Summary: In which Clarke Griffin and Lexa are high school students with a plan and a scheme to make the objects of their affection jealous. Extremely AU, OOC.
Pairing: Clarke Griffin and Lexa
TV Show: The 100
Rating: Rated T ~ M. Themes, no smut. Fluff. Angst.
Warnings/Spoilers: Femslash. Extremely A/U. OOC.
Disclaimer: Nothing owned, nothing gained, prose all author’s. Give credit where credit is due though. (Please don't download and upload again and pass it off as your own.)
Author’s note: A little late to the fandom, but did see the series premiere when it aired, ignored it for years until Clexa. Couldn't get enough of it. And so here we are. This story inspired by a lot of teen rom coms (points for you if you recognize them) because still waiting for our own les "Love,Simon" and "To All the Boys I've Loved before".
When Clarke Griffin hits her senior year of high school, three things happen to her: she turns eighteen, her adopted sister, Raven Reyes goes to college and promptly breaks up with Clarke’s good friend, Finn and things are about to change for her.
Clarke doesn’t know this though as she watches Raven pack her stuff the night before her big trip to college as Dr. Abby Griffin, Clarke's mother, and Madi, Clarke’s younger, adopted sister, watch them. They are all in Raven's room.
"Hey, don't look so bummed, it's just college, it's not the end of the world," Raven tells Clarke.
Clarke gives her a smile, albeit a sad one.
"Do you have to go all the way to the other side of the world?" Madi asks.
"It's MIT, not Mars," Raven says with a roll of her eyes. "Plus, I'll be back for Christmas."
Their mother smiles and gives Raven a hug. "I'm gonna miss you."
Raven grins. "Sure? 'Cause your long lecture about my room and my apparent lack of hygiene says otherwise."
"Oh, she's def gonna miss you," Finn says, wandering into the bedroom with a big grin on his face.
Raven's face lights up. "Hey."
Clarke's mother gives Finn a curt nod before she goes and fixes them dinner. “Thanks for inviting me to dinner, Mrs…” but Abby has already left.
Finn flops down on the bed. "Your mom hates me."
"No,she doesn't,"Raven says at about the same time Madi says, "Yes, she does."
When Finn looks at Madi with a pained expression and Raven just glares at her, Clarke quickly says, "Don't feel bad, she doesn't like jocks in general. Or guys in general. Except dad. Dad was special."
"That's not fair," Finn says, grabbing a pillow and sighing.
"Why's that?" Madi asks.
"'Cause no one will ever be able to live up to the late, great Mr. Griffin."
Madi shrugs. "Fair enough."
As Finn grabs Raven, Clarke mutters, "Welp, gonna leave you two lovey dovey lovebirds to gross it up. Make it strictly PG-13 folks, we've got minors in the house."
"You're eighteen,"Raven reminds her.
"Madi isn't," Clarke shoots back as she gets up to leave. Madi follows her.
Raven rolls her eyes.
Before Clarke leaves, Clarke catches a glimpse of tickets that Finn promptly pulls out of his back pocket.
"What’s this?" Raven asks.
"I...thought I'd surprise you,"Finn says. "Fly out to visit you."
"You already paid for this?" Raven asks.
Finn hesitates before he slowly nods.
Raven doesn’t say anything. Finally she says, "Finn can we talk?"
Raven gets up, goes to the door and closes it in front of a suddenly curious Clarke and Madi.
Finn mutters, "I don't understand, I thought you'd be happy..."
"You didn't even ask me," Raven says, voice now muffled by the door.
"I wanted to surprise you..."
"You wanted to piss me off..."
"Why are you being like this?"
"This isn't gonna work out Finn..."
"Girls, it's not polite to eavesdrop on other people's conversations,"Abby says to Clarke and Madi who are leaning by the door.
By the end of the night, Raven announces that she and Finn have broken up, Finn messages Clarke that they have broken up and Clarke again is reminded why she doesn't do relationships. As she rummages through her closet, a small box falls to the floor. She picks it up, opens it and finds letters - signed, addressed and sealed. Written when she was younger, she'd written them for all the people she'd liked and/or loved. She'd never sent them. She liked the idea of liking them but never liked the idea of actually being with them. Writing the letters was a great outlet for her. It helped her deal with her feelings without actually dealing with the people.
A few days after Raven leaves for college, and while Clarke is trying to back the car out of the school parking lot, she almost backs into a person at the back of the car.
The person, a girl, looks pissed, her companion even more so. The companion, African American looking, in her forties or fifties, fierce and strict, marches to Clarke's side and demands, "The hell is wrong with you? You coulda got us killed!"
"Indra..." the girl says.
"I could have your license revoked..."
"I'm sorry,"Clarke says.
"I'm sorry, Lexa, but you could have been killed..." She turns to the girl with disdain. "Some people just shouldn't be allowed to drive. Or live."
"I said I was sorry,"Clarke says, exasperated.
Indra is about to say something but the girl stops her. "That's enough," the girl, Lexa, says.
Indra keeps quiet. The girl leans over, talks to Indra, speaks in another language, before she seems to remember something and switches back to English and says, "Could you wait with Gustus and Anya please?" Indra nods and marches off, heading to a limousine where a tall, large, muscular, tattooed, bearded man in a black uniform is waiting with a tall, blonde-haired Asian woman in a corporate suit.
Clarke grips the steering wheel as the girl regards Clarke quietly for a second, curious and perplexed. There is a hint of recognition on her face as she looks at Clarke. She knows her. Clarke tries not to blush. Lexa then steps forward and after a second says, all confidence and swagger, "You make a habit of trying to run over people trying to cross the parking lot?"
Clarke sniffs. "Of course not,"she replies haughtily.
"Think you can get to the end of the parking lot without running over anyone else?"
Clarke resists the urge to roll her eyes. "Pretty sure I can."
The girl smirks a little. Clarke notices how green her eyes are, reminding her of the ocean. She feels like she can almost drown in them.
"Alright. Try not to kill anyone," the girl says cockily as she steps back and walks away.
As Clarke and Madi watch the girl swagger to the limousine, with the man Clarke assumes is Gustus opening the door for her, Madi whispers in awe, "Who is that?"
Clarke makes a face. "Lexa. Woods."
"Lexa Woods?"Madi asks, impressed. "The Lexa Woods? She's a legend."
Clarke nods. "The very same."
"Isn't her family loaded or some such shit?"
"Language,"Clarke automatically says. "And yes. She is. She's some kind of heir or something to Pramheda Tech. Her father built some kind of software tech, Ali or something that big companies are now using."
Madi whistles. "That's freaking awesome." Before Clarke could say it, Madi says, "Language, I know. But she is so cool."
"Yup. She is," Clarke sighs. "Captain of the Lacrosse team, debate team, math club, 4.0 GPA, honors society, etc.etc."
"She's captain of the Washington Grounders?" Madi says with awe.
"She led the team to championships like, three years in a row."
"Yup." Clarke watches the limousine drive away. Lexa is viewed with almost god-like reverence at the school. Rich, popular, Ivy League bound, heir to a company that's set to dominate Silicon Valley, teammates and schoolmates alike call her "Commander" and she has the whole school at her beck and call – including the teachers. She is class and privilege personified. Clarke sighs. They’d been classmates when they were younger, but Lexa obviously has always moved with a different crowd and they’d never actually been friends. Ever.
“She’s single, yeah?” Madi says. "And gay? I mean, I think she was kinda checking you out?"
“What?” Clarke asks, surprised.
“Single? You could totally date her.”
“What are you talking about?” Clarke asks. “No. I think she’s dating that girl…Costia somebody.”
“Doesn’t hurt to try…”
"What are you talking about? She's not even my...I'm not even..." She stammers."Not my type..."
“What?" Madi asks. "Rich, hot girl who can totally kick ass and speaks another language like a boss isn't your type? You need a life, Clarke.A love life."
“Don’t give me that ‘love is weakness’ crap again,” Madi says with a roll of her eyes. “With Raven off to college,you’re gonna be even more pathetic,Clarke. You’re gonna be like one of those old cat lady persons who shrivel up and die.”
“Wow, that went dark quickly.”
“Take me home, Clarke. I’m hungry.”
Clarke sits infront of her laptop, open biology book infront of her.
She is interrupted by a knock on the door, her mom, Abby, smiling, leaning on the side of the door.
She swivels around to face her mom, putting a hand on her eyes and smiling tiredly. "Hey, mom."
"After dinner dessert?" Abby asks, holding a plate of keylime pie infront of her. "Made it myself."
Clarke looks at her.
"Okay, it's store-bought but it's really good."
Clarke sighs, gets up and holds out her hands. "Fine."
As she grabs the fork and tastes the pie, Abby asks, "Studying for an exam?"
Clarke nods. "Yeah. Tough bio exam. And I've still got the SATs and the pre-med exams to think about..."
"I'm sure you'll do well," Abby offers by way of comfort. Clarke nods, concentrating on the pie.
"This is really good,"Clarke says.
Abby nods. She considers her daughter, already as tall as her, blonde, wavy hair ending in pink streaks, compact body encased in tight jeans and tank top. It would be easy to mistake them for sisters, rather than mother and daughter. At eighteen, Clarke resembles her mother more and more, though the cleft chin, the blue eyes and the determined look in them are all her father's. Clarke is as driven and as goal-oriented as her late father, and though Abby understands why she is driven to be like this, she is concerned Clarke is missing out on a lot of things in her young life.
"You work too much, honey," Abby finally says.
"I work too much?"Clarke asks, incredulous. "You work too much."
Abby grins. "Touche."
"Anyway, I have to study if I'm going to get into a good med school."
"Yes, I understand that, I know it's your dream, honey, but..."Abby pauses, choosing her words carefully. "I think there should be more to life than just...studying...and getting good grades and getting into a good school..."
"Oh my god, mom,"Clarke whines. "Not this again.."
Abby smiles at her tenderly. "Honey, I know it may seem like getting into a good med school and getting good grades is important...but I don't want you to miss out on life, too. I mean, it's Friday! Go out and have some fun! Go out on a date. Get drunk and wake up in some random stranger's bed! Get high. Whatever...just... Don't stay cooped up inside your room while life passes you by."
Clarke is surprised. "Mom..."
"I'm sorry I got carried away."
Clarke shakes her head. "That's fine. You just encouraged me to have unprotected sex, do drugs and live recklessly."
"Okay, when you say it like that..."
"Why can't you be like other moms and just lecture and scold me or something..." Clarke says with a grin. "I'm kidding, mom, I know what you're trying to say...but I've got some more studying to do..."
Abby smiles."Alright. Think about it, though."
A few minutes later, Raven calls her on Skype.
"Home on a Friday night?!? Again?!?" Raven says, teasingly. "You need a love life, Clarke."
"What's up with you and mom and Madi?!? Asking me to get a love life?" Clarke asks, half-jokingly.
Raven smirks. "Because we love you. This self-imposed, no-love life policy is really sad. I mean, I get that you want to save the world or make a difference or whatever, but yeah...this is beyond pathetic."
"Raven, we've been through this. By my calculations, if I put in x number of hours per day on studying on top of my class hours and extra curricular activities I will be able to make sure I get into med school and..."
"And be the hotshot doctor you've always wanted to be,"Raven finishes for her. "Yeah, yeah. I know, I know. I've heard this countless times."
"I don't want to nag you but...there has to be more to life than this, Clarke..."
Clarke is silent. Neither speak. Finally, Raven says. "Just, promise me you'll at least try to go out once in awhile and have some fun."
"Carpe diem, Clarke! Carpe diem. Seize the carp!"
"I...don't think that's what that means, Rave..."
"Sure it isn't, smartypants. Gotta go. Love ya!"
"Love you, too."
Long after Raven had chatted with Clarke, Clarke sits infront of her laptop thinking about what Madi, Abby and Raven have said. Is it possible she's become this boring person who's so focused in her goals she's forgotten how to live? Is she really letting life pass her by? Should she worry? Finn had even mentioned that she was too singularly focused, that when she wanted something that was all she would ever do, consequences be damned. Finn had actually wanted to talk to her about Raven. But how could she talk about Raven with Raven's ex-boyfriend? It would be weird. Weirder even considering Clarke had had a secret crush on him since at least last year when he decided to grow his hair and have abs and grow an inch or two taller, making him even hotter than he was when they were in junior high.
She reaches for her biology text. Starts to open it. Sighs. Slams it shut. All the other kids her age are out partying, making bad choices, living and merely existing, and here she us burying herself in a book.
She slams her book shut. Stares at it. Feels restless. Uncertain. She decides to open her laptop, just surf aimlessly til her head clears.
It's this aimless searching that leads her to a cryptic anonymous Instagram post. She'd been scrolling through her Instagram feed by then for hours, bleary eyed and bored.She'd long ago abandoned her books - but then she comes across an anonymous post that catches her attention.
She sees a ferris wheel, against a sunset, with the caption, "Sometimes I feel like I'm on top of the world. Other times I feel like I'm at the bottom. And sometimes I feel like death is the only answer. After all, death is not the end. They say life should be about more than just surviving, that you shouldn't just exist but live - but life is harsh, brutal and short and this life just fucking sucks..."
She stares at the screen, struck by what she had read. There isn't really anything extraordinary with what she'd just read, but it struck a chord, mirrored what she felt, how she viewed life. She doesn't know what compels her then to search for an email in which she can reply to, creates an email, spending time on how to name herself before she settles for Dr.Hal2000@gmail.com, and emails the person at her email address - email@example.com, drafting, deleting, re-drafting a few times before she settles for "I know what you mean...Sometimes I wonder about my life. I lead a small life - well, valuable, but small - and sometimes I wonder, do I do it because I like it, or because I haven't been brave? So much of what I see reminds me of something I read in a book, when shouldn't it be the other way around? I don't really want an answer. I just want to send this cosmic question out into the void."
She hesitates for a second about sending it before she does, and then she shuts down her laptop and falls asleep.
She forgets about the email she'd sent then because while jogging around the track and field at school, Monday morning, Octavia Blake chastising her for missing another party, she sees Lexa Woods in full Lacrosse uniform and gear jogging towards them.
"Hey, Griffin, can I talk to you for a sec?" Lexa says by way of greeting.
"Morning to you, too," Octavia says, suspicious and confused. "Since when do you speak to us mere mortals?"
Lexa fixes Octavia with a barely impercetible glare before she fixes her green gaze at Clarke, imploring her to give her a moment.
"Yup, okay, that's my cue to go,"Octavia says. "Catch you later at the library...by the way, my brother Bellamy's asking you to message him. Dunno why, but yeah..."
When Octavia is out of earshot, Lexa begins with, "First of all, I don't get why you'd give me this letter now, that kiss was like ages ago and I'd actually already forgotten about it til you reminded me and I remember it being cute and all but I just got out of a relationship with Costia and I'm really not looking for a relationship right now..."
Clarke looks at her, confused. "Wait, what?"
"I'm flattered, don't get me wrong. And I'm rarely flattered. I mean the coolest girl in school likes me but..."
"What are you talking about?"
"Spin the bottle? Eighth grade?"
Clarke is about to shake her head when she catches a glimpse of what Lexa is holding in her hand. It's her letter. To Lexa. Written when she was younger. And they had the aforementioned spin the bottle episode ninth grade. Clarke feels faint and weak. And it doesn't help that Lexa is looking at her with her piercing green eyes, as if she could look right into her soul. Her sharply defined cheekbones are flushed from running, she smells faintly of grass and jasmine, and she looks beautiful, profile framed by the early morning sunlight and Clarke feels her face flush.
"Where did you get that?" Clarke asks, voice trailing off, hesitant, gesturing at her letter clutched in Lexa's hand.
Lexa glances at the letter confused. "In the mail? Which was kind of sweet I guess? Nobody writes letters anymore. I thought it was cute..."
Clarke feels like fainting from embarassment. She doesn't recall what her ninth grade self had written to Lexa Woods but she can guess it's some embarassing sap that will make her want a nuclear apocalypse to happen so the earth can swallow her up whole and she can forget that this ever happened.
Lexa's pretty mouth is still moving and she can hardly concentrate for the embarassment, panic and pounding of her heart. She thinks maybe Lexa will hurt her, she knows Lexa has a black belt in Martial Arts and god knows what else but then she catches a glimpse of a confused, hopeful Finn Collins a few yards away, clutching a letter, her letter, a letter she wrote sometime between tenth and eleventh grade. She sees Finn catch a glimpse of her and she full on panics.
"...Griffin, you're not looking too good," she hears Lexa say now.
As she sees Finn approach them with resolve, Clarke grabs Lexa mid-sentence and kisses her. Lexa is surprised.
Finn stops then, hesitates before he turns around and leaves.
"Stop that!" A gym coach shouts from the side as some guys and girls hoot and holler.
When Clarke realizes that Finn has left, she pulls back. Lexa is confused, speechless as she stares at Clarke with questioning eyes.
"What...?" is all Lexa can say.
"I have to go, sorry," is all Clarke says leaving Lexa confused in the middle of the track.
She makes a beeline for the girl's toilet, locks herself in a cubicle so she can quietly hyperventilate, but then another letter, in her familiar handwriting is shoved under the cubicle by dark hands.
"Wells?"she asks tentatively.
"Sorry, I just got this in the mail and I wanted to talk to you..."
Clarke sighs, picks up the letter, unlocks the door and faces Wells Jaha.
"Hey,"Clarke says, remembering a sixth grade skating rink birthday party in which she and Wells had shared a kiss after a particularly vigorous dancing to the tune of a One Direction song.
"Hey," Wells says. "I just...this letter surprised me and it's sweet and all but..."and here Wells takes a deep breath. "You do know I'm gay right? But don't tell anyone okay? I mean, my mom knows, and my dad kinda knows but he pretends he doesn't know? But like, I don't even know why only gay people have to come out? I mean how come straight people don't have to? I envy you, you're gay and you seem to have it easy..."
"You just kissed Lexa Woods..."
"That wasn't..." Clarke begins to explain. She sighs. "You know what? Never mind..."
But then her phone rings. She excuses herself. It's an unknown number and she doesn't recognize the number or area code. She answers.
"Hello? Clarke? Hey. How are you? It's me..."
"I'm sorry, who is this?"
"Nylah?" She asks, drawing a blank.
"We met at summer camp?" Nylah begins by way of explanation.
As Nylah begins to explain further, in detail, why she is calling, Clarke remembers her: She'd met her the summer before ninth grade and they'd shared a kiss beneath the stars while camping out. Clarke suddenly feels like she can't breathe. She remembers her as blonde, tall, older, sophisticated and pretty.
"So it's kinda funny? Because I received this letter in the mail today...? And I was kinda surprised? 'Cause I hadn't heard from you in awhile...? And..."
A few minutes later, during which Clarke has had to explain or at least concoct a plausible explanation that she's pretty sure Nylah doesn't buy anyway, she receives a message, this time from Bellamy Blake, in the careful scrawl that she recognizes as her own. There is no message just a screenshot of her letter with laughing emojis below the letter.
She doesn't know if that's worse not.
She is going to kill whoever sent those letters to them.
She really will.
Nobody knows exactly how her small, secret box of letters ever found themselves in the mailbox, this is what Clarke finds out when she sits Abby, Madi and Raven via Skype in the living room asking each one how her personal things could have physically left her room. When she had interrogated each one, Madi had said, visibly hurt, "Why would I do that, Clarke? Do you think so little of me? Also isn't your room off-limits to me and Raven unless you're around?" Raven had nodded. "What she said,"Raven says. Abby though just looks from one daughter to the next and asks, "Okay, I'm confused. What's in the box and what's in those letters and why are you freaking out, honey?" Clarke just looks at her with despair in her eyes, unable to explain anything.
Her initial investigation though yielded this: Her mother was cleaning out their rooms, and has been trying in vain to close Clarke's full to the brim closet ("I told you to clean out your closet before things start growing in there and we have to name them," Abby had reminded her) and boxes had fallen out. Said boxes had fallen to the floor, contents spilling out on the carpet. She had hastily put them all back and had forgotten about them after as she was running late for work and ER had called her, they needed every available doctor on deck for a triple collision on the highway. She doesn't remember where she'd put it but she remembers Clarke's window being open. Clarke surmises that if her box had fallen out the window then somebody could have seen it spilled on the sidewalk, scooped it up and put it in the mailbox.
"Oh, this could not get any worse," Clarke says, pillow on her face, voice muffled.
The doorbell rings, Madi checks who it is and tells Clarke, "It's Finn."
Clarke stops, pulls the pillow away and mutters, "Apparently it can." She stops, thinks and says, "Tell him I'm not here."
"He's literally by the door and he can probably see you," Madi says.
Clarke shakes her head. "You didn't see me,"she says before she sneaks up the stairs, into her room and out the window, rolling down the lower roof and into the bushes.
Clarke is still reeling from the couple of yard drop when she limps into the coffee shop, hops on a bar stool and orders a coke.
As her coke is given to her, she hears a voice greet her from the side.
She turns to see Lexa Woods looking at her, with that small, perpetual half-smirk, half-knowing smile on her face, green eyes dancing with delight and amusement. Clarke almost chokes on her coke and instead ends up coughing.
"Are you okay?" Lexa asks, face etched with concern.
Clarke nods, waves her hand away when Lexa makes to check on her.
"I'm fine," she manages to squeak out, clearing her throat in the process. "What...what are you doing here?"
Lexa grins. "I was in the neighborhood."
When Lexa doesn't say anything else and just watches her as she sips her coke, Clarke looks up and asks, "What?"
"So, your letter..."
Clarke rolls her eyes. "I was in ninth grade. I had a crush on Justin Bieber when I was in ninth grade."
"I'm offended you would indiscriminately put me together with Justin Bieber. I was going to be impressed that you liked me - that meant you had taste. But then you go telling me you like Justin Bieber, so I guess your taste is neither here nor there."
Clarke stares at her. "Are you always this full of yourself?"
Lexa gives her a small grin. "Only when I'm indiscriminately lumped with Justin Bieber..."
"Is there anything I can help you with Lexa?"
"Yes, actually," Lexa says. "So about that letter..."
"Oh my god, will you give it a rest, already?"Clarke says, exasperated. "I wrote it in ninth grade when I had a lot of feelings. I don't have those feelings now. It was a mistake so sorry to raise your hopes up and then dash them again but that's all in the past and I'm over it now so just forget about it."
Lexa looks at her. "You kissed me."
"Yeah, sorry about that. I was kinda doing that to avoid another guy who received a similar letter...that I wrote to him."
"You wrote another letter?"
"Five actually," Clarke clarifies, holding up five fingers. "If we're counting."
"Wow. Just when you think you're special..."Lexa says with a straight face. "You find out you're not the only one. I'm crushed, Griffin."
Clarke just stares at her. "What?"
"Way to break a girl's heart, Griffin," Lexa says, trying not to smile. "Just when I think this can't get any better, you go off and do something even more supremely entertaining."
"Thank you for being entertained by my pretty pathetic, non-existent love life."
When Lexa doesn't make a move to leave, Clarke glares at her. "Did you want something else?"
"Well, who's the guy? Or girl...?"
"Well, if you don't tell me who the competition is, I'll just think you made it up as an excuse to avoid me," Lexa points out.
"I mean, shall I tell the whole school you wrote me a love letter?"
Clarke sighs. "Kill me now," she mutters as she runs a hand on her face. "Alright, it's Finn."
"Finn Collins?" Lexa asks. "Isn't he dating your sister Raven?"
"I'm impressed you keep tabs on my sister's love life, but no. They are no longer dating."
"So you swooped in, moved in for the kill. Smooth move, Griffin."
"Oh my god, stop. I was young and foolish, stop judging me. Give me a break."
"That's kind of weird on so many levels though, yes? I mean he used to date your sister, too..."
Clarke groans. "Yes, don't remind me."
"Well, which one of us is it that you want then?"
"You know what I want? What I really want? I want people to leave me alone," Clarke says. "I mean, why can't you just go...leave me alone, go float yourself or something?"
Lexa chuckles. "Float myself? What does that even mean?"
Clarke closes her eyes, tries to count to ten to calm herself. "My mom and dad had a thing about cussing when we were growing up but you know how grown ups can't really help themselves? So instead of saying 'What the fuck?' like normal adults they'd just say 'What the float?'or 'Go float yourself' instead of 'Go fuck yourself' or something."
Lexa laughs softly. "So did you just tell me off earlier?Did you just tell me to 'go fuck myself'?"
Clarke blushes. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean...this day is really going badly..."
"I'm messing with you, don't worry about it."
"I've gotta go curl up and die now, if you don't mind,"Clarke says as she gets up from her stool.
Lexa just nods. She looks out the window and asks, "Is that bike with the bell and the basket yours?"
Clarke's blush grows deeper. "Yeah. It's environmentally friendly. Not like these gas guzzling SUVs that we have now."
Lexa waits for a beat before she asks, "Would you like a ride in my gas guzzling SUV?"
Lexa is now laughing. "It's okay."She regards Clarke. "Well, how about it?"
Clarke looks at her suspiciously. "That depends. Will your scary friend Indra be there?"
Lexa shakes her head. "No. Just me."
Clarke considers this for a moment as she looks at Lexa.
Minutes later, Lexa is stopping the car right outside Clarke's two-story house.
They'd sat in silence for the whole trip, Lexa concentrating on driving, gently tapping the steering wheel with her long, tapering immaculately manicured fingernails as she hums along with the jazz music playing in the car, toned arm muscles tensing as she shifts gears. Clarke hadn't noticed Lexa was wearing gym shorts - LaCrosse practice she guesses - and a Grounder's team shirt, her number "01" proudly emblazoned at the back and the word "Commander" stenciled above the number. She can see Lexa's equally perfectly toned thigh muscles in full view. Lexa seems oblivious though to Clarke as she continues to hum to the music, eyes squinting against the light and oncoming traffic. As she stops at a red light, she runs a hand on her long, wavy auburn hair, exposing a graceful neck, strong jaw and defined cheekbones. She finds herself wondering, as she observes this slim, muscular woman at the bloom of her youth driving behind the wheel, all concentration and potential motion, what it would be like to press her lips on those powerful thighs, wanting nothing more than to feel her skin against Clarke's lips.
When Lexa catches her staring, green eyes questioning and curious, Clarke blushes, feels something rent ever so slightly in her chest as green eyes watch her and she blurts out that she'd never figured Lexa for a jazz person.
"There are a lot of things you don't know about me,Griffin, I'm a person with many layers," Lexa comments, expertly shifting gears and spinning the wheel as she does so.
Clarke doesn't say anything for the rest of the trip.
"Well, thanks for the ride,"Clarke says, offering her hand.
Lexa grins, waves a hand. "You're welcome."
As she opens the door, Lexa says, "Griffin..."
Lexa hesitates before she says, "This is going to sound preposterous but...would you like to pretend to date me?"
Clarke looks at her like she's grown an extra head. "What?"
"It makes perfect, logical sense. I do this and it'll drive Costia mad and that would be nice on so many levels."
Clarke knits her eyebrows. "Are you serious?"
"I don't understand. You could have any girl you want. I'm pretty sure there are a lot of girls literally dying to date you."
Lexa grins. "Exactly."
"So why me?"
"Because you don't want to date me," Lexa says. "I mean you already look like you'd rather be anywhere else than be with me. It suits me fine. Plus there'd be no danger of you falling for me so that's good. And did I mention Costia would have a fit? She dislikes you."
"So you're just using me?"
"I'm also asking you to use me as cover for your little thing with Collins."
"You're kind of twisted, you know that?"
Lexa grins and in a mock serious tone she says, "To win the battle, you must do whatever it takes."
"Where'd you get that nugget of wisdom?"
"Ah." She thinks about it some more and asks, "What's in it for me?"
"Get the guy."
"Finn. Collins. You like him, yes?"
Clarke slowly nods.
"Well, it's a perfect way for him to realize he might be into you,"Lexa points out.
"I don't know Lexa...I don't really want him that way...Not anymore anyway. I mean...my sister...Anyway, I don't think this is a good idea."
Lexa shrugs. "Well, think about it anyway and let me know."
Clarke nods. As she moves to open the door, Lexa says, "Wait, hold up."
Before Clarke can say anything, Lexa has opened her own door, jogged to Clarke's side and opens it for her.
"How chivalrous," Clarke says, sarcastically. "Also very sexist."
"Are you mocking me?"
Clarke shakes her head.
"Mockery is not the product of a strong mind, Clarke."
Clarke rolls her eyes. "Nice. Where'd you get that? The inside of a cereal box or a fortune cookie?"
"Anya, my mentor," Lexa says , all serious.
As Lexa looks at her, Clarke looks away. The tightness in her chest has not gone away, Lexa's confident, piercing green gaze making her feel vulnerable. They spot Finn in the distance. Lexa goes to retrieve Clarke's bike in the back of the SUV.
"Think about it, Clarke," she says as she wheels the bike to Clarke.
"Don't count on it," Clarke mutters.
Lexa doesn't leave until Clarke enters the house, watching her as she does so. Clarke feels self-conscious, feeling Lexa's eyes boring into her back.
Seconds later, Finn stands a few yards away, looking at Lexa, then Clarke's house and back.
"You're Lexa Woods," Finn finally says.
"Finn Collins, right?"
"You drove Clarke home,"Finn finally says, half a statement and half a question.
Lexa's eyebrow rises. "So it would seem."
"Is that your ride?"
Lexa nods. "One of many," she replies as she goes to the driver side, opens it. As she gets in, car keys in one hand, she says,"See you around, Collins."
Finn nods, face lost in thought as he stares at Lexa driving away.
Clarke knows it's a bad idea.
It has to be a bad idea. But then what makes her change her mind is a surprise reply, from topdog1, telling her, "People are always telling you that change is a good thing. But all they're really saying is that something you didn't want to happen at all... has happened. I don't know. And here I am, with changes in my life, and I don't know what to do. Do I take it? Do I not? Should I seize the day as people keep saying I should? There are all these versions of myself that I sometimes can't keep up with it and I wonder - do you ever feel you've become the worst version of yourself? That a Pandora's box of all the secret, hateful parts - your arrogance, your spite, your condescension - has sprung open? Someone upsets you and instead of smiling and moving on, you zing them. "Hello, it's Nasty." I'm sure you have no idea what I'm talking about. I don't ever want to be that person who spent his/her whole life just existing, not actually living, letting life pass them by and leaving this world with nothing to show for it."
For some strange reason, that makes her make up her mind. That and Finn leaving her a lot of messages on her voicemail and her email, asking her if they could talk, and her sister, Raven, emailing her, asking her to talk on Skype with her, Raven's name making Clarke's heart seize with guilt and remorse.
But as she approaches the field, she feels her heart pound, convinced this will not end well. Why else does she have this feeling at the pit of her stomach, akin to a million butterflies flitting around, as if she's going to be lifted up and away. She's pretty sure it has nothing to do with the five foot four ball of energy and power running around the field with her LaCrosse stick, smashing the ball multiple times and high-fiving and fist-bumping teammates, hair in braids, muscled arms raised in the air as she shouts a victory yell every time she scores a goal.
When Lexa catches a glimpse of her walking across the field, Lexa extricates herself from her teammates, jogging towards her to meet her in the middle of the field.
"Hey,"Clarke says, suddenly feeling self-conscious and shy as Lexa slowly grins, green eyes searching her face. A breeze blows a stray tendril of Lexa's hair that has escaped her messy braid and Clarke has the urge to tuck the hair behind Lexa's ear.
"Hey, what's up Griffin?"Lexa asks, cocky and confident as per usual, hand coming up to brush hair away from her face. "To what do I owe this visit?"
"So..."here Clarke hesitates. "I've been thinking about this fake dating proposition of yours..."
Clarke shrugs. "I can think of a million reasons why this is a bad idea and why it shouldn't work but I was thinking about it and Finn won't leave me alone and I really just want everything to go back to how it was before the letters just mysteriously started fucking up my life because I don't want to hurt my sister and I thought maybe this way Finn will leave me alone so..." She shrugs. "Why not give it a shot?"
Lexa's grin grows wide. Without warning, she puts her hand on Clarke's neck, lowers her head and gently kisses her. Clarke is taken aback at first before she brings her hand up to touch Lexa's arm, then cheek as she kisses her back.
Lexa's teammates whistle and whoop with joy, shouting "Yay, Commander!" as Lexa's coach, Coach Kane, shouts, "Stop that!"
As Lexa draws back, she smiles and says, "I think this is going to be the beginning of a beautiful relationship."
Clarke just nods and swallows, familiar tightness in her chest making it difficult to speak. She realizes Lexa's arms are around her waist and cradled in Lexa's arms she feels like she will lose her breath forever.
Then she realizes this might really be a bad idea.
But seeing Lexa's green eyes, color green as grass or ocean, gazing upon her tells Clarke she couldn't back out even if she tried.
"Wait for me, yes? We're almost done," Lexa murmurs softly, gaze gentle, searching. "We have to talk."
Clarke can only nod.
Later, much, much later, when LaCrosse practice is over and Lexa is all showered and changed, in shirt and jeans, flannel jacket thrown on her, they sit on one of the benches nestled under a tree high up by the side of the field, giving them a good view of the sun slowly setting behind the field. Framed by the gathering dusk, skin aglow from the setting sun, Lexa is beautiful. So freaking beautiful Clarke has to tear her gaze away.
As Clarke watches Lexa drink a bottle of Gatorade, watches her lips and throat, she tries to ignore the singular flavor of Lexa's lips on hers, soft, sweet, faintly salty, the way she tasted as she kissed her, as she takes out her notebook and pen and announces, over her confusion,"Rules, we've gotta have rules."
Lexa finishes drinking and says, "Okay," patiently. "Go on."
Clarke looks down at her notebook, suddenly feeling ridiculous and shy. She pauses, before she says, "The first one should be, no kissing."
She looks up and Lexa has a funny, confused look on her face. "How on earth are we going to convince people, especially my ex, Costia, that we're dating if we don't kiss?"
Ah yes, Costia. The name makes Clarke come crashing down to earth and into reality. This is fake dating afterall. None of it is real. All the more reason why there has to be rules.
"We're fake dating," she thus reminds Lexa. "I mean, I've never even..."
Understanding dawns on Lexa's face. "Ah. I see."
"I mean if I'm going to actually kiss someone, for real, it would be with someone I actually have feelings for. Like, for real, in a real relationship. I'd want it to be special."
Lexa nods in understanding. "Fair enough. We'd still need to convince people we're dating though."
"Well, how about your hand in my jeans pocket?" Clarke offers.
"Like in Sixteen Candles, Molly Ringwald? You know, that movie by John Hughes?"
Lexa shakes her head. "I've never heard of it. Is that a horror movie?"
Clarke shakes her head. "Why on earth would you think a movie with a title like that and Molly Ringwald in it be a horror movie?"
Lexa shrugs. "Who's Molly Ringwald? Anyway, does anyone die in it at least?" Lexa asks, hopeful, eyes lighting up. Clarke swears those eyes would be the death of her. "Is there violence, blood and gore?"
Clarke makes a face. "What? No? It's this really cool 1980s movie that..." When Lexa still doesn't say anything, Clarke shakes her head. "You know what, that's the first thing we'll do. Watch a movie. On date night. That's what couples do, yeah?"
Lexa says, "Okay." As she watches Clarke write that down, Lexa says, realization dawning on her, "Oh my god, you're going to make me sit through some sappy, crappy romantic movie aren't you?"
Clarke gives her a devilish grin. Imagining having to make resident bad ass and popular rich kid jock Lexa Wood sit through a romantic movie makes her smile. "Yes."
"Well, if you're going to make me watch that, then we definitely have to watch Fight Club."
"Write that down. Right after Sixteen Candles, we're watching Fight Club."
"Why do I have a feeling this is one of those pointless, violent movies people like for no apparent reason than that it has blood and gore?"
Clarke reluctantly writes that down.
"That's what couples do, yes? Put up with each other's bad taste?" Lexa asks, teasingly.
"Ignoring that right now," Clarke says, as she jots down what they just discussed. She squints at her writing and then says, "Right, you'd have to pick us up for school."
"Okay," Lexa says, without any protest or hesitation.
"Well, that was easy. Indra's not going to be there is she?" Clarke asks, suspicious.
Lexa shakes her head. "Gustus will drive us. If he has something to do then I will drive you."
"Okay." After a beat, she asks, "Who's Gustus?"
"My bodyguard. And driver. All around friend, sort of."
"You obviously have to come watch me at my games."
Clarke looks at her, exasperated.
"What? It's what girlfriends, fake or not, do. Support their partners."
Clarke sighs. Writes that down.
Lexa watches her, carefully considers her. "You don't like sports. Or jocks."
"I just think it all pointless. Plus I hate how jocks parade around the school like arrogant pricks...like they own it...like we should be grateful they're around..." She looks at Lexa then, and apologetically says, "Sorry."
Lexa shrugs. "It's fine." She pauses before she says, "Well, are you friends with a lot of jocks?"
"No, just you, I guess. I mean, I guess we're...friends now?"
Lexa laughs a little. "Yes,I expect we are. Give us a chance though. We're not all that bad."
"Why do you like it?"
Lexa shrugs. "My therapist thinks it's a great way to deal with all the rage and aggression."
"Is it working?"
"Yes. Cheaper than therapy." Neither one speak. Finally Lexa says, "Oh and you definitely have to come with me on the ski trip,"Lexa says. "Every year we go on a ski trip, all the others will go. It would be weird if my fake girlfriend didn't go. It would drive Costia nuts."
Clarke remembers the ski trip would be around November or December. She'd never been invited to any of those. She hesitates. Looks up and says, "D'you think we'll still be doing this a few months from now? We're just gonna go piss Costia off for a couple of months, make Finn go away and conveniently break up after. I don't want this lasting any longer than it should."
Clarke tries to ignore the slight look of disappointment on Lexa's face.
"Fine, but just the one. I don't want to join anymore functions where I have to be your pretend girlfriend."
Lexa grins. "Okay." As she watches Clarke write something down, she says, "We'd have to go on a few public dates though and show up at a few functions at least." When Clarke looks up with a question in her eyes, Lexa says, "How else will people be convinced we're dating?"
Clarke nods, writes down her name and Lexa's on the paper, signs it and shoves the notebook to Lexa, who promptly signs it, too.
"I should write you notes,"Lexa says.
"Costia was always asking me to write her little notes and I wouldn't. If she sees me writing you notes it would drive her nuts."
Clarke shrugs, nonchalant, at the mention of Costia's name. "Okay."
As she stares at the notebook, Clarke thinks, yup, this isn't a bad idea, not at all, as Lexa says, with a soft smile on her face, "Come on, I'll drive you home."
So fake dating Lexa Woods, the most popular girl in school, isn't as hard as Clarke thought it would be.
There is a moment right before Lexa's car drives up their house when she thinks she might want to call it off as Madi complains and says, "Why do we have to take the bus? Why can't you drive?"
"Do you not remember when I almost run over Lexa Woods on our way home?"Clarke asks her.
"Oh yeah, right," Madi smirks. "Good times."
"I'm a walking lawsuit waiting to happen. Mom would kill me."
Madi snickers. "If that happens, can I have your room?"
"I hate taking the bus,"Madi complains.
But then right as they walk down the driveway, Lexa's Mercedes rolls down the street and stops right infront of their house. Gustus, burly and surly, steps out of the driver's side, takes a look at Clarke's house, looks Clarke over from head to toe, goes around and opens the passenger side of the door,just as the door opens.
"I can do it myself, Gustus," she can hear Lexa say as she steps out of the car, Raybans on top her head, in jeans and a shirt, long, auburn hair, unbraided, falling in loose waves down her shoulder and back. She tossed her head once. She has a slight look of annoyance on her face that is quickly erased when she sees Clarke. "Hey."
"Hey, yourself,"Clarke says.
Lexa opens the passenger door at the back as Madi stares, impressed.
"Is this our ride?"Madi says as she rushes up to the car and looks it up and down.
Lexa grins. "Get in."
"Madi," Madi says by way of introduction, offering a hand. Then she says, as she shakes Lexa's hand, "Can I just say you are a goddess. Like seriously. Like I wanna be you when I grow up."
"Lexa,"Lexa replies with a smile. "And this is Gustus. Who insisted on driving me here despite my repeated insistence that it is a quite safe neighborhood. Gustus, this is Clarke and Madi."
Gustus grunts his reply but grudgingly nods in Clarke's direction.
"So, you're friends with my sister?"Madi asks Lexa as Lexa holds the door open for her. "I thought she didn't have friends."
"Madi..." Clarke warns her.
"I mean I cannot believe you are friends with her."
Clarke glares at Madi as she takes a sip of her drink, not knowing what to do.
Lexa considers this for a moment. "Um, I guess you can call me her girlfriend?"
Madi looks even more impressed. "Noise." She gives Clarke a thumb's up sign.
Clarke almost chokes on her drink. Gustus looks at her. Lexa chat with Madi a bit more as Clarke tries not to be intimidated by Gustus' stare.
When he thinks Lexa is out of earshot, he says, under his breath,"If you so much as hurt her, there will be hell to pay."
Clarke stares at the tall, imposing figure of the man and swallows.
"I believe you."
"Gustus,"Lexa says when she notices the two talking. "Leave her alone. We're gonna be late for school."
Gustus nods, gets in the car and start the engine. Lexa watches him for a second before she says, "Whatever he said, he probably doesn't mean it. He probably said the same thing to Costia and she's still alive, so don't worry."
"That suppose to make me feel better?"
"No, just, Gustus has been with me since I was a little girl, and he's just really protective of me. It just takes him awhile to warm up to new friends I've made. He'll come around, you'll see."
"He make a habit of scaring the shit out of your girlfriends?"
"No, just the hot ones he thinks will break my heart,"Lexa says with a grin. She gestures toward the door and motions for Clarke to follow.
Entering school with Lexa's hand in Clarke's ass pocket has everyone looking at Clarke as if for the first time. Her face turns red from all the attention but Lexa takes it all in stride, waving at friends, classmates, schoolmates, teachers, Coach Kane as if having Clarke by her side is the most natural thing in the world. When they get to the middle of the hallway, just when they both spot Costia walking down the hallway, Lexa's grip on Clarke tightens, she pulls her up to her as if to kiss her and makes a big deal out of handing her a note that she makes sure Costia sees. She doesn't have to look at Costia to know that she is furious. Lexa leans over and whispers,"Thanks, Griffin. I owe you."
"Don't mention it,"Clarke says. "To anyone."
"I won't," Lexa says. "Party this Friday with the Grounders. Warm-up for our match with the Mountaineers. Don't forget. See you at lunch!"
As she watches Lexa walk away, Madi comes up to her and says,"Lexa has a type doesn't she?"
Clarke looks at her, has forgotten she's even there. "What?"
"Blondes,"Madi points out. "She likes blondes."
Clarke looks at Costia and realizes she's right. Costia is blond, like her. But taller and prettier and sexier, curves in all the right places, in make-up and heels and a short, short skirt and a top that's a poor excuse for a blouse that makes all the boys stare and all the girls jealous. Why did she think she'd even compare?
"Don't worry, I think Lexa likes you for your mind so you def know she isn't shallow."
"Gee, thanks Madi, don't you have a class to go to?"
Lexa gives her a note everytime she can get. Clarke doesn't read it though and just shoves it in her backpack. They start to hang out at lunch and Lexa introduces her to Jasper, Monty and Murphy, fellow jocks who play basketball for the school team. They're a bit different from the people she's usually used to, but then again, Clarke doesn't usually hang out with anyone anyway and Octavia is more like somebody she's stuck with because Octavia hardly ever gets along with anybody and Clarke is the only one who can. When Octavia sees Clarke hanging out with Lexa, she's at first perplexed then confused and doesn't talk to her for days. Finn sees them together and by his crestfallen face and slumped shoulders, Clarke knows he's all but given up hope on her. They are the talk of the school for a couple of days - some surprised Lexa would go for the normally anti-social, introverted bookworm slash nerd Clarke, some surprised Clarke would date Lexa at all, most surprised she'd be interested not just in both sexes but that she'd be interested relationships and human contact at all. The last one had stung.
"Ignore them,"Lexa says, over lunch one day when she had complained about it. "It's something new and people need to talk about something new...we're it. It's going to blow over in a day or two."
Clarke nods but she can't shake the feeling that people seem to think Lexa is too good for her. As Lexa shoves an apple and a box of yoghurt infront of her, admonishing her to eat something, Clarke thinks maybe they're right.
The first time Lexa brings Clarke to a party, Clarke almost doesn't go.
Lexa had stood outside her door, in the middle of the afternoon, in jeans and a shirt, long hair to one side of her shoulder, a faint smile on her face, glasses on her face, takes one look at Clarke's flour-filled face and says, "And we are covered in flour because...?"
"Madi's bake sale," Clarke answers. "Why are you here?"
"Are you going to let me in or are you going to make me stand here all day?"
Clarke steps aside to let Lexa come in.
"You're wearing glasses."
"The better to see you, my dear,"Lexa says teasingly.
Lexa's hands are clasped behind her as she steps inside the house, takes a look around the house and says nothing.
"Welcome to our humble abode," Clarke says, feeling self-consciousness again. "I'm sorry. It's a bit messy right now. Maybe not what you're used to...with your butlers and help and whatever. Sorry..."
Lexa fixes her with a steely gaze. "Do you think I'm that shallow?"
"What? No, of course not. I just feel weird with you seeing our house like this..."
"You don't need to worry about that, this is fine," Lexa says. "It looks cozy. Homey."
Something about the way she says it, slight wistful tone in her voice makes Clarke look at her.
"Are you okay?"
Lexa swallows then nods. "Yes, I am."
Clarke nods, unable to say anything else. They stand in comfortable silence, Lexa regarding her with her piercing eyes.
"Is Madi home?"
Clarke shakes her head. "No. Lucky me."
But suddenly the front door opens and Abby comes in with a cheerful, "Hello, people, I'm home. Where is everybody? I ordered pizza and pasta, we're going to have an awesome movie night!"
She is still saying something when she sees Lexa and Clarke standing in the living room. She stops, surprised.
"Hello," she says, curious. "Good afternoon. I'm Clarke's mom, Abby, and you are...?"
Lexa smiles, "Hello, Mrs. Griffin. My name is Lexa. I am a friend of your daughter. We have a date with our friends."
Clarke swallows thickly.
There is an awkward silence that stretches between them as Abby processes this. Clarke tries to imagine what her mother sees when she sees Lexa:green eyes, long, wavy hair, high cheekbones, beautiful skin, wire-rim glasses that not only serve to make her look smarter but sexier, too. Lexa sounds more careful, but confident, back straight and rigid, as if aware Abby was going to either interrogate her or put her through hell.
"Date?" Abby asks confused.
"To the pre-game party our team is throwing," Lexa says.
"Uh, I forgot about that," Clarke says. "Do we have to go?"
"I didn't think you kids still went on dates, but go," Abby says. "You need a life."
"Mom," Clarke says. "I have to bake for Madi's bake sale..."
"I can do it,"Abby says.
"You don't bake,"Clarke says.
"Gotta take one for team Griffin,"Abby says with a smile. "Go get changed."
When Clarke reluctantly goes up to her bedroom to change, Abby's smile disappears as she regards Lexa coolly. "No drinking, no drugs, no sex, no reckless driving, no cops, before twelve."
If Lexa is intimidated by Abby's demeanor, she doesn't show it, face unperturbed as she nods and says, coolly and evenly, as if she's dealt with adults like Abby all her life, "Okay, Mrs.Griffin."
Abby just looks at her, eyes unblinking. Lexa returns her gaze, equally unblinking.
"Oh my god, stop with the staring contest, it's creepy," Clarke says , grabbing Lexa's hand and pulling her to the door. "Bye mom, be back before midnight, love you!" To Lexa, she says, hurriedly, "So sorry about that, mom gets weird around people I date. Even the fake ones."
"No worries,"Lexa says.
"But Gustus freaked me out too so we're even,"Clarke says. She stops when she sees Lexa's car, opens the door to get in and asks,"Where to?"
"Nice." She pauses, looks at Lexa as she gets in and buckles up.
The car has a freshly washed, leathery, pinewood-y air freshener smell permeating the car. She sees a well-worn copy of Ray Bradbury's "Fahrenheit 451" on Lexa's dashboard. Lexa says, "That's for class." Clarke nods.
"What did my mom tell you?"
"I can't have sex with you."
"What?" Clarke blushes.
"She didn't say it in so many words but I believe her exact words were, 'No sex'," Lexa says lightly. "Good thing she mentioned it, we didn't have that in our agreement."
Clarke blushes. "I said no kissing. What makes you think I'd agree to sex?"
Lexa grins. "With me? It will only be a matter of time," she jokes. "Anyway, doesn't hurt to try. You're the first one to actively not want it."
"Not used to rejection, Lexa?" Clarke teases.
"I'm losing my touch."
Clarke laughs. "Don't worry, you're still hot. I'm trying to resist your charms as much as I can. Anyway, I like hanging out with you. Sex will just fuck things up and complicates things."
As Lexa revs up the engine, she says, "Okay." She looks at Clarke. "Buckle up. Give me your phone."
Clarke wordlessly gives it to her.
Lexa gets it, takes a selfie, fiddles with the phone and gives it to Clarke. "New wallpaper."
Clarke grabs her phone and sees that Lexa's recently taken selfie is her wallpaper, steely green eyes looking out from her phone. She resists the urge to touch it.
"What about yours?"
Lexa rolls her eyes and shows Clarke her iPhone X. "Done." Clarke sees one of the selfies she's posted online is Lexa's wallpaper.
"Not one of my best," Clarke says. "Here, give me..."
Lexa hands her phone over and Clarke takes a selfie. Just then a message from Costia pops up. Clarke tries to ignore it as she hands the phone back. "There. Better?"
Lexa glances at the wallpaper, nods, swipes through Costia's message and tosses the phone on the dashboard.
Clarke ignores the fact that Costia had just messaged Lexa and lightly asks, "Are you stalking me online?"
"It's not stalking if your my girlfriend."
"Way to ruin my fun, Griffin."
Suddenly, Clarke's phone buzzes and it's Bellamy, texting her how she is.
"Hey. How's my favorite love letter writer? Still dreaming about my face?" Bellamy messages. She smiles even as they pull out of the street and replies. "Get over yourself Blake. You're not all that. How are you? We miss your ugly face."
"Mom's pushing me to pick a major, threatens to fly me to the Philippines if I don't. So jealous Octavia's mom is Greek,"Bellamy replies.
Clarke remembers Bellamy and Octavia are half-siblings, both sharing a biological father, their mothers different.
"So...I'm curious," Lexa says, glancing at her texting.
"Who else did you write letters to?"
"Why do you want to know?"
"Alright,"Clarke sighs. "Wells."
"Jaha?"Lexa asks. "But he's gay."
"You don't know that," Clarke says defensively.
"Everybody knows that," Lexa says matter-of-factly.
"Blake. Octavia's sister."
Lexa looks at her.
"Yes, I'm horrible."
"This girl at camp I met one summer,"Clarke explains.
"This keeps getting better and better,"Lexa comments. She looks over at Clarke.
As Clarke sighs, Lexa says, "Don't sit there looking like you're going to your own funeral. It's a party, not an apocalypse..."
"You have weird pop culture references."
"Anyway, just...hang out with us jocks more. It'll change your mind about us."
Clarke looks at her and smiles. "You already have."
Lexa slowly grins, expression softening at what Clarke says. She swallows, revs up the engine. "Ready?"
Clarke nods. "Bring it on."
The beach party is already in full swing when they arrive, with somebody starting the bonfire, and a few of the other kids riding the waves before the sun fully set.
They leave their shoes inside Lexa's car, Lexa changing into shorts and a shirt for swimming. Clarke briefly catches a glimpse of a tattoo on Lexa's right bicep and back and she wonders briefly what it would feel like to run her fingers on them. What were her tattoos? What were they for?
They choose a spot on the sand, facing the ocean, as Lexa waves to friends. Kegs of beer have been set up, someone grilling meat. Some offer Lexa a drink but she declines and says, "Designated driver, sorry."
"Got yourself a keeper there, Griffin,"they'd say and Clarke would smile.
Bellamy keeps texting her and Clarke says, "I've gotta go, party and all that."
Lexa looks her over and says, "Who are you texting while you're on a date with me?"
Lexa doesn't say anything at first, watching Clarke text before she says, words careful and measured, "You care about him."
"I'd known him a long time."
"You love him?"
"...Love is a very serious word," Clarke says. "I don't know what I'm feeling right now."
"You're a complicated woman." She looks at Clarke.
"And anyway you're the one still texting Costia."
"Costia texts me. We dated for a long time. It's complicated."
"It's complicated how?"
They don't say anything for awhile.
Clarke watches Lexa stand for a minute looking out, before Lexa bounds into the water. Clarke almost shouts at her to be careful but feels ridiculous so she stops herself from doing so. Her eyes never leave the ocean though, watching Lexa. Lexa waits for a wave in a standstill then dives in, body facing away from them. She swims hard, hair sluiced back, face pure concentration and joy. When she rises from the ocean, Clarke feels her heart seize, realizing how she likes seeing Lexa like this, in her element, free and unreserved and
happy. Lexa spots her and motions for her to join them. When Clarke shakes her head, Lexa comes and drags her in. The ocean is rough, jellyfish and seaweed rising with the waves. The wind is blowing strong.
"The water's cold,"Clarke complains, chattering, arms around herself.
Lexa laughs, puts her arms around Clarke's waist, fingers trailing her skin. Clarke shivers but she isn't sure if it's from the cold or Lexa's touch. Lexa stands so close to her Clarke can taste salt, smell jasmine, see flecks in the green of her eyes. Clarke thinks she will lose herself forever, will drown and not care, will always have this sensation of inner heat and outer cold. Lexa cradles her against herself. She trembles. She watches Lexa in the gathering shadows, suddenly overwhelmed with a desire to just be near her.
As the first stars come out, they make their way to the shore and Lexa begins to talk about how the sun was formed from broken stars.
"Our earth, its plants, and even us, are the product of the same clouds of gas and dust,"Lexa says, hand holding Clarke's. "You could say that we are born from stardust."
Clarke looks at her, surprised.
Lexa shrugs. "Carl Sagan."
Clarke is silent, unable to say anything to that one. She draws a deep breath. She isn't this deep or smart. She doesn't know if she can keep up with Lexa.
Clarke looks around at the other people on the beach - a small community of kids from her school, sitting cross-legged or on chairs, chatting and laughing. Suddenly, Lexa reaches out her hand and starts to sing, "You'll never know just how much, I love you...you'll never know just how much I care..."
"Oh my god, what are you doing?" Clarke says.
Lexa just laughs, motions with her head and they both see Costia looking at them with a murderous look in her eyes. She had probably been watching them since they arrived. Clarke's heart sinks. Of course. This is all for show. How could she be so stupid?
Lexa is oblivious to what is going on in Clarke's mind though as they wash up and change. Lexa leads her back to the others by her hand. They sit by a bonfire with the others, Lexa's arms around Clarke when she notices Clarke shivering. Costia is standing around with the others, chatting. Somebody brings out a guitar and they start singing and Clarke, never having been a part of any clique in school, feels, for the first time, with Lexa's arms around her, that she belongs.
She knows though that this cannot possibly last. Lexa holding her tight though, having selfies with her, makes her wish it would.
"So...you're Lexa's flavor of the month," a voice speaks behind Clarke.
Clarke looks around and sees Costia looking her up and down. She seems to have people look her up and down, as if she is beneath Lexa. She is getting tired of it.
She looks at Costia, coolly. Which is hard considering Costia is taller, more slender and with her gorgeous face and curves accentuated by her fitted jeans and blouse makes her even sexier. She wishes she could have a clever comeback but Costia has surprised her, ambushed her. She looks at her now, haughtily, nose up in the air, as if Clarke is garbage that smells.
When Costia realizes no response is forthcoming, she says, "How long have you been going out with Lexa?"
When Clarke doesn't say anything, Costia says, "Not long right?"
"What makes you say that?"
Costia quirks an eyebrow. "Because I know Lexa..." She looks at her. "And I know how she is. And I know this isn't going to last long." She looks at Lexa, longing and desire in her eyes. "A girl has needs. I don't think you can give what Lexa wants."
Clarke returns her gaze. "Oh, I'm pretty sure I know what Lexa needs. Maybe I'm all she needs."
They look at each other, not saying anything, when Lexa comes up, drink in one hand, the other snaking around Clarke's waist, as she plants a kiss on Clarke's cheek.
"Hey, babe," Lexa says. "Hey, Costia. What are you guys talking about?"
Costia shakes her head. "Nothing. See you around, Lexa."
They both watch as Costia walks away, Lexa's gaze lingering at Costia's retreating back for longer than usual, a look that Clarke doesn't want to think could be a mixture of longing and something else, on her face. Clarke notices her gazing at Costia's backside for longer than usual. Costia stops and starts to talk to a boy.
Clarke says, trying not to sound annoyed, "So you're an ass kind of person, huh?"
Lexa stares at Costia, reluctantly turns to look at her with a glazed look in her eyes. "What?"
"You're an ass person," Clarke says, motioning towards Costia.
Lexa grins cockily, shakes her head. "Not really..." She looks at Clarke's chest quickly and smiles.
Jasper, Murphy and Monty call Lexa and she waves.
"Wait a second okay?"Lexa murmurs, squeezing Clarke's hand. "Don't go anywhere."
She looks around, watching everyone, but then catches sight of Costia kissing the boy she is talking to. She turns to see Lexa glance where Costia is, face not registering anything but she turns to her friends, finishes talking to them and comes back to Clarke and says, "This party's a bust. Do you want to get out of here?"
Clarke, whose night has gone sour ever since Costia had talked to her, nods. "Yes, please."
Lexa watches Clarke in fascination as Clarke orders from the menu at the diner they had decided to hang out in after the party. The waitress looks exasperated by Clarke's order. "I'll have a hot chocolate. And an apple pie. But I'd like the pie heated and I don't want the ice cream on top, I want it on the side, and I'd like strawberry instead of vanilla if you have it, if not then no ice cream just whipped cream but only if it's real; if it's out of the can then nothing."
The waitress hurriedly scribbles that in her notebook, looks at Lexa and asks, "And anything for you?"
"Black coffee. Tofu scrambled and toast."
The waitress nods and goes to get their order.
"What?" Clarke asks, when she notices Lexa staring.
"Apple pie. That's very adventurous of you. Also, I never figured you for a high maintenance person."
Clarke puts the menu down and says, by way of changing the subject, "I'm actually surprised you wanted to come here. I figured you for a Starbucks kind of person or something."
Lexa shakes her head. "You have got to stop with all these assumptions and preconceived notions you have about me."
"Sorry," Clarke says apologetically.
"You've got to stop doing that, too," Lexa says. "Never explain, never complain, never apologize."
"Lexa," Lexa replies with a grin.
When Clarke nods, clearly impressed, Lexa says, "Okay, Disraeli. But I almost had you there."
Clarke smiles. She taps her fingers on the table then asks, "So why not Starbucks?"
Lexa shrugs. "As if I needed one more cliche about myself. I mean the whole purpose of places like Starbucks is for people with no decision-making ability whatsoever to make six decisions just to buy one cup of coffee. Short, tall, light, dark, caf, decaf, low-fat, non-fat, etc. So people who don't know what the hell they're doing or who on earth they are can, for only $2.95, get not just a cup of coffee but an absolutely defining sense of self: Tall. Decaf. Cappuccino. It's ridiculous."
They both grow quiet, taking in the late Friday night crowd. The diner is half-empty, people usually out in bars and clubs on a Friday night. When Lexa grabs at the menu and pretends to study it, Clarke speaks up.
"You okay?" Clarke asks.
Lexa nods, mind seeming to be elsewhere.
"She probably did that just to get a rise out of you," Clarke offers.
"Costia," Clarke says, feeling strange about having to say this. "Maybe Costia tripped and her face just..."
"Landed on a guy's mouth?" Lexa asks. "Because sure, let's go with that."
"Well, yeah, I mean, just because they were kissing doesn't mean anything. I mean people of the opposite sex kiss each other all the time. Maybe she was comforting him..."
"With her tongue?"
"Well, yeah," Clarke says, realizing how lame it is even as she says it. "Maybe there was something on her face and the guy was just removing it...with his...lips."
Lexa looks at her. "You're really bad at this aren't you?"
Clarke smiles a bit sheepishly. "I'm sorry. I don't really have a lot of lady friends...come to think of it...I don't have a lot of friends at all..." Clarke trails off.
"You have me."
Clarke nods. "That I do."
They stay silent for a while before Clarke asks, "How is ordering apple pie not adventurous? And how am I high maintenance?"
Lexa stops, looks at her, slightly annoyed and says, "Can we get back to me please?"
"You're right, sorry, my bad, I was being insensitive, continue," Clarke says sheepishly.
"Why was she kissing that guy..."
Clarke looks at her. "I thought you guys were already broken up."
"I didn't think she would move on so quickly."
"I don't understand," Clarke says, "She broke up with you, Lexa. Did you think she wouldn't move on? Did you think she'd just be staying in her room moping around and pining for you?
"Oh my god, Clarke, could you be a bit helpful please?"
"I mean I'm drowning here... And you're describing the water...!"
"Okay, sorry, it's just..." searches for words. "Empirically, you're...attractive..." She ends lamely, flushing.
Lexa looks at her, confused. "What?"
"I mean I'd kill for your firstborn..."
"Are you coming on to me right now?" Lexa asks, a little amused.
Clarke flushes even more. "No, god, no," she says defensively. "I would never touch you with a ten-foot pole..."
Lexa glares at her. "So you've just succeeded in both flirting with me and insulting me..."
"I'm not flirting with you..."Clarke says, confused.
Lexa laughs, winks at her. "See, this at least is taking my mind off of things."
Clarke laughs with her. "Okay." She stops, reaches out a hand and says, "Costia will come around, you'll see. I think she's already realizing what she's lost. I mean you're a great catch, Lexa."
"Now you're comparing me to fish?" Lexa says.
"Alright. Thank you."
They sit in comfortable silence for a while before Clarke says, "So you think I'm high maintenance."
This time, Lexa laughs out loud. "There are two kinds of women: high maintenance and low maintenance."
Clark asks, "Which one am I?"
Lexa says, "You're the worst kind - you're high maintenance but you think you're low maintenance."
Clarke says, "That's not true."
Lexa says, imitating Clarke's voice, "I'll have an apple pie, but the pie has to be heated, and I don't want the ice cream on top. It has to be on the side. The ice cream has to be strawberry not vanilla, if you don't have it, then I'll have the whipped cream instead, but only if it's real, not the ones from a can."
As Clarke considers this, Lexa says, triumphant, "High maintenance."
Clarke says, "Well, I just want it the way I want it. I just know what I want. And I go for it."
Lexa grins at her as she absently plays with her phone. Her phone buzzes and she opens the message, reads it and shows it to Clarke. Clarke glances at it and sees that it's Costia, messaging her with some emoticons and a message with a lot of question marks and exclamation points. Clarke finds she's a bit annoyed at the interruption.
"I don't know, Lexa, I could never be with a person who overuses emoticons and doesn't know how to use question marks and exclamation points."
"You are a snob and a half," Lexa says as she replies to the message.
"You still text each other."
"Every day, if we can."
"You were just upset earlier that she was kissing some other guy," Clarke points out.
"And now she has seen the error of her ways," Lexa says. "It's only a matter of time before she comes crawling back to me and begs me to get back with her."
The waitress comes and serves Clarke's hot chocolate and pie and Lexa's black coffee and tofu.
"Why'd she break up with you anyway?" Clarke asks, taking a bite of her apple pie and savoring it with her ice cream.
"She says I'm too difficult."
"You're challenging, not difficult."
"She says I'm too structured, I'm completely closed off."
Clarke look at her sympathetically. "But in a good way, right?"
Lexa takes a sip of her coffee then she looks away, a far off look on her face.
"Think you'll be okay with her?"
Lexa shakes her head. "I don't know. I screwed up. I realized so many things when we broke up. Like I should've been a better girlfriend. I should have written her notes. I should have taken her out on more dates. I should have taken her to the airport and picked her up from the airport and did all these silly things couples do."
"Like date night."
As Lexa takes another sip of her coffee, she asks, carefully, "So, how come you never dated anyone?"
Clarke shrugs. "I don't know. Too complicated I guess? Investing in emotions and in a person just seems like too much work, I think. And you're never really sure that they'll love you back. Or that the relationship will last."
"Isn't that half the fun of it all?"
Clarke shakes her head. "Not for me, no. Plus, I have my future to think of. Love, relationships, people, they'll just get in the way."
"You're going out with me now."
"This is different."
"'Cause it's not real," Clarke says. "Can't invest in something that isn't real."
Lexa doesn't say anything at first, but then she says, "It's amazing. You look like a normal person, but actually you are the angel of death."
"What are you talking about?"
Lexa shakes her head. "Never mind. I'm kind of tired. Do you want to go home? I'll take you home."
She doesn't wait for Clarke to reply as she says to waitress, "Check please." Lexa betrays no emotion, but her eyes look as if a storm is brewing.
As they head towards Lexa's car, Lexa doesn't say anything and Clarke wonders what she has said to make Lexa pissed off.
When they get to Clarke's house, they both see Finn standing by the sidewalk, outside Clarke's house. Lexa still doesn't say anything as Clarke turns to her and says, "I had a great time."
Lexa nods, swallows and says, "Sure."
"See you Monday?"
Lexa only nods, doesn't look at her.
She's still wondering what she did wrong as Lexa drives away, but then Finn comes up to her and asks, "Can we talk now?" and Clarke takes a deep breath.
Clarke regards Finn with a mix of emotions. A part of her feels elated - Finn looking at her as if he's just discovered her, as if she's the present he'd wished he had gotten for Christmas, as if she is a present he can't wait to open. But another part of her feels conflicted. Confused.
When she still doesn't say anything, Finn says, "You can't avoid me forever."
"I was hoping I could."
"Please, Clarke, I just want to talk."
"About what Finn?"
"Would you get over yourself? I wrote you that a long time ago,"Clarke says. "I was young and it was ridiculous and now I know it wasn't real. It was just some stupid crush I had on you..."
"It feels real to me..."
Clarke looks at him. "I'm sorry, Finn...You know I can't...we can't..."
"Don't do this..."
"What do you want me to say, Finn? I love you? I'd die for you, what?" Clarke lashes out, suddenly irritated.
Finn, taken aback, steps back. "No, I just..."
"You know there never was going to be anything between us...I can't hurt Raven like that...I care for her too much to do that. If you care for her, you'd just let it go, too."
"You know, I can't."
"Try." Clarke turns towards the house. "I've gotta go."
Finn grabs her arm and says, "Clarke...don't leave like this...I can't lose you, too..."
Clarke stops, looks at him with sadness in her eyes. "That's the problem with you,Finn. You want everything too much. You can't have us both and expect to keep us..." She shakes Finn's arm away.
Finn looks at her, desperate, anxious, confused. As Clarke walks away, he says, "What was I going to do? You didn't want me then...you don't want me now..."
"And I thought I was over you, but then you write that letter...and what was I supposed to think?"
Clarke swallows. "You chose my sister."She turns around. "And maybe her feelings don't matter to you now but they do to me. I wrote you that letter right after what happened between us... I felt those things for you then...but I don't now...especially when you started dating my sister..."She fixes Finn with her gaze. "Oh, and by the way, since we're being honest and open, I think it was very low of you to get back at me by dating my sister..."
"We weren't even dating...! Please don't tell your sister..."
Clarke shakes her head. "I won't. I love her more than anything. I'm sorry, Finn."
"It's Lexa, isn't it?"
"You know she's just using you to get back at her ex,"Finn spits it out, spiteful and bitter. "She doesn't care about you. She doesn't care about anyone."
Clarke sniffs. "And you do, Finn? You broke my heart once, Finn, when you chose to hurt me by going after my sister. You deliberately did that just to hurt me. You'll never be able to hurt me again..."
"I'm sorry, okay? I was a young, selfish asshole. I didn't know what I was doing. And yeah, maybe it was petty and stupid but...I wish you'd give me a chance..."
"You knew exactly what you were doing and you know it, Finn, "Clarke says softly. "I have to go. Goodbye, Finn."
Clarke doesn't look back at Finn as she slowly makes her way to the house.
She knows what Finn is talking about. She opens the door, enters, closes it and leans back on the door, eyes closed, remembering.
It started with the spin the bottle. Or maybe it started way earlier than that. She had been in ninth grade, awkward and pimply and gangly, hair long and limp, slouching and dragging herself to class in ripped jeans and flannel. That was the year her father had fallen ill, in and out of the hospital, doctors never quite knowing what to do as they let him go through cat scans and body scans and x-rays and blood tests, her mother spending most of her time either at work or with their father. Raven had taken to taking care of Clarke and Madi,Raven who was only a year older than Clarke but already feeling older than she already was. But Raven loved the Griffins, loved them as if they were her own blood - taking her in when nobody else would - drug addicted father in jail, mother deported to Cuba. Abby and her husband had taken her in, adopted her, clothed her and fed her and put her to school and loved her, loved her like she was one of their own. Clarke had, at first didn't like Raven. Jealous of the attention showered on her, Clarke felt like her parents' attentions were shifting to Raven, instead of her. Ninth grade was not the only time her father started getting sick, but Finn had moved in the neighborhood, too. She hadn't even noticed Finn, it was Raven who mentioned him, all excited for the floppy haired, muscular boy with the lop-sided green. She remembered Finn calling Clarke princess that first time they met, his mother asking him to bring baked macaroni to them as a way of introducing themselves as their new neighbors. Raven had looked at him with adoring eyes, on the verge of falling in love.
She'd remembered that one particular night just before dinner, when her mother had announced that they'd invited Finn to dinner. Except she said "Phil" instead of "Finn" and her father had said, "Finn" in exasperation. Her mother's trouble with names was a standard joke between them, like an old song, and her father had asked in refrain, "What's the plumber's name, Abby?"
"Bert McDonalds?" she had said, smiling, affection for her husband pouring out of her.
Her father had rolled his eyes. "Ernie McCleod,"he said shaking his head. He had laughed then. And her mother had laughed along with her. Madi had rolled her eyes, fork in mashed potatoes, muttering about them needing to get new jokes. Raven had only looked at them with a dreamy look in her eyes, excited to see Finn. It was a silly memory, but one she treasured. Her father would get even sicker that year, would visit the emergency room more times than she can count and by the February of her ninth grade, he didn't leave the hospital at all.
That was the same night when, in the middle of dinner, he'd suddenly complained about a headache, stood up and collapsed on the floor. She'd stood frozen on the spot as her mother and Raven rushed to help him, Abby shouting at Clarke to call 911. She'd stared at his unconscious form on the floor, her father, still so young and handsome, only a hint of gray in his hair. In the end it was Madi who called 911, Abby and Raven going with the ambulance, Abby asking Clarke to look after Madi.
They'd been silent all throughout dinner. In fact, neither one felt like eating anymore. So they both clear the dishes, try to watch some television, but soon Madi says she's tired and goes up to her room, clutching her phone to her chest in case their parents call and Clarke following close behind.
Abby had called later that evening - her father had woken up, joking that it was a bad burrito. The doctors had told them he was okay now but that he needed to stay the whole night for observation. Raven was coming home to keep them company.
Clarke had snuck out then, unable to stay put at home. She'd texted Octavia and Octavia had told her of the other ninth graders secretly hanging out at some warehouse, drinking.
She'd met her there. That's where Lexa was. She was with Jasper, Monty, Murphy and the others. She guesses now Lexa had tried to escape from Gustus and the others. They were already tipsy from the winecoolers they were drinking. They'd gotten Octavia's older brother Bellamy to get some for them and were in the middle of playing a very enthusiastic game of spin the bottle. She remembers taking a seat across Lexa, cross-legged and nervous. Lexa had looked at her, expressionless, eyes alert and curious. She doesn't know when, at some point, it was Lexa's turn and the bottle had pointed at her. The others had hooted and holleref and congratulated Lexa, someone shouted it doesn't count - she doesn't remember if Costia was there - Lexa asking, "Why not?" They'd spun the bottles a few more times and she remembers ending up in a closet with Lexa.
"How do you want to do this?" Lexa had asked her then with a grin.
"I'd prefer it if we didn't do anything at all,"Clarke had said, arms wrapped around herself.
Lexa had nodded. "Okay."
Clarke had been quiet then, not saying anything.
"Are you okay?"Lexa had asked.
Lexa had fished a handkerchief, clean, pressed and with her initials on it, and thrust it towards Clarke. Clarke hadn't realized she was crying, tears silently running down her face.
"My father's in the hospital,"Clarke had blurted out.
Lexa had been silent for awhile. She had liked that about Lexa. That she didn't offer up some bullshit words of comfort like everyone else did after. "I'm sorry,"Lexa had said softly.
Clarke had nodded. "One minute we were having dinner and the next minute he had collapsed on the floor and we had to call 911 and I couldn't even help I was so stupid and I'm afraid..."
Lexa looks at her carefully.
"I'm afraid of losing him. I don't know what I'm going to do without him."
"You are close to your father."
Lexa stands there awkwardly, not knowing what else to say.
"I'm sorry. I just met you and you're a complete stranger and I shouldn't have dumped this on you," Clarke apologizes.
Lexa shakes her head. "Don't be. I'm honored you told me."
Clarke sniffles then and Lexa tentatively touches her arm. Clarke doesn't know at what point she clutches her arm, too but then she finds herself holding on to Lexa, as if for dear life. Lexa had held her, unsurprised, unquestioning, hand gently rubbing Clarke's back, telling her softly, "It's going to be okay."
Clarke tries to nod, lump in her throat making her unable to speak. She pulls back, tears in her eyes, and Lexa has this tender look in her eyes that makes Clarke even sadder. She doesn't know what possesses her to do what she does next but she leans over and surprises Lexa by kissing her. Lexa is surprised first, but she returns the kiss, her kiss careful, gentle, comforting.
As the others knock on the door, Clarke pulls back and says, "Thank you."
Lexa smiles and says, "You're welcome."
Lexa would see her a few times during that school year, and tries to talk to her but Clarke ignores her and turns her attention to Finn instead, who seems to have taken an interest in her.When Lexa realizes Clarke wasn't interested in friendship, she stops trying to talk to her. A few weeks later, she hears Lexa has turned her attention to Costia.
She doesn't know why she'd avoided Lexa then. Part of her knows it's because of what started happening to her father. A part of her knows it's also because she felt she wasn't ready to deal with what kissing Lexa meant. She wasn't ready to deal with its implications. If truth be told, she had panicked, like she'd panicked with her father and she didn't know what to do. Lexa didn't seem to have any problem with it. And aside from snickers and gossip, they eventually took it in stride. It helped that Lexa was rich and popular and had a large bodyguard who could beat up the whole school singlehandedly if he wanted to.
She receives a simple note from Lexa after her father had died. She hadn't replied to that either, consumed with grief and loss for her father. Losing her father had left a hole in her being that she knew no one could ever fill. Or replace. She knew she should have replied. Lexa, popular, beautiful Lexa, had taken the time to write a note and have it delivered to her. She had thought it was sweet and thoughtful. She didn't know why she didn't reply then. She still doesn't know now. Or maybe she does and had long ago denied why.
That was why she had written the letter to Lexa, to explain her feelings towards her. It had gone unsent, forgotten, at the bottom of her box, stashed away in her cabinet, for no one but herself to see.
When she had secretly started hanging out with Finn, Finn had been delighted. But something had been off with Finn. It felt different. Disappointingly different. She couldn't explain why and it made her even more confused. They had made out once or twice and Finn had told her he loved her. Clarke had ended it then. After that, Finn started going out with her sister.
When she'd gone to summer camp and kissed Nylah, Clarke had realized then what she could no longer deny: She liked Lexa. But by then, she didn't know how to talk to Lexa without it being uncomfortable and awkward. And by then Lexa was already going out with Costia.
The weekend after the beach party, Lexa doesn't pick her up that Monday. Or the day after that. Or the day after that.
For a week she doesn't pick Clarke and Madi up, sending her driver Gustus instead, who explained stiffly that Lexa had some business to attend to and he would be taking them to school instead. She doesn't see her in school either. Madi, oblivious, had happily went along.
On Friday, after Gustus had dropped them off at school, Madi looks at Clarke then and says, "Did you have a fight or something?"
Clarke shakes her head. "No."
"I kinda miss her,"Madi says now. "I like how cool she is. How calm and collected. And she chooses her words carefully. And uses words like 'extraordinary' and 'exquisite' like she's applying as a dictionary. Or a robot AI. And she's smart and talented and she talks to me like I'm a grown up. Not like Finn, who kind of looks at me like I'm the girl from the Exorcist. Also she's hot. And she gives me books."
"Since when do you guys talk to each other?"
"Since she called you 'extraordinary', 'exquisite' and 'special' in the same sentence and I had to look the words up in the dictionary."
Clarke doesn't say anything.
"You should talk to her,"Madi suggests. "She's special to you, too, isn't she?"
Clarke looks at her and nods. "She's extraordinary."
"You look miserable without her,"Madi says now. "And I bet she's miserable, too."
When Clarke doesn't say anything, Madi says,"I think she loves you." She launches into a speech about the times when she thinks Lexa's actions could be interpreted as love. "She drives you to school. She drives you home. She has lunch with you. She brings you lunch. She carries your books sometimes. She gives you notes...I mean, Clarke, she always makes sure you're all buckled up, like dad used to do with mom. She always makes sure you're safe. If that isn't true love, I don't know what is." Then she lists all Clarke's positive traits, all the things she thinks would make Lexa love her.
"It doesn't work like that."
"I think she cares for you..." Madi insists. "I mean, how could she not?"
And suddenly Clarke feels tired. Really tired. Madi looks at her.
"You're different with her, Clarke,"Madi says. "You seem happier. Happiest. I've never seen you this happy since dad died."
Clarke looks right at her, lump forming in her throat. "I don't think she loves me. I'm just too screwed up right now, too imperfect for anything..."
"Sometimes you're loved because of your weaknesses,"Madi points out softly, eyes earnest and intense. "What you can't do is sometimes more compelling than what you can."
Clarke swallows. "Who told you that?"she asks softly.
Madi looks at her carefully. "Have you ever told her how you feel?"
Clarke nods, as if Madi may have a point but then she says, "I don't think I can. I don't know if I can." She looks off in the horizon. "I think it's too late now anyway."
Clarke receives a call from Raven before class starts.
"Hey,"Raven says in a subdued tone.
"Hey,"Clarke says cheerfully. "You just missed Madi and I'm late for class. What's up?"
Raven hesitates at first but then she says,"Have you called Abby?"
Clarke shakes her head. "No. Mom pulled an all-nighter, she was gone when we woke up. Haven't seen her since. But it's family night tonight so..."
"Clarke,"Raven interrupts. "It's Dad's..."
Raven doesn't have to finish it. Clarke knows. She stops. Swallows. Suddenly feels faint. Nauseated. She had forgotten about that. She realizes then where her mother is. She had probably visited Clarke's father's grave. She wouldn't be home until later. She's a bit worried. When they'd lost her father, Abby had fallen apart and it had fallen on Raven to take care of their mom, Clarke and Madi. Her mom had been clean for awhile now. She had gone to the meetings, talked to a therapist, is, for all intents and purposes clean, but she knows that every once in a while, once a year, in fact, her resolve to stay sober is challenged.
"Should I...?" Clarke puts the question, she doesn't need to complete it, Raven understands.
"No,"Raven quickly answers. "We have to trust Mom to be able to deal with it."
"You go to class, Clarke, I'll go visit the chapel later, light a candle for dad,"Raven says, because she might not be religious but she can do this for someone she's lost.
Clarke wishes she had somewhere to go to like Raven, but she's lost faith in anything years ago, when she lost her father and she doesn't know if she'll ever find it ever again.
Madi texts her then to tell her she remembers it's their late father's birthday today. It also happens to be the day of Abby and her father's wedding anniversary and the anniversary of the day they met.
Clarke walks around in a haze, distracted and worried for her mom. Texts and calls have gone unanaswered, ignored, making her even more worried. Calls to the hospital at this time of the day won't get through.
Clarke even forgets about Lexa but then she receives a text from her. "Hey, how are you?"
In that instant when Clarke receives the message Clarke realizes she misses her, wants to message her, to apologize, but how does one apologize when one does not know what one is apologizing for?
Clarke briefly debates how to respond before she finally decides on a simple, neutral message: "Hey. How are you? Haven't heard from you in awhile. Everything okay? I kinda miss your lessons...
She doesn't think Lexa will reply but then minutes later she does: "Hey.I am fine, thank you. I am sorry. I have been busy, but I will see you soon."
Clarke's heart leaps at the message. She hadn't known how a simple message could make her heart pound like Lexa's message has. The message sounds formal, distant, unlike the casual way Lexa sometimes talks to her.
She hesitates, takes a deep breath replies. "Okay. I hope we can talk soon." She stops, bites her lower lip wants to say, I don't want to just be your fake girlfriend but decides instead on "I don't want us to just be like this: Suddenly not talking or whatever..."
A few minutes later, Lexa replies with a cryptic, "To be just..."
Perplexed, Clarke asks, "What does justice have to do with it?"
This time, Lexa's response is swift. "If you're going to be my girlfriend you can't go around splitting infinitives. That's a mortal sin. What will people say?"
Clarke replies with a playful, "That I'm your hot infinitive splitting girlfriend?"
Lexa says, "Don't get too cocky. I'm supposed to be the hot one in the relationship."
"Whatever, babe,"Clarke replies, the exchange easing some of her anxiety and sadness. "I'll talk to you soon."
She doesn't expect Lexa to pick her up that afternoon, she and Madi rushing to get to the school bus so they can catch the next bus to the cemetery, Madi complaining for the nth time that she should have brought the car instead.
But as they stand by the curb, a black car pulls up and when the window rolls down, she sees Lexa in the driver's seat, wintergreen eyes gazing at her, soft half-smile on her face.
"Hey," Madi says as Lexa motions for them to get in.
Clarke doesn't say anything. She takes a step forward and opens the passenger door. She has never been more relieved to see Lexa. Lexa doesn't say anything, just smiles at her, reaches out a hand and squeezes her hand.
Clarke smiles. She almost leans over to kiss Lexa but stops herself, even as Lexa's hand stays on her thigh, alternating between shifting gears, taking the wheel and resting her hand on Clarke's leg.
"Where to?"Lexa asks as they drive away from school.
There is silence at first before Clarke clears her throat and says, "Actually, do you mind if we make a pit-stop first?"
Lexa shakes her head and listens as Clarke gives her instructions.
They stay at the cemetery for what seems like ages, Lexa staying a respectful distance as Clarke and Madi pay their respects to their father, laying flowers on his grave and standing their in silence. Madi talks to their father, telling him what she's been doing in school and when she mentions Clarke and Lexa, Clarke gives her a sad smile.
When Clarke notices that the sun is setting, she gently leans over Madi and whispers, "I think we've gotta go now, kiddo."
Madi doesn't speak at first. She shakes her head then says,"I miss dad."
"I miss him, too,"Clarke replies. "But you know he'll aways be with us. He lives on in you."
Madi wipes a tear from her face. "Yeah, but I still miss him. It was different when he was around."
Clarke rests a hand on her shoulder, then holds her and hugs her. "I know,kiddo, I know. But he'd want us to go on living...and be happy..."
"Are you happy,Clarke?" Madi suddenly asks.
Clarke suddenly stops, can't answer the question. Finally she settles for saying, "I don't know, Madi. That's a hard question to answer."
"Dad told me once, just before he died, to look out for you and mom,"Madi says. "He says me and Raven - we're survivors and we can survive anything. He made me promise to take care of you and mom because he knows you'll fall apart without him...mom really had a hard time when we lost him. But you...you've never allowed yourself to be happy ever since dad died. Like you're scared to go through what mom went through when she lost dad. Like you wouldn't be able to take it..." She looks Clarke squarely. "Is that why you've never had a boyfriend? Or girlfriend? Afraid to get hurt?"She glances at Lexa patiently leaning on the side of her car, alternating between checking her phone and looking at them. "Is that why you're holding back with Lexa? Are you afraid she's going to hurt you?"
When Clarke doesn't answer, Madi says,"Because I think dad would want you to be happy. Dad would want you to live your best life. If he were alive now he'd say life isn't just about your books and your dreams and your career...that life shouldn't just be about surviving..."
Clarke smiles. "When did you get so creepily smart?"
"Right before I realized you've stupidly fallen in love with someone and refuse to acknowledge it..."
"She didn't pick you up or text you for a week and it's like someone shot your puppy,"Madi points out.
"Let's go,"Clarke says. "Our driver won't be so happy if we make her wait too long."
Madi grins. "I think she'll wait for as long as she has to. She's in love with you. Can't you see?"
"What are you talking about?"
"If you have to ask that, then there's no use explaining," Madi replies. "C'mon. It's getting dark."
There's a somber mood in the car as Lexa drives them home. On their way home, they stop by a Burger King, where Madi blissfully and discreetly eats her burger and fries in one corner to allow the two to talk.
"So, where you've been all week?" Clarke asks by way of starting the conversation.
Lexa shrugs."Board meetings at Pramheda. I'm required to attend," she explains. "It's part of my training."
There is silence between them. "Must be awesome to have everyone at your beck and call all the time," Clarke comments after.
Lexa's response is swift. "Not really. It gets boring. I get everything I want when I want. There's no challenge."
"Must be hard able to get whatever you want," Clarke says sarcastically. "I know, I know, sarcasm is for the faint of heart or whatever."
Lexa smiles. "It's...boring and lonely,mostly,"Lexa replies.
"I don't get why you would be bored and lonely," Clarke says. "Most kids would kill to be where you are now."
"Money isn't everything, Clarke," Lexa simply says. "I think life should be more than just about that. Don't you think so?"
"Like family.Friendship. Love."
"Oh, I don't know about the last one,"Clarke says. "I think love is overrated."
"Spoken like a true cynic."
"Come on, love is a myth. Love is just an idea perpetrated by capitalists to fuel the economy."
"How do you figure?"
"Valentine's, engagements, weddings, anniversaries? It's all a sham! Not to mention all these novels and films and television shows that sell the idea of fairy tale endings and handsome prince charmings and beautiful princesses. They give us unrealistic expectations - makes us believe in a fairy tale happy ending when in truth there isn't any. But then again how else will our capitalist society profit but by pushing myths that give people even a hope for a happy future?"
Lexa doesn't reply at first but when she does she replies with, "See? Angel of Death."
"Why do you keep calling me that?"
"You sound like my adviser, Titus,"Lexa continues, ignoring Clarke's question. " 'Love is weakness,Lexa. Success means concentration, focus, determination.'"
"Sounds like my kind of guy."
Lexa replies with, "You're way too young to be this cynical, Clarke."
"What, are you offering to change my mind about love, Lexa?" Clarke asks lightly. "Are you going to 'sweep me off my feet'?"
"Would you have let me if I wanted to?" Lexa asks. "Because I highly doubt you would." After a beat, she says, "Besides, don't you already have Finn for that? Is he another of your fake relationships?"
Clarke rolls her eyes. "First you disappear for a whole week and then you just magically appear and accuse me of being with Finn...what's going on with you?"
Lexa shakes her head. "Nothing."
"Are you jealous?"
"We had a deal, Clarke," Lexa says, ignoring the question. "The deal was we pretend to date so that..."
"Costia and you can get back together, I know, I know," Clarke says impatiently. "Well, maybe I don't want that anymore."
"What, have you fallen in love with Finn or something? Are you calling this off?"
Clarke sighs. There are a million and one things she wants to say, like how much she thinks she cares for Lexa now. Like how much she looks forward to her driving Clarke to school and picking her up from school. Like how much she looks forwards to their conversations. Or just her texts. But she looks at her, at the storm behind her green eyes, and she stops, afraid of what Lexa might say. Clearly she's still in love with Costia. So she says, "No. We had a deal, so. And I'm too tired for this, Lexa. Just...take us home. Please."
Lexa takes a deep breath. "Fine."
They do not speak for the rest of the ride home to Clarke's house.
Madi has made a beeline to the house, oblivious to the tension between the two young women, or if she's aware of the tension, actively ignoring it.
As the autumn twilight gives way to night and as the cool breeze of night sets in, they see young boys and girls making their way home from neighboring families, done with games and homework and ready for dinner.
Clarke doesn't get out of the car, and Lexa has cut the engine, either waiting for something to happen or for either one to say something first. Her iphone alerts her to a message but Lexa ignores it, gripping the wheel with one hand, eyebrows knitted, face set in a grim one. It's unusual for Clarke to see Lexa lose her cool. She's always calm and collected. She is trying to control herself. She can see that. She thinks maybe she'll lose it now.
"I'm sorry,"Lexa finally blurts out.
"For not calling you or texting you or picking you up for school."
Clarke is already shaking her head before Lexa is done speaking. "You don't need to apologize."
"But I do. We had a deal..."
"Yes, we do, but that doesn't necessarily mean it means you'd be at my beck and call,"Clarke points out.
Lexa smiles. "I was injured. At practice. The doctor told me I had to get some rest."
"My back and my left wrist,"Lexa explains.
"Let me see,"Clarke says.
"It's fine now,"Lexa protests even as Clarke gently reaches for Lexa's wrist.
She examines Lexa's wrist, thumb touching bone, touch gentle and soothing.
"It's not my first injury,"Lexa says, clearing her throat, gently pulling her wrist away. "It's not going to be my last."
There is unmistakable pride in her voice when she says this and Clarke shakes her head.
"What?" Lexa asks.
"I don't get why you wear your injuries like a badge of courage fora socially sanctioned, state approved sport that's little more than an excuse to hit other people but with rules and a stick and a ball," Clarke asks.
"Well, sometimes, it's the only way to deal,"Lexa says after a pause. "You wouldn't understand unless you've stood in the middle of a field and.. "
Clarke grins. "Okay, okay. You are such a jock."
Lexa smiles back.
Clarke takes a deep breath then and says, "Look, I'm sorry...I...nothing's going on between Finn and me. He just came to talk, that's all."
Lexa doesn't respond at first, but when she does, she says,"I thought you wanted him..."
Clarke shakes her head. "No. God, no. If anything, I want him to stay away from me. For my sister."
Lexa is silent, considering this."If your sister wasn't his ex-girlfriend, would he have a chance?"Lexa asks then, voice careful and measured.
Clarke looks at her from the corner of her eye, afraid of what she might see there. But Lexa just sounds curious so she shrugs, runs a hand on her hair, and shakes her head. "I don't know. Yes? No? Maybe? Who knows?" When Lexa doesn't respond,"Truth is, I don't really know what would have happened if things were different then. But all I know is he was with my sister for a long time and even though they're no longer together, I can't really be with him, Lexa. I can't hurt my sister like that."
"If things were different..." Lexa begins.
Clarke reaches out a hand, puts it on top of Lexa's. Lexa's hands are warm, soft, comforting "I'm... I don't know what I want right now. A lot of things are going on and I honestly need to figure things out first. But..."
Lexa sighs. "Do you want to call this off, Clarke?" she asks gently. "I would be totally okay with it."
Clarke shakes her head. "I like hanging out with you. You're kind of awesome."Lexa grins at this.
Then Lexa's smile drops, as if a thought has just occured to her.
"I don't know if this is the right time,Clarke," she begins. "But..." She pauses, hesitates and looks Clarke straight in the eye. "I like you."
Clarke smiles, reaches out, puts a hand on Lexa's leg and looks into Lexa's eyes, and replies, "I like you, too."
Lexa shakes her head. "You don't understand. I like like you."
Clarke takes this in, not saying anything. Finally, she whispers, "What about Costia?"
Lexa considers this. Then she looks up at Clarke. "She can go..." and here she smiles, "Float herself."
Clarke laughs softly at that. "Are you sure?"
"Yes," Lexa says. "Besides, Costia's a water sign. I'm a fire sign. We're totally incompatible."
"You base your relationships on the zodiac signs?"
Lexa grins. "Look, I'm not...asking for a relationship or anything serious like that...I just...want this...what we have now...if you want it to be more than that, that's fine. If you don't..." Her voice trails off. She sighs. "So, I'm totally okay with it if you want to call this off...I know we agreed that..."
Lexa sits there, wintergreen eyes gazing at her, soft half-smile on her face.
Clarke doesn't say anything. She leans forward and kisses Lexa. If Lexa is surprised, she doesn't show it. She instead responds, one hand on Clarke's neck, thumb making a soft spiral on her cheek, kissing Clarke so gently, slowly it's like her lips are melting on her skin. Clarke feels like she can't breathe, feeling a surge of affection for Lexa she never knew she felt. They kiss for a long time, Lexa's kiss tender and soft.
When Clarke pulls back, Lexa whispers, "I thought we agreed there'd be no kissing...?"
Clarke rests her forehead on Lexa's and smiles. She doesn't answer Lexa, only replies with another kiss.
"Not that I'm complaining..." Lexa murmurs, voice raspy and husky, when Clarke pulls back.
"Lexa...I'm not sure about...having a serious relationship," she begins, "But I don't want things to change or to go back to whatever. It's nice having you around. Can we just...take it slow and see where it goes?"
Lexa thinks this over before she slowly nods.
Clarke smiles, her hand a squeeze. "Thank you."
"So...we are not fake dating..." Lexa asks.
Clarke nods. She kisses Lexa again, this time longer, the kiss deeper and more heated. Lexa's fingertips swirl as light as smoke on Clarke's skin. She slides her fingertips on Clarke's arm and Clarke feels desire and yearning pool inside her. Lexa pulls back first, eyes hooded, mirroring Clarke's desire.
"I'm sorry,"Lexa says. "If we don't stop I might just..."
Clarke kisses her again and Lexa laughs into the kiss.
"Don't be a tease,Clarke,"Lexa murmurs.
Clarke just kisses her again. The car is silent as they kiss each other but then they hear a car, lights winking past and a car horn. Both stop and look and it is Clarke's mother, looking mildly exasperated as she drives the car into the driveway.
"Do you want to stay for dinner?"Clarke suddenly asks. "My mom's making pasta or ordering pizza...it's movie night and we'll probably rent some crappy b-movie horror thing. You want to come hang out with your kind-of-not-really-fake-anymore-kind-of-girlfriend?"
"That depends. Will your mom kill me?"
Clarke shakes her head. "Don't be silly. Of course, not."
Lexa gives her a small, lop-sided smile. "Then, only if you say yes."
"Dinner at the Hamptons,"Lexa says. "You could be my date. If you want to."
Clarke smiles.She leans over to kiss Lexa one more time."Okay. I..." Then she stops as Lexa waits for her to continue. She almost says "I love you" but then she corrects herself and says, "I would like that."
Lexa nods as she opens her car door. Clarke follows suit.
She just realizes then that she not only cares for Lexa. She loves her.
She thinks maybe she is screwed.
Clarke follows her mom to the kitchen, leaving Lexa in the living room, discussing what to watch with Madi. They are discussing whether to watch the original "Dawn of the Dead" or the remake. Lexa had just nodded and squeezed her hand in encouragement. Madi had taken one look at Clarke and Lexa and grinned in delight and given both a thumb's up sign. Clarke had raised an eyebrow at that and said, "Clearly you have the Madi Griffin stamp of approval."
Lexa gives Clarke a wonderful, glowing smile that makes Clarke lean over and kiss her again, making Madi make a face and say, "Eeww...gross."
When Clarke steps into the kitchen, Abby is by the kitchen sink, busy sorting out the groceries she has bought. Without saying anything, Clarke steps over and hugs her, arms wrapping around her as she holds her from behind. Abby is surprised at first, but she reaches up and holds Clarke's arm.
Clarke only smells salt and sweat and that familiar, antiseptic hospital smell that Abby brings from work. There is no smell of alcohol. She senses a momentary sadness wash over Abby and Clarke understands that the loss of their father still hurts Abby, that it has left a hole in her heart that can never be filled. She understands now that she's denied herself happiness because she feels guilt at knowing she can still find happiness and Abby may well not.
When Clarke holds Abby and Abby holds her back, she realizes then her mother is going to be okay. They stand there in silence, in shared camaraderie, neither one speaking. But then Madi comes in and breaks the spell.
They watch the original "Dawn of the Dead" over steaming boxes of cheese and pepperoni pizza, take out Chinese and Thai food, soda and chips, Clarke settles in beside Lexa, folding her legs under her while their mother stretches out on the other couch, promptly falling asleep as the opening credits roll, Madi on the floor, phone in front of her, glancing up at the screen once in awhile. Clarke rests her head on Lexa's thighs to get comfortable. Lexa puts a hand on Clarke's stomach. Clarke reaches for Lexa's hand, fiddling with it and eventually twining her hand with hers. She doesn't let go until the movie finishes. Her mother wakes up when the credits roll. When both she and Clarke glance at the clock and sees that it is late, Abby surprises both of them by asking whether Lexa would like to stay.
"Don't get too excited," Abby quickly adds, groggily. "Lexa stays with Madi. Lexa can take the top bunk bed."
Clarke tries to hide her disappointment but Madi just grins and Lexa gives Madi a small lop-sided, mischievous grin.
In the middle of the night, Lexa stretched out and wide awake on the top bunk, staring at the ceiling, Madi suddenly says, "You can go to Clarke you know. Mom's asleep now."
When Lexa doesn't say anything, Madi says, "It's really okay, Lexa. I don't mind and I'm not freaked or grossed out. And I won't tell."
After an awkward silence, Lexa sighs and says, "Thanks, Madi."
Lexa quietly gets off the bunk bed, tiptoes out the room, through the hallway and into Clarke's bedroom. Clarke is awake and grins when she sees her, pushing her comforter back and moving to make a space for Lexa. Lexa quietly closes the door and climbs into bed. Clarke is already kissing her even before she hits the bed. It takes a long while before they fall sleep.
Clarke and Lexa had talked that whole night. "It's my father's death anniversary today..."
Lexa holds her. After a time, she softly says, "Tell me about your father..."
Clarke nods. She starts telling Lexa about her father.
She remembers that day not too long ago when they lost her father. Her father on the hospital bed, thin and weak and haggard, drifting in and out of consciousness, sad eyes drawn so narrow from the chemotherapy and the pills and the endless pain.
Clarke had tried to joke with him that day but he had been serious. He had brought up that first time he and his wife bought Clarke that plastic toy scalpel and how Clarke had held on to it and they'd realized what she had wanted to be when she grew up.
He'd told her it would be harder now that she's older, that things wouldn't come as easily, that she'd have to work harder more than ever. He'd made her promise that she'd make sure Abby and Raven would be okay. But especially Madi. Madi was the baby. His death would be hardest in her - she who never knew her father, who never had a father until Jake Griffin came along. He made her promise to look after her, make sure she didn't do drugs,make sure she went to college, make sure she went to college. All of them, Raven, Clarke, Madi, had to go to college. There would be no two ways about it. He and Abby had saved money for that. He knew it would expensive but they could take out loans, get scholarships, work jobs, take out a second mortgage on the house, go to a community college, it didn't matter. Later she would found out Jake had stopped treatment because it wasn't helping and he didn't want the pain and suffering anymore and it was eating away at their savings. Jake Griffin had known his life was over but his daughters' had just barely begun and he wanted them to have a fighting chance to survive. His deepest regret, he'd told his wife later, was leaving her with three children to raise alone.
"Remember, life is more than just about surviving," Jake Griffin had told her. He'd then told his daughter he loved her.
He didn't say much after anymore, drifting in and out of sleep, the pain wracking his body. Finally, in the early morning silence, snow falling softly outside, he let go. Clarke had run out of the room then. Raven, Abby, Madi, had not tried to stop her. She had stood outside staring at the dark. It had been early morning. She had been shivering and cold. She had cried then. Cried for what she had lost. Cried for what she could never get back. Cried for what will never be.
Everyone, including Raven and Madi, knew Clarke was the favorite. She was the most special thing in his life. For the longest time, before either Raven or Madi had come into their lives, there had always been Jake and Clarke Griffin. At PTA meetings. At Christmastime. At flea markets. At school performances. No one was jealous of this bond they had. It was just something they had.
The death of their father had forced everyone, especially Clarke, to grow up. After her father's death, Clarke threw herself on her studies with renewed vigor, intense concentration, shutting out everyone and everything else. The goal now was only to study, to go to college, to devote herself to her studies and to her family. Clarke persevered and now she was a step away from fulfilling her dreams. One of the things she'd been known for was that she thought too much. She didn't just wing it, she agonized over it. But that had made her who she was, is and it had made all the difference.
She still thought about her father's death from time to time. She'd never met anyone as honest, clever and dependable as him.
"When my father died a few years ago..." Clarke finishes, "I thought I would never recover, but I did..."
"But I'm glad you're okay now," Lexa says. "I can't imagine how you felt at the time but it must have been hard."
"It's been ages since I've been able to talk about him," Clarke muses. "Thank you for listening."
They lie in silence, Lexa's arms around Clarke, her hand tracing lazy circles around Clarke's arm.
Clarke lifts her head up and says, "But enough about me...what about you?"
"What about me?"
"Tell me about yourself."
"There's nothing to tell really..."
"Richest kid in school just waiting to inherit her father's company has nothing to tell?"
Lexa smiles. "I'm not all that," she says. But she does tell Clarke that Pramheda Tech is in the middle of buying another tech company. It is all over the news, Anya and Indra, the former as acting CEO, the latter spokesperson and adviser, announcing the news online. Lexa had explained that she wouldn't take over her father's company until she finishes college and get her MBA - by which time, if and when her father deems her ready to be CEO, then she'd take over. Until then she'd be training under Anya and Indra. When Clarke had asked her why she wasn't in a boarding school like all the other Trust Fund kids, Lexa had explained that her father had wanted her to have as normal a childhood and teenage life as she can and that she needed to hang out with real people. Like most successful businessmen, her father was a self-made man and had an aversion to the "bourgeoisie" as he likes to call them. He was the founder and is still president, but he wanted her to take the lead.
"What's your father like?" Clarke asks.
Lexa thinks about this. "Normal, I guess. Nothing special about him. But he's brilliant." She says this with pride in her voice.
Clarke nods and smiles. "What's the trait you admire most in him?"
Lexa thinks about it for a moment. "Equanimity," she says carefully.
Clarke rolls her eyes. Trust Lexa to use a big word like that. "What expression did he use to say to you the most growing up?"
"That's easy," Lexa says. "Don't take the easy way out."
"What's your earliest memory of him?"
Lexa is silent for a second. Then she says, "This one time, when we were at the beach, I think it was in the Bahamas or the Mediterranean, I forget, but I remember us walking by the beach and then he lifts me up and puts me on his shoulders. That's my earliest memory of him: sitting on his shoulders."
"Are you close to your dad?"
"It's...not that kind of relationship," Lexa says. "I mean, I guess we are, but mostly our meals together consists of him quizzing me on the business and telling me about the kind of problems the company has and what we should do about it. It's like being in business school twenty-four seven. That's one of my other earliest memories of him - just him telling me about the business, bringing me to work, talking to me like he would to the other people."
"Do you like it? Do you want to be CEO?"
Lexa shrugs. "My feelings or wants are irrelevant. My father's been grooming me to be CEO. I can't remember a time when I hadn't thought about it or prepared for it..."
"But is it something that you want?"
"Who's to say what you want or don't want?" Lexa asks. "How about you? What do you want?"
Clarke grins at her. "I just want you," she whispers huskily.
Lexa slowly grins at her.
She leans over and kisses Clarke, all thoughts about their families and futures forgotten.
Everything would have been perfect except the next day, Clarke wakes up to texts from Finn, a video link from Octavia and Lexa nowhere to be found.
At first, Clarke wonders why Lexa has just left with no note or text when they'd talked the whole night last night. But then when she checks her texts, the video sent to her and Madi announces that Finn is at the door, Clarke realizes why. A slow sinking feeling begins to settle at the bottom of her stomach and a wave of anxiety begins to overcome her.
"Oh, and Raven's coming home for the weekend, thought you should know," Madi announces behind the door, voice muffled and apprehensive. "She's on her way now, even as we speak."
Clarke puts her hands on her face. This could not possibly get any worse.