Clarke stands in the wreckage of Tondc as it smolders. She reminds herself to keep her face still and void of expression, her heart clenches and she wills that still as well. One day, she hopes, she will manage to push away all her emotion as Lexa has.
“Love is weakness,” she murmurs as she watches a wailing man bent over a smoldering corpse. Clarke cannot afford to be weak.
Her mother has immersed herself among the wounded, but there is little she can do for the grounders whose skin is charred and blackened. She catches Clarke’s eyes from across the leveled ground and Clarke looks away.
She knows what she will see, the aching disappointment is apparent even without looking. Clarke clenches a fist and tries to contain the bile that rises in her throat. Her stomach roils and she looks at the flames that are finally beginning to die down.
Tondc burns and Clarke wills herself to not burn along with it.
It is hours later and some sort of organization has been salvaged from the wreckage. The sun’s first rays touch the growing rows of the dead and the makeshift infirmary that has been assembled just outside the ring of charred soil that marks the devastation.
Clarke is speaking quietly to Octavia, having the same conversation it feels as though they have been having for an eternity. Talk of Bellamy and the mountain men and their people that are being caged, bled, and discarded.
Octavia speaks of the grounders and the sky people as though they are one, and Clarke struggles to maintain the same kind of optimism. Lincoln hovers just behind Octavia, a hulking shadow that continually reaches out to just barely brush his hand over Octavia’s shoulder or back or through the ends of her hair. Reassuring himself that she is there, Clarke realizes. She notices with a tightness in her throat the way that Octavia leans back into the touches, comforting herself as well.
Octavia stutters mid sentence, eyes widening at something over Clarke’s shoulder. Clarke turns, hand instinctually falling to her pistol that rests on her hip until she sees it is Lexa. The commander’s face is expressionless except for the brief flicker when she meets Clarke’s gaze. Something akin to relief, Clarke thinks. But Lexa easily retreats back to her blank mask before Clarke can truly read her expression.
Lexa’s hand rests on the hilt of her sword and her stride’s are confident and sure. She does not look like someone who ran from the missile last night. She does not look like someone bearing the weight of hundreds of deaths on her shoulders. She does not look the way that Clarke feels. Instead, she looks strong and sure, eye makeup dripping black down her cheeks. Her jaw clenched as she nods at Octavia and Lincoln in turn, her eyes never leaving Clarke for longer than a second. She stands, as she often does, just a bit too close to Clarke, fixing her eyes on Clarke, the warmth of her permeating the layers of Clarke’s jacket and shirt. Her cheeks heat at Lexa’s half-lidded gaze and the bow of her lips.
“Commander,” says Octavia stepping forward slightly, “it is good to see you are well.”
“The same to you,” Lexa returns, breaking her gaze from Clarke, “Indra would surely mourn the loss of her second.”
Clarke watches Octavia’s face light up with a smile as Lincoln looks on proudly, running a finger down the slope of her back.
Lexa turns back to Clarke. “The surviving leaders are meeting just outside the camp now,” she says. She seems even closer than she did just seconds before, her eyes flickering down at Clarke before moving back up to her face. “Feel free to join us if you aren’t too busy.”
A smile plays at the corner of her lips and Clarke rolls her eyes. This is the second time that Lexa has mocked her in this way. She doesn’t know whether to laugh or groan that Lexa has chosen now to apparently develop some form of a sense of humor. She thinks she is ready to settle for doing both as Lexa spins away, walking toward a crop of trees, obviously expecting Clarke to follow.
Clarke touches Octavia’s arm and nods at Lincoln before following Lexa, choosing to trail behind rather then hurry to catch up.
A tent has been set up among the trees, a felled stump acting as a table for the spread of maps and recovered equipment from the mountain men. Lexa is already standing at the head of the table, only a few of the other leaders remain. Most of the clans are represented by a warrior that was in the woods at the time of the missile. The mood is somber and words concise.
Most are trying to deal with the enormity of their loss, the problems awaiting them back at their territories almost out weighing the threat of Mount Weather.
A general from the one of the furthest clans growls his disapproval at the gathering. A deep glare furrows his brow, most of the animosity directed at Clarke. “Why do we waste time with councils and meetings?” he says, voice a growl and fist clenched, “we know where the enemy sits, the time to attack is now.”
Clarke straightens her shoulders and turns to face him, leaning a bit across the makeshift table to show she is not afraid. “They still have the acid fog,” she says cutting and cold, “to attack would be suicide. We should wait for Bellamy to disengage—”
The grounder slams his fist on the table and leans across as well, “your friend is dead, no one lasts long at the hands of the mountain men. Now you only dally to hide your cowardice—”
Lexa holds up a hand, cutting him off. “That’s enough,” she says. Every part of her smoothed with calm, her chin set and eyes focused. “There is no use for this if we do not know the status of the sky boy within the mountain.” She turns her back on the council, turning her knife in her hands, “We will reconvene when we get word.”
The rest of the leaders shuffle from the tent. Only Clarke stays, leaning heavily on the table, watching as Lexa spins the knife from hand to hand. Lexa turns then, sudden and a little wild. Her eyes wider then usual, blue and startling against the darkness of her face paint. Her knife hand moves quickly and Clarke almost flinches back, only to see that Lexa is sheathing it at her hip.
Lexa moves to her side of the table, standing close as she does. Clarke steps back, just a shuffle of a step, being so close to the commander makes her head spin. Her movement is impeded by the table, and she rests her hands on it. She watches Lexa’s tongue dart out to wet her lips. She looks off, Clarke realizes, a little less controlled. More animal.
“I was—” Lexa starts searching for her word, “—Pleased to see you were alive.”
Clarke huffs out a laugh, “Yeah, me too.”
Lexa moves even closer, she is well past the bounds of personal space now. And Clarke finds herself pushing forward. Lexa nods almost awkwardly and presses in, her hips pinning Clarke against the wood. Her hand reaches out uncertainly, fumbling against Clarke’s hip. It reminds Clarke of the way Lincoln continually checked to see if Octavia was truly there. Lexa’s eyes flicker and Clarke realizes that Lexa is not quite as good at suppressing emotion as she thought.
Because there is emotion is the way that Lexa is cupping her jaw.
There is emotion in the way her breath skips, just a beat, as their noses graze.
There is emotion in the way she pauses, their foreheads pressed together, waiting for Clarke’s permission.
Clarke gives it to her by surging up on her tiptoes, pressing their lips together. It is sloppy, disorganized and Clarke’s teeth catch on Lexa’s lips as she presses just a bit too hard. But Lexa is gasping at the feel of her teeth, one hand still holding her hip and the other stroking the skin of her jaw and just behind her ear. Clarke fumbles to hook her hands in the straps of Lexa’s clothes, mouth falling open to the press of Lexa’s tongue against her bottom lip.
She hears Lexa give a little sigh as Clarke presses harder into her, her hips unconsciously bucking against Lexa’s. Lexa pulls away and Clarke opens her eyes, not having remembered closing them. She doesn’t know what she is going to do if the commander stops. She meets Lexa’s eyes, they are well past wild now, the pupils dark and wide. Her mouth bruised pink from Clarke’s teeth. Clarke readies for her to say something dismissive, for Lexa to turn and leave the tent as suddenly as all this began. But instead Lexa dips her head to lap at Clarke’s neck. Sucking kisses against the soft skin under her jaw, and leaving a trail of marks to her shoulder.
Clarke is gasping and writhing and moving against Lexa further. Her hands leaving the complex straps of Lexa’s clothes to tangle in Lexa’s meticulously braided hair and press her harder to her skin. She thinks that she feels Lexa smile against her at the feel of her hands, but she could be wrong because Lexa is biting down at the crux of her shoulder and neck. Not enough to break skin or leave a mark, just enough to make Clarke whine audibly into the empty tent.
And then Lexa is letting go of her jaw and releasing the bruising hold on her hip. Her hands move underneath of Clarke’s thighs and she is lifting her onto the flat surface of the table. She pulls back to look at Clarke again, her hand pausing at the button of Clarke’s jeans. She is breathing hard and her hair is mussed. Her eye makeup is so smudged that Clarke realizes some of it must have rubbed off on her skin. She likes to think of it there, standing out against her skin, marking her along with the new collection of small red bruises that she is sure scatters across her neck from Lexa’s mouth. Clarke realizes that Lexa is still looking at her, unsure because of Clarke’s long pause, she begins to pull her hand back from Clarke’s jeans.
“Oh no,” Clarke says quickly, breathy and aching from the lack of Lexa’s touch. Lexa pulls back further, brow furrowed and mouth set. Clarke realizes her mistake and grabs Lexa’s hand settling it back against the front of her pants, “I mean yes, like, yes please yes.” And then she is getting that smile from Lexa’s that makes her shivery. The one that starts and stops at the left corner of Lexa’s mouth but still lights up the entirety of her face.
And Lexa’s mouth is back on her, capturing her bottom lip and then her top as her hand pops the button of Clarke’s jeans. Her hand slides down the front of her, cupping her center and swallowing Clarke’s gasps against her mouth. Clarke moves against Lexa’s hand determinedly, hips canting off the table. She definitely feels Lexa smile this time, and their teeth clack and it should be awkward but Clarke is a little too preoccupied with the feel of Lexa against her.
Lexa is confident in her movements, her fingers slipping through Clarke assuredly while her thumb works in ways that has Clarke gasping from the back of her throat, a little whiny and high pitched as Lexa works her up.
Clarke only realizes that Lexa hasn’t spoken throughout this entire ordeal until Lexa says her first word against her lips, “Clarke,” she sighs. Her second and third words are the same, two more “Clarkes” that are spoken with so much reverence and affection. Her fingers press in just the right spot and Clarke comes with a broken gasp to the sound Lexa whispering her name over and over against the corner of her mouth.
It isn’t until Clarke’s hips stop canting that Lexa removes her hand from Clarke’s jeans, rebuttoning them before smoothing down her own hair before taking a step back. Her mouth is calm and her eyes are half-lidded again, and there is no sign of Clarke’s kisses but for the pink of her mouth and her smudged war paint.
Clarke remembers the devastation in the village about then, but the turning of her stomach and roil of her nerves is calmed slightly by the after effects of Lexa’s touch and in remembering way that Lexa’s whispered her name as though it was a prayer.
Lexa eyes her coolly and turns to leave, “I hope you will be joining us soon,” she throws over her shoulder, “there is much work to be done.” She pauses at the mouth of the tent, fully turning to face Clarke briefly, and when she speaks her voice is softer and her eyes more blue, “I am glad you are alive, Clarke.” She leaves the tent and Clarke sits dazed, the way Lexa says her name all she can hear.
Lexa is not her commander and she is not Lexa’s princess, but when they find each other again later that night Tondc no longer burns and Clarke remembers how to breathe.