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My Heart For A Minute

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“The least you could do is smile,” Anya said after catching yet another glimpse of Lexa’s soured expression.

“The least you could have done was not to lie to me in the first place,” Lexa shot back before downing the last of her whiskey in one gulp and motioning to the bartender for another.

“You haven’t been out of the house in over a month,” Anya pointed out as she lowered the tone of her voice just slightly.

“So what?” Lexa all but grunted, taking her freshly poured whiskey shot and draining the cup of it immediately.

“I’ve been worried about you,” Anya replied as she placed a gentle hand on top of Lexa’s forearm resting against the bar top. The touch earned her a sideways glance and a small shrug of indifference but neither action stopped Anya from continuing. “You can’t let the anniversary of her death throw you into a dark spiral of self-destruction for the rest of your life. It’s not what she’d want for you, and you know it.”

Lexa’s nostrils flared of their own accord as she clamped her jaw tightly and willed away the tears she could feel pricking against the backs of her eyes. It had been five years since the death of her first love, and the anniversary of it always managed to throw her back into the dark hole she’d dug for herself to hide away from the world when it had first happened.

Each year seemed to progressively shorten her detachment period from the world and everyone in it, and that fact alone aggravated Lexa more. It was a cruel game of tug-of-war her head and heart were playing, and unfortunately it was the young law school student and those closest around her who had to endure the brunt of it. Thankfully her family was stronger than the moods Lexa would often find herself a slave to at any given moment and for any given reason.

“I also didn’t intend for you to drink yourself halfway through a bottle of Wild Turkey before the girls get here,” Anya said as she tipped her head down towards the third drink Lexa had just been poured.

“Why did you even agree to this?” Lexa suddenly asked, her head whipping around to look the older girl straight in the eyes. “I don’t want to be set up with anyone, let alone someone who can’t be bothered with showing up on time.”

“Oh, believe me,” Anya started dramatically, “I have no intention of setting you up with anyone while you’re pissed at the world. I just thought that a night out with friends might do you some good.”

“When has a night out with friends ever done me any good?” Lexa asked incredulously.

“Think about that,” Anya said, leveling a glare at the younger woman.

It was a tone and a look that Anya didn’t use often but always had up her sleeve for when she needed to put Lexa in her place, something that she was certain only she could do on a regular basis. The girl was like a firestorm when she ignited and usually wound up burning everyone and everything that came into her path whether she chose to do so intentionally or not. Growing up together Anya often saw Lexa’s innate stubbornness, but it wasn’t until Costia died that it turned into more of a pained isolation than anything else.

“Remember she is Raven’s best friend, so try not to fuck it up,” Anya tacked on as she lifted her beer bottle to her lips and took a small sip.

Lexa offered nothing in response, only taking the time to catch the bartender’s eye and signaling for another drink just as the bell on the front door jingled to signal the arrival of a new patron. Anya turned her head and smiled as she saw a familiar face. She slipped off her stool and walked quickly over to where her girlfriend was tapping her snow-covered boots against the thick entry rug.

“Hey, you,” Anya cooed as she wrapped her arms around Raven’s waist and tugged her close.

“Hi,” Raven replied through a blinding smile, draping her arms around Anya’s neck and pressing their lips together.

A small hum of approval rose from the back of Raven’s throat as they continued to kiss, their bodies slowly molding into one another as their lips danced together for far longer than what should be deemed as an appropriate greeting peck. It wasn’t until a polite throat clearing that they finally returned from their haze and looked over at the blonde standing somewhat uncomfortably beside them.

“Sorry, Clarke,” Raven apologized before letting her hands trail down the length of Anya’s arms before making quick work of the buttons and belt holding her winter coat together.

“How’s it going?” Anya asked Clarke as she took Raven’s coat from her.

“Good, sorry we’re late,” Clarke replied quickly. “It’s totally my fault. My mom got pulled into an emergency surgery, so I had to take care of a few things for her before I could get here.”

“No worries,” Anya told her with a polite smile before nodding her head towards the brunette sitting at the bar. “It gave us a chance to talk, not that it helped any.”

“What do you mean?” Raven asked curiously as she peered towards Lexa who still had her back to them.

“Come on,” Anya said as she stepped aside (physically and figuratively), “I’ll buy you both a drink.”

“What a gentlewoman,” Raven told her with a smirk on her lips.

Clarke just smiled as she caught her best friend’s gaze and followed the group over to where Lexa was sitting. She took a few seconds to study the girl’s posture, not quite being able to figure it out. She was clearly engaged in some sort of staring contest with the glass of whiskey resting on the bar top in front of her, and to anyone who glanced her way it would appear as though the brunette was sitting with a posture any DAR* member or young debutante trainee would envy.

But Clarke saw something else too.

It looked like the weight of the world on petite shoulders was making her slouch just ever so slightly under it, and Clarke was surprisingly interested in investigating the cause. That was, of course, until she actually spoke to the girl. Kind of.

“Raven, you know Lexa,” Anya said as she sidled up to the bar and inconspicuously pinched Lexa on the shoulder. “Clarke, this is Lexa. Lexa, Clarke.”

They all noticed the way Lexa grimaced lightly at the pestering touch before halfheartedly swiveling her barstool towards them, all the while keeping the fingers of her right hand cradling the curve of her drink’s glass. Blue eyes tried to make contact with green ones but failed, so Clarke extended her hand in greeting instead.

“Nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Lexa replied as she offered the briefest of eye contact to Clarke before turning back towards her drink and taking a hearty sip of it.

The tension in the room instantly peaked as Clarke stood staring at the brunette with her hand still hovering in the space between them. Her eyes widened just a fraction before she let her arm fall to her side, pursing her lips together in distaste. It wasn’t often that Clarke met someone so rude, but she was immediately positive that she'd just met the rudest.

“What can I get you ladies to drink?” Anya asked, trying her best to skip right over the awkward moment.

“I’ll take a beer,” Raven said and pointed down at Anya’s bottle. “Whatever you’re having is fine.”

“Clarke?” Anya questioned as she noticed the woman stealing another glance at Lexa.

“I’ll have a rum and diet,” Clarke answered coolly. She could have sworn she saw rude girl’s eyes jump just an inch in her direction, but she couldn’t be certain.

“Another whiskey, please,” Lexa told the bartender as she pushed her empty glass towards him.

Anya cleared her throat quite obviously, which didn’t seem to deter Lexa from whatever it was Anya was trying to deter her from, and silently downed her fresh drink in one giant swig. Her lips pulled slightly to the side as the burn of the alcohol pooled in her belly, and Lexa gracefully abandoned her stool before regarding the group.

“Excuse me,” was all she said before disappearing into the crowd.

Anya watched as she rounded the corner at the back of the bar where she knew the restrooms were and just sighed. Raven shifted uncomfortably on her feet while Clarke just stared after the girl, wondering how on Earth one person could be so incredibly annoying within the mere span of a minute of knowing her.

“So,” Anya said as she turned her attention back to Raven and Clarke, “how were your days?”


“Hey, Mom.”

“So I do have a daughter! I was starting to think you were just a figment of my imagination.”

 “Yeah, sorry about that,” Clarke said into her phone as she released a deep sigh. “I started a new commission last month and totally forgot about the piece I was working on for Grandma’s birthday present.”

“It’s fine, sweetie. Raven always lets me know when you’re in a zone.”

Clarke had officially coined the term during her first year of University the one time she effectively cut herself off from the outside world while she spent three straight days holed up in her dingy dorm room working on a painting to submit for her midterm final. Her only mistake was not telling her mother what she would be doing before she had shut off her cell phone and lost herself in her art for the following 72 hours.

By the time she had come back out of her zone, Abby had all but called the SWAT team to break down her door after being unable to contact her daughter for the first time ever. It was also hardly worth mentioning that Clarke happened to be on the other side of the country and in her first year away from home which helped with nothing but making Abby panic even more. They set up a few ground rules after that incident, and the family referred to Clarke’s ‘non-existence in the world while she is painting’ times as being in her zone.

“Shit, I totally forgot to ask you about that big surgery conference thing you went to last week,” Clarke said as she continued walking down the familiar sidewalks leading towards her apartment.

“First of all, language. Secondly, it went extremely well. My speech was flawless which Marcus made sure to congratulate me on thoroughly–”

“Ugh, Mom,” Clarke interrupted as her face contorted with disgust, “gross.”

“What? We’re newlyweds, what do you expect?”

“I expect my mother not to tell me that she and my new step-dad made sweet love while away at a business conference together,” Clarke said over Abby’s laughter on the other end of the phone. “Seriously, Mom, you’re paying for my therapy if you keep telling me stuff like that.”

Had Marcus Kane showed up in their lives at any earlier point, Clarke probably would have hated him with every fiber of her being right from the start. It wasn’t until nearly eight years after her father’s death that Clarke could have even entertained the thought of having another father figure in her life, so when Marcus started working at the same hospital as Abby not a month after the eighth anniversary of Jake’s death it wasn’t a day too soon.

She watched as her mom got caught up in a whirlwind romance with the second best person made for her (of course her father, Jake, was the first), and a year later they were married on the sandy beach of an island paradise. The fact that Marcus had also lost a spouse made him that much more sensitive to the situation, and it was exactly the dynamic Clarke needed in order to find comfort in their decision to remarry.

“Anyways, what did you call me for in the first place?” Clarke asked, snapping their conversation train back onto the rails. “Aside from filling your ‘gross Clarke out’ quota, of course.”

“I talked to Grandma this morning, and she told me about this new place she wants to go for her birthday lunch.”

“Oh, yeah?” Clarke questioned, slightly surprised that her grandmother had chosen somewhere different than where they all normally went out to lunch when they were together.

“It’s called Polis Café, and apparently they have a crème brûlée that is to die for.”

“Is that on your side of town?” Clarke asked as she racked her brain to think of where she’d heard the name before.

It wasn’t often that she went out for meals, opting more usually to order in or make something herself, so knowing all the new places that popped up what seemed every month in their big city was too hard for Clarke to keep track of.

“Yeah, it’s maybe ten minutes away from the house. I can either swing by early to pick you up, or I’ll give you money for a cab to get over this way.”

“I’ll probably have to take a cab,” Clarke told her as she rounded the corner of a building to head down the street her apartment was on. “The gallery scheduled me to present my latest painting in the morning, so I’m sure I’ll be stuck there for a few hours before I can skip out to make our lunch plans.”

“Alright, just don’t be late. You know how much your grandmother hates that.”

“My grandmother or you?” Clarke teased through a smirk as she pulled the door of her apartment building open and stepping through.


“That’s what I thought,” Clarke said, walking slowly towards the elevator. “Listen, Mom, I’m just about to get into the elevator so I’ll let you go.”

“Alright, sounds good. See you tomorrow. I love you, sweetie.”

“Love you too, Mom,” Clarke replied and hit the end call button promptly before taking her place in the waiting elevator.

It was only a few step journey from the elevator to her apartment door, and Clarke found herself standing in front of it within a matter of seconds. She slid her slightly worn key into the lock and clicked it over, opening the door quickly and immediately catching sight of someone she’d prefer to only see on a yearly basis if she had her way about it. Lexa was looking straight at her, keeping her upper back lightly connected with the front of the refrigerator she was leaning against, and was dressed in comfortable workout clothes as if she was on her way to the gym.

“Hey,” the brunette said with a surprisingly gentle voice.

“Hey,” Clarke replied in kind after quickly clearing her throat and before closing the front door behind her.

They glanced at each other once again before Lexa turned her attention back to the cell phone in her hand while Clarke moved past her and into the kitchen to set her grocery bags on the counter. As the thin plastic of the bags rustled into the pained silence of the room, Lexa lifted her gaze towards the countertop and scoffed out a tiny laugh that was then followed up with a slight roll of her eyes. Clarke looked over her shoulder at the sound and narrowed her eyes at the girl who was back to swiping at the screen of her phone.

“Is there something you’d like to say?” Clarke asked, a faint tone of annoyance lacing her words.

“Just noticing your choice of bags,” Lexa replied without so much as lifting her head an inch. “I should have figured you to have no concern for the environment.”

“Is it, like, your life goal to pick a fight with me every time we’re in the same room or something?” Clarke asked as she began unpacking her grocery items.

She was met with silence which only made her roll her eyes.

“Because I’m just saying you’re really good at it.”

“Compliments so early in the day, Clarke?” Lexa chimed in, still looking down at her phone. “You must have had an extra scoop of sugar in your coffee this morning.”

“Not that I don’t love your unscheduled pop-ins,” Clarke began as she continued emptying her shopping bags, “but what are you doing here?”

At that Lexa sighed and slipped her phone into the pocket of her track jacket before looking up at Clarke with a rather bored expression on her face.

“I’m picking Anya up,” Lexa said.

“Why couldn’t she have taken a cab or something?” Clarke asked and immediately regretted it.

She liked Anya, she really did, but it was pointless to think that any conversation between Lexa and herself about anyone or anything would result in something other than annoyed, clipped, or snarky remarks. It had been over a year since Clarke and Lexa had first met at the bar, and their relationship had only made one change. They seemed to get along even less. Clarke managed to push past her small blunder and turned towards the fridge with an arm full of produce. She chanced a glance at Lexa who was looking at her with an eyebrow raised as if she was gearing up to fire back at her.

“I wasn’t aware I needed to tell you my entire life story to qualify picking up my roommate at her girlfriend’s apartment,” Lexa quipped with lightning speed and accuracy.

Clarke said nothing in response as she reached for the refrigerator door handle that was directly behind where Lexa was still leaning. Her forearm pressed purposefully against the slightly taller girl’s waist and nudged until Lexa took the hint and stepped to the side of the large appliance. She took what could best be described as a relaxed military stance just a few feet from Clarke and let her eyes wander into the living room while Clarke continued to load her groceries into the fridge.

“Hey, oh,” Anya said as her face fell the moment she noticed Clarke in the kitchen, “sorry that took a while.”

“It’s fine,” Lexa replied quickly but calmly. “Ready?”

“Yeah,” Anya answered as she made her way through the living room and towards the front door carrying two bags of what Clarke could only guess were clothes.

Lexa took one and hung it from her shoulder before quickly opening the apartment door and walking out into the hallway. Anya shot Clarke an apologetic look, as she always did when fate left Lexa and Clarke alone and to their own devices, before she turned back around to say goodbye to Raven who had been following behind her.

“Bye, baby,” Anya told her as they met in a warm embrace.

“I love you,” Raven said as she craned her neck back to place a gentle kiss on her girlfriends lips.

“Mmm, love you too,” Anya hummed in agreement before kissing the shorter brunette one last time and heading out of the apartment.

The second the door closed, Clarke spun around and crouched over the kitchen sink to make gagging noises loud and dramatic enough for Raven to easily catch the drift of her joke. By the time she had turned back around, Raven was walking away and waving a single finger in the air at which Clarke just laughed.


The morning brought with it the promise of a sunny day evident by the lack of even a speck of clouds in the clear blue sky. Her presentation at the gallery Clarke would often sell her art from had gone well, without a hitch really, and she even collected the numbers of a few prospective buyers who assured her they were interested in commissioning from her at least one painting each.

The best part about having a gallery (or being able to showcase work at one as Clarke did) was the exposure that came with it. She met people from all walks of life, all of whom appreciated the fine arts, and in turn had the opportunity to get her own artwork out into the world, in people’s homes, in corporate office buildings, anywhere it was appreciated. She was making a name for herself, slowly but surely, and one day Clarke was positive she’d be able to open her own gallery.


When she had enough money.

As dreams of her future art gallery danced around in her head, Clarke sat comfortably in the back of a rather nice taxi cab. She assumed the drive would take about thirty minutes, so she pulled out her phone to check her messages and play around on it for a while to help pass the time. The small canvas she had painted for her grandmother’s birthday gift was lying beside her on the seat, hidden by a beautiful floral patterned giftwrap and light pink ribbon tied around it. Clarke was positive her grandmother would love the gift, and she was excited to see her reaction to it.

“Thirty-eight fifty,” the taxi driver stated as he came to a stop in front of the restaurant.

“Thanks,” Clarke replied as she handed him a few bills, “keep the change.”

She was surprised when she stepped out of the cab to see her mom and grandmother making their way from the parking lot, figuring they would already have been there and waiting, and she stood off to the side of the pathway to wait for them to reach her. Abby caught her daughter’s eye almost immediately and waved, which Clarke acknowledged with her own wave, and the smile that broke out over the eldest woman’s face when she saw her granddaughter made Clarke giggle.

“Hey, Grandma,” Clarke greeted and offered another small wave as they all came together.

“Clarke, honey,” Lillian replied, immediately holding her arms out to wrap her granddaughter in a tight hug. They stood there for a moment before the older woman backed away and swept her gaze over Clarke from head to toe. “You look thin.”

“You’re the only one to ever tell me that, Gran,” Clarke said through a chuckle.

She was by no means overweight, but Clarke never considered herself thin. She had curves, curves that she loved, and was proud of her body. She had enough muscle definition to keep her healthy and was soft in all the right places. ‘As a woman ought to be,’ her mother always told Clarke during the years she was still growing and not altogether comfortable with her figure.

“Nonsense,” Lillian said with a click of her tongue. “The only other person thinner than you is your mother, and how Marcus hasn’t already snapped her like a twig is a mystery to me.”

Abby and Clarke both shared a look best described as a mixture of shock and faint disgust, but neither of them had the chance to respond before Lillian was motioning for to them to follow her. They did so rather awkwardly at first but quickly fell back into their usual flow by the time they had been seated at a cozy table on the patio outside. It was the perfect day to dine outdoors, and the quaint setup of tables and umbrellas atop the rustic cobblestone court only added to the picturesqueness of it all.

“Lunch is on me, so get what you want,” Abby instructed as she peered over the top of her menu.

Just as Clarke was about to joke about ordering the most expensive champagne and lunch item on the menu, something out of the corner of her eye caught her attention. She flicked her gaze towards the far end of the patio where a portable serving station was positioned and saw two servers animatedly talking to each other as quietly as they could so as not to draw any attention to themselves. When green eyes landed on her, Clarke froze until she saw the owner of them quickly dart her head to the left to hide behind the other person she was speaking to.

A wry grin began to crawl across Clarke’s face as she continued to watch the exchange, deducing easily that Lexa was trying to get the other server to wait on the table Clarke was occupying. An apologetic shrug of the other girl’s shoulders and a disappointed expression on Lexa’s face later, Clarke began formulating a plan in her head for how to irritate the irritating brunette even more than she normally was able to. She let her eyes fall back down onto her menu as Lexa straightened the front of her uniform shirt and tucked a stray piece of hair behind her ear before making her way over.

“Good afternoon, ladies,” Lexa announced as she began filling each of their glasses with ice water. “How are you all doing today?”

“Great,” Clarke spoke up immediately, a shit-eating smirk already plastered on her face. “We’re doing great, so great.”

Abby frowned at her daughter’s strange reaction to the question and didn’t see the glare Clarke received from Lexa before Abby turned her head back towards the brunette she only knew as a stranger and spoke.

“We’re doing well,” Abby reassured in a more level tone, “how are you?”

“Well, thank you,” Lexa answered in her most professional voice. “My name is Lexa, and I will be your server today. Can I get anyone started off with something other than water?”

“I’d like a glass of champagne, please,” Abby said with a smile, at which Lexa simply nodded.

“Bloody Mary for me,” Lillian told her before adding with a wink, “extra spicy.”

“Hmmm,” Clarke hummed as she looked down at her menu and tapped a finger against it as she pretended to think.

It wasn’t until an inordinate amount of silence lingered that Abby and Lillian both looked over at the blonde, who was sighing and acting as if she were making the toughest decision of her life. Lexa was gritting her teeth subtly as she tried hard not to hurry her customer along, but she was nearing the end of her rope when Clarke mumbled an ‘I don’t know’ for the fourth time while tapping her finger against her chin. Another few seconds passed, and Lexa finally broke.

“Clarke,” she snapped at the blonde, much to the surprise of Abby and Lillian.

“What?” Clarke barked back as she raised her glare to meet Lexa’s. The two shared an intense look but before Clarke could speak, Lillian beat her to it.

“Oh, so you’re friends?”

No,” both girls blurted out at the same time.

“I’ll have an iced tea,” Clarke quickly added, wanting nothing more than for Lexa to go away before her grandmother asked any more questions.

Lexa retreated with a polite nod, and Clarke sighed in relief.

“You were awfully rude to someone who apparently knows you,” Abby scolded her daughter as soon as the three of them were alone again.

“If anyone is rude, it’s her,” Clarke replied as she reached for her glass of water. “She’s practically the queen of rudeness.”

“She seemed perfectly pleasant to me,” Lillian pointed out, her eyebrows high in judgment of her granddaughter’s claim.

“Well, trust me, she’s not,” Clarke told her before taking a sip of her ice water.

“Clarke Abigail Griffin,” Lillian began sternly, “if this girl who is apparently the queen of rudeness can act as polite as she was, then you are more than capable of doing the same.”

“But Gran–”

“She’s right, Clarke,” Abby interrupted her daughter, “be an adult and be nice.”

Clarke’s mouth dropped open at her mother’s words and was ready to break into a tirade about how much she absolutely cannot stand the ‘perfectly pleasant non-rude’ girl but was silenced by a strong throat clearing from the opposite side of the table. Instead Clarke pursed her lips together and began bouncing her leg under the table, doing everything in her power to keep her mouth shut at her grandmother’s demand. She crossed her arms against her chest, and they all went back to reading their menus so they could put in their order by the time their drinks had been delivered.

“May I take everyone’s order?” Lexa asked as she placed the last drink from her tray onto the table.

They each took a turn ordering what they wanted, a salad for Lillian, lobster bisque for Abby, and a grilled chicken sandwich for Clarke, and Lexa quickly excused herself to deliver the ticket to the kitchen. A few minutes passed as they chatted until the subject of Lillian’s birthday came up, prompting Clarke to hand over the gift she had prepared as a proud smile began to form on her face.

“Clarke, you didn’t have to buy me anything,” Lillian chastised her granddaughter as she accepted the gift being presented to her. “I’m too old to get presents.”

“You’re not that old,” Clarke told her, “and I didn’t buy it for you.”

Lillian’s face brightened as she realized that what was hidden under the beautiful floral giftwrap was likely a painting, and she wasted no time in untying the ribbon and tearing the paper away to reveal a beautiful scene of a young girl sitting beneath a giant flowering cherry tree. Crystal blue eyes began to water as the older woman brushed the soft pads of her fingers along the canvas as waves of memories began swimming around in her head.

“I had the image in my mind for so long,” Clarke finally broke the silence. “I hope you like it.”

“I love it,” Lillian said immediately as she swallowed the lump in her throat. “It’s one of your most beautiful pieces, I think.”

Abby was blotting at a few tears that had pooled in the corners of her eyes that Clarke didn’t even notice as her mother leaned over and kissed her cheek affectionately. She smiled as her mother pulled away and rounded the table quickly when she saw her grandmother stand to give her a hug. By the time Clarke was sitting back down in her seat, her heart was racing with joy and felt relief that her painting was well-received.

“This could really be either of us, you know,” Lillian told Clarke as she pointed at the young girl under the tree.

All that could be seen was a mop of curly blonde hair and a light blue dress as the girl’s back was turned towards the eye of the beholder. It was no secret after comparing a few pictures of Clarke and her grandmother at the same age that their appearance was so alike they could have been mistaken for twins. Blonde hair, blue eyes, and fair skin were about all the physical similarities they shared now, but it was still obvious to most that they were related.

“I know,” Clarke replied with a smile, “that’s why I painted it that way.”

Before another word could be uttered, their food was being delivered. Clarke could only wonder for a second whether Lexa had sneakily sabotaged her meal in some way before pushing it out of her mind just a second before Lillian was speaking.

“My granddaughter painted this for me,” she told Lexa proudly as she held it up for her to see.

A huge knot twisted in Clarke’s stomach as she watched Lexa’s gaze fall onto her painting. She felt something similar to irritation that her grandmother had allowed Lexa to view her work without her permission. Had her grandmother shown it to anyone else in the world, Clarke wouldn’t have been upset. But the fact that it was Lexa who was seeing her painting, eyeing it up, probably critiquing it, made her blood start to boil. What she didn’t expect to ever hear were the very words that tumbled from Lexa’s mouth a few seconds later.

“It’s beautiful.”

Clarke blinked a few times as she steadied her gaze on the brunette and was nearly rendered speechless by the look of truth written across Lexa’s face, even if it did last for only a moment. Their eye contact was broken swiftly as the last plate was deposited on the table, and Clarke took the opportunity to sip a bit of her iced tea in an attempt to quench the sudden dryness of her throat. She didn’t notice how her grandmother was watching the entire subtle exchange with a keen eye.

“Is there anything else I can get for anyone?” Lexa asked as she pulled a small glass bottle of barbeque sauce from her apron pocket and set it beside Clarke’s plate.

“I’ll take another glass of champagne whenever you have the chance,” Abby said through a smile, earning a reciprocating smile and nod from Lexa before she left.

Lillian watched in silence as Clarke stared down at the bottle, her eyebrows scrunching together and concentrating so hard on it that she thought it might shatter under the weight of her gaze.

‘Did I order barbeque sauce? Why did she give this to me?’ Clarke silently questioned herself. ‘How the hell does she know I prefer barbeque sauce over ketchup?’

“Is something wrong, sweetie?” Abby asked when she finally noticed Clarke’s staring contest with the bottle beside her plate.

“What?” Clarke asked confusedly, finally lifting her head up to look at her mother. “No, I–”

Just as she was about to continue, Lexa appeared at their table again with a fresh glass of champagne for Abby, and Clarke physically could not stop herself from addressing the presumptuous server.

“Hey,” Clarke said as she looked up at Lexa and pointed a finger at the barbeque sauce bottle, “what is this?”

“It’s barbeque sauce," Lexa deadpanned.

“I know it’s barbeque sauce,” Clarke replied. “Why did you bring it to me?”

Why did I?” Lexa replied in question, her eyebrows raising just a fraction of an inch.

“Yes, why did you bring me barbeque sauce instead of ketchup?” Clarke asked. “Ninety-nine percent of the people in America eat fries with ketchup. I have fries, but you brought me barbeque sauce. Why did you do that?”

Abby and Lillian sat in stunned silence as they listened to Clarke ramble. She wasn’t angry, that was apparent by her tone, but the persistence in her voice made her slightly frantic questioning somewhat comical... at least to the innocent bystander.

“Would you like me to bring you a bottle of ketchup?” Lexa asked slowly as if she was speaking to a young child.

“I don’t want ketchup,” Clarke answered as she stared up at Lexa with her eyes blown wide. “I don’t like ketchup.”

“Look, Clarke, do you want the barbeque sauce or not?” Lexa finally asked in a small huff of annoyance.

“Yes,” Clarke told her.

“Fine,” Lexa replied before offering the table an awkward look and leaving.

“What is the matter with you?” Abby asked in a hushed tone.

“What is the matter with her!” Clarke came back with. “She brought me barbeque sauce instead of ketchup for my fries without me even ordering it! I mean, who does that?”

“Maybe you ordered it and just forgot you ordered it, dear,” Lillian offered, rolling her silverware free from her napkin.

“I didn’t!” Clarke nearly shrieked.

“Can we get over it, please?” Abby asked her daughter. “I’d like to enjoy my meal without hearing the word barbeque sauce a hundred more times.”

Lillian just chuckled as she took a small bite of her salad and kept her mouth shut as Clarke let out a long sigh before stubbornly plopping a small amount of the sauce that was not to be named onto her plate. They ate in silence for a while until a new topic was brought up, and the three of them fell into an easy conversation as the finished their meals and shared a sweet dessert of crème brûlée. It wasn’t until Lexa had tried to deliver the bill as quickly as possible that Lillian made the move she’d been waiting to make since the beginning of the meal.

“So, Lexa,” Lillian said loudly enough to give Lexa pause, “how long have you and my granddaughter known each other?”

“A while,” Lexa offered vaguely, actively avoiding eye contact with Clarke.

“Clarke?” Lillian asked as a way of demanding a more accurate answer.

“Over a year, I guess,” Clarke finally answered after doing a bit of quick math in her head.

“Feels more like ten,” Lexa quietly slipped in as she eyed the blonde.

“Or a hundred,” Clarke shot back defiantly, at which Lexa simply rolled her eyes.

“Are you married, dear?” Lillian asked, much to Clarke’s mortification, and Lexa stared back at the older woman in shock.

Abby cleared her throat loudly and repeatedly in an effort to stop her mother from embarrassing her daughter too much, but Lillian simply waved a dismissive hand and continued to wait for an answer.

“I’m not married, but I am very busy,” Lexa replied smoothly as she motioned to the patio now at full capacity, “so if you don’t mind...”

“Oh, of course,” Lillian quickly told her. “Please, as you were.”

The second Lexa had turned and practically ran away, Clarke was leaning over the table to catch her grandmother’s attention.

“Grandma, what the hell?”

“Clarke!” Abby immediately scolded her daughter for her foul language.

“What, can’t I ask a simple question?” Lillian asked, feigning slight innocence. “Have my countless years on this Earth not granted me that yet?”

It was only with a groan that Clarke replied before Abby placed a hundred dollar bill in the ticket sleeve, and the three of them left the restaurant, Clarke not even daring a single look back as she left.


“Non-Surgical Alternatives to Full Hip Replacements?” Raven read aloud as she peeked over Clarke’s shoulder from behind the couch. “I know you sometimes complain about aches and pains, Clarke, but isn’t this a bit dramatic?”

“It’s not for me, smartass,” Clarke replied with a roll of her eyes. “My grandma broke the news at her birthday lunch last week that she’s getting her hip replaced, so I’m just doing a little research to make sure it’s the best option for her.”

“Aww, you’re the best granddaughter ever,” Raven said as she batted her eyelashes and plopped down onto the other end of the couch. “Damn, she’s going to have more metal in her body than I do at the rate she’s going.”

Clarke chuckled, glancing over towards Raven and watching as she began unbuckling her leg brace. It was about the time every evening Raven would take it off and ask for a massage, though most of the time Clarke would just wordlessly start before even being asked. Thanks to their friendship spanning back through their childhood, they had always been close but it was after the accident that they bonded in a way neither of them ever thought they would.

Raven started as a Freshman in University during Clarke’s senior year in High School, and the aspiring engineer was elated when her best friend's father had offered her a part-time internship working with him at his engineering company. A routine day of tinkering on their most recent project turned into a nightmare when a small electrical fire broke out, putting into motion a series of events that lead to Jake using his body as a shield to save Raven from being killed in a violent explosion only for him to end up losing his own life while doing it. That day sealed Clarke and Raven’s bond for eternity, and they remained nearly inseparable for the next five years or so following the accident.

“How many fake bones does she actually have now?” Raven asked as she shimmied herself into the cushions and draped her leg across Clarke’s lap.

“She’s had both of her knees replaced, a wrist joint replacement, and there’s some kind of metal rod in her shoulder,” Clarke said with a slight shake of her head, “but I still swear she gets healthier after each surgery.”

“She’s a tough one,” Raven sighed as she let her head fall back onto the couch and relax into Clarke’s carefully practiced ministrations.

“Does Anya do this for you?” Clarke questioned after a few beats of silence.

“Yeah, no need to get jealous though,” Raven teased, closing her eyes and smiling. “No one does it like you, Griffin.”

“I don’t know whether to take that as a compliment or an insult,” Clarke joked back. “I was more making sure that she’s taking care of you.”

“She does,” Raven answered seriously at first before breaking into a more suggestive tone. “She takes good care of me.”

“Ugh, gross,” Clarke said as she scrunched her face in disgust.

“No need to get snippy just because you’re not getting laid,” Raven pointed out.

Before Clarke could even answer there was a knock at their front door, so she slipped from the couch to see who it was.

“Gran?” Clarke questioned curiously as she opened the door to reveal the older woman. “What’s wrong? Are you okay?”

“Of course I’m okay, Clarke,” Lillian quickly quelled her granddaughter’s concern.

“Grandma Dub!” Raven called excitedly from her position on the couch. “Hola, preciosa!”

“Hola, Señorita Raven,” Lillian replied without missing a beat. “I just came by to drop something off.”

“Do you want to stay a while?” Clarke asked as she ushered the woman inside and closed the door behind her. “Let me get you something to drink.”

“That’s fine, dear,” Lillian cut in quickly. “I should be getting back before dark, but I wanted to make sure you got this.”

“What is it?” Clarke asked as she took the large yellow envelope from her grandmother’s hand and looked down at it confusedly.

“Every time I schedule a new surgery, I sit down with my financial planner and go over some things,” Lillian explained, “most of which I’m sure would bore you to death.”

“Okay,” Clarke said slowly, unsure of what the older woman was going to tell her.

“That’s an updated copy of my will,” Lillian finally said into a room so silent that a dropped pin would sound like a clap of thunder.

“Are you going to die?” Raven so ineloquently asked, her eyes just as wide as Clarke’s as they stared at the older woman in shock.

“Relax, girls,” Lillian assured them dismissively before turning her attention solely on Clarke. “I update that old thing at least once a year, I just don’t normally give you a copy. Although I have a feeling you’re going to want to read through this one.”


“Because you’re in it,” Lillian stated matter-of-factly. “Technically you’ve always been in it, but I added something new that I think may peak your interest. Read it when you want and call me with any questions.”

Lillian was gone quicker than she arrived, and Clarke was left standing alone with the envelope still in her hand. She made her way back towards the couch, and Raven snatched the document from Clarke to shake it like a Christmas present.

“Dude, this thing is heavy!” Raven commented dramatically. “How much money is she leaving you?”

“I don’t know,” Clarke muttered as she snatched the envelope back and put it on the coffee table.

“Aren’t you going to open it?”

“Maybe later,” Clarke said sheepishly. “It’s private, right?”

“Fine,” Raven replied with a small shrug, “but as long as you’re sitting there, will you massage my leg?”

A few hours later, Clarke found herself hovering over her grandmother’s will that she’d spread out atop the quilt on her bed. There was so much legal jargon sprawled across every square inch of the document that it practically made Clarke’s eyes cross as she read it, and she quickly resorted to skimming the pages for her name to read only the bits that pertained to her. She nearly choked on her own breath when she saw the amount of the lump sum of money she would be inheriting upon her grandmother’s death but tried not to think about it, knowing she would only be benefiting from it if her grandmother was gone.

Towards the end of one of the sections notated as being amended, Clarke noticed her name again and took extra care in reading what it said. The first few lines were packed with information, and Clarke felt her heartbeat speed up as she began to piece together what was being outlined. The pre-death condition detailed a hefty allowance of money to be used in the purchase of an art gallery space, something Clarke had only ever dreamed of having, but the instructions proceeding it were what gave Clarke pause. When her eyes scanned over an unfamiliar name for the third time, she finally realized what the condition was stating.

Lillian Abigail Walters, in death or life, hereby bequeaths the aforementioned sum to beneficiary Clarke Abigail Griffin (granddaughter) to be paid upon her engagement and subsequent marriage to one Miss Alexandria Abigail Woods and existing within the following parameters as set forth below.

‘She’s going to give me money to buy a gallery once I get married?’ Clarke thought as her eyebrows scrunched together tightly.

Another quick swipe of the text below seemed to register a few points in Clarke’s hazy mind, but she was unknowingly distracted by the name she had read now for the fourth time. There were so many mentions of the familial name ‘Abigail’ in the will that she was having trouble distinguishing one from the other through her confusion, and she let out a small sigh before speaking quietly out loud in her bedroom.

“Who the hell is...”

ALexandria Abigail Woods.

Chapter Text

Lexa had finally settled into a comfortable position on the couch with a steaming cup of spiced tea resting on the table beside her and textbooks piled on the coffee table in front of her. She was in for the night, as she usually found herself every other night besides those she had to work, and was eager to dive into the research for one of the bigger essays she’d yet to attempt in her college career. She’d quickly learned that law school was pretty much all it was cracked up to be, but Lexa still loved every single second of it.

She never imagined herself going to law school, at least being able to go to law school, since she’d never been set up with any kind of college fund before her father had passed away. The only way she was able to manage to earn her first University degree without graduating under the heavy weight of student loan debt was to work her way through it. Spending six years finishing what most students did in four was also a key ingredient in the mix. Now that she was officially enrolled in a law program though, her schedule was a bit more stringent and the pressures of graduating on time and without debt were quickly catching up to her.

“What are you still doing up?” Anya asked sleepily as she trudged down the hallway towards the living room.

“Studying,” Lexa replied, not bothering to move her eyes away from the textbook resting in her lap.

“When do you sleep?”

“What’s sleep?” Lexa joked, her face brightening with a smile at her own cleverness.

“Ha,” Anya grunted as she grabbed a cup from the kitchen cabinet and filled it with water.

A rapid series of knocks against their front door made both girls jump, and they caught each other’s glance as if to ask whether the other was expecting someone. Lexa just shrugged as she lifted herself from her position on the couch and walked towards the door, cocking an eyebrow at the older girl who chose to hang back in the kitchen area.

“What? I look like shit,” Anya said as she pointed at her face completely devoid of makeup.

“And I don’t?” Lexa argued, pushing her glasses up the bridge of her nose and tucking a few stray hairs behind her ear.

“Let me wholeheartedly agree with that statement for just a moment, please,” Anya quipped.

Without so much as a word, Lexa closed the distance between her and the door and leaned forward to peer through the peephole. Who she saw standing just outside had her doing a double-take, a triple-take even, before she slowly unlocked and opened the door.

“Here, you’re a lawyer right?” Clarke asked as she shoved a large yellow envelope against Lexa’s chest and walked past her into the apartment.

“No,” Lexa answered dryly, acutely eyeing the flustered blonde as she strode past her, “but please do come in without being invited.”

“Clarke?” Anya asked as she finally laid eyes on her girlfriend’s best friend. “Is Raven okay?”

“Raven’s fine,” Clarke quickly assured Anya. “This, strangely enough, is about your sister.”

“In that case, I’m going back to bed,” Anya said as she headed back towards her bedroom, “unless I’m needed to play referee between you two.”

Lexa waved her off, knowing exactly the reason Anya had mentioned it but hoping Clarke could control herself enough not to steer them towards a fight that was usually inevitable when the two of them were left alone together. She watched as Clarke made her way to the refrigerator and opened it as if she was in her own home, and Lexa had to bite back a smart remark in favor of getting to the point as to why Clarke had barged into her house in the first place. She flipped the top of the envelope open and pulled out a legal folder, much to her surprise.

“Do you have any alcohol?” Clarke asked as her hands pushed aside the most annoyingly efficient and healthiest pre-packed lunches she had ever seen in her entire life.

“What is this?” Lexa questioned as she tentatively opened the folder and began flipping through the pages.

“Mike’s Hard Lemonade?” Clarke asked in response as she finished her raid of both the refrigerator and the freezer. “As in the stuff sixteen year olds try to get drunk on? That’s the only alcohol you have in your entire house?”

“What are you even doing here?” Lexa demanded, closing the folder and dropping it to the cold countertop before folding her arms across her chest.

It was the unamused stare she was getting from the brunette in front of her that made Clarke realize she wasn’t going to get any sort of productive answer until she herself offered a few. With a sigh and a quick pull of her fingers through her hair, Clarke licked her lips and tipped her chin towards the folder.

“It’s my grandmother's living will.”

The intensity of green dulled for a moment as Lexa scrunched her brow almost unnoticeably and clenched her teeth together, the hinge of her jaw flexing slightly under the strain.

“Why do I care about your grandmother’s living will?” Lexa finally asked.

“Because you’re in it,” Clarke answered quite defiantly and was unable to stop the way her eyes widened like a bratty child as she spoke.

“Why am I in your grandmother’s–”

“Just read it,” Clarke practically growled out, the seemingly endless string of Lexa’s questioning beginning to grate on her nerves.

“You sure have a way with words, Griffin,” Lexa said as she leveled her with another steely stare. “Don't ever take a job wherein on a daily basis you would need to interact with other human beings, let alone children or the elderly.”

“Don’t ever climb down from that ivory tower,” Clarke quipped back, “because your high and mighty ass wouldn’t last a day down here with us peasant folk who have nothing but our ways with words.”

“I’ve never had my ass referred to as being high and mighty,” Lexa said as she twisted herself to admire her own behind the best she could, “but I’ll take it.”

Clarke answered by closing her eyes and letting out a frustrated sigh, setting a bottle of hard lemonade on the counter with a small thud. Their gazes met again as Clarke finally opened her eyes, having spent enough time in her head to calm herself just a fraction, and the only sound that filled the room was the hiss and pop from the twist-off bottle cap Clarke had loosened. After a sip and a small grimace at the carbonated sweetness, Clarke opened her mouth to speak.

“Can you please just read it?” She asked, a bit more gentleness in her tone.

It was Lexa’s turn to sigh and she did so quietly before settling herself onto one of the bar stools tucked under the countertop and opening the folder. Clarke watched in decreasing impatience as Lexa appeared to read each and every word of the document, starting at the beginning no less, and she tapped the tip of her finger against the cold surface of the counter as if the repetitive sound might speed the other girl’s process.

Just as Clarke opened her mouth to urge the brunette to read more quickly, Lexa stood and walked into the living room to stand in front of her large bookcase before plucking a thick textbook from the shelf and carrying it back over to where the will was still resting on the countertop. Clarke watched in horror as Lexa opened the book, one that looked to contain just about every legal word in the entire universe, and began to reference it as she read each sentence through.

“Here, skip to page ten,” Clarke said as she reached over to try and flip a few pages further into the document, but Lexa simply batted her hand away.

“This is a legal document, Clarke,” Lexa warned her with a glare to match the sharpness in her voice. “You asked me to read it, and this is how I read legal documents.”

“Well, I wasn’t asking you to read the whole damn thing,” Clarke began to explain, “just the part about you which is on page ten.”

Lexa stared over the countertop at Clarke in silence and worked her jaw, trying everything in her power not to lash out at the pushy blonde. Clarke just sighed and reached her hand out again only for it to be pushed away by Lexa which prompted a pale hand to come down hard on the smooth slab of granite, slapping loudly in defiance as it landed.

“If you’re going to act like a petulant child, then I’m not going to read this for you,” Lexa said as she pushed the folder towards Clarke across the counter.

If Lexa knew anything about herself, it was that she had a method for everything she did. Reading a legal document, especially one of such length, was tiring and confusing and exactly the reason the law student had retrieved her legal dictionary from its spot on the bookshelf in the first place. She was determined to understand correctly each and every word, and making Clarke wait for her to read it in its entirety worked not only to amuse Lexa but also to force the clearly frenzied blonde to spend some time calming down.

When Clarke offered no resistance, Lexa stood up and made her way over to a kitchen cabinet where she pulled down a glass followed by a rather expensive bottle of whiskey that was only about half-full. The expression on Clarke’s face went from annoyed (at the fact that she hadn’t been offered the real alcohol until after she had opened a bottle of hard lemonade) to relieved (at the fact that she could now properly dull the edge of her nerves that had been raging since she had read her grandmother’s will).

Without a single word, Lexa returned to her bar stool and continued in her process to read through the substantial document. About five minutes in, Lexa pulled out a legal pad to scribble a few notes on and Clarke made her way into the living room with the bottle of whiskey to make herself comfortable in front of the television. A few biting remarks were exchanged about the volume level until Clarke reluctantly turned it down, and an hour later Lexa closed the folder and walked into the living room to hand it back over to a stunned looking Clarke.

“So?” Clarke finally spoke.

“So, what?” Lexa asked, a casual shrug moving her shoulders just slightly.

“Don’t you have anything to say about it?” Clarke questioned.

“Not really,” Lexa replied as she retrieved her now cold tea from the table by the couch and headed into the kitchen.

“You saw that you were named in it, right?” Clarke asked. “I wasn’t just imagining that, right?”

“Right,” Lexa answered as she put her mug into the microwave to reheat it.

“Well, so,” Clarke huffed as she tried to understand why Lexa wasn’t reacting, “does it say something different from what I think it says?”

“It says that your grandmother will gift you money to buy your own art gallery once you and I get engaged.”

“Hah!” Clarke shouted as she pointed an accusatory finger at the calm brunette. “That’s what I thought it said! Why are you not freaking out?”

“Why should I be freaking out?” Lexa asked before taking a small sip of her now warm tea.

Just the way the girl was standing there, hair up in a loose messy bun with her glasses sliding down her nose and calmly sipping on her tea after reading something that could potentially change both of their lives forever, was starting to make Clarke’s blood boil.

“Oh, I don’t know, how about the horrendous image of you and me getting married?” Clarke blurted out as she sat down on the bar stool Lexa had been sitting on earlier.

“That is a horrendous image,” Lexa quickly agreed, “but not one that will ever come to fruition.”

“Wait... what... but why?” Clarke stumbled over her words, getting nervous at the prospect of not getting her gallery after all.

“Even if I entertained this idea for, like, a second,” Lexa began, “what would I even get out of it?”

“Helping me realize my lifelong dream of buying my very own art gallery?” Clarke said more than asked as if it should be the most obvious answer in the world to anyone.

“Yeah, that’s a hard pass,” Lexa told her as she walked out of the kitchen and into the living room to plop back down on the couch where she’d been studying before Clarke showed up.

“So that’s it?” Clarke asked in disbelief. “You’re not even going to think about it?”

“You must be seriously delusional if you think I’d actually agree to this,” Lexa told her honestly.

“Fine,” Clarke huffed as she hurried towards the front door, knuckles white from gripping the corner of the file in her hand.

A swell of anger bubbled beneath the brunette’s skin as she flipped the TV off and made her way towards the front door to lock it after the award winning act for best bitchy exit had taken place. The gall of someone, whom Lexa actively and increasingly disliked, to barge into her home, demand her to read something, and then slam the door in her face without so much as a single appreciative word was almost too much for Lexa.

She poured herself a shot of whiskey into the glass Clarke had been using and downed it properly before washing it out and tucking the bottle back into its spot in the cabinet. With most of the productive evening spent, Lexa decided to skip her scheduled research time and head straight to bed. It wasn’t ten minutes after she had finally snuggled into a comfortable spot under her blankets that Lexa head her phone vibrate against the surface of her bedside table.

Unknown: What would it take?

Lexa frowned as she read the text message a few times over, wondering who the hell would be texting her so late with such a vague question. Before she could even finish asking the question in her head, the answer popped up. She typed out a responding message regardless, wanting to make sure she was texting who she thought she was texting.

Lexa Woods: Who is this?

Unknown: It’s Clarke.

Lexa Woods: How did you get my number?

Unknown: I hijacked Raven’s phone.

Unknown: What would it take for you to help me get my gallery?

Lexa sighed and repositioned herself to rest a bit higher against her pillows as she read through the messages a few more times while thinking of an appropriate (as in not horrendously irritated) response.

Lexa Woods: I’m not in the business of making rash decisions, Clarke, so I wouldn’t know.

Incoming Call: Unknown

‘She is literally the most annoying person ever,’ Lexa thought as she felt the steady vibrations of her phone against the palm of her hand and debated on whether to answer it. On the one hand, she never answered her phone when an Unknown number called and didn’t want to start now. On the other hand, it was most likely Clarke and Lexa was sure she’d get an eyeful over text if she didn’t answer. She must have been contemplating her decision to answer for longer than she realized because the screen illuminating her face in the darkness suddenly flashed with a ‘missed call’ alert.

Unknown: Why didn’t you answer?

Lexa Woods: I don’t answer calls from unknown numbers.

Unknown: Then add me to your contacts and answer your damn phone.

Incoming Call: Unknown

A swift clench of her teeth made Lexa’s jaw ache, but against her better judgement she swiped her finger along her screen and held the phone up to her ear.

“You are so annoying,” Lexa spoke into the mouthpiece, only to hear an offended scoff at the other end.

“I’m annoying? If that isn’t the pot calling the kettle black, I don’t know what is.”

“You barged into my house, demanded I read your grandmother’s will,” Lexa said as she began to wind back up again, “left in a huff and then decided to call me just as I was trying to go to sleep? That’s like the Merriam-Webster Dictionary definition of annoying.”

“Look, I’m too buzzed to fight because holy hell that whiskey was strong, I just want to know what it would take for you to entertain the idea for more than a second.”

“The idea of marrying you so that you can get an art gallery?” Lexa asked, her tone far more biting than she expected it to be.

“Yeah, that one.”

“I don’t rush into making life-altering decisions at the drop of a hat, Clarke,” Lexa told her through a pained sigh, “and I especially wouldn’t do it for someone who clearly hates me without the promise of getting something out of the deal myself.”

“If you would just fucking listen to me for once, maybe I wouldn’t have to hate you so much. The whole reason I’m being such an inconvenient bother to you right now is to ask what you want out of the deal.”

“It’s not that easy,” Lexa finally replied, sighing again as her fingers pinched at the bridge of her nose.


A beat of silence passed between the two of them as Lexa thought.

“Why is it not that easy? I won’t judge you if that’s what you’re worried about. I mean, I might if you ask for something weird.”

Another small beat of silence passed while Lexa remained quiet until Clarke spoke up once again.

“Did you fall asleep?”

“No, I didn’t fall asleep,” Lexa said, a hint of annoyance laced in her tone.

“Can I make a request?”

“You’re joking,” Lexa replied as a surprised chuckle tumbled out of her lungs.

“Come with me to see my Grandma tomorrow morning. I want to ask her what the hell she was thinking when she decided to write this into her will, and maybe you can talk to her about sweetening the pot for you. I’ll bring you coffee.”

“I don’t drink coffee,” Lexa answered after a short pause.

“Is that your way of agreeing to come with?”

“Meet me here at seven o’clock with a small Chai tea and a fresh fruit cup from the coffee shop on my block,” Lexa told her.

“Seven o’clock,” Clarke confirmed, trying to keep the satisfied smirk out of her voice as she spoke.

They didn’t even bother with the formalities of saying goodbye or goodnight before their call was disconnected. Lexa dropped her phone back onto its place on her bedside table and situated herself beneath the covers once again, quickly losing herself to sleep only minutes later.

“I’d like a small Chai tea and a large Macchiato with an extra shot of espresso,” Clarke told the barista as she pushed a fresh fruit cup and cold ham and cheese croissanwich across the countertop.

The barista nodded and pushed a few numbers on the cash register in front of her. She slowed her pace and snuck a glance up at Clarke who caught her gaze with a questioning expression.

“Do you know Lexa Woods?”

“I, uh,” Clarke faltered at the mention of the name, “I know of her.”

“Small Chai and fruit is her Monday morning order,” Luna (as her nametag read) said as she continued tapping around the register screen.

“Ah,” Clarke offered weakly before clearing her throat to speak again. “I should have assumed she’d have a weekly routine for ordering coffee.”

“Actually she doesn’t drink coffee,” Luna pointed out with something of a sparkle in her eyes.

“I know,” Clarke replied defensively and immediately scrunched her eyebrows in confusion as to why she did so.

“Fifteen eighty-seven,” Luna said and took the twenty dollar bill that was held out to her. “Name for the order?”


“Clarke,” Luna repeated with a hint of recognition in her voice.

It was just enough to make Clarke’s skin crawl as she thought about the possibility of Lexa talking, or likely complaining, about her to a random barista in a coffee shop down the street. Or perhaps she wasn’t so random? Clarke realized right then and there that she knew as many facts about the brunette that she could count with fingers on a single hand. She didn’t drink coffee, she worked as a server at Polis Café, and she was a law student. Surely that could be enough to base a fake marriage on, right?

“It should be ready in about five minutes,” Luna told Clarke, effectively bringing her back from being lost in her own thoughts.

“Thanks,” Clarke mumbled as she grabbed her food and headed to the far side of the long counter.

Clarke dug herself back into the warmth of her thoughts again and wondered whether what her grandmother had proposed in her living will was more of an arranged marriage than a fake marriage. Was Abby in on it? Would Clarke have to keep the part about the gift money a secret? She shook her head as she thought about the fact that her mother would never buy into any story Clarke might be able to dream up about marrying Lexa and knew that would be one person to whom she’d have to tell the truth.

“Clarke?” Luna called as she slid the two drinks towards her. “Not to pry or anything, but is Lexa okay? I mean, she’s not hurt or anything is she?”

“No, she’s fine,” Clarke answered nonchalantly in an attempt to mask whatever feelings were running through her at that moment.

“Oh, good,” Luna said through a sigh of relief. “I’m always telling her to take it easy on her morning jogs, especially when the weather is bad. I thought maybe she rolled her ankle again after that big storm we had last week.”

“She rolled her ankle while jogging?” Clarke asked, her expression twisting in pain just at the thought.

“The girl runs during downpours, blizzards, and everything in between,” Luna explained with a small chuckle, “and then as the audacity to be surprised when she injures herself. The rolled ankle took her out of commission for over a week. She almost lost one of her jobs.”

“One of?” Clarke questioned as her eyebrows raised in surprise.

“I think at the time she was working for a country club in the suburbs,” Luna told her, casually checking over her shoulder to make sure her co-workers were keeping up with the other customers. “Her managers there were dicks about it. Told her if she couldn’t make it into her shift within a week that she shouldn’t bother coming in at all. The body needs time to heal, you know? You can’t rush that.”

“Right,” Clarke said as she nodded, having heard similar statements from her mother throughout the years.

“Anyways, she finally quit that place about a month ago and started working at a new café on the other side of town,” Luna continued to explain proudly. “Between her penchant to run and the martial arts class she teaches twice a week, I’m surprised she isn’t injured more often than she’s healthy to be honest.”

Clarke smiled as Luna chuckled at her own words but didn’t immediately offer anything to say, feeling at a slight loss of words by how much information she had just received about who she once animatedly likened to her arch nemesis.

“I guess her penchant for healthy eating is what keeps her strong,” Clarke finally said as she motioned to the fresh fruit cup sitting on the counter as her mind flashed back to all the healthy pre-packed lunches she had seen in Lexa’s fridge the night before.

‘Aha! One more thing I know about her!’ Clarke mentally fist-bumped herself and smirked when the confident look on Luna’s face faltered. ‘Wait, why the hell do I even care?’

“Right,” Luna spoke up. “Well, let her know that I said hello and that I’ll see her the next time it rains.”

She tried, she really tried not to, but Clarke couldn’t stop herself from flashing the girl a small glare before nodding in acknowledgment and grabbing her drinks to leave. The walk to Lexa’s house went by much quicker than Clarke had anticipated it would, and it wasn’t before long that she was standing on her front step and banging her foot against the bottom of the door.

“Good morning?” Lexa questioned as soon as she revealed herself, the expression on her face already annoyed at the improper knocking that had prompted her to reluctantly answer the door.

“My hands were full,” Clarke said with a shrug.

“You couldn’t have pushed an elbow into the doorbell?” Lexa asked unconvinced.

“Nope,” Clarke answered, raising a solitary eyebrow in challenge.

Lexa decided not to buy into whatever game Clarke was trying to play with her and stepped back to let the blonde inside. Clarke immediately took in her surroundings to notice an exercise ball and other miscellaneous equipment organized neatly beside the TV stand as well as a plethora of what appeared to be University textbooks lying open in a slightly different location than where she’d noticed them the prior night.

“How long have you been awake?” Clarke heard herself ask as she placed the cardboard drink tray and bag of food on top of the kitchen counter.

“A while,” Lexa offered vaguely.

“Meaning long enough to fit in a workout and a study session,” Clarke began before looking over at Lexa and appraising her appearance, “and make yourself over from the mess you looked like last night?”

“Something like that,” Lexa replied in a dry tone.

The conversation was dropped at that, and Clarke began unwrapping her sandwich as Lexa got herself a fork for her fruit. As she quietly chewed and swept her gaze around the apartment she'd only been inside a handful of times, Clarke's attention focused itself on the large bookcase along the wall perpendicular to the wall the TV stand was set up. She could have sworn she saw an entire row of poetry books, as in actual books of poems, but couldn't get a clear enough sightline to read the entirety of their titles. Her eyes trailed along the shockingly barren walls until she was left staring back at the exercise equipment once again. She let out a non-descript hum as she studied the inflatable yellow ball, leaving Lexa to lift a questioning eyebrow in Clarke’s direction.

“I thought you were more of a runner,” Clarke finally spoke between bites as she turned her head back around to look at the brunette who was picking contentedly at her fruit.

“I’ll run tomorrow,” Lexa said matter-of-factly. “As long as you were already getting my breakfast for me, there was no need for me to leave the house.”

“Not even to see Luna?” Clarke asked quickly, leaning over the countertop just a fraction more as she spoke. “She says hello, by the way.”

The same flash of recognition Clarke had seen earlier on Luna’s face passed over Lexa’s face, and she found herself craving an explanation of what the two were to each other more than she cared to admit. When Lexa gave no indication of a desire to explain, Clarke left the question hang unanswered and went back to finishing off her sandwich in silence. A few more minutes passed, and Lexa picked up her keys from the counter which Clarke took as a cue they were leaving.

She would have shot off some kind of smart remark about Lexa’s sporadic inability to express herself with simple English words, but Clarke decided against it in the end. As long as Lexa was still on board with kind of, possibly, maybe giving this sham marriage for a gallery idea a thought, she was going to try and keep her naturally biting comments to herself. Not that biting comments always came naturally to Clarke, but they certainly seemed to whenever Lexa was involved.

“So, are you seeing her?” Clarke asked into the silence of the car as they drove along familiar streets through the heart of the city.

“What?” Lexa asked, sounding a bit surprised by the suddenness of the question.

“Is that why you’re reluctant to do this?” Clarke questioned further. “Because you’re seeing Luna?”

“If I was seeing someone, I wouldn’t have contemplated for a second about doing this,” Lexa told her sternly.

The sureness in her voice sent shivers down Clarke’s spine, something she would never in a hundred years admit, and for the first time she felt completely satisfied with an answer given to her by Lexa.

“She’s into you,” Clarke said before taking a sip of her coffee.

The statement was met with complete silence, and it provoked a small huff from the passenger’s side of the quiet car.

“Are you always this terrible at having conversations?” Clarke asked in annoyance.

“Are you always this insistent on having conversations?” Lexa questioned back.

Clarke could only keep her mouth shut for a few (seemingly never-ending) seconds before she opened it right back up.

“If you ever stepped out of your self-absorbed little bubble, you would see that your little barista has a major crush on you,” Clarke said determinedly.

“Who says I haven’t already noticed?” Lexa asked, a distinct edge of defiance in her voice.

“Well, I don’t know whether to be impressed or jealous,” Clarke replied as a small shrug tugged her shoulders up, “seeing as we might be getting engaged this morning.”

“I haven’t agreed to anything yet,” Lexa made sure to point out. “Just because I’m going with you to talk to your grandmother doesn’t mean that–”

“Oh my gosh, calm down,” Clarke said through an exasperated sigh. “Seriously, your panties must constantly be in a twist.”

“Don’t think about my panties,” Lexa snapped so sternly it was comical, given the subject of the command, and reached towards the dashboard to turn the radio on.

Clarke smiled but kept her laughter to herself, opting instead to sip on her coffee and enjoy the music for the rest of their trip across town. It only took another thirty minutes or so before they were pulling into the driveway of Clarke’s grandmother’s house, and a wave of uncertainty suddenly washed over Clarke as she stepped out onto the concrete driveway she’d walked along countless times before.

“What is your grandmother’s name?” Lexa asked quietly as she rounded the car and stood a respectable distance away from Clarke.

“Lillian Walters,” Clarke answered quickly out of instinct but shot Lexa a questioning look anyways.

“Is she married?” Lexa inquired further.


“I need to know how to address her if necessary,” Lexa explained.

“She’s widowed,” Clarke said as they began to walk towards the front door where they were immediately greeted warmly by the very woman Lexa had recognized as being at Clarke’s table at the restaurant she worked the week before.

“Clarke and Alexandria,” Lillian called out as she motioned for them to come inside.

The first thing that hit Lexa’s senses was the faint smell of vanilla similar to what she had noticed radiating off Clarke in the car on their way over. The entryway was expansive, though not overly so, and was sectioned off from the rest of the house by white tiled flooring while a dark hardwood ran throughout the rest of the rooms visible. The bright morning sunlight streamed through every window in the house and gave the space a cozy warmth.

“It’s good to see you, sweetie,” Lillian said as she wrapped Clarke into a lingering hug and kissed her on the cheek.

Lexa watched the shared moment uncomfortably, feeling like an intruder of sorts given the common levels of animosity between Clarke and herself, but managed to mask her emotions well enough not to let on that she would rather be anywhere than where she was at that very moment. A dull throb began to grow behind her eyes, and Lexa hoped she would be able to stave off the beginnings of a headache for at least a few hours until she could make it back home.

“Alexandria, it’s a delight to see you again as well,” Lillian broke the silence once more, and Lexa extended her hand in greeting. “Should we take a seat on the patio? I have an inkling as to why you’re both here.”

Clarke nodded and noted the twinkle in her grandmother’s eyes as she spoke but said nothing of it as she followed the older woman’s lead towards the back of the house. A small tray with three glasses of iced tea was already situated on a small outdoor table in the middle of three adirondack chairs pointing towards each other in a circle of sorts. Clarke plopped down into one quickly, eager to speak with her grandmother about the situation at hand, but Lexa moved slowly as if she was waiting for everyone to be seated before she sat down herself.

“Let the questioning begin,” Lillian said as she reached for a glass of iced tea and signaled for the girls to take one as well.

“You want to give me the money to buy my own gallery?” Clarke jumped right in.

“Yes,” Lillian nodded before taking a sip of her tea.

“After Lexa and I get married?” Clarke questioned further, her fingers beginning to fidget around the cold glass in their grasp.

“Engaged,” Lexa chimed in as she reached for the last glass of iced tea on the tray.

“Yes,” Lillian nodded, looking that time at Lexa, “but with the intention of getting married.”

Lexa simply nodded in understanding. She knew exactly what the conditions were of the proposition and exactly why they had been written the way they had. In fact, Lexa was convinced Clarke’s grandmother had a very experienced attorney draft up the contract (so to speak) as she herself had found no loopholes whatsoever in it.

And she definitely looked.

“Why?” Clarke asked in genuine wonder.

“Why not?” Lillian countered with a small shrug.

“Out of anyone you could have picked,” Clarke began before gesturing towards Lexa, “why would you choose her?”

“Why not, dear?” Lillian asked again as a playful smirk started to play at the corners of her lips.

“You could have picked Raven,” Clarke blurted out. “You know Raven. We’ve been best friends for years. We love each other. You love her.”

“Oh, Clarke, I do love her,” Lillian explained as she crossed her ankles lightly, “but you two have less romantic chemistry than toothpaste and orange juice taste good together.”

Clarke shot an unidentifiable look over at Lexa who did nothing but take another hearty sip of her drink, confident that she didn’t want to speak until absolutely necessary. She hadn’t really thought much about the relationship Anya’s girlfriend had with Clarke, so in turn Lexa didn’t have anything pertinent to add regarding it. Lillian seemed unfazed by her granddaughter’s lingering confusion and reclined a bit further back in her chair as if she was getting comfortable for a lengthy question-and-answer exchange.

“Just answer me this,” Clarke began slowly, “why make me get married in exchange for a gallery?”

“I’m not making you do anything, Clarke,” Lillian told her sternly. “You are free to turn down my proposal and wait to buy your gallery with the money you’ll inherit after I die.”

Grandma,” Clarke scolded the woman for speaking so crassly.

“Which reminds me,” Lillian said as she turned her attention towards Lexa, “did you notice the mention of a prenuptial agreement you will be required to sign should the two of you decide to move forward?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Lexa answered with a solid nod.

“What did mom say about all of this?” Clarke interjected quickly.

“Your mother doesn’t know,” Lillian told her with a dismissive wave of her hand. “It will be up to the two of you whether you want to let your family and friends in on the details of the arrangement should you choose to move forward.”

“I just don’t get it,” Clarke said meekly. “I don’t get how you came up with this idea and why you think it’s a good one. Lexa and I don’t even know each other. We can hardly stand to be in the same room together let alone imagine being married to one another.”

“Listen, honey, I don’t think any answer I give will satisfy you,” Lillian explained carefully. “Someday you’ll get to a certain age where the ‘why’s’ start to turn into ‘why not’s’, and that is exactly where I am right now. That’s my answer for now, so take it or leave it.”

At that, Clarke slumped back into her chair and frowned. She could tell by the tone of her grandmother’s voice that she wasn’t going to get any more of an explanation out of her than she already had, and it was up to her whether to accept it and continue their conversation or simply call the entire thing off. Lexa sat silently in her chair, looking over at Clarke for any indication of her decision, and was caught slightly off guard when Lillian spoke directly to her.

“What do you think of all this, Alexandria?” Lillian asked gently.

“Me?” Lexa managed before having to take a steadying breath, “I, uh, I have a few questions.”

Lillian just nodded at the brunette’s vagueness and looked over at Clarke, knowing that it was the approval from her granddaughter that the girl was waiting on before asking her questions. Clarke finally regarded the two with a silent look before nodding reluctantly at Lexa who turned towards Lillian to speak.

“While I completely understand your consideration for Clarke’s well-being above that of a stranger’s,” Lexa started, “I can’t help but question what benefit your proposal would be to me.”

“I see,” Lillian replied as she nodded slowly, the figurative gears in her head beginning to turn.

“She wasn’t thrilled with the benefit of helping me achieve my lifelong dream of opening my own gallery,” Clarke added with a subtle roll of her eyes.

“I suppose the floor is yours then, my dear,” Lillian told Lexa as the twinkle in her eyes only shone brighter, “and you’d better make it worth my while.”

“Aren’t you supposed to be good at negotiating?” Clarke snapped in a hard whisper as she stormed down the driveway after Lexa towards her car. “I thought you were a lawyer!”

Lexa clenched her jaw tightly as she unlocked the doors and climbed behind the steering wheel, making sure to slam her door harder than Clarke just had on the passenger’s side.

“I’m a law student, Clarke,” Lexa replied pointedly. “Law student.”

Her right hand karate-chopped the air as she punctuated the last two words of her reply, her general hostility towards Clarke and recent annoyance with herself getting the better of her. She’d had the perfect counter-proposal for Lillian to help sweeten the pot enough for her to even consider marrying Clarke Griffin, but the cunning woman had effortlessly turned the tables on her. Lexa had (reluctantly with Clarke present) shared how difficult it had been for her to work her way through University and law school and proposed financial aid from the older woman so that she could quit all of her part-time jobs and focus solely on school.

The first sign that her proposal had gone terribly wrong was evident by the grin that quickly overtook the older woman’s face as she contemplated it. According to Lillian, if Lexa wasn’t busy working then she and Clarke would have more time to spend together getting to know one another. The second warning sign was in the form of an excited clap when Lillian came up with the great idea to include a condition for Clarke and Lexa to schedule one date night, at the very least, per week to be spent together. By the end of the sad excuse of a negotiation, Lexa felt sick and Clarke was pretty much just irate.

“Well, now you can take all that free time of yours to enroll in some negotiation classes,” Clarke told her, “because clearly you suck at it.”

“How the hell was I supposed to know your grandmother was going to flip it around like that?” Lexa demanded more than asked.

“Because she’s cunning as shit,” Clarke said in a clipped tone.

“Must be a family trait,” Lexa mumbled as she flipped her blinker on and turned onto a slightly busier street.

“So, is acting like an asshole twenty-four-seven your family trait?” Clarke retorted, unwilling to let Lexa have the last insult.

Lexa bit her tongue until the urge to tell the blonde to go fuck herself passed, and she sucked in a deep breath only to let it seep back out slowly. The music that had been playing lightly in the background suddenly filled the car as they sat in silence, both letting their minds wander back to the conversation they’d just had with Lillian.

“So, are we doing this or not?” Clarke finally blurted out after a span of about five minutes had gone by.

“I don’t know,” Lexa replied tersely.

“Why don’t you know?” Clarke questioned as a familiar feeling of annoyance washed over her.

‘Can’t this girl just make up her damn mind already?’ Clarke thought as she sighed quietly.

“It’s a big decision, Clarke,” Lexa replied quickly. “I don’t often find myself contemplating getting married, let alone to someone like you.”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?” Clarke snapped, her defensive walls flying back up in record speed.

“You can’t go for five minutes without instigating a fight with me–”

Me instigating you?” Clarke interrupted her.

“Yes,” Lexa replied with a shallow nod.

“Me,” Clarke stated more than asked, "instigating you?"

“Yes!” Lexa shot back as her voice crept up an octave on its own accord.

“I am quite a pleasant person, I’ll have you know,” Clarke said as she crossed her arms tightly against her chest, “and if you would ever be bothered to ask, my friends would tell you that I’m actually very fun to be around.”

“Going solely by what you show me, I highly doubt that you are,” Lexa quipped.

“Maybe if you didn't have your head up your ass during the few times we see each other throughout the year, you might actually notice my fun side every once in a while,” Clarke suggested with a sarcastic shrug.

“You’re so fucking smug, it’s unbelievable,” Lexa said while shaking her head from one side to the other.

“How about we don’t talk until you make a decision on... on the... thing,” Clarke told her, hesitating about how to even word the strange arrangement they were considering.



The remainder of the drive was spent in silence aside from the radio playing quietly around them. They each went over a type of mental ‘pro and con’ list in their heads and weighed all parts of the situation at hand. While Clarke was pretty sure that she was ready to agree to the proposal (despite the hefty list of cons looming in the forefront of her mind), Lexa seemed to be struggling much more with her decision. While having the financial burden lifted from her shoulders was the greatest temptation she’d ever been faced with, Lexa didn’t take lightly the thought of being married and sharing a life with someone for a significant period of time.

“I need to sleep on it,” Lexa suddenly announced as she pulled slowly into her own driveway.

“Okay,” Clarke replied, unbuckling her seat belt when the car came to a stop.

She looked over at Lexa hesitantly, wondering why the brunette was making no efforts to actually turn the car off and get out of it, and her expression turned into full-blown confusion after a few seconds passed.

“You’re just going to stay out here?” Clarke questioned as she rested her right hand on the door handle.

“I have to head into work,” Lexa told her calmly. “My shift starts in about thirty minutes.”

“You’re dropping me off and turning right back around to leave?” Clarke asked in disbelief.

“Yes,” Lexa replied curtly.

“Why did you drive me back to your house then?”

“This was where we met this morning, wasn’t it?” Lexa asked cheekily. “You seemed to arrive here with no issues, so I assumed you’d be able to make a return trip just fine.”

“You are,” Clarke started as she wrenched the car door open, “the most petty and ridiculous woman,” she continued as she stepped onto the driveway and hunched over to glare into the car at Lexa, “that I have ever met in my entire life.”

Lexa did nothing more than offer a fluttering wave and a sweet smirk before the passenger’s door was being slammed hard enough to sway the car just slightly. Clarke watched as Lexa drove away, cursing the woman in her head the entire time, until the quiet rumble of the muffler was drowned out by the songs of birds chirping overhead.

Chapter Text

“Good, Aden,” Lexa praised her student as she readjusted her grip on the fighting stick in her hands.

They slowly circled each other, the younger of the two carefully mirroring his instructor’s every move as gracefully as he could. When he noticed a small twitch of Lexa’s elbow, a tell he wasn’t sure whether she did unknowingly or on purpose, Aden quickly weighted himself on his right leg before swooping his stick down and around Lexa’s side.

She deftly interpreted his move and used her stance to gain the upper hand, crashing the right end of her stick onto the left end of Aden’s and thrusting up. The sudden motion caused Aden to wobble to his right just a second before Lexa had hooked her foot around the back of his knee, causing him to tumble to the ground in defeat. She smiled down at him, her chest heaving with heavy breaths, and offered her hand to help him up.

“Widen your stance,” Lexa told Aden as he pulled himself back onto his feet. “When you shifted your weight to your right, your left became vulnerable because your feet were too close together to help balance a blow.”

Aden nodded in understanding as a small bead of sweat dripped down his cheek, and he looked down at his feet as Lexa kicked them apart. He bounced on his knees a few times as if he was committing the feel of the stance to memory and offered a single nod when he’d finally settled.

“Again,” Lexa commanded as she twirled her fighting stick once in her hands and crouched into a ready stance.

The two sticks came together in a loud crack, and their bodies moved flawlessly together as each of them took turns being the aggressor and defender. It was only when Lexa had skillfully flipped Aden’s weapon from his hand that the two concluded their lesson for the day, and they both hurried over to their bottles of water to quench the thirst that had been burning in their mouths for the better part of the hour.

“Did you decide if you’re going to compete in the games this year?” Aden asked, a bit breathlessly and between sips of water.

“Not yet,” Lexa told him as she wiped the back of her hand along her forehead. “I’ll have to see how badly law school kicks my ass this semester first.”

Every year in the fall, a nationwide fighting tournament was held at one of the most famous sports arenas downtown where practically every form of martial arts was represented in the form of one-on-one battles between competitors until a final champion was chosen in each category. Lexa had participated in the past, and won her categories with relative ease, but she’d had far less time to devote to competitive fighting as the workload of her schooling and busy job schedules began to dictate most of her time. She wouldn’t be lying, however, to say that she hadn’t been itching to get back to it.

“You’re in your last year though, right?” Aden asked hesitantly, hoping he had remembered correctly from one of their past conversations.

“Home stretch,” Lexa confirmed with a smile before taking another hearty swig from her water bottle.

“What’s your job going to be once you graduate?” Aden questioned as he took a seat on the bench just behind him.

“Those attending law school usually do so with hopes to become a lawyer,” Lexa said with a teasing smirk.

“What about all of your other jobs though?” Aden asked. “The restaurant, the library... here...”

“Actually, I wanted to talk to you about that,” Lexa told him.

She took a few steps forward and sat next to Aden on the bench. He looked over at her patiently, and Lexa’s heart stuttered a few times in her chest before she got up the courage to speak again.

“I might be taking a step back from our sessions soon,” Lexa told him, her tongue heavy in her mouth. “It’s not for sure yet, but there could be some things happening in my life that would allow me to focus more on finishing up school and less on working at all my part time jobs.”

She chose her words as carefully as possible, trying everything in her power not to make the young boy feel like she was abandoning him or letting him down but making clear that there was a very real possibility they would be seeing much less of each other going forward.

“Oh,” Aden said, his head dipping after Lexa noticed his cheeks beginning to pink.

“I wanted to know how you felt about it before I made any final decisions,” Lexa said gently.

Aden shrugged and picked at the rim of his water bottle, avoiding all eye contact with the concerned brunette sitting beside him.

“This is by far my favorite job, and I really enjoy being your instructor,” Lexa began softly. “You’re a good student, Aden, and you show so much promise. I’d make sure to choose a replacement whose only goal is to see you succeed.”

The breath in Lexa’s lungs stilled, and her heart ached as she watched a plump tear roll down the young boy’s face. She had to physically stop herself from reaching out to brush it away, knowing that doing so would have only embarrassed him.

“Think about it, and we’ll talk more about it on Friday,” Lexa offered lightly, and Aden nodded in agreement. “Okay, go hit the showers. You know how much your mom hates it when you come home all sweaty.”

Aden quickly stood and immediately started walking towards the men’s locker room. Lexa watched as he swiped a hand at his face, presumably to wipe his tears, and she let out a long sigh. The prospect of being able to quit all of her jobs had originally sounded like the perfect situation, but Aden’s reaction to losing her as an instructor was proving to make Lexa’s ultimate decision all the more difficult. She clenched her jaw tightly together as thoughts of Clarke and their proposed arrangement invaded her mind, and she stood quickly to head towards the employees’ locker room.

She’d heard nothing from the blonde since the morning they spent together at Clarke’s grandmother’s house and would be lying to say that she wasn’t slightly surprised. If she thought she knew anything about Clarke, it was that she was highly impatient so Lexa had half-expected to have a text message or two on her phone the following day demanding her decision. As she stepped behind the curtain in the shower stall she always used, Lexa went over in her head (for about the hundredth time) the list she had made weighing the good and bad of the proposed arrangement in an attempt to help herself along in her decision-making process.

Lexa stood beneath the scalding hot water for about five minutes longer than she needed to and finally came to the determination that she wouldn’t, couldn’t, give Clarke an answer until she and Aden spoke again. She owed him that much and was more than happy to give it to him. A quick towel off later, Lexa reemerged from inside the shower and made her way back towards her locker to throw on a clean pair of clothes and head home. She reached for her phone and swiped a finger over the message notification at the top of the screen before reading text quickly but carefully.

Clarke: I’m heading out of town for a few days. Last minute work thing. Will you have made a decision by Saturday?

Just knowing that she had two and half more days to think about things, Lexa felt instantly relieved. It would give her plenty of time to speak with Aden, and she wouldn’t have to spend her energy warding off pestering messages from Clarke for almost seventy-two wonderful hours (again only assuming that Clarke would have started harassing her had she not been conveniently preoccupied with traveling out of town). She quickly typed out a response to Clarke’s text and sent it off.

Lexa Woods: Yes.

Clarke: I’ll let you know when I get back.

Lexa sent nothing in response that time and slipped her phone into her gym bag before hoisting it onto her shoulder and heading out of the locker room.

“You must have really beaten up on Aden today,” Harper said from her position behind the welcoming desk. “He was a sad little bean when he walked by earlier.”

“We had a tough session,” Lexa told her, purposefully leaving out the part about it being the conversation they’d had at the end of their time together that was what was tough.

“He’s a strong kid,” Harper assured her, “he can take it.”

“Yeah, he is,” Lexa replied with a small nod.

“So, Lexa,” Harper began, her tone turning suddenly flirtatious, “I wanted to ask if you’d like to have dinner with me this Saturday?”

The receptionist’s offers for dates were nothing new to Lexa, and she certainly gave the woman points for persistence, but Lexa had always met each offer with a polite ‘no’ along with a vague excuse that usually worked well enough to then make a hasty exit from the gym without any added complications. Harper always took the turn downs in stride and would wait a few weeks or a month before asking again. It had almost become a game of sorts, but Lexa had a feeling that Harper was still holding out a bit of real hope.

“I can’t,” Lexa quickly told her. “I have some... plans...”

“If that isn’t a fib, I don’t know what is,” Harper teased through a smirk as she leaned over the desk a few inches more.

“It’s not, I just,” Lexa began before swallowing thickly, “I’m not exactly sure how to classify my... plans.”

“Oh, I see,” Harper said as she nodded slowly, “so it’s a date then?”

“No!” Lexa practically shouted. “I mean, no, it’s not a date.”

“It’s cool, Lexa,” Harper told her with a chuckle and held her hands up in surrender. “It’s not like we’re girlfriends or anything, although you know by now that I wouldn’t be totally opposed to the idea.”

“I do,” Lexa admitted with a small smile. “I like you, Harper, I’m just... not in the right position to date... you or anyone right now.”

“Mmm,” Harper hummed as her eyes narrowed into a small squint. “When was the last time you did actually date someone? If you don’t mind me asking.”

“Longer than I can remember,” Lexa said, trying to brush off the blonde’s prodding questions.

It was one of the most blatant lies Lexa had ever told. She knew down to the hour, sometimes the minute, when the last time she had dated someone was. A flickering thought of the memory was enough to sicken Lexa, so she tried like hell to never let her mind go there if she could help it.

“Well, if you’re ever ready to make some new memories with someone,” Harper said, “let me know.”

“Okay,” Lexa replied as she nodded her head slowly.

The gym worker let her off the hook with a wave and a playful wink, and Lexa hurried out the doors and across the parking lot towards her car. With each step she took though, unknowingly and quite reluctantly, Lexa found her mind focusing in on the very image of a certain blonde about whom she hated thinking.

“Clarke Griffin?”

“Here!” Clarke exclaimed as she waved a hand above her head.

The gallery was packed with artists setting up their most prized pieces along tables in their assigned areas, and the excitement in the air was absolutely palpable. Clarke had been thrilled, elated even, that she had gotten a last minute invite to the very art fair that was known to be one of the most famous for up-and-comers on the art circuit. It was a golden opportunity for any aspiring artist, and Clarke was both eager and nervous about being there. Nevertheless, she strode confidently up to the person who had just called her name and stood before him with a big smile painted on her face.

“I was expecting you to be a man,” he said dryly as his eyes snapped back to the clipboard in his hands.

“Um, sorry to disappoint you?” Clarke offered, her tone and expression reflecting confusion.

“Set up at this table and this table only,” the man told her as he used his pen to point down at the table behind him. “You may be asked to move to another table tomorrow. The gallery is open until eight o’clock tonight and tomorrow night, and you are permitted a thirty minute lunch break at noon exactly. No earlier, no later.”

“Yes, sir,” Clarke replied with a nod, making sure the sarcasm in her voice was evident but not overwhelming.

“Bathroom breaks are allowed but not recommended,” he continued through a glare. “Every minute away from your table could result in a lost sale, not that I particularly care, I’m just required to say it.”

Clarke widened her eyes and rolled them slightly but said nothing in response to allow the obviously impatient gallery worker to finish his spiel.

“Should you have any questions, just come and find me. My name is Cage.”

Clarke blinked as she peered over at the man in surprise.

“Cage Wallace?”

“Yes,” Cage replied and looked up from his clipboard again to make eye contact.

“Your father is Dante Wallace?” Clarke asked in shock.

“The one and only,” Cage answered, a look of resentment flashing across his face.

Before Clarke could even mutter another word, Cage walked by her briskly and disappeared into the crowd of artists leaving Clarke alone at her table to begin her setup. She sighed at missing the opportunity to ask him whether Dante would be attending the art fair and instead hauled her portfolio of paintings onto the table to begin unpacking them. Dante Wallace was a renowned artist, critic, and mentor who (unlike many artists) spent the majority of his career helping fellow artists make a name for themselves.

By all reports he was one of the kindest people that most had ever met and getting the chance to meet him, artist or not, was a rare and extremely special opportunity. As Clarke’s enthusiastic thoughts began to calm, she found herself wondering how someone as nice as Dante Wallace managed to produce such a rotten apple of a son. She hadn’t paid much attention to researching Cage, as he wasn’t an artist himself and had little to no influence on the art world, but she did recognize the mention of his name at least and knew most of the time wherever Cage was that Dante was likely close by.

“Clarke Abigail Griffin, where have you been all my life?”

At the reciting of her full name, Clarke turned her eyes up from the chaos of paintings sprawled across her table to zero in on a face she hadn’t seen in years. He was already rounding the corner of her table with his arms spread wide, and Clarke barely registered herself scrambling over to him to wrap her arms tightly around his neck.

“Wells!” Clarke breathed out in surprise and delight as he engulfed her in a hug, tipping back just enough to pull Clarke’s feet off the ground for a few seconds as was their usual tradition.

They stood there together, connected in each other’s arms and basking in each other’s presence, until finally Clarke pulled herself back to look into his eyes. A smile was shared for the briefest of moments before Clarke playfully smacked the palms of her hands against Wells’s chest, making him stumble back a few inches.

“What the hell?” Clarke huffed out, the smile still lingering against her lips. “You practically disappeared off the face of the Earth! Where the hell have you been?”

“It’s good to see you too, Clarke,” Wells replied through a similar smile. “I’m sorry about losing contact with you. After my dad... well... after High School, I enlisted in the Army and–”

“The Army?” Clarke interrupted in a surprised shout. “You joined the Army and didn’t tell me?”

“Well, I figured you would have been mad,” Wells confessed with a small shrug.

Hell yes, I would have been mad!” Clarke exclaimed with a strong nod.

“Which is why I didn’t tell you at the time,” Wells said through a chuckle.

“So, how did you finally get back into art?” Clarke asked, her mind buzzing with a hundred and one questions. “Are you still in the Army?”

“I’m in the Reserves but not on active duty at the moment,” Wells explained. “After my first four years of service, I decided to finally get my ass into some University classes. I graduated in three years with my BA in Art History, thank you very much.”

“You overachieving smartass,” Clarke teased as she watched her friend huff haughtily against his hand and pretend to buff his fingernails on the lapel of his blazer.

FIFTEEN MINUTES, PEOPLE,” Cage yelled above the crowd from somewhere in the middle of the gallery.

The announcement sent most of the artists still struggling to finish their displays into a frenzy, and the tension in the air jumped to an all-time high. Clarke peered down at her own mess covering her table before sneaking an apologetic look up at Wells.

“Say no more,” Wells told her as he held up his hands, “we can talk later.”

“Do you have dinner plans?” Clarke asked hopefully.

“I do now,” Wells said as a smile brightened his entire face.

“Great,” Clarke replied through a smile of her own. “I’ll meet you out front at nine?”

Wells nodded in agreement and made his way back towards his own table, leaving Clarke to rush to get her space set up as best she could before the gallery was opened to all of the influential men and women soon to arrive. The minute the numbers on Clarke’s phone changed to ten o’clock, a flurry of activity within the gallery arose and it wasn’t long before every artist had at least one interested party standing at their table to admire and question their work.

The day was exhausting to say the least. Clarke had explained every one of her painting techniques more times than she could remember and dramatized the meaning behind all of her pieces to make them seem far more interesting than they actually were. Not that Clarke’s art lacked emotion, far from it, but she often found that people who were in the market to buy an expensive original work of art usually wanted to hear some kind of morbid or pained tale to help narrate the scene and explain the piece. So by the time the gallery doors closed, Clarke was exhausted (though the extra couple thousand dollars in her bank account perked her up slightly) but couldn’t wait to spend the evening catching up with her childhood friend.

“How you can manage to look so good after schmoozing for ten hours straight is beyond me,” Wells said as he walked up behind Clarke who was standing outside the front doors of the gallery. “I went back to my room to take a shower, and I still don’t look half as beautiful as you do.”

“You know, I never pegged you for referring to yourself as beautiful in any capacity,” Clarke teased as she made her way over to him, “whether it be in praise or criticism.”

“That just goes to show you how conceited I’ve grown over the years we spent apart,” Wells quipped back as he offered his right arm to her in gentlemanly fashion.

“I’m not going to lie, you kind of deserve it,” Clarke told him as she slid her left arm into his right. “You really grew into that scrawny body of yours.”

“Scrawny?” Wells replied with a scoff of offense. “I was not scrawny.”

“Wells, I out-weighed you by fifty pounds our senior year,” Clarke reminded him, “and I was skinny back then!”

“Back then?” Wells asked as he stole an obvious glance down the blonde’s figure. “You’ve never looked more beautiful.”

“Flatterer,” Clarke replied with a playful glare, trying everything in her power to resist the blush threatening to darken her cheeks.

They walked arm-in-arm to a restaurant a few blocks down from the gallery and were ushered to a table quicker than Clarke thought they would be. Drinks were ordered along with a few appetizers that they shared, and a giant piece of what tasted like chocolate sin on a plate rounded out their meal not long before Wells was pulling Clarke up and out of her chair to join him on the dance floor set up in the middle of the restaurant.

The music being played was hard to be categorized into a specific genre, but it was upbeat and classy and exciting all at the same time. They twirled around the wooden floor, gaining a few onlookers and rounds of applause as they showed off their throwback moves from their senior prom, until they practically collapsed into each other’s arms in laughter. Clarke was half-expecting to be lead off the dance floor when a slow melody began to sing in their ears, but Wells just pulled her close and began to sway lightly to the beat.

“So how’s your dad?” Clarke finally asked after they had both caught their breath. “You mentioned him earlier.”

Thelonious Jaha had always been something of a mystery, but it wasn’t until their freshman year of High School that both Wells and Clarke noticed a few things about him that just seemed off. The following year, the elder Jaha was admitted into a psychiatric facility just outside the city. It had always been a sensitive subject for Wells, never wanting to elicit any teasing or bullying from the kids at school, so the only time he ever talked about it was with Clarke during the days they studied together or nights they hung out watching movies. In fact, Wells had spoken of his father so seldom during their senior year that to say Clarke was shocked to hear what she was about to would be quite an understatement.

“He passed away last year,” Wells told her, a faint look of mournfulness passing over his face.

“I’m so sorry,” Clarke finally replied after the breath that had been knocked from her chest filled her lungs again.

“It was a heart attack,” Wells explained. “The doctors and caretakers at his facility determined it happened while he was sleeping, so he didn’t feel any pain. It’s going to sound strange, but I felt such peace when I got the call. Like I was relieved or something.”

“Your father lived a pained life,” Clarke offered gently. “I’m sure you felt peace because you knew that he finally felt peace.”

“You always did know just what to say,” Wells told her as a smile began to stretch across his face. “Why I let you go, I’ll never know.”

“You let me go, huh?” Clarke questioned with a smirk. “What exactly made you think I was ever yours in the first place?”

“Well, technically you weren’t,” Wells said, “but you can’t seriously tell me you wouldn’t have been all over me if I’d had these arms in High School.”

Clarke just laughed as Wells held up his arm to flex a well-defined bicep, and she felt herself stepping just a fraction of an inch closer to him as they continued to dance. She let herself enjoy the press of his sculpted chest against her curves and grinned somewhat victoriously when his arm came back down to hold her just a little bit tighter than before. They shared a few knowing looks, their faces drifting closer together as the swayed, until Clarke snuck her tongue out to wet her lips and whispered into his ear.

“Would you care for a drink?” She asked quietly. “Back at my room?”

“I’d love one,” Wells quickly answered, his throat bobbing as he swallowed thickly.

As she took a step out of his embrace, Clarke felt not only a rush of cool air hit her face but also a nagging pull in the back of her mind. It was as if her brain was telling her whatever idea she had in her head was a bad one, but her body was acting on its own accord as she weaved through the crowd towards the front of the restaurant. It felt like only a minute had passed before they were stumbling into her hotel room, limbs and lips tangling in a passionate exchange.

The blazer Wells had been wearing was in a heap beneath their feet as Clarke felt her back connect with the door now closed behind her. They had kissed before, on dares or during silly games at parties, but never with the heat and desperation like what was radiating between them now. Strong hands skated up the sides of Clarke’s thighs, taking her dress along with them until it too was just a pile of fabric on the floor beside them. Eager to indulge in the feeling of skin-on-skin contact, Clarke took hold of the hem of his shirt and tugged it from him before running her hands down along the soft ridges of his muscular physique.

Their lips connected again but not before Clarke noticed a flash of tenderness in her friend’s eyes. Suddenly his kisses felt softer, his touch seemed to linger, and a tiny wave of uncertainly lapped at the back of her functioning mind as he trailed his lips down the side of her neck, leaving gentle pecks against her skin as he went. It wasn’t until a steady hand was cupping her breast that Clarke realized how long it had been since she’d been intimate with someone, so she arched her back into the touch and moaned softly at his responding squeeze against her flesh.

Wells brought his left hand up to mimic the motions of his right for just a few seconds before lowering his hands to slide across her stomach, around her hips, and finally down over the swell of her ass. He lifted her off the floor in a single undoubtedly smooth move and carried her effortlessly towards the bed on the far side of the room. Clarke sighed contentedly when his body pressed hard against hers but delighted in his willingness to flip their positions when she had placed an urging palm against his shoulder.

The moment his back connected with the soft sheets, Clarke’s lips were back on his and she moved to set a new quicker pace for their gentle dance. Wells almost seemed unwilling to speed up his movements, and Clarke had to resort to a few light nips between her kisses to help motivate him. She had finally gotten her way, feeling him beginning to move impatiently against her hold, and leaned up to take in the sight below her. Unfortunately what she saw was exactly what she didn’t want to see.

It was as if his mood changed in an instant from lust to love, and he looked up at her with nothing short of adoration in his eyes. The expression was clear enough to veer Clarke’s thoughts off their path and hurl them back down into reality, the one in which Wells appeared to be far too emotionally invested in their moment for Clarke to allow the moment to continue. She almost groaned when the image of a familiar face popped into her mind, Clarke thinking if she could have physically punched it away from her thoughts that she would have.

“What’s wrong?” Wells asked as he rested his hands against her hips.

“Nothing,” Clarke replied automatically, twitching her lips into a forced smile. She trailed her gaze down his body and bit her lip appreciatively. “Absolutely nothing.”

Her lips captured his once again, but instead of feeling excitement she felt something alarmingly akin to guilt. By the time she realized it actually was guilt, Wells had flipped her over and descended down her body as he kissed his way down her stomach to the edge of her panties. As he doubled-back over the skin he’d just passed over, Clarke’s breath caught in her throat as the word she had been trying not to say came tumbling from her lips before she could stop it.


In an instant, Wells had stopped all movement and hovered his body over her own as if he was scared to even flinch. He watched as Clarke’s face twisted in turmoil but waited patiently as he was told until she finally spoke.

“We shouldn’t do this,” Clarke said through a pained sigh.

“Why not?” Wells asked, trying his best to mask the disappointment in his voice.

“It’s just going to complicate things,” Clarke told him with a groan as she pulled her hand through the curls splayed against the pillow beneath her head.

“Complicate how?” Wells questioned, rolling himself to the side of Clarke as one arm draped protectively around her waist.

“I, uh,” Clarke began uncomfortably, her gaze darting around the room before finally making eye contact with the breathless man beside her, “I... might be getting married?”

You what ?” Wells nearly shouted, his eyes suddenly blown wide with sheer panic.

She figured by the look on his face that Wells was imagining himself getting pummeled into the pavement by a jealous beast of a fiancé and tried to quickly explain to reassure him he was in no physical danger.

“No, it’s not like that,” Clarke told him. “It isn’t serious.”

What ?” Wells asked, his voice hitting an entire octave higher than his normal range.

“I mean, it’s just...” Clarke trailed off and then groaned in frustration as she propped herself up on her hands, causing Wells to retract the arm from around her waist. “It’s an unconventional situation... arrangement even... my grandma sort of set it up with the promise of me getting my own art gallery which, I mean hello, how could I possibly pass that up?”

“Clarke,” Wells finally interjected, shaking his head in confusion, “what are you even talking about?”

“It’s kind of a long story,” Clarke admitted with another sigh and looked down at Wells who was still very visibly worked up. “Maybe I should make us that drink first.”

“Right, okay,” Wells replied with a small nod and tried to calm his breathing. “Okay, but please put your dress back on because I’m not going to be able to concentrate on anything you say to me otherwise.”

Clarke chuckled as she watched Wells break his unabashed ogle of her body before rolling onto his back and covering his face with his hands. She moved off the bed quickly and headed over towards the lumps of clothing on the floor by the door. She shrugged her dress back on and tossed his shirt onto the bed, not bothering to notice where it landed, before grabbing a few tiny bottles of alcohol from the minibar in her room.


“Make it a double,” Wells told her, his voice muffled by the hands still resting against his face.

Clarke went to work opening four little bottles of tequila and pouring two of each into two glasses. She momentarily contemplated whether she should go out in search of an ice machine but figured the chill the alcohol had from the refrigerator would do. Clarke turned around just in time to see Wells pulling his shirt back on and shifting himself to sit up against the headboard. She handed him one of the glasses and plopped herself down on the bed.

“So,” Wells said after draining his entire drink in one gulp, “what did your grandmother get you into this time?”

Clarke: I’m back home and free for the rest of the day.

Lexa Woods: Let’s meet at the coffee shop by my house at 5:30pm.

The faint rustle of book pages being turned was the only constant sound echoing around the expansive law department in her University’s library. It was Lexa’s second favorite job, being the part-time librarian there, as it afforded her long periods of quiet time to spend catching up on her class reading or preparing for a paper she needed to write.

Researching, despite getting increasingly easier with the aid of countless resources on the internet, was always an easy task for her as she knew where practically every book related to law was located along the shelves in her comfortable little corner of the campus. The students loved her too because she could direct them to a book almost instantaneously and knew, off the top of her head, whether it was in stock or had been checked out by another student. Along the same lines, it wouldn’t be a stretch to point out that Lexa had a few admirers of a more personal nature as well.

“Good afternoon, Miss Woods.”

“Hi Roma,” Lexa replied with a polite smile adorning her face. “Unfortunately your book is not in yet.”

“Why are you so sure that I always come see you to talk about books, Lexa?” Roma asked through a smirk as she leaned her elbows against the tall desk Lexa was seated behind.

“I’m the librarian?” Lexa offered in a neutral tone as a single eyebrow arched as she spoke.

“This is true,” Roma agreed with a short nod for emphasis, “though I do like talking to pretty girls about more than just books.”

Lexa opened her mouth to speak but was interrupted by the sound of her phone vibrating against the desk and as much as she didn’t want what she assumed was Clarke’s response text to distract her, it did. She stole a glance over at the device to catch a preview of the response just before the screen went black again.

Clarke: I’ll be there.

A faint feeling of nervousness bounced around inside Lexa’s chest as she thought about what her meeting with Clarke that evening would entail, but it quickly dissipated when she looked back up to see that Roma’s expression had quickly morphed into one of discomfort and slight disappointment. It wasn’t that the fellow law student rubbed her the wrong way, on the contrary, Lexa genuinely liked her but by no means was interested in pursuing anything with her that could be categorized outside of the normal student/librarian dynamic.

“Listen, Lexa,” Roma began, “I was thinking–”

As if fate had suddenly come to Lexa’s rescue, the University’s fire alarm started to blare from the speakers above and effectively sent the students inside the building into an organized tizzy as they snatched up their backpacks and other personal belongings before rushing towards the emergency exits. Lexa stood from her chair quickly and walked over to the computer at her desk to lock it down. She caught Roma’s concerned gaze and noticed her standing awkwardly, as if she was deciding whether to stay there with Lexa or make a hasty exit, so Lexa made the decision for her.

“There’s another emergency exit to the left,” Lexa instructed as she pointed just beyond a few shelves of books.

Roma nodded and made her way over to the side door as Lexa twirled around to secure a few things and grab her own bag before making her way out of the building. She had gone through a rigorous fire protocol training session when she first got the job during her first year of law school and was running through each of the steps in her head as she did them to make sure she didn’t leaving anything to chance.

Taking a long whiff of the air and noting no smoky smell, Lexa made her way back towards the bathrooms and shouted a warning into each before quickly exiting the building. The muffled sound of sirens in the distance surprised her, due to the fact only about five minutes had passed since the alarms initially set off, but then figured the short distance between the fire station and the University made it possible for the trucks to arrive that much quicker.

Lexa scanned the growing crowd of students for familiar faces of those whom she had seen in the library earlier and was able to pick out a few, including Roma who was standing with a group of people Lexa could only assume were her friends. The firetruck pulled up at the front of the building, a couple hundred feet or so away from where Lexa had come out the side exit, and a few firefighters jumped out and hurried through the front doors to investigate the apparent fire.

A quick radio call must have been made from the firefighters inside to the ones stationed outside because a fire hose was unraveled and connected to the nearby hydrant in record time. A nagging feeling of fear began to creep into Lexa’s thoughts as she waited for the two firefighters who were inside to come back out, and she let out an audible sigh of relief when she finally caught sight of them returning with the hose a while later. She set off on a brisk pace towards them and didn’t stop until she was standing right beside the truck.

“Oh, hey,” Anya said when she saw Lexa, “you’re not dead or whatever.”

“Yeah, you too,” Lexa replied, noting a few smudges of soot on Anya’s face. “You got here fast.”

“Slow day at the office,” Anya told her as she took off her clunky hat.

Lexa could see that Anya was already sweating, and her initial observation was only confirmed when Anya lifted the back of her hand to swipe across her forehead. The heavy fire suit that Anya had originally struggled moving around in during her early days on the job seemed more like a second skin now than anything, and years of strength training made wearing it seem relatively easy to the average onlooker. The one time Lexa had been forced to try it on (about a week after Anya had officially joined one of the largest and highest rated fire stations in the entire state), she was shocked at how incredibly difficult it was to perform even the most rudimentary of tasks.

Like moving or walking or breathing.

“Hey, Lex!” Lincoln called out as he walked towards them. “You weren’t in there, were you?”

“Only for about five minutes after the alarms initially went off,” Lexa told him as she chose, out of politeness’s sake, to not correct his shortening of her name.

Given the fact that he had just put out a fire and possibly saved some people from being injured, she thought it was the least she could do. Judging by the smirk on Anya’s face, however, Lexa realized she hadn’t been as smooth about hiding her unimpressed facial expression as she thought.

“What?” Lincoln asked as he watched the two women exchange a look.

“I think she’s debating over whether to punch you in the face for calling her ‘Lex’,” Anya told him, a chuckle shaking her shoulders as she spoke.

“Shit, sorry,” Lincoln said as he flashed Lexa an apologetic look, “I forgot you hated that.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Lexa told him with a forced shrug.

“That means don’t do it again unless you want to lose a tooth,” Anya teased her co-worker who was looking more sorry by the second.

“Was there a lot of damage inside?” Lexa asked as she pointed towards the building.

“Some, not a lot,” Lincoln answered, thankful for the subject change.

“It didn’t look like the fire compromised the building’s structure, but we’ll have to get our inspector over here before giving the all clear,” Anya explained. “Hopefully you grabbed all your books because you probably won’t be allowed back in there for a while yet.”

“Yeah, I have everything I need,” Lexa answered, gesturing to the messenger bag hanging from her shoulder.

“Hey, guys,” Octavia said, suddenly announcing her arrival at the scene. “Anyone hurt?”

The young paramedic was practically bouncing as she surveyed the crowd and conspicuously eyed the building for any evidence of noticeable damage. Octavia was one of the fire station’s most valuable employees, and Anya was eternally grateful that she’d been involved with bringing the girl onto their team along with the little bit of fate that had played in her favor leading up to it.

Raven met Octavia in college. Octavia had her sights set on nursing school, but the more Raven got to know Octavia the more she (lovingly) told Octavia that she’d make a shitty nurse. It wasn’t until the suggestion came up of working on an emergency rig that Octavia had finally decided to change direction away from nursing and towards becoming a paramedic instead. Raven had mentioned something to Clarke who in turn mentioned something to her mother, and Abby offered Octavia a job at her hospital.

The perks of Abby being the Chief of Surgery.

Fast forward a few years, one of the medics at the fire station where Anya worked decided to enroll in medical school and left behind a decent position working in tandem with the station’s firefighters in response to emergency calls. Anya mentioned something to Raven about it, back before they were even dating, and Raven thought of Octavia right away. Then, bam, suddenly Octavia was the star paramedic of the emergency fire medical team. It was like the job had been built for her, and Octavia couldn’t help but love every single second of it.

“No one was reported inside, but the boys are doing a bit of scouting anyways,” Lincoln told her in his most professional tone.

“You are so sexy when you’re serious,” Octavia said with a wink.

“I thought the uniform is what did it for you,” Lincoln replied as he took a step closer to his girlfriend.

“Oh, trust me,” Octavia purred, “it’s definitely doing its job.”

“Don’t make me turn the hose on you again, Lincoln,” Anya warned as she quirked a solitary eyebrow.

Octavia just smiled as her boyfriend straightened his stance a bit, taking heed of his superior’s warning and backing away just a step. The conversation was cut short when a radio call of ‘CHAOS’* was broadcast over the walkies, and Anya turned to Lexa immediately.

“The Chief’s here,” Anya told her, and Lexa nodded knowingly. “You sure you’re okay?”

“I’m fine,” Lexa replied.

“Okay,” Anya said with a nod, “I’ll call you later.”

With that, Lexa turned around and began to make her way through the campus square. The Fire Chief was just about the easiest person to hate, second only to the infuriating blonde Lexa was due to meet in about an hour’s time, and she was sure she’d need every ounce of her restraint available to get her through the rest of her evening.

It wasn’t often that Lexa found herself at her favorite coffee shop on a Saturday evening, but it was a change in routine that Luna certainly appeared to enjoy. The smiley barista went to work immediately on making the green tea smoothie that Lexa had ordered, taking the time to sprinkle a few shavings of coconut on the top of the drink instead of the mountain of whipped cream most of her customers preferred.

Lexa found a quiet table near one of the large windows at the front of the shop and immediately proceeded to get comfortable. Clarke would likely be late to their meeting, if history was any indication of that, so Lexa took out a textbook and started reading until she had finished the first chapter of her assignment. She was so engrossed in her work that if Clarke hadn’t burst through the coffee shop doors, clothes soaked through and dripping from head to toe, Lexa wouldn't have even noticed the sudden rain storm that had started up outside.

She bit back a laugh at Clarke’s disheveled appearance and aggravated expression, not wanting to poke the monster too early into what was likely to turn into a tense conversation (as they all tended to turn into). They shared a quick glance before Lexa let her eyes fall back down to her textbook, and Clarke stormed towards the restrooms in the back of the coffee shop presumably to clean herself up. It wasn’t until she squished into the chair across the table with a giant cup of steaming coffee that Lexa finally looked up from her book once again.

“Do you have trouble telling time or are you just generally uninterested with the schedules of people other than yourself?” Lexa asked with a small but obviously annoyed quirk of her eyebrow.

Clarke just looked at her silently as if she was both contemplating the question and confused at the same time. The expression on the blonde’s face was enough to cause Lexa to huff a small sigh of frustration before she spoke again.

“You’re late,” Lexa explained as she closed her textbook carefully.

“I’m not that late,” Clarke replied in immediate defiance.

“I finished reading an entire chapter between the time you were supposed to get here and the time you actually showed up,” Lexa told her as she slipped her book back inside her bag.

“Well, you’re a freakishly fast reader then because I’m not that late,” Clarke replied.

Her tone was intended to be much more biting than how it came out in a relative mumble, and Clarke seemed more distracted with the way the sleeves of her jacket were dripping rainwater onto the coffee shop floor than anything else. Lexa watched as she angrily flicked her arms downward to cast off a few water droplets before weakly brushing a few strands of wet hair behind her ear.

Clarke looked both surprised and irritated when Lexa stood from her chair and walked towards the barista’s counter, and she watched through narrowed eyes as Luna stole a few glances over at their table as she spoke with Lexa. The blonde's annoyance was just about to tip over into a bubbling anger until she saw Lexa turn back around holding a small green towel in her hand which she offered to Clarke as she sat back down in her chair. Clarke took it gingerly, almost cautiously, and began blotting her skin dry in a few places.

“I’d like to move forward with your grandmother’s proposition,” Lexa said suddenly, the abruptness of the statement causing Clarke to whip her head up and stare at Lexa in shock.

“Really?” Clarke heard herself ask.

“The situation is far from ideal,” Lexa began in a serious tone, “and I have little to no interest in how the arrangement will benefit you,” she made sure to add, “but being able to focus solely on my successful completion of law school without financial complications is too good of an opportunity for me to pass up.”

At first, all Clarke could do was blink in response. She managed a small roll of her eyes as the formality of Lexa’s words hit her, followed by a feeling of excitement at the thought of her dream of owning an art gallery finally starting to become a reality. She looked over at Lexa who had magically produced a legal folder as if from nowhere and frowned down at it in question.

“This is a business arrangement,” Lexa said, breaking the momentary silence, “and as such, we should review the conditions of the arrangement together.”

“Okay,” Clarke replied, dumbly watching as the prepared brunette in front of her opened her folder to reveal a copy of her grandmother’s living will that was covered with highlighted phrases and notations written in the margins.

“The nature of the proposition is to gift you enough money to purchase a gallery space of your choosing in concurrence with our engagement and subsequent marriage,” Lexa rattled off. “The amendment includes the grant of financial aid to cover, in full, my remaining tuition along with a small stipend for living expenses to continue until the date of my graduation.”

“Since when was living expenses agreed on?” Clarke interjected.

“Your grandmother sent over an updated copy of her will, and the stipend was included in the new draft,” Lexa explained. “If you had looked at your copy, you would have noticed it.”

“I’ve been a little busy,” Clarke replied hastily, “you know, traveling out of state to sell paintings, making a living, that kind of thing.”

“It goes on to lay out a timeline of sorts,” Lexa continued, not bothering to respond to Clarke’s comment, “and it addresses the fact that we must remain married for a minimum of six months before any adverse action is taken on our union.”

How someone could manage to make marriage sound so technical was beyond Clarke’s comprehension, but she managed to bite her tongue before any unnecessary commentary slipped out.

“So, why not take a trip down to city hall right now?” Clarke asked in all seriousness. “We can get a jump start on this six months and be divorced before we know it.”

“City hall is closed for the day,” Lexa replied as she looked up from her papers.

“Bright and early first thing tomorrow morning then,” Clarke said with a shrug as she took a sip of her hot coffee.

“Believe me, I had similar thoughts,” Lexa told her, “but unfortunately your grandmother has conditioned for the marriage to take place after the purchase of your gallery officially closes.”

“Are you serious?” Clarke asked, reaching for the folder to slide it in front of her side of the table. “It could take me six months just to find a building, let alone close on it.”

Lexa said nothing in response, already having been over all of the scenarios in her head the last few days, and drank the last few sips of her smoothie in silence. Clarke’s eyes flew all over the page, her finger tracing each line of the document and referencing Lexa’s notes, before she huffed in disbelief and leaned back in her chair.

“If you’re not comfortable with the timeline, we can call it off,” Lexa informed her.

“No!” Clarke nearly shouted. “I mean, no... I just... I need a second to digest everything.”

Lexa offered a stiff nod in understanding as Clarke turned her attention back down to the document in the folder in front of her. A few minutes passed in relative silence, less the slight rustling of the papers and a few sighs rushing out from between the blonde’s lips, until Clarke finally lifted her head up and spoke.

“Alright,” Clarke said as she straightened her posture, “I’m in if you still are.”

Lexa looked up from her phone, which she had taken to tapping around on while Clarke had been deep in thought, and nodded her agreement that she was still in.

Despite her better judgment, she was in.

“We should talk through a few things,” Lexa told her as she shifted in her chair, “make some decisions.”

“Right, uh, okay,” Clarke managed to mumble. “Like what?”

“I would be more comfortable telling people the truth about our arrangement,” Lexa began after taking a deep breath, “as opposed to exhausting ourselves trying to convince them to believe that we’re in a relationship.”

“Good point, but can we limit that to just our family and friends?” Clarke asked. “I’d rather go with the relationship story with strangers or people we don’t know very well.”

“I’ll agree to that,” Lexa replied, knowing it would be more hassle than it was worth to try and explain their unique arrangement to people who didn’t know them. “We should also agree on the terms of our eventual separation.”

Clarke swallowed a lump that had involuntarily formed at the base of her throat at the statement. It wasn’t like she was attached to the girl, far from it actually, but the way Lexa could talk about their engagement and marriage and divorce with such indifference was a bit startling if Clarke was being at all honest. She quickly pulled her thoughts back together and opened her mouth to speak.

“Terms?” Clarke questioned.

“Since we’ve both agreed to tell our family and friends the truth about the arrangement, we should also agree there should be no need for a dramatic breakup scene,” Lexa stated as she pulled out a neatly typed page from the other side of the folder in front of her. “We can pre-file our divorce statement shortly after the purchase of your gallery so that the finalization of it will coincide as closely to the six month time frame as possible. There was nothing in the will precluding that.”

“Right, okay,” Clarke replied with a small nod. “That sounds good.”

“An uncontested divorce will cost a few hundred dollars,” Lexa said as she pushed a piece of paper towards Clarke. “I’ll agree to pay half of the fee and will review the papers myself. However if you decide for whatever reason to hire another attorney to represent you, then you will be responsible for covering their fees.”

Clarke scoffed out an offended laugh as she looked down at the contract Lexa had given to her before snapping her eyes back up to level the presumptuous girl with a glare.

“You’re going to make me sign a contract for–”

“I’m a law student, Clarke,” Lexa quickly interrupted her. “I’ve spent more time than you could imagine studying cases where the people involved left important decisions to be discussed rather than explicitly stating them in a legal contract. I’m sure that I sound heartless and presumptuous for preparing this, but it will make everything a lot easier in the long run.”

“By easier do you mean us spending less time with each other bickering over the formalities of our dissolution of union?” Clarke asked, half-seriously and half-sarcastically.

“Absolutely,” Lexa replied with a confident nod.

Clarke immediately clicked the end of the pen she was given and signed the document, not even bothering to read through it entirely. She had a surprising feeling of trust that Lexa wouldn’t attempt to pull any wool over her eyes with the self-composed contract, so signing it quickly wasn’t even an issue for her.

“You forgot to say incredibly annoying,” Clarke said as she pushed the contract back towards Lexa.

“Excuse me?” Lexa asked as her eyebrows furrowed in confusion.

“You said something about being heartless and presumptuous,” Clarke said, “but you left out incredibly annoying.”

Lexa threw her own glare across the table before tucking the freshly signed paper into her folder and sliding it back into her messenger bag. She reached for the jacket she’d hung around the back of her chair and shrugged it on before looping the long strap of her bag over her shoulder and across her chest.

“On that note, I believe our business is concluded for the day,” Lexa said as she stood from her chair.

“Most romantic engagement ever,” Clarke mumbled as she too stood, leaving the damp towel Lexa had retrieved for her on the table.

“Do you want a ride home or not?” Lexa suddenly yet frustratedly blurted out as she rested her hand on the coffee shop door handle.

Clarke chanced a quick peek out the window to see the rain still pouring down and jumped at the invitation, rude as it may have been, and moved quickly to gather her things.

“We could consider this to be our first date,” Lexa told her as she pushed the door open.

Clarke recalled the moment when her stomach had dropped at her grandmother’s creation of the new condition wherein she and Lexa would have to participate in one ‘date’ per week, but she suddenly felt hopeful if something as simple as a ride home from a coffee shop could be considered a date. With a bounce in her step, Clarke made her way to the door and slipped past Lexa with a smile and a single-worded answer.


Chapter Text

“Whatcha lookin’ at?” Raven asked as she leaned over Clarke’s shoulder to sneak a peek at her computer screen.

Fuck, Raven!” Clarke exclaimed as she slammed her laptop shut and lifted a hand up to her chest.

“Wow,” Raven said, “that sounds really weird when Anya’s not the one screaming it.”

“First of all, gross,” Clarke replied through an exasperated sigh. “Secondly, why the hell do you always sneak up on me like that? You almost gave me a heart attack.”

“Did you know that people with guilty consciences are more easily startled by loud noises?” Raven asked as she rounded the couch to plop down next to Clarke.

“Or in my case by their ninja roommate’s nosy questions,” Clarke added as she reopened her laptop and turned herself so that Raven couldn’t see her screen.

“What’s with the secrecy, Griffin?” Raven questioned, cocking her head to the side and quirking an eyebrow upwards. “What is it that’s got your conscience feeling so guilty?”

“I’m not guilty,” Clarke answered quickly before turning her attention back to her computer.

She opened a new tab in her browser and hit the button for her homepage to show, certain that she didn’t want Raven seeing the listing information for a commercial building she’d found online a couple of hours ago, and clicked around the website a few times as if she was picking back up reading through the latest news headlines. Raven narrowed her eyes at her best friend and was about to say something about her acting weirder than normal but didn’t get the chance to before Clarke’s cell phone vibrated with a text message.

The small sound was enough to send the blonde lunging towards her phone that was lying on the couch cushion between them, and the quick movement spurred Raven into action. She snatched up the phone before Clarke could reach it and swiped her finger against the screen to read the message.

“Raven!” Clarke squealed as she flailed for the phone, only to be met with Raven’s palm flat against her cheek keeping her an arm’s length away.

Lexa Woods: That works.

“Lexa Woods?” Raven blurted out as she re-read the text message for the third time. “Lexa Woods, as in, Anya’s Lexa? The girl you can’t stand, Lexa Woods?”

“How many other Lexa Woods do you know?” Clarke snapped as she finally leveraged her body weight against the slightly smaller girl to be able to reach her phone and grab it back.

“Why are you texting her?” Raven asked. “Why did she write ‘that works’? What works?”

“As much as I always love answering your endless strings of questions,” Clarke said as she stood, “I need to take a shower.”

Raven didn’t get the chance to respond before Clarke had disappeared and scooted herself over to where her best friend had just been sitting. She didn’t think twice about reaching for the laptop that had been so hastily hidden from her and was just about to flip it open when a loud voice startled her backwards a foot or so.

“Don’t snoop around on my laptop!”

“Jeez,” Raven muttered under her breath before raising her voice and adding, “I wasn’t going to snoop, Clarke!”

Her actions contradicting her words, Raven reached for the computer and slid it onto her lap. Her expression fell into a frown as the screen lit up with an empty password box as if Clarke had recently changed her privacy settings to keep nosy roommates from snooping around her laptop or something. Raven closed it with a huff and made her way back towards the bathroom they shared, not hesitating to open the door and walk right in.

“Since when do you password protect your laptop?” Raven asked over the sound of the shower spray.

“I wasn’t going to snoop, Clarke, my ass,” Clarke said, repeating the brunette’s earlier words.

“Can you blame me?” Raven questioned as she leaned against the edge of the sink and folded her arms against her chest. “You slapped that thing shut like I caught you researching how to build a bomb.”

Clarke let out a small chuckle and continued washing her hair.

“Which would actually be dumb really because I could teach you how to build a way better bomb than anything you could find on the internet,” Raven told her with an obvious shrug.

“You say that like you’ve researched it yourself,” Clarke said.

“I have,” Raven replied.

“You’ve researched the internet for how to make bombs?” Clarke asked as she poked her sudsy head around the shower curtain to throw her roommate a shocked look.

“Well, yeah,” Raven said as if it was the most obvious thing she’d ever uttered. “A genius-level mechanically-inclined mind such as my own needs to be stimulated, Clarke.”

“So you learn how to create bombs to stimulate yourself?” Clarke asked as she ducked her head into the shower again. “You’re actually more perverted than I realized which is quite frightening, to be honest.”

“It stimulates my mind, Clarke, not my body,” Raven shot back. “Anyways, you never answered my question.”

“Sure, I did,” Clarke lied, “you just forgot what I told you.”

Raven froze for a second, wracking her memory as to whether her roommate had actually answered her question. It wouldn’t have been the first time she’d been distracted by her own tangent. After realizing Clarke, in fact, had not answered her question, Raven hobbled her way over to the shower and whipped back the curtain to reveal Clarke’s back (and very naked ass) glistening with a few soapy trails of water.

“Raven!” Clarke screeched, clutching her arms around her chest and turning her back more squarely towards her roommate.

“You did not already tell me,” Raven said, “and shame on you for trying to trick me!”

“Shame on me?” Clarke asked in an exasperated tone, her skin beginning to prickle from the cool air hitting it. “You’re the one who was trying to snoop around on my laptop! Get out of the shower and stop looking at me naked!”

“Oh, please,” Raven said as she glanced down at her best friend’s body, “it’s nothing I haven’t seen before.”

“Whatever,” Clarke grumbled as she cautiously moved an arm to yank the shower curtain closed.

“Come on, Clarke,” Raven practically whined, “just tell me what you were looking at.”

“I’ll talk to you about it tonight,” Clarke replied automatically. “Later, I mean.”

“Tonight, later?” Raven questioned, resuming her previous position leaned up against the sink’s edge.

“Later tonight, tomorrow, whenever,” Clarke nervously rattled off. “Just please leave and let me shower in peace, okay?”

“Fine, but you’re not off the hook,” Raven said as she pointed an accusatory finger at the shower curtain, “and don’t even think about trying to get me drunk tonight so that I’ll forget to follow up with you on this.”

“Sure, got it,” Clarke said sarcastically, “no getting you drunk.”

“Also, let me help you make the bomb next time,” Raven told her as she made her way out of the bathroom.

“Yep, okay!” Clarke called out after she heard the door close.

A soft sigh filled the room as Clarke shook her head, and she chuckled under her breath as she replayed her best friend’s words in her head a few times over. They were like sisters, their relationship as thick as blood, and apparently as twisted as plotting to build hypothetical bombs together. As strange as their bond was, there was no one who knew her better or had her back like Raven did. She was, even with all of  her highly-amusing eccentricities, one of the most special people in Clarke’s life.

She continued her routine in the shower, the entire time trying to keep her mind off what was scheduled to happen later that evening. It wasn’t often that Clarke fibbed to Raven about something, but she and Lexa had both decided it would be easiest to tell Anya and Raven about their newly agreed upon arrangement (courtesy of Grandma Lillian) when they were all together. Clarke knew that Raven would hound her for answers if she’d have come out and told her they were meeting Anya and Lexa for dinner that night, so she decided to leave that part out until they all met face-to-face at the restaurant.

For Clarke’s sanity, the small withholding of information would buy her at least a day’s worth of peace.

As she stepped out from the shower, a towel wrapped firmly around her body, Clarke subconsciously trained her ears to listen for Raven presence in the apartment. The brunette was like a toddler; too much silence usually meant she was getting up to something, and when Clarke didn’t hear a peep coming from anywhere in the apartment she began to wonder.

Wonder soon turned into panic as Clarke noticed her phone gone from the spot she always put it in the basket on top of the toilet tank and silently cursed her sneaky roommate. Before she could say anything though, Raven came bursting through the bathroom door again with Clarke’s phone in her hand and an accusatory look on her face.

“You’ve been scheming with Lexa to get the four of us to meet up at the restaurant tonight?” Raven questioned loudly and dramatically. “What the hell’s the story on that? I feel like I don’t even know you anymore, Clarke!”

With a roll of her eyes and a sigh at Raven’s outburst, Clarke took her phone back once again and prepared herself to ward off a litany of questions for the rest of the day until the dinner meetup she and Lexa had so stealthily planned finally arrived.

“Range Rover?” Anya asked in disbelief as she held up a tri-folded brochure she’d found wedged between the couch cushions.

Lexa looked up from her textbooks and swallowed hesitantly, not having intended for Anya to find the evidence of her most recent daydream. She remained frozen in her chair at the dining room table and waited for Anya to continue, knowing full well there would be more for her to say.

“Was there a lottery you won and decided not to tell me about?” Anya questioned further, her eyebrows raising in surprise. “Also, a paper brochure? Really? Can’t you just browse their website like a normal person?”

“I found it in the display at the library,” Lexa huffed in response before turning her gaze back down to the schoolwork she had fanned across the table.

“I get half of whatever the amount of money you got from the bank you apparently robbed,” Anya told her.

“Seriously?” Lexa asked immediately as she looked back up from her work. “You actually think you’d be entitled to fifty percent of a haul you didn’t even take part in?”

“We’re family,” Anya replied, using the brochure to point back and forth between the as she spoke. “I mean, I wouldn’t go to prison for you or anything but I’d sure as hell enjoy some of your money.”

“Gee, thanks,” Lexa said sarcastically.

“Did you seriously rob a bank?” Anya asked as she sat down next to Lexa at the dining room table.

“No!” Lexa exclaimed. “I swear, you have been hanging out with Raven way too much. You’re starting to sound just like her, and I really don’t think I can take two overreacting drama queens in my life.”

“Damn, who pissed in your cereal this morning?” Anya asked as she leaned back in her chair.

“No one,” Lexa practically pouted.

She knew exactly why she was so grumpy, and it had to do with meeting up with a particularly annoying blonde (to whom she was technically engaged) later that evening. Lexa’s thoughts were cut short by the chime of her text message notification, and she reached for her phone reluctantly. She’d been texting Clarke sporadically over the last week, trying to plan out the night they would tell their friends about their arrangement, and pinning down a time that all four of them (Clarke, Lexa, and their two uninformed friends) could get together was proving to be rather difficult.

Clarke: Raven and I are having dinner at the restaurant down the street from our apartment tonight at seven o’clock. Will that work for you and Anya?

Lexa dimmed her screen and set her phone back down on the table. She was doing a happy dance in her head because she had overheard Anya’s phone conversation with the Fire Chief earlier that morning, informing her that she was taken off duty for the day and put on call instead. Lexa hoped that the short notice hadn’t given Anya enough time to contact Raven about her plans for the night and hoped she could swoop in with her own dinner invitation first... without raising any suspicions of course.

“This fucking paper is what pissed in my cereal,” Lexa mumbled as she motioned to the notebook full of topic ideas and references. “Why the professor can’t just assign us a case to review is beyond me. I’m spending more time checking with my classmates on which case they’re writing about than actually writing.”

"Who cares what case they’re writing about?" Anya asked as she reached towards the bowl of fruit sitting on the table and popped a grape from it into her mouth. “Even if you pick the same case as someone else, you know you’re going to do a better job than them anyways.”

Lexa only offered a weak shrug in response as Anya popped another grape and chewed it contentedly. She started at Lexa for a few seconds and finally opened her mouth to speak.

“You need a night out,” Anya announced.

“I’m too busy,” Lexa replied, never lifting her eyes from her textbooks.

“You’re always too busy,” Anya told her. “I’m on call tonight, so let’s grab some dinner somewhere. We can, you know, talk or whatever.”

“Talk or whatever?” Lexa asked as she quirked a solitary eyebrow.

“Yeah, bond and shit,” Anya said with a shrug.

Lexa eyed the older girl, narrowing her gaze as if she was contemplating long and hard about the offer, and finally replied after a few pointed seconds.

“Fine,” Lexa said, “but I get to pick where we go.”

“You got it, squid,” Anya told her, ruffling Lexa’s hair as she stood.

“Do not call me that,” Lexa warned with a glare, and Anya just laughed.

The irritated law student went back to her studies, and it wasn’t until about two hours later that she finally realized she hadn’t responded to Clarke’s text. She grabbed her phone and quickly typed out a message.

Lexa Woods: That works.

She dimmed her screen and set it back down on the surface of the dining room table before reaching her hands high into the air and stretching her tight muscles. Her morning run had done wonders for her concentration, but sitting hunched over her books for the better part of the morning had tensed up Lexa’s body and she suddenly found herself itching to head into the gym to get in an intense workout before her secret double dinner date. Just as she stood up, she caught sight of Anya walking out of her bedroom with her gym bag hanging from her shoulder and did a mental fist-pump.

“You want to head to the gym for a while?” Anya asked as she headed towards the kitchen.

“Hell yes,” Lexa answered, closing her textbooks immediately and made her way to her own room to retrieve her own gym bag.

“Does your not-so-secret admirer work on Fridays?” Anya shouted over her shoulder as she opened the front door.

“Who, Harper?”

“Yes, heart-eyes Harper,” Anya said with a roll of her eyes.

“She doesn’t admire me,” Lexa replied with an embarrassed scoff as she stopped at the small table by the front door where she kept her car keys.

“If she doesn’t admire you, then I’m straight,” Anya quipped.

Lexa let a short laugh escape her lungs as she followed Anya out of the house, only stopping to lock the door behind them.

“You should ask her out,” Anya suggested as she waited at the passenger’s side of Lexa’s car, “or just agree the next time she asks you out.”

The roll of Lexa’s eyes said it all, and she rounded the front of her car until she reached the driver’s side door and tugged on the handle. Anya followed suit, and they both climbed into the car before securing their seat belts for the drive. Anya hummed curiously, her eyes drifting along the dashboard of the vehicle as if she was appraising it, and finally opened her mouth to speak.

“On second thought,” Anya said, “if this girl is already infatuated with you despite this hunk of junk you drive around, she’ll probably go all fatal attraction on you when you upgrade to a Range Rover.”

“This is not a hunk of junk,” Lexa argued as she began reversing out of the driveway, “and I’m not buying a new car.”

“The brochure I found hidden between the couch cushions begs to differ,” Anya replied before slipping a pair of Lexa’s sunglasses over her eyes.

“It must have slipped out of my bag, I didn’t hide it there, and I’m not buying a new car,” Lexa rambled off, not missing a beat. “Haven’t you ever picked something up purely out of interest?”

“Actually, I–”

“Something not someone,” Lexa quickly interrupted.

Anya’s mouth snapped shut and quickly pursed into an annoyed frown as she shot a glare over at Lexa. The younger girl was nothing if not quick, and the time they spent growing up together taught the two more about each other than they sometimes realized. It was exactly why, as with instances similar to the one that had just occurred, one of them knew what the other was going to say before they even got a chance to say it. The connection worked to their advantage most of the time, but there were certainly other times it annoyed both of them thoroughly.

“You’re such a crabbyass lately,” Anya muttered under her breath but loud enough for Lexa to hear.

“I’m not a crabbyass,” Lexa defended in a tone of voice that almost sounded bored if it was to be described.

“Look in the mirror, crabbyass,” Anya said as she repositioned Lexa’s rear view mirror, “because that’s exactly what you look like.”

“Stop touching my stuff!” Lexa exclaimed, her ears registering the familiarity of her words to those she had undoubtedly spoken to the older girl countless times growing up. “You’re not allowed to wear my sunglasses either.”

Anya just scoffed in disbelief as she peered over the top of said sunglasses only to be met with a short but powerful glare from the brunette in the driver’s seat. She pulled the glasses off and dropped them into the cup holder between their seats, not uttering a word for a few full seconds until she couldn’t stand it any longer.

“Fine,” Anya said, “but I’m only appeasing you so you’ll cut me in on your bank haul.”

Their afternoon at the gym flew by in what seemed like a flash. They had spent most of their time separated, working out on different equipment, and ended their session with a rather lazy round of sparring. They were both hungry and tired by the time the early evening hour came, and it wasn't long after their stomachs began to grumble that they decided to call it a day. Harper had caught Lexa on her way out to bid her a good night, although it was much less flirtatious than normal and something Anya had made sure to talk about during their entire drive to the restaurant.

“Why can’t we just sit at the bar?” Anya asked, her question laced with annoyance as she sank into one of the waiting chairs in the restaurant lobby.

“I’d rather have a booth,” Lexa replied while she crossed her right leg over her left and rested her hands atop the armrests of her own chair.

“Since when do you not like to sit at the bar?” Anya asked, clearly not satisfied with the younger girl’s answer.

“I didn’t say that I don’t like sitting at the bar,” Lexa argued, “I’d just rather have a booth tonight.”

“Why does–”

“If I remember correctly,” Lexa interrupted, “you were the one who insisted we needed a night out to, and I quote, talk and bond and shit.”

“I did, but–”

“So I don’t feel like sitting at the bar and talking, I feel like sitting in a booth in talking,” Lexa told her sternly. “I don’t know why that’s such a big deal.”

“Fine,” Anya said, finally relenting and fully reclining against the back of her chair.

Lexa swiped her gaze around the restaurant to make sure Clarke and Raven weren’t already there, which would have been a miracle given Clarke’s apparent inability to ever make it on time for anything, and she snuck a peak down at her watch after her survey concluded that she and Anya were the first pair to have arrived. She pulled out her phone and checked it as well, hoping she hadn’t missed a text or call, and found no new notifications.

“Why are you acting weird?”

“What?” Lexa asked reflexively, snapping her head up from her phone and looking straight at Anya. “I’m not acting weird.”

“You’re scanning the room, looking at your watch, checking your phone,” Anya pointed out. “Are we expecting someone?”

“Expecting someone?” Lexa echoed Anya’s question nervously. “Why do you ask that?”

“For the reasons I just listed a second ago,” Anya said, her eyebrows inching upwards as she spoke.

“Oh,” Lexa replied.

She put her phone back into her pocket, not uttering another word, and Anya couldn’t help the scoff that came shooting out from between her lips.

“What?” Lexa asked, her tone clipped with annoyance.

“What is the matter with you?” Anya questioned dramatically.

Before Lexa could even think of an explanation to offer, a familiar voice drowned out her thoughts and diverted her attention away from her current (albeit slightly one-sided) conversation.

“Lexa, Anya! What a huge fucking surprise!” Raven exclaimed as she walked up to where they were sitting. “What crazy luck that fate has brought the four of us together tonight!”

“Knock it down a notch, Rae,” Clarke told her as she leveled her friend with an unamused glare and came to a stop standing beside her.

“Not that I’m unhappy to see you two,” Anya said as she stood up and leaned over to kiss Raven on the cheek, “but what the hell are you doing here?”

“Ah, my girlfriend,” Raven sighed dreamily, “she’s got such a way with words.”

Clarke and Lexa shared an uneasy look as Lexa rose to her feet and stood a few feet away from the three women. She shoved her hands inside the pockets of her jacket while Clarke picked awkwardly at a clump of decorative stitches on the front of her dress, and Anya took a moment to look between the two as she tried to piece together what was happening.

“Was this planned?” Anya finally asked to whomever wanted to answer.

“Apparently our little adversaries here conspired with each other to get us all in the same room at the same time for some very mysterious reason,” Raven told her confused girlfriend.

“I’m intrigued at the simple fact that these two have been voluntarily conversing,” Anya said as she gestured between Lexa and Clarke, both of whom were still looking a bit uncomfortable.

“I know, right?” Raven asked before leaning in to lace her fingers with Anya’s.

“Woods party, your booth is ready,” the host suddenly interrupted them before gesturing towards the dining room.

Lexa threw Clarke a glare, as if she was silently disapproving of her inability to execute their original plan of surprise, but it only earned her a reciprocating glare as Clarke brushed past her and followed their other two friends to the booth that had been readied for them. The heavy sigh Lexa expelled was lost in the crowd and she willed her feet to move, only stopping when she reached the edge of the booth to sit down next to Clarke.

Their close proximity was doing nothing to calm either of them, and Raven could barely keep the amusement off her face as she eyed the two trying to situate themselves as far away from each other as the bench they were sharing would allow. Anya quickly caught onto the awkwardness of the situation and opened her mouth to speak, but the host who had seated them promptly interrupted her.

“Can I get you ladies a few drinks to start the night out?”

“Double whiskey on the rocks,” Lexa immediately piped up.

“Double rum and diet,” Clarke added just as quickly.

Anya and Raven simply stared across the table, their eyebrows raised in surprise, and wondered why their respective friends were acting so strangely. Raven shot Clarke a look, at which Clarke shrugged her shoulders, and the brunette blinked a few times as she tried to clear her head.

“I think I’ll just have a glass of red wine,” Raven told the host. “Whatever is on special tonight is fine.”

“Same here,” Anya said, never letting her eyes wander from Lexa’s suddenly stoic face.

If the night was to proceed at all how Lexa had imagined it might, she needed to get a grip on herself. A few practiced breaths later, she had slipped into her best poker face and was ready to get the conversation over with. The conversation. The one she knew would lead to more questions from the opposite side of the table than she was able to answer. The host excused himself, and the table fell silent once again.

“Alright, who’s first?” Anya finally asked. “I seem to be the only one here completely in the dark, which I don’t appreciate one bit, so someone better start explaining what the hell is going on.”

“Can we order first?” Clarke questioned as she picked up her menu.

A somewhat irritated sigh sounded from beside her, and Clarke immediately snapped her head towards the source of it. Raven watched in silence as her best friend threw eye-daggers at the unimpressed brunette, thinking that if looks could kill then Lexa would probably be dead.

“What is your problem?” Clarke snapped as she continued leveling Lexa with her death glare.

“I don’t have a problem, Clarke,” Lexa answered, her tongue clicking the ‘k’ at the end of the blonde’s name particularly noticeably.

“Then stop biting my head off every time I talk,” Clarke argued back.

“I didn’t bite your head off,” Lexa countered harshly, “and that was, like, the second time you even talked so I don’t know why you’re saying that I’m biting your head off.”

“Maybe because that’s exactly what you’re doing right now?” Clarke offered just as harshly.

“Well, maybe I wouldn’t if you didn’t make it so easy to–”

“It would be nice if I could say just one word without you–”

“Whoa! Guys!” Anya interrupted them bickering with the other at the same time.

At the sound of the exclamation, Clarke and Lexa broke their attention away from each other, pursing their lips tightly shut as if they were two children who had just been called out for arguing in class. Lexa clenched her teeth and took another deep breath while Clarke pulled one hand through her hair as she tapped the fingers of her other against the table anxiously. Another hard flex of Lexa’s jaw managed to keep silent the demand of Clarke stilling her fingers, but the tension cloud hovering above the table could no longer be ignored.

“Seriously, Clarke,” Raven said as she leaned slightly over the table, “what crawled up your culottes?”

“Nothing crawled up my culottes,” Clarke snapped, making Raven giggle in response.

“Let’s just all decide what to order, and then we can address whatever the hell this thing is that’s happening right now,” Anya said as she picked up her own menu.

“Fine,” Clarke replied politely with an accompanying nod.

“We could just order a bunch of appetizers to share,” Raven suggested as she looked down at her menu.

It was something she and Clarke did often as they loved sampling different kinds of food without having to commit to an entire dish of only one flavor. For Lexa and Anya, on the other hand, it was something they never did and Anya was quick to speak up against the suggestion.

“I’ve been craving a steak all day,” Anya said, “and Lexa doesn’t like to share food.”

It was Clarke’s turn to scoff out a clipped laugh, and she turned her head to see Lexa never break her stare with the menu in front of her.

“Excuse me for not liking other people’s fingers poking around in my food,” Lexa said, feeling Clarke’s stare beside her.

“What, do you think that no one at this table ever washes their hands?” Clarke quipped without missing a beat.

“Oh my gosh, you guys,” Raven interjected, “can’t you chill for, like, two seconds?”

The table fell into silence once again, and they all studied their menus carefully until each of them came to their own decision on what to order. Their drinks were delivered, their meals were requested, and a far more strained stillness washed over the group as they all waited for each other to be the first one to speak up without causing any more uproars. When no one made a move other than to lift their drink to their lips, Clarke sighed and opened her mouth to speak.

“So, as Raven so rudely deduced by stealing my phone and snooping around my text messages,” Clarke said as she shot her best friend a look, “there is something that Lexa and I wanted to share with you both that may or may not cause you to freak out.”

“It will,” Lexa chimed in before taking a long sip of her drink.

“Uh, yeah, it probably will,” Clarke agreed and swallowed a mouthful of her own drink.

“This has officially gone from weird to weirder,” Raven whispered in Anya’s ear as she reached for her wine glass and watched her two friends across the table intently.

Clarke was shifting in her seat while Lexa remained as motionless as a statue, the only thing giving away that she was still alive was the faint flicker of the skin above her pulse point made viewable by the shadowy evening ambiance surrounding them.

“We’ve entered into an agreement of sorts,” Clarke said, “brokered by my grandmother.”

“Grandma Dub?” Raven questioned, her interest perking. “How does she know Lexa?”

“She doesn’t,” Lexa answered. “I mean, not really.”

“What’s the arrangement?” Anya asked hesitantly as if she was afraid to hear the answer but sure she wanted to keep them on topic.

“You’ve never met her before, but believe me when I tell you that she’s got quite an imagination,” Clarke explained to Anya.

“It’s true,” Raven confirmed with a nod. “She once dressed up in full fatigues and sprayed us with the hose before covering us in mud from head to toe!”

“What?” Anya asked, her expression twisting with confusion.

“There’s a lot more to that story,” Clarke told her, “and we were, like, five years old.”

“Ah, the good old days,” Raven said and sipped her wine wistfully, looking towards the ceiling as if she was recalling some of her more carefree memories.

“Anyways,” Lexa spoke up, much to Clarke’s annoyance if the roll of her eyes gave anything away.

“The short of the story is that she added a pre-death condition to her living will that outlines a very generous monetary gift that would allow me to buy my own art gallery,” Clarke explained, her voice tightening in excitement as she looked over at her best friend’s shocked expression.

For the first time that she could ever remember, Clarke witnessed her best friend rendered 100% undeniably speechless. Anya blinked a few times in surprise, also saying nothing, but quickly scrunched her eyebrows in confusion as to why Clarke’s grandmother’s generous gift involved Lexa. She looked across the table to see Lexa sipping away at her drink, managing to catch their gazes but unable to decipher the expression on her face. Anya narrowed her eyes but was cut off before she could speak.

“She did make the gift conditional,” Clarke said, her tongue slowly forming the words as she seemed to try stalling the inevitable.

“On what?” Raven asked, leaning forward as if she was hanging on the edge of her seat.

“On, uh,” Clarke faltered, “on,” she tried to continue before swallowing nervously, “on our marriage.”

“Whose marriage?” Anya questioned as she leaned forward and darted her eyes between Clarke and Lexa like she had a sick feeling what the answer was.

“Mine and Lexa’s,” Clarke finished in a small voice.

“Yours and...” Raven said and trailed off as she pointed from Clarke to Lexa. “Your marriage... together?”

Anya’s mouth dropped open as Clarke fidgeted uncomfortably and Lexa downed the rest of her drink. A few poignant beats passed as each girl around the table exchanged glances, and another uncomfortably long silence lingered without anyone uttering a single word. Clarke stared at Raven with wide eyes, waiting for what seemed like a bomb to drop, and was nothing less than shocked when Raven’s expression morphed into one of laughter.

Except for the fact that no laughter was coming from her mouth.

All Clarke could do was watch as her best friend proceeded to laugh, without a single noise escaping, so hard that her nostrils flared in tiny pulses and tears began to leak from the corners of her eyes. Once her voice finally cracked into a raspy cackle, Clarke was snapped from her trance and leaned back into her seat to watch in disapproval as the brunette verifiably lost her shit. Anya had begun to laugh as well (though not as spirited as her girlfriend) and tried to cover her smile with her hand, her wine glass, anything within her reach that would help mask her amusement from the couple glaring at them from the other side of the table.

“Are you done?” Clarke asked as Raven’s laughter had finally tapered into a series of exhausted chuckles.

“Oh, my stomach,” Raven groaned through a few more lazy laughs.

Lexa tipped her empty glass against her lips and sucked an ice cube into her mouth, crunching lightly on it as she let her eyes wander around the restaurant while Raven caught her breath and Anya regained her composure. Clarke just stared at the women opposite her and sighed, waiting for one of them to start the inevitable string of questioning she had been preparing for the entire day.

“Are you serious, Clarke?” Raven asked as she wiped away her tears and evened out her breathing.

“Yes,” Clarke answered quickly.

“So, you two are actually going to get married?” Anya asked as she looked from Lexa to Clarke before her face suddenly fell. “Don’t tell me you already did.”

“No,” Clarke told her, “there are a few conditions on that too.”

“Such as?” Raven asked curiously before taking a gulp of her wine.

“The purchase of my gallery has to officially close before we can get married,” Clarke explained, “and we have to stay married for a minimum of six months before we can file for divorce.”

Anya’s gaze snapped towards Lexa who was sporting a somewhat guilty look on her face for just a few seconds before her expressionless mask slipped back into place. Raven still seemed to be in a state of shock while Anya just shook her head lightly and sighed.

“So,” Anya started slowly, “the two of you are going to get married knowing that within six months you’ll be divorced?”

“Yep,” Clarke offered quickly, popping the ‘p’ at the end of her answer.

“What’s in this for you?” Anya asked Lexa point-blank before shifting her gaze over to Clarke. “No offense, Clarke. I just know this one too well not to think there’s some kind of secondary benefit.”

“None taken,” Clarke assured her and took a sip of her drink.

“Clarke’s grandmother will be funding the remainder of my schooling,” Lexa told Anya. “I’ll be able to quit my jobs and focus solely on my studies until I graduate.”

“I knew Grandma Dub was rich, but damn,” Raven said, “she’s rich.”

Clarke just nodded as she sucked the last of her drink through the straw and pushed the glass towards the edge of the table. She hoped their server would be making his rounds to their table quickly so she could preoccupy herself with the feeling of another smooth (and strong) drink cooling her insides, and as if her wish had been granted the server appeared not a few seconds later. Lexa eagerly ordered another double whiskey, after Clarke voiced her request for another drink of course, while Anya and Raven declined refills.

“So, how long have you guys been contemplating this... arrangement?” Anya asked, hoping the two hadn’t rushed into making a decision too quickly.

“A little over a week,” Clarke answered.

“A week?” Raven squeaked. “You’ve been stewing on this for a week and didn’t tell me? More importantly, it took me a week to catch on?”

Clarke rolled her eyes as her best friend expressed genuine concern for her apparently slipping sleuthing talents and tried to change the subject.

“I figured telling you guys about the arrangement would be more believable than trying to pretend–”

“Pretend that you fell in love and got married?” Raven interrupted Clarke. “Now that would have been an Oscar-worthy performance. No offense, Lexa.”

“None taken,” Lexa replied rather distractedly before turning her attention to Clarke, “and it was my idea to tell them.”

“What does it matter?” Clarke asked, her voice edging with annoyance once again.

“It matters because you’re trying to take credit for something that wasn’t even your suggestion,” Lexa told her.

“I’m not trying to take credit for it,” Clarke replied as her shoulders raised in a frozen shrug.

“If you weren’t trying to take credit for it, then you wouldn’t have said ‘I figured’,” Lexa pointed out.

“You are the most nit-picky person I have ever met in my life,” Clarke said through a light chuckle.

“If nit-picky is what you equate with truthful, then yes, I’m guilty,” Lexa shot back, clearly unimpressed with insinuation.

“How is this even going to work?” Anya interjected as she looked back and forth between the bickering women.

“Good question,” Raven added. “You two can barely stand to be in the same room as each other, let alone be married for six months. No offense.”

“Okay, no more saying no offense,” Clarke told them. “Everyone, ourselves included, knows that Lexa and I don’t get along.”

“Which is why I’m asking how in the hell this is even going to work,” Anya chimed in just as their server returned with Clarke and Lexa’s drinks along with the table’s entrees.

“We now have a common motivator,” Lexa said after the server had left their table once again.

“Yeah,” Clarke piped up, “money.”

“Understood,” Anya said as she laid her napkin on her lap and looked over at Lexa, “but are you really that hard up?” she asked before glancing in the blonde’s directing and adding, “Clarke, no offen–”

Clarke just shot her a look over the table, and Anya quickly closed her mouth before raising her hands in surrender. Raven was contentedly twirling a clump of pasta around her fork, seemingly having checked out of the conversation for the time being which was usually what happened when she had a full plate of food in front of her.

“It’s a simple yet somewhat unorthodox solution to a stressful issue,” Lexa said as she unrolled her napkin from around a set of silverware.

“And what makes you so sure that your simple solution isn’t going to result in another stressful issue just slightly different from your original stressful issue?” Anya questioned further.

“I’m not,” Lexa confessed with a small shrug.

“Alright,” Anya finally relented, “just don’t come crying to me when you get to that ‘I told you so’ part.”

“You can cry?” Clarke suddenly asked, her mouth half full of food and her eyes pointed widely at Lexa. “I always just figured you were physically incapable given that crying is usually synonymous with having emotion.”

Raven rolled her eyes and shook her head, and Anya had to bite back a smirk at Clarke’s sass. Lexa said nothing in response and turned her attention back to the salad in front of her, moving her fork to flick a few rings of raw onion to the side of her bowl that she’d forgotten to ask the server to exclude.

“I haven’t signed your grandmother’s contract,” Lexa calmly informed Clarke, “which means that we aren’t legally bound to our arrangement yet.”

“Living with a smartass lawyer for six months is so going to be a piece of cake,” Clarke grumbled sarcastically.

“Whoa, whoa, whoa,” Raven suddenly interjected as she dropped her fork with a loud clatter, “you two are going to be living together?”

“Please don’t tell me it’ll be in my house,” Anya pleaded, her eyes having blown wide at the new information.

“And you think I want them in my apartment?” Raven asked as she turned her head towards Anya.

An uncomfortable and frustrated look was shared on the other side of the table, and Clarke lowered her gaze to her food as if it was suddenly the most interesting thing in the restaurant.

“We haven’t discussed it,” Lexa told them, “but the arrangement demands we share a common residence for the duration of our marriage.”

“We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it,” Clarke added, painfully resisting to critique Lexa on her annoyingly proper explanation.

Anya and Raven seemed to accept the response for the time being, and the table finally fell quiet once again. Forks clanked gently against plates, and drinks were slowly drained. It wasn’t before too long that Raven struck up a side conversation with Clarke, leaving Anya and Lexa to do the same.

“Not that I thought I’d never get to ask you this, just under different circumstances,” Raven began, “but when are you going to start looking for a gallery space?”

“Soon,” Clarke answered immediately, her growing smile giving away her also growing excitement.

“Are you actually going to quit all of your jobs?” Anya asked Lexa quietly so as to not disturb Clarke and Raven’s conversation.

“That’s the plan,” Lexa answered, “although Aden took it pretty hard when I talked to him about it earlier.”

“I’d like to find something downtown,” Clarke told Raven. “There’s a small pocket just south of the Firehouse District being revitalized where I’d love to find something old that I could convert.”

“That would be sweet,” Raven said as she nodded. “I can just imagine all the exposed brick walls and huge wooden ceiling beams.”

“I can imagine he was crushed,” Anya told Lexa. “He looks at you like you’re his hero, not to mention he probably sees you as something of a big sister figure.”

“I know,” Lexa mumbled quietly, her heart twinging with sadness.

“I was looking at a listing for a recently renovated space downtown when you snuck up behind me earlier,” Clarke said, and realization instantly dawned on Raven’s face. “It was nice, but I’d so much rather renovate something myself.”

“I would have had so many more questions if you hadn’t password protected your laptop,” Raven said through a chuckle. “Never would I have believed my best friend was some kind of a closet real estate addict.”

“I did unofficially promise that I’d compete in the games this year,” Lexa told Anya, knowing the older girl would immediately know to what she was referring.

“Wow,” Anya said as her eyes widened, “I honestly never thought the day would come again, especially after what happened last time.”

“We should look at a few spaces together,” Clarke suggested as she continued picking at her food. “Do you know any real estate agents?”

“Hmm,” Raven hummed as she thought for a moment. “I think Octavia’s brother is a realtor, but I’m not sure if he works with commercial spaces.”

“I’m over it,” Lexa told Anya with a dismissive wave of her hand, “besides it will be a hundred times more fun to compete solely for bragging rights since I won’t be as worried about the money anymore.”

“True,” Anya agreed just as a sense of realization struck her. “That brochure I found makes so much more sense to me now. You’re a kept woman, so now you can treat yourself to a new car.”

“I need someone who really knows the market because I’m completely clueless with all things real estate,” Clarke confessed before finishing off the last of her drink.

“Same here,” Raven revealed. “I’ll have Anya ask Octavia about it during their next shift.”

“Have me ask Octavia what?” Anya questioned, her attention diverting from her conversation with Lexa when she heard her name.

“Clarke wants to talk to Octavia’s brother about being her realtor,” Raven said, “so I kindly offered your extremely convenient connection to her to find out what kind of properties he works with.”

“You’re so resourceful,” Anya replied cheekily before leaning in to peck a kiss onto Raven’s lips.

“I know,” Raven said as she shrugged and stole another kiss from her girlfriend.

It took Lexa all of two seconds to clear her throat in an attempt to subtly voice her discomfort, and Clarke just stared at the two with a disgusted look on her face at their public display of sickeningly sweet affection. Anya simply smirked before diving back into her steak dinner, and their server made an appearance to ask about any desires for dessert.

“Since Lexa and Clarke will so generously be treating us tonight,” Raven said as she grabbed at the dessert menu, “I think it’s only fair that we take advantage.”

“You two are so thoughtful,” Anya told Clarke and Lexa as a twinkle formed in her eye. “You make such a cute couple.”

Despite all beliefs that she was unable to manage another eye roll in such a short amount of time, Clarke delivered in spades as Lexa just sighed from her seat at the table.

It was going to be a long, and expensive, six (plus) months together.

Chapter Text

“Raven, stop,” Clarke warned in a whisper as she glared across the back seat of the cab at her best friend.

“I can’t help it, Clarke,” Raven snapped back in her own whisper, “it smells like death in here.”

No one with working olfactory glands could deny that the girl was right, but it was the way Raven’s face had contorted immediately upon entering the vehicle and only twisted more dramatically as they drove that annoyed Clarke. They were already running late, due to a combination of Raven’s leg brace acting up and Clarke’s requirement to stop for coffee, so they didn’t have the luxury to pick and choose which taxi cab would be bringing them across town. At the risk of appearing to be a couple of stuck up you-know-what’s at the first waft of the smell, they’d held their breath, slipped into the back seat, and just hoped for light traffic.

“What are you doing?” Clarke asked as she watched Raven frantically searching her purse for something.

The next thing she knew, a cloud of perfume was billowing towards her face as a concentrated scent of wildflowers and a hint of pine hit her senses and caused her to sneeze. Clarke could feel the spray settling in her lungs, stinging inside her nose, and even leaving a bitter taste in her mouth. A wild flail of her hands around her face cleared the mist from the air until the initial strength of the smell had dissipated.

“Raven! What the hell?” Clarke croaked, looking over to Raven who had turned the bottle on herself and the seat below them.

“I can feel the stench penetrating my clothes, Clarke,” Raven hissed in response. “I don’t want to bust into your mom’s house smelling like the walking dead.”

“You’d rather we smell like the inside of a perfume factory?”

“Uh, hell yes,” Raven replied as she squeezed two more sprays into the air.

“We’re going to stink up the entire house like this,” Clarke argued as she swatted at the perfume bottle.

“We can sit outside then,” Raven said with a shrug, finally tossing the bottle back into her purse after a final quick spritz down the front of her shirt.

“You’re ridiculous,” Clarke mumbled as she turned her head to look out the window from her side of the back seat.

“Don’t throw stones, princess,” Raven replied, staring over at her best friend until blue eyes met brown.

“Ridiculous?” Clarke questioned as she turned a fraction towards Raven. “I’m resourceful... and... clever.”

“Uh, you mean your grandmother is clever,” Raven clarified. “In fact, she’s kind of a... she’s like... Clarke, she’s my hero.”


“No, I’m serious,” Raven quickly interrupted. “She was able to make two mortal enemies fall in love...”

“We’re not in love,” Clarke told her sternly.

“... and get married...”

“It’s more of a business arrangement, really,” Clarke interjected again.

“... and one day probably make babies together.”

Clarke let out a hideous sound, something between a laugh and a cough, and just stared at her best friend like she’d suddenly grown three heads.

“Are you kidding?” Clarke finally managed to choke out. “You do remember this is not a relationship, right? Neither of us want to be married to the other, we’re just doing it for gallery and tuition reasons.”

“For now, maybe,” Raven said with a small shrug, “but what happens when you’re alone together, night after night, the candle of sexual tension slowly burning down until there’s nothing left but the smoldering hot wax of raw animal lust?”

Clarke’s shocked and disgusted gaze froze on her face for a solid few seconds as she sat staring at Raven, temporarily unable to speak, until the brunette finally broke the spell of silence with a throaty chuckle.

“Candle of sexual tension? Really?” Clarke questioned, her voice climbing a few octaves as she spoke.

“Don’t be jealous of my awesome metaphoric abilities,” Raven said dismissively.

“Awesome abilities, my ass,” Clarke mumbled in amusement as she shook her head and angled herself away from her window view.

Just as Raven opened her mouth to respond, her phone chirped with a notification. Clarke recognized the tone of it as being associated with Raven’s work email, so it was no surprise to her when Raven immediately began searching her purse for the small device. She watched as the brunette tapped her phone screen and read the email while a faint frown began to paint her face.

“What’s up?” Clarke asked.

“Apparently I’m going out of the country next week,” Raven said as she continued reading through the email, “to lead a nine day training retreat for engineers at our newest plant that’s scheduled to open late next month.”

“Sounds like a good opportunity?” Clarke posed, unsure of what Raven’s response would be.

“It is,” Raven agreed with a nod, “but I’m still playing catch up from the last trip they sent me on.”

It wasn’t all that common for Raven’s engineer co-workers to do as much traveling as she did, but they also didn’t turn out new and improved materials, systems, and software on a nearly weekly basis like Raven did. She was one of the quickest up-and-comers in her industry, and youngest at that, and as a result she was out of town for work (whether it be to train fellow engineers on her new products or fix something they had broken) at a minimum of twice per month. Granted it was usually only a long weekend here and there, so the prospect of being in another country for a nine day training retreat was a bit daunting.

“The downside of being kind of a big deal, I guess,” Raven added with a smugness that Clarke could feel from the other side of the smelly taxi cab.

Clarke acknowledged the statement with a roll of her eyes, and they continued on the rest of their journey in silence. Thankfully the traffic was light, as they’d hoped it would be, and the driver pulled up in the driveway of Clarke’s childhood home not a second too early. Raven all but flung herself out of the back seat and left Clarke to foot the bill in favor of breathing in lungful after lungful of fresh air.

“Thanks for offering to help cover the fare,” Clarke mentioned as she caught up to Raven on her way to the front door.

“You’re delusional if you think I’m actually going to pay you for riding in that gas chamber on wheels,” Raven said as she waddled up the porch steps. “Besides I didn’t even have to be here. I came out of the goodness of my heart... and for the free food.”

“Seventy percent free food, thirty percent goodness,” Clarke replied as she pushed the doorbell.

“Sixty-forty, and that’s my final offer,” Raven quipped.

“Clarke!” Marcus said through a blinding smile as he opened the front door and immediately stepped aside for the two girls to enter. “Raven, good to see you!”

“Well, someone got lucky before we got here,” Raven muttered out the side of her mouth which earned her a swift elbow to the ribs and a glare of warning.

“Hey, Marcus,” Clarke replied with a smile, meeting him in an easy embrace.

“Always a pleasure, Mr. Kane,” Raven said sarcastically as she extended her hand.

Marcus just chuckled as he took it before tugging her close and wrapping her up in a similar hug to the one he’d just shared with Clarke.

“Abby’s freshening up in the bathroom, but she should be down in a minute,” Marcus said as he closed the door behind them.

“Told you,” Raven whispered to Clarke, wagging her eyebrows suggestively as she spoke.

“Shut up,” Clarke whispered back before quickly turning her attention back to Marcus.

“I hope you two are ready for my famous egg strata à la Florentine,” Marcus said as he began walking into the kitchen and beckoning the two girls to follow. “I’m fairly certain this was the dish that made Abby fall in love with me.”

“There’s only one way into a Griffin girl’s heart,” Raven said through a chuckle, “and that’s with food.”

“True statement,” Abby chimed in as she appeared in the archway of the kitchen and made her way over to Clarke. “Hi, sweetie.”

“Hey, Mom,” Clarke replied before being caught up in a tight hug.

“Good morning, surrogate daughter,” Abby teased as she held her arms out to Raven.

“Momma G,” Raven said, her face brightening with a wide grin as she hugged the older woman back.

Clarke just smiled at the sight and moved around the large granite-topped island in the middle of the kitchen to lean against it as Marcus went back to cutting up the mountain of fresh fruit he seemed to have already started on before she and Raven had gotten there. The room was comfortably warm and the savory smell coming out of the oven was so divine that Clarke was momentarily able to block out the cab stench radiating from her clothes.

“Not to sound like I’m insulting you girls,” Abby said, “but don’t you think you went a little hard on the perfume this morning?”

“That was Raven’s doing,” Clarke immediately responded.

“More like it was Raven’s doing to try and keep herself and her best friend alive from dying of poisonous taxi rank,” Raven clarified as she hobbled over to a barstool next to Clarke.

Abby laughed and scrunched her nose simultaneously from the explicit description while Marcus just smiled as he continued cutting his fruit. The conversation flowed, jokes were thrown around and people were teased, and the entire situation felt more familial than it ever had before. They were all close, growing ever closer as time progressed, and Clarke had slowly begun to realize just how much she’d been craving that type of extended familial connection since her father had passed away.

Their chatter moved its way into the breakfast nook, and it wasn’t before long that Marcus was serving them all a generous piece of his famous strata. After a round of ooh’s and ahh’s and a healthy dose of yummy noises, normal conversation was resumed as they continued eating.

“How’s your leg, Raven?” Abby asked, a genuinely concerned look washing over her face.

“It’s been fine,” Raven said with a shrug as she stabbed a big bite of strata onto her fork. “Clarke helps me out with massages, and Anya all but carries me around when it acts up.”

“All but?” Clarke questioned with a chuckle. “She does carry you around.”

“Yeah, well, she’s used to carrying people,” Raven said through a mouth full of food. “I’m like a weightless little cloud compared to the giant sweaty men she has to try and haul on her back.”

“She’s a firefighter, right?” Marcus asked as he looked over at Raven.

“The hottest one in her station,” Raven replied with a wink and a waggle of her fork above her plate.

“Don’t make me throw up Marcus’s famous egg strata,” Clarke quipped as she glanced over at her best friend.

“Why don’t we change the subject then,” Abby quickly interjected. “Clarke, maybe you want to fill me in on why I took a vacation day to throw this last minute brunch?”

“Not that we’re complaining about having the company,” Marcus added, throwing a nod in Clarke’s direction.

“Of course not,” Abby agreed. “I always love having my girls over, but the secrecy of the reason for it has me quite curious.”

“Hah,” Raven mumbled through a bite of brunch, “just you wait.”

“Um, can I get some more coffee first?” Clarke asked as she stood up from her chair.

“I’ll get you coffee, you sit and confess,” Raven said, placing a firm hand on Clarke’s forearm.

“Confess?” Abby questioned with wide eyes.

“I’ll get everyone a refill,” Marcus offered as he stood while Clarke sat down.

“Clarke, if I know anything about you it’s that you have never had much to confess in your lifetime,” Abby said, “so tell me what’s going on before I really start to worry.”

“Raven is just being dramatic,” Clarke told her, and Raven let out another clipped laugh. “You are!”

“Why don’t we let your mom be the judge of that?” Raven bickered back as Clarke threw her a glare.

“Are you in some kind of trouble, Clarke?” Marcus asked, returning to the table with a steaming pot of coffee and a concerned look on his face.

“No, it’s nothing like that,” Clarke assured him before flicking her gaze back to her mother. “I, uh, actually it’s kind of good news.”

“Oh?” Abby questioned as her eyebrows peaked with interest.

“Yeah, um,” Clarke said, swallowing thickly, “you know Grandma?”

Raven choked down a laugh only to smirk instead at her best friend’s nervousness while Marcus and Abby kept their attention solely on the fidgety blonde.

“Yes, I know your grandmother,” Abby said slowly as she offered her daughter a long shallow nod.

“Oh yeah, right,” Clarke rambled as if she had suddenly realized how ridiculous her question must have sounded. “Well, she’s going to buy me an art gallery.”

Abby blinked in surprise but said nothing, continuing to stare at her daughter in a silent request for her to continue speaking.

“You know how she rewrites her will every time she has a major surgery scheduled?” Clarke asked, to which Abby just nodded. “She added a pre-death condition to her latest one regarding gifting me the money to buy an art gallery.”

“A pre-death what?” Abby asked as she shook her head in confusion.

“I think what it is, and correct me if I’m wrong,” Marcus interjected as he glanced over at Clarke and then back to his wife, “is a condition that can be fulfilled before death as opposed to those which are usually fulfilled after death.”

“Exactly,” Clarke replied with a nod. “She’s basically giving me a gift, in the form of money, for me to buy a gallery space whenever I want to.”

“Okay,” Abby said, her voice slowly drawing out the short word as she tried to understand.

“Tell her the best part,” Raven excitedly added.

“I’m getting there,” Clarke huffed from the side of her mouth, brushing a hand through her hair nervously. “There are a few strings attached that I think you should know about.”

“Why does that not surprise me?” Abby said more to herself than anyone sitting around the table.

She knew her mother’s penchant for meddling and knew there was no way she was going to give Clarke a huge sum of money without trying to push an ulterior agenda through somehow.

“Do you remember that server we had a Polis Café when we all went there for Grandma’s birthday?” Clarke asked, and Abby nodded. “Well, basically...”

Raven was sitting at the edge of her chair, mouth hanging open in a goofy smile, and she looked ready to absolutely burst. Marcus appeared somewhat scared at whatever it was that was about to be said while Abby was sporting a morbidly fascinated expression as she waited for her daughter to finish her sentence. Clarke took a deep breath and finally opened her mouth to speak back up again.

“... she made the gift money for my gallery contingent on getting married,” Clarke blurted out, “to the server... Lexa Woods.”

Raven clasped her hands together loudly, her face positively beaming with amusement, as Clarke remained frozen in her chair and at the mercy of whatever her mother’s reaction would turn out to be. The initial shock in Marcus’s expression faded as he looked from Abby to Clarke and back to Abby again, and it was a full few seconds before anything happened. To Clarke’s surprise, Abby stood to her feet quickly and walked away from the table leaving the three remaining brunch attendees to share a round of confused looks for a few drawn-out moments.

“You arranged Clarke’s marriage with the promise of buying her an art gallery?!”

Clarke, Raven, and Marcus all turned their heads around to witness Abby all but yelling into her cell phone after apparently having speed-dialed the elder woman. The tone of her voice was strong and somewhat frantic, and it made everyone still sitting at the table immediately break out into smiles and try to hide their amusement behind their hands, coffee cups, and bites of muffins.

“I will not lower my voice! I’m upset!” Abby continued as she began to pace around the kitchen. “Because you are meddling in Clarke’s life with no regard for... don’t change the subject, do not change the subject... we’re not talking about you, Mom, we’re talking about Clarke...”

Clarke scrunched her eyebrows as she heard the last statement fall from Abby’s mouth but quickly tossed it from her mind when Marcus interrupted her train of thoughts.

“Have you started looking for a gallery space yet?” Marcus asked with an excited twinkle in his eyes.

“You cannot seriously expect her to...”

“Kind of,” Clarke said as she caught small snippets of her mother’s conversation with her grandmother. “I need to find a realtor before I can look at any properties in person, but I have a friend whose brother works in real estate so I’ll hopefully meet up with him soon.”

“Yeah, you’re totally asking the wrong questions,” Raven directed at Marcus who smirked over at Clarke. “Ask her how long she and Lexa, who happens to be her arch nemesis, have to stay married?”

“She is not my arch nemesis,” Clarke chimed in.

“Shhh, Clarke!” Raven snapped before looking over at Marcus intently. “Ask her!”

“We can’t get married until the purchase of the gallery closes, and we have to stay married for six months afterwards,” Clarke quickly explained, not wanting to have to make Marcus actually ask.

“You dictated how long she has to stay married?” Abby roared into the phone after she overheard what Clarke had said.

“Tell him about the weekly dates!” Raven exclaimed as she bounced in her chair with excitement.

“Your meddling has finally gone too far,” Abby told her mother on the other line. “Yes, it has... yes, it has... it has!”

“I’m thinking she’ll be a while,” Marcus said as he nodded over at Abby, “so I’m going to get dessert ready.”

“Please let it be something with chocolate,” Clarke posed, her eyes boring into Marcus’s dramatically.

“I know all three of you far too well not to serve chocolate at some point during a meal,” Marcus replied with a smile before standing up and making his way past Abby into the kitchen.

“So, that was kind of how I thought it would go,” Raven said as she settled back in her chair.

“Honestly, I thought more of the yelling would be directed at me,” Clarke replied, gesturing towards her mother still pacing in the adjacent room, “so this is actually kind of a nice surprise.”

Raven just hummed in response and lifted her coffee cup to her lips as Clarke did the same. They sat in a contented silence, watching Marcus plate a few pieces of a sinfully rich-looking chocolate cake and listening to Abby continue her bickering war with her mother. Clarke couldn’t help but let her mind wander to thoughts of her future gallery and just how exciting it was going to be to have and run one of her very own hopefully within a year, give or take a few months.

As quickly as her thoughts shifted the first time, they suddenly flashed to Lexa. There was little she could do, despite her desperate attempts, to divert her mind from thinking about the infuriatingly annoying girl every so often but Clarke found herself wondering whether the brunette who was about to become her other (not better) half was having a conversation with someone similar to what Clarke was having with her family at that very moment.

“Indra?” Lexa asked as she knocked lightly on the woman’s open office door. “May I speak with you?”

“Of course, Lexa, come in,” Indra replied as she closed her laptop and set her reading glasses down on her desk. “I wasn’t expecting to see you today.”

All of Lexa’s employers knew about her unique situation of needing to schedule around her University classes and her other part time jobs, and Indra had become so used to the routine that she could practically set her watch by when she’d see Lexa. It was a day Lexa was usually nowhere to be found at the gym, so it was no surprise that her sudden appearance... well... surprised Indra.

“Normally I’d be just starting a shift at the library, but I no longer work there,” Lexa informed her boss as she took a seat opposite the always stern woman. “I put in my notice last week, and they found a replacement for me right away which is why I’m not there right now. Obviously.”

“Are you here to give me a notice as well?” Indra carefully questioned, her eyes narrowing as she looked at the girl sitting confidently across from her.

“I’ve recently come into some money that will pay in full the balance of my tuition,” Lexa explained, “thus freeing me up from having to work so many jobs in favor of focusing solely on my studies.”

“That’s wonderful for you, Lexa,” Indra replied, her tone slightly softer than normal. “It’s not, however, wonderful for your trainees. They’ll be losing one of the best trainers I’ve ever employed.”

“Thank you,” Lexa said with a small nod. “It’s been a hard decision to make, and honestly I’m not sure if I’ve actually made it yet.”

“How do you mean?” Indra asked as she leaned back into her office chair.

“Aden,” Lexa replied. “He shows more promise than all of my other students combined, and I’m having a hard time officially giving up my training position with him.”

“He does have a gift,” Indra agreed, “but I have an inkling that your indecision stems partially from something a bit more personal.”

“You’re right,” Lexa answered honestly. “I’ve known him for so long, and he’s become very special to me. His family situation mirrors my own in a vague way, and I can’t help but feel like I would be letting him down if I moved on from him.”

“From what contact I’ve had with him, I can tell that he’s a smart young man,” Indra told Lexa. “He will be able to figure out how to move on from you without harboring feelings of abandonment just as I’m sure you were able to figure out in your own situation.”

Lexa blinked, her mind suddenly startled at the connection Indra had so deftly made, and nodded her head in agreement after a few seconds had passed by. The older woman was absolutely right. Lexa had figured out how to live her life after her father had died, and she imagined he would have been proud of the way she’d done it. Just as she was beginning to feel a sense of confidence wash over her, a wave of agony and regret crashed around her.

She’d been strong enough to work through the pain of losing her father, but she was what seemed like light-years away from getting over Costia. She had been ripped out of Lexa’s life faster than the blink of an eye, and not a day went by that Lexa didn’t still think of her. There were weeks, sometimes months, of the year dedicated solely to mourning her death and it made Lexa sick to think Aden might have to go through even a fraction of what she has had to deal with on an endlessly recurring basis.


Lexa’s eyes snapped back up from where they had drifted down to gaze at her hands entwined on her lap, and she saw Indra looking back at her with a concerned expression on her face.

“I’m sorry, I–”

“Listen, Lexa,” Indra gently interrupted, “I’m not going to talk to out of quitting, and I’m not going to talk you out of staying. You need to do what’s best for you and be confident that there’s someone else after you leave, if you do leave, who can help Aden thrive.”

“I’d like to request you for the job,” Lexa said after a few beats of silence.

Indra just stared at Lexa, her face betraying nothing, and waited calmly for further explanation to be provided.

“You’re the only other trainer here who could come even close to keeping him motivated enough to continue,” Lexa told her. “He’s scared shitless of you, but he respects you.”

Indra cracked a small grin at that but remained otherwise silent.

“Spend a few months training him and tell me he’s nothing but extraordinary,” Lexa said. “I promise that you won’t regret it.”


“I know you’re busy running the gym, but it’s my only exit condition,” Lexa told her.

“Your exit condition?” Indra repeated, a solitary eyebrow raising in surprise. “Usually people who are quitting don’t do so with conditions.”

“I know,” Lexa replied, “and it would be a personal favor that you’d be doing for me.”

Indra rolled her chair away from her desk, crossing one knee over the other and tapping her fingers against the armrests, as she contemplated taking on a private client among all of her other day-to-day responsibilities of running her gym. Her thoughts were interrupted by Lexa’s voice once again, and what she heard immediately intrigued her.

“I’d be willing to represent the gym as I train and compete in this year’s games,” Lexa said.

There was nothing more hyped in the martial arts world than the occurrence of a yearly series of competitions nicknamed ‘the games’. Sponsors (in the form of local and national gyms) would give practically anything for an opportunity to be represented by a competing athlete, and there was no question that Indra would be interested in seeing her gym’s name printed boldly across Lexa’s training apparel as she undoubtedly would advance into the deepest rounds of the competition.

“You’re going to make a great lawyer someday, Lexa,” Indra said suddenly as she stood up and extended her hand. “You’ve got yourself a deal.”

Lexa smiled and stood to meet Indra with a firm handshake, her chest feeling instantly lighter knowing Aden would be training with one of the best after her departure. They shared a knowing look before separating, and Indra cut the silence as she rounded her desk and stood by her office door.

“You’re welcome to wrap up any and all of your sessions before you officially leave,” Indra told her, “but it’s no problem if you would rather we take care of processing your clients to another trainer.”

“I’d like to speak with Aden,” Lexa said. “All of my other clients can be handled by gym staff.”

“May I ask a favor of you before you leave?”

“Of course,” Lexa answered as she stopped at the threshold of Indra’s office door.

“Will you make sure to tell Harper that you’re leaving?” Indra asked with a mischievous twinkle in her eyes. “I couldn’t stand to be the one to break that poor girl’s heart.”

Before she could even attempt to stop it, Lexa’s face lit up in a deep blush as she nodded and making a hasty exit, leaving a chuckling Indra behind.

The rest of Lexa’s afternoon sped by, and it wasn’t long before she was pulling up to Anya's fire station to give her a ride home for the evening. It was something Lexa always offered to the older girl, seeing as they were family after all, and almost felt it was her little way of giving back for all the support Anya had freely given to her throughout their lives together. Plus the fact that the station was directly on Lexa’s way home from her University classes made it all the more convenient to shuttle her home whenever their schedules aligned.

When Lexa noticed Anya hadn’t come out to meet her as per usual, she switched her car off and got out to make her way into the station. She loved the fact that she knew everyone inside, thanks to carting Anya to and from work every so often for the last few years, and it made her all the more comfortable knowing she wouldn’t be met with a face with which she wasn’t familiar.

“Is it seven o’clock already?” Anya asked, her voice echoing through the building as she spoke.

“Seven on the dot,” Lexa replied as she walked over to where Anya was scrunched down inspecting something on one of the fire trucks parked inside.

“Shit, sorry,” Anya apologized, “the time really got away from me today.”

Lexa waved at Lincoln as he greeted her in kind from the other side of a large window across the way. He was chatting with some fellow fire fighters, along with Octavia and her rig partner, but his expression had instantly transformed to looking like a kid on Christmas morning the second he laid eyes on Lexa. She grew even more confused as she saw Lincoln swat at Octavia’s arm before pointing out the window towards her and barely managed to catch Octavia’s surprised expression a second later.

Before she could think any more about the strange scene, Lexa turned her attention downwards and back onto the woman crouched at her feet. Anya sighed and straightened her back as she stood up, her face covered in black smudges and her hair falling messily around her face.

“You look like crap,” Lexa pointed out.

“Aww, love you too, squid,” Anya cooed through a smirk.

“Don’t call me that,” Lexa told her sternly.

“Don’t tell me I look like crap,” Anya fought back.

The two silently called it a draw as Lincoln and Octavia started to walk over towards them, quite briskly, and both of them looked like they were about to burst with excitement.

“You are one bad ass mother fucker, you know that?” Octavia blurted out the second she came to a stop in front of Lexa and Anya.

“Why?” Lexa asked, her eyes narrowing in question as she looked between Octavia and Lincoln.

“I heard about your little scheme with Clarke Griffin,” Octavia said, crossing her arms over her chest proudly.


“It just popped out,” Anya interrupted Lexa’s scold as she shrugged. “Besides what happens in the station, stays in the station.”

“Are you really going to buy a Range Rover?” Lincoln asked gleefully. “I know this guy at a dealership downtown who could probably get you a great deal.”

“I’m not buying a new car, Lincoln,” Lexa told him calmly despite her desire to smack Anya for telling the entire station the details of her personal business.

“Oh,” Lincoln said, “Anya mentioned something about–”

“Well, Anya was wrong,” Lexa interrupted. “I brought home that brochure to look at for fun. I’m not going to try to capitalize on the... arrangement... between me and Clarke.”

“Because that would be wrong,” Anya said with a series of slow nods.

“We aren’t judging, Lexa,” Octavia quickly added as she threw Anya a look.

Lexa quickly brushed off Anya’s digging remark, knowing her situation warranted at least a small amount of teasing from those closest to her given how bizarre it all was. It wasn’t like she didn’t know Anya was joking, so Lexa didn’t take it as an insult because she was sure it was not intended as such.

“The only thing I’m shocked about is the fact that you’re on track to get married before Octavia and I do,” Lincoln chimed in.

“Sorry to break this to you, Linc,” Anya said, “but everyone in this station will probably get married before you and Octavia.”

Lexa threw an apologetic smile over at Lincoln at the same time knowing Anya was probably right. The poor guy had proposed to his girlfriend three times, and three times Octavia had turned him down with the explanation that she wasn’t ready to get married. It turned into a running (but loving) joke that even though the two were destined to spend forever together they’d probably do it without rings on their fingers.

“Anyways,” Octavia quickly interjected, “my brother does work with commercial properties, so I’ll give you his number if you still need it.”

Lexa shot Anya a confused look and, instead of responding, remained silent for Octavia to continue.

“He’s a realtor,” Octavia told Lexa as if she was pointing out the obvious. “Anya told me that Raven mentioned Clarke was looking for someone to help her find an art gallery.”

“I don’t need his number,” Lexa stated matter-of-factly, at which Anya rolled her eyes.

“Maybe not, but your fiancée does,” Octavia replied, a hint of a smile forming on her lips.

“She’s not my fiancée,” Lexa quickly told the group in her eagerness to squash the term from ever again being uttered in reference to her and Clarke.

“There’s no need to constantly be so rude when you talk about the poor girl,” Anya said, “I mean, she’s not even here, so cut her a little slack.”

“I’m not trying to be rude, I’m just stating a fact,” Lexa replied.

“Have you signed all of the contracts?” Anya asked, looking directly at Lexa as she spoke.


“Then she’s your fiancée,” Octavia said, “which, by the way, signing contracts is like the weirdest way ever to get engaged.”

“Hey, I’d take being engaged any way I could get it,” Lincoln added as he crossed his arms over his chest and looked down at his girlfriend.

“Okay, technically we’re engaged,” Lexa said, “but it’s not something we need to reference in that way.”

The group just stared at her, seemingly unsatisfied with her reasoning, and Lexa quickly attempted to further clarify the situation and her stance on it.

“It’s strictly a business transaction,” Lexa told them. “She isn’t my fiancée in the traditional sense, and I’m certainly not her messenger. Please pass your brother’s number along to Clarke directly.”

Anya pulled both of her lips inside her mouth to side the smirk threatening to show as she waited for Octavia to respond in the exact way she knew she would. Lexa remained standing her ground, and the feisty paramedic lifted a solitary eyebrow in something of a challenge before taking out her phone and typing a short text message out. Everyone turned their attention towards Lexa when her phone chirped out a notification chime, and Octavia finally let a smug smile light up her face.

“I texted you Bellamy’s number,” Octavia told Lexa, “so that you can pass it on to Clarke.”

“Can’t she just google it?” Lexa asked, her temper rising ever-so-slightly at Octavia’s defiance of her request to pass the number along to Clarke herself.

“She could,” Anya replied, “but that would defeat the purpose of making you give it to her like a thoughtful fiancé should do.”

Lexa’s jaw tightened as she clenched her teeth, knowing exactly what Anya and her friends were trying to do. It was just like them to find pleasure in her unique situation, even more unique due to her obvious resistance towards Clarke in general, and she fought with the temptation to leave Clarke waiting for an answer long enough to make her actually sit down and do some of her own research. The fact of the matter was that the purchase of the gallery couldn’t commence quickly enough (the sooner that went through, the sooner they could get married and divorced), so Lexa reluctantly swallowed her stubbornness and grabbed her phone to forward the number to Clarke.

“I never liked you,” Lexa said as she eyed Octavia wearily which only earned her a round of laughter from the group.

Luckily they were close enough to know when each other was joking and, even though Lexa was convincingly stern, they all knew her statement was nothing but talk.

“Did you sign off on the text with ‘Love Lexa, your thoughtful fiancé’?” Lincoln asked as he fluttered his eyelashes for effect.

“I never liked any of you,” Lexa announced as she turned around and started walking out of the fire station to get back into her car.

“I’ll see you guys later,” Anya said through a chuckle before gripping Octavia’s arm tightly, “and, by the way, that was awesome.”

“So, babe,” Lincoln said as he placed his hands low on Octavia’s hips and pulled her close, “you want to go back to my place and get engaged?”

“And here I thought I’d be getting lucky tonight,” Octavia quipped.

Her squeal echoed through the vast garage as Lincoln lifted her off the floor and assaulted her ribs with tickles, the two of them momentarily lost in their own little world with one another.

“No, put that back,” Raven demanded as she pointed from the twelve pack of frozen burritos in Clarke’s hand to the giant freezer they’d just been pulled out of.

“What? Why?” Clarke questioned, standing her ground. “It’s not like they’ll go bad any time soon.”

“We have an entire cart full of food that I’ll have to pay for since your broke ass can barely afford a tube of toothpaste each month,” Raven said, “so put it back before I make you put it back.”

“Relax, woman, I’ll pay for the burritos,” Clarke told her with a dramatic roll of her eyes as she dropped the package into the front of their shopping cart.

The two continued bickering over almost every addition to their cart as they strolled down each and every grocery aisle in the store. Raven won out with her insistence to buy a block of cheese rather than pre-shredded, Clarke got her frozen burritos, Raven convinced Clarke they needed the newest flavor of their favorite protein smoothie mix, and Clarke managed to get her way with picking out three different kinds of breakfast cereal. One hundred-fifty dollars for Raven and twenty-five dollars for Clarke later, they were lugging their shopping bags to the nearest bus stop to catch the next one in line.

“I can’t believe you’re finally opening a gallery,” Raven said as she got comfortable on the bench inside the curbside bus stop. “That was the dream, Clarke. You’re about to start living your dream!”

“I am,” Clarke replied, a wide smile stretching her lips and plumping her cheeks. “I already have so many ideas about pieces I want to create that I had to start making a list.”

“Imagine how fun the gallery grand opening party is going to be,” Raven said almost wistfully. “Oh, Clarke! Please let me be in charge of the party! Please?!”

“Fine, but I get final say on the plans,” Clarke replied with a chuckle. “I don’t want to show up to a circus act or vampire theme or something.”

“A vampire theme,” Raven repeated as she lifted her eyebrows in piqued interest, “now that would be fun!”

“No,” Clarke told her sternly with a short shake of her head.

“Gothic Victorian costumes, blood red lipstick, haunting organ music,” Raven began to list off, “and me in fangs... ready and waiting to sink them into the supple skin of Anya’s neck...”

“No fangs, no disturbing public displays of affection,” Clarke said, “and no vampires.”

Raven flashed her best friend an unimpressed look and dropped the subject for the time being. She didn’t have much of a chance to think up another theme before Clarke’s phone vibrated with a text notification which she strained her neck to try and read. When she caught sight of Lexa’s name, she grabbed Clarke’s wrist and yanked the phone between them so she could see the screen a little easier.

“What a boring and completely non-sexual text from your fiancé,” Raven said as she let go of Clarke’s wrist and straightened out her posture.

“She’s not my fiancé,” Clarke said, “I mean, technically but not really.”

“Technically but not really?” Raven asked. “Is that your contradictory opinion?”

“Whatever,” Clarke mumbled as she saved the phone number Lexa had just forwarded to her. “You know, she could have at least told me whether Bellamy works with commercial real estate. Now I have to call him and ask like a chump.”

Raven snorted out a laugh at her friend’s word choice and shook her head lightly.

“What?” Clarke questioned with a faint scowl on her face.

“You are such a dork,” Raven told her. “A chumpy dork.”

“That’s not even a word,” Clarke mumbled again, turning her attention down onto her phone.

“You should call him now,” Raven said as she poked a finger into Clarke’s ribs.

“Like, right now?”

“Yes, like, right now,” Raven replied as she poked Clarke’s side again.

“You are so annoying sometimes,” Clarke said as she pushed Raven’s hand away.

“Call him! Call him! Call him!”

Clarke said nothing in response, opting instead to simply hold up her phone to show Raven that she’d pushed the call button and the line was starting to ring. Raven smiled victoriously and scooted in closer to eavesdrop on the conversation once it finally started.

“This is Bellamy.”

“Hi, Bellamy, my name is Clarke Griffin,” she started out confidently, “and I got your number from your sister, Octavia.” Raven shot Clarke a cringing look as if to tell her that wasn’t entirely true, and Clarke instantly fell victim to a severe case of verbal diarrhea to try and correct herself.

“Actually a friend gave it to me, friend being a generous word, after my roommate mentioned that her girlfriend works with your sister whom she thought had a brother that worked in real estate. I’m looking for a commercial property, and since the person who gave me your number didn’t specify whether you worked with commercial properties I figured that I’d better call you to find out before we moved ahead... with the transaction... or not, you know, depending on what type of properties you deal with of course.”

Raven just started at her friend with her mouth hanging open in shock, and Clarke lifted a fist up to her forehead and bumped against it a few times as if simultaneously scolding herself for sounding like a rambling fool and trying to calm herself so not to make an even bigger fool out of herself. Clarke heard a small chuckle on the other end of the line as she took a deep cleansing breath.

“Well, I do work with commercial properties, so I guess that’s the first bit of good news.”

“Okay,” Clarke replied slowly, making sure not to say any more words than necessary at that point.

“The second bit of good news is more for myself in that Octavia didn’t turn you off of the idea of working with her older brother.”

Clarke mimicked his chuckle when she heard it through her phone’s speaker and waited for him to continue the conversation.

“Have you owned a home or purchased a commercial property before?”

“No, never,” Clarke replied.

“There are a few unique factors involved when buying commercial properties, and I’d really like to be able to sit down with you and discuss them in person. It just makes it a lot easier for me to explain and for you to understand so that we can start your search on the right foot.”

“That makes complete sense to me,” Clarke agreed with a few exaggerated nods of her head.

“I’m assuming you would like to get this process started immediately, correct?”

“Yes, correct,” Clarke replied, her heart flip-flopping with excitement in her chest.

“Then I’ll work around your schedule, so just tell me when you’re free next. We can meet for coffee, I can take you to dinner, whatever works for you.”

“Oh, um, okay, ” Clarke hesitated as she thought about her upcoming week, “how about this Friday?”

“Whatever works for you, works for me.”

A classic salesperson’s response.

“I’m free any time after three o’clock,” Clarke told him.

“Let’s plan on four o’clock then, and I’ll treat you to an early dinner.”

“Oh, you don’t have to–”

“Trust me, Clarke. If Octavia found out that I didn’t take a prospective client out for dinner who just so happens to be one of her friends, I’ll never hear the end of it. Besides I can write the dinner off as a business expense, so there’s no need to argue.”

“Alright, I wouldn’t want you to get in trouble with your sister,” Clarke relented which only earned an eye roll from Raven who was listening in.

“There’s a new place on the other side of town called Polis Café that serves the best margaritas I’ve ever had. Should we plan to meet there at four on Friday?”

“I, uh,” Clarke hesitated knowing Lexa was a server there (or at least used to be a server there if she already quit like she’d decided to after agreeing to their arrangement), “sure that sounds good.”

Raven’s jaw dropped, and Clarke just scrunched her eyebrows in question as she silently questioned her best friend’s reaction until Bellamy’s voice interrupted her thoughts.

“Great! I look forward to meeting you, Clarke, and discussing your first steps into the world of real estate.”

“Same here,” Clarke replied, choking down the laugh threatening to burst from her lungs at his dramatic enthusiasm.

They said their goodbyes, and it was no sooner than Clarke had ended the call that Raven opened her mouth to speak.

“Newly engaged and already cheating on Lexa,” Raven teased in a serious tone, “and in her sacred place of work no less!”

“Polis Café is not sacred,” Clarke said as she stood up after seeing their bus approaching, “and she said she’s quitting all of her jobs, so she probably isn’t even on the schedule there anymore.”

“A likely story,” Raven replied as she slowly stretched to stand up.

“A realistic story,” Clarke said, “and stop talking about our relationship like it’s real and referring to her as my fiancé... it’s going to get old really fast.”

“You agree to marry a girl for an art gallery, I’m awarded every opportunity to tease you about it,” Raven told her. “It’s my right as your best friend, so get used to it.”

Clarke just sighed and followed Raven up the steps of the bus. As much as she hated thinking about being referred to as Lexa Woods’s fiancée (and vice-versa), she knew it was just part of what she had to endure in order to make her ultimate dream come true and nothing was too difficult to stop her from achieving it. So instead, Clarke slumped into a seat next to Raven and began what would turn out to be a continuous effort to prepare herself for the next six to twelve months, hoping with every fiber of her being that her arrangement with Lexa wouldn’t last any longer than absolutely necessary.

Chapter Text

It was the fourth time during the cab ride that Clarke had smoothed out her dress, something about the action seeming to calm her each time her nerves spiked. She was on her way to be treated to an early dinner by her new realtor, at least she was hoping to call him her realtor after their meeting, and her constant excited state since their initial phone conversation had slowly compressed into nervous energy over the past few days.

She knew Bellamy only as Octavia’s older brother and learned a bit about his professional life from the short biography accompanying his agent picture on his company website upon which Clarke had stumbled after her curiosity had finally gotten the better of her. From what she could tell by his picture, he looked kind, in an almost naïve way, but lacked a strong resemblance to his sister whom Clarke had become quite good friends with over the years. Octavia had never mentioned anything about Bellamy being her half-brother, step-brother, or adopted brother but aside from their dark hair and brown eyes it didn’t seem like the two shared many other features.

Of course none of those facts were even relevant to Clarke and her decision to hire Bellamy as her realtor, it was simply something that had peaked her interest. She’d had similar thoughts about Lexa and Anya after finding out they were sisters but, in their case, Clarke had never given the fact a second thought after that (which was probably because she couldn’t even think about Lexa for more than a few seconds without wishing that she wasn’t thinking about her).

Clarke snapped her attention back to the present, shaking her head lightly as if to rid herself of a few lingering thoughts of her annoying fiancé, and quickly noted her cab was almost to its destination. She couldn’t help but hope that Lexa had already quit her serving position at Polis Café, the restaurant she and Bellamy were scheduled to meet at, since the last time she and Lexa had been in the same room at the eatery hadn’t gone too smoothly.

Not that any of their encounters really did.


The boisterous voice captured her attention immediately, and Clarke offered a polite wave towards its owner as she stepped out of her cab and discretely straightened out the bottom of her dress to make sure it was hanging properly. Bellamy was dressed in a pair of dark maroon chinos, a light blue gingham patterned dress shirt and a navy blue necktie. His sleeves were rolled, along with the bottom of his pants, and a pair of thick black-rimmed glasses were perched atop the bridge of his nose. Clarke couldn’t help but take in his appearance for a few extra seconds than she normally would have, seeing as her brain hadn’t prepared her for the young realtor to look so perfectly trendy.

“Bellamy Blake, nice to meet you,” Bellamy greeted her with a firm handshake and a lopsided smile.

“It’s nice to meet you too,” Clarke replied through her own smile before withdrawing her hand.

“Let’s get a table and order some margaritas before I start boring you with business talk,” Bellamy suggested as he gestured towards the host’s podium at the front entrance of the café.

“I doubt you could bore me with how excited I am to start looking for a building,” Clarke said, “but I will admit that a margarita does sound good right about now.”

Bellamy just smiled and nodded gently before turning his attention to the café host. They were shown to a table for two immediately, and Clarke was pleased that the patio table chosen for them was situated right next to the outdoor fireplace. It wasn’t too chilly that particular afternoon, but Clarke was always more comfortable being a little too hot than a little too cold. She slid carefully into her seat and smiled up at the host as Bellamy ordered them each a margarita before flicking her gaze down at her menu.

“As I mentioned earlier,” Bellamy said, “I can write off this dinner as a business expense, so be sure to get whatever you’d like.”

Clarke acknowledged him with a small chuckle and made quick work of the menu, eventually deciding on ordering one of the café’s recommended white fish taco entrees. Bellamy had wholeheartedly approved of her choice and ordered the same for himself when their server had arrived with their margaritas, and the moment they were left alone again Clarke felt herself winding back up with excitement.

“My curiosity got the best of me, and I called Octavia after you and I spoke on the phone,” Bellamy suddenly admitted with a charmingly sheepish look on his face.

“Oh, yeah?” Clarke asked, her eyebrows peaking in surprise. “Should I even ask what she told you about me or would it be better for both of us if we pretend like we’re strangers?”

“She told me only good things,” Bellamy assured her through an amused laugh, “and apparently she owes her professional career to your mother?”

“Not exactly,” Clarke told him before taking a small sip of her margarita. “Octavia is a rockstar paramedic, so she’d be successful no matter what. That being said, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have the Chief of Surgery at the biggest hospital in the tristate area in your corner.”

“Connections are important,” Bellamy replied with a nod.

“Is that your professional motto?” Clarke asked teasingly, knowing that business for realtors depended heavily on networking and recommendations from past clients.

“Something like that,” Bellamy agreed with a smirk, “and I’m sure that rings true with you being an artist as well?”

“Definitely,” Clarke replied, a heavy nod emphasizing her statement. “It’s the driving reason for me to drop my entire life for a few days and skip town to showcase random art fairs I get last minute invitations to attend. Hopefully someday I’ll be number one or two on the list instead of number fifty-two or fifty-three.”

“Trust me, I know where you’re coming from,” Bellamy told her honestly. “It took me years and a few very dramatic I-quit-real-estate’s to finally earn a comfortable flow of income. My fiancé is a saint for sticking with me through it all.”

Clarke tried not to notice the pang of guilt that shot through her chest at the mention of the ‘f word’ and forced a smile to her face in an attempt to hide her uneasiness. She hadn’t yet found it necessary to tell anyone outside her family and close friends about her unique arrangement with Lexa, and Clarke suddenly felt almost nervous for the topic to come up. Thankfully, Bellamy decided to dive right back into discussing the actual reason they’d scheduled to meet up.

“So, Clarke,” Bellamy said, “tell me all about the type of commercial property you’re looking for.”

Clarke took a deep breath and watched as the brunette unzipped a tablet from a black leather case and positioned his hand above the screen to begin tapping out notes.

“I want to open my own art gallery,” Clarke told him. “I’d love to find a space that’s old and decrepit that I can renovate into being exactly what I want.”

“Excellent,” Bellamy replied with a knowing smile, “I love a woman who’s confident with what she wants and isn’t scared of a little hard work to get it. Do you have any ideas or preferences on location?”

“Ideally I’d love to end up south of the Firehouse District,” Clarke told him. “I’ve heard there’s a small pocket of older buildings being revitalized in that area.”

“That exact area was going to be my suggestion,” Bellamy said as he shot her an approving look. “I’m working with a musician friend who is trying to open a performance club in that district. He’s convinced that it will become a hub for the arts.”

“I like the sound of that,” Clarke agreed with an excited nod.

“So, how big of a space are you looking for?” Bellamy asked as he continued tapping away on his tablet as they conversed.

“To be honest, I’m not really sure,” Clarke told him with a small shrug.

“Let me ask you this way,” Bellamy interjected, “what do you picture when you think about the finished product of your renovated gallery?”

The question alone created a wave of goosebumps to ripple along Clarke’s skin, and she could barely contain herself from gushing about every minute detail of what she hoped her very own art gallery would look like. It was something she’d thought about every day of her life, dreamed about on a fairly consistent basis, yet she could barely convince herself that it was finally happening. There was no longer the sense of the figments of her imagination being just out of reach. They were right there, hovering right above her head, ready to be plucked down and built into reality.

“High ceilings,” Clarke began somewhat wistfully, “large wooden beams, exposed brick, concrete floors.”

Bellamy nodded as he made note of each thing Clarke listed off.

“There needs to be plenty of space to hang paintings around the perimeter of the gallery and a ton of open space to set up moveable displays in the interior,” Clarke explained. “I’d love a side area for a long welcoming desk, and some extra space for holding art classes would be amazing.”

Clarke finally brought her gaze back down from the clouds and focused on the young realtor across from her as he diligently added items to her wishlist. She scrunched her eyebrows slightly and opened her mouth to speak as realization over everything she’d just told him hit her.

“That’s a pretty lofty list, isn’t it?”

“Not really,” Bellamy replied, “as long as you know that some of the properties we find might need to have a few of those items added. For example, many of the buildings in that district won’t have a lot of open floor space so you would need to take down some walls and things like that.”

“Understood,” Clarke said with a confident nod.

“So now comes the financial part of the deal,” Bellamy told her as he lowered his tablet to rest on the table. “You aren’t obligated to share any personal income information with me, but you will need to meet with a loan officer to go over all of your financing options.”

“Even if I won’t need financing?” Clarke asked in all honestly.

She had no idea how buying property worked, so it only made sense that she voiced all of the questions that popped into her head. Bellamy just stared at her in surprise, clearly not having anticipated the prospect of the young self-employed artist not needing to finance something as expensive as purchasing a commercial building. He blinked a few times, seeming to be carefully choosing his words, and finally spoke up.

“Whether you will be financing the purchase or not, a meeting with a loan officer is still important,” Bellamy told her. “They will start a financial file for you to weigh the benefits of purchasing the property outright versus financing it. Sometimes it’s more beneficial to finance a transaction for tax reasons, and that’s something the loan officer will be able to illustrate for you.”

“Oh, got it,” Clarke said, “and I apologize if my questions sound ridiculously dumb to you.”

“There are definitely no dumb questions when it comes to real estate,” Bellamy assured her. “I always expect my first time buyers to have a lot of them.”

Clarke was just about to respond when their server reappeared with their food orders. She asked whether they wanted a fresh round of margaritas, but Clarke politely declined (for herself at least) and planned to nurse the half glass for the rest of the meal. After a quick spritz of juice from the lime wedge on her plate sprinkled over her tacos, Clarke placed her napkin in her lap and dove into her meal.

She was so engrossed in taking her first bite that she didn’t notice Bellamy’s amused smile as he watched her from across the table before just as enthusiastically digging into his own food. A small hum of approval rumbled at the back of Clarke’s throat as she munched happily on her bite, and Bellamy let out a similar yummy noise while he enjoyed his first bite. They chatted for a bit about the restaurant and their meals before Bellamy steered their conversation back on track.

“So, what are you looking at for a price range?” Bellamy asked between bites.

Clarke nodded as she chewed, trying to swallow her bite quickly so that she could answer.

“No more than five-hundred thousand,” Clarke told him, “including renovation costs.”

If he was at all surprised by the high figure, Bellamy didn’t show it in his reaction. He simply nodded a few times and added that piece of information to his list.

“That’s a healthy budget,” Bellamy finally said. “I can’t imagine you wouldn’t be able to buy your dream space and renovate it exactly how you want it. You will probably even have money left over.”

“I wish,” Clarke said off-handedly before realizing she’d spoken out loud. “I mean, it’s not actually my money.”

An expression of confusion sprawled across the brunette’s freckled face, and Clarke scrambled to explain.

“Not like I obtained it illegally or anything...”

Bellamy’s expression faded into one of pure amusement, and he smirked as Clarke began to fidget nervously in her chair.

“I’m not a criminal,” Clarke blurted out, only to the delight of Bellamy who leaned back in his chair and began laughing. A quick shake of her head helped to clear her thoughts, and Clarke spoke up again. “My grandmother is gifting me the money to buy a gallery space.”

That makes complete sense,” Bellamy said through a few light chuckles, “although you trying to convince me that you aren’t a bank robber was highly entertaining if I were to be totally honest.”

“Your amusement at the expense of my embarrassment,” Clarke teased dryly, “my life in a nutshell.”

“That was my life in High School in a nutshell,” Bellamy tried to reassure her. “It happens to the best of us.”

“I’m hoping that by the time I turn thirty, I’ll have lost all ability to become embarrassed,” Clarke said. “I will have embarrassed myself so much by then that I’ll be completely immune. That could happen, right?”

“It didn’t happen to me when I turned thirty,” Bellamy said, “but I’ll hold out hope for you.”

“Thanks,” Clarke replied, a chuckle spilling from her lips a second later.

They discussed a few more intricacies of the property buying process, enough to make Clarke’s head spin but not hurt, and finished their meals nearly simultaneously. Clarke took a few extra seconds to wipe her napkin along her lips, making sure she hadn’t made a mess of her face, and was suddenly distracted by the loud ringing of Bellamy’s cell phone as it lit up with a picture of a steely-eyed brown-haired adorably-grinning man.

“Whoops,” Bellamy said as he quickly silenced the ringtone and flashed a shy look up at Clarke. “He always forgets when I have client meetings.”

“Your fiancé?” Clarke questioned as she tipped her head down at his phone.

“Yeah,” Bellamy replied. “He has the memory of a fruit fly, but I can’t help but love him.”

“What does he do, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“He’s a writer,” Bellamy said with a proud smirk playing on his lips. “He works for a local magazine at the moment but wants to publish novels. The inspiration and talent is there, it’s the time that he is short on. Between my varying work hours and his overtime, we barely get to see each other.”

“So when you two have downtime, you want to spend it together,” Clarke deduced.

“Exactly,” Bellamy replied. “He also doesn’t want to get too far into a career change before our wedding which who knows when that will be.”

“How so?” Clarke asked, sensing Bellamy’s comfort with discussing his personal life.

“I told him we should just take a trip to city hall,” Bellamy told her, “but he wants to involve his family, his parents at the very least, and do some kind of destination wedding.”

“That’s a tough compromise,” Clarke said, “so I don’t envy you.”

“We will figure it out eventually,” Bellamy offered with a genuine smile as he reached for the bill that had been deposited next to him. “In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to working with you as long as the feeling is mutual.”

“Absolutely,” Clarke agreed with a nod and reached down to her feet to grab her purse from the cobblestone patio.

Behind the bar inside the café, Lexa stole a few fleeting glances at Clarke and her dinner guest as they stood up from their table made their way to the front of the restaurant. She noticed Clarke gleefully accepting two business cards from the man, a bright smile overtaking her face as she did so, before they shook hands and went on their ways. It would only make sense for the curly-haired man to be Octavia’s realtor brother, if the presence of business cards was any indication, and Lexa figured they had met to discuss moving forward with Clarke’s plan to purchase a gallery space.

As she turned her attention back to her duties behind the bar while Clarke called a cab, and it wasn’t until the flash of the sun’s reflection hitting the windshield of a car caught her attention that Lexa looked back towards where Clarke had been waiting for her ride. The blonde practically bounced her way up to the car, clearly thrilled by whatever the events of her meal had brought, and Lexa couldn’t help the tiny upwards curl of the very corner of her mouth as she watched Clarke dive into the backseat and be driven off.

Her trip to the grocery store was quick, as she’d hoped it would be, and Lexa was growing more eager to get back to the sanctity of her home with each minute that passed during her drive. That afternoon marked the start to her nearly job-free college career, and it was like a giant weight had been lifted off her shoulders. The University library had already found and trained in a replacement for her, and Lexa was no longer bound to any of her clients at the gym.

Polis Café had pleaded with her to stay on the schedule for an extra week or two as a bartender since they had filled her serving spot with one of the more ‘less talented’ drink mixers at the restaurant. Lexa had accepted, knowing her hours would be more conducive to her class and study schedule, and it would involve quite a few more tips from patrons grateful for the buzzes Lexa would be supplying them with. It would only be temporary, the café had assured her, and knowing that made each shift seem almost fun dare she say it.

The moment she got home, Lexa began to unpack her canvas shopping bags and went to work immediately washing and preparing all of the fresh produce she had purchased for her weekly lunches and snacks. Healthy eating was something she not only loved to do, but it came quite naturally to her since most overly-processed sugar-saturated foods didn’t usually sit well on her palate or agree with her body. Anya had teased her about it since before Lexa could even remember, but that was a family’s job to do was it not?

“Hey!” Anya exclaimed as she came bursting through the front door, breathless and excited.

“Hello,” Lexa replied coolly before looking back down at the mound of leafy green lettuce she was chopping with a large knife.

“So, uh,” Anya hesitated, awkwardly glancing around the house, “so, hey, Raven’s coming over.”

“Okay,” Lexa said as she continued chopping.

It wasn’t out of the ordinary for Raven to come over. In fact, the young engineer practically lived there when she wasn’t out of town or in need of a fresh round of clothes. Lexa saw Anya’s girlfriend almost as much as she saw Anya herself, which made sense really because the two were practically joined at the hip whenever possible, so it was a small mystery why Anya was acting so strangely.

“I mean, she’s coming over,” Anya explained with a strong look and her words slipping out of the side of her mouth.

Lexa stilled the movement of her knife and looked up at Anya with a thoroughly confused expression on her face. They studied each other in silence for a moment, Anya making a few animated gestures with her eyebrows as if she was trying to make more clear her point, but it only served to confuse Lexa even more. With a heavy sigh, Anya pinched the bridge of her nose and opened her mouth to speak.

“She’s coming over for sex,” Anya said, “and lots of it.”

Realization hit Lexa hard, and her head tipped slowly back in understanding.

“Her work is sending her out of the country for nine days, and she leaves tomorrow,” Anya explained hastily, “so she wants to, you know, say goodbye. All afternoon, evening, and night long.”

Lexa’s face scrunched in disgust as the words bounced around inside of her head, and she immediately thereafter felt a sense of disappointment wash over her. She’d been looking forward to spending the rest of her day working on school work in silence, and knew there was absolutely zero chance of that happening while Anya and her girlfriend ‘say goodbye’ in the neighboring room. Rooms? Lexa really didn’t want to think about it.

“Can’t you say goodbye over at Raven’s apartment?” Lexa asked hopefully as she slowly began working on her lettuce once again.

“A good thought,” Anya told her, “but Clarke’s in her zone.”

“In her what?” Lexa questioned as her eyebrows scrunched together.

“You know her zone. When she–”

A loud and rapid series of knocks against the front door interrupted Anya from answering, and she held up her index finger at Lexa as if to say ‘hang on’ before opening the door to reveal a smirking Raven on the other side. The brunette was clad in a highly suspicious trench coat, and Lexa immediately narrowed her eyes at the sight. If she knew anything at all about Raven, it was that she probably had on a quite racy set of lingerie underneath the fitted coat and Lexa was sure she didn’t want to be in even the same vicinity of the two when the coat came off.

Anya was practically drooling as her mouth hung cracked open while she unabashedly took in every inch of her girlfriend standing in front of her. The petite brunette had an overnight bag hanging from one hand and an nondescript plastic shopping bag hanging from the other, the contents of which Lexa was convinced she didn’t want to know, and a bright red pop of color on Raven’s lips perfectly completed the seductive look she was obviously going for. A sudden clearing of Lexa’s throat snapped both girls’ attention over towards her.

“Hey, Lexa,” Raven croaked out, her eyelashes fluttering lightly as she spoke.

“Raven,” Lexa greeted before looking back down to her lettuce and grinning. “Nice coat.”

“Yes,” Anya said before swallowing thickly, “it’s quite nice.”

“Wait until you see what’s underneath it,” Raven whispered teasingly into Anya’s ear.

“Right, so we’re going to head to my room,” Anya quickly told Lexa as she grabbed the overnight bag from her girlfriend and moved to lead her out of the kitchen.

“Anya!” Lexa practically squealed, her heart beginning to race at the horrible thought of the two of them ripping each other’s clothes off in the next room.

“I’ll put my stuff away,” Raven said as she took back her bag, “and you can join me in a minute.”

Anya nodded very lightly before Raven was leaning in and placing a lingering kiss against stunned lips. When she finally pulled away with a wicked smirk playing across her face, Raven flicked her gaze down to admire the crimson smudge she’d left behind and silently approved. She sauntered away as gracefully as her leg brace would allow, and Anya couldn’t help but follow her retreating form with her eyes until she had disappeared around a corner.

“Lex,” Anya nearly begged as she turned around and gripped the edge of the counter tightly.

“Lexa,” Lexa quickly corrected her.

“She’s got a trench coat on!” Anya whispered harshly as she leaned in close for dramatic effect.

“You’re waiting out here until I finish cutting my lettuce and leave,” Lexa told her. “My ears will not be victim to the noises of your sexcapade.”

“Just hurry up, will you?” Anya asked eagerly, her fingertips beginning an erratic rhythm against the granite surface below them.

“I can’t believe you’re kicking me out of my own house,” Lexa grumbled in time with her chopping.

“This is my house, and I’m not kicking you out,” Anya told her honestly. “You’re more than welcome to listen in on our goodbyes, just know that going forward I’m going to forever refer to you as a super huge creep if you do.”

“There isn’t a single ounce of me that wants to listen in on you two,” Lexa said as she began dividing her freshly chopped lettuce equally among five reusable containers. “Can I at least sleep here tonight in peace?”

“You can go over to my apartment,” Raven suddenly said from the hallway. “Clarke is working on a painting so she won’t even know you’re there.”

“Great idea!” Anya exclaimed as she pointed at Lexa. “Give us until,” Anya began as she checked her watch, “nine o’clock.” Raven cleared her throat loudly and Anya corrected herself, “ten o’clock, and then we’ll be tired enough to keep it down for you.”

“Ugh, disgusting,” Lexa groaned as she snapped the lids on her containers.

The preparation of the rest of her produce would have to wait, unfortunately, and Lexa did her best to quickly clean up her mess before turning her attention to gathering her textbooks, packing up her laptop, and finding an appropriately light jacket for the cool spring breeze that usually cropped up as evening approached. Anya threw a ‘thank you’ over her shoulder before racing into her bedroom as Lexa let herself through the front door and locked it securely behind her.

There was always the library that Lexa could go to, granted it was always nice and quiet, but the seats there were worn and uncomfortable. It was hardly the place one would want to spend ten hours in a row if they could help it. A sigh escaped her lips as Lexa contemplated going over to Raven and Clarke’s apartment to study. Their place was decent, comfortable enough it seemed, but the thought of spending ten long hours in the same room as her fiancée was not the least bit exciting.

However the dainty smell of wild flowers and a hint of vanilla that was always present in the air at the apartment was far superior to the smell of old musty books and twenty-however-many-year-old furniture at the library.

A final sigh filled the interior of her car as Lexa made her way towards her favorite café for a large cup of tea before making her way over to Clarke’s apartment. She didn’t see Luna, which frankly she was slightly disappointed since their usual casual conversations might have eaten up fifteen minutes or so of Lexa’s time that would now have to be spent in Clarke’s presence, and was pulling into the familiar parking lot long before she had hoped to be.

She quickly grabbed her things and plucked her tea from the cup holder beside her seat and flicked the automatic locks on her car before starting through the parking lot towards the lobby doors. Anya had given her a key to get past the security doors, which Lexa did without trouble, and she made her way towards the elevator as soon as she was inside. The ride up took what only seemed to be a few seconds before a pronounced ding was signaling her arrival on her selected floor, and the doors opened quickly to reveal an empty hallway.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

“Clarke?” Lexa asked from her position from the exterior side of the apartment’s front door.

Knock. Knock. Knock.

Lexa waited a few more seconds before slipping Anya’s key into the lock and clicking it over. The apartment smelled exactly how she had expected it to, and the first thing she saw when stepping into the small entry way was Clarke situated on a stool in front of a large canvas being held up by a very sturdy looking easel. Lexa closed the door behind her, locked it, and quietly made her way into the kitchen where she deposited her keys on the counter with a small clink.

“Raven said I could study here,” Lexa announced as she lifted her messenger bag to sit on the counter beside her keys. “Obviously it wasn’t my first choice, but it won out the library in the aroma category alone.”

She was met with nothing but silence as Clarke continued staring at the partially-painted canvas, the blonde carefully flicking the colored end of her paintbrush against the fabric every so often. Lexa picked up her tea and walked into the dining area where the easel had been situated and stood behind the artist deep in her zone. She wrestled with the situation for a moment, not wanting to break Clarke’s steady concentration but wanting to announce her presence as well, so Lexa cleared her throat lightly and spoke again.


There was still no verbal response from the blonde, and Lexa moved a few steps to stand beside her. She made sure Clarke had no earbuds tucked into her ears before calling her name once again. When that attempt to announce herself failed, Lexa lifted her left hand and reached out to barely touch her fingertips to Clarke’s right shoulder.

As if she had suddenly been woken from a dream, Clarke gasped loudly and her arms flailed as she jumped nearly a foot off the top of the stool she was sitting on. Lexa’s heart jumped into her throat at the sudden excitement and barely noticed the way Clarke’s arm had flung Lexa’s scalding hot tea into the air, half of it dousing Clarke’s painting in progress and half of it burning through the tender skin on Lexa’s right forearm. As the remaining liquid splashed to the floor, the two girls shared a shocked look before Clarke finally spoke.

Well, more like yelled.

“Lexa, what the fuck?” Clarke exclaimed as her eyes darted from the surprised intruder to the wet floor to her ruined canvas.

“I called your name, like, twenty times!” Lexa immediately defended herself, her arms hanging wide from the sides of her body as tea dripped down her arm and seeped into the bottom of her shirt where a bit of it had splashed against her.

“What are you even doing here?” Clarke asked breathlessly as she made no attempt to mask the irritation in her voice.

“Raven said I could study here,” Lexa answered, a biting harshness also present in her tone.

“So study!” Clarke practically squealed. “Why barge into my zone and give me a heart attack instead?”

“If I had known you were going to karate chop an entire cup of scalding hot tea all over me,” Lexa said, “I obviously wouldn’t have come over at all.”

“Dammit!” Clarke cursed under her breath as she slid off her stool and began blotting at her runny tea-stained painting. “Dammit, dammit, dammit!”

It was then that Lexa finally realized the burning sensation along her arm, and she winced as she looked down at her skin to survey the damage. There was a bright pink hue underneath a glistening layer of tea, and Lexa knew immediately that the injury was severe though not unmanageable. She quickly made her way into the kitchen to rinse her arm under a steady stream of cold water, and the pain was instantly relieved a few degrees at the very least.

“Look at this!” Clarke exclaimed as she pointed at her painting and stared back at Lexa. “Five hours of work completely ruined!”

Lexa watched from her position in front of the running sink as Clarke angrily threw her painting rag down on the floor and threaded her fingers anxiously through her hair. She massaged her scalp a few times before snapping her arms back down to her sides, blonde curls in a wild mess around her face, and stared back at Lexa again for an acknowledgment to her distress.

“Look at this!” Lexa countered as she pointed down at her arm in the sink. “You almost burned my arm off!”
Clarke rolled her eyes and scoffed before storming off towards the bathroom.

When she reemerged, she was carrying a small tube of burn ointment which she placed down on the counter next to the kitchen sink.

“This will fix that,” Clarke told her as she pointed from the tube to Lexa’s arm before thrusting her index finger at her painting and adding, “there is no fixing that.”

“What do you think I meant to ruin your painting?” Lexa asked as she turned the water off and carefully dried off her arm. “Did you think I woke up and said to myself, ‘Hmm, I think it would be fun to go over to Clarke’s apartment today and ruin one of her paintings while I burn my arm off in the process?’”

“I really don’t know what goes through your mind,” Clarke said, “and frankly I don’t want to.”

Lexa huffed out a sigh as she unscrewed the cap on the tube of medicine before squirting a healthy pile of the soothing salve directly onto her burned skin. She gently massaged it into an even coat and felt the wonderful relief of a little bit more of her pain. Clarke had gone back to her painting and was trying once again to blot it clean, and Lexa looked over at her guiltily.

“Remind me why you had to come here to study?” Clarke asked harshly, her back still turned towards Lexa. “Couldn’t you have gone to the library or somewhere else instead?”

“Trust me, I’m going,” Lexa replied somewhat defeated as she grabbed her bag and looped its strap over her shoulder.

She slipped out of the kitchen and let herself through the door, closing it behind her and hesitating to lock it. Her key hovered above the lock for another few moments before she was opening the door back up to see Clarke still standing in front of her easel.

“Should I help you clean up?”

“Please, just leave,” Clarke replied, her voice breathless and defeated.
“Fine,” Lexa said flatly before shutting the door once again and storming down to her car.

“Did you just walk out there naked?” Raven asked as she watched her bare girlfriend slip back into the bedroom.

Anya was balancing an armful of leftover pizza, a small carton of strawberries, whipped cream, and a bottle of wine and hadn’t a stitch of clothing anywhere on her body. Though Raven couldn’t argue it wasn’t a magnificent sight, she didn’t like the idea of her girlfriend’s nosy neighbors catching a glimpse of what only Raven was entitled to see. A small frown tugged at her lips as a feeling of possessiveness washed over her, and Anya just chuckled.

“You ask that as if you haven’t walked around this house naked, like, a hundred times,” Anya quipped as she handed the wine to Raven and deposited the contents of their hodge-podge dinner on the bedside table.

“That’s different,” Raven replied immediately.

“Why?” Anya asked, a smirk teasing at her lips and a twinkle glistening in her eyes.

“Because... it’s...”

“Because it’s what?” Anya prodded as she slid back underneath the covers and molded herself alongside Raven’s body.

“Different, okay?” Raven finally answered before her mouth softened into something strikingly similar to what a normal person might call a pout.

Of course, Raven Reyes does not pout.

“You’re adorable,” Anya purred through a smile as she leaned in to brush a soft kiss at the corner of her girlfriend’s mouth.

“No, I’m not,” Raven grumbled, wedging herself further into the mass of pillows and blankets that had, over the course of the afternoon and evening, been tossed carelessly around her.

“You actually are,” Anya said as she continued kissing down the side of Raven’s neck, “but you can tell yourself whatever you need to help you sleep at night.”

Raven just grunted in response while Anya snaked an arm through the sheets until the tips of her fingers came into contact with the warm smooth skin of Raven’s stomach. She caressed it gently before trailing her hand lower to where she knew the most sensitive part of Raven’s bad leg was. Anya’s touches opposed in every way how strong she normally had to be (fighting fires and carrying people out of them and such) and she cautiously traced a few circles with her fingertips before lifting her head from the crook of Raven’s neck and speaking.

“How is your leg?”

“It’s fine,” Raven reflexively responded.

“Truth?” Anya questioned, her eyebrows inching just a fraction higher.

“A little sore,” Raven quietly admitted.

“I knew that strap-on would be a bad idea,” Anya said as a faint look of worry painted her features.

She had been immediately excited when Raven produced a brand new strap-on set from the plastic shopping bag she had brought with her but couldn’t help the hesitation from nagging at her as she thought about how using it might aggravate her girlfriend’s injured leg. Anya’s insistence to do all the work was quickly dismissed when Raven had straddled her and began to seductively describe exactly how she was about to enjoy herself on top of her girlfriend.

“Are you kidding me?” Raven asked through a scoff. “That was some of the best sex I’ve ever had in my life!”

“Well, that’s not what I meant,” Anya replied, the tops of her cheeks dusting with a pink blush at the memory of Raven riding her and her strap-on no less than an hour ago.

“Wasn’t it good for you?” Raven asked through a smirk as she dragged her hand up the length of Anya’s arm.

“Of course it was,” Anya told her.

“I sort of figured that by the way you were writing underneath me while I had my way with you,” Raven teased before delivering a quick nip to the skin on Anya’s neck just below her left earlobe.

“What can I say? I’m a sucker for the charms of a magnificent woman,” Anya said, her lips stretching into a wide smirk.

“Charms, huh?” Raven asked. “So that’s what the kids are calling boobs nowadays.”

Anya just laughed and delivered a playful squeeze to Raven’s chest before a grumble from the brunette’s stomach filled the room.

“Magnificently starving is what I actually am,” Raven said as she pointed over at the food sitting on Anya’s bedside table.

“What else is new?” Anya teased as she reluctantly shifted away from her girlfriend and shimmied her way over to the side of the bed.

“Strawberries please!” Raven requested as she propped herself a little higher on her pillow.

The moment Anya handed the strawberries over, somewhat behind her back without turning around, Raven knew something was about to happen. She wasn’t sure exactly what was going to happen until a blob of whipped cream launched through the air and landed directly on her cheek, and Raven could barely fake more than a second of irritation before Anya had smashed her lips onto the side of her face and began playfully smearing the frothy topping across her skin.

A squeal, a giggle, and a squirm erupted from the brunette as she laid victim to the teasing swipes of her girlfriend’s tongue until a heavy vibrating from Anya’s phone caught both of their attention. Anya chuckled a few times as Raven caught her breath and tried once again to fake irritation, the expression she managed to pull off only causing Anya to roll her eyes. After plopping the can of whipped cream down on her bedside table, Anya reached for her phone to see who had texted her.

Lexa Woods: Is it safe for me to come home? The smells of the library are making me nauseous.

“That little stubborn ass,” Anya grumbled as she shook her head, “I knew she wouldn’t go to your apartment.”

“Lexa?” Raven questioned as she wiped the remaining whipped cream off of her cheek with the corner of Anya’s bedsheet.

“Did you just wipe your face on my sheets?” Anya asked, her voice nearly squeaking as she spoke.

“Whatever, it’s your fault you go me all dirty,” Raven said as she offered up a dismissive shrug of her shoulders. “Why is Lexa being a stubborn ass?”

“She’s been at the library all night,” Anya told her girlfriend as she made a mental note of the time.

“Why didn’t she go over to my apartment?” Raven asked. “You gave her your key, right?”

“Yes,” Anya replied, “but she knew Clarke would be there.”

“Damn,” Raven said through a sigh, “she is a stubborn ass.”

Anya Woods: What are you doing at the library? You should have just gone to Raven and Clarke’s apartment.

“They’re kind of a train wreck,” Raven offered up, not-so-delicately.

Anya snorted out a laugh but agreed nonetheless just before her phone buzzed again with a text message notification.

Lexa Woods: I kind of did.

“She said she kind of went over to your place,” Anya reported to Raven as she continued staring down at her phone confusedly.

“She kind of went over?” Raven repeated as she scooted over next to Anya and peered over her shoulder down at her phone. “What does that mean?”

Anya Woods: Raven wants to know what that means.

Lexa Woods: I burned my arm and ruined Clarke’s painting.

Lexa Woods: I don’t want to talk about it.

They each read through the messages in silence before laughter burst from both of their mouths. Of course of course something like that would have happened between Clarke and Lexa because, well, that’s exactly the way fate would play a trick on two mortal enemies entering into a union of marriage for the sake of materialistic gain.

Anya Woods: You won’t be getting off that easy, trust me, but yes it’s safe for you to come home. Raven and I are going to eat some dinner and go to bed.

“Hey!” Raven exclaimed as she finished reading what Anya had typed out. “Who said we’re going to bed after we eat?”

Anya dimmed her screen and put her phone back on the small table next to her before turning her attention back to Raven.

“Because we’ve been making love for the last five hours straight,” Anya began as she placed a kiss on Raven’s bare shoulder, “and you have to be at the airport in five hours,” she continued and brushed her lips to the side of Raven’s neck, “and as much as you don’t want to admit it, your leg is killing you.”

She ended her explanation with a tender kiss to the very corner of Raven’s pouting lips before bringing her hand up to cradle a plump cheek. The look they shared conveyed everything the two girls were trying to say to each other without actually having to say it.

Anya’s look said, ‘I love you too much not to take care of you, even when you don’t want to take care of yourself because you think it makes you look weak’.

Raven’s look said, ‘It scares me how much I love you, and I’d be completely lost without you’.

“I’ll be right back,” Anya whispered before placing a soft peck on Raven’s lips and slipping out of bed.

Raven took a minute to reposition herself against the backboard and her pillows, popping one more strawberry before grabbing a slice of pizza from the reusable storage container it had been packed in and taking a bite. When Anya finally strode back into the room, she was carrying two wine glasses in one hand with a bottle of ibuprofen and Raven’s specially medicated muscle salve in her other hand.

Raven knew the drill, seeing as Anya had been taking care of her in similar ways for more than a year, so she didn’t even try turning down the two mild pain pills being offered to her a moment later. She threw them to the back of her mouth and washed them down with a sip of wine Anya had poured her before throwing the covers off her body and presenting her leg to her girlfriend. Anya just smiled as she gathered a healthy amount of the salve into the palm of her hand before slowly spreading it across Raven’s leg.

“I kind of love you,” Raven said suddenly, her lips forming into a small smirk as Anya continued to work.

“To be fair,” Anya said as she pointed at herself, “this is kind of hard not to love.”

“Smug bastard,” Raven quipped as she took another bite of pizza and watched fondly as Anya tried to hide a smile. “So this thing with Clarke and Lexa...”

“Yeah?” Anya asked, her eyebrows arching as she waited for Raven to continue.

“Should we, I don’t know, engage in a little friendly bet?”

Anya narrowed her eyes and slowed the movements of her hands as she caught her girlfriend’s gaze.

“A friendly bet?” Anya repeated warily.

“Yeah, you know, a bet between us about our friends,” Raven said. “A friendly bet.”

“Oh, that kind of friendly bet,” Anya replied as she nodded her head knowingly. “Might that be a bit tacky? Cruel? Extremely entertaining?”

Raven smiled widely at Anya’s clever acceptance of her proposal, and the two of them spent the rest of the night planning out hilarious, and probably very likely, scenarios to go along with their wagers about how the evolution of Clarke and Lexa’s relationship (or whatever the hell it was) might unfold in the not-so-distant future.

Chapter Text

“Walk away, Lincoln,” Anya warned as she continued stalking down the long fire station hallway towards the women’s bunk room.

“Anya,” Lincoln called out, following her every angry stride. “Anya, wait...”

The heavy wooden door closed loudly behind her before it was swiftly opened again, much to the surprise and dissatisfaction of Anya. Men were not allowed in the women’s bunk room, so the fact that he’d followed her in there was not what she had expected him to do.

“Anya, listen to me,” Lincoln pleaded with her. “You have to believe me that I had no idea this was going to happen.”

“This is absolute bullshit, and you know it!” Anya snapped as she whipped around to stare the bigger man down.

“First of all, ouch,” Lincoln told her sternly as he thrust his index finger towards her. He knew she wasn’t thinking clearly, but they were good enough friends for him not to let her get away with flat-out insulting him. “Secondly, I do know it, but you’re mad at the wrong person here.”

Anya just shook her head, resorting to reply only by forcing a deep sigh out of her nose as she clenched her teeth together. She could hardly believe she hadn’t already stormed out of the firehouse after hearing the news she had just heard, but her mind was racing too fast to let her body catch up. Her fists wound into tight balls as she began to pace around the room, and all Lincoln could do was stand by and watch. The sound of a door handle turning had them both craning their necks towards the intruder who was looking back at them both with an expression of surprised bewilderment on her face.

“Lincoln? What are you doing in the women’s bunk room?” Octavia questioned her boyfriend as she made her way further into the room.

“I was... I just...” Lincoln tried to explain, “she’s pissed and I thought I could talk some sense into her.”

“Pissed about what?” Octavia asked in confusion.

“Ask your boyfriend,” Anya growled out as she walked right up to Octavia and glared at her before adding “the new Fire Chief.”

The door slammed behind her as she exited the bunk room, surely leaving a speechless Octavia behind, but nothing in her even seemed to care. Anya wasn’t about to stick around the station and explain to everyone why her subordinate, someone who had clocked hundreds fewer hours of firefighting than her, her supposed friend, had been promoted over her to become the next Fire Chief following the news that their station’s current chief was finalizing his early retirement within the upcoming year.

Her very first thought after hearing the news from Fire Chief Pike’s mouth was Raven. Out of anything she could have possibly thought about, Raven’s face had been the first thing to pop into her mind. Anya had no idea why she’d thought of her girlfriend immediately, but she had and there wasn’t a thing she wanted more than to see her, touch her, vent to her, cry on her. Unfortunately the busy engineer was still out of the country on business, and it was that fact that made Anya feel like she had nowhere to go. Like she had no one to talk to.

It wasn’t before long that she was kicking open her own front door and storming inside without a single care as to whether the commotion she was causing would disturb Lexa, who may or may not have even been home. Anya didn’t know. She barely even recognized Lexa through her fog of anger when she appeared out of her bedroom with a confused look painted across her face. The bottle of whiskey that Lexa kept hidden in one of their upper cabinets was swiftly taken down, and Anya threw all formalities out the window when she lifted it straight to her lips and began pouring the burning liquid down her throat.

“Anya,” Lexa said as she closed the distance between them and put her hand on the bottle to urge it away from the troubled girl’s mouth. “What’s going on?”

Anya threw her a pointed glare, and Lexa withdrew her hand. They stood for a moment in silence, aside from the faint sound of panting coming from Anya as she tried to calm herself down.

“Lincoln made Chief,” Anya finally said.

“Lincoln made... Chief...” Lexa repeated slowly.

Realization hit her as soon as the last word left her mouth, and Lexa watched in silence as Anya downed another hearty swig of the dark liquid. The bottom of the bottle clanked heavily against the granite countertop before Anya took a deep breath and exhaled slowly, letting her eyes close as she tried to block out the world long enough to fully calm down. Lexa noticed immediately how the older girl strummed her fingers against the cool surface, a fidgety move she’d seen Anya do a hundred times before, and secretly wished that Raven would have been only a phone call away at that moment.

“How did this happen?” Lexa asked carefully after a few beats of silence.

“Fucking beats me!” Anya yelled dramatically, throwing her hands up into the air as she spoke. “It’s bullshit. Complete and utter bullshit.”

Lexa blinked as she situated herself on one of the barstools tucked neatly under the overhanging countertop and thought about the next question she should ask. There were dozens flying around inside her head, but she didn’t want to risk upsetting Anya by posing the wrong one. A quick glance back up to see the turmoil etched into the older girl’s features was enough to give Lexa pause.

“He’s a good fucking firefighter, don’t get me wrong,” Anya suddenly blurted out, “but I outrank him for good reason.”

“Experience,” Lexa stated, knowing it was exactly to what Anya was referring.

“I’ve clocked hundreds, hundreds, more hours than Lincoln,” Anya continued angrily. “I’ve gotten dozens of commendations from the Commissioner. I’ve proven myself more than capable to become Chief since day one on the job.”

Lexa watched in silence as Anya’s hands began to shake, no doubt from the adrenaline pumping through her body caused by the heightened level of irritation her emotions were running on, and couldn’t help but feel her heart ache for the girl. Anya had talked about becoming a firefighter since she was a little girl, it was all she’d ever wanted, and those dreams only grew once she was finally old enough to become one.

She and those around her quickly realized that she was really good at her job, so it practically went without saying that Anya would someday work her way up the ranks to become one of the best female Fire Chiefs in the state. Probably one of the best in the country. Unfortunately, today wasn’t the day her dream would become a reality.

“I can’t believe how many times I have had to kiss Pike’s ass over the years all because I thought it would put me a little further into his good graces when he finally retired,” Anya said, “and it was all for fucking nothing.”

Lexa remained quiet, sensing that all Anya wanted to do was vent at the moment, and listened carefully to each and every word that came out of the emotional girl’s mouth.

“Everything was for nothing,” Anya continued, locking a heated gaze onto Lexa. “Not only did I kiss up when I sure as hell didn’t want to but I busted my ass proving myself day in and day out only to be passed up, completely unjustifiably might I add, for the biggest promotion of my career! Tell me what is the whole fucking point then?”

“I agree that Pike’s decision sucked,” Lexa finally piped up, “but it doesn’t mean a promotion will never happen for you.”

“How can you be so sure?” Anya snapped quickly before taking another small sip from the whiskey bottle in front of her. “I’m a firefighter. I’ll be dealing with this patriarchal bullshit my entire life. Who says my ovaries won’t take me out of the running every time I apply for a promotion?”

“Well, because that’s illegal,” Lexa replied immediately. “They can’t choose not to promote you based solely on your gender.”

“What the hell do you think just happened?” Anya asked, her voice squeaking with exasperation.

Lexa closed her mouth the second she saw a faint glistening in the corner of Anya’s eye, and if her heartstrings weren’t being pulled before, they definitely were now. Anya tipped her head down and leaned both hands on the counter, finally seeming to have succumbed to the full assault of her emotions.

The first tear that splashed against the countertop was followed quickly by a second, and Lexa watched as Anya lifted both hands to brush at her cheeks. She could count on one hand the number of times she’d seen Anya cry, so Lexa knew immediately just how devastated the older girl really was. A few silent seconds passed as Lexa thought about what to say and do until an idea suddenly popped into her head.

“Do you want to head to the gym for a few hours?” Lexa asked.

“Hell yes,” Anya replied before sniffling quietly.

Aside from being able to call Raven over to their house, bringing Anya to the gym for an intense blow-off-some-steam session was the only thing Lexa knew would work to calm the emotional girl enough not to want to do something destructive like she had often resorted to in the past. The afternoon and better part of the evening was spent running, swimming, punching, and biking until their muscles ached and the clouds had cleared from Anya’s mind.

“Linc?” Octavia called into the seemingly empty apartment as she pushed her way through the front door while balancing an armful of takeout Chinese food.

“Yeah,” Lincoln replied weakly from where he laid stretched across the couch.

Octavia made her way to the edge of the living room after kicking the door closed with the heel of her foot and carefully peered over the back of the couch to see her boyfriend lying there, beer in one hand with his other hand resting gently over his eyes.

“I got lots of Chinese food,” Octavia told him in a tempting voice, “and extra fortune cookies.”

“The last thing I want to hear is my fortune,” Lincoln grumbled quietly. “I already know I’m going to be cursed for what I did to Anya.”

“You didn’t do anything to Anya,” Octavia defended him as she turned to make her way into the kitchen. “How would you have known Pike would choose you over her for the promotion?”

“I wouldn’t have!” Lincoln exclaimed, jumping up from the couch. “I wouldn’t have known because I didn’t even apply for the Chief position.”

“You didn’t?” Octavia asked.

“Of course not,” Lincoln told her with a shrug of his shoulders. “My lack of hours alone would have, should have, taken me out of the running.”

“So, what promotion did you apply for?” Octavia questioned as she carried two plates and two forks over to their small dining room table. “And when exactly did you apply for whatever promotion you applied for because I’m pretty sure this is the first I’m hearing of it.”

These among dozens of other questions had been running through her head since she had walked in to catch the tail-end of the fight Anya and her boyfriend had been having in the women’s bunk room earlier that day. They hadn’t gotten an opportunity to talk much more about it before an emergency call over Octavia’s radio had cut their conversation short.

“Remember that performance test I took about a month ago?” Lincoln asked Octavia, at which Octavia simply nodded. “It was part of the promotion application process. Anya and I had discussed it, and I knew she was applying for the Fire Chief position so I took a risk and applied for First Assistant*. I wasn’t even sure I’d qualify for that, but I figured my good standing with Chief Pike might help to tip the scales.”

“Well, maybe you scored higher on the test than Anya did,” Octavia offered somewhat cautiously. “I know she’s the department badass, but isn’t there a chance that she just didn’t perform as well as you did?”

“It’s highly unlikely,” Lincoln said as he shook his head. “Even if I did somehow manage to out-score her on the written test, there was a physical test, and we were told our service records would play a huge part in the ultimate decision.”

Octavia pursed her lips softly as she thought through everything Lincoln had told her and remained quiet for a few moments as she carried their food over to the table, along with two bottles of beer, and motioned for Lincoln to join her. He reluctantly trudged over, not really feeling in the mood to eat but knowing he had to, and plopped down into the seat across from Octavia before sighing loudly and rubbing his fingers against his right temple.

“How did she score on the physical test?” Octavia asked, the fork in her hand hovering over her empty plate as she waited for Lincoln to speak.

“Her overall time was four seconds faster than mine,” Lincoln grumbled as a look of embarrassment washed over his face.

Octavia clenched her jaw in an attempt not to smirk at her sulking boyfriend. Her big strong hunk of pure man had just admitted to being beaten in a physical fitness test by a woman who looked, well, rather womanly (for lack of a better word) as opposed to some of the more brutish-looking female firefighters. Octavia wanted so badly to gloat in the name of every woman on the planet that the female species was in fact something to be contended with, but she kept her comments to herself knowing it was neither the time nor the place.

Instead she started opening all of the takeout cartons littering the dining room table and heaping steaming piles of food onto her plate. She took a few seconds to dump some of Lincoln’s favorites onto his plate after realizing he probably wasn’t going to eat unless she made him. He shot her a look of both annoyance and gratefulness before picking up his fork and stabbing a few pieces of marinated beef onto it.

“So you’re telling me that Anya outscored you on the physical test, outscored you on the written test, and has logged more firefighting hours than you,” Octavia said, “and you made Chief, a position you didn’t even apply for, over her?”

“Yep,” Lincoln replied quietly as he looked down at his dinner plate.

“I love you, and you’re going to make an amazing Chief one day,” Octavia said as she placed a gentle hand on her boyfriend’s forearm, “but the situation as you’ve described it does sound a little sketchy.”

“I know,” Lincoln agreed through a sigh. “I’ve been trying to tell Anya the same thing, but she won’t even listen to me. She thinks I stabbed her in the back.”

“Look, honey,” Octavia said through a mouthful of fried rice, “I’m sure we can find a way to explain that this whole thing between the two of you was just a big misunderstanding.”

“I think we need to overturn Pike’s decision,” Lincoln blurted out hastily.

“Overturn his decision?” Octavia questioned, her eyebrows arched and her eyes wide. “Can that even be done?”

“I don’t know,” Lincoln said with a small shrug, “but I think we should at least try.”

Octavia flicked her eyes up from her plateful of food to study Lincoln’s troubled expression for just a moment. For the first time that evening, he looked conflicted and Octavia picked up on it quickly. She swallowed her bite of lemon chicken and cleared her throat gently before speaking.

“Are you okay?” Octavia asked, and Lincoln caught her worried gaze immediately. “You don’t feel like Anya is bullying you out of a rightful promotion or something, do you?”

“No,” Lincoln replied as he shook his head and set his fork down onto his plate. “I’m not sure I know what I feel...”

Octavia set her fork down as well and stood up to round the table sit down in Lincoln’s lap, looping one arm gently around his neck as she let her other hand rest lightly against his cheek.

“It’s stupid,” Lincoln muttered as he instinctively put his hands on either side of Octavia’s hips.

“Whatever you’re feeling is not stupid,” Octavia told him before placing a kiss against his forehead. “Talk to me.”

“I didn’t even apply for Chief, but I can’t help but feel guilty,” Lincoln said quietly, “and I think the reason I feel guilty is because I’m disappointed that I got the promotion unfairly,” Lincoln confessed through a small sigh.

“You wouldn’t feel disappointed had you gotten the promotion fairly?” Octavia asked quietly.

“No,” Lincoln practically whispered. “I’ve worked hard, really hard, to climb the ranks. I know Anya has too, but if I legitimately beat her out and was promoted over her I know that I wouldn’t be disappointed.”

Octavia couldn’t help the tiny chuckle that escaped her lips at her boyfriend’s statement, and it caused Lincoln to snap his wondering gaze up to Octavia immediately.

“That is so completely normal,” Octavia tried to reassure him. “You can’t feel guilty about knowing you wouldn’t be disappointed with being promoted over her had the entire situation been different. That’s not even reality. It will absolutely drain you to feel guilty about all the should have, would have, could have scenarios.”

Lincoln nodded lightly, and the two remained silent for a few prominent beats.

“I want to fix this,” Lincoln told her, his concerning look into Octavia’s eyes making her heart melt.

“I know you do, baby,” Octavia said before leaning down to place a gentle kiss on his lips. “We’ll figure it out.”

Before either of them could say anything more, a knock sounded at their apartment door. They shared a questioning glance before Octavia stood up from his lap and made her way out of the dining room and through the kitchen with Lincoln trailing closely behind. The door opened to reveal a familiar face, which was sporting a very wide smile, and Octavia did her best to paint on her own polite smile.

“Hey, Clarke,” Octavia greeted her excited friend, “what’s up?”

“I just got out of my meeting with the loan officer Bellamy recommended to me,” Clarke said, “and thought I’d stop by to gush a little about how awesome your brother and his team are.”

“I think you’d better come in,” Octavia began in a teasing tone, “because I’ll probably need a little convincing to believe you.”

“Would you like some dinner, Clarke?” Lincoln offered as Octavia ushered her into the apartment. “Octavia brought home dinner for twenty.”

“You say that like we totally wouldn’t eat everything in two days flat,” Octavia said with a small roll of her eyes.

Clarke laughed and agreed to some dinner, and Lincoln grabbed her a plate and fork while Octavia pulled a fresh beer from the fridge and set it beside her place at the dining room table. Lincoln finally began eating some of the food Octavia had heaped onto his plate, even taking a couple of egg rolls from one of the bags on the table, and they all indulged for a minute or two in silence.

“I forgot to ask him during our initial meeting, but how long as your brother been in real estate?” Clarke asked between bites.

“Probably ten years or so,” Octavia guessed. “He got into it part-time during his first year of University which actually turned out to be his last year of University.”

“He dropped out?” Clarke asked as she reached for the small box of cream cheese puffs in the middle of the table.

“Yeah,” Octavia replied with a nod. “He took a handful of business classes later on, just to understand some of the concepts of being self-employed, but he never completed a degree or anything. It just wasn’t really his thing.”

“He’s doing pretty well for himself regardless,” Lincoln told Clarke with a knowing look on his face.

“I could tell,” Clarke said with a small nod, her mind flashing back to the put-togetherness of the realtor she had noticed during their meeting.

“His first year of Uni wasn’t a total bust though,” Octavia told her. “He met John in an English Composition class.”

“His fiancé?” Clarke questioned through a mouthful of food, and Octavia nodded. “I saw his picture pop up on Bellamy’s phone during our meeting. He’s cute.”

“He’s super trendy,” Octavia told Clarke. “Also very obsessed with Spongebob Squarepants. You know, the classic author type.”

Clarke giggled before looking over at Lincoln who gave her a faint smile.

“So, what’s new with you guys?” Clarke asked and suddenly felt a shift in the vibe around her.

She watched silently as Lincoln and Octavia shared a look, and noticed Octavia gesture towards her boyfriend as if to give him the floor.

“I got a promotion today,” Lincoln simply stated.

“Oh my gosh, congratulations!” Clarke exclaimed, the excitement clearly visible on her face. “Here I’m rambling on about your stupid brother,” Clarke said as she shot an amused looking Octavia a glance, “and I should have been asking you all about this big promotion!”

Lincoln and Octavia shared another, slightly less comfortable, look and Clarke’s face instantly fell.

“Shit, did I totally interrupt your dinner celebration?” Clarke asked with a cringing expression. “I totally interrupted your dinner celebration.”

“No, Clarke,” Octavia said, reaching for Clarke’s arm to stop her from leaving.

“Why did you invite me in?” Clarke asked desperately. “I’m so embarrassed I crashed your celebration.”

“Clarke, it wasn’t a celebration,” Lincoln told her. “Trust me, no celebrating will be happening here tonight.”

“So, you got promoted,” Clarke said hesitantly, “but you’re not going to celebrate that you got promoted?”

Lincoln and Octavia both shook their heads.

“Am I missing something?” Clarke finally asked. “I always thought promotions were a good thing.”

“I don’t deserve the position I was promoted to,” Lincoln said.

“What position were you promoted to?” Clarke asked curiously.

“Chief,” Octavia answered quickly.

“Chief?” Clarke repeated slowly. “As in Fire Chief? Department Chief? Big boss-man head Chief?”

“It’s a two rank jump from my current position,” Lincoln said. “Not that skipping a rank is completely unheard of, but in this situation it makes no sense. Anya is far more qualified to have made Chief, and instead I was chosen over her.”

“Ah,” Clarke replied, her head tipping back slowly as if she was finally understanding the situation.

“We aren’t exactly sure why Pike, our current acting Chief, chose Lincoln over Anya,” Octavia said, “but Lincoln is pretty upset about it and so is Anya.”

“Understandably so,” Lincoln added for good measure.

“She already holds a higher rank than Lincoln,” Octavia told Clarke, “and she kicked his ass on the written and physical tests they had to take for the promotion applications.”

“Okay, I wouldn’t say she kicked my ass,” Lincoln defended himself in front of Clarke. “She performed slightly better than I did overall.”

“Either way, Lincoln feels like that combined with Anya’s experience rightfully qualifies her for the Chief position over him,” Octavia explained as she started eating her dinner once again.

“I’m sure the other guys in the department will agree when they hear the news,” Lincoln said, “if they haven’t already.”

“Yeah, Anya was shooting eye-bullets at everyone after she got the news and then stormed off her shift for the rest of the day,” Octavia told Clarke with a shrug.

“Yeah, I’d have to agree,” Clarke said, “something doesn’t quite seem right about it all.”

Lincoln nodded knowingly and turned his attention back down to the table, worthlessly poking his fork around the food on his plate as if he was deep in contemplation.

“I don’t want to diminish the idea that you’d make a great Chief someday,” Clarke quickly added, “but it doesn’t seem like you are too enthusiastic about getting the job this way.”

“Thanks, Clarke,” Lincoln regarded her, “and I’m not.”

“Have you thought about organizing your department to protest the decision?” Clarke asked as she began eating once again.

“A protest?” Lincoln asked, his face twisting with a wince. “I don’t know, Clarke.”

“Well, maybe not a protest,” Clarke said, “but more of a strike.”

“Or you could start a petition for the decision to be repealed,” Octavia added.

“Who is the Fire Chief’s boss?” Clarke asked both of her friends. “Maybe a call to his office would prompt an investigation.”

“Hell, we could start our own investigation!” Octavia exclaimed.

Lincoln just smiled and listened as the two women began sharing a lengthy series of ideas on how to go about fixing the mistake he himself was at the very center of. It wasn’t that he was trying to pass all the hard work onto the girls, it absolutely wasn’t that. It was his very thorough understanding, after having spent years in a relationship with Octavia and being friends with Clarke for the same amount of time, that he knew once the two got their momentum going on something there was no interfering.

“Get in the car!” Lexa shouted at Anya who was standing reluctantly beside it with her arms crossed over her chest. “Anya, get your ass in the car.”

“I’ll talk to him tomorrow,” Anya told Lexa sternly, the tone of her voice matching the glare in her eyes.

“If I know you at all, you won’t sleep a wink if you don’t confront him tonight,” Lexa said. “Despite what you may think of yourself, you’re a mushy pile of sensitivity and quite frankly I don’t want to be bitched at tomorrow because you weren’t able to get any sleep.”

You’re a mushy pile of sensitivity!” Anya lamely quipped, thrusting her stance towards Lexa in defiance.

“Get into the car,” Lexa repeated herself slowly.


“Get in the car!” Lexa exclaimed as she pointed her index finger down towards the roof of her vehicle.


Lexa knew she was testing her luck a bit too much when she had tried to convince Anya the reason they were going out was to get something for dinner. Anya had admitted about an hour prior that she needed to apologize to Lincoln for the shitty way she had treated him at the (unbelievable) news of their respective (completely unbalanced) promotions, and Lexa knew the older girl wouldn’t find peace until she had confronted him. It was only when Anya became suspicious and pointedly asked where Lexa was planning on taking them when they got within the last foot or two of the car that Lexa had to tell her the truth.

“If you don’t get in the car right now, I’m driving Raven straight home from the airport when I pick her up in a few days,” Lexa told Anya.

Not only had she agreed to pick Raven up from the airport from her return flight back into the country, but Lexa had also promised Anya that she’d swing her by the fire station so that the two could at least greet each other before Raven had to crash before a big presentation she had to give the morning after getting back into town. Anya just glared at the younger brunette and finally gave in, yanking the door open and slamming it shut after she’d climbed into the passenger seat.

“You are so irritating,” Lexa grumbled as she threaded her key into the ignition and started her car.

“Your face is irritating,” Anya grumbled back.

“What is this, the night of terrible comebacks?” Lexa asked, looking over her shoulder to begin reversing down the driveway.

“Can we just not talk?” Anya asked in a tone far more harsh than she had intended it to be.

Lexa just sighed but nevertheless complied. She knew when silence was what Anya needed, and in that moment silence was definitely what she needed. The drive to Lincoln and Octavia’s apartment went by in a flash, and it wasn’t before long that Lexa was pulling into a parking space a few rows away from the building.

“Do you want me to come with you?” Lexa asked cautiously, not really sure how Anya would respond.

“That might be for the best,” Anya said as she unbuckled her seatbelt and opened her door. “Octavia is strong, but she might not be able to hold me back from throttling Lincoln if things don’t go as planned.”

“Anya,” Lexa warned as she climbed out of her side of the car and shut the door behind her.

A dismissive gesture was thrown into the air by Anya, and the two women walked next to each other until they reached the lobby doors of the apartment building. No words were uttered during the elevator ride, and nothing was said as they walked down to the end of the hallway to stand in front of their door. Lexa looked over at Anya, who just stared straight ahead and took a deep breath, before she knocked lightly. The door opened promptly, revealing a surprised-looking Octavia on the other side.

“Well, now it’s a party,” Octavia said as she looked between Lexa and Anya.

Lexa and Anya shared a quick glance as Octavia opened the door for them both to come in, and it was only when they noticed Clarke sitting at the dining room table that they understood the comment. Lexa took her own turn taking a deep breath as she and Clarke caught each other’s gazes for just a fraction of a second before stepping to the side to let Octavia close the door behind them all.

“Have you guys eaten yet?” Octavia asked as she made her way into the kitchen. “Apparently I ordered enough for twenty.”

“We haven’t eaten,” Lexa said reluctantly as she eyed the plethora of takeout cartons half-filled with food the level of unhealthiness she wouldn’t dream let past her lips.

“We aren’t planning to stay very long,” Anya added quickly, actively avoiding eye contact with Lincoln until absolutely necessary.

Clarke stood from her seat at the dining table and made her way into the kitchen with her bottle of beer in hand. Lexa could sense she was trying to give the conversation that was about to be had some privacy, and Lexa found herself following suit. Octavia joined Lincoln and Anya in the living room while Clarke and Lexa leaned up against the edge of the countertop facing the group just barely within earshot.

“So, what do you think about all of this?” Clarke asked quietly while keeping her eyes trained on her three friends in the living room.

“Why does that matter?” Lexa asked in her usual matter-of-factly tone.

“Why?” Clarke questioned. “Because Anya’s your sister, and Lincoln and O are your friends?”

“You mistook my response as a lack of concern for them as people,” Lexa explained flatly, “which quite frankly doesn’t surprise me given your listening talents of a five year old.”

“Alright, what is your problem?” Clarke asked loudly enough to earn three quick glances from the living room, and she purposefully lowered her voice before speaking again. “Are you physically incapable of answering a question without insulting me?”

Lexa ground her teeth together tightly when she felt a pull in her chest. She reluctantly swallowed her pride, or whatever it was that made it so hard for her to find the higher road during conversations with Clarke, and opened her mouth to speak again.

“I asked why it mattered because my opinion on the topic shouldn’t have any impact on whatever resolution they’re hopefully going to agree to,” Lexa said as she gestured towards Anya and Lincoln.

“And Raven wonders why I never try to initiate conversations with you,” Clarke muttered before tipping her beer bottle against her lips and taking a small sip.

“Maybe if you approached me with something other than gossip I’d be more inclined to have conversations with you,” Lexa replied without missing a beat.

“Gossip?” Clarke choked out, her eyebrows shooting up to her hairline as she spoke.

“Yes,” Lexa replied confidently as she looked Clarke straight in the eyes.

“How am I gossiping if the friends I’m trying to have a conversation about are right there?” Clarke asked as she thrust her hand towards the living room.

“That’s not the point,” Lexa said as she turned her body towards Clarke.

“That’s not the point?” Clarke questioned, turning her body to match the angle of Lexa’s.

“No,” Lexa replied sternly as she crossed her arms against her chest.

“So, what is the point then?” Clarke finally asked her. “IS there actually a point or are you just arguing with me for the sake of arguing with me?”

Lexa snapped her mouth shut and leveled Clarke with a glare that would make any stranger recoil in fear, but it only managed to make Clarke dig her heels in even further and she even raised an eyebrow in challenge. Just as the brunette opened her mouth to speak, she was interrupted by an irritated looking Octavia who had vacated her seat on the living room couch and was making a b-line over to the dining room table. She grabbed two fortune cookies before walking into the kitchen and shoving one in each of their hands.

“You two are like children,” Octavia told them. “Eat your cookies and stop fighting.”

And with that, they were left alone once again. Clarke crinkled the wrapper on her fortune cookie before tearing it open and cracking the cookie in half.

“She was talking about you,” Clarke said before popping a piece of her cookie in her mouth, crunching down on it loudly as she unfolded her fortune to read it.

Lexa took a deep breath and let it out in a sigh, deciding not to respond in hopes of avoiding another session of bickering, before unwrapping her own cookie in nothing more than a vain attempt to divert her attention to something other than fighting with Clarke. An annoyed scoff sounded beside her, and Lexa was almost convinced that the explanation that was to follow would entail some type of constructive criticism about how she had opened her wrapper or something as equally ridiculous.

“This isn’t even a fortune,” Clarke finally said. “’Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at its testing point’.”

Lexa couldn’t stop the arching of her eyebrows as she considered carefully the statement and found it to resonate quite deeply inside of her. She wasn’t sure why, but it did. Clarke noticed the impressed look on Lexa’s face and subtly rolled her eyes before popping the other half of her fortune cookie into her mouth.

“What does yours say?” Clarke asked as she tipped her head down towards the cookie that Lexa had just cracked open.

“’Don’t be afraid to smile. You never know who is falling in love with it’,” Lexa read.

The two shared an unusually quiet look before Lexa was clearing her throat and Clarke was blinking her way out of her momentary trance. Lexa barely noticed Clarke had snatched the tiny piece of paper from between her fingers until she was offering her own fortune over instead.

“We should probably switch because, you know, you never actually smile,” Clarke told her.

“Wouldn’t that make all the more sense for me to keep it then?” Lexa questioned, her eyebrow twitching upwards as she spoke.

“You’re hoping someone will fall in love with your smile?” Clarke asked.

Lexa’s expression changed into a grimace, and she grabbed the fortune being offered to her for trade. At least that way she wouldn’t have to try and memorize the rather wise saying she hoped she wouldn’t soon forget. Luckily their pained silence, less the crunching of fortune cookies in their mouths, was interrupted when their three friends stood and made their way towards the kitchen.

“Did she actually say the words?” Lexa asked Lincoln as she gestured shallowly towards Anya.

“Affirmative,” Lincoln replied with a smirk and a small nod, and Anya directed a scathing look over at Lexa which didn’t seem to affect her in the least.

“So, Octavia told me that you mentioned something about a petition,” Anya said to Clarke.

“A petition? There’s nothing legally binding about a petition,” Lexa interjected quickly.

“I never said there was,” Clarke immediately snapped back, “but it might give credence to Anya’s call for an unfair promotion when she brings it up with the Fire Commissioner.”

Lexa thought for a moment and silently agreed, though she wasn’t about to voice it for Clarke’s satisfaction. Her lack of response told Clarke all she needed to know, and a proud flick of the blonde’s eyebrows made Lexa’s jaw tense. She would be damned if she let Clarke get the last word on the topic and relaxed herself long enough to open her mouth to speak.

“I have a contact who graduated law school last year and now works as a private investigator,” Lexa told Lincoln and Anya. “I’d assume his fees are relatively low since he hasn’t been in business for very long, but he’s very by-the-book and could probably dig up some information that would help your case.”

“That would be great, Lex,” Lincoln said, his expression full of excitement until he noticed the glare he was being given. “Lexa. Sorry.”

Clarke narrowed her eyes at the unusual exchange, realizing almost instantaneously that the cause of Lincoln’s self-correction was due to the fact that Lexa probably didn’t like her name being shortened, and stored the tidbit of information in the back of her mind.

“I’ll have him call you,” Lexa told Anya.

“Thanks,” Anya replied quietly before turning her attention back to Lincoln. “Listen, I–”

“You apologized once,” Lincoln quickly interrupted her, “which is more than enough for me, so let’s just bury it and figure out what the hell Pike thought he was doing.”

Anya nodded in agreement, and she made her way towards the front door with Lexa following closely behind.

“Are you sure you guys don’t want any food?” Octavia asked. “An egg roll for the road?”

“No, thank you,” Lexa answered quickly.

“Oh, right,” Octavia said, “I forgot you guys are healthy eaters or whatever.”

“There are vegetables in egg rolls,” Clarke piped up to no one in particular, but Lexa was quick to respond.

“Vegetables wrapped in a deep dried shell doesn’t exactly scream nutritious,” Lexa pointed out.

Clarke was already making her way over to the dining room table and reached for an egg roll to take a crunchy bite off the end of it, all the while looking directly at Lexa. She bounced her shoulders in an unimpressed shrug and chewed a few times before opening her mouth to speak.

“They’re quite delicious though,” Clarke said as she walked through the kitchen towards where Lexa and Anya were standing. “You don’t know what you’re missing.”

Lexa let her eyes glance down at the already bitten-into egg roll being offered to her before delivering a lopsided glare to the blonde in front of her. She moved to leave without uttering a single word but was stopped in her tracks by a firm grip on her upper arm. Lexa twisted her head towards Anya and raised a single eyebrow in question.

“Are you heading home Clarke?” Anya asked, still holding tightly to Lexa’s arm.

“Yeah, I need to work on a painting I had to restart,” Clarke replied as she eyed Lexa.

“Perhaps we can offer her a ride home?” Anya questioned Lexa as she released the vice-like grip on the younger girl’s arm.

“Not if she’s planning on eating that thing in my car,” Lexa told Anya as she pointed at the egg roll in Clarke’s hand.

“Relax, I’ll just walk,” Clarke interjected quickly. “I could use the exercise to work off this super unhealthy deep fried vegetable roll, right?”

A wholly unwanted pang of sadness surged through Lexa’s chest as she heard the words echoing inside her head. She fought the urge to tell Clarke she in no way needed extra exercise, that her body was perfect –beautiful even– the way it was, and the thought alone just made Lexa even more irritated. She had never admitted to herself that she’d noticed anything about the blonde’s body before, even though she most definitely had noticed lots of things, and pursed her lips together in desperation to keep herself silenced.

“My grandmother’s hip replacement surgery is this Wednesday,” Clarke reminded Octavia as she opened the front door to let herself out, “but there’s a gallery space that Bellamy is going to take me to see the day after if you wanted to come with.”

“I work the afternoon shift that day, so count me in,” Octavia answered with a small nod and a smile.

“Okay, see you then,” Clarke told Octavia before offering the rest of her friends a departing wave. She barely stepped over the threshold before turning back around and regarding Lexa. “That counted as our date for the week.”

“Deal,” Lexa replied immediately.

The door closed, and everyone stared openly at Lexa who just shrugged in response.

“What?” Lexa asked.

“You two are going on dates now?” Octavia asked through a surprised chuckle.

“It’s not enough that you’re fake-engaged, now you have to go on fake dates too?” Anya piped up.

“They’re a stipulation of the arrangement,” Lexa informed them.

“This whole thing just keeps getting better and better,” Lincoln said, a wide grin beginning to pull on the ends of his lips.

“More like weirder and weirder,” Octavia added in to the amusement of Lincoln and Anya.

Lexa simply rolled her eyes and took a few steps towards the door to let herself out.

“I guess we’re leaving,” Anya said after a small chuckle left her feeling much lighter than when she had first arrived at the apartment. She spared a quick glance over at Lincoln before addressing him. “I’ll see you at work tomorrow.”

“Have a good night,” Lincoln answered, a look of understanding flashing over his features.

Octavia closed the door behind them and let out a long sigh before looking back at her equally as relieved boyfriend. She sauntered up to him and snaked her arms around his waist, looking up at him with a sparkle in her eye.

“What do you say we go celebrate your almost-promotion,” Octavia purred as Lincoln began to sway the two of them lightly from side to side. “I’ll even call you Chief.”

A wild giggle erupted from Octavia’s lungs as Lincoln enthusiastically hoisted her into his arms and carried her towards their bedroom for a night of very thorough celebrations.

Chapter Text

Her life was bliss.

Her morning jogs were no longer weighed down with the exhaustion from the previous day’s work shift at one of the three part-time jobs she used to have. They were free, uninhibited, and the only thoughts that ran through her mind during them were thoughts of the future. Her future. Ever since she had been gifted with the opportunity to devote herself solely to her studies, Lexa’s preoccupation with worries about juggling her schedule and balancing her work/study time and calculating her monthly bills was completely gone, and in their place bloomed daydreams about graduating and starting a career and attaining a financially comfortable lifestyle.

She spent most afternoons with her nose buried in stacks of law textbooks, eagerly pouring all of her attention into learning the intricacies of the practice and perfecting her own strategies and convictions relating to the industry she had been working so hard to break into one day. Gone were the hours spent futilely checking the clock while on the clock at whatever job she’d been scheduled for on a particular day, just aching to leave with her small daily paycheck to race home and try to stay on top of her never-ending school workload.

There wasn’t even the slightest possibility that the albeit forced presence of a particular blonde in her life was in any way a contributing factor to her newfound outlook because, well, that would be ridiculous. Ludicrous. Nonsensical. Preposterous, even. Clarke Griffin was and always would be the bane of her existence, of this Lexa was sure. She knew going into the proposed arrangement that she would (through no effort of her own) learn more about Clarke, and it certainly wasn’t her fault that the things she came to learn about Clarke weren’t as unbelievably annoying as Lexa figured they would be.

Though that wasn’t to say they weren’t believably annoying. It shouldn’t be too shocking to say that the girl who hadn’t bothered to show up on time for their very first meeting was practically the embodiment of Lexa’s annoyance, but the dynamic between the two of them seemed to regulate enough that their regular bickering sessions became just that. Regular. Their normal edge of hostility seemed to dissipate each time they saw each other, even if just in passing, and it almost became their way of communicating.

Evenings, granted there hadn’t been too many since her and Clarke’s contractual obligation had been made official, quickly began a pattern of relaxation which was something sorely lacking from Lexa’s life since she began her University career. She had consequentially been spending a lot more time with Raven, who had started staying over far more often than she normally did, but Lexa found herself not actually minding it. She was always informed when they were planning on or wanted some ‘alone time’, and the system seemed to be working out as well as it could.

Her life was bliss, in almost every way, and it was certainly something Lexa was starting to get quite comfortable with.

The faint buzz of her phone vibrating against her mattress caused Lexa to reach a hand out to blindly swipe around the blankets for it as her attention remained firmly affixed to the book she was reading. She had finished ahead of schedule all of the studying she needed to get done for the week and had happily sprawled out on her bed with her newest book of poems, excited to dive into one of her favorite happy places. She shifted her gaze away from her page long enough to see who was calling and hit the ‘answer’ button.

“Hey, Ahn,” Lexa said in greeting.

“Whoa, you're in a good mood.”

“Why do you say that?” Lexa asked distractedly as she looked back down at her book.

“You only call me Ahn when you're in a good mood.”

“Do you not want me to be in a good mood?” Lexa questioned flatly.

“On the contrary. Raven and Clarke are heading over to the house.”

“Now?” Lexa asked, her eyebrows scrunching together in confusion. “Why?”

“Raven wanted to try out the new pizza place that just opened down the street, and she invited Clarke along to distract her from worrying about her grandmother’s surgery tomorrow. You’re more than welcome to join us as long as you promise to play nice with your fiancée.”

“I'll pass,” Lexa replied immediately.

“Fine, but I'm not bringing you any leftover pizza then.”

“Sounds good,” Lexa answered, her attention wafting back to her book.

A few garbled words sounded from Lexa’s phone as she pulled it away from her ear and ended the call, and it was only a moments later that the front door of the house was being unlocked and pushed open. Lexa recognized the voices but didn’t register the muffled conversation between them as she picked up reading where she had left off when Anya called.

“Come on, Clarke,” Raven pleaded with her best friend.

“No,” Clarke answered quickly.

“It would be so much fun though,” Raven argued back, “and you would get presents!”

Lexa’s ears perked in interested at the last word Raven had said, and she didn’t notice as she craned her head a few inches towards the direction their voices were carrying from in an attempt to better hear their conversation.

“I already have everything I need,” Clarke told her.

“Do you have a gravy boat?” Raven asked after a short pause.

Lexa’s eyebrows scrunched at the question as she silently tried to figure out what it was they were actually talking about.

“I don’t need a gravy boat,” Clarke replied.

“When you and Lexa start hosting holiday dinners, you’re sure as hell going to need a gravy boat!” Raven practically squealed.

Her confusion instantly changed to surprise, and Lexa’s eyes widened impressively at the suggestion of herself and Clarke (of all people) hosting a holiday celebration for their friends like they were some kind of... some kind of... couple.

“We’re not going to be hosting any holiday dinners,” Clarke piped back up.

“But, Clarke,” Raven said, “as the first couple to be married within the friends group, it’s your duty to host holiday dinners.”

“We’re not going to magically start playing house, Raven,” Clarke argued, and an unidentified emotion ballooned in Lexa’s chest. “If you haven’t noticed, Lexa doesn’t like me. I’m pretty sure the last thing she’ll ever want to do is play house with me.”

Lexa was sure that time the emotion she felt was disappointment, hearing straight from Clarke’s mouth that she didn’t think Lexa liked her rattled her more than she thought it would. A small shake of her head brought her back out of her thoughts as the two girls’ conversation continued.

“Lexa’s a complicated little bean, but I can totally see her growing a soft spot for you someday,” Raven said.

The eavesdropping brunette could barely contain her scoff at that and pulled her arms across her chest tightly instead as she shook her head to herself. Lexa, at some point, had made her way up from her bed and was standing beside her closed door which proved to be much more acoustically-superior vantage point to listen in on them. She was far too caught up in the conversation happening in other parts of her house to have time to realize that what she was doing she really should haven’t been doing.

“Someday when I’m dead maybe,” Clarke replied through a morbidly-amused scoff.

Lexa just rolled her eyes at the blonde’s dramatic answer and then did so again when Raven choked out a hearty laugh in response. She noticed their voices were suddenly louder, as if they had moved into the living room to relax on the couch while they waited for Anya to show up.

“Hopefully you’ll both warm up to each other in time for your big wedding night,” Raven suggested flirtatiously, and Lexa could almost picture the wag in her eyebrows as she spoke.

“We’re getting married for the sake of a business arrangement,” Clarke told her sternly, “not for any other reason, so will you just drop it?”

“Jeez, bite my head off,” Raven mumbled quietly.

Lexa’s expression had dropped, and her shoulders sagged ever-so-slightly at the bite in Clarke’s voice. What was worse was that she recognized the tone as being present in her own voice so often when talking to Anya about Clarke, and it didn’t sound nice. At all.

“Look, I’m sorry, Rae,” Clarke said with a sigh. “This whole situation is just not how I pictured myself getting married... being married...”

Lexa’s thoughts instantly flashed back to expectations of how she thought her own wedding might go, and they were almost like foreign memories. She hadn’t thought about marriage since Costia was alive which was exactly why daydreams of dresses and flowers and cake hadn’t taken up residence in her mind at any point over the past seven years. Seven years, four months, and two days.

“Oh, please don’t tell me the Tiffany engagement ring story again,” Raven pleaded with Clarke.

“What? It’s a good story!” Clarke argued. “How perfect would it be to come home to–”

“–a little blue box sitting on the countertop next to a note signed with only your fiancé’s initial,” Raven finished for her.

“Soon to be fiancé’s initial,” Clarke corrected her, at which Raven just murmured a ‘yeah yeah’.

Lexa couldn’t stop the faint smirk that crept to her lips at Raven’s unimpressed response.

“Come on, that’s a great proposal!” Clarke exclaimed wistfully. “Every girl knows that little blue box.”

“What about a bachelorette party?” Raven suddenly asked, causing Lexa’s face to twist in disapproval.

There was no way she was going to be dragged along on a fake bachelorette party to celebrate a marriage of convenience and was all too happy when Clarke seemed to share her sentiments.

“Absolutely not,” Clarke told her.

Before Raven could protest, the front door was opening and Anya had announced her presence. Lexa retreated back to her bed and reached for her poetry book but wasn’t able to concentrate on it until the three in the next room had left her once again in silence. It took her a good twenty minutes and a fresh cup of tea before she was finally able to push the lingering replays of the conversation she’d overheard from her mind and focus her concentration back onto her book for the rest of her quiet evening alone.

Clarke jolted awake at the sound of her apartment door swiftly closing, and she could only assume that (once again) Raven was running late for work. It was fortunate for the brunette that her employers never seemed to mind, and Clarke figured it likely had a little bit to do with the insane numbers of new innovations Raven cranked out on practically a daily basis. The only victim in the mix on Raven’s late days was Clarke who never seemed to be able to fall back asleep the times she’d been woken before her alarm sounded.

She languidly rolled onto her stomach, sliding her arms under the cold side of her pillow and stretched until her toes curled over the bottom edge of her mattress. Today was the day, the big day, the day her grandmother went in for her hip replacement surgery and to say that Clarke was feeling anxious about it would have been the understatement of the century. She wholly dreaded each and every time the elder woman had to go under the knife, and it never seemed to get any easier to deal with.

After another lazy stretch, Clarke flung her blankets from her body and trudged towards the bathroom she and Raven shared to get ready for the day. Normally she would just tie her hair up and start painting since it was assured she’d smudge and splatter herself as she worked, but she wanted to make sure she was ready to head over to the hospital early in case her grandmother’s surgery was suddenly moved up which had happened on a couple of prior occasions.

As she stepped out of the shower and wiped a layer of steam from the bathroom mirror, Clarke contemplated whether she wanted to venture out for her morning cup of coffee or scrounge up whatever she could find that most closely resembled coffee from her kitchen cabinets. Between her and Raven’s addictions, coffee never stayed around for too long and Clarke tried to remember whether they had already depleted their back-up supply or not. A quick towel of her hair and application of moisturizing face lotion later, Clarke slipped back into her bedroom to throw on some painting clothes and finally headed into the kitchen.

“Decaf?” Clarke asked herself in a whisper as she studied the lone K-Cup she found at the back of their coffee cabinet. “Well, that was clearly a mistake.”

She whipped the small plastic cup into the trash and opened the refrigerator door.

“Jackpot!” Clarke exclaimed as she grabbed a container of her favorite breakfast blend out from the crisping drawer along the bottom (where one might normally store, say, vegetables) and proceeded to brew herself an entire pot for her morning and afternoon of painting.

She made her way into the living room and turned some music on, immediately switching to her favorite playlist to paint to, and poured herself a giant mug of coffee as soon as it was ready. The rich aroma wafted up in steamy billows rising from the top of the mug, and Clarke inhaled deeply as she took a lazy survey of her painting-in-progress situated against her easel. It was the second attempt at what Lexa had ruined when she dropped by unannounced and spilled her tea all over it, and Clarke hated to admit that she wasn't liking its progress nearly as much as the original version that had been ruined.

There was something a bit darker about it, though that was probably due to the edgier mood she was in when she finally decided to restart it, and Clarke was hoping for it to be one of the showcase paintings she would display in her gallery space once she finally found a building to call her own. Just the thought sent giddy shivers down her spine, and she couldn’t help the faint smile that dusted her lips as she pictured her art lining the stark white walls of her very own gallery.

Her morning quickly turned into her afternoon and, before she even knew it, the reminder alarm on Clarke’s phone was signaling that her grandmother’s surgery was due to start in just two hours. Clarke blinked harshly, her eyes squinting from paint fumes and dry air, and reached over to silence her alarm just before her phone was ringing with an incoming call.

“Hey, Mom,” Clarke answered immediately as she carried her brushes into the kitchen to start washing them out. “Is Grandma okay?”

“She’s fine. She just arrived and is scheduled to go under in about an hour.”

“Alright, I’m just cleaning up some of my brushes before I head over,” Clarke told her, continuing to rinse the paint down the sink.

“She doesn’t expect you to stay the entire time, you know. She won’t even mind if you want to wait until she’s out of surgery and awake to come visit, so if you’re in the middle of painting–”

“I just finished for the day,” Clarke interrupted her mother quickly, “and there’s no way I’m not staying until she wakes up.”

“Alright, well, I’ll give you some money for dinner when you get here, but I’m going to be in another surgery so I won’t be able to eat with you.”

“You sound like my mother or something,” Clarke teased through a smirk.

“Don’t you hate it when I do that?”

“Oh, definitely,” Clarke replied. “You paying for my dinners is the absolute worst.”

She smiled as she heard her mother chuckling on the other line and continued washing the biggest smudges of paint from her hands.

“Have me paged when you get here, okay?”

“Sounds good,” Clarke said, “see you soon.”

“Bye, honey.”

Clarke let the phone slip from the crook of her neck and fall into a damp hand before placing it on the kitchen counter. She watched the call disconnect on its own after Abby had hung up and pumped a small mountain of foamy soap into the palms of her hands before washing and scrubbing them thoroughly. She grabbed her phone and made her way to her bedroom while typing out a quick text.

Clarke: I’m heading to the hospital in about an hour.

Raven: I will be going straight from work to look at a friend’s car but I’ll stop by after.

Clarke: Sounds good. Dinner is on my mom.

Raven: Woot!

Clarke just smiled down at her phone before dimming the screen and tossing it onto her bed. She stood in front of her closet, silently debating what to wear, and finally pulled out a pair of black yoga pants and a thin powder-blue hoodie. The surgery itself would undoubtedly last a couple of hours and then there was recovery time she’d have to wait through until her grandmother woke up, so Clarke was positive she wanted to be as comfortable as possible. A simple white tank and her dark blue running shoes completed her outfit, and she quickly applied a light layer of makeup before starting to gather up her things to leave.

Bellamy Blake: Good afternoon, Clarke! The listing agent for the property we were scheduled to see tomorrow asked if we could push it from 12pm to 2pm. Does that work for you?

Clarke: Yep, that’s just fine!

She smiled at her phone as she sent the message off, still apparently in her ever-excited state of being whenever her thoughts about a possible future gallery ran through her head, and grabbed a few last things before heading out of her apartment and to the hospital.

Bellamy Blake: Wonderful, I will let her know. See you tomorrow.

As she stepped onto the sidewalk in front of her apartment building, Clarke wasted no time in searching the streets for an empty cab. She wasn’t about to chance her timing to see her grandmother before she went into surgery with walking there, so a mode of quick transportation was necessary. It wasn’t a minute later that she was able to flag someone down and was on her way as daydreams of how she might set up the floorplan of the gallery she was going to see tomorrow took over her mind.

“Damn,” Raven grunted as she moved her flashlight around a few tight spaces in the engine compartment.

Lexa was watching over her shoulder with a concerned look on her face, the cost of repairs increasing in her head with each curse Raven let slip through her lips. The young mechanic’s hand disappeared into a mass of tubed wires and large metal pipes, and her brow formed a series of tight wrinkles as she strained her eyes to catch a glimpse of the specific part she was searching for. When her fingers finally brushed up against it, the long sigh that escaped her lips had Lexa thinking the worst.

“There’s a few parts that feel completely rusted through,” Raven told Lexa as she pulled her hand back and leaned both palms against the car’s engine frame. “This year and model are kind of known for that being a problem though, so it’s not unexpected.”

“Is it a tough fix?” Lexa asked hesitantly.

She hadn’t wanted Raven to look at her car in the first place, feeling like she’d somehow be taking advantage, but Anya had insisted that Raven would be more than happy to give at least an overall inspection of the issues that were causing the ‘check engine soon’ alert to glow on her dashboard. Luckily for Lexa, Raven had seemed more than willing to check things out and popped by Anya’s house on her way home from work the very same day Lexa had texted her about it.

“It’s not too bad,” Raven told her honestly. “I don’t think I have all the parts you’ll need, but what I don’t have will only run you about fifty or sixty bucks. I can probably get it done in a couple of hours.”

“No, Raven,” Lexa began to protest, “I couldn’t ask you to–”

“You didn’t,” Raven interrupted as a smirk made its way to her lips. “Anyways, you’ll be overpaying for labor if you take it into a shop. I’ll do it for the super low price of free.”

“Absolutely not,” Lexa told her. “I couldn’t take advantage of your time like that.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Raven said as she began wiping a few grease smudges off her fingers with the rag Lexa had provided for her. “You’re like family,” Raven added with a shrug.

Lexa’s heart clenched at the statement.

“I’m dating Anya, and you’re going to marry my best friend who is practically my sister,” Raven explained, “so I think it’s safe to say that you can take advantage of my amazing mechanical skills whenever you want from now on.”

There was a small chuckle to Raven’s words, but they still didn’t sit well with Lexa. While it was true that Raven was dating Anya, her own impending marriage to Clarke was nothing more than convenience. Even Raven knew that, but it seemed like (to Lexa at least) that she was almost implying that it was something more. She didn’t even realize she was shaking her head until Raven spoke up yet again.

“Don’t shake your head at me, Woods,” Raven said before turning her attention back down towards the car. “You buy the parts, and I’ll do the installation. End of discussion.”

Lexa raised a challenging brow at the mechanic but decided in the end not to fight back. If she really had to, she’d sneak some money inside Raven’s bag at some point or another so it was only wasting their time to argue. A short while later, Lexa was driving them back to Raven’s apartment to collect a few of the parts Raven had on hand that she knew she would need before they made their way to a nearby car parts store for the rest. True to Raven’s estimate, Lexa ended up paying fifty-five dollars and some change for the only two things Raven didn’t have in her stash at home.

Their chatter was sparse during all legs of their journey, but it was never strained much to the silent relief of Lexa. She wasn’t in the mood to talk about Clarke, which wasn’t someone they talked about much in the past but due to the recent events it seemed that was all anyone wanted to discuss, and she definitely didn’t have the motivation necessary to play nice while Raven grilled her so as not to offend the woman so kindly offering to fix her car. Thankfully traffic was light, and they were pulling back into the driveway a mere forty-five minutes after they had first left.

“Alright, she should purr like a kitten from now on,” Raven reported as she awkwardly crawled out from underneath Lexa’s newly fixed car.

“You’re done?” Lexa asked, the surprise evident in her voice. “Already?”

“They don’t call me a genius mechanic for nothing,” Raven replied with a wink. “Can you start it up so I can take a listen?”

Lexa nodded and made her way over to the driver’s side door, opening it quickly and slipping down into the seat. Her keys were sitting on top of the center console where she had left them earlier, and they were thrust into the ignition a few moments later. The engine sounded better than it ever had before, and Lexa raised her eyebrows as an impressed expression washed over her features. Raven flashed Lexa a smug grin before ducking below the propped open hood to get a better look and listen of the engine running. A quick thumbs up signaled success, and Raven made fast work of folding down the support stick and closing the hood as Lexa turned the car off.

“Family discount?” Lexa questioned hopefully.

“No, Lexa,” Raven replied as she wiped her hands on the dirty towel. “Super low price of free means free.”

“I have to pay you something,” Lexa told her firmly. “Tell me the most you’ll take, and I’ll double it.”

“Forget it,” Raven said, shaking her head.


“Lexa, I said forget it,” Raven interrupted quickly. “Now don’t make me start disliking you.”

Lexa drew her mouth closed at that but still wasn’t happy about not paying Raven in some way for fixing her car and saving her hundreds of dollars in the process. She watched carefully as Raven tried to wipe most of the grease and grime off her skin, and an idea suddenly popped into her mind.

“Can I give you ride home?” Lexa asked.

“Actually, would you mind giving me a ride somewhere else?” Raven questioned, the figurative wheels in her head starting to turn. “I told a friend I’d meet her at the hospital later.”

“Sure, I can do that,” Lexa answered before she even realized to what she was agreeing.

Raven just smirked and waited for the other girl to make the connection. When it didn’t immediately come, she asked to use a sink to wash up and did so before they both made their way to Lexa’s car and climbing in. It wasn’t a few minutes in before Lexa finally remembered that Clarke’s grandmother was scheduled for surgery that day and couldn’t stop the sinking feeling in her stomach as they drove to the hospital, dreading the entire way whether Raven would make her stay or let her leave.

“There’s voucher parking in the ramp the next block over,” Raven instructed as she pointed ahead of the direction they were driving.

An even stronger sense of dread rooted itself in Lexa’s chest at the words. She wanted so badly to protest, to just drop Raven at the front doors and be on her merry way, but she felt obligated to do the mechanic’s bidding for at least an hour or two. Tops. A heavy sigh fell from Lexa’s lips before she had even realized it had, and it only served to make Raven throw her a sideways glance and a knowing smirk.

“You have to admit,” Raven said, “I got you good with this one, Woods.”

“Can’t I just drop you off at the front doors?” Lexa asked immediately. “She isn’t going to want to see me.”

“You two are engaged,” Raven said as she pointed her index finger towards the parking ramp in a silent demand, “and a good fiancé would make an appearance at her fiancée’s grandmother’s major surgery.”

Lexa resisted the eye roll she so badly wanted to flash at Raven and gritted her teeth instead before pulling into the ramp to find a spot to park. They both exited the car without a fuss, and Raven directed Lexa towards the entrance to a skyway that connected the parking ramp to the hospital. She almost asked how Raven knew that was even there but realized the other girl had probably logged quite a bit of time at the large hospital after her accident. It wasn’t until they were walking through the lobby doors and past the main gift shop that Raven spoke up again.

“Can we stop at the gift shop?” Raven asked as she slowed her somewhat uneven pace. “I should probably buy some flowers for Grandma Dub seeing as she’s practically my own grandmother.”

Lexa’s eyes narrowed and her expression furrowed as she tried to figure out the nickname Raven had so casually just muttered but couldn’t connect the dots.

“Grandma Dub?” Lexa questioned just as they both came to a full stop.

“Grandma Walters,” Raven answered immediately. “Grandma W? Grandma Dub.”

“Ah,” Lexa said, her head tipping back in realization.

“She calls me Señorita Reyes and learned some Spanish for me,” Raven told her through a wide grin. “Is that not absolutely freaking adorable?”

“Adorable,” Lexa replied flatly as she followed Raven through the open doors of the gift shop.

They made their way past a few rows of the unhealthiest snacks known to man, an entire aisle of magazines, and an obscene amount of stuffed animals that rivaled the collection Anya had when she was younger (a fun fact that Lexa just loved to threaten the big bad firefighter with at times) until they finally made it to the flower counter. There were bouquets wrapped in tissue and arrangements in just about every size and color imaginable, and a florist was even at the ready to create something completely custom as the large sign hanging from the ceiling boasted.

“Do you see any lilies?” Raven asked as she searched through one of the refrigerated cases.

Lexa swept her gaze over the flowers in front of her and noticed a simple arrangement of roses, carnations, and lilies plumped with various greens and a few clusters of baby’s breath displayed perfectly in a small wicker basket.

“There are some calla lilies in this one,” Lexa said as she pointed at the flowers, and Raven looked over at her with her eyebrows held high.

“Calla lilies, huh?” Raven asked with a small smirk. “I didn’t peg you as being a secret flower expert.”

“I’m not,” Lexa immediately replied as Raven nudged herself beside Lexa and reached into the case to retrieve the arrangement. “I mean, it’s not a secret or anything. So I like flowers, doesn’t everyone?”

“I guess so,” Raven said with a shrug. “Not everyone knows their technical names though. Like most people who would look at these would say they’re lilies, not calla lilies.”

“But there are all different kinds of lilies that don’t even look similar,” Lexa explained as they made their way to the register at the front of the shop. “Easter lilies are white and open as they bloom, and tiger lilies hang upside-down, and...”

“Yes, go on,” Raven prompted, the teasing grin plastered to her face widening with each word that tumbled out of Lexa’s mouth.

Lexa caught on quickly enough and slammed her mouth shut as she studied Raven’s smug expression while she paid for the flowers. Lexa mentally groaned at the fact that she’d set herself up for countless rounds of teasing far into the distant future and could only hope that Raven would choose not to bring it up too often. They headed towards the elevators and rode to the third floor, the faint whirring of mechanical parts lifting them upwards the only sound between them.

The doors slowly opened to reveal a small waiting room, and they both looked to their right to see Clarke standing beside the nurse’s station chatting with a young man in scrubs. Lexa could barely register what happened next (because she was totally, definitely, 100% not stealing a glance down at how perfectly round Clarke’s ass looked in her yoga pants), but the next thing she knew the basket of flowers was being shoved into her hands and Raven was calling out to the blonde not twenty feet away from them.

“Clarke, hey!” Raven exclaimed animatedly as she waved a hand above her head.

“Hey,” Clarke replied slowly after turning around to notice Lexa following stiffly behind her best friend. “What are you... both... doing here?”

“Lexa was nice enough to drive me and told me that she wanted to come in for a while,” Raven lied quite impressively.

“No, I–”

“Then she insisted on stopping to buy some flowers for Grandma Dub,” Raven quickly interrupted Lexa.

Clarke eyed the basket of flowers that Lexa was awkwardly holding in front of her chest and couldn’t help the glare she immediately sent to the woman her so-called friends referred to as her fiancé.

“I know that’s not how Abby taught you to say thank you,” Raven said as she pointed back at Clarke’s unimpressed glare.

The blonde’s expression slightly softened at the words and she cocked a solitary eyebrow instead but said nothing in response.

“Give her the flowers,” Raven told Lexa between coughs, and both girls just rolled their eyes.

“Raven bought them,” Lexa said as she handed them over.

“I figured,” Clarke replied, taking the arrangement to hold it much more naturally than Lexa had been a moment ago.

“So how’s the surgery going?” Raven asked before leaning up against the countertop they were crowded around.

“Jackson was just telling me that she’s out and in recovery,” Clarke said, gesturing to the smiling nurse she’d been talking to when Raven and Lexa had arrived.

“She should be awake within the next hour or so, and you can all see her then,” Jackson told them. “I need to start making my rounds, but you can always page me if you need anything else.”

Clarke smiled and offered a single nod before the dark-haired man disappeared behind a corner, and it wasn’t a second later than Raven was speaking.

“No need to get jealous, Lexa,” Raven said as she lifted a hand to keep the brunette at bay, “Jackson and Clarke are just friends.”

“Raven,” Clarke warned in a biting tone.

“What?” Raven asked innocently. “I’m just trying to reassure her.”

“There’s no need,” Lexa stated coolly, and Clarke shot her another silent glare.

“My only need right now is to eat,” Clarke said as she turned her attention back to Raven, “so I’m going down to the cafeteria.”

“Clarke’s mom said she would treat us to dinner, so let’s get a move on,” Raven told Lexa and motioned for her to join them as they turned towards the elevator.

“No, thank you,” Lexa stated politely. “I’ll just wait here.”

“What? No, come with us,” Raven urged. “Knowing Clarke’s mom she probably gave her a hundred dollars for twenty dollars’ worth of food.”

That seemed to close Lexa off even more, if that was actually possible, and she moved to sit in a chair along the back wall of the waiting room. Clarke stifled a roll of her eyes and walked to the elevator while Raven shot the defiant brunette a look before turning around and making her way over to join her best friend for dinner downstairs.

When they came back, bellies full of somewhat enjoyable hospital cafeteria food, they found Lexa sitting in the same chair as before with her eyes closed and her head resting lightly against the wall behind her. After a quick and quiet bickering session, Raven shoved Clarke forward as her way of saying it was her responsibility to wake Lexa up and took a seat across from the apparently slumbering brunette. Clarke sat down in the chair next to Lexa and, after hesitating on what to say and when to say it and how to say it, she opted to simply clear her throat loudly which earned an eye roll from Raven and a slow sideways glance from Lexa.

“What?” Lexa questioned before closing her eyes again.

Clarke sat wordless in her seat for a moment before finally opening her mouth to speak.

“I was just making sure you weren’t dead or something,” Clarke said, and Raven bit back her laughter.

“Like you would care,” Lexa replied, her eyes still closed.

“Of course I would,” Clarke said immediately, and Lexa lifted her head from the wall to look over at her in question. “If you were dead, I wouldn’t get my gallery.”

Lexa rolled her eyes at the dry joke and sighed while Raven snorted out a clipped laugh. Nothing else was said until Jackson reappeared to let them all know that Lillian was awake and ready for visitors. Clarke and Raven were just about to stand up when Abby came up behind Jackson, offering him a smile and nod as he left.

“So, I just saw her and she’s still a bit hazy from the drugs,” Abby told Clarke, “but she was asking for you so I told her you’d be right in.”

Clarke smiled at that and stood to her feet as Abby trained her gaze in on Lexa. She stared for a moment too long, as if she was trying to place where she’d seen the girl, but wasn’t able to remember before Raven was also standing and speaking.

“Loopy Lillian is my favorite,” Raven said with a smile, and Abby just chuckled. “Come on, Lexa, let’s go.”

“That’s fine, I’ll just wait here,” Lexa replied, not wanting to intrude on their family time.

Clarke avoided eye contact a bit awkwardly at first and quickly picked up on the fact that her mother was desperately trying to remember where she had seen Lexa before. Raven, on the other hand, was already gearing up to insist they all visit Lillian together and squared her stance towards Lexa before regarding her.

“You’re coming with to say hello, and that’s that,” Raven demanded as she propped her hands firmly atop her hips.

“Raven, I–”

“If she knew you were here, she would want to see you,” Clarke interrupted Lexa’s uneasy refusal.

Everyone in the small group turned their attention to Clarke who was reaching down for the flower arrangement Lexa and Raven had brought with them, and blue eyes met green for just a second too long as Lexa stood contemplating the statement. Clarke’s eyebrows twitched with impatience, and Lexa offered a small but reluctant nod before all of them started to make their way out of the waiting lobby and down the hallway towards the patient recovery rooms.

“Who’s your friend?” Abby whispered to Raven from their semi-secluded positions behind the two.

“Lexa,” Raven told her but noticed Abby’s confusion and quickly clarified. “Clarke’s fiancé.”

Realization instantly dawned on the doctor’s face, and she tipped her chin back to nod fully. Raven just smirked as she watched Abby watch the two girls in front of them and couldn’t help but wonder how, if at all, the older woman would follow up on the conversation. She was only slightly surprised when Abby’s pager went off just as they were closing in on Lillian’s room, and Abby offered a polite ‘goodbye’ and wave before excusing herself from the group. Clarke wasted no time in slipping into her grandmother’s private room, and Raven gently nudged Lexa to follow.

“Hey, Gran,” Clarke said with a huge smile as she walked to the head of the hospital bed.

“Clarke,” Lillian replied softly, a wistful grin spreading slowly across her face. “I told you not to wait all this time for me.”

“You should know by now that I never listen,” Clarke told her grandmother as she reached for her hand to squeeze it gently.

Lexa scoffed quietly at the blonde’s telling statement and winced when Raven jabbed an elbow into her rib cage. Clarke didn’t seem to notice the exchange and simply continued with her conversation with the groggy woman.

“Stubborn, just like your mother,” Lillian said as she raised her free hand to brush against Clarke’s cheek, “and your father,” she continued softly, “no wonder you’re so stubborn.”

Clarke swallowed the lump in her throat and smiled as a tiny tear dripped from the corner of her eye and slid down her cheek. It had been nine years since Jake had passed away, but the mention of him never ceased to stir her emotions. Lillian let out a faint grunt of disapproval at the sadness in Clarke’s eyes and wiped her granddaughter’s tear away. As she pulled her hand away, Lillian noticed the bouquet of flowers Clarke was holding and smiled broadly.

“Flowers,” Lillian said in a breathy voice.

“Lilies,” Raven spoke up from the foot of the bed, “like your name sake.”

All three girls watched on as the groggy woman turned her attention towards Raven, and Clarke let out a small chuckle when Lillian offered a child-like wave to the girls in greeting. Raven just smirked, and Lexa was trying her very best to fade into the background but knew she hadn’t been successful when aged blue eyes pierced into her gaze.

“Alexandria Walters,” Lillian guessed confidently, her index finger pointed directly at the uncomfortable brunette.

“Woods,” Raven corrected quickly. “Alexandria Woods, but most people call her Lexa.”

“You bear a striking resemblance to my granddaughter's fiancé,” Lillian told Lexa as her eyebrows crinkled strikingly similar to the way Clarke’s would when something was troubling her.

“Grandma, she is,” Clarke said and then cleared her throat lightly. “She is my... my...”

“Oh, Clarke,” Lillian suddenly interrupted her, “when will you stop?”

“Stop what, Grandma?” Clarke asked as she leaned in closer.

Raven and Lexa had also taken a curious step forward, and whether she wanted to admit it or not Lexa was quite riveted to hear what the elderly woman was trying to say in her foggy state.

“Chasing around the cherry tree,” Lillian whispered.

Clarke’s gaze connected with Lexa’s for a split second before the blonde was blinking her attention back to her grandmother in the hospital bed beside her.

“Chasing who around what cherry tree?” Clarke asked softly.

“Don’t look at me like that, Clarke,” Lillian warned as she shook her head lightly. “Like I don’t know what I’m saying because I know what I’m saying, Clarke, I do.”

“Okay, Grandma,” Clarke reassured her quickly, doing her best to hide the smirk crawling onto her face, “but I do think it’s probably best we leave and let you get some more sleep.”

“Yeah, rest up Grandma Dub,” Raven chimed in as she delivered a light squeeze to Lillian’s ankle under the blankets. “I expect to see you shaking that new hip at the club next month.”

Clarke and Lillian both let out an amused chuckle, and while Clarke set the bouquet of flowers on the bedside table Lexa had already taken a few steps backwards. She was more eager than she’d ever been to remove herself from the situation she was uncomfortable going into in the first place, although Lillian had other plans when she looked over at the brunette and opened her mouth to speak.

“Alexandria,” Lillian said as she leveled a serious gaze on the girl, “take care of my granddaughter.”

Lexa swallowed thickly, not wanting to disappoint the woman with an honest answer but not actually wanting to lie either. Thankfully she was awarded a few more moments to think about her answer when Clarke piped up from her position at the head of the bed.

“I thought you weren’t one for theatrics,” Clarke teased her grandmother with a small smirk on her lips. “As far as I can see you’re not going anywhere, and I’m more than capable of taking care of myself.”

Lillian let her gaze wander from Clarke back to Lexa and watched the uneasy girl in silence. Lexa shifted slightly on her feet at first but soon planted a strong stance and offered the older woman a single nod which seemed to alight a twinkle in Lillian’s eye. A tight squeeze from Clarke’s hand over her grandmother’s and a kiss to her cheek later, the three girls were saying their goodbyes and exiting the room.


“Yeah, Gran?” Clarke asked as she peeked back around the door frame.

“Care for each other,” Lillian instructed in a definitive but soft voice. “Please.”

Clarke let the request sink in for a moment before she forced herself to nod in agreement.

“We’ll try.”

Chapter Text

Ugh!” Lexa grunted as her back slammed squarely onto the padded exercise mat beneath her. “What the hell, Anya?”

“I’m beating your ass, that’s what the hell,” Anya replied, panting and sweating heavily above her. “All those training sessions with Aden have softened you up, Commander.”

Anya stood by Lexa’s feet, twirling her fighting stick tauntingly, and grinned down at the winded girl. It was the third time in a row that Lexa had been bested by Anya and was definitely not how their sparring sessions usually ended up. Granted it had been several months (dare Lexa guess even a year) since the two had faced off, and Anya’s strength gained from her days spent fighting fires was no match for Lexa. At least it wasn’t that particular afternoon.

“Get knocked down, get back up,” Anya said as she took a step back and fell into her fighting stance once again.

Lexa launched back into action, literally springing herself up from the mat in one fluid movement, before flipping her fighting stick into her hands with a flick of her foot. Anya could barely finish forming the smirk on her lips before she was forced to defend herself as Lexa’s stick came whipping through the air towards her own. They cracked together loudly, once, twice, and by the third time they were clear across the mat after an impressive flurry of footwork carried them there.

Each offensive hit Lexa delivered was matched with an equally as precise defensive move, and the frustration of why Lexa couldn’t actually make a successful connection began to quickly fog her mind. The vulnerability was quickly noted, and Anya twirled her stick up and around to expertly clip the edge of Lexa’s ear, leaving the brunette to stumble backwards. She looked shocked, dumbfounded even, as she lifted her fingers up to smear against the few droplets of blood she found there and flashed Anya a wild look.

Never had they ever drawn blood from the other while training, and the recklessness of Anya’s hit so close to her head infuriated Lexa even more. She watched closely as Anya bounced on the balls of her feet, readying for a counter-attack which Lexa was more than willing to provide her. A combined grunt from both of their lungs filled the space around them as Lexa’s fighting stick came down so hard against Anya’s that it broke in two. She ducked to the left as Anya swung wide at her and swooped down to grab the other half of her stick before turning back around just as Anya launched another attack on her.

Lexa flailed her sticks with a grace far too elegant to be seen in a fighting circle, and she moved with ease across the mat as each blow of Anya’s stick was easily deflected. Just as she was beginning to think Anya was teasing her with how slow and simple her movements were, she felt the half of stick in her left hand wrenched from her grasp by a solid swipe of Anya’s stick against it just a second before the other half of her stick was twisted from her right hand.

A swift hook of Anya’s foot around the brunette’s ankle sent Lexa tumbling down to the mat, a sharp thwack and accompanying grunt echoing into the expanse of the gym loud enough to gain the attention of a few members around them. As Lexa tried catching the breath that had been forced from her lungs during the hard landing, Anya tapped the end of her stick against the mat next to Lexa’s head signaling her fourth victory.

“You let me control the pace of the fight,” Anya told her as her chest heaved with exhaustion.

“You fucking swiped at my head,” Lexa snapped back, equally as out of breath.

“I knew I wouldn’t hurt you,” Anya told her as she offered a hand to the younger girl.

Lexa reluctantly took it and pointed to her bloody ear as she was pulled to her feet.

“I’m bleeding, aren’t I?” Lexa snapped before swiping up a trickle of the sticky red liquid off the side of her jaw.

“It’s barely a flesh wound,” Anya said dismissively before walking over to where she had placed her water bottle before they started sparring, “and you’re never going to win the games with your emotions running as high as they are.”

“My emotions?” Lexa questioned, her eyebrows shooting up to meet her hairline. “Are you joking?”

To say that she fought emotionally was simply laughable to Lexa. There was never anything going through her head (besides the technicalities of fighting, strategy, reading the moment, the movement) when she was sparring, and the insinuation of her emotions having some sort of an effect on her ability to win a competition was absurd.

“You were mad that I was winning,” Anya told her through hearty sips of her water. “You’d gotten used to showing me up, and it pissed you off that I was beating your ass. Which I was doing quite thoroughly, might I add.”

Lexa just scrunched her eyebrows and shook her head in defiance as she squeezed the water from her own bottle into her mouth.

“More than that, you let me control the pace of the fight,” Anya said. “I saw the second you started to wonder whether I was going easy on you. It was obvious, so I played you like a puppet. I got you to mimic practically every move I made while confusing the hell out of you before I easily took advantage of your exposure.”

“You did not play me like a puppet,” Lexa shot back frustratedly.

“You can keep telling yourself that,” Anya said through a smirk before taking another few sips of her water and adding, “but it doesn’t mean it will ever be true.”

“Let’s go again,” Lexa requested, her water bottle quickly dropped onto the empty chair next to the mat.

Anya rolled her eyes at the brunette’s eagerness to prove her wrong but made her way back into the fighting ring shortly after Lexa had retrieved a new stick from the storage case mounted on the wall near them. They mirrored each other’s stances, and it was a mere second later that Lexa’s stick swooped across the space between them to be quickly deflected by a precise movement by Anya. Despite a small crowd beginning to gather, the two women fought as if there wasn’t anyone else on Earth.

They fought with grace, accuracy, speed, and determination as if physics itself was irrelevant, and the ebb and flow of their movements around the mat almost began to resemble a type of dance the way their bodies moved in sync and their sticks twirled with confidence. As the spar climbed toward its pinnacle, their movements hastened considerably but never decreased in impressiveness as Lexa quickly found momentum in her attack.

Anya met her swipe for swipe, defending and deflecting as if her life depended on it until Lexa executed a series of movements at near lightning speed that left Anya helpless to match. It wasn’t until she heard her stick crash against the brick wall behind her that Anya realized she had been unarmed and simultaneously pinned to the mat, Lexa’s own stick against her throat.

“Concede,” Anya said quickly, knowing she had lost the round fairly.

The small group that had gathered to watch offered a round of applause that only served to annoy Anya more than she was at having her winning streak broken.

“How is it that I beat you four times in a row, yet you’re the one who comes out looking like a hero,” Anya grumbled as they both made their way back over to their water bottles.

“Not a hero,” Lexa said breathlessly, “just the better fighter.”

“One for five, let me remind you,” Anya told her before taking a sip of water. “That’s not a record to brag about.”

“I’m not bragging,” Lexa replied with a small shake of her head. “I’m aware, now more than ever, of how much training I need to get in between now and October.”

“Good thing you’re a kept woman now,” Anya teased. “All that extra time the rest of the world spends working you can spend training.”

Lexa said nothing in response but did throw a look mixed with annoyance and hesitation at Anya.

“Don’t get me wrong,” Anya quickly continued when she noticed Lexa’s expression. “It’s a good thing.”

“You think so?” Lexa asked, clearly seeking some kind of assurance from the older girl that her arrangement with Clarke (and Lillian) wasn’t all that unscrupulous.

“Yeah,” Anya said with a shrug as a twinge of amusement twinkled in her eye, “you really need the extra training.”

As if she was annoyed with herself for thinking Anya was actually going to offer her a heartfelt assurance, Lexa rolled her eyes and sighed before reaching for her towel and draping it on her left shoulder.

“I’m heading to the track,” Lexa said as she gestured to the far side of the gym. “Are you coming or calling it?”

“I need to get home,” Anya replied. “Raven and I were going to meet for an early dinner but since you’ll be here for a while, I might just treat her to dessert at my place and a late dinner afterwards. If you know what I mean.”

“Unfortunately, I do,” Lexa said, ignoring the way Anya was wagging her eyebrows seductively.

Lexa turned and began to walk away, throwing a wave over her shoulder, and Anya tipped her head towards the retreating brunette before calling out to her.

“Hey, Woods,” Anya said, and Lexa stopped to look back at her. “You’re a grown woman. The arrangement you have with Clarke, and Clarke’s grandmother oddly enough, is between you two. Well, you three. You know what I mean. Anyways, what I’m trying to say is that if you’re cool with it, I’m cool with it.”

She couldn’t deny the way her chest loosened at the words, and Lexa responded by offering a single nod in acknowledgement before turning back around to continue towards the track. It wasn’t that she needed Anya’s approval, but if it was something Anya was willing to offer then Lexa was eager to accept it. With a clear head and lighter conscience, Lexa spent the rest of her afternoon working her body the most efficiently she ever had and went home feeling just like that clichéd million dollars.


The sound of her name being called by a familiar young voice caused Clarke to refocus her attention to her far right just in time to be slammed with an enthusiastic bear-hug around her waist. A faint ‘ooph’ fell from her lips as a bit of the air in her lungs rushed out on impact, but she quickly recovered to thread the fingers of her right hand through the mop of auburn curls pressed against her stomach as she precariously balanced some new art supplies in her left hand.

“Hey, buddy,” Clarke replied through a wide grin as she peered down into the excited brown eyes looking back up at her. “You didn’t miss me or something, did you?”

The boy replied by tightening his grasp around her waist and burying his face into her stomach, and Clarke instantly reveled in the closeness. As difficult as it was volunteer teaching an art class at her mother’s hospital for critically (sometimes terminally) ill children, it was one of the most fulfilling things Clarke had ever been a part of in her life. She had seen kids come and go, usually after having been successfully cured of their disease, and she always managed to find a special new spot in her heart for each and every one of them.

Noah had been admitted to oncology for treatment of a rare form of cancer, and his love of drawing brought him straight into Clarke’s art class. She immediately fell in love with his freckles, his curly red hair, and his big brown eyes and the bond between the two of them grew faster and stronger than either one of them had initially realized. It was why Noah would often ask his nurses whether Clarke was going to be in the hospital that day, and why he always greeted her with the biggest hug he could manage from his weakened body.

As the noise from the rest of her excited classroom finally filled her ears, Clarke cleared her throat and gave a final tousle to Noah’s hair before gently pulling his shoulder back from her so that she could make proper eye contact with him. He smiled and watched intently as she crouched down to his level and whispered in his ear.

“Go find your seat, and I’ll let you have the purple glitter marker from the pack I just bought.”

A small grunt of glee sounded from the boy’s lungs as he quickly turned and jogged over to his usual seat at the end of the long art tables the hospital would set up for her class once every two weeks. If she was really lucky, Clarke would be able to bribe one of her nurse friends (most often Jackson) to help her take down and store the giant tables. Help was never guaranteed though, so she would always leave herself about twenty extra minutes after the class had ended to clean up.

The hospital’s budget department carefully monitored her spending for new tools and art supplies, but sometimes Abby would front her daughter a few hundred dollars from her own personal account to supplement the allowance which was much to Clarke’s delight. It was exactly the situation that had allowed Clarke to buy three packs of glitter pens (along with a multitude of other fun supplies) and promise the only purple one in the bunch to Noah.

The fact that purple just so happened to be his favorite color was a complete coincidence, of course.

“Alright, everyone,” Clarke said loudly enough to get the anxious children’s attention, “who is ready for glitter today?”

A chorus of excited affirmations and giggles reached Clarke’s ears almost immediately, and she smiled as she piled all of her brand new supplies on the small table at the front of the recreational room. It didn’t take more than five minutes for her to organize the various items and give the tiny patients directions for their daily projects before they were all busy creating their own little masterpieces.

Those who fell on the younger edge of the age range benefited from Clarke’s extra kind words of encouragement while the older kids found humor in her cheesy jokes as she made her way around the room to speak to each and every one of them. It was the most informal of classes, as its purpose was simply to give the sick kids something to brighten their exhausting lives, but every so often Clarke would have the opportunity to teach an actual artistic technique to whomever it was that was trying to get their latest piece to look just so.

“Okay, this is the fourth bird that I’ve seen drawn today,” Clarke announced to the kids as she pointed down at one in particular that resembled a flamingo. “Are you trying to tell me you want to have an outdoor class period or something?”

There was a small risk of getting all of the kids’ hopes up to spend an hour outdoors as some of them often took turns for the worse in random spurts before getting enough of their health back to actually be able to spend time outside, but the smiles of joy it brought to innocent little faces was enough to raise the confidence within Clarke that she could and would make it happen.

In her two years of volunteering, she had successfully managed over a dozen outdoor classes so she knew the option was there. Even if some of the kids were instructed by their doctors to wear masks over their mouths to prevent themselves from catching even a common cold, it usually didn’t seem to quell their excitement.

“Everyone has to promise then to be on their best behavior and stay super healthy so that we can have our next class outside,” Clarke instructed. “That means listening to everything your doctors and nurses tell you. Especially your nurses because you know how they get.”

A fit of laughter erupted within the room, and Clarke shot a smirk over at the couple of nurses that were nearby. They responded with teasing eye rolls and knowing nods before Clarke turned her attention back to the kids for the rest of the hour. A total of five glittery birds were drawn among a plethora of other equally as creative characters and scenes to make up another stunning row on the display board that was nailed on the wall running the entire length of the room.

Some kids would make cards for their friends or family members, some would pin their pictures up in their own hospital rooms, but there was never a lack of artwork on the display wall which was something a lot of parents seemed to really enjoy. To see physical evidence of their child’s inspiration, a tiny moment in their tiring lives that was filled with color and creativity, it was what often brought parents to stand in front of the board and admire the pieces hanging carefully from it for minutes (sometimes hours) on end.

“Our hour has come and gone,” Clarke suddenly announced to the kids, “so let’s get things wrapped up and put away before I get in trouble for keeping you too long.”

Most did as they were told right away, though some kids took their time, and it wasn’t before long that all of the supplies were put away in their assigned storage bins lining the shelves in the closet along the back wall. Clarke made sure to say goodbye to each of the children as they left to head back to their hospital rooms until Noah was the only one left in the room with her.

“Hey, Clarke,” Noah said as he held his picture in front of her face to see, “do you think Hannah will like this?”

“You’re going to give your little sister a picture of a scary purple monster?” Clarke asked dramatically as she reached out to grab hold of the paper gently. “Do you think it will give her nightmares?”

The small boy seemed to consider the question for a moment before looking back at Clarke with a serious expression on his face.

“I better wait to give it to her until she is old enough to not get scared,” he said with conviction.

Clarke suppressed the laughter she felt bubbling in her chest at Noah’s sudden concern and opted to simply nod instead.

“That’s probably a good idea,” Clarke told him before looking down at the picture one more time. “You did a great job getting his scales just right, and I love all of his eyes too.”

“I knew you would,” Noah replied, squaring his shoulders proudly as he took back his drawing.

“Alright, you better scoot back to your room,” Clarke said as she pulled her fingers through his hair out of habit. “I’m sure your parents are excited to see you.”

“Bye, Clarke!” Noah exclaimed and threw her a wave before disappearing through the doorway.

A small chuckle finally fell from her lips as she made her way to the metal locker stocked with cleaning products. The hospital gave her a key to access it, as she was responsible for keeping the tables the kids used as clean as possible, and she slid it into the lock before opening the door and retrieving a spray bottle and a roll of paper towels. As she kicked the door shut, she saw a familiar face out of the corner of her eye and looked into the hallway just in time to see Noah’s mother and his little sister, Hannah, in her arms.

“Mrs. Allen?” Clarke called out, immediately getting the attention of the young mother. “Are you looking for Noah? Because I just sent him back to his room.”

“Clarke,” the woman replied in flustered acknowledgement, “thank you, but I’m actually on my way to take this little one home.”

“Is everything okay?” Clarke asked as she walked into the hallway and gifted the rosy-cheeked toddler with a finger when she reached out to her.

“I think she’s coming down with a cold,” she told Clarke. “Noah’s counts have been up and down the last few weeks, so I don’t want to take any chances.”

“Right, that’s probably for the best,” Clarke said before turning her attention towards Hannah. “Poor baby, are you feeling sick?”

As if on cue the tiny human attached to Clarke’s finger reared back and sneezed, the overspray of which caused Clarke to flinch as it coated her skin in dampness. A mixed expression of surprise and disgust painted her face but quickly morphed into a smile as Clarke opened her eyes to see Hannah flashing her a toothless grin.

“Oh, Clarke, I’m so sorry!”

“Don’t worry about it,” Clarke assured Noah’s mother as she wiped her face dry with the back of her hand. “She just gave me another reason to use a little extra hand sanitizer today.”

Hannah giggled and tucked her head under her mother’s chin as Clarke took a step back and squirted a helping of sanitizing foam from the dispenser in the hallway.

“Alright, time to get you home and into bed,” Mrs. Allen cooed into her daughter’s ear before looking back at Clarke. “I’ll see you in a couple weeks?”

“Sounds good,” Clarke said with a small nod. “Feel better, Hannah Banana.”

Mrs. Allen smiled and waved before starting back down the hallway towards the front of the hospital. Clarke watched the two leave and went back to her duties of cleaning the tables. About ten minutes passed before she heard a small knock on the door frame and looked up to see her mother walking into the room. She was in her fancy business attire, complete with her bright white lab coat and shiny string of pearls around her neck, so Clarke knew she’d probably had a day full of important meetings scheduled otherwise she’d have been wearing her dark blue scrubs and trusty pink sneakers.

“I was hoping I’d catch you before you left,” Abby said with a smile as she stepped into the quiet room.

“Hey, Mom,” Clarke replied with a soft smile. “You look nice.”

“Oh, thanks” Abby said, looking down at herself as if she’d forgotten what she had been wearing, “I had to impress a handful of new department head candidates this morning. It was all very businesslike with very little blood.”

“Very little?” Clarke questioned with a quirked eyebrow. “So, still some blood but not enough?”

“Exactly,” Abby replied as she touched the tip of her index finger to the end of her nose.

“How is Grandma doing?” Clarke asked, spraying the tables with her bottle of cleaner and wiping them down as she went.

“She’s doing well,” Abby said as she came into the room fully and leaned her back against the recreation room wall. “Despite her protests, I set her up with a home nurse so that she didn’t have to stay in the hospital for too long. I would imagine she’s rolling her eyes at being told to take her afternoon dose of medication right about now.”

“Yeah, that sounds right,” Clarke replied with a chuckle and a few nods of her head.

“She’s nothing if not stubborn,” Abby said fondly as she crossed her arms and grinned, “and apparently convinced that you’re the most stubborn of them all.”

“Lies,” Clarke muttered while scrubbing a rogue streak of glitter pen on the tabletop.

“It was pretty much all she could talk about after you and your friends left, I’ll have you know,” Abby continued playfully.

“Yeah, well she was all hopped up on hospital drugs,” Clarke replied as she shot her mother a look. “She said a lot of other far stranger things than telling me I’m stubborn.”

“Such as?” Abby asked, tilting her head to the side thoughtfully.

“Something about a cherry tree,” Clarke simply stated, and Abby narrowed her eyes ever so slightly.

“A cherry tree,” Abby repeated.

“Yeah, she asked when will I stop chasing around the cherry tree,” Clarke said, a clipped chuckle punctuating her statement. “Like, who does she think I’m chasing around a cherry tree?”

“Hmm,” Abby hummed in response, making Clarke all the more curious.

“What, hmm?” Clarke asked as she propped her free hand on top of her hip. “Why did she ask me that?”

The wave of dismissal Abby gave in response was painfully awkward, and Clarke scrunched her eyebrows as she watched closely her mother walking farther into the room towards her.

“You said it yourself, honey,” Abby said, lifting a hand to brush a curly tendril of Clarke’s hair behind her ear, “she was trippin’ on hospital drugs.”

“Trippin’?” Clarke asked as she craned her neck backwards to flash her mother a pointed expression, complete with quirked eyebrow. “Since when the hell do you say trippin’?”

“Since you apparently picked up this bad habit of swearing,” Abby retorted with an equally as pointed look.

“If you can say trippin’ and expect me not to make fun of you for it, then I can say hell whenever the damn hell I want,” Clarke argued playfully.

Abby just laughed and shook her head lightly, knowing once Clarke had made a counter-argument there was no stopping her. It was one of the unique characteristics of their relationship, the way they could bicker with each other so freely while simultaneously keeping it lighthearted, and it was something that both of them were relieved remained unchanged after Jake’s untimely death. It had rocked the foundation of their world, and certain parts of their relationship, themselves, would never be the same.

But their bond of communication seemed to only grow stronger each year, and it was something for which they were both extremely grateful. It brought them through the hard times and made the good times that much better.

“Alright, deal,” Abby relented, her hands raising in surrender. “Anyways, I actually came down here to check up on you.”

“Check up on me?” Clarke asked as her expression confused. “Why? About what?”

“This... arrangement... you’ve agreed to,” Abby explained, “it hasn’t been getting in the way, has it?”

“Getting in the way of what?”

“Of your relationships,” Abby replied, “your connection with Grandma, the way you want to live your life. Anything and everything.”

“Mom, I knew pretty much exactly what I was getting into when I agreed to it,” Clarke told her.

“Pretty much exactly, huh?” Abby questioned unconvinced.

“I’ll admit that it’s not ideal,” Clarke said through a smirk as she pulled out a chair to sit down, “but when has Grandma ever done things the easy way?”

“You got me there,” Abby replied, sitting down in her own chair next to Clarke. “I’d still like to know how it’s going though. How’s the gallery search?”

“I’ve looked at a couple of buildings, but nothing has really stood out to me yet,” Clarke told her as she leaned back into the hard plastic chair.

“Are you working with an agent?”

“Oh, yeah, I must have forgotten to tell you,” Clarke said. “Octavia’s older brother is a realtor and just so happens to have some experience in commercial real estate.”

“That’s right,” Abby replied, her head nodding as she spoke. “I think I do remember her mentioning that her brother worked in real estate.”

“It’s really nice actually to have her as a common connection,” Clarke told her mother. “I feel a lot more comfortable working with him because of it.”

“So, how does Alexandria fit into all of this?” Abby suddenly asked through a curious expression.

“Who? Oh, Lexa?” Clarke asked before shrugging. “My guess is that she probably couldn’t care less about whether she’s involved or not.”

“Probably couldn’t care less?” Abby questioned through raised eyebrows. “She did come to the hospital to visit your grandmother, didn’t she?”

“Well, sure,” Clarke answered, “but Raven tricked her into it.”


“I’m serious, Mom,” Clarke interrupted quickly. “Why does no one believe me when I say that she is rudest and most insincere person ever?”

“Because someone who pays enough attention to remember you prefer barbeque sauce over ketchup, agrees to a life-altering arrangement to help you acquire a gallery, and later visits your grandmother in the hospital, whether she was tricked into it or not, doesn’t seem rude or insincere,” Abby told her daughter.

If realization was a brick wall, Clarke would have slammed into it at that very moment. Her mother’s observations were absolutely right, whether she wanted to admit it or not, and at that moment Clarke suddenly felt herself shrink down to about two inches tall.

“It sounds like you’ve never given this girl the benefit of the doubt, and quite frankly I thought I taught you better than that,” Abby said before leaning back in her chair and waiting for a response from her suddenly rather troubled looking daughter.

Scratch two inches tall. Insert one inch tall.

“If Lexa,” Abby hesitated as if waiting for confirmation on the accuracy of the shortened name, “is going to be involved in your life into the foreseeable future, I suggest you two at least work on being civil towards each other.”

“Easier said than done,” Clarke replied through a sigh.

“So, work harder,” Abby told her. “Tell yourself to be the better woman if that’s what makes it easier.”

Clarke contemplated silently for a moment, her mother’s words repeating themselves in her head a few times, before she finally let out a small sigh.

“I guess maybe you’re kind of partly right,” Clarke reluctantly said.

“Thank you for you half assed agreement,” Abby quipped immediately, causing Clarke to gape at her slack-jawed and wide-eyed.

“Abby!” Clarke exclaimed. “Language!”

The two women caught each other’s gaze for just a moment before losing themselves in a good humored round of laughter.

It had only been a day since her somewhat defeating training session with Anya, and Lexa’s muscles were beginning their protest. It was a secret from no one that she kept herself in shape, but she rarely participated in such rigorous exercise ever since she stopped competing in the yearly games after her University and work schedules had become too demanding. Her shoulders screamed with a dull ache as Lexa stretched her arms above her head before pulling them down and closing her textbook.

She had finally gotten through all of the homework she’d planned to get through, and the reward of spending a few hours with her newest poetry book was finally within reach. As she organized her pile of books and papers back into their proper places, Lexa took a few opportunities to stretch and twist her body to help loosen herself up.

At long last, she made her way out of her bedroom to the living room where she grabbed her book from its designated spot on her bookshelf and flopped onto the couch. She got about two sentences in before the front door opened to reveal Anya who looked fresh off a hard shift and Raven who had an overnight bag slung over her shoulder.

“Hey, Sexy Lexy,” Raven said as she sauntered over to the edge of the couch, “mind if I stay here tonight?”

“If you have any intention of staying here tonight or ever again, you will never utter that nickname in my presence again,” Lexa said, keeping her eyes trained on the book in front of her.

“Fine, bite my head off while you’re at it,” Raven replied dramatically before turning back around and walking into the kitchen. “Most girls are flattered when someone calls them sexy.”

“Mmm,” Lexa grunted unimpressed as she continued to read.

“Anyways, I wasn’t planning on spending the night but Clarke came down with the flu,” Raven explained to Lexa whose eyes suddenly flicked up from her book, “and I can’t be around people who are puking because it makes me puke when I see or hear people puke.”

“Say puke more, Raven, gross,” Anya quipped as she leaned into the refrigerator to pull out a hard lemonade.

Both brunettes watched in silence as Anya popped the top off and downed about half of the bottle in a lazy series of strong pulls. As she lowered the bottle and wiped the back of her hand across her lips, Anya caught both of their gazes and shot them a bewildered look.

“What?” Anya asked, and Raven replied by planting a light kiss on her girlfriend’s cheek.

“You smell,” Raven said as she laced her fingers through Anya’s and tugged. “Let’s get you into the shower, babe.”

Anya followed wordlessly as Raven led her through the living room towards her bedroom, clearly spent and rather dirty from her tiring day at the fire station. Lexa was about to tell them no funny business in the shower but kept the warning to herself, figuring from the way Anya was trudging along that she was probably in no other mood than to clean up and crawl in bed.

Turning her attention back down to the poetry book in her hands, Lexa began reading right where she’d left off despite the fact her head was having trouble registering the words on the page. Her eyelashes fluttered in annoyance at the fact, and a second later Lexa repositioned herself across the couch with her head propped against one armrest and the tips of her toes barely brushing the other. Another few minutes passed, and Lexa sighed heavily when she found her eyes idly scanning the same sentence for the third time.

She shoved the tiny strip of paper from the fortune cookie she’d eaten over at Lincoln and Octavia’s apartment (which she had been using as a makeshift bookmark since that night) into the spine of the book and closed it with a thud. Before she even realized what she was doing, Lexa was standing in the kitchen and slicing open a pack of free-range boneless skinless chicken breast. She let a small grumble of discontent slip from her lungs as she prepared the oven and gathered a few more fresh vegetables from the fridge.

The question of whether Clarke would even appreciate a batch of homemade chicken soup (at least in as much as it coming from Lexa) bounced around in her head as she chopped a few carrots but ultimately decided it was something worth taking a gamble on. Having the flu was the absolute worst, in Lexa’s humble opinion, and a steaming hot bowl of homemade chicken soup always worked to lift her spirits and get her back on her feet.

Thankfully her recipe for the soup was one of the easiest and least time-consuming she had, and it wasn’t before long that her largest pot was halfway full of simmering chicken broth, carrots, celery, and onion, as well as a delicate balance of fresh and dried herbs. She was able to read a few short poems as the chicken cooked in the oven, and the entire meal was put together in less than an hour. A careful measurement of broth to meat and vegetable ratio was poured into a travel-safe glass container, and a concise note was written out before Lexa retired to her room for the remainder of the night.

“Raven,” Anya mumbled sleepily at the snoring brunette beside her.

Her body didn’t feel ready to wake up, but Anya’s initial attempt to quiet her girlfriend failed miserably as Raven drew in another loud snore much longer and more pronounced than the few before.

“Raven,” Anya said more pointedly, adding a soft nudge against the girl’s ribs as she spoke.

“No,” Raven replied immediately, falling silent for a few beats before snoring again.


“What?” Raven asked in a groan as she rolled onto her side.

“You’re snoring,” Anya told her before pushing her face back into her pillow contentedly.

The statement was met with silence as both women slipped back into a foggy state of reality until Raven’s phone vibrated against the bedside table. Anya grumbled as she turned away from the noise while Raven reached out for it blindly, knocking her limp hand against the side and corner of the table before finally successfully retrieving the device.

“Ugh, fucking work on my fucking day off,” Raven mumbled lazily as she scanned the email as best she could through her blurred vision. “I have to go home.”

“No,” Anya protested weakly as she turned back around to snake her arms around Raven’s waist and pull her close. “Stay in bed with me.”

A sigh slipped from Raven’s lungs as Anya grazed her lips against her neck, the kisses becoming firmer and more purposeful as they fell against her skin. They laid together, arms wrapped around each other and legs intertwined, for another few minutes before Raven’s phone jolted to life once again. Full lips placed a gentle kiss atop of the mess of sandy blonde hair buried just under her chin, and a moment later Anya found herself alone and listening to the faint spray of water from the shower in her bathroom.

“I’m sorry, babe, but I have to go,” Raven cooed into Anya’s ear before reaching out to tuck a wild lock behind her ear.

Anya cracked her eyes open to see Raven sitting over her, hair freshly washed and clean clothes on, and realized she had fallen back asleep almost instantly after she’d head the shower turn on. A small frown turned her lips down, and Raven leaned forward to place a gentle kiss at the corner before pulling back and standing up.

“There’s some sort of impending catastrophe I need to fix before the world implodes or something,” Raven explained cheekily as she began packing her overnight bag back up. “Raven Reyes to the rescue and all that.”

“Will I see you later?” Anya asked, rubbing the haziness from her eyes and squinting to see Raven smiling back at her.

“Probably,” Raven replied with a teasing shrug. “I mean, as long as I can stop the world from imploding of course.”

“That goes without saying,” Anya quipped as she grabbed Raven’s wrist and tugged her forward.

The brunette stifled a laugh as her girlfriend hummed in appreciation when it so happened that her breasts came into direct view of Anya’s face from her spot sitting on the bed. She did smile though when Anya nuzzled her face between the soft flesh and felt a strong hand at the small of her back keeping her right where she stood. It wasn’t until Raven felt Anya’s hand slip past the hem of her shirt that she forced herself to take a step back, knowing if she didn’t distance herself that she likely wouldn’t leave.

“I also have a sick child at home,” Raven reminded Anya, “so I’ll let you know if and when I’m free later.”

“Fine,” Anya said with a small pout before it was quickly kissed away.

“I love you,” Raven told her girlfriend, following up immediately with another small peck.

“I love you too,” Anya replied and watched as the brunette disappeared from her bedroom.

Raven couldn’t help the small peek into Lexa’s room as she passed by, noting immediately the neatly tucked bedsheets and blankets, and figured the girl had probably left for her morning jog. A small yellow sticky note attached to the front door immediately caught her attention, and her curiosity increased when she saw her name written at the top of it.

Raven, chicken soup in the fridge for Clarke.

She couldn’t stop the slow spread of the smirk across her face as she read the note again before heading over to the refrigerator and spotting the large container of homemade chicken soup. Raven shook her head in amusement as she attached the sticky note to the top of the container and pulled it out, practically bouncing her way back to her apartment with excitement to see Clarke’s reaction. It was the last thing she would have expected Lexa to do for Clarke, but Raven was quite impressed with the small act of kindness and even found herself wondering whether the two of them eventually getting along was so far-fetched after all.

“Hey,” Raven greeted her roommate as she let herself into their apartment.

“Hi,” Clarke croaked out from her spot on the couch, her favorite blanket wrapped tightly around her and turning her into a human burrito.

“You’re done puking, right?” Raven asked warily as she stayed close to the door for a quick escape.

“I have nothing left to puke,” Clarke assured her quietly.

“I figured you would still be sleeping,” Raven said before placing the soup on the kitchen countertop.

“I’ll probably take a nap later,” Clarke told her. “I woke up an hour ago and couldn’t get back to sleep, so I came out here to watch something. Is that soup?”

Raven smiled at the sight of Clarke peeking her head out from her blanket burrito and eyeing the container she’d just set down.

“Yeah,” Raven replied as she made her way out of the kitchen. “Lexa made it for you.”

Clarke said nothing and looked up at Raven with a blank expression. Even though she knew it would be one of the last things Clarke was expecting to hear, Raven still could barely contain her amusement at her best friend’s apparent shock and speechlessness. A quick raise of Raven’s eyebrows brought Clarke’s attention back to the conversation at hand, and a small questioning wrinkle formed between tired blue eyes as she struggled to understand the statement she’d just heard.

“She made me soup?”

“Yep,” Raven replied, lips popping the ‘p’ loudly.

“She made it?”

“Homemade chicken soup,” Raven told her.

“For me?”

“Yes, for you,” Raven answered in a huff. “Is this flu affecting your brain comprehension or something?”

The confused look on Clarke’s face suddenly morphed into a scowl, and Raven just chuckled as she made her way towards her bedroom. Clarke barely acknowledged the offer to holler if she needed anything as she shuffled her bundled body into the kitchen to peer down at the container of soup as if it were something ready to explode. She read the note quickly and hated the way her heart fluttered just the slightest bit.

She hastily convinced herself it was the efficient curve of Lexa’s handwriting that she found herself admiring, purely for the artistic significance of it, but in actuality was tempering her reaction to the thoughtfulness of the gesture in hopes that the feeling would disappear before she enjoyed it too much. It took her all of a minute before her pangs of hunger won the battle, and Clarke shed her blanket for just a moment as she heated a bowl of soup for herself.

“Damn,” Clarke muttered to herself after swallowing the first spoonful of it.

It was pretty much the most heavenly soup she’d ever tasted in her entire life which made even more complicated her predicament of the battle between her preconceived opinion that Lexa was the spawn of everything terrible and her mother’s instruction to be the better woman. She knew what she had to do and told herself she’d do it.

As soon as she finished her soup...

... and maybe after she was feeling better.

Then she would do it. Eventually.

Chapter Text

As the sunlight began to peek around the corners of her bedroom curtains, Lexa stirred beneath a sea of blankets and sheets with her first coherent movements of the day. Her body felt stronger each morning, thanks to the conditioning the past few weeks of rigorous training with Anya had afforded her, and her mind was clear from the grogginess that would normally linger during the time she’d spend making herself presentable for the day. Lexa would be the first to admit that her new less-stress schedule was doing wonders for her mindset, and it wouldn’t be too long before others in her life would notice it as well.

Even her late night bartending shifts at Polis Café seemed to fly by in an instant and, though often they would leave her sluggish and sore the following morning, Lexa’s stamina only seemed to grow as time went on. There were reasons... well, one specific reason... as to why Lexa had agreed to stay on the schedule at the café, and she figured it would take her about another month of working there before she’d accomplished what she had set out to accomplish. In fact, Lexa realized it was because there was an end in sight that her time spent working late nights pouring drinks for eager visitors and sloppy regulars didn’t seem all that bad.

A languid stretch eased Lexa’s inactive muscles in the most delightful way, and she soon thereafter slid herself out of bed and made her way towards the bathroom for a quick splash of cool water against her face. It was her morning to jog, so she just popped her contacts in and tied her hair up into a messy bun on top of her head before slipping into her favorite running pants and sports bra. She passed through the living room quietly, knowing Anya had also been working late the night before, and inhaled a long cleansing breath of the fresh morning air as she stepped outside and locked the front door behind her.

As it usually played out, with each graceful connection of foot against road there was a thought or two that blossomed in Lexa’s mind. It was her time, at least her favorite time, to connect with herself and focus on whatever had previously been forgotten in the shuffle of her day-to-day. She would often describe it as therapeutic, a time and a place and an activity to help herself reflect, which was precisely why neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night kept her from her runs. All postal worker comparisons aside, she felt good when she ran and had every intention to continue the activity for as long as she physically could.

And as it sometimes turned out to be, even when she physically couldn’t she would at least still try.

“I was just thinking it felt like a small chai tea and fruit cup kind of morning,” Luna said to Lexa through a cheerful smirk from her spot behind the coffee shop’s counter as the winded runner walked in.

“Indeed it does,” Lexa replied before she flashed the girl a reciprocating smile.

“How’s training?” Luna asked, already getting to work on preparing Lexa’s tea.

“Not surprisingly, it’s been getting easier each week,” Lexa said as she tucked a rogue lock of damp hair behind her ear.

“Training or kicking your sister’s ass?” Luna questioned with a smirk.

“Both,” Lexa replied as she offered the barista a small shrug.

“I honestly have no idea how you can train for this competition between working your three jobs and going to law school,” Luna said. “I barely have enough energy to get myself out of bed for my four-times-a-week five in the morning shifts here. What’s your secret, and can I have it?”

“The time you put in during your four shifts here can account for an entire week of most people’s work lives,” Lexa offered thoughtfully.

“Maybe so,” Luna replied, “but that still doesn’t explain how you have the time to do everything you do.”

“Just because I do everything that I do, it doesn’t necessarily mean that I actually have the time to do it,” Lexa teased, and Luna rolled her eyes. “At least I didn’t until recently.”

“Oh?” Luna questioned as she pushed Lexa’s tea and fruit cup across the counter. “What changed?”

“Uh, well, it’s a complicated story,” Lexa said, shifting on her feet subtly, “but the short of it is that I was able to quit my jobs to focus more of my time on school.”

“Seriously?” Luna asked as her eyebrows raised in surprise. “That’s great, Lexa, really. Good for you.”

Lexa offered the sincere brunette a single nod of acknowledgement and handed over her debit card to pay for her order. She could sense that Luna was fighting the urge to question her further but was relieved when all she received was her card back and a genuine smile of happiness from the barista. Lexa honestly wasn’t sure how she would explain her arrangement with Clarke to Luna, seeing as they were friends but not the closest of friends, and she didn’t feel any particular urge to find out what she’d tell her had the situation arose.

Just as Luna opened her mouth to speak again, the ringing of Lexa’s phone from inside her running belt interrupted them.

“Don’t let me keep you,” Luna said as she shot a quick glance down towards Lexa’s hip.
Lexa nodded and grabbed her breakfast from the counter before freeing her phone with her empty hand. Her eyebrows immediately scrunched in confusion as she read and re-read the name on the screen. The last time she’d indirectly heard from Clarke was when Raven had returned the soup container she had filled to the brim with chicken soup for the sickly blonde. To say she was surprised to find an adequately simple ‘Thank you, C’ written on the back of her original sticky note would have been an understatement, but she had gotten over it quickly with a small smile before she tossed the note into the trash. Another ring of her phone brought Lexa’s mind back into the present, and she tentatively swiped her finger across the screen of her phone and lifted it to her ear.

“Hey, I hope I’m not calling too early. This is Clarke. Griffin.”

“Yes, I gathered that by reading the name written across my screen before I answered,” Lexa replied quickly as she sat down at her usual morning table by the front window.

“Oh, well, I wasn’t sure whether you had saved my number from the last time I called you.”

“Is there something you needed, Clarke?” Lexa asked as gently as possible, though her tone still sounded a bit clipped as she heard it with her own ears.

“Right, I uh, I was just wondering if you were busy today.”

“Why?” Lexa asked after a beat of silence.

“My realtor set up a showing on a building for sale near the Firehouse District, and I thought I’d ask if you wanted to come with.”

To say the invitation caught Lexa off-guard would have been the understatement of the year, and it took a solid five seconds for the stunned brunette to even think properly let alone formulate an answer. Thankfully it seemed that Clarke was expecting some kind of hesitation, and she kept quiet on her end of the call as Lexa carefully decided on how she wanted to respond.

Her immediate reaction was the desire to question why the blonde was even offering the invitation. What was in it for Clarke? Was Clarke trying to set up one of the mandatory ‘dates’ by asking her to come with to the showing? And since when did they decide their ‘dates’ would consist of actually spending a significant amount of time together?

As the questions bounced around in her head unanswered, a fleeting thought shot through her brain that perhaps Clarke was extending her own olive branch similar to the one Lexa had offered when she made her soup a couple of weeks ago. She almost hated herself for not declining the invitation immediately and swallowed thickly before opening her mouth to finally reply.

“What time is the showing?” Lexa asked.

“It’s scheduled for eleven thirty.”

“Do you need a ride?” Lexa questioned more quietly than she’d intended to.

A part of her wondered if getting a ride was why Clarke had called her in the first place. She felt a dulled pang of hurt in her chest in response to if that was indeed the reason and waited, rather unsure, for Clarke’s answer.

“We can drive together or we can meet there. It’s your call.”

Lexa pondered Clarke’s statement for a moment and, after considering it acceptable, she responded.

“What time should I pick you up?” Lexa simply asked.


“Alright,” Lexa replied with a small nod, “see you then.”

It wasn’t until she actually hung up that she realized she hadn’t actually given Clarke a direct answer to her original question and figured the blonde was probably rolling her eyes because of it at that very moment. She pushed it to the back of her mind as she unwrapped the plastic fork Luna had given her with her fruit cup and began munching on her breakfast, losing herself in predictions about how her afternoon soon to be spent with her fiancée might play out.

“Barf... our... cake... leg?”

The muffled sound of Raven’s question wafted slowly through their apartment hallway, and Clarke’s face instantly twisted into an expression of utter confusion. Raven had a tendency to be random and rather quirky at times, but the string of words that had just come out of her mouth had Clarke simply bewildered.

“What?” Clarke yelled back and still her movements as she listened carefully to Raven’s footsteps heading towards her.

“Can I borrow your makeup bag?” Raven asked after she’d poked her head around the corner of the bathroom doorway.

“Oh,” Clarke said as she nodded in realization, “yeah, what I heard was definitely not what you just asked.”

“Sorry, I’m a little all over the place,” Raven admitted while puffing a few strands of hair out of her eyes with her breath. “Can I borrow it though? I think mine is over at Anya’s house.”

“Sure, be my guest,” Clarke told her before resuming her work on coating her eyelashes with mascara. “Why are you all over the place?”

“I have to catch a five o’clock flight to California,” Raven replied as she began emptying the contents of Clarke’s makeup bag onto the bathroom counter. “The senior engineering team at our Los Angeles location managed to screw up one of my prototypes so badly that I’m the only one who can fix it, and if I don’t fix it within the next forty-eight hours before one of our biggest investors from New York flies across the country to see it, then we’re in the hole to the tune of about five million dollars.”

“Damn,” Clarke replied, a blank expression calm on her features. “I kind of always thought you were full of it when you bragged about being kind of a big deal. I sort of see it now.”

“Don’t you forget it, Griffin,” Raven said with a wink as they caught each other’s gaze in the mirror.

“How long are you gone this time?” Clarke asked while Raven began to fill the flower-patterned bag with her own makeup.

“A few days,” Raven replied. “I wish I could stay longer, maybe take a few vacation days, but I’m in the middle of a beast of a project with a very quickly approaching deadline. Count your lucky stars that you’re able to set your own work schedule. I would kill for a less hectic work week.”

“I would kill for one week of your annual paycheck,” Clarke quipped, shooting her best friend a knowing look. “You could probably support me for an entire year on what you get paid for one month.”

“I’m pretty sure I already do that, Clarke,” Raven teased as she zipped the makeup bag closed. “Though now that you got yourself a wifey, I might finally be let off the hook.”

“She’s likely just as broke as me,” Clarke replied distractedly through a few final touches of her mascara brush against her lashes, “seeing as she’s been a college student for, like, almost ten years.”

“First of all, I love that you didn’t correct my usage of the word ‘wifey’,” Raven said amusedly, and Clarke simply rolled her eyes, “and secondly you know she’s going to be making bank once she finally graduates, right?”

You know I won’t be benefiting from that in any way, right?” Clarke shot back as she capped her mascara and looked over at Raven. “Hopefully we’ll be long divorced before then.”

“Hmm, I guess we’ll just have to wait and see,” Raven said with a shrug. “Where are you off to that you’re making yourself so pretty for?”

“Bellamy scheduled a showing for today,” Clarke said before clearing her throat lightly, “and I invited Lexa to come with.”

“You what now?” Raven asked slowly, her eyelids blinking in rapid succession as she spoke.

“Well, she made me soup,” Clarke replied back as if she were arguing.

“So you’re... wait... so you’re being nice to her after she was nice to you?” Raven questioned and crossed her arms against her chest in plain and obvious amusement.

When Clarke offered nothing more than a shrug, Raven snorted out a laugh.

“I’m quite impressed, Griffin,” Raven confessed with a few slow nods. “I honestly didn’t think either of you had the boobs to be the bigger woman.”

“Please,” Clarke scoffed, “anyone with eyes can see I have the boobs for that.”

“Hell yes you do,” Raven exclaimed and raised her hand for Clarke to give her a high-five which the blonde did with a smug smirk stretching across her face. “Alright, babe, I need start packing if I want enough time to get though airport security.”

Clarke nodded, knowing her best friend’s leg brace was often quite a hassle when she traveled, and quickly turned to meet Raven in a hug. They pulled each other in and communicated their goodbyes without muttering a single word before Clarke pushed back and planted a firm kiss against Raven’s cheek. Raven responded by delivering a playful slap to Clarke’s backside as she passed behind her and walked out of the bathroom.

“Love you, have fun!”

“Love you too, and be safe,” Clarke shouted after her.

She had spent another five minutes or so primping in the mirror before making her way out of the apartment, down the elevator, and up to the lobby doors to wait for Lexa to arrive. Her white ripped skinny jeans shone brightly in the sunlight while her denim halter top offered a nice color contrast. A simple necklace and tan sandals pulled her look together, and Clarke couldn’t help but feel pleased at her appearance. She felt good, confident, and knew she’d need it for the stressful afternoon she was anticipating.

A wave of nervousness washed through her body as Lexa’s car pulled alongside the curb, but Clarke quickly pushed the feeling away as she opened the lobby doors and walked outside. She was thankful she’d grabbed her sunglasses to avoid having to squint under the harsh rays of the high sun and readjusted them on her face as she pulled the passenger’s side door open and climbed into the waiting car.

Her first inspection of Lexa left her feeling quite befuddled and a bit irritated at herself. She couldn’t stop the way her eyes snapped to Lexa’s long tanned legs showed off by Kelly green shorts, an interestingly bold color choice for the brunette if anyone were to ask Clarke for her opinion, and she silently thanked herself again for having the foresight to already been wearing her sunglasses as she got into the car. A simple black and white checked button-up showed off equally as tanned forearms, and Lexa’s left wrist was adorned by a simple black leather bracelet.

The girl was nothing if not stunning, and the realization of such was what really hit Clarke hard.

“Hey,” Lexa offered quietly, her green eyes hidden by her own pair sunglasses.

Aviators. So Extra. So Lexa.

“Hi,” Clarke replied as she uncharacteristically fiddled with her phone.

“Where am I headed?” Lexa asked.

“I pulled up the navigation this morning,” Clarke said before leaning forward to fit her phone in the holder suctioned to the interior of Lexa’s windshield.

She rolled her eyes but managed to hold back her commentary when Lexa took the phone from her hand and placed it into the holder herself, clearly not wanting the blonde to dislodge whatever angle she had positioned it to best be able to glance at the screen. They pulled away from the curb in silence aside from the faint sound of the radio seeping through the speakers.

“The building is old and in need of a lot of renovations,” Clarke suddenly said she dug through her purse for the pack of gum she knew was in there somewhere, “so keep that in mind when we see it.”

The small twitch of Lexa’s eyebrows scrunching made it clear she was not expecting to hear what she’d just heard, but Clarke didn’t feel the need to comment on it. She turned her attention back to the gum she had produced and opened the cardboard tab to reveal two rows of the small chewy sticks. With a reluctant sigh, Clarke offered the pack to Lexa in a wordless question and waited for the brunette to respond. Lexa pinched her already chewed gum between her teeth in a non-verbal declination of the blonde’s offer, and the two sat in silence for the remainder of the ride.

“Clarke, it’s good to see you again,” Bellamy greeted her cheerfully before turning his attention onto Lexa. “You must be Lexa. I’m Bellamy, it’s nice to meet you.”

“Likewise,” Lexa replied simply with a small nod of acknowledgment.

“Here’s a couple of printouts of the listing for you both,” Bellamy said as he handed each of them a piece of paper.

Lexa cringed just slightly as she took hers from him, suddenly feeling very out of place being there with just the two of them. Sure Clarke had invited her, but was she really welcome? It wasn’t like the building she was standing outside of was going to be HERS someday. It wasn’t like she had the right to offer any input regarding Clarke’s decision on whether to buy it. She didn’t have any bearing on the situation, and that was precisely why she felt so awkward.

“I took a quick survey of the floorplan before you got here, and I think what we’ll find on the second floor is going to pleasantly surprise you,” Bellamy told Clarke as he lead the three of them towards the front doors.

The exterior was in rough shape, which was to be expected in the ‘being revitalized’ district it was in, but the architecture of building was beautifully designed. There was a subtle charm about the small details around the windows and the way some of the plaster was cracking away to reveal the raw brick beneath it. It looked almost purposeful, and Lexa thought if she were the one buying the building that she might just plant a few vines around the foundation and leave the outside as it was.

“This building was originally constructed for the intent of operating as the first printing company in the city,” Bellamy explained as he held the door open. “This main room here housed the main printing press, but there are smaller office-type rooms along the back of the building that held the smaller machines used for detail work.”

Both Clarke and Lexa’s attentions were piqued, although Lexa was careful not to show it even when she had pulled the sunglasses from her face and hung them from the front of her shirt, and they both listened in silence as Bellamy explained a bit more of the history behind the building as they toured the floorplan. Lexa could almost smell the ink, and she found herself trying to picture all of the laborious steps that used to go into printing a single book. She had hundreds of them lining her beloved bookcase at home, many of the poetry variety, and felt more thankful than she ever had to be able to own such a robust collection with such relative ease.

“There are a few load-bearing walls down here I’m sure,” Bellamy said, “but the rooms could easily be opened up with the installation of support beams.”

“This space is kind of incredible,” Clarke muttered almost whimsically as she spun around to survey the entirety of the room in which they were standing. “These windows are amazing.”

“The windows are not original,” Bellamy told her, “which is good because windows this large from that long ago tend to be quite drafty and inefficient.”

“They did a great job finding period appropriate replacements,” Clarke pointed out as she ran her hand along one of the dusty sills.

“According to the seller’s disclosure contract, every replacement window throughout the entire building was custom made,” Bellamy told her. “It’s a rather unique feature.”

Lexa, who had been standing off to the side of the two and making herself fade into the background as much as she possibly could, unknowingly turned her attention onto Clarke as she gazed around the space and smiled. There wasn’t a single person on Earth who would doubt the blonde’s satisfaction at the space she was surveying, and Lexa bit her lip from allowing herself to grin in response. Thankfully Bellamy’s voice cut through the silence and made for another comfortable distraction for Lexa.

“There’s a spacious bathroom behind the far wall there,” Bellamy said as he pointed towards the back of the building, “and upstairs is the surprise I can’t wait to show you.”

Clarke caught the twinkle in his eye and narrowed her own in playful suspicion before telling him they had better go upstairs to check out the surprise. Bellamy lead the way, excitedly climbing the scuffed wooden staircase hidden from sight, while Clarke followed closely behind and Lexa cautiously trailed along at the back. A beautiful heavy wooden door was situated at the top of the stairs, and Clarke barely had the time to appreciate its obviously hand-carved intricacies before it was swung open and Bellamy was gesturing for them to step through the threshold.

The space wasn’t enormous, but the high noon sunlight streaming through the floor-to-ceiling windows along the wall directly opposite them was more than enough to make up for what the floorplan lacked in square footage. To the right was a clearly outdated but functional kitchen, and to the far left were a couple of doors that appeared to lead into what Clarke could only assume were bedrooms. They would come to find out there was a small bathroom in the middle of each modest bedroom, making the second level of the building an honest-to-goodness apartment.

“An apartment?” Clarke asked wistfully, her eyes still scanning the room as if she was mentally moving in already. “An art gallery on the main floor and an apartment upstairs? So, I could live in my gallery?”

“You could set up one of the bedrooms as a work space,” Bellamy said, “or better yet take out all of the walls and make the entire apartment into one big studio.”

“I could paint in front of this window,” Clarke daydreamed aloud as she walked over and studied the view.

It wasn’t the tallest building she had ever been in, but the quaintness of the streets below was scenery in itself. A sharp pang of excitement bolted through her as she thought about spending her evenings watching the sunset, painting it or the people below bustling along in their lives, and she turned to face Bellamy and flashed him a wide smile. He simply smiled back and waited for the inevitable.

“If I took the walls down, I’d probably put my bed in that corner,” Clarke explained as she pointed towards the far end of one of the bedrooms, “floating into the room and at an angle probably.”

Blue eyes scanned the walls thoughtfully before landing on the floor in front of the dramatically large windows.

“I’d set up my easel here,” Clarke said while gesturing down at a space along the floor close to the windows.

“There would be enough room for a small dining table off to the side here,” Bellamy chimed in, “and you could fill this space with a couch and a couple of comfortable living chairs.”

“This would be a perfect place to put a–”

“Bookcase,” Lexa heard herself interrupt Clarke, and her cheeks immediately flushed a deep shade of red at her embarrassment of accidentally speaking what she had been thinking.

She only caught Clarke’s gaze for a moment before she broke it and awkwardly turned away, desperate to distance herself from invading the conversation exactly as she just had. The small sound of Clarke clearing her throat was all Lexa heard as she mentally scolded herself but was relieved when the blonde began speaking again as if she hadn’t even said anything in the first place.

“I think downstairs I would add in a decent-sized welcoming desk off to the right of the entrance doors,” Clarke said to whomever was listening, “and I’d like to see if there would be enough room to build a classroom at the back by where the bathrooms were.”

“Why don’t we head back down and take some measurements?” Bellamy posed as he motioned towards the apartment door.

Clarke agreed quietly and made her way over towards the door. As she passed by Lexa, they caught each other’s eye and Lexa could only swallow in response to the multitude of indiscernible emotions she noticed swirling behind the deep blue orbs burning into her. She faltered again when Clarke’s insistent stare fell to her lips for the tiniest fraction of a second before transitioning seamlessly towards the floor as she walked by and disappeared around the corner.

Each step felt like an eternity as Lexa descended slowly down the staircase behind Clarke and in front of Bellamy. She had been preparing for some kind of snarky commentary to be directed at her from the moment she uttered the word ‘bookcase’ but nothing had come, and Lexa actually felt the slightest bit impressed that she and Clarke hadn’t immediately buried themselves in a bickering session as they so often did when they were together.

Before her mind could properly explore the situation (or lack thereof) that had played out, they had made it to the main floor once again and Clarke started right in on discussing her plans for the gallery space. It was about twenty minutes later that they all found themselves back outside, after thoroughly inspecting all sides of the exterior of the building, and finally about to part ways.

“If you’re interested enough and want to put in an offer,” Bellamy said, “we would obviously want to make it contingent on a safety inspection so that the seller would be held responsible to cover any repairs to make the property functional before you purchase it.”

“Right, okay,” Clarke replied with a nod.

“Normally I would tell my client there’s no rush and to think carefully on it, but properties in this area are being bought up so fast that you aren’t going to want to wait too long,” Bellamy explained. “That being said, if you’re not completely sold, take a little bit of time to think it over.”

“Right, okay,” Clarke said, nodding again as she spoke, “yeah, I think I need a little time.”

“Call me whenever you decide with whatever you decide,” Bellamy told her. “In the meantime, I’ll just keep looking for properties and contact you if and when I find something.”

“That sounds great,” Clarke replied before leaning in to give Bellamy a polite handshake.

“Lexa,” Bellamy said and tipped his head towards her in acknowledgment.

Lexa offered him a small smile in return before he climbed into his shiny black SUV and drove off. Clarke had found her way into her seat in Lexa’s car shortly thereafter, and Lexa followed suit. They pulled away from the curb and just as Lexa braced herself for all the words Clarke was probably choking on during the hour-long showing, she instead was asked a question Lexa wasn’t at all expecting.

“Do you want to stop somewhere for lunch?”

“Lunch?” Lexa echoed dumbly, the confusion in her brain only amplified by her shock at the unexpected proposition.

“It’ll be almost one o’clock by the time we get through the city,” Clarke said as she instinctively reached forward to change the radio station, “and I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”

“Like the vast majority of the people on this planet, I usually get hungry around lunch time as well,” Lexa replied coolly before changing the radio back to the station it had originally be on.

“Can you never just respond with something normal like ‘why yes, Clarke, I’m hungry as well’ instead of sounding like a... like a...”

“Like a what, Clarke?” Lexa questioned, one of her eyebrows quirking over the top of her sunglasses.

“Like an annoying person, I don’t know,” Clarke huffed in response before changing the radio station again.

“You can’t possibly be suggesting that I’m the annoying one in this car right now,” Lexa said as she pointedly changed the radio station back.

“Hey, don’t get mad at me because your taste in music sucks,” Clarke quipped while reaching forward towards the dashboard.

Her hand was promptly batted away that time, and Lexa shot over a look of warning that Clarke could easily make out even behind the dark tint of the brunette’s sunglasses. She finally relented and sat back in her seat, idly looking out her window at the scenery as it passed by for a few minutes before she spoke again.

“We could go to Polis Café,” Clarke offered. “The food is good though the service is questionable.”

It was a dig at Lexa (having been a server there), but it was the tiniest hint of playfulness behind Clarke’s words that had both of them trying to cover up their smirks with pointless eye rolls hidden behind their sunglasses. Lexa drummed her thumb against the leather of her steering wheel for a few silence seconds before she responded.

“I’d rather go somewhere else,” Lexa told her honestly.

“Fine,” Clarke replied with a sigh and a dismissive waive of her hand, “I’m just along for the ride anyways.”

Clarke was pleasantly surprised when Lexa pulled into the parking lot of a pizzeria, and thoughts of mozzarella cheese and pizza toppings immediately flooded the forefront of her mind. Her mouth watered as the most delectable aroma of freshly baked pizza crust hit her senses, and they quickly found a seat towards the back corner of the quiet restaurant.

The only thing that surprised Clarke more than the plain old ice water Lexa had requested was the salad she ordered shortly thereafter. Only Lexa Woods, the most confusing person Clarke had ever known, would choose to eat a salad at a pizza place. She was barely able to shoot a grimace over at Lexa before the waitress was asking her what she’d like, and Clarke had no hesitations ordering two slices of what she hoped would be the cheesiest and greasiest pieces of pizza she’d ever seen in her life.

For the simple joy of disgusting the annoyingly healthy eater sitting in front of her, of course.

“So, what did you think about the building?” Clarke asked after a somewhat uncomfortable silence settled around them.

“Why does that matter?” Lexa asked, her words echoing the exact same question she’d asked Clarke once before in response to the blonde wanting her opinion on a topic that didn’t involve her whatsoever.

“It doesn’t really, but humor me,” Clarke replied without missing a beat.

She fidgeted in her seat under Clarke’s curious gaze and steeled herself for appearing uncomfortable, even though she was, as she was usually able to keep herself and her actions in check. It was a gift she always knew would prove beneficial to her eventual career in the law industry, but having it come naturally in Clarke’s presence was a new challenge in itself. She felt vaguely annoyed at that very fact, and tried to calm herself once again as she thought about how to respond.

“The abundance of natural light the windows offered was nice,” Lexa said simply.

“I’m actually a little concerned with that for the main level at least,” Clarke replied. “Sunlight is quite harsh on paintings and can really wash out their color over time.”

Lexa couldn’t help the way her eyes rolled that time and also didn’t bother to stifle the sigh that slipped from her mouth. The way Clarke had responded, a statement adverse to the statement she had just offered, was exactly the reason she didn’t like to offer her opinion where it wasn’t necessary. So often people did it without even realizing, and Lexa always hated to be on the receiving end of a conversation like it.

“It was a nice plus for the upstairs apartment though,” Clarke immediately followed up with as if she had heard Lexa’s thoughts.

Lexa nodded, and Clarke stole another quick glance at the brunette before a deafening silence engulfed their table once again. The faint sound of Lexa’s phone vibrating with a new notification distracted them both long enough to turn their attention to their own devices.

Anya Woods: Your private investigator friend just called to tell me he has some big news about the investigation. We’re meeting up sometime tomorrow to talk about it.

Lexa Woods: Awesome! You’ll have to tell me about it later.

Their food arrived at the table either freakishly fast or they’d been entertained by their phones for longer than they thought, and both girls dove in immediately after the server had left them alone once again. Lexa frowned down at the state of her salad, noticing immediately her ordering specifications had not been followed, and began to deconstruct the meal in front of her.

Clarke watched as a neat pile of thinly sliced red onion rings, croutons, and cherry tomatoes grew on top of the napkin Lexa had folded beside her plate and despite her better judgement (and perhaps fueled by a bit of curiosity at the reaction it would elicit), Clarke plucked one of the biggest croutons from the pile and popped it into her mouth. Lexa followed the blonde’s movements with her eyes only and stared on in silent shock as Clarke crunched away on the small piece of bread.

“What?” Clarke questioned with an innocent shrug, and Lexa just narrowed her eyes.

“Who said I wasn’t going to eat that?” Lexa asked in response.

“Really?” Clarke asked as she reached across the table to pluck another crouton from the pile. “They’re in a pile next to your plate on top of onions which I know you don’t eat. It wasn’t that hard to figure out. Though I am surprised Miss Healthy doesn’t eat tomatoes. Isn’t that like a sin against the vegetable world?”

“Tomatoes are a fruit,” Lexa corrected her instinctively.

“They are not,” Clarke argued back as she took one off the napkin and slipped it quickly past her lips.

“Science defines them as a fruit,” Lexa told her flatly as if that fact in itself was enough to end the disagreement.

Clarke stared back at the brunette for a few beats as she chewed thoughtfully on the tiny tomato before speaking around a few remaining bits of it.

“My taste buds define them as a vegetable,” Clarke said, pointing at her own mouth. “Plus anything that can be dipped into ranch dressing to make it taste better is a vegetable, not a fruit.”

“There are so many things wrong with those statements, I hardly know where to start,” Lexa replied as she began pouring out small patches of dressing along the top of her salad.

“I’m sure you’ll find a way,” Clarke said through a knowing expression before taking the first bite of her own lunch.

“I will confidently offer the argument that, despite what you may believe, science has more credibility than your taste buds,” Lexa said, “and there is nothing in existence that a raw tomato could be dipped into that would make it taste better.”

“I beg to differ,” Clarke replied with an unimpressed shrug.

“You beg to differ all of my points of fact?”

“Yes, all of your points of fact,” Clarke repeated, her eyes practically rolling out of her head at the pretentiousness of the girl’s proper speech. “Seriously, do you always talk like this or am I just one of the unlucky few who get to experience it?”

Lexa chose to reply not with the words Clarke apparently had such disdain listening to but rather with a more rudimentary non-verbal response in the form of her fork stabbing through her chunks of lettuce and squeaking loudly against the bowl below.

“Silence,” Clarke said with a nod, “yeah, the silence is definitely better.”

“Might I remind you that you were the one to ask me to join you for lunch?” Lexa said quietly so as not to disturb the other patrons in the restaurant.

“I had thought we could have carried out a civil conversation about the building we just spent an hour touring,” Clarke replied back to her, “but you couldn’t seem to care less about offering your opinion earlier.”

“Because it’s a building that you are going to own,” Lexa said. “My opinion should have no bearing on how you make your decision.”

“Oh my gosh, Lexa, it’s just an opinion !” Clarke gently exclaimed as she threw a hand into the air. “If someone asks you for yours, chances are they want to hear it no matter whether you think it should have any bearing on their decision. It’s called having a conversation.”

As was the safest method of response when speaking with Clarke, Lexa remained silent as she took a modest bite of salad from her fork and chewed it slowly. The longer Clarke stared her down, the quicker Lexa felt her resolve slipping and she took a cautious sip of her water before opening her mouth to speak.

“I think the building is very charming,” Lexa said quietly.

The statement seemed to please Clarke if the soft smile on her lips was anything for Lexa to go by, and she took a moment to enjoy the rare moment of peace between the two of them.

“Me too,” Clarke replied, her smile only growing wider as she spoke.

Their gazes caught for the briefest of seconds before they both turned their attention back to their own lunches. A slightly less uncomfortable silence settled between them until Clarke spun her plate around and pushed it towards Lexa just an inch.

“Do you want my banana peppers?” Clarke asked somewhat hesitantly but quite gently.
Lexa eyed the two plump vegetables, trying to figure out whether Clarke asked because she somehow knew about her love for them, and finally shifted her gaze upwards to meet the blonde’s own.

“Weren’t you sick recently?” Lexa asked wearily.

“That was, like, three weeks ago,” Clarke replied, “and I haven’t even touched these.”

“How long have you been symptom free?”

“Two weeks and six days,” Clarke answered cheekily. “It was just a twenty-four hour bug anyways. I won’t to infect you with my latent flu germs.”

“I don’t think–”

“Just take the damn peppers if you want them,” Clarke interrupted the ever-cautious brunette and shoved her plate another inch across the table.

Another long squint was directed at Clarke as Lexa hesitated to actually partake in food sharing, from Clarke’s plate no less, but finally gave into the temptation the second a familiar sweet but tangy aroma tingled inside her nose. She reached over to grab them both delicately by the stems and snapped a healthy bite off the side of one of them, holding back a hum of delight at the deliciousness coating her taste buds.

The ringing of her phone took Clarke’s attention away from the girl across the table (who was clearly enjoying her gifted peppers) and towards figuring out who was calling her. She flashed Lexa a quick look before clearing her throat and excitedly answering the phone.

“Wells Thelonious Jaha, where have you been my whole life?” Clarke asked, mimicking his greeting when they’d last seen each other at the art fair about a month prior.

“Actually I’m in town, at your apartment, but you’re not here.”

“Seriously, you’re in town?” Clarke asked in a squeak. “For what? When did you get here?”

“I thought I’d surprise you, but when I showed up and buzzed your apartment no one answered.”

“Raven’s probably at the airport right about now,” Clarke told him. “She’s heading to California for some work thing. I’m out to lunch with...” Clarke trailed off and snapped her eyes on Lexa, “... a friend, but we should be heading back shortly.”

“Don't rush lunch with your friend on my account. Especially when it sounds like you’re actually on a date.”

“Are you sure you don’t mind?” Clarke asked as she poked her pizza with the fork that was lying next to her plate.

“I was actually hoping to crash at your apartment tonight, so I definitely don’t mind waiting up for you. You’ll have to give me all the sordid details of this lunch date in payment for making me wait though. Except, let's scratch the sordid and just say you’ll have to give me all the details.”

“Deal, but you’ll just be disappointed, trust me,” Clarke told him as she stole another glance up at Lexa who was contentedly eating her salad. “I'll let you know when we’re on our way.”

“Sounds good. No rush, take your time.”

“See you soon,” Clarke said. “Bye, Wells.”

“Bye, Clarke.”

She ended the call with a chuckle before starting back in on her barely-eaten pizza. They both ate another few bites of their meals before Clarke finally spoke.

“An old friend of mine is in town, and he’s going to be crashing at my apartment while Raven’s gone,” Clarke explained. “He’s actually there, at my apartment, now and–”

“And you want us to take our food to go?” Lexa interrupted with her own prediction as to what Clarke was going to say.

“No, of course not,” Clarke replied, slightly taken aback at the question. “He said for us to take our time. I just wanted to make sure there wasn’t anywhere else you needed or wanted to stop along the way that I should call him back and let him know we’d be later than I thought.”

“Oh,” Lexa replied quietly, “I can just drop you off at your apartment after this.”

“If there was somewhere else you want to go, Lex, it’s not a problem,” Clarke told her between bites of pizza.

“I wasn’t planning to go anywhere after this,” Lexa answered honestly, “so there is no problem.”

Clarke gave Lexa a genuine smile, and only admiring the beauty of it for a split second too long was all Lexa could do not to get lost in it. Confusingly and irritatingly lost in it. The brunette doubled her efforts to finish her salad as gracefully as possible, and Clarke had to ask their server for a to-go box for the second slice of her pizza after she’d noticed how quickly Lexa had finished her food.

They each paid for their own meal, as if that was exactly their plan from the beginning, and left the restaurant to head back towards Lexa’s car waiting in the parking lot. They both climbed in, buckled up, and wordlessly started the modest drive back to Clarke and Raven’s apartment. Not a single radio station argument broke out, and the only thing out of the ordinary that happened during the mostly silent ride was the soft humming from the passenger’s side of the car when Clarke heard a particular song she liked playing over the speakers.

Lexa spent absolutely no time and paid absolutely no attention to how beautifully raspy Clarke’s singing voice was and chose to focus her sole concentration on the road in front of her until they were finally pulling up to the lobby doors of Clarke’s apartment building. Lexa figured Clarke would simply slip out of her car without a single word when she saw the man who was obviously the friend that had called her during their lunch and was surprised when sparkling blue eyes caught her own.

“So, Lexa,” Clarke began uncomfortably, “um, thanks for the soup you made me a few weeks ago,” she said as she tucked a few curls of her hair behind her ear, “and thanks for coming with to check out the building and for having lunch with me. There has to be at least one date’s worth of stuff in there, right?”

“Right,” Lexa answered simply.

“Great, okay,” Clarke said and finally made eye contact with Lexa before saying, “have a good evening.”

“You as well, Clarke,” Lexa replied, and Clarke immediately climbed from the car and shut the door.

Lexa watched as Clarke practically jogged over to a very handsome and muscular man standing beside a large military ruck pack and sporting an Army t-shirt pulled tightly across his chest and a pair of the most badass aviator sunglasses she had ever before seen. What she would rather not have seen, even though she wasn’t entirely quite sure why, was the deep and lingering hug the two shared in front of the lobby doors.

It was that moment that Lexa used as her cue and drove off to leave the two old friends to reunite or whatever it was that had made Lexa feel things.
Strange... somewhat familiar... things.

Chapter Text

“Do not tell me that you blew off a date with your fiancé to come let my unannounced ass into your apartment,” Wells said as he pulled away from Clarke’s tight embrace.

“Then I won’t tell you,” Clarke replied with a shrug. “Our dates aren’t actually dates anyways, at least not in the traditional sense. Pretty much whenever we find ourselves in the same room at the same time we label it a date.”

“That sounds rather deceitful, Clarke,” Wells said as he eyed her closely and hoisted his Army pack over his shoulder. “What would your grandmother say if she knew?”

“I would consider it clever, not deceitful,” Clarke told him while she held open the lobby door, “and my grandmother isn’t going to find out because no one here is going to tell her, right?”

“Right,” Wells agreed with a smirk and walked through the doorway. “So, are you sure I’m not imposing otherwise?”

“I’m sure,” Clarke said, leading him towards the elevator. “I’m actually a little bummed Raven isn’t here. She definitely would have wanted to see you. Wait, how long are you staying? Maybe we can all hang out after she gets back from California.”

“I promised my Grandma I’d be at her house no later than tomorrow evening,” Wells confessed. “You were on the way, so I thought I’d drop by... as long as, you know, things aren’t weird between us or whatever.”

“Weird?” Clarke questioned confusedly. “Why would things be weird?”

“After what happened, almost happened, at the art fair last month,” Wells said, “I wasn’t sure if showing up unannounced was a totally stupid idea.”

“Wells,” Clarke said, lowering her voice to a more serious tone as the elevator doors closed behind them, “visiting me is never a stupid idea.”

“I just didn’t want to assume,” Wells told her as his shoulders raised and lowered in a shrug.

“I have really missed you, you know,” Clarke said. “It was fun to reconnect, and there’s still a lot we haven’t caught up on.”

“I know,” Wells said through a nod as they stepped off the elevator and walked towards her apartment door, “and I know I’m to blame for disappearing on you for so long.”

“I’m not worried about blame,” Clarke said, shaking her head. “I’m just happy you’re here.”

Wells smiled, and his worry began to dissipate with relief. He’d contemplated quite relentlessly about whether to surprise Clarke or call before he showed up on his way to his grandmother’s house but knew his long-time friend would likely appreciate the excitement his unplanned visit would cause. They made their way into Clarke’s cozy apartment, and Wells immediately took to surveying the space he’d never before been in.

The first thing he noticed, not surprisingly, was the television in the living room, but what did surprised him was how large it was and how new it looked. The small stipend his drill pay offered combined with the sporadic earnings from selling his artwork was barely enough to survive on at times, let alone enough to afford fancy electronics, so Wells figured Raven had sprung for most of the technology he noticed around the apartment.

The couch sitting opposite the TV looked decently comfortable, though he wasn’t expecting the color of Clarke’s furniture to be anything less than seizure-inducing if his memories of her bedroom décor in High School were anything to go by. As he looked around at the small dining room table to the lamps on the tables beside the couch to the pair of wooden barstools tucked carefully under the lip of the kitchen counter, all of the preconceived thoughts he’d had about what he might find on the other side of her apartment door went flying out the window.

In fact, her place seemed almost... adultish.

“Wow,” Wells said as he finally met Clarke’s curious gaze, “this is not what I was expecting at all.”

“What were you expecting?” Clarke asked, her eyebrows quirking in amusement.

“To be honest? Lots and lots of tie-dye.”

Clarke let an unhindered bark of laughter slip from her lungs at the statement and covered a hand over her mouth to suppress the string of giggles that followed shortly thereafter as thoughts of her old, wildly colored, bedroom danced in her head. She quickly realized that Wells had never been to any apartment of hers and was probably picturing her High School bedroom in every room of the house which frankly made her wonder how he’d been brave enough to show up on her doorstep in the first place. The two shared a short chuckle until Clarke had regained control of her amusement long enough to speak.

“Yeah, I’ll admit I’ve been through some terrible decorating phases,” Clarke said with a wide grin, “but we’re all grown up now, remember?”

The laughter in Wells’ eyes faded just slightly as he looked over at his friend, who had seemed to become even more beautiful over the last four weeks since he’d seen her, and nodded slowly in agreement.

“I remember,” Wells said softly.

Clarke held his gaze for a few seconds before clearing her throat and turning away to hide the faint dusting of a blush on her cheeks. She used the excuse of having to put her leftover pizza slice in the refrigerator and asked over her shoulder whether he wanted a beer or something to drink. It wasn’t another few minutes later that they were sitting together in the living room, both sipping lightly on their drinks, and chatting as if no time had ever passed between them.

“Alright, so spill it,” Clarke suddenly said after about an hour of easy conversation. “Why are you really here?”

A small sigh fell from Wells’ lips as he leaned forward in his seat, his hands cradling the bottom edge of his beer bottle, and peered meaningfully at Clarke.

“Tomorrow is the one year anniversary of my dad’s death,” Wells confessed. “I had no idea I’d be so pulled to visit him, but I couldn’t manage to shake the feeling the last couple of weeks. It’s been like a weight on my shoulders, pushing me down, pressuring me to make a decision... the right decision... so I finally just packed up and started driving.”

“I remember the first anniversary of my dad’s death,” Clarke said. “There was definitely some kind of inexplicable motivation to be there, with him, on that day.”

“Now I can understand that for you because you were close to your dad,” Wells told her, “but I never was to mine.”

“Maybe not, but he was still your dad,” Clarke said, “and any kid who grew up in relatively normal circumstances is going to want to reconnect somehow with a lost parent every once in a while.”

“Would you...” Wells began but quickly trailed off. He swallowed roughly as he tried to find his words again and spoke after a few beats of silence. “Would you want to come with me?”

It had been almost two years since she’d last visited her own father’s gravestone, and the thought of going there on the spur of the moment provoked a kaleidoscope of emotions to explode in her chest. She immediately felt heartbroken, as she always did when she gave herself enough time to think about how he was gone and was never coming back to her, but was simultaneously hit with a bit of guilt, longing, and nervousness.

There was suddenly so much she wanted to tell him, too much, and her heart ached at the knowledge of not being able to have a proper conversation with him. As hard as it would always be to visit but not actually visit, Clarke nodded her head in decision and looked up at Wells.

“I’d love to,” Clarke told him softly.

It was time for her to stir up her memories but, more importantly, it was her time to be there for Wells as he stirred up memories far more tender than her own. The rest of their afternoon and evening took on a somber tone, each of them mentally preparing for their impending visit, until they both settled into a restless slumber, one on the couch and the other in her bed.

Nate Miller: I’ll be getting out of a client meeting at about 2pm and will be heading your direction for another meeting I have scheduled at 5pm. Could we meet sometime in between?

Anya Woods: I’m free whenever you are. Just name the time and place.

It would be the first face-to-face meeting with the private investigator Lexa had connected her with in regards to taking on a little investigation into what Anya deemed as an unlawful promotion of her subordinate to Fire Chief. The current head of the station, Chief Charles Pike, had at the very least unfairly chosen Lincoln over her as his replacement following news of his plans for early retirement, and Anya had made it her own personal mission to prove not only that she was the rightful person for the position but also that Pike had executed his power to promote unlawfully.

She hadn’t the first clue on where to even start to prove it though, so the help of a trained professional investigator seemed like the most appropriate place to turn. Over the years, Nate Miller had popped up in Lexa’s University classes so often that they started a casual campus-based friendship. They never met up to spend time together outside of class but always made time to chat about their professors, share helpful insights about some obscure law one of them had just learned about, and bounce ideas off of each other whenever the time came for midterms or finals.

So it wasn’t a surprise when Nate’s name had been the first to come to mind when Anya found herself wanting to fight back against the predicament in which she had come to find herself.

Nate Miller: Let’s meet at your house at 3pm. That should give us plenty of time to review my findings and discuss a follow up plan.

The term ‘follow up plan’ sat well with Anya, and she nodded to herself as she typed her address into the text box and promptly hit send. She figured if he had enough findings to prompt another plan additional to their original, that had to be good news. Right? A few doubts shoved their way into her head but she pulled herself out of bed regardless, wanting to fit in a productive start of her day before Nate came over later that afternoon.

“She lives,” Lexa said dryly, not bothering to lift her gaze from the textbook in her lap, as Anya shuffled her way through the living room and into the kitchen.

“Barely,” Anya quipped.

She pulled the refrigerator door open and retrieved a carton of milk before finding a box of her favorite cereal from the pantry. Their bowls weren’t quite deep enough to satisfy her usually ravaging morning hunger with just one serving, thus a spot for the cereal box next to her place setting was always left available for the inevitable seconds she’d pour herself. The first bite of the crunchy goodness quelled her hangry state enough to regard the studious brunette once again.

“I figured you’d be at the gym trying to grow abs,” Anya said through a giant mouthful of her breakfast.

Lexa scoffed in offense.

“I don’t have to grow what I already have,” Lexa replied as she gestured towards her stomach.

“Please,” Anya said with a roll of her eyes, “don’t make me whip mine out to prove how wrong you are.”

“That won’t be necessary,” Lexa answered immediately as she held up a hand in protest.

They both turned their attention back to what they were doing, Lexa reading from her textbook and Anya shoving her mouth full of cereal, and fell into a comfortable silence for a few minutes. It wasn’t until Anya spoke again that Lexa remembered she wasn’t actually alone after getting lost in her studies as she so easily often did.

“Nate Miller’s coming over today,” Anya announced as she poured herself a second helping of breakfast.

“To talk about the Pike investigation?” Lexa questioned, looking up from her book that time.

“Yep,” Anya said with a single nod. “He mentioned something about scheduling a follow up plan after we go over his findings. Do you think that’s a good sign?”

“It could be,” Lexa answered as she shrugged her shoulders lightly. “It wouldn’t surprise me if shows up with half of a case already outlined and ready to go. He’s very good at his job.”

“Am I a total bitch for doing this?” Anya suddenly asked, her conscience getting the best of her.

“If you were doing it out of spite, then yes,” Lexa answered honestly, “but that’s not why you’re doing it.”

Anya nodded in understanding and looked down at her bowl of freshly poured cereal.

“I hope it still feels like I earned it,” Anya said quietly before lifting her gaze over towards Lexa. “I mean, if we end up finding out Pike did something illegal or unethical and the decision is reversed. I just hope it still feels like I earned Chief.”

“It will because you did,” Lexa replied simply.

A grin that looked dangerously close to shy began to spread across Anya’s face at the words of affirmation, and Lexa just rolled her eyes before refocusing her attention on her homework. As another few minutes of silence enveloped the room, Anya unlocked her phone and navigated to her text messaging application. She pulled up her latest thread to Clarke and typed out a quick question.

Anya Woods: Can I run a favor by you? It’s totally cool if you say no.

Clarke: Lay it on me.

Anya Woods: I have a private investigator coming over to my house for a meeting, and your wife will probably get mad if I kick her out because she’ll be forced to study at the library, a building which she swears smells like a football player’s jockstrap. Can I send her over to your place instead?

Clarke: She’s not my wife, but she can come over. I’ll be gone all day anyways.

“Hey, you’re going to your wife’s apartment to study when Nate gets here,” Anya nonchalantly told Lexa as she continued typing on her phone screen.

“What?” Lexa asked, thoroughly confused. “Why?”

“Okay, first of all,” Anya said as she looked up from her phone, “I love that you didn’t correct my usage of the word ‘wife’ when referring to Clarke.”

Lexa’s expression dropped and morphed into an unhappy grimace as she too realized she hadn’t jumped at the chance to set the older girl straight, and she didn’t have time to before Anya was speaking again.

“I told her about my meeting, and she was so concerned about you having to spend your afternoon in that smelly library that she offered her home to you,” Anya lied, “her lovely wife.”

“I’m not her wife,” Lexa corrected quickly that time, “and she was concerned my ass.”

“Okay, maybe not so much concerned as didn’t really care,” Anya offered with a small shrug. “She said she’s going to be gone all day, and Raven’s out of town so it should be nice and quiet and non-smelly there for you.”

“What time is your meeting?” Lexa asked as she glanced at the time on her own phone.

“Three o’clock,” Anya replied, instantly realizing she only had a few hours to complete her normal wake-up routine thanks to her late night shift at the fire station that caused her to sleep half the day away.

“Fine,” Lexa told her as she looked back to the book on her lap, “but I’m staying here until then.”

“She said she’s gone all day,” Anya said before slurping the last bite of cereal into her mouth, “so there’s no risk of doing something stupidly clumsy like ruining another one of her paintings or burning your arm with scalding hot tea if you decide to go over there early.”

Lexa shot the older girl a glare, and Anya just chuckled in response before walking her dirty bowl and spoon over to the sink to rinse them before loading them into the dishwasher. Once she had finally gotten the entire story from Lexa about that fateful scare, her own restraint was all she could rely on to not tease the brunette relentlessly about it.

“Just try and be nice to her,” Anya said as she leaned over the back of the couch beside where Lexa was sitting. “She is going to be your wife someday after all which you have no one to blame on but yourself.”

The only thing Anya heard in response was a clearly unamused grunt, and a smile curled up the corners of her mouth knowing she’d accomplished her self-appointed task of annoying the person whom she loved annoying the most.

“That is the last time we’re doing that,” Octavia confessed as she gently lowered herself into her normal seat around their breakroom table.

Her face was flushed and her breathing hadn’t quite returned to normal, but her thighs ached deliciously and she felt more than adequately satisfied.

“The last time ever?” Lincoln asked in faux-astonishment before smirking and sitting down next to her.

“We could have been caught,” Octavia said as she tipped her head just slightly to the side as Lincoln leaned in to pepper a few sated kisses along her neck.

“Mmm,” Lincoln hummed against her skin, “that’s what makes it exciting.”

“Sex with me in the privacy of our own home isn’t exciting?” Octavia questioned, a solitary eyebrow quirking in challenge.

“Oh, trust me it is,” Lincoln reassured her as he pulled his face away from the crook of her neck, “but there’s nothing like going at it in a broom closet at work that gets my heart beating faster.”

Octavia let out a clipped laugh and crossed her legs before turning herself towards her boyfriend and leaning one arm against the table they were sitting at. She leveled him with a playful glare that made way for a devilish smirk and licked her lips subtly before speaking.

“Would that be the romantic setting of the broom closet that gets your heart beating so fast,” Octavia said quietly, “or the adrenaline of someone walking in on you pounding me like a jackhammer?”

Octavia,” Lincoln warned in a whine as he looked around the station’s breakroom for any eavesdroppers which only made the smirk on Octavia’s face grow.

“What?” Octavia asked in a tone as innocent as she could manage.

“You can’t say things like that and expect me not to... react...”

Octavia glanced down to Lincoln’s lap and bit back the teasing remark balancing on the tip of her tongue, opting for a quick smile instead. Before either one of them could say anything else, they were joined by Octavia’s rig partner who was beaming from ear-to-ear and looking like he was about to explode with excitement.

“I was approved,” Nyko blurted out to both Lincoln and Octavia’s confusion.

“Approved,” Octavia repeated in question as she shook her head lightly.

“For the grant!”

“You’re kidding,” Octavia replied sharply. “Are you kidding?”

“Not kidding,” Nyko told her with a shake of his head.

“What’s going on here?” Lincoln asked as he looked between the two paramedics.

“The Fire Commission just gave this son of a bitch an all-expenses paid trip to medical school,” Octavia said as she leaned back in her chair and folded her arms across her chest.

“No way, seriously?” Lincoln asked in surprise.

Every four years, the Fire Commission opened applications across the tri-state area to any employee working in the medical branch of their department for a grant that would cover tuition for four years of medical schooling. The idea was to help motivate and inspire employees to further their careers in the medical profession and, in turn, provide their expanding knowledge base and skills to the department in which they worked while attending. Only a handful of applicants were actually chosen to receive the grant, and it was the second time Nyko had positioned himself to be in the running.

“I still haven’t fully grasped it myself, to be honest,” Nyko told them, a wide smile still plastered on his face. “I’m actually going to med school.”

“You’re going to med school,” Octavia reassured him with a smile and a light nod.

“So, when do you start?” Lincoln asked Nyko.

“Hopefully around this time next year,” Nyko replied, “but it may be a bit later depending on when they can fit me into the program.”

“At least I get another full year of looking at your ugly face in my rig,” Octavia teased, and both the men laughed.

“My face is nothing if not beautiful, and you know it,” Nyko shot back with a cocky expression to match the confidence in his voice.

“If beautiful means ugly, then I absolutely know it,” Octavia quipped, not missing a beat.

“The woman I’m going to ask to marry me tonight may beg to differ,” Nyko slyly said as he looked over at Octavia with a twinkle in his eyes.

She dropped her jaw accordingly as her eyes blew wide, and the burly man in front of her could barely contain his smile. Lincoln watched the exchange, silently intrigued by the way his girlfriend’s reactions seemed to grow in excitement with each passing second.

“You’re proposing?” Octavia finally blurted out. “Tonight?”

Instead of confirming verbally, Nyko reached into his pocket to pull out a small black velvet box and set down onto the table right in front of Octavia. She pulled it open immediately and appraised the diamond quickly before snapping her gaze back up to her partner and smiling widely.

“Well, holy shit,” Octavia said, and Nyko just chuckled.

They stood up simultaneously and found each other in a strong hug, Octavia murmuring a simple ‘congratulations’ in his ear as she did so, before Nyko turned to Lincoln and clasped his outstretched arm in a firm shake.

“Please don’t tell me you have some lame plan to hide it in the dessert after dinner,” Octavia said, her tone teasing but serious.

She didn’t see the way Lincoln’s face fell at her words.

“Proposing in a restaurant is always a solid way to go,” Nyko said as he traded a brief look with Lincoln, “but I’m going to do it after we get home and surprise her with a bedroom full of red roses.”

“You’re such a sap,” Octavia teased him with a punch to his shoulder, “but she’s going to love it.”

“I hope so,” Nyko said before reaching down towards the ring still sitting on the table and picking it up to store away in his pocket for safekeeping. “The Chief gave me the rest of the afternoon off to prepare, so I’m about to head out. I’ll let you know how it goes though.”

“You do that,” Octavia told him as he started towards the breakroom door. “Congrats and good luck.”

Nyko offered a parting nod to each of them and disappeared, leaving Lincoln and Octavia to themselves in the now empty room. Octavia sighed and shook her head, almost in disbelief, before looking up at Lincoln and speaking.

“Can you believe that?” Octavia asked. “Med school and a proposal in one day?”

“Lucky guy,” Lincoln replied softly before turning away from Octavia to walk out the door.

“Hey, what’s wrong?” Octavia questioned, her eyebrows scrunching with confusion and concern at her boyfriend’s sudden mood change.

“I should get back downstairs,” Lincoln said as he actively avoided eye contact. “There’s a tick in my truck’s motor I need to look at.”

“Hang on,” Octavia cut in, stopping him from walking away with a hand to his chest. “What just happened?”

Lincoln turned his body towards Octavia at her urging but kept his eyes trained onto no spot in particular behind her as she desperately searched his face for answers.

“We were just having a great time, laughing, talking,” Octavia said with a small shake of her head. “Are you not happy for Nyko?”

“Of course I’m happy for Nyko,” Lincoln replied immediately, finally locking his gaze with Octavia’s.

“Then what is it?”

Lincoln shifted his weight from one foot to the other and, after a few long seconds, let out a deep sigh.

“You were more excited for Nyko in the last five minutes than you were all the times I proposed to you combined,” Lincoln told her, and Octavia stepped back like she’d been slapped in the face.

His heart raced in his chest as he choked on all the things he wanted to say but couldn’t as he struggled to keep his emotions from bubbling over in the middle of the breakroom at his work where any one of his fellow co-workers could walk into at any time. As realization seemed to dawn over Octavia, Lincoln tightened his jaw and prepared to speak again.

“Lincoln, I–”

“What is it that I’m asking for and Nyko isn’t that gets you more excited for him than for us?” Lincoln questioned, lightly gesturing between the two of them as he spoke.

“I love us,” Octavia told him sternly, “and I’m always excited for us.”

“You’re not, Octavia,” Lincoln interjected with a strong shake of his head. “You’re content. You’re content with the way things are but only when they’re the way you want them to be.”

“What’s so wrong with being content?” Octavia asked. “I’m not unhappy.”

“I’m not either,” Lincoln told her, “but I’m never going to be content knowing you’re never going to want more with me than what we already have.”

Octavia clenched her teeth together at that, and her eyes began to water as she stepped into his space and looked at him squarely.

“I didn’t say never three times,” Octavia reminded him, “I said not yet.”

“So, when?” Lincoln asked pointedly. “When does saying not yet turn into saying yes? Does it ever?”

“Of course... I mean, I think so,” Octavia mumbled as she dropped her gaze before looking up at Lincoln once again. “Lincoln, I love you... so much... but I can’t put a timestamp on when I’m going to be ready.”

Lincoln shook his head in response, and Octavia rested both of her palms against his chest.

“We have a good life together,” Octavia said, her voice edging on pleading. “We love each other, we trust each other, we respect each other.”

“You called proposing in a restaurant lame,” Lincoln interjected quickly, his eyes not hiding any of his emotions.

Octavia’s mouth dropped open slightly as Lincoln took her by the wrists and lowered her hands from his chest, and her mind immediately brought her back to the first time he had proposed. At her favorite restaurant, on his knee, with a tear in his eye. She never thought she’d feel worse than she did in that moment until this moment.

“I won’t be home tonight,” Lincoln told her quietly, his voice cracking as he spoke. “We should take some time to think.”

“Lincoln, please don’t–”

“I need time,” Lincoln interrupted her and took a step back.

They shared a silent heartbroken look before Lincoln slowly turned and disappeared out of the breakroom door.

Clarke: She’s not my wife, but she can come over. I’ll be gone all day anyways.

Anya Woods: Thanks, Griffin! I owe you one...

“What’s with you?” Wells asked from his seat behind the steering wheel of his pickup truck. “Not that I expected you to be happy on our way to the cemetery, but you seem more annoyed than sullen with the way you’re constantly sighing over there.”

“Anya just texted me asking if Lexa could study at my apartment while we’re gone,” Clarke said as she dropped her phone down to her lap and pulled a hand through her hair.

“Raven’s girlfriend?” Wells asked hesitantly, trying to remember the names and relationships of all of Clarke’s new-to-him friends.

“Yeah,” Clarke replied through another small sigh. “Raven is dating Anya whose younger sister is Lexa.”

“The fiancé,” Wells piped up with a nod.

“Apparently Anya has a meeting at her house, and Lexa hates the smell of the library or something,” Clarke grumbled from her seat.

“What?” Wells asked, thoroughly confused.

“Nothing,” Clarke replied with a dismissive waive of her hand, “it doesn’t matter.”

They had stopped on their way to pick up two small pots of flowers, one for each of them to lay beside their own father's tombstone, and the foliage in the pots rustled together with each bump in the road as they drove. The weather directly opposed their moods, sun high and shining bright in the pale blue sky, but Clarke was grateful for a reason to shield her eyes already stinging with unshed tears.

Both Jacob Griffin and Thelonious Jaha had been laid to rest in the same cemetery, a beautifully serene and expansive one just outside the main hub of the city, which made their objective for the day the only easy aspect about it. She had visited her father’s gravesite more times than she could count, not that it got much easier each time, but could tell by the way that Wells kept fidgeting with the collar of his shirt as he drove that he wasn’t nearly as comfortable as he would appear to anyone other than Clarke.

An undefined mood settled over them as they caught sight of the cemetery gates, and not a word was spoken as Wells drove through them and onto the gently winding paved roads inside. The truck finally came to a slow stop, and Clarke waited for Wells to turn it off and move his hand to the door handle to get out of the truck. She wanted to do this on his terms, according to his timeline, because Wells had mentioned the previous night that it was the first time he’d been to the cemetery since the funeral.

“Are you ready?” Clarke asked quietly as she held one of the flower pots out for Wells to take.

He grasped it gently and reached out with his free hand in an invitation for Clarke to hold it. She did so immediately, tangling their fingers together and waiting patiently beside him until he started walking. They started off in silence, walking slowly despite how intensely Wells was staring at a particular grave marker in the distance, and it wasn’t long before Clarke caught sight of a familiar name. They stood together for a moment, hands still linked, until Wells turned his head towards Clarke and spoke softly.

“If you want to...” Wells said but trailed off. “I mean, I think I’d like to...”

“Do you want to be alone?” Clarke asked, squeezing his hand lightly.

Wells nodded, and Clarke reciprocated the action knowingly before lifting to her tip toes to place a light kiss on his cheek. She whispered that she’d meet him back at the truck before letting her hand slip from his and turning towards the direction of the cemetery she was most familiar with. It took her a good five minutes to make the walk, and it wasn’t the distance she had just traveled up and down subtly rolling hills that made the air in her lungs suddenly disappear.

It was her father’s name.

She knew she’d never get over seeing it engraved on the granite regardless of how many times she saw it, studied it, traced it with the tips of her fingers, cried against it. Most days it still felt like he was there, in her life as he’d always been, so seeing those letters and knowing what they represented always left her breathless and aching inside.

“I know what you’re thinking,” Clarke said aloud as she tilted the light pink flowers towards the gravestone, “but Wells took the last pot of white ones, so it was either this or a weird peachy color that I knew you’d hate even more.”

A painful lump instantly tightened in her throat, throbbing with each beat of her heart as she leaned down to place the flower pot on the grass. She didn’t stand back up but rather sat in front of the thick stone, crossing her legs underneath her as she usually did and instinctively ran her fingers over the length of his name lightly.

“I miss you, Dad,” Clarke said, almost too quietly to even hear it with her own ears.

A tear instantly dropped from each of her eyes, and she wiped them away quickly before scooting herself closer to the gravestone. Her mind seemed to be running a hundred miles a minute with only a single thought, and she dropped her chin before letting a shaky sigh fall from her lips.

“When will this get easier?” Clarke whispered. “When will I be able to just miss you without feeling like my heart is being ripped out of my chest every time I think about you?”

The silence was deafening, as it always was, but was quickly filled with the sounds of Clarke’s quite sobs as she let a waves of loneliness, guilt, emptiness, and fear wash over her. Some emotions were always present, some came and went with each visit, but they all usually left her with more questions than answers as she figured most people in her situation would experience too. Thankfully the support system she had in the form of her friends and family always helped her through her most difficult of times.

“There is always so much I want to tell you,” Clarke mumbled through her tears, “and I never know where to start once I finally get here.”

A few silent beats passed as Clarke reached into her pocket to take out the few tissues she’d stashed there, knowing she would need them at some point during the day, and she steadied her breathing before continuing.

“Mom and Marcus got married,” Clarke said quietly. “It sounds weird to say you’d like him, but I know you would. You could always see the best in people which, really, made you even more awesome than you already were.”

Clarke nodded to herself and was suddenly struck with a nagging realization that she herself wasn’t always like that. Although she’d always try to mimic the good traits of her father in her own life, there were times she failed. Especially with always seeing the best in people.

“I try to. See the best in people, that is,” Clarke told him. “How did you always manage to do that so effortlessly?”

She picked at the crumpled tissue in her hands, using it to quickly wipe her cheeks before speaking out loud again.

“Raven is still dating Anya,” Clarke said with a knowing shrug. “Her leg still hurts sometimes, but I take care of her. Anya does too. Raven doesn’t blame you for her pain. She never has.”

A fresh wave of tears spilled from Clarke’s eyes, and she shook her head as she spoke. Another few sobs wracked her body as she thought about that day, imagined her father shielding Raven with his own body that resulted in a selfless act of sacrifice, and it wasn’t until she had finally controlled her breathing and sat quietly for another few minutes that she spoke again.

“Wells is here visiting his dad,” Clarke said. “He died a year ago today. We reconnected at an art fair last month, and he told me he joined the Army out of High School. Can you believe that? I know you would have been proud of him for that.”

The sweet song of the birds chirping nearby worked to soothe Clarke just enough, and the sigh she let out was one more of relief than sorrow.

“I’m kind of engaged,” Clarke revealed rather sheepishly. “Grandma roped me into one of her schemes, but this one was just too hard to pass up. I’m pretty sure you would approve though. It means I’ll be getting my gallery soon.”

Clarke’s expression cracked into a genuine smile, and she had to bite her bottom lip in excitement before she continued to fill her father in on the details.

“I just put in an offer on an awesome building yesterday in fact,” Clarke said, her smile never faltering. “I’ll have to do some renovations, but the floorplan is perfect and there’s even a small apartment upstairs just like I always wanted. There’s... good natural light too.”

A fleeting pang of some unknown emotion pinched in her chest as Clarke thought back to her conversation with Lexa at the pizza place the day before, and she felt it necessary (for some reason) to mention and agree with the fact that there was a good source of natural light in the building. It also gave her the opportunity to transition into introducing Lexa, her fiancé as it were, into the conversation with her father.

“It was the first thing Lexa mentioned about it,” Clarke told him, and her cheeks pinked. “She’s the girl I’m technically engaged to, I guess. I need to try and see the best in her... like I know you would have done... I wish you were here to teach me how to do it. Most of the time, she’s practically impossible to like.”

Clarke rolled her eyes for effect but took pause when her mind flashed back to a few things her mother had pointed out about Lexa during their talk at the hospital not that long ago.

“Maybe there are some things to like about her,” Clarke admitted reluctantly.

It sounded like something a child would say to a parent to make an excuse for themselves or the situation they found themselves in, and Clarke’s heart clenched when she made the connection. She was just a child speaking to her parent, making excuses, except for the fact that he was only her father in her memories now.

A small freefall of tears from Clarke’s eyes distracted her for just a second before she piped up again to unknowingly talk for the rest of her time in front of her father’s grave about the one girl in the world whom Clarke actually legitimately thought she could not stand.

“Thanks for coming with me, Clarke,” Wells said as his pickup truck came to a stop in front of her apartment building. “I’m not sure I could have done it without you.”

“You could have,” Clarke assured him gently before reaching over to squeeze his shoulder, “but I’m always here for you.”

Wells offered a small smile, his eyes still red and glassy, and Clarke pulled the straps of her purse around her neck in preparation to head back into her apartment. The Army pack Wells had arrived with was already repacked and in the small back seat, ready for the next leg of his journey to his grandmother’s house.

“Have a good time with your grandma,” Clarke said, “and don’t make it another ten years before we see each other again.”

“What are you talking about? I saw you less than a month ago,” Wells teased, a tired smirk playing at his lips as he spoke.

“You know what I mean,” Clarke replied with a small roll of her eyes.

She leaned over the center console and wrapped her arms tightly around his neck before feeling an equally as strong grip around her waist, and they hugged each other in silence for a few solid seconds just content in each other’s embrace. When she finally pulled away, Clarke moved a hand to his cheek and cradled it gently. Wells closed his eyes, taking in and letting out a steady breath, before he laid his own hand on top of the one Clarke was resting on his cheek. They leaned close and rested their foreheads together, not a single movement between them, until Wells finally pulled back to look into her eyes and smile.

“Goodbye, Clarke,” Wells said so softly it was almost a whisper.

“Bye, Wells,” Clarke replied, quietly letting herself out of the truck before looking back at him. “Call me later.”

“I will,” Wells assured her with a nod.

They shared another small smile as Clarke closed the door and turned to head into her apartment lobby. There was so much on her mind as she walked into the elevator and rode it up to her floor that by the time she had unlocked her apartment door and pushed through it, the sight of Lexa sitting on her living room couch with a pile of thick law textbooks surrounding her left Clarke feeling stunned and momentarily confused. It wasn’t until green eyes caught her own gaze that she remembered her text conversation with Anya earlier that day.

“Anya told me she talked to you about me studying here,” Lexa suddenly said as if she’d immediately picked up on Clarke’s initial surprise to see her sitting there in her apartment.

“She did,” Clarke replied. “I just forgot for a second. It’s been a long day.”

Lexa acknowledged the statement with a nod but didn’t follow up with any questions even though she could see the puffiness around Clarke’s eyes. The blonde excused herself and headed straight for the bathroom to take a long and steamy shower, knowing it would help wash the stress of the day away. What she wasn’t expecting to see when she finally walked back into the living room after applying her favorite face moisturizer, toweling the excess water from her hair, and redressing was not only Lexa sitting on her couch but Octavia as well.

“Hey,” Octavia said, “Lexa let me in.”

Clarke held back the response that had immediately come to her (that may or may not have been something along the lines of insinuating that her friends were making themselves far too comfortable in an apartment that wasn’t their own) and just nodded in response.

“Is Raven around?” Octavia asked. “I tried calling her a few times, but she didn’t answer.”

“She’s in California,” Clarke told her as she walked up to stand beside the couch. “There was some kind of emergency with one of her prototypes, so she had to fly down there last minute to fix it.”

“Ah, alright,” Octavia mumbled in response.

She picked at the seam of her skinny jeans a few times, as if she was wanting to say something but didn’t know whether she should, and the small sound of a sniffle brought Clarke’s concern to the surface.

“What’s going on?” Clarke asked as she sat down opposite the two brunettes. “Is everything okay?”

“I think Lincoln and I might be breaking up,” Octavia said, and the two sets of eyes looking at her suddenly went wide.

“You’re kidding me,” Clarke offered hesitantly. “Are you kidding me? Why do you think that?”

“We had a huge fight today,” Octavia said with a sigh, “if you could even call it that.”

“What do you mean?” Clarke asked as she leaned her elbows in her lap and rested her chin against her fist.

Lexa closed her book slowly, awkwardly shifting in her seat as if she was deciding whether or not to leave or stay, but Clarke was too focused on Octavia to notice.

“My rig partner told us he was planning on proposing to his girlfriend, and I got excited for him,” Octavia explained. “I thought my reaction was completely appropriate given the situation, but Lincoln got upset that I seemed more excited for Nyko than I was when Lincoln proposed to me. All three times.”

Clarke pursed her lips in a subtle indication that she understood where Lincoln was coming from but said nothing, nervous that she might upset Octavia with her response. The slight reaction wasn’t lost on her though, and Octavia immediately spoke up again in reference to it.

“What was that?” Octavia asked as she pointed to Clarke’s mouth. “What did you mean by that?”

“I didn’t say anything,” Clarke replied with a shrug of surrender.

“Your voice didn’t, but your face did,” Octavia said. “Do you guys think that just because I haven’t accepted Lincoln’s proposal that I don’t love him or something?”

The second after Octavia had asked the question, Lexa’s gaze locked onto Clarke. It was sickeningly similar to the way one would look to their spouse for their go-ahead before answering a question, and Clarke had to physically shake her head in order to rip her eyes from the seemingly polite girl in front of her.

“O, I think we can all easily see that you two love each other,” Clarke offered as she settled her eyes back on her friend.

“He obviously can’t,” Octavia replied with a hurried shrug of her shoulders. “It’s like he needs to see a ring on my finger to know that I love him.”

“If that was true, he would have been gone years ago,” Clarke pointed out. “He has always been honest with his desires to be married one day, and it always seemed like it was something you were at least open to as well.”

“I am, but–”

“So, what changed?” Clarke asked, interrupting Octavia mid-excuse.

“Nothing,” Octavia answered with a huff. “I just don’t see why he needs to be married when I’m perfectly happy with the way things are.”

The room went silent for a moment before Lexa spoke up, surprising both Clarke and Octavia.

“Maybe the idea of being married is part of what love means to Lincoln,” Lexa offered carefully. “Maybe it would be easier to accept his proposal, something you already admitted to at least being open to, than to ask him to change the way he sees love in regards to his own personal life.”

Lexa swallowed thickly as the room fell silent once again, and she wondered whether she’d gone too far with her offered opinion or just far enough. By the way Clarke’s mouth hung open in a shocked but amused way, Lexa figured it was the latter but couldn’t help shift uncomfortably under both women’s gazes. She glanced down at her watch before gathering her books and slipping them into her bag before she stood from the couch and finally spoke again.

“I need to get going,” Lexa announced, “and I apologize if I overstepped.”

Clarke leaned back in her chair and looked over at Octavia whose gears seemed to be turning, and quite frantically at that, before stealing a glance at Lexa as she let herself out the apartment and locked the door behind her.

“Well, that was abrupt,” Clarke finally said.

“She probably had to leave for work,” Octavia mumbled as she pulled a hand through her hair and sunk back into the couch.

“Work?” Clarke questioned, her eyebrows suddenly scrunching together. “I thought she quit her jobs.”

“I think she’s bartending at Polis Café,” Octavia told her, “at least that’s what I heard from Anya.”

Clarke huffed in response, her brain flying into gear as thoughts about her grandmother’s amendment granting Lexa a small stipend for living expenses, and found herself trying to rationalize why Lexa would still be working when the whole point of her agreeing to the arrangement was so that she didn’t have to work.

“Why is she still working?” Clarke asked, despite telling herself not to.

“I don’t know,” Octavia answered with a shrug. “She probably isn’t used to not being busy, or maybe she’s too proud to live solely off your grandmother’s money.”

Both of Octavia’s possible explanations were rather plausible, and Clarke nodded her head in acceptance but offered no verbal response. Whatever the reason, Clarke did her best making sure to pretend not to care for the rest of the evening.

Chapter Text

Almost every time she painted, she fell into her zone. The consuming silence of a state of reality in which Clarke herself had no idea how she found herself. It was the type of mental isolation perfect for creating masterpieces (well, maybe someday) that had always been easy for her to come by. It was why that particular morning, as she sat helplessly in front of her blank canvas, Clarke grew more frustrated with each passing minute her mind remained in the present world.

“This is Bellamy.”

“Bellamy, it’s Clarke Griffin,” Clarke said into the phone, her heart racing with excitement. “I decided that I’d like to put in an offer on the building we looked at yesterday.”

“Okay, great! How much would you like to offer?”

“Full price, all cash,” Clarke replied confidently.

“That should be easy enough for me. Do you want to include any inspection contingencies?”

“Um, actually I’m not sure,” Clarke said, a faint tone of hesitation suddenly lacing her words.

“I would recommend it. It’s an old building and is bound to have some issues. The inspection will give you the opportunity to back out of the deal if it reveals too many or too costly repairs.”

“Yeah, alright. I guess an inspection would make me feel more comfortable,” Clarke told him.

“I’ll write up a full price offer, no financing contingency, and a required inspection. I’ll send the contract to your email which you can then sign electronically and send back to me. Then I’ll forward it onto the listing agent to present to the seller.”

“Right, okay,” Clarke said as she nodded her head nervously, “okay, sounds good.”

“Hopefully we’ll hear back quickly, but don’t get nervous if it takes a few days. I’ll be sure to contact you with any and all updates as soon as I have any.”

“Okay, great,” Clarke replied through a wide smile before offering her goodbyes and hanging up the phone.

She had called Bellamy the minute Octavia had left her apartment. While she was definitely concerned for the future of her friend’s relationship, Clarke was even more certain after their talk that she wanted to jump on the opportunity to buy the old printing press building before it was too late. Unfortunately for her commissioned piece staring blankly at her from its spot on the easel right in front of her, she couldn’t seem to concentrate on anything other than imagining the sound of her phone ringing with good news on the other line.

“Ugh,” Clarke grumbled as she checked the volume of her ringtone for what seemed like the hundredth time that morning.

The phone landed on the table beside her easel with a thud, and Clarke stood from her stool to make her way into the kitchen. She had already downed three cups of coffee and eaten not only a decent breakfast but also a modest helping (or two) of her takeout dinner leftovers from the night before. It was something that she hated, her propensity to eat when she got nervous, but it was the only thing that took her mind off of whatever she was nervous about.

Just as she reached for the refrigerator handle to yank it open and finish off whatever leftovers still remained, her phone rang. She felt time around her suddenly lurch into slow motion, and her legs couldn’t seem to move fast enough to bring her back over to where her phone was. Clarke managed to reach it before the third ring even sounded, and her heart leapt in her chest when she saw the name on her screen.

“Hello?” Clarke answered, a bit breathless despite the distance between the kitchen and her easel being quite short.

“Hi, Clarke, it’s Bellamy. I heard back from the listing agent...”

“What did they say about my offer?” Clarke heard herself hastily interrupt.

“The seller did not accept your offer. I’m sorry, Clarke.”

“What?” Clarke asked, clearly dumbfounded. “They didn’t... why?”

“It sounds like the seller is trying to work with a buyer who is a relative of his so that they can keep it in the family. I didn’t get much of an explanation beyond that.”

“Damn,” Clarke whispered in disappointment.

She was just about to mutter the curse word again when a small beep sounded in her ear. Pulling the phone away from her face, Clarke saw that her grandmother was calling but she decided to call her back once she was done talking with Bellamy. She pulled the phone to her ear once again and heard Bellamy speaking.

“It’s always hard to lose a property to another bid, but I promise there is another building out there with your name on it. If you’re patient then you’ll find it.”

“Right,” Clarke said through a sigh. “I’m sure I will... it’s just not the news I wanted to hear...”

“I know. Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

“Just keep sending me those listings,” Clarke told him as she pulled her hand through her hair. “The sooner I can find something to buy the better.”

“Consider it done, and don’t hesitate to call me in the meantime.”

“Okay,” Clarke said with a small nod. “Bye, Bellamy.”

She heard a faint response from the other end of the phone line just as she quickly ended the call and collapsed onto her couch. A frown made its way onto her face as she thought about the building that would never be hers and mentally scolded herself for getting her hopes too high that the seller would accept her offer. A rejection was something she was wholly unprepared for, and Clarke knew it wasn’t a feeling she wanted to have again. At least not after having built up her excitement as much as she had.

Another sigh fell from her lips as she curled her legs underneath her and navigated to the contacts section on her phone. She slid her finger over her grandmother’s number and lifted the phone to her ear just in time to hear it start ringing.

“Did I call at a bad time?”

“No,” Clarke answered automatically and then thought better of her response. “Well, actually, kind of.”


“I was talking with my realtor,” Clarke explained, “and he was telling me that the offer I put in on a building was rejected by the seller.”

“Oh, Clarke. I’m sorry, honey.”

“I know there’s more buildings out there, but I really loved that one,” Clarke said with a weak shrug. “It also doesn’t help that I got my hopes up too soon that my offer would be accepted.”

“Real estate is quite competitive. Even twenty years ago when your grandfather and I bought our house, we almost lost it to another couple who was also interested.”

“Really?” Clarke asked in surprise. “I never knew that.”

“Well, you were only seven at the time. I didn’t think you would care too much to know.”

“You know what I mean, Gran,” Clarke said, and Lillian just chuckled.

“Don’t worry, Clarke. You will find an even better building for your gallery, I’m sure of it.”

Clarke smiled as her grandmother’s encouraging words echoed in her ears. Besides her own parents, she had never known anyone to have more concern for her than her grandmother. Even her grandfather, before he passed away, had been the envy of all her friends with the way he loved to dote on her. It was clear to everyone that Clarke Griffin was his favorite grandchild (regardless the fact that she was his only grandchild), and not much else made him happier than spending long summer days with her by his side. The sudden train of thoughts had Clarke’s eyes welling up with tears of appreciation at just how much her family cared for her.

“Did I lose you?”

“No, I’m still here,” Clarke replied with a croak, her eyes spilling a few plump tears down her cheeks as she spoke. “You know I love you, right?”

“Of course, honey. You tell me that all the time.”

“I know,” Clarke said as she wiped the moisture off her cheeks. “I guess... I just... need to say it a few extra times sometimes.”

“Tell me as often as you’d like because it gives me the opportunity to tell you how much I love you too. You know that, right?”

“Yes,” Clarke answered with a soft smile.

“Good, then we both know.”

Clarke could just picture her grandmother nodding her head once, as if concluding their sappy moment, and smiled a bit wider before snuggling deeper into the couch.

“So, why did you call me?” Clarke asked. “Is everything going okay with your hip replacement recovery?”

“Everything is fine. I haven’t been able to move around too much lately, so I decided to sort through some family pictures. I found quite a stack of some old ones of you that I don’t think you have ever seen, and I wanted to know whether you’d like me to send them to you or your mother?”

“You can send them to me,” Clarke replied immediately. “Actually, why don’t I come visit you this week and we can look through them together?”

“Even better.”

A genuine smile crawled across Clarke’s lips as she and her grandmother lost themselves in another twenty minutes of easy conversation, previous cravings for stale leftovers long forgotten.

“Damn, I’m actually going to miss you,” Niylah said as she pulled Lexa in for another hug.

“No, you’re not,” Lexa replied, resting one hand around the girls waist to partially reciprocate the embrace.

“I am!” Niylah exclaimed as she took a step back and let her arms fall back down to her sides. “People flocked to the bar once you started working back here with me.”

“That’s a lie,” Lexa replied with a sharp shake of her head.

“More drinkers meant more tips, which I started to thoroughly enjoy I’ll have you know, and it was all thanks to your annoyingly attractive face,” Niylah teased and threw Lexa a wink for good measure.

“Drunk people think everyone is attractive,” Lexa said with a dismissive shrug. “Someone even hit on my sister the last time she was here, or did you forget?”

“No, but it’s totally believable because your sister is hot,” Niylah replied as if it was the most obvious thing she had ever said before. “Too bad she has a girlfriend and you’re already engaged.”

Lexa spared a quick look up at the girl as she continued to clean up her area of the bar. It was her last day at Polis Café, and as happy as she was to be completely job-free she was quite preoccupied with the errand she was on her way to do as soon as she finished up at the restaurant. She used her cleaning rag to wipe up a few condensation rings on the bar top before stacking some empty glasses and carrying them over to the bin that would later make its way into the washing station in the back kitchen.

“Do you have any other gorgeous siblings who happen to be single?”

“I do not,” Lexa replied, straining to hide the amused smirk on her face.

“My luck officially sucks,” Niylah said as she swept her rag over the section of bar in front of her, “but what else is new?”

A polite smile was all Lexa offered in response. She hadn’t wanted to tell anyone about Clarke if she could at all help it, but a rather rambunctious bachelorette party one night had forced her to speak up if she had any hopes of finishing her shift without being hit on every few minutes.

Normally she would take such flirtations as a compliment, but it was more of an annoyance than anything else when they came from sloppy drunk bridesmaids trying to chase away that contradicting feeling of being excited for their friend yet desperate for their own ‘happily ever after’.

“You’ll find someone when the time is right,” Lexa offered weakly.

She was always uncomfortable giving advice, so the best she could usually do was offer encouragement.

“Like how you found Clarke,” Niylah said, her eyelashes batting dramatically as she spoke.

A strange feeling twisted in the pit of Lexa’s stomach as she realized how incredibly accurate Niylah’s statement was. She had found someone when the time was right, but it certainly wasn’t for the usual reasons one found themselves engaged to another. Shifting uncomfortably from one foot to the other, Lexa swallowed thickly and finally spoke.


“Well, just don’t come crawling back to me when married life turns out to be more expensive than you thought it would be and need a little pocket money,” Niylah told her. “If I don’t have you here to help bring in the customers, I need to keep all the tips I get.”

“Duly noted,” Lexa replied with a single nod and tossed her cleaning rag into the laundry hamper under the bar.

“Good luck, Lexa,” Niylah said, a tone of sincerity clearly evident in her voice.

“Thanks,” Lexa replied with a right smile. “Good luck to you too.”

After a couple more (much shorter) goodbyes from various co-workers, Lexa walked out the back doors of the café and towards her normal parking spot in the employee lot alongside the building. She let a cleansing sigh slip past her lips and into her car after she had climbed in, suddenly feeling a weight lifted off her shoulders. She couldn’t wait to be free from the responsibility of her part-time jobs to focus solely on her educational career and didn’t even attempt to stop the accompanying smile from spreading across her face as she pulled out of her parking spot and headed towards the jewelry store.

It seemed relatively quiet as she glanced through the glass doors to see only a few customers browsing and was grateful for it. There was nothing she wanted less than having a bunch of strangers hovering close by to sneak a peek at what she was there to pick up. The door chimed as she opened it, and an employee was quick to make his way over towards her.

“How can I help you?”

“I received a call that the rings I ordered are in,” Lexa said as quietly as possible.

“Ah, right this way,” he said while he gestured towards a computer at the far end of the store. “What name is the order under?”

“Lexa Woods,” she replied before stopping to stand in front of the work station wo which the employee had directed them.

She waited patiently, although not entirely comfortably, as he typed a few things into the computer as he located the details of the order she had put in a few weeks prior. The living will she had become so familiar with had outlined a condition for engagement and/or wedding bands to be worn by both Clarke and Lexa upon their agreement of the proposed arrangement, but it hadn’t specified what the rings were supposed to look like.

“The store inventory shows the rings as being logged into one of the safes in the back, so I’ll just be a second,” the employee told her to which Lexa simply nodded in response.

Shopping in a jewelry store wasn’t really something Lexa had ever done before, and she had actually planned to purchase the necessary rings with her stipend money from Grandma Lillian. That inevitably meant the rings weren’t going to be anything fancy, just matching plain bands Lexa had assumed, until that day that she had overheard Clarke’s conversation with Raven about a month ago. The conversation that had included Clarke’s dream of coming home to find a little blue box from Tiffany & Co from her fiancé.

Even though she would admit it to no one, Lexa did visit the famous jewelry store’s website but quickly ruled out the pricey rings for the simple fact that she just didn’t have enough money to be able to afford any of the stunning diamonds pictured. She wanted to make at least something about the engagement special for Clarke, the reason for that Lexa had no idea, so she took a trip to one of the nicer local jewelry stores to find something that would fall more in line with her budget.

Lexa had quickly found a simple band for herself, and it wasn’t until she got to the very last case in the shop that she stumbled on a ring that caught her eye. It was about the same thickness of the band she had picked out for herself but was embedded with a small row of diamonds that spanned approximately half the circumference of the ring.

With a price tag of nearly two thousand dollars, Lexa knew she would have to hang onto her most lucrative job in order to save up enough money to pay for it in full. Luckily her manager at the café was more than happy to move her from the floor behind the bar which is exactly where Lexa knew she’d rake in the largest amount of tips in the shortest amount of time. Her thoughts were suddenly interrupted as the jewelry store employee reappeared with a small plastic bag in one hand and a black velvet box in the other.

“Would you like to try them on?”

“Oh, um, just the band,” Lexa replied somewhat awkwardly. “The one with diamonds isn’t for me.”

The employee nodded and slipped the band from out of the plastic bag before handing it over to Lexa to try on. She did so quickly and was informed that she could wear it out of the store if she wanted to. Lexa agreed with a small nod and handed over her debit card when presented with the grand total, all the while imagining how Clarke might react to the ring once it was finally in her hand.

Doubts of whether she had just wasted a couple grand on a piece of jewelry Clarke wouldn’t even like (seeing as it would be coming from her fiancé of convenience) invaded her mind but were quickly shoved to the side when she was given a copy of her receipt and the store warranty tucked into a neat little envelope. She thanked the employee and accepted the small black box before turning around and walking out of the store as fast as she possibly could.

The station was practically silent as Anya walked through the garage, the soft clomping of her boots the only sound echoing through the space. Things had been relatively slow during her shifts over the past week or so, which was enough to start driving her stir crazy, and it certainly didn’t help that Chief Pike had been making it a point to be around far more often than he usually was. On top of all that, Anya could have sworn he was dumping all sorts of extra paperwork on her which did nothing to ease her worry that he was onto her private investigation somehow.

She had been in contact with Nate Miller more often than she initially thought she would be, and Anya knew it was time to let Lincoln in on their progress. The opportunity to speak with him hadn’t arose until that particular afternoon after Anya had purposefully completed all of her mindless paperwork at the beginning of her shift so that she could meet up with Lincoln in the employee breakroom later. Walking up the stairs and into the quiet room, Anya immediately made her way over to the far table where Lincoln was already waiting for her.

“Hey,” Lincoln offered quietly as Anya sat down at the table opposite him.

“Hi,” Anya replied. “So, is it totally paranoid of me to wonder whether the break room is set up with surveillance?”

“All that sleuthing with a private investigator making you believe in conspiracies?” Lincoln asked teasingly.

“Kind of,” Anya admitted with a small shrug.

“What have you been able to find out?” Lincoln questioned as he leaned his elbows on top of the table in front of him.

“Right now we’re trying to get our hands on copies of our written exams,” Anya told him, her voice still hushed as she spoke. “Apparently there’s a specific exam template that was drafted by the Fire Commission board of directors. If the pre-approved template is used, the results don’t have to be submitted to the board of directors for review. Nate seems to think that based on some evidence he has been piecing together that Pike used his own template.”

“Which isn’t allowed?” Lincoln asked quietly.

“It is, but the results would have to then be sent to the board of directors to conduct a second tier review,” Anya explained. “Our exams were not sent to the board of directors.”

“Okay,” Lincoln replied with a small nod of understanding.

“If the exam somehow shows that Pike knew which test belonged to which one of us, then he could be charged with an ethics violation,” Anya told him, “and according to our ethics officer a simple charge against him is enough to kill the promotion decision.”

“What happens if the charge can be proven?” Lincoln asked as he leaned back in his chair stiffly.

“I don’t know,” Anya replied with a small shake of her head. “Miller mentioned something about going after a warrant.”

“For what?” Lincoln questioned again, his eyebrows subtly lifting in surprise.

“Evidence,” Anya answered. “He isn’t leading on too much about it, but I’m pretty sure Miller thinks Pike has a few skeletons in his closet that the Fire Commissioner doesn’t know about.”

Lincoln simply nodded in understanding. It didn’t surprise him, and really shouldn’t surprise the rest of the station’s firefighters, that there was more to Pike than met the eye. He had been the subject of gossip for years around the station, and where there was smoke there was usually fire. Clichés are clichés for a reason after all.

“I’ll still keep you updated if you want,” Anya said, “but that’s all the information I have for now.”

“Yeah, keep me updated,” Lincoln told her with another nod.

Anya leaned back in her chair just as the break room door opened to reveal a slightly worse-for-wear Octavia walking through. Lincoln turned his head around to see who it was, and Octavia froze in her stride for just a moment before breaking eye contact with him and making her way over to the employee refrigerator.

As the brunette searched the shelves, Lincoln turned his attention towards the edge of the table in front of him. Anya narrowed her eyes as she tried to piece together the strange vibe suddenly present between the two but kept her mouth shut until Octavia walked out of the break room, water bottle in hand, to leave them alone once again.

“What the hell was that?” Anya asked coolly.

“We’re fighting,” Lincoln replied with a small shrug.

She couldn’t be sure, but Anya thought she saw a tiny tremble in the burly man’s lip as he spoke though she knew not to point it out. Instead she offered a listening ear.

“You want to talk about it?”

Lincoln sighed and rubbed his hand against the top of his head a few times before sliding it down his cheek to finally flop in his lap. He looked to be contemplating something quite serious for a few poignant seconds before opening his mouth to speak.

“I want to get married,” Lincoln finally said.

“No shit,” Anya replied dryly.

It was one of the most obvious statements Lincoln could ever reveal about himself, and the entire station along with anyone close to him knew it too.

“I don’t think she does,” Lincoln continued, shaking his head lightly. “I mean, I really don’t think she ever wants to get married. Ever.”

“It’s not something you think you can live with, is it?” Anya asked gently.

“No,” Lincoln answered, his voice soft and defeated.

“I don’t envy you,” Anya offered sincerely. “It’s a hard decision to make.”

“Excruciating,” Lincoln corrected her quickly before letting out a long sigh. “I’m going to hate either decision I make. It’s a lose-lose situation.”

“I usually give you tough love, right?” Anya asked at which Lincoln shallowly nodded. “Do you want some now?”

Lincoln offered a small shrug but finally confirmed his agreement with another nod.

“People are capable of moving on,” Anya told him. “It’s not fun, it totally sucks, and it’s hard, but it is possible. If you truly can’t live with knowing you’re never going to get married, then I think you’ve already answered all the questions you’re asking yourself.”

“Yeah,” Lincoln replied, and a small tear streaked down his cheek. “It’s just really fucking hard.”

Anya watched as Lincoln swallowed hard and clenched his jaw, as if steeling himself from letting his emotions get the better of him, and reached across the table to lay her hand on top of his. She squeezed reassuringly before his other hand came to rest on top of hers, both of them clinging to each other for a moment in friendly support.

It wasn’t often that Clarke found herself nervous. Scratch that. It wasn’t often that she found herself so nervous that every inch of her body was trembling beneath the surface of her clammy skin. The phone call in itself was almost enough to give her a heart attack, so she knew actually meeting him face to face was going to be an interesting situation. As she sat expectantly at the table for two in a quiet corner of Polis Café, all Clarke could do was hope that the mantra of ‘mind over matter’ currently cycling through her head would work long enough for her to not make a complete fool out of herself in front of one of the most respected figures in the art world.

“Clarke Griffin.”

The sound of her name had her head snapping up so quickly she was sure she’d inflicted at least some minor degree of whiplash on herself. She stood quickly and reached for the hand being extended towards her and shook it firmly before allowing herself to match the wide smile on the face of the man greeting her.

“Dante Wallace,” Clarke said more breathlessly than she’d wanted, “it’s a pleasure to meet you.”

“It’s a pleasure to meet you as well,” Dante replied, smile still lingering on his face. “Please, sit down.”

She pulled her dress against the back of her legs as she took her seat, and the older man waited to descend onto his own until she was situated. He wore a sharp navy blue suit and a crisp white dress shirt but no tie, and Clarke was so grateful she’d taken the extra time to put together a slightly more formal outfit than she might normally wear on an afternoon out.

“Have you ordered already?” Dante asked as he picked up the menu on his side of the table.

“Just an iced tea,” Clarke answered while gesturing to the cold beverage from which she’d only taken a few sips. “I didn’t know what to order you, so I just asked for a water.”

“That’s fine,” Dante politely reassured her, and their server suddenly appeared at the edge of their table.

“Welcome to Polis Café,” she directed at Dante and with a warm smile on her face. “What can I get you to drink?”

“I will take what she has,” Dante answered as he pointed over to Clarke’s glass.

The server nodded in understanding and excused herself, leaving Clarke and Dante alone once again. To say she was apprehensive of how their conversation might go would be an understatement, but what struck up between the two of them was nothing if not surprisingly comfortable.

“I hate being that guy who comes to a restaurant for their salad,” Dante told her, “but being a vegetarian has only grown my love for the leafy food.”

Clarke just chuckled in response while Dante smiled and threw a quick glance down at the top section of the menu. It was only a second later that Clarke followed suit, scanning her eyes across the items and deciding what she wanted to order. Part of her wanted to copy Dante and get a salad. Most meals that required a fork to eat were usually less sloppy than, say, a giant grilled chicken sandwich covered in melted cheese which was coincidentally what she’d much rather get, but she also didn’t want to come across as if she was sucking up or incapable of making her own decisions if she copied his lunch order. Her mind raced in a mini-panic until their server returned to their table a few minutes later.

“Are you both ready to order?” The server asked as she set Dante’s iced tea down on the table in front of him.

“Clarke?” Dante questioned chivalrously.

“Yes, I’m ready,” Clarke spoke up and offered the older man a quick nod. “I would like the grilled chicken sandwich with a side of barbeque sauce please.”

The server nodded as she wrote down a few things in her notepad, and Dante did his best to temper the mischievous smile stretching across his face.

“And I’d like the cheeseburger, extra tomato, and a pickle if you have it,” Dante told the server before catching Clarke’s gaze with a twinkle in his eye.

“I’ll put those in right away for you,” the server assured them and took both of their menus.

Clarke narrowed her eyes at the man across the table as she tried to figure out why he’d just ordered one of the most contrary to vegetarian items on the menu, and he let a satisfied smile light up his face before offering an explanation before she even had to ask for one.

“You aren’t afraid to be yourself, Clarke,” Dante told her as he leaned back into his chair. “I can’t tell you how many of the young artists I meet under circumstances like this who sit across from me and order a salad after I fib about being a vegetarian.”

“So, that was some kind of test or something? Clarke asked, still unsure of what had just happened.

“I guess you could say that,” Dante replied with a small nod. “There is nothing unique about imitation. It may sound harsh, but I don’t have time for young artists who don’t have the confidence to be themselves in an industry where that’s so important.”

“I can understand that,” Clarke said, “although I hadn’t pegged you for being quite so cunning.”

“That is my favorite compliment I’ve gotten so far,” Dante replied through a hearty chuckle before reaching forward to lift his glass of iced tea and take a sip. “Well, Clarke, I’m assuming that you are wondering why I wanted to meet you.”

“The thought had crossed my mind,” Clarke replied cheekily, and Dante smiled amusedly in return.

“There are a few art fairs I always keep an eye on every year,” Dante explained, “and I was surprised when after seeing the logs of your work sold at one a couple of months ago that you had been contacted as a fill-in after someone had cancelled.”

A small burn stung inside Clarke’s chest at the words, not previously knowing that was why she had been contacted, but held her silence as Dante continued.

“Your work is hardly waiting list material, Clarke,” Dante told her. “It needs to be broadly showcased, and I’d like to help you achieve that.”

“It does? I... I mean... you would?” Clarke stuttered, her excitement mixing with her nerves making her head go cloudy.

“Yes and yes,” Dante answered with a wide smile. “Are your works being featured in any galleries currently?”

“No, none,” Clarke admitted far too quickly than she had intended.

“Would you be interested in that possibility?” Dante asked, his eyebrows lifting upwards as he spoke.

“Is that another trick question?”

“No, just an honest one,” Dante clarified with a small chuckle.

Clarke’s heart hammered in her chest. She had hoped and dreamed for this moment more times than she could even count, no less it actually becoming a reality at Dante Wallace’s suggestion. His name in connection with an aspiring artists was like hitting the jackpot, and Clarke wanted nothing less than to shout her answer from the rooftop while dancing a jig of glee as she did so. Thankfully the still-functioning part of her brain stopped her from doing just that, and she calmly opened her mouth to speak.

“Yes, I would absolutely be interested in that possibility,” Clarke told him with a single nod.

She could tell her eyes were as wide as saucers, but she didn’t care. She couldn’t care. All she could think about was the incredible moment playing out in front of her and what the future of being professionally connected to Dante Wallace might hold.

“I would like to give your name to a curator contact of mine,” Dante said. “She usually works with galleries on the west coast, but occasionally she will branch out when I give her a promising lead. You, Clarke Griffin, are a promising lead.”

As if her brain had suddenly ceased the ability to form words, Clarke opened and closed her mouth a few times while she fought desperately to utter something, anything, in response. A small clearing of her throat seemed to kick her mind back into gear, and Clarke finally spoke.

“I am so honored and incredibly excited,” Clarke told him with a breathy laugh. “Seriously, you have no idea.”

“Remember that I too was once a young artist struggling to have his artwork seen,” Dante said, “so I can do a pretty good job of relating.”

“Right,” Clarke replied through a series of nods, “right, of course.”

“Now we do have a lot to talk about, so let’s get down to business,” Dante said with a familiar twinkle in his eye.

And talk they did, until the early evening hours when the sun began to dip down past the tops of the trees in the distance. They departed with sated appetites and the promise to keep in contact at least once per month until one of them couldn’t stand the other any longer. What they didn’t realize was that far into the future they would look back to realize just how much they would both touch each other’s lives.

“This is ridiculous,” Lexa whispered to herself as she hovered behind the closed door of Clarke’s apartment.

She was there to deliver a ring, to execute a part of the arrangement to which she had legally bound herself, and nothing more. It wasn’t a proposal. There wasn’t a bouquet of flowers in her hand or a loving speech repeating itself in her mind. Lexa was there at Clarke’s apartment door for business, and that was all there was to it.

Unfortunately her body didn’t seem to be responding accordingly, and she cursed herself quietly as she wiped a damp palm against the fabric of her track pants. It was rare for Lexa to be reduced to such a nervous wreck (especially regarding anything that included Clarke Griffin) but alas there she was, standing outside the apartment door of the very girl she once had convinced herself she hated and willing herself to just get it together. She clenched her teeth tightly and raised her hand to knock, the dull rap of her knuckles thudding loudly in her ears as she waited.

When nothing came after another knock, Lexa held the key she had been given by Anya (which Clarke had reluctantly approved Lexa to keep) and slid it into the lock. She wasn’t surprised when her eyes immediately took in the sight of Clarke perched quietly in front of a canvas on her easel and was considerably more confident with approaching her than the last time Lexa had caught her in her zone.

Thanks to Raven sharing the secret of being able to get Clarke’s attention without scaring the living shit out of her in the process, Lexa was sure she would be able to initiate a conversation with the girl that didn’t end in the destruction of a painting or a second degree burn. She made her way past the kitchen and into the dining area where Clarke was and took a deep breath before slowly reaching out and brushing her fingers against the soft skin just below the blonde’s right elbow.

Lexa was powerless to stop herself from gazing into the piercing blue eyes suddenly focused on her but managed to distance herself from the pull of Clarke’s hypnotic stare a few lingering moments later.

“Hey, what are you doing here?” Clarke asked.

The question was soft, not at all accusatory, and the unfamiliar tone of Clarke’s voice alone surprised Lexa for another few lingering moments.

“Hi,” Lexa heard herself reply. “I uh... I’m here to give you this.”

Clarke scrunched her eyebrows and looked down at the small velvet box being held out towards her.

“It’s a ring,” Lexa clarified, “as per the details of the arrangement.”

“Oh, right,” Clarke replied with a small nod as she reached for the small box. “Okay, hang on.”

Lexa blinked once and then furrowed her brow in confusion as Clarke slipped off her stool and disappeared into her bedroom. She hadn’t been sure what Clarke’s reaction would be to the ring, but she certainly didn’t think Clarke would leave her standing in the middle of her apartment. Awkwardly. It wasn’t a few seconds later that Clarke finally reemerged from her bedroom, her other hand loosely gripping a second small velvet box.

“I called Anya to get your ring size, and she mentioned something about repurposing your dad’s wedding ring,” Clarke told a more-confused-by-the-second Lexa. “I didn’t want to overstep, so I just picked something out myself instead.”

Lexa looked down at the box that was being presented to her and found herself with absolutely zero ability to respond. The last thing she figured Clarke would do was actually remember to buy her a ring let alone call Anya to confirm her ring size. Thoughts of the older girl began to whirl inside her head, and Lexa fell into an even deeper confusion as to how Anya had kept the phone conversation a secret from her since, in all honesty, the firefighter wasn’t the greatest at not accidentally dropping hints.

“You already have a ring,” Clarke said, suddenly bringing Lexa’s mind back to the present.

With a reaction time even a cat might envy, Lexa pulled her left hand behind her back and looked at Clarke with a growing expression of discomfort on her face. Green eyes searched blue for any indication of emotion, and the brunette silently prepared herself for a myriad of reactions from the girl since she had absolutely no clue which type would be coming at her. What Lexa didn’t expect was Clarke’s hesitation, a small bite to the inside of her lip, and a gentle bounce on her heels as she waited for a response.

“I wasn’t sure...” you would remember. Lexa stopped herself and tried again. “I didn’t think...” you would buy me a ring.

“Yeah, I guess I deserve that,” Clarke said in a soft voice as if she’d heard the ends of the sentences Lexa had only thought but didn’t say out loud. “I can bring it back since you already bought yourself one... and reimburse you for it.”

“No,” Lexa quickly interjected before slowing herself down by taking a purposeful breath. “I can bring mine back.”

Clarke nodded and held the box out for Lexa to take. They were careful not to brush the other’s fingers during the exchange, neither girl wanting to add any more confusing emotions to the situation than were already there. Thankfully Clarke was able to diffuse the moment a few seconds later when she finally noticed the outfit Lexa was wearing.

“What’s with the spandex?” Clarke asked as her eyes trailed over the tight clothing stretched across Lexa’s body. “Don’t tell me this is your ‘going out’ outfit.”

“Only when I’m going out to the gym,” Lexa quickly replied, her fingers idly passing over the soft velvet covering the small box in her hand.

“You’re going to the gym at,” Clarke said before glancing at the clock, “eight o’clock at night?”

“It’s much quieter at this time of night,” Lexa explained. “Easier to train.”


The temptation to elude Clarke’s question was strong, but Lexa did her very best to push past it and answer truthfully. The refreshingly sincere expression on Clarke’s face spoke volumes, and Lexa figured if she was genuinely interested in listening to her answer then she would give her an honest one.

“I’m competing in a national fighting tournament this fall,” Lexa told her. “I haven’t been able to participate for the last few years because I couldn’t afford taking time off of work to train for it.”

“The martial arts classes you used to teach,” Clarke began as she remembered her conversation with Luna about it, “were you training people to compete in that tournament?”

“No,” Lexa replied. “I did have one student who was well on his way to be able to participate within the next few years, but the tournament wasn’t the sole reason I trained him.”

“I’ve never heard of a fighting tournament before,” Clarke said as she made her way towards the kitchen. “I mean, not in real life.”

“You’ve heard of imaginary fighting tournaments?” Lexa questioned, her narrowed eyes following Clarke as she made her way into the kitchen.

“No, I meant I’ve seen it in movies,” Clarke clarified before she set her velvet box on the counter and reached up to retrieve a wine glass from the very top shelf inside one of her cabinets.

Lexa only ogled the blonde’s backside as it protruded slightly from the way she was bending against the corner of the countertop for just a second before she snapped her eyes away and silently cursed herself for even stealing a glance in the first place. A small huff brought her attention back to Clarke, and she watched in subtle amusement as Clarke wiggled her fingers just an inch shy from the bottom of the glass as if the movement would somehow magnetize it into her reach.

She walked up beside Clarke and reached up, her extra two inches of height over Clarke’s doing the trick, and caught the stem of the glass between her fingers. Their sudden close proximity was definitely not lost on Clarke, but she would swear with her last breath that she didn’t once notice the spicy clean scent that wafted from Lexa’s skin let alone breathe it in and curiously commit it to memory.

“Thanks,” Clarke said as she took the glass being handed over to her.

“I should be going,” Lexa replied, and in a flash she was out of the kitchen and opening the front door.

They caught each other’s gazes, and Clarke nodded in response before Lexa turned around and let herself out. There were still a few unanswered questions bouncing around her head, but Clarke tried to shrug them off in favor of pouring herself a glass of wine. She popped the cork from the open bottle sitting on her counter and carefully eyed the small black box sitting on her kitchen countertop.

It was all of three seconds later that her curiosity got the best of her, and Clarke reached down to grab the box and pry it apart to reveal a ring as breathtakingly beautiful as it was elegantly simple. She ghosted her fingers over the top of it, reveling in the metal’s smoothness against her skin before plucking it carefully from its velvet home and rotating it slightly so that the cuts of the diamonds caught every flicker of light from above.

Her heartbeat thrummed noisily in her ears as she thought about how much the ring must have cost Lexa and couldn’t believe the girl, with whom she shared a mutual dislike, had obviously gone above and beyond the stipend her grandmother had outlined in the details of her living will as it related to the engagement rings they were required to wear.

She was flabbergasted, if a more appropriate time to use the word would ever come up, and couldn’t help but hope that Lexa wouldn’t be disappointed with the simple white gold band she had picked out. At least she had followed Anya’s second suggestion (the first being the repurposing of her father’s wedding ring) of buying something without diamonds at the assurance that Lexa wouldn’t like anything too flashy.

Clarke sighed and pushed away all worrying thoughts from the forefront of her mind as she held up her left hand and hovered the sparkling ring above her finger until she finally she slid it carefully down until it slipped snuggly and perfectly over her second knuckle. Her lip was caught tightly between her teeth as she appraised it, and Clarke almost missed the way her excitement over seeing the ring, that ring, on her finger eclipsed the excitement she’d felt when she was with Dante earlier that day.

Chapter Text

The next morning came with bright rays of sunshine sneaking around the edges of Clarke’s curtains and warming her room to match the start of the balmy summer day outside. As her senses slowly flooded back, she untwisted her limbs from soft sheets and savored a long and purposeful stretch, reaching up towards the headboard until her palms were flat against it. She wiggled her toes a few times and finally let her body relax once again, a satisfied smile lazily painting her face.

She stilled for what seemed to be hours but was, in reality, only a few minutes until she moved again. Wild blonde curls fell into her eyes as Clarke sat up on her bed, and as she pushed them away and blinked her still heavy eyes she noticed a small sparkle from the corner of her eye. A strange swooping feeling tumbled around in her stomach as she looked at the hand she’d lifted to hover in front of her face.

The ring.

It hadn’t been a figment of her imagination. It hadn’t been a strange plot point in a bizarre dream she’d had the night before. No, the ring was real. It was real and sparkly and on the same finger Clarke had slipped it on after Lexa had left her apartment to go train, and the weirdest thing about it all was that it didn’t feel weird at all.

‘That makes no fucking sense,’ Clarke thought to herself and scrunched her eyebrows in confusion. ‘What is weird is the fact that it’s not weird to be wearing a ring from...’

Clarke swallowed thickly, her tongue suddenly seeming to be stuck to the insides of her cheeks, and her eyes darted helplessly around the room.

‘This is ridiculous,’ Clarke thought and let out an audible scoff as she kicked the blankets from her legs and climbed quickly off her bed. ‘It’s a pretty ring... of course I’m going to like it... of course it’s not going to feel weird to wear it because it’s sparkly and gorgeous and feminine...’

She clomped her way towards the bathroom, her mind spinning thoughts at a hundred miles per minute as she went.

‘Just because it’s from Lexa doesn’t mean that I automatically have to dislike it,’ Clarke reasoned with herself as she pulled the bathroom door closed and shrugged her shoulders. ‘That would be childish.’

As that last sentence echoed in Clarke’s head, she caught her reflection in the mirror. How a simple sheet of reflective glass could so easily taunt the one looking into it was something Clarke would never know how to explain, but it was exactly how she felt at that very moment. She was looking at the spitting image of a girl who had been so grossly childish towards someone she knew so little about, and the realization of it hit Clarke like a brick wall.

A face-smashing brick wall.

A weighted sigh fell from her lips as she cast her eyes away from the mirror and hung her head. The mop of blonde curls shook a few times as Clarke stood there, coming to terms with her own immaturity, until she finally looked back up again at her reflection. A renewed expression of determination shone brightly in her sleepy eyes, and Clarke squared her shoulders and straightened her spine to stand just the slightest bit taller.

“Time to grow up,” Clarke told herself softly, rubbing her sleepy eyes before glancing down towards the ring on her finger.

Even if the marriage she was preparing for wasn’t the one she had hoped for, even if it wasn’t to the girl she had dreamed of, Clarke was determined to start treating it with more maturity than she had been. No matter what her relationship with Lexa was or ever would be, Clarke realized that Lexa’s life was changing just as much as her own was and that deserved respect.

A quick brush of her teeth and calming of her unruly hair later, Clarke shuffled her way out of the bathroom and into the kitchen where she immediately saw Raven hunched over her half-eaten bowl of cereal and clicking away on the screen of her cell phone. She had heard the brunette arrive back from her business trip late last night but was too tired to drag her lazy ass out of bed to welcome her roommate home.

“Morning,” Clarke rasped, her voice still thick with sleep. “How was your trip?”

Raven shrugged and let out a non-committal grunt in response, her eyes never leaving the screen of her phone.

“Did you get to do any sightseeing?” Clarke asked as she retrieved a bowl from the cabinet and a spoon from the drawer.

“No,” Raven replied with a small shake of her head, “too much work and not enough sleep.”

“That sucks,” Clarke offered quietly as she reached for the box next to Raven and poured some cereal into her bowl. “I’ll drag you out to look at some more galleries with me once your schedule gets back to normal.”

Just as she shoveled a giant bite of cereal into her mouth, Raven looked over towards the sparkle that had caught her eye. She stared at the ring on Clarke’s finger, moving her gaze with it as Clarke reached for the milk and poured it over her cereal, before her eyes began to widen. Clarke finally realized what Raven was looking at, and she watched in amusement as the girl picked up a chewing pace that could only be described as frantic while brown eyes flicked back and forth between the ring and Clarke’s face. It wasn’t until Raven had finished crunching on the cereal in her mouth and swallowed that she finally spoke.

“What the hell is that?!” Raven practically shrieked, her index finger pointing straight at Clarke’s left hand.

“A ring,” Clarke replied simply before spooning her first bite of cereal past her lips.

“What kind of ring?” Raven asked dramatically.

“An engagement ring,” Clarke answered with a shrug.


“Lexa,” Clarke mumbled, almost in the form of a question, around the second bite of her breakfast.

A quick slap of Raven’s hand against the countertop make Clarke flinch, but the following scoff from the mouth of the brunette cut her off from replying. She struggled to keep the smirk off her lips as she watched Raven animatedly try to wrap her head around the fact that her best friend had just confirmed she was wearing an engagement ring given to her by no other than the very girl she claimed to be the rudest and most annoying on the planet. Raven blinked a few times and finally locked her gaze on Clarke, waiting silently for an explanation.

“So, will you come with me to look at more galleries soon?” Clarke said, abruptly changing the subject. “The offer I put in on the one I just went to was rejected, so I’m back to square one.”

“Don’t try and talk all normal with that thing on your finger,” Raven demanded as she wagged her accusatory finger at the sparkly piece of jewelry.

“Why are you making this such a big deal?” Clarke asked with a wondering shrug.

“Why am I–” Raven started and then stopped. “Because it is a big deal!”

The sheer volume of Raven’s voice caused Clarke to flinch, but she just rolled her eyes and took another bite of her cereal instead of responding.

“Did you ask her to buy you an engagement ring?” Raven questioned just as loudly. “Were you surprised with it? How did she know what your ring size was? Did she actually propose? Did she get down on one knee and–”

“Raven,” Clarke interrupted suddenly, “it was all part of the contract.”

“The contract...”

“Yeah, for the arrangement,” Clarke told her. “We both knew we’d have to get rings...”

“Rings, plural?” Raven questioned keenly.

“Yes, rings plural,” Clarke replied through a mouthful of cereal.

“So, you’re telling me,” Raven said as she pinched the bridge of her nose, “that Lexa is out there walking around with an engagement ring on her left hand?”

“I don’t claim to know what she’s doing right now,” Clarke told her, “but, yes, she has an engagement ring on her left hand.”

“Well, this is just... this is just too much...”

Clarke rolled her eyes at Raven’s dramatic sentiments and continued eating her breakfast contentedly. A few moments of silence passed until Raven finally spoke again.

“Grandma Dub’s got a wicked attention to detail,” Raven said. “I mean, damn, she does not leave anything out.”

Clarke hummed in response before taking another bite of her cereal, wholly unprepared for the next question that came tumbling out of her best friend’s mouth.

“What did she include about the sex?”

A choked cough sputtered from the back of Clarke’s throat and she looked over at Raven in utter shock.

“The what?” Clarke asked, almost scared for clarification.

“You know, the sex,” Raven repeated herself with a shrug. “Between you and your bride-to-be? I bet she banned premarital screw sessions just to mess with you, didn’t she?”

“There isn’t going to be any sex,” Clarke replied quickly and instantly hated herself for blushing as she did so.

“There isn’t?” Raven asked unconvinced, a lone eyebrow quirking as she spoke.

“No!” Clarke nearly shouted. “Stop being so creepy.”

“Oh, so now it’s creepy for two people planning to get married to think about having sex?” Raven questioned. “Don’t tell me you haven’t thought about it.”

“I haven’t,” Clarke replied, her spoon clanging against the rim of her bowl as she dropped it for effect. “We’re engaged in a business relationship not a romantic one.”

Clarke tried to ignore the way the feeling in her gut seemed to match the expression of doubt on Raven’s face, but both girls managed to let the conversation come to a natural close.

For the time being, that was.

Lexa didn’t often let her mind wander back to memories of the last time she’d participated in the games. Doing so only ever stirred up emotions she didn’t like feeling, so she would always do her best not to think about it most of the time. Her training hadn’t made it any easier lately, and Lexa felt her thoughts becoming heavier with each passing day. It was precisely why she had found herself situated on the couch with her laptop on her thighs, clicking on just about every single internet search result having to do with her.

Ontari Queen was one of the fiercest competitive fighters in the country and the current champion of the games four years running. Her streak began the year she had bested Lexa, something no one following the competition had predicted. The media coverage of it spiked after the winner was announced, but it all but exploded when Anya brought to the attention of the judges the condition of Lexa’s final fighting stick that had been cracked in two from a devastating blow by Ontari.

Lexa remembered like it was yesterday the feeling of the air rushing from her lungs as her back slammed against the mat beneath her. Her fingers stung with the force under which her stick had been cracked in two by Ontari’s final blow. Lexa hadn’t realized it at the time, but the haziness of her mind as she laid frozen on the mat with her competitor looming above her was partially the result of her absolute shock of being defeated. Her brain still hadn’t quite caught up to the moment until she was being presented with the secondary medal, though the situation bolted head-first into chaos about a minute after the ceremony had concluded.

She had never seen Anya’s eyes quite so murderous as they had been when she stormed over to the judges’ table, one half of Lexa’s broken fighting stick in each hand. Like a force to be reckoned with, Anya had thrust the splintered wood in front of their confused faces, shouting at them to notice a rather minuscule break that appeared to be cleanly cut as opposed to cracked and jagged as a natural break would have happened. Lexa remembered seeing small droplets of spit shoot from Anya’s mouth as she cursed and made her accusations, and the scene was enough to make Lexa’s skin break out with goosebumps as she watched Anya so ferociously defend her.

“Are you fucking kidding me right now?” Anya questioned dramatically, suddenly having appeared behind Lexa to see exactly what she had been looking at on her laptop.

Lexa’s heart slammed against her chest as her body jolted from being startled, and she immediately reached up to lower the screen from Anya’s prying eyes. It didn’t take her but a second after locking her gaze with the older girl to figure out what was going to be said to her next. What she didn’t expect though was for Anya to grab the laptop out of her hands and tuck it snuggly under her arm.

“You are not allowed to run internet searches on Ontari, the actual reincarnate of evil, until after you win,” Anya told her sharply as she rounded the back of the couch and sat down next to Lexa.

“I was conducting research to figure out whether her fighting style has changed over the years,” Lexa said.

“It hasn’t,” Anya snapped. “She is still the evil sabotaging bitch she’s always been and will always be.”

“Look, Anya–”

“You are on track to sweep this entire competition right out from under everyone’s feet,” Anya quickly interrupted. “She won’t cheat this year because she knows I’ll kill her if she tries.”

The seriousness in Anya’s tone has Lexa faltering for a moment, and she scrunches her eyebrows together as she studies the older girl’s face in silence.

“Did you threaten her?” Lexa asked, almost unsure of whether she wanted to know the answer.

Anya shifted a little in her seat before leaning back against the couch’s armrest and leveling Lexa with an intense stare.

“She would be absolutely brainless if she tried sabotaging any part of her competition with you this year,” Anya told her. “Let’s just leave it at that.”

Lexa kept her eyes trained on Anya for another brief moment before she let out a frustrated sigh.

“I don’t need you to fight my battles for me,” Lexa said sternly.

“You and I both know the shit that went down that year only happened because she knew the judges would overturn the results,” Anya reminded her.

It had been a whirlwind of drama after the judges had agreed to investigate the inconsistencies in the break of Lexa’s fighting stick, and no one in the competitive fighting community could believe it when news had hit that the stick had ‘mysteriously’ been ‘lost in transport’ before the investigation could even commence. Regardless, life went on and Ontari kept her medal which later ended up being the first in an unbroken string of three more that would come afterwards.

“She didn’t win the fight fairly that year,” Lexa said, “but that doesn’t mean she is going to do it again.”

“I know you’re not that naïve, Lexa,” Anya replied with a look of warning on her face. “I’m not either which is exactly why I set Ontari straight the day after you told me you were competing this year.”

They both remained silent for a few moments before Anya opened her mouth to speak once again.

“This is it,” Anya said. “This is the year you two are going to settle it.”

“Can I have my laptop back?” Lexa asked quietly, hoping to steer the conversation in another direction.

“You aren’t allowed to Google her, at all,” Anya told her. “I mean it. You can’t let her get into your head this far ahead of the competition.”

“Fine, I won’t,” Lexa agreed, knowing it was a good idea whether or not Anya had demanded it. “I do need it back to do homework though.”

After a quick exchange of challenging glares, Anya surrendered the computer.

“So now that you aren’t cyber-stalking the Ice Princess, what are you up to tonight?” Anya asked as she settled a little deeper into the corner of the couch.

“I hadn’t really thought about it,” Lexa answered with a shrug and opened her laptop once again.

“Good,” Anya said, “then you can come out with me and Raven and Clarke.”

“Pass,” Lexa replied without ever looking up from the computer screen.

“Come on, it will be fun,” Anya tried to convince her. “Apparently a new club opened a few blocks away from their apartment. It’s rumored to serve up a mean selection of whiskey.”

“Really?” Lexa questioned, her face deceitfully full of intrigue.

“Yep,” Anya replied with a smug nod. “So, you’ll go?”

“Pass,” Lexa said and turned her attention back to her computer. “You guys go out way too much. Life isn’t a party for all of us.”

“It damn well should be,” Anya told her in all seriousness. “Plus, it’s called being social. You should try it from time to time.”

Lexa grumbled in defiance, but it was quickly drowned out by the chirp of her phone indicating a new text message. She flicked her thumb across the screen and read it quickly.

Clarke: Raven and I are meeting up with Anya tonight to check out a new club downtown if you’re interested.

“What’s with the face?” Anya asked after noticing Lexa’s confused expression as she looked down at her phone in silence.

‘Am I interested?’ Lexa asked herself silently. ‘Interested in what? In checking out a club? Not really. Interested in hanging out with her? No, that can’t be it. She wouldn’t ask if I’d be interested in hanging out with her. Unless she–’

“Earth to Lexa,” Anya said as she snapped her fingers in front of Lexa’s face, successfully breaking the brunette out of the confines of her own mind.

“I, uh,” Lexa started hesitantly, “Clarke just texted me about tonight.”

“What did she say?” Anya asked, her voice pausing after each word as if she was speaking to a young child.

“She told me you all were meeting up at a new club if I’m interested,” Lexa told her. “What does that even mean?”

“It means she is trying to be nice,” Anya replied. “Well, she’s trying to be civil at the very least.”

“Civil,” Lexa repeated incredulously.

“Don’t be an ass by declining her invitation,” Anya told her as she reached for the television remote on the coffee table in front of her. “She’s being civil, so show her you can be civil too. Even towards her.”

Lexa sighed heavily and typed out a quick one-worded response. She hovered her finger over the send button for just a moment, hesitating, but finally gave in.

Lexa Woods: Okay.

Faster than Anya could say anything, Lexa stood up from the couch and hurried into her room to change. She was more than positive she needed a thorough workout at the gym to expel the already-mounting tension in her chest before spending the evening with her fiancée.

“How you managed to do that is beyond me,” Clarke said as she followed Raven under the velvet rope the bouncer had just lifted for them.

The scantily-clad brunette hadn’t uttered a single word to the gigantic man, they barely even had to slow their pace, before they were being ushered past the long line of unimpressed club goers and inside the building. The music was loud enough to cause a small vibration deep within Clarke’s chest with each drop of the bassline, but it only worked to invigorate her for what was hopefully to be a fun night ahead.

“How you haven’t yet managed to catch onto the fact that I’m just that good is beyond me,” Raven quipped before leading them towards the bar.

The base of it was shining brightly, illuminated by neon blue lights behind a thick pane of frosted glass, and was capped by a smooth slab of black granite. Glass shelves lined with colorful alcohol bottles spanned the entire height of the wall behind the bartenders, all of whom happened to be incredibly attractive and appeared to be quite deft in showing off their mixology skills, and the flashing lights above were filtered exclusively with warm colors in contrast to the cool décor below.

“How many times tonight do you think Lexa will check you out in this shirt?” Raven asked as she purposefully tugged at the bottom if it to expose even more cleavage than it already was.

“None,” Clarke replied immediately as she batted Raven’s hands away.

“Unlikely,” Raven said before leaning close into Clarke’s space, “because from what I hear, Lexa is definitely a boob girl.”

Clarke’s expression clearly showed that she was puzzled at the statement, and she quickly rolled her eyes when Raven waggled her eyebrows flirtatiously.

“Why do you think that matters to me?” Clarke asked.

“It’s just fun for me to know that you’re going to be noticing every time she checks you out tonight,” Raven said with a giggle.

“She’s not going to be checking me out,” Clarke replied sternly.

“Are you kidding me? She has eyes, doesn’t she?” Raven questioned, one hand propped high on her hip.

“Yes, but–”

“And you have boobs, don’t you?” Raven quickly interrupted.

“Well, yes, but–”

“So, she is definitely going to be checking you out,” Raven told Clarke, completely disregarding the eye roll she got in response.

“Again, you’re telling me this like you think it matters,” Clarke said as she scrunched her eyebrows. “How many times do I have to tell you that our engagement is a business arrangement?”

“For now,” Raven mumbled, her voice getting lost between the heavy beats of bass from the music around them.

“What was that?” Clarke asked and raised her eyebrows in question.

“Please, Clarke,” Raven said, “don’t think I haven’t noticed you warming up to her.”

Clarke scoffed in response as if the statement was the most ludicrous thing she’d ever heard, and she crossed her arms over her chest before squaring herself towards her best friend.

“A couple months ago you wouldn’t have been caught dead wearing something Lexa gave you,” Raven said as she pointed down at the ring on Clarke’s finger.

“It’s part of the arrangement–”

“–arrangement, I know,” Raven chimed in over Clarke’s voice.

The conversation was instantly dropped the moment Clarke’s eyes met Lexa’s from across the expanse of the club. Flashes of lights and blurs of bodies broke their steady line of sight, but neither of them seemed capable of breaking their gaze. It was just about the most puzzling phenomena Clarke had ever experienced in her life, and she felt herself drowning in desperation to break the intensity of their stare while at the same time longing for the connection to never fade away.

It was only when a mere ten or so feet separated them and a glance from green eyes travelled down the length of her body that both girls snapped their attention away from each other simultaneously. Clarke closed her eyes and sighed, cursing Raven for having tainted her mind with the idea of Lexa checking her out (which, realistically, was probably not even what she did since it was Lexa and her  and that wasn’t something they did), and willed herself not to do the same.

‘Fuck,’ Lexa thought as she, too, closed her eyes and sighed.

The world was so wholly unfair to have chosen the most breathtakingly beautiful woman to be the one person in Lexa’s life with whom she so ardently couldn’t manage to get along. What irritated her even more was that she had actually thought those very words, breathtakingly beautiful, in reference to Clarke ‘bane of her existence’ Griffin in addition to visually appraising her. She had fallen victim to an honest to goodness check-out of the woman she had to call her fiancée, and it was churning up a mess of emotions in the pit of her stomach that she really really didn’t like.

She fumbled with the bottom hem of her top, her nerves suddenly taunting her with reminders to keep her eyes up and focused on Clarke’s face where they belonged, but continued to follow Anya dutifully through the crowd until they reached the area just off to the side of the bar where Raven and Clarke were waiting for them. Lexa was actively avoiding eye contact with either of them until absolutely necessary, and when she looked up towards Raven she was met with a confusingly smug smirk.

“Wow, yeah,” Raven said as she gestured up and down Lexa’s body. “This look is definitely working for you, Lex.”

Clarke chanced a look over, immediately noticing the way the dark green halter top Lexa had on under her leather jacket made her eyes even more vibrant than normal, and she couldn’t help but approve of the slightly ripped skinny jeans hugging all of the brunette’s best curves. She swallowed thickly, hoping Lexa hadn’t noticed the way she’d given her the once over, but the faint pink blush on the brunette’s cheeks lead her to believe that perhaps she wasn’t as subtle as she’d thought she was.

“I prefer to be called Lexa,” the brunette announced over the music, “though I’m positive you already know that.”

“Right, sorry,” Raven said with a dismissive waive of her hand. “Don’t you think that look works for her, Clarke?”

At the mention of her name, Clarke whipped her head around to stare Raven straight in the eyes. She found nothing but more smug amusement in them and narrowed her sights at the girl, knowing exactly what she was up to. The last thing Clarke was going to do that night was to give Raven the satisfaction of making her squirm, but just as she was about to deliver her best warning glare Anya pushed herself towards them and extended a credit card in Clarke’s direction.

“I need to kiss on my girl for a bit and would rather not have an audience,” Anya explained. “Why don’t you and Lexa open a tab for all of us?”

Raven appeared slightly disappointed that her girlfriend had come to Clarke’s rescue, but Clarke was thankful for the sudden change of topic. She took the card from Anya and turned towards the bar, not looking back to see whether Lexa was following her or not. The line was manageable, and Clarke slipped into an empty space to lean against the edge of the cool granite and grab the attention of the closest bartender.

“What’s your poison?” The woman dressed in black asked, a friendly smile scrawling across her face as she spoke.

“Most nights it’s a rum and diet,” Clarke replied, “but I’d better start with a few tequila shots first.”

“A woman after my own heart,” the bartender said as she lifted a bottle of tequila from below the bar and filled two shot glasses.

Clarke nodded and reached for the first glass as she handed the credit card off to be processed. Lexa sidled up next to her and took the second shot, lifting it to her lips and swallowing the liquid in one smooth gulp. As the glass clinked back down on the bar, Clarke looked over in astonishment. She couldn’t help the way her eyes trained in on the way Lexa swept her tongue across her lips in satisfaction but did manage to shift her gaze upwards before she was caught.

“Excuse me,” Clarke said, “that was my drink.”

The way Lexa looked over at her, unspoken apologies building behind her eyes, gave Clarke pause and suddenly forget about whatever verbal lashing she was preparing to give the girl.

“Sorry, I...”

The response hung incomplete between them, and Clarke finally shook her head in dismissal of the apology. A silent beat passed between them as they stood staring at each other until the bartender turned back around to hand back the credit card on which she’d just opened a tab.


Both girls turned their head at the sound of the familiar name, and Clarke watched in silence as the expression on Lexa’s face morphed into one of hesitation. A heavy bob of her throat later, Lexa finally opened her mouth to speak.

“Niylah, hey,” Lexa replied with a polite but stiff nod, “what are you doing here?”

“Working,” Niylah answered with a small glimmer of amusement in her eyes. “I told you that the tips at Polis Café were going to be shit once you quit.”

“It’s literally been a few days,” Lexa reminded her.

“A few days is more like a lifetime without you by my side,” Niylah said, her nose crinkling with the force of her teasing smile. She looked over at Clarke, who was staring somewhat strangely at her, and suddenly put the pieces together. “Wait, are you Clarke?”

“That’s me,” Clarke replied as a smile appeared on her face.

“Damn, I should have known,” Niylah said through a small shake of her head. “Why is it always that the hottest people end up together before the rest of us even have a fighting chance?”

Clarke offered another smile, a bit more forced that time, and felt Lexa awkwardly shift closer towards her own until they were close enough for Clarke to feel a steady wave of heat radiating off the brunette’s body. She took it as a cue and reluctantly, but as believably as she could manage, slipped an arm around Lexa’s hips to cuddle up like a normal fiancée would with their intended.

“Oh, we definitely fought to end up together,” Clarke replied coyly, and Lexa had to physically stop herself from chuckling at the double meaning of the statement.

“Cute,” Niylah said with a smirk as she flicked her gaze between the two.

Their conversation was interrupted for just a moment at the arrival of a small group of thirsty club goers, but Niylah waved them towards another bartender before quickly turning her attention back to the seemingly happy couple.

“I was a little surprised at the fact that your fiancé proposed to you without a ring though,” Niylah told Clarke as she thrust an accusatory thumb at Lexa. “For a girl who lives to do things in the right order, I knew there must have been something special about you to have her thrown so upside-down.”

“I guess I have a knack for getting her all wound up,” Clarke played along, adding in a suggestive shrug of her shoulders for good measure. “Wouldn’t you agree, Lex?”

Lexa was figuratively tasting blood from how hard she was having to bit her tongue at Clarke’s play on words, but all sense of thought instantly flew from her brain when she felt a playful squeeze around her hip. She looked over at Clarke to see her actually biting her tongue, but she was smiling as she did it and it actually could have been just about the cutest thing Lexa had ever seen in her entire life had it been someone – anyone – other than Clarke doing it.

“Now I know she’s smitten,” Niylah told Clarke. “She practically punches people when they shorten her name but gives you nothing but heart eyes when you do it.”

Clarke flashed a quick glance over at Lexa to find her staring back for just a split second before green eyes were darting away from her own in what seemed to be a mixture of embarrassment and irritation. Niylah just chuckled and reached for a clean rag to wipe down the bar counter in front of her before speaking once again.

“I should get back to it,” Niylah told them. “What else can I make for you?”

“Double rum and diet,” Clarke replied quickly.

“Double whiskey on the rocks,” Lexa managed, her voice sounding far more strained than she’d intended it to be.

“And a couple of beers for our friends,” Clarke added. “Whatever is on special should be fine.”

Niylah nodded in understanding and busied herself with preparing their drinks far enough away for Clarke and Lexa to feel like they’d been left alone.

“I wasn’t aware that our agreement included public displays of affection,” Lexa said as she looked straight ahead.

“It was your idea to act like we’re engaged around people we don’t want to share details with,” Clarke reminded her, glancing around at the clubbers nearby.

“True, but I certainly didn’t imply that we needed to touch each other in order to make our story credible,” Lexa replied.

“What was I supposed to do, stand next to you like a robot?” Clarke asked, her face finally turning to look at Lexa directly. “Seriously, Woods, your complex gets bigger every day.”

“It’s ironic how it seems to grow with every annoying thing you manage to say to me,” Lexa shot back.

“Don’t even get me started on who the annoying one is in this relationship,” Clarke mumbled as they broke eye contact once again to look anywhere but at each other.

“Get started, by all means,” Lexa told her. “Your name doesn’t take that long to say, Clarke Abigail Griffin.”

“Oh, don’t even think you can start going around middle naming me, Alexandria Abigail Woods,” Clarke said with a stern look of warning on her face.

“So, I can’t but you can?” Lexa questioned quickly, a lone eyebrow quirking in challenge. “Either we both can or we both can’t, your choice.”

“Fine, we don’t middle name each other,” Clarke replied before smirking just slightly. “Of course, that doesn’t mean I want to stop calling you Lex since it seems like I’m the only one you don’t mind calling you that.”

Lexa turned her head to lock her gaze with Clarke and delivered her a strong glare.

“I mind,” Lexa told her sternly.

“Do you really?” Clarke pushed further.

“Yes,” Lexa answered, squaring her shoulders towards Clarke and inching ever-so-slightly closer to her.

“Are you sure about that?” Clarke asked as her eyes bored into Lexa’s.

She was about to blurt it out. It was at the tip of her tongue but managed to get caught in the back of her throat and die under the powerful challenging glare Clarke was pinning on her. Lexa grit her teeth together, hard enough to feel a twinge of pain run through her jaw, before she let out a sharp sigh. Clarke just cocked an eyebrow and waited patiently for an answer, while all Lexa could do was fight to not drown in the depths of Clarke’s stare.

She let her gaze flicker down to soft pink lips for no longer than a hundredth of a second, but it was enough. Clarke broke her gaze, blinking a few times in rapid succession as she undoubtedly tried to figure out what the hell Lexa had just done, while the brunette snapped her head back towards Niylah who had just sauntered back up to the bar with their freshly made drinks in hand. She noticed the expressions on the two girls’ faces immediately but, instead of reading them as being expressions of irritation, she saw the look for what it was.

Chemistry, pure and raw.

“As much as I’m sure everyone would enjoy the show,” Niylah said, “please don’t jump each other at my end of the bar.”

Lexa barely registered the comment, rejoicing more about the fact that Clarke had finally relinquished her hold around her hips. Her throat bobbed harshly as she swallowed, and felt herself instantly jealous of how composed Clarke appeared as she let a sly smirk stretch across her face.

“She makes it quite difficult for me to control myself,” Clarke directed at Niylah before reaching over the bar and grabbing her own drink in one hand and a beer bottle in the other.

Again helpless to stop herself, Lexa’s gaze wandered quickly downwards and shamefully delighted in the sight of Clarke’s generous cleavage being presented even more prominently as her arms pressed those perfect breasts together to accommodate her reach. The litany of curse words that began to ring inside Lexa’s head as a result of her anger at catching herself checking out the blonde once again was silenced completely as Clarke turned back around to stare her straight in the eyes before throwing her a sultry wink and slipping past her to find their friends.

“Go have fun,” Niylah said with a playful wag of her eyebrows as she pushed the two remaining drinks across the bar towards the rather stunned-looking (and faintly blushing) brunette.

Lexa grabbed the drinks, relishing in the ice cold relief it gave her overheated skin as she cradled them each in her hands, and turned away from the bar to head in the direction she watched Clarke leave. Anya and Raven had likely found a table for them, probably next to the dance floor for easy access, and Lexa hoped her friends would allow her to hunker down at said table for the rest of the evening. Although she could dance, it wasn’t really her scene and there wasn’t really anyone she wanted to spend her time dancing with anyways.

“Damn, it took you two long enough,” Anya quipped as she took the bottle that was being held out to her by Lexa.

“Yeah, we practically had sex waiting to pass the time,” Raven added, running a hand through her disheveled hair for effect.

“Had you not been preoccupied with your tongues down each other’s throats, you both might have noticed it’s quite busy in here,” Lexa replied without missing a beat.

“What did you do to piss her off?” Raven asked Clarke discretely.

“Nothing,” Clarke replied with a shrug of innocence.

Raven shot her a look of disbelief, and Clarke huffed out a small sigh before speaking once again.

“I may have called her ‘Lex’ and challenged whether she actually disliked the nickname,” Clarke said as she ran her finger along the rim of her glass, flicking her straw once before pushing it past her lips and taking a sip.

“You are such a little shit,” Raven scolded her friend before delivering a smack to her shoulder.

“I only said it after she middle named me,” Clarke tried to defend herself, quietly enough so that neither Lexa nor Anya heard.

“Why did she middle name you?” Raven questioned as she crossed her arms over her chest and leaned back into her chair. “Let me guess, was it because you were being a little shit?”

“No,” Clarke replied with a scoff, at which Raven simply raised her eyebrows. “Maybe.”

“I would say unbelievable,” Raven said, “but I know you, so that makes it completely believable.”

“I’ll have you know,” Clarke began defiantly, “that she was the one who criticized me first for putting my arm around her when–”

“You put your arm around her?” Raven quickly interrupted, her expression making clear that she was more than interested at the bit of information Clarke had just shared.

“We... I mean, I–”

A look of confusion mixed with amusement washed over Raven’s face as she waited patiently for her best friend to form a coherent sentence, and Clarke rolled her eyes and sighed.

“She knew one of the bartenders,” Clarke explained, “so we had to act like an actual couple.”

“Oh, right because you two decided to only tell close friends and family about your arrangement,” Raven interjected while nodding her head.

“Whatever,” Clarke said dismissively, “don’t act like it’s weird.”

“It is weird,” Raven replied quickly, her eyes widening dramatically as she spoke.

“You know, I think we might need a bottle tonight,” Clarke suddenly announced to the table.

Anya and Raven quickly agreed, excited at the prospect of letting loose, while Lexa remained silent. She had no intentions of getting drunk that night (although the temptation to do so was growing steadily as the night progressed) and made a quick decision to stay relatively sober for the evening. It was the role she most liked having anyways, so it didn’t take much effort convincing herself to slow down her intake of alcohol.

The bottle of tequila of Clarke and Raven’s choice was delivered to their table, and shots were quickly taken before suggestions to dance were thrown around. Anya and Raven quickly found their spot together on the large floor, and it was only a short time later that a shaggy-haired brunette asked Clarke to dance. Lexa was thrilled that no one had forced her out onto the floor, and she found herself getting comfortable in her seat just out of reach from the real commotion of the club.

Minutes dragged into hours. Shots turned into more shots. One dance turned into dozens. Lexa had finally gotten sick of reading her latest eBook she’d downloaded to her phone a few days prior and turned her attention back towards the dance floor where her friends were still going strong.

A bit more sloppy but still just as strong.

Her gaze was caught by a flash of familiar blonde hair, bouncing and swaying to the beat of the music, and Lexa didn’t even realize how suddenly her attention had been captivated. She recognized Clarke’s dance partner as being the guy who had originally asked her to dance, although she had probably changed partners a few times throughout the night, and the two looked to be getting quite cozy with each other when a new song began thumping through the speakers.

Their bodies moved quite easily together, matching the modest pace of the beat, but it wasn’t until she watched Clarke tumble into her dance partner’s embrace as he turned her around to face him that Lexa’s eyebrows scrunched together with concern. She knew that stumble. It was the type of incoordination that came hand-in-hand with extreme intoxication, and it didn’t set well with Lexa. It especially didn’t set well when she noticed the small thrust of the man’s chin towards a group of similarly-aged males at the opposite edge of the dance floor who all appeared to be encouraging their friend.

Wary green eyes darted back towards the dancing couple just as the shaggy-haired man began sliding his hand past the small of Clarke’s back to the curve of her ass. It wasn’t a moment later that Clarke reached behind her and deftly grab the wrist of her partner’s wandering hand and hold it by her side, lazily continuing their dance as if the move had been intentional. Clarke ended up with her back against the man’s front once again, and Lexa found herself trading glances between the two of them and the group of friends still stationed at the edge of the dance floor.

She watched as the man behind Clarke licked his lips and gripped her hips, pulling her body flush with his own and grinding into her. A feeling of instant rage coursed through Lexa’s chest, and she shifted uncomfortably in her seat. Her hand scratched at the back of her neck as she watched Clarke, once again, reposition his hands up to her waist and distance herself from him. They continued dancing, Lexa continued watching, and the handsy brunette continued pressing his luck.

It wasn’t until Clarke shoved his hands back from cupping the underside of her breasts that Lexa finally realized she had shot up from her chair and was steadily making her way across the dance floor. She came to an abrupt but graceful stop just to the side of the dancing couple, and the man turned his head towards her just in time to see the delicate but intimidating-as-hell arch of her brow as she leveled him with her harshest glare.

“Can I help you?” He asked, straining his voice above the volume of the music.

“I’m cutting in,” Lexa simply stated and held her ground.

“What?” The man questioned as he leaned his ear closer to where Lexa stood.

“I’m cutting in,” Lexa repeated a bit louder that time and with more force than before.

It was then that Clarke finally noticed her, and she stopped dancing as she turned to look Lexa hazily in the eyes.

“We’re just getting to the good part of the song,” the brunette said cheekily, “so why should I let you cut in now?”

“I’m her fiancé,” Lexa told him, her face remaining stoic and serious as she spoke.

He slowed his movements and glanced down at their hands to notice rings on each of their fingers before looking back up at Clarke with confusion in his eyes. All she did was offer a small shrug of her shoulders before moving slowly into Lexa’s space until they were breathing the same air. Lexa kept her stare on the man as Clarke stepped in front of her and placed her hands on Lexa’s hips, sneaking up under her shirt until the pads of her fingers slid across the bare skin just above the waistline of her pants.

Her heart was nearly beating out of her chest as she felt Clarke trace the tip of her nose along her jaw and practically fainted when Clarke hummed into her ear.

“You smell good,” Clarke said, her lips barely brushing against Lexa’s earlobe as she spoke.

She barely had enough time to scold herself for actually enjoying the sensation of shivers caused by Clarke’s ghosting touch before the man beside them was speaking up.

“You know, you seem like just the type of bitch who doesn’t deserve a girl like this,” he told Lexa.

“Hey, don’t talk to her like that,” Clarke snapped protectively as she twirled herself around to stare the man down. “You don’t even know her.”

“Clarke, let’s just go,” Lexa said, searching out eye contact from the blonde for agreement.

Without another word, Clarke turned away from the man and slipped her hand into Lexa’s before tugging her gently away from the dance floor. Lexa followed without protest, just happy to be creating distance between herself and the slimy guy who’d been feeling Clarke up, and didn’t realize how close she and Clarke were walking together until she heard a voice in her ear.

“You shouldn’t let people call you names like that,” Clarke said, her words slightly slurring under the influence of the alcohol she had ingested throughout the night.

“You shouldn’t let people touch you like that,” Lexa countered back, and the two slipped into silence once again.

Clouded blue eyes searched sparkling green ones desperately, and neither of them could pull themselves away from the other’s captivating gaze until a deafening thump of bass from a new song snapped them back to the present.

Their hands detached quickly thereafter, and it wasn’t long before Raven and Anya stumbled off the dance floor too. They agreed to call the night to its close and headed for Lexa’s car in the parking lot at the back of the club. She had boasted to Anya about how incredible her parking spot had been when she snagged it, and they were all grateful for her luck knowing they wouldn’t have to try and trudge their way down countless city blocks in their uncomfortable club shoes.

Anya and Raven practically passed out in the back seat on the short drive to Raven and Clarke’s apartment, and Clarke was fighting to stay awake in her seat beside Lexa. A few bumps in the road served as tiny wake-up calls for the blonde, and her head only bobbed a few times in fatigue before they pulled up to the front of a familiar apartment building.

“I’ll likely not remember this in the morning,” Clarke said carefully despite the inevitable slur of her words, “but thanks for, you know, not letting that guy take advantage of me.”

“It never hurts to have backup,” Lexa offered quietly.

They caught each other’s eyes for a silent moment before Clarke chanced a look down at Lexa’s lips. A small clearing of her throat later, Clarke shifted her gaze back to the purse in her lap before reaching for the door handle and pulling it towards her.

“You’re a mystery, Woods,” Clarke said somewhat wistfully as she swung her legs out the door. “A gorgeous fucking mystery.”

Lexa felt her cheeks flush at the admission, silently wondering whether Clarke even realized she’d said it out loud and then wondering whether she even meant it. The passenger door being slammed shut broke Lexa from her thoughts, and she trained her eyes forward as Clarke pestered Raven through the side window until the groggy brunette woke up and drunkenly cursed at her best friend a few times. She landed a sloppy kiss on Anya’s cheek and climbed out of the car, throwing a casual wave at Lexa and offering a mumbled thanks for the ride home.

As Clarke and Raven stumbled towards the lobby doors, Lexa watched as they made it inside and disappeared into the elevator. She pulled away from the curb and let the memories of their night flood her mind, paying no attention to the way she couldn’t manage to stop replaying the last thing Clarke had said to her.

Absolutely 100% no attention whatsoever.

Chapter Text

The weight of the day hit Lexa full force before her eyes even opened. Summer had seemingly passed by in the blink of an eye thanks to Lexa’s preoccupation with her University classes and skill training for the games. It was only out of necessity that Lexa had signed up for a summer schooling session; her professors had been understanding enough to allow her to take some of her classes part time year-round so that she could continue working and being that she was so far into her program by the time her arrangement with Clarke had happened, it only made sense for Lexa to stick to her original schedule until she graduated.

A shallow stretch of her limbs was more than enough to fully wake her, and Lexa blinked her eyes open to notice she’d woken herself up two minutes before her alarm was set to go off. She sat up in her bed, her hair falling haphazardly into her eyes, and stretched once more before slipping out from under the blankets and heading into the bathroom. It only took her a few minutes to dress and tie her hair back until she was ready to head out for a lazy jog before the sun came up.

It was her most effective way to prepare for anything major in her life. The connection she felt with the hard pavement passing beneath her feet as she ran and lost herself to her own quiet thoughts was perfect for calming her nerves and grounding her emotions. Although the prize money that came along with winning the tournament would be appreciated, there was more at stake for Lexa this time around. She had made it a personal goal to not only represent Indra’s gym to the best of her ability by means of winning each round of her competitions but also to finally best the girl who had so underhandedly defeated her in the very same fighting competition she was due to participate in later on that day.

“I had a feeling you’d sneak out for a pre-games jog,” Anya said, her voice wafting out from the darkness of the kitchen.

“Why are you awake so early?” Lexa asked as she made her way towards the sleepy girl.

“I wanted to catch you before you left,” Anya said, “and remind you not to push yourself too hard too early in the day.”

“You didn’t have to wake up to tell me that,” Lexa mumbled while slipping into her running shoes. “I have slightly better judgement than you give me credit for.”

“Oh, you do?” Anya quipped, leaning her hip against the edge of the countertop and squaring herself towards Lexa. “So, that time you decided to go for a jog in a torrential downpour and ended up spraining your ankle was based on this slightly better judgement that I don’t give you credit for?”

“It was a spring rain, and I just rolled my ankle,” Lexa replied with a dismissive shrug. “I was fine.”

“It was practically a hurricane,” Anya corrected the stubborn brunette, “and you almost got fired for missing work because you injured yourself so badly.”

“It was just bad luck,” Lexa replied. “Could have happened to anyone.”

“All I ask is that you take it easy,” Anya told her, “and don’t turn your warm-up jog into a race against yourself or something equally as stupid.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” Lexa said through a sigh. “Is there anything else?”

Anya narrowed her eyes at Lexa before slowly turning towards the refrigerator and popping the door open. She reached for a bottle of water and handed it over with a small smirk.

“Try not to dehydrate,” Anya replied. “You don’t want to let down any of your adoring fans later today.”

Lexa let out a tight chuckle as she took the bottle from Anya’s hand and let herself out the front door. She knew Anya was referring to Aden as being one of her ‘adoring fans’ because he had let her know he was attending the games to watch her compete earlier that week when they happened to see each other at the gym. Knowing that the young boy she had so often enjoyed training in the past would be there to support her fight was enough to bring a small smile to Lexa’s face as she secured the water bottle in her running belt and began a slow jog.

Anya, of course, would be there along with Raven for at least half of the day, depending on how much of her work day she would be able to take off. Lexa expected Indra to be present the entire day, most likely wearing a training outfit advertising her own gym’s logo like Lexa would be wearing as well. Lincoln made sure to tell Lexa that he wanted to be there, but with Anya taking the day off he couldn’t manage to swing time off as well in case of a fire emergency. Octavia had voiced her disappointment in having to work as well, her rocky but in-tact relationship with Lincoln still providing the two of them more moments awkward than not when they were forced to work together without a common ally present.

As her feet began thumping against the pavement, Lexa found her mind wandering to the one person she wasn’t sure would be there. She and Clarke had turned a few trivial corners together, most of which were unnoticeable even to their friends, but each new turning point seemed to bring them to a more level understanding of the other.

The fact that Clarke had mentioned something about not being sure whether she could reschedule her art class at her mother’s hospital to make it to the games had initially floored Lexa, not having even dreamed that the blonde had any interest whatsoever in watching her compete. She’d muttered something like an idiot, the exact words didn’t even register in Lexa’s memory when she tried to recall them after the fact, but she apparently had gotten her point across because Clarke had responded with a nod and even the faintest of smiles. The subtle expression of jovialness was one Lexa had become quite enamored in since the first time she and Clarke shared a bit of humor.

~*~ ~*~

“Can you turn that down?” Lexa asked with a sigh as she peered over her textbook towards Clarke who was sitting at the other end of the couch watching some kind of reality show on the television. “Please?”

It had become her latest mission, to pepper the word ‘please’ into requests aimed at Clarke, with the hope that it would morph into habit on its own. There wasn’t another single person in Lexa’s life she didn’t offer her politeness to, yet it had always been a challenge with Clarke. Clarke herself seemed to have the same nagging issue and also started to put forth a little added effort to curb the biting nature of her comments. Apparently they had inspired each other, without actually knowing it, and many of their conversations began to fall into the ‘casual and civil’ category rather than the ‘rude and snappy’ category.

“You always use my apartment for study sessions on the days I watch my favorite shows,” Clarke replied with a small sigh. “How is that fair?”

“Raven told me you have DVR now,” Lexa said distractedly as she turned her attention back down to the textbook on her lap. “Could you not record it and watch it later when I’m not here?”

A beat of silence passed as Clarke locked a surprised gaze on Lexa’s own of regret before the blonde was opening her mouth to respond.

“Last time I checked this was my apartment,” Clarke started, and Lexa quickly jumped back into the conversation.

“You’re right,” the brunette immediately surrendered, “I shouldn’t have said that.”

“I have every right to watch my shows on my TV in my apartment at whatever time I want, you know,” Clarke continued and pointed towards Lexa.

“I know,” Lexa interjected hastily. “I told you, I shouldn’t have said that.”

“Fine then,” Clarke replied with a single nod as if she agreed that her point had been successfully made.

“Fine,” Lexa said quietly, her eyes widening with exasperation as she stared down at her book.

The quieted hum of the television soothed Lexa’s concentration as she immersed herself back into her studies, but it wasn’t before long that Clarke let out a huff of annoyance from her side of the couch they were both sitting on.

“If I keep the TV quiet, then you have to keep your tapping to a minimum,” Clarke said and eyed the pen that Lexa was bouncing absentmindedly against the edge of her textbook.

As if on cue, the pen froze in mid-air and Lexa stared down at it like she hadn’t even realized she’d been moving it before glancing up at Clarke. They held eye contact for just a moment and then broke it simultaneously, both girls diverting their attention back to what they were doing just a moment ago. A few seconds later, it was Lexa’s turn to voice her frustration.

“I don’t understand why you continue to watch this show,” Lexa blurted out. “Your favorite contestant was voted off last week, and all you do is complain at how terrible of singers the rest of them are.”

“I’ve invested too much time to just stop watching,” Clarke replied as if the explanation was obvious. “Have you never given a bunch of your time to something that at some point you realized might not be worth in the end what you’d expected from it but still continued giving your time to it just to see it through?”

Lexa quirked an eyebrow at the irony of the question, and Clarke caught on immediately.

“Very funny,” Clarke mumbled as she crossed her arms over her chest. “I wasn’t referring to our arrangement.”

“It hasn’t been a total waste of time,” Lexa tried to reply flatly, but Clarke easily identified the teasing tone of her voice and smirked.

“No, it hasn’t,” Clarke agreed with a nod. “We’ve had so much practice bickering we already sound like a married couple.”

And at that, Lexa laughed. It was a stunted chuckle, short and sweet, but the sound was more musical to Clarke’s ears than anything that had been sung by the contestants on the reality show she had been trying to watch that evening. Green eyes widened and eyebrows shot up as Clarke raised her hands above her head victoriously.

“I made her laugh!” Clarke exclaimed into the room. “Ladies and gentlemen, I made her laugh! Damn, Woods, I honestly didn’t think you had it in you.”

Lexa glared playfully at the blonde before letting out a heavy sigh.

“I didn’t think you’d bring it out of me, Griffin.”

~*~  ~*~

Lexa couldn’t help the smile that stretched her cheeks as she replayed the memory back in her mind. She lifted a hand to her forehead to bat away a wisp of hair from her eyes and ended up scratching at the side of her neck as if she was embarrassed to be reminiscing about something most people would find unimportant. But for her and Clarke, the moment was important. They had spent practically every second of their time together actively trying to continue disliking the other until that night when Clarke had made her laugh.

It was like the last thread of their reluctance to let the other peek over the walls they’d built to shield themselves from each other was snapped.

Lexa kept pace and kept course, letting her thoughts wander away from memories of Clarke and back to the concerns of the present. There was a competition, the competition, looming just a few hours away and the determination of winning suddenly took ahold of Lexa, increasing in its intensity with every step she took. There wasn’t a single doubt in her mind that she wasn’t going to prove herself as someone to be contended with, and she could only hope it came in the form of becoming the champion of the games.

As the outline of the coffee shop she frequented came into view, Lexa decided that she would use the building as her halfway marker for her jog. She knew it wouldn’t be open for business yet, although one of the baristas was probably not too long off from starting first shift, and figured she could spend a few minutes stretching at the curb without disturbing anyone. Quicker than she realized, Lexa was closing in on the café and slowing her pace until she was left standing in front of the doors trying to catch her breath.

“Good morning, early bird,” Luna said as she suddenly appeared from around the corner. “The shop isn’t even open yet.”

“Good morning,” Lexa replied with a small nod, “and I know.”

“Not that I mind seeing you so early, but why are you here ahead of your normal schedule?” Luna asked as she walked up to the front doors of the coffee shop to unlock them.

“I wanted to get in a warm-up run before the games start in a few hours,” Lexa explained while she began a few stretches.

“That’s right!” Luna exclaimed, remembering Lexa mentioning it to her a few times over the past months. “I can’t believe today is actually the day. How are you feeling?”

“Good,” Lexa replied. “Prepared.”

“Prepared to win?” Luna questioned with a twinkle in her eyes.

“Or to die trying,” Lexa quipped, her lips pulling into a smirk as she spoke.

Luna chuckled quietly as she turned her attention back to unlocking the front doors and pushed one open before regarding Lexa once again.

“It will take me a few minutes to warm up the machines, but I can make you something for the road if you’d like,” Luna offered.

“Oh, no, that’s okay,” Lexa replied with a small shake of her head. “I don’t want to complicate your morning routine.”

“You wouldn’t be complicating my morning routine,” Luna told her, her expression full of amusement. “In fact, it would be a welcome change to my morning routine.”

After only a few seconds of hesitation, Lexa finally agreed to the offer and followed the barista into the dimly lit coffee shop. They chatted about the games, the competitors, and what types of fighting techniques Lexa had been training for until Luna was sliding a freshly made on-the-house green tea smoothie across the counter. Lexa thanked her profusely for the kind gesture, accepted her wish of good luck from the girl, and left the coffee shop about twenty minutes after having first arrived.

By the time she finally let herself back inside Anya’s house, the only thing on Lexa’s mind was food. Her belly was grumbling, and she knew that a big breakfast was the key in helping to keep her stamina up to the level it needed to be at for the duration of the all-day competition. Taking only a moment to wipe the sweat from her forehead, Lexa quickly washed her hands and began gathering all of the ingredients from the refrigerator and pantry that she would need to construct her high-protein carbohydrate-loaded breakfast.

She started out by readying a pot of water to boil her oatmeal in before moving onto her fruit. She peeled, sliced, and diced until she’d formed a nice little mountain on her plate, unable to stop herself from popping a few pieces of banana into her mouth as she worked. A few eggs were cracked into a skillet and scrambled before being added to the plate next to her fruit, and it wasn’t long after that her oatmeal was done as well. She rounded the small breakfast bar and took a seat in her favorite barstool, taking a second to enjoy the mouthwatering aroma of her perfectly portioned meal before digging in.

“The only thing missing from that breakfast of champions is an avocado,” Anya said from behind Lexa’s back as she made her way through the living room towards the kitchen.

“I hate avocados,” Lexa replied, her nose scrunching with disgust as she spoke.

“Raven told me that Clarke got you to eat one,” Anya said as she wagged her eyebrows teasingly.

“What is this, High School?” Lexa asked. “A friend of a friend told you something, so it must be true?”

“Is it not?” Anya questioned as she started making herself a cup of coffee.

Lexa took a bit of oatmeal and furrowed her eyebrows, clearly discontented with the current conversation. She chewed silently, Anya waited patiently, and Lexa finally let a long sigh slip past her lips.

“It wasn’t a whole avocado,” Lexa settled on saying, but the small admission please Anya all the same.

~*~  ~*~

“They’re known for their fajitas,” Clarke told the skeptical brunette sitting across from her in the booth at the restaurant. “You’ll like them.”

“We’ll see,” Lexa replied noncommittally before pulling her glass of water towards her and taking a sip from the straw.

Lexa had no idea when she and Clarke had started spending their required ‘date nights’ as actual date nights, but there they were at the restaurant of Clarke’s choice (Lexa had chosen the previous week) waiting for their order of chicken fajitas to be delivered to their table. The portions were huge, Clarke said. It would be a good idea to share, Clarke said. Lexa was hesitant to trust the judgement of a girl who thought raw tomatoes were a legitimate source of nourishment, but gave into the pressure of sharing a meal far quicker than she’d ever expected herself to.

It was something that had become all too regular with Clarke, compromising on her food choices, but what surprised Lexa the most was that it began feeling as though she wasn’t compromising at all. For some odd reason, Lexa almost actually liked broadening her food-related horizon, and trying out new restaurants with Clarke every week or so was something she almost actually looked forward to. Sort of.

She knew she’d been lost in her thoughts when suddenly a mountain of sizzling chicken and sautéed vegetables was placed in the middle of their table along with two separate plates of various toppings that Lexa had insisted upon ordering to make sure she didn’t get served with anything she didn’t like. Clarke noticed immediately the disgusted look on Lexa’s face as she stared down at her plate of fajita toppings and bit the inside of her cheek to keep herself from smirking in amusement.

“What’s the problem?” Clarke asked as she slipped a tortilla onto her plate.

“They gave me guacamole even though I specifically asked them not to include it in my plate of toppings,” Lexa replied, thoroughly exasperated and pinching the bridge of her nose with her fingers.

Clarke was powerless that time to stop the fond smirk appear on her lips at the brunette’s clear but alarmingly adorable disapproval of the scoop of guacamole on top of her mound of shredded lettuce. Thankfully they’d left off the pico de gallo, or the server would have surely lost his tip.

“Here, put it on my plate,” Clarke instructed as she held up her plate of toppings in front of Lexa. “I love guacamole.”

After a few moments of staring between the plate and Clarke’s face, Lexa narrowed her eyes and began scooping the glob of green mush with her spoon.

“Is there any kind of food that you don’t like?” Lexa asked hesitantly.

“Healthy food,” Clarke replied without missing a beat.

Lexa rolled her eyes and dropped the guacamole onto Clarke’s plate before turning her attention back to the sizzling chicken between them. It smelled so good that Lexa was practically salivating, not that she’d ever let Clarke have the satisfaction of knowing that. So instead she focused her attention on panting her first tortilla with a thin layer of sour cream and sprinkling it with a modest few shreds of cheese before preparing a thick bed of shredded lettuce on top.

Clarke watched in fascination as Lexa then speared a few strips of sautéed green peppers onto her fork and dropping them onto the lettuce. Two strips of chicken then followed before Lexa was folding her tortilla into the most perfect shape and lifting it to her mouth to take a bite.

“What?” Lexa asked, pausing her movements as she waited for Clarke to respond.

“Nothing,” Clarke said with a shrug, “I’ve just never eaten these with anyone who puts their chicken on top of their lettuce like that.”

“It makes it easier to fold,” Lexa told her before eyeing the fajita in her hands and taking a bite.

“Since when did you become a fajita-folding expert?” Clarke asked as she placed a few pieces of chicken inside her tortilla.

“Since always,” Lexa replied through a half-chewed mouthful of her dinner.

“Was that humor I just heard?” Clarke asked dramatically, at which Lexa simply shrugged. “First I made you laugh, a feat I still sometimes can’t believe I accomplished, and now you’re inching dangerously close to cracking a joke? I think you’re losing your edge, Woods.”

‘I think you’re softening my edge, Griffin,’ Lexa immediately thought but swallowed the words as she swallowed her bite of fajita.

“When was the last time you tried eating an avocado?” Clarke asked before taking a bite of her freshly constructed, though somewhat sloppily done so, fajita.

“Why?” Lexa immediately questioned, her eyes narrowing in suspiciously on Clarke.

“Answer the question,” Clarke replied after she swallowed.

“You answer mine,” Lexa quipped.

“I asked you first,” Clarke shot back and took a sip of her iced tea.

“I was young,” Lexa finally confessed, “but not too young to know it was the most disgusting thing I’ve ever eaten before in my life.”

“You’re so dramatic,” Clarke mumbled as she dipped the tip of her fork into her guacamole.

I’m dramatic?”

“Here,” Clarke said as she extended the utensil towards Lexa’s plate, “try a little on your fajita and see if your tastes have changed.”

Lexa instantly recoiled her fajita away from the tainted fork hovering over her plate as if waiting for permission, and she leveled the blonde with a look of pure shock and disgust.

“No!” Lexa exclaimed.

“Come on,” Clarke urged and wiggled the fork back and forth a few times “you won’t know for sure unless you try.”

“I do know for sure,” Lexa replied sternly. “I knew then, and I know now. Avocados are the most evil of fruits that no one should ever be forced to eat.”

“I thought tomatoes were the most evil of fruits,” Clarke said, her voice almost quivering with laughter.

“They’re a close second only because they become acceptable when cooked or dehydrated,” Lexa told her. “Avocados, on the other hand, are inedible no matter how they’re prepared.”

“This guacamole is the best in the city,” Clarke said. “I think you’ll like it if you try it.”

Clarke waited patiently for Lexa to make up her mind and smiled when the perfect fajita was presented to her before carefully smeared the tiny bit of guacamole on the tips of her fork’s prongs against the tortilla. Lexa looked down at the small green smudge in hesitant disgust but nevertheless lifted the fajita to her mouth and took a bite. Clarke watched in rapt attention as Lexa chewed, the expression on her face twitching a bit every time that the brunette got a taste of the guacamole.

“That was pretty disgusting,” Lexa finally said before downing a few long sips of her water.

“Pretty disgusting or the most evil of all fruits?” Clarke asked, her lips beginning to form a small smirk on her face.

“Pretty disgusting,” Lexa repeated herself, “but raw tomatoes are now officially the most evil of fruits.”

Clarke giggled and offered a quick shrug of her shoulders at the comment before going back to eating her own fajita, completely unaware of the gentle gaze focused on her from the opposite side of the table.

~*~  ~*~

“I’m glad to see you’ve been perfecting your zoning abilities,” Anya said as she waved a hand in front of Lexa’s confused face.


“Let me ask you,” Anya said with a twinkle in her eye, “when you get lost inside your head like you just were a second ago, is Clarke there?”

“What?” Lexa asked, her voice cracking with surprise.

“Your face gets all weird when someone mentions Clarke,” Anya explained, “and I’m trying to figure out if it’s because you’re trying to picture her naked.”

The mere utterance of the last word from Anya’s mouth was all it took for Lexa to choke on her mouthful of oatmeal so violently that she was thrown into a coughing spurt that lasted a solid ten seconds before she was able to gather enough focus to reach for her glass of orange juice and take a few chugs. Anya stood across the countertop, smugly smiling in Lexa’s direction, and finally opened her mouth to speak once again.

“Question answered,” Anya said.

“I’m not picturing her naked,” Lexa tried to argue sternly despite the fact that her mouth and throat had become instantly devoid of all moisture the second she had spoken. “Why would you even think that?”

“Because it would only be natural to start having thoughts like that about your fiancée at some point or another,” Anya explained, “and you two seem to be getting along quite well lately.”

“Our engagement is a–”

“–business arrangement,” Anya interrupted. “Believe me, I know.”

Lexa huffed in response and stared down at her breakfast for a moment as she contemplated Anya’s observation. The fact of the matter was that she and Clarke had achieved a level of civility over the last few months that, most likely, neither of them ever imagined was possible. They still bickered and easily pushed each other’s buttons, but gone were the days of spending all their time and energy avoiding being in the same room with each other. Their stipulated ‘weekly dates’ had become vaguely resemblant of what an actual couple might consider a date, less the flirting and awkward goodbye kisses at the end of the night, but they had become events that both girls spent their weeks looking forward to at the very least for the promise of trying out a new restaurant in or outside of town.

“Anyways, try not to let your business arrangement distract you today,” Anya said. “You need to make sure all your attention is on beating Ontari’s ass and claiming back what’s rightfully yours.”

“Clarke said she’s coming?” Lexa asked before she could stop herself.

Anya gave her a knowing glare and a wicked smirk but decided not to point out the fact that Lexa had completely disregarded everything she’d just said to ask whether or not Clarke was going to be at the games cheering her on. Instead she offered a weak shrug and turned to pour herself a bowl of cereal.

“You would have to ask her,” Anya said.

Lexa went back to eating her breakfast in silence, both of them knowing she wouldn’t be asking Clarke whether she was going or not. There was no way she’d give Anya the satisfaction of knowing she was interested to know Clarke’s plans for the day, but there was also little Lexa could do about the hope blossoming in her chest that she would have the chance to show off just what exactly she had been training so diligently for over the past several months.

The conversation was successfully dropped, and both girls turned their attention to their meals until Lexa was finished and heading into the bathroom to shower and get ready for the day. The water dripping down her skin and washing away the residue of her morning jog was refreshing, and Lexa felt confident enough to conquer the world by the time she was heading out the door with a bag of energy-boosting snacks, chilled water bottles, and Anya in tow.

The drive to the sports auditorium where the games were being held didn’t take too long, but the amount of cars already parked in the visitor’s area surprised them both. Several large commuter vans and a few tour buses were stationed in a private section of the lot, and Lexa figured they belonged to competitors who were travelling cross-country to participate. Banners brightly colored with various sponsors’ logos and slogans were pinned up along the entire length of the building, and there was no question that even more of the same waited for them once they got inside.

“You’re ready for this,” Anya said as Lexa pulled into a parking spot and turned off her car.

“I know,” Lexa replied with a single nod.

That was the last thing they said to each other before climbing out of the car and making their way into the building. They were each given a special pass, laminated and connected to a lanyard they hung from their necks, and were escorted into a designated area of a locker room set up just for them. Indra was already there, pulling a few t-shirts with her gym’s logo out of a cardboard box and folding them according to sizes. She promptly handed one to Anya, who slipped it over her long-sleeved training top, before heading out of the locker room to hand out the rest of them to anyone who wanted to wear one.

It only took Lexa a few minutes to change into her games-approved athletic shorts and sports bra, and she went to work tightening the laces on her shoes while Anya put a few finishing touches on her hair. She’d always pulled it back into a braid whenever she trained or competed, so it went without saying that it was how she wanted her hair that particular day. When nothing was left to prepare for inside the locker room, Lexa and Anya made their way out to peek at the crowd before Lexa had to report for her first event of the day. It wasn’t a few seconds after exiting the locker room that Lexa heard her voice being called.


She looked over to see Aden walking briskly towards her, waiving his hand in the air and showing off one of the biggest smiles she’d ever seen before. Her own lips turned upwards in response, and she took a few steps in his direction before feeling his slender but strong arms around her waist.

“No hugging the fighters before they compete,” Anya said teasingly. “You wouldn’t want her to get all soft and mushy, now would you?”

Aden pulled away from the embrace and straightened himself up, looking up at the two women as if he was proudly honoring the request. Lexa couldn’t help herself from smiling once again.

“Thanks for coming today,” Lexa told the young boy. “I see that Indra already gave you a shirt to wear.”

“Yeah, she gave it to me last week,” Aden told her. “I didn’t wear it until today though because I didn’t want it to get ruined accidentally.”

“Well, I appreciate that,” Lexa said with a grin.

Aden straightened the shirt in question and was about to say something when another familiar voice sounded from just beside them.

“Coming to check on all your adoring fans?” Raven asked Lexa before making her way up to Anya and planting a kiss on her cheek. “When did you two get here?”

“About thirty minutes ago,” Anya replied as she snaked her arm around Raven’s waist.

Lexa had completely checked out of the conversation the second she caught sight of the blazing blue eyes she had been hoping she’d see that day. Clarke was already wearing one of Indra’s shirts, as was Raven, and the sight had Lexa tamping down a flurry of butterflies in her chest for reasons completely unknown to her. Clarke looked equally as flustered and even broke their eye contact for a moment, though it left Lexa even more confused when she thought she saw Clarke sweeping her gaze down the length of her body. It was only until she noticed the tiny flush of pink on the top of Clarke’s cheeks that she remembered how little clothing she had on and felt her own face warm just slightly.

“I’m glad you came,” Lexa managed to choke out before locking eyes with Clarke once again.

“Me too,” Clarke replied with a single nod.

“Who’s your friend?” Raven suddenly asked as she pointed at Aden standing by.

“This is Aden,” Lexa replied. “I used to be his martial arts instructor, but now he trains with Indra.”

“The woman who undoubtedly shoved those shirts at you,” Anya said as she gestured at both Clarke and Raven’s shirts.

An announcement suddenly came over the speakers pertaining to the commencement of the first round of events, leaving Lexa and Anya to share a knowing look.

“We should get going,” Anya told Lexa, who simply nodded in response.

“We’ll be a-rootin’ for ya!” Raven exclaimed, her voice twinging with a thick southern accent.

“Good luck,” Aden said and held his fist out for Lexa to bump her own against.

Lexa’s gaze flicked over towards Clarke just in time to see her snap her head to the side and heard her clear her throat lightly. She thought nothing of it, and the rest of the group stood awkwardly until Clarke and Lexa finally made eye contact once again.

“Thanks for coming,” Lexa broadly addressed the group before quickly turning and walking away.

“Well, that was abrupt,” Raven muttered, at which Anya just chuckled.

“I’ll come find you guys later so make sure to save me a seat,” Anya said and gave Raven a quick peck on the lips before leaving to catch up with Lexa.

“Hey, where are you sitting?” Raven asked Aden as she poked his shoulder.

“I was waiting for Lexa to come out to tell her good luck, so I haven’t looked for one yet,” Aden replied somewhat sheepishly.

“Want to keep us company?” Raven questioned, and Aden’s face immediately lit up. “I’ll take that as a yes. Come on, let’s go then.”

Both Clarke and Aden followed Raven as she walked towards the stadium seating, scoping out a cluster of four seats the closest she could find to the fighting stage and quickly claiming them. She insisted Aden sit between the two of them, and they settled into their seats quickly and just before a few welcoming announcements were broadcast over the speakers above.

“Don’t think I didn’t notice you checking out Commander Green Eyes a minute ago,” Raven whispered to Clarke over the top of Aden’s head. He was so immersed in watching the introduction of fighters that Raven was sure he wouldn’t overhear.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Clarke whispered back and tacked on a dismissive shrug at the end of her statement.

“Please, Clarke,” Raven said with a heavy roll of her eyes, “it was painfully obvious.”

“Well, how was I supposed to know she’d be wearing... that... today?” Clarke asked, feigning innocence.

“I get it, Clarke, she gave you lady wood,” Raven said surprisingly nonchalantly. “It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

“Raven!” Clarke scolded her friend with a hard slap to her shoulder before pointing down at Aden.

Raven just shrugged and tipped her eyes up as if it were no big deal before turning her attention to the stage. A few fighters were already lined up, varying greatly in size and shape, and Aden watched with focused attention until Lexa was introduced. Clarke swallowed as she followed every movement of the brunette walking across the stage, the muscles in her legs twitching faintly with each step she took until she was standing at attention. She cursed her mind from wandering to thoughts of Lexa slicked with sweat, twisting and turning as she fought off opponent after opponent, and absentmindedly crossed her legs for a bit of relief she never in a hundred years would admit to needing.

Unfortunately for her, Raven and her eagle eye caught onto the movement immediately.

“Feeling okay over there, Clarke?” Raven asked, her voiced laced with cheekiness to match the expression on her face.

“Fine,” Clarke replied quickly.

“Are you sure?” Raven dared to question further. “You look a little... uncomfortable.”

“I told you I’m fine, so don’t ask me again,” Clarke told her sternly, and Raven just laughed.

The introductions went on for another few minutes until all of the competitors for the first round of events had been announced, and the fighters were then instructed to file off the stage. Lexa’s heart had been nearly beating out of her chest when she’d taken position right beside Ontari of all people, and the urge to punch her square in the face had never been so strong. Lexa had squashed the feeling, quickly, and focused instead on trying to spot her friends in the audience. The lights were so bright overhead that it was hard to distinguish faces, but her eyes finally landed on a particular shade of golden blonde hair she knew only belonged to one person.

As she made her way off the stage towards Anya and Indra, Lexa let her gaze settle on Ontari’s retreating form until a loud cough brought her attention forward once again. Anya was glaring at her in warning, and Lexa didn’t even need the girl to speak to know what she was trying to tell her. ‘Keep your mind clear. Don’t think about Ontari. It’s time to take back what’s yours, and no one is going to stop you.’

“Let’s get her hands taped up,” Indra instructed Anya, and the two immediately went to work.

Lexa felt Indra slip her engagement ring off her finger, and instinctively opened her mouth to protest until she was cut off before she could even start.

“I’ll make sure Clarke gets it,” Indra said as she slipped it into her pocket and proceeded with her task.

Lexa looked over at Anya who just smirked but said nothing in response. She suddenly wondered how she could have forgotten to take it off at the same time feeling somewhat naked without it. Lexa had been wearing it every day since Clarke had given it to her, aside from the time she spent training at the gym, and had unconsciously grown attached to it despite her best efforts not to. A small sigh fell from her lips as she closed her eyes and cleared her mind, making sure she was grounded and ready to perform the minute she was called up.

The crowd was usually quiet at the beginning of the games, only growing more boisterous as their picks to win advanced throughout their rounds, so it wasn’t altogether a surprise when Lexa stepped out under the lights to only a modest round of applause. Her eyes scanned the auditorium until she zeroed in on her friends sitting beside each other with their attention directed solely on her. She watched as Clarke and Aden began to chat with one another, and she couldn’t help but smile. It was one thing Lexa learned Clarke had a soft-spot for, and that was children.

~*~ ~*~

“Rae?” Clarke called out into her apartment the moment she stepped through the door.

She was already crying, well, she hadn’t technically stopped since her mother had first told her the news over an hour ago. All she wanted was her best friend’s shoulder to cry on, to ask her unanswered questions to, to help keep her strong in the middle of a situation so fucked up she could barely understand it, but she was met with another face instead.

“She isn’t here,” Lexa replied hesitantly from her spot on the couch.

Her textbooks were piled around her, in their usual fashion, but was suddenly wishing she would have been anywhere but where she was the moment she heard Clarke’s voice crack with sorrow and saw blue eyes dulled by tears. Lexa swallowed the lump in her throat and began packing up her books, figuring Clarke would ask her to leave, and stood from the couch with her bag over her shoulder. She tried resisting the urge to look at Clarke straining to not crumble in front of her but was unable to, and her body moved of its own accord towards the trembling girl until they were standing not a foot away in front of each other.

“Clarke?” Lexa managed to croak out, and it was all Clarke needed to break.

Tears poured from her eyes, and sobs wracked her body as Clarke leaned back against the front door and cradled her face in her hands. Lexa let her bag fall to the floor, and she reached out to wrap her hand gently around Clarke’s elbow.

“What happened?” Lexa asked, keeping her hand right where it was.

“Life is just so fucked up sometimes,” Clarke finally replied, angrily wiping her tears from her cheeks as she spoke.

“Do you... want to talk about it?” Lexa asked quietly, the question prompting Clarke to finally look up into concerned green eyes.

Her offer was completely genuine, Clarke could tell, but there was something else in Lexa’s eyes that she couldn’t quite put her finger on. The silence hung between them as Clarke studied the brunette’s face for a few seconds longer until she felt the hand slip from her elbow and watched as Lexa took a small step backwards. She realized immediately that her lack of response had led Lexa to believe she didn’t want to talk about it, and were it six months ago nothing would have been further from the truth. But they had crossed a line sometime during the past few months that didn’t make Clarke want to push Lexa away.

She didn’t necessarily want to pull her close, but she didn’t need to push her away.

“Yes,” Clarke finally said as a few more tears escaped from her eyes, “if you’re offering.”

Lexa nodded lightly and followed Clarke’s lead as they made their way into the living room to sit back down on the couch. Usually they would sit on opposite sides, as far away from each other as they could, but Lexa chose to situate herself in the middle of the couch just a few feet away from the crying girl.

“One of my favorite students I teach art to at the hospital passed away this morning,” Clarke barely managed to choke out between her tears and sniffles.

Lexa almost winced from the pain punching through her chest at Clarke’s revelation and was only rivaled by the aching lump forming in her throat as she silently willed herself not to cry. She wanted to be as strong as she could, only guessing it was what Clarke would prefer, and hoped she would be able to say the right things.

“His stats were up last week,” Clarke continued weakly. “The doctors were talking about letting him go home to continue his care, and then for no logical reason he crashed this morning. He barely hung on for the twenty minutes it took his parents to get to the hospital before they could all say goodbye.”

They held hands that night. It wasn’t romantic, it couldn’t really even be classified as friendly. It was a lifeline that kept Clarke tethered to reality as her thoughts and emotions took her as far away as they possibly could, just for the night, until sleep finally claimed her exhausted mind and fatigued body. Lexa had untangled their fingers and pulled a blanket up to her shoulders. She had pushed a rogue curl away from puffy eyes and tucked it behind Clarke’s ear, letting the backs of her fingers trace along a flushed cheek for just a moment before she had pulled her hand away.

It was the first time either of them had experienced each other’s raw emotions, unclouded by silly first impressions or unnecessary stubbornness, and it was the first time both of them realized they could be there for each other. All they needed to do was offer.

~*~ ~*~

The hand that came flying by her face startled Lexa out of her momentary trance, but it only took her a fraction of a second to catch up with defending the assault of offensive moves being thrown at her in a most haphazard way. It was almost an unfair fight, and Lexa knew almost immediately that the arrogance in the way her opponent was fighting would ultimately be his downfall. It would only be a matter of time for him to needlessly exhaust himself and inevitably leave himself vulnerable for defeat.

It came in the form of a quick series of blows Lexa easily deflected with alternating hands, so fast that it seemed to confuse her opponent, and she was able to kick his foot out from under him with barely a token show of effort. He fell flat on his back with a loud thud, and the crowd cheered in response as the announcer confirmed the judges’ award of round win to Lexa. The swooping sensation in Clarke’s chest as she watched Lexa quickly shake hands with her defeated opponent momentarily distracted her from the sudden redness on her cheeks, but Raven was sure to notice.

“Why, Mrs. Woods,” Raven began slowly, “are you blushing at your wife’s first win of the day?”

“Don’t call me that,” Clarke replied immediately as she ran a flustered hand through her hair, “and I’m not blushing.”

“Your face says otherwise,” Raven told her as she pointed at Clarke’s rosy cheeks.

“Shouldn’t you be watching the fight instead of my face?” Clarke asked, trying to deflect the conversation.

“Are you married to Lexa?” Aden suddenly asked as he straightened his back and turned his face fully towards Clarke.

Raven propped her elbow against a knee and looked over at Clarke with an expression that could only be described as unquestionably amused, and the nervous blonde flicked her eyes between her audience a few times before trying to form a complete sentence. She subconsciously tugged at the engagement ring on her finger as she tried to decide how to respond and finally opened her mouth to speak.

“How well do you know her?” Clarke asked, the question at which Raven scrunched her face.

“Pretty well,” Aden replied. “She has been my trainer for the past two years until a few months ago when Indra took her place.”

“So, your relationship with her is more than just a casual acquaintance?” Clarke asked and waited for a response from the young man.

“Yes,” Aden replied with a small shrug. “I like to think of her as my mentor.”

Clarke’s mind reeled. He was more than an acquaintance but probably less than a close friend, taking into consideration their age gap, so it was possible that Lexa hadn’t even mentioned their ‘arrangement’ to him at all. If she had, it was likely she kept her explanation of it vague. Right? Clarke swallowed and realized she hadn’t spoken for probably what was longer than appropriate, if the looks on both Raven and Aden’s faces were anything to go by, and heard herself asking yet another question to the boy sitting beside her.

“How old are you?”

“Just answer the damn kid’s question!” Raven interjected, clearly excited to hear how Clarke was going to answer. If she was ever going to answer.

“We’re engaged,” Clarke blurted out, and the two older girls trained their attention on Aden’s reaction as if they were scared to witness it.

“Since when?” Aden asked as he narrowed his eyes ever-so-slightly at Clarke.

“The end of May,” Clarke replied hesitantly, her attention solely focused on Aden by means of his capturing gaze.

“Tell him how she proposed!” Raven nearly screamed, and Clarke felt her mouth drop open as she turned her attention towards her best friend. “It was so romantic. The most romantic proposal story I’ve ever heard actually.”


“Come on, Clarke, don’t be shy,” Raven urged the increasingly flustered blonde.

“Don’t be shy about what?” Anya asked, suddenly having appeared in the empty chair Raven had saved beside her own.

“Clarke was just about to tell Aden how Lexa proposed to her,” Raven confidently told her girlfriend whose eyebrows shot up in surprise.

“No, I wasn’t,” Clarke hastily replied.

“Oh, but I think you were,” Raven said before turning her attention to the boy sitting next to her. “Didn’t you want to hear about the proposal, Aden?”

“I think Lexa should be the one to tell the story,” Clarke interjected and shot Raven a pointed look. “Since, according to you, she was the one who proposed to me.”

“That’s how it’s going to be, huh?” Raven said as she nodded her head a few times. “Okay, we’ll make sure to ask her then.”

“We’ll make extra sure we tell her it was your idea to ask her too,” Anya added, throwing Clarke a mischievous look as she spoke.

Clarke rolled her eyes in response and sighed while Aden turned his attention back to the stage just as another round of the competition began. There were two new fighters front and center, and Lexa was nowhere to be seen. Anya explained to Raven that they likely wouldn’t see Lexa compete again for another several rounds since she earned a perfect score on her first victory. She had been sorely under-matched, and it would take a few rounds until she was put back into the competition to face off against someone better than the fighter she’d so easily defeated.

“So, what’s the likelihood that Lexa will end up facing this bitch in the final round?” Raven asked as she nodded towards the lithe woman on stage.

Clarke reached out and slapped Raven’s shoulder upon hearing the curse word fall from her lips, and Raven whipped her head around to level the blonde with a glare. She watched in silence as Clarke subtly gestured towards Aden and finally realized the meaning of the hit but offered nothing other than a roll of her eyes as an apology for her slip-up.

“Highly likely,” Anya answered, her eyes trained on Ontari’s every move. “I guarantee it’s the match up every single person in this crowd is hoping for.”

“Why?” Clarke heard herself ask as her eyebrows scrunched together in confusion.

“The last year Lexa competed, she was matched up opposite Ontari in the final round,” Anya told Clarke as she pointed towards the stage where Ontari was dominating her opponent. “One of her last moves cracked Lexa’s fighting stick in half, and she exploited Lexa’s disadvantage and won. What she didn’t count on was for me to inspect the broken fighting stick after the round.”

All three of them were held captive by Anya’s story and sat in tensed silence as she continued speaking.

“The bitch had Lexa’s stick cut so that when it was hit at just the right angle and with just enough force, it would split in two,” Anya told them. “I turned it into the judges for investigation, and it was lost in transport shortly thereafter, so there was no basis to overturn the final results. That was the last year Lexa competed in these games before all her jobs and studies took over her life.”

“Talk about playing dirty,” Raven mumbled as she turned her attention back to the stage. “Why would she even want to win that way?”

“When you have no morals, it’s not that big of a deal,” Anya said with a shrug. “She probably sleeps with all her medals every damn night and doesn’t think twice about how she schemed her way to get any of them.”

Clarke sat back in her seat and let her eyes drift towards the fighters, watching them attack and defend while her temper grew hotter by the second. She initially had no idea that she was getting so worked up (and over Lexa no less) however when the palms of her hands began to ache from where her fingernails were digging into her skin as a result of the tight fists her hands had found themselves in, Clarke was taken aback by her reaction. She was practically throwing eye daggers at the black haired woman on the stage in front of her and hoping more than anything that she would be able to end her day with seeing her flat on her back with Lexa standing victoriously over her.

“Anya, sit down!” Raven pleaded with her girlfriend as she tugged at the bottom hem of the shirt Indra had given her to wear.

“You’re making us all nervous,” Clarke chimed in, flicking her gaze up at the tightly-wound firefighter.

“I need to find a spot in the front,” Anya said as she eyed the edge of the stage. “I bet Indra can get spots for a few of us down there.”

“Clarke, you go,” Raven piped up immediately, and Clarke whipped her head around in surprise. “I’ll stay here with the kid so I can keep off my leg... which is fine now but will start to hurt if I’m down there too long I’m sure.”

The last bit was for Anya, and Raven said it after seeing her girlfriend flash her a concerned look. Raven reached up and squeezed Anya’s hand before pulling her down for a quick kiss. She turned and made her way down the row of seats, turning back once to tell Clarke to hurry her ass up, and Clarke reluctantly followed.

She wasn’t sure why her heart was beating so wildly in her chest as she closed in on the edge of the stage, and it downright flabbergasted her when it fluttered the moment she caught sight of a sweat-slicked Lexa standing off to the side of the stage with her eyes closed as if she was mentally preparing herself for what was to come. It was the final round of the competition, and the winner of it was the winner of it all. Anya’s prediction had been right; Lexa and Ontari were minutes away from picking up where they had left off all those years ago.

Lexa was handed a fighting stick which she inspected carefully. Let her fingers run over slowly. Let her hands test the weight and balance of methodically. It was only when Anya let out a small whistle that Lexa’s attention snapped forward, and the two locked gazes for a few heated moments as they traded single nods in wordless understanding.

But when green met blue, the world around them seemed to fade away.

The roar of the crowd’s excited chatter dimmed to barely a hum. The movements of the people around them blurred until the only thing they could see was each other. Clarke felt her cheeks rush with blood but was powerless break her stare, and Lexa appeared to be faring no better. It was only when Lexa’s head snapped to the side in response to something apparently having been directed at her that Clarke blinked herself back to reality, the sounds and people around her finally filling her senses once again.

“I never thought I’d see the day Lexa Woods would bring a girlfriend back to the games,” Ontari said through a smirk.

“Fiancée,” Lexa immediately corrected, her voice calm despite the waves of emotions crashing around inside her chest.

“Wow, I’m impressed and slightly relieved,” Ontari replied and she flashed Lexa a nondescript look.

It didn’t take a genius to figure out that the underhanded competitor was baiting Lexa into asking a follow up question (namely; why) only for it to go unanswered and raise even more questions, but Lexa wasn’t falling for it. She clamped her teeth together, her jaw flexing under the force of her bite, and turned her attention back to the fighting stick in her hands. She twirled it a few times before looking back up and straight into Ontari’s eyes. Neither of them moved, not even a flinch, until the two minute warning from the referee’s mouth broke their trance.

“Since you already managed to convince someone to marry you,” Ontari said, “you surely won’t have to try as hard to impress her.”

Game. Set. Match.

It was exactly the outcome Lexa wanted. She’d turned the tables and forced Ontari to explain herself as opposed to forcing Lexa to try and get it out of her. It was a small exchange that gave Lexa the upper hand, psychologically speaking, and she was going to use each and every one of Ontari’s emotions against her. Her opponent had admitted to two already (impression and relief) and Lexa had no doubt there were more bubbling right underneath her skin, ready to burst free and cloud her judgement long enough to open her up to defeat. It was only a matter of time and manipulation before Lexa could get her right where she wanted her.

“Maun op,” the referee called out as he motioned for the two girls to face each other in the middle of the stage.

The crowd pulled themselves down into a deafening silence, and Clarke swallowed thickly as she kept her eyes trained on Lexa. It wasn’t until she felt a small tap on her forearm that Clarke ripped her attention away from the stage and onto Indra who was standing beside her, holding a shiny piece of jewelry out in front of her.

“I told Lexa I’d give this to you for safe keeping,” Indra explained. “She can’t wear it when she fights.”

Clarke reached out and took the ring from the woman’s fingers, nodding dumbly as she did so, and wondered for just a moment where she should put it. Lexa had a smaller ring size than her own, but it would be far too big to wear on her pinky finger. Her purse was the next logical place to put it, but she had left that with Raven. It wasn’t until Anya was shouting something to Lexa that sounded like a foreign language that Clarke was pulled from her thoughts.

“Ge smak daun, gyon op nodotaim!”

She looked over at Anya with a crease between her eyebrows but was cut short of asking her what the hell she had just said as the referee yelled his final command.

“Gon daun!”

Lexa didn’t appear to be the slightest bit surprised that Ontari thrust her fighting stick towards her before the entire command had even been finished. It was a tactic she knew some fighters used, starting the fight a fraction of a second before most thought it was legal, but Lexa had been expecting it. The most likely fighters that took advantage of the rule were offensive in their methodology, and if anyone fit that description to the letter it was Ontari Queen. She was ruthless, manipulative, aggressive, and had a level of stamina almost every competitive fighter envied.

But what Ontari boasted as her strengths, Lexa saw as her weaknesses. Her confidence resided only in her ability to defeat, but it vanished the moment she found herself being defeated. The games were just as much a competition showcasing fighting techniques as a battle of the minds, and from the first decision and corresponding movement of her opponent, Lexa was positive she had the edge in both.

“What did Anya tell her?” Clarke asked Indra as the both kept their eyes glued to the fight in front of them.

“Get knocked down, get back up.”

She had no idea why Anya had chosen to speak to Lexa in a language she didn’t recognized in the slightest and was even more confused that Indra apparently understood her, but Clarke held her tongue in favor of giving her full attention to the women on the stage.

They both moved with purpose, though Lexa was quite obviously the more graceful, and Clarke found herself struggling to keep up with everything she was seeing. Their fighting sticks took turns making the offensive move but always came together in a loud crack that reverberated throughout the stadium and deep in Clarke’s chest. Tension was growing by the second, and the crowd didn’t seem to miss it as they sat silent in their seats holding their collective breaths.

Lexa watched as a few beads of sweat fell from her face and splashed onto the mat below her from the crouched position Ontari’s last blow had forced her into. Everything happened in a split second, and that was all the time it took for Lexa to flick her gaze from the tiny dark circles on the mat to the feet setting themselves beside her and twist herself into a defensive offensive position on the floor. The quick snap of her stick against Ontari’s that had been slicing through the air towards her elicited a gasp from the crowd and a few excited cheers when Lexa rolled herself a mere twelve inches to the left and sprung to her feet.

A quick point call in Ontari’s favor came from the table the judges were seated at, but no one seemed to regard it. Clarke had a feeling that the first one to receive the majority of three points was the winner, so she was glad that Lexa had two more points to claim for herself. Her heart only sank when she realized Lexa would have to perform perfectly for the rest of the fight in order to win. The pressure was enough for Clarke to pull at the bottom hem of her shirt while Lexa, on the other hand, appeared to be as calm and collected as she’d ever seen.

Slightly more sweaty but calm and collected nonetheless.

Another attack came with a loud grunt from Ontari, and Lexa effortlessly defended hit after hit. Anya immediately recognized her own fighting tactic in Lexa’s movements and knew she was forcing the pace of the fight. It became even more apparent when a cocky smirk lit up Ontari’s face just before leaning in to crowd Lexa’s space and undoubtedly try to disarm her, but Lexa read her like a book and in one fell swoop ducked to the opposite side and hooked her foot around Ontari’s ankle. She went down as gracefully as she could but wasn’t able to keep the expression of anger from her face when a point was called in Lexa’s favor.

“Next point wins,” Indra said, and Clarke felt her heartbeat spike.

The two came together in a flurry of movements, and the crowd was suddenly standing knowing that they were moments away from either erupting in a cheer or wallowing in defeat. Crack after crack of their sticks filled the large stadium and echoed off the walls as each competitor attacked and defended. When Lexa found herself twisted uncomfortably at the far limit line taped on the stage, she knew she was in trouble. An automatic point would be awarded to her opponent if she stepped even a fraction of an inch beyond the boundary, and it would cost her the win.

An intense struggle broke out between them that had Lexa using every muscle in her body (and some she didn’t even know she had) to keep her balance strong enough not to be tipped backwards any farther, and she suddenly remembered the advice she’d given Aden a few months ago about his stance. She readjusted and widened the gap between her feet just enough to feel the power come back into her hits, but she wasn’t quick enough to read the hit Ontari concentrated on her right side in an attempt to push her to the left and out of bounds.

The crowd cheered when Lexa was able to correct herself at just the last moment and inch herself away from the line of tape. Unfortunately Lexa’s acrobatic movement to keep herself in-bounds forced her left hand to release her stick and swoop through the air to provide her balance, and the next thing she saw was Ontari’s stick slicing down towards her unprotected arm before connecting with her wrist and shooting a pain like nothing she had ever felt before up her arm and into her chest.

Clarke’s breath caught in her lungs the moment she heard Lexa’s strangled cry and knew immediately that something had gone terribly wrong. She watched as a heavy foot made contact with Ontari’s chest and shove her backwards and finally caught sight of Lexa’s face, twisted in both fear and agony, looking directly over at Anya. From the way Anya was seething, Clarke realized that Ontari’s move must have been a dirty one but not illegal since the referee hadn’t intervened. She barely had enough time to form another thought in her head before she saw Lexa grip both hands around her stick with a grimace and turn to face her smug opponent.

Lexa lunged forward, spinning her stick just once in her hands and distracting Ontari long enough to land a blow on her left side and then her right before charging at her and forcing her backwards. The sudden burst of energy seemed to fluster the girl and when Lexa twirled herself and her weapon a few times during her steady advancement, she seemed only a step away from being lost in the woods.

Lexa deftly set the angle of her swipe to come within less than an inch of Ontari’s face before pulling the end of her stick up between the gap of her hands and body. It was ripped from her hands within a fraction of a second and was sent flying clear across the stage, and the next thing Ontari knew she was on her back with a stick that wasn’t her own pressed solidly against the front of her throat. The sound from the crowd was deafening and caused Lexa to only release her capture of Ontari when the referee stepped up and called the game.

Clarke blinked in shock as Indra bellowed her approval and clutched both her and Anya’s arms while Anya looked about as shocked as Clarke felt. The final announcement of the competition winner was one giant blur, and it was only when Anya turned to regard her that she was able to snap herself out of her thoughts.

“I’m going to check on her,” Anya said, and Clarke simply nodded.

She watched as Anya made her way through the bustling crowd towards the back of the stage and fought the urge to follow her. Lexa wouldn’t want to see her, would she? Surely she’d rather have Anya check her for injuries, right? It was the first time Clarke had ever second-guessed herself in regards to Lexa, and it weighed heavily on her mind as Raven and Aden suddenly appeared beside her.

“Holy shit!” Raven exclaimed over the noise of the people. “That was fucking insane!”

“The hit Ontari landed on Lexa’s wrist was dirty,” Aden confirmed. “Her fans are going to be pretty upset with her for that.”

“I can’t believe she was able to keep fighting,” Raven said. “I mean, did you hear her scream? It made my skin crawl.”

Clarke nodded in agreement and tried not to think about the pain Lexa had just suffered through for the sake of a medal and what she hoped was a hell of a lot of bragging rights, but didn’t have the chance to respond before Raven was digging through her purse to find her ringing phone. A couple of minutes and a handful of vague responses later, Raven put her phone away and looked over at Clarke.

“Anya’s taking her to the hospital,” Raven said. “She thinks her wrist is broken.”

“Which hospital?” Clarke asked immediately, the figurative gears in her head already turning.

“Why?” Raven asked as a smirk spread across her lips.

“Because my mom is probably working, so I thought I’d make a call,” Clarke replied with a small shrug as she unlocked her phone. “It’s not that big of a deal.”

“Whatever you say, Griff,” Raven said wistfully before throwing her arm around Aden’s shoulders. “So, kid, are you driving us home or what?”

The afternoon spilled into evening quicker than Clarke had been able to keep track, and it felt like only a moment had passed between the last time she’d seen Lexa to when she’d tucked herself into bed. Lexa had insisted on going back out onto the stage to participate in the official awards ceremony, and she did so with her left arm hanging limply beside her body. Clarke had grimaced when she noticed how swollen it looked free from its veil of athletic tape and wondered the amount of pain Lexa had endured while Anya ripped it away from her skin.

The crowd was deafening when Lexa was given the winning medal, and Ontari looked like she was about to go genuine batshit crazy on everyone in the auditorium until she was able to storm off the stage and disappear into her reserved locker room. Clarke had chuckled at the girl’s disapproval and had only been slightly surprised at the feeling of pride surging through her chest as she thought about the fact that Lexa, her fiancé, for business purposes of course, had just won a fighting competition some professional fighters wouldn’t be able to win. She had decided it was a feeling that she liked feeling.

A sudden vibration on the top of her bedside table snapped Clarke from her thoughts, and she reached for her phone quickly. She figured it was another text message from Anya, whom she’d been texting for updates on Lexa’s hospital visit, but was surprised when another Woods name showed up on her screen.

Lexa Woods: Your mother was waiting for me at the hospital. Anya would neither confirm nor deny, but I figured you had something to do with it.

A quick smile pulled at Clarke’s lips as she nestled herself against her pillows and typed out a response.

Clarke: She loves waving her Chief of Surgery badge around, so I thought I’d give her the opportunity.

Clarke: How does your wrist feel?

Lexa Woods: I thought you already knew.

Clarke’s eyebrows scrunched in confusion at the statement.

Lexa Woods: From what Anya did choose to confirm, you were texting her every thirty minutes for status updates. She almost threw her phone out the window on the drive home.

A bright red blush heated Clarke’s face as she read Lexa’s text. She hadn’t thought she was pestering Anya that often, but a quick look through her text history with the older Woods confirmed the opposite.

Clarke: How long will you have to wear the cast once you get it on?

She opted to move the conversation along so that she wouldn’t have to try and come up with a response to Lexa’s last message, knowing the reason for her insistent messaging was to make sure Lexa was okay. It was hard enough to stomach that realization herself, and Clarke really didn’t want to have to admit her worry to Lexa if she could help it.

Lexa Woods: A couple of months.

Clarke nodded in silence, despite knowing no one was there to see her, and sighed into the quietness of her room as she decided how to respond. She didn’t want to give her the expected ‘it will go by in no time’ or something similar however there was one thing she wanted to make sure she told the brunette.

Clarke: Congratulations on winning the competition.

A few charged moments passed until she finally felt her phone vibrate in her hand once again.

Lexa Woods: Thank you.

The girl was nothing if not concise. Clarke just smiled at the short message, wide enough that she had to bite down on her lower lip to keep it from hurting her cheeks, and typed out a quick text to send a few seconds later.

Clarke: Goodnight :)

Lexa Woods: Goodnight, Clarke.

She dozed off that night with a smile on her face, completely unaware of the matching smile that had etched itself onto Lexa’s lips until she too succumbed to the strong pull of sleep.

Chapter Text

“You’re keeping food here now?” Clarke asked as she peered into her refrigerator at the small container of salad inside. “I didn’t think we had to live with each other until after we were married.”

“My invitation to spend the day writing my paper at your apartment wasn’t imagined, was it?” Lexa responded back with her own question from her position on Clarke and Raven’s couch.

“No,” Clarke replied, her voice drawing out the short word at the end.

“So, I need nourishment throughout the day, Clarke,” Lexa told her as she continued typing, “despite your inclination of thinking I’m some kind of robot.”

“Someone who works out as much as you do, sleeps as little as you do, and only manages to have to eat a few leafs of lettuce once a day is practically a robot,” Clarke said before reaching past the foreign container to grab a bottle of juice.

Lexa lightly rolled her eyes and continued with her paper, trying hard not to let the pain of her injured wrist distract her too much. It had been a few weeks since Ontari had broken it during the final round of the games, but every time Lexa had to use her left hand it caused a bit of pain to radiate through her arm. She had even been forced to keep her engagement ring off her finger as a result of the mild swelling along her hand. Strangely enough it had been one of the biggest disappointments she felt, not being able to slip the small band of precious metal back in its rightful place, the very second Clarke had given it back to her a day after the games.

Clarke made her way back over to where her easel was situated in the dining room and perched atop the stool in front of it. She honestly had no idea what possessed her to pull out the canvas Lexa had unintentionally ruined that fateful day the brunette had showed up, tea in hand, and startled the zoned artist so badly that the entire contents of said to-go cup of tea splashed along the length of the painting in progress. But there Clarke was, brushes at the ready, trying to turn what she once thought was hopeless into something worthwhile.

She studied the way the background of the scene had antiqued under the dried layer of tea and used it to her advantage. The entire dynamic on the canvas shifted the moment Clarke decided to throw the timing of the scene back into the past, thus making sense of the stains she specifically chose not to cover up. It still didn’t look like much, at least Clarke figured to the artistically-untrained eye, but she had so many visions for it that her zone often claimed her for days at a time once she allowed herself to fully immerse in it.


The tone of Lexa’s voice along with the small touch she felt against her skin just above her right elbow shot Clarke back into reality at lightning speed. She looked over to see Lexa fixing her with a slightly concerned look and realized she had properly zoned out for what was likely hours. The expression was strikingly similar to the one Raven used to give her all the times she unknowingly barricaded herself in her room with a brush and a full set of paints. A few blinks of her dry scratchy eyes brought all of her senses back, and she took a peek at the clock on her wall.

“Don’t you need to take a break for lunch or something?” Lexa asked slowly, hesitantly.

“Yeah,” Clarke mumbled quietly. “I should... yeah... I should eat something.”

Lexa just nodded before turning back towards the living room. Clarke watched her sit back down on her usual side of the couch before making her own way into the kitchen to appease both her grumbling stomach and her apparently concerned fiancé. The realization of the fact that Lexa was at least the tiniest bit preoccupied with whether she had eaten or not had Clarke’s insides fluttering. She was still continuously impressed with the tiny ways Lexa had begun showing her thoughtfulness over the past six months since their ‘arrangement agreement’ and, at some point along the line, had stopped trying to deny the way it made her heart beat just a little bit faster.

The container of salad was gone from the refrigerator, and Clarke figured Lexa had eaten her lunch at a slightly more appropriate hour. She couldn’t help but wonder how long Lexa had been waiting to pull her out of her zone and remind her to eat, whether she had waited at all. Perhaps Lexa had caught sight of the time and instinctually pulled her from her zone. A small shrug of Clarke’s shoulders provided her mind enough time to halt its questions and scenarios long enough to retrieve a single portion of yogurt from the fridge. She walked into the living room and cleared her throat gently before finding a seat on the far side of the couch from where Lexa was sitting.

Well, more like lying.

Lexa had her back propped against the armrest while her legs were stretched across the length of the couch, and her laptop rested on top of her thighs. A pair of glasses sat low on the bridge of her nose making her look so infuriatingly cute that Clarke was powerless to stop herself from stealing a few more glances at the girl as she licked the aluminum top of her yogurt cup. She thought back to earlier that morning and knew Lexa didn’t have her glasses on then, and her eyes landed on the small contacts case sitting on the coffee table next to an empty glasses case.

As Clarke dipped a spoon into her yogurt, she studied the brunette’s face for just a moment more. Her eyes were drooping and her jaw was tight, and Clarke noticed immediately the tiny grimace that flashed over Lexa’s face when she tightened and let loose the fingers on her left hand before trying to type again. She swallowed a lump of strawberry in her yogurt and opened her mouth to speak before her brain could stop her.

“How’s your wrist?”

Lexa’s eyes darted up from her screen and landed on Clarke’s, staring for a moment almost long enough to make Clarke start to squirm in her seat. A soft sigh landed on her ears a second later, and Lexa lifted her right hand up to her face to pinch the bridge of her nose under her glasses.

“Hurts,” Lexa replied.

“I could type for you for a while,” Clarke suggested with a small shrug, “so you can let it rest.”

The look of surprise on Lexa’s face almost made Clarke laugh, but she just sat in silence and waited for an answer. The brunette seemed to be contemplating something but finally opened her mouth to speak.

“No, that’s okay,” Lexa told her. “I wouldn’t want to impose.”

“It’s not an imposition when someone offers,” Clarke said with a playful roll of her eyes.

She swung her legs onto the couch behind Lexa’s outstretched ones, so that their feet lined up with the other’s thighs and reached out for the laptop which Lexa still appeared hesitant to give up. When Clarke realized her initial attempt had failed, she sighed and dug back into her yogurt to at least finish it while Lexa decided whether she wanted to surrender her laptop or not.

“Do you want a yogurt?” Clarke asked after she noticed Lexa’s gaze focused on the small plastic container in her hand.

“I’m allergic to strawberries,” Lexa replied immediately, and Clarke’s eyebrows raised in surprise, “and peanuts,” Lexa heard herself continuing quietly, almost as if she couldn’t believe she was sharing so much about herself to Clarke of all people, “cats, pollen, and penicillin.”

“Is that all?” Clarke asked, her eyebrows significantly higher than before and her eyes blown wide.

“Yes,” Lexa answered with a small nod.

Clarke quietly but quickly finished the rest of her yogurt while Lexa pretended to return her focus on the paper she was writing when, in fact, she was trying not to lose her mind at the fact that she would be touching Clarke’s leg with her foot if she moved it to the side just an inch. It was something she could tell her body wanted to do, if the tingling sensation in her toes was anything to go by, but had no legitimate excuse to actually do so.

Before her brain could react to anything other than thinking about what it would feel like to have her legs pressed up tightly against Clarke’s, or any other part of her body pressed up against Clarke, her laptop was being lifted from her grasp without any resistance other than a shocked look of protest she aimed at the emboldened blonde. Clarke just threw her a smile as she settled her fingers on the keyboard and looked up at Lexa in a wordless command to begin dictating her paper.

“Come on, Lex,” Clarke practically whined, “just accept a favor when it’s offered and don’t make it weird.”

“I’m not making it weird,” Lexa countered, her eyebrows scrunching in protest.

“You’re looking at me like I just stole your puppy,” Clarke said with an expression of amusement on her face, “or maybe you’re just nervous I’ll see something on here that you don’t want me to?”

“Like what?” Lexa asked innocently.

“Oh, I don’t know,” Clarke replied with a shrug and looked down at the computer. “Your browsing history perhaps? A few dirty pictures saved on your hard drive perhaps?”

Lexa’s face instantly flushed the moment Clarke had stopped talking, suddenly remembering a somewhat new word document she’d just saved with a few rough drafts of poems she had tried to compose. It was just the sort of thing she knew Clarke and their friends would never let her live down, and the urge to snatch her laptop out of Clarke’s control was positively overwhelming. Clarke, on the other hand, was loving the uncomfortable look on Lexa’s face and didn’t deny her desire to exploit it.

“I thought you’d be able to keep your secrets a little better than this,” Clarke said, her lips curling with a smirk.

“No, Clarke, that’s not what–”

“I’m just giving you shit, relax,” Clarke interrupted the girl and tapped her foot against Lexa’s leg.

A silent gaze was all the two could manage as a tiny bolt of electricity struck where they connected, and Lexa thought she might as well give up speaking altogether when she felt Clarke shift just a fraction closer to her so that their legs were pressed against each other’s over every inch that was possible in their respective reclined positions on the couch. When Clarke noticed that Lexa didn’t seem to be rejecting the physical connection, she wiggled herself a little further against the armrest and waited patiently for Lexa to begin.

It was only a few seconds later that Lexa did so.

The sun broke against the horizon just as Anya slipped past the front doors of the fire station. Despite her natural disposition of being a night owl, she loved working morning shifts. It meant she could leave at a somewhat decent hour and still enjoy a bit of the sunlight before having to crash for another grueling day on the job. A little hard work never dissuaded her from the duties she had as a firefighter, and her passion for the position only fueled her joy to continue climbing her way to the top no matter how long it might take.

“She lives!” Nyko shouted the moment he laid eyes on Anya. “Woods actually lives!”

“Why the hell wouldn’t I live?” Anya asked as the sleepy crowd of her fellow employees gave her a weak round of applause.

“We were all taking bets on how much PTO you would take after that scene at the bar two nights ago,” Nyko explained.

“Scene?” Anya questioned with a high-arching eyebrow. “Oh, you mean when I drank all of you pathetic excuses for FD personnel under the table?”

“And barely made it home before she, quote, heaved her guts into oblivion, end quote,” Nyko said, his lips stretching into a smirk.

“Who told you that lie?” Anya asked, and Nyko pointed towards Octavia.

“Raven texted me those exact words,” Octavia said as she raised her hands in surrender, “so I would rethink your last statement unless you want me to tell your girlfriend that you called her a liar.”

Anya shot the brunette a glare before spreading it around to the rest of the group as a warning to drop the topic. It was dropped, for the time being, and most of them went back to getting themselves their morning cups of coffee or munching on their breakfasts. It was something they knew they could get away with before Pike arrived at the station each morning and had become something of a ritual. A time to razz each other, stockpile copious amounts of caffeine for the day, and come together as something of a familial unit to help grow their bonds with one another in preparation for the day each and every one of them were forced to rely upon their fellow firefighter.

“Who even started that drinking game?” Octavia asked as she sidled up to Anya at the coffee machine.

“I’d really prefer not to ever again think about that night,” Anya told her dryly, and Octavia just chuckled.

“That bad, huh?” Octavia questioned through a smirk. “I figured Raven would have taken care of you well enough so you could at least handle your memories of it.”

“Oh, she did,” Anya said as she poured herself a strong cup of black coffee, “but it only lasted until I was sober enough to form coherent sentences before she was making sure I knew I’d never live it down.”

“That’s what good girlfriends are for,” Octavia told her with a wink.

Anya let out a non-committal grunt while she took a sip of her coffee and noticed Octavia and Lincoln share a smile. As the hot liquid poured down her throat, Anya watched the two turn their attention away from each other almost shyly and couldn’t resist asking about the exchange.

“So, what’s up with you two?” Anya asked, thrusting her chin towards her retreating partner. “Are you back together?”

“Not officially,” Octavia said through a sigh, “but I think we’re getting there.”

“Lincoln’s been pretty tight lipped about it and feel free to stop me if I’m overstepping,” Anya said, “but what’s changed from before to make you both want to give it another chance?”

“Well, um,” Octavia started out hesitantly, “actually I–”

“Good morning.”

Both Anya and Octavia’s heads snapped to the side at the sound of the booming voice to whom they immediately knew it belonged. The Fire Commissioner strolled into the conference room, where all of the department’s firefighters gathered every morning for a briefing, and took a stand in front of the stunned faces staring back at him.

“Chief Pike is off duty,” the commissioner announced, “and I will be acting in his absence today.”

A few throat clearings sounded around the room as nearly all of the firefighters tried to contain their curiosity at the sudden change of plans. Anya knew immediately that something was up because the Fire Commissioner would never step in to act in a Fire Chief’s absence, but rather the Chief’s First Assistant would step up in their place. The moment the Commissioner’s gaze landed squarely on Anya, she knew even more positively that there was more to his visit than he was going to let on in front of everyone.

“There will be no community briefing this morning, but I will be meeting individually with you all before you leave your shifts,” he told them. “Anya, Lincoln, follow me please. The rest of you are dismissed.”

And with that, the Commissioner turned to walk out the conference room door while Anya and Lincoln followed after sharing a confused glance with Octavia before they left the room. Nothing was said during the time it took them all to make their way into Chief Pike’s office, and Anya felt herself swallowing nervously as he gestured for them both to take a seat on the other side of the large wooden desk in the middle of the room. The Commissioner sat behind the desk and got right down to business.

“Our internal investigation of Chief Pike’s promotion decision has officially closed,” he told them.

Anya’s heart sank for a moment, taking the Commissioner’s words to mean that the case was closed and no results were going to be overturned. She had worked so hard with her private investigator, Nate Miller, and the rest of the department to scrape together every last bit of evidence they could get their hands on, but it all seemed to be for naught. As her mind began taking her further into its depths, the Fire Commissioner spoke again and snapped her back into the moment.

“It was found that he not only disobeyed the department’s ethics code with the promotion decision, he acted unlawfully by committing gender discrimination,” he explained. “Our legal team escalated his case to the public courts, and he was indicted this morning.”

At that news, Anya and Lincoln’s eyes flew open in surprise as they tried desperately to follow along with everything they were being told. It wasn’t a second later that the Fire Commissioner was breaking even bigger news to the pair.

“Effective immediately, Anya, you will be acting Fire Chief of this station,” he told her with a strong nod, “and, Lincoln, you will be acting First Assistant to the Fire Chief.”

He was met with an expected silence from the other side of the desk and smirked at the two stunned firefighters as it appeared they both tried to gear their bodies to catch up to the speed at which their minds were likely racing. He watched as they shared a look and tempered his smile as controlled expressions of excitement washed over their faces.

“We will be scheduling a badge pinning ceremony next month where you both will receive your new badges and helmets, along with commendation of your services to the Fire Department,” the Commissioner said. “Off the record–”

Both Anya and Lincoln schooled their emotions and waited in silence as their superior continued.

“I am extremely impressed with the way both of you pursued justice to the unfair and unlawful situation former Chief Pike threw you into,” the Commissioner told them. “I’m confident that the majority of firefighters in your positions would have reacted far less dignified had they been faced with the same outcome, and it has made my decision to promote you both one of the easiest of my career.”

Lincoln clenched his jaw tightly, willing himself not to get emotional, while Anya remained cool and collected beside him. They all traded knowing nods after which the Fire Commissioner excused Lincoln from the room. Anya let out a breath she hadn’t realized she had been holding onto, but her nerves quickly got the better of her when the Fire Commissioner stood from his seat and rounded the desk. She stood in response and turned herself towards him, waiting silently for him say whatever it was that he wanted to wait to say until they were alone.

“Anya, I hope that how this promotion befell you doesn’t cloud your understanding that you more than earned it,” he told her. “The situation with Pike awarded me the opportunity to study your department service history, and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that those serving under and alongside you will be in the presence of the embodiment of what our modern Fire Department stands for. I am honored to call you Chief.”

Anya fought valiantly to keep her tears at bay as she lifted her hand to reciprocate the salute her Fire Commissioner was giving to her, but one managed to slip from the corner of her eye when she felt herself shaking his hand shortly thereafter.

“Thank you, sir,” Anya replied, her voice strong and confident, before turning to exit the office.

She walked as quickly as her feet could carry her and all but exploded into the bathroom furthest away from the common areas of the station. Her chest clenched as she breathed, and hot tears began pouring down her cheeks. It wasn’t often that she cried, but her emotions were overwhelming her in the best possible ways. Her fellow firefighters were momentarily forgotten as she fumbled in her pocket to retrieve her phone, and the only thought circling her mind was Raven.

It was the worst way to tell her girlfriend the news, over text message, but it was all her brain kept telling her to do. She typed out an contrarily short announcement compared to the immensity of the news and hovered her thumb over the send button, forcing herself to take a few seconds to contemplate whether she wanted to tell Raven this way. In the end she decided against it and shoved her phone back into her pocket only to spend the rest of her shift counting down the minutes to when she could tell her girlfriend in person that she had just made station Fire Chief.


The sound of her voice being shouted caused Clarke’s eyelids to snap open from their previous position of being closed. She blinked a few times, noting the quiet hum of the television in front of her, and realized that she had dozed off after helping Lexa type what ended up being a twenty page paper on some kind of extremely boring law thing that Clarke hadn’t a clue how to even start to comprehend. It was no wonder her brain had shut itself off afterwards. The mental exertion listening to the legal gibberish falling effortlessly out of Lexa’s mouth combined with the warmth of their legs pressed together was the perfect recipe for a lazy afternoon nap.


There was still a very warm body next to her that belonged to a decreasingly infuriating brunette who just so happened to be sleeping as well. Clarke’s eyes danced around Lexa’s face for just a moment, suppressing the urge to smile at the way her glasses were smashed between her face and the couch, before she carefully raised herself to her elbows and peered over the back of the couch at Raven.

“Shhh,” Clarke hushed her roommate.

“Why are you shushing me?” Raven asked in a whisper as she kicked off her shoes and walked past the kitchen.

Clarke pointed down towards the opposite end of the couch, and Raven scrunched her eyebrows in confusion until she found herself in the living room and staring down at Lexa’s slumbering form. Raven’s eyes widened slowly, and she tipped her gaze up at Clarke expectantly.

“What?” Clarke whispered with a shrug.

“Care to enlighten me on what was going on here before I came home?” Raven asked quietly as she motioned back and forth along the couch.

“I was painting,” Clarke told her, pointing over at her easel before moving to scratch at the back of her neck, “and then I helped Lexa type up a paper because her wrist was sore.”

“You’re kidding me,” Raven said excitedly as she sat down on the edge of the coffee table.

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Clarke whispered.

“Not that big of a deal?” Raven hissed in disbelief. “Six months ago you wouldn’t have even entertained the thought of helping her type a paper, and you’d probably find some way to insult her in the process.”

“Yeah, well, if you haven’t noticed I have also tried to stop being such a giant ass to her,” Clarke whispered in a scolding tone. “We’re friends now. I think.”

“Friends? Right,” Raven said with a roll of her eyes. “You two are engaged, cuddled up on the couch together, and you actually think that you’re just friends?”

“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”

“It means that you can’t deny that you probably spent at least a small fraction of your, quote, nap checking out your fake fiancé’s super fine ass,” Raven said as she pointed down at Lexa’s backside that just so happened to be facing Raven from her position on the couch.

“I can hear you,” Lexa suddenly said, causing both girls to trade panicked looks.

“Well, that’s awkward,” Raven said at her normal volume. “Not untrue but still awkward.”

“Completely untrue,” Clarke disagreed and shot Raven a death glare.

Lexa stirred from her position and adjusted her glasses. Clarke tried desperately not to stare at the groggy brunette, but the way her hair was mussed from the perfection it usually looked was just about the cutest thing she had ever seen in her life. She’d been thinking that exact phrase more and more over the past months, and it always had some connection to Lexa. The way she smiled or the way she laughed, the way her cheeks flushed when someone paid her a compliment or the way she could render Clarke speechless with just a look. Everything about how Clarke saw her seemed to be changing. It was intense, it was scary, and it was addictingly exciting.

“I should be going,” Lexa finally said as she swung her legs off the side of the couch and began gathering her things.

“Before you run off, I have some news,” Raven told them both. “Incredibly awesome news.”

Lexa turned her gaze up towards Raven as she continued packing, and Clarke sat up on the couch to give her roommate her undivided attention. Clarke was just about to urge her to ‘spit it out already’ when Raven finally spoke.

“I’m pregnant.”

Lexa’s eyes narrowed as Clarke’s blew wide, and only a couple of stoic seconds passed before Raven burst out laughing.

“Oh my gosh, your faces!” Raven exclaimed through her laughter, and Clarke just rolled her eyes.

“So, is there an actual announcement or are you just trying to be stupidly funny?” Clarke asked in feigned annoyance. “Key word, trying.”

“Rude,” Raven said and pushed her foot into Clarke’s knee. “Anya gave me the okay to tell you guys that she was promoted to Fire Chief and wants us all to go out and celebrate tonight.”

“So the case has been resolved?” Lexa asked, her expression changing to surprise instantly.

“Apparently, Pike was fired last night,” Raven said, “and was then indicted this morning.”

“Unlawful promotion?” Lexa questioned.

“You’re going to have to get the whole story from her tonight at the celebration,” Raven said as she stood, “which I’m assuming you will be coming to?”

Lexa flicked her gaze over to Clarke for just a moment before looking back down at her laptop and clearing her throat.

“Sure,” Lexa finally replied, “I’ll be there.”

“Great! Clarke?” Raven asked as she turned her attention to the blonde.

“Yeah, of course,” Clarke told her, “count me in.”

“We’re meeting at seven o’clock for dinner at this place Lincoln and Octavia like to go to,” Raven told them. “Oh, they’re coming too.”

“Both of them?” Lexa asked.

“Together?” Clarke added.

“Yep,” Raven replied with a smirk. “The gang’s first triple date!”

Clarke and Lexa shared a look as Raven sauntered off towards her bedroom. Neither of them wanted to admit that their planned outing was, technically, a triple date so they expertly avoided eye contact while Lexa packed up her last textbook and both stood up from the couch. Clarke wasn’t sure why but she found herself walking Lexa to the front door, even pulling it open for the girl as she slipped her shoes on and shrugged her bag over her shoulder.

“Is your wrist feeling better?” Clarke questioned as she looked down at it.

“It is,” Lexa replied softly.

“Well, I’ll see you in a couple of hours,” Clarke abruptly said before fighting the urge to roll her eyes at herself.

Lexa nodded once in agreement and walked out the door, leaving Clarke alone at last. A deep sigh left her lungs as she pushed the door shut, and she turned her attention to the paintbrush she’d forgotten to clean off before helping Lexa with her paper. A few expletives were uttered under her breath as she tossed the brush in the trash before heading to the bathroom to freshen up for the evening of celebration about to be had.

After she’d taken her shower and began to dry her hair, Raven joined her in the tiny space. Clarke averted her eyes as the brunette climbed into the shower, not that Raven being naked in front of her was anything new, and they chatted about Anya and Lincoln while they each fell into their normal routines of getting ready.

“Did Anya call you and tell you about the promotion?” Clarke asked as she brushed a fair amount of mascara on her eyelashes.

“She ended up texting me to meet her for lunch,” Raven said into the mirror. “Normally that’s code for a quickie, but I knew something was up when she told me the name of the café she wanted to eat at and its name wasn’t Raven Reyes.”

“Gross,” Clarke mumbled but didn’t stop her actions.

“Don’t ‘gross’ me just because you’re not getting laid,” Raven told her in jest.

“So, she told you over lunch then?” Clarke asked, eager to steer the direction of their conversation back onto its original path.

“Yeah, I screamed so loud the lady next to us almost had a heart attack,” Raven said with a chuckle. “I felt bad, so I paid for her lunch.”

“Wow, that was quite a decent thing to do,” Clarke told her as she capped her mascara and threw it back into her makeup bag.

“I’m a quite decent human being, Clarke,” Raven quipped with a roll of her eyes, “most of the time at least.”

The two finished primping in the mirror at about the same time before disappearing into their bedrooms to get changed for the evening. Clarke was sure Raven would be opting for a racy set of lingerie under whatever it was that she decided to wear, for Anya’s benefit after dinner, and wouldn’t be at all surprised if she came barreling into her room to model and ask Clarke for her opinion. It wouldn’t have been the first time.

As Clarke idly thumbed through her closet, she couldn’t help the way her mind wandered back to Lexa. Would she be wearing a dress? Had she ever seen Lexa in a dress? Was Lexa hoping she would wear a dress? A pointed sigh pushed its way past her lips, and Clarke refocused on her wardrobe intently enough to stop her thoughts from wandering until she picked out what she was going to wear. The first words out of Raven’s mouth when she stepped outside of her bedroom was confirmation she’d chosen the right thing.

“Holy damn!” Raven exclaimed as her eyes scanned down the length of her best friend’s body. “You look hot.”

“Don’t I always?” Clarke asked cheekily, and Raven just chuckled.

“Yes, but I have a feeling you might be trying to impress a certain someone with that look,” Raven said, twirling her finger in the general direction of Clarke’s outfit.

“No, I’m not,” Clarke immediately retorted as she shoved her phone into her purse along with her wallet and lip gloss.

“Relax, Lexa will love it,” Raven told her with a shrug of her shoulders.

“I’m not trying to impress Lexa!” Clarke nearly squeaked. “I just want to look nice for Anya and Lincoln’s big night.”

“Fine, fine,” Raven said and held her hands up in surrender, “just don’t be surprised that I tell you ‘I told you so’ when Lexa starts drooling the second she sees that good Earth cleavage.”

“What does that even mean?” Clarke asked, her eyebrows scrunched in confusion.

Raven offered nothing in response other than a smile, and the two left their apartment arm-in-arm.

The restaurant was already buzzing by the time Clarke and Raven stepped inside the oversized glass doors at the front of the building. It was a swanky place, but warm and cozy as well, and a roaring fireplace in the middle of the dining room cast an orange hue around the room. The dark wood tables and plush dining chairs were sure to make for a comfortable experience, and the staff dressed in black vests and tiny black bowties was a classy touch.

“Reservation under Woods,” Raven told the host who looked down at the tablet on his podium.

“The rest of your party is already here,” he told Raven as he grabbed two menus and motioned at them, “so please follow me.”

The first thing Raven noticed as the neared the table was that her girlfriend and Octavia were not sitting with Lincoln and Lexa. She swept her gaze around the room and finally spotted them, speaking in hushed tones off to the side of the restaurant where the restrooms were. Octavia was nodding her head as she looked down at the floor, and Anya lifted a hand to Octavia’s arm to give it a light squeeze.

Clarke, on the other hand, was far too distracted at the way her heart started pounding in her chest the moment her eyes connected with Lexa’s from across the dining room. She could have sworn she saw the other girl swallow and only hoped it was because of the dress she’d decided to wear that night. It was one of her favorites and showed off her curves in the very best ways and, as she stepped up to the table, she was sure they hadn’t gone unappreciated by Lexa if the way her eyes kept darting around her body were anything to go by.

“I could have sworn I seated two other beautiful ladies at this table,” the host joked with a lopsided grin.

“They went to use the restroom,” Lincoln said as he slipped out of the booth and stood up. “Raven, after you. Anya has a strict seating arrangement for the evening.”

Raven cocked an eyebrow at Lincoln who was gesturing her towards the middle-back of the round booth just before Lexa stood up and stepped aside for Clarke to sit down as well. They each took their seats, Lexa sitting at the far left end of the booth, and Lincoln remained standing until Anya and Octavia finally arrived back at the table. Anya slid in first so that she could sit beside Raven, Lincoln followed next, and Octavia capped the far right end of the booth.

“What’s with the seating arrangement?” Raven asked as Anya leaned over to kiss her cheek.

“Oh, you know, I just wanted to make sure all of the couples were sitting next to each other,” Anya answered as she shot a quick glance over at Lexa who quickly looked away.

A few seconds passed as everyone got situated at the table, and it wasn’t before long that both Clarke and Lexa were looking at the other two couples get cozy. Lincoln threw his arm around Octavia’s shoulders and whispered something in her ear that made her blush while Raven and Anya traded a few chaste kisses.

Clarke cleared her throat gently and turned her head towards Lexa to quickly appraise her appearance.

“You look nice,” Clarke said so quietly that Lexa was barely sure it had even come from the blonde’s lips.

She whipped her head to the side and stared at Clarke who was looking down at her menu as if it was the most interesting thing she’d ever seen, and Lexa froze. Did she actually hear what she thought she heard or was it her mind playing tricks on her? As doubt to whether the compliment had actually been given started to take over her brain, suddenly all she could see was the questioning blue eyes of her fiancée staring straight into her own.

‘She did say it,’ Lexa thought to herself and swallowed nervously.

Clarke’s gaze was relentless, which was new, and Lexa was momentarily paralyzed by it. It was the first time she had ever seen Clarke look at her with an intensity that had nothing to do with animosity, and it was powerful. So powerful that it lit a fiery blush along the tops of her cheeks so hot she was sure it was only a matter of time before she would start to melt against the table. Clarke’s eyes danced over the flushed skin, which only served to embarrass Lexa ever more, until their gaze connected once again. Lexa cleared her throat, blinked, and opened her mouth to speak. Finally.

“Thank you.”

That was all she could have even dreamed she could manage, but Clarke seemed to accept it well enough. Her soft grin made Lexa’s heart flutter with relief, and it wasn’t a few seconds later that their server appeared at the edge of their table.

“Good evening,” she said through a wide smile. “My name is Alie, and I will be your server tonight. What can I get for you all to drink?”

Everyone ordered their favorite drinks, and Anya ordered a bottle of champagne for the table to share. By the time Lexa, the last one to order, had voiced her choice the server was grinning from ear to ear. A slightly unpleasant feeling settled in the bottom of Clarke’s stomach as she watched the beautiful girl smile at Lexa but didn’t know what to make of it right away.

“Whiskey girls are always after my heart,” Alie said and winked, actually winked, at Lexa.

From across the table, Raven and Lincoln’s eyes blew wide while Anya and Octavia just watched the exchange in stoic silence. Clarke blinked a few times in shock at the girl’s forwardness and straightened her posture just slightly in her seat as if she was readying herself for something, even if that something was a complete mystery to her.

“I’ll be back shortly with your drinks,” Alie told the table with a smile and turned to leave.

“Let’s all take a look at this menu, shall we?” Raven broke the silence as a few awkward throat clearings went around the table.

As if through some kind of miracle, everyone had decided on what to order by the time their server had come back with their drinks. Menus were taken, champagne was poured, and the complete story of how Anya and Lincoln were promoted to Chief and First Assistant commenced. It was only when their entrees had been served did the story take a quick intermission as they all readied their meals for devouring as quickly as possible.

Lexa went to work deconstructing her salad as she usually did, carefully removing the large red onion rings and placing them on a small bread plate beside her dinner plate. Next came the croutons, which Clarke didn’t hesitate reaching over to pop a few in her mouth, followed by a few small tomatoes and a layer of lettuce. It was something Anya had never seen the younger Woods do before, and it caught her attention immediately. Raven was already staring at the pair after she heard Clarke crunching on Lexa’s croutons, but Clarke and Lexa were completely oblivious.

When a few more lettuce leaves had filled out the tiny plate, Lexa gently placed the side cup of salad dressing between herself and Clarke. It didn’t take a second for Clarke to dip her fork into the creamy condiment a few times and drizzle it over the tiny makeshift salad as Lexa went back to spreading out the rest of her toppings on her own larger salad. Raven and Anya watched in shocked silence as Clarke licked her fork clean just to twirl it in a few hearty mouthfuls of her fettucine and plop them onto her own bread plate before sliding it over to Lexa. They both simultaneously began eating their food, Clarke starting with her tiny salad and Lexa starting with her miniature serving of pasta, and didn’t realize that everyone at their table had dropped their jaws in awe as they stared at the couple until Lexa was chewing on a mouthful of sinfully rich pasta and looking back up at them.

“What. The. Fuck.”

Clarke looked up from her food at hearing Anya’s drawn out statement and scrunched her eyebrows in confusion. It was only then that she noticed everyone looking at them and felt herself falling into even deeper bewilderment.

“You two share food now?” Raven asked as her eyebrows arched comically high. “Since when did that happen?”

“We just...” Clarke began to say but trailed off. “I like parts of her salad that she doesn’t, and she likes indulging in a little pasta from time to time.”

“It’s not that big of a deal,” Lexa followed up with, her voice a bit hesitant.

Not that big of a deal?” Anya repeated in question. “Alexandria Woods, you have never ever shared food with anyone besides me, and that was only one time because I sat on you and shoved it into your mouth.”

“You sat on her and shoved food into her mouth?” Raven asked with a chuckle in her voice.

“We were young,” Anya replied with a shrug.

“Look, as long as they aren’t fighting maybe we should just ride the wave?” Lincoln suggested before taking the first cut out of his filet mignon.

The rest of the table seemed to agree, and a momentary silence fell upon them until Lincoln pressed his arm lightly against Octavia’s to get her attention.

“Is everything okay?” Lincoln asked quietly. “You’ve been pretty quiet tonight.”

“Everything is okay,” Octavia assured him with a genuine smile which Lincoln seemed to accept.

He turned his attention back to his meal, and the chatter among the table eventually cropped back up. They lost themselves in each other’s company until everyone had finished their meals and was sipping on their champagne. Anya looked over to find Octavia fidgeting nervously with the hem of her napkin and delivered a swift kick to her shin under the table to make her stop. The brunette looked up and peered over at Anya, trepidation and excitement flickering in her eyes, and received a steady but subtle nod.

“So, before we call this a night,” Octavia announced, “I wanted to say a few things in honor of Anya,” she said with a nod at the girl, “but mostly Lincoln.”

The group chuckled in response and leaned back in their seats, ready to listen intently to whatever Octavia had planned on saying. Lexa picked up on a few of Octavia’s nervous movements, but no one else seemed to notice so she chose not to say anything about it.

“I couldn’t be more proud to call myself a friend of this city’s first female Fire Chief,” Octavia started out, and Anya smiled. “There is no one more deserving of the position.”

“Hear, hear!” Raven exclaimed as she raised her champagne glass in a toast.

“Now, I already told Anya what I wanted to say to you,” Octavia said as she turned her attention to Lincoln, “and she assured me that she wouldn’t mind me stealing a little bit of her thunder tonight.”

Anya smirked as the rest of the group, Lincoln included, squinted in confusion at Octavia’s words.

“Pride doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings towards your promotion and being able to call myself your girlfriend,” Octavia told Lincoln. “You are the most amazing man I have ever known, and I am so incredibly happy that I’m able to spend this evening celebrating with you.”

“Hear, hear!” Raven exclaimed once again.

“Not yet,” Anya whispered to her girlfriend as she shook her head and grinned.

Octavia took a deep shaky breath before speaking, and Clarke immediately knew what was about to happen. She watched the two with rapt attention and waited for Octavia to continue her speech.

“Lincoln, you are my rock, you’re my everything,” Octavia told him as she reached out for his hand and squeezed it firmly, “and even though it took me an unfair amount of time to figure it out, I don’t want to do anything in life without you.”

Lincoln just watched as Octavia slipped from the booth and slowly lowered herself to a knee, and Raven let out a gasp. Tears were already glistening in Clarke’s eyes, Lexa was stunned, and Anya was smirking so widely that it caused her eyes to all but disappear. Octavia fumbled a small silver ring between her fingers and presented it to Lincoln as she took a final steadying breath before speaking once again.

“Will you marry me?”

A few tables around them had fallen silent as well, their diners looking on in anxious excitement for the reaction they hoped would soon follow. Lincoln all but jumped out of his seat to swoop down and pull Octavia into his arms was all the confirmation the crowd needed. A round of applause rang out in the restaurant as tears slipped down both Octavia and Lincoln’s cheeks as he repeated whispers ‘of course’ and ‘I love you’ into her ear over and over again.

“I’m getting married!” Lincoln shouted into the dining room, and his excitement was met with a loud roar of laughter from the diners. “To the most amazing woman in the world.”

The last statement was said quietly, for Octavia’s ears only, and another round of applause broke out as Lincoln leaned down to give his fiancée a long and gentle kiss. One by one, their friends stood up to give them each a hug before finally finding their seats back in the booth with expressions of genuine happiness on each of their faces.

“The seating arrangement all makes sense now,” Raven said as she reached under the table to squeeze her girlfriend’s thigh.

“There’s always a method to my madness,” Anya replied with a shrug.

Lexa scoffed, and Anya shot her a look before speaking again.

“Okay, usually,” Anya added before Raven leaned over and kissed her cheek.

“Congratulations to the newly engaged couple,” their server, Alie, said as she appeared with a tray of various desserts. “My manager would like to treat the entire table with a dessert of their choice to celebrate the happy occasion.”

“Chocolate cake for me!” Raven immediately piped up as she pointed at the giant chocolate dessert on the tray.

“I’ll have the same,” Anya said with a nod.

Octavia and Lincoln both ordered cheesecake, and Clarke chose tiramisu.

“Nothing for me,” Lexa finally said, and Clarke cleared her throat lightly.

Green eyes turned to meet blue, and Clarke arched her eyebrows in suggestion only for Lexa to not be able to figure out what Clarke was trying to wordlessly communicate to her.

“It’s free dessert,” Clarke told her in a hushed tone. “If you don’t want it, you should order something so that someone else can take it home.”

Lexa lifted her chin in understanding and slowly turned her attention back to the smiling server.

“Tiramisu to go, please.”

Clarke felt her face flush just the tiniest bit and was thankful that no one else at the table seemed to notice.

“You’re all making this far too easy for me,” Alie told the group before zeroing her gaze on Lexa, “but who am I to complain?”

The subtle flirting had finally touched her last nerve, and Clarke leveled the girl with a glare no person with a functioning brain could mistake for something other than exactly its purpose. Its purpose was to say ‘back the hell off’ and seemed to work like a charm. The server noticeably flinched and swallowed, averting her eyes quickly before taking a giant step back away from their table and heading off towards the kitchen to retrieve their desserts.

“I saw that,” Raven whispered in Clarke’s ear.

“You saw nothing,” Clarke replied quietly and reached for her glass of champagne.

“So you didn’t just assault our server with eye-daggers for macking on Lexa all night?” Raven whispered again. “Because even from where I’m sitting, it sure as hell looked that way to me.”

“She was just annoying, okay?” Clarke told her best friend in a huff.

“Whatever you have to tell yourself,” Raven replied in one last whisper before turning her attention back to the rest of the table.

Her eyes blinked a few times as she tried to keep Raven’s suggestions from clouding her mind, but she only became more unsure of whatever it was she was feeling when Lexa insisted she take home her tiramisu. Things had indeed suddenly become a lot more complicated.

Chapter Text

A sleepy groan and rustle of sheets brought Lincoln out of the hazy state of mind that always lingered for a few minutes too long in the mornings. He couldn’t help the grin that began spreading across his face as he remembered the events of the previous night, beginning with a proposal and ending with gentle love-making that communicated so much more than either of them were able to say with words. Octavia shifted again, shuffling herself across the bed until Lincoln could feel her breath tickling the back of his neck. A small arm looped around his waist before he felt a hand placed on his stomach, and Lincoln only smiled wider in response.

“Good morning,” Octavia managed to croak out, her voice quiet and raspy from sleep.

“Morning,” Lincoln murmured back before lifting Octavia’s hand to his mouth and kissing the back of it.

He turned from his side onto his back and looked over at his fiancée, eyes closed and lips plump, before reaching over to tuck a stray piece of dark hair behind her ear. She smiled lightly at the touch and finally opened her eyes to take in the morning.

“Is it still safe for me to wear this?” Lincoln asked as he held up his left hand.

Octavia glanced at the silver band on his finger and nodded, her eyes smiling just as brightly as her lips.

“I meant every word I said last night,” Octavia reassured him. “I want you to be my husband, and I want to be your wife.”

Lincoln smiled and turned himself fully towards her, slipping his hand under the sheets to grasp lightly at her hip as a way to ground himself. He was, for lack of a better term, over the moon with how excited he was to finally be realizing one of his most important dreams which was marrying the girl he loved more than life itself.

“Can I ask you a question?” Lincoln asked quietly.

“Am I awake enough to answer it?” Octavia countered back with a lazy smirk.

“I think so,” Lincoln said as he dropped his gaze down to the brunette beside him. “I was just wondering what it was that gave you the final push to propose? Not that I’m complaining, but I am curious.”

Octavia rubbed her eyes lightly as she shimmied herself further up against the pillows and looked over at Lincoln who was doing the same. She reached over a took his hand, intertwining their fingers, before opening her mouth to speak.

“My first push was something Lexa said to me,” Octavia began. “She told me it’s possible that your idea of love, real love, would always include marriage and that I need to realize that if I want a future with you.”

Lincoln remained silent but nodded his head lightly in agreement.

“My second push was a conversation my mom and I had a week after that,” Octavia continued. “I switched a shift at work and spent a long weekend at her house. We talked through so much shit having to do with my dad and how their messed up relationship was playing into my hesitations of getting married too quickly or, really, at all. She pointed out so many differences between us and them that, all of a sudden, it seemed like there wasn’t even an issue at all. There was nothing holding me back anymore.”

Lincoln cracked a subtle smile and nodded again, wanting to make sure not to interrupt before Octavia had said everything she wanted to say.

“I’m... disappointed... that it took me so long to get to this point,” Octavia said before trailing off.

“No, no, no,” Lincoln muttered softly as he scooted closer to Octavia and squeezed her hand. “It took as long as it took. It doesn’t help either of us to wish this would have happened at another time. All that matters now is looking ahead, towards our future together.”

Octavia’s eyes sparkled with unshed tears as she leaned over to place a gentle kiss on Lincoln’s lips. Their eyes closed at the contact, and they both sighed into each other before pulling away with smiles on their faces.

“Speaking of looking ahead,” Octavia said, her smile turning somewhat mischievous, “we should probably start talking about our wedding.”

“Yeah?” Lincoln asked as his eyebrows arched in excitement.

“Yeah, like, what do you picture when you think of our wedding?” Octavia asked him. “Big, small, destination, local, so on and so forth...”

“Hmm,” Lincoln hummed as he lifted his chin towards the ceiling and contemplated his answer. “Family and close friends are a must, I think, and I’d love for all the guys at the station to be there.”

“That sounds like a big wedding,” Octavia said with a smile as she fiddled with the ring around Lincoln’s finger, “which I’m definitely not opposed to.”

“What do you think of when you think about our wedding?” Lincoln asked, genuinely interested in knowing Octavia’s answer.

“I’d like to get married outside,” Octavia replied immediately. “I’m picturing bright flowers and rustic scenery, like, a shabby chic barn in the background or something.”

“That sounds good to me,” Lincoln told her with a nod. “Are we going to have groomsmen and bridesmaids?”

“Yeah, I’d like to,” Octavia said. “Raven would murder me in my sleep if I didn’t ask her to be my maid of honor.”

Lincoln chuckled heartily in agreement before saying, “that’s probably very true.”

“Maybe I’ll call the girls to see if they can get together for lunch today,” Octavia said after a few moments of silence had passed between the two of them. “We can talk about the wedding and stuff.”

“That,” Lincoln said before leaning over and planting a kiss on Octavia’s cheek, “sounds like a good,” another kiss, “plan.”

They came together in a chaste kiss, and Octavia pulled away to let out a small excited squeal of sorts that made Lincoln laugh. She flung the sheets off her body and headed towards their master bathroom until Lincoln stopped her in her tracks.

“Wait,” he said as he climbed out of bed and walked over to their dresser.

She turned back around and watched as he dug around his bottom drawer and withdrew a small black velvet box containing what Octavia knew was her engagement ring. She’d seen the box three times after all, so she was sure that was what was inside. Her insides did a few flips as Lincoln closed their distance until they stood but a foot away from each other, and he opened the box to carefully pluck the engagement ring from it.

He halted his movements for a moment as he looked down in silent consent, only reaching for Octavia’s left hand after she’d given him a small nod of approval. She couldn’t contain the smile from stretching across her face as Lincoln finally slipped the ring they were both so familiar with onto her finger, and they fell into a gentle embrace once they were both rightfully wearing their symbols of promises to each other.

Another quick peck on the lips was the end of their exchange before Octavia spun around and headed straight towards the shower. She couldn’t stop smiling the entire time she was in there at the fact that there was nothing she wanted more at that moment than to never take the ring that was just slipped on her finger off.

“Good morning, bride-to-be,” Clarke said into her phone, a gentle smile growing on her face.


“So, does it still feel completely unreal?” Clarke asked as she continued on her way to her favorite coffee shop down the street from her apartment.

“Actually, it feels so real it’s kinda scary.”

Clarke chuckled and snuggled her chin underneath the soft scarf wrapped around her neck. The autumn days had made way for winter, and the crisp morning air had a certain scent to it that made Clarke believe the season’s first snow was on its way. By the time she made it through the front doors of the coffee shop, Clarke heard Octavia’s voice in her ear once again.

“What are your plans for today? Are you free for lunch?”

“Definitely,” Clarke told her immediately.

“I thought we could get the girls together and start throwing around ideas about the wedding.”

“Oh, I’m even more definitely there,” Clarke said enthusiastically.

“I called Raven, and she’s coming. Anya is working, but I thought we could invite Lexa.”

“Lexa?” Clarke questioned hesitantly at first. “Sure, yeah, we could invite Lexa.”

“Alright, you can do the honors. Tell her we’re meeting at Polis Café at noon and to come hungry.”

“Wait, you’re making me call her?” Clarke asked nervously.

“She’s your fiancé.”

“But this is your wedding planning day,” Clarke tried to argue.

“Grow some and call your fiancé. See you at noon.”

Clarke rolled her eyes at the sound of amusement in Octavia’s voice on the other end of the line, and she sighed quietly before agreeing and saying goodbye. Her usual winter coffee drink warmed her insides and provided a rush of enough caffeine that she felt confident to pick up her phone and call her fiancé.

“Hello, Clarke.”

“Good morning, Lexa,” Clarke cooed into the phone, not realizing how the corners of her lips pulled into a faint smile at the sound of the brunette’s voice. “Are you busy today?”

“I do have some things to do, but I wouldn’t classify my day as being busy.”

“Okay, well, do you have some time to get together for lunch?” Clarke asked, rolling her eyes playfully at the formality of Lexa’s answer. “Octavia wants to start brainstorming about her wedding. She suggested I call and invite you along.”

“I see.”

“We’re meeting at Polis Café at noon,” Clarke told her before taking another sip of her coffee. “Should I let her know you’ll be there?”

There was a few seconds of silence on the other end of Clarke’s phone while she figured Lexa was making her decision, but she was pleasantly surprised at what she heard from the brunette next.

“Yes, and I can give you a ride if you’d like.”

“That would actually be great, Lex,” Clarke told her, a hint of shock evident in her tone, “thank you.”

“You’re welcome.”

There was a small pause between them both until Clarke cleared her throat gently and opened her mouth to speak once again.

“Uh, Raven is also coming along,” Clarke said, “so could she hitch a ride with us too?”

“Of course. I’ll be there at eleven-thirty.”

“Sounds good,” Clarke said with a nod, “see you then.”

They hung up, as per their usual when they talked on the phone, without saying goodbye. The grin on Clarke’s face and the strange butterflies in her stomach were enough to confirm they were continuing their progress in acting civilly towards each other, and Clarke dared to think in that very moment that they might someday actually become friends.

She sat in her favorite chair in her favorite coffee shop for another twenty minutes or so before her coffee was nearing its end in the festive green and red paper cup she’d been given in preparation for the winter holiday. There was nothing quite like that time of the year for Clarke as it always brought back memories of her family spending lazy mornings eating breakfast together and exciting nights partaking in whatever kind of snow activity they could think of. Being able to enjoy those moments, together as a family, were some of the most precious in Clarke’s life.

With a reminiscent sigh, Clarke stood from her chair and waved to the barista before pushing her way back out into the cool winter air. She was going through her schedule for the day, hoping her impromptu lunch with her friends wouldn’t derail her plans for spending some quality time on a new art piece to add to her collection that she hoped she’d be showing Dante’s curator contact in the near future. They still hadn’t been able to nail down a time to meet, due to their locations on opposite sides of the country, but Clarke was sure she would be ready with some amazing pieces to show her once the time finally came.

The hour before she had expected Lexa to be arriving at her apartment flew by in the blink of an eye, and she found herself following Raven into the elevator and down to the lobby shortly thereafter. Lexa was already waiting outside, prompt has ever, and Clarke just rolled her eyes at Raven’s off-hand comment about her wife being excited to see her. They chatted easily on the drive to the restaurant, Clarke completely oblivious to the small glances Lexa was stealing through the rearview mirror under the cover of her dark sunglasses.

“How much do you want to bet that Octavia’s going to ride down the aisle on horseback?” Raven joked as Lexa pulled her car into a parking spot near the front doors of the café.

“I wouldn’t put it past her,” Clarke replied, knowing Octavia’s soft spot for all living creatures.

“Lincoln will probably want a big wedding,” Lexa chimed in as they all got out of the car.

“As he well deserves,” Raven said. “Poor guy had to get shot down three times and wait ten years to finally get that ring on his finger.”

“He didn’t have to wait ten years,” Clarke cut into Raven’s exaggerated rant.

“Eh, close enough,” Raven replied with a flippant wave of her hand.

The café was bustling with lunchtime patrons, giving the quaint space an exciting buzz. As if that wasn’t enough, the absolute shock that zipped up Clarke’s arm when she felt Lexa’s fingers tangle around her own almost threw her into surprise-induced stupor. Her head whipped to the side, and she studied Lexa through scrunched facial features until the brunette finally offered an explanation.

“I know people here who think we’re engaged,” Lexa said quietly, avoiding eye contact as they continued walking.

Engaged. The two of them. The arrangement. Of course.

“Right,” Clarke finally managed to choke out.

She pretended not to notice the way their hands fit so perfectly together it was like the other was a missing puzzle piece, but Clarke’s imagination ran wild from the moment their skin had touched so pretending was just about the only thing keeping her thoughts sane as they made their way to a table in the back of the café where Octavia was already sitting. The newly engaged brunette was smiling from ear to ear as she caught sight of her friends and popped up from her chair to dole out a round of hugs to each of them.

“You’re glowing,” Clarke told Octavia with a smirk, thankful to be free from Lexa’s powerful but gentle grip between her fingers.

“Yeah, did you down a few mimosas before we got here or something?” Raven teased as she plopped into a chair beside Octavia.

“Let’s just say that Lincoln and I had a really nice morning,” Octavia told her friends with a sparkle in her eye.

“Please leave it at that,” Raven quickly interjected, her nose already scrunching in disgust as she reached for her menu.

“Oh, please,” Clarke piped up. “Miss ‘I rode Anya so hard last night I won’t be able to walk for a week’ thinks what Octavia said was too much information?”

Octavia let out a sharp cackle while Lexa’s expression changed into one of pure disgust, and Clarke had to bite back a giggle at how adorable her fiancé’s subtle frown was as it lingered on those pillowy lips from which Clarke was trying so desperately to rip her stare away.

“That needed to be shared,” Raven tried to defend herself. “I didn’t want you to bug me all day about my leg when that clearly wasn’t the issue–”

“So, does anyone need any recommendations?” Lexa hastily interrupted. “I know the menu pretty well.”

“I hear you know the drink menu pretty well too,” Raven said as nonchalantly as she could, never raising her eyes from the menu propped in front of her face.

“Oh?” Octavia questioned honestly.

“Someone, whose name may or may not rhyme with Shmanya, told me that our girl Lexa here was Polis Café’s best bartender as voted on by both regular and visiting patrons,” Raven explained.

“I thought you were a server?” Octavia chimed in again as Clarke turned her attention to the girl beside her and waited for an answer.

“Oh, she was,” Raven said instead. “Apparently she had to make some fast cash to buy that sparkle for Clarke’s finger, so she asked to be reassigned to the bar for a couple of months.”

Clarke’s eyes widened as she looked from Raven’s index finger pointing towards her left hand, down to her engagement ring, and back up to Lexa who was looking more uncomfortable by the second. She almost couldn’t believe what her brain was deducing from what Raven had just said. Lexa had voluntarily chosen to continue working so that she could buy a more expensive ring which was something that was not required of her according to Lillian’s will.

“That is so sweet, Lexa,” Octavia said before throwing a small wink at the brunette sitting opposite her.

“Speaking of bar drinks,” Raven suddenly said, “I’m totally down for a round of Bloody Mary’s to celebrate this most joyous occasion.”

Octavia rolled her eyes at her friend’s natural flare for the dramatic, and Clarke continued staring at the side of Lexa’s face waiting for any indication of confirmation from the girl. It was when a short burst of green filled Clarke’s vision as Lexa caught their gazes together that Clarke knew everything she needed. They broke their stare just a few seconds later and both looked down to their menus.

“Hey, stranger!”

All eyes at the table simultaneously looked up at the sound of a young woman’s voice, but it was Lexa who spoke in response.

“Hey, Niylah,” Lexa said with a soft smile on her face.

“What brings you and your girlfriends back to your old stomping grounds?” Niylah asked. “Felt the urge to show off your gorgeous fiancée?”

“Yes, that is exactly the reason we are here,” Raven said as a smirk grew on her face.

“Actually my friend, Octavia, is newly engaged,” Lexa explained as she gestured towards the grinning brunette, “and we came to discuss wedding plans over brunch.”

“More or less,” Raven made sure to interject before looking over at Lexa and Clarke. “We also want to give the old newly engaged couple some friendly advice about how to go about planning their wedding.”

“Yes, they definitely need all the help they can get,” Octavia offered before catching a glare from Clarke.

“Sounds like fun,” Niylah said with a smile. “Why don’t I start you off with a round of our best brunch drinks while you look over your menus?”

“You’re speaking my language,” Raven replied, nodding once for emphasis, “and make whatever you bring me extra spicy.”

“Got it,” Niylah said with a chuckle. “I’ll be back in a few minutes.”

“She’s cool,” Octavia told the group after Niylah had left their table.

“Clarke, is she that bartender you and Lexa ran into at the club last night?” Raven asked, suddenly more interested in her best friend’s answer than the menu in front of her.

“Uh,” Clarke mumbled, stealing a quick glance over at Lexa, “yeah.”

“Excellent,” Raven replied as a wicked smirk crawled across her face.

“Why?” Octavia asked, her eyebrows scrunching in confusion.

“Nothing, dear,” Raven dismissed her friend with a wave, and Octavia just rolled her eyes.

Clarke leveled Raven with a warning glare as she shifted in her seat, feeling pretty sure that her best friend (whose practical life mission was to make people squirm) was gearing up to make their time spent at the café into the brunch from hell. Lexa cleared her throat and turned her attention down towards her menu, pretending not to know each and every one of the items listed by heart. It wasn’t until the ring of Clarke’s cell phone sounded from inside her purse that her, and everyone else’s attention at the table, was broken.

“Sorry,” Clarke apologized to Octavia as she quickly reached for her phone and looked down at the screen.


“Hey, Mom,” Clarke answered the phone quickly, “can I call you back later?”

Octavia was just about to whisper across the table that it was completely fine that she was answering a phone call from her mother but remained silent the moment she saw a deep crease of concern form between the blonde’s eyes.

“What happened?” Clarke asked into her phone.

The rest of the table looked up from their menus and over at Clarke, trying to figure out what was being said on the other end of the phone line.

“Okay, yeah,” Clarke replied weakly, “yeah...”

A few long beats of silence fell among the group until Clarke offered her mother a distracted ‘goodbye’ and ended the call.

“What’s going on?” Octavia asked, her tone laden with concern.

“My grandma’s back in the hospital,” Clarke replied as she fidgeted with her phone.

“Is she okay?” Raven questioned immediately.

“There have been some complications with her hip replacement... she obviously didn’t tell me about them...” Clarke said, “and she’s back in the hospital for another surgery.”

“Shit, Clarke, you should go be with her,” Octavia told her sincerely.

“But your brunch...” Clarke tried to argue.

“Don’t worry about it,” Octavia assured her as she shook her head a few times. “Your grandmother is far more important than a silly brunch.”

“I can drive you to the hospital,” Lexa quietly offered.

“That would be great,” Clarke replied as she began gathering her things to leave.

“Do you want me to come with?” Raven asked, and Clarke just shook her head.

“No, stay here and have brunch,” Clarke said. “My mom said she’s already in surgery. I’ll text you with updates if you want.”

“Yes, please,” Raven replied with a nod.

Lexa was already standing, keys in hand, waiting for Clarke to follow suit. The other three girls stood and exchanged hugs before Clarke looked regretfully over at Octavia.

“Octavia, I’m so sorr–”

“I already told you not to worry about it,” Octavia interrupted Clarke’s apology. “We all know where you’re supposed to be right now, and it’s not here.”

“Thank you,” Clarke said through a sigh before waving goodbye to her friends and following Lexa back out to the parking lot.

The drive to the hospital was done in silence, neither girl feeling comfortable enough to talk to the other with tensions running high, and it wasn’t before long that Lexa was pulling alongside the front doors of the same hospital Lillian had been admitted into about five months prior. Clarke hesitated in the passenger’s seat for just a moment before she looked over and made eye contact with Lexa.

“You can come in if you want to,” Clarke said in a voice so tiny Lexa wasn’t immediately sure she had even heard it.

After just a few seconds of contemplation, Lexa answered with a single nod before she pulled away from the curb and drove towards the parking ramp on the side of the massive building. Clarke was checking her phone sporadically as they made their way into the hospital and didn’t put it away until they came face-to-face with a slightly fatigued looking Abby Griffin. Lexa stopped just as they came within a few feet of each other, but Clarke pushed forward and stepped into her mother’s open arms for a quick embrace.

“So, what happened?” Clarke breathlessly questioned as her hand came up to thread itself through her hair.

“She came in about two months ago with a dislocation,” Abby began, “so we fitted her with a brace–”

“Wait,” Clarke interrupted quickly, “she dislocated her hip and no one told me?”

“She didn’t want you to worry, Clarke,” Abby told her. “She made me promise not to tell you.”

Clarke’s eyebrows scrunched in confusion and irritation at being out of the loop with someone she loved so dearly and let out an unamused sigh.

“I’m an adult, mother,” Clarke argued. “I grew up hearing medical stories my entire life, so I think I could have handled being let in on my own grandmother’s situation.”

Lexa shifted uncomfortably on her feet as the tension between Clarke and her mother raised just a tick and wordlessly turned away to distance herself from them. Neither of them realized Lexa had disappeared as their conversation continued.

“Yes, you are,” Abby agreed, “but my mother made me promise her something.”

“So?” Clarke blurted out.

“So, I don’t make it a habit to fall back on my promises,” Abby replied as she slipped her hands inside the front pockets of her white lab coat. “She knew you would be worried about her, and I thought it would be a good idea not to cause you more unnecessary stress.”

“Unnecessary?” Clarke asked. “I’d say having to be rushed into a second surgery warrants some pretty damn necessary worry.”

“Clarke, believe me when I say that these kind of complications aren’t altogether rare when the patient is elderly,” Abby said. “The first time her hip dislocated, it didn’t cause any permanent damage.”

“And this time?” Clarke questioned, her arms crossing defensively over her chest. “Did it cause permanent damage this time?”

“No, it didn’t,” Abby told her sternly, “but it was precisely why we decided to operate again so that it wouldn’t happen again and therefore wouldn’t have the chance to cause damage.”

Clarke leveled her mother with an intense stare; it wasn’t challenging or disrespectful but fearful and a bit helpless. A strong hand squeezed around her upper arm and broke her concentration.

“Your grandmother is just about the strongest person I have ever met,” Abby said. “Trust my doctors and believe in her. She will come out of this just fine.”

A heavy sigh passed through Clarke’s lips, and she nodded silently. Her nerves were still on-edge and just as she was thinking that she wished she had a giant cup of liquid caffeine to comfort her, Lexa appeared beside her with a steaming cup of coffee from the hospital cafeteria.

“Thanks,” Clarke practically whispered as she took the cup being offered to her, and Lexa simply nodded in response.

“Make yourselves comfortable,” Abby told both of them as she gestured towards the sitting area at the far end of the room. “The surgery will likely take another hour, and she won’t wake up until at least a couple of hours after that. I’ll come get you.”

Clarke just nodded distractedly in response before turning away from her mother to walk towards the largest sofa in the room. It was only when she had finally settled herself into the soft cushions that she noticed Lexa had her own smaller cup of what Clarke assumed to be tea. She looked down at her coffee and brought it up to her lips, closing her eyes and resisting a moan at the deliciousness coating her taste buds.

She replied to a text Raven sent her, caught a few minutes of news stories playing on the TV beside the sofa, and fiddled on her phone for a while until finally giving in to the serenity of a quick nap. Lexa remained completely silent beside her, busying herself with a book she retrieved from her purse after the first ten minutes they had been waiting together, and it wasn’t until the sound of Abby’s voice broke her concentration that she looked up.

“Girls?” Abby asked gently. “She’s awake.”

Clarke lifted her head from the back of the sofa and blinked groggily, spending a few seconds straightening out her hair and clothes before standing up beside her mother.

“How did it go?” Clarke eagerly questioned.

“Everything went perfectly,” Abby reassured her daughter. “She shouldn’t have any more dislocations.”

Clarke nodded and took a step forward as her mother began ushering them towards the hospital room Lillian was recovering in, but it wasn’t until Clarke noticed Lexa hadn’t moved from her position on the sofa that she stopped and turned to look at the brunette.

“Aren’t you coming?” Clarke asked in a soft, almost pleading, voice.

“I can just wait here for you,” Lexa offered.

The last thing Lexa ever wanted to do was intrude on private family time, and since she wasn’t officially a member of Clarke’s family she wanted to make sure she respected their boundaries. Although her thought process was considerate, Clarke didn’t seem to agree with it and took a few steps towards the sofa. She reached down to take Lexa’s hand in her own, pulled her up gently, and wordlessly urged her to follow. They exchanged a look before Clarke wound their fingers together and followed Abby down the long maze of hallways, their hands never separating until they reached Lillian’s room door.

“You’re in big trouble, Gran,” Clarke announced in a hushed voice as she walked up beside the elderly woman’s bed.

“Abby,” Lillian immediately scolded her daughter the moment she caught sight of Clarke’s scowling face.

“I couldn’t not tell Clarke that you were back in for surgery,” Abby defended herself. “She would have hated us both.”

“I can’t believe you didn’t tell me you dislocated your hip,” Clarke said as she leveled her grandmother with a stern but worried look. “You know that I worry about you.”

“Yes, I do know,” Lillian interjected. “That’s why I didn’t tell you. I don’t need you worrying about me all the time. I need you to live your life the way you should be living it.”

Clarke sighed as her grandmother’s hand covered her own.

“Mom, I have to go check on a patient,” Abby suddenly announced after looking up from her pager. “Just press your call button if you need the nurse.”

Lillian nodded and rolled her eyes just slightly, already knowing the protocol since she had been in the hospital recovering from surgery many times before.

“Lexa is here too,” Abby told her mother.

“Lexa,” Lillian repeated as her eyes landed on the brunette standing just inside the door. “Clarke’s fiancé, of course.”

“Hello, Ms. Walters,” Lexa replied in her most formal tone, thankful that she had asked Clarke all those months ago about how to address the woman.

“Please, dear, my name is Lillian,” she told Lexa and began motioning her to come closer. “Come in and make yourself comfortable. You’re making me nervous hovering by the door like that.”

Lexa reluctantly took a few steps into the room and stopped by the end of Lillian’s hospital bed, hoping that was close enough for the woman, and was relieved when she received a smile of approval.

“So, how is it going between the two of you?” Lillian ventured to ask. “Have you been spending more time with one another since the beginning of this whole arrangement?”

“We have,” Clarke replied and then swallowed thickly, “but that’s mainly due to your requirement of our weekly date nights.”

“Mmm,” Lillian hummed in response as she glanced down at Lexa’s wrist. “What happened to your arm, dear?”

Lexa looked down at the cast covering her left wrist and was about to respond when Clarke interjected.

“She got in a fight.”

“A fight?” Lillian echoed, her eyebrows arching in shock.

Lexa chanced a subtle glare over at Clarke who had to force the smirk off of her lips before continuing.

“Don’t worry, Gran,” Clarke said, “she beat the other girl’s ass.”

“Clarke,” Lexa said in her firmest warning tone.

“What? I’m just telling her the truth,” Clarke said with a shrug, not able to keep the smile away from her lips that time.

“I competed in a fighting tournament,” Lexa clarified, not wanting Clarke’s grandmother to think she was some kind of crazy person who couldn’t control her temper. “I’ve studied a mix of various martial arts techniques and decided to participate in a nation-wide competition this year since being able to quit all of my jobs has afforded me a little bit of extra time. I’m still keeping up on my studies though, and–”

“Lexa, I’m not your mother,” Lillian interrupted with a soft smile on her face. “Although I do like the fact that you have the ability to protect my granddaughter if, heaven forbid, anything were to happen to her.”

“I’m perfectly capable of taking care of myself,” Clarke told her grandmother.

“Oh, you know what I mean, Clarke,” Lillian said with a dismissive waive of her hand before turning her attention back to Lexa. “She is quite capable however I think sometimes she takes care of others more than she takes care of herself. I know that’s true with me.”

“I can handle it, Gran,” Clarke tried to assure her grandmother.

“I’m usually the reason for her being late to all of the fun and interesting plans she has with her friends,” Lillian explained to Lexa, “but it’s only because she does such an amazing job of taking care of me. I’m sure she will do that for you too someday.”

Lexa’s heart skipped in her chest at the statement, and she chanced a look over at Clarke who seemed to be just as uncomfortable as she was. Their rocky initial introductions and subsequent bickering-charged meetings had clouded Lexa’s understanding of the girl to whom she was engaged, and it seemed to suddenly dawn on her that there was so much more to Clarke that she was actually interested in finding out. Little did she know that Clarke had the same feelings about her.

“Speaking of someday,” Lillian said, breaking the silence, “why don’t you two get comfortable and tell me your timeline on when you’re going to make this arrangement official.”

Lillian’s thirty minute interrogation of just how exactly Lexa and Clarke were going to be executing their wedding only ended by the grace of a nurse interrupting them to check on Lillian’s hip. They had taken the opportunity as their getaway, but Clarke made sure not to leave before giving her grandmother a long hug. Lexa seemed relieved to be free from the questioning and practically darted out of the room just under three seconds flat.

Clarke had told Raven to stay home, that she would update her later, and Lexa offered to drive Clarke from the hospital back to her apartment. They sat in relative silence, less the few times Clarke had hummed along to a song she liked on the radio, until Lexa pulled up in front of the apartment building she had become so familiar with. Clarke looked over at Lexa, wanting to make sure she offered sincere gratitude for everything she had done for her that day.

“So, thanks for today, for everything you did,” Clarke said as she carefully unbuckled her seat belt and slid her purse further up into her lap.

“It was no problem,” Lexa answered quietly.

Clarke let her gaze fall back down to her hands clasped loosely on top of her purse. Her gaze flicked over to the engagement ring on her finger as it sparkled under the late afternoon sun, and she took a deep breath before lifting her eyes back up to look in Lexa’s direction once again.

“Why did you keep working just so you could buy me this ring?” Clarke asked, gesturing with her left hand as she spoke. “You knew about my grandmother’s stipend.”

Lexa ripped her eyes away from Clarke’s ring and pointed them downwards as she struggled to find the right words to explain it to Clarke without making it sound, well, pathetic. A deep intake of breath and a slow exhale was all she needed to gather her nerves and finally respond.

“I overheard your conversation with Raven about your dream proposal with a ring from Tiffany’s," Lexa explained somewhat hesitantly. “I knew I couldn’t afford something like that on such short notice but figured you might appreciate something a litle more... special... even though this arrangement was the opposite of what you’d dreamed about. So I transferred to the bar and worked for another month or two to save up a little extra money that I added to your grandmother’s stipend.”

Clarke’s jaw was clenched together so tightly that she was almost afraid her teeth might crack, but it was all she could do to keep herself from crying at the sincerity of Lexa’s explanation. She said nothing as she hoisted her purse over her shoulder and climbed out of the car. Lexa’s initial reaction was disappointment that it seemed Clarke was angered by her explanation, but it quickly changed to confusion while she watched as Clarke rounded the front of the car and stop at the driver’s side door before pulling it open.

“Get out of the car please,” Clarke said.

“Why?” Lexa automatically asked, completely lost as to what was going on in Clarke’s mind.

“Just get out of the car please,” Clarke repeated herself.

Lexa unbuckled her own seat belt and slowly swung her legs out of the car, standing up and waiting silently for Clarke to explain herself. Before another thought could even form in her head, Lexa watched Clarke take a step towards her. Her eyes fluttered shut as the soft press of Clarke’s body molded itself against her, and she didn’t even contemplate the fact that her hands came up to rest gently on Clarke’s lower back. They stood together, exchanging the loose hug for about five seconds, until Clarke finally tugged herself away and let her arms fall from around Lexa’s neck. Their hands brushed against one another’s as they separated, and neither of them could seem to tear their eyes away from the other.

“Thank you,” Clarke whispered.

“You’re welcome,” Lexa said quietly.

“I should go update Raven,” Clarke began, “about my grandma’s surgery...”

“Right, of course,” Lexa chimed in, her head nodding in succession.

Clarke offered a small smile and a nod of her own before she turned away and walked towards the lobby doors of her apartment building. Her heart was pounding in her chest, an apparent after-effect of being held so tenderly by her fiancé, and it was a feeling Clarke knew she would never tire of. It was that very realization though that scared the living daylights out of her.

“So? How’s Grandma Dub?” Raven asked the second Clarke had pushed her way into their apartment.

“She’s going to be okay,” Clarke said through a long sigh. “Her hip dislocated two months ago and then again today, so they brought her in for surgery to stabilize the joint so it won’t happen again.”

“Holy shit, that sounds painful,” Raven replied with a grimace on her face. “Why didn’t she tell you about this earlier?”

“She said she didn’t want me to worry about her,” Clarke said as she dropped her keys on the kitchen counter and walked over to where Raven was sitting on the couch. “Which obviously I would have worried about her, but I would have rather been in the loop.”

“I’m sure she just thought she was protecting you,” Raven offered. “I mean, it’s kind of her mission lately to make sure your life is going well. Including your relationship arrangement thing with Lexa.”

“Ugh, don’t even get me started on that,” Clarke groaned as she pulled a hand through her hair and slumped back against the couch. “It was so easy in the beginning, but now it’s like...”

Raven’s eyebrows arched in surprise at the tiny almost-confession that had tumbled from Clarke’s lips and waited silently for her best friend to finish her sentence. When the blonde offered nothing further, Raven finally spoke up.

“It’s like?” Raven asked open-endedly.

“Complicated,” Clarke settled on.

“Complicated, how?” Raven questioned, her eyes widening with excitement.

Clarke looked over at Raven, the two of them locking eye contact for a few charged seconds before Clarke shrugged her shoulders weakly and mumbled out an “I don’t know.”

“You do too know otherwise you wouldn’t have said complicated,” Raven pointed out. “Could it possibly have become complicated because you’re catching some feelings?”

“For Lexa?” Clarke nearly shrieked. “You’ve got to be joking.”

“I’m absolutely not joking,” Raven replied as she crossed her arms over her chest and squared herself towards Clarke from her end of the sofa.

“I don’t have feelings for Lexa,” Clarke quickly reiterated. “So, we’ve become friends. So what?”

“Look, Clarke, I’m not doubting your newfound friendship with Lexa as hard as that still is to wrap my genius brain around,” Raven said, “but you’re clearly treading into a more than friend zone if you ask me.”

“Well, I didn’t ask you,” Clarke mumbled, and Raven just chuckled. “But, simply for curiosity sake, why would you think that?”

“She brought your smile back,” Raven said vaguely.

“What are you talking about?” Clarke asked, her eyebrows scrunching in confusion. “I smile all the time.”

“Yeah, but not like this,” Raven replied. “You smile like you used to before your dad died.”

Clarke’s expression fell as she thought carefully about the statement her best friend had just made.

“I love it,” Raven continued quietly. “I mean, I’ll admit I was a little sad at first that it wasn’t me who was able to get you smiling like that again but I’m so happy someone as awesome as Lexa was able to do it instead.”

“I just... I don’t get it...” Clarke trailed off before continuing. “We’re supposed to hate each other.”

“Says who?” Raven asked with her characteristic bluntness. “You’re allowed to change your opinion about someone, you know. Lexa has definitely changed hers about you.”

“Oh, right,” Clarke replied dismissively.

“Seriously, how dense are you?” Raven asked, biting back a laugh when Clarke huffed in response. “She looks at you with bigger heart eyes than you look at her with. I swear, you both are so useless.”

“Hey!” Clarke shouted in offense. “I’m not useless, I just have a hard time believing that Lexa looks at me with heart eyes... whatever that means.”

“It means–”

“I’m not asking,” Clarke quickly interjected, not wanting to hear her best friend drone on and on about what she meant by her quirky description.

“Just be open to it, to you and Lexa,” Raven said. “Everyone kind of loves the two of you together.”

Clarke let her best friend’s words sink in for a few seconds before her thoughts were interrupted by Raven speaking up again.

“So, I wanted to share some big news with you but don’t want to if you are still bummed about Grandma Dub,” Raven said.

“No, I’m fine,” Clarke replied with a wave of her hand. “What’s up?”

Raven took a deep breath before an excited smile took over her face, making sure to pause for the dramatic effect Clarke knew Raven loved.

“Anya asked me to move in with her.”

“Are you serious?” Clarke asked as Raven nodded her head in rapid succession. “That is so great for you two! I’m so happy for you!”

“I know, I was freaking out after she asked,” Raven chimed in with a wistful giggle. “It’s still all a little surreal, but I can’t even start to tell you how excited I am.”

“I can tell,” Clarke said before poking her an index finger against Raven’s cheek, rounded from the giant smile plastered on her face. “When are you moving in together? Do I need to start looking for a roommate?”

“You mean do you need to start looking for someone else to support you?” Raven teased and laughed at the middle finger she was presented with. “Actually, we thought we’d make it official after you and Lexa get married. She’ll have to move in with you which would be good timing for me to move in with Anya.”

“That makes sense, but what if it takes me a while to find a gallery space?” Clarke asked. “We can’t get married before that, and I don’t want to be the reason you and Anya have to delay your big step.”

“Don’t worry about it, Clarke,” Raven replied. “If it ends up taking too long, Lexa will just have to live with having me around all the time. Which she already kind of has to live with anyways.”

“Damn, I suddenly feel very sorry for her,” Clarke said in jest.

“Aww, it’s so adorable how concerned you are about your little love muffin,” Raven teased right back.

It wasn’t until a throw pillow had cracked her square in the face that Raven let out a whooping laugh, and the two continued poking fun at each other until Clarke’s phone ringing incessantly from the kitchen broke them from their fun. Clarke made her way into the kitchen and swiped the ‘answer’ button just before the call went to her voicemail.

“Hello?” Clarke answered, her voice slightly strained from laughing.

“Hi, Clarke. It’s Bellamy.”

“Hey, Bellamy,” Clarke said with a smile on her face. “I didn’t recognize your number.”

“I’m just finishing up at the office, but I wanted to hit you with some incredible news.”

“Okay,” Clarke replied hesitantly, her heart beginning a quicker beat as she waited.

“I got a call from the listing agent of that gallery apartment space we looked at in the Firehouse District, and apparently the family deal they were trying to close fell through.”

“You’re kidding,” Clarke heard herself say as her heart pounded in her chest.

Raven scrunched her eyebrows in confusion as Clarke hurriedly waved her over, and she limped her way into the kitchen to try and hear through the phone just as Bellamy continued speaking.

“The seller wanted me to tell you that if your offer still stands, he would like to accept it and move forward with you.”

“You’re kidding,” Clarke said again, only that time it was far louder.

Raven’s eyes were as wide as they could get, and her mouth hung open as they stared at each other in shock.

“But only if your offer remains the same as it was when you originally submitted it. He doesn’t want any contingencies other than the inspection to slow down the closing.”

“Yeah, okay, that makes sense,” Clarke rambled in response.

“So, what do you say? Do you accept?”

“Yes, yes, I absolutely accept!” Clarke nearly shouted into the phone.

She could barely hear the rest of what Bellamy told her over Raven’s hollers of excitement, but luckily for her Bellamy just laughed and told her that he would speak to her later to go over all of the specific details. The call was ended, more screaming filled the apartment, and plans for renovating her newly acquired art gallery space were hatched until the wee hours of the morning when both girls passed out from the exhaustion of excitement.

Chapter Text

“Really, Clarke? Another scarf?” Raven asked with displeasure as they found themselves standing in front of a large table of variously colored scarves. “Don’t you get your mom a scarf, like, every Christmas?”

“Yes,” Clarke replied as she carefully sorted through neat piles of them. “It’s a tradition.”

“Don’t you think she might enjoy something a little less... scarfy... this year?”

“Less scarfy?” Clarke questioned, raising a solitary eyebrow as she looked over at the brunette.

“What if you started a new tradition?” Raven suggested. “Yeah, like one that involves not getting her the same damn gift every year?”

“She likes getting scarves,” Clarke interjected before turning her attention back to the soft strips of fabric in front of her. “Plus, it’s not like a scarf is the only thing I get her.”

Raven took a moment to look down at the multitude of shopping bags in Clarke’s free hand and on the floor by her feet. Her expression soured at a striking realization, and she didn’t hesitate to open her mouth to speak.

“I realize I can be somewhat hard to shop for, but you are planning on getting me a gift right?” Raven asked teasingly. “The only reason I ask is because I don’t want you to feel embarrassed when I give you a gift and you don’t have one to give me.”

“Calm down, greedy,” Clarke said with a roll of her eyes. “I bought your gift a few weeks ago.”

“Did you use the list I gave you?” Raven asked eagerly.

“What ever happened to the element of surprise?” Clarke countered back.

“I’m just particular,” Raven replied with a shrug of her shoulders.

“Trust me, I know,” Clarke said dryly.

“It’s just very important that the specs of the computer parts I asked for be followed precisely in order to–”

“Oh my gosh, Raven, I know!” Clarke interrupted dramatically. “I know all about your particularities. Seriously, how long have we been friends?”

“Alright, fine,” Raven conceded with a surrendering gesture of her hands.

They combed their way through the entire table of scarves before Clarke finally decided on a solid red cashmere one, knowing it would match perfectly with the festive coat pin she’d already bought for her mother earlier in the day. She was officially done with her Christmas shopping, after buying the scarf of course, and it felt great to have finished a few days before the actual holiday. More times than Clarke would like to admit she’d had to fight the frantic Christmas Eve crowd to get the last of her shopping done, but she was determined to this year to give herself a little breathing room.

It was likely her nerves that were the cause of the determination; it would be the first Christmas Clarke would be spending with her mother being married to someone other than her father. She loved Marcus, she really did, but there was something so special and intimate about holiday celebrations that she never wanted to imagine herself spending one without the family she’d grown up with. Of course, life doesn’t always go according to plan but Clarke was sure she’d try her very best to embrace the change and enjoy the holiday regardless.

“Did you get something for Lexa?” Raven asked suddenly.

The question seemed to momentarily disable Clarke’s brain activity as she stared openly at her best friend without muttering a single word in response. Raven widened her eyes as if she was waiting for an answer, but when one never came she spoke up again.

“Did you buy a Christmas gift for your fiancé?”

“I... I didn’t know... was I supposed to?” Clarke asked lamely.

“Well, I think it would be nice,” Raven replied gently, as if she was talking to a child, “especially since we’re going to be celebrating with her and Anya the day after Christmas.”

“We are?” Clarke asked, suddenly panicked. “Why didn’t you tell me that?”

“I thought I already did,” Raven said with a shrug.

“Well, you didn’t,” Clarke told her, “and now it’s been sprung on me out of the blue!”

“What is the big deal?” Raven asked honestly.

“The big deal is that you just told me I’m supposed to get her a gift!” Clarke exclaimed. “I didn’t plan for that! How am I supposed to do that?”

“Uh, Clarke, you do realize we’re standing in the middle of a shopping mall, right?” Raven asked rhetorically. “It’s like a giant building with lots of stores in it that you can buy gifts from.”

“You know what I mean,” Clarke said with a huff. “I haven’t had time to think this through. What am I supposed to get her? How much should I spend? What if she doesn’t like whatever I pick out for her?”


“Oh! Does she have a list?” Clarke interrupted excitedly. “I could just get her something off of that.”

“Just get her something you think she’ll like,” Raven told her frenzied friend.

“Well, how am I supposed to know what she likes?”

“Uh, because you’ve been hanging out with her at least once a week for the past, let’s see,” Raven paused as she looked down at the watch on her wrist for emphasis, “oh yeah, seven months!”

Clarke’s mind raced with snippets of their countless ‘date nights’ and conversations as she tried desperately to remember something, anything, that she could use to help her in picking out the perfect gift for Lexa. Of course she knew the basics about the girl by now, but basics weren’t going to help her pick out the perfect gift.


Clarke audibly grumbled after she’d thought the word for the second time, feeling annoyed that her mind was even bringing her there. It wasn’t like they were dating – technically one could bring up the whole engagement argument – so why should Clarke even be worried about getting the perfe... getting a great gift? She should just buy her a gift and be done with it.

“Earth to Clarke,” Raven deadpanned as she snapped her fingers in front of Clarke’s face.

“You have to give me some ideas or we’ll never get out of here,” Clarke told her best friend as they made their way towards the department store’s checkout counter.

“Okay, let’s be logical here because, face it, Lexa is quite the logical gal herself,” Raven began. “What about you get her something she can use for school?”

Clarke thought for about half a second before opening her mouth to respond.

“She doesn’t have that much school left,” Clarke said, “so I’d rather get her something she can use for a while.”

“Fair enough,” Raven conceded and tapped a finger to her chin. “What about something she could use when she’s a big badass lawyer?”

Clarke threw the cashier a sideways glance after the curse word came tumbling from Raven’s lips as if it was the most natural thing she’d ever muttered before and was relieved that the department store worker didn’t seem to mind. She even smirked lightly at Clarke as she proceeded to scan the scarf’s price tag.

“So what, like, a briefcase or something?” Clarke asked sincerely.

“I think a briefcase would be an amazing gift,” Raven replied, “but maybe a bit too personal.”

“Too personal?” Clarke wondered aloud. “Why?”

“Well, you don’t know Lexa’s style well enough to whether she would want a black one or brown one,” Raven explained. “Would she want leather or would she freak if you gave her a briefcase made from a tiny cow?”

“A tiny cow?” Clarke questioned, a solitary eyebrow arching as she spoke.

“Whatever, you know what I mean,” Raven said with a dismissive wave of her hand.

“My uncle is a lawyer,” the cashier suddenly interjected. “He loves getting high-end office supplies. I know it sounds a little boring, but it’s usually what those lawyer types like.”

“Boring lawyer type, that’s our Lexa!” Raven joked with the cashier who just chuckled in response.

“Maybe I could find her a pen,” Clarke announced after a moment of silent deliberation. “You know, one of those really nice ones that you can engrave and that come in a fancy case.”

“You are brilliant,” Raven told the cashier with a firm thrust of her index finger. “Wrap that scarf up, woman, because my friend and I have a fancy pen to find!”

Clarke rolled her eyes while the cashier laughed, and it wasn’t a minute later that the two were heading back out into the mall in search of the best office supply store in the shopping mall.

“Be careful with the damn pie, woman,” Anya scolded Lexa as they walked the short path to their childhood home.

“I’m literally holding it completely flat,” Lexa replied sharply, carefully thrusting said pie towards Anya for dramatic effect.

“Your clunky-ass cast is pushing the bottom of the plate up inside the box, and the whipped cream is about to smash against the lid,” Anya shot back as she pointed down towards the top of the bakery box.

“Maybe you shouldn’t have tasked the girl with the injury to carry the sacred pie then,” Lexa said with a roll of her eyes.

“So, who would have carried it?”

“You, dumbass,” Lexa retorted just in time for the door in front of them to open.

“Fighting on the doorstep?” Gustus asked with a mischievous twinkle in his eye. “I think that’s a record.”

“Hey, Dad,” Anya greeted the large man with a smile and a hug.

“Merry Christmas, sweetie,” Gustus replied after squeezing her tight.

“Merry Christmas, Gustus,” Lexa said as she leaned towards him to receive the hug she knew she was about to get.

Anya quickly plucked the bakery box from Lexa’s hand and trudged into the small entry way, knocking the thin dusting of snow from her boots before slipping them off and tucking them neatly against the wall. She knew how meticulous her father was to keep an orderly home, and it was second nature for her to follow in his footsteps whenever she found herself back home.

“How is your wrist feeling?” Gustus asked Lexa as he reached out and cradled her hand in his.

“It’s fine,” Lexa told the burly man. “The cast scheduled to come off in a few weeks.”

“Good, good,” Gustus said with a nod before letting her hand go and ushering her into the entry way.

“It smells great, Dad,” Anya shouted from the kitchen, and Gustus smiled in return.

“You two are in for the best beef tenderloin you’ve ever had in your entire lives,” Gustus teasingly boasted before lowering his voice and looking back at Lexa, “and I just may have put together a pan of ratatouille for you to take home too.”

“Best uncle ever,” Lexa told Gustus as a wide grin grew on her face.

He gave her a wink, directed her to hang up her coat, and disappeared into the kitchen to check on his food one last time before they all sat around the table to eat. Gustus hadn’t lied about the tenderloin, and both girls had made sure to shower him with as many compliments as they could possibly think up. The roasted red potatoes and fresh green beans filled the empty spots on their plates, and Gustus’s famous homemade wheat buns was what put the meal over the top.

They ate until their bellies were stuffed before retiring to the cozy living room where a modestly decorated Christmas tree was proudly standing in its usual spot next to the brick fireplace. There were just a smattering of gifts underneath, the quantity of them thinning each year Lexa and Anya grew up, but it was still tradition for them all to get each other at least one gift on the special holiday.

Anya had no idea how her father had pulled it off, but she was touched beyond words when she opened her box to reveal an intricately carved wooden plaque displaying her official Fire Department portrait and an official Fire Chief badge along with an engravement of Anya’s full name and rank. She fought to keep the tears from her eyes as she trailed her fingers along the dips and curls of the wood, knowing her father had likely spent hours carving it for her. When she found herself wrapped up in his arms and hearing soft words of pride whispered into her ear, there was no stopping her emotions from getting the better of her. Even Lexa dabbed the corners of her eyes with the sleeve of her sweater before they all shared smiles and a few lighthearted chuckles.

It had been ages since anyone had gotten her a poetry book, so Lexa couldn’t have been more thrilled when she opened her gift from Gustus to reveal three of them. Genuine leather-bound originals of her most coveted collections weighted heavy on her lap, and she could barely find the words to thank her uncle for his generosity. It was one of the reasons she loved her little family’s gift exchanges because the gifts weren’t simply ‘things’ wrapped up to look pretty. They were literal extensions of the receiver’s life and personality, and it was always a joy to discover how the giver perceived them in reflection of the gift they gave.

Gustus could barely contain his enthusiasm for the gift he opened from Lexa and Anya. Spending a week in the mountains with his girls, riding horses, hiking, sitting by a campfire and sleeping in a log cabin had been a dream of his since before any one of them could even remember. The small starter package of cowboy boots and matching hat was almost a joke of sorts, but the reservation printout for a ranch that coming summer was the real deal. Both Lexa and Anya assured Gustus that they had already penned it into their calendars, and the family would once again be setting out on a vacation together.

“So, Lexa,” Gustus said as he leaned back into his favorite recliner near the fireplace, “tell me some more about this fiancée of yours.”

Anya smirked over her glass of wine before tipping it towards her lips and taking a small sip. Lexa had glanced over at the older girl, already having guessed at the expression she would find on Anya’s face and wasn’t disappointed. An awkward clearing of her throat later, Lexa opened her mouth to speak.

“I’ve already told you about her,” Lexa replied coolly, at which Gustus simply rolled his eyes.

“A name and occupation is hardly enough for me to build a complete picture of the girl,” Gustus scolded her. “What does she look like?”

“She’s hot,” Anya interjected immediately, a mischievous smirk growing across her lips. “Like, really hot.”

“Don’t you have a girlfriend?” Lexa asked Anya with a glare in her eyes.

“An even hotter one than you have,” Anya replied, “but that doesn’t make me blind.”

“I thought that’s what true love was supposed to do,” Lexa volleyed back.

“Alright, enough,” Gustus finally said as he held up a hand toward each girl.

“At least answer his question, Alexandria,” Anya told the brunette with a cock of her head and that same mischievous smirk appearing once again.

Lexa shot Anya another glare for good measure before taking a deep breath and letting it out slowly.

“She has blonde hair and blue eyes,” Lexa told her uncle.

“And curves for days,” Anya added, unable to help herself.

“Anya!” Lexa scolded as her cheeks heated with a blush.

It was embarrassing enough to be grilled by her uncle about her fake fiancée, but him knowing inappropriate details about her was beyond what Lexa knew she could handle.

“What?” Anya questioned with a shrug. “It’s obvious that you’re warm for her form.”

Lexa blinked in shock as Anya’s words slowly registered in her brain, and she stood from her chair almost immediately.

“I’m getting a drink,” Lexa said before walking briskly into the kitchen and away from the quiet snickering in the living room.

“Leave the poor girl alone, Anya,” Gustus chastised his daughter.

“I give her just as much shit as she dishes out on me,” Anya told him. “Trust me on that.”

“Perhaps, but I doubt it’s in front of me,” Gustus said.

“Perhaps,” Anya echoed her father with another shrug of her shoulders. “Honestly, all I’m doing is telling the truth. She’s getting it so bad for this girl, and she doesn’t even know it.”

“Well, that may be,” Gustus said, “but why don’t you let her figure it out for herself.”

“Thank you, honey,” Abby said as she wrapped her daughter in a tight hug, “I love it.”

“See?” Clarke directed at Raven over her mother’s shoulder before sticking her tongue out.

“You’re just so predictable, Griffin,” Raven replied. “That’s all I’m saying.”

“Traditions usually are predictable,” Marcus chimed in with a sly grin on his face.

“Hey, there’s to be no smarting off from the new one,” Raven told Marcus as she pointed an accusatory finger towards him.

“Raven, quit picking on poor Marcus,” Lillian scolded teasingly as she threw a wink at Marcus.

The group laughed and began cleaning up the torn pieces of holiday wrapping paper from the floor around them. They had each opened a few gifts from each other, ending with Abby’s traditional winter scarf from Clarke, while happily trading appreciations and teasing barbs. Raven had become a part of the Griffin’s Christmas celebrations since the year Jake died, and having her there had turned into a tradition in itself. The addition of Marcus (now that he and Abby were married) made the small group almost feel like some sort of loving blended family, and everyone seemed to be comfortable with the unspoken idea of it.

“So, am I allowed to ask about the gallery search?” Abby questioned hesitantly as she looked over at Clarke.

“Why wouldn’t you be allowed to ask about that?” Clarke asked confusedly.

“I just didn’t know if it was a sore topic after you lost out on that one you really wanted,” Abby told her daughter.

“Shit, Griff, you didn’t tell your mom the news?” Raven practically screamed, her eyes widening dramatically as she spoke.

Abby shook her head at the brunette’s foul language but said nothing, instead focusing her attention towards her mother as she joined in the conversation.

“What news, dear?” Lillian asked Clarke.

“I totally forgot to tell you guys!” Clarke eventually exclaimed. “My realtor called and let me know that the family deal fell through, and the seller wants to accept my original offer!”

“You’re kidding,” Abby said, her eyebrows arching in surprise.

“That’s what I said!” Clarke replied with a chuckle. “As long as I kept the same terms as my original offer, the gallery is mine. So obviously I said yes!”

“Oh, honey, I’m so happy for you,” Abby said before fitting her arms snuggly around her beaming daughter.

“Congratulations, Clarke,” Marcus chimed in from his spot next to Abby on the couch. “Can we see it before you close?”

“I could probably set up another showing to bring you guys through if you want,” Clarke replied with a shrug.

“Uh, yeah!” Raven interjected. “You’ve been going on and on about this perfect gallery for close to nine hundred years. I need to personally determine the worthiness of the building before you’re allowed to buy it.”

“Queen of the World Raven has spoken,” Lillian teased the dramatic girl, and the rest of the group just laughed.

“Dude, that would be an awesome job,” Raven said wistfully.

“The only contingency I included in my offer was for an inspection,” Clarke redirected the conversation. “Bellamy thought it would be a good idea since the building is so old, and it’s bound to have a few issues.”

“That’s a smart move,” Marcus said. “You wouldn’t want to wind up owning a building that needed more work than what it’s worth.”

“Though hopefully there won’t be any extensive work needed,” Abby made sure to follow up with, at which Marcus nodded knowingly.

“I knew you would be able to find the perfect space to showcase your art,” Lillian told Clarke through a bright smile. “Have you made any plans for which pieces you’re going to display yet?”

Just the thought of planning out how she was going to display her art for the public to see had Clarke practically giddy, but she covered her excitement as best as she could so as to not appear to be getting ahead of herself. She took a deep breath and opened her mouth to speak.

“Not yet,” Clarke replied. “I’m trying to schedule a meeting with this art curator who was given my name, but she does most of her business on the other side of the country. It’s been a little difficult trying to pin her down."

“So, will she be purchasing your art to showcase in her galleries?” Lillian asked before taking a sip of her spiced Christmas tea.

“I don’t actually know yet what her business plan for me will be,” Clarke explained. “Most curators deal with beginner artists differently than famous ones, but I’m excited to hear her ideas.”

“I’m so happy for you, honey,” Abby said through a beaming smile. “I knew it was only a matter of time before you broke out into the art world with a bang."

“Hey, so speaking of banging,” Raven interrupted, and Clarke just cringed.

She knew her best friend better than anyone else on the planet, yet the random things that could spew from the feisty Latina’s mouth took even Clarke surprise at times. Her only hope was that whatever Raven was about to say wouldn’t be too inappropriate for the company surrounding them.

“Uh, Raven,” Clarke tried to plead with the girl before she embarrassed the entire room of adults.

“I was having a conversation with Clarke the other day about your clever little marriage arrangement,” Raven continued.

“Raven,” Clarke hurriedly interrupted before pulling Raven to her feet and hauling her into the kitchen.

“Clarke, what the hell?” Raven whined as they came to a stop in front of the refrigerator. “I was just going to have Grandma Dub clarify whether you and Lexa can get it on before the wedding makes you two official or not.”

“And why on Earth would you think that’s an acceptable topic to bring up in the middle of our family Christmas celebration?” Clarke asked in a harsh whisper.

“You, me, Grandma Dub,” Raven explained, “in the same room at the same time.”

Clarke just looked at her blankly as if the explanation was the worst and most incomplete she’d ever heard.

“Seemed like a good time to me,” Raven finally said with a casual shrug.

“There is never a good time to talk to my grandmother about banging,” Clarke told Raven with a sturdy thrust of her index finger.

“Well, I guess I can not talk to her about it the next time,” Raven confessed, “but I’m afraid that ship’s already sailed.”

“What? When?” Clarke questioned rapid-fire.

“Oh, please,” Raven scoffed. “You out of everyone have to remember what it was like when Anya and I started dating. We couldn’t keep our hands off each other or our mouths shut about it.”

“Oh, trust me, I remember,” Clarke said with a sigh. “Though I wish I’d forget.”

“I called Grandma Dub and talked her ear off about it on a pretty regular basis for a while,” Raven said with a devilish smirk growing on her face. “She was cool with it.”

“Raven!” Clarke shrieked. “How could you do that?”

“What?” Raven countered dramatically. “It's not like she’s never done the bedroom rodeo before.”

“Ugh, gross,” Clarke groaned as she buried her face in her hands.

“The old bouncy-bouncy,” Raven continued much to Clarke’s horror. “Churning the butter, glazing the donut, creaming the Twinkie–”

STOP !” Clarke finally yelled and clapped a hand over Raven's mouth. “I swear, if you ruin one more food item for me I’m going to punch you in the throat.”

Raven cackled as Clarke dropped the hand from her mouth and watched as the blonde shook her head violently to rid her brain of the images likely dancing around it. As soon as Clarke seemed to get a hold of herself, she delivered a pointed glare to her best friend and opened her mouth to speak.

“Not another word even remotely related to sex for the rest of the night,” Clarke warned Raven, to which Raven agreed.

They both took a step towards the living room once again, but Raven just smirked when Clarke sighed and muttered under her breath.

“Most disturbing Christmas conversation ever.”

“Tell me again why we had to do this?” Lexa asked as she watched Anya bustling around the kitchen in search of two more clean wine glasses.

“Make yourself useful and find the corkscrew,” Anya said somewhat distractedly.

“You didn’t answer my question,” Lexa reminded the older girl before slipping from her barstool and walking over to the drawer they usually kept the corkscrew.

“The holidays just wouldn’t be the same without spending a nice evening together with our wives,” Anya said, the snark unable to hide in the inflection of her words.

“Clarke is not my wife,” Lexa quickly corrected her.

“Not yet.”

“Furthermore, Raven isn’t yours either,” Lexa pointed out as she reached into the drawer in front of her before freezing her movements. “Unless you’re trying to hint at something here.”

“Relax, squid,” Anya said through a grin, “I’m not going to propose to Raven tonight.”

“Are you sure?” Lexa questioned hesitantly. “Because you know I don’t do well with surprises.”

“This surprise wouldn’t even involve you,” Anya said with a roll of her eyes.

“Still, I like to be in the know,” Lexa replied with a shrug before pulling the corkscrew from the drawer.

“I’m not saying... it will never happen...” Anya said vaguely, “but it’s not going to happen tonight.”

“Have you actually been contemplating this?” Lexa asked curiously. “As in, seriously contemplating?”


Before Anya could spit out another word, a loud serious of knocks sounded at the front door followed by it being pushed open to reveal the very topic of their conversation and her best friend. Their cheeks were rosy from the crisp winter air, and Lexa saw a light dusting of snow scattered across the shoulders of Clarke’s coat and a few flakes had even been caught in the curls of her hair.

Lexa didn't notice the entire group had fallen into silence the moment she had wordlessly offered to take Clarke’s coat from her, but her cheeks quickly matched the shade of the blonde’s when she realized she was slipping the heavy material down Clarke's arms. Anya followed quickly behind and helped Raven out of her coat before volunteering the gay puddle she was related to to pour them all a glass of wine.

“Thanks,” Clarke said quietly as she took the glass being offered to her.

The heat dusting Lexa’s cheeks refused to disappear, so she did her best of hiding her obvious flustered reaction from the group as she passed out the rest of the wine. They all filed into the living room where Anya had prepared and set out a small array of simple appetizers, most of which Raven immediately indulged in to the delight of her girlfriend.

“So, how was Christmas with your dad?” Clarke asked Lexa before popping a small carrot into her mouth.

“It was nice,” Lexa replied with a shallow nod.

“He couldn’t have been happier about the surprise trip we planned for his gift from us,” Anya added as she reached for some veggies of her own.

“What kind of trip?” Clarke asked, her eyebrows arching with curiosity and perhaps a bit of excitement.

“I’m pretty sure he thinks he was a cowboy in another life,” Lexa began, “so we finally made reservations at a ranch in the mountains next summer.”

“The trip should be equal parts humiliating and hilarious,” Anya said with a chuckle.

“I’ve always wanted to go horseback riding,” Clarke told the group as she directed her attention at Lexa.

“Me too,” Raven said. “Too bad this damn brace will probably make that impossible.”

“You could keep the brace off and ride with me,” Anya told her girlfriend as she snaked her arms around the brunette’s waist. “I wouldn't let you fall.”

Clarke and Lexa caught each other’s gazes at that and simultaneously rolled their eyes at the sappiness of the couple, who were completely oblivious to them at that moment.

“How was Christmas with your mother?” Lexa asked before taking a sip of her wine.

“It was nice,” Clarke answered with a polite smile. “My mom’s husband was there and my grandmother was too.”

“Your name may have come up around nine-hundred-thousand times between the two of them,” Raven exaggerated. “And by the two of them, I mean Clarke and Grandma Dub. You’ve seriously got yourself a fan club, Lexa.”

“No, she doesn’t,” Clarke automatically interjected, only to feel immediately guilty about her choice of words. She turned her attention back to Lexa and mumbled, “I mean, not in a weird way or something.”

Anya and Raven hid their smirks at Clarke's attempt at back-peddling just as Clarke looked back over at Raven.

“And we didn’t mention her name nine-hundred-thousand times,” Clarke corrected her best friend. “That was the amount of times you mentioned your self-appointed genius status to the rest of us which, quite frankly, after that night should be seriously reevaluated.”

“Jealousy doesn't become you, Griffin,” Raven shot back with a shrug before downing the rest of her wine in two huge gulps.

The subtle eye roll that Clarke gave Raven wasn’t missed by Lexa, though the brunette inexplicably found herself hiding her reactive smirk behind her own wine glass as Anya did her best to change the subject.

“So, Clarke,” Anya said, “not that I’m trying to rush you or anything, but do you have any idea when you’re going to be closing on the purchase of your gallery?”

“Not yet,” Clarke replied honestly. “The bank needs to get some paperwork sorted out before we can schedule the safety inspection which has to be completed before the deal is officially official.”

“Wait, so you’re not actually guaranteed that the gallery is yours yet?” Raven asked confusedly.

“I’d assume both parties have time to negotiate the deal after the inspection report is received,” Lexa chimed in.

“Right,” Clarke confirmed, “because if the inspection finds a bunch of serious safety issues then I’ll have the chance to lower my offer or back out of the deal completely.”

“Couldn’t you just agree to have the seller fix some of the problems instead of lowering your offer?” Anya asked. “You wouldn’t want to risk the deal falling through if the seller feels like he’s getting taken advantage of.”

“I’d assume if the repairs were easy enough to hire someone to fix, the seller would rather go that route,” Lexa spoke up again, “but if it’s a structural issue or some other major expense then Clarke has every right to negotiate a lower sales price as a way to cover the cost of the repairs she would have to make herself.”

It was an interjection that six months ago would have had Clarke annoyed for some reason or another, yet this time it had her smiling ever-so-faintly instead. The moment green eyes caught blue, Clarke blinked a few times as she tore her attention away from the informed brunette and cleared her throat to speak.

“I’m really just hoping that nothing serious will come up in the inspection,” Clarke told the group.

“Same here,” Anya added. “If all goes well, it’s just that much sooner I get to start living with a beautiful girl.”

“Hello?” Lexa questioned as she gestured to herself. “What about me?”

Clarke felt her insides melt a little as she appraised the brunette beside her and wholeheartedly agreed. Lexa was one of the most beautiful women she had ever laid eyes on, and it was a wonder why it had taken her so long to notice. Actually notice.

“A beautiful girl that I get to cuddle with,” Anya clarified and pulled Raven into her side.

“Gross,” Lexa mumbled before taking a long sip of her wine.

Clarke giggled into her own glass and the two shared an amused look while Raven leaned over to give Anya a firm but chaste kiss on the lips. They all settled into a comfortable hour of chit chat, snacking on appetizers and sipping down a couple glasses of wine each, before Raven announced that she needed a little leg maintenance.

Which likely meant a quick massage and then not-so-secret holiday sex with her girlfriend.

Lexa followed Anya’s retreating form with a glare, though Anya didn’t seem to even pay it any attention, and she let out a huff of displeasure when the bedroom door slammed shut a few moment later. An uncomfortable silence immediately descended upon the pair left in the living room, and they awkwardly caught each other’s glances a few times as they tried to hide their uneasiness behind their nearly empty glasses of wine.

“Oh, hey,” Clarke finally spoke up quietly, “I got you a Christmas gift.”

Lexa watched as Clarke rose from her seat on the couch to retrieve two small gifts wrapped in festive red and green paper and topped with delicate white bows that appeared to have been hand-tied.

“It’s nothing expensive or... that impressive really...” Clarke stumbled over her words as she sat back down, “but I also didn’t want to show up empty handed.”

“Thank you,” Lexa replied sincerely as she took the gifts from Clarke and set them on the couch. “I have something for you too.”

Clarke managed a small smile as Lexa stood up and disappeared for a few seconds before making her way back into the living room carrying a large book in her hand. It wasn’t wrapped, but it had a thick red ribbon wrapped around it and tied in a bow. The weight of the book surprised the blonde when she took it from Lexa’s hands, but her concentration flew out the window the second she recognized the cover.

“How did...” Clarke began to ask but trailed off as she traced her fingertips along the smooth hard cover.

“It was Raven’s idea,” Lexa interjected quietly. “She said you had been wanting that book since it came out but hadn’t gotten it yet.”

“I have,” Clarke said with a nod of her head. “I mean, I’ve been wanting it forever but never quite had enough money at the end of the month to justify buying it.”

Some people called them coffee table books, but to Clarke they were so much more. Entire collections of art printed in vivid high definition color with full-page backgrounds written about each piece was the type of book that Clarke could get lost in for weeks, maybe even months. She had wanted to start acquiring as many as she could but never seemed to get around to it since the large books were more of an investment than something she could just buy whenever a new one came out.

A few silent beats passed as Clarke continued running her fingers over the cover and down the spine before she finally glanced back up to see Lexa watching her carefully.

“Thank you,” Clarke finally managed to say. “This is an amazing gift.”

“You’re welcome,” Lexa replied with a warm smile.

Clarke could swear she saw a flicker of relief in the green eyes looking back at her, and her heart clenched at the realization that Lexa had been emotionally invested in whether she would like the gift or not.

“Well, go ahead and open yours,” Clarke told the girl as she pointed towards where the presents she had wrapped for Lexa were resting on the couch.

With methodical precision, something Clarke shouldn't have been surprised by, Lexa carefully opened her first gift to reveal a long and slender metal box that had her eyebrows scrunching ever-so-slightly. She lifted the top back to reveal a sterling silver executive fountain pen engraved with her full name in a beautiful and feminine font.

“I figured that after you graduate and become a big-deal lawyer, you’ll need a nice pen to sign off on all your case wins,” Clarke explained with a smirk.

Lexa let a small chuckle escape from her lungs, and she lifted a hand to tuck a stray piece of hair behind her ear. The move was so endearing, almost like she was embarrassed by the compliment, that Clarke had to physically stop herself from reaching across the couch and wrapping the brunette up in a giant hug.

“Whether I’m winning cases or not, this will look great on my future desk,” Lexa said. “Thank you, Clarke.”

A small nod and coy smile was all Clarke could manage under the intensity of the look Lexa was giving her, and it took all of her will power to clear her thoughts and point towards the second gift still wrapped and sitting on the couch.

“You’re not done yet,” Clarke reminded Lexa, earning her a smile in return.

With the same care as before, Lexa slowly unwrapped the second gift and immediately recognized it as being a book of some kind. She turned it around in her hands to examine the soft leather cover and immediately felt her excitement growing as she read the word ‘poems’ engraved across the front. She eagerly opened the cover only to find blank pages staring back at her, making her eyebrows scrunch for the second time that evening.

“I had a feeling with how much you enjoy reading poetry that you have probably contemplated writing it at some point,” Clarke told the confused girl. “Consider this a little inspiration to start if you haven’t already.”

Lexa discretely chewed along the inside of her bottom lip as she inspected the beautiful book and tried to decide how to respond. She had attempted to write a few poems, more recently than not, but she wasn't sure whether she wanted Clarke to know that.

For reasons she knew she didn't want Clarke to know. Not yet. Maybe not ever.

“Okay, you have to say something though,” Clarke finally said nervously. “Is it a totally lame idea?”

“No!” Lexa nearly shouted, eager not to let Clarke think she didn’t like the gift. “No, not at all. I–I really love it.”

After a smile was shared by the two of them, they finally felt the cloud of awkwardness lift and managed to fall into such an easy conversation that they didn’t even realize it had been an hour since Anya and Raven had clumsily sneaked away to do who knows what behind Anya’s bedroom door.

“Hey, lovebirds,” Raven greeted in a wistful voice as she sauntered into the living room.

Anya followed shortly thereafter, her hair slightly askew and a disgustingly satisfied grin on her face. Lexa rolled her eyes and sunk back into the couch with her full glass of wine, lifting it to her lips to help control what she really wanted to say to the older girl at that very moment.

“Subtle,” Clarke said to the happy couple as they plopped down onto the smaller couch in the room.

“Don’t be salty because you didn’t get your holiday jingles, Clarke,” Raven replied smugly.

Clarke huffed in response, her cheeks heating up as she felt Lexa’s stare on the side of her face, but said nothing to her best friend at the risk of delivering a lame comeback that would only serve to get her teased more.

“Oh, you exchanged gifts?” Raven asked, noticing the discarded wrapping paper on the coffee table. “How did I do? Did everybody like what they got?”

“You know what they both got for each other?” Anya asked confusedly.

“Uh, yeah,” Raven replied cockily. “They’re both useless when it comes to each other.”

“Hey!” Clarke defended herself loudly. “The pen was my idea, and you didn’t even know about the poetry journal.”

“Poetry journal?” Raven nearly shrieked. “That’s fucking adorable!”

It was Lexa’s turn to blush, and she tried to hide it by taking a lingering sip of her wine and clearing her throat gently.

“Stop embarrassing them for once,” Anya told her girlfriend.

“Fine, fine,” Raven relented as she waived a dismissive hand in front of her face. “We should probably be going anyways. My stupid-ass boss wouldn’t let me take tomorrow off, so I need to wake up early unlike the rest of you bums.”

A few pained chuckles sounded from the group as they all stood up and made their way out of the living room. Clarke noticed Raven casually bumping her hip into Lexa’s side a few times as they walked and narrowed her eyes in confusion at the odd behavior. Lexa looked somewhat confused as well but didn't have the chance to say anything until Raven’s voice was piercing through the silence.

“Mistletoe! You two are under the mistletoe!”

Quicker than the blink of an eye, both Clarke and Lexa whipped their heads up to see a clump of the festive plant hanging directly above them. Suddenly all the hip bumping made sense, and Clarke leveled her best friend with a wicked glare.

“Let’s go, Lexa,” Anya said as she clapped her hands together once. “Give your lady a holiday lip lock.”

Lexa took her turn glaring at Anya while Clarke turned to make a dash for the front door. Faster than she had ever seen Raven move in her life, the brunette was plastered against the door, her hand on the knob, and effectively blocking any attempts at a quick escape.

“Yeah, that’s right,” Raven said, “I’m fast when I want to be.”

Clarke let out a heavy sigh and turned around to face Lexa who had a equally irritated and petrified look on her face as she tried, but failed, to avoid eye contact. With a grit of her teeth, Clarke slowly stepped closer and dropped a light hand onto Lexa’s hip before leaning in. The tension in the room was palpable, and Raven even took a few steps away from the door to get a better look at what was about to happen.

Their distance slowly disappeared, and the sweet scent of wine with a hint of mint lingered in the air between them. A soft brush of Clarke’s breath against her skin caused Lexa’s eyelids to flutter shut, and she readied herself (somewhat excitedly) to feel the soft press of lips against her own. It had been so long since she’d kissed or been kissed that her stomach was practically in knots, winding itself in anticipation as each torturous second passed.

It was only when a sudden warmth gently collided with her left cheek that Lexa realized Clarke had played it safe. As Clarke’s soft lips slowly pulled away from her skin, Lexa mentally scolded herself for not having paid close enough attention to the sensation of the kiss over the surprising disappointment she felt in her chest at the fact that she wouldn’t get to share a real kiss with her fiancée that night.

“Come on, kiss her on the lips!” Raven protested, her hands propped on either side of her hips.

“They kissed, you won, leave it be,” Anya warned her girlfriend.

It was as if she knew both Lexa and Clarke would likely dismiss their cooperation if they were pushed too hard. A small noise of protest left Raven’s mouth, but it was quickly silenced by a kiss from her girlfriend as they bid each other their goodbyes. Smiles were exchanged around the group as well as happy holiday wishes before Clarke and Raven finally found themselves outside in the cold winter weather.

“That was a little on the lame side,” Raven said as they walked down the driveway towards the street.

“I could tell you the same thing,” Clarke replied, a hint of annoyance in her voice.

“Why? What did I do?”

“You forced me to kiss her in front of you and Anya for, what, entertainment value?” Clarke asked somewhat hotly. “When we finally do kiss, it should be on our terms.”

“When?” Raven questioned, her eyes arching up in shock at what she had just heard tumble from her best friend’s mouth.

Clarke faltered in her step slightly, flashed Raven an irritated look, and tried quickly to explain away her slip of the tongue. Or was it actually a confession?

“If,” Clarke clarified. “I meant that if we finally kiss, it should be on our terms. It should be because we want to, not because we have to.”

“Whatever you say, Griff,” Raven replied, a shit-eating smirk firmly planted on her face. “Merry Christmas.”

“Yeah, Happy fucking Holidays,” Clarke grumbled, and Raven just laughed.

Chapter Text

“What do you want for lunch?” Clarke asked loudly, her head still hovering inside the refrigerator while she looked for anything resembling an edible meal.

“Lunch?” Lexa asked from her usual spot on Clarke and Raven’s couch. “It’s nine in the morning.”

Clarke let out something akin to an exasperated huff as she stood up straight and closed the door of the fridge before turning around and regarding the back of the brunette’s head.

“I know that,” Clarke said calmly, “but we don’t have any food, and I’d like to have made a decision by lunchtime about what we want to order or go buy so that I don’t die of starvation like last week.”

“You obviously didn’t die of starvation since you’re still here, distracting me from my essay might I add,” Lexa coolly replied before turning her head to look back at the blonde. “You can order whatever you want as long as it arrives no sooner than noon.”

“Noon?” Clarke asked dramatically. “I’ve been up since eight o’clock!”

“Yes, and you ate a proportionally-correct breakfast that should easily tide you over for four hours until lunchtime,” Lexa countered quickly.

“Proportionally-correct for a six year old maybe,” Clarke mumbled loudly enough for the girl in the other room to hear.

“You cannot seriously be getting hungry already,” Lexa stated as she draped an arm over the back of the couch and turned her body to look at Clarke squarely.

“So what if I am?” Clarke asked defiantly, crossing her arms over her chest as she spoke.

“How the hell do you manage to eat so much, never work out, and still look like that?” Lexa asked before her brain had time to stop her.

The question (which sounded strangely close to a compliment) had Clarke’s eyebrows shooting up towards her hairline and her defenses lowering just a tiny bit. A small smirk pulled at the corner of her mouth as she took a step towards the rapidly embarrassing girl on the couch before she stopped just a few feet from the back of it.

“Look like what?” Clarke asked innocently, the twinkle in her eyes contradicting the naivety in her voice.

“You know what I mean,” Lexa mumbled and turned her attention back to the laptop resting on her thighs.

Unfortunately for Lexa, she wasn’t able to hide her blush from Clarke fast enough and was preparing to be teased as she tried to focus on the bright screen in front of her.

“You know, I really don’t,” Clarke continued as she leaned somewhat seductively against the back of the couch. “Care to explain?”

Lexa couldn’t stop herself from letting her eyes wander to her side, catching a glimpse of a curvy hip resting on the top edge of the couch. She felt as if her senses were under some kind of spell as her eyes traced along the line of Clarke’s waist, past the generous swell of her breast, and across the flawless skin of her neck until the sharpness of sparkling blue eyes snapped her out of her trance. Or whatever the hell it was.

“No,” Lexa finally but hastily answered before locking her eyes onto her laptop.

Clarke bit her lip as she thought about exactly HOW she wanted to continue her teasing when her phone rang from its spot on the kitchen counter.

“Saved by the bell,” Clarke cheekily told Lexa before pushing herself off the back of the couch and making her way back towards the kitchen.

“Your phone rings, it doesn’t ding as a bell would,” Lexa argued weakly, not daring to look up from her lap for even a second.

All Clarke could managed was a small roll of her eyes and a faint smile before she tapped the ‘answer’ button on her phone and lifted it to her ear.

“Hey,” Clarke said, having known it was Anya who was calling her.

“Hey, is Lexa at your place?”

“Yep,” Clarke answered quickly as she shot a glance over towards the living room.

“Is she, uh, acting... normal?”

“I could respond to that in so many hilarious ways, but I’ll just go with I think so?” Clarke said, the octave of her voice raising slightly in confusion.


A small moment of silence hung between them before Anya spoke up again.

“She isn’t drinking, is she?”

“It’s nine in the morning,” Clarke said, that time her eyebrows scrunching together. “What’s going on?”

There was another poignant beat of silence from the other end of the line, followed by some shuffling sounds, before Anya spoke.

“Look, just... can you just keep an eye on her today? Let me know when she leaves your apartment and don’t let her drive if she has been drinking.”

“Why would–”

“Clarke, look, it's not my story to tell,” Anya quickly interrupted. “Can you just do what I asked? Please?”

Still dissatisfied with the vagueness of Anya’s requests, Clarke let out a quiet but heavy sigh as her gaze wandered back towards the brunette sitting silently on the couch in her living room. She had no idea what was going on, why Anya was insisting she let her know whether Lexa was drinking or not, but could easily sense the concern in the older girl’s voice even over the phone.

“Yeah, sure,” Clarke finally answered.

“Thank you. I really, really appreciate it.”

“No problem,” Clarke replied, purposefully lightening the tone of her voice as to not raise suspicion from Lexa if she was happening to be listening in.

“I’ll talk to you later.”

“Bye,” Clarke said and ended the call.

She stared down at her phone for a few seconds as she replayed the strange conversation she’d had with Anya before finally lying it back down on the counter and heading back into the refrigerator in search of a beverage. She pulled out her last bottle of iced tea, cracked it open, and took a healthy swig of the refreshing liquid.

Clarke stared at the back of Lexa’s head for a few moments, listening to the soft clicking of laptop keys as they were used to compose what was sure to be an excellent essay once it was done, before she moved into the dining room and sat in front of her latest painting in progress. It took all of her mental strength to push the lingering feelings of concern to the back of her mind before launching herself into a deep zone.

The daylight hours had flown by for the both of them, and it wasn’t before long Clarke found herself sitting on the couch opposite Lexa as they wound down from their busy days in front of the glowing television. There was some kind of home renovation show playing, but Clarke was fighting a losing battle to stay focused on it. All too often her gaze managed to slip from the television and wander towards the relaxed-looking brunette who was holding a glass of red wine she’d been nursing for the better part of an hour.

Her earlier conversation with Anya had immediately crossed Clarke’s mind when Lexa had suggested they have some wine with their dinner (a delicious pasta dish that Lexa had generously offered to make for them both), but she couldn’t bring herself to mention it to Lexa. At least, not at that moment.

Although she had been able to hide it through their dinner, Clarke was finding it nearly impossible as the night wore on to keep her thoughts to herself and her mouth closed. It was why when Lexa finally caught her gaze with questioning emerald eyes that Clarke knew she had to come clean.

“You’re not even watching,” Lexa said as she gestured towards the television. “Do you want to put something else on?”

“No, that’s...” Clarke quietly trailed off but recovered quickly, “this is fine.”

Lexa managed a shallow nod in understanding before turning her attention back to the show. Clarke tried, she really tried, but she ended up not being able to tear her eyes away from the side of Lexa’s face. Unanswered questions bounced around inside her head so fiercely that she hadn’t noticed Lexa looking back towards her again until a voice broke her inward concentration.

“What?” Lexa simply asked, the two locked in eye contact.

Clarke hesitated for a moment, blinking her eyes and clearing her throat, until she finally let out a defeated sigh and opened her mouth to speak.

“Anya called me this morning,” Clarke blurted out. “She... asked me if you were drinking which I found to be a really strange question coming at nine in the morning.”

Lexa’s eyes slipped from Clarke’s and pointed down at her wine glass before full lips were pursing tightly together. The bottom of Clarke’s heart seemed to drop out at the tiny act; the last thing she wanted was for Lexa to feel like she was being judged for drinking a single glass of wine. But before she could offer any further explanation, Lexa reached over and placed the glass of wine on the table beside the couch.

“She shouldn’t have asked you that,” Lexa finally said, her voice soft and somewhat sad.

“I don’t think she was trying to offend you,” Clarke offered quickly.

“No, but she didn't need to involve you,” Lexa replied.

An uncomfortable silence fell over the living room, less the chatter from the actors on the television, and Clarke squirmed gently in her seat as she tried to find the right words to say. After a few more seconds and a quick pep-talk in her head, Clarke managed one last sentence.

“She sounded like a worried sister.”

A flash of green hit Clarke’s field of vision, and her heart nearly jumped out of her chest. She wasn’t sure why she was so nervous to hear whatever Lexa’s response was going to be, but she was and her pulse raced with every quiet second that passed. Clarke studied the lines of Lexa's profile after she had broken their gaze to stare blankly at the television, and she noticed each and every subtle movement of the brunette’s law as it flexed under the pressure of her clenching teeth.

When it seemed as though Lexa wasn’t going to utter another single word for the rest of the night, Clarke sighed and turned her attention back to the television. The sound of Lexa’s voice a few moments later was so soft and delicate that Clarke hardly even realized she had spoken until there was silence surrounding them once again.

“Anya isn’t my sister.”

A few blinks of her eyes managed to clear away Clarke’s confusion long enough to allow her to respond.

“What?” Clarke asked lamely. It was all she could think to say as her brain worked overtime to try and keep up.

“She’s my cousin,” Lexa finally confessed, her fingers fidgeting together as if it was one of the most uncomfortable situations in which she had ever found herself.

“I thought that...” Clarke started futilely. “Don’t you two introduce yourself as sisters though? I can’t have that terrible of a memory.”

“We do,” Lexa confirmed quietly before taking a quiet breath. “It’s easier that way.”

“Why?” Clarke asked automatically, her eyebrows scrunching in confusion.

The way Lexa glanced over immediately told Clarke that something heavy was about to happen. It seemed like a defense wall had been lowered by the look of vulnerability beginning to sneak its way across Lexa’s face, and Clarke suddenly found herself not only excited to hear whatever it was that she had to say but also terrified about what it meant about their relationship.

Their history was strained, to say the least, and it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that likely no one would have ever imagined their bond to grow to the point of telling each other about their pasts, their stories, about what made them them. But the moment seemed to be exactly there, and all Clarke could do was hold her breath.

“Anya and I grew up together,” Lexa said. “Her dad, my uncle Gustus, practically raised me.”

Clarke gave the girl a small nod but said nothing in response, hoping that her silence would be enough to convey the fact that she was interested to hear the story she wanted to tell.

“My mom died when I was very young,” Lexa continued. “I never knew her enough to even remember her. Her death left my dad in an awkward situation of having to raise me by himself while he was being deployed all over the world. He was an Army Ranger.”

Another small nod from Clarke let Lexa know she was being heard and understood.

“Every time he’d be called somewhere, my uncle Gustus would end up taking me in for however long my dad would be overseas,” Lexa explained. “I didn’t mind it. Gustus definitely didn’t mind it, and Anya and I became really good friends. When we were really young, we actually thought we were sisters until we got a little older and could finally understand the situation. Anyways, when my dad was diagnosed with cancer, he and Gustus decided I should make my home with the family I saw more than my real family. I was officially adopted about six months after my dad passed away.”

“I’m sorry about your dad,” Clarke replied quietly.

“I didn’t really know him like a father,” Lexa said sullenly. “He was gone more than he was home, so I never got close to him. I doubt he ever felt that close to me either.”

Clarke shook her head out of instinct, and it made Lexa pause and look across the couch for an explanation.

“Your parents loved you,” Clarke heard herself say. “No matter how long they had with you, they loved you. How could they not?”

Lexa’s eyes widened just a fraction at the confession before Clarke hastily tacked on an explanation.

“I mean, you’re their daughter,” Clarke said, “and every parent loves their child.”

“Not every parent,” Lexa pointed out.

“Every normal parent,” Clarke clarified. “Even though you sometimes grate on my last nerve, you seem normal enough to have had normal parents.”

I grate on your nerves?” Lexa countered with an unbelieving look.

“Less and less as of recently, but don’t let that go to your head or anything,” Clarke told her.

Lexa just rolled her eyes and reached back for her glass of wine. She looked down at it, her mood seemingly to have instantly darkened, and Clarke again found herself nervous about where else their conversation was going to go. It was a solid minute before Lexa took a final steadying breath and spoke once again.

“Anya called because today is an anniversary of sorts.”

A hesitant look from Lexa had Clarke’s heart pounding, but she remained silent and waited for the brunette to continue.

“My college girlfriend, Costia, was studying to be a television reporter,” Lexa began slowly. “Since she didn’t have much career experience at that point, she was given the only internship left available to the younger students which was that of a sports reporter. She interviewed all the up-and-coming college athlete stars. She hated it, but she was really good at it. The only perk she actually enjoyed was being able to travel around the country for to get her game day interviews.

About a year into her internship, she got the opportunity to work with a professional sports reporter and landed a small interview with a popular NFL quarterback about a month after his team’s season ended. She was so excited when she got the news, and I couldn’t wait for her to get published and start gaining recognition in the media field.”

Lexa smiled sadly, and Clarke felt her own cheeks tightening with a grin as she imagined the two of them sharing the joy that moment gave to them both. It was only when Clarke noticed Lexa’s smile had completely vanished that her own began to disappear from her face.

“I had offered to pick her up from the airport after the big interview,” Lexa said. “I told her I wanted to take her out to dinner and hear all about the interview and the experience, but she knew I had a really tough midterm final coming up. She told me to study for as long as I could and that she’d get a cab to bring her to my apartment which happened to be quite a distance from the airport. I got lost in my studies as I so often do and didn’t realize that it was an hour past the time she’d told me she would be at my place.

The next thing I knew, I was talking to Costia’s mom on the phone. She and the cab driver had been instantly killed in a head-on collision when a truck lost control on a patch of black ice along the two lane highway. I felt... I don’t even know what I felt in the beginning. It morphed into devastation though very quickly, and I lost myself for the better part of that year. Gustus and Anya didn’t know what to do with me, and it was part of the reason Anya decided to ask me to move in with her when she bought her house.”

Clarke nodded, her throat on fire and tears shimmering in her eyes, and she willed herself to stay as strong as possible for Lexa in that moment. She knew exactly how hard it was to re-live the death of a loved one, and it always helped her when the person she was confiding in to just let her say everything she needed to say without interrupting or unintentionally breaking her train of thoughts.

“Unfortunately I made a habit of drinking myself into a month-long stupor every January as a way to try and forget what I lost,” Lexa said, her voice broken and defeated. “It never helped, but I didn’t really know what else to do.”

Clarke felt a single tear slip down her cheek at the very moment Lexa looked over at her, and she wiped the damp trail away as quickly as she could. Lexa’s entire demeanor seemed to soften instantaneously, and her hand flinched as if she wanted to reach over and comfort her. The thought alone made Clarke want to cry, and another tear dropped from her eyes.

Lexa didn’t hesitate to act that time, and she slid across the couch until they were but a few inches away. Blue eyes closed as Lexa lifted her hand and brushed her fingers against the heated skin of Clarke’s cheek, wiping away a few more traitorous tears as they fell. It was only when Clarke no longer felt the warmth of Lexa’s skin against her own that she opened her eyes and locked gazes with Lexa.

“It gets easier every year,” Lexa confessed in a whisper, her own eyes darting back and forth between Clarke's.

She didn’t need to ask for clarification. Clarke knew, she knew, that Lexa was talking about her. Lexa had just told her without actually telling her that she was the reason, at least this year’s reason, why it had been easier.

“The night we met,” Lexa said quietly, “I was about a month into my drinking stupor.”

The information initially shocked Clarke until all of the pieces began to fall into place.

“I was a total bitch to you that night,” Lexa told Clarke somewhat sheepishly. “I was annoyed at Anya for dragging me out of the house and for lying to me about meeting up with her new girlfriend and said girlfriend’s best friend. I took it out on the wrong people.”

“You wouldn’t even believe how much sense that night now makes to me,” Clarke said. “No doubt we naturally get on each other’s nerves from time to time, but I never could put my finger on why you seemed so out of character from the Lexa I’ve come to know.”

“I’m sorry,” Lexa admitted, her voice just above a whisper but full of conviction.

“Can I offer you an explanation about that night too?” Clarke asked, and Lexa simply nodded. “I felt really bad about being late. Raven almost punched me on our way over because I was apologizing so much for making us late to meet her new girlfriend and said girlfriend’s sister... cousin... whatever.”

The small smile that Lexa cracked disappeared quickly but not quickly enough for Clarke not to notice it.

“My grandma had just gotten out of surgery for a wrist joint replacement, and my mom got called into an emergency meeting at the hospital,” Clarke explained. “She couldn’t drive my grandma home, so I offered to knowing how much she hates staying in hospitals longer than necessary. What I didn’t count on was the snowstorm that slowed our cab ride as well as all of the other things I had to get situated for my grandma so that she was comfortable until my mom could get there the next day to visit.”

“So, the night we met you were late because you were helping your sick grandmother?” Lexa asked, and Clarke nodded.

“And you were a bitch because you were mourning the anniversary of your girlfriend’s accident,” Clarke added.

“Wow,” Lexa breathed out as she pushed herself into the back of the couch. “Needless to say our first impressions of each other were grossly distorted.”

“We probably had a lot of unnecessary fights because of it too,” Clarke said, her cheeks tinting with embarrassment.

“Perhaps,” Lexa replied with a dull twinkle in her eye. “That still doesn’t mean you don’t naturally annoy me at times.”

“You’re preaching to the choir, Woods,” Clarke said with a grin on her lips.

The two shared a small chuckle as a new level of understanding passed between them, and they spent the rest of their night exchanging much easier smiles and pleasantries while they actually legitimately enjoyed their time together.

The chill of the late afternoon wind tingled against Clarke’s reddened cheeks as she stood at her grandmother’s front door. The quickened footsteps of whom Clarke assumed was the nurse Abby had hired grew the tiniest bit louder just before the door swung open. She smiled politely at the woman inside, basking in the feeling of warm air hitting her skin, before opening her mouth to speak.

“Hi, I’m Clarke,” the shivering blonde said with a smile.

“The granddaughter,” the nurse warmly replied, a smile of her own crinkling the corners of her eyes.

The two held each other’s gaze for a quick moment before Clarke was being ushered inside from the bitter cold and offered help with her coat and scarf. She took the help eagerly, not wanting to jumble the contents of the pink box she was balancing in her arms, and made her way into the living room in search of her grandmother.

“I told you not to bring me anything,” Lillian gently scolded Clarke as she glanced down at the bakery box.

“Who said anything in here was for you?” Clarke teased with a sparkle in her eye.

“She definitely gets her sassiness from you,” the nurse chimed in as she pointed a lighthearted accusatory finger towards Lillian.

Clarke just chuckled as her grandmother shot the nurse a responding glare, and the nurse just laughed it off before retreating into the kitchen.

“She does nothing but clean my house and tease me every chance she gets,” Lillian tried to complain.

“At least she cleans,” Clarke said with a shrug, “and I have a feeling you give it back just as well as she dishes it out.”

Lillian just hummed in response, both women knowing that Clarke was absolutely correct in her assumption. The elder woman was nothing if not sharp, and there was nothing she enjoyed more than a bit of witty banter from wherever she could get it. The personality trait seemed to pass down the generations, if Clarke’s propensity to banter was anything to go by.

“So, tell me about your new gallery,” Lillian said as a gentle smile began to spread across her face.

Clarke took a deep breath, not even attempting to hide her own smile of excitement, and leaned back to get comfortable on the couch.

“It’s the most incredible space you’ll ever see,” Clarke replied wistfully. “The building used to house an old printing company. It’s pretty rough on the inside, but there’s so much character that I’m hoping to keep even after renovating.”

“Exposed brick?” Lillian questioned.

“Tons of it,” Clarke confirmed. “There are huge beams running across the ceilings, and some of the biggest windows I’ve ever seen in a building that old. And there’s an apartment upstairs that I can move into after everything has been redone!”

“Oh, Clarke, that sounds wonderful,” Lillian said as she clasped her hands together. “I’m so happy for you that you’re finally realizing your dream.”

“I couldn’t have done it without you, Gran,” Clarke replied, her cheeks rounding as she smiled lovingly at the old woman opposite her.

“Nonsense,” Lillian said dismissively. “You can do anything you set your mind to. Sometimes you just need a bit of a nudge.”

Clarke just smiled in response before reaching down to pop open the top of the bakery box she had brought with her.

“So, how are things with you and Alexandria?” Lillian asked cautiously yet curiously.

“Lexa? Fine,” Clarke answered vaguely, not bothering to look up from the pastries in her lap.

“You’re marrying the girl, Clarke,” Lillian said. “You had better give me more than ‘fine’ as an answer.”

“I’m marrying her because you’re making me marry her,” Clarke replied as she looked up at her grandmother.

“I’m making you do no such thing,” Lillian chastised her granddaughter. “I left the ultimate decision completely up to you. Now that you’ve accepted the proposal, I just want to know how things are going between you and my future granddaughter-in-law.”

Clarke let out a heavy sigh and tried as hard as she could to figure out the best way to explain her changing relationship with Lexa.

“It started out feeling like it was the worst decision I had ever made,” Clarke confessed as she handed one of the sweet treats from her box to her grandmother. “Lexa and I literally hated each other, like, I had never met anyone who drove me so crazy as she did without even trying to!”

Lillian chuckled lightly as she took a bite of her dessert and waited for Clarke to continue.

“I guess it helped we were forced to hang out every week,” Clarke said as she glanced across the room at her grandmother who quirked an eyebrow in response, “and things finally took a turn.”

“How do you mean?” Lillian asked around a small mouthful of sugary pastry.

“It was weird actually,” Clarke started with a sigh. “It was like something hit me all the sudden. Lexa and I had a conversation last night that put the entire basis of our dislike towards each other into perspective, and it’s like... I don’t know... it was all for nothing. We had these bad first impressions of each other that made us both believe the other was a terrible human being when all this time, we finally realized, those impressions were completely wrong.”

A fierce sparkle lit up the older woman’s eyes as she finished chewing her bite of dessert and set it delicately on the table next to her. Clarke watched in silence as her grandmother shifted in her chair as if she was trying to stand up, but Clarke was there to stop her immediately.

“What do you need, Gran?” Clarke asked as she stood up from the couch. “Can I get you something? Should I call the nurse?”

“Don’t be silly, Clarke,” Lillian replied with a small scoff in her voice. “I just wanted to show you something in the picture you painted for my birthday gift.”

Clarke followed her grandmother’s gesture towards the fireplace beside them, and she noticed immediately her painting sitting proudly on the mantle. She grinned as she walked over to retrieve it, deciding to sit next to her grandmother that time. Lillian took the painting carefully and smiled down at it.

“I’m not sure you understand the significance of this painting as it relates to your relationship with Lexa,” Lillian said, “but I’d like to explain it to you.”

Clarke’s eyebrows scrunched together in confusion, but she kept her mouth shut anyways. She was as eager as she had ever been to hear what her grandmother was about to tell her.

“This cherry tree was planted on my father’s farm long before he ever owned the property,” Lillian said as she traced her finger along the painted trunk. “The first day we moved into the old farmhouse, my parents let me go explore the land. I found this tree and fell in love with it instantly.”

“It was a beautiful tree,” Clarke replied quietly, her mind reaching back to memories of herself playing under it as a young child.

“It was,” Lillian agreed with a soft smile. “The only thing that wasn’t beautiful about it was the pesky neighbor boy who would often spend time sitting under it.”

Clarke tilted her head to the side, never having heard stories about a pesky neighbor boy before, but she was quite curious to know how the tale related to her.

“It didn’t bother me much for the first week or so,” Lillian continued, “but one day he showed up and pulled a snake out of the front pocket of his overalls to show me.”

Clarke’s faced twisted into an expression of disgust, and Lillian just chuckled at the reaction.

“That’s pretty much how I reacted but with a lot more screaming,” Lillian confessed. “Of course he thought it was hilarious and started chasing me around the tree with the vile thing.”

A burst of laughter escaped from Clarke’s lungs as she imaged her grandmother as a young child screaming while being chased around by a young boy holding what was likely a tiny gardener snake.

“He chased me around that cherry tree every summer until we were teenagers,” Lillian told her. “Sometimes he would bring a snake, sometimes a mouse, but every time it was something I certainly didn’t want near me.”

“Why did you keep hanging out at the tree?” Clarke asked in confusion.

“Because the tree was on my parents' property, and I wasn’t about to let him stop me from spending time there!” Lillian replied with conviction.

“Fair enough,” Clarke said with a chuckle.

“So one day when we were both about, oh, sixteen I would say, I tried to fake him out by turning and running the opposite way around the cherry tree,” Lillian explained. “It worked, but the bad part was when we collided on the opposite side of the tree and knocked each other down straight to the ground.”

“Oh, ouch,” Clarke said through a grimace at the thought of slamming straight into someone hard enough to make both people lose their footing.

“It was quite the scene,” Lillian said as she started laughing lightly. “There we sat crumpled on the ground with our hands cradling our heads where they had knocked together. But what happened immediately after was the really interesting part.”

“What happened?” Clarke asked with wide eyes.

“We looked at each other,” Lillian answered. “We looked at each other and started laughing.”


“That particular day he was chasing me without a snake, without a mouse, without anything,” Lillian said. “He was just... chasing me... for no other reason than being used to chasing me.”

A long beat of silence passed between the two of them as Lillian waited for Clarke to make her own connections, hoping she would see the similarities between her story featuring the neighbor boy and Clarke’s story with Lexa.

“It took a bump on the head for us to realize that we had been at odds for really no reason at all,” Lillian concluded quietly. “Sometimes it takes something, or someone, to bump us on the head and make us realize that perhaps one of the best things in life is right there in front of us.”

Clarke flicked her gaze from the painting up to her grandmother’s sparkling blue eyes. She sat in silence, contemplating everything her grandmother had just shared with her, before finally opening her mouth to speak.

“You think that Lexa is one of the best things in my life?” Clarke asked quietly, timidly.

“I can’t answer that for you, dear,” Lillian replied softly with a small shake of her head.

The older woman passed the painting over to Clarke before reaching back for her pastry on the table and lifted it to her mouth to take a small bite. With a sigh, Clarke fell back against the couch and lost herself in confusing thoughts for a short while until a chime on her phone broke her inward concentration.

She placed the painting of her grandmother and the cherry tree back on top of the mantle before walking over to her purse. It was a simple text from Bellamy instructing her to call him, and Clarke typed out a quick response.

“Go be with your friends,” Lillian said as she nodded towards the phone in Clarke’s hand. “I have my nurse, and my sweet tooth has been satisfactorily indulged.”

Clarke just smiled as she watched her grandmother pop the last bit of her dessert in her mouth before reaching down to grab her purse from the floor.

“As long as you don’t mind,” Clarke said, “I mean, I practically just got here.”

“Please, Clarke, it would make me happier to send you off to your friends instead,” Lillian tried to reassure her.

“Promise me to call if you need anything,” Clarke said as she walked over to her grandmother to give her a goodbye hug. “Anything, I mean it.”

“I know you do,” Lillian replied with a smile before placing a gentle kiss on Clarke’s cheek. “Have fun with your friends.”

“Thanks, Gran,” Clarke said before turning around and heading towards the front door.

She slipped her coat and scarf on quickly, reaching for the door knob but stopping herself just before pulling the door open.

“Gran?” Clarke asked, and Lillian hummed in response. “Who was that pesky neighbor boy?”

The smile that beamed across Lillian’s face was unlike any Clarke had ever seen, and she waited patiently for her answer.

“Your grandfather,” Lillian revealed graciously, leaving Clarke absolutely utterly speechless.

Clarke was practically walking on air by the time she burst through her apartment door, having come straight from her grandmother’s house. Her phone call with Bellamy had resulted in some excellent news, namely that the paperwork she'd been waiting on being approved had finally been approved and all that was in her way from finally owning her very own gallery was the inspection and closing.

“Raven!” Clarke yelled into the tiny apartment as she frantically stripped her scarf and winter coat from her body, leaving it in a messy pile on the floor. “Raven, are you home?”

She suddenly halted in her journey towards the bedrooms as a horrific thought passed through her mind.

“Are you and Anya having sex?” Clarke asked, her face distorting with disgust.

“I wish,” was Raven’s mumbled reply as she emerged from her bedroom rubbing her eyes. “I’ve spent all day on this damn proposal, and I can barely even see straight.”

“Since when do you work on proposals?” Clarke questioned. “I thought you were the hands-on-resident-genius-geek or whatever.”

“Usually, yeah, I am,” Raven replied through a yawn, “but these damn new hires who think they’re the shit are completely useless with their tech language which means I have to proof everything they put together before it can be handed in for review.”

“That sucks, so listen,” Clarke quickly rambled, “Bellamy just called to let me know the paperwork for the gallery finally went through, so I think we should all go out tonight to celebrate! What do you think?”

“I think I’m in!” Raven agreed enthusiastically. “Who’s we all?”

“You, me, Anya, Lexa,” Clarke said before walking past her roommate and into her own bedroom, “and anyone else you want to invite.”

“I’ll text Anya, you text Lexa?” Raven asked as she pulled her phone from her sweatshirt pocket.

“Already on it!” Clarke shouted from her room, and Raven just smirked.

It had been a while since Clarke was as eager as she was to head out to the club, but the news that she was one giant step closer to her gallery was sending waves of excitement pulsing through her body. Added to that the fact that she was, for some reason, looking forward to the possibility of seeing a certain brunette later that night certainly added to her good mood.

A quick shower and re-application of makeup later, Clarke found herself standing in front of her closet in search of the perfect outfit to wear. A dress certainly wouldn’t do, even her tightest shortest one, so she reached towards the back of her closet to where she knew her favorite pair of black leather pants were hanging. Paired with a low-cut halter top, Clarke knew she’d be the knockout of the club which was exactly what she wanted to be.

“Holy tits, Griffin!” Raven exclaimed as she appraised her roommate sauntering out from her bedroom. “Who are you trying to impress with the girls tonight? Dare I guess it to be one Miss Sexy Lexy?”

Clarke barked out a laugh at the ridiculous nickname as she reached for her purse on the kitchen counter.

“She would have killed you with her bare hands had she heard you just call her that,” Clarke said through a chuckle.

“Yet you aren’t denying my insinuation,” Raven pointed out, grabbing her own purse and limping closely behind the blonde.

“Whoever I happen to impress tonight is their problem,” Clarke said, “not mine.”

“You get it, Griff!” Raven encouraged with a slap to Clarke’s leather-clad behind, and the two headed out to meet their ride after snatching their coats on the way out.

Spirits were high during the car ride to their favorite club, and Clarke could swear she felt instantly more comfortable the second she smelled the subtle hint of Lexa’s perfume wafting from the front seat. Her long brunette tresses were impeccable, as always, and Clarke couldn’t decide whether she was more interested in seeing what Lexa was wearing under her winter coat or to show off what she was wearing under hers.

All she did know was that every time their gazes caught in the rear view mirror, there was something electric that passed silently between them powerful enough to coax their wandering eyes back to the other again and again.

“You two fools better keep up tonight,” Raven warned as they all climbed out of Lexa’s car, “or else there will be hell to pay in the morning.”

“Hell to pay in the form of having to take care of your hungover ass?” Clarke quipped as she closed her door and shot Lexa a knowing look.

“I’m DD, remember?” Lexa reminded the spunky brunette. “I can’t get drunk or you’ll have to take a cab home.”

“Clarke, don’t let me down,” Raven insisted instead before linking their arms together and tugging her towards the side doors of the club.

Clarke just rolled her eyes but said nothing, not wanting to upset her roommate with the fact that she was planning on staying relatively sober throughout the night. She wanted to celebrate, sure, but her excitement about the gallery was enough to make her not feel like wasting her night (and money) on the fake high she’d get from booze.

The bass from the music pounded in their chests as they checked their coats (one of the perks of the club that made them love going there during the cold winter months), and Clarke didn't protest when Raven dragged her towards the bar for their first celebratory shot of the evening.

“To Clarke,” Raven said as she raised her shot glass in front of the group, waiting for them all to mimic her, “who is one step away from realizing her dream!”

All four girls downed their drinks just as two familiar faces appeared behind them. Cheers rang out as Lincoln and Octavia greeted everyone, a tab was opened at the bar for the remainder of the night, and more shots were ordered and consumed. Clarke made a mental note to herself to stop after the second shot she'd had and retreated to an open high-top table with the rest of her friends.

“I can’t believe us,” Raven yelled over the blaring music. “Clarke is about to own her first gallery, Lincoln and Octavia are finally getting married...”

“We’re moving in together,” Anya chimed in with a smile on her face.

“Lexa’s graduating from law school soon,” Octavia pointed out.

“We’re, like, adults or something,” Raven concluded.

“That’s enough to make me want another,” Lincoln said as he shot the group a smile and ushered Octavia back up to the bar to order them both a drink.

“I’m so proud of you, Clarke,” Raven said into her best friend’s ear. “Your dad would have been too.”

Clarke answered with a giant smile, knowing full well that her father would have been simply thrilled at how far she had come in her career, and she reached over to wrap the brunette in a hug. A pleasant and easy conversation fell around them until Anya asked Raven to dance, leading Octavia to ask Lincoln, until it was only Clarke and Lexa left at the table.

They shared a quick look and a smile but said nothing, neither of them sure of what to do in that particular moment. Clarke stole a few glances over at the brunette when she wasn’t looking and couldn’t seem to shake from her mind the desire to just be close to her. She didn’t know if it was her mood, the confidence she felt wearing one of her favorite outfits, or the strangely applicable story her grandmother had told her earlier that afternoon, but all Clarke wanted to do was grab Lexa by the hand and drag her out onto the dance floor.

She watched as Lexa absentmindedly turned her engagement ring around her finger as she looked around at the club-goers. Her mind was racing a mile a minute, Clarke knew, and she secretly wondered what all of her thoughts were that had her looking so hesitant. She bit her lip and slid off her stool, threading her fingers with Lexa’s and leaning in close.

“Let’s dance.”

She was treated to the sight of Lexa’s eyes darting back up to her own from where they had sneaked a peak at her cleavage, and she nearly lost it as she watched green eyes grow impressively darker. A small nod from Lexa was all the encouragement Clarke needed to tug her gently towards the dance floor.

Their hands slipped from each other’s as they came to a stop, and Clarke immediately began to sway her hips to the beat of the music. Lexa was quick to follow, though her line of sight was trained on everyone and everything other than Clarke. The blonde noticed immediately and responded by inching her way into Lexa’s space until they were almost pressed fully against each other. She could feel the heat from Lexa’s body mingling with her own, and the combination of that and the spicy scent that was so unequivocally Lexa had Clarke’s head spinning.

They finally caught gazes, and Clarke seized the moment. Her heart pounded in her chest as she reached up to loop her arms around Lexa’s neck and mold their bodies together, and it certainly wasn’t her imagination when she saw green eyes flicker down to her lips as they grew close enough to breathe the same air. The tension was thick around them as they continued to sway to the music, each hammer of the bass bringing lulling them further into each other’s magnetic pull.

As Clarke tightened her grip on the girl, she felt Lexa’s hands finally come up to rest gently on her waist. They stared into each other’s eyes as if trying to decode what the other was thinking in that very moment until the tips of their noses brushed together. Clarke held her breath as she watched Lexa close her eyes, felt her take a steadying breath, and opened them once again. The hand on her left side tightened considerably, and she held her breath as Lexa slowly leaned in until their lips were mere millimeters away.

The jolt smashed them out of their trance, out of their moment, and Clarke’s eyes flew open to glare at the drunken idiot who had just danced directly into their space after very unsuccessfully trying to impress the girl he was dancing with. Faster than she could register, the hands on her waist had vanished and an apologetic expression was looking back at her as she heard something about the restroom being mumbled into her ear.

Clarke watched as Lexa disappeared into the crowd before running her fingers through her hair and letting out a sigh. Her mind raced. Had Lexa been about to kiss her? Would she have let her? Would she have liked it? A million more questions ran through her thoughts as she made her way towards the restroom doors, hoping that the girl she found on the other side wasn’t freaking out over what might have possibly almost just happened.

As she should have expected, Lexa was washing her hands and looking as calm as ever. Her natural disposition of head over heart that would prove to be so useful in the courtroom was showing itself in the mirror of the dark maroon painted bathroom. Lexa lifted her eyes to see Clarke closing the door behind her and resting her back up against it. As she reached for a towel to dry her hands, she heard Clarke sigh and saw her carefully lock the bathroom door behind her.

A long beat of silence lingered between the two as Lexa leaned herself back against the edge of the sink and waited for Clarke to speak.

“On the dance floor back there... just a minute ago...” Clarke said and then paused. “Were you going to kiss me?”

The vulnerability in Clarke’s voice shot straight through Lexa’s chest, but she kept her face as passive as she possibly could. The last thing she thought she’d ever do was fall for the girl she’d agreed to marry, but there she was, falling hard and falling fast. A quick swallow down her parched throat did nothing to quell her nerves, but she heard herself speaking up regardless.

“I don’t know.”

“Did you want to?” Clarke asked after a moderate beat of silence.

“I don’t know,” Lexa repeated herself, her stoic mask suddenly slipping ever so slightly enough for Clarke to see the fear in her eyes.

They stood in silence, just staring at each other, for what seemed like eternity until Clarke’s quiet voice filled the room.

“I wanted you to.”

The admission hit Lexa like a ton of bricks, and she couldn’t stop her shocked expression from spreading across her face. Clarke Griffin, the girl Lexa was convinced she honest to goodness hated, had just confessed to her that she had wanted her kiss. She wanted the press of her lips against her own, to feel the softness of their touch, their warmth, and the thought had Lexa’s brain short circuiting. She felt herself grow tense under Clarke’s unrelenting stare, and she coped by tearing her eyes away to look aimlessly about the room before sighing into it.

“This is weird,” Lexa finally said.

“What is weird?” Clarke questioned honestly.

“This, us,” Lexa replied as she gestured between them. “Admitting that we want to kiss each other?”

Clarke’s heart leaped at Lexa’s small slip-up at saying ‘we’ in reference to them both as opposed to ‘you’ in reference to only Clarke wanting to share a kiss. A real kiss. Not one for vanity’s sake or one to appease their friends. A real, non-fake, completely voluntary kiss.

“I thought we hated each other,” Lexa said, her eyes widening as she spoke as if she were impossibly terrified to hear Clarke’s answer.

“I think we both know that we haven’t hated each other for a while,” Clarke replied calmly, her eyes never leaving Lexa’s.

Another swallow scratched its way down Lexa’s throat before she opened her mouth to speak.

“Hasn’t the moment passed?” She asked hesitantly, unsure of whether she wanted that answer either.

“Either we want to kiss each other or we don’t,” Clarke said as she took a step towards the brunette. “Whatever moment we’re in shouldn’t matter.”

Another step closer had Clarke standing a mere foot away from Lexa who appeared to be wrestling some rather strong internal conflicts by the way her eyes darted around Clarke's face. They stood in silence again, Clarke giving her every chance to close the gap between them, but Lexa remained frozen at her spot against the sink. Her heart sunk as she took a small step backwards before turning towards the door. What she didn’t expect was to feel Lexa’s fingers wrapping around her wrist and urging her back around.

Never had Clarke ever experienced anything like the press of Lexa’s lips against hers. It was as if time itself had momentarily ceased to continue, only to resume when the soft brush of Lexa’s fingertips against her cheek knocked her back into the present. The kiss was every bit as forceful as it was soft, and it took no more than a millisecond for them both to sink devastatingly and irreversibly into it.

Clarke’s free hand found Lexa’s waist as her back connected with the solid wood door behind her, and she rumbled a low groan from the bottom of her lungs as Lexa’s lips pulled slowly away from her own only to continue forward again at a new angle. Long fingers buried themselves into the depths of golden curls as Clarke lost herself in everything Lexa.

Her heat. Her touch. The press of her body. The softness of her lips, and the feeling of her heart pounding between them.

It was only when Clarke carefully, gently, oh-so-slowly sunk her teeth into the fullness of Lexa’s bottom lip that she heard the tiniest of moans from the brunette, and the split second it echoed in her ears was enough to fan an inferno inside her chest. Lips parted, slowly and cautiously, as tongues grazed for a first taste both of them knew wouldn’t be the last. It was Lexa who chanced a second deeper kiss, and Clarke gratefully accepted.

A heavy pant fell from Lexa’s lips as she pulled away, only momentarily, before they came together once again. They moved desperately yet cautiously as if they both were committing every touch, every glide, every sweet sound to memory. Clarke’s lungs burned in the best possible way, and she could feel her heartbeat pulsing on the side of her neck as if it were threatening to burst from her skin. Nothing on Earth had ever felt as good as kissing Lexa Woods, and the realization of such was absolutely terrifying.

Their lips danced together languidly for another few seconds and just as Lexa was about to thread her free hand into the depths of Clarke’s hair, a slamming noise (somewhat like the most annoying knock ever) sounded on the other side of the bathroom door. The girls separated with a pop, breathing heavily, and looking into each other’s eyes as the haze cleared from their minds until they composed themselves enough to realize that someone was demanding entry.

They disconnected from each other physically, but the spark between them was white hot and had both girls thoroughly shaken, intrigued, and desperate for more. An annoyed voice from the other side of the door brought them further out of their makeout-induced stupor, and they both began primping themselves to look presentable.

A quick check in the mirror had Clarke feeling confident in her appearance, and she turned to unlock the door. She threw a charged glance over her shoulder at Lexa who seemed to understand every word the blonde wasn’t saying before she quickly slipped back into the crowd, her heart pounding and her thoughts floating what seemed to be more than a hundred miles away.

Chapter Text

Lexa Woods was confused. Perhaps puzzled would be a better way to describe it. Never had a single kiss, or single series of kisses, left her so utterly bewildered than those that had happened between her and Clarke at weekend at the club. Her heart pounded every time she caught herself remembering the softness of pink lips against her own, the perfect heat of the kiss, and the passion running through her veins as it seemed to naturally ebb and flow as they moved together in perfect sync.

But every time Lexa lost herself in the memory, it wasn't long before her brain was screaming at her to snap out of it. Why? Therein lied the confusion. At the same time she could tell her heart wanted Clarke, actually legitimately wanted Clarke, her head kept asking her how could she possibly want her. They had been mutual enemies, for lack of a softer term, since the first second they met. Although they had finally discovered their grossly incorrect first impressions of each other, something in Lexa, that automatic reflex, was making it almost impossible for her heart and her head to work together to figure out what she actually wanted to do about it. About Clarke. About the kiss.

It was only natural for Lexa to find herself at the gym just hours after having finally gotten her wrist cast removed at the hospital, and she reveled in the feeling of her skin glistening with a fresh sheen of sweat and heat. There were few things in her life that couldn't be cured with an intense workout, so it only made sense for Lexa to try and work out her frustrations on some of her favorite machines.

“How's the wrist feeling?”

With a quiet grunt, Lexa dropped her free weight to rest on the padded bench she sat on and looked up to see Harper smiling down at her. She noticed the twinge of concern in the blonde's eyes as she waited for an answer, but Lexa brushed it off as it being nothing more than a friendly gesture.

“It feels great,” Lexa lied. “Strong.”

“Listen, Lexa, I know you're eager to get back into your routine,” Harper said, “but just don't stress it too much. The gym will be here tomorrow... and the next day... and the day after that.”

A small grin pulled at the corner of Lexa's lips as she wiped the back of her hand across her forehead before reaching down to grab her water bottle from the floor by her feet. A generous swig of the cool water quenched her throat well enough for a sigh of relief to fall from her lips before she looked back up at her admirer and opened her mouth to speak.

“I appreciate your concern, but I'm fine,” Lexa said as honestly as she could muster.

Thankfully Harper seemed to believe her and nodded her head once in understanding. Lexa watched as the girl shifted from one foot to the other and felt the receptionist's nervousness as she appeared to be struggling for the right words.

“Are you interested in me, Lexa?” Harper finally blurted out, leaving both girls looking equally as shocked as the other.

“I, uh,” Lexa stuttered, “as in... romantically?”

“Yes,” Harper replied, a sudden tone of confidence lacing her voice as she spoke.

“I think you're a really great friend,” Lexa finally settled on, “and I also have a fiancée.”

The moment Harper's eyes fell to her left hand, Lexa felt the urge to explain further.

“I leave my engagement ring in my locker so that I don't damage it when I work out,” Lexa told her.

“Well, I didn't think I would make quite the ass out of myself that I apparently have,” Harper mumbled embarrassingly as she rubbed a hand to the back of her neck.

“No, Harper–”

“It's fine, really,” Harper interrupted Lexa. “I should have known it wouldn't take you that long to get snatched up by someone. You're... pretty incredible, Lexa.”

Her heart twisted at the compliment, and she could practically feel Harper's heart breaking as the girl lit up in a fiery blush and did everything in her power to continue staring at the floor.

“I'm sorry if it seemed like I led you on,” Lexa said quietly. “Sometimes I try too hard to be polite and don't realize how it might come off to others as reciprocation.”

“It was more wishful thinking on my part,” Harper admitted. “You turned me down plenty of times, and I just hoped something might change somewhere down the line.”

“I'm sorry,” Lexa said again.

“Seriously, don't be,” Harper told her, lifting her eyes to Lexa's and giving her a sincere look. “I'm really happy for you.”

“Thanks,” Lexa replied with a nod and small smile.

“Well, I should get back to it,” Harper said, “but don't work that wrist too hard.”

“I won't,” Lexa replied honestly, at which Harper nodded before walking towards the front of the gym.

Lexa let out a long sigh as she turned her attention back to her discarded weight. Had Harper asked her that point-blank question before she'd ever met Clarke, her response might have been completely different. And the fact that both her heart and head felt instantly relieved at the thought of Clarke, who just so happened to be lingering in her thoughts during that entire exchange, elicited excitement and even more confusion. It wasn't until she was back at her locker and rummaging through her gym bag to get to her ringing phone on time that Lexa's thoughts seemed to clear if only momentarily.

“Hello,” Lexa said more than asked, having seen Clarke's name on her phone screen.

“Hey, sorry to call so early but I kind of have a huge favor to ask you.”

“Clarke, it's eight o'clock in the morning,” Lexa said with a smirk. “I've been up for hours.”

“Oh, right, I forgot your slightly robotic tendencies of not eating and not sleeping.”

“I eat and sleep as much as my body demands,” Lexa replied as she wedged the phone between her ear and shoulder before continuing to dig through her bag to find a fresh change of clothes.

“I still am going to need a little bit of convincing before I truly believe that you're not at least part robot.”

“Convincing?” Lexa questioned.

“Yeah, you know like eat an entire candy bar or sleep in until eleven o'clock.”

“Eleven o'clock?!” Lexa nearly exclaimed. “I haven't slept until eleven o'clock in my entire life.”

“You have got to be kidding me.”

“I kid you not,” Lexa said with a small shrug. “Anyways, what's the favor?”

“Right, so the electrical inspection of my gallery is supposed to be happening today but I had to schedule a super important meeting during it because it was the only time the woman I'm meeting could meet.”

Lexa smiled at the rambling girl's overuse of the word 'meet' but decided to say nothing about it.

“A super important meeting, huh?” Lexa asked instead.

“Yes, super important. Like the most important meeting of my entire life, important.”

“Alright, no need to sell it,” Lexa said with a chuckle.

“Anyways, I just need someone to meet them at the gallery to let them in and stay until they're done inspecting to lock up. I asked Bellamy if he could, but he has some big anniversary thing planned for his fiancé tonight.”

“What time is the inspection?” Lexa asked as she closed her locker door and leaned her back against it.

“Eight o'clock tonight. I know it's late, but it was the last opening they had available for the next two months.”

“Eight o'clock will be fine,” Lexa replied. “I have to drop Anya off at the station around seven-thirty, so I'll just go straight from there to your gallery to let them in.”

“Thank you so much, Lex, really. I owe you one.”

“Don't worry about it,” Lexa assured the blonde.

“The lockbox on the front door has a combo I'll text you when we hang up. You should be able to just punch it in, and the key pops out of the bottom.”

“I think I can figure it out,” Lexa replied with another smirk stretching the corner of her mouth.

“So, I guess I'll, uh, just talk to you later then?”

It was then that Lexa suddenly remembered it was the first time she and Clarke had talked after the kiss. The kiss that had apparently been building for longer than either one of them realized. The kiss that rocked her entire world and confused every thought in her brain. That kiss. Moisture suddenly gone from her throat, Lexa tried fruitlessly to swallow before finally opening her mouth to speak.

“Yeah, okay,” was all she could manage in a hoarse voice.

They said very short goodbyes, and Lexa sighed once again as she ended the call before putting her phone back into her locker and heading off to the showers.

The drive home was relatively usual aside from the small twinge of pain in her healing wrist every few minutes or so. She wasn't about to let it deter her from working out the following day (or the days after that either), so Lexa pushed it out of her mind. It wasn't until she was turning her key to unlock her front door that the twinge of pain turned into a sharp jolt of pain.

She hissed a breath through her teeth and winced before dropping her hand from the key still stuck in the lock. Her breathing was unsteady as the door opened cautiously to reveal a confused-looking Anya on the other side. The blonde's eyes drifted down towards the arm hanging limply by Lexa's side and realized immediately what the issue was.

“You hurt yourself at the gym, didn't you?” Anya asked as a single eyebrow cocked.

“No,” Lexa quickly replied and stepped through the door.

“So you always have trouble unlocking the door?” Anya questioned before closing it behind them.

“It's just a little sore, that's all,” Lexa downplayed. “It felt great while I was working out.”

“It felt great while your endorphins and adrenaline were pumping,” Anya said, “and now it probably hurts like a bitch.”

“It's not that bad,” Lexa replied, trying to hide another wince as she placed her gym bag on the kitchen counter but failed.

“I'm calling your wife,” Anya said flatly as she walked over to her phone in the living room.

“Why?” Lexa asked, her eyebrows scrunching in confusion.

“Because her mother's a doctor, and she probably knows how to help ease the pain,” Anya told her before lifting the phone to her ear.

“Anya, don't–”

“Hey, Clarke,” Anya said into the phone as she waved Lexa off, “what are you up to right now?”

Lexa sighed and ran a hand through her damp hair, resigning herself to the fact that Anya would definitely be able to convince Clarke to stop by. The older girl was nothing if not persuasive.

“Your wife hurt her wrist at the gym and needs you to take care of it,” Anya said, and Lexa huffed in defiance. “I know, I told her.”

Lexa was compelled to show Anya that her hand was still in perfect working order, and she demonstrated that by flicking her middle finger at the girl as she muttered a few more things into the phone.

“Sounds good, see you then,” Anya said before ending the call. “She'll be over in twenty minutes.”

“I'm perfectly capable of taking care of myself, you know.”

“You mean, like, re-injuring yourself at the gym taking care of yourself?” Anya asked incredulously.

“I did not re-injure myself,” Lexa snapped quickly as she made her way to the refrigerator and pulled out a bottle of water. “It's just a little sore, that's all. There is no need for Clarke to come all the way over here just to tell me it's a little swollen.”

“Whatever,” Anya replied with a shrug. “I think it's adorable that she's coming over to take care of you. I only wish I could stick around to witness it.”

“There will be nothing to witness because she won't be taking care of me because I didn't re-injure my wrist,” Lexa recited forcefully before taking a long swig of her water.

“And on that note, I'll see you later,” Anya said as she slipped her shoes on and hoisted her purse over her shoulder.

“Where are you going?” Lexa asked. “Don't you work today?”

“Not for another eight and a half hours, Mom,” Anya teased with a roll of her eyes. “I'm meeting Raven for lunch before running some errands.”

“Fine,” Lexa mumbled, “no need to be so sarcastic.”

“Here all these years I thought you loved my sarcasm,” Anya replied with a smirk as she opened the front door.

Lexa said nothing else, but a quick eye roll conveyed to Anya everything she was thinking as the older girl chuckled and let herself out the door. A weighted sigh filled the room, and Lexa made her way over to the couch for a bit of relaxation before Clarke arrived. She couldn't actually believed that Anya had called her over. What was worse than Clarke taking care of her non-re-injured wrist was the thought of being alone with her. Together. For the first time after their kiss.

The kiss.

The feeling of it ghosted over Lexa's lips at night or during the day or whenever it was that she thought about it, and she was torn between whether she hated or loved the excitement it evoked. Clarke had admitted she'd wanted to kiss her. She herself had admitted she'd wanted to kiss Clarke, so why was it so difficult to figure out her true feelings? Sooner than she could come up with an answer, there was a knock at the front door.

Lexa shot up from her spot on the couch, glancing hastily at the clock on the wall to realize she had been daydreaming for the better part of twenty minutes, and stopped to catch a quick breath at the front door before pulling it open. Her heart nearly leaped into her throat at the sight of the blonde.

She was standing in the doorway holding a small paper bag, a soft and concerned look on her face, and bundled tightly in a layer of fleece, flannel, and fur between her winter coat and scarf. Lexa swallowed hard before stepping aside and gesturing for Clarke to come inside.

“So,” Clarke began softly, “you re-injured your wrist?”

“No,” Lexa immediately replied as she closed the front door. “I mean, I just strained it a little I guess.”

“Mhmm,” Clarke hummed through the tiniest of smirks.

“What does that mean?” Lexa asked as she watched Clarke shuck her coat and unwind the scarf from around her neck.

“It means I knew you would go to the gym too soon,” Clarke replied.

“Oh, you knew I would?”

“Yes,” Clarke said confidently. “You're the type who goes out in a hurricane because it's your morning to run. Don't even deny it... your girlfriend at the coffee shop told me so.”

“My... Luna?” Lexa asked somewhat confusedly. “She's not my girlfriend. She's not even my type.”

“No?” Clarke asked, her eyebrows shooting up as she set her small paper bag on the kitchen counter. “What is your type?”

They locked gazes for a poignant moment, Lexa's silence enough to answer the question exactly how Clarke was anticipating she would. She chewed on the inside of her bottom lip as Lexa remained frozen to her spot until a soft clearing of her throat cut the silence.

“You didn't have to come all this way,” Lexa offered quietly. “Anya blows everything out of proportion.”

“I'll be the judge of that,” Clarke said with a small smile as she closed the distance between them and reached for Lexa's left wrist.

Lexa couldn't stop herself from indulging in a silent whiff of Clarke's scent; a hint of coconut and flowers seemed inappropriate for the chilly time of year but on her it seemed perfect. Gentle fingers turned the swollen wrist slowly, and Lexa watched in rapt attention as Clarke studied her joint almost as if she was a doctor herself. Lexa supposed that having a Chief of Surgery for a mother likely rubbed some knowledge off on the young artist over the years, and she felt just as comfortable in Clarke's hands as any highly-trained doctor.

“It's swollen,” Clarke said quietly, fingers still moving lightly across heated skin. “You definitely overworked it, but it's nothing a little ice can't help with.”

Lexa swallowed hard as Clarke finally looked up, their eyes meeting and faces only inches apart. The tension in the room suddenly skyrocketed as they both stood for several long seconds, staring at the other as if they were both waiting for something to happen. Lexa's breathing had essentially ceased, but her heartbeat pounded in her ears. Just a small lean forward would connect their lips, and she would be kidding herself if she didn't admit that she wanted to feel Clarke against her again.

The moment Lexa broke eye contact was the second Clarke allowed herself to steal a glance down at pillowy lips, secretly praising her resistance to have lasted long enough for Lexa not to have noticed. They took a step apart from each other, and Clarke instructed Lexa to take a seat on the couch. She emptied her bag and cracked an ice pack to activate it before plopping down on the couch next to the brunette. Shy smiles were traded as Clarke wrapped the cooling pack around Lexa's wrist, and the two got comfortable enough to flip on the TV and enjoy some quiet time together.

It was about an hour later when Clarke awoke, initially confused by her surroundings and then annoyed at the prickly pain stinging around her ankle. She looked down to see the ice pack wedged between Lexa's fallen wrist and her own ankle before quickly yanking her leg away from the frozen bag and making a pained sound that was loud enough to wake Lexa up.

“Dammit,” Clarke muttered under her breath.

“What?” Lexa asked groggily, her voice slightly raspy from sleep.

“We fell asleep and your ice pack practically froze my ankle off,” Clarke snapped comically, earning a sleepy eye roll from the girl next to her. “What?”

“You're such a baby,” Lexa replied with a smirk and took the ice pack off of her own wrist (which had seemingly become much less swollen than it had been earlier that morning).

“It's cold!” Clarke exclaimed, continuing to rub her frozen skin in an attempt to warm it.

“It was on my wrist too, you know,” Lexa said while holding up said wrist for Clarke to see.

“Hey, the swelling went down,” Clarke pointed out. “How does it feel?”

“Better,” Lexa answered quietly. “Thank you.”

“Yeah,” Clarke said with a nod. “Thanks for the nap. I wasn't expecting to come over here and fall alseep.”

“I can't say it surprises me,” Lexa told her through the beginnings of a smirk. “You were up pretty early this morning which is a miracle in itself.”

“Whatever, Woods,” Clarke teasingly snapped back. “We're not all robots.”

A sharp chuckle escaped Lexa's lungs, and the two shared a smile before they both stood up from the couch. They headed towards the front door after Clarke had mentioned she needed to get back home, and Lexa followed closely behind.

“Thanks again for coming over,” Lexa said just as Clarke finished wrapping her scarf around her neck.

“No problem,” Clarke replied and looked down at Lexa's wrist once more. “Try to baby it a little bit longer. You don't want to delay the healing process any more than you already have.”

“Right, I'll try,” Lexa said honestly and nodded a few times.

With another small smile, Clarke reached for the door knob and opened the door to the cold winter air before stepping outside and waiving her goodbye. Lexa waved awkwardly as well, closed the door, and slumped her back against it. She took a deep breath just before something important dawned on her. Wrenching the door open to see Clarke already halfway down the driveway, Lexa yelled out after her.

“Clarke, wait!”

Clarke turned around in surprise and looked back at Lexa, patiently and silently waiting for her to say what she wanted to say.

“Do you want a ride home?” Lexa asked, her breath billowing in frozen puffs against her face.

Her heart warmed as a wide smile stretched across Clarke's face at the question, already knowing what her answer would be.

She'd wanted to wear a dress. It was her go-to outfit of choice when trying to impress, but the chill in the air was too intense to allow it. The meeting Clarke had been anticipating was finally about to happen, and to say she wasn't nervous would have been the lie of the century. Her chance, her real chance, to break into the art world was at the tips of her fingers and there was nothing that could damped her spirits that frigid winter evening.

The cab driver dropped her off at the front doors of Polis Café which was precisely when her heart began to race. She smiled politely as the host asked for her name and showed her to the table already occupied by the woman she had agreed to meet. A warm smile radiated through the cozy restaurant, and Clarke returned it as casually as she could as she extended a hand in greeting.

“Clarke Griffin, it's so nice to finally meet you,” Becca said, her smile still painted on her lips.

“Likewise,” Clarke replied politely. “I appreciate your willingness to meet with me in spite of your busy schedule.”

“The pleasure is all mine, really,” Becca told her and sat back down in her chair. “Dante has been gushing about you and your work for months now, so I already know there's something pretty special about you.”

Clarke's heart jumped at the compliment, but she said nothing in response. In fear that she'd say something stupid, she opted to keep her words to herself and answer with a simple smile instead.

“I've already eaten dinner, so I'm just going to stick with coffee,” Becca said as she pointed down towards the steaming mug in front of her, “but if you need to eat, by all means, it's on me.”

“Just coffee sounds great actually,” Clarke lied.

Her stomach grumbled in quiet protest, but she pushed the feeling away. There was something awkward about stuffing her face with food while the professional contact she was having a business meeting with just sipped on coffee.

“So, Clarke,” Becca began, “Dante tells me that you're in the process of purchasing an art gallery?”

“Yes,” Clarke replied, the grin on her face quickly appearing. “It's in the Firehouse District, and it's one of the most beautiful buildings I've ever seen in my life.”

Becca just smiled before taking a sip of her coffee, nodding in indication for Clarke to continue.

“There are some renovations that will need to happen,” Clarke explained. “A few walls will need to come out on the gallery level, and there's an apartment upstairs that will need to be completely redone.”

“I'd always dreamed of having an apartment above an art gallery,” Becca suddenly interjected, a whimsical look flashing across her face. “I fell in love with art at first sight, so I can completely understand the pull to want to live where you work.”

“It's something I have always dreamed of too,” Clarke confessed with a shy smile.

“I have to say that buying and renovating a gallery and apartment space is quite ambitious for a young artist,” Becca said. “I'll admit I was a little surprised when Dante first mentioned it.”

“I owe the opportunity to my grandmother,” Clarke said as she reached for the pitcher of coffee on their table and filled her own mug. “She gifted me with the money to buy the building which was honestly something I never in a hundred years thought she'd do.”

“She sounds like a woman who adores her granddaughter,” Becca replied with a smile and a twinkle in her eye.

“She's the most generous person I know,” Clarke told her softly before taking a sip of her coffee.

“So, Clarke, tell me a little bit about yourself,” Becca said. “Who is Clarke Griffin?”

“Okay,” Clarke replied hesitantly, suddenly nervous to talk about herself, “I'm twenty seven. I live with my best friend in a tiny apartment just outside of downtown. My mom is the Chief of Surgery at the largest hospital in the tri-state area and is still salty that I didn't follow her into the medical field no matter what she says.”

Becca chuckled into her coffee cup but remained otherwise silent.

“My dad died when I was eighteen, and the whole family took it pretty hard,” Clarke confessed, her voice taking on a somber tone. “I've finally been able to make my peace with it though, and I know he'd be thrilled to know I was sitting here with someone as connected in the art world as you are.”

“I'm sorry about your father, and I'm sure he is proud of everything you do,” Becca replied. “I noticed your lovely ring, do you have someone special waiting at home for you?”

Clarke instinctively looked down at her left hand to see the band on her finger sparkle under the dimmed lights and took a deep breath. She hadn't thought the topic of her fake engagement would come up at a business meeting, but it had and she needed to roll with it.

“Her name is Lexa,” Clarke told the woman. “We got engaged last May, and we're hoping to get married soon after the purchase of the gallery closes.”

“And is she supportive of all your dreams to dive into the art world?” Becca asked honestly.

“Of course,” Clarke replied immediately. “She's... been... wonderful.”

What shocked her the most was that the statement that had just tumbled out of her mouth didn't seem that far from the truth. They had no doubt had a rocky start, but the more Clarke had gotten to know Lexa over the year the more wonderful the brunette seemed to become in her eyes.

“And where does she work, your fiancé?” Becca questioned.

“Actually, she's taking some time away from working while she finishes her last semester of law school,” Clarke answered, a hint of pride in her voice as she spoke.

“Law school, wow,” Becca said. “Two very ambitious women.”

Clarke let out a soft laugh and took a sip of her coffee, confident that she had shared enough about herself to please Becca.

“Well, I need to let you know that I don't usually meet with such green artists,” Becca said as politely as she could. “I do think that you work shows enough promise for me to spend my time cultivating connections for you, and Dante's favorable opinion of you certainly helps too.”

“I'm honored,” Clarke replied through a small nod.

Becca flashed her a smile and just as she reached down to retrieve her briefcase from the floor by her feet, a muffled chime of a text message sounded from inside Clarke's purse. She was embarrassed that she hadn't turned her phone to silent before the meeting, but she decided against digging for it in fear that Becca might think she was more interested in a text message than in the meeting they were having.

“I always put together a business plan for my potential clients, and I thought we could go over the one I drafted for you together,” Becca said as she unzipped a small leather portfolio.

“That sounds great,” Clarke replied, only to hear another two chimes from her phone inside her purse.

“Do you need to get that?” Becca asked as she gestured towards Clarke's purse.

“Oh, no,” Clarke answered. “It's probably just my mom or my roommate asking how the meeting is going even though they know I'm still in said meeting.”

Becca just smiled and nodded before taking out a few pieces of paper and a notebook from the portfolio and setting them on the table in front of her. To Clarke's horror, her phone began to ring before it was followed up immediately with two more text message chimes. Becca looked across the table, and Clarke scratched awkwardly at the back of her neck as she decided what to do.

“I'm just going to turn it off,” Clarke said as she began rummaging through her purse to find her phone.

She unlocked it quickly, and her heart dropped as she read the last text message Raven had sent.

Raven: Call me. 911.

Clarke glanced up at Becca apologetically before navigating quickly to the rest of her text messages, only to grow more worried and confused as she skimmed through every message Raven had sent.

Raven: Tell me your meeting is over.

Raven: Clarke, please text me back. Don't freak out, just text me back.

Raven: Something is happening, and you need to call me right now.

Raven: Seriously, Clarke, this isn't a joke.

Raven: Call me. 911.

“Is everything alright?” Becca asked cautiously as she studied the furrowed expression on Clarke's face from across the table.

“It's my roommate,” Clarke finally said. “She said something's happening and that I need to call her. She sounds serious which is weird because she's never serious.”

“Call her back, by all means,” Becca offered honestly. “I don't mind at all.”

“I'm so sorry,” Clarke apologized as sincerely as she could while dialing Raven's number.

The moment Raven answered, Clarke's entire world changed.

“Yes, Anya, she came over,” Lexa huffed in annoyance as they continued their drive to the fire station. “How many times do I have to tell you?”

“Did she kiss your wrist and make it better?” Anya asked teasingly, loving how uncomfortable she was making the younger woman.

“No,” Lexa answered, tamping down the reflex to cough at the embarrassment the question brought.

Anya didn't miss the awkwardness in Lexa's answer one bit, and her eyebrows shot up before falling back down so her eyes could narrow in on the brunette behind the steering wheel.

“Why are you acting weird?”

“I'm not acting weird,” Lexa shot back, never taking her eyes off the road in front of her.

“You are,” Anya insisted. “You are acting weird, and I want to know if it's because Clarke kissed your wrist to make it better?”

“She didn't kiss my wrist to make it better!” Lexa nearly shrieked, her cheeks flushing with the memory of the actual kiss she and Clarke shared that night at the club.

“Okay, tell me what is happening,” Anya demanded as she crossed her arms over her chest and stared Lexa down. “Did something else happen between you two?”

Lexa's silence and nervous fidgeting seemed to answer Anya's question enough, and a deafening silence fell around them for a few long moments.

“Are you not going to tell me what happened?” Anya asked impatiently.

“No, Anya, it's not that big of a deal,” Lexa huffed out again.

“Apparently it is if it's got you blushing like a teenager in love,” Anya said as she pointed at Lexa's cheeks. “I'm not going to make fun of you, I just want to know.”

“Why?” Lexa asked quickly. “Why do you want to know? Why do you have to know?”

Anya didn't answer. Instead she kept her gaze trained on Lexa, reading her expressions, taking in her mannerisms, trying to crack her until exactly that happened. With a loud sigh, Lexa finally opened her mouth to speak.

“We kissed.”

“You kissed,” Anya repeated slowly after the initial shock of the statement wore off her face. “You and Clarke kissed, like, actually kissed?”

“Yes,” Lexa confessed. “At the club that one night you and Raven got absolutely bombed.”

“And... did you both... enjoy it?” Anya asked slowly, her face grimacing at the thought of her little cousin going at it in the corner of a darkened club.

“Yes, okay?” Lexa blurted out in frustration. “She's a good kisser, so what's not to enjoy?”

“I–I'm, seriously, I don't even know how to respond,” Anya stumbled over her words. “How did this happen? Did you plan it? Had you been thinking about it before you did it? You two weren't drunk, were you?”

“We weren't drunk, and it just happened,” Lexa told her. “ I can't explain it. It just seemed... right.”

Anya raised a hand to her face to hide the smile stretching across her lips, but Lexa noticed it immediately. She rolled her eyes but said nothing, instead turning her attention back to the snowy street in front of her once again.

“Damn,” Anya mumbled, her mood suddenly changing. “I owe Raven fifty bucks.”

“For what?”

“We were betting on the two of you getting together,” Anya said simply. “It was only a matter of time, and she happened to guess right.”

“Seriously? You bet on us?” Lexa asked in disbelief.

“Some of the guys at the station did too,” Anya said with a chuckle. “Raven's going to win a hell of a pot.”

“Can you not tell people about this?” Lexa asked, suddenly nervous about everyone she knew knowing. “I don't know what it meant. I mean, we haven't actually talked about it yet.”

“But you admit it's worth talking about,” Anya said with an exaggerated nod.

“Well, of course,” Lexa replied. “It's not like I go around kissing people all the time.”

“I know,” Anya said, her voice suddenly serious. “I don't think you've kissed someone since...”

The statement was left hanging, both girls knowing exactly to whom Anya was referring and that it was the truth. They drove the rest of the way to the station in silence.

“Do you have time to check out my new office?” Anya asked as the pulled into the parking lot of the fire station.

“They finally hauled all of Pike's stuff out, huh?” Lexa said as she found a parking spot to her liking.

“Yep, it only took forever and a day,” Anya replied with a roll of her eyes. “Plus, I figured you would want to see it before Raven and I christen it.”

“Gross,” Lexa said, closing her eyes and shaking her head in disgust.

Anya just laughed it off and hopped out of the car, shivering only slightly as the cold air swept through her hair and stung the tip of her nose. They made haste into the station, and Lexa greeted all of the familiar faces she walked by as she followed Anya down a few hallways and into her office.

It was nothing like she'd expected it to be (much larger in fact), but it was definitely reflective of the older girl's tastes. She smiled down at a picture of Anya and Raven huddled together in front of a ferris wheel at some amusement park they stopped at on a road trip their first summer together. Another picture frame held an image of Anya, Gustus and herself taken at Christmas.

“Check out this desk,” Anya said as she swiped her hand across the smooth cherry wood surface.

“It's beautiful,” Lexa agreed as she appraised it. “Did they let you order a new one or was this already here?”

“It's brand new, baby,” Anya said with a smirk.

“Don't call me baby,” Lexa shot back as she crouched down to get a closer look at the dovetail joints on the drawers.

The desk showcased exquisite craftsmanship, and Lexa found herself admiring its details for longer than she realized. It wasn't until the thought popped into her head of how heavy the desk must be that she snapped herself out of her trance. With a pop of her wrist.

A shot of pain exploded in her wrist as she loosened her grip on the edge of the desk where she had stupidly tried to lift up to test its mass, and the noise was loud enough for Anya to whip her head around and stare at the surprised brunette clutching her wrist.

“Are you serious?” Anya nearly shouted. “Did you actually just try to lift this monstrously heavy piece of furniture with a bum wrist?”

Shit,” Lexa hissed through her teeth as she clamped her eyes shut and locked her jaw.

“Let me see,” Anya said as she reached for Lexa's hand.

“Don't touch it!” Lexa warned hastily, and Anya mumbled something in agreement.

“You have to get this looked at,” Anya told her. “It's already twice the size it was this morning.”

“Ugh, dammit,” Lexa grumbled as she finally looked down at her wrist. “Oh, shit, shit.”

“What? I can drive you over to the hospital if you need me to, no big deal,” Anya offered.

“No, I'm supposed to do this thing for Clarke tonight,” Lexa said through a few pained breaths.

“A sex thing?” Anya asked, her mouth curling with revulsion.

“No, Anya!” Lexa shouted that time. “She scheduled an electrical inspection at her gallery tonight but had a really important last minute meeting scheduled at the same time, so she asked me to go in her place.”

“Can't she just reschedule the inspection?” Anya questioned honestly.

“No,” Lexa answered. “If she doesn't get it done tonight, then the closing gets pushed back.”

“What time is it scheduled for?” Anya asked.

“Thirty minutes from now,” Lexa answered with a sigh.

Anya said nothing as she rounded her desk and pushed a button on her phone. The intercom system beeped, and she announced for Octavia to come to her office.

“She's off the clock for the night,” Anya told Lexa. “Would she be able to take your place?”

“Yeah, that should work,” Lexa replied, her expression breaking into a wince as she gently covered her wrist with her right hand.

“What up, bitches?” Octavia exclaimed as she stepped through the doorway of Anya's office.

“Dumbass over here popped something in her wrist and needs a ride to the hospital,” Anya told Octavia who was already making her way over to Lexa to inspect her injury.

“Damn, yeah,” Octavia agreed. “I can take you right now.”

“I was also going to meet some guys at Clarke's gallery for an electrical inspection that I won't be able to make now,” Lexa explained to the paramedic. “Would you be able to let them into the building and just hang around until they leave?”

“Sure, no problem,” Octavia replied with a shrug. “Let's get you to the hospital.”

“Thanks, O,” Anya said as the two girls turned to leave.

“Anytime, Chief!”

“Nice office, by the way,” Lexa said over her shoulder, “but you should get rid of that damn desk.”

Anya chuckled to herself and got to work as soon as they left. The ride for Lexa to the hospital wasn't bad, especially since Octavia had opted to bring them in an ambulance despite Lexa's protests. Every street light was switched in their favor, and it wasn't even a full ten minutes before they were pulling into the emergency entrance of the hospital. Luckily, Octavia had radioed ahead to let the hospital staff know that she wasn't technically bringing in an emergency, so Lexa simply strolled into the building on her own after thanking Octavia profusely.


“Oh, Abby,” Lexa said as soon as she saw the older woman approaching her. “I wasn't expecting to see you here.”

“This is my hospital, Lexa,” Abby teased as she planted her feet directly in front of Lexa and lifted her injured arm to look it over.

“I know, I just didn't realize you would be meeting me here like this,” Lexa rambled. “I don't want to take you away from other more important patients.”

“My daughters fiancé is about as important as they get,” Abby said with a small grin, “whether your relationship is still fake or not.”

“Why, did Clarke say something to you?” Lexa blurted out before she could stop herself.

“No,” Abby answered slowly, “but is there something you wanted to say to me about it?”

“No!” Lexa shouted before lowering the volume of her voice. “I mean, no, I just wasn't sure by the way you had said what you said.”

An eye roll accompanied a sigh as Lexa cursed herself silently for stumbling over her words so atrociously while talking to her fake fiancée's mother. All she wanted now was to get her wrist checked and wrapped up so that she could get back home.

“I'd like to take a few x-rays to make sure it didn't re-break,” Abby explained, “and then we'll go from there.”

Lexa nodded in agreement and followed the quickly moving doctor down the hallway towards the radiology wing of the hospital. The images were clear, and there were no new breaks. Abby told her that she indeed had re-injured the joint, and it would need to be kept in a brace for two to three weeks with no exceptions.

“Trying to lift a desk with a bad wrist,” Abby said with a shake of her head as she gently tightened the straps of the wrist brace around Lexa's arm, “you sound about as stubborn as Clarke.”

“Trust me,” Lexa interjected, “no one is as stubborn as Clarke.”

Abby just laughed, and Lexa smiled at the sound. It wasn't often she found herself enjoying the company of a friend's parent, but Abby seemed different somehow. Maybe it was because she was in her element, but the older woman seemed to give off a type of calmness Lexa didn't have much experience with.

They sat in silence for another few moments as Abby worked, and Lexa's eyes scanned the room. She noticed how perfectly organized all of the medical supplies were and appreciated the efficiency of it. It wasn't until a breaking news story flashed across the TV screen in the room caught Lexa's attention that her serene feeling crumbled into devastation.

“What you're seeing behind me is the result of what emergency workers presume to be some type of electrical fire,” the news reporter on the screen said.

Dread filled Lexa's chest, and her breathing became strained as she squinted to make out the facade of the building slowly being engulfed in flames.

“We aren't sure whether anyone is inside, but emergency crews aren't taking any chances at clearing the structure before the flames become overwhelming.”

Abby finally noticed the look of panic on Lexa's face and turned her head back to glance at the television screen.

“Roads are now being closed around the west side of the Firehouse District, so if you're traveling through the area this evening it would be recommended that you take another route.”

The camera man panned over towards the building once again, and Lexa's heart dropped into her stomach. She gasped and shot out of her chair, stunning Abby to roll her stool backwards a few feet.

“What's wrong, honey?” Abby asked, her voice laden with concern.

With a scratchy throat, Lexa swallowed as well as she could manage before opening her mouth to speak.

“That's Clarke's gallery.”

Chapter Text

The cab ride was silent. It was like something out of a movie, when the plot line crescendos just before the disaster strikes. Hearing Raven's voice in a sheer panic over the phone just minutes ago left Clarke's mind fuzzy, clouded with impending devastation and an overwhelming feeling of worry.

“Clarke, your gallery is on fire.”

“My... what?” Clarke stammered into the phone, her heart already dropping to her stomach.

“Your gallery, Clarke! It's on fire! I literally got a five word text from Anya saying Clarke's gallery is on fire, and I flipped the fuck out! Isn't Lexa supposed to be there right now?”

Clarke froze. Her body ceased all movements, her brain ceased all thought, and her senses dulled to almost completely non-functioning. Lexa. She was the one who was supposed to be supervising the electrical inspection. The inspection that she couldn't make because she was meeting with Becca instead. To further her career in the art world. The career that would have brought hundreds – maybe thousands – of people to her gallery.

The bitter taste of bile suddenly rose into Clarke's throat, disgusted by how selfish all of her motivations now seemed rattling around inside her head when the thing she was initially the most concerned about wasn't actually a person.

“Have you heard from her?” Clarke nearly screeched into the phone as she frantically waved down a cab. “Did she make it out before the fire?”

“I don't know, Clarke! I don't know!”

“Fuck,” Clarke cursed under her breath and muttered a quick address to the cab driver as tears began pricking behind her eyes.

“Are you on your way?”

“I just got in the cab,” Clarke replied hastily.

“Well, tell him to haul ass. I'll pay for speeding tickets, whatever, just get here as soon as you can.”

The cab's tires skidded to a halt, money was quickly shoved into the driver's hand, and Clarke was breathing in the smokey air sooner than she'd hoped. Of course she wanted to get to her gallery as quickly as possible to make sure Lexa was safe, but the steadily growing sense of dread weighing her down with each second was nearly crippling her. Her strength was gone by the time she slammed the cab door shut but miraculously returned with full force the second her eyes began scanning the crowd for a familiar face.


Though she knew immediately whose voice was echoing in her ears, Clarke still whipped her head around towards the sound of her name being called through the chaos. The fire trucks, police cars, news vans, and a growing crowd of people was like another scene from a movie, complete with caution tape surrounding her gallery and uniformed law enforcement officers standing guard and instructing the crowd not to get too close.


“Raven,” Clarke finally managed to speak before wrapping the girl in a strong buy short hug. “Where is she?”

“I don't know,” Raven said as she shook her head. “These cops won't let me talk to anyone on the other side of the tape.”

Clarke looked over to where Raven was gesturing and briskly walked towards two burly officers, her facial expression set to demand answers.

“I'm sorry, miss, you can't come through here,” one officer told her as he raised a hand in front of Clarke.

“This is my building,” Clarke told him firmly.

“I'm sorry, but–”

“Is anyone inside?” Clarke pleaded, looking into the officer's eyes with teary ones of her own. “I just need to know if anyone is inside.”

“We have firefighters inside at the moment, but we don't have any information on whether there are any more civilians still inside.”

“Any more?” Clarke questioned hastily.

“A couple of electricians were brought out ten minutes ago,” the officer told Clarke as he looked over to an ambulance nearby. “They're both being evaluated for injuries.”

Without a second of hesitation, Clarke bolted towards the ambulance to speak with the two men who she deduced were the ones performing her electrical inspection. Raven followed behind as quickly as her sore leg could carry her until they were both leaning as far over the caution tape as they could without getting removed from the scene.

“Excuse me!” Clarke shouted, waving her hand to try and get their attention. “Excuse me!”

“Nyko!” Raven shouted to the paramedic she recognized who was working on the two. “Hey, Nyko, can we talk to these guys for a second?”

Nyko gave her a quick nod from his position in the ambulance and gestured for the men to leave. There were so many questions Clarke wanted to ask first that her heart began racing, and she suddenly found it difficult to decide on even one of them.

“Are you guys okay?” Raven asked first, much to Clarke's relief.

“The medic told us we'd be fine,” one of the men said. “We might have a nasty cough for a few days, but I think we'd both take that over the alternative.”

“Where is the woman who let you into the building?” Clarke finally blurted out, unable to contain herself any longer. “Did she come out with you?”

“Who?” The other man asked aloud as he tried to remember through the craziness of the events.

“Brown hair, thin,” the first man described, “she met us here.”

“Oh, right,” the other man suddenly remembered. “I don't think I've seen her.”

“I don't think she's out of the building yet,” the first man added.

“She's still in the building?” Clarke exclaimed, her eyes filling with fear as she glanced up at the gallery being engulfed in flames.

“Well, I can't be sure–”

“When was the last time you saw her?” Raven interrupted.

The men shared a look that neither Clarke nor Raven understood before one of them opened his mouth to speak.

“It all happened so fast,” he said somewhat sheepishly, “I don't really remember.”

Clarke let out a frustrated sigh and turned her attention away from the two men. She scanned the crowd again, looking for anyone who even resembled Lexa until she felt a pull on her left arm. Looking to her side, she saw Raven's paled face and shaky hand pointing directly towards a firetruck parked right next to the gallery.

“That is Anya's truck,” Raven said, her voice already cracking with emotion.

“How do you know for sure?” Clarke asked.

“The number on the side,” Raven explained slowly. “That's her truck. She's in there.”

Clarke took a deep breath, closing her eyes momentarily in order to center her thoughts just enough, and opened her mouth to speak.

“I'm sure she is fine,” Clarke said.

“What if they're both trapped in there?” Raven asked, turning towards Clarke with a terrified look on her face. “What if...”

“There's Octavia!” Clarke yelled the second she spotted her friend.

The soot-covered brunette was doubled over, clutching her stomach in the middle of a violent coughing fit when suddenly a radio nearby cracked to life. The voice coming out of it was familiar to both Clarke and Raven, and it made them freeze.

A young firefighter snatched the radio into his hands as Anya's voice screamed a repetition of warning codes over the frequency, and the shock on the firefighter's face was enough to light a fire of fear deep inside Clarke's gut. He immediately began yelling out orders to the police officers guarding the perimeter of the gallery, telling them to move everyone back a minimum of thirty feet.

In a flurry of commotion, Clarke felt her feet shuffling her farther away from the burning building and desperately trying to figure out what was happening. Raven had grabbed her hand, lacing their fingers together tightly and holding on for dear life as the remainder of the crowd was shoved quickly back from the caution tape. What finally broke Clarke out of her temporary stupor was the deafening sound of a crack.

It was so violent that it silenced the crowd. It vibrated in Clarke's chest. Another crack followed by another and another seemed to warp the time around them, slowing it down so that the seconds passed in time with the events happening right before them. In the haze of it all, Clarke saw from the corner of her eye the firefighter who had originally barked orders to the perimeter officers hold the radio back up to his mouth and shout into it.

“Chief! Get out of there!” He screamed, small droplets of spit flying from his lips as he spoke.

“Ten-four, we're fucking on it!” Anya's annoyed shout came from the other end.

Raven's eyes were bouncing from one side of the building to the other, searching desperately to see her girlfriend run out to safety. Clarke only hoped she would see Lexa trailing closely behind. She only hoped. She could only hope.

The loudest crack yet echoed into the night just as the figures of two firefighters came racing from the back of the gallery not seconds before the entire side of the building they had just escaped from came tumbling down. Smoke, flames, and giant puffs of dirt rose from the ground as brick by brick tumbled from the structure, and Clarke's lungs burned.

She had stopped breathing, stopped thinking, stopped every single one of her senses from functioning aside from the movement of her hands raising up to cover her mouth as tears poured from her eyes and streaked down her cheeks. Her life in its entirety had crumbled to the ground the moment the building fell, and Clarke knew there was absolutely no way to save Lexa at that moment.

What Clarke didn't know was that on the other side of the crowd, Lexa had been steadily making her way through the mass of people searching for anyone who could tell her where her friends were. She was more worried about Octavia, wondering whether she was caught in the fire or made it out safely, than anything else but still kept her eyes keen to any other familiar face she might see.

Relief flooded her senses when she saw her paramedic friend by one of the ambulances, coughing from apparent smoke inhalation, but appearing healthy and uninjured overall. Her eyes drifted towards a particular shade of golden curls, blowing slightly in the cool winter breeze, and felt another wave of relief. Clarke was there, she was safe, and she looked devastated.

She faltered slightly in her step, suddenly realizing why Clarke must be so upset. It was her dream after all, to own her very own gallery, that was now being burned down to the ground. Her dream had already come at a high cost, namely marrying someone she didn't even want to marry in the first place, and it ended up being all for naught. With a sigh and slight shake of her head, Lexa forged on through the crowd and threw Raven a small wave when they caught each other's glances.

“Lexa?” Raven practically whispered, but the sound was like a foghorn in Clarke's ear.

The distraught blonde turned her head to the side and through teary blue eyes locked onto Lexa's approaching form. Her hands dropped from her mouth in a second, and she turned on her heels towards the girl. At a slowly increasing pace, Clarke propelled herself closer until she was almost at a full-blown sprint before slamming herself against Lexa's chest in what could easily be awarded the world's tightest and most desperate hug.

“I'm sorry, Clarke,” Lexa whispered into the crying girl's ear. “I'm sorry.”

Clarke shook her head in response but couldn't speak through her sobs. Instead she just gripped her arms around Lexa's neck even tighter and wound her frozen fingers around the thick wool of Lexa's winter coat.

“It's okay,” Lexa tried again, her voice slightly louder but just as soothing, “you're safe.”

“Lexa,” Raven spoke up from behind Clarke, “we thought you were in there.”

The realization that dawned on the brunette was like an electric bolt of lightening. Never had she thought Clarke would have been upset at the possibility that she was inside, partly because she forgot that Clarke didn't know she had asked Octavia to fill her place during the electrical inspection. It all suddenly made sense, though Clarke's reaction to the possibility of her being inside was still quite surprising.

It wasn't until that moment, where they stood together in the freezing night air and clinging onto each other with all of their might, that Lexa realized how completely and devastatingly in love she was with Clarke Abigail Griffin. Her eyes closed, suddenly stinging from a combination of the smoke and emotions running through her, and she pulled Clarke further into her body until she felt the hot puffs of Clarke's sobs against the skin of her neck.

“They're in love, aren't they?” Raven asked just after Anya, Octavia, and Lincoln walked up.

“Without a doubt,” Anya answered before wrapping her arms around Raven from behind and placing a light peck against her cheek.

Each couple at the scene traded lingering touches, whether they were just hugs or kisses or both, before Anya excused herself to help her fellow firefighters squelch the last of the smoldering flames that lingered. By the time Clarke could get her emotions back in check, she was shaking from exhaustion and the cold. Her eyes were red and puffy as she pulled away from Lexa's warmth to wipe her nose, and biting down on her bottom lip was all she could do not to start crying again when she felt soft fingers sweep a few tears away and push a few strands of hair behind her ears.

“Are you alright?” Lexa asked quietly, concern shining through her eyes as she spoke.

“I can't believe this,” Clarke sighed and wiped her nose one last time.

Lexa swallowed thickly, unsure of how to respond, and instead took Clarke's hands in her own. When those sparkling blue eyes looked up into hers, Lexa barely remembered what she was about to say. After a few seconds of silent eye contact, she finally opened her mouth to speak.

“Let me take you home.”

Clarke nodded and sniffled before turning towards Raven and letting her know they were headed home. Raven assured her that there was nothing else left to do there and that Anya mentioned something about the site being closed off when the causation inspection began. She told Lexa to take care of Clarke, to which Lexa nodded, and watched as the two walked off hand-in-hand.

The ride to Clarke's apartment was quiet. It was too quiet and not quiet enough at the same time. There was a lot to be said about what had transpired between the two of them that night, but the time wasn't right. Neither knew when the time would be right, but they knew at that moment that it wasn't right. Lexa parked her car and hopped out, opening Clarke's door for her and escorting her up to her apartment without even being asked.

What she hadn't expected was for Clarke to ask her to stay. At first she tried to decline, unsure of how comfortable she would be spending the entire night in her fiancée's apartment but the pleading look on Clarke's face was enough to convince her that she wasn't meant to be anywhere else.

They didn't bother changing or going through their respective bedtime routines. The couch never felt so comfortable as Lexa found herself lying on the outside edge of it with Clarke tucked firmly between her and the back of the couch. Their bodies were turned towards each other, their faces mere inches apart, and Clarke's hand remained gripping tightly to the front of Lexa's shirt as they both slipped into a deep and peaceful sleep.

Chapter Text

The presence of the morning eluded her. A heavy fog had settled atop every one of her senses, making it nearly impossible to drag herself out of the comfort of the sleep she had tumbled into a solid nine hours prior. The warmth against her was comfortable, comforting, and made it all the more difficult to force herself out of dreamland and back into the real world.

Her eyes fluttered open, and the sight before her was startling. Not in any negative way, as the word might imply, but rather in a revealing kind of way. It left her breathless. She didn't even notice her eyes had taken upon a path across pale skin, flushed with sleep and heat. They danced along the curve of a jaw, focused on the gentle point of a chin, until they landed on delicate pink lips.

Lexa swallowed thickly, a feeling of nervousness slowly creeping up the back of her neck, and blinked her attention away from the face in front of her. It was only then that she realized how her wrist was throbbing in a pain she hadn't yet experienced from the injury she just wished would finally go away.

As she gingerly pulled her hand out from underneath her head, a tiny gasp escaped her lungs and caused Clarke to stir ever so slightly in her slumber. Lexa froze, not wanting to wake the understandably exhausted artist, and slowly pushed herself up from the couch a few moments later. She retreated to the bathroom, carefully rotating her wrist until some of the initial shooting pain subsided and took a few minutes to freshen up.

Her expectations were confirmed after a search through Clarke's kitchen cabinets resulted in nothing too useful for putting together a substantial breakfast. After everything everyone had gone through the previous night, Lexa figured that the least she could do would be to make something for them to eat in hopes it would start off their day a little better than how the previous one had ended. A few pieces of fresh fruit were hiding in one of the refrigerator drawers which Lexa quickly removed and set to cutting up. Two bowls, two spoons and a few boxes of cereal were set out on the counter for the two of them, and the quiet clanking from the kitchen finally seemed to wake the sleepy blonde.

“Morning,” Clarke said after a few long moments, her voice raspy and desperate for more sleep.

“Good morning,” Lexa replied softly.

“Are you making me breakfast?” Clarke asked after eyeing the various food items neatly set out on her kitchen counter.

“I would have made pancakes, but you didn't have the ingredients,” Lexa told her.

“What are ingredients?” Clarke joked tiredly, at which Lexa smiled softly.

A response was never uttered as Clarke rubbed at her eyes and threaded her hands through her hair a few times before shuffling off to the bathroom. Lexa finished cutting up their fruit and split it evenly between the two place-settings before settling into one of the stools under the counter.

“So, you're telling me that you were going to make me homemade pancakes?” Clarke suddenly asked as she reappeared from the bathroom.

“They would have been far more substantial than cereal,” Lexa responded as she gestured towards the box she was tipping over her bowl.

“I guess I'll have to start stocking my cabinets with ingredients from now on,” Clarke said with a hint of something mischievous in her voice.

Lexa wasn't sure why she found herself blushing at the comment, but she tried to downplay it with a soft smile before pouring some milk over her cereal and taking a bite. Clarke slumped onto her own stool with a heavy sigh and stared at the cereal boxes in front of her for a good twenty seconds before finally deciding on one and pouring some sugary goodness into her bowl.

“So,” Lexa said before clearing her throat quietly, “what happens now?”

“With the gallery?” Clarke asked somewhat rhetorically. Lexa just nodded. “I don't know.”

“Does Bellamy know? About the fire?” Lexa asked.

“I don't know,” Clarke repeated herself before shoving a spoonful of cereal in her mouth.

A long stretch of silence settled as they turned their attention back to their respective breakfasts. It wasn't at all uncomfortable, and in fact seemed more natural than anything else. Neither thought they would ever find the presence of the other so calming, yet here they were enjoying a quiet morning breakfast together like it was something they had done a hundred times before.

“Let me know if you need any help,” Lexa said quietly, “from me.”

Clarke turned to look the brunette straight in the eyes and flashed her a tiny smile.

“I will,” she replied before going back to her cereal.

The dishes were rinsed, the boxes of cereal were put away, and all evidence of their meal was cleaned up before Lexa wordlessly made her way over to where she had dumped her purse the night before. Clarke followed closely behind, stretching the sleeves of her sweatshirt past her hands and winding the fabric in her fingers nervously, unsure of how to see Lexa out.

She had heard Raven tell Lexa about her concerns that her fiancé was inside her gallery when part of it had collapsed. She knew Lexa could put the pieces together easily enough to figure out that her concern meant something more than either of them had ever shared with the other up until that point.

Since the moment their lips had met that night at the club, Clarke was sure the feelings she had for Lexa were something far different than the dislike she'd had for the girl initially. It scared her, terrified her, but now it was slowly creeping out into the open. What Clarke didn't know was when she should broach the topic, or even if she should.

“Clarke, I want to apologize,” Lexa suddenly blurted out as she turned around to face the blonde squarely.

“For what?” Clarke asked, her eyebrows scrunching with confusion.

“I hurt my wrist again yesterday,” Lexa explained. “Anya convinced me to get it checked out at the hospital, so I asked Octavia to take my place during the electrical inspection.”

Clarke remained silent and studied the sudden expression of guilt, perhaps even nausea, on Lexa's face as she spoke.

“I shouldn't have made someone else go in my place,” Lexa said sorrowfully. “I never wanted to put her into a dangerous situation.”

Shock. It was what Clarke was in as she contemplated the words coming out of Lexa's mouth. To say she was taken aback would have been an understatement, and the very fact that the girl in front of her was all but saying it should have been her in the gallery tugged at Clarke's heart in a way she hadn't been expecting.

“Lexa, you have nothing to apologize for,” Clarke finally told her. “Hell, I was the one who was actually supposed to be there. I was the one who put you and Octavia in a dangerous situation. You had nothing to do with it.”

“No, Clarke,” Lexa interjected, “I didn't mean to imply that you–”

“I know,” Clarke quickly replied. “I'm just glad you're alright.”

Their eyes locked, and the way they communicated without a single word was effortless and instantaneous. They both knew exactly what the other was thinking and trying to say without actually saying it, and the momentary connection they felt was utterly undeniable.

“I should get going,” Lexa finally said no louder than a whisper.

Clarke simply nodded, her brain unable to formulate words for her mouth to speak. The pull between them was like a weak magnet; both trying to resist in fear of the other's reaction. A few inches seemed to vanish as Lexa held her breath and allowed her eyes to wander down to Clarke's lips for the second time that morning, but their distance reappeared as she took a small step back to rest her hand on the door knob.

Her heart pounded in her chest as she turned it before stealing one last glance at the equally as nervous looking blonde behind her and leaving.

The harsh winter wind bit at her nose as she walked towards downtown. She was used to it by now, each frozen season becoming easier to tolerate over the years, and battling the elements didn't seem to take as much out of her as it used to. It wasn't that Clarke loved the winter by any means, but in her mind it was worth a few extra layers for a few months out of the year to experience a white holiday season that those in warmer climates could only see in movies.

Christmas and New Year's had passed, but the chill remained in the air. It was downright frigid that particular mid-morning, but nothing would deter Clarke from her mission at hand. After Lexa had left (rather awkwardly after their night cuddled together on the couch), Clarke found an unfilled prescription for a mild pain medication signed by none other than Abby Griffin. It didn't take long for Clarke to connect the dots and figure out that Lexa had likely seen her mother the previous night about the re-injury to her wrist and also likely hadn't had the time to pick up the medication that was prescribed to her before the craziness of the gallery fire happened.

Just the thought of her beautiful historic building lying in rubble on the other side of town made Clarke's stomach churn, and she couldn't help but wonder how much if any of the gallery remained standing. She knew she would have to speak with Bellamy sooner or later about the status of the sales contract on the building, and that thought had her chest filling with dread.

As she rounded the last corner before reaching the front doors of her mother's hospital, Clarke took a deep breath and tried to calm her anxious mind. She had sent a text to Abby on the way home from the gallery the previous night, just to check in and let her know she was alright, but she was sure she'd be getting about a hundred and two questions the second they stood face-to-face.

“Can you page Doctor Griffin please and let her know her daughter is here to see her?” Clarke asked the nurse at the front desk.

The nurse nodded and clicked away on her computer while Clarke made her way over to the 'Staff Only' doors she knew her mother would be coming out of. When their gazes met through the narrow pane of glass just above the door handle, Clarke felt instantly relieved and couldn't help the way her heart warmed when she felt herself being wrapped up in a strong hug a moment later.

“Are you alright?” Abby finally asked, still holding her daughter close.

“Physically I'm fine,” Clarke muttered against her mother's clean white lab coat.

“Are you sure?” Abby asked as she craned her head back to look Clarke in the eyes. “I can run a quick check-up if you'd like me to.”

“Mom, I'm fine,” Clarke replied gently. “I wasn't anywhere near the building. Do you know if Lincoln and Octavia and Anya were checked out?”

“Everyone who responded to the fire was examined and cleared last night,” Abby reassured her daughter.

“Good,” Clarke replied softly as she nodded her head.

“So, what happens now?” Abby asked, clearly hoping her daughter would talk to her about the plan for the gallery after the fire.

“Right this very moment? I need you to fill this prescription for me,” Clarke said as she handed her mother the piece of paper she'd found at her apartment earlier that morning.

“I wrote this out for Lexa last night,” Abby said after glancing down at it, “how did you come by it?”

“It must have slipped out of her bag or something,” Clarke explained absentmindedly. “I found it after she left this morning.”

The expression on Abby's face told her daughter exactly what she was thinking. Eyebrows raised with a twinkle of amusement in her eyes, Abby stared at Clarke until realization of what was implied hit the blonde full force.

“She didn't stay over,” Clarke finally managed to blurt out. “I mean... she did stay over, but it wasn't like that. We didn't–”

“Clarke, you're engaged,” Abby quickly interrupted. “What you do or don't do with your fiancé is none of my business.”

Clarke just sighed as her mother turned on her heels and headed down towards the pharmacy without another word. She followed quietly behind, thankful that her mother was available to get the prescription filled as the technicians behind the lab counter would literally drop what they were doing to help the Chief of Surgery with whatever she needed. A few short minutes later, they had made their way into Abby's office. They chatted about nothing important, the weight of the situation leaving no room for anything else serious, until Abby got a page from one of the hospital's operating rooms.

“I have to go, honey,” Abby told Clarke regretfully, “but I think you should call your grandmother and let her know what happened.”

“Yeah, I know,” Clarke replied somewhat defeated. “Do you think she'll be mad?”

“That your gallery burned down? Absolutely not,” Abby told her. “The only way your grandmother would be mad at you is if either you were hurt or if this unfortunate event somehow dimmed your dream of opening a gallery of your own.”

Clarke nodded in understanding and after a firm but brief hug, the two Griffin women parted ways.

The cab ride to her grandmother's house was as it always was. The scenery was the same, the curves in the roads predictable, but the feeling gurgling around Clarke's chest was something entirely new. It was as if she felt guilty, ashamed, like she had let her grandmother down before the gallery she'd been gifted was open for even a day. As the cab came to a stop just outside of the house she had more than often been in before, Clarke took a deep breath before paying the driver and climbing out of the car.

The excited smile from the window brought a somber one to Clarke's lips, and she began the short walk up the driveway towards the front door. The snow crunched under her boots, and the fog from her breath clouded the lenses of her glasses that she had opted to wear that morning instead of her contacts. The door was practically thrown open, and Clarke immediately felt what was likely to be an entire day's worth of tears spring to her eyes.

“Clarke?” Lillian asked gently as she reached for her granddaughter. “What's wrong?”

“I messed up,” Clarke said, her voice cracking with emotion.

“Oh, honey,” Lillian cooed as she tugged Clarke through the door. “Is this about Lexa?”

Clarke just shook her head, the only way she could communicate at that moment, before feeling herself being wrapped up in a caring embrace.

“Take your coat off and sit down,” Lillian instructed as she pulled away and gestured towards the living room. “I just made some tea. Would you like a cup?”

Even though a giant mug of rich black coffee sounded so much better to her, Clarke nodded and gave her grandmother a weak smile as she wiped a trail of wetness from her cheek and shrugged off her coat. It wasn't a few minutes later that they were sitting on the same couch together, Lillian looking squarely into Clarke's eyes as if to let her know that she was ready to listen to her story.

“The gallery burned down, Gran,” Clarke barely choked out. “At least half of it is completely destroyed.”

“Oh my... What happened? Is everyone alright?” Lillian asked, her face distorting with concern.

“Everyone is fine, but there was a really good chance a lot of people could have gotten hurt,” Clarke replied quickly, her eyes releasing a flood of tears as she spoke. “Someone could have been killed, and I wasn't even there! I was supposed to be there!”

“Clarke, honey, calm down and tell me the whole story,” Lillian said as she placed a loving hand on Clarke's back.

“There was an electrical inspection last night,” Clarke began through sniffles and a few sobs. “I was so excited when I scheduled it because it was supposed to be the last inspection before closing. Instead of meeting the electricians there, I bailed when a super incredible art curator called me out of the blue to schedule a last-minute meeting to discuss possibly lending some of my pieces to her galleries across the country. So, being the selfish human that I am, I asked Lexa to take my place so I could keep my meeting.”

“Let me first stop you right there, young lady,” Lillian quickly interjected. “You are not selfish. You were trying to further your career which there is no crime against, and you obviously are heart broken at the idea that someone you care about could have been hurt. That is a characteristic vastly far from selfish.”

“I still feel terrible about it though,” Clarke replied as she wiped her cheeks.

“She wasn't hurt, was she?” Lillian asked.

“Well, no...”

“Then you shouldn't worry yourself about it,” Lillian told her.

“Lexa ended up not even going to the inspection,” Clarke continued. “She re-injured her wrist and asked one of our other friends to meet the electricians at the gallery. She didn't think to tell me about the change in plans, so I ended up standing there watching my gallery burn and crumble to the ground thinking she was trapped inside somewhere.”

“It sounds to me like you're more upset about your friends' safety than the actual gallery,” Lillian said as she began rubbing small circles on Clarke's back.

“I'm upset about all of it,” Clarke mumbled, letting her face fall into her hands.

“All you can do now is look ahead,” Lillian said tenderly. “Be grateful that you and all of your friends are safe, grieve for the loss of your gallery, but move on. If I know one thing about Griffins, it's that they never ever give up.”

“I'm not giving up,” Clarke told her grandmother halfheartedly. “I just don't know how I'm going to find another gallery more perfect than the one I already found.”

“Maybe you won't have to find another one,” Lillian said as she shrugged and took a sip of her tea.

Clarke's attention went from staring down at her lap to staring straight at her grandmother. Her eyebrows scrunched with confusion before she opened her mouth to speak.

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, why don't you rebuild?” Lillian asked as if it was the most obvious question she'd ever uttered. “Renegotiate your contract with the seller, purchase the building as you planned to, and then rebuild whatever was destroyed in the fire.”

“Rebuild?” Clarke repeated the older woman. “I never even thought of that.”

“A gallery is just bricks and wood, walls and floors,” Lillian said as she reached over to place her hand on top of Clarke's hands. “You can tear them down, rearrange, reinvent, do whatever you want and it will still be a gallery. It's just a building. Your dreams, your friends, your family, those are the things that are far more important and cannot be replaced.”

“You're right,” Clarke finally replied as she nodded her head in understanding. “If the entire building had to be completely demolished, it still wouldn't bother me as much as losing someone close to me.”

“It seems she has become very close to you,” Lillian said slyly as she hid a smirk behind her tea cup.

“It's not like that, Gran,” Clarke said, sliding her gaze over from the corner of her eye. “We have become friends, but it hasn't gone past that.”

“It hasn't?” Lillian asked as her eyebrows shot up towards her hairline.

“No, it hasn't,” Clarke tried to lie again.

A few long seconds passed, and Lillian took another sip of her coffee before breaking the awkward silence between them.

“So, you two didn't kiss in a club last week?” Lillian finally blurted out, the tone of her voice making it clear she was dying to ask the question.

“Dammit, Raven,” Clarke cursed her best friend under her breath. “Why I still tell her anything is beyond me.”

“Clarke, honey, there's nothing wrong with admitting that you like the girl,” Lillian told her sweetly. “Even if that does mean you'll have to admit your grandmother has a knack for matchmaking.”

“I don't think I like her, Gran,” Clarke confessed quietly, trying to avoid eye contact with the older woman for as long as she could. “I think... I love her.”

Lillian placed her tea cup on the table beside her and brought a hand up to Clarke's cheek. When blue eyes met blue eyes, Lillian smiled.

“Then I think you should tell her.”

Each step Clarke took up the driveway she had become so used to walking up made the nervousness inside her chest swell. She had finally said it out loud. She had said it out loud, and it had finally become real. No longer could she pretend that her feelings for Lexa were anything other than