She has not paid much attention to the terrazzo flooring in her room until Lexa’s pacing draws it to the broken lines. The fragments of marble, quartz, granite and glass, Clarke observes now, combine to make the jagged into the beautiful.
Clarke wonders if that metaphor applies here.
“Fuck,” Lexa says, leather boots stalking back and forth on the terrazzo. “I’m sorry,” comes the immediate apology which Clarke knows, hearing the anguish in her voice, is not for the uncharacteristic cursing.
“Hey, hey, no.” Clarke wants to reach out to her but the few feet separating them feels like miles. “You didn’t do anything wrong. There’s nothing to apologise for.”
“How can you say that,” Lexa bristles at her attempt to comfort. Her features are drawn taut. There’s a wild look in her eyes, an unreadable conflict that has turned vibrant green into stormy grey. “God, you, I—” She stammers to convey a complete thought then deflates to conclude, “I crossed a line.”
Lexa’s face falls. Her movements still, stopped dead in her tracks. She looks ready to unravel like the used bandage loosely hanging from her arm that Clarke was only halfway to finished unwrapping to redress the wound.
“Come here,” Clarke softly implores. She does extend her hand to Lexa at this, palm upturned, waiting.
After a long beat of silence, shoulders sagged, Lexa approaches to sit gingerly next to Clarke, careful to keep the gap between them wider than from where she sat before. She doesn’t take the outstretched hand but does turn her body to allow Clarke access to her injured arm again.
It’s quiet work for the next while as hearts recalibrate, presumably Lexa does the same replaying of the last minutes to process what transpired.
Lexa winces when the gauze tape accidentally grazes against her raw skin. The wound has reopened, Clarke realises once the final layer is gone. She leaves Lexa for a moment to return with her emergency sewing kit from the en-suite bathroom.
“Hold still,” Clarke instructs, keeping her voice gentle so as not to scare Lexa who looks a second away from bolting, relieved she hadn’t already in the minute that Clarke left her. “This is going to hurt like a bitch, but I have to stitch up that wound, okay?”
Her speech isn’t very stately, but behind closed doors with Lexa, convention tends to give way to the soft tenor of a life within a life.
Lexa nods and looks away toward an unseeing spot on the vaulted ceiling, attention fixed squarely on the ornate moulding. Neither of them comment on the wetness of her gaze and that the tears pooling there have little to do with the cut Clarke’s tending to. It’s not often Clarke has the chance to play nurse but the lessons from the Royal Academy do come in handy, especially when she’s dismissed the on-call physician and, against the protest of her advisors, has taken Lexa’s care into her very hands while ignoring her own brush with danger.
“Thank you for saving me.”
Lexa gives an acknowledging nod but remains silent. There isn’t much to answer for it. They both know it’s her job. They both understand the risks involved. Seconds before the cacophony and Clarke was rushed from the podium, they both recognised what the look of terror and panic on Lexa’s face meant. They both live with the knowledge that Lexa will always save Clarke—at a great personal cost.
“I don’t understand,” Lexa finally speaks while the thread makes its end journey. “Why are you not mad?”
She looks upset on Clarke’s behalf, more than enough for the two of them.
Clarke sighs. Wordlessly completes her task, tying the knot to secure the suture placement as she was taught.
Satisfied with her handiwork, Clarke takes her time to put away the medical supplies and buys herself more breathing room to collect her thoughts.
When the seconds run out and what’s left is dissonant time between two heartbeats, she looks up into tear-filled eyes and sees a quiet longing there that is a mirror of her own Clarke has not allowed herself to admit out loud until now. She doesn’t know why she ever bothered with denial, the eventuality of this moment is as inevitable as the apricot trees flowering every spring in the South Gardens. A gift from the Japanese, they sway in the May breeze beyond the arch windows presently casting her and Lexa in a soft pink hue under the faint glow of a setting sun.
The fruit reminds her of Lexa. Planting apricots require patience. They exude a tender fragrance and sweetness that is said to have been cultivated by time and is breathtaking in bloom.
A bunchful of the white blossoms float in clear glasses of water set on her dresser, thoughtfully hand-picked and placed unspoken every morning by the hardened hands wringing themselves in front of her.
“Because it was a line I wanted you to cross.”
Her words should be too soft to be heard but in the cavernous space of Clarke’s private chambers they might as well have been shouted because the gasp she hears from Lexa matches in volume.
Lexa’s eyes snap to hers then flicker to her mouth, to where her lips are still stinging a pleasant soreness from their kiss. A kiss that shouldn’t—couldn’t ever—have happened, but Clarke’s life was in danger tonight and Lexa seemed unable to handle the consequence of it in any other way but to sacrifice months long restraint.
Black Knights are the elite branch of the Royal Guards. To the outside world, they are known colloquially as agents, in appearance much like any other intelligence and security agency charged with protecting their nation’s highest leaders and officials. Inside the ivy walls of Polis, Arkadia’s historic capital and centre of governance, they have no modern day equivalent. Secretive, stoic, deadly. An Old Order of mystic origin trained to be invisible and at once everywhere. Trained to protect the Royal Family against all threats and enemies with brutal precision and swift execution. Trained to be as devastating as a bullet through paper while as light-footed as the snow that blankets Arkadian winters in white. They operate in silence and with quiet grace and honour, a fealty sworn by the sword and recited from bowed heads and bended knees. Restraint is their calling card. The first and last measure of control.
Lexa showed none of it when she suddenly pulled Clarke into a kiss, mouth open and hungry.
It shouldn’t have taken Clarke by surprise. Lexa was thrumming tonight with an energy atypical of her usually even temperament, frantic to ensure Clarke’s continued safety after they had retired to her quarters. Clarke had craved refuge away from the cameras and the type of public attention her attempted assassination had stirred. She’d pushed everyone out of her drawing room as soon as the security debriefing ended, wanting to stop her retinue’s needless fussing. Spent the next hour on the phone to convince her parents that they needn’t cut their overseas trip short—safer anyway for the King and Queen to keep away until the dust settles. It’s a PR nightmare more than anything, which Clarke insisted she can handle on her own.
She was fine, barely a scratch thanks to Lexa, and was more concerned that her guard had caught the wrong end of shrapnel in her haste to secure Clarke out of harm’s way.
Despite the doctors’ triple reassurance it was nothing grave to worry about, Clarke wanted to check on the wound herself, give the sutures a second look. She didn’t anticipate to learn Lexa was actually not fine before she could finish her assessment. Emotionally, anyway. Something else must have detonated along with the bomb because Lexa’s anger over her own refusal to get properly looked at, had boiled over into the most urgent press of lips. Fevered movements of her mouth, an intensive search to feel Clarke. To ascertain she’s alive and well and still within Lexa’s grasp.
How a kiss could be so hard but devastatingly gentle Clarke didn’t have time to ponder because, like a wild fire, it consumed everything in its path including her capacity for cogent thoughts. Her chest burned and the heat low in her stomach simmered.
But then Clarke unconsciously moaned, breaking the fever, and Lexa’s actions had finally caught up to her. She severed their connection as abruptly as she had tied them. Shock had propelled her clear across the room, followed by profuse and profound apologies. Had Lexa stopped to consider it, she would have realised Clarke reciprocated. She kissed back.
“Your Royal Highness,” she hears Lexa call her back into the present, as if the title will reintroduce much needed distance into their proximity.
“How many times must I ask you to call me Clarke?” Clarke tsks, completely ignoring the tenuous boundaries of their relationship Lexa aims to reset. Even if every endeavour to get Lexa to use her forename in private address has failed, she keeps trying. Clarke rarely offers the privilege but Lexa is an exception to the general rules that govern her day to day. She deadpans, “I’d hoped almost dying would finally get you to say my name.”
“Clarke,” Lexa concedes. The lilt of her Northern accent, and the softness with which the consonants break, give her name a sound and an affection Clarke has not heard before.
She takes in Lexa’s tiredness. Her normally pristine suit is slightly rumbled, covered in a thin layer of dust from the blast’s debris. Her hair is down and out of place from its usual tight bun, lip gloss smudged, eyes confused and desperate for an explanation, she looks so beautiful. Lexa’s gaze falls to Clarke’s mouth.
“I know, me too,” Clarke answers an unasked question and smiles, it’s soft and aching for all the things that have gone unsaid between them. “I’ve been wanting to kiss you since you tailed me on my holiday and sat in the sweltering heat in your full suit without one complaint,” she recalls of their first meeting.
Lexa’s eyes widen in surprise. “That was over a year ago.”
Clarke shrugs and laughs at the memory, “I had asked Anya for one vacation where I didn’t feel like I was being watched. The aviator sunglasses weren’t very discreet. What happened to blending in with the surroundings?”
“It was a private island.”
All the more it made Lexa’s arrival extremely conspicuous. Descending from the black chopper in black slacks and matching blazer, she stood out like a sore thumb against the beach sand. Knowing her head of security, the obnoxiously loud landing was deliberate, Anya’s form of communication a clear message to Clarke that she’s selective about taking orders from her.
Wherever Clarke looked, Lexa was always somehow in her line of sight, an unmoving figure. It was infuriating. But then, feeling the beads of sweat pooling in her bikini, she sympathised with the agent’s sense of duty. She had retreated back into her villa and returned to introduce herself to her new guard by way of tossing Lexa a spare pair of shorts and t-shirt. Pointed to a sun umbrella and muttered, “Tell Anya, I don’t need a babysitter, but since she won’t listen to me anyway, you could at least be useful to not suffer a sunstroke.”
“I didn’t have time to change,” Lexa had grumbled, her first spoken words to Clarke. She looked as happy to be there as Clarke wanted to have her but nonetheless took the offered clothes with a grateful nod. Clarke overlooked the lack of her title and formal address.
She had the grace to look guilty about ditching her previous detail, the fourth one in four days, and Lexa apparently was the closest agent in the area most qualified not to get lost. Closest being, half a world away then dropped into the middle of the Indo-Pacific Ocean.
Sentinel, Lexa sat for the week that Clarke read two novels and went sailing and indulged in the wild variety of local food, all the while ignoring the repeated tug in her chest whenever she looked at Lexa and, despite those aviators, could tell she was staring beyond the bounds of professionalism.
In fits and starts since then, Clarke had learned to accept Lexa’s constancy in her life. With an increase in domestic unrest upon her return and the potential threat of an insurgency heightening the ruling class’s security vulnerability, Lexa was then assigned to her around the clock, never more than an arms length away during the day and little but a thin wall separating adjacent rooms during the night.
They ate together, walked together, attended every public and private event together. A closeness so minuscule that sometimes that thin wall would be penetrated by Clarke calling out to her in a small voice when she couldn’t sleep, and while Lexa rarely responded beyond a laconic hum to indicate she’s listening, Clarke talked and talked as if she were an active conversation partner; about who visited and who didn’t; about what her friends in Paris has to say about her friends in London; about the endless meetings with ministers and foreign dignitaries; about the trivial and mundane as much as the philosophers and theorists and linguists she studied as part of a well-rounded education; about the privileges and frustrations of being an heir-apparent living in a gilded cage.
So close that Clarke considered her a friend and a confidante more than hired help with a killer shot, and relished the time spent twosome reading in her father’s private study, a collection nearly rivalling the state library, or strolling in her mother’s lush gardens, acres upon acres of seasonal and perennial blooms, or sketching on a picnic blanket under the canopy of apricot orchards and fingers brushing reaching for the same slice of fruit, or skinny-dipping in the lake under moonlight when Lexa’s eyes would remain fixedly above her neck.
So close that she occasionally played up the haughty princess stereotype to get a rise out of Lexa, triumphant when a smile slips past Lexa’s disaffected veneer and brightens the gold flecks in her green eyes, the curve of Lexa’s mouth burning an afterimage into her brain and making it difficult if not ineffectual to ignore the crush on her guard that had been developing and intensifying month to month.
So close that when they ventured into the city for her monthly escape from the monotonous country air and the confines of the palatial grounds, Lexa held her hand to keep her close wading through the urban crowds, and Clarke could pretend they were like any couple shopping in the fashionable districts, Clarke in disguise as a tourist, Lexa her paramour. So close that, tucked away in an alleyway hiding from potential photogs pegged a block back, Lexa’s arms protective around her waist in the pretence of a lover’s embrace to shield Clarke’s picture from being taken, Clarke’s head buried into the crook of Lexa’s neck, she could smell the citrus notes of the orange cake they had shared for lunch.
So close that just as Clarke thought of pressing her mouth against Lexa’s skin, they were discovered by an insurgent instead of the paparazzi, Lexa had disarmed the assailant before he could draw his weapon even if she couldn’t do anything about the spit that splattered onto her face, scooped Clarke up in her arms and carried her to the other end of the block where the chauffeur and their armoured vehicle was waiting.
So close that Clarke remained practically in her lap for the ride home, still holding tight onto Lexa’s neck, shaking in shock, Lexa’s thumb absently drawing circles of comfort into her hip bone as she calmly directed Gustus the safest route out, the scene unfolding through tinted, bullet-proof windows from hard concrete jungle and towering skyscrapers to tree-lined boulevards all the way to the deep forests of Terra Nova, Arkadia’s perimetered royal residences.
So close that Clarke stood by her side while her parents—the monarchs—were livid the Black Knight had put their only daughter—the future throne—at risk of public exposure in the current volatile political climate and Lexa took the brunt of their constitutional and parental worry with a stoicism far more measured than the passionate defence Clarke mounted at her turn to be lectured, shouldering all blame for the security breach and arguing Lexa’s innocence and bravery, to prevent her immediate dismissal.
So close that it became painful on the nights when the status of being next-in-line was too lonely to bear and she would drunkenly entertain intimate company and then couldn’t meet Lexa’s eyes over breakfast the next morning. Although Lexa usually dined with Clarke at her wordless invitation, on these mornings she would stand some feet back stationed next to the servers even after the verbal invite had been issued, observing protocol that they were normally both content to eschew.
Clarke could feel Lexa’s eyes bore into the back of her head and wanted nothing more than to tell her whose face she was picturing when she moaned and cried before she came loudly on her own fingers. It certainly wasn’t any of the random escorts vetted by the court because she’d sent them home early, each disappointed but respectful, unable to go through with anything more than kissing, which in some way felt like cheating.
Lexa never asked her about the strangers in her bed nor why there was ever only one set of sounds emanating from her room. She seemed to shut down from the time they part at Clarke’s door until after coffee and scones have been served, and Clarke didn’t correct the assumptions she may have made about what happens in between.
Because there was a line they weren’t supposed to cross. As thick as generations of noble lineage and centuries of decorum, and as thin as the reed of Clarke’s voice becomes calling Lexa’s name with her hand between her legs.
But the longer she looks at Lexa here and now, gorgeous and in pain, the blurrier the line gets.
“I wanted to kiss you then. I want to kiss you now.”
Clarke is willing to meet her at the line, maybe they can cross it together this time.
Clarke braves to cup her face and is relieved to face no resistance.
Lexa’s eyes flutter close before they reopen a washed with emotion. “What are you doing, Clarke?”
To show her, she leans forward, intent clear, and stops a breath short to give Lexa the space to say no. Silence and anticipation hang thick for a moment, then, on a sigh, Lexa brings their mouths together again. Soft and slow, a second meeting less frantic than the first, Clarke folds into the kiss the way she has wanted to for months. Wholly consumed in the scent and taste and touch of Lexa.
One of them whines and the other answers with tongue, wet and warm and so indescribably heady. Lexa kisses the way she looks at Clarke, longing and affection clinging to the edge of the unattainable. Clarke presses back, kisses harder, deeper, doing her best to signal she isn’t that far out of reach.
It’s not clear who initiates a change in angle but when they come together again it’s very clear neither is willing to separate anytime soon.
But then for a second time in an hour, Lexa seems to remember who Clarke is and who they can’t be to each other. She pulls away, less abrupt but no less jarring.
“We can’t, I’m sorry,” Lexa whispers, panting. “I can’t. It was a mistake. We shouldn’t have done that.” At Clarke’s flash of hurt, she softens into a helpless look that says, it’s not for a lack of want.
“Give me a good reason why.”
“Beside the ethical, moral, cultural and class issues?” Lexa challenges.
“Yes,” Clarke tries anyway.
“Look at what happened tonight, only I stood between an attempt on your life and the end of it.” Lexa scrubs at her face. “Can’t you understand, I almost lost you and it’s unforgivable if anything would’ve happened—”
“But you stopped it,” Clarke interjects. “I trust you to always put duty first.”
Lexa shakes her head, a vehement rebuff.
“I can’t protect you Clarke if I’m unfocused.”
“You seemed fairly focused a second ago.” Clarke crosses her arms, digging in.
Lexa looks unimpressed at her facetiousness. That’s not what she meant and Clarke knows it. “I can’t be feeling like that when I’m in the field,” Lexa waves a hand vaguely gesturing between their bodies, “I need objective distance to do my job well.”
“It’s because you were so close to me that I’m safe,” Clarke counter-argues, inverting Lexa’s perspective. “Lincoln or Anya would not have gotten to me in time.”
There’s no question about the other Black Knights’ capabilities but Clarke is certain they would not have read the subtle change in her body language when she saw a reflective flash of metal from the back of the conference room. Not the way Lexa had immediately picked up on the minute shift and placed her body in front of Clarke’s then pushed her to the ground a split second before shots went off and a small explosion caused chaos in the Griffin Wing of the university hospital where Clarke was making an announcement about new patron investments from her family.
“It seems to me you did your job and it’s Anya who has to answer for the failure of her vetting process to verify the press credentials of a rebel posing as a journalist. You did nothing wrong. So, tell me, why can’t we have this?”
Lexa looks stumped by her sound logic. In frustration, she responds, “Because nothing good will come of it!” The bellowing sound of her voice echoes. Once the reverberations cease, softer, she says, “If we start something, there is no earthly way I will be able to walk away from it. To walk away from you.”
“Why would you have to?”
“It wouldn’t be my choice to make. Your weekly income is more than what I will earn in a hundred lifetimes over. And that is merely your personal wealth, not accounting for your family. Your father’s library alone holds half of the world’s knowledge, the first editions in any case. Your inner circle consists of heads of states while your outer circle includes Nobel recipients and Pulitzer laureates. You will have an army to command and a people to lead. You have a medical degree in addition to a double Master’s in foreign relations and global health, you can choose to practice or go into policy. You also have an artist’s hand talented enough to fill the Great Halls here and the galleries out there if you decide on art instead of medicine or diplomacy.”
“Painting’s a hobby,” Clarke clarifies, cheeks pink at Lexa’s padding of her resumé, social clout and bank account. “I could give you a raise.”
Clarke knows it’s a weak offer. The size of Lexa’s annual stipend isn’t the problem. It’s relatively generous by most royal service standards anyway.
“I’m not penniless but all the gold in the world wouldn’t change that you can’t choose me. My point is, my options are much narrower than yours. I am only a foot soldier. I would be a complication.”
The meaning Lexa has brought into her life, is doubtless immeasurably greater than all the gold and velvet curtains and rare books in her possession, Clarke wants to argue. That fact is simple.
Black Knights’ education and pedigree aren’t a trifling matter either. They are as immersed in the rigour of high society as they are adept with a weapon. Lexa can better quote from the classics than some of the scholars who were in charge of Clarke’s tutelage. She can waltz circles around the best ballroom dancers, modern ballet being an embedded part of their curriculum to improve footwork. Clarke knows this because on nights when Lexa lets her guard down, and with the encouragement of liquor stolen from the downstair kitchens, they have danced the length of the Grand Hall barefooted, drawing the expanse of the mahogany hardwood floor as Lexa swirls and spins Clarke until laughter reduces their movements to a gentle sway.
Lexa, with the words of poets in her head and the music of Italian concertos and Russian ballads guiding her feet, is far from without class or culture like she earlier raised as an insurmountable issue. No one could accuse her of being a slouch.
But while Clarke is displeased with Lexa’s underselling of her merits, she can acknowledge the power imbalance of Arkadia’s outdated hierarchal system, and is not so naive to assume it doesn’t affect their dynamic. A union with a Black Knight isn’t outright discouraged amongst the aristocracy, though it is uncommon. The laws of courtship are explicit, however, where it concerns the reigning or presumptive monarch—the attachment must be to a line of regal forebears. Yet, if it is their stations that is the worry, then it is a problem for Queen Clarke when she will have the power to change the legal texts and bring the monarchy into this century. Until then, Princess Clarke refuses to any longer let something as trivial as what blood runs through their veins be what keeps them apart.
“Let’s un-complicate things then,” she proposes. “Here, in this room, it’s just you and me. Clarke and Lexa. Not a queen-in-waiting and her knight.”
“It’s not that easy.”
“Why not?” Clarke throws up a hand, unable to keep from sounding exasperated. Her etiquette tutor would have raised a disquieting eyebrow at her most unladylike pout, but she should be forgiven because the solutions she’s throwing at the wall aren’t sticking. “I’m tired of pretending that I don’t want you. If I have to put on another fake smile at a gala, endure the flirtations of nobles too rich to understand subtlety and too poor to buy wit, and then have to go home to an empty bed without the warmth of the one person with whom I wanted to spend my evening, I’m going to scream. Aren’t you lonely? How can you bear it?”
Lexa regards her with an inscrutable expression.
“I must,” she notes softly after weighing her reply ends on a deep sigh. She sits taller. “That is the promise I made.”
Mention of Lexa’s allegiance gives Clarke the opening needed to pivot the conversation and try a different tact.
Taking her cue, Clarke falls back on formalities to make an argument about keeping vows. She switches to the native language of the North, Trigedasleng, adopting Lexa’s regional dialect and the ancient words of the grounder knighthood. “You swore fealty to my father. Will you not swear the same to me once the crown is on my head?”
To her surprise, Lexa quickly shakes hers. No time needed to give it thought.
“I would not. To your father I pledged my life to honour and shield his, and that of his kin. To you, I would give that and more—the one thing that is no longer mine to give away. You already have my heart, Clarke.”
Clarke stares at her stunned by the confession, which is the most emotion Lexa has ever expressed in regard to her true feelings about Clarke, the kiss notwithstanding. She’s silent as Lexa continues,
“Even so, I can not pursue where it wants to go. Head over heart, that is the way of the sword.”
“You don’t even carry a sword,” Clarke gripes, switching back to modern tongue. For ceremonies Lexa does, which is beside the point, but Clarke has never seen it unsheathed. Sensing no further room for movement around the old ways, she tries the direct route. “I want this. I want you.”
They have gone in fruitless circles about duty and honour and the intractability of institutions. But in the end, it comes down to the way her heart lurches when Lexa knocks gentle on her room in the early morning, the sound of a new day together. More than anything though, she never wants to hear it again if it means Lexa stays the night and they can wake up in each other’s arms.
Lexa looks at her pained as if Clarke has reflected the truth back to her, but the resolve on her face signals that the line between want and duty spans the breadth of a kingdom. She rises and turns to leave, resigned to their respective fates.
Clarke catches her by the wrist. Having tasted Lexa’s want and now knowing what it is like to truly kiss her, she can’t let it go so easily.
“Can we have one night at least?” She barters, desperation bleeding into her voice.
“Clarke,” Lexa exhales a shaky breath when Clarke steps forward into her personal space. “I can’t.”
Heart open in supplication, Clarke reaches up to readjust her collar and smoothes a palm from her neck to jaw, tracing the shape of Lexa’s mouth with her thumb until she can feel her Cupid’s bow slightly tremble under its attention.
Clarke tips on her toes to kiss her, and maybe it’s fatigue from an eventful day or the magnetic pull of their desire, or both, Lexa lets her.
Clarke sucks on her bottom lip and licks gentle at the crease in the middle. Lexa answers by opening her mouth and gasping when Clarke sweeps inside. She pulls Clarke flush against her, only leaving enough space for Clarke’s tongue to find hers. No room for titles or stations or obligations.
“One night and I promise I won’t ask for more,” Clarke further negotiates, offering a timescale to tighten the deal.
Lexa moans at Clarke’s nip of teeth and the kiss soon turns heated. Clarke paws at her side, rucking up her shirt, needing to feel skin.
“I can’t,” Lexa repeats but this time her refusal is accompanied by a hiss. “It hurts,” she says, suddenly clutching at where Clarke’s hand has been.
Lust turns to immediate worry. “Did I hurt you?” Clarke scans for injury, not immediately seeing any besides Lexa’s arm that she’s been careful to avoid making contact. “Show me where it hurts.”
When Lexa reluctantly lifts her shirt, it’s Clarke’s turn to let out a gasp. There’s an angry bruise forming on the same side as the injured arm. Lexa must have landed on it in breaking Clarke’s fall.
“Let me see,” she insists past Lexa’s protest that it’s nothing and looks worse than it is. “I’ll be the judge of that.”
While the bruise is having a field day with the colour of her skin, Clarke finds comfort in remembering the doctors had already cleared Lexa for return to immediate service, scans coming up clean in the routine check and reporting no signs of internal bleeding. Clarke had paced outside the exam room nonetheless and couldn’t be convinced by Anya or any member of her security team to follow a different Black Knight and relocate to a safe bunker. “I’m not leaving her,” she had snapped to whomever tried to come near. All pleas using every variety of Clarke’s rank and title went unheard. “Is the palace burning? No? Then I’m staying.”
Even if the grounds of her ancestral home were up in flames, Clarke doesn’t say, she would not move a foot from this door unless Lexa was coming with her.
Her shoulders hadn’t relaxed until she saw Lexa scowl at the attending and yank off the cannula the poor nurse was trying to administer to rehydrate her from the adrenaline rush. Patched up, it wasn’t until her eyes met Clarke’s pair through the glass window that Lexa looked genuinely okay. She had rushed to her side and ushered Clarke, uninjured arm around her shoulder, back to their car and onwards to the residences.
Because of Lexa’s reflexes, they had both walked away from the incident with minimal damage. Still, Clarke is mad that Lexa hid the extent of her pain.
“You should have told me.”
Her reprimand loses its force when she sees Lexa is right. Outside of wicked swelling that’s to be expected, Clarke assesses nothing of additional concern and sighs in relief.
Nonetheless, seeing the bloom of red and purple, Clarke is overcome to do something about it.
It’s not a technique she was taught in medical school but something compels Clarke to drop to her knees, bend her head forward and lay a gentle kiss to the purpling skin.
“Better?” Clarke asks from her position on the ground, peering up with her chin raised.
Lexa gapes at her and seems only capable of nodding at the intimate contact. Her shock is palpable to have Arkadia’s heir kneeling before her.
The question is completely unnecessary given they have already established Lexa’s overall physical health, but with the newly rapid rise and fall of her chest, it looks like Clarke’s unorthodox care may have inaugurated a different kind of crisis.
Her breath hitches further when Clarke presses in again into her stomach and the firm abdominal muscles tighten in nervousness, then, kisses up the length of her side, well past the tender area. Charts a path from one set of ribs to the other, and ends with a series of kisses to her stomach.
She tugs at Lexa’s trousers, undoing the clasp of her belt. Her tongue licks a line and her lips move to whisper against Lexa’s navel, “Let me take care of you for once, alright?”
More than a symbolic gesture to be on her knees, Clarke wants to reciprocate a version of the servitude Lexa has demonstrated to her but Lexa’s hand stops her hand’s further descent.
Although her expression shows how much she wants it too, Clarke sees in the straightening of her spine that it won’t go any further tonight.
She’s urged to rise, Lexa helping her up. Before disappointment can come, Lexa offers an alternative, “Can we just sleep? Would it be okay if I hold you instead?”
It isn’t exactly what Clarke wants, the platonic aspect implicit in the question’s framing, but given the night they had, it might be what they both need. Lexa is asking to stay, a first. Somehow, that’s more intimate than what Clarke was prepared to do to reset the power imbalance between them.
Misunderstanding her hesitation, Lexa scrambles to add, “Or I can take the chaise. As long as I can be near to keep you safe.”
It seems that the thinness of the wall between their rooms is not close enough.
Not trusting her voice won’t wobble, Clarke gives a minute nod and then leads Lexa by the hand to her bed, making her choice clear as to how near she’d like Lexa to be.
Hours later, the wing is quiet when she wakes up. Disoriented, Clarke turns to reach for your clock only to find she can’t. There’s a weight pressing into her back. Lexa.
Memories of last night pour in. The press conference, the hospital, Lexa’s breakdown, their kisses. They had started apart in the night and must have migrated toward each other by morning.
Lexa’s breath on her neck sends a jolt of tingles down her spine. Another rush comes when Clarke realises their hands are laced over Clarke’s stomach. The sheets are tangled around their lower half near the bottom of the bed where a veritable mountain of pillows have also relocated. She bites her bottom lip to keep in the smile. Who knew Lexa would be such a messy sleeper?
“How many pillows does one princess need?” Lexa asks around a yawn, waking up too. Her foot kicks at an especially plump one sending it onto the floor.
She sounds raspy, voice rough with sleep, but nonplussed about their current positions, which is surprising considering how hard she fought Clarke on not crossing lines.
Clarke pulls the pillow out from under her head and smacks Lexa with it but she immediately regrets the retaliation when Lexa winces after it lands on her bad arm.
“Oh my god, Lexa, I’m sorry. Are you okay?” Clarke worries and rolls over to quickly check on the damage.
Lexa’s breath catches when Clarke’s eager movement brings them closer, breast to breast. In a replay of her brand of care, Clarke presses gentle lips to the bandaged area.
“Better now,” Lexa whispers. Her shuddering breath flutters Clarke’s eyelashes when they’re face to face again. “Thank you for stitching me up.”
Lexa looks too damn kissable for her own good but before Clarke can do something about it, in her periphery, she sees her phone lighting up with countless pings of notifications adding to what is likely a massive to do list today.
They eat breakfast together and this time Lexa has no qualms joining her at the table. They don’t speak of last night but there is a palpable shift in their dynamic. Lexa’s unsubtle staring is one indication of it. Another is, the usual readout from her Head Secretary of the day’s itinerary and the fires to put out, takes twice as long because Clarke keeps reading the same sentence twice, unable to ignore the memory of Lexa’s tongue pressing into hers.
Clarke spends the better part of the day cleaning up yesterday’s mess, yelling at her Security Council, putting out media statements, sitting for video interviews, and generally reassuring the public she is well and that the threat has been neutralised, before issuing her own thinly-veiled one to any would-be assassin that the full might of the Black Knights and Grounder Army would not be so sparing next time.
Lunch is served while Clarke is simultaneously on a call with Prime Minister Kane and wading through the mountain of paperwork she has to sign off in her parents absence, barely making a dent in the pile by the time she’s chairing a meeting hours later with the sovereigns and regents of neighbouring kingdoms who’ve similarly seen a spike in domestic upheaval.
In all this Lexa shadows her, a silent, comforting presence. Clarke swears she’s not imagining the brush of knuckles against the back of her hand when they move from room to room, a gesture of support to ground her frustrations, but only finds Lexa staring blankly ahead when Clarke tries to catch her out. The game makes the stress of her day almost worth it.
It isn’t until after supper that she gets confirmation it’s not all inside her head. They’ve retreated back to her drawing room and just as they cross the threshold into her private chambers, she feels it again. The brush is feather-light. Clarke stops walking, causing Lexa’s feet to falter.
“Is there something you want?” Clarke’s tone could be considered cold if it wasn’t for the knowing smile she’s wearing.
The quirks of Lexa’s eyebrow should’ve been her warning.
She’s prepared to hear Lexa’s denial and pretence of innocence but in one swell movement Clarke is lifted onto Lexa’s hips. In long strides, not heeding her surprised yelp, Lexa crosses the bedroom to sit on the edge of the bed, Clarke in her lap.
“I want to feel all of you,” Lexa says, tone more shy than the hand that hikes the bottom of Clarke’s designer dress past her knees to indicate what she means. No pretext is given about last night’s kissing but the look on her face is plain it’s been on her mind. “I can’t stop thinking about it. About you.”
“What happened to all the reasons why we can’t?”
“For one night, I don’t want to think about the whys. I only want to think about the hows. How you feel, how you taste, how we fit.”
Clarke doesn’t have to think about her answer.
“Okay,” she consents, happy to give over to Lexa’s abrupt programming change. She finger-combs through brown hair, settling flyaways. “Ok, whatever you want.”
“Just this once,” Lexa reiterates, committing to Clarke’s previously outlined timetable.
She helps Clarke out of her dress, pulling it over her head. With Clarke still seated and Lexa unwilling to let her go, the removal process is slow-going. Seeing that the position alleviates pressure on Lexa’s injuries, Clarke doesn’t mind the extra time and care they’re taking. They somehow manage to divest Lexa of her suit too, leaving them both in under garments.
Clarke preens under Lexa’s appraising gaze, her stomach flipping pleasantly when Lexa exhales, looking speechless. “God, Clarke.”
Lexa palms her outer thighs, drawing heat to match the burn low in her belly. Her eyes trail over Clarke’s body in a preview of where she wants her hands to go. Shortening the interval, Clarke unclips her bra and, moving her long hair aside, takes Lexa’s hand to place it over her exposed breast.
“You can touch.”
With permission, Lexa squeezes, eyes darkening. Several experimental swipes of her thumb hardens Clarke’s nipple and slickens her inner thighs. With mounting confidence at Clarke’s noises of approval, she tweaks the peaks before a warm tongue soothes the sting. Clarke holds her close by the back of the neck, fingers scratch into her scalp.
“Kiss me again,” Clarke asks when her chest feels over-stimulated and almost regrets diverting Lexa’s attention when she catches her wrecked look.
Lexa kisses her with the same attentiveness she paid to Clarke’s nipples, tongue spreading and flattening.
By the time she’s panting heavily from the intensity of their kissing, Clarke realises Lexa’s hand has migrated to between the spread of her legs and has started to rub her in exploratory passes. Helping the discovery along, Clarke shifts her weight to run her folds along Lexa’s upturned hand, the fabric of her underwear providing added friction. Looking down, she finds streaks of clear fluid painting her palm. She’s so wet.
“Fuck, Your Majesty is exquisite,” Lexa praises and Clarke laughs at the feigned formality and premature coronation.
“But coming soon?”
The wordplay earns an eye roll from Clarke. King Jakob’s secession plan is to retire in five years—if a civil war doesn’t break out sooner—but Clarke does not want to think about her father while she’s bouncing on Lexa.
“Just fuck me, Lex,” Clarke replies fondly even if her eyebrows are knitted in impatience.
“Is that a command?”
“As your sovereign, yes, make me come.”
“With pleasure, for your queendom I will bow,” Lexa accepts in Trigedasleng. “Your arousal is my command,” she recites an adapted version of her knight’s pledge, obliging.
Clarke laughs but laughter soon turns into quickened moans as Lexa works her up, two fingers taking over for more precise circling, clarifying what she means by queendom, an unsophisticated reference to her wetness. The firm strokes have Clarke’s head lolling back, hips rolling faster into Lexa’s hand.
Lexa momentarily withdraws her fingers to suck on them then kisses Clarke with her own arousal while picking up speed below. On every other set of strokes, she lifts Clarke’s bottom to drag her centre across Lexa’s abs and encourages her to grind against them. This pattern of cooperation and self-help continues until the shine of Lexa’s stomach matches the soaked state of Clarke’s panties.
Clarke can’t stand it anymore and commands her, “Rip them off.”
Lexa complies, tearing the fabric that has become useless lace anyway. But instead of tossing it aside as Clarke expected, she wraps it tightly around her fingers and rubs Clarke anew, the intricate textile pattern a surprising source of heightened pleasure. Clarke thinks she might be able to come on lace alone by how Lexa has repurposed the shredded threads in her favour. The intensity of it is devastating to Clarke’s capacity to last long. She jerks and her hips stutter, maddeningly pushing into the lace.
“That’s it,” Lexa encourages.
The edge is so brutally close but Lexa blessedly intuits that this is not how Clarke wants her first orgasm to go, so she pulls back and removes the fabric, throwing it blind over her shoulder. Then unexpectedly Clarke is up in the air again and they’re walking to her dresser with Clarke still attached on her hips.
“Shh, it’s ok, I’m not going anywhere,” Lexa coos when Clarke whines in panic thinking Lexa is stopping. She rummages in a drawer then produces a small dildo that apparently Lexa knows exactly where Clarke keeps. Knowing every detail, however intimate or embarrassing, must be a part of her nightly security sweep.
Clarke would be self conscious if she weren’t excited for what Lexa plans to do with the toy. It seems that if this is the one chance for Lexa to be with Clarke she intends to make the most of it.
True to her word, Lexa is back on her, skin to skin this time when they return to sit on the bed. Her callous fingers are more than enough to compensate for the texture loss of the panties now lodged somewhere Clarke doesn’t care. Lexa slows things down to run them softly through Clarke’s gush of arousal, parting her swelling lips in a scissoring movement. The toy comes into play when it takes over the labour of her fingers, set against Lexa’s stomach where Clarke’s lower body is manipulated to fuck against. Once Clarke finds her rhythm, Lexa’s hand is free to finger her from behind, the dual stimulation but lack of penetration seesaws Clarke between imminent coming and protracted edging. The other hand caresses her upper thigh to help anchor her in the moment.
“When I hear you at night, I imagine it’s my head between your legs or my hand on you making you make those noises.”
“You were,” Clarke reassures as Lexa kisses the column of her arched neck. “You’re the one I fantasise about after I’ve sent the others away. I didn’t let any of them touch me.”
Lexa locks gaze with her, and detecting no lies, looks to have registered the meaning of her words.
“I’ve been so jealous all this time.”
“Don’t be.” Clarke cups her jaw and sweetly kisses her. “There hasn’t been anyone but you.”
“I thought I would go mad. I assumed I only ever heard your voice because I had blocked out a second out of self-preservation. I dreamt of pinning you down on this mattress, my weight on top, to make you as desperate as I felt those nights believing you were sharing your bed with someone else.”
“How could I when you have consumed my every thought?”
She naturally switches to Trigedasleng too when she wishes for the words to have more impact.
Lexa spreads her wetness and rubs faster, sets the toy aside for the moment so she can focus the effectiveness of her fingers.
“I felt guilty for getting myself off on the sounds coming through the wall, weak for giving into what your cries were doing to me. If I had known otherwise, god, I would have—”
“Inside, please,” Clarke begs, need coiled tight. With how wet she is Lexa has no trouble following through. “Show me, show me what you would’ve done.”
The initial penetration has Clarke dropping her head and biting into Lexa’s shoulder. Once Lexa is knuckle deep, they both take some time to process the new sensation. Her inner walls flutter and squeeze and demand more. Then Lexa moves and Clarke’s world narrows to the sound of her fingers sliding in and out, more inches swallowed each time.
“I would have made love to you as if you were the last sunrise I would ever lay my eyes upon.”
Lexa does just that, griping her by the hip, pushing deeper inside Clarke with a warmth that stretches horizons.
Clarke starts to ride her in earnest. Lifting up then dropping down in time to Lexa’s thrusting. Hands hang off her shoulders, fingers link by the back of her neck to hold on, it feels gravity-defying. Her stomach does somersaults when it’s not pitched low in need.
It’s nothing like pleasuring herself while thinking of Lexa. Lexa’s drive is as singular as her daily focus on keeping Clarke safe. She re-kneads a breast before sucking on it with similar determination. Tongue soft against Clarke’s hardened nipple.
“I’m close,” she warns when Lexa switches breasts, the nipple play accelerating the arrival of her orgasm.
“Can you handle a third?” Lexa asks in response. “Would you like more?”
Clarke swallows hard at the timing of the question coinciding with the flex then curl of fingers, before she answers, “Yeah.”
Lexa pulls out then pushes back in with another finger. Clarke’s breath catches at the new fullness, Lexa giving her time to adjust. When she does, Clarke reaches down and asks for a fourth. After the same process of adjustment, soon they return to the earlier pace and before long Clarke is clawing at her back while Lexa fucks her unrelenting.
“Baby, oh god.” The pet name slips out but seems to spur Lexa on. The next thing Clarke knows, she’s on her back on the carpeted floor, Lexa pushing into her at a clip that belies her usual composure. The new position provides a better angle for her hand, almost the entirety of which is inside of Clarke, facilitating the rawest, neediest, most affective lovemaking she’s ever experienced.
Her legs hook around Lexa’s waist as they rock together. Lexa threads their fingers and places their joined hands against Clarke’s chest. The intimate gesture grounds Clarke.
She comes long and hard, her release shattering the quiet of the night. The first orgasm rolls right into a second when Lexa thumbs her clit in a furious pattern, which quickly turns into a third when Lexa turns them round to put Clarke on her back and her mouth is on her in seconds, sucking Clarke dry. The fourth one lands thick on Lexa’s tongue as it buries inside.
When Clarke gathers enough energy afterward to reciprocate, Lexa lets her know she’s not done, that the patience and legendary stamina of a Black Knight isn’t simply myth. She bends Clarke over the chaise and mounts her from behind, fingers piston at a blister, rutting senseless until her voice is hoarse and body ragged and sore. Clarke stops counting.
She’s unsure whose salt it is she tastes when they kiss minutes, hours later. Neither is ready to stop, for the night to end when daybreak arrives.
Surprisingly, it’s Lexa who seeks an extension to their self-imposed deadline. “Please, Clarke, can we have more time?”
With the King and Queen travelling out of state and keeping to prior commitments once they were assured of Clarke’s well-being, Clarke has the palace to herself for the week. She accepts the suggested timetable change without hesitation. Sends three quarters of the wait staff away to leave only a skeletal crew behind, shuts the world out and cocoons with Lexa, burrowing into arms that’s always wrapped her in safety.
After an elaborate breakfast for refuel the next day, their sexual appetites resurge despite not diminishing in the dawn hour nap taken together. A strap-on is introduced into their activities at Clarke’s bidding, this larger toy an impulse purchase during one of their city outings Clarke made with Lexa in mind. Once Lexa is harnessed in, Clarke peeks over her shoulder to see Lexa is wearing the same crimson flush that shadowed them after Clarke left the sex shop, but in seconds, after pulling Clarke’s ass higher in the air and sliding in with one savage thrust, the shyness evaporates to make way for deep mutual appreciation of the girth and extra length. Features drawn in blissed out concentration, there’s no doubt she enjoys it as much as Clarke does.
Encouraged by her wordless grunts, Clarke takes it and gives herself over and over to Lexa’s urgency. This is how they spend their days when Clarke isn’t working, on every surface—floor, wall, chaise, dresser, bed—they compress a thousand nights into seven. Recovery time between orgasms is short but sweet, Lexa writing hidden messages onto the canvas of her back and Clarke tracing an invisible path to every mole and freckle and beauty mark the pad of her finger encounters, each committing to memory what will disappear by morning dew. Light laughter and secret words fill these spaces of borrowed time before the wet slap of skin, hot and hurried, once more overtakes the room’s sounds. She gives a fleeting thought to the guards stationed at her door and patrolling the wing. What they must think hearing their princess getting fucked into the next millennia.
At one point Clarke might have blacked out and wakes to Lexa soothing her in hushed tones, waiting with fists in sheets for the go ahead to ruin her some more, which, once readily given, Lexa takes to task to absolutely rail Clarke using the dildo and her fingers, doubly filling her to the brim. Lexa hands her a pillow to bite down while she proceeds to sink in and bottom out in an interminable cycle with breathless speed. Whimpers rise and die in her throat at the constant pressure, one sharp sensation replaced by another. After her loudest orgasm to date dulls a runaway pulse to a sustainable rate, in her sex fog she manages to coax Lexa to ride her face, strap-on momentarily ditched, and services her in a reversal of roles that makes both forget who sits upon Arkadia’s throne.
At another point, the air inside Clarke’s bedroom becoming too stuffy with the scent of sequestered sex, they venture to the lake and Lexa finally joins Clarke skinny dipping. Following an afternoon swim, they make love in the water then underneath Clarke’s favourite apricot tree. Lexa later takes her in the arboretum, Clarke’s thick arousal adding to the humidity. Then in the stable, as the sun sets beyond the large barn doors, Clarke returns the favour on a loft of hay. Just when Clarke thought they’ve reached their limit, Lexa is pushing in and out of her with Clarke bent over in the groundskeeper’s truck bed. Her shouts carry northward to the stars blinking into and out of existence as the night pulls the sky closer to earth.
On all fours, one body bowed to the heavens and a second body curved tender around the first, Clark wonders if the constellations can tell, who is the queen and who is the knight.
The answer matters little in the scheme of the universe when Lexa’s call of her name, and Clarke’s shout of Lexa’s, are indistinguishable in love.
The answer doesn’t matter much when they stow away to the throne room the next night and a pair of hands repeatedly buries between two pairs of legs that are spread wide perched over the armrests, the thunderous sound of erratic heartbeats are indistinguishable from the pleasurable screams which rattle the seat of sovereignty. Because the exalted wood chair is more ceremonial than meant for actual use, it’s something of a sight to see their shared fluids giving it a new glistening patina, altering its design and history in a way the original carver probably hadn’t envisioned.
The answer matters not at all when they make each other come in the shower later and the wetness down their cheeks is indistinguishable from water or tears.
What does matter is that, when they lay nude in front of the fireplace, faced in opposite directions, pumping and licking into each other in synchronised beats, she belongs to Lexa and Lexa is hers.
It isn’t until they are entangled naked in her luxurious sheets again on Sunday night, bone-less and bone-tired, that Lexa looks remotely close to sated. Her head rests on Clarke’s chest, hand slung across her stomach, and one leg bent at the knee atop her thighs, trapping her in. Asleep, Lexa holds Clarke tight as if this is the first and last time.
Clarke cards fingers through her hair, staring unblinking at the apricot blossoms on her dresser, hoping if she doesn’t close her eyes it will stave off the inevitability of what tomorrow brings.
But exhaustion finally takes its toll and she soon joins Lexa in deep slumber.
Clarke awakes to find her bed empty. Disoriented, she reaches across to check that last night, and the six nights before it, weren’t a dream. Her body’s humming and the soreness between her legs confirm the reality. The spot where Lexa occupied is still warm like it was only recently vacated. She’s not sure if that is better or worse.
“Lexa?” Clarke croaks, feeling the sting of tears forming on instinct.
The wall is paper thin. She can hear the rustle of a uniform being put on, a familiar sound almost every morning of the past year, but, despite a flutter of hope, receives no answer.
The same hope is dashed when she notices a notecard on the beside table in cursive that she recognises to be Lexa’s handwriting, only for it to read,
The King and Queen have returned. Your Royal Highness’s presence is requested.
The formality is crushing. Clarke has never hated her birthright so acutely.
“Lexa,” she tries once more.
The answer this time is a muted sob. Then deafening quiet.
Her eyes well over, knowing what the silence means.
On one side is the monarchy and Arkadia’s future. On the other is quiet heartbreak upholding the weight of their country’s crown.
The line has been redrawn. Jagged as ever.