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A Very Victorian Story of Two Girls in Love

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The weather being exceptionally agreeable and knowing how earnest Clarke is with regard to her health, Lexa had chosen to walk the distance between her uncle’s mansion and the Collins’ estate. Her walk had been an uneventful and solitary affair over dirt roads stretching between fields and forests. The distance proved a comfortable trek for Lexa’s improving strength and she had found herself within view of the tallest chimneys of the familiar house within half an hour. She idly twirled the wild flower she had stooped down to pick between her fingers as she waited for the footman to answer the door. 

“Miss Woods, welcome! I trust your journey was pleasant?” The footman whose name Lexa believed was perhaps Charles ushered her inside amiably. After her third visit during which she spent the whole day at the Collins’, although mostly confined to Clarke’s studio, Lexa noted that the servants must have been instructed to treat her as an intimate of the family. The footman relieved her of her parasol as well as her bonnet, neither of which were customarily done during even semi-ceremonious visits.

As Mr. Collins had yet to make his intentions official there had been little reason for Lexa to have transitioned to unceremonious visits to the Collins’. Naturally she had visited with them as society permitted and expected but each visit was confined to twenty to thirty minutes at most, during which she was obliged to keep her bonnet and gloves on. When the footman first asked if he may take her travelling accessories to be freshened up Lexa paused a moment to allow the new development in their relations to sink in.

“Oh! Has there been an accident, Miss Woods?” Charles asked unexpectedly, jarring Lexa from her thoughts. She was halfway through unbuttoning her whit kid gloves when the footman drew her attention to him. His eyes were comically wide and as Lexa followed the direction of his gaze, he appeared to be staring at Lexa’s boots, which were, unsurprisingly covered in a noticeable sheen of dust. ‘Oh, dear boy, surely you are not going to make a fuss over my boots?’ Lexa thought with amusement.

“An accident?” Lexa decided to pretend not to understand. 

“Why, your shoes Miss Woods! Them as dirty with dust as they are! Have you had to walk a distance? Has your carriage run into trouble? Shall I fetch some stable hands to rush out and help the coachman?” Charles asked, overeager to help. ‘Hm. I wonder if perhaps the underbutler has made arrangements to look for a new situation. This one seems very eager to make an impression.’ Lexa mused not unkindly. She had known from her own interactions with her uncle’s servants that elbowing for a better position could be quite the spectacle among a certain class of servants.

“Nothing of the sort has happened, Charles.” Lexa said with an amused smile. Her eyes had not failed to take note of the gentle blush of joy that spread from his ears towards his neck upon hearing her utter his name. There was no doubt in Lexa’s mind that the young servant had considered it high praise that she had learnt his name, more than likely assuming that he had earned her attention with good service rendered. “The weather was agreeable enough that I had decided to walk the distance, that is all. Shall we?” Lexa gestured towards the interior of the house, indicating to the footman that she rather wished to be lead to the studio.

When Charles gave a short bow from the neck and gestured for her to step in front of him Lexa’s eyes widened imperceptibly. It was customary, nay, expected of servants to lead visitors to their hosts unless the visitor be a close family member or an exceptionally intimate friend of the family. Lexa allowed her thoughts to wander as her feet carried her towards the studio. She had known Clarke for a little over a fortnight. ‘Unless Mr. Collins was making arrangements to ask for my hand…Clarke must have quite a close bond with her relatives for them to accommodate her friendships so.’ 

“That will be all, Charles, thank you.” Lexa dismissed the footman as she arrived at the studio.

After Charles had departed Lexa knocked softly, not wishing to startle the artist who was likely at work. That her knock had not produced an invitation did not surprise Lexa. ‘Clarke must be awfully concentrated on the perfect curve of a lock of hair.’ She jested good-naturedly as she opened the door and poked her head in, eyes searching for a crown of wheat blonde hair she expected to see busy by the easel. When none was to be found Lexa’s brows furrowed in confusion. She slowly started to withdraw, intent on closing the studio door and searching for her friend elsewhere when her eye caught hold a sight she had absolutely not expected.

Clarke lay curled up on the settee Lexa generally occupied. Brow still set in a thoroughly confused manner, Lexa tipped her head to the side as she stepped inside. As she walked closer she found her steps becoming increasingly urgent as the slithering tendrils of worry gripped at her chest, wondering if her friend was feeling well. 

Lexa knelt down by the settee and raised one of her hands intent on attempting to shake life into her friend when Clarke smiled in her sleep. ‘Oh bloody hell! She’s only sleeping!’ Lexa groaned internally, silently thanking God that her friend was not suffering from any ailment. Relief flooded her and her chest was suddenly released from the compression of worry. She took a deep breath and allowed it to flush the remainder of the accumulated stress through her nostrils before she gently put a hand on Clarke’s shoulder.

“Clarke, dearest, wake up.” Lexa said softly so as not to startle her friend. When her words produced no visible result other than the broadening of the blonde’s smile Lexa gently shook Clarke’s shoulder. On her third attempt Lexa impulsively moved her hand up and gently caressed her friend’s bright blonde hair, smoothing the fallen locks out of her face in the process. “Clarke… can you hear me? Wake up?” Lexa tried again, her lips pulled into a grin that increased by the minute. ‘God, she’s a sound sleeper. I wonder… if I should just douse her in water…’ The impish thought left Lexa giggling to herself. She would never truly consider doing such a disservice to her friend but the mental image of the spluttering blonde gasping in shock was certainly hilarious.

The fact that there was, in fact, a glass of water by the settee left from their session the previous day sorely tempted the brunette. But at last she was spared from expending more effort to resist the temptation when Clarke finally opened her eyes. Lexa immediately withdrew the hand she kept stroking Clarke’s hair with and smiled at the sleep-addled blonde. 

Clarke had slowly transitioned from sleep back to the land of the living, guided by the pleasant feeling of her hair being stroked. A vague sense of longing enveloped her as the face of her beloved governess swam before her eyes, her having been the last person to have caressed her hair so. Clarke truly woke up from her sleep when the long-ago seen face of Miss Emily transformed into the very familiar features of Lexa. Her eyes snapped open and she was surprised that the brunette was indeed not more than a foot from her, smiling down gently at her. 

“Lexa?” She croaked out, confused, voice still gravelly from sleep. 

“Good morning, sleepy.” Lexa said, her eyes twinkling playfully. “Have you been painting since the crack of dawn?” 

Clarke felt a blush steadily creep up her neck as she thought about her previous night. She had laid restless in her bed, unable to fall asleep. She had eventually given up on sleep and soon found herself in her studio, intent on finishing up the background by candle light. 

“I…uh…I couldn’t sleep. I came in here around three o’clock in the morning to finish up the background. I must have fallen asleep at some point. What is the time?” Clarke asked, somewhat more awake and increasingly aware of her surroundings.

“I came very early as you asked. It is but eleven o’clock of the morning.” Lexa offered, amused at her friend’s antics. ‘Painting in the dead of the night… this girl truly has the peculiar habits of an artist.’

Clarke sat up and started moving her head in a circular fashion to ease the tension in her neck and shoulders, induced by her awkward sleeping arrangement. “Lovely. Shall we get started then?” She asked with a smile. As she put both of her hands on her knees, intent on standing up she realized her less than decent attire.  She had not bothered to dress last night, assuming that she would be painting for an hour or so and then go back to bed, she merely threw a painting apron over her nightgown.

“Oh. Uh. Nightgown again. My apologies, Lexa. Would you like me to go change before we begin?” Clarke asked sheepishly, a blush flaring from her neck again.

Lexa chuckled at her friend. She was slowly getting used to her quirks and upon examining her feelings she found that she did not feel quite as embarrassed about seeing Clarke in a nightgown as she had the first time. “Not to worry, Clarke. As you have pointed out in the past, it is but a nightgown. And I have seen you in it before. I believe my sensibilities are not threatened.” She said playfully while her lips twisted into a smirk.

Clarke offered a grateful look in return for she had not had the least inclination to waste the beautiful light they were blessed with by going back to her room to dress properly. She finally stood and as she walked over to her easel she stretched, but the pain was still rather pronounced in her shoulders and neck. She attempted to ease her discomfort with a few inefficient rubbing motions but her hands were ill-equipped to do so upon her own person. 

Lexa noticed both attempts Clarke made to relieve what she presumed was quite a bit of discomfort. She could only imagine the state her own body would be in if she had slept unnaturally curled up on such a small settee. ‘A child of ten could barely sleep comfortably on this thing let alone a grown woman…’

“Clarke… would you… um, could you…” Lexa stumbled over her words, wondering how to phrase her question politely. “You seem to be in quite a bit of discomfort. I know I am not a professional but I was wondering if you would teach me how to give a massage? I would very much like to return the favour if you are agreeable?” She finally asked, internally cringing at her own clumsy and awkwardly formal phrasing.

Clarke blinked slowly, surprised by the question. She was moved by how much Lexa cared but at the same time amused that she thought giving a massage was anything extraordinary that would have to be done by a professional. ‘What’d she say she learnt that from? Mrs Beeton’s? God knows I was wise to never pick up mother’s copy if it advises this sort of nonsense.’

She smiled kindly at the obviously nervous brunette who now occupied the settee, sitting on the edge and looking very much eager to help. “Thank you, Lexa. That is very kind of you. Are you sure you want to?” Clarke asked, giving her friend the opportunity to withdraw her offer even as she approached the settee again.

“Absolutely.” Lexa answered with a smile of her own and she patted the spot next to her. “Teach me, Dr. Clarke.” 

Laughter bubbled from Clarke’s lips. “It is not that difficult to conceive, dear. You don’t necessarily need to be a doctor to give shoulder massages.” She grinned at the brunette as she sat down next to her. “Was not your Mrs. Beeton referring to sever cases when limbs needed to be brought back to normal functioning after extended periods of bed rest?” That was the only only scenario Clarke could conceive of where the administration was better left to a health professional.

“Perhaps.” Lexa admitted, her eyes squinting at her friend. “I hadn’t paid attention to what was written in there all that religiously. Mrs. Beeton’s was a favourite of one of my governesses, she liked to read to me from it.” Lexa said, her expression as unreadable as she could manage. She felt vaguely mortified at Clarke having laughed at her but she did not want to make the situation more awkward by showing how the notion of appearing foolish in front of the blonde had upset her.

“Well either way it is kind of you to offer.” Clarke said, her tone attempting to pacify the brunette when she picked up on the her moody reply. “Just start gently at first with the tip of your fingers and as you feel my muscles yielding you can start using your palm as well.” She instructed as she sat with her back to Lexa. She pulled all of her hair over one shoulder to provide the brunette better access to the painful area.

Lexa’s temper was soothed by Clarke’s apparent eagerness. She put both hands on Clarke’s shoulders and began to gently rub with her fingers as instructed but soon found herself annoyed that the apron’s neck strap was in her way. “Clarke… can I remove your apron? It is in the way.” 

“Oh…of course, I’m sorry, I didn’t think about that.” Clarke responded.

“Thank you.” Lexa said as she untied the knot at the base of Clarke’s neck and let the offending straps fall into her friend’s lap. She turned her attention back to Clarke’s shoulders but was soon surprised when the material of her nightgown slowly began to slip past her fingers and more and more skin was revealed.

“Is this okay?” Clarke asked, revealing that she had been the culprit behind the suddenly stripped expanse of skin. “I thought I would loosen the gown a bit. You will find your task is easier as your fingers will not be quite as slippery on my skin as they are on fabric.” 

Although she knew Clarke could not see, Lexa smiled in acknowledgment of her friend’s explanation and set to work again. ‘Well, she was certainly right. And my God, her skin is so smooth… I wonder if she has a specific beauty regime…’

Lexa found that her ministrations were rather meditative in nature and she soon found that her mind had let go of the initial anxiety she had. Her hands moved across Clarke’s muscles with more confidence, aided by the soft grunts of pleasure coming from her. Lexa had raised an eyebrow when the first pleased sigh left Clarke’s lips a few minutes after she had started only to remember how Clarke encouraged her when their roles were reversed. ‘She did say that I should not be embarrassed by whatever sound she drew from me…’

“Try a circular motion with your thumbs on both sides of my spine as you press down” Clarke coached Lexa. As she expected the brunette had started out somewhat clumsily but she had caught on more swiftly than Clarke anticipated. Her eyes were closed and she melted into Lexa’s touch, finding that she had to swallow heavily each time she attempted to speak.

When Lexa followed her instruction perfectly Clarke could not keep a hiss from slipping past her lips. To her dismay the brunette’s hand stilled on her shoulders just as the attention she received had turned pleasurable. 

“Are you feeling well, Clarke? Did I hurt you?” Lexa asked, her voice concerned.

“God, no. You were doing wonderfully, Lexa.” Clarke said, her voice somewhat breathy. “If you are not too tired yet, can you continue a little more? You just found a particularly sore spot.” Clarke’s voice was almost pleading. She let out a breath she had not been aware she had been holding in when she felt Lexa’s fingers press down on her shoulders again.

Encouraged by Clarke’s obvious approval Lexa continued, her hands moving more boldly across Clarke’s exposed back and shoulders. She moved her thumbs in a circular motion, noting how Clarke’s skin had heated up from the friction. She moved farther away from the blonde’s spine and just as she realized that she could feel a lump her friend gasped loudly. “Ah! Right there. That spot.” Clarke groaned more in pain than in pleasure but the fact that she pressed further into Lexa’s hands indicated that she did not wish for her to stop.

“Do you want me to do anything differently?” Lexa asked as she started rubbing the lump her thumb had found more gently.

“Well, I can show you a technique if you are inter..” Her question was cut off when Lexa replied in the affirmative mid-sentence. “Very well. Give me your right hand.” When Lexa reached around her and offered her hand palm up, Clarke gently took hold of it and raised her own hand to guide the brunette’s arm under hers, pulling it upwards, over her chest and finally pressing her palm flush against her collarbone. 

Lexa felt the  urge to swallow heavily as her hand was pressed into Clarke’s shoulder from the front. Her skin was soft even as her collarbone felt hard against her palm. An unfamiliar warmth spread in Lexa’s belly as she waited to understand what it was that Clarke wanted her to do. Clarke adjusted her arm until it was snuggled beneath her armpit. Lexa felt herself blush as she realized the softness she felt was in fact the side of Clarke’s breast pressed against her wrist. ‘God, Lexa, stop behaving like an immature child.’ Lexa silently chastised herself.

 “This position will allow you to produce more pressure with your fingers.” Clarke explained, unaware of the torrent of thoughts and feelings her innocent actions have provoked. “Now start the same circular motions on that spot with your other hand, gently at first.” 

Lexa, distracted as she was, did as instructed and found her efforts were soon evaluated positively if the soft whimpers coming from Clarke were to be taken as such. Pride blossomed in her chest upon being able to soothe Clarke’s pain so well.

“Can…can you do this on the other side?” Clarke asked, her voice breaking over the question. She found that it was a considerable effort to concentrate on her words. ‘God, Lexa is really talented with her hands.’ Clarke thought as the brunette complied and massaged her other side with equal vigour.

To her confusion Lexa soon found herself rather distracted by the sounds she drew from Clarke. She caught herself listening very intently, more often than not repeating a specific movement to see if she could make her friend groan again. 

She felt increasingly warm which she put down to the physical effort she put into her ministrations but she could not explain the vibrating tension in her stomach. To further add to her confusion, when Lexa shifted in her sitting position she noted an unfamiliar sensation. ‘Am… am I sweating between my legs?’ She wondered distractedly. She flushed crimson, not really understanding what was happening. Her first thought was that her period* might be early but the idea was soon dismissed due to a lack of accompanying cramps and nausea. 

As another helpless groan of approval was lurched from Clarke’s throat Lexa’s mind vaguely flashed back to what she saw and heard in the hayloft. It cannot be rationally denied that her vague recollection bears similarities to the noises Clarke was making in response to her ministrations. Lexa’s mind was assaulted by memories of her childhood interrogation of the housemaid and what she said about her escapades with the footman but almost immediately she scoffed at the ridiculousness of the idea. ‘How could that even be relevant, we are both women for Christ sake..!’

“Is everything alright, Lexa?” Clarke asked, twisting in her seat when the brunette’s hand stilled for a moment. The first thing Clarke noted was that her friend’s pupils were diluted to such an extent that she could barely see her irises. There was a deep set confusion in her unfocused gaze that caused Clarke to turn fully around in alarm. She saw that her friend was quite flushed, a crimson blush reddened her skin from the base of her throat to the very tips of her ears, her lips slightly parted as if she was short of breath.

“Is it too hot in here? You skin is very red. Come, let us take some fresh air before you faint.” Not waiting for an answer Clarke jumped to her feet and pulled the surprised brunette with her towards the large door that lead to the terrace.