"Lexa! Sweet cheeks! It's Clarke. Obviously. Listen, um… I know it's been… oh, God, what? Two months? Three maybe? Something like that… But, I uh, I need you to call me. Actually call me. There's something I really need to talk to you about… And I miss you, of course. So much. I hope you're doing alright on your fancy book tour. Miss Big Shot… Alright, well. Call me. Day or night, I don’t care. I've got my ringer all the way up, so no excuses... 'Kay. I love you. Bye."
Smiling down at her phone after the third run through of the message, Lexa clicked to save it and then backed out into her list of contacts.
"Hey, are you even listening to me, you pretentious twat?"
"Fuck off, Anya."
"Well I'd love to, except you've vetoed my every suggestion and I'm hungry."
"That was Clarke," she mumbled, scrolling through her recent calls and frowning when she realized how just far down she had to go to reach the name she was looking for.
"Ah," Anya hummed. "The ever elusive Clarke."
"Maybe to you. Clarke's been in my life since we were teenagers."
"Well I've been working for you for over a year now and still haven't met her. I'm beginning to think she's fake. Have you been catfished, Lexa?"
Rolling her eyes, Lexa clicked over to her social media and thumbed through old posts until she found the one she was looking for. Younger versions of their smiling faces glowed up from the lit screen that she unceremoniously shoved under her editor’s nose. "Freshmen rush week. We got partnered for this stupid scavenger hunt that literally just turned out to be a ploy to get the girls wanting to pledge to buy all the crap for a party and set it up."
"It was a pain in the ass," Lexa corrected, bringing the phone back to her chest and lazily scrolling through more photos as they walked. "But we had so much… fun together that day… We actually started dating like a month after that was taken."
"Dating? I thought-"
"We're just friends now. Best friends."
"Why did I not know about the dating thing?"
"Because it was kind of a mess," Lexa chuckled. "I mean don't get me wrong. The feelings were all there. And we were great together… And the sex was phenomenal."
"There it is."
"But the timing was all wrong," she sighed. "I was so intense about school and moving on to getting my masters. And she was insanely focused on art and that whole scene. Which I love so much about her… But yeah, it just… didn't mesh with the path I was on at the time."
"Sssso what you're saying is," Anya slowly surmised, "you were a pretentious twat and dumped her."
"No, I was focused. Which you should be grateful for considering your employment kind of benefited from that… And she understood... She always understands me."
"Which is hard to do with your brooding ass."
"That's why she's my best friend," Lexa stressed, shooting the woman a narrow-eyed glare. "She's my everything. We get each other when no one else does. "
"And then you just decided to be friends?"
"Sort of. We’d only been together for like three months, but it was… It was special,” Lexa hummed, smiling down at a younger love-drunk version of herself. “When I told her I couldn't handle everything between us on top of school, but that I couldn’t imagine not having her in my life, she just smiled at me… and promised me we'd never lose each other. That was all that mattered. Then we kissed. And cried. And held each other as we promised to always find our way back to each other.”
Lexa released a slow breath as she backed out of the app, scrolling back to her contact list and finding Clarke’s name again.
“Anyway, ever since then we’ve been through everything together. Break-ups, and career bullshit. Just figuring out how to be adults,” Lexa smiled and shook her head as she hit the call button. “It doesn’t matter how much time passes, whenever either of us needs the other, we’re there. We’re each other’s person, ya know? Always will be.”
A shoulder nudged her as they wound their way down the crowded avenue, Lexa peeking out of the corner of her eye to catch Anya’s smirk.
“That’s actually kind of sweet,” Anya said. “Gay as all hell, but kind of sweet.”
“I’m calling her now, she sounded pretty desperate for me, so-"
"Maybe she's calling to declare her undying love."
"Shut up, it's ringing."
Lexa felt her stomach twist with each chime in her ear, hands steady but nerves zinging as an extra bounce decorated her step. Biting her lip as she glanced at the passing faces around her, she shoved a hand into the back pocket of her cut-off jeans and-
She yanked the phone away from her ear for a second at the shrill shout of her name, the ragged yelp of that voice still managing to settle warmly in her chest despite it’s ringing decible.
Bringing the phone back to her ear, Lexa released a breathless laugh as she spoke. "Hey, love."
"Hey, love," Anya mocked beside her, grunting at the elbow she received to her stomach.
"You finally called me back," Clarke huffed, the brilliant light of her smile caring effortlessly through her voice. "Been trying to get ahold of you for two weeks, you bum."
Lexa squeaked out an indignant laugh, clutching an unseen hand to her chest in mock hurt. "Excuse you? I have been-"
"On a book tour, I know, I know."
Lexa could practically hear the roll of blue eyes from ten states away.
"I always knew you were meant for big things, Woods."
"Oh my, is that a euphemism? Are you getting fresh with me, Ms. Griffin?"
"This is disgusting," Anya drawled beside her.
"Oh, you know it, sweet cheeks."
Lexa bit her lip at the husky tone floating over the line, doing her best to temper the explosion of a smile as everything within settled for the first time in months.
Because this is them. How they always were and would be; the depth of their connection being measured in units of respect and affection, rather than anything as plebeian as miles.
"But, um," Clarke cleared her throat and continued, Lexa imagining her tugging her ear in that familiar, nervous habit. "I actually called you for a reason."
"I'm choosing to not be offended that you'd call for any other reason than to hear the beauty of my voice."
"Ha ha. Although, it is great to hear your voice. I always miss you, you know that, Lex… But no. This is something more exciting, if you can believe that. And… And I needed you to know. So, just, be serious for a second."
"Well doesn't that sound ominous." Lexa swallowed down the lump rising in her throat. "Okay. Hit me with it."
"... I'm getting married."
And then the entire world crashing down around her.
As her heart squeezed so tight she felt as though she couldn't breathe, Lexa's feet tangled around themselves as she took a fumbling step down from the curb, her knees giving out entirely on the cattywampus landing and sending her face first into the middle of the street. Despite the reflex of her body being to catch herself, her arms shot out wildly and failed her spectacularly.
With a wheezed "Shit" and a potentially broken rib, Lexa hit the pavement as her phone skidded out of her hand and across the asphalt. Heart pounding in horror at the sight, she ground the craggy fragments of grit further into the scraps on her palms to shoot up and run after it.
Snatching the phone up from the middle of the crosswalk, Lexa threw a reflexive middle finger up over her shoulder to whoever had honked as she hurriedly pulled the phone back up to her ear.
"Lexa?" Clarke yelled for what was possibly the last of several times.
"Yeah!" Lexa breathlessly chirped at her, blindly walking back out of the street as she tried to pull herself together. "Yes! I'm here!"
She's swallowed at the clearly distressed sound of Clarke's voice, plastering a painfully fake smile over her face all the same. "Uh, nothing I'm good. Um, hey. Can you uh… can you repeat what you said before?"
"Are you sure you're okay? What happened? It sounded like an earthquake."
"Just technical difficulties, it's fine. Can you repeat what you said?"
A silent beat passed between them.
"... I'm getting married," Clarke said again, a nervous twist coloring her words, though Lexa couldn't tell if it was from the message or worry lingering for her wellbeing.
Not that Lexa could focus on any sound other than the jagged, cacophonous thunder that echoed the splintering of her heart.
"Married?" she sputtered, pressing a soothing hand to her forehead despite the rough grit that still lingered. "What are you-... I didn't even know you were seeing anyone."
"I know, I know," Clarke sighed, Lexa picturing the rueful shake of her blonde head. "It- it's… sudden. But it's just one of those things, you know?"
"Um… not really," Lexa nervously swallowed, slipping into the curved seat of a bus stop bench as she fought back a strange feeling of dread.
"We met at a gallery opening a couple months ago. Like right after you left, actually. It was one of those 'friend of a friend needs bodies at their opening to make them feel legit' type deals."
"You hate those."
"I do," Clarke agreed immediately. "But there was this guy, and he just-"
"Yeah. His name's Finn, and I think you'll love him."
"Oh, I'm sure I'll have a lot of feelings about Finn."
"What did you say?"
"I don't remember. Listen, Clarke," Lexa rushed out, fanning a hand in front of her face to help clear away the inexplicable heat building behind her eyes. "Don't you think this is kind of… You're getting married?"
"Yeah. In three days, and I need you here."
"Three days?!" Lexa yelped, her eyes wildly shooting around her as though that would help her find some semblance of sanity in this conversation.
"Yeah," Clarke sighed. "I wanted to wait until-… But he's got a show in Portland next month so we figured, well, why not just get it done. He doesn’t really have a big family, and most of mine live close anyway. So it’s not really a huge deal, I just need someone to help me throw everything together. And you know there’s no one I trust more than you."
"Don't you think we should talk about this first?" Lexa cut in weakly, dropping her head in her palm as she leaned an elbow on her knee. "I mean… I mean, it's us, Clarke. We always talk this stuff out."
"I know, that's why I need you here." Lexa let her eyes drift close at the pleading gentleness of Clarke's voice. "I can't do this without you by my side… I mean just the idea of getting married without you holding my hand is just..."
"I know," Lexa whispered, pulling her lips between her teeth to stop the flow of words fighting against the lump in her throat.
"So you're coming? You'll be here?" Clarke said with a renewed giddy-pop to her voice.
Face screwed up in a grimace as she felt her heart crack open, Lexa nodded. "Of course I will, love. I'll take a flight tonight."
Lexa pulled the phone away from her ear again at the joyous yelp that rang through the line, smiling despite herself at the sound.
"Oh my God, thank you, thank you, thank you," Clarke crooned. "Oh, this is perfect. If you'd have said no, I- I don't even know what I would've done. I would've been heartbroken… Not to mention l would've had to have cousin Beth as my maid-of-honor. Or Raven. And you know what a shit show that would've been."
"I'm glad I could at least save you from that disaster."
"As you always do, sweet cheeks," Clarke hummed in that familiar sultry way that always made Lexa feel like she was burning alive. "I'm so excited, I can't wait to see you... I've missed you so much."
"I miss you too, Clarke. I miss you all the time."
The line was quiet for a moment, Lexa swallowing at the intensity coloring her own words.
Clarke clearing her throat pulled Lexa out of her reverie. "Listen, babe, I gotta go. We're doing this dinner thing with his family tonight. It’s a whole deal since they just flew in. But text me your flight info and I'll pick you up in the morning."
"I can just take a car."
"Shut it, Woods. You're not depriving me of the chance to make a scene in an airport."
Rolling her eyes with a begrudging smile, Lexa simply sighed and nodded. "Okay, I'll text you when I have the details."
"Okay. Good. I'll see you tomorrow… God how long has it been since we've gotten to say that?"
“I’m so excited. I really can’t wait to see you.”
“You said that already.”
“And I’ll say it again, smartass, don’t test me.”
"I thought you had to go?"
"Right. Shit,” Clarke hissed. “Okay, I'm actually going now. But I’ll see you in the morning. Love you."
"I love you..."
Lexa pulled the phone away as the line went silent as a hollow feeling of misery settled in her bones. Setting the phone down on the bench beside her with perhaps more force than was safe for the integrity of her screen, she flopped back in her seat, stinging eyes turning toward the sky as her jaw clenched with a whimper.
The light shift of weight settling beside her barely registered.
"No,” she choked out, her throat aching with each swell of emotion.
"What happened?" Anya asked, Lexa feeling the burn in her chest double at the foreign gentleness coloring her friend's question.
Tipping her head forward again, Lexa stared out at the bustle of the city street in front of them.
"... The end of the world."
"Well it's good to see you're not being dramatic for once."
"I can't joke right now."
"Then tell me what happened. One second you're smiling more than I've seen all year. You actually looked like a normal functioning human with emotions for a solid three minutes. And now..."
Lexa looked over with red rimmed eyes at the whooshing sound of Anya's mimicked explosion.
"... She's getting married, Ahn."
"To some guy named Finn. Finn! Like a fish. She's getting fucking married to some fish-boy."
Even just saying the words felt like a knife plunging into her heart, her lungs struggling to pull in a juddering breath as she replayed them over and over again. Anya stared at her for a moment before speaking.
"... Okay… And we're not happy about this becaaaause…"
"Because she's mine," Lexa blurted without thought, a fire lighting inside of her with an intensity she hadn't felt in years.
Anya's brows shot up. "Uh... I think perhaps you need to rethink what just came out of your mouth."
"That's not- I didn't mean, she's not-" Lexa fumbled, fingers twisting together in anxious knots as she worked to get her emotions to make sense. "She's as much mine as I am hers, okay? We're each other's. She knows that, she's always known I'm her's. And, and, she didn't even tell me she was seeing someone... We always tell each other when we've met someone."
"Well you've been kinda busy. Not exactly available for a chat about fish-boys."
Her stomach rolled as the images flashed in her mind. Clarke, her Clarke, standing at the head of an alter, the entire bridal party bathed in shades of white and pepto-pink chiffon. Thoughts of her Clarke smiling, and kissing, and holding some faceless figure in a cheap rental tux that had Lexa's teeth on edge.
And then the scene changed. Lexa feeling her heart take flight as a new image wriggled its way to the front.
A scene of her, of them, at the head of that alter… standing hand to hand. Grin to smile. Green to blue. She imagined swathes of champagne, rose gold, and burgundy draped and bunched around them as they smiled and laughed and-
"She can’t marry him..."
The words slipped past her lips on the ghost of an exhale, her hands trembled with the weight and feel of them on her tongue.
Anya's voice cut in through the fog. "Say wha' now?"
"Clarke… She can't marry him," Lexa repeated more firmly than before. "It's not happening."
"Not to be that person," Anya frowned. "But uh, what are you talking about? She is getting married in, what you'd say? Two days?"
"Three," Lexa corrected as she stood from the bench, feeling a certain abstract spiritual kinship to warriors entering the fray of battle. "Which means I have three days to break up this bullshit wedding and win her back."
"I cannot lose her!" Lexa nearly shouted before taking a moment to calm the racing pace of her breathing. "... I can't lose her, Ahn… I need her with me."
"With you? Lexa. Not twenty minutes ago you were hellbent that you were just friends."
"That was before I-... We promised we'd always find each other. She promised me."
"Yeah, and now she's getting married."
"Because she doesn't know," Lexa stubbornly insisted, rounding on the woman still seated on the bench. "She doesn't know how I feel. She still thinks I'm that idiot in college who broke up with her."
"And you don't think you are?" Anya challenged with a quirked brow. "Before today you'd barely talked to her in months."
Lexa's eyes slid closed at the reality in that, cursing herself for having let everything fall apart so hard. Swallowing down the regret that threatened to choke the life from her, she steadied her hand and opened her eyes, lifting her chin defiantly.
"If I'm being completely honest here," she spoke quietly, licking her lips and tasting the sour truth of her words, "I always thought she'd wait for me… I thought-... I thought I could do all the things I wanted to do, and then when I had the career I set out for, I could go back and we'd just…"
Anya softened as her words trailed off, Lexa wanting to shrink into the shadows of the bustling city at the pity she saw looking back.
"I know," she jumped back in, wrapping her arms around herself for strength. "I know. That's so unbelievably selfish. And stupid. It was a ridiculous, self-serving thought, but, Anya… I can't imagine not ending up with her… It's always been her."
Anya was quiet for a long moment as she sat back further in her seat. Brown eyes swept across the towering buildings before her, squinting in the shimmering heat of sunlight. Lexa watched her mouth purse as Anya chewed on the edge of her lips, feeling like she was suffocating under the guilt and the wait and the smog of this city.
A heavy sigh broke the silence as Anya slapped her hands on her knees, groaning as she hauled herself up from the bench.
"Well," Anya said, clapping a hand to Lexa's shoulder and giving her a shake. "Looks like you got a wedding to bust up then."
Lexa launched herself at her friend and wrapped her in a tight hug. Anya let out a disgruntled 'oof' at the impact, arms dangling limply at her sides as Lexa squeezed her tight.
"Thank you," Lexa whooped before releasing her and stepping back. Feeling a heady rush coursing through her, she bounced a few times on the balls of her feet as she pulled her phone out of her pocket. "Okay, so, uh. First, I need to find a flight, and then I need to pack. I'm gonna need a car to the airport-"
"I'll drive you."
Gaze swinging up for a second, Lexa eyed her warily.
"Hey, I can drive, asshole," Anya snapped.
"No, no, I know," Lexa nodded, turning her head slightly as she pulled a face.
"You want a ride or not? I can just let you pay for a cab, ya know."
"No!" Lexa said as her thumbs flew across her screen. "Seriously, I appreciate the ride, thank you… I just wondered if maybe Bell-"
Lexa's head shot up at the sharp flick against her forehead.
"You really just suggested Bellamy is a better driver than me?"
Eyes wide, Lexa stared silently.
Anya glared at her for a moment, her stare flat and annoyed as they faced off on the curb, people winding around them seamlessly.
With a defeated sigh, Anya tossed a hand up before letting them fall back to her side with a slap.
"Yeah, alright," she grunted as Lexa nodded and looked back down to her phone. "But you're gonna have to let that go eventually. It was one time."
"You nearly ran someone over, Ahn," Lexa absently reminded as she clicked through the final confirmation of her flight details.
"They weren't wearing reflective clothing and it was dark."
"They were on a sidewalk."
"It didn't look like a sidewalk! I- You know what-"
"Listen," Lexa threw a hand up in a stop motion as she safely tucked her phone back into her pocket. "My flight is in three hours, and I still need to get back and pack my shit and get to the airport on time. If your boyfriend isn't available--"
"He's not my boyfriend," Anya glowered.
"Oh my God," Lexa huffed with a shake of her head. "If the guy you practically live with and sleep with on a regular basis isn't available, then yes, I am throwing myself at your mercy and begging for a ride. Because right now, I need to haul ass."
"That's more like it."
"Yeah," Lexa nodded, exhaling a puff of nervous energy that vibrated just beneath her skin.
Shoulders squared and back straightened to a razor's edge, she stood as tall and regal as she could manage in cut off jeans and sandals. Locking eyes with unimpressed brown, Lexa grinned despite herself.
"I have three days to get my girl back. Are you in?"
Anya rolled her eyes with a smile, wrapping an arm around Lexa's shoulders.
"Of course I'm in."
"Oh thank God."
"Who wants a spinach puff?"
"We need to borrow your car."
Lexa barely registered the flash of a curly mop of hair popping out from around the corner of the kitchen as she and Anya rushed past, the pair all but slamming into each other as they skidded to a halt outside of the apartment's guest bedroom door.
"Why do you need to borrow my car?" she heard called after them as they crashed into the room, Lexa bolting to the dresser in the corner and yanking it open as Anya bee-lined toward the closet.
"I gotta get Ellen here to the airport," Anya yelled back as she lugged out Lexa's suitcase and shoved it on the bed.
The sound of footsteps echoed down the hall as Lexa hurriedly folded and rolled select items of her wardrobe, pushing aside an assortment of flannel numbers and discreetly grabbing a few things made of lace instead.
"What about this?" Anya panted, Lexa wheeling around to see the little black dress in her hands.
"Yep," she nodded and turned back to the dresser.
"Should I grab the grey--"
"Suit? Yes. And the purple sundress, that's one of Clarke's favorites. And get the yellow--"
"You're going for three days, Lexa."
"Which means I need to fucking remind her how hot I can be, so just put them in there."
"Thank God you're not full of yourself. Otherwise this'd be really difficult."
"Why are you going to the airport?" Bellamy asked as he came to stand in the doorway.
"Long story, we're in a rush," Anya said as she folded and stuffed the dresses into the suitcase and doubled back to the closet.
"I thought you were staying until your sublet was up."
"Yeah, well, change of plans. I got a wedding to ruin, so I'm kind of against a deadline here."
Bellamy's shoulders slumped as his hands went to his hips.
"But I made spinach puffs."
"Nobody cares about your fucking spinach puffs, Bell!"
Lexa froze for a moment before whipping around at her mini explosion, feeling a slash of guilt at the sight of him standing so dejectedly in his checkered apron. Taking a steadying breath as she held a hand up in apology.
"I'm sorry. I didn't mean that."
"I just thought they'd be nice," he mumbled, brushing away a rogue bit of flour from his chest. "You guys spent months living off room service… You didn't have'ta bite my head off--"
"Listen, babe, I'll eat as many spinach puffs as you want when I get back," Anya cut in as she grabbed a few beauty odds and ends from the dresser top that Lexa had commandeered during her stay. "But right now, we really do need to kinda motor to get her checked in on time."
"What's the rush?"
"We have to get this idiot to the airport so she can fly across country and break up a wedding."
"... Isn't that kinda mean?"
"I'm not just doing this for shits and giggles, Bellamy," Lexa huffed as she grabbed a few pairs of shoes and stuffed them into a smaller compartment in her suitcase.
"She's apparently in love with this chick who's a friend and never had the brains to tell her. It's a whole ordeal."
"Wait," Bellamy said slowly as he looked between them. "So this is like a… grand gesture kinda thing?"
"Like… a race to the altar as a last ditch effort to save a true love type deal?"
"Uhhh… yeah? I guess you could put it like that," Lexa frowned as she breezed past him on her way to the bathroom to gather her toothbrush.
"And you really think she's the one?" he asked, his voice gathering momentum with each word. "You think if you lose her, your life will be meaningless and hollow?"
"What in the actual hell?"
"I mean, yes?" Lexa absently agreed while zipping up her carry on bag. "I am in love with her and I always have been. She's my best friend, I can't lose her to fish-boy."
"Oh hell, yes."
Both women jumped at the resounding thump of Bellamy's fist against the door, Lexa's eyes blowing wide as he seemed to angrily fumble with the ties of his apron before violently ripping it over his head and spiking it like a football across the floor of her room. He stepped forward and grabbed the packed carry-on bag from her hands.
"Christ, what the hell are you doing?"
"We're on a time crunch, babe, let's goooo," Bellamy needlessly yelled in the tiny space.
"Wait, we? You're gonna give me ride?"
"You bet your ass I'm getting in on this," he said like she'd lost her mind. "You think I'm gonna pass up the chance to race against the clock? Flying through traffic just to get someone somewhere in the nick of time so they can win back their soulmate?"
"The wedding isn't for another three days."
"That's not the point, Anya. Let's fucking do this."
Lexa startled as he swiftly lifted his palm and stared at her.
Her eyes flicked between his hand and the intense expectancy on his face.
"... Oh!" she finally clued in as he shook his hand a little, bringing her own up and slapping it in confused solidarity. Lexa shook off the sting of his high five as he wheeled around and resolutely stomped out of the room.
The room fell quiet in his wake, Lexa slowly turning to her friend only to find the woman already dragging a hand down the length of her face.
"I don't fuckin' know," Anya preemptively stated as she moved to finish folding the garment bags in the suitcase and lock it.
"Your boyfriend is really intense."
"He's not my boyfriend."
"Well he certainly seems to have a lot of feelings on love."
"You're gonna have to limp down that aisle after I shove you out of this window if you don't shut up."
"Yo, are we rolling or not?"
"Yeah, we're coming," Lexa shouted back at the disembodied voice of her friend's not-boyfriend, heaving the massive weight of her luggage up and off the bed and down onto its wheels.
She followed Anya out into the hall, ignoring the angry knocking from the neighbor under her feet at the thunking of their heavy footfalls.
"Oh my God, he's like an excited puppy about to piss himself," Anya sighed as she grabbed her keys from her pocket and made her way over to the deserted doorway already standing wide open.
Lexa paid her no mind as she stepped out into the hall and slammed her finger to the elevator button. They rode down together, a static quiet falling over them as the floors dinged pass one by one. She shuffled on her feet, suddenly realizing with mortification that she hadn't even changed out of her jean cutoffs before leaving.
"You sure about this?"
Attention snapping away from the expanse of her bare legs and the half thought out plan to snag a change of pants in the car on the way, Lexa looked over to her left.
"I really am," Lexa nodded with a shaky breath.
"What are you gonna do if she says no?"
She was quiet for a long moment, the reality that she hadn't quite thought that far ahead crashing into her. It made her lungs stutter and heart drop. Just the thought of it alone was enough to give life to a tiny wriggle of doubt.
But she rallied just as quickly, infusing her voice with as much assured vibrato as she could muster.
"And you're sure about that?"
"Yes," Lexa nodded as the elevator reached the lobby floor. "I just gotta remind her how perfect we are for each other… It'll be fine."
They stepped out in tandem, the clap of Lexa's flip flops echoing throughout the empty lobby.
God she really needed to change before the flight.
"Okay. But, just for kicks," Anya said as she held the front door open wide enough for her and her suitcase. "Let's say you get there, and you do manage to go all 'Say Anything' on her. If she still ends up wanting to marry this guy, what exactly are you gonna do?"
"Throw myself off a bridge."
"I'm being serious."
"I don't know, Ahn," Lexa finally snapped, pulling to an abrupt halt in the middle of the sidewalk. "Okay? I don't know. I guess I'll have no choice but to pretend to be happy and then come back here and be fucking heartbroken. But for right now, all I can do is try."
They stared at each in silence, Lexa's eyes pleading for Anya to just understand why she had to do this.
A honk sounded as a green SUV lurched to a stop at the curb beside them, the brakes whining in protest and pulling them out of the moment. The back hatch popped open as Bellamy hopped out and ran around the front end to grab the handle of Lexa's bag.
"Get in, suckas, I'll load this up."
Jesus why didn't she change before she'd left?
She'd missed her opportunity on the ride to the airport, forgoing rifling through her luggage to instead expend most of her nervous energy on hanging on for dear life as Bellamy whipped in and out of traffic. There had been moments in the mad dash between entrance and terminal, during the baggage check process and the slap of her sandals as she'd booked it to her gateway. But considering Lexa had already resigned herself to a night full of flying, to a three hour layover in Denver and the two surprise delays that came along with that, she hadn't really found another moment where her and her bag were in the same place to make herself more presentable.
She should've just risked a concussion and given Anya and Bellamy the free show.
Lexa felt like an idiot as the last flight attendant bid her farewell, his eyes roving over the long stretch of her legs as she stepped past. She hitched her carry-on higher up on her shoulder while discreetly pulling the edges of her flannel closed over the hem of her borderline crop-top.
The shake of her hands intensified with every step through the terminal, through the process of lugging her checked bags of the revolving belt at baggage claim.
She'd sent a text the second the plane had landed. Had waited impatiently for a reply through the hustle of everyone's exit but nothing came.
Not that she was worried.
It wasn't like Clarke would stand her up.
But the lack of response still had Lexa feeling just a little on edge.
The clack of her luggage wheels against tile barely registered over the noisy bustle of the airport. Lexa slipped in between people and ducked through tight gaps, head swiveling this way and that as she searched with increasing desperation through the sea of people.
And then the world shifted, and there was finally gold.
Sunshine speckled gold.
The sight of it practically glowing in the slanted light of the overhead window had Lexa's lungs locking up as her heart jumped up into her throat.
She stumbled a step forward as a passing stranger clipped her shoulder on their way. Not that Lexa cared. Or even really felt it. Not when the movement brought her out of the throng of people just far enough to get the attention of twin oceans of blues.
That face that she had missed so damn much exploded into a smile, pink lips stretching as fast as they could as that delicate jaw bobbed with a single word.
She couldn't hear it, but she could see it, and Lexa ached with how much she missed the sound of her name on those lips. On that tongue.
Her feet pushed her forward a few more steps… before halting as her eyes blew wide.
Because as soon as she'd moved, that wonderful face had turned devious; an evil sort of glee painting all of its edges as Clarke quite literally took off running.
At full force.
Right in her direction.
"No. Clarke," Lexa warned even as she backed up and braced herself, dropping her luggage with a thud beside her. "No!"
"Comin' in hot!"
She staggered backwards with the full weight of Clarke's body slamming into her, a loud "hyuh" rushing from her mouth at the impact as arms fastened around her neck. A cough rattled through her as Clarke squeezed so tight Lexa felt her eyes water.
"Can't breathe, love."
Lexa stumbled a few more steps when Clarke suddenly bent at the knees and jumped, wrapping her legs around Lexa's waist and locking her ankles together in a koala hold. Her hands flew to Clarke's thighs to keep her from sliding off, reflexively gripping and hoisting her up to sit more securely on her hips.
It almost burned, the feel of Clarke's body so close and so warm. So familiar. Dragging and jostling against her as Clarke settled further into the hold. They hugged tightly, breathing each other in as Lexa felt the earth beneath her settle for the first time in months.
Finally, terribly, after several peaceful moments, the arms around Lexa's neck loosened as Clarke leaned back just far enough to look at her.
"Hey, you," Clarke said with a soft smile that made Lexa practically melt. "Long time, no see, beautiful stranger."
"Hey, love," Lexa sighed, unconsciously tipping her head forward, eyes fluttering when their noses brushed. "I missed you."
"I missed you too… So it's settled then," Clarke declared as she pulled back again; ruddy cheeked, but still grinning, and with an authoritative nod. "You're simply not allowed to leave the country without me ever again."
Lexa burst into quiet laughter as she shook her hips, causing the woman her arms to yelp and cling tighter. "It definitely wasn't the same without you there."
"See? Absolutely amateur move there, Woods. You know you can't have fun on vacation without me."
"It wasn't a vacation!"
"Semantics," Clarke shrugged. "The point is, it was a terrible lack of judgement on your part. Though I will say, embarrassing you at airports will never get old."
"Yeah, well, we're both just lucky my knees held out," Lexa hummed as fingers combed through the curls at the base of her scalp. "I'm gettin' old."
"You're not even thirty, you dork."
"And we almost went ass backwards for a minute there."
"Oh, so you're saying you don't want me straddling you?"
Heat raced through her body at the mental image of Clarke's teasing, that kinetic kind of energy that always flowed so freely between them even more charged than she remembered. Her stomach twisted pleasantly with it, it's familiarity mixing with a brightness that seemed entirely new.
Biting her lip as she leaned closer, Lexa felt a ripple of satisfaction at the way blue eyes stared at the move.
"Oh," she whispered, "I definitely didn't say that--"
Lexa blinked out of her haze when Clarke suddenly yanked backward and hopped down from her arms. Clarke chuckled and grabbed the hands still gripping her waist, pulling them from around her and holding them in her own.
"Sorry, Finn," Clarke breathed with a laugh as she dragged a still bewildered Lexa a few paces forward. "Lex, come here. I want you to meet him. Lexa, this is Finn. Collins. Resident artist and fiance."
Lexa's eyes fell to a rather… interesting looking man.
One she decided right then and there she really didn't care for.
His hair laid brushed back and held off of his face by a pair of sunglasses, the longer twists of it hanging loose around his neck and ears. A fine stubble shaded his jaw and cheeks, framing the sling of his smile in uneven patches. A black crewneck peeked out from between the lapels of a camel corduroy jacket which hung over a pair of dark, distressed jeans and… birkenstocks.
With violently orange socks.
Lexa glanced down at the hand that reached out toward her. Pulling one of her own out of Clarke's grasp, Lexa hitched a smile across her lips and accepted his handshake.
"In the flesh and everything," he said, shaking her hand twice in a loose grip before releasing her. "The famous Lexa, in fact. I've heard a lot about you."
"Is that right?" Lexa asked, glancing at a dapple-cheeked Clarke standing next to her. "Only good things, I hope?"
"Absolutely not," Clarke immediately sniffed with a frown. "It's been nothing but insults and disparaging your character."
Lexa gave a loud scoff. "You love the very ground I walk on."
"Not in those shoes I don't." Lexa wheeled around and lifted a highly offended hand to her chest as Clarke waved a pointed finger up and down her body. "What the hell kinda traveling outfit is that, Lex?"
Lexa brought a hand behind her head and dropped the other to her waist, twisting her hips as she struck a pose and stuck a bare thigh out for good measure.
"Are you saying my traveling attire isn't up to North Cali standards?"
Her smirk widened as Clarke eyes roved over her, the shade of them darkening as they lingered along the exposed skin of her belly. "Maybe. If your goal was to seduce a sapphic flight attendant into getting an upgrade."
Lexa practically purred, biting her lip seductively. "Who says I wasn't?"
"Worked before. Remember Cabo?"
Clarke swallowed and nodded. "Oh, I remember."
A throat clearing broke through their back and forth, Lexa letting herself fall out of the ridiculous pose as an arm slithered over Clarke's shoulders.
Finn let his hand dangle over Clarke's chest as he pulled her close, smiling between the two of them. "Jeez, babe, you really were not kidding."
"About what?" Lexa asked as she looked away from the touch and reached down to gather her dropped luggage.
"That you guys go into your own little world when you're together," he answered like it was obvious. "And, well… I mean, you're definitely not bad on the eyes either."
Lexa barely held back her recoil of disgust as he let his gaze travel up and down legs. Thankfully, Clarke reacted immediately to her discomfort, reaching over and slapping him on the chest.
"Finn," Clarke chided with a frown. "Don't be an ass."
He held his hands up in surrender even as his eyes continued to wander. "Not being an ass, just agreeing with you. You said she was--"
"Okay, we should really get going," Clarke cut in with a roll of her eyes, nudging his arm off of her shoulders as she stepped out of his hold. "Mom is expecting us at this breakfast-brunch thing she insisted on, and then we have dress fittings at one."
"Off to the races already, huh?" Lexa breathed awkwardly, that nauseous sinking feeling creeping over once more. "No time for catch-up?
"Eh, you can catch up in the car," Finn waved her off as he started walking backwards toward the exit, motioning between the two women loading themselves up with Lexa's luggage. "And there'll be plenty of time this weekend for you two to have your girl talks or whatever."
"Our 'girl talks'?" Lexa mumbled to Clarke with a quirk of her brow. "We gonna reconnect over a Bop magazine and painting our nails?"
Taking Lexa's carry-on bag and slipping it over her own shoulder, Clarke shook her head and whispered, "Be nice."
"I'm always nice."
Clarke coughed in amused disbelief.
"Excuse you, I am a very nice person. I have always been nice to you."
"Yeah but you're only nice to me, Lex. That's not the same thing."
"Maybe you're the only one I care about being nice to," Lexa said with a smile, enjoying the blush of pink that bloomed across Clarke's face.
"Be that as it may," Clarke rushed out in a flustered breath, "I realize your 'bullshit tolerance' is generally low, and this weekend is gonna be hectic. So please just… for me? Try and be understanding when these people annoy you."
"So his family is annoying then?" Lexa nonchalantly asked as they crossed the exit of the airport, feeling the California heat kiss her skin for the first time in too long.
Clarke sighed and ran a hand through blonde curls. "Not so much annoying, per se. They're more… eccentric."
"What, like, crystals and zodiac eccentric?"
"They think the moon landing was fake?"
Clarke let out a belly laugh that sent Lexa's heart racing, the sweet husky timbre of it sounding so much like home. She let her steps playfully stumble and swing wide when Clarke bumped their shoulders together.
"No, you pervert," Clarke said through a smile as her laughter subsided. "They're just… different. Think outdoorsy."
Lexa nodded and released an understanding, 'Ah.' "So basically what you're saying is, they're gonna want a camo-themed wedding."
Clarke stopped short and looked at Lexa with genuine horror in her eyes.
Lexa doubled back and lopped her arm around Clarke's waist, pulling her close enough to whisper in her ear. "Don't worry, love," Lexa soothed. "I promise, I will never let you get married in a camo-themed wedding."
"My hero," Clarke said, batting her eyes like an idiot. "Speaking of, I haven't even picked out my bridesmaids dresses. Or my own dress for that matter."
"Oh, wow. Dragging your feet, huh?" Lexa breathed and felt a renewed spark of hope zing through her chest.
"You know me and my eternal love of procrastination. But also I-- I wanted to wait till you were here."
"Yeah?" Lexa hummed with a little thrill at the thought. "Why's that?"
Clarke shrugged as they walked through the rows of cars, blindly following wherever the hell Finn was leading them. "Because I've always pictured you there when I pick that stuff out. I may not have ever been that girl who dreams about her wedding, but when I have pictured it… I don't know… You've just always been there with me."
Lexa swallowed down the lump that had risen in her throat, licking her lips and taking a moment to settle her wildly beating heart. She grinned over at Clarke and pressed a kiss to her hair, rested her head against hers and hugged her as they walked.
Clarke pulled back just far enough to look softly into her eyes. "Yeah?"
"Yeah. Always," Lexa whispered with every ounce of sincerity her body could muster. The smile slowly slipped from her face as she let herself fall into Clarke's eyes. Felt the words bubble up faster than she had time to think. "I actually always thought when you got married… it'd be--"
Lexa suppressed an impatient sound as she looked up, seeing a grinning Finn popping the trunk and giving it a tap before walking around the side of the familiar black convertible Lexa had helped pick out two years prior. Using the frame as leverage, he hopped up and swung his legs over the open edge and plopped himself squarely in the backseat.
She glanced over in time to catch Clarke's tight lipped smile, baby-blues firmly staying forward as they caught up. Clarke yanked the suitcase from Lexa's hands and hauled it up, all but flung it into the trunk before reaching up and slamming it closed with a hollow thunk.
With a sigh and quiet, "Thanks, Finn," Clarke took the keys dangling from his outstretched fingers and lowered herself into the driver's seat.
"So," Lexa tried through the silence as she settled into the front seat and let Clarke stuff her carry-on bag on the floor between her feet. "We heading back to your parents--"
Clarke perked up as she fired up the engine with a roar.
"Nope," she said with a pop and slipped on a pair of sunglasses. "I had to talk fast just to get away long enough to pick you up. If I don't have you front and center in the next half hour, mom is gonna skin us both alive."
"Clarke," Lexa tried, fumbling with quick hands to strap herself into her seatbelt as Clarke threw the gear shift into reverse. "I'm dressed--"
"Like Annie Oakley's lesbian descendant, I know," Clarke nodded, ignoring Lexa's answering offended noise as she rested a hand on the passenger-side headrest and flung the car backward with a lurch. "But it's fine. You can change when we get to the hotel."
"Hotel?" Lexa's hand flew to the dash as Clarke whipped out of the spot and then popped it into drive, her body instinctually falling into its default survival mode whenever Clarke was behind the wheel. Glinting rows of cars flashed by as Clarke zipped through the lot and made their way out onto the highway. "I'm not staying with your parents?"
"No, no one is," Clarke called over the slap of wind as Lexa blindly found a hair tie in Clarke's middle console and pulled her flaily strands back into a tight ponytail. "Between his family and our whole brood, there's not enough space, so we all just decided to rent out a block of rooms for everyone at The Tower in Polis."
Lexa sent her an aggrieved pout as she slipped on the spare pair of sunglasses Clarke kept in the glovebox for her. "But I was looking forward to having a Griffin pajama night."
"Oh don't you worry, sweetcheeks," Clarke smiled back, tipping her glasses down and leering over the top of the frame. "We're still doing that tomorrow."
"Eyes on the road when we're doing eighty, please."
"Mom and Dad got a room too," Clarke continued as she pushed her glasses back up and did as Lexa asked. "They didn't want to have to drive back and forth every day for all the planning and stuff, so it was easier this way. And with Finn's parents in town, they thought it'd be the best way to get to know each other. Future in-laws and all that."
Lexa's stomach sank even as she nodded and struggled through a smile.
"But when they heard you could actually make it, Dad insisted we still do it, so I hope you packed your favorite pjs."
"I hate them," Lexa corrected as she lifted a hand to glide through the air that whistled past the window. "But, yes, of course they're packed."
"We trained you well, Woods."
"Gladly. Can you find something to listen to, babe?"
"Of course, love."
A hand collided with Lexa's arm as she moved to tap the screen mounted in the dash.
Lexa twisted around and felt heat flare up her neck as Finn stared at her in confusion, each of their hands pulling back slightly from where'd they'd reached forward to choose a station.
"I just thought--"
"Yeah, no. You go ahead," Lexa waved between him and the radio, giving a strained smile as she leaned further out of his way. "Force of habit."
Wishing she could disappear right between the floorboards of the car, Lexa settled for staring out across the rolling stretch of hilltops around them as the car filled with snippets of words and snatches of songs as Finn flipped from one channel to the next beside her.
The stereo exploded in guitar riffs a second later, the grinding sound loud enough to have Lexa yanking her head back and away from the source.
She wasn't sure what to do with herself through the cacophony that blasted from the speaker's. Wasn't quite sure what to do with her hands or how to feel about the fact that Clarke refused to look at her.
She hadn't exactly planned on having so much Finn shoved in her face right out of the gate and already Lexa was beginning to feel spun out in her plan.
What she needed was to regroup.
To take control of the situation.
Because this was still Clarke. Her Clarke. That was plain for anyone to see. So Lexa decided whatever this weird dynamic was that had settled over the trio just wouldn't be allowed to stand.
"So," Lexa yelled a few minutes later, thankful when Clarke immediately clicked the button on her steering wheel a few times to turn the noise down. "What's the agenda for this weekend? I can imagine Abby is going all out."
And just like that, Clarke relaxed back into her seat. The perfect curve of her jaw unclenched and her lips tipped into a grin as she gave an exasperated nod and glanced over. "Yeah, she's gone a little…"
"Crazy?" Lexa supplied.
"Suffocatingly enthusiastic," Clarke nodded. "From the second I told her about the engagement and wedding date, she's kicked it into Alpha-Mom mode."
"She invited everyone, Lex. Everyone. She sent an invite to my damn Sunday school teacher."
"You mean your godmother?"
Clarke made a garbled sound of dissent and held up a hand. "Irrelevant. I don't know the woman. I see her like once every three years. There's no reason to have invited her. But she's losing it, Lexa, I swear. It's like she's gone insane because 'her spinster daughter finally landed herself a man. Oh happy day!'"
Lexa let out a bark of laughter as Clarke complained in a terrible rendition of a southern bell drawl. "She just loves you."
"Well if she loves me, she needs to chill out," Clarke groaned, leaning an elbow heavily onto the middle console. "I swear sometimes I think I should've just gone to the damn courthouse--"
"Hey," Lexa immediately cut her off as her heart thumped and twisted. She leaned in as well and grabbed Clarke's hand, thanking the small confines of the car for blocking the view from the backseat. Clarke glanced over to her in question, though returned the hold when Lexa laced their fingers together. "You do not mean that."
Clarke was quiet for a long moment, eyes jumping back and forth between the road and Lexa's face. Lexa stayed quiet. Stayed still. Kept Clarke pinned under her knowing gaze, only allowing her lips to curl into a smile when Clarke practically slumped in her seat with a pout.
"I don't like you."
"You don't know me."
Giving an easy shrug and running her thumb over Clarke's skin, Lexa politely had to disagree. "You'd never want to do anything that important without your mom and dad."
"I could if I wanted to."
"But you don't want to. That's the point. You'd never want to do that without your family. And equally as important, if I do say so myself… you'd never wanna do it without me."
Lexa didn't have it in her to reprimand when she peeked over to find Clarke staring at her with a smile so gentle it made her ache.
"Because you are my family, Lex."
She wondered how many of those smiles she'd missed over the years. Felt the weight of her own guilt creep over her as the hand laced in her own squeezed her, soft and familiar and warm. But she leaned into the moment now. Fully gave herself over to deep thud of her heart as she turned and accepted Clarke's affection without pause, and gave every morsel of her own affection back as best as she could.
"You're my family, too, love," Lexa hummed. "And so, so much more--"
"Yo, babe, that's your exit!"
Lexa lurched sideways as Clarke abruptly dropped her hand and grabbed the wheel, barely taking a second to check her sides before yanking the car hard to the right. A few honks rang out in the distance behind them as Clarke whipped across three lanes of traffic and called an extremely unhelpful, 'Sorry!' over her shoulder to no one in particular.
"You really never get better at this," Lexa breathed through a relieved laugh as her nails released their grasp from the leather lining of the car's interior.
"I had everything under control, sweetcheeks," Clarke dismissed as she slowed enough to take her turnoff and move onto city roads. "You've just been outta the game too long."
"I keep telling her she's going to end up on the five o'clock news," Finn yelled as he leaned forward between the seats. Lexa pulled back and felt her eye twitch when he popped a kiss to Clarke's cheek. "But it's still kinda sexy when she goes all GTA on people's asses."
"I'm just driving," Clarke huffed, reaching to nudge Finn back into his seat, "not busting a cap in someone's ass. You both need to calm down."
"I'm perfectly calm," Lexa said with a flick of her wrist. "I just think you're a menace to society."
Clarke pointed at her. "And don't you forget it."
Lexa laughed and grabbed the dash yet again as Clarke swung the car around a bend, taking the turn fast enough to send a roll through her stomach. Tires whined when they rounded the entrance loop in front of the hotel, The Tower spelled out in sprawling gold script across the front facade , as Clarke slammed on the brakes when they pulled even with the grand front glass doors.
Smoothing the wild strays that had escaped during her routine brush with death, Lexa gave Clarke an exasperated smile and slipped her sunglasses to the top of her head. "You don't say?"
"Finn, can you grab the bags--"
"Let the bellhop do it," Finn cut her off as he pushed up and swung his legs over the side of the car to hop. "I'm starvin', babe."
Lexa suppressed a roll of her eyes as he took off into the hotel without a backward glance. "It's fine, I got it," she murmured and reached for the door handle.
Fingers wrapped around her wrist and tugged. "Hey, wait."
She turned back and felt her breath stutter as Clarke leaned in, let her eyes fall closed at the feel of soft lips pressed against her cheek.
"Thank you so much for being here," Clarke whispered against her, dropping another peck to Lexa's skin before pulling back. "You have no idea how much this means to me."
"Clarke," Lexa breathed and reached over to tuck back a blonde curl. "I wouldn't be anywhere else."
"I'm not trying to be sappy, okay," Clarke nervously chuckled, though squeezed Lexa's hand tighter all the same. "I just… I missed you so much. And I've missed this… And I know. I know you're busy, and I know your life takes you away, but I still need--… Just, just thank you for making time for me."
Lexa shook her head and felt her heart break. "Clarke, I love--"
"No, no no no," Clarke said with a strange flourish as she hitched a smile across her face and pulled out of Lexa's hold. "Pin that. You're not gonna make me cry, Woods. Not today. I have to go play the good daughter for half of Napa's geriatric elite, I'm not doing it with running mascara."
"I wasn't-- Just wait--" Lexa tried despite Clarke already being halfway out of the car.
"Shush and get it in gear. We'll do the hardcore huggy-feely stuff later. You still need to change and let mom and dad fawn over you for a half hour, so we gotta get this show moving if we're gonna make the fitting appointment at one."
Releasing a deep sigh, Lexa climbed out as well, shouldering her carry-on bag as she rounded to meet Clarke at the trunk.
"Now," Clarke said and settled Lexa's luggage down with a thunk, "go make yourself prettier than you already are, and then come down to brunch. We're in the Vineyard banquet hall."
"Don't sass me. Scoot."
Lexa jumped at the firm slap to her bottom before Clarke climbed back into her car and revved the engine.
"You got twenty minutes before I let mom send a search party after you," Clarke called out, "so you better move that sweet, sweet ass."
With that, Clarke hit the gas and peeled off around the bend toward the parking lot, leaving a wildly grinning Lexa staring after.
Oh. This was gonna be a piece of cake.