Most of the crew was out on shore leave, taking advantage of their rare time docked at the Citadel. Lexa had thought about going herself (even if she'd have to endure some good-natured ribbing about her bad dance moves from her second and Reyes), but she knew that she had dozens of reports to read and write before they headed off on their next mission. She'd settled at her desk with a cup of tea and her datapad, ready for a productive night.
That had lasted all of eight reports before her eyes had begun to ache.
Now she was roaming the corridors of the Normandy, ready with the excuse that she was doing an informal inspection if anyone asked. There was no specific reason why her feet took her to the cargo bay. Not when surely no one would be there. She was just going to make sure that everything was in its place and people hadn't half-assed battening down the hatches in their haste to get ashore.
It was the duty of the Captain to ensure her people weren't getting sloppy, even in times of leisure.
She fully expected to ride the excruciatingly slow elevator down to the lower deck to find it dark and empty.
It was quiet when the elevator finally opened, and Lexa stepped out and did a quick once-over. Everything was exactly where it should be. The crew had even stowed the tools properly, or they'd taken them on shore leave with them. She wouldn't be surprised by some of them.
Still, it was clean. The crew deserved some praise once they were back on shift.
The soft sound of metal clinking gently on metal drew Lexa's attention, and she mentally hushed the way her heart started beating just the tiniest bit faster.
Consciously making her steps loud enough to be heard, Lexa walked around the Mako. The blonde seated at the weapons bench was focused on the gun she was currently taking apart and carefully laying out, but it was clear from the way her head was tilted towards her arrival that Lexa had been noticed.
Lexa stopped a professional distance away, but close enough that she could see the curve of the secret smile on Gunnery Chief Clarke Griffin's face.
"I thought you'd be out on shore leave," Lexa said conversationally.
"I could say the same for you, Skipper." Clarke turned her head enough that the smile wasn't secret anymore. Lexa swallowed, both blessing and cursing the amused glint in the other woman's blue eyes.
For a very long time, Clarke had been nothing but professional with her. The very picture of Alliance respect for a senior officer. It had taken a long time to convince her that their unorthodox mission meant they could be a little less rigid with the chain of command, but moments when Clarke was truly relaxed around her were few and far between.
When she did get to see this more casual version of Clarke, Lexa couldn't help but find herself a little tongue-tied. The way her smile made her whole face light up should probably be illegal.
"I..." Lexa cleared her throat. "There are reports to put out to both the Council and the Admiralty Board. I have to get them finished before we ship out again."
Clarke eyed her, then gave her a mock-solemn nod. "We can't save the world without the proper paperwork."
Lexa frowned, causing Clarke to laugh. The sound immediately took any sting out of being made fun of, and Lexa watched the way Clarke's blonde hair swayed with her mirth.
"I would almost think you believe that," Clarke said, finally turning fully toward Lexa in her chair. There was still a respectable distance between them.
"I'm not sure how you'd expect me to requisition you new parts," Lexa gestured to the gun in pieces on Clarke's workbench, "without filing some papers."
"Isn't that what being a Spectre is good for?" Clarke shook her head. "But really, Skipper. Shouldn't you be taking some time off? I'm pretty sure the bars are being drained dry as we speak."
Lexa shrugged, looking away. Everything they'd seen and learned about did weigh heavily on her mind. It seemed sometimes like they were the only ones who truly understood the gravity of the situation they were in. Geth forces in human territory, brainwashing, traitors in their midst.
She probably could use a drink.
When she looked back, Clarke's eyes were on her, expression the softest she'd ever seen the other woman give. She looked honestly concerned. For her.
Clarke blinked, then looked like she was about to brush it off.
"I haven't been sleeping well," Lexa blurted out. Her cheeks colored at the admission, but it served the purpose of keeping Clarke looking at her. This time the blonde was the one off-kilter. "I keep seeing worst case scenarios in my dreams. The Citadel as empty as New Eden. That sort of thing." Lexa clenched her jaw briefly, staring past Clarke and to the side. It actually felt good to say this to someone for once. Being Captain was... more difficult than she'd expected it to be. "And I have this weird idea that if I actually let my guard down, just for a second, it'll happen just like in my dreams."
Silence. Lexa refused to look directly at Clarke, not wanting to see how uncomfortable she'd made her. After a few long seconds, Lexa took a deep breath and stiffened her posture, ready to apologize and excuse herself.
"And that's inappropriate--" she began.
"No." Clarke stood, hand on the workbench. Lexa finally looked at the other woman, only to be met with a sympathetic expression. "No, it's... honest." Clarke smiled hesitantly. "I have dreams too," she admitted. "About the people I couldn't save."
They stood, both lost in their own memories for a moment.
Clarke shook her head, letting out a soft scoff of a laugh. "I come down here when I don't want to think." Her hand waved over the pieces of her sidearm. "It helps to feel like I'm doing something, anything, to prepare. And it's all automatic. You take it apart, you clean the pieces, you put it back together again. Easy." She stared at her bench, not looking at Lexa. "It's kind of stupid, I know..."
"I build model ships," Lexa offered. At Clarke's confused expression, Lexa smiled. "All the little pieces. You put them together in the right order and it makes a perfect replica. It feels good to... build something, instead of destroying it."
The tension in Clarke's shoulders lessened, and Lexa watched as she smiled again. Lexa smiled back.
"Do you want to... have a drink with me?" Lexa stood up a little straighter, trying to make up for the hesitant way she'd posed the question. Clarke's mouth opened then closed, looking torn.
Lexa was reminded of the conversations they'd had about inter-unit relationships. How Clarke was adamant that it was a bad idea to get attached to anyone in particular. "If you had to make a choice," Clarke had said, "and someone needed to stay behind, would you be able to let them?"
There was a story there, Lexa was sure. She knew what it was like to lose someone, to have to make that choice. It wasn't something she'd shared at the time, but maybe she should. Maybe it was worth it.
Right now, though, Lexa tried to wave away Clarke's concerns. "I have a bottle of scotch I've been saving. I think maybe we both could use a break. Just for a moment."
Clarke looked like she wanted to be convinced. "Is it real scotch?"
"Would I offer anything less?" Lexa smiled. "I promise a glass of the best scotch you've had in years and some good company. That's all."
Clarke looked down at the disassembled pieces on her workbench and then back at Lexa. Lexa felt her heart flutter when she saw the decision Clarke made in her eyes a split second before her face softened into a smile in return. "Let me clean this up and then you're on."
Lexa nodded, holding herself back from looking too relieved. "I'll chill some glasses. See you at..." She looked at her omnitool. "Twenty-one hundred?"
"I'll be there."
They stared at each other for a moment longer before Lexa gave one last nod. "Until then." Lexa finally turned, her motion stiff with the effort it took to actually turn away. She heard Clarke chuckle softly behind her as she walked away, and couldn't help the warmth that welled up in her chest at the thought of being the cause.