Chapter 1: Part I
“You have to stop staring.”
Lexa pulls the shot of espresso with practiced ease, her hands going through the motions without conscious thought. “I’m not staring.” She feels a blush rise to her cheeks regardless.
“You’re totally staring.”
Lexa doesn’t reply and tries to steer her gaze away from the large burgundy armchair in the back corner of the room or rather the girl lounging in it.
It wasn’t as if the girl in question was doing anything particularly interesting at that moment. All she’d done actually for the last couple hours was sip from the large mug precariously balanced on the arm of the chair and flip through the heavily dog-eared book in her lap.
She doesn’t need to look at Raven to know she’s rolling her eyes. Lexa turns her attention back to the drink in front of her and hands it over to the waiting customer who grabs it with thanks and hurries on his way. She takes a second to wipe her glasses on the end of her shirt before letting her gaze wander around the shop and the handful of customers settled inside of it, looking for any work that needs doing. She specifically avoids looking towards the back corner now that Raven has noted her fixation.
Lexa has been showing up to work at Mystic Coffee since her first year of college. Desperate for a way to pay for what her scholarship wouldn’t cover, she hadn’t put much thought into where she’d applied. Just seeing the “Hiring” sign in the window had been enough to have her pushing through the door.
The place is decorated with an odd collection of old mismatched furniture that looks like it’s spent some time on sidewalks and anything with a flat surface can be seen crammed between the chairs to be used as tables. Crooked framed portraits of people Lexa can’t name adorn the walls along with shelves whose contents are mostly comprised of the books that people have accidentally left behind on their visits.
The pay is nothing amazing and she’s had some miserable workdays over the years but the place had grown on Lexa in a way she hadn’t expected. What had once merely been a means to a paycheck is now one of the places she surprisingly feels most comfortable. She had even come to not mind Raven’s company after they had begun working most of their shifts together. You’d be surprised how quickly a truce can form between two people with contrasting temperaments when faced with a mob of people who haven’t yet had their caffeine fix.
But despite having dealt with customers of all sorts over the years, she is still wholly mystified by the one in the leather jacket and red chucks currently propped up on tea table in front of her.
“Have you noticed anything different about her?” The words are out of her mouth before she realizes what she’s asked.
Raven leans against the counter next to the espresso machine and throws her a quizzical look, Lexa wasn’t typically one to just start chatting. “Different how?”
Lexa shrugs, avoiding Raven’s eye, “I don’t know, just…different.”
Raven picks at some coffee grounds beneath her nails. “No I haven’t,” she says, looking over her shoulder as the chime above the door announces the entrance of a handful of people. “But I do know that if you start freaking out all the customers our tip jar is never going to fill up, so cut that shit out.”
Lexa knows she’s probably right, but that doesn’t stop her from looking toward the back of the room again. Her eyes follow the mug of coffee as the girl takes a sip and, without looking up from her reading, places it back down carefully.
Lexa had poured that cup herself nearly two hours ago.
It was still steaming.
“Hey, someone spilled their drink all over the front table, you wanna go deal with that while I hold down the fort?” Raven gestures over her shoulder with her thumb and gives Lexa a smile she assumes is supposed to be convincing. Lexa sighs but nods and goes to fetch the mop from the utility closet, earning a brighter smile and a “Thank you!” from Raven.
Her mind wanders as she mops at the mess, settling on the thing, or the person rather, that it hasn’t been able to not think about since she’d first stepped into the shop the day before. Lexa still doesn’t know what to make of the encounter and it keeps playing over in her mind.
She can count on one hand the number of customers they’ve had in the last hour, so when Raven asks if she can take an extra ten minutes on her break Lexa doesn’t even looked up from her book before waving her off. The chances of a sudden flood of people pouring in were slim to none and she’s confident she can handle anything that comes through the door.
Sometimes she appreciates the slow days and the chance to catch her breath they give her, but today the monotony is dragging on.
The shop sits empty for a long time before the bell above the door chimes and interrupts the quiet. It calls her attention away from the paperback Dostoevsky in her hands and she quickly tosses it beneath the counter. She isn’t supposed to be reading during her shift but she needs to get at least part way through the text before Monday’s lecture and she’d only started last night.
She expects to see one of the regulars that swing in for a quick cup on their way to work or one of the many university students who often drag their textbooks in for a caffeine-fueled study session. She is not expecting to see a new face, nor one as striking as the one at the door.
Gold hair with pink ends that hold the morning sunlight slanting through the windows catches Lexa’s attention. She notices that, despite the fact that the weather had been warmer than usual, the girl is wearing a leather jacket, and Lexa spots part of an intricate tattoo peeking out from beneath one of the sleeves. She would think the girl was trying too hard for the whole badass look if it didn’t actually work so well for her.
Her gaze doesn’t wander over the shop to take in the bizarre and eclectic atmosphere like that of most newcomers, rather, she approaches the counter in a distracted manner, eyes distant in a way that has Lexa’s brow furrowing as she greets her.
“Welcome to Mystic Coffee. What can I get for you this morning?” Lexa recites, trying to keep any puzzlement out of her tone.
At the sound of her voice the girl looks up and meets her eyes. There is momentary confusion in them as her eyes flick to either side and she appears to finally notice where she is for the first time since walking in. When her eyes come back to Lexa’s, the intensity in them makes her fidget behind the counter and adjust the glasses sitting on the bridge of her nose. The girl’s lips twitch at the gesture and it seems to both put her at ease and decide something for her.
“Um, yeah, I’ll get a...latte. Skim. To go.”
Lexa nods and reaches to grab a travel cup from the stack, pulling the black sharpie from the front pocket of her apron at the same time. She clears her throat. “I’m going to need a name for that,” she says with her sharpie held at the ready.
An amused grin overtakes the girl’s face as she pointedly glances around the empty shop.
Lexa is sure that she’s blushing but continues to hold her ground nonetheless. When the girl realizes her seriousness she schools her face.
“Right. Of course. It’s Clarke. With an ‘e’.”
Lexa nods her thanks and marks the name down with precise strokes.
Lexa tries to ignore the fact that the girl, Clarke, continues to watch her with an amused but gentle smile as she digs into the pocket of her jacket and hands over a crumpled bill. This was why Lexa usually makes Raven manage the register. She doesn’t think she’s ever seen Raven flustered. Lexa rummages around in the cash drawer for the correct change and avoids eye contact as she goes about making the drink.
The attention she can still feel on her makes her take extra care in her movements. She pulls the shot of espresso slowly and studiously as she tries her best to ignore her audience. Memories of her first week on the job, when more coffee had ended up on her apron than in the cup, come back to her.
When the espresso shot is brewed and the milk is steamed to exactly 70 degrees she pours it all out and seals it off with a lid. Clearing her throat awkwardly she moves the cup to the top counter and finally makes eye contact again with Clarke.
There’s a pause and Clarke doesn’t make a move towards the drink.
“Aren’t you supposed to call the name out?”
Lexa narrows her eyes and thinks about how she doesn't get paid enough.
Fully aware that she is being laughed at, she stubbornly walks back to the cup and picks it up once more.
“Skim latte for Clarke.”
She gets a brilliant grin in response and Lexa wishes the sight didn’t make her stomach flutter.
“Thank you...,” her eyes drop to the nametag carefully pinned to the front of Lexa’s apron, “Lexa.”
As Clarke finally reaches forward for the drink Lexa’s eyes are once again drawn to the tattoos marking her skin. Besides the intricate pattern on her right forearm that she’d spotted before, Lexa can see a small bird occupying her inner left wrist. It’s beautiful, and she’s amazed at how lifelike it looks.
She’s about to look away, not wanting to get caught staring. She nearly drops the drink from her hand instead.
At first she thinks it’s a trick of the light and she blinks hard before looking again. Because tattoos don’t move. They just don’t.
When the bird’s wings beat softly again however, she isn’t so sure.
Her eyes snap up to Clarke’s and she finds a schooled expression looking back at her.
“Thanks for the coffee,” she says, taking it from Lexa’s outstretched hands.
Lexa wills her fingers to release their hold on the cup and takes a step back. The customary, “Thanks for stopping by!” that the employee manual instructs her to say never makes it past her lips. Instead she just watches silently as Clarke steps out the door and leaves. Just like that.
She’s still staring after her when the ‘Employees Only’ door swings open behind her and Raven comes in.
“Sorry, I know, that was fifteen minutes, not ten, my bad.” She re-ties her apron as she speaks. “Did I miss anything?”
Lexa opens her mouth and has no idea what’s about to come tumbling out. Raven interrupts her with a snort regardless, “Nevermind, this place is a fucking ghost town today. Feel free to take your own extended break, I’ll cover the counter if anyone shows up.”
She nods, still dazed, and her fingers work to untie the knot of her apron.
She spends her entire break, and the remainder of her day in a sort of confused stupor. She’s useless in her classes and hopes her professors don’t notice that she spends the entire lecture wondering if she’s losing her mind. The day continues with her grappling uselessly with what happened, looking for some sort of reasonable explanation. She always comes up short.
“What’s up with you?” Anya asks later, tossing a pencil at her face that she fails to dodge. “You’re being weird, even for you.” She rubs at the mark it leaves on her forehead and claims an upset stomach. She’s thankful when Anya lets it drop.
It’s not like she can just tell her the truth.
That today she met a girl with a tattoo that moved. That that’s impossible but that she definitely saw it.
She lays in bed that night staring at the pale ceiling of her room and figures that it probably doesn’t matter. That either way she’ll probably never get answers or confirmation or whatever it is she wants. She’s sure that those five-minutes of her life will be the only time she ever sees Clarke.
So, naturally, the next morning when she looks up to see who her next customer is in the busy line she chokes on air.
Raven pounds a hand against her back unhelpfully before Lexa can wave her off. Dragging air into her burning lungs, she makes as little eye contact with Clarke as possible as she takes her order, her hand mechanically reaching for a to-go cup and trying to do everything normally as her mind races.
“Actually I thought I’d make the order for here today” Clarke says, stopping Lexa’s movements and causing her to finally meet her eyes. “If that’s okay...”
There’s a pause and Clarke watches her carefully. Lexa thinks she almost looks nervous but by the time she notices the expression it’s gone again.
Until that moment she had written off the possibility of seeing Clarke ever again and of figuring more out about the mysterious girl in front of her. And it surprises her, suddenly, how much she does want to figure her out.
“Yeah,” Lexa says, “That’s okay.”
She’s just about finished mopping up the floor when she notices Clarke getting up from her table and gathering her stuff. Clarke pauses as she opens the door to leave and Lexa can feel her eyes on her. She pretends to still be cleaning.
For a moment she thinks Clarke is going to say something. Ask to talk. Ask her what she saw. Instead, the door chimes and Lexa knows she’s left.
When she goes home that afternoon, and later to class, she pretends that everything is normal and that work was ordinary and Anya doesn’t throw a pencil at her this time. She even invites her to a get together she and some of the people in her course are having later that evening. But Lexa shakes her head, as she usually does, and gestures to the pile of her homework in front of her.
Anya doesn’t push it and pulls the door closed behind her with a “‘later, kid.”
Lexa doesn’t work on her homework.
Instead she spends her evening sitting in the chair at her desk thinking about moving bird tattoos, coffee that never cools, and other impossible things.
She thinks about Clarke and what she might have said before she left.
She wonders if she’ll be back again tomorrow.
Clarke is hungover.
She knew those shots of Fireball at the end of the night were a bad idea but she’d taken them anyways. She reminds herself to kill Octavia later for letting her do them.
Bellamy hadn’t believed Octavia when she’d told him that Clarke could breathe fire for a couple minutes if she took a couple shots of the stuff. Some drunken shouts of “oh come on, Clarke, now you have to show us” and the next thing Clarke knows the shot glasses are empty and she’s hissing small flames from between her teeth to a smattering of applause and cheers. Drunk Clarke is an idiot and she wishes she wasn’t so easily talked into doing things that sober Clarke doesn’t do anymore.
Before she knows what she’s doing she’s opening the door to the small coffee shop wedged between the brownstone and the plant shop for the third time that week.
Clarke isn’t usually seen awake between the hours of five am and noon. Normally she’s rolling out of bed only when the afternoon light cuts through the gap in her curtains and she’s reminded that she has a job that she actually needs. Octavia always gives her shit for walking to work each day. “Whyyyy, Clarke? It’s so much effort.” She then usually proves her point by snapping her fingers and appearing in front of wherever Clarke happens to be standing. Clarke always shrugs but she knows why. Octavia does too because she never pesters her about it for long.
The last few days, however, she had been turning over a new leaf and was out of her apartment while the hour hand on her clock still pointed to a single digit.
She breathes in the scent of fresh coffee grinds and thinks about how she shouldn’t be here. Not after what happened, what she stupidly allowed to happen. But she likes the place; it has character and is eclectic in a way that doesn’t feel cluttered and she realizes that there are worse places she could spend her mornings. It’s also blissfully quiet right now. Clarke resists putting a hand to her pounding head.
“Welcome to Mystic Coffee. What can I get for you this morning?”
And, of course, there’s the other reason that she likes it too.
Though her voice is steady, Lexa’s eyes widen as they look at each other from across the counter. It’s not just shock though, there’s clearly a curiosity eating away at her and, almost as if she can’t help it, Lexa’s eyes dart down to where Clarke’s tattoos would be visible if they weren’t covered by the sleeves of her jacket. Clarke resists the urge to pull them down farther.
“Got any recommendations for a killer hangover?” she chuckles, hoping to alleviate at least a smidge of the tension that hangs between them.
Lexa doesn’t seem to know what to say to that and Clarke is about to tell her that it’s fine, she’ll just have a plain coffee, when the response she gets surprises her.
“Well, Raven usually fixes herself a double or triple Americano and swipes a muffin when she thinks no one is looking.” Lexa looks over at the girl Clarke presumes to be Raven who’s clearing dishes off some of the tables and her lips twitch, “But she also does that when she’s not hungover.”
Raven seems to notice that she has a pair of eyes on her because she looks up and her brow furrows. Clarke turns back to find Lexa appraising her curiously and her mouth opens as if she’s about to say something. She seems to think better of it, however, and the moment passes.
“Sounds great,” Clarke says with a soft smile, unsure whether the feeling in her chest is relief or disappointment.
Lexa nods, all business again. “To go or…?” she trails off, hand hovering towards where Clarke presumes the travel cups are.
She doesn’t know why she keeps saying those two words. She doesn’t even know why she keeps coming back.
Lexa finishes ringing her up with precise movements, taking Clarke’s money when it’s handed over, and telling her that someone will bring everything to her table when it’s ready.
It’s Raven that eventually does and Clarke tries not to be disappointed.
Lexa’s plan to solve the case of the mysterious girl with the moving tattoos does not progress very quickly. But every morning she works her shift and tries to figure something out about her.
One day she notices the edges of a flower tattooed beneath Clarke’s collarbone and spends nearly her entire shift trying to get a good look at it out of the corner of her eye. Raven ends up giving her a strange look when she goes back to clean the table adjacent to Clarke’s for the fifth time and she realizes that she might not be as subtle as she thinks.
One time she approaches where Clarke sits, fully intending to sit down and demand answers because it’s driving her crazy and she would really like to get back to focusing on her classes. When she gets to the table, however, the words end up dying in her throat, the flicker of worry beneath the bravado she sees in the blue eyes staring back changing her mind.
Instead she asks if she needs a refill on her cup, though it’s clearly still steaming, and Clarke shakes her head ‘no’.
It becomes a habit, or a routine; she’s not sure which. If the first then it’s something she should probably break. Either way she knows she’s being stupid.
Almost every day now Clarke wanders into Mystic Coffee at an ungodly hour just so that she can lounge in the wing-backed chair in the back of the room for a while before she has to go to work. Every morning she pretends not to notice Lexa looking at her with a poorly concealed glances and Clarke pretends like she doesn’t spend just as much time trying to figure the other girl out.
‘Why hasn’t she told anyone yet?’
The question has been plaguing Clarke for days.
She would know if her secret was out and frankly she expected it when she had shown up the second time. But everyone in the shop still continues to meet her eye and no one is whispering about her when they assume she can’t hear.
Ordinarily she would shrug and accept it as an abnormally lucky outcome and be on her way, because usually when she did something stupid like accidentally show someone magic, the results were less favorable. This time, however, something was keeping her from walking out the door like she should.
She doesn’t tell Octavia. She doesn’t want the judgment or the advice about how bad of an idea this is. She doesn’t need to hear the words she knows are true.
So she keeps coming back and keeps it to herself.
Sometimes she tells herself it’s to make sure Lexa won’t say anything. That once she’s got the girl figured out she’ll be on her way. The more she stays, however, the less sure she is about that.
The girl intrigues her in unexpected ways. Clarke watches her sometimes over the top of her book and so far she’s noticed that Lexa is quiet, but not shy, she’s good at her job and kind to the customers even when they don’t deserve it, and she studies way too much. Clarke has seen her pull her notebook out more than once when there aren’t any new customers. Lexa thinks that her manager doesn’t notice when she stashes it beneath the counter again, but he does.
She also has a nervous habit of adjusting her glasses when she’s flustered; something she did a lot around Clarke at first but not as much anymore, a fact that makes Clarke feel pleased in an unforeseen way.
Clarke still catches her glancing towards the sleeves of her jacket each day though. She wonders what’s going through her head each time. She wonders whether that day is the one when she inevitably says something and Clarke won’t be able to come back.
It’s a week later and she’s settled into the spot she’s unofficially claimed as her own. Her feet are tossed up on the table in front of her as she doodles in her notebook. It’s a raccoon this time, she smiles as it fills the corner of her page.
A throat clearing startles her.
She closes the notebook quickly when the raccoon scurries across the page, mimicking her alarm, and looks up.
Lexa stands there holding a steaming mug in one hand and a plate with a muffin in the other and Clarke relaxes immediately. She clears her throat again and gives Clarke a pointed look. Noticing what she’s getting at, Clarke quickly and sheepishly removes her feet from the table and Lexa sets the things down.
Lexa nods and turns to go before stopping and turning back around.
“Are you a student at the university?”
Clarke almost misses the question altogether, not expecting it.
“Oh. Um, no. Not anymore.”
Lexa nods, almost to herself.
They fall back into silence and Clarke hates that it’s stilted and awkward. They look at each other and the unspoken words hang between them.
Clarke clears her throat. “Sometimes I pretend to be though so I can use the library on campus. They won’t issue me a card there so I’ve had to start smuggling some of the books out,” she says, holding up the one that sits with the notebook in her lap between anxious fingers.
Clarke doesn’t know why, of all things, she decided to tell her that.
‘Great, now she’s gonna think you’re book thief. She’s probably worried you’re going to start taking all the books from this place too.’
She expects a strange or concerned look and instead she gets a laugh that is equal parts impressed and amused. Clarke smiles at the sound.
“What are you reading?”
Clarke flips the cover over and shows her.
“The A to Z of Plants, Flowers, and Fungi,” Lexa reads aloud, leaning closer for a better look. “For fun or work?”
“Bit of both.”
She looks up and seems to realize how close they’ve gotten and leans back, clearing her throat, “You’re a botanist of some sort then?”
Clarke debates between a few responses before settling on, “Sometimes.”
Rather than get put off at her evasive answers they only seem to amuse Lexa and Clarke likes the smile that tugs at the corner of her mouth.
A large group of what Clarke would guess to be students stumble through the door loudly, drawing both their attention and breaking the moment. Clarke feels the impulse to do something to make the group of people leave rise within her and clenches her fist when she feels her skin tingle.
“I gotta get back to work,” Lexa says, almost to herself. Clarke hopes she doesn’t imagine the disappointment she hears in her voice.
She stands there for another moment though and Clarke watches as she deliberates something. The words are nearly covered up by the extra sounds in the room but Clarke still catches them.
“Your secret is safe with me.” She turns to look at Clarke and her face only shows determination and maybe a soft understanding as she adjusts the glasses on her nose. “About the library books,” she tries to explain, but it’s clear that’s not what she’s talking about.
She doesn’t wait for a response before walking away and Clarke is left to sit and wonder when the light feeling in her chest grew so big.
Clarke turns her key in the lock that afternoon with a soft smile on her face.
She’s lost in her own thoughts and startles when she finds Octavia on her couch even though it’s hardly an unusual occurrence.
“Ugh, finally! Where the hell have you been? I tried calling you like six times. I was about to hire someone for a locator spell.”
Clarke makes a face at her, “Don’t be dramatic.”
“You wouldn’t recognize me if I wasn’t,” she says and removes her legs from where they’d been propped up on the back of Clarke’s couch. Clarke wonders if that’s where she picked up the habit. “But really, where were you? I thought you weren’t working today?”
“I’m not. I was just out for a walk,” she states, shrugging and slipping out of her jacket. She hangs it on the hook beside the door and feels Octavia’s stare on the back of her head.
“ Out for a walk ?”
Clarke shrugs and Octavia narrows her eyes.
She wants to tell her friend about where she’s been. She wants to tell her about the mismatched furniture and the apple scone she had yesterday that she’ll be dreaming about for the next week. She wants to tell her about the girl in the glasses with the bright green eyes that puzzles and intrigues Clarke at the same time. About how that same girl walks around appearing unaffected but will grin suddenly at something amusing and Clarke always desperately tries to figure out what it is that can make her smile like that. She wants to tell her all about how there’s not a drop of magic in the place and that makes it easier for her to breathe for a little while each morning.
“You’re seeing someone new, aren’t you?”
She sits up suddenly and stares Clarke down over the back of the couch. “And you don’t want to tell me because you just don’t think you’re ready for anything serious again after Finn and you think I’ll make a big deal about it.”
The name doesn’t make her cringe anymore but Clarke still feels sourness in her stomach that unsettles her.
“God, is it that guy from the club last week? Clarke, just because the he can pull roses out of his pocket doesn’t make him dating material. Guys without real magic do that at birthday parties and it’s not even impressive then.”
“No, I’m not seeing the guy from the club last week. I’m not seeing anyone.”
Octavia breathes a sigh of relief at the first piece of information and thankfully lets the topic drop.
They spend Clarke’s free afternoon making grilled cheese and watching Friends reruns and Clarke is glad when Octavia doesn’t comment when she makes the food completely by hand or when she chooses to get up from the couch to grab the blanket when she gets cold.
They’ve had enough conversations about it now for Octavia to know when to pick her battles. It doesn’t stop the incomprehension and worry in her friend’s eyes though and Clarke pretends not to see it there when she looks at her.
Later, before she’s almost out the door, Octavia stops, “Don’t forget Bellamy’s birthday is next month and you promised to help me organize that. Lincoln already said he’d find a way to get his hands on some of Jasper’s moonshine, the one with the stars and shit in it, so you know it’s going to be good.”
She’s completely out the door when she suddenly pokes her head back in and casually says, “Oh, and if you wanted to bring whoever you’ve been seeing that would be cool too, but, you know, whatever, you do you.”
The door is closed before she can hear anything Clarke shouts after her.
It becomes a routine.
Lexa opens the shop every morning, Raven stumbles in yawning sometime after her, together they tackle the morning rush of customers, and when the flow of people making their way through the door slows to trickle she makes herself busy and pretends like she isn’t waiting for Clarke. Raven gives her knowing looks when she’s quick to look at the door every time it chimes, but for the most part leaves her alone.
She realizes how much she looks forward to seeing Clarke every day when the thought that one day she might not show makes her frown.
But every morning, usually right after the morning rush but sometimes later, Clarke inevitably comes in. She places her order for whatever kind of coffee she’s in the mood for and pays for a pastry of some sort to go along with it. She has a habit of not specifying which kind and Lexa is left to approach her table with whatever she’s grabbed for her that day. Sometimes she shows up to her table with a blueberry scone but more often something with chocolate, having noticed Clarke’s affinity for it.
Sometimes, if it’s not busy in the shop, she lingers.
What had started as simply her wanting to get some answers had very quickly turned into her just wanting to know Clarke.
She notices that Clarke always sits with her feet propped up either on her table or her chair and how she doesn’t care that the other customers are constantly giving her dirty looks, but when Lexa comes over she’ll take them down without a thought.
She also notices how Clarke always seems to have a new book each day, and every day the titles are more random than the day before. Lexa also likes how she always seems to treat her books with the sticker for Polis University Library on the side with extra care.
She likes that Raven likes her and she’s not even sure at what point the other girl’s opinion started mattering to her. Raven hadn’t seemed too sure about Clarke at first, but then Clarke had reached into her pocket and dropped an astonishingly large tip into the jar and Raven decided that she wasn’t so bad after all.
She likes how sometimes when Lexa takes her order the ends of Clarke’s hair are pink but when she brings it to her later they’ve turned red. She doesn’t really question it anymore, and while that should probably make her concerned it instead oddly makes her happy.
She likes that it doesn’t seem weird at all when Lexa gives her a book on water plants that she’d found wedged under a wobbly table in the back. Clarke carefully brushes dust from the cover and the soft thanks she receives makes Lexa feel her cheeks burn.
Clarke looks at her with an unreadable expression and she likes the way it makes her stomach flip.
It’s pouring outside the next day and Lexa watches with a frown as the rain splatters against the front windows. Her eyes follow the path of a particularly large drop and she tries not to think about the fact that she has to walk home after her shift. She hopes it’ll clear up, but it’s been pouring all week, so those hopes aren’t particularly high.
Anya had left for her morning class with a warning for her to pack her umbrella but Lexa hadn’t listened. She knew exactly what look the other girl was going to throw her when she arrived back sopping wet.
The place never fills up much on days like today so she’s surprised when she hears the door chime and even more so when she sees that it’s Clarke. She doesn’t usually come in until much later and Lexa opens her mouth to say just as much when she’s interrupted.
“Can I buy you a cup of coffee?”
Clarke hasn’t even taken a sip of her coffee. Her fingers absentmindedly spin the mug slowly where it sits on the table and Lexa can see that she’s working herself up to something.
It’s still pouring outside and given that it’s Sunday and the shop closes at noon, they’ve got the place to themselves
Clarke had stuck around for Lexa’s shift, busying herself with the eclectic book collection that was scattered around while Lexa worked. Raven had left with a wave over her shoulder a few minutes prior and Lexa had flipped the sign in the window to ‘Closed’ behind her.
Now they were sitting at a table near the front window. A pair of lights Marcus had made her put up given the coming holidays were strung around it. Lexa watches as their back and forth blinking reflects softly in Clarke’s hair.
“Do you remember the first day I came in here?”
The question takes Lexa by surprise and she blinks. Clarke is looking at her intently and it’s like she’s thrown back into that moment.
She looks at Clarke and wants to say ‘Like it’s seared into my memory’. She wants to tell Clarke that for a while she was picking that day apart by the second and then by the millisecond to try and find the exact moment that her perception of reality shattered.
Instead she just nods, blows on her coffee, and says, “Yeah, vaguely.”
Clarke doesn’t look like she believes her but lets it pass.
“When I took my coffee from you…what did you see?”
If there was a fraction of Lexa’s attention on something other than the girl across from her before, that was no longer the case. It’s like those four words are out in the air and Lexa’s mouth goes dry.
For weeks that moment only existed in unspoken words, buried beneath conversations about schoolwork and library books, only repeating like a looped video in the back of Lexa’s mind. The sudden unexpected rush to the surface of conversation has her confused. She doesn’t understand what’s changed.
“What do you mean?”
“You know what I mean.”
The words are quiet but there’s a challenge in Clarke’s eyes. Lexa swallows.
“It was magic. What you saw.” Clarke drops the words firmly with no room for alternative interpretations, “And what I’m guessing you’ve seen more of given how often I’m in here.”
Silence spreads across the moment, blanketing it. Clarke’s eyes are searching hers, one eyebrow quirked, her coffee still sits untouched. The moment hangs there for a breath, threatening to tip in either direction. Which direction clearly depends on her answer.
Lexa watches steam escape the surface of Clarke’s drink, the delicate wisps swirling upward.
The wisps of steam still. Completely frozen in their movements. Lexa’s breath catches at the sight.
“Okay?” Clarke echoes with disbelief.
Both eyebrows are nearing her hairline and her mouth hangs open.
Lexa marks this moment as the first time she thinks she’s ever properly shocked Clarke.
“I tell you I have magic and you say ‘okay’ ?”
Lexa shrugs. “Well, I mean, I sort of came to that conclusion myself after your tattoo practically flew off your arm.”
Clarke jumps forward to the edge of her seat, “I knew it! I knew you saw it.”
“And there was also the coffee. And the hair.”
“The hair?” her fingers come up to one of the strands almost protectively.
“Unless you dyed your hair in the five minutes between ordering and getting your coffee...” Lexa trails off and picks up her drink. She takes a sip and frowns when it burns her tongue.
“Damn.” Clarke sits back and folds her arms. “I’m usually better at keeping track of stuff like that.”
She begins considering Lexa again, almost like she’s seeing her for the first time. Lexa tries and fails not to fidget under the scrutiny.
The rain continues to pour steadily on the other side of the window, the sound coming in muffled. Part of her, a part that grows smaller every day, still can’t believe she’s having this conversation.
The tension that Clarke had come in with that morning seems to have dissipated. And Lexa’s own relief that she seems to have have given the correct answer, makes her sit more relaxed in her chair.
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
She returns her attention from the rain outside back to Clarke.
She shrugs, wants to say, ‘Because I was afraid you wouldn’t come back if I did.’
She offers her a different truth instead.
“Who would I tell?”
And it is a truth, because who would she realistically tell something like this to? Raven? They weren’t exactly close, and the girl would probably just throw something at her and tell her to get her head out of the clouds. Anya? She can imagine exactly how that would go. Anya has even less whimsicality about her than Lexa does. She’d probably force her into a ct scan and multiple psychiatric evaluations before she got more than two words out about it.
Something flickers in Clarke’s eyes but she leaves it alone. Instead she clears her throat and says, “Well, thank you. For not telling anyone that is.”
The comment is almost shy and it’s a look she hasn’t seen on Clarke before. But there’s also an obvious relief in Clarke’s eyes as well.
They share a smile and Lexa is thrown by the amity she feels in that moment. She’s not sure if it’s the idea that she’s being trusted so thoroughly, or if it’s just Clarke that has this effect on her.
“Does this mean I’m allowed to ask questions?”
Clarke laughs and Lexa likes the sound far too much. “Yeah. Go ahead, shoot.”
“Can I see your tattoo?”
It’s clearly not the question she’s expecting, but Clarke nods and, after hesitating for a moment, pushes up the sleeve of her left arm.
Lexa can feel Clarke’s eyes watching her carefully as she leans over the table and her gaze locks on the dark imprint of the bird. It’s as lifelike as Lexa remembers and with a better look at it she’s sure now it’s a crow.
She waits a beat and frowns. “It -it’s not moving.”
“It doesn’t move all the time.”
“When does it move?” Lexa’s hand comes up but her fingers hesitate just above the intricate presses of ink.
“When I want it to. Or when I’m not paying attention and my emotions get the better of me.”
“So your magic is linked to your emotions?”
The way she says it has Lexa looking up. Clarke is still staring at her carefully, like she’s waiting for Lexa to push back from the table and leave.
“Do the others move?” Lexa asks, thinking about the flower she knows sits just below Clarke’s collarbone, currently hidden beneath her jacket.
“They all move.”
Lexa wants to ask how many Clarke has but she realizes she’s getting off track.
“So are you the only one? Witch, or - sorry, I’m not sure what you call yourself.”
Clarke snorts, clearly amused.
“Witch is fine. And hardly, magic goes way back and my family is only one branch on that tree.” She circles the rim of her mug absentmindedly. “But when you’re born with magic you usually grow up around it. It’s sort of just becomes an ordinary thing in your life so seeing others with it isn’t abnormal.”
“Magic is ordinary?”
“It is when you haven’t known anything else.”
“And other people, people with magic, are they all like you? I mean, do they do the same stuff you do? What exactly is it that you do?” Lexa rambles. Clarke only shows amusement at her excitement though and Lexa doesn’t even notice that her fingers have dropped to rest on top of Clarke’s tattoo.
“Some are like me, yeah, but not all. It’s a bit different for everyone but it tends to manifest in one thing in particular. For some, it’s psychic or telepathic, others are natural spellcasters, which can do similar things as what I can, but it’s different, more concentrated. One of my friends is especially good at teleporting herself, though she hates that word. Some are more elemental. Then there’s those that brew potions; those assholes will charge you a fortune for a simple memory enhancer.”
Lexa chokes on her coffee. It had just cooled enough that she had taken a particularly large sip too.
“Breathe, Lexa. I’m joking.”
There’s a glint in her eye though that will have Lexa wondering for a while.
“No, I’m more of a...manipulator of the things around me. It’s like a lite version of spellcasting without all the hand waving and Latin. I can do the spellcasting too, but it takes a lot more work and frankly I’m lazy as fuck.”
“Do you brew potions too?”
“I...try. They’re tricky. And ingredients are expensive.”
“That’s another thing, how does money work for you?”
“What do you mean?”
“I mean, can you just reach into your pocket and-”
As if reading her mind (or Lexa sincerely hopes not), Clarke reaches into her jacket with her free hand and pulls out a wad of cash, at least a few hundred dollars easy.
“Is it real?”
“Have you been buying coffee here with fake money this entire time?”
“No. Or at least, not always,” Clarke admits, avoiding her eyes. Both of them are continuing to ignore the fact that Clarke’s wrist still very much rests in Lexa’s hand.
“Wait, so then is that how you pay for magic items?”
Clarke shakes her head, “No, there’s a different currency we trade in, one that can’t be magically created. That and we trade in favors. Two healing salves for a hex type deals.”
The influx of information has Lexa’s mind buzzing and she wonders why she’s even getting the information.
“Why are you telling me all of this?” Lexa asks.
Clarke hums and takes a moment to consider the question. She runs her finger around the rim of her mug and seems to be looking inside of it for the answer. For all Lexa knows it’s actually in there.
She looks up and Lexa is struck by how soft and how blue her eyes are.
“Maybe I just wanted someone to know.”
Neither of them notice when the bird beneath Lexa’s fingers beats its wings and makes its way around the curve of Clarke’s wrist.
When Clarke approaches the coffee shop the next morning she takes a deep breath, pausing an extra half moment, afraid that she’ll find something very different waiting for her that day.
She expects to feel regret, or panic, or something along those lines after that conversation.
She doesn’t expect the warmth that fills her when she steps inside and finds that it’s exactly the same.
Lexa looks up at the door when it chimes and she can’t stop the smile that forms. Clarke can see the relief in Lexa’s eyes all the way from where she stands. She can’t remember the last time someone looked at her with that expression. It was...nice.
Clarke has to concentrate on keeping her hair one colour as she approaches the counter.
“Good morning, Clarke.”
They’re both grinning now.
“Gross, guys. Take it somewhere else,” is Raven’s two cents after taking one look at the two of them as she passes by.
“So am I still allowed to ask questions?” Lexa asks later as she sets down Clarke’s coffee, already having added the two sugars and splash of milk she knows Clarke likes.
“How many more questions do you have?” she replies, moving her feet up to hang over the arm of the chair.
“Just a few.”
She pulls a folded piece of paper from the pocket of her apron and Clarke laughs.
“You made a list?”
Lexa pouts and Clarke thinks it’s adorable.
“I didn’t want to forget any of them.”
Clarke is equal parts amused and oddly touched.
“Can I see it?”
“No.” She sticks her nose up in the air and tucks the list back into her pocket. Clarke glimpses what looks like math notes of some sort on the back before it disappears. “Maybe if you hadn’t made fun of it.” But through the feigned haughtiness Clarke can see her lips twitching.
“You know I could just make it appear in my hand, right?”
“Yeah,” Lexa says nonchalantly, adjusting her apron from where it had gone askew, “but I also know you wouldn’t.”
Though the words are said so casually, Clarke can feel the sincerity in them, and for a moment they make her breathless.
“I have to go work, but I will be back, because you already agreed to answer my questions.” Lexa narrows her eyes playfully and then her expression shifts, “You’ll be here, right?”
Emotion is still wedged in Clarke’s throat so she just nods and Lexa smiles.
When she’s gone Clarke stares after her for a while and blows air through her lips.
‘What are you doing, Clarke?’
Clarke almost regrets giving Lexa free rein with the questions. But the way her eyes light up in excitement every time she gets an answer has Clarke hiding her smile in her fist where it rests against her cheek.
She’s been sitting in her chair with her feet tucked up beneath her for over an hour while Lexa periodically goes back and forth between her seat and the counter. She’s a dedicated worker and despite her curiosity she’s not about to leave Raven hanging.
Lexa seemed to have exhausted her written list of questions a while ago, but they still kept coming.
“Wait. How old are you?”
Lexa’s mouth opens but Clarke stops her.
“And I’m twenty-three as in, born twenty-three years ago. Not twenty-three as in eternally twenty-three. Let’s not turn this into a Twilight moment.”
Lexa looks relieved at her answer. She taps her fingers on the back of the chair she leans on absentmindedly.
Clarke just waits. She knows there’s another question not far behind.
She’s not wrong.
“So do other people ever notice your magic?”
“Not usually. I try not to be a walking neon sign about it.”
“But how hasn’t Raven picked up on something? Or anyone else in here for that matter?”
“Once you’re aware of it you start to see it more. You become more susceptible to it. That’s one of the ways it works,” Clarke answers, pulling something out of the depths of her memories from class. “And, you’re also looking for it. You’d be amazed when something obvious will be right in front of people and then they choose to ignore it.”
Every day Clarke shows up, and every day Lexa has new questions.
“So how does it work?
“The actual magic?”
Clarke shrugs. “I’m not really into the theoretical side of things.
“So you have no idea.”
“Do you know how everything works about you?”
“Mermaids?” Lexa greets her one morning when it’s just her working the counter.
“What about them?”
“Real or not real?”
“Real. Not very nice. Very full of themselves.”
She hands over the money for her order and Lexa makes a show of holding it up to the light to check if it’s fake while Clarke rolls her eyes.
“Did you have separate houses at your school?”
“I didn’t go to Hogwarts, Lexa.”
“Well that’s just disappointing.” Lexa hands her the plate with a double chocolate chip muffin and crosses her arms, frowning.
She had just finished a lengthy explanation the day before about how most magic-born folk are homeschooled for a long time but that they usually go to Academy once they turn sixteen. Most stay for four years. If they want specific training they take exams and, given they pass, typically stay for another four. For example if they wanted to learn to be a proper psychic, study ancient incantations, etc., it all takes the extra training.
Lexa had been extremely intrigued about the process, firing questions left and right. Clarke had humoured all of them. No, you didn’t need to have a particular aptitude to study any of the topics, but most did. What had she studied? Healing. Yes, it was really like a typical university otherwise. No, they didn’t use wands.
“You’d definitely be a Slytherin.”
“I’m going to take that as a compliment,” Clarke says, tearing off a piece of the muffin and popping it into her mouth.
“It was intended as one.”
She chews on the pastry in her mouth and watches as Lexa grins as she walks away.
The sky can’t seem to decide if it wants to rain or snow today. Hot chocolate sales seemed to have been moving proportionally upward at the same rate that the temperature ticked downward. Lexa had officially switched to her winter coat a few days ago and hates the way it makes her feel like a giant marshmallow every time Clarke strolls in still using her leather jacket.
That particular day, Clarke approaches the counter and Lexa already has her mouth open to ask a question she’d thought of last night, but she doesn’t let her ask it.
“Would you like to come with me?”
“Where?” Lexa asks, confused but intrigued.
“And where is that?”
“Not far,” Clarke says. Lexa thinks she enjoys being cryptic too much.
“Is it safe?”
“Only one way to find out.” There’s a glint in Clarke’s eye that makes Lexa anxious and excited at the same time.
Lexa thinks about the unfinished paper sitting on her desk at home. She thinks about how months ago she would have gone straight back after work and sat at her desk to make sure that essay was complete long before the due date.
She thinks about much her life has been turned around since Clarke Griffin strolled into it.
“So what exactly is it that you do?”
It’s definitely snowing now and Lexa tugs her hat farther over her ears, frowning when her glasses prevent it from fitting as it should. They’ve been walking for about twenty minutes and Lexa can barely feel her fingers.
“I own a shop,” Clarke says, her breath puffing into the air even though it doesn’t look like the cold has any effect on her.
Lexa enviously digs her hands farther into her coat pockets.
“A shop?” she chatters out.
“Mhmmm,” Clarke hums absentmindedly, but offers nothing more.
It’s another five minutes of walking until suddenly she turns a corner quickly and casts her arms out to either side dramatically.
Here is in front of a bright blue door with intricate ironwork over the windows. If Lexa weren’t so curious about what lay behind it, she would probably take a moment just to marvel at it’s complexity.
Clarke digs in her pocket for a moment before triumphantly producing a key and moving to unlock the door. The second it swings open and Clarke steps into the shop an “Open” sign suddenly appears in the window next to the door.
Hesitantly, she follows inside.
She’s not sure what she was expecting, but it isn’t what she finds when she crosses the threshold. She takes her glasses off and rubs the melted snow from the lenses.
It’s not the lightness of the room provided by the large skylights or the shocking variety of plants that fill one corner that surprise her the most.
It’s the art.
Drawings and paintings fill the walls, washing the room in an array of colour that she can’t tear her eyes from. They’re of everything and anything. People rushing by on a busy street, their figures blurred. Trees that Lexa can practically see the wind rushing through. A small, familiar coffee shop.
She stops and turns to Clarke who’s standing in the middle of the room with her hands in her pockets, shifting her weight between her feet.
“Did you make these?” Lexa asks and even she can hear the awe in her voice.
Clarke nods. “It’s a hobby. I didn’t really get into it as much until after I left school.”
Lexa takes in the remainder of the room’s contents and realizes that it’s not just a shop of art but of art supplies . Or at least, that’s what she believes the multi-coloured jars that line the shelves are filled with.
“They’re paints,” Clarke tells her, noticing where her eyes have strayed.
“Is that what the plants are for?” Lexa asks, thinking about all of the odd books she’s seen Clarke flipping through.
“Some of them, yeah.”
“Are they magic?”
“Some of them,” she repeats again.
“I meant the paints.”
Lexa’s eyes go back to the paints in question and Clarke reads her mind again because she explains without prompting.
“These,” she starts, coming over and taking one off the bottom shelf, a dark orange the colour of rust, “dry in about twenty seconds.”
She puts it back and reaches for another, unscrewing the lid to show Lexa, it’s a soft shade of grey this time, “This one changes colour slightly with the weather.”
The shelf on the wall is an exhibition of colour and Lexa wonders how long it took Clarke to make them all.
Lexa’s eyes trail over what else the shop has to offer, she takes in pencils and markers, sketchpads and paintbrushes, all of them charmed in one way or another she’s sure.
“So this is where you come every day when you leave the coffee shop?”
Clarke nods, “Most days, yeah. I keep pretty odd hours here but my buyers seem to be used to it.”
Clarke doesn’t seem to mind the questions, so she keeps going. “And your buyers, are they all magic users?”
She picks up a pencil from a full jar of drawing instruments and inspects it closely.
“Primarily, yeah,” Clarke answers, moving behind the counter at the end of the room and leaning against it. “I do occasionally get some non-magic folk in here.”
Her lips twist in amusement at some memory.
“Most of them just think the supplies are extra high quality and they have no idea what they’re buying.” She must see the expression on Lexa’s face because she continues, “don’t worry, I don’t sell them anything that’s going to light their fingers on fire.”
Lexa very carefully puts the pencil back down.
Clarke leans on her counter and watches Lexa as she moves about the room, following her expressions closely as she takes each new thing in.
The uncomfortable feeling she expected to have at sharing this space, her space, isn’t there. And it really is her space, almost more so than her apartment.
The countless hours she’d spent in the back room extracting ingredients from plants and mixing colours, pouring her unspent magic into them.
Or the days where she felt like she couldn’t face anyone. Where she’d flip the sign to ‘Closed’ and spend the day painting until and she could finally let go of some of the things inside of her that gripped so tightly sometimes that she couldn’t breathe.
She takes a breath and slowly lets it out, returning her attention to the other occupant in the room.
Lexa doesn’t seem to be disappointed that the paintings don’t move or have any magical qualities and instead is just quietly taking each one in as they are.
She stops in front of one for longer than the others Clarke looks to see which one it is.
It’s one of her friends, but Lexa doesn’t know that. Clarke had painted it from a photo she had taken at a celebratory party, thrown after Octavia had passed her exams to stay on at the Academy.
Bellamy and Lincoln both have large smiles in it as they watch Octavia yell something and thrust the bottle of champagne clutched in her hand triumphantly into the air.
She remembers how they’d topped the celebration off that night with their own private fireworks show in the park. Lincoln had provided the pyrotechnics and Clarke chipped in to transform the illuminations into a variety of shapes. She also remembers having to run when the cops showed up, swearing loudly when she couldn’t concentrate hard enough to just disappear with the amount of alcohol in her system. How hard she and Octavia had laughed about it later.
Clarke stares at it and gets lost in the memory even after Lexa moves onto the next painting.
Lexa continues to meander around the shop for a long time, each thing she finds more interesting than the next.
She doesn’t even know how long she’s been looking, but at some point Clarke must actually have to do some work because she stops watching Lexa and starts moving some stuff around the shop. Lexa notes that there must be a back area to the store because Clarke keeps disappearing and reappearing with boxes that she uses to restock some of the shelves.
Lexa has almost made a full circle of the room when something out of the corner of her eye catches the reflection of the sun and draws her attention.
It’s a glass sculpture of a dragon, no bigger than a foot tall and it doesn’t match the style of any of the other art in the room. It’s perched on the edge of a table filled with a variety brushes and Lexa moves closer for a better look.
Her eyes trace over the carved scales and the delicate wings, admiring how the light seems to get captured within in it. She can see the webbing between its folded wings and each talon that rests on top of the table.
“Clarke, did you make this too?” she calls to the back of the shop, running her finger lightly over the crest of its spine. She hears Clarke return from the back of the shop and rummage with something. “The detail is incredible,” she murmurs.
“Oh shit. Lexa wait-”
Suddenly there’s a sound like a crackling fire and Lexa tears her hand away when she realizes it’s coming from the sculpture. Or what used to be a sculpture.
She stares, mouth hanging wide, as the creature that had been glass moments before slowly cracks apart to reveal very real scales and skin. When the last of the glass has disappeared it arches its neck and fixes Lexa with one bright golden eye.
Like an actual dragon.
Her mouth still hangs open as it unfolds its wings and stretches each one in turn. Lexa just continues to stare with wide eyes.
“That’s a dragon,” she states obviously.
“Clarke, that is a dragon ,” she says again as if Clarke doesn’t understand the gravity of the situation.
“Yeah, careful, he bites sometimes. His name is Ember.”
Lexa thinks the name is fitting, the scales being a deep red that shift between orange and yellow under the light. He looks like he would be right at home nestled into the base of a crackling fire.
Ember considers Lexa for a long moment, looking her over, gold eyes blinking slowly. Lexa blinks back. After a moment he seems to lose interest because he curls into a ball, rests his head on his tail, and promptly closes his eyes.
“You have a pet dragon.”
Clarke snorts. “He’s more of a stray,” she says, coming to stand next to Lexa and look at the creature that was now breathing softly with sleep. “Found him skulking around in the shop not long after I first opened. He was trying to eat some of my supplies. Tried kicking him out more than a handful of times but he kept reappearing so I eventually decided it wasn’t worth the hassle and let him stay.”
“So he just lives here then?” Lexa asks, still not tearing her eyes away.
“He comes and goes. He makes for a good guard dog for the shop so we’ve come to an agreement of sorts. And most of the time he keeps to his glass form so we haven’t run into any issues yet.”
Lexa can feel her looking at her and knows she’s holding back laughter.
“Do you need to sit down?”
“Nope,” Lexa shakes her head, but she’s still fixated.
“Maybe just give me a moment.”
Much later Lexa arrives home with a smile still on her face.
“What’s got you so happy?”
She startles at the sounds of Anya’s voice.
“I uh, I just had a good day,” she replies, closing the door behind her and placing her bag onto her bed.
Anya gives her a strange and slightly suspicious look but thankfully leaves it alone. Lexa removes her coat and collapses into her desk chair, eyeing the unfinished paper sitting in a heap on her desk with contempt.
“Listen, I know it’s not your thing and you’ve probably got work to do, but this Saturday some of my friends are meeting for some drinks...”
Lexa slowly spins in her chair to face Anya, “What time?”
Anya’s eyebrows shoot up in surprise. She stares at Lexa for a beat and then narrows her eyes like she can’t figure something out and it’s bothering her.
“Okay,” Lexa says, spinning back to face her desk.
It’s a few moments later when the thought hits her.
“Can I bring someone?”
The feedback for this has been awesome, so thanks so much for that. As last time, kudos and comments make my day. Come say hi on tumblr too, same username (blindwire). If I get some time I might draw some more stuff for this and that's where you'll find it!
Chapter 3: Part III
It’s snowing and Lexa can see the ice building up in the window frame as she glances outside. It doesn’t look like the weather will be getting any better before she heads home either. She pushes the thought to her back of her mind and returns her attention to her task.
“Come on, it’s blueberry. Who doesn’t like blueberry?”
She stares at the glass dragon in front of her and continues to hold out the muffin in her hand imploringly.
It remains just as solid as it was before and she frowns. With a sigh she abandons her attempt and places the muffin on the counter.
She turns to look at Clarke who’s leaning against the table with the register, head bent in concentration over a book - one on ancient mythology this time. Lexa doesn’t ask any questions, nor does she disturb her, instead she just watches as her lips take the form of the words that she reads and Lexa wonders what exactly she’s studying so intently.
Over the last few days her questions had dwindled from a constant and seemingly never ending flow to a murmuring trickle, only coming up spontaneously now and again.
She’d spent a lot of her afternoons after her shift that week at Clarke’s shop. Or at least, she had on the days that she didn’t have lecture to sit through.
The first time it happened she had hung up her apron for the day, left the coffee shop, and the next thing she knew her feet weren’t pointed home but rather in the direction Clarke had led her the day before. She had pushed open the remarkably blue door wondering if she would even be welcome, but the thought fled her mind when Clarke had looked up at her and practically beamed.
It was apparently their thing now. Clarke spent her mornings at Mystic Coffee and Lexa spent her afternoons at Clarke’s shop. Sometimes she’d bring work from class and other times she’d be too distracted by the things in the shop or by the people coming in to get any work done.
She and Clarke had started a game of sorts where, every time a customer would come in, Lexa would try and guess whether they were magic or not. Initially her record hadn’t been great but she was getting better. Clarke had pointed out that she was still getting more accustomed to magic and with time she’d recognize it more.
Lexa doesn’t let her mind linger or focus on why those words, implying that she’ll be around Clarke enough for that to happen, make her heart swell so much.
She thinks about Anya’s invitation for the get together with her friends. She hadn’t known what she’d been thinking when she’d asked if she could bring someone. It wasn’t even like her to go out for drinks in the first place. And besides, it’s not like her and Clarke are...well she isn’t sure what they are.
She knows they’re friends. Or at least she thinks they are. She’s not entirely sure how many people Clarke shares her secrets with but she can’t imagine it’s everyone she meets. Does that make them friends? More than friends? Does she want to be more than friends? Should she be more than friends with someone that defies physics and logic and any and all practical sense?
Lexa thinks that perhaps the questions haven’t stopped after all, they’ve just become ones that Clarke can’t answer.
Regardless, the words are out of her mouth before she realizes she’s said them.
“Are you doing anything later tonight?”
For a moment Clarke doesn’t look up, but Lexa knows she heard her because her eyes aren’t skimming across the page anymore and her lips have stopped mouthing out the words.
When she does look up, however, Lexa finally hears what she’s said.
“I, I- mean, my umm roommate, Anya.” Clarke is looking at her with one raised eyebrow now. “She um - or well, her friends rather.”
Clarke is staring at her and Lexa can see the corner of her lips twitching which means that a sarcastic comment is not far behind unless Lexa can spit the words out.
She clears her throat, adjusts her glasses, and tries again. “My roommate, Anya, invited me to a get together with some friends later tonight. Do you want to come with?”
She expects Clarke to say something sarcastic, or witty. She doesn’t expect the soft smile that slowly comes across her lips. Clarke tucks her hair behind her ear and Lexa notices the tips change to something between a fuschia and a rose colour. Lexa’s heart is pounding.
Clarke opens her mouth to answer and but her eyes glance to Lexa’s left and her expression changes suddenly.
Lexa feels a sharp pain on one of her fingers and yelps.
Spinning to look, she finds Ember, no longer in glass form, sniffing around where her fingers had previously been.
Lexa inspects her finger and thankfully sees that she isn’t bleeding. She can, however, see the small indentation of a bite mark.
“Sorry. I think he was looking for more blueberry muffins.”
Sure enough, Ember leans back on his hind legs, beating his wings to stay upright and looks around to see where Lexa might have hidden more treats.
“Sorry, I only brought the one,” Lexa tells him, rubbing at her finger and noting the scattered crumbs that line the counter, the only indication that a muffin had once existed.
He seems to understand her because he huffs out a breath, smoke coming out of his nostrils, and meanders off.
“Is your finger okay?” Clarke asks, sending Ember a glare and stepping around the counter.
“Yeah, he didn’t even break the skin.”
Clarke grabs her hand anyways and inspects it for herself, absentmindedly running her thumb over the mark. After a moment she seems to confirm that Lexa was speaking the truth.
“I’d love to, by the way.”
“Hmm?” Lexa responds, realizing belatedly how dazed the response sounds.
“Tonight. The drinks with your roommate.”
“Yeah?” Lexa asks brightly and Clarke nods. “Great. Perfect. Um, eight o’clock at bar right around the corner from my university’s library.”
“Sounds great. I’ll be there.”
It’s earlier than usual when Lexa leaves, only having stayed for a short while before claiming that she needed to head back to make it in time for one of her lectures.
Clarke ignores the familiar rush of envy she feels and continues to get back to work. She misses her lectures and being in school more than she ever thought she would.
She’s organizing the shelf with the acrylics when she spots Lexa’s scarf on the counter out of the corner of her eye. With a shake of her head she picks it up and goes to put it with her stuff to bring later when she hears the door open behind her.
With a smile she turns, “Did you get halfway home and realize why you were freezing your- oh, Octavia.”
Octavia closes the door behind her with a raised eyebrow.
“Expecting someone else?”
Clarke shakes her head and places the scarf behind her on the counter, “Not at all. What’s up?”
Octavia’s brow furrows, “You agreed to help me with my incantations assignment this afternoon, remember?”
“Shit.” Clarke smacks a palm to her forehead. “That’s today.”
“Yep, and you and your pink hair better not be backing out on me now. You promised a week ago you’d help.” Octavia crosses her arms and the words from their conversation last Tuesday come back to Clarke all at once. She vaguely remembers waving her hand and saying ‘of course’ when Octavia had asked her for the favour.
“Yeah, for sure. I’m not backing out, um, let me just grab my stuff. Two minutes,” she emphasizes the last point by sticking two fingers in the air.
Clarke doesn’t wait for a response and runs to the back room to grab her jacket and bag.
She doesn’t give it much thought when she hears the front door open in the next room and Octavia say, “She’s just about to close for the day, sorry.”
“Oh, that’s okay, I just came back for my scarf.”
Clarke freezes in her tracks with one hand on her jacket.
Snagging her stuff quickly, she makes her way back to the front.
Lexa is standing next to the counter, scarf in hand. She’s looking around in confusion, eyes blinking behind the frames of her glasses, as she looks at Octavia who has hoisted herself up to sit on top of one of the counters. When she sees Clarke, however, her expression relaxes.
“I forgot my scarf,” she says, holding it up for Clarke to see.
“I noticed,” Clarke says with a small grin, stepping further into the room.
She seems to be waiting for something because she’s not moving and her eyes glance towards Octavia again.
Octavia, for her part, just continues to sit and watch the exchange curiously, legs swinging back and forth.
“Oh, um, Lexa, Octavia, Octavia, Lexa,” Clarke introduces quickly, not lingering on details.
Octavia nods at Lexa from where she sits but makes no move otherwise. Her face is impassive but Clarke, knowing her, can practically sense the thoughts whirring across her mind.
It’s awkward and Clarke suddenly notices how tense she’s become. She wills her fingers to relax their grip in the jacket clutched in her hands.
“Well, I really gotta run or I’m definitely going to be late for class,” Lexa says, not oblivious to the tension in the room but obviously unsure what to do about it or why it’s there.
She wraps the scarf loosely around her neck and Clarke suppresses the impulse to step in and tie it tighter, remembering how cold it is outside. But she’s hyper-aware of Octavia’s curious gaze so she remains where she is.
“Right. Yeah,” Clarke says, nodding. “Wouldn’t want you to miss class.”
“Yeah. Um, I’ll see you later?” Lexa asks, hand on the door.
Clarke nods and Lexa gives her a small smile though she’s obviously still confused. She casts one last glance Octavia’s way before opening the door and slipping outside.
The door shuts firmly behind her and Clarke frowns. She realizes that could have gone much worse but it definitely could have gone better. She enjoys the brief moment of silence because she knows it won’t last.
“Soooo, who was that?”
Clarke turns from the door and places her bag on the counter so she can slip into her jacket. There’s an uncomfortable feeling sitting low in her stomach and she’s not sure whether it’s anger or disappointment at herself. Probably both. The feeling gets worse with her next words.
“Just a friend.”
Octavia doesn’t seem to buy it and stares at her for a moment contemplatively.
“Didn’t you want to work on your assignment?”
Octavia purses her lips but seems to realize that today won’t be the one where they have this conversation. She nods.
Clarke swings her bag over her shoulder.
“Then let’s go.”
“I don’t know why you want my help on this, you know I never took advanced incantations.”
“Yeah, but you’re also a natural at this shit and I wasn’t about to ask Bellamy,” Octavia responds, tossing her backpack onto a free chair at the kitchen table. It makes a heavy thunk as it lands, betraying the heft of its contents.
“Hey!” Bellamy shouts in indignation from his spot on the couch in the next room.
Octavia turns to look at him, “Bellamy, you failed introductory incantations. Twice.”
He grumbles but doesn’t offer anything in response and turns his attention back to whatever is playing on the tv.
“What about Lincoln?” Clarke asks, setting her own stuff down and taking a seat at the table.
“He’s busy today,” Octavia answers absentmindedly as she begins sorting through all of the supplies they’d gone out and grabbed that afternoon. She unzips her bag and starts pulling things out. Gemstones, herbs, a couple of mason jars filled with who knows what.
It was the main reason Clarke disliked incantations: too many supplies. You needed the right crystal, water from the right source, or any number of ridiculous requirements just to perform one spell. It was unnecessary and frankly exhausting from Clarke’s point of view.
She glances at her watch as surreptitiously as she can and is thankful that it’s still early. It had taken them longer than she’d thought to grab the necessary things. And even longer to head over to Octavia’s apartment on the edge of the academy campus.
“Lincoln also helped me last time. And besides, you owe me one,” Octavia grunts as she lifts a heavy dust-covered book onto the table.
“For what ?” Clarke asks, taken aback, tipping in her chair absentmindedly.
“For not hanging out with me lately.”
Clarke opens her mouth to deny it and then closes it again when she realizes she can’t. She hadn’t realized up until Octavia said it just how much she had been avoiding her friends lately. It wasn’t done consciously, but that didn’t make her feel any better.
“Sorry,” she offers instead, meaning it.
“Yeah, well, just don’t make it a habit,” Octavia grumbles. “Otherwise you’re going to have to help me with all of my assignments.”
Clarke sits up in her chair at the large oak table and pulls the book over towards her, coughing when some dust kicks up off the cover.
“So what’s the incantation you’re trying to master for this one?”
Octavia reaches over the table and flips the book open, thumbing through the pages until she reaches the right one.
Clarke leans over and reads. She looks back up at Octavia who’s arranging the gemstones in front of her.
“You want to manipulate time?”
“Nothing super dramatic,” Octavia says with a shrug of her shoulders, “I just want to slow it down for a minute.” She’s still pulling rocks and some dried herbs from her bag, “Besides, if I get this one it’ll be worth bonus marks and Jasper will finally shut his stupid face about being top in the class.”
Clarke feels uneasy and Octavia senses it.
“Relax. It’ll be fine. We did it in class the other day.”
Clarke frowns and checks her watch again. She can’t imagine this taking more than an hour or two. Theoretically it should still give her plenty of time to get over to the other side of town for eight.
“Okay, let’s do this.”
Much later that evening Lexa sits with Anya and her friends at a table in the back of a bar crowded with rowdy university students and locals.
She absentmindedly taps her finger against her glass, making marks in the condensation as it drips down the sides.
She checks her watch for the eighth time in the last twenty minutes. The hands read half past nine.
She frowns into her drink.
When she had gotten there before eight she had made sure to get a seat facing the door so that she could flag Clarke down when she got there. For the first half hour she’d watched the entrance like a hawk and hardly partook in any of the conversation happening around her. Anya had eventually noticed and thrown some fries at her and told her to be more social.
That was over an hour ago. Her drink was nearly room temperature now and the minimal amount she had drunk was sloshing uncomfortably in her stomach. She keeps switching back and forth between worried and hurt.
She thinks about the girl that had been in Clarke’s shop when she’d gone back for her scarf - Octavia. How uncomfortable Clarke had gotten when they’d been in the same room together.
Lexa doesn’t know why it had been so tense and her thoughts spin trying to come up with an answer. None of the potential ones bring her any comfort. The queasiness in her stomach grows and she pushes her glass away.
“Hey, Lex, I thought you said you were bringing your friend?” one of Anya’s friends asks, swirling the remainder of the beer in her glass, oblivious to what Lexa is feeling.
“Yeah,” Lexa says, “I guess something must have come up.”
She pulls out her phone. No messages or missed calls.
She opens her texts and the message she had sent a while ago stares back at her with no response.
Octavia made a mistake.
Clarke isn’t sure if it was because the crystals were positioned incorrectly, or the dried lavender wasn’t actually supposed to be dried, or whatever, but either way something didn’t quite go to plan with the incantation.
Clarke sucks in a breath like she’s just resurfaced water and wills the world around her to stop spinning.
Her vision takes a moment to clear and she focuses on not hurling. She feels like she just involuntarily went on a rollercoaster with too many corkscrew spirals.
“Octavia, I don’t think that’s how it was supposed to go.”
“Yeah, no kidding,” Octavia responds, looking queasy herself.
Clarke puts a hand to her forehead and sits back in her chair, “What the hell even happened?”
Octavia pulls the book across the table towards her and for a moment her eyes skim over the instructions until they stop.
“ Oh ? Oh what ?”
“I think I sped it up instead.”
Clarke freezes, “You what?”
“Time. It was supposed to get all sluggish and paused to the people doing the spell but instead I think maybe I did it backwards and well, it sped up. That would explain all the whooshy-ness. Oh, yep, here it is. I missed a line in the incantation. My bad,” Octavia says, finger tracing the words on the page.
“Relax, it was an honest mistake.”
Clarke reaches for her phone, sucking in a breath when she sees the time. Four hours. Octavia had sped them through four hours.
“Fuck. I have to go,” she says, standing up from her chair and nearly knocking it to the ground in her haste.
“I can try and find a way to undo it,” Octavia suggests, noticing Clarke’s haste.
“Yeah, I’d really rather not end up stuck three days in the past if you don’t mind,” Clarke shoots her down and Octavia frowns. She snags her jacket off the back of the couch and makes her way to the door. Octavia raises an eyebrow at her flurry of behavior.
“What, do you have a date or something?” Octavia asks incredulously, leaning back in her chair and craning her neck so that she can watch Clarke.
Clarke purses her lips and doesn’t answer, instead she says, “I’ll call you tomorrow” and leaves.
Pulling her arms through her jacket, she closes the door behind her. She checks her watch and grimaces.
She was so far beyond late.
She makes her way down the marble steps leading out of Octavia’s apartment and pulls her phone out. No signal.
“Damn telepaths and their interference with phone towers,” she huffs.
Pocketing it, she jogs out to the main road, the number of cars she sees few and far between. She spots a taxi and tries to flag it down but It passes by without slowing as the snow begins to come down harder.
“Oh come on!” she shouts after it, checking her watch again.
For all she knows Lexa and her friends are long gone, could have been long gone for a while.
She thinks if she walks she could still get there, but it would take her a while. Too long probably.
The obvious solution rises to mind and the she chews her lip, the uneasiness at the idea threatening to overwhelm her. She tosses her weight from foot to foot while she considers it.
Disappearing and then reappearing somewhere else was a pretty common trick amongst magic using folk, even if most couldn’t do it over any major length of distance. And it’s not like the bar is in another city so she’s sure her skills are good enough to do it.
But that’s not what’s making her hesitate.
She stops, frustrated, and leans her head back, looking up at the streetlight above her. She watches her breath curl out into the cold air and mix with the kaleidoscope of snowflakes rushing down.
She knows she could just find the nearest place with a cell signal and text Lexa that she’d lost track of time and that she’d see her tomorrow. She would show up in the morning at Mystic Coffee and apologize and Lexa would probably forgive her. Because that’s the kind of person Lexa is: understanding to a fault.
Clarke thinks Lexa doesn’t even realize how good she is.
“Fuck it,” she says into the air decisively.
She takes a moment to psych herself up. Letting out a quick but deep breath she concentrates. It doesn’t take as long she she thinks it will and soon she feels the static crossing her skin that spreads and spreads until it covers her head to toe.
It feels like electricity pricking across every cell in her body. It’s dizzying and intoxicating and she pushes away the mental images that rise to the surface with the sensation.
Thinking about where she wants to be she lets out another deep breath and quickly builds the magic within her to a concentrated point.
With a ‘snap’ the air around her body folds in on itself and she splits through the space it creates.
Lexa decides to walk home early.
She claims a stomach ache and it’s not completely untrue; her stomach had been in twisted knots all evening. She waves Anya off when she offers to go with and studiously ignores the pity that she sees in her roommate’s eyes.
The door to the bar closes shut behind her, cutting off the brash noise coming from inside. There’s no one and any other footprints in the snow are quickly getting filled in. The cold bites into her immediately and she frowns when she remembers that she had left her gloves sitting on her desk at home. She was beginning to realize how bad of a habit that was becoming.
Shoving her hands into her pockets as deep as they’ll go she points her feet home and begins the walk back.
Her feet are crunching in the fresh snow beneath her and her mind is a jumbled mess. There’s an ache in her heart that she doesn’t want to think about.
She’d thought that maybe her and Clarke...but she guesses she was wrong.
She frowns as she continues to walk away from the bar. She doesn’t get far before it happens.
There’s a sound like a muffled firecracker directly behind her ear and she turns at the noise.
She stumbles back and nearly lands on her ass in the snow until she sees that it’s Clarke. She seems to be catching her breath like she’s run a mile but Lexa’s outburst has her cracking a grin.
“Did you just swear?”
Lexa stands with a hand over her pounding heart, staring at Clarke where she had sprung into existence from thin air.
“Yes you did.”
She wonders when the things Clarke does will stop surprising her. Wonders which time will be the one where she actually has a heart attack.
“Clarke, what are you doing?” she asks, willing her heart to slow.
“Right. Sorry. I’m sorry I’m late, like so so late.There was this thing with Octavia and school and warped time dimensions but that’s not the point and I feel terrible because jesus christ I’m almost two hours late.”
“Look, if you didn’t want to come tonight you could have said no.”
“No!” Clarke grips her shoulders, “I did! I do. I just...lost track of time,” she finishes and it must sound lame even to her ears because she grimaces.
“It wasn’t my intention to stand you up tonight,” Clarke says, her blue eyes earnest. “I was really looking forward to meeting your roommate. And, you know, hanging out with you somewhere other than where we work.”
“You couldn’t have called?”
Clarke hangs her head for a moment before looking up.
“Look, I really am sorry.” She tucks her hair behind one ear and says, “Can I make it up to you?”
Lexa’s brow furrows, “Right now?”
Lexa watches the snowflakes as they tumble down around them, some of them catching in Clarke’s eyelashes or landing on her cheek. Her eyes are so blue and at that moment they hold so much hope even when filled with worry.
She beams and before Lexa realizes what she’s doing Clarke has already grabbed her hand and is pulling her down the street.
“Hot chocolate. That’s your plan to make things up to me?” Lexa asks, one eyebrow raised as they make their way through the park.
“It’s not just any hot chocolate. It’s the best hot chocolate.”
“What makes it the best?”
Clarke grins at her over her shoulder from where she leads, “Magic.”
Her interest effectively piqued, she follows behind Clarke. She still hasn’t let go over her hand and Lexa doesn’t tell her to or take hers back. Clarke’s hand is warm in hers and Lexa forgets that she doesn’t have her gloves as she grips it tight.
“So, just out of curiosity, what exactly held you up tonight?” she asks, words puffing out into the cold air.
“Octavia. I was helping her with a school assignment. She’s got this major project due as part of an evaluation.”
“That was the girl from this afternoon? In your shop?”
Clarke hums an affirmative.
“Is she a witch too or was it an ordinary school assignment?”
“She’s magic too.”
“Oh,” Lexa comments. Silence sits for a moment before she breaks it again. “So are you two close or..?”
“Her family and mine go way back. Her brother, Bellamy, is my age.” Clarke answers a fond smile on her face. “We all practically grew up together.”
Lexa isn’t expecting the jealousy that suddenly churns within her. “Did you all go to school together too?”
“Yeah,” she responds; but the words sound forlorn. She quickly shakes herself out of it though and she smiles at something Lexa can’t see, “Octavia’s boyfriend went to a rival academy though and let me tell you, that led to some interesting moments with Bellamy.”
They fall into a comfortable silence as they trek on, the pathlights of the park the only break in the darkness now that they’re away from the busier part of town. Lexa is thankful that the weather has momentarily let up as her boots sink into the slush.
“Hey,” Lexa tugs on Clarke’s hand to get her attention as she has a thought, “that thing you did back at the bar, appearing out of thin air, do you do that often?”
“Almost never,” Clarke responds, not looking at her.
Clarke takes a moment to respond, her mouth opens and closing a few times before she decides on an answer.
“I just prefer to walk.”
Lexa has become more attuned to Clarke over the time she’s known her and she doesn’t miss the sudden change in tone. Though she doesn’t understand why, she also doesn’t push the topic any further.
Lexa doesn’t know how long they’ve been walking for but soon they hit the end of the path where it stops at what must be the center of the park and she blinks at the sudden shine of lights.
It’s a small makeshift market with stalls and booths sprung up haphazardly selling an assortment of wares and Lexa is positive that, being non-magic, if Clarke hadn’t led her there she never would have found the place herself.
Lights are strung up everywhere, casting the surrounding trees in a wash of different coloured lights, and Lexa is breathless at the sight.
“Come on,” Clarke says, tugging gently on her hand and enjoying Lexa’s stunned expression, “I’ll show you the best part.”
Lexa trails behind her, her neck craning to take it all in. Clarke leads her over to a small cart with the words ‘Hot Chocolate’ inscribed into the side and lexa watches as they shine gold and shimmer brightly as she looks at them.
She lets go of Lexa’s hand and steps up to the cart to order for them. Lexa tries not to frown at the loss.
Clarke digs out a couple of coins that are definitely not standard currency and Lexa doesn’t get a good look except to notice that they’re gold with some sort of inscription before they disappear from sight. They receive two cups that are full to the brim in exchange and Clarke hands one over to Lexa who accepts it carefully.
It isn’t until they’re a ways away from the cart that Clarke notices Lexa is still just holding onto her cup.
“Trust me, just try it,” Clarke tells her and she’s smiling as she takes a sip of her own so Lexa assumes it’s safe to drink.
Tentatively she takes a sip.
Clarke was right. It was ridiculously good. It was better than that even, it was perfect.
“I was right, wasn’t I?” Clarke is grinning as she watches Lexa take another sip.
“No,” Lexa replies indignantly, “I’m just drinking it to be polite.”
“Liar.” She laughs and knocks her shoulder against Lexa’s.
They walk and sip from their drinks, taking some time to just look at the different things being offered. Their free hands continue to bump against one another for a while until Lexa eventually just conquers her nerve and takes Clarke’s hand.
She pretends not to see when Clarke smiles into her drink in response.
They walk for a while like that, the silence comforting to Lexa in an unexpected way. After all the questions she had been throwing at Clarke, she is surprisingly content with the quiet.
The drink is warm in her stomach and they’ve made a circle of the market, neither of them having bought anything else. Eventually they step away away and head down a path lined with trees, it’s not the one they originally came in from but neither of them seem ready to go home just yet.
As they walk the trees around them get denser and the light grows fainter but Clarke doesn’t seem concerned so Lexa trusts her.
She spots something though, out of the corner of her eye, that makes her stop.
It’s hovering in the air and glowing and disappears before she gets a good look.
She turns quickly to Clarke to ask if she saw it too but Clarke is watching her reaction with a knowing smile so she turns back to look again.
After a moment it reappears and Lexa squints. It almost looks like a...firefly? But that wouldn’t make any sense, it was almost winter.
As she looks more appear, hovering in sight for a moment before disappearing. They’re all a soft blue colour and they glow faintly as they drift about.
“I used to come out here with my dad when I was younger. It was my favourite part of winter,” Clarke says softly, breaking the quiet and watching Lexa almost as intently as Lexa was watching the lights. She’d never seen a glowing forest before and the term ‘awestruck’ would probably be an appropriate word to describe her expression.
“Are they...what are they?” Lexa asks, not taking her eyes off of them.
“Will-o-wisps. These ones only appear around this time of year. They’re beautiful, but whatever you do don’t follow them.”
Some of them come closer and Lexa follows them with her eyes, trusting Clarke’s words. She’s completely mesmerized at the sight, and understands why this was a much younger Clarke’s favourite thing about winter.
They stay like that for a while, just watching them as they appear and reappear. Slowly they float away or don’t come back and eventually the last one flutters out. When it’s clear no more are going to reappear they turn away.
They’re making their way back when it starts to snow again and Lexa shivers. She adjusts the scarf around her neck. Clarke notices the action and seems to read her mind.
“You should really tie that tighter. It’s freezing out here.”
“Says the girl that only ever wears a leather jacket,” Lexa shoots back with a laugh. Clarke stops walking for a moment and Lexa turns to her curiously.
“True. But unlike me,” Clarke says, stepping towards her and grabbing onto the ends of Lexa’s scarf, “you don’t have the ability to magically regulate your body temperature.”
She pulls the the scarf more evenly around Lexa’s neck and loops it once before tying it snugly in place. Lexa stands perfectly still while she works.
“There,” she says, but doesn’t make a move to step away. She’s standing close and Lexa feels warm. She attributes it to more than just the adjustment to her scarf.
Clarke is staring intently at the fabric in her hands, focused on something Lexa can’t see.
If Lexa were to pay more attention to anything other than how close Clarke was standing she would notice that the snowflakes around them had suddenly stopped falling and were hovering gently in place.
“I’m sorry I was late tonight,” Clarke says quietly and even with all the times she’d already said it, Lexa knows that this one is different for some reason.
“I forgive you.”
Clarke’s eyes meet hers and the depth of the expression in them takes Lexa aback.
It’s a strange question and Lexa casts about for an answer, she’s not even sure Clarke is expecting one.
She’s overly conscious of the fingers wrapped tightly in her scarf and the way she can feel her heart thrumming in her chest from Clarke’s proximity. Lexa doesn’t think she’s a particularly brave person, but in that moment she wants to be.
“Maybe I just like you.”
Clarke’s expression takes on a soft quality with a smile to match. Lexa thinks it might be her favourite of all of them.
“Really?” she asks quietly.
Clarke reaches to grab her hand again, squeezing it gently as she says, “Yeah, well maybe I just like you too.”
Chapter 4: Part IV
Clarke is standing across the counter, bottom lip absentmindedly caught between her teeth, her hair tucked delicately behind each ear. Lexa is distracted.
She’s suddenly reminded of the first day Clarke came into Mystic Coffee and just how far in the past it feels. Everything she learned from that point on makes the time before it feel hazy and incomplete in a way she can’t put words to. It doesn’t take long before her mind runs through the days to remember the night prior, curling around the memory of Clarke’s very warm hand held tightly in hers and gentle words whispered among falling snow.
They haven’t talked about it or what it means.
Lexa isn’t quite sure even if there is something to talk about. She doesn’t know what she’d say if they did. Probably something stupid. That seems to be her thing when it comes to Clarke.
She frowns and wonders if she’s being stupid by not saying something.
Is Clarke waiting for her to make a move?
How would she even go about making a move?
She chews her lip and places a double espresso on the counter for Raven to pick up to bring to a table.
Clarke is leaning against one of the supporting pillars in the shop, wearing her trademark leather jacket as usual, sleeves pulled all the way down to her wrists. She’s idly checking something on her phone, her other hand resting comfortable in her pocket. Today her hair is somewhere on the colour spectrum between pink and red, with echoes of shades that mimic the last moments of a sunset. The tendrils seem to be ever so slowly shifting towards the darker colour as she stands and waits for her coffee and Lexa’s mind continues to scramble through countless questions.
She clears used coffee grounds from the espresso filter but her mind is absent from the action.
Does Clarke even want her to make a move?
They held hands. Friends did that right? But then there’d been that moment where Lexa hadn’t been sure if...well...
She said that she likes Lexa, but did that mean she likes Lexa?
If she does then Lexa is left with even more questions than before. Half of her is convinced that it can’t be true because what could Clarke possibly see in someone who doesn’t have an ounce of magic? Why would someone who experiences the extraordinary so often want someone so...ordinary?
She frowns and the questions are starting to make her head hurt but it’s useless to try and push them from her mind as she works on making Clarke’s drink next.
“I can feel your mind whirring from all the way over here.”
Lexa looks up.
“I’m not sure if you’re joking,” she tells her, readjusting her glasses to sit more comfortably on the bridge of her nose and somehow manages to smudge coffee grinds on her face when she does. She hastily tries to wipe them off her cheek but she’s sure Clarke has already noticed.
Clarke’s lips twitch.
“Only slightly. I’m pretty sure everyone here can tell you’re distracted by something.”
Lexa frowns, her eyes momentarily look around the room, there’s a couple people sitting and reading newspapers, a couple more playing chess at the back table, but no one is paying her any attention except Clarke.
Clarke is always paying attention.
“Is it your exams?”
Lexa looks back at Clarke and lies by giving her a nod. Well, partially lies, she is also worried about her exams. She probably doesn’t have any reason to be because she’s fairly well prepared, but she’ll still need to work hard to ensure a decent score.
“You know you’re going to kick ass on those, right? You’re the smartest person I know.”
The words work in distracting Lexa away and she smiles as she pours steamed milk into the drink and watches it swirl with the espresso.
“You need to hang out with smarter people,” she quips back as she places the drink on the counter - without a lid because she knows Clarke likes to add sugar.
“Nah, one smartass is enough for me,” Clarke says, taking her drink. They share a smile and Lexa has come to accept the flip her stomach does each time.
Shaking her head to clear it she redoubles her efforts to stay focused. There’s a list of drinks yet to be made for waiting customers and Lexa was never one to slack off while working. As she carefully fills the espresso filter with grounds and levels it off for the next order she can feel Clarke’s stare. She can feel it almost as surely as she can sense that the other girl is about to say something.
“Hey, are you doing anything later?”
It’s not what she expects and Lexa looks up again. She’s not very good at staying focused on anything when it comes to Clarke she’s realized.
“You mean after my shift?” she asks, slightly confused because Clarke pretty much knows her entire schedule by now and knows that Tuesdays are the days that Lexa usually meets with her study group since she doesn’t have class until later.
She doesn’t offer anything else to clarify, just steps closer to pick out a packet of sugar. The different types are all crammed into the old cigar box the shop decided to keep them in and she sifts through them to find the one she wants.
“Um, I’ve got a study meeting around one, but then I’m free after that until my late class…” Lexa trails off. She tells herself that she doesn’t know where this is going but the way that her palms are suddenly sweating indicates that she’s not very good at lying to herself.
Clarke finally decides on a type of sugar - a pink packet of sweet n’ low.
She doesn’t address Lexa’s comment and seems to be thinking something over. Leaning her hip against the counter, she brings the packet of sugar up to her mouth and carefully tears it open with her teeth.
Lexa’s eyes follow the movement.
She should know by now to pay more attention to what she’s doing and undoubtedly she will look back at this moment and shake her head at herself for her airheadedness.
Because it’s really no surprise when she fails to notice where exactly she’s placing her hands, nor the searing heat that comes into contact with her palm when it rests on a part of the espresso machine she is definitely not supposed to touch.
She rips it away with a yelp that is sure to draw a majority of the eyes in the shop.
Bringing her stinging hand up to her eyes she grimaces at the large red welt already forming. It stands out brightly against her skin and she hisses. Before she can even make a move to do anything about it however, another hand is reaching across the counter and grasping it. She’s about to ask Clarke what she’s doing when a curious pricking sensation flows over her palm. It isn’t a second before she’s breathing a sigh of relief as the pain from the burn is replaced with the feeling of dipping her hand into cool water.
The bliss only lasts a moment. Abruptly Clarke seems to realize what she’s doing and pulls her hand away, the cooling sensation escaping with it.
“Shit. I shouldn’t have done that. I’m sorry.”
Lexa brings her palm up to her eyes and takes a close look. The red mark is all but gone, only leaving a faint imprint that would have been left after a week of healing. She suddenly remembers that Clarke had previously said something about studying healing in school.
Lexa continues to stare at her palm in awe, turning it from side to side to better catch the light. “Why are you apologizing? That was incredible.”
“I should have asked.”
Lexa can tell by the tone of her voice that Clarke is upset, but she can’t understand why.
Clarke suddenly seems to be in a rush to leave. Without pouring the sugar into her drink she reaches across for a lid and seals it while checking her watch, “I’m sorry, I gotta get going if I’m going to be on time to meet the shipment being delivered.”
She takes her coffee and gives Lexa a smile, but the way it doesn’t reach her eyes has an uncomfortable feeling settling within her. The rapid change in conversation and Clarke’s temperament has her taken aback.
“Yeah...okay,” Lexa says, confused and mildly concerned. “Talk later?”
“Yeah, definitely.” Clarke’s smile is more genuine this time but Lexa still feels uneasy.
Clarke leaves quickly after that, the chime above the door marking her exit and Lexa is left standing there with her half-healed hand, wondering what she did wrong.
Clarke unlocks the door to Bellamy’s apartment, turning the old spare key in the lock before returning it to the magically hidden compartment beside the doorframe. She makes her way through the foyer towards the sound of voices.
“Ugh, no, I don’t give a shit. He’s not coming.”
“You said invite everyone from his year. Finn is on that list.”
Clarke’s feet pull her up short. She’s standing just out of sight beyond the door to the living room and though she knows she should step forward and let them know she’s there her feet refuse to move.
“Well, I don’t give a fuck, uninvite him. He’s not coming to this party,” Octavia’s voice comes from around the corner once more, her tone adamant.
“Fine, I’ll see what I can do.”
Clarke waits a few moments before walking quietly back to the front door, opening and closing it loudly.
“Clarke, is that you?” Octavia calls.
“Yeah,” Clarke shouts back, swallowing down the lump in her throat as she makes her way fully into the room.
Lincoln offers her a smile and a wave from his spot on the couch. He’s wearing his Grounder Academy shirt today and Clarke knows Bellamy never would have let him inside wearing that so he must not be around.
“Where’s Bellamy?” Clarke asks.
“God, who knows. He said he’d be here later but ten bucks says he gets too caught up in work and flakes on us,” Octavia says, readjusting herself on the couch and placing her feet across Lincoln’s lap.
“Why’d we agree to hangout at his place then?”
Octavia shrugs. “He’s got the comfiest couch?”
Clarke can’t help but agree with the validity of that statement and kicks off her shoes before collapsing onto it herself.
It’s hours later and they’re playing scrabble. There’s a handful of empty beer bottles scattered around them and Octavia is trying to argue that firenado is definitely a word and that if Bellamy disagrees he should ask the internet and that he really shouldn’t have a say anyways because he was late.
The events of that morning had Clarke turn down the offer of numerous drinks as she thinks the alcohol would have just given more fuel to the thoughts racing rampant in her head. They’d probably also make her do something stupid like drunkenly confess to her friends that she had accidentally healed someone non-magical that morning. Oh, and also that that same girl knew her secrets.
‘Not all of them,’ a thought in the back of her mind whispers. There’s a sudden churning of guilt in her stomach and she grimaces.
She knows she shouldn’t have done it and she’s concerned with how impulsive the action had been. She makes a point of not using her magic and she sure as hell doesn’t use it on other people.
She turns a square ‘A’ scrabble piece in her hand absentmindedly.
The least she should have done was explain why she had promptly freaked out that morning or tried to get a grip or something. She hadn’t even done it consciously. Lexa had been hurt and Clarke had been able to heal her. So naturally, she had done it without thinking.
Would it really have been better to just sit by and let it happen? Would that honestly have been the better solution?
She should have asked. But she already knows that Lexa would have said yes. Lexa trusts her to a fault. Clarke isn’t so sure that’s a good thing.
She tosses the game piece on the ground and pulls her mind back to the present moment.
“It totally is! Just google it.”
“The dictionary says no, ‘O.”
“Well the dictionary is wrong.”
“It’s not a real thing!"
“Yes it is! It’s part fire, part tornado. Firenado.”
Clarke shares a look with Lincoln. She wishes she could say that this was an unusual occurrence whenever they pulled the boardgames out of the cupboard. Propping her head on her hand, she thinks about how Lexa would probably be disappointed by how ordinary and non-magical their hangouts are most of the time.
She’d probably still be enthralled by all the small things that they do though and how easily and casually her friends use magic in a way Clarke doesn’t. Like how Octavia disappears and reappears in the kitchen just to get another snack. And Clarke doesn’t even want to think about some of the conversations about magical philosophy she’d get into with Lincoln. It could probably put Clarke to sleep just thinking about it.
She laughs to herself but is suddenly struck with an unexpectedly strong desire to see that conversation actually happen. She wants to bring Lexa here to meet her insane friends. She wants them to accept her and for it not to be weird that she’s gotten so close with someone that can’t even cast a single charm. She wants to fall asleep on a couch listening to boring conversations about philosophy and who knows what else Lexa would undoubtedly find interest in talking about.
She wants to bring these two parts of her life together and completely disregard the consequences.
Could it really end that badly?
Shouldn’t she at least try?
“Look, Octavia. If you can’t be civil about this then maybe we should just call it a day on the games,” Bellamy tells his sister who has now thrown the dictionary somewhere and is crossing her arms indignantly.
“We can play again next week,” Lincoln tries to offer, already moving to stand. “And in the meantime you can write to someone about adding firenado to the dictionary.”
“You know what, I will,” Octavia says and stands as well, determined.
Clarke laughs and begins gathering her stuff. She knows Octavia well enough to know that she’ll probably forget about her anger and the scrabble injustice that occurred before she’s halfway home. That is, until next week when she tries to pass off some other word she swears is real in her attempt to surpass her brother’s own competitiveness.
Bellamy thanks Clarke when she helps him clear the game pieces and put the board away, each of them collecting some of the empty bottles that line the sides of the coffee table.
“Clarke, Lincoln and I are going to head to that new fusion place up the road for a bite. Want to join?”
Clarke tosses the bottles into the recycle bin. “Nah, I have to meet someone. Next time.” Clarke promises as she pulls on her jacket, sleeves falling to cover the ink on her arms. “See you guys later.” She waves goodbye to Bellamy who nods at her with a smile.
There’s a short pause as she walks down the hall. Octavia follows her.
“Is it Lexa?”
The question makes Clarke pause with her hand on the door. Octavia’s tone isn’t accusatory per se, but it isn’t innocent either.
“Yeah,” she replies after a moment. The words are already more than she wants to say and she’s afraid of any follow up question Octavia is sure to ask.
“I’ll see you later,” she says, catching sight of Octavia’s concerned expression before she escapes out the door.
‘Soon. I’ll tell them soon. Just not today.’
Clarke stands in front of the door for a few moments before she raises her hand and knocks firmly twice.
She waits and waits and is about to knock again when the door swings inward as if pulled by an impatient hand.
The smile that rises to her face immediately falls when she realizes that it is not in fact Lexa that has answered the dorm room door. The girl that greets her instead has dirty blonde hair and the raised eyebrow she gives Clarke is enough to have her questioning what Clarke had initially believed to be a brilliant idea. Nevertheless she puts on a bright smile.
“You must be Anya.”
The eyebrow only rises higher.
“Is Lexa here?” she continues, trying to peer around the other woman into the room.
Anya crosses her arms and leans against the door jamb.
“She’s in class.”
Clarke checks the watch that sits loosely on her wrist and frowns.
“I thought she finished at 5?”
“I’m sorry, but who are you exactly?” Anya asks, clearly regretting having opened the door in the first place.
“Oh, right, sorry. I’m Clarke.” She holds out her hand and the other girl takes it after a moment.
“Clarke?” Anya asks. “You mean the Clarke?”
“Is there another one?” she chuckles nervously.
“Nope. Pretty sure you’re the one that I’ve been hearing non-stop about.”
Clarke’s mind is too caught up in the idea of Lexa talking about her that she nearly misses what Anya says next.
“I guess you can wait here for her if you want,” the girl says begrudgingly.
She turns and heads back into the room, but she doesn’t say anything else so Clarke takes that as an invitation to step inside. She does so and looks around curiously.
She bets she would have been able to tell which half was Lexa’s even if Anya hadn’t gone and sat at the desk on her own side.
Anya’s side of the room is messier for sure, but that’s not difficult to accomplish when the other is absolutely spotless. Lexa’s bed is immaculately made, the pillows sitting perfectly below the headboard and the burgundy cover smoothed to show no wrinkles. The shelf on the wall has all of her books neatly organized by subject followed by size and Clarke smiles because it’s all so very Lexa.
Anya doesn’t seem to be in the mood for small talk but she doesn’t seem opposed to Clarke hanging around so she makes her way over to Lexa’s own desk chair, not wanting to disturb the carefully made duvet. She sets her bag down on the floor beside her and sits.
Spinning in the chair quietly for a few moments she checks her watch again.
Anya is typing away at something on the other side of the room and Clarke doesn’t want to disturb her but she’s never really been one to let a room stay quiet.
“So...does she usually run late?”
The typing stops.
Clarke nods and continues to spin the chair back and forth idly. The silence stretches again and the typing continues.
“So you’re a PhD student, right?”
Back and forth Clarke’s chair slowly continues to turn, her hands loosely gripped to the underside. Clarke isn’t deterred by the brevity of the responses.
“And you’re studying microbiology?”
“Yep,” is the unenthusiastic response she receives a moment later amidst the intermittent typing.
“So how long have you two been roommates?”
Anya sighs and spins away from her desk to face her. Clarke, wondering if she overstepped, stills in the chair.
“Look. You seem insistent on talking so I’m just going to skip over all this small talk if you don’t mind.” She turns fully to face Clarke and the seriousness on her face catches Clarke off guard.
“Here’s the bottom line: I know Lexa, we’ve been roommates for two years now, so I’ve known her long enough to notice that she’s been a lot happier lately and I’d be an idiot to think that it doesn’t have something to do with you.”
Clarke opens her mouth to interrupt with something (she has no idea what), but Anya doesn’t let her.
“So while it’s been great seeing her the way she’s been lately, I swear if you’re just messing with her-"
“I’m not - I wouldn’t,” Clarke starts, already shaking her head, but Anya doesn’t let her finish.
“No, look. The girl is like my younger sister, so I’m trying to look out for her here whether she wants me to or not. She likes you. All I’ve heard is Clarke this and Clarke that and it’s been driving me nuts, but I put up with it because she seems happy. So if you’re just going to pack up and head out without a backwards glance one day then I think it’s better that you let her know.”
Clarke waits a beat to see if there’s any more to Anya’s speech. When she just continues to stare Clarke down with a look that is no doubt supposed to be intimidating, Clarke knows she’s actually waiting for some kind of response this time.
Ordinarily she’d probably be insulted by the insinuation or at least offput by the sudden attack on her character but then she remembers that the last Anya probably heard about her was when she effectively (yet accidentally) stood Lexa up at the bar and suddenly it makes sense.
She looks across at the fierce and determined and, to most, probably highly intimidating girl sitting and staring her down.
She thinks that Lexa is very lucky to have someone like Anya looking out for her.
Clarke smiles and clears her throat.
Lexa adjusts the bag more securely on her shoulder and pushes her glasses up with the base of her palm while simultaneously juggling the mess of papers in her hands.
She’d just left her late lecture, having stayed behind to ask the professor some questions regarding an assignment due the following week. He had seemed in a bit of a rush but had politely accommodated her regardless until she had gotten what she needed.
Ignoring the group of students who shuffle past her to enter the room she manages to squeeze between them without losing any of the items in her hands. For a moment she considers heading to the library to get a headstart on the assignment, but the rumbling in her stomach has her pointing her feet in the direction of home. She has a cereal bar stashed somewhere in her room she figures will tide her over well enough.
When Lexa eventually unlocks the door to her room she’s so preoccupied that it takes her a moment to notice Clarke in her chair. When she does she stops short and looks at her in confusion before letting her gaze slide over to Anya and back.
Clarke is smiling brightly at her, obviously having been waiting, while Anya has a curious expression on her face Lexa doesn’t think she’s ever seen there before. It looks like she’s caught somewhere between confused and impressed.
Lexa wonders what Clarke could have possibly said to put it there.
Clarke is playing with the edge of Lexa’s comforter, having given up the desk chair for Lexa to be able to put her stuff away. Anya had left to run to the library and it was just the two of them now.
Once Lexa had assured her that it would be alright if she sat on her bed, Clarke had jumped up and was currently leaning against the wall, her red converse hanging off the edge. Her feet tap together almost nervously.
“I wanted to apologize for practically running out of the coffee shop this morning,” Clarke says, and it’s the first thing she’s said since Anya left.
Lexa is placing the books from her bag back into the empty slots on her shelf but she pauses at Clarke’s words. Up to that point Lexa hadn’t noticed the change in Clarke’s persona, which had gone from her usual bubbly exuberance to uncharacteristically quiet upon Anya’s departure. For once Clarke isn’t looking at her and Lexa can tell that she isn’t quite finished with what she has to say so she waits and sets the book in her hands down.
“It’s a bit hard to explain but, I’ve um, I’ve just been working through some stuff for a while now. And sometimes it just sort of hits all at once, you know?” It’s said conversationally but the way she clears her throat halfway through hints that the words are giving her some trouble. “Anyways, I just wanted to let you know,” she says, ending her words with a nonchalant shrug.
Lexa rolls her chair away from her desk and closer to the edge of her bed. Clarke still isn’t looking at her.
“Hey,” she says, tapping on the top of Clarke’s shoe to get her attention.
Clarke looks up at her, a couple strands of hair falling loose from behind her ears.
“You know you can tell me about it if you want, right?”
Clarke’s eyes are so blue as they stare back at her that she feels rooted to the spot. There’s an obvious deliberation going on behind them and Lexa waits. She’s never attributed the word vulnerable to Clarke before this moment, being someone who puts on such a strong front a majority of the time, but she doesn’t know how else to describe the way Clarke’s acting.
After a moment she seems to shake whatever it is that’s gotten a hold of her and the way her lips tug up tells Lexa that that small moment of vulnerability has passed.
“I know,” Clarke tells her and Lexa swears she sees a hint of guilt flash in her eyes but it’s gone before she can be sure.
She doesn’t know what exactly it was about that morning that freaked Clarke out, but she still feels the inclination to try and fix it somehow.
Lexa rolls her chair back to her desk and stands up.
“Alright, budge over.”
“What?” Clarke’s brows pull together in confusion.
Lexa walks over and reaches for her laptop sitting at the foot of her bed and tosses it to Clarke.
“What are we doing?” Clarke asks cautiously, even as she opens the laptop.
“Watching a movie,” Lexa says simply, kicking off her shoes.
Clarke blinks at her and Lexa enjoys the reversal of roles, usually the one being caught off guard and confused. Clarke, however, quickly shakes out of it and must not object to the idea because, after pausing a moment, hesitantly slips off her leather jacket and places it onto the bed next her to get more comfortable. She scoots over on the comforter to make room for Lexa.
Lexa’s eyes, as always, are drawn to the ink lining the smooth skin of Clarke’s forearms. The bird on her wrist is stationary today but the pattern on her opposite arm is slowly turning like cogs in a machine as she types at the open keyboard.
Clarke is too busy probably working her magic to get Lexa free Netflix to notice Lexa’s eyes tracing the markings unabashedly.
Or so she thinks.
“You just going to stand there gawking or are you actually going to come and watch with me?” Clarke says before looking up at Lexa and raising an eyebrow.
‘This was a bad idea.’
Lexa’s eyes are on the screen but she’s fairly certain she hasn’t seen a single thing that’s been on it for the last hour. She’s only been aware of the way the side of Clarke’s leg is pressing against hers and the warm presence of her shoulder resting against her own.
Earlier, when she had commented that she had forgotten to turn the lights out, Clarke had merely snapped her fingers. The room had instantly been plunged into dark, the screen in front of them the only source of illumination.
Lexa hadn’t stopped fidgeting since and the darkness seems to only make her more aware of Clarke’s presence.
“This is my favourite part,” Clarke murmurs beside her, eyes captivated by the screen.
“Mine too,” Lexa says, even though she’s fairly certain she’s never seen this movie and probably couldn’t even name it if Clarke asked her to.
She’s been glancing at Clarke’s hand resting on the edge of the laptop and all Lexa wants to do is reach across and interweave their fingers. Ever since she’d let go of Clarke’s hand after visiting the winter market her own had felt strangely empty. She’s not sure at what point she got so sappy but it doesn’t stop her from wanting to hold Clarke’s hand anyways.
She had been brazen enough to reach out and hold her hand the other day, why should today be any different?
Clarke came all the way out here to see her (she didn’t buy the ‘I was in the neighborhood’ line Clarke had originally fed her) so that had to mean something. Right?
A thought suddenly occurs to her that cuts through the fog for a moment.
“Hey, how did you know where I lived?” she asks quietly, words whispered amidst the resounding sound of gunfire and explosions on the screen before them.
Clarke doesn’t look away from the computer but there’s a moment of hesitation before she responds.
“I asked around.”
Lexa doesn’t buy it and continues to stare at her. She knows that Clarke knows she’s waiting for the real answer. After a moment it comes.
“Okay, I may have used some tracing magic.”
She fidgets and it’s so uncharacteristic of Clarke that Lexa pays extra close attention.
She clears her throat but still stares adamantly at the screen, “It helps you find people. But...” The words she says after are mumbled quickly and Lexa doesn’t quite catch them.
Clarke has now given up the pretense of paying attention to the screen and turns her face towards Lexa. The light from it flickers softly against the curve of her cheek, casting the other half of her face in shadow.
“You have to know the person. Like really know them,” she tells her. She’s no longer fidgeting and if Lexa had to put a word to the look she saw in her eyes it would probably be determination.
“Know them how?” Lexa whispers back.
Lexa has never considered breathing to be a particularly difficult task but Clarke’s proximity is suddenly making it confusingly complicated. Their noses are inches apart and the Clarke’s hair is brushing Lexa’s shoulder.
Clarke’s eyes, as though she knows what’s going through Lexa’s mind, flick down to her lips and Lexa feels her face flush with heat.
The voices from the movie continue to shout on the screen before them but Lexa doesn’t hear it. It’s only Clarke Clarke Clarke and she couldn’t care less about anything else.
“I’m not completely sure,” Clarke murmurs back and Lexa knows she isn’t imagining it this time when Clarke’s eyes glance down again. “It’s just a feeling.”
Lexa’s heart is pounding so loud in her ears it’s like it’s trying to break free from her chest and she’s positive Clarke must be able to hear it too.
Clarke’s nose brushes gently against hers and Lexa’s eyes flutter closed.
When the lights suddenly flick on Lexa realizes she hadn’t even heard the door unlock.
Anya finds the two of them sitting and blinking to adjust to the sudden glare.
“‘Sup, Nerd. Nerd’s friend,” she greets them in the friendliest manner Lexa thinks she’s capable of, even though she had only been gone a couple hours. The back of Lexa’s mind notes that the fact she was greeting Clarke at all was a clear indication that Clarke had done something to win at least a part of her roommate over, but her anger at Anya has her pushing the thought away for later consideration.
Lexa isn’t really one for swearing but in that moment a few choice words jump to the tip of her tongue. She glares at Anya who doesn’t seem perturbed in the least, just tosses her jacket on her bed and makes her way to her desk.
“Well I should get going,” Clarke says when it’s clear that Anya isn’t making it a quick visit back.
Lexa turns to Clarke to object, her fury at Anya suddenly paramount as she frowns.
Clarke, in contrast to Lexa, doesn’t seem upset about the developments. Rather, there’s a smirk that tugs at the corner of her mouth when she notices Lexa’s pout. She squeezes Lexa’s knee affectionately and says, “I’ll see you tomorrow?”
Lexa nods but continues to frown as Clarke grabs her jacket and hops off the bed.
She notes, as Clarke slips her arms into the sleeves that the tips of her blonde locks are the deepest shade of crimson that Lexa has seen yet.
Clarke sends her one last smile and a wave to Anya, who returns it without looking up from her laptop screen, before grabbing her bag off the floor and slipping out the door.
Lexa crosses her arms like a petulant child and glares at Anya until she notices.
“I hate you so much right now.”
With exams approaching they seem to have less and less time together and Lexa is resigned to spending most of her afternoons and evenings lost deep within the library.
Still, on the days when she can, she spends her time after shift sitting in Clarke’s shop and observing the wide array of customers that come through the door.
The low levels of sleep she’s been getting that only seem to get worse the more material she needs to cover and the constant knowledge of what had come this close to happening in her room before Anya rudely interrupted has her pouting more than usual.
In the few moments she finds herself alone in Clarke’s presence in the days after that moment they are always inevitably interrupted by one thing or another. Emergency calls from the coffee shop to cover someone’s shift, an impromptu study session by one of her project partners, Clarke getting calls from her friend who insists on her help with something, the interruptions are relentless and Lexa is starting to think the universe is mad at her for something.
Eventually it’s four days later and she’s sitting on one of the high bar stools in Clarke’s shop studying from a book in her lap. Ember, sitting on her shoulder with his tail wrapped around her upper arm for balance, seems to be reading over her shoulder.
The reptile had gotten fonder of her with each visit, even on the days when she had forgotten to bring him a muffin and it took near to no prompting on her part to get him to come out of his glass form now.
She absentmindedly scratches at his head in the space between his horns after turning a page in her book and his chest rumbles contentedly.
“He would come to like you best,” Clarke says, entering the room and narrowing her eyes playfully, interrupting Lexa’s reading.
Ember, as if to make a point, closes his eyes and bumps his head against the side of Lexa’s. The action is not unlike that of a cat, and whether it’s to actually show affection or to make a point to Clarke she isn’t sure.
“I can’t help it if he just likes being close to me,” Lexa teases, affectionately scratching the underside of his chin. She glances over at Clarke with a feigned haughtiness, expecting to see a frown, but instead there’s a dangerous spark in Clarke’s eye.
“I guess that’s something we have in common then,” Clarke says and after Lexa picks up on her meaning she pretends to focus back on her textbook, trying not to give Clarke the satisfaction in knowing how much her words affect her by the way her cheeks burn.
Later, when Lexa is gathering her things to head home for the night Clarke stops her.
“Hey, I have to wait for a shipment to show up to my apartment tomorrow afternoon because the damn company messed up the addresses. Any interest in coming over? We could hang out, watch a movie...or finish the one we started the other day.”
She agrees embarrassingly quickly.
Lexa steps into the room and head tilts back to take it all in.
“It’s a bit much, I know.” Clarke closes the door and the sound of the lock catching reverberates into the space created by the tall overarching ceilings.
Lexa steps farther into Clarke’s apartment and lets her gaze trail over its contents. The studio style room is outfitted with dark oakwood floors and industrial-style lighting fixtures hang from the ceiling to illuminate a fully furnished and, in all likelihood, outrageously expensive apartment.
Lexa doesn’t even want to imagine what the rent is like on this place but she supposes that all doesn’t really matter when you have the ability to will money into thin air. Unless she pays with magical currency? Lexa mentally files the question away to ask later.
One of the walls of the penthouse is predominantly glass and shows the swirling winter vortex that had blown over the city recently outside that she had just come in from. She imagines that the view must be amazing with the city lights at night.
“I’m getting a drink, want one?” she hears Clarke ask from where she’s wandered off to and Lexa follows her voice until she spots her in the kitchen.
Lexa nods absentmindedly, her neck arching to look at a large abstract painting covering one wall, and Clarke takes another glass down from the shelf.
It takes a while for Lexa to realize that she never removed her coat. As she slips out of the sleeves she sheepishly looks at the puddle of snowmelt dripping onto Clarke’s expensive floor below her feet.
“Here,” Clarke says, pressing a glass into her hand of something mildly carbonated and taking the coat from her at the same time.
She disappears again to hang it up somewhere while Lexa stands there dumbly and tries to pinpoint the source of her discomfort. She isn’t this way in Clarke’s shop. She wasn’t even like this when Clarke had appeared at her own apartment sporadically the other day.
She suddenly realizes that she’s nervous.
Lexa has always been frazzled, or shocked, or flustered even, by Clarke but never nervous.
‘Get a grip, Woods. It’s not like she’s just going to jump you the second you step through the door.’
The thought sends heat coursing to her face and elsewhere and she thinks about how absurd the fluctuations in her reactions are.
‘You can’t be that nervous if you actually want her to do it,’ she chides herself.
Clarke returns from stashing Lexa’s coat somewhere, either oblivious to her change in demeanour or ignoring it for Lexa’s sake.
“How do you even see out of those things?” Clarke asks her with a chuckle. It takes Lexa a beat to realize she’s referring to her glasses which are splotched with melted snow and are indeed making things difficult to see.
Clarke’s hand reaches up and hesitates, “Can I…?”
Lexa’s not even sure what she wants to do but she nods anyways.
There’s a light tap on the frame of her glasses and the droplets of water scurry away before disappearing altogether.
“There,” Clarke says, her face coming in perfectly clear to Lexa’s eyes now.
She clears her throat. “Thanks.”
“Anytime,” Clarke says, and Lexa knows she means it.
Clarke gives her a small tour of the apartment, leading her over to different pieces of art and pointing things out from the skyline on the horizon. Lexa, for her part, sips at the drink in her hand and tries to tamper down on the butterflies that seem to have rampantly taken over her stomach.
Clarke must finally pick up on her nerves or notice how quiet she’s being because she reaches down and give Lexa’s hand a quick squeeze before saying, “Here, I want to show you something.”
There’s a pair of sliding doors with frosted glass at the other side of the room and Clarke makes her way toward them, placing her glass down on a coffee table along the way.
She slides the doors open with both hands and gestures for Lexa to follow after her. Taking her drink with her, Lexa does.
When she passes through the doorway she thinks she must be hallucinating and stops before backing up out of it again.
She looks out the window from outside of the room and notes that it is indeed still snowing on the other side. She steps through the doors again and the light that shines inside reflects a day she’d be more likely to experience in late Spring as opposed to early Winter.
“The glass is enchanted. It helps the plants around this time of year,” Clarke explains.
That’s when Lexa finally notices the abundance of green that crowds the room and she realizes what she’s stepped into.
“It’s a greenhouse,” she breathes, awe clear in her voice. The air inside is warm and light and she feels less weighed down just for having stepped within it. Pushing her glasses up with her wrist she rubs at her eyes momentarily in the bright light before proceeding to get a better look.
There are tall glass walls that meet a domed ceiling, beneath which a sea of green tangles around itself. She can’t even tell how big the room is. What she had initially thought to be no bigger than a dozen yards deep seems to bend and stretch like an optical illusion and Lexa doesn’t doubt that if she were to attempt to walk to the other side if it would merely continue on to accommodate her.
Plants of all shapes and colours crowd the rows between here and there and they’re nestled within different coloured pots of all sizes and, despite the attempt at organization, some meander and crawl into the space of their neighbors.
Cacti of all shapes, vines of different widths and length, trees both short and tall, and a multitude of other flora that she’s sure she’d never find amongst the houseplant section of a hardware store, all tangle closely together. Some have long leaves that stretch down out of their pots to touch the floor below, others that seem to be trying to reach the sun shining through the glass above.
And the flowers.
Lexa slowly moves farther into the room between the rows that rise up to her waist to get a closer look. There’re large pots filled to the brim with sunflowers, chrysanthemums, lilies, and hydrangeas. Those she can’t name she reads off the inscriptions that appear on the sides of their pots when she gets close and disappear again when she turns away.
No matter where she looks there’s a plant and for a moment she wonders how Clarke makes sense of it all.
Leaning her head back she notices that there are even more planters intermittently hung from the ceiling. Their delicate multicolored glass encasings reveal a complex root system of whatever they hold within, reflecting the light in a way not unlike stained glass through church windows.
Lexa thinks that if there’s anywhere that Clarke considers holy, it’s probably this room.
“You like it then?”
“Like it?” She turns to look at Clarke incredulously, “Clarke, this is incredible. Did you do all this yourself?”
Clarke just shrugs but she’s smiling so Lexa knows that she’s pleased that Lexa is pleased.
Lexa loses track of time within the greenhouse very quickly, nerves having all but disappeared upon stepping through the door, too distracted by everything in front of her.
She imagines Clarke must spend a lot of time here when she’s not at the shop or at Mystic Coffee. Lexa follows behind as she tends to the plants that need attention, somewhere along the way setting her drink down and forgetting to pick it up again. When she remembers it later she realizes she’ll probably never be able to find it again after the multiple turns and twists they’ve made as they’ve meandered through the rows.
The most fascinating part of all, besides the way Clarke interacts with her plants, is in the way they interact with her. The faces of large flowers follower her slowly as she moves to rearrange some pots here and there and water others. It’s like she’s the sun itself and all they want to do is soak up the lightness of her passing presence.
Lexa knows how they feel.
They continue to meander for a while and Clarke is having as much fun watching Lexa’s reactions to everything as Lexa is actually reacting to them.
“Grass! I feel like I haven’t seen grass in months!” Lexa says when they come across a corner of the room that Clarke swears she had set aside to grow planters of vegetables. It wouldn’t be the first time that something showed up randomly so she shrugs and joins Lexa when she sits on the small expanse of green tucked into the empty space between two rows.
The domed ceiling arches up high overhead and she can see a few white clouds pass here and there through them but nothing large enough to obstruct the sunshine coming through.
If it weren’t for the glass walls she could almost believe they were enjoying a day in a park in the middle of warm Spring afternoon. With the sun shining gently on her face and the warm earth beneath her, she thinks if she closes her eyes she can almost believe it’s true. With a sigh of contentment she lays back and it isn’t a moment before she feels Lexa do the same.
“Why do you ever leave this room?” Lexa asks her. The question is rhetorical but Clarke gives her an answer anyways.
Clarke snorts, “Don’t get me wrong, I love my plants, but they aren’t always the greatest when it comes to company or conversation.”
“Okay, fair point,” Lexa acquiesces. “But still, this place is amazing.”
There’s a pause and Clarke knows Lexa so she knows there’s at least one more question coming.
“So is it like a room of requirement?” she soon hears from beside her and her lips twitch in response. She was beginning to learn that Lexa could turn almost anything into a Harry Potter reference.
“No. It’s not going to give me anything I need. It’s just accommodating for plant things. Different humidity levels in certain parts of the room, sunlight levels in others, sometimes if I forget to water them it might rain.”
Lexa falls quiet after that, musing over the new information that Clarke has given her, and they lay in comfortable silence for long enough for Clarke to feel a pleasant drowsiness.
At one point Clarke is nearly convinced that Lexa has fallen asleep until she feels the other girl’s hand come to rest nearly on top of hers where it sits between them. She doesn’t hesitate before turning her own hand and twines their fingers together. Neither of them comments. Neither of them have to.
It’s peaceful and soothing and Clarke is glad she can offer this small moment of calm to Lexa who is so often unknowingly a calming presence to Clarke herself.
“It suits you, you know. This room. It’s just like you.”
Clarke hums and plays with Lexa’s fingers absentmindedly, peeking her eye open to cast a glance at the other girl, “How’s that?”
“Because it’s alive and light,” Lexa tells her, eyes closed and smiling as she turns her face more towards the sun. “And beautiful.”
It’s like she’s not even thinking about the words as she says them. As if they’re just facts to be accepted. The sky is blue, the earth is round, and Clarke Griffin is beautiful.
Later on she won’t remember the exact moment that she decides to kiss her.
One second she’s lying there with an overwhelming feeling in her chest she can’t contain and the next she’s hovering directly over Lexa who, after a moment, blinks her eyes open.
They’re as close as they were the other night and the tip of Clarke’s nose is barely brushing Lexa’s as she looks down at her.
The green eyes staring back at her are wide and surprised and so so bright and Clarke isn’t completely sure Lexa is breathing. She’s stilled completely and is staring at Clarke like she never wants to look away and Clarke doesn’t understand how one person can make you feel so much all at once.
“Would it be alright if I kissed you?” she whispers into the sliver of space between them.
Lexa’s nose bumps Clarke’s when, after a moment, she nods.
Slowly, because she’s sure now that Lexa isn’t breathing, she gently brushes her lips against Lexa’s own. Once, twice, three times she leaves barely-there kisses and then all at once Lexa is sighing into it and Clarke wonders why she stupidly waited so long to do this. All at once she feels Lexa’s hands tangle into her hair to pull her even closer. All at once she’s lost.
In that moment Clarke forgets all about the fact that she isn’t supposed to be doing this, that Lexa knows more than she was ever supposed to, that she’s risking being outcast from her friends and family and potentially her whole community for what she’s doing. In that moment she doesn’t care because the brightness in her chest is overwhelming and she can feel her heart pounding in her ears.
She doesn’t care one bit.
How can she when it feels so right?
“Okay, so if I had magic...” Lexa starts, words lofty and betraying the drowsiness that tugs away at them both.
“Mhmmm,” Clarke prompts, her lips already twitching. Her chin is using the other girl’s stomach as a pillow as she lays beside her. She’s deeply curious about whatever is about to tumble out of Lexa’s mouth.
After what had seemed like hours of lazing about in the greenhouse they had decided to come back inside, both having soaked up enough Vitamin D to last them for the rest of Winter. They had settled onto Clarke’s couch, some documentary on sea creatures was playing quietly in the background (though neither were watching), and the sun had long past descended beneath the horizon.
“What kind of witch do you think I’d be?” Lexa finishes, not disappointing.
Clarke laughs. “I don’t know,” and then after a moment of consideration, “You seem like you’d be an astronomy type maybe, or transformations. Something that takes lots of study.”
Lexa hums and appears to be thinking Clarke’s words over carefully though her eyes are closed. Clarke grins and watches her, eyes tracing the slope of her nose and the way her eyelashes flutter on her cheeks.
“With my luck I’d probably only be able to magically make a good cup of coffee. Or make my glasses never smudge,” she mumbles.
“There are some like that,” Clarke murmurs back. “Though they’re usually not any less skilled. Their magic just comes through a little differently.”
The response comes slower this time.
“Different how?” The words are laced with the sleep she’s obviously fighting.
“Well, I knew one girl that could only use magic at certain times of the day. Or sometimes they can’t use their magic on anything except themselves or maybe something they’re touching,” she responds, her hand absentmindedly coming up to twist in a lock of Lexa’s hair. Lexa turns toward the motion and Clarke smiles. “Others can only use magic that people give to them.”
“Hmmm,” is all the answer that she gets. Clarke rests her cheek against the fabric of Lexa’s sweater, it’s soft against her skin and she feels at peace. Soon she feels Lexa’s chest rise and fall slowly as sleep finally catches up with her. Clarke focuses and the lights in the room dim to a softer glow.
“You wouldn’t want it anyways,” Clarke whispers into the fabric beneath her cheek. “All it’s ever done is give me trouble.”
But Lexa doesn’t hear her and her chest continues to rise and fall slowly with sleep.
Soon, Clarke is lulled by the movement and falls asleep as well.
The next morning Clarke is waiting for her coffee, Lexa is making it, and Raven is watching them both. Her eyes continuously shift back and forth between them but Lexa ignores her and goes about her business.
“Skim latte, one pump of vanilla, and a dash of cinnamon,” Lexa says, placing the mug on the counter and spinning the handle outwards, “For Clarke.” The last bit is tacked on with a grin.
Clarke takes the mug with a small smile that grows slightly when she spots the heart design in the foam. She doesn’t say anything about it before turning and making her way to her chair in the back corner of the room. Lexa watches her go with a fluttering stomach and fingers that twist and tangle in the strings of her apron.
Abruptly she realizes that Raven is still watching. She clears her throat and busies herself with cleaning off the counter, refusing to make eye contact.
It only takes a moment before her eyes can’t help but flick up to find Clarke. She’s tucked into her usual spot, mug steaming on the arm of the chair, deeply engrossed in the book that lays in her lap. The resulting tug in her chest at the sight doesn’t take her by surprise so much anymore.
“Holy fuck, you didn’t.”
Lexa turns in confusion at the expletive and finds Raven’s eyes searching her face for something until they widen unexpectedly.
Lexa startles at the sudden outburst and looks around but there’s no one close enough besides herself to hear Raven’s whispered shouting. Lexa was surprised she was even trying to keep her voice under control at all.
“Jesus, and here I thought you two would never get past the gross pining stage that we’ve all had to put up with forever,” she says, tossing her dishrag onto the counter.
“Don’t even try to deny it,” she says, holding her hand up before Lexa can get another word out.
“Nope,” Raven says, holding her hand up firmer.
Lexa looks at her, at a loss, and then her eyes slide back to Clarke, perhaps hoping she can magically sense what’s happening and somehow come to her rescue. If Clarke senses it however, she leaves Lexa to handle Raven on her own.
“Alright, fine,” she says with conviction, bringing herself up to her whole height. Maybe if she just acknowledges it Raven will leave her alone.
“I knew it!” Raven pumps the air with her fist and draws the attention of a few patrons before Lexa can shush her. “So is she good in bed?”
Lexa really shouldn’t be surprised anymore by the zero to one hundred speed Raven goes at in all conversations, but she finds herself sputtering nonetheless.
“I - we haven’t...”
The bell above the door chimes to announce an arrival and Lexa doesn’t think she’s ever been so happy to see customers in her life.
“Welcome to Mystic Coffee, what can I get for you this morning?” she practically shouts at a college student that isn’t even at the counter yet, her cheeks flaming.
Raven lets it drop to help with the line that had started to form but Lexa knew the silence wouldn’t last for long.
Later, after Lexa goes to deliver a coffee refill to a table nearby she stops by and leans her hip against the side of Clarke’s chair.
“Raven gave me the third degree after you grabbed your coffee earlier.”
“I figured she would given the way you were staring after me,” Clarke says with a smirk, not looking up from her book.
Lexa waves the comment off. “No, I do that every day.”
At that Clarke puts her book down and finally looks up at Lexa with a raised eyebrow.
“That sounded less creepy and more romantic in my head.”
“Did it really?”
Lexa doesn’t answer and instead says, “Sometimes I think she’s got some sixth sense about things like this. I didn’t even say anything and she somehow knew that you and I are now…” she frowns and struggles with filling the gaping hole at the end of that sentence, “...involved.”
Clarke shrugs and returns to her book, either not noticing or choosing not to dwell on Lexa’s internal struggle. “Maybe she does. Stranger people have come through here.”
“True,” Lexa responds, nodding. “We get some real weirdos in here sometimes.”
She grins at the narrowed eyes Clarke levels at her over the top of her book.
“Just because you’re cute doesn’t mean you get to be cheeky.”
“I think that’s exactly what it means,” she quips back, surprising even herself.
Clarke’s eyebrow rises slightly at the challenge, but Lexa can tell she’s trying not to grin behind her book by the way her eyes crinkle slightly. Lexa mentally pats herself on the back for remaining unflustered in Clarke’s presence for so long. The score in that game was always disproportionately in Clarke’s favour.
She’s about to walk away to get back to work, smug and grinning with her victory at having the last word, when Clarke speaks up.
“You forgot something.”
Lexa’s brow furrows as she turns back and looks at the tea table for something she might have set down.
“What?” she asks, because she still doesn’t see anything.
But then Clarke is tugging her down by her apron and pressing their lips together briefly and Lexa’s mind goes blank.
Despite its brevity, it’s still enough to overwhelm. She mentally tacks on another victory for Clarke.
She’s sure the tips of her ears are flaming by now to match the shade of her cheeks. She’s smiling stupidly and Clarke still has one hand gripping her apron so for a moment she doesn’t go anywhere.
“Are you doing anything later tonight?” she asks. It takes her a moment to realize that the words did in fact come from her own mouth.
“Why? Are you asking me out on a date?” Clarke asks with a grin.
Lexa tries to play it casual and shrugs, “Yeah, I guess I am.”
They both smile and then she’s leaning back out of Clarke’s space because she’s afraid if she stays there any longer she’ll be lost for the day, if not the week, and she needs to keep her job.
“Okay,” she confirms, nodding her head for good measure.
It isn’t until she gets back behind the counter and is studiously ignoring Raven’s smug look at her suspicions being further confirmed that she realizes she has no idea where she’s actually going to take Clarke.
“Is it lame? It’s lame. Alright, I’m sorry, I tried. We can -”
Clarke covers Lexa’s mouth with the palm of her hand without looking away from the sight in front of her. “Stop talking. It’s perfect.”
Clarke stares up in wonder at the place Lexa has brought her to. It’s an art library and the sign on the door says they’ve been hosting an exhibition featuring local artists for the last couple weeks.
“You’re sure?” Lexa mumbles beneath Clarke’s hand.
Clarke turns to her finally and she slides her hand to cup Lexa’s cheek so she can place a kiss on her lips in answer. She uses her other hand to squeeze Lexa’s fingers gripped in her own before tugging her in the direction of the front door.
They remove their coats when they step inside, handing them over to a coat check with only a moment of hesitation on Clarke’s part. She rubs at her exposed forearms and the tattoos that are now on full display.
She was slowly getting better at that. The days where she’d walk around with them all showing, cocky and arrogant, are a distant, fuzzy memory that seem like they belong to someone else’s life.
Lexa must sense her mind turning and, without saying a word, takes her hand again. She gives Clarke a small smile, silently asking if she’s okay. Giving an almost imperceptible nod she makes a mental note to focus on keeping her tattoos unmoving for the evening.
The place is incredible and Clarke wonders how she’s never been there before, even being on the other side of town. Her head tilts back to take in the ceiling high shelves of books that stretch far back into the room. The rows stretch back and Clarke knows she could get lost for days in there. The place is far from full and the few other people Clarke sees seem to be there for the library aspect rather than the art one.
“Where should we start?” Lexa asks, soaking in the sight as well.
Clarke deliberates, tongue poking out from between her teeth and scanning the room before finally smiling and tugging Lexa over to one side.
They’ve been strolling slowly between the paintings on display for a while, still hand in hand. They pause in front of each one and each time Lexa spends more time watching Clarke’s reaction to it as she takes it in than she does actually looking at the paintings. Clarke, of course, notices.
“You’re supposed to look at the art, Lexa,” she points out, not looking away from the abstract piece in front of her when she feels the other girl staring intently at her.
She knows Lexa is grinning and cuts her off when she opens her mouth.
“And don’t you dare say “but I am” or something equally cheesy.”
She turns to find Lexa pouting, her seemingly brilliant line having been spoiled.
“You said you couldn’t read minds.”
Clarke just grins and makes a noncommittal sound.
Lexa, for her part, just narrows her eyes and turns to the painting before them. After a moment of consideration, however, the crease from between her eyes disappears and Clarke can tell that she’s actually focusing on what’s in front of her.
She wonders what Lexa takes in when she looks at it. If she sees the colours in the same way that Clarke does. If the smooth strokes of the brush bring about a calmness to her mind as well. Or perhaps it’s a different experience altogether for her, but still just as moving. The artist in Clarke wants to know what it makes her feel. Wants to know if it’s the same as what she does.
They continue on like that for a long time, stealing glances at one another when they think the other isn’t looking and Clarke breathes easy with Lexa’s hand in hers.
“So your friends,” Lexa starts, as she holds the door open for Clarke later. The cold air meets their faces with a bite and Clarke notices Lexa trying not to grimace.
“What about them?” Clarke asks, the wind pulling at some strands of her hair that she tucks back behind her ear.
“What do they do exactly? I mean, I know the one I met, Octavia, is still at academy, but what about the others? Do they own shops too?”
She links their hands and they continue down the sidewalk towards Lexa’s university.
“No, their lives are much more boring,” Clarke answers with a grin. “Bellamy works as a researcher for a branch of the academy. He mostly focuses on history. I think part of him taking that job though was just to be able keep an eye on his sister.”
“He didn’t go for advanced studies?” Lexa asks, breath puffing out into the air as she navigates around a patch of ice.
“Nah, he figured he could always go do it later if he wanted,” she answers.
The wind rushes through suddenly and she sees a shiver go through Lexa. Clarke remembers that, though she may not be able to feel it, the evening was currently flirting with the freezing point.
“Where’s your scarf?” she asks, eyes narrowing as Lexa tries to protect her exposed neck with her jacket.
Lexa hums and acts innocent. “Hanging in my room somewhere probably.”
Clarke rolls her eyes. “Give me your other hand.”
“Might be kinda hard to walk like this,” Lexa says, but still places her right hand next to her left in Clarke’s own.
“I’m going to warm you up, alright?” she asks, eyes checking Lexa’s face for any hesitation.
Instead all she can see is some cheesy line rising to Lexa’s lips and although she was secretly enjoying Lexa’s growing comfort in openly flirting with her, she still levels a look at her.
Lexa’s mouth closes and she nods, eyes moving to intently stare at Clarke’s hands as if she’s expecting a light show. Clarke’s lips twitch at the intensity of her focus and makes a mental note to explain at some point how not all magic is made of fanfare and fireworks. Most - especially hers - is far more subtle.
“I don’t feel anything,” Lexa frowns, brow furrowing.
“I haven’t done anything yet,” Clarke answers in a faux exasperated manner.
She quickly concentrates the pool of energy within her that she had come to identify as her magic and lets it flow from her center, down her arms, and into her fingertips where they’re gripping Lexa’s gloved hands.
“I still don’t feel any- HOly okay nevermind,” Lexa says, eyes widening comically when Clarke’s magic moves through her.
Clarke chuckles and releases one of Lexa’s hands but laces her fingers again with the other.
Lexa is holding her now-free hand in front of her face and staring incredulously. Clarke notices a new pink tinge to her cheeks but she’s not sure if it’s because of what she did or if it’s just Lexa’s propensity to blush.
“Wow. That was incredible,” she says, more than a touch of awe in her voice. Clarke can’t help but feel more than a bit smug.
“What can I say I have some pretty magic fingers,” she says, trying not to smirk and failing.
Now she’s sure Lexa is blushing.
Lexa clears her throat and changes the topic as they continue walking. “So if Bellamy is a researcher, what about the others?”
Clarke is still amused but answers her anyways. “Lincoln does security and protection for events. He’s never really considered staying on to do research or advanced studies. His academy had more of an applied rather than theoretical philosophy regarding magic.”
Lexa hums and seems to be processing the information and storing it away for later consideration.
“Did any of them study healing like you? Even in the non-advanced coursework?” she asks eventually. Her eyes are carefully helping her navigate the ice on the ground, otherwise she would have noticed the guarded expression that comes over Clarke’s face.
“No. It was just me,” she says simply.
“Can’t say I blame them. I probably wouldn’t want to compete academically with you in that one either. I mean, what does it usually take to get an advanced degree there, four years? And you’re just twenty-three. Must have been one hell of a fast track you were on.” There’s a sort of pride radiating from Lexa’s voice and Clarke hates how her stomach feels like a heavy weight is slowly dropping into it.
“Why all the interest in my friends suddenly?” she asks, steering the conversation away.
Lexa shrugs. “Just curious.” After a moment, however, she speaks again. “Can I meet them?”
“I don’t know, what if I just want to keep you to myself for a while?” Clarke says with a teasing grin.
“I’m serious,” Lexa says, a bit of a laugh leaking into her words. She looks up at Clarke again, eyes blinking behind the frames of her glasses.
“So am I,” Clarke responds. “Once I properly introduce you guys, you’ll see how much cooler my friends are than me and I can’t have that happening. I have an image to maintain here.”
Lexa is quiet for a moment and seems to be pondering on something that she’s having a hard time formulating into words. When Clarke tries to keep walking, the tug on her hand stops her.
“Are…” she starts and seems lost on how to end the sentence, but then her eyes are meeting Clarke’s and Clarke can tell that whatever she’s about to ask has been troubling her for a while by the wariness in them.
“Are you not supposed to be with me? Because I’m non-magic. Is that...is that a problem? Is that why you don’t want me to meet them?”
Clarke’s heart breaks at the look in Lexa’s eyes. Of course Lexa would think that it was her fault somehow.
“Oh, Lexa, no” she says softly and then she’s stepping closer, everything else all but forgotten. The people passing by on the sidewalk just a blur in her peripheral. “Look, I…” she starts, and for a moment is unsure how to continue. “For some people, yeah, it is a problem. It’s not something that happens very often and...”
She can tell that her words are making Lexa upset even as the other girl’s face tries to remain stoic.
“But honestly, you know what?”
The words do the trick of surprising the wariness from Lexa’s eyes.
“They’re all just a bunch of elitist assholes too stuck in the past and in love with their rules and customs. So yeah, fuck them.”
The words are loud enough to be gaining some attention from people walking past but Clarke doesn’t bother lowering her voice.
“My friends are usually open-minded to things like this. I’m mostly just worried because they can be a bit...much at times and I don’t want them scaring you away.”
“More to handle than you?” Lexa asks dubiously.
Clarke thinks about the time Octavia nearly burned down her apartment by using her magic to create an indoor bonfire with the only excuse being she wanted s’mores and says, “Yeah, you really have no idea.”
Lexa seems at least a little appeased by her statements but Clarke misses the smile that was there before.
“Bellamy’s birthday is in a few days and I’m helping Octavia throw a party. Would you like to come with me?” The words are more nervous coming out of her mouth than she expected.
“Yeah?” Lexa asks, her eyes searching Clarke’s for a sign that she doesn’t mean it or is just asking to appease her.
“Yeah,” Clarke says, rubbing her thumb over the back of Lexa’s hand. The smile returns to Lexa’s face and the evening returns to its previous ease.
‘It’ll be fine,’ she tells herself as they continue walking.
She really hopes that’s true.
Lexa is sitting behind the counter of Clarke’s shop, resting her feet up on its surface (a habit she’s sure she’s picked up from Clarke), and flipping absentmindedly through one of Clarke’s art books.
Clarke had stepped out of the shop for a bit to run some errands and Lexa assured her she could watch after things until she got back after promising not to sell anything to anyone. Though she was getting infinitely better at pinpointing magic when she saw it, she still wasn’t one hundred percent sure about the different items in the shop and she didn’t want to be responsible for selling something magically dangerous to someone completely unaware.
She hums to herself and focuses on the book in front of her. Occasionally the illustrations on the pages move so she spends more time just looking at those than actually reading.
She idly wonders if she’ll ever not be mesmerized by the magic. Wonders if there will ever be a point where it feels normal to her like it does for Clarke even if she’s completely without magic herself. Her thoughts, of course, quickly shift to Clarke herself and she finds herself smiling out of habit.
Things were going really good, great even, with Clarke, and she realizes that that thought both thrills and terrifies her. She had told Anya about it because she was sure that her roommate would have figured it out soon if she hadn’t. Anya had just furrowed her brow and said something about Lexa telling her things that were obvious.
The sound of the door opening has her looking up and hastily taking her feet down from the counter.
“Hi, is there something I can help you with?” she asks politely, her customer greeting training kicking in even though this isn’t her shop and she doesn’t even work there.
The guy that steps inside is about her age, maybe a few years older, but not much. He’s got dark brown hair that hangs in front of his eyes and he blows it back as he tucks his hands into his pockets and obviously looks around for something.
“Clarke here?” he asks, ignoring her question.
“She’s off running an errand, but maybe I can help you find something until she gets back,” she answers politely anyways.
“Nah, not here to shop. Just needed to talk to her for a moment. Guess I’ll just catch her another time,” he says and turns and leaves, just like that.
The abruptness of his exit makes Lexa sit for a moment and run the conversation over in her head again. She hadn’t been outwardly irritated or unfriendly, so she wasn’t quite sure what caused the brevity of his visit. With a shrug she picks the book back up and places her feet once more on the counter.
At some point Ember slinks out of some dark corner or another and joins her, sitting precariously on top of her legs and curling into a ball.
Clarke finds the two of them like that some time later, returning with her arms laden with bags of things that Lexa probably can’t name. Lexa picks Ember up off her legs and sets him aside to help her and he grumbles before finding somewhere else to sit.
She receives a thankful look when she takes a couple bags from Clarke’s arms and follows her into the back room.
“Successful shopping trip?” she jokes.
“Very,” Clarke grunts out, lifting the bags onto the counter and placing them down with a resounding ‘thud’.
She sets her own bags down and leans against the counter as Clarke unpacks them. A mix of what looks like plant cuttings and different jars of multicoloured liquid find homes on the shelves around them and Lexa just enjoys taking it all in.
“Someone came in looking for you while you were out,” she mentions, watching Clarke go back and forth from the bags to the shelves.
Clarke doesn’t slow her process and instead just raises an eyebrow in her direction and says, “Oh?”
“Yeah, he ran out of here before I could get a name though. Brown hair, kinda cocky attitude,” she describes.
“Sounds like it could have been Bellamy,” she says with a laugh. Lexa smiles at the sound even if she doesn’t know it’s reason yet. “He’s been trying to get Octavia to back off on the birthday plans after last year’s fiasco and probably thought he could convince her by convincing me.”
Lexa puts a name to the face she saw and is both pleased and disappointed that that was her first interactions with one of Clarke’s closest friends. Her first meeting with Octavia had been likewise short and she begins to wonder if she’ll ever actually get to have a full conversation with any of them.
“I’m excited to meet them all properly,” she says, meaning it.
Clarke smiles back at her when she places the last thing on the shelf, “I’m glad you’re excited. But remember that I did try to warn you.” There’s a bit of apprehension behind the teasing in her eyes and Lexa remembers how big of a deal this probably is for Clarke. She vows to not mess it up.
There’s still a large brown paper bag sitting next to Lexa on the counter that Clarke hasn’t touched yet, so Lexa peers into it curiously. It’s filled with herbs and jars of things like the rest but distinctly less colourful.
“What is all this for? Sleeping potion? Polyjuice potion? Love potion?” she asks with a grin, wiggling her eyebrows slightly with the last one.
Clarke had finally stopped moving around to put things away and places her hands on either side of Lexa where she leans against the counter, trapping her in.
“For you. Tonight. If you’d like.”
“You want to cook me dinner?”
“You say that like you’re surprised.”
Lexa hooks her fingers in the belt loops of Clarke’s jeans, enjoying the proximity. “Everything you do surprises me.”
“Is that a yes then?” Her tone is playful.
Lexa grins and tugs her closer, pressing a chaste kiss to her bottom lip. “Only if you let me help.”
“You can cook?”
“You say that like you’re surprised.”
“Alright then,” Clarke says with a grin, pushing away from the counter and grabbing the bag. “Guess you’ll just have to prove it.”
The sun dips behind the buildings that populate the skyline in the distance, the last remnants of the day’s light cutting through the gaps and filtering into the room. It’s soft and golden, laying itself gently across the floor next to soft shadows that grow longer with each moment.
Lexa watches as Clarke pads around in the kitchen, all bare feet and comfortable movements as she works. The crow on her arm is gently gliding in a circuitous route from knuckles to wrist to elbow and back again, its feathers seeming almost blue in the light.
Before Clarke can catch her not working and say something about not pulling her weight, she resumes the job of chopping the vegetables that had been placed in front of her.
Her mind works away as she chops. She had finished her exams at school, she doesn’t have class for a few weeks, and for the moment she has nowhere to be except in that kitchen. The thought makes her smile as she works.
“What are you thinking about?” Clarke asks as she wipes her hands on a towel and leans back against the counter to observe her.
“Nothing,” she says. “Just...I’m happy, right now. With you.”
When she glances up to take in Clarke’s expression she finds it soft and open.
“Me too,” she admits, the tips of her hair slowly shifting in colour as she tucks it behind her ear. And then, before either of them can let the words get more serious than either of those confessions, she says, “But I’ll be even happier when I’ve had some food. I thought you said you could cook?”
“Hey, I can cook. I’m working as fast as I can here. Not all of us can just wave our hands and let magic do the work for us.”
Clarke just laughs and before Lexa can do anything to stop her she makes a movement with her fingers and the carrot Lexa had diligently been working on cuts itself into perfectly even pieces.
“Hey! I was working on that.” Clarke only laughs harder at the look of indignation on Lexa’s face and her eyes crinkle as she clutches at her stomach. The sight has Lexa’s own lips twitching and she can’t hold her faux annoyed expression for longer than a few moments.
“You’re lucky I like you,” she says, indignantly pulling an uncut carrot towards her and continuing to work.
“Yeah? How lucky?” she hears as arms slide around her waist from behind and a chin comes to rest on her shoulder.
She puts down what she’s doing and turns in Clarke’s arms.
“Very,” she insists, arms likewise coming around to wrap around Clarke’s waist as if they belong nowhere else.
The sunlight is reverent as it slopes across Clarke’s shoulder, caresses her cheek, and dips into the bow of her lips. Her eyes reflect a deep blue, an ocean yielding to the sun on a setting horizon. It feels completely unbelievable that she can be in this moment while at the same time feels so real and there and present that it makes her breathless.
“Yeah, maybe you’re right,” Clarke tells her before smiling and lightly placing a kiss to the tip of her nose. Lexa’s eyes crinkle and her nose scrunches in mock protest which only makes Clarke laugh softly again, breaths puffing against her skin. Lexa likes the sound far too much.
From there Clarke’s lips find the corner of Lexa’s mouth before ghosting across to her cheek, nose skimming her skin lightly in the process. She stays perfectly still as she feels Clarke’s cheek brush against her own and her lips find the spot next to her ear. Slowly they continue, sliding downward, trailing the underside of her jaw to hover over the pulsepoint that begins to thrum rapidly in Lexa’s neck. Lexa audibly swallows, her fingers clenching slightly where they’d come to rest on Clarke’s hips.
All at once it’s not so playful and the look in Clarke’s eye as she pulls back to take in the girl in her arms has Lexa’s mouth feeling dry. Clarke’s hand come up to cup Lexa’s jaw and though it starts lightly, the kiss evolves into something that is anything but innocent. She’s lost to it quickly, leaning into the warm body pressed against her own.
“The food…” Lexa prompts, the words disappearing into Clarke’s mouth.
“Later,” Clarke breathes back.
Clarke somehow manages to pull her closer, bodies meeting at every point. There’s a hand tangled in her hair and another at the base of her spine and it’s still not close enough she thinks as Clarke’s teeth find her bottom lip.
She feels herself being led somewhere, though she doesn’t know or care where, can’t be bothered to think of such things with the way Clarke’s mouth slants against her own. Then all at once they’re stumbling slightly and it’s breathy gasps and impatient hands tugging at buttons and zippers and Lexa thinks her heart is beating straight out of her chest as it pounds in her ears.
Her glasses get discarded somewhere along the way and her shirt follows soon after, slipping over her head and falling to the floor next to Clarke’s. The rest of their clothing soon follows in a whirlwind of tugs and nimble fingers.
She’s pinned to a bed she doesn’t remember getting on and Lexa wonders as her body fits to Clarke’s whether it’s possible to be made wholly and completely for another person. It’s the thought that flitters through her mind as every inch of their skin meets that they’re still not close enough.
It’s soft skin and relieved sighs and Clarke’s teeth scraping against the pulse of her neck. It’s hands trailing in the wake of lips. Sparks and shivers and twitching muscles.
It’s gentle nips at her hip bones and fingertips that gently explore every expanse of her body laid bare. Both coaxing and soothing.
It’s too much and not enough all at once and before long Lexa is gasping as her hands clutch sheets that she knows won’t keep her grounded. The world is slipping off its axis and the only thing keeping her tethered is Clarke so Lexa clutches to her tightly. Lexa surrenders to it all wholeheartedly, her head tilted back, neck straining and exposed in offering.
When she can eventually pull air into her lungs again, her heart is thrumming in her throat and chest and everywhere beneath the skin where Clarke’s hands touch. She brushes Clarke’s hair back from her face when she looks at her, the dyed shades at the ends going wild as they continuously shift between colours and Lexa is mesmerized.
There’s something flashing in her eyes and Lexa would have called it dangerous if not for the fluttering in her chest. But then Clarke is grinning and Lexa thinks that maybe dangerous is the right word after all by the way heat pools quickly within her and she shivers.
And then she’s wrapping her legs around the other girl’s waist and rolling them, determined to make her feel as breathless, as consumed, as loved.
She feels fingers sliding down her arm and meeting her own almost tentatively before their palms slide together as their fingers grasp each other tightly.
The crow on Clarke’s arm flies in circles, carrying itself on hidden wind currents in a spiral up and down Clarke’s arm until it reaches their intertwined fingers. Neither of them notices. Neither pays attention when the bird crosses over where their skin touches and sweeps up the expanse of Lexa’s arm.
Before long there’s something resembling her name tumbling from Clarke’s lips above her and Lexa marvels at the way it sounds. Marvels at the way it makes her heart thud and grips her with something that fills her chest to the brim. She doesn’t have the words, couldn’t possibly formulate them in a way that could communicate what she’s feeling in that moment. She doesn’t have the words so she decides to show her instead.
The moonlight slants in through the window from a rare cloudless winter night and Lexa traces its illumination across the soft curves of Clarke’s back. She hums and Lexa can’t remember ever feeling so content. Clarke’s skin is soft and the ink beneath Lexa’s fingers shifts and moves with her ministrations.
“It’s beautiful,” she whispers, the pads of her fingers gently brushing over it.
“I got it done a few years ago,” Clarke murmurs back, her voice muffled by the pillow beneath her.
The tattoo is of the night sky. Specks of softly glowing stars are dusted across her upper back and wherever Lexa’s fingers touch thin lines branch out and connect together, revealing constellations that fade as her finger passes.
“I didn’t see it earlier…” Lexa murmurs as her fingers continue to explore the night sky.
“It only appears at night,” Clarke responds, and Lexa can hear the smile in her voice at Lexa’s fascination.
“And this one?”
Her finger trails down to the intricate pattern on her right forearm that slowly turns and revolves and Clarke rolls onto her back as Lexa’s fingers trace it.
“My first year of academy. It usually moves when I’ve got something on my mind.”
Lexa’s fingers slowly trail upwards and she can feel goosebumps rising in their wake. When they reach the expanse of skin beneath Clarke’s collarbone they stop and trace the petals of the sunflower.
Clarke swallows and closes her eyes.
“For my dad. He passed away a couple years ago.”
Lexa bends and brushes her lips over the mark, communicating her sadness for Clarke’s loss. Clarke opens her eyes, her fingers pushing Lexa’s hair softly back from her face as she looks up at her.
“When?” Lexa asks quietly, fingertips tracing the outstretched petals.
For a moment Clarke doesn’t answer and instead cups the back of Lexa’s head and brings their lips together.
“When I’m happy.”
Lexa smiles against her mouth and then they’re both smiling so in the end they’re really mostly just bumping their smiles against one another.
Clarke’s own hand trails from Lexa’s hair to her shoulder to her arm, fingers stopping at the bird that had taken up residence on Lexa’s bicep.
“I didn’t mean to do that,” she hums, but doesn’t sound guilty about it.
Lexa pulls away from her mouth to look down at her own arm with a grin.
“Well there was a lot going on at the time.”
Clarke chuckles in agreement and her fingers trace the ink slowly.
“I can take it back if you want,” she murmurs.
Lexa ponders on the idea for a moment before saying, “Maybe later. I kinda like having a piece of you with me.”
“You’re such a sap.”
Lexa just shrugs and accepts it.
Clarke’s fingers smooth over the delicate wing and it slowly beats under her touch.
Eventually the morning comes and brings with it the reminder that Lexa has a job to keep. Clarke groans at the early hour and just wraps her arms around the other girl tighter when she points this fact out, but eventually relents and releases her.
Only half awake, she watches as Lexa tugs her clothes on. The early morning light envelops her in a way that’s nearly ethereal and completely unfair given that Clarke can’t pull her back to bed.
“Enjoying the view?”
Clarke hums an affirmative.
Lexa grins and finishes tugging on her pants before leaning up to give Clarke a brief kiss that she immediately tries to deepen only to have Lexa pull back.
“Work,” she reminds her, but pecks Clarke’s lips again.
“Alright, fine, you win,” she says, rolling her eyes but smiling regardless and leans over to snag Lexa’s glasses from beside the bed.
Placing them on the bridge of Lexa’s nose for her, they smile at one another, enjoying each other’s space. Lexa’s hair is sticking up in a few places, a combination of bedhead and Clarke’s hands constantly running through it and she smooths it out the best she can for her.
Words that neither of them are ready to say are fluttering in Clarke’s chest and the contentment she feels in this moment threatens to overwhelm her if either of them lets it continue much longer.
“I’ll see you later,” Lexa promises.
Clarke knows what will come out of her mouth if she opens it so she just nods. With that, and a final brief kiss, Lexa leaves.
Clarke spends some time just laying in her bed thinking and overthinking everything twice for good measure. The pillow still smells like Lexa’s shampoo and she pulls it to her with a smile.
With a sigh she falls back asleep, holding onto the morning for as long as she can.
Her languid morning is eventually interrupted by a harsh knocking on her front door.
“Clarke, come open the door before I just let myself in.”
She sighs and releases her tight hold on the pillow and comforter. Reluctantly sliding out of bed she tugs on some clothes and goes to open the door before Octavia follows through on her threat.
“Finally, sheesh.” Octavia brushes past her and immediately goes in search of something to eat from Clarke’s kitchen.
“Nice to see you too, ‘O,” Clarke rolls her eyes but follows her friend.
By the time she catches up with her, Octavia already has half a muffin crammed into her mouth and the coffee machine is rumbling away. Clarke crosses getting coffee at Lexa’s shop that morning off her list and tries not to let her frown show.
Octavia jumps to sit on her counter and talks with her mouth full of chocolate muffin when she says, “We still need to talk about a few things for the party tomorrow.”
“What, Jasper hasn’t secured enough booze to have the entire five block radius hammered well into next week?” Clarke asks, helping herself to a cup of coffee even before the machine finishes making the pot. She has a feeling she’s going to need caffeine on her side this morning. Her mind is already spinning at the reminder of the party, having slipped her mind again until that moment. She dislikes the way the world seems intent on pressing back in on her so readily this morning, but she has no choice but to face it.
Octavia scoffs at Clarke’s words, “Please, that’s the last thing I’m worried about. No, I’m wondering about atmosphere, fireworks or no fireworks? We did them last year so I’m itching to do something different but they always turn out so well that I’m tempted to just go with tradition here. And do you think we need to add that extra expansion to the back room? It was a little crammed last year without it.”
“Lexa is coming to the party tomorrow.”
She drops the words with no preamble, no introduction, and nothing to soften what she knows will make Octavia stop. She hadn’t planned on dropping the words like that but she was afraid if she hadn’t let them out they never would have made themselves known. Without taking in her friend’s reaction, she turns and heads for the balcony, already needing some fresh air.
But Clarke is already outside, trying to prepare herself for the discourse that is likely about to be unleashed. She finishes her coffee in record time, ignoring the way it scalds her tongue, and sets it down. She leans her arms on the railing of the balcony and faces the sounds pouring towards her from the city below. She breathes deep and enjoys the feeling of fresh air on her face, letting herself feel a bit of its bite to help her wake up.
Octavia is right behind her and Clarke doesn’t have to turn and look at her to know that her expression is some mix of concerned and potentially angry.
“Clarke we need to talk about this."
“Why?” The word comes out more angry than she thought it would and her fingers clench around the railing.
“Because you’re my best friend and I’m worried about you. After what happened, people are going to think-”
“Who cares what people think!” she shouts, finally turning. The wind whips by with her voice, spurred on by her words.
“She’s not what? Magic? Because let me tell you, I am so sick of magic sometimes! There was a point where I hated it so much that I didn’t even want it anymore! But then she saw it and she looked at me like, like-” Clarke throws her hands up in the air and turns away. The wind drops to a soft breeze. “I don’t know.”
She rest her arms on the railing and looks out over the sweeping view of the city far below, defeated.
“It’s like it’s the most amazing thing she’s ever seen. And when she looks at me like that it reminds me of how I used to feel about it.”
Octavia is quiet for a long time and only the distant sounds of horns honking and sirens fill the buffering silence.
“Does she know?”
Clarke clenches her jaw and looks away.
“Clarke,” she warns.
“I don’t…” she starts and the emotion lodged in her throat doesn’t let the rest of the sentence flow out. “I can’t.”
And then she’s turning to her friend and she knows her eyes must look so wide and so lost.
“Because what if she doesn’t forgive me?”
Octavia doesn’t have an answer and the wind just runs between them.
“You really like her.”
It’s not a question, just an observed fact.
Clarke huffs out a sad laugh.
“Yeah. Yeah, I do.”
There is a deep thumping bass that shakes the walls and Lexa adjusts the glasses on the bridge of her nose and wonders for not the first time what the hell she’s doing there.
“Hey,” she feels a tug from the hand gripping hers and she looks at Clarke. “You okay?”
She smiles back and nods reassuringly.
Her free hand readjusts the shirt she’d borrowed from Anya for the party and she tries not to be self-conscious. She wasn’t sure if she was more jittery about the party itself or meeting Clarke’s friends. She had been ready, anxious even, to go, ushering Clarke out the door when the other girl had still seemed slightly reluctant and hesitant. Now there are whispers of doubt fluttering in the back of her mind despite the squaring of her shoulders and the deep breaths she takes.
Clarke doesn’t bother knocking (no one would hear it over the noise), and just pushes the door open and walks inside.
Lexa, following behind her, immediately has the distinct feeling like she’s stepped into a circus. The room stretches far and wide in much the same way that Clarke’s greenhouse does and Lexa knows it’s been extended to fit the mass amount of people that crowd inside.
There are flares, sparklers, and fireworks shooting off just below the tall ceiling in time with the music. Red, blue, and gold pyrotechnics, popping, sparking, and cascading overhead. They crackle and spark in waves before fizzling out just above the heads of people who barely give them a second glance.
There’s a bar to one side of the room with large jars of brightly coloured and occasionally glowing liquid that people pour from. Occasionally someone will mix two cups together and sparks or smoke will erupt over the top. This seems to be the sought result, however, because they just knock the drink back and Lexa watches it all with wide eyes.
“Are all your parties like this?” She has to shout a bit to be heard over the music.
“Not usually. The Blakes are just pretty well off and Octavia has a good time putting that money to use a couple times a year.”
As if by magic (which could very well be the case, Lexa supposes) the girl in question pushes through the throng of people to stand before them.
Clarke greets her with a wide smile. “Hey, ‘O. Sorry we’re late.”
“Yeah jeez, was about to send out a search party,” she responds. “Thought maybe you were ditching out on us.”
“Nah, I could never miss a Blake party,” Clarke tells her, running a hand through her hair with a grin and looking around.
Octavia takes in their interlocked hands before her eyes come up to Lexa’s. Lexa swallows, knowing she’s being scrutinised. There’s an unreadable expression in the other girl’s eyes and Lexa tries not to fidget under her stare.
“I know we’ve technically already met but,” Octavia says eventually, holding her free hand out for Lexa to shake, a peace offering of sorts. Lexa doesn’t hesitate to place her hand in the other girl’s and Clarke just watches the exchange.
“Lexa,” she says, putting as much confidence into her voice as she can.
“Octavia,” she returns, her tone not giving much away. Her eyes cast up to the pyrotechnics and obvious display of magic about them before returning to Lexa, in all likelihood taking in how she’s reacting to it all.
“Hey, ‘O. Where’s your brother?” Clarke asks, interrupting. “I have to remind him how old he’s getting.”
Octavia rolls her eyes, “God, who knows. Probably talking research with his colleagues.” The last part is said with a shrug of fondness that betrays a close relationship between the two.
Octavia isn’t distracted for long, however, and after taking a long sip from the drink in her hand, her eyes return to Lexa. Lexa, more prepared for the intense stare this time, holds her gaze steadily.
“So you’re human,” Octavia comments flatly over the rim of her cup.
“Octavia!” Clarke admonishes, shooting her friend a glare.
“What?” Octavia answers with a non-apologetic shrug. “It’s not like we weren’t all thinking about it.”
“Yep. Just human,” Lexa responds, trying to seem similarly unapologetic.
“You gonna go telling all your friends about what you saw at this party?” Octavia continues, unphased.
“‘O, stop it!” Clarke tries to interfere again.
But Lexa just looks around, eyes following a firework that explodes to reveal sparks that say ‘Happy Birthday, Bellamy!’ in a truly spectacular manner.
“Eh, I’ve been to better,” she answers with a shrug. “Not much to talk about really.”
She has the satisfaction of seeing Octavia’s mouth fall open in indignation before she realizes that Lexa is joking. She’s distinctly aware of Clarke grinning beside her. There’s a moment where Octavia doesn’t say anything and Lexa just holds her stare. Her stomach turns at the thought that she may have gambled wrong and that Octavia is about to do something that not even Clarke’s healing powers can save her from. The moment breaks, however, when Octavia’s face cracks with a smile. She turns to Clarke.
“I like her.”
And then just like that she turns to leave. She only gets a few steps away before she turns around with a slight glare.
“And I’ll have you know that this is a fucking amazing party and you should be dying to tell all your friends about it!” she yells, pointing to Lexa who grins back. “Have fun!” And then she’s gone.
“So that was Octavia,” Clarke says, puffing out a breath that tells Lexa that she shouldn’t expect any other kind of behaviour from Clarke’s friend. “Come on, I could use a drink.”
It doesn’t take long for Clarke to lead her through the mass amounts of people and Lexa is too absorbed with taking in everything she sees to notice the occasional look that gets thrown her way when people see her.
“Here,” Clarke says, pressing something green and glowing into Lexa’s hands. “Wait, actually,” she snags the cup away before Lexa can even consider taking a sip and replaces it with another. Lexa peers inside it curiously. It’s a silverish blue shade that swirls slowly, the colours mixing and twisting in on themselves.
“It’s good. Trust me,” Clarke tells her, taking a drink from the cup she pours for herself.
Lexa does as she says and takes a tentative sip. Upon finding it to be better than expected she tips it back farther.
“Just, be careful with some of them,” Clarke warns, eyeing a bottle that Lexa is certain has actual flames running around in the liquid. Lexa doesn’t think she’s curious enough to try that one.
They stay there for a while, leaning back against the wall and sipping from their drinks. It’s then that Lexa notices a few looks and murmurs being cast their way from those milling about nearby.
She feels her face begin to heat up when she realizes what it’s about. If she had suspicions before about those with magic being able to tell whether or not she she has any with just a look, this all but confirms it. She tucks stray hairs behind her ear and tries not to fidget.
Clarke, of course, immediately picks up on her discomfort and puts an arm around her shoulder, pulling her closer.
“Ignore them,” she says, lips close to Lexa’s ear so that she can hear her over the music.
She tries, but if anything the action just attracts more glances and she’s sure she hasn’t felt this self-conscious since high school.
It’s the presence of another person that breaks the tension.
“Clarke! You’re late!”
The shout comes from a tall and very well-built guy that Lexa would probably be extremely intimidated by if it wasn’t for the large and friendly smile on his face.
“Excuse me, I’m fashionably late,” Clarke responds, smile large to match his.
“And who’s this?” he asks, turning to Lexa, smile still in place.
“Lexa, this is Lincoln, Octavia’s boyfriend. Lincoln, this is Lexa, my girlfriend.”
Lexa is so thrown by Clarke’s usage of the word ‘girlfriend’ that she almost completely misses the handshake that’s offered in her direction. With butterflies going rampant in her stomach she accepts it.
For a moment a curious expression comes over his face as he considers her. She’s beginning to feel like the words ‘no magic here’ are printed on her forehead and she realizes that there will probably be many situations like this before the night is through. After a moment, however, he just smiles and says, “Pleasure to meet you.”
Lexa returns the sentiment and is infinitely glad that not all of Clarke’s friends seem to be in the mood for interrogating her.
Clarke and Lincoln exchange small talk about the party and work and other things, names of people Lexa doesn’t know occasionally popping up. All the while Clarke keeps an arm around her shoulders and Lexa forgets about the whispers aimed in their direction.
The sound of bickering reaches them abruptly and they all turn to see Octavia headed in their direction conversing loudly with the man that follows close behind.
“Shouldn’t I be able to just talk to whomever I want? It’s my party the last time I checked,” he says, reaching the drink table and pouring something for himself.
Octavia rolls her eyes, “You can be a stick in the mud every other day. It’s your birthday, the last thing you should be talking about is work.”
Lexa just sips from her drink and watches the exchange back and forth with curious eyes. It doesn’t take much to put two and two together and realize that he must be Clarke’s other friend Bellamy. The back of her mind dissociates the face she had in mind previously with that name, as this is an altogether different person from the guy that had come into Clarke’s shop.
Octavia pulls Clarke away for a moment, mostly likely to tell her to talk some sense into her brother and Clarke’s arm slips off of Lexa’s shoulders before she can introduce them. Lexa just sips from her drink and watches as Bellamy shakes his head at his sister’s antics, finishes his own drink quickly, and pours another from the one from a bottle that shimmers brightly. He takes a long pull from his cup and turns to see Lexa watching him.
He looks at her for a moment and then his eyes widen a fraction before he can hide it. What remains is predominantly curiosity. “Hi!” he shouts. “Have we met yet?”
Lexa holds her free hand out to him and shakes her head. “Not yet. Lexa,” she introduces herself. “I’m um, Clarke’s girlfriend,” she says, trying the word out for herself and liking altogether too much how it sounds.
He smiles as if he had already guessed and says, “Bellamy.”
“Happy birthday,” she tacks on as an afterthought.
He dips his head in thanks. He must know that his sister has already done some questioning with her in much the same way Lincoln had known, so he leaves her be and turns back to the group as a whole.
“Octavia, stop talking for five fucking seconds so I can wish your brother a happy birthday,” she hears Clarke say and Lexa chuckles into her drink.
It continues like that for a while, Clarke teasing and getting teased by her friends, and Lexa is content to just enjoy their dynamic.
Occasionally they’ll turn and ask her about her school, her work, what she’s studying, where she’s from. They all listen attentively and Octavia only asks a few more abrupt questions that have Clarke leveling a look at her friend. Lexa quickly finds herself relaxing and enjoying herself, though she’s sure the drink in her hand isn’t hurting either. She likes Clarke’s friends and she’s glad she seems to be doing a good job of getting into their good graces despite her magical deficiencies.
At some point, after Bellamy is dragged away to do shots of who knows what and Octavia and Lincoln disappear off somewhere together, Clarke tugs her around the room and introduces her to other people.
She takes in all their names as best she can as she’s led this way and that. Among others there’s Harper, Murphy, Monty, and a peculiar guy with goggles on his head named Jasper that replaces the drink in her hand with a friendly and exuberant smile.
“Definitely be careful with that one,” Clarke warns. The liquid is a dark blue and if she looks closely there’s something resembling shooting stars spinning throughout.
Whether it’s the liquid courage already running through her system or the desire to appear that she can handle magic things just as well as the next person, she just shrugs impassively and takes a long drink from the cup.
She immediately begins coughing when the strength of whatever is inside burns down her throat.
“Warned you,” Clarke says, taking a smaller sip than Lexa had, her lips twitching.
Lexa is feeling the effects of her second (third?) drink well and she’s sure her cheeks are flushed. Her gaze is trailing over the occupants of the room, just taking in the general atmosphere with a pleasant buzz flowing through her. She’s immediately glad she took the next morning off from work.
She’s by herself for the first time that evening, Clarke having stepped away for a moment when Lincoln had asked for her help finding Octavia. Apparently her friend occasionally had a bit too much fun at parties and Lincoln wanted to make sure she didn’t completely go off the deep end this time.
Clarke had hesitated but Lexa had just kissed her cheek (an action prompted by the alcohol she’s sure), and told her to go help her friend, adamantly claiming that she could look after herself for a few minutes.
Clarke had looked at her one more time to make sure, but Lexa had just waved her off insistently. “Okay, but I’ll be right back.”
Her eyes continue to skim the crowd and she’s humming along to the music when she does a double take, shocked to find a face she recognizes.
He seems to recognize her as well and pauses as he brushes past.
It’s the guy that had stepped into Clarke’s shop the other day. The one whose name she never got.
“Hey,” he says, looking at her with a smile she’s sure others found charming, gesturing at her with the drink in his hand. “You’re Clarke’s assistant, right?”
She flushes, not knowing what she had expected him to say but it certainly hadn’t been that.
“Er, not exactly.”
“Oh, sorry, is the word “assistant” not the appropriate terminology to use nowadays?” he continues, smiling and failing to take in her uncomfortable state.
“No. I’m not- I don’t work at the shop. Clarke and I are - Clarke and I are together actually,” she says, hating how her tongue feels thick in her mouth and she can’t seem to form the words the way she wants.
There’s a beat where he just stares at her and then his laughter rings out loud and sharp. He’s clutching his stomach like Lexa is a standup comedian that just delivered a punchline to bring down the house.
Lexa fidgets and her eyes cast about. She feels embarrassed and doesn’t know why.
“Holy hell. No way. There’s no way Clarke would lower herself to that level. Not the Clarke I know.”
There’s flare in her eyes now and she knows she should just walk away.
“Well I’m sorry, you must not know her very well at all then,” her words spring forth, laced with the anger that hides her immediate embarrassment and unease.
“I think dating someone for three years lets you get to know them fairly well,” he says, chuckling into his drink.
She doesn’t realize her expression is one of shock, mouth hanging open slightly, until he says, “She didn’t tell you about me?”
Lexa snaps her mouth closed and looks away, it’s answer enough.
“It’s alright, she’s a closed book that one. Always has been.”
“Who are you exactly?” she asks, definitely angry and disliking the disadvantages she has in this conversation.
“Finn. Finn Collins,” he answers, smug as if the last name should mean something to her. He doesn’t ask her name, as if she’s just a temporary presence so why bother. He takes another sip from his drink.
Lexa knows she should definitely leave now. She should walk away. Find Clarke. But her feet feel stuck and he takes the opportunity to lean against the wall next to her and survey the room with her.
“I still can’t believe she runs a shop. What a waste,” he says, shaking his head. She gets the feeling that this is something he’s said a few times before. She wonders if he’s ever said it to Clarke. “But I guess we’re not all cut out for academy sanctioned jobs,” he continues.
Her tongue still feels too big for her mouth but she’s fuming enough now to say something anyways.
“Well she graduated academy early, so I doubt the deficiency is on her end,” she defends and there’s a smile of pride rising to her lips as she looks away.
“Graduated early ?” he pauses to make sure that he heard her right. Her smile remains while he takes a moment to search her face.
When he begins to roar with laughter for the second time the smug expression on her face slips.
He shakes his head with a smile. “Classic Clarke, keeping the non-magics clueless and confused.” At Lexa’s silence he continues, clearly enjoying himself immensely.
“Clarke didn’t graduate early. She didn’t graduate at all. She was kicked out.”
“Excuse me?” Lexa stares in disbelief and confusion. She wants him to be lying. Wants to believe that he’s just drunk and mistaken and that Clarke will appear any moment and correct him. Something about the way he says it, however, and in the particular way he’s getting satisfaction from her reaction, tells her he isn’t lying.
She should leave. She should walk away.
Those two words escape her lips and she already knows she doesn’t want them answered.
He grins like he’s been waiting for the question all night. Like he’s getting personal enjoyment out of the fact that he’s the one that gets to deliver the answer.
She’s already shaking her head before the words hit the air.
“They caught her manipulating humans with her magic.”
As always, come find me @ blindwire on tumblr.
Chapter 6: Part VI
Well, final chapter here we are. It's been a lot of fun and all of your kudos/comments/feedback have been great and I really appreciate the support. Hope you guys enjoyed the ride!
P.S. shout-out to @itmustbebunnies on tumblr for encouraging this whole thing and reading each chapter through. This thing probably would have never been a thing without her.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Finn Collins looks the same as the day Clarke last saw him.
The same tousled brown hair. The same expensive clothing. The same posture. Right down to the smile, he looks no different.
She doesn’t even realize she’s stopped walking. The people around her jostle and brush her shoulders as they pass by and she’s numb to it all. She just stares at the ghost of her past as he leans against the wall and talks to the last person on earth Clarke wants anywhere near him. He stands there, a very real and tangible nightmare that’s gripped and pulled itself out of her past and all Clarke can think is that this can't be happening.
It was just a few seconds ago she had been laughing. A bubbly feeling inside her from an intoxicating combination of alcohol, the party, and predominantly the girl she’d been anxiously making her way back to. And now she just stands there, continuously jostled by careless drinkers that hold onto cups with liquid sloshing over the sides due to loose fingers.
For a moment it’s like she’s right back there. Gravel pushing sharply into her knees, vision swimming. The panic, the helplessness, all of it. She shakes herself out of it quickly and pulls a shaky breath in. The pounding music reaches her ears again, loud and relentless.
Finn hasn’t seen her standing there yet in her stalled state.
But Lexa has.
It’s a sea of moving bodies between but they stand like rocks in the current. Lexa's must have felt or sensed her there because she meets Clarke’s eyes easily despite the crowd. Clarke knows her own eyes must be wide and probably not a small amount afraid. And Lexa just looks at her. Really looks at her for probably the first time since they met.
Clarke immediately knows that he’s told her. She knows even before Lexa turns away and pushes through the crowd in obvious search of an exit.
“No, no, no, no,” Clarke hears herself saying as her feet finally start moving again. She pushes her way across the space between, panic and fear making her move faster.
Lexa is gone when she finally breaks through the fray, but Finn is standing with a pleased smirk that brightens when she appears before him. Anger floors through her unbridled and hot. It wasn’t supposed to happen like this. She wasn’t supposed to find out like this.
“Hey, princess. How’s it going? Been a while,” he says. He smiles and his teeth gleam in the strobing lights and firework flares.
“What the hell did you say to her?!” she yells, muscles rigid and tense. He ignores her and brings his cup to his lips.
She hits the drink from his hand, its contents flying across the floor followed by indignant shouts from those nearby. She’s angry and there are sparks jumping and crackling across her knuckles as she takes a grip on his shirt and shoves him back against the wall. She should know better, but can’t find it in herself to care right now.
“What did you tell her?” she asks again, daring him not to answer this time. He seems unphased, both by her anger and the electricity sparking and charring holes into his shirt. Like the reaction is what he wants.
“What you didn’t, apparently” he tells her, smiling at the destruction he’s laid out.
And then she’s already gone, shoving him away and following after where Lexa disappeared.
Lexa’s head is a mess.
Caught manipulating humans. Clarke was caught manipulating humans. Those words echo over and over and over, refusing to be unheard.
Thoughts swirl and twist, too large for coherence in a space that’s already failing to comprehend so many things. She puts a hand to her forehead as she stumbles out into the night.
She wishes she hadn’t taken that last drink. She wishes she were home. She wishes she were anywhere where something is normal and ordinary for five seconds. Somewhere where she knows what’s real.
It plays on fast forward in her head. Each moment, touch, word spoken, all of it blurring and swirling. Her mind scrambles and fumbles with them all, trying to find reality between the seams. Trying to find where she she might have missed something, where something doesn’t align.
There’s nothing. Nothing to differentiate between any of the moments. They all feel just as overwhelming, just as real , and the realization makes her nauseous.
The cold bites at her skin and ice cracks beneath her feet and she keeps moving. Part of her is begging her feet to turn around, talk to Clarke, but a much larger part, the part that keeps her feet moving forward and is driven by her fears and confusions, overwhelms it.
Along with the confusion she feels angry and embarrassed and humiliated, but most of all she just feels so so stupid. She walks faster. She just needs to leave, needs space, needs something. Even the open night isn’t enough space to help alleviate the crowding in her mind that the alcohol is doing nothing to help alleviate. Lexa is good at thinking, good at analyzing, and rationalizing, but it’s too much so she does the only thing she can think of: run.
She hears her name from far away and the way it’s shouted tells her that she missed it the first few times. There are running footsteps behind her somewhere but she doesn’t turn around.
She feels so stupid for never having considered it before. Considered that what had felt like a dream could be exactly that. It doesn’t make any sense in the first place. Was she just gullible? Easily tricked? Too trusting? Why her? How much of it was fake? Her vision is blurring slightly and she doesn’t have the presence of mind to know whether it’s the alcohol or unshed tears.
“Lexa!” the shout comes closer now.
She doesn’t know what she’s thinking or feeling or what she believes and she curses everything that’s making it hard to latch onto a single coherent thought.
“Lexa wait. Please , just -- just wait,” her voice is right behind her now, pleading and slightly breathless.
Lexa spins on her suddenly, causing Clarke to stop short, surprising both of them. Clarke reaches out to her. Lexa steps back.
“Is it true?” She cuts straight to it.
Clarke’s mouth opens and nothing comes out. She seems lost. Looking to either side as if the answer is hidden somewhere. Hands slightly splayed out beside her, as if in supplication. But then she looks at Lexa for a moment and whatever she sees makes her swallow hard and nod.
“Yeah.” The words are quiet, defeated. ”It’s true.”
“So what, here I thought maybe you were just ashamed of me for not having magic and now I find out that I’m--I’m probably just some sort of source of amusement to you? Is that it? Is that what I am?”
“No! Lexa, listen to me please -- ”
“How am I supposed to believe anything you say? For all I know you’ve had me under some sort of-- of spell this whole time!”
People say stupid things when they’re angry and confused.
Lexa doesn’t think she’s ever seen someone so quickly and thoroughly gutted. Clarke’s mouth opens and closes but no words escape as she stares at Lexa. For a while the only noise is the distant muffled bass of the party and voices shouting into the night.
“Is that...is that really what you think?” The words are whispered, vulnerable, horrified, afraid. Afraid of what it means.
Lexa doesn’t answer, fingers gripping her shirt from where they’re crossed over her chest protectively. The wind blows sharp and relentless, biting into her skin.
Her silence is the final blow that does it. The one that breaks it.
Clarke seems to gather a resolve of some sort and nods, seemingly to herself. A small self-deprecating smile on her face as she looks upward, eyes shining. It’s like she saw this moment coming, every gesture, every word of it. Like it had been laid out in cards snapped down one by one by one long before. She has no reason to feel blindsided.
“I just,” Lexa starts, clearing her throat around everything that’s caught there. “I think...I just need to think.”
Clarke nods but Lexa can already tell that the damage is done. Clarke doesn’t try to say anything else to convince her.
She stays another moment. Just long enough to gather enough resolve to be able to take a step back, and then another, until she’s turning around and trying to forget the look in Clarke’s eyes.
When Lexa gets home she unlocks the door in a haze. She’s not even quite sure how she got there. She doesn’t remember any of the walk even though it must have been long. Anya looks up at the sound of the door closing.
“Did you have a good time at your rich kid par--,” The humorous smirk drops from Anya’s face when she catches sight of Lexa. “Hey, you alright there, kid?”
Lexa drops her stuff onto the floor and then herself into her chair. For a moment she just stares at nothing. And then her eyes catch on the small potted plant sitting on her desk. The plant she had bought because of Clarke. The plant that puts a smile on her face every morning when she sees it.
She stares at it, takes a deep breath, and then promptly begins crying.
She hears the sound of Anya’s chair scraping back from her desk. Anya doesn’t seem to know what to do so she settles for a firm hand on Lexa’s shoulder. Lexa pushes her glasses up so she can wipe at her eyes before giving up and tossing them on her desk.
“Hey hey,” Anya starts, crouching in front of her, worry pinching her brow. Her eyes search Lexa’s. “What happened?”
Lexa looks at her roommate and friend and sees the concern in her eyes. She opens her mouth to tell her. To tell her all of it. About the magic. About Clarke. About how stupid Lexa was to be so trusting with something that was so beyond her. Trusting of something that was so dangerous. How she can’t tell what’s real right now. How the thought that everything with Clarke might not be real is more crushing than the idea that she might have been taken advantage of.
Anya is still crouched in front of her. Her concern appearing without a single snide or sarcastic comment an indicator of how bad of a state Lexa must look. She’s sure she looks like a half-frozen and drunk mess.
She should tell her. It would be nice to not be carrying the secret alone anymore. She considers it for an extra moment.
She can’t do it. She closes her mouth and shakes her head. Anya releases a breath but doesn’t push.
“Alright, come on, let’s get you to bed. You’re going to have one hell of a hangover tomorrow if I’m any judge.”
Anya is an excellent judge, it turns out. In the morning Lexa rubs at her eyes and tries to pretend that it doesn’t feel like someone took a sledgehammer to her frontal cortex. Sleep had been slim to nonexistent, the deep purple bruises beneath her eyes a testament to the tossing and turning. Her mouth feels like sandpaper and she clenches her eyes shut trying to block out the world.
She doesn’t have a shift this morning but she’s still out of her apartment early, tugging her coat on before she realizes she has no idea where to go. She settles for anywhere as she closes the door behind her. She can’t sit in her room and see Anya giving her sympathetic looks every five minutes.
She ends up just wandering. Putting one foot in front of the other until she’s lost in part of the city she doesn’t recognize and has to work out how to get home. She should be thinking about it, analysing it, questioning it all to death. Anytime she lets a fleeting thought settle, however, the feelings that rise up to meet it make her stop.
By the end of the day there are no missed calls or messages on her phone and she tells herself that it’s good. After all, she had been the one to walk away.
The next morning when she has her shift it’s almost a blessing. Mechanically she ties on her apron and goes through the mindless movements of the job. Filling the espresso filter, starting the machine, pouring out the shot, handing it over to the customer, repeat, repeat, repeat, ad infinitum. She doesn’t let her mind fill with anything other than the direct action in front of her. Just lets her hands move and plasters on her customer service smile and carries on. She’s apprehensive the whole morning and watches the door every time the chime rings.
“Okay, I know we’re not exactly close, but you look like shit,” comes Raven’s voice when the morning rush has dwindled. Lexa thinks that’s probably as close to being concerned and comforting as Raven gets.
“I’m fine,” Lexa grits out. She returns the filter to the espresso machine with slightly more force than necessary and it clangs in protest at the rough treatment. The second sleepless night in a row is starting to make her feel frayed and pulled apart.
Raven gives her a look that tells her that she looks anything but fine. Whatever she sees on Lexa’s face, however, must tell her to drop it. With an eye roll that she doesn’t know Lexa catches, she turns to tinker with one of the machines on the back counter that had been acting up lately.
Lexa takes a deep breath, squares her shoulders and, with a smile she doesn’t feel, greets the next customer that approaches the counter.
“He wasn’t supposed to be there.”
Clarke doesn’t say anything. She feels numb.
It wasn’t Octavia’s fault. It wasn’t even Finn’s fault, not really.
It was hers. It was always hers.
“He wasn’t supposed to be there,” she says again, almost to herself.
Octavia doesn’t seem to know what to do with her in this state.
“She hasn’t called?”
Clarke just shakes her head no.
She turns to her friend. “Would you?”
Octavia doesn’t answer.
Lexa doesn’t have any classes to distract her so she takes to spending her time off from work in the library, trying and succeeding in drowning herself in textbooks and notes for next semester. She stays there late into the night sometimes, long after other students have left, burning herself out and startling awake with her cheek pressed against the pages laid out before her.
She’s not sure if she’s seeking normalcy or reality or distance or something else entirely. She just knows that none of it’s doing anything to help her. She feels just as confused and lost as before.
Sometimes it’s Anya that comes and finds her tucked away among the books, shakes her awake, worried but knowing better than to try and offer any advice. The first time she had tried Lexa hadn’t even let her get a word out.
Lexa knows she must look like a mess on the days when Anya comes to find her, so she just accepts the helping hand in packing up her books.
In the mornings her alarm clock is relentless and she drags herself to work. She works her shift and pretends her eyes don’t linger on the empty burgundy armchair in the back.
Finn’s arm is tucked in hers. She’s laughing. It’s hollow sounding and she almost doesn’t recognize it as her own. The memories comes through in flashes.
Her magic flowing from her palm into his, willing and trusting.
His laughter, sharp and grating as he says, “Watch this.”
Gravel crunching beneath her feet as she runs.
A rough hand grabbing and pulling her to her feet as her hands continue to shake.
Clarke sits up from her couch with a gasp. She doesn’t even remember falling asleep. Didn’t know she could anymore. She can’t tell how long she’s been out or even what time it is, probably early afternoon if she had a guess by the shade of the light.
There’s a missed call on her phone and she tries not to let her expression crumble when she sees it’s from Bellamy.
The day continues to pass like the others, slow and relentless. At some point she finds herself stepping through the glass greenhouse doors at the end of the room. Her fingers trail over wilted leaves as she walks through.
Octavia just crosses her arms and doesn’t say anything. Clarke can tell by the slight pinching of her lips that she doesn’t believe her. She tries harder to be more convincing.
“I’m fine, ” she puts more feeling into the words, placing her hands on the counter, fingers spread wide to avoid clenching them.
She turns away after a moment and resumes placing things on the shelves behind her. She hasn’t been in the shop in days and the work has built up while she hid away.
“Have you considered just going and talking to her?”
“She doesn’t want to talk to me.”
“Well how do you know that? Have you tried calling her? Maybe you should-”
“She doesn’t want to talk to me, ‘O! Just...stop,” she insists.
Octavia doesn’t. “So she just walked off? Even after you explained?”
Octavia notices the way Clarke avoids her eyes.
“Clarke, you did explain right?”
At Clarke’s silence Octavia looks gobsmacked.
“Clarke! For fucks sake! Why?!”
“Because she didn’t want to hear it!” Clarke says, spinning on Octavia again. “And it doesn’t matter anyways!”
“You’re not the same person.”
Clarke isn’t convinced.
“Just tell me what you did say to one another.”
“Oh, shit .”
Raven turns to her quickly. She’s probably never heard Lexa swear before. She finds Lexa starting with wide eyes at the girl that’s currently storming towards their counter. Raven takes a step back at the sight but Lexa is rooted to the spot.
“Bro, what did you do ?”
“I didn’t do anything.” She’s fairly certain Octavia is about to educate her on precisely why that is exactly untrue.
“Are you sure? Holy shit. She looks like she’s about to mess you up. Should I have the paramedics on standby?” She probably intended it as a joke but the look on Octavia’s face as she comes towards the counter tells her that that might actually be a valid idea.
“You and I are going to talk,” Octavia says, pointing her finger and loud enough to draw the attention of the few customers that had previously been trying to enjoy their coffee and pastries.
“Well, I’m just gonna go clean those tables over there,” Raven says, gesturing with her thumb towards the perfectly clean tables over her shoulder. If she wasn’t still so surprised by Octavia’s presence it probably would have drawn Lexa’s attention. Raven never cleaned voluntarily.
Octavia doesn’t look away from Lexa, just stands and waits with a glare. Lexa rubs at her forehead and turns to Raven who’s looking between her and Octavia with burning curiosity as she pretends to clean the tables, fooling no one. “Can you watch the counter for a bit?” Raven nods and Lexa knows she’s going to be on the receiving end of a lot of questions later to pay her back for the favour. She doesn’t bother untying her apron, just waves for Octavia to follow her.
She doesn’t even get a chance to get a word out once the door to the side alley clangs shut behind them before Octavia starts talking.
“What did you say to her that night of the party?”
“She hasn’t told you?”
“She has, but I didn’t want to believe her.”
Lexa leans against the solid brick of the building at her back, arms crossed and fingers tucked into the straps of her apron. Octavia takes a long look at her. She’s angry and Lexa thinks she should probably be more afraid. At Lexa’s silence she surprises her by rolling her eyes and tossing her arms up into air.
“Christ, you’re both idiots.”
“She lied to me,” Lexa says indignantly.
“No, she just didn’t tell you everything.”
“That’s the same as lying!”
Octavia goes in a different direction. “What I can’t get, out of this whole damn thing, is that you- the person that Clarke says never ever stops with the questions - just walked away!” Her hands are waving with each word, underlining her disbelief.
“There was nothing to talk about,” Lexa grits out, disliking the feeling of shame creeping up the back of her neck.
“I think you just ran away because you were afraid that she might tell you it isn’t real. That she’s tricked you somehow. Because not asking is a hell of a lot easier than dealing with answers you don’t actually want. And Clarke, being the stupid, selfless person that she is, let you walk away probably thinking that you’re better off without her or some bullshit like that!” Octavia is hardly even talking to Lexa anymore, just venting her frustration. Lexa fidgets slightly, there’s truth in her words that she doesn’t want to acknowledge.
Octavia makes a sound of exasperation and shakes her head. “Fucking Finn Collins. Asshole gets off on ruining people’s lives.” Lexa gets the feeling that she’s said those words many times over the years. A few people pass by the mouth of the alley, paying no attention to the two girls talking about magic and other impossible things just a few feet away.
“What did she do?” The words are out before she realizes what she’s said.
Octavia turns on her, seeming to finally remember she’s there. “Oh no, you are not asking me that.” The anger is back in her eyes and Lexa would step back if she weren’t already against a wall. “If you want to know you’re going to have to ask Clarke.” Octavia leans back against the wall opposite and appraises her, arms crossed over her chest.
For a while they stand there and suddenly Lexa just feels tired. All of it seeming to finally catch up with her at once. She sucks in a deep breath and releases it, watching as it spirals into the cold air. She breaks the silence first and the words are hesitant. “How do I know?”
Octavia raises an eyebrow, puzzled by the question. “Know what?”
“Whether it’s real.” Understanding dawns in the other girl’s eyes.
“You don’t.” Octavia’s quick, matter-of-fact answer makes Lexa’s stomach twist. “But I can tell you, as someone that’s known Clarke through the shitfest of the last few years, including through Finn, she is the last person that would ever hurt you. And I think you know that.”
Lexa crosses her arms tighter and shakes her head. “But that could all be part of it! How do I know that any of it is real? If anything I’ve felt since meeting her has been my own and not something else?”
“If you truly believed you had been manipulated by magic and that we’re all playing some giant joke on you, you would have made a break for it the second you saw me ten minutes ago,” Octavia tells her, eyebrow raised as if daring her to deny it.
And it’s true. Lexa hadn’t once felt afraid or concerned about Octavia’s presence. She had just led her outside without a second thought. She groans and leans her head back against the brick. She hasn’t learned a damn thing. She pushes out a deep breath, knows Octavia is watching her.
“She should have told me.” And there’s still some residual anger in her words.
“Yeah, yeah she should have. And that was a stupid move on her part. But can you blame her?”
“What do you want from me, Octavia?” Lexa asks, running a hand over her face, suddenly bone-weary.
“Me? Nothing,” she says, pushing off from the wall. “But you’re the best thing that’s happened to Clarke since that asshole came and ruined her life. And she’s hurting right now. She won’t admit it, but she’s really hurting.” Something in Lexa’s chest pulls against her will at the words. “What kind of best friend would I be if I didn’t try and fix that?” She shrugs, feigning casualness.
Lexa is silent.
“Just, talk to her. Because it’s probably not what you think.”
Her shift had finished hours ago and Lexa once again finds herself sitting in the library, pretending to study. She’s at one of the tables on the fourth floor. Choosing it because she’d known she’d be less likely to run into other people and sitting undisturbed is what she thought she wanted. Now she's not so sure.
It’d started snowing again when she had first placed her stuff down, the weather heavy and relentless outside, an indicator that Winter intends to stay for a while. Now, fat flakes whirl by and stick to the glass, piling up quickly in the corners and building a wall that today makes her haven feel more like an enclosure.
She’s staring blankly at the books on the shelves across from her, the labels old and peeling, the pages yellowing and ignored. She came to study, really she did, instead she just finds herself thinking. She thinks about everything. About magic, about what Octavia said to her (yelled, really), and, most importantly, she thinks about Clarke.
She taps her pencil against the desk beneath her hand and chews on her lip. Her phone sits beside her, the screen dark. For the first time, she wants it to light up.
The first few days with no calls, no messages, nothing, had made her feel relieved. She had been too afraid that she’d answer it. Afraid of the answer to the question she knows she’d have to ask. After a while though, the relief from no attempt at communication had slowly and almost unknowingly sunk into a hollow feeling that she hadn’t realized was there all along until this moment.
She picks it up. Even goes so far as to unlock the screen and let her finger hover over her name. She drops it back down to the table, lets it go dark.
She was being given exactly what she wanted, what she had asked for. For distance, for time to think. So why did she want that phone to ring so bad?
She knows exactly why. “Fuck,” she says, covering her face with her hands and leaning back in her chair, it creaks and groans against the strain.
It's coming in at her all at once and she rubs at her tired eyes. She realizes that she was stupid to think that she could just go on without thinking about it. About her.
It doesn’t take long for the ache in her chest to grow, having been pushed aside and ignored for days it was now determined on making its presence known. Like a dam fractured, she feels the cracks splintering wider under the pressure and soon everything will be trying to pour out at once. She knows it has the potential to overwhelm her again like it did that night but this time she doesn't let herself run from it.
‘Okay, just think about it methodically.’
She picks up her pencil and tears an empty page out of her notebook. Smoothing it out twice on the table in front of her she hesitates only slightly, tip of her pencil hovering over the page before it begins to move.
1. At some point Clarke manipulated people with her magic.
The pencil places the words with a feeling of finality, of accepted fact. Filling the page in with her neat and even handwriting.
2. She hid that fact from Lexa.
She frowns as the words appear, but she keeps going.
3. There is a possibility that she is still manipulating people with her magic.
She thinks that that’s it. That the list is complete. And for a moment she sets the pencil down and leans back in her chair again, peering down at it, satisfied that she has all the important things laid out. Everything she needs to consider. But there's a small voice in the back of her mind calling her a liar.
It takes her a second to realize what it is, but it rushes to the surface all the same. It’s the last fact, the final fact on the list, the most important fact. The one that she didn't write, didn’t think about, before this moment, because some part of her knows it has the ability to obscure all the others. She leans forward, and with sure strokes writes down number four.
4. Lexa doesn’t know if being in love with her is a result of those manipulations or if what she feels is real.
The word itself and the realization that accompanies it should come as more of a surprise, she thinks. But she also thinks she’s probably known for a while. Somewhere along the way she fell and she fell hard and there really wasn’t any coming back from that. It had settled solidly in her chest, taken root and spread outward, permanent in a way like the tattoo of a bird on her arm that she hasn’t looked at in days. And it’s like an anchor to her thoughts, giving her something solid and grounded to cling to. She looks at the fourth fact and it becomes clear in a way it previously hadn’t. And in the end Lexa can’t know, not really, that what she feels is real. But at the same time she does. She does know. She has reasons not to, things she still doesn’t understand, but in this moment it seems to be the one thing that she is absolutely sure of. The conclusion settles with a startling amount of clarity.
She thinks about what Octavia told her and she almost hates that she was right. That Lexa had been stupid for not asking questions that night or any subsequent opportunity because she was afraid of the answers. That the idea that Clarke doesn’t actually feel the same way and has been using her had made Lexa turn tail and run.
But she knows Clarke. Knows her well enough to know that she’s not the kind of person that would do what she let Lexa believe she did. That she shoulders blame that doesn’t belong to her.
And then she’s suddenly angry. Angry at the whole situation. At Clarke for letting her just walk away, for hiding it from her in the first place, for thinking that Lexa is better off without her. Because how could she think that? But above all she’s angry at herself for so many reasons, for what she said, for letting herself believe for a moment that it wasn’t real.
She doesn’t even stop to collect her books when she gets up from the table.
There’s a knock at the door, insistent and sharp.
Clarke ignores it. Hands folded on her stomach, laid back on her couch, she stares as the light crosses from the window to the overarching ceilings, cutting sharp lines and deep shadows. She isn’t sure how long she’s been laying there, just knows that the light had been at a completely different angle when she had first sat down.
The knocking comes again, louder this time, brash and demanding. Still, she tunes it out. She had put wards up days ago after Octavia had kept popping inside when Clarke wouldn’t open the door.
When the knocking comes a third time she grumbles and rolls off the couch.
“For fucks sake, Octavia. I’m not in the mood for this,” she says to the door as she storms over. Flipping the bolt, she swings it open, “I told you, just leave--”
Lexa glares at her from the other side.
Clarke stares back, wide-eyed.
“We’re going to talk,” Lexa tells her, leaving no room for argument. She doesn’t wait for Clarke to say anything, just brushes past her into the apartment and then the kitchen. She’s pacing when Clarke finally catches up with her.
“Okay,” Lexa starts, tossing her stuff onto the counter and pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose with determination. “I have been thinking and re-thinking and overthinking and I finally realized that all this thinking wasn’t doing me any damn good and I realized that that night I was mad and upset and confused and more than a little bit tipsy and I’m still mad and I’m still confused and I didn’t want to think about it because thinking about it could mean that that asshole at the party was right and you’ve just been messing with me this whole time but you know what the stupidest thing of all of this is?” she spins to look at Clarke suddenly.
Clarke is still just staring openly at her, one hand braced back on the counter as she watches Lexa pace with wide eyes, trying to process the outpouring of words. Lexa doesn’t let her answer. Instead she crowds her space and says, “I never let you explain.”
There’s a pause where Clarke’s mouth just opens and closes. “What?”
“I never asked for your side of it. The story, the background, anything, everything.”
“I don’t…,” Clarke starts, not sure how she’s going to end that sentence.
If possible Lexa crowds her space even more and says, “You got kicked out of magic school.”
“Because they caught you using your magic on humans.”
The word comes out slightly more strangled this time. “Yes.”
“Tell me what happened.”
“Because you’re the kind of person that grows gardens and takes people to winter markets and -- and because you use your magic to warm my hands up when I get cold. Because I’m fairly certain it didn’t happen like you’re making it seem. Because I know you.”
“No. You don’t.” She’s over her initial shock and finds herself slightly angry because Lexa should be far away, forgetting about her and about magic and other dangerous things, but instead she’s here in Clarke’s kitchen looking so determined it has Clarke transfixed.
“I know you.” Lexa tells her, angry too. And her eyes are so green and deep and Clarke is caught. With one hand braced back on the counter and shoulders bent back from where Lexa leans into her she is wholly and completely caught. “Tell me,” Lexa says softly, her eyes suddenly gentle and Clarke hates it because she doesn’t deserve it.
Somehow she finds herself nodding anyways.
Clarke sits on one end of the couch, foot tucked up beneath one leg, absentmindedly playing with a string hanging from the torn knee of her jeans. Lexa sits on the other end, in a similar position. For a while neither meets each other’s eye. Lexa watches Clarke turn the string over and over in her fingers.
“I was eighteen, when I met Finn. Halfway done with my base courses at academy. He was charming and smooth and everything eighteen year old me thought I wanted. His father is a dean at the academy so his family is pretty influential and mine isn’t far behind so the match wasn’t exactly discouraged.” She doesn’t look up from the string in her fingertips and Lexa doesn’t interrupt.
“For a while it wasn’t very serious, off and on thing. But it was...nice.” She frowns as she says the word, mouth twisting. “None of us really thought to look past the charming part. And it was easy. I was doing well at academy, right on track to follow in my mom’s footsteps and become a healer. My dad was a magical engineer, not as prestigious as my mom’s position but important all the same. He used to come and surprise me on campus sometimes, joking about how he’s going to talk me into doing engineering instead.” She’s smiling slightly at the memory. “Things were good, my family was good, we were all happy.”
The string is completely frayed by now and Clarke’s fingers still their movements.
“My dad died a month after I passed my exams. It was an accident, wrong place wrong time, a project gone wrong, and not even magic could save him. I just… my mom and I… we both just sort of fell apart. My mom retreated so far into herself and her work it was like she didn’t want to be near me because I reminded her too much of him. And I just…I just lost it.” Clarke lets out a shaky breath and stands from the couch suddenly. She begins pacing and Lexa watches her brow pinch. “I didn’t understand how magic couldn’t save him and I didn’t know what to do and it felt like my world was imploding and I was sporadic and angry at so much and so many things. At my mom for running away from it and the pity from everyone, I couldn’t take it. And Finn was there , and at the time I think I was so desperate for anyone to just be there and he took advantage of that.” She stops pacing and she’s looking out the window, seeing something that Lexa can’t. “He’s… remember when I told you that there are different kinds of ways that magic can appear in people?”
Lexa nods but Clarke still isn’t looking at her so she says, “I remember.”
“Finn can’t make his own magic. He can only use what people give him. Transfer to him.” Lexa can see her chewing her lip. “Doesn’t make him any less capable at using it once he gets it though.”
Lexa can guess where the story is going but hopes she’s wrong.
“And like I said, I was angry and frustrated and sad and that made me sporadic and sometimes it feels so out of your control you just want to give it away. So I did.” She says it with a bit of a shrug as she crosses her arms over herself. “I’m not even sure how much I gave him by the end of it all. It’s not something I like to think about.”
“I thought I was fine, that everything was under control and that it was my friends that were being ridiculous when they tried to warn me off from Finn. I was so mad at them for trying to take something good away.” She shakes her head and Lexa wonders how long it took to rebuild that friendship.
“I was stupid and reckless when I was with him after that, using magic for everything and anything and giving it to him whenever he wanted it. It felt good to just let all that go. I didn’t question it, I didn’t think about it. We’re not supposed to use magic around humans, it can attract attention. But bending the rules was fun. It started as little things to try and distract me and cheer me up, at first it was just going into town and doing stupid tricks to win money off of ignorant people. And then a one time thing turned into hustling people every other day and we didn’t even need the money, what use would the money have even been to us? We just did it to do it. And then even that got boring and Finn is whispering in my ear how funny it would be to mess with the people themselves instead of just taking their money. It’s not like they’d know, right?” She scoffs and shakes her head, it’s sad and says more than her words do.
“It didn’t even occur to me to think about how far he’d go with it. And each morning I’d wake up and go to my lectures about learning how to be a healer and help people and the irony of all of that never dawned on me. And then I’d go home and we’d go out, usually drunk before long, I’d give him some magic and it didn’t phase me not to do it or to think about how it was wrong, that the whole thing was wrong. I just knew that it feld good to not have it building up inside me and that he could make me laugh and forget and for some reason that was the most important thing to me.” She lets out a breath. “I didn’t know that he’d been storing the magic I’d been giving him.”
Clarke rubs at her arms but a chill persists on her skin despite the friction. She leans against the wall beside the window and stares at nothing.
“I knew it was wrong, what I was doing. And I told myself that it’s not like anyone was getting hurt, that Finn was right, it’s not like they know. It took me way too long to start feeling uneasy about the whole thing.”
Clarke doesn’t look at Lexa. She doesn’t want to see what’s on her face.
“Besides going into town we used to hang out in this spot on campus, this unused corner crammed between the tower used for astrology and the potions lab. It was just somewhere we could drink and do stupid shit without being caught. And then, one day, I show up and there are these people there. When I asked Finn what the hell was going on he told me that he was just trying out some advanced incantations, that it wasn’t a big deal. I’ll never forget the looks on their faces. Just blank, completely and totally blank. And I realized how much of my magic I’d given Finn because being able to do that would have taken a lot and I think it finally scared some realization into me because it suddenly wasn’t funny anymore. And-- and I decided to confront him about it. To try and get him to stop. And we started fighting and it was my fault, what happened was my fault…” The words are coming out faster and faster and then she can see it, she’s right back there.
“Oh come on, it’s funny.” Like on cue the group of people laugh like what Finn has said is gut-splitting hilarious and Clarke feels sick to her stomach.
“Finn, stop, I’m serious.”
“Why? They don’t know what they’re doing.” He makes a gesture with his hand and a man in the group runs somewhere before returning with a can of beer, handing it over into Finn’s outstretched hand.
“They’re not puppets, Finn!”
He shrugs and cracks the beer open. “They kind of are.”
“Finn, stop. I mean it.
“Oh come on, princess. You know it’s funny. Watch this.” And he flicks his hand and the same nameless, expressionless guy is using the fire escape to climb up the side of the tower of astrology, hands pulling him up quickly. “Now come on,” Finn says to her, craning his neck to watch, “how many people can keep a full magic overtake active and get the host to perform actions, even I’m impressed with myself right now.”
But Clarke isn’t listening she’s still telling him to stop, that it’s not funny, telling him that she wants her magic back. And he doesn’t get why she’s so angry all of the sudden. Doesn’t see what’s wrong with it all. And she feels so horrified at it all and at herself for letting it happen. And then they’re yelling, loud, angry words that she’s sure others can hear. She doesn’t care because it needs to stop and she needs her magic back, needs to undo what he’s done, and she’s pulling on his arm to try and take it back and she didn’t know, she should have known that the spell was still active and she sees the movement over his shoulder and “Finn!” she yells, but it’s too late.
In their arguing and struggle Finn had forgotten about what he’d been doing, what he was supposed to be paying attention to. And the guy that had been climbing that fire escape is suddenly falling, falling, falling, and before Clarke can even think to do anything, he’s hit the ground. Clarke’s horror comes out as a gasp and her boots are skidding on the gravel beneath her feet as she runs. And her knees are digging into the ground, the sharp edges of the rocks pressing through the fabric of her jeans. Her hands are shaking and she can’t see straight, the world is spinning and her breath is coming in stuttering gasps and she can hear herself yelling for Finn to help her, to get help, something, anything. He doesn’t answer, he’s already gone.
Her hands are stuttering over broken bones and she can’t focus her magic enough and it’s flickering over her fingers in short shocks of static that bite into her skin and she can’t she can’t she can’t do it and she can’t breathe. She should know how to do this she should know how to stitch people back together with the snap of her fingers but she’s shaking and she’s failing.
She doesn’t know how long she tries but eventually someone is grabbing her arm and shoving her back, her palms pressing back into the sharp rocks and it’s a cut through the haze and she sucks air into her lungs as someone helps the person on the ground.
“Is -- is he going to be okay?” she asks, begs.
They ignore her and she just watches as the real academy healers get to work, doing what she was unable to. She just stares and stares, long after they’ve taken him away. She stares at her hands, shock still racking through her. She sits there with blood on her hands and tries to figure out how she got to this point.
Clarke doesn’t even realize she’s slid to the ground until she notices Lexa kneeling in front of her.
“He was in the hospital for three weeks. Usually healers can do quite a bit if they get there fast enough but...it was bad.” She shivers, feels sick. “Even after they were able to fix him they would only tell me that there was residual damage, wouldn’t tell me what. Even with all of that they had to wipe his memories. Just took that chunk from his life to stop any word from getting out. I wasn’t allowed to visit him in the hospital.” She remembers those nights sitting outside the medical center, not allowed in even though she was Abby Griffin’s daughter, even though it was supposed to practically be her home after she finished academy and they all knew who she was. She had already had a place waiting for her there, the two Griffins working side by side and doing great things. Being barred entry she was suddenly an outcast.
“Finn was nowhere to be found. I’m pretty sure he took off as soon as it happened. He knew they were looking for someone to take the blame for the whole thing. It didn’t look good for the school. Usually the academy wouldn’t care about a couple incidences, they’re all about sweeping things under the rug or turning a blind eye with a high enough donation, but this time it was different. Someone had actually gotten hurt, seriously seriously hurt, and enough people saw. They couldn’t just let it go.” Lexa is still kneeling in front of her but Clarke doesn’t look up at her.
She lets her breath out in a whoosh, gathering will to push forward to the end. “Since I was the one people saw kneeling over the guy, it was my magic all over everything, and Finn’s dad is a dean, it really wasn’t a hard decision for them. Finn could have come forward and owned up to it, but we all knew that wasn’t going to happen and my word wouldn’t have mattered for much. Two days later I was kicked out and wards were put up to stop me from coming back to my room on campus. Going to my mom wasn’t an option, she wouldn’t even talk to me after it happened. I was a mess for a long time, don’t think I’ve hated my magic as much as I did then. I ended up crashing on Bellamy’s couch for three months until I could figure out what to do.” She pauses and swallows around a dry throat. “And I guess that’s it,” she says, hating the way her voice cracks. The silence that follows her words is deafening, it feels like a tangible presence that expands and fills the air.
Clarke doesn’t want to look up at her. Doesn’t think she can take the look on her face of distrust and fear a second time.
“Hey,” she whispers when Clarke is too slow in wiping a stray tear from her cheek to stop Lexa from noticing. When Clarke still doesn’t look up she taps at her knee and bends her head to try and catch Clarke’s eye. When Clarke hesitantly meets her gaze, she doesn’t expect the sympathy she sees in them. And she definitely doesn’t think she deserves it. “It wasn’t your fault.”
“It was my magic,” she answers, her breath shuddering slightly.
“It wasn’t your fault,” Lexa repeats again, more adamant.
“But I--” and her voice cracks again, betraying her, and Lexa is shaking her head.
“No, listen. It might have been your magic that led to it, but it wasn’t your fault.”
And she keeps repeating it and repeating it until Clarke will hold her gaze. Until the tears slow and eventually dry on Clarke’s cheeks. Until the sun begins to dip beyond the horizon. She repeats it as she moves and sits next to Clarke against the wall. Repeats it again as she takes Clarke’s hand where it rests on her knee, tentative but reassuring all the same.
She repeats it until Clarke almost starts to believe it.
Clarke doesn’t know how long they sit there, shoulder to shoulder. She keeps expecting Lexa to get up and walk out at some point. But she doesn’t, she sits there beside Clarke as the light changes. It’s quiet and comfortable despite the fact that they’ve been sitting on the hardwood floor for who knows how long.
She feels tired as her head leans back against the wall, eyes closing for a moment. She realizes it’s a good kind of tired though. Like her body is giving her permission to lay down and rest because some of the weight from her shoulders has been momentarily alleviated.
“I’m sorry,” Lexa murmurs at some point when the last of light begins to stretch and fade from the room and Clarke opens her eyes again.
“For what?” she asks, head picking up slightly to look at the face beside her curiously, tone just as quiet, just as tentative of disrupting the fragility of the moment.
“For what I said to you that night.” And her eyes are meeting Clarke and there’s sincerity in her expression. Clarke can see the guilt underneath and shakes her head.
“It’s nothing I didn’t deserve.” She can tell Lexa disagrees by look she gives her before shaking her head as well, already opening her mouth to form a rebuttal. “I should have told you,” Clarke interrupts, and then she hears how defeated, how tired , her voice sounds. “I was afraid you’d hate me or leave. Or both. But I should have told you anyways.” Part of her is still waiting for Lexa to let go of her hand and walk away even now.
“Yeah, I wish you had. I like to think I’ve been pretty good about the whole not freaking out thing up to this point.” And there’s this smile teasing at the corner of her mouth. “But I also get why you hesitated. I can understand that.”
Clarke continues to sit there and she looks at her and she almost can’t believe it. At the pure acceptance before her eyes. She just looks at her for the longest time, like she can’t believe that Lexa is here and real, that she’s sitting next to her.
“Sorry.” Clarke shakes herself out of it and can practically feel her hair change colour.
“It’s okay. I’d stare at me too, I’ve heard I’m very easy on the eyes,” she says, and there’s a smile on her lips and it’s been too long since Clarke’s seen it and she wants to memorize it.
“How can you do that?” she asks, wonder creeping into her voice.
“Do what?” Lexa asks, rolling her head toward Clarke once more, eyes quizzical.
“Just sit there are forgive me.”
It feels like deja vu, they’ve been here before, Lexa offering forgiveness and Clarke fumbling with it completely perplexed.
And Lexa just gives her this look, smiling like there’s something Clarke doesn’t get yet. And that smile is still pulling at her lips and it’s tangled in her eyes and there’s magic Clarke doesn’t have any control over in the moment caught between their breaths.
“Stop doing that,” Clarke tells her, huffing out a breath.
“Looking at me like I hung the stars in the sky.”
Lexa just grins, her thumb rubbing softly across Clarke’s knuckles.
“So what now?” Clarke murmurs as she watches Lexa’s fingers.
“What do you mean?”
“I mean now you know, you know that I could do it. That I have done it. That I’m capable of doing it again and you’d never know.” She bites at her lip.
“Mhmm, that’s true,” Lexa agrees, her voice considerate. “I guess I’ll just have to trust you.”
Clarke looks up at her. Lets the words soak in. Feels something pull in her stomach at their gravity.
“That’s a lot of trust.”
Lexa considers her words again. Then she nods once, mind made up, and meets Clarke’s eye. “Yes.”
As if it’s simple.
Clarke’s head tilts back to rest against the wall with a ‘thunk’. She lets out a breath she didn’t know she’d been holding.
“Why?” she asks, because she still doesn’t understand.
Lexa just shrugs, seemingly unperturbed by Clarke’s confused reaction, but the corner of her mouth ticks up slightly and she knocks Clarke’s shoulder lightly with her own.
“Maybe I just like you.”
The night is pressing in from the windows, outdoor string lights and neon signs competing to light up the emptying sidewalks that are only visible if you look down far enough. It’s dark and late but Lexa is leaning with her shoulder against the frame of Clarke’s open door.
She’s lingering. She has her shift in the morning and a long enough walk home that she’ll probably cave and order a cab before she gets very far. She knows all this but can’t get her feet to move.
Clarke is leaning against the wall just inside, mirroring her but with her hands tucked into the back pockets of her jeans. Her lip is caught between her teeth and she’s looking at Lexa like she’s the one that has the ability to vanish into thin air and Clarke is waiting for it to happen.
“You never asked me.” The words would have stopped Lexa if she had actually made any motion towards leaving.
“Asked you what?”
“Whether I did it to you. Whether I ever used my magic on you like that.”
She gives a small shrug in response. “I don’t need to.”
And Clarke is biting her lip again, staring at Lexa like she still doesn’t get it. Like Lexa is a puzzle she’s destined to never quite untangle. Eventually it settles into a different look, like she’s put the puzzle aside for the moment, having concluded it’s one that’s going to take days or weeks or longer to solve, but that she very much still intends to. That she’s up for the challenge.
“I should get going,” Lexa says, eyes trailing over Clarke’s face, lingering on the lip she’s still biting.
Clarke nods, understanding but solemn nonetheless.
They hear the distant sound of horns honking and the general hum that comes with living in a city. They just continue to consider one another, Lexa making no move to go, Clarke making no move to make her.
“I should really really go.” Because it’s far too late and she has to be up far too early.
Clarke nods again.
But when neither of them move for the second time Clarke’s lips twitch. The corner ticks up slightly. And she doesn’t know that it’s the one Lexa loves best. And she’s staring at it as it grows until it’s a full grin and Lexa can’t help but mirror her.
And then it’s a matter of gravity. Lexa is pulled towards her and is capturing that smile. Her palm coming up to rest against the side of Clarke’s neck, thumb stroking the corner of her jaw as Clarke’s eyes flutter closed.
The kiss tastes like Spring. Like something new and promising. Something thrilling and vibrant. Like potential. Clarke’s pulse thrums beneath her fingertips and she knows it’s real.
“Stay.” The word is whispered against her lips, puffed out quietly when they part. And Clarke’s forehead is resting against hers and she says it again and again until Lexa is nodding.
Days later Lexa taps her fingertips against the counter, a non-sensical rhythm as she watches the door. The day is dark outside, the clouds rolled in sometime overnight when no one was looking and unanimously made the decision to stay. Above her head and between the boards advertising new peppermint flavoured everythings, lights blink and twinkle in a pattern more even and consistent than her jittery movements.
There are only a few other people in the shop with her. An elderly man sipping an earl grey and shuffling the paper in his hands intermittently. A student with her head bent over a thick book, going back and forth between writing notes and taking deep pulls from the large coffee sitting next to her. Lexa leans over the counter and watches them for a moment before her eyes trail elsewhere. They move across the mismatched mugs that line the counter, linger on the half-complete chess set on one of the tables, and linger fondly on the teetering pile of books next to the motheaten couch in the back. She thinks there’s more magic here than she originally thought, a different kind of magic, but magic nonetheless. She doesn’t pull out the book she has stashed beneath the counter and instead just takes a moment to enjoy the quiet peace that’s settled after the morning rush has come and gone.
“You still never told me what happened. I want the details, Woods.”
Well, short-lived quiet anyways.
Raven, perhaps the most consistent presence in almost every one of Lexa’s mornings, is watching her with what Lexa is sure narrowed eyes, put off at being left out of the drama. She had been dropping questions now and again about Octavia, and, more cautiously, about Clarke. She seems to know that the questions aren’t exactly taboo anymore but she’s getting increasingly frustrated with Lexa’s answers, or lackthereof.
“I kind of liked that girl though, Octavia, the one that came in and scared the shit out of you,” she says, continuing despite Lexa failing to contribute to the conversation. “Anyone that can put that expression on your face has to be interesting to have around.” Lexa agrees with an absentminded nod of her head as she continues to lean on the counter, it only seems to prompt Raven further. “We might have a lot in common. I feel like she and I could be good friends.”
The idea is enough to still the fingers Lexa drums on the counter and she turns her head to properly look at Raven. Her coworker is leaning her hip against the counter beside her, eyes trailing over the blinking lights strung over their heads. Raven’s eyes seem to catch on the one that’s flickering and broken given by the way they narrow slightly and Lexa knows she’ll see the girl tinkering with it before long. Her words, though, are enough to have Lexa actually thinking about it, because she realizes that Raven’s right. She thinks Octavia and Raven would get along almost too well.
“Yeah, maybe you could,” she murmurs thoughtfully. And the more she thinks about it, the more she likes the idea.
Quiet returns to the room once more after that, settles and sits comfortably among all its inhabitants. Before long she can hear the sound of tinkering from behind her and knows that Raven has succumbed to her inability to let broken things lie. Lexa doesn’t turn to watch her, her eyes are on the door, waiting.
It won’t be the first time she’s seen Clarke since they’ve talked, since she stayed. Far from it actually. But it will be the first time she’s back there, in the coffee shop.
It had been good, what had led from there. Lexa had been sort of re-introduced to Clarke’s friends in the days between then and now, in a much more casual setting than the first time. She likes them, she likes how after a while it didn’t feel so spectacular and strange, and instead felt comfortable and almost ordinary. Octavia had been the quickest to accept her presence, though it was only surprising to those who didn’t know and still don’t know about the conversation between Lexa and her. Overall it had been slow and slightly hesitant at first, but between games of scrabble and trivial pursuit, two of which she even managed to win, she had felt accepted in a way she hadn’t realized she needed or wanted.
But mostly her and Clarke just spent a lot of the days between talking. Clarke telling her more details about her life, about academy, about almost anything and everything. Nothing too small for Lexa’s interest she drinks it all in eagerly. They don’t talk much about Finn besides Clarke telling her that he’s been trying to get in touch with her since she was kicked out. That she had done a pretty good job avoiding him since then but it wasn’t all that surprising that he showed up eventually. Clarke seems set on being an open book and doesn’t wait for Lexa to ask questions but answers them when she has them anyways. In turn Lexa tells her more about her own life, about her classes, what she wants to do after she graduates, about everything really.
It had started off hesitantly, afraid that another page turned in that open book might fracture and break the thing they had carefully put back together. But each day made them breathe easier and less wary and each day Lexa is more sure.
When the chime rings Lexa immediately straightens, pulled out of her thoughts.
As Clarke strides forward, Lexa takes in the sleeves that are pushed to the elbows, the black ink painted across one arm and the still-absent bird from the other. She thinks of the crow’s new home on her own arm, she hopes it doesn’t mind that she intends to keep it for a while.
Clarke’s hands are tucked into the pockets of her jacket as she comes to stand before the counter. Her eyes don’t seek the chalkboards above to figure out what she wants to order. They don’t look anywhere but right at Lexa. There’s a hesitant smile on her face.
“Hi,” Lexa returns.
And then they’re grinning at each other like they’re back leaning on the door jamb again, and something in Lexa’s chest loosens because it feels easy. It feels easy and it feels good and there are small moments she wants to hold onto, ones that makes her heart flutter and her cheeks heat. She wants to ask Clarke for a spell or a potion, something that can bottle a moment, a lingering look, a feeling, because she wants to hold onto it forever any way she can.
“Hey, Lexa, can you hand me the screwdriver in the top drawer?” Raven says from somewhere above, most likely having climbed on top of the counter to reach the lights. When she doesn’t get an immediate answer she looks and sees Clarke standing there. “Nevermind, you’re going to be useless until she goes away.”
“Nice to see you too, Raven,” Clarke says and Lexa watches her eyes flick up to follow whatever Raven’s doing. Lexa doesn’t see the movement, but she’s sure Clarke has made some gesture with her fingers based on what Raven says next.
“Huh, nevermind, I fixed it.” Lexa turns to see her clambering down from the counter, the persistently broken light now fixed and twinkling in time with the rest. “I think it just needed to be tightened.” Lexa turns back to Clarke and there’s a slight uptick to the corner of her mouth.
Neither of them say anything and instead Lexa gives her a knowing smile and digs her pen out of the pocket of her apron. “What can I get for you? Your usual?”
Clarke nods. “Please.” They both know she’s not there for the coffee. Clarke watches her movements as she writes the order down on a slip of paper.
“And is that to go or for here?” she asks.
She waits as Clarke meets her eyes again.
“For here,” she says, her hair slowly shifting colour as she says the words. “Definitely for here.”
As always, come find me on tumblr @blindwire