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A Very Victorian Story of Two Girls in Love

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The very air seemed to have gained possession of a new quality. It has always had the ability to shift and change, faithfully complimenting Lexa’s moods and invisibly accentuating her relationships with people. As it thickened and thinned with tension Lexa often-times thought of the air surrounding her as a great feline companion ruffling its fur. Her very own familiar. And as well as she thought she knew this companion, Clarke had given it an entirely new mode of expression. She scarce dared think it but it was perhaps even a measure of power over her. According to the many volumes in Uncle Gus’ collection, a witch’s familiar mirrors its master’s mood but in Clarke’s proximity Lexa was unsure if the air was reacting to her or quite the contrary. With her mind’s eye she saw her feline companion purr in satisfaction whenever Clarke was near and Lexa was left wondering if the vibrating air between them was the cause or expression of it. 

As Clarke’s palm gently slid along the slope of her lower back, matching her strides to Lexa’s so as to make their walk comfortable Lexa felt exceptionally aware of their physical connection. Her very soul purred with joy as she glanced at Clarke, silently telling her how welcome the close proximity was. As a gentle smile slowly spread across her face Clarke’s eyes lit up and the air thickened to a suffocating quality between them. Lexa involuntarily pressed closer to Clarke’s side, her head tilting as she lost herself in an ocean of blue. Her eyelids fluttered heavily as she felt herself drawn closer, in irresistible attraction pulsing between them all the more as her gaze shifted to Clarke’s lips. Neither of them noticed that they had stopped walking.

“Good God, this power you have gained over me. Are you perhaps a witch come to ensnare me?” Lexa whispered. 

“I should ask you the same thing my dear, for I feel positively enthralled by your closeness and find myself never wanting to leave your side.” Clarke whispered back, her head tilting a fraction closer.

The sharp cry of a bird of prey startled them out of each other’s embrace before their lips inevitably sought out one another. As she glanced around Lexa became keenly aware of how exposed they were on the slope of one of the small hills that surrounded the mansion. The confusion and uncertainty she felt previously reared its head again, wondering if what they were doing was not in fact inappropriate. ‘But how could it be? Did the Greeks not say that beauty was inherently good?’ Lexa felt conflicted. Never in her life had she come quite so alive as with Clarke but none of the books she had read, which made up the majority of her worldly experience, described such an inexplicable pull between two women.

She stepped out of Clarke’s embrace, her face softening with an apologetic look. “I feel much too exposed here. Shall we continue our walk?” She asked wishing that the tone of her voice would convey to Clarke all that she found incapable of turning into words.

For the briefest of moments Clarke tensed up as the uncomfortable bile of worry filled her gut but found her ailment cured by Lexa’s gentle smile and earnest expression. She cussed at herself for losing herself in the moment despite Lexa’s clear wishes to secure themselves some privacy. She herself had been oblivious to the need of it until Lexa voiced her confusion and even now she was unsure if what they were experiencing could be wrong. ‘After all is this not the same as what I saw all those women share at school? If so many are doing it…’

“Of course my dear.” Clarke replied and kept her distance so as to not hinder their progress. Per force of the pull she still felt enslaved to she was obliged to carry their empty picnic basket in her left hand to avoid attempting to reach out for Lexa again.

 


 

Clarke felt anticipation bubble deep inside her chest with each step that brought them closer to Lexa’s bedchamber. For a brief moment wished Lexa had been of humbler means for the journey from their picnic site to the door of said room appeared to Clarke to take an eternity to brave. Now having been relieved of her burden Clarke found no use for her hands and she clasped them nervously in front of herself, her palm sliding over the wrist of her other hand, its thumb massaging her own skin to feint occupation.

Unsure how to ask for more closeness, for all of their previous interactions occurred of their own accord Clarke stood just inside Lexa’s room, her gaze following her friend as she moved about, removing her shawl to hang it on a peg as she went.

When Lexa turned and saw Clarke awkwardly standing by the door, clearly unsure of what to make of her predicament Lexa felt a surge of affection. ‘She seems to be just as lost as I am in this whirlwind…’ She reached out toward her in invitation. “Come, sit with me.”

Clarke smiled gratefully, momentarily relieved by the comfort of following instruction. She was habitually of a confidently initiative nature, keen on exploring that which lay unknown to her inquisitive mind. Yet the vast mystery of this uncharted territory had turned her a shade timid. Intuitively feeling that she and Lexa should match their pace in this discovery she felt reassured that Lexa was so quick to take initiative when she herself was at a loss. 

She sat gingerly on the settee, excitement and anticipation bubbling happily in her chest as her fingers traced Lexa’s cheek. Lexa moved almost involuntarily nuzzling her cheek against the warm palm of Clarke’s hand. When her lips grazed the soft skin she pressed against it more fully, leaving a wet patch in the wake of her kiss. 

‘God, Clarke…whatever spell you have put on me… I beseech you to never take it off.’ Lexa thought what she dared not voice yet as she basked in the glory of their shared journey. Seeing the familiar mixture of uncertainty and awe mirrored in Clarke’s eyes gave Lexa courage that she just may be able to be Clarke’s companion in exploring this unknown surge of affection.

When she opened her eyes the sight of Clarke sent a shiver down her spine. Her friend’s gaze  had a unique depth to it, the way the black of her eye swallowed the clear blue surrounding it lent her gaze a darkness Lexa only ever saw in Clarke’s eye and even there only just minutes on that slope. There was an alluring magnetism in this depth which she found unable to resist. As she leaned closer her eyes slowly fluttered closed and her lips slightly parted in anticipation of the thrill she was developing a craving for.

Just as she felt the first flutter of Lexa’s breath on her lips Clarke was dismayed at the intrusion of a knock on Lexa’s door. Her posture sagged in defeat, only somewhat consoled by the feeling of sympathy as Lexa voiced her own annoyance with a disappointed mewl. Their gazes locked for a moment as they both sat straighter, the spark of an unvoiced promise stirring the flames of something unnamed within their souls. 

“Enter.” Lexa said imperiously as she fought to rein her temper.

“Miss Woods, Miss Griffin, dinner will be served very shortly.” Annie said, politely standing just by the open door. 

Lexa fought the spark if ire from her eyes, the very notion of food being farthest from her mind. “Thank you Annie. Perhaps you might send us up a plate each.” Lexa said in a tone that clearly indicated it was not a suggestion. However, when halfway through her command Annie bit her bottom lip nervously Lexa squinted her eyes, annoyed at the sure expectation of being defied. She knew her maids well, most of them having served her family since her uncle took her under his wings and Annie only ever bit her lips when she was conflicted by opposing instructions.

“I’m sorry Miss. Sir Gustus very clearly told me to bring you down for dinner.” Annie said timidly.

“Of course. Than dine we shall.” Lexa said with an air of acceptance, not wishing to punish the messenger with the wrath of her ire. The unwitting maid was, after all, innocent. “You can go, Annie. We shall be downstairs momentarily.” 

The moment the door closed Lexa’s emotions jostled to make an appearance on her features. She was overwhelmed by the lingering annoyance of having been interrupted combined with a new surge of curious apprehension. Not having a confident knowledge of what to make of her uncle was unfamiliar to Lexa. She had never had cause to wonder if he approved of something or not, his behaviour had always given her clues as clear as day.

Her gaze locked with Clarke’s again who had since then regained her composure, resigned to the fate of having to endure polite conversation. “Well… I suppose we should go downstairs. Best not let uncle Gus wait for too long.”

 


 

“Impeccable timing as ever, Alexandra.” Sir Gustus greeted them with approval. 

He was sat at the head of the long table that stretched along the length the dining hall. It was a well-polished masterpiece of craftsmanship as far as Clarke could tell. The surface gleamed proudly, it had clearly been freshly polished for the occasion. Clarke had not paused to count but estimated that it could easily sit twenty or even thirty people when employed to its capacity. As at present there were only three sets of dinnerware laid out much of the table had been left bare. She only afforded a cursory glance at the legs of the table but noticed that they were ornately decorated before they reached the table and sat down on either side of Sir Gustus.

“Sir Gustus, thank you again for having me.” Clarke thanked politely after she had been seated. She was grateful that dinner appeared to be treated as an informal family affair for she had always thought that it had been awkward sitting down at formal or even semi-formal occasions. Most footmen had difficulties calculating the placement of her chair and either ended up uncomfortably pressing its edge up against her shins or else far away enough that she was obliged to pull it closer after politely accepting the useless assistance. That evening, however, the servants stood by the walls barely visible in soft glow of the candle light and appearing out of thin air at just the right time to offer assistance when needed.

The supper laid out before her seemed absolutely superb. In the centre of the triangle the three of the diners formed there was a pie and as the butler cut into it she recognized it as a veal and ham pie. On the side dishes there were pressed brisket of beef, salads, there was rice, shaped into perfect mounds. Stewed fruit accompanied the meats and there were of course, in the event that any of the diners should feel uneasy about the stomach, laid out butter with biscuits, bread and cheeses.*

Clarke being the guest of the house was served first. She graciously accepted a slice of pie but declined on the beef, its meat being rather heavy on her stomach, and requested salad and fruit sides. Politely waiting for everyone else to be served, Clarke watched with interest as the butler and footmen worked seamlessly together to pile the preferred dishes and sides on their Master and Mistress’ plates. Unsurprisingly, Clarke noted, Sir Gustus took healthy helpings of meats with rice.  Lexa took thin slices of beef with a side of fruit and instructed the waiting footman to toast and butter some bread for her.

When the servants retreated a respectable distance away to afford privacy to the diners yet be conveniently close should any of their glasses need filling Sir Gustus addressed Clarke. “And how are you finding Woodfield, Miss Griffin?”

“The gardens are magnificent, Sir” Clarke replied politely between bites. As the savoury taste spread in her mouth she hummed in contentment for a moment. “As well as the mastery of your cook. I must commend him.” 

“Ah but you have yet had the pleasure of one of his grand dinner menus. That will surly be rectified at the ball. You have invited her, Alexandra?” Sir Gustus turned briefly to his niece.

“Uncle Gus! What a thing to ask, really.” Lexa replied, astonished at the ludicrousness of the question. “But of course I have invited Clarke.”

“Very good. And she shall be the guest of honour?” It was more of a statement than a question, the upending lilt in his voice was rather an afterthought. 

“Oh no, Sir, I insisted that I should not.” Clarke hurried to explain. 

Sir Gustus raised an eyebrow in surprise and for a moment Clarke felt as though the man had seized her up with his shrewd glance. “Well it is not a man’s place to meddle in such dealings of women. However, I had been given the impression that you were to be properly introduced to society this summer?” 

Clarke stared at him with rounded eyes, even her hand holding the fork had stopped mid-motion. She was infinitely grateful to Lexa when she hurried to her rescue and drew Sir Gustus’ attention to herself so as to allow Clarke to compose herself. 

“And pray who have you been conferring with?” Lexa asked, herself surprised but significantly less intimidated. 

“Miss Griffin’s uncle came to call after you had been introduced.” Sir Gustus said simply. “But I do not understand your surprise. It is the natural order of things that men should acquaint themselves with one another when members of their household become…such intimate friends” He raised the wine glass to his lips before continuing “particularly as he so happens to be the sire of your suitor as well.”

Lexa blushed furiously at the mention of Finn, likely reminded of the web of rumours she had nearly found herself entangled in. Clarke noted that Sir Gustus’ eyes narrowed almost imperceptibly, assessing and more than likely misinterpreting Lexa’s reaction. She felt helpless to intervene, for what was there to say? Lexa had been rather secretive about her relations with Finn. She was only certain that she had not given herself to him.

“But Lexa quite knows how much I detest such attention. I was truly relieved when she agreed not to make me guest of honour.” Clarke attempted to divert the flow of conversation back at herself.

Sir Gustus hummed in acknowledgement but otherwise remained silent. For a minute he busied himself with his plate which offered a brief respite to both Clarke and Lexa who seized the moment to share a look over the dinner table. Had the three of them not been seated quite so closely, or had Sir Gustus been a man of smaller stature Clarke would have been tempted to seek out Lexa’s foot with her own to nudge in reassurance but the terrifying possibility of bumping into Sir Gustus’ legs and the possible embarrassment it may cause kept such impulses at bay. 

“And what of professional attention?” Sir Gustus said after a few bites.

“I beg your pardon, Sir?” Clarke asked to clarify.

“I hear you have been providing aid to my niece’s ailment. One I have not heard of myself.” Sir Gustus said in an unreadable tone. The shaggy growth of hair covering the majority of his face making it all the more difficult to read his expression. “What is your impression? Have you come upon the root of it?” 

Clarke’s mind seized in stupor for a moment, disbelieving what her ear so clearly heard. ‘Is he…testing me?’ Clarke wondered, moderately insulted but possibility. She schooled her features into the professionally blank mask they were taught to adopt when discussing the conditions of patients.

“It is nothing serious, Sir. Bad posture while she is secluded with a book all day.” Clarke said solemnly. To all appearances she stared confidently into Sir Gustus’s eyes as she delivered her verdict. However beneath the facade of professionalism, Clarke felt nervous. Her eyes were trained at Sir Gustus for fear that her face would betray her should she chance a glance at Lexa. Lexa’s natural posture was in fact impeccable but even so remaining in the same position unmoving had an adverse effect on the subjects of her art. That, however, was something she was obliged to keep a secret.

“I see. Well I am certainly glad that you have not only been able to provide her relief but managed to lure her out of the house.” Sir Gustus said. “I have not seen her take fresh air quite as much in the past.” 

Clarke accepted the praise with modest bow but remained silent, not particularly comfortable discussing Lexa in such a way in her presence. Despite the lingering defensiveness she felt, she was grateful that the rest of dinner was spent discussing considerably less agitating topics ranging from botany to music to history. While Clarke had acceptably broad knowledge in most common conversation topics it was a taxing task for she felt compelled to show Sir Gustus that she would not be caught out of her depth.

As dinner drew to a close and the servants cleared away the remains Sir Gustus stood from the table. “Miss Griffin…I am aware that is not customary…but perhaps you might like to join me in my study? Do you smoke?”

Clarke was caught by surprise both by the invitation as well as the question. In all the time they had spent together Clarke had yet to smoke in front of Lexa. Her smoking was less of a habit and more of a social fancy. In fact she had not taken her cigarette case out of her drawer in some weeks.

“It is most generous of you to ask, Sir Gustus. Perhaps another evening? I feel I may have overindulged myself today.” Clarke deflected the offer politely. Not only was she rather nervous of what further subjects Sir Gustus would attempt to test her knowledge, she also dearly wished to confer privately with Lexa. Dinner had been quite a strain on her nerves and she was anxious to learn what insight Lexa might have.

“Very well. I wish you a pleasant night then.” Sir Gustus said his goodbyes cordially and retreated to the privacy of his study.

 


 

“Good lord, I thought I should die…” Clarke groaned as soon as they were behind closed doors. “I had not quite expected to be examined under the pretext of supper.”

“Examined?” Lexa asked, confused. “What on Earth are you talking about, Clarke?”

“Why! Sir Gustus. The way he questioned me about the massage I had given you! The broad range of topics he cross-questioned me in.” Clarke all but exclaimed, agitated. It was impossible that Lexa should not have picked up on it. ‘She had been sitting right across from me!’

Lexa smiled at her indulgently at first but her smile gradually broadened into an amused grin. “My dear, Uncle Gus was not cross-questioning you. He was honouring you.” Lexa said not unkindly although there was a considerable edge of humour in her tone. 

“Honouring me?” Clarke asked, nearly scandalized at the notion.

“Quite. Had you not noticed how animated his talk was? He was enjoying himself!” Lexa now chuckled openly as she approached Clarke and grabbed her arms gently. “Clarke, my darling, he even invited you to smoke with him. I would have assumed you would have understood his meaning. He was treating you as he does any man of science that came to visit.” 

Clarke stood staring at Lexa in awe, surprised into silence by her friend’s interpretation. She thought back on the animated discussion they shared and belatedly realized that indeed Sir Gustus never exhibited any of the arrogance or patronization she was used to from the men she could never call her peers. ‘Is…this what it feels like to be treated as their equal?’ She wondered silently. Finally she laughed at the ridiculousness of her own folly.

“I guess I have never been treated as an equal by learned men. I was not expecting it. Did I not make a fool of myself? Did I seem defensive?” Clarke asked, anxious of the first impression she might have made.

“No you did not!” Lexa responded immediately. “You were perfect…you are…perfect.” She said, her tone softening as she stumbled over her words, suddenly aware of their close proximity again. The feeling had crept upon her without notice. One moment she was entirely preoccupied with Clarke’s anxious ramblings the next her mind found it incapable of focusing on anything but the way Clarke’s hands found purchase on her waist. She felt the air grow pleasantly heavy around and between them as their eyes silently communicated with each other, drawing one another into a closer embrace.

“You are…quite perfect yourself.” Clarke whispered, her words ending in a tender smile. “Do you think…” she began to say but her words trailed off without finishing the question, biting her bottom lip instead.

“Yes?” Lexa prompted, eyes searching the pair of clear blues for a meaning.

“If I should attempt to kiss you… do you think we’ll be interrupted a third time?” Clarke asked, smirking playfully. 

“Confident! What makes you think I want to?” Lexa sassed without much conviction. She had revisited the memory of the kiss they had shared a hundred times and the unwelcome interruptions only heightened her anticipation of doing it again. Disconcerting thoughts of confusion attempted to intrude on the moment but they were easily drowned out by want. Lexa found that she wanted to kiss Clarke, wanted to show her how much she adored her. It was, after all, but an innocent act of love. ‘Surly it lacks the… impurity… that would accompany kissing men…’ Lexa had reasoned with herself throughout the evening as she attempted to understand the difference. 

“Your eyes betray you, my dear. You have been looking it my mouth the same way I have been at yours.” Clarke replied in a cheeky tone.

“Hmpf!” Lexa hummed in an act of playful defiance. “Well I should be loathe to be quite so predictable I think. Miss Griffin, I will now go and change into my nightgown. Perhaps you may want to do the same.” And before Clarke could react she was out of her embrace and halfway through the room towards the adjoining chamber, the merry sound of her victorious chuckle trailing behind her. Clarke could do naught but stare after her dumbfounded, her mouth slightly ajar with a bemused expression on her face.

 


 

Clarke was sat comfortably on the settee they had occupied together before supper, her knees pulled high to support the book she had been perusing for some minutes. It was a volume of poems written by one William McGonagall**, an author she had not heard of before. The poetry itself was abysmally terrible but it served to occupy her mind.

Her attention was instantly diverted by the sound of Lexa’s voice. “Have you found anything of interest?”

“No. Just very bad poetry.” Clarke admitted with a playful roll of her eyes as she made room for Lexa on the settee.

“Oh you found the volume of that McGonagall fellow.” Lexa chuckled merrily. “He is quite untalented, is he not? Scottish chap. I read him for the humour of it.” 

“I see.” Clarke said as she dropped the volume on the floor, its terrible literature already a distant memory in her mind as Lexa crowded her space comfortably. 

“He is a wonderful pick me up. Whenever I am insecure about my own accomplishments I remind myself that this man managed to make a name for himself with his lack of talent.” Lexa explained as if to validate the presence of the ghastly volume in her room. 

“You’ve never told me what you do?” Clarke prompted, her curiosity piqued. 

“I sing. And I am rather good at the piano.” Lexa said.

“Will you show me? Tomorrow?” Clarke asked, genuinely interested. She always admired people who were in any measure accomplished with musical instruments for she herself had never managed to learn.

“Gladly.” Lexa’s reply was simple but her tone held a warmth she found she only ever exhibited when she conversed with Clarke. She scooted closer and when Clarke opened her arms in invitation Lexa did not hesitate to lay her head on her friend’s shoulder, enjoying the warm closeness. “I do so enjoy your closeness. I shall miss you immeasurably when you leave.” 

“About that…” Clarke said but trailed off.

“Yes…?” Lexa prompted without moving from her comfortable position.

“I have asked my mother in my last letter if she might allow you to visit, should you be so inclined.” Clarke said, her tone nervous but hopeful. She was surprised when Lexa’s head shot up so fast they nearly bumped together.

“Have you? And what did she say?” Lexa questioned. Her eyes were wide with an eager glint, silently answering Clarke’s implied question.

“I have only sent the letter some days ago. I have yet received a reply. I hope there shall be one before I depart.” Clarke said happily, now confident that Lexa would say yes if only her mother would too. 

“Oh it would be glorious to visit you!” Lexa said enthusiastically.

“Yeah?” Clarke asked, basking in Lexa’s happiness.

“Of course, darling!” Lexa exclaimed, moved by the silent confirmation the invitation provided that Clarke was just as keen on continuing their friendship. “Thank you for asking!” she planted a sloppy kiss on Clarke’s cheek. And then another. And another. Gradually her kisses became gentler and lingered longer, her lips dragging along Clarke’s skin before  breaking contact with a faint squelching noise. She gradually moved lower towards Clarke’s jaw blindly, her eyes having fluttered closed long ago. She was caught by surprise when Clarke inclined her head and the next kiss landed squarely on Clarke’s lips. A soft mewl escaped her throat as Clarke boldly fitted their mouths together, gently sucking on her bottom lip before releasing it. 

Lexa thought they had explored all the sensations their kisses provided but when the tip of Clarke’s tongue brushed against her lip her breath hitched and she gasped into their next kiss, instinctively increasing its pressure. Caught up in the whirlwind of sensation she attempted to mirror Clarke’s gesture but deepened the kiss considerably. The moan that tore from both of their throats left them dazed and panting heavily, momentarily breaking apart to catch their breaths and thoughts.