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An entire generation of humans had been born into a galaxy at war. For the last few decades, conflict and battle were all humanity knew. Children grew up with one parent if they were lucky, none if they were part of the majority. Schools became home, teachers and coaches became parents.

Clarke Griffin was one of the very rare lucky ones. She grew up with both of her parents, traveling the known universe with them while they worked. When it was time to decide on a career, the Marines made sense. It was what she knew. Choosing a career as a Peace Officer, that hadn’t been expected.

Just months before the end of the war she had been on a ship traveling to a neutral site in attempt to broker peace. It wasn’t a huge theater in the war but it was something . It wasn’t something she’d anticipated. She wasn’t a senior negotiator, not by any stretch, but the leader of Shadow Valley had heard of her and the work she did with Floukru and had insisted on her presence. While she was there, on that out of the way moon, she suddenly found herself handling the surrender of nearly half the opposition.

Now, peace had officially been achieved. The opposition had agreed to the terms of surrender, Earth and her allies were victorious. And Clarke’s friends, celebrating her big promotion and the new medals pinned to her uniform, had pulled her into the bar they’d all said goodbye in years before.

Glancing around the table, she found her friends laughing and hugging and sharing stories from their years of separation. Raven’s smile was practically glowing in the dim lights, her laughter ringing louder than anyone else around them. Octavia’s wide eyes stared at her, filled with wonder at her war stories and adventures. Bellamy had his arm protectively draped around his sister, as if he could stop her from getting to experience the kinds of things Raven was talking about. And Finn, with his big brown eyes flitting from Raven to Clarke, as if he couldn’t quite decide who to pay attention to for more than a few seconds. Murphy, Monty, and Jasper were involved in their own conversation at the end of the table, although Murphy looked like he was considering the pros and cons of strangling Jasper.

Smiling to match her best friend, Clarke was focusing on her words. She rolled her eyes at Raven’s exaggeration of the actions Clarke had taken when she’d somehow found herself in the middle of an impromptu battle during negotiations shortly after graduation.

“Stop exaggerating, Reyes! I told you,” she scolded teasingly while shaking her finger at Raven. She turned to Octavia and said, “I didn’t shoot anyone! I just… deflected the bullets with a door.”

“You ricochet shot them!” Raven countered, leaning across the table to give her a high five. “That’s so much better! Like you’re magic and you can’t die! Death goes around you, not through you or something!”

It was a partially true story. Clarke had been brokering peace between bands of Trikru and Delflikru warriors on one of Floukru’s moons when the leaders suddenly drew weapons and all hell broke loose. While Clarke had attended the best military officer academy on Earth, she’d always tried to avoid any class involving taking lives. So she dove behind a door and shouted for everyone to stop what they were doing and return to the table to finish the deal.

All that had done was pull the attention of the warriors to her. So she swung the door open, hoping bravado would shock them into listening to her for a second or two. Instead, the door somehow deflected a barrage of bullets into the torsos of those leaders. It was only thanks to the medical classes she’d taken at the academy that they’d been saved. The warriors whispered about the fierce and deadly Peace Officer Griffin after that.

“That’s so awesome,” Octavia whispered, her eyes growing even wider somehow.

Being a third year student at the academy branch for security forces wasn’t anything to look down upon, but Octavia had always been sheltered thanks to Bellamy’s need to keep her safe. Any of the stories the friends shared with her were usually met with that sort of awe. The girl was in for an awakening when she reached her first post. She’d have no Clarke there to give advice and no Bellamy there to be a constant menacing shadow.

Accepting the praise a little reluctantly, Clarke gave her a small smile and went back to watching the people around her. Just as Raven was launching into a, mostly exaggerated, tale about Finn saving an entire space frigate, and thus hundreds of lives, something caught her eye near one of the private rooms in the back. Leaning out of the booth, apologizing to Monty when she nearly knocked him out of his chair, Clarke focused her eyes on the doorway.

Black and green.

She was almost certain she’d seen a flash of a dress uniform entering the room. She sat back and waited, hoping to catch sight of one of the room’s occupants.

Unsure of how long she’d been watching the door, she jumped when her holo-watch vibrated on her wrist. Tilting her arm, she saw her mother’s face and CID, or Contact ID if someone over the age of fifty was talking. Swiping left as quickly as she could, she sank in her seat and resumed her staring contest with the door.

She knew why Abby was calling. She had a spot open on her medical team and wanted Clarke to cross train into the position. She’d been trying to coerce Clarke into medicine ever since Jake left and never came home.

“Want another?” Bellamy asked as he stood.

“What?” Clarke responded, blinking up at him.

He pointed to her half-full glass, “another?”

She shook her head, “I’m good. Thanks though.”

With a shrug he was gone. Clarke’s eyes immediately moved back to the door. No one had entered or left in the last ten minutes, she was sure.

“Do you have to watch my brother walk away?” Octavia groaned before she waved a hand in front of Clarke’s face.

“Wasn’t watching Bell,” Clarke murmured, batting her hand away until she could see the door again. She winked at Octavia when she caught her rolling her eyes, “I’ve got better taste than that and you know it.”

Snorting, Murphy leaned forward to wink at Clarke, “I’m sitting right here, Griffin. Just tell them you’re in love with me.”

-0-

Being a military leader in the chaos of battle was one thing, being in a private room in a bar with a couple dozen almost drunk Marines was another. It was bad enough that Lexa Woods had to sit through that medal ceremony, which lasted three hours too many, to receive more accolades she wasn’t sure she wanted, now she had to celebrate being good at making war.

“It just doesn’t make sense,” Lexa muttered to Anya, her mentor and second-in-command. She rolled her eyes when the Marines started singing some song about a bawdy lass that really didn’t make any sense. “An active promotion? During peacetime?”

“It’s an honor, Lexa,” Anya replied sagely, glancing behind her at Emori and Lincoln, who were barely out of earshot. “We’re celebrating the final victory, after all. Most would welcome the promotion on top of it.”

Lexa shook her head. “It doesn’t seem… normal. This quickly?”

“Are you questioning its merit? Maybe it’s a sign that you’re ready for retirement?” Anya asked before finishing off her drink and wiggling her glass at Lincoln. He nodded and headed toward the door to get refills.

“Hell no,” Lexa allowed herself a small smirk, a rare victory on the Commander’s stoic face. She glanced down at her ribbons and medals, the new red sash she’d earned as one of the leaders of her people. They were all things she never thought she’d be able to claim were hers. She hadn’t expected them, not given the life she’d been born into, the life she’d been raised to lead. “I want my own command. I want my people surrounding me while I make sure this peace stays in place.”

This is the life I know, the only life I’ve ever trained for.

She nodded when Anya lifted a hand to her shoulder and squeezed, “I’m doing my duty. That’s all I need for now.”

-0-

Dealing with Murphy’s teasing was pretty easy. He was all snark, no bite usually when it came to his friends. Watching as he tried to convince Finn of an affair between himself and Clarke, insisting they’d been madly in love after he’d been assigned as her personal guard on her final mission before the end of the war was hilarious. Finn’s squirming and weak glare was enough to have Clarke fighting to hold back laughter.

She blew Murphy a kiss and snorted at his exaggerated wink before she turned back to the door. She almost let out a triumphant whoop when she saw Bellamy walking back to the table with a tray of shots. That wasn’t the exciting part. No, walking just behind him with a tray full of beers was a large man with a closely trimmed mohawk dressed in a black and green dress uniform.

Leaning to her left, she waved Raven closer, “They’re here!”

“Who’s here?” Raven whispered back, a little tipsy and far less discreet than Clarke would’ve liked.

“You two do know I’m sitting right here, right?” Finn stuck his hand between the two of them. He offered them a crooked smile and lifted his arms to their shoulders, “Secrets don’t make friends, ladies. Sharing is caring.”

Clarke shrugged his arm off without thought, shooting him an annoyed look he didn’t catch because he was smirking up at Bellamy. Jerking her head to the side, Clarke motioned for Raven to follow her. Murphy joined them as well, watching the men in the bar turn to stare at his friends, acting as their nearly silent, snarky, bodyguard.

Once they were alone, Clarke pointed toward the door she’d been watching, “The Trikru delegation is here. The one that was awarded all those medals.” Her voice sounded a little awestruck.

“Okay…” Raven replied slowly. The unspoken “ so?” hung in the air between them. She pointed back to the table, “Our friends are all here, Clarke. Let’s worry about them.”

“I like Trikru,” Murphy whispered, bent down so his head was level with the women. “They like being quiet. We could use quiet.We have a few friends we could cut loose from the herd.”

Slapping his shoulder, Raven pointed back the table. He smirked and walked away.

Raven grabbed Clarke’s shoulders, waiting until her friend met her eyes to speak, “Clarke, please. Just one night where we don’t talk work. I know you wanted to help with the Trikru Accords and that Jaha insisted on sending someone else. I know you fell in love with Trikru when you were fourteen and you and Abby visited there. But for right now, for tonight, this is home and that is our family and we are going to go and enjoy that our family is mostly intact after 32 years of war.”

Watching the door for another half minute, Clarke nodded, “You’re right. Of course. You go back, I’ll get you something that isn’t that nasty well vodka Bellamy insists on buying.”

“Well, you did just get a big promotion. Money Bags Griffin coming through!” Raven shouted before giving her a smacking kiss on the cheek and hurrying back to the table.

Being an easily recognizable Peace Officer of President Jaha’s Marines had its perks. One of them being that she was served quickly when she went to bars. Another, was the ability to spot a conflict before it actually arose.

Like the one about to erupt between Bellamy and the tall Trikru man Clarke had seen earlier.

Signaling to the bartender, Clarke placed her order and hurried to force herself between the men. Rolling her eyes at the puffed up chests and snarled words, Clarke put a hand on each of their chests and shoved.

Little she may have been, weak she was not.

Murphy moved to block Bellamy from surging forward again. As Clarke’s personal security specialist, a fancy way to say bodyguard, he was always watching out for her. They both know she could hold her own but he insisted on actually doing his job.

Clarke lifted her head to scold Bellamy, knowing he probably took offense to something innocent the man said. She’d just started to speak when a new and unknown voice cut through the snarls and growls and snapping jaws.

Daun ste pleni, Linkon .”

Every head in the vicinity swiveled to the newcomer. How Clarke’s jaw didn’t drop to the floor would forever be a mystery. She’d never seen anyone wear a dress uniform so well, Earthen or Trikru or otherwise. Of course, Clarke herself could pull off her dress uniform well enough, the blue really made her eyes stand out, but the woman before her… No. No one was on her level.

The black leather jacket with its green accents and tight black pants that didn’t seem to have a bit of loose fabric anywhere. The sword on her hip and the pauldron on her shoulder. The flowing red sash, looped under her arm.

The woman looked like a warrior queen pulled straight from the pages of a history book.

Gyon op na sis Onya op hasta oso souda ,” she commanded.

With one last glare at Bellamy, the man turned away and marched to the bar where another woman was waiting. The amused smile and mischievous eyes told Clarke she’d seen the whole encounter.

“Sit down, Bellamy,” Clarke said.

He started to argue, but Octavia’s hand tugging on the sleeve of his dress uniform had him sitting. As soon as he was back in the booth, he deflated and looked too much like a pouting child for Clarke to take him seriously.

“Thanks for the assist, Commander,” Clarke offered a hand to the woman. When a small, almost indiscernible smile lifted pouty lips and a strong hand gripped her forearm in the Trikru fashion, Clarke blushed. “I hope you’re enjoying your time here on Earth.”

“Thank you… but unfortunately I was not. Victory ceremonies never seem like a good way to spend my time,” The woman replied, still holding onto Clarke’s arm. “I would rather be doing real work. Something that will last longer than this fragile peace probably will.”

A small laugh escaped Clarke’s lips, “as a Peace Officer, I should be offended by that. As a rational person, I know some of the governing bodies on the outlying planets aren’t guaranteed to hold to the agreements that were reached last month.”

“Wise,” Lexa’s answer was dripping with earned respect. Then green eyes lit up a little, like a spark had caught on tinder and a flame was building, “My name is Lexa Woods, Commander in the Trikru Marines. And I would very much like to buy you a drink.”

“I’m Clarke Griffin, Major in the Earthen Marines,” she replied, matching that growing fire, spark for spark. “I’d very much like to accept that drink.”

-0-

Minutes later they were in their own little booth far away from their friends with a bottle of very expensive whiskey in front of them. Clarke poured Lexa a small portion, insisting she try it before she offered more.

“It can be an acquired taste,” she explained.

“I can handle Earthen liquor, Major,” Lexa assured, almost amusedly, before she started to throw it back like a shot.

Catching her wrist, Clarke shook her head, “Wait- this isn’t that kind of whiskey. It’s the sipping kind. It can take a while to drink. That’s time I’d like to spend getting to know you.”

Lexa froze, expression unreadable, for a moment.

Clarke wondered if she might have overstepped, and moved to release the Commander’s sleeve.

Lexa then obliged. She leaned forward, took a thoughtful sip, and sighed. The burn was exactly right. It was the precise thing she needed in that moment, whether she knew it or not.

“Okay then, Major. I’ll acquiesce. What would you like to know?”

Clarke leaned closer to her and smiled. When Lexa didn’t respond, just watched her with those burning green eyes, she decided to take the bait, “What exactly is the famous Commander Woods doing in this bar?”

That had Lexa smiling faintly. She shook her head and pointed toward her people at the bar. Two women and the man who brought on Bellamy’s growls were stood together, watching them. Not one of them was even attempting to be subtle about watching their commander with Clarke.

Following Clarke’s wide blue eyes and slight smirk, Lexa scowled at her friends, “they dragged me out after that ridiculous ceremony. They insisted I needed to let loose for once.”

“Well, then, have another sip.” Clarke challenged, voice a little husky. “You’re hardly loose .”

Lexa’s brows rose slightly as she eyed Clarke’s lips.

After taking another sip of her own drink, Clarke reached forward slowly, boldly, and traced the medals on Lexa’s chest.

Lexa’s breath caught as the trio onlookers watched with piqued curiosity.

Not many people put a hand in the Commander’s general vicinity and lived to tell about it.

In the booth across the bar, Murphy was nodding in approval. Raven’s jaw was nearly on the table.

Clarke had no time for such considerations when such a marvel was sitting right in front of her.

Before Lexa could speak, Clarke beat her to it.

“Honestly, it’s a wonder you can walk with all this hardware on you. I thought mine was bad enough, but you put my ribbons and medals to shame.”

Clarke glanced up at Lexa, all parted lips and smouldering eyes.

Instead of being affronted, however, Lexa surprised her. Lexa offered her a beautiful little ember of a smile, one that threatened to grow into a raging fire, if Clarke fanned the flames just right.

The war is over, Lexa.

Enough.

“I do not want to talk about medals and ribbons,” Lexa said softly. She took another swig, and leaned forward, closer to Clarke. “Tell me about Clarke Griffin?”

Clarke paused, blinking slowly.

The fact that the Commander wanted to know anything about her as a person was bewildering to her. The fact that Clarke thought she had nothing to offer, would have bewildered the Commander, if she knew.

“Oh… that is a story 26 years in the making. I’m not sure you want to hear about it,” Clarke shook her head and turned to study the whiskey bottle, which she suddenly found very interesting, when the Commander’s eyes seemed to be searching her very soul.

For once, Lexa didn’t even try to hide the small laugh. She was too used to being The Commander, she had to force herself to remember how to be Lexa . Whoever that was. She was intent on finding out, now, with the war behind her.

Take a chance, Lexa.

She leaned into Clarke, nudging her with her shoulder, “I will make you a deal, I will tell you something about me and you tell me something about you that you think is just as interesting. Think you can do that?”

“An exchange.” Clarke wore a wry smile. “That’s a classic negotiation tactic, Commander. I’m impressed.”

Lexa smirked a little. “You expected me to be tactless?”

Clarke balked. “No! No, I-”

Lexa’s playful grin wasn’t missed by Clarke.

“You ass,” Clarke mumbled behind her own grin.

“Verbally assaulting a superior officer is grounds for suspension,” Lexa drawled.

“And fraternization?” Clarke asked, her tone considerably huskier, her hand resting ever so slightly on Lexa’s knee beneath the bar.

“Inadvisable during conflict,” Lexa spoke into her glass, her body heating at Clarke’s touch.

“And peacetime?”

“Fragile as it may be… encouraged , actually.”

Clarke shared a knowing glance with Lexa before taking a sip of her own drink, lowering her eyes to the table.

“When I was six, I ran away.” Clarke blurted out suddenly.

Lexa watched her silently, waiting for the verbal turn of the page.

“I wanted to see how long I would last.” Clarke admitted. “I’d seen all these shows, read all these stories about these wild adventures. I wanted to be a war hero. I didn’t know what it meant.”

Lexa’s eyes twinkled with a certain sadness.

The story of innocence lost was not an uncommon one, it seemed.

“How long did you last?” She asked, instead.

Clarke smiled, as if laughing at her childhood self. “About four hours,” She whispered, getting lost in the memory.

“Where did you go?” Lexa asked gently.

The smile slowly faded from Clarke’s lips. Her eyes grew dark, reminding Lexa of the Trikru sky just before a storm rolls in.

“Did I say something?” Lexa asked, her hand finding Clarke’s on the tabletop.

As if Lexa’s voice pulled her from inside her head, Clarke blinked rapidly, forcing tears away. “No, you’re fine. It’s just… thinking about when I ran away makes me think of my unfortunate adventure about a year later.”

“So scrappy little Clarke ran away twice?” Lexa arched a brow, clearly interested in hearing the tales of young Clarke Griffin.

“Oh no,” Clarke laughed. “I ran away once. We were on Azgeda and I’d just read The Adventures of the Ice Princess . I wanted to be like her so badly! I wanted to do everything she did. I waited until Mom and Dad were distracted and I took off with my jacket and my little backpack full of juice packs and fruit snacks.”

All Lexa could do was shake her head in disbelief. A jacket? On Azgeda? No coat?

“Don’t worry, Commander,” Clarke teased and bumped her with her shoulder. “It was summer. We were in Falls City where it was a balmy 50 degrees.”

“Still… you lasted four hours?”

A blush blossomed on Clarke’s neck, quickly rising up to her cheeks. “I wasn’t outside the whole time.”

Lexa waited for her to continue. Instead, Clarke stared at the bottle in front of her without blinking. Just as Lexa was about to ask for more details, Clarke sighed.

“I made it, like, six blocks before a MP saw me and pulled me into his precinct. I refused to tell them who I was or what I was doing. And I definitely wasn’t about to sit still enough for them to scan my training holo-watch for a CID.”

It was easy enough for Lexa to picture. Little Clarke with pigtails in her hair, arms crossed over her chest as she glared defiantly up at the police officers around her. She smiled at the thought, “so what made you give in?”

“Well...” Clarke’s eyes met Lexa’s for a moment before dropping away again. She cleared her throat and spoke carefully, “Azgeda isn’t like Earth. Or Trikru. They’re more strict I guess. I saw another kid, maybe 14 or so who was an actual runaway. Habitual, that’s what I heard one of the MPs called him. They branded him. He was from some important family but they still held his arm down and…”

“I am sure that was hard for you to understand,” Lexa spoke softly. She’d seen brandings. They weren’t something any child should ever witness. A thought ran through her mind, causing a swell of anger to rush through her veins. “Did they brand you?”

Shaking her head quickly, Clarke’s hand turned to grip Lexa’s tightly. “They didn’t. They threatened it. But I mentioned my parents’ ranks in the EMC and they readjusted their tactics. MPs on Azgeda are not trained to deal with dramatic Earthen girls.”

“Good,” Lexa nodded stiffly, her jaw working from side to side as she fought back her unusual reaction to the story. After a deep breath and another, slightly longer, sip of her drink, she had to ask, “So you gave in after seeing the branding?”

“Of course not.” Clarke scoffed. The image was forever on her mind, that boy screaming for mercy, but it wasn’t what convinced her to give in. “I’d seen worse things sneaking into my mother’s medbays.”

A head tilt and curiosity burning in green eyes. That was Lexa’s response to her statement. They both knew that was bravado on Clarke’s part.

“So how?”

“They brought in cheeseburgers!” Clarke’s tone made it clear she thought the Azgedans had cheated somehow. “I was meant to be off adventuring and those MPs brought in cheeseburgers!”

The change in tone and subject was so abrupt, all Lexa could do was stare for a moment. Then she found herself swallowing a laugh. She tried for her best serious expression. “So the mighty Clarke Griffin was a thwarted by cheeseburgers?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Clarke sniffed indignantly. She side-eyed Lexa as she added, “It was the chicken nuggets that got me.”

That was more than Lexa could handle. She burst out laughing. Her head was thrown back, her hand dropped to Clarke’s thigh. If she had been able to tear her eyes away from the glorious sight of Lexa, she’d have seen Anya, Lincoln, and Emori across the bar staring at the Commander like they’d never seen her.

“Chicken nuggets are delicious,” Clarke pointed out as soon as she thought Lexa would be able to hear her.

“Oh…” Lexa nodded and gripped her side. She shook her head then, “please, no more laughing right now. I think I strained a muscle.”

Sliding Lexa’s glass closer to her, Clarke smirked and said, “you better get a bit more loose then.”

Taking the glass, Lexa winked at her before taking a long sip. That bit of bravado had her coughing a second or two later, and wincing at the sore muscle in her side. But the burn did soothe her aches.

“I think that’s enough about then.” Clarke dipped her head slowly, and then tilted it to the side. “What about now?”

“Now?” Lexa echoed, curious.

“You know, there’s a giant holo-board of you draped across the flight center.” Clarke smirked.

Lexa hid an amused smile. “One of men told me about that.”

“Do you want to see it?” Clarke asked cheekily.

Lexa cocked her head to the side, and Clarke couldn’t help but notice how she closely resembled a confused puppy.

“See it?” Lexa echoed.

“Mhmm.” Clarke leaned forward, eyes flashing. “There’s an excellent view from my high-rise.”

Lexa froze, her heart hammering as she licked her lips.

God, Clarke was ethereal.

This wasn’t in her nature, to talk to strangers so openly, but she could feel a distinct pull, and dammit, she’d helped quell a war.

“Major.” Lexa leaned forward. “Is that an offer?”

“It’s an order .” Clarke mocked, hand coming up to fiddle with Lexa’s collar.

Lexa smiled, and Clarke leaned in a bit closer.

“I’m serious, though. I like you,” Clarke admitted. “And that doesn’t come easily.”

Lexa snorted a laugh, absolutely taken with her.

And yes, maybe it did break some 217 Trikru military codes of conduct, but she couldn’t bring herself to care.

But she did have to have some semblance of professionalism, surely.

“Major-”

“Seriously. It’s Clarke.”

“Klark,” Lexa murmured. There was something there, in the way her name rolled off Lexa’s tongue that had Clarke wanting to hear it again and again. “I… I’d hate to disrupt our… our…”

Clarke smirked. “You want to verify my CID to make sure I’m who I say I am, right?”

Lexa sighed in relief and embarrassment, all rolled into one. “It… for an officer of my rank-”

“You have a lot of Earthen Majors trying to take you home?” Clarke teased, reaching for her pockets, likely to pay for the drinks.

The bartender waved her off, and Clarke wheeled around on Lexa, who wore a little smirk, proud that she’d already handled that.

“So this was a date?” Clarke grinned, slowly reaching under the bar to twine her fingers with Lexa’s long ones.

Lexa glanced back at her crew, all watching her with little discretion.

“Scan it.” Clarke held up her holo-watch with a little smile. “In front of them.”

Lexa swallowed the lump in her throat, and brought her watch up to Clarke’s.

There was a moment of pregnant silence, and then a “verified” symbol appeared before the two of them.

Clarke quirked a brow, leaning off her stool. “You coming, Commander?”

Lexa signaled something to her crew, and then nodded, clearing her throat.

“Let’s walk, I enjoy the sights.”

-0-

Their hands brushed as they walked. Clarke tempted fate and weaved her arm through Lexa’s, her hand resting gently on her forearm.

The sights, the city, the lights and the sounds of all kinds of motors whizzing past, a neon blur in the night, the moon hanging over head.

It was all breathtaking.

Lexa and Clarke had insisted on leaving without a security detail, and Clarke knew why.

Lexa couldn’t be Lexa in front of others, it seemed. She was bound to the “Commander” as much as Clarke was to being “Major Griffin”.

But on this evening, none of that mattered.

They reached the highrise after taking a winding path through the streets. It was impressive, Lexa had to admit that much.

“Would you like something to drink?” Clarke asked as they entered, moving to grab a glass of water for her herself.

“I am fine, thank you,” Lexa shook her head.

Taking in the apartment with careful eyes, Lexa waited for Clarke to join her in the living room. She studied the pictures on the mantle of Clarke and her friends, Clarke with an older woman, her mother perhaps, a little girl who could only be Clarke standing proudly between a man and woman.

She spotted a painting to her right. It was a night sky, stars and galaxies glowing against the dark blues and purples, and a darkened forest.

“I painted that on leave a year or so ago,” Clarke said softly. She set her glass on the coffee table before moving to stand beside Lexa. She leaned against, her head coming to rest on the Commander’s shoulder. “I went to Trikru once, when I was 14. Mom took me.”

“You like trees?” Lexa smiled even as she felt herself stiffen at the contact.

Smiling, Clarke shook her head. “We’ve all heard the stories of the sky people. I love the romance of the girl from the sky falling for the girl from the ground. The stars and the trees… it’s just a great tale. One my dad would tell me all the time.”

With a dip of her shoulder, Lexa moved away. She studied the handful of other paintings carefully while she tried to work through her nerves.

“Are you okay?” Clarke asked.

“Of course,” Lexa replied quickly.

Clarke knew she had to tread lightly. She approached Lexa carefully, as if cornering a flighty animal, trying to maintain a calm feeling. “I don’t want to do anything if you don’t want to. You can see the holoboard and you can leave. Or…”

Turning and meeting her eyes, Lexa prompted, “Or?”

“You can stay?” Clarke hadn’t meant for it to come out as a question. She moved carefully until she was in front of the captivating woman. “You can see that holoboard and we can share another drink. We can talk?”

“That sounds nice,” Lexa replied. Her lips quirked into a soft smile Clarke had already claimed as her own.

“If that’s your choice though, you have to get loose again.”

Stiffening again, Lexa narrowed her eyes slightly, “I am loose.”

“Oh, Commander,” Clarke tsked and shook her head. “I think we both know that isn’t true. So let’s see about fixing that?”

The solution was for Clarke to pour Lexa a drink from her extensive liquor selection. She grabbed the Trikru whiskey she’d been saving for a special occasion. After filling a glass with a healthy portion she handed it to Lexa.

“I know we can’t talk about your actual missions, but can you tell me something?” Clarke asked. “You never did tell me anything in the pub.”

“I liked hearing your story. I was distracted,” Lexa replied after a long sip from her drink.

Clarke snorted, “My childhood story about running away is nothing compared to your adventures.”

Lexa nodded and smiled softly again. “I’ve heard other stories about you.”

“Oh really?” Clarke smirked, moving slowly toward the Trikru leader.

Biting the inside of her lip, Lexa nodded again. “You’ve quite the reputation, Major Griffin.”

“I happen to be very good at my job,” Clarke shrugged and set her drink down again. “I’m good at convincing people to find peaceful solutions, to avoid violence. I can’t take all the credit, Commander, I think not wanting to die is… intuitive.”

Lexa wore a slight smirk on pouty lips.

“Some would say diplomacy is the coward’s way out.”

“Is that your opinion?” Clarke arched a brow, impending fire and fury laced beneath each word.

“Not at all. I think diplomacy comes in handy when you outnumber your opponent and you don’t want mindless slaughter,” Lexa responded easily, taking another sip of her drink.

Laughing quietly, Clarke headed toward her balcony, “I’ll tell you what I think. I think we need more military leaders to appreciate diplomacy. I think wanting to avoid slaughter is admirable but what if you’re the one outnumbered? What if your opposition is stronger?”

So what if the opposition is stronger?” Lexa seemed incredulous as she followed in her footsteps.

“Hold on,” Clarke held up a hand. Lexa froze in her tracks, suddenly nervous. “Before you join me out here, you need to make a decision. We can keep talking about work. You can be Commander Woods and I can be Major Griffin and we can bounce ideas off each other and talk strategy all night. Or, when you step out here with me, you can go back to being Lexa. I saw a few glimpses of her at the pub and I’d like to talk to her now.”

Lexa watched her back away, out onto the balcony. She took less than a minute to make her choice. Ignoring her mind, screaming for her to turn and leave, she moved to join the beautiful woman illuminated by the moon just on the other side of the glass doors.

“By the way, if the opposition is stronger, then you definitely want a negotiation!” Clarke said quietly, smiling at her as Lexa moved to stand next to her. “That’s just practicality.”

Lexa rolled her eyes. “Practicality is not the art of the warrior, then.”

“It most certainly isn’t.” Clarke agreed, nodding her head. “But she doesn’t look like a warrior.”

Lexa’s brows furrowed as she glanced up.

There, before her, in all its glory, was the cyber-billboard, projected across a bustling overpass.

“She looks like a hero.” Clarke’s added whisper gave Lexa chills.

A picture of Lexa and her company, in full battle gear, taken by a news outlet, it seemed.

The sign read: Earth welcomes Commander Lexa Kom Trikru and Steltgonakru.

Lexa gasped, gazing up at the sign with childlike wonder.

Clarke watched her reaction, licking her lips slowly.

God, Lexa was something else. The calculated gaze, her eyes shining as if they were analyzing every pixel of the image projected before her. The way her brows furrowed in concentration.

Finally, when she spoke, she broke the silence with a quaint statement.

“That is… gaudy .” She whispered finally, but the goosebumps on her arm belied her tone.

Clearly, she was honored, and Clarke swore she could see a touch of child-like reverence in her gaze.

“I like it.” Clarke shrugged, her mind swimming with a sensory overload of this enigma of a woman. “I woke up to it, practically.”

Lexa turned beet red, and Clarke grinned.

“You… you saw this…”

“First thing from my nap.” Clarke smirked. “Media doesn’t miss a beat, does it?”

“Certainly not,” Lexa sniffed. “I… can’t imagine your reaction.”

“I was a little in awe.” Clarke admitted, and then, turning to Lexa with a reverent gaze. “It’s… not everyday that you get to meet one of your heroes.”

Lexa paused, her mouth parting slightly in surprise. “I… I…” She managed lamely, her fingers slowly finding the edge of Clarke’s hips.

Clarke nodded slowly, solemnly. “Yes, you.”

She leaned in slowly, met halfway by Lexa, cornered against the wall of her balcony.

The two kissed, bathed in moonlight, the distant sounds of traffic fading away until the only sounds they were aware of were the soft sounds of their lips brushing, their heavy breaths, and their erratic heartbeats.

Lexa’s gaze was lidded when they finally pulled apart, her smile blissful and lustful all at once.

She was painfully attracted to Clarke, but more than that, she was rapidly growing indescribably fond of her.

She knew settling down and having a family were not staples of the military life, but something within Clarke’s being drew her to the idea.

After a kiss.

Clarke gazed up at her, her lashes fluttering adorably, and Lexa’s breath caught in her throat.

Yeah, she was fucked.

“I…” Lexa began, but didn’t even realize what she was saying.

“Please.” Clarke breathed, tentatively winding her arms around her neck with shaky movements. “Don’t… leave.”

Lexa shook her head instantly, as if that could ever cross her mind.

Suddenly, she had one objective, and that was Clarke. Feeling Clarke’s heart thump in time with hers, feeling Clarke’s pillowy lips pressed against hers, tasting the whiskey on her tongue.

That was the only thing that mattered in the universe, from someone who’d seen their fair share of interstellar travel, Lexa was certain.

“I…” Clarke panted against her lips, cobalt eyes going dark with a deep need that had been dormant for so long. “Do you…”

She never got to finish, Lexa nodding frantically against her lips, being pulled into Clarke’s bedroom as easily as every other interaction with Clarke had gone that night.

-0-

The back of Lexa’s knees hit the edge of Clarke’s bed, and she fell backwards, her curls splayed against the sheets like a wavy halo.

There, in the dark of the room, Lexa took on a godly glow, illuminated by the city lights outside the parted curtains, the moon hanging low in the sky.

Clarke was breathless. It was almost too much to handle.

One of her heroes, in front of her, decorated with medals Clarke thought she’d only ever hear stories about, equally as breathless.

“I…” Lexa swallowed harshly, as Clarke stood between her legs. “I don’t…”

She was a fumbling mess, and yet, somehow, Clarke was even more endeared.

It seemed that every time Lexa’s brow furrowed, or her soft lips opened in some awkward amalgamation of words, Clarke’s heartstrings were tugged a little further, already taut with adoration.

“You don’t…” Clarke encouraged, nudging her knee softly.

“I don’t usually do this,” Lexa whispered. She sat up, her hands falling to Clarke’s hips and holding her there.

Clarke nodded, a comforting smile on her kiss swollen lips. “Neither do I. But for the record… this doesn’t feel like…”

Like a one night stand.

The words rang in both their heads, and Lexa was nodding vigorously, as if she’d heard Clarke’s unfinished sentence and agreed to it without pause.

And then Lexa was unbuttoning her coat, and Clarke had already shucked hers off and was working on her vest.

She noticed Lexa about to drop it to the floor, and bit her lip.

She reached over, moving quickly to drape it over the chair in the corner of her room, Lexa’s gaze softening from a questioning glance to one of appreciation.

“And yours?” She whispered, eyeing Clarke’s brass, sacrilegiously touching the floor beneath the bed. She pushed herself off the bed and immediately bent over to pick it up, brushing past Clarke to hang it over her own.

“I’m not a war hero,” Clarke objected. She meant for it to be wry, but it came out hollow, in awe of Lexa’s accomplishments, more than anything.

“You bring them peace. Is that any less honorable?” Lexa mumbled, pressing her lips against Clarke’s.

Clarke’s subsequent whine, and then Lexa’s soft groan of pleasure against her lips set her on the edge. She fell back onto the bed, Lexa hovering over her, lining her neck with kisses.

“I… I like you.” Clarke gasped, arching her back to press her hips against Lexa’s, suddenly aware of how she was soaking, desperate for attention.

Lexa chuckled against her neck, the vibrations making her skin tingle with a warmth she couldn’t understand.

“I like you too, Klark.”

There it was again.

The way she said her name, like a holy prayer on the lips of someone sacred, ever loyal in their duty to worship.

Clarke was grinning against Lexa’s kisses when she returned to her lips, winding her arms around Lexa’s neck in efforts to pull her closer.

“Too many clothes.” Lexa huffed against her, and Clarke fought the urge to laugh at her formality, even then.

“Well, Commander, you look like you’re fully able to give me a hand in getting all of this off,” Clarke mumbled, admiring the Commander’s tense biceps through her shirt.

Lexa turned a deeper shade of red, fumbling as she pulled Clarke’s shirt loose from her tailored slacks, meeting Clarke’s lips with a gasp.

If Lexa was ever asked, years in the future, why she ran her so slowly up Clarke’s sides, why she felt the need to take her time and just… appreciate, she’d forever claim she didn’t know. In that moment she just knew she had to pay homage to the woman before her.

With a shaky breath, one she tried to mask as an airy laugh, Lexa slid her fingertips along Clarke’s collarbones until she reached the collar of her starched shirt. She dipped her head for a moment, needing a slow and heady kiss before she moved her fingers to that first button.

Leaning back, she frowned at the reddened skin in Clarke’s neck, chafed by her collar. Clarke smiled up at her, reaching up to smooth away the worried lines between her brows. Turning her head, Lexa smiled into her hand before pressing a kiss to her palm.

As her hands moved to the second button, and then the third, Lexa lowered her lips to that patch of red. She soothed the irritation with her lips and her tongue, all the while working those tiny buttons free.

A soft moan escaped Clarke and Lexa knew she’d done something right. Fingers tightening on her arms and shifting hips told her to keep doing it.

When Lexa finally reached the last button she grinned into Clarke’s neck. She ran her thumbs up the separated sides of the shirt, brushing ever so slightly against bare flesh.

Moving back up Clarke’s neck to her lips, Lexa bit down lightly as she pushed the fabric off Clarke’s shoulders and down her arms. Only then did Lexa allow herself to pull away and take in what she’d uncovered.

Her imagination had not done Clarke justice.

Clarke blushed, trying to play off her pleased smile as a smirk as Lexa slowly descended on her now uncovered chest, placing the most delicate but needy kisses against her flushed skin.

“Uh uh.” Clarke waved a finger cockily. “Yours too, Commander.”

“Fair is fair,” Lexa whispered with a wry grin, moving to strip.

Slowly, ab by ab, her toned stomach was revealed, leaving Clarke drooling as she pulled her shirt over her head, mussing her hair.

Clarke’s eyes fell to her bra, and she felt her mouth dry. She didn’t think the Commander could get any more attractive, really.

But then she had to go and look like a war goddess from the legends Clarke was told as a child.

The black ink on Lexa’s right bicep drew her attention.

Tattoo! The word echoed through her mind.

Lexa kom Trikru had a tattoo. Not a single one of the bios that had ever crossed Clarke’s desk held that fact.

Clarke wasted no time in pulling Lexa back down on her, meeting her in a hungry lip-lock.

“I…” Lexa mumbled, breath hot and heavy against Clarke’s lips. She paused to lean in to kiss Clarke once more, relishing in the feel of Clarke’s fingers tangling in her wavy locks, brushing past elegant, traditional Trikru braids. “I want-”

Clarke had an inkling , but she’d never truly know what Lexa wanted.

She’d never know because in that moment, Lexa’s holo-watch decided to start vibrating wildly. The room illuminating with a message reading: Immediate Response Requested.

Lexa’s eyes widened, as she slowly unraveled herself from Clarke’s grasp, lips parted in shock.

From the looks of her expression alone, Clarke could tell it was the type of emergency that she’d need to respond to immediately. And slowly, her heart sank back into the recesses of her chest, still beating as if she didn’t know what was going to happen next.

Lexa looked absolutely distraught , rubbing her eyes and blinking at the message before finally dismissing it.

Clarke sighed breathily, her legs still wrapped around Lexa’s, though she was standing at the foot of the bed.

“Let me guess,” Clarke whispered, though it was not dry or unforgiving. “It’s classified?”

Lexa looked as apologetic as they came, her lips drawn back in a grimace.

“Excuses,” Clarke tutted, deciding to be playful, as if she hadn’t just lost what was likely her one shot with the Commander.

“It’s a matter of… galactic security.” Lexa whispered, and Clarke blew out a laugh, moving to stand up, eye to eye with her. Mortification seeped into Lexa’s eyes, her grimace shifted into a frown as she whispered, “I… wish I were being facetious.”

Clarke sobered, gaze softening. “Well, that’s the best refusal I’ve ever received, so thank you.”

Lexa leaned in, pressing her lips to Clarke’s, effectively shutting her up.

“It’s not a refusal.” She insisted softly. Her brow furrowed slightly as she tried to find the right words. “A… What do Earthens call it? A rain…”

“Raincheck,” Clarke whispered back, amused.

Her heart was hammering in her chest.

So this wasn’t goodbye. Maybe, just maybe, Lexa felt the same way about her.

All of this from one evening together, Clarke couldn’t begin to imagine how hard she’d fall, actually being a part of this woman’s life.

“Yes.” Lexa nodded slowly, mesmerized by Clarke’s gaze. “Would that be alright, with you, if I contacted you again from your CID…” She pointed to Clarke’s watch. “When all of this… whatever it is...” She gestured to her own. “Settles down?”

Clarke bit back a grin at her chivalry. “Are you asking to pursue me, Commander?”

“I’m also asking for you to forgive me,” Lexa admitted in a moment of true vulnerability.

When she didn’t answer right away, Lexa nodded. Her eyes fell away from Clarke’s. She bent down and retrieved her discarded shirt, pulling it on hastily. The wrinkles had already set in from its brief time on the floor. Normally that would upset Lexa.

That’s the least of my worries . She shook her head.

Clarke moved around Lexa, reaching for the black and green jacket she admired so much. A stunned Lexa watched and waited and then smiled softly as Clarke held it up for her, grinning when Lexa slid her arms into the sleeves.

“A date, Commander. You know… dinner, candles, everything. Traditional Earthen style. That is how you can repay me.” Clarke murmured in her ear before pressing one last kiss to her neck, giving Lexa goosebumps.

Lexa turned slowly, facing Clarke with a look of sheer curiosity.

“A date?” She echoed, confused. Her eyes dropped to where Clarke was helping her with the fastenings on her jacket.

And then, adorably, her meaning dawned on Lexa, her furrowed brow shifting into a soft smile.

“A date.” Lexa confirmed slowly, rolling the word off her lips, and Clarke wondered if dating was as customary in Trikru culture as it was in Earthen culture. Either that or Clarke had just simply taken her by surprise.

“I look forward to it, Lexa.”

Clarke ran her fingers over Lexa’s medals one last time. Lexa followed with her eyes, biting back a smile, already fond of the action. Then she cupped Clarke’s face gently and bent down for one last kiss.

“A date, Klark Griffin,” Lexa promised. She winked and and allowed her hands to skim down Clarke’s arms before falling to her sides. After straightening her jacket and smoothing her pants, her soft smile returned as she back away toward the door, “Dinner, candles, everything.”

-0-

“Commander.” No sooner than Lexa had entered the halls of the capital’s main governing facility, she’d been stopped by security. “There’s no time for formal vetting. Right this way.” The man before her, looking lowly in his uniform compared to hers, began speeding down a series of halls, turning left, then right, through several doors.

The amount of posted security was not lost on Lexa.

In fact, she was a bit preoccupied with just how tight the security was, and on a night of celebration, no less.

She hadn’t expected the Earthen government to even be in session, frankly.

Around the third security checkpoint, Lexa grew impatient. Before she could say anything, she was stopped outside of a room with several entrances, a series of recognizable flags displayed on the outer wall.

Lexa’s eyes widened slightly.

A summit of the Earthen council?

Now?

On a night of celebration?

And what did they want with a Trikru Commander?

Something felt entirely too suspicious, but Lexa realized she’d have no time to deal with any doubts in her mind.

Something, someone, some place was likely at risk, and for some reason, they wanted her attention. That wasn’t a good sign for her, or her people.

Wearing a diplomatic, schooled and unaffected mask, Lexa allowed the guards to open the doors for her, as she stepped inside, readying herself for whatever she’d find.

She couldn’t have readied herself for the Chancellor himself, along with every other key Earthen ambassador, either present physically, or calling in on a secure line, their faces projected from the ports that sat in their designated positions.

All eyes, whether physically present or not, were trained on her.

Lexa felt her throat dry, a familiar constricting panic taking over.

Something was amiss.

She glanced forward, squaring her shoulders as she dipped her head respectfully to Earthen Chancellor Jaha, trying to keep a level expression.

Jaha nodded, and cleared his throat, signaling that it was time for whatever hissed and idle chatter there was to cease.

“Commander.” Jaha announced, his voice unwavering, despite the tinge of worry laced into his tone.

“Sir.” Lexa dipped her head. “It’s an honor to-”

“My apologies, Commander.” Jaha shook his head, and Lexa’s eyes widened.

It was highly irregular for a commanding officer to be cut off, particularly during a bout of ass-kissing, as she’d begun to do.

“I’m afraid there’s no time for formalities.” Jaha apologized hurriedly. “We’ve a matter of intergalactic relations on our hands.”

Lexa gave a curt nod.

She couldn’t understand how she’d gotten involved in this. If anything, this seemed like a matter that would end up on Clarke’s desk.

“Permission to speak freely, sir?” Lexa requested, and though she was more of a guest to this planet and its hierarchy, she opted to respect the customs.

Jaha nodded once.

“I understand you’ve called me in, a third party, and a party deeply embedded in combat at that. Which leads me to ask- who or what is in danger, sir, and why is my outfit being chosen to see to it?”

Jaha’s throat bobbed as he slowly licked his lips, contemplating his answer.

When it came, Lexa sorely wished she’d still felt the effects of the drink she’d had with Clarke.

His answer came, swift and unforgiving, and Lexa knew, once again, that the so called “peace” they’d striven for was yet another lie, another crack in the crumbling foundation of a planet on the brink.

“Earth.”