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Lexa spends ninety percent of the following day shifting uncomfortably in her seat for a multitude of reasons.

 

Most of them are Clarke.

 

She’d always wondered, growing up, if people felt different after. She wondered if the people around her would know what had happened. She realizes now that the only differences she feels are held within herself. She’s the only person here who knows what happened last night on a boring Wednesday evening. She’s the only person here who knows what happened this morning. A blush covers her cheeks as she realizes that she’d happily shout it from the rooftops because the only difference is the giddy happiness that she feels. The only physical marker that anything has changed is the ridiculous satisfaction that oozes through her body, and the fact that everything from her eyebrows downward hurts in one way or another.

 

She doesn’t think she’s ever walked more awkwardly.

 

“So I just shared the most uncomfortable silence with our neighbors,” Clarke says when she finds her in the library that lunchtime. “They totally know.”

 

Lexa lets her silent pride radiate through her body as she goes through her school notes. “We weren’t exactly quiet, Clarke.”

 

Clarke’s half-smirk and sudden lapse into silence is everything. Lexa watches as her eyes glaze over before she snaps out of her reverie and swallows thickly.

 

“Octavia and Raven totally guessed, too.”

 

“Clarke, you’re wearing a winter scarf inside.”

 

“And whose fault is that?” she says, tugging the fabric away from her neck to reveal the purple bruises that paint Clarke’s neck.

 

Lexa smirks at her across the table and gathers her things back into her bag. Clarke gets up when she gets up and it feels so ridiculously domestic that Clarke reaches for her hand and starts walking with her towards her next class.

 

“There’s a party tonight,” Clarke whispers as they slow to a stop outside the classroom. Lexa instinctively pulls Clarke until their bellies press. “D’you want to go? Your class finishes at four, right?”

 

Lexa breathes unsteadily at the way sure arms fit around her waist and hold her close.

 

“And yours at six?” Clarke nods and Lexa swallows because, now that she’s this close, Lexa can smell her.

 

She can smell her and feel her and those things remind her of how Clarke tastes and moves and it’s a little overwhelming. She feels her entire body become sluggish with it.

 

“We could go to the party,” Lexa whispers coyly, fingers tugging at the buttons of another of her button downs that Clarke stole that morning. Lexa glances up at her over the top of her glasses and smirks at the sudden, knowing change in Clarke’s expression. “Or we could not go.”

 

Clarke swallows and the corners of her mouth quirk up. A hand finds Lexa’s hip and disappears beneath her sweater and the button down underneath. She tugs imperceptibly and Lexa wraps her other arm around Clarke’s shoulders to bring her closer. She’s sure that everyone is watching, but it’s like nobody else exists. She doesn’t care about anything other than the way that Clarke’s eyes are dark and hazy, that she licks her lips and struggles. Lexa loves the effect she has on her. She innocently lets their foreheads rest together and allows her brow to raise in question.

 

“Fuck the party,” Clarke growls out under her breath. “Let’s make our neighbors hate us some more.”

 

Lexa giggles and leans in to kiss her without thinking. It’s innocent and slow and maybe inappropriate considering the amount of people that are congregated around them. Clarke doesn’t seem to care and pulls away with a sigh that has Lexa remembering how carefully she’d found Clarke watching her sleep that morning.

 

“Love you,” she whispers against her lips.

 

Clarke still looks surprised but mumbles it back anyway. She almost doesn’t let Lexa let go when the last class starts filtering out of the classroom.

 

She doesn’t move until Lexa’s safely inside.

 

//

 

They don’t actually have sex.

 

Clarke comes back to their room at six-fifteen to find Lexa wrapped in comfy pajamas, clutching her tummy and pouting. She knows exactly what’s wrong and she coos out an “oh, baby” before collapsing onto the bed and wrapping her up tight.

 

Lexa looks weirdly shocked at the affection and falters in her arms before sinking into them happily. She whimpers against Clarke’s throat, apologizing for things she can’t control, and complaining about hating being a woman. Clarke just falls more in love with her. She pushes Lexa’s hair from her eyes, kisses her forehead, and sighs hopelessly.

 

It takes Lexa a long time to release Clarke long enough that she can get changed and settle in behind her. She offers to warm her up leftover pizza first but Lexa shakes her head and burrows down into the soft nest she’s built herself with every blanket and pillow in the room. Clarke puts on her favorite TV show, rubs her belly until it stops hurting, and nuzzles her neck.

 

Lexa falls asleep early and Clarke gets another overwhelming rush of love at the sight of her. She’s never wanted to do this for anyone else. She’s never wanted to be this close to anyone. She’s never felt this way about anyone, and the rush of emotion she gets doesn’t make sense until she wakes up in the middle of the night with a familiar sensation and an ache in her hips.

 

Lexa turns to her in confusion when she crawls back into bed after going to the bathroom. Clarke kisses her cheek and huffs into the back of her neck.

 

“You okay?” Lexa mumbles sleepily, grabbing Clarke’s hand and pulling it around her waist.

 

Clarke shakes her head and sighs. “We’ve synced up,” is all she says.

 

Lexa turns in her arms and clicks her tongue sympathetically. Their limbs tangle around each other and Clarke loves the comfort of Lexa’s hand pressing against her tummy. It’s so familiar and delicate and she never even knew she needed it.

 

Baby,” Lexa hums against her ear.

 

Clarke chokes back the need to cry and buries herself deeper into Lexa’s warm body.

 

//

 

They’re sprawled over Lexa’s bed doing homework when Clarke asks her what her Spring Break plans are.

 

Lexa looks up from her class reading only to glance pointedly back down at it again until Clarke understands. She gives a roll of her eyes and before Lexa can do anything about it, Clarke’s grabbing a wad of papers from her backpack and presenting her with a packet of information and an airline flight reservation.

 

The sight of it makes Lexa start to panic. She tried to argue with her but Clarke pretty much pins her flailing limbs to the bed and tells her they’re going to Texas whether she likes it or not. She explains how Octavia and Bellamy have family who own a beach house in South Padre Island and that everyone’s going.

 

Lexa feels like she’s intruding until Octavia corners her in the library one day to make sure she’s coming.

 

Lexa does a lot of research and knows that she’s in for a week of parties and alcohol. It makes her weirdly anxious but not so much when she remembers that Clarke will be there.

 

Clarke “helps her pack” by removing half the pants in her suitcase. She drags Lexa into Boston after school one afternoon and takes her to Macy’s so that she can buy a bathing suit. She looks really disappointed when Lexa picks up the boring one-piece and pouts until Lexa looks at the bikinis. Lexa still buys a cute one piece but Clarke buys more bikinis than necessary. Lexa doesn’t realize what she’s done until she packs them inside Lexa’s suitcase instead of her own.

 

She forgets to mention to Clarke that she’s never been on a plane before until they’re at the airport.

 

Everyone is here, ready to fly down together and Lexa takes Clarke’s hand and squeezes it tight. Her feet tap nervously against the floor and she eyes the environment around her. Clarke already has her sunglasses on and she pushes them atop her head when she sees the discomfort on Lexa’s face.

 

“You’ve never been on a plane before,” she states without Lexa having to tell her. Lexa gives her an anxious look but Clarke kisses her cheeks and mumbles soothing words to her until they board. Lexa argues that she doesn’t want the window seat but Clarke makes her. She strokes the back of her knuckles and Lexa’s anxious right up until they lift off the earth. It’s amazing and Lexa only breaks out of her wondered daze when she hears Clarke giggling beside her. Her blue eyes are glassy when Lexa looks at her. She frowns in confusion until Clarke grabs her cheeks and kisses her messily. “Your face,” she whispers in explanation. “Just, your face. You look so happy.”

 

Texas is hotter than she ever knew anywhere could be and she’s glad for the airport air conditioning. Clarke looks at her knowingly when she starts tugging on the fabric of her too-thick jeans as they make the drive to the Blake family’s house. It’s huge and they waste no time getting ready to head to the beach. Clarke drags Lexa to a bedroom at the top of the house and strips her of her clothes before Lexa can argue. She comes quietly three times before Clarke climbs off of her and searches through their suitcases. She tosses one of the bikinis at Lexa and Lexa doesn’t argue. She puts it on before pulling a button down on over the top of it.

 

The boys and Raven all whistle when they see her and Lexa rolls her eyes while Clarke puts a protective arm around her. Their walk to the beach is short but Lexa notices how many college students there are around them as they make their way there.

 

The beach is sure to be a huge party as soon as the sun sets and Lexa enjoys the feel of the warm sand on her feet. Bellamy sets everyone up underneath a huge umbrella and hands them each a beer. There’s music playing everywhere, different songs merging into one, and Clarke tugs her down onto a towel so that they can lie side by side while the boys run into the water. Clarke smothers her in sunscreen and they lay on their fronts next to each other until Octavia tells them that it’s time to party.

 

The entire stretch of the beach turns into a huge party and Clarke keeps a protective arm around her at all times, especially when random guys start talking to her. Clarke drunkenly shuts them all down as Lexa looks on appreciatively. She takes every drink that Clarke offers her and they end up stumbling back to the house before the others to have sex in Octavia’s uncle’s pool. They’re caught by Lincoln and Octavia (who look like they were coming to do the same thing) and disappear upstairs giggling.

 

They wake up late and have brunch before heading back down to the beach to repeat their actions all over again. It’s more fun than Lexa was prepared for, especially when Clarke is unable to keep her hands off of her. She actually feels like part of the group, like she actually has friends, and it’s not until Anya calls her on their fifth day that she notices. It’s also her first dose of reality in too long.

 

“Hey do you want to meet up in the city tomorrow?” Anya asks expectantly and Lexa suddenly feels guilty for not telling the closest thing to a sister she has that she was travelling across the country. Her stomach fills with discomfort and worry and she steadies herself before she answers.

 

“Um,” she says glancing down at Clarke lazily napping on her chest while the others play volleyball. “I’m in Texas.”

 

Anya’s quiet on the other end of the line for a long time. When she speaks, her voice sounds strange. “As in Texas-Texas?”

 

Lexa busies herself stroking Clarke’s hair back from her neck so she can trace lazy patterns there. “I came with my roommate and her friends.”

 

Anya doesn’t say anything in what feels like forever. The line is quiet for a long time before she gives a soft little chuckle and sighs. Lexa hears the disappointment clearer than she hears anything else. “Well have fun, Kid.”

 

She hangs up a few moments later and Lexa toys with the clasp of the necklace around Clarke’s neck for a few moments before she hears someone laugh beside her. She turns to find Raven sitting across from her. She still makes her feel weirdly nervous and anxious and Lexa steels herself for whatever’s coming.

 

“We’re your friends, too,” Raven says after a few moments. Lexa’s mouth drops open to explain when she realizes what Raven’s talking about. She hushes when Raven holds up at hand and points down at the girl lying on her chest. “And she most definitely is not just your roommate.”

 

The words leave Lexa feeling odd for the rest of their trip and it isn’t until the night before their flight back to school that she says anything. Clarke leads her down to the now-quiet beach and kisses her in the dark. They lie on a towel in sand with a blanket thrown over them and stare up at the stars. Clarke tells Lexa about constellations she could never see growing up in New York. She tells her ridiculous stories and Lexa can’t help the words that drive helplessly up her throat.

 

“What are we?” she asks abruptly and Clarke looks at her in shocked confusion.

 

Her eyebrow raises and she lets out a laugh before propping herself up on an elbow and looking down at her.

 

“My friends have referred to you as my girlfriend for a week straight and now you want to know what we are?” she asks around a fond smile.

 

Lexa’s cheeks burn and she’s happy when Clarke leans down to kiss them softly.

 

“Girlfriend can mean anything,” Lexa grumps out uselessly as Clarke starts laughing again.

 

She lowers herself and tugs Lexa until they’re on their sides facing each other. Their hands find each other between their bodies and Clarke sweeps back sweaty curls from Lexa’s face with gentle fingers. She kisses her slowly and purposely until Lexa thinks she can feel every atom of her being.

 

“You’re my girlfriend,” Clarke whispers softly. “But you’re also more than that. You’re so much more than that, you know? It’s hard to explain but for the sake of other people, you’re my girlfriend. Is that okay?”

 

Lexa nods and curls into her. She kisses her gently and loves the way that Clarke’s hands feel. She loves the way that Clarke’s nose strokes against hers and the way that their hands clasp together between the beating of their hearts. Clarke is so much more than her girlfriend, too. There aren’t words for the way that Clarke makes her feel but she’s pretty sure that with each kiss she comes closer to being able to explain.

 

“I wish we could stay here forever,” she whispers unexpectedly. “Just you and me.”

 

Clarke’s eyes flash with something and Lexa moves in closer until their foreheads press together. She closes her eyes and an arm wraps around her waist. Clarke holds her so tightly that, for a moment, Lexa thinks they might transform into one person.

 

Lincoln finds them there sleeping early the next morning.

 

They almost miss their flight.

 

//

 

“Have you asked her yet?” her mom asks on a phone call between classes one day.

 

Clarke really doesn’t have the time for this.

 

“No, mom,” she sighs impatiently, looking for one of her books. “I haven’t. And I won’t. She’s probably going to have her own plans.”

 

Her mom hums in amusement. “Doesn’t mean that she won’t want to change those plans to be with you.”

 

Her mom is probably right but that doesn’t mean that Clarke’s willing to ask her. She still wants Lexa to make her own decisions and choices. She wants her to still be able to do the things that she wants to do. Just because they’re together doesn’t mean that they become one entity.

 

“I don’t want to pressure her,” she says and her mother sounds unamused and annoyed. “She’ll have her own plans, I’m sure of it.”

 

“I want to meet her.”

 

Clarke laughs. “You’ve already met her. You loved her. You called her the sweetest thing ever.”

 

“That was before I knew that you were in love with her.”

 

It sounds so much more serious coming from her mother’s mouth and it makes her ache in this weird way that she doesn’t understand. She knows it’s serious but now that her mom’s said it out loud, she feels strange. She feels overwhelmed. She knows that Lexa would too, because Clarke can tell that the idea of families scares her. She knows that the thought of going to the Blake family’s beach house scared the crap out of her. Lexa doesn’t let Clarke hear when she’s on the phone to Anya. She knows that Lexa becomes weird every time she hears Clarke talking to her mom on the phone.

 

Lexa gets this weird, faraway look sometimes that Clarke doesn’t know how to read. She’s stopped taking her mother’s calls when Lexa’s in the room and it’s not something she knows how to talk about with her. She doesn’t know how to tell Lexa that families aren’t scary because they are. They’re probably one of the scariest things in the world. Clarke’s family fucked her up a long time ago.

 

The only feelings Lexa has left behind from her family are ones of abandonment. Lexa has Anya but Clarke doesn’t understand their relationship. She knows that Lexa respects and cares for Anya but something about them seems strained. Lexa looks concerned every time Anya’s name comes up on her Caller ID.

 

Clarke knows it all unsettles her and that’s why she knows she’ll never do what her mother is asking of her.

 

She wants Clarke to invite Lexa back to California for the summer but how does Clarke convince her to willingly involve herself in something that will make her feel so unsafe?

 

“Mom…” she sighs and she scratches her forehead. “I can’t do that. I just can’t, okay?”

 

Her mother sighs and agrees.

 

It doesn’t stop Clarke from wanting it more than anything else.

 

//

 

“You have a girlfriend?” Anya asks incredulously like such a thing could never happen.

 

Lexa’s been avoiding this conversation since they got back from Texas. It’s been weeks but she still wishes she’d managed to last longer. She’s still not ready.

 

She ignores Anya’s tone. “Her name is Clarke.”

 

“The roommate?” Anya shuffles around at the other end of the line. “You’re gonna have to tell me how that happened.”

 

Lexa swallows thickly and scrubs a hand over her face. “It just kind of did.”

 

Anya hums and Lexa wishes she could tell her how Clarke Griffin walked into her Minorities in Cinema class one day and turned her world completely upside down without Lexa even knowing it. She wishes she could tell her how Clarke wouldn’t stop talking as much as Lexa ignored her. She wishes she could tell Anya—the only person she knows who would truly understand—that she knew in an instant that Clarke was different. Blue eyes looked at Lexa and that was it. Clarke was different and her soul knew it. It terrified her and she heard all the things Anya told her growing up inside her head and knew that she couldn’t let it happen. She knew what Clarke would do, so she scared her away instead.

 

“So, it’s not serious?” Anya asks, and words catch in Lexa’s throat.

 

Because as much as she knows that Anya won’t understand, she also knows that Anya would think she’s crazy because people like Clarke don’t exist. People like Clarke are something that kids like them were taught to believe in to make the dark days better. People like Clarke are what lifers like Lexa and Anya soon learned were nothing but fairy tales to keep them from losing hope.

 

Except they do exist and Lexa has no idea how insane she’d sound trying to explain that to Anya.

 

Anya is nearly thirty and she still lives the same lonely existence that Lexa had always assumed she’d have herself. Anya got herself a good job and a nice apartment and she didn’t depend on anyone to get it. Anya wanted Lexa to do the same, told her that she was risking everything by going to college. She regurgitated the same things that the social workers had done and told her that what Lexa wanted was a pipe dream. Lexa had tried anyway. She’d proved them all wrong, but she’d almost lost Anya in the process. But she knows that Anya loves her, that she’s looking out for her because she wants her to stay safe and to depend on nobody but herself because that’s how they survive.

 

Anya will remind her that the way she feels about Clarke threatens everything.

 

“No, it’s not serious,” she utters instead of telling the truth. It kills her and Anya moves the conversation onto other things that Lexa can barely concentrate on.

 

She still feels unsettled by it when she gets back from class and Clarke finds her, sprawled out on her bed. She curls around Lexa’s body and kisses her like she’s been doing it every day of her existence. She kisses her like she wants to do it every day of the future. It leaves Lexa breathless and, as Clarke starts stripping the clothes from their bodies, she wishes she had the words for this.

 

She wishes she could explain Clarke.

 

//

 

“So I’m thinking maybe we go to Portland,” Octavia says, slipping into the seat across from her in the library. Clarke looks up from her notes to frown. “This summer. Last year we went to Nawlins’ and this year we should go laugh at all the hipsters. What do you think?”

 

Clarke shakes her head noncommittally and looks down at her notebook.

 

“C’mon, Griffin,” Octavia says before she audibly rolls her eyes. “Lemme guess. You’ve gotta ask the girlfriend.”

 

Clarke looks up and frowns. “I don’t, actually,” she says softly. “I don’t know what Lexa’s plans for the summer are yet, but Marcus has a friend who owns a gallery back home who’s running art classes for kids. He’s asked me if I want to help out.”

 

Octavia gives her a look and settles back into her chair. Clarke averts her gaze back down to her notebook when Octavia’s glare starts making her feel uncomfortable.

 

“Clarke, we’ve literally got like three weeks left of semester,” she states in disbelief.

 

Clarke looks up at her and nods. “Yep.”

 

“Three weeks and you haven’t talked to Lexa about what you’re both going to be doing this summer?” Octavia says softly. “You’ve made no plans to how you’re going to see each other and spend time together?”

 

“Do I need to?”

 

Octavia laughs. “Clarke, Lincoln and I have had our summer plans pretty much set in stone since January when he got his internship. Are you really just going to wave goodbye to Lexa on the last day of semester and wing it?”

 

Clarke shifts uncomfortably in her chair and opens her mouth to speak before shaking her head.

 

“Lexa has no plans,” Octavia reminds her. “She was telling us last weekend how she wishes she could afford to travel or something.” Octavia leans forward and tries to catch her gaze. “Has this got something to do with your mom? Are things with her bad again?” she asks. “Does Lexa not want to meet her? Or is it your dad or—”

 

Clarke looks up at her in annoyance and shakes her head. “Octavia. Leave it alone.”

 

“Clarke.”

 

She shakes her head and feels the same panic she gets when she speaks to her mom rising up her chest. “Leave it alone. It’s fine.”

 

Octavia stares at her for a long while before scoffing and walking away.

 

Once she’s gone, Clarke buries her face in her hands.

 

She doesn’t know what to do.

 

//

 

The closer the end of semester gets, the clearer it becomes what Lexa’s waiting for.

 

Anya calls her every other day asking her if she knows what her summer plans are and if she needs picking up but Lexa tells her she doesn’t know every single time. She’s pretty sure that Anya’s getting annoyed but she doesn’t care. She just needs to wait a little longer before she makes her choice.

 

She only has eighteen days left.

 

She loves how being preoccupied with thoughts of Clarke somehow makes her more focused on schoolwork. She feels like she could kick the asses of all her finals with her eyes closed. She’s pretty sure that all the people around her know that too because she works like a demon. She’ll pretty much do anything to take her mind off the fact that her girlfriend hasn’t talked to her about summer plans yet.

 

“Lexa,” Raven says flopping down into the chair beside her in Lexa’s quiet, secret corner of the Library. Octavia trails behind her and drops into the seat opposite. “Can you try and convince Clarke that coming to Portland with us for the weekend is a good idea?”

 

Lexa frowns. “This weekend?”

 

Raven looks at her like she’s a dumbass. It’s not unfamiliar and Lexa’s becoming accustomed to the fondness in it. “No,” she says. “The first weekend of summer, before Clarke heads back to Cali.”

 

It’s the first that Lexa’s heard of Clarke heading back to California this summer and she tries not to let that show on her face as she attempts to find something to say. Octavia and Raven both study her carefully.

 

“You don’t have plans with her that weekend, do you?” Raven asks when she just keeps staring at them.

 

It’s Octavia that takes pity on her and states the obvious.

 

“You didn’t know about California, did you?”

 

Lexa plasters on a smile as she quickly shakes her head. Her eyes start to water and her skin feels kind of prickly. She recaps her pen before leaning back in her chair and scrubbing her hands over her face.

 

“Parents stuff?” Raven frowns over to Octavia who gives an almost imperceptible nod.

 

“I think so,” she whispers. She turns to Lexa when those words catch her attention. “Clarke was weird when I talked to her about it. She probably doesn’t want you to meet her family when yours is probably all perfect and shit…”

 

Lexa does a double take. The words sink in her gut and laughs mirthlessly as a million things go through her head. “Did Clarke tell you that?”

 

Octavia frowns. “What?”

 

“That my family is perfect?”

 

Octavia’s mouth drops open and she looks trapped for a second before shaking her head. “No, I just… I just assumed because…”

 

For the first time in her life, Lexa ignores the ache in her chest and pushes forward. Usually she’d shrug this moment off, tell Octavia to mind her own business, but Octavia is her friend. Raven is her friend. She thinks, one day, she’ll be able to trust them and the first step to doing that is being honest.

 

“Octavia,” she sighs as bravely as she can. Her eyes close and she shifts uncomfortably in her seat. “I don’t have a family. I grew up in the system.”

 

Raven’s face falls and softens, while Octavia just looks shocked and guilty. Lexa’s surprised when Octavia doesn’t even leave a beat before she reaches over and squeezes her hand.

 

“I didn’t—” she starts before her face sets in recognition and she lowers her tone. “Does Clarke know?” Lexa gives her a soft nod and before she knows it Octavia’s on her feet and heading for the exit. “That dumbass!”

 

Lexa turns to Raven in confusion. “Was it something I said?”

 

Raven slumps back into her chair and folds her arms over themselves. She rolls her eyes and laughs and Lexa doesn’t understand until Raven sighs.

 

“Your girlfriend’s an overprotective dumbass,” is all she has to say and Lexa’s still not entirely sure what’s going on.

 

She’s quiet for a long time and it almost becomes uncomfortable until Lexa feels Raven kick the leg of her chair.

 

“You should talk about yourself more,” she says shyly and shrugs. “It’s nice.”

 

Lexa grins.

 

 

//

 

“Tell me that you not asking Lexa to come home with you doesn’t have anything to do with her not having a family,” Octavia demands as she comes into Clarke’s room like an angry elephant.

 

Clarke frowns at her words. “Who told you—”

 

She did!” Octavia shouts. “Now tell me the truth!”

 

It takes her a while but soon Clarke grits her jaw and sighs reluctantly. The words she’s been holding inside of herself for weeks break free and she hates every single one of them.

 

“People scare her,” she explains. “Families scare her. They scare her and I don’t want her to feel obligated to like… open herself up to a summer of discomfort because of me. She should be able to do what she wants to do.”

 

Octavia stares at her for a really long time before she laughs right in her face. She laughs at her until her face falls and she slaps Clarke around the head.

 

“Dumbass!” she shouts and Clarke’s too shocked to do anything other than cower. “You don’t want to scare her but you’re going abandon her?! Are you a fucking MORON?!”

 

“I’m not…” Clarke tries to argue.

 

“Dumbass!” Octavia shouts in her face. “You haven’t even told her about California! Are you trying to scare her?! What the fuck possessed you to think that doing this was a better idea than just giving her a fucking choice, Griffin?”

 

Clarke opens her mouth to argue but then frowns when she realizes that Octavia’s right.

 

“But, by all means,” Octavia scoffs. “Abandon the girl who has probably spent her whole life being left by everyone she knows. What do I know?”

 

She gives Clarke a swift flick to the forehead and moves towards the door.

 

“She loves you, Clarke,” she says, softer now. “She loves you. Anyone can see that she loves you. And—honestly, Griffin—she’s way too good for a dumbass like you. She’s totally smart and funny and could probably end up dating a lawyer or a senator or something but she wants you. You should probably make a conscious effort to not fuck it up. She’s good for you.”

 

Clarke smirks at her friend’s words, and is about to mention how Octavia’s standing up for the same person she used to believe was a know-it-all Robot, before she thinks better of it and nods instead.

 

“I know,” she whispers.

 

Octavia rolls her eyes before smiling. “She’s in the library.”

 

Clarke bites her lip and reaches for her bag.

 

//

 

Anya calls her again shortly after Raven leaves to go find one of her “special friends”.

 

Lexa knows that the only “special friend” Raven has is Bellamy. It wasn’t hard to figure out after spending enough time with them. She’s pretty sure that both Octavia and Clarke know but there’s no way she’s opening up that can of worms. God knows what would happen.

 

“Any news on what your summer plans are yet?” Anya asks and she sounds rushed.

 

Lexa swallows and what Raven said still weighs heavy on her mind. She can’t help but think that maybe she doesn’t need to talk more about herself but more about everyone else. She needs to tell more people about her mom, and Anya, and the little brother she’s desperate to meet. She needs to tell more people about Clarke. She needs to tell Clarke about Clarke and all about how she feels about her.

 

“I have no idea yet,” she whispers.

 

Anya scoffs and lets out an annoyed laugh. “Lexa, I need to know if you’re going to need picking up because I have work and schedules and—”

 

“I’m waiting to see if Clarke will invite me home with her,” she admits quietly. Anya’s words trail off and her apparent anger disappears over the line as Lexa’s panic rises up instead. “I’m waiting to see if she wants me to meet her mom and just…”

 

Anya sighs. “Lexa, you said it isn’t serious,” she mumbles and Lexa can hear the disappointment. “What are you doing?”

 

Lexa tries to fight the usual shame and guilt she would normally feel at disappointing the only person who stuck around this long. She always reminds herself that Anya’s been looking out for her longer than her own mother ever bothered to. She owes Anya a lot but she owes herself more. She owes herself a chance to actually become part of something. She owes herself a chance to see if she can actually forge something real.

 

Clarke’s the most real thing she’s ever had.

 

“I lied,” she whispers softly and swallows. “It’s serious. It’s completely serious. It’s the most serious thing I’ve ever had, Anya. She’s—she’s so damn beautiful and kind and—” The tears come quicker than she expected. “She’s smart but she knows what she wants. She was a Biology major when I first met her but she changed to Art History because that’s what she loves. She doodles on napkins and she draws landscapes on my back with her fingers when she thinks I’m sleeping. I can always feel her tracing out the shapes of trees.”

 

When Lexa laughs, Anya sighs, and it forces her to power through.

 

“She has an Ansel Adams picture as her phone background and her camera roll is full of pictures of trees and—and of me while I’m sleeping…” Her voice is cracked and timid but she keeps going anyway. “She hates reading and documentaries and people being mad at her. She loves warm, milky coffee and ridiculously sugary sodas. And rum. She fucking loves rum and morning sex and cuddling.”

 

“Lexa…”

 

Lexa closes her eyes and grits her jaw because she needs to get this out. “I’m pretty sure that she’d happily spend the rest of her life napping and eating pizza. She picks the weirdest toppings too. And she never wears pants unless she has to but—but—”

 

She scrubs her hands over her face and lets her feet anxious tap the floor.

 

“Anya, I love her,” she explains at last. It feels good to tell someone who isn’t the girl in question. “I’m absolutely in love with her and maybe you think that’s naïve of me. Maybe you think that I’m being stupid but I will absolutely risk her making a fool out of me, just for the chance that she might just love me instead. And I think she will because I spent so long trying to scare her away and she just… nothing worked and she took care of me instead. And it’s been… three months, Anya. It’s been three months and she still kisses me awake every morning. And maybe one day she’ll stop but I don’t care. I really don’t care. It hurts more to fight it and be lonely.”

 

Anya is quiet for a long time before she lets out a sigh. Except it’s soft and giving and she chuckles at the end.

 

“Lexa, I’ve been dating the same guy for three years,” she admits softly.

 

Lexa almost falls off her chair in surprise. “What?”

 

Anya giggles. “I didn’t know how to tell you,” she whispers. “I spent so many years telling you to keep yourself safe and to trust no one… that love wasn’t worth it. That it kills us. I didn’t know how to tell you how wrong I was. I always get everything so wrong.” She sighs. “I’m happy for you, Kid. I really am. And I’m sorry.”

 

“It’s okay,” Lexa smiles. “Thanks.”

 

“I have to go,” she chuckles. “Call me soon?”

 

“Yeah,” Lexa sighs and for the first time, she knows that she will.

 

Anya hangs up and Lexa can’t stop the smile that works its way across her face. She smiles until something moves out the corner of her eye and she spins around to find messy blonde hair and familiar, glassy blue eyes looking back at her. Clarke looks at her so softly that Lexa knows right away that she probably heard more than Lexa ever wanted her to. She knows Clarke did when she doesn’t say anything and just steps up behind her, tilting her head backwards until she can kiss her deeply.

 

“What else do I like?” she murmurs against Lexa’s mouth.

 

Lexa sucks the taste of Clarke from her lips and sighs.

 

“Me,” is all she can think to whisper.

 

Clarke gives her a wide, loving smile before she starts stroking Lexa’s cheeks.

 

“No,” she hums as she nudges their noses together. “I love you.”

 

Lexa whispers the words back and Clarke moves closer when she tugs on her elbow. Lexa pulls her into her lap and Clarke’s arms wrap around her shoulders to hold her tight.

 

“I know this might be a little late notice,” she whispers as Lexa presses soft kisses against her cheeks. “But do you think you’d like to spend the summer with me in California?”

 

She looks nervous and Lexa keeps kissing her face as she talks.

 

“I’m going to teach kids how to paint but we could also spend some time on the beach and like, you can read books and stuff.” She tangles her hand in Lexa’s hair and Lexa smiles that she’s using books as a way to convince her. She wishes Clarke knew that she doesn’t need any convincing at all but she lets her speak anyway. “I could show you what proper Mexican food tastes like, and you can meet my mom for real. Maybe—maybe visit my dad with me, too. I could tell you all about him.”

 

Lexa drags her in for a messy kiss that she struggles to keep going because she’s smiling too much. Clarke pulls back and giggles at her, thumb sweeping over her bottom lip and the shape of grin. She looks at Lexa expectantly and, when Lexa nods, she just giggles harder.

 

“Yeah?”

 

Lexa nods and bites her lip. “Yeah. Yeah, Clarke.”

 

“You’re sure? You don’t have to—”

 

Lexa’s hand finds the back of her neck and she hushes her with a long, deep kiss. Clarke looks dazed and beautiful when they pull back. She clutches at Lexa’s shirt and her shoulders and smiles softly when Lexa pushes the hair from her eyes.

 

“I want to be where you are,” Lexa tells her. “Always.”

 

Clarke traces the outline of the tattoo at the back of her neck.

 

“Me too,” she whispers. “Me too.”

 

//

 

They’ve been in Venice Beach for a week and a half when Lexa wakes her up in the middle of the night and takes her by the hand.

 

Clarke still feels shaky because that morning they’d visited her father’s grave. Lexa had held her hand the entire time but Clarke had been on the edge of sobbing since she’d made Clarke stop at a florist so she could buy a bunch of white peonies. She’d waited for Clarke to give her the okay before she’d laid them on the ground and that’s all it had taken before Clarke was sobbing. She’d sat on the ground before him and Lexa had wrapped her arms and her legs around her as she listened to Clarke talk about her dad and her mom and all the shit that had happened after.

 

She’d told Lexa how her dad would have loved her because she’s smart and almost as nerdy as he was. Lexa had giggled when she’d told her they would have been crossword buddies.

 

“I am so in love with you,” she’d whispered against Lexa’s cheek. Everything had gone quiet and Lexa did nothing more than kiss her in response.

 

Clarke had napped most of the afternoon, falling asleep and waking up to the feel of Lexa stroking the back of her neck, even as she slept herself. Clarke was yet again struck with the thought that she didn’t belong anywhere that wasn’t with Lexa, that she’d go anywhere Lexa went.

 

That’s why she lets Lexa lead her all the way down to the beach. She’s bleary eyed but she helps Lexa to lay down one blanket before they curl together atop it and pull another over them like they had in Texas. Lexa stares up at the night sky, at the hundreds of stars, and says nothing for a long time.

 

Clarke’s sure that this is all they’re going to do until Lexa turns to her and nuzzles her head softly into her shoulder.

 

“Do you believe in soulmates?” she whispers and Clarke barely hears her over the roar of the ocean before them.

 

She turns her head to the side and nods so that she knows Lexa can feel it.

 

Lexa grabs desperately at her bicep and Clarke cups her elbow to anchor her and remind her that she’s safe. She’s sure that she feels Lexa’s breath hitch against her neck and she turns to soothe her with forehead kisses. Her other arm wraps around Lexa’s shoulders and she tangles her fingers in Lexa’s curls.

 

“I think you’re mine,” Lexa whimpers brokenly and Clarke doesn’t understand until she shuffles down to her eye level. Lexa’s green eyes are bright with tears and happiness but also fear. She shakes her head and Clarke frowns. “I think you’re my soulmate.”

 

Clarke lets all the breath get sucked out of her and it feels like getting caught on a wave and being pulled under.

 

“Before I met you…” Lexa continues and Clarke can do little more than listen. “Before I met you, it felt like I was just shouting into a void, like I was waiting for the universe to swallow me up.” Clarke frowns and Lexa seems to relax when they turn on their sides to face each other. “Wherever I went, it felt like I was screaming at the top of my lungs, waiting for someone to notice… to pay attention… to just save me.”

 

She smiles and Clarke shuffles closer until their noses press together.

 

“And then you showed up, and it felt like you dropped out of the sky,” she giggles and her fingers find Clarke’s cheek. “You turned around one day and looked at me and everything inside of me went quiet. You looked at me and it was like my heart and my mind and my entire soul was at peace. I saw you and I knew who you really were and it terrified me for so long because I didn’t think I’d ever find you. I didn’t want to give you that power but it was like the universe wanted me to. It wanted me to love you and it did everything to make sure that I did.”

 

Tears rush down her cheeks and Clarke doesn’t know what to do because she doesn’t think she’s ever seen Lexa cry before. She wipes her fingers over Lexa’s cheeks and shakes her head because she needs to see her smile again.

 

“And I tried to fight all of it,” Lexa chokes. “I wanted to feel safe but the truth is that the first time I ever felt safe in my entire life is when you looked at me and said—and said—‘Hi, my name’s Clarke—’”

 

“‘I love your shirt’.” Clarke strokes her hair back from her face. “‘Do you mind if I sit here?’”

 

Lexa’s eyes widen. “You remember.”

 

Clarke smiles. “Of course I remember, I replayed that moment over in my head for weeks once you shot me down wondering what I’d done wrong.”

 

Lexa’s bottom lip trembles. “I was so scared.”

 

Clarke strokes her thumb over it until it stops. “You didn’t need to be,” she whispers. “I felt it, too. I knew it, too. I fought it, too. It doesn’t change the fact that I loved you from the minute I met you, that the scowls you gave me that first year were always the highlight of my day.”

 

Lexa laughs and Clarke feels her entire soul relax at the sound.

 

“I wish I could go back, sometimes,” Lexa soon softens and she sighs. “I wish I’d never been scared. Because then I never would have been mean enough to make you go back to your friends and loathe me enough to make them tease me.” Clarke clicks her tongue and shakes her head but Lexa smiles coyly. “I used to plan what I would have said, you know?”

 

Clarke smiles. “And what would you have said?”

 

Lexa bites her lip. “Well, I would have smiled. I wanted to smile. I wanted to tell you that I got my shirt from a thrift store in Williamsburg.” Clarke grins and strokes her cheek. “I would have told you that my favorite movie is Some Like It Hot, with Marilyn Monroe.”

 

Clarke nods. “I know that.”

 

Lexa shifts closer at the reminder. Clarke knows everything now. It makes everything less scary.

 

“I would have told you thank you when you told me I had pretty eyes,” Lexa whispers around a shy smile. “Remembering you saying that made me smile for weeks.” Clarke pushes Lexa’s hair back from her face and her tongue pokes through her teeth as she smiles. She sobers when Lexa’s smile slowly falls into one of reverence and respect. “I would have never made you feel bad that you were taking classes outside of your chosen area of study. I would have told you that I actually thought it was awesome that you wanted to take the class because you were actually interested in it. A lot of people in that class were only there because they were made to be there, but you weren’t. You were interested and I would never have belittled that if I’d have known what came after.”

 

Clarke sweeps her thumb over Lexa’s cheek and looks at her carefully. She looks so small.

 

“I would have told you that I would have loved to have gone to that party with you, but only if we could have gone out for coffee first,” she whispers and there’s a half-smile on her face. “I wanted to talk to you more about how you think Alfred Hitchcock sucks.”

 

Clarke snorts. “He does suck. He really sucks.”

 

Lexa eliminates all the space between them with a sigh and leans in until their lips are practically touching. After all these months, Clarke’s breath still hitches when they’re this close.

 

“I think I would have liked to kiss you, too,” she whispers, seconds before she does just that. It’s quick and barely a peck but when she pulls back, Clarke is overwhelmed and breathless.

 

She clutches at Lexa and keeps her close, shakes her head at her words, and hates the idea of things happening that way. She loves the way they fell in love like they did. She loves the way that they got to see every single broken and beautiful piece of each other and got to put each other back together stronger. She loves that they hurt each other and still managed to fall in love anyway.

 

She feels that love so strongly that she frowns and wraps herself around this person who she never wants to be without.

 

“But it had to happen like this,” she whispers and Lexa looks at her curiously. “We had to hurt each other. We had to call each other out and we had to do everything this way or it wouldn’t be like this. If you’d never said what you did that day, I probably would still have been a bio major and dropped out. I probably would have treated you like I treated everyone else. I would have never earned your trust and everything would have gone wrong. It wouldn’t have worked. Everything had to happen this way or we wouldn’t be here right now.”

 

Lexa holds her face and presses their foreheads together.

“You saved me, Lexa,” Clarke whispers. “You put everything into perspective. You made everything worth it.”

 

Lexa sighs. “So did you.”

 

Clarke smiles and when they kiss, it feels like more. It feels better and whole and Clarke pulls away knowing, somehow, that she’ll be kissing Lexa like this for the rest of her days. This unexpected person in her arms is the other half of her entire life.

 

Clarke smiles and they kiss until the sun starts rising over the horizon. They kiss until it starts to warm their cheeks and the first signs of morning start to sound around them. Clarke leads her all the way back to the house, slipping quietly past Rosa, her mother, and Marcus, until they fall back into the nest that’s become Clarke’s bed.

 

“Thank you for loving me,” Lexa whispers as they curl around each other beneath the covers. “Thank you for seeing me.”

 

Clarke’s hands find her face and she cups it in her palms as she brings it closer. Lexa is so sleepy and at peace and it makes her happy. It makes her calm and she knows that she needs nothing more than this to be content.

 

“You’re so very welcome,” she whispers against Lexa’s brow.

 

Lexa sighs in exhaustion. Clarke drifts off to sleep to the sound of her sure, steady breathing.

 

//

 

A few weeks later, Clarke receives her new residency assignment.

 

Lexa does, too.

 

They look at their single room designations and can’t help but feel sad and disappointed and just a little bit sentimental.

 

Clarke kisses Lexa’s forehead and reaches for the phone.

 

It doesn’t take much persuading for the university to let them switch to a double.

 

//

 

A few weeks after that, they drive back to school together in Clarke’s car.

 

It’s full of Lexa’s books, empty In-N-Out bags, crappy pop music mixes, and the combined bags of all their things.

 

Lexa goes to the residency office to get their keys and, when she bounds happily back to the car, Clarke frowns at her in amusement.

 

“You’ll never guess what?” she says and then shoves the room assignment notice under Clarke’s nose.

 

Clarke looks at it and frowns for a moment before she realizes what she’s looking at.

 

“Hey, that’s our old room,” she says before smirking up at Lexa.

 

Lexa smirks.

 

“The universe loves us.”

 

Clarke kisses her against the hood of the car and can’t help but agree.

 

//

 

The get back to their room and unpack their things and it feels like nothing’s changed.

 

Lexa falls into her nest of pillows and reaches up to habitually stroke the back of Clarke’s neck when she falls in beside her.

 

It feels like the summer never happened. It feels like no time has passed at all and that they didn’t just spend the last three months teaching kids how to paint during the day and quietly making love in Clarke’s king bed every night. If they closed their eyes, they could pretend it was still May.

 

Clarke presses a kiss to Lexa’s neck and Lexa feels her words mumbled against her skin.

 

“Home,” she whispers.

 

Lexa sighs. “Yeah.”

 

In each other’s arms, they always will be.