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You See the Smile That's On My Mouth (it's hiding the words that don't come out)

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They meet in kindergarten at Octavia Blake’s birthday party. 

 

Octavia invites the whole grade, swarms of kids show up to the rickety, wooden roller skating rink bearing colorfully wrapped gift boxes and clutching at a parent’s hand.  Clarke’s dad takes her in the musty blue hatchback, and her stomach is jittery with excitement when he helps her out of her booster seat in the back of the car. 

 

He kneels with her in the gravel of the parking lot, tucking a strand of hair back into her ponytail as he grips her shoulders.  He assumes an expression that is meant to be serious, but she can see the smile at the corner of his mouth. 

 

“Remember to say thank you, Baby Girl,” he tells her as he runs a hand over her back, “don’t eat cake until you vomit again, okay?” She grimaces at the memory and he leans in to press a hard kiss to her forehead.  “I’ll pick you up in three hours, all right?”

 

Clarke nods seriously before grabbing Octavia’s present out of the backseat and tugging her dad toward the door.  He leaves her there after running a hand through her hair again, watching her dodge through the crowd of children to deposit her present on the gift table, tiny arms pumping as she rushes to tackle Octavia in a hug. 

 

Octavia is wearing a crown which Clarke thinks is pretty cool, and she helps Clarke tie her Unicorn roller skates on without laughing when Clarke stumbles over the double-knot. 

 

(Clarke commits the double-knot to memory after that because even though Octavia was there to help her this time, her dad says you should always be prepared to do things on your own)

 

Octavia goes to snoop around the gift table and Clarke skates, arms pinwheeling, to the slick, shining wooden floor of the rink.  There are purple and green lights strung across the room, and Clarke moves to hit all the purple reflections on the floor, watching enraptured as she glides through them. 

 

She is just skidding her way around the curve of her first loop when she sees a girl clinging to the railing of the rink.  The girl looks absolutely terrified, eyes wide and knuckles white as she grips the metal bar so tightly that Clarke almost fears she will break it.  Her brown curls keep falling across her face and the girl can’t push them back, unwilling to release her hold for even a second. 

 

Clarke figures it is her duty to help her, no one should look so scared at a birthday party, there is going to be cake later and the whole room glows with color and the noise of pitched laughter.  Clarke rolls toward the girl slowly, holding out her hands to stop when she reaches the railing next to her.  The girl turns to her, still fearful but eyes narrowed a little bit in distrust.

 

“Do you need help?” Clarke asks, beginning to reach out a hand.

 

“No,” the girl snaps, harsh and cutting as her grip tightens on the rail.  Clarke pulls her hand back as though she has been bitten, pouting out her lower lip and angling away, just a bit. 

 

“I was only offering,” Clarke mumbles, “I was just trying to be nice like my dad said.” And maybe her dad hadn’t explicitly told her when he dropped her off to be nice, but he was always reminding her of it, like, all the time and he certainly wouldn’t object to Clarke trying to rescue this pretty girl with the grumpy mouth.  Clarke shrugs and turns to skate away, but the voice interrupts her again, softer this time. 

 

“Wait!” the girl says, and Clarke turns, “I didn’t mean it,” and then quieter “I’m sorry.”  Clarke lets her pout drop and just stares at the girl.  “I like your unicorn skates,” the girl says and this, even more than the apology, makes Clarke smile.

 

“Yeah?” Clarke says, glancing down at them, “My mom got them for me. Unicorns are my favorite animal.”

 

The girl’s fearful glare drops completely now and she actually smiles, “Me too!” she says as she looks down at her own skates, “Mine don’t have any.”

 

Clarke just shakes her head, exasperated, “It doesn’t even matter, though,” she says, “we can just pretend.” 

 

The girl smiles even bigger now and Clarke’s stomach does this weird little flip-flop at the sight and she wonders, for a second, if she is about to vomit even though she hasn’t even had any cake yet. 

 

“Do you want to skate on them now?” Clarke asks, and the girl’s face drops again. 

 

“I can’t,” she whispers, all shame and scared, “I don’t know how.” 

 

“I’ll show you,” Clarke says, she rolls a little bit away from the railing and extending her hand.  “My name’s Clarke,” she says, “and my mom says I’m a really good teacher.”

 

Lexa looks at Clarke’s hand before prying one of her own hands off the railing and reaching out to fit it with Clarke’s.  “My name’s Lexa,” she says, palm warm and sweaty against the soft skin of Clarke’s hand, “and my mom says I’m destructive.” 

 

“Destructive?” Clarke asks, only half wondering as she gets used to the feel of Lexa’s hand against her own.

 

Lexa shrugs and starts to release her other hand from the rail, “It means I break lamps a lot, I think.”

 

Clarke isn’t quite sure what to make of this girl, who is still white faced as she stands without the support of anything but Clarke’s hand.  They skitter out from the wall a few hesitant steps, Clarke leading as Lexa follows shakily behind.  Lexa is smaller then Clarke, all knobby knees and pointed elbows that skew at weird angles as she fights to keep her balance. 

 

“See, Lexa? This isn’t so bad?” Clarke says, turning her head to look at Lexa as they pick up speed, motions less spider-legged as they make their way around the gentle curve of the rink.  “Do you want me to let go?” Clarke asks.

 

At the question, Lexa seems to seize, her hand tightens around Clarke’s and her face pulls into a look of terror again.  “No, don’t let go—” she starts, forgetting to concentrate at the horrifying prospect of Clarke releasing her hold.  At the distraction her legs slip, unable to keep up with Clarke, and she pitches forward knocking them both to the ground. 

 

Clarke manages to throw out her hand to catch herself, but Lexa hits chin first.  They lay dazed for a second until Lexa lets out a whine of pain and Clarke glances over.  Lexa’s face is bleeding from a cut right under the curve of her chin. 

 

It is a lot of blood. 

 

Clarke’s stomach usually gets squirmy at the sight of blood but looking at Lexa, eyes welling with tears and lip shaking, she can’t find it in herself to do anything but try to comfort her. 

 

They are still holding hands and Clarke clutches tighter, leaning down to catch Lexa’s eyes. 

 

“It’s going to be ok,” she murmurs.  A few parents begin to rush over and Clarke pays them no mind, holding Lexa’s watery eyes with her own, “there is going to be cake later.”

 

Lexa smiles at her and lets out a shaky gasp, “You're still holding my hand,” she says, not a complaint, just an observation, voice tipping with a precarious kind of wonder. 

 

“Yeah, Lexa,” Clarke says, “always.”

 

*

 

At the end of the party Jake Griffin finds Clarke wedged next to a little girl with wide green eyes and a purple band-aid plastered under her chin.  Clarke is feeding her little bites of cake, which almost makes him take a step back in surprise because to his knowledge Clarke doesn’t share cake with anyone. 

 

He notices their hands are clenched tightly between them, and even though it makes eating cake difficult, they don’t let go. 

 

The party doesn’t officially end until Octavia smashes a slice of cake into Jasper Jordan’s face and things begin to escalate dangerously close to a food fight.   When they leave it takes a few minutes to coax Clarke to let go of her new friend’s hand, eventually separating them with the reminder that they can see each other tomorrow. 

 

 Clarke pouts the entire car ride home. 


 

 It is the tenth day of first grade and Lexa has a small half-moon scar curved under the jut of her chin.  

 

Clarke brushes it with her thumb when Lexa swings down from the jungle gym.  “Ouch,” she whispers and Lexa just thrusts out her scrawny chest and grins.

 

“It doesn’t even hurt,” she boasts. 

 

“I know,” Clarke says back, so taken by her friend’s antics but never quite sure why.  Lexa still only comes up to the bridge of Clarke’s nose, but she acts like she towers over everyone on the playground.  She has a cutting glare that, rumor has it, made Monty Green wet his pants in art class on Monday.

 

Rumors have not been confirmed, but Lexa and Clarke both insist it to be true, which is enough confirmation to convince almost the entire first grade class. 

 

(Monty Green only hangs out with Jasper Jordan anyway who, according to Octavia, eats glue so it’s no one’s loss honestly)

 

Lexa tilts forward into Clarke, pushing against her until they are just a mash of gangly limbs and dirty sneakers.  Lexa buries her nose in Clarke’s hair, smelling mulch and strawberry jam from lunch and when Lexa pulls back Clarke’s eyes are the same color as the blue crayon that Lexa stole out of the arts and crafts bin and smuggled home. 

 

“We should go on an adventure,” Lexa blurts and Clarke’s thumb goes back up to brush over Lexa’s roller skating scar.  Lexa grins against the splay of Clarke’s hand until she nods in agreement. 

 

“We should go in the woods,” Clarke says, pulling back from Lexa to gesture at the fringe of trees that surrounds the playground. 

 

Lexa whoops and grabs at Clarke’s hand, tugging her toward the playground’s edge.  They crash into the small copse of trees and for ten minutes, before the teacher finds them, they are warriors.

 

(When Mrs. Cambell does find them Lexa takes the blame even though it was Clarke’s idea.  She has to sit in timeout all indoor play-time and Clarke sits with her because that is what best friends do.)


 

It’s the first day of second grade and Clarke gets to school early so she and Lexa can pick out desks right next to each other.  She plasters unicorn stickers all over the cover of Lexa’s binder and pokes at her tummy to coax out the smile that is getting harder and harder to find.

 

Lexa’s sweater has a whole in the sleeve and she pokes her thumb through it forlornly while the teacher introduces herself.  Clarke, without hesitating, finds her new pair of scissors in the inside lip of her desk and cuts a matching hole in her own sleeve.  It was her brand new sweater with the little strawberry pattern, but the look that Lexa gives her make the sacrifice worth it. 

 

Lexa comes back to Clarke’s house after school and they find Clarke’s dad in the kitchen, leaning over the sink, the front of his shirt soaked with dish soap.  He swings Lexa up in the air and calls her “Lexa T-Rexa” and lets her do her best growl.  He watches Lexa mime a bite at Clarke’s shoulder that turns into a prolonged nuzzle, Clarke reaching up to tug at Lexa’s curls without enough force to hurt.

 

If he notices the hole in Clarke’s sleeve he doesn’t say anything. 

 

*

 

Lexa’s dad leaves and doesn’t come back and Lexa stops talking in class. 

 

*

 

Lexa sleeps over at Clarke’s house more and more, even on school nights if her mom says its okay. 

 

Clarke always gives Lexa her favorite pajamas and they brush their teeth side by side in front of the mirror, elbows brushing and Lexa foaming her mouth so furiously that it drips down her chin.  Clarke wipes Lexa’s face clean, gentle and slow, not noticing the way Lexa begins to flinch from her touch. 

 

They curl into Clarke’s twin bed, both tucked into the skinny edges of the other, two heads on one pillow.  Clarke murmurs a request for a goodnight kiss and closes her eyes as Lexa presses a wet kiss to the corner of her mouth. 

 

Lexa smells like toothpaste and summertime and her elbows dig into the soft of Clarke’s stomach but she doesn’t mind. 


 

They are in third grade and Lexa spends her eighth birthday with Clarke in the woods behind Lexa’s house. 

 

They find rolly-pollys under the bark of fallen trees and build a fortress of leaves that they hide themselves in, protected from danger of any sort.  Clarke smears dirt under their eyes for camouflage and they belly crawl back to the house before standing on tip-toes underneath the kitchen window, watching Lexa’s mom make lunch. 

 

Lexa’s mom sees them when she looks up, beckoning them inside with a tired smile.  When she finds them dirt smeared and grass stained the smile stays and she wipes affectionately at the mud on both of their cheeks, pressing matching kisses against the crowns of two heads, one blonde the other brown. 

 

She props them in chairs at the small table wedged in the corner of the kitchen, listening to them recount adventures as they chew through half a pb and j each.  

 

(Clarke doesn’t even mind that there is no cake, being with Lexa is so much better.)


With fourth grade comes the idea of crushes and the whole class is abuzz with the idea of it.  Boys aren’t just gross anymore, an idea that seems to excite Octavia and Clarke.  Lexa secretly thinks they are still smelly and loud, but she doesn’t say anything because Clarke is looking at her with wide eyes and that pretty smile. 

 

Finn Collins gives Clarke a valentine and Lexa watches Clarke blush, looking down at the red, construction paper heart in her hand and then back up to him with a brilliant smile that Lexa had kind of thought was only reserved for her. 

 

Lexa’s chest roars dragon-angry and she thinks, in that moment, that she could breathe fire. 

 

*

 

The dragon only quiets later that night when Clarke gives Lexa a box of candy heart while they sit on the rug of Clarke’s bedroom floor. Lexa turns the box over in her hand, swiping a thumb across the label and taking deep breaths before she looks up to meet Clarke’s eyes. 

 

“Are you sure you don’t want to give this to Finn?” she asks, angrier then she means to, and Clarke seems to notice her pout for the first time that day. 

 

Clarke tackles Lexa to the rug, lying half-on top of her, Lexa feeling every breath Clarke takes against the expanse of her ribs.

 

“Finn’s just a boy,” Clarke answers seriously, wrinkling her nose, pressing her face close to Lexa’s so their foreheads touch and their eyes cross to meet one another’s.  “I don’t love Finn.”

 

“But you love me?” Lexa asks, breathless at the thought, hoping that Clarke can’t feel the stutter of her heartbeat where it presses against her. 

 

“Of course,” Clarke says heaving a sigh, “you’re my best friend.”

 

Lexa and the dragon are reassured and later that night Clarke feeds her candy-sweet hearts with her fingertips and Lexa feels the dragon spark and roil. 


 

In fifth grade Lexa pushes Finn Collins off the top of the jungle gym.  He cries like a baby and Lexa has to go to the office to talk to the principal about her behavior.  Lexa’s mom gets called in and she has to leave work early, looking worn and drawn out as she sits next to Lexa in the faux leather chairs. 

 

Lexa has to apologize to Finn the next day and gets recess privileges taken away for the rest of the month.

 

“We have a zero tolerance violence policy at our school,” the principal says, condescending and stern to Lexa and her mom across from him. 

 

“I know,” Lexa’s mom sighs, “I know, I know.”

 

She doesn’t smile for the entire car ride home and Lexa thinks it’s maybe her mom she should apologize to and not stupid Finn Collins. 

 

Clarke doesn’t talk to Lexa for two weeks and holds Finn’s hand at recess behind the slide. 

 

Lexa thinks that caring too much about something is worse then not caring at all. 

 

*

Jake and Abby look out the window into the backyard, Abby slightly worried and Jake grinning.

 

“Are you sure it’s okay to leave them out there alone all night?” she asks, doubtful, for the third time this evening.

 

“Baby,” Jake says, curling an arm around her waist and turning her to face him, eyes crinkling as he smiles, “we live in the suburbs.” He glances out the window again, “I think they will survive a night alone camping in the backyard.” He pauses and eyes Clarke who is already digging into the stash of snacks that are piled in a basket next to the sleeping bags, “Provided they don’t overdose on smores.” He raises his voice to call through the window, “Clarke, Lex! Try not to eat all the chocolate before the sun even goes down!”

 

The girls look up at the window guiltily and Clarke sticks out her tongue while Lexa does a series of cartwheels across the lawn.  Lexa wipes out on her fourth consecutive cartwheel and Clarke runs over, half laughing and half concerned, to help Lexa up.

 

Abby watches Clarke brush dirt off of Lexa’s cheek and smiles when Lexa grins, star-struck and lopsided, up at her daughter.  “Yeah,” Abby says turning from the window and addressing her husband, “You’re right, they’ll be fine.”

 

*

 

It is fully dark now and they are both huddled into one sleeping bag, the other lying forgotten on the grass beside them. Lexa lies on her back, staring up at the sky, wondering at the moon and the pin points of light that surround it. 

 

“What do you think is up there, Clarke?” she asks quietly. 

 

“I don’t know,” Clarke mumbles.  She isn’t looking at the sky, instead she is curled on her side, head tucked into Lexa’s neck as her hand strokes over the thin cotton of Lexa’s shirt.    Lexa still has a little bit of marshmallow stuck to her cheek from smores and she swells like sweet-spring grass and chocolate. 

 

“You’re dirty,” she murmurs, breath warm against Lexa’s skin.  Lexa turns her head just slightly toward Clarke, her eyes are starting to droop as well and the night is so so clear. 

 

“What?” Lexa ask, shifting imperceptibly closer to Clarke.

 

“You have marshmallow on your face,” Clarke says and then, with a sleepy grin, “I’m going to eat it.”

 

“You wouldn’t,” Lexa answers, too tired to really protest.

 

“Watch me,” Clarke says, scooting so she is hovering above Lexa, blocking the night sky with her fall of blonde hair and tired eyes. 

 

This is the part of the game where Lexa would usually squeal and roll away, batting at Clarke’s hands and attempting to retaliate.  But she is so tired and Clarke feels nice against her so she doesn’t move.  Clarke was obviously expecting her to, already leaning in, and when Lexa doesn’t move she keeps going. 

 

They are soft against each other, loose from the combination of nighttime delirium and too much melty chocolate and graham crackers.  Clarke leans down, ignoring Lexa’s slightly shuddery breath as she licks at the marshmallow on Lexa’s face.  Lexa still doesn’t move away, doesn’t even giggle when Clarke pulls back, tongue sweet with the marshmallow and lips parted. 

 

They stare at each other, Lexa is so small beneath her and Clarke almost worries about crushing her.  “Finn kissed me,” Clarke says, hushing the words out into the dark, watching as Lexa flinches. 

 

“How was it?” Lexa asks, because that is what she is supposed to say. 

 

“Kind of gross,” Clarke answers, ducking down closer as the wind picks up. 

 

They are so close now and Clarke keeps leaning in and Lexa keeps not pulling back. Clarke kisses her just barely, a chaste touch of the plush of their lips, Clarke rending a sigh from Lexa’s mouth as their chins knock, clumsy and artless. 

 

They break apart with a soft smack and stare, wild and young, into each other’s eyes. 

 

“Okay,” Clarke says into the space between them.

 

“Okay,” Lexa says. 

 

Clarke nestles back into Lexa’s shoulder and they fall asleep. 

 

*

 

The next morning they wake up blinking and bleary in bright sunlight.  They laze all day under the blue sky and don’t talk about their last day of elementary school or smores or the way Lexa stares at Clarke like she can’t remember how to breathe.

 

(Neither mentions the kiss and by the time the day ends they both assume the other has forgotten.)


 

Lexa think that sixth grade might actually be the worst thing. 

 

Eighth graders are obnoxious and loud and the middle school smells like the boy’s locker room almost all the time.  Lexa only has two of her eight classes with Clarke and sometimes an entire day will pass where they don’t even see each other except for lunch.

 

Worst of all, Clarke has about a thousand new friends and their lunch table is so crowded with chatter and loud laughter Lexa considers the merit of eating alone.  Lexa likes some of them, but her enjoyment of their company is overwhelmed by her intense dislike for a few. 

 

Like Wells Jaha. 

 

Wells Jaha is handsome and tall and Clarke Griffin’s new best friend. 

 

The Jaha’s and the Griffin’s have been friends forever, or so Clarke tells her, but Wells didn’t go to their elementary school because he was too busy going to a fancy private school where he learned how to do stupid fancy things.  But since his dad is the principal of the middle school, he goes here now.  He sits too close to Clarke at the lunch table while she laughs at his jokes and pushes at his shoulder playfully.

 

And the thing is that Lexa isn’t jealous, she just wants her Clarke back. 

 

*

 

Clarke thinks that middle school might actually be the best thing. 

 

The art room has an entire wall of paints and canvases that you are allowed to use if the teacher likes you.

 

And the teacher likes Clarke.

 

She meets Harper and Maya and Monty.  She gets to see Wells every day. Clarke likes everything about her new friends.  She likes Maya’s pretty, dark eyes and Harper’s shiny hair, she likes Monty’s smile and that Wells greets her with hugs before class.

 

Everything is almost perfect. 

 

Almost.   

 

The problem is Lexa.  Lexa who sits further and further from her at the lunch table.  Lexa who keeps declining Octavia’s slumber party invitations and never smiles, not even when Jasper trips in the cafeteria and dumps an entire can of orange soda down the front of his shorts. 

 

Lexa keeps disappearing somewhere under this rough glare and her ripped jeans and Clarke misses her with a tenderness that aches low in her stomach. 

 

*

 

Wells leans his elbows on the lunch table, not even trying to hide his smile.

 

“So my dad says it’s okay,” he starts, grinning, “you guys can totally come over on Friday, it’s going to be great.”

 

Clarke smiles in response and the rest of the table nods eagerly, breaking into chatter about whose parents can drive who.  Monty offer to bring his x-box and he and Jasper high five. 

 

“You're going to go down, Octavia,” Jasper crows, words slurred around the plastic of his new retainer. 

 

“Oh please,” Octavia says, and she flashes him a grin, “I may not be a complete nerd like you but I am sure I can kick your butt at anything that involves hand-eye coordination.” 

 

Maya bursts out laughing, only stopping when she sees Jasper’s face drop, Harper has no such reservations, only laughing harder at the devastation written in the slope of Jasper’s mouth. 

 

“What about you, Lexa?” Wells says, breaking through the other’s conversation, “Are you coming?”

 

Clarke turns to where Lexa slouches, eager to hear her answer.  She tries to catch Lexa’s eyes, signal to her to say yes, that it won’t be the same without her. But Lexa avoids her gaze obstinately and just scoffs. 

 

“I wouldn’t go to your house if it were the last place on earth,” she spits at Wells, far more harsh then the situation calls for.  Clarke can’t understand where this is coming from, she watches with confusion as Lexa’s ears burn red like they always do when she is embarrassed. 

 

“I don’t know why you have to be such a bitch all the time, Lexa,” Wells says, rushing it out in one breath.  The entire table turns quiet, no one has ever heard anyone say the b-word so loudly at the lunch table before, let alone Wells. 

 

Clarke sees Lexa’s scowl waver for just a second before she pushes harshly back from the table.  “I was just born this way, I guess,” Lexa says, turning her back on them and stomping from the cafeteria. 

 

Clarke jumps up too, ignoring Well’s hand on his arm as he tries to pull her back down. 

 

“You’ll get in trouble,” he hisses.  Students aren’t allowed to leave the cafeteria during lunch period, especially without asking permission.  Clarke shakes his arm off her as she darts from the cafeteria before the lunch monitor turns from where she is chastising a boy for throwing a plastic fork. 

 

Clarke finds Lexa in the girl’s bathroom in the art hall.  She is slumped between two sinks, hands fidgeting with the laces of her sneakers and her head bowed.  She doesn’t look up when Clarke walks in, just turns her face toward the wall.  Clarke kneels in front of her, running soothing hands over Lexa’s fidgeting ones, coaxing her to face her.

 

When Lexa does, Clarke sees that she has been crying, eyes rimmed red and a glistening streak running down the high arch of her cheek.  Clarke hums out a noise of discontent at the quiver in Lexa’s lip and reaches out to stroke at her face with her thumbs, her low ache turning into a steady throb at her friend’s tears.

 

“Lex,” she coos, “what’s wrong?”

 

Lexa sniffs hard before speaking, words crackling free from her dry throat.  “I don’t like Wells,” she says.

 

Clarke furrows her brow and scoots closer on the cold tile floor.  “But,” Clarke starts, “I like Wells.”  She knows that wasn’t the right thing to say as soon as Lexa flinches away, wrenching free from her touch with a bitter laugh.

 

“I know,” Lexa says, “You like all of them.”  There is a long pause her where she sniffs again and looks down, “More then me,” she adds.

 

Clarke almost gasps at the ridiculousness of that those words, but she laughs instead.  Lexa looks up at her at the sound, face so hurt and broken that Clarke’s laugh immediately dies. 

 

“Oh God, Lex no,” Clarke says, catching her face up in her hands again, “I’m not laughing at you.  It’s just—” she pauses to lean in closer, bumping their foreheads, “—do you not hear how silly you sound?”

 

Clarke isn’t sure how to say what she means.  She isn’t sure how to tell Lexa that yes, Clarke likes Maya’s eyes and Harper’s hair, she likes Monty’s smile and Wells’ friendly hugs. 

 

But she loves the way that Lexa’s eyes change color depending on the light.  She loves Lexa’s curly hair that always ends up in Clarke’s mouth when they fall asleep curled in the same bed.  She adores Lexa’s quiet grin and the way she hugs her, pressing into Clarke so completely that all she knows is her smell and the angle of Lexa’s body against her own. 

 

Clarke really likes all of her new friends, but she loves Lexa. 

 

Clarke doesn’t say any of this because she thinks trying to say those words might break her, that the immensity of them is too much for this tiny bathroom, too much even for brick walls of their school and the stretch of their entire town. 

 

So she kisses her instead, pressing her lips against Lexa’s tear tracked cheeks, messy and hard. 

 

“You’re my favorite, you know that?” Clarke tells her, finding her Lexa behind those guarded eyes and ripped jeans.  She kisses Lexa’s cheek again just because, and they stay in the bathroom until the bell rings and then just a little bit longer, because it feels so nice to be alone. 

 

*

 

Lexa thinks that sixth grade might not be all bad.

 

*

 

Lexa’s mom is having a baby. 

 

Lexa is old enough now that she knows that the baby won’t be just like her.  Lexa’s dad is gone and the baby will be half of Lexa’s mom and half of somebody else.  But when her mom tells her, stroking through Lexa’s hair before bed, Lexa knows this baby is going to be all hers. 

 

“Your going to have a little brother or sister,” her mom whispers to her and Lexa can feel her heart swell a size to accommodate all this new love she has for this person who doesn’t even exist yet.

 

Lexa watches her mom change over the next few months, stomach growing rounder as her eyes grow more tired.  After school Lexa makes them scrambled eggs over the gas stove and they eat on the couch.  Sometimes Lexa’s mom pulls up her shirt so Lexa can feel the soft swell of her skin.  She reads the baby the books she is assigned for school and sings it lullabies after her mom falls asleep.

 

Clarke is almost as excited as Lexa is, and when she visits she joins them on the couch for their dinners of scrambled eggs and ketchup, pressing her palm over Lexa’s mom’s stomach, waiting for the kick that makes her squeal in excitement and catch at Lexa’s lit, happy eyes. 

 

“How lucky this baby is,” Lexa’s mom says, smoothing Lexa’s braid with her one hand and cupping Clarke’s chin with the other, “to come into the world with such amazing big sisters.”

 

Clarke blushes and looks down as Lexa’s watches her, her rapidly growing heart speeding up at such a sight.

 

*

 

“Do you think you want to have babies?” Clarke asks Lexa later that night in the warmth of Lexa’s twin bed. 

 

Lexa turns to face her, tracing Clarke’s profile in the dark, “With the right person, I guess,” she answers. 

 

Clarke turns to face her too, snuggling closer until they are nose to nose. “You're going to be such a good mom,” she says.

 

Lexa almost laughs, “Clarke,” she protests, “We’re only 11.”

 

“Still,” Clarke says, remaining serious, “if I had a baby I would want you to raise it, too.”

 

Lexa’s desire to laugh dies, and they just stare at each other, maintaining eye contact despite the swaths of darkness that surround them.  They are far too old to make these kind of claims, Lexa thinks.  They aren’t kids anymore, they can’t dream of growing old together, of a single house between the two of them, of kids and love and flowers on the kitchen counter.

 

(Lexa pretends that she hasn’t lived out this fantasy a million times, she pretends like the enormity of what this means isn’t beginning to become clear to her.)

 

“That’s not the way the world works,” Lexa says, voice harsher then she means, an attempt to hide the way her entire being softens as Clarke edges closer, their noses brushing.

 

“I don’t see why not,” Clarke says, voice a husky rough that is brand new and tantalizing.  Lexa blinks slow, before rolling away, turning her back to Clarke’s voice and pink mouth.

 

When she wakes up she is facing Clarke again, legs tangled over the thin sheet, hand grasping at the curve of Clarke’s hip.  Lexa’s entire body flushes hot and she feels a kind of warmth build low in her stomach.

 

She wonders what is wrong with her.


 

Nathan is born in the summer before seventh grade.

 

He is brand new and loud, all squishy face and tiny grasping fingers.  Lexa holds him in the cream-white room in the hospital, sticking out her tongue until he mimics her, nosing into his warm baby smell, watching his wet baby yawns with a kind of wonder.  Lexa thinks her love for him might just split her down the middle and she reminds herself again that getting attached is a bad idea, but when he wraps his hand around her thumb she forgets every promise she has ever made to herself about wishing and loving and the sin of it all. 

 

He gurgles and she melts.

 

*

Over spring break of seventh grade, Clarke and her family go on a family trip to Six Flags.  When Clarke asks Lexa if she wants to come, Lexa stares at her with open mouthed astonishment.  She twists at the hair ties that line her wrists and ducks her head before answering.

 

“Are you sure you want me to come?” Lexa asks, small and breathy, “Not Octavia or Wells or something?”

 

Clarke takes Lexa’s hands to stop the fidgeting and tugs at her until she meets Clarke’s gaze.  Clarke can’t understand how her friend, so sure and loud, abrasive even, seems so scared in the face of Clarke’s love.  Lexa treats Clarke so fragile and soft, in a way she treats no one else except for maybe Baby Nate.  She looks at Clarke like she is going to be taken away, which Clarke thinks is dumb because Clarke knows she isn’t something to be had.

 

But, with Lexa staring at her all doe-eyed and wondering, Clarke thinks that being had by Lexa doesn’t seem so bad.  The thought makes her flush without knowing why and she drops Lexa’s hands, equally breathless now. 

 

“Of course I want you to come,” Clarke says, eager to divert her attention from the heat that seethes under her skin, “You’re my best friend.”

 

*

 

They ride roller coasters until Clarke is close to vomiting.  She can feel the cinnamon bun from earlier turning in her stomach and her head spins from the quadruple loop the last ride boasted.  Lexa, however, has never looked more in her element.  Her hair is falling out of the braids that Clarke twisted it into during the car ride and her cheeks are pink with the thrill of it all.

 

“Freaking yes!” Lexa crows, craning her head to look up at the monstrosity of a ride that they just conquered, she whoops and turns to Clarke, “Again!” she shouts. 

 

“Lex,” Clarke whines, clutching at her stomach, “I think I’m going to be sick.”

 

Lexa’s face immediately drops to one of concern and she tugs Clarke to be seated on a low stone wall that lines one of the small gardens that decorates the park.  She pouts her lips in sympathy and tugs Clarke closer to her.  Clarke groans and nestles into the heat of Lexa’s neck, smelling the sharp bite of her, skin slicked with sweat from the summer sun and sweet like the sun-block that Abby made them slather on in the parking lot. 

 

Lexa coos sympathetically and works her hand under the cotton of Clarke’s tank top.  She rubs circles over the soft skin of Clarke’s tummy, kneading with her fingers, her touch enough to make the nausea in Clarke’s stomach begin to evaporate.  Clarke buries into her further, whining at the press of Lexa’s fingers. There is that hot build in the base of her stomach, and she thinks that having Lexa close to her feels so good she doesn’t know what she will do. 

 

Before Clarke can settle into Lexa further, a family passes them and the father, a red-faced man wearing a sweat-stained shirt and a hat with a curved bill, snaps a word at them.  It is rude and it is angry and there is the venom of hatred behind it that, even though Clarke doesn’t know the meaning, makes her cheeks blush and her head feel fuzzy.

 

Lexa’s face contorts at the word and she pulls her hand away from Clarke so fast it looks as though she has been burned.  The family passes and the man turns away, but Lexa doesn’t look back at Clarke, she just balls her hands tightly by her side and swallows hard. 

 

Clarke wants to ask her about it but decides against it, she is wary of the expression that is rippling across Lexa’s face, and simply stand, gesturing to the roller coaster before them.

 

“Want to go again, Lex?” she asks, bright and cheery, ignoring the way that her stomach rolls at the thought.  Lexa’s face brightens slightly and she nods, leading the charge back to the end of the line.

 

After they stumble off the ride again, Lexa’s face has cleared and she has that wind-swept look in the set of her grin.  Lexa grabs Clarke’ hand and tugs her toward the bumper cars, squeezing through the crowd with her pointy elbows and slim hips, only slowing to smile at Clarke behind her. 

 

After the continual jolt of the bumper cars and the thrill of Lexa’s affectionate grin, Clarke forgets completely to ask what the word ‘dyke’ means. 

 

*

 

Clarke trades her clumsy fifth grade kiss with Finn Collins for a clumsy seventh grade one. 

 

He meets her at the park near her house and they sit in the grass next to the soccer fields.  She is butterfly-stomach nervous and he runs a hand through his hair every thirty seconds like clockwork.  Clarke finally meets his eyes and considers that he is just as anxious as she is. 

 

She lets him edge toward her while they talk and when he holds her hand her stomach swoops with an unsteady lurch.  She isn’t sure if she likes the feeling.  She doesn’t really have time to consider the situation further because he is leaning toward her and her thoughts quiet because his mouth presses to hers. 

 

This kiss is harder then the first, his lips are chapped but his face, where it presses against hers, is warm.  His hand slides to the hinge of her jaw and she settles her hands on his waist.  She remembers to keep her eyes closed and thinks that this is nice, that this feels comfortable and safe and grounded.

 

(At some point during the kiss she decides not to tell Lexa about it until the last possible moment, just because.)

 

(Clarke had thought when she was younger that Best Friends tells each other everything.)

 

(Clarke thinks now that those sweeping statements just aren’t very realistic.)

 

*

 

“That’s right, Nate,” Clarke says, narrowing her eyes, “Come to me, not that stupid grumpy face over there.”

 

“Hey,” Lexa says with a scowl from where she is seated across the rug, “No trash talking, that’s unfair.”

 

Clarke shrugs and holds out her hands to Nathan who is gurgling from where he is plopped at the center of the carpet, “Come here, baby,” she coaxes to him before turning back to Lexa.  “All’s fair in love and war,” she says with a scathing glare.

 

Lexa scoffs and holds out her hands to Nathan as well before raising her chin regally in Clarke’s direction.  “There is no love here,” she says, “I see naught but war on this battlefield.”

 

Clarke works to hold her glare, suppressing the smile she wants to award to Lexa’s dramatics.  She compromises with an eye roll and snaps her fingers, grabbing Nathan’s attention.  He is playing with his toes now, a source of never ending amusement to him, ignoring the girls who vie for his favor. 

 

“Baby boy,” Clarke croons, “We both know that I’m your favorite.”

 

Nathan glances between Clarke and Lexa with some confusion, upset by the fact that they sit on opposite ends of the carpet and he can not crawl to both of them.  He lets out a shriek and almost starts to cry before the glint of Clarke’s earrings distracts him.  He struggles to his hands and knees and crawls to her, murmuring happily when she scoops him up and props him against her shoulder.  

 

“Yes,” Clarke yells, startling him slightly.  She fixes a look on Lexa, raising an eyebrow and smirking.  “Let it be known, I am his preferred babysitter.” 

 

Lexa’s scowl deepens, “Whatever,” she mutters, “he only went to you because he doesn’t get to see you all the time.”

 

Clarke scoffs, “C’mon, Lex.  Don’t be a sore loser.” She drops her joking tone and studies Lexa’s sullen expression closer.  “And what do you mean he doesn’t get to see me?” she asks, voice pitched high in confusion as she bounces Nathan distractedly, “I’m here all the time.” 

 

Lexa shrugs and drops to her back, staring at the ceiling.  “Not really,” she says, “this is the first time you have come over in weeks.”

 

“That’s not even true—” Clarke starts, trailing off when she realizes that it just might be.  Hanging out with Finn is time consuming and last weekend she and Octavia went to get pedicures and she and Wells study after school and—

 

Clarke studies Lexa and moves to grab at her leg but Lexa pulls away.  Clarke groans and turns back to Nathan.  “Is your sister a big grumpy butt?” she coos, ignoring Lexa’s huff.   Nate giggles and she leans into him to blow a raspberry into the soft pooch of his cheek.  He laughs harder and she tickles him with one hand, pressing insistent kisses to his chubby face until he squeals in delight. 

 

Clarke glances at Lexa before continuing to talk to Nathan conversationally.  “I wonder if anyone else deserves the tickle treatment?” she asks.  Nate gurgles.  “Because,” Clarke says, setting Nathan gently onto the rug, “I’m thinking your big sister might.” She launches herself at Lexa then, straddling her prone form, pinning Lexa’s kicking legs with insistent hips. 

 

Clarke leans down and finds Lexa’s neck with her lips.  She blows a raspberry playfully as Lexa protests.  “Ew, gross, Clarke!” Lexa yells, hands pushing at Clarke’s shoulders in a half-hearted attempt to get her off. 

 

“Still got some fight left, huh?” Clarke says, “I can fix that.”  She leans in further, pressing playful kisses against Lexa’s face.  They are wet and messy, lips separating from Lexa’s skin after each kiss with a loud smack.  Lexa gives up the pretend struggle, focusing more on remembering how to breathe as Clarke kisses the corner of her mouth. 

 

Clarke’s cheeks hurt from smiling and she is overwhelmed with the sight of Lexa, flushed and panting, beneath her.  She thinks about Finn’s kisses that make her chest warm and her hands sweat.  She wonders why he doesn’t create this low build in her stomach the way that Lexa does.

 

Lexa, who is raising herself to her elbows now, eyes serious as they dart to look at what Clarke thinks might be her mouth.  Clarke shifts down to meet her, angling her head just barely, eyes starting to drift shut.

 

They are interrupted by a loud gurgle from Nate who is struggling to crawl toward them, obviously feeling left out.  Clarke lets out a sharp laugh, dropping her head to Lexa’s chest.  She leans her forehead there for a second, cradled by the warmth of her and the buzz that still lingers on her lips.

 

(Clarke and Finn go their separate ways by the end of school year.)

 

(They agree to stay friends.)


 

By eighth grade there really isn’t getting around it anymore. 

 

Lexa is so gay. 

 

Like.  

 

Levels of gay that probably haven’t been matched since the prehistoric era when there were gay lady t-rexes who beat all the other lady t-rexes at roller derby. 

 

(Lexa might be going through a roller derby stage right now.  Ellen Page changed her, okay?)

 

As soon as Lexa fits the word to the feeling that murmurs in her chest, it becomes so much easier to breathe.  Occasionally the swell of the word makes her nervous and sometimes she wants to hate it.  Sometimes she can’t stop thinking about all the possible reactions of her schoolmates or her mom or angry men on the street that want to hurt her for loving this way.

 

But mostly it just feels nice to understand this part of herself.  And girls are so so pretty, which is definitely a bonus. 

 

Lexa doesn’t quite have a handle on it yet.  It is almost like this new understanding has opened her eyes to so many things, all of which have the potential to make her very nervous.

 

A girl at the checkout counter of the grocery store told Lexa that she had pretty eyes and Lexa blushed so hard Clarke teased her about it for the entire car ride home. 

 

And there was the other problem.

 

Clarke.  

 

Clarke who made Lexa’s stomach bottom out and her heart tug hard at the center of her chest.  Clarke who was spending more time with her again, sleeping over every Friday night and cuddling close in the twin bed that they are much too big for. 

 

Lexa loves Clarke so much that it aches.  She reminds herself that is how you feel about your best friend, that it is easy to confuse the eternal bond of friendship with a crush. 

 

*

The first person that Lexa tells is Nate.

 

She helps him across the kitchen, his arms extended over his head, hands clutching at Lexa’s fingers.  He is taking wobbling steps on the tile floor with her help, and every step generates a new shriek of excitement from his gaping mouth. They make it to the rickety wooden table in the corner and Lexa eases her hands from his, guiding his grip to the rungs of one of the chairs.  He stands shakily without her help, gazing up at her all wide grin and green eyes. 

 

Lexa cheers for Nathan, waiting for him to finally get bored and fall to his padded diaper with a dull thud before she seats herself next to him.  She pulls him into her lap, kissing his cheeks with two matching “mwah” sounds that have him grinning again, clutching excitedly at her hair with eager fists.

 

“Nate,” she hums out, waiting until he turns his curious eyes to her.  The kitchen seems more charged now that she has his attention, warmer despite the cool press of the tile against her legs.  She wonders for a second if she might drown in the weight of the words that catch in her throat, but she spits them out into the room after a beat of struggled breathing.  Admitting her truth feels like clambering aboard the most buoyant life boat to ever float. 

 

“I’m gay,” she tells Nate and the otherwise empty kitchen, “I hope that’s okay,” she finishes, pulling him a little closer against her chest. 

 

He gurgles in response, tugging on a curl and blowing a spit bubble.  She figures that is the best reception she can ask for.  “Can I have a kiss?” she asks, turning her cheek toward him.  He complies with a wet smack of his lips against her face and she grins down at him, at ease in her own skin in the way she thought before she might never be.  

 

Their mom walks into the kitchen ten minutes later to find them regarding each other with matching grins. 

 

*

The second person that Lexa tells is her mom. 

 

Lexa is leaving for school, backpack slung over her shoulder, one hand on the doorknob.  Her mom shouts for her to wait, jogging to where Lexa stands, Nate propped on her hip. 

 

“You almost forgot,” she says to Lexa, smiling as she presses a brown paper bag lunch into Lexa’s hand. 

 

Lexa blurts out the words somewhere in between trying to say “goodbye” and “I love you.”

 

Her mom stares at her for a second, still smiling softly, before she presses a kiss to Lexa’s forehead. 

 

Lexa scowl a little bit less at school that day, only remembering to frown when Wells slings his arm over Clarke’s shoulders at lunch.

 

*

 

Octavia holds Clarke’s hand steady while she paints on the final coat. 

 

Clarke closes her eyes and hums happily, head spinning a bit from the nail polish fumes and the warmth of Octavia’s bedroom.  She hears Octavia giggle and feels her release her hand.

 

“You can open your eyes, dork,” Octavia says, ‘I’m done now.” Octavia picks up the blue bottle and spins on the little black top as she leans in closer to examine Clarke’s nails, “And can I just say,” Octavia adds, “they look magnificent.”

 

Clarke studies them with a smile, “They totally do,” she says.  “Although, I probably shouldn’t tell you that, I don’t know if your head should get any bigger.”

 

“Hey!” Octavia yelps, shoving at Clarke’s shoulder, “It’s not my fault I am amazing.”

 

Clarke laughs and rolls off the bed, careful to keep her nails from smudging.  She glances around the room, eyes lighting on the object hanging on the back of Octavia’s desk chair.  Clarke picks it up carefully between two palms and regards it with interest. 

 

“O, is there any reason you have a plastic crown in your room?” Clarke asks, twirling it in her hands. 

 

Octavia looks up from her dresser where she is arranging her nail polish, and grins.  “So no one forgets that I am royalty,” she says haughtily. 

 

Clarke groans at her friend and moves to put the crown down.  Octavia stops her before she can, wresting it from Clarke’s grip and moving to place it in Clarke’s golden hair.  Clarke stays still, letting Octavia fuss with its placement, positioning it perfectly on her head, running her hands, slow and soothing, through Clarke’s hair.

 

  Clarke studies Octavia while she leans over her.  Octavia has the prettiest little way that she sets her mouth when she thinks and her jaw line is impossibly alluring.  Octavia stops messing with the crown and catches Clarke staring at her.  Her mouth curves into a little smile and she presses in close, pushing down the tip of Clarke’s nose with her own. 

 

“See something you like, Griffin?” she asks, voice raspy, breath hot against Clarke’s mouth.  Clarke flushes red and scrambles backwards, forgetting to be careful with her nails, distracted by the nervous spark in her chest.  Octavia grabs at Clarke’s wrist and hauls her back toward her, hands reaching up to catch at Clarke’s blushing cheeks.

 

“Calm down, Clarke,” she says, laughing lightly, “I was only teasing.” 

 

“I know,” Clarke mumbles, even more embarrassed now, unsure of what to do with the fluttering in her tummy, “You just startled me.”

 

Octavia furrows her brow and cocks her head to the side, “I would think you would be used to girls flirting with you,” she says.

 

Clarke scrunches her face, “What?” she says, thoroughly confused now. 

 

Octavia laughs again, louder this time, amused by Clarke’s oblivious expression.  “Y’know,” she says, “with the way you and Lexa go on…”

 

Clarke shakes her head, bewildered.  “The way me and Lexa what?” she asks.

 

Octavia opens her mouth to answer but is interrupted as her bedroom door slams open, hitting the wall with a jolt.  Octavia and Clarke both startle and turn toward the noise, Clarke’s breath catching when she sees the boy that stands in the doorframe. 

 

He is tall and wide shouldered, with messy curls that fall in his eyes and a spray of freckles that Clarke finds utterly endearing.  He has Octavia’s dimpled chin and Octavia’s annoyed pout as he looks in the room. 

 

(Clarke thinks that the grouchy curve of his lips also kind of reminds her of Lexa but that is neither here nor there, really.)

 

“Octavia,” the boys says, voice deep and exasperated, “what the hell did you do with my lacrosse stick?”

 

Octavia rolls her eyes and stands to face him, “Relax, Bell,” she says, kicking a shoe on the floor in his general direction, “it’s just in the backyard.”

 

He kicks the shoe back at her and holds his palms out in front of himself, gesturing with a vicious annoyance.  “Why is it in the fucking backyard?” he asks. 

 

Octavia steps closer to him and mirrors his hand gesture.  Clarke observes quietly.  Despite the violent gesturing and aggravated expressions, it is clear that they love the fight of it all.  Clarke thinks that must be what it is like to have a sibling. 

 

“It’s in the backyard,” Octavia continues, “because I was using it.”

 

“Why were you using it? Use your own.” The boy says, throwing his head back with a sigh.

 

Octavia matches his sigh with a glare, “I can’t use my own, it’s broken.”

 

“How did you break a lacrosse stick, Octavia?”

 

Octavia shrugs ruefully, “Murphy was being an ass so I hit him with it.”

 

The boy drops his annoyed expression, looking mostly impressed now.  “You broke your lacrosse stick on a boy’s head?”

 

“It was his face actually,” Octavia says, “and technically it didn’t break until he ran it over with his car.”

 

Clarke and the boy both start laughing and then stop, startled, staring at each other.

 

“I wish I was there,” the boy says, still looking at Clarke, and then “Hey O, you gonna introduce me to your friend?”

 

“Oh yeah,” Octavia says, stepping back and taking Clarke’s hand, “Bellamy this is Clarke, Clarke this is my older brother Bellamy.  He’s home from school on break.”

 

Clarke has never met her brother before and to be honest, when she had heard stories about Octavia’s history-nerd older brother who went to the preppy private high school outside of town on scholarship, she had pictured him differently.

 

A lot differently. 

 

They regard each other for a second more before he nods at both of them.  “Well,” he says, hooking his thumb over his shoulder, “I’m going to go practice lacrosse in the yard with the stick you didn’t get run over.” He is almost out the door when he turns around, throwing Clarke one last look.  “Nice crown, Princess,” he says, leaving Clarke flushed and stricken by a Blake for the second time that day.


 

So Clarke has a problem. 

 

And that problem, all five foot seven of it, is leaning against the jamb of Clarke’s front door. 

 

Clarke spent the entire three months of summer before ninth grade in Maine at her Nona’s house.  She spent weeks clambering over rocky beaches, hiking with her dad, and meeting a million cousins that she didn’t even know she had. 

 

But she returned unchanged, maybe a little bit leaner from days of constant activity and way better at drawing lighthouses, but Clarke all the same. 

 

Lexa, apparently, didn’t get this memo. 

 

Clarke has been talking with her on the phone every day, she knew about Lexa’s job at the neighborhood pool and every detail about Nathan as he grows bigger and bigger.  But now Clarke is wondering if she should have asked Lexa for updates on her growing patterns as well. 

 

This solemn teen slumped on her porch in front of her isn’t the scrawny girl she left behind.  Lexa shot up for one thing, it seems that the growth spurt Lexa’s mom has been promising Lexa since elementary school wasn’t just a myth.  Days by the pool have left her tan and lithe, arms all muscle and legs flexing out of tiny jean shorts. 

 

She lost any last traces of baby fat on her face, cheekbones standing out under half-lidded eyes that are traced with an almost scary amount of eyeliner.  But it works for Lexa, which is so unfair.  The set of her is different too, her mouth not tempered into a scowl, instead her lips form this horribly indifferent pout, hair tossed, long and tamed, behind her shoulder.

 

Clarke thinks she would be scared of this girl if she wasn’t so busy trying to deal with the throb that has taken residence low in her stomach again.  She is sure she is going to say something utterly embarrassing and traumatizing but, luckily, her dad does it for her.

 

He comes up behind Clarke in the doorway and takes Lexa in.  There is a beat of silence where they all just wordlessly appraise each other. 

 

“Lexa T-Rexa!” Jake finally yells, pushing past Clarke to pull Lexa into a suffocating hug, lifting her off the floor and digging his chin into the top of the head, “I almost didn’t recognize you, stranger!”

 

And just like that it’s Clarke’s Lexa again, sheepishly grinning up at Jake with fidgety fingers, words formal as she greets him. 

 

Jake leaves them with a few more parting words that go largely unheard by both Clarke and Lexa who are staring at each other again.

 

“You look—” Clarke stammers at the same time that Lexa chokes out “I missed—” they both stop abruptly and there us another fit of silence before Clarke bridges the gap between them, pulling Lexa into a tight hug.  She still smells like summer Lexa, all tangy sun block and heat, and Lexa hugs her back, fierce and desperate, just like always. 

 

Clarke still has a problem, but at least this time all five foot seven of it is wrapped around her.   

 

*

 

Lexa walks home from school with Clarke.

 

They meander painfully slow, side by side, stride synced and hands brushing between them.  Lexa stops them at one point just so she can trace a line from the top of her head to a few inches above Clarke.

 

“I’m finally taller then you,” she says righteously, bopping Clarke on the top of her head, “the world is now perfectly in balance.”

 

Clarke glares balefully, edging up onto her tip toes until they are even.  “Whatever,” she says, “we both know I could still beat you in a fight.”

 

Lexa raises an eyebrow and inclines her head, annoyingly smug and condescending, “You just keep telling yourself that, Clarke.”  Lexa reaches down and tugs on Clarke’s hips, pulling them until they are flush with hers.  She presses in close, eyes narrowed and teeth bared, “You wouldn’t be able to handle what I’m bringing to the table.”

 

Clarke pushes in too, relishing the way that Lexa leans away imperceptibly, blinking twice, fast. “Oh please,” Clarke says, reaching out to wind her arms around Lexa’s shoulders so she can’t get away, pushing in so they are chest to chest, “all you’re bringing to the table is a load of false confidence and a stupid fake glare.”

 

Lexa swallows hard before arranging her face into an exaggerated version of her glare, pouting her lower lip comically.  “I’m sorry,” Lexa says, “are you trying to tell me that you don’t like my smolder?”

 

Lexa manages to hold the ridiculous expression for a few more seconds until they both dissolve into giggles, tension evaporating as their bodies soften against the curves of the other.  Lexa’s fingers are still gentle on the slope of Clarke’s hips and Clarke wraps her arms more securely around Lexa’s shoulders. 

 

“We both know that if I got mad at you it wouldn’t even be a fight,” Clarke says, thumbing at the soft hairs at the base of Lexa’s neck, “you would be tripping over your own feet trying to escape me.”

 

Lexa replies by huffing out a laugh, stroking a ticklish line up Clarke’s side with gentle hands.  “High-school-Clarke is very aggressive,” she says seriously. 

 

Clarke nods, “You better believe it.” 

 

They stay like that for a while longer, wrapped around each other on the empty sidewalk in front of Clarke’s house, exchanging teasing words and nudging in closer and closer. 

 

Clarke thinks that this Lexa, breathless as she talks about her first high school debate class, stumbling to express all that she wants to says, is the most beautiful Lexa she has ever seen.

 

*

 

Jake snorts loudly as he looks out the living room window, leaning his elbows hard on the frame. 

 

“Abby,” he calls, “Abby, come look at your daughter.”

 

Abby walks in from the kitchen, wiping her hands on a dishtowel.  “Is she home from school yet?” she asks, curiously, “She’s almost twenty minutes late.”

 

Jake snorts again, lifting the curtain to the side so Abby can see, “Wow,” he says sarcastically, “I can’t possibly imagine why.”

 

Abby scoots in next to him at the window, looking out at the scene in front of them.  Clarke with her arms folded around her best friend’s neck, Lexa tugging her in equally close around the waist.  They both seem to have forgotten that they are in the middle the neighborhood, distracted by dazzle of the other. 

 

Abby narrows her eyes, “We might need to go separate them,” she says, mock concerned, “I’m a little worried that Clarke is going to strangle Lexa with that hold she has on her.”

 

They both burst out laughing, Jake wrapping an arm around his wife’s waist, tugging her in close to his side. 

 

“When do you think they’re going to figure it out?” Jake asks.  They watch as Lexa leans down to press a long kiss to Clarke’s cheek, right on the corner of her smile. 

 

“Hopefully soon,” Abby says, turning away from the window, “I’m a little worried Clarke is going to explode.”

 

“Oh, to be young again,” Jake says leading them back into the kitchen, “and to be in love.”

 

Abby shoves at him playfully, “I hope you aren’t saying what I think you're saying.”

 

Jake turns and faces her, “Don’t worry, babe,” he says, “I’m still young, I’m just not in love.”

 

The girls walk into the house to find Clarke’s parents fighting playfully in the kitchen.  Clarke wrinkles her nose as her dad wraps her mom in his arms and kisses her soundly.  She makes a gagging noise and turns to Lexa. 

 

“PDA is so gross,” she says, tugging Lexa up the stairs, “I really don’t know why people feel the need to do it.”

 

*

 

Lexa wakes up at two in the morning to the rolling credits of a movie and Clarke’s sleepy sigh.  They must have fallen asleep on the couch at some point during the film, their third of the night, and Lexa looks at Clarke fondly before she takes in their position. 

 

Clarke is flat on the couch, lying on her back, head resting on one of the throw pillows.  Lexa’s feet hang off the end couch, her arms wrapped securely around Clarke’s middle, head resting on Clarke’s chest.  Clarke’s hands have made their way up the back of Lexa’s t-shirt, fitted warmly in the dimple of her back. 

 

Lexa moves a little closer to Clarke, drawn in by another sleepy sigh as Clarke’s hands tighten more securely around her back.  Lexa is about to put her head back down and fall asleep when Clarke jolts awake.

 

She blinks her eyes blearily, bringing her hands out from under Lexa’s shirt to wipe at her own mouth. 

 

“Lex?” she mumbles, “Did we fall asleep?”

 

Lexa nods silently, sitting up a little bit so Clarke can slide out from underneath her.  Lexa curls into the curve of the couch, arms wrapped around her knees as she stares at the blue home screen of the TV. 

 

Clarke watches her, almost fully awake now, brow furrowed as she takes in the strained line of Lexa’ back, the tension that is caught up in nervous hands and a stiff neck. 

 

“What’s wrong, Lexa?” she asks.  When Lexa doesn’t answer she edges closer, brushing her hand over the jut of Lexa’s knee. “Lex,” Clarke whines again, “why are you all pouty?”

 

Lexa shrugs hard, “I don’t know,” she mumbles.  But she does know, the weight of her secret presses hard in the pit of her stomach, fluttering weakly in her chest.  Best friends are supposed to tell each other everything, she doesn’t know why she can’t seem to tell Clarke this.

 

(Because everything could change, because Clarke could hate her, because she could ruin everything, because, because, because.)

 

Clarke is pressing closer to her again, and Lexa just wants her to stop.  When Clarke gets near her, she can’t seem to think, and Lexa really really needs to be able to think right now.

 

She doesn’t know how she got to this level of almost panic from the calm of her sleep just a few minutes ago.  It is getting harder to breathe and Clarke is trying to meet her eyes and the whole thing is too much. 

 

Lexa doesn’t mean to say it, but the burden of keeping it contained inside of her chest is choking her. 

 

“I’m gay,” she says to the heady static of the empty room. 

 

“I’m gay,” she says to the plaster wall of the Griffin’s basement.

 

“I’m gay,” she says to her best friend who is sitting beside her on the plush of the tan couch.

 

“I’m gay,” she says and Lexa thinks that she just might cave in at the empty hollow that is left behind with the release of the words. 

 

She closes her eyes tightly, unable to look at Clarke’s reaction.  Unable to do anything but regret the escape of the words that she has carried for what feels like an eternity. 

 

The first thing she hears is silence and then the whisper of Clarke moving against the couch.  She wonders if the Griffin’s will want to kick her out now or if they will wait until morning. 

 

But then cool fingers are touching her cheek and there is Clarke’s voice, the warm rasp of it, humming softly as she strokes over Lexa’s cheekbone. 

 

“Oh, Lexa,” Clarke says, a little bit broken at the way Lexa flinches away from her, “Oh, Lex.  Open your eyes.” 

 

Lexa does, slowly, finding Clarke’s eyes close to hers, blue and wondering and so so loving. Clarke’s fingers continue to stroke at her cheek and she hums out another little noise.

 

“Thank you for telling me, Lexa,” Clarke says, leaning in and kissing the tip of Lexa’s nose, “I am so so glad you did.”

 

They watch each other for a few seconds more, Lexa’s eyes heavy now, tired and spent from the press of those two words.  Clarke is blinking slowly too.  The room is dark and Lexa can’t remember if breathing ever felt this good before. 

 

Clarke wraps Lexa up in her arms, pulling her back on top of her as she lies down, nuzzling into the soft fabric of the couch, stroking back up under Lexa’s t-shirt.

 

“Goodnight, Lex,” she murmurs softly. 

 

Lexa says nothing in return, just closes her eyes and sleeps, heavy and undisturbed, not waking until Jake calls them upstairs for pancakes in the morning.

 

*

 

Jake drops Clarke and Lexa off at the stoop with instructions to “be good” and “not have too much fun.”

 

Clarke just rolls her eyes but Lexa turns from where they clambered out of the backseat, ignoring Clarke who is tugging on her arm and throwing glances up at the towering house impatiently.

 

“Thank you, sir,” Lexa says quietly. 

 

Jake just smiles and ducks his head to meet her eyes, “Just keep my girl out of trouble, Lexa-rexa,” he says, prompting a small smile from Lexa and another eye roll from Clarke. 

 

“Okay dad,” Clarke groans, dragging Lexa a few steps closer to the porch, “if I shoot up I’ll be sure to make sure the needles are properly sterilized.”

 

Jake tries to yell something after them but Clarke is already pushing into the house, Lexa gifts him with a wave before disappearing inside the doorway as well.  The foyer is huge, the ceiling arched high with clear windows that reveal acres of unlived on land beyond the roll of a pristine yard. 

 

It’s Lexa’s turn to roll her eyes, and her face drops into a glare as she continues to survey the house.  Clarke stops before they reach the door to the basement and turns to face Lexa, gripping her shoulders and nudging in close.

 

“I know that you don’t like Wells,” Clarke says, rubbing at Lexa’s arms, “but I promise this will be fun.  His dad isn’t home and everyone is going to be here.” Lexa face softens slightly and Clarke reaches out to tug at a strand of Lexa’s hair, “It’s only one night, Lex, okay? And we are in high school now, there are gonna be lots of boys here,” Clarke ducks in closer to Lexa, dragging a finger down the bridge of her nose, “and girls, too.”

 

Lexa’s ears blush red at the tips and Clarke grins, intertwining their fingers and tugging her into the bright, loud of the basement. 

 

*

 

So Lexa might be having a little bit of fun.  The party has thinned out some, most of the kid’s parents picked them up before too late, leaving only about fifteen of them in the cavern of the basement.  Wells scrounged up some fancy bottles of wine from his dad’s wine cellar and they drank it straight from the bottle, mouths wrapped around the glass lip of the bottle, trying not to wince at the unfamiliar heady taste of the drink. 

 

Few of them have really drunk much alcohol before and they are probably acting more intoxicated then they actually are.  Lexa’s head is spinning pleasantly and she listens to Nathan talk with interest, liking the play of his words as he tells his story.  Clarke left her side an hour or so ago, last Lexa saw her she had her arm curved over Maya’s shoulders, watching Monty set up the music with interest. 

 

Fox is sprawled by Lexa’s feet and she keeps urging Lexa’s hands into her hair.  “Feels nice,” she had slurred at some point during Nathan’s story and Lexa had rolled her eyes but complied to Fox’s demand, sifting her long hair through her fingers absentmindedly as she sinks deeper into the couch. 

 

Harper approaches with a loud grin and a fistful of doritos from the snack table.  She plops on Nathan’s lap, smearing dorito dust on the shoulder of his shirt.  He doesn’t seem to mind, just wraps an arm around her waist, leaning in a little closer to Lexa as he does. 

 

*

 

Clarke isn’t one hundred percent sure how she got here.  One second she had been teasing Monty in the corner, looking to find his smile that she hadn’t seen all night, and the next she was sitting in a loose circle with everyone else.  A bottle resting in the middle, all fifteen of them attempting to look completely put out by such a trivial game but largely failing as everyone casts around excited glances.

 

So yeah, spin the bottle is childish and cliché and kind of stupid but it also promises a great deal of amusement.  Clarke glances around the circle, finding Lexa across from her.  She is deep in conversation with Atom, and Clarke thinks the word ‘kissing’ and ‘Lexa’ in the same sentence and her stomach lurches in that familiar way.

 

She ignores it like she always does, looking away quickly when those pretty green eyes glance up to catch at hers. 

 

There is an awkward beat of silence once everyone is seated, Monty shifts uncomfortably next to Clarke and Wells opens his mouth to say something when Octavia cuts him off.

 

“Okay, since no one else is going to, I’ll start.”  She grips the body of the bottle and looks around the circle with a grin, “We all know everyone here would be down for kissing me, anyway.”

 

Everyone laughs and relaxes, and Clarke wonders at Octavia’s ability to put people at ease.  Even Lexa, who rarely allows herself to relax in front of anyone but Clarke, is leaning back on her forearms, watching Octavia with interest.

 

Clarke glances at Octavia and then back at Lexa.  She wonders if Lexa thinks that Octavia is pretty.  She shakes her head quickly because of course she does, Octavia is kind of breathtaking.  But still, she feels a flash of heat at the thought and swallows it down as Octavia spins.

 

The bottle lands on Sterling and Monroe guffaws loudly, shoving at his shoulder as his face pinks and he shrinks back.  Octavia grins, crawling across the circle and grabbing his face between her hands.  She kisses him soundly but briefly, releasing him with a smack and patting his heated face with her hand.  “Your turn, S,” she says, still smiling, “if you have recovered.”

 

He swats at her good naturedly and spins, watching the rotating bottle with hopeful eyes.  It lands on Monroe and a swell of cheering rises from the group, paired with laughter at the affronted expression on Monroe’s face.  Sterling watches her, slightly awed, and shrugs.  She heaves out a dramatic sight but lets him kiss her, slightly longer then the first kiss, both of their hands clenched at their sides.  Everyone is still laughing when Monroe spins, landing on John who in turn lands on Octavia. 

 

Octavia’s look of disgust makes Clarke groan in sympathy, catching Lexa’s eyes again across the circle.  She is smirking at Octavia and the awkwardness that is their kiss, and she pulls a subtle face at Clarke that makes her laugh.  Clarke’s laugh dies in her throat when Octavia lands on Lexa.  A quirk in Lexa’s eyebrows in the only real indication of her surprise but Clarke, who is well versed in all of Lexa’s subtle language, catches her swallowing hard before she moves toward Octavia.

 

Octavia, for whatever reason, casts a worried glance at Clarke before scooting closer across the rug.  They start to lean toward each other, slower then the other pairs, Octavia’s hand finding its way to Lexa’s thigh as their eyes drift shut.

 

(Clarke thinks she might be about to hyperventilate but that is irrelevant because-)

 

Octavia and Lexa are kissing, Lexa pressing in close, mouth opening just slightly to close over Octavia’s bottom lip.  Octavia lets out this small noise of surprise that hums from the back of her throat and nods into the press of Lexa’s mouth.  They don’t break apart until the circle starts “ooohing,” Finn grinning as he leans over to whisper something to Wells. 

 

(Clarke would chastise them if she wasn’t dealing with the way that Octavia brushes back her hair, breathless, and Lexa’s quiet smirk.)

 

Monty nudges Clarke and she turns to him, still slightly dazed.  “You okay there because—” he starts, stopping halfway through his sentence, looking at something behind Clarke with parted lips. She turns to look and sees the wine bottle, pointing at her, and Lexa’s hand still hovering over the body of it. 

 

Lexa’s eyes are wide and she lets out a short panicked noise, “I umm—it looks like I—”

 

“You have to kiss Clarke!” Octavia crows, shoving at Lexa from behind, sending her falling forward across the circle.  Everyone is tittering again and Clarke is pretty sure that Lexa is going to vomit.  Her stomach clenches and she feels an irrational burst of anger in the quick of her.  She just doesn’t understand, Lexa seemed perfectly fine to kiss Octavia, why doesn’t she want to kiss Clarke? They are best friends, right?

 

(And best friends tell each other everything.)

 

(Clarke thinks she might be breaking that rule.)

 

Monty shoves her forward as well, until she and Lexa face each other in the center of the circle. 

 

“Okay,” Clarke breathes.

 

“Okay,” Lexa says in return and she is leaning in.  Clarke closes her eyes and thinks of waking up in bed next to Lexa almost every Sunday.  Thinks of the way she pushes close to Lexa in those early morning hours, how they breathe the same air and shiver against the warmth of one another.  Lexa puts her hand on Clarke’s waist and Clarke tells herself that this is no different. 

 

Their lips touch and Lexa’s mouth is surprisingly soft against hers, mouth closed as she nudges against the bow of Clarke’s top lip.  Lexa tastes sweet, like wine, and Clarke moves her hand to press right above Lexa’s heart, to feel the thrum of Lexa’s pulse against her palm. 

 

Lexa jars away at that, their lips separating with a soft smack.  They stare at each other, suspended and frozen, before Clarke smiles. The smile feels slightly forced against her mouth but when Lexa smiles back it is so worth it, to find that deep swell in Lexa’s eyes that Clarke thinks might just exist for her. 

 

They resume their seats after the obligatory hushed laughter from the group and Jasper leans over to her. 

 

“Must be weird to kiss your best friend,” he says, smiling his loose, full cheeked smile, “like if I kissed Monty.”

 

Monty grins at him and shakes his head, “Not on your life, Jas,” he says.

 

Jasper’s smile drops, “Monty,” he whines, “I would rock your world.”

 

Their argument is cuts short when Wells pushes Clarke’s shoulder, “Your spin, Clarke,” he says. 

 

John snorts, “He’s hoping it lands on him.”

 

Both Clarke and Wells snap a chorus of “shut up, Murphy,” before Clarke spins the bottle. 

 

(Clarke catches Lexa looking at Wells with narrowed eyes and Clarke feels like she is forgetting something really important.)

 

So the bottle lands on Lexa. 

 

Octavia laughs so hard that she falls sidewise onto Maya who pulls her into a hug, smiling as well at the stricken look on Clarke and Lexa’s face.  Wells groans and Finn nods appreciatively. Clarke ignores them all, even Jasper’s whisper of “this could be us” to Monty. 

 

She sets her shoulders and rises to her knees, shuffling across the circle.  She is not going to let her friends get the last laugh on this one, and the only way to do that is to approach this with gross amounts of confidence. 

 

She finds herself on her knees above Lexa who is still cross-legged.  Lexa looks up at her and Clarke smiles and quirks her eyebrows.

 

“Are you glad you came?” she asks quietly.  Lexa laughs this soft, breathy thing and rises to her knees as well.

 

“It sure beats another night of Monopoly,” she says.

 

Clarke scrunches up her face in a pout, “But you love Monopoly,” she starts, unable to say more because Lexa kisses her jutting bottom lip lightly before moving to fit her mouth against Clarke’s soundly, taking advantage of their kneeling position to wrap her arms around Clarke’s neck. 

 

They pull apart after a few seconds, but Lexa keeps her arms around Clarke, tugging her so they fall back into a pile on the floor, laughing.  Clarke smoothes a kiss on Lexa’s cheek before returning to her spot, ignoring Monty’s curious glance. 

 

(Clarke wonders why everyone doesn’t just kiss their best friends all the time, especially when they taste really nice and have such pretty, quiet smiles.)

 

(Hypothetically or whatever.)

 

*

 

Lexa thinks that this game is completely stupid. 

 

 

It’s the kind of stupid that let Lexa’s put her tongue in Octavia Blake’s mouth so she probably shouldn’t complain. 

 

It’s also the kind of stupid that let Lexa kiss Clarke’s curved upper lip, that let her taste that sheen of lip gloss and feel the give of Clarke’s body against her own. 

 

It’s the kind of stupid that let Lexa wipe that smarmy smirk off of Wells Jaha’s face. 

 

Which could be worse. 

 

Lexa’s head is still buzzing from the wine and she can feel her eyes slowly drifting shut.  She leans back on her hands, lolling her head to look at the ceiling, absentminded and dazed.  A loud swell of noise from her friends makes her look up and Lexa sees Clarke staring down at the bottle with disbelief written on her face.

 

The first thing Lexa realizes is that she must have just missed seeing Clarke kiss someone, which might be a good thing because it simultaneously makes her lightheaded and a little bloodthirsty.

 

(It’s just that Mr. Griffin told Lexa to take care of Clarke, okay? And she isn’t exactly doing her job if Finn Collins is sticking his tongue down Clarke’s throat.)

 

The second thing that Lexa realizes is that the bottle is pointed at her. 

 

Again.  

 

“Oh,” she breathes out quietly, locking eyes with Clarke.  It’s Octavia who breaks through their friend’s jeers.

 

“Well, you know the rules,” she says cheerfully, hopping to her feet and dragging both Clarke and Lexa with her.  “Third times the charm, you are both banished to Seven Minutes in Heaven.”

 

“Are you kidding?” Clarke yelps, wrenching free from Octavia’s grip, “that is not a rule.”

 

Jasper nods wisely, “It’s kinda a rule,” he says.

 

Monty nods as well, “The fates have spoken,” he chimes in. 

 

“Have fun in there,” Monroe calls, setting off another chorus of laughter from the group. 

 

Lexa ignores how sweaty her hands are and just shrugs, reaching out to tug lightly at Clarke’s shirt.

 

“It doesn’t matter,” she mutters, “Let’s just do it.”

 

Clarke’s cheeks pink and Lexa moves to tease her but is shoved roughly into a small closet next to the pool table. 

 

“See you in seven minutes,” Octavia says cheerily before sealing them in the almost dark of the closet. 

 

Clarke and Lexa stand awkwardly for a second before sinking to the floor, propped next to each other, backs against the door. 

 

“We can just sit it out,” Clarke says.

 

“Obviously,” Lexa snaps quickly, harsher then she intends to.  She sees Clarke turn her face away from her but it’s too dark to get a good read on her expression.  “I mean,” Lexa continues, “you’re my best friend, so kissing you is kind of weird.”

 

She is lying.  Oh God, she is lying.  But she just came out to Clarke and luckily things didn’t get weird.  So the last thing she needs is for her to make things weird now, for Clarke to find out that Lexa likes her.

 

A little bit.

 

A lot.

 

A little bit a lot more then she is supposed to. 

 

Clarke would be grossed out she is sure and this, what they have, what they are, is more important then any little crush on Lexa’s part.

 

They sit in silence for the next seven minutes, but Lexa takes Clarke’s hand and Clarke grips her fingers tightly. 

 

Yeah, Lexa can’t mess this up. 

 

*

 

After everyone else falls asleep, they sneak out into Wells’ backyard.  They lie in the cool grass, supplicated and shivering, and look at the stars.  Clarke turns and noses into Lexa’s neck, making her giggle. Clarke kisses the soft skin of her jaw just once before running her thumb over Lexa’s lips, looking at her in that careful, curious way she does.

 

“I like the way you feel,” she whispers. 

 

Lexa nods, heart high in her chest, breaking, shattering, quaking with every shuddering breath she takes. 

 

Clarke ducks down to kiss at her jaw again, lips warm against the curve of Lexa’s skin.  Lexa’s mouth falls open at the feel and she gasps into the dark, swallowing the chill of the wind and so many stars.

 

Clarke kisses Lexa’s open mouth, surging and quick, like she is being moved by something out of her control.  She laps, warm and wet, into the heat of Lexa’s mouth.  They both keep their eyes closed but Lexa can see the immense press of the sky anyway. Her chest echoes with swallowed starlight and Clarke’s back arches under the press of Lexa’s fingertips. 

 

They fall asleep in the grass and wake up in the morning, heads aching and dew covered. 

 

(Neither mentions the kiss and by the time the day ends they both assume the other has forgotten.)

Chapter Text

Everything about tenth grade feels different. 

 

They aren’t just freshman anymore, they move around the school with a new freedom, discovering their place in a way they hadn’t before.

 

They aren’t just Clarke and Lexa like they have always been.  They spend more time apart as they fall into different groups, with Clarke spending lunch in the art room and her after school hours practicing with the Quiz Bowl team in Mr. Kane’s empty classroom.  Lexa makes the varsity soccer team and starts sitting with them at lunch, any free time she has spent in practice or at home taking care of Nate. 

 

Sometimes days pass without them seeing each other. 

 

When that happens Lexa’s playing gets sloppier and Clarke can’t concentrate during Quiz Bowl practice, they are unfocused and out of sync until they meet up for Saturday night sleepovers, watching old movies and playing board games until they realign.   They can be Clarke and Lexa again for a two whole days until Monday comes and pulls them back apart.

 

Sometimes they meet in between classes, leaning against lockers as they just take each other in, talking in quick jokes and light touches.  Clarke always walks Lexa to her third period Math Analysis class, pressing a kiss to her cheek in the doorway before hurrying across campus to AP Euro. 

 

*

 

Lexa’s practice is canceled after a fierce battle with boy’s lacrosse for the field.  Lexa sneers at Finn and his ilk, ushered off the pitch by her coach. 

 

“We’ll just skip practice today, ladies,” Gustus calls to the group, massaging his temple with his fingers, “you had a great game yesterday.  It’s well deserved.”  He shoots a glare at Lexa and her team mates, “I expect you all to go on a run on your own, this is about pushing yourselves to be better.”  He glances back at the lacrosse team sourly before waving his hand at his girls, “All right, get outta here.”

 

They scatter eagerly, scooping up heavy bags to sling over shoulders, chattering amongst themselves, excited to have such a commodity as a weekday off.  Lexa lags behind, untying her cleats and throwing them back in her bag.  She figures Clarke will still be at nerd practice, she might wait outside the classroom, walk her home.  Her stomach lurches excitedly at the thought and she quickens her pace as she walks back toward the school.  She passes a crowd of girls who cluster against the corner of the bleachers, clothed only in spandex and sports bras, pom-poms dropped carelessly on the asphalt.  Most of the girls are setting up mats but one, tall and lean with dangerous cheekbones and delicate eyes, smirks at Lexa.

 

“Better hurry, pretty girl,” she says, mouth still curved into a smile as she watches Lexa walk, “you’re getting left behind.” 

 

Lexa glances at her teammates ahead of her and then back at the Cheer girl.  She opens her mouth to reply, but can think of nothing so she just nods, hoping the girl doesn’t notice her burning ears and the nervous clench of her hands on her sports bag.  The girl smiles wider, leaning toward Lexa just barely before turning, helping one of the other cheerleaders heft a mat.  Lexa’s eyes drop to the girl’s well muscled arms and the taught ripple of her back before she shakes her head and keeps walking, refusing to look back despite the allure of the girl’s smile and the weight of her gaze as she watches Lexa leave. 

 

*

 

Clarke leaves Mr. Kane’s classroom to find Lexa sitting slumped outside the door.  She is still wearing her soccer gear, socks bunched around her ankles, shorts slung low on her hips under a loose penny.  The shock of finding Lexa, pouting and patient and hers jolts in Clarke’s chest and she is hit with the weight of missing her. 

 

Lexa stands when she sees her, smoothing back her ponytail with one hand while she reaches out for Clarke with the other. 

 

“Hey,” she says, leaning in to kiss Clarke on the cheek before grabbing her bags off the ground, “practice was canceled,” she says in reply to Clarke’s questioning gaze. 

 

Clarke smiles and grabs Lexa’s soccer bag, fitting it over her shoulder.  Lexa frowns, swiping at it, “I can carry it,” she protests.

 

Clarke stops her and huffs, “Your backpack is way heavier then mine today,” she says, “just let me do something nice for once.  Okay?”

 

Lexa ducks her head in a nod before looking up Clarke, “How did you know my backpack is heavy today?” she asks curiously. 

 

Clarke looks down shyly and shrugs, “You have a World History and Math today, you always bring those text books.”

 

Lexa stares at her hard, lips parted in her almost-smile.  They stare for a beat longer before Lexa shakes her head quickly, “I meant to ask you,” Lexa says, “How much do you know about our schools cheer team?”

 

“The cheer team? What? Where?” Jasper says, tripping out of the classroom, Monty close behind him. 

 

Clarke rolls her eyes at him as she starts walking, “You are so desperate, Jas,” she says.

 

Jasper just shrugs, fully aware of his situation, “No but really,” he says, “I know pretty much everything there is to know about our school’s cheerleaders.”

 

“He really does,” Monty says, nodding in agreement.

 

“Pervert,” Clarke mumbles as she pulls ahead, checking her phone as she walks.  She waits for Lexa’s hum of agreement but turns to find Lexa studying Jasper inquiringly.

 

“Do you know who their captain is?” Lexa asks, uncharacteristically curious.

 

Jasper seems surprised to find her engaged in this topic and hesitates before answering. “Uh, yeah.  I do,” he says.

 

“Yeah he does,” Monty hushes to Clarke who stifles a giggle and nudges him in the ribs.

 

Jasper ignores him.  “Her name is Anya, she’s a senior.” He stares off into the distance, “Tall.  Blonde hair.  Aggressive tendencies and a mean attitude,” he sighs wistfully, “every boy’s dream.”

 

Lexa turns away from him, catching up to Clarke and Monty.  Jasper jogs to catch up as well, “Why are you asking?” he asks Lexa.

 

“No reason,” she replies, short and succinct, back to normal Lexa patterns.  Clarke reaches over to grab Lexa’s hand.

 

“I’m so glad that you don’t have practice today,” she says, smiling.

 

Lexa answers her with a quirk of her mouth and a squeeze of Clarke’s fingers.  Lexa drops Clarke’s hand when they exit the school and she misses the warm press of her skin.

 

Clarke wonders why everything suddenly doesn’t feel like enough.

 

(She wonders if it ever will again.)

 

*

 

They approach Clarke’s house in relative silence.  Lexa watches Clarke out of the corner of her eye.  Her hair is pulled back in a loose bun and her sleeves are rolled around her elbows.  She is captivating in her concentration, brow slightly furrowed as she stares hard at the sidewalk. 

 

“What are you thinking about?” Lexa asks, reaching out her hand to brush at Clarke’s shoulder, pulling back before she makes contact.  The sound of Lexa’s voice seems to jar Clarke from her reverie and she looks up quickly.

 

“Just stuff,” she replies, still dazed, “Sometimes I think that—”  Clarke cuts off when she looks at her driveway, scrunching her face in confusion and quickening her pace.  “Who is that?” she asks, gesturing at Abby’s car.

 

Lexa turns her attention to the vehicle and sees a pair of legs sticking out from underneath of it, tools scattered on the ground by the front tires. 

 

“Hello?” Clarke calls, shrugging off Lexa’s hand when she reaches to pull her back.

 

The legs stop moving and a voice calls back, “Oh, hey.  Give me a second.” 

 

Lexa watches a girl emerges from under the car, wiping her hand across her forehead, leaving a smudge of grease across her sweat streaked skin.  Clarke takes a wobbly step toward the girl, mouth falling open subtly, cheeks flushed.  Lexa takes in Clarke’s reaction before turning back to the girl.  Lexa feels a rush of heat at the way that Clarke’ looks at the girl and fidgets with the hem of her shirt.

 

(And it isn’t jealousy it’s just that—)

 

The girl is beautiful.  Her jeans are rolled up to mid calf and grease has found its way across the smooth of her palm and stains her nimble fingers.  Her hair is barely contained by a messy ponytail and her shirt rises up over a pierced bellybutton as she raises her arms in a lingering stretch. 

 

“You must be Clarke,” she says with a grin as she lowers her arms, “Your mom said you would be home soon.”

 

“Oh,” Clarke sighs out, still flustered, tucking her hair back in her bun before extending her hand, “Yeah, Clarke.  That would be me.”

 

The girl takes Clarke’s hand with another smile and shakes it slowly.  “I’m Raven,” she says, “I just moved in next door.” 

 

When Clarke and the girl, Raven, pull apart, black grease is smeared across Clarke’s hand.  She doesn’t seem to notice, just smiles in that way she does, with a dangerous glint of teeth and a subtle arch of her neck. 

 

“That doesn’t explain why you are working on my mom’s car, Raven.” Clarke says, her voice is rough, pitched low, and she leans in a little closer to the girl across from her.  Raven laughs, shrugging as she leans back on the bumper of the car.

 

“I’m allowed to be here, I promise,” she says.  Raven looks at Lexa for maybe the first time and nods, but her eyes remain focused on Clarke as she keeps talking.  “I came over to introduce myself, met your dad,” she pauses to look back at the house, “great guy, and then your mom got home from work complaining her car was running strange.”  Raven shrugs again, pushing off the bumper to stand closer to Clarke again, “I said I would help and now—” she gestures at the tools and trails off. 

 

“Is it fixable?” Clarke asks, still talking low, grinning into the girl’s dark eyes, enamored by her quick charm and sharp chin. 

 

“Oh, yeah,” Raven says, grinning again, “but I have really talented hands so I never expected a problem.” 

 

This brand of Clarke’s laugh is unfamiliar to Lexa and her stomach turns and she can’t remember two minutes ago when her heart wasn’t this pulverized mess. 

 

(And it isn’t jealousy it’s just that—)

 

*

 

When Lexa shows up to Clarke’s house next Saturday, Clarke is sporting a bruise on her neck and grease stains on the plane of her back. 

 

Lexa says nothing and Clarke says nothing and they watch the movie in silence. 

 

*

 

They lie in the warmth of Clarke’s bed. 

 

Lexa faces the wall and tries to breathe quietly, to not disturb the lull they have created in the silent room.  The bed feels smaller then usual and she can’t remember when it became so hard to fit. She feels Clarke start to shift and closes her eyes more tightly, only opening them when Clarke turns to hold her from behind.  Clarke wraps her arm around the curve of Lexa’s waist and noses softly into the back of Lexa’s neck, her legs are cold as they wind with Lexa’s and she struggles to not flinch from the feel. 

 

“You’re my best friend,” Clarke whispers against her skin and Lexa doesn’t know if she is trying to reassure Lexa or just remind herself.  Lexa hums in response and Clarke relaxes behind her. 

 

Clarke rolls away from Lexa in her sleep and Lexa can’t remember if that is how it has always been.

 

*

 

Lexa kisses back hard, trying to keep up with the bite of teeth against her lips and the wet of the tongue that licks into her mouth.

 

Anya digs her hands harder into the skin of Lexa’s leg, hitching her more firmly against the lockers.  Lexa whimpers at the feel and grips at Anya’s back as she moves down to Lexa’s neck, scraping her teeth across the pound of her pulse. 

 

Lexa whines loudly, clenching her thighs where she straddles Anya’s leg.  Anya pulls back from Lexa’s neck, grinning hard into the soft of Lexa’s cheek before nipping at her jaw. 

 

“Quiet down, pretty girl,” she whispers, “I’m not really wanting to get caught right now.”

 

Lexa nods, breathless, closing her mouth tightly as she scratches a line down the back of Anya’s cheer top.  She turns her attention back to the locker room ceiling as Anya moves down to bite at the jut of her collarbone, holding back a squeak as Anya’s hands stroke at the soft skin of her stomach under her jersey. 

 

Lexa isn’t one hundred percent on how she got here.  She had stayed late after practice to help Gustus move the soccer goals off the field so that the boy’s lacrosse team could start practice.  It had taken longer then she had thought it would but Gustus had made a point to compliment her playing last week against Fairview and when she had entered the almost empty locker room she was still glowing from the compliment. 

 

She hadn’t expected to find Anya there, pushing a rolled cheer practice mat into the supply closet, and she certainly hadn’t expected her offer of help to be met with Anya’s biting grin and two hands on her shoulders pushing her against the ugly teal lockers. 

 

“This isn’t exactly the kind of help I meant,” she had said as Anya pressed close, moving her hands down to catch at the back of Lexa’s legs. 

 

“Do you retract your offer?” Anya had asked, pausing her movements, releasing her hold briefly.

 

It had been Lexa who shook her head quickly and Lexa who surged forward to cover Anya’s lips with her own. 

 

She had notices Anya watching her curiously during practice and they bantered sometimes across the fence that separates the field and the bleachers, Anya leaning against the chain link as she tries to get Lexa flustered.  For a sophomore being flirted with by a senior, Lexa had gotten better at looking unaffected by Anya’s attention.  Apparently her ability to conceal her emotions doesn’t translate well to Anya stroking over the thin polyester of her sports bra because she inhales sharply, causing Anya to pull back again. 

 

This time she doesn’t move back in, releasing her grip on Lexa and letting her back down on the floor.  Lexa doesn’t try to protest, just watches as Anya takes another step back, straightening her skirt and tossing her hair behind one shoulder.  Anya moves toward Lexa, sudden and sharp, kissing her on the mouth roughly before turning to leave the locker room. 

 

“Thanks for the help, pretty girl,” she tosses over her shoulder before slamming out the wooden door. 

 

Lexa slumps against the locker heavily, staring after Anya vacantly.  She turns and catches sight of herself in the locker room mirror.  Her ponytail has completely fallen out and her jersey is bunched around her chest.  Her lips are swollen from Anya’s teeth and greedy tongue, her eyes half-lidded and heavy. 

 

She doesn’t recognize her reflection and she loves the truth of it. 

 

It feels like letting go.

 

*

 

Clarke presses another kiss to Raven’s mouth before pushing her off of her, Raven rocks back before leaning in again, nuzzling hard into the soft, blonde of Clarke’s hair.

 

“Do I have to go?” she asks, stroking gently at Clarke’s cheek.

 

Clarke smiles before nudging Raven off of her again, “Yes,” she says, trying not to laugh when Raven grabs her hand and kisses her knuckles and then her palm, “Lexa is coming over.”

 

Raven groans but gets off the bed, smoothing her hair back into her ponytail.  She leans down to kiss Clarke one last time before moving toward the door, slinging her backpack over her shoulder as she goes. 

 

“All right,” Raven says, still hovering in the doorway, “just remember to tell your mom to ease up on the transmission, she’s kicking her gear box’s ass,” Raven catches Clarke’s grin and smiles in return, holding up a hand.  “Not in the good way,” she adds, “your mom is going to wear it down if she keeps driving like that.”

 

Clarke sits up on the bed and waves her hand at Raven, “Okay, I’ll tell her.”

 

Raven nods and starts through the doorway, throwing one last wave over her shoulder.  She takes the steps two at a time, almost running into Lexa at the foot of the stairs.  They pass each other somewhat awkwardly, Lexa’s face caught between a glare and its usual empty stare and Raven still startled from the encounter. 

 

Lexa starts up the stairs, already churning.  The anger in her chest is not eased when she enters Clarke’s room to find Clarke reclined on the bed, shirt shucked somewhere across the room, bare legs caught in her purple sheets.  She turns when Lexa enters, smiling lazily and stretching her hands behind her head. 

 

“Hey Lex,” she says, squinting when she meets Lexa’s storm-cloud glare and clenched fists. 

 

“So were you just never going to tell me?” Lexa asks, all quiet bite and low voice, still paused in the doorway like entering will kill her. 

 

Clarke’s face bunches in confusion and she drops her hands back to her side, sitting up and swinging her legs over the side of the bed. “Tell you what?” she asks, slightly defensive, unused to seeing Lexa’s glare directed at her with so much conviction. 

 

Lexa waves her hand around the room, jerky and uncultured, not like the usual precision with which she moves.  “About you and Raven,” she spits.

 

Clarke stands, still confused, but her fire lit now, she strides across the room closer to where Lexa is coiled.  “What about me and Raven?” she asks, she still hasn’t put on her shirt and her muscles are flexing dangerously in her tense irritation.

 

“That you guys are—” Lexa pauses here, clenching her jaw, “whatever it is that you are.”

 

Clarke shakes her head, scoffing as she steps closer.  “I didn’t think I had to tell you anything.  Raven and I are dating, it’s pretty common knowledge.”

 

“I know,” Lexa hisses, “don’t you see? That’s just it.”

 

Clarke’s anger is giving away to confusion again, she starts to hush out “I don’t understa—” but Lexa cuts her off.

 

“I was so scared when I realized I was gay,” she says, voice overwhelmed with uncharacteristic amounts of emotion, “It took everything I had to tell you.  I thought you would hate me or” she turns her gaze to the ceiling, no longer able to meet Clarke’s eyes, “think I was sick or detestable or something and you never  once thought maybe you could tell me you feel this way too.  Never once thought that it would have been nice to share something like that with your best friend.”

 

(Best friends are supposed to tell each other everything.)

 

Clarke huffs out a heavy breath, almost laughing. “So this is what this about? That I didn’t tell you I was bi?”

 

“No,” Lexa snaps, she slams her hand into the doorway, hard, “This is about you thinking that telling me wasn’t even something that you should do.” Her hand throbs and she pulls it closer to her body, “This is about—” she says, heart throbbing in her throat, voice quivering as every particle in her body begs her to not says it, “—this is about the fact that you have always meant more to me then I mean to you.”

 

Clarke and Lexa stand facing each other for a beat while Clarke tries to process Lexa’s words.  She shakes her head softly, stumbling a small step forward, “What does that even mean?” she asks. 

 

Lexa bites out a sharp laugh and shakes her head, “fuck you, Clarke,” quiet and defeated as she turns to go. 

 

“What?” Clarke yells now, taking another step closer, “Lexa what the hell?”

 

Lexa ignores her, taking rapid steps down the stairs.  She rushes out the front door, passing Jake on her way out.  He reaches a hand out to catch at her arm, “Lexa-rexa, what’s wrong?”

 

She just shrugs past him, sprinting down the sidewalk, hands covering her eyes. 

 

Jake walks quickly to Clarke room, confused by Lexa’s behavior, by the shouting he had heard from upstairs.

 

“Is everything okay?” he calls as he walks up the stairs, “I think Lexa just ran out of here crying.”

 

He rounds the corner into Clarke’s room and finds her standing frozen in the middle of her carpet, t-shirt hanging limply from her hands, red-cheeked with a shaking bottom lip.

 

“She was crying?” she trembles out, voice cracking half-way through the words.

 

Oh sweetheart,” Jake says, taking a step forward and pulling her into the rough material of his work shirt.  She clutches at him desperately, burying her head in his chest as she lets out a fractured sob.

 

“She’s mad at me,” she whimpers, voice muffled in his shirt, “and she’s crying.” Clarke then lets out a continuous stream of muffled words and Jake barely makes out garbled phrases like “love her” and “Raven” and “really, really gay.” He pets her hair somewhat awkwardly and lets her sob into his shirt until Abby gets home.

 

*

Clarke skips Quiz Bowl practice to sit in the bleachers and watch Lexa’s practice.  She knows her teammates will be mad and this will mean that she won’t be able to start in the tournament on Saturday but it’s not like she can think with Lexa ignoring her anyway. 

 

She corners Lexa after the practice, wedging her somewhere between the empty concession stand and the bleachers. 

 

There are apologies, the shape of Lexa’s mouth when she is trying not to cry, and the smell of spring. 

 

Clarke moves in close to Lexa, ignoring the cheerleaders that seem to be watching them from across the field.  She cups Lexa’s face in her hands and presses a kiss to her forehead and chin, pulling a smile from Lexa’s solemn mouth. 

 

“You know that you are my favorite, right?” Clarke says, not releasing her hold on Lexa until she nods within Clarke’s grip, shaking her loose so she can wrap her arms around Clarke’s neck. She feels Lexa drop a kiss on her shoulder and tugs her in closer, aching with the weight of this forgiveness.

 

*

 

They have a movie night on Sunday and laugh at all the right parts, fumbling handfuls of popcorn into each other’s mouths with butter-sticky hands. 

 

*

 

Lexa falls asleep on the couch and Clarke leaves her there when she moves to her bedroom.  The bed feels empty without her but Clarke thinks that it might feel empty with her, too.

 

*

 

Lexa leaves the stadium after her game to find Anya leaning against a car in the parking lot.  Lexa tries to wipe some sweat from her face as she walks over, favoring her right leg, her left one sporting a scrape down the calf courtesy of a rogue slide tackle in the second half. 

 

She doesn’t say anything when she reaches Anya, just stands, helpless and empty and panting, as the older girl looks her up and down. 

 

“Rough game, pretty girl?” Anya asks, voice somewhat softer then usual, arms crossed over her chest.

 

Lexa shrugs, face still stoic, “It was what it was,” she answers, too exhausted to say anything else. 

 

Anya nods and pops open the passenger door, gesturing for Lexa to get in.  Lexa does so without complaint, just lowers herself into the cool, leather seats, her tired muscles welcoming the relief.  Anya gets in the driver’s seat, setting the keys on top of the dashboard.

 

 Lexa looks at her wearily. “Are we going anywhere?” she asks.

 

“I wasn’t really planning on it,” Anya answers, reaching for Lexa over the gear shift, pulling her in for a rough kiss by the collar of her jersey. 

 

Lexa lets her, kissing back sloppily before taking Anya’s hand and moving it to the elastic waist band of her shorts.  Anya pulls back briefly, pressing their foreheads together, nudging Lexa’s nose with a kind of care that takes Lexa by surprise.

 

“You sure, Lexa?” Anya asks, thumbing at the waistband softly.

 

Lexa startles at the sound of her name and pushes back into a kiss, nodding as she does so.  Anya makes no further move until Lexa pulls back again, still nodding, “I’m sure,” she says. 

 

And then Anya is leaning further across the gearshift, pushing her hand past the waistband and into Lexa’s underwear.  She swallows Lexa’s whimpers with a hungry mouth and when Lexa comes, for a few wonderful seconds, she doesn’t think about anything at all. 

 

*

 

Raven is lovely and funny, the shape of her feels perfect under Clarke’s hands and she leaves Clarke messy with engine grease and lipstick stains. 

 

But when Clarke notices Raven eyeing Finn Collins, she lets her go.  There is only one angry fight and one sad kiss goodbye. 

 

Clarke thinks that maybe she doesn’t really want perfect things.

 

*

 

Lexa sits in the back row of Anya’s graduation.  She only stays long enough to watch Anya walk across the stage before going to sit in the bleachers of the empty outdoor stadium. She looks at the soccer pitch before closing her eyes, sinking into the heavy heat of almost-summer.

 

She doesn’t open her eyes until she feels someone sit beside her, their shadow falling across her lethargic form. 

 

“I’m going to college in a few months, pretty girl,” Anya says, quiet and low.

 

Neither looks at the other, both staring straight ahead at the vacant, green field.  Lexa knows what she would see if she looked: Anya, beautiful and sacred, framed by the sun.

 

She would be all dolled up in her white graduation dress with two braids woven into the fall of her hair. 

 

She would be perfect and angry and unattainable. 

 

She wouldn’t be Clarke.

 

“I know,” Lexa says eventually, equally quiet. 

 

“You should tell her,” Anya says, still staring straight ahead, “your friend, you should tell her that you—”

 

“I know,” Lexa says again, ignoring the throb of her heart in the hollow of her chest.

 

Anya stands, and Lexa finally looks at her, squinting at her silhouette, Anya’s face hidden by the glare.  

 

“I’ll see you around,” Anya says and Lexa can hear the smile in her voice.

 

“No I won’t,” Lexa answers.

 

“No you won’t,” Anya replies before leaning down to kiss Lexa’s cheek, blocking the glare just long enough for Lexa to meet her eyes.    

 

Lexa turns away again and looks at the field.   Anya leaves.

 

The stadium is empty and Lexa is alone. 


 

“Yttrium is the first element in the second row of transition metals,” Octavia says slowly, squinting at the paper in her hand, “Though yttrium has no occupied f orbitals-what the fuck is that- it is often classified as a rare earth element along with this group of elements with partially filled 4f orbitals.”

 

“Do you think I did something to make her mad?”

 

Octavia throws down the packet and looks at Clarke angrily.  “Do you want me to help you study for your stupid ass nerd team or do you just want to moan about Lexa?”

 

Clarke rolls over onto her stomach on her place on the floor, cupping her chin in her hands, sighing.  “Lanthanides.”

 

“What?” Octavia asks, squinting angrily at Clarke.

 

Clarke rolls her eyes, “Lanthanides.  That’s the answer to the question.”

 

“Oh,” Octavia huffs, picking the packet back up, “Okay, good.” She turns back to the packet in her hands, reclining back on the bed. “‘April is the cruelest month’ is the beginning of this 1922 poem, whose first section is “The Burial of the Dead.”

 

Clarke lolls her head in her hands, and shrugs her shoulder.  “I don’t usually do the literature questions,” she says, mumbling distractedly as she stares hard at her phone that rests on the carpet in front of her, “Miller is good at those, I do science like how Monty does math.”

 

“All your nerd stuff is the same to me,” Octavia says, flipping through the pages, “Bellamy would eat this shit up, I swear to God.”

 

Clarke half nods, clicking her phone light and then back to dark as she sighs again. 

 

Octavia rolls her eyes and looks back down at the papers in her hands, “I don’t even know why I try,” she mutters and then “Oh, good.  I found some more unintelligible science bullshit.” She clears her throat dramatically, “PT and PTT are lab tests designed to quantify this process that requires molecules known as factor eight and-fucking fuck how do I say this- thrombin, maybe. Vitamin K is named for its role in this process that is impaired in hemophiliacs.”  Octavia squints at the packet, “Jesus Christ,” she sighs, “This guy wrote a small novel instead of an actual fucking question.”

 

“Blood clotting. Did she seem weird to you at lunch yesterday?”

 

“What?” Octavia says, throwing down the papers again.

 

“The answer is blood clotting.  Lexa.  Did she seem quiet?” Clarke asks, clicking her phone on and off again.

 

“She always seems quiet,” Octavia says, groaning, “that’s just because she is quiet.”

 

“Not to me,” Clarke mumbles, burying her face in her hands as she groans, “she always talks to me.”

 

Octavia shoves the packet of papers off the bed decisively and gets up, pulling Clarke off the floor and collapsing them on the bed.  She coaxes Clarke’s head into her lap and strokes through her hair comfortingly. 

 

“It’s our junior year, Clarke,” she hums out, “people change.”

 

Clarke buries her head in the warmth of Octavia’s lap and mumbles, quiet and sad, “Not Lexa.  She isn’t supposed to.”

 

Octavia pouts her lip and scratches softly at Clarke’s scalp.  “I know sweetie,” she says, “I know. But its Lexa, she’ll come around.”

 

“What if she doesn’t?” Clarke says, almost inaudibly.

 

Octavia doesn’t answer and Clarke doesn’t ask again.

 

*

 

Lexa kicks the soccer ball slow through the grass, watching Nate as he picks it up and throws it back to her, using his whole body to generate enough momentum to get it to back to her hands.

 

She catches it laughing, bouncing it off the laces of her shoes a few times experimentally.  “Nate,” she chastises, still smiling, “you’re supposed to kick it, not throw it.”

 

“I know,” he says dramatically, furrowing his brow and positioning his hands on his hips, “I just didn’t want to.”

 

“Oh,” she says as she drops the ball back to the ground, “I guess you’re just too good to follow the rules.”

 

He shrugs, turning excitedly when a car drives past the street in front of their house.  The car continues along the road and he sighs heavily, the  heaving breath moving his small shoulders.  “When is Clarke coming?” he asks.

 

Lexa toes at the ball, popping it back into the air half-heartedly.  “She’s not,” she says shortly.

 

“Why not?” he asks, moving closer.

 

“Because.”

 

“Because why?”

 

“Because I said so,” she says, taking a large step forward and catching him up under his arms.  She swings him onto her shoulders and gallops across the yard, wincing as he digs his fingers into her hair.  A car pulls into the driveway and he lets out an excited yell, quieting when he sees that it’s not Clarke. 

 

Lexa sets him on the ground, ruffling his hair when he latches to her leg.  “Who’s that?” he whispers loudly as the girl gets out of the car. 

 

Lexa waves before looking back down at him, “That’s one of my teammates,” she says making her way across the yard, half dragging him as he continues to cling to her leg.

 

“Reyes,” Lexa greets when she is gets close enough.

 

“Lexa,” Raven greets in turn, pushing her sunglasses up into her hair, “ready to fudge shiz up at team bonding?”

 

Lexa smiles imperceptibly, resting her hand on Nate’s head.  “Let me just get him in the house.” Raven nods as Lexa nudges Nate toward the door.

 

“Where’s Clarke?” he whines again before she shushes him, pushing open the screen door with her hip. 

 

“Mom! I’m leaving!” she shouts, waiting for an answer before she kneels down, pressing a sloppy kiss to Nate’s cheek.  “Be good,” she tells him as he wipes angrily at his cheek. 

 

He frowns, “Can you stay?”

 

“No,” she says, pushing him all the way through the door, “I’ll see you tomorrow.”  She turns and walks slowly down the steps of the porch, glancing back to see Nate watching her.  Raven is already back in the car and Lexa slips in the passenger side.

 

Lexa glances over as she buckles her seatbelt.  “Thanks for censoring yourself,” she says, “‘fudge shiz up’ is one I’ll have to remember.”

 

Raven grins as she back out the driveway, “I didn’t want to compromise your little bro’s innocence.”

 

Lexa smiles back tentatively, settling in her seat. 

 

Raven looks over before lowering her sunglasses back over her eyes, tossing her ponytail behind her shoulder.  “So where is Clarke? Coach said we could bring people.  It’s just a team potluck—”

 

Lexa cuts her off, “She was probably busy,” she answers quickly.

 

Raven quirks her mouth to the side, “I know Clarke and I only dated for like a month,” she starts, “but we both know there is no one Clarke would rather spend time with then you.” She pauses, signaling as she takes a right out of Lexa’s neighborhood.  “I kind of think that might be why we broke up.”

 

Lexa looks over quickly, quieting her heart and keeping her mouth even.  “Clarke said you broke up because you like Finn.”

 

Raven shrugs, “I mean yeah, I like Finn and I am so happy we are dating now but—” she shrugs again, “I liked Clarke, too.”

 

Lexa looks out the window hard, avoiding Raven’s curious eyes. “Let’s just focus on team bonding,” she says, clearly done with the conversation, “I’m ready to fudge shiz up.”

 

*

 

Clarke watches Lexa play with a kind of pointed interest.  She sits alone in the bleachers, apart from the rest of the spectators.  She watches Lexa receive the ball, passing it to the center-mid before collecting it up the sideline, crossing it with a solid strike.  The other team’s defenders clear the ball and Lexa takes off back down the field, all bunched muscle and animal ferocity.  Clarke swallows hard, clenching her hands open and closed on her leg, nervous and jittery as she watches her.

 

Clarke finds Lexa after the game, watches her shuck off her shin guards and untie her cleats.  Lexa looks up to find Clarke and freezes, red cheeked and breathless, from the game or at the sight of her Clarke can’t tell. 

 

“Hey,” Clarke says.

 

“Hey,” Lexa answers quietly, slipping her cleats off and sliding them into her bag. 

 

She stands to face Clarke, and there is a beat of silence where they just study each other.  Clarke reaches out to Lexa, but Lexa ducks away, shaking her head quickly.

 

“Sorry,” she stutters, “It’s just that I’m really sweaty and,” she takes a deep breath, “Yeah, I’m just gross.”

 

“Okay,” Clarke says, retracting her hand.  She is flustered now, unsure of what to do if Lexa won’t let her touch her.  This method of communication is so much harder. 

 

“You’ve been avoiding me,” she says, trying for the direct approach.

 

Lexa tightens her jaw, inclining her neck slightly before she answers.  “I haven’t.”

 

“You have,” Clarke insists, “I feel like we haven’t talked in forever.”

 

“I have nothing to say,” Lexa answers, her words certain and firmly placed, un-breachable but for her hard swallow after she speaks.

 

Clarke crinkles her nose, “I didn’t think that really mattered,” she says, “I thought you just liked spending time with me.

 

“I do,” Lexa says before correcting herself, “I did.”

 

“Did?” Clarke asks, confused now, “Past tense?”

 

Lexa shifts her bag higher on her shoulder.  “I just mean—it’s hard.”

 

“Why?” Clarke asks, voice hardening, “Why is it hard?”

 

“Because—” Lexa starts, and for a second her voice is raw.  Her face is open and pleading and desperate, she spreads her hand in front of herself in some sort of supplication and Clarke doesn’t know what she is asking for.  “Because I love you.”

 

Clarke shakes her head quickly, that tight feeling pressing on her chest. 

 

(Clarke feels like she is forgetting something really important.)

 

(Best friends are supposed to tell each other everything.)

 

“I love you, too,” Clarke huffs out, feeling wound and lost, too exposed under the bright floods that light the pitch, “what does that have to do with anything?’

 

Lexa almost growls and for a second she is animal again, as feral and tense as she was when she tore down the field.  Clarke wonders for a second if Lexa is going to rip her throat out.  She pictures the scene, Lexa lunging for her, teeth at her neck and hands tearing at her clothes.  Clarke’s stomach feels warm at the thought and her heart beats so quick. 

 

She thinks she would let Lexa devour her without protest. 

 

(It feels like—)

 

But instead of stepping forward, Lexa turns and walks quickly away.  Clarke means to call out for her but she is frozen in place. 

 

The stadium is empty and Clarke is alone.

 

*

 

Clarke nuzzles harder into Octavia’s shoulder, moving up to nose at her neck before biting down over her collarbone.  Octavia yelps and scoots away, cupping Clarke’ face in her hands and raising her chin until she meets her eyes.

 

“Clarke,” Octavia says carefully, watching Clarke blink slow, eyes heavy and mouth curved into a lazy smile, “Sweetie, you are very drunk.” Clarke grins wider and Octavia rolls her eyes, “We both know that drunk Clarke will make out with anything that moves, but I’m going to have to request that you keep your mouth to yourself.”

 

Clarke pouts and Octavia strokes her thumb over Clarke’s chin to appease her.  “It’s not that I don’t love your affection, Clarke, believe me I do.”  She looks at the room where the party rages around them before continuing, “But people keep thinking that we are dating and I was really planning on hooking up with someone tonight,” she lowers her voice to a whisper, “which isn’t going to happen if said person thinks they are going to have to fight you to get to me.”

 

Clarke sits up grumbling, “I would beat them up.”

 

“I know, Clarke,” Octavia says, patting her on the head as she continues to survey the room, “you are very tough and scary.”

 

Clarke sighs and leans back into the couch, playing with her own hands in her lap distractedly.  Octavia glances back at her, “You really need to make up with Lexa,” she says, “You are so much needier when you guys don’t talk.”

 

“What is that supposed to mean?” Clarke snaps, the effect of her anger somewhat dulled as her words slur half-way through.

 

“I just mean that you get some of your cuddle energy out on her,” Octavia trails off as she spots someone coming through the door.  “Gotta go, babe,” she says hopping up and patting Clarke’s head again, “I see my next victim.”

 

Clarke watches her leave, eyes unfocused and shoulder slumped, barely noticing when someone sits down beside her. 

 

“I would ask if I could get a drink,” the someone says, “but it looks like you have that covered.”

 

Clarke looks up and blinks blearily, “Bellamy?” she says slowly.

 

He nods, flashing his smile that crinkles all the way to the corner of his eyes.  “You got it, princess.”

 

She launches herself at him, pushing him against the arms of the couch as she wraps him in a fierce hug.  He hugs her back, hands spread wide against the span of her back, head buried in her neck.  “I missed you, too,” he mumbles against her, accepting the kiss she presses to his cheek gladly.

 

“I didn’t know you were home,” she says, pulling away slightly, hands still resting on his shoulders. 

 

“Got home yesterday on fall break,” he says, “If I had known my sister was throwing some cliché high school party I would have waited to come back.”

 

Clarke shrugs happily, stroking a finger over the bridge of his nose, “I’m glad your home.”

 

He smiles again.  “Me too.” He studies her then, taking in the sleepless bruises in the soft skin under her eyes and the pliant weight of her hands.  “You okay, princess?” he asks, tapping her knee with his finger carefully, like she might shatter at too hard a touch. 

 

Clarke shrugs.  “I’m kind of not talking to my best friend, Lexa,” she says.

 

Bellamy furrows his eyebrows, still tapping her knee as he thinks.  “Lexa?” he asks, “Soccer player? Frowns a lot?”

 

“Really pretty,” Clarke adds without thinking, tongue still loose, brain fuzzy from alcohol and lack of sleep. 

 

“Yeah,” Bellamy says nodding, “really pretty.”

 

“Yeah,” Clarke sighs.

 

“Why aren’t you talking?” Bellamy asks, leaning closer as he situates himself on the couch. 

 

Clarke thinks hard, trying to remember.  “I don’t know,” she finally whines, then after a beat, “I think I want to sleep now.”

 

“I can arrange that,” Bellamy says, helping her off the couch.  He leads her upstairs, bumping open the door to the left of Octavia’s.  “This is my room, no one should bother you in here.”

 

Clarke falls onto her back, kicking her feet up under the comforter.  Bellamy stands above her, awkwardly scratching the back of his neck.  “Okay,” he says, “I’m going to go back downstairs, just text me if you need anything.”

 

“Wait,” Clarke mumbles, “goodnight kiss?” she asks quietly. 

 

Bellamy turns and looks at her, smiling just barely, blushing high in his cheeks.  He leans down over her, hand finding its way to her side, palm warm against the press of her ribs.  He kisses her lightly, lining up their noses and chins neatly.

 

He pulls away with a murmur of “sleep well” before leaving the room, door closed firmly behind him.  Clarke closes her eyes in the new dark of the room.  Bellamy’s kiss tasted like whiskey and smoke, and the press of him had felt nice, comfortable.  She tries not to think of Lexa’s goodnight kisses that smell like toothpaste and find their way onto her cheek or chin or forehead.  Tries not to think about the curve of Lexa’s warmth against her back, the murmur of her breath as she falls asleep.

 

Clarke tries. 

 

(She pretends that she succeeds but thoughts of Lexa chase her well into her dreams.)

 

*

 

Clarke finds Lexa on her doorstep on a Saturday morning. 

 

She bears no apology, just shrugs her shoulder, hands buried deep in her pockets.

 

“Nate misses you,” she says. 

 

Clarke stares at her, hand still on the doorknob, vulnerable in soft pajamas and bare feet. 

 

Clarke wants to rage.

 

To scream “that isn’t good enough” and slam the door in her face.

 

To remind Lexa that loving someone isn’t a reasonable reason to walk away before reaching into Lexa’s chest and squeezing the life from her heart so she can know what Clarke feels.

 

To demand an explanation for the past month of silence. 

 

To punish her.

 

But Clarke’s hand is on the doorknob and Lexa is sheepish on the front porch with a nervous lift to her chin and messy morning hair. 

 

So Clarke grabs her by the collar and drags her across the threshold, hand leaving the doorknob so she can fully wrap both arms around Lexa’s waist, nuzzling hard into Lexa’s neck and breathing and breathing and breathing.  Lexa hugs her back just as tightly, and there is an apology in the way she holds her. 

 

It isn’t perfect but it is what Clarke gets.

 

And maybe that’s enough. 


 

 “Truth or Dare?” Lexa asks.  She looks across the couch at Clarke whose face is tinted by the blue light of the TV that has long reverted to home screen, there is a piece of popcorn caught in the folds of her shirt and she sports a messy bun that tilts precariously to the side.  Lexa is so caught up in Clarke’s easy laze that she almost doesn’t hear her answer.

 

“Truth,” Clarke says again, catching at Lexa’s absentminded stare, she tears at a twizzler with her teeth, using her tongue to direct it back in her mouth. 

 

Lexa tilts her head into the back of the couch, pulling a worn blue blanket more securely across her legs.  “Umm,” she lolls her head to look at the ceiling, “Tell me....about….your favorite part of senior year so far.”

 

Clarke sits up and looks at Lexa with interest, “Lex!” she says, voice colored with surprise, “That’s an oddly sweet, sentimental kind of question to come from you.” She narrows her eyes, “You’re just asking because you want me to say you, aren’t you?”

 

Lexa rolls her eyes, “I already knew the answer was me.” She does that little half smile and tilts her head to look at Clarke, “it was implied that I was really asking what your second favorite part was.”

 

Clarke huffs out a laugh and shifts the popcorn bowl to the floor, brushing off the kernel that clung to her shirt.  She scoots across the couch until she straddles Lexa’s lap, hands moving to smooth over the baby hairs at the back of Lexa’s neck. 

 

“You are a sap.  You know that, right?”

 

Lexa shakes her head, “I am no such thing,” she says, mouths set in that impassive line.  But her hands move to hold Clarke’s waist as she speaks and she shifts Clarke more comfortably on her lap. Clarke grins and leans in, she brushes her lips lightly across Lexa’s forehead before answering. 

 

“My second favorite part was probably you, too,” Clarke says.  She hears Lexa’s breathe catch in the back of her throat and she feels like she needs to do something to disturb the silence before the immensity of it swallows them.  “Wait no—” Clarke amends, “my second favorite part would have to be when Miller got us into the swimming pool after O’s party.  You can maybe take third though.”

 

“Bitch,” Lexa says, feigning insult as she dumps Clarke off of her lap.  She moves to pin Clarke’s hands over her head, seating herself on Clarke’s stomach, leaning down so that their noses brush. “Take it back.”

 

“Fine,” Clarke huffs, leaning into it a bit, enjoying the slight look of panic that rises on Lexa’s face as Clarke begins to retaliate, “You aren’t my third favorite, either.”

 

Lexa’s moves her hands to dig hard into Clarke’s ribs, tickling her until Clarke calls mercy, red-faced and panting beneath her.  Lexa stills when Clarke gives, hands splayed over Clarke’s chest, feeling her heartbeat, steady and strong, against the warm of her palm. 

 

“Truth or Dare?” Clarke asks, voice pitched low, pupils blown wide where they meet the intensity of Lexa’s gaze.

 

“Dare,” Lexa answers in a whisper, hand pressing harder at the beat of Clarke’s heart.  She thinks that if she moves any closer her own body will sync to the rhythm of Clarke’s steady throb.  She feels the pull of Clarke low in her stomach, gathering warm at the quick of her. 

 

“I dare you to kiss me,” Clarke says and Lexa jolts, her eyes blinking wide, one hand shifting to smooth over Clarke’s neck.  She nods slowly, leaning down as Clarke’s eyes flutter closed. 

 

Lexa hovers over her before trailing her lips over the smooth skin of Clarke’s cheek.  “Like that?” she asks, lips still pressed to Clarke’s cheek as she talks, every syllable sending a shiver down Clarke’s spine.  Clarke shakes her head slowly, eyes still closed. 

 

Lexa moves her mouth to press at the warm of Clarke’s forehead, “How about there?” Clarke shakes her head again, tilting her chin up.  Lexa shifts down and Clarke can feel her warm breathe against her lips.  “Would this be okay?” Lexa asks, lips nearly brushing Clarke’s as she breathes the words. 

 

Clarke nods imperceptibly, heart quickening under the press of Lexa’s palm as she waits for Lexa to bridge the miniscule space that separates them.  Before Lexa can, they hear the front door open, Clarke’s parents moving loudly into the foyer, bringing with them champagne-heavy laughs and the shock of reality.

 

Lexa just has time to jolt back, curling into her side of the couch as Clarke sits up against the arm, heart still beating rapidly, flushed from the heat of Lexa’s affection.  They both look up, wide-eyed and feeling caught, at Abby and Jake who lean, dizzy and clinging to each other, in the doorway. 

 

“Heyo girls,” Jake says, louder then usual.  Abby tries to hush him but giggles instead, pressing closer against his arm, looking up at him adoringly.  “How’s the old slumber party going?”

 

“Good,” Clarke manages to choke out, reaffirmed by Lexa’s enthusiastic nod.  “Really well, actually.  We just were finishing a movie.”

 

Jake smiles as he reclines against the doorway, “Good.  Good.” He looks around the room, and furrows his brow.  “You okay Lex? You look about ready to pass out.”

 

“Just tired,” she mumbles ducking her head into her sleeve, rubbing at her eyes hard.

 

He grins again and stands a little straighter, pulling Abby against him.  “Us too,” he says, “can’t quite party like we used to.” He begins to trail up the stairs calling back down to Clarke and Lexa as he does.  “Be good, girls!” he yells, Abby still laughing, “Don’t stay up past your bed time.”

 

There is an awkward beat after he leaves and Clarke and Lexa stare at each other, in the dark of the room. Clarke breaks the silence. “He is aware it is already three in the morning, isn’t he?”

 

Lexa laughs softly, “I doubt it.”

 

They smile at each other before Clarke groans and gets up, shutting off the TV and brushing popcorn off the couch. “It is late,” she says, “We should go to bed.”

 

Lexa nods and swallows hard, “Yeah,” she agrees, “You go on, I’ll sleep here.”

 

Clarke furrows her brow and squints at Lexa a little, “You sure?”

 

“Yeah,” Lexa says again, “That twin bed is a bit small for both of us anymore.”

 

“Okay,” Clarke says, making for the doorway.  She hesitates there for a second, opening her mouth once before she closes it with a snap. 

 

“Goodnight,” Lexa says, lying down on the couch, pulling the blanket around her.

 

“Goodnight,” Clarke echoes, moving from the room slowly, half expecting to be called back. 

 

(Clarke lies in bed and Lexa lies on the couch and both don’t think about the almost-kiss so hard that it is all that they can think about.)

 

(Clarke dreams that Lexa kisses her in the blue light of the living room, pinning her to the couch with a soft mouth and an even softer tongue.)

 

(Lexa dreams that Clarke kisses her under the metal slope of the bleachers, hands hard on her hips and lips rough against her mouth.)

 

(Both wake up aching.)

 

*

 

Lexa and Clarke get ready for their senior prom together.

 

Clarke sits, hair done up and makeup half applied, in front of her vanity mirror.  Lexa stands in between her legs, hands resting light on her bare thighs as she looks at Clarke’s face appraisingly. 

 

“Okay,” she hushes, “close your eyes.”

 

Clarke complies, tilting her face up and letting her eyelids drift closed.  She hears the quiet snap of a box being opened and feels Lexa’s cool hand cup her chin.  A light brush runs across her eyelids and when she flinches Lexa slows.

 

“Sorry,” Lexa whispers, soft and careful, shifting closer so the warmth of her is pressed more firmly between Clarke’s thighs, “I should have given you more warning.”

 

“It’s okay,” Clarke says, eyes still closed, “I don’t mind.” Lexa hums a quiet noise as she moves to the next eye, tapping the brush against the container to rid it of loose powder.  She brushes it gently a few more times across Clarke’s lid, thumb stroking her chin softly. “Okay,” Lexa breathes, “I’m done.”

 

Clarke opens her eyes to the sight of Lexa poised before her, mouth set in a gentle half smile, lips drawn red and full against her face, cheekbones accented with pink blush.  “You look beautiful,” Clarke says, delighting in the smile that curves more prominently across Lexa’s face.

 

“I think I’m supposed to be the one saying that,” Lexa laughs snapping the eye shadow box closed with a click. 

 

Clarke grins and gets up so they can stand hip to hip in front of the mirror.  They admire the other and pretend to be admiring themselves. 

 

*

 

Clarke and Lexa show up twenty minutes late to the picture taking session in Octavia’s yard.  They slip out of the car laughing and almost tipsy.  Octavia spots a bright red lipstick stain against the dimple of Clarke’s cheek.  Octavia wipes it off with her thumb and frowns lightly at Clarke who is watching Lexa greet her date. 

 

“You sure you still want to go to prom with me?” Octavia asks Clarke.

 

Clarke blinks, dazed, and turns her attention from Lexa who is now complimenting the other girl quietly, slipping a corsage over her wrist. 

 

“Of course,” Clarke says brightly, “we can totally be each other’s wing-women.”

 

Octavia hesitates.  “And there isn’t anyone else you want to go with?”

 

Clarke looks at Octavia with so much obvious confusion that Octavia wonders if she is simply imagining the lust heavy glances Clarke keeps sending Lexa throughout the evening. 

 

But when Clarke wraps her arms around Octavia’s waist, catching her up in an endearingly cliché prom pose, Octavia finds another lipstick stain on the inside of Clarke’s wrist and wonders how two people can be so blind.

 

*

 

Clarke can barely hear Lexa over the music.  So instead she just watches Lexa talk, her mouth moving fast, words blurred and fuzzy.  Lexa’s hair is falling out of her up-do in curling brown tendrils that frame her face, lipstick smudged on a rouge red mouth, eyes half lidded as her hands gesticulate wildly. 

 

Clarke likes watching her.

 

She tunes back in when she realizes that Lexa is alone, the girl she came with nowhere to be seen.  She leans in close to talk to her and can smell tequila on her breath.  Clarke shakes her head, only Lexa would sneak a flask into a school dance three weeks before graduation. 

 

“Where’s your date?” Clarke shouts over the music, gripping Lexa’s arm to pull her ear next to her mouth, pressing close until her lips graze the shell of Lexa’s ear. 

 

Lexa shrugs and gestures somewhere over her shoulder, “I don’t know,” she shouts back.  A pause.  “Do you wanna dance?”

 

Clarke looks around, Octavia is nowhere to be seen and the room pounds with the beat of the bass.  She grins.  “Yes,” she shouts, nuzzling into the curve of Lexa’s cheek, “I would love to.”

 

There is a corsage on Lexa’s arm that Clarke did not fix around the slim curve of her wrist and Lexa’s mouth is bruised by kisses that were not given by Clarke’s lips, but Lexa is all Clarke’s as they move together on the dance floor, sweat slick and breathing hard against the intoxicating warmth of the other.  Clarke’s hands find their way to press hard into the jut of Lexa’s hip and Lexa’s hands tangle themselves in the golden fall of Clarke’s hair. 

 

They press close and the bass is loud and Lexa is hers.

 

*

 

Clarke’s head is dizzy and they left prom hours ago.

 

She sits slumped on the floor in Octavia’s house.  She lost track of Octavia a lifetime ago and Lexa is pressed hard against her date in the corner.  Clarke watches Lexa whisper something in the girl’s ear that makes her giggle.  Lexa grins a bit and catches her mouth in a kiss, stroking up under the hem of her shirt.  The girl arches against her and Clarke can imagine the moan and oh god. 

 

Clarke can’t quite breathe and there is a lucidity emerging from the fog of her whiskey soaked mind.  She suppresses it, tucking the thoughts that are trying to make themselves known somewhere far away behind memories of 1st grade spelling bees and the way her parents fight when they think she is asleep.  Lexa is nipping at the girl’s lip and Clarke’s stomach is turning and oh god.

 

(And it isn’t jealousy it’s just that—)

 

*

 

Lexa takes the girl to an empty room in Octavia’s house.  She pins her to the bed and touches her, drawing out gasps and moans that are just a bit too high, not the husky low that something in her craves. 

 

The girl is keening and Lexa licks hard up her neck, room spinning and fingers wet in the warmth of her.  Lexa knows that Clarke is downstairs and she knows that she is drunk and she knows and she know and she knows. 

 

Lexa thinks about love confessions and birthday cake and the dimple in Clarke’s chin.  The girl moves to reciprocate, her fingers pushing up the length of Lexa’s thigh, cool against the flush of Lexa’s skin.  Lexa throws back her head and bites her lip, trying not think about Clarke kissing Finn Collins and Clarke kissing Raven Reyes and Clarke kissing her and oh god. 

 

Lexa shakes and trembles around the girl’s fingers thinking about Clarke and when she vomits into the toilet of Octavia’s up-stairs bathroom Clarke is there to hold back her hair while Lexa’s corsage lies somewhere in the now empty bedroom, forgotten. 

 

*

 

“This is it, guys,” Wells says, he as one arm slung around Clarke’s shoulders and she smiles into his arm as he yells.  “This is the last time we are all together,” he pauses to take a sip from his beer and grins into the rim of the cup, “Let’s have fun.”

 

Everyone who isn’t distracted at the drink table cheers and Clarke playfully shoves him off her. 

 

“I’m going to get more to drink,” she says, hand still curled around his bicep, “Do you want anything.”

 

“No, I’m good,” he says, grinning around at the basement, smirking at Monty who is kissing Nathan in the corner and Jasper standing next to him reluctantly, one arm slung around Maya’s shoulders.  Octavia and Harper are engaged in a competitive game of beer pong that is cheered on by Monroe and Atom, who lean with heavy elbows on the pool table. 

 

“We’ve gotten a lot better at these since freshman year, haven’t we?” Wells says to Clarke.

 

She laughs and rolls her eyes, “It’s a lot different then a bunch of fourteen year olds tipsy on a few bottles of wine playing spin the bottle.”

 

Wells face lights up and Clarke immediately shakes her head, backing up a few paces.  She watches as his smile turns into a grin and groans, holding out her hands palm up. 

 

“Please Wells, no.” He keeps grinning. “Don’t even think about it,” she says, taking another step away.  Instead of answering Wells turns back the room, pitching his voice loud and raising his now empty beer bottle. 

 

“Clarke here,” he shouts, gesturing at her with his free hand, “has just had an incredible idea.” He pauses for a second, Clarke turning her eyes to the ceiling in a silent plea.  “Spin the bottle!” he shouts, raising the glass higher.  There is a hesitation before everyone laughs, remembering four years before with a kind of embarrassed, giddy joy.

 

“I am so in,” Octavia yells, downing her last cup of cheap beer, “I just got my ass handed to me at beer pong so I don’t have much else to do.”

 

The rest of them follow her lead, arranging themselves in a circle on the floor, laughing and nudging each other.  Clarke rolls her eyes again but smiles, taking a gulp of whiskey straight from the bottle, managing to keep it down with a choked noise in the back of her throat. 

 

She sits next to Octavia, leaning into her shoulder as she appraises the circle.  Lexa is about four people over to her right, whispering something to Raven who laughs hard before punching her arm.  Lexa pulls back with a pleased smirk, catching Clarke’s eyes and winking.  Clarke grins back, gesturing at Wells and grimacing.  Lexa smiles wide, the angle of her mouth and the relaxed line of her back the only thing suggesting how wasted she is.  Octavia leans in and grabs at the bottle with a smile.

 

“It seems only fitting,” she say, nudging against Clarke.

 

“Full circle,” Clarke mutters as she watches the bottle spin, finding Lexa’s eyes again before taking another swig from her drink.

 

*

 

It seems like every single combination of people have kissed.  Monty and Nathan landed on each other and have left the game, continuing to make out long past the required time limit.  They have all reached a level of drunk that can’t be healthy, Finn’s eyes are so glazed over that when Clarke spun Raven he didn’t even look upset. 

 

Clarke had to kiss Lexa too, but just gave her a sloppy kiss on the cheek, ignoring Octavia’s boos and Lexa’s pouted lip.  Clarke feels messy and blurred, she thinks that if she starts kissing Lexa she might not be able to stop. 

 

But then Lexa’s spin lands on her and Clarke realizes that she won’t be getting off easy.  Not when Lexa is crawling predatory across the circle and Octavia is shoving her forward, Lexa knotting her fingers in the collar of Clarke’s shirt.

 

Lexa doesn’t even kiss her at first, just nudges Clarke until she giggles and presses her smile against Clarke’s, an awkward bump of grinning lips that gives way to a wet gasp when Clarke pushes forward.  Clarke sucks hard at Lexa’s top lip, receiving a gentle nip of teeth in return.  She presses forward until Lexa opens her mouth to Clarke’s tongue, humming into the roiling heat of her and the unsteady pull of bruising fingers against hips.  It isn’t until Clarke hears herself audibly moan that she pulls back, expecting to find Lexa’s eyes catching on her own but instead finding them unfocused and half-lidded, still trained on her mouth. 

 

Octavia’s laugh interrupts them and Clarke feels a hand reach out to pull her back to sitting. 

 

“Okay,” Octavia says, drawing out the word through her laugh, “That might be enough for now.”

 

Clarke settles back down, eyes flicking up to Lexa who staring determinedly at the carpet.  Clarke feels a pulse low in her stomach and she is old enough now to know what it is, but she doesn’t think she knows what it means. 

 

She is distracted by a nudge from Octavia who points at the bottle, raising an eyebrow at Clarke mockingly.  Clarke heaves a sigh and leans into the center of the circle, spinning it half-heartedly. 

 

It lands on Lexa. 

 

And good god Clarke shouldn’t even be surprised at this point. 

 

They both stare at the bottle before making eye-contact.  Lexa looks a little bit disbelieving, there is a high flush in her cheeks that Clarke is attributing to the alcohol and a hungry look in her eyes that Clarke is attributing to—

 

(Best Friends are supposed to tell each other everything.)

 

“You know the rules,” Octavia says through a sickening smirk, she grabs them both by the shoulders, dragging them off the carpet and behind the pool table.  “Be good,” she says, giving them a final push and sealing them into the darkness of the closet.

 

There is a beat of silence while their eyes adjust, Clarke studies the sharp lines of Lexa’s profile and her gaze stutters over the curve of her lips.  Clarke heaves a sigh and shrugs her shoulders.

 

“We can just sit it out,” she says, echoing herself from four years ago, ignoring the ache in her stomach that regrets the words. 

 

She sees Lexa blink slow in the half-dark and her heart stutters as she watches Lexa slowly shake her head.  “Or we could not,” Lexa says, she steps closer, dropping her head so she can nudge her nose against Clarke’s, rocking forward until their lips almost touch before pulling back.

 

“I’m really drunk right now,” Lexa says and Clarke pretends that she doesn’t hear the lie.

 

“Yeah,” Clarke answers, “Me too.” Lexa nods, breathless, even though Clarke knows that she knows that these are not complete truths that they are telling.  “It really can’t hurt,” Clarke breathes, and that is lie too.

 

“We are just following the rules of the game,” Lexa sighs back.  Lie. Lie. Lie.

 

It is with the taste of so many half-truths on her tongue that Clarke kisses Lexa.  She lunges forward, capturing her lips in a rushed kiss as she spins to press Lexa against the wood of the door.  Lexa answers with an eager tongue and quick hands.  She smooths her way up under Clarke’s shirt, toying with the edge of her bra, straddling Clarke’s thigh and grinding down with a sharp whine.  Clarke gasps, heady and throbbing, against the slick, pink of Lexa’s mouth, pressing her thigh between Lexa’s legs to see if she can coax out that sound again. 

 

Some part of her is reminding herself that this is so wrong, that best friends don’t go this far in your other friend’s basement closets at three in the morning.  But the other part of her, the part that is driven by the rough pound of her heart and the ache between her legs, really doesn’t give a fuck. 

 

Lexa grinds down harder, this time with another keening cry, hands thumbing over Clarke’s nipples distractedly as her teeth sink into the soft plush of Clarke’s lower lip.  Lexa’s mouth stutters and she gasps out something that sounds painfully close to Clarke’s name, falling forward with one last jolt against Clarke’s leg. 

 

They stop moving then, lulled into silence by Lexa’s quiet pants as she falls limp against Clarke’s frame.  Her chin digs into Clarke’s shoulder, hands still warm against her breasts.  Clarke is throbbing, sticky and unsatisfied yet unable to move for the pleasure that Lexa’s comfortable weight provides her. 

 

Lexa moves first, pulling one hand out from under Clarke’s shirt as she kisses her, wriggling her hand under the band of Clarke’s jeans.  Lexa’s fingers press, confident and firm, against the warm heat of Clarke’s center.  Clarke’s mouth falls open with a gasp and Lexa strokes harder, moving her lips over the flutter of Clarke’s pulse, mouth soft against the soft skin of Clarke’s neck. 

 

“Is this okay?” Lexa murmurs, the hum of her voice resonating across Clarke’s skin.  Clarke startles at the sound of her and, for a second, it all feels too real.  She thinks she should stop this, that she should pull away and laugh about it and tomorrow everything will go back to normal. 

 

Or as close to normal as things ever are. 

 

But Lexa’s hand is still moving against her and she thinks that she might die if she asks her to stop.  All that holds her together right now is the pull of Lexa’s touch and if she lets go, just for a second, Clarke wonders if she won’t just evaporate.

 

(How could she possibly go back to feeling nothing when she has felt this?)

 

So Clarke hums out an affirmation as her hips cant forward into Lexa’s hand, urging her closer with a splayed hand on her back.  It has definitely been longer then seven minutes now and Clarke thinks that they must have been forgotten, for there to even be a world outside the small universe of this closet seems almost an impossibility. 

 

Lexa drops to her knees in front of Clarke, fumbling open the button of her jeans with eager fingers, lips curving warm against the skin of her thigh.  Clarke sees a constellation painted on the inside of her eyelids when Lexa’s lips brush against her and then again in the way that Lexa looks at Clarke when she opens her eyes. 

 

*

 

It is less that they don’t talk about it and more that they just brush it off. 

 

They begin to believe the lies they told themselves before hand, ones about alcohol consumption, obligation, and petty rules of a drinking game that they now pretend to hold as sacred. 

 

“It was only natural—” Clarke stumbles out after.

 

“We were just curious—” Lexa responds in kind, lips wet, hands still cupping the backs of Clarke’s thighs where she kneels between her legs.   

 

“Okay,” Clarke says. 

 

“Okay,” Lexa answers, standing and wiping her mouth, pushing out the closet door into the loud basement, all their lies and warped-truths left somewhere in the dark of the tiny room. 

 

*

 

They avoid prolonged eye contact for the rest of the night and in the morning they drive back to Lexa’s house, exhausted and hung over.  Clarke drops Lexa off in her driveway, pushing her sunglasses up into her hair to wave goodbye.  Lexa hesitates for a second before leaning over the passenger seat and pressing a kiss to Clarke’s cheek.  If it lands a little too close to the corner of Clarke’s mouth neither of them say anything. 

Chapter Text

Lexa leaves first.

 

Clarke stands in the low grass of Lexa’s lawn.  Nate is already packed into the backseat with a pouch of apple juice and a handful of crayons to keep him entertained, Lexa’s mom is fiddling with the radio in the driver’s seat, printed out directions resting on the dash, gas tank full. 

 

The passenger door is propped open, waiting for Lexa to sit down, buckle up, and start the long drive to New York.  But right now her arms are wrapped around Clarke’s neck, face buried in her shoulder.  Clarke’s arms are fitted tight around the small of Lexa’s back, her hand stroking at her waist to comfort the nervous shivers that have seemed to seize Lexa’s body. 

 

“It will be okay,” Clarke whispers against Lexa’s temple, puckering her lips to press a kiss there, “We will talk all the time, nothing even has to change.”

 

“I’m not worried,” Lexa grumbles into Clarke’s shoulder, but she is still shivering these small shudders and her grip on Clarke does not loosen. 

 

“I know you’re not,” Clarke murmurs, pressing even closer, humming softly as Lexa burrows deeper into the fabric of her shirt, “There isn’t even anything to worry about.” She rocks back and forth still hanging on tightly, tilting them just a bit too far until Lexa rights them with a quiet laugh. 

 

Clarke grins in return and pulls away so she can meet Lexa’s eyes, brush a hand down the slope of her cheek.  She admires the brave set of Lexa’s mouth, the pout that hides just behind the curve of her top lip. 

 

“You are going to have so much fun,” she says, squeezing Lexa’s waist, “there will be so many cool people,” she rocks in closer, “so many cool girls.”

 

The tips of Lexa’s ears burns red and she glances at her mom in the car before looking back at Clarke and glaring, “Shut up,” she says and there is a little more of a frown around the corner of Lexa’s mouth then Clarke was expecting.  Clarke studies her hard for a second, wondering where in the conversation she went wrong.  She tries again, regaining her hold on Lexa’s hips.

 

“But there aren’t going to be any best friends like me, so don’t go looking.”

 

Lexa rolls her eyes but she is smiling again, “I wouldn’t dream of it,” she says, a trace more sincerity then usual in her clear deadpan. 

 

“Girls,” Lexa’s mom calls as she looks up from the radio, “we are going to need to get going if we want to get there in time for today’s orientation.”

 

“Okay,” Lexa calls back, clearing her throat and looking down at her feet, loosening her hold around Clarke’s neck.  She looks back up, catching at Clarke’s eyes with her earnest, deep gaze and serious, strong jaw.  Clarke stares and stares and stares, trying to memorize every angle and line of her friend.  Just looking at Lexa makes Clarke want to grab her by the hand and start running, back to her house where they would barricade themselves in Clarke’s room, never again speaking about things like “college” and “growing up.”

 

There is an empty hollow of missing her that already catches in Clarke’s chest, though she still stands right in front of her.  Clarke longs to smear charcoal over the high arch of Lexa’s cheekbones, across the whorl of her fingerprints and the bow of her lips.  To mark every exposed stretch of Lexa’s skin so that when Lexa touches Clarke she will find the physical traces of it on her body later, a reminder of her friend that will last after Lexa leaves Clarke here on this green summer lawn. 

 

“I’ll miss you,” Lexa says, trying for a smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes.

 

“I already do,” Clarke says, standing frozen in their half embrace.  Lexa raises her head in a half nod, swallowing hard before she catches Clarke’s face between warm palms, nudging kisses into the rounds of Clarke’s cheeks and the dimple of her chin. 

 

“I’ll see you soon,” Lexa says with a final hard nod.  She turns and clambers into the passenger seat, clicking her seatbelt into place before she rolls down the window, fingers clutching at the lip of the car door. 

 

“Call me when you get there,” Clarke almost yells through the window, hands twisting in front of her herself as her feet shuffle in the grass. 

 

The car starts to pull away and Clarke watches it go, standing in the lawn until it disappears from sight and she begins the walk home. 

 

*

 

That night Clarke looks in the mirror above her vanity.  She traces a finger over her cheeks and her chin.  She imagines she can see the charcoal smudged there, leaving dark bruises in the shape of Lexa’s mouth across her skin.

 

*

 

Lexa forgets to call and summer’s end has never tasted so bitter.

 

*

 

Clarke’s face pops up on her desktop and Lexa is so relieved at the sight of her smile that she forgets they haven’t talked all week.

 

Clarke screeches out something that sounds vaguely like a greeting before ducking out of the view of the web-cam, coming back to frame with Octavia attached to her arm.  Octavia grins sloppy and wide at the camera, eyes drooping with exhaustion as she waves her hand limply.

 

“Hey Lexa,” she leans in closer to the camera, jostling Clarke out of view, “I really wish you were here.  I need some serious help with my statistics homework.” 

 

Octavia stumbles out of frame as Clarke shoves her, shooting a glare at Octavia, her hands reaching up to adjust the laptop.  “I also wish you were here,” she says, “but not because I need help in class.” She pauses and turns to Octavia who has collapsed onto her bed in the background, “Maybe someone wouldn’t be having so much trouble if they would fucking pay attention in class.”

 

Lexa smiles at them, propping her elbows on her desktop, leaning closer to her computer screen as though she can bridge the 240 miles by inching closer to Clarke’s pixilated image.  “Just text me the homework problems,” Lexa says, words directed at Octavia in the background, “I’ll try to help.”

 

Octavia grins from behind Clarke, giving Lexa a messy thumbs up before collapsing onto her pillow.  Clarke turns back to the screen, mirroring Lexa’s propped elbows, resting her chin in her hands. 

 

“I take it that you and Octavia are still working out as roommates?” Lexa asks quietly.  Octavia doesn’t move in the background and Lexa wonders if she already fell asleep.

 

Clarke nods loosely, lips turning up in a smile.  “It’s been a month and I haven’t killed her yet so I would say things are going great.” She pauses to study Lexa, eyes flickering across the screen before she asks “And your roommate?”

 

Lexa shrugs, glancing at her room’s closed door.  “She’s fine. We don’t talk much.”

 

Clarke furrows her brow and pouts her lip dramatically, “but you’re not too lonely?”

 

Lexa sighs in exaggerated exasperation.  “Clarke,” she says, “you do realize I am capable of making friends, right?” She quirks an eyebrow, leaning back in her chair, “I can be charming when I want to be.”

 

“I know,” Clarke says, voice a little breathy before she clears her throat, eyes darting back to Octavia. There is a beat of silence before Lexa leans forward again.

 

“And DC? Is that still good?”

 

Clarke nods enthusiastically, arching her arms over her head in a stretch, wincing as her shoulders pop.  “DC is amazing,” she says, “George Washington’s campus really is smack in the center of it all.”

 

Lexa smiles, “It’s not too crazy?”

 

“Not even,” Clarke says, voice pitching high in excitement, “you should see some of the street art, Lex.  It’s incredible.”  She grins at Lexa through the web-cam slyly, “And these capital hill boys are fine. All those tailored suits and briefcases…I swear.”

 

Lexa wrinkles her nose leaning back from the monitor again.  “So the stench of cologne and the pretentious fuck-boy attitude really turns you on too?”

 

Clarke stares at her in a kind of shock, mouth screwing up into her disdainful look of disapproval.  “Lexa,” she says, all reproach and annoyance, “that is such a generalization.”

 

Lexa says nothing, just stares blank faced at Clarke through the screen.  Her look of contempt is so still and unmoving that Clarke would think the computer had glitched if Lexa didn’t blink slowly at her through the monitor. 

 

“That isn’t fair,” Clarke continues.

 

Lexa shrugs, face still rigid.  “Isn’t it?”

 

“No,” Clarke says, voice tight with anger, “that’s stereotyping.  Also, if someone is a misogynistic douche bag I am obviously not going to be interested.”

 

“Then explain Finn,” Lexa says. 

 

Clarke stares open mouthed at the screen, a brief flicker in Lexa’s face is all that suggest she knows she might have gone to far.  Clarke stares for a second more before clicking the ‘end call’ button with the ferocity of the inferno that burns in her chest. 

 

“What. The. Fuck.” Clarke says, turning to Octavia who has a pillow pressed to face.  “Did you hear her, O?”

 

Octavia murmurs an affirmation against the pillow. 

 

Clarke turns her eyes the ceiling, snapping her laptop lid closed. “What was that about?”

 

Octavia rolls over, moving the pillow away from her face.  She fixes Clarke with hard stare. “Are you fucking kidding, Clarke?” she asks, voice flat. 

 

“No,” Clarke says in confusion, turning in her chair.

 

Octavia just groans and rolls back over to face the wall. 

 

“Octavia,” Clarke insists, “What?”

 

Octavia buries her head in the pillow and doesn’t answer.  Clarke turns back to her computer and the surge of anger she feels at Lexa makes her forget to wonder.

 

*

 

Lexa (12:31am): are you still mad?

 

Clarke (12:44am): of course not. i love it when you lash out at me for no reason.

 

Clarke (12:45am): that was sarcasm btw

 

Lexa (12:46am): ah yes. I thought I detected something besides your usual warmth

 

Clarke (12:48am): fuck you

 

*

 

Lexa (5:12pm): I’m sorry.

 

Clarke (6:54pm): I need to hear you say it

 

Clarke’s phone rings thirty seconds later. 

 

It’s only been three day since their stupid argument or fight or aggravation or whatever the fuck that was, but Clarke is still bitter.  That vacant expression on Lexa’s face is never supposed to be directed at her, the glint in her eyes is never supposed to be that harsh.  The worst part is that Clarke can’t fix this by pinning Lexa on the couch and forcing an apology out of her, she can’t sway Lexa with soft touches and bold hands.  She can’t feel Lexa’s penance in a starved hug or the press of her lips against Clarke’s cheek.  Not across these distances, not without Lexa just a few streets down.  It’s only four hours now, but it might as well be oceans. 

 

There is only the sound of Lexa breathing across the line for a second before she hears the words mumbled across the line.

 

“I’m sorry,” Lexa says, sloppier in three syllables then she usually is in entire conversations. 

 

Clarke says nothing, just waits, trying to hold the phone steady against her ear. 

 

“I love you,” Lexa says and the words shatter the distance for just a second, Clarke can hear the break in Lexa’s words and practically see her as she holds out her hands, palms up, in that silent prayer. 

 

“I love you, too,” she says, quiet and contained, without Lexa’s break or Lexa’s plea. 

 

Then there is nothing but silence.  They sit in separate dorm rooms, days apart despite the difference of only hours.  There is a gasp across the line, a wet whimper, and Clarke realizes that Lexa is crying. 

 

Clarke cannot hug her. 

 

She cannot kiss her or touch her or tell her everything is going to be okay because maybe it won’t be. 

 

So she tells a story.  Some silly sequence of events that happened in her intro to justice research class, stupid enough that Lexa laughs just because she does, giggles falling soft into the receiver unlike the harsh hiccup of her sobs. 

 

Clarke jokes until her voice is sore and she is splayed out on her bed while Lexa laughs on the other side of the line, clutching too tight to her phone with hungry palms. 

 

It isn’t perfect but it’s what Clarke gets.

 

Somewhere deep in the gut of her, past her light words and dimpled cheeks, Clarke thinks that maybe it isn’t enough this time. 

 

*

 

“Just let me out of jail,” Bellamy whines, “I swear I’ll stop stealing money from the bank.”

 

“Not fucking likely,” Octavia says, picking up one of her red houses and examining it closely, “do your time, bitch.”

 

“Y’know,” Clarke says watching them, “I think you two have cured my unrequited desire for a sibling in about thirty minutes and one game of monopoly.”

 

Bellamy tosses the dice from hand to hand as he asks, “Isn’t Lexa kind of like your sister?”

 

Octavia lets out a sort of strangled noise and starts coughing, ignoring Bellamy who shoots her a confused look.  Clarke shoves at Octavia’s shoulder and shrugs.

 

“Lexa has always been my best friend,” she says, “not my sister, just—” she heaves a sigh, “my best friend.”

 

Octavia goes to say something, opening her mouth as she leans in toward Clarke but Bellamy interrupts her with a slew of swear words, slamming his fist down next to the game board. 

 

“Still no doubles?” Octavia asks, turning to him with a smirk.

 

Clarke rolls her eyes, “Just fork out the 50 dollar fine, Bell.”

 

“Never,” Bellamy says as he tosses the die to Octavia, “I am teetering on financial ruin, I refuse to fall in debt.”

 

Octavia pouts her lip mockingly, “Is the game hitting a little too close to home, big bro?”

 

Bellamy glares.  “Shut up, freshie,” he says, “by the time we are trying to pay your way through your third year of college you won’t be laughing.”

 

Clarke strains to reach across the board and ruffles his hair.  “How is junior year going?” she asks, “how is the internship?”

 

“Good, good,” he answers, “I promise, GW only gets better.”

 

Clarke grins, “I am looking forward to it.”  She rolls a six and moves across the board, narrowly avoiding one of Octavia’s hotels. 

 

Bellamy rolls.  No doubles.  He collapses onto his back with a huff and just groans. 

 

Octavia laughs and nudges at him with her foot, he ignores her and just rolls to his stomach, burying his face in his arms.  “Remind me why we are spending our Sunday playing monopoly at my older brother’s apartment, again?” Octavia asks as she kicks at him harder. 

 

Clarke pinches her mouth into a smile, crawling across the carpet to hook her chin over Octavia’s shoulder.  “Maybe because our only other options were to go to a TED talk with the rest of our friends.”

 

Octavia looks at Bellamy appraisingly and then back at Clarke, “Maybe the TED talk would have been better then this.”

 

Clarke’s laugh is interrupted by the buzz of her phone.  She picks it up and checks the screen, smile falling into a weary line, fingers tapping nervously at her phone case. 

 

Octavia crinkles her nose, “Who is it?”

 

“Lexa,” Clarke answers, voice drooping halfway through her name. 

 

Octavia cocks her head, “Well are you going to answer it?”

 

Clarke shrugs, tossing her phone back the floor. “No, I’ll text her back later.”

 

Octavia hesitates, biting at her lower lip, before she asks, “Is everything okay with you two?”

 

“I don’t know,” Clarke answers after a beat, she heaves another sigh. “Can we just get to the game, please?”

 

Clarke’ s phone buzzes again and they all ignore it.

 

*

 

Lexa sits on the grass at the edge of the field, cleats half laced, hair swept back into a messy ponytail.  Her friends are screaming at each other a few yards away, Hollis pops the ball up and almost nails himself in the face and they all descend into laughter again. Lexa huffs out a laugh before returning to tying her shoes, ignoring their calls for her to hurry up. 

 

Her phone rings and Lexa fishes it out of the elastic of her sports bra, stomach turning when she sees Clarke’s name on the screen.  She is about to answer it, she really is, but Melanie is tugging on her arm and Hollis nails the ball straight at her head and she is sure whatever it is can wait. 

 

*

 

It’s been weeks of only harried phone conversations and vague texts and Clarke gets so busy that she misses their weekly skype conversation.  

 

*

 

Lexa talks to Nate on the phone every Tuesday night and he tells her excited stories about second grade that make her smile.  He informs her that he drew her a picture in art class and she makes him promise to mail it to her.  Sometimes he asks about Clarke and Lexa realizes that she can’t answer.

 

*

 

Lexa remains in New York over spring break, staying with Melanie’s family in their pent-house apartment.  They wear socks and slide across hardwood floors, sharing Melanie’s queen bed and getting tipsy off small bottles of liquor that Melanie’s mom keeps in the cabinets. 

 

Melanie is pretty and soft and Lexa kisses her amid garbled 3 am conversations and the quiet sheen of moonlight.  Melanie kisses back briefly, hand warm on Lexa’s hip and a quiet hum in her throat, but then she pulls back, giggling and nervous. 

 

“Lexa,” she says, moving her hand away and curling back to her side of the bed, “I’m not  a lesbian.”

 

Lexa presses her lips together and nods, tucking her feet back under the sheets, catching on Melanie’s earnest eyes and fluttering hands. 

 

“Sorry,” Lexa murmurs, “I didn’t mean to…” she trails off, too lost in the nighttime daze to be truly apologetic. 

 

Melanie giggles again and shakes her head, “It’s okay.”

 

Lexa ignores the feeling that she is supposed to be somewhere else.

 

*

 

Clarke goes home during spring break, reveling in the brand new of familiarity, sleeping in her own bed and waking up to her dad’s pancake breakfasts.  She eats at the kitchen island, feet tapping against the shiny wood of the cabinets, licking syrup off her fingertips while her dad makes jokes from his place at the stove.  Her mom watches him fondly, leaning against the counter next to Clarke, one hand stroking over the blonde of her hair as though to remind herself that she is really home. 

 

Clarke tries not to think about the fact that Lexa is usually a part of this scene too, fitted neatly in the stool next to Clarke, leg winding around hers under the table.  Clarke looks at her dad who is grinning, dopey and wide, at her mom and smiles because at least some things are forever.

 

*

 

Melanie has Lexa pressed into the pillows of her bed, mouth at her throat, hand in Lexa’s shorts, and apparently not being a lesbian goes a long way.

 

*

 

Lexa walks back to the Columbia campus alone, Melanie left sleeping in her expansive bed, sheets twisted over bare hips and slim shoulders.  Lexa concentrates on the thrill of independence that the city brings, her steps are sure and the weight of her bag feels comfortable against the sling of her back.  An art vendor on the street reminds her of Clarke and the throb in her chest that those thoughts brings is so much less crippling, just a murmur in the quick of her, barely a glitch.  She thinks of charcoal stained fingers and toothpaste-sharp kisses and doesn’t stutter, she wonders if this is good, she wonders if this is what falling out of love feels like. 


 Clarke sprawls upside down on Well’s couch. She watches Wells and Finn play Call of Duty on the floor below her, ignoring Finn’s loud yell when Wells dies again.

 

“I’m fucking leaving you behind next time,” Finn grumbles, jamming his fingers hard against the controller as Wells re-spawns, “at this rate we won’t finish the level before the end of summer.”

 

Clarke yawns and stretches, Raven turning to look at her from her perch on the couch. She runs a hand through Clarke’s hair and Clarke hums in approval, moving to kick her legs over Raven’s lap. They both turn back to the boys, watching Wells’ avatar die again on screen and listening to the loud beratement that follows. Raven’s hand stills in Clarke’s hair and she sits up with a huff, snatching the controller from Wells’ hands and sitting down on the floor.

 

“I’ll do it,” she says with a heavy sigh, “I don’t know how you two even survive at school without me.”

 

Wells tries to glare but ends up smiling and Finn looks at Raven with this entirely caught star struck expression and something in Clarke’s stomach turns.

 

(Clarke feels like she is forgetting something really important)

 

*

 

Clarke lounges poolside, sunglasses hinged over the curve of her ears, skin taught and warm under the throb of the sun.  Her eyes are closed and she fancies that she can hear the heat as it bites at the exposed stretch of her.

 

“You are going to burn,” a voice laughs, hand running up the curve of Clarke’s side, tender fingers pressing against the hard ridge of her ribs. For a second Clarke startles, the press of the fingers and the lilt of the voice sound so much like Lexa in Clarke’s half-dozed state.  When she opens her eyes she is almost sure she will see her there, leaning over Clarke in a borrowed bikini, almost smiling, freckles dusting, barely there, over summer brown skin. But it’s just Octavia who sits beside her, hand pressed to Clarke’s side, a look of concern etched into the furrow of her brow.

 

Clarke sits up quickly, rolling her shoulders to escape both the press of the heat and the weight of Octavia’s concern.

 

“Well then,” Clarke says, trying for a grin, “lather me up.”

 

Octavia’s face smoothes and she smiles in return, nudging Clarke until she sits facing away from her, slicking her palms with sunscreen so she can massage it into the expanse of Clarke’s bared back. Clarke arches into Octavia’s warm hands, the smell of chlorine pressing heavy into the air.

 

It is the summer before sophomore year and Clarke forgets to miss her.

 

*

 

Lexa gets the call at three in the morning. 

 

The buzz of her phone almost wakes up her roommate and Lexa hurries to answer it, accepting the call with fumbling fingers, eyes still blurry from sleep. It is her mom on the other end of the line and she murmurs Lexa’s name in this weak, fragile voice that Lexa has never heard.

 

The news hits Lexa with enough force to knock the wind out of her and she almost drops the phone onto her bed. She manages to cling to it and sits, dazed and stunned and so so broken among the rumpled sheets of her dorm room bed. She can hear her mom crying again on the other end of the line and Lexa tells her she loves her, only waiting long enough to hear her mom’s choked response before she hangs up. 

 

She stumbles out of her bed, standing still in the small space of the room before she scrambles for the tiny bathroom attached to her room, retching over the toilet, hands scrabbling weakly at the threads of her pajama pants. 

 

“Lexa?” she hears her roommate call from the other room, “Lexa, is something wrong?”

 

Lexa stands, stomach empty and throat stinging, she wipes hard at her mouth with the back of her hand before she speaks.

 

“Can I borrow your car?”

 

*

 

Lexa gets there five hours later.  Eyes stinging and red, hands clutching so tightly to the steering wheel she wonders, after she pulls up to the curb, if she will even be able to pry them away.  Her heart feels unsteady and lopsided, like someone shook her too hard and every part of her became detached from its place inside of her.

 

 Lexa doesn’t knock when she reaches the door. She lets herself inside, ignoring the familiar smell that hits her when she enters, ignoring the violent tug in her chest when she sees his heavy work coat hanging over the back of the armchair.  She takes the stairs two at a time, only slowing when she reaches Clarke’ room.  She can hear her before she enters, and when she pushed open the door she does is slowly, taking her first shuffling step into the room more nervously then she ever has before.

 

She sees Clarke and any sense of nerves disappears, replaced by a resounding, aching throb and a fresh wave of sorrow that rises high in her throat. Clarke is curled on her bed, body racked with sobs, her hands tangled in the sheets.  She looks up when Lexa enters, her eyes are bloodshot and red, and she seems to be struggling to breathe, her sobs annunciated with gasps that tear violently from her throat. 

 

Lexa doesn’t say anything, just stands in the doorway and waits, hands limp at her sides and legs shaking under the weight of this house and these walls and the man who isn’t coming back.

 

“My dad,” Clarke whimpers first, voice hoarse and broken, words gasping from her chest, “Lexa, my daddy.”

 

Lexa steps forward, moving toward the bed.

 

“I don’t understand,” Clarke says and her eyes are wide, jaw trembling and shoulder heavy.

 

“I don’t either,” Lexa whispers and she wishes that her words were not the truth, she wishes she had some sort of explanation she could provide, any sort of comfort besides trivial words and battle-heavy arms.

 

“Lexa,” Clarke says again and Lexa nods once, sitting on the edge of the bed before lying down. She opens her arms to Clarke who curls into her, face pressed against Lexa’s neck, cheeks hot with tears while the rest of her body shivers with chills. Lexa grips her tighter, tucking her firm into the slope of her body, chin resting on the top of Clarke’s head.

 

They fall asleep in Clarke’s tiny twin bed and Jake isn’t there to make them pancakes in the morning.

 

*

 

Clarke and Lexa stand shoulder to shoulder at the funeral.

 

Lexa’s left hand holds Nathan to her, his arm clutching around her waist while he holds in little hiccupping sobs, Lexa’s right hand is threaded with Clarke’s.   Neither of them cry and when the service ends Clarke spends the entire ride back to the house matching her inhales and exhales to Lexa’s to try to remember how to breathe.

 

*

 

Octavia enters she and Clarke’s dorm room during Clarke’s second week back to find Clarke sleeping, loose and dreamless, on top of the sheets of her bed. Lexa is asleep beside her, propped in the desk chair that has been dragged up to the bed. Clarke’s hand is outstretched, fingers curling in the sleeve of Lexa’s shirt.

 

Octavia watches them for a few beats, just long enough to hear Lexa mumble Clarke’s name in her sleep and to see that their breaths are perfectly in-sync. 

 

*

 

 Professor Indra helps Lexa get an internship with J.P. Morgan and the first person she calls is Clarke.

 

Clarke answers on the second ring, and Lexa can hear her chewing over the line. Lexa wrinkles her nose and wedges the phone between her shoulder and ear as she slings one leg over her bike. She pushes off into the traffic, ignoring a loud blare of a horn in favor of bumping up over the curb to cut off the corner.

 

“What are you doing?” Lexa asks, pumping her legs once to get around a flock of pedestrians.

 

“Eating those Spongebob gummies Nate got me,” Clarke says, Lexa can almost hear Clarke’s little smile over the phone, “he is such a cutie.”

 

“He’s a sweet kid,” Lexa says, she nears her dorm building and swings off her bike, walking it the few paces over the bike rack.  Clarke laughs and Lexa relishes the sound, it is harder to find lately. 

 

“So is his sister,” Clarke says and Lexa freezes halfway through wrestling her bike onto the rack. 

 

“Hey—wait,” Lexa says, clicking the lock shut and heading toward the doors of her building, “I’m not a ‘sweet kid.’”

 

“Oh yeah?” Clarke says with a breathy laugh, “weren’t you the one who took me to a petting zoo last week?”

 

Lexa scoffs.  “Yeah, because you wanted to go. That would make you the ‘kid’ in this situation.” Clarke starts to protest but Lexa cuts her off. “Plus,” she says, drawing out the word, more playful then usual, “guess who just got a job?”

 

There is a beat of silence before she hears a sharp exhale. “You got the internship!” Clarke squeals, “I thought you said your professor was mean?”

 

Lexa makes her way up the staircase, imagining Clarke’s excited face and the cute crease in her cheeks from her smile.  “I didn’t say she was mean, I said she was tough.”  Lexa fumbles with her door key, “There is a mutual respect between us.”

 

Clarke hums through the phone, “Lexa, you are so fucking adult right now.”

 

Lexa snorts out a laugh, “Hardly.  One of the job requirements is ‘proficiency in Microsoft Word,’ Nate could probably have gotten the job.”

 

“Yeah but I have always found him very advanced for his age,” Clarke says.

 

Lexa’s throat catches and she is overcome with this surge of affection.  She hadn’t really realized the cavern left behind by Clarke and now that it is filled again she promises herself to never let it empty again.

 

“What?” Clarke asks, curious to her silence, “Is something wrong?”

 

Lexa sighs, “No,” she pauses, “I just really like you.”

 

“Well,” Clarke says, “I just really love you.”

 

Lexa grins into the palm of her hand, biting down lightly into the plush of her thumb to contain what could have possibly turned into a girlish giggle.

 

“I know,” Lexa answers, just to hear Clarke laugh again.

 

*

 

Clarke has never had too much time before.  But now it kind of feels like she never knows what to do with herself.  She does her schoolwork and goes to class and then is then left with entire gaps in her day where the raw ache becomes unbearable. It crawls its way from her stomach to her throat and threatens to tear at the flesh of her with hungry claws and the bitter venom of words that she can’t control.

 

Octavia tries to soothe her with girl’s nights in, braiding her hair and plying her with 90s action films and peanut m&ms. 

 

Bellamy picks her up and takes her to obscure foreign films at the movie theater on Main Street, distracting her by sneaking in obscene amounts of candy and holding her hands between his warm palms when they walk through the city at night. 

 

But somehow it’s Lexa who helps the most, only Lexa who seems to tame the sinking, slog of Clarke’s despair with long phone calls, her voice humming over the line clear and high.

 

They don’t talk about freshman year and it’s almost like it never happened.

 

Almost.  


“I am not laying on that,” Lexa sneers derisively, glancing at the towel that Clarke has spread over the rough concrete that frames the pool.

 

Clarke glances down at the towel and then back at Lexa, quirking one eyebrow.  “So you’re too good for Barbie Swan Princess towels now? Because if I recall correctly you always used to claimed this one when we went to the pool.”

 

Lexa looks down and then back up at Clarke, mouth twisting with the slightest hint of panic. “Clarke,” she says, voice drawing dangerously close to a whine, “I was seven.” She studies the other towel hung over the casual drape of Clarke’s arm.  “Yours is just solid blue,” she says, voice firm again, “just let me use that one.”

 

Clarke rolls her eyes, gripping the corners of the blue towel and laying it flat on the ground. She sits on it, still smoothing out wrinkles, before reclining fully, legs stretched out in front of her, head propped up on her hand.

 

“Sorry,” she says, grinning at Lexa’s pout, “this one is taken.”

 

Lexa crooks her mouth in a smile as she surveys Clarke, propping her hand high on her hip. “Well then,” she says, “I’m sure you won’t mind sharing”

 

Before Clarke can protest Lexa sprawls on top of her, her elbows resting on either side of Clarke’s head, the comfortable weight of her pressing, warm and solid, against Clarke’s chest.  Clarke struggles to sit up, grabbing at Lexa’s shoulders.  She makes to push Lexa off but gets caught up in the eager light of Lexa’s eyes, in the way that Lexa presses her feet into Clarke’s leg, tickling up her calf to see if she can get Clarke to squirm. Clarke gives up, collapsing back and pulling Lexa with her. Lexa gives in quickly, laying flat until they are chest to chest, her breath tickling at the crook of Clarke’s neck. 

 

“You smell like sun block,” Lexa says, voice muffled by the press of Clarke’s skin.

 

“I wonder why that is, genius?” Clarke says.  She winds her fingers at the small of Lexa’s back, pulling her hips closer and shifting so that she can turn her head into the wild tangle of Lexa’s curls.  She smells like Clarke’s Very Berry conditioner and the summer-wild heat of the air.  Lexa says something and the mumble of her words against Clarke’s neck lurches low in Clarke’s stomach.  Lexa’s shirt is just riding up over her back and Clarke strokes, smooth and absentminded, over the exposed patch of skin.  She thinks about the other girls that get to touch Lexa this way and the lurch is back, higher this time, almost in her chest.  Before Clarke can settle on the feeling, Lexa is rolling off of her, standing to look quizzically down at Clarke.

 

“Clarke?” she asks, mouth set in that casually grim expression she adopts whenever she is unsure.

 

“What?” Clarke asks, still feeling a little dazed, mind scrabbling at the idea of something that hovers just beyond the horizon of her consciousness.

 

“I asked if you wanted to go swimming?” Lexa says, but she is already reaching for the hem of her loose T-shirt, pulling it over her head, the flex of her stomach revealed by her lazy motions.

 

Clarke forgets to find what it is that she has lost and gets up from the towel, ready to follow Lexa into the water.

 

*

 

Clarke leans close to trace a finger through the water droplets on Lexa’s skin. Lexa shivers at the touch and leans away, swatting at Clarke’s hand. Clarke shrugs and dives back into the pool, leaving Lexa sitting on the edge watching her. Lexa’s legs dangle in the water and when Clarke comes up for air she grabs at Lexa’s feet, tickling the soles until Lexa whines.

 

“Clarke,” she says in place of protests, she doesn’t try to pull away, just lets Clarke cradle her ankle in the palm of her hand. Clarke smoothes her hand over the jut of Lexa’s ankle, finding the faded, white scar that extends about two inches up her leg.

 

“How did you get this one again?” she asks, kicking through the water to stay afloat.

 

Lexa looks down at her foot and reaches down to grab at Clarke’s hand, tracing it over her scar again, her fingertips pressing lightly against the back of Clarke’s fingers.

 

“I got caught on that nail climbing over O’s fence,” Lexa says, removing her hand from Clarke’s.  Clarke leans in close to her, hands gripping around Lexa’s thigh to stay above water.  Lexa half-smiles at her struggle and slips off the side of the pool and into the water, dunking Clarke for just long enough that they both come up sputtering.

 

Clarke splashes her with a violent strike of water and dives back under, sleek and graceful, as she propels off the side to escape Lexa’s vengeful grasp.

 

(Lexa catches her)

 

(Lexa always catches her)

 

Her hands grab at the bare skin of Clarke’s ribcage, curling around her sides to stroke lightly up and down the breath of her. Clarke nudges in closer, kicking hard to keep them both afloat, admiring Lexa’s hair that looks slicked back, glossy, and tamed by the chlorine-tempered water. She finds a small, jagged indentation on Lexa’s bicep and strokes over it with her thumb.

 

“And this one?” she asks.

 

Lexa doesn’t break eye contact to answer, just pulls Clarke closer to her so they can begin to float closer to the shallow end of the pool.

 

“Rock climbing.”

 

“Rock climbing?” Clarke asks, pulling back slightly, almost scandalized. “You went rock climbing? When? Were you safe?”

 

Lexa shrugs, ducking her head to hide her smile, “Obviously. I’m still alive aren’t I?”

 

Clarke leans down, pressing a soft kiss to the scar, pulling back with an exaggerated pout.  “Barely,” she says, “this looks fatal.”

 

Lexa plays along, flexing her bicep dramatically, “It takes more then a rock slide to take me down, little lady.”

 

Clarke throws her head back, dunking the tips of her hair back in the water with the force of her reckless laughter.  “You are an idiot,” she says through her laugh.  Clarke propels them forward a few more feet until they can touch down.  They stand, soaked and pink-cheeked, Clarke from the sun and Lexa from the burn of Clarke’s touch, ignoring the children that splash around them.  Clarke sighs lightly before reaching out a hand, tracing a light line under Lexa’s chin.  “And this one?” she asks, “Where did this one come from?”

 

Lexa swallows hard, pressing forward to knock their foreheads.  “You know where that one came from.”

 

Clarke doesn’t smile, just keeps her hand there, cupping at Lexa’s face, tilting her until she can find her eyes, earnest and wide and lovely.

 

“Yeah,” she says, “I know.”

 

*

 

They have moved to Lexa’s yard now, still in wet bathing suits with damp hair.  Clarke sits up on the porch swing, pushing off the chipped railing with her foot.  Lexa reclines across the small steps that lead to the open screen door, eyes fixed on the road that runs in front of the house. 

 

Clarke is humming something faintly under her breath, running her fingers absently through her own hair as they sit. Lexa glances back at her, taking in the easy sprawl of her and the bare skin of her legs, the slope of her arm.  She starts to laugh, quietly at first but then escalating until she is cackling, winding down to soft gasps as she presses her hand hard to her chest. Clarke sits straight up on the swing, confused and a little apprehensive.

 

“Are you…okay?” she asks, “You don’t usually laugh like that unless someone is in some sort of pain.”

 

Lexa shakes her head, laughter quieted now, looking up at Clarke with an easy grin.

 

“Remember that time we had sex?”

 

Clarke startles, standing quickly from the porch swing and glancing around, eyes wide and blue in her shock, hands clutching nervously at the tie of her bikini top.

 

“Lexa?” she gasps out, trying so hard not to remember that all she does is see those memories even more clearly in her mind.

 

Lexa’s hands on her chest.

 

Lexa on her knees.

 

Lexa Lexa Lexa.

 

“Why are you even—” Clarke tries, shifting her weight to her left leg.

 

“No reason,” Lexa says, still cool and calm, fingers tapping against the wood of the steps, “we just never talked about it.  It’s kind of funny if you think about it.”

 

(Clarke fails to see how any part of this is funny)

 

“I guess,” she says instead, “It’s just a little weird that we—” she trails off again. 

 

“Not really,” Lexa answers, twisting her neck to look at Clarke, “you’re my best friend.”

 

(Clarke is starting to wonder if that explanation is really relevant to these situations but)

 

(Best friends tell each other everything)

 

(Lexa can’t be lying)

 

Clarke still says nothing, just nods, wondering why now, why Lexa is bringing this up right here, why—

“I had such a crush on you,” Lexa says, casual and relaxed, setting the words free with such an air of nonchalance that Clarke forgets to consider that this might actually be some sort of confession, not just casual summer porch conversation. 

 

“You did?” she says, mouth following Lexa’s lead and simply curling into a curious smile, her heartbeat still caged and steady. 

 

“Oh yeah,” Lexa says, “you were kind of my whole world.”

 

Clarke wants to ask why she never told her, wants to ask “what about now?”  Instead she just laughs, reaching down to tug at one of Lexa’s curls. 

 

“Me too,” Clarke says.

 

(Best friends are supposed to tell each other everything)

 

(So why does this feel like a lie?)

 

*

 

Clarke wakes up alone.

 

She rolls to the edge of her bed, looking down at the mess of pillows and the unfurled sleeping bag.  Lexa’s pajamas are folded on top of one the pillows and Clarke feels a surge of panic rising in her chest. 

 

What if she left?

 

What if she decided she didn’t want to talk anymore?

 

What if—

 

A loud clang sounds from downstairs and a muffled curse follows soon after, Clarke’s anxiety dissipates and she shucks her blankets down to her feet, venturing, curious and quiet, downstairs.

 

She finds Lexa at the stove, back to Clarke, spatula clenched in her right fist.  Lexa’s sneakers are propped by the kitchen door, her running shirt hanging over the back of a kitchen chair.  Soccer shorts are set low on her hips, the elastic of her maroon sports bra tight around her chest.

 

Clarke leans in the doorway, taking in the scene. There is a stack of singed pancakes on the table top and a mess of batter splattered over the grey counters, dripping off the island and onto the floor.

 

Clarke giggles despite herself and Lexa spins to face her, eyes wide and lips parted in ill-disguised panic.

 

“Clarke,” she says, mouth opening and closing, her knuckles are white around the spatula handle and there is a sticky smear of syrup over her cheekbone.  Clarke’s stomach drops as she looks at the counter and the back at Lexa.

 

“You made pancakes,” she says, barely a whisper.  She shuffles a little closer to the table, seeing the two plates set out, fork placed neatly on the folded napkins.

 

“Yeah,” Lexa says.  She relaxes a little, the rigid shape of her shoulders softening, mouth pressing closed.  Lexa turns and clicks off the heat on the stove, setting the spatula on the counter.

 

“Can I have some?” Clarke asks, she moves to sit down at one of the places while Lexa watches her wearily, nodding once in consent. 

 

Lexa sits down across from her, sliding into one of the low wooden chairs almost nervously, toying with the fork where it rests on the napkin. Clarke looks up to meet Lexa’s eyes before sliding one of the pancakes onto her plate.  She cuts into it with the side of the fork before moving the bite to her mouth.  She works to keep her expression even. 

 

It is pretty terrible.

 

Lexa watches her face closely and even though Clarke tries for a pleasant smile Lexa can, after all these years, read her better then that.  Clarke expects Lexa to shrug it off, to laugh about her little failure before catching Clarke up in a sweat-sticky hug from across the table.

 

Instead, Lexa crumbles. 

 

Her face falls so fast that Clarke fumbles forward, trying to catch it before it disappears for good. 

 

“They’re bad,” she says, voice a kind of weak shiver that Lexa’s voice never is, “I knew they were, I’m so sorry.” She is fumbling with her hands, knotting her fingers together, clenching them until they are white at the knuckles, “I’m sorry.”

 

Lexa is babbling now, face screwed up, throat wavering with the tremor of her swallows.  Clarke watches for a second, glancing down at the pancakes on the plate and then back to the tears in Lexa’s eyes that threaten to fall with every trembling gasp. It all clicks a second too late and Lexa is already moving out of her chair urgently, looking as though she is ready to bolt from the room and never return. 

 

Clarke’s panic rises and she moves too, chair knocking to the ground with her violent motion.  Before Lexa can take a step, before she can rush sweaty and barefoot from the kitchen, Clarke catches her. 

 

(Clarke always catches her)

 

She wraps her up in a rough sort of hug, arms squeezing too tight around Lexa’s shoulders, nose buried into the warm give of Lexa’s pulse, feeling the rapid breath of her rise and fall.  Lexa hugs back, fingers scrabbling at the blades of Clarke’s back, finding comfort in the shape of her.

 

“I miss him,” Lexa says, pressing her cheek into the top of Clarke’s head, “I didn’t get to say goodbye.”

 

Clarke holds her tighter, fighting the hiccupping sob that rises high in her throat.  “Me too,” she whispers against Lexa’s skin, biting back the cry that holds firm in her chest, “I miss him, too.”

 

They stand like that for a while longer, rocking back and forth in the mess of the kitchen, the smell of burnt pancakes and syrup thick in the air.  Clarke pulls back a bit, bracing Lexa’s face in her hands.

 

“Let’s make them together,” she says, “I’ll teach you.”

 

Lexa rubs hard at her eyes, trying to set her face into some sort of composed expression and failing, “Like Jake taught you?”

 

Clarke presses in to kiss the furrow of Lexa’s brow, “Yeah.  Like Dad taught me.”

 

They turn back the counter, Clarke surveying the mess and Lexa standing somewhat sheepish behind.  Clarke slings her arm over Lexa’s shoulder and pulls her toward her, standing on tip-toe so she can muss Lexa’s sloppy ponytail. 

 

“Aren’t you supposed to be some sort of math genius? How can you not bake?”

 

Lexa glares, but she doesn’t pull away.  When Clarke moves toward the fridge to get the milk, Lexa smiles at the floor, cheeks red and hands nervously twisted again, Clarke sees but doesn’t say anything.  She lets Lexa mix the batter and wipes syrup off of her cheek with a damp paper towel and forgets, for a morning, what it feels like to cry.

 

*

 

Clarke visits Lexa in her apartment over fall break.  Lexa waits for her in the complex’s small lot, propped on the curb, chin in her hands as she watches traffic.  At the sight of Clarke’s car her face lights up and she doesn’t even try to dim it down, smiling her dimpled cheeked smile with uncharacteristic brightness. She opens Clarke’s car door before she can get it herself and pulls her into a fumbling hug, hands moving from Clarke’s ribs to her waist and back again.  Clarke returns the hug with a laugh, offering her cheek to Lexa for a kiss.

 

“Someone is happy to see me,” she says, laughing at the loud kiss Lexa smacks on her cheek.

 

Lexa shrugs, grin faded to a small pleased smile.  “I’m usually happy to see pretty girls,” she says, turning to get Clarke’s luggage from the back before Clarke can respond.  Clarke watches her carefully, unused to seeing Lexa so in her element, lit by an excitement that would seem unusual back home.   

                                                                                                                         

Lexa turns back to Clarke, slinging the last bag over her shoulder, she grabs Clarke’s hand, lacing their fingers and tugging her up on the sidewalk.  She doesn’t drop her hand when she enters the building and the press of her is so familiar that Clarke barely even notices. 

 

They stumble through the apartment door laughing, Lexa breathless under the weight of all of Clarke’s bags that she wouldn’t let her carry. She is pink-cheeked from the stairs and still holding tightly to Clarke’s hand, hair tossed over her shoulder in a messy tangle. Clarke leans in close, brushing back Lexa’s bangs carefully, tracing a thumb over the apple of Lexa’s cheek. 

 

“I’m so happy to see you,” Clarke says softly, fingers still splayed across Lexa’s jaw.  Lexa is nodding and dropping Clarke’s bags, her familiar almost-smile back under her dazed, half-lidded eyes. 

 

“Me too,” she says, nudging into Clarke’s touch, “I was kind of—”

 

A loud voice cuts them off as a boy sidles into the room, catching sight of Clarke with a grin. 

 

“Oh man,” he says, slinging an arm over Lexa’s shoulders and pulling her into a one armed hug as she stands straight faced and unaffected, “so I finally get to meet the girlfriend?”

 

Lexa stiffens at the words and shrugs him off of her, noticing at the same time her hand still linked with Clarke’s.  She fumbles to drop Clarke’s hand but Clarke just grips her tighter, amused by Lexa’s ears that have flushed red again, the nervous dart of her eyes. 

 

“No Eli,” Lexa starts, still trying to work her fingers free from Clarke discretely, “Clarke is actually—”

 

“The girlfriend is here!” Eli shouts across the apartment, turning to Clarke with a grin.  He holds out his hand and Clarke releases Lexa from her gasp, ignoring the glare that is sent in her direction from Lexa who is rubbing her sore fingers. 

 

Clarke shakes Eli’s hand with a polite smile, liking the kind set of his mouth and his flop of blonde hair.

 

“Lexa talks about you all the time,” he says, ignoring Lexa until she punches his shoulder, successfully cutting him off.  “Lexa,” he chastises, turning to face her, “it’s true, you literally—”

 

A girl enters from the kitchen, a pencil pushed through her messy ponytail, she is grinning and Clarke automatically returns it, enjoying the deep-set dimple in the girl’s right cheek.

 

“Clarke,” the girl says, holding out her hand as well, “I feel like I already know you.”

 

Clarke scrunches her nose, “What do you mean?”

 

The girl laughs, “Well Lexa talks about you all the time, it’s like—”

 

“Okay,” Lexa interjects, pushing back toward Clarke and grabbing her arm.  She fixes Eli and the girl with a glare and heaves an exasperated sigh.  “First of all, shut up.” Lexa sneaks a glance at Clarke, “I don’t talk about you that much,” she ignores her roommates’ eye rolls and continues, “and Clarke is just my friend, we aren’t dating.”

 

“Just my friend” imbeds itself in Clarke’s mind and she wonders why the words make her wince.  She pastes her smile back on and looks at Lexa who is even more exasperated now, looking put out by the entire situation. 

 

“Oh,” Eli says, “we kind of just assumed. I mean, you said your friend was coming to visit and no we don’t need to set up the couch because she can sleep with you and to not disturb you under any circumstances and honestly, what were we supposed to think?”

 

Lexa’s ears are burning again and Clarke forgets the prick of the previous words in favor of laughing at Lexa’s put-off expression.   Lexa fumbles for words for a moment before swallowing hard, regaining some semblance of her mask. 

 

“It’s a queen bed,” she says, turning to Clarke, “I figured we have shared worse and—”

 

“Shared worse?” the girl says grinning, “This is really the argument you are going to support your ‘not dating’ notion?”

 

Lexa storms out of the room and Clarke is forced to follow, leaving her bags on the floor in favor of tackling Lexa onto her queen sized bed and yeah, they’ve shared worse.

 

*

 

Clarke and Lexa lay flat on the bed, staring at the ceiling absently.  Clarke has Lexa’s hand pulled onto her stomach and she strokes up and down the length of Lexa’s forearm absently while she turns her attention to Lexa’s bedside table.  There is a picture of Nate, toddler-chubby and grinning, a tonka trunk clutched in one fist. Clarke laughs and reaches to touch the frame, drawing Lexa’s attention.

 

“He was so cute,” Clare coos.  She glances at Lexa who is trying not to smile, “He’s still kinda cute,” Clarke amends, rolling on her side and trapping Lexa’s arm beneath her. 

 

Lexa shrugs, “whatever,” she says, but Clarke can hear the smile she hides at the corner of her mouth.  Lexa wiggles her arm free and turns to face Clarke, reaching out her hand to trace over Clarke’s side, smoothing over the curve off her waist, playing with the loops on Clarke’s jeans.  Clarke moves in until Lexa looks up to meet her eyes, she holds her gaze, edging even closer to the warmth of her.

 

“Your friends thought we were dating,” Clarke says, she is sleepy now and the burden of her exhaustion makes regrettable words come easy. 

 

“Yeah,” Lexa says, “But Eli and Julia are idiots, so”

 

“Okay,” Clarke says, through a yawn. 

 

“Okay,” Lexa answers, wrapping her arm more firmly around Clarke’s waist and pulling her toward her until their heads are on the same pillow. 

 

“Sleep now?” Clarke asks, eyes drifting shut, hand curling in the hem of Lexa’s shirt.

 

Lexa nods loosely, almost knocking heads with Clarke.  Her eyes close as well and she begins to doze.

 

(Neither girl dreams)

 

*

 

Julia kicks the fridge door with her foot, balancing her half-eaten bowl of cereal in one hand and the milk carton in another.

 

“Jules,” Eli shouts from the living room, “get Lexa, I want to go out for lunch and I need her to chip in for pizza.”

 

Julia pulls a face, abandoning the milk and bowl on the counter and leaning around the doorway.

 

“Eli it is literally 11:00,” she makes her way into the living room where Eli lies on the carpet staring vacantly at the ceiling, “isn’t it too early for pizza?”

 

Eli sits up, fixing her with a stare, offense written in the slope of his forehead.  “It is never too early for pizza.”

 

Julia rolls her eyes and holds out her hands, waiting until he takes them to haul him off of the floor.  “If you want Lexa,” she says, “you can go get her.” Julia frowns, reconsidering, “her and her friend are probably still sleeping though.”

 

Eli grins, moving toward the hallway, hands shoved deep in his pockets while he walks as he glances over his shoulder at Julia sheepishly.  “Her friend is pretty hot,” he says. 

 

Julia frowns, sinking onto the couch while she cranes her head to watch Eli making his way down the hall way.  “Don’t even think about it,” she calls, “the last thing we need is you fucking around with our roommate’s best friend.”

 

Eli laughs and shakes his head, approaching Lexa’s doorway cautiously.  He sets his palm against the frame of the door, head cocked in an effort to hear if the girls are awake.  There is no noise from inside and he knocks lightly before pressing the door open a crack. 

 

The first thing he notices is that they are both sleeping.

 

Okay. So.

 

Maybe that is a lie. 

 

The first thing he notices is that Clarke’s shirt is riding up high over her ribs, that her hair falls in a sleep tossed tangle over her eyes and her legs are bare and long.

 

The second thing he notices is Lexa. Her arms are folded around Clarke in her sleep, nose nuzzled into her neck.  They both shift, Clarke nudging harder back into Lexa in her sleep while Lexa settles her hand against the slope of Clarke’s stomach, stroking unconsciously over the soft of her skin. 

 

Eli unfreezes, closing the door quickly, his heart stutters fast and he feels immeasurably guilty.  He kinda thinks that he saw some things he wasn’t supposed to. He is also kinda thinking that he really doesn’t really have a chance with Clarke.

 

*

 

Lexa and Clarke emerge from Lexa’s bedroom a quarter after eleven.  Lexa makes her way to living room first, standing slumped and grumbly in the doorway, running a hand over her eyes harshly.  She yawns loudly, glaring at Eli and Julia as they observe her.

 

There is a beat of silence and Lexa catches Eli swallowing hard, looking almost-guilty and a little intrigued.

 

“What?” she snaps, the harsh cut of her words slurred by her sleepy haze. 

 

“Nothing,” Eli says quickly, “we were just wondering if you wanted to go get pizza?”

 

Lexa hears footsteps behind her and feels arms wrap around her waist, she sinks back into the familiar, warm of Clarke’s embrace and offers her cheek for a kiss that Clarke gives her gladly, giggling against her skin as she does.  Lexa smiles in return, trying to turn serious when she moves to face her roommates again.

 

“I don’t know,” she says, attempting to fall back into the conversation even with the distraction of Clarke digging her chin into Lexa’s shoulder.  “Do you want to, Clarke?”

 

Clarke shifts, thumbing at Lexa’s hip while she brings one hand up to move Lexa’s curls away from the curve of her neck.  She gets briefly distracted by the pound of Lexa’s pulse and strokes down the breath of her, until Lexa asks again. 

 

“Clarke?” Lexa says, pulling out of her grip and turning to face her, “Do you want to?”

 

Clarke takes a step back, looking pink-cheeked and caught, hands falling back down to her sides.  “Do I want to what?”

 

Lexa heaves out a sigh, rolling her eyes, “Do you want to go get pizza?”

 

Clarke considers the question carefully before asking, “Do you?”

 

Lexa shrugs.  “I don’t know we can do what you want to do.”

 

Clarke steps a little bit closer again, shoving at Lexa’s shoulder. “Well I’m saying we can do whatever you want to do.”

 

Lexa quirks an eyebrow, pressing in further until they are nose to nose, hands reaching out to grapple around Clarke’s wrists.  “I asked first,” she says. 

 

“Okay!” Julia interjects, standing up, hands held high.  “It’s just pizza, holy shit.” She glances at Eli, “We are going to go so if you change your mind,” she gestures at Lexa, “you know where we will be.”

 

Lexa nods but refuses to look away from Clarke and Clarke maintains the stare-down as well.  Julia takes one last look before heaving an exasperated sigh, grabbing Eli’s arm and tugging him toward the doorway. 

 

When they leave Clarke wrests her wrists from Lexa’s grip, taking another step forward, pushing with her hips until Lexa stumbles back. “Great,” says Clarke sarcastically, “you scared them off.”

 

Lexa swallows hard, shoving Clarke away and twisting to get around her, sitting neatly on one of the couches.  “So what? I was pretty sure that you came here to hang out with me,” she says, feigning disinterest as she crosses her legs underneath herself.

 

Clarke spins to face her, adopting a sly grin, propping her hands on the curve of her hips.  “I don’t know,” she says, dropping her voice lower, “Eli is pretty cute,” Clarke pauses, searching Lexa’s face for a reaction, “and Julia isn’t too bad either.”

 

She is really going for it now, all swagger and husk, and she can’t figure out why she wants to get a rise from Lexa. She is fun to mess with, Clarke decides, nothing more.  It is entertaining to watch her squirm on the couch, hands locked on her knees while she studies the ceiling with a fabricated kind of disinterest.

 

“Whatever,” Lexa finally says, looking back down to glare at Clarke, “just try not to make things awkward for any future visits.” Lexa has finally fixed her face into her blank expression of indifference, her brow smooth and her mouth set in its steady line.  She gets up off the couch, slow and calculated, “I’m going on a run,” she says.

 

Clarke feels an irrational spike of panic and lurches forward, collapsing Lexa back on the couch. She digs her hands under Lexa’s back and wraps her legs around her waist, clinging to her in a display of desperations she hopes seems more pretend then it is.

 

“Wait,” she says, “that’s not fair.” She is whining now and it feels unfamiliar in her mouth, she never has to beg Lexa for anything. Lexa usually just caves beneath her with a weak glare and half of a pout.  “I came to visit you,” Clarke pauses, “entertain me.”

 

Lexa jars back, almost shaking Clarke off of her. Clarke’s face is so close that she nearly has to cross her eyes to focus on the narrowed slant of her eyes, trying not to fixate on the freckle above Clarke’s top lip or the low rasp of her voice.

 

“How am I supposed to do that?” she asks, and she moves under Clarke in a way that makes her stomach tense and her heart stutter and she is trying to remind herself of early-morning porch conversations about meaningless sex and past-tense crushes.

 

Past tense, she reminds herself, even though her body is throbbing with the thrill of the present. Past tense, past tense, past tense.  The repetition of it is almost enough to convince herself and she thinks that some lies are told to do more then just hide truth.

 

But Clarke is saying, “I’m sure you will think of something,” and leaning in closer and this is blurring some sort of line between banter and flirting, past and present, dark closets and the well-lit living room of your first apartment on a couch that smells only like her now. 

 

Clarke’s eyes are catching on the bow of Lexa’s lips, her hands snagging on the jutting angle of Lexa’s shoulder blades.  She feels heady and wonderful, buoyed by the adoration in Lexa’s heavy glances, the thinly-concealed affection in her touch as she cups Clarke’s chin with her one free hand.  There is a moment where Clarke wonders if some part of her is breaking or, rather, some part of her is finally being freed.  She finds herself aching and bent under the butterfly-light weight of Lexa’s touches, inexplicably burdened by as insignificant a gesture as a glance or fingers tracing over the line of her jaw.

 

(Clarke feels like she is forgetting something really important)

 

(She feels like she is about to remember)

 

But then Lexa is pushing out from underneath of her, pulling her to her feet, steering Clarke, slipping and sliding, to the kitchen where she plays music too loud and dances on socked feet.

 

(and Clarke forgets and forgets and forgets)


Clarke gets an internship at a law firm in D.C.  She comes home tired and stressed, absolutely done dealing with condescending bosses and the more experienced interns that put her on coffee duty every day. 

 

But Octavia gives her back massages and falls asleep with her on the couch, ignoring homework in favor of cuddling close on their single decorative pillow.  Bellamy covers them with a blanket when he gets home from work, dozing off on the floor in front of the couch while he watches TV because he doesn’t want to wake them. 

 

Clarke calls Lexa on all of her breaks, hushing quiet into the phone in the break room, hanging up with “I love yous” and “I’ll talk to you tonights.” One of the other interns asks her if she is talking to her girlfriend and she just nods because explaining otherwise would take too much time and she has to make a chinese food run for the office anyway.

 

*

 

They both go home for spring break.

 

They reunite in the middle of Lexa’s lawn, Lexa pulling Clarke into a hug that spins her off the ground.  Nate runs at them from inside the house, abandoning all shows of nine year old standoffishness, letting Clarke grab him up into a hug that has him laughing hard into her ear. 

 

Lexa’s mom watches them, leaning in the doorway and smiling.  When they approach the house slowly, Nate clinging to Clarke’s back and Lexa clinging to Clarke’s hand, she kisses the top of Clarke’s head and rests a warm hand on Clarke’s shoulder. 

 

They eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in the kitchen, feet touching under the table, and feel more eight than 22.  Nate sits on the counter and watches them, chattering away about fourth grade, glaring when his sister interrupts him to wiper peanut butter off of Clarke’s cheek.

 

*

 

They spend the night at Clarke’s house.  Lexa immediately sprawls out on Clarke’s bed when they get to her room, hands folded over her stomach, eyes drooping as she watches Clarke move around her room, going through her pre-bed routine.

 

“Are we too old to have sleepovers?” Lexa mumbles from her reclined position, asking purely to hear the response she knows Clarke will give.

 

Clarke turns from the mirror, half way through wiping her eye shadow off with a cotton swab, and smiles.  “Never,” she says.  She takes in Lexa who is almost dozing now, sprawled on top of the sheets, wearing one of Clarke’s old shirts and no pants, just bare legs kicked out of tiny shorts that, now that Clarke thinks about, might also be hers.

 

Clarke tosses out her cotton swab, kicking off her shoes under the vanity and unbuttoning her pants with one hand.  She wriggles her jeans down her hips until they pool at her feet, stepping out of them dismissively as she tugs them hem of her shirt over her head.  Lexa opens her eyes and catches sight of Clarke, automatically squeezing her eyes shut again, throwing her hands up over her face. Clarke giggles and takes a running leap onto the bed, curling into Lexa’s side, a leg thrown over her hip, bare stomach pressed against the tilt of her arm. 

 

Lexa opens her eyes briefly before closing them again.  “Clothe yourself,” she squeaks, “you will catch a chill.”

 

Clarke full on laughs here, nosing her face into Lexa’s cheek, puckering her lips against Lexa’s scrunched face until she can find the blush in the tips of her ears.  “Oh yeah?” she says, “I’m going to catch a chill over spring break because I’m not wearing a shirt?”

 

Lexa nods vigorously, eyes still closed. “It’s science,” she whispers.

 

Clarke laughs harder.  “Oh my God, Lexa,” she says, “Are you three?”

 

Lexa opens her eyes suddenly, rolling to face Clarke, free hand reaching out to settle on Clarke’s hip, nudging into Clarke’s airspace, knocking their foreheads and rubbing a circle around the sharp angle of Clarke’s hip bone.  It’s Clarke’s turn to feel breathless and she gasps a little bit at the proximity of Lexa’s eyes that study her, enormous and wondering and dazed. Lexa wets her lips and Clarke waits for her to say something, anything, that will match her adoring expression and the warmth of her palm on the bare skin of her. 

 

“Go to sleep, Clarke,” Lexa says and Clarke heaves an exasperated sigh, unsure of what she was expecting or what she wanted or much why Lexa is still looking at her, fragile and hungry.

 

Lexa rolls away and Clarke almost protests but she is just turning out the bedside light before grabbing at Clarke’s waist and pulling her against her.  Clarke cuddles closer in turn, nudging at Lexa’s legs so she can pull the sheet over them, hand sitting heavy under the hem of Lexa’s borrowed shirt.

 

It is eleven o’clock at night and, when Clarke and Lexa fall asleep in Clarke’s twin bed, they fit again.

 

*

 

Clarke sits on the hardwood of Lexa’s apartment floor, chin cupped in her palm, staring hard at Lexa.  Lexa, propped against the couch, humors her.  She allows Clarke to study her, protesting only with her impassive pout and narrowed eyes.

 

“Clarke—” she starts, cut off when Clarke holds up her hand.

 

“Shh,” Clarke hushes, trying not to smile, “I want to see if you look different.”

 

Lexa heaves a sigh and slumps a bit on the floor, glancing around exasperatedly.  “It’s just graduation,” she says, ignoring Clarke’s chastisement, “nothing has changed.”

 

Clarke shakes her head vehemently, pressing a hand hard over her heart. “Everything has changed,” she says, fake teary and exaggeratingly emotional, “you are all grown up.”

 

Lexa rolls her eyes in earnest now, taking another pull from her beer. “Clarke you literally only graduated a week before me.”

 

Clarke reaches out to rest a consoling hand over Lexa’s.  “You keep telling yourself that, Lex.”

 

Lexa groans lowly, finishing her beer and setting it down on the floor between them.  She fiddled with it as she works to ignore Clarke, knocking it over and spinning it on the floor between her hands.  Clarke watches her absently before her face breaks out into a grin.  She pokes at Lexa’s hands, until she gets Lexa to meet her eyes.

 

“You know what this reminds me of?” Clarke says slowly, still smirking. 

 

“What?” Lexa says, still humoring her, caught on the blue-grey of Clarke’s eyes as they widen in amusement.

 

“We are graduating…” Clarke starts, “a little bit drunk…with an empty bottle and a propensity for bad decisions…”

 

Lexa narrows her eyes, shaking her head slightly.  “I’m not following, Clarke.”

 

“Are you literally forgetting our senior year tradition of spin the bottle?” Clarke asks through a laugh.

 

Lexa swallows hard and looks at the ground.  She fixes her expression into something unreadable and looks back up.  “Need I remind you,” she says, “that we have only had one other senior year.”

 

Clarke scoffs. “And eighth grade,” she adds, “which is just the senior year of middle school.”

 

Lexa watches Clarke for a beat more before she busts out laughing, warmly running a finger down the bridge of Clarke’s nose. “How sleep deprived are you right now, Clarke?” she asks.

 

Clarke heaves a sigh, her exaggerated smirk morphing into her familiar smile. “Very,” she answers, “the flight out here was not great.”

 

Lexa nods firmly, tapping Clarke’s nose once more before she goes to rise. “Well then,” she says, “we should get you to bed.”

 

Clarke grabs at Lexa’s arm, pulling her back to the floor with a whine.  “No wait,” she protests. She grabs at the empty bottle, “Just once for old times sake,” she says, unsure where this insistence is coming from. 

 

Lexa studies her a second longer before quirking her lips into a smile, sitting back down fully.  “It is only right,” she says in her clear, controlled voice.  Clarke grins and reaches for the bottle. Nothing can be a bad idea if Lexa agrees to it in that voice. 

 

She spins once. Technically, the bottle doesn’t even land on Lexa.  It comes to rest pointing at the wall a little to the left of Lexa but, “close enough,” Clarke says, shuffling her way toward Lexa across the floor. 

 

Lexa sigh like she is just humoring her, tilting her face toward Clarke and closing her eyes, lips parted and hands grasping at her knees. Clarke studies her, drinking in the arch of Lexa’s top lip, the soft skin of her eyelids, the perfect line of her chin against the half-dark of the room.  Clarke leans in closer, feeling Lexa’s breath against her mouth now, stomach turning with the weigh of Lexa’s trust that is apparent in her easy sacrifice to the mercy of Clarke’s touch.

 

(Clarke feels like she is forgetting something really important)

 

Clarke presses in further, until she can hear the hitch in Lexa’s breathing and feel the soft, round of Lexa’s cheek under the nudge of her nose.  She fits their mouths together carefully, so still and unmoving that she wonders if it even counts as a kiss.  They remain that way, suspended against one another, until Lexa moves in more firmly. She catches at Clarke’s bottom lip with careful teeth and Clarke wonders if this is what it feels like to be consumed. Her heart beats loud in her head and she feels a warm surge of heat as she kisses back. She allows a few seconds more of Lexa’s careful devouring, allows herself to burn fire bright and hot under the give of Lexa’s mouth. 

 

Clarke can feel the charcoal smudges all over herself. She knows they do far more then bruise her mouth now, she imagines that they press in the shape of perfect fingerprints over the heart of her, scarring and permanent and so so welcome. 

 

They break apart, and the next second is just slightly unsteady breathing and Lexa’s dazed eyes that follow Clarke’s lips with half-lidded agony.  The fire in Clarke’s stomach doesn’t die and the ragged breath that Lexa exhales only serves to ignite it further and oh God—

 

(Clarke is forgetting something really important)

 

(Clarke remembers)

 

The realization hits her with enough force that if she wasn’t already breathless she would be gasping.  Lexa sees some sort of change in Clarke’s face and blinks slowly at Clarke, confused and disoriented. 

 

“Are you okay?” she asks.

 

Clarke manages a nod somehow, and tries to twist her mouth into a smile.  Lexa studies her for a second more before darting forward to peck a kiss on Clarke’s cheek. “Happy graduation,” she says before rising, “I’m going to get ready for bed.”

 

She leaves the room and Clarke does not follow, she just sits on the floor of Lexa’s apartment, the empty bottle lying before her. 

 

It is a week after graduation and Clarke Griffin thinks about unicorn roller skates and birthday cake and half-realized dreams that come true in dark closets in the basement of your friend’s house. 

 

Clarke Griffin’s realization comes all at once in the form of something she has known all along. 

 

Clarke Griffin is in love with her best friend. 

 

(Clarke remembers and she wonders when she had forgotten)

Chapter Text

 

This is one of those moments. 

 

Clarke Griffin sits upright in bed beside her sleeping best friend, eyes open to the midnight hush of the world, overly aware and aching, alert to every breath Lexa sighs out into the still bedroom.

 

This is one of those moments.

 

Clarke Griffin thinks she might as well be back in sixth grade, back pressed against the wall of the empty girl’s restroom in the art wing, coming to terms with the earth shattering magnitude of this revelation, coming to terms with the immensity of this love that dwarfs the room and the apartment and possibly the very fabric of the ever expanding universe.

 

Clarke wonders how Lexa still sleeps, how something like the way Clarke feels exists, fully realized, and does not wake her. Clarke closes her eyes and tries to breathe, gripping hard to her knees, stuttering out her exhales.  Lexa stirs and Clarke’s eyes shoot open, observing the mop of curly hair that shifts as Lexa rubs her cheek sleepily into the pillow. Clarke reaches out a hand, calmly running it through Lexa’s curls, scratching at her scalp until she is rewarded with a quiet hum.  Lexa blinks open her eyes slowly, finding Clarke’s briefly before blinking hers closed again. 

 

“Clarke?” she mumbles, the syllable dripping with the syrup-heavy, saccharine-sweet of late night words, “Shouldn’t you be asleep?”

 

Clarke strokes through Lexa’s hair again, wondering if things should feel different, wondering why, now that she knows she is in love, touching Lexa feels the same as always.  Clarke rubs at the soft skin of Lexa’s cheek with her thumb until Lexa’s mouth falls open in a contented sigh.  Clarke goes to talk, meaning to tell Lexa to go back to sleep, remind her she had a busy day, but instead—

 

“We should run away,” Clarke murmurs, low and rough, thumb still moving in soft circles, “You just graduated, we are adults, we should just—”

 

Lexa blinks open her eyes again, pulling away slightly from Clarke’s touch so she can fix her eyes on her.  “Clarke?” she mumbles again, “what are you talking about?”

 

“We should run away,” Clarke says again, less sure now that Lexa is blinking heavy grey eyes at her, “live out of our car, eat exclusively at roadside diners it would be,” she pauses here, “nice,” Clarke finishes lamely, “it would be nice.”

 

Lexa sits up on her elbows, leaning forward so she can nuzzle into Clarke’s leg.  “Clarke it is like one in the morning, you are talking crazy.” She tilts her head to meet Clarke’s eyes, “I think you might have had too much to drink.”

 

Clarke feels her throat tighten and nods deliberately, dropping down onto her back, wriggling until her feet find their way under the comforter.  “You're right,” she says, trying at a laugh, “I was being crazy.”

 

Lexa nods, content, and pulls Clarke in closer, fitting their hips together, fingers stroking at the soft skin of Clarke’s forearm.  “Go to sleep, Clarke,” she says, voice clear and soothing, eyes already drifting back shut.

 

Clarke follows suit, relaxing into Lexa’s hold, pushing down the ache that has settled high in her chest, ignoring the throb that resides at the base of her stomach.  Lexa falls asleep quickly, breathing even, huffing rhythmic bursts of air against the back of Clarke’s neck.  Clarke soon follows suit, forgetting to wonder at the fact that being In Love with Lexa feels no different then the day before. 

 

*

 

Lexa wakes at three in the morning with a leg thrown over her hip and a nose pressed against her cheek.

 

 She wriggles back slightly, smiling at Clarke’s deep sleep mumbles of discontent from the separation.  Lexa wipes at her eyes and yawns, taking a second to study Clarke’s sleep-smoothed face. Her lips part slightly, brow un-furrowed over her closed eyes, movement flickering beneath thin lids.

 

Lexa wonders if she dreams. 

 

Lexa smoothes a piece of blonde hair behind Clarke’s ear, nudging in close to press a light kiss to Clarke’s nose.

 

“I would run with you anywhere,” she whispers to the dark, to the sleeping form of her best friend. She clenches her jaw and fits her head back on the pillow next to Clarke, stomach turning as she realizes she could never tell that to Clarke when they are both awake. 

 

It would mean something completely different to Lexa.  It would mean—

 

(best friends tell each other everything)

 

(they both know that’s a lie by now)

 

*

 

Clarke wakes up to a loud thump and a muffled curse.  She sits up blearily, running a hand through her hair as she yawns loudly.  Her yawn turns into an open mouthed laugh as soon as she sees Lexa, balanced on one foot, leaning heavy on the dresser as she tries to fit on an intimidatingly tall heel.

 

“Need some help there?” Clarke says, still laughing, grinning at Lexa who fixes her with her best cool-faced glare, made slightly less intimidating by her untucked, unbuttoned dress shirt and a skirt that sits askew on slim hips. 

 

Lexa finally fits her foot in the heel and makes her way toward the bed, hands above her head, trying to smooth her hair back into a high bun.  Clarke rolls her eyes, shuffling forward until she sits at the end of the bed.  She motions Lexa closer and sits up high on her knees, jerking Lexa toward her by her collar of her shirt to the sound of quiet protests. 

 

“Be still,” she commands, smiling at Lexa’s slight pout that accompanies her following the order. Clarke tugs her even closer, buttoning her shirt with quick fingers, and tucking it into her skirt.  Lexa’s hands reach out to steady herself on Clarke’s shoulders and she pushes in toward her, one hand absently winding itself in Clarke’s hair. 

 

Clarke taps Lexa’s chin, appraising her finished outfit, adjusting a bobby pin in Lexa’s hair.

 

“You look very bank chic,” she says, tilting back without fully pulling away from Lexa’s grasp.  She lowers her voice to a husk, “I would definitely let you manage my account.”

 

They bust out laughing at the same time, Lexa’s hand dropping from Clarke’s hair as she moves it to cover her grinning mouth.   Clarke pushes at Lexa’s shoulder playfully, “Go to work, Lexa.” 

 

Lexa studies Clarke, her smile dimming slightly, “Will you be gone when I get home?”

 

Clarke nods slightly, her smile fading as well, “My flight is at one. I can’t miss any more work.”

 

Lexa bites her lower lip into her mouth, inclining her head as she tries to smooth her expression.  “I will visit soon,” she says, solemn again.

 

“Promise?” Clarke asks, reaching out to hook in Lexa’s collar again.

 

“Promise,” Lexa answers, she leans forward, eyes dropping to look somewhere below Clarke’s eyes. 

 

Clarke is, for a brief second, sure that Lexa is going to kiss her.  Her stomach plummets and the stutter of her breath makes Lexa find her eyes again with concern.  Lexa studies her carefully.

 

Clarke wants to know if she likes what she sees.

 

“You're going to be late,” Clarke says, blinking fast and looking away from Lexa’s curious eyes.

“I am never late, Clarke,” Lexa says and she is smiling again when she moves in and presses a kiss to Clarke’s cheek.

 

Clarke watches her walk through the door before collapsing back on the bed. She rolls herself back up in Lexa’s sheets, burrowing deep in Lexa’s pillow, and thinks maybe she will stay just for a little while longer.

 

*

Clarke wakes for the second time that morning to a beam of sunlight on her pillow. She cracks open an eye, breathing in the linen soft smell of clean sheets and Lexa’s shampoo, studying the motes that swirl through the luminous strip of light.

 

Clarke stretches, straining her arms over her head, loose and languid in the sun-saturated sheets.  She thinks of the kiss still imprinted in her cheek, of Lexa half-dressed and laughing last night and this morning and a thousand nights before. Clarke presses her hand hard over her heart, feeling the fragile beat under the heat of her skin. 

 

This love feels like stained glass, sacred enough to be hung in churches and mosques and cathedrals, an array of brilliance that bleeds stories, that reflects a thousand different colors onto polished marble floors.

 

This love feels holy.

 

Clarke thinks that Lexa has always been her most precious thing.

 

*

 

Clarke checks the clock again before throwing her head back onto Lexa’s couch with a groan. It’s 5:47 which mean that only three minutes have passed since she last checked.  She feels the taught tug of anxiety in her stomach and exhales heavily.

 

Clarke Griffin missed her flight.

 

That kind of irresponsible behavior is not like her, Clarke Griffin is never late and she certainly never lets the plane she is supposed to have boarded leave the airport without her. But she wasn’t late.

 

Clarke Griffin missed her flight because she spent twenty minutes standing at the terminal gate, through all three calls for her flight, aching and hoping and in love.

 

She is back in Lexa’s apartment, waiting for her to get home from work, fidgety and apprehensive on the cool leather of the couch. Clarke hears the lock turn in the door, accompanied by a hollow thud, and feels her stomach leap.  She turns quickly toward the door, mouth open in a grin, ready to tell Lexa, ready to—

 

The door opens with a slam, two figures falling into the room, pressed closely against each other.  Clarke jerks back with a start, shaking her head as she stares, trying to pick apart what she is seeing and then hating herself when she does.

 

It’s Lexa.

 

It’s Lexa with her hands in a woman’s hair, with her mouth pressed hard against the lips of this gasping, beautiful woman, eyes shut tight as she moves her hand to cup at the back of the woman’s neck.

 

Clarke feels her stained glass heart splinter.

 

The woman notices her first, opening her eyes as her hands grasp at the hem of Lexa’s shirt. She sees Clarke and pulls back slightly, un-lodging her mouth from Lexa’s as her brow furrows in a polite kind of confusion.

 

“Lexa?” she says, nudging at Lexa’s hips until she turns, “You didn’t tell me you had a guest.”

 

It takes Lexa a second to focus on Clarke, her eyes still dazed, hair mussed, no longer smoothed into its perfect bun from this morning.

 

“Clarke?” she says, taking a small step away from the woman, “I thought you left?”

 

The woman smiles, reaching out a hand to catch at Lexa’s wrist, stroking down the tempered curve of her forearm. “This is Clarke?” she asks, taking a step forward as Lexa intertwines their fingers, “I have heard so much about you.”

 

Lexa glances back at the woman and Clarke expects an expression of annoyance, for her face to fold back into its neutral, unaffected daze.  Instead, Lexa’s mouth softens, a smile playing at the corners of her mouth while her eyes catch on the woman’s lips. She leans in closer until she can press a kiss to the woman’s cheek, coaxing another smile from that mouth that isn’t Clarke’s. 

 

Lexa turns back to Clarke as the woman drops her hand, stepping forward to stretch it out toward Clarke.

 

“Hi,” she says, “It is amazing to finally meet you, my name is—”

 

*

 

“Costia?”

 

Clarke nods solemnly, slumping back against Bellamy’s legs where he is propped on the couch.  Octavia leans forward with interest from where she leans against the counter in the kitchen.

 

“Is she pretty?” Octavia asks, tilting her head, studying Clarke’s face intently.

 

Clarke groans, throwing her head back, “She is like ridiculously hot. Also she speaks like three different languages, I can’t compete with that.”

 

Bellamy hums a noise of confusion, reaching down to tug at a lock of Clarke’s hair. “Why would you need to be competing with her?”

 

Octavia lets out a snort of laughter from the kitchen and Clarke half-heartedly tosses a throw pillow at her before she cranes her neck to look at Bellamy. “She’s my best friend,” Clarke says, she knows she sounds petulant but she can’t seem to make it stop, “whenever your friend starts dating someone they forget about everyone else.”

 

Bellamy shrugs, “You and Lexa are always good, though,” Octavia shoots him a look and he clears his throat, “okay, almost always.” He pauses. “And do you know what three languages? I have been dying to have someone to practice with, it’s hard to keep up foreign language once you leave class.”

 

Octavia chucks the throw pillow back at his head with a groan of “nerd” while Clarke collapses face down onto the floor. “It’s like Bengali and Hindi,” she says flatly, “she’s Indian and she’s so hot,” most of her sentence is lost in the carpet, and Bellamy nudges at her with his foot.

 

“Clarke,” he says, “You know nothing can come between you and Lexa.”

 

Octavia moves to the living room from the kitchen, kneeling on the carpet beside Clarke, rubbing soothing circles into her back, “She loves you, Clarke,” she says, “You know that.”

 

Clarke feels the splinter grow and says nothing.

 

*

 

Lexa calls her at eleven that night and Clarke answers the phone with fumbling hands, half asleep and dizzy from the weight of over-thinking.

 

“Hey,” Lexa sighs as soon as she picks up, “I miss you.”

 

Clarke fits the phone against her ear and shoulder, snuggling back into the easy comfort of her bed, “I miss you, too.”

 

There is a beat of silence, not uncomfortable, simply still, Clarke basking in the reliable repetition of Lexa’s soft breathing over the receiver.

 

“Do you like Costia?” Lexa asks, and Clarke feels her heart turn in her chest because the way that Lexa asks, small and hesitant and vulnerable, is the way she has only heard Lexa talk when she is talking about her.

 

Lexa only sounds so unguarded at midnight during childhood sleepovers when Clarke is snuggled warm in the crook of her neck, or when she calls Clarke at some insignificant early afternoon hour to tell her she misses her.

 

Clarke has never heard Lexa sound this way about anyone else.

 

Clarke’s silence seems to make Lexa nervous and she starts talking, her babble a stark contrast to her usual concise delivery.  “I’m sorry I hadn’t told you about her, I was going to next time you visited, I just wanted more time to figure out what we were to each other, to figure out if she—”

 

Clarke cuts off her before she can keep spitting excuses, she tries to make her voice gentle, eyes closed to maintain that sleepy-peace she has almost settled on. “Lexa,” she sighs, “it’s okay.” Clarke swallows hard, “I really like her,” and it would almost be easier if Clarke was lying, it would be easier if she hadn’t found Costia absolutely charming and warm and kind, “I really do.” She listens to Lexa’s breathing calm. “I am really excited to get to know her better, Bellamy is already drafting a speech to convince her to teach him Hindi.”

 

Clarke pauses, waiting for Lexa’s laugh or the obligatory dig on Bellamy but neither comes. Instead Lexa sighs, long and low, before taking a shuddery breath.

 

“I love her,” Lexa says, “I love her, Clarke.”

 

For a second Clarke feels nothing, just the silence that reverberates over the phone line. Then, Clarke hears her heartbeat, steady and pounding for one beat more before it stops altogether.

 

Clarke’s stained glass heart shatters.

 

*

 

Every Friday Costia takes Lexa out for dinner.

 

She makes a reservation somewhere with tea candles on the table and heavy cloth napkins instead of paper, she pulls out Lexa’s chair and orders expensive wine.  She watches Lexa, her chin propped in her hand, with a kind of brilliant adoration.

 

Loving Costia is sunlight and beauty, it isn’t fire and it isn’t that ache in her chest, it’s warm and it’s easy and Lexa thinks this must be what she needs. 

 

Costia smiles at her over the rim of her glass and when she reaches for her hand across the table Lexa takes it, heart beating steady in her chest, and maybe it isn’t fire but it’s enough.

 

*

 

Octavia sighs as Clarke puts another box in the cart and shakes her head slowly.  “Clarke, sweetie,” she says, fitting her hand on the small of Clarke’ back while she reaches around her to snag the item out of the grocery cart, “this is like the fourth box of pop-tarts you have tried to get me to buy.”

 

Clarke slumps forward over the handle of the cart, pouting her lips exaggeratedly and hanging her head. “I like pop-tarts,” she mumbles. 

 

Octavia nods slowly, “I know you do, but let’s just stick with one box for right now, okay?”

 

Clarke sighs long and heavy until Octavia pries her hands off the handle.  “Let’s just checkout now, Clarke,” Octavia says, rolling them toward the front of the store, Octavia eyes the groceries in their cart and suppresses another eye roll, “how about we just go home with our healthy purchases of pop-tarts and popcorn and marathon some rom-coms.”

 

Clarke snorts out a laugh as she looks down in their cart, almost surprising herself.  “Bell is going to kill us,” she says, mouth curving into a smile.

 

Octavia looks down into the cart and laughs as well, wrapping her arm around Octavia’s waist, “Let me worry about my brother, he should know better then to send us grocery shopping with each other anyway.”

 

Clarke smiles, tilting her head into Octavia’s shoulder.  “We are the worst team,” she says into Octavia’s neck.

 

Octavia turns her head, pressing a kiss against the top of Clarke’s head. “Nah,” she says, “I would argue we are the best team.” She nudges Clarke away from her shoulder so she can find her eyes, “How is Lexa?”

 

Clarke’s expression falters for a second before she pastes on a convincing smile.  “She is really happy,” she says, voice low, eyes darting away from Octavia’s, “which is amazing, I am just…” she trails off, eyes fixing on one of the fluorescent lights overhead.  She heaves a deep breath and makes eye contact again, “I just want her to be happy.”

 

Octavia lets go off the cart, reaching out to cup at Clarke’s cheeks, stroking at her cheekbones with her thumbs, “You make her happy, Clarke.”

 

Clarke avoids eye contact again, her jaw clenching under Octavia’s hands, her mouth trembling, careful and broken, under Octavia’s gaze. “Not happy enough,” Clarke murmurs before pulling away. 

 

They check out in silence, and if Clarke cries at the end of the cheesy romantic movie when they get home, Octavia doesn’t say anything.

 

*

 

 Clarke watches her mom cook fondly.  Abby is juggling a dish on every eye of the stove, hair escaping from her messy bun, but she still smiles at Clarke every time she looks up from the recipe she has propped between the salt and pepper shakers.

 

Clarke had tried to help earlier, chopping vegetables and stirring pots until her mom hustled her away from the counter, pushing her into one of the stools at the kitchen island.

 

“It’s okay, Clarke,” she had said laughing, “I am used to doing this alone.”

 

Clarke knows the comment was innocent, that her mom has always been a control freak in the kitchen, but it seems to remind both of them at the same time who is missing. There is an empty stool next to Clarke, and she can imagine him sitting there, teasing her mom as her frenzy increases the closer it gets to Thanksgiving dinner.

 

Sometimes Clarke thinks she still hears him, calling her name from the garage or walking up the stairs at night to kiss her cheek before he tucks her in.

 

The house feels too empty and Clarke wonders if she will ever get used to it. Her mom shoots her another smile and Clarke’s chest aches.  Clarke can’t remember when loving started hurting so much.

 

*

 

The first thing Lexa hears when she parks in her driveway is a loud cry of her name and then the slamming of a screen door on faulty hinges. She steps out of the car, slipping her sunglasses up into her hair as she sees Nate racing across the yard to meet her. She laughs at the sight, opening her arms so she can catch him up in a hug as soon as he reaches her.

 

He clings to her desperately, hands locked around her waist, head buried in her stomach.  She shuffles forward with his arms still around her, swinging his feet off the ground with every step until he is giggling and his grip is loosening.  She ruffles his hair, taking in his gapped tooth grin and yeah, its been too long since she came home.

 

He mumbles something into her stomach and she peels him off of her once she reaches the porch, cupping his chin in her hand and tilting his head to look at her.

 

“What did you say, weirdo?” she asks, poking his cheek until his smacks at her hand, feigning at annoyance.

 

“I asked,” he says loudly, grappling with her arms now, “when Clarke is coming over.”

 

Lexa laughs loudly, startling Nate who isn’t used to much more than tempered sisterly annoyance. “Nate,” she says around her laugh, “I got here like thirty seconds ago.”

 

He looks at her seriously, hands still wrapped around one of her wrists, “Yeah, I know, so when is she coming over?”

 

Lexa shoves at his shoulder before grabbing him by his shirt collar and dragging him toward the car, “How about we go to her?”

 

*

 

When Clarke opens the door her face falters for a second before it falls into this expression of pure relief. Lexa takes a step forward at the same time she does and when they fall into each other it is the easiest thing in the world. Clarke grips her tight around her neck, urging her in as close as possible, their stomachs and chests and faces all aligned. Lexa can feel every stuttering, heaving breath that Clarke takes, her lungs and ribs flush against her own. Lexa leans their foreheads together until all she can see are Clarke’s wide, hopeful eyes.  

 

“You came,” Clarke sighs, and there is a kind of wonder in the way she says it, her nose nudging against Lexa’s, fingers stroking at the back of her neck.

 

Lexa  shrugs, grin coming easy in light of Clarke’s brilliant smile, “Was there ever any doubt?” she hushes, tightening her grip on Clarke’s waist.

 

Clarke shrugs from within her hold and Lexa doesn’t have time to puzzle at the flash of unease that falters Clarke’s smile because Nate attaches to Clarke’s leg and the smile is back, dimpled and perfect.

 

On the doorstep of the Griffin household everything falls back into place, the lit fire of loving Clarke flares in Lexa’s chest and she thinks that there is the magic of universes aligning in the way that Clarke touches her.

 

(It feels like-)

 

(Lexa wonders if you can love two people at once)

 

*

 

 

Abby Griffin cracks open the door of Clarke’s childhood bedroom at eleven that night, a whispered good night on her tongue and hand poised on the doorknob.  She stops short when she sees them, Clarke and Lexa and Nate, all in a pile on Clarke’s bed, soundly sleeping on a mess of tousled blankets and strewn pillows.

 

One of Nate’s arm and a leg are thrown haphazardly off the side of the bed, face smoothed in sleep, head tucked into the curve of Clarke’s shoulder. Lexa fits on Clarke’s other side, lips pressed against the side of Clarke’s neck, a hand just grazing the skin under the hem of Clarke’s shirt.

 

Clarke’s face is more content than Abby has seen it the whole trip, one hand buried in Lexa’s hair, the other wrapped around Nate.

 

Abby closes the door and lets them sleep, their synced breaths a quiet hush in the half-lit room.

 

(both girls dream about the other)

 

(neither remember in the morning)

 

*

 

Lexa slumps down hard at the kitchen table, head barely propped in her hand, cheek smushed against her fist.

 

“Was dragging me out of bed really necessary, Clarke?” She tries to sound entirely put out, but Clarke pushes a glass of orange juice at her across the table and swats at her bedhead of curls.

 

“Stop whining, Lex,” Clarke sticks her bottom lip out in a pout, “I just want to spend the whole day with you.”

 

Lexa rolls her eyes but takes the orange juice, sipping it slowly as she observes the girl across from her, “we were spending it together before you woke me up.”

 

Clarke huffs out a laugh, “yeah, sleeping.” She gets up and walks to Lexa’s side of the table, sitting in the chair next to her so she can push the curls out of Lexa’s face, tugging at her chin until she looks at her. “I never get to see you anymore.” Clarke arranges her face into an expression of nonchalance, “Why didn’t Costia come home with you for Thanksgiving?”

 

Lexa wrinkles her nose at Clarke, “Why are you making that face?”

 

Clarke jerks back, “What face?”

 

“I don’t know, weirdo. Whatever face you call this,” Lexa reaches out to poke at Clarke’s cheeks. She tilts her head, “you look like that time I dared you to put three lemonheads in your mouth at once.”

 

Clarke glares at her, “I was trying to ask a nice question,” she looks away, “God forbid I am interested in my friend’s romantic life,” she spits out the words bitter and fast, eyes finding a point on the wall across from them.

 

Lexa feels a catch in her chest and reaches out to smooth at the furrows in Clarke’s brow. “Clarke,” she says, calm and smooth, “I was just teasing. Look at me.”

 

Clarke keeps her eyes fixed on the wall until Lexa cups her cheek, “Clarke, c’mon.” Clarke looks at her, jaw clenched, bottom lip settled into a pout, “She had to stay in the city for work, I wasn’t avoiding the question I just—” Lexa trails off, not sure how to read the faces Clarke is making unless—

 

“Clarke do you not like Costia?”

 

Clarke immediately pulls away, shaking her head fast, “No Costia is great, Costia is—” she cuts off, finding that point on the wall again, “fantastic. She is just fantastic.”

 

“Okay,” Lexa says slowly, she tries to smile, “What is it you wanted to do today?”

 

Clarke avoids looking at her and shrugs, the dining room suddenly stifling.

 

Nate finds them there ten minutes later, silent and stilted, Lexa spinning an empty glass between her hands as Clarke stares vacantly, gritting her teeth as shards cut deeper into the empty, aching throb of her chest.

 

(she wishes she never remembered)

 

*

 

Lexa drives them to the old soccer fields and Clarke watches from the empty benches that line the field, cheering when Nate trips over the ball in his eagerness, Lexa catching him before he can hit the ground.

 

Lexa finds her eyes from across the field and smiles, not the apathetic smirk that tugs, careless, at the corners of her mouth, but a wild grin that turns her serious dark eyes bright. A smile only for Clarke.

 

It takes her back to the dozens of games she sat through on high school bleachers, shivering through fall chill or baking in spring heat, just so that grin would settle on her when Lexa found her in the crowd.

 

She thinks of Lexa after the games, slinging a sweaty arm around her waist, exulted from the play, riled and loose and all hers.

 

It doesn’t seem possible for Lexa to belong to someone else.

 

Nate calls her name, jarring her back to the field, gesturing for her to get in goal, Lexa already lining up the ball on the PK mark with a smirk in Clarke’s direction.

 

Clarke is a shit goalie. She thinks she wasn’t built for this kind of activity as she shields her face with her hands, another one of Nate’s shots finding its way to the corner of the net.

 

“This is suicide,” she shouts, grimacing at Lexa who has backed up to the edge of the 18-yard box, lining up her shot as she ignores Clarke’s protest.

 

“It’s okay, Clarke,” Nate says, hanging off one of the goalposts, “Lexa isn’t even that good.”

 

“I heard that,” Lexa shouts, a fake scowl plastered on her face, “you better watch it or this next ball is coming right for your face,” she pauses to point at Clarke who is standing, resigned, on the goal line, “this one is for her.”

 

Somehow, Clarke manages to deflect the shot over the crossbar, and she lets out a whoop of victory, palms still stinging from the impact of the ball. Nate cheers loudly, banging on the goalpost, and Lexa runs in from the eighteen, grabbing her up in a hug that swings her off her feet.

 

“I should have made you try out in high school,” she says through a laugh, “with a little practice you might have been a star on JV.”

 

Clarke goes to push Lexa away, protesting loudly, but Lexa is still humming out a laugh against her cheek and Clarke relaxes into her grip. 

 

(Lexa always catches her anyway)

 

*

 

 

Clarke lies, almost comatose, on the living room couch. She watches the TV blankly, hand held over her stomach. Clarke hears the door bang open and then closed, she doesn’t look up until she feels familiar hands lift up her legs and settle where they rested. She prods Lexa’s knees with her foot and whines.

 

“I was lying here,” she says, kicking harder, “can’t you see I’m in pain.”

 

Lexa catches Clarke’s feet with her hands and settles them across her lap, absently rubbing circles into her calves while she coolly regards Clarke’s pouting face.

 

“Did you eat too much again?” Lexa asks, her mouth settling into a smirk despite her attempts to keep it expressionless. Clarke nods with another groan.  “When will you learn to pace yourself at Thanksgiving dinner, Clarke?” Lexa says, her voice fond as she pinches Clarke’s foot between her forefinger and thumb.

 

Clarke shrugs and kicks at Lexa’s hands again. Lexa’s grip tightens and Clarke tries to scowl. “I can’t believe you tried to nail me in the face with a soccer ball today, you brat,” she sits up to pry at Lexa’s hands, “You could have hurt me.”

 

Lexa drops Clarke’s feet when she sits up, turning fully to face Clarke, pouting her lip. “I would never try to hurt you, Clarke,” she says, solemn suddenly, hands finding their way to hook in the belt loops of Clarke’s jeans.

 

Clarke stills, tilting her head as she regards Lexa, “Yeah?” she asks, “You promise?”

 

“Of course,” Lexa says, serious for a beat more before she grins, launching forward to pin Clarke’s face between her hands. “And I would never want to mar this beautiful face anyway,” she says, “It’s about all you have going for you.”

 

Clarke’s mouth drops open and she grabs at Lexa’s wrists, “Fuck you, Lexa!” she manages to spit out through a laugh, twisting underneath Lexa until her legs are wrapped around her waist, trying to roll them so she can get the upper hand.

 

“Not anymore,” Lexa says, laughing now too, shirt bunched up above her waist, hair a mess, “I’m seeing someone, if you haven’t heard.”

 

Lexa is joking, her eyes lit with her grin, hands still stroking at Clarke’s cheeks as she waits for Clarke’s return jab, but the words hit Clarke like a punch to the gut. Clarke wonders what it looks like inside of her chest, if the cage of her ribs is littered with colored fragments of broken glass, a fractured mess that will never be pieced back into the heart it was before.

 

Clarke thinks that after being this broken, one more blow shouldn’t matter.

 

But. Clarke has been wrong before.

 

“Why?” she says, the word falling quiet and heavy from her lips, the weight of the single syllable enough to falter Lexa’s grin, to make her hands drop from Clarke’s cheeks as her brow furrows in a stunned kind of confusions.

 

“What?” Lexa asks, her smile flickers back, as though she must have heard Clarke wrong, as though Clarke’s next words will make everything clear.

 

“Why are you dating Costia?” Clarke says, swallowing hard around the lump in her throat that is making it increasingly harder to breathe.

 

Lexa is sitting up now, still confused, mouth struggling to find an impassive center ground as she processes Clarke’s words.

 

“Why do you love her?” Clarke chokes out, words shaking in the now stifling room, “Why do you love her when you have me?”

 

“Clarke,” Lexa starts, pressing a hand hard to her heart before turning them, palms up, in front of her chest, “you're my best friend.”

 

She stops there, frozen, hands still stretched out in a sort of plea, lost in the suddenly unfamiliar quiver of Clarke’s voice.

 

“Yeah well,” Clarke starts, suddenly unable to stop the words that are to follow, caught up in the inevitability of her truth, “maybe that isn’t enough.”

 

There is a beat of silence.

 

Clarke looks at Lexa, and Lexa at Clarke.

 

Outside the room Abby cleans dishes in a sink of warm, sudsy water, trees lose their last leaves, and the streetlight on the corner finally flickers out.

 

Lexa starts laughing.

 

Clarke startles back, hands knotted in front of her, tongue caught between her teeth so sharply she tastes the bitter iron of blood.

 

The laughter stops and Lexa fixes Clarke with this heavy, careless look, more unsympathetic than Clarke has ever seen her, jaw locked and eyes empty. 

 

“You must be joking,” Lexa says, biting her words sharply into the room as Clarke sinks further into the couch.

 

“I just mean—” Clarke starts, unsure how to justify everything she wants to say. Things like how she aches until Lexa fixes her with a rare smile, how kissing her feels like being whole, that, of all the love stories that paint the expanse of this world, theirs is the greatest.

 

Instead she just keeps choking on every sentence that tries to escape her lips, the defiance that lights her eyes and keeps her hands strong suddenly wavering in the heavy disdain of Lexa’s blank stare.

 

“No,” Lexa says, cutting off Clarke’s fumbled attempts at speech, “I’ll tell you what you mean.” She stands up from the couch, towering over Clarke’s seated form, jaw clenched above rigid shoulders. “You have finally decided that you want to be with me,” her voice almost wavers halfway through her words, but her fists tighten and she elects to power through. “But it doesn’t work that way.”

 

Clarke moves to stand, but Lexa takes a step back, turning her head away as Clarke extends a hand.

 

“I’m not an object,” Lexa continues, “I’m not available at your every whim, I fucking tried for years—” she has to look down, briefly breaking off as her hands scrabble to find purchase in her pockets, “and only now you decide that—”

 

“I love you,” Clarke gasps out, words stuttering, unrestrained and jagged, into the tilt of the room.

 

The both freeze, the room silent for the first time since the harsh angle of Lexa’s laugh broke the faulty peace that they have been tip-toeing on for days now.

 

In the tense exhale of silence Clarke considers the glint of purple and green reflections on hardwood rinks, remembers soccer fields lit by the throb of stadium lights and the spin of bottles that end in Lexa’s mouth catching on hers.

 

She thinks that they have been tip-toeing around this for more than just days.

 

(Best friends are supposed to tell each other everything)

 

(How long have they been lying?)

 

Clarke wonders if maybe it has been forever.

 

Clarke finally stands, reaching out for her best friend.  Reaching out for that scrawny girl that couldn’t let go of the consistent security of the rail that lined the rink, she reaches for her second kiss, for her best friend that curled against her on hot summer nights, sticky from the imprint of the sun that sunk below the horizon hours ago.

 

Clarke reaches out for the woman that she is in love with.

 

Lexa shudders out a heavy breath, eyes blinking slow once, caught and mesmerized by Clarke’s hand as it almost closes around her arm.

 

Then, she turns, and leaves the room.

 

Clarke stands, alone, in the silence that was supposed to be filled by Lexa telling her—

 

(I love you too)

 


 

 

Lexa flies home early, kissing her mom on the cheek and leaving Nate on the porch clutching a tiny model of the Empire States Building she pressed into his hand before loading her bags in the cab.

 

She presses her palm flat against the backseat window of the cab in a motionless wave as she watches his figure get smaller in the distance.

 

Lexa thinks about all that she is leaving behind.

 

*

 

Lexa gets into bed with Costia later that night, forcing a smile when Costia shivers away from her, eyes still closed.

 

“Your feet are freezing,” Costia sighs out, still half asleep.

 

“I’m sorry,” Lexa whispers, her words weighed with more apology than cold feet requires. Costia smiles and burrows deeper into her pillow, reaching out a hand sleepily and stroking across the back of Lexa’s hands. 

 

“It’s okay, baby.” Costia cracks open an eye and rubs her thumb against the tense flex of Lexa’s knuckles, “how was your trip?”

 

“It was nice,” Lexa says softly, wondering if Costia can hear the lie that colors her words the way that Clarke always could.

 

Costia sighs, rolling away from her, knees bunching up to her chest. “That’s great, Lex,” she says, then “I love you,” before her eyes close again.

 

Lexa swallows hard, flinching at the sudden tightness in her throat, “I love you, too” she whispers back.

 

Lexa wonders if Costia hears the lie there too.

 

*

 

Clarke wakes up to Bellamy leaning over her on the couch, hands hovering over her, a blanket between them. She raises a hand blearily, wiping at her eyes as he fixes her with his lopsided smile that pulls hard at his cheeks.

 

“Octavia told me not to wake you up,” he says softly, settling the blanket across her as she breaks into a yawn. He pulls back but stays standing over her, quickly taking in the puffy red around her eyes, the tissues wadded on the ground below the couch. “You okay, princess?” he murmurs, reaching out a hand and taking hers, tugging gently until she manages a sleepy smile.

 

“I’ll be fine,” she says, voice cracking from sleep, heart lurching when she wakes up enough that the vision of Lexa walking away from her crackles through her brain.

 

“Well if you ever need anything,” Bellamy says, shrugging as he moves to pull away. Clarke grasps his hand more firmly, pulling him toward the couch until he leans down toward her, she cranes her neck until she can press a kiss into the dimple of his smile.  He hovers there for a second, only pulling away when she collapses back to the couch, turning back into the cushions.

 

“Goodnight, B,” she says, parting her lips in an exhausted smirk as he clears his throat.

 

“Goodnight, Clarke,” he says before striding toward his room, a hand rubbing at the back of his neck.

 

*

 

The next time that Clarke wakes it is because Octavia is perched next to her on the couch, gently shaking her, mouth set and brow furrowed.  Clarke struggles to sit up on her elbows, rolling out her shoulder and cracking her neck.

 

“What’s up, O,” she asks, already dreading the answer.

 

“Clarke,” Octavia says seriously, “we need to talk.”

 

Clarke sits up straighter, brushing her bangs out of her face as she yawns loudly. “Are you and dad getting a divorce?” she says, trying for a laugh that is cut short when she sees that muscle in Octavia’s jaw jump. “Okay, okay, I’m sorry.  Why are you all—” Clarke untangles her hand from her hair to gesture at Octavia’s rigid form, “—this?”

 

“It’s about Lexa,” Octavia says shortly, her right hand gripping at the fabric of the couch.

 

Clarke feels a surge of panic and bolts upright, “Is she okay? Is she hurt?” Clarke feels the swell of guilt rising in her throat, her pulse jumping from the confines of her skin. 

 

Octavia immediately reaches out for her, grasping Clarke’s face between her palms, her thumb stroking at the line of Clarke’s cheek. “Jesus Clarke, calm down,” Octavia maintains the soothing strokes until Clarke’s eyes meet her own, “Lexa is fine. We need to talk about the fact that you aren’t.”

 

Clarke immediately pulls away from Octavia’s touch, her pulse spiking again as she sputters defensively. “Octavia, I’m fine. It was just, okay honestly, I mean I—”

 

Octavia rolls her eyes and smacks a hand over Clarke’s mouth. “I’m going to stop you before you have a fucking aneurism.” She keeps her hand there until she is sure Clarke is done trying to sputter out an excuse. As Octavia removes it her face turns serious again, she wets her lips nervously before shaking her head distractedly. 

 

She takes a second to examine the room around them, searching for the right words, obviously hoping to find them etched into the plaster of the living room walls.

 

“Fuck it,” she sighs finally before fixing Clarke with a heavy look.  “Lexa is in love with you,” she says, watching as Clarke’s face flickers through a barrage of emotions before finally settling on hopeless, the corners of her cupid’s bow lips turned down, her eyelashes settling against her cheeks as she closes her eyes and shakes her head.

 

“She’s not,” Clarke says quietly, “I told her I loved her and she walked away.”

 

Octavia laughs, harsh and loud, and Clarke startles back from the noise.  Octavia stands suddenly, towering over Clarke the same way Lexa did so many days before.  Clarke turns her face away, hating the way the shards lodged in her chest dig deeper into her flesh at the memory.

 

It’s hard to remember they ever made something so beautiful.

 

“Yeah, I’m sorry,” Octavia says in a voice that make sit clear she is anything but, “but that is some grade A bullshit.”

 

Clarke tries to talk but Octavia cuts her off. “That weird-ass friend of yours has been in love with you since she was making Monty wet his fucking pants on the playground.” Octavia throws her hands up, “It has been pretty excruciating to watch actually, you are so oblivious I sometimes wondered if I needed to get your stupid pretty head checked.”

 

Clarke sputters for a second before settling on asking “why didn’t you tell me?”

 

“That wasn’t my place,” Octavia says exasperatedly, “but now you have finally caught on and you're just giving up?”

 

“I’m not giving up,” Clarke says, voice raising as she manages to latch on to the last scraps of defiance she has left, “she doesn’t want me.”

 

“That girl looks at you like you are the last drink of water in the fucking desert, don’t tell me she doesn’t want you,” Octavia spits back. She takes in Clarke’s knotted brows and clenched fists and tries to soften, eyes roving the room again, searching. “You two have always been all pull and pull,” Octavia sighs, “there is no push. Yet, somehow, you never seem to meet.” Her voice hardens but her eyes are soft as she kneels down, moving a hand to cover Clarke’s fist.  “Stop doing this to yourself,” she squeezes, “and stop doing this to my brother.”

 

Clarke swallows hard, trying to process everything Octavia is saying, choking down the hope that works to claw its way back to the empty cavern of her chest. “Bellamy?” she asks, “what does Bellamy have to do with this?”

 

“You're going to break his heart eventually if you keep kidding yourself,” Octavia says, standing again, “so stop breaking yours and go get the weirdo.” Octavia moves to leave the room, stopping in the doorway to throw her final words over her shoulder, “tell her hi for me.”

 

Clarke falls back into the couch for the second time that night, exhausted and shaken, ignoring the way the hope settles light in her chest. For the first time in a long time she doesn’t feel the shards digging their way deeper.

 

She remembers how it feels to love like it’s sacred.  

 

*

 

Lexa settles her hood more securely over her head, blinking the rain out of her eyes as she shivers in the downpour. Of course today is the day she decides to walk home from work rather than take the subway and of course today is the day the skies decided to flood, though all weather forecasts predicted clear skies and a brilliant sun until dusk.

 

Lexa buries her hands deeper into her pockets, loathing the humid press of the air. Her shoulders slump, weighed down by the suffocation of the drenching rain.  It is hard to breathe, her eyes shielded by the hood and her mouth set in a determined grimace against the slant of the water that seems to angle against her face every time she changes direction.

 

There is something hopeless about this inescapable deluge, something hopeless about the way the droplets of water cling to her, chilling her even through the thick fabric of her coat. Lexa thinks anywhere but here sounds pretty good right now.

 

And then, Lexa hears her. Hears someone call her name, a little bit quiet and a little bit nervous but, never the less, so heartbreakingly familiar. Lexa startles at the sound and turns to find the source.  Though she consciously knows who it will be, her heart still leaps when she finds her, leaning against the lamp post outside of Lexa’s building.

 

It’s Clarke, her hood pushed back, golden hair dripping with rainwater as she stands drenched and beautiful, looking determined through her bashful smile. Lexa sees her and it’s like the sun finally comes out. Her hopeless ache dissolves in sunlight and she swears the skies part in honor of the way Clarke looks at her, careful and sweet and.  Loving.

 

Her steps slow but she eventually ends up in front of Clarke anyway, lost in the way water droplets carve down Clarke’s cheeks, eyes framed by the beads of rain that cling to her lashes.

 

Lexa tries to remember to be mad, to remember how used she had felt, how insignificant and manipulated. But then Clarke is reaching out, pushing back Lexa’s hood until she is exposed to the downpour too, tilting up her chin until rainwater streams down her face in rivulets. Lexa’s chest unhinges and she can’t imagine how this was ever suffocating, with Clarke looking at her like this, there is little else more freeing. Clarke steps closer, hand still cupping Lexa’s chin, mouth angled towards Lexa’s rain streaked face.

 

Lexa thinks Clarke is going to kiss her. 

 

Instead, Clarke parts her lips and breathes out an apology, quiet and vulnerable, swallowing hard when Lexa doesn’t respond.

 

“I love you, Lexa,” Clarke says, Lexa tries not to whimper as she watches Clarke’s tongue trace its way over the words, spoken with something akin to reverence. 

 

Lexa tries to respond, but just exhales a shaky breathe instead, a fist clenching hard around her heart.  She closes her eyes and tries only to focus on the cool rain as it soaks through her skin, tries to ignore the press of Clarke’s hand against her chin and, as fingers dig into the soft sinews of her wildly beating heart, the throbbing of Costia who Lexa knows is seated at her desk somewhere a few miles away, unaware that Lexa’s heart is, in fact, aching for another. 

 

Lexa opens her eyes, catching on the clear blue shock of Clarke’s gaze.  It is impossible for Lexa to not love Clarke she realizes, as impossible as it would be to stop this rain, as impossible as it would be to try to control any force of nature. 

 

Lexa tries to respond, to confess her truth that aches to rend itself from her lips.  Instead she just gasps out something close to a sob before pressing into Clarke, hovering her mouth just millimeters away from Clarke’s lips.

 

It’s Clarke who closes the distance, surging forward until her mouth catches Lexa’s in a broken kind of kiss, her chin fitting neatly with Lexa’s as her hands move to splay against Lexa’s cheeks. Lexa gasps again from the back of her throat as her chest unknots, the grip on her heart loosening as Clarke’s tongue strokes against her own.

 

Just as it was Clarke who moved in, it is Clarke who pulls away too, her lips still parted as she blinks quickly at Lexa’s heavy stare.  Her hands stroke lightly at Lexa’s cheekbones, swallowing hard before she says, “That felt—”

 

Clarke pauses to exhale shakily and Lexa speaks for the first time in the entire exchange, finishing Clarke’s half-whispered confession.  “Inevitable,” Lexa says, “that felt inevitable.”

 

*

 

 

Lexa know what she wants.

 

She wants to grab Clarke by her pretty, quick hands and drag her up four flights of stairs.  She wants to kiss Clarke halfway between the fourth floor stairs and the fifth floor landing, caught between worlds, entirely consumed by Clarke’s hands in her hair.

 

Lexa wants Clarke, dripping rainwater, pink-cheeked from the chill of the rain and the bite of Lexa’s teeth, on her living room rug, watching Lexa with wide eyes and the stutter of anticipation that catches in her chest.

 

Lexa wants to peel back the layers of Clarke’s clothes that cling stubbornly to her soaked skin, worshiping every inch of her as she is exposed.  She wants to handle her the way you would something sacred, careful and reverent, as fragile as beams of sunlight cutting through the hallowed fragments of stained glass.

 

Lexa wants to love her.

 

But instead Lexa presses a hard kiss to the arch of Clarke’s brow, the muscles in her jaw tightening as she pulls away.

 

“I need more time, Clarke,” she whispers, keeping her eyes fixed on the water that drips from Clarke’s hairline and down her chin.  She can make out the sound of Clarke’s breath catching and waits to for Clarke to find her voice and yell, scream, to kiss Lexa with a biting mouth and biting words and devour her from the inside out.

 

Instead Clarke’s wipes water that has gathered under Lexa’s eyes and nods. Exhaling quietly before nudging Lexa’s nose with her own, “You gave me our whole lives to figure it out,” Clarke murmurs into the space between them, “I think I can spare you some time.”

 

Lexa spits out something close to a laugh and Clarke smiles, “See you around?” she says, making Lexa laugh harder, jerking away from Clarke’s grip so she can glance down the nearly empty New York street.

 

“Clarke, how the fuck did you even get here?” she asks, still laughing, reaching out to grasp at Clarke’s forearms, steadying herself. 

 

Clarke shrugs and leans into her, smiling against Lexa’s temple, “I have my ways.”

 

They stay like that, clasping at each other in the middle of the sidewalk, until the rain slows.

 

And then a little bit longer, just because.

 

*

 

Costia leaves on a Sunday.

 

Costia stacks her duffel bags by the doorway, a cardboard box beside it.  She stands in the doorframe as Lexa avoids looking at her, studying instead the flaps of the box that aren’t quite closed. In it she sees the blue fuzzy blanket that had taken residence on her couch for months now and a teddy bear she won for Costia from a claw machine at the fair on their anniversary in October.

 

She wonders, idly, if October is the month of their anniversary anymore.  Do they even have an anniversary now that they are—

 

—now that Costia stands awkwardly in the doorway, her belongings stacked around her, her hands clenched tightly at her side, Lexa studying the perforated cardboard of the box, swallowing hard around the lump that seems to be a permanent fixture in her throat.

 

She looks up when she hears a muffled sob, finding Costia half-bent over, one hand clenching at her stomach while her other covers her mouth. 

 

“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Costia chokes out, “I promised myself I wouldn’t, I promised I—”

 

Lexa steps forward, choking out a sob herself, falling into the security of Costia’s arms, burying her head into her shoulder until she can barely breathe.

 

Costia leaves on a Sunday and a part of Lexa leaves with her.

 

(Lexa wonders if you can love two people at once)

 

(she thinks you shouldn’t be able to)

 

(she thinks that maybe she did)

 

*

 

Clarke wakes up to her phone buzzing urgently on her nightstand.  She rolls over groggily, snapping awake when she recognizes Lexa’s face lighting up her phone screen.

 

The picture is one she took last Christmas, Lexa glaring angrily at the camera with a Santa hat set askew on her head.  At the edge of the frame you can see Clarke’s hand, just a moving blur, from where she forced the hat onto Lexa’s head at the last second. She remembers pulling Lexa back on top of her after she snapped the picture, watching as her determined glare eased into a careful smile.

 

Clarke answers the phone.  There is a beat of silence after she slurs out a “hello?” before she hears Lexa’s voice come across the line quietly.

 

“She’s gone,” she says, just a murmur, like it would hurt to say it any louder, like that would solidify it even more.

 

Clarke feels a pang of hollow ache, and sits up in bed, cradling the phone to her ear carefully “I’m so sorry, Lex, I’m so so sorry.”

 

The line throbs with silence and Clarke can imagine Lexa on the other end, empty eyed and crackling with still energy.

 

“It was what needed to happen,” Lexa finally says, “I wasn’t in—” she pauses, “I wasn’t able to be what she needed.”

 

Clarke thinks that maybe it was the other way around but says nothing, just breathing quietly, slowing the tempo of her breathe until she hears Lexa subconsciously begin to mimic it.

 

“What can I do?” Clarke asks carefully, “tell me what you need.”

 

“Just stay with me,” Lexa says, “Just stay for a while.”

 

Clarke lies back, the phone still held to her ear, “Of course, as long as you need.”

 

Clarke stay until she is sure Lexa has fallen back to sleep and even then she doesn’t hang up, just closes her eyes and waits for Lexa to need her again.

 

*

 

Lexa boosts Nate up higher to reach the top shelf, pretending to struggle under his weight until he laughs. 

 

“Did you get them?” she groans, feigning exhaustion, “if you take any longer I’m going to drop you.”

 

Nate laughs and kicks his feet until she lets him down, raising his arms in victory once his feet touch the ground.  Lexa snag the cereal box from his outstretched arms and raises an eyebrow, “Cinnamon Toast Crunch?” she asks skeptically, “over Cookie Crisps?”

 

Nate nods so enthusiastically she worries he is going to break his scrawny neck, “Yeah,” he says, “that’s the good stuff.”

 

She laughs, “Okay whatever you say, weirdo.” She slaps a hand to her forehead, “Shit, we forgot the milk.” Lexa prods Nate’s shoulder, “Can you go get it?”

 

Nate grins at the prospect of this new found freedom and runs down the aisle.  Lexa watches as he rounds the corner, holding back a laugh as he almost trips. 

 

“Aren’t you supposed to watch your language around munchkins like that, pretty girl?” Lexa hears a voice say from behind her.

 

She freezes in the middle of the cereal aisle, shoulders going rigid before she turns around. “Anya?”

 

The woman leans, perfectly poised and lithe, against the bar of her shopping cart, mouth quirked into half a smile as her eyes study Lexa with that familiar intensity.

 

“It’s been a while, hasn’t it?” Anya says, straightening as she stands, moving around her cart until she is facing Lexa, uncomfortably close, feigning casual as her mouth bites into a grin. 

 

“Yeah,” Lexa says, glad that her inability to articulate will be mistaken for her usual stoicism.

 

“What are you doing back?” Anya asks.

 

“Just home for Christmas,” Lexa says shortly, wondering if Anya is even listening to her, noticing her eyes are mostly just trained on Lexa’s lips as they move.

 

“So,” Anya starts, propping herself up by one shoulder as she leans against the shelf next to Lexa, making something as mundane as an array of off-brand cereal look elegant, “have you told her yet?”

 

Lexa takes a step back, screwing up her face in confusion.  “What?” she asks, hating the spark of nerves she feels as Anya’s grin grows, her canines showing through her smile

 

“Don’t play dumb,” Anya says, leaning slightly forward.

 

It clicks into place as Lexa studies the arch of Anya’s eyebrows and Lexa can’t avoid looking flustered. “Clarke?” she says, watching as Anya shrugs in response. Lexa stumbles through multiple answers in her mind, unsure how to explain the middle ground that she and Clarke have settled on right now, unsure why she would even try to explain this to Anya in the first place.

 

“No,” Lexa says finally, “not in so many words.”

 

Anya laughs, pushing off the shelf to inch even closer to Lexa, reaching out a finger and trailing it down the bridge of Lexa’s nose.

 

“You might want to get around to it soon,” Anya hushes before closing the distance between them and fitting a kiss against the round of Lexa’s cheek. She turns then, snagging her shopping cart as she makes her way away from Lexa.  She turns, throwing a few more words over her shoulder, “don’t mistake this for me giving a shit.”

 

Lexa almost laughs, “of course not.”

 

Anya doesn’t turn around this time as she says, “See you around, pretty girl.”

 

Lexa watches her go and hides her smile when Nate finds his way back to her clutching a gallon jug of milk with both hands. 

 

*

 

Nate finds Lexa leaning heavy against the kitchen counter, unpacked plastic bags of groceries still piled around her. 

 

“Lexa?” he says, moving closer to her until she turns to face him, “What are you doing?”

 

She doesn’t respond, just looks at him, her eyes a wild color of grey, her mouth pulling closer to a smile the longer she holds his gaze.  He waits for an explanation, for something to explain the clench of her hands on the counter or the energy that is crackling through her tempered façade.

 

“I have to do something, Nate,” she says, breathing it out in a single breathe, like it has been caught in her chest for an eternity, like only now is she allowing herself the freedom to breath.

 

“What?” Nate asks, trying to figure out what could be more important then unloading the groceries when their mom is going to be home in twenty minutes, “I took out the trash this morning…”

 

Lexa’s caught up, nearly crazed expression shifts completely into the smile that had been hiding at the corner of her mouth.  “It’s a little more important than taking out the trash, Nate.”

 

Before he can say anything else she is making for the front door, barely pausing to ruffle his hair on the way out. “Take care of the groceries won’t you, Nate?”

 

There is no time to protest, just the sound of the screen door as it slams behind her.

 

*

 

Clarke finds Lexa on her doorstep when she gets home from dropping Octavia and Bellamy off at the Blakes’.  She is startled to find Lexa seated on her stoop, but not surprised, few things feel more familiar then returning home to find Lexa with her chin in her hands, awaiting Clarke’s return.

 

“Hey stranger,” Clarke says, hoping an easy smile will hide the surge in her chest, the electric jolt that shocks her every time Lexa fixes her with that perfect pout, “I was hoping to see you.”

Lexa says nothing, just stands and hops off the top step, shuffling forward until they are eye to eye. She reaches out a hand and twists a strand of Clarke’s hair around her finger that has come loose from her braid, tilting her chin slightly down so that all Clarke can hear beside the heavy throb of her heart is the light sound of Lexa’s breath.

 

“Run away with me,” Lexa says, simple and succinct, her words falling lightly into the space between them.  For a moment there is only the heavy hush of quiet, the soft sweep of silence that occurs when you step from a crowded house into an empty room, a peaceful lull that is broken by Clarke’s easy answer.

 

“Okay,” she whispers. 

 

“Okay,” Lexa says.

 

Clarke thinks that some of the world’s most beautiful stained glass is made from broken shards, arrays of jagged light that piece together into something whole.

 

As she and Lexa stand on her porch steps, she feels herself becoming complete again, her shattered heart mending itself. It is not the way it was before, it’s more precious now, the odyssey of their story told in the way the pieces fit back together.  

 

Lexa leans their foreheads together and Clarke swears she can see a mirage of delicate light in the way that Lexa looks at her.

 

*

 

They fall asleep that night in Clarke’s tiny twin bed, marveling at the way they both still fit.

 

“We never grew out of it,” Lexa says, almost wondering, as she pulls Clarke’s leg over her hip, one hand finding the back of Clarke’s neck. 

 

“Yeah well,” Clarke says as she shifts even closer, her hand slipping under the back of Lexa’s shirt and settling above her waist, “I can never seem to get rid of you.”

 

“Get used to it,” Lexa says, her words serious through her joking tone, her teeth biting into her bottom lip as her gaze finds the curve of Clarke’s smiling mouth. 

 

“I guess I can keep you around for a little while longer,” Clarke says, “just to make sure you stay out of trouble.” Clarke waits for Lexa’s monotone reply, something Clarke will laugh at before pulling her closer.  Instead Lexa just sighs, long and light, before shaking her head in a kind of defeat.

 

“I’m in love with you,” Lexa says, strong and certain and young. 

 

Any semblance of words seem to escape Clarke so she kisses Lexa instead, long and soft, far away from prying eyes and empty excuses and the dark of basement closets.

 

(Clarke knows she will never forget again)

 

*

 

Clarke wakes in the middle of the night, blinking heavy, soft moonlight illuminating Lexa’s strong profile.  Clarke traces a finger down the high arch of Lexa’s forehead and the perfect angle of her nose, gently outlining the shape of Lexa’s lips. 

 

Lexa stirs and pulls Clarke in closer, turning to bury her face in Clarke’ neck, nuzzling in closer while murmuring a sleep slurred greeting against Clarke's skin. 

 

“You're still here,” Clarke says, her voice tipping with a precarious kind of wonder. 

 

“Yeah, Clarke,” Lexa says, “always.”

 

(they dream only of each other)

 

*

 

They wake in the morning curled together in the same bed, and Clarke kisses Lexa silly  while whispering a thousand little love confessions against the warmth of her skin because Best Friends tell each other everything.

 

Lexa untangles herself from the sheets and makes pancakes in the yellow light of Clarke’s kitchen while Clarke sits perched on the counter and watches.  There is a promise of forever in the way that Clarke looks at her and there is a kind of infinity in the flour dusted across Lexa’s cheek.

 

But maybe eternities don’t matter when the right now involves Lexa kissing Clarke with a syrup-sweet mouth while Clarke traces the miniscule scar under the curve of Lexa’s chin.