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Crush and Burn

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The Halloween frat party is loud and crowded, Clarke almost wishes she would have stayed back in her dorm room. But she’s already here and already dressed up as Captain Marvel. And not some cheap knockoff costume. It’s legit skin-tight material thick enough to keep her warm on this brisk night. Not to mention, it does a few things for her figure. Raven and Octavia insisted they all go as superheroes but they disappeared into the crowd pretty quickly, shortly after walking into the party with Clarke. Somewhere out there lost in the crowd is an inebriated Black Widow and an overly flirtatious Scarlet Witch. Clarke should probably find them sooner rather than later so they don’t get into too much trouble. But first, she needs a drink.

There’s a line for the beer keg - probably really cheap beer - and a large crowd around the bar area with people mixing drinks to their hearts desire. Suddenly, there’s a red plastic cup in front of her. Clarke turns around to see who’s offering her a drink and her stomach swoops. She tries to hide the little gasp that escapes her throat but it’s hard to do because Lexa Woods is standing right in front of her dressed as Westley from The Princess Bride - black mask and all. Clarke didn’t think it was possible for Lexa to be any hotter than she already was, but here she stands, proving Clarke wrong.

She waves the red cup in front of Clarke.

“Vodka soda.”

Clarke smiles and takes the cup. “You remembered.”

“I appreciate that you’re very ‘no frills’ and low maintenance when it comes to your drink preference. Makes it easy to remember.”

Clarke had told Lexa what she liked to drink at one other college party. It was last semester and Clarke showed up by herself to the party and was very close to leaving. That’s when Lexa saved the day and started talking to her and asked what kind of drink she would like. She made Clarke feel really at ease that night. Lexa always had a way of doing that, somehow. Even when they were kids. It’s probably why Clarke has been crushing on her for the last decade.

“Having fun?” Lexa asks over the thumping music.

“Ask me again when I’ve finished this.” Clarke points to her drink. She expects this to be the end of their conversation because their conversations never really last too long. Clarke always finds a way to excuse herself. She doesn’t want to, but she has a hard time thinking of what to say and has no idea why Lexa always goes out of her way to talk to her in the first place. She takes a sip of her drink and shrugs. “Thanks for the drink. I’ll see you around.”

Lexa’s perplexed look confounds Clarke. She has to remind herself to keep her cool when Lexa gently grabs her wrist and pulls her back.

“Where are you going?”

“Um...I was going to find Raven and Octavia.”

“I saw them on the dance floor. I can show you, but you need to finish your drink first.”

“Why?”

“So I can ask you again if you’re having fun.”

Clarke blushes and can feel the blood rush to her head. She smiles to herself and tries to down her drink as fast as she can. When she’s done, she wipes her mouth and tilts her head at Lexa.

“Impressive. Now...are you having fun?”

“Maybe I need another drink.”

Lexa puts both their cups down and takes a step closer to her.

“Maybe you need to dance?”

Wait, was Lexa asking her to dance? Or was she just saying that she should dance in order to have fun? Why the hell would Lexa all of a sudden ask her to dance when she’s never really shown much interest in her before? Maybe she’s just trying to be nice. Or maybe she’ll just bring Clarke to Octavia and Raven and leave her there.

“Are you okay? You look torn about something.’

“Uh....I…”

Clarke can never understand why she can’t just be cool in front of Lexa. No matter how hard she tries, she somehow ends up a bumbling mess. Which is usually why she tries to end the conversation before her awkwardness makes both of them uncomfortable. Lexa must sense this because she just smiles and takes Clarke’s hand.

“Come on. I saw your friends in the back of the house.”

Clarke allows Lexa to guide her through the throngs of people. It’s so crowded, that at one point, Clarke loses Lexa’s grip and they get separated for a moment before Lexa pushes her way back through the crowd and comes back for Clarke.

“Pretty sure they’re breaking multiple fire codes here,” she yells over the noise.

Clarke laughs. “Shocking coming from the same frat house that flooded twice AND had to be fumigated for mice last year.”

“Why do we even come to these things?” Lexa asks, her lips just inches away from Clarke’s ear.

Clarke stops herself from saying ‘I came here because I knew you’d be here.’ Instead, she shrugs and tries not to let her thoughts get away from her when Lexa smiles and puts her arm around her to keep guiding her towards the dance area.

“I like your costume, by the way. I love The Princess Bride,” Clarke tells Lexa.

“Yeah? Me too. Though I mainly chose the costume for the sword. And the fact that I look good in black. And the mask helps if I’m trying to avoid anyone I don’t want to talk to.”

Clarke starts to feel a little brave. “I’m glad I’m not one of those people.”

Lexa looks at her earnestly. “You could never be one of those people, Clarke.” She nods her head in a vague direction. “Your friends are dancing over there.”

Clarke’s bravery starts building even further because she decides to ask Lexa to dance, but before she can get the words out, Lexa’s friend Anya interrupts them. Clarke feels awkward just standing there as the other two carry on a conversation, so she joins her friends and starts dancing with them. They excitedly greet her with a hug and keep dancing. She looks around for Lexa, but doesn’t see her anywhere, so she just lets herself get lost in the music. At this point, everyone is practically dancing on top of each other. It’s nearly claustrophobic and Clarke could definitely use another drink right now.

And out of nowhere, that’s when Lexa shows up with another drink. “Figured you might be thirsty. I also grabbed you a bottle of water if you’d rather have that.”

“Thank you.” Clarke grabs both drinks and slams the vodka soda in a matter of seconds before chasing it with some water.

Lexa turns her attention to whoever tapped her on the shoulder and Raven takes this opportunity to annoy the hell out of Clarke.

“Dude, ask her to dance.”

“Raven, no.”

“Why not? She obviously wants to hang with you.”

“She’s just making sure I’m comfortable. She’s always like that.”

“Griff, are you blind? She’s always like that with YOU. Just you. Do you see her bringing anyone else drinks?”

“She doesn’t like me that way.”

“You don’t know that! You’ve been pining for this girl since you were like nine years old. It’s about time you do something about it.”

“I can’t. What if she says no?”

“What if she doesn’t?” Raven gives her a mischievous look and Clarke knows what that means.

“Raven, no!”

Too late. Raven “accidentally” pushes Clarke backwards, where she conveniently falls into Lexa’s arms.

“Whoah. You okay?”

“Yeah. Sorry. I lost my balance.”

“I mean, if you wanted to dance, all you had to do was ask me.”

“I wasn’t...I didn’t…”

“Oh.” Lexa looks somewhat disappointed.” Well, then...would you like to dance with me?”

The hopeful look on Lexa’s face and the fact that she’s holding her hand out for Clarke to take it has Clarke pining for her all over again.

“Yes. I’d love to.”

Lexa bites her lip and gives her the cutest smirk as she moves in toward Clarke, pulling them close together. The feeling is electric. Clarke swears she feels an actual shock when Lexa starts moving her hips against her. Clarke tries to keep up as best she can, but it’s all so overwhelming and she can’t quite comprehend why Lexa would want to dance with her out of every other girl at this party. She closes her eyes and tries to relax, enjoying the feeling of Lexa’s hands around the small over back, the smell of her perfume, the way she gracefully moves against Clarke to the beat of the music. When she opens her eyes, the intensity of Lexa’s stare behind the black mask is too much and Clarke has to look away. Anywhere but directly at Lexa.

“Clarke, am I making you uncomfortable? If I am, I’m sorry. I don’t mean to.”

“No. Not at all,” Clarke insists.

“Do you want me to go?”

Clarke shakes her head. “No. I really don’t.”

“It’s just dancing. Let’s have some fun with it.” She leans in and whispers, “By the way, I really like your costume, too.”

At this point, Clarke feels like she’s over-heating and pulls away from Lexa.

“Can we...sorry, it’s really hot in here.”

“You want to go outside? It’s probably a lot cooler and quieter.”

Clarke nods and Lexa leads her out of the house to the front porch. Clarke instantly feels better as she sits down on the front porch step. Lexa sits down next to her.

“Kind of overwhelming in there, huh?” Lexa asks as she rubs Clarke’s back.

Clarke nods and looks up at Lexa. “Why are you always so nice to me?”

“Do you want me to be mean?”

“You know what I mean. You’re just so sweet and kind to me. And so patient.”

Lexa leans back and stretches her legs in front of her.

“Clarke, do you remember that night of the fifth grade Halloween carnival?”

How could Clarke forget? It’s one of the single greatest memories of her life.

--

 

Flashback to ten years ago

There is a chill in the air tonight as Lexa stands in line for some cotton candy at her elementary school’s annual Halloween carnival, but she refused to wear a jacket because she wanted everyone to know she was dressed as Elastigirl from The Incredibles. She figures some cotton candy followed by a hot chocolate will warm her up enough before meeting her friends for a ride on the rollercoaster. She looks around to take in the lights and sounds of the evening, entertained by seeing what everyone came dressed as. That’s when a young blonde wearing a Gryffindor robe catches her eye. A smile crosses her face as she watches Clarke Griffin attempt the Ring Toss game, but it seems she’s not having much luck and Lexa can tell by the frustrated look on her face that Clarke seems to really want one of those prizes.

Counting her money, Lexa changes her order and foregos the cotton candy for two hot chocolates. She takes a deep breath and walks toward the Ring Toss game, offering up one of the hot chocolates to the flustered blonde making yet another attempt at trying to land a tiny ring over one of the many empty coke bottles set up in the middle of the booth.

Clarke is taken aback at first, but smiles shyly as she takes the hot chocolate.

“Thank you, Lexa.”

“No worries. I had an extra one, so…” She nervously takes a sip and can feel the liquid burning the roof of her mouth. “What’s going on here? Trying to win one of these inflatable pink flamingos?”

“Actually, it’s the plush Frankenstein I want. Or Frankenstein’s monster or whatever.”

Lexa looks to where she’s pointing and sees a row of stuffed Frankensteins. “Interesting choice.”

“He’s kinda cute, don’t you think?”

“For a monster, sure.” Lexa watches Clarke as she makes another attempt at throwing a ring. “So how do you do this, exactly? Just land a ring on a bottle and you win?”

Lexa knows exactly how this game is played, but she really wants to keep talking to Clarke, even if it means asking stupid quesitons.

“Pretty much, but it’s a lot harder than it looks.”

“Well, I don’t know. Looks pretty easy to me.” Lexa takes a dollar out of her pocket and hands it to the man in the booth. “Ten for a dollar?” With the rings in her hands, she takes on and tries to aim for one of the bottles. “The trick is to flick it with your thumb like a coin toss.”

That is exactly what she does and she doesn’t even come close to hitting one of the bottles. Clarke lets out a chuckle next to her.

“Okay, maybe not. Actually, I think the frisbee approach might be more appropriate for this.” She tosses the next ring like a frisbee and it sinks down between the bottles.

This is starting to get embarrassing. She looks over at Clarke, who just shrugs.

“Any other suggestions?” asks Clarke as she takes a drink of her hot chocolate.

“One more idea. Just take all the rings you have and toss them all at once. One of them is bound to make it.” Lexa gathers the rest of the rings in both hands and tosses them all up into the air. Miraculously, one of them actually lands around a bottle and she finds herself breathing a sigh of relief because she really did not want to embarrass herself in front of the girl she’s had a crush on since third grade. The guy hands her a plush Frankenstein and she immediately hands it over to Clarke.

“Here you go.”

“Wait, you want me to have it?”

“Yeah. You seemed to really want it.”

“But that was your money and you won it fair and square.”

The way Clarke looks at her has her completely melting. She no longer needs the hot chocolate to keep warm.

“I think you should have him. I want you to.”

“I...thank you.” Clarke looks to the ground, her cheeks turning bright red.

Lexa knows this is the moment. It’s now or never.

“Clarke, do you want to ride the ferris wheel with me?”

When those big blue eyes look back up at her, Lexa has to remind herself to breathe. It’s more than her ten-year-old little heart can take.

“I’d love to.”

Lexa tries not to smile too big. She doesn’t want to give anything away, especially if Clarke doesn’t feel the same way about her. But even getting to just go on a ride with her is enough to make Lexa happy. Even though they’re both in the same class, they don’t exactly run in the same social circles so Lexa doesn’t often get to talk to Clarke as much as she’d like to. It also doesn’t help that Clarke seems to be pretty shy around her, but Lexa is over the moon that she actually said yes to going on the ferris wheel with her. It’s something that Lexa has thought about over and over again but never thought would actually happen.

They both start walking in the direction of the ferris wheel. Lexa wants to take her hand to lead the way, but doesn’t want to make her feel uncomfortable, so they just walk side by side in silence.

Once on the ferris wheel, they start moving toward the top and Lexa can feel Clarke stiffen a bit as her hands grip the safety bar handle.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I just don’t really love heights.”

“You don’t like heights? Then why did you agree to go on this with me?”

Clarke’s non-answer is sort of an answer in itself, but Lexa doesn’t want to be presumptuous. She just scoots closer to Clarke and playfully nudges her shoulder.

“It’ll be okay. Just try to enjoy the view. Look at all those lights below. Kind of cool, right?”

Clarke nods and Lexa sees a small grin on her face.

They don’t say much for the rest of the ride. Just a few comments here and there about school. By the time they approach the end of the ride, Lexa can see her friends in the distance waiting for her so they can go on the rollercoaster together. They exit the ride and Clarke sort of stands there, unsure of what to say. Lexa is about to ask her to ride the rollercoaster with her and her friends, but before she has a chance to do so, Clarke holds up Frankenstein and smiles.

“Thank you again for this. And for the ride.” She looks over and sees Lexa’s friends waving her over to them. “I...um...I should go. Looks like they’re waiting for you. I’ll see you Monday Bye, Lexa.”

Clarke turns and leaves and Lexa wants so badly to call her back, but it seems pretty clear that Clarke doesn’t see her as anything more than a friend. Hell, maybe even just an acquaintance. But at least she will always have the memory of Clarke riding next to her for just a few minutes. And that would have to be enough.

--

“Wait, you remember that night that vividly?”

Lexa nods.

“So do I. Honestly, to this day, it’s still one of my favorite memories.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. You winning that Frankenstein for me was the sweetest thing. And bringing me that hot chocolate? I guess you really like to make sure I’m hydrated.”

Lexa scratches the back of her neck. “I guess I just sort of needed a reason to talk to you. And who would turn down a free hot chocolate?”

“You were looking for a reason to talk to me?”

“Well, yeah. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but I’m always looking for a reason to talk to you.”

“But...why?”

Lexa lets out a dry laugh and runs her hand over her forehead and pulls her mask off before locking eyes with Clarke.

“Isn’t it obvious?”

Clarke’s heart begins to beat out of control. Is Lexa really saying what she thinks she’s saying? She searches Lexa’s face for any sign that this might actually be happening right now.

“Hell, maybe it’s the alcohol or maybe it’s the fact that I just can’t keep it to myself anymore, but here it goes. I’ve been in love with you since the third grade. Ever since you punched Max Blashaw when he called me lame barf bag. You got suspended for two days just for sticking up for me and I just...I always thought you were really cool. And the sweetest girl in our class.”

Clarke is speechless for a moment, trying to process Lexa’s words to make sure she’s not misunderstanding anything.

“Wow.” She looks at Lexa, who is starting back at her with such hopeful eyes. “Third grade, huh?”

Lexa nods.

“Could be that I had a crush on you, too, and that’s why I refused to let Max bully you. Because I thought you were the prettiest, nicest girl I had ever met.”

The realization in Lexa’s eyes makes Clarke’s heart soar.

“Really?”

“Yeah. I guess I was just too afraid to ever find out if you felt the same.”

“Why?”

“Because what if you didn’t? I’d rather not know and at least have the hope that you felt the same.”

Lexa raises her eyebrows and cocks her head to the side. “While I do understand where you’re coming from, I gotta say, the fact that it took this long to finally admit how we feel is pretty preposterous.”

“I guess we have a lot of time to make up for.”

“I guess so.”

Lexa turns her focus straight ahead and Clarke adjusts her position on the porch step. Once again, the silence between them carries so much weight.

“So...should we maybe do something about it?”

Clarke smiles to herself. “You know, I still have Frankie.”

“Frankie?”

“Yeah. Frankenstein. I kept him and even brought him with me here.”

“You did not.”

“I did. When I found out you were going to college here, too, I figured I should bring him on the off chance that this conversation would ever happen.”

“Well that’s adorable. I gotta admit, I was pretty excited when I found out we both got into the same college. Though I have to admit, I was hoping I’d run into you more often.”

“Maybe I’ll make more of an effort to accidentally run into you on purpose.”

“That would be awesome.”

“And maybe we can…” Clarke doesn’t finish her sentence. She’s hoping she doesn’t have to as she leans in slowly, praying that Lexa will reciprocate. And she does. Lexa’s lips are soft and full and so deliciously eager to kiss Clarke back. And when she does, it makes Clarke dizzy. It only lasts a moment, but feels so incredible and Clarke doesn’t want it to end.

“Hey, Lex?”

“Yeah?”

“Wanna come back to my dorm room and see Frankie?”

“I thought you’d never ask.”