Clarke was restless.
Lexa could tell by the way her mate puttered around their rooms, straightening things that didn’t need to be straightened, or clicking her tongue disapprovingly at imaginary traces of dust.
This morose dance had gone on for a few hours now, Clarke flitting from one thing to the next in ever increasing anxiousness while Lexa drafted lists of things she needed to discuss with the ambassadors, occasionally answering a knock at the door and poking her head out to receive a report.
She sighed quietly, rubbing at the aching spot on her forehead where a headache had begun to build. The Day of Spirits was only two sunrises away, and after that she and Clarke both would be faced with an onslaught of meetings. All the clans wanted to be heard - as was their right - and the time of the year in which the souls of the departed were appeased with feasts and sacrifices was widely regarded as a the most favorable moment to solve disputes.
Putting down the map she’d been half heartedly studying for the past hour, Lexa rose and stretched, eyes trailing Clarke’s progress through the room. Her mate’s uneasiness thickened the air, and Lexa felt as if she was standing in the middle of a forest fire and choking on the smoke.
She watched Clarke walk out into the balcony and followed, careful to keep her steps quiet. The crisp autumn air hitting her lungs was a welcome reprieve from the stuffiness of their apartments.
Outside the sky was a riot of rich reds and indigo, puffy clouds sailing through like ships as the wind picked up. The sun had started its descent to dusk, and Lexa fancied she could almost taste the day’s imminent demise, like a blossoming of blood coating her tongue.
“It’s almost time.” Clarke murmured without turning. Evidently Heda hadn’t been as sneaky as she thought, or perhaps after more than a year together, Clarke just knew her well.
Lexa didn’t answer, not immediately, her attentive gaze taking in the way Clarke’s fingers clutched at the balcony’s railing. Her lover’s hands were shaking slightly, even as they tightened around the rough-cut stone, her hold so desperate that her knuckles were bleached white from it.
Her mate’s fear was a bitter taste that soured Lexa’s mouth as if she’d bitten into a piece of rotten meat. She stepped closer, arms winding around Clarke’s waist with assured familiarity, and she pressed the entire length of her body against her mate’s back.
“ Klark …”
She nuzzled into her Omega’s cheek, the tip of her nose following the flexing line of Clarke’s jaw.
“You need to bring me downstairs and chain me up, Lexa. I feel it coming.”
Lexa could too when up this close. The same metallic tang that had prickled at her tongue when she had watched the sky, but stronger. Redolent with things that existed only in the dark hours of the night and ripe with promises.
Promises that this time Heda intended to see fulfilled.
“Your heat.” She stated evenly, although there was no need to. But saying the words out loud helped crystallize her decision, reinforce the thoughts she’d secretly been pondering all day. No matter what Clarke said, this time she would not be swayed.
Clarke let out a hiccup, her body tense with the effort of keeping a fearful sob inside her throat. “It’s coming, Lexa.” The Omega twisted in her arms and buried her face against her shoulder. “Take me underground, please . Before the moon rises.”
Lexa’s heart clenched. She couldn’t understand Clarke’s fear - no Alpha really could - but she remembered the first time heats and ruts had stricken among the Sky People. Perhaps because they had been severed from their ties to nature by a life in space, and bound themselves with medicine that dulled their instincts, when their supplies had run out they had gone up in flames.
Nature had awoken within them with a vengeance, and a great many pups had been born in the wake of that first cycle - a good thing since a few of their Alphas had found early way into the ground.
Lexa had gotten a fragmented account out of her mate - after weeks of gentle, careful prodding. Clarke had been afraid of what was happening both to her people and her own body, and she had run.
Alone and scared she had plunged headfirst into the woods around Arkadia, and there without an Alpha to guide her and reassure her, she succumbed to her Omega.
Irata, Anya had called her after she had found her and dragged her to Polis - bound, and gagged, trussed like a lamb ready for slaughter. Lexa had read that word before, in scrolls held deep within the Tower’s archives, but she’d never seen a feral Omega in the flesh.
What had stayed with her the most from that day had been Anya’s eyes. The usually stoic General had looked at Clarke with a mixture of sadness and regret, even as her voice carried - dispassionate and full of finality - around the throne room.
Put her down . Anya had said
It is a mercy .
Clarke’s nails, scraping futilely against the front of her shirt, brought her back to the present.
“I will not do that to you. Not anymore.” She put a hand under Clarke’s chin, forcing her to meet her eyes. The Omega wore a stricken expression, caught between surprise and mounting fear. Her eyes had opened as wide as they could go, their vivid cornflower blue watered down with unshed tears, and her lips trembled visibly.
She’d looked this fragile only once - only after Lexa had borne her to the floor as she clawed at her arms and spat in her face, more animal than woman. The Commander hadn’t flinched, although she quite clearly remembered the sheen of cold, nervous sweat coating her in ice as they struggled, her Alpha pheromones thickening the air to the point Anya had looked ready to retch all over the floor.
She’d held Clarke down, with little regard for the bruises she was inflicting in the process, breaking her defiance like a parent would break a child’s willfulness upon their knees. At some point Clarke had stared right into her eyes the same way she did now, struggle leaking out of her as water from a punctured goatskin, and Lexa had bitten into her neck, ruining the curve of her throat with snapping teeth.
Anya had been too shocked to speak, while Titus had talked plenty. And yet, none of his prophecies of doom had come to pass, Heda’s fame (and the fear it instilled) only increased by the fact she’d tamed and mated a feral Omega.
The aftermath of such an unconventional mating, the two of them were still dealing with.
“I can no longer bear to see you in chains when your heat comes around, Klark .” Lexa made sure to keep her tone gentle, hand squeezing the nape of Clarke’s neck firmly at the same time. The gesture seemed to ground the Omega, and her hands stilled on the front of her shirt, simply clutching for support.
“You know…” Clarke swallowed thickly then buried her face in the crook of Lexa’s neck as if to hide her shame, “you know that’s when I lose control. I could injure you,” she started shaking again, “kill you even.”
Lexa’s fingers kneaded the taut muscles of Clarke’s neck until she felt the Omega relax further into her. She pulled her mate close, free arm snaking around her waist, and rumbled soothingly.
“Do you trust me?”
There was a pause, the wind whistling across the balcony as loud as the screams of a banshee.
“With my life.” Clarke’s cheeks were damp, but her voice had regained some of its usual strength. Lexa could taste the truth of her words, the unshakable faith Clarke had in her a living thing that turned the bond they shared to forged steel.
Of course, it hadn’t always been like that.
“Then believe me when I say I will let nothing bad happen to either of us tonight.”
Clarke simply turned into her arms, and together they witnessed the last rays of sunset fire to the treetops, and paint the mountains beyond Polis’ walls in blood.
“You better have a plan then, Heda .” Clarke’s voice grew strained as she talked, a hard edge entering her tone. She went rigid and Lexa tightened her arms around her, dipping her head forward and closing her mouth around the puckered scar on the side of the Omega’s neck.
Clarke’s skin was already warmer than it had been moments before, yet Lexa could hear her teeth chattering. The heat fever had already begun to ransack Clarke’s body, a veil as scarlet as the sunset before their eyes settling around her.
Lexa worried the mating bite with her teeth, careful not to break skin - not yet - and pressed her hands flat against Clarke’s belly.
Muscles writhed under her touch as the first cramps hit, causing Clarke to double over violently, a string of curses falling from her gasping mouth. If not for Lexa’s arms around her she’d have collapsed face-first on the concrete.
“It’s too late now, anyway.” Lexa heard her mutter, “it’s com-” Her words cut off abruptly, and morphed into an anguished scream that the wind mercifully ripped away from them.
The sun completed its descent - Lexa imagined she heard it crash among the trees - and the moon took its place. It rose in the sky, silver like the coins people used to pay for things in older times, its light gaining strength as the heavens around it changed from blue to black.
Clarke was motionless in her embrace, slumped forwards perhaps fainted or asleep, and Lexa took the chance to gather her into her arms and bring her back inside.
There was a noise at the door, the loud scraping of metal against wood and Lexa nodded to herself. She’d instructed the guards to lock them inside, appointing Anya as squad leader for the night to make sure that - no matter what they thought was happening in the room - nobody would try to come inside.
Her General had muttered about her foolishness, but Lexa had been her seken before becoming Heda , and Anya was well acquainted with her stubborness. It helped perhaps that she’d been there to witness the way the Commander had handled a frenzied Clarke, and the look Lexa had given her, daring her to speak against her orders, had been enough to silence any remaining reservations.
She laid Clarke down on the bed they shared only sometimes, wishing that things between them could have started in an easier way. The Omega muttered and tossed, but her eyes remained closed and Lexa heaved a sigh of relief.
It wasn’t too bad. Not yet.
After that she worked quickly, rekindling the fire and using a pair of long metal pincers to pick up coals as soon as they began to glow a deep cherry red. She transferred them into a box filled up with sand and brought them to the adjoining room where a metal bathtub had been filled with water by her handmaidens while she and Clarke had been on the balcony.
Carefully Lexa slotted the box into a space left under the tub for just that purpose, knowing that it wouldn’t take too long for the coals to heat up the metal and the water within.
Hurrying back to the bedroom, she found Clarke sitting up, back so straight that the absurd fear the Omega’s spine would shatter under the strain took up the space between her lungs.
It threatened to choke her, but Lexa pushed it down with a snarl, aware that showing weakness could be her undoing.
The fire blazing merrily in the stone hearth suffused the room in a soft orange glow that dripped like wax along the walls. Lexa carefully inched closer to the bed, the scuffling of her boots against the floor barely audible. It was enough however to make Clarke raise her head, and the change that had come over her features, robbed Lexa of breath as it always did.
There was something savagely beautiful about Clarke as all sense of self abandoned her. It was like staring into the eyes of a wild beast, or admiring the forbidding side of a mountain before the climb. Her lips were peeled back, teeth that Lexa knew could hurt snapping at the empty air as the eyes above them narrowed.
And Clarke’s eyes were the most wondrous thing, sparks of orange that echoed the firelight burning deep within the blue. Lexa stared into them as she always did when a heat came over her mate, and her mind plummeted towards epochs so remote the thought of their existence made her bones ache. Galaxies were born within Clarke’s irises, and - whenever she blinked - stars winked out and died.
They stared at each other for a time, Clarke not really seeing her any longer, then Lexa slowly advanced towards the bed, steps slow and hands kept a bit apart from her sides, as open and non threatening as she who had been bred for war could make herself.
Clarke simply watched her, and Lexa began to hope she’d make it to the bed without the Omega reacting. She almost didn’t dare to breathe for fear of startling her, and wished her heart would not resound so loud inside her ears.
Still, when Clarke flew off the bed, fingers curled into a parody of claws and lips pulled back into a snarl, Lexa was ready.
She shifted her weight on the balls of her feet without thought, legs flexing slightly, and her own hands shot out grabbing Clarke by her wrists.
They grappled, the Omega pushing so hard against her hold to try and scratch her face that the tendons on the back of Lexa’s hands stood out like ropes. Clarke’s face was a distorted mask of fury, foam gathering at the corners of her mouth. It dripped down her chin flecked with blood from a cut her own teeth had opened on her bottom lip, accompanied by a series of strangled growls.
Lexa tightened her hold and pulled , using Clarke’s own momentum to turn her around and trap her in her arms. They ended up the same way as on the balcony, with her front pressed into the Omega’s back. But this time she brutally forced Clarke’s arms into a crossed position and then heaved, picking her off the floor with a grunt.
Her back arched, muscles straining with the effort, and step by agonizing step she started for the bathroom. It was only a short walk, but by the time Lexa got to their destination she felt like she’d walked to the Dead Zone and back three times.
Clarke wriggled in her arms, feet kicking the empty air in front of them as she tried to twist free. Her teeth clicked loudly around nothing, and the snarls erupting from her throat had grown if possible even more angry. Lexa was reminded of the stories her mother used to tell her when she was still a child afraid of what lurked in the dark, before she was brought to Polis to train as a warrior under Anya. There were creatures - her mother had said - that haunted open fields at night under the guise of beautiful women. But if someone was to take a closer look, or foolishly answer their calls, they’d find themselves torn limb from limb as these nightly apparitions were not girls, but evil spirits that thirsted for human blood.
Wraiths her mother had whispered before snuffing out the candle at her bedside - who incidentally happened to devour disobedient children that left the safety of their blankets when they weren’t supposed to.
A dry chuckle almost left her lips, but this was no laughing matter. Her mouth curled around the sound as she swallowed it back and, as her arms burned threatening to give way under Clarke’s fury, she hoisted the Omega over the side of the tub and dumped her in the water clothes and all.
She followed suit, not caring about the mess their combined thrashing was spilling on the floor. The water was hot enough to give Clarke pause and make her yelp, a sentiment Lexa echoed with an hiss of her own, her clothes scant protection against its scalding embrace.
She used surprise to her advantage, arms going around the sputtering Omega again, and pulling her to sit between her legs. If Lexa didn’t know from the experience of past heats that Clarke’s mind was completely devoid of reason in that moment, she would have said her mate sounded indignant.
The Omega kicked ineffectively at the sides of the tub, fists battering the metal until her knuckles were torn and bloody. Finally Lexa managed to trap her arms as well, leaving her to twist her head from side to side, mouth open as she frantically looked for any part of Lexa close enough to bite.
It took some time, but finally Clarke’s movements slowed until the Omega almost stilled, just jerking a little whenever she got a bit of breath back. The water had cooled to the point of being pleasantly warm and - as Lexa had hoped - the warmth worked in her favor. Clarke’s tense body gradually slackened, the cramps seizing her muscles few and far between. Her mate’s head was lowered, and for a time the only sound was that of her harsh pants breaking the surface of the water. Then her breathing also slowed as if she was again bordering towards unconsciousness and that was when Lexa set herself to the task of making Clarke remember herself.