called ‘the patient.’

A muted knock came from her door. “Hey Griff, your new aide is here.”

It was several seconds before she responded. She made sure to form her words in her head several times before she attempted to speak. She didn’t want them to come out wrong.

“C-come on in, Rrraven.” So much for not sounding stupid, she thought.

Raven bounced into the room. She was her normal, exuberant self. Behind her followed the most beautiful woman Clarke had ever seen. It left her speechless, which was a good thing since she wasn’t very good at speaking right now anyway. When the woman turned to fully face Clarke, she found herself staring into brilliant green eyes that held nothing but compassion.

The woman smiled. She was a lot younger than Nia, but probably only a few years older than Clarke. She looked surprised.

“Well, Miss Griffin, I have to say you have come as quite a surprise to me. The information they gave me in your chart had you marked as an eighty-six-year-old woman. Clearly whoever transcribed your information made one hell of a typo. Is it safe to say you are twenty-six?”

“It…it is.”

"This is a huge mistake. I will make sure that it gets changed in the chart."

The woman, dressed smartly in pressed black pants and a button-down green shirt that matched her eyes, stepped closer and reached forward with her right arm to shake Clarke’s hand. It was a little awkward since Clarke was still lying flat on her back, but she reached out easily and shook the offered hand. She couldn’t help but notice how soft the skin was. She turned her head, trying to hide her blush.

“My name is Lexa Woods. I’m here to be your aide until Nia is able to return.”

Clarke smiled. It was only a little lopsided because of the slight weakness in her facial muscles, but it was a lot better than after her surgery. Clarke was eternally grateful that the weakness on her left side barely affected her face. Call it vain. She didn’t care. She was relieved that at least part of her was mostly preserved.

Lexa turned to Raven. “Do you mind giving us a few minutes? I need to help Clarke up, and I need to do my evaluation.”

Raven blinked, surprised. Nia had never done an actual exam before. She would come in, schlep Clarke out of bed, then leave her to fend for herself. Nia only stepped in when Clarke was having a particularly bad day. Most days she found Nia sitting in a chair watching Jerry Springer and filing her nails.

“Yeah, sure,” Raven said. “If you need me Griff, I will be downstairs. Use the walkie if you need me.” Raven went over to Clarke’s bedside table to ensure that the device worked. Raising her eyes to Lexa, she said, “I will leave you to it.” She walked through the bedroom door and gently closed it behind her. Before she did though, she mouthed “she’s cute” to Clarke.

Lexa leaned over Clarke. “Are you ready to sit up?”

Clarke nodded and Lexa helped her up. Once sitting, Clarke was fine. She noted that her left side had more tone in it than usual.

“You know,” Lexa began, “if we reoriented your bed, it would be easier for you to get up. If you want me to, I can move it later, or even while you bathe.”

Clarke smiled. “That would be amazing.” Inwardly she praised herself. That sentence had come out perfectly.

“Can I do a quick assessment, or do you need to use the bathroom first?”

“You can do your exam first…if you want.” The words were slow, but again, perfect.

“Great.”

Lexa did a full exam of Clarke’s range of motion and strength. She took notes in her chart as she asked Clarke a host of questions.

“Okay, that’s it,” Lexa said. “Your range of motion is fine, and the strength isn’t too bad. The worst of it is in your ankle, but maybe I can help you with it. I am sure your physical therapist gave you an exercise program.” Clarke nodded. “Good. We can go over it later. I did notice that you have a bit of extra tone today. Is that normal?”

“No…it flllcutuates sometimes. It’s not...usually this bad. It makesss it harder…to speak too.” A problem after Clarke’s head injury was that she fatigued easily. It also made it hard to speak…and move.

“Do you wear a brace on your foot so that you don’t trip?” Lexa asked.

“I do.”

“Can you walk without it to get to the bathroom or do you want me to help you with it now?”

“I can get there…without it.” She noticed Lexa looking around the room.

“Do you need the cane or the walker today?”

Clarke sat, deciding. “I think I can make it with the cane…if you stay cccllose”

Lexa smiled and helped Clarke stand. She handed Clarke her cane and walked with her to the master bathroom. She stayed in the doorway. “If you need me, I am right here. Just holler.” She shut the door.

Clarke sat for a few minutes longer than she needed to. She couldn’t help but be relieved that Lexa seemed to be great. She was the exact opposite of Nia. She thought that perhaps the new year wouldn’t be so bad after all.

Chapter Text

Chapter 2

Clarke painstakingly washed her hands and decided to shower. She was starting to feel better now that she was up, and it seemed the tone was decreasing. It never failed to astound her that her mood could affect the whole rest of her body. When she was upset, the tone in her left side would increase, but it would often

She went to the bathroom door and found Lexa standing nearby at the window. “You have a beautiful view from this window, Clarke.”

“Thank you.” She looked at the slim woman before her. The sun was filtering through Lexa’s hair, and Clarke couldn’t help but find the woman beautiful. “Would you mind getting the shower ready for me?” She asked timidly.

Lexa turned. “Of course. If you would like, I can make breakfast while you are in the shower, unless you need me to stay close.”

“Breakfast would be nice. I will use the walkie if I need you.”

“You got it. Call for me before you come down. It’s part of my assessment to see how you move, and I want to be close while you are on the stairs, oh, and we should probably put your brace on too. It’s better to be safe.” Lexa walked to the bathroom to get things ready for Clarke.

“Okay,” Clarke called out, embarrassed that Lexa had already made it into the bathroom before she had been able to respond.

 

Clarke waited until Lexa was gone then got undressed. It was frustratingly slow, but she was able to get out of her pajamas. She stood, naked, and looked in the mirror. Outwardly, she looked the same. She blessed her surgeon for not completely destroying her hair. She slowly lifted her right hand to touch the small bumps on her head left behind from the surgery. With clever positioning of the golden strands, no one would ever know that she had had brain surgery.

Her shower took longer than usual, and she did have to sit on her shower chair a few times as she got tired, but she was happy to not have needed help. The hardest part was washing her hair. Not having full control over her dominant hand made a lot of things more difficult, but she would be damned if she let anyone help her shower. It had been mortifying at first when Nia had had to help her. The woman was brutish and ungainly, and she never tried to be gentle. After the first couple of times, Clarke had said she would do it herself, no matter how long it took.

It was hard learning to be right-handed, but she was making do, and she practiced with her left hand as much as possible. She promised herself to do every exercise her physical, occupational, and speech therapists had given her. She knew she possibly had more than a year of recovery before her, but she hoped with hard work she would be able to achieve her goals more quickly. It’s not like she had much else to do anyway. She was practically house bound. She couldn’t drive, and unless Raven took her out, she was at home, stuck with Nia for eight hours until Raven came home from work and Nia left. She was pleased that Lexa had already told her she would help her exercise. Not once had Nia offered.

After donning a loose pair of sweats and a tank top, Clarke grabbed the walkie talkie saying that she was done. In response, she heard footsteps coming up the stairs. Lexa politely knocked before entering. She gave Clarke a warm smile. “Where’s your brace?”

Clarke pointed to her closet. The brace Clarke had to wear prevented her from tripping on her own toes. Because of her weakness, she had a very hard time bringing her toes up off the ground. The brace gave her the lift assist she needed to not fall on her face.

Lexa helped her get into the brace and her shoes, and then Clarke stood. She grabbed her cane and went to the stairs.

“Do you need help, Clarke?”

“No but stay close.” The stairs still made her uncomfortable, especially going down, and she cursed herself for ever buying a two-story home, but she also figured it was forcing her to become independent more quickly.

She took one step at a time, never letting go of her cane or the rail on the other side, and eventually made it to the bottom.

“You move a lot better than I thought you would.” Lexa was smiling, and Clarke felt a small thrill at the praise.

“Thanks, it’s been a lot of work.”

“I bet. Come eat, and then we can do your exercises. After that, if you want, we can get out of the house. Raven said it has been a few days.” Clarke brightened at the idea. Nia never offered to take her out of the house usually using the excuse that her car didn’t have enough gas or that it had something wrong with it and she didn’t want to put her patient at risk. Clarke had seen the car Nia had sitting in the driveway and knew the woman was full of shit.

 

Clarke couldn’t believe her eyes when she saw the table, laden with food. At best, Nia gave her cereal. Lexa had whipped up a veritable feast. Raven was already at the table gorging herself. With her mouth full, her friend said, “Can we keep her? This is amazing.”

“Lexa, you didn’t need to do all this. Nia usually just gets me cereal.”

Lexa frowned. “I saw the boxes. That sugary stuff isn’t going to help you get better. Nutrition is a huge part of the recovery process.” The aide pulled out a chair and gestured for Clarke to sit, so she did.

Lexa served her a little bit of everything she had made. She had already precut everything for her for which Clarke was grateful. She was learning to eat right-handed, but she still had difficulty cutting up her own food.

“I made you coffee. Raven told me how you like it.” The woman handed Clarke her favorite mug. It was steaming with java goodness. She sniffed and let out an appreciative moan. This was something she had missed; good coffee. Nia refused to learn how to make Clarke coffee from the pot she owned, so she always had to drink instant. It was terrible. Raven would make her coffee on the weekends, but since she wasn’t a coffee drinker, she didn’t make it during the week. She never told Raven that she was drinking the terrible stuff Nia made. She didn’t want her roommate to go out of her way to make it each morning when she was already doing enough for her.

There was one time that Clarke had tried to make herself coffee, and it was the day Raven had banned her from the kitchen. With head injuries there often came memory problems, and while unusual, Clarke’s short-term memory wasn’t always the best. She had prepared the coffee machine perfectly, but then she had forgotten to put the carafe back in place. Hot coffee had streamed all over the counter, cabinets and floor. It had been a Saturday morning, so Nia wasn’t there, but neither was Raven. Her roommate had gone to work that day because someone had called in sick. Raven had found Clarke sitting on the kitchen floor in a puddle of coffee. She had tried to clean up her mess but slipped. She hadn’t been able to get herself back up off the floor. Needless to say, that one mishap had probably set back Clarke’s recovery by a week. She refused to come out of her room for three days.

“Would you like anything else to drink, Clarke? I saw orange juice and milk in the fridge.” Lexa said, interrupting Clarke’s thoughts.

“Juice, please.”

Raven stood from the table. “I’m gonna run. I promised Octavia I would head over early and help her clean up from last night.” Raven looked at Clarke. “You two could come with me.” The sable-haired Latina looked hopeful. “O would really like to see you.”

Clarke shook her head and watched the hopeful gleam disappear from Raven’s eyes.

“I will come next time, I promise,” Clarke said. “Lexa is going to help me with my exercises.”

“Okay. Can I tell them you say ‘Hi’?”

“Of course.” Octavia had been one of Clarke’s best friends, but after the accident, it was almost as if Octavia was afraid of Clarke. She had been there at the hospital, and even a few days after she had gotten discharged, but Clarke could see her friend’s discomfort. Clarke finally insisted that Octavia go home to her husband saying that she was fine. After that, Octavia became more distant. Clarke would never admit it, but it hurt. It hurt even more than Finn leaving.

“Alright, I will see you later then.” Raven made her way out of the kitchen. “It was nice to meet you, Lexa. Thanks for breakfast.”

“It was my pleasure, Raven.” Lexa smiled.

“Will you join me?” Clarke asked.

“No, I shouldn’t. I can grab something later.” Lexa said.

“Okay.” Clarke couldn’t hide her disappointment. She spent most of her meals eating alone. Sometimes Raven was home to eat with her, but usually it was Nia who was in the house, and the woman would plunk a plate in front of her then go into the other room and watch tv. It wasn’t like Clarke wanted companionship from Nia anyway. She had hoped Lexa would sit with her. She hadn’t realized just how lonely her life had become.

She didn’t see Lexa watching her. “You know what,” Lexa said, “maybe I will eat something. I don’t want it to go to waste.”

Clarke smiled when Lexa sat and filled a plate. “It says in your chart that you are an artist.”

Clarke nodded in the affirmative, unable to speak. She was overcome that Lexa had used the words ‘are an artist’ and not ‘were an artist.’ She knew her friends didn’t mean it, but they always referred to her being an artist as if it was in the past.

“Will you show it to me some time?”

Clarke looked into earnest green eyes. “Yes. I would love to. My studio is outside.”

Clarke hadn’t stepped into her studio in quite some time. One of the reasons she had bought this home was because it had a perfect shed in the back for a studio. She had modified it to suit her needs, and it was her favorite place to spend time. Well, it used to be. She had been in her studio exactly one time since her accident, and it had led to tears, anxiety, and depression. It was shortly after her return home from the hospital and Raven had wheeled her out to the shed in a wheelchair. At that point, Clarke was still very unsteady on her feet, and there was no way for her to traverse the lawn safely on her own two feet. She had stood in the doorway and looked at her pieces, both finished and unfinished. The longing to pick up a paintbrush had overwhelmed her, knowing that she might not ever be able to paint again. Raven had had to console her for hours to get her to calm down.

Maybe this new woman could help her. Clarke wasn’t sure why, but she felt like Lexa might be the best thing to ever happen to her. It could have just been her loneliness, or Lexa’s willingness to help, but Clarke was feeling positive, and she clung to the emotion. It had been a long time since she had felt like there was anything good in her life.

The two ate as Lexa asked questions about Clarke’s art. It was exciting for the blonde to have someone express a real interest. When they finished, Lexa cleaned the kitchen and they headed back up to Clarke’s bedroom to do her exercises after she told Lexa that it was the easiest in there.

An hour and a half later, Clarke was sweating, but feeling good. They had put on the Tournament of Roses parade on the television to watch as she exercised. Lexa was a thorough instructor. She had gone over Clarke’s exercise program after reading through it two times to make sure she knew exactly how each exercise should be performed. She didn’t let Clarke get away with being lazy and made sure each repetition was performed to perfection before allowing Clarke to move onto the next item on the list.

Clarke now wished she had waited to shower.

“Did I tire you out too much? Would you still like to get out of the house for a while?” Lexa asked.

Clarke was tired. Not even her therapy sessions tired her out as much as this home session had, but there was no way she was giving up a chance to go outside.

“I am a little tired,” Clarke admitted, “but I really want out of this house. Maybe we could go for a drive then maybe for a short walk at one of the parks?”

Lexa grinned. “I know the perfect place.”

“Would…would it be okay if we took my car?” Clarke asked. “I haven’t been in it for so long. As it is, I barely got to drive it. I only purchased it a month before my accident.”

Lexa threw her arms out in a flourish then bowed. “Your wish is my command.”

 

It was a nice day for January. The sky was blue, and the air was crisp. After helping Clarke into her coat, Lexa had gone outside to pull the car out of the garage. Clarke waited on the sidewalk, clutching her cane, as she watched Lexa pull the car out.

As soon as she parked it, Lexa got out and helped into the vehicle. “This is a gorgeous car, Clarke, I can see why you miss being in it.” Lexa gestured to hers. “As you can see, mine’s not much to write home about.”

It was true. A battered pickup truck was sitting in her driveway. “It isn’t much, but that truck is my baby. I have had her since I was sixteen. She has a lot of miles, but also a lot of memories. I will probably cry the day she dies.”

Clarke warmed at the fond way Lexa spoke of her truck. “You must have taken good care of it for it to have lasted so long.”

Clarke watched as Lexa puffed up with pride. “I have. Every bit of work she has ever needed I have done myself…well some of it my sister helped with.”

“What’s your sister’s name?”

“Anya. She’s a couple of years older than me. She owns a custom car interior shop. She specializes in new upholstery, especially leather seating, headliners, carpeting, things like that. Some of her leather designs would blow your mind. It drives her crazy that I still drive my beater. She desperately wants me to get something new for her to play with.”

“Raven would love her. She owns a collision center in mid-city. Just think if they paired up. Raven could fix up the outsides, and your sister could talk the customers into a pretty new interior. It could be a hell of a partnership.” Clarke was proud of herself. That might have been the longest string of words she had put together in weeks.

Lexa looked thoughtful for a moment. “You know, it really could be. Maybe you could talk to Raven about it, and I will swing the idea past Anya. It could be good for both of them. If they agree, we can hook them up.”

 

The two drove around for a while, and Clarke enjoyed being out of the house. Lexa led them to a park that Clarke had never been to before.

“They have a beautiful walking path here. Do you want to try a little bit of it?”

“Okay. If I get tired, I will let you know.”

“Good,” Lexa said as she got out of the car. “Let me help you.”

Lexa did help and kept Clarke steady as she got her footing. She then got Clarke’s cane for her and led her to a flat portion of the path. It led into the woods.

Clarke was silent as she walked. She had to concentrate on the uneven path before her and found herself tiring more quickly than she wanted. When she spotted a bench, she made her way over to it and sat. She grinned when Lexa sat next to her.

“Thank you for bringing me here. It’s so pretty. I can’t believe I have never been here before.”

“It’s a fairly new park.” She pointed to the path where it began to slope up. “I bet if we come here frequently that you will be able to climb that hill within six weeks, tops.”

Clarke’s eyes widened as she gazed at the path before her. The hill looked huge. “I don’t know. It’s pretty steep.”

Lexa looked at the path. She opened her mouth like she was going to say something but closed it when she changed her mind. Clarke wondered what she had been about to say but got distracted when a rabbit suddenly hopped onto the path in front of them. It seemed to gauge them as no threat and wandered over to a patch a grass and started to munch.

Lexa looked up at the path again. “You might be right. The path is a little steep. They probably should have put a bench in halfway up for people to rest at if they need to.” She paused. “Do you want to walk a little more, or are you too tired?”

“As much as I would like to, I’m too tired. This is the most activity I have had in the past four months.”

“Okay, let’s get you home then.” Lexa had to help Clarke stand. Her tone had kicked in while she was resting. The walk back to the car took longer than it should have, and by the time Lexa got her strapped in, Clarke was upset with herself.

Clarke could feel Lexa stealing glances at her as she drove. As if sensing her mood, Lexa had not tried to engage her in any conversation. When Lexa took a turn that led them away from her house, Clarke finally did speak.

It was harder to form the words, because she was tired, but she was able to ask where they were going.

“It’s a surprise.”

Clarke didn’t say anything else. She was a captive audience after all. As she thought about where Lexa was taking them, she decided to trust the woman. Clarke was having the best day she had had in a long time. She doubted Lexa would do anything now to spoil the day.

Lexa pulled up to a drive-up window. “I know I said that nutrition is important, but I think we both deserve something special after the work you did today. This place has amazing frito pie and milkshakes. Are you game? It’s on me.”

Clarke’s mouth was already watering. “Hell yeah, I am. I haven’t had this kind of food in eons. I’ll take a frito pie and heath bar shake please.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 3

Clarke was dozing on the couch when Raven finally came home. Lexa had left a while ago. She had thanked the aide profusely for giving her one of the best days she had had in a long time.

She had been thinking about the differences between Nia and Lexa. Per the contract with the agency, the aide was not just supposed to help Clarke with her basic needs, but she was also supposed to provide stimulation and companionship. It was also in the contract that the aide would drive her to her therapy sessions. Funny that Nia’s car always worked on those days.

After about a week with Nia, Clarke had gotten Raven to call her mother about the contract that she had made. Because her mother was her medical power of attorney, she had had the power to set up her at home care while Clarke was still unable to make those kind of decisions for herself. Unfortunately for Clarke, the contract was binding. If her mother had been around to see Nia’s negligence, she was certain that Abby would have found a way to nullify the thing, but Abby was too far away. It wasn’t as if Nia was purposefully hurtful or mean, she was simply lazy, and she knew that Clarke had no recourse in getting her removed from her position.

She startled when the front door slammed. “Hey,” Raven said. “How was your day. Is Lexa as awesome as she seems to be?”

“Better. She bought me a heath bar shake.”

Raven laughed. She picked up Clarke’s legs, sat on the couch, and replaced the legs so that they were now draped over her.

“Yeah? Tell me all about it.”

Clarke was tired, so her speech was slower and more slurry than she liked, but Raven was patient and waited for Clarke to tell her about the day’s adventures.

Raven interrupted her when she told her about the park. “I haven’t gone there yet,” Raven said, “but I was driving by on the day they opened it. There was some kind of ribbon cutting ceremony. It seemed like they were doing a dedication to someone. It looked kind of neat. I would have stopped if I hadn’t been on my way to pick up a new headlight for a car I was fixing.”

Clarke finished telling her about the day, finishing with how Lexa stayed late to ensure that Clarke had been able to change and make herself comfortable. She had even offered to make dinner, but Clarke had assured her that she was still full from earlier.

“She sounds amazing. Think she has a boyfriend, or a girlfriend?” Clarke rolled her eyes. “I bet she is spoken for. She sounds too perfect to be single. Maybe she has a perfect sister.”

Clarke moved her legs and struggled to sit up. It was awkward with Raven sitting right next to her. “That reminds me. She does have a sister, and guess what she owns?”

“I don’t know. A strip club.”

“Be serious, Raven. It is something right up your alley.”

Raven raised her eyebrows, waiting for Clarke to tell her.

“She owns a shop specializing in custom car interiors.”

“Holy crap. No way.” Raven leapt of the couch and was bouncing back and forth. “Your aide is too good to be true, and she has a sister who’s into cars. I wonder if she’s as hot as Lexa.”

“Raven,” Clarke exclaimed, although she couldn’t help but be amused at her roommate’s antics. “Lexa thought maybe you two could pair up in some kind of joint business effort or something.”

Clarke could see Raven’s mind spinning with the possibilities.

Raven pulled Clarke into standing and gave her a hug. “Do you know what it could mean, to be able to have a business partner?”

“Don’t get over excited, Ray, you haven’t even met her yet. She may not be open to the idea.”

“If you can set up a meeting, I will make her fall in love with the idea.”

She let go of Clarke so suddenly that the blonde stumbled. “Sorry, princess,” Raven said as she caught the blonde before she could fall.

“I’m okay, Ray,” Clarke said, planting herself back on the couch. “Just don’t get your hopes up too high. We only just met Lexa. She may forget to tell her sister anything. It was just something we were talking about while we were riding in the car.”

“She comes back tomorrow, right?”

“Yes, Raven. She’ll be here forty hours per week, just like Nia was. She’ll be back at 7:30 tomorrow morning.”

“Shit, I will already be gone. Please ask her about it. Pretty please with sugar on top.”

Clarke closed her eyes, cursing herself for even bringing it up. “Fine. I will, but only if it isn’t too awkward.”

 

When Lexa arrived the next morning, Clarke was once again stuck in the bed. They had forgotten to reorient it so it would be easier for her to get out of it, but she didn’t think it would have mattered anyway. She had a headache. Raven had talked her into one glass of wine, which she knew was unwise, but she drank it anyway. It had been nice to spend a normal evening watching a movie with her friend. Now she had a headache, her tone was through the roof, and she was unable to sit herself up. She hastily brushed away the tears in her eyes with her right hand when she heard Lexa coming up the stairs. The tone in her left arm increased, causing the elbow to flex and her hand to fist involuntarily.

She heard a knock at the door. When there was no response, Lexa hesitantly opened the door. One look at Clarke and she knew something was wrong.

“Hey, Clarke,” she said quietly as she quickly approached the bed, “can you tell me what’s wrong?”

Clarke struggled but got out the word ‘headache’.

“Oh, okay. Can you rate it on a 0-10 scale for me?”

Clarke held up her right hand showing five fingers, then three.

“8 out of 10?”

Clarke nodded.

“8 out of 10 is pretty bad, Clarke. Do you need to go to the doctor?”

Clarke shook her head ‘no.’ She could see the woman was slightly panicked.

“Do you have medicine?” Clarke nodded again. “Is it in the bathroom?” Another nod.

With long strides, Lexa went into the bathroom and rummaged through Clarke’s medicines until she found the one for pain. Quickly excusing herself to Clarke, she ran downstairs to confirm this was the correct medicine with what was listed in her chart.

When she returned, she had a glass of water and two pills in her hand. She helped Clarke up enough to safely swallow then rested her back on the mattress.

Clarke looked up at Lexa, wishing that it wouldn’t take so long for the pills to kick in. “Is it okay if I touch you, Clarke? I want to try something that used to help me when I got bad headaches.”

Clarke nodded again, not trusting herself to speak. Without hesitation, Lexa reached forward with both hands and settled her fingers onto Clarke’s temples. She gently massaged her fingers in circles, eliciting a soft moan from Clarke.

“Am I hurting you?”

“Nnnoo.”

The aide smiled and returned to what she was doing. Her fingers gradually eased into the hair on the sides of Clarke’s head. She was careful to avoid the surgical scars. Clarke’s eyes started to droop as the massage and the pain medicine helped to ease her headache. It wasn’t long before she fell asleep.

When she opened her eyes again, she felt better. Lexa was sitting on the edge of her bed with Clarke’s left arm supported in her hands. She had out the piece of paper from one of Clarke’s therapists that showed how to do some of the stretches that could help ease the tone. She was working on extending Clarke’s contracted fingers, trying to loosen them up.

Lexa froze when she noticed Clarke’s eyes on her. “I, uh, hope this isn’t over stepping. I remembered that there were copies of the exercises in the chart. I thought that I might be able to help ease any discomfort in your arm.”

It took a minute, but Clarke told her it was fine. It was helping her feel better.

“How’s your head?” Lexa asked.

“Not one hundred percent, but it is better.”

Lexa smiled, relieved. “I’m glad, Clarke. Are you ready to sit up?”

When Clarke nodded, Lexa helped her to sit. Clarke had to shut her eyes for a minute. Her pain medicine always made her a little dizzy.

“Are you sure you are okay?” Lexa asked, concerned. “I can reschedule your therapy appointments if you want. Your first one starts in about an hour and a half.”

“N-no. I will be fine. I don’t want to skip my sessions.”

“It’s good to be dedicated, but if you don’t feel well enough, no one would fault you for that.”

“I swear, I am fine, Lexa.”

“Okay. Do you want to shower before we go?”

Clarke shook her head. She would be a sweaty mess after her physical therapy session. It came after her speech and occupation therapy, and it was the hardest on her body.

“Okay, you’re the boss. I saw that your homework was to wear a button-down shirt to the sessions today. I guess you will be working on dressing skills.”

Clarke frowned. She struggled with buttons and snaps, so it was something the occupation therapist was working on with her.

“Do you have a particular shirt you want to wear?”

Lexa got another shake of the head. “You sure you want me to pick? I might pick the most garish shirt you own.”

Lexa’s teasing brough a smile to Clarke’s face. “Do your best.”

Lexa did. She rummaged through Clarke’s closet until she found an outlandish Hawaiian shirt. She grinned when she presented it to Clarke. “I bet this shirt has a story.”

Clarke laughed. “It does, but I will never tell.”

Lexa helped Clarke dress and don her brace, then they slowly made their way down to the kitchen. Breakfast was not as lavish as the day before, but it was still better than anything Nia had served up. By the time they finished, it was time to leave for Clarke’s therapy appointements.

 

Clarke was using her rolling walker. She felt too unsteady after the headache and medicine. Lexa held the door to the clinic open for her, and she pushed in. Her speech therapist greeted her at the door. “Miss Griffin, it is good to see you. Are you ready to get to work?”

Before Clarke could answer, she was interrupted by a squeal coming from her therapist. “Lexa, is that really you? I haven’t seen you in ages.” The woman ran up to the aide and hugged her.

“It was only just last week, Costia.”

“I know, but I’ve missed you.”

Clarke turned her head from Lexa to Costia to Lexa again. Lexa saw her confusion. “I have been friends with this goof since we were kids. We were neighbors growing up. In high school, we met Luna.”

“Therapist Luna?” Clarke asked.

“Yup. We were the three amigos,” Costia said. “We got into so much trouble, all the way through college.”

“Yeah, until you and Luna decided to tie the knot. They dated for years, but it never stopped them from having fun, but the instant they got married, they became a couple of old housewives.”

Costia playfully slapped Lexa’s shoulder. “That’s not true. I believe it just last week when Luna drank you under the table.” She looked back at Clarke. “Come on you. We better get started. I don’t want to make you late for your other two sessions. I’ll tell you some stories about this one.” She pointed at Lexa.

Clarke didn’t miss the ‘don’t you dare’ look that Lexa gave Costia.

“You can’t sit in for this session, Lex, but if Clarke is okay with it, you can probably sit in for the others.”

“Okay, just have Costia come get me if you want me to sit in on the next session. I will be waiting out here.”

 

Clarke was exhausted after her therapy. She had been blown away that Costia was married to her physical therapist. She couldn’t deny that they were a very handsome couple. She was surprised she hadn’t realized that they were a couple before this, although they hadn’t advertised it either.

She had allowed Lexa to sit on her other sessions, and Lexa took careful notes and received copies of new exercises that Clarke was supposed to do at home. When Lexa helped her into the house, she told the aide that she was going to nap on the couch for a while. Lexa helped her out of her brace and shoes so she would be more comfortable then covered her with a blanket.

“I’m going to go upstairs and reorient your bed. I forgot yesterday.” Clarke’s eyes were already drooping when Lexa headed for the stairs.

When she woke, lunch was ready. She sat at the kitchen table, and this time she didn’t have to ask if Lexa would join her. Grabbing a plate for both of them, Lexa sat down next to her. The chatted companionably. She told Clarke more about Costia and Luna, and then she brought up Anya.

“Anya is pretty excited to meet your roommate. I think she is already dreaming about how they could have the best car shop in the whole city.”

Clarke laughed and told her Raven had been no different.

“Anya was hoping that maybe we could all get together one day so they could meet. She was hoping maybe not this Saturday, but next.”

Clarke assured her that Raven would be fine with that. She was relieved that she would have good news for her roomie.

When they finished eating, Lexa asked if she could see Clarke’s studio. Clarke was hesitant but agreed.

 

Clarke watched as Lexa’s eyes roved over the space before her. Green eyes traveled over every piece of art, spending time contemplating each one, even the unfinished ones. She would steal glances at Clarke as she took in each piece, and Clarke could see the true appreciation she had for each one.

Clarke stayed in the doorway. She hadn’t wanted to go in any further, but as Lexa admired each piece, she found herself stepping into the space. Her left hand clenched, desiring to pick up a brush. Lexa noticed.

“Have you tried to create anything since your accident, Clarke?” Clarke shook her head ‘no.’ “Do you want to try now?”

Clarke didn’t know what to say. She was so afraid to try because she knew she was doomed to failure. Lexa picked up on her hesitancy and said, “How about this? Why don’t we both try something simple. Whoever has the worst picture has to buy the next milkshakes.”

Clarke was still unsure, but she knew that it would feel good to pick up a paintbrush, and for some reason, with Lexa there, a person she hardly even knew, she had the courage to try.

“Okay, let’s do this, and you have to take it seriously. Don’t do a bad job just to make me feel better.”

Lexa feigned disappointment that Clarke would even suggest a such a thing, then smiled. “Oh, I won’t. I am the most competitive person I know.”

 

Half an hour later, Clarke was sweating and having mixed emotions about what she had just created. They had agreed to paint a vase that was sitting on the counter in her studio. It had several silk flowers in it. It should have been easy. Four months ago it would have been.

She stared at her painting, and she wanted to cry. It was possibly the worst thing she had ever done, including when she would draw with markers when she was five years old. At the same time, it was a hell of a lot better than she expected, but most of all it had felt good, even if it had been a struggle to get her hand and arm to do what she wanted it to do. Feeling the paintbrush in her hand filled an emptiness in her that she hadn’t known existed.

Lexa hadn’t finished yet. The woman had been serious about being competitive. She was trying to get her picture perfect, and she, adorably, bit her bottom lip as she concentrated. She finally huffed and put her paintbrush down.

“I can’t do it,” Lexa said. She looked over at Clarke’s picture and her face fell. “How the hell did you do that? It’s perfect.”

Clarke narrowed her eyes. “Mmmockery iss not the prrroduct of a ssstrong mind, Lllexa.” Clarke’s speech always got worse when she got angry.

“Clarke,” Lexa began, eyes widening and holding her hands up. “I am serious.” The aide studied Clarke’s painting. “It’s perfect. How can you not see that?” She carefully picked up Clarke’s wet canvas and walked it over to where the vase sat so that she could rest the painting beside it. “Look.”

Clarke’s eyes moved between the vase and the picture as she compared the two. She saw so many things wrong with her painting, but when she really looked between the two, she saw that it really was a close facsimile and probably was better than most people could have done. It just wasn’t up to her own standard.

Lexa perched the canvas against a pot on the counter then stood next to Clarke so that she could also look between the picture and the real thing. “I am sorry you thought I was mocking you, Clarke, I wasn’t. You have exceptional talent, and I am betting that if you come out here and practice, you will be as good as you have always been. Art is clearly a part of you, and while it might be different from what you have done in the past, it will be just as stunning to look at as everything else you have ever created. Every artist evolves, Clarke. This is just your next evolution.”

Clarke looked at her picture while she digested Lexa’s words. Maybe she was being harder on herself than she realized. She looked at Lexa, then at her painting, and then at her paint-stained hands, and for the first time in a long time she felt hope.

“Thank you,” Clarke whispered.

Chapter Text

Chapter 4

 

After having a hearty laugh at Lexa’s admittedly terrible painting, the two of them had gone back into the house. Lexa prepared dinner while Clarke sat at the table and watched. Lexa, after much persuasion, got Clarke to help her wash the produce and peel carrots. Clarke had argued that it was a bad idea, not wanting another mishap like she had with the coffee, but Lexa assured her that she would be fine, and she had been.

Before her accident, Clarke had loved to cook. She had never been one for baking but cooking she had excelled at. The simple task of washing and peeling vegetables had given Clarke a feeling of satisfaction that she had missed. It hadn’t been much, but she was happy to have been able to contribute, even if only a little, to making the dinner.

Lexa was sliding dinner into the oven when there was a knock at the door. She looked at Clarke. “Do you want me to get that?”

“Only if you don’t mind. I will be right behind you.” Clarke stood and used her walker to exit the kitchen.

She could hear Lexa speaking with the person at the door. When she finally reached the foyer, she stopped. Her friend Jasper was standing in the doorway. He ran a nervous hand through his hair when he spotted Clarke.

“Hey, Clarke, it’s good to see you.” He shuffled anxiously on his feet.

 

“You too, Jasper. It’s been a while.” Jasper was a friend, but he had been a friend of Finn’s first, and after the accident, as soon as Finn disappeared, Jasper had too. As with all the others, his abandonment hurt.

“Come in.” Clarke turned and walked to the living room, not waiting to see if he followed. She noticed that Lexa had discreetly returned to the kitchen. She carefully sat on the couch. They chit-chatted for a few minutes about what Jasper had been up to then Clarke finally asked, “What brings you here, Jas?”

The nervous hand went through his hair again. “Ah, well, Finn wanted me to pick up the rest of the stuff that he has here.”

Clarke’s heart squeezed painfully. She knew when she saw Jasper at the door that he wasn’t there strictly there to see her. Fucking Finn was a coward. “Yyyou tell F-Finn that ifff he wants his stuff, hhhee cannn get it himmmself.”

Jasper looked down, refusing to look Clarke in the eyes. “I’m sorry, Clarke. I really am. I told him that he needed to get it himself, but he begged.”

Watery eyes held Jasper’s gaze when he finally looked at her. “I know I have been a terrible friend. If it is any consolation, Clarke, I have missed you.”

A tear slid down Clarke’s face. “I’ve missed you too. I have missed everyone.”

Lexa took that moment to walk back into the room. One look at Clarke had her escorting Jasper to the door. “I think it is probably best if you leave now. Clarke’s had a long day.”

Jasper gave Clarke one last, sad look. “I’m sorry.”

 

Lexa walked back into the living room where Clarke was furiously wiping away the tears that had started to fall. She had been bottling up all her pain regarding her friends’ absence in her life. She had never let on how much it bothered her, and now it was backfiring because she was losing control in front of a person she had only known for two days.

“I’m sorry,” Clarke said. “It’s stupid to cry.”

Lexa sat beside her. “It isn’t stupid to cry. What’s stupid are people who think you are a different person because you got hurt. What’s stupid are people who abandon their friends when they need them the most,” Lexa said vehemently, like she was speaking from experience.

Lexa silently opened her arms, an invitation for Clarke, if she wanted it. Clarke leaned in and let Lexa hug her while she let everything out that she had been holding in for the past four months.

It was late when Raven got home, and Clarke was still in Lexa’s arms. She had cried herself out but hadn’t moved, and Lexa held her the whole time even when she fell asleep for a few minutes. She had gone into Lexa’s arms feeling lonelier than she had in a long time, but somehow, having this woman hold her, brought her inner peace and solace.

Clarke lifted her head from Lexa’s shoulder when Raven approached. She asked Clarke what was wrong, and Clarke finally moved out of Lexa’s grasp. She rubbed her scratchy eyes while she explained about Jasper and Finn.

“That fucking douche. I’m going to take his stuff outside and blow it up,” Raven said.

Clarke watched as Lexa silently moved back into the kitchen. She could hear her aide setting the table for dinner. She felt guilty that Lexa had stayed so late with her, but it also warmed her heart that Lexa had cared enough to stay. She knew that right now they only had a professional relationship, but Clarke sincerely hoped that one day Lexa could be her friend. She already felt like she was.

Raven plunked down next to her, interrupting her thoughts. Her roommate tucked a stray piece of blonde hair behind Clarke’s ear. “Are you okay?” Raven wanted to know.

Clarke sat with her hands in her lap. The right fingers fiddling with the not so dexterous left fingers. She didn’t want to tell Raven about everything she had been feeling: that she had been lonely and hurt by their friends’ abandonment; that even though she wasn’t close to her mother she wanted her nearby; that now more than ever she was missing her dad; and that because she wasn’t normal, she felt like a freak.

She didn’t want to tell Raven any of this. Raven was her best friend and biggest cheerleader. Clarke didn’t know where she would be without Raven. If she had had to return to her home alone after being discharged from the hospital, with only Nia to keep her company, she would have gone insane. She didn’t want to tell Raven because then Raven would feel bad for her, or she would feel like she hadn’t done enough for her, and that wasn’t true. She owed everything to Raven, and she would be damned if she made her roommate feel bad.

“I’m okay now,” Clarke said. She heard the refrigerator door open and her lips ticked up on either side. “Lexa was a huge help. She’s amazing, Raven. It’s like she knows exactly what I need before I do, and she even kicked Jasper out when she saw that he was upsetting me.”

“That boy is an ass.” Raven snarked.

“He isn’t,” Clarke said, “he was just trying to be there for his friend, even if his friend is a completely selfish chicken’s ass.”

“Yeah, and you are better off without that chicken’s ass. You know that, right?”

“I do,” Clarke conceded.

“So, Lexa is amazing, huh?” Raven said. “She’s damn fine too. Maybe after her stint is up here, you can ask her out on a date.”

Clarke’s heart clenched. “I think my dating days are over, Rae. No one wants to date a girl who takes two minutes to say three sentences, and no one wants to date a gimp.”

Lexa cleared her throat, having walked back into the room without them realizing it, causing both women to startle.

“Dinner is ready if you still want it, Clarke. There’s more than enough for you too, Raven,” Lexa said. “I’m going to head out…unless you need anything more from me, Clarke.”

 

Raven stood. “That’s awesome, Lexa. Thank you, I am starving.” She left and went to the kitchen.

Clarke stood. “Thank you for everything today, Lexa,” she said quietly, “and thank you for staying late. I…I didn’t mean to cry all over you.” Clarke looked down, ashamed.

“Hey,” Lexa said, “don’t ever be ashamed to let your feelings out, Clarke. If you bottle them up, they will eat away at your insides until they find a way out anyway.” Lexa paused as if considering something then said, “If you ever need to talk, I am here, and if I have already left for the day, please don’t hesitate to call me. I’ve been told I am a really good listener.” She winked.

Clarke didn’t know what to say to the generous offer. “Th-thank you.”

Lexa gave her a genuine smile. “Where’s your phone? I will put my number in it for you.” Clarke pointed to the coffee table, and Lexa walked over and picked up her phone. Clarke unlocked it for her, and the aide input the number.

“I mean it, Clarke, text or call if you ever need something,” Lexa said as she handed Clarke her phone. “I am going to go tell Raven about the meet-up with Anya.” Lexa turned to go but then faced Clarke again. “Would you like to go try more of the path at the park tomorrow? It’s supposed to be a gorgeous day, and I believe I owe you a shake.”

“I would like that.” Clarke said as her heart warmed.

 

Clarke walked to the kitchen and watched as Raven walked outside with the aide. Raven was extra animated so Clarke figured they must be talking about the meeting with Anya.

It was twenty minutes later before Raven came back in. She had a smile plastered to her face. “That woman is too good to be true. As excited as I am to meet her sister, I am glad I have some time to prepare. I need to make charts…oh, and graphs, and maybe shine everything up at the shop in case she wants to see it. Gah, there’s so much to do. If I can make this work, and we can pair up, we will have the only one-stop shop in town.”

Raven rattled on, and Clarke smiled at her excitement. When they were finished eating, Raven asked if Clarke would help her clean up. Raven hadn’t let her help at all since coming home, so she enthusiastically agreed.

“Okay,” Raven said. “I will wash. You dry.”

Clarke sat at the table as each dish was washed. Raven would pass it over to her for her to carefully dry. Of course, it took longer than if Raven had done the entire task herself, but once again, it felt good to contribute.

After finishing, they went into the living room to watch tv, but Clarke couldn’t concentrate. She kept looking at her phone.

“You have a grin the size of the Cheshire cat’s. Want to tell me what has you smiling?”

Clarke hid her phone under her thigh, still grinning. “No.”

Raven gave her a mischievous look before pouncing on her. Fingers flew everywhere while she tickled Clarke into submission. Clarke laughed harder than she had in a very long time. When Raven finally got off her, she held the phone triumphantly in her hands. Clarke cursed ever giving her the pass code.

“Ooh, looks like you have a new set of digits.” She flaunted the phone in Clarke’s face. “And you say you aren’t datable, yet you just got a girl’s number.”

“She was just being nice, Rae, because Finn found a way to fuck up my day by sending Jasper here.”

“I don’t know, Clarke. She doesn’t look like the type to give her number to just anyone.”

Clarke was doubtful, but Raven kept pressing the issue, and by the time she finally went to bed, she was feeling pretty good about herself. Even if Lexa was only being nice, Clarke now knew that after Nia returned, she was going to do everything in her power to ensure that she and Lexa became friends. She did not allow herself to think beyond that.

 

The rest of the week went very well. Clarke had been able to get herself out of bed without help, appreciating that Lexa had taken the time to change her bed’s configuration in the room to give her increased independence. The two of them went to the park where she made progress each time they went, and she had even gone into her studio one more time to try and paint. It had been a frustrating endeavor, but she at least got something accomplished.

All in all, her first week with her new aide had been better than all sixteen weeks combined with Nia. It was Friday night, and Clarke was lying in bed. It was before 10 o’clock, but it wasn’t like she had any reason to stay up late anymore, and Raven was out. She was staring at her phone, thinking of Lexa. The woman was all she could think about, and Clarke had to admit that she was starting to develop feelings for her even though she knew that she shouldn’t. It wasn’t appropriate for her to fall for her aide. They had a professional relationship. Besides, Clarke didn’t know much about Lexa. For all she knew, she could be married. Clarke doubted she was single. How could she be? Clarke then began to think about the what if’s if Lexa wasn’t dating anyone or married. Could a person like Lexa fall for someone like Clarke? Her feelings were starting to spiral downward, but then the screen on her phone lit up. It was 9:59 pm.

Lexa: I hope it isn’t too late. I just wanted to say have a good weekend, and if you need anything or need me to pick something up for Monday, let me know.

Clarke almost dropped the phone in her excitement. She held the phone in her hands for several minutes, just staring at the text, before responding. Texting wasn’t so easy anymore.

Clarke: Thank you. It isn’t too late. If I think of anything, I will let you know. I hope you have fun this weekend, and thanks for all your help this week. I will see you Monday.

Clarke hit send, then cursed herself for being so formal. It didn’t stop her from jiggling in excitement that Lexa had texted her first. She put her phone on her nightstand and fell asleep feeling lighter than she had in a long time.

Chapter Text

Chapter 5

The weekend started out boring for Clarke. She was certain that it had nothing to do with anxiously waiting for Monday to arrive so that she would see a certain brunette again. Raven was gone, trying to get ready for her meeting with Anya. She had offered to bring Clarke with her, but Clarke knew she would only have gotten in the way.

She spent a good portion of Saturday morning doing her therapy exercises, and she was at least happy to be alone while she did her speech therapy. No one needed to hear that. Her physical therapy homework wasn’t too bad. She was able to do most of the exercises on her own. The occupational therapy exercises were more frustrating.

Her O.T. (occupational therapist) was a stern woman named Indra, and there had never been a stricter task master who, somehow, knew if Clarke hadn’t practiced everything she was supposed to. She even knew when Clarke had practiced but done a half-assed job of it. Clarke learned quickly that she couldn’t shirk her personal responsibility when it came to her therapy.

She sat at her kitchen table for an hour working on her handwriting and the dexterity of her left hand. She was trying to pick up coins with just her thumb and index finger (and not by cheating by sliding the coin across the tabletop and into her other hand) when she heard a knock at the door. She grabbed her cane, not having to use the walker since earlier in the week, and slowly made her way to the front door. She couldn’t hide her shock when she opened the door to find Octavia standing there.

She wasn’t sure how to feel. She hadn’t been alone with Octavia since before the accident, and every occasion since had been awkward and uncomfortable.

“Hi, Clarke.” Octavia shuffled from foot to foot. It was a cold day. “Can I come in?”

Clarke took two very careful steps backward, giving Octavia space to enter. She remained standing in the foyer, not heading to the living room like she had with Jasper. She figured it was probably going to go about as well as that visit, so why bother sitting down?

“How are you Clarke? We missed you at the New Year’s Eve party.”

“No, you didn’t,” Clarke stated bluntly. She couldn’t keep the hurt of her voice. “If that was true, I would have seen you more than a handful of times since I got out of the hospital.” She turned and made her way back to the kitchen.

“I’m sorry, Clarke. I have been a terrible friend,” Octavia admitted as she followed Clarke.

Clarke didn’t say anything. She didn’t want a repeat of what happened after Jasper left the other day, and she knew with the way she was feeling that the words wouldn’t come out anyway. Octavia’s absence in her life hurt more deeply than anyone else’s, including her mother’s. She had been friends with Octavia since she was a child. O and her brother, Bellamy, had grown up across the street from her, and the three of them had been inseparable for years. When Raven joined the mix soon after the Blakes had moved in, the three amigos became the cuatro diablos (as coined by Clarke’s father). The trouble the four of them got into was unsurpassed by the other children in the neighborhood. No one was able to top when Raven blew up the Griffin’s mailbox when what she thought was a smoke bomb turned out to be an M80 firework. The four of them had had to work for weeks doing chores to pay for a new mailbox.

The two had even gone to college together, and it was because of Clarke that Octavia met Lincoln.

Clarke sat in her chair again and started to fool with the coins on the table, but she couldn’t make her fingers work. She was too upset. In a sudden move of frustration, she got upset and swiped them onto the floor. They went flying everywhere. She tried to control her emotions as she watched one roll underneath the refrigerator.

“Why are you here?” Clarke’s voice quavered. Octavia had the grace to pretend that her voice sounded nothing but normal.

“I am here because I realized that I have been a really shitty person, and I don’t know if I can fix what I have done, but I want to try.”

Clarke was clutching the table with her right hand. “Figured that out by yourself, did you?”

Octavia lowered her head in shame. She played with one of the coins that hadn’t dropped from the table. “I knew I was hurting you, Clarke, and I meant to call or come over every day, but I couldn’t make myself do it. I…you were so different, and I know this is wrong, but I felt like I had lost you. You weren’t you anymore, and that scared me.”

Watery eyes looked back at O. Clarke spoke slowly but precisely. “Just because I move differently and have trouble speaking doesn’t mean that I am different or have changed. I still feel the same. I still think the same, and I still hurt the same. It hurts me that it scares you because I am different. I’m not. I am still me.”

“I know,” Octavia whispered. “I know, and I am sorry. I never meant to hurt you.”

“But you did,” Clarke bluntly pointed out.

 

“I think I thought if I ignored it, it would go away, and one day I would wake up and it would be like nothing had ever happened,” Octavia admitted.

“But it did happen, O, and it isn’t going to go away, and I really needed my friend, but you ghosted me.”

Octavia’s head hung even lower. “I’m sorry,” she said again. “I know you may never forgive me, but I hope I can make it up to you. I want to be here for you, if you will let me. I always meant to be here. I don’t know why I did what I did. I was a colossal ass and there is no excuse for my behavior.”

Clarke sat, considering her words. Octavia had been an ass, but she missed her friend. It might take a while for Clarke to heal the fissure left behind by Octavia’s abandonment, but she was willing to give her friend a chance. She didn’t want to throw away years of friendship because of four months of shitty behavior. She knew she could hold Octavia’s behavior against her, but she was a bigger person than that.

Before Clarke could respond, Octavia went on. “I have something to tell you, and I promise I’m not just telling you to try and get back into your good graces, but I made you a promise a long time ago and I mean to keep it.”

Clarke waited. She wracked her brain trying to remember what this promise might be. She gave O a questioning look.

“I always told you that you would be the first to know. Lincoln and I are pregnant, Clarke.”

Clarke was surprised and happy for her friend. “Raven didn’t tell me. Did you tell her not to?” She asked, suspiciously.

“Raven doesn’t know. No one does. Just you, me, and Lincoln.”

Octavia had promised Clarke on her and Lincoln’s wedding day that Clarke would be the first to know when she got pregnant. Clarke smiled a little knowing that Octavia kept her vow.

“How long have you known?” Clarke asked.

“We found out three weeks ago.”

Clarke looked at her in horror. “But Raven said you were drunk off your ass at the New Year’s Eve party. You would have known by then. Why would you get drunk if you knew you were pregnant?”

Octavia chuckled. “Raven was the one who was drunk off her ass. I wasn’t at all. I was drinking sparkling cider the whole night. She just didn’t know that.”

Clarke let her relief show that her friend had been responsible that night. “I’m happy for the two of you,” she said sincerely.

“Thank you.”

It was the ice breaker that the two had needed, and they began to talk excitedly about the pregnancy. They speculated on if it would be a boy or a girl, if the baby would look more like Lincoln or Octavia, and on what Bellamy would do when he found out that he wasn’t the first to know.

They ordered pizza and chatted for hours, just like they used to, and while Clarke still felt the ache in her chest from Octavia’s previous behavior, she did feel better. Eventually the conversation turned to Clarke’s new aide.

Clarke told her everything she knew about the woman, which wasn’t much. She also told her about how much good Lexa had already done for her and about how Lexa had arranged for her sister to meet Anya. Octavia couldn’t hide her smile when Clarke told her about how Lexa got her back into her studio.

“She sounds pretty amazing. It also sounds like maybe you are falling for her.” Octavia winked.

Clarke hesitated. She had to admit that she was falling for her aide, but she knew she shouldn’t. When Nia came back, there was a good likelihood that Lexa would disappear from her life. She hoped that wouldn’t be the case, and that her and Lexa would be good friends by then, but there was always a chance that this was still just a job to Lexa. Clarke was trying desperately to keep herself in check. She knew she would be devastated if, when Lexa’s gig was up, she never saw her again.

Sensing her change in mood, Octavia asked, “Hey, are you okay?”

Clarke pulled her left hand in her lap and fiddled with her fingers. It was an unconscious behavior that she had developed. “I do like her,” Clarke stated. “I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help it. For all I know, she has a partner already. She might even be married.”

“But she could be single, Clarke. You could ask her.”

Clarke balked at the idea. “No way. I will not do that.”

“Then try to be subtle. Ask her what she did this weekend when she comes back tomorrow. You have always been a ninja when it came to getting information out of people. Use that skill.”

Raven chose that moment to return home. She was covered in grease, her hair was a mess, and she had a small gash on her forehead. She looked between Clarke and Octavia a few times, shocked to see O sitting at the table. “Oh, hey Octavia. I’m surprised to see you here.”

Octavia dipped her head. “I, uh, I came to see Clarke.”

“Obviously,” Raven said, but decided not to point out the elephant in the room. “So, what skill is Clarke supposed to be using?” Raven asked as she put a pile of papers on the counter. They had grease smudges all over them.

“Her superior information gathering ninja skills so she can sus out if Lexa is single or not.”

Raven smiled and walked over to give Octavia, then Clarke, a hug. She left grease smudges on each of them too.

“Gross,” Octavia said. “Go clean up before you leave grease everywhere.” She was frantically using her sleeve to get the smudge off her cheek.

“What happened to your head?” Clarke asked.

“Some giant dude named Gustus came in. He said he would give me an extra hundred bucks if I could get his bike fixed by the end of today. In my excitement to get it done, I may have banged my head on the gearbox of his Harley.”

“That cut is dirty, Rae,” Clarke chastised, “go clean it before it gets infected.”

Raven grabbed a piece of pizza with her oily fingers and shoved it in her mouth. She mumbled something about having a stellar immune system while she walked away to go shower.

Octavia stayed late into the night. It was like old times when they would stay up late watching movies. This time, Raven busted out her old VHS player, and they started watching season 1 of Xena: Warrior Princess for the fifth time. Raven made popcorn, and sipped on wine while Clarke decided to forego the headache she knew it would cause. She drank a soda instead. Octavia pretended to drink soda in solidarity with Clarke. Octavia wasn’t ready to tell Raven about her pregnancy yet. They laughed, made jokes, and had a good time. When Octavia left that night, their friendship may not have been fully repaired, but it was mending itself back together, and Clarke’s heart was feeling a little bit lighter.

“So, wanna tell me what that was all about?” Raven said.

Chapter Text

Chapter 6

“Earth to Clarke,” Raven said, waving her hand in front of Clarke’s face. “You awake?”

Clarke held her coffee mug tightly, warming her chilly fingers, and grumbled incoherently at Raven. It was too early to endure Raven’s cheeriness.

Her friend pushed the coffee creamer to her. “You know you look like grumpy cat when you make that face, right?” Raven clicked a picture with her phone and turned it to her to see. “See? Grumpy cat.” Clarke’s frown deepened and Raven laughed. When she didn’t make a move to amend her coffee the way she liked it, Raven took the initiative and poured a healthy amount of creamer into Clarke’s cup.

“Thanks,” the blonde muttered before promptly resting her head on the table.

“Couldn’t sleep?” Raven asked.

Clarke wanted to snap at Raven for her morning perkiness, but it wasn’t her friend’s fault that she couldn’t sleep last night.

“Was it because you were thinking about the green-eyed goddess who will be here in a little while?”

Clarke lifted her head and glared at her friend. “No, I just couldn’t sleep.”

“Well if you want to make an impression on her, you should go clean yourself up. You look like hell, Griff.”

“I did clean up. At least I tried.” Her shower had been an unmitigated disaster. She had gotten in alright and sat on her shower chair, but she had forgotten that she needed new shampoo, so she couldn’t wash her hair which she hated doing anyway because it was hard, and then she had dropped the soap when she accidentally turned the water too cold. It slid under her chair, and there was no way for her to safely retrieve it. She finally just got out of the shower, toweled her hair dry after putting on sweats and headed downstairs to the kitchen which took longer than she hoped because she was too pissed off about the shower to put her foot brace on.

Raven ran around the kitchen, packing her lunch while Clarke explained about the shower. “You should have kept the walkie nearby. It’s what it’s there for. I would have come to help you,” Raven said.

“I know, but you already help enough, and that’s what Lexa is for. I should have just waited so that she could help me.”

Raven walked over to her as she put on her coat. It was a chillier morning than the past few. She leaned over and kissed Clarke on her forehead. “You know I would do anything for you, Griff. So next time, just use the walkie and let me help, okay?”

“Okay.”

“I’ve gotta run. Text me if you need anything.”

“I will.”

 

It was shortly after Raven’s departure when Clarke received a text from Lexa saying she would be late. The text also said that Lexa would make up for her tardiness. She thumped her head back onto the table and closed her eyes. She must have fallen asleep because the next thing she knew, she could hear the key she had given Lexa sliding into the lock. She didn’t bother lifting her head until she heard the aide heading for the stairs, obviously thinking Clarke was still in her bedroom.

“I’m in here,” she called out.

She heard Lexa change course and head towards her. “Hi, you’re up early this morning.”

“Couldn’t sleep,” was all she said, bleary eyes watching Lexa’s movements.

“Well, I have something that might help perk you up.” The aide had a bag in her hand. She set it on the counter and started pulling out its contents. Clarke could smell something delicious as soon as the bag was open. “There’s a new place by my house that offers breakfast. I thought we should give it a try.”

Lexa got down plates and evenly distributed the food. She then made a new cup of coffee for Clarke before sitting down. “Enjoy.”

Overwhelmed by Lexa’s thoughtfulness, Clarke whispered, “Thank you.”

 

After breakfast, a less grumpy Clarke watched quietly as Lexa moved around the kitchen and cleaned up. Keen blue eyes followed every movement, and she noticed that something was different about the aide. Lexa’s face ever so slightly pinched each time she took a step with her left leg.

“You’re limping,” Clarke observed.

Lexa froze while bent over the dishwasher. She slowly straightened to face Clarke. Clarke could tell that she was hesitating over what to tell her. “I…uh…it’s nothing. Anya and I were fooling around, and I hurt my knee, but it will be fine.”

“If you are limping, it means it is a lot more than nothing. It would have been okay if you had stayed home today.”

Lexa looked away then back at Clarke. “It’s nothing, really. I promise.”

Clarke wasn’t sure she believed her, but what else could she say. “Okay but promise me that if it gets to be too much you will go home, and let’s both take it easy today. I slept poorly, so I don’t know if I am for getting out of the house anyway.”

“Deal,” Lexa said brightly, appearing relieved that Clarke was willing to drop the subject. “Do you want me to help you shower?”

Clarke could feel her face growing hot. She knew she should have made an effort to look better this morning after her misadventure in bathing. “I…I already showered, but I forgot I didn’t have shampoo, and then I accidentally hit the cold-water knob. In my haste to make it warm again I dropped the soap under the shower chair. Guess it shows, huh.”

She could see that Lexa was struggling not to laugh. The brunette sucked in her lips, but her eyes twinkled with mirth. A bark of laughter finally passed through her constricted lips. “I’m sorry, Clarke, I don’t mean to laugh.” Lexa struggled mightily not to laugh again, and Clarke couldn’t help but laugh along with her.

“So…ah…since you don’t need to shower, and we could probably both use a lazy day, I thought we could try something. I..uh…I made something for you,” Lexa said, being uncharacteristically shy.

“Made something for me?”

Lexa’s face flushed. “I had the idea on Friday after you therapy sessions. You were telling me about how you were frustrated about your memory, and then you told me about some of the exercises Mrs. Indra wanted you to work on with your left hand, so I thought that maybe I could make something that would combine the two things together with something you are interested in. I don’t know, maybe it’s stupid.” Lexa was fidgeting with her neatly pressed shirt.

Clarke’s interest was beyond piqued. “Are you going to show me?”

Lexa was hesitant again. “I will but promise me you won’t get offended. I got the idea from a children’s game my sister and I always used to play when we were young.” Clarke could tell her aide was nervous, but the woman moved and grabbed a bag that she hadn’t seen her carry in and set it on the table.

“Did you ever play the game of memory, with the cards you had to flip over and try to match?”

Clarke’s face lit up. “All the time. I used to love playing it with Raven and Octavia.”

“Well, I made you a special version of it.”

Clarke’s excitement grew as Lexa pulled the game out of her bag. It was in a beautiful wooden box. Lexa lifted the lid and started pulling out the cards. They were made from thick paper board and they were perfectly square. Each pair of cards depicted a famous painting, all except three. One was a painting that Clarke had done just before her head injury and was still sitting in her studio, and the other two were of the paintings that both her and Lexa had done just last week when Lexa had convinced her to try painting again.

For a moment, Clarke was speechless. Never had anyone done something so thoughtful for her. It must have taken Lexa hours to create the cards, eating into much of her weekend. The thought that the woman would spend her precious free time making something for Clarke just blew her away. She ran the fingertips of her right hand over the cards. “Lexa, these are beautiful. Thank you,” she whispered, overwhelmed by emotion.

The smile Lexa gave her was relieved and radiant all at the same time. “Don’t thank me yet. I fully intend to take you down. My sister was never able to beat me.”

“Challenge accepted,” Clarke said.

Lexa pulled something else out of the bag. It was a laminated piece of paper that had the details about each piece of art depicted on the cards. She saw names like Klimt, Monet, Renoir, and Rembrandt. Clarke couldn’t suppress a giggle when she noticed Coolidge’s iconic painting of Dogs Playing Poker.

“Would I be correct in assuming you had to take art history in college?”

“Yes,” Clarke answered.

“Good, because each time you flip a card, at least for the first couple of games, I want you to tell me what you know about each artist.”

Clarke groaned. “Seriously? You sound like Professor Pike. He constantly made us spew that crap.”

Lexa laughed. “That’s because that crap is important. Maybe one hundred years from now someone will be spewing that crap about your art.” Lexa winked at her, and Clarke knew she was a goner. She was hopelessly enamored with her new caregiver.

“Ready to play?” Lexa asked. Clarke nodded and eagerly started flipping the cards face down.

“No cheating. Part of this game is to help you regain coordination in your left hand, so no using your right.”

 

They played right up until lunch time with Clarke only having one mini internal meltdown when she had trouble using her left hand to flip the cards during the first game. After she calmed down, things got better. It was slow going because she did still have trouble concentrating at times (sometimes because she was staring at Lexa’s amazingly green eyes – luckily she never got caught), and sometimes her memory got the best of her. Lexa won the first three games, but Clarke didn’t give up. The three games after that went to her, and she proudly recited everything she knew about each artist.

Between each round, the two talked…a lot. It turned out Lexa had a keen interest in art and had been to several of the world’s finest museums. She had been to the Louvre in France, and the Prado in Spain, but her favorite was the Art Institute in Chicago. Clarke was surprised. It was also her favorite museum, even over the museums she had visited as a kid in New York, but she had never been out of the country. She had a hard time believing that the Art Institute rivaled the famed Paris museum.

“Trust me,” Lexa said, “the Louvre is astonishing, what you can see of it. It was so crowded with people. I did get a good look at the statue of the Winged Victory…that is something I could have looked at for hours, but even so, it doesn’t hold a candle to the Art Institute.”

The two got animated in their conversation about museums. When it was finally lunch time, Clarke was feeling much better about her day. It had started out disastrous, but Lexa’s thoughtfulness and her gift had helped to improve Clarke’s mood tenfold. She still couldn’t believe that Lexa had handmade her the game. She knew it was something she would treasure forever.

Lexa stood with a groan. She instantly shot Clarke a look and told her that her knee had just gotten stiff while sitting. She hobbled around the kitchen making lunch. Clarke offered to pay for take-out, but the aide insisted she wanted to make lunch. She argued that since they were still rather full from the large breakfast that it would be a waste of Clarke’s money to order food. She made them both soup and they split a sandwich. After that Lexa settle Clarke on her couch while she tidied up.

“I’m going to go make your bed. I’ll also get your shower ready for tomorrow so that you have shampoo.” As an afterthought, Lexa added, “I will also find your missing soap.”

Clarke protested that Lexa didn’t have to do all of that. “You aren’t my maid, Lex. You don’t have to do all that.” Clarke didn’t notice the nickname that slipped from her lips or the slight pinking of Lexa’s ears.

Lexa smiled. “I don’t mind. Besides, there is nothing better than getting into a freshly made bed.”

Clarke couldn’t help but feel guilty as Lexa painfully climbed the stairs. “Fine,” she conceded, “but after you get back down, you are taking some ibuprofen and sitting here while we watch a movie. I won’t be the reason you can’t walk at all tomorrow.”

Lexa looked over her shoulder as she ascended the stairs. “You’re the boss.” She winked.

 

“I can’t believe you’ve never seen this movie. The Mummy is one of my favorites,” Clarke mumbled over a mouthful of microwave popcorn. She had been pleased with herself when she forced Lexa to remain seated while she carefully made the bag of corny goodness. She hadn’t burnt a single kernel.

“I have no idea what you just said. Your mouth is too full.” Clarke had to chew, swallow, and repeat herself so that Lexa could understand her.

“It’s one of those movies I always meant to watch, but just never did. I really like the actor who plays the Mummy. I don’t think I have ever seen him before.”

“Raven does too. She goes on and on about him. She thinks he’s dreamy. Looks like he has another fangirl. Raven will be thrilled.” Clarke teased.

Lexa choked on her popcorn. “That’s not what I meant. I just think he’s a good Mummy. If anyone is dreamy, it’s Evie.”

Clarke was thrilled. She hadn’t been fishing for any clues about Lexa, but she had just gotten one. She bounced up and down on the couch cushions. “I agree. I do love a pretty brunette.” She did a mental face palm. Smooth, Griffin, real smooth. She quickly grabbed a handful of popcorn and shoved it in her mouth, not daring to look at Lexa.

She heard Lexa mumble something and thought she heard the word blonde, but she couldn’t be sure. She finally looked back at Lexa, but the woman was staring intently at the movie screen.

When the movie was over, it was time for Lexa to leave. She was packing up her stuff. “I wanted to thank you for today, Lexa,” Clarke began. “What you did, making that game, it’s one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me.”

Lexa stopped what she was doing and turned to Clarke. She gave her a meaningful stare. “It was my pleasure, and it was a lot of fun. Making it and playing it with you. I also really enjoyed the movie. You know, I have had clients in the past that made it very hard to do my job. You have made coming to work each day something to look forward to. So, thanks.”

Clarke was beaming. “I don’t wish broken bones on anyone, even Nia, but I think it is one of the best things to happen to me in a long time. Do you...,” Clarke hesitated, hoping the answer to her next question wouldn’t be no. “do you think after she comes back that we could stay in touch…that maybe we could be friends?”

“I would like that. I would like that very much.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 7

“Come on, Clarke. Get your ass off the couch and start getting ready,” Raven yelled as she flew past the living room on the way to her bedroom.

“I already told you, I don’t want to go. I think I am coming down with a cold or something,” Clarke replied.

Raven spun on her heels and returned to the living room. She stood in front of Clarke with her hands on her hips while tapping her toes. “You promised me, Griff. I have been working my ass off to make sure this meeting with Lexa’s sister goes well, and I need my wingman with me.”

Clarke had wanted to go. It was a chance to see Lexa while not in a working environment. The past week with her aide had only caused her feelings for Lexa to grow. She was trying mightily to squash the feelings, fearing she was only setting herself up for heartbreak, but the feelings continued to grow despite herself.

Lexa wasn’t making it easy for her to reign in her feelings. Each day over the past week, her aide had done something unbearably kind for her. From taking her for a milkshake after a particularly grueling therapy session to finding out from Raven her favorite meal and making it for her, Lexa was going far above and beyond her job duties. She was even thoughtful enough to take Clarke to the botanical gardens during its slow hour. Somehow the woman knew that Clarke was still not very comfortable in public settings.

Clarke hated being stared at. It made her uncomfortably self-conscious. Whether she was using her walker or her cane, someone always stared. There were always hushed whispers and people pointing, not so subtly, at either her or her assistive devices, and she hated it. Since that accident, aside from therapy sessions, she hadn’t gotten out of the house much, but since Lexa came into her life, she had been getting out of the house more and more.

The aide was kind enough to take her to places that were not heavily populated, like the park. They had visited a couple of times, not going too far because Lexa’s knee was still bothering her. For some reason, the people at the park never stared at her. In fact, a few had come up and made friendly conversation with her and Lexa. It was nice. She didn’t know what it was about the park, but the visitors there were kind. Even the few teenagers they had encountered had been friendly, and that wasn’t Clarke’s usual experience. Teens could be horribly cruel.

Her favorite thing they had done was the visit to the botanical garden. It wasn’t in all its glory since it was winter but living in the south meant that there were still plenty of flowers and exhibits to see. When Clarke got too cold and tired to continue, Lexa had ushered her inside and the two of them enjoyed hot chocolate together while they warmed up. She hadn’t even allowed Clarke to walk back to the car. Lexa picked her up at the main entrance, even holding the door open for her. When Clarke thought about it, Lexa had held every door open for her. If she didn’t know better, she would think Lexa was trying to woo her. It made Clarke’s heart flutter in her chest, but then she reminded herself that the aide was just doing her job albeit so much better than she needed to.

“Please, Griff. Please come with me.” Raven was pleading now. “What if it goes bad, or I make a fool out of myself. At least you will be there to soften the blow if Anya doesn’t like the idea of possibly merging our businesses.”

Part of Clarke’s hesitance was that they had decided to meet at a new Latin restaurant. Even though they were going early, she just knew it was going to be crowded, and she didn’t know if she was ready for that yet. It was also true that she felt like she was coming down with something. She was tired and a little achy, but never one to let down one of her friends, she finally agreed.

Raven had tried to convince her to wear a dress, knowing that Clarke had feelings for Lexa, telling her that she should show off some skin, but Clarke promptly shot her down when she reminded her that she needed to wear her brace. She also wasn’t ready to walk in the kind of shoes required to wear such a dress. She opted for a sleek pair of black slacks and a loose knit sweater. Before leaving, she downed some vitamin C in hopes of staving off whatever she was coming down with.

 

They arrived at the restaurant early after parking Clarke’s car nearby. Raven had hoped to beat Lexa and her sister there. They both groaned when they stepped into the restaurant; Clarke because she was right and it was crowded, and Raven because Lexa and her sister were just being sat at a table in the corner.

Raven faltered in her steps. “Clarke, look at her. She’s gorgeous,” Raven stammered out.

“I know,” Clarke said watching as the green-eyed goddess sat in her chair.

Raven smacked her in the shoulder. “Not Lexa. I meant Anya.” Clarke felt her face flush in embarrassment. Of course, Raven hadn’t been talking about Lexa.

Raven made to move toward the table, but Clarke froze. She didn’t know how she was going to navigate through the crowd with her walker. Catching her eye, Lexa seemed to realize the blonde’s predicament. She popped up from the chair she had just sat in. She came over to Clarke, steadied her then caught the hostess’s attention. She had the woman take Clarke’s walker while Lexa carefully guided her through the crowd. She pulled out Clarke’s chair and helped her sit.

“Thank you,” Clarke whispered.

“It’s my pleasure,” Lexa said as she returned to her seat.

Clarke was about to make introductions, but Raven was already sticking out her hand. “Hi, I’m Raven Reyes, mechanical and computer genius and lover of all things on wheels.”

Anya, who Clarke thought looked rather intimidating with her copper eyes and strong facial features (she had cheekbones to die for), cracked a smile. The woman took Raven’s hand in her own and gave it a shake.

“Anya, lover of leather and anything that can rev my engines.”

Raven practically swooned. Lexa chuckled and leaned over to whisper in Clarke’s ear. “I think it’s a match made in heaven.” She sat back up when the waiter came over to take their drink order.

Clarke opted for the non-alcoholic jalapeno lemonade while everyone else chose fancy margaritas.

Anya turned her attention to her. “Clarke, it’s nice to meet you. My sister has told me a lot about you. She has enjoyed working with you.”

Clarke stumbled over her introduction, embarrassing herself for not getting her words out right.

Raven embarrassed her further by saying, “Don’t worry about Griff here. She’s always gotten tongue-tied around beautiful women.” Raven winked at her and all she wanted to do was sink into the floor. Clarke didn’t get mad though. She knew her friend meant well.

She was saved from further mortification by the arrival of their drinks. She quickly grabbed her straw and sucked down half of her lemonade coughing a little because she forgot it had jalapeno in it.

 

The rest of the evening went more smoothly. It seemed that Raven and Anya were not only hitting it off as far as their business discussion went, they also seemed attracted to one another. By the time the two were drinking their second margarita (Lexa had switched to water), they had moved on from discussions about meeting up in the morning to visit their respective shops to laughing and joking with each other. Lexa also seemed to be enjoying herself. She freely engaged Clarke and the others in conversation, and Clarke caught the brunette staring at her more than a few times.

It was around the time they had ordered dessert that Clarke was hit with a sudden wave of exhaustion. She was achier than earlier, and it was harder to keep up with the conversation. She had an unrelenting desire to lie down.

She didn’t know what to do. She needed to get home, but she didn’t want to ruin Raven’s evening. She could tell with the amount of flirting going on between Raven and Anya that a hook-up was in the works for later that evening.

Dessert was placed in front of her, but she didn’t make a move to touch it. She had become subdued. She fidgeted with the napkin on her lap.

She jumped when she felt a soft squeeze on her knee. “Hey,” Lexa asked, “are you okay?”

She wanted to lie and say she was fine, but truth was she wasn’t feeling good. “No. I don’t feel well.” She watched as Lexa looked at their companions. Raven and Anya were so wrapped up in each other that they weren’t aware of Clarke’s predicament.

Lexa got the waiter’s attention and had him box their desserts. She interrupted the other two and told them she was going to take Clarke home. Raven finally looked closely at Clarke. Her friend could see her distress.

Both Clarke and Raven protested Lexa’s kind gesture. Raven said she would take her home, but Clarke could see Raven’s disappointment at having to end her night. She also doubted Raven was safe to drive, so Clarke told her she could get an Uber, even though it was the last thing she wanted to do. She also said it because she didn’t want Lexa to feel obligated to take her home.

“Not a chance, Clarke. I am ready to call it a night anyway, so I am more than happy to take you home.” She looked over at her sister. “You two need to make sure that you are the ones to take an Uber. No drinking and driving,” she said flatly. “We can figure out how to get the cars home in the morning.”

Clarke protested again, but Lexa was already up. Clarke reluctantly passed over her keys. They said their goodbyes, and Lexa assisted a stumbling Clarke to the front of the restaurant and helped keep her steady until the walker was retrieved. Once she was sure Clarke was secure, she ran and got her car. She made sure Clarke had her seatbelt on, then started to drive.

Clarke eased back into her seat and let the deep ache in her bones take over. Everything felt heavy. Lexa put a hand to her forehead, never taking her eyes off the road. “You have a fever.”

Clarke didn’t say anything. She was too tired. She looked down at her phone and saw a text from Raven asking if she would be okay to be alone tonight and if not, she would find her way home. It took a minute to respond because she had to dig in her purse for a tissue. She wiped her suddenly runny nose then responded that she would be fine. She only needed to get herself into her bed.

Before she knew it, they were pulling into her driveway, and Lexa was helping her out of the car. Clarke was certain now that she had a raging cold. She hated that a simple cold could weaken her to the point of needing help into her own home.

Lexa sat her in a chair. “I don’t have your chart with me. Can you take cold medicine with your other medicines?” Lexa asked. “Do you even have anything like that in the house?”

“Lex, you’ve done enough. Go home. I don’t care about the medicine. I just want to go to bed.” She hoped she didn’t sound ungrateful, but she didn’t want to indispose Lexa more than she already had.

Lexa wasn’t listening. She had already put a pot of water on the stove to boil and was getting out Clarke’s favorite tea. “Nope, I am not leaving you alone tonight. You’re sick.”

“I just need to sleep, and you need to go home. You took care of me all week long, you shouldn’t have to take care of me now.”

“During the week I may be your caregiver, but right now I am your friend, and friends take care of one another.” Clarke couldn’t argue with that.

 

Once she was lying in bed, after Lexa made her drink the tea and take cold meds (having been assured by Clarke that it would be okay), helped her up the stairs, got her undressed and made her brush her teeth, Clarke finally started to relax. She didn’t actually feel better, but at least she was lying down. In retrospect, she should have known she shouldn’t have gone to the restaurant that night. She caught a cold every single January, without fail, and it always started the same way. It would begin with slight fatigue and achiness that would roar into a full-fledged snot-bringing, pain-addling winter illness. This year was no different, except in previous years she wasn’t trying to overcome a head injury. This cold left her weak and incapable of taking care of herself.

Once she was settled in the bed, Clarke had tried again to get Lexa to go home, but the aide…her friend, refused. She had told Clarke that she had nothing better to do that night and was just going to watch TV. She said, that if it was okay with Clarke, she would borrow some night clothes and crash on the couch at which the blonde insisted she stay in the guest room. She also thanked the woman profusely.

 

It was hours later, or at least Clarke thought it was. She was tossing and turning as she dozed, waiting for the medicine to make the fever subside. She felt the bed dip but was too out of it to open her eyes or pay attention. She felt fingers pass over her forehead then into her hair. It helped ease her discomfort so that she could drift off to sleep. She wasn’t sure if it was real or just one of her fever dreams, and she doubted she would remember in the morning, but she would swear she could hear Lexa speaking.

“What am I going to do with you sweet girl? I think I may be falling in love with you.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 8

“What am I going to do with you sweet girl? I think I may be falling in love with you.”

Before she could react to what she thought she might have heard, Clarke’s body was wracked with a sudden chill, waking her fully, and she pulled the covers half over her head. Her fever-addled mind was not thinking at all when she muttered, “I think I’m falling for you too.” She didn’t notice the soft gasp or the fingers that stiffened in her hair before resuming their soothing strokes after a couple of seconds. She fell back to sleep.

Sadly, her sleep didn’t last. Her eyes popped open and her bedside clock showed that it was 3:38 in the morning. The muscles in her left side had seized up painfully and a yelp escaped unbidden when she tried to straighten her left arm. To top it off, her nose was running, and she couldn’t reach her tissue box. Fucking hell, she thought. Why does everything have to be so hard?

She heard stirring, and suddenly Lexa was at her side. Clarke was so startled that she jumped, causing her to cry out in pain again when her hand clawed up.

“Clarke, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to scare you. Are you okay?” The woman looked Clarke up and down with panicked eyes.

“Arrre yyyou slleeping on thhhe floor?” Clarke groaned. Between her stuffy nose and speech difficulty she thought she sounded like she was trying to speak through a bowl of mashed potatoes, or maybe like the giant snow monster in Frozen if he had mastered the art of snow speak.

Even in the dim light of the room, Clarke could see Lexa’s blush. “I…uh…I wanted to be nearby in case you needed me.”

If Clarke hadn’t felt like such crap, she would have smiled. She took a good look at Lexa. The woman was in Clarke’s baggiest pair of sweats and a thin white tank. She couldn’t fathom why Lexa was wearing shoes. Clarke wanted to ask why she still had them on, but she couldn’t muster the energy.

A cool hand was pressed to her forehead. “I think you have fever again. I’m going to get you more medicine and some water. Will you be okay for a minute?”

Clarke sniffled as she nodded her head. Thankfully Lexa handed her a tissue and moved the box within her reach before she left the bedroom. Unfortunately, with nothing to distract her, her attention was drawn back to the pain in her limbs. She quickly dropped the tissue in the waste can next to her bed then started frantically trying to extend her stiff fingers and wrist. She was nearly in tears when Lexa returned.

“Hey, hey. It’s going to be alright.” Lexa quickly set the cold tablets and water on the bedside table and sat on the bed. “Here, let me.” She eased Clarke’s arm into her lap and started the same stretches that she had done the other day. At first Clarke whimpered, trying to pull her arm away, but Lexa held firm. “Just give it a minute. I promise it will get better. Illness always makes tone worse.” Lexa’s fingers gently tugged at her rigid fingers while pulling back on her wrist. The stretching burned, but what Lexa said was true, the pain did start to recede. Once Clarke’s arm started to relax, Lexa grabbed the cold medicine and water. She held the cup to Clarke’s mouth and helped her drink then returned to stretching out the tense fingers.

“Do you need me to stretch your leg too?” Lexa asked, but Clarke shook her head no. She was already mortified that her new friend (and crush) was doing so much.

After a few minutes, Clarke started to calm down. “I’m sorry you have to do all of this for me.”

Earnest green eyes stared down at her. “I’m not,” Lexa said seriously. “If I hadn’t wanted to stay and help, I wouldn’t have, and I would have made sure Raven came home.” Lexa said all this while never stopping her ministrations to Clarke’s arm. With a softer tone, she said, “I wanted to be here for you, Clarke.”

There was so much Clarke wanted to say, but she settled for, “Thank you.”

 

The next time Clarke woke it was 6:57. She cursed herself for being unable to sleep. She struggled to move so that she could see Lexa. The brunette was curled on her side on the floor, a pillow underneath her head and a skimpy blanket covering her body. Clarke felt horrible for the position she had put the woman in, and she wished she had tried harder to make her go home. One way or another, Clarke was going to make sure she repaid Lexa for her astonishing kindness. None of her friends, not even Raven, would have stayed on the floor just to make sure she was okay. Maybe Bellamy or Murphy would have, but they lived in Vermont now. They had opened a rather successful brewery together. Everyone teased that they were a couple, but Clarke knew that they would be perpetual bachelors. They both had their fair share of one-night stands and they enjoyed them, but they enjoyed brewing beer more, and they weren’t going to let a little thing like love get in the way of their business. Both men had offered to drop everything and come home when Clarke got hurt (and Murphy said he would make it his personal mission to kick Finn’s ass), but she begged them not to. She didn’t want anyone putting their lives on hold for her.

It was part of the reason why her mother insisted on hiring daily help. In a way, it was the most motherly thing Abby could have done for her aside from actually being a mother and coming home to care for her daughter. Clarke had never expected that her mother would come and stay anyway. The minute Clarke had become an adult, two years after her father had passed, her mother had signed on with Doctors without Borders. Clarke had rarely seen her since. She figured she was lucky that her mom had come for the short time she had.

Clarke shook her head. She didn’t want to think about her mother. She moved so that she was face up in the bed and stared out the window as the sun began to rise. She was just about to fall asleep again when she was hit with a fit of sneezes. She tried to dampen the sound of them by covering her face with her right arm, but she feared she had disturbed the sleeping woman on the floor anyway. She didn’t hear Lexa stir, and kept as still as she could until the need to blow her nose became too great. She grabbed a few tissues, pulled the covers over her head in hopes of keeping the noise of her trumpeting down and blew, and blew, and blew. She finally threw the covers off herself when the air became too stifling. She was sweating profusely. She squeaked when she saw Lexa looking down at her.

“Sorry,” Lexa said sheepishly. She looked at the state Clarke was in and said, “I know the last thing you probably want to do right now is get out of bed, but you’re drenched, and so is the bed. Do you think you could get up long enough for a bath? It will give me enough time to change your sheets for you.”

Clarke was still feeling ridiculously weak, but the thought of a bath was very appealing, that is, until she remembered just how hard it would be for her to get in and out of the tub. She used to love taking baths. She preferred them to showers. Her tub was lined with no less than ten different kinds of bubble bath. Her friends had always teased that bubble bath was an easy go-to gift for her because she loved it so much. It didn’t matter how many bottles of foaming scented soap she had. She was gleeful every time she received more. She would give almost anything to be able to take a long and hot bubble bath.

Instead, she looked at Lexa with sad eyes. “I don’t think a bath is a good idea. I don’t know if I will be able to get in and out of the tub.”

“Nonsense. That’s what I am here for. I promise that I can get you safely in and out of the bathtub. It’s in the job title: tub transfer expert and master of all things bubble.” Lexa said it with a wink.

Clarke’s laugh turned into a coughing fit. “Okay, I promise not to soak you if you promise not to peek.”

“I promise,” Lexa smiled. “Scouts honor.”

 

The trip to the bathroom and into the tub was more of a struggle than Clarke would have liked to admit. Lexa had left her in the bed while she had gotten everything prepared. When she got back to the bedroom, Clarke was sitting on the side of the bed huffing and puffing.

“Why didn’t you wait for me to come and help you?”

Clarke just shrugged and swiped at her runny nose with a tissue. She didn’t dare try and speak. She heard Lexa mutter something about being stubborn under her breath before she felt an arm around her waist, lifting her to her feet. The blonde held on tight while she caught her balance, and instead of getting her walker for her, Lexa held onto her as she tottered into the bathroom. By the time she got there she was exhausted, and she had to sit on the closed toilet lid in order to catch her breath. Lexa grabbed a cup from the sink, filled it with water, and directed Clarke to drink.

Clarke trembled as she held the cup to her mouth with both hands. She felt like she had just run a marathon. She supposed that her yearly cold always made her feel this way, but she felt especially pathetic and weak because her gorgeous new friend was standing in front of her waiting for her to recover enough to help her into the tub.

She eventually handed the cup back to Lexa who promptly set it aside. “So, did you know that you have a ridiculous amount of bubble bath to choose from?” Lexa chuckled. “I picked the one with the strongest scent. I doubt you will even be able to smell it with how bad your cold is, but I want you to be able to enjoy your bath as much as you can. One can only hope that the scent will get through. Are you ready to get undressed?”

Clarke knew she was probably blushing and hoped that she was still flushed with the effort of getting up and out of bed, so that Lexa didn’t see it. She had lost a lot of her modesty since her accident, but she wasn’t sure if she wanted Lexa to see her naked.

She had always been proud of her body, and she had worked hard to sculpt it the way she wanted it, but she hadn’t been able to exercise in over four months. She gritted her teeth and told herself that it didn’t matter. Lexa had promised not to peek anyway, and Clarke trusted her not to do so.

Keeping her promise, Lexa reached out and grabbed the biggest towel that the blonde owned, and with acrobatic finesse somehow helped Clarke undress while maintaining the blonde’s privacy. She had Clarke swaddled in the towel’s fluffy depths in no time. In all honesty, all this had the blonde a little dizzy.

Getting undressed was one thing, getting into the tub was another. Clarke was unsure of herself, and she hesitated several times before attempting to get in. Even with Lexa’s help she was nervous. They finally decided that the best way for Clarke to get in was to sit on the edge of the tub then swing her legs in. Lexa would then help her lower herself into the water. Clarke was never happier that she had a free-standing tub instead of a built-in. It allowed Lexa to maneuver around the whole tub in order to assist her. In the end, Lexa did get wet, not soaked, but wet enough for Clarke to appreciate the fact that the thin white tank top the aide had borrowed was now a bit more see-through than she was sure the brunette realized. She couldn’t help but stare as Lexa lowered her into the blissfully warm water.

When she was settled, Lexa scurried off to change her sheets after making Clarke promise not to fall asleep and drown herself. The brunette stated firmly that she would be back within ten minutes to make sure that Clarke was okay.

Once Lexa had gone, Clarke allowed herself to sink into the water until it was up to her chin. She was surrounded by a mountain of bubbles, and the warm water was doing wonders for her tight muscles. It also seemed to be helping clear her sinuses, even if she couldn’t smell it. She fell into a near trance, staring at the foam. Lexa checked on her a few times, but finding her safe and comfortable, let her be. It wasn’t until the water started to cool down that Lexa helped her out of the tub. Clarke noticed, much to her chagrin, that Lexa had changed out of her wet top.

Once again, the woman worked her magic with the towel and was able to keep Clarke covered while helping her out of the tub. She did have to drain some of the water first, but she had the blonde bundled up before she could get cold.

She then toweled off wet hair and helped Clarke redress in a clean pair of pajamas. She insisted on blowing Clarke’s hair dry despite Clarke’s protests. “I’m not going to let you get a chill just because you don’t want to dry your hair,” she said.

 

“So, Anya just texted,” Lexa said, as she moved around the kitchen. “She and Raven just got to Raven’s shop, then they will go to Anya’s. It’s going to be a while before Raven gets home. I’m going to make you some breakfast.”

Clarke was listening from her perch on the couch. Lexa had wanted her to go back to bed, but she hadn’t wanted to be stoved-up and trapped in her bedroom at the same time. Next to her studio, her living room was her favorite place in the house. It had floor to ceiling windows and a large oak tree outside that allowed filtered sunlight into the room. Raven had multiple bird feeders hanging from the branches of the tree; she never allowed them to get empty, so there was always a flurry of activity to watch.

She could hear the clinking of pots and pans as Lexa worked, and her mind wandered to the previous night. She wondered how she got so lucky to have this angel on earth sent into her life. She was daydreaming about what it would be like to spend her life with Lexa when she suddenly remembered their words to each other. Did they really admit that they were falling for each other, or was that just part of Clarke’s fever dreams? Could a woman like Lexa really fall for someone like Clarke? She played the moment over and over in her head until she was certain that they had both really said the words.

Clarke decided she was going to be brave and ask Lexa about it as soon as the woman returned to the living room. She knew that if she was wrong, she was risking her new friendship, but she had to know. She would rather have her heart broken earlier than later.

When Lexa came in carrying a tray, she asked her to sit down next to her. Lexa looked at her curiously but obeyed.

Clarke was so afraid and hesitant, but she finally asked, “Can we talk about what we both said last night?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 9

Green eyes became giant. “You remember that, huh? I wasn’t sure if you would. You were pretty out of it.”

“I…I do. Did you mean it?”

Lexa moved to place a stray piece of blonde hair behind Clarke’s ear. “I know it’s wrong. I mean, you’re my client, and you pay my salary, but I can’t help my feelings. I am falling in love with you, Clarke.”

Clarke’s heart stuttered in her chest as it filled with joy, but then she had her doubts. “Why?”

Lexa’s brows drew together as she frowned. “What do you mean, why?” She asked trying to clarify.

Clarke fidgeted and lowered her eyes. She cursed her nose for deciding to pick now to run. She stuffed a tissue against it. “Because…because look at me.” She flung her arms up and down, gesturing to herself.

“I am, Clarke, and what I see is beautiful.”

“I’m not.” Clarke hadn’t felt beautiful for a long time. She kept staring at the floor.

Lexa gently lifted her chin, forcing her to look up. Lexa’s voice was soft when she said, “You were the one who asked if we could talk about what we said last night. Do you doubt what you heard, because if you do, I will say it again, I think I am falling in love with you.” Clarke went to say something, but Lexa didn’t let her. “Let me finish,” she said gently. “The person I see is kind, and smart, and has a heart of gold. She is passionate and a hard worker. She’s curious and wildly creative, and I understand why she would be feeling self-conscious right now, but what she needs to understand is that her deficits do not define her or make her any less the gorgeous person who she is, inside or out.”

“Lex…”

“Nah ah,” Lexa whispered. “I’m still not finished.” She took Clarke’s hand in her own. “I have been trying to deny my feelings since the first day I met you, but I can’t anymore, Clarke. I like you…a lot, and when Nia comes back, I am hoping to be more than just friends with you, and in case you are still doubting that you are gorgeous I think I should tell you that you are the cutest, most adorable, beautiful person I have ever seen…even if your nose is red and runny.”

 

Clarke couldn’t help but laugh.

“So, you like me too?” Lexa asked.

“Ssssoo mmmuch.”

Lexa’s smile was brilliant. “You know, if not for your cold, it might have been weeks before we got to this point. I never actually meant for you to hear me last night.”

“Wwwhy?”

“Because I work for you…and that poses certain problems.”

Clarke didn’t know what to do with the myriad of emotions swirling through her head and her heart. She was elated, stunned, happy, and crestfallen all at the same time. That a woman like Lexa could possibly have feelings for her felt like a miracle, especially now, and Clarke was over the moon because she liked Lexa just as much, but her heart was heavy knowing that they couldn’t do anything about their budding feelings while Lexa was still in her employ, and now that she had experienced what it was like to be under Lexa’s care and not Nia’s, she didn’t want another caregiver. She wished she didn’t need someone to assist her throughout her day, but she had to admit, even if she hated to, that it would be very hard to make it through most days without someone helping her.

“What if you didn’t have to work for me?”

“Then I would risk catching your cold by kissing you.”

“Then you are fired,” Clarke joked.

Lexa chuckled. “As much as I wish I could change things, and work for a different client, it doesn’t work that way, and I need this job. It wouldn’t look good if I went back to the manager of the company and told them I wanted to work for someone else. They would ask me all sorts of questions, and they would probably ask you all sorts of questions, and none of the answers would make me look good. We aren’t supposed to fall for our clients, Clarke.”

Clarke struggled to rein in her disappointment, but she knew Lexa was right. “I know,” she finally conceded.

 

“It’s not going to change the way I feel for you, Clarke.” The blonde could see that Lexa was trying to control her own disappointment. “It just means that we have to wait a little while.”

“I know,” Clarke said again. “I can wait if you can.”

“I would wait an eternity for you, Clarke.” Lexa paused and looked like she was contemplating something. “There is something you should know about…”

DING DONG.

No, Clarke thought, no, no, no. Who the hell was at her door at this time of the morning on a Sunday? She didn’t want to answer the door. She wanted Lexa to keep talking, but the aide was already standing and walking to the door. Fucking hell.

She stayed where she was. She didn’t trust herself to stand. She was still feeling very tired and sick from the cold, and she was reeling from her conversation with Lexa.

She watched as Lexa approached and opened the door. The woman blocked the view, so Clarke listened intently.

“Can I help you?” She heard Lexa ask.

“Hi, I’m Octavia. You must be Clarke’s new aide Lexa. Raven said you might be here.”

Clarke, who had decided to lie on the couch because sitting was just too much of a struggle at the moment, watched as Lexa extended her arm to Octavia and they shook hands.

“Raven texted me that Clarke was sick, so I made her some of my famous chili.”

Lexa must have given her a quizzical look because Octavia went on to explain. “I have been making it for years. It’s my mother’s recipe, and she always swore it was better than chicken soup at curing what ails you. It’s hella spicy, so it cleans those sinuses right out.”

“That’s very kind of you, Octavia. Come on in.” Lexa opened the door and O stepped into the entryway.

Her friend took one look at her and said, “Geez Griff, you look terrible.”

Clarke rolled her eyes. “Thanks, O.”

“I know it is way too early to eat Chili, but I wanted to drop it off. Lincoln and I are spending the day with his parents, and I wanted to get it to you before I left.”

“Thank you.” She sincerely appreciated the effort Octavia was making to rebuild their friendship. She had missed her so much.

Lexa took the chili container from Octavia and headed for the kitchen, giving O and Clarke a moment of privacy.

“She seems great,” Octavia said, referring to Lexa. “It is really very nice that she stayed with you last night.”

“It is,” Clarke mused. “We are becoming friends.”

“That’s good. Raven told me about your other aide. That one sounds awful.”

“She is. She’s lazy and does the bare minimum.”

“Well,” Octavia said, “there must be a way to prevent them from sending her back. Have you complained?”

“Yes, but the contract mom signed supposedly has her locked in tight. I don’t understand how it all works, but unless she accidentally, or purposefully, hurts me, I can’t do anything. Nia does just enough to not get fired.”

“Do you have a copy of that contract?” Octavia asked. “I have a lawyer friend, her name’s Emori. “I will see if I can get her to look at it. Maybe she can help you out.”

“I would appreciate that. Thanks, O.”

“Anything for you, Griff.”

Lexa walked in at that moment and must have heard the last bit of the conversation. “I have a copy of the contract in Clarke’s file. If you can wait a minute, I will go and get it.”

“Sure thing, after that I’ve got to go. It’s a two-hour drive to Lincoln’s parents’ house. I can give the contract to Emori sometime this week. ”

 

Lexa helped Clarke sit. O had left a few minutes ago. “I’m going to reheat your tea. It is probably cold by now, and I am going to remake your toast. It has gotten soggy.”

Lexa was walking away before Clarke could protest. She watched the birds flit around outside her window as Lexa tinkered in the kitchen.

When Lexa came back, she gratefully accepted the mug of tea. As much as she loved her coffee, it was the last thing she wanted right now. She also didn’t want the toast, but she dutifully ate it while watching as Lexa ate the cold, soggy toast. Her thoughts went to the chili that she knew was waiting for her. As gross as it sounded right now, she knew after the first bite that she would be in heaven. Octavia’s chili had no rivals. It was the best.

“Why didn’t you make yourself some new toast too?”

“I didn’t want it to go to waste. Besides it isn’t that bad.” Lexa produced a gift bag from where she had it hidden beside her. “Octavia brought you this.” She handed it to Clarke.

She pulled out a sweet get-well card and a fancy plastic bottle. “Eucalyptus bubble bath.” She exclaimed. “To help ease my cold.”

“Your addiction runs deep, doesn’t it?” Lexa teased. “I bet there are support groups for that.”

 

After consuming the toast and tea, Clarke fell asleep on the couch. She didn’t mean to. She wanted to talk more about what was going on between her and Lexa, but sadly her illness kept that from happening.

When she woke, Lexa had the TV softly playing while texting on her phone. It was close to 1 PM. As soon as she saw Clarke was awake, Lexa got up and handed Clarke her cold tablets. “Here, it’s about time you took some more.”

Clarke took the medicine.

“I was just texting with Anya. Her and Raven will be here in a little while. Apparently Raven heard that you have a giant batch of Octavia’s chili, and she invited herself and Anya to help you eat it. If you don’t want Anya to come, let me know and I will tell her.”

Her nap had her feeling a little better, and she decided she wouldn’t mind the company. Clarke’s house always used to be full of people. Her friends were constantly over, but that had changed since her injury. She missed having people over, so she thought it would be nice to eat a meal with her new friends and Raven. She wanted to get to know Anya better. She had a feeling she would be seeing a lot more of her. Raven and Anya had taken an instant liking to each other. It seemed to Clarke like love at first sight.

“I think I would like it if she came. I want to get to know your sister almost as much as I want to get to know you.”

Lexa blushed and hid her smile behind her hand. “Okay, but if it gets to be too much just let us know. I don’t want her, or me for that matter, to overstay our welcome.”

“That will never happen, Lex.”

The blush deepened. “That’s…that’s very good to know. I’m going to go set the table.”

 

Clarke watched with amusement as both Lexa and Anya’s faces contorted at the spiciness of the chili They were both sweating.

“I told you to add some sour cream to it,” Raven said. “It helps cut the heat. Personally,” she said after consuming a giant bite, “I love it. The spicier the better.”

Clarke had also foregone the sour cream. Her, Raven, and Octavia had a love of spicy foods. She was pleased that she had enough of an appetite to eat a large bowl of the stuff. She had also consumed an enormous bottle of ginger kombucha that Raven had gotten for her. It wasn’t her favorite thing in the world, but it was hitting the spot today.

She laughed when Lexa coughed. “My god,” Lexa said. “What does she put in here?” She ladled a giant scoop of sour cream into her bowl in hopes of killing some of the heat. “It’s delicious, but damn.”

Anya was faring no better, and it didn’t escape Clarke’s notice when Raven leaned forward to wipe the sweat of the woman’s brow with her napkin.

“You get used to it,” Raven said, “and I can guarantee that after eating a bowl you won’t be catching a cold anytime soon, and Clarke, you are looking better already.”

Clarke doubted that was true, but she was still feeling better, so much so that when they were all finished eating, she felt well enough to sit at the kitchen table and dry dishes as Lexa washed.

Raven and Anya also helped as Raven excitedly told them about their plans to merge their businesses. It turned out that the two had stayed up all night discussing their separate businesses, and they came up with what they thought was a sound plan to bring them together and make them even more profitable. They both furiously denied that they had gotten intimate but gauging by their crimson faces when Lexa had teased them about it, Clarke knew they were lying.

It had been a fun, and exhausting, afternoon that turned into early evening. They had moved back to where Clarke could be more comfortable on the couch. The three talked while Clarke mostly listened. She was too tired to engage too much, but she did enjoy listening. She could tell that Lexa and Anya had a very close relationship. They teased and joked with one another the way only sisters could. It warmed her heart to see such interaction.

It was Lexa who called an end to the day. She must have seen Clarke struggling to keep her eyes open. She helped her change and got everything ready that she would need for the night. She also made Raven promise to take care of anything Clarke might need during the night. She even checked both walkie talkies to make sure the batteries were good.

It was cute the way Lexa fussed. Raven walked Anya (who was going to drive Lexa back to their shared home) out to her car while Lexa said goodbye to Clarke. The blonde couldn’t contain her thanks for everything Lexa had done for her.

“Can I give you a hug?” Clarke asked. “Or, do I have to wait for a hug until after you no longer work for me?”

Lexa moved closer and engulfed the shorter woman in her arms. They both sighed deeply. “Thank you for everything you did for me last night and today. I don’t know how I will ever repay you for your kindness,” Clarke whispered.

“I enjoyed it. I like being around you, Clarke, and that you let me is payment enough.” Clarke’s heart stopped when she felt two soft lips press to her forehead.

“I’ve got to go, but I will be back in the morning.” She squeezed Clarke to her one more time before letting go. “It’s going to be very hard to keep aide Lexa and I’m-falling-for-you Lexa apart. I love working for you, but these weeks can’t end fast enough.”

Clarke couldn’t agree more.

Chapter Text

Chapter 10

It was Wednesday, and Lexa had helped Clarke get ready for the day after helping her do her home exercise program and after playing a few rounds of the memory game (Clarke was addicted to it). For Clarke, Monday had gone by too quickly and too slowly at the same time. Clarke had felt better, but her cold was by no means gone, and she had to have Lexa cancel her therapy appointments. She was lucky to be able to reschedule them for the next day. Lexa had done an amazing job doting on her and making sure she was comfortable, but they hadn’t gotten to talk anymore about their feelings for each other. Tuesday was no better. Her therapy sessions had taken up the entire morning, and by the time they had gotten back home, Clarke was exhausted. Her cold was continuing to get better, but between it and all the activity, she was wiped out. She spent the afternoon dozing on the couch.

Wednesday was shaping up to be a good day and Clarke was feeling worlds better. She wasn’t one hundred percent, but she felt like she was at least up to an eighty-five, and that was good enough for her. She wanted out of the house. Lexa had informed her that the kitchen was getting low on food and had offered to grocery shop for her (usually it was Raven who did the shopping, but for the moment, she was spending all her free time with Anya). Clarke hadn’t been in a grocery store in months and told Lexa that she would only let her shop if Clarke was able to tag along. This was a huge step for Clarke. She still didn’t really like being out in public, but when she was out and about with Lexa, she felt much more confident in herself. She also felt safe. It wasn’t that Raven didn’t help Clarke when she needed it, she did and she was amazing at it, but Raven was, admittedly, easily distracted. Sending Raven to the grocery store was like sending an unattended child into a candy store with a twenty-dollar bill. You never knew what Raven was going to come home with. She could spend an hour walking up and down the freezer section of the store looking at every item, completely forgetting about the world around her. Heaven help you if you walked into Whole Foods with her. That could turn out to be an all-day affair, and it made Clarke nervous because she didn’t want to be forgotten about or left behind. It wasn’t fair of her to think that way, because in her heart of hearts she knew Raven would never forget about her, but she couldn’t help it. Going out made her feel fragile and vulnerable.

She hated that she felt nervous to go places with Raven over the past few months. If Clarke really thought about it, it probably had nothing to do with Raven at all, and everything to do with Clarke’s own insecurities, and whether it was because time was passing, or if it really was because of Lexa, she was just happy that she was making an effort to move beyond her comfort zone. She made a promise to apologize to Raven. Even if Raven wasn’t aware of how Clarke was feeling, Clarke thought she owed it to Raven to talk to her. She also needed to figure out a way to thank her friend. Without her, Clarke doesn’t know how she would have survived the ordeal that was her life right now.

“So, if you aren’t too tired after shopping, I thought we could go get lunch at this great little place. It’s a Latin restaurant. At lunchtime it draws this amazingly fun older crowd, and the food is, well, it’s out of this world.” Lexa looked at Clarke as she slipped her braced-up left foot into her shoe. Lexa made sure the footwear was secure before she said, “As an added bonus, I also know the chef. She isn’t Latin, but she has a passion for the food that is like no other. Well, that isn’t true. Her passion is with all food. She just decided to focus on Latin food because she is so good at it.”

“It sounds like a wonderful place, so I’m up for trying it. Even if I am tired, I want to try and go. The thought of another afternoon on the couch with my nose stuffed with tissues has me wanting to pull out my hair.”

“Well, we can’t have that, so let’s go,” Lexa beamed. “We can stop back here, and you can rest in the car while I bring the groceries in. That way nothing will spoil in the car while we eat. I can’t get over how warm it has been the last few days.”

 

Lexa helped Clarke into the car and loaded her walker into the back. Clarke had been relying on her walker more, and it felt like a setback. She hadn’t picked up her cane in days, not confident enough in herself to not fall if she used it. It took the brunette reminding her that she was going to have good and bad days, and that she had probably started relying on the walker, even before she got sick because even if she didn’t notice it, the cold she caught probably started affecting her body days before she felt its full force.

Clarke couldn’t argue with that.

When they got to the store, the walker stayed behind. Lexa ran to grab a grocery cart and had Clarke push it. It gave her plenty of support, so she didn’t need to worry about her balance. It also helped her feel like a normal person. It hid the fact that she had to rely on it to stay upright. She told Lexa as much, and she was surprised when Lexa frowned. Lexa almost looked as if Clarke had hurt her feelings.

Lexa was quiet for a few minutes, but then she halted Clarke in the middle of the cereal aisle. “So, if a man passed us right now who had had a stroke, and dragged his leg behind him, would you say he wasn’t normal?”

“No, of course not,” Clarke said, confused.

“And if you saw a mother pushing her eight-year old in a stroller because her daughter had deformed legs, would you say that the child wasn’t normal.”

“No, Lex, I didn’t mean…”

“What about someone who lost their leg serving their country. Are they not still normal?”

Clarke’s heart was hammering in her chest. She hadn’t meant to offend Lexa, yet she had, and she didn’t know why. “Of course, they are. We are all the same no matter what,” she said emphatically.

“Good…good.” Lexa seemed happy with the answer, but not one hundred percent satisfied with it. She pushed the cart a few more feet then stopped again. “You know, that also means that you need to remember that you are normal too. We may all be different, but we are all normal,” a smirk made its way onto Lexa’s face, “unless you are a serial killer. Then, you aren’t normal.”

The relief that washed over Clarke’s body was immense. The thought that she had hurt Lexa’s feelings making the comment that she had, affected her more than she realized, and it made her wonder if it had something to do with what Lexa had wanted to tell her the other day. The two of them never had gotten around to discussing it, and Lexa hadn’t brought it up again, so Clarke had remained quiet, even if her curiosity was getting the better of her.

Clarke stayed quiet as Lexa placed a few items in the basket. “I’m sorry if I offended you,” Clarke finally got up the courage to say.

“You didn’t, but you surprised me.” Lexa grabbed two cans of soup and showed them to Clarke to get her approval before putting them in with everything else. “I didn’t think you were the kind of person to judge others based on their differences, but that also means that you can’t judge yourself that way.” Lexa looked at Clarke to make sure she was really paying attention. “Look at it this way, your life may be different than how it was before, and you may be different, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t normal…it’s just a new normal. Believe me, I understand that it can be hard to wrap your head around because none of us likes for things to change. Change sucks, but it happens, and sometimes things don’t go back to how they were before, but it doesn’t mean that you can’t embrace your new life and make it your own. You are every bit as normal as every other person in this store, Clarke.” She leaned in to whisper in Clarke’s ear. “One thing I can tell you that you have that none of them do is an absurd amount of beauty…inside and out.”

Clarke blushed furiously. She spent the rest of the grocery trip with a pink tinge to her skin.

 

Clarke and Lexa had just gotten their meals when Costia and Luna walked into the restaurant. The two therapists walked over to them to say hello.

Lexa hadn’t been wrong when she had said earlier that the restaurant drew an older crowd. There were a dozen walkers parked against the wall, and except for maybe one other couple, everyone in the restaurant was probably over seventy. They must all have known each other because there were several large groups sitting together, chatting and laughing. They were eating their meals family-style. Large dishes were sitting in front of them on lazy susans that made it easy for each person to get what they wanted. It warmed Clarke’s heart to see so many people enjoying their meals together. The only thing she thought unusual was that a large area of the place had been cleared of tables and chairs.

“Hey, you two. It’s good to see you,” Costia said in greeting. Luna had an arm wrapped around Costia’s waist.

Lexa seemed surprised to see them. “Not that it isn’t great to see you, but shouldn’t you two be working?” she asked.

“Well, technically, we are about to,” Luna said, “even if we aren’t getting paid.” She turned her head and winked at Clarke.

Clarke and Lexa both gave them confused looks. Ontari asked us if we would mind offering dance lessons to the lunch crowd,” Luna explained.

Lexa explained to Clarke that Ontari was the chef (who she had told her about earlier) and owner of the restaurant.

“But why you two?”

“Well, for one, we are good at dancing,” Costia said with a twinkle in her eye, “and for two, who better than a couple of therapists to help others regain some of their independence through dance?”

Luna smiled and waved at a few of the people sitting and eating. One in particular waved back enthusiastically. “This is a group of people from New Horizon assisted living facility. The owners of our clinic wanted to start an outreach program for the elderly in our community with trouble getting around get out and have more fun. We volunteered to help.”

Costia was getting excited. “Ontari’s grandmother moved into New Horizon after breaking her hip. She became almost reclusive. She didn’t want to get out of bed and refused all her therapy. We were visiting her with Ontari one day, and we were goofing around, playing music and dancing. It was the first time Sofie, that’s Ontari’s grandma, seemed interested in anything, so we helped her stand, and move and dance. After that, we visited a few more times, and each time we played music and danced with her. It did wonders for Sofie. She started getting up and leaving her room. She started to socialize more, her balance improved. She started to enjoy life again.”

“Wow, that’s really amazing,” Lexa said. “I didn’t even know that you knew Ontari.” Lexa explained that she and Ontari had worked for several years together before she opened her restaurant.

“We do. Luna helped her after she injured her hand so terribly when…”

 

Lexa interrupted her. “Is Sofie the one who is trying to get you to go say hi to her.” Costia and Luna both smiled.

“Yep, that’s her. You should come meet her after you finish eating, and neither one of you is allowed to leave before dancing with me,” Costia said.

As soon as the two therapists walked away, Clarke nervously said, “I don’t want to dance.”

“It could be fun,” Lexa said before stuffing her mouth full of food.

“It won’t. I will make a fool of myself.”

“Clarke, you are literally fifty to sixty years younger than most of these people. I am sure you will be able to dance at least as well as they can, and probably better than me. I have never been a very good dancer.”

Clarke wanted to protest some more, but she settled for eating her food before it got cold. It was slow going because her nerves had set in. She also got distracted by watching as Luna and Costia worked the crowd. If they hadn’t already had jobs, they could easily have landed a comedy act in Vegas. They were a hilarious and well-choreographed machine. It wasn’t long before music was playing and several people from the tables got up to dance. The two therapists helped each and every person who had difficulties and showed them how to safely move without fear of falling.

Ontari came over and introduced herself to Clarke after saying hello to Lexa. “Would you look at those two? I don’t know how they do it. I swear they have magic fairy dust in their pockets that they use to make even the grumpiest person smile.”

It may have been true. Clarke noted that there wasn’t a sour face in the entire place… except for maybe hers. She really didn’t want to dance.

“Please tell me you didn’t know this was happening here today,” Clarke said after Ontari walked away.

“I swear it, Clarke, and if it is making you nervous, we can leave at any time.”

“We can stay a little longer. I have to admit that it is fun to watch. They are all having so much fun.”

Luna snuck up behind Clarke, inadvertently startling her. “It is fun, and you should come try it.”

“N-no. I donn’t thhhink it wwwoulld be a goooood idea,” Clarke stammered out.

“Nonsense. It’s a great idea, and it is good therapy. How about this. If you come dance with me for ten minutes, I will knock ten repetitions off each exercise you have to do tomorrow. I know how much you hate them.”

Costia came over to try and sweeten the deal. “I will too. I think you hate your speech therapy more than the exercises that Luna makes you do.”

Clarke gave in. “Ttenn mmminnutes.”

“For each of us,” Costia said, leaving no room for arguments.

Lexa looked amused until Costia set her eyes on her. “Don’t think you are getting out of this. It is good therapy for you too.” Clarke wondered what that meant.

 

Clarke had to admit that after her initial awkwardness and a few stumbles, she was having a lot of fun. She had danced with both Costia and Luna who promised not to let her go or fall, and she even danced with a cute little gentleman who told her World War II stories while they swayed together. Clarke decided that he may have been the most amazing man she had ever met.

She was surprised to see that Lexa was possibly just as clumsy dancing as she was. The woman had meant it when she said that she couldn’t dance. Time passed quickly, and what was supposed to be ten minutes turned into an hour, and Clarke was starting to get tired. Sweat beaded on her forehead. She looked up when she noticed that Luna was shoving Lexa in her direction.

“You two should dance together,” Luna said with a knowing smile.

“She looks ready to drop, Lu,” Lexa said.

“Just one more dance,” she said to Clarke. “Five more reps off each exercise tomorrow if you dance with Lexa.”

Clarke rolled her eyes. Her therapists were nothing if not persistent. Before she knew it, Lexa had been shoved into her arms and she was stumbling backwards. Lexa caught her. “You don’t have to dance with me, Lex.”

The song changed to something much slower…and much more romantic, Clarke thought, and she wondered if it was intentional.

Lexa pulled Clarke closer and whispered into her ear. “I am honored to dance with you, Clarke.”

They swayed to the music, and Clarke couldn’t help but think that the two of them fit together perfectly. Three slow songs later, and the group was finally calling it quits. She reluctantly let go of Lexa. Costia was wisely waiting there with her walker, knowing Clarke would need it to get back to the car after all the activity. They said their goodbyes to everyone and the pair of therapists walked them to their car.

“Promise us you won’t cancel your therapy appointments tomorrow,” Costia teasingly said to Clarke. “We promise we will go easy on you.”

Clarke told them she wouldn’t. It was Luna that helped Clarke into her seat, and she thanked the woman for forcing her out of her comfort zone.

“The pleasure was ours, Clarke. Besides, it got that one,” Luna pointed over to where Lexa was giving Costia a hug on the other side of the car, “to dance. She’s had a hard time with her leg, but she’s getting better and better, and now she has you to help her.”

Before Clarke could ask anything, Luna had shut the car door. Clarke watched as she walked over to Lexa and hugged her tight. She saw Luna whisper something in Lexa’s ear that had her blushing, and Clarke was dying to know what was said. She also wanted to know what Luna meant about Lexa’s leg. She was beginning to realize that she must have hurt it in the past but didn’t want to ask Lexa about it. The brunette would tell Clarke about it when she was ready.

 

 

Lexa got in the car and checked to make sure Clarke’s seatbelt was secure. “That was a lot of fun, Lexa. Thank you for taking me out today. I am so tired, but I think I really needed it.”

“It was a lot of fun, wasn’t it? I had no idea that Costia and Luna did things like that.”

“Your friends are amazing people.”

“That they are,” Lexa said as she drove. Clarke wasn’t sure if Lexa was aware of it, but she was holding Clarke’s hand. Clarke certainly wasn’t going to call attention to it. “I don’t think it will be long before they are your friends too.”

“That would be nice. I like them, and Ontari too.”

Clarke sat thinking about the day and how much she had enjoyed it. It made her realize that many of her behaviors of late had been self-limiting. She had been doing everything that she was supposed to, to get back to her old self, but what if what Lexa said earlier was right? What if this was her new normal? Should she be striving so hard for something she might not achieve? It dawned on her that she needed to come to grips with the fact that she might never get any better than she was right now, or it might take longer than she was told, so she decided, right then and there, that she wasn’t going to feel sorry for herself or hold herself back anymore. She thought of all the people at the restaurant. So many of them had trouble moving around. Some had trouble speaking, just like she did, but they didn’t let it slow them down, and they had had fun. If they could do it, then so could she.

She clumsily pulled her phone out of her purse and checked her weather app. The forecast indicated that Friday was going to be a spectacular day. She looked at Lexa, who was reaching to turn on the radio.

“Hey, Lex, do you think we can go back to the park on Friday? I want to try and climb to the top of the path.” She hesitated then, building the courage to say what she wanted before chickening out. “If we reach the top, maybe we can have a picnic if it isn’t too much trouble…and maybe you can tell me what you were going to tell me the other day before Octavia interrupted us.”

Lexa only looked at Clarke for a quick second before putting her eyes back on the road. She squeezed Clarke’s hand, but said nothing for so long that Clarke started to get nervous. The blonde was just about to tell Lexa to forget about it, but then Lexa said, “Absolutely.” The brunette looked excited then. “I make the best chicken salad. It’s my mom’s recipe, and she always made it when we went on picnics. Maybe I can even get her to make it for us. Please tell me you like chicken salad.”

Relieved, Clarke said, “I love it.”

“Good, then it’s a date…well no it isn’t because we can’t date yet. It’s me just me, your personal aide, helping you enrich your life while your recover.” She went on to say that she really would try to have her mother make the chicken salad for them because hers was always better. She would borrow her mother’s picnic basket, which wasn’t a basket at all but an insulated backpack that was easy to carry. Lexa was rambling and it was adorable. She hadn’t ever seen Lexa so excited.

“Call it what you want. I might still think of it as a date.” They both smiled the rest of the way home.

Chapter Text

Chapter 11

It was the morning of their ‘not date’ and Clarke was up and in the kitchen before Lexa arrived. She sat at the table with her coffee in hand, bleary-eyed but ready to go for the day, or as ready as she was able to be without some help. Raven had supervised as Clarke made the coffee that morning before the dark-haired woman went sprinting out the door. She had been absent for most of the week, but she promised to make it up to Clarke over the weekend. They had talked some last night, and Raven knew about their outing this morning. She was so excited for Clarke that she even took the time to make her and Lexa some of her famous iced Mexican hot chocolate. A giant thermos of the stuff was waiting for them in the fridge.

When Lexa arrived, she was in a classic Beatles t-shirt and wearing zip-off convertible pants. Clarke grabbed her napkin and dabbed it at her chin to make sure she wasn’t drooling.

“Good morning,” Lexa said brightly. “It’s good to find you already out of bed.” She walked over and squeezed Clarke’s forearm before putting down her purse and a bag on the counter. “Did you eat?”

“No, I wanted to wait for you,” Clarke said.

“Good, I like eating breakfast with you.” Lexa smiled warmly at Clarke.

The two ate a light breakfast before Lexa helped Clarke finish getting ready for the day. Since Lexa chose a classic T to wear, Clarke picked one out too. Hers was a Ramones t-shirt that she had stolen from her mother years ago. It was maybe the only cool piece of clothing her mother had ever owned. Lexa then had her sit while her magic fingers braided Clarke’s hair. She told the blonde that it was already warm outside, and the braids would help her stay cool. “I love a good warm day in January,” she said, “but this is a little ridiculous. It shouldn’t be this warm. The way we are going, Spring is going to be here by mid-February.”

Clarke didn’t say a word and just gave an appreciative hum. She was enjoying the feel of Lexa’s deft fingers in her hair far too much to interrupt. When she was done, Lexa had her look in the mirror. To say Clarke was stunned was an understatement. The braids were so intricate and complicated that Clarke had no idea how Lexa had done it. She turned her head from side to side observing what she could only call a work of art.

“Wow,” she gasped. “This is amazing. I have never seen anything like it.” Clarke carefully touched her fingers to her hair. “Where did you learn to do this?”

“My mom taught me. She grew up in a small, mostly unknown tribe of people up in the eastern mountains called Trikru. They used to only be worn only during special occasions or ceremonies, but since the tribe has scattered and doesn’t really exist anymore, she thought it would be okay to braid my hair this way sometimes when I was young. I begged her to teach me how to do it.”

Clarke smiled. She would have to ask Lexa more questions about her parents and what she was like growing up. “You know, if you were to open a hair design studio, you could make big bucks braiding women’s hair for weddings and special occasions. If you got really creative and beefed things up with chunky beads and leather ties, I bet you could even attract a male clientele.”

Lexa tilted her head as she pondered over what Clarke had said. “Do you really think so? I have always wanted to run my own business.” She had a wistful look in her eye.

“I do. Have you ever had to get a cut or style in this town? There is nowhere good to go. I know. I have had my fair share of bad cuts in the past.”

Lexa chuckled. “I have. Now I just have my mom or Anya trim it. I save a ton of money that way.”

“I let Octavia do that for me once. Bad idea.” Clarke smiled at the memory.

Lexa put a finishing touch on Clarke’s hair and then asked if she was ready to go. She was.

 

Lexa hadn’t been kidding that it was warm outside. They were riding in Lexa’s truck since it already had all their stuff for the picnic Lexa had packed. They had the windows rolled down, but Clarke didn’t put hers down too far. She didn’t want to mess up her hair.

Clarke’s cane sat between her legs. Lexa had convinced Clarke to leave her walker behind. The aid was convinced that Clarke would be fine, and if she wasn’t, she could hold onto Lexa. The blonde was apprehensive about it, but she decided to trust Lexa.

It was a pleasant drive. Keeping in theme with her t-shirt, Lexa played the Beatles. Clarke couldn’t keep the grin off her face as Lexa belted out each song, sometimes singing louder than the famous quartet. She was still grinning when they reached the park. They were both surprised to find the parking lot nearly empty, although Clarke wasn’t unhappy about that at all. Despite her new resolve to try and not hold herself back, she didn’t necessarily want a bunch of people watch her as she struggled to climb a very well-groomed pathway to the top of a hill that the average person could climb without breaking a sweat.

Lexa helped Clarke out of the truck, and she waited patiently, with her cane firmly planted to the ground, while the brunette grabbed their gear. They had just been pulling out of the driveway at home when Clarke remembered Raven’s iced hot chocolate. Lexa had had to run back into the house to grab it. She was now stuffing the thermos into the seemingly bottomless picnic backpack. Clarke had refused to tell her what the thermos contained, wanting the woman to be surprised when she tasted it. It was almost as good as, if not better than, the shakes Lexa had gotten her a few times.

“Are you ready?” Lexa asked.

“I am if you are.” Clarke watched as Lexa hefted the backpack over her shoulders. It looked heavy, and she hoped it wasn’t going to be too much for the woman. Her friend had seemed to recover from whatever it was she had done to her knee, but today she seemed to be moving uncomfortably. At least Clarke thought she was. It was hard to tell. If Lexa was bothered by it, she was hiding it well. She just seemed to be moving differently.

 

The two ambled slowly to the trail that they wanted. Clarke caught Lexa staring at her no less than three times as they walked, and she couldn’t help the blush that crept over her face. If Lexa kept staring at her, her face was going to stay permanently red, and it wouldn’t be because of exertion. When they reached the trailhead, two men were busy working to place a sign in the ground. It looked to be a dedication of some sort, and Clarke would have liked to have read it, but as soon as Lexa saw the men, she quickly steered away from them. There was no time for Clarke to read the sign. She made a note to herself to remember to read it when they came back down.

Clarke paused when they got to the part of the trail where it started to climb. She moved to sit on the bench that she and Lexa had sat on the first time they had come to the park.

Lexa looked concerned. “Are you okay, Clarke?” She plopped down next to her, and despite her concern she looked grateful for the rest break.

“I am,” Clarke said. “I just want to make sure I have the energy to get to the top. This heat is already kicking my ass.”

Lexa pointed halfway up the path. “It looks like the powers-that-be decided a bench was needed partway up after all, so if you get tired, we can take a break and rest there before reaching the top. I promise that getting all the way up there is worth it.”

“I promise I will do my best but bear with me. I have a feeling it’s going to take a lot longer than it should.” Clarke reached down to tuck a finger under the brace on her left lower leg. She then struggled to adjust the Velcro strap. With it being so warm, the brace was starting to feel loose.

“Here, let me.” Lexa leaned over and redid the strap. “Does that feel better?”

“Much. I don’t want it to give me any trouble after we start on our way up. I can’t risk a fall.”

Lexa squeezed her shoulder. “Don’t worry, I will be right next to you the entire time, and we can stop as many times as you need.”

“Thank you. So, how long would it take the average person to climb this hill?”

Lexa thought for a minute. “Five maybe six minutes, why?”

Clarke looked embarrassed but admitted, “Because it will probably take me more than triple that.”

“You don’t have to be embarrassed by that. At least you are out here getting ready to do it. There are some people that think walking from their car into work is too much exercise. Besides, this isn’t a race. This is a leisurely walk with a friend, and the end result will be worth it. I have Mom’s famous chicken salad just waiting for you to try it. Once you taste it, you won’t ever want any other chicken salad ever again.”

Clarke laughed. “Wow. That is some pretty high praise. I guess we better get going then because my mouth is watering just thinking about it.”

Lexa stood and held her hand out to Clarke with a flourish, then helped the blonde to her feet. “Don’t go any faster than you are comfortable with, okay, and watch where you put down your cane, I see a few acorns on the path.”

It was slow going, and Clarke couldn’t keep herself from grumbling. A turtle could have outpaced her. Lexa kept assuring her that it was fine, but she was getting angry at herself, and the angrier she got, the more she had to concentrate on each step. Her determination to continue was already faultering when they reached the halfway point. She wandered over to the bench and gracelessly dropped onto it. She was oblivious to the fact that Lexa looked relieved to be sitting. Both women were sweating despite the path being completely shaded by the thick forest that surrounded them.

“I can’t do this, Lex. It’s too hard, and I am slowing you down.”

“Nonsense,” Lexa said patiently. “You’ve been doing great and look behind you so that you can see how far you have come.”

Clarke grumpily looked over her shoulder, and the bottom of the trail was farther away than she expected it to be. She had to admit that maybe she was doing better than she thought. It didn’t mean she was happy about having to finish. She really wanted to give up and go back down, but she had promised to get to the top, and she didn’t want to disappoint Lexa. Her aide had gone through a lot of trouble to make this picnic happen, and she would be damned if she hurt Lexa’s feelings.

Lexa looked over at Clarke. “Do you want to know which song helps me get back on my feet when there is something that I think I can’t do?”

“Uh, sure.” Clarke tried to figure out what song it could be.

“Okay, but you can’t laugh. It’s goofy, but it’s always helped. I can’t tell you how many times Anya has used this song on me to get me up and going.”

Now Clarke was intrigued. She wasn’t yet very familiar with Lexa’s sister, only having met her the couple of times, but what she knew of Anya made her think that it wasn’t very often that she sang…at least not in front of others.

Lexa suddenly grew embarrassed and hesitated. “Swear you won’t laugh.”

“I promise.” Clarke said as she started to smile. Embarrassed Lexa was adorable, and she found it hard to stay mad at herself.

“Okay, then here goes…” Lexa stood and walked a few feet away from Clarke. She threw her arms out theatrically and started singing, “Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor. Put one foot in front of the other and soon you’ll be walking out the door.”

Clarke recognized the song immediately. It was from the animated Christmas movie Santa Claus is Coming to Town. She loved that movie. It was one of her favorites. She did have to stifle a giggle when Lexa started clomping around, imitating Santa. She covered her mouth so that it wouldn’t escape. Lexa didn’t stop until she had sung the entire song.

By the end, Clarke’s smile was so big there was no hiding it. “That was possibly the best thing I have ever seen.”

Lexa’s brow was dripping. She came and sat down next to Clarke. She was more winded than Clarke expected she should be.

“You’re making fun of me.” Lexa said.

“I am not, I swear. You are so damn adorable that if I was physically able, I would pin you to that tree over there and have my way with you.”

Lexa’s eyebrows shot up in surprise at Clarke’s boldness. She got a dreamy look in her eyes. “I don’t think I would stop you if you tried.”

Clarke ducked her head. “I…uh…I think maybe we should get to where we are going before neither of us can control ourselves.”

Clarke was pleased with herself. While her body might not be fully cooperating with her as far as walking up the hill, her speech was fairly fluent today. She wasn’t sure what the change was, but she hoped it stuck. She was so tired of fighting to get her brain and mouth on the same wavelength.

“Give me two minutes and I will be ready to roll,” Lexa huffed out.

 

The rest of the climb was just as challenging for Clarke as the first half, but this time she didn’t let her anger at herself overcome her. She hummed and kept moving her feet just like Lexa’s song told her to. By the time they ascended the hill, Lexa looked almost as tired as she did, and she thought back to what Luna had said, and it made her feel bad because it was clear that whatever was wrong with Lexa’s leg was bothering her, but the brunette was too stoic to let it show. She had kept her face emotionless as the trudged up the hill, frequently making sure that Clarke was okay and that there was nothing in her path that might trip her up. The blonde marveled at Lexa’s selflessness.

Clarke was bent over, catching her breath, and it took her a minute to look up at her surroundings. When she finally did, she noted that Lexa was waiting for her to get a good look. What she was took her breath away. The land flattened out before her, and an enormous, crystal blue lake filled the view. The entire thing was surrounded by trees. She could see picnic tables, camp grills and an inviting sandy beach area. As an added bonus, there wasn’t another soul around. In a word, the area was stunning. She turned to tell Lexa what she thought, but Lexa had sat herself on a bench a little way away and was unzipping her convertible pants, making them into shorts. The breath got caught in Clarke’s throat. She was mesmerized by the view as Lexa’s lean right leg was exposed. When Lexa’s left leg was exposed, Clarke gasped and started to cry. The lower half of Lexa’s leg, below her knee, was replaced by a prosthetic.

Lexa rubbed her knee a few times before she noticed Clarke crying, and the look of hurt that crossed Lexa’s face when she saw the look of horror on Clarke’s had the blonde crying twice as hard.

Clarke walked up to her, but Lexa scooted a few inches away. It was obvious that Lexa thought Clarke was disgusted by her prosthetic leg.

“No, please don’t,” Clarke said. “I’m such an asshole. I am the biggest ass that has ever existed. All this time I have been selfish and moaning about my own situation, and you didn’t say a word. I knew you were in pain, or that something was wrong, but you put that aside to help and encourage me. You have been putting my needs before your own. I think you are the most beautiful and selfless person I have ever met.”

The hurt in Lexa’s eyes changed to hope. Clarke carefully, if not clumsily, got to her knees in front of Lexa. She reverently placed her hands on top of Lexa’s left knee and looked up into her green eyes.

“How did I get so lucky to have you fall into my life? You have taken such good care of me, and you are one of the first people to make me feel like me again, and I was beginning to wonder if that was even possible. You believed in me, even when I didn’t, and you got me back into my studio when I was afraid to try because I was certain I would fail. You have made me whole again, and I know it is fast, but I have never felt so certain of anything in my life. I…I love you Lexa Woods.”

Lexa’s mouth opened and closed again, but no words came out. Clarke rushed on to speak. “I am sorry I started to cry. It wasn’t because I thought your having an amputation made you any less you or any less beautiful. God no, you are gorgeous. It made me realize that I have been a selfish, oblivious ass.”

Lexa finally found her words. “You haven’t been selfish or an ass, and if you were oblivious, that was because I wanted you to be. It’s hard to let people know about my leg. Just like you have been, I too have been burned by a lot of my friends, and I wasn’t quite ready to not have you in my life if you were put off by it.”

Clarke moved so that they could hold hands. “I want to be in your life, Lexa, for as long as you will have me.”

Lexa’s relief rolled off her. “Good, because I love you too, Clarke Griffin. I knew it the moment I met you.”

Lexa stood pulling Clarke up with her. They held each other’s gaze for only a nanosecond before their lips were crashing together, and maybe for the first time in her life, Clarke knew what it was to feel like there was a heaven on Earth.

Chapter Text

Chapter 12

Kissing Lexa was like taking a sip of the forbidden nectar of the gods; like tasting sweet ambrosia, and Clarke felt like she could live forever so long as she could kiss this amazing woman every day. She felt fingers tracing her braids as their kiss continued, but just like all the best things in life, it couldn’t last forever and eventually they had to pull apart.

Clarke couldn’t hide her growing smile when she saw that Lexa looked as love-struck as she probably did. The fingers of her right hand traced Lexa’s perfect cheekbone. “You are so beautiful.”

Lexa turned her head to kiss the inside of Clarke’s palm. “I don’t know who taught you how to kiss, but if I ever meet them,” Clarke teased, “I am going to give them a hug because that was the best damned kiss I have ever had.”

Lexa’s response was to pull the blonde in for another kiss. She then rested her forehead against Clarke’s.

“If we don’t stop, someone is going to come up that trail and get a free peep show because I’m not going to be able to keep my hands to myself, and then all our food will spoil because if I get my hands on you I may never stop touching you. Then we will both starve to death and my mother won’t come to the funeral because she will be mad that I let her famous chicken salad spoil.”

Clarke laughed so hard she almost toppled over, but Lexa’s quick hands were there to hold her steady. “Okay, so no more kissing…for now. I don’t want your mother missing your funeral.”

Lexa’s face got suddenly serious. “You know this is going to change things. We should talk about it.”

“NO!” Clarke practically yelled. Then more quietly said, “not now. Just let me bask in this a little while longer before we have to go back to reality.”

“You do know that reality isn’t exactly going to suck after today.” Lexa quipped. “I mean, I don’t exactly plan to ever stop kissing you.” To prove it she kissed Clarke again, and the blonde nearly swooned.

“Good, because I am already addicted,” Clarke said when they finally broke apart again.

 

They finally sat at a shady picnic table and set out the treasure trove of food Lexa had carried up the hill for them. It was enough for eight people, and Lexa did not lie. Her mother’s chicken salad was the best Clarke had ever had. She made note to tell Raven about the seated jig Lexa did when she first tasted the iced hot chocolate, and although it was good, Clarke couldn’t help but think that her first taste of Lexa had been better.

Lexa was watching her and asked, “What has you smiling?”

Clarke got embarrassed by being caught in her own personal musings. “I…uh…well I was comparing our first kiss to Raven’s liquid heaven.”

“And how did I stack up?” Lexa quirked a perfect eyebrow at her.

“It was better than anything else I have tried.”

It was Lexa’s turn to look embarrassed. “Do you want to go dangle your feet in the lake?”

Clarke turned her gaze to the inviting blue water. “I would. Please forgive my ignorance when I ask this, but will you be able to join me?”

To answer Clarke’s question, Lexa reached down and quickly took off her prosthetic leg. It was a fascinating process, and while it didn’t seem complicated, it had more steps to it than Clarke realized it would. The brunette let out a soft moan when the leg slid off, and blue eyes followed each movement while Lexa bent and straightened her knee.

“It doesn’t hurt to wear it, but it always feels so good to take it off,” Lexa said. She rubbed the end of her amputation site and knee. “The one really good thing to happen because of this is that I haven’t had to wear a pair of high-heels ever since.”

Before Clarke knew what she was doing, her fingers were nimbly dancing over Lexa’s affected leg, and she felt the woman shiver when her hand traveled up to a deep scar in her thigh. “How did this happen to you?” Clarke whispered. Her eyes finally looked up to meet Lexa’s when Lexa’s hand stopped her exploration. She quickly withdrew her hand.

“I’m sorry,” Clarke apologized. “I should have asked before I touched you.”

Lexa brought the offending hand up to her lips. “It’s okay. It’s just been a long time since someone has touched me like that. Most people are afraid.” She placed Clarke’s hand back onto her leg, and gentle fingers wandered back to the scar.

“You must have been in so much pain,” Clarke was whispering again, almost as if voicing her thought too loudly might cause the pain to reappear.

“But I’m not anymore…not really. Let’s go down to the lake and I will tell you about it.”

Clarke quickly secured their belongings at the table so nothing would blow away in the warm breeze while Lexa put her prosthetic back on. In less than two minutes, they were both heading toward a fishing pier. They walked to the end of it and sat on a bench. Lexa helped Clarke take off her brace, socks and shoes before removing the prosthetic leg again and baring her other foot.

They were going to have to get off the bench in order to dangle their feet, and Clarke grew concerned that if she sat on the edge of the pier, she wouldn’t be able to get back up. She wasn’t sure how Lexa would be either.

Lexa, always the mind reader, caught on to Clarke’s concern. “Don’t worry. I am well versed with how to get myself off the ground with only one leg. They taught me in therapy, and I have had plenty of falls. I am a pro.”

“So, we know that you can get up, but I…well I haven’t been able to get myself up when I have fallen. I have always needed help.” Clarke was disappointed about it, but said, “Maybe it isn’t a good idea for me to be doing this.”

“Hey, have I steered you wrong yet? I promise that if I can get myself up, then I can help you get up too.” Lexa smirked then waved her cell phone in the air. “If I can’t, I have great cell phone reception. Anya will come and rescue us.”

“I don’t know if that is reassuring or not,” She gave Lexa a wry smile, “but I need to learn to live a little, and I do trust you. So, let’s do this.”

 

It took some clumsy finagling, but they were both finally able to get themselves seated on the edge of the pier with feet in the water.

Lexa grimaced. “Crap that is cold.”

“Of course, it is. It is still January after all. Personally, I think it feels amazing.” Clarke gave Lexa a wink as she moved her feet through the water.

They sat in comfortable silence while they enjoyed the sun and water. Lexa grabbed Clarke’s hand and squeezed. She silently pointed down the shore where a blue heron was hunting.

“Will you tell me what happened to you now?” Clarke asked hesitantly. She wanted to know, but not if Lexa wasn’t ready to tell.

Lexa nodded, took in a deep breath and then told her story.

Growing up, Lexa had always had a deep desire to help people, and she often went out of her way to do so. She had hopes and dreams of changing the world, so when she got out of high school, she went on to get a degree in conflict resolution with a specialty in mediation. She was the best in her class and was hired by a government contracting firm one month before she graduated. She spent the first three years of her employment learning the ropes of her job. She did well and deployed on her first international mission. Based in Afghanistan, she lived on an Army base and was there to help mediate for peace between the locals and rebel forces. It wasn’t uncommon for the rebels to take women and children hostage in order to gain leverage to make their demands. It was Lexa’s job to try and find peaceful solutions to this sort of conflict and save as many lives as she could.

Lexa’s voice hitched, and Clarke told her she didn’t need to continue tell her if it was too painful, but the brunette said she wanted to get it out. She hadn’t told anyone the full story of what had happened to her. She wanted Clarke to be the first.

Lexa cleared her throat and went on. Clarke could see green eyes starting to get watery, but no tears fell.

“It was a hot day. It was too hot, and the unit I was working with was being sent in to resolve a hostage situation where twenty children were being held captive in a school. I had worked with the rebel leader a couple of times already, and he had always been reasonable. He had never harmed anyone before. He always let the hostages go. This job didn’t seem any different, and because of our earlier successes, we let our guard down, and the unit didn’t sweep the area as thoroughly as they should have.” Lexa got a faraway look in her eyes as she told the story.

“Three men went into the building ahead of me. It was a cinderblock building but had a dirt floor, and we thought we were clear. Things should have been clear,” Lexa stuttered out, “but as soon as I stepped foot into the school, my foot landed on the trigger plate of a homemade land mine. I have no idea how it didn’t get tripped by the men in front of me.”

A tear finally fell, and Clarke wiped it away. She remained silent, waiting to see if Lexa would go on.

“As soon as I heard the click, I froze,” Lexa finally said. “The men had no idea what had happened until they turned to see where I was. I’m sure my face told them everything they needed to know. I thought I was going to die.”

Lexa’s breathing had increased as she relived the most horrifying moment of her life. “There was nothing anyone could do. I yelled at them to get the children out to safety first and then told them to leave. No one but me needed to die that day, but Ontari, the woman you met at the restaurant was on the team that day and she refused to leave me. The others refused as well. They got the children to a safe place, but then they came back to me and started forming a plan.

I was directly in the doorway of the school, and they doubted the bomb would be enough to completely destroy the building. The hope was that if they could pull me off the bomb and behind the wall, I might survive. They were familiar with the makeshift weapons the rebels made, and half the time they didn’t work. There was a 50/50 chance that it wouldn’t even detonate.”

She paused in her story telling again, overwhelmed by its retelling. “It was Ontari that saved my life that day. She refused to leave me, telling me that I wouldn’t be able to move myself quickly enough to get behind the wall if the mine did go off. She would need to pull me. She put on as much protective gear as she could then stood behind the wall. She grabbed my arm and pulled. That’s the last thing I remember.”

Both women had tears streaming down their faces. Clarke shifted close to Lexa and pulled her into a hug.

“I woke up in a hospital in Germany. Ontari was there too. From what I have been told, Ontari had been fast enough to get me off the mine. It was the explosion of the wall that caused our injuries. We were buried under the rubble.”

They were silent for a while, and Clarke wiped away Lexa’s tears. “You are the bravest person I have ever met. You are both heroes.” Clarke could feel Lexa’s ragged breathing. “I hope you know that.”

“I…sometimes don’t know what I feel,” Lexa looked up, water still leaking from her eyes. “I was angry for such a long time, and then I was depressed. There were so many emotions swirling through my head at the time, I didn’t know what to think, and sometimes the pain was so bad I couldn’t think. I was a mess for so long, but I have a wonderful support group that I attend, and my family has been great. Without them I don’t know how I would have made it through this. Like you, I have lost some friends, but I guess they weren’t real friends to begin with. They saw and treated me differently. Some just abandoned me, but you know what? I recovered, and I have made new friends. I let go of my anger and depression by remembering that I saved twenty children that day. If not for me stepping on the mine…and me reacting the way I did, we might have all died. I now see it as fate. The only thing I regret now is that Ontari got hurt, and yes, I know that wasn’t my fault, but still…”

“But look at the life she has now. She has a thriving restaurant. She’s a successful business owner. In a way, you made that possible.”

Lexa smiled then. She patted her left knee. “If not for this, I would have never met you, and that is the best thing that has ever happened to me.” Clarke surged forward and kissed her.

“Thank you,” Clarke finally said.

Lexa tilted her head. “For what?”

“For everything. For telling me what happened. For being there for me and helping me. For making me feel like a person again. I feel like the luckiest person on the planet, and I don’t know what I did to deserve you.”

After another lengthy kiss, they finally got themselves back up. Lexa was true to her word, and she was able to help Clarke get off the pier. They grabbed their stuff and started to go back down the trail. For Clarke it was just as hard as going up the hill. It might have been harder. She was getting tired it was hard to control her leg as they descended the hill, but Lexa held onto her the entire way and she kept Clarke safe.

They stopped at the bench that was halfway down the hill to rest. Clarke knew as soon as she looked at Lexa that the woman was about to bring up their professional relationship.

“You know that I am not going to be able to work for you anymore.”

“I know,” Clarke whispered.

“It will probably take the company about a week to find someone new,” Lexa confessed.

“Well, then that means I have one week to become independent. There is no way that contract can hold if I don’t actually need someone to take care of me.”

Lexa smiled. “That is probably true, but Clarke…”

“I don’t want anyone but you,” Clarke whined.

“Hey, this was always going to be temporary anyway, remember, and this way I can take you on real dates, and shower you with affection. I can hold your hand and buy you flowers without worrying that I have crossed a line.”

Clarke snickered. “We already crossed that line, Lex. I think we might have rubbed the line out of existence.”

Lexa got serious. “Then we have to redraw it. On Monday I’m going to give my notice with the company.”

“Wait, why? You don’t need to quit.”

“Clarke, what I have done is completely unethical.”

“You mean what we have done. You didn’t do it alone.”

“No, but I am the one who is supposed to be the professional. I am your caregiver and I have compromised that position. Some could say that I took advantage of you.”

“But you didn’t.” Clarke was outraged by the thought.

“I know, but you have to look at it from the outside. It doesn’t matter though, Clarke. I’m not willing to give up on us, so I will give up on the job. I can get another one, and the idea you had earlier is a good one. It’s one I think I could make work.”

Clarke calmed herself down. She had to admit that Lexa was right. Besides, she wanted a relationship with Lexa, and she wanted them to be on equal ground. If Lexa remained her aide, then she would always be taking care of Clarke, and the blonde didn’t want that. What she wanted was to build a life, a life with Lexa in it, and they couldn’t begin to do that if Lexa continued to work for her.

“You’re right, I know that. I…well I will just miss having you with me all day.”

Lexa squeezed her thigh and smiled. “I promise you will see me so much that you will get sick of me.”

“Not possible,” Clarke said.

“Ha. We will see.” Lexa stood. “We should probably get back, and I don’t want you to worry about all of this. I have a good feeling about everything. We are going to be just fine.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 13

 

When they finally reached the bottom of the path, Clarke was exhausted. She needed another rest, but the truck was close enough that she thought she could forego resting. Lexa, it seemed, felt that same way, and she practically dragged Clarke back to the parking lot.

“Wait, Lexa. Wait.” Clarke pulled her to a stop. “I want to see what those two men were putting up earlier.”

To Clarke’s surprise, Lexa blushed. “I’m sure it is nothing. Probably just a trail header. Let’s just go back to the truck.”

“N-Noo. I want to see.”

Lexa closed her eyes. When she opened them again she looked embarrassed.

“Okay.” She kept her grip on Clarke’s hand and led her to the sign.

Clarke could feel Lexa’s gaze on her as she read, and she couldn’t help it when her eyes widened in surprise. The sign read:

 

This trail is dedicated in recognition of lifelong residents Lexa Woods and Ontari Eis.
Their exceptional acts of bravery, heroism, and selflessness
saved the lives of twenty children at what could have been the cost of their own.
It is acts like these that inspire ordinary citizens to become extraordinary and gives them
the hope that they too may one day do something heroic.

 

Clarke looked over at Lexa’s red face. “Why does this embarrass you? This is amazing.”

“I…I didn’t do what anyone else wouldn’t have done.”

“I don’t believe that.” Clarke thought for a minute. “How long did it take to secure the building before the others could get the children out of it?”

“S-six hours. They had to resweep the entire area, and then the building.”

“And you had to stand there, absolutely still, while all of this was happening. How many people could have done that, Lex? How many people would have given up or tried to save themselves even if it cost others their lives? Most of us would have, but you did something that most of us don’t even have the will to try. I know for a fact that I would have given up. To stand utterly still, without moving, for so long would have broken me.”

Lexa just shrugged, so Clarke grabbed her hand and made sure the brunette was looking at her when she said, “That’s okay, you don’t have to believe you’re a hero. I will believe it for you. Just look at the things you have done for me since we have met. You will always be my hero, Lexa Woods.”

Clarke’s fatigue from the day was taking its toll, and the words she had just spoken took far longer to get out than they should have, but she wanted to make it absolutely clear to Lexa that she deserved the recognition she was getting. In the short amount of time that she had known the woman, Lexa had shown just how extraordinary she was.

She leaned in to emphasize her words with a kiss and, of course, stumbled, but as always Lexa was there to catch her. She knew from that day forward that Lexa would always be there to catch her, and she would do her damnedest to make sure she was there to catch Lexa as well, even if it wasn’t in the literal sense.

 

 

Saturday morning found Clarke still in bed at 10:30 which was highly unusual for her. It was going to be one of ‘those days’ where she had trouble moving and speaking, and she knew it was because she had overdone it the day before, but she couldn’t bring herself to be upset. Not this time. Yesterday had been one of the most magical days of her life, and it was worth every aggravation she knew she was going to experience today.

She did wonder why Raven hadn’t woken her up yet, then remembered that Anya had stayed late into the night. The two were now practically joined at the hip. If Clarke thought that her and Lexa’s relationship was developing quickly then Raven and Anya’s was moving at lightspeed. It also meant that if Raven wasn’t up yet then Anya had spent the night. She had a feeling that when she finally made it downstairs, she was going to find an almost empty bottle of tequila on the counter, and it was days like this that she didn’t miss being able to drink much. Raven and Anya were in for one hell of a hangover.

It took Clarke another thirty minutes to get out of bed. She had stayed on her back and carefully stretched and did her exercises as best she could until she was limber enough to move. Getting to the edge of the bed wasn’t as hard as it would have been before Lexa moved it, but it was still no easy task, not on a day like today, but again, Clarke didn’t mind. She was still basking in the happiness of yesterday’s events.

When Lexa had brought her home, Raven and Anya had already been there, so they all ordered pizza and spent a couple of hours together, but unlike Anya, Lexa had gone home before it was too late. She had told Clarke that she wasn’t sure if she would see her over the weekend. She felt like until the end of next week she should at least try to keep some distance between them, and remain as professional as possible (they had both rolled their eyes at this because they had already failed spectacularly at that), until she was officially no longer Clarke’s aide.

Clarke was saddened by the fact that the Monday after next she would have a new caregiver, but she was also happy knowing that once Lexa was no longer her aide, they could pursue a real relationship. It also gave her the extra determination she was going to need to get herself as independent as possible so that she could live without the need of a caregiver.

 

She had finally made her way down to the kitchen and was making herself a cup of tea, not wanting to risk making coffee by herself since she was not moving well today, when her cell phone rang. She looked at the display and almost didn’t answer, but she bit the bullet.

“Hi Mom.”

“Clarke, I am so happy to hear your voice.”

“Are you? You haven’t called in over a month.” Clarke’s happiness was beginning to fade. “I don’t even know what country you are in right now.”

“That’s why I am calling,” Abby, Clarke’s mom said, “I wanted to let you know that I am coming home.”

Clarke scoffed. “Really? For how long? A week this time. Maybe two before you run off again.” Clarke couldn’t hide the bitterness in her voice. Her mother had abandoned her, and it wasn’t just after she had gotten hurt, it had been after her father had died. It hadn’t been that long after the funeral before Abby decided to take assignments across the globe. She ran as fast and as far from her daughter as she could. Instead of dealing with her grief, she ran away from it, leaving Clarke to pick up the pieces of their broken lives by herself.

“No, Clarke. I am coming home…for good.”

Clarke wasn’t sure how she felt about that. She was so angry with her mother, but she had also desperately wanted her back in her life. She wanted the mother she used to have before her father died. She wanted the mother that had been fun, who had supported her in every way, even when Clarke had announced from a very early age that she was going to be an artist. She remembered the surprise on her father’s face when Abby had embraced her daughter, telling her she would be proud to have an artist in the family. She had even gone with her to tour various schools so that Clarke could find the art program that fit her specific needs and desires. That support had ended the day Jake died. Everything had ended that day, and Abby became uninterested in her daughter after that.

“Why? Why now?” Clarke asked.

“Because I miss you.”

“I doubt that is the reason.” Again Clarke let the bitterness seep into her words.

Clarke heard a sigh from the other end of the line. “Look, Clarke, I know I have made terrible mistakes that I know I can probably never make up for, but I have had time to think, and I realize that I have been a terrible mother. All this time, I should have been holding you tight, but instead I ran away.” She heard her mother take a deep breath. “I have been selfish, so selfish, but I want change, and I want the chance to earn a place in your life again.”

Clarke didn’t know what to say. It was what she had wanted to hear for a very long time, but now she wondered if it had been too long.

“When will you be back?” she asked, not sure if she really wanted the answer.

“Two weeks,” Abby said. “I’ve rented an apartment downtown, and I will be starting a job at Polis General two weeks after I get home.”

To say Clarke was floored was an understatement. Her mother meant it. She was moving home…for good.

“I mean it when I said I want to be a part of your life again, Clarke. I hope it isn’t too late.”

When Clarke didn’t say anything Abby said, “Maybe you could pick me up at the airport and we could go and have lunch.”

The blonde’s heart clenched painfully causing her to gasp and getting her next words out was huge struggle. “This is exactly why it is probably too late. Did you forget that I have a brain injury, mom? It isn’t exactly like I can just hop in the car and drive to the airport.”

“Oh god, Clarke, I’m sorry…I’m sorry. I wasn’t thinking. I know you can’t drive.” The line was silent for long enough that Clarke almost thought it had gone dead. “I am already screwing this up,” her mom finally said.

“It’s hard to remember how to be mother when you haven’t been one for so long, isn’t it?” Clarke knew it was mean, and maybe uncalled for, but after all the pain her mother had caused her, she felt that maybe Abby deserved it.

There was a hitch in Abby’s voice when she spoke again. “Clarke…please give me a chance to make this right. Please,” she begged.

Clarke didn’t know what to do. For so long she had wanted her mother back in her life, but now she wasn’t so sure. She was just starting to turn her life around, and she was beginning something amazing with Lexa. She worried that the reappearance of her mother in her life now could mess all that up. It wasn’t going to be easy to rebuild their relationship, and she didn’t want it to adversely affect what she was just starting with Lexa.

“How about you call me after you get settled in your apartment, and we’ll see?”

“O-okay. I love you, Clarke.”

“Bye Mom.” She knew it was petty, but she just couldn’t tell her mom that she loved her, even though she did. It was childish, she knew it, but she had been hurting for so long, and it felt good to be able to give some of the pain back. She took a sip of the now cold tea thinking over the conversation. After today, she would try to wrap her head around that fact that her mother was coming home, and she would try…really try to let her back into her life, even if it was hard, but that was for tomorrow. Today she would allow herself to sulk.

 

It was noon by the time Raven came stumbling out of her room with a bleary-eyed Anya following behind. Clarke was still sitting at the kitchen table. She hadn’t moved. She barely looked up when the two entered.

“Hey,” Raven said, “you okay?”

Clarke didn’t lift her head. “My mom is moving home.” Her voice was flat and monotone.

Raven didn’t say anything at first. She made a pot of coffee, handed a cup to Anya and suggested the copper-eyed woman go take a shower. Anya agreed, seeming to understand that Raven needed a minute with her friend.

Once Anya was gone, Raven handed Clarke a cup of coffee and waited until she took a sip to ask, “How do you feel about that?”

“She asked me to pick her up at the airport so that we could go and get lunch.”

Raven dropped her head into her hands. “How could she be so daft? Your mom has said some stupid shit over the years, but that may take the cake.”

“Yeah,” was all Clarke said at first. After taking another sip from her cup she said, “She told me she wants back in my life. She wants to try and make things up to me.”

“Well, that’s a good thing, right?” Raven reached across the table and grabbed Clarke’s fisted hand and the blonde made an effort to relax the tense muscles.

“How can she make things right if she can’t even remember that I have a fucking head injury? She’s a goddamned doctor. Isn’t it her job to remember these things?” She wasn’t sure her words were even intelligible, and tears that she had promised not to let fall started to slide down her cheeks. A few minutes of talking to her mother had ruined her day, and it had started out with her being so happy.

“Hey, it’s going to be okay.” Raven squeezed her hand. “If you don’t want her back in your life, you don’t have to let her. I know she has been a terrible mother, and you know that I know about bad moms. Just remember that she does not have to be a part of your life. It is your choice. She can’t force herself on you.”

Raven let go of Clarke’s hand and sat upright again. “But, if you want to give her a chance, know that you can get to know each other again on your terms, and you can take it as slow or as fast as you want.”

Clarke stood up and brought her cup to the sink. “I think I’m going to go back upstairs. Have fun with Anya.”

She started to walk away before she heard Raven call out. “Did you eat?”

“No, Rae. I’m not hungry.”

 

Clarke was on her bed curled in a ball. She was angry that she was feeling sorry for herself. She had promised herself that those days were over, but something about speaking with her mother always left her feeling this way.

She didn’t know how long she had been in that position when she heard a knock on the door. “Go away, Raven, I’m fine. I promise.”

The door opened anyway. Clarke was about to bark at Raven for coming in, but it wasn’t her. It was Lexa.

“What are you doing here?” She stammered.

 

“I got a text that said you could use some cheering up.”

“You didn’t have to come all the way over here, Lex. I’m sure you were busy.”

“Of course, I came over. I can’t have my girl feeling sad.”

Blue eyes sought out green. “Your girl?” Clarke gave her a lopsided smirk. “I like that.”

Lexa sat on the edge of the bed and pulled something out of a paper bag. “Here. Raven said you didn’t eat.” It was a smoothie.

Clarke took a sip and closed her eyes in delight, and not only at the taste of the smoothie. The joy she felt that someone went out of their way, that Lexa went out of her way, to cheer her up had Clarke smiling despite herself.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

“Want to tell me about it?” Lexa asked, and Clarke did. She told her everything about how things had been since her father had died. She told her how she’d been left alone by her mother, how they rarely spoke, how it seemed as if her mother barely cared when she got hurt, and she told her how painful it had been over the years. For her part, Lexa just listened and was there for her, and it was exactly what Clarke needed.

When she was all talked out, Lexa got in the bed next to her and held her close.

“I like this,” the brunette said, “having you near me.” Clarke’s response was to move closer.

“You know,” Lexa said, “if you decide to meet with your mother, I would be happy to go with you and act as a buffer…or a bodyguard, whichever you need.” Clarke snickered. “And, please don’t hate me for saying this, but maybe give her a chance. We all make mistakes, some of us bigger ones than others, but it is my firm belief that we should give everyone a second chance, and if you give your mom hers and she blows it, then that is on her. You will have done your part.”

Clarke snuggled impossibly closer to Lexa. “How did you come to be so wise at such a young age?”

Lexa didn’t answer. She simply nuzzled her nose into Clarke’s hair before moving the blonde onto her back. Clarke couldn’t hide her surprise when Lexa moved to straddle her.

“I have news for you.” She smiled brightly.

“I am guessing by the smile it is good news.”

“It is. I called my boss on the way home yesterday, and she wouldn’t let me quit. She found me a new assignment that I can start on Monday. It is only half days to start but might become full time later if I want it to. The person who was going to take that assignment will come here instead. Her name is Harper, and I know her. I promise you will love her.”

That was not what Clarke was expecting Lexa to say, and she was shocked. She thought she had one more week with Lexa as her aide. She wasn’t sure what to feel until Lexa leaned down and started peppering her with kisses.

“This means,” Lexa began, “that we don’t have to wait a week for me to wine and dine you. I can hold your hand in public without worrying about getting caught, and I can shower you with the affection you deserve. We can go out on dates and have sleepovers. I can finally show you where I live.” The excitement showed in her green eyes before they disappeared from Clarke’s view. Lexa was affectionately attacking her neck.

Clarke clumsily moved Lexa up from where she was now nipping at the blonde’s collar bone so that she could kiss her…deeply. When the kiss broke, Clarke said, “I would like that.”

“Would you like to see where I live now? Raven and Anya are currently destroying your kitchen, and I thought you might enjoy seeing something new.”

“I would love that.”

After a twenty minute make out session, they were headed out the door. Raven and Anya couldn’t help but laugh as the two giddy women strolled out the door.

“Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do,” Raven called after them.

Chapter Text

Chapter 14

The drive to Lexa’s wasn’t very long. She lived surprisingly close to Clarke, and as soon as the truck pulled into the driveway, she knew she was going to love the place. The front yard had a whimsical, almost wild kind of feel to it. It was different from the perfectly manicured lawns surrounding it, making it stand out in its charm. The house itself was a Craftsman style with a low-pitched gable and exposed wooden rafters. It was clear that it had been painstakingly taken care of. A path led to the front porch and was lined with a riot of colorful plants and flowers. It was magical. Clarke almost felt like she was entering the home in one of the fairy tales she used to read as a child.

Inside, it was small, but it was also warm and cozy, and it seemed that every available surface had some sort of plant on it. It was glorious. It felt more like she was in the middle of a forest than in a room in a house. As she was exploring the living room, she almost tripped when a cat started winding through her legs.

“Sorry,” Lexa apologized. “I hope you like cats. This is Jack.” She steadied Clarke on her feet.

The cat was black with white-tipped toes and a white chin. He only had one eye. “Short for one-eyed Jack?” Clarke asked, and Lexa nodded.

Clarke wanted to squat down to pet the cat but opted for sitting on the ottoman instead, not trusting her balance. “I love cats.” Clarke moved her cane aside so that she didn’t accidently hit the furball with it.

Lexa sat beside her. “This guy right here,” she said as she scratched under the cat’s chin, “he came into my life when I was at my lowest. He was a stray, and he was just as broken as I was. His tail was horribly bent, and his eye was gone.” The cat turned his head like he knew Lexa was talking about him. “I don’t know how he got hurt, but he’s tough, and he inspired me to get my act together when I first got home.”

Without prompting, Lexa told her about how low she had been when she first got back to the States. She had done a lot of her recovery in Germany, and she had been fine there. Ontari was there with her initially, and they helped each other. Unfortunately, Ontari was released to come home before Lexa was since her injuries weren’t as severe, and that had been a blow that Lexa hadn’t expected. She admitted that she was depressed. She went through the motions of getting better, but when she got home, she shut herself in her house and didn’t come out for several weeks except to go out back. At the time she was getting around either on crutches or in a wheelchair. It was too early for her to get her prosthetic.

It was a hard time, and despite Anya and her mother’s attempts to help her feel better, she remained in a dark place. It was Jack who helped her realize what she was doing to herself, and that feeling sorry for herself was only making things worse. She watched Jack each day that he would come. Despite his injuries, he still tried (and succeeded at) hunting in her yard. He kept on going even though he was obviously in pain. It was through watching him, and then making friends with him that Lexa got out of her funk.

Clarke stroked her hand down Jack’s back, silently thanking him for helping Lexa. Aside from the missing eye, Clarke thought, there was no evidence that this cat had ever been mistreated. He was gorgeous. He didn’t look like a stray. It was obvious that Lexa took great care of him.

“At first,” Lexa went on. “I shooed him away because he scared the birds, but he came limping back here each day and would sit smack in the middle of the yard, staring at the house. It was almost as if he knew there was something inside that was as broken as he was. His persistence paid off and I started to feed him. It was six months before he let me pet him, but it’s been a whirlwind romance ever since that day.” Lexa winked at Clarke. “We helped heal each other, and he’s the only man I have ever loved. I honestly thought he would be the only thing I ever loved…until I met you.”

Lexa’s green eyes pierced into Clarke, making her blush. “Lex.”

“Sorry,” Lexa was blushing too. “I can’t help it. The things I feel for you…well, I haven’t ever felt this way before.”

Clarke stared at Lexa for a long time with a goofy, lopsided grin spread across her face. “I know exactly how that feels, because I feel the same way too.” Clarke got serious for a moment. “You know I was engaged before I got hurt, right?”

“I do,” Lexa said cautiously, not knowing where Clarke was going with this. “Raven told me.”

“Well, I want you to know that what I felt for Finn doesn’t even shine a light on what I feel for you. If I look back on it, I don’t know if I even loved him. Until recently…until I met you, I don’t even think I knew what love was. With Finn, I think maybe it was infatuation. He was the first person to ever show an interest in me. He showered me with gifts and showed me off. We hadn’t even dated that long before he proposed. I enjoyed the attention he lavished on me, and I think I mistook that for love. I was naïve.”

Clarke paused, making sure Lexa was okay hearing all of this. Lexa gave her an encouraging nod.

“Looking back on it, I think he just enjoyed showing off his pretty new toy, and I didn’t see that, but as soon as I got hurt, he dumped me. His pretty little toy got broken, so he didn’t want it anymore.”

Lexa was about to say something, but Clarke stopped her. “It hurt. I’ll admit that it still does, but since I have met you, I have had time to think. What I had with Finn…what I felt for Finn wasn’t love. And do you want to know how I know this?”

Lexa nodded again and Clarke took the brunette’s hand and placed it on top of her heart. “Because what I feel in here is not something I have felt before. Never.” Clarke stated emphatically. She looked into Lexa’s eyes. “You make my heart race, and I feel giddy around you. I feel like I could walk on water if I had to because you are near, even if I did have to use my cane.” Both girls laughed.

“Seriously, since I met you, I have seen things as I have never seen them before, and I want to paint them…paint you…so that I don’t forget what it, or you, looks like. You have opened my eyes to a world that I didn’t know existed, and I am excited to share that world with someone. I’m excited to share it with you.”

“Clarke.”

Clarke leaned in and kissed the words right out of her mouth. When they broke apart, they were laughing. “We are a couple of saps,” Clarke said.

“That may be, but you are my sap.” Lexa smiled and pulled Clarke in for another kiss. She then pulled the blonde to her feet and handed her the cane. “Let me show you the rest of the house.”

 

The tour of the house had Clarke’s mind blown. Just has the living room had been, all the other rooms were filled with plants. The house felt alive in a way that Clarke didn’t know possible. Even the kitchen had plants everywhere, and Lexa explained that they were all herbs for cooking. Some even hung from the ceiling.

The bedroom had Clarke stopping in her tracks. The walls were a pale yellow, and again there were plants everywhere, but in addition to those, there were candles nestled into creatively made nooks. She wondered what it looked like at night when the candles were lit. She imagined herself standing in the hardwood forests up north. The bed had a white bedspread that had green vines embroidered onto it, and the headboard was made from twisted wood, woven together. It was like nothing she had ever seen before.

“This is quite the obsession you have, Lex.” Clarke enjoyed teasing the woman.

“It’s true. When I was little, Mom made me and Anya watch a movie called the Medicine Man…I think it came out around the year I was born. Anyway, in the movie they spent a lot of time in the jungle and even at the tops of the trees. Until I re-watched the movie recently, that was all I remembered about it; the forest.” Lexa smiled fondly at the memory. “I always wanted to live in the forest or up in the trees. This was the closest I could get.”

“It’s beautiful, Lex. What you have made for yourself here, it’s stunning. Throw a few more cats into the mix, and you will have your own little tree crew.”

Lexa smiled at that. “Trikru…I like it. Jack wouldn’t though. He isn’t fond of other cats. He likes Anya’s dog though.”

They spent the afternoon lounging at first in Lexa’s house. They then went outside to enjoy her backyard. Just as in the front, it was whimsical…and perfect. It was so very different from Clarke’s own yard which was just a typical backyard with trees, grass and some flowers. It was pretty, but it was nothing compared to the gloriousness that was Lexa’s. Clarke almost felt like she was no longer in town. Everything was so lush that it hid the yards next door. It was Lexa’s own slice of paradise.

“Lexa, this…” she waved her hand around, at a loss for words. “Wow.”

Lexa led her to the back of the property where there was a small gurgling pond and sat her on a bench. “This is my favorite place to come and relax.” Clarke watched as two koi lazily swam in the water.

Lexa noticed and said, “Those two won’t be very active. They are normally fairly dormant at this time of year, but with it being so warm, they have been a little more frisky than usual.”

“Did you do all this yourself?”

“I have done a lot of it. The pond is something I added, but the previous owners did a lot of the work too. It was one of the things that drew me to the place.”

“It’s gorgeous, just like you.”

 

It was a blissful afternoon, and all thoughts of the impending return of her mother left Clarke’s head. They ate. They laughed, and they even played Lexa’s ancient version of Memory that she had had since she was a child. Jack followed them everywhere and seemed to take a liking to Clarke. He even licked her arm a few times.

“You have his stamp of approval, it seems.”

“Good, because even if he didn’t like me, I’m not going anywhere. I’m too addicted to his owner.”

When it started to get dark, Lexa made a simple dinner, making sure to use some of the herbs hanging in the kitchen. They shared it at the kitchen table. She then led Clarke outside and stood her in the middle of the back yard. “Close your eyes, and don’t move for a second.”

“Um, okay.”

She heard Lexa move back towards the house. When she returned, she grabbed Clarke’s hand. “Okay, open your eyes.”

The soft glow of string lights and lanterns filled her eyes, and now she really did feel like she was standing in the middle of a fairy tale. The lights gave the effect of making the bushes seem filled with fireflies.

Lexa had put on soft music. “Dance with me,” she said.

“I…I don’t know. I wasn’t a good dancer, even before I got hurt.”

“Please,” Lexa begged, and Clarke gave it. Lexa swept her into her arms and whirled her across the grass. She felt like Cinderella and Lexa was Princess Charming. It was maybe the most perfect day she had ever had.

 

When Lexa brought her home later that evening, Clarke didn’t want to get out of the car because she knew that it wouldn’t be Lexa coming to the house in the morning, and she wanted the night to last forever.

“Can we just sit here for a while?” Clarke asked.

“We can, but I have already seen Raven poke her head between the curtains of your living room twice since we pulled in. I am guessing she wants all the juicy details about your day. I doubt it will be long before she comes to drag you out of my truck.”

Clarke sighed heavily. “You are right.” She then looked over at Lexa. “Thank you so much for today. It was magical…I think you are too.” She leaned in and gave Lexa a kiss on the cheek.

“I guess I should go in now,” Clarke said, resigned to the fact that she had to end their time together.

“Don’t worry,” Lexa said. “You will see me tomorrow after I get done with my new client. It’s only for the morning, so maybe I can bring you lunch, and if you are available,” she teased, “I would like to take you on a date Wednesday night.”

“I would like that.”

 

Lexa walked Clarke to her door, but didn’t come in. She told Clarke that if she did, she would be hard pressed to leave, and she had to be at her new job at 6:30 in the morning. She did give her the most amazing parting kiss ever though, and the blonde was still blushing when she went through the front door.

Chapter Text

Chapter 15

Clarke stood frozen at the top of the stairs. She had made the mistake of fumbling her phone out of her pajama pants pocket when she received a text message. It was from her mother stating that she would be home sooner than she thought. Instead of two weeks, she would be home in the next seven to ten days depending on when she could wrap things up with her current job. She texted that she missed Clarke and even attached a few heart emojis. It made the blonde’s heart clench, and it made everything else in Clarke’s body seize up. Her cane went tumbling to the bottom of the stairs. She was already having trouble wrapping around her mother being home in two weeks. Now it was going to be sooner, and Clarke wasn’t mentally prepared for that.

It was enough that Lexa wasn’t the one coming over this morning and that she would be meeting her new caregiver, Harper, soon. It was the whole reason Clarke was already out of bed. She wanted to be up before the new person knocked on the door. Now she was stuck at the top of her stairs, cane at the bottom, left side tense and unable to call for Raven because her friend was in the shower and unable to hear her.

“Fuck,” she mumbled. It took five minutes before she was able to sit herself down on the top step, and another fifteen before Raven came to the rescue. Clarke, at least, had the good sense to text Raven that she was stuck at the top of the stairs, even if it was hard to write the text. She precariously balanced the phone on her lap as she texted with her right hand.

Her friend had run out of her room in only a robe, wet hair dripping on her shoulders, as soon as she saw the text.

“Oh, Clarke. What happened?” Raven picked up Clarke’s cane before running up the stairs. Clarke’s face was red and puffy in her attempts to hold back her emotions. She held up her phone for Raven to see the message from her mom.

Raven kissed the top of her head before helping her stand.

As was usual when she was upset, and her emotions were high, the words initially didn’t come out. She struggled, trying to make her brain, to make her mouth, work. “It caught me by surprise,” Clarke mumbled by way of explanation for why she got stuck on the stairs.

“Hey, you don’t need to explain to me. I know exactly how damaging something as simple as our mothers telling us they are on their way home can be. More often than not, if my mother said those words to me it meant she ran out of money and couldn’t buy any more drinks at the bar, or she was coming home to steal my lunch money so that she could. Sadly, there are some terrible mothers out there. It’s just too bad that you and I both got stuck with two of the worst.”

“Yeah,” was all Clarke said. She had to concentrate extra hard to get down the stairs, even with Raven’s help.

When they finally got to the bottom of the stairs, Raven quickly ran and got Clarke her walker and switched it out for the cane.

“Why?” Clarke asked and looked up at her friend. “Why is it that every time I think I have gotten a couple of steps ahead that something has to happen that sets me back ten?” Tears leaked from her eyes. “I don’t think I am ever going to get any better than this, Rae, and I am so tired of it. I just want my body to work again.”

“I know,” Raven said, pushing the walker out of the way so she could hug her friend. “I wish I could tell you that it will get better. Based on what the doctors have said, it should, but it’s going to take time, and you know what? Even if your body doesn’t get better than this, you still landed yourself the second hottest girl on the planet, and I have seen the way she looks at you. She adores you exactly the way you are. You don’t need to get better for her…or me. You are already perfect to us.”

“Thanks, Rae.” Clarke continued to hold Raven tight. Sometimes the best medicine was a simple hug and a few kind words. “Just so you know it was you who landed the second hottest girl. I got the first.”

 

Raven asked Clarke to help make the coffee despite the fact that the blonde was having a particularly hard time moving around the kitchen. While Raven filled the carafe with water, Clarke measured out the grounds, not pleased when half of it spilled on the counter. She was never going to be adept at being right-handed.

The doorbell ringing caused Clarke to spill more. “Fuck.”

“Sit tight, Clarke. I’ll got get it. I guess it’s your new Personal Aide.”

“Great, just great,” Clarke uttered under her breath.

Two minutes later, a smiling Raven walked in with the new aide. “Clarke, you will never believe who it is. It’s Mac.”

Clarke’s eyes almost bulged out of her head. How she hadn’t made the connection when Lexa said that a woman named Harper was going to be her aide was beyond her. There weren’t that many women named Harper running around. Harper ‘Mac” McIntyre had been on the track team with Raven and Clarke through all four years of high school. She was a friendly, gregarious girl who dated the resident geek, Monty. They weren’t close friends, but they were friendly. When they all went off to college, the cheery blonde hadn’t even crossed Clarke’s mind. She felt kind of bad about that now.

“Oh my god, Clarke.” Harper ran up to Clarke and gave her a hug. “When I saw the name and age on the chart I was given, I knew it had to be you even though I had hoped it wasn’t. What happened?”

 

Clarke was too flustered to speak. Raven noticed and jumped in. “Fucking Finn Collins happened, that’s what.”

“Finn.” Harper said. “That’s the guy that hangs out with Jasper sometimes.”

“He still does.” Raven got distracted and asked. “How do you know Jasper?” Jasper hadn’t been a part of their lives until Finn was.

“Jas is friends with my husband, Monty. They work together.”

“Holy crap, you married the geek.”

“I did,” Harper beamed. “I even had a kid with him.” She held up her phone and showed a picture of a beautiful baby boy. “His name is Jordan.”

“Wow, Harper. He’s gorgeous. Congratulations.”

The two excitedly chatted while Clarke tried to finish making the coffee. She didn’t mind that the two girls were catching up. She still wasn’t ready to face the fact that Lexa wasn’t her aide anymore.

Somehow the conversation steered back to Finn.

“So, you have had the pleasure of meeting Finn.” Raven said.

“I have. He’s a pompous ass. Thinks he’s God’s gift to women. I’ve never spent much time with him, but I never liked him. He seemed better after he got engaged, at least for a little while, but I heard he dumped his fiancée after they got in a car wreck because she got hurt and wasn’t the same anymore. Heard it was his fault too.”

The metal measuring cup that was full of coffee went crashing to the floor. Harper’s hand flew up to cover her mouth as realization hit. “Clarke, crap. I am so sorry. I didn’t know.” She ran over and started trying to clean up the mess on the floor.

“Clarke, please forgive me.”

Clarke was too emotional to speak. Raven saw her distress and ushered her to a chair. Raven and Harper got the mess on the floor cleaned up, then started a new pot.

Harper looked over at Clarke, who was clearly upset. “I’m so sorry, Clarke. I’ve bungled this badly. Do you want me to go?”

 

Clarke shook her head. What Harper said wasn’t wrong. Clarke was just sorry that it took her so long to figure out what Finn was really like. She’s not even sure that if the accident had never happened that she would have. In a way, she was thankful. She may have gotten hurt in the accident, but it had exposed Finn’s true colors. She might have married him before she had ever realized what he was like, and now she had Lexa, and that was maybe the best thing to ever happen to her.

The three remained in awkward silence while the coffee brewed. When it was finished, Raven made it just the way Clarke liked it. She handed the mug over to Harper so that she could pass it off to Clarke.

“Thank you.” They were the first words Clarke had spoken since Harper had gotten there.

“I feel like maybe we should start over,” Harper said. She held out her to Clarke and said, “Hi, I’m Harper. Your new caregiver.”

“Hi,” Clarke said meekly.

Raven walked over. “I need to head to work. Are you going to be okay? If not, I can stay.”

“Go, I’m okay.”

Raven didn’t look convinced, but she grabbed her coffee and the lunch she had made the night before and headed out, leaving Clarke and Harper looking at one another.

“So, would it be okay if I started my exam?” Harper was being overly cautious and professional now, but Clarke nodded her ascent.

“Okay, let’s figure out what your strengths and weaknesses are.” She took Clarke through strength, range of motion, memory, and speech tests while jotting notes in her chart.
“Your last aide, Lexa, she took amazing notes, but geez, the one before that barely left any. I don’t know how she got away with that. We are supposed to submit weekly reports to the agency, and,” she looked in the chart for a name, “Nia didn’t do any of that.”

“Ddddon’t remmmind me. Ssshe wasss terribble.”

“Well, if Lexa hasn’t already made the office aware, I will be sure to let them know. I know she is supposed to be coming back, but based on her paperwork alone, they shouldn’t let her. If you can tell me some of the things she did, or didn’t do, I will let them know.”

Clarke was fairly certain that Lexa had already done that, but it couldn’t hurt to have Harper do it too. At least one good thing about her mother coming home was that maybe she could nullify the contract since she was the one who signed it. What she didn’t understand was what leverage Nia had to keep her job and to be the one designated specifically to her. How did the woman wriggle her way into the contract so as to be named Clarke’s primary caregiver?

“Do you want me to make you some breakfast?” Harper asked, distracting Clarke from her thoughts. She wasn’t very hungry, so she told her no. Instead she had Harper help her back upstairs. She wanted to get cleaned up before Lexa came over.

As they went up the stairs, Harper asked her questions about her level of mobility, and Clarke admitted that she was having a very bad day, and that she could usually function much better. She didn’t tell her why, there was no need.

When they got to her bedroom, she sat on the edge of her bed. Harper went into the bathroom and got everything prepared then helped Clarke undress as far as she was comfortable, which meant that she was still mostly dressed.

“Do you need help in there?”

Clarke probably did, but she wasn’t going to admit it. She told the aide that it would just take her some extra time to get ready. She showed the woman the walkie talkie and headed into the bathroom. Harper followed so that she could turn on the water for Clarke.

“I will be right out here if you need me. Use your radio, or yell. I will be right on the other side of the door.”

With that, Harper left, and Clarke went about her daily ablutions. The aide knocked on the door a few times to make sure Clarke was okay since it was taking so long, but she assured her that she was okay each time. More than once, Clarke wished it could be Lexa who was helping her. She trusted the brunette. She didn’t trust Harper. She hoped over time that she would.

The next couple of hours consisted of Harper helping Clarke in any way she could and doing small chores around the house. She asked again if Clarke would like to eat, but again was told no. Clarke was mostly quiet. She sat in the living room and watched the birds on the feeders outside. Her mind wandered from what Lexa was doing to what day her mother would be home. Harper tried to engage her in conversation, but she just wasn’t up to it. She apologized to Harper for her mood, but Harper just smiled and said she understood. The aide also apologized for her comments about Finn.

It was a long morning.

 

It was 12:30 when Lexa arrived. She was dressed smartly in a tan pair of trousers and long-sleeved navy button down shirt. Her eyes sparkled when she looked at Clarke.

Harper was in the kitchen. Clarke, once again, had said she wasn’t hungry.

Lexa pulled her in for a hug and gave her a chaste kiss. “How’s your day so far?”

When Clarke buried her head in Lexa’s shoulder, it told the brunette all she needed to know. It was as if she intuitively knew that Clarke was going to have a bad day today.

“Want to talk about it?” Clarke shook her head no.

“Okay. Have you eaten?” Lexa got another shake of the head. “Do you want to eat?”

“Nnnooo.”

“I guess that means I will have to eat the burgers and fries I brought on my own.”

Clarke lifted her head. “Did you bring shakes?”

Lexa smiled knowingly. “I did. Heath bar crunch for you and Oreo for me, but we can trade if you want.”

For the first time that day, Clarke was feeling better. “You knew I was going to have a bad day, didn’t you?” Clarke whispered. Sometimes it seemed that her words came out better if she did.

“I remembered how bad my days would be when I had a change in routine, so I figured yours wouldn’t be much better.” She kissed the top of Clarke’s head. “Let me go say hello to Harper. Do you want to eat in the kitchen, or would you rather use the tv tables?”

“Kitchen.”

 

They ate their lunch, and somehow Lexa kept both Harper and Clarke entertained without interfering with Harper’s job. The aide was able to do everything she needed without it being awkward. In fact, having Lexa there made everything easier even though she kept herself out of the way. It was the ice breaker Clarke and Harper needed, and now the blonde was confident that tomorrow would be better.

After Harper left for the day, Lexa asked if Clarke wanted to go for a walk in the neighborhood. It was something Clarke hadn’t done yet. She didn’t want her neighbors seeing her.

“It’s nice out,” Lexa said, “but not as nice as it has been, so you will need your coat, but it might do you some good to get out for a while.”

She was hesitant, but what good would it do to keep hiding from the prying eyes of the neighbors? “Okay.”

Lexa hadn’t lied when she said it was nice out, but Clarke realized that it was a very subjective statement. The skies were blue, but there was a biting wind. Lexa had run back into the house when she noticed how cold Clarke was so that she could grab her some gloves and a scarf. She offered to help Clarke back inside, but now that Clarke was out she wanted to stay out.

Clarke pushed her walker down the sidewalk while Lexa told her about her new job. Lex was taking care of a sweet old, World War II veteran. He was a funny little fellow with an upbeat demeanor even when he was telling stories of the atrocities he faced overseas. Lexa had liked him instantly, and they even compared prosthetics. The only difference between hers and his was that he had an above knee amputation while hers was a below knee. She admitted that she would have scooped him up and brought him home if it was feasible.

Clarke asked if he had a wife or children, and Lexa told her that his wife had passed the year before and that his kids lived out of state.

“That’s too bad. He must be lonely.”

“He’s not. This man is well connected, and a technological wizard. After I helped him with what he needed, he spent the rest of his time showing me his computers and gadgets. He could probably put a NASA engineer to shame.” Lexa went on to tell Clarke everything about him without breaking confidentiality laws.

“He also gave me an idea. I don’t know if it is even possible, but if it is, it might be something you would be interested in.”

Clarke looked at her expectantly. “What do you think of tattoos?”

“I like them. I have a couple,” Clarke admitted.

Lexa looked surprised, then gave Clarke and evil grin. “Do you think I will get to see them someday?”

Clarke blushed furiously. “M-maybe.”

Lexa barked out a laugh. They were passing one of the large, less modest, homes in the neighborhood when a woman in a long red coat came out the door. She spotted them and gave a wave. They waved back, and made to move on, but the woman approached them.

“Ms. Griffin,” the woman began, “it is good to see you.”

“Hhhhii. Dddoctor F-Frranco.”

“Come now, Clarke. I’ve told you to call me Becca. Who’s your friend?”

Lexa quickly stuck out her hand to make introductions. “Nice to meet you Becca. I’m Lexa Woods.”

The doctor had the oddest look on her face. “The Lexa Woods. The one who saved all those children. I’ve read a lot about you.”

Lexa shifted on her feet uncomfortably.

“You’re a hero. Ms. Woods.”

Lexa looked down at the ground, and for the first time, Clarke saw her looking uncomfortable.

“You know, I have been doing research on prosthetics in my lab. Everyday there are new advances in the technology. I would be happy to look at yours one day to see if there is anything we can do to make it better. We have even been toying with artificial intelligence.” She saw Lexa’s look. “I know, it sounds crazy, but just think about it. It could help decrease pain or improve balance. Your leg would know what it needed to do before you even did.”

“No thank you.” Lexa politely declined. “I get along on mine just fine.”

“I can tell by the way you walk that you still have pain sometimes. I could help you with that.” The woman reached into her coat pocket and produced a business card. “Here. Call me if you change your mind.”

She turned her attention to Clarke. “My offer still stands for you as well, Clarke. If you want some help with your injury, let me know. I am certain I could help speed up your recovery. The studies in A.I. and brain recovery have shown great promise.”

Clarke wasn’t sure if she was able to keep the look of horror off her face when she thanked the woman. Clarke pushed her walker as quickly as she dared so that she could get away from the woman. Becca Franco gave her the creeps.

Chapter Text

Chapter 16

When they were far enough away, Lexa asked. “What the hell was that?”

“That was Doctor Franco being Doctor Franco.” Clarke slowly explained, since the cold was making it hard to talk, that the woman was a neuroscientist that sometimes lent her expertise to the hospital. Because Abby was a colleague, she had offered help when Clarke was in the hospital. Clarke refused because the treatment was experimental.

“She is brilliant, but for now I prefer to heal the old-fashioned way.” The blonde shoved her hands in her pockets. She was getting cold. “Can we go back?”

“Of course,” Lexa said, helping Clarke guide her walker in a half-circle as they turned around. The sun was going down, and the reflection in Clarke’s hair made it appear a bright golden-red, and Lexa gasped. “You are so beautiful,” she said, leaning in to peck Clarke on her cold cheek.

The heat from Lexa’s lips waned as the warmth in Clarke’s cheeks grew. She wondered if there would ever be a time that Lexa couldn’t make her blush. “Thank you.” It was barely audible.

 

Once back at the house, they made cups of hot chocolate together and settled on the couch. After sitting, Lexa said, “’Would you mind terribly if I took this off?” indicating her prosthetic.

“Of course not,” Clarke replied and watched as Lexa sighed in relief once the false leg was removed. She went to pull down the leg of her pants, but Clarke stopped her. The skin where the prosthetic had been putting pressure on Lexa’s leg was pink and irritated. She reached out and started to massage it with her hands and Lexa leaned into the touch.

“It doesn’t gross you out? To touch it?”

“No.” Clarke looked up at her but didn’t stop what she was doing. “Maybe you should take Doctor Franco up on her offer.”

Lexa shook her head. “This one is fine.”

“But it makes your leg red. It shouldn’t do that, should it?”

“It shouldn’t, but because of the scarring, it’s difficult to get a good fit.”

Clarke ran her thumb over a particularly gnarly scar. “Would you think about it…for me?”

Lexa smirked. “I will if you show me one of your tattoos.”

Clarke turned and lifted her hair. Deep in the hair line, barely visible was a broken infinity symbol with tiny words underneath it. Lexa had to squint the writing was so small. “May we meet again,” she said out loud.

“I got it after my dad died. I wanted something that would make me feel like he is always with me, but I wanted it hidden, because it’s just for me and him.”

Lexa swallowed hard. “Thank you for sharing it with me, Clarke.”

Clarke let go of her hair, letting it fall back over her shoulders. “So that’s the second time you have brought up tattoos today.”

“It is,” Lexa smiled. “I was about to tell you about a far-fetched idea I have. I don’t even know if it is possible, but with technology today, maybe it is.” She looked expectantly at Clarke. “It’s an idea I had while talking to my client.”

“What is it?” Clarke prompted.

“Well, you gave me the idea about the hair design shop, and I am seriously considering it, and it made me think that maybe there would be something you could do too.”

Clarke leaned back so she could see Lexa clearly. “You want me to do tattoos?”

The brunette nodded once then looked almost shy or embarrassed by the idea.

“Lex, that’s not something I would be able to do with my hand the way it is.” For emphasis, she waved the offending limb in the air.

“What if you could input the designs into a computer and then a machine would make the tattoo?”

Clarke tipped her head in thought. “Kind of like a 3D printer?”

“I guess.” Lexa shrugged. “Like I said, it was just an idea I had, and I have no idea if it’s possible.”

“You want to know if what’s possible?” Raven came banging in through the front door. Her coveralls were smeared with grease.

After letting her heart calm down from Raven’s abrupt appearance, Clarke said, “She wants to know if it is possible for a machine to be developed that could make tattoos on someone’s skin.”

“Absolutely,” Raven said without hesitation. “That’s a damn good idea too. Human design with mechanical transference onto the skin. The tattoos would be flawless.” She set her bag on the floor and started digging through it, looking for something.
Clarke smiled at Lexa. “You would want me to be part of your business?”

“I would,” she took Clarke’s left hand. “I have seen your work. You are so talented. Who wouldn’t want an original Clarke Griffin design on their skin?”

Raven looked up from where she was rummaging through her bag. “That’s an amazing idea, Griff. You had just made your splash in the art world when you got injured. The people haven’t forgotten about you. This could be a new way to showcase your incredible work. Living art,” Raven mused. She finally grabbed what she was looking for and entered the living room. Her eyes immediately zoomed in on Lexa’s prosthetic.

“What the hell.” She looked back and forth between Clarke and Lexa. “No one told me you’re an amputee.” She gave Clarke an accusing look.

“Not my story to tell,” was all Clarke said.

“It’s not a big deal,” Lexa said.

The mechanic walked over and picked up the prosthetic without asking. She turned it every which way, moved the knee joint, and the ankle before thoroughly studying the socket where Lexa’s leg fit into the device. She ran her fingers over the inner surface. Then looked up at Lexa.

“I bet you get raw spots here, here and here.” She pointed to three different places on the socket.

Raven wasn’t wrong. They were the same places Clarke was just massaging.

“I can fix that for you if you want.” Raven gave Lexa a look. “These bad boys are expensive,” she said as she hefted the artificial leg into the air, “so they should be made to fit right.”

Lexa was surprised. “How do you know so much about prosthetics?”

“Biker friend of mine lost his leg in a crash. The leg he was given was shit. I did a lot of research, and I helped make it better.”

“Wow,” Clarke piped in. “I didn’t know that. Who?”

“Do you remember Nyko? I think you met him once or twice.”

“I do.” Nyko was a large man with facial tattoos on both sides of his face. He looked intimidating, but he was just a big teddy bear. “What ever happened to him?”

“He met the love of his life and moved across the country,” Raven said as she put Lexa’s prosthetic back down. “He sends me pics from time to time. He’s happy. He married her and has a kid on the way.”

That shocked Clarke. The man had seemed like the perpetual bachelor type. “Good for him. That’s great.”

 

“It is, but I miss the goof.” Raven walked toward the kitchen. “I’m starving, you two want anything?”

“I should get going.” Clarke’s face fell, but Lexa quickly remedied it with a lasting kiss. Raven fake gagged and started to walk away, but not before offering again to help Lexa with her leg. Lexa agreed to stop by her shop some day soon so the mechanic could take a better look at it.

Lexa got herself situated before standing up. She pulled Clarke with her then pulled her into a hug. “I like being able to do this.”

“Do what?”

“Hold you,” Lexa said. “Touch you.” She moved her hands up and down Clarke’s arms. “Kiss you.”

Clarke’s knees almost buckled the kiss was so good.

“I don’t know if I can make it over tomorrow, but I will see you Wednesday. We have a date.”

Clarke was disappointed about tomorrow, but she was looking forward to the date.

“You should wear something loose and comfortable, but then have a change of clothes ready. I meant it when I said I want to wine and dine you. I plan to spoil you.”

Clarke laughed happily. “Fine, but next date, I get to wine, dine, and spoil you.”

“Deal.” Lexa then shuffled on her feet. She obviously wanted to ask something, but she was nervous. “Do you think…I mean would you like…do you think you would like to spend the night at my house on Friday?”

The prospect of spending the night with Lexa had Clarke beaming. “Yes. I would like that…so much.”

Lexa ran a hand through her hair. The blonde could see her relief. “Good. That’s good.” She gave Clarke another kiss.

“I will see you Wednesday. I will be here at lunch time, so don’t eat.”

“Okay.” After another quick kiss, Lexa was out the door.

 

Tuesday went better with Harper, and any awkwardness the two shared disappeared. The woman was fun and bubbly. She had a wicked sense of humor that you would never guess by looking at her.

Lexa arrived promptly at lunchtime on Wednesday. Clarke dismissed Harper for the day, who was happy to have the extra hours to get some things done before having to pick up her child at daycare. It didn’t hurt that she would be paid for the full day of work.

After Harper was gone, Lexa moved in to give Clarke the greeting she wanted to, and it left Clarke wanting more.

“One more kiss,” Clarke pleaded. “Since I didn’t get any yesterday.”

Lexa complied and one more kiss turned into ten minutes of kissing and mostly innocent touches.

“I thought I would make us a light lunch then we could head out. I don’t want to eat too much now and not be hungry later.”

Clarke agreed. She had two outfits picked out for later in the evening. One was a tailored suit, the other a flowing dress. Lexa told her that as much as she wanted to see her in the dress, she would be better off in the suit. It was going to be a chilly evening and part of their plans were to take place outside.

Lexa made sure Clarke wore a coat that she didn’t mind if it got dirty and then loaded the blonde into Clarke’s car since it was more comfortable than the truck. They headed out of town and drove for thirty minutes before Clarke finally asked where they were going. Lexa informed her that they were heading into the city.

“We’re going to TonDC?”

Lexa nodded and kept her attention on the road. It was another thirty minutes before they got to their first destination. Construction on the highway slowed their progress, but she finally rolled the car to a stop at a giant playground.

Clarke looked out the window of the car in confusion. “We are going to play?”

“We are. I read about this place in Polis Magazine. It was a story about the newest adult hotspots in the city.”

“But it’s a playground,” Clarke said, still confused.

“It is, but it is an adult playground. No kids allowed and almost one-hundred percent accessible. It opened about three weeks ago.”

Clarke started to get excited. When she was a child, one of her favorite things was to be pushed by her father in the swings. Her second favorite thing was the slide. As her eyes roved over the park, she spotted several swings and a few, very tall, slides. People…adults, were running around like children, laughing and playing on the equipment. It was like nothing Clarke had ever witnessed since becoming an adult, and it made her almost giddy with excitement.

They got out of the car. “Walker or cane?”

“I think I will be fine with the cane.” Lexa pulled it out of the back seat. They tottered over to the ticket stand, and Lexa paid the admission fee. Clarke tried to insist that she pay, but Lexa told her she could pay next time…when it was Clarke’s turn to plan the date. She then grabbed Clarke’s hand and led her inside. Clarke’s eyes widened.

She could only see some of the playground from the car. Once inside, she could see just how expansive the place was. There were the slides and swings that she saw, but also jungle gyms, ropes courses, go carts and putt putt golf. It looked like there was even a water park for when the weather warmed up. Throughout the park, there were vendors selling anything from fair food to gourmet burgers. The place was amazing.

“Where to first m’lady?” Lexa swept her arm out in a wide gesture.

She wanted to swing but chose the slides first. There was a ramp to the top, so Clarke didn’t need to worry about any steps. At the top, there were five different slides to choose from. Clarke played it safe at first and went for the one that would gently get her back to the ground, but after that, she went down them all several times. Lexa did too, and Clarke laughed herself into tears when Lexa got stuck in the corkscrew slide because she got spun around. She ended up coming down backwards.

After that, they spent a few hours playing on everything they could, and Lexa pushed Clarke in the swings when she got tired. They got popcorn and mocktails, then headed to the go carts. It was an extra fee to ride them, but Lexa didn’t mind paying. The attendant helped Clarke into hers and assured her it was the fastest one they had. They were given twenty minutes to race around the track, and Clarke whooped with glee when her cart shot off well ahead of Lexa’s. It was the first time she had driven anything in months, and it felt more freeing than she could have ever imagined.

They ended the afternoon playing on the putt putt course. There were eighteen holes, and Lexa helped Clarke hold her putter when she took her turn. It wasn’t so easy to hold the putter at first, but she gradually got better, and by the fourteenth hole, she was able to hit the ball on her own. Lexa destroyed her, but Clarke didn’t care. The day had been more fun than any she had had in a long while, even before she got hurt. Finn was unimaginative and would take her out to dinner or to the movies, but that was it. He would have scoffed at the idea of coming to a playground, even if it was for adults, as too childish for him.

Lexa ran back to the car and grabbed their other outfits while Clarke waited. “I hope you worked up an appetite, I know I have.”

After quickly changing in the surprisingly spotless bathroom, Lexa drove them to their next destination.

“A fondue restaurant?” Clarke laughed. “Wasn’t that something that was popular way back in the 70’s?”

“It was, but I read fantastic reviews about this place. They have classic cheese and oil fondue, but they also have fourteen different dessert fondues ranging from chocolate, to vanilla, to chocolate and peanut butter, and with the oil fondue, you can try bison, elk, or even ostrich.

Clarke made a face. “I don’t know about the ostrich, but I am all about everything else, especially the cheese and chocolate fondues.”

In the end, it turned out the Clarke liked the ostrich while Lexa did not. They each sipped one glass of wine, and shared a sampler of four different dessert fondues that came in smaller pots than the regular size.

“I am never eating again,” Lexa said as they walked out. “I don’t know if I have ever been this full.”

Clarke groaned in agreement then smiled. “It was worth it.”

“If you aren’t too tired, I have one more stop planned.”

Clarke was getting tired, but she would power through whatever Lexa had planned. The date had been the best she had ever been on so far, and she never wanted it to end.

“Let’s go.” Lexa opened the door for her then sped away to somewhere Clarke hadn’t been before, and certainly not at night.

“The zoo,” Clarke exclaimed. She watched as dozens of people made their way to the front gates. “What’s going on?”

“Zoo lights.” Lexa was bouncing up and down in excitement. “We won’t get to see many of the animals, but this trip isn’t about that. It’s all about the lights.”

“I have never heard of such a thing.”

“Then you are in for a treat. I saw them once at Christmas time in Phoenix. If these are even half as good as that then it will be a spectacular show.

It was. They held hands as the strolled the grounds of the zoo. Each exhibit had a different theme of lights, and each one was more dazzling than the next. When they got in front of a display made to look like a giant gorilla, Lexa jumped around in imitation. Clarke nearly doubled over when Lexa tried to sound like the giant primate but ended up sounding more like a wounded cat.

“Stop,” Clarke laughed. “If you keep doing that, I might throw up.”

Lexa pulled Clarke over and got a selfie of them. She had been taking pictures and selfies all day long, but the blonde was pretty sure that this was going to be her favorite picture.

Lexa slipped her phone back into her pocket then turned toward Clarke. She looked suddenly very serious. “So, I wanted to ask you a question.”

Clarke’s heart started to race in her chest. She thought she knew what Lexa was going to ask, at least she hoped she did.

“O-okay.”

“These past few weeks have been amazing, and I never thought I would meet someone like you Clarke,” Lexa shuffled on her feet and put her hands in her pockets, “and you already know that I have fallen hard for you, so what I want to know is…will be my girlfriend?”

Clarke’s racing heart nearly burst with joy and tears of happiness leaked from her eyes. “Yes, Lexa, yes I will be your girlfriend.”

Lexa pulled Clarke in and kissed her, not caring who was watching. When they stopped a crowd of people started to clap, and Clarke turned beet red. Lexa held her close and yelled, “This is my amazing girlfriend,” then kissed Clarke again. It was probably the happiest day of her life, and any fatigue that either of them had been feeling after the long day dissipated. They finished looking at the lights.

“Thank you, Lex.” They were still holding hands, allowing them to swing between them. “I don’t know if I have ever been happier.”

“Me either.” Lexa lifted her hand and kissed it. “You are the best thing to ever happen to me.”

 

When they got home, Clarke asked if Lexa wanted to stay the night since it was late, but Lexa declined.

“The first time I sleep with you, I don’t want to have to rush out the next morning.”

Clarke cocked an eyebrow. “Sleep with?”

Lexa fumbled for her next words. “I meant sleep with as in sleeping, not sleep sleep with.”

The blonde had to suck on her lips to keep from laughing. “It’s okay, Lex. I know what you meant. I was teasing, and by the way, I don’t want you having to rush out the first time you sleep with me either.” She daringly reached her hands into Lexa’s open coat, and the brunette hummed in appreciation.

“I should probably go,” Lexa finally said. “You’re shivering.”

“Thank you again. It’s the best date I have ever been on. I don’t think I can top it.”

“You don’t have to top it. I will be happy as long as I am with you.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 17

“You’re doing better today, Clarke,” Luna said as she worked to stretch Clarke’s stiff left leg. “The tone isn’t as bad as it has been, and your mobility has improved. I like that you came in using your cane instead of the walker today.”

“Thanks,” Clarke muttered. It was hard to speak while she was getting stretched. The stretching was uncomfortable, but it was also the thing that made her feel the best once her therapy sessions were complete.

Indra had also spent a good amount of time stretching with Clarke today, and her left hand and arm felt looser than they had in a long time. After the stretching the O.T. had her practice her writing.

“Don’t get frustrated, Clarke,” Indra had said during the session. “The more frustrated you get the more your hand tenses up. Just let the words flow and don’t worry about what they look like. This isn’t a task in penmanship, it is a task to work on your fine motor skills. I don’t care what your handwriting looks like.”

“Well, I do,” Clarke had griped.

Even though Indra was the biggest taskmaster of her three therapists, she also seemed to have a soft spot for Clarke. The woman reached out and put her hand over Clarke’s as the blonde struggled with her letters. “Stop for one minute,” Indra commanded. The O.T. shuffled through Clarke’s paper chart and pulled out several pieces of paper and spread them before the blonde.

“Look at these,” the woman said. On the papers were some of Clarke’s first attempts at writing after her injury. They were horrendous.

“Now look at these.” Indra pointed to an example of her writing that she had done two months ago. She tapped the papers Clarke was working on now. “Now these.”

As Clarke scanned her eyes over the papers, she couldn’t deny that things had vastly improved. The writing from her first attempt, if you wanted to call it that, was not even intelligible. There wasn’t a single letter that she could identify, but with the newest writing that she was just working on, the letters were fluid and discernable. If she really scrutinized her work, she had to admit it wasn’t far off from her usual script, just a little sloppier.

Clarke sheepishly looked up at her occupational therapist and smiled. “Okay,” she said. “You have made your point.”

“I always do,” Indra snickered. “Next session, we are going to work on your art.”

Clarke shuddered. She had gone back to ignoring her studio. Some of it was fear of failure, but a lot of it had to do with the fact that she was too distracted by thoughts of Lexa. Those thoughts had permeated every aspect of her life, and she was loving it. Getting back to her art was not her main priority anymore.

“I know we don’t have the fancy art supplies that you do, but I have some paint and colored pencils. We won’t be striving for a masterpiece. I just want to see where your needs lie so we can get you back to work.”

Another distraction had been thinking about Lexa’s idea with the tattoo machine. She had talked about it at length with Raven, and her roomie was certain that it could be done. Harper had overheard them speaking about it and told her she would mention it to her husband. Monty was a computer genius. If he said it could work, it would.

The prospect of working on her art, and potentially having a job excited Clarke. Clarke hadn’t had a job since she was a teenager and had worked at a hotdog stand. It gave her the cash she needed for her various art supplies. Once she went to art school, then graduated, she had been able to survive nicely off her art commissions and the trust fund from her father. The problem was that being an artist, working from her studio in the backyard, was a lonely profession. Sure, she had her art shows, but there would be weeks where she had little interaction with the outside world. Being able to work and see people every day could help fill a hole in Clarke’s life that she didn’t realize existed until just then.

 

“Hey, earth to Clarke,” Luna teased. “I lost you for a minute.”

“Sssorrry.” She explained that she was thinking of Indra and her O.T. session.

“Careful, if you think of her, she will appear, and then she will take over this P.T. session, and you don’t want that,” Luna teased. She moved on to working with Clarke’s foot and ankle.

“Sit up a minute,” Luna instructed, so Clarke did. “Try to tap your toes on your left.”

Clarke did. She tried mightily to lift her toes, but they barely lifted. Luna scribbled something in her chart.

“That’s better, Clarke. When you first got here, you couldn’t move them at all. Now you have some trace movement.”

Clarke’s shoulders sagged. “Hey, it’s improvement. It may not feel like a lot, but at this stage of the game it is. You went from a 0 to a 1. If, when you leave us for good, you are at a 2 or a 2+, I will consider my job done, a complete success.”

Clarke wanted to know the highest she could go, and Luna told her it was a 5. 0/5 strength meant there wasn’t any. 5/5 strength meant that she had full strength.

“Here, let me show you. Lift the toes on your right foot.” Clarke did. “Good now hold them there and don’t let me push them down.”

Clarke fought the pressure Luna applied to her foot, and her toes and foot stayed up. “That is 5/5 strength.”

She felt discouraged. She was only at a 1/5.

“Don’t look like that, Clarke. You may never regain full strength in your foot and ankle, but you will get more. I am sure of it.”

“Will I ever be able to get rid of the brace?”

Luna sighed. Clarke could see that she was weighing what she was going to say. “I’ll be honest. You may never be rid of your AFO (Ankle Foot Orthosis), but with time, there is the possibility. Sadly, we often see almost full recovery with injuries like yours except for the foot. For some reason the connection between the brain and the foot doesn’t always repair itself.

“Okay,” Clarke said in defeat.

“Don’t let it get you down. Look at Lexa. She will wear a prosthetic leg for the rest of her life, but she doesn’t let that get to her.”

It was true, and suddenly Clarke felt guilty that she was upset that she might have to wear a lightweight plastic brace for the rest of her life. It could have been worse. At least there was a brace that she could wear. Without one, she would still be using the walker every day.

“You’re right.”

“Hey, you two.” Costia strolled into the therapy gym. “It’s time for Clarke’s speech session, and that means it’s time for your audition for the Voice.”

Clarke rolled her eyes. Costia had taken to having Clarke sing. The first time, Clarke didn’t understand why, and she almost refused out of embarrassment. She didn’t want to have anyone hear her sing, but after insisting, Clarke sang a simple nursery rhyme, and her singing voice had been perfect. There was nothing wrong with it. Costia had smiled at her knowingly while she happily freaked out.

Since that time, singing had been a big part of her sessions, and every time, Clarke marveled that she could sing perfectly but still couldn’t speak the way she wanted. At the end of each session, after singing, Costia would record Clarke saying a complicated phrase. She always bungled it, but it was getting easier to get the words out of her mouth. Just as Indra had shown her the early writings she had done, Costia played her recordings. Clarke hated hearing her own voice, but she had to admit that she sounded better.

She had asked Costia how she knew to try the singing tasks with her, and the speech therapist explained that singing was something that people who stutter can often do. It didn’t always help with their speech, but at least they could belt out a tune if they wanted to. Costia admitted that she had had a hunch when she wanted to have Clarke sing, and the hunch paid off.

So now, Clarke was sitting and singing one of her favorite songs. She laughed when Costia started to sing with her. She had no idea the pleasure it would give her to be able to sing. She hadn’t tried until Costia made her do it. She had figured if she couldn’t speak correctly then she wouldn’t be able to sing. Costia had given her an enormous gift that session. Singing brought her more happiness than she thought possible.

“You have a beautiful voice, Clarke. I bet Lexa would love it if you sang for her.”

Clarke turned pink.

“I heard you two are girlfriends now.” Costia had a sparkle in her eyes. “I am very happy for both of you.”

“That got out fast,” Clarke said. She wasn’t mad though, in fact, she was happy that Lexa felt comfortable telling her friends.

“You have no idea what you have done for that girl. I have never seen her so ecstatic. It’s the happiest I have ever seen her.”

The pink of Clarke’s earlier blush grew, but it was because she was feeling pure, unadulterated joy. She admitted that Lexa made her feel the same way.

Clarke kept stealing peeks at Harper and the car’s dashboard as her new aide drove home from the therapy sessions. Clarke was convinced that Harper was deliberately driving slowly, but she was in fact speeding. The blonde was simply too excited about the upcoming overnight stay at Lexa’s, and she wanted to get home as quickly as possible so she could pack.

Her girlfriend (Clarke still wasn’t over the fact that she and Lexa were officially together) had already told her that they would be spending the evening in. When Lexa had told her that she would be cooking dinner for the two of them, Clarke had tried to talk her out of it. She didn’t want Lexa going through so much trouble when they could just order takeout, but the brunette had insisted saying, “It’s no trouble at all. I enjoy cooking, and it is way more fun to cook for two than for one.”

Clarke had insisted that she would make dessert and regretted her decision almost immediately. She made a box of chocolate pudding (because that was about as much as she could handle). She was embarrassed that she hadn’t been able to do anything more complicated, but Raven assured her that Lexa would like it no matter what.

Her roommate then teased and said, “Besides, it’s pudding. Who doesn’t love pudding?” She then proceeded to pull a can of whipped cream, something Clarke would never admit to loving, from the refrigerator, and told her to top the pudding with it. She even cut up a few strawberries for her.

“It will remind her of childhood.”

“Oh sure,” Clarke scoffed. “Don’t you remember the gritty brown blob with the rock-hard whipped cream on top that they used to call pudding at the school cafeteria? I’d rather not remind her of that.”

“Clarke,” Raven walked over to her and put a calming hand on her shoulder. “She will love it. I promise.”

 

“Hey, Harper.” Clarke said, shaking off her anxiety over what she was sure was going to be a pudding disaster and turned to face her aid. “Would you mind stopping at the florist? I want to get something for Lexa.”

Harper gave her a huge smile. “Of course not. Every girl loves to get flowers.”

Harper had assisted Clarke out of the car, and the two of them perused every single plant in the store, with the shop keeper chiming in about the various plants for sale. In the end, Clarke got Lexa a mixed bouquet of flowers and two plants for the house. One was a plant with colorful slightly curled leaves of gold, red and purple, and the other was a cat grass plant for Jack. She didn’t want the cat to feel left out.

Harper was almost as excited and anxious as Clarke for her first overnight stay anywhere with Lexa. She even helped pick out clothes for the night and convinced Clarke to bring a pair of sexy pajamas in addition to the comfortable pair that she had picked out earlier. The other thing Harper did was convince her to bring two sets of clothes and extra underwear.

“What if one night turns into two?” Harper rationalized. “It could very likely happen. It is the weekend after all.”

Harper was a dream. She helped her fold and pack all her belongings neatly into one bag, although she did make Clarke fold some of it on her own arguing that it was good therapy (which it was). She then carried the bag to the front door for Clarke and set it next to the flowers and plants already waiting there.

By Clarke’s calculations, Lexa should be picking her up in about thirty minutes, and she counted down every second until the doorbell rang and Lexa was standing there looking as beautiful as ever.

Harper beat her to the door and let Lexa in. Lexa was dressed casually in a pair of jeans and boots. She wore a worn brown bomber jacket, and Clarke decided it was the hottest thing she had ever seen. Lexa had to clear her throat to get Clarke’s attention. When the blonde blushed in embarrassment, Lexa smiled and strode over to her. She stood her on her feet and gave her a searing kiss.

“Hi,” Lexa said.

Clarke tried to hide her embarrassment by nuzzling into Lexa’s neck. “Hi.” When she lifted her head, she saw Harper grinning goofily at the two of them. The aide gave her a thumbs-up, donned her coat, and told Clarke she would see her on Monday.

“Are you ready to go?” Lexa asked.

“I am…almost. We need to get dessert from the fridge.” When she said it her face got impossibly more red.

Lexa traced a finger over her burning cheek. “Hey, what’s making you so self-conscious?”

“The dessert. Let’s just leave it here.”

“Why?”

“It’s just…I couldn’t make a real dessert. All I could make was a box of pudding.” Clarke tried to hide her face again, but Lexa didn’t let her.

“I love pudding. In fact, it’s one of my favorite things to eat.”

“You’re just trying to make me feel better.”

“Nope, it’s true. I bet when we get back to my place and you look in my cupboards, you will find no less that eight boxes of pudding. It’s kind of my addiction. You know, like bubble bath is yours.”

Lexa’s words were the balm that Clarke needed, and she instantly calmed down.

“Let me go grab it, and then I will grab the rest of the stuff. For now, I am going to try and ignore the absolute excitement I am feeling at seeing that my girlfriend not only got me plants, but also flowers. I will wait until we are at my place to show you just how much I love that you got them for me.”

Clarke held Lexa tight. “Are you sure you don’t want to give me a preview?”

“Well,” Lexa said as she leaned in dangerously close, putting a hand on Clarke’s hip. “Maybe I could give you a small one.”

This time the kiss was slow and tender. When they came up for air, Lexa said, “That’s all you get for now. I have dinner in the oven, and I don’t want it to burn.”

They decided to leave Lexa’s truck in the driveway and take Clarke’s car. It was better suited to traveling with the plants and dessert since Lexa didn’t want Clarke having to hold onto anything as they drove.

When she put on the radio, it was pure coincidence that the song that was playing was the one that Clarke sang during therapy earlier. Lexa had already started to sing along, so Clarke jumped in. When the song finished, they were sitting at a red light. Lexa grabbed her hand. “I had no idea you could sing. You have a beautiful voice.”

Clarke thanked her and explained that it was Costia who got her singing in therapy.

“Remind me to thank her. Now I know what I would have been missing if she hadn’t gotten you to sing. I mean it, Clarke, it’s a beautiful voice.”

Clarke smiled. She was embarrassed again, but she didn’t try to hide it. “Your voice isn’t half bad either.”

Lexa chuckled as she accelerated the car. “Gee, thanks.”

Two more songs came on before they made it to Lexa’s house. One she was familiar with and sang along to, the other she hadn’t heard before.

When they pulled into the driveway, Lexa didn’t get out immediately. She had a spark in her eye. “Maybe one day we can take a road trip together, maybe to the mountains, or the beach. I can already tell that driving with you for company would be the one of the highlights of the trip.”

If Lexa kept it up, Clarke’s face was never going to return to its normal shade. Her girlfriend knew exactly the right things to say to her.

“I love the mountains,” Clarke said. She then admitted that she was not fond of the beach. She and the sun did not get along, and unless she wanted to look like a lobster, staying on the beach too long wasn’t a good idea.

Lexa sighed in relief. “Thank goodness. I don’t know what I would have done if you were a sun and sand kind of girl. My leg doesn’t exactly do well in those conditions.”

“The mountains it is then.” The possibility that she might one day take a trip had Clarke downright giddy.

“Let’s get inside. I want to check on dinner.”

Once everything was inside, Lexa finally gushed over her gifts from Clarke. She carefully arranged a vase with the flowers, and she wandered her entire house looking for a place for her new plant. It was a plant that Lexa had never seen before, and she wanted it to be featured somewhere where it would be highly visible.

Jack showed his appreciation for his cat grass by immediately mowing half of it down with his teeth (and eating it) then rubbing in and out of Clarke’s leg. He even gave her a few licks.

Lexa thanked Clarke with both words and actions, then led her to the kitchen. It smelled amazing. The dish was pulled out of the oven and left to sit for a few minutes while Lexa got them drinks.

She turned to face Clarke and looked almost shy. “You know, if you want, I would love it if you stayed the whole weekend. I mean if you don’t already have other plans.”

Clarke sent a mental high-five to Harper and sent a silent thanks for having her pack enough for two days.

“Nothing would make me happier.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 18

 

Clarke and Lexa were sitting around a small firepit that Lexa had in her back yard. It wasn’t something Clarke had noticed on her first trip to Lexa’s, but just as with everything else about Lexa’s home, it was charming. It was a cozy nook, more a part of the side yard than the back, and it was just big enough for about four people to gather around comfortably. Lexa had gotten a roaring fire going after dinner and the two were content to sit and listen to the crackling of the wood as it burned warm enough to keep them from getting cold. Not that Clarke would have gotten cold. The two of them were sitting tangled up with one another, and Clarke wouldn’t admit it, but she was feeling a wee bit flustered. So far, most of their touches had been casual, but the touches were frequent. The fact that they were sharing a lounger that was meant for one, so their bodies were pressed tightly against each other, also wasn’t helping. Clarke shivered.

“Are you getting cold?” Lexa asked, unaware of what Clarke was feeling.

“Nnnooo. No. I…I’mmm fine.”

“Are you sure?” Lexa raised her eyebrows in question, and Clarke had to keep herself from shivering again. The way the firelight was reflecting off Lexa’s face only accentuated her ridiculously gorgeous facial features, and at that moment, there was nothing more that Clarke would have loved than to be able to paint Lexa in that very moment.

When Clarke didn’t answer her, Lexa started to smile. Clarke’s intent stare lingered just a few seconds too long.

Lexa smile grew. “You’re staring.”

Clarke was happy the dancing shadows from the flames hid her blush, but she was honest when she said, “That’s because I can’t get over how beautiful you are.”

Lexa looked down shyly, but then blazing green eyes looked back up. She cupped Clarke’s cheek and drew her in close. “You’re not so bad yourself,” she said before dazzling Clarke with a searing kiss that nearly turned the blonde to ash.

When they broke apart, all Clarke could say was, “Wow.”

Lexa now seemed as flustered as Clarke. She leaned down and picked up Clarke’s mug that until recently had been full of tea, purposefully putting some distance between them.

After dinner, which may have been one of the best homemade meals Clarke had ever eaten, the two women had taken their bowls of pudding and enjoyed them in Lexa’s living room while watching something on Netflix. It was after Lexa’s third helping of pudding, because it was true – she did love pudding and had no less than eight boxes of it in her pantry, that she suggested they go outside to have a fire. Lexa ran outside and got everything ready before coming back inside to make a pot of herbal tea from the different herbs growing around her kitchen. Clarke had watched in amazement as Lexa picked different leaves off the plants. She steeped them in the hot water, added some honey then handed a steaming mug to Clarke. It was heaven in a cup, and Clarke told her so.

“Yes, I would love more tea,” Clarke observed, “but that would mean you would have to get up, and that’s the last thing I want you to do. You’re warm and cozy.” To make her point, Clarke closed the gap between them again. Moving as little as possible, Lexa threw another log on the fire, and the two of them fell into a comfortable silence, enjoying their shared body heat and the warmth of the fire. It only took a few minutes before they were both dozing contentedly in each other’s arms.

 

Clarke didn’t know how long it had been, but she woke up shivering, and this time it was because she was cold. Lexa, who was fast asleep next to her, didn’t stir. Looking over at the fire, she noticed that it had burnt down to embers. No wonder she was so cold. It was still winter after all.

“Lexa,” she whispered. No response. “Lexa,” She repeated a little more loudly. She hated to wake her girlfriend, who looked at absolute peace sleeping next to her, but they needed to go inside. Clarke did not tolerate being cold, not anymore, and she didn’t want to risk getting sick again.

Instead of jostling Lexa awake, Clarke chose to start placing kisses all over the brunette’s face. She started on Lexa’s prominent jaw line then moved to her cheek bones. She could feel the warm body next to her beginning to stir and doubled her efforts. She placed a kiss on the lid of each eye, and finally got Lexa to wake when she placed the last kiss on the tip of her nose.

Confused green eyes looked at Clarke, and the blonde sat up, amused at Lexa’s obvious grogginess. Lexa turned her head from side to side, blinked twice, then focused on Clarke again.

“Where are we?” Lexa asked.

“We fell asleep by the fire. It’s cold. We need to go inside.” Clarke’s teeth were chattering making her speech more difficult to get out than usual.

This woke Lexa up, and she sprang into action. She quickly dowsed the embers of the fire with a bucket of water she had nearby and pulled Clarke into standing. The blonde was almost certain that if Lexa could have, she would have swooped her up bridal-style and carried her into the house. As it was, she carefully, but quickly, assisted Clarke inside before running back out and grabbing the teacups and Clarke’s cane.

Lexa’s cheeks were rosy from exertion and the cold. Loose wispy curls of hair fanned her face.

“Clarke, I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for us to fall asleep.”

Clarke had sat on the ottoman at the base of a chair in the living room. She was still shivering, but she was trying to hide it. She failed, and in seconds Lexa was running over to her and rubbing her hands up and down Clarke’s arms.

“Stay here. I’m going to run you a bath.” She was gone before Clarke could protest. It was only a few minutes before Lexa was back, but in the time it took Lexa to get everything ready, One-eyed Jack had crawled into Clarke’s lap. The contented kitty curled in a ball and fell asleep while Clarke stroked her fingers through his soft black fur.

Lexa looked down at the creature. “Sorry buddy. This girl has a date with a bath.” Jack protested when he was picked up and moved. He promptly walked three feet away, lifted his back leg and began to groom his important bits making both women laugh.

“I guess he told you,” Clarke joked as Lexa helped her up and guided her to the bathroom.

“I hope you don’t mind, I set everything out for you, including your pajamas.” Lexa was about to step out then added, “Let me know if you need help with anything.”

Before Clarke knew what she was saying, she spouted off, “Aren’t you going to join me?”

Lexa froze and looked absolutely gobsmacked by the offer. “I…I…yes. If you really want me to.” She was blushing furiously. “I…I would love to.” She smiled shyly at Clarke who was also feeling suddenly shy, but she wasn’t regretting her offer.

Lexa stepped back into the bathroom and shut the door. She nervously looked at Clarke. “Are you sure that this,” she gestured to her leg, “isn’t going to bother you?”

Clarke gestured to her left hand. It had clawed up because of the cold, and the wrist was painfully flexed. “Is this going to bother you?”

Lexa’s eyes widened. She went over to Clarke and helped her relax her hand. “Of course not,” she said. She kissed each knuckle as she helped stretch out each finger.

“Then you have your answer,” Clarke smiled.

 

It took several minutes before either woman had the gumption to start undressing in front of the other, but once the clothes started to come off there was no stopping until they were both staring at each other. Clarke never dreamed that she would be standing naked in front of Lexa, not like this. Her skin fused with pink as green eyes raked over her body. Her eyes were just as guilty. They were roving over Lexa’s body unashamedly.

“You’re so beautiful,” they said in unison, and it set them off on a fit of nervous laughter. Clarke then bravely approached Lexa and commanded that she turn around. She felt Lexa twitch when she softly placed her fingers on the tattoo that stretched down Lexa’s back. She leaned in and kissed the skin at the base of her neck.

“Let me see your other one,” Clarke said, and Lexa moved so she could observe the one on her right arm. She kissed the exposed shoulder.

When she stepped back, she could see that Lexa was being shy again. The other woman was trembling, and she knew why. Lexa was standing before her naked except for her prosthetic leg. Clarke purposefully raked her eyes up and down Lexa’s body before stepping forward again.

“You are the sexiest thing I have ever seen, Lex.” It was true. Lexa was a goddess. Her lean, hard muscles didn’t take away any of her femininity, and her abs, well, if Clarke wasn’t careful, she was going to start drooling. “Now how ‘bout I help you take that off so we can get in the water before it gets cold?”

Lexa obeyed and sat on the edge of the tub. She let Clarke help take off the leg, and the blonde watched as she gracefully spun her legs around and lowered herself into the water. Clarke then did the same thing. She sat, then carefully spun so her legs were in the water. Lexa then helped her lower herself in. She moaned in bliss as hot water and Lexa’s skin touched hers.

“Had I known we would be bathing together, I would have gotten some bubble bath,” Lexa remarked as Clarke snuggled into her.

“Nah, bubble baths are a solo venture.” Clarke tipped her head back so that it was resting on Lexa’s shoulder. “I love my bubble baths, but this…I like this better.”

Lexa tipped her head so that she could kiss Clarke’s temple. “I like it too,” she said.

They sat in the water and by unspoken agreement kept most of their touches chaste. As much as Clarke wanted to, as much as she was dying to, she wasn’t quite ready to take things with Lexa to the next level. She didn’t have the confidence in herself just yet to make that move. She was relieved that Lexa seemed to be on the same page. To make certain that she was, however, Clarke did ask, “You’re okay if we don’t do more than this, right?”

Lexa shifted in the water so that she could look at Clarke. “I am.” She ducked her head and looked embarrassed. “I, ah, I haven’t…I haven’t done…I haven’t had…not since…”

“It’s okay, Lex. I get it. You don’t have to explain.” It took some maneuvering, and she sloshed water all over Lexa’s floor, but she turned herself around so that they were fully facing each other. “For the record, it will be my absolute honor to be your first…if you will have me.”

“The honor would be all mine, and I know when the time is right that it will also be perfect.”

It took thirty more minutes, after multiple heated kisses, and a large addition of even hotter water, before Lexa hopped out of the water, dried herself off and made it so that she could help Clarke out of the water. Clarke marveled at her grace while moving around the bathroom on one leg. It was obviously a well-versed routine that Lexa had been doing for a long time, but still, the fluidity of her movements, and her perfect balance were a thing of beauty.

Once they were both dressed in their pajamas, Clarke sat on the edge of Lexa’s bed. “I don’t want to be presum…presum…oh fucking hell,” she threw up her arms in frustration. “Is it okay to assume I am sleeping in here with you?”

Lexa moved to the head of the bed and pulled back the covers. She held out her hand toward Clarke. “It wouldn’t be presumptuous at all,” Lexa assured, saying what Clarke hadn’t been able to. “Come here.”

Relieved, Clarke moved to the side of the bed that Lexa had indicated. She was made to lie down, and it wasn’t until the blankets on her side were tucked around her that Lexa got into the bed on the other side. She turned her head and watched as Lexa scooted next to her. She had thought that being in bed the first time with Lexa would be awkward, but as Lexa sidled in impossibly closer, Clarke realized that they fit together perfectly, and it was the most comfortable that she had felt in a very long time. It felt like home.

Lexa moved onto her right side and propped herself onto her elbow. “What has you smiling?”

“You. This. It feels right.”

“It does, doesn’t it?” Lexa agreed. She wrapped her left arm around Clarke’s waist and rested her head on the blonde’s chest. “Is this okay?”

“More than,” Clarke whispered, knowing that this was just the first night, in a lifetime of nights, that they would be falling asleep together.

 

Lexa woke at 3:57 in the morning. She was, unfortunately, one of those people that had to get up once each night to go to the bathroom, and usually it wasn’t a big deal, but this morning, this incredible, unbelievable, best-morning-of-her-life morning, she was trapped by a snuggly blonde. Somehow during the night, they had changed position, and now Clarke had her head resting on Lexa’s chest and a leg was draped heavily on top of her. Despite her uncomfortably full bladder, she smiled. Not once since she lost her leg had she allowed herself the luxury of thinking she would ever have another person, especially one as extraordinary as Clarke, in her bed.

She had dated once or twice since her injury, but as soon as her date found out about her leg, they would go running for the hills. It had left her feeling unlovable, but even then, she never actually imagined that they would end up in her bed.

Anya and her friends had assured her that there was someone out there just waiting for her, but she had never truly believed it. Some people were destined to be alone, and Lexa figured she was one of them. She never really let it bother her. She was truly okay with it. She enjoyed her solitude, and as an introvert, she didn’t need people around her all the time. She was quite content to spend time on her own in her home with her cat.

It hadn’t always been that way. One of the things that had bothered her after her injury, at least at first, was her inability to go outside and enjoy nature, and that more than anything, is what had led her into a deep depression. The pain didn’t help, but not being able to go outside, drive, and do things for herself are the things which nearly destroyed her. It’s a hard thing to lose your independence when you have been independent for so long. She tried to isolate herself, and she initially refused to go to her therapy sessions but having two therapists for best friends didn’t help. If she wasn’t going to come to them, then they were going to come to her. They had no qualms about using the key she had given them for emergencies and letting themselves in. Costia would drag her out of bed while Luna went to work converting her living room into a therapy gym. At first, she would reluctantly go along with whatever they planned simply to get them back out of her house, but it wasn’t long before she started to realize the benefits of doing the exercises and stretches Luna made her do. There was also no better cheerleader than Costia. The speech therapist couldn’t contribute much in the way of therapy. Lexa had no speech issues, but she did have motivation issues. Costia had a way with Lexa that no one else had, and she could convince the brunette to do almost anything.

As much as she loved Anya and her mother, Costia was the one Lexa went to when she needed a shoulder to cry on. She was also the one who would give Lexa a swift kick in the ass if she needed it. Without her two best friends, she would have withered away. She was thankful for them every day.

She was also ever so thankful for the breathtaking beauty she was currently tangled up with. After the loss of her limb, Lexa hadn’t exactly thought that love was weakness, but she had thought it unnecessary. She had steeled her heart against ever loving someone, but the moment she saw Clarke the first time, still lying in bed, she knew her resolve was going to crack. It wasn’t love at first sight, but it was something. Maybe it was a shifting of the universe, or perhaps her world tipped slightly on its axis. She didn’t know, but in that moment, she knew her life was going to change.

She looked at Clarke, sleeping peacefully. She had observed the woman while she slept before, during naps, or when she was sick, but Lexa had always felt like a creep, like she wasn’t entitled to witness such innocence, but now, with Clarke in her own bed, those feelings were gone. She moved as best she could so as not to disturb her and tried to memorize what she was seeing. She wanted to remember the first time she woke up with Clarke in her arms.

Lexa studied each curl of blonde hair and every eye lash. She counted the seconds between each of Clarke’s breaths, listened to her heartbeat, and memorized the absolutely adorable pouty look the unconscious woman got when Lexa finally extricated herself from the blonde in order to hobble to the bathroom to relieve herself.

It took exactly sixteen hops, with the use of every piece of furniture at her disposal, to get from her bed to the bathroom. She was grateful that her bathroom was placed in such a way that she didn’t have to grab her crutches or put on her leg when she had to get up in the middle of the night.

On her way back to the bed, lazy blue eyes were staring at her. Clarke didn’t say anything until Lexa was cuddled next to her again. “Is that what they call furniture cruising?”

Lexa didn’t know what Clarke meant.

“Furniture cruising, you know, holding on to each piece of furniture to get where you are going instead of doing the safe thing and getting your crutches.”

Lexa chuckled. “Is that what that’s called? I call it easier and faster.” She rolled so that she was facing Clarke. “I’m going to guess you are guilty of furniture cruising as well.”

“Oh, absolutely, but I learned very quickly that I am not very good at it. Two falls had me making sure I always have my cane or walker nearby. You, though, have it down to a science. What you just did was the epitome of grace.”

“I don’t know about that but thank you.” She leaned forward and kissed Clarke. “Do you need me to help you get up since I woke you, or are you okay for a couple more hours?”

“I’m fine. I have the good fortune of having been blessed with the bladder of a camel. I can make it through the night.”

“Or, maybe you just don’t drink enough water,” Lexa teased.

“I drink plenty. Now let’s go back to sleep. I was having a wonderful dream.”

Clarke rolled over so that Lexa could press into her from behind. It was mere minutes before the blonde was asleep again. Lexa was up for a few more minutes. She wanted to enjoy this moment of just being able to hold onto her girlfriend. She snuggled in close and took in the scent that was uniquely Clarke. With a contented sigh, she finally closed her eyes and fell back to sleep, the girl of her dreams sleeping in her arms.

Chapter Text

Chapter 19

Dawn came and went, and Lexa didn’t start to stir until almost 8:30. She couldn’t remember the last time she had slept so late. She knew it was because of the blonde sleeping beside her, and by sleeping beside her she meant almost completely on top of her.

Clarke’s head was in the crook of her neck, loose curls splayed across her chest. Her right arm was draped across her torso and her leg was quite pleasantly wedged between Lexa’s legs. In other words, Clarke had star-fished across the bed, and Lexa had been caught in her wake. Not that Lexa was displeased. Not at all, in fact, she was almost dizzy with how happy it made her that Clarke felt comfortable enough to sprawl across the bed while she was in it. She was also impressed that the blonde was able to move herself so well, although, it was always easier to move when you weren’t thinking about it. Lexa was pretty sure that if Clarke woke to find herself on her stomach, she would have a hard time rolling herself back over.

Lexa slipped her fingers through the cascades of golden hair as she thought about the woman sprawled on top of her. Though Clarke would deny it, she was strong. She had been dealing with her head injury for roughly five months, doing it all with only the support of her one good friend, having been abandoned by those who claimed to love her. It made the brunette angry that people could so callously throw a person aside, someone they had known forever, simply because they had changed. Just because Clarke moved differently or spoke differently, didn’t mean that she was a different person, and just because her speech was often difficult to get out didn’t mean that Clarke was stupid; in fact, it was quite the opposite. Clarke had a brilliant mind and a wicked sense of humor, although Lexa had only witnessed it a couple of times.

Clarke had a way of drawing into herself and keeping herself closed off. It was as if she was afraid of exposing who she was now lest she be judged against who she used to be, and Lexa knew, she knew this was because of how Clarke was treated immediately after her injury. Raven had explained how some of Clarke’s friends, and her fiancé, had immediately abandoned her, but it was those that stuck around who may have done more lasting damage. They treated Clarke like something fragile at first, like if they touched her or spoke too loudly, she would break. After a while though, as it became clear that the changes in Clarke could be permanent, they started speaking slowly and too loud as if Clarke’s speech deficit made it hard for her to comprehend or hear. This was when Raven noticed Clarke fencing herself off. She stopped accepting invitations to go to gatherings or out with her friends, and it pissed Raven off when their friends seemed relieved that Clarke didn’t come along because it made it easier for them. They didn’t want to put extra effort into a friendship which didn’t actually require extra effort. Clarke didn’t need or want extra effort, all she needed and wanted was to be treated the same as she had been before her world fell apart.

This pissed Lexa off, even though she didn’t know these people. She had been lucky that she had a good support system after her injury. She had wanted to close herself off too, but that was her issue and had nothing to do with her friends and family, and despite her grumpiness, those who loved her didn’t let her push them away.

Lexa supposed it was human nature, the way they treated others after a change. People didn’t like change; it scared them. She understood this, but it still slayed her to see others being treated differently, and sometimes cruelly, because of something not under their control.

She looked at the girl in her bed, and thought about the cruelty of it all, but then she marveled at Clarke’s resilience. Clarke still had her struggles, but in the short time Lexa had known her, she had seen Clarkes’ walls slowly coming down. She had watched the blonde’s confidence grow with each passing day, and it was a delight to witness. She let her mind wander to what a future with Clarke in her life would be like, and it brought a smile to her face. She could see herself spending the rest of her life with the blonde, and it filled her with a giddy excitement.

“I can feel you staring,” the blonde in question said.

“That is because you are so beautiful. I can’t seem to take my eyes off you.”

Lexa felt Clarke smile against her neck, and Lexa could see the bits of Clarke’s skin that were exposed turn pink. Clarke lifted her head. “Thank you.” She said it shyly.

“No one, except you, has ever told me that,” the blonde admitted with a whisper then ducked her head back down in embarrassment.

“I don’t believe that. You are so, so beautiful.”

Clarke lifted her head again. “People have told me I look beautiful, or that I look pretty, but they don’t ever tell me that I am those things, so thank you.”

Lexa leaned down and kissed Clarke’s forehead the best she could in their awkward position. “Those people are fools,” Lexa mumbled into blonde tresses. “You are gorgeous. Don’t you ever think otherwise.”

Clarke shifted, causing the leg that was wedged between Lexa’s to press into her core, causing Lexa to squeak and Clarke to chuckle.

“Sorry,” Clarke snickered.

“I’m not,” Lexa admitted the quickly added, “but if you keep doing that there is going to be an embarrassing wet spot on the bed.”

Clarke’s snicker turned into an outright laugh. She moved again and Lexa couldn’t hold in her moan. Clarke’s voice was deeper and huskier when she said, “We may not be ready yet, but when the time is right, I am going to thoroughly enjoy getting you all wet.”

Lexa gasped at Clarke’s boldness, causing her to squirm, which in turn only enhanced her predicament.

“That was mean.” She wriggled out from under Clarke and stood at the edge of the bed after donning her leg. “Don’t move. I’m going to make coffee. I will bring you some.”

She had reached the doorway when she heard Clarke say, “You’re beautiful too, you know.”

 

Clarke stayed on her stomach in the bed until the scent of coffee filled the air, waking her again. She struggled to get onto her back, and to her, it took an impossibly long time. By the time Lexa walked in carrying a tray with their coffee, she was sweating and out of breath.

Lexa gave her a gentle smile. “If you would have waited, I would have helped you.”

“I know,” Clarke confessed, “I just wanted to be able to do it on my own.”

Lexa walked over and helped her sit against the headboard. She then handed Clarke a mug with her coffee exactly the way she liked it. “Trust me, I know exactly how that feels, but maybe at your next therapy session, you can ask Luna to work on that with you. I bet she has a few tricks that will leave you a little less sweaty.”

Clarke pretended to pout into her coffee cup. “You don’t like me sweaty?”

“I like you every way, but if you’re going to be sweaty, I want to be the one causing it.”

Clarke laughed and almost spilled coffee on herself.

“That’s for your little comment earlier,” Lexa teased.

Clarke liked the level of playfulness they now had, and she knew it was building up to what would likely be the most significant event of Clarke’s adult life. When the two of them finally decided to make love, she knew it would be life-altering. It wouldn’t be just sex. If she thought about it, sex is all she ever had with Finn. She knew with Lexa the first time, and every time after that, it would be making love. It was something she was looking forward to, something she couldn’t wait to happen, but it was also something that made her nervous. With her body the way it was now, she feared she would disappoint Lexa, that she wouldn’t be very good at it anymore, but then she thought of the woman before her, the woman who cared enough to bring her coffee in bed. She knew that Lexa would be patient, and loving, and careful with her. She also knew that Lexa would take her time with her, and it would be new to both of them.

Lexa had admitted to her that she hadn’t had sex since her injury either and that made Clarke’s heart ache. Lexa deserved to be loved and cherished and touched, and Clarke made a silent vow to be the one to always be that person for Lexa.

She was brought out of her musings by a chime from her phone. She carefully placed her coffee on the nightstand and Lexa handed her the offending device. When she looked at the text, she couldn’t help the giant smile that spread across her face.

“Someone just made you very happy. It had better not be your other girlfriend,” Lexa teased.

Clarke poked Lexa in her side. “You know you are the only girl for me. It’s my friends, Bellamy and Murphy. They are in town for the next couple of days. I haven’t seen them since before everything happened.”

Lexa looked crestfallen when she asked, “Do you want me to take you home so you can see them?”

“No,” Clarke said right away, never wanting to see Lexa looking sad and disappointed. “Absolutely not. I have wanted this time with you for too long. I can see then tomorrow.” She held out her hand to Lexa so that the woman would lie next to her. Clarke snuggled in close, coffee and text forgotten.

The two of them stayed on the bed for a while in comfortable silence. Lexa had eventually handed back Clarke’s coffee mug. When they finished, they both sat up on the edge of the bed.

“Why don’t you invite them over here tonight?” Lexa said suddenly. “I can barbeque, and it will give you a chance to catch up with them.”

Clarke had tried to protest, but Lexa finally convinced her that it would be good for her to see her friends, so Clarke sent a text, and the two men would be coming over later that day. She couldn’t describe the things it did to her that Lexa was generous enough to make the offer. As a reward, Clarke clumsily tackled her girlfriend onto the mattress and bombarded her with grateful kisses. Twenty minutes later, they were both sweaty and gasping for air.

“Looks like I got you all sweaty after all,” Lexa teased. “Come on. Let’s get cleaned up and I will make you breakfast.”

 

It was hours later. Lexa and Clarke had spent most of the day goofing off. They did run to the store to buy stuff to make burgers on the grill. Clarke had claimed that it was too cold to grill, but Lexa told her in no uncertain terms that it was never too cold to grill, so they grabbed meat for the burgers, buns and all the fixings, side dishes, and drinks. Lexa had wanted to get beer, but Clarke told her all about the brewery her two friends owned. Clarke was certain that they would be bringing a sample case of all the different beers they brewed. It would be a waste to buy more.

Clarke then proceeded to tell Lexa all about Murphy and Bellamy, and the brunette decided she was probably going to like them very much. While they hadn’t seen Clarke since her accident, it had been at Clarke’s insistence. They had wanted to come down, but the blonde had told them no. They were two friends that kept in contact with Clarke. They texted, they called, and they even video chatted every once in a while, whenever they could convince the blonde. Clarke often resisted the video chats. She didn’t like being on FaceTime. It made her self-conscious. Clarke did admit that she never told Bellamy about his sister’s behavior because she knew it would make him mad, and she didn’t want to be the cause of any strife in Bellamy’s relationship with Octavia. She wondered if Octavia had told Bell that she was pregnant yet. Her friend hadn’t told Raven, so she might not have told him yet either. Clarke was going to have to be careful that she didn’t let the cat out of the bag.

 

When they got back to Lexa’s house, they unloaded all the food, and Lexa tasked Clarke with making the burger patties. They were misshapen and maybe a little overworked, but the four patties were divided evenly. Lexa also had Clarke cut up onion, which she was terrified to do. She had to do it right-handed, and she was afraid she would cut herself, but Lexa stood behind her and helped. Clarke teased that it was just a way for the brunette to stand close to her. Lexa didn’t deny it.

After that, they set the table together, and it was nice. It was domestic, and it made Clarke feel normal; that is until Lexa went outside to prepare the grill, and she was left inside, alone with her thoughts. She started to get nervous. She hadn’t seen Murphy or Bellamy since before her injury. They didn’t know what she was really like now. Sure, they had talked, and they had seen her over FaceTime, but that was barely a glimpse into what she was like now. What if they reacted like everyone else had? What if they started talking to her too loudly or too slowly because they thought she couldn’t comprehend what they were saying? What if they looked at her in disgust because she couldn’t use her left arm properly, or because she walked funny? The list of ‘what ifs’ started to mount, and she was practically in tears when Lexa came back into the house.

 

Lexa had only been outside for about ten minutes. She cleaned the already immaculate grill grates, placed the charcoal exactly right, set out her bbq tools then returned inside. The scene she had left was completely different from what she walked into.

Clarke was standing unsteadily in her living room, using the back of a chair for support. She was nearly hyperventilating, and Lexa could see that she was almost in tears. She ran to the blonde and pulled her close.

“Clarke, what happened. Are you hurt? Are you okay?” Lexa scanned Clarke’s body for any visible injuries.

The blonde’s fingers dug into her arms as Lexa tried to calm her girlfriend down. Clarke hadn’t answered her, but based on the trembling, heaving chest, and anxious look in Clarke’s blue eyes, Lexa figured out what was going on. Clarke was having a panic attack.

She gently moved her girlfriend and eased her into a chair. She placed her hands lightly on Clarke’s cheeks.

“Clarke. I need you to look at me. Can you do that? Look at me and focus on my voice.”

Eventually, Clarke looked up. “That’s great, beautiful girl, now I need you to slow your breathing down. Try to match mine.”

Lexa slowed her own breathing and kept encouraging Clarke until the blonde’s breathing had evened out and the trembling of her body stopped.

“Good, Clarke. Now tell me one thing you can see that isn’t me.”

Jerky blue eyes searched the room. “Jack,” Clarke muttered, “he’s sleeping on the couch.”

“Good. Now what about something you can hear.”

Lexa could tell Clarke was concentrating. There wasn’t much noise besides the two of them, but then a bird began to sing in one of the trees.

“I can hear the bird. It’s pretty.”

Lexa heaved a sigh of relief but didn’t stop. “Okay, what about something you can smell.”

Clarke took a deep breath. “Your shampoo. It smells like lavender.”

Lexa leaned her forehead against Clarke’s. “Last one. Tell me something you can feel.”

Clarke’s hands clutched Lexa tighter. “You. I feel you.”

Lexa held onto Clarke until Clarke’s tight fists began to relax and her hold eased. She brushed a stray piece of hair behind the blonde’s ear.

“Want to tell me about it?” Lexa asked.

Clarke hesitated, and Lexa knew she was embarrassed even though she had nothing to be embarrassed about. “What if they don’t like me anymore?” Clarke finally whispered. It was so low that Lexa almost didn’t catch it.

“Oh, Clarke. They will still love you. Just a few hours ago you were telling me all about them, and nothing you said makes me think that anything they feel about you will change. They sound like really great guys.”

“They are.”

“Then why would you think that?”

“I…I don’t know.”

“It’s okay,” Lexa reassured. “I get it, and it’s okay to be scared. You haven’t seen them in a long time, and you are worried that they are going to look at you differently. After everything you have been through, that’s a completely valid concern. But you know what?”

Clarke shook her head. “I think you are going to be pleasantly surprised,” Lexa went on. “Nothing you have told me makes me think that they are going to be any different from the way you remember them, but if it is, and you get uncomfortable, or sad, or angry, I will personally kick their asses for you.”

Finally. Finally, Lexa got a smile out of Clarke. “You would, wouldn’t you?”

“I would do anything for you, Clarke.”

Clarke leaned in and gave her a peck on the lips, and once again Lexa was flooded with relief. Lexa had only ever had one panic attack, and it was while she was still in the hospital in Germany. It was the scariest thing she had ever been through, so she could somewhat relate to how Clarke was feeling. She was just glad that she had been able to help her girlfriend. She was also proud of Clarke. The blonde kept herself in control well enough to listen to her and bring herself from the edge of the abyss, and while she knew Clarke was struggling to speak, and the words mostly came out jumbled, Clarke had still spoken to Lexa and answered her questions. It was another show of Clarke’s strength. The blonde didn’t give up or give in to what could have been a rapid downward spiral.

“I love you, Lex.”

“I love you, too. So much.”

 

Clarke had about forty-five minutes to compose herself before Bellamy and Murphy got there. She went into the bathroom and splashed cold water on her face, drank some tea that Lexa made for her, then sat down to pet the cat. It helped calm her down. While she did this, Lexa prepped the last little bit of food, and got out glasses for beer all while sticking close to Clarke if she needed her, and Clarke couldn’t be more grateful. Lexa had reacted exactly as she had needed her to. The brunette hadn’t gotten alarmed, she didn’t demean anything that Clarke had been feeling, and she had helped bring Clarke back to herself, and if Clarke hadn’t already fallen in love with Lexa, she would have at that moment. As it was, the love she was feeling for her girlfriend made her heart feel like it was going to burst out of her chest. It was uncomfortable in the best kind of way.

So, when the doorbell rang, Clarke was no longer freaking out or afraid that her friends would suddenly dislike what they saw or change the way they treated her. She also decided that even if that happened, it didn’t matter. She had Lexa, who loved her for who she was, and it gave her the confidence she needed to walk to the door and greet her friends as if nothing had changed in their world.

The door swung wide open and Clarke was suddenly being spun around. Murphy had grabbed her in a bear hug and lifted her off her feet. “Blondie, I’ve missed you,” he said after giving her a kiss on the cheek.

As soon as her feet where on the ground, she was lifted into Bellamy’s strong arms. “Hi, Princess.” He also kissed her on the cheek. He handed her some flowers then said, “So, you gonna introduce us to your new girl?”

He didn’t beat around the bush. She stepped away from the door and took a good look at the two men. Murphy was dressed in a loose white polo, baggy cargo shorts, and sandles. It didn’t matter what time of year it was he was always in his damn shorts. He was sporting a neatly trimmed goatee, and his eyes were as bright as ever. Bellamy, on the other hand, had a scruffy beard and hair that looked like it was two weeks past due for a cut, however, he was wearing unwrinkled khakis and a crisp button-down, navy blue shirt with the logo of their brewery on it.

Clarke reached out for Lexa with her right hand. Concentrating as hard as she could, so that she would sound as normal as possible, she said, “This is my girlfriend, Lexa. Lexa, this is Bellamy and Murphy.”

Lexa gave her a smile. She shook the men’s hands and invited them in. As Clarke had said, they brought beer with them. They also gifted Lexa and Clarke with bottle openers, koozies, t-shirts, and coasters all while getting to know Lexa and chatting with Clarke like they had just seen her yesterday. She could see that the blonde was happy and having fun. She was too.

Lexa took solace in that. These two men were funny, smart, and had a clear respect for everything that Clarke had gone through. They acknowledged it without making Clarke feel anything less than normal. She also appreciated that they took Clarke into consideration when they brought all the beer over. Somehow, they knew it would be a bad idea for her to drink too much, so in the blonde’s honor, they had started brewing nonalcoholic ginger beer, root beer, and cream soda. It hadn’t hit the market yet. Murphy was hoping Clarke would consent to allowing them to showcase a piece of her art on each can, and for each six-pack sold, part of the proceeds would go to a children’s art charity.

It had brought tears to Clarke’s eyes. She hugged both men again and told them that of course she would allow them to use her art. She thanked them profusely for thinking of her.

“You’ve always been our girl, Princess,” Bellamy said, taking her hand. “You don’t know how hard it has been for us to stay away, but you were always the boss, so we obeyed your orders and stayed away.”

“I was a fool, but I was…I didn’t want you to see me like this.”

“Like what?” Murphy looked at Bellamy. “I don’t see anything different, do you Bell?”

“Nope,” Bellamy smirked, “Seems like the same old Clarke to me.”

Clarke blushed. “Thanks, guys.”

Lexa stood, knowing Clarke was fine. “I’m going to go make the burgers.”

Murphy jumped up. “I’ll help.”

“Don’t let him touch the grill, Lexa. He burns everything,” Bellamy called behind them.

Murphy flipped him the bird causing everyone to laugh.

Murphy held the back door for Lexa as she carried out the tray with the burger patties. She also had cheese for anyone who wanted it. Murphy assured her that both Bellamy and Clarke would want cheese.

“Cheddar for Clarke. She doesn’t like blue cheese, but Bell and I will both take blue.”

Lexa couldn’t believe that Clarke didn’t like blue cheese. It was one of her favorites. “Honestly,” Murphy said, “I don’t think she has ever tried it.”

“Sounds like a challenge,” Lexa remarked. She was sure if she could get Clarke to take a bite of her burger that the blonde would change her mind.

The two stood at the grill talking amiably. “So, when did you lose your leg?” Murphy asked.

Lexa blinked in surprise. She hadn’t thought Clarke had told the men, but she guessed that she had. She didn’t care, she was just taken by surprise. Before she could answer the question, Murphy went on.

“My sister, Niylah, lost her leg after she cut her foot on a piece of shell on a beach. She was only sixteen. I was ten, but I remember it like it was yesterday. She had a rough go of it for a while, but now most can’t even tell. I only noticed because you two have an almost identical way of walking.”

Lexa was impressed with how perceptive he was. She walked almost perfectly except if she was aching. Only a practiced eye could have spotted what he did.

“It’s been a few years. I lost it in Afghanistan trying to help with a hostage situation.”

“Man, that sucks. I’m sorry to hear it. Although it looks like you’ve come through it okay. I am sure it was hard, especially after such a traumatic event. That takes balls.”

Lexa laughed. “It does. It was hard, but I had a lot of support.”

“I wish Clarke would have let me and Bell come down. I know it hasn’t been easy for her.”

“It hasn’t,” Lexa confirmed.

“Yeah, and frankly, I am disappointed in a lot of our friends, and especially Octavia. I knew that twat Finn would run for the hills, but I never expected Bellamy’s sister to abandon Clarke like she did.”

“How do you know about that? Clarke said she didn’t tell Bellamy because she doesn’t want him to get mad at his sister.”

“That’s such a Clarke thing to do,” he said. “Even when people treat her like crap, she still puts them before herself.” He pointed out that Lexa needed to flip the burgers. “It was Raven who told me, but she made me promise not to tell Bell either.”

“Well, the truth always has a way of coming out,” Lexa commented. “If it’s any consolation, Octavia has been doing better. She went to Clarke’s house to apologize. Their friendship isn’t what it was, but I think it will get back there.”

“Good. I’m glad to hear it.” Murphy helped her get the burgers off the grill. Before they opened the door to go inside, he stopped her. “I’m really glad to have met you, Lexa. You seem like a great person, and Clarke just shines around you, and even though I just met you, I can tell you adore her.”

“I do,” Lexa confessed. “I love her.”

“Good, because as her friend, it’s my duty to tell you that if you hurt her, I will be coming for you,” he teased.

“I would expect nothing less. It is funny that you say that because I told Clarke earlier that I would kick your asses if you treated her as anything but normal.”

It was Murphy’s turn to laugh. “I don’t doubt that you could, and don’t worry about us. Clarke’s our best friend, and I’ll admit that I had a crush on her for years until I realized we were always going to be better as friends. She’s one of the most important people in my life. I would never do anything to hurt her or our friendship. She’s the same Clarke that I met all those years ago. I am sure I can speak for Bellamy when I say that as far as we are concerned, nothing has changed. We both love and adore her, and if she would let us, we would do anything for her.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 20

 

“I’m not trying that.” Clarke moved her face away from the bite of burger Lexa was offering her.

“How can you say that you don’t like blue cheese if you have never tried it?

“I just know.”

“Please, just one bite for me. Have I ever steered you wrong?” Lexa gave her puppy dog eyes, and Clarke finally gave in.

“Fine, but I am spitting it out if I don’t like it.”

Lexa smiled triumphantly. “I will hold the napkin while you spit if you hate it, but you do have to take a decent bite so that you actually taste it.”

Clarke grabbed the burger from Lexa and made a show of taking a big bite. She hesitated to chew, but when she did, and the flavors exploded in her mouth, she couldn’t help but moan.

“Oh my god,” she mumbled around her mouthful of food. Her eyes rolled before the lids closed in ecstasy. “This is amazing.”

“See, Clarke. I’ve been telling you for years that you would like it,” Bellamy said.

Suddenly Clarke was sad that she had cheddar on her burger. It was good, but it wasn’t as good as Lexa’s. It was her turn to give puppy dog eyes. She convinced Lexa to split burgers with her so that they could share.

Lexa just smiled as she cut her burger in half, and Murphy and Bellamy shared a look. "How can you two even see,” Bellamy asked, “with all those hearts in your eyes?”

“I’ll have you know those heart eyes are for my new-found love of blue cheese.” Clarke teased. She picked up her sandwich. “Where have you been all my life?” she said before taking another bite.

Lexa pretended to clutch at her heart. “You wound me.”

“You know I love you too.” Clarke got caught up staring at Lexa for so long that Bellamy had to clear his throat to get their attention.

They both blushed. “Sorry,” they said in unison.

Bellamy laughed. “Don’t apologize for loving one another. It reminds me of when Octavia and Lincoln first fell in love. It was so cute it was sickening.”

“Have you seen Octavia yet?” Clarke asked. She immediately regretted the question.

“No. Her and Lincoln already had something planned for today, and because this was somewhat of a surprise visit, they couldn’t get out of their plans. We will see them tomorrow. I’m going to assume that you, Raven, and O have been getting into all sorts of trouble since we last came home.”

Clarke, who had been about to take another bite of food, put down her fork and put her hands in her lap. She avoided looking into Bellamy’s eyes. She wished she hadn’t brought up his sister.

“Clarke,” Bellamy prodded.

He looked at Lexa, but she shrugged her shoulders. It wasn’t her place to tell him anything that involved his sister.

“Clarke!”

Clarke finally looked up. “I, uh, I haven’t seen much of Octavia. She did bring some chili not too long ago.”

Bellamy frowned. “Why haven’t you seen her?”

Clarke fidgeted in her chair. She didn’t want to tell Bell about Octavia’s behavior. Octavia had just started coming back around, and Clarke did not want to screw it up. She knew if she told him that Bellamy was going to get mad at his sister, and that meant his sister would probably get mad at her.

She was getting nervous, and for the first time that night she felt uncomfortable trying to speak. “It’s nothing, Bell, she just had other things to do.”

Lexa stood. “Hey Murphy. Why don’t we go get the dessert ready?” She gave him a look that had him standing and walking to the kitchen behind the brunette, leaving Clarke and Bellamy to talk alone.

Once she was alone with Bellamy, Clarke got even more anxious. “Clarke, what’s going on with the two of you?”

“Nothing. Everything is fine now, so please just drop it.”

Bellamy reached forward and grabbed one of Clarke’s hands. “Clarke, tell me what she did.”

“She didn’t do anything,” Clarke blurted out. “That’s what she did, okay?”

“I don’t understand.”

Clarke sighed then took a swig of her soda. She wished she could have another beer for the liquid courage it would provide, but she did not want to risk the headache that she would probably get, even if it did help her have this conversation with Bellamy.

Clarke explained that ever since she was released from the hospital, Octavia had been rather absent from her life. She told him everything. She explained that it wasn’t just O. It was also several of their other friends that essentially abandoned her. She told him about how their behavior changed around her. Bellamy already knew about Finn, so at least she didn’t have to tell him about that.

She told him about her mother coming to visit, and then leaving her again after hiring that awful woman Nia to care for her instead of taking the time to care for her daughter herself, and she told him about how much it hurt.

She watched as he got angry, but she went on. She lit up when she told him about Lexa and the first time they met, and how they gradually became closer. She told him everything good that had happened in her life since meeting the brunette, and she told him about how happy she was. At the end, she explained how Octavia came and apologized and was trying to make amends.

Bellamy pursed his lips. She could tell he was not happy with his sister, but she begged him to leave it be. She was happy that Octavia was attempting to mend their friendship, and she didn’t want to risk a setback.

In the end, he agreed to stay silent about it and say nothing to his sister, but he did say, “Just so you know, if she pulls that shit again, there will be hell to pay. She may be my little sister, but so are you. You mean the world to me and Murph, and you don’t deserve the crap that she pulled.”

“You’re right, but she figured it out, and I would rather have my friend back than not have her at all,” and that is what she wanted. She had missed Octavia terribly, and she knew that she would always have a hole in her heart if she didn’t forgive her friend.

Bellamy squeezed her hand. “You’re a better person than I am. I don’t know if I could let it go.”

“That’s what friends are for. We are supposed to forgive one another, and what’s it say about me if I don’t?”

Bellamy stood from his chair and practically lifted Clarke out of hers. He pulled her to him and rested his chin on the top of her head. “O doesn’t deserve you.”

“We are only human, Bell. She hurt me, but if I really think about it, she did it because she was scared.”

“I am sure you were scared too, and she should have been there.”

“The past is the past, Bell, I need to focus on the future, and so far, it looks like Octavia will be in it. I want to keep it that way.”

Just then Murhpy and Lexa walked back in, and the brunette’s eyes brightened as soon as she saw Clarke.

Bellamy took one look at Lexa and bent to whisper in Clarke’s ear. “It looks like your future is going to be a rosy one.”

She too looked at Lexa. “It does, doesn’t it?”

 

The rest of the evening was nothing but a blast. Clarke had assured Lexa that the two men were not together, but they may as well have been. They bickered, poked, prodded, and joked with each other like an old married couple. Their antics were beyond entertaining. It was clear that they were the best of friends and even better business partners. They had taken a risk and sunk everything they had into starting their brewery, and the risk paid off. They were the fastest growing brewery in the state of Vermont, and they were quickly expanding their reach in the rest of the country. When Lexa asked them why they chose Vermont for their business, they explained that it was the home-grown attitude the people there had.

“We went on vacation there once,” Bellamy explained, “just on a whim, and it was so different from living here. People take pride in growing their own food, making their own products, and trying to live off the land they have been given. A lot of the restaurants are farm-to-table, and we source as much as we can from local farmers to make our beer.”

“There is a fierce pride in the people in the state,” Murphy chimed in. “It seems so rare to find people who are so satisfied in what they do. Winter sucks though,” he added, “even if the skiing is great.”

“I bet you don’t like it because you can’t wear your shorts and sandals,” Clarke teased.

“Damn right,” Murphy said, “I cannot stand the way pants pull at the hair on my legs. You know this.” It was a particular quirk that Murphy had always had.

“You could just shave your legs,” Lexa suggested, and everyone had a good chuckle.

“Come and visit, and I will let you,” Murphy promised.

“I’m holding you to that.” Lexa winked. “By the time I am done they will be so silky smooth that you will never not shave again.”

 

The love Bellamy and Murphy had for Clarke was clear, and it warmed Lexa’s heart more than she would have thought possible. As they talked throughout the evening, she was trying to think of how and when it would be possible for her and Clarke to get up to visit them. It was a shame that they didn’t live in town anymore because she was already very fond of them, and she knew that Clarke missed them. She decided that if they couldn’t be here, she would bring Clarke there. She had never been to Vermont before, and she hoped it wasn’t presumptuous of her to plan the trip, but with the way things were going, she doubted Clarke would be against it.

 

When they finally called it a night, it was with promises to meet for brunch. The whole gang was invited. Raven and Anya, and Lincoln and Octavia had already texted to say they would meet them at the restaurant in the morning. Lexa was looking forward to it, and she knew Clarke was too. After Clarke’s earlier panic that visiting with Bellamy and Murphy would be a nightmare, she couldn’t have been more pleased that the evening had turned out so wonderfully. After it was just the two of them in the house, Clarke’s excitement showed. The blonde was eager to meet up with everyone in the morning, including Octavia.

“Your friends are really great guys,” Lexa told Clarke.

“They are,” she said as she helped Lexa load the dishwasher. Murphy had helped Lexa clear the table, and it was clear to Clarke that the two of them had hit it off. Murphy sometimes took a while to warm up to someone, but not with Lexa. By the time they came in from grilling the burgers they were already fast friends.

Bellamy had also warmed up to Lexa quickly. The conversation before, during, and after dinner had flown smoothly, and the two men had extended an open invitation to Clarke and Lexa to come and visit whenever they wanted. Lexa grinned at that since she was already planning to make that happen.

They stayed up for about an hour after it was just the two of them and shared one of the specialty beers that had been gifted to them, although Lexa drank the lion’s share of it. When they both started to doze on the couch they stood up and got ready for bed.

 

 

Lexa was sitting up in bed reading a book when Clarke came out of the bathroom, and the view of her stopped the blonde her tracks.

The darker-haired woman was sitting on top of the comforter, wearing a tank top and a pair of boy shorts. Lexa had her hair down. It had been brushed and pulled to one side, and the sight of the exposed skin on the other side of Lexa’s neck almost had Clarke drooling. An unexpected bolt of desire rocked Clarke’s body. She stumbled but used her cane to keep her balance. If Lexa noticed, she didn’t let on. Clarke took a few shaky steps to the bed. Instead of heading to her side of the bed, Clarke stood at the foot of it, drinking in the sight of the goddess before her.

“I don’t think I have ever seen anything so stunning,” Clarke said as she carefully crawled her way up the bed. It probably wasn’t the sexiest thing Lexa had ever seen as Clarke struggled to stay on her hands and knees, but when she was finally straddling her girlfriend, the only thing she saw reflected in the brunette’s eyes was an equal amount of desire.

Just the night before, Clarke and Lexa had been talking about not being ready but based on the electric zips coursing through her body, and the look in Lexa’s dilated eyes, they were.

She leaned down, keeping most of the weight on her right arm and started kissing the beauty below her. She zeroed in on the exposed flesh of Lexa’s neck, and as soon as she started to suck, Lexa emitted a sinful moan so enticing it spurred Clarke on. She grazed her teeth along Lexa’s neck before placing the gentlest of kisses in the empty spot where the two collar bones met in the middle. When she moved to trace her lips up the other side of Lexa’s neck, her left arm gave out and she lost her balance. Her head fell directly in between Lexa’s glorious breasts.

She was utterly mortified. At least she was able hide herself in the confines of the comfortable softness of Lexa’s chest. “Oh my god, I am so sorry.”

She felt her head shaking as Lexa laughed. She could feel her face flaming when she finally lifted it to look in Lexa’s eyes.

“I just ruined the moment, didn’t I?”

Lexa pulled Clarke in for a kiss. “On the contrary, I have never wanted you more than I do in this moment.” Lexa’s green eyes were completely blown.

“Really?”

“Really, really.” Lexa moved then so that she was the one on top. She traced her fingers down to the hemline of Clarke’s t-shirt. “Can I take this off?”

“Y-yes.” The slight bauble in Clarke’s speech had nothing to do with her speech pattern and everything to do with her desire.

They had already seen each other naked, and while not exactly platonic, it had been with the knowledge that their nakedness would not lead to this. Now, there was a certain anticipation to seeing each other entirely bare. Clarke was practically thirsting for this. Lexa lifted her into a sitting position, and she gasped when long fingers dragged her shirt up and over her head. Lexa tossed it aside.

“Now yours,” Clarke commanded with a confidence she wasn’t sure she felt. She wanted Lexa, desperately, but she was also nervous. She didn’t know if her body would cooperate so that she could give Lexa the pleasure she was so eager to give, but she tried to put the thought to the back of her head. She was going to try, and she knew Lexa wouldn’t hold it against her if she failed.

She moved her hands and gripped Lexa’s tank top. She purposely dragged her fingertips across the sensitive skin of Lexa’s torso then kissed the skin that broke out in goosebumps right before her eyes.

Lexa inhaled sharply when Clarke brushed the tip of a thumb over a quickly budding nipple.

“Is this okay?” Clarke sincerely hoped that it was.

“Yes, please don’t stop now.”

Smirking, Clarke leaned in to take the nipple into her mouth. “Oh…oh.” Lexa could not help herself when she threaded her hands into Clarke’s long blonde hair and held her in place. It had been too long since she had been touched like this, and she didn’t realize just how starved for it she was until Clarke started lavishing her with attention.

Clarke released the nipple with a pop only to latch on to the other one, and Lexa’s back arched into the touch. The blonde surged forward again so that was on top of Lexa again, and she willed her body to cooperate.

She nipped, sucked, bit, and kissed up and down Lexa’s exposed skin all the while trailing her hands down to Lexa’s waist. She looked up at Lexa, silently asking for consent. Lexa’s nod was all she needed before she had all of Lexa exposed to her.

She sat back on her haunches, taking in the spectacular view before her. Lexa was perfect in every way, and it left her speechless. She stared for so long that Lexa began to fidget. Clarke finally said, “I have no words for just how gorgeous you are.”

She leaned in and started worshipping her girlfriend the way she deserved. She lavished Lexa with attention using her teeth, tongue, lips, and fingers, and she delighted in the way Lexa’s lithe body responded to each touch. When she finally wrapped her lips around Lexa’s sensitive clit and pressed her fingers inside the woman, she thought Lexa’s back would break with the way she arched into her. Gentle hands held Clarke’s head in place, and the expletives that flew from Lexa’s mouth let Clarke know she was doing exactly what she needed to do.

It didn’t take long for Lexa to have what Clarke knew was an earth-shattering orgasm. She practically came herself watching the brunette lose all control.

 

Lexa was entirely stunned when Clarke had walked out of the bathroom and crawled up to her from the end of the bed. Never in her wildest dreams did she think that Clarke would be the first one to make a move in bed, and perhaps it was a good thing that the blonde had, because Lexa might have waited forever to make her own. She had thought that Clarke would be nervous their first time, she certainly was, but if Clarke was feeling anything but confident, she didn’t let it show. The way Clarke touched her was almost as if she had done it a thousand times. The blonde instinctively seemed to know Lexa’s hot spots, and it didn’t take long for Lexa to dissolve into a puddle of want and need. When Clarke entered her for the first time, Lexa’s entire world exploded. It left her heaving and gasping for breath, and when she was finally able to relax her legs enough from where they had Clarke’s head trapped, cerulean blue eyes pierced her soul. From the satisfied look on Clarke’s face, the blonde knew that Lexa was a goner. If she hadn’t already been absolutely in love with the woman before, she was now.

It took several moments before she came down from her high, but when she did, she moved and pinned the blonde beneath her. “Now it’s my turn,” and what a turn it was. She had Clarke under her spell and didn’t release her until she had come three times. The blonde was a trembling, sweaty mess when she was done with her.

When she could eventually speak, Clarke said, “Th-that was amazing. You have thoroughly ruined me for anyone else.”

Lexa smirked down at the ravished blonde. “Good, because if I have my way, I will be the only one to ever do that to you again.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 21

 

Clarke woke the next morning, and she was sore, but in the best possible way. Both her and Lexa may have had their challenges in the bed, but they overcame them with the most outstanding results. Never had Clarke been made to feel as good as when Lexa made love to her. She was fairly certain that Lexa felt the same way, at least she hoped she did. If the noises Lexa had made were any indication of how she felt, Clarke knew she was good. She may have been better than good.

It was earlier than Clarke would have liked to wake, but she never failed to get up early when she wasn’t sleeping in her own bed. It didn’t matter where she was or how comfortable the bed was. She turned her head and studied the brunette beside her.

Lexa looked younger in her sleep. Her face was relaxed and peaceful, and Clarke would give anything to be able to wake up and see it every morning. What she had growing with Lexa was something special, and she felt that perhaps with a little more time, her dream would become reality. So far, nothing about their relationship had been slow, not really, and while Clarke wasn’t ready to jump into moving in together, she fervently hoped that someday they would live conjoined lives.

She first had to get over the hurdle of her mother returning to her life. She wasn’t sure if that was something she wanted to have happen. So much time had been lost between the two of them. Abby had been essentially absent from Clarke’s life for eight years. In that time, Clarke could probably count on both hands the number of days they had spent together. How was she supposed to breach the gap that was their relationship when all she ever felt when she thought about her mother was pain and abandonment?

Her mother spoke of wanting to make up for her mistakes, but how could she be expected to do that when so much time had passed? Even before her injury, Clarke was a completely different person from the one Abby had left behind. Hell, Clarke had just barely reached adulthood when her mother fled the country. Abby had left a bank account with enough money for the blonde to survive and stay in the house, but she also only left Clarke about 24 hours to get used to the idea that she was leaving.

Her mother had said it was only going to be a temporary assignment and that she’d only be gone for a few months, but those months turned into year. It had taken Clarke an embarrassingly long time to give up on the idea of her mother coming home. She had held onto her hope for far too long, and now that her mother was coming back and making promises, she didn’t want to get her hopes back up. Who’s to say that Abby wouldn’t wheedle her way back into Clarke’s life again only to flee if things got tough?

Clarke wasn’t sure she was ready to allow for the possibility of that. She didn’t want to let her mother back into her life only to get abandoned again. She had had enough of that for one lifetime.

Looking over at Lexa, she knew that she had at least one person in her life who would never leave her. She didn’t know how she knew, but she did. She felt it in the very core of her being. She also knew that no matter what, Murphy and Bellamy would drop everything if she ever needed them to. She knew that wasn’t true of her mother. If it had been, Abby would have stuck around after the car accident.

She tried to shake her head of her negative thoughts. She could feel her heartrate speeding up, and that wasn’t what she wanted to have happen that morning. She didn’t want to spoil the magical weekend she had had with Lexa and her two friends. She looked over at Lexa again and the squeezing sensation on her heart eased.

If there was one thing she was absolutely certain of in her life, it was that she had fallen head over heels in love with the woman lying next to her, and the thought that Lexa loved her the same way had her feeling giddy. It was a sensation Clarke had never felt before. She felt light and carefree while also feeling the pleasant weight of companionship. She felt safe with Lexa in a way she had never felt with anyone else except for maybe her dad. Lexa brought with her a sensation that all was right in the world and that everything would remain calm.

Clarke knew this wasn’t the case, because her world was going to be anything but calm soon with the arrival of her mother, but the fact that Lexa could make her feel safe and calm was all the blonde needed, and it made her smile.

“You’re staring,” Lexa said without opening her eyes.

Clarke’s smile grew. “How could I not? You’re stunning even when you are sleeping.”

Green eyes popped open and a smile lit up Lexa’s face. “Flattery like that will get you coffee in bed again, maybe even breakfast.”

“Nope. No breakfast. Did you forget about brunch?”

“Now that you say that, no. It just took a minute for my sleepy mind to remember.” The brunette rolled on top of Clarke. She planted a kiss on her forehead. “Think we have time for a quickie?”

Clarke laughed but kissed Lexa back. “It’s early. We have time for more than a quickie.”

 

Since Anya was already with Raven at Clarke’s house and Lexa’s was on the way to the restaurant, Anya told Lexa that they would stop by and pick the two women up. “No need to bring two cars,” Anya explained. That was a mistake.

The moment Anya and Raven stepped into Lexa’s house they took one look at Lexa and Clarke and got Cheshire grins on their faces.

“You two did the dirty deed,” Raven held her hand up to fist bump Clarke, but Clarke resolutely ignored her. Raven wasn’t dissuaded. She turned to Anya and said, “You owe me twenty bucks. I told you they would be boppin’ squiddles before the end of the weekend.”

“Raven!” Lexa and Anya exclaimed while Clarke went a particularly odd shade of purple.

Raven went on to congratulate the two of them while throwing out every euphemism for sex she could think of. She danced around Lexa’s front room. It was cute. She was excited for her friend, but when it went on a little too long, Lexa started to growl.

Raven spun around when she heard it. “Whoa there, Commander. I don’t think I have ever heard the human body make that noise before.”

“Tone it down, Rae.” Clarke finally said. She should have been ready for Raven’s teasing. She didn’t even mind it, not really, but some of the things Raven called sex were just downright gross.

“Fine.” Raven rolled her eyes. “We’ll just call it aggressive cuddling.”

Lexa ignored Raven and walked over to the closet to get their coats. She also didn’t really mind the teasing, but if Clarke’s red-purple face was any indication, it meant her girlfriend was getting uncomfortable. When she came back into the room, she heard Raven asking Clarke, “So was she?” Clarke gave her a look, and Raven rolled her eyes again. “Was she the Commander in bed?”

Clarke didn’t answer but the shit-eating grin that spread across her face was all anyone needed to see. It was Lexa’s turn to turn scarlet. It also had her puffing up in pride.

The two sisters sat in the front of the car on the way to the restaurant while Raven and Clarke sat in back. Raven insisted that she get some up close and personal time with her BFF. The two were excitedly chatting away in the back while Anya teased Lexa about her and Clarke’s horizontal affairs. She was just more subtle about it. She then got serious. “I am really happy for you, Lex.”

Lexa reached over to squeeze her sister’s arm. Anya was a two-handed driver. “Thank you. I am happy. More than I ever thought possible.”

 

When they got to the restaurant, the rest of the gang was already there. Introductions were made and everyone sat.

Brunch ended up being a wild affair. The reunion with all the friends played out almost seamlessly. A casual observer would have thought the group of friends had spent every weekend together. It had ended up that Anya and Lexa were sitting next to one another, and they teased each other mercilessly about their respective girlfriends.
.
Clarke, Octavia, and Murphy were currently ganging up on Bellamy and Raven about some childhood memory that they claimed to remember differently. Apparently, at one point in their lives, Bellamy and Raven had slept together. It was a drunken night in high school, and to this day the two of them refused to acknowledge that it happened. Bellamy had even tried to state that it hadn’t occurred at all until Octavia reminded him that she and Clarke both had photographic evidence of the very short-lived tryst.

The conversation left Bellamy and Raven red-faced while the others had triumphant smiles plastered on their faces.

Raven turned to Anya and confessed that they had both been virgins that night. “You know how virgin sex is,” Raven said, “it doesn’t last long if you know what I mean.” The Latina stuck out her index finger then slowly bent it.

Everyone burst out in laughter except Bellamy. His face was beet red. Murphy gave him a hard pat on the back. “Don’t feel bad that you couldn’t keep it up, Bell. You didn’t stand a chance against Raven’s hotness back then.”

Raven whipped her head up. “You thought I was hot? That’s so sweet, John.” He flipped her the bird, and she threw a piece of biscuit at him.

“Children, stop throwing food,” Octavia joked as she threw her own piece of biscuit.

“At least my girl can keep it up all night long,” Raven stated casually just as the excitement was dying down causing both Anya and Bellamy to spew out some of their mimosas.

“TMI!” Octavia screeched.

“What, it’s true. This new toy we…”

Anya slapped a hand over Raven’s mouth.

Lexa leaned into Clarke’s ear and said, “Thank goodness we spent the weekend at my house. I don’t want to hear any of that…ever.”

“You’re right. You don’t. I have heard her. She sounds like a dying cat.”

“Hey, I am right here,” Raven said. “I can hear you.”

“You know I love you.” Clarke gave her a charming smile.

“Damn right you do.”

 

They moved the gathering to Clarke’s house after they had all eaten. Anya quickly ran Lexa and Clarke back to the brunette’s house to grab Clarke’s things and Lexa’s car. Clarke had been hoping to spend the day alone with Lexa, but she was just as glad that Lexa, and Anya too, were able to spend some time with her friends. It was like they had all been friends for years, and it made Clarke think that maybe her life would have some sense of normalcy again.

They all spent several hours just hanging out at Clarke’s house, drinking beer and soda, again provided by the boys. By the time evening rolled around, they were all hungry again, and just like the previous evening, it was decided that they should grill. Clarke had a fancy pellet grill that she had never had the chance to try out, and Lexa and Murphy were like kids figuring out how to make it work. The two ran to the store together and came back with enough food for twenty people. They argued that there needed to be options.

While Lexa and Murphy were gone, Anya, Bellamy, and Lincoln got into an animated conversation about refurbishing old cars. That left Raven, Clarke, and Octavia time to talk amongst themselves. When Raven got up to go to the bathroom, Octavia told Clarke she was going to announce her pregnancy after dinner.

Clarke was excited for her and Lincoln, and the joy she felt having spent such an incredible day with her friends had her beaming at the younger girl. The day had been like old times, and she was cherishing her time spent with O. It was like nothing had ever happened between the two of them.

She leaned in and hugged her friend. That is how Raven found them when she got back. She barreled into them and hugged them both tightly. “I’ve missed this,” Raven admitted.

“Me too,” both Clarke and Octavia said.

 

Clarke and Octavia watched from the window as everyone else stood outside, heavy coats on but still with beers in their hands, as Lexa and Murphy grilled up the feast they had gotten. Clarke couldn’t help smiling. Lexa and Murphy had hit it off. She watched as they worked the grill like they had been doing it for years. She laughed when they both swatted at Bellamy when he tried to butt in.

Defeated, Bellamy came back inside. “Better watch it, Bell, I think your bromance with Murphy might be ending. Lexa’s going to take your spot as BFF,” Octavia taunted.

He looked out the window at everyone standing around the grill. “Nah, what we have is solid and unbreakable. I’m not worried.” He bumped his sister in the shoulder. “If you weren’t already married, I would be worried about Anya and Lincoln. Look at them.”

They all did. “I think they are still talking about cars,” he said.

Clarke studied the interaction between Lincoln and Anya. They both wore black leather biker jackets and faded jeans. Even their boots practically matched.

“I think they look more like adoptive brother and sister,” the blonde observed.

“Or like they belong in the same biker gang,” Raven added. “It’s hot.”

Clarke smacked Raven’s shoulder. “Stop drooling on my couch and go see if dinner will be done soon so we can set the table.”

Bellamy told Clarke to stay and dragged his sister off with him to take care of the table. Clarke was worried that he was going to say something to Octavia about her behavior toward Clarke, but if he did, it didn’t show. They came back over giggling about who knows what.

Bellamy looked out the window. “Looks like they are just about done. Come on, O. Let’s help them get everything inside.

That left Clarke on her own for a few minutes. Lexa spied her through the window and blew her a kiss. She just about melted. This was a day she had been dreaming about for months. A day filled with friends, food, laughter, and love. She vowed to have more days like this. Her mother’s return was far from her mind.

 

When the evening was over, Clarke was stuffed and slightly tipsy. Octavia had made her announcement about her and Lincoln’s pregnancy, and after that the beer and champagne had flowed liberally. Clarke was careful and slowly drank two glasses. She didn’t even know they had champagne in the refrigerator until Raven pulled out two bottles. Her roomie told her she had been saving it for a special occasion, and this qualified.

Raven insisted that Octavia hold a glass of her own while they took pictures and selfies. Octavia obliged her, took only one sip of her glass, then handed it off to Lincoln.

Lexa walked up behind Clarke and wrapped her arms around her. “I have to admit that I had been hoping to spend the day alone with you, but this was just as good. You have some really great friends, and I had a lot of fun.” She kissed the side of Clarke’s neck before turning to face her.

“You and Murphy certainly hit it off.” Clarke pulled Lexa over to the couch so they could sit. Raven and Anya were washing the last of the dishes together in the kitchen. Everyone else was gone.

“We did, didn’t we? And what about Anya, Lincoln, and Bellamy? Those three were practically inseparable all night long.”

“It’s too bad Bell and Murphy have to go home again soon. I miss them.”

Lexa decided to tell Clarke about her idea of going to visit the two men. “Maybe we could go in a few months.” She paused. “I know we are just starting things, but I know that you are it for me, Clarke. I want to experience everything with you.”

Clarke moved so that she was sitting in Lexa’s lap. “I would love to visit them with you. I want to do everything with you.”

Just then Anya and Raven walked back in. “I think you better rent the U-Haul, I give it two weeks tops before these two move in together,” Anya joked.

“Twenty bucks says it’s less than that,” Raven countered.

“You’re on.”

“Stop making bets on us,” Lexa complained.

“No way, you two are easy money.” Raven cackled as she plopped down next to where Lexa and Clarke were seated on the couch. She pulled Anya on top of her.

“Babe, maybe you should sit on top of me.” Anya said since she was the taller woman.

“But I did that last night. Now it’s your turn,” Raven said suggestively.

“You two are unbelievable.” Lexa couldn’t believe Raven’s antics.

“You should see us in bed together.”

“Yeah, that’s a hard pass.”

 

It was later than Lexa expected when she finally stood to leave. Raven and Anya had retreated to Raven’s room.

“I should go. I have to work in the morning.” Lexa stood, pulling Clarke up with her.

“You could just stay here,” Clarke suggested.

“I wish I could, but I have to be up early, and I need to go feed Jack,” Lexa said regretfully.

“Will you come over tomorrow for dinner? There are so many leftovers. You and Murphy made enough to feed a group of warriors.”

“I will. I have some errands I need to run after work, so I will be here around 6:00. Is that okay?”

“More than.” Clarke leaned in to give Lexa a kiss. “I will miss having you in bed tonight.”

“I will miss it too. I could get used to having you in my bed every night.”

“Maybe next weekend we can spend the entire thing in bed with no interruptions.” Clarke was already eager for it to be Friday night.

“It’s a date.” Lexa gave Clarke another kiss. “I should go before I decide not to leave, and Jack starves.”

Clarke pouted, but let Lexa go. “I love you.”

“I love you too. So much.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 22

 

It was three weeks before Abby texted Clarke to let her know that she had moved back home and was settled into her new apartment and job. The blonde didn’t know if she was angry that her mother had waited so long to contact her or if she was happy that her mother respected her wishes to give her time. Either way, her mother wanted to know if she would like to come for dinner on Friday evening so that they could talk and get to know one another again.

It was Tuesday night, and she was sitting on Lexa’s couch, wedged between the brunette’s legs when she recieved the text, and she immediately tensed up causing Jack, who had been curled up in her lap, to jump down to the floor. He gave an indignant meow and walked away.

“Are you okay?” Lexa asked, shifting so that she could look Clarke in the eyes. It was getting late and almost time for Lexa to get Clarke home. They had decided that on ‘school nights’ they would sleep in their respective houses. Each weekend had been spent at Lexa’s so far. Clarke claimed it was so that Jack wouldn’t get lonely, but it was more that she cherished her alone time with Lexa, and she wouldn’t get that in her own home. More often than not, Anya spent the weekends there with Raven. She didn’t begrudge her friend the time spent with her girlfriend. They were just a little too hyper together for Clarke’s current tastes. They were constantly moving and getting into something. It was dizzying to the blonde.

“My mom texted. I wasn’t expecting it,” Clarke admitted. “She wants me to come to dinner on Friday night.”

At first Lexa didn’t say anything. She knew that Clarke had been struggling with accepting that her mother was coming home. She also knew that Clarke was upset that Abby hadn’t reached out to let her know that she had arrived safely in Polis. The blonde had found out from her occupational therapist, Indra, when the woman had gone on and on about the new doctor at Polis General. Indra was impressed because the new doctor was very pro-therapy and had already sent a good number of new patients to the outpatient clinic.

Indra had asked if Dr. Griffin was her mother since they had the last name. Clarke confirmed that she was then spent the rest of her O.T. (occupation therapy) session trying not to cry. Her tears finally fell when she started her speech therapy session with Costia. The S.T. (speech therapist) spent ten minutes gently calming her down before she was able to concentrate on doing her speech exercises. She had even done it in such a way that Clarke wasn’t embarrassed for crying in front of her.

Luna, who had already figured out what was going on by the time it was time for her P.T. appointment let Clarke get out some of her frustrations by having her practice kicking a ball across the therapy gym with her left leg. It was an excellent activity to work on Clarke’s strength, balance, and coordination while also serving to relieve some of the pent-up anger she had at her mother.

Harper had been a dream over that past few weeks, and the woman was now more a friend to Clarke than an aide. She remembered Abby from when she would attend their high school track meets. Clarke was able to talk to the bubbly blonde about her. They were building a strong relationship. Mac, as Clarke had taken to calling her again, had even invited Clarke and Lexa over to her house the next week so that Clarke could reunite with Monty and meet their child.

“You know that you don’t have to see her if you don’t want to, Clarke,” Lexa finally said. She didn’t know what she thought of Clarke’s impending reunion with her mother. Over the past month or so, Clarke had opened up and spoken many times about Abby. It was the blonde’s fervent hope that she would be able to rekindle some kind of relationship with her mother while fearing that she would never be able to forgive her mom for abandoning her.

Each time, Lexa tried to assuage her fears by reassuring Clarke that she had all the power in this situation. She could see Abby, or she could not. Abby was in no position to force Clarke to do anything that she didn’t want to. Lexa also promised to be there for Clarke in any way that she needed her. If the blonde wanted her at her first meeting with Abby, she would be there. She even told her that she would wait in the car while Clarke met with the woman, just so she could sweep in and rescue her if things got uncomfortable. Lexa would do whatever it took for Clarke to be happy.

Every time Clarke spoke with Lexa about her mother, she fell more in love with the brunette. Knowing that Lexa would be there to support her no matter what gave Clarke the confidence she needed to go visit her mother. It would not be on Friday night, however. She was planning a date for the two of them, and she wasn’t going to change her plans to visit with a woman she had barely seen over the years.

“I know.” Clarke sat up fully on the couch. “I want to see her…I think, but you and I have a date on Friday night, so she’s going to have to pick another day. I’ll see if she can do Thursday.”

Lexa smiled. She was glad that Clarke was willing to see her mother. Lexa had been fortunate to have a wonderfully supportive mother, and it hurt her that Clarke didn’t have the same. Even if things went well with Abby, and the two of them became a family again, Lexa planned to have Clarke meet her own mother soon. She knew that her mother, Myra, would adore her girlfriend and would eventually become just like a mother to her girlfriend. If things went well, Clarke would have two mother figures in her life. If they didn’t, she would still have Myra who she knew would take the blonde and give her all the motherly affection she had been missing for years.

“You still haven’t told me what our date entails.” Lexa was dying to know. She knew that Clarke was trying to plan something big. She would have been happy with a night cuddling on the couch, but after the first date Lexa had taken Clarke on, she knew that Clarke wanted to do something equally impressive. She was excited, not only to see what Clarke came up with, but also just to see Clarke.

It was almost ridiculous. Lexa and Clarke had seen each other nearly everyday over the past three weeks, but Lexa couldn’t get enough of the other woman. She wanted Clarke by her side nonstop. If she had her way, she would have Clarke living with her already, but it was probably too soon for that even if Lexa knew she wanted to spend the rest of her life with the blonde.

“I won’t be telling you anything,” Clarke said. “You kept your date a secret, so I am keeping mine a secret too.”

“So not even one hint?” Lexa asked knowing that she would get nothing.

“Nope.” Clarke picked up her phone. “I’m going to see if Thursday works for her.”

“If it does, do you want me to go with you?” Lexa would do whatever it was Clarke wanted.

“I do, but I think I should meet with her on my own the first time. Will you drop me off though?”

Lexa kissed Clarke’s temple. “Of course. Like I told you before, I will even wait in the car if you want me to.”

Clarke straddled her girlfriend and thanked her by starting a heated make out session. Clarke was later getting home than originally planned.

 

Thursday night rolled around faster than Clarke wanted it to. The last time her mother had seen her, she hadn’t been mobile yet. She had still been lying in the hospital bed after her surgery. It was during that time that Abby had arranged for Clarke’s home care. At first, Clarke was grateful because she was nowhere near being capable of handling such a task at the time, but after she met Nia, she wanted to wring her mother’s neck. She still didn’t know how Nia insinuated herself into the contract drawn up with the home health company, and Abby didn’t stick around long enough to find out what the woman was like. As soon as she knew that Clarke would be well enough to return home, Abby made arrangements to fly back to her job leaving Raven to get her daughter home.

Clarke tried to button down the resentment she was starting to feel as she got ready to meet her mother. Her mom had wanted to meet at her apartment, but Clarke didn’t want that. She would rather start off somewhere public if for no other reason than if they got into an argument the public setting would keep them from yelling at each other. Clarke hoped this wouldn’t come to that, but she didn’t rule out the possibility. She had a lot to say, and her mother had a lot to make up for, and dinner at her mother’s apartment felt too intimate because in all honesty, Clarke barely knew her mother anymore. Going to Abby’s apartment to eat would be like going with a stranger to eat in their home.

There was a knock at the door, and Lexa let herself in. Clarke had told her many times now that she didn’t need to knock anymore, but Lexa insisted.

“I’m up here,” Clarke yelled from her bedroom and immediately heard Lexa padding up the stairs. She was just putting on her brace when Lexa walked in.

“Let me help you.” Lexa walked over and took the plastic device from Clarke. She carefully placed the brace on Clarke’s leg then smoothed Clarke’s jeans over the top of it. If her fingers strayed and caressed the blonde’s calf a little too long, the blonde didn’t complain.

Lexa sat back on her heels and looked up at Clarke. “You look very nice today.”

Clarke was wearing a red, almost burgundy, button-up shirt covered by a black cardigan. Her hair was loose and framed around her face.

“Thanks.” Lexa stood up and kissed Clarke, finally giving her girlfriend the proper hello she deserved. She then lifted a delicate locket off Clarke’s neck.

“I haven’t seen this before. May I open it?”

Clarke nodded her consent and Lexa opened the clasp. Inside were two tiny pictures. One of Clarke, and one of her dad.

Lexa studied the pictures. Clarke was quite young in hers, maybe around 16. “It’s the last picture that we ever took together. I had a copy made so I could put both of us in the locket and I could keep him close to me. It was also the last gift he ever gave me.”

Lexa didn’t want Clarke to get sad just before her first official meeting with her mother, so she said, “It’s beautiful, and I can see where you got your incredibly good looks. Your father was a handsome man. You look just like him.”

Clarke took the locket in her hands and went cross-eyed looking down at the pictures. “It’s the eyes. I have my father’s eyes.” She closed the two gold chambers back together and let it fall back onto her neck.

“I wish you could be in there with me when I see her,” Clarke confessed.

“I still can be if you want me to be.”

“No,” Clarke smirked. “I put my big girl panties on. I can do this on my own. She’s just my mother.”

“Okay, and I know you said I didn’t need to, but how bout I wait for you in the coffee shop across from the restaurant. That way if you need me, I can come running. I will be your knight, no I will be your dame, in shining armor.”

Clarke chuckled. “Seeing you in armor would be so hot.”

“Maybe when Halloween rolls around. I will be your Knight, and you can be my Princess.”

Lexa walked over to where Clarke’s cane was leaning against her dresser. “Do you think you will be okay with just your cane at the restaurant?”

“Yeah. Luna’s been working her magic, and I have been walking much better.”

Lexa had noticed. Clarke hadn’t had to use her walker in at least two weeks. “Luna may be good, but you are the one putting in all the hard work. Your hand and arm seem to be getting better too. Have you gotten back into your studio?”

Lexa thought she knew the answer, so she was shocked when Clarke told her that she had been in there the last three days.

She spun Clarke around. “That’s wonderful news. You didn’t tell me.”

 

“I wanted to make sure I was comfortable being in there again, and I think I finally am.”

Lexa spun Clarke again. “I am so happy for you, Clarke.”

Clarke wobbled on her feet when Lexa put her down again. “If you make me dizzy before dinner and I throw up on my mother, I am placing full blame on you.”

“And I will gladly accept it.”

Clarke was also steadily making progress with her speech. It was slowly becoming more fluent and less forced. It was by no means perfect, but it was getting better, and as it did, Lexa could see Clarke’s confidence growing as well.

Raven, who had also noticed the changes in the blonde, had pulled Lexa aside about a week ago, and told her it was all her doing, but the brunette adamantly denied this. Clarke was wholly responsible for everything that was going right in her world. Lexa was merely her cheerleader.

“That may be,” Raven had said, “but without you in her life, I can guarantee you that her recovery would be slower. She was about to reach a precipice, and if she had fallen, it would have been into a very dark hole. I know for certain that she didn’t fall because of you, and I can’t thank you enough. I tried to do everything I could for her, but somehow there was something missing. It turns out that that something was you.”

Raven had also thanked her for bringing Anya into her life. She professed to having never been happier. Just as Clarke and Lexa were falling quickly into a serious relationship, Raven and Anya were too. They had even started teasing that they could have dual weddings.

“It will be cheaper that way,” Raven joked.

Lexa had noticed that Raven wasn’t usually the most serious person, but whenever she talked about Clarke, she was, and every day since meeting Clarke and Raven she was thankful that the dark-haired Latina was in the blonde’s life.

 

Clarke watched from her perch by the window as Lexa made her way to the coffee shop across the street. The brunette had her laptop in hand to keep herself occupied until Clarke was ready to pick her up. Lexa had insisted on walking her to the lobby of the restaurant. She made sure the blonde was securely perched on a bar stool while she waited for her mother to arrive before she left to get her coffee. Clarke had wanted to get to the restaurant early; she didn’t know why, but she needed to be the first to arrive.

She had just ordered a soda when her mother walked in. It took a minute for her mom to spot her, but when she did, she gave Clarke a cautious smile and walked over. Clarke stood and they gave each other an awkward hug.

“Clarke, I am so happy to see you. You look good, really good.”

“Thanks. You do too, Mom,” and she did. For the most part Abby looked exactly has she had when she had left. She had a few more wrinkles and just a few strands of gray hair, but overall, she hadn’t changed much.

They both sat on a stool and Abby ordered a glass of wine. The bartender asked if they wanted to eat at the bar or get a table. Clarke said bar while Abby said table.

“It’s quieter in the bar.” Clarke stumbled over her words, and she saw her mother grimace. She decided she needed some liquid courage, so she ordered a beer when the bartender came back with their menus.

“I don’t think that is a good idea, Clarke,” Abby said. “Not with your head injury.”

Clarke instantly bristled. “Don’t try to doctor or mother me now. You haven’t earned that right back yet. Besides, it’s been almost six months. One drink won’t harm me.”

Abby had the grace to accept that Clarke was correct. She apologized. “I’m sorry. You’re right.” She took a sip of her wine. “I know you won’t believe me, but I have been worried about you. It’s why I decided to move back home, and with time, I hope you can forgive me for everything I have…haven’t done.”

Clarke waited to speak until the bartender had dropped off her beer. She took a sip. “I’m not going to lie and say that it will be easy. The wounds you have caused run deep, and I don’t know if they will ever go away, but I am willing to try. You need to understand that I am not the same person I was when you abandoned me.”

Abby winced at the word ‘abandoned’ and looked down. Clarke continued. “I was still a kid when you left, and I didn’t know how to live as an adult, but I figured it out, and I’ve made a good life for myself. I won’t have you swooping in and trying to take control over my life now that I have been hurt.” Clarke took another swallow of her drink. “It feels like it has been an eternity, but I am getting better. I know right now my speech doesn’t reflect that, and that’s because I am nervous, but I am getting better, and I am finally happy. I have a girlfriend now. I won’t let you ruin that.”

“What happened to Finn?”

Clarke held her breath, trying not to explode or throw her beer on her mother. She waved her hand up and down the length of her body. “He’s the one who caused all this, and as soon as he realized that I wasn’t the same as I was before the accident, he left me.” She couldn’t help herself when she mumbled, “Fucking douche.”

She looked out the window. She could see that Lexa had gotten a window seat at the coffee house. The brunette spotted her looking and gave her a thumbs-up. She started to smile, but a hand on her knee brought her attention back to her mother.

“I’m glad he left.”

Clarke’s blood was about to boil, but Abby quickly added, “He didn’t deserve you, baby girl. No boy that would do that deserves you.” Abby paused while they both sipped from their drinks. She cautiously asked, “Will you tell me about your girlfriend?”

It was the ice breaker they needed. Clarke decided to tell her everything about Lexa. They had to pause to look at their menus and order dinner, but after that, their conversation flowed smoothly. Her mother seemed genuinely interested in Clarke’s life and Lexa. She asked all the right questions and even expressed an interest in meeting Clarke’s new girl.

They talked and enjoyed their meal. Neither one of them risked delving into deeper conversation and kept everything light. There would be another day for them to hash out everything that had happened over the years.

When they stood up to leave the restaurant, their mother-daughter foundation may still have been severely cracked, but it was more stable, and with a lot of work on Abby’s part, there was a chance that it could be fixed. Clarke was happy to admit that dinner went better than she expected.

 

Since Abby had expressed an interest, Clarke had texted Lexa to come get her and meet her mother if she wanted to. Throughout dinner her girlfriend had texted her funny little memes and pictures to keep her going, and it had helped. When Lexa strode into the restaurant lobby, she flashed the two women a smile while giving off an aura of protection. Clarke knew her girlfriend was ready to leap into the fray if Abby stepped out of line.

Abby reached out to shake Lexa’s hand. “You must be Lexa. Clarke has been telling me many wonderful things about you.”

“She’s a beautiful girl, your daughter. I have been nothing but blessed since the day I met her.” She picked up Clarke’s hand and kissed it softly. “She means the world to me, and I will do whatever it takes to make her happy.”

She said it sweetly, but there was an underlying threat in her tone. It was a warning to Abby to not hurt her daughter again. The woman was by no means dumb, and she acknowledged the threat.

“Don’t worry. I am going to do everything in my power to make her happy too. I am here to right my wrongs, and hopefully win my daughter back. I will do whatever it takes.” She turned to Clarke. “I don’t know if you will believe me, Clarke, but I have always loved you. I have been beyond shitty at showing it, but I hope you will let me try.”

Clarke nodded and Abby smiled. “Do you think we could maybe do this again next week? I would love to see you again. Maybe it could be all three of us next time.”

“I think I would like that,” Clarke said. She was cautiously optimistic. No matter how things had been in the past, she yearned to have her mother back.

They walked Abby to her car then decided to go back to the bar. Clarke had only had the one drink and felt like she had earned another. The bartender greeted her warmly and got them both a beer. She held Lexa’s hand the entire time and thanked whatever spirits were out there for bringing the woman into her life. She knew without a doubt that if Lexa hadn’t been across the way to lend her silent support that her dinner with her mother would have gone very differently.

“Thank you for being there for me,” she said.

“I will always be there for you, Clarke, in any way that you need me.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 23

 

Clarke woke up Friday morning both nervous and excited. She was also very, very happy. The dinner with her mother had gone so much better than she ever expected that it would, and it might have gone well no matter what, but she attributed most of the success to Lexa. If Lexa hadn’t been there supporting her from across the street, she’s certain that either her nerves or her anger would have gotten the best of her.

Harper was currently helping her get ready for her date later that night, and she had been helping Clarke all week. She had made phone calls for the blonde and driven her everywhere they had needed to go. Clarke was hoping that after everything she had planned, it would go well. She wanted the date she was planning to be as spectacular as the first date that Lexa had taken her on, but even she admitted that what Lexa had done was going to be hard to beat, so she focused more on just planning something special. She knew she was spending a foolish amount of money on this date, but she also knew that there would only ever be the two first dates. The one Lexa had planned, and the one she planned. There would never be a first date again, so Clarke wanted it to be as special as possible and something to remember for the rest of their lives.

“What are you going to wear tonight?” Harper asked.

“That’s where I am struggling. It’s not as cold as it has been, but it is going to be chilly. I want to wear a dress, but I don’t know if I will be warm enough.

Harper walked over to Clarke’s closet and asked permission before rummaging through it. She found a long black dress that, depending on what was worn with it, could be dressed down or dressed up, and Harper told her that it would be sexy as hell no matter what Clarke paired with it.

She helped Clarke pair it with jewelry and a cardigan in case she got cold. “Even if the date sucks,” Harper teased, “Lexa won’t care because she will be too busy staring at you in that dress.”

“Thanks, I think,” Clarke said.

 

Clarke was going to meet Lexa at her house. Harper’s husband, Monty, often Uber’d at night to make extra money, so with Harper’s permission of course (she hadn’t wanted to take Monty away from Harper and their son), Clarke had hired him for the evening. She wanted Lexa to be able to relax during their date and not have to drive.

It was five PM sharp when Monty knocked on her door. Harper was just putting the finishing touches on Clarke’s outfit, and the woman was beaming at her.

“You two are going to have so much fun. You look stunning by the way.”

“Thanks, Mac, and thank you so much for all your help this week. I couldn’t have done it without you.”

“It was my pleasure. I can’t wait to hear about it when I see you again on Monday.”

With that, both women walked out the door. Harper ran over to Monty and gave him a quick kiss and butt squeeze before she got into her car. Monty held the back door of his car open for Clarke.

“Your chariot awaits, my lady.”

“Thanks, Monty. I want you to know that I really appreciate what you are doing for me tonight.”

Once she was settled in the back, she sent a quick text to Anya, who also had a minor role in helping with the date. She smiled to herself. If she had things timed perfectly, both Lexa and Clarke were about to get the show of a lifetime.

 

“Where are we going?” Lexa asked for the hundredth time.

“I will never tell. Besides, we are almost there.”

Lexa had even tried to get Monty to spill the beans, but he had kept his lips firmly shut.

The brunette tipped her head in confusion when he turned down a road that took them to a small airfield.

“Clarke.”

Clarke gave Lexa a nervous smile. “You told me that your last helicopter ride was when you got hurt. You were flat on your back and unconscious,” Clarke explained. “You also said that all of your other helicopter rides were on military crafts and that it scared the shit out of you. I was hoping that maybe I could help you form a new memory of what it’s like to fly like this.” She grabbed Lexa’s hand. “I hope that’s okay.”

“Clarke, it’s amazing.” Lexa was grinning at her. “Thank you.” She leaned in and kissed the blonde.

“We got lucky with the sky. The sunset should be amazing.”

 

Clarke held Lexa’s hand in a death-grip. She had left out one little detail about their ride. She had never been on a helicopter before, and the takeoff was terrifying.

“You’ve never been on a helicopter?” Lexa asked.

“N-no. I have always been afraid,” Clarke admitted, not taking her eyes off the gray metal flooring beneath her feet.

Lexa gently lifted Clarke’s chin so that she would look at her. “It’s awfully brave of you to plan this then.”

They were talking through headsets since it was so loud. The pilot couldn’t hear them and would only break in if he had something important to tell or to point out something of interest on the ground.

“I…I wanted to do something special for you. You deserve it. I also figured with you next to me that I would be able to face my fear.”

Once they reached the altitude the pilot was happy with, Clarke was able to relax, and the timing was perfect as she had hoped. It was a spectacular sunset. They were flown first over the countryside. The setting sun lit everything up in vibrant oranges and yellows. The copter dipped down low so that they could ride over a large lake. They were low enough to see flocks of geese settling in for the night and deer roaming at the edges of the water. The pilot then veered and took them over TonDC just as the sun was disappearing. The reflection of light off the tall buildings of the city skyline was dazzling. For ninety minutes, the pilot took them all over the region. He even flew back over TonDC after it was dark so that the two women could see the towering structures lighting up the nighttime sky. It was perhaps the most beautiful thing either of them had seen.

When the ride was over, Clarke was giddy. All her fear had disappeared, and by the look in Lexa’s eyes, her girlfriend had thoroughly enjoyed the flight. Before they left the tarmac, Lexa pulled Clarke in for a heart-stopping kiss.

“Thank you so much for that, Clarke. That was truly one of the most extraordinary experiences of my life.”

“It was for me too, but it was made even more special because you were there to experience it with me.”

Monty laughed at their sappiness and helped them into the car. They excitedly told him about the ride, and now he was considering doing the same thing for Harper. Their anniversary was coming up.

 

He drove them back to Polis and headed to the garden district. When they arrived at their next location, Clarke told Lexa that they had reservations at a hot and new sushi restaurant. It was a tiny place with only ten tables, and Clarke was lucky to score the reservation. She had originally had a back-up plan because at first, she wasn’t able to get them seats, but just yesterday the restaurant called to say they had a cancelation and were able to fit them in. Clarke couldn’t have been happier.

“I thought you hated sushi.” Lexa said.

Clarke blushed. “Well, I have just assumed I would hate it, kind of like the blue cheese. I have never tried it, but I know you love it, and trust you. I know you will only pick things that I will like.”

“Wow, two brave moves in one night,” Lexa teased as she grabbed Clarke’s hand. “I promise, after we leave you will not only love sushi, you will crave it.”

Clarke paused before they could enter the restaurant. “I want to try everything with you, Lex. You make me want to be brave.”

 

The dinner was like nothing Clarke had ever experienced. From the warm towels given to them when they sat, to the food presentation, and even the giant bottle of beer they shared, every part of the experience was unique to her. She let Lexa order everything, and despite how pretty the food looked she had been hesitant to try it, but after her first mouthful, she was in love and cursed herself for waiting so long to try it.

Lexa had clearly been in heaven the entire meal with how often she moaned or closed her eyes in delight at the flavors she was experiencing. There was an excitement in her voice each time she had Clarke try something new, and it made the blonde enjoy herself even more.

In total, they shared two bottles of beer, and were just slightly tipsy when they headed back to the car. Monty once again ushered them in and headed back to Lexa’s house. Both women thanked Monty profusely for driving them about. He tried to refuse Clarke’s payment, but he finally took it when she said she would just give it to Harper on Monday if he didn’t.

He laughed, took the money, and wished them a good night. They walked hand in hand up Lexa’s sidewalk, and Clarke paused at the front door. She shuffled nervously.

“I have one more surprise for you, and I hope you like it, but if you don’t that’s okay. You don’t have to keep it or anything.” She couldn’t help but ramble. She wasn’t even sure she was coherent.

“I am sure whatever it is I will love it,” Lexa assured.

“You have to be honest if you don’t. It won’t hurt my feelings.”

“I promise if I don’t like whatever it is that I will tell you.”

“Okay.”

Lexa unlocked the door, and gasped. Leaning on top of the fireplace mantle was a painting. Clarke had gotten Anya to sneak in and place it for her. It was a picture of Lexa and Jack sleeping together on the couch. A tear escaped from a green eye as the brunette walked closer to the piece of art so that she could inspect it more thoroughly. It wasn’t so realistic that it made her cringe to look at herself on such a large canvas, yet at the same time it was so well done that Jack looked entirely real. She was easily able to identify that it was her in the picture, but it also could have been anyone. She couldn’t quite grasp how Clarke had managed to paint it. It was beautifully rendered and left Lexa completely astonished by both the picture and Clarke’s undeniable talent.

“Clarke, this is…this is…” She couldn’t find the right words so instead crushed the blonde to her. “It’s the most amazing gift anyone has ever given me,” she finally blurted out.

“You really like it? You’re not just saying it?” Clarke asked apprehensively.

“I love it Clarke, and I adore you. Thank you so much for giving me this evening. I will cherish the memories of it, and you, for the rest of my life.”

 

That night, Lexa showed Clarke just how much she adored her. After some aggressive cuddling, they finally fell asleep. The next morning, Clarke woke alone. She could smell coffee already brewing and got out of bed to go find her lover. Lexa was standing before the fireplace looking at the picture. She had Jack in her arms and was pointing his likeness out to him as if he would understand what he was looking at. It made Clarke chuckle as she entered the room.

Awe-filled eyes turned toward her. “I can’t get over it, Clarke. It’s just…you’re just amazing.”

Lexa put the cat down and gave Clarke a good morning kiss. “Do you want some coffee?” Lexa asked.

“I would love some,” the blonde said as they both walked into the kitchen.

“What do you want to do this weekend?” Lexa asked, reaching for a mug and making Clarke’s coffee exactly the way she liked it.

“Anything or nothing at all. I’m happy just to be able to spend time with you.” Clarke took her mug, groaning when she took her first sip. “That’s so good. No one makes it like you do,” she complimented.

“Flattery will get you everything.”

Clarke gave her a wink as she leaned down to pet the cat. “I didn’t look at the weather. Is it going to be nicer today than yesterday? If so, maybe we can go for a ride or a walk.”

Lexa picked up her phone when it chimed. She stared at the text then got an unreadable look in her eyes. “That was my mom. Would you like to go and meet her for lunch? She lives on the edge of the woods. We could go walking in there, and I can show you where Anya and I used to make forts.”

A wide grin split Clarke’s face. She had been wondering when she would meet Lexa’s mother. “I think I would like that very much. Besides, you have met my mother, so it’s only fair that I meet yours.”

 

The two were able to have a leisurely morning before getting ready to meet Lexa’s mother. Clarke was glad that she hadn’t packed only jeans and a couple of t-shirts when she was planning what to wear over the weekend. She was still casual in her khakis and a long-sleeve shirt, but it was nicer than what she usually wore.

Clarke had to laugh when Lexa wore exactly what she was glad not to be wearing. The brunette dressed herself in jeans, a very politically incorrect T, and black boots.

“Won’t you be chilly while we walk?” The t-shirt Lexa was wearing was thin.

“Nah, I have my sweatshirt in the car, and we can bring our coats just in case. I checked my weather app, and it said it’s going to be a very nice day.”

Clarke grinned. She was tired of the recent cold weather that had moved back in, and she wouldn’t deny that she would enjoy walking behind Lexa as she walked in her jeans. The woman had a magnificent ass.

 

The drive over to Lexa’s mother’s house took about thirty-five minutes. She lived in a small town next to Polis. When Lexa turned into the driveway, Clarke’s eyes widened. It was a gravel drive, and it had to have been about a quarter of a mile long. At the end of it was a two-story house that was nearly as charming and inviting as Lexa’s home was.

“Is this the house you grew up in?” Clarke asked, amazed.

Lexa smiled. “It is.” When they got out of the car, Lexa pointed to the top left window. “That’s my room. It still looks just like it did when I was eighteen. I keep telling Mom to repaint and change it, but she keeps refusing. She says it holds too many memories. Anya’s room is the same way.”

They walked up the sidewalk while Clarke took in the yard. It was expansive and at the back was the forest Lexa had mentioned earlier.

“It must have been a dream to grow up here.” Clarke would have killed to have been a child in a place like this.

“It was.” Lexa pointed again. This time to the forest. “Anya and I would play warriors for hours in there. We built forts and trails, had wars, and played tag with our friends. I swear that forest has magical powers.”

“Maybe there’s a race of fairy folk in there,” Clarke joked.

“Could be,” Lexa mused. They had reached the door. “Are you ready to meet my mom?”

“Absolutely. Lead the way.”

 

Lexa didn’t bother knocking. She let them in and offered to take Clarke’s coat. She hung it on a coat rack in the foyer. “Nomon, we’re here,” she yelled.

“Nomon?” Clarke questioned.

A dark-haired woman, probably in her mid 50’s came around the corner. “When Lexa was learning to speak, for some reason she would never say Mama. It always came out as Nomon. The word stuck, and I have been Nomon ever since.”

She smiled at Lexa then at Clarke. “You must be the woman I have heard so much about. I’m Myra.”

The blonde gave a surprised look to Lexa. She didn’t know how much she had told her mother about her. She held out her hand. “I’m Clarke. It’s nice to meet you.”

Myra ignored her hand and pulled Clarke into a crushing hug, making her squeak.

“Nomon, don’t smush her. I plan on having my way with her later and she needs to be in one piece in order to do that.”

Clarke flushed and Myra laughed. “In case she hasn’t made it clear, my girl is so head over heels in love with you it’s disgusting. It’s all I hear about. You must be very good,” she winked, “if you know what I mean. Now come help me finish lunch.” She was walking away before Clarke could even react.

As soon as she was out of sight, the blonde turned and smacked Lexa’s shoulder.

“Ow, what was that for?”

“That is for telling her we were going to be having sex later.”

Lexa chortled and started to move toward the kitchen. “It’s not like she doesn’t know what adult couples get up to.”

Whatever embarrassment Clarke was feeling melted away. Just because she would never be able to talk and tease like that with her mother didn’t mean that Lexa shouldn’t with hers. In all honesty, she already liked Myra and was glad that the woman was so open and teasing with her daughter.

When they got to the kitchen, Clarke understood where Lexa got her decorating sense from. There were containers of flowers and herbs sitting on every available surface and hanging from the ceiling. Several pots were bubbling on the stove, and a delicious aroma filled the air.

“Whatever you are making smells delicious,” Clarke stated.

“I’m glad you think so. Let me show you what I have been up to while Lexa sets the table.”

 

Talking with Myra and watching her cook was like being with an old friend. The conversation was seamless, and Clarke instantly felt at ease with the woman. Myra would occasionally trade barbs with Lexa, and the two women would dissolve in a fit of giggles, which in turn made Clarke giggle and laugh. Never before had she seen Lexa act so goofily. It was charming, and if it was possible, Clarke fell even more in love with her.

She watched as mother and daughter got ready for lunch. For just a minute, it made Clarke jealous. Lexa had such a remarkable relationship with her mother, and the blonde wondered if Abby were to meet Myra if the woman would rub off on her. She knew she would never be able to joke and laugh with her mother like that, but with a sudden realization, she understood that she didn’t need to. She planned on being with Lexa for the rest of her life, and that meant she would have Myra in her life for many years to come. She wondered if maybe she would be able to have something with Myra akin to what Lexa had. The thought brought a smile to her face.

 

After lunch, which was nothing but enjoyable, Myra offered to clean up while Lexa showed Clarke around outside. The blonde knit her eyebrows in confusion when Lexa pocketed a small but powerful flashlight and some matches. It was still early in the day, so the sun was shining bright. She didn’t ask why they would need the items, instead deciding to go with the flow.

As they walked across the lawn toward the woods, Lexa pointed out various things, like the birdhouse she built in 5th grade or the place where Anya tied her to a tree once and made her cry. Clarke enjoyed hearing the stories about Lexa’s childhood.

When they entered the woods, the temperature dropped a few degrees, and Lexa helped Clarke into a sweatshirt she had tied around her waist. The brunette said she was fine in her t-shirt for now. They had to slow considerably so that Clarke could navigate without losing her balance as they made their way up and down a winding path. They walked for probably fifteen minutes before Lexa stopped them. She pointed ahead to a towering oak tree. The tree itself was impressive, but it was the massive root system that enveloped the small ridge ahead of them that truly took Clarke aback. Mammoth gnarly roots weaved their way through the dirt creating a pattern that reminded the blonde of Celtic knots.

“Wow, Lex. It’s so beautiful.”

“It is,” Lexa said while grabbing Clarke’s hand and guiding her toward the tree, “but that isn’t what I am here to show you.”

When they got to the base of the tree, Lexa pulled out the flashlight. “I want you to hold this. I’m going to walk ahead of you, and I want you to follow me very carefully so that you don’t trip.”

Clarke was confused. “Where are we going?”

“In there.” Lexa pointed between two of the largest roots. There was an opening.

“Oh no way.” Clarke took a step back. “I’m not going in there.”

Clarke had never been the most outdoorsy person, and the thought of stepping between two tree roots the led into the ground practically had her hyperventilating.

Lexa moved to Clarke and placed both of her hands on the blonde’s cheeks. “Shh. It’s okay. We don’t have to go in there, but I promise that it will be worth your while if you do.”

Clarke shook her head. “What’s in there?”

“I’ll tell you if you want me to, but it’s so much better to see it in person.”

Clarke wasn’t sure what she wanted. She trusted Lexa, and she wanted to be brave, but she was the first to admit that the thought of disappearing underground scared her.

She felt foolish asking, but said, “If I go in, will you be able to hold my hand the entire time?”

Lexa smiled and kissed Clarke’s forehead. “Yes. I will be slightly ahead of you, but I will still be able to hold your hand.” She grabbed the hand in question. “Do you trust me?”

Clarke did, and in that moment, she decided that she would trust Lexa to lead her anywhere.

 

It only took them two minutes to get to where Lexa was leading them. After stepping between the two gigantic roots, Lexa had Clarke click on the flashlight. The ground started to slope gently as they were engulfed by the enormous root system, and Clarke had to watch carefully so that she wouldn’t trip. Lexa made sure to point out every hazardous area. When they got to where they were going, Lexa had Clarke stop and turn off the flashlight. She told Clarke to stand still and not move.

At first, Clarke freaked out. Lexa had stepped away from her, and the darkness seemed absolute. She was about to turn the light back on, but suddenly there was the flare of a match being lit. Lexa moved about and lit about a dozen candles.

Clarke looked around as each candle was lit, and her eyes filled with child-like wonder when she was finally able to see where they were.

They were standing below the base of the tree. The roots and the earth had come together to form a cavern of sorts. Lexa beckoned Clarke to step forward, but at first, she didn’t. She was too busy taking in the extraordinary space that she was standing in. The nature-made room was easily two times as big as her bedroom.

“Lexa, this is amazing. How did you find this place?”

“Anya and I found it when we were kids.” She held her hand out to Clarke who finally moved to take it. “I can’t tell you how many hours we spent playing in here,” the green-eyed beauty said.

“You said the forest was magical. Now I understand why.”

Clarke looked around. The candles had been strategically placed to light up the entire area, and she was able to see little personal touches probably made by both Lexa and Anya. She squinted her eyes to look into the far corner, if it could be called that, only to find that there were pillows and blankets neatly placed on the ground.

She looked back at Lexa who was grinning wickedly.

“Y-you planned this,” Clarke accused.

“I did,” Lexa confessed. “I’ve been wanting to show you this place for a long time. It’s very special to me.”

Clarke looked around again. “You brought me here so you could have your way with me,” Clarke charged even as she smiled.

“Are you going to let me…have my way with you?”

“Absolutely.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 24

 

Clarke woke after a brief nap when some dirt from over her head sprinkled down onto her face. At first, she was alarmed until she remembered where she was. She was lying naked next to Lexa. They were under a couple of blankets in the tree cavern and had probably only been napping for about thirty minutes. She sat up and brushed the dirt from her face.

“So, do you bring all your girlfriends here?” She asked groggily.

“Huh?” Lexa was only half awake after the marathon they had just had. She shook her head trying to wake up and finally realized what Clarke had said.

“No! Of course not,” Lexa said, mildly alarmed at the question.

“Lex, I was teasing.” She helped the brunette sit. “Do we need to get back soon?”

“We do if we don’t want to be walking in the dark…and if we don’t want Nomon to tease us endlessly about what took us so long to do what we were doing.” Clarke blushed at the thought of Lexa’s mother teasing them about having sex.

Clarke stood up carefully. Her knees were still wobbly after the absolutely mind-blowing acts Lexa had performed on her. She smiled then and touched her lips knowing they were kiss swollen. She looked down at Lexa. Her lips were faring no better. She looked ravished and ravishing, and it sent a zing right to the blonde’s core. She closed her eyes, took a deep breath, and got a hold of herself.

“I think we are going to get teased no matter what.” Clarke wobbled over to where Lexa had placed her prosthetic leg. It was leaning against one of the dirt walls of the cavern. She picked it up. It was lighter than she expected it to be. She carried it back to Lexa.

“Thanks. Want to help me put it on?” Lexa asked.

Clarke wasn’t sure. They had just finished having amazing sex, but somehow this felt even more intimate than that. “Are you sure?”

“Of course,” Lexa grabbed the sleeve first. She showed it to Clarke. It would fit over what remained of her lower leg and had a locking pin sticking out of the bottom. “That’s what helps hold my leg in the prosthetic.” Clarke held it gingerly in her hands, as if it would break if she weren’t careful.

“It won’t break or tear. It’s exceptionally durable.” Lexa reassured. “Now turn it inside out and place the cupped end against my leg.”

Clarke was so nervous doing this that she felt herself trembling. She knew it wasn’t a big deal for Lexa, but it was for her because to her it was intimate and private. She felt honored that Lexa would ask her to help. She fumbled the sleeve in her hands but then was able to do as Lexa asked, and her girlfriend only had to readjust the sleeve minorly to make sure it was in the right spot.

Lexa kept her hands on Clarke’s. “Now, keeping it just where you put it, unroll the sleeve so that it goes up the rest of my lower leg. It will come to just below my knee. It’s kind of like putting on a sock.”

Clarke slowly moved her hands until the sleeve was in place. She gave Lexa a triumphant smile.

“That’s perfect.” Lexa flexed and straightened her knee. Since she didn’t have a chair to sit in, she leaned against the nature-made wall and held her leg up. “Now just line up the prosthetic and push it on. Once we hear the pin lock in, I can stand up and lock it in the rest of the way.”

Clarke did what she was told, but she was so scared she was going to do something that would hurt Lexa that she didn’t get the leg on all the way at first.

“Sorry.”

“Hey, it’s okay. It’s just the first time. You should have seen my first few times. I was a complete dork.”

The words helped, just like Lexa hoped, and Clarke realigned everything and pushed. She gave Lexa a goofy grin when the pin clicked in place.

“See, no problem,” Lexa said.

Lexa scooted herself up the wall, shifted her weight a couple of times, and the pin finally sunk in the rest of the way, locking her leg in place. She kicked it out and even did a little dance for Clarke, making the blonde laugh. “It’s as good as new.”

It was stupid, but Clarke felt ridiculously proud of herself. “Thanks for letting me do that.” She walked up and hugged Lexa. “Does it make you uncomfortable to have someone else do it?”

“Not really. Not anymore, but only Luna, Anya, and my mom have ever helped with it, and I only ever let Luna because she helped me with my P.T.”

“Not Costia?” Clarke wondered.

“Costia is a speech therapist for a reason,” Lexa laughed. “That girl wouldn’t touch my prosthetic with a ten-foot pole. She’s so squeamish about some things, yet she doesn’t mind sticking her fingers in people’s mouths. It’s weird.”

“Everyone has their own hang-ups, I guess.” Clarke reached for Lexa’s hand. “So, please tell me it’s not hard to get back out of here.”

“It’s not. Let me grab the flashlight, and you can follow me up.”

 

It was just starting to get dark when they made it back to the house. Bright yellow light was streaming through the windows. Lexa groaned when she saw that the light in Anya’s old bedroom was on.

“It looks like you are going to get to be here for a famous Woods’ family dinner.”

Clarke gave her a confused look. “What does that mean?”

“It means that Nomon must have asked Anya and Raven to come to dinner. I know we were only going to stay for lunch, but do you mind staying for dinner? We don’t have to if you don’t want to.” Lexa was nervously shuffling on her feet.

“Lex, it’s okay. I would love to stay for dinner. I really like your Nomon. Myra is everything I wish my mother would be.”

“You know that we are going to get teased mercilessly. Twenty bucks the first thing Raven says is something about us walking the walk of shame.”

Clarke chuckled. “That is not a bet I am willing to take because you are right.” She stopped Lexa’s forward motion, ran her fingers through Lexa’s hair and kissed her until they were both breathless. “If we are going to be teased about having sex, then I want to look like we were having sex.”

Lexa barked out a laugh. “Mission accomplished. Let’s go get this over with.”

 

“Finally. What took you so long?” Raven teased, just as they were walking in the back door. “Never thought I would see you taking the walk of shame, Griff.” Raven pointed. “Look at them, all mussed up. I think Lexa has a few twigs caught in her hair” She elbowed Anya in the side. “When do we get to go visit this fairy tale tree’s sex den? I want to literally have sex under a tree, or would it be in a tree? It’s on my bucket list.”

“Having sex under a tree is on your bucket list?” Anya asked. “Since when?”

“Since your mom told us that Clarke and Lexa went to visit some amazing tree to go have sex.”

“Nomon!” Lexa yelled, face red with embarrassment. Clarke’s was no better.

“Well you did say you wanted to have your way with her?” Myra said innocently. “I hope you had a good time, Clarke.”

Clarke flushed even brighter and hid her head in Lexa’s shoulder. “Mom, stop embarrassing my girlfriend.”

“It’s okay, Lex,” Clarke said, lifting her head. “If this is what it’s like visiting with your family, I’ll take it. I kind of like your family.”

“Only kind of?” Anya nudged Clarke. “You know you love all the Woods.”

“I do,” Clarke admitted.

“As long as you love me most of all,” Lexa said.

“You know I do. I will show you just how much more I love you later.”

“Ew, gross.” Raven made a gagging noise.

 

After they all stopped teasing each other, they helped Myra finish dinner and set the table. During dinner Clarke felt oddly sentimental. It had been many years since she had had a proper family dinner like this one, but now that she was with Lexa, she knew it wouldn’t be years before it happened again. Clarke was going to hold on tight. She loved Lexa dearly, and she was falling in love with her family too. If she had her way, one day the three Woods women would be part of her family.

Family. It was something Clarke had longed for since her father died. The day he left her was the day her family broke, and even though the blonde counted her friends as family, it wasn’t the same. Sitting with Lexa, Myra, Anya, and yes, Raven (because Clarke knew that Raven would some day also be part of the Woods family) felt different. It felt warm. It felt special, and it felt like home.

“Why don’t you ladies spend the night?” Myra surprised them all by asking. “I miss having you girls in the house.”

“You didn’t say that at Christmas time,” Anya joked.

“That’s because you traipsed around in the forest all day then came in and got mud on my rugs.”

Lexa laughed. “And you made Anya clean it up saying her feet are bigger than mine, and therefore, the lion’s share of the mess was hers.”

Clarke and Raven were cracking up at the banter going back and forth between mother and daughters.

“You’ll learn just how big my foot is when I shove my boot up your ass,” Anya said lunging for Lexa who took off running across the living room. Lexa didn’t stand a chance and was tackled onto the couch. Clarke and Raven were practically crying they were laughing so hard.

“Come on, Commander,” Anya taunted as she tickled Lexa who was writhing underneath her on the couch trying to get away from Anya’s evil fingers. “Defend yourself.”

“Stop,” Lexa gasped in between laughs. “Get off, you brute.”

Anya just laughed and tickled Lexa some more. “Who even uses the word ‘brute’ these days?”

“Get off you big galut. Is that better?” Lexa tried and failed to get her sister off her.

“No, goober. It’s not. You’re hopeless.”

“I give,” Lexa finally conceded, tears of mirth streaming from her eyes.

Myra moved to stand in the middle of Clarke and Raven and draped her arms over their shoulders. “That’s my girls,” she said proudly.

Anya landed on the floor with a thud when Lexa pushed her as she was getting up. “You’ll pay for that, but later. I’m too old for this shit.” Anya said.

“You deserved it, old lady. It’s not fair to tackle the girl with only one leg.”

“I see two perfectly functional legs, Lex. You can’t play that card anymore. It doesn’t work.” Anya gave her a snide smile. “Just because one leg isn’t flesh and blood, doesn’t mean it isn’t a leg.”

Clarke worried for Anya when Lexa tumbled herself off the couch and landed on Anya. This time Anya was easily pinned.

“Are they always like this when they come home, Mrs. Woods?” Raven asked.

“Please call me Myra, Raven, and the answer to your question is yes. It’s like they revert to being pre-teens again as soon as they step through that door. You wouldn’t believe some of the cat fights they used to have. At least now it is all in fun.”

The two sisters wrestled with each other until Anya finally gave in. Lexa lifted her fist victoriously. “And that is why I am still the Commander.”

Myra rolled her eyes at her daughters’ antics. “Get up you two and answer my previous question. Would you all like to spend the night?”

Raven and Anya instantly agreed. Lexa looked to Clarke. “What do you think, Clarke? Think you can handle a night in the Woods home?”

Clarke nodded her ascent. “Absolutely. I think a night in the Woods home is exactly what the doctor ordered, and Anya and your mother can tell me all sorts of embarrassing stories about you.”

 

It was several hours later, and Clarke had changed into a pair of Lexa’s old shorts and her Varsity softball jersey. It was soft and thread bare, and she already knew that she wasn’t going to give it back. It even still smelled like Lexa and made her wonder when she wore it last.

“I like seeing you in my clothes.” Lexa walked up behind Clarke just as she was about to brush her teeth at the sink in the bathroom. She played with the bottom of the shorts the blonde was wearing. “You are so beautiful, Clarke.” She dipped her head forward so that she could nibble at the exposed skin of Clarke’s neck, making the blonde shiver. She was just about to turn around when a loud knock sounded at the door, making her jump.

“Come on you two, Anya and I need to get ready for bed too.”

“You’re going to get ready for something, Rae, but I doubt it is bed.” Lexa snickered.

“Give us five damn minutes, Raven,” Lexa called out, trying to sound serious but failing. “We both need to brush our teeth for what we have planned.”

“Ooh, do we have something planned?” Clarke asked before sticking the toothbrush in her mouth. She still had trouble brushing her teeth with her right hand, but she was still too clumsy to do it with her left. It was getting better though.

“Yes, I have plans. This afternoon was just the warmup.”

Clarke almost choked on her toothpaste. Lexa had set the bar awfully high if the night was going to be better than the afternoon. She was glad that Myra’s bedroom was on the first level and on the opposite side of the house. Neither she nor Lexa were quiet lovers.

 

The next morning, Clarke woke up to an empty bed. She could smell coffee and something sweet wafting up from downstairs. She smiled knowing that Lexa was probably helping her mother make breakfast. She worried that she was going to gain weight if they hung around too long. The Woods women could seriously cook.

When she sat up, she noticed just how sore she was, and it wasn’t just from what happened in the tree and in Lexa’s childhood bed. Her muscles were sore. She guessed it was probably from all the walking they had done.

She slowly sat up and ignored the mild dizziness she felt since it went away after a few seconds and because it wasn’t an uncommon occurrence. She looked around for her foot brace, and found it lying on the floor, partly under the bed. She stared at it for at least a minute while contemplating how to get it out from under the bed. She tried to move it with her foot, but only succeeded in pushing the brace all the way under the bed.

“Fuck,” she said out loud. She looked on the nightstand and saw her phone. Lexa’s was missing, so she knew Lexa probably had hers with her downstairs. She could text her, but it felt silly to text her, and she should be able to do something as simple as picking up her brace by herself.

She stood up, again feeling mildly dizzy for a few seconds, turned to face the bed and then lowered herself to her knees, keeping her hands on the bed. She then brought her right arm down before her left so that she was on her hands and knees. Reaching forward, she was able to grab the brace and bring it to herself. She smiled to herself. No Lexa needed. She turned so that she was sitting and put her brace on then slowly started the process of getting herself up off the floor.

She was halfway back to standing when Lexa came in and rushed over to her. She was about to help, but Clarke stopped her. “Don’t. I need to be able to do this myself.”

When she was standing again, Lexa looked worried. “Did you fall?”

“No,” Clarke grabbed Lexa’s hand and kissed it. “My brace was under the bed. I was just getting it out.”

“Why didn’t you get me? I could have helped.”

“And, I love that you want to help, but the only way I am going to improve is if I do some things by myself.”

Lexa leaned in for a good morning kiss. “Okay, but I hope you will let me help sometimes…just because.”

“Of course, I will, especially when I am feeling lazy.”

Lexa laughed at that. “As long as you help me when I am feeling lazy too.”

“What if we are being lazy together?” Clarke joked.

“Then we are doomed. Now go brush your teeth. Breakfast is almost ready.”

“If your mother keeps feeding us, we are going to get fat.”

“You had better get used to it. Nomon loves to pamper us when we are home. She’s made all our favorites, even chocolate and pecan waffles, but if you want to be healthy, I am sure I can scrounge up some muesli cereal for you. I will eat your waffle for you.”

“No way am I giving up my waffle, woman.” Clarke hurried to go brush her teeth.

 

Breakfast was a riotous affair. Myra had set it up buffet style, and Clarke did consent and allow Lexa to fill her plate. There was no way she could walk and fill her plate at the same time. It was something she would ask Luna and Indra to help with during her next therapy session.

The food was out of this world and better than any breakfast place they could have gone to.

“Anya, if you throw one more blueberry at Lexa you will have to clean up this entire mess by yourself.”

Anya stopped but not before Lexa nailed her with a blueberry right between her eyes. Myra laughed, but both women had to clean up breakfast while Myra took Raven and Clarke out to the backyard.

Clarke was relying heavily on her cane and almost wished she had her walker with her, but as she walked, the soreness in her muscles got better. Myra was leading them to the small barnlike structure at the back of the property. She took out a key and opened the two double doors.

Clarke watched as Raven nearly fainted at the sight before her. In the barn sat two pristine old vehicles. One was a hunter green Model A Ford pickup, and the other was a Model 40 Ford Roadster in black.

“Whoa,” Clarke said, dumbfounded. Raven for once was speechless. She wandered into the barn and stuck out her hand but looked to Myra for permission before touching.

“These are real,” Raven finally said. “Oh my god, these are real.” She was bouncing with excitement. She first looked over the truck, noting the spoked wheels, opening the door and looking at the interior, and even getting on the ground to look under the truck.

She spent considerably longer looking over the Roadster. “This car is almost 90-years-old.” She pointed at the truck. “That one too. Are these yours?”

Myra walked into the barn to stand between the two autos. “They were, but now they belong to my daughters. The truck is Lexa’s, and the Roadster now belongs to Anya. They just don’t know it yet.”

Raven and Clarke both gave Myra a confused look. “I always promised myself that I would gift my girls these beauties when they found true happiness, and since they have found the two of you, they have been happier than I have ever seen them.” She walked back over to them and gave them both a hug.

“They have always wanted these cars, and they will be so excited with their gifts, but you two are the real gifts, and I can’t thank the two of you enough for making my daughters happy. It’s all I have ever wanted for them.”

“I promise I will always do my best to make Lexa happy,” Clarke said, wiping a tear from her eye.

“Me too,” Raven piped in. “Your daughters are the best thing to ever happen to us. Right, Clarke?”

“Right.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 25

Anya and Lexa sped through the cleaning of the kitchen. They were both eager to get back to their loves, and they were also worried about what embarrassing stories Myra might be telling them. They practically ran out the backdoor, but not until after nearly soaking each other with dishwater.

They weren’t sure where the three women had headed, but then Anya pointed to the open barn door. In their excitement to get to the barn, they almost tripped over one another, and by the time they got there they had tears of merriment in their eyes.

Lexa enjoyed these moments with her sister. It seemed the only time they goofed off with one another like this was when they were at their Nomon’s house. They were laughing when they reached the barn.

She wondered why her Nomon was showing Clarke and Raven the two antique cars. The vehicles had been in the barn for a long, long time, but her mother took immaculate care of them and took each of them for a spin every weekend. Myra had always been a car afficionado, and she passed her love down to her daughters. It was the whole reason Anya had started her custom car interior business.

She walked up to Clarke, who was still admiring the cars, took her hand and kissed it. “I missed you.”

Clarke chuckled. “It’s only been twenty minutes.”

“Still.” Lexa kissed each knuckle on her hand. Anya didn’t get the same opportunity to kiss her girlfriend. Raven was all the way under the Roadster. Only her feet were sticking out.

“No wonder you love her so much,” Lexa teased Anya.

“Damn right,” Anya said, giving her sister a toothy grin.

“Is the kitchen clean?” Myra asked them. “You finished awfully quickly.”

“Yes, Nomon,” they both said.

“Good, then I have something for the two of you.”

Myra dug around in her pockets and pulled out two key rings. She handed one to each daughter.

“No way,” Anya said while Lexa gasped and said, “Nomon, you can’t. They’re yours.”

Myra just smiled at them. “And now they are yours.”

“But why?” Lexa asked. “And why now?”

“Because I love you. That’s the only reason you need.”

Lexa crushed her mother in a bear hug. Anya joined in. They squealed in excitement.

“Let me go you brutes.” Nomon yelped.

“Again with the word ‘brute,’” Anya laughed. “What is it with you two?” Myra and Lexa rolled their eyes.

“Now why don’t you grab your girls and take them for a ride. It’s a beautiful day.”

They squealed again.

“Fancy a ride, m’lady?” She held out her arm to Clarke, and Clarke took it.

“I think I would.”

Lexa led her to the passenger side and held the door open for her. She ran over and kissed her mother one more time before she got in. Poor Anya was just as eager to take a ride in her new Roadster, but Raven still hadn’t come out from under it.

“Come on, Raven. You can look later,” Lexa heard Anya say. Lexa sniggered and started the truck.

Green eyes were gleaming when she looked at Clarke. “Are you ready?”

“More than.”

Lexa carefully backed the truck out of the small red barn. Myra and a frustrated Anya waved to them as they pulled away. It didn’t take her long to drive them out of town. She took a rarely traveled two-lane road that brought them into farm country. Since it was still early spring, most of the fields were bare dirt, but a few had been planted. She stole several glances at Clarke who seemed to be enjoying the countryside.

She felt like she was dreaming. She was driving the truck that she had been coveting since she was a child. She knew that one day she would inherit it, but she never imagined that it would already be hers. What made it more special was that the woman she loved more than any other person was sitting next to her.

“Where are we going?” Clarke wondered.

“To a place I haven’t been to in years. It’s where Nomon would always take us when she would give us rides in one of the cars.”

They headed into a small town that Clarke had never been to before. There probably weren’t more than five hundred residents in the whole place. Lexa pulled into an old gas station, ran in, grabbed a few things then started down the road again.

Clarke looked over curiously but didn’t ask any questions. When they finally pulled onto a dirt road, her curiosity got the better of her. “What is this place?”

Lexa’s excitement showed. “It’s a wildlife preserve. Nomon used to bring us here when we were kids. We’ll be able to see all sorts of birds, and if we are lucky, maybe a few deer. Whenever we brought the pickup, we would have a small picnic in the back of it.”

“So that’s why you stopped to get snacks,” Clarke observed.

“It is. I don’t know about you, but I am still full from breakfast, but maybe we can walk the trails for a bit then come back here and snack if we get hungry.”

Clarke agreed, and Lexa led them down a path toward the river. She hadn’t been wrong about the birds. There were ducks, egrets, and even a grey heron. Lexa guided them to a secluded bench so that they could watch without disturbing the scene.

“You are tired today.” Lexa had noticed how much Clarke was relying on her cane and felt bad for making her walk so much.

“I am, but this is worth it.” The blonde reached over and squeezed Lexa’s hand. “Thank you for bringing me here.”

“It’s my pleasure.” Lexa started to fidget on the bench. She took a few deep breaths then turned to face Clarke. She grabbed both of the blonde’s hands in hers.

“I know this may be fast, and I will completely understand if you say no, but I love you and I know I want to spend the rest of my life with you, so I was wondering if maybe you wanted to move in with me.”

Clarke was speechless for a minute. Her face registered shock and surprise, but Lexa couldn’t tell if it was good or bad shock.

“Lex.” The most radiant smile Lexa had ever seen took over Clarke’s face. “I would love to.”

Lexa slid over on the bench and hugged Clarke to her. “You have made me so happy.”

“I’ve been hoping you would ask, although just now, the way you started out, I thought you were going to pop the other question.”

Lexa’s eyes grew big. “And if I had, what would your answer have been?”

“I’m not gonna answer that. You’ll just have to wait until you ask.” Clarke winked.

Lexa surged forward again and crashed her lips to Clarke’s. “I love you. I love you so much.”

“I love you to, Lex. More than you could possibly know.”

They sat for a while longer, until they both started to get cold. The walk back was slower. Clarke really was tired. Because of her fatigue, she didn’t pay as much attention to the trail as she should have and accidently placed her cane in a hole. She almost fell, but Lexa was there to catch her. The only bad thing was she bent her cane. She didn’t mind though because it meant that she got to walk arm in arm with Lexa the rest of the way back.

When they got to the pickup, Lexa lowered the tailgate and lifted Clarke up. She then grabbed the drinks and snacks she had gotten at the gas station. The bed of the pickup was small, not like the beds of pickups made today, so they scooted back until they could rest their backs against the cab of the truck. Even sitting like that their feet still dangled over the edge of the gate.

Lexa then spread the snacks between them and let Clarke pick what drink she wanted.

“So, I know moving in with me will be a big deal, and I want you to know that what’s mine is yours. I also want you to know that we can figure out how to bring anything you want from your place over to mine. I don’t want you to feel like you have to get rid of anything.” Lexa was worried about how they would fit some of Clarke’s things into her house. Her place was a good bit smaller than Clarke’s.

Clarke caught on to Lexa’s nerves. She smiled and said, “You don’t need to worry about that. Nothing that I have holds any importance to me. I have never cared much about material things. There are only a couple of things that I have to have with me, and those things are small.”

“Clarke, are you sure? What about your studio? I know how much that means to you. I admit that I have already cleared one of the guest bedrooms out for you to make into one, and then one day, if you want, we can build one out back.”

Clarke held two fingers against Lexa’s lips, effectively stopping her rambling. “Lex, don’t worry so much. Raven and I have already talked about this. It was clear to everyone that you and I would be taking this step soon, and Raven asked that if I ever moved out if she could rent the house. She wants to ask Anya to move in with her too. Honesty, I would be surprised if she hasn’t asked already, just like you have.”

“Huh,” Lexa responded. She should have known her sister and Raven were moving at the same pace as her and Clarke. “You don’t think we are moving too fast?”

“No, sometimes I feel like we aren’t moving fast enough.” She winked again at Lexa. “As for the studio, I will be happy to move my stuff into a guest room. That one has an amazing view of the backyard, and I will still have my studio at home. That’s going to be part of the rental agreement.” Lexa was relieved that she had chosen the room she had to clear out.

“So, this is really happening?” Lexa wanted to confirm.

This time Clarke took the initiative to kiss Lexa. “It is, and I can’t wait.”

They talked excitedly as they sat in the back of Lexa’s new old pickup. They talked about how and when they would be able to get everything together so that Clarke could move in. They knew that realistically it would take at least a few weeks, but they were both thrilled with this next step in their relationship.”

“You have been doing so much better. Do you think you will still need an aide when you move in?” Lexa asked, quickly adding, “It’s fine of course, but you know that I will do anything you need me to. I miss being your aide.”

“Honestly, most of the help I need is in the morning. If you can help, then I see no need to keep having one. I love having Mac around, but except for you, I haven’t wanted an aide in my space all day. I never did, but it was necessary in order for me to be able to remain at home. It’s feels intrusive, and I miss having my alone time especially now that I want to delve back into my art more.”

Lexa tucked a stray curl that had come loose behind Clarke’s ear. “You know I would do anything for you, and that also includes giving you any alone time that you need whether its to do your art or just be on your own.” She linked her fingers with Clarke’s. “Trust me. I understand the importance of being alone sometimes. After I was injured, it was all I craved until it started taking me to dark places that weren’t good for me, but I still enjoy solitude sometimes. It’s a time to decompress each day. It’s why I meditate.”

“You meditate?” Clarke was shocked. “I didn’t know that.”

“I do. It was an important part of my recovery, and it’s a practice I’ve kept up. I try to meditate for at least a few minutes each day.”

“Wow. It really works?” Clarke wanted to know.

“It does. I can teach you a few techniques if you want.”

“Yes,” Clarke said enthusiastically.

 

The drive home went by quickly. Clarke talked animatedly, when Lexa had asked, about the painting she had made of Lexa and Jack. It was something she had wanted to do, but had been afraid, knowing that it wouldn’t be as good as what she used to be able to do. She had burned through three other canvases until she realized that she was trying too hard. Once she relaxed and let her creativity flow, things got easier and better. Her brush strokes evened out, and the process became more organic. Before, her artwork held a level of exactness that Clarke prided herself on, but now, it was more free-flowing and maybe even somewhat abstract. The three canvases that she had destroyed before perfecting the fourth one had been good practice for her, and she could feel how it helped her gain control of her unwieldy left arm. During the week that she spent trying to complete the painting for Lexa, she found that her arm worked better and moved more smoothly than it had in months. Between the painting and her O.T., she felt that she had a real shot of regaining full use of her arm. It was the first time she had felt that way since she had been injured.

 

Lexa helped Clarke out of the truck and grabbed the blonde’s destroyed cane. Raven and Anya were already home, and as soon as Raven saw the cane, she teased her.

“What the hell happened to that? Did you have to beat up some dude who made advances on Lexa?”

“No.” Clarke couldn’t help but roll her eyes. “It accidently landed in a hole. Lexa kept me from falling.”

“Always the knight in shining armor, aren’t you?” Anya joked. Lexa stuck her tongue out at her. “Where did you go?” The older sister asked.

“To the wildlife refuge.”

Anya looked wistful. “I should have thought of that. We drove to where the drive-in theater used to be.”

“That means I know what you two got up to,” Myra said, walking into the room and snickering.

Raven had the grace to blush.

“How was the refuge?” Myra asked Lexa and Clarke. “We haven’t gone there in years.”

“It hasn’t changed.” Lexa said as Clarke said it was beautiful.

The all went to sit in the front room. “So we have an announcement to make,” Lexa announced.

Three knowing faces turned to her and Clarke. All of them were smiling.

Clarke elbowed Lexa. “I think they already know.”

“Doesn’t matter. I’m going to say it anyway. Clarke has agreed to move in with me.”

Congratulations went around and Myra gave Clarke a tight hug. Anya did too. After they settled down again, Raven said, “Thank god, because I asked Anya to move in too. Now I know we can take over the master bedroom.”

They all had a good laugh and Myra decided they needed to celebrate. She wanted to take them all out to dinner, but Lexa and Clarke declined. Clarke was too tired, so they decided to pop the cork on a champagne bottle and order pizza.

When Lexa dropped Clarke back at home, she helped her inside. Lexa had re-parked the Model T in the barn. It would live there for the foreseeable future.

“Did you have a good weekend?” Lexa wanted to know.

“It was one of the best, but I’m worn out. I think I’m going to go straight to bed.”

“Want me to tuck you in?”

“Always.”

 

Clarke woke up late Monday, and she still felt tired and achy. Tuesday was no better. Clarke had tried to hide just how bad she felt, but Lexa saw right through her. When she arrived Tuesday night, with a dinner that she had made at her house, Clarke was napping on the couch and Harper was just walking out the door.

Lexa had spotted Clarke under her blanket but chose to step back outside with Harper.

“Has she been like that all day?” Lexa asked, concerned that her girlfriend was still so tired. She feared that something bad was happening or that she was catching another cold.

“She was up some, but yeah, she was mostly on the couch today,” Harper admitted.

Lexa knew that she had spent most of the day on the couch yesterday too. Clarke had rallied when Lexa had stopped over but had wanted to go to bed early.

“I tried to convince her to call the doctor,” Harper added, “but she wanted to wait and see how she felt in the morning.”

“Okay, thanks, Harper. I’ll probably see you tomorrow.”

Lexa snuck back in quietly and put the food she had brought over in the oven to stay warm. She then padded over to Clarke. She gently placed her hand on the blonde’s forehead. No fever, so that was good. She moved to the other end of the couch, lifted Clarke’s feet so that they rested on her lap and turned the news on with the TV on mute. Her girlfriend was sleeping so soundly that she didn’t have the heart to wake her up.

When Clarke finally began to stir, Lexa still had the television on, but she was playing a game on her phone. When she felt Clarke move, the put the phone aside and shifted so that she could lean over her. She kissed Clarke’s forehead. Still no fever.

“How are you feeling? Harper said you slept a lot today.”

Clarke moved her hand to her stomach. “Uh, I don’t feel so well. I’m nauseated and my stomach hurts.”

Alarm bells went off in Lexa’s head. “Shit, do you need me to call the doctor? Or maybe I should take you to the urgent care. It’s not too far away.”

“No…yes…I don’t know.” Clarke started to sit up. She sat silently, still holding her stomach when a mixed look of horror and embarrassment crossed her face. “Oh my god,” she exclaimed. She quickly stood, grabbed her new cane, told Lexa not to move and sprinted as best she could up the stairs to her bedroom. Lexa jumped when she heard the bathroom door slam from upstairs.

The slamming of the door had Lexa in action. She ran up the stairs after Clarke but didn’t go into the bathroom since Clarke had shut the door.

“Clarke, what’s the matter? Please tell me what’s wrong.”

She could hear the blonde rummaging through her cabinet drawers. “Fuck,” she heard Clarke curse.

“Clarke, I’m going to come in, okay?”

“Nno.”

“Then please tell me what’s wrong.”

She heard Clarke sit on the toilet and sigh. “Everything is okay, Lexa, I swear. I know what’s wrong now.”

Lexa was utterly confused. “Then tell me so that I can stop worrying,” she pleaded.

“I…this is so embarrassing.”

“Clarke, please let me in.”

“No. I’ll be out in a minute. I just need to find…”

Lexa heard her rummaging again and was about to explode her anxiety was so high.

Finally, Clarke pulled the door open, but only a few inches. The little bit of her that Lexa could see was flushed pink with mortification.

“I got my period,” Clarke eventually stammered out, and Lexa couldn’t help the bark of laughter that escaped.

“Clarke, I thought you were dying in there.”

“Well, it feels like I am, and I don’t have any…uh…I don’t have any…”

Lexa stopped her. “I do. I have something in my purse. Let me go get it.” She was about to go downstairs, but Clarke stopped her telling her she needed new underwear and a pair of sweats.

“You got it,” Lexa said. “I love you.”

Her relief was so great that her knees almost gave out on her as she went down the stairs. She dug through her purse and got what she needed then ran back upstairs. She picked out what she thought would be an appropriate pair of underpants and snagged what looked like Clarke’s most comfortable pair of sweats.

She knocked on the bathroom door, and again Clarke only opened it a few inches.

“You don’t need to be embarrassed.”

“I know, but it’s been over seven months since I had a period. I forgot what it was like, and it has never felt this bad.”

“Seven months? Since before the accident?” Lexa was floored.

“The doctors told me a serious head injury could affect my cycle. I guess after a few months I forgot that it could eventually come back. She also told me that if it came back, it might be with a vengeance. She wasn’t wrong.”

Clarke shut the door again so she could take care of her delicate issue. Her cheeks were still pink when she got out. “I didn’t make a mess of the couch, did I?”

“Not that I saw.”

“Good,” the blonde said. “You don’t have any ibuprofen, do you? That’s always what worked best for my cramps, and yes, it is safe for me to take it.”

“I have that too, and I think you will find dinner just as helpful. I made chicken soup and fresh bread.”

“I knew there was a reason that I love you.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 26

 

Clarke woke with a groan and clutched at her abdomen. She looked at the clock and it was 9:17 in the morning, far past when she usually got out of bed, but her period was still making her feel like shit. Never had it been so bad before. She had terrible cramps, but her headache was worse, and it was making her nauseated.

She swung her legs off the bed and scooped up the two ibuprofen pills that Lexa had thoughtfully left on her nightstand the evening before with a cup of water. She knew it would help with her cramps, but it wouldn’t help with the headache. Nothing but time was going to help with that.

After swallowing the pills with the room temperature water, she gingerly made her way to the bathroom, took care of business, and started wrestling with her hair. No amount of tugging was going to get the knots out of her hair. Growing frustrated, she picked up the brush and began the tedious task of untangling her hair. It wasn’t something she enjoyed on the best of days, but today she just didn’t have the patience for it. She put the brush down with a huff. She was feeling edgy and short-fused and wrestling with the mop on her head wasn’t helping. She decided it didn’t matter what she looked like and headed back into the bedroom.

As soon as she opened the bathroom door, she could smell brewed coffee. The thought of a cup of coffee made her ill and she frowned. She loved her coffee most days, but today she was hoping for a nice cup of tea, thinking that perhaps it could help calm the roiling in her stomach.

She made her way down the steps one at a time and gratefully took the walker that was waiting there for her. She just didn’t have the energy to concentrate on using her cane. She hadn’t even bothered to put on her brace.

Clarke had to be careful as the walker slid silently across the floor. Without her brace she was at risk of tripping on her own foot. She should have donned the stupid brace, but she just hadn’t felt up to it today. Her pills hadn’t kicked in yet and leaning over to struggle with the hard piece of plastic just wasn’t in her today.

As she got closer to the kitchen, a smile grew on her face. She could hear a video playing quietly on what must have been Harper’s phone. The blonde made it to the doorway of the kitchen, and she was about to call out to the woman but froze. If someone had been looking at her in the moment, she is sure they would have seen all the color drain out of Clarke’s face. The woman sitting at the kitchen table wasn’t Harper, it was Nia.

 

Clarke’s nausea grew at the sight of the aide. Nia wasn’t supposed to be here. It should have been Harper. Why wasn’t it Harper?

Nia just ignored the blonde as she gaped at her and kept spooning cereal that she had helped herself to into her mouth. The blonde was so shocked that her left hand slipped off the walker. If not for having stopped in the doorway, she would have fallen. She ended up leaning against the door jam.

The older woman finally looked up, but she made no move to help Clarke right herself. “Your chart made it sound like you had made a lot of progress.” She shoved another spoonful into her mouth. “It doesn’t look like you have made any at all,” she said callously. Anger welled in the pit of Clarke’s stomach. Nia may have been lazy before, but she had never been mean.

The abhorrent woman finally got to her feet after Clarke had already caught herself. “I suppose you will be wanting breakfast then.”

The woman grabbed a bowl and the cereal box.

“Nnn-nnoo. Juust tea.”

Nia tilted her head and gave her a look like she had just inconvenienced her despite that fact that it was her job to help. She huffed, grabbed a mug and filled it with water before putting it in the microwave. She pulled a tea bag out of the cupboard. Clarke cringed. She had gotten used to the tea Lexa and Harper would make her in the kettle. The tea bag Nia had chosen was from the back of the cupboard and probably should have been thrown away ages ago.

Clarke moved to sit at the kitchen table. Nia’s phone was still there, and it looked like the woman had been paying her bills, something she should have been doing at home and not on the job. The blonde shoved some of the papers out of her way and rested her head on the table. She was irritated and tense. She didn’t want this woman in her house.

Squeezing her eyes shut, she thought about how her and Lexa had figured out the timeline for getting Clarke over to the brunette’s house, and as fast as they both wanted it to happen, realistically, it was going to take about a month. There were things that they both had to get in order first, and Clarke was hoping the four more weeks would give her a chance to become as independent as possible. She didn’t want Lexa to feel like she had to wait on her. She opened one eye and watched Nia lumber around the kitchen. There was no way that Clarke was going to tolerate the presence of the lazy women in her house for the next thirty-plus days. She didn’t care what the contract said. It was her house and her decision.

She lifted her head when Nia placed the mug of tea unceremoniously on the table. The woman said nothing and went back to paying her bills. Clarke took a sip of the tea and grimaced. It was terrible.

Nia noticed and said, “I’m not making you another cup, so you just need to drink that one.”

Clarke stood abruptly, almost spilling the hot tea. “I don’t want you here.” Between her headache, cramps, and shock, her words were a struggle to get out, but Nia had heard her loud and clear.

She narrowed her eyes and sneered. “It doesn’t matter what you want, missy. Your contract says that until you can function independently that I am to be your aide, and by the way you look and sound that’s not going to happen any time soon, if ever.”

“That’s bullshit and you know it. That contract was made before I could make my own decisions, but I can make them now, and I don’t want you here. I want you to leave, Nia.”

Clarke was trembling as she tried to keep her anger in check, and she wished she hadn’t left her phone upstairs. Her first instinct was to want to call Lexa or Raven for backup, but then she realized that she needed to deal with this herself.

Nia didn’t make a move to go. “I said leave, Nia. You are not wanted here, and that means you are trespassing.”

Icy, disdainful, eyes looked at Clarke. “The contract says otherwise.”

“I doubt it, and why would you want to stay anyway…with someone you clearly have no desire to help? You were lazy from the start, but now…now it would appear that your real side is showing. Something’s not right with you, and something’s not right with the contract. Now you need to leave before I call the police.”

Nia still didn’t move.

Clarke grabbed her walker and made her way to the house phone, happy that they still had it. It was rarely used, but Raven had convinced her to keep it in case of emergencies. She picked up the receiver.

This got Nia’s attention. She narrowed her eyes, glowering at Clarke, but she finally stood. “Fine. It doesn’t matter. I get paid either way.”

Clarke was fuming. She had a lot that she wanted to say, but she mostly held her tongue. “I don’t care. Get out of my house,” she growled.

Nia moved to gather up her papers, and Clarke was almost certain she heard Nia call her a fucking entitled gimp under her breath. It made the blonde want to break something, but she didn’t move, nor did she put down the phone receiver. She didn’t trust Nia and continued to hold the phone in case she did indeed need to call the police. She cursed herself for leaving her cell phone upstairs.

Nia didn’t stop grumbling insults as she grabbed her papers and bag, and Clarke wondered what had happened to the woman. Her laziness had always shined through, but never her meanness, although Clarke wondered if it had always been there and she just wasn’t aware of it. The first few months after her injury had been a struggle, and admittedly she had been focused more on herself than the world around her, so maybe it was just a trait of Nia’s that she had missed.

None of that mattered now. She wanted the woman out of her house as quickly as possible. She didn’t think that Nia would do anything to harm her, but she couldn’t help but be a little frightened of the woman with the way she was huffing around the kitchen.

Nia eventually made her way to the back door, but she stopped before going through it. “Enjoy trying to take care of yourself. The company won’t be sending anyone else here, and you are still going to have to pay, pathetic cripple.” She walked through the door and slammed it.

Clarke held it together until she heard Nia’s car pull out of the driveway, and then she burst into tears. With everything that had happened to her since she got hurt, no one had ever called her names and it hurt more than she thought it would.

She eventually hung up the now useless phone and tried to stop the tears from falling, berating herself for letting Nia hurt her feelings. She picked up her walker and slammed it back to the floor in a fit of anger. Now what was she going to do? She had her therapy appointments to get to, and she wasn’t going to be able to get to them. Everyone was working. She decided that she didn’t care. She had never missed a session before, so she could be a no show just this once.

She made her way upstairs and climbed into bed. She had felt like crap before her day had started, and now she felt worse. Her head was pounding terribly, and it felt like her right eye was about to implode. All she wanted to do was shut out the world. Glancing at her nightstand, she thought about picking up her phone and texting Lexa, but she left it where it was. It had been on ‘do not disturb’ mode since the night before, and she decided to let it stay that way. She needed a few hours to calm down and feel better.

 

Lexa looked down at her phone. She had just left her client’s house and she was back at home eating lunch. She was surprised that she hadn’t heard from Clarke. By now she usually had a whole slew of cute texts from her, but she figured her girlfriend was busy. She knew that she had therapy to go to and that would take at least 3 hours out of her day. The blonde probably wouldn’t be home again until after 2 pm, and the brunette thought about popping over to see her, but she decided to wait a few more hours. It would give Lexa time to run out and do some errands. She also wanted to clear out more of the bedroom that would serve as Clarke’s studio until they could have something permanent built in the backyard.

She finished up her sandwich and cleaned her plate. She walked into Clarke’s new studio room and wondered if Clarke would want to paint the walls before they started to fill it up. The walls were a simple white. Would Clarke want the walls to be all one color, or would she want to paint a mural on them? Lexa had no idea what her blonde lover would want to do, and that thought excited her. It would be fun to watch as Clarke transformed the room to make it her own. She was just picking up a box that she had filled with stuff to donate when she heard her phone go off. The text noise indicated it was Costia. She put the box down and walked back to where she left the phone. It was unusual for Costia to text during her workday.

She picked up the phone and read the message.

Costia: Hey, Lex. I know this may be wildly inappropriate on my part, but I was wondering if you knew where Clarke is. She didn’t show up for her appointments today, and she didn’t call to say she was canceling.

Alarm bells went off in Lexa’s head. As far as she knew, Clarke had never missed one of her sessions before. She texted Costia back.

Lexa: I just got home from work and haven’t heard from her today. Now you have me worried.

Costia: I’m sure she’s fine. Something probably just came up. Patients no-show all the time.

Lexa: But Clarke doesn’t.

Costia: No, she doesn’t which is why I texted. I know she’s my patient, but she’s also becoming a friend. It’s not like her not to be here.

Lexa: I’m gonna call her.

Costia: Let me know when you hear from her. I just want to make sure that she is okay.

Lexa: Will do.

Lexa called Clarke immediately, but she got no answer. It went straight to voicemail. She hung up and was racing to the front door with her keys in her hands before she knew what she was doing. She stopped and tried to think things through. She was sure Clarke was fine. She was with Harper. There was probably a good reason for why she missed her therapy. Instead of running out the front door, she decided to text Harper instead. She had gotten the woman’s contact information after she had taken over for her as Clarke’s aide.

Lexa: Hey, this is Lexa. Sorry to bug you, but can you let Clarke know that her calls are going straight to voicemail? I just tried to call.

Lexa stood anxiously at the door. She was still tempted to drive over. Instead, she stared at the phone waiting for Harper to reply. It was five minutes before she got a text back.

Harper: She didn’t tell you? I found out yesterday that Nia was starting back today. I texted her last night about it but didn’t hear from her.

Lexa’s blood ran cold. She knew that Clarke had put her phone on ‘do not disturb’ last night since she wasn’t feeling well. Maybe she had forgotten to turn the function back off. With the reappearance of Nia, she knew Clarke was likely having a terrible day. Her girlfriend had a strong and justifiable dislike of the lazy woman and had thought she wouldn’t have to worry about her again now that she was going to be moving in with Lexa. Clarke had thought the woman would be out for a few more weeks. Moving in with Lexa would make the contract irrelevant that Abby had had drawn up while the blonde was still recovering in the hospital. Now, if Nia had returned, that wasn’t the case.

Lexa ran to her car and drove over to Clarke’s in record speed. There were no cars in the driveway and that had Lexa worried. Where would they be if Clarke wasn’t at therapy?

She approached the front door and got out her key, but then she paused. Should she just go in? Maybe she should ring the doorbell. She decided just to go in. Clarke had told her a hundred times that she didn’t need to knock or ring the bell anymore.

 

The house was eerily quiet. The brunette wandered the lower level of the home, but there was no indication that anyone was home. She texted and called Clarke again and still got no answer. She was about to leave the house and call the home health agency, but something made her check upstairs first.

She went to Clarke’s bedroom. The door was ajar which was unusual. It was almost always closed. She peaked her head in and her body was flooded with relief. Her girlfriend was curled up on the bed. The blonde was facing the wall so Lexa couldn’t see her face, but she could tell that she was sleeping.

Where the hell was Nia? Was she out running an errand? Why was Clarke in her room? Usually when she napped it was on her couch. Lexa’s worry warped into anger because she had the ominous feeling that something was wrong.

Lexa sat on the edge of the bed, being careful not to jostle Clarke too much. She hated to wake the blonde, but she couldn’t shake the feeling that something had happened with the aide. She needed to make sure that Clarke was okay.

With gentle fingers, she touched the shell of Clarke’s ear and then leaned in to kiss her temple. “Clarke,” she whispered, but the woman didn’t stir.

“Clarke, my love. Wake up.”

Blonde hair was covering Clarke’s face. Lexa moved it aside so that she could caress Clarke’s cheek with her lips, smiling against the skin when her lover began to stir.

If Lexa was startled when red-rimmed eyes turned toward her, she didn’t let it show. Clarke had been crying, and she had a feeling she knew why.

“Hi, sweetheart,” Lexa said. She tried the endearment out on her tongue. It wasn’t something she hadn’t called Clarke before, but it felt right.

Blue eyes blinked back at her, but the blonde didn’t say anything. A tear leaked from her eye.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Lexa caught the tear before it could slide down Clarke’s face. “Why are you alone? Someone is supposed to be here with you.”

Another tear. “I don’t wwwant to talk about it. Nnnot yet. Can you…will you just hold me for a few mmminutes?”

Lexa was worried. Clarke’s speech, which had vastly improved over the past few weeks, seemed to have regressed, but by the state of her red eyes, it was obvious that she had been crying for a while. Everyone had trouble speaking after crying.

The brunette kicked off her shoes and climbed in behind Clarke. She snuggled up to her and put her arm around her waist. “Is this okay?”

Clarke didn’t say anything at first. She grabbed Lexa’s hand and moved it to her chest. She clutched it tight. She was silent for so long that Lexa didn’t think she was going to say anything, but then she heard, “I don’t know why you came, but I am so happy you are here.”

Lexa frowned. She didn’t sound happy, in fact, she was almost certain that Clarke was crying again.

“Clarke, please tell me what happened.”

Nothing.

“Please.”

“Nia came back.”

Lexa waited to see if Clarke would say more, but when she didn’t, Lexa asked, “Where is she now? What did she do?” The woman had obviously done something if Clarke was so upset.

Clarke was silent again, and Lexa decided not to prod her lest she upset her more. Instead, she pulled the blonde in closer and kissed her shoulder. “I love you,” she whispered into Clarke’s thick golden hair. She felt Clarke’s breath hitch in her chest, but said it again. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Clarke eventually uttered.

 

Nothing more was said, and Clarke’s breath evened out. Just as Lexa was about to fall asleep behind her, Clarke said, “She called me nnnames.”

Lexa had to hold her breath and not shoot out of the bed. Nia had done what? The brunette distinctly remembered how much it hurt to be called names. After she had returned home, she had been wheelchair bound. She didn’t have a prosthetic yet. It had taken her a long time to get up the gumption to leave the house, and the very first time she did, some ignorant teenager had called her a peg leg.

It was stupid, and it shouldn’t have mattered, but it did. It had hurt, and it had stayed with her for days. Anya, who had been the one to beg her to leave the house, had tried to console her, but it had been useless. Lexa had holed herself back into her house. It had taken too long for her to get over it. The fire of the slur burned in her mind over and over again until Lexa decided on her own that it was enough. It was one of the first times she used the meditation techniques her therapist had taught her. She had meditated, and she had soul-searched, and in the end, she realized that what others thought of her, and what other said about her, didn’t matter. What mattered was how she felt about herself. She could wallow in self-pity, or she could rise up and become the person she had always wanted to be. It wasn’t an easy process, but she eventually got to a place where she loved the person who she is.

Looking at the blonde, Lexa remembered the pain, but she vowed she would do everything she could to help Clarke through it.

“I kicked her out,” Clarke said next, and Lexa’s heart burst with pride.

Lexa finally moved from her position. She leaned up on her elbow so that she could look down at Clarke’s face.

“You are so brave.” She moved Clarke so that the woman was on her back. “So brave and so beautiful.” She kissed her forehead.

“It wasn’t bravery, it was hormones,” Clarke huffed. “If it had been any other day, I wouldn’t have done it.”

“You don’t give yourself enough credit. You are so much stronger than you think you are.”

Watery eyes looked up at her. “Maybe.” Clarke shifted. “I was just so shocked when I saw her in the kitchen, and it was like she had changed. She had always been lazy before, but this morning…this morning she was being mean, and I think I snapped. I wasn’t going to stand for it, not in my own home.”

A huge smile broke across Lexa’s face. “Good. That woman has had it coming.”

Solemn blue eyes looked at her. “I think I may need to contact that lawyer, Emori, about that stupid contract. Before Nia left, she said it didn’t matter if she was here or not, she would still get paid.”

Lexa’s smile disappeared and turned into a frown.

“I don’t care about the money” Clarke began, “…well, that’s not true…I do, but I’d gladly pay it if it means I never have to see that evil sloth of a woman ever again.”

“You won’t, and we will figure this out together. I just can’t see how the contract can hold up. No one can force you to keep someone on like that. It is your right to hire and fire your help, especially someone like her.”

Clarke moved to lean over Lexa so that she could grab her phone. She turned off the ‘do not disturb’ and her phone chimed and pinged for a solid minute with missed messages and phone calls.

The first one she saw was the one from Harper telling her that Nia was returning. There was also one from the agency telling her the same thing. Those were from yesterday. It was the ones from today that had Clarke’s stomach turning.

There were three missed calls from the home health company. She wanted to ignore those. It was the eight texts and five missed calls from her mother that had her wanting to crawl under the covers and never come out.

Chapter Text

Chapter 27

Lexa eased Clarke into a sitting position at the edge of the bed. The blonde was staring blankly at the phone in her hand, clearly fretting over what her next move would be.

“I guess I should call my mom. She’s just going to keep calling if I don’t.” Clarke’s phone buzzed and she almost dropped it. She rolled her eyes. “Guess not.” Clarke showed Lexa the screen. Abby was already calling again.

Clarke took in a deep breath and held it for one second before answering. She put it on speaker phone so Lexa could listen. “Hi Mom,” she said tiredly.

“Clarke, what the hell did you do?” She had to lower the volume on the phone. Her mother was yelling. “The home health agency called and said you fired the aide. You can’t do that.”

“Yes, I can Mom. She…”

Abby cut her off. “I signed a contract with them that doesn’t expire until June unless you are fully independent…which you are not. You can’t just fire the help I hired.”

Clarke wanted to scream but didn’t. Lexa gave her free hand an encouraging squeeze.

“You don’t know anything about the help you hired. That woman, Nia, was horrible before. She was lazy and barely helped me, but today she came back after being injured, and she wasn’t just being lazy, Mom. She was being mean.”

She heard Abby huff on the other line. “I doubt that, honey, I met her. She was nothing but professional.”

“She called me a fucking entitled gimp and a pathetic cripple.”

There was silence on Abby’s end and for a second Clarke thought she had hung up. If Clarke was anything, she wasn’t a liar, and Abby knew this.

“If that is true,” Abby finally said, anger tinging her voice, “I will rain hellfire on that woman.”

Clarke blinked in surprise. That was not the reaction she was expecting. Abby had been absent for so long, leaving Clarke to fend for herself, that she thought her mother might continue to defend the agency and the heinous woman.

“I’m going to get Dr. Jackson to cover the rest of my shift, and then I am going over to that agency. I promise, Clarke, I will get to the bottom of this. You didn’t sign that contract; I did, so it’s my mess to deal with.”

“Okay,” the stunned blonde said.

“I’m sorry, Clarke. I thought I was doing something good for you. I didn’t know…”

Clarke could hear real regret in her voice.

“Is it okay if I come by later?…Or maybe we could meet somewhere if you’re not comfortable with that. I just really want to see you.”

One side of Clarke’s lip ticked up. Her mother was full of surprises, and it seemed she really was trying to be better. It would probably be a while before she fully trusted Abby’s motivations, and she would continue to be cautious around her, but she was grateful that her mother was going to deal with the agency and Nia.

Lexa gestured to Clarke and whispered that she could cook dinner if she wanted, and Clarke sighed in relief.

“Why don’t you come over later. Lexa’s here and offered to make dinner.”

“That sounds wonderful. I can be over at about 6:30. Is that alright?”

“It’s fine, Mom.”

“Good, I love you, Clarke.”

 

After they hung up Clarke looked up at Lexa. “That went better than I thought it would.”

“Yeah,” Lexa pulled Clarke into a side hug. “I could tell you were nervous.” She kissed Clarke’s cheek. “I’m sorry you’ve had such a bad day.”

“It’s better because you are here.”

Lexa smiled. “Do you want me to make you some tea?”

“You wouldn’t mind?”

“Of course not. Do you want me to bring it up to you?” Lexa was always so willing to help her.

“No,” Clarke thought about it. She needed to get out of the room. “I’ll come down. I just need to put on my brace first.”

Lexa didn’t let Clarke put it on. She did it for her.

“I’ll meet you down there,” the blonde announced. “I need to head into the bathroom first.” She was trying to get a knot out of her hair.

“Okay, and if you want, when you are done with your tea, I will brush your hair for you. You deserve to be pampered after the morning you had. I’ll braid it too.”

Clarke turned so that she could hug Lexa, and she decided then and there that there was no more comfortable place to be.

“Thank you…for everything.”

“You are welcome, and you know I don’t do it for thanks, right? I do it because I love you.”

Clarke’s face fell. “I wish I could do more for you.”

“You do everything for me just by loving me back.” She leaned in for a kiss.

When the parted, Clarke chuckled. “This is where Raven would call us a couple of saps, and I do love you. You make it so easy to love you.”

 

Clarke sipped on her tea while Lexa scrounged the kitchen looking for ingredients. She found everything she needed and started cooking. Clarke helped where she could, but between the headache she had earlier (which was now thankfully gone) and the entire experience with Nia, she was tired. The morning had worn her out. She hoped the caffeine in the tea would help perk her up.

It wasn’t long before Lexa had spaghetti sauce bubbling away on the stove. She cleaned everything up, again with Clarke helping as much as she could, then held out her hand to the blonde. “Let’s go do your hair. Get comfortable in the front room, and I will grab everything I need.”

Clarke had barely finished sitting down before Lexa was back. She neatly put the things she grabbed on the end table, sat on the corner of the couch. She had Clarke maneuver next to her but the decided it would be easier if Clarke sat in front of her on the floor.

Clarke had a moment of trepidation thinking about how hard it would be to get up, but then mentally smacked herself. Lexa would never leave her trapped down there, so with Lexa’s help she slid down to the floor and stuck her legs out in front of her.

“Lean back until you are comfortable,” Lexa requested.

When she did, the felt the warmth from Lexa’s thighs, and it was comforting to sit this way, and it settled her in a way that she hadn’t felt in years. Since the death of her father, her life had been in turmoil. Sure, she had made the best of it, and even became a successful artist (something that was nigh impossible to do), but she had never felt at peace. She always had a simmering feeling of aloneness. She wasn’t sad, per se, she had always just felt alone, even when surrounded by friends. Sadly, that feeling was compounded after her injury when many of her friends abandoned her.

The one blessing was that Finn was gone, and realizing what she had now, she knew it wouldn’t have lasted with him. He was selfish, arrogant, and not very smart whereas Lexa was selfless, humble, and so very brilliant. She wasn’t sure she believed in guardian angels, but someone must have been looking out for her the day Lexa was sent into her life.

Lexa made her feel safe, and happy, and whole. She leaned in and kissed Lexa’s inner knee. Her thoughts, and probably her hormones were making her sentimental, and a tear leaked from her eye.

Lexa noticed and wiped it away. “Hey, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Nothing is wrong, in fact, everything is right.” She shifted a little so she could look up at Lexa. “I was just realizing how happy I am, and how much you have to do with that.”

Lexa’s smile was radiant. She turned Clarke’s head outward so that she could continue brushing her mane but couldn’t help to lean and whisper into her ear. “You make me happy too.”

 

Lexa worked her fingers through Clarke’s hair, twisting pieces of it together to make an intricate design that wrapped around the crown of the blonde’s head while leaving some of it hanging down without weaving it together. The effect was enchanting, and if Clarke’s ears had been pointed, Lexa might have thought she was a fairy princess.

She had to wake the blonde a couple of times when her head leaned too far forward to work with, but when she was done, she scooped Clarke up and nestled her against her body on the couch, allowing her to lie down while Lexa held her.

“Nap for a few minutes. We’ve still got a while before your mother gets here.”

Clarke yawned hugely but tried to resist stating that if she fell asleep she would ruin her hair.

“Nonsense. My work holds up better than that,” Lexa teased.

 

About twenty minutes before Clarke’s mother was set to arrive, Lexa regrettably woke the blonde up. She had enjoyed holding and watching Clarke as she slumbered. The woman in her arms looked so much younger than she actually was when she slept. The tensions and worries she held all melted away and left behind her strength and innocence.

Clarke had faced so much in her lifetime, a lot of it because of her mother, and yet she still woke each morning and carried herself with a grace that many others would not be able to achieve. She had taken her licks but kept on going instead of staying down.

She couldn’t imagine what it would have been like to wake up after an injury without the full use of your left side. Losing a leg was one thing but losing the use of an arm and leg was an entirely different thing. Then to have to go home and have a stranger take care of you? Lexa couldn’t even fathom the strength it took to wake each morning only to find that wretched woman Nia waiting for her. It was remarkable that Clarke had made the progress she did.

The blonde would deny it, but she was a fighter. If she hadn’t been, she would still be stuck in her wheelchair, unable to walk, and giving into a depression that would have swamped most. Lexa knows it would have been tempting. She had been faced with that temptation herself. Looking down at Clarke, she now knew that it must have been fate that made her fight to get back up. If she hadn’t, she would never have met her girlfriend.

She leaned forward and kissed Clarke’s forehead. “Hey, it’s almost time for your mother to get here.”

Clarke groaned and opened one eye. “Ugh. I almost forgot.”

Lexa helped her sit and chuckled when Clarke reached up to make sure that her hair wasn’t out of order. “I told you it would hold up.”

“I wasn’t too heavy,” Clarke asked worriedly, “laying on you like that?”

“Nope,” she kissed Clarke’s forehead again. “I enjoyed it.” She made a move to stand. “I need to go get the pasta water boiling. “Stay here. I will be right back.” She was almost out of the room. “Do you want something to drink?”

“No, not yet. I can wait.”

 

Abby arrived right on time, but she looked flustered and annoyed. She was stiff and formal when Lexa answered the door.

“Lexa, it’s good to see you again.” She held her arm out to shake Lexa’s hand.

“It’s good to see you too. I wish it were under different circumstances.”

“I’ll admit, today was not one of my best days.” Abby sighed then held up a bottle. “I hope you don’t mind, but I brought something to help take the stress of this day away.”

Lexa led Abby to the front room where Clarke was still sitting on the couch. The blonde stood when Abby walked in. Her eyes got wide when she saw the walker.

“It’s been a bad day,” Clarke said by explanation.

“Trust me. I get it. Would you mind terribly if we had a drink? After dealing with that agency and the woman, I need it.”

Lexa took the bottle from Abby. It was a 12-year-old scotch. She raised her eyebrows. Abby noticed. “I needed something stronger than wine.”

“You’ve got good taste.” It was a very expensive bottle.

“Clarke do you want some?” She asked but was already anticipating the answer.

“No.” The blonde shook her head. “After today’s headache, I think it would be a bad idea. Just water, please.”

“I’ll be back in a few minutes.” She left, leaving Abby and Clarke to sit awkwardly together on the couch.

They sat in uncomfortable silence until Abby broke it. “You were right about that women. She’s intolerable. I was wrong about her.”

Clarke waited for her to go on.

“I went by the agency, and she was already waiting. There’s something fishy going on there, but I can’t put my finger on it. All I know is that they were ready. They shoved that damn contract in my face saying that if you didn’t continue to use Nia, we would be responsible for the rest of the money, upfront.”

Lexa walked in with two tumblers of scotch and one of ice water. Abby grabbed hers and took a large swallow.

“I asked them to send someone else, but they insisted that it needed to be Nia because she was the one in the contract.”

Lexa took a sip from her drink, savoring the amber liquid. It was top-notch stuff. “I don’t understand. Why would they insist on sending Nia back if she isn’t wanted? They could send someone else.”

“That’s why I said it’s something fishy, and I have a bad feeling about it.”

Clarke spoke up. “We have lawyer looking at the contract. I’ll make sure we get in touch with her tomorrow.”

“Good,” Abby said, lifting the glass to her mouth again, “because we aren’t paying them another cent. If you want another aide, I will happily hire another one for you, but I will not be so foolish as to sign another binding contract. God, I was so stupid.”

Clarke was shaking her head. “I don’t want another aide, and in another month or so, I won’t need one.”

Abby tilted her head and looked at her daughter. “Why won’t you need an aide?”

Lexa, who had sat down next to Clarke, gave her knee an encouraging squeeze.

“Because I’m going to move in with Lexa.”

Abby carefully placed her drink on the coffee table, and Clarke could see there were about a hundred different things she wanted to say. When her face broke out in a smile and she said, “Sweetheart, I am so happy for you,” Clarke was floored.

Her mother turned to Lexa. “You know it’s my duty to tell you that if you hurt her, I will be coming for you.”

Lexa took a casual sip of her drink. “I understand but know that goes both ways.” Clarke gave her a surprised and pleased smile.

“Touche,” Abby chuckled. “I haven’t forgotten my past sins. I’m going to make up for them first by finding out what’s going on at that agency.” Abby thought for a minute and frowned. “You work for them. Have you ever noticed anything strange?”

“I haven’t. We get our assignments and don’t have to spend much time at the office. I usually only deal with Echo, the office manager. I admit I haven’t ever spoken to the owner, Roan Eis.”

“Did you say Eis? That’s the woman’s last name? Nia Eis.”

“So, there is some nepotism going on.” Clarke clanked the ice in her cup. “That is something I am sure Emori will want to know.”

“Emori?” Abby asked.

“The lawyer.”

“Ah.”

Lexa stood. “Let me go put the finishing touches on dinner. It will be ready in about ten minutes.”

Abby waited until she was gone before turning to Clarke. “I really like her, and I can see she makes you happy.”

“She does make me happy, Mom.”

Abby took a good look around the room. “Are you planning to sell this place when you move?”

Clarke wasn’t surprised by the question. “No. I’m going to rent it to Raven and her girlfriend Anya. That’s Lexa’s sister by the way.”

“Well, if she’s as wonderful as Lexa then I know Raven is in good hands.”

“She is. She’s very different from Lexa, but she’s perfect for Raven. They both go nutty when they see a fancy car or motorcycle, in fact, they are merging their businesses together.”

“Wow,” Abby’s eyes bugged. “Raven was telling me about her shop when you…when you were in the hospital. She’s extremely proud of it.”

Clarke frowned. She knew all about how much time her mother had spent talking with Raven while she had still been admitted to the hospital. She had been angry then, and maybe was still hurt now, that Abby hadn’t taken the time to speak more to her. She buried the feeling down. She didn’t want the night to turn into something ugly. She’d had enough of that this morning.

“She is, and together, they’ve got the opportunity to build something great.”

They chatted for a few minutes about Raven before Lexa came in to say dinner was ready.

They moved into the kitchen, and Abby remarked on the wonderful smell filling the room. Lexa had already set the table.

Clarke pushed her walker to stand next to her girlfriend as she loaded up plates. “Thank you for doing all of this.”

Lexa kissed her temple. “It’s my pleasure.”

 

They had a wonderful meal together and kept the conversation light. Clarke could see that Abby was trying hard to make things right with her, and her mother’s insistence that she would deal with the home health contract had won her big points, although Clarke wasn’t going to be hands-off. She would be calling Emori in the morning and setting up a formal account with the lawyer to figure out fee schedules and the like. She had a feeling Emori was going to have to be more involved than she originally thought. It wasn’t going to be a simple look-over to make sure the contract was legal. If something fishy was happening at the agency, Clarke wanted to know what it was.

After Abby left, Clarke talked Lexa into staying the night. Once they were in bed, she couldn’t fall asleep. “Somethings not right with the Eises. “It doesn’t add up that Nia is so insistent on returning here. It’s not as if she likes me. I think she was up to something.”

The whole thing had been making Lexa anxious too. “I think you’re right, and I don’t know, something tells me you should take a good look at your finances in the morning. If something is up, it’s got to come down to money.”

“You think she could have been stealing from me?” Clarke asked, shocked.

“I don’t know, but I think it warrants looking into. I just have a bad feeling about it.”

They both slept restlessly that night.

 

The next morning Clarke was feeling better. She woke before Lexa and carefully got herself to the kitchen. She was meticulous and careful in her preparation of the coffee, and was stupidly proud of herself when she was able to make toast and prepare fruit and yogurt cups for their breakfast. It was silly to be so proud of doing something so simple, but not even a month ago, she wouldn’t have been able to do this, and after everything Lexa had done for her, she wanted to do something in return.

Lexa hurried into the kitchen, still in the shorts and t-shirt she borrowed from Clarke. “You had me worried when you weren’t in bed, but I see that you have been having a productive morning. This all looks amazing, Clarke. You didn’t have to do all this.” Lexa gave her a kiss.

“I know, but I wanted to. You’ve done so much for me, that I wanted to do something for you, even if it is just toast and yogurt.” Lexa kissed her again.

“No matter what happens over the next month, I refuse to let any more strangers into my house. If the agency won’t let me have back Harper, then I need to know I can do things on my own. This was also a test for myself.”

“Well, you passed with flying colors.” Lexa shoved some toast into her mouth. After swallowing she added, “It’s also delicious.”

They finished eating together and Lexa got ready for work.

“Wil you be okay without me? Will Raven be coming home?”

“I will be fine. I promise to be careful, and I doubt Raven will be home until after work, unless she heads to Anya’s place.”

“I’m only working for six hours today. Want me to come by after?”

“I always want you to come by.” Clarke grabbed Lexa’s hand and pulled the brunette into her.

“What are you going to do today?” Lexa asked.

“First, I am going to look through my financials. You made a good point last night, and now I am worried. So help me, if that woman found a way to steal from me I don’t care if my left leg doesn’t work well. I will shove my booted foot up her ass and then drag her to court.”

Lexa couldn’t help herself. She pulled Clarke in for a kiss. Feisty Clarke was hot, and it was doing things to her. She needed to get to work before they ended up making out in the kitchen.

“What was that for?” Clarke wondered when Lexa let go of her lips.

“That is because you are so damn hot when you are worked up. I don’t want her stealing from you, but the image of you kicking Nia’s ass,” Lexa flushed, “it does things to me.”

Clarke grinned evilly. “You should see what I am like when I catch Raven cheating at cards.”

“Stop, if you keep that up, I will never make it into work.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 28

 

Clarke sat at her kitchen table surrounded by a mountain of papers and her laptop. It had taken her well over an hour to collect everything that she needed because she had stupidly hidden the passwords for her financial accounts in the dark recesses of the upper storage shelf in her closet.

Before, that wouldn’t have been a problem, but now, the thought of figuring out how to get the step stool up the stairs so that she could reach what she needed was one hell of a daunting task. If either Lexa or Raven figured out how she had done it, they would kill her.

The step stool, which was stored in the kitchen, wasn’t big, but it was awkward to carry. She got it out of the pantry closet from where it was neatly collapsed and unfolded it. She very carefully used it like a giant four-pronged cane to walk over to the stairs. It took some time, but she eventually got down the correct rhythm, and found that it wasn’t too bad using the stool as a cane.

The stairs were more difficult, and she was sure that Luna would have yelled at her for having poor and unsafe technique getting up the stairs, but she figured it out. She promised she would tell Luna how she did it, because once she was up the stairs, she was pretty damn proud of herself for figuring it out…and for not falling.

She took the step stool and turned it sideways, and then while holding onto the stair rail with her left hand, she lifted the stool onto the stairs. She then took a step up with her right foot, followed with the left. She went up one step at a time like this. So what if it took her three times as long to get up. She had made it and hadn’t felt unsafe. She was sure the others would beg to differ.

 

Getting to her closet had been no problem but getting up the courage to step onto the stool and reach into her closet was another thing. She had stood frozen in her spot for an embarrassingly long time before she got onto the stool. She was lucky it had a long handle that she could lean her body onto it. It helped keep her stable. It was another few minutes before she dared to reach up for the papers she needed, clutching onto the handle of the stool with her left hand for dear life as she did and praying that her weak hand didn’t lose its grip.

She did a goofy wiggle when she successfully had both feet back on the floor again with the papers in her hand. She was proud of her accomplishment.

The one problem she hadn’t foreseen was getting back down the stairs. When she got to the top of the stairs, she realized that there was no way she would be comfortable trying to bring the stool back down with her, and she left it behind, using the rails to safely get herself back to the main level of the house instead.

She hated to leave it behind because it was evidence that maybe she was doing something she shouldn’t have, but it was her first time spending time alone in her house, and she was not going to waste it being nonproductive. She needed to learn to do things on her own again, and managing the contents of her own home, and her paperwork, was something she needed to do.

 

So now she was sitting with everything she needed in front of her, and she was hesitant to start looking, and it wasn’t just her hatred of doing paperwork, it was also that a deep-seeded fear had taken root that Nia was indeed trying to steal from her.

She cursed herself for ignoring her papers for so long, but it was the last thing she was worried about the past few months. She had a basic idea of the balance in her bank account and didn’t pay much more attention to it than that. She took a sip of a drink she had gotten and made herself get to work by first looking over each paper statement. Everything seemed to be in order on paper, but then she tried to log into her accounts on the computer and found herself frozen out. Each one was locked because of too many failed login attempts.

“Fuck.” This meant that her fear hadn’t been unfounded. The only thing she could be thankful for was that it seemed her passwords had been strong enough that the person, probably Nia, hadn’t been able to access her accounts. It took her another two hours via computer and phone to get her accounts settled again. She’d had to make new passwords and speak to two people which was much more difficult than she would have liked because they’d had a hard time understanding her, in fact, the first person had doubted who she was, and she’d had to ask to speak to a manager. Once she was finished, she had a mild headache, and she was exhausted. She made herself a snack then moved to the couch to rest until Lexa came back.

That was when she saw her chart from the home health agency. It was a thick folder with the name of the company embossed on the front. Azgeda Home Health. She flipped through it, noting that Nia had very few entries, while Lexa and Harper had made many. It had her thinking. With the times as they were, very few things were done by paper anymore, and that included paper charting on patients. She remembered that even while in the hospital all the nurses and doctors had used computers or tablets to chart, and somewhere in the back of her mind, she thought that electronic patient records had become mandatory in the medical field. So why was Azgeda using paper charts?

It had her researching on her phone, and she was correct. Patient charts were supposed to be electronic. It had been made a law years before.

She sat thinking and worrying on the couch waiting for Lexa to return, but it was Raven who got home first.

“Hey, Griff.” Raven, as usual, was covered in grease, but it didn’t stop her from going over and hugging her friend. “Are you here alone?”

“I am, and before you start worrying, I am fine.”

Raven narrowed her eyes but had to concede that Clarke did look okay. “Need me to do anything for you before I shower?”

“No, I’m good, but thanks.” Clarke shifted so that her legs were tucked underneath her.

“Okay, I’ll be out in a few.” Raven made her way to her room but stopped when she looked up the stairs. She turned back around. “Want to tell me what the step stool is doing up there?”

“Um…no?”

“Clarke Abigail Griffin, what have you been up to?”

Clarke never could keep anything from Raven, so she told her everything about yesterday starting with what happened with Nia, to her mother taking a surprising role in taking care of the ridiculous home health contract, and to Lexa planting the idea that something fishy was up with Nia.

She then explained that she needed to collect her paperwork and passwords in order to investigate if anything had happened. When she told the mechanic about the fact that each of her accounts had been locked because of failed login attempts, Raven blew up.

“That woman was trying to steal from you,” Raven stood and was pacing. “That bitch. She could have robbed you blind, Griff.”

“The problem is, there is no proof.”

Raven laced her fingers in front of herself and extended her arms out, cracking the knuckles. “Did you forget that I am an amateur hacker? I’m going to help you get to the bottom of this, but first I need a shower, and then I need a drink.” The sable-haired woman was practically dancing in her excitement. “Do you want me to bring you anything when I come back?”

“I’d kill for a cup of tea.”

“You got it,” Raven moved to go shower. “I’ll make that fancy kind you love so much, and then we go on the attack.”

 

When Raven came back, she handed Clarke her mug of tea then went to collect Clarke’s papers. Clarke then started to separate them. “What’s this?” She held up one that didn’t belong to her.

“I found it on the floor behind the trash can. It looked important, so I thought I would make sure if you meant to throw it out or not.”

Clarke looked at it curiously. It wasn’t hers, and then a broad smile spread across her face. “It must be Nia’s. She was paying her bills. Guess she dropped it or meant to throw it out.”

Raven rubbed her hands together and pretended to laugh like an evil genius, but who was she kidding. She could be an evil genius when she wanted to be.

She held her hand out for the piece of paper. “It can’t be this easy, Clarke.”

“What do you mean?”

“Look at it.” Raven had her study the writing and numbers on the paper. “It’s an account number for something. Shouldn’t be too hard to figure out what.”

After that, Raven was in her own little world, tapping away furiously on the keyboard of her laptop.

After ten minutes, Clarke asked, “Should you be doing this? Isn’t it illegal?”

“Of course, it’s illegal, but don’t worry. This is child’s play. I won’t get caught.” She paused to take a sip of her drink, and Clarke took the opportunity to ask her what she thought about the fact that the company kept a paper medical chart on her.

“Huh, I don’t know if it means anything, but I am betting your girl will have something to say about it, especially after you remind her that most charts are electronic these days. Maybe all the charts are paper where she works.”

“You’re probably right. I’m sure it doesn’t mean anything.”

Just then, Lexa walked in. Clarke stumbled onto her feet so that she could go over and kiss her. “I missed you today.” She dragged her nose down the length of Lexa’s exceptional jaw.

“If this is what it’s going to be like every time I come home, it’s going to be even harder to wait until you move in.” Lexa kissed her back.

“Yuck. Get a room,” Raven called out from the front room.

They both rolled their eyes. “Please, we both know you are a voyeur at heart. You love it.”

Raven came out and greeted Lexa on her way to go refill her drink.

“What are you two up to?” Lexa asked Clarke but Raven answered.

“Hacking shit mostly. It appears that Nia may have tried to get into Clarkey’s accounts, oh and your girl here used a step stool to climb the stairs and get into her closet earlier.”

“Raven!” Clarke swung her arm out to smack the woman and missed, losing her balance. Lexa caught her and gave her a stern look.

They walked back to the couch and Lexa had her sit. “How strong of a drink am I going to need to listen to what you were up to earlier…and to listen to what you are up to now?”

They could hear Raven cackling in the kitchen. The mechanic popped her head out and said, “Since I am already pouring, I’ll make you a double for the first part. After that, you’ll either need a triple or just a single. Depends on how you feel about hacking into other people’s financials.” Lexa heard ice clanking into a glass. “I’m pouring that stuff Abby brought. Your mom knows how to get the good stuff, Griff.”

“Sounds like you’ve had a busy first day on your own.” Lexa made herself comfortable. “This first part is going to give me a heart attack, isn’t it?”

 

Lexa’s heart was thundering in her chest as Clarke told her of the stunt she pulled earlier. She wanted to get mad at the blonde for taking such a risk, but she couldn’t. She knew that Clarke needed to be able to do things on her own, but hell, dragging a stepping stool up a flight of stairs was not a good first choice for making one’s self more independent. What if she had fallen and hurt herself? The thought had the acid in her stomach churning.

“Here,” Raven shoved the glass into her hand. “Take a sip and then breath. Your girl is fine.”

Lexa did as commanded and took a huge sip. She held it in her mouth for a few seconds before swallowing.

“Better?” Raven asked.

“A little,” She looked at Clarke, “but please don’t do anything like that again, or if you do, just text me before and after so that I know you are okay.” She then surprised Clarke by pulling her into a hug. “I’m so proud of you.”

When Lexa let go, Clarke blinked at her in shock. “I thought you’d yell at me.”

“I could never yell at you, but maybe keep the scary stair climbing and reaching into high places at a minimum, huh?”

“I will.” Clarke was astonished by Lexa’s reaction. It made her love her just that much more. “I have a question that might lead to nothing, but do you use paper charts with all your clients?”

Lexa creased her brow. “No, I have a tablet that the company gave me. Why?”

“Did you think it was unusual that I have a paper chart?”

“I did but thought that maybe it was just Nia’s preference. What are you getting at? Tell me what else is going on.”

Clarke and Raven filled her in on the failed login attempts and told her what Raven was up to. Lexa was uncomfortable knowing that Raven was trying to hack into Nia’s affairs, but at the same time, who could it have been trying to get into Clarke’s accounts? She had a sudden thought.

“Could it be your ex who tried to get into your financials?”

Clarke and Raven both burst out laughing. “Not a chance.” Raven chuckled.

Clarke clarified. “I know I was foolish and going to marry the guy, but even I have to admit that he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the shed. Plus he has family money. He doesn’t need mine.”

“Okay good.” Lexa was glad to narrow the field of suspects. “Could it be anyone else?”

Clarke wracked her brain. “Not that I can think of.”

Lexa didn’t like to think that someone might be trying to take advantage of Clarke or steal from her, but what else could the login attempts mean?

Raven was already tapping away on the computer again. “Give me an hour. By then I will have found something.”

 

Clarke and Lexa decided to go for a drive since Clarke hadn’t been out of the house in nearly two days, and on the way back they would pick up food. Lexa, fortunately, hadn’t finished her drink, so she was fine to drive.

“Where are we going?” Clarke asked curiously when Lexa turned down a street she had never been on.

“I want to check on a hunch I am having.”

She drove a little further then pulled up into a plaza that housed several businesses. There was a laundromat, Chinese takeout restaurant, an insurance company, and Azgeda Home Health.

Clarke started to get nervous. “What are we doing here, Lex?”

“I want to run in quickly and see if they have other paper charts. There are a few huge filing cabinets, and what else would they need them for if not for charts?”

“Lexa, I don’t like this.”

“Clarke,” Lexa began, leaning in to give Clarke a chaste kiss of the cheek. “It’s fine. I may not have to go in often, but we are always welcome to use the extra desks to complete our documentation, so it won’t seem unusual. Besides, it’s after hours. I doubt anyone will be in there.”

Clarke gave her a worried look, so Lexa showed her the key she had to the office. “It’s not like I am breaking in. As an employee, I have every right to be there.”

“Okay…just be careful.”

Lexa left the car then and was gone for twenty minutes. Every time a car pulled into a parking spot, Clarke got even more nervous, but no one ever approached the agency. Most of the cars were picking up food from the restaurant.

When Lexa finally got back, she looked like that cat who ate the canary at the same time as looking deeply concerned.

“I was right, the file cabinets are filled with patient charts, and each one I looked through had something in common. They are all former clients of Nia’s.”

“That doesn’t mean anything. It might just be that she hates using the computer.”

“I don’t know. I guess it could be, but I don’t think so.”

“I will bring it up to Emori tomorrow. While you were in there, I made an appointment to speak with her on the phone tomorrow.”

“That’s good. I’m not sure what she can do about everything else we are suspecting, but maybe she will have some ideas.”

They sat in silence for a few minutes until Clarke’s stomach rumbled.

“I guess it’s time to get you some food. I’ve had food from that Chinese place a couple of times when we had lunch meetings. It’s some of the best I’ve had. Should we just order from there?”

Clarke’s eyes lit up. “As long as they have good fried rice. I haven’t had that in ages…oooh and crab rangoon…and something with noodles.”

Lexa chuckled. “I’ll run in and get a menu. Then you can order whatever you want.”

 

Lexa called Anya to invite her over, and she had to laugh when her sister informed her that Raven already had. They all stuffed themselves, and Lexa finally got to finisher her drink. Even watered down, since the ice had melted, it was still good. She made a note to buy herself a bottle of the stuff.

Clarke insisted on cleaning up, which was easy since they used paper plates, and Lexa put away the leftovers. They had filled Anya in on the events of the last few days.

“I have a friend,” Anya said, “who owes me a few favors. She’s a private investigator. If you want, I could fill her in on what’s going on and see if she can help.”

“Someone I should be jealous of?” Raven teased.

“No, she’s an old college buddy. Name’s Charmaine Diyoza. She was my freshman year roomie.”

“Ever hook up?” Raven asked this time sounding a little jealous.

“God no. She’s rough around the edges and likes her men the same way. She likes to hang out at the shop when I’m making saddlebags for some of the bikes I work on. I can’t tell you how many of those guys she’s gotten with.”

Raven looked relieved.

“I didn’t take you for the jealous type,” Lexa said, poking fun at the mechanic.

“I’m not. Not usually, but this one here,” she patted Anya’s knee, “is a fine piece of ass, and she knows it. I can’t help it if I want to protect what is mine.”

Anya burst out laughing. “It is a fine ass, but don’t worry, Rae. It’s all yours.”

Raven gave her a Cheshire grin before tackling her to the love seat and kissing her obscenely.

“So gross,” Lexa complained.

Chapter Text

Chapter 29

 

“Close your eyes.”

Clarke nervously did as Lexa asked. Lexa had picked her up to bring her over to her house, and now she was standing in the hall. The doors to every room had been closed, which was something Lexa didn’t normally do, so it had her curious, but also nervous.

They were about two weeks away from Clarke moving in, and the blonde had slowly started moving some of her things over to Lexa’s.

She jumped slightly when Lexa took both her hands and led her into one of the rooms.

“Okay, open your eyes.”

Clarke’s confusion grew. They were standing in the guest room that was to be turned into her studio. It was completely empty, and Clarke wondered when Lexa had cleared it out. The wood floors were covered with a tarp. She was about to ask Lexa what was up, but the brunette had bolted from the room saying she would be right back. When she came back to the room, only minutes later, she was carrying several quarts of paint. She put them down and hurried back out of the room. She did this four times, and by the time she finished there must have been twenty different cans of paint sitting on the floor.

“What is this?” Clarke asked.

“What do you mean?” Lexa teased. “This is your studio.”

“I know, but what’s all this?” Clarke gestured to the tarp and the cans and the blank walls.

Lexa shuffled on her feet. “Well, I was thinking that since you are leaving behind the studio at your place that you should get to make this room into a space that will work perfectly for you. Paint the walls and the ceiling anyway you want, and then we will fill it with anything you need to make this space uniquely yours.”

Clarke’s heart squeezed. That Lexa would allow her to the freedom to do what she wanted with the room made her love the woman more than she thought possible.

“Clarke, this is going to be our home. It’s not just your coming to live in my house. It’s ours now, and I want you to feel like you can make changes, and decorate, and do the things you want to make it truly feel like your space too, and that starts with this room.”

The blonde looked at the vast array of paint colors on the floor, suddenly overwhelmed. She clumsily launched herself into Lexa’s arms and hugged her fiercely making Lexa chuckle.

“Will you help me?” Clarke finally asked, not letting go of Lexa until she had given her a smoldering kiss.

“Not with any of the creative process. I’m no good for that, but if you decide to get up high or do the ceiling, then yes, I will help, but only to make sure you don’t fall from the ladder, and I am more than happy to rinse brushes and stir paint.”

Clarke was beaming at her. Lexa showed her the brushes and rollers she had gotten, and then had one more surprise for Clarke, but if Lexa was being honest, this surprise was more for herself. She presented the blonde with a pair of overalls to paint in, and when Clarke changed into them, deciding not to wear a t-shirt underneath, Lexa may or may not have had to wipe drool from her chin. Clarke was gorgeous in everything she wore, but something about the overalls with only a bra underneath drove the brunette wild. It took every bit of willpower she had not to strip her back out of them and make love to her on top of the cloth tarp on the floor.

“You’re staring,” Clarke pointed out.

“You’re gorgeous,” Lexa said in response, making the blonde smile shyly.

“It’s just overalls, Lex.”

“Yeah, but it’s overalls on you.”

Needless to say, it was another hour before they started working on Clarke’s new studio.

 

It was nearly midnight when they finished, and they were both laughing and covered in paint. They showered together and went back to look at the room’s transformation. Except for one wall, Clarke had chosen to use the lighter colors. It made the room feel bigger and airier than it actually was. That’s not to say that she hadn’t used every color of paint that Lexa had gotten for her. Even the light walls had tiny spots of dark.

For Lexa, it was hard to explain what Clarke had created. At first look, the walls looked like a riot of color, but on closer inspection, there were little vignettes from Clarke’s life. They were tiny, simple snippets of happiness. There was a miniscule picture of her childhood dog hidden within plain sight, portraits of her friends, many pictures of her and Lexa, one-eyed Jack, and the park trail they had walked on when Lexa first revealed that she was an amputee. The miniature pictures hidden within the other swirls of paint were something one would find only if they were looking, all except the miniature of her father. That portrait stuck out, and Clarke had smiled the entire time she painted it. It was more detailed than the others, even down to the tiny wrinkles near his eyes as he smiled. The fine detail was astounding.

Lexa had been stunned watching Clarke’s thought process and style as she worked. Sure, she had seen her work some, but not on a scale like this. Even as distracted as she was by the blonde’s natural assets while she was holding Clarke steady on the ladder, she’d been amazed. She’d also been stunned by the fluidity of the artist’s movements while she had been engrossed in her painting. Any deficits in Clarke’s left arm had seemed to almost vanish. She was still wobbly on her leg but being in her element was helping Clarke recover. It was astonishing, and she would bet that there would be a neurological carryover if Clarke were able to create like this every day. She was going to do her best to allow Clarke every opportunity to work as much as she wanted in the studio especially if it helped her recover faster.

 

Clarke stood for so long in her new studio that she hadn’t realized the Lexa had stepped out until she was returning with her arms laden with a blanket and food. The brunette placed everything on the blanket then beckoned Clarke to sit next to her. It was difficult, but Clarke was able to lower herself to the ground without toppling over, and Lexa celebrated by popping a raspberry in the blonde’s mouth.

She wasn’t sure where Lexa had been hiding all this food, but it was clear that it was meant for this little celebratory picnic, and she was overwhelmed with Lexa’s thoughtfulness.

Lexa held out a cordial glass to her. “Let’s toast.”

“To what?” Clarke asked innocently.

“To you and your amazing talent. To finishing this room in record time. To you moving in with me. To us and the great things we are going to do together.”

Clarke couldn’t help but smile. She clinked her glass with Lexa’s and took a sip of whatever was in the glass. It was shockingly delicious, sweet, and tangy without a bite. “To us and to you for making all this possible.”

“Um, you did all the hard work,” Lexa laughed. “I just ogled your fine backside the entire time you worked.”

Clarke leaned over and smacked Lexa’s shoulder.

“What, it’s its own work of art.”

“Lexa.” Clarke was turning scarlet.

Lexa leaned in and gave her a quick kiss. She then stood suddenly and ran out of the room again calling, “I’ll be right back. I have something for you.”

She came back in carrying a wooden case, and the blonde started to vibrate in excitement. She knew exactly what Lexa was carrying. It was a sketch box table easel, and it wasn’t a cheap one.

“Lexa, it’s beautiful.” The wooden box served as a carrying case for paints and brushes, and the cover could be transformed into a palette. The rest turned into the easel that could sit on any surface and would allow Clarke to sit while she created her masterpieces.

“I noticed the one you have was barely hanging on. I figured I would get you one that wasn’t being held together by duct tape.”

“Thank you,” Clarke said after opening and closing the box several times and setting up the easel. She even brought her nose to it so that she could smell the varnish and wood. “You spoil me.”

“Nah, I just want you to have the proper tools you need to enjoy what you do best.”

 

The next week was filled with the hardest therapy Clarke had ever had. Costia, Luna, and Indra were putting the blonde through her paces during her sessions, and she went home exhausted. She had taken an Uber to and from her sessions because she didn’t want anyone to have to interrupt their days to drive her back and forth. On Friday when she walked into the clinic, there were balloons, decorations, and cake. It made her smile and she wondered what they had been celebrating.

“Come on back to the gym,” Luna said.

Clarke gave her a confused look. Usually she started with Costia and her speech therapy. She followed Luna. She was using her cane that day. She hadn’t needed her walker for over two weeks. When she entered the therapy gym, she was first surprised to see it was decorated too. The second surprise was that there were no other patients in the entire clinic, but what floored her was that Lexa, her mother, Anya, Raven, Indra, and Octavia were standing there holding congratulation signs. Even Myra was there, and she was grinning at the blonde.

“Wh-what is this?” She asked in shock.

“It’s your graduation day.” Costia said, running over to hug her.

“I don’t understand.”

Indra strode over to Clarke and took her hand. “It means that you don’t need us anymore. You’ve met your goals and are now modified independent.”

“I don’t know what that mean?” Clarke was still trying to take in everything that was happening.

“Well,” Luna said, coming over to stand with the group. “By definition, it means you are able to complete all activities without assistance. You might still need extra time to complete some tasks, and you might still need your cane for a while, but you are able to do everything independently.”

“What she’s saying, child,” Indra said, “is that you can do everything for yourself now. Now mind you, you will still have to take your time and be careful, but you’d be able to live on your own now if you wanted to. The only thing you can’t do yet is drive. You have to go pass the driving test first, but I have no doubt that you will ace it.”

“I…really?” Clarke couldn’t get past her shock. Therapy had been such a part of her life for so many months now that it was just part of her routine. While she was excited that she would be getting nine hours of her life back each week, she would be sad not to see these women, and the other patients, every week.

Lexa, who couldn’t contain her excitement, finally came over, picked Clarke up and spun her around. “Congratulations.”

After Lexa, everyone else came over to hug her. Abby was last. “I am so proud of you, honey.”

Rounds of congratulations were given, cake was cut, and everyone spent the hour having fun. Toward the end, Clarke approached Luna. “What about my foot brace?”

“Keep up your exercises, and someday you might be able to get rid of it, but don’t count on it. Unfortunately, after an injury like yours, the strength in the foot is either the last thing to recover or it just doesn’t get better.”

Clarke frowned, but then looked at how far she had come. “If that’s the only thing I have to worry about after all of this, then I can live with that.”

“You’ve always had an amazing attitude about all of this. Even when things were rough, especially at the beginning, you tried to stay positive. I know it wasn’t always easy, but you persevered and look where it got you.”

“I couldn’t have done it without the three of you.”

“Sure, we helped, but you did all the hard work, and it payed off.”

Lexa came over and Clarke pulled her to her. “She was a huge help too.” Clarke gave her girlfriend a kiss on the cheek.

“Having someone to love and support you always helps,” Costia said and subtly tapped Luna’s hip and gave her a smile.

“That it does,” Clarke replied.

Clarke looked up to see her mother speaking with Myra. They looked like they were getting on well, although her mother looked a little stiff.

When Lexa had a moment, she asked if she would like to have everyone over the next day, and Clarke agreed. It was supposed to be a glorious weekend.

 

After the surprise gathering at the therapy clinic, Lexa was able to drive Clarke home. At a stop light, Lexa looked at her. “So, modified independent.”

“Uh, yeah.” Clarke didn’t know where Lexa was going with this.

“That means, even if you hadn’t kicked Nia out of your house, this would have been her last day. Per your contract, it finalized on June 3rd or terminated when you were modified independent. That means the agency can’t go after you for the money, and with Diyoza looking into everything else, I think we will get to the bottom of what we suspect was going on.”

Clarke sat back, relieved. She was up for the fight as far as making sure the agency got no more of her money, but she wasn’t equipped to figure out what was going on with the attempts to get into her accounts. That didn’t mean that she wasn’t going to see that fight through. She had no doubt that Nia had been trying to illegally gain access to her account, and deep inside, she had a feeling it is something she had done with other clients.

It made her ill to think that that woman, and maybe others in the agency, were purposefully targeting vulnerable patients so that they could bleed them dry and take their money. One way or another they were silently going to take Nia, and anyone else in the agency who was involved, down.

 

When they walked into Clarke’s house, Lexa looked over the well-organized boxes sitting near the front door. Clarke had been steadily packing the contents of her home that she wanted to shift to Lexa’s. It wasn’t as much as Lexa had imagined, and she hoped that Clarke wasn’t leaving so much behind because she felt like it would be too much to bring over.

“Clarke,” she called to the blonde as she walked to the kitchen.

“Yeah?” Clarke turned and faced her.

“Are you sure you don’t have more you want to bring? You have an entire house full of stuff, but the boxes in the front room barely make up a percentage of that.”

Clarke walked up to her and pulled her into a hug. “I promise, this is all I want to bring. Everything else here is just stuff I bought to fill the house. It holds no special meaning to me. Besides, half of it I bought because Raven talked me into it.”

“Okay,” Lexa said uncertainly, “if you are sure.”

“I am. I promise.”

“So just think, in eight days we will officially be living together.” Lexa smiled brightly. She could hardly stand the wait. She was so excited to take this next step with Clarke.

Clarke was just as excited. At this point, there was no real reason that Clarke couldn’t move in over the next couple of days. She had taken care of everything she had needed to on her end, just as Lexa had on hers.

“Let’s do it tomorrow.” Clarke almost shouted.

“Do you mean it?” Lexa couldn’t contain her enthusiasm.

“I do. Go feed Jack if you need to, then let’s spend one last night here.”

“Clarke, you have made me so happy.” For the second time that day she lifted Clarke and spun her around.

 

Later that night they were lying in bed. Raven had come home with Anya and the four of them had had dinner together. Raven teased Clarke that the minute she was gone in the morning that she and Anya were going to christen their new master bedroom in the filthiest of ways.

“You’re gonna change the sheets first, right? Because, I plan to make sure I have memories of my last night in this house that I will never forget.”

Anya made a revolted face while Lexa giggled uncontrollably at her sister’s disgust.

 

Lexa rolled over in the bed and pulled Clarke to her. She nuzzled her nose into Clarke’s ear. “Do you think they will remember to change the sheets?”

Clarke snorted. “I sure hope so, we’ve made quite a mess.”

Lexa moved her nose into long blond hair. “And we had so much fun making it.”

“That we did, and if you keep doing what you are doing, we are going to make another mess. Then we will have to sleep on the floor.”

Lexa halted her movements. “I do not want to sleep on the floor. I guess we had better get some sleep.”

Lexa was just about to drop into sleep when she felt Clarke wiggling in her arms.

“I’m so excited,” Clarke whisper-squealed.

“You aren’t going to be able to sleep, are you?”

“I’m trying, I swear. It’s just been a big day.”

It was a big day. Three huge things had happened all at once, and Lexa was just as excited for Clarke as the blonde was for herself. No more therapy, no more aide, and a move in the morning. It was no wonder that she couldn’t sleep.

Well, if you can’t beat ‘em join ‘em, Lexa thought. She rolled over and pinned Clarke beneath her. “I guess I am going to have to do a better job of tiring you out.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 30

Lexa rolled over with a grunt. Clarke was rocking her upper body back on forth while still lying on her side. She lifted her head to look out the window and found it was still dark outside.

“Clarke, why are you awake already?”

“I’m still too excited to sleep.”

Lexa picked up her phone to look at the time. It was 6 AM. She guessed it wasn’t too early to get out of bed, and she supposed the earlier they got started, the earlier they would be done.

“Did you sleep at all?” Lexa was certain that after three rounds of love making that she had exhausted the blonde. She was certainly tired. She groaned and sat up, pulling her girlfriend with her.

“Let’s go downstairs. I need caffeine before we start moving things,” Lexa grumped.

Clarke was already on her feet and moving toward the bathroom. She was out in minutes with minty fresh breath. Lexa was still sitting, bleary eyed on the edge of the bed. She finally stood and made her own way to the bathroom.

When she came back out Clarke was putting on her foot brace. “Let me,” Lexa said as she walked over.

Clarke happily handed over the plastic device, and in no time they were both headed down the stairs.

“Do you want tea or coffee this morning?” Clarke asked, heading toward the cabinet to get out two mugs. She’d been trying to do more and more for herself.

“Coffee,” Lexa practically bleated making Clarke laugh.

“Coffee it is. Sit down, Lex. You look like you are about to fall over.”

“That’s because you kept me up late and got me up far too early on a Saturday morning.”

Clarke took the bag of coffee she had grabbed and put it on the counter. She snatched up her cane and walked over to Lexa. “You’re not as excited as I am.” Clarke looked crestfallen.

The brunette stood and pulled Clarke to her. “Are you kidding? It’s all I have ever wanted since I met you. I have dreamed of having you wake up with me every day; be it here, my house, or in a tent in the middle of nowhere. I want this, and you, more than you could ever know. Words cannot express how excited I am that you are moving in with me.” She felt terrible that her morning grumpiness was making Clarke think that she was having doubts.

Clarke looked down, bashfully. “I know,” she stammered. “I guess I keep thinking that I am going to wake up and all of this will have been a dream. It seems too good to be true.”

“No, it’s not that. It’s a dream come true.” Lexa smiled brightly. She gave Clarke and kiss and sat when Clarke demanded she do so, so that she could finish making the coffee. She enjoyed watching Clarke fuss over the brew, and felt her chest puff out in pride for the woman. Clarke had come so far since Lexa had met her. She had a feeling the blonde would be insisting on doing as much as she could on her own now that she had ‘graduated’ from therapy and been deemed independent again, and Lexa was fine with that. She fully understood the importance of feeling independent.

Clarke carefully made Lexa’s cup of coffee just the way she liked it, carried it over to her, and went back for her own. They sipped in silence as morning light slowly began to stream in through the kitchen window. They sat close enough that Lexa absentmindedly rubbed her hand up and down Clarke’s back.

“Do you two ever stop touching?” Raven boomed as she sauntered into the kitchen, causing the two women to jump. Clarke’s coffee sloshed onto the table.

Clarke clutched at her heart. “Don’t do that!” she yelled.

“Quiet, you will wake Anya.”

“Seriously?” Clarke and Lexa both rolled her eyes.

“Too late, babe.” Anya walked into the kitchen with the worst case of bedhead any of them had ever seen. “So, when does all the moving start? I want to get it over with so that I can go back to bed. I’m already tired.”

Raven bumped into Anya’s side, then handed her a cup of black coffee. “I was a beast in bed last night,” she winked at them.

Clarke chuckled. “This one was too,” she tipped her head toward Lexa. She took the rag Raven offered her to wipe up the spilled coffee. “Tried to tire me out so I would sleep, but it didn’t work. I’m too excited.” Lexa blushed when three pairs of eyes landed on her.

“Please don’t tell me that,” Anya insisted. “I don’t want to know about my little sister’s sexcapades, especially this early in the morning.”

Lexa threw a grape at her from the bowl that was sitting on the table and frowned when Anya easily caught it and popped in her mouth. She burst out laughing, however, when her sister made a look of disgust.

“Eww.” Anya forced herself to swallow the grape. “Coffee and grapes do not mix.”

The four sat companionably at the table, sipping their coffee. Raven was the first to stand. “Let me shower, and then I will head to the shop and grab the parts van. I’ll empty it out so that we can load it up. Between the van and Lexa’s truck we should only have to make a few trips.”

She started to saunter away but turned back to Anya. “Care to join me in the shower? You know, save water and all.”

“Sure,” Lexa said. “It’s all about saving the water.” After another minute she said, “We should go shower too.”

“Why? We’re just going to get all sweaty again.”

Lexa gave her a wicked smile. “I do like it when you get all sweaty, but I still think I would like to shower first. I’ll make it worth your while.”

Clarke was up and out of her chair like a shot. She was half up the stairs and Lexa had to yell at her to slow down so she wouldn’t hurt herself.

She’s going to be the death of me, Lexa thought as she ran to catch up.

 

An hour later, they were busy packing Clarke’s belongings into the van and truck. They’d had a good laugh when Raven arrived with the truck. The mechanic had made a hasty sign on a large white, dry-erase board that said “U-Haul – Bringing Ladies in Love Together Since 1945”.

“At least you lasted more than two days before moving in, Griff,” Raven quipped.

“It’s not like you and Anya are much better. She’s moving in next weekend,” Lexa pointed out.

“And with just as little stuff.” Raven shook her head. “Not like I am complaining, but it amazes me how little you are both moving.”

“I don’t need stuff, Rae. What I want in my life is love and friendship, and memories that I can cherish. Those are the only things I need.” Lexa walked up behind Clarke and wrapped her arms around her waist.

“I just don’t like to dust,” Anya deadpanned, making the others chuckle.

Just then, two cars rolled up. Octavia and Lincoln got out of one, and Costia and Luna got out of the other.

“I come bearing gifts,” Costia said as she brandished a box of donuts in the air. Luna was carrying water and sodas.

“So do we,” Octavia came bounding over. She had two bottles of champagne and a bottle of sparkling cider, “but these are for after we complete the job.”

“And, Mom is already at our house. She put Jack in one of the rooms so he doesn’t get out, and she is making sure there’s a place to put everything,” Lexa added.

Clarke froze. She blinked a few times trying to keep her tears at bay. It had been a long time since she had felt so supported. “Thank you. You are all the best.”

“You know it,” Luna said as she walked by to get a donut. “Now, I want to see all your hard work put to the test. Let me see you carry some boxes.”

Costia smacked her. “You don’t get to boss her around, Luna. She’s not a patient anymore.”

“Exactly, she’s my friend, and she needs to learn that I am the bossy one.” She winked at Clarke as she stuffed a huge bite of sugared goodness into her mouth.

“She’s not wrong, you know,” Lexa teased. “She is the bossy one of all of us.”

“Every physical therapist has to be bossy,” Luna argued. “How else would we ever get our patients to do anything?”

“By asking nicely?” Clarke suggested.

Everyone chuckled.

“Now let’s get this party started so that we can get to the real party that starts tonight. As I recall, you invited us all over later,” Luna reminded Lexa.

 

Hours later, they had finished. Despite her new-found independence, Clarke had been limited to carrying small and light boxes, as had Octavia. Lincoln had wanted to make his wife a simple bystander, but Octavia had refused arguing that lifting a few boxes wouldn’t hurt the baby. It gave her and Clarke more time to bond and strengthen their once powerful friendship. They were still being careful around one another, but by the end of the day, they had eased back into their natural flow of things.

The hardest items to move had been from Clarke’s studio. Her workbench, tables, and numerous art supplies were by far the bulkiest and heaviest objects to be moved, and even Lexa had been forced to sit out while the tables and bench were relocated. Lincoln and Anya did the heavy lifting there.

“I thought you told me that you were going to continue using the studio here,” Octavia said.

“I was, but Lexa cleared out one of the guest bedrooms, and O,” she squeaked excitedly, “it’s perfect. The light from the window, and the view of the yard…”

Octavia gave her a hug. “I am so happy for you.”

“Thanks O.”

 

It was late afternoon, and everyone had just left to go home and shower. They would all be back for beer, food, and fun.

Clarke had been floored by the help they had all offered, and after everyone had ooh’d and ah’d over the amazing paint job she had done in her new studio, they had helped unpack, which was something she hadn’t expected her friends to do. By the time they all finished, the only boxes that remained untouched were Clarke’s personal items. Those boxes sat on the floor of their bedroom and could be addressed in the morning.

She was currently sitting on her work stool in her studio looking at her new creative space. Her stuff had fit perfectly, and she was itching to start something but held off since everyone would be back soon. She knew that once she got started, she would be at it for hours.

“You look happy.” Lexa walked in and spun the stool so Clarke was facing her.

“I am happy. I don’t know if I have ever been this happy, and it’s all because of you.”

Lexa leaned down for a kiss. “I don’t know about that but thank you. You make me happy too. I have been dreaming about this day for so long, except that I thought we would be buried up to our eyeballs in boxes.”

“We have really great friends. I didn’t expect them to help that much.”

“I didn’t either. Mom was a huge help.”

Myra had been. She instinctively knew where Clarke would want to put her things. Except for the studio, she had steered the entire unpacking job. What amazed both Clarke and Lexa was that after she was done directing everyone, the house looked as if Clarke had been living there for years. Everything had its place, and it didn’t feel over-crowded with stuff.

 

They moved to the couch in the front room to relax before everyone came back over. They were freshly showered and both women had opted to pull their hair back into ponytails. Clarke was struggling to put on a little make up. It was still one of the tasks she had trouble with. Her fine motor skills were not up to snuff. Not yet.

“You don’t need any of that, you know, you’re beautiful without it.”

Clarke blushed. “At least let me put on my eyebrows. They are practically invisible if I don’t use a little something on them.”

“Can I do it?” Lexa asked shyly.

“Be my guest.” Clarke handed her the eyebrow pencil, and Lexa kissed each fluffy brow before applying the makeup.

She lowered her lips to Clarke’s and muttered, “So gorgeous,” before giving her another kiss. Just before things could get out of hand, the doorbell rang.

Lexa wondered who it could be. No one was expected back for at least an hour.

“I’ll go get it,” Clarke offered.

She made her way to the door and squealed when it opened causing Lexa to race to the door. “John!” Clarke jumped into his arms.

“Murphy, wow. What are you doing here? It’s so good to see you.” Lexa said.

“Momma Murphy needed my help this weekend, and I heard it was moving day, so I wanted to stop by. I would have been here earlier, but Mom kept me tied up.”

Murphy’s father had passed the year before, and while his business in Vermont kept him from home, he didn’t hesitate to come home when his mother really needed him. He’d been trying to convince her to move to Vermont, but she refused saying the winters would kill her.

“Is Bell here too?” Clarke wondered.

“No, just me. He couldn’t get away.”

“That’s too bad.” Lexa moved so that Murphy could come in.

“So, since it is your first official night together, I brought gifts.”

Lexa and Clarke smiled. “Everyone is bringing gifts today. It started with donuts.”

“Pah, donuts are nothing. I brought beer and steaks. I already called Lincoln to make sure he brings everything else.”

“I hope it’s your beer.”

“Of course, it is. I wouldn’t bring anything else.”

“Then let’s crack a few open and get the grill started before everyone else arrives.”

 

Later that evening, after everyone had eaten their fill, they were crowded around the firepit. Raven surprised them by jumping up. “I almost forgot, we have one more box to unpack.”

She came back with a large box that was almost bursting at its seems. Clarke narrowed her eyes. “What is all that?”

“This here is the rest of the crap that Finn left behind. It’s time for you to burn this shit up.”

For a moment Clarke frowned. She wasn’t sure she was comfortable burning his stuff, but then she remembered how he abandoned her after the accident and added insult to her already grievous injury, and so she stood and started rummaging through the box.

It was mostly clothes and a few odds and ends. There were also a few beloved books, cards he had given her, and a couple of ridiculous stuffed animals. One was a pink unicorn that she hated but he thought she loved. He’d insisted on getting it a few companions.

She threw those in the fire first, and everyone cheered. She poked the burning toy with a stick. “Toasted unicorn, anyone?”

They all took turns burning various items. All except Lexa. She let them have their fun, and, listening to how they talked about the man, she was glad she had never met him. He sounded like he had the emotional range of a piece of bread.

When Clarke got to the bottom of the box, she found her engagement ring. She couldn’t deny that it was beautiful, and she was sure that this was the item Finn had wanted when he had sent Jasper over all that time ago. She held it in her hand and watched as it glinted in the light of the fire.

“What are you going to do with that?” Octavia wondered.

“Please say you won’t give it back to him.” Raven said.

“He’s not getting it back. If he had broken things off properly, maybe I would have. No, I have an idea of what I want to do with it.”

Everyone wanted to know, but she kept tight-lipped. She was building an idea in her head, and it was making her smile. She wouldn’t let anyone know until her idea became reality. She wasn’t even going to tell Lexa.

One of the wonderful things about Lexa was that she wouldn’t prod. She’d wait for Clarke to tell her what she was up to in her own time.

 

Once everyone was gone, they started cleaning up. They had insisted that everyone head out. They had already given them so much help that day that they just couldn’t ask for more. Clarke was loading dishes into the dishwasher, and Lexa was picking up trash. She made sure the grill was off and the fire out before she headed back in.

She handed Clarke a cup to put in the machine. “This is nice…very domestic.”

“It is nice.” Clarke agreed. “We have amazing friends.”

“We do. I really didn’t expect them to be so much help. We will definitely have to return the favor next weekend when Anya moves into your place.”

“It’s not my place anymore, Lex. It’s Raven and Anya’s. This is my place now…our place.”

Lexa closed to door to the dishwasher and dragged Clarke out of the room. “Yes, it is, but did you know that it won’t be officially ours until we christen every room?”

“I didn’t know that.” Clarke was already taking off her top. She then tugged at the zipper of Lexa’s pants. “If that’s the case, then let’s start right here. I’ve always wanted to have sex up against the counter.”

Lexa lifted her onto said surface. “How about sex on the counter?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 31

 

It was the next Sunday. They had helped Anya move in with Raven. Like Clarke, she didn’t have that much she felt the need to move. Her former apartment had always been sparse. Anya had never felt a need to fill her life with trivial objects. She did have a few, very nice, and very expensive pieces of art that Clarke had gushed over. The blonde had even helped Anya pick out the best places to hang them.

Raven, during the week she had the house to herself, had moved furniture around, and started taking over the master bedroom. Clarke would have thought she would have been offended by the changes Raven made, but everything looked great, and she couldn’t fault the woman for wanting to make the house her own.

The first week of living with Lexa was like a dream. Each morning, she would wake early and have a cup of coffee, or sometimes tea, and maybe breakfast with the brunette before Lexa had to run off to work. Lexa had a full schedule that week, so it left Clarke with a lot of free time on her hands. She spent a good amount of time bonding with Jack. He had always been friendly with her, but she found that he had become even friendlier. If she spent any time on the sofa or in a chair, she found him immediately in her lap, and he loved to lick her. At first, she thought it was odd. Only dogs liked to lick, or at least she thought. Then she got offended because she thought the cat thought she was dirty. Lexa set her straight on that idea, but not before laughing heartily. Some cats showed their affection by licking, just like dogs did, and Jack was one of those cats. At least that’s what Lexa told Clarke, though the blonde wasn’t sure she believed it.

When she wasn’t spending time with Jack, she was in her studio. Half of the week had been setting it up exactly as she wanted it. The space may have been smaller than her old one, but this one was more comfortable, and it had better light. She found herself drawing for hours. She hadn’t yet been brave enough to get out her paints. She was afraid to make a mess which was silly because she had never been messy with her paints before. Sure, she would be covered in paint herself, but she was always careful not to get any paint on her surrounding surfaces. She just didn’t want to get paint on any of Lexa’s things.

Lexa, of course, had also told her she was being silly. The room was Clarke’s to create it, and if she got paint on the floor, then she got paint on the floor. Lexa didn’t care as long as Clarke was happy and doing what she enjoyed.

Each night when Lexa got home, they would cook together, and Clarke was becoming more comfortable with her kitchen skills again. She was by no means proficient, but at least she wasn’t afraid she would cut her hand off if she used a knife, and even doing simple tasks like loading the dishwasher was helping build her confidence.

One thing she desperately wanted to do again, but was also terrified of at the same time, was driving again. Her car had been moved over to Lexa’s, and each day she longed to take it out for a ride. Twice she had even grabbed her cane and gone outside to sit in her car. She started it, but she didn’t dare move it.

She’d made an appointment after the second time sitting in her car to meet with her neurosurgeon. He had to clear her first before she could even think of getting retested to drive. He had already ordered an MRI, just as a precaution, to rescan her brain to make sure that everything was recovering as it should. He would meet with her the day after to go over the results and to do a thorough assessment of her. It was overdue anyway. Clarke should have done a follow-up with him at her six-month point.

The idea of the scan made her nervous. She had made so much progress, but what if the scan wasn’t good? What if there hadn’t been any real recovery in her brain? She’d shaken off those thoughts and reminded herself that she needed to stay positive, but there was a lingering fear.

The MRI was scheduled late next week, and she would be able to see the doctor the day after. Even though she was dreading it, she wished she didn’t have to wait so long for the test. The anxiety was going to kill her.

One thing that surprisingly helped calm her down was that her mother had offered to take her to her appointments as she was off both of those days, and Abby had assured her that everything was going to be okay. She told Clarke that she wouldn’t be making progress if her head wasn’t healing.

Lexa agreed. She had also offered to take time off so that she could take Clarke herself, but the blonde declined. She thought it would be good to spend some one on one time with her mom.

When the day finally came for the MRI Clarke was a fidgety, nervous wreck. Lexa did her best to calm her down before she needed to head to work, and it worked until her mother pulled into the driveway. Then her anxiety ramped up again. She did her best to hide it, but fear and anxiety made her clumsy, and she struggled on her way to the car. She refused to use her walker.

Her mother was frowning when she got in the car. “There’s no shame in using the walker, Clarke.” Her mother smiled then. “But I understand why you don’t want to use it. You will feel better after the scan and then maybe we can go get lunch together.” She squeezed Clarke’s knee, trying to comfort her. “I also may have pulled a few strings. I was able to move up your doctor’s appointment to today, right after your scan.”

“Really?” Clarke asked incredulously. It would be huge relief to be able to get it all over with in one day. She leaned over to awkwardly hug her mother. “Thank you.” Having a doctor as a mom sometimes had its perks.

“Really, really. Now think of a good place to eat. I think we are both going to be starving when we finish.”

Abby pulled the car out of the driveway and headed toward the hospital. Clarke had always hated the large building. It may have been a state-of-the-art hospital, but the building was ugly and old. It needed a serious facelift. When she pulled into a parking spot, Clarke hesitated to get out.

“It’s going to be fine,” Abby tried to reassure.

“I know. I think it’s just that everything has been going so great that I am expecting something bad to happen.”

“You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t expect that, but I have every confidence that today is going to go well.”

 

It did go well, and Clarke was walking with a bounce in her step after her appointment with the doctor. Her MRI, of course, still showed damage. Her brain would always show that it had been injured, but everything was exactly as the doctor had hoped, and she had been cleared to go get her driving test. Just as Luna had warned, he told her that she could probably expect to always need her foot brace, but the doctor was almost certain that within a few more months, Clarke’s left arm would show no deficits, and the blonde was over the moon to hear this. He made her even happier when he said by that time, she should no longer require the cane.

Abby was beaming at her. “I told you it would go well.” She pulled her daughter into a hug. “You are so strong, Clarke. You have proven it with everything you have accomplished in your life. I know I have more to make up for but thank you for letting me do this for you today. Now let’s go get lunch. I’m buying.”

They ended up at a quaint bistro not too far from the hospital. Clarke was bouncing in her seat she was so excited. She had sent Lexa and Raven texts telling them the good news, and they both blew up her phone with congratulations, memes, and hearts.

As she wolfed down her food because she was famished, Clarke decided to let Abby in on her idea about what to do with the ring Finn had given her. Her mother looked surprised but encouraged her to go for it. After that, she encouraged Clarke in every way. They spent the rest of the day fine tuning the idea, and Abby even promised to help her in any way she could.

They spent the rest of the day wandering the streets of Polis, enjoying the drive, and seeing places Clarke had never seen before.

When Abby dropped her off, she was exhausted but happy. She invited her mother in, but Abby declined. Lexa had gotten home a few minutes earlier, and the woman knew that the two lovebirds would have some celebrating to do.

They made plans to get together again the next day, since Abby was off.

 

Lexa was already sweeping her into her arms by the time she had opened the door. “Baby, I am so proud of you.” She spun the blonde around.

“Thanks. I was so worried,” Clarke confessed.

“I know. I will admit now that I was too, but in the end, I knew you were going to be okay. Are you up for celebrating?” Lexa let her go and led her to the kitchen.

“I am always up for celebrating.”

“Good, because there’s a place I have been wanting to take you for a while. How does dinner and a movie sound?” Lexa looked at Clarke expectantly.

“It sounds great.” Clarke hadn’t been to a movie theater in months. The last time she had been at the movies, she had been with Finn, and all he had wanted to do was make out. She had stopped him, and he had spent the rest of the movie pouting.

Lexa smiled. “Good. There’s a new place that just opened. The place was an old tavern…well it actually still is, and they have made two giant rooms. In one, they show a modern movie, and in the other they play an older film. It could be an Audrey Hepburn movie, or it might be The Goonies. You can order drinks and food, but they also have the regular movie staples like popcorn and candy.” Lexa looked at Clarke. “Does that sound like it would be fun?”

 

“It sounds great.” The entire concept intrigued Clarke. “Can we still talk?”

“We can. It’s casual. They just ask that the conversations remain respectful and don’t get too loud. From the pictures, it looks like the tables are separated enough that if you really want to focus on the movie, the other conversations won’t really interfere.”

 

When they got there, they were seated far from the other guests. They had plenty of time to order food and drinks before the movie started. They opted for the older movie. They were playing Jurassic Park, a movie Lexa confessed to never having seen, and that sealed the deal.

Clarke practically bounced in her seat waiting for the movie to play. She loved this movie. It was one she had watched with her father as a kid on their TV at home. Not like she would have seen it in the theater. The movie was older than she was, but, when she was young, she had such a fascination of dinosaurs that her father finally relented and let her watch the movie. He had thought it would give her nightmares, but instead it made her love the creatures even more. She had sworn she was going to become a paleontologist one day, until she discovered her true love for art.

“That explains so much…like the stuffed dinosaur collection you have…and the dino mug.” Clarke had a mug in the shape of a T-rex’s head.

Clarke threw a french fry at her. “Be nice.”

“I am. I love your little collection. I can just imagine tiny Clarke playing with her stuffed dinosaurs and making them eat her dolls.”

Clarke laughed. “That’s exactly what I did. I never did like playing with dolls, but people kept giving them to me.”

“I always hated dolls too,” Lexa confessed. “I always preferred my stuffed animals over dolls, but really, I just wanted to be outside and playing in the mud.”

“Muddy Lexa.” Clarke gave her a sultry look. “Maybe we can get muddy together one day.”

“Get your mind out of the gutter, woman, and watch your movie. It’s about to start.”

“Bossy Lexa.” Clarke laughed. “I like that Lexa too.”

 

They finally settled into watching the movie and eating their dinners. They talked a little, but they were mostly so engrossed in the film that they were quiet. Lexa moved her chair so that she could sit closer to Clarke, and they held hands the entire time.

On the drive home, Clarke chattered wildly about the different dinosaurs in the movie. Her knowledge really was impressive.

Lexa looked over when Clarke had exhausted her words. “So, when are you going to schedule your driving test?”

Clarke groaned. “I was so nervous about the MRI today, but now I am nervous about the test. I guess I need to schedule it and get it over with.”

“Are you allowed to practice? I would happily go with you.”

“I think so. Technically, I still have my license. It’s not like it was taken away from me. I am just trying to do things right and not just hop in my car again. I want to make sure I am safe and not a danger to myself or others.”

Lexa was proud of Clarke. Most people wouldn’t take the steps to do things the right way. “Why don’t you try to schedule for next week, and then we can practice all this weekend if you want.”

“You’re the best, you know that?”

“I love you, Clarke. I would do anything for you.” Lexa’s green eyes were sparkling.

“Ditto that, and once I know I am safe to drive, I will chauffeur you anywhere you want to go.”

“How about a road trip to go and see the boys in Vermont?” Lexa asked once they pulled into the driveway.

“Really? Yes! I would love that.” Clarke was already getting out her phone to see how long it would take to get there. “It’s not as far as I thought. We could be there in two days.”

“Or we could drag it out and take our time to see some of the sights on the way.”

Clarke squealed. “Road trip.” She did a little dance when she got out of the car, swinging her cane around without losing her balance.

“When do you think we can go?” Clarke asked excitedly.

“How about we plan out a route first while we wait for you to get your driving test. If all goes well, we can leave whenever you want. I have plenty of vacation time. I never use it.” Lexa said.

Clarke tried to settle down. She had just moved in with Lexa. Maybe she should get a little more used to living in the new place before she up and left it for a while.

“How about a month from now,” Clarke suggested. “I feel like maybe I should spend more time with you here before we leave. I am just getting used to the routine in this house, and it will give me time to get used to driving again…if I pass my test.”

“You will pass. We will practice this weekend, and it will be fine.”

Clarke launched herself into Lexa’s arms. “We are going on a road trip,” she yelled.

 

Then next day, Clarke told Abby about their plans, and her mother was glad they decided to wait a few weeks to leave. She was just starting to spend more time with her daughter and hated to think that she would be leaving for a couple of weeks so soon.

“I’m glad you aren’t leaving right away, especially with the idea you are having. It’s going to take a little time to get things in order the way you want.”

“True.” They were just walking out of a building in an up and coming part of town. Abby handed her the car keys. “I know you are practicing with Lexa tomorrow, but if you want, we can practice too.”

Clarke swallowed. There wasn’t a lot of traffic on the roads where they were, but the thought of driving right then made her nervous. She’d been preparing herself mentally to begin the next day.

Abby must have sensed her hesitation and took the keys back. “How about I drive us to an empty parking lot, and you can start there.”

“O-okay.”

 

Clarke drove all over that lot, and after only about fifteen minutes, she was ready to try driving down some of the less trafficked areas of Polis. She white-knuckled the steering wheel the entire time, but eventually she got over her nerves. They drove for an hour before they headed back home. Clarke was feeling confident and couldn’t wait to show off her skills tomorrow.

“See, it’s just like riding a bike.” Abby quipped.

“Oh no,” Clarke protested. “It’s easier than that. I wouldn’t even dream of trying to get on a bike. I would crash…unless it had three wheels.” She snickered.

“They make those for adults, you know.” This time Abby came in when Clarke offered. They sipped ice tea and waited for Lexa to come home.

“Are you going to tell Lexa what you are planning tomorrow?” Abby wondered.

“I think so.” Clarke clinked her ice in her glass.

Abby smiled. “It’s a good idea. I think what you have planned will make both of you very happy.”

“I hope so.”

Abby steered the conversation to their dealings with the home health agency. “They had the gall to send me a bill. I’ve already given it to Emori.”

Abby and Lexa had both continued to work with Emori and Charmaine Diyoza. Lexa had continued to make covert visits to the office to look into the paper charts. One of the things they had figured out was that every person who had a paper chart was private pay. There were no insurance companies involved. It also seemed that most of the patients in the charts had little to no family. Those were huge red flags.

“So, it seems like they are preying on the vulnerable,” Clarke commented. She wished there was more she could do to help. She had spoken at length with both Emori and Diyoze over the phone about her time with Nia, and about the attempts to get into her accounts, but for the time being, it was all she could offer.

“That it does.” Abby took a sip of her tea. “It makes me wonder if it’s just Nia involved or if her son and office manager are involved too.”

“I can’t imagine it’s only her, but for the sake of Lexa and the other employees, I hope it is only her. If what we think is happening really is, then they all could lose their jobs.” Clarke hated the thought of the employees getting caught up in the fall of the agency if it turned out the the owner, Roan Eis, was involve too.

They continued to talk until Lexa got home. They invited Abby to stay for dinner, but she told them she was having dinner with a friend of hers.

Clarke walked her to her car and gave her a hug. “Thanks for your help today. I do think I am going to spring my plan on Lexa tomorrow. I hope she likes it.”

“I know she will. It’s a brilliant idea. I love you and will see you soon.”

“I love you too, Mom.” Abby’s eyes glistened when Clarke said the words. It was the first time Clarke had told her she loved her in a very, very long time.

Chapter Text

Chapter 32

“Alright, I think that’s the last of it,” Clarke announced, shutting the trunk of her car.

Lexa was bouncing up and down. They were finally leaving on their road after two stressful but wildly satisfying months.

That first time that Lexa had taken Clarke out to practice driving, she had no idea that Clarke would already be as adept at it as she was. She may have driven like a grandma at first, fearful of driving too fast, but it hadn’t taken her long to reacquire the skill. Just as with Abby, they drove in a parking lot first, but it wasn’t long before Clarke was pulling onto the road. They travelled through quiet neighborhoods, then onto busier streets, and finally to a part of town that Lexa had been wanting to visit, but hadn’t before.

She raised an eyebrow when Clarke put on her signal and turned into a parking spot. “What are we doing?” She asked curiously.

“We are going in there.” Clarke pointed to a building in the middle of the street. It stood out from the rest of the buildings on the street. The rest were modern whereas this one looked to be very old. That wasn’t to say, however, that it wasn’t in good shape.

The exterior was a light-colored wood with a wide front porch. The roof was metal, and it almost had an early 1900’s western vibe to it. As they walked onto the porch, the floorboards creaked in a comforting way.

She looked over the porch and noted multiple potted plants and hanging baskets, and there was a large for sale sign in the window. She wanted to ask Clarke what was up, but the blonde was already pulling her through the front door.

Her eyes roved over the interior. It was surprisingly light and airy inside. The room they had stepped into was large. The floor was a shiny hardwood, and the walls were made from rough hewn planks that matched the era of the exterior of the building. Taking a few steps in, Lexa looked around, confusion mounting. She still had no idea what they were doing in the place.

“Wait here,” Clarke commanded as she ran out the front door. Lexa watched from the window, curiosity mounting, as Clarke popped open the trunk of her car and something large and flat from it. Her girlfriend walked awkwardly back, cane in one hand and large object in the other. Lexa went to the door to help her only to get shooed back inside. Clarke was careful to make sure she couldn’t see what she was carrying.

“Clarke.” Lexa couldn’t help but grin. Something was up, and it had her girlfriend mightily excited.

“Go stand there,” Clarke tipped her head in the direction she wanted to go. “Good,” she said when Lexa got there. She then tottered to a wall, where there was already a stool sitting there and made Lexa close her eyes.

The brunette could hear Clarke placing whatever she was carrying on the stool. She then heard footsteps approach her. Clarke’s husky voice came out right next to her ear.

“Keep your eyes closed for just another minute while I explain.” Clarke whispered.

“Okay.” Lexa was nearly dying in the anticipation of what Clarke was up to. She had no idea.

“So the day I moved in and we were burning Finn’s things, I held onto the ring he gave me because I wanted to do something with it.” She could hear Clarke’s feet thumping back in front of her nervously as she explained. Lexa kept her eyes dutifully shut as she waited for Clarke to finish.

“It’s an idea I have had for a while, but I wasn’t brave enough to suggest it before. I guess,” Clarke stammered, “I guess I was afraid that you might not like my idea, or maybe I thought it wasn’t attainable, but now with everything…I know that together we can accomplish anything, and I wanted to give you…I wanted to give us something to call our own; something where we can work together, but still do our own thing; something to hopefully make us money but, more importantly, make us happy, and if you hate the idea, I will completely understand. It won’t hurt my feelings.”

Lexa wished she could open her eyes and watch Clarke ramble. The blonde was adorable when she was nervous.

“Open your eyes, Lex.”

When she did, before her stood a sign. Clarke must have designed it while she was at work one of the last few days. She said the words out loud. “Trikru Hair Design & Gallery.” The sign was an intricate design of modern lettering with flowing braided vines surrounding the words. It was unique and eye-catching.

“Clarke.”

The blonde was pacing again. “Mom helped me sell the ring, and we went searching for the perfect place,” Clarke was rambling apprehensively, “and with that and some money from my trust, I was able to make a cash offer to buy this place. It goes to act of sale next week.”

Lexa turned to mush. Her eyes started to water, and she was speechless. This idea of Clarke’s must have gone back to when they first met; the first time Lexa braided Clarke’s hair for her and she made an off-handed comment about doing hair design. It had always been a dream of Lexa’s to do something like that, and Clarke was in front of her trying to help her achieve her dream.

“This place is ours, babe. I hope it’s okay.” She could see Clarke’s eyes searching hers, looking for anything to indicate how Lexa was feeling about all of this, so she strode over and gave her a crushing kiss before picking her up and spinning her around, making the blonde squeal in delight.

“I have no words, Clarke. This…it’s the most amazing thing anyone has ever done for me.” She kissed Clarke again.

“I wanted to do something for you. You have done so much for me, and I know in my heart that if I had never met you that I would still be stuck in the house, trapped with Nia as my aide and never making any progress. It’s because of you that I am so much better.”

Lexa wanted to argue that it was Clarke’s own hard work that got her so far, but she didn’t say anything, wanting to give the blonde her moment, and truly, it was one hell of a moment. Lexa was still floored that her girlfriend had done all of this.

“I love you. I love you so much.” Lexa whirled Clarke around again.

“I love you too. Now let me show you the rest of the place.”

It was larger than expected, and as they explored, Clarke explained to her that it was older than she thought. It was built in 1867 and had formerly been a general store. It had only recently been vacated when the last family member who ran it decided to retire. There was no one left to run the place, and he wanted to get rid of it in a hurry. As far as Clarke was concerned, she got the place for a steal.

“The building is old, but everything is up to date and up to code, so we won’t have to replace electrical or plumbing.” Clarke informed her as she told her all her ideas.

Clarke envisioned the front room as a gallery and waiting area for clients. The place was big enough that they could even expand the original idea of just a gallery and hair design studio to include a coffee bar if they wanted. She even said that the back had a room where she could do tattoos if she ever got brave enough to try. Raven was still helping her explore the idea of a machine into which she could input her design and have it tattoo on skin, kind of like a 3D printer. It was still a work in progress, and while the idea excited Clarke, she was more excited about having a gallery of her own.

The front window was rounded, and while Clarke thought the room next to the main one would be better for Lexa’s part of the business, it would be a good place for the brunette to stand and do hair so that people could see just how creative and talented she was with hair.

Clarke dragged her around and showed her the rest of the space. It had endless possibilities. They had then explored the neighborhood, and Lexa’s excitement grew as she caught the fun and funky vibe of it. There were a few shops and restaurants, and she could see that it wouldn’t be long before it was a thriving community. Already there were a lot of people wandering that streets who were going into the shops.

That had been two months ago. The place was officially theirs, and they had been doing steady work to it to make it into exactly the place they wanted it to be.

They were planning to go on their road trip and have some fun before they opened their business. All of their female friends had already promised to let Lexa style their hair, and Bellamy had even texted to say that the next time he was in town, he would let Lexa put tiny braids in his. They had also hired a talented girl names Zoe Monroe to cut and style hair for those who didn’t want or need fancy braiding. It was Lexa’s hope that she would be busy braiding and weaving hair for people before special events such as weddings and extravaganzas.

Clarke had already taken photos of Lexa’s work and had submitted it to local magazines, newspapers, and online publications. Pictures of her art accompanied each one and not so subtly sat in the background. Already their schedule book was filled with people wanting in the place, and their opening day was scheduled to happen in three weeks giving them enough time to vacation and get back home before their lives changed for good.

The other momentous thing that had happened in the past eight weeks was there had been a huge break in the case against Nia.

Over the weeks, Diyoza and Emori had been calling former clients of the agency. No one was saying how she got the names, although everyone knew, and she pretended to be doing a survey about how the agency was doing. Of the clients she got a hold of, most were extremely unhappy. The care was terrible, Nia was rude, and they all said that they had large amounts of money that went missing but couldn’t prove it. Many had been left almost destitute. Several who had unfortunately passed, had family members who complained of the same.

Emori and Diyoza stockpiled evidence until they had enough to bring to law enforcement. There was now a full investigation in swing, and Lexa had a feeling that the office would probably be raided some time while they were gone.

She had sadly cut ties with the agency, however, it was only sad because she had really enjoyed the company of her most recent client, but it was working out well because he was going to be moving soon to go live with his daughter, so he wouldn’t have needed her for much longer anyway.

Harper was being brave. She decided to stick it out. She had clients who she didn’t want to abandon, and she was certain that the owner of the business wasn’t involved. Lexa wasn’t so sure, but she was glad that Harper was staying on if only because the clients deserved good help, and Harper was the best.

Clarke was glad to be done with her part. She has spoken at length with the lead investigator. She wasn’t sure she had much to offer, especially since none of accounts had been breached, but she told the man everything she could and hoped it helped. If they were lucky, the whole thing with Nia and the agency would be resolved before they got home, but she wasn’t counting on it. She was just glad that the authorities were taking it seriously.

 

“Finally,” Lexa teased as she jumped into the car. They were finally done packing the vehicle. She chuckled to herself. Clarke may not have cared much for possessions and trivial things, but she had packed enough to be away for three months arguing that she needed lots of options so that she always looked good for her girl.

Lexa, of course, had told her that she always looked good, but indulged her and let her fill the trunk with anything she wanted. Before they were set to leave, she had spent a day with Raven at her shop. The mechanical whiz had taken the brunette’s prosthetic and fiddled with it, making adjustments, and cleaning every part so that when Lexa put it on again it fit like it was a part of her. There were no areas of discomfort, and she knew that she would be able to up with it for hours now without needing to take it off to give her leg a rest.

“It’s a good thing Raven and Anya are taking their own car,” Lexa joked. “There’s no room for their stuff.”

Clarke playfully slapped her leg. “I saw Anya’s bags. They are just as stuffed.” It was true. Raven was the one that surprised all of them when she placed a barely packed duffel bag into their car explaining to them that she planned on buying and wearing a new, cheesy t-shirt every day. It was such a Raven thing to do.

Raven and Anya had just gotten there, and they had both grumped the entire time that it was too early in the morning to begin the trip. Lexa argued that road trips had to start early in the morning. It was tradition. Who started a road trip at 10 AM?

“We do,” Raven had yelled, but quickly shut up when Clarke shoved a donut in her mouth and a cup of coffee in her hand. The blonde then showed her the bag of goodies and drinks she had for them and Raven lost all interest in complaining as she dug through the bag to see what she got. “Ooh. Combos, and Twizzlers, and KitKats.” She took her head out of the bag. “An apple, Clarke? Really? No one wants that shit.”

“I know you don’t, but Anya might.” Clarke argued.

“She’s right, Rae. I, for one, don’t want all that sugar.” Anya announced.

Clarke stuck her tongue out at her friend. “See.” She looked at the three women standing on the driveway, smirking at how excited Lexa was. The brunette had confessed that road trips were her favorite, but since she lost her leg she hadn’t been on one. Clarke was determined to make this the best one ever.

 

The two cars pulled out of the driveway. Lexa was driving first. Clarke was mostly comfortable driving again but decided she would prefer to stick to the wide-open roads while on this trip. Raven and Anya were in the lead with Anya in the driver’s seat. Raven was hanging her head out the window, letting the wind whip her hair around.

“Is she going to do that the entire time?” Lexa wondered.

“Nah. She’s just excited. I am too.” She grabbed Lexa’s hand and pulled it into her lap. She was thinking that it would have been fun to ride together, but they had realized that two cars were best. Raven and Anya both adored rap and old school heavy metal music while Lexa and Clarke did not. They also had plans to visit a few different things on the way. Their hotels were already booked, so they would all end up at the same spot each night. They planned on stopping in Philadelphia to see the Liberty Bell and would stop to spend a few hours in New York City. Raven was dying to try the pizza there, and she had never seen the Statue of Liberty. After that, they would meander through Connecticut and Massachusetts, and see their old friend Gina up in Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire. Bellamy was going to meet them there. He had had a friends-with-benefits thing going with her for years.

“I can’t believe we are finally doing this.” Lexa mused after they had been driving for a few minutes.

“Neither can I. I’ll be honest and say I thought I would never be doing something like this again, but with you anything is possible.”

Lexa moved their hands back over to her and kissed Clarke’s knuckles. “Thanks Hunny Bunny.”

Clarke made a face and Lexa laughed. “That one doesn’t work for you.”

“No, absolutely not.” Clarke laughed with her.

“Well then, I am glad we have a lot of road ahead of us. It will give me time to come up with new ones…like Cutie Patootie.”

“No, stop.” Clarke held her stomach she was laughing so hard.

“Ma petite chou?”

“Huh? I have no idea what that means.” Clarke stated with a chuckle.

“My sweetie, or really my little cabbage, in French.”

“You speak French?” Clarke asked, astounded and Lexa guffawed.

“No. That’s about it. I took French in High School, but it was a joke. I hardly remember any of it.”

“You can call me your little cabbage in French if I can call you it in German. Mein Kleiner Kohlkopf. No, I like this better. You can be Commander Kohlkopf.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 33

“Raven,” Clarke whisper-yelled. “You can’t go under the Liberty Bell.”

Raven got off her knees where she was going to try and sneak under one of the most important pieces of American History. “I just want to see the crack better. I bet if I had been alive back then I could have built a better bell. Mine would not have cracked.”

Anya rolled her eyes at her girlfriend. “It took 90 years of use for that bell to crack. I think they did a pretty good job for it being built in 1752.”

“It says here,” Lexa read from a plaque, “that the first bell, that came from London failed on its practice ring. Pass and Stowe melted it down and made a new one.”

“Pass and Stowe,” Raven mused. “Hey, they talked about them in the Nicholas Cage movie that you like so much, Clarke.”

Clarke chuckled. “American Treasure.”

“I love that movie.” Lexa and Anya chimed in.

Clarke was getting tired. They had driven for a long time that day, and then they had traipsed all over Philadelphia seeing the sights. She was relying heavily on her cane, and she knew that when they got back into the car, Lexa would have to drive, although looking at Lexa, she appeared just as fatigued. Maybe they could switch cars and have Anya and Raven drive. She was fairly certain that they wouldn’t mind.

They were going to try and make it to New York City, have a late dinner, then get up in the morning to see Central Park and get pizza at lunch time. Raven was dead set on going for pizza at this place just on the other side of the Brooklyn Bridge. They were planning to walk across the bridge, so Clarke knew that if she was going to make it through tomorrow, she was going to need to rest tonight.

“Guys,” she called out. “They are about to close. We should get going.” Raven pouted all the way out. They had to practically drag her when she started speaking with one of the workers about how the original bell had been melted down. She wanted to know how it was done, step by step. By the time they were headed to where the cars were parked, she was wondering if she could start casting her own metal parts for some of the cars she worked on.

“That’s a brilliant idea, Rae.” Anya snarked. “Just think of the liability if one of your parts cracks just like that bell in there. You could kill someone.”

Raven lost some of the bounce in her step, but she wasn’t fully deterred. She looked at Lexa. “Maybe I could learn to make prosthetic parts instead.” She began to mutter to herself and they could all hear her saying, “If I can’t build a better bell, then maybe I can build a better leg.” She mumbled all the way back.

When they got to the cars, Lexa was ahead of Clarke in asking if Anya and Raven could drive, and she had been right. Both agreed. They thought it would be fun to split the couples up. Clarke teased Raven that she wanted to drive with Anya because she was the better driver, but it was more because she hadn’t ever really had the chance to speak with Anya one on one.

Raven had a sparkle in her eye. “That’s fine. I have some stuff to talk over with my girl anyway.” She draped her arm over Lexa and dragged her to the car. “Get in, hot stuff. We have some talking to do.”

Anya and Clarke shared a look, wondering what was up, but got in their car. When they got on the open road, Clarke could Raven gesturing wildly in the car in front of them and worried for Lexa knowing she was probably freaking out that Rae didn’t have both hands on the steering wheel, but she also knew that Raven had always driven like that and, in fact, was a very safe driver.

“What do you think they are talking about?” Anya asked.

“Who knows. It could be anything how ants make their hills to space travel, time divergence, and worm holes. You should know by now that it’s always a crap shoot when you talk to Raven. Her mind works at a million miles per second.”

Anya grinned. “That’s my girl. She really is brilliant. Should have become an astronaut or something.”

“Don’t get her started on that. She has forever wanted to spacewalk. She even tried to get into NASA’s space camp, and she did, but then she hurt her back and leg and she couldn’t go. She pouted for weeks.” Clarke smiled at the memory of Raven running around on her crutches saying if she wasn’t ever going to be able to spacewalk, then she was going to learn how to make things blow up. She had spent the summer watching Raven play with fireworks, dumping out their contents, mixing things up, and lighting it on fire. Things did go boom. It was the first time Raven blew up the Griffin’s mailbox. It wasn’t the last. Even a temporary back injury and leg injury couldn’t hold Raven down.

“Don’t ever let her talk you into buying fireworks,” Clarke laughed. “You will regret it.”

“I have no doubt,” Anya deadpanned. She groaned when, already, Raven was pulling off at a gas station. “She’s going in for more snacks, isn’t she?”

“Of course, she is. Did you see the way she eats jerky? It’s disgusting. She eats it like a cow eats grass, like it’s a cud or something.”

Anya’s laugh bellowed through the car. “I have never seen anything like it. She stuffs four or five pieces in her mouth at a time then chews and chews. It may be the only thing I don’t love about her.”

Clarke beamed at Anya. “That’s pretty good if that’s the only thing. So, you love her, huh?”

“So much. That girl has changed my life, kind of the way you changed Lexa’s.” Anya glanced at her before glancing back at Raven as she walked back to the car with two giant bags of beef jerky. “I thought Lexa would be alone forever. After…after she got hurt, and she came back to us, she was different. She was moody and angry, and she didn’t want anyone around.” She started the car and followed Raven back up to the highway. “Her spirit had been crushed. She got better, but it wasn’t until she met you that the old Lexa started to come back. She had been going through the motions of living, but all she was doing was surviving. It was you who made her want to really live again.” Anya reached over with her right hand and squeezed Clarke’s thigh. “Thank you for that. You two deserve all the happiness in the world.”

Clarke put her hand on Anya’s and squeezed back. “You and Raven deserve that too.” She thought about what Anya said. She had thought it was Lexa who rescued her, but it turned out they had rescued each other from events in their lives which they had no control over, and without each other, they may have both still been languishing in their sorrow, pain, and isolation.

“I want to spend the rest of my life with her,” Clarke blurted out. “I’m going to marry her someday.”

Anya’s face lit up. “You have no idea how happy it makes me to hear that.”

Clarke blushed. She hadn’t meant to say it out loud. Anya squeezed her leg again. “Don’t worry. I will keep your secret, but when you are ready, I want to be in on the planning.”

“Deal.” Clarke looked out the window then back at Anya. “What about you? Think you and Raven will get married one day?”

“Absolutely, but not as quickly as you two. I’m not sure why, but I know we both want to take it slower.”

“And that’s okay.” Clarke said. “With Lexa, I want everything, and to be able to call her my wife…well it would be the honor of a lifetime. I never knew what it was to love or be loved before her. I thought I knew, but I was wrong. Now that I do know I am never letting it go.”

 

They continued to talk until they made it to the hotel. When they got there, they threw their bags in their rooms, had a cocktail in the bar, then headed out for dinner. After that, they got on a tourist boat to go see the Statue of Liberty. It was stunning to see it all lit up at night, and they all teased Raven mercilessly when she had to wipe a tear away at seeing the sight.

“What? It’s beautiful.” She wiped another tear.

They then headed to Times Square, but Lexa and Clarke begged off early. The massive crowd on the streets made Clarke nervous, so the two headed back for the hotel while Raven and Anya lived it up.

“I hope you don’t mind leaving.” Clarke said. She felt bad dragging Lexa away.

“Honestly, it’s a relief. I am not a big fan of large crowds either. Would you like to get another drink in the bar before heading up?” Lexa asked when they got to the hotel.

Clarke looked over to the bar. There were only a few patrons, and it was quiet. She was tired, but she didn’t want to miss the opportunity to spend this time with Lexa. “Sure. I would like that.”

They picked a quiet booth in the corner of the bar and sat next to one another. They both ordered a Manhattan, since they were in NYC, then made faces at just how strong the drink was. Lexa’s eyebrows shot up. “Wow. That’s a powerful drink.”

Clarke scrunched up her nose but took another sip, and then another. “It’s easier to get down by third sip.” She then placed the cocktail glass on the table. She didn’t want to drink it too fast. “Today was a lot of fun. It’s nice to get away for a while.”

“It is. It’s been a long time since I was on a road trip.” Lexa held up her glass. “We forgot to toast.”

Clarke lifted hers. “What are we toasting to?”

“You.” Lexa smiled. “Us.”

Clarke clinked her glass with Lexa’s “I will toast to that.”

They ended up getting another round and were a giggling mess when they got to their room. They sloppily got undressed and ready for bed. There were kisses and touches, but they both fell asleep before it could go any farther. Clarke’s last thought as she fell asleep was that she would correct that in the morning.

 

“Come on,” Raven grabbed Clarke’s arm to try and make her move faster. “You are moving too slow.” They were walking on the Brooklyn Bridge. Raven kept running ahead of them then running back trying to make everyone move faster. She was like an excited puppy who couldn’t contain her energy.

“Let us walk at our own pace, Rae.” Clarke complained. “I, for one, am enjoying the view.”

Lexa who was behind Clarke and had been admiring her backside the entire time said, “I am too,” and Anya let out a snort.

“I bet you are.” Anya was still laughing and when Clarke turned around, she was scarlet.

Lexa caught up to the blonde and smacked said ass. “It’s a work of art.” Lexa had spent a good chunk of the morning worshipping it. Long before they had gotten out of bed. If it was possible, Clarke’s red face got redder. The brunette pulled her into a hug. “I love you.”

“I love you too. Even if you do like embarrassing me.”

“I didn’t mean to embarrass you,” Lexa kissed her. “I was only stating a fact.”

“Stop it, lovebirds,” Raven called when she looked back and saw them. “and get a move on. I want pizza.”

 

They moaned in unison when they all took a bite of their pizza. “This is the best pizza ever,” Raven mumbled with her mouth full.

Clarke and Anya nodded in agreement. Lexa shrugged. “It’s good, but I have to say, I am a bigger fan of Chicago deep-dish pizza.”

Anya gave out a different kind of groan. “I can’t stand deep-dish pizza.” She and Lexa had gone to Chicago on a trip together before Lexa got hurt. They’d had a blast and, of course, had to try Chicago hot dogs and deep-dish pizza. Anya had loved the hot dogs but hated the pizza. They both agreed that the best thing they had eaten in Chicago, and maybe ever, was the Italian beef sandwiches there. Anya still craved those and was even thinking of dragging Raven to Illinois just so she could get another one. There was a big auto show there each year, and she was certain they could turn it into a business trip.

Raven nudged Clarke. “Look at those two. You can tell they are sisters just by that ‘I love what I am eating’ look they are sharing right now. It’s the same look Anya gives me when she is eating me…”

“Oh my god, Raven no.” Clarke erupted even if it was the same look Lexa gave her too. She began to cackle when she saw that Anya and Lexa were bright red now.

She poked Lexa in the shoulder. “That’s what you get for embarrassing me on the bridge.”

“You’re so getting busted later,” Anya told Raven.

“Promise?”

 

They took a cab back to the hotel, and Raven couldn’t hide her disappointment when the cab didn’t turn out to be the Cash Cab. She’d convinced herself that they were going to get in Ben Baily’s cab and win a couple hundred bucks. She pouted all the way back. Clarke was happy to sit, squished up to Lexa, and not have to walk back across the bridge. She was doing so much better, but all the walking tired her out, and they were still going to drive all the way up to New Hampshire tonight.

She groaned. “What’s wrong?” Lexa wondered.

“Nothing, not really. I was just thinking that we shouldn’t have told Gina we would be to her place tonight. We have over five hours to drive in the car and it’s already late.”

“Clarke, it’s only 1:30.”

Clarke tapped on the face of her watch. It had been her dad’s and she only just started wearing it again. Her eyes welled up when she couldn’t get it working. It had stopped.

“Clarke, what is it?”

“My watch. It must be broken. It was Dad’s.”

“Let me see that,” Raven demanded. “You do realize you are sitting in the car with a mechanical genius, right?”

Clarke handed it over. “Please be careful with it.”

The mischievous look in Raven’s eyes softened. “You know I would never do anything that would break this, Clarke. Jake was like a dad to me too.”

She carefully maneuvered the time piece in her hand as Anya and Lexa looked on. She flipped it over, fiddled with and turned the crown. She then blew on it, twisted the crown again and handed it to Clarke. “Here. Good as new.”

Clarke looked down in amazement. “What did you do?”

“There was a piece of debris stuck in the crown. It stopped the hands from turning. You need to make sure you clean this from time to time, Griff.”

Clarke launched across the cab and pulled Raven into a hug. “Thank you. You know what this watch means to me.”

Raven smiled and hugged her back. “It was just a silly piece of dirt, Griff.”

 

They were one the road again by 3:00 PM and hoping to get to Gina’s by 10 PM, 11 at the latest, taking into account stopping for gas and dinner. It would be late, but Gina was a notorious night owl anyway, so it was no skin off her back. If they were lucky, they would all roll into bed at about 3:00 AM. They had a lot of catching up to do. Bellamy was already there, and Clarke was hoping they would have gotten their frisky business over with by then. Bellamy and Gina, while not official, were always very handsy with each other and had no qualms making out in front of others. Clarke honestly was grossed out by it and more than once had been called a prude because of it, but she stood by how she felt. Watching Bellamy kiss a girl was like watching a giraffe stick its tongue into a tall glass trying to get the last drop of water. It was disturbing to watch. She shivered just thinking about it.

Anya and Raven would also be arriving at about the same time, but they were taking a different path. There were a few kitschy touristy places that Raven wanted to stop at. She was still on a mission to fill her wardrobe with goofy t-shirts. She had already gotten two. One was a normal Mets shirt, and the other one said, “The world is filled with protons, neutrons, electrons, and morons.” If that t-shirt was meant for anyone, it was meant for Raven.

 

Clarke was driving. The road was empty, and she felt comfortable. Lexa was dozing in the passenger seat. They had about two and a half hours to go, but they still hadn’t stopped to eat. Instead of waking Lexa, Clarke pulled off the highway when she saw a sign for fast food. She went through the drive-thru, ordered what she knew Lexa would like then headed to a park she saw a sign for. Lexa didn’t wake up until Clarke leaned over and started peppering her with kisses.

Groggy eyes opened and looked confused. “Where are we?”

“We’re still about two and a half hours away, but we need to eat. I hope you don’t mind. I went through a drive-thru and got us food, and then I found this place.”

Lexa finally looked out the window. They were at a park with a bird-studded lake in front of them. She could hear crickets and frogs chirping, and the sun was setting. She looked over at Clarke, surprised. The blonde pointed a finger. “There’s a picnic table over there.”

They got out of the car and sat next to each other so they could watch the sunset as they ate. It may have been cheap fast food, but it might have been the best meal they had ever eaten simply because they were together. They ate in silence, then held hands until the sun had dipped below the horizon.

They were about to get up from the picnic table when Lexa got a text notification on her phone from Harper. She opened it and gasped. She looked at her screen absolutely stunned. Harper had sent her a news feed. The home health agency had been raided and Nia, her son Roan, and the office manager Echo had all been taken into custody.

Chapter Text

Chapter 34

Clarke and Lexa sat in stunned silence as they watched a video play of the raid that the home health agency. There wasn’t much information to be gained by watching it, but Clarke couldn’t hide her grin when they saw another clip of Nia being put into a police car, hands cuffed behind her back.
“Wow,” Clarke finally said after the third watching. “I can’t believe it.”

Lexa looked dazed. “Me neither.” She grabbed Clarke’s hand and kissed it. “It means it’s finally over.”

Clarke flipped their hands so that she could kiss Lexa’s. “I hope I don’t get called to testify if there is a hearing.” She shook her head, doubting herself. “I don’t feel like I would have much to offer.”

“Clarke, it’s because of you that this case blew wide open.” Lexa stood. “Because of you, that woman will no longer be able to prey on other people and steal from them. She is the worst kind of person in society - someone who takes advantage of the vulnerable.” Lexa pulled Clarke to her feet. “If you hadn’t discovered what she was doing, she would still be doing it and irreparably damaging other people’s lives.”

The blonde guessed it was true. “I do hope that Echo isn’t part of this,” Lexa said. “She’s always seemed like a good person. I’ve had drinks with her a few times, and she really seems to care about the patients.”

They walked back to the car. Clarke made Lexa drive since it was getting dark. She’d never liked driving in the dark, and that hadn’t changed. She was doing okay driving, but she wasn’t nearly as confident as she used to be. They made it to Gina’s by 10 PM, and were surprised to find Raven’s vehicle already in the driveway. They’d beaten them.

There was a note on the front door instructing them to deposit their bags inside. Everyone else was down by the lake. They looked around the tiny home as they put their bags down. It was well furnished and looked to have been built in the 1920s. It was cozy. They made their way out a sliding door and headed down a slope to the lake. They could see a small fire in the distance and headed that way, but not before Lexa retrieved a flashlight from her purse.

Clarke gave her a look. Lexa shrugged her shoulders. “What? I always carry a flashlight. You never know when you might need it, and I’m not as comfortable walking in the dark as I used to be. All it took was slipping once on dewy grass in my backyard. It was shortly after I felt confident enough to walk without my cane. I laid in the grass for an hour that night because I couldn’t figure out a safe way to get up again without falling. I finally took my prosthetic off and dragged myself back inside.”

“Oh, Lex.”

“I was fine, but it made me realize it was stupid to walk around in the dark. I may be comfortable doing that in my house, but not outside. The next morning I went back outside to see what I had slipped on.”

“What was it?” Clarke wondered.

“A wet leaf off my sycamore tree.” She gave Clarke a wry grin. “I was taken out by a leaf.”

“Well, I am glad you were okay. In your defense, those leaves are huge. No wonder you slipped if you didn’t see it.”

They made their way slowly to where the others were sitting. If Clarke was being honest with herself, she was no more confident walking in the wet grass at night than Lexa. She didn’t want to fall down the sloped yard and wondered how either of them would get back up the slippery hill.

Raven was the first one up, and she raced over to Clarke and gave her a hug, like she hadn’t seen her hours earlier. Clarke chuckled. “I missed you too, Rae.” Bellamy gave her and Lexa hugs then introduced Gina to the brunette.

They were welcomed with warm arms and led over to the fire. Anya gave up her seat to Clarke and Bellamy did the same for Lexa. They both sat on the ground, and Bell pulled Gina into his lap. He didn’t exactly tower over the woman, but she fit comfortably on his lap. Anya offered her lap, but Raven told her, “Hell no. I don’t want my ass to get wet from the grass.”

Anya rolled her eyes. “That’s why you would be sitting on my lap.”

Raven’s teeth shined white in the fire light when she gave her girlfriend a wicked smile and said, “I’ll be sitting on something later, and it won’t just be your lap.”

Even in the firelight, Anya’s blush could be seen. It was the perfect ice breaker to get all of them talking and joking, and no one would have ever known that Anya and Lexa had just met their host. There, of course, was a cooler with beer from Bellamy’s brewery.

Eventually the fire died down, but no one made a move to get up. It was comfortable sitting with friends, and with the firelight gone, the sky was filled with bright stars. They all enjoyed the stargazing before Lexa stood up, pointing to a dozing Clarke. “I think I should get her to bed.” She had thought about showing Anya and Raven the video of Nia getting arrested first but decided it could wait until morning.

Clarke needn’t have worried about getting up the hill. Bellamy gallantly offered to help Lexa while Anya helped Clarke. The brunette was embarrassed at first, but even with the flashlight brightening the way, she knew she had better take the help. The sleepy blonde was more than happy to cling to Anya on the way up.

Gina and Raven took a few minutes to make sure the fire was well and truly out then followed behind. Raven carried Clarke’s cane for her.

 

Then next morning, Anya and Clarke were the first ones up. The taller blonde didn’t want to impose on Gina’s hospitality by helping herself to the kitchen by making coffee, so the two snuck off to a local roasting shop Anya had spied the night before. They got a large container of fresh brewed coffee, bagels and cream cheese, and an assortment of pastries to take back with them. The talked animatedly the entire trip to and from the shop. Clarke had some ideas that she wanted to pass by Anya.

When they got back, Lexa was the only one awake. She was looking awkwardly around the kitchen like she wanted to try her hand at making coffee but not wanting to assume it was okay to do so. When the other two walked in carrying the goodies she let out a sigh of relief. They did help themselves to mugs, and then they all wandered outside and back down to the lake. The sun wasn’t fully risen yet, and the effect on the surrounding area was stunning. The lake and adjacent trees were gorgeous.

They sat in silence as the sun continued to rise. Anya gave Clarke a knowing look before she announced that she was going to go wake up Raven.

“What was that look for?” Lexa asked after Anya was gone.

“What look? There was no look,” Clarke blurted out unconvincingly.

“You two are up to something. I can tell.”
Clarke continued to deny the accusations, but couldn’t hide her grin, so Lexa knew they were planning something, she just didn’t know what. She let the subject drop. Anya was notorious for planning jokes, parties, and outings. You name it, she planned it, and it was always a secret until it was time for the big reveal. Lexa could wait.

 

They spent the day being shown around the area by Gina then had lunch at a quaint restaurant on the water. It was warm enough that they were able to sit outside. Raven punched Bellamy in the arm to get his attention. “Your beer is on the menu. That’s so cool.”

It was an incredible achievement. Bellamy and Murphy had taken a huge risk starting their business, but it was paying off. Their brews were popular, and their distribution continued to grow.

“You’re going to give us the VIP tour when we get there, I hope.” Raven was eager to see how everything was made.

“Of course, big dummy.” Bellamy laughed at his childhood friend.

Lexa looked over at Gina. “Are you going to come up to Stowe?”

“I might in a day or two. It’s only about a two-and-a-half-hour drive.”

Lexa hoped she would. She was enjoying the woman’s company, and she hoped that one day her and Bellamy would make their relationship official. It was clear, at least to her, that they loved each other.

After lunch, they split up, and Lexa and Clarke found themselves on their own. They walked the streets and popped in and out of shops. The bought a few magnets for their refrigerator, and Lexa couldn’t help herself when she bought Clarke a set of onesie pajamas that would make her look like a lion. Not to be outdone, Clarke got her a set that would made her look like a raccoon. They wanted to run back to Gina’s so they could try them on but decided to wait. They would be heading back in two hours anyway because Gina was going to take them out on her boat.

They meandered into a gallery filled with work from local artists. They looked at everything but stopped when they got to a section that had art supplies and canvases that patrons could purchase to paint whatever they wanted. Each canvas came with a free glass of local wine.

One look in Clarke’s eager blue eyes had Lexa purchasing two canvases. The gallery owner personally poured their wine and set them up in a corner. It only took the woman two minutes to see that Clarke was a professional, and the woman lingered in the background watching the blonde work. Lexa did the same, completely ignoring her own blank canvas.

With each brushstroke, Clarke’s picture emerged. She was painting the view of the lake from this morning. As each little detail emerged, Lexa was more and more in awe of Clarke’s talent. There were a few times that Clarke had to put down her brush because her hand and arm were starting to spasm, but after a few seconds, she went right back to it, and Lexa could see the joy it brought her girlfriend to be able to create such a masterpiece.

When she was finished, Clarke looked over and noticed that Lexa hadn’t touched her picture. It was still blank. “Don’t you want to paint too?”

“I’m enjoying watching you more.” She lifted her blank canvas and handed it to Clarke. “Paint another.”

Clarke happily took the gift and started another piece while Lexa sat back and sipped her wine while she watched. This time it was a picture from the night before with the fire and starlit sky. It was perfect, at least to her, although she caught her girlfriend frowning a few times because her hand wasn’t cooperating exactly as she wanted it to. The style of the two paintings was different from the works Lexa had seen from before Clarke had gotten hurt, but they were no less perfect, simply different.

When she finished, Clarke gave her a radiant smile. The gallery owner walked over. “You have an incredible talent. Would you allow me to purchase one or both of those?”

Clarke blinked a few times in surprise. “I, uh, sure,” She looked at Lexa, “unless you want one of them.”

“Nope, not if you will recreate them for me.” Lexa was proud of Clarke.

In the end, Clarke gave the woman the paintings in exchange for two more blank canvases and some paint. They also arranged for Clarke to show the owner some of her other works via email. If all went well, Clarke may be featuring some of her older and yet-to-be-created works in the shop. It was an amazing opportunity, and the blonde was downright jubilant when they left.

It had also given them the idea of using part of their new business as a place where people could come to paint their own canvases while they enjoyed a glass or two of wine or beer. Clarke could either instruct them and have them all paint the same thing, or they could let people do free-style works. It was something to think about, and they both had no doubt that Polis could use such a place as one didn’t exist.

They held hands on their way back to the car, and once inside, Lexa kissed Clarke passionately. “You never cease to amaze me. Those paintings, and the way you worked with the gallery owner, I’m beginning to think there is nothing you can’t do.”

Clarke looked down shyly. “There’s so much I can’t do, but that you think that makes me unbelievably happy.” She stole another kiss from Lexa.

“We’d better get back. I don’t want to miss the boat ride.”

 

The boat ride was not all that Lexa and Clarke hoped it would be. The scenery was astounding, but Lexa found herself very unsteady. For as long as she had been using a prosthetic, she hadn’t ever really experienced an unstable surface like a boat yet. Bellamy had helped her get on but standing while the boat was moving was extremely disconcerting. She didn’t enjoy the feeling of unsteadiness it gave her, and she had to sit during their trip around the lake (which was the safer thing to do anyhow).

Clarke had also had her difficulties getting on the boat, for the same reasons. She was off balance, and also needed help, but at first, she enjoyed her ride. It wasn’t until they were about forty-five minutes into the ride that she was hit with a wave of dizziness. She gripped the boat railing and tried to ignore it. She turned to face away from the others so that they couldn’t see how ill she was feeling. She didn’t want to spoil their trip.

She’d never experienced dizziness quite like this before, but it had to be because of her head injury. She was able to hide how she was feeling for about ten minutes until Lexa tried to point out a loon to her. As soon as the she saw Clarke’s face she knew something was wrong.

“Hey, look at me. What’s wrong?” Lexa said it quietly trying not to draw attention from the others, but Raven had the hearing of a bat, and heard. One look at Clarke had her saying, “Damn, Clarke. You look green. What’s wrong?”

Clarke was so nauseated that she didn’t want to open her mouth for fear it would make her throw up. She was also starting to get worried. Not since she had first been hurt had she been so dizzy and ill. What if something had happened? Was she was going to lose all the progress that she had made?

“Lex…”

“Gina, we hate to cut this short, but we need to get back,” Raven yelled up to their friend who was driving the boat. “Clarke’s not feeling so hot.”

One look back and the woman was turning the boat. She took the turn as slowly as she could and then tried to go slow, but it didn’t help, in fact it seemed to make Clarke feel worse, so eventually she sped up and got them back to the dock as quickly as they could. Once the boat was tied off, Clarke tried to stand, but she tipped right over. Lexa who was standing unsteadily on the boat, tried to catch her, and they both ended up toppling over onto one of the bench seats.

“We’ve got you,” Bellamy said. He picked Clarke up bridal style and carried her up the slope back to the house. Raven helped Lexa stand, and as soon as she was safely back on land, she charged up the hill to make sure her girlfriend was alright.

 

Lexa was worried. She found Clarke leaning over the toilet in the guest bathroom. Bellamy was trying to comfort the blonde by rubbing gentle circles on her back, and he had also already put a cool rag across her neck. Fortunately, Lexa had braided her girlfriend’s hair, so that it wasn’t in the way as Clarke wretched into the toilet.

Raven skidded in behind her with a glass of water which Clarke used to rinse out her mouth before climbing unsteadily to her feet. She was still wildly off balance, and Lexa helped her back to the guest bedroom they had stayed in.

Gina met them in the hall. “I don’t think this is a normal case of sea sickness, so I called up my Pop. His best friend is the local doctor. They’ll be here in fifteen minutes.”

Lexa was relieved. She was already thinking she would have to take Clarke to the nearest emergency room. “Come on, let’s get you in the bed.”

As soon as Clarke’s body hit the bed, she rolled over and pulled herself into a tight ball. “I’m sorry I ruined everyone’s fun.”

“No one cares about that. We just want you to feel better.” Lexa carefully sat on the edge of the bed. Raven and Gina stood behind them with nothing but concern and love in their eyes.

Clarke threw up two more times in a bucket Anya had thought to bring in before the doctor and Gina’s father got there.

The doctor was a stooped over old man, and the epitome of the small-town doctor. He had probably been practicing in the town for over forty years. He had a black medical case in his hand. He cleared all but Lexa out of the room.

“Hi there, Clarke. My name is Doctor Higgins, but most people around here just call me Doc. Wanna tell me what happened?”

Lexa did the talking for Clarke. The blonde still didn’t feel well enough to speak. She explained what happened on the boat, and then after a nod from her, she told the doctor about Clarke’s head injury.

“Ah.” He carefully got Clarke to roll onto her back. He did all the normal doctor stuff like taking her blood pressure, heart rate, and listening to her chest sounds, and then he made her sit up. Clarke winced and reached for the bucket, but this time she didn’t throw up. There was nothing left in her stomach. He took out a penlight and shone it into her eyes to watch her pupils. Then he looked in her ears.
He put all his instruments away without saying anything, and it made Lexa nervous. “Well little lady, I have a diagnosis.”

He waited until Clarke looked him in the eyes. “You have an ear infection.”

“Th-that’s it?” Clarke sounded relieved.

“Well, yes, but the reason it hit you so hard is because of your previous injury and probably from being on the boat. It threw your vestibular system out of whack.” He explained how she would have been more sensitive to the motion of the boat because of the infection and her old injury. “You didn’t know you had it? Your ear and head should have been pounding.”

Clarke looked sheepish. “I’m so used to head pain now, I’ve learned to ignore it.”

“Clarke,” Lexa chastised. “You should have said something.”

“It didn’t hurt that bad, I swear. It felt like I had a minor headache. That’s all.”

Lexa looked at the sweet doctor. “Does that mean she will be okay?”

He patted Lexa’s leg. “It does. I will write a prescription for antibiotics, and that should clear it right up. It might also help you feel better to lie with some warm castor oil in your ear two to three times per day for about twenty minutes. It will calm down the pain.”

The doctor left after an argument with Lexa about payment. Doctor Higgins refused any kind of payment. Gina told Lexa not to worry about it. The man mostly just practiced medicine now as a way of staying busy. His son had taken over his practice.

Later, after Lexa and Anya had gone to pick up Clarke’s prescription, they told them that it was nigh impossible to find castor oil. It took some digging on the part of the pharmacy technician. They found a bottle that hadn’t expired yet. It had been at the back of a shelf collecting dust.

“What the hell is castor oil anyway?” Raven asked.

“Some kind of old-timey treatment. My mom used to put it in my ear all the time. I was chronically getting ear infections as a kid,” Gina said. “I do remember something about it being a good anti-inflammatory and anti-microbial agent. Just wait, it will be the next big thing next to chia seeds, turmeric, and coconut oil.”

“Huh, who knew?”

 

By the next morning, Clarke was feeing much better. She was amazed at how quickly the antibiotics had helped. The night before she insisted that Lexa go have fun with everyone else while she rested. She was not up to having dinner or sitting by the fire again. Lexa had wanted to stay with her, but Clarke wouldn’t hear of it.

Because she hadn’t eaten the night before, she was ravenous. She was in luck. Gina had whipped up a veritable feast for them to eat before they headed off in their cars. Clarke had tried to apologize for ruining the evening, but Gina and the others assured her that nothing had been ruined. They had still had fun, but more than anything they were happy that Clarke was okay. They all made the blonde promise to pay more attention to how she was feeling.

When they finally got back into their car, with Lexa in the driver’s seat, Clarke was feeling lighter, and she had learned something about herself. She had learned that she couldn’t take any of her little aches and pains for granted anymore. Yesterday had scared her, more than she would ever admit to anyone, especially Lexa, and if something as simple as an ear infection could essentially flatten her, what would happen if something worse happened? From now on, she would be listening to her body and what it was trying to tell her.

She had also learned, yet again, just how much Lexa loved her. The brunette’s clear worry had translated into her taking care of Clarke like a mother hen despite her protests, and then that night, after lying with the oil in her ear for twenty minutes, Lexa had tenderly cleaned her ear then hugged her tight all night long. Clarke had been able to fall asleep knowing that the love of her life would hold her all night long.

She stared at Lexa as she drove. She got caught a few times, and Lexa finally asked, “Wouldn’t you rather look at the scenery?”
Clarke shook her head. “Nope. I’m looking at the most beautiful thing on this earth. I don’t need to see anything else.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 35

 

“This place is charming,” Clarke exclaimed as they pulled up to their hotel. They had spent the night at Murphy’s then headed over to the Stowe Snow Haus.

It was a throwback to the 1950s style ski chalet but remodeled to provide modern day comforts. When they walked into the lobby they were greeted by the receptionist who handed each of them a cocktail. “My name is Josephine, and this,” she indicated the beverages, “is our signature drink. The Stowe Snowball. Welcome.”

They all looked surprised to get the free drink. “They do this in the Caribbean resorts,” Anya noted.

Clarke sniffed at it. “What’s in it?”

“It’s white rum, crème de cacao, and Egg Nog. If you head down to the bar, you can get it with pumpkin spice.”

Raven threw her hand up and whooped. “Yes, pumpkin spice and Egg Nog year-round.” She looked at Josephine. “I could kiss you.”

Anya made a noise and Raven turned to her. “Did you just growl?”

The tall blonde cleared her throat. “Uh. No.” Her blush said otherwise.

“I love only you, babe. You know that.” Raven stood on her tiptoes to kiss the taller woman.

Clarke smacked Lexa’s shoulder. “Aw, look how cute they are.”

Lexa pretended to gag and looked the opposite direction. “I don’t ever want to see that.” She then took her first sip of her drink, and her eyes rolled into the back of her head. “Wow. This is amazing…and dangerous. I could drink four of these before I knew what hit me.”

Clarke sipped hers and had a similar reaction. “Oh my god, that may be the best thing I have ever tasted.”

“Even better than Lexa?”

A chorus of “Raven”s filled the air.

Josephine waited patiently for the women to settle down before checking them in. She made sure they were on the same floor, but the rooms were far enough away from each other to afford privacy. “Wise one are you, padawan,” Raven joked with her best Yoda voice. “You don’t even want to hear what those two get up to.”

This time Raven got smacked by three different hands. She cackled all the way up to their rooms, but it turned into griping when she saw that Lexa and Clarke got a suite and they didn’t. “How the hell did you swing this?” She looked at Lexa.

Lexa held her hands up. “Don’t look at me. I didn’t do it.”

Raven swung her head around to Clarke. “You did this? How?”

Clarke smiled sweetly at her friend. “While you were busy having an orgasm over your drink, I may have greased a certain palm and handed over a large tip.”

Lexa and Anya guffawed. “No way. You have never been brave enough to try and get extra favors by doing something like that.”

“I may have also batted my eyes at her.” Clarke kept a straight face. Lexa and Anya were still chuckling.

“That would never work,” Raven said with certainty. “You are terrible at flirting.”

Now Clarke look offended. “Fine, dingdong. I booked the suite for us when I made our reservations.”

Raven spun toward Anya. “Why didn’t you get us a suite?”

“You made the reservations, babe, not me,” Anya kindly pointed out.

Raven ducked her head. “Oh yeah.”

 

They split up to rest then explore before dinner. Bellamy and Murphy were both busy at the brewery, but they would meet them there later.

“We have a few hours. Do you want to go into town, or maybe walk on one of the trails that leads from the hotel?”

“You decide,” Clarke said as she grimaced. “I need to put the oil in my ear for a while first though.” It was not a task Clarke wanted to complete, but if it kept her from getting dizzy again, she would do it.

“Okay. I will unpack everything. Do you want to nap first?” Clarke may have been doing better since the boat incident, but she looked run down.

“No, and don’t let me fall asleep. I want to go exploring with you.”

Lexa moved their bags, unpacking what was necessary, and went into the tiny kitchenette. “There’s a bottle of champagne in here.” She called out to Clarke but got no response. The blonde had fallen asleep and was lightly snoring. She covered her with a blanket and sat on the couch to look at the materials left in the room for visitors. She found a map of the hiking trails, list of restaurants and shops, and a book with pictures of the covered bridges the area was so famous for.

She didn’t let Clarke sleep for long. She hated to wake her up but knew that the blonde didn’t want to sleep the day away. She sat on the edge of the bed and leaned over to kiss Clarke’s temple. “Hey, sleepy. You weren’t supposed to fall asleep.”

Clarke grabbed the cloth that Lexa handed to her and pressed it to her ear before sitting up. She yawned. “How long did you let me sleep?” She asked as she wiped the oil out of her ear.

“Only thirty minutes. Did you want to go back to sleep?” Lexa wouldn’t have minded. She wasn’t tired but would have gladly climbed into bed next to Clarke if the blonde wanted her to.

“Absolutely not.” Clarke stood. She walked around the suite and into the kitchenette. “There’s a bottle of champagne in here.”

Lexa grinned. “I saw. Want to open it now?”

She saw Clarke shake her head. “No. We will never be able to finish it, and it looks like a good bottle. Let’s share with Raven and Anya later, on our balcony.” Clarke moved to open the curtains and was rewarded with a stunning view of the Green Mountains.

“Wow.” They both looked on in awe at the riot of green in front of them. “I can’t imagine how gorgeous this must be in the fall. No wonder Bell and Murph moved here.”

Lexa nodded in agreement. “Yeah, but remember, the winters here are hell.”

Clarke crinkled her nose. “Yuck, winter.”

“It might be fun to come for a visit. I bet they even have old-fashioned sleigh rides.” She handed Clarke one of the pamphlets she had looked at earlier. “There is a ton of skiing here.”

“Yeah. Skiing is not something I will ever be trying,” Clarke tapped the side of her head, indicating her injury. “but I bet it is something you could do. I have seen pictures of people skiing with prosthetics.”

Lexa blanched at the thought. “No thanks. I might sit on a sled or tube and slide down the hill that way, but the thought of attempting to ski…” Lexa visibly shivered.

“How about this? We can be the ones to watch from the bottom of the hill while either sitting in a hot tub or sitting at a table or the bar and sipping hot chocolate.”

“Turn the hot chocolate into a hot toddy, and it’s a date.”

 

They opted to hike one of the easy trails by the hotel. They would explore the town the next day. As they walked, Clarke took in deep lungsful of air. There was something about the smell of being in the mountains. There was nothing like it.

It was a misty day but being under the canopy of trees kept them mostly dry. They walked hand in hand enjoying the view and each other. Except for the occasional bird call, the forest was silent and oddly devoid of other hikers; not that either of them was complaining.

They had been on the trail for about twenty minutes when Clarke pointed at a giant tree. “Look, that tree looks just like the one you took me to at your Mom’s house.”

It did. It was a towering oak tree at the base of the hill. It’s sprawling roots sank into the soft earth and created a natural opening into the ground.

“Want to take a look?” Lexa asked.

“Absolutely, just don’t let me fall, and I will do the same for you.”

The ground was slick, and they had to be careful. When they got to the base of the tree, it wasn’t nearly as spectacular as they had hoped. It did have an opening into the ground, but it wasn’t big enough to get into. What did make it so enchanting was that it was a tiny troll home. There must have been a hundred tiny gnome dolls scattered among the tree roots.

“I wonder how old some of these are,” Clarke wondered. “People must have been bringing them here for years.”

Lexa picked up one of the figurines. It was a gnome wearing a chef’s hat and holding a miniscule tray of cookies (it was adorable). “I bet if we go into town, we can find one. We can come back and add to the collection.” She put the object back down where she found it.

“Maybe we can find a figurine of two gnomes kissing. It would be like leaving a little piece of us behind.” Clarke grabbed Lexa’s hand and they carefully returned to the path. By the time they got back their hair was flat and damp, and Clarke thought Lexa had never looked so beautiful. Her green eyes were as vibrant and verdant as the forest behind them.

Instead of heading up to their room, where Clarke knew if they stepped inside, she would ravish Lexa and then they would never be ready for dinner, they headed down to the bar for a pre-dinner cocktail. That didn’t stop Clarke from being handsy and Lexa certainly wasn’t complaining.

“Look at you two lovebirds.” Raven and Anya walked in and sat, but not before stopping to tell the bartender what they wanted.

“What did you end up doing?” Anya asked, so Lexa told her about the trail and the funny gnome tree.

“And you two?” Clarke inquired.

“We went and sat in the hot tub.” Raven took her drink when the bartender came over and sipped. A blissful expression crossed over her face. “Mmm, alcoholic pumpkin spice.” Anya rolled her eyes. “We checked out the pool, but there’s no way in hell I am going in that. They may have remodeled everything else, but that pool looks like something you would have seen in The Shining. It was creepy.”

Anya agreed, and Lexa and Clarke shot out of their chairs to go check it out. When they got back, they looked horrified. “They should fill that in with concrete and make it into a dance floor or something. That pool area feels institutional. No wonder it was empty.”

“Is there an outdoor pool?” Lexa questioned.

“Nope. We asked,” Raven announced, “but we did find out that there is a fire outside every night. Josephine told us that if we go to the front desk, they will give us wooden skewers and marshmallows that we can roast.”

“Sweet.” Lexa loved roasting marshmallows.

They got a fresh round of drinks. Lexa switched to one of the specials that had whiskey in it. The signature Snowball drink wasn’t doing it for her. One was fine, but she wanted something with a little more heft.

When their order came, they clinked glasses and toasted to friendship, vacations, and love. It was sappy, and it was cute, and it was exactly what the four of them needed. Later Bellamy and Murphy showed up, and of course were celebrated as local heroes. All the locals knew them. It didn’t hurt that they had the best brewery in the area that the locals liked to frequent.

 

Dinner was a raucous affair, and they all got tipsy. They decided to share a bottle of wine with dinner, and everyone except Lexa and Clarke had after dinner drinks. No dessert was ordered. They wanted marshmallows, and the front desk person (Josephine was gone for the day), gave them an entire bag.

The night was chilly, and Clarke had run up to the room to get their coats. She smiled when she noticed a box of chocolates and a dozen red roses on the coffee table. She ran over and smelled the flowers as she reached for the card they held.

“Clarke,” it read, “thank you for taking this trip with me, and thank you for making me the happiest person on the planet. I love you, Lex.”

It was a short and simple note, but it had Clarke beaming. She opened the box of chocolates, that she noticed were made right in Stowe, and shoved one in her mouth before heading back down. When she got to where everyone was standing by the fire., she walked right up to Lexa and gave her a kiss to end all kisses, getting cheers from her friends and the other guests. When she finally let go, Lexa was swaying on her feet and pressed her fingers to her lips. “I guess that means you liked the flowers.”

Clarke hugged her. “I love you so much.”

 

Murphy sat down next to Lexa, and the two started having a competition to see who could roast the best marshmallow. Needless to say, half of them ended up being burnt to crisps, but they had a blast doing it.

“You’re not very good at this,” Clarke teased as she pulled a perfectly roasted puff from the fire. “Here.” She popped it into Lexa’s mouth eliciting a decidedly sexy moan from the woman.

“Why are these so good? They are just marshmallows.” Tipsy Lexa was dumbfounded.

“It’s the fire and the smoke.” Murphy stated matter-of-factly. “Everything is better cooked over an open fire.” He stood. “I hate to break this up, but I have a date.”

Everyone was surprised. “Who’s the lucky lady?” Lexa asked.

“You would have met her earlier. She works at the front desk.”

“Josephine?” Raven gave him a thumbs up. “She’s hot. I approve. Got get ‘em Tiger. Rrrow.” Raven chuckled when she noticed Anya’s pointed glare. “Don’t worry babe, she’s not as hot as you. No one is, and I will prove it later.”

Later turned out to be right then. They excused themselves to go to their room. Lexa and Clarke sat with Bellamy for a while and teased him about Gina. “Why don’t you two make it official?”

Bell scrubbed a hand over his goatee. “I don’t know. It’s always been this way with us.”

“Do you love her?” Clarke asked.

“Yeah. I do.”

“Then stop wasting time,” Lexa stood up and stared into the fire. “If I have learned anything since losing my leg, it’s that we all need to do more than just survive, and that’s what you are doing. We need to live, and we need to love, because we deserve better than to just survive.” She prodded the embers with a stick. “If you wait too long, you might lose the thing you cherish most. Don’t let that happen.”

Clarke tipped her head, thinking, but Bellamy and Lexa didn’t notice.

“You are right.” Bellamy made a move to leave. “I’m going to call her right now and tell her how I feel.”

Both women smiled and encouraged him. Things were looking up for both friends. “Maybe they won’t be bachelors for long.”

 

The next day the four women went into town to explore the shops. Shopping wasn’t Clarke’s favorite thing to do, but she enjoyed the time with Lexa and her friends. They had been at it for hours when Raven and Lexa decided to go into a shop/museum highlighting the history of Stowe and the surrounding area.

Anya and Clarke had no interest in this so they went across the street to one of the local jewelers. At first, they only looked in the window, but ended up going inside. Each piece of jewelry was unique. Anya bought a necklace for Raven but nothing for herself, and Clarke got her and Lexa a pair of earrings. She knew it was a cliché, but the pair she got for herself had gemstones that matched Lexa’s eyes, and the pair she got Lexa matched hers. It didn’t matter if it was corny. The earrings were hand-crafted and unique, and she knew Lexa’s pair would look amazing on her.

 

They caught up with Lexa and Raven on the street. They had been in the jewelry shop longer than they thought.

“Whatcha got there?” Raven asked, grabbing for Anya’ bag who smacked the offending hand away. “None of your business.”

Lexa looked intrigued as well. “What about you? It looks like you got a few things.”

Clarke tucked the bag away in her purse. “You will find out later.” She gave Anya a knowing look.

 

That night she gave Lexa the earrings, and it nearly brought the brunette to tears. “They are perfect, and I love them.” She kissed Clarke. “Just like you.”

The earrings earned Clarke extra attention in bed that night, and the next morning she was feeling lighter and more confident than she had in months. She’d woken up before Lexa and was looking over the map of trails. One led to what looked like an impressive waterfall.

When Lexa woke, she suggested they hike so they could see the falls. It was no surprise when Lexa agreed. The trail was marked green, meaning it was not a complicated or dangerous one. There was another trail with perhaps a more impressive waterfall, but it would be too hard for either of them.

The drive to the trailhead meandered up the mountain. They stopped at a few of the pull-offs but eventually got there. When they got out of the car, Lexa wandered off the path and found them long, stout sticks to use for balance if things got too slippery as they made their way down the path. That way Clarke’s metal cane wouldn’t get muddy.

This trail was busier than the one two days ago, and a few times, they had to let people pass since they were slower than the average hikers. It didn’t matter to them. It was a gloriously warm day and the scenery couldn’t be matched.

At one point they stopped at the side of a lake, and Lexa pointed out a beaver dam. There were even a few trees that had obviously been felled by the animals. Unfortunately, they didn’t get to see an actual beaver.

When they finally got to the falls, they had to wait their turn to get close. There were people crowded around it, but they were happy to wait. The view was worth it.

“It’s beautiful,” Lexa said in awe.

“It is,” Clarke was staring directly at her. Lexa gasped when she turned and saw Clarke using her stick to get on one knee.

“Clarke, what are you doing?”

The blonde reached into her pocket and pulled out a small red box. She opened it and held it up to Lexa. Inside was a gleaming diamond ring. Lexa’s hand shot up to cover her mouth.

“Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” Clarke took the ring out of the box. “Will you marry me?”

Chapter Text

Chapter 36

 

There was no pause. There was no gasp. There was only instant action. Lexa pulled Clarke to her feet and swung her around. She kissed up and down Clarke’s face repeating the word yes after each kiss. The crowd, having caught on to what was happening clapped and cheered for the two women.

When Lexa finally let go, after a solid five minutes, Clarke slid the ring onto Lexa’s finger. Both women had tears in their eyes. “Clarke, it’s perfect.” Lexa couldn’t stop looking at the ring.

 

Clarke had been thinking nonstop about how to get a ring for Lexa. Since her talk with Anya in the car on the way from Philadelphia to New York, she knew she wanted to propose to Lexa on this trip. Some would consider it fast, and maybe it was, but Lexa was it for Clarke. She knew it. She had already envisioned what an entire life spent with Lexa would be like, and it was something she wanted badly. She was fairly certain that Lexa felt the same way, so what was the point in waiting?

She spent every private minute she had alone looking at pictures of different rings on her phone. She had an idea of what she wanted to get, but wanted some input, so she took the first opportunity she could to get Anya alone.

It was on the way to the coffee shop the morning at Gina’s that Clarke got her chance. The second they were in the car, Clarke nervously said, “So, um, Anya. I have a question.”

Anya briefly looked over from the driver’s seat. “And what would that question be?” She gave the younger blonde a sly look, already suspecting what Clarke was up to.

“Well, since we talked in the car the other day, it’s had me thinking, and I…well, will you help me pick out a ring for Lexa? I want to propose to her.” Clarke rushed her words, and half of them were unintelligible, but Anya got the gist.

She reached over to squeeze Clarke’s knee. The poor girl was flushed with embarrassment.

“It would be an honor to help you, even though Lexa will kick my ass for it.”

Clarke knit her brows in confusion. “Why would Lexa kick your ass for that?”

“No particular reason,” Anya replied vaguely. “So, how do you want to do this?”

Clarke explained that she found a jeweler in the town of Stowe that made all their own pieces. There were several pictures on their website that intrigued her, but she needed to see them in person. The problem was being able to get into the store without Lexa suspecting anything.

“Leave that to me,” Anya replied confidently.

Anya explained that her and Raven had exhaustively researched things to do in Vermont, and in particular, the town they were staying in. One of the things they found that Raven was gaga over, but Anya decidedly was not, was a store masking as a museum that had in-depth dioramas and displays featuring the history of the surrounding area. The older sister assured Clarke that Lexa would be as excited about the shop as Raven was. It would be their opportunity to pop into the jeweler’s.

They would have an hour, tops, to find a ring. Raven may be excited about the museum, but that didn’t mean her attention span would last that long. They both knew that she would zip through the displays as fast as she could without really taking in any of the offered information. Lexa would only be able to slow her down for so long.

Because of this, Clarke made sure to study the online pictures of each of the rings offered at the store. She sent Anya emails (texting would be too obvious) of the ones she liked, and they were able to narrow the selection down to five. By the time they got to the store, all Clarke would have to do is pick the ring she wanted from the ones they had already decided upon.

As soon as they stepped into the shop, they were being greeted. “Welcome to Garrett’s. The finest jeweler in all of Vermont.”

“Hi.” Clarke was nervous. Now that she was in the shop, she wondered if she could go through with proposing to Lexa.

Sensing her uneasiness, Anya grabbed her hand and led her over to the man. He wore a dapper suit, and he may have been bald, but he was quite handsome, and had a well-trimmed goatee.

“This little lady,” Anya began, pulling Clarke next to her, “wants to buy an engagement ring for her girlfriend.”

The man’s face lit up. He eyed Clarke up and down, but not in an unfriendly way. “She must be very special.”

Clarke smiled. “She is.”

He pointed to the case that held engagement and wedding rings. “Do you have anything in particular that you would like to look at?”

“I do. I looked at your website, and I think I have narrowed it down to these five.” She pulled out her phone and showed him the screenshots she had taken of the rings she liked.

He blinked. “Wow. Most people have no clue what they are looking for when they come in here.” He asked if he could take Clarke’s phone so that he could find each ring. It only took a few minutes.

He got out five separate velvet display pillows and set each ring upon one after wiping them with soft cloth to make them sparkle. They were gorgeous, and Clarke ogled them one by one, but there was one that stood out. Still, she picked them up, one at a time, held them up to the light, and tried them all on.

It was hard to picture what they would look like on Lexa. She had elegant hands with long slim fingers. Clarke’s own hands were tiny in comparison. “Anya, will you try each one of these on? Your hands are more similar to Lexa’s than mine.”

Anya was more than happy to comply. Clarke purposefully gave her the one she like most last. As soon as it was on the taller blonde’s finger, they both exclaimed, “This is the one.” They grinned goofily at each other.

By most standards it was a simple ring. It was gold with a bezel set diamond flanked by four smaller diamonds on either side. It was perfect. Anya took it off and placed it in Clarke’s hand.

“I already think of you as family, Clarke, but this will make it official, and I will be so happy to call you my sister.”

A tear slipped from Clarke’s eye. She carefully placed the ring back on its velvet pillow and pulled Anya into a hug. After a long moment, she finally let go, and Anya snickered. “Mom is going to be so mad she missed this.”

Clarke was almost sad that Myra was missing her daughter’s engagement, but this was something she wanted to do on her own, without the others around them. If they were there, she would be nervous and chicken out.

“I will make sure to send her a video of us after I give this to Lexa.” She looked uncertain for a second and her deep blue eyes found Anya’s. “What if she says no?”

Anya’s laugh reverberated through the store. “Did you really just ask me that? There is not a chance on this Earth that she will say no. My sister is so in love with you, I wouldn’t be surprised if she already has a ring for you.”

“Do you think so?” Clarke hadn’t thought that Lexa could have beaten her to the punch.

“I just said it didn’t I?”

Clarke hugged Anya again. “Thank you so much for helping me with this.”

“It’s been my pleasure, Clarke. Truly.”

The clerk in the store took the ring and placed it in a red, almost burgundy, box. Anya was sure that it would fit Lexa, but he assured Clarke that if it didn’t fit that they could bring the ring back in and have it sized correctly.

“It’s not going to be necessary,” Anya insisted. “It fit me, so it will fit her.” She let her eyes wander the shop. “Now let’s see if we can find something for Raven.”

 

The ring box burned a hole in Clarke’s pocket for the rest of the day. She kept it separate from the other, small purchases she made. She was so afraid that Lexa would want to see what she had gotten that she didn’t want it in the same bag. She was giddy the rest of the day and was glad she had the earrings to give to Lexa that night, sure that if she didn’t give the other woman something that Lexa would begin to suspect she was up to something.

 

She couldn’t have been happier when she woke up the next morning before Lexa. It gave her time to plan out how she wanted to propose. She had an idea but thought it would be hard to set her plans in motion. Once Lexa agreed to the hike she picked, she knew everything was going to work out perfectly, and odd sense of peace set in. As each minute ticked by, her confidence rose. It was a unique sensation. It had been a long time since she had felt this level of faith in herself. The only thing that bothered her was that the trail they ended up hiking was more populated than she had hoped, but then she figured it didn’t matter. She was about to propose to the woman she loved, and if those people got to bear witness to it, then so be it. Her and Lexa’s love was like no other, and nothing was going to stop her from letting the woman she adored know just how much she meant to her.

Waiting their turn to get to the waterfall was the only part of the day that Clarke didn’t enjoy. She was anxious but had to be patient and let those in front of them have the time they deserved to view the natural wonder. During the wait, she chitchatted with Lexa about nothing in particular, and she worried that Lexa was beginning to suspect something, but she needn’t have fretted.

When they finally got to the falls, there weren’t too many people waiting behind them, and she stared at Lexa as the woman gazed at the falls. Clarke took a quick glance, and the sight was stunning, but not as stunning as the radiant person standing next to her. Thankful that Lexa had gotten them walking sticks, Clarke used it to steady herself as she got on one knee.

“Clarke, what are you doing?”

She reached into her pocket and pulled out the box that held the ring. She never took her eyes off Lexa as she opened the box, and her heart soared when Lexa’s hand went up to cover her surprise.

“Will you do me the honor of becoming my wife?” She took the ring out of the box and held it to Lexa, feeling braver than she ever had in her entire life. “Will you marry me?”

She wasn’t sure how Lexa was going to react. After speaking to Anya, she was sure she would get a ‘yes,’ but she hadn’t expected to be literally swept off her feet. Lexa spun her around, kissed her, and made her answer so clear that it had the people around them clapping and cheering, and Clarke was sure that she was never going to get the smile off her face.

The look of happiness in Lexa’s eyes was one she was sure she was matching. When she found her feet again, she was wobbly, but for a change it wasn’t because of her bad balance. It was from the overwhelming joy that was filling her.

They gave the crowd a show when Lexa gave her a blazing hot kiss, but they didn’t care. Everything around them had faded until it was just the two of them.

“I love you,” Lexa exclaimed. “I love you so much, and I can’t wait to be your wife.”

 

That was two hours earlier, and they were still basking in the glow of their happiness. They had decided to hike up the more difficult portion of the trail to another waterfall. Clarke was riding so high after the proposal, she felt like she could do anything, and with Lexa’s help, they made it to the top of the trail. The waterfall was just as impressive as the first one. This time, there were fewer people. Holding hands, the two stared at the mesmerizing movement of the water before Lexa turned to Clarke.

“Sooo,” Lexa said, long and drawn out. “They say that great minds think alike, and I…well, I don’t want to steal any of your thunder, but I…I…” She was uncharacteristically nervous because they were already engaged. “I was also hoping you would do me the honor of becoming my wife.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a ring. It wasn’t in a box.

“Lex…”

“I know we are already engaged, but I was also planning to propose, so I hope it’s okay that I am asking you too. I love you, and I want to marry you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” She was going to ramble on, but Clarke stopped her with a kiss.

“Of course, it is okay, and you aren’t stealing my thunder, and obviously the answer is yes. I love you and want nothing more than to spend eternity with you.” She mimicked Lexa from earlier and showered Lexa with kisses. “Yes.” Kiss. “Yes.” Kiss. “Yes.” Kiss.

Clarke held out her hand for Lexa to put the ring on. It was also gold, but it was an intricately weaved ring of Celtic knots. The prominent knot served as the setting for the diamond in its center. It was beautiful, and it was perfect.

 

A grandmother and her grandson were standing nearby, and the two laughed when they heard the grandmother say, “That is how you propose to a person. Just look how happy they are. When you find the right person for you, I hope you will make it just as special for him or her.”

The boy, who was probably only seven looked at his grandma with wide, disgusted eyes. “Ew, Nana. I’m not ever going to do that. Kissing is gross.”

The woman then offered to take pictures of the newly engaged couple.

“Thank you.” Clarke was jubilant with the pictures. “Thank you so much.”

The kind older woman patted her cheek. “I remember my engagement day, and next to my wedding and the birth of my children, it was the best day of my life. My only regret is that we didn’t get any pictures.”

Lexa also thanked the woman. They watched the gray-haired lady walk away with her grandchild then turned back to one another.

“Did you notice that when she was talking to the little boy, she said that she hoped he would make ‘him or her’ happy some day?” Lexa inquired.

“I did. How awesome is that?”

“I hope you aren’t disappointed that I proposed first.” Clarke said as they started to make their way back down.

Lexa stopped Clarke. “Absolutely not. I was so wrapped up in how I was going to propose to you, that I never imagined that you would be thinking of how to propose to me.” She laughed. “I always dreamed that someone would propose to me one day, and you,” she leaned in and kissed Clarke for the hundredth time that day, “your proposal was flawless. It’s like a dream come true.”

“That’s the wonderful thing about being us,” Clarke began, holding Lexa’s hand as the descended a tricky part of the path. “We aren’t stuck conforming to, I hate to use the word traditional, but we aren’t stuck to conforming to traditional standards when it comes to this stuff.” She stopped and sat on a bench that overlooked the river. “This isn’t boy meets girl. Boy proposes to girl, and boy marries girl. We have the freedom to do things how we want.”

Lexa beamed at her fiancée. “You’re right, and what better place to do it than in the first state to legalize same sex marriage.”

Clarke gave her a funny look. “I thought it was Massachusetts.”

“I guess that’s technically correct. Massachusetts was decided by the courts. Vermont made it legal through legislation. It was the first state to do so, and long before that, they offered benefits to same sex couples through civil unions. For being such a tiny state, they are very progressive.”

Clarke was impressed. “You know a lot about this stuff.” Lexa didn’t say anything. She only winked at Clarke.

They got up and continued back to the car. Clarke stopped Lexa one more time. She was looking excited. “What would you say if I told you that Bell and Murphy’s brewery has the perfect outdoor area to hold a wedding?”

It did. The popular brewery had a large outdoor area to accommodate guests. There was the inside tasting room, but outside, there were tables, games, and even a gazebo that looked upon the mountains in the distance.

Lexa looked stunned, but then her face transformed into one of glee. “I would say that long engagements are overrated.”

“So, if we could pull it together, you would consider getting married before we go home?” Clarke queried.

“Hell yes,” Lexa whooped. “To leave on a vacation and come home with a wife? What better souvenir is there?”

“Then let’s get in the car and find the boys. Before we get too excited, we need to make sure this will work.”

 

Lexa wanted to drive like a bat out of hell to get to the brewery, but she drove the speed limit. She had precious cargo sitting next to her. When they got there, they didn’t have to wait long for Bellamy and Murphy to appear, and being typical men, neither of them noticed the new rings their friends were sporting.

“What brings you two here? I thought you were coming later with Anya and Raven,” Bellamy asked.

“Yeah, what’s up?” Murphy could sense that they were up to something.

“Have you ever hosted a wedding here?” Clarke asked without preamble.

“No,” Bellamy responded, “but we have talked about it. The space out back would be a perfect venue. There’s plenty of space. The gazebo is already there, and weddings could be catered or there are plenty of people with food trucks that could provide food. We of course would provide beer and champagne. Why do you ask?”

“I think I know.” Murphy was giving them a lopsided grin. He grabbed their hands and held them up to Bellamy who gave his business partner a look like he had no idea what was going on.

“Seriously man, you are oblivious.” Murphy had to point out their rings. “They got engaged.”

Murphy and then Bellamy gave them each bear hugs. “I am so happy for you, Princess.” Lexa heard Bellamy whisper to Clarke. He let go of the blonde. “We would be happy to host your wedding.”

“How soon are we talking?” Murphy inquired.

“Ah, as soon as possible,” Lexa said after some hesitation.

Working with the boys to plan their wedding was a dream. It was almost as if Bellamy and Murphy were as excited as they were. The two men had so many connections that they would easily be able to find a photographer, people to provide food, and even someone who could legally marry them.

“And,” an overly excited Murphy said, “I can ask Russell if he has availability. He’s part of a quartet that plays New Orleans Jazz.”

“It doesn’t hurt that he is Josephine’s father.” Bellamy teased.

They spent an hour going over details while sampling the best beer the brewery had to offer. It finally dawned on Bellamy to ask, “Do Anya and Raven know you got engaged?”

“No, not yet,” was Lexa’s response.

“Anya knows,” was Clarke’s.

Lexa looked at Clarke. “She does?”

Clarke gave her fiancée a sheepish look. “She helped me plan this and pick out the ring.”

“Well, I’ll be damned.” Lexa grinned. “I want to kick her ass at the same time as hugging her.”

The blonde tipped her head. “Why would you kick her ass?”

“Because she didn’t help me.” Lexa answered.

“Did you ask her to?” This was Murphy.

“Well no, not exactly.”

“Sisters,” Bellamy blurted out. “I will never understand them.” They all laughed.

 

Bellamy left the table to go and call people to see if it was possible to make this wedding happen, and Clarke texted Raven telling her to bring Anya and meet them at the brewery. It was time to let them in on the plan. They might need to extend their vacation by a few days, and she hoped that wouldn’t be a problem for the other two. Then both she and Lexa needed to call their mothers.

Myra would have Lexa’s hide if she didn’t get to attend her daughter’s wedding, and Clarke, while she still didn’t have the best relationship with her mother, it was getting better, and she did still love Abby, so she wanted her at her wedding too.

Bellamy was just getting back to the table when Raven and Anya arrived.

“We are all set. We can do this in three days.”

“We can do what in three days?” Raven asked.

Lexa looked at Clarke, and Clarke looked at Lexa. “Have a wedding,” Clarke almost yelled. “We are getting married.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 37

 

For once, Raven was silent. She blinked at Clarke a few times, looked at Lexa, then Anya and back to Clarke. “M-married,” she finally sputtered out.

Clarke was practically jumping for joy. “Yes, married.” She stuck her hand in Raven’s face and didn’t move it until her dumbstruck friend noticed the sparkling ring on her finger.

Lexa was grinning like a fool as Anya inspected her ring with a knowing look. When her sister pulled her into a fierce hug, and said, “I am so happy for you lil’ sis,” she may have had to shove her head into Anya’s neck to hide the tears that started to form in her eyes.

Raven was still having trouble forming her words. “H-how, w-when?”

Clarke looked like a proud peacock when she announced that she had proposed to Lexa. She stood tall and puffed out her chest when she reached out her hand to her fiancée and pulled her in. “She’s the love of my life, and I want to make it official. She’s everything I ever dreamed of and thought I would never get.” She pulled Lexa into a kiss, and it got a few cheers from the other customers at the brewery. “I’m the luckiest person in the world, and I want everyone to know it.”

Raven still looked confused. “Then how did you get a ring too?” She finally found her words.

“It turns out that she had the same idea,” Clarke said, looking at Lexa like there was no one else in the room with them.

“Quit eye fucking and tell me the story. Give me the details now.” Raven spouted.

“And she’s back folks,” Murphy teased, nudging Raven in the shoulder. “I think this calls for more than beer.” He disappeared and came back with several bottles of champagne. He passed out six sampler glasses and filled them with champagne. “Sorry, we don’t have proper champagne flutes, but I promise we will for the wedding.”

They toasted to love, happiness, health, and of course there were several toasts to the newly engaged couple. It left Clarke feeling buzzed, and it wasn’t from the champagne. She felt a certain giddiness. It was the feeling of knowing that no matter what happened in the future, she would be alright as long as she had Lexa standing next to her.

When Lexa had met her, she had been broken, but the green-eyed wonder had been the glue that put her back together. She was the puzzle piece that had been missing from her life. Even in the beginning, when they had first met, she knew that it was Lexa who completed her. For the first time in her life, she felt whole, she felt right. Something in her settled when Lexa walked into her life, and she may not be a fighter, but she would fight tooth and nail to hold on to what she had now.

Lexa caught her staring at her and gave her a radiant smile. “I love you,” she whispered.

Raven rolled her eyes. “You two dorks are making me ill with all this sappy crap,” she then winked at Clarke, “but you know I love it.”

Anya cleared her throat, getting everyone’s attention. “I hope you have called Nomon. She is going to kill you for this rush wedding. You know its always been her dream to help us plan.”

“I know.” Lexa didn’t look worried. “Maybe she can help us plan a bigger ceremony when we get home.” She looked to Clarke who was nodding her head. “Since this is going to be so small, it might be good to plan something that all our friends can attend.”

Clarke sighed. “As it is, Octavia is going to kill me for this.”

“Yeah,” Raven began as she poured out another sample of champagne, “but consider it payback for the shit she pulled.”

“We’ve gotten past that, Rae.” She moved her glass away when Raven went to fill it. “We may not ever get back to how we used to be, but I have her back in my life, and that’s all I ever wanted.”

“You’re right. Sorry.”

Clarke reached over and took Raven’s hand. “It’s okay, and I wanted to ask you something.”

“Okay.” Deep mahogany eyes looked expectantly at the blonde.

“Will you be my maid of honor? There’s no one else I want standing next to me when I marry the girl of my dreams.”

Raven jumped up almost tipping her chair. She whooped. “Hell yeah, I will.”

Clarke then looked over at Bellamy. “And you. Your one of my oldest friends, and I would be so honored if you would walk me down the aisle,” she grew sad, but only for a moment, “since Dad isn’t here to do it.”

“The honor would be all mine,” he said earnestly.

Lexa looked over at Anya and Murphy. “Don’t think that you two will be on the sidelines.” She turned and faced Murphy directly. “I know we haven’t known each other long, but the first time you walked through my door, we connected on a level that I hadn’t expected, and it is a privilege to call you my friend. Would you…”

“Stop right there, Lexa.” Murphy interrupted her. “Of course, I will walk you down the aisle. It will be my honor.”

“Thank you, John.”

Anya cleared her throat again and raised her eyebrows at Lexa.

“Don’t do that. You already know you will be standing next to me. Ever since we were kids, I always told you that you would be my maid of honor. I was never joking. I meant it Ahn. You are my rock, and after…after…” she patted her prosthetic leg, “you were there for me, and you never gave up on me even when I wanted to give up on myself.”

After that, the sappiness continued until both Lexa and Clarke excused themselves to call their mothers. Lexa beat Clarke back to the table.

“Sooo, how did it go with Nomon?” Anya asked.

“Well, after a minute of stunned silence, she screamed, and nearly broke my eardrum,” Lexa replied grinning. “She’s ecstatic and will be here tomorrow to help with everything.”

Clarke took so long that Lexa almost went to go and see what was happening. The decidedly jubilant woman who left the table earlier looked to be in a foul mood when she returned.

All the faces at the table fell. “Oh no. What did Abby do?”

“Huh?” Clarke was distracted. “Oh, I didn’t get a hold of her. I had to send her a text. I got a call from Emori. I have to testify at Nia’s trial in two weeks.”

Lexa pulled Clarke in tight. “Hey, don’t worry. I’ll be there with you the entire time.”

“I know. I just want this whole Nia business to be over with.” She leaned her head on Lexa’s shoulder and looked at the others. “Emori did tell me that Roan and Echo are in the clear. It was all Nia. She’s been using Roan’s business for years to hide her criminal activities. He’s also been called to testify against her.”

“Wow,” Raven said. “It would be hard to testify against one’s own mother.”

“I don’t think so,” Anya replied. “Nia has put his entire life in jeopardy. He could still lose his business after this.”

“It turns out she was even stealing from him.”

“Damn.” Bellamy went and poured everyone another round of champagne, emptying the bottles. “What kind of person steals from her own son?”

“You never met Nia.” Clarke didn’t touch her last drink. “If you had, you would understand.”

“Okay, enough of this,” Murphy chimed in. “This is a celebration. Let’s forget about all that for now. I’m going to order pizza.”

“Why don’t you call Josephine? Invite her,” Clarke called behind him.

 

The next morning, Lexa had a headache. It was one she earned the night before, and it was making her slow to rise. She grimaced when Clarke opened the curtains. Her fiancée jumped on the bed and straddled her.

“You need to wake up.” She leaned over to kiss her. “We have a lot to do today.” They really didn’t. Their friends were insisting on taking care of almost everything for them. Both Bellamy and Murphy refused to let them help decorate the outside area at the brewery. They wouldn’t even let them pick out the decorations. Lexa was hesitant, not wanting something garish or half done, but Clarke assured her the boys had it in hand.

“I’m telling you they should have been gay. They aren’t your typical men. When I say that whatever they do will blow you away, I mean it. It’s going to be spectacular.”

“I trust you, so that means I will trust them.” Lexa pushed herself up so that she was leaning against the headboard. It made her head pound. Anticipating her needs, Clarke handed her two pain killers and some water.

“Take those. There’s coffee in the other room when you are ready for it.” Clarke got off the bed. “There’s also tea if you would rather.”

“I’m going to go get ready. We have dresses to buy.” Clarke started to walk toward the bathroom but called over her shoulder, “That is, unless you want to wear pants.”

Lexa wasn’t sure. “We will have to see what we find.”

 

They ended up going to almost every store that sold clothing in the tiny town and ended up back at the first one they had gone to. Each had wonderful items, but none had anything like the first one. It was a consignment shop for local artisans. It didn’t sell only clothes, but what was there was unique and handmade.

Walking the store separately, so they wouldn’t influence each other, they both tried on dresses, trying to hide their finds until they had made their decisions. They ended up in a fit of giggles when they both came out of the dressing room wearing the same dress, which they both adored.

Surprisingly, neither chose simple white. They had each picked a silver-gray tea-length dress featuring a white floral lace overlay. It was sleeveless, and it was perfect. At first Lexa had worried about it showing off her leg, but Clarke assured her that no one would care or think of her any differently. It was only going to be them and a few friends, Myra, and hopefully Abby. Clarke still hadn’t heard back from her, and while she didn’t show it, Lexa knew it was hurting her.

Clarke’s eyes wandered up and down Lexa’s sculpted body, taking in every detail of her and the dress. Lexa was doing the same.

“The color of the dress brings out the color in…” Lexa started

“your eyes.” Clarke finished.

That led to another fit of giggles. “Seriously though,” Clarke said when she calmed herself, “your eyes have never looked so green. I feel like if I stared at them long enough, I would end up in an ancient, or maybe future, forest somewhere where hardly any people exist.”

“And yours are so dark they match the dress. They look like the raging seas.” Lexa moved a piece of hair out of Clarke’s eyes. “I know you are upset that Abby hasn’t called back. Give it time. She’s probably been busy at work.”

Clarke appreciated what Lexa was trying to do, but she doubted her mother would be away from her phone for that long. Maybe she didn’t approve of Clarke getting married so early into her relationship, or maybe it was because she didn’t care.

“Don’t do that,” Lexa gently chided. “I can practically hear your thoughts. I promise you. Everything is going to be fine, and she will be here.”

Lexa prayed that it was true.

“I don’t know.” Clarke had her doubts. “My mother doesn’t exactly have the best track record.”

“Yes, but she did move back to Polis to be near you, and she has been trying.”

“I know,” Clarke conceded. “It’s just hard for me to trust her, even if she has been trying lately.”

“Let’s just wait and see what happens. If she doesn’t call or show up, we will deal with it then, but don’t let it spoil your happiness now. We are about to get married, and it’s going to be one of the happiest days of our lives.

Clarke stood tall by propping herself up on her cane. “You’re right. Now let’s see what we can do with this,” she pointed down to her assistive device, “to give it some bling. I don’t want to walk down the aisle with this ugly thing, but I know I won’t make it all they way without it. It won’t be the happiest day of my life if I fall in front of my bride.”

Lexa laughed and was pleased that Clarke was able to turn around her darkening feelings. They grabbed the dresses and Lexa pulled her in the direction where she saw some art and craft supplies. By the time they finished making their purchases, Clarke would have the swankiest cane on the planet.

 

It was the night before the wedding, and they were all gathered at the bar in the hotel. Murphy and Bellamy had forbidden them from going to the brewery. They wanted what they had done to gussy up the place to be a surprise.

Myra, who had arrived earlier in the day, treated them all to dinner, but not until after she thoroughly hugged her daughter and Clarke. She was effusive with her joy that her youngest daughter was getting married to the girl she loved, and she ribbed Anya about being beaten to the alter.

“You had better get a ring on your little bird’s finger, or she might fly away,” Myra teased her eldest.

“Oh no, Ms. Woods. My wings have been clipped,” Raven joked. “Your daughter is stuck with me.”

“Good, because I like you, and I have never liked any of the girls Anya brought home.”

“You liked Xena,” Anya protested.

“I was just being nice, dear.” Myra patted her daughter’s shoulder. “That girl thought she was that Xena Princess from TV. It was ridiculous. Her and that leather skirt she used to wear.”

Anya smirked in remembrance. “I liked that skirt. It showed off her long legs.”

Raven smacked her. “Get that dreamy look off your face. You are only allowed to look like that when you think of me.”

“The look she gives you is much better, Rae,” Bellamy said. “The look she gives you is the same one a cat gets when it gets the cream, the canary, and all nine of its lives.”

 

Clarke quickly put a hand over Raven’s mouth just knowing she was going to say something naughty using the word cream.

 

Clarke and Lexa were both being careful and were only going to have one more drink. Neither one wanted to risk a hangover in the morning. Lexa had just stepped up to the bar to place their order when she heard a familiar feminine voice calling out to Clarke. She turned and couldn’t help being tickled by the scene before her.

A weary but very happy-looking Abby came strolling into the bar followed by Octavia and Lincoln. After them came Ontari, Emori, Costia, and Luna.

Clarke stood frozen. “H-how…oh my god. I am so happy you are all here.” She ran, as best she could, over to her mother and the others, and Abby swept her into a hug. When Clarke let go, she had tears in her eyes.

“You didn’t call. I thought…I thought…”

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world. You are my baby girl, and I have dreamed of this day. I want you to be happy, and I wanted to surprise you by bringing your friends.”

Octavia gave her a hug then scowled at her. “You didn’t even let me know.”

Clarke looked down. “I know, we were planning to have a bigger celebration when we got home. I didn’t think you would be able to make it up here, and I didn’t want you to be disappointed if you missed it.”

Sad blue eyes looked at her oldest friend. “Hey, no. No tears. I understand, Clarke. I do. It was only by calling in every favor anyone has ever owed us that Lincoln and I were able to make it, so don’t feel bad, okay?” She pulled Clarke back into her and whispered in her ear. “I know I didn’t show it for a while, but you are one of my best friends, and there’s nothing on this Earth that would have stopped me from being here.” She squeezed Clarke tight. “I am so, so happy for you. You deserved this Clarke. You really do.”

“Thank you for understanding.”

“What are best friends for?”

 

 

It was an hour before the wedding, and it had been two since Lexa had seen Clarke. She had just finished doing her fiancée’s hair when Raven and Octavia came to whisk her away. She had left most of the blonde’s silky tresses free to cascade over her shoulders, but some she had braided to look like a crown atop Clarke’s head. She thought it was only fitting, since she felt like she was about to marry a princess, no, a queen. Clarke was her queen, and she would happily let the woman rule her anywhere she wanted to go.

Her own hair had been intricately braided by her mother, but the style also left some to flow freely down her back.

She looked around the room she was in. It was Bellamy and Murphy’s office, and she had been shocked to find a full-length mirror hanging on the far wall. Murphy had told her that he and Bellamy had appearances to keep up, and they needed to make sure they were always at their best.

“Or maybe you just like looking at yourself,” she had kidded.

“Or there’s that.” He gave her a charming smile. He looked dapper in his well-tailored suit. Somehow both he and Bell had been able to find ties that exactly matched the color of the dresses they were wearing. The lengths these two men had gone for them was truly astonishing. With almost no help from them, Anya, or Raven, they had taken care of setting up everything.

“John,” she walked over and straightened his tie. “I don’t know how I will ever repay you for doing all of this. You and Bell are two of the best people I have ever met, and I can’t thank you enough for being such a good friend to Clarke.”

She never expected to see it, but he blushed. “You know we were more than happy to do it, and besides the only thing it cost us was time.”

It was true. As soon as Abby arrived, she insisted upon paying for the band, the food and drinks, the photographer, and any other cost that had been incurred by the men. Weddings, even small ones weren’t cheap, and she didn’t want anyone, Lexa and Clarke or Bellamy and Murphy, to pay for anything.

The one thing Lexa and Clarke had put a halt to was gifts. The fact that everyone had travelled so far to see them, and that the guys had done all the work for them was enough. It was a gift they would cherish for the rest of their lives.

 

Clarke was fidgeting with her neckline. She couldn’t stop moving because the pounding of her heart in her chest wouldn’t cease. She was outrageously excited but also ridiculously nervous about the wedding. There were only fifteen minutes left before she would be walking down the aisle. Nine hundred seconds before she would marry the love of her life. It was such a short time, yet it felt like an eternity. She was feeling overwhelmed, utterly swamped, by her feelings.

Abby stood before her and cupped both of Clarke’s cheeks in her hands. “Honey, you need to breathe.”

“I…why am I so nervous? I proposed to her. I want this…like nothing I’ve ever wanted before.”

“You wouldn’t be human if you weren’t nervous, Clarke. It’s a big step, a milestone even, to tie yourself to the person you love.”

Clarke looked at her mother. She looked radiant in her flowing dress. She hadn’t stopped smiling since she first spotted her daughter with Lexa. “I am so proud of you. I hope you know that. You are so incredibly talented, and strong, and beautiful, and you are so much more than I ever hoped for.”

Clarke’s eyes got watery. “Thanks, Mom.”

“Hey, dry those eyes. You don’t want to mess up your make-up. Your gorgeous bride needs to see you in all your finery. You don’t want to go out there looking like a raccoon.”

Clarke laughed and dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. “That’s Lexa’s job, to look like a raccoon. She doesn’t wear make-up often, she doesn’t need to, but when she does, she always smudges it by the end of the night.”

Bellamy knocked on the door. “It’s time.”

Abby hugged her daughter and kissed her forehead. “Go get your girl.”

 

Neither Lexa nor Clarke had seen the outdoor venue yet. All they knew was that there were two different aisles. Bellamy would escort Clarke down one at the same time Murphy was escorting Lexa down the other. They would meet in the middle and finish walking to the alter together.

Lexa looked out at the small crowd. All the most important people in her life were there, and that fact floored her. When she decided to do this with Clarke, in the spur of the moment, she was thinking more along the lines of going to the Justice of the Peace with only Anya, Raven, Bellamy, and Murphy.

The group may have been small, but they were the only people Lexa wanted or needed at her wedding. Looking over at all their smiling faces brought a warmth to her chest like she had never experienced before. She took in all their faces then looked at the magical setting she had just stepped into.

The sun was just beginning to set, casting shadows over the trees and mountains, and the boys had hung fairy lights everywhere they could. Colorful paper lanterns swayed in the breeze, and the gazebo was a riot of flowers and flower petals. They matched the delicate bouquets she and Clarke were holding. Standing at the archway to the gazebo, Anya and Raven were a vision. They hadn’t asked them to, but they also wore matching dresses, and they contrasted perfectly with what Clarke and Lexa wore.

She smiled at her sister and Raven, then looked around again. The yellow-orange glow from the sun lined every surface and it made it feel like the world was ablaze. She took everything in, and her heart thudded in her chest. It came to a dead stop when her eyes fell upon the glory that was Clarke. Fifty feet away stood her bride to be. The sunlight was filtering her hair, giving her an angelic aura, and Lexa thought that appropriate, because since the day she met Clarke she knew that angels walked on Earth. Next to her stood Bellamy, a majestic creature in his own right. He cut the figure of the rigid protector and everlasting friend. He winked when he caught Lexa’s eyes, but she barely noticed, too entranced by the sheer beauty radiating off Clarke.

She hadn’t realized she had frozen until Murphy gave her a gentle nudge. “Come on, gorgeous. Your bride is waiting for you.”

She took a step, then another and another until she met Clarke in the middle of the aisle. Not once did she take her eyes off her. Clarke’s eyes were already glistening, and she knew that neither of them would make it through the ceremony without shedding tears of joy.

“Hi,” Clarke said shyly when they met in the middle.

“Hi.”

“Are you ready to get married?”

“I am.”

 

Clarke watched awestruck as Lexa approached, and she couldn’t grasp how the gods had favored her and given her such a splendid, flawless creature to call her own. It felt almost selfish that she was about to marry this woman. When the two aisles became one, she wanted to throw herself into Lexa’s arms. She was desperate to touch her, but instead she shyly said, “Hi.”

When Lexa said it, just as shyly back to her, she put aside her nerves and asked if Lexa was ready to get married. It was a silly question, but it just came out. When the brunette said she was she also sweetly took Clarke’s hand. They laced their fingers together and walked together toward the waiting officiant.

Much of the ceremony was a blur to both of them, but when it came to their vows, they were both ready. Neither knew what the other was going to say, but it had been decided that Lexa would go first.

“Clarke,” she reached forward and took both of the blonde’s hands in hers, “all my life I have enjoyed learning. I was one of those nerds who actually enjoyed school and homework.” This got a chuckle from the crowd. “It was my mission to absorb, and learn, and grow, but then I got hurt and that passion disappeared. Sure, I would wake up each morning and go through the motions of living, but I wasn’t living, not really. I was only surviving. That changed the day I met you. I was the one who was hired to help you, but it was you who helped me. You taught me that life is more than about just surviving. You taught me that we deserve more than that. It was you who taught me how to live again.”

She had to let go of one of Clarke’s hands to swipe at a tear forming in her eye. “It’s the most important lesson I have ever learned, and I will forever be grateful to you for that, but what I am even more grateful for is the fact that you love me. You really, really love me, and I vow to spend the rest of my life continuing to earn that love. I vow to make you happy, and comfort you when you are sad. I vow to take you on adventures but always have home for us to come back to. I vow to love you like no other woman on Earth has ever been loved. I vow to love you and learn from you for the rest of my life.”

“Lex…” It was Clarke’s turn to swipe at a tear. She had to look toward the sky for a few moments to collect herself. When she looked back down, Lexa was there waiting and smiling.

“Before you met me,” Clarke’s voice wavered, “I was a fiercely independent person. I had to be. I had to grow up fast. I had to learn to take care of myself, and I did. I got myself through college, and I made a wonderful career out of something most people fail at, and I was determined to take the world by storm, but that all changed. The day you met me I was at my lowest. I was no longer independent. I was dependent. I was dependent on others to take care of me. I couldn’t work, I could hardly walk, and I could hardly talk. I hadn’t yet given up, but I had thought about it. I didn’t want to be dependent. I wanted to be independent.”

A tear finally slipped and made its way down Clarke’s cheek. Lexa caught it with a gentle finger. “Then you came into my life. You say that I taught you that life was more than about just surviving, well you did that for me too, and you helped me. You helped me regain my function, and my skills, and most importantly my confidence. You made me realize that I may not be independent like I used to be, but I could still be independent. Modified independent. So, I may walk with a cane for the rest of my life and have to wear this stupid, ugly brace.” She kicked her leg out, using Lexa for balance, to show the crowd, “but that doesn’t mean I am not independent. It is simply a modified independence. Your having to walk on your prosthetic leg. Your independence has been modified, but it doesn’t make you any less independent, and it is your fierce modified independence that made me realize that independence is independence no matter what form it takes, and it is my vow to you to modify our independence in any way that we need to to keep us fierce, to keep us strong, to keep us healthy, and to keep us happy. I will go to the ends of the Earth to modify it just to show you how much you are loved and to make sure you are happy until our time on this planet ends.”

She didn’t bother waiting for the officiant to give them permission. She pulled Lexa into her arms and kissed her bride.

“I now pronounce you wife and wife,” she heard somewhere behind her.

“I love you, Lexa, and I am so proud to call you my wife.”

“And I love you. You have made me the happiest person on the planet.”

They kissed again to the cheers of their little crowd.

“Now let’s go get this party started and show the others just how glorious it can be to be modified independent.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 38

 

“Can you hand me a roll of receipt paper, Clarke?”

Lexa had just finished with her last client, but their night was just beginning at work. Their new venture had taken off in the last six months, and tonight the gallery side of the business was hosting a show for local artists, however, Clarke’s new works were the main feature. There were also a couple of her old works interspersed with the others.

Clarke walked behind the counter and handed Lexa the roll of paper, unabashedly copping a feel of her wife’s ass at the same time.

In the six months since they had been married, the honeymoon phase hadn’t worn off. These two were so gaga over each other that their friends teased them mercilessly. Not even working together had slowed them down. They cherished every moment they were together, and setting up and then running their business together only brought them closer.

It’s not that everything was perfect. Well, it was with them, but not with life. Clarke had been called to testify against Nia Eis shortly after returning from their trip, and it had been a very bad few days for the blonde. Her nerves over testifying, and seeing the horrible woman again, caused a slight setback in her speech and mobility.

It didn’t help that one of Nia’s lawyers cornered her and threatened her. It was a female lawyer that had followed her into the bathroom during a break in the trial. She may have succeeded in scaring Clarke, and Clarke may have had difficulty getting her testimony out, but it didn’t dissuade her from speaking the truth about Nia.

It wasn’t that Clarke’s was even the most important testimony. She was there more as a character witness. She was there to testify to Nia’s cruel nature and negligent behavior. She was simply the start of it all.

The prosecutors had done their work flawlessly. They had investigators dig into all of Nia’s seized assets and found that Nia was a small part of a much larger organization. Ice Nation International was a cover-up for numerous criminal enterprises.

The trial had gone on for weeks, but Clarke’s part was done early. In the end, Nia was found guilty of various crimes, and it led to the arrest of numerous crime bosses around the country. It was a far-reaching scandal that may have never seen the light of day if Clarke hadn’t been brave and spoken up about what had happened to her. She was hailed as a local hero.

 

 

The only other…distasteful…thing to happen in the past six months was that Lexa finally had the displeasure of meeting Clarke’s ex.

It had been almost a year since the accident that led to Clarke’s head injury, and Finn had wandered into their shop one day. It was no secret that the place belonged in part to his ex. It was her gallery after all. He strolled in, completely ignored Lexa, and walked into the section containing all her wife’s art.

Lexa had watched as he surveyed each piece hanging on the wall. At the time she didn’t know who he was. She had a general idea of what her wife’s ex fiancé looked like, but she had never seen a picture of him before. He was wearing a poorly tailored suit with a pair of converse high tops. It wasn’t clear what look he was trying to pull off.

She watched from the register as he wandered the room. Clarke was in back doing an inventory of the other pieces she wanted to put up for sale. He stopped in front of a piece and studied it closely before turning to Lexa. It was a recreation of the piece the blonde had given Lexa earlier in the year. It was a picture of her napping with one-eyed Jack.

“That you?” He inquired. He had a sneer on his face.

Lexa walked over and smiled at the piece. Normally she would be uncomfortable looking at a picture of herself like that. She knew it was her, but it could have been any woman sleeping with their cat too.

“Do you think it is me?” She asked instead of giving him an answer.

“I think it is, but the artist didn’t do a very good job. She used to be much more talented than this.”

Lexa bristled and wanted to punch the man in the face. She now knew exactly who she was talking to, but she didn’t let him know that fact.

“So, you are familiar with her early work. Unfortunately, Mrs. Griffin-Woods was in an accident about a year ago. Her ex was driving recklessly and caused an accident. She suffered a head injury that left her with some difficulties using her left side. It took her some time to recover, and yes, her art has changed, but she is no less talented, in fact, the public seems more enamored of her work than ever before.”

Lexa leaned in and whispered conspiratorially. “Can you believe her foolish ex left her? He didn’t even stick around to make sure she was okay. He just disappeared. He never even apologized for hurting her.”

Lexa could swear she heard the man growl. “So, are you interested in buying the piece?” Lexa asked sweetly as she stood straight again.

Finn huffed and scowled at her. “No. I’m not spending any of my money in here.”

“Then why are you here, sir?” The sweetness was gone. Her voice was dripping with disdain for this piece of shit.

“She has something that belongs to me, and I need it back.”

“Is it something you gave to her?” This fucker wanted his ring back. Cowardly sending Jasper the first time wasn’t enough. Now he was back, after almost a year, thinking he could waltz into Clarke’s establishment and demand back something he had given to her along with a promise of caring for her forever; a promise he immediately broke after causing a life-altering injury. This man was a walking piece of trash.

“It is, and I need it back.”

“If it is something you gave to her, then it is not something you can demand back. It is hers.” Lexa’s voice was filled with ice. It held a fierce edge and a promise of violence if the man persisted in his behavior.

“Listen lady, I don’t know who you are, but I’m not here to talk to you or look at crappy art. I need to speak with Clarke.”

She got in Finn’s face. “I am the other Mrs. Griffin-Woods, and I am going to kindly ask you to leave.” She took a step toward him and smiled when he took a step back. “I know what you are here looking for, and if you think Clarke is going to give you back the ridiculous piece of tin you gave her before you hurt her, you’ve got another thing coming.” She took another step, and so did he…backwards.

“She is a happily married woman now, and she does not need you strolling in here to cause her more pain. You didn’t just grievously hurt her when you crashed your car that day, you also hurt her deeply when you abandoned her.”

Lexa was doing everything she could to keep her anger in check. “Did you ever even love her, or was she only going to be your perfect trophy wife? You didn’t want her because you loved her. You wanted her because of how she made you look. You can’t elevate yourself, so you thought Clarke would be able to do that for you, and I am guessing you want that ring back now because you have fooled some other unsuspecting woman into thinking you are a stand up guy.”

She went to poke Finn in the chest but let her hand drop. “Men like you are pathetic, and this woman…” A tall tanned blonde woman came into the shop and looked directly at him, “and I am guessing this is her…she will figure out exactly what kind of man you are. I can only hope that she leaves you before you have the chance to do to her what you did to Clarke. Now I suggest you walk out of here and forget about Clarke. She has moved on, despite what you did to her, and she is stronger and more independent than she has ever been. Leave now, Finn, and don’t come back. Next time I won’t be so nice.”

He looked like he was about to say something, but the woman who came into the shop headed toward him, and he kept his mouth shut. He walked over to the woman, grabbed her hand and led her back toward the door.

“Come on, I was just leaving.”

“Have a nice day,” Lexa called after them. She returned to register and picked up an invoice, but her hands were shaking and she put it back down. She was so angry for Clarke.

It was only a few minutes later when her wife appeared. “Was that a customer?”

Lexa thought about telling her that it was, but she decided to go with the truth and told her about the entire encounter. Clarke was seething by the end of Lexa’s retelling, but then she smiled.

“Thank you for telling me the truth.” She leaned in and gave Lexa a toe-curling kiss, “and thank you for defending me. I wish I had seen him for who he really is, and I am so ashamed I fell for his charm, but I am not unhappy that I met him. If I hadn’t, I would never have met you, and I am so grateful for that. You are the best thing that has ever happened to me.” She kissed Lexa again. “I love you.”

Lexa lifted Clarke so that she was sitting on the counter. “Stay here.”

Lexa walked to the door, flipped the sign to show they were closed, and she pulled the curtains shut. As she returned to Clarke, she unbuttoned her shirt. By the time she got back to her wife, her shirt was off completely.

“You know, we haven’t christened the counter yet.”

It was the first, but certainly not the last, time they made love on the counter.”

 

 

Raven pushed to door open to their shop. “I come bearing tasty treats for the show tonight.”

Anya was carrying a case of wine. “And I am the one who’s bringing all the fun.” She jostled the box, making the bottles rattle.

Clarke and Lexa had to quickly adjust their shirts, having had their fun on the counter…again.

Raven gave them a knowing look. “Where do you want us to set all this up?”

Lexa took the bags from Raven. “The table is over here.”

Raven and Anya’s business was also smashing it out of the park. Their auto and outfitting shop was popular, especially with the biker and muscle car folks. They had been busy nonstop and had hired a host of new people to help them out. They were also starting a marketing campaign to appeal to collectors of old cars. Anya made a point to drive her Roadster each day and park it in a prominent spot for everyone to see. She begged Lexa to let her park her Classic truck there too, but Lexa flat out refused. She treated her baby with kid gloves and only drove it on the weekends and other special days. Her favorite times were driving with Clarke to the park or to the coast for picnics. Neither of them was fond of the sand for obvious reasons, but they found several different places with picnic tables and boardwalks that made walking around easy.

Clarke was having days where she didn’t need her cane, and Lexa had finally allowed Raven to fool with her prosthetic, and when the dark-haired woman was finished with it, it was more comfortable and tolerable than ever before. Lexa hadn’t realized how uncomfortable it had been until Raven had worked her magic.

Raven would have been a whiz at making prosthetics and she had a lot of ideas, but Lexa was fairly certain she was making more money than she ever could have doing what she was doing now. She did have her contact Clarke’s old neighbor Doctor Franco, and Raven was collaborating with her on a few designs. It was her new favorite hobby. Anya called it a side hustle since Raven was getting paid from a grant the doctor had obtained.

 

The night went off without a hitch and the turnout had been much better than expected. Clarke had even sold four of her works which was a pleasant surprise, but the best piece of news she got that night was from Raven.

The prototype for her tattoo machine had been finished, and Lexa was her eager volunteer. Raven and Monty had worked tirelessly on the machine, and remarkably, it was Doctor Franco who helped them finish it. Between the three geniuses, there was no way the project was going to fail.

“Have you picked out a design for the tattoo?” Clarke asked Lexa.

“I did. I want it to be an infinity symbol at base of my skull, just like yours, except I don’t want it to be broken.” She looked deeply into Clarke’s eyes. “You are my infinity…my eternity, and I know that in this life and the next I will always be with you. You’re my soul mate.”

Clarke blushed and had to wipe a tear from her eye. She kissed Lexa. “I still don’t know how I got so lucky, and just so you know, I agree with everything you just said except one thing.”

Lexa looked alarmed and Clarke laughed. “I don’t mean any of the good stuff. I just don’t want to test out the machine for the first time on a real human and have it be at the base of your skull. It’s too risky a spot. How about your shoulder or somewhere a little less important?”

The brunette raised her eyebrows. “Fair point. How about a silhouette of Jack on my ankle? I love my one-eyed boy and feel he deserves to be remembered forever.”

Clarke agreed and started the design. The cat was still young, but one day he would be gone, and he held a special place in Lexa’s heart. He’d been a huge factor in her recovery, and it made sense that she wanted to commemorate him in some way.

 

It was two days later when Clarke was finally ready with her designs. She’d gone above and beyond and made seven of them. It was nearly impossible for Lexa to choose, but she picked the one that looked the most realistic. It was a design of the cat facing forward and clearly showing his damaged eye. It was the eye that sealed the deal. Jack had been injured and recovering at the same time Lexa had been, and the two had bonded over their shared pain. To have changed what the cat looked like; to make him look uninjured or to have changed the view so the injured eye wasn’t visible wouldn’t have done him justice or been fair to his memory.

“You ready to give this a try?” Clarke asked. They were at the shop, and Lexa was reclined in one of the stylist’s chairs. They had Raven with them to make sure Clarke set up the machine correctly.

“I am if you are.” Lexa was nervous, but no more so than when she got her other tattoos.

Raven clapped her hands together. “Then let’s test my baby out.”

Clarke input her design into the machine, positioned Lexa precisely as she needed her so that the machine could do its thing then clicked the button to make it go. At first nothing happened. Clarke looked at Raven.

“You have to give it a few seconds to warm up.” The machine started to whirr softly. “See.”

Lexa’s anxiety was climbing. She felt like she was at Disney World waiting for the Tower of Terror ride to drop her into oblivion. She was about to say something when she felt the first sting of the needle. After that it almost felt like Jack was using his rough tongue to lick her albeit at high speed, which she guessed was completely appropriate since it was his likeness which was forever being transferred to her skin.

Before she knew it, it was over, and Clarke was moving the machine so they could all take a look.

Raven jumped up and whooped. The tattoo was perfect, and the entire process was easily three times as fast as getting a regular tattoo. She went over to the machine and hugged it. “You did so well, my baby.”

Lexa stared at her newest tattoo in amazement while Clarke grinned like the Cheshire cat. “You know, this could be a whole new frontier for tattooing. If you two decide to develop this further, you could make a lot of money,” Lexa suggested.

Raven seemed keen on the idea, but Clarke wasn’t so sure. “This machine is perfect for me, but there is something to be said for getting a tattoo the old-fashioned way. It’s more personal.”

“If you say so,” Raven grumped. “Still, the technology has so much potential.”

Clarke and Raven continued to talk about their machine while Clarke performed the after care for the new tattoo. They all took multiple pictures of the blonde’s newest piece of art with their phones first. Once Lexa was all bandaged up, she stood.

 

 

When they got home that night, Lexa pulled Clarke into a long embrace. “Thank you.”

“I didn’t really do anything. I mean, this whole thing was your idea to begin with, and it was Raven and Monty with the doctor who made it happen. I just designed it.”

“That’s not what I am thanking you for.” Lexa squeezed Clarke one more time then let her go.

“No?”

“Nope.” Lexa made a show of popping the P.

“I am thanking you for being you, and for giving this idea a chance.” She pulled Clarke into their living room and sat her down on the couch before sitting next to her. “I am thanking you for letting me into your life and for allowing me to love you. I am thanking you for giving me the life I had always dreamed of but never thought I would have.”

“You do know that you have done all that for me too, right?” Clarke leaned in for a kiss. “Without you I think I would still be stuck in my house barely able to move or speak. You brought me back into this world, and you showed me how beautiful it could be, but you know what?”

Lexa shook her head. “What?”

“There is nothing on this planet that is more beautiful than you, inside and out, and I cannot wait to spend the rest of my life with you. I love you, Lexa Griffin-Woods.”

“And I love you, Clarke Griffin-Woods.”

Chapter Text

Chapter 39

 

Several years later.

 

“Are you ready to go Lex?” Clarke called from the other room.

Lexa had just finished getting dressed and was rolling her wheelchair into the main room. Clarke was standing there in a flowing dress. The sunlight streaming through the window made her look like an angel.

Lexa smiled. “You look amazing.”

“And you look uncomfortable.” Clarke knelt in front of Lexa.

“Nothing I have fits anymore,” Lexa griped.

Clarke chuckled. “Tight clothes come with the territory. I told you we needed to get you some new ones a month ago.”

“But they are all so ugly. Can’t we just go and get me some oversized T-shirts and some sweats?”

“You are not going to the opening of the new location looking like you just rolled out of bed. You are the face of Trikru Hair Design, babe. Just because you don’t have any hands-on dealings with the clients right now doesn’t mean you don’t have to look good when they see you.”

“Hey,” Lexa said, affronted by this. “I can rock the whole T and sweats look.”

“That you can, but today is a special day, and you need to look good. That is why we are going to go shopping before we head to the new location.”

Lexa groaned. She hated shopping for clothes as it was, but she had put off shopping for new clothes long enough.

“Fine. We can go shopping.”

Clarke beamed at her in her victory, and Lexa just glared. Clarke got out her phone. “Look, I already looked at a few things in the store. They have plenty of leggings, and there’s a very pretty cowl neck sweater that matches your eyes.”

She held the phone up so that she could show Lexa, and the brunette had to admit that the items didn’t look too bad. Lexa took the phone and scrolled through the rest of the offerings, noticing that there was a T-shirt in the mix that she liked as well. She showed it to Clarke.

“I am getting that too,” Lexa announced.

“You had better get more than that. You are only going to get bigger over the next few months,” Clarke pointed out as she lovingly rubbed her hand on Lexa’s protuberant belly. She leaned in and gave it a kiss.

Just then, a toddler the spitting image of Clarke, ran into the room. The little boy held up his arms wanting to sit in Lexa’s lap.

“Aden,” Clarke said, “you can sit in mommy’s lap, but you have to be very careful and not jostle her.”

Clarke pointed to Lexa’s stomach. “Little Xander is in there, and we don’t want you to accidentally hurt him.”

“O-tay, mama.” The little boy held up his arms again and Clarke lifted him into Lexa’s lap.

Little Aden was just over two years old. After having been married for a year, Lexa and Clarke both decided that they wanted to have a family. It took some time and effort, but Clarke had successfully gotten pregnant after the third time with artificial insemination. It hadn’t been an easy pregnancy for the blonde, and she had ended up on bedrest for the last four weeks of it, but she would tell anyone that in the end it was worth it. Aden was the light of their life, and they wanted to add to that light with another baby, the only problem was that the blonde was now at too high a risk to try and have another child even though she desperately wanted to.

Lexa readily agreed to carry this time. Before, when they were trying with Aden, the doctors had advised against it for her simply because she was an amputee. Weight gain, swelling, and any host of things would make it more and more difficult for Lexa to mobilize, and Clarke had been more than willing, but this time, with things being different, Lexa insisted that she wanted to carry, difficulties be damned. She had gotten through her injury, so she knew she would get through this, and she would do it with a smile on her face.

She didn’t gripe about her discomfort or the fact that her prosthetic didn’t fit right now because her limb was too swollen. The only thing she complained about was the clothing. Lexa was all about comfort, but even most of her favorite clothes weren’t comfy anymore. She knew she needed to give in and get new ones, but the thought of maternity wear bothered her. She hated the styles, the colors, and really just everything to do with it.

She tipped her head to her child and whispered conspiratorially in his ear, making sure it was loud enough for Clarke to hear her. “I think your mama should use her artistic talent and start her own maternity line of clothing. Don’t you think that’s a good idea? She can tailor it to people like me, who hate what’s out there because it is all too girly, too frilly, and too…too colorful.”

Aden started to bounce, so Clarke whisked him off Lexa before a tiny foot accidentally made its way into Lexa’s stomach.

“Mama sews.” Vibrant blue eyes looked at Clarke expectantly.

Sewing was a hobby Clarke had taken up to help her increase the dexterity of her left hand. At first, she had made simple things, but then she started to sew patterns and even design a few of her own. The artist in her couldn’t help it. She enjoyed fashion, and it was fun to dream about, and draw, her ideas for new dresses, pants, shirts, and skirts.

Clarke laughed. It wasn’t a bad idea. She had to admit that she wasn’t fond of the offerings when she was pregnant either. “So, you want a maternity line that features nothing but black, gray, and white?” Clarke teased.

“And maybe a leather jacket that makes me look like a tough, albeit pregnant, biker chick,” Lexa added hopefully.

Clarke rolled her eyes. “You do know that at the rate I sew, anything I made for you would be ready when Xander is about three months old.”

Lexa frowned. “I know. It’s just a dream, but seriously, maybe you should try your hand a designing some maternity clothing. I’ve seen your other designs. I really think you could be successful at it.”

Clarke kissed her wife’s forehead. “I don’t know, but I do love that you think I can do it. Thank you for believing in me.”

Lexa reached for her wife then and pulled her in for a lasting kiss.

“Ewww Mommies,” Aden squealed and covered his eyes. “Gross.”

Lexa and Clarke parted with a laugh, and the blonde swept her boy into her arms, spinning him around. Over the past few years, her balance had improved greatly. The only lingering effect from her injury was a slight lack in dexterity in her left hand, and sometimes, if she was flustered, difficulty with her words. Her left foot would never change. She would always have to wear a brace.

She put the toddler down. “We’ve gotta go if we are going to get you a proper outfit and get to the new shop on time.”

“Yes, dear.” Lexa pretended to grouse. She wheeled herself to the door.

 

 

A few months later:

Lexa’s hand shot to her stomach. She and Clarke were lying in bed, and she felt gush of water leak out of her.

“Shit. Clarke. Clarke wake up.” She shook her wife. “Wake up.”

Clarke bolted upright, feeling the dampness leaking toward her. “Oh my god. It’s time.” She flew out of bed and ran all over the room seemingly not knowing what to do. She was panicking the same way Lexa had when she was about to give birth. Clarke had been on bedrest, but at least that bedrest had gotten to be at home.

“Clarke, calm down.” Lexa groaned, feeling her first contraction. “Call my mom to come get Aden, then grab my bag. We have time.” Lexa groaned again as a hand shot to her stomach. “Or maybe we don’t.”

Clarke had her phone in her hands and was babbling at Myra. In record time, Lexa’s mother was there with a groggy and confused Aden in her arms.

“Aden, Mommy and Mama have to go to the hospital now. Your little brother, Xander, is on the way.”

Aden started to cry. “Nooo. No go.”

Myra bounced Aden in her arms. “It’s okay little one. Remember when I told you I would take you to the underground fortress made from tree roots?”

Watery eyes looked up at his gramma. “Uh-huh.”

“Well, later on we can do that, but right now, I’m going to take you home with me so we can get a few more hours of sleep, and then when the time is right, we will go to the hospital and meet your new little brother.”

Lexa cried out again. She was already in her wheelchair. Clarke had pushed it near the front door and had gone to fetch the car.

“Mom, I don’t think you should go home. I think he’s coming faster than that.”

“Oh honey, it just feels like that. Trust me…”

“Argh,” Lexa yelled. “No Mom. He is coming now.”

With that, Myra was using one arm to try and steer Lexa out the door in her chair while holding Aden in the other. Clarke had just finished backing up the car and came running over.

She took one look at Lexa and knew they were running out of time. She took over pushing the wheelchair from Myra and helped Lexa into the front seat while Myra strapped Aden into her car seat and got in the back with him. The boy was crying again and scared. He had heard his mother cry out.

“It’s okay, Ad-man,” Myra used Raven’s nickname for the little boy. Aden adored his Auntie Raven. “Mommy is going to be okay really soon, and you will have a little brother soon.”

“Mommy crying,” the frightened boy sniffled.

“She is, but I promise it will all be okay.” Myra sat next to the boy and was just clicking her seatbelt into place when Clarke took off; tires squealing.

 

 

“Babe try not to push. I need you not to push,” Clarke was pleading as she sped down the street to the hospital.

“Argh,” Lexa yelled trying to comply to her wife. “I can’t help it, Clarke. He’s coming.”

Clarke took an illegal left at a red light and tore into the emergency bay at the hospital. On the way she had called her mother who fortunately was already there. The blonde could see her through the car window.

Abby rushed up with a team of medics as soon as Clarke screeched the car to a halt. In back, an inconsolable Aden was crying.

Clarke’s mother pulled open Lexa’s car door and took only a few seconds to assess the situation. One peek between Lexa’s legs told her everything she needed to know.

“Hi, Lexa, honey. So, unlike it was planned, you aren’t going to make it up to that maternity ward. You’re going to finish having this baby right here.”

Tears were streaming down Lexa’s face. “No,” she wailed. “Not in the car.”

“It’s either that or on the ground next to it. Xander is coming, honey, right now. He’s already crowning. One or two good pushes and he will be here.”

Lexa was panting. The pain was excruciating, but she could bear it. “Mom, please get Aden out of the car,” she gasped.

Clarke, who had been holding Lexa’s hand yelped when Lexa squeezed it too hard. “Babe, it’s going to be alright. I am right here, and Mom’s going to take good care of you. As soon as she says it’s alright, we will get you inside.”

Lexa yelled out again. She was thankful that all she had on was a nightgown. Her soaked underwear had been left behind at the house.

“That’s it, Lexa good,” Abby called to her from her cramped and awkward position between her legs.

“No,” the expectant mother yelled, “not good. I want to go inside.”

Unexpectedly, Abby and one of the medics who was smushed in the small space left by the car door, reclined the seat causing a startled yelp to come from both Lexa and Clarke.

Clarke’s mom was in full doctor mode. She may not have been an obstetrician, but she knew how to birth a baby. She was barking out orders and a team of medical workers was lined up behind her ready to take Lexa and Xander inside the second she gave the okay.

“One more push, Lexa, his head is already out, we just need the shoulders.”

“Come on, Lex, one more push.” Clarke was sweating and beyond anxious. This is not how she expected her son to be born. She was gritting her teeth, trying not to yell out as Lexa nearly broke the bones in her hand.

“Ahhhhhhh.” Lexa gave one last yell and sagged into the seat of the car.

Abby, who was on her knees, smiled and held up their baby boy. He was wriggling and crying in his grandmother’s arms.

“Meet your mommies, Xander Jakob Griffin-Woods.”

Lexa gave a weak, tear-filled smile and held out her hands. Abby promptly handed over the tiny little boy.

“Lex, oh my god, Lex. He’s beautiful. He looks just like you,” Clarke blubbered beside her as tears streamed down her face. She did her best to pull her wife and new son to her, but the center console of the car got in the way.

Outside, they heard another car screech to a halt behind them, and soon Raven and Anya had their faces planted against the windows of the car.

“Leave it to Extra Lexa to outdo herself and have her kid in a car,” Raven barked with nervous laughter. She looked at Abby. “Mama G, is everything okay in there?”

“It is. Now I need everyone to get out of the way so that we can get Lexa and this little guy inside.”

Clarke scrambled out of the car and ran to the passenger side. She looked at Lexa holding their son. From her new vantage point, Lexa looked pale and thoroughly exhausted. Hers might have been the fastest labor in history, but it had obviously been no less taxing on her body. Her eyes were glassy, and even though she was looking down at little Xander, she had a far off look on her face.

She pushed Abby out of her way. “Lex, hey, look at me.”

Lexa was slow to respond, but she finally looked at her wife. “I’m tired, Clarke,” she slurred. “You should probably take him.” She tried to weakly lift Xander from her lap but was unable. Finding it impossible to keep them open, the new mom let her eyes fall shut.

“Mom,” Clarke screamed. “Mom, I think something is wrong.” She grabbed Xander just before Lexa could drop him.

The next thing Clarke knew, she was being shoved out of the way as her wife was being lifted out of the car. She didn’t understand what was happening. All she knew was that suddenly Anya and Raven were ushering her into the hospital behind her wife who was unconscious on a stretcher. Xander had been taken from her by her mother who assured her that he was fine and only needed to be checked out.

“What’s wrong with my wife?” Clarke yelled.

 

 

Lexa woke in an unfamiliar room. It smelled of astringent cleaners, and it was unbearably small. It was also dark.

Looking around, she first noticed the IV running out of her arm and up to a pole with a bag of blood hanging from it. A second IV held a clear medicine, but she had no idea what it was. On the left wall was a small counter and sink, with a window next to that. The blinds were drawn, but she could tell it was dark outside. On her right was a chair, and its occupant had her head lying on the bed; her blonde hair a mess, splayed out on the blanket covering the new mom. Her hands clutched Lexa’s right arm so tightly it was as if she though Lexa might disappear.

“Clarke.” Lexa’s voice was raspy. Her mouth was dry, and she would kill for a sip of water.

The blonde head shot up. It was obvious that Clarke had not had a very good night. “Lllex, thhank god you, you are okay. You ssscared me.” The stress of the day had taken a toll on her speech.

“Wh-what happened?”

Clarke’s eyes were puffy and red. It was clear she had recently been crying. She moved her hand up and pushed a sweaty piece of hair out of Lexa’ eyes.

“What happened to you was something they call Rapid Labor. Your delivery was so fast that you started to hemorrhage. Your blood pressure dropped, and you passed out.” Clarke started to cry again, and her speech was forced and difficult for her showing just how much stress she was under, and just how scared she was. It had been a long time since Clarke’s speech was so difficult for her.

“They rushed you away from me, and I didn’t know what was happening. I thought I was going to lose you.” She frantically wiped at the tears sliding down her cheeks.

“I’m right here, love. I’m not going anywhere,” Lexa promised.

“I know that now.”

Lexa brought Clarke’s hand to her mouth and kissed it. “I’m sorry I scared you.”

Clarke moved and carefully covered Lexa’s upper body with her own. “Don’t ever do that to me again.”

“Where’s Xander?” Lexa mumbled. Her face was covered with Clarke’s long hair as Clarke continued to cry into the side of her neck.

The blonde lifted her head and wiped at her eyes again. “He’s in the nursery, and before you ask, he’s fine.”

“I want to see him, and where is Aden? I don’t remember much, but I know he was scared.”

“It’s after midnight, Lex. Your mom took Aden home, but he’s alright. They let him see you for just a minute, and I promised him you were only sleeping. He calmed down, but not until after I let him up on the bed and he watched you breathe for a few moments.”

Lexa felt terrible that she had frightened everyone so much. Knowing she couldn’t see her firstborn because he wasn’t there, she had a pressing need to see and hold her newborn.

“I need to see Xander.”

Clarke protested because it was so late, but she relented and went to the nurse’s station after Lexa became agitated. The brunette needed to see her son and know that he was okay. A few minutes later, a too perky nurse rolled their son into the room in a horrible, clear plastic bassinette on wheels.

“You gave your wife quite the scare little lady,” she said to Lexa. “I’m Kayla, by the way, and I am your nurse this evening. I am very happy to see that you are awake.”

She went to life their son out of the bassinette, but Clarke edged her out of the way, and took over the duty herself. He was swaddled in a yellow blanket that had giraffes on it, and he had a matching hat on his head.

Clarke rocked him in her arms for a minute and then handed him over to Lexa. “Our son is perfect, Lex.”

“Under that little hat is a shock of hair that’s like nothing I have ever seen before. It’s just like yours,” Kayla piped in. “His eyes are blue, but you wouldn’t know that since he’s sleeping, but I am betting they will turn green like yours.”

Lexa gave her a weak smile. She was too tired to appreciate the chipper nurse, but she had to admit that she liked her.

Kayla stepped out of the room and returned with a blood pressure machine. “Let me get your vitals. You look like you are getting sleepy again. If I get them now, I won’t have to wake you up to get them later.”

She put the cuff around Lexa’s arm, and hit a button on the machine. She manually took her pulse saying she didn’t always trust the machine to get it right, and then she took Lexa’s temperature.

“So, your blood pressure is still a little low. It’s 91/72, but that’s not totally unexpected. It will come up when we get the second unit of blood into you. That other bag hanging there is antibiotics. Since you didn’t make it into the hospital, your risk of infection is pretty darn high. Don’t worry though, the antibiotics are only precautionary. You don’t have any signs of an infection.”

The nurse took the cuff off Lexa’s arm. “I’m going to leave you two to your rest. Please don’t try to get up. Not with the blood running. You already passed out once today, we don’t want that to happen again. You have a catheter in, so you won’t have to worry about using the bathroom.”

She stopped when she got to the door. “Oh, by the way, congratulations on the birth of your little man. You are the first person to ever make it all the way to this hospital and not actually give birth inside it.”

Lexa groaned. She shifted in the bed, and it made her aware of just how sore she was.

“He’s so tiny. Aden was way bigger than him when he was born,” Lexa observed as she held her perfect little boy in her arms.

“That he is. He weighed in at just over six pounds.” Clarke was running her hand up and down Xander’s back. “Wait until you see how small his hands are.”

Lexa had the urge to un-swaddle Xander and look at every inch of him, but she restrained herself. Half of the reason was she was too tired to do it, the other half she didn’t want to accidentally wake their son. She was sure his day had been just as traumatic as hers. Instead, she simply held her child to her chest and felt his rapid heartbeat against her own skin.

As much as she wanted to, she was just too tired to stay awake. She fell asleep holding her son in one arm while holding onto her wife with the other.

Before she fell asleep, she took one last look at her wife who was now wide awake and staring at her with a look of unbridled love in her arms.

“Look at this little family we have created,” Clarke said. “Tomorrow, your mom will bring Aden, and we will be complete.”

Lexa’s eyes were starting to droop.

“Thank you for this amazing life you have given us, Lex.”

Lexa didn’t hear her. She had already fallen back to sleep with Xander on her chest. Clarke watched in awe as her wife and her new son slept peacefully after such an eventful day. Fortunately, neither one of them would remember it, and the morning would bring the full celebration of new life, with happy memories that would come with it.

Clarke started to lean back in the chair, but just then, Lexa startled awake. She was careful not to jostle Xander.

Clarke, who was watching her closely said, “It’s okay if you are tired, Lex. Go back to sleep. I’ll bring him back to Kayla and she can take him to the nursery so that you can get some rest.”

“What about you? You look so uncomfortable.”

“I’m fine. The chair isn’t as bad as it looks,” Clarke said, but the dark circles under her eyes told another story.

“Go home and get some rest, Clarke. I’ll be fine until morning.”

Clarke shook her head. “Not a chance. No. I am not leaving until you do.” Her voice shook. “I thought I was going to lose you today, so you will have to forgive me if I don’t let you out of my sight for a while.”

“I am so sorry, Clarke,” Lexa apologized again.

“Don’t, Lex. Yes, you scared me, but no one could have anticipated what happened today. Besides, everything is fine now. There’s a good chance we will be able to go home soon. If not tomorrow, for sure by the next day.”

“Kiss me one more time before I fall asleep again?” Lexa asked.

“Anything for the most beautiful, amazing, and strong mother in the world.”

The kiss took their breath away.

“Go back to sleep, Lex. I will be right here when you wake up.” Clarke promised.

“Okay,” Lexa shut her eyes again. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

Clarke waited until Lexa was soundly asleep before lifting Xander off her chest. She held her son and looked between him and Lexa in awe. Her wife had created this life inside her, and he was perfect. She had two perfect sons and a perfect wife, and in the morning, they would go back to living their nearly perfect life. She couldn’t wait to show off her family to the rest of the world.