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Stay Gold

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🙚🙚🙓🙚🙚🙑🙚🙚🙐🙚🙚🙒🙚🙚🙓🙚🙚🙑🙚🙚🙐🙚🙚🙒🙚🙚🙓🙚🙚

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

“Nothing Gold Can Stay” - Robert Frost 

🙚🙚🙓🙚🙚🙑🙚🙚🙐🙚🙚🙒🙚🙚🙓🙚🙚🙑🙚🙚🙐🙚🙚🙒🙚🙚🙓🙚🙚

 

They say that Fall is beautiful, that it is a season of new beginnings. The air is crisp and fragrant, and there’s something about Autumn days that make them feel packed full of nostalgic memories and traditions. The colors are a funny thing, the leaves changing gradually to rich hues of red and orange and yellow. It’s like nature is trying to fill you up with color, trying to saturate you, so you have something to cling to when everything becomes muted and lifeless in the harshness of winter.

Fall is a facade.

They say that Fall is beautiful, yet everything is dying. Everyone is so enamored with the colorful leaves on the ground, forgetting that when they look up, the branches will be bare. There is nothing beautiful about death. It is ugly and painful, and no amount of clinging to what once was will ever fill the places in your soul that loss leaves empty and barren. 

Fall is a season of endings.

🙓

The wind whips on her face as she sets a fast tempo through the park. She breathes in the cool morning air, her lungs trying to acclimate to the bite of the recent drop in temperature. It’s early, and the park is quiet, except for the leaves crunching beneath her feet. She likes it that way.

Running has always been Lexa’s escape.

She feels significantly lighter when she runs. Once Lexa finds her groove and settles into a good rhythm, every stride becomes effortless, each footfall soft from practiced ease. She focuses on the soles of her shoes hitting the ground, pounding in time with her heartbeat. With each step, her mind becomes clearer, and for a brief moment, she feels almost at peace. 

Running always grounds her. She runs if she’s had a tough day at work or if she’s feeling restless. If she talks to her father, definitely, or if she misses her mother. Honestly, just whenever life really sucks. And when Lexa can’t stop thinking about her, she runs.

Lexa runs a lot in the Fall.

A thin layer of sweat begins to form on the nape of her neck as she passes the wooden bench that marks the start of her laps. People out walking their dogs and other runners looking to use the track start trickling into the park. She glances at her watch and figures she’s got time for one more go before it becomes too crowded. 

Keeping her breath steady, she pushes a little harder. It feels good to get her heart rate up, and she relishes the burn in her muscles. At this pace, the park bench comes back into view much quicker than before. So she decides to kick it up a notch and goes into a full sprint the last quarter of the way.

🙑

Grounders already has a line of customers out the door, and Lexa can’t help but glance at her watch and groan internally. She has a deposition in forty-five minutes, and it’s going to be a grueling day. She’s going to need a serious caffeine boost if she has any hopes of not decking the tool of a man on the opposing counsel within the first five minutes of interacting with him. 

Unfortunately, her options are limited. Polis is a small town, and Grounders is the only coffee shop around, so it’s either suck it up and wait in line or end up in jail for assault. Lexa is a damn good attorney, but she somehow thinks, “but he was an ass, Your Honor,” won’t quite cut it. 

Coffee it is. 

Fifteen emails, one BOGO scented candle order, and a vulgar text from Anya detailing the previous night with her new girlfriend (and seriously, are the cat emojis really necessary?) later, Lexa finally makes it to the counter. 

“Hey, Lexa!” the barista greets her with a big dopey grin. 

“Good morning, Aden.” she returns kindly.

He’s been working the opening shift at Grounders before school to save up for a car, and Lexa can still barely believe he’s old enough to drive. He really shot up over the summer, his baby face becoming more defined and now sporting a bit of patchy stubble. It seems like only yesterday that she was ruffling his mop of strawberry-blonde hair and running soccer drills to prepare him for his first middle school tryout. 

Lexa played all the way through undergrad and always loved helping out with the junior league after she moved back home, despite the fact that volunteering in the first place may have started out as an excuse to hang out with the pretty new coach (it definitely did).

“Busy saving the world today?” Aden asks, bringing her back to the present from her trip down memory lane.

Lexa can’t help but chuckle wryly, “Right, if by saving the world you actually mean trying to not perish tragically from boredom before noon, then yes.”

Aden looks around the shop dramatically before cupping his hand to the side of his mouth and leaning in to speak in a stage whisper, “Need the Lexa special?” 

She purses her lips to suppress her grin as he waits expectantly with one eyebrow raised. 

“You know me too well.” Lexa relents no longer holding back her grin. She then squints at him in faux seriousness and adds, “All the way, kid. And no skimping on the good stuff.”

“You got it!” Aden says enthusiastically with a clap. “One full-fat plain latte with honey and an extra shot of espresso coming right up.”

Usually, Lexa wouldn’t indulge in the milk and sugar, but she is truly dreading this deposition. At least Gustus will be with her today. 

God, Charles Pike really is an ass. 

Lexa pulls out her phone to check her email one last time as she steps out of the way to wait on her order. Out of the corner of her eye, she catches a flash of blonde hair. She glances up from her screen to find a woman, roughly the same age as herself, maybe a bit younger, has sidled up to wait beside her. They’re forced to stand closer than would be typically comfortable due to the high volume of customers, and Lexa tries to ignore the occasional waft of coconut shampoo competing against the smell of roasting coffee beans. 

The woman is objectively attractive with her blonde beach waves and curvy figure. She’s wearing black leggings with stark white sneakers to match her oversized white tee, layered underneath an open green canvas button-up, sleeves rolled loosely with a watch on her right wrist and a chunky bracelet on the other. Her hair is held back from her face haphazardly by a pair of aviators resting on top of her head. 

“One pumpkin spice latte and an americano for Clarke?” another barista calls from the pick-up counter. 

Lexa rolls her eyes at the order, and when the woman beside her raises her hand with a “Yup! That’s me!” Lexa lets out a “should’ve guessed” underneath her breath and returns her attention to her phone screen.

If she hadn’t looked down at precisely that moment, Lexa would’ve seen Clarke’s head whip around at the comment, eyes sparkling with mirth at being so blatantly judged over her drink order. 

When she looks back up, Clarke is standing directly in front of her, and Lexa is met with an angry glare from eyes so strikingly blue, it causes her breath to catch in her lungs. Her lips part open slightly, and she goes to speak, but Clarke beats her to the punch.

“Are you always this rude to people you don’t know?” 

Lexa bristles, and she immediately stands up straighter. “Excuse me?” 

“Don’t think I didn’t hear your little ‘should’ve guessed’ remark. What the hell is that supposed to mean?” 

Okay, so maybe Lexa didn’t exactly mean to say that out loud and on any other day would probably apologize, but the thought of having to listen to Pike drone on and on for the next three to four hours has her in a sour mood (and besides, she didn’t become an attorney from a lack of enjoyment in poking the proverbial bear every now and then).

She lets out an exasperated sigh, “There’s nothing inherently seasonal about the spices that go into pumpkin pie, yet big chain coffee companies have convinced the masses that this drink, that is not even that good by the way and quite frankly terrible for you, should only be consumed during Fall months. More so, those companies are banking on people associating pumpkins with Thanksgiving and the holidays, preying on their cravings for comforts that bring back happy memories during times of hardship, only to feed their cash cow earlier and earlier every year.”

Clarke just blinks at her in bewilderment for a few seconds before finally finding her voice. “Dude, you seriously need to lighten up,” she says, pausing a moment to take in Lexa’s tailored suit and designer heels, “Since when are happy memories a bad thing? Grounders is not a big chain company, and we’re not living in some “The Truth behind PSL” Netflix documentary. Life would be incredibly boring if we only indulged in things that are good for us all of the time.”

At that very moment, Aden leans over the pick-up counter, holding out a cup, “Hey Lexa, your plain latte is up.”

“Thanks, Aden,” she responds and moves to grab her drink. Lexa quickly turns around, eager to continue the debate, but Clarke is already making her way out of the coffee shop. Clarke spins and leans her back against the door when she gets to the exit, taking a big swig of her latte. 

“Should’ve guessed,” she quips with a smirk. Then, the bell above the door dings, and Clarke disappears down the sidewalk, leaving Lexa standing there stunned, annoyed, and if she’s completely honest, mildly impressed. 

🙚 Fifteen minutes later, in a study room at the Arkadia U Student Library… 🙚

Clarke sips her americano as she sets the pumpkin spice latte on the table littered with open textbooks and color-coded note cards.

“Thanks again for helping me study, Bell.” 

“Anytime,” Bellamy responds, waving her off but then pauses and frowns, “Uh, Clarke? Why is there lip gloss on my cup? I thought you hated pumpkin spice lattes, something about a cash grab that takes advantage of people’s emotions?” 

Clarke hides her grin in her lid. “Shut up and drink your damn latte, Bellamy.”

🙐

“You know I hate these things, Anya.” Lexa huffs into her phone currently sandwiched between her cheek and shoulder as she works to unlock the front door of her apartment.

“C’mon, Lex, it’s Friday night,” Anya pleads, “I already talked Raven out of a full-blown Halloween party. It’s just a game night, and she’s only inviting a few close friends. I want you to meet her, Lexa. We’ve been together for almost a month, and she’s beginning to believe that you’re just a broody figment of my imagination.”

After hanging her keys on the hook by the door and setting her briefcase down by her desk, Lexa immediately proceeds to faceplanting dramatically into her couch, not bothering to take off her coat, and lets her feet dangle over the armrest. She mumbles something incoherent, voice muffled by the couch cushion. 

“Sorry, what was that?” Anya chides.

“I said,” Lexa lifts her head and blows a stray strand of hair out of her face, “fine. I’ll go. But seriously, Ahn, I’m not staying out all night and getting wasted. The breast cancer charity run is in two weeks, and my firm doubled their donation per mile this year. I have to be up early in the morning to train.”

Anya doesn’t argue. “Deal. I’ll pick you up in an hour.” She hangs up, not giving Lexa the chance to change her mind. 

Lexa looks longingly at the black screen of her tv and mourns the night at home sitting in her PJs, watching the trashy reality shows she had been looking forward to all week. She flops on her back and scrubs a hand down her face, sighing at the ceiling.

“Why.” 

🙒

Lexa and Anya stand outside of Raven’s apartment, faint sounds of music and laughter coming from the other side of the door. A few seconds after knocking, the door swings open, and they are greeted by another well...door, a human dressed as a door to be exact. 

Lexa’s eyes go wide when she recognizes the person in the absurd costume. It’s the woman from Grounders, Clarke, she recalls, standing right there in front of her again. She is wearing a dark long-sleeve shirt with matching leggings, and hanging by rope draped over her shoulders are two large rectangular pieces of cardboard decorated to look like an ornate wooden door. As if dressing up as a door wasn’t ridiculous enough on its own, there are two round metal knockers fixed to the top half of the front of the costume, perfectly juxtaposed in all of their crude irony. 

The situation is so surreal that Lexa starts to wonder if she is dreaming; maybe she fell asleep on her couch and is still waiting for Anya to pick her up. 

“You.” Clarke balks.

“You.” Lexa returns just as shocked.

“Do you guys know each other?” Anya chimes in, and just as the confused staring between the three of them starts to get awkward, there is a crash that sounds like a dish breaking followed by an “oh shit.” 

All three of the women look towards the source of the noise when suddenly another person in a ludicrous box-shaped costume appears in the doorway, bumping into Clarke and causing her to lurch forward with a laugh before catching herself on the door frame. 

“Raven!” Anya lets out an amused chuckle, “What the actual hell?” 

The upper half of Raven’s body is enclosed in a fully functioning claw machine, complete with lights and music. It’s filled with little Halloween-themed plushes and candy. As if all of that isn't enough, tucked under a tiny stuffed pumpkin rests a brand new set of air pods.

“I’m Ravenclaw!” she says with a huge grin. “I know we canceled the whole Halloween-party-costume-thing, but Clarke and I have been planning this for months. We couldn’t resist a little pre-Halloween test drive.”

Anya just shakes her head, “Okay, ‘Raven-claw,’ I get, but what the hell are you supposed to be, Clarke?”

“My last name is Griffin,” Clarke responds in total seriousness, but it’s barely a few seconds before she starts to break, the edges of her lips ticking up into a grin before she loses it entirely and busts out laughing.

“You’re a fucking ‘Griffin-door’?!” Anya howls and has to dab away tears with her shirtsleeve. She leans over Clarke’s left shoulder to give Raven a quick peck on the lips. “You guys are idiots,” she says with an eye roll as she pushes past them into the apartment. 

Raven turns to follow Anya, bumping into her pun-y partner in crime for a second time. Clarke chuckles softly as she steadies herself again. 

Lexa’s feet are rooted to the floor as she stands there frozen in shock. She is definitely dreaming. Who even...what..why would you, Lexa’s brain is stuck in a stuttering loop trying to figure out what the hell she just witnessed. 

“It’s Lexa, right?” Clarke asks in a surprisingly kind voice.

Lexa, still stunned in silence, can only nod.

“Well, c’mon, Lexa. It’s game night! And I promise,” Clarke adds with a smirk, “there’s not a single offensive seasonal beverage in sight unless you count Monty’s moonshine. But that’s not seasonal, just offensive.”

Clarke backs up a step so she can turn around without getting caught on the doorframe and heads back inside. 

Once Clarke is facing away from her, Lexa closes her eyes in bemusement.

“WHY.” 

🙓

If Anya asks, game night was tolerable, and yeah, sure, probably better than a sad Friday night at home. But the clandestine truth?

Lexa Woods is having fun.

After a hard-fought battle of convincing herself that being a good friend was indeed more important than catching the first available uber home, Lexa enters Raven’s apartment, resolved that Anya was worth suffering in silence for a few hours. 

There are a few decorations, and the stack of board games seem to be horror-themed, but the overall vibe is, surprisingly, not over the top. Anya is testing out Raven’s claw machine, and Clarke is talking to a few people Lexa doesn’t know by the snack table. There’s an open armchair in the living room, and Lexa jumps at the opportunity not to have to sit by anyone. 

A few minutes of quiet people-watching go by before a tall, muscular guy and a woman with dark hair (who Lexa assumes to be his girlfriend from the handholding) take a seat on the couch adjacent to her. They introduce themselves as Lincoln and Octavia, respectively. What starts as small talk (which Lexa hates with a burning passion) evolves into a genuine discovery of common ground and pleasant conversation. 

Octavia explains that she has been friends with Clarke and Raven since high school. She met Lincoln after being dragged to an art show by Clarke, and some of his work was on display in the “new & noteworthy” exhibit. They hit it off and have been together ever since. 

Lincoln is a paramedic, and after Octavie floundered for a few years, changing majors and working one terrible job after another, she decided that maybe she would enjoy helping people like her hero of a boyfriend. She passed all of her certifications about a year ago and so far is loving every second of it.

They chat about soccer and other hobbies, and Lincoln happens to be a runner too. He mentions they work for Arkadia General, where Clarke’s mom is also the Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery.  The hospital is one of the sponsors for the charity run next weekend, and they are all planning to run. Lexa shares how she has participated since the inaugural race and is sincerely glad that the turnout looks so promising this year. 

The others eventually settle in around them, and Raven breaks out the board games. She and Clarke both have to remove their costumes to sit down, and Lexa finds it incredibly difficult not to stare at Clarke’s body now that she's only in the skin-tight shirt and leggings. Lexa takes a sip of the water she switched to after her second beer and tries to ignore how flushed this woman makes her feel. Clarke really is beautiful, and Lexa is struck with a pang of guilt at how rude she was to her at Grounders. Lexa makes up her mind to apologize at the first available opportunity. 

Apparently, apologizing to Clarke is going to be easier said than done.

“Awe, don’t be that way, Lexa,” Clarke mocks in a sing-song voice, “what’s got you in such a huff-lepuff?”

“Nice, Griff.” Raven laughs and holds up her hand for Clarke to give her a high five, which Clarke returns with a grin, never taking her eyes off Lexa.

Clarke has somehow won the last three games of Werewolf, twice as a villager and once as a werewolf. Unfortunately, Lexa keeps drawing the opposite roles as Clarke, which means she has lost the last three games. 

First, she was sussed out as the werewolf by Anya (not fair by the way, Anya may be the only person on the planet who knows Lexa well enough to see through her poker face. It’s borderline cheating). 

During the second game, it’s Clarke who calls her out with a shit-eating grin. Lexa is convinced that Clarke had no idea if she was a werewolf or not and was just screwing with her. Clarke turned on the charm when making her case to the village, and that was that. Lexa was a dead werewolf. 

In the last round, Lexa was a villager. She knew, she knew , that Clarke was a werewolf, but every time Lexa tried to make her case (she’s a lawyer for crying out loud, she literally pleads cases for a living), nobody could agree enough to vote Clarke out; her made-up backstory was too damn convincing. 

“I am not a huff-” Lexa cuts herself off, refusing to entertain such a horrific pun, “It’s fine. Really, it’s just a game.”

It’s definitely not fine. Lexa takes pride in how she carries herself and even more so in knowing that she always gets what she wants when she puts her mind to something. So, no, she’s not fine. As a matter of fact, she is the opposite.

Lexa is an incredibly sore loser.

“You look like somebody just erased Keeping Up with the Kardashians off your DVR.” Anya quips, and Lexa pins her with an unamused glare.

Lexa grabs her empty water bottle and stands. “I’m going to sit this one out and grab something to drink. I’ll be back.” 

🙑

Lexa is bent over the drink cooler, digging for a fresh bottle of water (which turns out to be like finding a needle in a cheap beer haystack). Eventually, she spots a blue cap. Submerging her hand in the icy abyss, she hastily grabs the water bottle before it can get lost again among its aluminum-bodied brethren. Lexa pops up in victory, setting her prize on the table and flicking the ice water off of her now frigid fingers. 

“Hey,” comes a quiet voice from behind her. Lexa turns around to find Clarke standing with her arms crossed over her chest and a hesitant expression on her face. 

“Clarke, hey,” Lexa responds, “You didn’t want to play another round? Seems like you were on a roll there.”

Clarke gives a small smile at that, "Nah, gotta give the others a fighting chance every once in a while.” 

There’s a pregnant pause before Clarke’s smile begins to falter. 

“Look, Lexa-”

“Clarke, I-”

They both let out an awkward laugh at the failed exchange. “You first,” Lexa encourages gently.

“Sure, okay," Clarke acquiesces and sighs, "I um...just wanted to say sorry for being a jerk during the game earlier. I get obnoxiously competitive sometimes. So, yeah, I'm sorry if I made the game less fun. I hope you'll come back and play a few more rounds.”

Lexa is a little dumbfounded by the sincerity of Clarke’s apology. She genuinely feels bad and Lexa’s frustration melts away at the concerned look in Clarke's breathtakingly blue eyes. Lexa suddenly feels like she could drown in that sea of blue if she doesn't force herself to look away.

She cracks open her water, so she has something to do with her hands, and takes a quick sip before focusing her attention back on Clarke. She needs to clear the air.

“Actually, Clarke, I’m the one who should be apologizing.” 

Clarke raises an eyebrow in question but remains silent, so Lexa continues.

“Not just for being a bad sport about the games earlier, but also for how I treated you at Grounders. I was in a terrible mood,” she explains, “I don’t particularly enjoy this time of year, the place was crazy crowded, and I had a work thing I was absolutely dreading that morning. But really, that’s no excuse. I took out my frustrations on you, and for that, I’m truly sorry.”

Lexa releases a long exhale, and her shoulders relax a bit without the weight of her apology pressing down on her. 

“Besides,” Lexa adds, trying to lighten the mood, “I’m pretty competitive myself, Clarke. Don’t think for a minute that I would've have been gloating all night if the tables were reversed.”

Clarke’s concerned frown gradually turns into an amused grin. “Too bad we’ll never know,” she says cheekily, and Lexa chuckles before responding.

“The night’s not over yet, Clarke,” she says with a glint in her eyes. “I won’t lie though,” Lexa decides to confess, “ as an attorney, my pride took a huge hit during that last round.” 

“I should’ve guessed.” 

A beat, and then Clarke’s eyes become the size of saucers the second she realizes what she said, only barely matched by Lexa’s own flabbergasted expression. 

She sees the worry flash in Clarke’s eyes, and she just can’t help it.

Lexa starts laughing.

She bursts into a full-blown belly laugh, shoulders shaking, tears welling in her eyes, trying and failing not to let any snorts escape, so she has to clamp her hand over her mouth. 

Clarke looks at Lexa in wonder before relief washes over her features, and she joins the laughing fit, doubling over and shaking her head.

They laugh until they’re both clutching their stomachs and desperate for air. It takes more than a few minutes for the two women to regain their composure (and if Lexa and Clarke weren’t so caught up in laughing, they might not have missed the knowing looks and conniving grins Raven and Anya were sharing in response to their outburst). 

Once they settle, Clarke is beaming, and Lexa swallows dryly, laughter suddenly caught in her throat. 

“Think we could start over since it seems like our best friends will likely have us seeing more of each other in the future?” She holds out her hand, “Hi, I’m Clarke Griffin.”

Lexa tries to ignore the pounding of her heart as she takes in Clarke’s incredible smile. Her joy is infectious, and Lexa finds herself smiling just as big. 

“Lexa Woods,” she replies as she shakes Clarke’s hand, and if their hands stay connected a bit longer than would be necessary, neither one of them bother to comment on it. 

“Let’s go, Lexa Woods,” Clarke releases Lexa’s hand and nods towards the others, “gotta play to gloat you know.” She gives Lexa a wink and heads back into the living room.

As fate would have it, Lexa never gets the chance because she and Clarke end up on the same team in every game for the rest of the night. 

Anya and Raven fistbump discreetly behind the couch. 

🙚 Later that night... 🙚


Anya pulls up to the curb in front of Lexa’s apartment.

“See, Lex? That wasn’t so bad now, was it?” she says smugly.

Lexa rolls her eyes but answers regardless, “It was bearable, okay?”

Anya can only laugh, “Bearable? Lexa Woods, dare I say I saw you having fun?” she then gives Lexa an evil grin before adding, “You and ol’ ‘Griffin-door’ seemed to hit it off pretty well.” 

“Whatever,” Lexa deflects, opening the door to step out of the car, “we just cleared up a misunderstanding and played a few games. It was nothing.”

“Whatever you say,” Anya singsongs and Lexa closes the door on her best friend’s goading.

She’s about to enter the building when she hears her name. Lexa turns around to see Anya leaning over the middle console with the passenger window down. 

“What’s up?” Lexa calls out.

“I just wanted to say, it’s too bad nothing is going on between you and Clarke. I think she totally would’ve let you ‘slither-in.’”

They stare at each other for a moment. Anya has the biggest shit-eating grin on her face, and Lexa can feel her left eye start to twitch. 

“I hate you, you know that?” Lexa deadpans.

“Love you!” Anya yells, holding out the ‘you’ as she drives away. 

Once she is sure Anya’s car is out of sight, Lexa allows herself the smallest of smiles.

“It was a pretty good night.” She muses out loud. “Thanks, Ahn.”

🙐

Lexa shakes hands with Becca Franko, a senior partner from her law firm, and thanks her again for the generous sponsorship. Becca wishes Lexa the best of luck and gives her hand a gentle squeeze. 

“This is a wonderful event, Lexa.” She says, voice sincere. 

Lexa’s jaw clenches at the sentiment, and she swallows roughly. Doing her best to force a smile, she dips her head in an appreciative nod. Becca’s expression is nothing but warm and understanding. She tells Lexa that everyone from work will be cheering for her and releases her hand to join the other spectators.

It’s early, but people have already crowded together on both sides of the track, all trying to claim the best spots to watch the race. The registration line is long, almost double the number of runners from last year she’s been told, and Lexa’s chest grows tight with emotion. It’s a struggle, but she takes a deep calming breath and somehow manages to keep everything in check. 

She takes a knee to double-knot the laces of her pink running shoes and confirms that her participant number is secure. Lexa is about to stand when she feels a soft tap on her shoulder. She looks up behind her and is unable to stop herself from grinning. Lexa thinks she couldn’t even if she wanted to. 

“Hi,” Clarke greets Lexa with a smile. 

She’s wearing a bright pink jersey with the words “Boobie Brigade” written across the front in bold white letters, the ‘A’ in brigade cleverly replaced with Arkadia General’s logo. Her hair is in a messy bun, and from this angle, with Clarke standing over her, Lexa tries desperately not to notice the close proximity of her breasts or how Clarke’s curves are being hugged wonderfully by black spandex running shorts. Not trusting her eyes to stay where they belong, Lexa stands abruptly, consequently catching the bottom of Clarke’s chin with the top of her head. 

Clarke holds her chin and lets a few choice words slip. A mother sitting with her young child glares at them in displeasure. Mortified, Lexa rushes to check on Clarke, ignoring the Loony Tunes-esque throbbing coming from the growing knot on the top of her head.

“Oh my God, Clarke!” Lexa exclaims, gently removing Clarke’s hands from her face and replacing them with her own. She cradles Clarke’s jaw with both hands, tilting it up slightly to get a better look. The collision didn’t break the skin, but Clarke has her eyes squeezed shut, pain having not yet subsided.

“This is not how I imagined you saying that.” Clarke laments with a grimace. 

Lexa freezes, mouth open in shock, eyebrows up to her hairline. Clarke’s eyes flash open in horror.

“Ha!” Clarke barks out after a beat, blushing furiously. “Please ignore that,” she says with a cringe, “it’s entirely possible that I’m suffering from a concussion.”

It’s just a joke, but talk about a concussion reminds Lexa why she still has Clarke’s face resting in the palms of her hands. Her intrigue (so, so much intrigue) is quickly replaced with concern and guilt. 

“I am so sorry, Clarke.” 

“It’s fine, Lexa,” Clarke assures her, ”it doesn’t even really hurt anymore.”

Lexa is unconvinced and spends another few seconds studying Clarke’s chin. 

“Well, it’s not bleeding, which is good, but you are definitely going to have a shiner tomorrow.” She closes her eyes and sighs ruefully, “God, I am really, really sorry.”

Clarke’s hands come up to rest on top of hers, and Lexa’s heart nearly stops when she looks up. Lexa becomes immediately aware of how close they are, and she can’t help but lose herself in the depths of sparkling blue eyes. 

“Lexa,” Clarke says quietly.

“Yeah?” Lexa replies just as softly.

“I’m fine, really.”

“Okay, Clarke.”

A few moments go by, and neither makes a move to remove their hands. Lexa glances down at parted lips, and they are standing so close, she can feel Clarke’s breath on her skin. When Lexa meets Clarke's eyes again, they are shining with hope and desire. All of a sudden, it’s too much, too intense, and she can't. 

She just can’t.

Not here. 

Not today. 

Lexa’s impassioned visage quickly shifts into one of abject panic. She takes a step back, her hands slipping out from beneath Clarke’s. Lexa is desperate to say something, but she can’t get the words out. She clears her throat awkwardly and tries to force herself to speak.

Repeating “Okay” is all Lexa can manage, although this time, her voice is a normal volume, if not a bit strained, and yet not the wanting whisper it was before. 

Clarke blinks in confusion, her mind trying to process Lexa’s abrupt withdrawal. Her expressive eyes harbor a bit of hurt that cuts through Lexa, wounding her heart with instant remorse. 

So, determined, Lexa takes a calming breath. On the inhale, Lexa centers herself, taking back control of her wayward emotions, then on the exhale, she puts on the best reassuring smile she can muster.

“We should still probably get you some ice before the race. It’ll be starting soon.”

It’s a reset, and Lexa hopes Clarke will accept. She watches anxiously as Clarke considers her for a moment but then, to Lexa’s relief, her expression slowly softens. 

“Okay,” Clarke says, taking a step towards Lexa. 

“Okay,” Lexa repeats with a nod, and they make their way to the first aid tent, walking side-by-side.

🙒

They make it to the tent, and Clarke grabs an ice pack from a volunteer. She tells Lexa that she needs to find Octavia and the others before the race starts but will try and catch up with her later. They wave to each other with a “bye” and a “good luck,” and Lexa watches Clarke as she disappears into the crowd.


After parting ways, Lexa scouts the vendor tables to kill some time before she needs to be at the starting line. She’s checking out a few locally crafted candles when she hears her name being called.

“Lexa Woods?” 

Lexa sets the candles down and turns around to find a woman with long dark brown hair around her mid-forties, and she’s looking at her curiously.

“Can I help you?” Lexa asks, taking a step towards the woman.

“I’m Abby Kane from Arkadia General,” she explains, “we’ve spoken on the phone. I recognized you from the picture in your sponsorship presentation and wanted to say hello in person.”

“Dr. Kane,” Lexa addresses her politely, “It is nice to meet you finally. Thank you again for all of your help in persuading the board to sponsor the race this year.”

“Please, call me Abby,” she says kindly. “And this is a great event, Lexa. We are excited to contribute to this cause, and I don’t envision this being our only year to be involved. It’s all been refreshingly well organized. You should be very proud.”

A voice comes over the loudspeaker instructing all participants to make their way to the starting line and gives a ten-minute warning. 

“Sorry, I have to go, but thank you for the kind words,” Lexa tells Abby, holding out her hand, “I look forward to chatting about our plans for next year.”

Abby shakes Lexa’s hand and responds with a smile, “That sounds great, and best of luck to you today.”
Lexa nods her head in thanks, giving Abby a “talk soon” and a polite wave as she takes off in a jog towards starting line. 

🙚 A brief moment later... 🙚

“Hey, mom,” Clarke greets Abby, “the team is all set. We’re about to head to the starting line.”

“Perfect, sweetheart,” Abby replies. “Thanks for stepping in to organize the team. The shirts turned out great, by the way.”

Clarke dismisses the compliment with a wave, “Happy to help. But hey,” she asks curiously, ”was that Lexa you were talking to just now?”

Abby raises an eyebrow, “It was. Do you know Lexa?”

Clarke shrugs her shoulders and tries to keep her tone casual, knowing all too well that her mother would pry if she suspected something more. She explains that Raven is dating Lexa’s best friend, so they’ve met a few times,

“I see,” Abby responds simply, and if she’s skeptical about Clarke’s sudden interest in Lexa, she thankfully doesn’t show it.

“So,” Clarke presses, “can I ask what you two were talking about?”

“Oh,” Abby says, her tone light, “nothing earth-shattering. Lexa is just the organizer of this event, and I had spoken to her a few times on the phone when she was looking for sponsors. I spotted her at a vendor table and wanted to meet her in person.”

Clarke’s eyebrows furrow a bit, and all she can come up with is, “Oh,” but Abby mistakes her confusion for curiosity and continues.

“She was very polite and grateful to the hospital. I have to say, this kind of turnout for an event hosted in such a small town is quite impressive. What a wonderful way to honor her fiance.”

And just like that, all of the air is suddenly gone from Clarke’s lungs.

“Her fiance?” Clarks asks quietly. 

Her mother nods solemnly, “Yes, such a tragedy. I can’t imagine losing your dad a single day earlier than we did, much less before we even had the chance to start our lives together.”

Clarke gives her mom a hug, and it’s only then that she takes notice of the giant banner strung over the starting line. When Clarke reads the words, her heart breaks.

 

-------------------------------------------

COSTIA HART

4TH ANNUAL

BREAST CANCER AWARENESS RUN
-------------------------------------------

“Lexa…”

🙓

“‘Sup, Kardasheruns!” 

Lexa’s eyebrows furrow at the greeting as she finishes up her calf stretch. She turns her head and spots Anya coming to join her at the starting line. Lexa rolls her eyes and sighs.

 “I am never giving you access to my DVR ever again,” Lexa grumbles, switching to her other calf, “Let the joke die already.”

“No way.” Anya says with so much disdain as if just the suggestion itself is preposterous, “It’s the gift that keeps on giving, a source of joy in an otherwise meager existence. Don’t take this away from me, Lexa.” 

Lexa presses her lips together to suppress her grin, “You’re ridiculous.” 

“Eh,” Anya replies with a shrug, “so they say. Seriously though, how are you holding up?”

“Good,” Lexa says dismissively.

Anya gives her a skeptical look, “Uh-huh, right.”

“Ahn,” Lexa stops her stretching to meet her best friend’s eyes, “I’m ok.” 

Anya knows better but doesn’t push. Instead, she shifts gears and claps Lexa on the back. 

“Ready to do this?” she says with a challenging smirk. 

‘You know it.” Lexa responds with a smile, grateful for the change of subject. 

“Did you see Raven?” Anya asks with a chuckle and points a thumb over her shoulder, gesturing towards the sidelines. “She was bummed about not being in the race because of her leg, but I think she’s making the best of it.” 

Lexa peeks around Anya and sees Raven decked out in pink from head to toe, holding a giant sign that reads, “Keep going! Don’t quit on the tits!”

Raven gives them both an enthusiastic wave when she realizes they’re looking at her. Anya smiles at her fondly while Lexa just shakes her head and laughs, “Oh God, is that a microphone speaker clipped to her belt?”

“Sure is.”

“Ridiculous.”

“So they say.”

An announcement comes from the loudspeaker for all runners to take their marks. They get into position, and Lexa scans the crowd of runners until she spots the Boobie Brigade. 

Clarke locks eyes with her almost as soon as she finds them as if she somehow knew Lexa was looking for her. The warm smile Lexa receives nearly takes her breath away. She taps her chin, and Clarke just rolls her eyes and gives her a thumbs up. Lexa grins and mouths ‘okay’, but Clarke’s smile quickly shifts into something more wistful as she nods and sends her own ‘okay’ back in response. Before Lexa has a chance to ruminate over Clarke’s expression, the countdown begins, and the starting pistol goes off with a bang. 

🙑

Lexa and Anya start the race at a good clip, quickly positioning themselves at the front of the pack, affording them some space and an early lead. They run in comfortable silence, focused on their shoes hitting the pavement as they settle into a pace that works well for both of them. Despite Lexa’s extensive conditioning, Anya manages to keep up fairly easily. 

As they near the end of their first mile, which is conveniently one lap around Polis Park, Raven’s voice crackles loudly from the speaker at her hip. She’s shouting sweet (if not also blush-inducing to everyone around) encouragements to her girlfriend, throwing in a few catcalls and some “ow ow!”s as she and Lexa begin their second lap. Anya turns to run backward with a smile. She sends Raven a wink and a kiss before turning back around and picking up the pace.

Lexa shakes her head in amusement as she increases her speed to catch up. She knows Anya is past needing a breather, but her idiot of a best friend can’t resist showing off for a pretty girl. Lexa hides her smile in her shoulder, taking the opportunity to wipe the sweat from her face, and her heart clenches a bit when she thinks of how different this day could’ve been if Anya hadn’t recovered.

The former Marine was medically discharged after taking a bullet near her spine during her last tour overseas. The fact that she survived is a miracle in itself, but how she made it through the year after, while still being ‘Anya,’ was the truly incredible feat.

An injury that is slow to heal followed by months and months of grueling physical therapy would break anybody’s spirit, but not Anya. There she was, showboating for her girlfriend, knowing good and well she’d be regretting it tomorrow. Yet, she couldn’t care less.

Anya and Raven met at PT, Anya as she was finishing up, and Raven as she was just beginning. Lexa figures Raven just got a glimpse of what she has witnessed every day since she and Anya became friends.

Anya is the strongest person Lexa has ever known.

“I’m glad you’re here.”

Lexa’s voice cuts through their silence, and Anya looks over her shoulder, not missing the double meaning behind the words. Just this once, there is no hint of sarcasm, no snarky remarks, only sincerity.

“Me too, Lex.”

And because things could never stay serious for long with these two, Anya bumps Lexa with her shoulder, giving her a playful grin, and the tension breaks with the sounds of their laughter. 

🙐

As Lexa and Anya are halfway through their third mile, Lexa catches sight of the blonde waves and tantalizing curves she thinks she could recognize anywhere by now. Clarke is alone and seemingly catching her breath as she walks with her hands resting on top of her head. Lexa senses this is likely her last lap since, by the start of the fourth mile, the athletically inclined and power-walkers are typically all that remains. 

The track has mostly cleared; most participants ending their run after their first mile to join the after-party behind the starting line. The smell of grilled BBQ permeates the air, and volunteers have begun setting up a variety of backyard activities. 

It warms Lexa’s heart to see people of all ages and fitness levels coming out to complete at least one mile in memory of their beloved little league soccer coach and friend to every stranger. Families with young children, student organizations, sports teams, various social groups, and even clubs for the elderly; they all finish one, some going on to do many more. Lexa wonders how many miles the group will complete today, still trying to process how the donation pledges for each mile completed had increased almost twofold from last year. Lexa couldn’t be prouder to be from Polis.

She glances over at Anya, who she knows has needed a moment to recover for a while now but stubbornly refuses to slow Lexa down.

“Hey, Anya,” Lexa calls, getting her attention.

When Anya turns her head to look at her, Lexa nods to Clarke walking up ahead.

“Why don’t you go on ahead. I’ll catch up in a bit.”

Anya’s face breaks into an almost maniacal grin, and Lexa can see the little minions in her brain exploring the extensive catalog of ‘Giving Lexa Shit,’ frantically looking for the perfect response. As luck would have it though, a twinge in Anya’s back makes her grimace, and she tables her ‘I knew its’ for a later time. Instead, she just says, “Sure thing, buddy!” and gives Lexa a knowing wink before pushing ahead past Clarke. 

Lexa slows her pace and positions herself in front of Clarke in a backward jog. Clarke’s fingers are still laced together on top of her head, with her eyes closed and chin tilted up. Lexa decides to remain silent to see how long it takes Clarke to notice her presence, but only a minute or two goes by before a blue eye peeks open curiously. She promptly shuts it, lips pressed tight, trying not to give away her surprised smile. 

“Hi, Lexa,” Clarke greets her, eyes still closed. She puts on an air of nonchalance, but her barely contained grin gives her away.

“Hi, Clarke,” Lexa singsongs, prompting Clarke to open her eyes to see the big cheesy smile beaming at her. “Calling it quits after this?” Lexa asks when Clarke’s eyes meet hers.

“I think so,” she replies with a slight blush. “If I said it was only because I want to be a good friend so Raven doesn’t have to be on the sidelines by herself anymore, would you believe me?”

Lexa closes her eyes and nods thoughtfully, “It’s important to be a good friend, Clarke. Otherwise, I have no doubt that you’ve got at least 20 more laps, easy.” Lexa’s tone is playful, and she meets Clarke’s eyes again with a smile. “Mind if I join you?”

Clarke pretends to consider Lexa for a moment as if she might say ‘no’ before her expression softens and she nods. 

“That would be nice.”

Slowing to a walk from what was basically jogging in place at their current pace, Lexa moves to fall in step beside Clarke. They walk without speaking for a few minutes, content to be in each other's space, but it's Clarke who eventually breaks the silence.

“I like you like this,” she says softly.

Lexa tilts her head and gives Clarke a questioning look.

“You seem lighter,” she clarifies.

“Running puts me in a good mood,” Lexa responds, shrugging her shoulders. “The company’s not so bad either,” she adds before looking away, cheeks tinged pink.

“Lexa?” Clarke asks gently, and when Lexa looks up again, Clarke’s biting her bottom lip, expression hesitant. 

“Was Costia Hart your fiance?”

Lexa stops walking, her feet suddenly glued to the pavement. 

“H-how…”

“Dr. Kane is my mom,” Clarke answers quickly, “I saw the two of you talking earlier, and when I asked how you knew each other, she told me the story behind the race.” 

She closes her eyes and pinches the bridge of her nose between her thumb and index finger. “Clarke, I…” Lexa's thoughts feel scattered in a million directions, so she pauses to start again. “I had no idea Abby was your mother. Her name…” Lexa trails off when a few runners eye them curiously as they pass by. Lexa begins walking again to avoid any more attention.

Once they're moving again, Clarke explains.

“My dad died when I was seventeen, and my mom remarried about two years ago. It was just her for a long time, drowning herself in work at the hospital. I took it pretty hard when she started dating Marcus, but he’s a good man, and they’re good for each other. I just want her to be happy.” Clarke’s voice becomes barely a whisper when she continues, “I don’t think my dad would’ve wanted her to be alone forever.”

Lexa considers her words, and when she finds the courage to look into Clarke’s eyes again, unshed tears magnify blue irises more vibrant than Lexa has ever seen.

“I’m so sorry, Clarke.”

Clarke shakes her head, “I didn’t share all of that to make you feel sorry for me. I just wanted you to know that I get it. I really get it. If I’d have known, I wouldn’t have…”

“Clarke, no. You didn’t know, and I didn’t tell you,” she jumps in to reassure her. “This town loved Costia,” and Lexa has to swallow the lump in her throat because she can’t remember the last time she said that name out loud. “Almost everybody knows, and those who don’t always find out sooner or later. It was nice to be seen as just ‘Lexa’ and not the woman whose fiance tragically died from cancer.” Lexa winces at the truth of her own words. “I’m sure you understand better than most how every look of pity is just a reminder of what you lost.”

“I do,” Clarke nods, “but before the race, when-”

Lexa cuts her off, “Before the race, I panicked. This is a hard day for me, Clarke, and when I almost, when we almost...I just felt so guilty like I was betraying her somehow.” She lets out a long exhale trying to sort through everything she wants to say. “I’m sorry. I’m not ready to be with anyone. Not yet.”

She expects Clarke to be upset or hurt, but all she sees is compassion and understanding. 

Clarke touches the watch on her right wrist, the same one she was wearing at Grounders.

“Will you tell me about her?” She asks with a sweet smile. “Only if you want to, of course.”

Lexa nods and takes a deep breath. “Well, Costia loved the Fall. The leaves, the sweaters, the food and festivals, and traditions. All of it. It was also around this time that we found out her cancer had come out of remission.” She shakes her head, “Anya calls me the ‘Grinch’s Fall hating cousin’ because as soon as the leaves start changing, I may get the tiniest bit grumpy.”

“You?!” Clarke gasps in faux surprise, words heavy with sarcasm but without ire, “I think you’re a joy to be around, Lexa Woods.” 

She laughs at that. “Yeah, yeah. Anyway, she loved kids and coaching soccer. She was beautiful inside and out. I miss her.” Lexa gives Clarke a sad smile before looking at the ground and huffing out a wry laugh, “You know, I don’t think I’ve ever said that out loud.”

Lexa feels a quick squeeze of her hand, beckoning her to look back up.

“Thanks for telling me,” Clarke says sincerely before letting go. 

They’re approaching the end of the lap, and Clarke gives Raven a wave letting her know she’s coming to join her. As she’s about to step off the track, Lexa gently grabs her wrist. 

“Look, Clarke, I know I said I wasn’t ready, but I want to be, someday. Do you think maybe we could just be friends and see where things go?” Lexa knows she can't hide the mixture of hope and terror written on her face. 

“We are friends,” Clarke reassures her with a warm smile, “and I would like that. But be careful, Woods,” she quips, “wouldn’t want you falling in love with me and having to give up your war against cute scarves and innocent seasonal beverages.” 

Lexa barks out a laugh and rolls her eyes, “Right. I think me buying a pumpkin spice latte would have better odds, Griffin. So,” she says nervously, “could I call you sometime?”

Clarke’s answer comes with a devious smile, “Sure, Anya has my number.”

Clarke laughs openly as Lexa sighs dramatically at the sky, knowing she will never hear the end of this. 

“Are you done too?” Clarke asks with a grin, breaking Lexa out of her theatrics.

“I think I’ve got a few more. See you after the race?” 

“I’ll be the one kicking ass at cornhole, but you better get going, champ!” Clarke says with a broad smile, giving Lexa a quick pat on the butt. She turns beet red which makes Clarke laugh, and Lexa shakes her head in amusement before taking off in a jog to catch up with Anya.

“See you in a bit,” Lexa calls over her shoulder.

“See you in a bit,” Clarke calls back with a wave as she makes her way over to join Raven.

🙒

Sweat drips down Lexa’s temple as she embarks on her tenth and final lap. She’s the last one on the track, and almost everyone has paused their activities to cheer her on. Lexa chuckles as she hears Anya’s voice booming over Raven’s microphone, yelling obscene but nonetheless endearing, words of encouragement. She picks up the pace, and, for the first time that day, Lexa allows herself to remember the reason why she’s running. 

She thinks about shy smiles and terrible one-liners, about first dates and days on the soccer field followed by evenings spent wrapped in each other's arms. She thinks about how they celebrated all night when they received the call that Costia’s cancer was in remission and the devastation a year later when it wasn’t. She thinks about feather-light touches and tearful goodbye kisses, and for a fleeting moment, because anything more would break her, she thinks of the future that could’ve been. 

Lexa wipes the sweat from her face along with any tears threatening to fall on her shirt sleeve and holds her head high as she passes the lap marker for the last time. Anya immediately lifts her off the ground in a rare bone-crushing hug as the crowd claps enthusiastically, cheers and whistles coming from every direction. 

When Anya puts her down, Lexa raises her hand, and the crowd goes silent. She’s a bit winded but speaks loudly so everyone can hear.

“Thank you all for coming out today with such an outpouring of love and support. It means the world. You were her people. You are my people, and I am so proud to call Polis home. Now, go have fun and enjoy the rest of the day’s events. Until next year, may we meet again.”

The crowd erupts into cheers, and Lexa receives a multitude of shoulder squeezes and pats on the back, including handshakes from Becca and Abby plus a quick hug from Aden, who ran with his soccer team. When all the commotion dies down, and people start getting back to the festivities, she sees Clarke, hands on her hips, with a smile that makes Lexa’s heart skip a beat. 

“Really? Ten miles?” Clarke asks, shaking her head in disbelief as Lexa approaches her.

“What?” Lexa responds with a cocky grin, “I said I had a few left.” 

“A few, Lexa, not six damn miles!” 

Lexa laughs, “What can I say, Clarke. I told you running puts me in a good mood.” 

Clarke suddenly steps into Lexa's space and gives her a light peck on the cheek. Lexa just looks at Clarke in awe as she reaches up to wipe away the lip gloss left behind with the pad of her thumb. 

“You did good today, Lex," Clarke says soft enough to avoid any other listening ears, "She would've been proud."

Lexa can only nod, and when Clarke takes a step back, she’s simultaneously both disappointed and relieved. 

Before either can say anything else, Raven is suddenly flagging them down with a shout of their names. She’s walking towards them with Anya in tow and the rest of the Boobie Brigade not far behind.

“Hey, losers,” Raven greets them with a grin. “Nice run, Lexa. Who knew you were a total badass?” 

“Everyone,” Anya and Clarke deadpan in unison with the Boobie Brigade solemnly nodding their agreement.

“Thanks,” Lexa replies sheepishly, feeling the heat of a blush creep up the back of her neck. 

Raven ignores Lexa's embarrassment and continues talking without missing a beat. “So, apparently, the Polis Fall Festival is in two weeks. We should all go. You know, let the Polis folks show us Arkadians how Fall’s done right. What do you think?” Anya gives her best friend an apologetic look. 

Lexa goes to answer, but it’s Clarke who chimes in instead.

“Actually, Rae, Lexa was just telling me that she has a bitch of a case to prepare for and will be covered up for the rest of the month, but I’m in if Anya is up for doing the whole tour guide thing solo?”

Lexa’s eyes jump to Clarke, taken aback by the unexpected interjection on her behalf. She finds herself at a loss for words, not because of Clarke’s consideration of her feelings (Lexa knows by now, that’s just Clarke - sweet, beautiful, wonderful, Clarke), but that she’d take it upon herself to spare Lexa the inevitable awkwardness of having to decline. When Raven turns to Anya, pleading with big puppy dog eyes for her girlfriend to say ‘yes’, Lexa mouths a silent ‘thank you’ to Clarke, receiving a wink and a knowing smile in return. 

“It’s just copious amounts of pie and a shitty hay bale maze,” Anya says, amused by Raven’s enthusiasm, “but I like pie, so, what the hell, let’s do it.”

Raven gives Anya a peck on the cheek, then turns and claps her hands together in determination.

“Now that that's settled, who's ready to get their asses kicked at cornhole?’ Raven says with a cocky grin, walking backward toward the after-party.

“Oh, you’re on, Reyes,” Clarke replies with a laugh and skips to catch up with her.

Anya slings her arm around Lexa’s shoulders, giving the others a second to walk ahead.

“She’s alright, Lex,” Anya says with a nod towards Clarke.

“Yeah,” Lexa smiles fondly, “she is.”

🙓

Lexa is upside down in the middle of her couch, fuzzy sock-clad feet draped over the back, pen between her teeth.  Wisps of hair falling loose from her messy bun brush the rug as she reviews the case file she’s had memorized word for word for the better part of a week now.

Clarke didn’t know it at the time, but Lexa did have a lot of cases in November she needed to prepare for, however, missing the majority of her runs the past week while the townsfolk set up the park for the festival had Lexa ahead after only a few days. She tosses the folder on the coffee table behind her and sits up with a huff. 

God, she’s bored.

Just as Lexa is about to choose between another documentary binge or scrolling Instagram, an incoming call lights up her phone. Lexa grins when she sees Clarke’s name flash on the screen, along with a selfie of her from the day after the race. The picture of a sleepy Clarke with bed tousled blonde waves and bright blue eyes peeking out from her nest of blankets was worth agreeing to do Anya’s Christmas shopping this year and suffering through all ten minutes of her handwritten ‘I was right” speech that she pulled from God only knows where the second Lexa asked for Clarke’s number. 

“Hi, Clarke,” Lexa answers, the smile evident in her tone.

“Hi, Lexa,” Clarke returns in kind.

“On your way to the festival?” 

“Yup. I totally get why you’re not going, but is it selfish to say I wish I was getting to see you today?”

“What, watching Anya and Raven grope each other in public isn’t your idea of a good time?” Lexa says with a chuckle.

“You kid, but ew .” Clarke deadpans, and Lexa can’t help but laugh.

“I’m sorry, Clarke, but it’s just one day. I’m sure you’ll survive without me.”

“Maybe life should be about more than just surviving,” Clarke says earnestly.

Lexa sits up, her back ramrod straight, suddenly feeling like she’s been hit square in the chest with a sledgehammer.

“I’m sorry, what did you say?”

🙚 Four years ago... 🙚

“Promise me, Lexa.”

Lexa shakes her head vehemently, “I will not hear this again.” 

“Lexa, please,” Costia pleads, “just promise me, okay. You’re so young, and you have your entire life ahead of you. I don't want you to be alone and without love in your life."

Lexa’s voice is barely a whisper as she takes Costia’s hand and looks into her eyes, tears shimmering in her own, “The only love I want is yours.”

“And you have it. Forever." Costia cups Lexa’s jaw with her free hand and runs the pad of her thumb soothingly across her cheek. “But Lexa, please, just promise me you’ll try to open up your heart again. But maybe give it more than a day though,” She says wryly, trying to lighten the mood.

Lexa looks away with a grimace, “That’s not funny, Cos.”

Hand still on Lexa’s face, Costia gently prompts Lexa to look at her. “I want you to try.”

Lexa’s shoulders slump in defeat, and she sighs, leaning into her fiance’s touch, “Well, what if I don’t want to. I can survive without meeting someone else. I can’t survive without you.”

“Maybe life should be about more than just surviving,” Costia tells her as she runs her fingers through Lexa’s hair.

“I love you,” Lexa says as tears stream down her face. She lets Costia’s hand go just long enough to wrap both arms around her, lying down beside her and burying her face in her shoulder, “Please don’t leave me.”

Costia continues to rake her fingers through Lexa’s hair as she tries to comfort her. “Oh Lexa, I’ll always be with you.”

The heart rate monitor starts beeping erratically, and Costia’s eyes go wide.

“Cos!” Lexa yells, “Help! We need a doctor! Costia!”

“I love you so much, Lexa,” Costia says weakly, “May we meet again.”

🙚 Now... 🙚

“I said maybe life should be about more than just surviving,” Clarke repeats, “Don’t we deserve better than that?”

Lexa lets out a shaky exhale and relaxes into the couch, “Maybe we do. But, hey, Clarke, I have to jump on another call but have a great time at the festival, okay?”

“Okay, Lex. Talk later?”

“Count on it,” Lexa responds, her tone light.

After they say their goodbyes, Lexa scrolls through her contacts and presses the call button as she rushes to her room to change.

“Hey Aden, I need a favor.”

🙑

Lexa takes a deep breath as she spots Clarke talking to Raven and Anya near the hay bale maze. She shoots Anya a quick text before she can chicken out. She watches nervously as Anya reads her text and follows the instructions, tapping Clarke on the shoulder and pointing out where Lexa is standing. Clarke whips her head around, and as soon as those incredible blue eyes lock on to hers, Lexa knows it in every fiber of her being that she made the right choice.

Clarke walks towards Lexa with a beautiful excited smile, hands thrown up in the universal “what are you doing here” position. Lexa can only smile back just as excited, and yeah, she definitely made the right choice.

“You’re here,” Clarke says when she reaches Lexa looking at her like she can’t quite believe Lexa is real.

“I’m here,” Lexa says with a nod, cheeks burning from smiling so widely.

Clarke blinks and shakes her head in confusion, “What changed your mind?”

“You were right, Clarke,” Lexa says, voice full of hope.

“Right about what?” Clarke says, tilting her head with an amused smile.

Lexa holds out the to-go cup from Grounders, “Life should be about more than just surviving.”

“What’s this?” Clarke asks as she takes the coffee curiously.

Lexa nods at the cup, “Read it.”

Clarke spins the cup around and reads the words out loud, “PSL, Lexa.” 

Clarke’s eyes snap up to meet Lexa’s as soon as she registers the words, lips parted open in awe.

Lexa steps in close to Clarke, “Well, I guess that actually makes two things you were right ab-” She doesn’t get a chance to finish before Clarke’s lips are on hers. Lexa freezes in surprise for only a moment before threading her fingers through Clarke’s hair and sinking into the kiss. Clarke’s lips are soft and sweet with the taste of apple pie. Even though their lips are unrushed, relishing in the blissful exploration of a first kiss, Lexa’s heart thrums wildly in her chest, threatening to break free at any moment. When Clarke finally pulls away, Lexa keeps her eyes closed, fingers still tangled in Clarke’s hair, committing each tender second to memory.

Lexa opens her eyes as she registers the sound of clapping and a few catcalls. Her cheeks flush red, and Clarke starts laughing as Lexa pulls her closer and buries her face in Clarke’s shoulder with a groan. The whooping only gets louder as Raven and Anya approach them.

“Get it, Griffin!” Raven cheers as she squeezes Clarke’s shoulders. Anya just crosses her arms in amusement, “It’s about damn time, Lexa.” 

“Okay, okay,” Lexa says, adjusting her arm around Clarke’s waist, tucking her close into her side. “So, what’s next on the agenda?” 

“Pie,” Clarke, Raven, and Anya all say simultaneously, and Lexa chuckles.

“By all means then,” Lexa flourishes her free hand, “lead the way.”

As they begin to make their way towards the pie booths, Raven notices Clarke’s cup.

 “Oh, sweet, coffee!” she says enthusiastically and grabs the latte out of Clarke’s hand, taking a big gulp before Clarke can even try to deny her. Raven’s brow furrows, and she inspects the writing on the cup. 

“Pumpkin spice?” Raven says, claiming the latte as her own, “Sorry to break it to you, Lexa, but Clarke hates pumpkin spice. Really sweet gesture though.”

Lexa’s eyes are wide, and Clarke shrugs, giving her a sheepish grin. She shakes her head in disbelief as Clarke leans in for a kiss, and when their lips finally break apart, Lexa just smiles, resting her forehead against Clarke’s.

“Should’ve guessed.”

🙒

They say that Fall is beautiful, that it is a season of new beginnings. 

Maybe it is.