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Counterprotest

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Almost two miles into her usual Saturday morning run, Lexa turns a corner and sees a crowd ahead on the tree-lined sidewalk in front of Arkadia High School.  In fact, the whole street is blocked off, yellow police tape and several police vehicles blocking the usually quiet road. Lexa slows her pace, mentally weighing alternate routes while music continues on her headphones, but then she sees signs bobbing above the crowd.  A tall bold-lettered one proclaims God’s hatred for a certain group she’s pretty sure never got mentioned in the Bible, and certainly not using those kinds of slurs. Another just says “REPENT” but the printed images surrounding the letters are more expressive, if nauseating.

Lexa sighs.  The Church of Eastpolis.  She’d read in the news about them coming to town. Arkadia High was putting on a production of The Laramie Project this week, and the church members were protesting it as sinful.  She’d already sent an anonymous but generous donation to the school’s theatre program and GSA group.

She realizes her feet are still pulling her forward, at a walking pace now, out of horrified curiosity and anger.  She’d never seen this particular group of bigots up close before. She pauses the music and slings her headphones around her neck, under her ponytail, and if anything the chants are even worse than the signs.

But rising over the protesters’ hateful words are even louder chants.  Separated from the dozen or so Church of Eastpolis members by a few feet and a staggered line of bored-looking cops is a much larger crowd of counterprotesters with their own signs.

“Hey, you wanna help me really piss off these bigoted shitheads?”

“What?” Lexa turns to look into glinting blue eyes.  The counterprotester nearest her has unruly blonde hair, is about Lexa’s height, and okay wow, she’s really beautiful even with anger clear on her face.  She’s holding a hand-drawn poster with a weeping Jesus and a quote stating “Guys, I Said I Hate FIGS”.

“I said, do you wanna really piss off these bigoted shitheads?”

Lexa snorts.  “How would you suggest doing that? They seem pretty pissed off already,” she says.

The pretty blonde takes a step forward, giving a slow, appreciative look up and down at Lexa, who feels suddenly very aware of the sweat cooling on her skin.  “We could make out.”

She steps even closer, then waits, and Lexa is unexpectedly and completely lost in that steady blue gaze, and in the sudden urge to touch the curve of her cheek, the beauty mark above her slightly smirking lips.  She nods absently, entranced, and then she’s leaning forward, eyes drifting shut.

Warm lips meet her own, as gentle fingertips cup her jaw. The first touch sends a tiny shiver through Lexa, and then the blonde changes her angle slightly, open mouth sliding across Lexa’s lips. It’s perfect. It’s almost too much. Lexa’s heart is racing like she’s just run ten miles instead of two, and her hand reaches to ground her on that beautifully-curved cheek.

Distantly Lexa registers noise in the background and movement past her right elbow. She jerks backward, just as the poster this woman still held in her left hand is ripped in half.  A balding, grey-faced man is screaming at them, though it’s hard to make out any intelligible words. As Lexa shifts slightly to push the woman and herself away from him, a gob of spit is hurled from the man’s mouth and hits the side of her face. Before Lexa can react to this, he swings the two-by-four handle of his own sign straight towards the blonde’s head.

It’s automatic, an instinct honed by years of training.  Lexa’s right hand grabs the wood in mid-swing, while her left fist arcs around and connects with his chin.  As he staggers backwards, she vaguely registers that her trainer Gustus would be disappointed; it wasn’t the cleanest hit. But someone is grabbing her arms now, two people actually, who both know how to immobilize.

“You’re under arrest!” 

***

It happens so fast.  Clarke is completely absorbed in the unexpected intensity of the kiss, her body thrumming, when the protester begins screaming and spitting at them. She doesn’t even have time to move before he swings his heavy sign towards her head.

But it doesn’t connect.  The brown-haired woman grabs it and punches him in one swift movement. The two police officers grabbing her by her tattooed arms quickly breaks Clarke from the spell, however.

“Hey, let her go!” She darts forward.  The woman is silent and motionless, her beautiful face gone impassive, while one of the cops reads her Miranda rights.

“Step back, ma’am,” the other cop warns Clarke, as he tightens a ziptie around the brunette’s wrists.

“What are you doing?! That was self-defense, he was attacking us!”

“That isn’t for us to decide.  She hit him, we’re just doing our job.”  They start to walk the woman towards one of the police cars.

Clarke’s blood is boiling as she follows them. “Oh, but that guy gets away free? He and his friends are threatening children.”

“Ma’am--”

“Where are you taking her? What precinct?”  

Ziptie cop opens the rear car door, sighing.  “Precinct 12, over on Water Street.” He moves to help the dark-haired woman get in, but she stands still for one moment, looks back at Clarke.  She’s amazingly calm, her bearing almost regal, despite the protester’s spit still shining disgustingly on her cheek.

“Call Anya, her number is 317-555-7892.  Please,” she adds.

“Ok wait, 317--” Clarke fumbles for her phone and starts typing the number.  The brunette repeats it as she stoops gracefully and sits down in the backseat without help.

Clarke watches the police car roll away, anger and guilt and fear all roiling in her stomach, before shaking herself into action.  She heads away from the protest, requests a rideshare from the corner, and then calls the number the mystery woman gave her.

Nobody picks up.

A voicemail begins with a woman’s voice, sounding slightly bored, “This is Anya’s phone.  Obviously I’m not able to talk. Text me, probably.”

Clarke ends the call, then redials.  Again to voicemail.

By the time she’s on the third ring, the car has arrived.  As she confirms the destination with the driver and buckles in, the same voice answers, this time live.  

“How did you get this number and why do you keep calling me?” Anya sounds decidedly unfriendly.

“A friend of yours gave it to me.  She just got arrested, she told me to call you.”

“Who?”

“Shit, um, I don’t know.  I didn’t catch her name. Brown hair, green eyes, tattoos on her arms?” Ridiculously good kisser , Clarke’s brain chimes in, which is true but really not appropriate at the moment.

“That’s Lexa.   Fuck.” Clarke is impressed by how much meaning and emotion the woman got out of that one short swear word.  It reminds her a little of her friend Raven.

“They’re taking her to Precinct 12, over on Water Street.  I’m heading there now.”

“I’ll be there soon,” is all Anya says before she hangs up.  Clarke is left alone with her thoughts and her racing pulse. Okay, so she just kissed a total stranger and nearly got clobbered by a homophobe.  This woman--this Lexa, and why does that name sound familiar?--just got arrested because of her, because of her stupid reckless stunt.

She didn’t mean for any of that to happen, she just wanted to fight back against those awful people with something that wasn’t hate.  And, okay, maybe she wanted to kiss a beautiful woman in tight running gear who had appeared as if by magic right next to her in the street.

She thumps her head back against the seat. Fuck.

Ten minutes later at the precinct, she’s trying to explain to the stern-looking uniformed woman behind a desk and a sheet of bulletproof glass that she doesn’t know Lexa’s last name or record number.  “She was just arrested twenty minutes ago, I just got here.”

“Are you a family member? Lawyer?”

“No, I--”

“How about you take a seat, ma’am.  I’ll see if I can track down some more information.”

Frustrated, Clarke goes to sit on one of the uncomfortable plastic chairs in the waiting area. She debates calling Anya again and scrolls through a backlog of unread texts from Raven.

Hey homo, sorry I can’t come to the protest with you

My leg is acting up :(

Anyway punch a Nazi for me

JUST KIDDING don’t do that

Your mom will kill you if you get arrested

She’s starting to text a response when a woman with tousled, dark-blonde hair and a motorcycle jacket on strides into the precinct and up to the desk.  “I’m here for Ms. Lexa Woods. I’ve been informed she was recently brought here. I’m her lawyer, Anya Greene.” She hands the police woman her driver’s license and a business card.

Clarke rushes over.  “You’re Anya? I’m Clarke, we were just on the phone.”  She holds out her hand to shake.

Anya just looks at her, and doesn’t shake it.  She has an angular face, with high cheekbones below dark eyes rimmed with eyeliner, and her expression is serious.  The police woman hands back her ID and types on her computer briefly before looking up.

“She’s being processed now, but they’ll bring her out to meet with you after that in an interview room.  I’ll buzz you through.”

“Thank you, officer.” Anya says.  She pauses, turns sharply to Clarke.  “You were there? Saw what happened before she got arrested?”

“Uh, yeah I--”

“She’s coming with me,” Anya tells the officer.  “I need to ascertain whether she’ll need to give a statement on record to your fellow officers.”  

The police woman seems intimidated by Anya’s brusque, professional confidence, and merely asks for Clarke’s ID.  Then Clarke is following Anya through a set of double doors and down a hallway. They’re directed to a windowless room with four chairs arranged around a small table, where both women sit.  Anya opens the leather portfolio she’s brought with her, with a notepad inside.

“So you’re Lexa’s lawyer? I thought you’d be her family member or something,” Clarke says, still reeling a little.

“I’m both.  Her lawyer and her cousin.”

Anya’s wearing an expensive watch and jacket, and her pants looks tailor-made, Clarke notices.  She doesn’t know a ton about clothes, but Raven loves watching Project Runway and she’s picked up on some of the details.

Something suddenly clicks in Clarke’s memory.  “Wait a minute, you said Lexa Woods?!”

Anya turns in her seat to look at Clarke. “You mean you didn’t know?”

As in the millionaire tech inventor and CEO of Trikru Corporation? That Lexa Woods?”

“Technically she’s a multi-millionaire, but yes. You really didn’t recognize her? She’s kinda famous,” Anya snarks.

Clarke’s mind is looping on holyshitholyshitwow. She might be hyperventilating a little.  “No, she was all in running gear and, and, tattoos...shit, I got Lexa Woods arrested!”

Anya narrows her eyes. “Okay Clarke, you need to explain to me exactly what happened.”