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A Very Victorian Tale of Two Girls Snowed In

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Clarke marvelled at the miraculous transformation of the view across the parks of Woodfield manor. Having been caught unawares, the thick blanket of white that covered the extensive grounds had enthralled Clarke’s attention upon the first glance out the window. She had expected the dreary sight of fog and dying flora, the constant companions of winter she had been accustomed to the majority of her life. Whilst her mind was filled with naught but wonder as she stood transfixed by the window, she would often reflect as the years wore on, at how pleasantly surprised she had been by the comely spectacle.

“Good morning, dearest.” The soft whisper had caught Clarke off guard, having come from such close proximity to her person and she jumped slightly as bed warm hands gently wrapped around her waist. “Och, I did not mean to startle you, love.” Lexa whispered  soothingly as the tip of her nose gently rubbed against the soft skin beneath Clarke’s ear. The tender gesture sent an involuntary shiver down her spine.

“Mmm, good morning to you too.” Clarke returned her greeting as she turned her head, her nose brushing against Lexa’s in an affectionate manner. A content smile stretched across her lips as she basked in the heart warming intimacy of this stolen moment.

“Where had your beautiful mind wandered so deeply at such an hour of morning?” Lexa asked as she moved to rest her chin on Clarke’s shoulder.

“I have never seen quite such a blanket of snow. I was marvelling at winter’s beauty.” Clarke replied before squeezing the hands so comfortably resting over her stomach, threading her fingers through Lexa’s. “Although if you might permit me… winter’s pale beauty falls rather short when compared to yours.” Clarke turned in Lexa’s embrace as she whispered the last words, resting against the windowsill as her palms slid up delicate arms to finally rest on Lexa’s shoulders.

Lexa’s soft smile blossomed into a sheepish grin, flashing a row of snow white teeth as she chuckled in amusement. She gently bit her bottom lip as she regarded Clarke for a moment more, Clarke noted Lexa’s eyes glistening with mirth as Lexa watched her eyes be inevitably drawn from green to pink. When left unobserved by another, Clarke never quite found the will to restrain her gaze from wandering to full lips, particularly when Lexa toyed with her so and deliberately drew her attention to them.

Clarke knew she had gained favour with her lady, although whether by the compliment or her predictably wandering attention was a mystery she was happy to leave unsolved. For the moment her entire being was commanded by the feeling of Lexa melting against her, their embrace becoming that much more intimate as Lexa inched closer. Not giving in, not quiet yet. Rather tempting her. They told themselves it was a game they had invented to test one another’s will, to see whom would break first, although Clarke suspected that it had a rather large deal more to do with Lexa’s lingering anxiety over the propriety of the situation they had found themselves entangled in.

“The sun has barely had time to turn his face upon us and here you are making love to me at the first opportunity.” Lexa’s tone was reminiscent of how one would chide a petulant child but was immediately betrayed by her pleased smile and the happy gaze she rested on Clarke, eyes sparkling with mischief. 

“An impudence I am sure, but ‘tis my weakness, M’Lady. I am a slave to my heart’s every desire of which the greatest one is forever basking in the glow of your smile.” Clarke feigned a theatrical, pompous tone, attempting to draw a mask of dramatic repentance upon her features, turning her face sharply to one side, her chin resting upon her chest, eyes closed. However, her performance had only lasted but a handful of seconds before it was shattered upon hearing a barely stifled giggle from her audience. Her own lips stretched into an impish grin as she playfully peered up at Lexa from her faux-repentant position and as soon as their eyes met the both of them were thrown into a fit of laughter, still clinging to one another as they attempted to regain control of their breathing.

Clarke felt as though she had altogether stopped breathing when she realized Lexa was moving closer, lips parting in anticipation, hopeful of the kiss her antics appeared to have won. It was in the last moment that Lexa’s lips veered off their course to plant a gentle kiss by the corner of Clarke’s mouth. Close, but not quite yet. It had left Clarke in an odd state of rueful wanting yet somehow feeling entirely satisfied. 

“And I in yours, beloved. And I in yours.” Lexa whispered as she withdrew, the ghost of her breath prolonging the encounter in a bittersweet manner, urging Clarke to chase after Lexa’s lips. But not yet. Clarke restrained the tempest of her desire. ‘It was far too early in the morning to admit defeat just yet…’

“Does it always snow this heavily around these parts?” Clarke changed the subject abruptly. “I have only ever spent my summers here, I have truly never seen quite so much snow.”

“It does.” Lexa replied simply as she disentangled from their embrace. “And I dare say it has been cold enough that the lake must be quite frozen by now. I do hope it is, for I expect we are quite snowed in my dear.”

“Snowed in?” Clarke asked, her brow knitting in confusion.

“Yes, snowed in. Any horse would have a right job trying to pull a cart across a foot or two of snow, would you not agree?” 

Clarke’s eyes rounded in horror as she discovered how deeply the beautiful scenery would impact their plans. “But then… the winter fair that you so wanted to show me?” 

“Will have to wait some days until the weather has cleared up.” Lexa said in an apologetic tone. Clarke could feel a pout forming on her lips, sure that it would paint her dejection upon her cheeks in a most uncomely manner and yet she failed to reign it in. She had never been to a winter fair before and was quite excited when Lexa had invited her. 

“Aw, dearest, don’t let a wee thing such as snow ruin your mood!” Lexa said in placatory tone, softly cooing to Clarke as she approached again, this time with the clear intention of cheering Clarke up. Clarke felt her bad mood lingering even as gentle fingers laced together behind her neck but those feelings were unevenly matched to withstand the onslaught of excitement as Lexa leaned close again. “I’m fairly sure I can… entertain you adequately until the snow is cleared enough.” Lexa whispered in a tone that left Clarke’s ears burning hotly, the flush that crept up from her deepest bowels made all the more pronounced by the coolness of Lexa’s lips against her heated skin. Clarke allowed a soft sigh to escape her lips as Lexa’s descended on her earlobe. Clarke found herself unable to counter, the entirety of her attention gloried in the lustful sensations blossoming in the wake of Lexa’s lips.

“Indeed?” Clarke whispered breathlessly only when Lexa withdrew. 

“Quite!” Lexa quipped, pursing her luscious full lips playfully. “Assuming the gardener and the stable hands have cleared the path for us!” Lexa said as she happily gathered a set of clothes she had picked out for the day in her arms and disappeared behind a set of ornately decorated folding screens. Clarke sat against the windowsill for a moment more, her mind striving to comprehend the sudden departure of the capricious seductress that was Lexa.

 


Once they had both made themselves decent for company Clarke and Lexa descended the stairs, amicably chatting, their arms thrown lazily about one another’s waists. As they entered the corridor leading to the dining hall they had spotted a maid going about her day’s work, which, Clarke noted with some slight interest, included the dusting of the portraits on this particular day.

“Oh, Maggie, would you happen to know where Stevens is?” Lexa called out to the maid whose name Clarke had not previously known. She noted that girl was of a polite stock, immediately doing a little bob of a curtsy upon being addressed.

“Last I’d seen Mr. Stevens, Ma’am, he’s was waiting on the Master in the dining room, Ma’am.” She replied dutifully, turning from her task to give her Mistress her full attention.

“Thank you, Maggie.” Lexa said kindly, pleased with the reply and proceeded down the hall, not sparing the young girl another glance who immediately resumed her duties upon dismissal. Even after so many months of observing Lexa’s interaction with their staff Clarke felt somewhat awkward, the handling of servants not at all coming quite so naturally to her. The wild notions flying about within her Girton society of women banding together regardless of their social station in favor of securing the right to vote had done her no favors in this regard either. She found it increasingly difficult to take them quite so much for granted and found that ending any conversation struck with them a daunting task. Clarke schooled her features into a pleasant smile, wiping the crease from her brow before Lexa would catch sight of it as they entered the dining room.

Simultaneous chants of morning greetings left the occupants lips as Clarke and Lexa settled on either side of Sir Gustus, Stevens promptly stepping up to fill their plates with their chosen dishes.

“Stevens, would you know if William or Herbert has set about clearing paths in the snow yet?” Lexa asked conversationally over a bite of buttered croissant.

“I believe they have, Miss Woods.” Stevens replied in the affirmative. “William had made rather frequent complaints of his injured knee and foretold the snow we would be getting today, Miss. Yesterday he had wagered that it would be upon us today, in fact. He suggested it would be good to send out the stable hands at the earliest to clear a path to the horses.” 

“Marvellous. Thank you Stevens.” 

“Very well, Miss.” 

“I hope you do not intend to brave this weather in the hopes of going to the winter fair, Alexandra?” 

Clarke had been a guest of the Woods’ to have made a number of small observations regarding their personal dynamics. For one, Clarke had noted the utter unpredictability of Sir Gustus’ usage of his niece’s full name. So far Clarke had the hypothesis that he either used it to annoy his niece or rather when he himself was vexed with her. Her other, far more easily confirmed observation was that Lexa hated being addressed by her full name with a passion. Any time Sir Gustus deemed it appropriate do so a shadow of annoyance cast over Lexa’s aristocratic features, if only for a fraction of a moment.

“Not in the least, Uncle Gustus.” Lexa replied, her tone not at all betraying the ire she had swallowed with a bit of tea before answering. In that moment, the spark of mirth Clarke spied in Sir Gustus’ eyes as he gazed at his niece appeared to confirm her theory that Sir Gustus enjoyed teasing Lexa with the name. Clarke made a mental note to confide in Lexa regarding her theories at an opportune moment. 

“I was rather hoping to indulge in a bit of ice skating if the lake had frozen over enough.”  Lexa said after a few seconds.

 


 

“Do be mindful o’ the snow now, Miss’es.” William grumbled in a tone of polite foreboding as he watched Clarke and Lexa securing the laces on their skates. 

“Oh William, always such a worry-wart in the winter. Didn’t you say just last week that the ice was coming on nice and thick? That you had been measuring it since the frost set in?” Lexa said and Clarke could her the slight cutting edge of her annoyance rise at the coachman’s constant vigilance of unforeseeable dangers. ‘Dear lord if there is anyone who truly protests the existence of winter it must be William.’

“Aye, Miss Woods, tha’ I have. But I only been measuring the cleared parts. Best stay clear of the far side for the snow could be hiding thinner ices there.” William repeated his warning as Clarke and Lexa stepped onto the ice. Clarke noted with some interest that the coachman’s accent always became more pronounced with strong emotions.

 


 

To Clarke’s utter amazement Lexa had proved to be a much more accomplished skater than herself. While Clarke herself could boast of an acceptable skill, Lexa easily swirled around her in circles even as Clarke slid forward at a rather dynamic pace. More than once Clarke stared in wonder as Lexa made difficult swirls on a single leg or did beautiful dance figures most people would have fair difficulty producing on solid ground. 

At an opportune moment when Lexa had slid by her side and linked their arms together, Clarke wondered aloud “How is it that I had to use my Dr Clarke voice on you take more exercise in the summer and come winter you reveal yourself to be a veritable skating prodigy?” 

“Ah well,” Lexa said happily as she moved for greater momentum, dragging Clarke along through their still interlinked arms. “I am only loath to take exercise in the summer. I much prefer the cold breath of winter to the raging heat.” 

 


 

Clarke happily discovered that the cruel chill of winter had no effect on her in the wake of a spontaneous snowball fight that had erupted between them. Surprisingly, the chill had no hold on her despite the fact that she was turning out to be quite shoddy at aiming her projectiles. Lexa’s snowballs seemed to explode on her person, and more annoyingly, find their way beneath her clothes, much more frequently than Clarke’s. They had made a lark of it and Clarke did not envy the success from Lexa. In fact she found herself giddy with excitement at Lexa’s open joy.

Clarke saw a cunning chance present itself as she neared Lexa with an already prepared snowball just as Lexa crouched, expertly balanced on her skates. Clarke’s snowball caught Lexa right on her left ear and caused her to topple over in surprise. At first Clarke let out a gloating roar of laughter as Lexa’s frame disappeared in the snow but when she failed emerge within seconds Clarke grew worried.

Sliding the last few feet closer terror compressed her chest, robbing her of her breath as she dropped to her knees inelegantly, arms already outstretched to shove the thick sheet of snow to the sides. As Lexa’s frame still refused to emerge from the blanket of snow Clarke grew more frantic, her blood drumming in her ears so loudly she was fairly deafened and nearly toppled over herself when William crashed on the ice next to her, large hands shovelling at the snow along with her. 

“The…there’s a crack in the ice!” Clarke heard the words distantly, echoing violently in her ears, not sure if she herself or William had uttered them. There was a wide crack in the ice, not nearly wide enough for a person to have fallen through but the web-like cracks had told Clarke a foreboding tale. There was a reason why many believed ice to be the work of the Devil, despite his realm being a fiery pit. If one fell through the ice and the slabs closed back in place above them… Clarke was out of her cloak and desperately throwing large slabs of ice to the side to enlarge the hole when William’s voice pierced through the fog of blood drumming in her ears. “She’s here!” He screamed, pounding at the ice with some metal instrument just before his knees, some two or three feet away from Clarke.

“Miss, no!” Clarke heard William yell as cold water surrounded her. It was the most eerie view Clarke had ever seen, light blue light barely penetrating a feet below the ice and beneath it…there was darkness. Lexa’s rigid form was floating against the ice, her face upturned towards the light, hair floating around her face like a foreboding halo. Clarke struggled against the numbing cold to reach her, pushing herself closer, all too slowly to her liking. 

Her heart violently thumped inside her chest, pumping her blood through her rapidly cooling body out of sheer stubbornness. The sting of cold burned Clarke and she could barely feel her extremities, her lungs burned for want of oxygen and yet relief flooded through as she saw her unfeeling, numb fingers wrap around Lexa’s wrist. As Clarke tugged her closer her eyes rounded in terror, a scream nearly leaving her lips as she saw Lexa begin to sink. Time had done an awful trick upon her mind, both appearing to completely still and yet barely giving her time to respond.

Lexa’s eyes were open, staring at Clarke yet they were unseeing, her body not moving in any way to save herself from sinking to the bottom of the lake. Clarke tugged again with one hand her other attempting to wrestle Lexa’s soaked overcoat from her shoulders even as she felt the delirium from lack of oxygen take hold of her senses. Her vision blurred and her chest burned worse than ever in her life, her muscles contracting wildly in an attempt to release the pressure in her lungs. 

Just as Clarke’s mouth opened and a surge of bubbles erupted from her lips, her last thought a desperate prayer for Lexa’s deliverance, she felt a harsh tug and in a moment felt the welcoming sting of air against her skin. 

“Get-t-t-t… Le-le-lexa…ho-ho-.hol-ding onn t-to…her..” Clarke stuttered out as she realized it was William attempting to pull her out of the water. Within moments the sturdy coachman had hauled Lexa out of the water, followed by Clarke who bothered not much about herself, crawling to Lexa’s side on shaking hands and knees. 

“Ge-get he-help…b-b-blankets. Fire,” Clarke stuttered as she leaned over Lexa’s unmoving form, not sparing the coachman another glance. 

Her mind immediately kicked into action, miraculously pulling the memory of Dr. Silvester’s lecture* from the depths of her subconscious and immediately started performing the arm movements to help Lexa breathe. Pulling Lexa’s arms above her head tight, so that her elbows touched the ice, then pressing them back against her sides, in an effort to enlarge and compress her chest cavity to imitate a breath.

Her soul despaired when her Lexa failed to show any sign of life after a handful of compressions and she lurched forward by wild inspiration, pressing her lips to Lexa’s, blowing air into her mouth. “Come on!” Clarke muttered as she took another deep breath and blew it entirely into Lexa’s lungs, hoping that she would expel the water she had likely swallowed. When still nothing happened Clarke began to panic, grief and soul shattering guilt constricting her own lungs. “Breathe! Come on, Lexa! Breathe!” Clarke yelled, her eyes round and wild as she stared at Lexa’s unmoving form, her fist slamming against Lexa’s ribs in a last attempt to will her lover’s heart to beat, beating it for her if she had to.

The sound of Lexa’s violent, lurching cough, the splash of water as her lungs expelled its deadly invader was such music to Clarke’s ears, she would later swear that it had been the most beautiful sound she had ever heard. Holding Lexa securely in her arms, she helped her to her side to better cough up the water she had inhaled. 

As relief flooded through Clarke so had her senses revived along with Lexa and she suddenly felt the keen chill of cold. “Le-lexa… Lexa, we n-need to move” Clarke slightly stuttered as her teeth chattered, her words slurred as she all but lost feeling in her lips. “Catch our deaths wet in this cold.” 

She half dragged half supported Lexa off of the ice. So graceful they were in their movements minutes ago, they stumbled off together, clumsily stumbling along the trodden path of hard snow and earth, unmindful of still wearing their stakes as they made their way towards the manor.

 


 

Clarke heard murmurs of voices as she drifted in and out of consciousness, not really aware of the contents of what was being said. She snuggled closer against the comfortingly familiar warmth, although her addled mind could not quite figure out what its source might be, only knowing instinctively that she must not let go.

 


 

“William will do no such thing.” Clarke heard the distinctively gruff voice of Sir Gustus as she rose to consciousness once again. 

“But, Sir…” the protest came instantly.

“I said no, William. The snowstorm has become worse yet, there is nearly three feet of snow covering the grounds alone and only God knows the state of the roads leading into town. You would catch your death going out.” The commanding tone of Sir Gustus’ voice was not lost on Clarke, her keen mind now considerably rested had immediately picked up on the edge of ire in it, surmising that they had likely had this conversation before. “The worst of their fevers have broken. Anne shall continue sponging them with cold vinegar and water every hour**.”

As the conversation tensely died away Clarke became conscious of her body, the uncomfortable dampness of sweat, the stench of bodies unwashed and the burning sensation in her paper dry throat. ‘We must have been sleeping for days’.

Clarke struggled to extract herself from the covers enough to sit, surprised when it was Sir Gustus himself who sat on the edge of the bed. “Th-” Clarke coughed as she attempted to speak. “Thirsty. Is there water?” His large hand was unexpectedly gentle as he helped Clarke drink from a cup. “Lexa?” 

“Is fine. Sleeping. Both of you have been drifting in and out consciousness for some time.” Sir Gustus allowed a gruff snort, which Clarke knew was his version of a chuckle erupt from his nostrils. “Frankly put, I am rather surprised you had not roused one another, you two being so completely attuned to one another. But Lexa is not in any imminent danger. Thanks to your incredible bravery.”  Sir Gustus said with palatable relief and gratitude in his voice, his eyes solidly trained on Clarke.

Clarke’s stomach gave a violent lurch and she broke eye contact with Sir Gustus when she remembered the dreadful moments when Lexa failed to emerge from the snow she had fallen into. The snow she had toppled her into with the damned snowball. “I…”

“None of that.” Sir Gustus’ voice rang sharply before Clarke could utter more than a single word. “Your thoughts are plainly written all over your face. I do not want to hear any of that, Clarke. William has told me what happened.” Sir Gustus said rather sternly, convincing Clarke further that Sir Gustus shared her views of her being the one to blame, not even wanting to hear her apologies. Thus she was entirely taken aback when a gentle hand, really, far too gentle for its size, guided her to look into Sir Gustus open and compassionate eyes. “It was an accident, Clarke. I do not want you to think otherwise. And then you so foolishly and gallantly jumped after my Lexa. You saved her, Clarke! You saved Lexa from a cruel and untimely death. Never think otherwise.” When Clarke could no longer take Sir Gustus’ grateful gaze she averted her eyes and nodded several times in consent.

 


 

“Good morning, sleepy.” Clarke heard the most wonderful whisper against her temple as she stirred to the realm of the wakeful once again. She cracked an eye open, not daring to believe that she had heard Lexa’s angelic voice but to her relief she was rewarded with a blinding grin from Lexa.

“Lex” Clarke croaked in a gravelly voice, happiness warming her heart despite the lingering dregs of guilt.

“Me.” Lexa said in a happy, playful tone. “I was beginning to worry you had grown tired of me, always so deeply asleep when I was awake.”

A burst of laughter propelled forth from Lexa’s lips upon seeing Clarke’s eyes come alive with an incredulous look. “That’s more like my Clarke. I had missed the shine of your beautiful baby blues.” Lexa said as she gently caressed Clarke’s cheek. Clarke leaned into the touch for a second, lost in the silky caress of Lexa’s palm before she pulled away, her guilt making one last valiant effort to regain the upper hand over her soul. “How…can you say that Lexa after what I-” Clarke’s guilt-ridden confession was cut short by a gentle finger pressing against her lips.

“Sshhh. Uncle Gus did mention that you were all contrite with guilt.” Lexa said soothingly, moving closer to Clarke as she did so, pulling her almost atop herself. “Don’t be. If anything this incident has made me fall in love with you all the more.”  

When Lexa’s soft words hit Clarke’s ears she stilled entirely, almost willing her heart to refrain from beating for just a moment as she absorbed their meaning. Moving her head from Lexa’s shoulder she leaned back, seeking the brilliant greens of her lover. It was the first time Lexa had said the words aloud. They had frequently said several variations amounting to the same, but never those exact words in the several months they had known each other.

“Yes, love. I said it aloud and I shall happily say it aloud for however many days I may yet live. All of which, mind you, I have you to thank for.” Lexa said affectionately, moved to tears by the strength of her own confession. “I love you, Clarke. More than I have words to describe.”