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Headache or cephalalgia refers to pain in the head or neck region. They can be broadly classified as primary or secondary headaches. Some primary headaches can be significantly painful but not life-threatening. Secondary…

 

Clarke shuts her book viciously, her annoyance shoots up at the joke the unknowable universe is telling her. She’s revising for her physiology final and one of the points Professor Kane gave them included this bit that grates her to no end.

 

Imagine trying to study for your exams, only there’s a party that’s been going on all night and you’re suffering from a really bad headache the whole day. Only, in Clarke’s case, the party in her head has been going on all her life and her head feels like it’s constantly being stomped on by an endless stampede of horses.

 

Just once, she wishes she could not hear everyone thinking about how awful their coffee is or how they missed their chance to ask that question in class or why no one ever remembers to close the fridge on the third floor pantry or how cute their cat looks in hipster clothes. 

 

There was a time in their second year, when Octavia and Raven thought it was a great idea to make money off Clarke reading the minds of people’s pets. She mostly had to interpret things because animals do not think in words, mostly shapes and scenes and their owners’ floating head. 

 

Cats don’t like it when you bother them. They want to bother you. Dogs are much more receptive to the clothing thing. They mostly think about their human and food.

 

They were caught, they knew they would be because Octavia told them, and they had to return all the money they made. Octavia did not foresee that part. ‘I guess I missed that bit,’ she said with a shrug.

 

Clarke grimaces again, No, Nathan, Monty will not think you hate him because you didn’t laugh at his joke. It was a terrible joke. Her next door neighbour worrying about Monty is always adorable but not while she’s preparing for an exam. Her only consolation is that he’s stopped having dreams about them getting it on. It’s weird because Monty is her friend and so is Nathan, sort of. Clarke borrows sugar from him a lot.   

 

She doesn’t know whether it’s lucky or not that her mind works one way. Not very many people can hear her thoughts, unless they are a very adept telepath. Raven said it’s like having a radio with all the stations being broadcasted at once and there’s no way to turn it off.

 

Sometimes sleep helps. But not really. Especially if other people’s dreams make their way into her own. Medication did the trick but it turned her mind into mush. All she heard was white noise and that was somehow worse than the thoughts and voices and screams and cries and shouts.

 

At least they made (some) sense.

 

Clarke has to get out of the dorm pronto. Yesterday, she almost persuaded Octavia to drop hints about the results of her physiology final but Raven touched Clarke’s notes and figured out her plan. Which is why she’s studying alone and the two of them are eating ice cream and watching Friends together on the floor of Octavia’s dorm room.

 

The radio analogy Raven made had helped her realise she can focus on certain people’s frequencies and listen tothem better. Something Clarke rarely did to people other than her friends.

 

Well, sometimes it’s useful when you know how the cute girl in your class likes her coffee or what flavour of Gatorade the really hot track star likes.

 

Getting the date is no problem for Clarke, it’s the getting through the date part that’s really difficult. Around the hour mark, she would have already figured out everything about the person, all that’s made them interesting in the first place and gone over their thoughts (twice). Then, she’d be bored and would have to go back to her dorm room alone because she hastily commented on something she picked up while reading their mind.

 

That’s the reason why she decided to focus on her studies and ace all her exams so her mother would stop thinking and worrying so loudly around Clarke.

 

Clarke puts on her ‘No, I’m not an ESPer’ sweatshirt and carries her notes to the library.

 

She senses that it’s a terrible move, because in the same vein that her dorm is filled with people all caught up thinking about their lives and problems and expired canned foods, the library is packed with people trying to cram last minute, all wondering about the meaning of life and questioning why they chose that field of study in the first place.

 

Raven messages her about the ice cream as she walks around the study rooms, looking for one that’s not occupied. It’s not as if the sound proof walls would quiet the noise but it’s the thought that counts.   

 

She snorts out loud at her own joke. Clarke can’t wait to tell Raven and Octavia about it.

 

She keeps walking as she types out the joke and after a few minutes, as she’s trying to figure which emoji to send Raven, she notices it’s quiet.

 

It’s really, really quiet.

 

No words, voices, no strangers’ thoughts floating in her brain.

 

Clarke’s head is nearly pain-free, except for her left ear, which is stinging at the lack of stimuli. She has not felt this lightheaded (pun intended) since she was six and her ESP has not fully developed.

 

There’s no one in the corridor, the desks by the wall are empty and the study room she’s standing in front of is also empty.

 

The one next to it is not.

 

Through the clear glass, she could see a brunette reading a book, her hair tied in a bun and her head moving along with the music from her wireless headphones.

 

Clarke couldn’t hear her thoughts too.

 

The only thoughts inside her head are her own.

 

The floor suddenly feels wobbly under her feet, the constant tension caused by the noise slowly dissipates and her vision blurs a little.

 

The girl is still there. Reading her book and listening to her music.

 

Clarke is also there. It is not a dream and she could finally study in peace and quiet.

 

Only she chooses to enter the occupied study room and sit beside the girl who silenced her mind.

 

***

Clarke can clearly hear her humming. It’s a song she can’t recognise because music usually just aggravates the headaches.

 

The girl is extremely focused on her book but Clarke notices her foot lightly tapping to the song’s beat.  Clarke is not good at multitasking because anything that requires any amount of concentration leads to even worse pounding in her head, let alone multiple ones.

 

‘Hi.’ Clarke hears her own voice clearly for the first time in years. She sounds hoarse, like she’s been screaming or crying. She coughs to get the girl’s attention. ‘Hi,’ she mutters again.

 

The girl looks up at her with the palest eyes she has ever seen. (Are they green or grey?) She lowers down the headphones and regards Clarke with her exceptional eyes. She speaks in a soft, level tone.

 

‘Cute.’

 

Clarke is not expecting that. She’s not sure what she was expecting, maybe a hello or who the frak are you or a scream but not that.

 

‘Sorry?’ She talks a little louder and the girl turns directly at Clarke, smiling at her.

 

‘Your jacket. It is adorable.’ She elaborates for Clarke’s benefit. She moves her hands to explain in an elegant way, as if she is talking about a fantastic meal or controversial art. ‘Very witty.’

 

Clarke keeps the confused look on her face and the girl quickly picks up on it.

 

‘Well, you are clearly an ESPer.’ The girl states it as if it is the most obvious thing in the world. Her eyes shine at Clarke while she remains stunned at the situation.

 

She manages to get some words out. ‘How did you…’

 

‘You’re very loud.’ Her eyes narrow at Clarke, gesturing both hands near her ears. ‘I can hear you.’

 

‘I can’t hear you.’ Clarke is still dumbfounded at the thought. For as long as she can remember, she has been able to read/hear/see the thoughts of people around her. She couldn’t even ride the bus without knowing what the person sitting behind her did while she was supposed to be at work, or how the kid stole his sister’s chocolate or that the bus captain’s son was in detention because he drew graffiti on the school gate.

 

Clarke has encountered different kinds of thoughts, good, bad, evil and terrible. Some even made her feel so sick she wanted to puke. She does not know if her being unable to hear the girl’s thoughts is a good thing.

 

‘I know.’ She smiles wider at Clarke, running her hand across her forehead to hide her eyes. ‘Again, it was cute. You were panicking a little bit but then you were flushed with relief. You cannot keep the voices down?’

 

Clarke shakes her head, this time not because she wanted to hurl the noise out but because she cannot believe she’s having the conversation, it’s like being on an important call and your service provider is not screwing around.    

 

The girl giggles louder while still covering her eyes. Clarke wonders if she heard that part. The girl nods slowly at her. Damn.

 

‘No, I’ve never been able to keep the noise down.’

 

She tilts her head to the side with an amused look on her face. ‘Your teachers never taught you how?’

 

Clarke remembers how Professor Jackson showed her concentration drills and mental exercises and how futile they were.  Nothing could keep out the noise.

 

Until now.

 

‘They tried to. Didn’t succeed though.’ Clarke shrugs because she has had 16 years to quiet the noise but everyone who has tried to help her failed. Not even the most gifted telepath of the generation could help her.

 

‘So try and try again. Maybe with someone who is more than just a telepath this time?’

 

Clarke sees the humour in the statement and she’s intrigued with the suggestion. ‘Are you a transfer student? I haven’t seen you before.’

 

Clarke knows everyone in the campus. Well, sort of. Her range just extends a bit outside the dormitory building, maybe a kilometre radius. She can recognise people’s faces based on thoughts she has picked up and sometimes, if memory serves her well, she can even remember details.

 

But she has never come across anyone like the brunette in front of her.

 

‘Thank you.’ The smirk that is on the girl’s lips is felt to her bones. ‘And no, I am not a student, not anymore. I’m just visiting.’ 

 

‘How long will you be staying?’ It is the first time since she was young that she has experienced the quiet, she’s fascinated and absolutely looking forward to knowing her more.

 

‘A few weeks, maybe a couple of months.’

 

‘What for?’

 

The answer is curt and clipped, as if she does not want to talk about it. ‘Some diagnostics and tests, if the doctors think they are necessary.’

 

Is she sick? She doesn’t look like…

 

She smiles at Clarke, who then determines the girl can definitely hear her thoughts. ‘Don’t worry, Clarke, I’ll be fine.’

 

‘I never said my name. ‘

 

‘It’s written on your book.’ She points out ‘Clarke Griffin’ clearly written in front of her notebook. Clarke suddenly can’t remember when she wrote it there. Her attention span, concentration and memory have certainly taken a hit after one encounter with the girl.

 

‘If I could read your mind, I would have a good reply prepared.’  She wonders whether all her game is due to her telepathy. What if she’s just a typical, charmless jerk and mind reading is all she’s good for?

 

‘But you cannot. So think harder. Think of a great one.’  The challenge from the girl’s voice is not lost on Clarke. She continues, ‘Self-doubt is good. Victory over it is even better.’

 

‘Miss Woods.’ A gruff voice interrupts them. The man stands just outside the door, tall and menacing, his long hair pulled into an unkempt tie. He nods once at Clarke and focuses on Miss Woods, who regards him warmly.

 

‘Ah, my escort is here.’ She takes her book, walks toward the door and passes it to the man, gracelessly tucking it under his arm.

 

Clarke couldn’t let her go without another word. She has so many questions to ask.  ‘Will you… will you be here tomorrow?’

 

‘Yes, Clarke. I enjoy this particular section of the library. They have an excellent selection of Poe’s work.’

 

Clarke wants to know where she’s from, why she’s really visiting the Academy, what her abilities are, whether she can teach Clarke how to shut the noise out, what other books she wants to read and if she likes tea or coffee.

 

‘But should you be here tomorrow? People usually didn’t spend the end of their exams in the library.’

 

Raven and Octavia has been planning a party for their whole dorm, it’ll be noisy and crowded and all psychics gone wild but Clarke would rather hear the quiet. If Clarke chooses something over getting wasted and partying all night with her friends, it’s probably worth it. She has to pass her physiology exam first though.

 

 ‘Good luck for your physiology paper by the way.’ The girl and her escort start walking along the corridor and Clarke followed them, stopping by to lean at the study room’s door frame.

 

‘I’ll be here, Miss Woods.’

 

‘Lexa is fine. If that is the case, then I will be looking forward to seeing you here tomorrow. ‘Lexa smiles and her eyes look more green than grey to Clarke and she wants to see what colour they are tomorrow. ‘I’ll bring my eyes. Do wear another funny shirt. Take care, Clarke. ‘

 

‘Bye Lexa.’ Clarke utters her name softly, like she would a wish at 11:11 or at shooting stars or at Octavia’s forehead.

 

Lexa disappears with the tall man and the noise slowly comes back, louder and the pain biting her head even more fiercely than before.

 

Clarke thinks of green, grey eyes and the quiet and how to wants to hear it again then the noise and the pain do not seem too bad.

 

***

 

When teachers sometimes complain that it’s really tiresome to set up exams and tests, add that tedium to being one in a school full of ESPers and psychics and they wouldn’t even last one term.

 

The selection of exam questions is terribly complicated and requires more than three months to complete, because they have to keep changing questions or leave some incomplete so that seers and diviners cannot have a clear advantage. Of course, those who can see or predict the future have their grades capped at B+.

 

All the students in the Academy has proven and tested psychic abilities, telepathy, telekinesis, teleportation, psychometry, and clairvoyance among the more common ESP in the school. There are varying levels; some children are more powerful than others, some more adept at controlling their abilities.

 

They’re being taught how to control their sixth sense and how to use it for practical, real world situations.  Maths and sciences and humanities are included in the curriculum to give the children a sense of normalcy, even though the most normal thing in their school is that the food in the mess hall is not good.

 

The students are not drilled in the black and white, good and evil, dynamics because most of their teachers know things are always grey and it just depends on how people view things.

 

At the end of the day, the main and only purpose of the school is to help the students understand their abilities and how to control it well enough to work for their advantage. They can use it in any way they want. They make the rules.

 

ESPer Police do not exist.

 

Thus, the excessive celebrations after examinations.

 

Levitating beer kegs and tons of nachos and dip disappearing from the cafeteria are common occurrences. 

 

Sometimes the whole dorm’s residents can be stupid enough to get sucked into another dimension so they had to be searched for and rescued after a week. Octavia’s brother, Bellamy, was stuck remote viewing the beaches in Maldives he had to be put in an induced coma to get him back.

 

Monty has already been seen teleporting around the school grounds playing flag football with the Jaspers. The real Jasper, however, can’t be bothered and is catching up on sleep in his dorm room.

 

Octavia tells her that she will get a B+ for Physiology and that is more than Clarke could ask for because she really doesn’t think she retained anything she has studied for Kane’s class.

 

Raven, of course, gets confirmation she will keep her straight As and has been extra smug since Octavia dropped the not at all surprising, totally expected news.

 

The party in the dorm is slowly starting, it’s four in the afternoon, and Clarke’s feet are itching to go hear the quiet again. Her head is throbbing again and she wants to stare (and get lost) in Lexa’s green grey eyes.

 

Clarke is wearing Raven’s ‘Hold me to know me’ shirt because she doesn’t have any more printed tees. She knows it’s not funny but Lexa would appreciate the thought. She hopes.

 

She almost successfully sneaks out but she sees Raven and Octavia giving her judging looks from the common room couch.

 

‘I can’t believe you’re ditching us for a date, Clarke.’ Raven waves her beer cup and feigns a hurt expression.

 

‘I’m not…’

 

‘Don’t even try to lie.’ Octavia shakes her head and leans into Raven, the two of them sporting identical pouts. ‘Who the hell goes to the library after finals? Good choice of tee, by the way. You need to have that printed on your jeans’ back pockets too.’ She wiggles her eyebrows suggestively and Raven bursts out laughing.    

 

‘O, can’t you just tell Clarke how her date will go? Then she can drink and have fun with us.’

 

Octavia stares at her for a while, concentrating hard as she tries to divine the outcome of Clarke’s date. Clarke hopes it will be good but rarely did her dates go well according to Octavia’s predictions. Not that this is a date. No, it’s not. She’s suddenly nervous, her hands clammy and sheen of swear forms on her forehead. Clarke Griffin, nervous?

 

‘Can’t do it.’ Octavia ogles at her and shares a puzzled look with Raven. ‘I just know she goes to the library.  After that, nada.

 

‘Seriously? ’ Raven drops her cup (now, empty) swiftly comes closer to Clarke and nearly slams into her. ‘Who are you meeting?’

 

Clarke crosses her arms and smirks at Raven, ‘It’s none of your business, Reyes. Also, it’s a study date. Not a date-date.’

 

Octavia giggles in the background, ‘Did she just say date-date? Clarke, are you in grade school?’

 

She just shakes her head and turn to leave her friends, slipping her now cold hands into her jeans pocket to warm it up.

 

‘You better tell us everything tomorrow!’ Raven yells at her.

 

‘There’ll be nothing to tell.’

 

Before she closes the door, she hears Raven shout, ‘Fine be like that. I’ll just touch that shirt and we’ll know all the dirty details anyway!’

 

Clarke all but skips her way to the library and to the study room where she first met Lexa. The place is almost empty, except for the staff and some kids probably trying to sneak out books to use as kindling in the student union bonfire. 

 

Once she gets to the third floor, the quiet starts to seep in her head, the pain gradually diminishes and she finds Lexa’s escort standing by the door.

 

‘Good afternoon.’ Clarke greets him with a hesitant smile. ‘Is she in?’

 

He nods and opens the door to Lexa reading another book, her head again moving to music Clarke can’t hear.  Her hair again neatly tied up in a bun, her plaid shirt hanging loose, unbuttoned.

 

Lexa doesn’t move from her reading but she says, ‘Thank you, Gustus,’ and that dismisses him. ‘Please sit, Clarke.’ She still remains occupied with her book. ‘I am so sorry, I am getting to the good part and cannot stop.’

 

Clarke observes her silently. Lexa is unmoving like a statue, except when she has to turn pages or move her some stray hair out of the way. She can’t see the brunette’s eyes clearly but they seemed more stormy grey than green today.

 

 She thinks about what her friends and what they said about this being date and all she really wants to do is ask Lexa about her abilities and what colour her eyes really are.

 

‘My eyes are grey, Clarke.’  Lexa murmurs, answering Clarke’s question while the eyes in question maintain their concentration on the pages of the book.

 

Clarke breathes softly, trying to focus her mind and keep it blank but all she could conjure are images of Raven and Octavia giggling about her shirt and the jeans pocket joke.

 

Lexa finally lifts her head and she glances at Clarke’s shirt. ‘Your friends seem like a hand basket of fun.’

 

Hand basket? ‘Huh?’

 

‘Raven and Octavia. You glow when you think of them.’

 

Clarke finds it ridiculous because whenever those two cross her mind, all she feels is grief and a lot of second hand embarrassment. Also, she’s now become too aware of Lexa reading her mind and being unable to hear anything from Lexa’s. 

 

‘Can you try not reading my mind? It makes me feel self-conscious.’ She’s suddenly in the shoes of everyone around her, her private thoughts being invaded, unable to do anything about it.

 

Lexa is still for about three seconds then she nods, ‘Okay. Done.’

 

That’s it?  The quiet lingers and the pain is not rushing back. Clarke doesn’t feel as if anything has changed.  ‘How will I know if you’re telling the truth?’

 

‘Do you trust me, Clarke?’ The way Lexa’s pronounces her name, both foreign and familiar, echoes in her mind because there’s nothing else there. Only her thoughts and right now, she’s only thinking of Lexa. 

 

Trust is something she grants people because she knows their thoughts, never because someone asked her to trust them. It’s always been fool proof. Until now.

 

‘I barely know you.’

 

Lexa considers this for a moment before exhaling loudly. ‘Okay. How about you get to know me better on a date-date tomorrow?’

 

‘Hey!’ Clarke shouts, indignant.

 

‘I promise I heard that before you asked me to stop reading your mind.’ Lexa sets down her headphone and book on the desk before crossing her legs and facing Clarke

 

‘Wait, did you just ask me out?’ She does a double take as she realises what Lexa just said. ‘How did you even know I’m into girls?’

 

‘I figured you’d have an open mind.’ There’s a wink then a smirk is quickly plastered on Lexa’s face. ‘Yes, double entendre intended.’

 

‘Um. Okay. We can go out.’ Clarke does not know what to expect but she does want to go with her. Possibly anywhere because of the quiet.

 

‘Fantastic. Thank you for wearing that shirt too. I was only joking yesterday. You did not have to.’

 

‘This is actually Raven’s shirt.’ Clarke pulls on the hem of the shirt, showing off the words.

 

‘Does she have full range psychometry? Full range means she can transfer information and feelings she has sensed from one person to another.’ Lexa asks, her face full of interest on the subject. Clarke, however, does not care much about psychometry or any other abilities. 

 

‘I’m not sure.’

 

‘The training in the Academy is quite lax. I think honing your gifts should be of utmost importance. ’

 

Lexa sounds like Professor Jaha, until he was made to go on sabbatical because the students complained he was being too ‘preachy’. Now, they say he’s exploring the Sahara with his son, Wells, Clarke’s childhood friend. She hasn’t heard from him in months.

 

‘Well, honing our abilities isn’t really the main focus here. It’s mostly how to use them without dying or hurting anyone in the process.’

 

‘There was this boy teleporting all over the field carrying a football. Gustus was worried he would impale himself on one of the poles because he was out of breath running. Poor concentration while using our gifts can lead to really horrific results, Clarke.’

 

Now, Lexa is channelling Professor Kane, always advising students not to take lifts or levitate their way to class because ‘too little exertion of the body and much exertion of the mind causes an imbalance and…’ Clarke doesn’t really listen to their advice because she gets enough of that from her mother.  

 

‘I think that’s my friend Monty…’

 

‘Physical training is just as important as mental training.’ Lexa crosses her arms and narrows her eyes at Clarke. ‘Who cares if you can stop a bullet in mid-air when you cannot take a punch?’

 

‘You sound like you’ve been training all your life.’

 

‘Yes. We undergo instruction on different skill sets appropriate to our gifts.’ Lexa’s face is solemn and Clarke is unsure how to go on so she asks what has been on her mind the most.

 

‘Why are you really here?’

 

‘While our training is advanced, we are lacking in medical facilities.’ Clarke makes a face and Lexa immediately notices.  ‘What?’

 

‘I was thinking that sounds really boring.’  Clarke has always been honest and all the talk about abilities and gifts are getting to her.

 

‘Well, it’s this boring task that led me here. Our leader instructed us to come here for consulting with your doctors.’

 

The Leader, sounds ominous and menacing.’ An image of a shadowy figure in a fedora forms in her mind.

 

 Gustus laughs as he stands guard outside.

 

‘Why’s he laughing?’

 

‘He’s laughing because the Leader is a middle-aged man in a coma.’

 

The image changes to a man lying in bed, with tubes and wires around. She cannot imagine how the man could be their leader but she decided not to pry.

 

‘That’s funny because…?’

 

Lexa lets out a giggle, but no one else has said anything so Clarke assumes she is conversing with him telepathically.   ‘Shut up, Gustus.’ 

 

‘Does he have psychic abilities too?’

 

‘Gustus? Of course.’  Lexa points her thumb at him and he nods. ‘He’s a telepath as well.’

 

‘Is everyone back where you’re from a telepath?’

 

‘It’s our only form of communication.’ 

 

This only raised more questions about Lexa. Clarke cannot imagine how all of it would work, do they have a network? A broadcast channel?

 

‘How come I can’t hear your thoughts? How can you block everyone else’s?’

 

Clarke is almost afraid to question the quiet because it might go away. But she has to know how.

 

‘You are not privy to my thoughts because I do not allow anyone access to them.  As for blocking everyone else, I am not sure.’ Lexa’s voice wavers a little, as if being unsure about something is a rarity for her, which Clarke supposes is true. Her being very guarded about her thoughts make Clarke feel like she’s hiding more than she wants to let on.

 

‘Where are you from?’

 

‘My home is far from here. I cannot say where exactly because of security reasons.’

 

Clarke chooses to tease Lexa a little, copying her formal way of speaking. ‘Your ability, what is it exactly?’

 

This time, Lexa smiles at her but it is cold, not the usual one she gives to Clarke. ‘If I told you Clarke, without proper clearance, I would have to kill you.’

 

‘Really?’

 

‘Well, I do not want to and probably will not but Gustus is duty bound to do so.’ Gustus nods once from where he is standing. He suddenly seems more menacing than when Clarke first saw him.

 

‘ESPer Police do not exist.’

 

Lexa seems amused at the statement. ‘Maybe not here, Clarke. Not where I’m from. Improper use of our gifts has consequences.’

 

‘So you actually have the Thought Police?’

 

 ‘I’m sure they would appreciate that name.’ Lexa laughs at the notion. She relaxes and gives Clarke her normal, sunny smile. Her eyes, grey green again. ‘I apologise if this is confusing. You need not worry. For our current circumstance, I am just a normal girl asking you out on a date.’

 

‘You sound like a nerd.’

 

‘Well, I am that too.’

 

Lexa has quirks that Clarke likes and though she spouts nonsense that she can’t enjoy (gifts and honing them and training), Clarke does not mind.

 

‘I’ll ask for your number but you obviously don’t need a phone.’

 

Clarke wonders how Lexa’s voice would sound in her head. How her thoughts would manifest in her mind. Whether she thinks in words or colours or black and white.

 

‘If all goes well tomorrow, I might consider giving you a direct line, who knows?’ Lexa reaches out to brush the stray hairs off Clarke’s forehead, Clarke lets her do so, knowing there aren’t any there.

 

‘I wonder how many people have access to that line…’ The humming in Clarke’s ear isn’t from the noise or the quiet but her heart, beating rather loudly, hammering fast.

 

Lexa lithely traces her thumb across Clarke’s cheekbones and pulls away slowly, keeping her eyes on Clarke’s. ‘Please come back tomorrow and I will tell you.’

 

‘Really?’

 

‘Of course. I never lie.’

 

‘I don’t know if you’re telling the truth.’

 

Clarke has always had an issue with honesty. Most of those who know about her ability don’t even try to lie to her but others who don’t, those who say one thing and mean another to her face, she can’t take that.

 

‘We really shouldn’t resort to reading people’s minds to see if they’re lying to us.’ Lexa’s stare is soft, it is not unkind, it is from someone who is aware of the repercussions of reading people’s thoughts.  

 

Clarke does not say anything and she thinks of Lexa and Finn and her parents and her friends and how right now, she would rather have the noise rather than the thoughts going through her head.

 

‘Until tomorrow, Clarke.’

 

***

 

‘Octavia, there’s really no need to sniff the shirt.’

 

Clarke is back in her dorm and both Octavia and Raven are in her bed, reeking of alcohol, their minds buzzing with thoughts of ‘God, please let me puke’, ‘We should teleTP the next dorm’ and the ever popular ‘Will us making out be such a terrible idea?’

 

Octavia wrestled Raven’s shirt off Clarke and is currently breathing in every inch of it.

 

‘I’m trying to divine something.’ She takes in a particularly long breath. ‘How did your date not get turned off by your grandmother’s perfume…?’

 

‘Shut up. Raven, please make her stop.’

 

Raven wildly waves her arm from the bed and shouts, ‘I’ll stop her when you tell us who your date is! It totally went well because you’re going on another date. That’s two more than you’ve ever been with anyone.

 

 ‘Can’t you just hold the shirt?’ It is a special occasion whenever Raven is confused or puzzled because by touch, she’s able to know an extraordinary amount of things about people and objects.

 

‘No.’ She leans back on Clarke’s pillows, arms crossed and full-on pout on her face.

 

‘What?’

 

Clarke is not sure what to think about that fact. She’s sure that Lexa is using a mental shield, which is why Octavia can’t see her but they have learnt nothing about people evading psychometry.

 

‘I get nothing from it. Only static.’ Raven reaches out and touches the shirt in Octavia’s grasp. ‘Are they even human? Did you finally give up on people and turned into a robot lover?’

 

‘What the hell does that mean?’

 

Raven answers her promptly, ‘I heard there’s a kid in Dorm H who can bring robots to life.’

 

Octavia knocks Raven head lightly and shakes her own head, ‘Dumbass. That’s just a rumour. The dude just has really good telekinesis.’

 

‘Damn.’ Raven’s eyebrows shoot up at Clarke suddenly. ‘Is it a professor? Clarke, you better not be screwing my Mecha prof. I know you like messed up people but that’s just over the line.’

 

Clarke is about to say something about how they are all messed up but that would just pull more thread on something that she has so neatly tied up already.

 

‘Can’t you guys just be happy I’m going on dates with someone I enjoy hanging out with?’

 

Octavia laughs at the statement and throws the shirt back at Clarke, who puts it back on because it is cold in her room, the hairs on her back are standing from the exposure.  ‘Please, Clarke, you hate hanging out with people.’

 

‘I do not!’ Clarke’s indignation is half-hearted because she knows it’s true.  She has too many people in her head, she doesn’t have the energy to be around any more physically.  ‘I hang out with you guys.’

 

Raven takes her turn spouting truths, ‘Yeah, because we hate people even more than you.’

 

‘We’re basically bonded because of your grumpiness.’ Octavia offer another quip.

 

‘Hey!’

 

Clarke’s generally grumpiness stems from having a painful headache all the time and listening to all the thoughts of her entire dorm. She has learnt to offer answers to them, in her own mind of course, filled with cynicism and sarcasm.

 

Raven coughs and puts on her game face, the one she uses to play high stakes foosball in the common room. ‘Seriously though, Clarke. We’re your friends and we’re just looking out for you.

 

Octavia sits beside her on the bed and nods. ‘What if your date blows people’s minds for a fun?’

 

‘And not the bed rocking kind of fun.’ There’s a waggle of eyebrows from Raven.

 

Raven.’

 

She holds her hands up, defeated by Clarke breaking her name into four syllables. ‘Fine, just remember we’re here. We’ll be supportive.’

 

‘You promise?’

 

‘WE promise.’

 

There’s a beat of silence, meaning Raven and Octavia stopped talking and Clarke, out of habit, checks if they’re telling the truth.

 

They are.

 

She can’t help but think about what Lexa said about mind reading being a last resort.

 

It’s difficult for Clarke because she can’t turn it off. All the voices and thoughts swimming in her mind, clouding her judgment and making her doubt.

 

It has ruined most of her relationships because people lie all the time but Octavia and Raven figured out how to work around it because they truly care about Clarke, no matter what they say about hating people.

 

They love Clarke.

 

Clarke loves them too.

 

Bellamy barges in the door and plops in to Clarke’s bed, half-naked and fully wasted. ‘What’s going on in here?’ He slurs loudly.

 

‘Bell, guess who Clarke has a date with?’ Raven asks him excitedly. ‘A robot!’

 

Clarke can only roll her eyes and open her windows.

 

***

Clarke is disappointed that Lexa is not there.

 

When she reached the third floor landing, there’s no quiet. She could hear the librarian cursing the idiots who left the encyclopaedias on the floor, stop using books as pillows and all the noise coming from outside.

 

She gets to their study room and Gustus is standing by Lexa’s usual chair, reading a cooking magazine stiffly. As soon as he sees Clarke, he drops the magazine on the desk and acknowledges her.

 

‘Miss Woods apologises. She can’t make it today.’

 

‘I see. So I really should have given her my number so she could have called to cancel earlier.’ Clarke bites back the bitter taste in her mouth but she can’t hide being so irked because she asked both Octavia and Raven about her clothes and they are being so supportive, they said no to all the outfits she had put together. In the end, she asked Nathan next door and he said liked the periwinkle dress with short sleeves.

 

‘No, she’s not cancelling. I meant, she can’t make it here.’ Clarke wonders if Gustus can sense her slight discontent. ‘She asked me to escort you to where she is.’

 

‘Where is she?’ Clarke is not sure she likes the direction they are going. She hopes it’s not what she’s…

 

‘She’s in the hospital.’

 

thinking.

 

‘Is she okay?’ She looks into his eyes and tries to read his thoughts but she can’t hear anything from him.

 

Gustus coughs and avoids her gaze. ‘It’s ill-advised to read into our thoughts, Miss Griffin. It is also not my place to talk about Miss Wood’s health. I am not a doctor.’

 

‘Is it bad?’ The amount of worry has displaced the annoyance she felt earlier.

 

Gustus remains impassive. ‘Let us go now, Miss Grifffin.’

 

Clarke is overly familiar with hospitals. There’s her mother who works in the Academy’s healthcare service. Her father who was confined for a year before he succumbed to his illness. Then, her sort of ex, Finn, who’s currently being interned in a high security mental rehabilitation facility.

 

She’s able to think about the mess in her own life because in her mind it’s just mixed with the troubled thoughts of people she meets, she can compartmentalise and disconnect from it, look at it from afar and dissect it like she would frog or a rabbit in anatomy class.

 

She’s actually surprised she has not gone crazy yet. She deserves all the ‘you tried’ stars the messed up universe can give her. 

 

‘You have not gone insane because you are strong.’  Gustus muses silently as they walk towards the hospital’s lobby.  ‘One’s mental capacity isn't measured by how much they can take before it breaks but how it reacts to things after it been broken and battered and bruised.’

 

‘Those are private thoughts.’ Clarke’s not sure she wanted Gustus to hear all of that. She's afraid he would tell Lexa about them.

 

‘I am sorry. You were quite loud.’ Gustus bows his head apologetically. ‘I know you asked Miss Woods to not read your mind but it’s difficult. Your voice is amplified more than normal in my head.’

 

‘Really? How does it sound?’ Clarke’s worried her thoughts sound like the internal monologue of a seventeen year old whose vocabulary comes from trashy books.

 

‘Don’t worry, you sound pleasant. Just loud.’ Gustus suddenly stops walking and spaces out for a second.

 

‘Are you okay?’

 

He sighs, ‘Miss Woods is asking whether you are wearing a graphic shirt and whether I could bring more jello cups to her room.’ He blinks then he starts striding towards the lift lobby.

 

‘What did you tell her?’ Clarke watches as Gustus presses the up button and lead her into the next one going up.

 

‘I told her to wait and see. Also, that her doctor advised her not to eat too much pudding.’ 

 

Clarke smiles as she imagines Lexa pouting because she doesn’t have enough Jello. ‘That’s cute.’

 

‘She already thinks she is. Don’t feed her delusion.’ Gustus smiles and Clarke feels a little lightheaded. Then she realises they are probably on Lexa’s floor.

 

They are in the uppermost level of the hospital, reserved for special cases or visitors or the hospital administrator’s office. Clarke clearly has not fully grasped who Lexa is. They step out of the lift and the walk in the empty corridor.

 

The quiet is back.

 

‘She’s right here.’ Gustus stops in front of a white door, with the words WOODS, L. on the name plate.

 

Clarke opens the door and Lexa’s sitting up on the bed, her hair down and wild around her head. She’s wearing glasses and a hospital issued gown. Clarke doesn’t want to think she’s breath-taking because she knows Gustus would hear but she can’t help it.  

 

Gustus lets out a puff of air that suspiciously sounds like a laugh and he steps out of the room.  ‘Miss Woods.’

 

‘Thank you, Gustus.’

 

Lexa smiles at her and offers the empty chair beside her bed. Clarke immediately scrutinises the status monitor and sees that it’s been disconnected. Lexa doesn’t have any bandages or gauzes and she seems perfectly fine.

 

‘Clarke, worry lines do not look good on you.’ Lexa’s undivided attention is now on Clarke, not on her music or her books. She makes a joke and Clarke’s worry is lessened. ‘This is not how I envisioned our date-date going.’

 

‘You’re clairvoyant?’

 

She shakes her head, her hair mildly flailing around. ‘No, Clarke. Clairvoyance and Divination do not interest me. I prefer surprises.’

 

‘I guess you like giving them to. Seeing on you on a hospital bed is weird.’  Clarke has this image of Lexa, after she’s only known her for three days, that she’s a fountain of knowledge about their abilities and an invincible human being to boot.

 

‘It’s disconcerting to you? I already asked them to remove the wires and tubes so that you will not worry.’ Lexa’s eyes, they are dark grey today, are full of concern. She extends her hand to Clarke and she notices from her wristband that Lexa’s type A+ and allergic to penicillin.

 

Clarke attempts to explain what she’s thinking as she’s clutching Lexa’s hand. ‘It’s just that… You’re really intimidating and strong and now you’re here in the hospital and it really doesn’t make sense.’

 

‘We can die just like normal people, Clarke. I could get hit by a bus or my brakes won’t work or the ceiling can collapse on me. Our gifts cannot make us conquer death.’ Lexa smiles, it’s resigned and quiet, as she gazes at Clarke.

 

Clarke’s father was an accomplished telepath. On his death bed he babbled lots of nonsense but his last words, his last words were ‘I love you, Abby’ and because he couldn’t breathe anymore his last thought was ‘You’re beautiful, Clarke’.

 

‘That’s not funny.’

 

‘No it’s not. I am sorry.’  Her eyes brightened more as her fingers clasp into Clarke’s, a slight static between them. ‘I certainly didn’t imagine being on a date with a beautiful woman, only to be discussing my ephemeral existence. While I am on my bed, I might add.’

 

‘You called me beautiful.’ Clarke hopes it’s just coincidence, that Lexa is not reading her mind, that what she’s feeling for the first time in the longest time is not a lie, because she cannot delve into the recesses of Lexa’s mind to confirm it.  

 

‘You are, Clarke.

 

After she hears that, Clarke decides, after many years of not needing to, that Lexa is telling the truth.

 

‘Thank you.’

 

‘You are most welcome. Now, would you like my jello? This mango flavoured one is tasty.’ Lexa offers her a cup and a plastic spoon from her bedside cabinet.  

 

‘Huh, Mum used to give this to her paediatric patients. I would always sneak some whenever…’ Clarke is busy staring at the brand to see if it’s the same one when her mother barges into her date.

 

‘Clarke…?’Abby moves her questioning stare from Clarke holding her jello cup to Lexa, confined to the bed and busy swallowing the last spoonful she took.

 

‘What are you doing here?’ Clarke puts down her jello cup and offers her mother a kiss on the cheek.

 

‘I see that you two are acquainted but for posterity’s sake, Dr Griffin, this is my date, Clarke. Clarke, this is Dr Griffin.’  Lexa gently tries to diffuse the tension by her unique brand of humour, Clarke thinks.

 

‘Thank you, Miss Woods. Clarke here is my daughter.’

 

Lexa points her spoon at Clarke, ‘You did not tell me your mother worked here.’

 

‘Don’t point your spoon at me.’ Clarke narrows her eyes at her and Lexa laughs. Abby seems surprised to hear her patient make that sound. ‘We haven’t gotten that far in our date yet, Lexa.’

 

Abby steps towards the status monitors and attaches the wires in focal points of Lexa’s body. ‘Okay, you will not be going any further in your date while she is still admitted.’

 

‘Mum, we were just talking!’  

 

Abby shushes her loudly. ‘I don’t care.  It’s time for a status check.’

 

Clarke stands aside and lets her mother close in on Lexa. She surmises it’s nothing serious since her mother usually handles General Medicine. Flu, fevers, and the like for little children. She truly relaxes for the first time since coming in the room. This is usually the opposite whenever she and Abby are in the same place together.

 

‘I am all yours, Dr Griffin. Figuratively, of course.’ Lexa takes a deep breath as Abby presses the stethoscope on her back.

 

 ‘Duly noted.’ Abby replies, pretending to not see the smile her daughter is giving her patient.

 

‘And Clarke, please remember, I’m just a normal girl asking you to eat my jello.’ Lexa tells her with absolute glee on her face.

 

‘I can’t believe I’m hearing this.’ Abby just sighs as she takes Lexa’s pulse.

 

‘Dr Griffin, be assured that Clarke finds it extremely tasty.’

 

Clarke tries to hold in her laughter as her mother’s lips press tighter into the thinnest line possible.

 

‘You can be discharged tomorrow afternoon, Miss Woods. Everything looks fine.’ Abby speaks evenly, she disentangles the wires from Lexa and she gives Clarke a look that she has not seen before. ‘Call me later, Clarke.’

 

‘Thank you very much, Dr Griffin. Have a pleasant day.’

 

‘You too.’ Abby is almost out the door when she spouts, ‘Not too much though!’ and closes it.

 

Lexa grins at Clarke and positions to eat her jello from the tray again. As she takes a bite she says, ‘Your mother seems like…’

 

Clarke interrupts her by pressing her lips to Lexa’s before could talk and Lexa is surprised, pleasantly so.

 

It isn’t electric or breath-taking or earth shattering, Lexa tastes like her mango pudding and Clarke’s minty mouthwash gives it a sharp edge.

 

It is chaste and simple and just like she imagined, only much so better.

 

Something about the kiss screamed finally.

 

Clarke rests her forehead against Lexa’s, stares straight into her grey eyes and counts the flecks of green surrounding her pupils.   

 

‘What is that for?’ Lexa is almost whispering, as if being a decibel louder would break the moment and erase all from memory.

 

Clarke can feel her face hurt from smiling. ‘If you could read my mind, you’d know I wanted to do that since I walked in the door.’

 

‘I love surprises.’ Lexa frames Clarke’s face in her hands, her fingers lightly pressing against her cheeks, her jaw, her lips. Her eyes linger on Clarke’s lips and her cheeks blush.

 

‘Now I do too. Never had much surprise me before… Being a mind reader sort of takes that away.’  Clarke places her chin on Lexa’s shoulder, taking in her scent, wondering how she smells like the forest after a storm while being in a hospital gown. Clarke thinks about the future surprises coming her way because of Lexa. 

 

‘I just gave you jello. Think about what can happen when I take you to a proper dinner date.’  

 

Clarke can’t wait.

 

***

 

‘Clarke, you must relax.’

 

‘Lexa…’

 

‘Tensing up will make it worse.’

 

‘I’m trying.’

 

‘Obviously not enough.’

 

‘Well, you aren’t making it easy.’

 

‘Clear your mind and let me do the work.’

 

‘Okay. Think of circles, think of circles.’

 

‘Circles are round.’

 

‘In your head, Clarke.’

 

(Circles are round)

 

‘Clarke.’ Lexa’s voice echoes in her room, as she sits on the ottoman while Clarke is reclining on her bed. ‘Clarke,’ she murmurs softly again as Clarke repeats the mantra in her head. Lexa has been trying to teach Clarke how to reach her telepathically. She gave a very convincing argument for it. No kissing unless you can talk to me in your head. They have been training for days and Clarke is almost ready to ask Lexa to just give her cardio exercises so she can stop the repetitive mental workout she’s been drilling Clarke in. Almost.

 

(Clarke, can you hear me?)

 

She straightens up as Lexa’s voice is in her head, clear as day. Clarke rubs behind her ears to make sure she isn’t hallucinating things. Lexa eyes her from afar, with a look of apprehension on her face.

 

(Clarke?) Lexa asks again.

 

Lexa’s voice sounds the same, a little bit clearer and cleaner. She has been expecting an ethereal quality, like the kind of sound you get when you accidentally press your music player’s concert hall setting. 

 

(Yes. I can hear you.)

 

Clarke wonders how she sounds in Lexa’s head, whether it gives her the same butterflies that Clarke is feeling now.  

 

(Good, Clarke.)  Lexa stands from the chair and sits on the edge of the bed. She reaches for Clarke’s hand and grasps it tight. (You need to remember this state, this feeling. Then think of me. Anywhere I am, I will hear you.)

 

(This sounds better than my phone service.)

 

Lexa beams at the joke. (At the very least, you would know I will have no reason to accidentally drop your call.)

 

(You better not.) Clarke pecks her softly on the cheek. (Thank you.)

 

(Anytime, Clarke.) Lexa points at her temple and uses the same index finger to tap Clarke’s. (I’ll be here.)

 

Clarke squints at Lexa, scrunching her nose and forehead in an attempt to look like she’s in full concentration.

 

‘What are you doing?’ Lexa leans back a little so she could observe what Clarke is trying to do.

 

‘I’m trying to read your mind.’ Clarke’s left eye twitches as she attempts to break down Lexa’s mental barriers.

 

‘You cannot, Clarke. Trust me, it’s impossible.’

 

‘Why not? What are you hiding?’

 

Lexa distracts Clarke by trailing kisses on her neck. She whispers close to her ear, ‘Clarke, you don’t need to read my mind to know I like you.’

 

Clarke sighs and she leans her forehead against Lexa’s. She closes her eyes and repeats the concentration mantra in her mind. ‘I know.’

 

‘Telepathy doesn’t work like osmosis.’ Lexa makes a joke and Clarke laughs because it’s so Lexa. She shivers when Lexa cradles her neck softly, so gently, touching the baby hairs at the back of her hairline.

 

(You like those.)

 

(I do.)   

 

Lexa’s doing very well in diverting Clarke’s attention, if only she is not Clarke, she would have forgotten what she is thinking of. Once she’s gotten used to it, the quiet Lexa brings is now doing wonders for her memory and focus.

 

‘What secrets are you protecting in there?’ Clarke asks again and Lexa physically stiffens. She lets go of Clarke and goes back to sit on the recliner.

 

‘My shields are not for my protection. They are for everyone else’s.

 

(Thank goodness you didn’t say for my protection. That would have been cheesy and too melodramatic.)

 

(Yes it is, Clarke. Unnecessary, too. I will do everything, to the best of my abilities, not to hurt you.)

 

‘You’ve read my mind before.’ Clarke figures this is her best chance to convince Lexa.

 

‘And I stopped as soon as you asked.’ Lexa seems pensive, like broaching the topic is making her lost and panicky, in a Lexa kind of way, all evasive and cagey. ‘Please, Clarke.’

 

The way she spoke those two words is enough for Clarke to stop. It made her realize that maybe it’s not just her mind that’s complicated and messy. Maybe Lexa’s mind is too, only there’s no noise to block it.

 

Like the way people listen to loud music or static or really boring podcasts just not to be left alone with their thoughts.

 

Often, Clarke is hasty and a little brash. She does not delight in waiting, standing in queues or being asked to hold the call because everyone is occupied. But Lexa has been very patient, probably more than any teacher she has ever had so Clarke is willing to wait because Lexa asked.

 

‘Okay.’ (I’m sorry)

 

‘Me too.’

 

Lexa rises up again, goes to Clarke’s side again and lies on her lap. Clarke undoes her hair tie and lets all of it go freely. Clarke plays with her tresses, her mind spinning with the fact that they just had their first fight. They’ve known each other twelve days, been on four actual date-dates and Clarke is quite sure she has feelings for Lexa. Her father once told her, The heart beats to love. You can’t ever change that. Maybe someday, she’ll tell Lexa about Jake. 

 

Clarke honestly cannot imagine falling in love again because it ended so badly the last time. Raven and Octavia’s unwavering support (along with her mother’s) got her through Finn’s breakdown and subsequent incarceration.

 

She ponders how Lexa’s people would have handled it, whether Finn would still be Finn if he had Lexa’s Leader to teach him.

 

Then she thinks about Lexa and wherever she’s from and what she knows and what she’s keeping from Clarke. She’s sure she could have burned holes in Lexa’s face with her intense stare but her grey eyes are subdued and calm. She stares in wonder at Clarke, like she couldn’t believe she’s there and Clarke’s there and they’re both real.

 

(I’m terrible at this. Trusting people.  I realise you probably are too. When you’re ready, you can tell me anything.)

 

(Not yet, Clarke. Hopefully in the near future.)

 

That promise of a future makes her heart swell and she takes Lexa’s hand to kiss her knuckles. Her mind is quiet but moments later, she swears Lexa is humming softly inside her head.

 

***

 

(Lex, wake up)

 

Lexa rolls to her side, blocking the sunlight coming from her window with her arm over her eyes. She’s tired, she’s always tired but this time it’s a good thing. She was out with Clarke last night. Afterwards, they returned to her dorm room and proceeded further into their relationship.

 

(God, why can’t you ever just call it sex?)

 

(Shut up, Cos) Lexa rubs her eyes against her forearms as she quietly laughs at Costia’s comment.

 

tbc