“I would like to show you a place I loved visiting as a child if you are agreeable to an outing?” Clarke asked. She had surmised that her evaluation was correct, the studio must have been entirely too hot to be sitting in fully clothed as Lexa’s complexion returned to it’s familiar hue after some minutes out in the fresh air.
“I was under the impression that you wanted to continue your work?” Lexa asked although secretly relieved that her friend had offered. The fresh air felt soothing against her heated skin and the soft breeze in her hair was a welcome change to the stuffy air tainted with the smell of paints.
“I believe you have endured my passion for painting long enough that a day’s break is in order. I am aware sitting can be very burdensome to my subject.” Clarke offered apologetically then added as an afterthought “Also I believe the room needs to be properly aired first. I cannot paint you if the room makes you flush crimson.” Clarke said playfully with a toothy grin, hoping that the brunette will not be embarrassed by her humour.
“Very well. I am dressed for walking.” Lexa indicated at her clothes with her hand. She had not yet donned the dress she was sitting in for Clarke but was still in her travelling clothes.
“Oh it is somewhat far away for a walk. We will need to tak…” Clarke stopped mid-sentence as her eyes sparked with mischief. “Lexa, have you learned to ride a horse?”
“Of course I can ride a horse.” Lexa responded incredulously. ‘Really, Clarke? I wonder if there is anyone in the kingdom who doesn’t know how to ride…’
“Astride or side-saddle?” Clarke asked with a raised eyebrow.
“I can do both. But I haven’t any riding britches under my dress. I think the side saddle would be my preference today.” Lexa replied after some thought.
“Very well. Let us go then.” Clarke said enthusiastically and she turned to lead the way towards the stables.
“CLARKE!” Lexa exclaimed with more force than she had intended. When the blonde turned back to face her she wore a stunned expression, her clear blue eyes were round as saucers and both of eyebrows were raised in surprise.
Lexa could not help herself, she grinned devilishly before she supplied an answer. “Perhaps you would like to dress more appropriately?”
When Clarke looked down she was shocked to see that she was still in her loose nightgown, her feet bare on the warm flagstones. Her face immediately heated up in embarrassment and she pinched the bridge of her nose with her fingers as her shoulders started shaking from silent laughter.
When she felt composed enough she met the brunette’s amused gaze. “Perhaps you are right.” She said in a measured tone entirely inappropriate for the humour of the moment. When Lexa merely quirked an eyebrow at her response her resolve waned and she shot her friend a toothy grin as she giggled at her own forgetfulness.
“This is familiar. Is this not close to where we had our picnic that first day?” Lexa asked as she realized where they were. She sat on a chestnut coloured mare, both her legs dangling from one side of the animal as she sat regally in her side-saddle.
“It is.” Clarke replied, acknowledging Lexa’s sense of direction with a smile. “I had asked Finn that day if he remembered lurking about here with me when we were children but he did not recognize the place. But then again.... he grew up here. I am sure a multitude of other memories overshadow the few we gained together over the a couple of summers a decade ago.”
‘Hmpf. As if any memory I made this summer would be capable of overshadowing you.’ Lexa’s mind formed the thought before she could catch on to it. Lexa became pensive, analysing the strange ways her friend occasionally affected her thoughts. They were certainly unfamiliar thoughts no one could claim to have ever provoked in her. They rode along in comfortable silence for a while, past the spot they had claimed for the picnic.
“We need to continue on foot from here.” Clarke said, jarring Lexa from her musings. The brunette took a deep breath to steady herself before dismounting her ride.
“So where are you taking me?” Lexa asked as they secured the reins to low hanging branches that would allow the beasts to graze while stopping them from wandering off.
“It is a surprise.” Clarke said playfully, her eyes twinkling happily. She felt a sense of joy and excitement overcome her at the prospect of visiting the cave of her childhood memories. “It is but a few minutes from here. Finn and I had found it by accident. My Aunt and Uncle had arranged a picnic near by.” Clarke began to tell the tale of how they found the cave she wanted to show Lexa.
The grass, wild and unkempt as it was, steadily grew as Clarke lead them towards their destination. When she saw that it would reach up to their knees she paused. “The terrain might prove a little difficult in a dress… can I offer you my arm?” She asked politely, posture imitating what she had seen young men do.
“Oh how chivalrous of you.” Lexa said in a teasing tone as she grasped the proffered arm. Their progress was slowed somewhat by the foliage as Lexa frequently had to stop to untangle the hem of her dress from the clutches of certain rather sticky leaves. ‘Hmpf, if only I were wearing anything over my stockings…I could just hike my dress up and walk straight through this like Clarke.’
“Almost there. See those rocks? That is our destination.” Clarke announced, relieved that they made it without any serious damage to Lexa’s clothing. “Watch out for tha…” Clarke’s intention was to warn her friend of the dangerously raised root that had broken the surface of the ground in their path but was cut off abruptly when Lexa’s grip intensified on her arm. A soft whine of alarm escaped Lexa’s lips as she felt the ground twist from beneath her foot as the sole of her shoe slipped on the very root Clarke had attempted to point out and she tumbled forward.
Clarke lurched forward without hesitation in an attempt to steady her friend’s lithe frame but her momentum had been much too great for her and she felt herself tumble along. Her body acting on instinct in an effort to salvage the situation, Clarke twisted their positions which resulted in her behind hitting the ground first, Lexa’s body crashing into hers almost immediately. The force of the impact pushed Clarke’s torso back, her head saved from colliding with the hard surface by the fortunate if rather painful prior collision of her elbows. Clarke’s hiss of pain was cut short as all the air was knocked out of her lungs when Lexa landed in her lap.
“Are you injured, Lexa?” Clarke asked as soon as she was able to draw breath, not caring about her own minor injuries.
“No I am not. Which I have you to thank for. Are YOU hurt?” Lexa asked in return. She sat in her friend’s lap, her side pressed against Clarke’s chest by an arm secured tightly around her waist.
“Not in a way that needs to be addressed. I expect my behind shall hurt tomorrow.” Clarke said as she rolled her eyes.
Lexa giggled softly at Clarke’s antics. Now that her fright had passed and they were both unharmed the brunette started seeing the humorous side of the situation. “I feel I must thank you again, Clarke. Perhaps I should now call you Sir Clarke, the chivalrous?” Lexa made an exaggerated face of being deep in thought. “But no, that would not be appropriate.” She said with a mischievous grin. “You cannot possibly have been my knight in shining armour. You see, I can quite positively claim that you have no armour, shining or otherwise.” She paused with a smirk firmly planted on her lips, one eyebrow raised in a teasing challenge.
“Oh?” Clarke asked with a raised eyebrow of her own to hide her confusion. She could feel that the brunette was jesting but she could not fathom what her intention might be.
“Well… I DID fall on something soft.” She said as she wiggled a little in Clarke’s lap. It took the pair but a moment to fall into hysterics as a sharp burst of laughter exploded from both of their lips.
“You… want me to go inside a cave?” Lexa asked, her tone sceptical as she lingered by the entrance of a cave.
“Yes. I promise it is not dangerous. There are no hidden holes or puddles and you cannot get lost in it. It is just a spacious cavern inside.” Clarke said earnestly, her eyes round and glistening with hope as she gazed at Lexa’s unsure features.
“What if a wild animal lives inside? You have not visited this cave in a decade.” Lexa protested further.
“I do not think anything lives in there. It would have already fled or attacked because of our close proximity.” Clarke reasoned with her.
“Well, how do you know it is not going to bury us alive once we crawl inside?” The brunette countered again. ‘God, are we really going to climb into caves like schoolchildren?’ Lexa wondered as she felt her resolve weakening.
“I shall go in first to inspect it and let you know then.” Clarke said, her tone final but not unkind. She whirled around before her weary friend could protest and within a second she was in a crouching position and halfway inside.
Lexa stared at her friend in wonder as she climbed inside. She waited anxiously for any noise, hoping it would be Clarke’s voice calling out to her while dreading the sound of a desperate fight for survival.
“Well… it is somewhat smaller than I remembered but I can assure you it is worth seeing. And it is quite safe. I promise.” Clarke called out, her voice amplified by the cave.
Lexa let out the breath she had been holding upon hearing the blonde’s cheerful voice. Then she drew another breath which she allowed her lungs to expel with a huff. Finally she rolled her eyes in exasperation as she crouched to follow her friend into this insane escapade.
It appeared to be a tight channel she had to climb into and when she first saw it her instinct was to turn back and tell Clarke that she would do nothing of the sort. Yet the memory of Clarke’s round hopeful eyes inspired Lexa to at least peek into the cavern.
“Well, what is there to see here?” Lexa asked somewhat curiously if a little exasperated still.
“Come in and wait for your eyes to adjust.” Clarke entreated her with a childishly happy expression on her face. She was in a sitting position in the middle of the small cave. As Lexa’s eyes slowly started to adjust she could just make out the size of the hole Clarke called a cavern. It was just large enough for two or three adults to comfortably sit in without being inappropriately close to one another. With another roll of her eyes Lexa climbed inside and sat down next to the blonde, a little closer than necessary in order to soothe her nerves.
“If the cave comes crashing down on us would you be a dear and climb on top of me this time?” Lexa teased her friend as she waited to see whatever was so amazing about the dirty cave.
Clarke chuckled at Lexa’s exasperated disbelief as she waited for the brunette’s eyes to adjust to the dim light provided by a small crack in the ceiling.
As Lexa’s eyes slowly made out more and more of her surroundings she felt her mouth drop in awe. ‘Are those…no…how could they be?’ She leaned forward and squinted at the wall to be able to make out what she saw. “Are those…sea shells?” Lexa asked, her voice saturated with a different flavour of disbelief.
Clarke grinned triumphantly as if she had just claimed a personal victory. She produced a small candle stub from her pocket which she lit with a match. The soft glow of the flame illuminated the entire cave providing Clarke with an unobstructed view of Lexa’s bewildered amazement. The brunette stared at the walls with eyes as round as they would go her jaw hanging wide open.
The cave was certainly a spectacle to behold even in Clarke’s opinion who had seen it many times during her childhood. After she and Finn had discovered the cave they frequently snuck out to revisit their ‘Cave of Wonder’ as they named the landmark.
All around them the walls were littered with the remnants of sea shells of all shapes and sizes. “But… but how?” Lexa asked, never taking her eyes off the walls. She had moved closer and traced her fingers over the various shells and other shapes.
“Well, as I learned these lands were once submerged under water and these animals lived here. Then the water receded and their stranded bodies died while their shells were fossilized over a long period of time.” Clarke explained what she had heard at a palaeontology seminar she had once listened to. “I did not know this when we discovered the cave. Neither did Finn. We thought it was magic and as such named this the ‘Cave of Wonders.’” Clarke said fondly.
After some minutes Lexa sat back next to Clark without speaking, neither of them feeling the need to break the tranquil silence that had befallen them. They were both lost in their own thoughts when Lexa’s hand moved to cover the one Clarke was leaning on.
“Thank you for bringing me here, Clarke.” Lexa said softly. Her former exasperation and uncertainty had completely evaporated. She was moved beyond her ability to formulate her feelings with words.
“It was my pleasure, Lexa.” Clarke said her tone matching the softness of her friend’s.
“No Clarke, I assure you it is mine. This… truly is a Cave of Wonders. And you Clarke… you are a wonder that befell my life.” Lexa whispered. “I had lived here my entire life and had not known that I was within reaching distance of such beauty.” She continued while softly gazing into Clarke’s diluted eyes. “And I would have most likely died without knowing if not for you.” She leaned in closer and gently pressed a brief kiss on Clarke’s cheek. “So thank you.” Lexa’s words were barely above a whisper and her lips caressed Clarke’s skin as they moved to formulate the words before the brunette pulled back. A sudden shyness Lexa could not explain overcame her and she averted her gaze under the pretext of examining the shells above her head.
Clarke sat next to her friend in stunned silence, her skin burning where Lexa’s lips had touched her cheek. Thought after thought tumbled in her mind, all plainly written across her features which she was grateful Lexa had turned her gaze from because she would not have been able to explain the majority of them. A small smile played upon her lips as she noticed that Lexa had never let go of her hand although for the life of her she would not have been able to pinpoint exactly why that made her smile. It felt right. She wiggled her fingers until she could thread them between Lexa’s willingly parting ones and squeezed once. “You are welcome.” She whispered as softly as Lexa had.