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It Takes As Long As It Takes

Chapter Text

The air was chilly and biting this morning in the in-between time as Autumn transitioned into Winter. Clarke had her beanie and scarf on, but she had forgotten her gloves in her rush to get to the small coffee shop in the park so she could get her usual table in the outdoor seating area. She didn’t know why she rushed anymore; in this cold weather, no one would fight her for any of the outdoor tables. She tried to warm her hands by blowing on them and rubbing them together, which worked for all of two seconds before they became cold and numb again.

Finally, she saw the door to the café open, and her eyes immediately went to the steaming cup of coffee and chocolate croissant being brought out on a tray by her friend and café owner, Jasper. He shivered as soon as he stepped out into the cold air and quickly walked over to place her order onto the table. She smiled her thanks and immediately wrapped her hands around the large cup, trying to soak up the heat even as it rapidly escaped as steam into the air.

“Are you sure you want to sit out here today?” Jasper asked. “I know this is your table, but it’s so cold.” As if he had planned it to demonstrate his point, he immediately turned his head and sneezed.

“I know.” She nodded her head in agreement. “It’s probably going to get worse from here on out. I thought I would try to continue sitting here for as long as I can. At least until the eventual snow drives me inside.” She took a sip of the coffee, feeling the wonderful, rich, hot liquid make its way down her throat and spread like fire throughout her body. “Mmm. Your coffee makes it so much more tolerable. Thanks, Jas.”

“Anytime, Clarke. Let me know if you need anything else. Just call or text me on my cell and I’ll come out. It’s too cold for me to come check on you too often.” He winked at her before turning back to hurriedly make his way inside. Once through the doors, he turned and glanced at his friend again, who had already delved back into the book she brought with her. He recognized the cover of this one, because she’d brought it many times before, had read it many times before. He exhaled a heavy sigh and wished a silent wish for Clarke before walking back behind the cashier table.

Outside, Clarke turned the page of her book – her book – and immediately noticed several coffee stains at the bottom of the next page. She ran her fingers over the stains slowly and closed her eyes. Her memories brought her back to a warmer day, to a warmer place, in the apartment she shared with Lexa.

They were in the breakfast nook of their kitchen and Clarke had just scooched into the booth across from Lexa with her cup of coffee and a plate of pastries. She accidentally splashed the too-full cup and several drops spilled right over into the book Lexa was reading.

“Clarke, be careful!” Lexa grabbed some napkins and quickly began blotching the coffee off her book. It was too late though; the stains would set.

“Oops, sorry babe.” Clarke finally made it into the booth and safely deposited her drink and food onto the table. “Um . . .” Clarke didn’t really know what she could do at this point, “. . . do you need more napkins?” She then noticed the steam coming off her coffee and frowned in concern. “Are you okay? Did any of the coffee get on you?”

“No, it was just a little bit on the book. I think I got most of it now.” Lexa looked up, an exaggerated frown on her face. “Do you really hate the book that much, Clarke?”

“What do you mean? Of course I don’t hate it. I haven’t even read it.”

“That’s precisely my point, Clarke. You refuse to read it, even though I’ve asked you to read it hundreds of times.”

Clarke gave her a disbelieving look. “Hundreds of time, really?”

“Well, ok.” Lexa bit her bottom lip, thinking. “Maybe dozens of time then. Or a dozen time. Rounding up. My point is, you should read it, Clarke.”

“Lexa, you’ve told me at one point or another that I needed to read every single book on your bookshelf. Which is, quite literally, hundreds of books.” Clarke chuckled to herself for coming up with that brilliant pun before continuing, “Hmm, we should probably actually count them sometime so that my argument will be more effective.” She paused and made a mental note to do just that. “In any case, you’re a writer. You read everything. And you recommend most of the books you read, even if you don’t like them, if only to, and I quote, ‘recognize the ineffectiveness of the author’s central argument and enable appreciation for better works in the future.’ ” Clarke said the last part in her best Lexa voice, enunciating each syllable carefully while looking as serious as she could.

“You know, you used to read the books I suggested all the time.”

“Yes, but that was when I was trying to win you over. Now that I’ve got you, I don’t need to do so much homework.” Clarke put on a self-satisfied grin, congratulating herself on what she considered to be one of her greatest accomplishments.

“So your interest in Darwin’s ‘On the Origin of Species’ was all just a guise to get me? Should I feel flattered?” Lexa finally cracked the smile she had been holding in.

“Yes, of course you should. Do you know how painful that was for me to get through?” Clarke reached for the one of the pastries, but stopped just before she got to it. Instead, she decided to pick up the entire plate and move it in front of Lexa above her book. “To make up for staining your book, I’ll let you have the first choice.” She winked at the brunette, already knowing which she would choose.

Lexa eyed the plate of assorted pastries in front of her before looking up into Clarke’s soft, blue eyes. Eyes that were softer in the warm early morning light, and softer still, now that she was trying her best to make a peace offering. She smiled, stuck her tongue out at Clarke, and reached out to grab the chocolate croissant. She then leaned over the table and gave a surprised but delighted Clarke a quick peck on nose before settling back in her seat and biting into the flaky pastry, all the while wondering if there would ever be anything Clarke could do to make her so upset that soft eyes and chocolate croissants wouldn’t be able to fix. 

Clarke looked up and closed the book. The memories made her head hurt and her chest ache. She tried to focus on something else, opting to stare ahead at the fountain in the middle of the park. The water sprayed up and formed intricate patterns in the air. There weren’t many people around to appreciate it though. Clarke saw just a young couple with their little boy, bundled up for the cold, running around the circular fountain. She saw them give him a coin, which he promptly threw into the fountain pool. She wondered if he even made a wish. The sight made her smile, and relieved some of the ache in her chest.

She couldn’t read any more of the book today, so she settled for sitting back in her chair to people-watch while she drank her coffee and ate her pastry. The warm chocolate croissant was delicious as always, and she smiled despite the tinge of sadness it elicited.

She only stayed an hour today. Partly because of the cold, and partly because she had to finish up an art piece to stay on schedule for her gallery opening.

But mostly because she was tired. She was so very tired. It had been two years since she last saw Lexa. Two years since she started coming to this café every Sunday at 10 AM, sitting at this table where they first met. Waiting, wishing, and waiting some more. Mostly waiting.

She was always hopeful when she awoke on Sundays, thinking maybe this could be the day. She would carefully pick out her outfit and would spend extra time brushing her hair. She wouldn't admit it to her friends, but she had been trying to keep her hair the same length and style she had when Lexa last saw her, because – and she knew this was not entirely rational – she wanted to make it as easy as possible for Lexa to recognize her if she did come.

Sometimes she brought her work and waited the whole morning into late afternoon. But sometimes, like today, she waited only an hour, before the memories, the sadness, and the fear that she will never see Lexa again settled into something so heavy that it weighed down on her chest, so much so that she could hardly breathe. And then she would go home and paint, because that was the only thing that could alleviate some of the weight.

But every time she left the café alone on Sunday, she left behind a small piece of her broken heart. Clarke didn't know how much longer she could do this. She didn't know how much of her heart was left to leave behind.

Chapter Text


She heard the text alert coming from her phone on the dresser. A quick glance at her bedside clock told her it was 6:47 AM. There was only one person who would text her this early. And it was not because that person was an early riser. No, it was quite the opposite. Raven had probably stayed up all night last night working on one of her wayward projects, now high on caffeine and adrenaline and needing attention and interaction. Either that, or she needed to be picked up from her engineering lab after it was shut down due to an exploding gadget, for the third time. Clarke chose to assume the former, because she really, really wanted to sleep in a little bit more this morning.

Her phone remained silent for the next five minutes, allowing her to gently doze off again, before suddenly beeping several times in rapid succession, jolting her awake again.

Letting out a heavy groan, she turned over in her bed, grabbed the phone from her dresser and looked at the screen.

R: Clarke.

R: Clarke, wake up. It’s me, Raven.

Clarke rolled her eyes. I have your number, Raven. She scrolled down.

R: I made a breakthrough in my project and I need to share it with someone.

R: Guess what? You’re the lucky someone! Congrats!

R: Come pick me up. I’ll buy you breakfast and tell you all about it.

R: Do it.

R: You might as well. If you’re reading this, you’re up already.

R: I know you want to see my face. This face:

Clarke clicked on the thumbnail and it opened to a picture of Raven sticking her tongue out at her. She found herself reluctantly smiling as she typed her reply.

C: You do know it is illegal to text someone before 7 AM on a weekend, right?

R: Well, Blue, not if you love them very much and want to share your happiness with them.

C: I am definitely not coming if you’re going to call me that.

R: Haha, just trying out new nicknames!

R: Don’t you get tired of being called “Clarke” all your life?

R: I mean, doesn’t it get boring for you?

R: Hmm, how about Arty? Haha, get it? Because you art and stuff.

R: And it rhymes with Clarke!

R: Wait, does it?

Clarke was still half asleep, so it took her several seconds to process all of Raven’s rambling texts. She shook her head to clear the morning haze.

C: Wait, what?

C: No, just . . . Don’t answer that.

She fought a weak internal battle with herself, already knowing she would lose, before typing again.

C: I’ll be there in 30 minutes.

She threw off her soft, warm covers, silently cursing Raven as the cold air hit her body, hauled her legs over the bed, and painstakingly pushed herself up. Just before she made her way to the bathroom, she stopped and picked up her phone again.

C: Also. No more coffee for you.

Clarke arrived to Raven’s lab said 30 minutes later. She had visited there frequently enough for the security guard at the front desk to let her in without needing her to be signed in. She pushed open the door to the lab, stepping into a large room filled with small clusters of metal tables distributed unevenly throughout the room. There weren’t any windows in the room, since it was located in the basement of the building, which, in addition to the abundance of metal and hardware and assorted tools in the room, made the place look like the hull of a spaceship. Fitting, Clarke thought, since many of the projects there involved equipment Clarke didn’t recognize from the real world.

She saw Raven hunched over her table in the corner fiddling with some complicated gadgets. She also noticed the multiple overturned coffee cups scattered around the table as well.

“Knock, knock,” Clarke said, rapping on the nearest table to get Raven’s attention as she made her way over.

“Clarke! You’re here!” Raven stood up to give her a bear hug. “You chose me over sleep. I’m so touched.”

“It’s not like you gave me much choice,” Clarke grumbled.

“You know you love me. Just admit it.”

Clarke rolled her eyes, lightly bumping Raven’s shoulder with her own, smiling in the process. “Yeah, yeah.” She glanced over at what Raven was working on. “Now what’s this amazing discovery that you couldn’t wait until a more humane hour to show me?”

“Ah, okay, okay,” Raven began excitedly. “Let me walk you through it. So this is what Monty and I have been working on for the past 3 months. He helped me with the programming part of it. You just missed him actually. He said something about needing sleep. Weakling.” Raven scoffed. “Who needs sleep? Anyway, make sure you pay close attention and follow along. Hmm, maybe you should take notes.” She started glancing around her messy table for a notepad and pencil. “Clarke, do you need to take notes?”

“No, Raven. No.”

Clarke listened and watched Raven describe and demonstrate her project enthusiastically for about 45 minutes before she decided that she could not go on much longer without some caffeine herself. Truth be told, she had really only been paying attention to about 50% of what her friend was saying, and then only understanding about 20% of that. But there had been some practical demonstrations that were interesting and allowed her to play with the gadgets, so she did enjoy that.

Luckily for Clarke, it seemed like Raven was just winding down. Just in time, too, because as soon as she finished her sentence about being able to harvest energy from movement of tectonic plates (Tectronic? Tectionic? Clarke wasn’t sure), Raven’s stomach rumbled. That seemed to pull her from the science-focused haze she was in.

“Well, so that’s the project. What do you think?”

Clarke took a second to think about what to say. She knew that Raven was passionate about this subject and had been working particularly hard on this project. Clarke was very proud of her engineering friend, even if she didn’t understand most of it.

“Okay, I’m going to be honest with you because you’re one of my best friends, Raven. I only understood about a third of that (Clarke lied), but what I got from it is that you’re brilliant, and your project is brilliant, and you’re going to change the world.” Clarke beamed proudly at her. “Also, I, along with I’m sure the rest of your lab, really, really appreciate the general lack of explosions. Plus . . .” She then gestured her arm over the table. “I liked the pretty lights.”

Raven laughed just as her stomach rumbled again.

Clarke put her arm around Raven’s shoulders. “Come now, you mad scientist engineer you. I bet you didn’t even eat dinner last night. Let’s get you some breakfast.”

“Yes, please. And you’re right. I am famished.” Raven looked at the clock, which read almost 8:30. She remembered what day it was. “Should we go to Jasper’s?”

Clarke smiled gratefully at Raven, touched that even in her no-sleep-and-high-on-caffeine state, she still remembered where Clarke had to go every Sunday. She nodded, “Let’s go.”

The two friends walked out of the lab with their arms around each other.

It was a little warmer than when she came the week before, but still chilly enough for her to appreciate a warm cup of coffee. “Mmm,” Clarke sighed. “Seriously, Jasper, do you put crack in this coffee? There is no other way it can be this good.”

Jasper laughed. Then his face turned serious and he said, “I do, actually. It’s the secret ingredient. And it’s also why that cup is going to cost you 75 dollars.”

Raven snorted. “Serves her right for not letting me order any coffee.” She went right back to digging into her mountainous plate of scrambled eggs, hashbrown, bacon and toast. She was already calming down from her earlier caffeine rush, and the comfort food was definitely helping as well.

“You’ll thank me when you get home later and can actually fall asleep,” Clarke said. She turned to Jasper, eyes narrowed and riddled with mischief. “And as for you, funny sir, why don’t you ask Raven about her breakthrough today?”

Raven looked up from her food at the mention of her project, but she couldn’t say anything because her mouth was stuffed. Jasper saw his chance and took it. “Oh no, it’s fine. I . . . uh . . . I heard it all from Monty already. Great job, Raven. Uh . . . go science!” He glanced at the café doors. “What’s that?” he called out to no one. “I’m needed inside? Okay, I’ll be right in!” Turning back to the girls, he said, “I’ll talk to you guys later. You know, business.” He shrugged in a what-can-you-do kind of way, and quickly walked back into the café.

“Well, that was subtle,” Raven said after she swallowed her mouthful of food. Clarke just laughed.

Raven smiled at the sound of Clarke’s genuine laughter. It was such a lovely sound, and these days, a rather rare one. She knew Clarke was trying her best to be happy around her friends because she didn’t want them to worry, and it worked on most of them. But Raven could always tell when her friend was too quick to smile, and too quick to laugh. Especially when that laughter didn’t reach her eyes.

Raven had known Clarke since their freshman year in college, when they were paired up randomly as roommates in the dorms. At first the engineering major and the art major didn’t get along very well due to conflicts in sleep schedules and visitor policies and Raven, you can’t keep getting all of these nails and bolts on my bed and Well, Princess, you always leave your art supplies all over the room and get paint on everything. Eventually, though, after they overcame their minor differences, Clarke grew to become one of Raven’s best friends, the sister she never had and didn’t know she wanted. After their first year, they moved out of the dorms together with Octavia, another girl they had met and bonded with on their floor.

The three would continue to live together after they graduated college. Raven went to graduate school while Clarke picked up random jobs while working on her art work before gaining enough popularity to focus solely on her art. Octavia found an internship with a big company in the fashion industry and was later hired by that same company. The three only disbanded when Clarke moved in with Lexa and Octavia moved in with Lincoln. Octavia now lived further away, but still always made time to see them at least once a week. Clarke and Raven lived only several blocks from each other, and so were able to continue spending a lot of time together.

In fact, Raven had been with Clarke that very day that she met Lexa in the exact same spot they were currently sitting.

It was a warm, sunny day in the middle of their first summer after graduation. Raven was working in the lab for her graduate studies and Clarke had the day off, so they had decided to meet for lunch at the café where Jasper was working. Raven was late, as usual, having stayed behind to finish up some of her work. Clarke was sitting at one of the more secluded tables on the far end of the outdoor seating area so that she could bask in the afternoon sun with minimal distraction while she waited.

Jasper came out to take her order, looking somewhat flustered. “Hi Clarke,” he greeted.

“Hey Jas, is everything okay?”

“Oh, yeah, it’s fine. It’s just my boss. He’s been complaining about the slow business this past month. If only he would listen to me and make the changes I recommended . . .” He shook his head. “Anyway, what will you have?”

“Can I just get the usual sandwich and iced tea for me? And Raven will have her usual as well. She’s running a little late, but she asked me to order for her.”

“Will do. I’ll bring the food right out when it’s ready. And I’m sorry I can’t talk longer right now. My boss is glaring at me again. But we’ll catch up this weekend, yeah?”

Clarke nodded, offering a sympathetic smile. “Can’t wait. Good luck with your mean boss.” Jasper returned her smile before quickly going back inside to place the orders.

After he left, Clarke put her sunglasses on and leaned her head back to catch as much of the summer sun as she could, smiling as the warm rays hit her face. She kept her eyes opened despite the sun in the periphery of her vision in order to watch the clouds drifting through the clear blue sky, imagining just how she could paint them on a canvas. So when she finally looked down again, her vision was filled with bright halos around everything.

And that’s when she saw her.

She was sitting at one of the tables closer to the café doors, with her back to the fountain, facing Clarke. She was deeply engrossed in a book, biting on a pencil she held in her hand, paying little mind to the world around her.

Clarke slowly took off her sunglasses and tried to focus her eyes. The halos were still there, but they seemed to perfectly frame the girl’s face, giving her an almost ethereal glow. Even from the distance, Clarke could still make out high cheekbones, small, adorable ears, full lips, and a slender, elegant neck. All very kissable features, Clarke thought to herself. She had also never even realized that ears could be adorable until she saw hers. The girl’s long, wavy chestnut hair was loosely held up with a pin and a pencil in a messy bun behind her head, revealing prominent collarbones. Also kissable. A loose tendril of hair dangled over the right side of her face.

Clarke shook her head to try to clear her vision, without much luck, so she just resigned herself to staring at this mystery girl, slowly taking in more and more details of her features as her vision returned to normal. The girl didn’t look up from her book once in the several minutes it took before Raven arrived.

“Hey, sorry I’m late.” Raven sat down across from Clarke, directly in her line of sight to the girl. “There were some miscalculations at the lab about the energy containment area, and then one of the pressure regulators on the machine broke, so I had to dig in with some elbow grease and a wrench to try to . . .” Her voice trailed off as she realized that Clarke was not paying attention to her at all and was instead just staring at something behind her. She waved her hands in front of Clarke’s face, “Hello? Anyone there?”

Clarke finally snapped out of her daze and looked at Raven.

“Were you even listening to anything I said?” Raven asked.

“Yes, yes, I was listening. You made some sort of . . . energy pressure wrench.”

Raven gave her a suspicious look before turning around to look behind her. She scanned the area until her sight finally landed on the girl. “Ahh, I see.” She turned back to Clarke with a knowing look and smirked. “You had much better things to pay attention to. Or rather, one thing in particular.”

Clarke’s cheeks reddened as she was caught in her ogling. “Shut up,” she said. But she didn’t bother denying it. She would tell Raven everything anyway.

“She’s cute. You should go talk to her,” Raven suggested.

“Really? You think so?”

“Yeah, why not? What’s the worst that can happen? It’s not like you haven’t approached girls before. I don’t praise you too often, Griffin, but even I will admit that you have game.”

“I don’t know, Rae. She’s . . . different. I don’t think my usual lines are going to work on her.”

“Okay, not to burst your bubble or anything, but you do know that you don’t get girls because of your crappy pick up lines, right? You get them because you’re fucking cute, Griffin. And incredibly lovable.”

“Aww . . . Thanks?”

“No problem. Now go. Be cute.”

“Okay.” Clarke stood up and took a deep breath to steel herself. She started to make her way to the girl’s table.

“Cuter than that. Way cuter.”

“Shut up.”

Raven finished her breakfast in pretty much record time, even for her. Clarke was only halfway through her meal when Raven sat back in her seat and let out a content sigh.

“That was amazing. Really hit the spot. You know, Jasper really turned this place around.”

“I know. He almost always has something new for me to try every week,” Clarke mentioned off-hand before digging back into her plate.

This made Raven regard Clarke silently for a moment.

“So how long are you going to do this?” Raven finally said.

Clarke put down her fork and sat back in her chair. “Raven,” she began warily, “please don’t.”

“Listen, I’m not going to tell you to stop, because I know you won’t. Hell, I’ve waited here with you on more Sundays than I can count. Jasper would probably go broke without our business. But I just— I just want to make sure you still know what you are doing. Because I love you. We all do. And that’s all I need. To know that you’re okay, and that you’re going to be okay.”

Clarke fought back the tears that now threatened to fall. Her eyes glistened as she looked at Raven.

“Thank you, Rae. You know I love all of you too. And I appreciate everything you’ve done for me. I wouldn’t have made it through everything without you and Octavia there.” She paused to collect herself. Just the thought of all that her friends did for her was enough to make her cry.

“But I need to do this, Raven. I do. I need to do this for as long as I can. I know the chances of her coming back after so long . . . after how much I hurt her . . . and be willing to forgive me and take me back are very, very low. Miniscule even. But it’s all I have right now. This is my last link to her, and if I’m honest, it is what’s keeping me going every day. Looking forward to Sundays, when I have a miniscule one-in-a-million chance of seeing her instead of zero chance.”

Clarke looked down at her hands, taking a deep breath before continuing, “I know you care about me, so just know that this is enough for me. I’m happy. I am. I’m happy with this little glimmer of hope. Because I don’t know what I would do if I didn’t have this, if I really had to admit that I’m never going to see her again, that I’ve lost her forever. I’m not sure I would ever be able to get out of whatever pit of despair that would throw me in.”

Tears were falling freely down her face by the time she finished. She wiped at them carelessly; she didn’t have to hide them in front of Raven. She looked back at her friend, hoping that she would understand.

Raven observed Clarke silently for long seconds. Her own eyes glimmered with unshed tears before she sniffled and rubbed her nose and looked away. Tears did not fall as easily from her eyes as they did Clarke’s.

Long seconds passed again. When she finally turned back and met Clarke’s eyes, her expression had changed.

“We should probably bring a board game or something next time then.”

Chapter Text


The brunette glanced up from her book for seemingly the first time since she had begun reading it, looking somewhat lost for being pulled back so suddenly into the real world. She registered that the owner of the voice was standing next to her, but not recognizing Clarke and therefore not understanding why she would be talking to her, the girl checked to make sure there wasn’t someone behind her who was actually being addressed. When she saw no one there, she turned back and finally met Clarke’s eyes.

“Hi,” the girl replied, cautiously. Questioningly.

Forest green. The color of her eyes, Clarke noted instantly. Also her new favorite color, she decided. She had never seen such deep, expressive eyes before. So deep that she could drown in them forever. So deep that she was drowning in them a little bit now actually. A lot of bit.

Clarke noticed the look on the girl’s face slowly changing from questioning anticipation to curious concern to now mildly reserved suspicion and she was suddenly aware that she hadn’t said anything else for many seconds. Her brain madly scrambled for coherent thoughts to form.

“Is that . . . a book?” Clarke heard what sounded like her voice ask. But that was impossible. That was just so . . . stupid. How could her brain have ever allowed that?

The girl looked down at what Clarke was pointing to, and appeared to become even more confused. Clarke was searching her brain for something to say that could fix this. Anything, she thought, say anything. She started to panic, and could feel herself blushing and sweating. The girl observed Clarke’s reaction for a while before realization about the situation suddenly dawned on her face.

“Yes,” she answered, smiling kindly, and lifted her book up slightly to acknowledge it. “I believe that’s what these things are called these days,” she jested, trying to lighten the mood.

“Is it . . . good?” Her voice asked again. Oh my god, Clarke thought. Is this really happening?

“Yes, it’s quite an engaging novel. Perhaps you might give it a chance if you’re looking for something to read.” She turned the book over and showed Clarke the bright yellow cover where the title was clearly shown.

Clarke saw the cover and tried to focus, but at this point, she really was not able to read anything. She nodded nonetheless.

“I’m Lexa,” the girl volunteered, when Clarke continued to remain silent.

“Clarke.” She pointed to herself. “That’s me.” She pointed to herself!

More silence.

“You’re very good at this,” the girl lightheartedly japed, amusement in her eyes. “Are you really going to make me do all the work?”

That seemed enough to snap Clarke out of her daze.

“Well, I’m usually better at this. But then I’d never seen eyes like yours before.”

“That was better.”

“Can I come back and do this again? I will just avoid looking at your eyes next time. And probably your entire face, actually. To be safe.”

The girl named Lexa laughed. It was such a beautiful, melodious laugh that Clarke was worried that it would throw her back into her dumbstruck daze again.

“Wouldn’t you rather have a seat instead?” Lexa asked, gesturing to the chair in front of her.

“Yes, actually I would. Despite how much I clearly want to redo everything that just happened here.” Clarke moved to pull out the chair to sit down. Her heart beat rapidly as she allowed herself to entertain the thought that she was actually making some headway.

“I think your friend is happy for you.”

Clarke turned to where Lexa was pointing and saw that Raven had taken her vacated seat so that she could see all of the action clearly. Raven saw them looking at her, and instead of trying to appear discreet, she grinned cheerfully, and then proceeded to wave and give a thumbs up sign. Lexa waved back.

“Ugh,” Clarke groaned. “Please ignore her. Some of her prized possessions will be destroyed later.”

More melodious laugher.

“Here. This is me starting over. Hi, I’m Clarke.” Clarke extended her hand, which Lexa indulgingly shook. “I am a 22 year old artist, by night at least, specializing in oil painting, but dabbling in other mediums as well. That embarrassing human back there is one of my best friends, Raven. I love her to death most other days. I have blue eyes, but will sometimes claim they are ‘azure’ when asked just to see how people respond. And I know what you’re wondering. Yes, this is my real hair color, and I don’t mind the stereotypes that come with it as much as I should, because I think, if we’re being honest, it was part of the reason I was invited to sit here to talk to you just now.” She ended it with her trademark grin, infused with a bit of confidence, now that she found her groove again.

Lexa regarded her curiously for a second, taking in everything she said. Finally, her lips turned up in a small smile. “That is rather presumptive, don’t you think?”

“Am I wrong?”

“Yes, quite. I usually only go for brunettes.”

“Really? Well, what a coincidence. Me too. Look at how much we have in common already.”

“I don’t think that actually works in your favor.”

“You’re right.” Clarke admitted with a wink. “How about you give me a chance to change your mind then?”

“Will you?”

“Change your mind? Absolutely. One date, and you’ll never go back.” Clarke gave her best, most winning smile.

Lexa grew silent. Clarke’s heart was now beating at an inhuman rate in her chest. It was so loud to her own ears that she was sure Lexa could hear it too. She thought she was doing well, but she wasn’t one hundred percent confident the girl would say yes. But she really, really hoped she would. She’d enjoyed the banter between the two of them in the short time they had talked, and she was dying to know more about her. And to see more of her beautiful, perfect face.

Lexa closed her book all the way and put it back into her large purse. She watched as Lexa pulled out some bills from her wallet and tucked it under her coffee cup, seemingly ready to leave. Clarke’s face fell. Where did she go wrong? Has she ruined her chances of ever seeing this girl again? Clarke didn’t know what else to say.

But just as Clarke thought Lexa was going to get up and leave without even a goodbye, she saw Lexa rumble through her purse and pull out a pen and a small piece of loose paper. She scribbled something on the paper and slid it over to Clarke.

“I hope you do change my mind, Clarke.” She smiled before getting up from her chair and walking off.

Clarke watched her leave silently. She then looked down at the piece of paper and saw, in beautifully written script, “Lexa.” And underneath that, a phone number.

“Clarke, I don’t think that’s right.”

“Raven, who’s the artist here? I think I can do this,” Clarke said as she continued to unfurl the banner she had just unwrapped to hang on the wall.

“Um, just because you’re an ‘artist’ doesn’t mean you know how to do interior decorating.”

“We’re hanging banners for an engagement party. I would hardly call this interior decorating.”

“And that lackadaisical attitude is why the banner you’re trying to hang up says ‘It’s a boy!’ instead of ‘Happy engagement!’”

“Wait, what?” Clarke looked down at the banner in her hands. Sure enough, that’s what it said. She had apparently grabbed the wrong one at the party store earlier in her rush. “Damn it.”

“Good job, Griffin.”

“Shut up.” She folded it back up and was about to throw it in the trash when she suddenly had a thought. “Hmm, maybe we can save this to use in the future for them.”

“Octavia and Lincoln aren’t even married yet. They just got engaged, and you’re already planning a baby shower? AND you’re predicting the sex of their firstborn too?”

“You never know with those two. They did spring this engagement thing on us pretty suddenly.”

“They have been dating for almost 6 years. I don’t think anyone even batted an eyebrow in surprise when they told us. It was almost like they told us they decided to buy pizza for dinner.”

“Has it really been that long already?” Clarke asked, thinking back to the many nights after Octavia and Lincoln first started dating when Octavia would come home practically gushing about their dates. It was significant because Octavia simply never gushed about anything, let alone a boy.

“Yes, she met him in our final year of college, remember? At that one party where Monty almost set the whole place on fire by trying to re-wire the speakers to increase volume output and the entire fire station was there and everyone had to be evacuated.”

“If I recall correctly, I think it was Monty and a co-conspirator . . . hmm, who was it again?” Clarke appeared to ponder, scratching her chin. “. . . Oh that’s right, it was you.”

“Details.” Raven waved off the comment. Clarke grinned at her casual dismissal of her (rather substantial) involvement in the situation.

“I guess they have been together for so long that I think of them as basically married already. I mean, they make a beautiful couple. Lincoln is such a good match for her, and we both know he will be a great husband,” Clarke said.

When Clarke and Raven first met Lincoln, they thought he was attractive – obviously, they had eyes, didn’t they – but his stern, quiet and mysterious demeanor initially gave them reservations. The more they came to know him, however, the more they both decided that he was in fact just a teddy bear. A giant, muscled teddy bear with abs of steel, but still, just a teddy bear. They knew he was always going to be Octavia’s steadfast rock, and quickly gave their highly-sought-after-and-required best-friends’ approval. For which Lincoln was thankful.

Clarke suddenly felt a deep sense of happiness for her two friends.

“They’re both in really good places right now,” Raven noted. “Octavia’s got her fashion line going, and Lincoln’s motorbike business is doing well. The timing makes sense.”

“Yes!” Clarke exclaimed. She held up another banner to Raven, showing that this one was in fact for an engagement party. “Isn’t it a good thing I just indiscriminately grabbed everything there was in that aisle?”

“Interior designer you definitely are not.”

“Fine, you can use your amazing engineering skills to hang this up then.” Clarke handed the banner over to Raven.

“Watch and learn from the master,” Raven instructed as she climbed up the small step ladder to hang the banner over the doorway. “When is everyone coming again?”

“I told them all five o’clock. That gives us another three hours to get everything ready. Bellamy and Echo are coming late because her shift at the hospital ends later tonight, and Jasper, Monty, and the rest are supposed to be on time so we can plan the surprise. The happy couple should be arriving around six. Lincoln has been instructed to keep Octavia away until he gets the ‘okay’ text from us.”

They spent the rest of the afternoon putting the final touches on everything. By four o’clock, they had all the decorations up and all the food ready to be served. Sinking into the couch together, they gave themselves congratulatory pats on the back.

“I have to admit. We did a kickass job.” Clarke said, looking around at how much they had transformed Octavia and Lincoln’s apartment.

“I have to agree with you. I really can’t imagine how this could have been done better. It’s utter perfection, really.”

“Let’s just quit our day jobs and be party planners.”


The surprise was a success. The guests all arrived on time and somehow Clarke and Raven were able to hide all twenty-something people and got them to synchronize their “Surprise!” shout when the couple walked in (except for Monty, who jumped and shouted two seconds after everyone did). Octavia was so touched by it all that she spent the first fifteen minutes of the party just walking around hugging everyone, all the while fighting tears from her eyes. She reached Clarke and Raven last, and pulled them into an enormous group hug.

“I love you guys,” she whispered to them. “Thank you for everything.”

“You deserve the best of everything, O,” Clarke said, meaning it with all of her heart. Raven just nodded, too happy to say much more.

After all the presents were unwrapped and all the thanks were given and all the toasts were made, they turned up the music and turned it into a real party. It had been a while since she helped to organize a party, but Clarke had to admit that everything was going rather smoothly (except for when Monty spilled his beer all over Jasper while he was trying to impress one of Octavia’s model friends).

Clarke soon found herself in the doorway of the kitchen with a beer in her hand, observing her friends. Raven was in the corner talking to one of Lincoln’s friends who she had met several weeks earlier. Bellamy and Echo had finally arrived and were congratulating the happy couple. Jasper had just returned to the room, wearing one of Lincoln’s t-shirts that hung to him like a large bag. Monty was sheepishly avoiding his glare. Everyone else was scattered throughout the apartment, chatting and drinking.

Not too long later, she found herself talking to Finn, one of Bellamy’s friends who she had met about a month ago when they had watched a football game at Bellamy’s place. He had called her shortly after they met and asked her out, but she had given excuses after excuses. It wasn’t that she was not dating at all because of her . . . situation. About a year ago, she had started going out on casual dates that her friends set her up with, initially to appease their concerns about her by showing them that she was fine and could still date if she wanted to. Eventually, she realized she was doing it because, well, because she was lonely. Despite all the emotional baggage she tried to bury deep down inside her (often unsuccessfully), she sometimes just craved human interaction and human contact.

But she had never seen someone for more than for a few dates. Most of them had been perfectly . . . dateable, but she kept coming up with trivial reasons after reasons when Raven asks why she stopped seeing them. They both knew the real reason, but Raven never pushed her to say it. Because even though Raven wished Clarke could truly move on, just seeing her put herself out there and have fun from time to time was enough to convince her that Clarke was making progress. She thought it would only be a matter of time until Clarke met that someone. That someone who could make her stop waiting on the long-standing date with a girl who was probably never going to show up.

Well, here she was, talking to Finn again. Maybe it was the three beers she had in her, and the fourth that she was rapidly downing, but she found Finn to be quite charming and funny tonight. And there’s no denying that he was attractive. It just felt so nice to be the center of someone’s attention again, to be the one pined after, instead of the one doing the pining. She wallowed in this feeling, letting it wash over her.

She was tipsy, that was for sure. And she was bored. So she indulged his flirtation, smiling once in a while, even flirting back. The rush of alcohol and the loud music and the being around friends made her lightheaded and giddy. Before she knew it, he was leaning in and kissing her. His lips were firm – not soft like hers – but light and gentle, searching, questioning. After remaining still for a second, she closed her eyes and kissed him back. They backed into the kitchen where they were now alone, lips still attached. She felt herself pressed against the refrigerator while his lips glided down her jaw to attach themselves to her neck. His hands had made their way to her hips, holding on to her there gently.

“Should we get out of here?” She heard him whisper against her neck.

Realizing what she was doing and how far she was potentially letting it go, she placed her hands on his shoulders and softly pushed him back. He immediately stepped back from her, dropping his hands from her hips, and regarded her with concerned eyes.

“Are you okay, Clarke? I’m sorry if that was going too fast. I—I thought . . . I don’t know what I was thinking.”

Clarke shook her head and let out a small nervous laugh. “No, Finn, it’s okay. I just—just . . . not tonight.”

“Okay, yeah. Of course.” Finn looked relieved that he hadn’t just ruined everything with her. They stood in awkward silence for several moments. He nervously rubbed the back of his neck, before asking, “But will you finally let me take you out on a real date sometime?”

Clarke looked at him closely. He was watching her, awaiting her reply with anxious anticipation in his eyes. He was kind, and sweet, and gentle.

“Really?” she asked, giving him a chance to back out.

“Yes, of course. Really. I like you. I don’t know what you thought of me when we first met that made you say no before, but give me a chance. Let me change your mind, Clarke.”

Those last words hit her like a stab through the heart, sending her back to that fateful day, when similar words were uttered by a very different person. She suddenly felt very angry. Angry that she had let herself get to the point where just a short phrase could hurt her so much still. How did she get here? Why was she still suffering so much pain after so long? Why couldn’t she just let herself be happy? Didn’t she deserve that?

She looked into Finn’s eyes, and saw only earnestness and adoration. She did her best to push down all the memories and pain and fear and doubt, and for the first time in a long while, possibly due to the aid of the alcohol, she succeeded. She swallowed thickly.


Chapter Text

She didn't really know exactly how it happened, but here she was again, on Sunday morning, at the café.

She starting telling herself that it was because of habit and routine and her need for caffeine but eventually gave up trying to lie to herself. At least she gave it a good shot, she reasoned.

After her somewhat impulsive agreement to go out with Finn three weeks earlier, she had decided to also quit her weekly coffee date with no one, thinking that perhaps she could finally overcome this rather significant obstacle to happiness. Let it not be said that she didn’t start out hopeful and determined.

She had gone out with Finn twice, and they were scheduled for a third date next week. Time spent with him had been pleasant and tame (with Finn being extra cautious after what transpired at the party), but it was definitely not enough to stop her from imagining how it would have been with a different person. With a very specific different person. The first time she failed to show up on Sunday, she received numerous nervous texts from Jasper who was concerned about her safety when he didn't see her at her table at her usual time. But instead of sleeping in or doing anything productive with her time like she had planned, she found herself awake and anxiously pacing her apartment, texting Jasper every half an hour to make sure he was watching the table (Yes, Clarke, I am working the entire day and Yes, Clarke, I was watching your table the entire time and No, Clarke, I didn’t see someone who looked like a possible Lexa with short hair).

She thought she would feel the weight of the world lifted off of her shoulders after missing the first Sunday, but instead, she felt even more anxious and uneasy the entire week after. She managed to avoid the café the following Sunday as well, but was harassing Jasper so much that he finally just video called her and set his phone where it had a good view of the table for her to watch herself. She made him promise that that story was never getting out to their friends, in exchange for helping him set up a date with one of Octavia’s model friends.

Well, at least she gave it a good shot, she thought again, sipping her coffee. She felt surprisingly at ease here, like a smoker taking her first drag of cigarette after falling off the wagon from two hellish weeks of abstinence. What a horrible, fitting analogy, she thought.

But she didn’t want to think about it anymore. She knew she would have to one of these days.  Have to honestly evaluate what she was doing and truly consider the more and more likely possibility that her efforts will be fruitless. But today was not that day. Today, she was going to revel in the feeling of giving in to her form of addiction, and release all of the anxiety and fear that had built up from not being here the past two weeks. Taking another sip of coffee under the winter sun, she knew she was where she belonged right now.


Clarke heard the greeting and knew who uttered it before she saw her. It was familiar. It was safe. It was one of the few words that was so closely associated with her happy past that it brought a smile every time she heard it. She finally looked up.


“Can I sit?”

“Of course. You know you’re always welcomed anywhere I am.”

Clarke watched as the woman sat down in the chair across from her. It had been a while since she last saw Anya. Probably four months, she estimated. Right here in the very same place. It was one of the consequences of the breakup that Clarke hadn’t anticipate – the never seeing Anya again, or at least, not seeing her as often as she used to. Apparently when you break someone’s little sister’s heart, you don’t get to continue to enjoy the pleasure of her company as frequently as you’d like.

The first time Anya had stopped by the café, Clarke had already been waiting for three months. The purpose of that visit was clear the moment Anya sat down – You should stop this now, Clarke. She’s not going to come. Whether or not that message was from Lexa, Clarke didn’t know. Anya refused to tell her, and continued to refuse at all of their subsequent meetings, which occurred on average every 3-4 months after that initial visit. Anya refused to tell her anything about Lexa in general. As each ensuing visit showed more and more that Clarke was not going to quit no matter what Anya said, their meetings became more social in nature. Outside of possibly getting information about Lexa, and after the initial, brief, instinctual fear Clarke felt that Anya was there to tell her that Lexa was getting married and that she should truly move on, Clarke very much did enjoy these meetings with Anya.

She remembered how intimidated she had been the first time she met Anya. The woman was strength and power and resilience wrapped up in a tall, lean package. Sometimes it was hard to believe that she and Lexa were related. Unlike Lexa, who exuded warmth and sunlight wrapped in understated elegance and quiet sophistication, her older sister radiated an air of cool, critical detachment, invoking feelings of stormy clouds and the promise of sudden thunder. Her steely, stoic face betrayed none of her emotions, but her penetrating eyes always seemed to pierce your soul.

Clarke had always been used to people taking an almost instant liking to her, but with Anya, she couldn’t tell where she stood. She was initially sure that Anya hated her (despite Lexa’s constant reassurance), until one day when Anya smiled (well, almost smiled, but Clarke counted it) at something Clarke said. Anya realized that Clarke was going to be a fixture in her sister’s life, so she made an effort to get to know Clarke, eventually growing to enjoy the artist’s company. Clarke soon came to realize that although Anya was definitely not a teddy bear, she was a secret mother hen. A mother hen who was fiercely protective of her little ones. A mother hen who could snap someone’s neck with one hand if she needed to (probably, Clarke would guess). The two of them grew to have their own relationship outside of Clarke’s relationship with Lexa and Clarke really did come to see Anya as a sister.

That relationship she had with Anya became collateral damage during the breakup, and it was one of the few things Clarke truly missed having in her life.

Jasper had come out to their table after seeing Anya arrive and was now taking her order – coffee, black – while glancing nervously at Clarke. She smiled, remembering how much Jasper had always been intimidated by Anya. After Jasper hastily left, they sat in silence for a while.

There was so much Clarke wanted to say. Or ask, rather. And most of her questions involved one person in particular. Where is she? Is she dating? Married? Has she thought about me? Does she know I’m still waiting here every week?

But she didn’t voice these questions, because she knew Anya wouldn’t answer (or couldn’t? due to instructions from Lexa? Clarke didn’t know). They had come to an implicit agreement early on that guided their continued interactions. Anya wouldn’t say anything about Lexa, and Clarke wouldn’t ask.

So, instead, she went for safe conversation. They talked about how the weather has been unusually cold for that time of year. Or rather, Clarke did, while Anya acknowledged her statements with intermittent nods. They eventually dissolved into silence again, but it was not an uncomfortable silence. She could feel Anya’s laser-focused gaze on her. Finally, the other woman spoke.

“Why are you still doing this?”

A pause, as Clarke looked away.

“You know why.” Because she did.

“Tell me.”

Clarke took a deep breath and looked back, meeting quiet, stormy eyes.

They were going to do this again.

She heard her phone ring just as she dropped her keys off in the bowl next to her door. Her conversation at the park with Clarke left her feeling uncharacteristically drained, more so than their conversations usually did. She had grown to love Clarke as another sister during the three years she and Lexa were together, and it pained her to see both of them hurt. She had never seen Lexa as happy as when she was with Clarke, and she had yet to see her smile as brightly since. Why can’t those kids just figure it out? She had suggested that a good physical brawl would release all their tension and pain and essentially fix everything, but her recommendation was rejected because that’s not how regular people deal with these things, Anya. They were both such stubborn children.

Just before she left the café, Clarke broke their implicit agreement and asked her one question about Lexa — Is she happy? Anya had taken a second to think before giving her reply — Yes. Clarke gave her a wistful smile, and asked her to just to let Lexa know that she was still waiting and that regardless of what would happen, she just wanted a chance to say everything she needed to say. Anya had silently nodded yes. How could she not? She could at least do that much for her.

She pulled her phone out of her pocket and smiled when she saw the name on the screen. Speak of the devil.


“Are you this warm to everybody, or just your flesh and blood? Who, you should note by the way, is taking time to call you from thousands of miles away.”

“Okay then, sweet baby sister.”

A pause.

“You’re right. That’s not better. Go back to what suits you.”

Anya grinned. It would have been a rare sight for anybody lucky enough to have seen it. “So, how’s London? Is it still raining there?”

She heard a sigh on the other line. “Anya, it’s always raining here. I don’t remember the last time my hair was dry.”

The image of her sister’s full head of hair in all that humidity amused her to no end.

“Maybe that’s just London telling you it doesn’t like you.”

Lexa laughed. A genuine one. Anya had missed hearing it.

“I love that you think so highly of me as to suggest that an entire city’s weather system would be personally against me.”

“I’ve missed you, you know that, kid?”

“I’ve missed you, too,” Lexa began. Anya could sense her trying to hold back the excitement in her voice. “Pretty soon though, you’re not going to have the chance to miss me so much.”


“My editor just called. I have been commissioned by a big publishing firm to write a biography on a politician back in the States.”

“A wonderful opportunity for you.”

“It is, Anya. I will have to spend a lot of time researching his life, interviewing his family, friends, and colleagues, meeting with the editor, etc. . . .” she trailed off, clearly expecting Anya to pick up on something. Anya was happy for Lexa, but she had done bigger projects in the past, so she did not understand why this was so special.

When Anya didn’t say anything, Lexa continued, “The politician is back in the States, Anya.”

It finally clicked for her.

“Lexa . . .” she started cautiously. “Does this mean . . .”

“Yes, Anya. I’m coming home.”

Two and a half years ago

“Clarke, you’re driving like a grandmother.”

Clarke laughed. She stepped on the gas, bringing the car up to the actual speed limit. “It’s because Lexa gets carsick very easily. I’ve had to learn to drive generally 10 miles below the speed limit, start braking miles ahead of any stop sign or stop light, and also accelerate like a snail. So yeah, I kind of drive like a grandmother.”

Wells rolled his eyes at how whipped his friend is. And then told her exactly that. “I’m rolling my eyes at how whipped you are.”

“Yes, I am. Happily so.”

Her phone rang where it sat in the cupholder. She glanced at the screen and smiled before pressing the answer call button on the car’s center console. Lexa’s voice came on over the car speakers.


“Hi babe. You’re on speaker right now. I’m in the car with Wells.”

“Hi Lexa,” Wells chirped in.

“Hi there. Did you two enjoy yourselves today?” Lexa asked.

“We did. Clarke was a great guide,” Wells replied. They had spent the whole day hiking in the woods just outside the city and were just now heading back. It was late, and not many cars were on the road.

“Hey, it’s not every day that your best friend since childhood comes to visit you,” Clarke reasoned. “I haven’t seen this boy in over a year, with him working all the way across the country now.” She reached over and ruffled his hair. He swatted her hand away, annoyed, causing her to laugh.

The road they were driving on had been deserted for the past twenty miles, but they were now passing through a small town. Clarke pulled up to the first red stoplight and waited. There were no cars around. The light turned green and they started on their way again.

“Oh, and by the way, Lexa. Wells just told me I am completely whipped. By you.”

“Clarke!” Wells exclaimed, somewhat embarrassed. They could hear Lexa laugh.

“Well, Clarke said you make her drive like a grandmother because of your horribly weak constitution,” he retorted.

“Hey!” Clarke reached her right hand over to lightly punched his shoulder.

“Am I going to have to tell the teacher on you two?” Lexa asked, jestingly.

“Goody two-shoes,” Clarke mouthed silently to Wells as she pointed to the console.

“I heard that, Clarke.”

Clarke was both somewhat bewildered and amused that Lexa knew what she did.

 “Well, I’ll let you two get back to talking about me. I just wanted to let you know if I’m in bed by the time you guys get home, there’s food on the counter. I picked you guys up a couple of burgers and fries from Clarke’s favorite restaurant, the Ark.”

“Aw, thanks so much, babe.” Clarke turned to face Wells. “See, this is why I’m whipped.” He just shook his head and smiled.

She saw another light ahead. But this one was green for them so she didn’t slow down.

“Alright, Lexa, we’ll be back soon. Sleep ti—”

She didn’t see the car coming until it was too late.

Clarke slowly opened her eyes to the sound of monitors beeping all around her. She had a splitting headache that was immediately made worse by the light. Her entire body ached. She could feel tape and tubing all over her face and arms. She tried to move, but groaned when she immediately felt a sharp stab of pain run down her right leg. She felt someone stir at the end of the bed and all of a sudden, Lexa’s face filled her field of vision. Her hair was messy and there were bags under her eyes. She looked like she had been crying. A lot.

“It’s okay. You’re safe,” Lexa whispered as she slowly caressed Clarke’s face.

She tried to open her mouth to speak, but her throat felt impossibly dry, and nothing came out.

“Here,” Lexa said, helping her head up and holding a small cup of water up to her lips, “The doctors said you can have just a little bit of water by mouth for now.”

Clarke drank as much as she could, savoring the cool liquid as it eased the coarseness in the back of her throat. She choked on the last little bit in her rush to swallow, going into a small coughing fit. Lexa began patting and rubbing her back.

“Where am I?” she finally croaked.

“You’re at the hospital, Clarke. You’re safe. You’ve been out for two days, but you only have a fractured tibia in your leg and some bruises. The rest of you is fine.” Lexa paused at that, closing her eyes and pressing her forehead against Clarke’s. She took a deep breath before continuing, “The rest of you is fine. After seeing pictures of the cars, the doctors said it really was a miracle.”

Lexa helped Clarke lie back down on the bed. She sniffled and tried unsuccessfully to hold back the tears that were already falling as she remembered how her world, her life, was restored when the doctors told her that Clarke was going to be okay. “I thought I lost you, Clarke. It was—I can’t ever go through that ever again.” She leaned in and kissed her on the forehead. She continued to caress her face. “I love you so much, Clarke.”

Clarke tried to take it all in. She was in a hospital. But she was okay. Lexa was crying. She loved Lexa and didn’t want her to cry anymore. But she didn’t know how to stop her from crying. She couldn’t remember anything.

“What . . . happened?”

Lexa wiped her tears and her tone became angry . “Some local kids. Three of them. Drunk driving. They ran a red light and hit your car on the passenger’s side right as you were crossing the intersection. They had minor injuries too, but they have all been discharged from the hospital already. There’s an investigation going on and legal action pending.”

Passenger’s side . . . passenger’s side . . . Wells. It came back to Clarke. What she had been doing right before she blacked out.


At the mention of his name, Lexa looked away from Clarke. She saw more tears fall as Lexa continued to avoid her gaze, her whole body shaking. Clarke moved her hand to latch firmly onto Lexa's arm.

“Wells?” she repeated.

Finally Lexa turned back and met her eyes. Clarke had never seen so much pain there.

“He didn’t make it, Clarke.”

Chapter Text

She didn’t remember much from the immediate days after the accident, due in part to her concussion, in part to the anesthesia used for her surgery, and in part to the multiple sedating pain medications. She went in and out of consciousness, hearing snippets of conversation around her, recognizing the voices as those of her friends and family. 

Whenever she was lucid enough, they would talk to her, about anything and everything. Except for that one thing. At first, she didn't know why she would awake with a heavy feeling in her chest that made it hard for her to breath, but whenever she managed to stay awake long enough, she would remember it. She would remember that Wells was gone. And initially, that realization was so shocking and jarring to her system when it came that it caused her to shake and writhe uncontrollably until her nurses gave her enough sedating medications to calm her down.

She always felt Lexa's hand close over hers just before she lost the fight against unconsciousness. 

Slowly, eventually, she awoke knowing that Wells was gone. This knowledge left her in a state of numbness and muteness that was more worrisome than her shaking fits.

When she was finally discharged from the hospital after another week of treatment, she left having gained a cast and a set of crutches, but having lost so much more. 

She spent most of her days in their apartment, mostly in bed at first, though she did paint occasionally. She rarely left the apartment, blaming the inconvenience of the cast, so all of her friends took turns visiting her and organizing gatherings at her place. For all of this, Clarke was grateful. She really was. She knew that everyone was trying their best to help her forget what happened and feel back to normal. But the more they tried, the more she was reminded that everything was not normal. One of the most important people in her life was gone. Forever. And while she knew she should feel lucky for having survived the accident with just a fractured bone, and for having such a supportive group of friends, she didn’t. She couldn’t. She just wished that they would all leave her alone. Because all the effort of pretending to be happy and normal when she was so clearly not was extremely tiring and emotionally exhausting.

After the fourth such gatherings in as many weeks, Clarke finally had enough. Bellamy had just suggested that they all go to watch a movie that had just been released that weekend. Everyone agreed enthusiastically. When they turned to ask what she thought of the plan, instead of nodding, which she had planned to do, Clarke shouted at everyone that she had had enough of this and asked for them all to leave her alone. She then marched, with as much ferocity as she could muster while limping with her cast (not much), to her room and slammed the door, leaving Lexa to apologize to everyone and see them out.

She felt horrible after her sudden and unwarranted outburst, and so had to spend all of the following week calling everyone to apologize to them individually. Everyone was understanding of course, but the outburst had its intended effect – people no longer organized gatherings for her and left her alone unless she sought them out. Which, aside from Raven, Octavia, and sometimes Bellamy, she didn’t.

It was a different story with Lexa. Since the moment she came home from the hospital, Lexa was there for everything she needed, in her own very Lexa way that showed Clarke in no uncertain terms that Lexa understood her almost better than she herself did. Lexa did not hover over her, instead giving her the space they both knew she needed to deal with this. She helped Clarke maneuver around the apartment without having to be asked, but also allowed her to do what she could by herself. Furniture and wires were repositioned in subtle ways that would reduce tripping accidents. The remotes were always within reach. Cups and dishes were suddenly rearranged for better access. The fridge and cupboards were always full of all of her favorite foods. Clarke often awoke to fresh paint supplies set up next to an empty canvas. She also knew that Lexa acquiesced to their friends' suggestions for gatherings for their own sake, not because she thought it would help. She did all of this, without being asked, and without being thanked.

She made no demands of Clarke. She did not force her to talk about what she was feeling, because she knew Clarke wouldn't. She knew –- hoped –- that Clarke would seek her out when it was time. And in the meantime, she would continue to be the rock she thought Clarke needed.

Lexa was initially hopeful after a month that things were improving. Clarke had had her outburst, which she hoped was the emotional release she needed. But then another month passed, and another, and still nothing changed. 

Well, Clarke did have her cast removed. So she was able to physically return to her daily routines with less help from Lexa. But if anything, this just led to less interaction between the two of them. Clarke refused to talk to anyone about Wells, but as time went on, she seemed to want to talk less and less about anything, especially to Lexa. What little they said to each other now consisted mostly of daily niceties, of “how was your day’s” and “fine’s” and “I bought your favorite burger from the Ark” and “thanks, but I don’t feel like a burger tonight.” (Lexa also noticed with mild interest that Clarke never wanted to eat burgers from the Ark anymore.)

As Clarke became more and more withdrawn, Lexa began spending more and more time at Anya’s place, both to seek out her advice and for company, as sullen Clarke wasn’t much company these days.

“I don’t know what else to do, Anya. I’ve tried giving her everything I know she likes, everything I thought she likes, and even things she might not like. It seems like nothing interests her anymore.” Lexa leaned forward on the kitchen counter where she was seated on a barstool, placing her forehead onto the palms of her hands. Anya stood in the kitchen facing her.

“Clarke is grieving, Lexa. She has never faced such a traumatic incident in her life. Maybe this is just her way of coping.”

“I know. I thought that as well. I am giving her her time and space. But it has been three months. She is almost fully recovered from her injury and has resumed all her normal work and activities and even regular outings with friends. But she still . . . she still doesn’t say anything more to me than daily hello’s and mandatory recounts of our days. I feel like she is slipping away, and I don't know what to do about it.”

“Have you tried talking to her about this, about what you are feeling?”

“No . . . I don’t know if this is her way of coping, like you said. I don’t want to make it worse.”

“Are you hoping Clarke will just snap out of it one day and everything will be back to the way it was?”

“Yes. No. I don’t know. Maybe? Will it?” Lexa looked up at her sister, a hopeful expression on her face.

It pained Anya to see her little sister like this. Her little sister, who usually radiated light and love and confidence, now reduced to the bundle of melancholy and uncertainty and exhaustion in front of her. Anya was fiercely protective of Lexa, though she did not often express this. She wanted more than anything to shield her sister from all the pain that came from living and loving in this world, because Lexa surely had had more than her fair share of pain, having lost their parents at such a young age. She wanted to wrap Lexa in her arms and tell her everything will be okay, just as she had done years ago when Lexa had fallen off her bike and broken her arm and cried the whole time in the hospital, asking for their mom and dad, having forgotten in her pain that they were not around anymore. Anya had promised herself then that she would do whatever it took so Lexa will never have to cry for their lost parents again. And for the most part, she kept her promise. But now, for the first time in a long time, she knew there was nothing she could do except offer Lexa her support. And hope against hope for things to turn out well.

Anya took a deep breath before answering her.

“I don’t know, Lexa. But I know how much you love Clarke. Believe me, I do. And I know Clarke is going through a lot right now, but I have faith in you two kids. I have never seen anyone love each other as much as the two of you.” She paused, before adding, “I know you’re trying to be strong for Clarke, but you have to think about yourself too. I know you, Lex. You care so much about others, often at the expense of yourself. But the way you are going, holding your emotions inside like this, putting all your needs secondary to Clarke’s, it’s not sustainable. Something’s going to give if you keep doing this.”

“Don’t say that, Anya.”

“You know what I mean. Just take care of yourself, okay?”

“We’re going to make it work. We’ll make it through anything. I love her. That’s all I need to know. That’s all she needs to know.”

Anya nodded in solidarity with her sister’s sentiments, her sister who was so sure in her love for Clarke. But she couldn’t help the furrow in her forehead as she thought about how, maybe, for the first time in their three-year relationship, their love for each other, which had gotten them through so much in the past, might not be enough.

She truly didn’t want her intuition to be right, for those two’s sake.

But it was.

Clarke knew what was happening – how could she not? -- but she couldn’t do anything to stop it. She couldn’t stop herself from feeling the deep guilt she had for simply existing when Wells didn’t anymore. Her guilt and sorrow burrowed so deep within her that it permeated her entire being and sense of self. She didn’t know who she was anymore, outside of her guilt and sorrow. She tried so hard to be the Clarke she remembered, that her friends remembered, but it all felt like an act. She felt like she was an actress playing the role of Old Clarke before the accident. She said what she thought Old Clarke would say, did what she thought Old Clarke would do, but she couldn’t feel what Old Clarke would feel, not for anything, not for anyone. It was so exhausting living this way.

But then there was Lexa. She knew she loved Lexa. She loved her so much, but it was so hard. It was so hard because Lexa’s voice was the last thing she heard before her entire life as she knew it figuratively ended, before her link with Wells was so suddenly and traumatically severed. Now, whenever she heard Lexa’s voice, no matter how hard she fought it, her mind would flash back to her last moments with Wells and she would relive that horrible incident all over again. In order to cope with that, to not be reduced to a quivering mess every day, she found herself limiting her interactions with Lexa more and more.

She saw Lexa’s face fall every time her requests to go out, to do something together, were denied. She saw Lexa try unsuccessfully to hide with makeup her eyes that were swollen and red from crying silent tears at night. She saw the light slowly drained from Lexa’s naturally bright persona until she too became like how Clarke felt, like a rainy day with no end in sight.

And it hurt her so much to know that she was the cause of this. And to know that she couldn’t help it, that she couldn’t change it. She didn’t think she would ever be able to get out of whatever this was, but she knew she couldn’t continue to drain Lexa like she was doing. It wasn’t fair to her. Lexa deserved better. She deserved better than Clarke.

She decided to do it one night four months after the accident. During one of their now commonplace take out dinners where few words, and fewer looks, were exchanged.

“You deserve to be happy.”

Lexa stopped eating at the sound of her words. She put her utensils down deliberately before turning to look at Clarke, determination in her eyes.

“We are not doing this, Clarke.”

“It will be for the best. I see how I am making you feel. It hurts me so much to know I am doing this to you, but I can’t help it. I can’t change. I don’t know how. We don’t both need to be unhappy. You still have a chance to be happy.”

Lexa didn’t bite. Instead, she reached out and placed her hand on top of Clarke’s, initiating physical contact for the first time in a long time. “You will get through this. We will get through this. Together. Let’s fight for us, Clarke.”

Clarke raised both her hands in anger, flinging off Lexa’s in the process. “But that’s just it, Lexa! I don’t want to fight. I don’t want to keep feeling this way anymore. It’s enough feeling my own sadness. I don’t want to feel responsible for yours as well.”

Lexa was silent for a moment. “I’m sorry you have been feeling more burdened by my . . . by my sadness, as you call it. I’ve . . . I’ve been trying really hard, Clarke. I can give you more space, if you need. But I know this is just temporary. People grieve differently, but it will eventually end, and we will be able to move on from this, stronger than before.”

“I don’t want to do this anymore.” Clarke gestured to the space between them.

“You might have given up on yourself. On us. But I haven’t.” And with that, Lexa picked up her used plate and utensils and stood up from the table, leaving Clarke sitting there by herself to reflect on what exactly had just happened.

After that night, things seemed to go from bad to worse. Clarke didn’t bring it up again, but she became more distant than ever. Gone now were the daily niceties that their relationship had been reduced to. They merely existed around each other. She ignored most of Lexa’s attempts at communication, engaging only when absolutely necessary. She no longer slept in their shared bedroom, instead opting to take up residence in the guest bedroom. She went out most nights now, and was often delivered home inebriated to Lexa at late hours by an apologetic Raven or Octavia. Lexa would dutifully thank them before helping Clarke into her own bedroom, undressing her, and tucking her in. Clarke would wake up the next morning and go on with her day as if nothing had happened.

There were many more nights like this.

Chapter Text

The rain banged loudly against the windows as the thunderstorm raged on outside on this particular Friday night. Lexa lay in bed, her phone next to her head, but she was nowhere close to sleep. It was already one in the morning, but Clarke was still out. Usually by this time at night, Raven or Octavia would have texted her to let her know that they were with Clarke and that they would get her back soon, but she hadn’t received a text from either of them that night. She was beginning to worry. After another half an hour passed with still no texts or calls, she grew tired of listening for sirens in the distance. She finally decided to call Raven.

Raven picked up on the fifth ring.

“Lexa?” Raven’s groggy voice sounded through the phone. “ What’s going on?”

“Hello Raven. Are you with Clarke right now?” Lexa asked, even though she now already knew the answer.

“No, I’m not. She texted me earlier to go out to our usual bar, but I couldn’t go tonight. Is everything okay?”

Lexa could hear shuffling on the other end as the other woman likely sat up in bed.

“No. I mean, yes, I think so. It’s just that Clarke isn’t home and I thought she was out with you or Octavia.”

“O is out of town this weekend.”

Lexa reflected on the new information. “I think she might still be at the bar by herself then. I’m going to go out to get her.”

“Do you want me to come with you?”

Lexa heard lights being clicked on.

“No, Raven, it’s okay. The bar’s not very far from our place. I’m already dressed and ready to leave right now anyway,” Lexa lied, not wanting to trouble Raven.

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, I’m positive. Sorry for waking you again.”

“Okay, but you let me know if you guys need anything, okay? I could be there in 10 minutes.”

“I will.” Lexa paused a moment before adding, “Thank you, Raven. For everything.”

The other woman looked at her phone screen which indicated that Lexa’s call had disconnected. She wanted to go with her to get Clarke, to perhaps help mitigate the things that Clarke might do and say in her inebriated state, but she knew that this was something the two of them will have to face eventually. She reached over and turned off her dresser light and slid back down into her bed. Soon enough, she drifted off to sleep, unaware of how her two friends’ lives would soon be changed forever.

Lexa didn’t spend much time getting ready, throwing on jeans and a sweatshirt before pulling her hair back with a hair tie. Looking out the window at the pouring rain, she grabbed one of her heavier raincoats and was just about to put on her rainboots when she remembered something.

She walked back into her bedroom that she now occupied alone, and opened the top drawer of the dresser. She pulled out a wooden jewelry box, elegant in its simplicity, from one of the far corners of the drawer. She opened the box and carefully pulled out a silver chain necklace. She looked at the ring dangling from it, before reaching out and gently letting the ring rest in her palm.

The diamond at the center was modestly sized, but immense in the promise it held, in the love that it promised. It was flanked on either side by a row of three small aquamarine gemstones, subtle in their blueness, and nowhere near the fierce blue of Clarke’s eyes – Lexa didn’t think anything ever could be – but blue nonetheless. One for each year they had been together. And next to those lay a single peridot gemstone on either side. The green of the gemstones reflected Lexa’s own eyes, supposedly Clarke’s favorite color (as she had been told numerous time), but also with the significance of being Lexa’s birthstone as well. She had commissioned the jeweler to add the peridot gemstones on, considering it well worth the extra cost her modest income really couldn’t afford, because she wanted Clarke to know that she, like her birthstones surrounding the aquamarine ones, would forever be by her side, protecting her from whatever they will face in life.

She had been so excited when she bought the ring months ago, before the accident. She had gone to jeweler after jeweler, dragging a complaining Anya with her, until she saw this one and instantly knew it was perfect. Even Anya had to nod in agreement when she explained her sentiments. She went through great measures to hide the ring when she got it home, worried that her inability to lie convincingly (of which Clarke was well aware and often took advantage of during gift-giving holidays) would ruin the surprise. But this was the same time Wells came to visit, so Clarke was happily distracted. Lexa had not even planned how she was going to do it when the accident occurred, effectively putting all of her plans on hold. For how long, Lexa didn’t know.

When Clarke first became more distant, Lexa began taking out the ring to hold it, willing it to remind her of happier times, to give her the strength she was not getting from Clarke. She started needing it more and more, and eventually placed the ring on the long silver chain, which allowed her to wear it discreetly under her clothes, keeping it close to her, especially during particularly rough times.

She closed her hand around the ring, garnering what strength she could from it, before placing the chain over her head. She had a feeling she was going to need it tonight.

Lexa stepped through the door into the low lit bar and clumsily tried to close her umbrella. Even with the umbrella, her hair and most of her clothes were drenched after walking through the rainstorm. She opted not to drive in case she needed to drive Clarke’s car back.

Even though it was almost two in the morning, there were still a surprising number of people out, all there to drink their long weeks away. She scanned the bar and soon found the blond hair she was looking for at the far end of the bar, her head leaned in close talking to a brunette she didn’t recognize. She subconsciously grasped the ring she had dangling in front of her chest, and then realizing it was visible, she quickly tucked it under her shirt. She then deposited her umbrella in the bucket next to the door and made her way over.

Clarke didn’t notice her until she was almost right behind her. She took another gulp of her drink before turning in her seat to face Lexa with a sloppy grin on her face.

“Lexa! You came!” she slurred.

“Yes, Clarke. It’s getting late. Let’s go home.”

The brunette seated next to Clarke also turned to look at Lexa. Lexa saw dark brown, boldly eyelined and heavily mascaraed eyes narrow as she looked Lexa up and down. The woman then reached across and laid one of her hands on Clarke’s thigh as she leaned in to speak in Clarke’s ear.

“Who’s this, Clarke?”

“Oh! This is Lexa. Lexa, this is Rachel. She’s my new friend.” Clarke gestured clumsily between the two of them.

The girl stared at Lexa before her lips moved up into a knowing smirk.

“Oh, that Lexa.”

Lexa wondered what Clarke had said about her to this complete stranger. She ignored the anger and frustration she could feel rising in her chest.

“Clarke, I think we should go. Come on, let me get you home. Where are your keys?”

“Why do you want my keys, Lexa?” Clarke began, suddenly feeling affronted and angry and raising her voice. “Are you calling me a horrible driver? Are you saying it was my horrible driving that got Wells killed? Are you?”

Lexa took a step back, surprised at the sudden outburst, unsure of where it came from.

“No, of course not. You’ve just been drinking. I just wanted to make sure you didn’t drive in this state.”

“Do you think I am stupid enough to do that? Of course I wouldn’t.” She picked up her drink and took another big sip. “Besides, Rachel here has already offered to drive me back. So I can drink as much as I want.”

Rachel laughed a terrible laugh. “That’s right, babe. You definitely can. I got you.”

Lexa ignored her and tried again. “We can drink at home if you would like, Clarke. I will drink with you.”

“Has it occurred to you that maybe I don’t want to drink with you, Lexa? That I came here to get away from you, so that I wouldn’t have to face you all the time?”

Her words hit Lexa in the chest like a brick. She could feel tears welling up behind her eyes, but she was determined not to cry in front of the two of them there, like that. It was all she could do not to run out of the bar.

“Clarke, you don’t mean that.”

“How do you know what I mean? Why do you think you always know what I want? I wanted to break up with you, but you wouldn’t let me. And now I can’t even drink with my new friend? I don’t want to do this with you anymore. Can you just go?”

Rachel leaned forward so she was only inches from Lexa’s face. “I think she made her point loud and clear, don’t you? But don’t you worry. I won’t let her drive home by herself.” She winked to strengthen the implications of her words.

Lexa stared right back at Rachel’s eyes. She refused to acknowledge this woman and did all she could to hold back her angry tears. She took one last look at Clarke and saw that she had already turned her back to her and was again drinking. She realized that Clarke was not going to leave with her. Quietly, and with what little dignity Clarke hadn’t managed to strip from her, she began walking toward the door.

Clarke heard her footsteps retreating, and it took everything she had not to turn around and run after her. She closed her eyes and tried to forget the way Lexa looked when she said the horrible things she forced herself to say. But she couldn’t. She knew she would never be able to forget it.

“Wow, she was definitely a piece of work. No wonder you don’t want to go home to that.” Rachel said, leaning in close.

Clarke brushed off the hand that was still resting on her thigh. “Don’t say anything about Lexa.”

And that was the last thing she ever said to that girl named Rachel.

She sat there at the bar for another hour or so, thinking and not thinking, but she didn’t drink anymore. She finally paid her tab, and made up her mind to crash at Raven’s tonight. Her apartment was within walking distance of the bar. She couldn’t face Lexa tonight.

When she opened the door to the outside, she was immediately hit in the face with strong gushing wind and rain.

“Shit.” She said out loud, realizing that she hadn’t brought an umbrella or coat with her when she left earlier that night. She pulled her light jacket up around her neck and stepped through the door. Still protected from the rain under the awning of the bar, she glanced around her first in order to plan the quickest route to Raven’s place.

And that’s when she saw her.

At the other end of the building, under a wider part of the awning, stood Lexa. She was holding her umbrella, though it wasn’t doing much against the strong winds. She looked so tiny huddled against herself, her free hand hiding from the cold in her coat pocket. Their eyes met across the expanse of space, and even through the pouring rain, Clarke thought she could still glimpse how green her eyes were. How green they’d always been. No matter where she was, no matter what the circumstances were, there would never be a sight she loved seeing more than that of Lexa’s green, green eyes.

Clarke snapped out of her reverie as Lexa began making her way towards her. Instead of waiting for or even acknowledging her, Clarke started walking straight into the rain, getting drenched in the process. She could hear Lexa running to catch up behind her and felt a sudden reprieve from the rain as an umbrella appeared over her head.

“Clarke, you’re getting wet.”

Clarke walked faster to get away from the umbrella, to get away from her. “Why can’t you just leave me alone? Were you worried that I would leave with that woman? Well, don’t, because I’m not.”

Lexa caught up and again tried to keep the umbrella over Clarke, leaving most of herself exposed to the rain. “No, of course not. I just . . . I just wanted to make sure you would get home safe. I can’t go through what I went through when you were in the hospital again. It was hard—”

“That was hard for you?” Clarke yelled, turning back and knocking the umbrella out of Lexa’s hand. “Then how do you think I felt? Lying there helpless while my best friend died? I didn’t get to say goodbye to him. I couldn’t even go to his funeral!” It was all bubbling out. There was nothing Clarke could do to stop it. “Do you really want to know why I can’t do this with you? Do you? It’s because I relive his death every time I hear your voice!”

They were both standing in the pouring rain now, getting soaked to the bones, though neither cared. The umbrella tumbled farther and farther away, carried by the wind, long since forgotten.

Clarke’s vision was getting blurry, and she couldn’t tell whether it was because of her tears or the rain. She tried to blink them away anyway.

“I’m sorry, Lexa. It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault that your voice was the last thing I heard before it happened, that whenever I hear it now, my stupid, broken psyche brings me back to that day. To that moment when it happened. And I relive it all over again. It’s not your fault that the universe decided to punish me for whatever wrong I’ve done in this life by first taking away one of the best people I know in this world, letting it be at my hands, and then following that up by making it impossible for me to be with the only person I ever loved.” Her voice was hoarse from shouting to be heard over the rain. Her chest ached from what she knew was irreparable damage she was doing to her heart.

“I’m broken, Lexa. You can’t fix me. No one can.”

Tears were flowing freely down Lexa’s cheeks now, mixing with the rain. Clarke always hated seeing Lexa cry. So she turned to walk away. Immediately, she felt Lexa grab her arm. She stilled, but didn’t turn back.

“Clarke.” It sounded like she whispered it, but Clarke could hear her loud and clear, even through the pouring rain. She had always loved the way Lexa said her name, the way Lexa always added her name after almost everything she said to her. She would hear it no matter where and how it was uttered.

“Clarke.” Lexa repeated, the sound tugging harder at Clarke than anything ever could. “Don’t go. Please. I can’t . . . If you walk away now, there won’t be anything left of me to be able to love you. There won’t be anything left of me to love.” Clarke could hear her trying to instill determination and courage in her voice in one last try. “I love you, Clarke. Please, fight for us.”

Clarke turned back and found herself staring into deep green eyes. She tried to sear them into her memory. They caused a brief second of indecision, but she steeled herself once more. She was broken and could never be put back together. She needed to not do that to Lexa.

“I’m sorry.”

She pulled her arm out of her grasp and began to walk away, leaving Lexa standing there in the rain. She willed herself not to look back, and with some inhuman might, she succeeded. Each step she took felt like a sledgehammer to her heart.

By the time she reached Raven’s doorsteps, she knew her heart had been shattered into a million pieces.

When she returned to their apartment three days later, she found that Lexa had packed all of her things and left.

She looked around at the place that had once held so many happy memories for her, a place that had once made her feel so safe and loved, and wondered how it could look so foreign now.

She walked through the apartment, slowly reacquainting herself with the space that was now devoid of all things Lexa. She ran her fingers along the countertop in the kitchen, stopping at the spot where Lexa liked to make her coffee every morning. She touched the stove top, remembering the many mornings when she would wrap her arms around Lexa, always earning a half-hearted scolding from the surprised cook. She saw that the refrigerator that had once been covered in pictures of the two of them was now barren. She briefly wondered if Lexa kept the pictures or threw them away.

She continued making her way through her apartment and realized that almost everything brought back memories of the two of them. The stain on the curtains from when she jumped excitedly with a can of paint in her hands after Lexa told her about an exciting book offer. The hole in the wall from when Lexa tried to hang one of her paintings as a surprise, unsuccessfully of course, and afterwards, claimed the hole added to the aesthetic of the home of two free-willed artists. Their secondhand, worn-out, incredibly comfortable couch which she spent many an hour pushing Lexa into, kissing her, just because she could.

She finally made her way into the bedroom and sat down on the bed. She hadn’t been in this room for a while now. Struck by overwhelming melancholy, she felt a desperate needed to draw something, anything. She opened the top drawer of the bedside dresser where she had always kept a spare drawing pad. That’s when she saw the bright yellow cover of a familiar book.

She pulled it out of the drawer and immediately recognized it as the one Lexa was reading when she first approached her that fateful day in the café, the same one she spilled her coffee on and had to offer a chocolate croissant as concession. Lexa loved this book, and Clarke had never read it once, though she had been meaning to. She had the briefest thought of taking it over to Anya’s (where she assumed Lexa was staying) to return it to her. But then the thought of having nothing left of Lexa’s was so painful that she quickly dismissed the idea. She knew she would never be able to part with this book.

She hugged the book tightly to her chest as she fell back in the bed, surprised by Lexa’s scent still on the pillows. She inhaled deeply, and for the first time in a long, long time, she let her emotions take over her, overwhelm her, before releasing it all in body-wracking sobs.

Chapter Text

Clarke glanced at her watch as she hurried across the busy intersection. She was running late to her brunch date with Raven and Octavia. Again. But she had a reason for it this time. She had been showing a potential client some of her art pieces and he had more questions than she expected. She finally reached the restaurant and spotted the two of them sitting outside on the patio. When the hostess approached, she pointed towards their table and mouthed “my friends” as she continued to walk to them.

“Sorry I’m late, guys. I was held up with a client,” she said as she dropped her bag into the empty chair next to the one where she sat.

She could see from the looks on their faces that they hadn’t seen her coming. She saw them share a look with each other before Octavia cleared her throat and spoke. “No problem, Clarke. We got your text.”

Raven nodded and added, “We just ordered some drinks. Here, take a look at the menu. Everything sounds really good.” Raven hands her one of the menus before quickly looking away. Clarke noted that both girls were suspiciously avoiding eye contact with her, with Raven feigning renewed interest in the menu, and Octavia rummaging through her purse for some unknown object.

“Were you two just talking about me?” Clarke asked, finally.

They shared another guilty look.

“We were just talking about how you were doing.” Raven gave her a small, guilty, forgive-us grin.

“Guys, you don’t have to walk on eggshells around me. Lexa and I . . . we broke up over three months ago. I’ve broken down in front of both of you, separately and together, I think enough times for the rest of my life. So I’m fine now.”

They both looked at her, incredulous.

After Lexa left, Clarke had withdrawn into herself even more than she had after the accident. Her previous months of emotional turmoil while battling her guilt from being around Lexa had already left her drained and numbed, and the loss of Lexa just magnified that. She became a shell of even post-accident Clarke, staying in her apartment during most of the day, painting anything and everything. But she couldn’t bear to sleep in the apartment at night, when the quiet of the city was too much for her. So she started sleeping over at her friends’ homes. Mostly Raven’s, because she lived closer and wasn’t living with anyone, like Octavia was. Sometimes, in the middle of some of those nights, when she was sleeping in Raven’s bed, the weight of her situation would come crashing down on her, suddenly, unexpectedly, and cause her such distress that try as she might (so as not to wake her friend), she could not hold in her sobs. The first time it happened, Raven tried to talk her through it, but Clarke was just so overwhelmed with the gravity of it all that no words could come out. As it happened more and more often, Raven took to just wrapping her arms around her and holding her close until she cried herself to sleep.

But the distance from Lexa, while painful, did provide Clarke the time and space she needed to heal from Wells’ death. She no longer relived the accident as often as she had before, and was even able to begin talking to others about him. She felt the guilt wear off, slowly, but surely, until soon, recalling memories of Wells became a happy occurrence instead of a pain-stricken experience. She felt her mind healing even as her broken heart continued to ache.

About eight weeks after the breakup, she finally flew to Wells’ hometown to visit his grave. She hadn’t been able to bring herself to do that yet since the accident. She stayed there for hours, cleaning up the weeds that had grown around his tombstone, laying down bright flowers that matched his bright personality. She brought him a knight chess piece, his favorite piece, from the old chess board set they grew up playing with, and buried it in the dirt next to his tombstone. She talked to him about everything. She recounted happy childhood memories they shared together, and told him how his family was doing. She told him about the guilt she felt after his death. She told him about what happened with Lexa, how she lost the love of her life, and how she hoped Lexa would be able to find someone who could make her happy. She told him how, despite the short amount of time they spent together, Lexa had really liked him and how, if he got to spend more time with her, he would surely have love her as much as Clarke did. She told him she missed him, but promised to visit whenever she could.

And when she looked at the tombstone, with tears running down her face, and finally said, “I’m sorry,” she felt the weight of his death lifted from her shoulders.

She slowly began to pick up her life after that, returning to sleep in her own apartment and rebuilding contacts that she had lost due to neglect after the accident. And if there was one good thing that came from her horrible ordeal, it was that she had painted many, many pieces of art that were powerful in their darkness and grief and rage. Which apparently, there was a good market these days. So she was able to remain busy showing her pieces to potential clients. The work kept her distracted and worked (most of the time) in preventing her from thinking about Lexa. And for that she was thankful.

She resumed regular outings with her close friends, ever more thankful for them for all they had done for her. She thought that they had been able to see that she was doing better and had stopped worrying about her. Apparently not, though. Because her friends knew her better than herself.

Octavia was the one to finally speak up. “Clarke, we’re both really happy that you’re doing better and working on promoting your art again. You’ve kept yourself so busy the past month. Just try not to overdo it too much. It’s okay to take a break once in a while.”

“I do take breaks. I’m here with you guys right now, aren’t I?” Clarke smiled, to show that she was okay.

“Yeah, okay, Griffin. Thank you so much for taking time from your busy life to bless us with your presence,” Raven quipped, rolling her eyes.

Both Clarke and Octavia laughed at that, breaking the light tension. Their drinks arrived and they ordered their food. Their conversation fell on lighter topics, including Octavia’s new promotion (she will have an assistant!), the new nurse Bellamy just started dating (they all took bets on how long this one would last), and Jasper’s plans to buy the café he was currently working at (they all agreed that would be a good thing – because of the free coffee they would get, forcefully or not). After they caught up on the lives of all of their friends, they fell into a comfortable silence, each sipping her coffee.

Raven fidgeted in her seat. She didn’t know how to bring it up, but she knew she should. Even though she knew it would hurt her friend to hear anything that reminded her of . . . her. She deserved to know.

Lexa had grown to be good friends with all of Clarke’s friends during the time they were together. And all of them loved Lexa as much as they did Clarke (and on some days, even more). How could they not? Raven thought it was probably impossible for anyone not to love Lexa, especially once they got to know her. Which was why their breakup was devastating to everyone. Not only because they knew how much the two of them loved each other, but because they knew that ultimately, they would not be able to remain close friends with both of them. Lexa had been so understanding of this. “Damn it, Lexa,” Raven had said to her when Lexa asked her and Octavia out to lunch a week after the breakup to tell them that while she loved them both and saw them as friends outside of her relationship with Clarke, she understood the history of their friendship with Clarke and knew that they needed to be there for Clarke without feeling like they were torn between the two of them. Lexa suggested that they all reconnect once all of the initial rawness of the situation ebbs away.

Raven cleared her throat and began, tentatively, “So . . . I ran into Anya yesterday.” She looked at Octavia, who nodded her support.

A small twitch of her shoulders was the only indication of how that information affected Clarke.

“Oh yeah? How is she doing? I haven’t talked to her in a while,” Clarke said. Raven could tell she was trying too hard to act nonchalant.

“She told me something I thought you should know.”

Clarke looked up, interest and concern in her eyes. “What is it?”

“Lexa’s moving away soon. Anya won’t tell me where, but it sounds like she might be leaving the country. I think Anya said in three weeks.”

There was a deep, palpable silence as Raven let her friend process this information.


Anya sat at the bar at the airport, taking a sip of her beer while glancing at her watch. Lexa’s flight had been delayed an hour, so she decided to get a drink while waiting for her. It was a little early in the day, barely ten o’clock in the morning, but what else was she going to do?

She glanced at the game playing on the multiple screens in front of her. The teams playing didn’t interest her. There was also no one around her who looked interesting enough to talk to (mainly because there were barely any people there).

So she let her thoughts drift, and when they drifted to her little sister, she felt excitement rising in her chest again. She was finally coming home after being away for so long. Anya had visited her multiple times since she’d moved, of course, but it was not the same as living in the same city with her. She was going to be back soon, and hopefully for good.

Her thoughts drifted back to the day Lexa told her she was leaving.


“Are you sure about this?” Anya asked, standing in the kitchen looking at Lexa who was sitting on the barstool on the other side of the counter from her.

“I am, Anya.” Lexa nodded, confidently. “Thank you for letting me stay with you the past three months, and for everything you’ve done to help me get over . . . this. The worst part is over, I think. But I don’t think I can really let go of everything if I stay here in this city, where everything reminds me of her. I can’t go to any of the places we used to go to, I can’t see any of our friends, I can’t even listen to the radio stations here without old memories emerging. I need to go somewhere new, and start over there.”

“But do you have to go all the way across the ocean?”

“It would be too easy to come back otherwise, Anya.” Lexa looked at her older sister, willing her to understand.

“You said Gustus would be there, for half the year at least? So he can look after you if you needed something in a pinch?”

Lexa nodded. Her editor split his time with the publishing firm, half in the States, and half in London, where his family lived. “Yes, Gustus said I can write my book anywhere I wanted, but that because he would be in London so frequently, it would be a good place to go since he would be available if needed. His family is also there, and I could go to them if I need anything. He also offered to help me find a place to live and to help me plan my move. He said the firm would do anything to help me with my next book. They’re very excited about the idea I pitched.”

Anya walked around the counter that separated the two of them. She pulled Lexa into a hug.

“Okay, but I’m going to visit you so often that you’re going to get sick of me.” Anya nudged her chin onto Lexa’s head. “And you have to remember, I don’t care how attractive those British accents are, this is home, okay?”

Lexa allowed herself to melt into the hug. “Thank you for understanding, Anya.”

When they finally pulled away from each other, Lexa stood up to walk to her room. She came out holding two objects in her hands.

“Can you do me a favor? Or rather, two favors, I guess?” she asked.

Anya eyed those items Lexa held in her hands – one large, one small – and nodded.

Lexa handed her the large item first, a large rectangular piece, completely wrapped in brown canvas paper.

“She painted this for me, back when we were dating. I . . . I didn’t want to leave it behind at her place, because, well, she gave it to me. I thought it wouldn’t be very nice if I didn’t take it, if I let her think I didn’t love it when she first gave it to me.”

Anya knew what was under the wrapping. She also knew how much Lexa did love that painting.

“I don’t want to take it with me. It won’t help with the moving on thing. Can you . . . take it for me? Maybe give it to someone who would appreciate it and give it a good home? It’s a beautiful piece. I hope it can give someone else the joy and comfort it once brought me.”

“Okay. I can do that for you.” Anya took the painting from Lexa and leaned it against the wall.

Lexa then fidgeted with the other item she brought out, the small square box she held in her hands. She trembled as she looked at it. Anya watched and waited until Lexa finally placed the box on the counter and pushed it towards Anya. She didn’t say anything.

“What are you doing, Lexa?”

She didn’t reply. Instead, she looked out the window.

Anya tried again. “Why are you giving this to me? What do you want me to do with this?”

She looked back and met Anya’s eyes. Anya saw that sadness and a hint of anger in her sister’s eyes.

“Whatever you want, Anya. Sell it or pawn it and use the money. Or throw it in the ocean if you want. Just don’t tell me about it.”

Anya sighed and nodded her agreement once more. She reached out and picked up the box. She didn’t ask Lexa why she didn’t do it herself. Because she knew the reason. She had been there when Lexa first saw the ring.

Anya had always known Lexa to be a secret romantic, but she had always imagined that she was a romantic in the way writers were – soulfully, wistfully, poetically. But as she let Lexa dragged her to jeweler after jeweler, looking at rings and pointing out how each did not capture exactly what she wanted to convey to Clarke, and as she watched Lexa’s eyes light up, practically twinkling, and felt Lexa excitedly – and painfully – clutching her arm when she first saw this ring, Anya knew. She knew that Lexa was just as hopelessly and cheesily romantic as the rest of the love-struck saps in this world.


Anya smiled sadly at the memory and shook her head. These kids. She finished her beer and checked the screen. Lexa’s flight had landed. She got up to make her way to the terminal.

As she walked, she noted that there were more people at the airport now. All of a sudden, she remembered.

Would she? She asked herself. She shook her head. No, she wouldn’t. She’s a full-grown adult now.

But that didn’t stop her the last time you visited her in London, another part of her brain countered.

Anya could feel sweat begin to gather on her forehead as she glanced around her to note how many people would be around to witness this.

Before she could come up with an escape plan, she saw her, straight ahead, walking towards her with a rolling suitcase in one hand. Anya anxiously turned her head side to side, but there were crowds of people on both sides of her. She was trapped. Lexa then looked up and made eye contact. Her face split into a huge grin as she released her grip on the suitcase she was pulling.

Oh no. She’s going to do it. She’s really going to do it. She’s doing it!

Now, another thing that not many people knew about Lexa was that underneath her calm, professional façade and air of elegance, there laid a secret, inner goofball. Yes, that was the word Anya was going to go with. Goofball.

Because she was going to do what she always did whenever she saw Anya again after a period of separation, whether it was coming home from college or picking her up in London, and Anya always hated it but could do nothing to stop it. She only ever did it to Anya, maybe because she knew how much it annoyed her, but it has become a sort of tradition for the two of them.

She was now running towards Anya, IN SLOW MOTION. Here she was, a grown-ass adult. Imitating a dramatic, slow-motion montage of two people meeting in an airport. Complete with ridiculous high-knee running, frantic, wild arm flailing, exaggerated shaking of her head and back and forth tossing of her long hair, and wide-open silent mouthing of “Aaaaaaaannnnnnnyyyyyyyyaaaaaaa. I looooovvvvveeee yooooouuu.” ALL IN SLOW MOTION.

She was only about ten feet away, but Anya knew it would take her longer than necessary to reach her, and in the meantime, she was attracting the attention of all the people in their vicinity. And though it mortified Anya, the unexpected sight brought laughter to most of those who witnessed it. Anya could only stand there, shaking her head, waiting for this to end.

Finally, after what felt like hours, Lexa reached her. She threw herself on Anya with so much force that it pushed her back a step even as she wrapped her arms around her sister’s waist. Lexa hugged her tightly and Anya couldn’t help but smile into her head of hair.

“Welcome back, kid.”

Chapter Text

Clarke’s eyes discreetly roamed the restaurant around her, looking at the décor of the place. To his credit, it was a nice, fancy, upscale place. One of those low-lit, candles-on-every-table, live-pianist-playing -in-the-background restaurants. Where you had to reserve a table weeks in advance, unless you had connections. They were seated at one of the smaller tables next to the large window spanning the entire restaurant, overlooking the pier. It had a magnificent view. The food was contemporary American and quite innovative and delicious. So, all in all, this would have been a rather spectacular date. If only her present company were at all interesting.

She refocused her attention on her date sitting across from her. Finn was still talking, about something (docks? blocks? clocks? Clarke wasn’t sure) and she was sure he hadn’t noticed that she was not paying attention. They had finished their dinner and were now waiting for dessert and coffee. When she didn’t reply with more than an “interesting” every time he paused, she thought he finally got the picture. He switched to different subject.

“So, Clarke, what kind of artwork do you like to do?”

At least he was trying. Clarke was tired and didn’t particularly want to explain her work, but decided to indulge him. “I work with all kinds of media, but most of my professional work is based in paintings. My subjects change depending on my current moods and interests, and recently, I’ve been doing a lot of paintings of celestrial bodies. It’s a major theme for the next gallery I’m currently planning.”

“Oh, you have a gallery opening coming up? When is it?”

“In several months.” She then grimaced as she remembered. “I’m quite behind actually.”

“Well, when should I expect my invitation?” He teased, hopefully.

Clarke deflected. “Oh, we’re miles away from forming a guest list right now.” She left it at that.

Thankfully, their desserts and coffee arrived. They both welcomed the diversion from the awkwardness where their conversation left off. Finn started adding cream and sugar to his coffee. Clarke sipped her latte – not as good as Jasper’s – and silently hoped that the topic would be dropped.

Finn seemed to have gotten her silent message. He again tried a completely different subject.

“Okay, how’s this, then? Do you believe in soulmates?”

That caught Clarke’s attention, if only because the subject was such a sharp departure from what he had been talking about earlier (it was stocks, Clarke decided).

“Yes,” she answered, succinctly.

“So, you actually believe that there is one person in the whole entire world who you are meant to be with?”

“Yes.” Again, simply, confidently answered, as if any other answer was inconceivable.

“One person you are meant to be with, in a world of billions, and that you would actually find him or her?”

“Yes.” She held his gaze over her cup as she took a sip of her coffee.

Finn looked at her curiously, expecting her to elaborate further, but she didn’t.

“I don’t know if I believe in soulmates,” he began, thoughtfully. “I think there are people who you are more compatible with than others, but the thought that there is one perfect person for you is hard to believe, don’t you think?”

“Maybe it would be easier to believe once you have met that person.”

He furrowed his brows, wondering whether it was in his best interest to press her for clarification. He apparently decided it wasn’t.

“Well, I read an interesting novel the other day that touched on the subject.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes, it was on the New York Times bestsellers fiction list when it first came out about six months ago. It was the debut novel of author Alexander Forest. I think he’s a British author, or he currently lives in England at least. Anyway, the novel was a love story of sorts, set in the future, in a world that had been ravaged by war. The two main characters were leaders of their separate factions who met in strenuous circumstances and somehow managed to develop a romantic relationship. Throughout the story, the author continuously circled around the idea of soulmates, how these two people, who came from such different worlds – literally a world apart – could find and fall for each other.”

Clarke was quite interested now. “What happened in the end?”

“Do you really want me to spoil the ending?”

She nodded. She really wanted to know.

“Well, this novel was part one in a supposed series, so the ending was left rather ambiguous. They were separated at the end, their relationship strained, but there was no definitively clear ending.”

“He left the ending open-ended? When will the next book come out?”

“The author is quite a private individual apparently, but I think the publisher said the author might explore other projects before returning to this one.”

Finn continued, “Anyway, the reason I brought up the novel was in relation to our discussion of soulmates, I guess. The author’s position on soulmates is unclear, and might be clearer once the series ends, but in the context of the relationship between the two main characters, he brought up an interesting idea.”

Clarke sat back in her chair, patiently waiting for Finn to continue. At least this topic was more interesting.

“It’s an idea that is popular in Chinese philosophy and culture. Something called ‘You Yuan Wu Fen.’ It literally translates to ‘have fate without destiny’ and more figuratively describes how two people can be destined to meet each other and become lovers, but are not fated to share the rest of their lives together. For whatever reason.”

Clarke contemplated that idea. “That’s a rather bittersweet sentiment.”

“Isn’t it? I am not sure if the author was foreshadowing the eventual ending of the story. I hope not. Even though I don’t necessary believe in soulmates, their love story was quite compelling. A lot of people would be disappointed if it ends tragically.”

“I might just have to give that book a try.”

They finished the rest of their desserts in silence, both contemplating the concept of soulmates.

After dinner, Clarke declined Finn’s invitation for a nightcap at his place, blaming the early start she was to have the following day. He expressed some surprise that she needed to do work early on a Sunday, but didn’t press for more details. He drove her home and walked her to the door of her apartment, all the while noting that he would love to see some of her work sometime. Clarke chose to ignore his anvil-sized hints. 

“Well,” she said, stopping in front of her door, “this is me.” She held her keys in her hand.

“Okay. I guess this is goodnight then.” He stood there, looking rather disappointed.

Clarke knew she should probably kiss him goodnight, and standing there, looking at him – young, attractive, smart, well-dressed, and respectful as he was – she didn’t see why she shouldn’t. Except for the fact that, well, she didn’t want to. There was no chemistry there. She was not drawn to him and she couldn’t help it.

Sighing internally at her realization, but too tired to deal with it now, she stood on her tiptoes and gave him a kiss on the cheeks.

“Goodnight, Finn. Thank you for a wonderful night.”

She unlocked her door and stepped through, letting the door close behind her without looking back. She leaned against the door and sighed out loud this time. What are you doing, Clarke? She asked herself. She shook her head to clear it, and told herself that she will think about what she was doing with Finn. Just, not tonight.

Her thoughts did land on what they were talking about earlier though. This concept of “you yuan wu fen” – fate without destiny – will that be the ending to her and Lexa’s story?

Clarke finished the rest of the brunch as best as she could. She knew she participated in some conversation, but she could not remember what she said at all. Her mind was in a daze, as the information about Lexa leaving flitted through her brain, refusing to settle anywhere, refusing to be processed, refusing to let her process anything else.

She didn’t remember how she got home to her apartment, but there she was, leaning against her door from the inside, keys in her hands. She heard the sound they made when she dropped them as she slid down to sit on the floor.

She was so confused. She didn’t know why she was so affected by the news. She had not seen Lexa ever since she left her in the rain that night and she thought she had accepted that they would no longer be in each other’s lives. So why was she so distraught by the news that Lexa was leaving the country? How did that change their current situation of never seeing each other?

She felt like she wanted to cry, but no tears came. She wanted to scream, but could not find her voice. So she just drew her knees up to her chest, wrapped her arms around them, and stayed there, huddled into a ball on the floor. Her mind raced around a thought that could not form.

She found herself sprawled out on the hard floor in front of the door, hours later, when she finally awoke. The apartment was dark, and judging by the darkness of the world outside her windows, it was well into evening. Her recent busy schedule kept her body exhausted and allowed her to be able to sleep for so long in such an awkward position.

She stood, using the nearby kitchen counter to pull herself up. She found the light switch and immediately shielded her eyes when the lights flicked on. She rummaged through the refrigerator and found some leftovers. She didn’t bother to reheat it, choosing just to eat them cold while standing at the counter.

Her mind felt empty; her chest felt hollow. She went through the motions of eating but could not taste anything. Nothing seemed to have any flavor anymore. She glanced around her apartment and saw a half-finished painting in the middle of the living room that she last worked on a week ago. It was to be a painting of a forest, a piece in her Life on Earth series.

She was suddenly filled with the urge to paint, to create. Leaving her empty plate on the counter, she strolled over to the easel, picked up her brush, and placed paint to canvas.

She painted and painted nonstop for the next ten days, never leaving her apartment once. She only deviated from her task to eat, sleep, and use the bathroom. Raven came by to check on her on Day 3 when she did not return any of their calls. Though Clarke engaged in conversation with her, Raven could not persuade the blonde to stop whatever it was that she was doing to go outside for even just a minute. So she sat with her when she could while she painted, doing her own work, mostly in silent. On Day 5, she brought her food to restock her mostly empty refrigerator and cupboards. Day 5 was also the day she forced Clarke to take a shower, muttering “crazy artist type people” under her breath as she pushed her (smelly) friend into the bathroom.

Clarke continued to paint. She painted trees, flowers, animals. She painted the fish in the ocean, the birds in the sky. Living things living lives of freedom and sun and happiness. She was able to shut off her mind when she painted, focusing only on the lives of her subject, forgetting her own. It was calming and it was the only way she knew how to stop feeling lost in her own life.

Octavia came to visit on Day 6, having been notified of Clarke’s state by Raven. The engineer had also warned her that their friend was in “a mood,” which she described in detail with a few choice adjectives. So Octavia was not surprised by what she found when she went into Clarke’s apartment. She said hi to the artist but mainly let her be. She bought take out for them that night, burgers from Ark’s (which Clarke had recently started eating again) and when it was time to leave, she pulled Clarke into a tight embrace and kissed her temple. She emptied the garbage on her way out.

Clarke did this for ten straight days. Finally, on Day 10, she ran out of the paint she needed. She had completed four whole paintings, which was the fastest she had ever painted. But now she didn’t have anything to do with her hands anymore, didn’t have anything to distract her, so her mind raced again. Lexa is leaving. She is going to be gone forever.

And there it was. The thought that had been trying to form in her mind all this time. The answer to why the information bothered her so much.

Even though she told herself she had accepted that they were not together anymore, apparently there was still a small, tiny part of her that held on to the hope that they might still have a chance, however remote, of finding each other again in the future.

And Lexa leaving was going to take away that smidgeon of hope. Forever.

The realization hit Clarke like a brick. She felt like she couldn’t breathe all of a sudden. She hurried over to pull open her window and took big gasping breaths as soon as the cool air of Autumn hit her nostrils, savoring the oxygen in her lungs.

As she stood next to the window, her eyes caught sight of the bright yellow object lying at the top of the bookshelf.

After she found Lexa’s book in the dresser and decided to keep it, Clarke didn’t know what to do with it. She desperately could not part with it, but every time she saw it, a deluge of painful memories came with it. Therefore she could not bring herself to read it. She eventually settled for putting it at the very top of the bookshelf, where it was safe, but not in plain sight.

But she saw it there now, from across the room, pulling at her.

She walked over, grabbing a nearby chair to use as a stool to be able to reach it. Her fingers closed around the book as she pulled it down. She handled the book gingerly, as if it could fall apart with any pressure, making her way to the couch.

She opened the cover to the first page and began to read.

Clarke never did not enjoy reading as much as Lexa did. As she began the book, she realized that even though she had been persuaded to read some of the same books as Lexa earlier on in their relationship, she had never read a book that Lexa personally owned.

The book was a novel, set in the 1920s, that detailed the journey of an aspiring female author, as she worked her way from a clerical job. It was a fictional biography, following the character as she made her way through life and work, detailing her relationships with her friends, her family and eventually, her love. The writing was simplistic yet effective, conveying the protagonist’s thoughts and emotions with a rare clarity that made her extremely likeable and relatable to the reader. The words were poetic without being flowery; the ideas universal without being trite. It did not have a riveting plotline, as it described the character’s day to day existence, but reading it was so comfortable and soothing that Clarke could understand how Lexa could read this book so many times.

But comfortable as the story was, the printed words on the pages were not what Clarke was paying the most attention to.

Lexa liked to write her thoughts in the margins of the pages as she read. Clarke had noticed it in the past, and always figured she was writing down “literary stuff” (a phrase Clarke often used when talking about Lexa’s work). She thought she was writing comments about style and syntax and references and things that she thought only writers cared about. But as she now finally read Lexa’s annotations, she discovered that they were nothing like she imagined.

Instead of comments about the literary features of the novel, her annotations just seemed to be a running commentary of her thoughts as she read. Clarke had read most of Lexa’s professional writings, which were quite eloquent and sophisticated, and was therefore surprised to learn that she could write these casual notes that mimicked her speech.

She asked a lot of questions, Clarke mused, as she read “what does that look like?” next to a paragraph describing clothing (complete with a small doodle of the dress that Lexa was trying to picture). She read “what does a huckleberry taste like?” and “how do you cook that?” next to a description of the character’s breakfast, and “where can I find a vintage typewriter?!” in the passage about the character’s job.

Besides questions, she saw comments like “seems unlikely,” “doesn’t make sense,” “so sad,” “sounds delicious,” “maybe better with chocolate.” And sometimes, just punctuation marks “!!” and “?!” Sometimes Lexa answered her original questions herself in future readings. This amused Clarke to no end. At one point, she wrote “is this what a dog would do?” followed by “no (according to experts).”

There were multiple sets of comments, probably for each time Lexa re-read the book. She could see different colored inks on the same page. Some of the comments were written before she met Clarke, and some were clearly written after she met her. In fact, she could tell exactly when that transitioned occurred when she got to a point about halfway through the book where Lexa had written, “A pretty girl just talked to me. She was awkward. But cute.”

Clarke sat there all day and into the night, just reading. She didn’t eat, and barely drank and moved from her location on the couch.

She had experienced a litany of emotions ever since the accident; first going through all of the stages of grief, then falling into a state of numbness and self-hatred that caused her to push Lexa away. Which in turn set off another cycle of a different type of grief and apathy, before settling now into an uneasy state of acceptance and denial. She told herself she had accepted her situation, but she just kept herself from thinking about it by throwing herself into her work. It was a cliché, but she really went on a roller coaster of emotions, one that left the world spinning around her while she tried to remain standing as best she could, queasy and unsettled.

Now, as she went through the novel and read Lexa’s comments, she was engulfed with a sense of calmness and peacefulness she had not felt for a very long time, not since the accident. Clarke knew that she had changed after Wells’ death, but she didn’t realize that Lexa had either, perhaps in response to her own transformation. Lexa had to be more careful, more cautious, around Clarke, in what she said and what she did. This self-monitoring made her more formal, more anxious, less carefree, less goofy, less Lexa.

There were so much of Lexa’s thoughts and emotions revealed through her questions and reactions to the story, so much of her quirks and habits, her empathy and compassion, her wonderfully balanced levity and severity highlighted in those handwritten words, that it was like a mini compendium of all things Lexa contained in the tiny margins and blank spaces. From reading her notes, one would learn that she loved chocolate (but who didn’t know that?), and tea and picnics and the beach with a warm towel on a sunny day. That she hated the rain and beans and wet socks and cold noses. That she was a night owl who found the dark of the night to be soothing and conducive to her writing. Well, Clarke could gather those things from reading her notes, because every comment reminded her of a part of Lexa’s personality. This was the Lexa before she was forced to change for Clarke. She felt like she was falling in love with her all over again.

There was one thing though, that anyone could deduce about Lexa from reading her notes, even if they didn’t know her. It was that she loved Clarke.

It was quite clear how much Lexa thought about her, frequently noting things as they related to Clarke. She wrote comments like “Clarke would like that” in a section about dogs; “Clarke would look nice in that” next to a description of an outfit; “I should ask Clarke about this” in a paragraph about art; and more frequently, just “Clarke,” “Clarke?” and “Clarke!”

Toward the end of the book, Lexa began writing directly TO her, apparently expecting her to never read the book. She wrote as much in her comment: “Clarke, I bet you are never going to read this book and see this.” Some were related to the novel: “Don’t you think you would like this?” while others were just comments to her that had nothing to do with the story: “Clarke, you’re being messy right now.” “Clarke, your eyes.” “Clarke, your smile.” When she got to a coffee-stained page, there were arrows pointed to the stains, leading back to “Clarke, you did this!” She couldn’t help but laugh out loud at that.

It was like she was experiencing two different journeys in concert as she made her way through the book; one following the story of female protagonist, and one following Lexa’s inner dialogue. She finally made it to the last page, and found herself saddened that her re-discovery of Lexa was coming to an end. As she turned the last page of the book, she saw Lexa’s handwriting covering the entirety of the inside of the back cover.

Clarke, I have to write this down because you are staring at me suspiciously the way you do when you think I’m hiding something and I can’t look at you right now because you’re going to be able to read my face and force me to tell you and then the surprise will be ruined. So I will write it down here addressed to you, which is kind of like telling you without you knowing (it’s not my fault you won’t read this book) and I won’t feel badly about lying to you when you ask me.

I saw it today, Clarke. I knew it the first instant I saw it that if there was ever a ring that could persuade you to say yes to me, it would be that one. Even Anya agreed (though she only said it out loud under duress). It’s perfect. Well . . . almost perfect. I wanted to add something extra to it. Then it will be perfect. Just perfect. The jeweler said it would only take a few weeks, and he will resize it for me as well. Which is good, because that gives me time to think about how to do this. Gosh, with all these modifications I’m making, there is no way I can give this ring back, you know. So you have to say yes.

Okay, you stopped looking at me now. Probably because I’m boring you by doing my “literary stuff.”

Clarke, you have to say yes, okay?

Chapter Text

Octavia stood outside Clarke’s door, grocery bag in one hand. She used her other hand to knock several times and waited for an answer she didn’t really expect to get. After half a minute of waiting, she reached into her pocket and produced the key that let her into her friend’s apartment.

“Clarke?” she called out. No reply. She might be sleeping, Octavia thought.

She then glanced around in mild disbelief. Clarke, I left you alone for two days. How did you create such a mess? she thought. The kitchen was littered with cups scattered all over the countertop. Some were half-filled with coffee, some with water, and some had a suspiciously strong smell of alcohol. There were also half-eaten bags of chips, chocolate wrappers, and used utensils and bowls everywhere. An almost full carton of milk sat next to the sink. For how long, Octavia didn’t want to think about.

The brunette sighed and began unloading the grocery bag she brought into the refrigerator and cupboards. She would clean the kitchen later. She reminded herself to keep track of how much time she spent doing it so she could charge Clarke for it. She figured five hundred dollars an hour was a fair wage for her very personalized service. She couldn’t help but smirk to herself at her own funny antics.

After she was done unloading the bag, she made her way into the living room, where she was unsurprised to see that it was in a similar state of disarray as the kitchen, minus the ticking time bomb that was left-out dairy. She didn’t see the blonde anywhere. She did see a half-finished painting on the easel, with open jars and tubes of paint and paint brushes scattered on most of the surfaces of the room, staining everything a myriad of colors, from the counter to the coffee table to the lamp shades. If she didn't have to think about what a pain it would be to remove all the paint later, she would admit that it was a rather unique, vibrant décor.

In the midst of her survey of the living room, all of a sudden, she saw something move on the floor at the far side of the couch. It startled her for just a second before she saw the flash of blonde. She inched closer and closer and when she finally made her way around the coffee table, she saw Clarke lying there on the floor, on her side, with her back against the bottom of the couch and her legs stretched out in a right angle to her body, essentially forming an L shape. She was in the same clothes as when Octavia last saw her. Clutched in her hands was a book, which she held close to her chest. She was awake – well, her eyes were opened anyway – but she didn’t acknowledge her friend even as she stood over her.

Once Octavia was sure that Clarke wasn’t hurt (which took a second, because no movement came from the blonde except for the rise and fall of her chest and the blinking of her eyes), she sighed and made to sit down right next to her on the floor. Her feet were used to push the coffee table farther away to give the two of them more room. She then reached over and, holding on to her friend’s shoulders, pulled her into a sitting position, resting the blonde’s head on her shoulder. She kept her arms wrapped around her.

Clarke didn’t resist at all, leaning into the embrace of her friend, burrowing her face into her shoulder.

“Oh, Clarke.”

Octavia slowly ran her hands through Clarke’s hair, untangling the many knots that had formed. She intermittently scratched her scalp and patted her head in a “there, there” manner. She gave her several top-of-the-head kisses and leaned her own cheek against the blonde’s head. They stayed like that for long minutes, with neither saying a word.

Finally, Clarke’s stomach rumbled, breaking the soothing silence. She groaned and Octavia chuckled, though neither made to get up.

Clarke lifted her head from Octavia’s shoulder and pulled back to finally look at her.

“O, I think I really fucked up.”

To Clarke’s surprise, Octavia didn’t look even mildly taken aback at her confession. She just looked at her sadly.

“Yeah, Clarke. You kind of did.”

There was no harshness or blame in her voice, no anger or pity in her gaze. There was simply agreement. And perhaps an unspoken promise to share whatever pain will come from this realization.

“What do you mean, O?”

“Well, what do you mean, Clarke?”

Again, Clarke saw nothing but kind and patient eyes, imploring her to continue.

She thought about what she wanted to say, as she was herself unsure of how to express what she really meant. It had been two days since she found Lexa’s book. Two days since she learned that Lexa had bought a ring because she wanted to propose. And two days since she had been lying on the floor in the position Octavia had just found her in, having not had the energy or will to do much more than re-read the passage over and over again, even though every time she read it felt like another knife stab through her heart. She was surprised that the pain felt just as sharp the fiftieth time she read it as it did the first time. But despite the pain, she continued doing it. Because she felt like she deserved it. She cried in anguish some of the times, screamed in anger other times, and a few of the times, laughed bitterly at how the universe had decided to mock what little remained of her life after Lexa.

She pulled away from Octavia and sat back leaning against the bottom of the couch, no longer looking at her friend. She began, cautiously.

“I thought I was doing the right thing. Wells . . .” She swallowed thickly. “Wells had died. Because of me.”

“Clarke,” Octavia interrupted, shaking her head, “not because of you.”

Clarke nodded, catching herself before she regressed on the progress she had made in dealing with his death. “I know. But he died. And I lived. And it wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair that he was gone and all I had was a broken leg. It felt wrong for me to be alive, let alone warm, happy, and surrounded and loved by family and friends. And Lexa.”

She paused, staring down at her hands as she felt her emotions start to well up inside her chest.

“So how I could go on living my wonderful life as it was? I felt like a fraud, living a life that was not mine. And sooner or later, everyone around me would see that, and realize what a horrible person I was. And then they would leave me, and I would finally get what I deserved.”

Clarke looked up at the ceiling in a futile attempt to prevent tears from falling. Octavia’s heart ached, painfully, as she just now learned what Clarke had never shared with them - the extent of her anguish. Her own eyes watered as she imagined Clarke lying alone in bed, feeling herself undeserving of love. Of life.

But she didn’t say anything, patiently giving Clarke the time and space to continue her thoughts.

“And then there was Lexa. God, Lexa. I don’t deserve her even if I am the best person I can be, ten times over. She was just so . . . Lexa. She gave me everything, O.” Clarke looked at her friend, to make sure that she understood this very important truth. Octavia nodded. She did.

“But, the more understanding and caring she was, the more undeserving I felt. And my damaged mind wouldn’t separate her voice from the accident. Every time I saw her, I was reminded both of the accident and of how undeserving of this life I was.”

“You don’t feel this way now, do you?” Octavia finally spoke.

Clarke wiped at the tears finally falling down her face and shook her head. “No, it’s okay, Octavia. You and Raven and Bellamy and the gang, and my family . . . you all helped me understand how lucky I was, both to have survived the accident and also to have people who care about me so much. I mean, I still don’t think I deserve you guys, but that’s just because you are all too wonderful.” She smiled at Octavia and received a shy smile in return.

“But Lexa . . .” Clarke turned somber again. “I tried to push her away. Tried to speed up the realization she would inevitably have one day that I was not the person she thought I was. That I was this fraud. But she never gave up on me.”

“Lexa loved you so much, Clarke,” Octavia said. “She would have waited forever for you to realize that.”

It was the truth, Clarke knew. She had hidden it in her subconscious underneath her turmoil during the breakup, had refused to acknowledge it during her recovery, and was then harshly smacked in the face with it when she read Lexa’s note to her in the book. But now, when Octavia finally said it out loud, the weight of that truth came crashing down on her, stripping her of all her excuses and defensive mechanisms and false bravado. That was the truth. Lexa loved her unequivocally, and she fucked it up.

She had no words.

Octavia continued, unaware of the beating she was inflicting upon Clarke’s poor heart. “You remember those days, several months after it happened, when you wanted to go out drinking every night with Raven and me? And you wouldn’t let Lexa come, even when she asked? She probably just wanted to look after you. Well, you would always end up amazingly drunk, and we would have to help you back.”

Clarke closed her eyes as flashes of broken memories came rushing back at Octavia’s words.

“And every night we brought you back, she was there, ready to take you, no matter how late it was. And she never complained. Not once. She was never angry at us, or at you. She thanked us even, for taking care of you when she couldn’t. She dutifully took you from us and helped you to bed. Your bed in the separate room, because you refused to sleep in your shared bedroom. Sometimes I stayed behind and helped her.”

Octavia paused to look at her, as if getting ready to tell her a secret.

“And you know what you would do? In your drunken stupor?”

Clarke shook her head.

“You didn’t know where you were, I don’t think. So you kept calling for Lexa, again and again, while mumbling that you were sorry for everything.”

Clarke stared at her, surprised at this information.

“And Lexa. Well, I think she didn’t want to cry in front of me, so I watched her try to be stoic while tucking you in. You sometimes asked her to stay with you, and I think she did. That is, she slept wrapped around you. To get you to go to sleep. Even if it meant waking up early so she could leave the bed before you woke up. Because she knew you wouldn’t want to wake up next to her when you were sober.”

“God, Octavia.” Clarke pressed the palms of her hands to her forehead, trying to alleviate the pounding headache she felt coming on as she tried to process this information. “Why didn’t you tell me this?”

“I don’t think that would have changed your mind, Clarke. Not about what you were going to do. Raven and I saw how hurt you were. We knew it was going to happen. But we underestimated how much Lexa was willing to fight for you. She really loved you so much.”

“She was going to propose, O.” Clarke blurted out suddenly.

Octavia’s eyes widened in surprise. “What?”

Clarke turned to the last page of the book and handed it over to her to read. When she finished, she looked up and met Clarke’s eyes. “I’m so sorry, Clarke.”

“She was always so bad at hiding anything from me. It was her eyes. They gave everything away. When she was happy or excited, they were bright and on fire like the sun. When she was upset or angry, they were dark and chaotic and stormy. And when she’s hiding something,” Clarke smiled at the memory, “well, you know how in cartoons, whenever a character is obviously lying, his or her eyes shift from side to side and you can practically see the sweat dripping off the forehead?” She waited for Octavia’s nod. “That was Lexa. Without exaggeration.” 

“She also tended to over-explain things when she was lying, creating elaborate backstories for everything. Once, she went into the history of communism to explain why I shouldn’t look in the back closet.” Clarke shook her head as Octavia laughed quietly.

“She was so proud of herself for having all the answers to the questions she anticipated I would have. I’m sure she rehearsed them by herself beforehand. It was quite obvious when she answered my questions straight away without thinking about it. So between all that, she must have worked really hard to have kept this ring a secret from me. That, plus the fact that she really only had three hiding places in the whole apartment she didn’t realize I knew about.”

“So you really didn’t know?”

Clarke shook her head.

“But is this really a surprise to you? That Lexa wanted to propose? You were dating for three years, and living together for at least half that time. Marriage must have crossed your mind.”

“I guess I never really thought about proposing and marriage and the whole declaration of our love thing because . . . well, because forever with Lexa was such a given at that point. There was no planning needed. I was going to spend the rest of my life with that girl. It was as much of a truth to me as the fact that sunlight is warm, that water is wet. It just . . . was.”

"Oh Clarke.” Octavia was quite touched by her sentiments.

“So what do I do now, O?”

“What do you want, Clarke?”

“I want things to be how they were. I want to be able to open the door and see Lexa reading on the couch, hair falling across her face but her being too absorbed in the book to care. I want to be able to hug her and kiss her and love her whenever I want. I just want her.”

“Then that’s your answer.”

“What is?”

Octavia looked thoughtful for a moment.

“You know, when Lincoln’s mom passed away last year, he went through a period of time when he was closed off and distant. It was a hard time for the both of us. I tried to support him as best as I could without being overbearing, but it was very difficult not knowing what he was thinking and where we stood in our relationship. I could certainly relate to how Lexa must have felt. But after several months of that, Lincoln came to me one night. He told me that the pain of losing someone he loved so much was so wretching that he didn’t think he could stand going through that ever again. And he used that as a reason to push others away. But he later realized that instead of letting the experience have such a negative impact on him, he should take something good away from it. So he viewed it as a chance for him to treasure the people in his life he had been taking for granted. A chance for him to show them how much they mean to him. How they make all the pain and loss in his life worth it. And that’s when he promised me he will spend the rest of his life making sure I knew how much I meant to him.”

Octavia continued. “So maybe this was a horribly painful way of going about it, but hasn’t it made you more sure of your love for Lexa than ever before?”

“Yes,” Clarke replied. It was quite a simple question really.

“What are you waiting for then? You know where she is.”

“She’s leaving, O. Maybe for good. After what I put her through, she must hate me.”

“Lexa could never hate you, Clarke. I know this. She might be mad at you, and rightly so, but never hate. Not Lexa. Not for you.”

Clarke could feel her heart starting to speed up as she let herself consider the possibility.

“Really? You think there’s still a chance?”

“Yes. Raven said she was leaving in three weeks. It’s only been about two weeks. Go find her and tell her everything you just told me. But you probably have to start with apologizing profusely and begging for her forgiveness. Also maybe just throw things she likes at her when she opens the door. Like chocolate and flowers. Oh! And maybe money. I would be more likely to forgive someone if they threw lots of money at me first.” Octavia smiled in encouragement.

“Lexa loves Junior Mints. I could get her some maybe?”

“There you go.”

“Do you think she will take me back?”

“I don’t know, Clarke.” Octavia answered honestly. “But I’m rooting for you two.”

Clarke stood nervously in the hallway right outside the door of Anya’s apartment. She took a deep breath before she reached up to knock on the door with her right hand. In her left hand, she held a bundle of wildflowers she picked from the park she passed on her way over. Tucked under her left arm was a box of Junior Mints purchased from a nearby convenience store. She had left to come over right after getting a good luck hug from Octavia, but halfway over, she fretted over the fact that she hadn't brought anything with her, as Octavia had suggested. So she made a quick detour to get her those gifts, which, now that she looked at them, seemed rather pathetic. Especially the sad-looking, haphazardly-arranged bundle of wilting flowers. Maybe I should do the money thing, she thought, before quickly shaking her head and dismissing it as the ridiculous idea that it was. Get it together, Clarke, she told herself.

But her worries now seemed trivial. Because here she was, standing in front of Anya’s door, behind which Lexa existed. That was all that mattered.

She could hear footsteps approaching from the inside. She held her breath.

Anya opened the door, and Clarke could see the surprise on her face as she registered who was standing there.

“Hi Anya,” Clarke said, offering a sheepish, nervous smile.

Anya quickly recovered from her initial surprise at seeing Clarke. She stood there, one hand on the door and one hand on the opposite side of the door frame, her posture about as unwelcoming as it could be. She didn’t move to let Clarke in, letting her body block most of the doorway. Her eyes narrowed at the blonde, but no words came out of her mouth.

“Is Lexa here?” Clarke tried to look behind Anya for sight of the brunette, but it was late and the apartment was dark and she couldn’t see much.

“What do you want with her?” Anya finally spoke, her voice low and deep, as if restraining herself.

Clarke willed herself not to crumble under Anya’s intense, penetrating gaze. A gaze that made her want to scurry away and hide in a hole somewhere.

“Look, Anya, I know you must not like me very much right now. And for good reasons. I’m really sorry for everything that happened with Lexa. I have no excuses. I know how much I hurt her. But that’s why I want to see her now. To tell her that.”

“Tell her what?”

“Tell her that I’m sorry. For everything. That I was stupid and selfish and will never in a million years deserve her, but I love her, and I will do anything to get her back.”

Anya remained unmoved in the doorway, though she now crossed her arms in front of her as she continued to stare unflinchingly at Clarke. Clarke kept her gaze, hoping she would see the sincerity in her eyes.

“Have you any idea,” Anya began slowly, precisely, “what you did to her?”

Clarke opened her mouth to reply, but was quickly cut off.

“Do you know,” Anya paused as she gritted her teeth, “what the last three months were like for her? For me to watch her go through it? Do you know how many times I wanted to go yell some sense into your head?”

Clarke stood there and took the scolding she knew she deserved.

“I know, Anya. There’s nothing I can say to make what I did acceptable. I’ll take whatever punishment you want to give me. But please, just let me talk to Lexa.”

Anya scoffed bitterly. “She isn’t here.”

“What do you mean? Where is she?” Clarke asked, confused. “I thought she was staying with you this whole time.”

“She was. But then she moved. Because she couldn’t stand to be in the same city as you. In the same country even. It was too painful for her.”

“But . . .” Clarke couldn’t wrap her mind around it. ‘I thought she wasn’t leaving until next week.”

“She changed her flight.”

“She’s really gone?”


Clarke didn’t know how to process this. “You’re lying to me.” She stood on her tiptoes to try to look over Anya into the apartment in hopes of glimpsing the brunette, but she couldn’t see anything. “Lexa! Lexa!” she called out frantically.

Anya let Clarke yell for several seconds.

“Clarke,” Anya said, with more sympathy in her voice now. “Clarke. She’s not here.”

“Where did she go, Anya? I’ll go find her right now. I’ll convince her to come back.”

“She doesn’t want you to know.”

“Why not?”

Anya looked at her sadly, some of her previous anger having seemingly dissipated as she noted Clarke’s state of distress.

“You have no idea, do you? How much Lexa loved you. What you did . . . it broke her. She is trying to put herself together again, so she can get some semblance of her life back. Just let her do that. She won’t be able to handle the confusion you would bring to her life right now.”

“Please, Anya. Tell me where she is. I need to find her. I need to tell her I’m sorry. That I love her. She is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I know that, now more than ever. I’ll go get her back, wherever she is.”

“I can’t do that,” Anya said with an air of finality. “Do yourselves both a favor and let her be, Clarke. Just . . . go home.” She took a step back to close the door.

Clarke immediately reached out her arm to stop the door. “Was there really a ring?”

Anya looked surprised at her mention of the ring. And then, almost instantly, her eyes lit up in fury and chaos. She looked the angriest Clarke had ever seen her.

“That fucking ring.” She took a deep breath to restrain herself. “You know, kid, I was on your side. I kept her hopes up the first few weeks. Told her that you’d realize your mistake and that you would come get her and everything would be okay. She was hopeful, you know. She wore that damn ring around her neck every day. And held it every time the doorbell or her phone rang. But at the end of every day, I had to see her face fall when she realized that that you weren’t coming. And now she’s finally able to accept it and decide to move on from this. I’m not going to give you a chance to hurt her again. You’re too late, Clarke. She’s gone.”

She didn’t even bother to ask Clarke how she found out about the ring. She made to close the door again. But once again, Clarke pushed against the door.

“I know there is nothing I can say or do now that will change your mind, Anya. Can you please just tell her this for me then? This one thing, and I'll leave you alone. Please, Anya. Tell her I'll wait for her every Sunday at 10 AM where we first met. Rain or shine, I'll be there. Until she comes. To forgive me, or to tell me to stop because she's moved on and found someone else and that I've lost the best thing that's ever happened to me. Please tell her that for me. Please.”

The door closed in her face.

Clarke didn’t know how long she stood there, alone in the hallway, staring at the closed door, with the flowers hanging loosely from her hand. Or how she ended up back in her apartment, in bed, fully dressed. But that was where she found herself later that night, numbed and confused and lost, chasing the peace and relief from pain that sleep would provide. Futilely. 

Anya saw flowers and a box of Junior Mints in her hallway garbage can as she walked by the next morning.

Chapter Text

It was a chilly, windy day, one that heralded the impending arrival of winter, but she had missed the crisp Autumn air of her hometown for far too long, so she kept her windows opened at night.

She made her way through the apartment, maneuvering around opened and unopened boxes with grace, and looked out the window. She inhaled deeply, taking in all the pleasant (and unpleasant) smells of the city waking up. She smiled at the smell of freshly baked breads from the bakery down the street, and then quickly grimaced as a garbage truck drove by.

She didn’t have all of her belongings with her yet. They were arriving in several shipments spread out over the next week. Which was just as well, because after looking around her new apartment and seeing it littered with boxes, she wondered how this could be only one-third of what she owned.

She was excited to be back. This was home, and she had been away far too long. She turned back to look at her apartment again. Anya had picked it out for her and had it mostly set up for when she arrived. She only stayed with Anya for several days to get her bearings before moving to this apartment. It was modestly sized, but already much bigger than her flat in London. It was quite perfect for her actually. She was only about ten minutes away from her sister, and her neighborhood was quiet, filled with bookstores and coffee shops and bakeries and flower shops and antique stores, but still within walking distance of good restaurants and shopping areas and, should she feel like it, music venues and local bars. And it was farther away from Cl--, from where she used to live.

Good job, big sis, she thought to herself.

She stretched her arms over her head in a big yawn. She was still adjusting to the time difference and fighting jet lag. This was why she was up so early, which is quite uncharacteristic of her night owl ways. She had briefly thought she would use this time adjustment to finally switch to an early riser, but almost instantly laughed at her too-optimistic self. That would never happen.

The yawn made her realize she needed caffeine in her system. After all, she had been awake all of fifteen minutes. She groaned as she realized her coffee maker and tea set were still packed somewhere in those boxes, and she had no idea which one.

I guess you really have to work for the good things in life. She figured she might as well start the process of unpacking as she looked for a source of caffeine.

The first box she opened contained some kitchenware, but alas, not what she was looking for. The box next to it contained some of her office and writing supplies as well as a gift for Anya she brought back from London. She smiled as she pulled out the colorful, fluffy top hat decorated with the pattern of the British flag on it. Anya would love this, she thought, sarcastically, bemused smile on her face as she pictured pulling this over Anya’s grumpy face. She set it aside, making a mental note to have a camera ready to capture that image for all eternity. And for use as blackmail in the future.

The next box was filled with books, many of which she had purchased in London. She didn’t unpack those since she didn’t have her bookshelf set up yet. She turned to the next box and paused when she saw what it was.

This box was different than the others. The cardboard looked older and more faded, and the label on the front, “books,” was in a different color. The tape around it appeared old as well, and the whole thing looked as though it hadn’t been touched in several years. That was because it hadn’t.

Lexa wondered why she still had this box with her. Why it had traveled thousands of miles with her to London and now back to the States. She was never going to read them again. She was sure she was probably never even going to open the box again. She shook her head, unwilling to think of more excuses as to why she shouldn’t throw it away, seeing as it was so early in the morning and she was still caffeine-less. Instead, she pushed the box into the back closet and covered it with other boxes so that it remained out of sight. There, she thought, problem solved. Then, another part of her added, Or just temporarily avoided. She rolled her eyes at her inner neurotic self who just wouldn’t let her live in blissful ignorance and denial. Good enough for now.

The sun was now up and she was nowhere closer to caffeine than she had been earlier. And discovering and moving that box took a-little-bit-more-than-physical toll on her. She decided it was a good time to take a break and explore her new neighborhood more closely. She grabbed her beanie and scarf (but forgot her gloves, as she would soon realize, to her dismay) and locked her apartment. Once she exited the building, she smiled and took a deep breath in.

I’m back.

Week 1 (Since Lexa Left):

Lexa shifted nervously in her seat on the plane. No matter what she did, she couldn’t make herself comfortable. And sleep was certainly out of the question. She looked on enviously at the people next to her, all deep in slumber during the long flight across the Atlantic.

What am I doing? she found herself asking for the millionth time since she got on this plane. It wasn’t that she had never traveled internationally before; she had, many times in the past. But in all her travels, she had never purchased a one way ticket without knowing when, or ifshe would ever return. And except for during college, she had never lived so far away from her sister, who she was already missing sorely even though it had been less than a day since she last saw her.

She was anxious and antsy and continued to fidget, to the annoyance of the passenger next to her, who awoke and gave her a stern look. She mouthed a silent “I’m sorry” and the person leaned away from her to fall back asleep.

She subconsciously reached to her chest and grasp around for a second before she remembered that she did not have .  . . that with her anymore. Over the past months, she had gotten used to holding onto it whenever she felt stressed or anxious, finding it brought her some peace and calm. She had left it behind when she left, along with everything else that could remind her of her. She let out a sigh and wondered if Anya really did throw it in the ocean like she asked. And if she did . . . what was the likelihood that it would find its way across the ocean to the other side of the world? To London, maybe? After all, there were so many stories of messages in bottles making their way thousands of miles away.

She shook her head and chided herself, Don’t be silly, Lexa. Why would you even want it back? The whole idea of this move was to leave her old life, and everything that reminded her of it, behind. This kind of thinking was not going to help her move on. She needed to not think about her anymore.

She leaned her head against the plane and looked out the window. The world was completely dark outside the plane as they flew over the ocean, and the only thing that she saw were the blinking lights on the wing of the plane. She was getting farther and farther away from everything she knew, everything she loved. She touched the window with her hand, and noted the markings her fingers made through the condensation that her breath had created. She started to write a name on the glass, as she had been used to doing on the bathroom mirror after a long shower, before she caught herself and quickly wiped her palm across it.

She quickly pulled down the window shade in frustration and sat back in her seat.

This was going to be harder than she thought.

She jolted awake when the flight attendant’s voice came on overhead to announce that they were getting ready to land. She looked around, disoriented, for a second before she remembered where she was. With some excitement and a lot of nerves, she pulled open the shade to see that the sun had risen and they were now flying over a beautiful cityscape.

The flight attendant continued to speak, and Lexa noted a soft in-between accent of someone who divided her time between England and the States. She liked the way it sounded. She wondered briefly if she would pick up the accent as well. Anya would love that, she thought wryly.

“So please remain seated with your seat belt fastened until the Captain turns off the Fasten Seat Belt sign. On behalf of the entire crew, I’d like to thank you for allowing us to be a part of your travels. We look forward to seeing you again in the near future.”

Lexa adjusted herself in her seat and made sure her seat belt was appropriately fastened. Minutes later, she felt the soft thud as the plane landed onto the tarmac.  Her heart started to race. She was finally here.

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to London.”

She made her way through luggage claim and customs without much trouble. Now, as she pushed her luggage cart out into the main terminal, she glanced around to look for a familiar face. She saw many people lined up behind a railing, watching for their loved ones and guests. Some held signs with names on them while others held flowers and gifts. She didn’t see anyone she recognized.

Then, just as worry began to creep up inside her, she felt a tap on her shoulder. She turned around and only managed to catch a glimpse of the man’s face before she was pulled into a crushing bear hug that almost lifted her lithe body from the floor.

“Lexa! You’re here!”

She couldn’t reply until the man finally set her down.

“Hello, Gustus. Thank goodness you’re here.” She stepped back to get a good look at her editor. It had been a couple of months since she last saw him, since he had been in London most of that time. He was a tall, heavy-set man, an imposing bundle of muscles and raw strength, towering almost two feet over her. His arms were covered with tattoos of intricate woven patterns, and each of his biceps was probably larger than her head. He had long hair slicked back over the top of his head with shaved sides, and the most defining part of his appearance was the long, trimmed beard he kept extremely well-groomed. All in all, he was essentially the epitome of testosterone and conventional masculinity wrapped up in an intimidating human specimen. On the outside, at least, Lexa thought with a smile.

She had been quite taken aback when she first met him, because he looked nothing like he sounded on the phone, with his soft British accent and polite speech. But it didn’t take too long for her to realize that his inner self was not imposing or intimidating at all. He was gentle, considerate, and kind. And spent more time on his appearance than he let on, Lexa soon discovered, to her amusement. He probably spent more time on that beard of his than Lexa did on her entire hair and make up routine. He served professionally in his role as editor to Lexa, but would often offer sage, fatherly advice to her as well. However, for the most part, he was like the fun, quirky uncle she never had. Even Anya respected and trusted Gustus after just meeting him a few times.

He looked her up and down as well, as if he couldn’t believe she was really here, before smiling and wrapping her in a hug again.

“Of course I’m here. I told you I would be here the second you landed. See, I even made a sign. You just didn’t see it.” He held up a small piece of paper, ripped from a notebook, across which, in small, hastily-scribbled, hard-to-read handwriting, read, “Lexa.”

“I wonder how I could have missed that.”

Gustus didn’t notice the gentle, wry smile that came with those words.

“Remember to wear your nerd glasses next time,” he japed, as he took over pushing her luggage cart toward the parking lot.

“Hey, they are not . . .” She paused, thinking. “. . . that nerdy.”

“Well, they fit you perfectly,” he said, before bellowing out in laughter at his own joke.

Lexa resisted the urge to punch him lightly on his arms. She needed him to drive her after all.

"Here we are,” Gustus said as he opened the door to the flat.

Lexa stepped through the proffered door and set down her purse and small luggage. She looked around slowly, smiling as she took in the place where she was going to be staying for the foreseeable future. It was smaller than her old apartment back in the States, but it was warm and cozy and so welcoming. Gustus strolled in carrying the two large luggage as if they were light grocery bags and set them down next to the door.

“Let me give you a tour,” he said excitedly as he began to move around. He led them farther into the apartment. “So this place came mostly pre-furnished, and I filled in the extras. The furniture at least. The little touches, like the curtains and towels and soaps and dishes and utensils and such, I can’t take credit for. That was my wife and daughter.” He moved through the kitchen, which overlooked into the living room, opening the cupboards and drawers to show her. “And they stocked the kitchen with some essential kitchen staples so you won’t have to venture out before you know your way around.” He pulled open the small refrigerator where she saw milk and juice and bread and eggs.

Lexa felt gratitude swelling inside her chest as she took in all the preparations they had made for her. Before she could express it, Gustus was already moving them to another part of the flat.

He opened the doorway closet to show her as they passed it on their way to the bathroom. She noted hangers there already.

When they stepped into the bathroom, the sweet scent of lavender filled her nose. She saw that they originated from a bowl of potpourri on the counter next to the sink. Again, the bathroom was small, but was brightly decorated, with matching towels and soaps all set up.

“I hope you like lavender. It’s my daughter’s favorite color and scent, if you couldn’t tell.” He shrugged, as if he might have weakly tried to fight his daughter on her decorating choices but had given in because, well, because he would never win. Lexa smiled and nodded. He then turned to walk them into the last room.

“And here’s your bedroom. Did I mention she liked lavender?” Lexa looked around and saw that she had light lavender sheets and a small vase of fresh lavender flowers on the dresser next to her bed. It was otherwise sparsely decorated. “She insisted that flowers are the most welcoming housewarming gift. And made me drive to the market this morning to get them so that they would be ‘the freshest they can be, Dad.’ ” He rolled his eyes, but Lexa saw a hint of a smile he tried to keep hidden.

He was surprised when he suddenly felt Lexa’s arms around him. Her head only reached his shoulders. “Thank you so much, Gustus. It’s lovely. It’s all so lovely. I don’t know how I can repay you and your family. Please thank them for me.”

He smiled softly into her hair as he returned his embrace. His heart ached as he thought of what she had been through the past year. He knew about what happened with Clarke, even if Lexa hadn’t shared all the details with him. And he knew that it must have been quite painful for her to have made the decision to leave her home and her sister. Just in the few years he had been working with Lexa, he had come to love her like a daughter. And that was why he wanted to do everything he could to make her as comfortable as she could be.

“Well, you can do that yourself when you come over tonight for dinner.”

She pulled away and looked up at him, smiling and nodding gently.

He led her back out to the living room. He picked up a small folder on the coffee table. “And this was the contribution from my son. He printed out a list of the closest grocery stores, hardware stores, post office, and banks as well as cafes, restaurants, bookstores, sightseeing places, etc. He also set up your internet and wi-fi. He said he put the password in here as well. There is also a list of important phone numbers, including all of ours.”

He looked at a small package next to the folder. “Oh, and here is a SIM card for your phone that you can use. Just bring it over tonight if you can’t get it to work and he can fix it for you. I don’t know how any of this works. He’s kind of the computer and technology genius of the house. I still like to write everything with pen and paper.”

Lexa nodded in understanding.

“Okay, I think that’s it. It’s still early yet, so why don’t you rest and relax for a while and venture outside even? It’s a safe neighborhood. I will come get you around six o’clock for dinner. We don’t live too far away.”

He reached for the keys on the counter and handed them to Lexa. He turned to walk toward the door before suddenly stopping. “Oh, of course, I almost forgot.” He reached into his pocket to get his wallet and pulled out all of his cash. “Here you go, in case you need anything before you can get to a bank and get the local currency.”

Lexa was about to refuse, but realized the practicality of his gesture. She reached out to take the money. “Thank you. I will pay you back. For this,” she said as she held up the money, “as well as for everything else.” She gestured to the rest of the apartment.

He waved off her words and gave her a quick hug before opening the door.

“I’ll see you tonight. Rest well.”

After Gustus left, Lexa opened her suitcases to get some clothes out for a shower. She only brought the essentials with her when she left, and the rest of her belongings would come in a week or so.

In the first suitcase she opened, she saw several books scattered across her clothes. Anya had prevented her from bringing an entire suitcase just filled with books because “That makes no logical sense, Lexa.” In fact, Anya wouldn’t even let her ship her entire book collection over because “Again, that makes no logical sense, Lexa.” She made her only consider books she had read in the past five years, and then only allowed her one box. She donated some and left the rest that she couldn’t part with at Anya’s (for which she was told she was going to be charged rent). Lexa couldn’t help but sneak some of her favorites into her suitcase when Anya wasn’t looking.

She grabbed the books and walked to set them on the coffee table in a short tower. She picked up the top one and was flipping through it offhandedly when she noticed her writing in the margins of the book. She stopped at a random page and read what she had written. “Clarke, I think you would actually like this book.” “Clarke, you’re snoring on the couch. Really. Loudly.” And “Clarke, you look lovely when you are sleeping.”

She quickly closed the book as her heart raced. Her hand instinctively went to grab at her chest again, and finding nothing there, she dropped her hand in anger and frustration at herself. She picked up the books and walked to the closet where she deposited them on the floor in the corner of the closet. She had forgotten her habit of writing about Clarke in her books. She closed the closet door angrily and leaned her back against it, sliding down to the floor in the process.

Will she never escape from her?

As soon as Lexa walked into Gustus’ home that night, she was engulfed in a warm hug from his wife, Indra. They had never met before, though she had heard much about this woman from Gustus. Indra was sweet and motherly, but Lexa could tell that there was a confidence about her that made it clear that even though Gustus also towered over her, who the real head of the household was. She was quickly ushered into their dining room, where she met their son, Artigas, a lanky, college-age kid with shaggy hair and a warm, friendly smile.

“Is the internet working?” he asked as he shook her hand.

She nodded as she took the seat Gustus held out for her before he sat down in his own chair. “It’s working great. I used it to call my sister earlier on video chat to let her know I’ve arrived safely. It’s really good speed.”

“I got you the fastest connection possible,” he said proudly.

“Thank you for that.”

Indra interrupted their conversation as she carried a steaming pot into the dining room and set it down. The rest of the food had already been brought out. She took her seat next to Gustus.

“We can start now,” she said. “Our daughter is running a little late in her lab.” Then, in further elucidation, she said, “She’s a Ph.D. candidate at the university studying botany and pharmacology and is in the middle of finishing up one experiment or another.”

About twenty minutes into dinner, they heard the door open and turned to look up just as a young woman walked into the dining room, slightly out of breath and apologizing. “I’m sorry, everyone. One of the PCR machines in the lab was acting up.” She was tall, taking after Gustus, but was slender where he was bulky. She had dark hair, cut in a shorter, modern, stylish hairdo that not many could pull off, but she certainly could. She had high cheekbones, and a jawline that was at once angular and soft. Her eyes were a deep, rich brown. She looked like someone who might be mistaken for a model on a regular basis.

Her eyes glanced around the dining room until they fell on Lexa. Dimples appeared on her cheeks as a wide smile spread across her face. She stepped forward, reaching out her hand.

“Hi. You must be Lexa.”

Lexa stood up from her chair and took her hand in a handshake. “Hi.”

“I’m Costia.”

Chapter Text

Clarke waited patiently at the café counter for her coffee. She was at a different café today, a new one she had never been to, and for a very different purpose than her usual weekly café outings.

She looked around the place while waiting. It was a small, quaint café with an interesting, eclectic décor. The walls seemed to be filled with posters and memorabilia from different science fiction and fantasy worlds. And this was a neighborhood where she didn’t visit often. She had purposely picked a new café farther away from where she lived to do this because, well, it wasn’t going to be a pleasant thing, and she would rather not be reminded of it every time she wanted a cup of coffee.

Four mason jars lining the counter in a row caught her eyes. The sign on the wall above the jars read, “Which house will win the Hogwarts House Cup this week? Tips = House Points.” Each of the four jars was labeled with one of the houses, in their respective colors.

Clarke was amused and impressed with the ingenuity and attention to details, so she reached into her pockets to pull out some change. Her coffee came just as she was dropping the money into the Gryffindor jar.

She found a small table in the corner with a good view of the door to wait. She had arrived a little earlier than the scheduled time for the date. If you could call it a date, she thought. She came early because she wanted this to be over as soon as possible. This was never a fun thing to have to do.

Her heart began to thump rapidly as memories of the last time she did this flashed through her mind with frightening vividity, and her body almost shivered as if she were there again, standing in the rain, drenched to the bones, saying words that she knew would hurt the other person.

She forced herself to take a deep breath in order to control her emotions. She did not want to be emotional when she did what she had planned to do.

She had debated about this. Not about what she was doing, no. That, she was sure of. She had been putting it off for a while, forcing herself to hold on to the false optimism that this thing with Finn, whatever it was, might go somewhere. But for a reason she couldn’t really quite explain, she had suddenly come to the conclusion that it was the right time to do it now.

What she had debated was how she was going to do it. And in the end, she decided it was only right to do it in person, since they had been semi-dating for more than a month and he was a friend of Bellamy. Finn was not a bad guy, and he deserved more than a brief text message or an awkward phone call.

So here she was, waiting to do this awkwardly in person instead. She was rather dreading it. 

She looked up just in time to see Finn walk through the door. She saw him glance around the café before his eyes landed on her and his lips widened into a smile. Clarke winced internally.

“Clarke,” he said, as he made his way over and sat down. “I was very excited to get your call to meet here. I have been a little worried that this was more one-sided on my part.”

She took a deep breath and decided to jump right into it. Here we go. “About that, Finn . . .”

It wasn’t painless – these things never were – but it also wasn’t as painful as she feared either. She had originally planned to make it quick and simple, perhaps falling to old clichés like “It’s not you; it’s me” and “I need to work on myself” (both of which actually hit closer to home for Clarke than clichés usually did).

But for some reason, when Finn asked her why, she found herself telling him the truth: “I am still in love with someone else.”

And when he pressed for more information, she felt compelled to tell him. Maybe it was because she hadn’t said all of this out loud in a long while, since all of her close friends already knew her story, and so it felt good to release some of her pent-up emotions to this person who was a stranger to her history. Or maybe it was because she wanted to talk about Lexa to someone who didn’t know her, and Finn seemed so genuinely interested in learning more about her, this person to whom he so undeniably lost in the battle for Clarke’s affections, despite the fact that she wasn’t even there, and apparently hadn’t been for a while.

Or maybe, just maybe, deep down, she was secretly hoping that after hearing her story, he would tell her that she still had a chance. That she hadn’t lost her forever.

So she told him about Lexa. About how they met and fell in love and came to live together. She told him details like how Lexa loved coffee most of the time, but on rainy days, she would only drink tea (Because tea is soothing to the soul, Clarke). She told him about how she could be so immersed in her reading that you could fall right in front of her and she wouldn’t notice until you were sitting down next to her, ice pack on your head. And that’s only after she finished the chapter (Clarke, what did you do? Why do you have an ice pack? How’d you get that bump on your head?). She told him that she was an amazing writer who had a wonderful way with words that made her appreciate the beauty of the world more every day.

She told him that she believed in soulmates because of her. That she believed in love because of her.

And then she told him how she lost her (albeit the abridged version, because that part was not as much fun to talk about). And finally, she even told him that she was still waiting for her to come back.

It felt good to tell her whole story out loud, to form coherent words from nebulous thoughts that had been floating in her mind for so long. She could almost feel her words dissipating from where they sat, spreading outward into the world. She wondered if, somehow, magically, they would reach Lexa, however far away she was, and allow her to sense her regret, her sincerity, her love. Her promise.

(Little did she know, her words didn’t have to travel very far anymore.)

Finn was quiet for long moments after Clarke finished. They sat in comfortable silence, both contemplating her words.

“When did you know that she was it? Your soulmate. Was it at first sight?” he finally asked.

Clarke shook her head, “No, it wasn’t. I knew she was special when I met her, but it was only during our first date when I knew.”

“What’s it like?”

“What’s what like?”

“Finding your soulmate.”

Clarke pondered this for a second. “It’s like you would rather be in the rain and cold with her all the time than be warm and dry without her. It’s like everything is more beautiful to you – your work, your art, your life. A blade of grass. The mailbox. That spoon. Everything. Food tastes better. Things smell sweeter. The world is just . . . better. Just because you have her next to you.”

“But why would you want to?” he asked.

“Want to what?”

“Find your soulmate. I mean, it sounds like you found her, and it didn’t work out. If you can’t even make it work with your soulmate, what’s the point of finding her? If it doesn’t work out, it would just sour any relationship you will ever have afterwards, because nothing can ever compare.”

Clarke was surprised by the honesty in his question.

“Yes, I suppose the bad side is that it might not work out, and then your world becomes forever less colorful, less magical. You’ll see things through a sheet of grey, hear sounds instead of music, and feel things through a dampener. And if you’re really unlucky, you might end up waiting every week at a cafe, for weeks and weeks and weeks, with no end in sight, for something that, on some days, you can’t even remember clearly.”

“And the good side?”

“The good side . . .” She paused to smile. “. . . is that there exists someone in this world who you would do that for.”

Clarke paced back and forth in her room. It had been two days. Two days, three hours, and thirty-two minutes to be exact. That was the amount of time that had passed since she somehow got the number of the beautiful stranger at the café. No, not stranger, she corrected herself. Lexa. God, even her name was beautiful.

She had wanted to call. She had wanted to call right away. But that would have seemed desperate, Raven said. Not that being literally speechless in front of her just because of her eyes didn’t already seem desperate. But she didn’t want to seem even more desperate. So she waited. Anxiously. Until she couldn’t wait anymore. Raven told her that the standard these days was to wait three days (because of course there was a standard). But she didn’t care. She thought it was a tremendous feat for her to have waited this long already anyway.

She took a second to wonder what it was about this girl that made her act like a teenager asking out a crush to a homecoming dance. She was extroverted, fun-loving, and, as Raven had said at the cafe, she was apparently “fucking cute.” So these things usually came easy for her. But for some reason, the thought of calling Lexa made her the most excited and the most scared she had been in a long time.

Her hand almost trembled as she entered the number she had already memorized since the first night. She continued her pacing as the phone rang.

She picked up on the fifth ring.


“Hi. Hello.” There was a pause as the voice on the other end waited for her to continue. “Is this Lexa?”

“Yes, this is she.”

“Hi. Oh, I already said that. Right?” She grimaced. Okay. So it wasn’t just her eyes that could make her act like an idiot.

She heard a small chuckle as Lexa confirmed, “Yes, I believe you did.”

“Right. Um, this is Clarke.” She waited several seconds and when recognition didn’t come, she added, “From the café.” She began to panic. What if Lexa had already forgotten about her already? She rushed to add, “You gave me your number, remember? Blonde hair?”

“Yes, of course. Clarke. Authentically-blonde, azure-eyed artist with a friend.”

Clarke exhaled the breath she didn’t know she was holding. “That’s me.”

“So you finally called. I didn’t know if you would.”

“Of course I would!” Clarke said, a little too loudly. “Did you not want me to?”

She heard Lexa laugh lightly. “No, I did. I just didn’t know if you were going to do the whole wait-three-days-before-you-call-the-girl thing.”

So Raven was right. It was a thing.

“Actually, I wanted to call earlier. Like, way earlier. But I didn’t want to seem . . .”

“Desperate?” Lexa offered.

“I was going to say ‘overeager,’ but sure, we can go with ‘desperate.’”

Another laugh. The sound of her laughter was easing most of Clarke’s nervousness. She could listen to her laugh all day.

“Okay, Clarke. You’ve waited an appropriate amount of time to not seem overeager or desperate.”

“Good. So we’ve now established that I am the exact right amount of eager, right? Are you ready then?”

“Ready for what?”

“For me to change your mind about your preference for brunettes.”

She again waited with a held breath for Lexa’s response.

After several moments, she heard, in a serious voice, “Yes, Clarke. I am. I really am.” She cracked a grin as she imagined Lexa saying this with a straight, solemn face. Then, more lightly, “Where should we go?”

Clarke smiled the biggest smile she could remember smiling and pumped her free hand in the air while doing excited running-in-place. She made sure her voice was calm and belied her excitement when she gave Lexa the details of where and when to meet her for dinner the following night.

They exchanged some more light banter of the kind between two still-strangers, and reached a comfortable disconnecting point in their conversation.

Just before she was going to say goodbye, Clarke added, “You know . . . I really was, though.”

“Was . . . what?” Lexa’s puzzled voice asked.

“Desperately overeager.”

She had picked out a restaurant she hadn’t been to before. The website showed that it was fancy and expensive, and she wanted to impress, so she picked this place. But now, sitting here across from Lexa, who somehow looked even more effortlessly beautiful than she remembered, in just a blouse and jeans, with her hair down and light make up, she was already regretting her decision.

Because she couldn’t understand two-thirds of the selections on the menu.

She looked at one of the selections. Is that a type of meat? Or the name of a pasta? Or a vegetable, maybe?

She stole a glance at Lexa, who appeared busy perusing the menu. Menu-illiteracy aside, she didn’t know why she felt so nervous right now. Well, she did know why. Because Lexa was sitting across from her and she was gorgeous and sweet and smart and Clarke really, really wanted to impress her.

When the waiter came, Lexa glanced up at her to see if she was ready. Caught in her staring, Clarke quickly nodded and motioned for her to go ahead. Lexa ordered  a simple Caesar salad. When the waiter turned to Clarke, she realized she hadn’t figured out what to order yet. With the two of them looking at her expectantly, she hastily pointed to a random item on the menu and showed it to the waiter. He nodded his understanding and left to enter their orders.

Clarke attempted some small talk while they waited for their food, and Lexa politely reciprocated, but for some reason – perhaps the extravagant environment that neither was used to – the atmosphere was stifling and their easy banter at the café and on the phone eluded them.

Clarke was thankful when she saw the waiter finally approach with their food.

That is, until she saw what was placed in front of her. On her plate, next to some identifiable grains and vegetables, was a large sausage-shaped item. The waiter proceeded to take a knife and slice open the sausage for her, and a soft, crumbly, meat-like substance came out of the sausage casing. It smelled rustic and earthy.

“Here you go, Miss,” the waiter said, rotating the plate to face her. “I hope you enjoy the Chef’s take on a traditional haggis dish. It’s one of the more unique dishes we serve here. Enjoy your meals.”

He gave them both a quick smile before leaving.

Clarke was looking at her plate in mild shock, mainly because this was nothing like she expected. When she looked up, she saw that Lexa was also staring at her own plate.

The restaurant’s version of the Caesar salad was apparently several whole leaves of Romaine lettuce, uncut, that were stacked and inserted through what appears to be a square ring of crunchy toast, with only a small amount of parmesan cheese, olive oil, and pepper on top. The square ring of toast was evidently serving as the croutons.


They both looked at each other. And then, at the same time, both burst out laughing. Loudly. So loudly that patrons at neighboring tables turned to look at them with disapproving faces. Clarke quickly covered her mouth in an attempt to stifle her laughter. Lexa fared a little better. When they finally settled down, their earlier tension had dissipated a little.

“In my defense,” Clarke began, “I have never been to this restaurant before. And I didn’t know what I was ordering.”

“I knew what I was ordering, and yet was still surprised by this,” Lexa observed. “I didn’t realize that there could be such drastic interpretations of a Caesar salad.”

“I didn’t know there were supposed to be interpretations of Caesar salads.”

“We should at least give them an A for effort.”

“Let’s see what it tastes like first.”

Clarke scooped a small amount of the haggis onto her spoon and hesitantly placed it into her mouth. It was savory, salty and spicy. Overall, it wasn’t horrible. But she really did not enjoy the texture. There was no way she was going to finish all of it. So she decided to focus on the accompanying grains and  vegetables.

Lexa, unfortunately, fared worse in her endeavor. When she went to cut her crunchy square toast ring with her knife, a small piece of it flew right at her eye.

“Ouch!” She immediately covered her right eye with her hand.

“Are you okay?” Clarke put down her napkin and was ready to stand to go to her.

“Yes, yes,” Lexa quickly said, motioning for her to sit back down. “I think a piece of bread crumb just got in my eye. I might have to take out my contacts. Please excuse me.” She picked up her purse and squinting with one eye, made her way to the restroom.

Well, this is going well, Clarke said to herself. I’ve never blinded a date before. This must be a new low.

What little that had remained of her appetite was now gone, so she sat there waiting for Lexa to return. Just before she was about to go check on her, she heard footsteps behind her and then saw Lexa move past her to sit in her seat.

“Is everything o—“ Clarke paused midsentence as she caught sight of Lexa. Her right eye was a little red, but otherwise she looked the same. Except for a pair of large, round, horn-rimmed glasses now sitting on her face. They were so large that they looked like windshields for her eyes, and could probably be fitted with individual windshield wipers.

But it was the simple addition of those glasses that transformed Lexa in Clarke’s eyes. From someone who was almost otherworldly in her beauty and grace, and therefore somewhat intimidating and unreachable, into someone who was just as beautiful, but now with an air of . . . dorkiness . . . that made her seem more down to earth and approachable and relatable. Her large glasses also seemed to showcase her eyes, highlighting their intense greenness while betraying the deep sincerity and warm compassion underneath. She could almost see the twinkle of mirth and playfulness in the outer corner of each eye.

“Sorry,” Lexa said, as she sat down. She pushed her glasses up higher, appearing somewhat self-conscious and embarrassed. “These are the glasses I use when I’m working. I didn’t expect to have to wear them tonight.”

“I think you look beautiful,” Clarke said, with a grin she was unable to keep off her face.

The blush on Lexa’s face only served to make her more appealing as she muttered a quiet “Thank you.”

Suddenly all of her initial trepidation and uncertainty and awkwardness were gone. Clarke waved the waiter over as she leaned in to ask Lexa, “Do you mind if we go somewhere else to finish dinner? I don’t think either of us is very keen on our meal.”

Lexa nodded her agreement enthusiastically.

They ended up going to the Ark for burgers and fries. Lexa had never been, so Clarke bought way too many burgers because you HAVE to try them all, Lexa. Lexa did agree with Clarke that the Classic Ark was the best burger there.

After dinner, they walked to a local ice cream shop around the corner where Lexa ordered a scoop in a cup and Clarke of course got a waffle cone. They ate their ice cream while walking around the nearby park. The sun was setting, but the park was well-lit and many people were still out and about, enjoying the late summer day. There was a group of people playing dodgeball on the courts nearby, so they sat on a bench to watch while they finished their dessert.

After leaving the first restaurant, their conversation reverted back to comfortable banter with hints of flirtation as they talked about their likes and dislikes, where they grew up, where they went to school, what type of work they did, and other tidbits of information one usually shared on a first date.

But it wasn’t enough. Clarke couldn’t get enough of this girl sitting next to her. She wanted to know everything about her. She just didn’t know how to go about it without frightening her too much.

It was Lexa who initiated it.

“Why do you paint?”

It was such a simple question. Yet it asked for a part of Clarke that was so deep that it took a long moment before she could answer. Despite her cheery, happy-go-lucky self, she didn’t often share such personal information with people, including some of her close friends.

She took a bite of her ice cream cone before turning to look at Lexa.

“People sometimes think that artists paint because they feel things. Deep things, like their innermost, darkest emotions. Or have mind-shattering epiphanies and what not. And that they need to get it out onto canvas, for the world to see. And that’s why they paint. But that’s not it. Not for me, at least. I don’t paint because I feel things. I feel things when I paint.”

Lexa looked at her curiously, intrigued.

“When I’m painting, that’s when I feel the most alive. From the monotony of adding individual leaves on trees, to the excitement of creating galaxies. I can’t always predict what I will feel from painting something, but it’s always an experience. Sometimes I feel like I’ve lived a lifetime in one painting. And hey, if people enjoy what I paint, if what I paint can help them feel things, well that’s just great, isn’t it?”

There was respectful silence as Lexa nodded and pondered Clarke’s words. She hadn’t expected such honesty. Clarke apparently hadn’t either, because she looked surprised at herself when she realized all that she had said. Seeing Lexa’s gentle, appreciative smile made it all worth it though.

“But that’s not to say I don’t have deep dark emotions or mind-shattering epiphanies all the time either. That’s just a separate matter.”

She heard Lexa laugh. “Of course.”

Now it was her turn. “Why do you write?”

Lexa had her stock answer ready, the answer she gave whenever anyone asked her that question. But Clarke had been honest with her, so she felt like she should reciprocate. More than that, though, it was the earnestness in Clarke’s face that compelled her to share.

She began cautiously. “My parents passed away when I was very young. And it . . . it impacted me a lot, I think. I mean, more so than in the obvious ways. We had to move around a lot, my sister and I. We stayed with relatives who were willing to take us for only short periods of time, so we kept moving between different households and different schools. At least until Anya—she’s my sister—became old enough to take care of me herself. It was hard to find close friends to talk to. Anya’s great, but she’s not exactly the share-your-deepest-emotions type. So it became just easier for me to write. I started writing in journals and found that it was a good way to express myself. It helped me organize my thoughts.”

She looked at Clarke, who nodded in understanding. She didn’t say anything because she didn’t want Lexa to stop.

“With all the moving houses and schools, it was easy to lose myself. But my writing was a constant that kept me whole and let me remember who I was even when I didn’t know where I was.”

Lexa exhaled a sigh, as if saying that out loud released a heavy weight in her chest.

“And apparently, I was good at it. People told me that they enjoyed my writing and that I made them feel things. Can you imagine? Well, I guess you can. But imagine Young Me, who was so used to being considered last for things, who was quiet and introverted and afraid to say what she felt and ask for what she wanted, who thought she was probably the most unimportant person in the world. For her to realize that her measly writings could stir emotions in people and change their thinking and, and . . . I don’t know, be influential in people’s lives? That was just . . . everything, Clarke.”

There was a look in Lexa’s eyes at that moment, right after she had just poured her innermost thoughts out, that was a combination of sadness and passion and excitement and hope all rolled into one. A look that was so powerful with all the raw emotions that were normally strongly guarded and contained in Lexa that it almost burned right through Clarke.

It was this moment, Clarke would later realize, this moment, when she first knew what she would know forever.

They finished the rest of their ice cream in silence after their conversation on the bench.

Then, not wanting the night to be over yet, Clarke offered to show Lexa around her university campus that was close by.

And, not wanting the night to be over yet, Lexa agreed.

By the time they reached the campus, it had started lightly sprinkling. Clarke’s jacket had a hood, but Lexa’s didn’t. Clarke offered to switch jackets with her, so she could use the hood and not get wet, but of course, Lexa refused. So Clarke refused to put her hood up, despite the brunette’s insistence, choosing instead to walk in wet solidarity with her as they made their way through the light mist.

They wandered through the open campus and Clarke pointed out what the different buildings were used for. She showed her the secret places where she would go to sit by herself and draw. She pointed out the tree that she fell out of after climbing up there to hide from Raven during a drunken game of hide and seek (don’t laugh, Lexa, I still have a scar). Lexa could feel Clarke’s excitement as she animatedly shared more stories of her college years.

They passed the Art building where most of the studios were. Clarke tried to get in, but all the doors were locked. There was one room that had a large window though, and Clarke maneuvered them there so they could peer through.

“I sat right there,” she said, pointing to a chair in the far corner. “There’s still paint on the chair I used that always ruined my jeans. Oh, and through there,” she pointed to a door leading out of the studio, “that’s where we did paintings of the nude models.”

“What’s that now?” Lexa interrupted, to clarify.

Clarke could feel herself blushing as she explained, “Many of the art students in my program took the course. It’s quite an experience, really, to learn how to draw the human body.”

“Of course. I imagine it would be.”

“I think the female body is one of the most beautiful things in the world, to an artist. At least to this artist. At once soft and fragile and hard and resilient. The intricacies, the nuances, the shapes and curves and shadows, the embodiment of life and soul, the changes with time. All of it. It’s just so beautiful.”

Seeing the gleam of genuine awe in her eyes as Clarke spoke about the female form, Lexa felt her heart thump harder and faster in her chest as her throat suddenly felt dry and her face flushed. She could only nod in agreement.

The rain picked up while they were walking back to Lexa’s apartment. So much so that by the time the building came in sight, it was downright pouring.

They ran through the door of the building together, both huddled closely under Clarke’s jacket. Once they were inside the lobby, Clarke dropped the wet jacket onto a nearby chair. They were both drenched head to toe.

Lexa could hardly see anything because her enormous glasses were covered with raindrops. Before she could get her bearings and wipe them, she heard Clarke’s voice.

“Your glasses.” Clarke had apparently noted her predicament as well.

She heard Clarke rummage through her purse and then saw her hands reach up to both sides of her face.

“May I?” Clarke asked, softly.

Lexa couldn’t help but notice her proximity to Clarke. She nodded, breathlessly. She tilted her head down to help as Clarke slowly removed her glasses.

Lexa watched Clarke set to work on wiping her glasses clean with a piece of tissue paper she must have taken out of her purse. She watched her hands move meticulously at her task, careful to keep the water dripping off her hair and clothes away from the glasses.

Without her glasses, she was seeing the world through a beautiful hazy filter, with sharp edges frizzling out into soft blurs. And right now, all that she could see was Clarke. The furrow in her forehead as she worked, the curve of her nose, the clench of her jaw, the biting of her lower lip. The drop of water as it slowly slid down her neck.

And then, all of a sudden, her eyes. Clarke had finished and was looking up at her.

At that moment, the entire world was a blur to her and the only things she could see clearly, the only things that she cared to see clearly, were Clarke’s blue, blue eyes.

She was positively staring by now, and it was becoming quite obvious, as evident in Clarke’s slightly amused and puzzled look at her.

Clarke then smiled, and that was it.

Lexa slid her hands up Clarke’s arms and shoulders to grip at the top of her shirt, using that to pull her into a kiss. It was soft and hesitant at first, just presses of lips really, as she waited for Clarke’s surprise to pass. It quickly did. And then their lips were moving against each other. Clarke leaned into her, gently pushing her against the wall, as her teeth tugged at her lower lip. Lexa gasped lightly, and Clarke took advantage of the opportunity to deepen the kiss. Lexa's hands gripped tighter onto Clarke’s shirt, pulling her closer still as one of Clarke’s hands latched onto her waist, the other still gingerly holding her glasses up. She suppressed a moan as she felt Clarke’s hips rock into hers.

They were fast becoming breathless but neither wanted to stop.

Then suddenly, they felt a strong gust of wind and rain from the entrance. Clarke immediately stepped back from Lexa as another inhabitant of the building walked in. They watched him try to dry himself off while cursing the rain, clearly oblivious to what he had just interrupted.

Faces red from their recent activity and embarrassment at almost being caught, they both avoided eye contact with each other and the man as he walked by and made his way to the elevator.

Finally, Clarke cleared her throat and met Lexa’s eyes. She slowly opened Lexa’s glasses and held them up with both hands, a questioning look on her face.

Lexa had to laugh at the situation before nodding and allowing Clarke to put her glasses back on for her. Clarke took her time (a little too much time) adjusting the glasses until they were perfect (Another millimeter to the right. There. No, to the left now) and Lexa let her, watching her face closely as Clarke pretended to concentrate on the glasses.

Clarke kept her hands on Lexa’s cheeks even after she deemed those glasses perfectly situated on her face. She finally met her eyes again. They were so green. Clarke smiled at her, and waited for Lexa’s return smile before leaning in to give her a soft, chaste kiss.

When she pulled back, she was happy to see that Lexa’s eyes were still closed.

“I think I better go,” Clarke said in a low, husky voice. Reluctantly. Chivalrously. She didn’t want to invite herself up to Lexa’s apartment. “Will you be okay making it up to your apartment?”

Lexa nodded, still speechless.

“Okay.” Clarke slowly pulled herself away. She grabbed her jacket from the chair and put it on. She then turned back to face Lexa. “Can I call you?”

Lexa quickly nodded.

“Goodnight, Lexa.” She gave the brunette another smile before she pulled her hood up (for the first time that night), and opened the door to step out into the pouring rain.

Lexa stood there, watching her walk farther and farther away in the rain until she could no longer be seen. It was then that she realized that she had not said a single word since they came into the building.

She touched her lips lightly, and then her glasses.

“Goodnight, Clarke.”

Chapter Text

She thought Anya was late, but after glancing at the time on her phone, she realized that she was just early. She should have known better; Anya was never late.

She was slowly winning the battle against jetlag, due in (large) part to the help of an immense amount of coffee, but she was still waking up earlier than usual even without the aid of alarm clocks. Which was probably why she was early today.

The past week had been both busy and not busy for her. Busy because the rest of her things had arrived from London and desperately needed to be unpacked and sorted. And not busy because, well, she hadn’t done it yet. She blamed it on the fact that she did not have all her furniture yet, so she reasoned that it did not make sense to start unpacking if she did not have the right places to put her things.

So instead, she had spent the time exploring her new neighborhood, trying a new café every day, going to farmers markets, and reacquainting herself with life back in the U.S. (by eating an uncharacteristically, frighteningly large quantity of pizzas, burgers, fries, and hot dogs this week).

Today she was meeting with Anya to go furniture hunting. She told her sister to meet her at this café, which was next on her list of places to try. It was only a block from her apartment.

She ordered her latte and Anya’s black coffee to go. When the cashier handed her the change, she noticed the four jars for tips on the counter. She smiled after reading the sign and proceeded to drop all of her change into the Ravenclaw jar. As she stood waiting for the barista to finish making her drinks though, she couldn’t help but fidget anxiously while intermittently glancing at the other jars. Finally, she couldn’t take it anymore. She walked back to the counter and deposited the remainder of her cash into the other three jars, just to even up her contributions.

She felt better afterwards, but also realized that realistically, she was probably not going to be able to make this her regular café. She would definitely go broke if she came here every day.

Anya walked through the door just as their drinks were called. Lexa waved her over and handed her her cup of coffee when she reached her.

“Anya, look,” she said, pointing to the jars. “Isn’t that a clever way to get patrons to tip?”

Anya glanced briefly to where she was pointing and shrugged. “I guess.”

“Which house do you support? I always thought I would like to be in Ravenclaw, because they are inquisitive and like to read. But I have also been called a Hufflepuff, which I can understand as well. I think I might also have traits of Gryffindor and Slytherin too. I do not think that is uncommon, though. I am sure many others feel like they embody some traits from each of the houses. But I like Ravenclaw the most because I would like to live in their tower and look at the stars whenever I want.”

Anya stood there, coffee in hand, staring in bored disbelief as Lexa continued to go on and on about . . . whatever she was talking about. She didn’t think half of the words she was saying were actual words of the English language.

Finally, she heard Lexa ask, “So, what house do you think you would belong to?”

“I have no earthly idea what you’re talking about.”

Lexa looked mildly shocked. “Hogwarts? Harry Potter? Surely you have heard about the movies, at least?”

Anya shook her head. “That doesn’t sound like something I would care about.”

“How did I not know about this?” Lexa frowned for a second before her face broke out in a huge grin. “Well, you’re in luck. I just happened to have returned from the birthplace of Harry Potter. I am going to fill you in on everything.”

Anya groaned as they both made their way out of the café to her car. Lexa had already started talking.

It is too early in the day for this.

Week 12 (After Lexa Left):

Anya sat on the couch in her living room, staring at her phone on the coffee table. She had to make a decision soon. Lexa was going to call any second now. She closed her eyes and raised her fingers to press at her temples. These kids were giving her a major headache.

She had finally talked to Clarke that day. For the first time since she slammed the door in her face that night. At the café where she had been waiting every Sunday for the past three months, just like she said she would.

Anya had not believed her at first, her anger at Clarke for driving her sister out of the country still too fresh to think any kind thoughts of her. But about a month later, out of curiosity, she took a walk in the park on a Sunday morning and passed by the café surreptitiously. She did indeed see the blonde there by herself, waiting patiently. That first time, she just chalked it up to the immediate guilt that Clarke must have been feeling and reasoned that once it passed, she would stop her foolish endeavor.

She went by again after two months, and she was there again. She knew it wouldn’t last too much longer.

Finally, when she saw her waiting there today, three months since Lexa had left, she couldn’t help herself. She had to know what Clarke was thinking. What game she was playing. She wouldn’t let her hurt Lexa again.

So she had walked right up to her table and sat down without preamble. The first words out of her mouth – You should stop this now, Clarke. She’s not going to come – set the tone for the rest of the short, tense conversation. Which consisted mainly of Clarke apologizing and desperately asking – begging – for information about Lexa. But Anya was firm and staunch in her refusal to tell Clarke anything. And when Clarke realized that she wasn’t going to get anything out of Anya, she told her resolutely that she was going to continue to do this until Lexa came. But when Anya finally stood up to leave in anger at her stubbornness, Clarke had reached out to grab her wrist to stop her. The fire inside Anya was all but extinguished when she turned back and saw the look in Clarke’s eyes. She had implored, in a soft whisper, “Please, Anya, just let her know that I’m here waiting. That’s all I ask.”

So here she was. About to talk to her sister. And she had not decided whether or not she was going to do it. Whether or not she was going to tell her that her ex-girlfriend, the love of her life, the girl she was going to propose to, the girl she was planning to spend the rest of her life with, the girl who abandoned her when life got rough and put her through so much pain and broke her heart so thoroughly that she had to move out of the country, all the way across the entire fucking ocean, just so that she could heal and find herself again . . .  that very girl, was now waiting every week for her at the place they met to tell her that she still loved her.

You cannot make this shit up, Anya thought wryly.

Her phone rang before she could make up her mind. She picked it up and looked at it in her hand as she stalled. She had never seen her sister as happy as she was when she was together with Clarke, but she had also never seen her as lost and torn apart as when Clarke left her.

But if there was a chance they could work it out . . .

“Hello, Lexa?”

“Anya! Did I get you at a good time?”

“Yes, it’s fine. I was waiting for your call.”

“Great! So, did you do anything fun this morning?”

Anya paused for a second. It certainly wasn’t fun. “I took a walk in the park.”

“That sounds lovely. I hope the weather is getting nicer there. It is still rather cold and rainy here, but I have learned to accept that I will never be truly dry here, ever.” She laughed. Anya thought it was the first real laugh she had heard from her sister since she had left. It lifted some of the worry in her heart. Could Lexa really be happy?

She heard Lexa continue, “But one good thing to come from all this horrible weather is that I am making good progress on my manuscript for that novel I pitched to Gustus and the publisher. So there’s that.”

“The post-apocalyptic, dystopian fiction novel about space creatures?”

“Well, not—um . . . sure, something like that. I will send you a draft once I have written more of it to see what you think. Gustus likes it so far.”

“You’re not just spending all of your time locked indoors working on your manuscript, are you? I mean, you’re spending time outside and meeting people and all that, right? Have you made any friends?”

Lexa laughed again. “Yes, Anya. Don’t worry. I am not a complete antisocial pariah. Costia has been rather kind and has shown me many of her favorite spots in London. She has also introduced me to her group of friends, who have all been very friendly. And by the way, they are also incredibly smart. Of course that’s not surprising, considering that they are all Ph.D. students in the sciences. It was a little intimidating at first, but they soon realized my value. I am apparently an asset to them because I can cover literature and history during trivia nights.”

Anya listened attentively as Lexa fondly recalled stories about her outings with her new friends. She sounded . . . lighter, as if a little more of the weight of her past with Clarke had been lifted off of her shoulders with each passing trivia night. She didn’t sound completely like her old self yet. Anya could still detect tinges of sadness in her voice, and could catch where her words would falter when she sometimes almost accidentally brought up her old life with Clarke. No, she didn’t sound like her old self yet. But for the first time since she left, she sounded like she could get there someday.

Anya swallowed the lump in her throat that had formed from that bittersweet realization. Lexa was healing. She sounded happier than she had been in over half a year.

She made her decision then. She didn’t want to undo all the progress Lexa had made. Information about what Clarke was doing would only cause her to doubt all the decisions she had made, and confuse her about what she should be doing. And when Anya remembered how devastated Lexa had been, she knew that she could not do anything that even had a slight possibility of making her feel that way again.

No, she couldn’t do it.

“So, this Costia. She’s Gustus’s daughter, right?”

“Yes, that’s her. I met her when I first came here. She helped to set up my apartment. She’s around my age, and currently working on her Ph.D., so she also has a flexible work schedule. To be honest, I am quite thankful she is here. Just having someone local show me how to navigate the British way of doing things has been tremendously helpful.”

“Well, don’t go falling in love with London too much. Remember, this is home.”

She heard silence on the other line, as her words undoubtedly brought back memories of what home used to be and the reason she had to leave it.

When she still did not hear anything after several more seconds, Anya spoke again. “But I’m glad to hear that you’re doing better, Lex. You sound like you’re . . . happy.”

Lexa finally spoke. “I am, Anya. I’m doing better. I needed this. This distance.” She sighed. “It’s not always easy. I still think about . . . it . . . sometimes. What happened. But I find myself doing that less and less now. And it hurts less, those times I can’t stop myself from thinking about it. So I am glad I did this. I think I am on my way to learning how to be who I used to be, without her.”

Her honest confession made Anya’s heart ache. She wanted more than anything to give her sister a hug right now.

But of course, instead of expressing that, she deflected.

“Good. Because you better be your goofy self when I come to visit in a couple of months.”

It worked.

“I will! I am so excited you’re coming! The weather will be better by then, I think. Once I explore more around the city, I will be able to make a detailed itinerary for you. I will be sure to fill it with many, many hours of museum time and poetry reading.”

“Don’t you dare.”

“But, Anya, even if it’s Shakespearean poetry?” She could hear the light tease in her voice.

Lexa was joking again. Because of that, and in spite of the horrible joke, Anya smiled. “We can do it if you want to hear me complain about it all night.”

They chatted for a while longer, updating each other on the mundane things in their lives that only sisters cared to hear about.

When they finally got off the phone with each other – because Lexa had dinner plans with Costia – Anya felt quite drained. She looked out the window and saw that it had started to rain. Her thoughts went to Clarke, and she wondered if she was still sitting there by herself in the café, even in the rain.

She felt an uncomfortable feeling in her chest that she knew to be guilt of a sort. Even though she made no such promise to Clarke, she couldn’t help but feel like she let her down by not telling Lexa. She wasn’t sure if Clarke would continue what she was doing, despite all her confident insistence that she would, but if she did . . . well, she knew she would have to tell Lexa then. One of these days.

She felt the pounding headache come on full force and groaned, placing her face into her hands.

These kids.

Week 28 (After Lexa Left):

Lexa looked around the restaurant, small and quaint, lowly lit, and observed the rest of the patrons, who were lively chatting with their family and friends and significant others. How different and how similar life was here, so far from home, she mused.

Costia’s voice jarred her back to reality. “Did you enjoy the movie?”

Lexa turned back to look at the other woman, and saw that she was looking at her with a shy smile on her face and attentive anticipation in her eyes. It was their first date. Their first official date, at least, as they had gone out plenty of times together before. But that had all been in the name of friendship. This was the first time they were going out with the possibility of more than friendship.

She returned her smile.

She felt so much gratitude in her heart for this woman, thinking back to all that she had done for her. When she had first arrived, Costia very much went out of her way to help her settle in, spending many mornings walking with her around her neighborhood to literally bring her to the doorsteps of the bank, post office, grocery store, public library, and other places she might need to go to; showing her how to use the subway and taxi system (and actually saving her life on numerous occasions when she stepped out into the street without looking the right way); driving her when public transportation was inconvenient; and just all around being a good resource for adjusting to life in London.

Like Gustus and the rest of his family, she welcomed Lexa wholly into their home, inviting her over for dinner so often that she had her own designated seat and plate setting at their table. She also introduced her to her group of friends, making sure to include her in all their outings and social events.

Lexa had initially suspected that Gustus had told Costia about what she had gone through and why she was here in London, and that that was why Costia tried so hard to help her. And also why she never asked Lexa about her love life. But, as time went on, and Lexa became more and more self-sufficient, Costia just continued to be her helpful self. Lexa realized that this was just who she was, thoughtful and considerate.

Besides all the practical help she gave Lexa, Costia was also quite attentive to the small things. When they were out with her friends, she always sat next to Lexa, so that she could privately explain whatever her friends were talking about. And without needing Lexa to ask, she would lean in to explain any British slang words that were used in conversation. When she visited Lexa on the weekends, she would always bring flowers to brighten up her place. And because she visited used bookstores often, it was not unusual for her to come by with a book she came across that she thought Lexa would like.

The thing that endeared her the most to Lexa, however, was her habit of sending Lexa text messages when she knew it was going to rain just to remind her to bring her raincoat and umbrella (which was ALL the time, by the way), as if Lexa, the silly American that she was, didn’t understand how rain in London worked.

But more than that, she was a friend. She was the friend that Lexa didn’t know she needed until the first night she spent alone in her bed, in this strange, foreign land, truly by herself for the first time in a very long time. That night she spent huddled in her bed, shedding silent tears, feeling so small and lost, heart aching for home. For Anya. For Clarke. Frightened of life and what other pain it would bring. She didn’t get much sleep that night.

It usually took Lexa a while before she truly opened up to someone and consider that person a close friend, but it might have been due to the isolation she felt from everything she knew, or her fragile emotional state, or the fact that Costia was warm and easy-going, friendly without being pushy, but she found herself quickly becoming comfortable around her.

They became fast friends. Lexa could feel some of her pain easing away with each passing day, until she could finally not flinch whenever she thought of her.

She started to notice that Costia was looking at her differently about a month ago, with perhaps just more fondness in her eyes at first. Then her laughs became softer and more frequent in her company; her accidental touches lingered longer than might be appropriate; her friends became increasingly too “busy” to join them for dinner, which itself became grander and more formal affairs.

So it was no surprise when Costia finally expressed her feelings for her last week and asked her to go out.

Go out go out,” she had clarified, nervously, wringing her delicate hands.

Lexa had thought about what she would say if this happened, about how she could gently let her down without hurting their friendship. But sitting there across from her, staring into her deep brown eyes, eyes so full of hope and adoration and love and want, Lexa felt her heart race like it had just woken up from a long, long slumber, like it was perhaps re-learning how to beat again. It had been a long time since she had been looked at this way, since she had been made to feel like she was important, this sort of important, to someone else.

So she had said yes. And here they were. On their first official date. The classic movie and dinner date.

She gave a reassuring smile and watched as the taller woman’s face relaxed. It didn’t hurt that Costia was breathtakingly beautiful either. She had the face of a model, all dark eyes and high cheekbones and soft jawline, with the height and lean body to match. In fact, she had been approached numerous times by agents to start a modeling career, she had confirmed, cheeks flushed in embarrassment, to Lexa when her friends made fun of her for it. But she was humble and often downplayed her features, preferring light, natural makeup and comfortable clothing over a high fashion look. Which was not to say she couldn’t pull off either look. Plus, she had the intelligence to match.

“I did enjoy the movie, Costia. It was light and humorous and the cinematography was remarkable.”

Costia laughed. “You sound like a movie critic, Lexa. Most people would have probably just said it was a fun movie.”

“I was only trying to be precise! It has been a while since I have seen a romantic comedy.”

“Do you not like rom coms?”

“No, I do. It is just that sometimes . . .”

“Sometimes what?”

“I find that the premise and situation are usually rather unrealistic.”

“You mean to say that it’s not every day an attractive man and an equally attractive woman, both of appropriate age, accidentally, independently, overslept and therefore miss the last plane leaving a secluded island before a storm hits, leaving them stranded and having to fend for themselves, causing them to fall in love in the process, all over the expanse of two days?”

“Hmm, not generally, no. It would take at least three days for that to happen, if they were going to be realistic about it.” The corners of her lips curled up in teasing smile with her words.

“Fair enough.” Costia acquiesced, but then added, “I know that it’s sometimes a little ridiculous, but I find the notion of fate and true love and happily ever after to be such a happy idea. And I don’t know . . . is it that ridiculous to believe in true love happening quickly once you find the right person?”

Lexa didn’t answer, choosing instead to stare at her plate.

Costia regarded her curiously. “Do you not believe in true love, Lexa?”

Lexa looked up to meet her eyes. “I believe you can grow to love another person and treat each other with kindness and respect and consideration. But the notion that a true love, a one true love, exists . . . a love so strong that it would incapacitate you if you lost it, a love that can made you weak and useless to the world . . . no, I do not think that there is such thing.”

She took a sip of her wine and looked out the window of the restaurant. “And even if there is, why would you want that? When it would just leave you broken and weak?”

A somber silence fell over them after those words.

And then, as if shaken out of her reverie, Lexa realized what she had just said. About love. In the middle of a first date.

“I am so sorry, Costia,” she quickly apologized. “That’s not what I meant. I mean, it is, but what I meant is—“

“It’s okay, Lexa,” Costia interrupted. She smiled to show that it really was okay. Lexa had mentioned her past relationship in the past, though always in vague terms. Costia was polite enough never to press for information, but she knew that the relationship had been quite serious. “You don’t have to explain. I don’t know everything you have been through to make you feel that way, but . . . but I hope to change your mind about that particularly subject. If you’ll let me.”

Lexa nodded her thanks, the familiarity of those words not lost on her.

Costia cleared her throat. “Well, maybe onto a lighter subject then.”

Lexa felt quite badly about what had just transpired. “Okay. How about this? I’ll give you one free question. Just one. Ask anything you would like to know, and I will answer truthfully.”

“Hmm, one whole free question? I definitely need to make it count, then. Let’s see . . .” Costia thought about her options. She had many questions for this sweet but oh-so-private girl in front of her, who seemed at times to be cheery and lighthearted, and yet at other times, had eyes filled with so much sadness that it hurt her to look at them. She wanted so much to know more of her past, to understand what happened to make her lose all faith in love, so that she could maybe undo some of that, someday. But she looked so fragile right now, so Costia didn’t want to push too far. Especially on a first date.

So she went for a safer subject.

“Do you like to paint?”

Lexa looked surprised at the seemingly random question that came out of nowhere. “What?”

“Well, I’ve never heard you talk about painting and have not seen you with any painting supplies ever . . . and yet your tattoo.” She motioned her head toward Lexa’s right shoulder.

Realization dawned on her face as she subconsciously reached over her shoulder to run her fingers over the area just at the top of her right shoulder blade. Her eyes closed of their own accord. She could picture it so clearly in her mind even though she could not see or feel it.

It was a small one. A simple, minimalist one, as is her style. Of a single flowing paintbrush. In black ink only. Running about two inches almost directly along the top border of her shoulder blade. She imagined it was a little more faded now than when she had first gotten it. The position had been conservatively chosen, so that it was really only visible when part of her shoulder was exposed, which she guessed there had been ample opportunities for, given the recent heat wave prompting tank tops and hair pulled up in a bun.

How was she going to explain this?

“No, I do not paint at all actually.”

Costia waited patiently, expecting her to elaborate. Well, she did promise one free question after all. So she continued.

“I had this done for . . . Clarke.” She vaguely realized that this might be the first time she had said her name out loud since she had moved to London. “She was my . . . we were together.” It hurt too much to think of what she was to her now.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to bring up—”

“It’s okay,” Lexa said quickly, “I got this a long time ago. A very long time ago. I have thought about getting it removed, but I don’t think I would be able to tolerate the pain.”

Costia nodded, unsure of what to say.

Lexa tried to lighten the mood. “I mean, you should have seen me when I was getting it. I was yelling out in pain so loudly that the tattoo artist threatened to throw me out before it was even finished.”

The image of Lexa, this Lexa in front of her right now, being thrown out of a tattoo parlor with half a tattoo completed was so ridiculous that it did the trick. Costia laughed heartily. “That sounds like something I need to witness for myself. What would I need to do to convince you to get one for me? Maybe of a strand of DNA?”

“In your dreams,” Lexa said, shaking her head. “Never again.”

She didn’t know if she was still talking about tattoos.

Anya released the many bags she was holding, letting them fall to the floor as she dropped into her couch in exaggerated exhaustion.

“Since when did I sign up to be a personal shopper?”

She heard Lexa drop her bags near the door before closing it. “Since you had a car.” She saw Lexa rub her shoulders to sooth the aches from carrying all those bags. “And what do you mean? These are your things! The things I bought are still in the car.” They had decided to stop by Anya’s place first so Lexa could help her carry her things up.

“I still had to walk around with you all day while you examined furniture and curtains.”

“That’s part of the job description for a big sister. Didn’t they tell you that when I was born?”

“No, they didn’t. I would have remembered. Because I would have refused.”

“I love you, too.”

“The furniture shopping was hard enough, but did you have to go on and on about the elves?”

“Wizards, Anya. They’re wizards. And witches.” She paused to think. “I guess there were technically elves there, too, but they were not a major part of the story.”

“Okay, no more, please.”

“I will plan a marathon of all the movies for us one of these nights.”

Too exhausted to continue to argue, Anya just closed her eyes and groaned.

She could hear Lexa moving around in her kitchen, opening and closing drawers rapidly. She didn’t bother to open her eyes.

“Anya, where are your scissors? I want to open one of the packages.”

With her eyes still closed, Anya started to say, “It’s in the middle left—” before she suddenly remembered. Her eyes flew open and she bolted upright from the couch.

“Where again?”

“It’s okay,” Anya said hastily as she practically ran to the kitchen. “Here, I’ll get it for you.” She cracked opened one of the drawers, with just enough space for her to reach her hand in to grab the scissors. She quickly closed it again and turned to cover it with her body while handing the scissors to Lexa, a rigid, uncharacteristic smile plastered to her face.

Lexa eyed her suspiciously as she reached out to grab the scissors from her still-smiling sister. “Okay . . . thanks. I guess.”

“Anytime.” Anya stayed where she was, trying her best to look nonchalant and not like she was guarding a random drawer in her kitchen. And failing quite miserably at that. She waited until Lexa walked around the counter with the scissors to look through the bags next to the couch before she let out the breath she was holding.

That was close, she thought. She stealthily opened the drawer and reached into the back corner, feeling around until her hands grasped a small square box. She pulled it out and quickly shoved it into her pocket.

She hadn’t touched this since she first put it there after Lexa gave it to her to dispose of. She couldn’t bring herself to do what Lexa asked, to sell it or to throw it in the ocean, because she remembered Lexa’s hopeful face when she first bought it. She didn’t know really know what else to do with it, so she kept it in the back of the drawer, where it remained out of sight and out of mind. Until now.

She was somewhat proud that she remembered just in time to intercept. She just had to think of a new hiding spot for it now.

But finally holding the box again reminded her of what she had been putting off doing ever since Lexa had come home. She watched Lexa continue to rummage through the bags, not finding what she was looking for yet.

She really needed to do it. She owed it to her. To both of them.

So she did.


“Hmm?” Lexa didn’t glance up as she continued her search.

“She’s still there.”

She saw Lexa suddenly stop all of her movements. But she didn’t look up.

The air became dense as the silence dragged on. Anya knew Lexa had understood what she meant, but she continued nonetheless.

“She’s still there. Every week. Waiting for you.”

Chapter Text

Clarke looked up from her seat on the couch at Lincoln and Octavia’s apartment. The entire gang was gathered around in the living room area. She smiled as she watched her friends engaged in their individual conversations.

Raven and Bellamy were arguing about something or another. Monty and Jasper were goofing off as usual. She thought she heard Monty teasing Jasper about his rather unimpressive attempt to impress Octavia’s model friend, Maya, at the engagement party. That is, until Octavia interrupted and told them that Maya actually thought Jasper was really sweet and had asked her to give him her number. Clarke almost laughed out loud at how Monty’s jaw dropped at the news. Jasper only beamed in surprised before giving a smug look to Monty.

“Okay, everyone,” she almost shouted to be heard over the group, “Let’s focus. We have a lot of planning to do before the wedding.”

“Who put you in charge of everyone all of a sudden?” Bellamy asked.

“Um, the bride. Who, everyone knows, is the de facto boss of everything.”

Bellamy scoffed and turned to look at Lincoln for back up. He received no help there, as Lincoln looked at him helplessly and shrugged, “She’s right, man. Don’t fight it.”

Clarke smirked in victory. “Now, along with my fellow co-Maid-of-Honor—yes, that’s a thing, Jasper—Raven, we put together a list of tasks for everyone and the date at which those tasks need to be completed.” She handed out a packet of paper to everyone. “We still have some time yet, so just look over your assigned duties, and let us know if you have any questions.”

Raven chirped in as everyone started flipping through the packet, “No complaining about how hard your jobs are. Just get them done. And don’t mess them up.”

Octavia cleared her throat and glared at her friend. “What Raven means is, thank you everyone for dedicating the time to help with the planning. Lincoln and I love you all and will be eternally grateful.”

Raven shrugged. “That’s what I said.”

“As you can see,” Clarke began, “I’ve left the portion on the bachelor and bachelorette parties blank. You boys are responsible for planning the bachelor party and we will do the bachelorette party and bridal shower. We thought it was best if we kept those separate from the rest of the planning.”

The boys looked decidedly more excited about wedding planning with the mention of the bachelor party. She thought she saw Bellamy wink at Monty and Jasper and mouth the word “stripper.” Clarke rolled her eyes.

“Okay, so about the bridal shower.” She started to turn to the page in the packet dedicated to that.

“Wait,” Bellamy interrupted, “do we need to know about this?”

“No, I suppose not.”

“Okay, then, we’ll leave you ladies to plan your boring tea and crumpet party while we plan more exciting things. We’re going down to Argo for a drink while we do this. Come join us when you’re done.” He signaled to Monty, Jasper, and Lincoln, who all eagerly got up to join him.

After they left, Raven pulled out her own packet and scoffed. “Boring tea party. Yeah, right. There will be no boring anything that I am involved in.”

She opened her packet and Clarke and Octavia could see lots of colorful scribbles and diagrams all over the page. They shared an apprehensive look with each other.

“Okay, ladies, here are my ideas . . .”

Before she could dive in, Octavia spoke up. “Raven, I will just say this once. I don’t want anything blowing up at my party.”

“I’m not going to—”

“Or set on fire. Or demolished. Or melted. Or shot from anything.”

Raven looked down and scanned through her plans, biting her lips. Finally, she said, “Fine, I guess I’ll put in that order for the tea and crumpet set the boys were talking about.”

Clarke laughed as Octavia shook her head knowingly. They then discussed some more acceptable ideas for the parties (though Raven managed to talk Octavia into letting her bring some “special sparklers” for the bachelorette party). They finalized her guest lists for both events and divided up the tasks.

Then, they moved on to planning the wedding. Lincoln and Octavia had already chosen the venue, and Octavia was having her wedding dress specifically designed for her, so they just needed to decide on flowers and the cake for now, which had been assigned to the girls. Clarke knew a good florist and they made plans to go visit the florist as well as cake tasting.

Clarke glanced at her watch and was surprised that so much time had passed. She quickly gathered her things. “Sorry, girls. I have to run. I have to meet with my agent about my gallery opening. It’s coming up in just a few weeks, and I still have so much to do.”

“Do you need any help?” Octavia offered. “Don’t worry about some of this wedding stuff if you’re busy. The wedding isn’t for a while yet, so you should certainly focus on your gallery opening.”

Clarke shook her head. “No, but thanks. I like the wedding planning. It’s a distraction from the less fun work of organizing the gallery. It’s just that my agent managed to invite some pretty famous folks from around here who apparently really liked some of my old pieces and might want to commission me to do some pretty big projects.”

“Oh wow, that’s awesome,” Raven said, smiling at the good news.

Clarke nodded. “It is pretty exciting. I have never really done anything like that before. Working with a personal collector to do a major commissioned project. But that just means I have to make sure the gallery goes off without a hitch. You guys are still coming, right?”

They both nodded.

“And Octavia, you’re going to get a whole bunch of your model friends to come glamour up the event, right?”

Octavia grinned. “Yes, Clarke. They’ll be coming. Jasper and Monty already made me confirm. Apparently that’s the only way they were going to go to your ‘boring art thing.’”

“Remind me to share some embarrassing stories about them that night.”

“Hey, why didn’t you ask me to bring some of my engineering friends?” Raven asked.

Clarke laughed. “You can bring them if you want, Raven. If you think they would be interested. Just remember, nothing can blow up.” She bent down to give Raven a peck on the nose before leaning over to give Octavia a goodbye kiss on the cheek.

“See you, girls.”

The atmosphere suddenly became thick and heavy and hot when it had been cool and crisp just a second earlier. She forgot what she had been looking for even as she held the pair of scissors in her hands. Anya’s words reverberated in her mind. She’s still there.

She suddenly felt lightheaded and struggled to pull herself up from where she had been kneeling on the floor next to the shopping bags. She realized she had forgotten to breath and began taking deep breaths as she leaned back against the couch. She closed her eyes.

Anya observed her sister’s reaction with a heavy heart. She felt a stab of guilt for ruining the lovely day they were having, and for bringing about the sudden weariness that seemed to blanket Lexa’s entire body. She waited patiently for her to digest her words.

When Lexa continued to remain silent, she pushed on, needing to get all of this out now, while she still had an opening.

“She said every Sunday, rain or shine. And as far as I know, she has kept her word. I see her there, even when she doesn’t see me.”

Still no answer from Lexa. She sat with her head leaned back and her eyes closed. The only indication that she heard Anya was the clenching of her fists on her lap.

Anya was growing exasperated.

“Lexa. Listen to me. I saw her several weeks ago. She’s not going to give up any time soon, not until she sees you and says what she wants to say to you. She asked me to tell you that she will continue to be there. I promised her I would.”

Finally, Anya saw Lexa take a final deep breath before opening her eyes and facing her. She heard resolve, with a hint of forced steadiness, in her voice as she spoke, “Did you tell her I wouldn’t go?”

Anya sighed. “Of course I did. I have been telling her that. Every time I’ve seen her these past two years. But it’s Clarke.” Anya saw a subtle flash of something in Lexa’s eyes at the first mention of Clarke’s name. “When has she ever done anything for her own good? She is just as stubborn as she’d always been.”

Lexa fell silent again. Anya was now getting frustrated. As much as she loved Lexa, and understood that her sister’s way of coping and dealing with things was, to say the least, very different from her own way of driving into things headfirst, being direct and saying whatever she felt like, and dealing with the consequences later, she could not, for the life of her, make sense of why Lexa wouldn’t want to settle this thing with Clarke that she knew still loomed over her head.

She remembered when she first told Lexa about Clarke’s weekly vigil at the café. She was visiting her sister in London for the first time, and it was nearing the end of her weeklong trip.


Lexa had planned a full itinerary for her visit there, excited to show her older sister, who Lexa knew still worried about her, that she was happy and doing well. And toward the end of the week, Lexa had shyly introduced her to Costia, whom Anya had known as Gustus’s daughter and the girl Lexa had been officially dating for more than a month. She could tell Costia was a little nervous meeting Anya for the first time (though most people tended to be) but she was polite and sociable and Anya could certainly see what Lexa meant about her intelligence. Anya did feel a certain amount of gratitude to this woman for restoring lightness and laughter back into Lexa’s life. But of course, it would take more than manners and small talk and smarts to get in Anya’s permanent good graces. She felt happy for Lexa, but left that encounter with an unreasonable sense of . . . jealousy (perhaps?) on behalf of Clarke. Dutiful, waiting, unaware Clarke.

So that night, after she finished packing her suitcase, she decided to sit her sister down on the couch and do it. She told her quickly, much like ripping off a bandaid, letting the whole story rush out before Lexa could respond.

She told her about the night Clarke came to her apartment, too late, hoping to see her to apologize and ask for her forgiveness. She told her that she was angry at Clarke then, for having driven her sister away, for taking her damn time to realize her stupid mistake, too late, for thinking that she had the right to decide when and how she wanted to be with Lexa. No, she wasn’t going to give her that power. So she yelled at her and told her to leave.

Anya had paused there to catch her breath and calm the anger she could feel rising inside. Lexa’s face was uncharacteristically impassive.

She then told her that the last thing Clarke said to her that night was that she was going to wait for Lexa, every Sunday, at the place they met, until she came. She told her that she didn’t believe Clarke. Out of anger or spite, she didn’t know. She didn’t want her to be able to hurt Lexa again. So she ignored her. But eventually, she realized that Clarke was actually doing it. She told her that she visited with Clarke after three months, to tell her to stop, but she wouldn’t listen. She told her again at six months, with the same futility.

Now, Anya had never been afraid of telling Lexa anything in all their years of growing up together. No, she was the older sister, and it was always her responsibility to make decisions, no matter how hard they were, for the good of her sister. Whether this was to forgo her own school lunches in order to save money to buy Lexa her journals that she could tell brought her so much happiness when they were younger. Or to drop out of college so she could work to support them and move them out on their own, no longer having to rely on handouts from their relatives. Or to work multiple jobs to help pay for Lexa’s own college education.

Or, perhaps one of the hardest things she had to do, to let her little sister, who she had never been more than a few hours’ flight from, move so far away from her that she could no longer protect her day to day, just so she could get better.

But now, as she was telling her about Clarke, she felt mild apprehension rising inside her as she came closer and closer to answering the question she knew Lexa was thinking. Why didn’t you tell me this earlier?

So Anya finally told her sister how worried she had been about her, and how relieved and happy she was to hear that she was settling in very well in London, that she had people here who cared about her and who could look after her when Anya herself couldn’t. She didn’t want anything to get in the way of Lexa getting better, and she knew that hearing about what Clarke was doing would only set her back on the progress she was making. But now, actually seeing Lexa in a better place for herself, she thought it was finally the right time to tell her.

Anya finished her piece without Lexa having said a word. She looked to her sister uncertainly. Lexa had looked away while she was talking, but even after she turned back to face her, Anya still could not read her expression. Long moments passed as Lexa seemed to process all the information she was just given.

Then, wordlessly, she reached her arms out around Anya’s neck and urgently but steadily, pulled her into a deep hug. Anya was surprised at the sudden gesture, but quickly reciprocated by wrapping her arms around her sister. To say that she didn’t expect this reaction was an understatement.

Lexa continued to hold on to her tightly, and possibly even tighter, burying her face into her neck.

“Thank you,” she whispered, her voice muffled by Anya’s hair.

Lexa had known that Anya was worried about her, even if she never said so in so many words, as was her way. But to hear of exactly how distressed Anya had been seeing her through her breakup and also how much thought she had put into deciding what to do with the information about Clarke, Lexa couldn’t help but feel her already immense love for her sister swell to the point of almost bursting from her.

Perhaps it was because she had spent most, if not all, of the past eight months in London suppressing any feelings, any thoughts even, of her past life with Clarke, of Clarke herself, that it was a rather surreal experience hearing about her again. She knew Anya expected her to have an emotional reaction, one way or another, but all she felt was . . . nothing. She was surprised herself, at how numbed to the news she was that Clarke was waiting for her, that she might still love her. It was as if, after the thorough destruction her heart endured, her now somewhat-repaired-but-never-the-same-again heart had set up fortified-Clarke-proof walls around itself, not letting anything related to her in again, even if it meant that it could never beat as hard, as loudly, as passionately, ever again.

And so she pulled back from Anya, with tears in her eyes, and apologized for causing her sister so much trouble. And thanked her for all that she had done for her. She didn’t have to explain to know that Anya understood that she meant more than just in regards to Clarke. She told Anya that she was so grateful that even if nothing else good happened to her in her life, it was enough that she had Anya as a sister.

Lexa told her she loved her, wholeheartedly.

And then she promptly laughed at the awkward expression Anya had on her face as she struggled to deal with this onslaught of emotions and feelings. Lexa pulled her back into a hug and finally heard Anya say, “I love you, Lexa. You know that.”

When they finally settled down again, tears wiped and awkwardness (on Anya’s part) removed, Anya asked the question they both knew still had to be addressed.

“What are you going to do about Clarke?”

“I don’t know, Anya. I don’t . . . I don’t know what I can do about that now. My life is here in London, at least for now. I am happy. I really did not think I would be again, but somehow, I am. It was so hard, Anya, do you remember? I cannot go through that again.” Then, more softly, “I am not strong enough.”

Anya nodded in understanding. She knew what Lexa went through in getting over Clarke. She was there for the worst of it after all.

Lexa continued. “I managed to close that chapter of my life. I don’t want to reopen it.”

“What do you want me to tell her?”

Anya saw Lexa steel herself. “Tell her whatever you want, Anya. Tell her that I am not going to go see her. That she should stop, and move on. Tell her what you need to, to get her to stop. I am sorry for putting this on you. I know it is not your responsibility, but . . . I am not going to go back to face her again.”

“Are you happy, Lexa?”

Lexa looked at her sister, allowing her to read her eyes. “As happy as I can be.”


So Anya had done as she was asked. She told Clarke that Lexa was not going to come. Repeatedly. And repeatedly, Clarke ignored her. She tried to bring this up again with Lexa one other time when they chatted on the phone. She couldn’t read Lexa’s feelings without seeing her face, but Lexa had not changed her mind. She asked Anya to tell Clarke to stop wasting her time (which, duh, Anya already tried).

So now here they were, talking about it for the third time. Well, she was. Lexa was still rather adamantly refusing to participate.

“Well?” Anya finally pressed.

“I can’t.”

“She just wants a chance to talk, Lex. To get everything she has wanted to say to you out in the open. I think it has been tearing her apart inside. I don’t think she expects you to take her back. She probably hopes you would, maybe, yes, but all she wants is a chance to talk to you.”


“You were able to move on. So let Clarke have the chance to do that herself.”

“You make it sound like it was so easy for me to do, Anya.”

“That’s not fair, Lexa. I was there for the immediate aftermath of it. I was there when you cried yourself to sleep in my bed every night. I was there practically force-feeding you when you forgot or refused to eat. I had to watch you fall apart more times than I could count.”

Lexa immediately felt guilty for her words. “I’m sorry, Anya. You’re right. You were there. You’ve always been there. So you know exactly what I went through. I don’t want to think about that part of my life anymore. I can’t let those memories back in. I can’t let any of that back in.”

Anya softened her tone. “I know it was very hard for you to get over her. But don’t you think Clarke went through her own version of that? Is maybe still going through that? And on top of it, add the guilt she is feeling after she realized what she did to you.”

Lexa had no answers to those questions.

“Painful as it was, you were able to move on. But Clarke is still holding on this one last thread of hope to see you again and to clear the table with you. And that tiny thread is keeping her from moving on. If you want so much to put this in the past behind you, if you are so moved on from it, why don’t you give her a chance to do the same? Don’t you think she deserves that?”

Lexa was silent again, but Anya knew she was contemplating her words.

“Just think about it, Sis. You loved her once.” And then, after a moment of pause, “She loves you still.”

Chapter Text


Week 64 (1 Year, 3 months After Lexa Left)

It had just rained the day before, so the air smelled fresh and clear as she made her way through the fairgrounds. The sun was slowly setting, throwing a beautiful orange glow over the faces of the fairgoers, young and old alike, as they walked around with smiles on their faces, enjoying the lovely spring day. After the winter they had, Lexa understood why. She zipped up her light jacket, which had been enough to keep her warm during the day, but now might be just a little too light without the sun’s heat. The dangling lights around the fairgrounds were slowly being switched on, making it appear even more festive and lively.

She finished the rest of the cotton candy in her hands and discarded the stick before turning back to see her companion looking at her.

“You really inhaled that now, didn’t you?”

She blushed, but only a little. She had made peace with her very, very sweet tooth years ago. “Hey. I offered you some and you said no.”

Costia laughed and reached to wipe some of the cotton candy off the side of her lips. “Fair enough. You did do that.”

“You are missing out. Do you know how hard it is to find cotton candy outside of carnivals and fairs?”

“I can’t say I’ve tried to, so no.”

“I have. And it is hard. Besides, there’s something about being at a carnival that makes it completely acceptable for an adult to walk around eating cotton candy. Off of a stick, no less.”

Costia stopped walking and made to turn back. “Should we go back and get some more then? I think the vendor only had about twenty or so left.” Lexa could see a teasing smile play on her lips.

She grabbed her hand and pulled her along on their way. “Stop making fun of me.”

Costia just laughed again. What a lovely laugh, Lexa thought as she looked back at her. She knew it was not really possible, but she swore that even her laugh sounded British. It was soft and light and completely fitted her tall, thin frame. She noted that her hair was much longer now than when they first met. It fell to her left in a side ponytail that added a playfulness to her allure. Lexa couldn’t help smiling at her.

They continued walking through the fair, trying most of the games and some of the rides there (except for the roller coasters; Lexa refused because of her perfectly rational fear of them). They had one small stuffed animal between them to show for their hard work and their rather substantial financial investment in the fair’s longevity.

“Are there any other exclusive carnival foods you would like to eat while we are here?” Costia asked.

“No,” Lexa said, thinking back to everything she had already eaten that day, “I think I am all done with carnival food for today.” She placed a hand over her abdomen and groaned lightly. “And maybe forever.”

“Was there anything that you’d wanted that they didn’t have here?”

“I don’t think I saw funnel cakes being sold here. Do you know what those are? They have them in America. They are essentially really delicious fried dough. Probably not the best for you, I will admit. But I miss them.”

“Okay, so besides the oh-so-important funnel cakes,” Costia began, adding a wink, “what do you miss most about America? Obviously also besides Anya.”

Lexa gave herself a moment to think about her answer. And to not think about some other things. One other thing.

When she finally thought of it, she looked up at the night sky before facing Costia again.

“The way the stars look from home.”

Costia looked up at her words. They were located some distance outside the city, so despite the lights from the fair, she could still make out some of the stars in the clear night sky.

“That’s interesting.”

Lexa thought about how to explain herself.

“Okay, I know the scientist in you might be scoffing and thinking that the stars are trillions of miles away and our weak human eyes cannot possibly discern a difference in their appearances due to the essentially meaningless distance between two countries on earth. I know it is silly, but . . . they do. They really look very different. Like take that one there.” Lexa pointed up to the sky with her index finger. “From our—my—balcony back home, that one glows a little more rouge. And that one. See that one there?” She moved her finger slightly left. Costia tried to follow the line of her arm to see where she was pointing. “That one is my favorite. It twinkles the most at home. But here, it seems . . . more subdued somehow.”

She looked back down to see Costia looking at her intently with an amused smile. Lexa blushed to think about how nonsensical she must sound.

“No, I don’t think that’s silly at all.”

Soon they had walked around most of the fairgrounds, seeing and doing and eating all they could. They decided it was about time to leave.

As they made their way toward the exit, they passed by a booth where an artist was busy drawing a caricature of a couple sitting together. Costia stopped to look at some of the sample works displayed. She turned to Lexa with a bright look on her face.

“Should we get one made of us? As a souvenir?”

Lexa glanced at the artist who was doing her work, her eyes trained on the young couple trying to hold still in front of her. Despite the fact that she was only doing a fast cartoon sketch where accuracy and precision were not the priority, she was intensely focused on the subjects. Her hands were covered with charcoal and ink, and moved about smoothly and surely across the sheet of paper mounted on the easel. She could see small streaks of colors on her cheeks which she had likely smeared on accidentally. Her brows were slightly furrowed, and lips pressed together. A picture of concentration to her art.

Now, Lexa thought she had done rather well in the past several months, in terms of not thinking about Clarke. After she found out from Anya about Clarke waiting for her at the café, she did withdraw back into herself for a bit, halting any progress on her relationship with Costia. It was hard to go on with her daily life in London, all the while knowing that if she wanted to, she could possibly very easily go back to her old life with Clarke, back to when she was happy and . . . just happy, without qualifiers. All she needed to do was to book a plane ticket. Or even just make a phone call. She still knew Clarke’s number by heart, and she doubted that she would change it.

And there were moments when she had come this close to doing it. When she held the phone in her hands and all but pressed the numbers. But during those moments, usually at the last second, she would get flashes of that night in the rain, flashes of the look in Clarke’s eyes that told her that just being in Lexa’s presence caused her anguish and distress, flashes of her face when she told her no, she wasn’t going to fight for them anymore. At those memories, her heart would seize up and she would force away any thoughts of contacting her. No, she had to tell herself, the amount of pain they caused one another was not something two people who truly belonged together did to each other.

So she made herself stop thinking about her. She made herself stop thinking about the way she sat in her self-designated seat in the café, sipping her cup of coffee, sketching absentmindedly in her notepad or on a napkin while waiting for her. She made herself stop picturing the way the sun reflected off her tousled hair like nothing else, her hair that always seemed perfect no matter what she did to it, her hair that definitely did not make Lexa jealous that her own untamed mane needed very dedicated attention to be presentable. She made herself stop thinking about the way her eyes lit up when she saw Lexa walking towards her, and the way that that was quickly followed by her cheerful smile. She made herself stop thinking about the feeling of warmth that would blanket her own body at that sight no matter what the weather outside was.

She made herself forget about Clarke. She made herself forget how Clarke looked in the spring, shivering lightly when they walked through the shade because she insisted on wearing a tee shirt even though it was still too cool outside just to “say goodbye to the damn winter already.” She made herself forget how Clarke looked in the summer, wet hair plastered to her face as she fell time after time into the ocean trying to teach herself how to surf without an instructor because “how hard can it really be, Lexa?” She made herself forget Clarke in autumn, when walks through the park ended up with more leaves stuck in Clarke’s hair than a bird’s nest, but also a hundred times more beautiful. She made herself forget Clarke in winter, and the redness of her nose and cheeks, when despite her competitive nature, she would avoid hitting Lexa with snowballs even when they were on opposite teams during their friends’ annual snowball fight.

And somehow, she did. She made herself forget all that.

Costia was patient with her, even during the months after she learned of the news, and waited for her to seek her out again. And when she did, Lexa was surprised at how easy it was to fall into comfortable conversation with her again. They had been dating for more than half a year now, and Lexa slowly realized that she was actually feeling like her old self again. Most days.

There were some days, though, when she would see something that would remind her briefly of Clarke. Like when she passed by people playing chess in the park. Or when Clarke’s favorite artist or song came on the radio. Or when a movie Clarke had been looking forward to seeing came out. But she was usually able to power through those brief reminders and go about her day. And even those were becoming fewer and farther in between.

But tonight, for some reason, just seeing this artist hard at work engulfed her with such a strong sense of . . . Clarke . . . that it almost overwhelmed her in its intensity and vividity. She felt her face become pale and felt her heart rate increase and her breathing turn shallow. She took a step back from the booth and kept moving forward, shaking her head.

“N . . . No, Costia. I would rather not.”

Costia didn’t seem to notice her unusual reaction as she continued to look at the sketches. When she saw Lexa was not by her side, however, she quickly walked to catch up with her.

“Not a fan of cartoons, are you?”

Lexa shook her head lightly and then forced a weak smile in lieu of an explanation.

“Okay, how about this? Have you seen those images on the internet where people who work in microbiology labs make pictures on bacteria culture plates? I have access to those plates, you know. How about I draw a picture of you in bacteria?”

Lexa stopped and looked at her. The absurd idea was enough to take her mind off of Clarke for a second.

“That sounds highly unappealing. No, thank you. Please never do that. Keep the bacteria in the lab where they belong.”

Costia clasped both of her hands over her chest in mock surprised. “Ah, you’re breaking my heart, Lex,” she said dramatically.

Lexa shook her head, grinning, as they continued making their way through the fairgrounds. After a while, she heard Costia speak again, in a much softer tone.

“You won’t, will you?”

Lexa had been lost in her own thoughts, trying to understand her earlier reaction, so she was a little confused at her question without a clear reference point. She tried to think about what they had just talked about.

“You mean, accept the bacteria culture plate to be produced in my likeness? No, I would rather not.”

She heard Costia laugh lightly. Nervously. “No, not that. I meant . . . break my heart. You won’t, will you?”

At this, Lexa stopped walking and turned to face her. Costia was looking at her, with such affection and hopefulness and earnestness in her eyes that it made Lexa wonder how she had missed this. How she had missed how far Costia had fallen for her. And then she thought back to the past few months and realized that every time she had felt happy, truly happy without the weight of the past on her shoulders, was when she had Costia with her. How could she ever willingly hurt this girl?

So she smiled at her and wordlessly shook her head in answer.

The biggest, most delightful grin formed on Costia’s face. “I’ll never hurt you either, Lexa. I love you.”

Lexa could only kiss her in response.

Clarke glanced at the watch on her wrist again, and her brows furrowed as she realized it was the same time as when she had last looked at it about thirty minutes ago. She tapped it a few time with her index finger. Nothing moved.

Damn it, she thought. Her watched had stopped. Which meant she was later than she thought for meeting up with Raven and Octavia. This is what I get for wearing an antique watch. She made a note to get the battery replaced soon.

She looked back to her agent Kane who was still speaking to the group about the preparations that were still needed for the event night. They were at the venue where the gallery opening was supposed to take place, and they were in the middle of a meeting to plan the layout and to go over the schedule of the night’s events. She was both bored and stressed, as she already knew most of the details of the planning and aside from providing specifics about her art pieces when asked, she didn’t have much to do. Yet she was constantly reminded by Kane of how important this was to her career. She knew that at the rate they were going, she was not going to be free for a while.

She spoke up when Kane finished talking about how many servers they would need that night.

“Kane, can we take a five minute break? I need to use the restroom.” And to make a phone call.

Kane looked a little annoyed at having to waste time for such trivial things as bodily functions. But he acquiesced. Because, well, because how could he not.

“Okay, five minutes everyone.”

Clarke let out a sigh of relief as she went to her purse and pulled out her phone. She saw three missed calls. Oops. She quickly dialed Octavia’s number (purposely avoiding calling Raven). She picked up on the second ring.

“Clarke? Hey, where are you? We’ve been waiting for you.”

“I know, I know. I’m so sorry, O. I’m still stuck in the meeting with Kane and the crew. I should have called earlier but I couldn’t get away.”

“Do you still want us to wait for you?”

“No, I don’t think I can get away anytime soon. Why do you guys go ahead first and I’ll call when I’m done. I’ll meet you wherever you are then.”

She heard Octavia say something to someone on the other end. She presumed it was Raven when she heard a loud “What?! How dare she kept us waiting?” Clarke rolled her eyes.

“That’s fine, Clarke. You focus on your work. You gave us the information about the florist anyway, so we should be able to get it done. Just let us know when you’re free.”

“Okay, thanks a lot, O. Sorry again.”

“No problem.”

Clarke heard more disgruntled mumbling in the background before Octavia said, “Raven says hi.”

“Tell her I love her too.”

Octavia laughed. “I swear, the two of you are going to drive me crazy during all this. We’ll see you soon.”

As Clarke pressed the end button on her phone, she noticed that a reminder had popped up. “Meteor shower midnight Sunday.”

She looked at the reminder for a second and felt her heart speed up before she quickly entered a few keys into her phone. She then held it to her ears again.

Lexa’s voice came through the phone, as crisp and clear as the day she recorded the message.

“Hi Clarke, this is Lexa.” Clarke smiled at the formal greeting Lexa always started all of her voicemails with. “Can you remember to pick up some popcorn on your way home? I am making your favorite dinner and I have everything else we need for the meteor shower tonight. Can you believe it? This one only comes once in 100 years! We are so lucky to be able to see it together! Yes, you can make fun of my 'weird' enthusiasm for the 'likely unimpressive' show later. Just pick up the popcorn!” There was a pause before, “Although, maybe it will just be me eating the popcorn because you will be too full eating your words!” She heard Lexa laugh loudly at her own (unfunny) joke.

There was a click that signaled the end of the voicemail. She quickly pressed the next one.

“Oh, sorry, I was too excited earlier. I forgot to tell you I love you before I ended the call. I really am happy we will be able to see this together. I love you, Clarke. See you soon.”

Chapter Text

They had finally purchased the last item on her list of things to buy to furnish her new apartment, and as she placed it in the trunk, she felt a sense of excitement at the realization that she was really moved back. She looked over at Anya, who had a grumpy look on her face at having been dragged out all over the city so early on a Saturday morning.

“Oh, come on, Anya.” She nudged her older sister playfully with her shoulder. “That was it! That was the last thing on the list. You won’t have to go shopping with me anymore.”

Anya’s face softened. “You know I like spending time with you, right? Maybe just not to look at linens.”

“I know. I was just teasing.” She looped her arms around her sister’s. “Let’s go walk around for a bit. It is a lovely day today, and I have not visited this neighborhood yet since I have been back.”

“Just as long as we don’t have to look at any more bath products.”

Lexa nodded and smiled. “Promise. Never again.”

They walked around taking in the sights of her old neighborhood. Lexa was surprised at how much had changed in the past two years. She was happy to find that one of her favorite brunch places was still open, and that their signature salmon eggs benedicts was just as good. Anya’s mood also improved with the mimosa she had with brunch.

As they were exiting the restaurant, Lexa noted the smell of fresh flowers in the air. It came from the flower shop next door. She recognized it as the one she frequented quite often in the past. She excitedly grabbed Anya’s hand and led her toward the shop.

“Let’s get some flowers to brighten up your place, Anya.”

“What’s wrong with my place?”

Lexa ignored her question and pushed the door into the shop. The shop was small, but there were large windows that allowed an abundance of sunlight into the place. It was filled with large containers of every kind of flowers imaginable, with beautiful arrangements displayed in front of the window. There were many floral scents in the air, yet they combined in a most pleasing way that was not at all overwhelming. Lexa closed her eyes just inside the doorway and took a deep breath, a smile forming subconsciously.

A bell that was attached to the door had rung as they entered to alert the elderly woman who was busy arranging flowers behind the counter. She looked up and her face lit up in a warm, endearing smile.

“Hello, dears! Welcome to Luna’s Flower Shop.”

Lexa returned her smile. She recognized the owner of the shop from her previous trips here, but did not know if she recognized her now.

“Good afternoon, Ms. Rivers,” she said as she made her way to the counter.

Upon hearing that greeting, the woman peered down over her half moon glasses to get a closer look at her guests. As Lexa walked closer, she saw the woman’s eyes light up in recognition. “Oh my, it’s you!”

She quickly put her scissors down and made her way around the counter, pulling Lexa into a tight hug. Lexa was surprised at the reception, but quickly reciprocated the hug. Anya just looked amused.

The woman finally released her from the hug, but still held her at arms’ length and looked her over. Her face beamed with her smile. “My, you look more beautiful than ever. Where have you been these years?”

“You still remember me, Ms. Rivers?”

“Oh dear, I told you to call me Luna so many times already. And of course I remember you, Lexa. You came to buy a bouquet of yellow marigolds almost every other week. It’s not a common flower people like to buy. These days, it’s all about the roses and the lilies and orchids. Nobody appreciates the marigolds like you did, dear.”

Lexa saw her glance behind her, as if noticing Anya for the first time. “Oh, this is my sister, Anya.” Anya gave a short wave. Even her wave seemed stoic.

Luna smiled at her and leaned in to whisper loudly to Lexa, “She’s a bright one, isn’t she?” She followed that with a wink to Anya.

“Now what can I get for you girls?”

“I think just the usual today. But two bouquets please. Anya’s place can use some color.”

“Two bouquets of marigolds, coming right up. You still want yellow?”

Lexa nodded as Luna made her way to a corner of the shop that contained the buckets of flowers and began pulling them out and expertly arranging them. Lexa and Anya began walking around the shop, looking at the other flowers there.

“You never told me where you’ve been these past two years.” They heard Luna shout across the room. “I was worried you took your business somewhere else.”

“I was in London for work and just moved back several weeks ago. And I would not know where to go to find bouquets as pretty as yours.” She finally made her way through the shop and was standing beside Luna watching her work.

Luna looked up and smiled at her words. “You’re sweet, dear. Well, I’m glad you’re back. Someone else to appreciate these marigolds again.” She paused, as if remembering something. “Didn’t you use to come in with another girl sometimes? She had blonde hair?”

Lexa was surprised that Luna remembered. Clarke didn’t come nearly as often as she did. She nodded, but didn’t offer anything else.

Luna had gone back to arranging the flowers, and didn’t notice Lexa’s silence. She continued talking as she pulled flower after flower out of the bucket, cutting them into the right length and moving them into place. “Well, I see her here sometimes. Maybe every one or two months. She doesn’t say much, but I remember because she also gets these yellow marigolds. Like I said, it’s rare for people to just get these and nothing else. She’s a pretty one too, but she always looks quite somber. I told her she would look prettier with a smile.”

She said all this casually as she worked, and was unaware of the sudden stiffness in Lexa’s posture at her words. Luna continued, “Do you still see her sometimes?”

Lexa’s gaze fell to the flowers and she shook her head.

“Ah, that’s a shame. You’re such a bright person. I bet you could help her lighten up. And you two could talk about your love of yellow marigolds!” Luna smiled at her own silly suggestion as she finished knotting the ties around the bouquets.

“Yes, the two of them should certainly talk.” Lexa heard Anya say behind her, speaking for the first time since she came into the shop. “About yellow marigolds.”

Lexa resisted the urge to turn around and glare at her sister for her rather not subtle hint. Ever since their conversation a week ago, Anya had been finding ways of subtly and not subtly bringing up Clarke. It was annoying at first, but she was learning how to ignore her when she did that. Unfortunately, when coupled with what Luna just told them, it was not as easy to ignore. She now felt a headache coming on and a familiar heaviness in her chest.

Luna didn’t pick up on the suddenly tenser atmosphere. She made her way to the counter to wrap the bouquets up. “Here you go, dear. Now that you’re back, you should come by more often. And if you see your friend again, tell her the marigolds are lovely this week.”

Lexa nodded as she paid for the flowers. “Thank you, Luna. And of course I will be back again. You are the best florist I know.”

The bell rang again as they opened the door to exit the shop. As soon as the door closed, Lexa turned to face Anya and opened her mouth to speak. Before she could say anything though, Anya held her hands up in pre-emptive surrender. “Before you ‘Anya’ me, I just want to say that all I did was agree with the nice, wise elderly flower lady.” And with that, she nonchalantly strode past her without waiting for a reply.

Lexa watched her sister’s back retreat for a few moments before she let out a sigh and followed, now carrying with her more than just the weight of the flowers.

Raven looked up to read the sign at the top of the shop they had just packed in front of. The sun was particularly bright this afternoon, especially considering they were at the end of autumn, and she was thankful for the extra warmth of the sun. She wished she could bottle up the sun’s rays and take it out whenever she needed it to warm her or to cheer her up. Hmm, she thought, mentally adding “bottle sun’s rays” to her list of ideas to explore in the lab.

She turned to see Octavia rounding the front of the car to stand next to her.

“Is this the place?” she asked.

Octavia looked down at the piece of paper she held in her hand and then looked up at the shop.

“I think so. See,” she said as she showed the paper to Raven. “That’s the same name of the place Clarke told us about, isn’t it? She said she’s been coming here for years.”

Raven read the paper and nodded. “Yup, this is the place then.” They both started making their way toward the entrance.

“Isn’t it convenient that Clarke is ‘busy’ with her gallery and ‘running late’ for this task but will ‘catch up’ with us just in time for the cake tasting later?” She tried to use so many air quote gestures during that one sentence that even she became confused about when to do it and ended up giving up halfway through.

Octavia laughed at her too-real struggle and nodded her head. “Suspiciously convenient, if you ask me.”

“And she made us late! I hope you’re keeping tabs of all of this for later when you decide who to give the ‘Best Co-Maid of Honor’ award.”

Octavia draped an arm over Raven’s shoulder. “Definitely keeping tabs. And you’re winning by a mile. As a matter of fact, lunch is on me today. Lazy-ass Clarke won’t get any.”

Raven seemed placated. She smiled smugly as she reached out to pull the door open. “That’s better.”

They heard the ring of a bell with the opening of the door. Then, a loud, cheery voice called out, “Hello, dears. Welcome to Luna’s Flower Shop!”

By the time they got back to Anya’s apartment, Lexa had somehow, remarkably, managed to suppress whatever emotions Luna’s mention of Clarke had invoked earlier. For the time being at least. Until she could process it later on her own. Anya, for her part, didn’t bring it up again either, for which Lexa was grateful.

With her arms full of the large bouquets of flowers, she had to turn sideways to fit through the door Anya was holding open for her.

“Thanks,” she said, setting the flowers down on the kitchen counter. “Oh, Anya, you are still coming over tomorrow night for dinner, right? So we can watch the meteor shower together afterwards?” She set aside one bouquet in its packaging for her to take home and went about the kitchen gathering the supplies to prepare the other for Anya.

“Yes. A free home-cooked meal from my favorite sister? I will definitely be there.” She leaned against the refrigerator and watched her sister work with the flowers, fully aware that she was more helpful being out of the way in these matters. With further thought, she added, “And I’ll stay to watch the meteor shower only if you promise not to tell me the names of every single one of them.”

“You are being silly, Anya,” Lexa replied without turning back to look at her. “The individual meteors do not each have a different name.” She didn’t see Anya roll her eyes and shake her head knowingly at her rather characteristic answer.

She opened one of the lower cupboards and reached around in the back until she felt the vase she had purposely placed there several years before. She pulled it out triumphantly, and quickly frowned at the sight of cobwebs clinging to the vase. “You have not used this since I have been gone, have you?” She tipped the vase over to pour out the roll of ribbon she had placed inside.

“How can you tell? It was the cobwebs that gave it away, wasn’t it?” Anya asked, in a (rather poor, in Lexa’s opinion) attempt to be funny.

“I am going to make sure this will be used more often from now on. Flowers will lighten up your place and make it seem less like . . .” She glanced around the apartment. “. . . the home of a knife-collecting fighting martial artist.” There was a twinkle in her eyes though she said the words with a straight face.

“Ha. Ha. You should probably stick to writing and leave the joke-making to the professionals.” Anya pushed away from the refrigerator and made her way to flop on the couch, draping an arm over her eyes in the process. She was starting to feel the effects of the mimosas she had with brunch.

Lexa finished arranging the flowers and grabbed the roll of ribbon and scissors before picking up the vase. She walked passed the supine Anya in the living room on the way to her bedroom. “Let me go set this up in your bedroom. That way, you will be able to see it right when you wake up and have a bright, cheery start to your day.”

Anya grunted in reply, but didn’t move from her position.

Lexa went into the bedroom and set everything down on the bedside dresser. She measured and cut the ribbon to the appropriate length and meticulously tied it into a bow around the vase. As she stepped back to evaluate her work, her hand accidentally pushed the ribbon roll off the dresser onto the floor where it then proceeded to roll right under the bed.

“Shoot,” Lexa said out loud. She crouched down onto all fours and pulled up the bedskirt. She saw the ribbon roll about a foot away and reached out to grab it. Just as her hand closed around the roll, her eyes fell on a large, flat object that had been placed right under the middle of the bed. It was covered with an old bedsheet.

Curious, she moved farther under the bed to reach the object and pull it out under the bed. Once she had it all the way out from under the bed, she sat back on the floor and lifted the bedsheet all the way off.

What she saw left her staring at it in silence for long minutes. She didn’t hear Anya calling for her from the living room. She didn’t hear the door open as Anya finally decided to come see what was going on.

“Lex, what are you do—” Anya’s voice in the same room snapped her out of her daze. She looked up to see that Anya had stopped in her tracks at the doorway, her eyes falling to the object in front of her before darting back up to meet Lexa’s. Her face looked conflicted for a brief moment before resignation set in. “Oh. You found it.”

Lexa found her voice, though it was still soft and quiet when she spoke. “Why do you still have this, Anya? I asked you to get rid of it.”

“Actually, you asked me to give it a good home, to someone who would enjoy it. Which I did. I gave it a great home and I have enjoyed it quite a bit whenever I take it out to look at it.”


“Hey, technically, I’m in it too.”

“You have had it this whole time?”

Anya sighed and nodded. “Yes. I couldn’t bring myself to get rid of it. It’s a beautiful piece in itself, but the amount of passion and thought and time that was put into it . . . it will never mean as much to anyone else. And art like that . . . it deserves to be appreciated.” After a pause, with eyes carefully trained on her sister’s face, she added, “Love like that . . . it deserves to be felt.” She noted a slight hitch in her breathing, but otherwise, she betrayed none of her emotions.

“Would you like it back?” Anya asked.

Lexa didn’t say anything, but continued to stare at the painting. After a few more moments, she reached out and pulled the bedsheet back over the painting. She moved it back under the bed into its previous location. She shook her head gently as if to clear it and pushed herself up off the floor. Then she turned to face Anya with a sad smile on her face that did not reach her eyes.

“No, you should keep it. You are right. It is beautiful. And I know it has a good home with you.”

Anya nodded, mildly surprised at her sister’s quiet acceptance of the fact that she had not gotten rid of the painting as she was asked. She secretly hoped that Lexa would not ask her about the other item she had more definitively asked her to dispose of.

Lexa tried to change the subject. “Look, doesn’t your room look much brighter with the flowers?”

Anya nodded again. “Yes, thank you.” But she didn’t want to let the subject go when there was such an opportunity. So she pushed on.

“Tomorrow is Sunday, you know. She’ll be there.”

She had expected pushback and equivocations and perhaps another “Anya” in response. But to her surprise again, that was not the reply she received.

Instead, she saw something akin to resolution in Lexa’s eyes as she acknowledge that information with a small nod.

“I know.”

Clarke paced to and fro in her bedroom, walking from her closet to the full length mirror hanging from the back of her door again and again as she tried on outfit after outfit. Raven and Octavia lounged on her bed, offering critique after critique, telling her every little thing that was wrong with each of the outfit she tried on, without giving any suggestions on what she could do to improve upon them. And in between outfits, she could hear them laughing. Likely AT her. In other words, they were being utterly unhelpful.

“Maybe you guys should, I don’t know, act like the best friends you’re supposed to be and actually help me and not just, you know, lie there and laugh at me. I can have regular friends do that for me and not trouble you two.” She glanced at the mirror and grimaced at the ugly turtleneck she had just put on. When did she even buy this? And more importantly, why?

Raven confirmed (more than confirmed) that sentiment when she said, “That is the ugliest shirt I have ever seen. Why do you even have that?”

“I don’t know!” Clarke pulled it off in frustration and threw it at Raven on her way back to the closet.

Raven flung the shirt off of herself in exaggerated disgust. “Maybe you should just try to dress like a normal person, Clarke.”

“That’s very helpful, Rae. I’m so glad you’re here.” They heard Clarke say from inside the closet.

“What Raven means is,” Octavia chimed in before Raven could retort, “maybe you should stop worrying so much. You are gorgeous and can clearly dress yourself. Just wear what you would normally wear on a date. I’m sure Lexa doesn’t care. You guys have been seeing each other for a month now.”

Clarke peeked out from behind the closet door, her bare shoulder showing. “I know, I know. But it’s the first time she’s invited me over to her place. I guess I just want to make a good first impression?”

“Make a good first impression . . . on her apartment?” Raven asked, amused.

“Yes. No? I don’t know. Whatever.” Clarke went back to digging through her heap of clothes.

“Wait a minute . . .” Raven’s face suddenly lit up as if something just came to her. “Are you planning on . . . I mean, do you think tonight is the night? And that’s why you’re so worried about what you’re going to wear? Eww, are we picking out your sex clothes?” She stuck out her tongue and feigned vomiting in disgust.

Octavia fell back onto the bed, holding her belly as she laughed heartily.

Clarke’s face reappeared from behind the door and even from their distance, they could both see how red it had become in the short time.

“What? God, Raven, no! That’s not it at all.” She threw another shirt at her. “It’s not like that, okay? I really like her. She’s different than anyone I’ve ever dated before. She’s . . .” Clarke bit her bottom lip as she tried to think of how to describe Lexa. “She’s smart and kind and thoughtful and witty and, as you guys already know from when you met her, she’s breathtaking. She’s also a very private person, and I think she likes to take things slow, and I really want to respect that. I just don’t want to mess things up.”

Raven rolled her eyes to Octavia at Clarke’s clear infatuation with this girl. Though, to be fair, thinking back to when Clarke had invited Lexa to meet the gang, she had to admit that Clarke was right – Lexa was different from the people she’d dated in the past. Raven had seen her the day she met Clarke, so she already knew that Lexa was beautiful, but the others quickly agreed as well (privately, to each other). Jasper had even bemoaned the fact that Clarke always seemed to get all the good-looking ones.

At first, Lexa seemed polite but quiet and distant, hardly speaking up in the group. Clarke had been so attentive to her that night, trying to make sure she felt included, that, in Raven’s humble opinion, it was bordering on disgusting. But, when they finally broke into smaller groups, and she got to spend some one-on-one time with her, Raven learned that Lexa was quite friendly and sociable, with interesting insights about the group dynamic just from her observations alone. She was also good-humored, not shying away from participating in some of Raven’s sometimes outlandish jokes and remarks, and intermittently, unexpectedly, offering some of her own subtle biting retorts. She was a good listener, keeping her doelike eyes trained on whoever she was talking, as if he or she were the only person in the world at that moment. She was oddly charming in her own quirky, quiet way. Raven, followed soon by Octavia, was quickly won over by the girl, and she doubted that she was even trying to win them over. But what sealed the deal for her to give her stamp of approval was seeing the way Lexa looked at Clarke when she didn’t think anyone was watching. She didn’t know what it was, but it was something.

It was so obvious that Clarke was in deep that even Octavia couldn’t resist teasing her after her spiel about how perfect Lexa was. “Geez, Clarke. It sounds like you’re in love with this girl already. Why does it matter what you’re going to wear if you’re just going to rip it off of you the second you see her anyway? Why not just show up in lingerie and save you both the time and trouble?”

More clothes flew at them from behind the closet door.

Miraculously, Clarke had managed to pull together an outfit she did not despise (with no help from her so-called “best” friends). She showed up to Lexa’s apartment, nervous and anxious, dessert in hand. But seeing Lexa’s eyes light up and her lips curl into a smile when she opened the door filled her with such a sense of warmth that her nervousness quickly dissipated.

Lexa lived by herself in a small apartment, and even though she couldn’t have predicted what it would look it, upon stepping inside and looking around, Clarke could definitely see that this was such a Lexa home. She had large bookshelves spanning two walls all filled with books of all sizes. There was a large, old, soft, and comfortable-appearing arm chair next to the windows where Clarke suspected Lexa did her reading. In the corner was a small desk, and the only objects on top of the desk were a simple desk lamp, a stack of clean paper, an old-fashioned typewriter, and a fountain pen. There was a laptop to the side of the table as well. Scattered throughout the apartment were small vases, but only the one on the dining table was filled with yellow flowers. It added a burst of color to the otherwise mild, simple palette of the place.

Lexa had prepared a simple but delicious dinner (though to be honest, Clarke would have eaten anything she cooked). They were now sitting out on the fire escape under the open night sky, drinking coffee and eating the chocolate cake Clarke had brought over. It was a beautifully clear night, and the stars were out in full force. The air around them was cool and fresh. Clarke was amazed at how comfortable she felt at the moment with this person who was a stranger only a month ago.

She finally spoke, itching to get to know more about the girl in front of her. “I really like your place. It’s so organized and . . . I don’t know how to explain it, but it is just so you.”

Lexa laughed lightly. “Because it is so expectedly boring? Filled with books and writing supplies and not much else?”

Clarke’s eyes widened and she quickly stammered, “No, no! It’s not boring at all. You’re not boring! I just meant—”

Lexa shook her head and interjected, “Clarke, it’s okay. I was only joking.” She had a smile on her face. “I am not so fragile as to be so easily offended. I don’t think I would make it as a writer if I were. Do you know how it feels to receive a first draft of a manuscript back from the editor?”

Slightly embarrassed and angry at herself, Clarke jumped on the opportunity to talk more about Lexa. “So your writing . . . I always imagined writers these days writing on their laptops, but it looks like you have a typewriter and pen and paper also?”

Lexa nodded. “I mostly write on my laptop. It’s easier that way, and I can do it anywhere. But nothing helps me out of a bad case of writer’s block than writing with a fountain pen. As for the typewriter . . . I know it’s silly, but nothing puts me in a more cheerful mood to write a happy scene than the sound of the typewriter keys clicking.” She mimicked typing on the typewriter with her hands while bouncing her head side to side as if following the rhythm of the keys. It made Clarke laugh.

“And what about the yellow flowers? Do you use those to put you in a good mood to write happy scenes too? They’re beautiful, by the way. They would certainly put me in a good mood.”

Lexa’s smile faded with the mention of the flowers as she seemed to struggle internally about what to say. She looked straight into Clarke’s eyes, as if searching for something. Clarke struggled to hold her deep gaze. Finally, Lexa’s smile returned, though it was now more wistful.

“They are marigold flowers, my favorite. Specifically, the yellow ones. I don’t think many would choose it as their favorite flower, because they are so common and easily grown and definitely not exotic. But,” she said, shrugging, “they remind me of a happy time in my childhood.”

Clarke listened intently, somehow aware that she was hearing something that was not often divulged.

Lexa gripped her coffee cup tighter and looked away from Clarke as she began her story. “When I was about six or seven years old, my parents decided to move across the country for their new jobs. So we packed up everything we had and started the long road trip. My parents loved nature, so they would often take back roads through the mountains and the woods. One time, in the middle of an impromptu shortcut, we got lost. We were just driving around trying to find our way back onto the main road when we found it.”

Her eyes turned back to Clarke and she could see so much wonder and light in them.

“Clarke,” her voice came out almost in a whisper, “it was a wide, open plain, with only one or two trees in the distance. And it was completely filled with yellow marigolds. As far as the eyes could see. It was such a beautiful day, too. The sun was bright, the sky was an impossible blue, and the clouds were so fluffy and soft that I wanted to reach out and grab them to hug close to me. So we all got out. Anya and my mom and dad and me. And we just ran through the field of flowers that had no end in sight. Anya chased me around and we ran and laughed and rolled around the field while our parents watched. It was just like playing in a dream. By the time they came to get us to leave, we were covered in flower petals and I swear my skin smelled like marigolds.” She closed her eyes and smiled as if trying to go back to that moment in her mind again.

Clarke watched her closely, mesmerized and unable to look away as she, too, imagined a young, happy Lexa, prancing around in a field of bright yellow flowers. When she finally opened her eyes, Clarke could see that they now gleamed with something more than wonder. She saw Lexa try to blink back the tears as she sniffled.

“Not long after that, after we finally arrived at our new home, my parents . . . they passed away. And all I had left was Anya. That was the last happy memory I have of them, of us as a family, lost and free and together. All my life, I have wanted to find that field again, but Anya and I don’t know where it is. We were so young then, and we were also lost when we stumbled upon it. I have tried retracing our route since, but I haven’t had much luck.” She shrugged, as if to convey that it was no big deal, when Clarke knew that it was probably the biggest deal. “I guess that’s why I love yellow marigolds now and try to buy them whenever I can. Seeing them makes me feel like I did that day in the field again.”

Clarke didn’t know what to say, so she said the only thing that came to mind. “I’m sorry about your parents.”

Tears were falling down her face now, and Lexa hastily wiped them away. “No, I’m sorry. I don’t know why I brought up such a sad subject on our date. Sorry to be such a downer.”

With that, Clarke instinctively moved so that she was sitting right next to Lexa. She put an arm around her shoulder and pulled her into a close embrace. Lexa was surprised at first, but soon wrapped her arms around her waist and burrowed further into Clarke’s chest. Clarke kissed the top of her head.

“No, please don’t apologize. Thank you for sharing that with me.”

In the month that they had been dating, there had certainly been moments of intimacy as passionate as their first kiss. But here, sitting together on a fire escape under the stars, holding each other close, Clarke felt like she had never been as close and connected to someone as she was in that moment.

She did spend the night with Lexa that night, doing nothing more than hug her tight as they fell asleep, lost in dreams of flowers and clouds, both happy to finally be found.

Chapter Text

They stepped out of the restaurant into the cool night air. Lexa wrapped her coat tighter around her body and turned to face Clarke.

“Thank you for dinner, Clarke. Such a beautiful place. And the food was amazing. But it was so expensive. You know, you do not need to take me out to places like this  . . . I am perfectly fine with having burgers or take out.”

Clarke reached for her hand as they started to make their way back to her apartment. “I know you don’t need it. But I wanted to do something special tonight.”

Lexa furrowed her brows in confusion. “Why tonight?”

“You don’t know?”

 She shook her head.

“Well, you’ll see. Come on.” She inclined her head towards her apartment. “Raven and Octavia are staying over at Lincoln’s tonight, so we can go back to eat dessert and watch a movie.”

Lexa let herself be led all the way back, trying to use the time to think about what Clarke could possible mean. But by the time they arrived at the door, she had come up with nothing.

Clarke held the door open for her to pass. Then, as soon as she heard the door close behind her, Clarke’s arms wrapped around her waist and gently but firmly turned her and pressed her against the door. She felt Clarke’s lips find hers in the dark. After her initial surprise, she quickly responded, trailing her hands up Clarke’s arms, over her shoulders, with one hand settling on the back of her neck and the other at the junction of her neck and jaw, fingers brushing her cheeks, pulling her impossibly closer.

It didn’t take long for her to feel completely consumed, all of her thoughts replaced by the taste of Clarke’s lips, the feel of her tongue, the sound of her breaths. Clarke was a damn good kisser, Lexa had realize, early on, and that was never clearer to her than right now. Maybe it was because her kissing involved more than just her mouth. Maybe it was the way she used her hands, stroking up and down her back, at once comforting and stimulating. Or the way she pressed her body close, so close that Lexa could feel her heart beat. Or perhaps it was the way she always smiled at one point or another during the kiss, as if she couldn’t help expressing how happy she was, subconsciously letting Lexa know how much she wanted this. Whatever it was, taken together, it never failed to reduce Lexa to a pliant mess.

She was well on her way there when Clarke pulled away all of a sudden, but still keeping their foreheads pressed together. She opened her eyes and saw that Clarke still had hers closed and seemed to be working on controlling her breathing. She lightly stroked her cheek with her thumb still resting there. “Clarke, what’s the matter?”

At her voice, Clarke opened her eyes. Even in the darkened room, with just the light from the streetlamps outside spilling in from the opened windows, Lexa could still clearly see the blue glint shining at her. And for a brief moment, she really, truly believed in the old saying about eyes being the windows to the soul.

Rational thought seemed to come back to Clarke as she quickly smiled and pulled farther away. She reached behind Lexa to turn on the lights.

“Nothing’s the matter. I just don’t want to get distract--, I mean, I do,” she quickly corrected, as Lexa gave her a questioning look. “Of course I do. Want to get distracted, that is. Doing that. With you.”

“Clarke.” Lexa placed her hand on her arm to stop her rambling.

Clarke took a deep breath to collect herself before continuing. “What I mean is, I have something planned. And I want to make sure we get to it first.” She looked at Lexa to make sure she understood. “And after that, we can get distracted. Okay? Let’s remember to get distracted. That’s important.”

Lexa laughed and pushed Clarke gently away to make her way into the living room. “You’re the one who kissed me.”

Clarke looked sheepish as she shrugged and said, “I know. I couldn’t help it. We were in a fancy restaurant all night and couldn’t do any kissing. That was much too long.”

Lexa sat down on the couch and patted the seat next to her. “Okay, what is this all important movie that we cannot afford to get distracted from?”

Clarke didn’t make her way over to Lexa. “It’s not a movie, Lexa.”

Lexa looked at her in confusion again. “What is it then?” She noticed Clarke fidgeting with her hands.

“Okay, so I am not one of those sentimental ‘let’s celebrate every little tiny anniversary’ kind of girl, so don’t get used to this, okay?”

Lexa figured she still had a look of confusion on her face, because Clarke continued to explain, “Today is our six month anniversary. From the day we met.” She looked like she was expecting realization to dawn on Lexa’s face with that statement. But it didn’t.

“Remember? When we met in the café? When I was so charming that you practically threw your number at me?”

 “I remember the story a little differently, Clarke.” Lexa smiled. “But go on.”

“Don’t tell me you don’t realize that today is exactly six months from that date.”

It was Lexa’s turn to look sheepish. “I am not that good with remembering dates like that.”

Clarke made an exaggerated scowl. “I’m definitely going to remember to bring this up the next time I mess up.”

“Why? Do you anticipate a lot of ‘mess ups’ in the future?”

“It doesn’t hurt to save up brownie points, right?”

Lexa rolled her eyes, a smile playing on her lips. “Let’s see this brownie-point-guaranteeing thing then, shall we?”

“Okay, hold on for a minute.” Clarke went into her room and returned a minute later, carrying a large object covered with a sheet. She carefully placed it on the easel already set up in the living room and turned back to face Lexa.

“So, inspirations for my paintings come from all places, but most of the time, it’s drawn from my own experiences, because that’s how I feel I can best capture the emotions involved. But when you told me about this, I couldn’t stop thinking about it, couldn’t stop picturing how it appeared to you, couldn’t stop imagining what it felt like for you. I couldn’t think about painting anything else but this.”

Lexa tried to follow what she was saying. She had a feeling that whatever this was, it was very important to Clarke. But she didn’t know how it involved her. It was obvious that Clarke was also nervous about this, wringing her hands as she continued.

“Anyway, I hope you don’t think it was presumptuous of me to do this without your permission. But I . . . I just really hope you like it.”

Clarke took a deep breath and in one fluid motion, pulled the sheet off.

It was a large painting, surrounded by a simple bronze frame, of a field of yellow marigold flowers. Lexa’s eyes silently roamed the art piece, taking in as much of the details as she could. She saw a bright sun in the middle of a clear blue sky, interspersed with large white clouds. There were outlines of a few trees in the distance. But most of the painting was filled with flower after flower, all uniquely painted in excruciating detail. And in the sea of flowers, she saw the small silhouettes of four people. A couple, with their arms around each other, watching two young girls holding hands and dancing with each other in the field. She could make out a wild mane of hair flying behind the younger girl as she ran.

Lexa couldn’t pull her eyes away. She didn’t know how long she stared at the painting, looking at each of the flowers individually, as if she could recognize them from that day so long ago. She lightly brushed her fingers across the flowers, expecting to feel soft petals, but instead feeling the roughness of the paint on canvas. She didn’t know how it could be so real, how it could look like Clarke went inside her mind and took a picture of her memory.

Finally, after long minutes of silence, she heard Clarke’s voice, soft and tinged with nervousness still, close behind her. “I know how important that moment was to you. I am so sad you had to go through everything you did when you were younger. I wish I could have been there for you. As a friend. As whatever you needed.”

When she turned to face Clarke, she knew that there were tears in her eyes, and probably running down her cheeks, but she didn’t much care. Clarke stepped closer and brought one of her hands up to Lexa’s face, using her thumb to wipe the tears away. “But every moment that I am with you, I am just so amazed at the person you turned out to be, despite everything. Some days, I can’t believe you’re real, let alone with me.”

Her tears continued to fall. Clarke leaned in to kiss each of them away individually. “I know how much you loved that field of marigolds, and I wanted to give it to you. This is the only way I knew how.”

Lexa felt such a swell of emotions inside her chest that it threatened to burst from her if she didn’t do something. She reach her hand up to grasp Clarke’s that was still holding her face. Clarke leaned back from kissing her tears and met her eyes. Lexa felt her knees almost buckle from the intensity of the emotions in her eyes.

“Thank you,” she finally whispered. “I love it.” She felt her heart beat faster and faster, now wholly and completely unrestrained, as she said the words she had been feeling for some time, but never more so than in this moment here, with Clarke. “I love you.”

She didn’t need to wait for Clarke to say it back before crashing their lips together.

But Clarke did say it back. In that kiss, and every kiss after.

Beep beep.

At the first ring of her alarm, Clarke reached over to hit the off button. She quickly sat up in bed and stretched her arms out wide. Normally she would snooze many times before actually leaving her bed. But today was different somehow.

There seemed to be something electric in the air this morning, and she could feel that electricity seep through into her skin, setting all of her nerves on edge. She felt alert and acutely attuned to her environment. It was rather unsettling actually, but she attributed it to the long list of things she had to complete today in preparation for her art event as well as the general lack of good sleep over the past few weeks.

She pushed herself out of bed and did a few more stretches before glancing at the clock again. She grimaced at the thought of the busy day she had in front of her. She needed to get a move on. But first things first. Coffee.

She arrived at the café slightly earlier than her usual time this morning. Jasper came out to greet her just as she took her usual seat facing the fountain in the middle of the park.

“Hey, you’re early today.”

“Hi Jasp. Yup, I am. I have a lot to do so I thought I would get a head start. I can probably only stay for half an hour today.”

“Gotcha. Do you need help with anything?”

“Just your best cup of coffee?”

“Sure thing. I’ll even throw in a chocolate croissant for you. On me. All I ask is your eternal gratitude.”

“You know you already have that. For keeping me company all these weeks.”

Jasper smiled and bent down to give her a kiss on the head in her seat. “Coffee and croissant and company. The three pillars of my café, coming right up!”

It had been a long time since she visited this park. This park that used to be one of her favorite places in the city. This park that had been the setting of many happy memories for her. This was the park where she first met Clarke at the café, and it was the very same park where they walked around eating ice cream on their first date, when she began to fall for Clarke even before she realized it. It was the place where Clarke gave her a key during one of after dinner strolls and asked her, nervously, adorably, to move in together. And though she hadn’t had it exactly planned out, it was probably where she would have chosen to ask her to marry her. The romantic in her loved the idea of being able to mark a new beginning at the place of an old beginning.

It was quite a surreal experience now as she made her way through the park, taking in the details around her. She watched as the last few stubborn leaves that had held on fast to the trees finally succumb to the insurmountable forces of time and nature, slowly twirling in the air as they drifted to the ground. She remembered that autumn was Clarke’s favorite season. She’d always said that the burst of colors from the trees was conducive to her painting, but Lexa knew it was also because of the general atmosphere of bundling up with scarves and mittens and seeking comfort and warmth with loved ones in closed quarters. If it weren’t for the lack of sunlight during this season, Lexa would have agreed with her.

Soon enough, the familiar fountain came into sight. There were children running around and playing as the fountain sprayed intricate patterns into the air. Lexa watched a young girl standing close to the fountain with her eyes closed and hands held together in front of her. She realized what she was doing when she saw her open her eyes and excitedly throw a coin in the fountain.

It doesn’t work, Lexa wanted to tell her. She remembered a time when she herself was just as hopeful, just as naïve, believing that a wish upon a fountain was a guarantee. She had spent many a quarter here. Every time she passed by this fountain, she had spared a coin one way or another, closing her eyes and reciting her wish reverently before tossing the coin into the water. I wish she will say yes.

Her heart was surprisingly calm as she continued to make her way towards the café she knew too well. It had been ever since she found the painting under Anya’s bed. She did not know what to make of it, the calmness of her heart, but she was hopeful that this might mean she would be able to get through this with a clear head. She knew that despite what she had been saying to Anya, and despite what she had been trying to tell herself, this was always going to happen. She was always going to come. For Clarke. And for herself. She had spent the last two years telling herself that she could do it, and now was the time for her to prove it.

She took a deep breath as she rounded the fountain, and the building of the café finally came into view. Her eyes immediately went to the familiar table in the outdoor seating area.

And she saw her, sitting there in her usual seat, as she said she would, head down with eyes focused on her sketchpad, hand moving swiftly and expertly, a cup of steaming coffee to the side. Even from the distance, Lexa could see that the tip of her nose was pink from the cold.

Everything she had done to prepare herself for this moment, all the plans she had made as to what she would say and do, all of it, suddenly became forgotten. She felt her heart, now apparently eager to betray her resolve, start to race, thumping harder and harder against the many walls she had built around it, threatening their integrity.

She stood where she was for a second, calming her nerves. Then, with renewed determination, she continued to make her way towards her.

Clarke was bent over her sketchpad, working intently on the quick sketch she started in order to calm her mind and distract herself from the restlessness she felt. Her hand moved of its own accord, as she itched to put something, anything, onto paper. She started to recognize the outlines of petals and stems that she had been accustomed to drawing these days.

She felt a cool breeze come in, so she rubbed her hands together and breathed on them to warm them up. It really was getting too cold to sit out here for too much longer. At least she wasn’t planning to stay too long today anyway. Once her hands were sufficiently warmed, she went back to her sketch, still unable to shake the sense that that was something in the air.

All of a sudden, she felt the hair on the back of her neck rise, and her heart, inexplicably, began to race. She felt her there before she ever heard her.

“Hello, Clarke."

Chapter Text

She heard it.

Heard the word that she had been waiting to hear for so long. It sounded so exactly like how she remembered it that she thought it must have just been a wild, uncontrolled flash of memory. A trick of her already slipping mind. She didn’t dare to have her hopes up. Because it had been dashed more times than she could count during her weeks of sitting here at the café.

So she remained resolute, refusing to look up from her sketchpad, though her hand no longer moved. But she could not control the rapid thumping of her heart, the anxious tremors in her hands. Her breathing became shallow and uneven, and she struggled to get enough oxygen into her lungs. It was as if her body knew that this time was different. That this was no joke of the mind.


That single word was delivered almost in a whisper, yet it rang so loud that it cut through all the space and time between them, bringing her back to when that word was spoken softly right next to her ear. It shut out all the noises from her surroundings, and now all she could hear was earsplitting, ringing silence.

A shiver ran through her body as she closed her eyes and tried to collect herself, to gather the different parts of her body and mind that were now running in all separate directions. She forced herself to loosen the viselike grip she didn’t realize she had on her pencil and haltingly set it down, unable to stop her hand from shaking as she did so. She swallowed the lump that had formed in her suddenly dry, dry throat and held her breath as she slowly looked up.

The sky was now a uniform gray, with dark clouds in the distance hiding the sun, painting the world in a cold, gray undertone, only broken by the falling red and brown leaves as they were tossed by the light autumn breeze. They swirled lazily through the air as they slowly and daintily made their way to the ground. The fountain was in the distance, as always, with jets of water bursting from it in a show of energy that echoed her beating heart. The view was one with which she had become very familiar, due to the many hours she had spent sitting in this same spot. But today, she couldn’t see any of it at all.

Because there she was. Not more than ten feet away in front of her, bundled up in a thick coat and knit cap and scarf, feet close together, hands in her coat pockets, hair lightly tossing in the wind. Just standing there. As if no time had passed. As if she were just meeting her here on any normal day. As if she hadn’t just turned her entire world upside down.

She let her eyes slowly trail up her body.

Up her neck.

Her jaw.

Her lips.

Her nose.

And when she finally reached those green, green eyes, it was as if time stopped.

All that existed then, was the two of them there, in that moment.

Jasper couldn’t believe what he was seeing. He had been casually walking by the window overlooking the outdoor area when something suddenly caught his eyes and he had to double back to look outside. He now stood frozen in front of the window, trying to decipher what he was seeing. He didn’t realize his jaws had dropped.

Is that . . . Lexa?

He rubbed his eyes with his knuckles to try to clear his vision, like he had seen in a cartoon. But it just hurt his eyes more than clear them. Stupid, useless, misleading cartoons, he thought.

He couldn’t do anything else but continue to stare at the scene through the window. It really was her, in the flesh, standing there in front of Clarke.

Clarke. He suddenly thought of his friend and wondered what must be going through her mind at this moment. Looking at her from the distance, he could only tell that she had clearly seen Lexa. But neither seemed to be talking. Or moving. Or doing anything.

There was a brief moment when he considered going out there. To greet Lexa – after all, he had missed her greatly also – or to spur Clarke into action, because he didn’t want her to waste the chance she had been waiting for due to surprise. But as he looked at the two of them, he realized that even though neither was doing anything, there was so much happening between them right now.

So he just stood there, watching them for another moment longer before he sighed and turned back towards the register to give them their privacy, hoping and wishing with all his heart for things to work out for the two of them.

Clarke remembered all those times in her life when she had wanted something so very much that it was all she could think about while she was saving up for it, like a specific toy when she was a child, or art supplies as a teen, or bigger things like a car or trips as an adult. But the longer she thought about that thing she wanted and how much she would enjoy it, the more her mind created this impossible, unattainable ideal of that thing such that she was always undoubtedly disappointed when she finally got it.

And if she was truly honest with herself, during all the time she had been waiting here, she had feared that she had done this with the reunion with Lexa, and even with Lexa herself. That she had built up their relationship to an ideal that was not real, and that the future she wished for was too idealistic, much like the toy that didn’t do as advertised, or the painting supplies that did not work as well, or the trips that disappointed.

She feared that in her mind, she had built Lexa up to this impossible image of perfection and beauty and kindness and such loveliness that there was no way that it could all be true, no way that that image of her could be real.

But most of all, despite her wonderful memories of them together, and despite how much she told herself and everyone else that she still loved her wholeheartedly, she feared that when she finally did see Lexa again, there wouldn’t be that same flutter in her heart, that same longing to be close to her and to hold her. This fear had been so terrifying that she kept it hidden from everyone, and for the most part, even herself.

Here was the moment when all of her fears could be realized.

Well. The only thing she realized now was just how utterly off base her fears had been.

Because Lexa was in front of her right now, and it was better than all the memories, idealized or not, that she had of her, of this moment.

Her heart was beating faster than she thought possible. Her need to breathe and seeming inability to do so battling each other in her chest. The silence and stillness in the world were stifling as her brain essentially shut down all of her other senses to allow her to focus on taking in the sight in front of her, to memorize every little detail. It was as if her mind knew she had been starved of this sight for so long that she needed to drown herself in it, like a dehydrated traveler lost in the desert who had just found an oasis.

She was so beautiful. And so real.

She could only watch silently as Lexa, seemingly in slow motion, took the last few steps towards her until she reached the chair opposite of hers. She watched her grab hold of the chair and then pause as her eyes sought permission to sit. As if Clarke could do anything more than just stare dumbly back at her right now. When she didn’t receive any feedback from Clarke, she gently pulled the chair back and sat down.

Clarke couldn’t take her eyes away from her. She watched her pull off her knit cap and shook her hair free, the falling strands framing her face perfectly. Her hair looked different now, darker, as if she had seen less sun wherever she had been. It was also styled with softer, tamer curls. Clarke scanned her face, drinking in the details. She followed the arch of her eyebrows, the line of her nose, the curve of her jaw. She was less tanned than before, but her skin was just as smooth and flawless, the only mark being that lovely mole in the same place above her lips. Her lips. A shiver went through Clarke as she focused on her lips, remembering what they tasted like.

She forced her gaze away from her lips, back up her nose, and then finally, finally, let herself meet her eyes.

She had spent so much time thinking about them, so much time drawing and painting them, that she could see them in her mind every time she closed her eyes. And now they were in front of her. Her eyes—god, her eyes—were as green as ever, greener than she remembered even. Deep and soulful as always. Yet, perhaps more . . . weathered. Clarke tried and failed to find that trademark twinkle in her eyes.

She knew she was staring longer than was appropriate, but then again, what were the guidelines on how long she could stare when the love of her life, one whom she had been waiting for every week for the past two years, shows up unexpectedly? She didn’t know.

So she indulged herself and continued to stare to her heart’s content.

It was Lexa who spoke first, her voice cutting through the daze clouding Clarke’s mind, finally allowing the rest of the world to slowly make its way back in.

"It is good to see you again, Clarke."

Her voice sounded almost the same, soft but clear, replete with her characteristic cadence and crisp enunciation that always imparted a sense of informal formality, no matter how close she was to the person. Though now, Clarke couldn't be sure that it was not real formality. Her speech also seemed tinged with a faint accent she couldn't immediately place. It added a rather subtle melodious quality to her words.

Clarke's mind still reeled from hearing her say her name so many times, and she was unable to find her own voice. So she just nodded. She didn’t know what else to do. She eventually managed to pull herself from Lexa’s incapacitating gaze and looked down at the table.

Still dazed, she picked up the plate containing her half-eaten chocolate croissant and held it out for Lexa, silently offering it with her eyes as she could not form words.

Lexa smiled at her gesture, but lightly shook her head. Her smile.

She saw Lexa look around them, taking in their surroundings. It was so cold out that there was no one else sitting outside besides the two of them.

"I hear that Jasper runs the cafe now? I remember he always wanted to. He had such wonderful ideas for it. I am very happy that he was able to see his vision through."

Clarke nodded. Her voice finally returned and she said, "He still sells chocolate croissants."

Now, of all the many, many things she had thought of saying when she first saw Lexa again, talking about Jasper's pastry offerings was most decidedly not one of them.

But Lexa smiled again at that, in the kind way she always did whenever Clarke said something nonsensical or silly, and indulged her, looking down at the plate before saying, "They look delicious."

When Clarke did not reply, too busy mentally reprimanding herself for wasting her first words to Lexa on pastries, Lexa tried again, "I have been to many bakeries in London, but I do not think I have had any that were as good as the ones from here."

London. London. So that was where she had been this whole time. It placed her soft, not-quite-there accent. Why, why didn’t she think to wander around Europe randomly to look for her?

"You were in London?” she heard her voice ask, surprising herself at how coherent she actually sounded. “This whole time?"

Lexa might have been surprised as well, because she took a moment before confirming with a nod. "Yes, my editor set me up with a flat. I finished my last book there."

Clarke gave a slight nod as she digested this information, still a little overwhelmed.

"How have you been, Clarke?"

She thought about how to answer her. Miserable, Lexa. I've been in constant pain since you've left. I've been heartbroken and lonely and angry at myself. I regret so much and I’ve had to live with that every single day you were gone. I've missed you more than I thought I could ever miss anything.

I am alive, but I am not living.

“I’ve been good, Lexa.” The words she wanted to say seemed stuck in her throat. She swallowed thickly. “What about you?”

“Things are good with me too. I just moved back to work on a new book. It took me a while to readjust to life back in the States, but it has been fun rediscovering everything I love about this city.” Her eyes flickered for just a split second on those words. Clarke couldn’t help but wonder if, like her, she was also caught on the word love. But whatever it was in her eyes disappeared too quickly.

“Are you living with Anya?”

Lexa shook her head. “She helped me find a place. It is in a good neighborhood. It’s nice.”

“That’s great.” Clarke managed a weak smile. “Are you staying?” Her heart thumped hard against her chest and she held her breath.

She was able to breathe easy again when Lexa nodded. “Yes, most likely. For the foreseeable future at least.”

The smile she gave in response to that was real.

“How is your art work going?”

“It is going well, actually. I have a gallery opening soon.” She could faintly recall that she had a lot to do for that today, but everything seemed trivial when compared to what she was doing right now. Making small talk.

“I am happy for you, Clarke. Your art has always been amazing.”

They fell into silence again. Clarke couldn’t stop staring at her. The intensity of her gaze seemed to force Lexa to turn away, looking to the trees in the distance.

Everything that was happening seemed surreal. Her mind was running in overdrive but her body felt paralyzed.

When Lexa finally looked back, the expression in her face was somber. She took a breath and started, “Clarke—“

“I’m sorry,” Clarke blurted out, unable to hold it back any longer.

Lexa was taken aback by the sudden, unexpected declaration. 

Clarke’s mind raced with all the words she wanted to say, all the words she had practiced over and over again as she prepared for this very moment unfolding in front of her right now. I’m sorry, Lexa. I’m sorry for everything. I am sorry for all the pain I put you through. I was hurt and I should have told you. Should have worked it out with you. But I was stupid and I didn’t know how much you meant to me until I lost you. I know I don’t deserve it, don’t deserve anything good, but please give me a chance to make it up to you, any way that you want me to.

But her throat was dried and her tongue felt coarse and heavy and all she could manage was repeating a low, soft “I’m sorry.”

She saw a splash of pain flicker across Lexa’s eyes, but it was gone as soon as it appeared. Lexa seemed better able to hide her emotions now. Or maybe Clarke just couldn’t read her, just didn’t know her, anymore.

“I’m so sorry I hurt you, Lexa.”

All of the air in her lungs seemed to follow those words. Those words that she had wanted to say to her for so long. Now finally spoken. Yet instead of feeling the weight of them lifted from her shoulders as she had expected, she felt the words swirl and cloud around in the air surrounding them, suffocating her as she waited with bated breath for her response.

She watched Lexa look down at her hands held clasped in her lap. She didn’t look up at Clarke when she gave an imperceptible nod and answered, in barely a whisper, “Okay.” When she finally did look up, she was as expressionless as Clarke had ever seen her.

“Thank you for saying that, Clarke.”

“There is nothing you need to thank of me. What I did . . . how I did it, I hate myself every day for it. I never meant to hurt you so much, Lexa. That was the last thing in the world I would ever want. I just . . .” Her voice cracked as everything rushed to get out. “I’m sorry.”

“I know you are, Clarke. I know you mean it.” Lexa’s voice was soft, full of sadness and resignation. “I accept it.”

With this acknowledgement and acceptance of her apology, Clarke finally felt the weight of her years of regret and self-hatred freed from her body. She now felt so light and dizzy that she thought she was floating.

But she was quickly grounded when Lexa spoke again.

“Is there anything else, then, Clarke?”

Clarke didn’t know where to go from here. She had been so caught up in being able to apologize to Lexa that she couldn’t think of what she wanted to say now. She looked for guidance from Lexa, but she offered none.

“Well, yes,” she started. “Yes. There is so much I want to say to you, so much that I want to ask you.”

Lexa continued to look at her expectantly, patiently.

Clarke scrambled to think of what to do. How was she supposed to do this? Was she supposed to just jump right into telling her she still loved her? That she wanted another chance with her? She finally settled on asking a question she desperately wanted to know the answer to.

“Do you still hate me?”

Lexa gave a gentle smile as she looked to her side and shook her head slightly. “No.” She looked back at Clarke. “I never did. You know I could never hate you, Clarke.”

Do you still love me?

But Clarke couldn’t bring herself to ask that out loud. Because she was scared of what the answer might be. So she asked instead, “Then what are we now, Lexa?”

“What can we be?”

So much.

Clarke was suddenly tired of this. Of dancing around with words, avoiding what they both knew needed to be said. She had waited so many weeks for this moment, and now it was here, and she was not going to waste another second.

“I still love you, Lexa.”

The moment she said it to her was also the exact moment she realized how true that statement was, how much she still felt it. She felt her heart suddenly revitalized, as if it just woke up, pounding erratically, sending bursts of energy through the veins traveling all over her body. So she continued, spurred by her surge of emotions, desperate to let it all out.

“I never stopped loving you, Lexa. Even when I was driving you away. I don’t think I can ever stop.”

She stared hard at Lexa’s face, hoping to find that familiar softening of her brow, that twinkle in her eyes, that slight upward twitch of the corner of her lips that used to be her response to Clarke’s frequent declarations of love.

But she couldn’t find it. The only indication she was processing the information was the downward flicker of her eyes and slight hitch in her breath.

Lexa was silent for long moments. And when she finally looked up at Clarke, her eyes were wide and sad. And perhaps glossier than before.

“What is love to you, Clarke? Is it this?” She gestured calmly around them, indicating the situation. “Waiting for me every week here for two years? Is love just grand and dramatic gestures?”

No. Love is what I feel for you while I’m waiting. Love is wishing, every second of every day, that I could finally see you again. Love is hoping you’re happy, wherever you are, even though I’m not.

But Lexa was saying more than she had the entire time she was here, so Clarke let her continue.

Lexa sighed. “You were always so good at that. The surprises, the planning, the gifts, the thoughtfulness. It was why I could never stay mad at you. I loved you for it.”

Loved. It sounded so wrong coming out of Lexa’s lips, about her.

“But, Clarke, I didn’t need all this.” She was speaking faster now. “I didn’t need you to come here and wait for me to prove your undying love for me. I just—” She stopped herself suddenly and looked away, as if frustrated. When she spoke again, her voice was back to its previous softness. “I didn’t need much from you, Clarke. I know things were hard for you when Wells . . . when it happened. I knew you needed your space, and I tried to give that to you. I was going to wait for you, be there for you, no matter how long it took, no matter what it took. I just needed a smile from you. A hug, anything, to let me know that we were going to be okay.”

She sighed. “I just needed you to hold my hand and tell me that things might be difficult for a while for us, but that you still cared about us, that you still loved me.”

Clarke could feel her recently restarted heart slowly breaking again. The pain was just as great, if not worse, than the first time through, as she thought about what Lexa had just said, and asked herself how – how? – could she not have done those little things that Lexa had wanted her to, had needed her to. When Lexa had done so much for her.

“I gave you everything, Clarke. All of me. My life, my heart, my soul. I never loved anyone as much as I loved you. I never thought I could. Because all my life, no one had ever made me feel like I was worthy of such love, such passionate, romantic, forever kind of love. I was resigned to that. And then I met you, and you made me believe it was possible.”

Her emotions were breaking through her newfound stoic façade, and Clarke saw tears gather in her eyes even as she tried to blink them back in. She watched as a teardrop broke through her efforts and slowly rolled down her cheek. She felt an instinctual urge to reach out and wipe it away, or kiss it away, as she had done in the past. But things were different now. She couldn’t do that anymore. So she forced her eyes back up to Lexa’s, trying hard not to focus on the stabbing pain her chest, the pounding in her head, the sharp ache where her nails were digging into her palms from gripping her hands so tight.

“I loved you so much, Clarke. I was so hopeful for us that it made me selfish. I wanted to be with you forever, just so I could love you forever. I even bought a—” She sucked in a breath as she caught herself.

She shook her head slightly, as if to bring some clarity back to herself, and hastily wiped the tears falling from her eyes.

Finally, Clarke found her voice. She was surprised at how hoarse it sounded and she struggled to get words out while still processing everything Lexa had just said.

“Lexa, I know,” she choked back tears, “I know—” Her voice cracked. She tried again. “I know you loved me with everything you had. Loved me more than I ever deserved. And I know I broke your heart. I was stupid and selfish and I didn’t realize what I had with you until you were no longer there. It kills me to think about how much I hurt you. It kills me that I lost you. It’s been killing me ever since. I was in a bad place then, Lexa. I’m sorry I dealt with it the way I did.”

Lexa appeared to have collected herself somewhat. Her eyes were red, but she was no longer crying. “I know you were, Clarke. I am sorry I could not help you through it.”

Tears were streaming down Clarke’s cheeks now, but she didn’t care anymore. She needed to continue. “But Lexa, you have to know. You . . . wonderful, beautiful, selfless you . . . if anyone in this world deserved any love at all, it would be you, Lexa. You have to know that. I loved you with all my heart, and I still do. I will always love you. You were always the best part of me. Give me one more chance to show it to you, Lex. One more chance to do it right. I . . . I’ll do better. I’ll do anything.”

The silence that ensued was louder than anything Clarke had ever heard.

Lexa looked at her sadly. “Love should not be so hard, Clarke. It should not be just heartbreak and pain and regret. It should not be this.” She gestured between the two of them. “It should not be so easy for two people who love each other to hurt one another as much as we did.”

She shook her head. “Look what we have done to each other, Clarke. I was so lost and devastated after you. Think about everything we have been through. Was it worth all the anguish and heartache? Was it really worth it?”

“Yes.” Answered quickly, unequivocally.

Lexa looked away from her. “It wasn’t, Clarke. Not for me.”


Nothing in this world. Nothing in her short life on this earth. Nothing that she had experience in the past two years of waiting in heartbreak. Nothing.

Nothing hurt her so much as hearing those words come out of Lexa’s mouth.

“What will happen when life gives us another rough patch, Clarke? Life isn’t going to be kind to us just because we have already been through so much. What will happen if something as dramatic and tragic occurs again? And you feel the need to run away again?”

Clarke was reeling from everything. She didn’t know how to answer.

Lexa didn’t give her a chance to. “I cannot go through that again, Clarke.” There was such despondence in her voice, such defeat, as if she was surrendering to the truth of those words. It made Clarke’s heart ache. Her voice then became a whisper. “I can’t. I am not strong enough.”

It was too much for Clarke. She didn’t know what else she could do. She just needed Lexa to know how much she loved her.


“Do you remember,” Lexa interrupted, “what I said to you? That night, in the rain?”

“How can I forget? I relive it every night.”

“I told you that if you walked away, there wouldn’t be anything left of me to love, that there wouldn’t be anything left of me to be able to love you. It is true. And it is not because of anger or hatred or spite. I just . . . broke. The Lexa you loved, the Lexa who loved you . . . she died that night you left her in the rain.”

Lexa didn’t seem angry when she said this. She just seemed somber, accepting that this was the truth.

This wasn’t happening. Clarke couldn’t let it end like this. “Lexa,” she began, frantically. “Lexa, no, that can’t be true. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. Please give me a chance to make it right again.”

Lexa shook her head sadly. “There’s nothing to make right, Clarke. Life dealt us a bad hand, and we just responded the only way we knew how. I am now giving you resolution. I am giving you closure, so you can move on, so we can both move on. I am okay. I don’t have any ill-will towards you. I could never. You were such an important part of my life. I shared so much of myself with you. And you . . .” She swallowed thickly, “You’ll always have a place in my heart.”

“No, Lexa, listen—”

“There’s someone else, Clarke.”

Clarke froze in silence, the words she was going to say forgotten.

Lexa looked away, seeming to focus on the falling leaves to the left of Clarke.

“I met her in London. She is finishing her Ph.D. in a year and then she will come here.”

They let the silence loom in front of them. The two of them were sitting in the exact same place as that day they met when their whole lives were changed, but the situation could not be more different.

Clarke looked at Lexa, sitting no more than three feet away. Yet it felt like there was still an entire ocean between them.

Lexa broke the silence. “Time does heal all wounds, Clarke. Even deep, deep wounds. I know that firsthand. I want you to be okay too. You were wrong before, you know. When you said you don’t deserve love. Because you do. You are such a good person, Clarke. You have such a good heart.” Her voice cracked. She had to stop to breathe deep before continuing. “You have so much love in you. You deserve all the happiness and love someone can give you.”

Then, “It just can’t be me.”

With that, Lexa pushed back her chair and stood from her seat. She gave Clarke one last heartbreaking look before turning to walk away.

Clarke watched her move farther and farther away, the leaves falling around her, filling the space her retreating body left. She watched and watched until she disappeared around the fountain. And then she continued to watch some more.

She didn’t know how long she stared after her. She didn’t know anything. Her brain seemed to have stopped working.

The next thing she knew was that she felt wet. She looked up and saw that the skies were grey and gloomy and the clouds that had been in the distance were now closer. She could hear the rolling of thunder in the distance. Raindrops were lightly falling. She tilted her head up, welcoming the sensation of cold drops hitting her face, her nose, her chin. Dripping down her neck. The drops hit her eyes, forcing her to close them. She wanted the rain to come drench her, to drown her, to wash her away. To cleanse her of her pain. She felt the weight of all the fears and denials and false optimism she had allowed herself these past two years finally come crashing down on top of her, and she willingly collapsed with it, unable to stop it, happy even, to no longer have to shoulder that heavy burden of hope.

She didn’t see him come out because her eyes were closed, but she felt him standing next to her. Her eyes opened at the feel of his hand placed gently on her shoulder. She turned to look at him, still somewhat dazed, through eyes blurry from the rain and her tears, and watched as he kneeled down until his head was leveled with hers. He had a pained and sympathetic expression on his face, and in his warm brown eyes was love. Wordlessly, he leaned his forehead against hers for a moment, letting her feel his presence there, with her, before pulling her into a tight hug. He ran his hands soothingly up and down her back and she grabbed onto him tighter and tighter. So tight she thought he would break. But he didn’t.

He held onto her like that for long minutes. And only pulled away when the rain really began to pick up, completely soaking them. He quietly helped her to her feet and led her back into the café. All the while, his heart was silently breaking for his friend.

Chapter Text

Lexa looked all around her. She didn’t know how she got here, but she had suddenly found herself in a sea of yellow. She tried to gather more about her environment, taking in the blue sky, the white clouds, and the bright, bright sun. There were brightly colored birds she couldn’t recognize flying overhead. Aside from the chirping of the birds and the whistling of the breeze, there was no other noise. She could tell that it should be a hot day, but she couldn’t feel the heat. Looking down at herself, she immediately noted that she was in the body of a young girl in a sundress, wearing white sandals. It felt unusual, but she wasn’t frightened, simply accepting it as fact that she was now a young girl.

When she looked up again, she saw a familiar van to the side of the field. And standing next to it, with their arms around each other, were her parents. Anya - Young Anya - was standing there too, in her jeans and T-shirt, with her hands folded in front of her. All of them had smiles on their faces, watching her from afar.

She called and waved to them to come play with her, but they made no effort to get to her, remaining standing there next to the van.

Puzzled, but still unconcerned, Lexa turned back to the field. The flowers were everywhere, gently swaying back and forth with the breeze. She could each of them so clearly and she could smell them in the air, in her clothes, in her hair, in her skin. They made her so unexplainably happy, the happiness she had ever been, that she couldn’t help but stretch both of her arms out, as if to embrace all of them at once.

She then started spinning around, watching as the yellow marigolds that extended as far as her eyes could see started to blur together until she eventually had to close her eyes to keep from becoming too dizzy. She felt so light and giddy and carefree that she thought she could float up into the air to join the birds. She heard a laugh – a high-pitched, childlike laugh, as full of sweetness and innocence as a laugh could be – coming from her lips. That spurred her to speed up her spinning. All of a sudden, she felt herself trip and fall, landing, without any pain, on her back in the bed of flowers.

Lying there on her back, out of breath and still giddy and dizzy, she opened her eyes and looked up at the sky, expecting to see blue. But it had suddenly turned to night and the sky was now filled with shimmering stars instead. And once in a while, a shooting star would streak across with a flash of brightness, leaving a magical trail of light that seemed to remain there, suspended in the middle of the night sky. It was unusual and mysterious and beautiful and she didn’t question it. She tried to look for her favorite stars, seeking out the well-known constellations, but the patterns in this sky were different, and she couldn’t find any of them.

After a while, she decided to sit up. When she looked around her, she saw the same field of flowers, only now it was under the soft gleam of the moon and starlight instead of stark light of the sun. Now, in all the times she had thought about this field, she had never imagined how it would look at night, so what she saw now amazed her. Each individual flower was emitting a soft yellow light, waxing and waning in intensity from dim to bright, bright to dim. Each flower was offset from its neighbors, so the entire field was filled with slowly pulsing, glowing luminescence all around her. She looked down and reached out to touch one of the flowers. It felt cool and soft against her fingertips. She desperately wanted to pick one up, but was worried it would then die and lose its light.

When she finally pulled her gaze from the flowers and looked up, she saw that her parents and Anya were nowhere to be seen. Instead, in the middle of the field, there was a canvas on an easel, with someone sitting in front of it, painting the flowers and shooting stars. On a stool beside the painter, instead of paint supplies, were a cup of coffee and a chocolate croissant. And though she could only see her back, she knew who it was instantly from the color of her hair that almost blended in with the flowers.

With the recognition came a swell of happiness inside her chest. She felt her heart start to beat faster.

“Clarke!” she yelled out, as she started to make her way closer to her.

Clarke turned and met her eyes. Lexa saw a sad smile form on her face, but she didn’t say anything and didn’t move towards her. She stood there, waiting patiently for Lexa to reach her.

And Lexa tried. She really did. She took off on a sprint towards Clarke, but the distance between them remained the same. It was as if the field was growing wider and wider, in time with her running, to keep her from reaching her goal. She ran faster and faster, but the field grew and grew. All around her, the glow of the flowers became brighter and brighter and the rate of the pulsing matched her pounding heart. She knew she was going to run out of breath soon, but no matter how hard she tried, she could not reach Clarke.

Then, without warning, she felt her foot hit something and down she went.

Lexa suddenly awoke with a start, sitting upright in bed. She could feel sweat beading on her forehead and her entire body was shaking as her breaths came out in ragged huffs. There was a suffocating fogginess in the air. She anxiously looked around her, taking in the environment and slowly recognizing it as her bedroom. Realization finally dawned on her.

It was just another dream, she told herself, as she wrapped her arms around her body. Just another dream.

About Clarke.

Now Clarke had appeared in many of her dreams in the month since their café meeting, but this dream was different. It was particularly poignant and powerful and left her feeling like she had really just been running her heart out through that field. And she did not know why this one mixed Clarke in so clearly with her deep-rooted memory of the field. Her other dreams of Clarke had mostly been of real moments of their past relationship together, replete, of course, with the fanciful, ephemeral quality that was characteristic of memories manipulated through the sleeping mind.

She pushed strands of damp hair from her forehead and glanced at the flip clock on her bedside dresser. She had more time before she needed to get up. The sky outside was just barely aglow with the light of dawn. But she knew she would not be able to go back to sleep again. So, with a heavy sigh, she pushed her legs out from under her heavy blanket and stood from the bed, testing the strength in her legs before she started to move.

The atmosphere in the room was dense and heavy. She made her way to her bedroom window and pulled it open, closing her eyes and tilting her head back when the fresh, crisp air hit her face and cooled her fevered skin. After a moment, she leaned her head on the side of the window and looked out into the streets of her neighborhood. The rest of the world was beginning to wake as well, and the sights and sounds and smells succeeded in pulling her completely away from the world of dreams.

She felt an unfamiliar heaviness that she could not identify settle in her chest as she fully reentered the real world and she let out a deep breath to try to relieve it, but it was unsuccessful. Because that was not how one resolved disappointment.

She shook her head and pushed away from the window, moving swiftly to her closet to grab what she needed for a shower.

Stop it, she chided herself. Stop all of it.

She welcomed the cold spray of water as it hit her face, washing from her the already fleeing remnants of the dream. She held still under the jets of water with her eyes closed, trying to keep her mind blank. And it worked for all of ten seconds.

She apparently did not have as much control of her faculties as she previously thought, because despite her best efforts to think about nothing, and then about anything else, her mind went back to that day in the café, much as it had done many times this past month.

She replayed that scene in her mind, from making her slow, seemingly endless walk towards her, to seeing her body tense at the sound of her voice, to her eventually looking up and then, to finally, finally meeting her eyes. She recalled the words that she had forced herself to say, some of which had been practiced many times before and some of which were so spontaneous that it surprised even herself. She remembered all the small changes in her face in response to everything she said, which became more and more devastating. And then her mind, mercilessly, replayed the look of absolute dejection and surrender in her once bright eyes when she turned to walk away. And now that was going to be the last image she had of her.

The shower was not as refreshing as she had hoped.

Frustrated, she pulled back the curtains and grabbed her towel which she quickly wrapped around her torso. With her hair moved to one side, she reached for a smaller towel to dry her hair. As she did so, her eyes looked to the mirror and were immediately caught on the tattoo on her shoulder. Towel forgotten, she turned to more clearly see the tattoo in the mirror. It seemed clearer today than usual, a sharply demarcated brand on her otherwise unmarked skin. She traced her fingers lightly across the long-set ink and thought that somehow, it felt just as raw  today as the day she got the tattoo.

Lexa nestled deeper into the pillows she had piled on the couch to create a comfortable lounge for reading. Her feet were cozy and warm inside her mismatched Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff socks, tucked underneath her blanket. She had a steaming cup of coffee to the side, and a book of poetry opened on her lap, which she had opted for instead of a novel, as her mind was too disjointed to follow a long storyline right now. One of the reasons she enjoyed poetry was its ability to draw the reader deeply into the poem with just a few words, and that, along with the intense emotions and profound revelations it could invoke, made for a powerful reading experience. It was the most efficient, and oftentimes the most effective, form of writing. One that was exceedingly hard to master, as Lexa knew from experience.

This particular poem she was reading was a favorite of hers, telling the story of a star that did not have his own place in the sky. He was always being shuffled about and pushed around by some of the other stars, and had to dash back and forth all over the night sky. What he did not realize was that the nightly journeys he made while searching for a place of his own were visible to the people of earth. And when he found out that he was beloved by everyone, far and wide, that people waited long hours just to catch a glimpse of one of his journeys, that they even made wishes upon seeing him, he decided that he would continue to do that forever, just so he could continue to provide hope for everyone.

This poem always warmed her heart, and it did not fail her today. Her hand started to draw a shooting star next to the poem on the page as her mind went to the memory of the meteor shower that night. She had watched it on her balcony, by herself, after gently refusing her sister’s kind offer of company. And she remember that when she looked to the stars that night, exhausted in mind, body and spirit, she had been hopeful to see her favorites as she remembered them. But she was surprised to find that they still did not look the same even though she was back home, as she thought they would when she was in London.

She had realized that perhaps home was not a location.

She was so drawn into the poem that she did not hear the doorbell until the third ring. Mildly disoriented, she placed the book upside down on the coffee table and pushed the blanket off to walk to the door. She wondered who it could be. Anya had a key, and she had not given her address out to anyone here yet.

She did not think to use the peephole on the door and instead just reached for the doorknob, pulling the door open in one swift motion.

And there, standing in front of the doorway, with timid smiles on their faces, and hands held up in an awkward frozen wave, were Raven and Octavia.

Lexa stood there in surprise, eyes wide and mouth slightly ajar.

She had not seen the two of them in more than two years, not since their last conversation shortly after she moved out of the apartment she shared with Clarke, when she told them that she understood the reality of the situation, that there was no perfect way for them all to maintain the close friendship they shared. She knew the long history they had with Clarke, and how important they were to Clarke. She told them that it would not be fair to put them in the middle.

Raven and Octavia had resisted of course, at first trying to put in good words for Clarke, saying that she was just grieving, and that she would soon realize what a mistake she had made. Then, when that did not convince Lexa, they insisted that they could still see Lexa and make their friendship work.

Lexa had smiled sadly then, touched that they were fighting so hard to keep her in their lives. She noted that she had Anya still, but Clarke only had the two of them. And she was really going to need them by her side, because even though Clarke was strong and resilient for most things, when it came to her heart, she was quite fragile, often falling into herself. She felt things in the extreme, loving with all her might and hurting just as deep.

And of course Raven and Octavia knew that was true. So Lexa made it easy for them, taking herself out of the equation, even though it hurt her so much to do so. She held back her tears as she hugged them goodbye, promising to try to reconnect once things got better.

There had been many times in the first few months when she momentarily forgot and picked up her phone to tell Octavia about a clothing sale she saw, or to ask Raven if she wanted any food from the Ark, only to remember at the last minute that she did not have that privilege anymore. This fact, that she was so close to her friends but was not able to see them, contributed to her decision to leave for London.

And here they were, standing there in front of her. Though perhaps a little more awkwardly now, as they shifted their feet and glanced at each other. Probably because she had been staring at them for many long seconds without saying a word yet.

She snapped out of her daze and stepped forward to wrap her arms around both of them, pulling them into a three-way hug. She felt them tense in her arms for just a brief moment before their bodies relaxed into the embrace.

She pulled back to look at them more thoroughly as her face finally broke out into a wide grin at the sight. They both looked so lovely. She did not know how it was possible that Octavia was now even more stunning than before, looking much like the fashion models she worked with, but of course with the exceptions of her warm, ever expressive eyes and her easily given smile. Raven’s natural beauty also now shined through brighter than ever, made the more intriguing by the aura of mischievousness radiating off of her in spades as well as the constant shadow of a smirk that was always lurking at the corner of her lips.

Just seeing them smile back at her was enough to warm her heart and quiet her previously chaotic mind.

“I have missed you two so much. It is so great to see you again.” Then, remembering her manners, she stepped back and held the door open as she waved them in. “Come in, come in.”

Raven stepped through first, followed by Octavia, and both looked around her new apartment while they waited for her to close the door. When she turned around to face them again, she saw Raven look her up and down.

“You look great, Lexa,” Raven said, beaming at her, “Hot as hell, still. No, wait. Hotter than hell now.”

Octavia smiled and nodded in agreement.

“Raven,” Lexa reprimanded, insincerely, shaking her head knowingly as she felt her cheeks go red. She tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and quickly moved to lead them into the living room. She was secretly so happy that things could be light and easy among them still.

“Oh god, Lexa, you had to pick up a posh British accent, too? Stop making the rest of us mortals look bad.”

Octavia laughed and finally spoke, “Raven, you should probably stop it before Lexa becomes redder than a beet.” Lexa gave her a grateful look. Until she added, “But make her say my name with her fancy accent too.”

Raven did feel bad about their teasing (but only a little bit), because she remembered that even though Lexa could usually stand her ground in these little harmless teasing back-and-forths, she effectively became useless whenever someone complimented her looks.

“Come here.” She stepped forward to hug Lexa again. Tighter and longer this time. “We’re so happy you’re back.” She felt her heart break a little when she released Lexa and saw that her eyes were glistening.

Lexa quickly looked away and moved to clear the couch of her millions and millions of pillows, making sure to place her old blanket covered with the constellations underneath everything, as she was conscious of how childish it might appear. While looking down at the floor though, she noticed her mismatched Harry Potter socks and internally groaned. So much for not appearing childish.

Once the couch was cleared, she ushered them to sit and took a seat herself in the lounge chair, making sure to place her feet as out of sight as possible.

“Would you two like something to drink? Coffee? Tea? Or maybe some water?”

“No, that’s okay, Lexa, I think we’re fine. Thank you,” Octavia said.

They then fell into silence. Now that Lexa had gotten over her initial surprise, she began to wonder if there was a reason for their sudden visit. If they were there to talk about . . . her. Her heart started to race and she felt her stomach drop at the thought of having to talk about what happened between the two of them, even if it was only to Raven and Octavia.

Octavia seemed to sense her tension, because she quickly spoke up, “Don’t worry, Lexa. We’re not here to talk about . . . Clarke.”

Raven quickly chimed in. “Yeah, we’re not, Lexa. We promise. We just really wanted to see you again.”

Lexa let out the breath she was holding and gave a weak smile. “Thanks.” Then, her curiosity peaked and she asked, “How did you find me?”

“After Clarke—, after we found out you were back, we wanted to see you right away, but we figured you probably needed some time to . . .,” Raven glanced at Octavia, “unpack and readjust to life back in America and all that. But I eventually called Anya yesterday and asked for your address. I said we wanted to surprise you. I hope that’s okay.”

Lexa felt guilty that she had been so preoccupied with everything that had been going on in her life, with the move back and then with the café meeting with Clarke, that she had not thought of seeking out them first. Although, to be fair, they had fallen under the all-encompassing category of “things related to Clarke” that Lexa had been trying desperately to keep out of her mind.

“Yes, of course, Raven. I am so happy you two came. I’m sorry I did not find you two sooner. I . . .”

Octavia interjected. “It’s okay, Lexa. We understand.” Because they did. “We just wanted to see how you are.” Then, as if remembering something, she added, “Oh, did you know we got your letters?”

About a month after she moved to London, Lexa had written individual letters to Raven and Octavia, which Anya helped deliver to them personally. In those letters, Lexa expressed heartfelt thanks to them for their friendship and support, especially during the time after Clarke’s accident, noting how they were some of the best friends she ever had. She recounted personal memories with each of them that that she would always treasure. She explained that she had moved out of the country, without specifying where, and apologized for not seeing them before she left since it was last minute. And at the end, rather heartbreakingly, she asked them not to hold anything against Clarke for what happened between the two of them, and implored them to continue to care for Clarke as they had always done so well. And that was the last communication they had had.

Lexa smiled and nodded. “Yes, Anya told me. I knew she would get them to you.”

“Thank you for sending them, Lexa,” Raven said. “We wanted to write back, but Anya wouldn’t take them. We understood why.” She smiled to show that she did. Lexa returned it.

“Oh, that also reminds me. There is another reason for our visit today.” Octavia reached into her purse and pulled out two envelopes. She handed them to Lexa. “Lincoln and I are getting married. You know you’ve always meant a lot to me, to both of us. We would love to have you there to celebrate with us. Lincoln actually wanted to come by today too, but his work is keeping him busy. He says hi though. The other invitation is for Anya. Lincoln was really excited for us to invite her too. She’s always been the only one who could stand to listen to him go on and on about motorcycles all day.”

Lexa looked down at the top envelope and saw her name written across the top in beautiful handwritten script. The other envelope was addressed to Anya.

She was very happy for Lincoln and Octavia. They had been together for as long as she had known them. Longer even. They were always the go-to double date couple for her and Clarke. And she had shared special moments of commiseration with Lincoln about the trials of dating someone in the Trio (a term they only used with each other), especially when said Trio members were fighting with each other and putting their significant others in the middle. She really wanted to go for them, but just the thought of being at a wedding, one where she knew Clarke would be too, set off all her self-preservation alarms.

Octavia noted her hesitation, so she explained softly, “Raven and Clarke are my co-maids of honor. I have spoken with her. She knows that I’m inviting you.”

When Lexa still did not say anything, she added, “It’s not for a while yet, so take your time to decide. I’m saving you a seat no matter what anyway.”

Lexa pulled herself together enough to smile. “Congratulations. I am incredibly happy for the two of you.” She was careful not to make any promises.

They fell into silence again. And Raven did not do well with awkward silences.

“So, London, huh? Did you meet the queen? How long does one have to live there before they can have an attractive British accent? I’m asking for a friend. Oh, and did you finally find Hogwarts? Is that where you got those brilliant socks? Are those in adult size or just large children’s socks?” She wink and pointed to Lexa’s feet.

Her barrage of ridiculous questions broke the tension. They all laughed as Lexa pulled her feet out from where she had tried to discreetly, but unsuccessfully, hide them from plain sight. She wiggled her toes.

Conversation got easier after that. Lexa told them about all about her time in London. She told them that no, she did not meet the queen, though she did see her from afar during a parade; that it was probably about a year or so when she first noticed that she had started pronouncing certain words with a slight accent, but after only being back for two months, she was already reverting back to her pre-accent days; that yes, she visited Platform Nine and Three-Quarters at King’s Cross Station and also the dining hall at Oxford University, but unfortunately, to her very real disappointment, she was not able to actually find Hogwarts; so no, her socks were not purchased from there; and that they actually had to be specifically ordered from a special website with a long waitlist. She made sure to pause there to check that Raven was satisfied with her answers. (She was.)

Lexa then told them that she loved the rich history of the city, evidenced in much of the architecture there, and she loved being able to visit the places she had read so much about in her favorite books. She loved the peacefulness of English countryside whenever she made it out there because she never had an easier time writing than when she was sitting alone on a grassy knoll on a beautiful, sunny day, with just her journal and fountain pen.

She mentioned that she did not love the weather, mostly because she does not like rain very much, but also because of what it did to her hair. She actually cut her hair shorter not long after she arrived, but she eventually found the right products to use to combat it. Not having to worry about her hair was one of the best parts of being back home.  

She talked about Gustus and how his family took her in as one of their own, about how Indra was an amazing cook and made her take so much leftovers home that she had to run an extra mile every day to work off all the extra food she ate. Indra’s cooking was one of the things she missed most about London.

Raven and Octavia asked her all sorts of questions, as they had never been to England before. Octavia in particular was curious about her experience, because she and Lincoln were still trying to decide where to go for their honeymoon.

Lexa answered all of their questions excitedly. It was so comfortable and just so much fun to be able to have this casual conversation with her friends that it almost overwhelmed her with how much she had missed this.

From their end, Raven and Octavia could not remember the last time they had seen Lexa laughing as she was doing now. When it was their turn, they gave updates about their own lives. Octavia talked about her promotion to management in her company and Lincoln’s motorcycle business. She told Lexa the story of how he proposed to her after a day of exploration in a cave in New Mexico. Raven talked about some of her research projects for a while (until Octavia gently, and then not so gently, prodded her to move on from that because she could talk about it all day and she knew Lexa would never interrupt her) and her plan to likely stay on as assistant professor once she completed her current graduate studies. She mentioned some of the people she had dated, but no one seriously at the moment.

By the time they were all caught up, two whole hours had passed. Octavia had received multiple text messages toward the end, and so with an apologetic look, she told Lexa they had to be going.

As they all stood from their seats, and Lexa got ready to walk them to the door, Raven gently put her hand on her forearm.

“Lexa, I know I promised I wouldn’t talk about Clarke . . .” She paused there, as she surveyed Lexa’s expression and waited for her to stop her. Lexa’s eyes were kind, and there was no hint of anger. She gave a small nod.

“I just wanted to tell you that she is having her first major gallery opening tomorrow night.” She reached in her bag and pulled out a small invitation card. “It’s just right downtown. She has worked so hard on this and we’re all so incredibly proud of her.” She handed the card to her, who took it slowly.

Lexa could not stop looking at what was printed on the card.

Raven continued, hesitantly. “If you have some time, you should stop by. I know you had always wanted . . . I mean, maybe just to look at the art. Everybody else will be there, too, and I’m sure they would all love to see you again.” Then she added, “Just think about it.”

Lexa finally looked up from the card. “I will. Thank you.”

She walked them to the door and hugged them. Raven held onto her for a second longer. “Don’t be a stranger, okay, Lexa?” She pulled back to look at her. “Not again.”

After they left, Lexa leaned back on the door and let out a deep breath before holding up the invitation card. She kept staring at the logo at the top of the card. It was a very familiar image to her. One that she saw most every day. She ran her finger gently over it, almost expecting to feel the sensation across the same image on her shoulder.

She could not help it when her lips turned up in a small, wistful smile.

Then, she softly whispered, “You really used it, didn’t you? Just like you promised.”

Chapter Text

Clarke looked all around her, taking in the chaotic scene. People were running about, trying to get every little thing in perfect order before the opening that evening. Kane was at the center of it all, giving out orders left and right. There had been some last minute changes with the arrangements of some of the paintings, and he was trying to get them moved into their new places. As people weaved around her, she took a moment to appreciate the fact that she was actually seeing the end result of her months and months of planning, and if she really thought about it, her many years of dedication to her craft.

Watching Kane work, Clarke had to admit that even though he drove her crazy sometimes (most times), he really had been quite instrumental in getting everything to come together. He had a great vision for the event, and then worked diligently with her to make it possible. His natural charisma and leadership, along with his attention to details, really complemented her own big-picture focus and desire to focus on her art. He dealt with all the details, made all the behind-the-scene arrangements, and made sure things were executed as planned. She was grateful, for sure, and she made a mental note to thank him with a bottle of his favorite wine after this was all over. She thought perhaps she should take him out to dinner too, but had to first consider if she really wanted to hear him lecture her more about everything she could be doing to promote her career.

She felt a mix of excitement and nervousness. This was really happening. She had pictured this moment ever since she decided to pursue a career in art instead of medicine, which had been expected of her all her life, at least from her physician mother. But she always knew this was where her heart lay. And now she had the chance to show everyone that she could be successful in this field.

She was now a long way away from being that precocious kindergartener who taped up her crayon drawings of the animal cartoon characters she made up and led her friends around to look at them. She smiled at the thought that tonight, she would once again lead her friends around, forcing them to look at the art she created. She hoped that perhaps they would be prouder of her than her childhood friends were, who had all lost interest after the third picture she showed them.

Her smile turned wistful as her eyes fell on her painting of a knight chess piece, dedicated to the memory of Wells, who was one of those childhood friends she led around so many years ago. He was the only one who, instead of walking away bored like the other children, stayed behind and told her he liked her drawings. That was when they had first become friends. Throughout their years of friendship, he had always promised that he would be here to support her, at her first major gallery opening, to be able to tell everyone that he saw the talent in her before anyone else. She knew he would be here if he could have. She hoped he would be proud of her.

Her thoughts were interrupted when she heard a voice behind her.

“Excuse us, Miss Griffin.”

Turning around, she saw two workers carrying a stand with her welcome sign. She glanced at it briefly before moving aside for them to place it near the entrance just behind the large floor to ceiling glass window looking out into the street. It was a simplistic sign, showing just her name, the name and date of the event, with a short quote related to the theme of the event, and the name of her representation. And at the very top of the sign was the flowing paintbrush that she had chosen to use as her logo.

Seeing the image today brought a sharp stab of pain to her chest. The crowd of people suddenly became too much for her, the noise too overwhelming, the air too suffocating. She needed to get some fresh air. Passing by Kane on her way to the door, she pointed to the door to indicate that she was taking a break. He nodded and quickly went back to giving out instructions to someone on the phone.

The cold air hit her as soon as she stepped through the door, and she greedily breathed it in, feeling it chill her from the inside out. It was refreshing, and it did help to relieve some of the weight in her chest. She glanced around her and decided to just start walking to her left. She hoped she would be able to clear her mind by the time she got back.

She was in the historic part of the city, filled with small shops and restaurants and cafes in old buildings with interesting architecture all around her. The streets were cobblestoned and were lined with old-timey lampposts, and ornate benches reminiscent of an era past were scattered along the side of the road. Not far across the street from the gallery was a small park where she saw a few people, bundled up due to the cold, walking their dogs. All the trees in the park were bare now, the leaves having lost their battle to the biting winter frost. Snow would come soon. She could almost feel it in her bones.

The past month had been quite difficult for her, but in a way she had never experienced before. She knew heartbreak, especially when it came to Lexa, and after her surprise appearance at the café, when she had rather unambiguously rejected Clarke’s plea for another chance, Clarke had expected herself to fall into another pit of despair, one so deep that she would never be able to get out of. As did her friends, apparently. Raven and Octavia were alerted by Jasper of what had transpired, and had arrived to her door ready to stay with her as long as necessary.

Clarke had pulled them into her arms, hugging them so tight that she never wanted to let go. She told them everything that happened between her and Lexa that day. There were tears shed, lots of it, that night, and they both stayed with her in solidarity. She was grateful for them. Of course she was. And the next day, she told them exactly that. But she also asked for some time alone to process everything, which they both understood. They left with clear instructions to call if she needed anything.

Clarke had spent the next few days alone in her apartment, painting. But not with the angry fervor or wild desperation she had been used to after such emotional events. Instead, she painted with a quiet melancholy, somber and pensive, waiting patiently for her heart to pick itself up off the floor after the near incapacitating pummeling it received, to dust itself off, and then to go on as best it could, crippled and scarred, and perhaps never to beat quite the same again.

It was different this time, she realized, from how she felt when Lexa left two years ago.

It was a different kind of fall. It was falling suddenly and unexpectedly from a high cliff of blissful love then, compared to finally tipping over a precarious perch on a low platform of dying hope now. The impact was not as great perhaps, but she had been barely held together before this second fall, which, low as it was, was enough to render her unequivocally broken. Though she managed to put herself together again somewhat, through the sheer will that came with maturity and experience, she knew she had nothing left in her to ever climb again.

But she surprised her friends, when she emerged from her apartment after just a few days, ready to dive back into her life again, to continue planning her event and the wedding. They were skeptical at first, but with time, they slowly accepted it as well, opting to let her take the lead on what she needed from them.

She did a good job of going on as she was before, attending outings when she was invited, drinking when it was appropriate, even laughing when it was expected.

Her heart went on beating, but only because it had to. She went on living, but only because she had to. There was very little joy in the act now.

She just felt . . . hollow. 

Clarke jammed her key into the lock and turned the doorknob in the most aggressive way possible before practically stomping through the doorway in a huff. The door slammed behind her as she dropped her bag on the floor and threw her keys into the bowl they kept near the entrance.

When she looked up, she saw Lexa in the living room, hair tied up in a messy bun, reclining against the armrest of the couch, feet up, with short, colorful socks on despite the fact that it was summer. Her laptop was opened and resting on her lap, but she had stopped typing due to the commotion, and was now looking at Clarke with soft, imploring eyes, through her giant, dorky glasses. Clarke felt her ire melt away a little at that sight. But just a little.

She proceeded to stomp into the kitchen and rummaged through the refrigerator until she found what she was looking for. She stuck her head out and waved a bottle of beer at Lexa, who just smiled and shook her head. So she continued her stomping into the living room, opening the bottle on the way and tossing the cap onto the coffee table.

“Ugh,” she groaned loudly as she flopped down onto the opposite side of the couch and took a sip from her bottle. “I can’t do this anymore. I want to quit. Please tell me to quit.”

Lexa took off her glasses and placed it, along with her laptop, on the coffee table. She then adjusted her position so she could reach over to wrap her arms around Clarke’s waist and bury her head in the crook of her shoulder, forcing Clarke to move the beer to her other hand to avoid spilling it all over the both of them. Lexa did not seem to notice.

“Hello, Clarke. Welcome home. Do you feel better now?”

With Lexa snuggled up next to her, grinning goofily and looking at her with those eyes, how could she not? So she nodded. “A little.”

“Come here.” Lexa somehow maneuvered her off the couch so that she was sitting on the floor with Lexa on the couch right above her with her legs on either side of her. Lexa reached down and began massaging her neck and shoulders. “There. How about now?”

Clarke closed her eyes and let out a satisfied sigh as she felt her muscles relaxed under Lexa’s masterful hands. “Okay, yes, I feel a lot better now.” Even though she could not see her face, she knew Lexa was smiling right now at just how easily she could always quell Clarke’s anger. But she did not want to give up her anger so readily this time.

“But I still want to quit. I am going to quit, Lexa.”


“I’m serious. I don’t want to work as a waitress anymore. Or as a bartender. Some days, work makes me lose all faith in the human race. My bosses are asses. The customers are horrible. I’m tired all the time. I barely get to paint anymore. And isn’t that the point of me doing all of this? So that I can paint?”

She felt Lexa’s hands continue to steadily knead her shoulders, wordlessly conveying her presence and attention, even as she felt herself continue to rile up.

“Maybe my mother was right. Maybe I’m not cut out for this. Maybe chasing art was just a silly dream that was okay for a college student to have, but not for a semi-adult who needs to pay her bills, and buy food, and think about the future. Maybe I should have just tried to do medicine, like she wanted. Or anything else, but this. Maybe I need to finally be realistic and just get a real job.”

She buried her face in her hands and groaned again.

She felt a soft kiss on the top of her head.

“Hey. Listen.” Lexa’s voice was soft, but steady, and it washed over her, calming her frayed nerves. “This is just your frustration talking, okay? I have seen you when you paint, and the look of joy on your face, the excitement in your voice, the wonder in your eyes . . . you are never more beautiful to me than when you are painting, you know that? This is what you were born to do, Clarke. I know it. And you know it too.”

Clarke turned slightly to face her. “Then why is it so hard? I don’t need much from it. I don’t need to be rich and famous. I just want to be able to paint and live my life.”

Lexa looked down at Clarke and saw the bleakness and dejection clearly evident in her usually cheerful face. It tugged hard at that place in her heart only Clarke could reach. She smiled at her and tried again.

“Who is – was – the one person whose opinion you value more than anything? Whose words of wisdom you are always reciting to me?”

Clarke thought for a second before realizing who she was talking about. She instinctively looked down at her right wrist, which was watchless at the moment.

“My dad.”

“You told me he always believed in your art. And always encouraged you to follow your dreams. Didn’t he tell you that you should not want things you love to come too easily to you? That you should want to have to work for it? Because then you would know to value it, to appreciate it, when you finally got it, when you realize it was worth all the hard work you put into it.”

Lexa reached over to the table and opened the drawer. She pulled out an old watch with a green band and handed it to Clarke. “I had the battery replaced for you. I think you need this for more than just telling time.”

Clarke looked at the watch she held in her hand. It was an old watch. The face was scratched, the canvas band was frayed, it never went with any of her outfits, and it required repair more often than it was worth. But it was her father’s favorite watch, and it was the last thing he gave to her before he passed away, when she was in high school. Wearing it made her feel like he was still with her sometimes. She was never truly comfortable without it.

Thinking of him right now, and how he would be so disappointed in her for wanting to quit, made her feel a pang of guilt.

She ran her thumb over the face of the watch, feeling the ticking of the second hand between her fingers, constant and steadfast.

“When I was in grade school, I used to make drawings of these cartoon characters going on adventures together. They were a raccoon and lion duo. I would hang them up on the hallway walls of our home, and would lead my friends through, explaining each drawing to them. My dad always made the biggest deal out of it, in front of my friends. He would have me pose next to each of the drawings and took endless pictures.” She laughed lightly as she thought of the next thing. “He would even insist on making me charge him to see those ‘incredible works of art.’”

She looked at Lexa, feeling more sadness than anger now. “I think he would be so disappointed if he saw me now.”

Lexa leaned over and wrapped her arms around Clarke’s shoulders, kissing her temple before resting her cheek on top of her head. “That cannot be true, Clarke. He would be proud of you. You are working multiple jobs you do not particularly like, just so you can continue to pursue your passion, like he wanted you to. You do not rely on your mother, who seems like she would be happy to help if you needed it. And your work, your art . . . you put so much of yourself into it. I have seen you spend hours and hours on one tiny object, trying to get it exactly the way you want it. And the finished products . . . Clarke, they are beautiful and so powerful. I have been angered, comforted, inspired, and moved to tears by your paintings. It is a gift to be able to do that for people.”

She pulled back from her embrace and turned Clarke completely around to fully face her. She placed her hands on her cheeks and adopted a suddenly serious face. “Besides, I fell in love with Artist Clarke. I will take nothing else.” She smiled and felt her heart lighten when the smile was mirrored on Clarke’s face, finally.

“What about Starving Artist Clarke? Because that’s soon to be the case.”

“If you are truly unhappy, Clarke, you should quit your jobs and focus on your art.”

Clarke scoffed lightly at the unrealistic advice. “Who will feed me if I do that?”

“I will.”

Clarke felt the smirk that had been forming on her face melt away as she looked up at Lexa. Her expression was soft, and kind, and there was no hint of jest. Her eyes were green and wide and sincere. Clarke felt a burst of affection course through her body as she realized that Lexa meant it. She swallowed the lump in her throat and struggled to find words.

Lexa continued. “I am serious, Clarke. I hate seeing you unhappy. I will feed you, if you are willing to perhaps eat only bread with me, since that is really all my freelance writing money can afford right now.”

Clarke felt tears of gratitude threatening to form behind her eyes. So she reached her hand up to clasp one of Lexa’s, and turned her head to kiss her palm. “Thank you,” she whispered into her hand.

Lexa kissed her forehead, resting her lips there. Clarke felt almost overwhelmed by just how right everything felt in that quiet moment.

When Lexa pulled back, her eyes twinkled with humor. “But my offer is not unconditional. I am just investing in your future. When you become a rich and famous artist, I want all the perks.”

Clarke laughed at that, letting some of her emotions out before it consumed her whole. “You can have all the perks you want.”

“Do not laugh. I mean it.”

“Okay.” Then, timidly, “Do you really think I’ll get there someday?”

“Yes.” Lexa looked her right in the eyes. “Maybe not rich exactly. Who needs that anyway, right? But I know your works will definitely be recognized for the masterpieces they are. I have never been more confident of anything in my life.”

Clarke looked somewhat comforted, but still doubtful. Lexa had an idea. She moved to sit on the floor next to Clarke. She then grabbed a notepad and a pencil from the table drawer.

“In fact, I am so sure of this that I think we should make your logo now. I think you should have one, so that when you become famous and they make all this merchandise for you, they will just be able to put this brand on to let people will know it is you.”

“Artists these days don’t usually have a lot of merchandise made of their work.”

“The famous ones do. Like those you see at art museum gift shops? This is the business investor in me thinking ahead. Okay, let’s brainstorm. What should your logo be?”

She tapped the pencil on her chin as she thought out loud. “We need something simple, artistic, and easily recognizable. Also needs to be iconic and representative of you, a painter.” She started writing her ideas down. “What about a canvas on an easel? Hmm, too complicated. A palette with paint? Too cliché. Oh, I know! What about a paintbrush?”

She drew a simple straight paintbrush on the notepad and held it back to look at it and scrunched up her face. “That looks too wooden. What if I made it flowing? With some paint on the tip, like it is in the middle of painting something?”

She tried to draw what she was envisioning, but her artistic abilities were . . . limited, and the end result was not very appealing. She turned to Clarke, who was just watching her struggle with amusement. “A little help, please? This is your logo. And you are an actual artist! Why is the writer trying to draw this?”

“I think you have to be applying the word ‘draw’ pretty loosely if you’re using it to describe what it is that you are doing.”

Lexa’s reply to that was a glare, which caused Clarke to laugh. She reached over and softly placed her hand on top of Lexa’s, which was still holding the pencil. She gently squeezed her hand before moving it expertly and almost effortlessly across the page. Lexa relinquished all control of her hand and watched in amazement as the image she was picturing slowly appeared. She sneaked a glance at Clarke while their hands continued to move together, and saw the slight tilt of her head, the delicate furrow in her brows, the biting of her lower lip, all characteristic of a Clarke in intense focus. It was a sight that always reminded her of when Clarke wiped her glasses on their first date, and of their first kiss. A sight that never failed to fill her with both warm affections and passionate desire for this woman. She could feel her cheeks start to flush.

She quickly looked back down to the notepad and hoped that she had not been caught staring. What she saw amazed her enough to distract her from her racing heart.

Clarke had finished the drawing. She brought their still clasped together hands to her lips and kissed Lexa’s hand before moving them to her lap. The image was almost exactly as Lexa imagined it in her head. A simple, minimalist but still quite stylishly and artistically rendered image of a flowing paintbrush, with ink on the tip, tracing a short wavy line of paint.

“Wow, that is beautiful, Clarke. How did you do that?”

Clarke smiled and shrugged.

“Okay, what if we add your initials on there? On the handle of the paintbrush?” She picked up the pencil again and very delicately, wrote in “CG” near the top of the paintbrush handle.

“There. Now it is perfect. This is it. This is what you are going to use as your logo when you become famous, okay? And I will have the first copy of it. The original Clarke Griffin logo. It will be priceless!” She beamed at Clarke, genuinely excited at the notion.

“Hardly priceless. I don’t know if that will ever be worth anything at all.”

“Do not try to trick me into giving this up. You are not getting it back. I am having this framed so that I can sell it at your first major gallery opening for millions and millions of dollars.”

“Millions and millions? For a sketch? You really do not have a good idea of how the art world works, do you?”

“That’s how much I would pay for it. If I had the money. I would consider it a steal.”

Clarke felt her heart melt again. “Do you really think I will be able to have my own gallery opening one day?”

Lexa nodded. “Yes. Besides, even if, in the very improbable case that I am wrong . . .” She shrugged. “Then, we can just eat bread together forever. I like bread.”

It was hard for her to concentrate, when Clarke kept looking at her like that. But Lexa looked her right in the eyes, and added, with confidence, “But you will, Clarke.”

“And you’ll be there, next to me?”

“Of course I will be there, opening night. I promise. Standing right next to you. So that I can tell you ‘I am proud of you, Clarke.’ Trust me, you will not be able to keep me away. I mean, I have to be there to take credit for inspiring you all these years. And to keep all of your adoring fans off of you.”

Those words had barely finished coming out of her mouth when all of a sudden, she found herself lying flat on her back. Clarke had moved so quickly that it was only after it happened that Lexa realized she had been gently tackled to the floor and that Clarke was now hovering over her, grinning widely.

“I don’t care how many adoring fans that are. I won’t see anyone there but you.”

She moved to dip down to kiss her when she felt a slight push against her shoulders. She looked to see Lexa with a teasing smile staring back at her. “Clarke, your clothes still smell like seafood.”

Clarke rolled her eyes before whispering, “That can be easily taken care of,” and continuing her journey down to capture her lips.

She had finally gotten a break from greeting all her guests and was able to grab a glass of champagne from the wandering servers. She was now standing in the corner near the front of the gallery, slowly surveying the room.

She saw her mother, Abby, looking at a painting. She had flown in for the weekend to attend this event. Clarke had been nervous when she arrived earlier that day, unsure if all this would meet her mother’s expectations. Her fears were alleviated when she saw her mother’s eyes light up when she arrived and pulled Clarke into a hug. Clarke then gave her a personal walkthrough of the gallery, describing each individual piece in detail, anxiously watching her mother’s face for her reactions. But all she found was a beaming smile and proud eyes on her every time. When she finished showing her everything, there were actually tears in her mother’s eyes. She then pulled Clarke into another hug and whispered that she was proud of her. That her father would be proud of her. It had been such a happy moment as well as a huge relief for Clarke. She smiled now just thinking about it.

Her mother was now wandering throughout the gallery, talking to the other guests, proudly telling them that she was the mother of the artist and sharing the tidbits of information Clarke had told her about each piece earlier. Clarke watched her chatting animatedly with Kane near the knight chess piece painting.

Her eyes then went to her group of friends at the far end of the gallery, all dressed up for the occasion and each with a drink in hand. Bellamy had two. Raven seemed to be arguing with him about one of the paintings, animatedly pointing to different parts of the painting while Bellamy just stood there, shaking his head in disagreement. Clarke sighed. She just knew they were going to come to her later to resolve this and she was going to have to pick a side again.

Monty and Jasper were fidgeting where they stood, both looking like they were uncomfortable with their suits. Jasper kept pulling on his collar and nervously glancing at one of Octavia’s model friend – Maya, Clarke remembered. Octavia and Lincoln looked like the beautiful couple they were, enjoying the event together by ignoring the antics of the rest of the group.

She smiled at the sight, and felt an immense gratitude for the support they had given her all these years.

Everything had turned out according to plan, and any minor hiccups were handled expertly by Kane. This was going just as she had always wanted. With one very big exception of course.

She glanced out the large glass window that looked outside into the streets. The light from the antique streetlamps casted a soft glow onto the cobblestone streets. All the benches were empty at this hour, especially in this cold weather. Her eyes moved farther down the street and then all of a sudden, for just a brief second, she thought she saw the shadow of a figure moving behind one of the lampposts.

Now curious, she set down her champagne flute onto a nearby table and started to make her way to the door to get a better look.

“Clarke!” She heard a voice behind her call out.

She turned around and saw Finn approaching her with a smile on his face and an older woman by his side. He was dressed in an expensive suit, which, she had to admit, he filled out quite nicely. He actually looked rather dashing tonight.

“Finn! I am so glad you were able to make it.”

At the end of their last meet up at the café, which had somehow turned from a breakup talk into a heart-to-heart where she told him much about her relationship with Lexa, she had decided to actually invite him to her gallery opening, making sure he understood that it was only a platonic invitation. He too expressed his desire to remain friends, so he gladly accepted, noting that his mother was an avid art collector who would enjoy the event as well. She assumed that the woman that was with him now was his mother.

They finally reached each other and Finn leaned in to give her a chaste kiss on the cheeks before pulling back to introduce them.

“Clarke, this is my mother, Diana Collins. She’s the avid art collector I told you about. Mother, this is Clarke Griffin.”

She extended her hand to the woman, who shook it firmly. The woman was dressed conservatively, in a skirt suit, but her neck and hands were garnished with expensive-looking jewelry. She looked like someone who came from old money. She had a stern expression on her face, but it was not unkind.

“Miss Griffin, is it?” She looked her up and down. “Finn and I have just briefly browsed your collection. My, you are such a young artist to have produced such remarkable works.”

“It’s just Clarke, Mrs. Collins. Thank you very much. I’m glad you are enjoying the event.”

Just then, she saw Kane walking towards them. “Clarke! Diana! Good, you two have met.” He gave Diana a peck on the cheek and shook Finn’s hand. “Clarke, this is one of the collectors I was telling you about. She is the one interested in your paintings and perhaps in future works as well.”

He then turned to Diana. “Diana, why don’t you come walk with me and I’ll show you around.”

Clarke politely said her thanks and watched as Kane led Diana off to one of her more popular paintings, that of the constellations as seen through a dream.

She chatted with Finn a little longer before they spotted Bellamy waving him over. He excused himself and promised to find her later to continue their chat.

When she was finally alone again, she remembered what she had been doing earlier. She quickly turned back to look out the window. Snow had started to fall during their conversation. It was the first snow of the season, just soft, light flakes drifting down to the streets. She looked at the lamppost to see if the person was still there. But now all she could see was the glow of the lamplight over an empty bench.

Her heart sank as she realized that she must have just imagined it. Her eyes were trying too hard to see things that were not there.

With a sigh, she turned away from the window and started to make her way to her friends.

Lexa stood there, under the streetlamp, bundled up in her coat and cap and scarf. She held the crinkled invitation card in one of her gloved hands, and glanced up at the building. It was the correct address. She could see through the large glass window, and her eyes immediately fell on the sign near the entrance. It was the definitely the right place. She would recognize that image anywhere.

She just stood there, almost directly behind the lamppost, hoping to avoid drawing any attention to herself, as she tried to figure out how she got here. From the moment Raven had given her the invitation card the day before, she had made up her mind that she was not going to come. That was her decision yesterday before going to bed, and it was still her decision when she woke up this morning. But then, apparently sometime after her hastily eaten and unenjoyable dinner, she had decided to get dressed and make her way out here.

If she was honest with herself, she would not be surprised at all that she came. She had made a promise that night, after all, to be there right next to Clarke when this momentous occasion finally occurred. And even with everything that had happened, she still felt the need to keep her promise, and really, more importantly, to see with her own eyes Clarke achieving her long-held dream. So here she was, the closest she could bring herself to Clarke.

So close, but yet so incredibly, insurmountably far.

After waiting for several minutes, she finally saw her through the window. She looked beautiful, as always, but particularly so tonight, wearing a simple green dress.

She watched Clarke looking around the gallery by herself for a few moments before she turned in her direction. She quickly stepped back out of the light, but Clarke seemed to have seen her and was walking towards the door. Lexa was ready to leave just as Clarke was called back by some of her guests, allowing her a moment to pause.

She then decided it was safe to stay for a little while longer as she watched her interact with her guests. She felt an unfamiliar emotion when she saw the man lean over to kiss Clarke.

As she was deciphering that emotion, she felt a soft wet drop land gently on her nose. She looked up just as the first snowflakes were starting to fall. It was still too warm to stick to the ground, but the drifting flakes now made the quiet, cobblestone street, illuminated by old-timey lamps, almost like a scene from a storybook. She tilted her head up to the starlit sky and watched the snow fall all around her, tickling her face where they lightly landed. She closed her eyes and let her mind wander.

It could have been a storybook moment for them. It could have been just as the two of them imagined that night so long ago. She could have been in there, standing proudly next to Clarke, perhaps even gloating to her that she was right all along to believe that this would happen for her.

But of course the universe had other plans for them. They could not be further from that vision than they were right now, separated by so much more than just the glass between them.

She finally opened her eyes and looked back down. Clarke was still talking to her guest. She took a scan at what she could see of the gallery through the window, of all the guests who were finally, finally admiring the work that she had known deserved recognition for so long. She felt a sad smile form on her face.

Oh, how this moment could have been. Instead, how it was.

Just before she turned to leave, to walk away in the falling snow, she took one last look at Clarke, content with seeing only her back, and whispered those words she had promised to say so long ago.

“I am proud of you, Clarke.”

Chapter Text

Cold days came and gave way to colder nights. Life went on, as it always did, paying no heed to those who need it to stop, to pause, for just a minute, for wounds to heal. So Clarke had no choice but to go on with it, pouring herself into her work, her family, and her friends, trying the best she could to ignore the hollowness inside of her.

Perhaps it was a good thing though, that life kept going. Because it kept her busy. Especially after her incredibly successful gallery event. She received more commissions than she could do, and there was now a long waitlist for her art. She spent the days painting when she could, in the small room in her apartment that she converted into a studio to allow her the space she needed to focus. And when she could not find the inspiration, she went out with her friends, visiting them at home or in their places of work. She sometimes found herself painting in the deep of the night, when sleep was ever elusive to her no matter how much she chased it. And it was the pieces she created during those times that seemed to evoke the most emotional responses from her buyers, causing Kane to (jokingly, she hoped) suggest that she sleep during the day and do her work at night.

And it was this way of living, of busying herself with work and surrounding herself with friends, that saw her finally healing.

She thought that she had undergone some healing during the time she waited for Lexa at the café, but in reality, she had only been trying to heal around a wound with a knife still in it. And when Lexa came and pulled the knife out, the wound reopened easily, allowing all the heartache and pain and memories she had been holding in to pour out unabated. But now that the knife was finally out, she was able to slowly, but surely, and truly, heal.

The hardest thing about the healing process though, and realization of this surprised her, was getting used to not going to the café on Sundays anymore. The first several Sundays she had woken up with the same eagerness and hope that had been typical of her Sundays for so long, only to remember the situation as it was. She spent those mornings confined to her bed, with the covers pulled over her head.

After avoiding the café for several weeks, she was finally persuaded to go back with her friends. But only when she was with them. Never alone. They always sat indoors the times they stayed, which no one questioned since it was so cold then anyway. And as time went on, she was actually able to look at the table she had come to know so well without painful memories flooding her.

There were still bad nights, of course, nights when she still felt a deep emptiness in her heart, nights when she would end up dreaming of the moment in the rain when she last saw Lexa look at her with love in her eyes. Those nights, she awoke with a start, with fresh tears coating her cheeks, running her hand on the other side of the bed in her confusion, only to find it cold and empty, devoid of the one thing best able to comfort her after nightmares.

But those nights became fewer and farther in between.

Weeks came and weeks went. The darkness and coldness of deep winter mirrored her spirits, but as those days retreated, so did the blackness and frigidness in her spirit. Soon, the days became longer and the air became warmer. The heavy snow melted, and flowers started to bud. There was more sunlight and she spent more of her time outdoors.

For Clarke, life became more than just waiting for the days to pass. Life became more than just surviving.

The two of them stood in front of the parlor and both looked up at the same time to read the name of the place, displayed in blinking neon lights. One of the letters was broken. It read: “Mikey’s Tatto- Shop”

Raven glanced over at Lexa, who was staring at the place with wide, unblinking eyes.

“Um . . . Lexa? Are you sure this is the right place?”

Lexa made no movements to indicate that she had heard her. After several seconds of waiting, Raven was about to speak up again when Lexa slowly turned to face her, eyes still wide.

“Yes, I think so. This is the place Gustus recommended.” She looked down at the sheet of paper she was holding to check the address again. “He said he got all of his tattoos here. Mikey comes highly recommended.”

“Okay . . . but . . . are you sure you want to do this?”

Lexa nodded, more confident now as she thought of the reason she was doing this. “I am. Gustus asked me the same thing. He made me this appointment for a month from when I asked him. He said if I still wanted it after all that time, it means I must really want it.”

“Why do you want to do this again? I mean, don’t get me wrong. I actually think it is incredible and so amazing that you would do this. It’s going to be, like, only the best gift ever. But even I know you’re not the biggest fan of needles. Aren’t you like, deathly afraid of them?”

Lexa was barely able to suppress a shutter when Raven mentioned needles. Now, she considered herself to be generally adventurous and willing to try new things. But Raven was right. She had had a fear of needles for as long as she could remember. It was not the pain associated with needles so much as the notion of a sharp, pointy thing piercing her skin. And now she was about to volunteer to have it done to her. Repeatedly.

“Raven, you are not helping very much. You are supposed to distract me from thinking about that. I asked you to come with me for moral support. I wanted this to be a surprise for Clarke. Octavia’s distracting her for us right now. We do not have much time.”

Raven held up her hands in surrender. “Okay. Okay. I’m on board. As long as you’re sure.”

Lexa nodded again. “I am. Clarke has been feeling rather discouraged lately, questioning her decisions and her dedication to art. I really want to show her that I believe in her with all my heart. And that I will love her forever.” Then, with a glint in her eyes, she added, “Plus, and this might be the most important reason, you know how she always outdoes me in gift-giving? I am definitely going to win this time.”

Raven groaned. “Ugh, please stop. You two make me sick with how you talk about each other. Besides, you can’t lie to me. I know Clarke. She’s not that great.”

Lexa tilted her head and gave her a knowing smile, which for some reason, was always – always – able to make Raven feel bad about saying something mean about Clarke.

Raven sighed and grabbed hold of Lexa’s hand, pulling her towards the door of the parlor. “Fine, fine. Clarke’s a magnificent human being and we should all get tattoos on our bodies to commemorate her greatness.” She looked back at Lexa with a teasing smile, “You better be careful, Lexa. Because I might get a bigger tattoo for Clarke and steal her away from you.”

The next time they stood in front of the parlor, it was a good several hours later, and both girls were battered. In very different ways.

Lexa’s shoulder ached and she fought the urge to rub and scratch at the new tattoo. She realized her throat was dry and her voice was hoarse, but she did not understand why. She had only been lightly yelling for a very short amount of time.

Raven, meanwhile, was busy alternating between rubbing her right hand and shaking it to get any sort of sensation back into it. If she had known she was volunteering to give up the use of one of her appendages when she offered to hold Lexa’s hand during the process, she would have sacrificed her left, non-dominant hand. Her livelihood as an engineer might be at stake now. Her right ear was also ringing now, unused to the silence – or just general lack of screaming, really – next to her ear.

Lexa looked at her inquisitively. “What’s wrong with your hand, Raven?”

Raven glared by at her disbelievingly.

Realization dawned on her and she offered a weak smile. “Oh, was I squeezing your hand too hard?”

“If I lose use of this hand, you and Clarke are supporting me for life.”

“I was not that bad, right? I thought it went pretty smoothly. Did it not?”

“The tattoo artist stopped in the middle of the session and threatened to kick us out if you didn’t stop screaming.”

“I think she was just being dramatic. There was no need for that. I admit, I was a little . . . loud. At first. But I became a lot better just minutes into it.”

Minutes into it? More like never into it. Raven thought. But she saw the look of timid pride in Lexa’s eyes, and her heart melted a little. She thought of how real Lexa’s fear of needles was, and what she had to overcome to have done this. And all for Clarke. How the hell did Clarke get Lexa to do this for her? She thought. Hmm . . . maybe I am missing out. Then, just as quickly as that thought left, another came. Eww, gross! She almost laughed out loud at the thought.

She finally gave Lexa a less-pained smile. “You’re right. You weren’t too bad.”

“Okay, Raven, you have to keep it a secret, okay? Our two-year anniversary is not for another week. This has to be a surprise.”

“I think you should just worry about YOU spilling the beans on this. You’re the worst secret keeper ever. When have you ever been able to hide any gift from Clarke?”

Lexa nodded briefly and drew her shoulders back with (rather adorable, Raven though) determination. “I can do it. At least I do not have any physical thing to hide this time.”

“I believe in you. Maybe just say less to Clarke in general. As a matter of fact, try not to talk to her at all if you can. O and I will do our best to keep her busy this week so you will have less chances of ruining the surprise.”

Lexa draped her arm around Raven’s shoulders. “And this is why I love you two. Come on, let’s get some ice cream. I think we both deserve it.” She began to lead Raven away before adding, “Especially me.”

Raven rolled her eyes as she let herself be dragged off to be bribed with ice cream.

“You are all packed, right? I certainly hope so. You are coming to visit next week.” Lexa spoke into her phone as she made her way out of the market. She tilted her head to keep her phone pressed to her shoulder while she shifted all the bags she was holding to her left hand. Gosh, these candles are heavy.

She reached up to grab the phone again with her now freed right hand. “I suppose you are right. You have time. I trust your packing abilities.”

She listened for a second. Then, a smile. “I hope you are excited. This will be your first time in America. I am definitely excited to show you around, like you showed me around London when I first arrived there. I am sure you will like it here.”

She reached at the corner and waited for the pedestrian walk light turned green before walking across the street. “Okay, I am going to let you go now. My shopping bags are becoming too heavy to hold in one hand.”

A beat. Then, “It is not that many. I bought a reasonable quantity! Besides, one can never have too many candles.”

A few more exchanges later, she was able to finally end the call and redistribute the weight of the bags between her two hands. She looked to see how far she had to walk and breathed a sigh of relief when she saw the flower shop in sight.

She had taken a walk through the local farmers market after finishing up her work that morning. She did not know how it happened, but she had somehow ended up with two large bags of homemade candles. Again. It was partly because the seller was a sweet old lady who was so proud of her work that Lexa could not help but indulge her, even though some of the scents—“Baked Casserole”—were less than appealing. But it was also because, no matter how much she tried to deny it to herself and to others around her, she just really loved candles. She was particularly excited to try one labeled “Old Books” that she just bought.

She had spent the past few months readjusting to life back in the States while also starting the work on her next book project, which was to write the biography of a prominent politician in the area. She had completed most of the background research on the politician and his family, having outlined the different components of his life she wanted to cover, and then correlated the outline with lists of questions she needed answered during many planned future interviews with him and his family.

She had been quite productive this morning, having spent most of it working at the nearby café before making her way to the farmers market. And now, as had become her routine almost every week or two, she was making her way to the flower shop. She turned the corner and finally arrived. She paused just in front of the shop to take in the sight of the beautiful bouquets of flowers displayed in the large window in front. With the arrival of spring came the return of bright and colorful flowers to light up gloomy rooms and faces all over. Proving that point, her lips turned up in a big smile as she pushed open the door into the small shop.

The bell above the door dinged and almost immediately, she heard the welcome she had come to know so well these past months. “Welcome to Luna’s Flower Shop!”

“Hi Luna. It’s just me. How are you?”

The shop was so packed with fresh flowers today that she could just barely make out Luna at the far end behind the buckets of flowers. She appeared to be busy arranging a bouquet.

“Hello, dear. Come in, come in. I’ll be right with you. I’m just finishing up with someone here.”

“Of course. Take your time.”

Lexa began slowly making her way down the aisle towards Luna, stopping to touch and smell all the flowers along the way.

When she was halfway there, having paused to admire a bundle of fresh calla lilies, she heard Luna’s voice again. “Actually . . .”

She looked up to see that Luna had paused what she was doing, and was glancing at her over her half-moon glasses before looking back at someone else, presumably her other customer, who was just out of Lexa’s line of sight behind the aisle right now.

“I think you two might know each other.”

Now curious, Lexa quickly made the rest of the way down the aisle to her. When she reached the end, she made to turn to the left where Luna was currently facing. What she saw stopped her dead in her tracks, causing her eyes to widen and her mouth to fall slightly ajar. She felt her breath catch in her throat.

Standing there in front of her, amidst a backdrop of buckets and buckets of colorful flowers, was Clarke.

She was dressed casually, in jeans and a light zipped up jacket, and had both hands placed inside her coat pockets. Her hair, now a darker, dirtier blonde that Lexa recognized as her post-winter-and-lack-of-sunlight-exposure shade, was tied up in a messy bun. She looked a little paler and perhaps a little thinner, and Lexa immediately felt an ache in her chest as she wondered if Clarke’s winter had been hard. There was a light rosiness to her cheeks now, a blush blossoming from the unexpected situation. It only served to make this scene of her, surrounded by flowers, face alit with the glow of sunlight filtered through the frosted windows high in the walls around the store, more beautiful and dreamlike than even Lexa could imagine. Her eyes, now locked onto Lexa’s, were a light blue at the moment, like a perfect, clear spring sky, looking down upon the flowers around her with encouragement to grow and flourish. There was a small, apprehensive smile on her face, as she slowly removed one of her hands from her pocket to give a tiny, awkward wave.

“Hi.” Spoken softly.

It took a second before Lexa realized she was supposed to respond. Eyes still not leaving Clarke’s, she heard herself reply, so eloquently, “Hi.”

Luna looked between the two of them, just standing there staring at each other. She did not quite know what was happening. Seconds continued to pass and neither said anything more.

Finally, she cleared her throat loudly, “You two do know each other, right?”

She looked to Lexa, who did not seem to have heard her and therefore gave no reply, so she turned to Clarke, who finally broke their gaze to meet Luna’s eyes. She saw her press her lips together anxiously and gave a short nod.

“So you two are . . . ?“

Clarke looked away from her, to focus on her own two feet, which, apparently, could not stop shuffling right now. She did not know how to answer her. What were they now? Were they anything at all?


She looked up at the sound of the voice and saw Lexa looking back at her with a smile that warmed her entire being. It was real and bright and lovely and it had been more than two years since she had seen this smile.

She saw Lexa finally turn away from her to face Luna and repeated, “We are friends.”

Luna glanced between the two of them with piqued curiosity and mild suspicion. But she nodded and continued arranging the flowers in her hands. “Of course, dears. I still remember when you two used to come in together sometimes, a few years ago. My, that seems like so long ago, doesn’t it?”

Lexa nodded. Her gaze found Clarke’s again when she answered, softly, “Yes. A lifetime.”

“I was just finishing up this bouquet of marigolds for Clarke and then I can help you, Lexa. You want the same, right? One or two bouquets today?”

Lexa finally recognized the familiar yellow flowers in Luna’s hand and looked back at Clarke with searching eyes. Clarke’s cheeks turned redder as if caught doing something she was not supposed to.

“Just one, Luna. Thank you. I am not going to Anya’s today.”

The three of them fell into silence as Luna continued her work, but the air was dense and Luna suddenly felt intrusive in her own shop.

“I, um, need to run to the back to find some strings to tie this bouquet. Why don’t you two old friends catch up? I’ll be right back.”

Clarke looked puzzled as she pointed to Luna’s small apron pocket and asked, “But isn’t that string right there?”

Luna looked down to where Clarke was pointing. Shoot. “Oh, um . . . not this one. I need a specific type of string to tie marigolds. It’s a flower thing. It’s complicated. You won’t understand. Just . . . wait here, you two.”

Before they could ask her any more silly questions, she turned to walk towards the door leading into the back room.

The two of them were now alone. Long, awkward seconds passed as gazes fell on everything but each other.

Clarke spoke first. “So, we’re friends, huh?”

A smile. “Of course. If you would like.”

“I would. Very much.” A pause. Then, “Throughout everything, you were always my friend.”

“Good then.”

The air between them suddenly became lighter and the flowers smelled sweeter. Their postures relaxed and the awkwardness, though still present, was lessened.

“How are you, Clarke? Raven told me you had your gallery opening and that it was ‘outrageously successful.’ So much so that you now have enough offers to keep you busy for the next decade.”

Clarke smiled at that, shaking her head lightly. “That’s just classic Raven exaggeration for you. The opening did go well. It was everything we—my agent and I—hoped it would be.” She was quick to clarify who she meant. “I have received more extensive commissions since then, and I am now working with more serious collectors, which is very exciting, but it’s definitely not what Raven claims.”

“That’s wonderful news.”

“Thanks. What about you? Are you fully re-adjusted yet?”

Lexa nodded. “Mostly. Some days, I do miss the scooter I had in London, but overall I am just really happy to be home. There is no place like home, right?”

“I’m sure Anya is happy you are back.”

“Actually, I think she is sick of me already. She has made inquiries as to how she could ship me back there.”

Clarke laughed. Lexa had not heard her laugh for so long that it was almost jarring how much her body responded to that.

“Do you think . . .” Clarke began, nervously, “maybe we could get a cup of coffee sometime? Or a drink, or whatever?” She did not give Lexa time to respond before quickly adding, “We can ask Raven and Octavia and Anya to come too. Just to, you know, just . . . catch up? As friends. Sometime. If you want. Or not. It’s not a big deal.”

Lexa felt an instinctual pull to place her hand on Clarke’s arm to keep her from rambling, as she had done so many times in the past. But she restrained herself.

“Clarke. Clarke." She finally stopped her mumbling. Lexa smiled to reassure her. "That sounds great. We should set it up sometime.”

They heard the door to the back room open and both turned to see Luna emerging with a wrapped bouquet. “You’re all set, Clarke. Did you need anything else today?”

“No, that’s all. Thank you, Luna.”

“Okay, I’ll ring you up whenever you’re ready.” She turned to Lexa with a smile, “And then I’ll be right with you.” She headed towards the cash register with the flowers.

“Well,” Clarke began, rubbing the back of her neck because she did not know what else to do with her hands. Should she shake Lexa’s hand? “I guess I better go pay.”


“So, drinks sometime, right? With all of us?”

“Yes, of course. I will tell Anya. Raven and Octavia have my number.”

“Okay.” Clarke shuffled her feet a few times before she placed her hands back in her coat pockets. “Bye, Lexa.” She began to walk towards the register.

“Goodbye, Clarke.”

Lexa watched as she paid Luna for her flowers and turned to walk to the exit. Clarke gave her an awkward smile and wave as she left, which Lexa returned.

When the bell above the door rang to signal her exit, Lexa finally let out the breath she did not realize she had been holding. That was such an unexpected encounter that it almost felt surreal. She did not even realize that Luna had made her way right next to her, gathering up the new marigolds for her bouquet.

Luna gave her an almost-smirk. “So, just friends, right?”

Lexa did not confirm nor deny.

“I’ve never seen just friends look at each other the way you two do. And I’ve been on this earth more than 67 years.” She winked at Lexa, who could only roll her eyes and shake her head at the obvious insinuation there.

“Okay, Luna. You were right to trust your 67 years of earth experience. Clarke and I used to date. Before I left for London.”

Luna kept her gaze trained on her own hands as she continued to masterfully arrange the flowers, knowing it would be easier for Lexa to talk if she was not looking directly at her. “So what happened?”

She heard the young woman beside her sigh. “Life.”

“That’s cryptic. Was it because of London?”

“No, London was because of her.”

“She drove you all the way across the ocean, did she?”

Lexa lightly shrugged for her non-reply.

Luna smiled knowingly. “You know, when you were gone, your friend Clarke came here every month or two, to buy these yellow marigolds. She always looked sad, and did not like to talk very much at all. Except when she was asking about these flowers. She asked me so many things about them, like the conditions they need to grow in, how to care for them, how much sun they need, things like that. I think she was trying to grow them at home. But that poor thing. A green thumb she definitely does not have. These are marigolds. Once planted, they grow quite easily. But I don’t think she was able to manage that at all, not even a little. I think she tried though, again and again.”

Lexa felt her chest warm with fondness and nostalgia from this story. She smiled wistfully. “That does sound like Clarke. She was not never allowed anywhere near our plants except to admire them.”

“You know what it is? I think she was trying to keep more than just the flowers alive.”

Lexa fell silence as her unspoken words sunk in.

“Alright, there. All done.” Luna turned to hand her the completed bouquet, but upon seeing the look on her face, she felt her heart ached for her favorite customer. So instead, she pulled Lexa into a hug and patted her back soothingly. “Oh come here, dear. Don’t you worry. Life has a way of working itself out. It always does. You’ll see.”

When they pulled away, Luna patted one of Lexa’s cheeks lightly. “Cheer up. One of these days, remind me to tell you the story about my husband and me. Perhaps we’ll trade stories then.”

“Thank you, Luna.”

“Here you go.” She handed her the flowers. “Now go, enjoy the rest of your day.”

Lexa reached into her purse to grab her wallet, but Luna placed a hand on top of hers to stop her.

“Oh it’s fine. Don’t worry about it. Clarke already took care of it.”

She gave her another wink before walking back towards the register, leaving Lexa standing there trying to make sense of her entire day.

She did not know why, but that bouquet of flowers, sitting in a vase on her desk where she could see it every day, looked more beautiful to her than any other she had purchased in the past.

Only, she did know why.

Chapter Text

She heard the sliding doors close behind them as they paused at the entrance for just a second to get their bearings, noting that they had entered near the deli section. The supermarket was still quite busy at this hour, but she supposed it was because it was a Friday night. She turned to face her friend, to ask where they should start on their shopping list, only to find Raven looking her up and down, with a disbelieved look on her face.

“What are you looking at?” She looked down at herself.

“Clarke. What are you wearing?”

Something perfectly reasonable for a random late night shopping trip to the local supermarket that they “just had to do tonight.” Or so Clarke thought. But not Raven apparently.

“What do you mean? This is perfectly acceptable attire. We’re just at a supermarket, not having dinner with the Queen.”

Raven shook her head, as if giving up on her, and started making her way to the rows of shopping carts. Clarke followed.

“It was dark and I didn’t get a good look at you when I picked you up earlier. But you’re covered in paint.”

Clarke shrugged. It was true. Raven had caught her in the middle of one of her late night painting sessions, insisting that she join her at the supermarket right away because it was her “duty” as a co-maid of honor to help plan and organize the bachelorette party. Since it was late anyway, and she had no one to impress, she had opted not to change and just left in her paint-splattered, frayed and worn-out (but extremely comfortable) loose jeans, rolled up at the bottom, and her somewhat less paint-splattered, relaxed, long dark-green tank top. She had her favorite pair of sneakers on, which, unfortunately, also showed its wear and tear. She had grabbed a light jacket, thinking it might be a little chilly out at night, but it was lovely weather, and so she currently had it tied around her waist. It was not the most put together, she would admit, but she thought she looked charming, in an indie-artist kind of way.

So she said just that. “I think I look charming, in an indie-artist kind of way.”

Raven had started making her way towards one end of the market, looking from her list up to the shelves. She glanced back at Clarke.

“Whatever.” She rolled her eyes, but could not hold in her smile. “You have paint in your hair.”

Clarke reached up and felt the strand of hair that had escaped the messy bun she had hastily fashioned on her way out of her apartment. She pulled it in front of her eyes and saw that it was covered in blue paint. Oops.

She tried to feel the rest of her hair but could not tell if she had paint anywhere else. “Is it on anywhere else?”

Without looking. “Yes.”

That’s helpful. “Thanks.”

Now that Raven had made her self-conscious, she gave herself a more thorough lookover in front of one of the glass doors in the frozen section. Thankfully, that was the only spot on her hair that was covered with paint. She did however, realize that she had some paint on her neck, a dash on her right collarbone, some down the side of her arm, and of course, on her hands. Thankfully there was not any paint on her face. Just a little smudge on her left jawline. She lifted her right arm, and saw some just on the underside of her upper arm. How did that even get there? She tried to remember. Had she just been rolling around in paint?

She looked up to ask Raven if she had paint on her back of where she could not see, and saw that her friend had already moved all the way to the end of the aisle. “Raven, wait for me!” She quickly hurried along after her.

“So . . . welcome to your first American supermarket experience.”

“It’s quite marvelous. Everything I thought it would be.”

“Are you not glad you flew all the way across the Atlantic for this?”

“Yes, of course. This was my sole purpose in coming here. Mission accomplished. I think I can leave now.”

Lexa laughed. She did not understand why Costia insisted that this be the first stop they make after dropping off her things at her apartment, but here they were, grocery shopping late on a Friday night.

“I do not think it is all that different from markets in London. Bigger perhaps, I think.”

Costia looked at her with widen eyes. “You think? It is definitely bigger. And you have so many options of everything. For example . . .” She pointed to the soda section, “. . . how many different permutations of coke do need? Like this one here.” She picked up a bottle and read off the label. “Diet Caffeine-free Black Cherry Vanilla Coca-Cola. The name is so long it can’t even all fit on one line!”

Costia set the bottle down and quickly grabbed a package from the other side. “And this. What is a ‘Triple Double’ Oreo and why do you need it?” But after looking at the package a little more closely, she dropped it in the cart. “Oh, it has a layer of chocolate and mint. I understand now. We do need this.” 

Lexa laughed again. She had not thought about how these things might seem to people unused to them. Costia looked genuinely excited at seeing all these seemingly normal products. It was endearing, really. She wondered if she had reacted this way when she was first in London.

She pushed the shopping cart farther down the aisle, pausing to grab some yogurt off the shelf. She looked at her visitor, who was busy perusing the items in front of them. She saw her pick up a small package and turn back to face her.

“Lexa, what’s a . . . moo-chi ball?” 

Lexa leaned over to look at what she was holding.

“Oh, you mean a mochi ball! It is a small, round dessert ball made of soft, pounded sticky rice cake on the outside, and usually contains a sweet filling. Sometimes it is filled with ice cream, which is just delicious. This one here is filled with red beans.”

“It looks adorable. Can we get some?”

“Yes, sure.” Lexa took the package from her and placed it in the cart.  “Okay, what else do you want to buy?”

“Hmm . . . can we get some Fruit Pastilles? I was craving some all day on the plane.”

“I do not think they have it here, unfortunately. It is hard to find in America, except in specialty stores.”

“That’s a shame. Okay, how about some crisps, then?”

Lexa nodded, pushing her cart forward. “I think they are just down this aisle.”

“Has she texted you about it yet?”

“Yes, Clarke, she mentioned that you two ran into each other and that we should get together sometime.” Raven scanned the cart and compared it to her shopping list. They had gotten most of the items on the list. Now they needed the chips. She pushed the cart towards the snack aisle.

“Did you two decide when?”

“No, I haven’t even asked O yet.”

“What?” Clarke grabbed the cart suddenly, causing them to come to a complete stop. “Why not, Raven? It has been a week! We should call her. We should call her right now. Here, give me your phone. I’ll call her.” She reached for the phone in Raven’s pocket, but Raven quickly moved away from her.

“Clarke. Clarke!” She fought off the blonde’s roaming hands. “Get a hold of yourself. It’s late and O has enough on her mind right now with the wedding coming up. She doesn’t need to deal with you yelling at her for something she doesn’t even know about.”

Clarke did not look convinced, although she no longer looked like she was going to try to steal Raven’s phone. Raven still watched her with mild suspicion, keeping one eye trained on her while she continued to make her way to their destination, in case she went rogue again.

“Besides,” Raven continued, “who knows what she and Lincoln are doing right now, anyway? Do we really want to be interrupting that?”

That implication seemed enough to deter Clarke. For now.

“Fine. But promise you’ll call her first thing in the morning.”


“Remember, Raven.”

“I’m remembering, Clarke.”

“Should we set a reminder for you on your phone?”

“I have built a robot from scratch. And I am about to finish my doctorate in mechanical engineering. I think I can remember to call Octavia in the morning.”

Clarke was silent as she considered her friend’s very valid points. Then, “I’ll remind you tomorrow.”

Raven rolled her eyes. But then she looked at her friend, serious expression on her face.

“Are you sure this is a good idea, though? You two meeting up again? You have been doing so well . . . Are you sure you want to open this door again?”

Clarke returned Raven’s gaze. She nodded. “There’s no door to open. She’s with someone else now. And they’re pretty serious, it seems. She said she would be coming here in a year, after she finishes her degree.”

“And you’re okay with that?”

“With what?”

“If you try to go down this ‘friends’ path with her, you’re going to have to see her together with someone else. Can you really do that?”

Clarke fell silent, dropping her eyes to their cart. To anywhere else than her friend’s sympathetic eyes.

Her words came out in a whisper.

“I think it would probably kill me.” Answered honestly.

Even though she was not looking at her, she knew Raven’s gaze had softened.

She continued, “But if that is the only way of having her in my life in some way, then it would be worth it. These past months . . . knowing that she was here in the same city, so close to me, and yet not being able to see her . . . that was so hard, Raven.”

“But you know that you can only see her as a friend, right? Nothing more.”

“I know.”


Clarke looked up at Raven.

“I do know, Raven.”

Raven regarded her with sympathy, but still with concern.

“I know I broke her heart. Anya had told me a little bit about what she went through. And knowing Lexa, she was probably hurting even more than what she showed people. She loved this city, she loved Anya. And she loved you guys. I took all of that away from her and drove her into a foreign place for two years. Because of her childhood, I know she hates the unfamiliar. She hates not having a sense of a home. And she had to feel that, because . . . well, because of me.” She paused to catch her breath as she felt an aching pain in her chest from these words. They had stopped and were now standing in front of the refrigerated dairy section. She was grateful for the cool air around them.

“It hurts me so much to think about how lonely she must have felt there, all by herself. So I am glad she found someone there. Hopefully someone who relieved some of her loneliness. Someone she could share food with at restaurants because she always wants to try more than she can eat. Someone to remind her to take her vitamins with her food because she can’t swallow large pills. Someone to hold her hand at the dentist because you know she doesn’t like needles.”

She felt Raven’s hand on her shoulders, silently breaking her out of her reverie of all things Lexa.

“So this person, whoever she is, did me a favor. Hopefully she lessened the harm I did, and I’m grateful for that. It would kill me if I knew that I had changed Lexa for the worse in some way. So if Lexa is able to love again,” she faltered slightly and had to take a deep breath. “If she is able to love still, then that means she’s better. And that’s all I could ever want for her.”

She looked at Raven, and managed a smile to hopefully convince her friend. She urged them forward again, to continue making their way through the store. “So yes. I know I will never be more than just friends with her again, but that’s okay. I just want to be able to know that she’s doing well. That she’s–”

Her words cut off as they turned the corner into the snack aisle. Because standing right there in front of them, was Lexa.

There was a split second, when the whole world seemed to move in slow motion. Clarke’s brain was working in overdrive. Lexa was talking with someone, and had not seen them yet. They might still have a chance to escape unnoticed, if they do it stealthily and quickly. Just as she was about to turn to silently usher Raven away, she heard her.


Clarke groaned inwardly. She could kill Raven. She would kill Raven. Not now though. After this. She nodded to herself. Yes, after this.  

She forced an awkward smile on her face as she looked at Lexa, seeing a surprised look on her face. The person she was with was looking between them with curiosity. 

“Raven? Clarke?” Lexa asked.

Raven started to make her way closer to Lexa and Clarke had no choice but to follow. When they finally stood in front of each other, Lexa had recovered somewhat from her surprise, but her face was becoming flushed. Clarke gave her her characteristic awkward short wave. “Hi, Lexa.”

“Hi.” Lexa was still staring at her. Clarke remembered how disheveled she looked and felt her own face flush.

They fell into awkward silence for a moment, until the stranger spoke up, smiling and extending her hand out to them. “Hi, I’m Costia.”

Raven reached to grab her hand. “Hi, I’m Raven. This is Clarke.”

Lexa shook her head slightly, flustered. “I’m so sorry. This is Costia. She’s visiting me from London. Costia, this is Raven and Clarke. They’re . . . old friends.”

Clarke looked at the woman as she shook her hand. So this must be her. She was beautiful—breathtaking, really. She was tall and slim, moving with a graceful, willowy air. She had both sharp and soft facial features that blended together in a very pleasing way that made it quite hard to look away. And her eyes were a deep, rich brown, like pools you could drown in. They radiated kindness, but now also seemed to be alit with curiosity as she regarded Clarke.

“Hi, Clarke, is it?”

Clarke nodded. She had never felt more unattractive than in that instant, standing next to Costia in her messy get up. There was no comparison between the two of them. Even ignoring the fact that she broke Lexa’s heart into a million pieces . . . how could she ever compete with this person? Why would Lexa ever choose her over Costia?

She swallowed the lump in her throat.

“Yes, it’s nice to meet you, Costia. That’s a beautiful name.”

“Thank you.” She saw Costia’s eyes go to her neck, where she knew she had paint on her.

“Oh, um, sorry I kind of look like this. I was just finishing up some paintings when Raven came to get me unexpectedly. I, um, paint.”

She looked down at herself and suddenly aware that her right shoulder was bared and visible. She quickly unwrapped her jacket from her waist and hastily put it on, making sure to pull it tightly over her.

Raven took her cue. “Oh, yes, it was my fault really. Clarke usually looks beautiful and put together.” Then, realizing what that implied, she quickly added, “Not that she doesn’t right now. I mean, yes, she doesn’t. Look put together, that is. Because she’s covered in paint, and her jeans and sneakers have holes in them. But she’s still beautiful. Kind of. Um . . . right, Lexa?”

Clarke could only glare at her.

Raven gave her an apologetic look and a slight shrug.

They all turned to look at Lexa, who now looked redder than before. She avoided their gaze, and did not answer.

Costia smiled and spoke up. “I can definitely tell Clarke is beautiful, Raven. And I think your outfit is quite charming, actually. Very indie-painter-esque.”

Clarke smiled at her politely and gratefully. They fell into silence again.

Raven then put out both her hands, one on top of the other, faced down, and moved her thumbs. “Awkward turtle,” she said, as she moved it around.

Oh my god. Clarke could not believe that she was actually doing this.

But that made Costia laugh, and broke the tension between them.

“This is Costia’s first time in America, so I was just showing her around a supermarket,” Lexa said.

“Oh, welcome to America, Costia,” Raven said, “How long are you staying?”

“Just a week, unfortunately. I leave next Friday. I have a time sensitive research project I am working on, so I need to get back.”

“Oh, that’s a shame. One of our good friends, Octavia, is having her bachelorette party in two weeks.” She turned to Lexa. “Lexa, if you’re free, you should come! I was just going to call you to let you know the details anyway.”

Lexa nodded hesitantly, “Sure, Raven. Let me know.”

Raven turned to Clarke. “Hey, this could be that get-together we were talking about. You don’t have to remind me to call Octavia to ask her about spending time with Lexa anymore.”

Clarke could not decide how she wanted to kill Raven later. She was torn between doing it quickly and dragging it out so she would feel everything.

Raven did not seem to understand the look Clarke was giving her. “What?”

“Well, we should probably get on our way, Raven. We have a lot of things to buy still.”

“We do?”

Yes, we do.”

Clarke turned to Lexa and Costia, smiling again. “It was very nice to meet you Costia. I hope you enjoy your visit.”

“Thank you, Clarke. It was great meeting you two as well. It’s good to finally put faces to the names I have heard so much about.”

Clarke wondered briefly what she meant but did not let herself dwell on it. She took over pushing the shopping cart towards the register.

“Goodbye.” She waved with one hand before using it to drag Raven along.

She had to slide by Lexa as she passed, putting them less than a foot from each other. She could breathe her in if she let herself. But she did not. Their eyes met. She might have imagined it, but for a brief second, she thought she saw that look in Lexa’s unguarded eyes. That look that she always saw right before Lexa told her she loved her. Right before she kissed her.

But she blinked and it was gone too soon.

They were now passed each other. Raven waved to them as she let herself be dragged off by Clarke. “Bye, Lexa! I’ll text you with more info soon.”

Lexa waved back just before they turned the corner.

“Raven!” Clarke hissed once they rounded the corner, quickly pulling her towards the nearest open register.

Raven wrangled herself out of Clarke’s viselike grasp on her arm.

“What is wrong with you, Clarke? I was just making polite conversation.”

Clarke groaned. “That was probably the most awkward situation I have ever been in.”

“It wasn’t that bad.”

“Really? Were you actually there? Do you not see how I look? And did you not see Costia?”

“Oh, you mean the 5 foot 10 runway model who was standing next to Lexa? The one who was hot as hell AND had a legit posh British accent? And who seemed to be smart and as sweet as can be? No, I think I might have missed her.”

Clarke glared at her for the fiftieth time that night. “I am not talking to you anymore.”

“Hey.” Raven nudged her shoulders lightly. “It doesn’t matter that she is all of those things, okay? I would not trade in even a fraction of you for her. Not even close. So you’re stuck with me and my awkward turtle, okay?” She did the awkward turtle gesture again, moving it so close to Clarke’s nose that it tickled her, causing her to laugh and swat her hands away.

Raven grinned back at her. Clarke only shook her head at herself and her inability to stay mad at her friend. They silently paid for their food supplies and made their way to the car.

Once they got into the car, Clarke finally spoke again.

“Hey Rae?”

“Yeah, Clarke?” Raven looked over and saw that Clarke had her head down, and was looking at her hands.

“Did she look happy?” Asked softly, with a tinge of improbable hope.

Raven knew exactly what she was asking, and exactly what she was hoping to hear back. But she could not tell her friend anything but the truth.

“Yes, Clarke, she did.”

Clarke looked up at her, eyes somber, but expression accepting. She nodded her agreement and smiled sadly. “Yeah . . . she did.”

Lexa continued to push the cart around the market, but in a dazed, distracted way. She was still trying to process that encounter. She had not thought that she would ever need to introduce the two of them to each other, let alone so unexpectedly. She had been quite unprepared for it.

She felt Costia’s hand on her arms, lightly stopping them, and turned to face her.

“Lexa, are you okay?”

She shook her head lightly. “Yes, I am. Sorry, I’m just a little distracted. That was unexpected.”

Costia studied her face carefully for long seconds before a small, knowing smile formed at the corner of her lips. “So that was Clarke, huh?”

Lexa nodded, feeling her face redden again under Costia’s scrutiny. She looked away from her, and wondered what she had given away.

Costia’s next words unearthed everything she had been trying so hard to bury.

“The way you look at her . . . I know now why I never really had a chance.”

Chapter Text

Week 76 (1 Year, 6 months After Lexa Left)

Lexa walked through the door held open by her girlfriend, giving her a kiss on the cheek in thanks as she made her way into Costia’s apartment.

She carried to the kitchen counter the bag of leftover lasagna and bolognese sauce Indra had insisted they take with them earlier when they left their house, even though they were both stuffed from the second helpings they had had. Not that she was complaining, of course. Indra was a masterful cook, and Lexa had not had many such home-cooked meals in her adult life before she was practically adopted into Costia’s family. Anya did used to cook for them before Lexa, but her idea of cooking was boiling everything and adding salt because “it all ends up in the same place anyway.”

So she was happy for the constant supply of home-cooked meals that Indra provided. And though she missed her sister dearly, Costia and her family had really made her feel welcomed and loved, and somehow whole again, during her time here.

She started to unpack the tupperware containers one by one to place into the refrigerator when she felt long arms wrap around her waist from behind. This was followed by the sensation of a warm, slender body pressed to her back and Costia’s head resting on her shoulder, face turned to nestle in her neck.

Lexa laughed lightly at the tickling sensation of breath on her skin, but continued at her task.

Costia, dismayed at her failure to dissuade Lexa from her boring job, tried harder. She wiggled her nose against Lexa’s neck and started moving her fingers to tickle her ribcage. That got Lexa’s attention.

“Costia, no!” She dropped what she was holding and immediately grabbed on to Costia’s hands to stop her, all the while laughing unwillingly at the tickling sensation.

The two struggled playfully for a few moments before Costia relented and spun Lexa around to face her with her back pressed to the counter. Their eyes met and their laughter slowly faded out. Costia lifted her right hand and gently stroked Lexa’s cheek and watched as her eyes glimmered and a rosy red blush began to form, as it always did whenever she looked at her that way.

Costia felt her heart thump hard and fast in her chest. She briefly wondered how, just exactly how, she had fallen so hard for this girl in front of her. This quiet, unimposing tiny human specimen. This sometimes hard-to-read, but always deeply thoughtful and soulful author. She remembered how enthralled she had been by her beauty when they first met, but as she got to know her, she became much more captivated by her character. Intelligent, kind, compassionate. With a dash of snark to those who could catch it. She was honest and well-meaning and thought of others before herself. And once her trust was earned, her smile was generously given.

And her eyes. She could live her life just staring into those eyes.

Yet, it was also her eyes that gave her the most to wonder about. Because no matter what they were doing, no matter how happy Lexa seemed, there was always this twinge of veiled . . . melancholy . . . in her eyes. Costia had hoped it would pass with time, and tried her best to make it so, but while it did fade, it was undeniably still present whenever she looked hard enough.

Now Costia was looking intently into those same eyes as she stroked Lexa’s cheek with her hand. She took a deep breath and gathered up her strength to try again.

“Lexa, I love you.”

Costia watched Lexa’s eyes carefully. A blink. A glance down. And then they focused on Costia’s lips as she leaned forward to initiate a kiss.

Costia’s heart dropped. Her hand gently held the other woman back even as she watched a confused look formed across Lexa’s face.

“What’s wrong?”

“You know you can’t just keep kissing me to make me forget you never say it back to me, Lexa.”

Surprise dawned on Lexa’s face.

Costia drew away from her so that their bodies were no longer pressed together. She still held both of her hands, and began to rub her thumbs across her knuckles. Her gaze fell to their joined hands because she could no longer look at Lexa.

Her voice came out softly, sad and defeated. “I told you I love you three months ago, at the fair. You kissed it away then, as well as every other time I’ve told you since.”

She let silence fall between them, still unable to meet Lexa’s eyes, afraid of what she would find. She let the silence drag on, to give the other woman a chance to say the words that would make her world whole again.

Lexa knew. She knew what she needed to say to fix this, to make everything right again. Her heart was racing and she felt each beat in her pounding head. She wanted to say it, as she had wanted to every time Costia had said it to her. She thought she must feel the same about Costia. How could she not? The woman had been nothing but amazing to her. But somehow, the thought of saying it filled her chest with so much heaviness that it made it hard for her to breathe. She felt prickles of fear and unease spread through every nerve in her body. The thumping in her head worsened. This was not right. This was not how she was supposed to feel when she told someone she loved her. This was certinaly not how she felt when she last told someone she loved her.

“I . . .” Her voice was hoarse and dry. She tried again. “Costia, I . . .” No other words made it out.

Costia finally looked up at her. Lexa could see tears, initially welled up in her eyes, start to roll down her cheeks when she blinked. Lexa kept her gaze, and after a moment of looking intently at her, almost through her, Costia’s lips formed a sad smile. She stepped back from Lexa and pulled her hands away, using them to wipe the tears off her face.

Lexa wanted to reach after her, to pull her back and hug her and kiss her and tell her not to cry. But she could not. Because she knew she had no words after that.

“I do . . . care a lot about you. I just . . .”

Costia shook her head. “No, Lexa. Don’t.”

So Lexa didn’t.

They stood in silence under the suddenly bright, bright spotlight in the kitchen while the rest of the apartment remained in the dark.

Costia spoke again. “Do you think . . .” She looked at Lexa. “. . . that you could ever love me?”

Lexa knew the answer. Had known the answer since the first time Costia told her she loved her. But she was now finally forced to accept it.

She shook her head lightly. “No, not in the way you deserve to be loved.”

“Why not?”

“I do not think I know how to do that anymore.”

“Because of Clarke?”

Lexa’s heart panged with the mention of her name. She replied quickly, “No, not because I still love her.”

“I didn’t say that.”

Lexa took a deep breathe to calm her racing heart.

“When Clarke left me, the pain was just so horrible. I felt just . . . broken. I had to learn how to stop loving her. It was the only way I could go on with each day. And to do that, I had to learn how to stop loving.” She looked down at her entwined hands. “I did a really good job of learning of how to do that.”

“Then what are we doing, Lexa? What are you doing with me?”

She looked up to see the first hint of anger on Costia’s face.

“I am sorry, Costia. I . . . I am happy with you. Very happy. I thought I might be able to grow to . . . feel that way about you someday.”

“Will you?”

Lexa sighed. “Why is it so important? I loved someone with my entire being. More than I thought I could ever love anyone. And I thought she loved me. But all it got me was immeasurable pain. So what assurance is there in loving someone? What assurance is there in being loved?”

“So, what then? Are you just going to live the rest of your life never loving anyone again? Is that your plan?”

“I cannot go through that again.” She shook her head and repeated, softly. “I just can’t.”

Costia continued. “You’re a coward then, Lexa. Who has ever found the happiness of true love without feeling the sting of a broken heart? There are no guarantees to anything in life, especially in something as indefinable as love. Anything is only worth something if you fear losing it. But you are hiding behind the excuse of fear of being vulnerable and being hurt again.”

Lexa had no response.

“You are so easy to love, Lexa, you know that? So goddamn easy to love. It didn’t take me more than a few months of knowing you to know you are special. And I know you have so much love to give. And it just makes me so sad to think of you never truly experiencing that again. With me, or with anyone else.”

Silence loomed between them.

Finally, “I am happy, Costia.” Lexa pushed off the counter she had been leaning on. “I . . .  I can be happy.”

Costia looked at her with heartbroken eyes. It hurt Lexa so much to see her like that. But there was nothing she could do.

“I’m sorry.”

Lexa did not expect a reply. And she did not get one. She moved to walk to the door, passing so close to Costia that she just barely brushed her shoulders on the way, and got a trace of the faint lavender scent from the shampoo she used.

She reached the door and had it pulled opened when she heard her.


She turned back to look at her, at the woman who had helped her through so much. Her eyes were still glossy and sad.

But now, there was a ghost of a smile on her lips.

And in that moment, that moment that seemed to last forever, there was suddenly an understanding, followed by an acceptance, between two people who might have found happiness together in a different world.

A world in which Clarke Griffin did not exist.

“So have I convinced you that you should move to the States yet?” Lexa looked up over her cup of coffee at her friend sitting across from her. A plate of crumbs sat between them, the only remnant of the tiramisu dessert they shared after dinner. She had saved this restaurant, her favorite place for Italian, for Costia’s last night here, because she loved this chef’s version of the tiramisu, made perfectly with real mascarpone cheese and coffee-soaked Savoiardi biscuits.

They had a few hours still before Costia had to be at the airport.

She saw her friend smile and take a sip of her own cup of coffee. “Almost. I would consider moving here just to escape the weather back home.” Lexa half-smiled and half-groaned in remembrance and sympathy. “But family and work are there.”

Lexa nodded in understanding.

“Plus . . . ” Costia paused for a second, waiting to make sure she had Lexa’s attention, before continuing. “. . . I’ve just met someone.”

Lexa’s eyes widened in brief surprise before a big smile lit up her face. Her eyes sparkled with true delight.

“Really? I’m so happy for you!”

Costia shrugged slightly. “It has only been a few weeks. She transferred to our lab several months ago and we really hit it off. She is quite funny. I think you would like her.”

“Well, you have to introduce us sometime. Bring her to the U.S. You can show her around. I mean, you are practically an expert on all things American now with your week of full-on immersion.” She smiled at her friend, truly happy for her.

Costia laughed. “I don’t think we are anywhere near the stage of traveling together yet, but I’ll keep that in mind. I do feel good about this though.” She set down her cup of coffee and looked at Lexa, watching for her reaction when she asked the next question.

“What about you? Any news on that front?”

She saw Lexa quickly laughed and shook her head. “Oh, gosh no. I have barely gotten used to the time difference here. And with the moving and unpacking and settling in, in addition to all the research I’m doing and trying to coordinate the interviews for my next book, I have not focused on anything else.”

“What about you and Clarke?” Costia watched Lexa’s shoulders stiffen and her smile fade ever so slightly.

After their surprise run-in at the supermarket a week ago, and her very pointed statement on the subject of Clarke (which Lexa had promptly ignored, of course), Costia had politely let the subject drop, since it was clear that Lexa did not want to talk about it, and she did not want to make her uncomfortable the whole week. But she was leaving now, and so she felt no qualms about making Lexa talk about this. Well, maybe just a little bit of qualm. But she could ignore that in the interest of Lexa’s future happiness.

After their breakup in London, which, while it truly broke her heart, it was, in a way, rather amicable, especially with all things considered. They had kept their distance for the first two months, and she knew the toll it took on Lexa to stop coming over to her parents’ home. By the third month, however, she had had time to process some of her emotions. She was not completely over Lexa, of course, but she knew she wanted to keep her in her life, in any capacity. So she invited her over for a family dinner. It was albeit somewhat awkward for all at first, but Indra and Gustus and Artigas were so happy to see Lexa in their home again, that it quickly became just as it was.

Costia had explained their separation to her family, leaving the circumstances surrounding it vague, but making it clear that it was mutual and amicable. It took several months of slowly reacquainting themselves as friends again, but once they found the exact balance in their relationship that worked for them, they quickly grew into the friendship they had had before they started dating. Even when Lexa moved back to America, their friendship continued to grow stronger with frequent communication and sharing of moments of their lives with each other, both important and trivial.

She was leaving her friend soon, and she could not resist asking about the infamous Clarke Griffin, really only known to her as the one who broke Lexa’s heart, the one who caused her to stop believing in love, the one who stood in the way of a happy future between Lexa and anybody, really. And, after seeing the way Lexa looked at her that night, she knew her as the one, the only one, who would able to restore Lexa’s faith in love.

So she had to ask.

She waited patiently for Lexa to respond. She watched her friend struggle internally, before sighing and apparently giving in.

“There is no ‘me and Clarke.’ I told you about what happened at the café. That was several months ago. I . . . we ran into each other the other day, and she asked if we might all get together sometime, with Raven, Octavia, and Anya. As just friends.”

“And you said yes? Do you really think you can be just friends?”

Lexa nodded. “I said yes because I know it has been hard for Raven and Octavia to see me and have to try not to talk about Clarke. And probably also to not talk about me in front of her either. I do not want to put them in the middle anymore. Plus, I know Anya misses Clarke, too, since she has not seen her for a while now.”

Lexa shrugged. “I mean, she and I might not become the greatest of friends again, but if we can at least be friendly towards each other, it would make things less awkward for everyone.”

“Do you really not have feelings about her anymore?”

Lexa looked down at her cup of half-finished coffee in her hands. She swirled it around a bit, watching the liquid slosh around precariously along the walls of the cup.

“Clarke will always have a place in my heart. She and I have so much history that even I cannot deny that. But I have not had feelings – the kind of feelings you are thinking of – for her for a long time now. And I will not ever feel that way about her again.”

When she looked up to meet Costia’s eyes again, her face was stoic and calm, evidence of Lexa’s very good attempt at showing neutrality and disinterest, as if her words were just the truth.

There was something in her expression though that made Costia’s heart ache. She almost regretted bringing this up. Just almost.

Because even though she might not have known Lexa for that long, considering all of their lives that they had lived before they met each other, she knew her deeply enough to know that Lexa expressed her true feelings in her eyes.

And in her response, despite her valiant efforts to perhaps really believe what she was saying herself, Costia saw, in her eyes, a deep, deep sadness, along with a glimmer of pain. And she knew that this could not have been brought on just by an ex whom she no longer cared for. This was a level of hurt that could only be due to someone she still loved, deeply, even though she might not know it.

Costia nodded lightly in understanding, accepting, yet not accepting, what Lexa had just told her.

Clarke dropped her paintbrush down onto the tray with a sigh. Her latest painting was not going very well. She had spent the last four hours trying to perfect the way the rays of the sun looked but had had to redo it time and time again.

She now felt frustrated and restless and suffocated in her apartment. She needed to get some fresh air. It was dark outside already, but early enough for stores to still be open. There was a shopping center within walking distance and with her mind mostly made up, she gave one last look to her unfinished work, as if she might suddenly have a fit of inspiration, but unfortunately, only ended up feeling more disappointed in her work.

The night air was cool and welcomed on her skin. She took a second after stepping outside to close her eyes and breathe the fresh air in. Her body immediately felt more relaxed as the tension escaped her muscles and she began to walk down her street.

For some reason, this whole week, she had felt tense and unsettled. There seemed to be a block to her creativity, and what little she produced seemed stale to her.

What changed this week? She asked herself as she made her way to the shopping center. She slowly retraced everything that had transpired the past week until it suddenly became quite clear when her period of uneasiness and low productivity started. It was when she ran into Lexa and her girlfriend.

With that realization, she groaned at herself. How utterly pathetic was she? First of all, she fulfilled every cliché in the book by running into her ex with her attractive new partner at the supermarket during a late night shopping trip where she happened to look uncharacteristically (well . . . mostly uncharacteristically) horrible. Now, on top of that, that one encounter had apparently been troubling her all week, so much so that she could apparently no longer even concentrate on her work. She was really, really losing this breakup.

Well, you did also wait for her at a café every week for two years, only to get unequivocally rejected.

Wow, so even her own mind wanted her to feel worse than she already did.

She sighed and shook her head, scolding herself. They are only friends now. If even that. She must remember it, for everyone’s sake, not least of which her own.

The light of the stores finally came into sight and she immediately felt thankful for a source of distraction from her rather unpleasant thoughts.

She walked directly into the first store she saw without looking and did not realize what it was until she noticed the rows and rows of books in front of her. It was one of the new chain bookstores that had just opened up.

So much for a distraction. Nothing reminded her more of Lexa than books, which was the reason why she had mostly avoided bookstores these past few years.

Now that she was inside though, she decided she might as well stay to look around. Maybe reading something will give her inspiration for her work.

The store was large and well lit, especially when compared to the smaller, older bookstores Lexa used to drag her into. She missed the smell of old books she had always associated with bookstores because of that. There was just such a sense of sterility to the store that made her understand why Lexa preferred the other bookstores.

Well, it was at least comprehensive. There seemed to be a section for every subject imaginable. Clarke wandered around for a while without much luck finding anything that interested her. Just as she was about to give up the cause and leave, she noticed a table in the middle of the store with some books on display. The sign on the table indicated these were the personal recommendations from the store employees. Her curiosity piqued, she picked up each of the books to peruse.

One book in particular caught her attention. It had a dark cover, displaying a picture of a futuristic space station orbiting in space with what appeared to be a small shuttle careening towards Earth.

She read the synopsis of the story on the back of the book, and the plot sounded quite familiar to her though she could not recall where she had heard of it before. She gathered that this had been on the bestsellers list months ago and was apparently still quite popular. She opened the book to the author’s biography and was surprised to find only a short paragraph, without any pictures. She only learned that this was British author Alexander Forest’s first novel, and that he was planning a potential sequel to the story.

Since this was the only book that had caught her interest in the whole store, she decided to purchase it.

Now she was making her way out of the store back into the night air, with the book held close to her chest. She somehow felt better now, lighter yet somehow more grounded at the same time.

She turned to make her way back home, and as she walked farther from the lights of the shopping center, the stars of the night sky became more visible.

She looked up at them, all shining so bright on this clear evening, and, try as she might, she could not stop her mind from wandering to her.

Is she looking at the very same stars tonight?

Lexa sat on her balcony, slowly sipping her tea and winding down with the noise of the city surrounding her. She had just dropped Costia off at the airport, and while she greatly enjoyed her friend’s visit, it was nice to be able to finally have so time to herself.

She took out her phone and scrolled through the messages she had gotten earlier in the week. Raven had sent her the details of Octavia’s bachelorette party for the following Saturday. She felt a sense of nervousness and dread at the prospect of having to spend an entire evening around Clarke again, something she had not done in so long. Her mind flashed to when she last saw her in the supermarket that night, covered in paint, and while she was able to convince herself that her reaction to her then was just because of the surprise of the situation, she could not explain away the way her heart sped up now.

She groaned and shook her head to clear her thoughts. This might be harder than she thought. But, at least she would have Anya with her the whole time. She was not going to let her sister leave her side at all.

Her thoughts then went back to her earlier conversation with Costia. She did not know why Costia brought up Clarke. There was nothing between them anymore, and she and Clarke would be just friends again. Just friends. The thought of having Clarke in her life again filled her with warm content. She nodded, more confident and sure she could handle this, and whispered to herself, “Yes, just friends.”

She took a sip of her tea and leaned back against her building, tilting her head to look up at the stars. And tonight, for some reason, her favorite stars seemed brighter than they had been in a long, long time.

Chapter Text

"Who ordered FIVE pineapple pizzas?"

Octavia turned around balancing the tower of pizzas the delivery person handed her as the door closed behind her with a click. She set the pizzas down on the counter and looked for the most likely suspect.

Her apartment was full of her closest friends, here celebrating her bachelorette party before they headed out to the club. Music was blaring loudly and alcohol was flowing freely. She had to admit, her two bridesmaids really did a good job with organizing the party. She had to really treat them out to somewhere special after this.

But first, she might have to strangle one of them.

She glanced at the corner of the apartment near the speakers, where she last saw her friend, and instantly found the dark-haired woman. A group of women were huddled around her, and Octavia could see an object emitting sparkling light from her hand.

"Raven! No sparklers indoor!"

Raven looked up and quickly caught Octavia's angry gaze. She had the decency to have a sheepish look on her face, but then all she did was shrug and said, "What? People wanted to see a demonstration." She made to gesture to the group around her and was peeved to see that they had all already dissipated instead of waiting to absorb some of the heat for her.

Her point unproven, she tried again. "You don't have to worry at all, O. I already disabled your fire alarm, so nothing bad will happen."

Octavia did not know which part of that comment to address first. Looking at Raven's clueless face, she knew explaining to her would be fruitless. She made a mental note to have a "do not ever disable fire alarms" talk with Raven when everyone was more sober. So she just shook her head and focused on her original question.

"Raven, why did you order five pineapple pizzas? I know you like them, but who is going to eat five of them?"

Raven's mouth fell open in exaggerated surprise and hurt. "Hey! Why do you always blame me for every abnormal thing that happens? Why am I the only one who could have ordered the pizzas?"

"Because you're the only one who likes pineapple on pizzas here."

Raven's expression changed from feigned anger to smugness as she tilt her head and gave Octavia a small "I just figured it out" smirk. "That might be the case here . . . but have you considered that maybe there is someone else on the guest list also likes pineapple on pizzas?"

With that hint, Octavia knew exactly who she was talking about. She sighed and turned to find the only other person who would have done such a thing.

As she was walking away, she heard her friend shout behind her, "Hey! How about an apology? Like a 'Gosh, Raven, I am so so sorry for my horrible assumption that you did this ridiculous thing. Please forgive me. I'll name my first born child after you!"

Octavia rolled her eyes even as she continued forward without looking back. "Put the fire alarm back on, Raven."
She found the culprit just as she was coming out of the bathroom. One look at her friend told her that Clarke had refreshed her makeup. Again. For probably the fifth time that night.

To her credit though, Clarke looked gorgeous tonight.

"Octavia! Hey, is everything okay? Are you enjoying the party?"

"Yes, everything is fine. Well, besides Raven disabling the fire alarm."

"What? Why?"

"Don't ask."

"Okay, you're right. I don't think I want to know. Let's just remember to add 'No disabling life-saving alarm systems' to the list of things Raven is not allowed to do at parties."

They shared a knowing grin. Octavia then saw Clarke glance above her around the apartment. She knew what she was looking for.

"Hey, did you order five pineapple pizzas? They just came."

"Oh! That was fast. Where did you put it? I hope they don't get cold too fast. I should put them in the oven."

"Why did you get so many? You don't even like pineapple on pizzas."

Clarke averted her gaze and hesitated a moment before finally answering, "Lexa likes it."

Octavia felt her heart ache a little as her friend admitted that to her, in such a defeated, yet accepted, way. And then she felt her heart ache a lot more when she remembered the other thing she was supposed to tell her friend.

"About that . . . Clarke, I got a text from Lexa just a bit earlier. She and Anya can't make it here." Clarke's face immediately fell, but Octavia quickly added, "But she said they can meet us at the club though! So you can still see her tonight. I mean, so WE can all still see her tonight."

She could see the immense relief on her friend's face. "Oh. Okay."

There was silence as Octavia studied her to make sure she was really okay. She looked like she was until she suddenly looked up with widened eyes, as if she had just made a sudden realization.

"Who's going to eat all those pizzas, now?"

Octavia did not have the heart to point out to her that even if Lexa had come, she would not have eaten all five pizzas anyway. So really, that was a question Clarke should have asked BEFORE she ordered five pizzas.

Instead, she just shrugged and said, "Maybe we can just scrape all the pineapple onto one pizza and feed that one to Raven."

Chapter Text

Lexa stepped out of the taxi onto the sidewalk to find herself standing under the bright lights of the large sign at the entrance to the club where Octavia's party was being held.

She paused for a second to study the sign. In dazzling gold neon lights and stylish, almost handwritten, font, the word "Stars” was clearly illuminated. And just above the word, a small light flashed from left to right in an arch, resembling a shooting star.

She really had to wonder if this was a sign (ha, chuckled the writer in her). But whether it was a sign for her to stay, or to leave immediately, she could not decide. Before she had a chance to make up her mind, she felt a hand on her back, lightly pushing her forward.

"Come on, kid. You’ve already wasted all night trying to decide whether or not to come. Time during which alcohol could have been had, in the presence of good company. I had to drink my own beer, and watch multiple boring reruns, while you hemmed and hawed over your phone. We're here now, and I'm not going all the way back without making Reyes regret her text trash talking about how she will . . . " Anya glanced at the phone to make sure she got the direct quote, "'drink the shit' out of me."

Lexa furrowed her eyebrows at Anya, "What does that even mean?" She paused just a bit before continuing, "I mean, I understand it in context, but literally, it does not make a lot of sense."

Anya stared at Lexa. "All you took away from what I just said was Reyes’ poor word choice?"

Lexa nodded.

Anya shook her head helplessly. Instead of wasting her time explaining to Lexa what she should have taken away from her eloquent speech, she decided to just move on. "Anyway . . .  judging by all the typos in her messages, Reyes probably already has a couple of drinks in her. So this probably won't take too long."

She gave Lexa another light push on the back, giving her sister no choice but to walk towards the entrance. The doors opened suddenly as a young couple stumbled out drunkenly. Lexa could see the spinning lights inside the club behind them as loud music blared out through the door.

She had considered many things while deciding whether to come tonight. She wondered if she could really spend the whole evening around Clarke, if they could have normal conversations together, and if they could really, truly become friends again. Was that even what she wanted?

She had yet to really decipher the torrents of emotions she felt from the last two times she saw Clarke, when she ran into her unexpectedly at the flower shop, and then again in the supermarket, having deferred that unpleasant task until sometime in the far, far future. And those interactions had only been less than ten minutes. She did not know what to expect to feel after spending a whole evening with her.

Though, she reasoned, that might have only been because she had been surprised those last two times. Surprised, and unprepared. Yes, that must have been the reason. And since she was now very prepared, she knew her heart would not race only at the sight of Clarke. The air would not seem thicker, and she would not struggle to breathe. Because she was prepared.

She shook her head lightly. She did not feel that way about Clarke anymore, so there was no reason for things to feel awkward and uncomfortable. Of course they could be friends. She was sure of it. She was prepared and would not be caught off guard. Not even a little. She was determined to hang onto guard so tightly that they would have to pry her off of it before she would let go.

She took a deep breath, pulled her shoulders back, and began to make her way in.

She saw her right away. Somehow, even though her pupils had not adjusted to the dark and the entire club was full of people crowded together in small spaces, she found her right away.

She was breathtaking tonight.

She was wearing form-fitting black jeans, paired with a stylish black halter top, both contrasting strikingly to her pale, flawless skin. Her golden tresses curled just the right amount so that it fell naturally and gracefully over her shoulders; her eyes highlighted by smokey eye shadows and bold eyeliners; her lips demurely taking a backseat with nude coloring -- she was the picture of pure seduction.

Lexa could feel every beat of her racing heart. So much for being prepared. It must be the loud pounding bass of the dance track currently playing over the speakers. Yes, that must be the reason.

Then, all of a sudden, as if she could sense her staring, Clarke looked up from the table and caught Lexa's eyes. The striking blues were were able to pierce through the dark of the room.

And then, remarkably, the sultry, brooding Clarke of mere seconds ago seemed to instantly vanish as a bright, wide smile formed on her face. She was now the picture of the girl who saw that she got what she wanted for Christmas.

But then Clarke seemed to catch herself, and her expression changed into what might be considered a more appropriate reaction of someone just seeing her ex who she is definitely over. She now looked like a teenager who opened a gift she wanted, but due to some unspoken code about coolness, had to hold in her excitement.

Which was really just Clarke staring at her with an awkward, frozen half-smile and one hand held up next to her face in a half-wave, half-salute.

Lexa returned with a short wave and awkward smile of her own.

Anya looked between the two of them for several seconds. She then made a decision crucial to her own well-being for the night. She was not going to interfere with them tonight. She leaned over to whisper-shout into her sister’s ear, “You’re going to be okay. Just . . . act normal.”

She watched as Lexa shook her shoulders loose in an attempt to look relaxed and turned to face her with a stiff smile, looking for approval.

“Eh, good enough.”

As Lexa and Anya made their way over to the group, Octavia noticed Clarke staring toward the door and looked up to her line of sight. Her face lit up when she saw them. She quickly made her way out of the booth, pulling Clarke along with her.

“Lexa! Anya! You two made it!” She engulfed Lexa in a big hug while Clarke gave Anya a hug (a short, somewhat stiff one – the only kind that Anya permits). Octavia then turned to hug Anya, leaving Lexa to face Clarke.

There was a brief second of uncertainty when both contemplated whether to hug or not, and as the second drew on, with the two of the just standing in front of each other, Lexa felt more and more anxious. She needed to do something. Quick.

“Hi, Clarke!” she shouted, unnaturally loud.

Clarke looked slightly surprised but quickly recovered with a smile. “Hi, Lexa.”

They were both saved from further awkwardness when Lexa felt a small body crash into her from the side.

“Lexa! You’re here! I missed you. Clarke, move aside. You’re in the way.” Raven kept one arm wrapped around Lexa and used her other arm to push Clarke away from Lexa.

Lexa broke her eye contact with Clarke as she turned to face Raven. A Raven who had clearly been enjoying herself.

“Hi Raven,” Lexa said, turning to face her fully and giving the dark-haired girl a tight embrace. “I have missed you too. You look like you are having fun.”

Raven pulled back from the hug, nodding. “I am having fun. But, I’m sorry Lexa.” Her expression was now solemn and racked with guilt.

“Why are you sorry?”

Seemingly holding back tears, Raven shouted her confession, “I ate all your pizza!”

Before she could elaborate, Clarke jumped in. “Hey Raven, look who else is here.” She pointed to Anya, who was standing there smirking at her drunken state.

“Reyes, how are you planning to ‘drink the shit’ out of me in your current state?”

“You. Woods.” Raven’s eyes narrowed as she looked her opponent up and down. She suddenly became the face of severity. “I wanted to make it a fair match. So I decided to give you a head start.” She returned a smirk of her own. “Prepare to lose.”

The two kept their eyes trained on each other as they made their way to the bar. Octavia looked after them worriedly.

“Um, I think I better go make sure they don’t kill each other. Or die of alcohol poisoning.” She thought for a second. “Well, mostly just Raven. She is the only one silly enough to think that she can outdrink Anya. I still kind of need her for my wedding.”

She winked at them before adding, “Lex, I’ll be right back. That’s our waitress right there. She is very good. Order whatever you’d like. Everything’s covered.”

With that, she quickly headed to where Anya and Raven had settled down at the bar, leaving the two of them alone with each other.

Clarke spoke first.

“Do you, maybe, um, want to sit down?”

“Yes, please.” Lexa almost rolled her eyes at herself. Yes, please?

Luckily Clarke did not seem to notice it. She was already moving into her spot in the booth. Lexa moved in after her. She left a wide enough space between the two of them such that they were not touching, but were still close enough to hear each other.

Now that it was just the two of them sitting together, Lexa could feel the awkward silence mounting until it was almost palpable. It was becoming unbearable to Lexa. Just as she was about to open her mouth to make an excuse to leave right that second, the waitress came over to place several drinks and shots on their table.

“Hi, Lexa? Octavia sent these over. She said you two probably need it.” She winked at Clarke before laughing. “Let me know if you need anything else.”

Now that the waitress had left, they were back to awkward silence. Lexa needed to do something before it became unbearable again. So she did the only thing she could think of to do in such a situation. She picked up the shot glass closest to her and downed it quickly in one gulp.

The liquid burned her throat on the way down, and she had to steel herself to prevent it from coming back up. She could not stop the coughing and grimacing though. Great. How not embarrassing.

Clarke looked at her in concern and moved closer to hand her a glass of liquid.

“Here, Lexa, this is just Coke.”

Lexa hurriedly took a gulp of the cold drink. The cold soda was quite soothing to her throat after the sting of the liquor. After swallowing the soda, she was able to discern a distinct, subtle, pleasant taste that she knew was not from either drinks. It was very familiar. She glanced down at the glass in her hand and saw a lipstick mark there, exactly where she drank out of the glass.

Clarke’s lipstick mark. Her favorite of Clarke’s lipsticks mark, to be more specific.

She could not stop her mind from flashing back to those times when she had tasted that lipstick from the source, when Clarke would purposely put on that lipstick because she knew Lexa could not resist kissing her. And she was always right. As complex as she liked to think her writer mind was, Lexa sometimes could not believe how predictable she was when it came to Clarke.

She looked up to find Clarke looking at her with worried eyes.

She managed to gather her mind back and offered a smile. “I am okay now, Clarke. Thank you for the drink.”  

As embarrassing as that had been, it at least helped to break the ice between them.  She had already started out the night choking on alcohol that she tried to drink too fast, in front of her ex, who had to save her with her soda. All because she wanted to avoid awkward silence with said ex. So really, the night could only go up from there.

“Are you sure? Here, I’ll go get you another one.” Clarke started to move out of her side of the booth.

Lexa instinctively reached out to stop her, resting her hand lightly on Clarke’s bare arm. “No, it’s okay.”

It was a small thing, what Lexa did, placing her hand on her arm. Even strangers walking on a crowded street might have had more physical contact than they did.

Lexa did not think much of it. Her mind was still sorting through her near choking spell and the taste of Clarke’s lipstick. So she did not realize that this was the first time they had had physical contact in more than two years.

But Clarke did. Of course Clarke did. She had spent many hours at the cafe thinking about Lexa’s hands. She had always loved her hands and her long, slender fingers that always made her (unreasonably, she knew) self-conscious about her own short, stubby fingers.  

She had thought about how elegant and graceful they looked, even when Lexa was just doing something as simple as stirring a cup of coffee. How precise and agile they were, during the times when Lexa took to writing by hand instead of on her computer. How strong yet gentle they felt, when they wrapped around her hands, when Lexa wanted to remind her that she was there.

How soft they always felt on her skin.

Exactly like how they felt right now.

But that feeling was gone too soon, when Lexa withdrew her hand after catching Clarke’s attention. Clarke slowly nodded and moved back into her seat.

Before it could become awkward again, Lexa flagged down the waitress and ordered another drink. Just so she could have something to sip during the silence.

Clarke made it a little bit easier for her by speaking first.

“Have you and Anya already eaten? They serve food here, too. I don’t know how good it is, but we can ask.”

Lexa nodded. “We have.” Well, Anya had. She had been too focused on trying to decide whether or not she should come tonight to eat much. She did gnaw on a piece of old toast while pacing around. She figured that counted as some sort of dinner.

She remembered something Raven had said earlier.

“So . . . what did Raven mean when she said she ate all my pizza?”

“Oh . . . um . . . we ordered some pizzas, with some intended for you and Anya. But since you two couldn’t make it, Raven ate them all.”

Lexa laughed. “Yup, that sounds like her. But at least that means she has some food in her stomach for buffer in her drinking competition with Anya.”

“It’s been awhile since those two had one of their pointless competitions. I, for one, am glad that Raven now has Anya again to focus that energy on. I am tired of always trying to see who can walk to the nearest streetlight with the least number of strides, or how many grapes we can fit into our mouths while reciting the alphabet. I nearly choked and she didn’t even stop to help me! She ruined grapes for me. And the alphabet.”

Lexa could not hold in her laughter. “Oh no, Clarke. Not the alphabet!”

Clarke nodded seriously. “I’m sorry. I know it’s harsh, but . . . it just betrayed me.” She picked up her drink, adding, “And besides, the alphabet was always your thing.”

She said it offhandedly, as part of her joke, and only realized after that she had subtly brought up what they had both implicitly agreed not to discuss as part of their bid to make their new precarious friendship work.

One brief glance at Lexa’s face told her she caught it too. She had quickly gone from laughing loudly to quietly looking at the table and sipping at her drink.

Clarke sighed, deeply regretting ruining the lighthearted mood they were in. She tried to change the subject.

“So . . . did Costia enjoy her first visit to America?”

Lexa fidgeted in her chair and took another large sip from her drink. She was still looking down at the table. “Yes, she really enjoyed it here quite a bit.”

“That’s good to hear. She seemed really sweet. I’m sure she’ll fit in well when she moves here.”

Lexa quickly finished the rest of her drink. She lifted her empty glass to the waitress who gestured in acknowledgement. Clarke waited for her to respond, but Lexa did not seem to want to continue the thread of conversation.

Clarke tried again. “I’m, um, reading a new book.”

Lexa finally looked up from the spot she had been staring at on the table, interest seemingly piqued. “Oh, what’s the book?”

“It’s called--”

They both startled as Raven suddenly flopped into the seat next to Lexa and draped an arm around her shoulder, the drink in her hand splashing in the glass precariously.

“Lexa! Guess what? I won! I beat your sister!”

Lexa looked at her with surprise. “Really? You did?”

With a smug and content smile on her face, Raven nodded proudly.

Lexa turned to look back at the bar, where she saw her sister and Octavia walking toward their booth. Anya had a more-than-a-little-annoyed look on her face.

“I hope you didn’t tell Lexa you won, Reyes. Because you know you didn’t.”

Raven turned serious and looked up to face the taller woman. “Let’s see. The rules were that we would continue drinking until one person cannot drink anymore. The remaining competitor is then the winner. I think that’s exactly what happened. You cannot drink anymore, so I, the remaining competitor, am the winner.”

“I can’t drink anymore only because one of my friends just broke up with her boyfriend and needs a place to crash tonight. I need to get home to let her in.”

“All I hear is, ‘I cannot drink anymore.’ Oh, and ‘You are clearly the better drinker, Raven. I admit total defeat.’”

Anya gave her what could only be considered a death stare, but did not contest her claim. Instead, she turned to Lexa.

“Do you want me to take you home first, Lex? Or would you like to stay and maybe one of the girls can take you home?”

Before Lexa could speak, Raven wrapped both arms around her again and shouted, “No! Lexie’s not leaving. She’s staying her with me forever. Pleeeease.” She looked up to Lexa with pleading, wide eyes. There really was no way to resist her whenever she did that.

“Of course I’ll stay, Raven.” Raven looked appeased and settled her head onto Lexa’s shoulder.

“We’ll make sure she gets home safe, Anya. Are you okay to get home yourself?” Octavia asked.

Anya nodded. “Yeah, I’ve only had 2 drinks. Reyes is lucky I got called away.”

“If by ‘lucky,’ you mean, ‘an incredibly talented drinker who is clearly my superior,’ then yes, I am quite lucky”

Octavia decided to intervene before Anya could retort. “You two can have a rematch at my wedding, okay? On me.” She gave Anya a hug and said, “Thanks for coming out, Anya.”

“Congratulations again.”

Clarke also slid out of her booth to hug Anya good bye. She was a little sad that she did not get to spend more time with her. It has been a while since they spent time outside of the cafe. Anya seemed to sense it. She returned the hug a little more than she normally returned hugs.

“Good seeing you here, Clarke. We’ll get a drink another time.”

Clarke nodded. “Yes, definitely.”

She watched Anya make her way through the club to the door. When she finally turned back to the table, she saw that Raven was already pushing a drink towards Lexa.

“Younger, Less-Scary Woods. You have to sub in for your sister. That’s the rule.”

Lexa looked across the table to Octavia for help, who only shrugged in response. “I can’t argue with that. Her reasoning is sound.”

Standing there, watching her best friends interacting with Lexa so freely, so casually, so happily . . . Clarke was filled with a rush of content that she recognized from years before. She lamented having taken these moments for granted in the past, just because they had been so abundant.

That feeling of content made her feel as if her life were whole again, that all the pain and uncertainty of the past few years of her life been washed away.

She stood there for another moment, taking the sight in front of her, savoring the peacefulness she felt inside of her. She knew it was just transient, that it would not last past this night. She knew that tomorrow, she would be filled with the hollowness she had come to know so well.

But that was okay. She would just have this moment, this moment that brought with it no promises of future moments.

Smiling, she picked up a shot glass in solidarity and support for Lexa as she slid into the booth next to Octavia.

It was already more than she could have hoped for.

Chapter Text

“Clarke, I think I need to drive Raven home sooner than later.” Octavia was trying her best to hold onto one of Raven’s hands as the brunette tried to prance about on the sidewalk.

Clarke was holding Lexa by her arm, and her brunette, though less difficult to manage than Octavia’s, was definitely not self-sufficient at the moment. She took a look at Lexa after Octavia’s words. Her eyes were closed and her lips were curled up in a silly smile. She was swaying back and forth to the music that was playing only in her head.

“I think Lexa also needs to go home soon too. I know this look. She’s going to pass out soon and start waking up erratically. We would have to carry her wherever we need her to be.”

With her eyes still closed, Lexa shifted closer to her to lean her head on her shoulder. Clarke felt warmth spread throughout her body from where Lexa touched her skin.

“Okay, do you think maybe you can get Lexa home in a cab? You live closer to her than we do anyway. I’ll drive Raven home and put her to bed. That might take a while.” Raven started to prance closer to the streets. “Raven! No, stay here!” Octavia pulled her back by the hand she was holding.

“O! OOOO! Why do we call you O? You’re not an O at all. You’re not a letter!”

“Well, you are not a raven either. Why do we call you that?”

Of everything, that was what got the engineer to stop trying to wiggle out of Octavia’s grip. She placed her head in her free hand and closed her eyes, thinking hard. “Why DO you call me Raven? Am I a raven?” She stared at her hand, turning it over and over again, checking to see if it was still a human hand.

Octavia saw her chance. She wrapped one arm around Raven’s waist and grabbed her forearm with the other. She began to lead her towards the car. She turned to glance back at Clarke, who was looking at Lexa with a dazed expression on her face.

“Clarke. Clarke!” Clarke looked up at Octavia’s retreating figure.

Octavia had to raise her voice at this point. “Hey, take Lexa home okay? I’ll text you her address right now.” Octavia pull out her phone and seconds later, Clarke’s phone dinged with the message.

“Text me when you get home too!” Octavia yelled. They had reached her car and she was busy trying to get Raven into the passenger seat. She somehow managed to successfully buckle her up. She got into the driver’s seat and waved to Clarke as they drove past.

Clarke watched the car speed off and tried to process what had just happened. She had had only three beers and, though not as sharp, her mind was still working. She looked down at the woman in her arms and remembered that she was tasked with delivering Lexa home safely. She shook her head to clear her mind and held out her arm to summon an approaching cab.

It was not too hard to get Lexa into the backseat of the cab. Unlike Drunk Raven, Drunk Lexa was quite malleable and easily maneuvered. As long as she had not passed out yet.

“Lexa, can you move over a little to make room for me?”

Lexa finally opened her heavily lidded eyes and looked up. Clarke felt her almost heart melt.

“Okay, Clarke.” She nodded solemnly, as if she had just made a serious decision. “I will.” She continued nodding her head, sure of her great sacrifice. “For you.”

Clarke smiled at her. “Thank you.”

She clumsily pushed herself to the other side of the seat and Clarke got in and closed the door. She gave the cab driver the address from her phone.

Lexa was leaning against the window, eyes again closed. Her body, though, was far from the door, causing her neck to be contorted in what seemed to be a rather uncomfortable way. Clarke did not want to leave her in this position for the remainder of the cab ride. She moved closer and reached a hand out to reposition her head. At the first touch of her fingers on Lexa’s cheeks, she suddenly shifted her body away from the door and towards Clarke.

Clarke was surprised by the sudden movement and did her best to quickly move her arms out of the way as Lexa burrowed into her side, wrapping her arms around her waist and resting her head on the crook of her neck. She even wiggled around a little bit before she finally settled into her new, decidedly more comfortable, position.

If she thought her heart was racing before, Clarke knew that it was now beating frantically out of control. She was still holding her arm above Lexa’s shoulder, unsure of where she should put it. Lexa’s body was almost melded next to hers and her head was only centimeters away from Clarke’s face. She could smell her shampoo – a distinctly floral coconut scent – from their close proximity. It was intoxicating, and her already hazy mind was getting foggier by the second. She could only focus on Lexa’s warm, steady breaths landing softly on her collarbone, raising goosebumps on her skin.

Lexa did not move from her position at all, and Clarke, in her attempt not to disturb her, ended up spending the whole cab ride staying so awkwardly still that she almost passed out from holding her breath.

She would never know how she survived that cab ride.

“Here,” Clarke said, holding out some bills to the cab driver. “Please keep the change. Just give us a second.”

She turned back to look at the sleeping woman next to her. Lexa was still out, her head lightly resting on Clarke’s shoulder. They were parked in front of the address Octavia had texted her. The light from the street lamp filtered in through the car window, casting a soft glow on Lexa’s face. Face flushed, mouth slightly ajar, she was the same picture of perfection Clarke could remember from what seemed like a lifetime ago.

Clarke gave herself another few seconds to revel in this moment that she was sure she would never have again. She tried her best to memorize it all. The contour of her jaw . . . the curve of her nose . . . the curl of her eyelashes . . . all fitting together so perfectly that it made her heart ached. Her gaze moved to her lips, where she saw her distinctive upturns at the corners, ever present whenever she slept.

Clarke closed her eyes and felt a wave of warmth wash over her.

In a parallel universe . . . in a kinder universe . . . a Clarke would gently wake a Lexa up with a kiss on the forehead and a smile on her face, before leading her inside the home they shared together, to fall asleep in their bed, wrapped in each other’s arms.

But in this one, all this Clarke could do was open her eyes and slowly, almost reluctantly, tap this Lexa lightly on the shoulders.


No response.

She tried again, louder. “Hey Lexa . . . wake up.” Lexa stirred.

Clarke gently maneuvered her upright against the seat. Lexa opened her eyes and looked around sleepily. Her eyes stopped on Clarke. She looked confused for a second before breaking out a wide, goofy smile.

“Clarke! It’s you!”

“Uh, yeah, it’s me.” Clarke did not try to explain that they had been together the whole night. “We’re here . . . I think. Is this your apartment building?” She pointed to the building outside her side of the car.

Through groggy, Lexa seemed to have understood her question. She leaned over the seat in order to look out Clarke’s window. Clarke barely had time to move back out of her way as Lexa’s face barely skimmed past hers.  She kept as still as she could and held her breath as Lexa’s head bobbled and hovered unsteadily right in front of her.

After longer than it should take to recognize one’s own apartment building, and just barely shorter than Clarke could hold her breath before passing out, Lexa finally moved back to her side of the seat.

She turned to Clarke, looked her square in the eye, and pointed to the building. “Clarke, I live here.”

“Um, okay. Okay, good.”

Clarke opened the car door and hastily grabbed all their things before stepping out. When she finally somehow managed to juggle all their coats and bags in her hands, she turned back, expecting Lexa to have at least started moving towards the opened door.

Instead, what she found was an again-unconscious Lexa, lying flat across the entire backseat, with her arms draping out of the car.

Clarke sighed, reached into her pockets and pulled out another bill. She handed it to the driver through the open window.

“This might take another second.”

Leaning against the wall of the elevator, balancing coats and bags and one semi-conscious Lexa, Clarke had a moment to wonder how her night went from trying to stop a drunken Raven from eating five entire pineapple pizzas to escorting home the woman she had been pining after for the past two years.

Not that she was complaining.

Though, if she were honest, this was definitely not the way she imagined it happening.

In the scenario she envisioned, they would probably still be pressed just as tightly against each other in an elevator. But there would not be the 20 million layers of clothing and bags between them. And it would have been after a romantic night of holding hands, gazing into each other’s eyes, and whispering soft I-love-you’s during their conversations about nothing and everything.

And, importantly, in her scenario, Lexa would be a lot more conscious than she was right now.

The elevator door opened to an empty, well-lit hallway. Clarke was thankful for that. One, because she knew that Lexa was not the type to come home drunk all the time, so she did not want her everyone to be suspicious of what she might have done to their beloved neighbor. And two, she knew she looked ridiculous trying to move down the hall with everything in tote while trying to half-steer, half-carry Lexa with her.

She found the apartment number that matched the one in Octavia’s text. Luckily for her, Lexa’s keys were easy to find in her bag. She got the right key in on the second try.

With some effort, she maneuvered both of them through the doorway. When the door lock clicked shut and she was finally able to drop their bags and coats onto the nearby table -- rather haphazardly, she soon realized, when one of the the coats (hers) fell into the garbage can, but whatever -- Clarke breathed a small sigh of relief.

She had about five seconds to regroup before she felt Lexa start to slip from her side. She quickly grabbed her at the waist and gently moved her to the wall. She looked at Lexa’s face to make sure she was okay.

She had her eyes closed and her head leaned back against the wall, leaving exposed her long, slender neck. It was so smooth that Clarke could see the pulsing of her arteries, which seemed to thump in sync with her own heart beat.

There was a strand of curly hair stuck to her forehead. Clarke recognized it as the same strand of hair that had always been the bane of Lexa’s hair styling efforts. It stayed curly despite all her efforts with hair straighteners and many, many hair products. Secretly though, Clarke loved that strand of hair. It was the only flaw in an otherwise flawless Lexa. It made her seem more approachable. More human. And sometimes, imperfection that it was, it was the only thing that made Clarke believe it was possible that such a person, such a being , could be in love with someone like her.

Almost out of instinct, Clarke’s hand reached to lightly brushed the strand of hair away. As she moved her hand away, she found herself gingerly tracing the side of Lexa’s face with her tip of her fingers.

She was so caught up in the moment and the memories it evoked that she did not see Lexa’s eyes slowly open. She only realized Lexa was awake when she heard a slurred, hoarse, “Clarke?”

She looked up to find herself staring directly into Lexa’s eyes. Her eyelids were heavy with sleep and her eyes were dark with the haziness of intoxication, but she could still easily find the familiar green.

Before she could pull away, Lexa turned her face and nuzzled into her hand, trapping it there.

Startled and unsure of what to do, Clarke tried to remain as still as she could. Her willpower was no match for Lexa’s persistent nuzzling, and Clarke soon found herself giving in. Her hand relaxed to fully cupped her face, and she let her thumb delicately caressed her face.

Her touch seemed to stir something in Lexa. Her eyes focused on Clarke’s face, first on her eyes before dropping down to her lips.

Clarke would know that look anywhere. She felt her heart pound against her chest the way it always did when Lexa looked at her this way.

And just as she knew they would, Lexa’s lips began to move towards hers.

She had waited so long for this moment. She had endured so much pain and heartbreak and had had her hopes dashed so many times wishing for this moment. She had dreamed of this moment so often, and every time only to awaken to disappointment, that she was sure she would jolt awake in her own bed any minute now.

She wanted this to happen so, so much.

But not like this.

Just as Lexa’s lips was about to touch hers, Clarke leaned her head forward to rest it on Lexa’s, keeping her lips just out of reach. Their breaths mingled together in the thin space between them.

“Lexa,” Clarke breathed. She kept her eyes closed as she gathered all her willpower.

By the time she opened her eyes, Lexa had fallen asleep again, leaning against her forehead.

Clarke somehow managed to move the semi-conscious Lexa down the narrow hallway with very minimal damage and finally into a room that must have been Lexa’s bedroom.

She dropped Lexa down on her bed and was just about to put her under the covers when she noticed that she was still wearing tight jeans and a flowy blouse that, while beautiful, did not look very comfortable or warm to sleep in.

Clarke debated with herself about what to do. Lexa probably would not mind if she helped her change out of her shirt just so she would not get a cold overnight. But she should probably leave her jeans on, though.

She looked around to see if she could see any of Lexa’s clothes scattered around the room. She did not know why she bothered. This was Lexa. She was not going to have clothes lying around out of place.

She had reservations about rummaging through Lexa’s things without permission. She looked at the sleeping woman in front of her and decided to take a chance, even though she was not sure how helpful she would be. She pulled Lexa up to a sitting position on the edge of the bed. Miraculously, Lexa stayed upright.

Clarke kneeled down in front of her to talk to her directly.

“Lexa. Hey Lexa.” She lightly tapped her face. Lexa opened her eyes and looked at her groggily. Clarke saw a window of opportunity. “Where do you keep your pajamas? I can get them for you and help you change out of your clothes so that you will be more comfortable.”

She could see Lexa processing her words as if she had just described how a thermoelectric generator worked. Then, without warning, Lexa stood up from the bed. Clarke quickly stood up with her in preparation to catch her but Lexa only briefly grabbed Clarke’s arms to steady herself.

“Yes, pajamas,” Lexa slurred. “Sleep . . . my pandajamas.”

She started walking towards the dresser on the other side of the room. And when she was just out of Clarke’s reach, she pulled off her blouse in one surprisingly fluid motion. Even before Clarke could react, she had already unbuttoned her jeans and was slipping out of them.

Clarke stood dumbfounded. Her mind was telling her that she should avert her eyes because she and Lexa were no longer dating and that Lexa was currently very drunk and did not know what she was doing and that as the sober person, she should do the honorable thing of maintaining Lexa’s modesty.

Well, her eyes did not listen to her mind’s righteous rambling. At all. They were too busy drinking in the sight of a half naked Lexa rummaging around in the top drawer of her dresser. Lexa’s smooth, toned back was one of her features that always captivated Clarke to no end. Her eyes slowly traced up the curve of her spine and continued along the contour of her shoulder blade.

And that was when she noticed it. It was just there, on Lexa's shoulders, as clear as the first time Clarke had seen it on her. The image that had given her so much inspiration when she needed it most, still etched on the body of the person she still loved more than anything in this world.

Her mind flashed back to that fateful night, when she was ready to give up art forever. Sitting on the floor together, with her hand over Lexa's, they had created this image that, to the world, represented Clarke Griffin, the Artist. But to her, it meant so much more.

But what did it mean to Lexa?

Her heart raced from thinking about the possibilities. Did Lexa still have the tattoo because it still meant something to her? Because Clarke still meant something to her? Or did she simply not care enough anymore to get it removed? Did she see it every time she undressed? Did it bring her good memories or bad memories?

Did she ever regret getting it?

All too soon though, Lexa had pulled on an oversized tee shirt with a cute napping panda printed on it and was stumbling back towards the bed.

Clarke was taken out of her thoughts when Lexa plopped facedown on the bed in front of her and started crawling towards the head of the bed without paying any attention to her.

Lexa somehow managed to get herself under the covers but struggled to pull it up to her neck. She gave up very quickly. Instead, she sought warmth by curling into a ball and wrapping her arms around her knees. This was how Clarke sometimes found her in the morning after Clarke had pulled all the covers to her side of the bed during the night. Lexa never fought her for the covers.

Clarke pulled up the covers for her and gently tucked them under her chin. She took her time patting down the comforter and smoothing out the wrinkles.

Looking around, she realized that there was not much else left for her to do. Her mind was hazy from everything that had happened in one night. It felt as if she was in a dream, one from which she was reluctant to wake.

She sat down on the edge of the bed next to Lexa.

Rosy-cheeked and mouth ajar with steady breaths, she was the picture of serenity. Looking at her, one would never guess all the pain she had endured.

With a sigh and a heavier heart, she turned to leave.


She turned back to see Lexa opening her eyes groggily. Lexa fumbled around under the covers until she was able to pull one of her hands out. She reached for Clarke's, and smiled when she found it.

Her eyes were barely open, but her hand held on tight.

"Clarke, is that you?"

"Yes," Clarke whispered. "Yes, it's me, Lexa."

“Yeah?” She was trying to keep her eyes open to make sure that was true. “So it was just a dream then?”

“What was?” Clarke could barely speak.

“All that time...” Her eyes drifted close again, and the next words came out so softly Clarke was not sure she heard them at all.

“...without you.”

Clarke could feel tears welling up behind her eyes. She picked up Lexa’s hand and placed it next to her cheek. She nodded.

“Yes, Lexa.” She kissed her palm. “It was all just a dream. I’m here now.”

Lexa smiled with her eyes closed. Her words were slurred, but clear as day to Clarke. “You looked so beautiful, Clarke. In the dream. In the green dress. And the snow. With your art.”

Then she frowned slightly. “But you were sad. I do not know why.” Her frown became deeper. “I wanted to get to you. But I could not reach you, Clarke.” She started to toss in bed.

“Shhh . . . Lexa, shhh.” Clarke placed her hands on her shoulders to calm her down. “It’s okay, babe, I’m here.” She immediately realized her slip of the tongue. But her term of endearment seemed to settle Lexa.

“Good.” She turned to snuggle into her pillow. “Good, then.”

“Yes. Good, then.” Clarke slowly moved her hands away to pull the covers back up to Lexa’s neck. “Sleep, now.”



Her next words were almost too garbled to make out. “You be here?”

Clarke could not help herself. She leaned over to place a kiss on Lexa’s forehead.

“I’ll always be here.”

It was not until she was sitting in the back of a cab on her way home that she finally realized what Lexa had said.

Chapter Text

It had only been three days, but Lexa already felt like she had been living a surreptitious life for months. Raven had bet her that she could not hide the tattoo from Clarke for the week before their two year anniversary, and Lexa had felt almost personally offended by her lack of faith. Which, she now realized, was really just a clearer grasp of reality.

She had planned out all her answers to questions Clarke might have, such as why she would be wearing a long sleeve shirt when it was ninety degrees outside (because increasing skin damage from the sun is a growing concern amongst the medical community, Clarke), but she had been unprepared for other things. Other . . .  physical things.

She had never realized how much of a role physicality played in their lives until she had to limit it with Clarke. And this was aside from the obvious moments of intimacy in any relationship. In addition to trying her best to non-suspiciously decline Clarke’s advances in the past few days with complaints of random maladies, she had had to avoid cuddling with her at night, and avoid hugging her in general, since her shoulder was still tender. Clarke had even drawn a bath for her as a surprise one night, likely with the hopes of sharing it with her, so she had to jump in and out of the bath before Clarke had a chance to join her. It made her feel immensely guilty. And more than that, she herself missed those things as well.

All in all, she was sure that Clarke was suspicious and possibly concerned about her abnormal behavior, but with only several more days to go before the reveal, Lexa could bear the guilt for a little while longer.

Except for one thing. The pain.

She had been told that the area would be tender for a few days, but with good care, it was supposed to start healing and become less painful to touch. She was not a doctor, but the area around the tattoo becoming redder and more tender did not seem like it was healing. She had done her best to care for it, but with each passing day, the redness around her tattoo seemed to grow. She just kept hoping it would be better by the time she was ready to show Clarke.

She had it all planned out. She had suggested that they go to a nice restaurant for their anniversary dinner, so that they would have a chance to dress up for the occasion. She had picked the perfect thing to wear: a simple, dark blue dress that fell to her knees. And, importantly, strapless, so that when she did the spin around that Clarke always made her do every time they got dressed up, it would become clearly visible. She even planned what she was going to say.

“This is how much I believe in you, Clarke. I would not put the work of any random artist who is not going to make it big on my body. Now I can say that I am the very first to have a Clarke Griffin original.”

Cheesy, yes. But that was the best way she could think of to express how she felt.

It would not matter what she said though, if, instead of a beautiful, meaningful tattoo on her shoulder, all Clarke saw was a red, inflamed patch of skin.

But maybe it had gotten better. Lexa had cleaned it gently but thoroughly yesterday, and she was hopeful that the rash be healed.

She turned to look at her tattoo in the mirror again. Her skin seemed to have gotten even redder today. She touched it gingerly with one finger and immediately flinched from the pain.

She sighed.

Yeah. It was definitely not getting better.

It was Sunday morning, and Clarke had woken up early without the aid of an alarm, as she had many Sunday mornings before. A difference today though, was that she was meeting Lexa for brunch. And the added excitement was not inducive to deep, restful sleep.

She had been thinking about what Lexa drunkenly told her that night. She mentioned her green dress. How did she know? Was she there?

Was she, like most people, just curious about how an ex was doing? Or did she somehow remember her promise to be there for Clarke during that moment?

Clarke pulled a pillow over her head and groaned. All these questions swirled around her head begging to be asked aloud.

She had already seen Lexa several times since the brunette’s drunken night. The first was at a dinner with the group. When Lexa saw her, she shyly thanked Clarke for getting her home safely and then lamented her poor alcohol tolerance, with vows to never drink that much again. But she did not say anything more and Clarke was too nervous to ask. That was the last they spoke of that night.

Now she was going to see Lexa for the first time where it would be just the two of them, and she wanted to get some answers.

With that determination, she was able to gather the strength to get out of bed to get ready.

Lexa looked up from the book she was reading to glance at the door again. No Clarke Griffin had arrived since the last time she checked. She looked at the clock on the wall and was surprised to see that it had only been a whole 30 seconds.

She tried to find her place in the book but gave up quickly; there was just no use trying to read when she felt so distracted. She was twenty minutes early, which would mean a lot of reading the same paragraph over and over again without comprehending. So instead, she settled for placing one of her elbows on the table and resting her head on it, watching the door.

She did not know why she came so early. Well, maybe she did. Today was her first one-on-one non-date with Clarke. And she did not want to start it off running late.

So maybe, just maybe, that was why she woke up two hours earlier than necessary and took a longer shower than usual, and tried on maybe four different outfits before settling on the fashion statement outfit that was a pair of jeans and blouse. Because she did not want to be late for this non-date. With a friend.

So there she was. Waiting.

She and Clarke had been spending more time together in the past month, albeit generally in groups. And things had not been as awkward as she had feared. In fact, it had been generally quite pleasant. A relaxed Clarke Griffin, in her own elements with close friends, was funny and fun to be around. It had been so long since she had seen this Clarke. The last memories she had of her was during their last few months together, which did not reflect the Clarke she knew and lov... Just, the Clarke she knew.

Lexa found that she was slowly looking forward to, instead of dreading, the group gatherings if she knew Clarke was going to be there. And this gave her hope that perhaps there was a road towards a renewed friendship with the blonde. Less awkwardness in general would be good for everyone, and would make easier her transition back into this group of friends that had been so important to her.

She decided to work towards that goal by inviting Clarke to brunch, just the two of them. If they can make it through a non-date together, there should be no more concern for discomfort and their path to a platonic relationship should be clear. No one expected her to do that; least of all, Clarke. But the girl had accepted and that was why she was now waiting anxiously for her to show up.

It was not long before she saw familiar blonde hair entering the café, piercing blue eyes quickly scanning the room until they met hers, followed by bright teeth adorning an even brighter smile. 

She started heading towards the table before Lexa even had a chance to wave.

“Hey!” Clarke said, enthusiastically. She grabbed the back of the empty chair but stopped herself. “Um, can I sit here?”

Clarke’s rather unnecessary (but generally in character) question relieved some of the tension Lexa was feeling. She laughed and gestured for her to sit.

“Yes, of course. I got here a little early. Do you want a cup of coffee? The server will be back to get our food orders in a minute.”

“Oh, no problem. I’ll just go order from the counter. I’ve been here before. Their coffee is very good. Do you want another cup?”

“No . . . not yet. I have to pace myself.”

Clarke grinned at Lexa’s acknowledgement of her well-known coffee addiction before making her way to the counter.

Lexa watched the blonde drop her change in the Gryffindor jar, smiling at the predictability.

Conversation flowed rather smoothly, somewhat to both their surprises. The topics were light and casual, due to efforts from both sides. Clarke even managed to ask about Costia, who she learned was almost done on her the research she was doing.

Clarke was somewhat reluctant to avoid disrupting this delicate bubble they were in, but her curiosity won out in the end. This was her chance to ask, and she had to do it for her sanity.

During a brief pause in their conversation, Clarke took the plunge.

“Hey Lexa,” she began, hesitantly. “Can I ask you something?”

Lexa could sense a change in her tone.

”Um, yes, of course,” she replied, cautiously.

Clarke fiddle with her empty cup. “That night, a while back, when I had my gallery opening . . . were you there?”

Lexa looked down at her cup and fell silent. She swirled the leftover coffee around, internally debating her answer. She wondered how Clarke knew.

Clarke could sense her question. “It’s just, the other night, when I took you home . . . um, you mentioned the green dress I wore to the gallery opening.”

Oh. Lexa wondered what else she might have mentioned in her inebriated state. She did not have a reply.

Apprehensive that she had somehow offended Lexa with her question and presumption, and fearful of hurting their newfound fragile friendship, Clarke rushed, “Oh, never mind that. Forget I asked. It’s not important. I don’t know what I was thinking.” She could practically feel her heart pounding out of her chest.

Lexa let another moment of silence passed, before smiling resignedly to herself, and eventually looking up to meet Clarke’s anxious face.

“Yes, I was.”

It took Clarke a second to register the answer.


“Raven and Octavia told me about the event. And I . . . I wanted to see it myself, with my own eyes.”

Clarke leaned back in her chair, trying to calm all the different emotions she was experiencing, from fear of losing Lexa again to relief and excitement (maybe?) that Lexa’s confirmation provided.

Lexa continued, “Clarke, even after everything we have been through, I still want the best for you. We will always be friends. And your success makes me happy.”

Friends. Right. “I wished I knew you were there.” Thinking back on that night, maybe she did know.

Lexa shook her head gently. “It was not the right time. I was not ready.” She took a sip of her coffee. “Plus, I did not want to take attention away from your big night. It was yours.”

Clarke nodded in understanding. She could only manage a soft “Yeah.”

“But Clarke,” Lexa started.


Lexa smiled. “I was so proud of you that night. What I had always known about you . . . well, it came true.”

Lexa was there, and she was proud of her. Those words made Clarke feel better than all the acclaim she had gotten from art critics for her work. Yet, there was a tinge of bittersweetness hanging above those words. This was not the situation Clarke had envisioned them to be in when Lexa said these words to her.

“Thank you for coming, Lexa. It means a lot.”

“I always keep my promises, Clarke.”

Clarke caught the smile before it disappeared behind a raised coffee cup.

“And I see you still have a Clarke Griffin original.”

Lexa’s smile briefly froze as she realized what that meant before she caught Clarke’s teasing wink, followed by her lighthearted laugh. Lexa shook her head and joined in laughing the tension away.

Now that the issue was addressed, their conversations turned back to casual topics. And underneath that cloud of awkwardness between two former lovers trying to redefine their relationship, there was a natural ease, a natural spark, to their interaction.

And slowly, but inevitably, that cloud began to lift.

It was the day of the anniversary, and nothing was going the way, Lexa planned.

Lexa rolled over slightly to look down at her shoulder. Instead of receding as she had hoped, the redness around the tattoo had spread down her back and arm. She also now had a fair amount of swelling, which made it quite painful to move her right arm. The tattoo was almost lost in the redness and swelling. Oh, and the pus seeping through parts of her skin did not help either.

She was going to have to really rethink the showing-off-the-amazing-meaningful-tattoo-while spinning-around-in-a-stunning-gown portion of her plan now.

She would get to worrying about that after she figured out what she was going to do about her burning fever.

Lexa tried to sit up in bed, but the movement made her lightheaded so she slumped back down into the bed.

Clarke was away at work. She had pretended to be asleep when Clarke left that morning, so Clarke would not see her like that. She had mostly stayed in bed all day, alternating between throwing all the blankets off her body during her feverish flashes and scrambling to get under the covers when her chills came.

She looked at the clock and saw that it was five o’clock. Clarke was going to be home any second now. Just as she thought that, she heard the front door open.  


The bedroom door opened. “Hey, Lexa?” A concerned Clarke peeked through the door.

Lexa felt the bed moving as Clarke sat down. “Babe, are you okay?”

Lexa had the covers pulled all around her, covering her body. She nodded, unable to lie outright. “Happy anniversary, Clarke,” she said, hoarsely.

She felt Clarke’s soft hand on her face, gently pushing away the matted hair on her forehead, wet from her fever.

“Oh my gosh, Lexa, you’re burning up. What’s going on?”

Lexa tried to think of something, anything, to say that could salvage this disaster of an anniversary surprise. But her mind was heavy and foggy and she was tired and dehydrated. This one week of keeping such a secret from Clarke had drained her mentally more than she thought. And whatever was going on with her tattoo had drained her physically.

She felt Clarke gently move the blanket off her face to get a better look at her. Lexa saw the worry on Clarke’s face. She knew she must look like a mess. A far cry from how she wanted Clarke to see her on their anniversary.

“Hi,” she croaked through her dry throat. “I wanted to surprise you. For our anniversary.”

She pushed off the bed to sit up against the headboard, and winced immediately when she tried to put weight on her right arm. Clarke quickly moved to help her.

“Surprise me how?”

“You are always so thoughtful and you get me such great gifts, Clarke. The painting, the hot air balloon ride. I just  wanted to do something special for you this year.”

Clarke looked at her expectantly, curiosity mixing with the concern on her face. Lexa tried to think of more to explain, but decided it was probably easiest to just show her. She turned around and pulled her shirt off her right shoulder.

She heard Clarke gasp, and then felt a tender touch on her shoulder. She pulled away involuntarily from the pain.

“Lexa . . . what is this?”

Lexa turned her head to look at Clarke, but kept her back facing her. “I know this year has not gone as well as you would have liked, but I love you and I believe in you. I wanted to get you something that expressed my support.”

Clarke finally looked away from the tattoo to meet her gaze. Lexa could clearly see the light glisten off the blue in her eyes. She turned her body around to face Clarke fully.

“But, I am not sure what happened. The tattoo . . . I do not think it is healing like it is supposed to. Maybe I did something wrong? I did everything the tattoo artist said. I tried to keep it clean, but I guess . . . I guess I did a bad job. I’m so sorry, Clarke. I wanted this to be a surprise. This was supposed to be a perfect day.”

Clarke reached both her hands out to cup Lexa’s face and she so easily leaned into the cool touch. Clarke leaned in to kiss her gently.

“I don’t think you have any idea how much I love you.”

Lexa felt Clarke’s forehead rest against her own. She could feel Clarke’s emotions well up inside her, almost transferring to her where they connect.

Maybe the gift did not turn out so bad after all.

They stayed like that for what felt like forever. Finally, Clarke opened her eyes and pulled back.

“We should go now.”

Lexa, dazed and even more lightheaded now, asked, “Go where?”

“To the hospital. You need antibiotics, Lexa. Your skin is very, very infected.”


Clarke looked at her as if she could hardly believe that that realization just dawned on Lexa. Clarke shook her head. “You’re kind of a mess, you know that?”

“Your mess,” Lexa grumbled, matter-of-factly. “This is what you signed up for, Clarke. I hope you realize that.”

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Clarke chuckled and quickly pecked her girlfriend’s cheeks before offering both hands to help her up.

And so it was, that the anniversary perfect night Lexa envisioned, a night of beautiful dresses and romantic dinners and grand gestures, of flirtatious banter and seductive touches and passionate kisses, became in reality, a long, sleepless night in the crowded local emergency room.

And Lexa, lying there on a tiny, uncomfortable ER bed, with a warm Clarke stealthily squeezed in next to her, with loud beeping noises all around and a large IV dripping medicine into her arm, would not have changed any of it for the world.

Beep beep.

Clarke heard the text notification from her phone, but could not reach for it because her hands were covered in paint at the moment. She expected it to be a text from Lexa confirming the time of the movie they had planned. She could not help but smile as she thought about seeing Lexa later that night.

After their discussion in the café, she and Lexa had, somehow, managed to have somewhat regular meet-ups. Sometimes that included other members of the group, but more often than not, it was just the two of them. Their conversation moved beyond casual topics, and Clarke found herself talking to Lexa whenever she lacked inspiration for her art. Lexa was even telling Clarke about this sequel novel she was working on. Lexa seemed to be getting more and more comfortable around her, and Clarke suddenly felt her days becoming brighter and warmer.  And the blonde knew that had nothing to be with the coming of Spring.

She finished up her work for the day, and after cleaning her hands, she picked up her phone. She had a missed call and several text messages from Kane.

She quickly scanned the texts and gathered that it was about an art collector who was interested in her work. He had given her number out to the art collector.

She was in the process of changing into her outfit to meet Lexa when she got the call.


“Hi,” a distinctly familiar voice sounded from her phone’s speaker. “Is this Clarke Griffin?”

“Um, yes, this is she.” She waited, hoping the other person would introduce herself.

“I got your number from Kane. I told him I was interested in your art work.”

“Oh yeah, of course! He told me to expect your call. What can I do for you? Would you like me to set up a showing?”

There was a brief pause before the other person continued.

“I must confess, I only told him that to be able to get in touch with you. I . . . I don’t really want to talk to you about your art.”

“Oh.” Clarke was confused. “Okay . . . um . . . who are you then?"

Another pause.

“This is Costia, Clarke. There’s something I think I should tell you.”