Lexa knows the walls of her apartment are thin, but it was never a reason to be concerned. Her first neighbors were an old couple, and the most she heard at a time from the adjacent unit was a short hum as the husband was trying to recall the last task he needed to complete.
So imagine Lexa’s surprise when she hauls herself into the bathroom after a grueling study session to hear the soft croon of an older ballad overlaid by a young woman’s voice.
She pauses at the edge of the tub, towel still draped over her arm.
This must be the new neighbor. Lexa listens mutely for a few moments before mustering up the courage to turn on her own shower.
It doesn’t alert the woman to her presence, it seems. Perhaps her music is turned up too high to hear the squeak of Lexa’s faucet.
She’s good. Lexa finds the singing a pleasant background to strip out of her clothes and step gingerly into the tub, feeling the warm sluice embrace her eagerly and then leap off the angles of her body.
“...start by saying how much I love you.”
The song is familiar. Lexa’s lip quirks up when she thinks of her Uncle Gustus singing the same tune. Without thinking, she sings the beginning of the chorus.
“Hello? Is it me you’re looking for?”
As soon as she does, the voice stops. The muffled recording is accompanied only by the rush of water.
Nervously, Lexa fiddles with the knob of her shower, though she knows the heat crawling up her neck is not because of the water temperature. Idiot, she reprimands herself. Because that’s a bit absurd, singing with your neighbor. While both of you are naked. And complete strangers.
Lexa also reminds herself that she’s not even the singing aloud type.
After an awkward silence, it miraculously continues. Her neighbor sings along again and Lexa quietly massages shampoo into her scalp, thoroughly shamed.
Until the singing stops again. “Where’d you go?” the voice asks.
Lexa stiffens. Is she the one being addressed?
She must take too long to respond, because the song ends and there’s a metallic sort of squeal as her neighbor shuts off her water.
1. Hello -- Lionel Richie
Lexa blearily wanders into her bathroom the next night to be greeted by a more upbeat song and the same voice rising above it all.
“We are young! Heartache to heartache…”
Lexa feels the corner of her mouth quirk up. Emboldened by what she hopes was an offer to join yesterday, she jumps in, as loudly as she dares. “No promises, no demands?”
“Hey!” the neighbor laughs in recognition, then has to regroup and rush to meet Lexa at the tag line. “Love is a battlefield!”
2. Love is a Battlefield -- Pat Benatar
Lexa finishes her homework earlier the third night of her neighbor’s arrival.
Biting her lip, she stands holding her towel for a moment before she swipes her iPod from her nightstand and pads into the bathroom.
She was right -- the bathroom next door is completely silent. Their showering times must be fairly consistent, because the neighbor hasn’t begun yet.
Feeling utterly ridiculous, she leans against her counter to scroll through songs on her iPod, bypassing the most obscure. Ah. There.
She’s already wetting her hair when the water starts up and a delighted voice, initially loud with excitement, picks it up at a crucial moment.
“CAN you feel the love tonight?”
Lexa grins as the shower beside hers screams to life and she joins in. “The peace the evening brings!”
3. Can You Feel the Love Tonight? -- The Lion King
Lexa recognizes the funky backing track as soon as she steps in, and does not hesitate.
4. Style -- Taylor Swift
She decides it’s come time for popular songs and grins deviously when her next pick starts up.
An amused “Oh, my God” resounds in the other bathroom and then repeats, jostled by laughter, when Lexa executes the hook perfectly.
The neighbor’s laughter settles enough for her to join in the next time around.
5. Trap Queen -- Fetty Wap
“Come on, Clarke, I’ve missed you.”
That’s enough to turn Lexa’s head. She glances peculiarly at the long-haired boy, approximately her age, leaning against the doorframe an apartment down from hers.
There seems to be no response, because he sighs and straightens, digging his hands into his pockets in defeat.
Lexa stares straight ahead as she passes, turning abruptly at her door and stepping inside quickly. Because. Awkward.
It doesn’t even occur to her that the apartment at which the boy was waiting belongs to her musical counterpart until she’s bombarded by the heavy backdrop of a country song and a softer, plaintive vocal accompaniment.
It’s not a hard song to recognize.
Lexa is unsure of whether she should continue with her shower or walk away and offer the girl -- Clarke -- some privacy. She doesn’t have to choose.
“You there? I need you on this one.”
Lexa swallows but forges onward, helping her companion build the song into something bigger, more passionate. By the time the song ends, it’s an angry crescendo but it feels good.
6. Before He Cheats -- Carrie Underwood
Lexa feels like a child waiting for Clarke to turn her shower on before she skitters into the bathroom with her iPod.
Then she feels silly having to catch her breath and pretend she’s been moving at a casual pace as the guitar riff somersaults between them.
When the melody begins, Lexa is assaulted by images of a slim brunette with a secretive sort of smile. “Now, here you go again,” Lexa sings under her breath. “You say, you want your freedom.” The brunette slips away into the night and Lexa aches.
The only other sound is the twin jets of water and Lexa feels foolish. Clarke probably doesn’t even know the song.
After a few beats of Lexa’s awkwardness, she nearly lets her voice fade out altogether.
But the girl manages to surprise her when she chimes in. “So listen carefully to the sound, of your loneliness.”
Lexa takes too much pleasure in sharing this song with her neighbor she’s never met. But it was a reassurance after Costia. Perhaps it can bring Clarke comfort, too.
It seems to help, because Clarke increases in volume like she did yesterday.
“Thunder only happens when it’s rainin’.
Players only love you when they’re playin’.
Say, women, they will come and they will go.
When the rain washes you clean, you’ll know.”
7. Dreams -- Fleetwood Mac
Clarke’s mood improves over the next few days. She and Lexa trade off, exchanging Disney songs and showtunes and generally happy music.
A laugh bubbles out of Lexa when Clarke sings Backstreet Boys and does in her shower what suspiciously sounds like intense, sliding boy band footwork.
As is expected, there is a crash. Lexa’s heart seizes.
“Clarke?” she calls out without thinking.
There’s a shuffle and a thunk. “I’m okay! Knocked the shampoo over.” Then, meekly, “And ran into the faucet.”
Lexa snorts. There’s a pause.
“I feel bad not knowing your name now.”
Lexa inhales sharply. Shit. Clarke doesn’t seem to be disturbed, though. “Lexa.”
“Hi, Lexa. I think I have a new bruise.”
12. I Want it That Way -- Backstreet Boys
Lexa has a moment of utter mortification.
And no, it’s not because “Bye Bye Bye” -- which she just did a shining rendition of -- is in her iPod library. Her response to Clarke’s boy band hit fizzles out. A few seconds of silence are followed by the opening of another of Lexa’s songs, one she recognizes immediately and with horror.
Lexa almost jolts out of the shower, but thinks better of it.
Leaping out of the tub to reach her iPod would definitely seem peculiar to Clarke. Also, she is positive she would injure herself in her haste.
She settles for a resigned sigh of “Fuck.”
It’s not that it’s a terrible song. Lexa has been listening to it nonstop since it made its debut online. That’s not the problem.
“Stealin’ kisses from your missus…”
Just that it’s the gayest song in existence.
Ah, well. She’s already in this, so why not? Part of her wants to know Clarke’s reaction. She finishes the first verse softly.
The music builds quickly, and Lexa is suddenly startled out of her skin.
“SAW YOUR FACE, HEARD YOUR NAME! GOTTA GET WITH YOU!”
Lexa feels her jaw drop and her entire body flush. Because Clarke knows this song. Clarke is scream-singing this song.
“GIRLS. LIKE. GIRLS. LIKE. BOYS DO!”
Lexa recovers quickly enough to choke out the second half of the chorus with her.
Lexa rides on Clarke’s excitement, a flutter of hope that she can’t quite tamp down rising in her chest.
13. Bye Bye Bye -- ‘N Sync
14. Girls Like Girls -- Hayley Kiyoko
Clarke raps “No Diggity” like no one else.
15. No Diggity -- Blackstreet
Lexa doesn’t know why her throat is knotting.
Clarke belts the words out perfectly, hitting the notes that Lexa cannot. Lexa thinks maybe Clarke was one of those choir kids.
“This feels like fallin’ in love!”
Lexa thinks with a sinking feeling that maybe Clarke will always be two steps ahead of her.
17. Kiss Me -- Ed Sheeran
19. Love Me Like You Do -- Ellie Goulding
She doesn’t know when Clarke became the highlight of her day.
23. More Than Words -- Extreme
25. Shut It Down -- Drake
A heady beat bursts into the conjoined bathrooms, the bass thumping in Lexa’s chest.
Lexa laughs. “Clarke, the other neighbors probably hate us.”
It’s almost three in the morning, and they’re showering together again by pure coincidence. Lexa was kept up by studying and Clarke by friends, Lexa suspects.
“Probably. But we don’t give a fuuuck!” Clarke singsongs. Lexa thinks she’s maybe a bit drunk.
Clarke is even more spirited -- no pun intended -- when she’s intoxicated, if that’s even possible. “She got me up all night! All I’m singin’ is love songs! She got me up all night! Constant drinkin’ and love songs.”
29. Power Trip -- J. Cole
Another autoplay accident occurs with Lexa’s iPod on one of her turns deejaying.
The distinct piano intro echoes harshly into the tile and Clarke seems to know it, too. “Ooh, Lexa,” she giggles. “Dirty.”
Again, Lexa feels her face flame. “Yeah.” But she’s glad Clarke at least knows it. “Take off those heels, lay on my bed…”
She continues to lather conditioner into the ends of her hair while singing. Clarke must be washing her face or something, because she hasn’t joined in yet.
“...fever’s fucking running, feel the heat between us two! I’m gon’ ride, I’m gon’ ride, I’m gon’ ride, I’m--I’m gon’ ride, on you baby, on you lady, all night…”
She realizes in the middle of the chorus that Clarke’s voice is still absent. “Clarke?” she calls out, not unlike the first time.
Panic makes Lexa abruptly stand upright, staring in alarm at the wall where she suspects Clarke would be standing. “Are you okay?”
There’s a moment of silence, and Lexa reaches for the knob of her shower. But then Clarke’s voice sounds again, and Lexa has to strain to hear.
“Can you just--?” Clarke’s breathing is odd, uneven. “Can you keep--?”
Lexa’s brow furrows, unsure of what Clarke needs. She can still hear Clarke’s breathing, ragged and--
“Lexa!” Clarke cries softly when she doesn’t respond quickly enough. The breathy quality of her voice almost reminds Lexa of…
Visions hit her, of wandering hands and skin mottled with droplets of water.
Lexa inhales suddenly, shakily, an ache of desire building. Her hands twitch, threatening to stray, too, but Clarke’s pitiful call still reverberates in the stillness.
Thinking of this, she finds her place and continues singing, voice wavering slightly. “Lay on your back, you like it right there, don’t have to say it twice, love, there’s nothing here to fear…”
Lexa’s grateful she knows the song by heart simply from listening to it on her iPod so often. Because she’s not even paying attention to the words, just focusing on keeping her voice steady and audible, and listening intently to the sounds from the adjacent bathroom.
She’s at the chorus again.
Clarke likes the chorus, from what Lexa can hear of her soft, appealing noises, the way her breath picks up and catches in her throat.
In fact, it’s the third chorus that does her in. Maybe it’s the way Lexa’s voice gentles at baby or how in a moment of weakness, she pauses to moan Clarke’s name.
Clarke keens. Lexa would have no other word for it.
Then Lexa thinks she hears her slump against the wall, panting.
The ensuing silence is deafening. Her iPod seems to have come to the end of its playlist.
Two facts strike Lexa at this moment.
One, Clarke is at the very least attracted to her, or whatever this is that they have built around porcelain and metal and running water and late nights.
Two, Lexa could very well be in love with her neighbor whom she has never seen.
“Hold on,” Lexa says quietly, turning off the shower.
She doesn’t waste time with robes, just clutching a towel around her chest as she darts into the hallway and raises a fist against the door.
A blonde with dewy skin and drenched hair and red-rimmed blue eyes opens the door in similar apparel.
Clarke is beautiful.
Lexa’s sure her heart stops as she takes in toes curled nervously, shoulders dimpled from definition, lips parted in surprise.
Clarke blinks for a moment at the visitor before she puts two and two together. “Lexa?” she ventures quietly, cautiously.
“Can I…?” Lexa begins, but is unsure of what she is even requesting. A kiss sounds too little for what they have been through, and forever too sudden.
Clarke nods anyway, reaching up to snake her arms around Lexa’s neck and pull her over the threshold. Lexa blindly shuts the door behind them before Clarke’s lips are on hers.
They’ve never touched, never even laid eyes on each other, but Lexa’s body loves Clarke’s. It's natural. Hands find purchase wherever they can, digging into towels or happily skimming over bare skin.
Their towel togas aren’t made for close contact, and it makes it more difficult with the fabric falling all around them. Lexa temporarily remedies this by hoisting Clarke up against her hips.
“Oh,” the blonde gasps out against her lips, thighs squeezing Lexa tighter.
Lexa kneads her towel-clad hip gently. “I just realized I have no idea where your bedroom is.” It’s true, the layout of their apartments should be somewhat similar but Lexa has no idea where to go.
Clarke laughs and the mood changes just like that to something lighter, more playful. “That hallway,” Clarke manages as Lexa sucks at the base of her neck.
Lexa goes easily where she is directed, though she almost runs into a corner when Clarke tongues her without warning.
She eases Clarke onto her bed, and the loss of pressure means fabric flutters down between them. Fuck towels anyway, because Clarke eagerly palms her newly-revealed breast. They yank the offending garments away, discarding them over the edge of the bed.
Lexa should feel vulnerable, suddenly naked, but Clarke is looking up at her, wanting and wet in more ways than one. She walks her knees onto the bed, leaning down to kiss Clarke again.
Clarke grasps her thigh with one hand, tugging her ever closer, while her other arm drapes around Lexa’s back, their breasts pressing together. “You’re so gorgeous,” Clarke murmurs against her cheek and it makes Lexa shiver.
“Clarke,” Lexa breathes, pulling back to meet Clarke’s gaze. “I--” But she stops herself, thinking how foolish she would sound.
Clarke waits, looking at her reverently. But Lexa doesn’t have the strength to continue, so Clarke surges up to briefly kiss her again. “Me too,” she says. A laugh rises from her chest and Lexa feels more than hears it. “All the songs, Lexa. I didn’t hide it very well.”
Lexa’s chest burns pleasantly and she kisses Clarke again.
“Me, too, Lexa.”
The words ring in Lexa’s ears as she kisses her way down Clarke’s body. They’re quickly replaced by others, though, that she coaxes out with her mouth and her hands, and when she’s afraid she’ll forget, Clarke trembles and utters more.
Clarke says the words that Lexa could not when she comes.
Lexa has her chance when Clarke flips her over and curls her fingers up and Lexa’s so tightly wound that it only takes a few minutes for her to cry them out against Clarke’s shoulder.
31. Ride -- SoMo
Clarke and Lexa begin singing, more often than not, under the same shower head.
And after a while, they give up one altogether. Needless to say, their new neighbors are not amused.