Lexa heard the rumours before she saw Clarke. The practice yards were buzzing with whispers about the blonde girl with red hands who blew into camp the night Storm Carmen battered the east coast.
She killed a cyclops on her own. No way, how old is she, like twelve? I swear dude, one of the satyrs told me. If she’s a Zeus kid do you think she can throw lightning and shit?
The campers had to sit with their own cabins at mealtimes, which meant Clarke always ate alone. Lexa watched her and thought how lonely she looked then, how small, chewing her food almost absently, always absorbed in a book or doodling on a napkin. Saw how she shone so bright when she laughed against the afternoon sun, half as tall as the shadow stretching away from her on the ground.
Clarke smiled once when she caught Lexa looking and maybe that was where it started; an undercurrent, a quiet glance in a noisy room. It’s where Lexa would pick if she had to point to the demarcation between before Clarke and after, the first tributary of the Rubicon barely a trickle in the dusty summer earth.
Or maybe it didn’t matter and everything would have happened anyway. Sometimes history has a weight of inertia. Just because the Fates were ancient and inevitable didn’t mean they were obliged to make any kind of sense.
Making her way down to the shore, floating gently on medicinal ambrosia, Lexa caught sight of a blonde haired girl sitting alone at the end of the jetty. Clarke’s bare feet dangled in the water and she had a sketchbook open on her lap which she closed quickly hearing footsteps approach.
The Camp Half Blood annual dragon boat race was five minutes underway in the lagoon, and, in a wholly unforeseen turn of events, descending rapidly into carnage. She looked oddly serene compared to the frantic yelling and splashing around the boats in the middle of the bay.
Lexa awkwardly pulled off her shoes one handed and settled on the rough, warm planks. This was the second summer they had both been at camp, but they had rarely been alone and now Lexa wasn’t sure what to say.
They watched together as the flame thrower mounted on the Hephaestus boat began literally to backfire.
“Ten bucks on Ares.”
The scarlet boat with the Minotaur figurehead was pulling out in front, oars pounding to the rhythm of the war drum. Lexa had learned early on the wisdom of always betting on Anya.
“Betting against your own team huh?” Clarke was smiling as she shaded her eyes looking out into the bay. “Traitor.”
Lexa shrugged. “When I’m rich I can buy new friends.”
“Don’t start shopping yet, Woods. Ten on Hermes.” Clarke sounded confident as Bellamy Blake stepped up to the prow and launched a grappling hook into Ares’ stern, hitching a ride. She glanced round at Lexa and noticed the sling for the first time, concern crossing her face. “What happened?”
“Sparring. Broken collarbone.” She had disarmed Anya for the first time ever that morning. The older girl had beamed with pride even as she marched Lexa to the infirmary berating her footwork the entire way. Clarke, however, was sporting no obvious sign of injury. “What about you?”
The other girl’s cheeks flushed faintly pink. “I get seasick.” Before Lexa could open her mouth to mention the mirror-like surface of the enclosed lagoon, Clarke elaborated. “Poseidon’s territory, you know?”
Clarke looked almost wistful, and she wondered what it must be like to be confined to the edge of something like that, able to feel the caress of the water and taste salt sharp in the air but go no further. Maybe Clarke didn’t feel the allure; maybe the sand was coarse and the brine stung. Maybe her soul was tethered to the sky and stars of her father’s domain and the reflection had nothing on the sunset.
“Do you miss it?”
“I don’t know.” Clarke shrugged. “My mom never used to let me go on boats when I was younger, but my stepdad didn’t know. I think we’re still banned from the Long Island ferry.”
Lexa opened her mouth to reply, then closed it again when she realised she couldn’t tell if Clarke was joking.
At Camp Half Blood you learned quickly to tread with care around families. Lexa’s dad had meant well, but his work was his life and she could tell he’d never planned on having a kid. The Pentagon wasn’t exactly an ideal environment for children. If Lexa was in a generous mood she could concede that no-one ever really planned on the Olympian Gods happening to them. And Athena was the goddess of battle strategy after all: you weren’t supposed to see her coming.
The Apollo boat, unbalanced by the oversize catapult bolted inexpertly onto one side, chose that moment to capsize dramatically, saving Lexa who was trying to think of something supportive to say. Ten or so campers were flung into the water spluttering and cursing. A cry of “Timber!” that sounded distinctly Raven-esque echoed across the water as she performed a graceful swan dive over the gunwale followed by the rest of the Hephaestus campers. A moment later their boat was engulfed in a surprisingly elegant green fireball. The water nymphs manning the flotilla of rescue canoes began paddling furiously.
Reclining in a deckchair on the beach Director Indra didn’t raise her eyes from her book.
The first time they got sent out on patrol together happened to be the day a chimera managed to slip through the camp boundary. It was also the day Lexa managed to not see the huge, obvious tree root arching out of the ground as she glanced behind for the pursuing monster. Crying out as she fell, Clarke whipped around and stopped dead, eyes darting between Lexa’s grimace of pain and towards the crashing noises getting rapidly closer.
It was the first time Lexa told Clarke to leave her and run, and the first time Clarke looked at her like she was mad and point blank refused.
From there they seemed to fall into a pattern.
“You should have run, you know.”
“Thank you, Clarke, for saving my life. You’re welcome, Lexa, it was my pleasure. We should do this again sometime.” Clarke grumbled as she collected her arrows from around the clearing. Like they didn’t always.
Neither of them would admit to knowing exactly how or when it became a thing but they somehow ended up sharing patrol shifts more often than not.
Clarke’s explanation was that she wanted to be a doctor and that being in Lexa’s vicinity gave her plenty of opportunity to practice.
Lexa replied that this was only because she had to save Clarke’s ass so often, and maybe if the daughter of Zeus could actually shoot straight neither of them would need doctoring in the first place.
Clarke patiently sketching on the grass outside the infirmary became a semi regular sight, while she waited for Lexa to emerge bruised and bandaged and inexplicably pleased with herself.
If Anya passed and saw her then she would wait as well, plopping down near Clarke and silently scowling her concern. The blonde girl was growing accustomed to Anya, and although they rarely spoke the optimist in Clarke liked to think their silences were progressing from hostile to indifferent.
“Why does she always get injured with you?”
Clarke almost jumped as the daughter of Ares addressed her once, apropos of nothing. Anya didn’t sound angry but she had an innately fierce quality about her; a resting, coiled tension in her shoulders and a wary, evaluating gaze that made Clarke want to check her weapons.
“She’s Lexa; she always gets injured. I just make sure she gets back.”
“You’re not hurt.”
Clarke sighed. The grazes on her palms itched where she had stumbled and Lexa had leapt in front of her and taken the blow. She hoped Anya hadn’t seen them. “If we run into something and I can’t kill it with my bow or zap it, then she goes in first. She’s the better fighter; it’s just strategy.”
Anya’s eyes were unreadable, but she glanced away for a moment and Clarke wondered absurdly if she was hiding a smile. “Lexa says that about everything.” Anya paused for so long that Clarke was surprised when she continued, “It doesn’t mean you should always believe her.”
Clarke thought they should maybe discuss Lexa’s apparent death wish.
That was another pattern.
Lincoln smiled at Clarke one of those days as they watched Lexa approaching with her arm in a sling, and it took him from Mike Tyson’s younger brother to Prince Charming in under a second. “Keep an eye on her for me? Don’t let her do anything stupid for at least a week.”
Clarke threw him a mock salute, and Lexa smirked. “Don’t worry, Clarke has monopoly on all the stupid round here.”
Clarke rolled her eyes. “Says the girl who just broke her arm for the third time. Great job on strategy there, are we sure you weren’t swapped at birth?”
The son of Apollo let out a bark of laughter and Lexa tried feebly to shove him away. It was like pushing a boulder. He was older than her; just turned seventeen and almost unrecognisable as the gangly kid she’d first met on the night she ran away from home. Anya still kicked his ass in the ring but she’d confided to Lexa with horror that now she actually had to work for it.
Lexa struggled off down the hill in the sunset, limping heavily on her wounded leg.
“Need a hand?”
Clarke pulled Lexa’s arm over her shoulders and hooked her own around Lexa’s waist, and they limped slowly back to camp like the last team in the world’s most stubborn three-legged race.
Clarke kissed her the first time with the scent of petrichor in the air, like the earth after a summer rainstorm. Lexa wanted to remember every detail of the unexpected brush of Clarke’s lips on hers, the momentary clash of teeth when she responded too eagerly before they found the angle, Lexa’s nose gently nudging against Clarke’s soft, rain-damp skin.
It felt like something familiar, something half-forgotten flooding through her veins like the returning tide and breathed out against untidy blonde hair in a quiet soft, oh.
The Golden Fleece had been stolen by ice giants, and the Camp Half-Blood Retrieval Strategy Planning Meeting could have been said to be going well, but only in the way that the Trojan after party was going well as the Greeks sailed off into the sunset.
Anya’s suggestion was to start a war, because of course it was: Ares wasn’t exactly a two-thought kind of guy.
Bellamy spoke for Hermes and proposed retaliatory theft, which Clarke seconded.
Jasper’s contribution was to suggest they get nachos instead of popcorn for snacks at the next meeting because the limited flavour options were unfair working conditions, and no, he hadn’t ruled out a lawsuit.
Lincoln wanted to negotiate.
Raven favoured remote espionage, and launched into a long explanation that seemed to revolve around fitting spy goggles on migrating geese. Unfortunately the trial stages of this plan had hit a snag as the geese were too stupid to train to look down. After two hours in the meeting that was still going nowhere, Lexa was starting to sympathise.
As only her brother’s second Octavia wasn’t technically supposed to be there, but since nobody had felt like pointing this out to her she stayed and suggested deploying raiding parties north to send the giants a message. Anya nodded in agreement and that combination of masterminds was enough to make Lexa veto the suggestion sharply.
“Well if you’re sitting on a great idea there, General Washington, feel free to share it.” Clarke called down from the head of the table raising her eyebrows pointedly.
Lexa shrugged. “It’s a trap,” she stated simply. “They’re trying to draw us out.”
Clarke paused reaching for more popcorn and studied Lexa thoughtfully. “Why?”
“I don’t know yet.”
“So you’re saying we do nothing?” Bellamy sounded sceptical. He tried to catch Clarke’s eye looking for backup but her gaze was still fixed on Lexa.
“For now we should wait, yes. Our borders are still strong, and the Fleece has growth and restorative magic: it is no good to the giants as a weapon. The only reason they can have had for taking it was to weaken us, in which case they must already be preparing an attack. If we start dispatching fighters they’ll have us divided and be able to pick us off. This way we fight them on our ground and our own terms.”
“You mean an ambush.” Anya smiled wolfishly and a couple of people unconsciously patted their weapons for reassurance.
Bellamy was nodding as well. “If we could lure them into the tunnels…”
“If we send out a decoy party, wait for them to attack and then tactically retreat we can draw them into the labyrinth.” Here Jasper started to interrupt in concern and Lexa rolled her eyes. “The wine smuggling highway will just have to be closed temporarily, if everyone can cope with that.”
This was greeted by an equal mixture of assenting murmurs and grumbling. Bellamy wasn’t complaining, and Lexa would be prepared to give him more credit if she didn’t know for a fact that his own contraband chain operated by Pegasus.
“So after we win, drinks are on Athena cabin!” This announcement drew rather more enthusiastic agreement and Clarke grinned and winked at Lexa over her plastic cup.
In the commotion Lexa flicked her wrist sharply sending a piece of popcorn flying with bullet precision directly at Clarke’s head. Just before it hit her a spark seemed to leap from the naked bulb overhead, and the popcorn sizzled brightly for a second then fell pathetically to the table where it smoked gently.
Clarke’s grin turned even more smug, and Lexa had a sudden overwhelming urge to kiss the expression off her stupid face.
One day a few months later Clarke walked through the door to the restroom of a diner on 39th street and stepped out into an owl sanctuary in Vermont.
A tall woman in sensible boots and jeans stood with her back to Clarke feeding bits of unfortunate rodent to an enormous bird of prey on a perch. Her dark hair underneath a baseball cap was braided for war, and the skin of her bare arms remembered the Mediterranean sun despite the snow blanketing the ground outside.
“Clarke Griffin.” It wasn’t a question, and the woman spoke without turning around.
“Uh,” Clarke shifted uncertainly. “Yes?” As an afterthought she added, “Ma’am.”
The owl gobbled down the last of its meal and the woman finally turned, fixing Clarke with a green eyed stare, and she didn’t have to ask the goddess’ name.
“Your defeat of the ice giants saved me a certain amount of trouble. It was a battle well fought and a folly well avoided.”
“With all due respect it was your daughter’s plan, my lady. Don’t tell her I said this but I basically just did what she told me to.”
“Yes.” Athena looked at Clarke as though she were missing the point. “Please pass on my message to Alexandra.” For a moment she looked almost regretful. “I would speak with her myself, of course, but the rules are in place for a reason.”
This ran fairly contrary to Clarke’s own philosophy – that the rules had probably seemed like a good idea at the time but generally just made everything take twice as long and got in people’s way – but it did explain a lot about Lexa.
“I’ll tell her.”
Athena nodded in acknowledgement and taking that as a dismissal Clarke began to leave. “Clarke.” She turned as the goddess called her back. “It is unwise to carry your heart into battle. It will not serve you well.”
Clarke stiffened. “Should I tell that to Lexa as well?”
“It is not my daughter who needs reminding.”
The Zeus cabin had a skylight that took up half the ceiling.
The moonlight turned Clarke’s skin to marble; the smooth rise of curves and blue veins in pale skin like there was an empty plinth lying somewhere in the Louvre. Her skin was warm though and so soft, and Lexa couldn’t move her tracing fingertips away.
“Head in the clouds again?”
Clarke’s eyes were still closed and Lexa hadn’t realised she was awake. Almost guiltily she drew her hand back from where it ghosted over Clarke’s bare shoulder blade. “Something like that.”
“If you’re going to flee I think it’s traditional to wait until dawn.”
Lexa pressed a smile into Clarke’s shoulder. Privately she thought it would be easier to leave in the dark. But people always had to look back. “I’m not really a morning person.”
“I guess you have to stay then.”
“Is this another one of your terrible ideas?”
Clarke smiled. “Don’t tell me you’re going to miss the party, Woods.”
Lexa groaned inwardly and instantly regretted her words. She knew that look. It was a look that told her she may as well cancel her plans for the evening, and made her want to call the emergency rooms and put them on standby.
In fairness to Clarke, the plan worked well for the first five minutes. Unfortunately they hadn’t banked on the riddle. Or the hellhounds. Or the hydra.
“This is not a party, Clarke.”
“Well, I hate to be predictable.”
“Oh so that’s why we just charged a hydra? Because no-one in their right mind would have thought we’d do that.”
The locking bar had barely slammed into place and both of them collapsed back against the door panting, when something outside collided into it with a crash that made the whole room shake.
“It was a stealth attack; I was relying on it being more surprised, ok?”
“It had fourteen eyes when we got here how exactly was it going to miss us? Did you think we’d miraculously found the only hydra that needed contact lenses -”
“Oh my god can you spare me the lecture until we’ve definitely not died? This is like the opposite of a pep talk you’re actually reducing my will to survive.”
Part of the wooden door splintered away. Lexa whipped a throwing knife through the newly made hole and didn’t wait for the resulting howl as she grabbed Clarke’s hand and dragged them further into what looked like some kind of throne room. It had a big chair, lots of columns and conveniently no doors except the one barely standing between them and an enraged hydra.
“Can you pull a Thor?”
Clarke rubbed her hands together experimentally. There was a faint crackle of static but no sparks, and she grimaced. “Nah, must have used it all up on the hell hounds, it takes a while to recharge.” She glanced over at Lexa. “Can’t you do something useful?”
More of the door gave way; Lexa raised her sword and settled into a crouch.
“Come on, anything? Athena must have something up her sleeve.” Clarke pressed, bow drawn with an arrow already on the string.
“Once I got lost in the woods and an owl brought me food.”
Clarke actually paused aiming the better to stare at her incredulously. “Well that’s just great, Lexa thanks for bringing that to the table.”
“Instead of electrocuting everyone why don’t you use your head for once, Griffin? You know it’s not just decorative, right?” Lexa snapped in reply right before the door gave in with a splintering crash.
Seamlessly they split down the middle and dived inelegantly behind adjacent columns.
“Wait, are you saying you think I’m pretty?” Clarke loosed two arrows quickly then ducked back behind her pillar, a smile almost tugging at her lips despite the peril of their situation. “Because you can just say that you know, most people don’t require a hydra.”
“That’s very generous of you. It also isn’t what I said.” Lexa jammed her dagger into the eye of a head that strayed too close. The monster roared and she used the distraction to sprint across and dart in next to Clarke.
“It was implied.”
“Why do you have to pick now to start caring about details?” She glanced at the quiver on Clarke’s back. “How we doing for ammo?”
Reaching over her shoulder Clarke ran the tips of practiced fingers over the fletchings, counting. “Six. I noticed that wasn’t a denial by the way. How are we on heads?”
Lexa took quick breath and stuck her head around the corner for a second. “Twelve.”
Lexa drew her backup sword. Clarke raised a dubious eyebrow. “Something you’re trying to prove?”
“Two swords are more versatile.”
“Sure they are.”
“Can you just do the diversion already?”
Clarke reached into her bag and drew out a small bronze sphere the size of a tennis ball. They both eyed it warily then looked at one another.
“Are you sure this will work?”
“Raven made it.”
“That’s what I’m afraid of.” Clarke elbowed her.
“On three…” She rolled the ball gently out from their hiding place, and two seconds later they both felt a searing burn of white hot light behind screwed up eyelids. The blinded monster screamed in pain and they charged out.
Clarke ran wide, loosing one arrow and nocking another on her bowstring before the first had reached its target.
Lexa ducked low under the first three flailing heads, decapitated one, two, pivoted through 360 degrees slashing high then low with both swords. Hot golden blood splashed on her cheek and she kept moving, drove one sword through the roof of a gaping mouth that appeared in front of her, commando rolled under a second and leapt smoothly to her feet to plunge both swords together through the beast’s heart.
Before the monster’s body had time to dissolve Lexa spun around to look for Clarke, teeth bared in a triumphant feral grin. Clarke’s bow lay abandoned on the floor; she had a scratch down one side of her face and a bloody dagger in her hand. She laughed right back as her gaze met Lexa’s, something wild in her eyes that spoke directly to the adrenaline coursing through Lexa’s veins.
Before she had time to think about it and stop herself Lexa was crossing the floor, her hands found Clarke’s hips and pressed her back into their trusty soot blackened column. There was no question in the way Clarke’s lips surged up to meet hers, and her tongue swiped metallic blood from Lexa’s split lip.
It frustrated her endlessly the way Clarke could drive her crazy like this when they were both streaked in blood and dirt, and the way Clarke gasped into her mouth when Lexa pushed a thigh between her legs made her forget all about the ache in her muscles and the bodies littering the corridor outside.
With both of their armour as an obstruction they had to make do with friction. Lexa gasped the names of gods and titans into the reverent skin between Clarke’s neck and shoulder, while the other girl’s fingers left bruises on her ribs through mail that had deflected teeth and claws and fire. She tasted salt licking a trail up Clarke’s neck to find her lips again, cupped her jaw in her hand and kissed her slowly, thoroughly, like the world was about to end and this was the last thing she wanted them both to remember.
Eyes closed, she felt Clarke’s hands slip down and settle possessively over her ass as she guided their hips into a better rhythm. Lexa gasped sharply as Clarke’s thigh pressed the seam of her jeans just right, and the daughter of Zeus grinned into her mouth. In retaliation Lexa’s free hand sought the button on Clarke’s jeans and pressed two fingers over her underwear, swallowing the low moan that Clarke couldn’t hold back.
She hooked Clarke’s underwear aside and began moving her fingers slowly, hampered by the lack of space between them and her own distraction as Clarke ground up insistently and pushed her hand below the waistband of Lexa’s pants to squeeze her ass. It was messy and inelegant and the flickering half-light of the torches on the walls couldn’t quite muster a romantic atmosphere. Clarke broke away from the kiss to bury her face in Lexa’s hair as she shuddered around her fingers, and Lexa followed a few seconds later as Clarke’s teeth scraped over her neck with enough pressure to send her over the edge.
Lexa extricated her hand and tried to pull away self-consciously, but Clarke’s hands were still locked around her waist holding her in place. One of them trailed upwards and brushed a dark curl behind her ear. Clarke kissed her gently, and Lexa felt the stiffness drain out of her spine. She allowed herself to melt back into Clarke, nudging their foreheads together.
They stood quietly while two sets of breathing returned to normal.
“Any chance your owl friends could bring us McDonald’s?”
Clarke allowed her to pull away this time, and Lexa tried to force the smile off her face as she turned away in a huff, Clarke’s bright laughter ringing behind her.
Clarke charged down tunnels, over cliffs, and once - when a rogue Minotaur they were hunting displayed an unexpected romantic side and crashed through an unsuspecting marquee in Maine – into a late-night wedding disco karaoke competition.
Lexa followed every time, while her better judgement pleaded with her from wherever she seemed to abandon it every time Clarke got the particular glint in her eye that gave air-traffic controllers nervous breakdowns.
After the Minotaur incident Clarke spent a week humming Hit me baby one more time whenever she saw Lexa, and in the sparring pit Anya willingly obliged – non-verbally making it clear exactly what she thought of Lexa’s life choices.
A flock of carnivorous sheep had infested the woods just to the south of the camp. Indra had delegated this problem to the senior counsellors and their seconds, who had argued for two hours and decided nothing except that Taco Night should be moved to Saturday because it ‘felt more like a weekend food’.
None of the sheep-related suggestions were remotely helpful.
“So we have this big net -” Miller began, holding up his hands to demonstrate. Lexa pushed her chair back from the table nodding to Monty that he should take over from her, and went outside for some fresh air.
She walked slowly down to the beach and back to clear her head. The late evening sky was palest blue in the twilight; the whole hemisphere drawn out in watercolour shades between the ocean and the sky, and for first time that afternoon she could think. Clarke made her feel like this sometimes: the kind of focussed clarity that comes standing on the edge of a cliff under the open sky wondering whether those few seconds of flying would be worth the rocks at the bottom.
Monty came out to meet her as she approached and her newfound Zen promptly evaporated. “Why aren’t you in the meeting?”
“It’s finished. Raven got bored of the arguing and said she’d handle it, and everyone else just agreed because the football game was starting.”
Lexa raised an eyebrow at her second and he fidgeted slightly. “How did Raven say she’d handle it?”
It was a pointless question, really.
The Hephaestus workshop stood half a mile away, as stipulated explicitly in the Camp Half-Blood health and safety manual – a document so ironic that the few people who knew it existed assumed it was a practical joke. As Lexa pushed open the door daylight fell on a small, dented sign that proudly declared: 2.5 hours without an accident in the workplace! It looked like the plaque had originally read days, but it was difficult to tell underneath the scorch mark.
“What’s going on?”
Raven looked over and grinned when she saw Lexa. She wore heavy smelting gloves and had a welding mask carelessly pushed up onto her head. Clarke was there, of course, because disasters waiting to happen were something of Clarke’s specialty.
“I think you mean what’s going off, am I right?” Raven high-fived the daughter of Zeus enthusiastically, confirming Lexa’s suspicions.
“Isn’t this overkill? I feel like we’re burning down a house to kill a spider.”
Raven nodded like she didn’t see the issue with that. “Don’t worry; forest fires are actually pretty hard to start by accident– I googled it.” She nodded towards Clarke. “And just in case we have my glamourous assistant here on extinguisher duty.”
Lexa had seen a pile of empty used fire extinguishers sitting outside the workshop, but Clarke didn’t have one and was just wearing very un-fireproof looking jeans and a close fitting tank top, which Lexa tried not to linger too much on. A knowing smirk tugged at the corner of Clarke’s mouth and to disguise the blush creeping up her neck Lexa turned to glance out the window. Then she noticed the clouds drawing across the darkening sky and realised what Raven meant.
“This is romantic.”
The plan was working, insofar as the sheep were no longer an immediate problem.
Sparks drifted over from the ‘main’ inferno and with a quiet whooshing noise the tree next to them almost apologetically caught fire.
“I thought we’d just stay for one drink then go back to mine.” The situation was so absurd that Lexa couldn’t even be bothered to take it seriously.
Clarke hooked her fingers through the loops in Lexa’s jeans and tugged her closer. “Sounds like a plan.”
She tilted her head back watching the sparks dancing in the smoke and Lexa trailed kisses lazily up the tendon in the side of Clarke’s neck, then nipped gently at her bottom lip. Somewhere in the distance a fire alarm went off.
“Mmm?” Her hands had found their way under Lexa’s shirt and fingertips were gently tracing over her hipbones.
Far, far too early the next morning Lexa nodded like it wasn’t news to her, as a soot-blackened Monty reported how the fire had gotten slightly out of hand, spread halfway to New Jersey despite the rainstorm and displaced a hundred singed and furious wood nymphs before someone had fired off a quick sacrifice to Poseidon (thankfully one of the few gods who actually bothered to check his voicemail) and called in a small tsunami to finally put it out.
Clarke had assured her that the camp could cope fine without them for one night, as outside frantic footsteps ran past the Zeus cabin, and because she really didn’t want Clarke’s hands to stop what they were doing Lexa hadn’t bothered to protest. This was the last time she ever listened to Clarke.
“But on the plus side, no more cannibal sheep,” he finished.
“Well that’s the main thing then.” Lexa said awkwardly. “Good job.” She knew she should feel more guilty but she was barely awake and half of her mind was still tracing the paths her fingers had taken over the soft curves of Clarke’s body that she had been so rudely dragged away from.
“I looked for you last night, but we couldn’t find you anywhere.”
Lexa’s eyes narrowed for a second, but he didn’t seem suspicious. “I was in the woods,” she waved a hand vaguely, gesturing to the general area of several square miles supporting her alibi.
Monty looked doubtful, but at that moment Lexa was saved (briefly) as Indra stormed past followed by a trail of yawning counsellors wearing bits of armour over their pyjamas. “Meeting room.” She barked furiously. A muscle twitched in her jaw. “Now.”
On the plus side, from then onwards in commemoration of the doomed sheep Sunday was always Barbeque Night.
People followed where Clarke led: Lexa would look around and see Bellamy, Raven and Octavia alongside her; all of them aboard the crazy bus chasing a storm with blonde hair and a set in her jaw and a smile like slow lightning that brought chaos rumbling in its wake like thunder. They would traipse back bruised and bloodied and laughing, for now, and somewhere in her stomach Lexa started to suspect that only one of them was made to survive this.
There were more scars under Lexa’s hands now, mapping Clarke’s body in the dark like constellations. There were nights when she couldn’t hold on tight enough for the reminders pressing under her fingertips of all the times Clarke almost didn’t come back. If she could she would wear them all on her own skin, carry all the burden of their collected debt to Fate so one of them could be unmarred, and maybe only one of them have to pay the price. She knew even if she could Clarke would never allow her to.
They fell together in the quiet interludes that ran like cracks in the chaos around them, finding temporary equilibrium like binary stars waiting to collapse their own orbit. It was supposed to be a break-glass-in-case-of emergency thing, except the train was always crashing and something was usually on fire, and Lexa couldn’t think sometimes when Clarke smiled like that, buzzing after a fight, wiping blood from her mouth and needing to earth herself like lightning before the whole place went up in flames. (There were times Lexa wondered what it would feel like to burn with her.)
Just once more Lexa murmured with the taste of Clarke on her lips and ozone in the air and she didn’t know which of them she was trying to convince.
There was no room for daylight where their bodies pressed together, and theirs was the time in the dark of the morning; in the difference between pretending they had time and knowing they didn’t as the darkness peeled back across the sky.
It ran out eventually, inevitably, when Clarke gave up patience the way Lexa always left with the sunrise.
The son of Aphrodite had always hung on Clarke’s word, and now he tenderly tucked blonde hair behind her ear, and her gaze lingered on his mouth when he laughed loud and bright.
With no room to object Lexa wore her silent displeasure in the bruises Anya’s practice sword left on her skin and the ones she gave back in return.
Sometimes people didn’t come back whole, and sometimes they didn’t come back at all. The Lieutenant of Artemis fell on the crest of summer, and that night Lexa dreamed she was running with wolves through a forest under the moonlight.
The night of the solstice Lexa volunteered as the senior counsellor to stay behind from the revels and run the border patrols. Clarke refused to look at her.
Anya returned from Olympus the following morning wearing a delicate silver circlet threaded through her braided hair and with a troop of hunters under her command. Clarke came back with a hickey on her neck and a hangover that treated everyone to two days of torrential rain and baffled Long Island weather forecasters.
When Clarke was still slouching around scowling at everyone after even the most persistent nectar would surely have worn off, Bellamy dragged her to the sparring pits to work it out. That night there were three occupants of the Zeus table at dinner: Clarke sported a black eye, Bellamy ate with difficulty around the ice pack taped to his broken nose and Raven looked ready to double down on both their injuries by knocking their stupid heads together.
Raven stomped up to Lexa as she was unstrapping her armour after a particularly brutal training session.
“Hey.” The mechanic gestured over to where the hunters of Artemis were changing and checking over their weapons for damage. “So are you planning on signing up or what?”
Lexa frowned slightly. Even if she were considering it – it would be lying to say she hadn’t – she didn’t see how that was any of Raven’s business. “Would you have a problem with that, Reyes?”
Raven looked taken aback. “So you are? And I wouldn’t have a problem, exactly, no. I mean eternity hunting monsters and singing campfire songs; that sounds great if you’re into it and everyone should follow their dreams right?”
“You’re not making sense. Are you here as my careers advisor or something?” Lexa pulled on her hoodie with a grimace. Her shoulder was throbbing and she needed to get ice on it, but Raven blocked her as she tried to leave.
“Look. It’s your business if you want to join the Neverland Girl Scout troupe; that is totally up to you. But if you decide not to please can you tell Clarke – or if that’s too straightforward for you two just say it loudly where she can hear – and stop her being a pain in the ass?”
Lexa stopped trying to push past and looked at Raven hard. “What does Clarke have to do with this?”
Raven looked at her in pure exasperation. She opened her mouth and then closed it, considering what to say. Her expression softened slightly and when she spoke her voice was quiet and more serious than usual. “I just think she’d miss you, ok? We all would.” Lexa’s frozen expression made her smile. “You know, you’ve got friends here, Lexa. And I don’t think we’re going to have a shortage of monsters anytime soon.”
“We’re not going to be here forever.”
Hephaestus’ daughter shrugged and rubbed her leg absently. She smiled ruefully; eyes alight like embers in the forges. “Who the fuck needs forever?”
Autumn arrived early one September as Lexa drove back to D.C., hints of orange already blushing the treetops at the side of the highway.
Her car’s engine died quietly on an empty stretch of road and she was wondering what she’d done to piss off Raven when she saw the three old women with a fruit stall by the side of the freeway. They looked familiar although Lexa was certain she’d never seen them before and something propelled her legs as she climbed out of the car and walked over.
The air grew warmer and arid as she approached, the noise of traffic faded and the trees in her peripheral vision seemed gnarled and stooped over with the weight of centuries; the closest olive trees had ever grown to New York.
Two of the women were knitting something unidentifiable while the third studied Lexa as she approached. The thread entwined around the Fates’ needles wasn’t gold like immortal ichor, but deep, aching red of mortal blood. Red like wine and lipstick and swollen ripe apples hanging low on branches, and all the other fleeting sins people moored their lives to to make it worth living.
The knitting pair paid her no mind, but the woman in the middle took a pomegranate from a box on the stall and proffered it in a weathered palm.
Lexa drew a drachma from her jeans pocket but the woman waved her away. “On the house, dearie.”
The clack of knitting needles ceased abruptly. The motion of silver scissors against the slender crimson thread made no noise that her ears could detect, but somehow Lexa felt the whispered echo, like the sigh of a last breath in her chest nonetheless.
She dropped the pomegranate on the ground and got back into her car which started first time. Even if it wasn’t freedom there was still a choice: either you ran or you nailed your colours to the mast and waited for sails on the horizon. If the hill you chose to die on felt like home then where else were you going to run?
Olympian wine had a lot to answer for. She could taste it on Clarke’s tongue: sweet and heady like august heat on ancient vines and long hazy afternoons in tangled sheets. Music drifted from the party on the other side of the wall and a million miles away.
Lexa leaned forward to capture her lips again but Clarke danced back, teasing.
“Aren’t you going to say the thing?”
They were close enough that their noses brushed and a strand of blonde hair fluttered against Lexa’s cheek. “What thing? This is ridiculous.” She did her best to sound exasperated, like she was putting up some kind of resistance, like Clarke wasn’t long done falling for that.
“Close enough.” They were both smiling too much and the kiss was kind of messy but that had never mattered less. She could taste Clarke’s lipstick on her mouth and she knew later she wanted it everywhere, wanted Clarke to write her name in scarlet over the rise of Lexa’s ribs and the curve of her breast and the inside of her thigh like promises and penance at the same time.
Clarke dragged Lexa’s bottom lip gently between her teeth, and the world faded to warm breath on her cheek and white teeth that could draw blood but chose not to. Her heartbeat steadied and the Earth without them spun on unimpeded on its axis and they had time, they had time.
The ransom note was stained with dark reddish brown blotches that Lexa had a bad feeling about, and stipulated that the three half-bloods could live in exchange for the daughter of Zeus.
Clarke froze when she heard it, and didn’t say a word throughout the whole argument that subsequently raged.
When the meeting finally broke up agreeing to send out extra patrols, Clarke disappeared back into her cabin without talking to anyone and Lexa was unsurprised to find a grim faced Bellamy waiting as she stepped outside.
He jerked his head towards Clarke’s retreating back. “Should we knock her out now or wait until she tries to leave?”
“If we wait until its dark it’ll be harder for her to aim the lightning.”
The post of the fence encircling the pegasi paddock was digging into Lexa’s back where she sat on the ground leaning against it. She toyed idly with the walkie-talkie in her hand. Bellamy was watching the main gate but the longer she went without hearing from him the more worried she became that they’d missed something and Clarke had slipped passed them somehow.
“You think I’m going to do something stupid.” Clarke emerged quietly from the treeline, not looking in the least bit surprised to find Lexa waiting for her.
Lexa shrugged. “I’ve never known you to pass up the opportunity.”
A spear and shield were slung across Clarke’s back instead of her usual knife and bow, and although she was prepared similarly Lexa’s stomach dropped a little.
“We can’t let them die, Lexa.”
“I know.” Lexa rose to her feet. Catching sight of her black-washed armour reflected dully in the moonlight Clarke’s smile gleamed momentarily.
“For a second there I thought you weren’t coming.”
“Like I’d let you have all the fun.”
“We might die, though.” Lexa couldn’t help but add as they vaulted the fence.
“We don’t matter. We have a choice, and those kids don’t.”
It wasn’t like she could argue with that. The ground fell away below them as the Pegasus beat its wings. Lexa’s heart leapt but not with fear because the sky held none of that for her anymore, not wrapped around Clarke’s back like this, both of them warm and solid and alive in the wind rush. Above them drifted Orion and Andromeda and Hercules and this felt like an old story, perhaps one of the oldest, and Athena always knew which battles not to fight.
Legend stalked the footsteps of the children of Zeus. They led nations and armies and mapped continents in their reflection. The only difference between death and glory was that glory meant other people died.
Lexa never saw the arrow that killed her, or the archer who fired it. She felt pain rip through her back and punch the air from her lungs. The young boy she’d shielded stared with wild frightened eyes identical to her own, and the last thing she felt was a jolt of recognition through the gathering dark at the edge of her vision. Child of Athena. She wanted to tell him to be brave but the words didn’t reach her lips in time.
They said the daughter of Zeus walked alone into the underworld and held a dagger to Hades’ throat.
They said she tricked the Lord of the Dead with a pomegranate and a promise, but when he reached to take her heart her chest was already empty.
They said a deal was made: a plane struck down by lightning from the cloudless sky as she sold death for life and damned her soul for another.
What they know is this:
She carried Athena’s daughter from Elysium through the fields of Asphodel; the dead parting like wheat before storm-cloud eyes that felled Troy and Carthage and Rhodes.
She stepped out into sunlight that Orpheus never saw, and only ghosts were left to wonder in the dark about the silhouette of two girls entwined in the doorway between worlds, before it closed behind them.