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All We Know of Heaven, All We Need of Hell

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“Love is how you stay alive, even after you are gone.”— Mitch Albom

Prologue

The attacks occurred on the most beautiful of spring afternoons in May.  The sky was a deep hue of blue, not a cloud to be seen, and the temperature was warm but not uncomfortable.  Thousands of innocent and unsuspecting citizens walked lazily about the streets; some enjoying a late lunch outdoors, others simply skipping out on work or school to start the weekend early.  Every one of them unaware that their worlds were about to be ripped apart and changed forever.  The attacks were carried out with brutal efficiency and maximum devastation, the devices crude but powerful.  None of the dozen or so alphabet agencies that claimed to combat terrorism had any foreknowledge of the attacks, left as surprised as the ordinary, uninformed citizen.  Thousands died within the first few moments of the bombs detonating; thousands more from the wounds that they had sustained from the shrapnel loaded copiously into the devices, perishing in the days and weeks that followed.  

Every person had been affected in some way by the attacks.  If they had not been directly within its blast radius themselves, they’d had a loved one who was either lost or injured as a result.  Multiple cities were attacked simultaneously, straining both the local and federal resources that were dispatched to help in the aftermath.  The death toll steadily rose for over a week, new bodies found within the rubble each day, thousands more still missing- likely to never be found.  Boston, New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, Seattle, and Philadelphia were all targeted, were all devastated.  The president at the time had immediately denounced the attacks, using all the appropriate buzzwords, calling them cowardly acts carried out by a nameless and faceless organization.  It was not long after that the world was given a name and face to focus their outcry on, appearing in the neat and sadistic form of Dante Wallace, head of the previously unheard of “Mt. Weather Coalition”.  The Coalition quickly took credit for the attacks and claimed America had given up its rights to freedom and life, that it no longer belonged to the people who lived there.  American’s were told to surrender, or die.

In typical fashion when challenged, American pride skyrocketed, rivaling the pride that had been found in the wake of the last terrorist attacks on 9/11.  American flags were visible in nearly every window, at every business, in every yard- the red, white, and blue a constant reminder of what the country had been built on.  Instead of cowering in fear, as the Coalition demanded, the American people rose.  The public reacted in much the same way, calling for swift and certain action to be taken, a need for vengeance and blood driving them.  “Blood must have blood” became a commonplace phrase chanted by nearly all Americans soon after.  Now that the Coalition had been given a face and a name, able-bodied citizens flocked to the armed forces in droves and enlisted, all ready and willing to fight for their beloved country and families.  The lines outside the recruiting centers wrapped around for blocks, some people waiting hours to sign up to fight.  Many lied about their ages and ailments to gain entry and find some sense of purpose through war.

And what a war it was.  Fought in the once beautiful city of Rio de Janeiro, the American’s took their anger straight to the foothills where the Mt. Weather Coalition was housed-Sugarloaf Mountain.  Reinforced in bunkers, the Coalition’s base of operations had quickly proven impossible to breach.  The American forces were helpless to do anything other than fight the soldiers who continued to attack from all sides, more familiar with the terrain than the foreign American soldiers.  Soon, having experienced attacks of their own, other countries joined America.  Yet, the Coalition grew as well, recruiting most South American countries, African, and Asian countries as well.  Before long, an all-out World War ensued, both losing soldiers left and right, neither gaining ground on the other, in a deadlock.  Soon, the number of flag-draped caskets outnumbered the men and women shipping out, the Americans suffering the highest number of casualties to date.  

And yet, the battle raged on…

Chapter Text

“It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, more vengeance, more desolation.  War is hell.” — William T. Sherman

Chapter One

A muffled popping sound cut through the darkness that consumed her mind and threatened to pull her back into its grasp.  She fought, trying to clear the black, trying to make sense of the world she couldn’t yet see or fully hear.  An insistent, constant, and low ringing underlaid the popping, vibrating loudly in her head.  She had the distinct sensation of being underwater, every sound diminished and muffled as it tried to make its way through to her muddled brain.  Her mind worked slowly, her brain languid in its efforts to translate messages into physical reactions.  Finally, after what felt like an eternity, she was able to blink her eyes, though the lids remained heavy and fought the very open-and-close movements.  Despite her eyes being open, she struggled to focus and make sense of what she was seeing.  The sky was above her, blue and cloudless.  Black smoke twisted and danced over her and dissolved into the sky in fine tendrils.  She blinked, each time finding it increasingly difficult to keep her eyes open and fight the black that circled the edges of her vision just waiting to swoop back in.  

The smoke burned in her lungs, clogging her airways and making it difficult to breathe.  Something pulled at the edges of her mind, an unclear memory, telling her that it was not just smoke that was making the intake of air difficult.  The acrid smell of burning flesh assailed her senses as she tried to keep her eyes open, tried to move in any other way, tried to focus on anything besides the horrible smells and sounds that surrounded her.  Each breath was filled with the stench of death as she choked on the small bits of oxygen she was able to draw in.  Her skin burned everywhere, but on her left side particularly.  She was too concerned with trying to breath to give that aspect much attention, however.  Struggling for breath, she decided to rest, just for a moment.  Her lids fluttered closed as her brain screamed at her to keep them open.  She was too tired to fight, too tired to care.  Maybe when she woke, she would move…

XXX

The popping was more distinct and rapid as she came around again, shaking the dark off more quickly than the last time.  The noises around her were still slightly muffled and the persistent ringing still present, but she had given up on trying to fix that particular problem as she focused on staying awake.  She didn’t know how long she had been unconscious, suspecting it was longer than the mere moment she had intended.  She screwed her eyes shut against the noises that now seemed closer, each one drilling into her head like a spike.  Despite her best efforts to block the sounds, they succeeded in harshly pushing her out of the dark and into full consciousness-though her eyes remained shut tight.  Some small part of her knew that the second she opened her eyes, the near dream state she was existing in now would vanish in favor of what she knew was a harsh reality.  She took in a shuddering breath, noticing for the first time, a stabbing pain in her left side.  Every intake of breath caused a new shockwave of pain to tear through her body, each wave worse than the last.  She could taste the distinct copper flavor of blood in her mouth, unsure of its source.  Every nerve was on fire, pain radiating from everywhere, more acute in some places than others she noted.  The pain, coupled with the noise, finally forced her eyes wide, bringing the view before her into sharp focus for the first time. 

She took in a shuddering, pain laced breath, this time taking note of the distinct wheezing underlying her shaky intake of air.  Trying to breathe as shallowly as possible, she turned her head slightly, attempting to ascertain exactly what the hell was going on.  Immediate blinding pain in her neck caused her to pause her movement and squeeze her eyes shut once more.  The darkness threatened to swallow her again, beckoning her to its depths with silent promises of a pain-free existence.  Forcing her eyes back open to stave off the black, she exhaled quickly before taking in another shallow, steadying breath, careful not to move her head again.  Focusing, she realized she was lying on her back, seemingly splayed out over the rubbled remains of what she could only assume used to be a building.  As her eyes scanned the scene before her, she could see the brightly colored facade of the once famous Brazilian favelas rising a few blocks from where she laid.  Smoke rose from a place not far beyond that, thick and ominous.  

As her gaze traveled down, she took in the debris around her.  From what she could tell, she was in the center of what seemed to be some type of crater in the middle of what used to be a street.  Concrete laid in large, broken pieces, scattered as far as she could see.  Metal and rebar were twisted and torn apart and stood out in stark contrast to the layers of broken concrete.  The burnt-out carcasses of what used to be vehicles littered the sidewalks and streets, the smell of burning rubber and plastic hanging heavy in the air.  Smoke billowed from random spots in the span of rubble, flames arbitrarily darting in and out of the ruins, licking at the metal and turning it molten in some places.  She looked, but without seeing, still unable to make sense of the world before her.  She had no idea how she had ended up in her current position.  She wasn’t even sure who she was.  All she knew was that the pain was increasing and it was becoming difficult to remain conscious once again. 

A large boom echoed around her, shaking the ground beneath her and sending waves of pain ripping through her.  An involuntary groan escaped her lips as she shuddered.  She knew she needed to move, that she was exposed in the open where she was.  She wasn’t dead yet, but she would be if she continued to do nothing.  She began tentatively trying to move each of her limbs, intent on testing each one at a time.  Once again, impulses and action refused to work in tandem, causing her to sigh in frustration when neither her arms nor legs seemed to work.  At the flash of pain from her ribs, she immediately regretted the action.  She had a moment of panic, fearing briefly that she might be paralyzed.  It passed in the next moment, however, when she realized she still had sensation in all of her fingers and toes.  She tried to slow her breathing, which had taken a noticeable uptick with the increased pain and momentary alarm at possibly being paralyzed.  Working patiently, she began by flexing each digit individually, relief sweeping across her in waves when each sluggishly responded to the commands her brain formed.

Before she could continue her movements, her gaze locked on something lying atop the rubble mere inches from her.  Still slightly hazy, it took a moment for the image to focus and register.  A headless doll, charred black by fire and melted laid on the ground just inches from her outstretched hand.  The bright blue plaid jumper it was dressed in stood out in stark contrast to the surrounding rubble, drawing her eyes to it.  She stared at it, confused as to how it had ended up there in the otherwise destroyed environment.  Tearing her eyes from it, she froze as her gaze fell on something far more horrifying, far more tragic than a simple doll amidst the rubble; an image that would surely stalk her nightmares and haunt her until the end of her days.

She knew immediately the hand was too small; too small to be lying so still, too small to be broken, too small to be so bloodied, too small to be alone.  A deep, emotional aching seated itself in her chest, overwhelming her and threatening to crush her.  The pain that blossomed from it was far greater than any physical pain she had endured thus far.  She fought to maintain control, to keep the sudden grief from ripping her apart from the inside out.  As she stared at the hand, the only visible portion of what she knew was a child, she found herself spurred to move despite the pain it sent through her own broken body.  Adrenaline coursed through her veins, and she clenched her jaw against the pain in her ribs and neck as they protested the sudden movement.  She managed to roll over on to her stomach, the movement barely closing the gap between her and the child.  The change in position afforded Lexa a view around the rubble, her eyes fixed on the now visible blood streaked blonde hair rippling in the breeze.  She fought the rolling waves of nausea that now accompanied the pain, pushing herself up onto her elbows and beginning the slow crawl to the little girl, closing the distance between them with each pain filled shuffle.  After what seemed like hours, Lexa was within reaching distance of the child as an echoing boom rang out over the rubble.  Everything beneath her shuddered and Lexa drew her own body up and over the girl’s body, covering it and protecting her from further assault.  Reaching down, the pulled the girl’s small and delicate hand into her own just praying that she hadn’t been too late.

She closed her eyes in relief at the feeling of the warm skin beneath her fingers and the harsh but labored breathing she could hear coming from the frail form beneath her.  The world rocked again, the rubble rippling and shaking beneath them as if trying to open and swallow them whole.  She clutched the girl to her chest, unwilling to allow any further harm to come to her.  The shock waves of what she distantly recognized as another explosion rolled through her, sending indescribable pain through her entire body once more.  Her vision swam, this time without clearing, and her breathing was too stilted to be effective, coming in only wheezing gasps now.  The stench of death and smoke filled those small breaths, choking her.  

The black rapidly closed in on the edges of her vision once more as it won the fight to consume her.  She knew it was critical to stay awake, critical to start moving to a place of safety.  She knew if they didn’t move, all of her efforts would be in vain and the little girl she was protecting would be killed for her lack of action.  She gathered the girl in her arms as best she could, finding that her left arm, much like the rest of her left side, refused to cooperate.  The rough staccato of gunfire seemed to increase as she began to slowly drag herself and the girl beneath her to the closest building she could see.  The pain was excruciating but the rush of adrenaline that had been dumped into her system at the discovery of the still-breathing child was helping to dull it.  She dragged herself a couple of inches before pulling the girl along with her, always careful to make sure her body shielded that of the innocent one beneath hers.

She heard the whistle of the incoming missile mere seconds before it struck the ground within yards of them.  She only had enough time to tuck her head down and steel herself against the impending blast before the earth moved violently against her.  Her mind was flooded with memories, playing out like a horror film across her now closed eyelids as the world exploded around her.  She was unconscious before her new injuries made themselves apparent.

XXX

Six hours prior…

The group kept a tight five-man formation as they moved cautiously but expeditiously through the eerily empty streets.  Around them, homes rose three or four stories to tower over them, most in a dilapidated state and appearing abandoned.  The violent war had driven many people from their homes, many having to hastily pack just a few precious items and leaving everything else behind in favor of safety.  Lincoln led the small contingent, taking point as they made their way to their next rendezvous point that they had somehow managed to stray two klicks south of.  Octavia hovered on the right flank, tense as her sharp eyes scanned for threats, while Zayn covered the left side.  Raven, their brilliant engineer and all around “make things go boom” girl brought up the rear along with Lexa. 

Though she couldn’t see them, Lexa knew hidden eyes were tracking their every move, curious as to what American soldiers were doing among their streets.  Though there was a war in the area, this particular neighborhood had remained wholly untouched by death and destruction.  They were on the outskirts of the favelas, not stupid enough to actually enter the colorful slums and knowing the onslaught that awaited them if they did.  The section of town they were in hadn’t been wealthy by any means, but they were still a step above the famous slums.  The homes were bigger down here, in slightly better condition, but the threat level was similar.

Lexa could feel the tension coming off her team in waves and fought to stay calm herself.  They were far outside their set parameters and the declared “safe zone”.  Lexa still didn’t know how they had gotten so far off course after their simple recon mission in the East.  The maps and intel they had been given to navigate their way back had proven to be useless, dropping them in the middle of an area Lexa knew was saturated with Coalition insurgents.  Though they were currently making quick progress back, each of them was distinctly aware that an attack was imminent and inevitable.  Capturing or killing a group of lost American soldiers was a prospect too good to pass up for the Coalition.  All Lexa’s team could do was bide their time and make it as close to base as possible before the fighting broke out.

A slight breeze traveled through the small and empty street, making the makeshift curtains in the windows billow out, seemingly seeking a piece of the group as well.  The few stubborn citizens who remained behind had retreated inside immediately upon seeing Lexa and her team making their way up the street, most of them knowing that a firefight was likely to occur as well.  It was unnaturally quiet along the street, one Lexa could tell used to be full of life and noise.  Cars had been left in abandoned in the middle the street as well as random items here and there.  If she was being honest, the neighborhood reminded her of the photographs of Chernobyl where people left with such haste, it felt as though they had disappeared into thin air.  Lexa suppressed a shiver at how unnerved she felt by it all.  The only audible sound cutting through the eery silence was that of a rusty gate creaking in the breeze somewhere.  They shuffled along just as silently, using only a few touches and hand signals to communicate.

She felt Octavia tense first, the warning signal before the young girl could even form words.  It was all Lexa needed to swing to the right and bring her M4 up on sights, seeking a target.

“Contact right!” Octavia yelled out as she began firing at a window in one of the homes rising above them on the right.

The rough staccato of automatic rifle fire cut through the air, deafening the group to anything else.  Lexa and her team quickly and fluidly moved to take positions behind cover, directing their fire towards the window Octavia had initially seen the threat.  Falling back on their training, Lexa turned, trusting Zayn to confront the threat ahead of them as she scanned behind them for an ambush.  

Keeping her back turned, she yelled over her shoulder at Octavia. “How many are there?!”

“I don’t know!  I only had time to see one but there are definitely more!  Southwest house two in from the corner, two floors up, middle window!  I count at least four different firing patterns!” Octavia yelled back over the gunfire.  

Lexa, Raven, and Zayn ducked down behind the car they were using for cover as the spray of enemy bullets skipped across the hood of the car and sent up sparks. 

“I need a better vantage point! I can’t see anything from here!” she yelled at Zayn.  

“Copy!  On your go!” he replied, still firing.

“Ray, get ready to throw some cover!” Lexa rolled her eyes as Raven’s own eyes widened with excitement.

“Direct! On your signal!” Raven quickly produced a couple of frag grenades, her practiced fingers quickly prepping the pins and settling on the rings, ready to pull at Lexa’s command.

“Lincoln! Get ready to move!  Nearest door, break it down!  Octavia, Raven, cover him!” Lexa shouted as she heard a slight lull in the gunfire, assuming the enemy was doing a magazine change.

“On your go!” she heard Lincoln yell back in acknowledgment as the gunfire picked back up in intensity. 

Lexa waited for a moment, listening for when the majority of the opposition would need to stop to reload magazines.  Hearing a slight lull in the gunfire again, she tapped Zayn, signaling him to move to cover both Lincoln and Octavia, knowing they only had a few seconds before the uptake in gunfire again.  

“Move!” she yelled at Lincoln and Octavia.  

They moved quickly, staying crouched low to the ground, Octavia continuing to fire as Lincoln all but plowed through the door on the nearest house.  Simultaneously, she heard the metallic clank of pins being pulled beside her and she glanced at Raven who gave her a quick nod that she was ready.  Once he disappeared inside, Octavia followed.  Lexa nodded at Raven who launched the grenades overhead and 50 feet in front of them, the spoons flying off in midair and activating their fuses.  

“Move!” The order was sharp and loud, bleeding across the sound of resumed gunfire and all three of them stood in unison and began running to where Octavia and Lincoln had disappeared.

Within their first couple steps, Raven’s grenades detonated, spraying dust, debris and bits of metal into the space between them and the Coalition fighters.  The explosions effectively distracted their enemy and any shots taken at them whizzed wide and behind them.  They sprinted into the house in a few more steps and Lexa blinked as her eyes adjusted to the change in light, taking in the interior of the house dark.  

“We should keep moving, go out the back.  They saw us come in here and they’ll be expecting an attack from this house.  We move down a few and they’ll be caught off guard,” Lincoln reasoned, sweat pouring down his face.

Lexa nodded her agreement and they were off and moving again, quickly cutting across the house to the back.  Moving fluidly and staying in a tight group, they cut through the back yards of a couple other houses, jumping fences and ducking under laundry lines.  Lincoln made quick work of a back door on a house three down from the original one they had entered, each member quickly moving to the interior of the new house.  They found that it appeared to be vacant, the distinct odor of rotting food and mildew permeating the air. 

“Let’s clear it and set up,” Lexa ordered.  “Zayn and Ray, stick to the door here.  Octavia, you cover the front, make sure no one gets in.  Lincoln, you’re with me.  We’ll clear up and set up on the roof if we can get access.  Everyone clear?”

At the quick nods of understanding from each of her teammates, Lexa started moving for the stairs.  “Stay on comms,” she directed Octavia, Raven, and Zayn as she moved quickly upstairs.  Though Lexa was technically the highest ranking officer in the group, a sergeant versus Lincoln’s rank as a corporal and Octavia, Raven, and Zayn’s standings as PFCs, she considered all of them equals and only resorted to pulling rank during training exercises.  Their grouping was slightly unorthodox, falling outside the general structure a normal USMC 5-man team, but their superiors had found they worked so well together, that they’d allowed them to stay together. 

She and Lincoln cleared the top two floors quickly, disappointed at the lack of roof access.  Compromising, Lexa chose one of the street-facing windows on the top floor.  It offered her a vantage point that covered the entire street below and gave her a clear shot at any of the numerous other houses, including the one they’d taken fire from earlier.  Tattered curtains fluttered in her chosen window giving her slightly more cover as she scanned the houses around her.  When they had disappeared, the gunfire had ceased, the enemy combatants waiting for the American’s to present themselves as targets once more.  Lexa planned on making it quite a reappearance.  She swung her M4 to her left, letting it hang as she transitioned to her sniper rifle that was stowed in the pack on her back.  She quickly assembled the pieces, her skilled hands finding peace in the monotonous and familiar task.  Running her hands over the drab green polymer of the stock, she pulled back the bolt to seat a round in the chamber.  Lincoln moved a small table in front of the window and then threw his pack on the table to create a more stable perch.  

Lexa pulled a small wooden chair over and laid the rifle on top of the makeshift set up as she flipped up the optic covers on the scope.  Lincoln settled in the window next to hers, sitting slightly back so he wouldn’t be seen.  He pulled out his spotter scope, bringing it quickly into focus as Lexa brought her face down to rest on the stock of her rifle and peered through the scope.  Taking slow and deliberate breaths, Lexa focused on the sound of her heartbeat rushing in her ears and the steady whoosh of air moving through her lungs.  Closing her left eye, she looked at the buildings across from her, searching for any signs of movement. 

“What do you see?” she quietly asked Lincoln.

It was silent for a moment before Lincoln responded, equally as quiet, “I’ve got one.  Blue building, 3 houses west of the intersection, middle floor, far right window.”

Lexa adjusted, finding the indicated window in her scope.  As she focused, she saw the muzzle of an AK-47 peaking from between the curtains, it’s owner visible as the curtains fluttered in the breeze.  

“Got him,” Lexa whispered.  She keyed up her comm, whispering, “Zayn, Ray, O-we’re about to go live here, brace yourselves.”

Receiving two barely audible “copies” and one quietly gleeful, “let it rip” from Raven in return, Lexa placed her left hand between her cheek and the stock of the rifle, steadying her hold on it.  Doing so resulted in less movement of the rifle due to recoil after taking a shot, making it faster to line the next shot up.  She watched the curtains flapping on the other side of the scope, focusing once again on her breathing. 

Inhale…exhale…pause…repeat.

“Distance, 90 yards, wind is at 6 miles per hour from the west moving east,” Lincoln told her.

“Copy.”  Lexa made the slight adjustments on the rifle, zeroing in on her target.

Replacing her hand on the stock, she flipped the safety off with her thumb, focusing once more on her breathing.  

Inhale…exhale…pause…repeat.

On her third exhale, exactly when almost all the air was out of her lungs, she pulled the trigger.  She watched through the scope as her round found its target, the blood spattering across the curtains and the AK falling back into the house as the body fell.  She immediately heard yelling and wild shots emanated from across the streets, multiple insurgents firing on the original house Lexa and her team had entered.  The enemy fired back in anger but was clearly unsure of where the actual shot had come from.  Lexa smirked as their anger gave away their positions, quickly lining up her next four shots and successfully eliminating each target with one round each.  Lexa watched as each body fell under her hand, not dwelling on any of them, knowing she was simply doing what was necessary for her and her team to make it home safely.   

After the sixth insurgent fell, the Coalition seemed to realize the error in simply firing off rounds without a real target.  They pulled back from their posts and silence fell once again.  Lexa sat tensed, waiting for their next move.  After a few minutes, she heard more yelling, but neither she nor Lincoln could pinpoint any movement.  She froze when she caught the familiar forward end of one of the more destructive devices they had come across in this war.  

“RPG!!!” she yelled as she pulled Lincoln back from the window.  

They hit the floor just as she heard the telltale depressurized air from the weapon firing rang out.  Not even a moment later, they were deafened by a blast as it hit the house next door to them.  Everything shuddered around them, the floor nearly buckling from the force of impact.  She scrambled to her feet, pulling Lincoln with her.  Scooping up her rifle and his pack, she pushed him out toward the landing and they quickly made their way back to the stairs.  Keying up her comm, she silently prayed for a response.

“Ray! Zayn! O! Report!” she yelled over the newly refreshed sound of gunfire coming from outside.

“We’re here! We’re good.  O saw it at the last second.  We’re banged up but not injured,” came Raven’s quick reply.

“We need to move, we can’t afford to be blown up or buried,” Octavia said in response.

“Form up on Ray.  Lincoln and I are a floor away,”  Lexa barked.

She readjusted the sniper rifle, seating it on her back instead of breaking it down as she normally would.  Once she was satisfied that it was seated securely, brought her M4 back up to her front.  She nodded at Lincoln when she was ready to move and they ran back downstairs.  Meeting with Raven, they pushed back out into the rear yard of the line of houses, instantly met with gunfire.

“Cover!” Octavia yelled, pulling Lexa behind a small concrete wall.  

Lexa immediately popped back up over the wall, M4 in hand and took aim at the nearest insurgent, cutting him down with a quick press of her trigger.  While the others preferred their rifles at its fully automatic setting, Lexa preferred keeping hers set to semi-automatic.  It helped her conserve ammo and reduced the likelihood of collateral damage.  Watching Octavia take down the second and only other visible insurgent, Lexa stood quickly, her team responding to her movements and forming on her.    

“Ray get on the horn and get Anya up to speed.  We need back up. Now,” Lexa ordered as she quickly broke down her rifle and placed it back in her pack. 

“You got it, boss,” Raven replied taking a knee and pulling out her SatCom, a grin plastered on her features at the prospect of working her magic and irritating their Master Sergeant.

Lexa shook her head and turned back to the others, barely listening as Raven tried to make contact with their base, the coded language they used to communicate over unsecured channels spilling from her mouth like second nature. “How much ammo do you three have left?”

“I’ve got two more full mags and my sidearm,” Lincoln replied, patting himself down to make sure his count was accurate.
“Same, sarge,” came Zayn’s reply as he ejected the mag in his rifle and checked it over.

“I’ve got what’s left loaded in my rifle, sidearm, and my blade.”  Octavia smirked at the mention of the last item; she’d always had a thing for knives and excelled in wielding one, much like Lexa herself.

Lexa just shook her head, a smile tugging at her lips. “Sling up your rifles, grab theirs,” she said pointing at the felled insurgents.  “We need to conserve as much of our own ammo as possible.  When you run out, pick up another.”

The three nodded their understanding and moved to do what she asked.  Lexa turned her attention to Raven, having heard a distinctly female voice over the SatCom. 

“You get ahold of Anya?” she queried, not liking the uncharacteristically uneasy look on Raven’s face.

“Affirmative.  Sweetcheeks said she’ll do her best, but it’ll take at least 20 minutes to get support mobilized.  She was less than thrilled that we were off track,” she said ruefully.

“Typical.  We get bad intel from the flyboy’s and we get blamed.” Octavia rolled her eyes as she bent over to pick up an AK.

Lexa pulled a half smile in response as she squared away her own M4.  

“We need to take out that RPG first,” Lincoln stated, always the strategist.

As if hearing their conversation, they all ducked as an echoing boom reverberated in the air around them.  They watched as smoke billowed out the broken windows of the home they had just vacated. 

“Agreed,” Lexa said, all traces of the previous humor gone.  “Let’s move.”

Forming up once more, they began moving with the buildings to the end of the block, knowing they’d meet resistance as they came upon the cross street.  Lexa was leading the group as they hit the street.  Crouching behind a half wall at the end of the row of houses, Lexa held up her left fist, signaling the group to hold their current position.  Lexa peaked around the corner and saw that the street and houses lying beyond it appeared empty. Ducking back behind the wall, Lexa pointed at Lincoln and Zayn, then gestured across the street, indicating they would go first.  Lincoln nodded in acknowledgment.  Turning to Octavia and Raven, she gestured again, this time signaling that they would provide cover for the other two as they crossed.  Both nodded their understanding as well.

Taking a deep breath, Lexa held up her hand and made eye contact with Lincoln and on his nod, she began a backward three count, Lincoln and Zayn tensing in preparation.  When Lexa reached one, they both stood and began sprinting as Raven, Octavia, and Lexa spilled into the street behind them.  Instead of more gunfire, the street remained unsettlingly quiet.  Lexa scanned the buildings at the end of the street, perplexed that they had met no resistance.  Lexa and Octavia were halfway across the street when Lexa saw something that made her stop in her tracks.  She knew it was stupid, she knew she was making herself an easy target, but she was helpless to do anything but stare.  

A child, no more than three or four, was skipping down the middle of the street, waving around what appeared to be a doll, giggling to herself.  She was mere yards from Lexa and moving closer with each tiny step.  Lexa stared openmouthed at her, her mind trying to reconcile what she was seeing before her, almost wholly convinced she was hallucinating.  As if sensing her disbelief, the wind kicked up, carrying the sound of laughter to them.  The pureness of the sound ripped her out of her reverie and threw her back into the jarring reality she was a part of.  Lexa watched in stunned shock as the absolute innocence of the little girl before her clashed inexplicably with the war going on around them.  

As Lexa struggle to understand, she caught movement in a window behind the little girl, just a curtain moving, but unnatural to Lexa’s trained eye.  A moment later, the dreaded RPG made its reappearance, aimed for exactly where the little girl had suddenly stopped to inspect something on the ground.  She knew it was impossible, knew she would never make it in time, that she would die for nothing, but she would never be able to live with herself if she didn’t try.  Before her mind even realized what her feet were doing, she was sprinting, moving faster than she ever had in her life, all while knowing each step was still too slow, too late.  

Lexa understood there was a price to be paid in war, that innocent lives would always pay for some leader who had decided that the violence of war necessary.  She knew that there was little to nothing that she could do about that other than monitor her own actions and those of her team, minimizing their footprint in this war.  This was her fourth tour, she had already seen more death than any normal twenty-two year old should, and more than any one person should experience in their entire lifetime.  She was done with watching innocents die, the child before her was the final straw.  It was why, despite her team screaming at her back, that she barreled onwards into certain death, praying that even if she died, she could at least save one person.  

She reached the child as she heard the missile release and come screaming towards them.  She had only just extended her arm to scoop the little girl up, her hand just barely brushing her arm before the entire earth blew up in her face and the girl was ripped from her grasp.  Her anguished howl at her failure was lost in the thundering sound of the missile’s explosion.  Lexa was vaguely aware of the world disappearing beneath her feet and being thrown through the air, violently landing on her back.  She never felt the impact, the dark rushing in to consume her before the pain ever reached her.

XXX

The world came rushing back in one sharp and painful intake of breath as the images disappeared as quickly as they had formed.  Lexa sputtered and choked, trying to draw any semblance of air in, finding it nearly impossible.  A stilted wheeze was the only product of her efforts.  Her chest heaved in valiant attempts to draw in oxygen, yet even though her chest expanded, there was very little movement of air through her lungs.  Stars burst across her vision as her ribs screamed in protest at the strained movements.  Punctured lung, she thought sullenly, recognizing the totality of her symptoms for the first time.  She had seen it hundreds of times in other casualties of war, most afflicted with it never making it off the battlefield.  Involuntarily, her grip tightened on the little girl's hand that she still held.  Lexa knew she was dying, could feel her soul slipping away a bit at a time, fully aware that she was at the end of her brief, but tumultuous, life.  As her breath came in short rattling gasps, she made her peace and accepted her fate, knowing that she had earned whatever was waiting for her in the afterlife. 

As she struggled for each breath, she couldn’t help but notice how quiet it had become.  She didn’t believe she’d been unconscious long enough that the gunfire, yelling, and explosions would have stopped, but it was now eerily quiet- the type of silence that accompanies the passing of a soul onto the next world.  It was as though everything had stilled for a moment to pay its respects as one passed from one world to another.  Her unconscious mind knew why it was so quiet, understanding coming to her conscious mind mere moments later.  She could tell from the lack of movement beneath her that she had truly and utterly failed in her objective.  The realization froze her in place with her eyes squeezed shut, unwilling to confront the truth that her mind was screaming at her.  She waited, holding her own breath as she strained to hear anything from the broken child beneath her, just praying that she was wrong.  Hearing nothing and knowing that she never would again, she pulled back slightly, wincing at the pain the movement caused but knowing she had to look, she had to know for certain.  

As she slowly opened her eyes, they were met by the wide open soulless and empty deep brown depths of the child’s beneath her.  It was then that all hope she’d been harboring shattered.  She was barely cognizant of the tears that were now freely running down her cheeks as her fingers grasped at the small fingers of the child’s hands, as though her own warm hand might be able to imbue life back into the lifeless one she now clutched at.  She was vaguely aware of yelling coming from somewhere close by, but thought nothing of it, wrapped up in the pure devastation of the scene before her now glassy eyes. 

She lost herself to her emotions completely, the guilt and self-hatred at failing to save the little girl washing over her and causing sobs to rise uncontrollably from the deepest parts of herself.  She cried for the loss of life, for the loss of innocence, and for her own soul, which she had felt darken irreparably as she’d realized she’d been too late.  The sobs tore at her chest and pulled at her ribs, stunting her breathing once more.  The logical side of her mind knew the girl was gone, that there was no point in staying and perishing as well.  The emotional side could not simply let go, and so she allowed herself to grieve for the first time since the fateful day that had set her life on its current path a few years ago.  

As she stared into the lifeless eyes of the child clutched to her heaving chest, Lexa begged for the dark to take her one final time.  Lexa had never been one to give in without a fight; hell, she had been fighting almost since the day she had been born.  She’d fought to survive as a kid bouncing through the system before Indra and Gustus had managed to arrange permanent custody; she’d fought bullies who had picked on other kids in high school; she’d fought, probably the hardest, with Anya and Lincoln after she had told them she had enlisted in the military at only 17; and she continued to fight her own demons every day even after Costia, the only true and good thing in her life, had been killed.  Frankly, Lexa was tired of fighting, was tired of all the death, death that she had both witnessed and caused.  Lexa had seen enough death to know three things for certain: it was inevitable,  it was indiscriminate in choosing its next victim, and there was no pride, dignity, or beauty to be found in it.  She was ready to accept that she happened to be its next choice.  It was the only fair price for her to pay for failing to protect the innocent lives she’d sworn to safeguard when she joined the military.  She was tired of death, of those she cared for dying around her, of being entirely helpless to prevent it.  It was a relief that she could let go and no longer shoulder such burdens.  

As she laid struggling to breathe, Lexa focused on the feel of the distinctly cold miniature hand in her own and the gurgle and wheeze of the air moving in and out of her lungs.  She was so focused that she never heard the less than stealthy clomp of combat boots rushing up to her or the distinct sound of a person falling to their knees beside her.  It wasn’t until rough hands grabbed the back of her ballistic vest and began violently pulling at her in an attempt to roll her over that Lexa realized she was not alone.  Lexa had a fleeting thought to fight, knowing it was likely an enemy combatant, but it was quickly silenced by the thought that she was going to die regardless.  This route would just likely be less painful and merciful.  

The hands continued to pull, seemingly struggling with the weight of both Lexa and all her gear, pulling in ways that sent new waves of pain radiating throughout her body.  Lexa instantly realized that her ribs were not the only broken bones in her body and she groaned involuntarily as the harsh pulling motions also aggravated every dormant injury.  At the noise, the hands stilled for a split second, as if surprised that Lexa was alive.  The cessation of movement only lasted a moment before the hands were again pulling at Lexa, this time with renewed fervor and determination.  After one more harsh pull and a few grunts at the effort, the person succeeded in rolling Lexa onto her back.  Lexa gasped as her face was exposed to the open air instead of the stifling heat of the rubble below and her eyes snapped open into the sunlight, albeit unfocused.  

In all the movement, Lexa had lost her grip on the child and moved to try and cover her once more, still aware of what she had eventually realized was gunfire now popping off in close proximity.  The movement drove what little air was left from her lungs as she was simultaneously pushed onto her back and held firmly in place by a hand on her chest.  As she struggled for both air and to protect the child, her unfocused eyes caught a flash of blonde in her periphery before it moved outside her line of sight once more.  The hands holding her in place began roughly moving across her body and ripping at her gear, trying to remove it.  Lexa couldn’t tell what the person was doing, all she could do was try and fight her way back to the little girl.  She may have been done fighting for herself, but Lexa couldn’t reconcile an enemy getting to the girl’s body while she was still (barely) breathing.

And breathing was becoming an imminent problem.  Lexa became more aware with each passing second of a mounting burning in her lungs as they struggled and failed to draw in oxygen.  Her mouth moved uselessly, opening and closing as she thrashed against the hand that remained firmly pushed against her chest.  Lexa clawed at her throat, trying in any way to open her airway once more.  Suddenly, the hand on her chest moved and caught hers and held onto it, the pressure firm but gentle- instantly calming.  Lexa stilled her panicked movements, her eyes searching wildly for the owner of them, still unsure of whether the hand belonged to friend or foe, helpless if it was the former.

A face materialized above her as her eyes focused.  A woman, no older than Lexa with soft blue eyes and golden hair gazed down at her, the woman's eyes silently pleading with Lexa to stop fighting.  Lexa was momentarily struck at how absolutely beautiful the woman was, surprised for the second time that day to find someone of her caliber in the same place as Lexa.  The only coherent thought that formed in Lexa’s oxygen-deprived brain was that she’d died and the woman above her was an angel.  Lexa was not particularly religious in the traditional sense of the word, her life experiences had ensured that, but she had no other explanation.  The thought stilled Lexa, if only for a moment, as she stared in wonder at the woman above her.  

Her features were soft and comforting, though pinched with worry at the moment.  Blonde fell from a messy bun and locks stuck out haphazardly from beneath a combat helmet, which Lexa realized distantly was marked with a familiar red cross.  Medic, Lexa thought in relief, blinking her eyes rapidly to clear the tears that had somehow found their way there.  The woman above her had to be a doctor, and judging from the uniform she was wearing, the doctor was American.  For the first time in what felt like hours, Lexa felt the spark to live flare back up in her chest.  Hope blossomed as the last of her oxygen ran out and the edges of the world began to dim for the final time.  As she felt reality slipping from her grasp once more, she was vaguely aware of the woman's eyes turning from calmly reassuring to slightly worried as her hands released Lexa’s to drift down to Lexa’s torso.  Lexa felt her ballistic vest being ripped open and flinched as the gentle hands palpated her broken ribs.  If she’d had air to yell out, she would have as the pain staved off the darkness for a few extra moments.

Her wide and panicked eyes found the calm blue ones again, silently begging the woman to help her as the black threatened ominously.  Lexa saw the blonde's lips moving but couldn’t make out any of the words over the sound of her own blood rushing in her ears as the life slowly left her body.  Her eyes fluttered closed, the last images of the child she hadn’t saved and the beautiful medic who couldn’t save her burned into the back of her eyelids, accompanying her into the afterlife.  The blonde above her had a comforting familiarity about her and Lexa struggled to place her before she realized it was futile.

As Lexa felt herself letting go, a sudden sharp pain centered itself on her left side replaced a moment later by the sensation of a heavy weight being lifted from her chest.  Her lungs suddenly expanded as far as her painfully broken ribs would allow and air came rushing back in.  Lexa’s eyes snapped open as she coughed, moving the stale air out of her lungs and hungrily drawing in full lungfuls of fresh new air for the first time in minutes.  The blonde was still over her, her hands pressing down on something over Lexa’s left breast.  As Lexa gulped down air ravenously, the rushing in her ears dulled enough that she could barely make out what the medic was saying.

“There we go.  Stay with me, sarge.  Come on, don’t you dare give up on me.”  Her voice was rough and raspy, as though she hadn’t fully woken up that morning.  “Come on, Woods, not like this.  Not today.”

Lexa just continued to suck in air, the sensation of being able to actually breathe such a relief in and of itself, all thanks to the blonde angel above her.  Her head lolled to the side, her eyes once again focusing on the little girl still lying at her side.  She was once again struck with the guilt at not being able to save her and struggled to reach out to her, to comfort her even though she was gone.  Her movements were quickly stopped by the medic, and Lexa railed against her, letting out a guttural yell of frustration.  She needed to help the little girl, why couldn’t the medic see that?

Her eyes rolled wildly, the only part of her that was able to move freely, trying to get the medic, “Griffin” her name tag read, to understand that the little girl needed help.  Logically, Lexa knew that the girl was gone, that she was being irrational but she couldn’t reconcile the fact that the little girl was gone and she, Lexa, was still living and breathing.  She strained against the hands that held her, the pain ratcheting up once more and causing her to yell out against it as she shuddered.  Suddenly Lincoln was at her side, kneeling down over her, brushing her hair from her face and obscuring her line of sight to the girl.  He bent his head down to her ear, his breath whispering over her ear.

“There’s nothing to be done, Lexa.  She’s gone.  Please, let the medic help you.”  His words were muffled, barely making it through the ringing that was still present in her ears. 

Despite them, she continued to struggle against his steady hold on her, struggled to push against him to get back to the girl she had failed.  She thrashed until she was exhausted, pain wracking her broken body.  She couldn’t stand to look at the pity or anguish on Lincoln’s face, instead turning her eyes to meet the medic’s, finding understanding and compassion in them rather than pity.  Lexa focused on that, finding that this stranger was able to instill a feeling of calm in her that she had not experienced since she was a child.  She was so lost in the deep blue of the woman's eyes, she nearly missed the fact that the street had fallen silent once again save for the distant sound of a helicopter.  

“Helo is two minutes out,” she heard Lincoln tell Griffin.  Or maybe he was talking to her, she didn’t know.  She just knew that she wanted to sleep, exhaustion settling heavily in her bones.

“Let’s pray she has two minutes.  This temporary fix is just that- temporary.  She needs surgery or she’s going to lose her airway entirely.  Tension Pneumo can’t be fixed in the field,” Lexa heard the blonde medic respond.  “I’ve fixed the immediate threat to her life, there’s no telling what is hidden beneath that.”

A tense silence stretched between the two as the beating of the chopper drew closer.  Lexa was so very tired and allowed her eyes flutter closed as she silently begged sleep to take her.

“No!  Open your eyes, Sergeant!”  Lexa felt rough knuckles raking themselves over her breastbone, the pain and sharp tone of voice forcing her eyes open once more.  She looked up at the medic, Griffin, seeing fear in the other woman’s eyes for the first time and knowing what it meant.  “You need to keep your eyes open, understand?” Griffin demanded.

Lexa wanted to say yes, to even just nod that she did understand, but she was so tired and cold.  When had it become cold?  Lexa wondered.  They were in South America, for gods sakes.  It was sweltering year round in Rio, the humidity making the air almost unbearable.  Must be in shock, Lexa mused, wishing once again that she could just sleep.  The medic’s name tugged on the recesses of her memory, a name she knew that she had heard before.  Lexa couldn’t help but feel it was important that she place the blonde medic.  The helicopter was closer now, nearly on top of them.  Lexa could feel the rippling of the wind from the blades washing over her.  She could feel her breathing becoming labored once again as her chest tightened, each breath ragged as she struggled to draw air in.  When fatigue swept over her this time, she didn’t fight it, couldn’t if she wanted to, and her eyes fluttered shut.  

“Lexa, don’t you dare leave me little sister.”  The voice was Lincoln’s, pleading with her.  

She wished she could reassure him, tell him that everything would be ok, but even she knew that was lie.  The pain was waning now, and she knew what that meant.  The less pain, the closer to death one was.  As before, she accepted death, welcomed it even.  She was distantly aware of a shuffling movement and then a distinct feeling of weightlessness as though she were being carried.  Sounds faded into muffled nothing as she slipped further and further away from life.

“You’re going to be ok.  Just stay with me, Lexa.”  Lexa recognized the medic’s voice and the words were whispered frantically in her ear, for only her to hear.  

Lexa liked the way the blonde said her name, liked the way her breath played across her ear as she whispered.  She regretted the fact that she would never get to know the woman who had so valiantly tried to save her life.  A final thought passed across Lexa’s mind before she felt herself give in to the darkness entirely.

I wish I could.

XXX

Time passed in bits and pieces after that, Lexa only barely aware of the flurry of activity taking place around her, passing in and out of a pained consciousness.

The distinctively patterned beating of a chopper nearby…

The nearly undetectable pain of a needle pricking the back of her hand and then the very noticeably cold sensation of something flowing into her veins…

The anxious and clear blue eyes that looked down at her and silently pled with her to hold on, to fight….

The warm hands that held her entirely too cold hand between it, much in the same manner she had clung to the little girl’s in the rubble, as if willing Lexa to live with their mere touch.

Nonsensical words of encouragement being whispered continuously into her ear…

Being violently jostled as their helicopter took fire from anti-aircraft defenses and the resulting tension that caused the two hands wrapped around hers to squeeze slightly harder as they shook…

A sweet, clean smell that filled her lungs, just enough to overlay the death that she reeked of…

Her breath wheezing through her chapped lips and blood rushing in her ears as her heartbeat slowed with each passing moment…

Hurried footsteps and the distinct sound of boots running alongside her as she was wheeled through hallways…

The atmosphere turning cold enough to freeze the air in her lungs as the last vestiges of clothing were unceremoniously torn from her figure…

The harsh flash of light across her eyes as some inexperienced intern roughly examined her pupils…

An overpowering antiseptic smell accompanied immediately by a cold liquid being rubbed on her left side…

An even worse pain suddenly cutting into her side, tearing her skin apart and forcing her towards unconsciousness once more, but not before catching a glimpse of blonde hair and blue eyes once final time…

Blue eyes that held hers without blinking, without flinching, until Lexa finally succumbed to the anesthetic and closed her eyes the last time.

Chapter Text

“Sometimes I tell myself I’m okay.  I repeat it like a mantra; I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay, I’m okay.  Because I’m afraid if I stop, even for a moment, I will drown in all the reasons I am not.”— Unknown

 

Chapter Two

Five years later…

Lexa shot up in bed, her breathing harsh and sweat clinging to her skin as it soaked through the loose tank top she had thrown on before collapsing into bed a few hours prior. Her apartment was quiet around her as Jax, her one-year-old Dutch Shepherd puppy, raised his head and peered at her with sleepy concern at the sudden movement.  Lexa dropped her head into her hands, pushing dark, sweaty hair out of her face and worked to control her breathing as the sounds from the all too real nightmare continued to ring out in her mind. The quiet clacking of Jax’s nails on the hardwood floors preceded the sudden dip of the mattress as he jumped onto her bed and pushed his face between her hands to nuzzle at her face.  Immediately, Lexa felt herself beginning to relax as her hands automatically fell to curl in his dark fur.  

After a few more shuddering breaths, Lexa felt control returning and planted a kiss on the Shepherd’s forehead.

“I’m ok, buddy,” she assured him as he nudged insistently at her hands. “I’ll be ok.  Just another dream.”

Even as she said it, Lexa knew it wasn’t just a dream. It was a memory, as real and as raw as the scars that marred her otherwise perfect caramel colored skin.  Lexa reached across to the nightstand beside her bed and unplugged her phone, looking at the time. 3:36 am.  With a heavy sigh, she knew any plans of continued sleep were now null.  Even so, she had managed a whole half hour longer than usual.

“How about a run before I head in?” Jax immediately perked up at the word, “run” tilting his head as though studying her to make sure he’d heard correctly.

Lexa pushed herself out of bed and stripped the now soaked shirt from her shoulders, rolling them to loosen the tension and ever-present pull of past injuries.  Jax was up in a flash and weaving tight circles at the front door before she could even move to pull her running clothes on.  She chuckled softly and dressed quickly, as Jax whined quietly at the door.  She had just recently started bringing Jax with her, deciding to kill two birds with one stone; she needed to work off her demons and he needed to quell the puppy energy that had him literally jumping out of his skin.  Putting him on a leash, she led him from the building and down onto the street where they quickly fell into their normal, almost nightly, routine; Lexa stretched while Jax wandered and relieved himself on his favorite trash can.

The midsummer DC heat and humidity were oppressive, even at nearly four in the morning.  Lexa was glad she had decided not to shower prior to coming out as she was sweating again already.  Once Jax was satisfied that his territory had been secured for another day, Lexa set off at a light jog south on 12th Street Northwest towards the Mall.  Jax easily kept pace with her, his long legs barely moving at more than a walk.  Lexa had rescued him when he was only six or seven weeks old after she had found him tangled in some loose barbed wire in an alley off her normal run route.  He’d been cut deeply in several spots and was bleeding but wagged his tail immediately upon seeing her, overjoyed to see a human despite their clear mistreatment of him.  

She had never intended to keep him, her unpredictable work schedule and uneasy nights not something she wished upon anyone or anything.  However, the first night he’d been home with her, he had curled up on her chest and fallen asleep there, his whole little body twitching as he chased some dream squirrel.  Lexa was a goner after that, unwilling and unable to part with him.  He had healed and grown healthy within a few weeks, though several scars remained around his face, neck, and feet.  Lexa only thought it fitting that they’d found each other, both alone in the world and scarred by the cruelty of man.

Crossing over Constitution, Lexa picked up her pace as she turned west to travel down the Mall towards the large cluster of monuments ahead of her.  The city was eerily quiet at this time of night, DC largely a commuter city and thus relatively empty for a few more hours.  Despite the nightmares and lack of sleep, Lexa enjoyed the quiet, uncrowded runs with Jax before the noise of commuters, sirens, and tourists took over for the day.  She picked up speed as her feet hit the familiar and iconic beige stone pathways that gave the Mall pathways its unique visual aesthetic.  

The Washington monument loomed ahead, standing proud and strong against the clear night sky with the African American Museum’s distinct yet intricately beautiful architecture illuminated on Lexa’s right, a marvel in its own right.  She moved quickly between both, her sure feet carrying her past the next portion of her run, the newest monument on the Mall. The monument loomed on her right and she ducked her head, her eyes focused completely ahead as she purposefully ignored it.  It was not something she wished to confront tonight in addition to all the demons already at the forefront of her mind. Moving ahead at a slightly faster pace, she worked her way downhill and past the beautifully illuminated World War II memorial before turning slightly right and veering towards the Vietnam War Memorial- somber and silent as always.  Lexa knew her great uncle’s name was etched into the obsidian black granite there, one amongst thousands of innocent lives lost over pointless political quarrels.  Despite the country’s widespread lack of support for the Vietnam War, Lexa held all names engraved on the solemn slabs as heroes-men willing to fight and die for the idea of creating a better country. 

Moving just as quickly past, she continued until her run brought her to the back side of the Lincoln Memorial, to the steps that led down to Ohio Drive and the path along the Potomac River.  Turning south, Lexa continued for a few moments as she took in the twinkling lights of Alexandria City across the river and the random MPD Harbor vessel in the dark and swift water.  Once on the other side of the memorial, she turned back to continue her run on the south side of the Mall.  The remnants from her dreams were finally quieting as her feet hit the characteristic beige stones once more.  Depending on how horrific the dreams that seemed to plague her had been, Lexa could modify her run to make sure they were completely silenced by the time she finished.  Tonight’s were particularly bad and so Lexa opted for the longer run up past the US Capitol before making the turn that would carry her back to her apartment.  Jax kept up easily, even in the heat and humidity.  

By the time she and Jax finished, nearly seven miles later, both were panting for breath as sweat blossomed from every pore on Lexa’s body.  Upon reentering her apartment, Jax immediately plopped himself over the AC vent in the floor and continued to pant, his tongue lolling sideways out of his mouth. Once he had discovered cool air came out of the hole in the floor, the spot had quickly become his favorite in the apartment for the summer.  Lexa smirked at him before glancing at the clock over her stove. 4:51.  Feeling jittery and not quite ready for a shower, Lexa instead moved to the den portion of the one-bedroom.  It didn’t have any windows but it was a decent enough size that Lexa kept some miscellaneous boxes in there as well as free weights and her second favorite thing after Jax, a hanging workout bag.

Lexa would never willingly admit that on certain occasions and under very specific circumstances, she had an anger issue.  The den -and in turn, the bag- gave her an opportunity to work out that aggression in a somewhat healthier manner than putting her fist through a wall, which she had also done on occasion.  Quickly wrapping her hands with practiced ease, she set to work and the steady rhythm of punches solidly landing on the canvas material immediately soothed the anxiety she’d begun to feel creeping up her spine at the conclusion her run.  Lexa had not always been angry, she had been molded into the person she was today after life had shown her how truly vicious and uncaring it could be.  

As memories flashed through her mind, her punches became more erratic and forceful, her tenuous control slipping with each strike.  Her father…right hook.  Her mother…a three punch combo that set the bag swinging.  Tris…a cross with her left before she viciously grabbed the bag and brought it towards her as she thrust a knee up.  Costia.  Sweet, sweet Costia…a flurry of punches so vicious that it wasn’t until Lexa saw the fresh red stains on the bag before her that she realized she had ripped open her knuckles for the nth time.  

Choked gasps clawed their way from her throat as Lexa struggled to bring herself under control.  With a frustrated yell, she slammed her fist into the bag a final time before stepping back and sinking to the floor, defeated.  So maybe the circumstances weren’t as specific as she’d like to believe- sue her.  She worked to settle herself but her breathing was becoming more disjointed with each inhale.  Lexa felt herself spiraling, the panic attack setting on her as sudden as it was unexpected.  She hadn’t had one in months and had made the mistake of believing she was finally past that part of her life.  The rapid constriction of her chest and black spots now peppering her vision proved how naive that hope had been.  Though logically she recognized what was happening as a panic attack, any actual control over herself and her mind was gone as violent and bloody images, no, memories, flashed through her mind's eye.  A cold sweat cropped up on her brow and neck, completely contrasting the heat she felt burning across her skin.

Whether sensing a shift in the air or hearing his master’s now labored breathing, Jax roused himself from the AC vent and trotted over, plopping his head on her lap when he reached her.  He whined and pushed at her arms as they wrapped like vices around her midsection.  Thankfully, the sensation of his cool fur meeting her feverish skin created enough of a contrast to jumpstart her brain.  With her mind sluggishly attempting to reintroduce logic and control, Lexa managed to focus on quelling the gasps and promoting something akin to regular breathing.  Jax continued to press into her, a low whine of concern coming from deep in his throat and cutting through her racing thoughts.

After what felt like an eternity but was only minutes, Lexa felt the abject panic and all-consuming fear that she was surely about to die beginning to subside.  With the marginal reprieve that was offered, Lexa was able to finally unfurl one of her hands from around her midsection and tangle it in Jax’s fur.  He had managed to weasel his entire eighty-pound frame into her lap when she hadn’t responded to his initial attempts.  His cold nose was still insistently nudging against the arm that remained wrapped around her midsection demanding that she use both hands to pet him.  She exhaled heavily, the pressure on her chest lifting just enough that she didn’t feel like she would fall to pieces when she pried the remaining hand off her abdomen.  Not for the first time, she found herself grateful that her attacks weren’t made worse by constriction or pressure, allowing Jax to work his magic.

Eventually, the repetitive motion of running her fingers through Jax’s coarse, dark fur soothed her into a calmer state more reminiscent of her normal self, albeit significantly more exhausted.  Panic attacks almost always left her completely drained and yearning for a nap.  Checking the time again, Lexa figured that she had about an hour until she had to head into work and thus no time for additional sleep.  Planting a grateful kiss on Jax’s soft forehead, she stood and stripped off her now completely soaked muscle shirt as she wearily made her way to the shower.

Before the hot water even had a chance to wash over her and release the remaining tension from her muscles, the loud, insistent blare of her phone pulled her from her now calm reverie.  Washing the last vestiges of shampoo from her dark locks, she reached out and grabbed the phone- intelligently inside in a Lifeproof case after an unfortunate toilet incident last month- and pulled it into the shower to look at the message.

“Agent down. AHOD.”

Lexa’s blood ran cold and her heart stuttered as her eyes reread the message.  She had worked for the Secret Service for almost three years and had never seen the message.  She’d been hoping she never would.  She quickly finished rinsing and toweled off before dressing herself at warp speed and heading out in a rush.

XXX

It took Lexa less than ten minutes to get from her parking garage to the one below the unassuming office building several blocks away.   When most people thought of the Secret Service, the first thing that came to mind were the nameless agents that stood by and protected the President.  Lexa was the complete opposite of those agents, though she was as qualified- if not more so- as them.  She simply did a different job under the same banner. It wasn’t that she wasn’t qualified to handle protecting the President and their family, she just preferred something less stressful at this point in her life.  So, while she still felt compelled to serve her country, she had found a way to both serve and keep a relatively normal, excitement-free lifestyle by working in the counterfeit currency side of the Secret Service. Lexa could conduct her days in near anonymity and with a clear and predictable routine, which was what she had come to prefer.  Some people might call it boring but Lexa wasn’t interested in excitement anymore.  She’d had enough to last her lifetimes.

Taking the stairs two at a time, Lexa quickly made her way from the parking garage to the fourth floor where the counterfeit investigations branch was housed.  Few people had made it in after the message had been sent, none of them living as close as Lexa did.  Despite that, tension hung heavy in the air and settled like bricks on her shoulders.  One of their own was down, maybe even dead.  There was no room for anything but the tension until the details of what happened were divulged. 

Lexa hadn’t even moved toward her desk before her boss, and the director of their division, Gustus Arbor was waving her over through the glass walls of his office.  She wound her way through the desks in the bullpen before knocking lightly on his door.  Lexa was waved in without a moment’s hesitation, Gustus pacing behind his desk as he spoke to someone in low tones on the phone.

“Send them directly up and to the conference room when they arrive,” Lexa heard Gustus murmur tersely before he hung the phone up, frustration clear in the tight lines of his large, muscled frame.

Lexa stood awkwardly at the door, butterflies in her stomach roaring as she waited for his next instruction.  Though she had known Gustus her entire life and she considered him as much a father as she had her own, she still found herself feeling like a kid in his presence sometimes.  Work was always one of those times.

“Lexa, thank-you for your prompt response,” Gustus sighed as he settled heavily into the plush leather chair behind his wide desk.  Behind him, the city lights twinkled against the slowly lightening dawn sky.  “Please, sit.”

Lexa moved to sit in one of the chairs opposite him, noting the weary look pulling at his features and making him look like every one of his 55 years.

“So it’s true then?”  Lexa hesitated before continuing, seeing Gustus grimace at her question.  “Someone is dead?” 

“More than one someone, unfortunately.”

Lexa silently mulled over his words, her mind racing through a thousand possibilities as she waited for Gustus to explain further.

“Lexa, you’ve been a no bullshit kind of person since you were a kid, so I’m going to just cut to it,” he told her bluntly, the shadow of regret that he was the bearer of this news causing Lexa’s stomach to twist painfully.  “There was an attack on Caduceus early this morning while she was out for a run.  Two of ours were killed protecting her.”

Lexa felt her heart stutter as her stomach simultaneously plummeted at the mention of the code name for the President’s daughter.  She knew instantly that there was only one reason Gustus would address her about this privately rather than tell the whole office at once.  She shook her head, as though that might change the words about to spill from Gustus’ mouth.

“Raven was hit during the assault.”  His voice broke over the name, the struggle to control his emotions clear in that moment.  “She’s in critical condition at MedStar and in emergency surgery.  It’s bad, Lexa.  Really bad.”

Lexa continued to shake her head as shock numbed her mind. 

“No,” Lexa vehemently denied.  “She doesn’t work the overnight shift.”

Gustus stood and walked to the other side of his desk, settling in the chair across from her instead.  He gathered her hands into his, an action he knew was reserved for him alone.  “She worked last night to cover for one of the agents who is getting married today.”

“No, you’re wrong,” Lexa insisted, pulling her hands from Gustus’s as she stood and began pacing.  “Someone made a mistake.  I need to go and see her for myself.  Raven hates the night shift.  She’s always complaining about how she can’t stay awake.  She would never willingly work it.”

“Lexa, you know I would never bring this to you unless I was certain,” Gustus murmured as he sat back and ran a hand through his beard.

“But she hates the night shift,” Lexa argued her hands starting to wave in the air to accentuate her point, something that only happened when she was truly aggravated. “I just don’t understand.  What the hell happened?”

“The protection detail is en route here as we speak.  We’ll know more then,” Gustus deflected, uncharacteristically evasive.

Lexa narrowed her eyes and stopped her incessant pacing as she turned to face him.  “Gustus, the fact that they’re coming here rather than a safe house means there’s a bit more at play here than you’re making out.  You just said it.  I don’t do bullshit.  Raven is my sister for all intents and purposes and one of the few people in this world that I consider family.”

“Lexa, please just try to understand. I don’t want to give you false information,” Gustus tiredly pled as his shoulders drooped just the smallest bit.

“Just tell me,” Lexa ordered in a low tone that brokered no argument.

Gustus sighed and seemed to debate internally with the decision before finally leaning forward and fixing Lexa with an unwavering stare.

“They were out for a run- apparently that’s something the President’s daughter likes to do.”

“At 4 in the morning?”  Lexa scrunched her eyebrows together in disbelief but her cheeks immediately colored a moment later at Gustus’s pointed look.

“Like you have any room to judge.”

“I bet Raven wanted to kill her,” Lexa smirked as she pictured the disgruntled look on Raven’s face at being forced to not only work the night shift but run as well.  “She hasn’t had to get up and run before dawn since we were in boot camp.”

Gustus chuckled at that, some of the weight lifted from the tension-filled room by happier memories of a different time.  “I never understood why you all chose the Marines.  I tried to tell you the Air Force was the place to be.  They have the best of everything and they certainly don’t run before the sun rises.”

Lexa huffed out an amused chuckle as she thought back on her years with Raven on various missions during the war.  Steeling herself, Lexa watched as Gustus seemed to debate how exactly to relay the next portion of events.

“Preliminary reports indicate that they were ambushed.  Raven’s counterparts were felled almost immediately.  They never had a chance.”  Gustus fidgeted with lint on his pants leg as he struggled to continue.  “She ducked the first couple rounds meant for her but threw herself in front of Caduceus, just as she was trained.  In the process of doing so, she was struck several times with rounds meant for the woman.  Still, she was able to simultaneously shield and move Caduceus while also returning fire.” 

“She always was an overachiever.” Lexa rolled her eyes but the proud smirk on her face belayed any sarcasm underlying her statement.  The smirk faded quickly as a thought occurred to her.  “Why wasn’t she wearing her vest?”

“She was.  A couple of the rounds missed the vest.  You know how cop luck works.  Bad guy gets shot in the head and is fine; we get a minor cut and die of the infection.”  Lexa’s stomach twisted as she struggled to keep her raging emotions in check.   “Besides, you know her motto.  ‘Anything worth doing-’”

“‘Is worth doing loud and proud’,” Lexa finished solemnly, the usual levity of that particular Raven-ism lost in the moment.

“Exactly.”  Gustus paused a moment, visibly swallowing as he briefly closed his eyes.  When he opened them once more, Lexa thought she detected the barest hint of tears.  “She did so well today, Lexa.  She was able to shield Caduceus to safety and protect her until the second team was able to extricate her.  She took out two of the bastards on her own before she lost consciousness.  If she dies, she’ll be a goddamned hero and that woman is alive because of her.”

“Well, heroes remain dead while the rest of us are left here to deal with the consequences,” Lexa muttered bitterly.  “Raven is one of the toughest people I know.  She isn’t going to die.”

Death was nothing new to Lexa.  She’d dealt with it more than many people her age, both on a personal and professional level.  She had only just convinced herself that maybe she’d finally suffered enough, that death would leave her the hell alone.  Clearly, that was not that case. She sighed as she ran a hand through her hair, her agitation clear in the gesture.

Lexa froze as a new thought crossed her mind.  “Anya must be completely unmanageable right now.” 

Gustus merely nodded,  his lips forming a thin line.  “She was quite cross with me on the phone when she first called, even by her standards.”

“Is she at the hospital?” Lexa inquired as she resumed her pacing, the circles tighter than before.

“She said she needed to settle Caduceus before she let personal matters interfere, but she assigned Raven her best protection detail.”  Gustus warily watched Lexa’s movement back and forth across his office. He knew the tight weaving was her way of coping with high levels of anxiety, though she would never admit it.

“She would put her duty first,” Lexa muttered.  “That’s why she’s so good at what she does.”

“You act as though you’d ever do any different,” Gustus pointed out, his hands coming up in front of him when Lexa shot a halfhearted glare his way.

“When can I go and see her?”  Lexa asked in lieu of commenting on Gustus’ last jab.

“That’s the other part of this,” he began hesitantly, watching Lexa stiffen in front of him as her anger seethed beneath a thin veil of control.  “The presidential detail is on their way here with Caduceus.”

“I heard you the first time.  I don’t understand what that has to do with me,” Lexa pointed out, her frustration at the whole situation finally bubbling to the surface.  “I’m on desk work and investigations, not field work or protective details.”

“You think I don’t know that?!”  Gustus’s own irritation bled through his usually calm facade.  “I don’t know why they’re bringing her here instead of taking her to a pre-arranged safe house like protocol dictates but if they are, you’re the best person I’ve got here.”

Lexa stared wide-eyed at Gustus, the bite to his tone surprising even her. 

Gustus sighed, trying to bring himself under control.  “Look, I’m as worried about Raven as you are, Lexa, but I need you here.  Caduceus’ detail has already taken a serious hit and they’re on the ‘B’ squad of agents if you will.  Everyone is scrambling.  You’re the only person up here that has any kind of experience in asset protection.”

Lexa blew out a frustrated breath knowing immediately that Gustus was correct.  Lexa had a sneaking suspicion about why the protective detail would buck protocol and she knew that if she were right, the President’s daughter was going to need all the help she could get.  They were already three agents down on a single rotation of her detail.  They were on their heels and the bad guys would know it.  Lexa was well versed in the philosophy that being unprepared bred opportunity for those looking to do harm.

“Jesus,” Lexa muttered as she collapsed back into her chair and pinched the bridge of her nose.  “How did this happen?”

“That’s what we’ll find out once they get here,” Gustus reasoned.  “If they make it.”

With that one statement, Lexa knew Gustus was thinking along the same lines as her.  

“Gus-,” she began but stopped at the sharp shake of his head.

“We’ll talk when they get here in a few minutes.”  Standing, he moved back behind his desk, his gaze directed out the window and over the city before them.  “They’ll be here in a few minutes, take that time to do what you need to in order to make sure your mind is right.”

Hearing the dismissal loud and clear, Lexa rose from where she’d been seated and walked quietly over to the door.  She opened it but before she walked through, she paused and looked back at the bear of a man who had essentially raised her.  His grief at the situation was clear to her by the tension radiating off him in waves and the slight droop to his shoulders.  

“You’ll let me know the minute I can break free and check on Raven?”  Lexa’s gentle words fell into the space between them.

“The second,” Gustus countered just as quietly, his back still turned to her.

Lexa nodded, though she knew he couldn’t see the action and quietly closed the door behind her as she stepped into the hallway.  Moving as though on autopilot, her feet carried her to the staircase and up several flights until she was pushing a door to the roof open.  As the humid air swept over her, she realized she’d been holding her breath since she’d left Gustus’ office.  Expelling it in a rush, she practically stumbled to the edge of the roof, her hands coming up to grip the railing in front of her as she stared unseeingly at the cityscape in front of her.

The sky above her was just barely turning a lighter shade of blue as daybreak crept upon the world.  Her hands tightened on the rail before her as her breathing became more erratic and her emotions began swirling out of control.  White replaced tan where her knuckles strained against scarred flesh, and a savage, anger filled scream bubbled up and ripped out of her throat unbidden.  As it rang out into the space around her and dissipated, she felt some of her rage going with it, her chest rising and falling violently as Lexa worked to rein herself in.  After a few moments, she felt her breathing returning to something closer to normal, though her hands did not loosen their death grip.

Lexa felt tears silently running down her cheeks and she finally relinquished her hold on the railing to swipe at her face, angry that they’d made an appearance without permission.  Taking a deep breath, Lexa worked to center herself and focus on gathering her emotions.  She needed to do this, for Raven.  After a couple more minutes, Lexa felt as close to normal as she usually did these days and took one last deep breath.  On the exhale, she looked down as she heard the roar of engines beneath her.  Several completely blacked out SUVs were making their way toward the underground garage of the building.  Knowing her time was up, she quickly brushed her hands over her shirt, smoothing out non-existent wrinkles and making sure her shirt was still tucked in.  

She quickly made her way back across the roof and back downstairs.  She had just stepped out of the stairwell when the elevators around the corner dinged, announcing their arrival on the floor.  Lexa stood by as several individuals rounded the corner and swept the area in front of them before nodding behind them.  Several other people that Lexa immediately pegged as agents followed behind the initial two, a female and two more agents falling in behind them.  The blonde hair on the woman sandwiched between all the agents immediately caught Lexa’s attention and she found her breath stalled in her chest once again.

Of course she’d known who the President’s daughter was- Lexa was part of the Secret Service and an American citizen that watched the news for gods sakes.  However, knowing and seeing were two different things and Lexa watched as none other than Clarke Griffin materialized in front of her.  Familiar blue eyes darted around the unfamiliar space, everything from her nose down obscured by her protective detail.  Even from where she was yards away, Lexa could see the uncertainty, fear, and ultimate shock in them, the woman’s own posture closed in on itself and guarded.  The woman was clearly still on high alert from the attempt on her life and Lexa didn’t blame her, knew exactly what she was going through in that moment.  Lexa watched as those eyes finally landed on her, surprise and instant recognition making them go wide and causing the other woman to falter in her forward progress.  Her detail adjusted to make up for the slip and as their bodies shifted, Lexa gasped as the rest of the woman briefly came into view.

Clarke was clad in leggings and a loosely fitted t-shirt, but that wasn’t what had garnered the reaction from Lexa.  It was the bright swaths of blood- Raven’s blood, her mind screamed- splattered across every part of her person to include her face, that instantly had Lexa’s stomach rolling.  The stark paleness of Clarke’s complexion only lent to the horrendous picture that was only a brief flash but would remain seared in Lexa’s mind for the rest of her life.  She found herself frozen to the spot, mind going numb, even as Clarke’s detail shuffled and concealed her from sight once more. They quickly made their way towards the conference room on the other side of the bullpen and disappeared from view.

There had been so much blood.  Lexa had seen battle, had seen people bleed and die in front of her more times than she cared to count.  She understood what the amount of blood on Clarke meant for Raven.  None of it good.

“Agent Woods.”

Lexa felt her mind spiraling, suddenly buried in all the worst parts of every nightmare and memory of her past.

“Agent Woods.”

Raven couldn’t die, she was one of the very few people Lexa had left on the earth that she cared for.  Death had already been so unimaginably cruel to her.  Had it not been enough already?  Had she not already paid the Reaper tenfold?

“Lexa!”

The sharp tone cut across Lexa’s racing thoughts, pulling her out of the downward cycle she seemed to keep finding herself in since she had woken up this morning.  Looking up, she realized that Gustus was looking at her with both annoyance and thinly veiled concern, an expectant look pulling his features when he finally drew her focus.  When she continued to stand in place, he raised a hand and beckoned her over, the movement clipped with impatience.  Lexa rolled her eyes and moved toward his office for the second time that morning, realizing halfway there that she must have clenched her fists during her space out to the point of causing her palms to bleed slightly.  Shaking her hands as she walked, she worked the blood back into her fingers.

“You alright?” Gustus asked the moment she walked in.

“Yeah, just got caught off guard,” Lexa replied quietly as she claimed her chair once more.

“I should have thought to warn you that they’d be bringing her in without stopping to clean her up,” Gustus murmured apologetically.  “You shouldn’t have had to see that.”

Lexa smiled unconvincingly, the humor not reaching her eyes.  “I’m not a kid anymore.  You aren’t responsible for protecting me.”

Gustus gave her a pointed look as he raised an eyebrow.  “It will always be my job to protect you.”

Before they could fall into the easy banter that defined their relationship, there was a knock on Gustus’ office door.  He smiled warmly at the person on the other side before waving them in eagerly.  Lexa didn’t have to look to know that Anya had arrived.  She stood to greet her best friend and mentor turned Agent in Charge of Asset Protection for the Secret Service.

“An.  It’s been too long,” Lexa murmured into the older woman’s shoulder as Anya wrapped her up in a tight hug.  “What can I do?”

Lexa saw a flurry of emotion flit across Anya’s face as she backed out of the hug, the woman settling her features into a look of utmost professionalism after a moment. 

“Let’s just get Clarke settled so I can get to the hospital.”

Lexa nodded, sitting back down once again.  Anya moved to embrace Gustus briefly before settling herself in the chair next to Lexa.  She looked worn and pale, a testament to just how taxing the previous few hours had been on her.

“Gus, if it’s alright with you, I’d like to forgo addressing the whole office and keep this between ourselves,” Anya started, her hands fidgeting in her lap and the only sign of the break in her otherwise calm facade.

“Of course,” Gustus replied, leaning forward in his own chair.  “I assumed that due to the break in protocol, this has become an unusually…delicate situation.”

Anya blew out a frustrated breath.  “That’s an understatement.  As we’re speaking, agents are removing several hidden incendiary devices from both back-up safe house locations.”

Lexa leaned forward herself at the information, her earlier guesses all but proven correct.

“We have no idea how both locations came to be compromised, but it is safe to say that we have a mole somewhere in the agency.”  At that, Anya sat back and for a moment, the weight of the morning's events seeming to press down on her.  “Until we can establish a new safehouse, we need Clarke to stay on site here, where she’s at least safe for the moment.”

“What about the President and her husband?” Gustus inquired, the threat to their safety clearly an issue now that it was possible someone had infiltrated the highest levels of their protection protocols.

“They’re safe.  They’ve been sequestered with a small and trusted protective detail” Anya reassured.  Anticipating the follow-up questions, Anya raised a single hand and barreled on.  “There has been no indication that the attack on Clarke was linked to any movement against President Kane herself.  Though, we’ve obviously all come to the conclusion that the attack on Clarke was to gain some kind of leverage over the President.”

“Is anyone claiming responsibility?”

Lexa felt Anya tense slightly, the only visible reaction to Lexa’s question.  She appeared to debate with herself for a moment, almost as if uncertain whether to divulge the next set of facts.

“Almost immediately after the attack, The Coalition were all over different sites taking credit.”

The tension that filled the room at the mention of what had since become a dormant force was heavy to the point of suffocation.  Lexa stood, her own body stiff with anger and tension.  She paced for a few moments, the news settling into her bones and reigniting her earlier fury.

“The war is over, has been over for nearly five years since President Wallace was overthrown and killed,” Gustus argued as he watched Lexa’s movements.

“You’re right,” Anya agreed.  “We all thought The Coalition had been dismantled and destroyed with the death of President Wallace, Sr.”  Anya also eyed Lexa with barely concealed concern.  She shot a look at Gustus, both of them silently acknowledging their worries about Lexa.  They’d both been present when Lexa had returned from war.  They had seen her battle her demons and knew what a struggle it had been, and continued to be, for her.  Even now they knew that she wasn’t fully over them, and who could blame her?  What Lexa had seen and dealt with in her life, no one should ever have to go through.  She was without a doubt one of the strongest people that both Anya and Gustus knew.  “This new faction, if you will, claims to be organized under his son, Cage Wallace.”

Lexa stopped dead in her tracks, her hands immediately balling into fists.  “I thought he was dead,” Lexa grit out, as her nostrils flared in anger. 

Before Anya could even answer, there was another knock at Gustus’ door and Lexa looked over to see an exotically beautiful dark-skinned woman standing on the other side.  Taking a deep breath as Gustus rose to open the door and greet her, Lexa swallowed the rage that had reared its ugly head at the mention of Cage.  Other than Nia Queen, Lexa was certain that she didn’t hate anyone on the planet more.  Hearing that he was alive after all these years was definitely a shock for her. 

Though the older woman was small in stature, the air of authority that surrounded her made her seem much larger.  Her graying hair was pulled back from her face in a no-nonsense bun, the permanent laugh lines etched into her dark skin proving she lived a good life despite the stress of her position.  The woman wrapped Anya up in a hug, murmuring soft words to the younger woman that caused Anya’s fists to clench at her sides she tried to keep her emotions in check.  Anya nodded into her shoulder before the woman broke the contact and turned to Lexa.

“Rochelle Washington,” she introduced as she held her hand out to Lexa to shake.  “Director of the Washington Field Office of the FBI.”

Lexa pushed off Gustus’ desk to grasp her hand, not surprised in the least at her strong grip.  “Agent Lexa Woods,” she replied before settling back on the desk.

“I’m well aware of who you are, Agent,” Rochelle replied, a warm smile spreading on her features.  “Both Gus and Anya here speak very highly of you.

“Of course they do,” Lexa sighed as a slight blush painted her cheeks.  “Don’t believe everything they say, they’ve been known to embellish.”

Gustus snorted at that, his eye roll practically audible.  “I wish some of the things you’ve done were embellishments and not things you’ve lived through.  It would have saved Indra and I quite a few grey hairs.”

“Eh, they make you look distinguished, Gus,” Rochelle chuckled.  “I think you should be thanking the kid for blessing you with a better look.  She helped you out.”

“Alright, alright,” Gustus chuckled as he sat back in his seat.  “Plenty of time for this later.  Let’s get back to business.”

“You’re right, I apologize,” Rochelle murmured as she took the seat next to Anya.  Turning to the young woman next to her, she directed her next question to Anya.  “So, I take it you told them?” 

“Just about Wallace and his new faction,” Lexa replied for her.  Anya was still clearly working to control herself after whatever Rochelle had said to her.  She nodded subtly when Anya gave her an appreciative look.  “I imagine you came bearing more good news.”

“You might want to sit down,” Rochelle began.  When Lexa just gave her a look, Rochelle raised her brows before mouthing “ok” and continuing.  “We’ve been monitoring chatter over the last few months that indicates Nia Queen has been funding and supporting this new faction.”

The only indication that Lexa had heard her was a tick in her cheek as her jaw clenched.  The room was completely silent and if they thought the tension had been heavy before, they had been wrong.  

“Lexa-,” Gustus began as he moved to reach out for her.

“I’m fine,” she managed to bite out as she subtly moved away from the contact.  “I’m fine,” she reiterated when he didn’t look convinced.  “Just surprised is all.”

“The reason we haven’t said anything about it is because we had nothing concrete, merely whispers,” Rochelle clarified.  “We were working to corroborate it with the CIA but Nia has become unbelievably paranoid since the attempt on her life six years ago.  She doesn’t allow anyone into her inner circle.  The CIA lost two agents trying to infiltrate it.”

“So if all you have are whispers, then why do you believe they’re connected?” Lexa inquired as she moved to lean on the end of Gustus’ desk.  Her mind was still reeling but she needed answers.

“About five minutes after the attack, Roan, Nia’s son and second in command, was recorded during a phone conversation dressing down Cage after he and his men failed to murder Clarke.  He specifically mentioned that his mother was displeased.”

“So not only is Cage alive, but he’s working with one of the most prolific terrorists this country has ever seen?”  Gustus’ own frustration at the whole situation was clear in the clipped tone of his voice.  “The war has been over for years and Mount Weather was all but destroyed.  What could they possibly hope to gain with few to no resources?”

“We’re still working on that,” Rochelle advised them as she folded her hands delicately in her lap.  “At this point, the only thing we know for certain is that the threat to Clarke’s life is still immediate.”

“We can confirm that is fact,” Anya jumped in, seemingly having recovered herself.  “When agents moved to sweep the first safe house, as protocol dictates, they found a hidden incendiary device.  Honestly, if my guy hadn’t been a prior explosives expert in the military, I doubt we would have found it.  When they swept the back-up house, the same device was found in nearly the same place.”

“We didn’t hear anything about that,” Rochelle mused, as she pulled her phone out and began furiously typing on it.  “Roan didn’t mention it either.  It seemed the initial incident was the only thing planned.”

“Are you saying we have a lone wolf?”  Gustus asked, confusion clear in his tone.

“I doubt it.  A lone wolf would have had no idea when Cage planned to attack.  It’s more likely Nia just didn’t tell either Cage or Roan and had one of her people handle it,” Rochelle surmised.  “She was right not to trust Cage to get the job done.”

The bluntness of the statement struck a chord with Anya and Lexa saw her pale at the blasé comment. 

“Roch,” Gustus chastised quietly. 

Glancing up in at Gustus in confusion and then looking at Anya, guilt immediately pulled at her features as she took in her pallor.  “Oh, shit.  An, I’m sorry.  I didn’t think.”

“It’s fine.  I’m fine.  She’s going to be fine,” Anya declared, though the words were hollow.  “It’s a good thing Raven was there, otherwise Clarke would be dead too.”

“Absolutely,” Rochelle quickly agreed.  “She’s a hero.”

Lexa clenched her jaw at that word again.  She hated that word.

“Well, let’s get Clarke squared away so that I can get to the hospital,” Anya grumbled.  “The sooner we have her settled, the less stressed I’ll feel.”

“Let’s get to it, then,” Gustus stated as he leaned forward in his seat.  “After all, we all deserve a piece of Nia and Cage after everything they’ve done to us.”

Lexa let out a heavy breath as she settled in for what she was sure would be a debate turned argument over their next move, as it always was when they all came together.  If she was being honest though, she wouldn’t want anyone else arranging protection for Clarke and going after Nia and Cage.  She was in this now, no matter where it took her.

Chapter Text

The most beautiful people I’ve known are those who have known trials, have known struggles, have known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.Elizabeth Kübler-Ross

Twenty minutes and one very heated argument later, Anya stormed out of Gustus’ office and towards the elevators, Gustus following her.  Lexa watched as he bid her farewell at the elevators and disappeared in the general direction of the conference room.  Rochelle, who had admittedly been bordering on amused by the near yelling a minute earlier, was now warily watching as Lexa remained behind, still as a statue.  A muscle ticked in her jaw as she stared resolutely at the door Anya had just disappeared through.  Recognizing that trying to pry any sort of conversation out of the other woman would be pretty much useless, Rochelle merely reached out a warm hand and squeezed Lexa’s arm in support before also leaving the office.

Finally alone, Lexa blew out a frustrated breath and ran a shaking hand through her hair.  What Anya was asking was too much.  Too much trust to place in someone like her, for starters.  Too much responsibility to expect Lexa to handle anymore.  Maybe before the war, before her numerous failures.  Maybe then she could have done what was asked of her.  Now, however, she was less than certain of her abilities and was left with no choice but to comply with orders despite her doubts.

Feeling her anxiety bubbling back up, Lexa forced herself to move before it could take hold.  She resigned herself to the fact that today was going to be one of those days where she struggled all day to keep her anxiety at bay.  As she stepped into the hallway, she glanced down to where the conference room was, noticing that the agents she’d seen come off the elevator with Clarke were locked in an intense conversation with Gustus outside the room.  Just behind them, seated at the massive oak table within the room, she could make out Clarke sitting by herself staring straight ahead at nothing in particular.  She was clearly still shaken by the incident and no one had offered her anything to clean herself up as she was still covered in what was now dry blood.  Lexa swallowed at the image and turned her focus to the bullpen in front of her instead while she gathered herself.

Weaving across the floor, she slipped into the women’s locker room that was housed on their floor and walked to her locker.  Opening it, she rooted through the gym bag she had in there to make sure she had everything she was looking for.  Satisfied, she laid it out on the corresponding bench and made her way out of the locker room and back across the bullpen.  As she approached the conference room, the agents there abruptly stopped talking in a way that told her they had definitely been talking about her. 

“Fantastic,” she muttered to herself as she walked up to Gustus.  

“Agent Woods,” Gustus greeted her as he gestured at the agents in front of him.  “This is Dr. Griffin’s current detail.”

Nodding her acknowledgment at the group, Lexa found her attention drawn to the still too pale woman sitting alone in the room behind them.  “If you don’t mind, I thought it might be a good idea to escort Dr. Griffin to the locker room to get cleaned up.”

Each of the agents stared at her as though she’d suddenly grown two heads, none of them having thought of the woman’s needs beyond her security.  Now that the imminent threat was over, Lexa figured the poor woman would appreciate a hot shower and clean clothes.  When none of the agents answered, Lexa just raised a brow and shot Gustus a look.

“I think she would appreciate that,” he replied for them, waving her through.

“Great,” Lexa mumbled as she wove between the agents who were all just staring at her.  

Lexa pushed the door open, grimacing when the noise caused Clarke to jump and her wide eyes flicked to Lexa.  Lexa saw the flash of fear in them before Clarke expertly dropped her walls and all that remained was quiet recognition.

“You’re the one that threw yourself in front of an RPG in Rio,” Clarke breathed before Lexa could even get the door closed.  “Sergeant Lexa Woods.”

Lexa stiffened at the quiet statement, her own walls coming up in defense.  “You’re the one who saved my life.”  She acknowledged with a nod.  “It’s Agent Woods, now.  I never did get to thank you for that.”

Clarke didn’t reply, merely nodded at her as she humbly accepted Lexa’s gratitude.  An air of words unsaid hung between them, neither one of them needing to acknowledge that had Clarke even been one minute later, Lexa’s life would have ended right there in the rubble.

Clearing her throat and trying to relieve some of the tension hanging heavy between them, Lexa gestured at the other woman.  “I thought that you might appreciate a hot shower and a change of clothes.”

Clarke seemed startled at the suggestion, looking down at herself as though she hadn’t realized that she was still covered in someone else’s blood.  She swallowed as she studied her blood-caked hands, the appendages shaking just enough for her to notice.  She quickly pulled them back to her side, hoping Lexa hadn’t spotted it.  When she returned her gaze to Lexa’s she found no pity waiting for her, only understanding.

“I’m not sure my detail would approve,” Clarke scowled, trying to redirect her attention as well as Lexa’s. She glanced at the suits still gathered just beyond the door and Lexa didn’t miss the frustration that flit across the doctor’s face.

“Well, I’m officially in charge of your detail now so they don’t have much choice,” Lexa advised her, holding Clarke’s gaze when the blonde looked at her in surprise.  “So if that’s what you’d like, I’m here to make it happen.”

“Can we go to the hospital?” Clarke asked, a hint of desperation adding an edge to her voice.  “No one will tell me anything and I need to check on Raven.”

“I’ll see what I can work out while you get cleaned up,” Lexa began, an apologetic expression taking over her features as she looked at Clarke.  “They will expect that though, these people that came after you this morning.  I can’t promise that I will get you there if it’s going to further compromise your safety.”

“I don’t care about my safety!” Clarke exploded, the sudden shift in emotion startling Lexa for a moment.  “These people attacked and killed friends of mine, people I care about.  Two of them are dead, all because they took a job protecting me.  One of them is fighting for her life or might even be dead.  I don’t know! No one wants to look at me let alone tell me what the hell is going on!”

Lexa understood Clarke’s frustration, knew what it was to be treated like a thing rather than a person.  Lifting her hands in a placating gesture, Lexa calmly held Clarke’s now wild gaze.  “Clarke, I promise that I will do everything I can to get you to the hospital.  As far as an update, the last I’d heard is that she’s critical and in emergency surgery.”

“Ok, ok,” Clarke sighed heavily as she leaned forward on the table in front of her, her head hanging.  “I apologize.  I’m not upset with you.”

“I know,” Lexa reassured her quietly.  “I understand how horrifying this morning must have been for you, trust me.”

Clarke chuckled humorlessly at that, pinning Lexa with an anger filled glare.  “This morning?  Please, while horrible, yes, it was nothing I haven’t seen or dealt with before.  It’s being treated like an absolute child that’s been hard to swallow.”

“You have my word that neither I nor my team will treat you like a child from here on out,” Lexa promised quietly, finding it quite impossible to tear her gaze from Clarke’s.  “I’m sorry that all of this has happened to you but you have to understand that they were just doing their job.”

Clarke blew out a frustrated breath as some of the fury left her eyes.  “Logically, I know you’re right,” she admitted as she pushed away from the table and crossed her arms over her chest.  Lexa recognized it for the unconscious defense mechanism that it was and stored the information away for later.  “I just haven’t had the best track record with agents since my mother was elected president.  Raven and her team were different.  They treated me like an equal and a person, not just a job.  It was a nice change of pace.”

“Raven has a unique way of using sarcastic insults to make you feel like family,” Lexa nodded, a smile tugging at her lips at the thought of the sassy brunette.  “She’s definitely one of a kind.”

“That she is,” Clarke agreed quietly.  “So you understand why I have to make sure that she is ok.  That she survives.”

Lexa studied the woman before her, not quite sure what she was looking for.  Despite Clarke’s best efforts, Lexa could see guilt swimming in her eyes, the emotion only overshadowed by the sheer pigheadedness she was exhibiting.  She’d been through hell this morning yet she still stood tall, proud and stubborn, her focus on the people around her rather than herself.  Though Lexa had been mostly unconscious for their first meeting, she definitely recalled Clarke being just as stubborn fighting death to save her.  Knowing that Clarke would not rest until she’d been able to see Raven for herself, Lexa resigned herself to the fact that they’d be going into an unsecured location with a detail that seemed less than attuned to Clarke’s needs.

Making a split-second decision that she’d likely regret at some point down the road, Lexa sighed quietly.  “I will do my very best to get you to MedStar.”

“Thank-you,” Clarke whispered, her voice rasping with barely controlled emotion.  She seemed to gather herself and when her eyes finally focused on Lexa, she could see how trying the morning had been in the tired pull of them.  “I apologize for the outburst.”

Lexa waved it off immediately, one corner of her mouth turning up in a smile.  “As I said, I understand.  Besides, I'm pretty sure I owe you at least that much for saving my life.”

With that, Lexa turned and opened the door, gesturing for Clarke to follow her.  Once Clarke fell into step beside her, they walked across the now bustling bullpen and towards the locker room, the noise of multiple conversations and the incessant ringing of desk phones dying out as the door closed behind them.  Lexa gestured to her right, towards the showers while she gathered up the clothing she’d left on the bench.  Walking it to Clarke, she handed it over, the woman hesitating to take the proffered items.

“I keep extras in my locker.  I think these will fit you,” Lexa told her as she offered the clothes once more.  Once the Clarke took them, she moved to grab a towel and washcloth and hand those to Clarke as well.

“I’m sure they’ll be great, thank-you,” Clarke murmured as she ran her hands over Lexa’s worn GWU t-shirt.

“All the shower supplies you should need you can find at the sinks,” Lexa advised her as she gestured behind Clarke.  When the blonde nodded in understanding, Lexa turned towards the door.  “If you need anything, I’ll be just out here in the bullpen.”

Clarke nodded once more and Lexa pushed her way out of the locker room to give Clarke some well-deserved privacy.  Before she headed to her desk to work on the hospital issue, she angled herself back to the conference room where she found the agents who had brought Clarke in.  They were doing nothing more than milling around and Lexa had to restrain herself from rolling her eyes. 

“I appreciate all your help, but my team and I will be taking over the Caduceus detail from here on out per Director Arbor,” she advised them succinctly.  At the looks of confused anger on some of their faces, Lexa explained further.  “This is not a reflection on any of you or your abilities.  If there are any issues, I’d advise you all contact Director Arbor directly and follow up with her.”

With that, she turned back and strode over to her desk where she all but collapsed into her chair.  The adrenaline of the news that Raven had been shot was just about gone and Lexa was feeling the weight of her sleepless night and anxiety.  Her day had just gotten much longer now that she had the responsibility of running Clarke’s detail and she knew it would be a while until she’d be back in bed.  Rather than allow either to pull her under, she pulled out her cellphone and sent out a text to Octavia, asking for her and Lincoln to meet her at the cafe across the street as soon as they could.  Despite the still early hour, Octavia’s affirmative response was almost immediate and Lexa was pleased to see that she and Lincoln would be there in twenty minutes.  

In the meantime, she logged on to her computer and pulled up the dossier on one Dr. Clarke Griffin that Anya had managed to send her at some point.  The file was large and full of information on every intimate detail of Clarke’s life.  Skipping the private details of Clarke’s life that she felt uncomfortable reading,  Lexa skipped to the section on Clarke’s military service and found a large portion of it had been redacted.  Perplexed, Lexa made a mental note to ask Clarke if she knew why.  Beyond that, Lexa couldn’t stomach delving into the private moments of someone’s life without their permission.  She understood that knowledge was power and it was all so that they could better protect her, but reading the file felt like reading her diary and after a moment, Lexa decided she’d gather intel the old fashioned way: by actually talking to the woman. Closing the file on her computer, she shifted her focus to figuring out how she was going to get Clarke to the hospital safely.

When her phone dinged ten minutes later with a message from Octavia letting her know that she and Lincoln had arrived, she still hadn’t come up with a viable solution.  Frustrated, she locked her computer and walked over to the locker room.  Cracking the door, she could hear the shower still running and figured she had a few minutes to brief her friends before Clarke was ready.  She sent a message to Gustus, who was nowhere in sight, that she was running across the street and asked that he watch out for Clarke.  His response hit her phone as she reached the exit of the building and she promised him a coffee as repayment.  

She jogged across the street weaving in and out of cars stopped in rush-hour gridlock, a smile tugging at her lips when she saw Octavia and Lincoln seated by one of the windows.  She waved at both as she got in line to grab a few coffees and some pastries before she wandered over to them.  

“Thanks for coming,” she started as she wrapped each one in a hug.  Plopping down at the table across from them, she sipped at her coffee, wincing when it was far too hot to consume.  “I assume you guys already spoke to Anya?”

“Yeah, we just came from the hospital,” Octavia replied, a solemn look on her face.  “She was still in surgery and they didn’t have an update.”

“Yeah, we haven’t heard anything either,” Lexa revealed, her mouth twisting in displeasure.  “Did Anya fill you in on everything?”

At Octavia’s smirk, she knew that Anya had clearly anticipated Lexa’s next move.  “She told us you guys had it out but that she won.  Sorry we missed it.”

“I’m sure,” Lexa replied sarcastically as she pulled a bear claw out of the bag and bit into it.  The cafe around them was bustling with an influx of people headed to work, the din helping to drown out the conversation she knew they needed to have.  “I need you guys with me on this.”

“I’m mean, you always know we’re down for a party,” Octavia responded enthusiastically as Lincoln just nodded along with her.  “Lay it out for us.  Who are the players?”

Knowing the next words would incite a fairly loud reaction from the younger girl, Lexa leaned in towards them and spoke as low as she could.  “You need to keep yourself contained,” she began and paused until she’d received affirmative nods from both.  “Nia Queen, Cage Wallace, and a newly reformed Coalition.”

For a moment, Octavia and Lincoln just stared at her, clearly having expected anything but what she’d just said.  Then, the silence was broken as Octavia pushed up and out of her seat, fury overtaking her features.  “Are you fucking kidding me?!” she practically bellowed.
 
Lincoln placed a hand on her back in an attempt to soothe his wife as Lexa cast a furtive glance around the small shop, all eyes on their table after that outburst.  

“Okteivia, sitta,” she growled as she glared at the woman.  “What the hell did I just say?!”

Still seething, Octavia pulled her chair back and sat down with a huff.  “You’re telling me we spent years crawling around in a godforsaken jungle and bombed out country for nothing?”

“It wasn’t for nothing.  You know that,” Lincoln tried to reason but Octavia was having none of it.

“You nearly died over there,” she pointed out in a harsh whisper as she gazed at Lexa.  “How are you so calm about all of this?”

“A lot of people did die over there,” Lexa murmured.  “I never got a chance to accomplish what I wanted to.  Not once I was injured.  Before I knew it, they were declaring the Coalition dismantled and the war won.  This may very well give me that opportunity.  It could give us all that opportunity.”

Octavia’s features brightened at the last statement.  The idea of vengeance for her brother, who had been killed during his first tour, more than appealing.  

“You make a persuasive argument, Sarge,” Octavia smirked as she stole the other half of Lexa’s bear claw and tore into it.  “Plus, we definitely owe Wanheda since she saved your ass over there.”

Lexa rolled her eyes at the moniker her unit had devised to refer to Clarke after they’d watched her pretty much singlehandedly bring Lexa back from the brink of death. 
“So when do we start?” Lincoln asked, his own eagerness apparent in the shine of his eyes.

Lexa heard her phone ding and pulled it out to look at the message, seeing a notification from Gustus.  Assuming Clarke had emerged from the locker room, Lexa tapped on the text.  When she paled, Lincoln leaned forward, his brow furrowed with concern.

“What is it, Sarge?”

“Clarke is gone.”

XXX

Lexa was fuming as she sat in rush hour traffic and glared at the light above her as she willed it to change.  She had been up and down every direct route to MedStar for the last hour with absolutely no sign of Clarke.  Octavia and Lincoln were out with her, only a call away on the radio she had snagged off her desk when she’d gone up to confront Gustus.  It had turned out that per their security cameras, Clarke had slipped out a side door of the building long before Lexa had gone to meet Octavia and Lincoln at the cafe.  Clearly, Lexa’s skills were more than a little rusty and she wasn’t sure if she was more upset with herself or the doctor for taking off unprotected.

The light finally changed and Lexa continued her slow progress over the side streets north east of the U Street Corridor.  She was so focused on the foot traffic on the sidewalks that she had nearly caused several accidents already.  Coming to yet another red light, she leaned forward and rested her head on the steering wheel.  The stress headache that had started after her workout was steadily evolving into a migraine and she lightly banged her head on the wheel as she debated the merits of just going to the hospital and waiting for Clarke to show up.  If she wasn’t convinced that the Coalition was going to grab her off the street or kill her as she was walking to MedStar, Lexa would actually do it. 

“Lexa, you up?” Lincoln’s voice crackled over the radio and echoed in the spacious government issued Chevy Tahoe.  

Fumbling for the radio in the cupholder next to her, she keyed it up.  “Yeah, Linc.  Tell me you’ve got good news,” she practically begged as she stopped at yet another red light.

“I wish I did,” he replied regretfully.  “The 4th Street corridor, Rhode Island Avenue, and North Capitol Street are all clear too.”

Lexa let out a groan as she pulled over.  Leaning over, she flattened out the map she had sitting in the passenger seat and systematically crossed out each of the areas Lincoln had called out.

“Lex, are you sure we can’t bring more people in on this?  It’s a big area for only three of us to cover.” Lexa could hear the frustration in Lincoln’s voice.

“No, Linc.  We don’t know who we can trust right now,” Lexa sighed, just as frustrated.  “Anya knows to call me if she shows up at the hospital.  We just have to keep on it.”

“Fine.  Then I think we should send Octavia down to the Metro,” Lincoln proposed.  “There’s a good chance that she jumped on a train to get there faster.”

“Good idea.  Stay east and keep canvassing for me,” Lexa ordered.  “The radios won’t work down there so tell Octavia to keep her phone on her.”

“Typical.  Government equipment doesn’t work when you need it,” Lincoln muttered and Lexa could practically hear his eyes rolling.  “I’ll radio you if we find her.  I’m headed back up around Howard University to see if she’s cutting in against the McMillan Reservoir.”

“Direct,” Lexa acknowledged.  Sighing, she ran her hands over her face as she worked to keep her blood pressure at a manageable level.  Looking at the map in the passenger seat next to her, she debated her next move.  Clarke would be moving northeast across the city and while North Capitol Street had been a long shot, Lexa knew she could leave no possible route unchecked.

Looking at the time display on her dashboard, she quickly calculated the approximate distance that a normal person would be able to cover on foot.  She’d already underestimated Clarke once though, and she was still dealing with the fallout from that mistake.  Pulling up the map and draping it over her steering wheel, she studied it as she considered exactly what she would do in Clarke’s place.  She definitely wouldn’t take the Metro, she realized.  She’d never confine herself to a small space that didn’t have a quick and easy escape route.  Staying on foot, while slower and quite the hike, was definitely the better choice.

Lexa had already asked a tech at the office access Clarke’s Uber and Lyft accounts and the woman hadn’t utilized either of their services.  In fact, the doctor’s phone was off altogether making it impossible to track her.  She was smart and she apparently knew how to stay off the grid- definitely smarter than Lexa had given her credit for.  Lexa made a gut decision and pulled back into traffic, intent on staying in the same neighborhoods she’d been looking through in hopes that she’d come across Clarke before the Coalition.

Half an hour later, Lexa was still systematically driving up and down side streets just north of U Street and seeing Clarke in every pedestrian she passed.  She’d been working in an ever-expanding grid pattern getting closer and closer to MedStar with each turn.  As she pulled up to the light at 11th and Harvard for the umpteenth time, she looked to her right at the colorful storefront of Sonya’s Market and froze as a redheaded woman emerged from inside.  The woman paused and surreptitiously swept her gaze around the intersection before turning and walking at a clipped pace down Harvard Street, water bottle in hand. 

Lexa was so caught up in studying the woman’s gait and comparing it to the way Clarke had shuffled past her that morning that she completely missed the light changing.  The blast of a car horn behind her drew her attention but not before it also caused the redhead to turn and lock eyes with her.  Grabbing her radio, she made sure to keep her eyes on the woman, lest she disappear again.

“Linc, I’ve got her.  1200 block of Harvard moving East.  Meet you at MedStar.”

She turned the radio down low enough to miss his response as she made the turn and pulled next to Clarke.  Clarke hadn’t moved since she had spotted Lexa at the intersection, the one and only thing that had gone right that morning.  As Lexa pulled next to her, she dropped the passenger side window and pinned Clarke with a cool stare.

“Get.  In.” The command was low but clear and laced with every bit of frustration Lexa had experienced over the last hour and a half.

There was a long moment where she wondered if Clarke would do as she’d asked but Lexa relaxed just the smallest bit when she saw the woman stepping towards the car.  She turned back to the stare at the road in front of them as she waited for Clarke to get settled beside her.  Pulling back into traffic, they sat in heavy silence as fury rolled off Lexa in waves.  Her hands were so tight on the steering wheel that her knuckles were white for the second time that day.

“Agent Woods-,”

“Please, don’t,” Lexa warned, her hands gripping the wheel even tighter.  “Just don’t.”

Silence fell in the car once more, this time awkward, and Lexa could tell that Clarke was practically bursting with the need to say something, anything.  Sighing heavily, Lexa felt her anger subsiding and weariness taking its place.

“You have to understand how dangerous that was, Dr. Griffin,” she murmured, breaking the silence and the weird tension that had taken up residence between them.  “If you’d died just now, everything those agents died for, everything Raven did to keep you safe, it all would have been for nothing.  Victory stands on the back of sacrifice but what you did today would have made their sacrifice worthless.”

“I’m aware, Agent Woods,” Clarke shot back, anger lacing her words.  “I was there this morning.  I was in the war against the Coalition for years.  I know firsthand just how deadly they can be.  I don’t need you to lecture me.”

Lexa immediately felt her own fury ratchet back up at the dismissal.  “Listen to me,” she demanded as she brought the car to a stop at a light a few blocks away from the hospital grounds.  “There is a difference in being at war with these people and being their target.  You looked like any other soldier on that battlefield, one among the many, but here?  Here you’re their only focus and that is beyond dangerous.”

“You act like I didn’t just watch two of my friends get killed in front of me,” Clarke seethed, her hands balling into fists on her lap.  “Like my best friend didn’t just dive in front of bullets meant for me and then refuse to be treated for fear of leaving me unprotected.  Do you have any idea what it is like to have your best friend laying on top of you, bleeding-no, dying- on top of you and deciding that you’re more important than the preservation of their own life?  Do you?”

Lexa blanched a bit at the mention of Raven bleeding out as she bravely fought to ensure that Clarke lived.  “I’m sorry that you had to experience that, truly, I am,” Lexa offered softly as she accelerated through the intersection when the light changed.  Images of a bleeding and dying Raven were flashing in her mind and she could feel her anxiety working to make a comeback.  Swallowing, she actively worked to push the images away.  “That does not change the fact that you going rogue can never happen again.  Not until we get the people behind this.”

“I can’t promise that,” Clarke argued hotly as her hands waved around wildly.  “I’m an adult and I am more than capable of taking care of myself.”

Lexa sighed in frustration and was able to pry a hand off the wheel to run it angrily through her hair.  “Dr. Griffin, I do not doubt that you are more than capable of handling yourself but don’t make the mistake of underestimating the lengths that these people will go to in order to get to you.  You can not be on guard 24/7.  That is what my team and I are for.  This is our job.  It’s what we do so that you can let your guard down.”

“With all due respect, Agent Woods, I don’t think I’ll be letting my guard down for a moment after today,” Clarke retorted, clearly incensed as her arms came up to cross over her chest, her subconscious defense mechanism taking over and telling Lexa that she’d hit a nerve.  “I’ve more than learned my lesson the hard way.”

Lexa pulled onto the hospital grounds and moved towards the loading docks, turning Clarke’s words over in her mind as well as her physical response.  Despite Clarke’s bravado, she suspected it was just a show to cover up the doctor’s fear and guilt at the whole situation.  Deciding that her instincts hadn’t yet led her wrong, she parked the car and turned to face Clarke, waiting until the doctor turned to face her.

“I understand that this morning was awful.  No one should ever have to go through that,” Lexa began gently, “But none of what happened is your fault.”

Clarke tried valiantly to keep her angry façade in place but Lexa could see the guilt and grief flickering in her words.  She understood that no one had given the woman a chance to actually sit and process everything that she’d been through that morning and the emotional toll alone had to be agonizingly heavy.

“I’m not saying any of this to placate or patronize you,” Lexa clarified when it looked like Clarke might argue.  “I will never lie to you, not when it matters.  This is one of those times.  Their deaths are not on you.  Raven is up there fighting for her life because she believed that you were important enough to protect.  That’s not something to be taken lightly.”

Clarke sat back in her seat, seeming to deflate almost in front of Lexa.  Though her face remained mostly passive, Lexa could see the internal war raging in her eyes. 
She glanced around quickly to make sure they were still secure before leaning slightly towards Clarke.  

“Look,” she began lowly, “Consider this car and the next five minutes yours and yours alone.”  Clarke gave her a confused look and Lexa found herself smirking just a bit.  “I’m going to stand watch right there,” Lexa told her as she pointed to a spot about five feet beyond Clarke’s door.  “I’ll give you five minutes in this car to do whatever you need to do- cry, scream, whatever-  so that you can move on from this and get your head straight to go in there.  I can’t give you 100% privacy, but I can get you as close as I can.”

Understanding and gratitude lit behind Clarke’s eyes as she managed a single nod in Lexa’s direction.  Taking that as her cue, Lexa swept around them one final time before climbing out of the car and going to stand where she had previously indicated to Clarke.  The doctor watched her set her watch and when Lexa had five minutes cued up, she gave Clarke a nod and turned until she was only watching the woman out of the corner of her eye.  It was the best that she could do given the circumstances.

All was quiet for a moment before she saw Clarke clamoring into the back of the SUV where the tints were dark enough to block her from view.  Clever, Lexa thought as her lips twitched.  It was only another moment before she heard muffled yelling emanating from the car as it shook and she could tell that Clarke was likely beating the hell out of the seats.  Filing each of those facts away for later, Lexa continued to scan the surrounding area until her watch reached one minute left.  She walked to the car, which was now quiet, and gently knocked on the rear window.  She paused a second before holding up a single finger and then pointing at her watch.  With that, she returned to her post. 

Clarke emerged from the vehicle approximately 30 seconds later looking slightly tousled but no worse for wear.  She glanced at Lexa, steel in her gaze and no signs of the earlier guilt and grief.

“Thank-you,” she murmured, her voice more hoarse than it had been minutes prior due to the yelling.

“Of course,” Lexa replied as she gestured for Clarke to walk up the loading ramp ahead of her.  “You sure you’re ready to do this?”

“I have to, ready or not,” Clarke affirmed.  “If there’s anything that I can do to help her, I have to do that.”

“Very well, Dr. Griffin,” Lexa acknowledged as she opened the loading dock door for Clarke.  “I will ensure that happens.”

With that, they entered the confines of MedStar and Lexa steeled herself in preparation for the hell that awaited them.

Chapter Text

Chapter Four

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.” —Winston Churchill


Lexa fell into step beside Clarke, the doctor visibly relaxing as they emerged into a main corridor.  Her response was a direct opposite to Lexa, who instantly tensed tenfold at the sight of the too bright hallways and the smell of antiseptic and death.  Panic settled heavily on Lexa’s shoulders the further into the building they walked and she swallowed heavily in an attempt to contain herself.  Desperate for a distraction, she turned to Clarke instead.

“How do you know your way around here?” Lexa asked, the ease with which Clarke was navigating the identical hallways perplexing.

“I work here,” Clarke responded, confusion furrowing her brow.  “Didn’t they give you my file?”

Lexa glanced away, scanning ahead of them.  “They did.  I glanced at it but found it to be too…intimate for me to actually finish.”

Clarke huffed out a bitter laugh at that.  “Isn’t it your job to know the most intimate details of my life?”

“There is a difference between needing to know your schedule versus needing to know your bathroom habits or how you take your coffee,” Lexa explained sarcastically as she rolled her eyes.  Clarke was staring at her like she was an enigma that she couldn’t quite figure out, clearly not expecting that response.  “Besides,” Lexa smirked,
“You didn’t give me much chance to get through it.”

Clarke’s lips twitched at that but the blonde remained quiet as they entered a stairwell and quickly ascended the few flights to the third floor.  Lexa was quietly grateful that the woman had chosen to utilize the stairs over the elevators.  She was already struggling and being confined to a small space would only make things worse at this point. 

“The surgical ICU is just up ahead,” Clarke told her as they emerged from the stairwell.  She gestured at a set of ominous looking double doors that had Lexa’s heart hammering in her chest and sweat beading on her forehead.

“You know that I have to go where you go?” Lexa inquired, ignoring the urge to flee in favor of talking business.  “That includes any operating theaters and I’d rather settle this now than have arguments about it later.”

“I understand how this works, Agent Woods,” Clarke assured her as she produced a hospital identification badge and swiped it over the sensor for the doors.  “Raven usually stood by in the scrub room if I was operating and stayed at my back a respectable distance to allow me to work otherwise.  Will that be acceptable?”

Lexa nodded as she walked through the now open doors, Clarke striding over to the nurse's desk to talk to the charge nurse on duty.  The overpowering smell of antiseptic, the cacophony of multiple machines beeping, and the frigid temperature on the wing had Lexa’s stomach roiling almost immediately as she fell back a couple of steps to steady herself.  She balled her hands into fists to the point that her nails began to cut into the palms of her hands.  She absolutely detested hospitals.

Clarke nodded her thanks to the charge nurse and strode back over to Lexa.  “Raven’s out of surgery.  Her room is just on the other side,” she told Lexa as she gestured behind her.

Lexa nodded in acknowledgment as she swallowed back rising bile.  “After you.”

“Are you alright?” Clarke asked suddenly, her brow furrowing in concern.  “You seem pale.”

“I’m fine, Dr. Griffin,” Lexa reassured her even as her blood thundered in her ears.  “Just a bit tired.”

Clarke seemed to consider that, and for a moment Lexa thought she may not believe her.  Before she could make further excuses, Clarke was nodding and turning to head the way she had gestured earlier.  Lexa fell into step behind her, her palms aching where her nails bit into the skin but she didn’t let up as the pain was the only thing keeping her grounded.  She hesitated as they rounded the desk and Anya became visible down the hall.  She was leaning against a door, her back to the room behind her and her head in her hands.  Lexa had never seen her look as broken as she did at that moment.

“An?” she called quietly as they approached, trying not to startle the woman.  Anya looked up and Lexa could tell that she had been crying.  She walked up to her and placed a comforting hand on her shoulder as Clarke slipped past them and into Raven’s room.  As Clarke brushed the curtain aside, Lexa caught sight of the brunette lying motionless in the bed, wires and tubes running everywhere like out of some horror film.  “Ray?”

“She’s critical but stable,” Anya croaked, her voice raw with emotion as she nervously played with the wedding band on her finger.  “They said she may never walk again.”

Lexa felt the air leave her lungs at the news, her grip tightening on Anya’s shoulder.  “Does she know yet?”

Anya shook her head.  “She’s still sedated.  The surgeon said that she likely won’t wake up for a few more hours.”  Anya turned back to gaze into Raven’s room, her eyes fixed on the woman lying unnaturally still in the bed.  “The bullet didn’t hit her spine but it was close enough to cause severe swelling.  If it doesn’t go down, the motor function from her waist down could be affected.”

“She’s strong,” Lexa reassured Anya as she faced her once more.  She watched as Clarke picked up the tablet hanging at the end of Raven’s bed- likely a digital chart on the woman.  Clarke’s brow furrowed in concentration as she meticulously flipped through each page.  Turning back to Anya, she smirked.  “She’s also stubborn as a bull.  She won’t let this keep her down and she certainly won’t let anyone tell her what she can and can not do.”

Anya let out a broken laugh at that, her hand coming up to cover her mouth as though she had been startled by the sound.  Lexa saw her swallow heavily, the brief flash of amusement quickly disappearing.  “Truth be told, I’m more worried about her doctor and physical therapist,” she offered after a moment.

Lexa smirked at that as she moved her hand to rest on Anya’s back in a further effort to soothe her.  She began rubbing soft circles across the other woman’s tense shoulders, the only thing she could think of to do in order to alleviate some of Anya’s stress.  “She’d kill you if she saw you agonizing over her.”

“I know,” Anya muttered as she simultaneously ran her hand through her hair and leaned into Lexa just a bit.  “She just really scared me this time.”

“Me too,” Lexa revealed as she looked back at Raven in the bed.  “Even though I’m relieved to see her alive, I’m still scared.  Fear is acceptable as long as we keep going.”

“Why do you think I chose you to avenge my wife and her team?” Anya asked as she pinned Lexa with a heated gaze.  “You’re like a dog with a bone.  As long as you’re standing, you keep going.”

“I learned that from you,” Lexa informed her as she turned to look at Raven once more.  She barely recognized the other woman.  Raven was covered in bandages and her normally caramel colored skin was sallow and sickly looking.  The sight pulled at memories she’d rather forget and she forced herself to push them away.  Instead, she gestured at Raven, “So did she.”

A comfortable silence fell over them as they were both lost in their own thoughts.  They watched as Clarke reviewed Raven’s chart, the woman now looking from the tablet to the monitors around Raven and back, as though making comparisons.  

“I’m glad you were able to find her,”  Anya murmured as she nodded at Clarke.  

“She is the lucky one,” Lexa argued as she shook her head in frustration.  “Cage and his lackey’s have already proven that they have eyes everywhere.”

“She’s stubborn,” Anya commented as she watched the aforementioned woman put back the chart and move to study the machines crowded around Raven.  “Difficult to protect.” 

“She’s smart,” Lexa defended, her gaze also traveling to the blonde.  “She knew enough to stay on foot, shut her phone off, and disguise herself.  Took me over an hour to find her.”

Anya let out a chuckle at that.  “That’s the longest it has ever taken you to acquire a target.”

“Don’t remind me,” Lexa grumbled as she watched Clarke reach out and grab Raven’s hand.  A range of emotions flashed across Clarke’s face as she settled into the chair at Raven’s bedside.  The moment seemed private and she and Anya turned away to allow it in peace.

“Apparently, she gave us a hell of a detailed description of the attack on the way to your offices,” Anya revealed.  “I haven’t been able to bring myself to go over it.  Not sure I can.”

“Then don’t,” Lexa murmured as she watched the emotions playing over Anya’s features.  “Let your team do their job.  They’ve already proven they’re more than competent by narrowing down the players.”

“Again, thanks to her,” Anya confirmed as she gestured over her shoulder at Clarke.  “Her descriptions were so detailed that we were able to pick them up off surveillance in the area immediately and get them run through facial rec.”

Lexa ruminated over that fact quietly for a moment before movement at the end of the hall caught her attention.  She looked up to see Octavia and Lincoln walking towards them.  “Give me a moment?”

Anya nodded as she turned to stare back at Raven.

“How’s she doing?” Octavia asked quietly once she and Lincoln had drawn close enough. 

“Still unconscious,” Lexa responded, a sigh falling unbidden from her lips.  “Anya said she may be paralyzed.”

Shock was quickly followed by grief and anger as the two friends took in the new information.

“Please tell me we are going to go after the bastards that did this,” Octavia seethed as her hands balled into fists.  “Procedure and politics be damned.  We all have contacts that could get us where we need to go.”

Lexa held up a calming hand, not wanting Anya to overhear.  “With this new assignment, that’s out of the question unless they come at Dr. Griffin again.”

Octavia looked at her incredulously.  “You’re really going to just let this go?  All because of some ‘assignment’?”

“Octavia, maybe this isn’t the best place to have this discussion,” Lincoln advised quietly as he glanced pointedly at Anya who had essentially hunched in on herself while they’d been talking.  “Though I do believe your argument has merit.”

Lexa rolled her eyes.  “You would be on her side,” she grumbled as she shook her head.  “However, I agree.  We can’t do this here and now, but we will talk about it.”

Octavia looked perturbed and like she might continue arguing but a muffled sniffle from Anya’s direction had her closing her mouth and her expression quickly morphing to one full of remorse.  “Fine,” she muttered as she crossed her arms over her chest.  “I won’t forget though.”

“I believe that,” Lexa muttered as she turned and walked over to Anya.  “How about a cup of coffee?”  she suggested as she watched Anya roughly wipe at her face in an attempt to hide her tears.

“I don’t want to leave her,”  Anya rasped as she shook her head and drifted closer to Raven’s door.  “What if something happens?”

“I can grab it,” Lincoln offered gently and Anya seemed to relax at that, quickly flashing him an appreciative smile

“Then, yes,” Anya conceded, her eyes still on Raven.  “A coffee would be great.”

Lexa nodded her thanks to Lincoln as he moved back down the hall once more.  Clarke emerged from Raven’s room and shut the door gently behind her.  Lexa could see her fighting to maintain her composure and felt a growing respect for the woman at her efforts.  It was never easy seeing someone you loved lying helpless and injured and the emotions could overwhelm even the strongest person; Lexa herself was barely keeping it together.  She supposed she shouldn’t be surprised, however, that an army doctor who had seen every horrible thing that war had to offer was able to maintain her cool.

“Can I talk to you?” The question was directed at Anya but Clarke’s expression gave nothing away, her features arranged in a perfect mask that left Lexa uneasy.

“Of course, Dr. Griffin,” Anya responded, her tone hesitant.  Lexa could tell Clarke’s lack of emotion was setting the older woman off-kilter as well.  “Alone?”

At Clarke’s affirmative nod, Anya gave Lexa and Octavia a pointed look.  Taking the hint, she nodded at Octavia and gave her a hand signal to stay within close proximity but to give them their privacy.  When Octavia gave her a nod of understanding in return, she turned and pushed through the door to Raven’s room.  She slowly walked over to the bed, her emotions boiling as she took in the full picture of one of her best friends lying broken and beaten in the bed before her.  Bile simmered just below the level of nauseousness and Lexa worked to keep that particular issue at bay.

“Dammit Ray…” she breathed as she settled in the seat next to her and took Raven’s hand in hers.  Her hand was startlingly cold and Lexa began rubbing it briskly to try and work some warmth back into it.  “Always have to be the damn hero.”

She sat staring at her friend for a while, her thoughts wandering to memories of them when they’d first met as young kids in a broken and uncaring system.  They had gravitated towards each other and been dependent on the other ever since then.  That had continued through their lives and into basic training on Parris Island, the first time in her life Lexa was left questioning her choice in friends when the sassy Latina unabashedly mouthed off constantly to their CO and earned their entire platoon extra laps, scut work, and push-ups.  They’d all hated her for it in the moment, but secretly Lexa had loved the challenge.  They had graduated as the best platoon thanks to Raven’s loudmouth, they’d just done it the hardest way possible.  She smiled softly as she thought over their years of friendship that had blossomed out of mutual respect and reliance on the other person for survival.  

Once they’d been honorably discharged from active duty, Lexa assumed that Raven would go her own way, surprised when the Latina had shown up in her class at FLETC for the Secret Service.  She’d initially been confused about why Raven had chosen the USSS over the ATF- where she would get to blow things up- but her uncertainty was cleared up when Raven revealed she was dating Anya and had been for over a year.  Both had gone through the intensive protective detail training, but at the end, even though she was the top of her class, Lexa opted to go the investigative route.  Raven stuck to protective details, quickly proving her worth outside of her connection to Anya and was soon placed on the presidential detail.  Lexa had been thrilled for her- almost as thrilled as when Raven had asked Anya to marry her. 

“We need you back here with us, do you understand me?”  Lexa leaned forward, hovering close to Raven’s head.  She wanted to be sure she was heard over the machines whirring and beeping around them.  “Anya needs you.  So do I.  You need to rest up and get back on your feet.  That’s an order.”

She received no reply, which she had expected but was still disappointed by, and sighed heavily.  She gave Raven’s hand one last squeeze before rising and quietly exiting the room.  She glanced over and saw Clarke and Anya still engaged in what looked like an intense conversation, their low tones making it impossible to overhear.

“What do you think she’s talking to Anya about?” Octavia wondered as Lexa walked over to her.  She was staring at the two women unabashedly.

Lexa shrugged, curious but not enough to blatantly stare at them.  “I assume it has to do with Raven.”

“Right, so don’t you want to know?”  Octavia prodded as she fixed her gaze on Lexa. 

“If it is important, Anya will share it,” Lexa replied easily, not the least bit concerned about the private conversation.  “If she chooses not to, that’s her business.”

Octavia let out a huff at that, clearly not satisfied with the answer.  Lexa watched as her gaze traveled back to the two women down the hall.  She turned herself when she saw Octavia’s eyes widen and was surprised to see Anya pulling Clarke into a hug.  

“Well that’s interesting on a whole other level,” she mused as her brow furrowed in confusion at the uncharacteristic display of emotion from the usually stoic woman.  “I don’t even think she’s ever hugged me.”

“Well, now I really want to know what Wanheda told her,” Octavia murmured in awe.  She turned to Lexa with a smirk.  “Act like you wouldn’t full-body assault her if she tried to hug you.”

Lexa offered a half shrug at the comment, knowing there was no point to arguing when they both knew Octavia was right.  She wasn’t one for overt displays of affection, even from those closest to her.  Not since Costia.  She nearly flinched as the name cut across her subconscious, one of the many memories she preferred to keep buried.  Just the whisper of that memory caused her heart to pound in her chest and sweat to break out across her flesh.  As her world began folding in at the edges around her, she realized she was falling into yet another panic attack, the one she’d been trying to keep at bay all day.

“Hey, you good?”  Octavia was peering at her curiously, if not a bit worriedly.  “You look sick.”

“Can you keep an eye on Dr. Griffin?  I need to get some air,” Lexa barely managed to say before she was practically stumbling backward towards the doors to the ICU, Octavia’s answer lost in the swish of the doors falling closed behind her. 

Lexa felt herself falter and before she could register what was happening, she was collapsing into the wall.  Her hands scrabbled for purchase to prevent a complete meltdown in the middle of the surgical ward and she sighed as she steadied herself on the built-in railing that ran along the length of the hallway.

“Ma’am?  Are you alright?” A concerned male nurse was moving quickly towards her and his nearing proximity caused her anxiety to ratchet up tenfold.

“I’m fine,” she bit out as she pushed herself off the wall and made herself stand tall.

He eyed her suspiciously, clearly not believing her claims of normalcy but allowed her to push past him regardless.  She desperately searched for the stairs, her vision blackening at the edges as her breathing became more and more shallow.  She could feel sweat literally pouring off her and she realized she wasn’t going to make it to stairs, let alone outside.  The thought caused her to spiral and she barely managed to muscle her way into a supply closet and shut the door before she was ripping her jacket off and undoing the buttons on her blouse as she sunk to the floor.

Her whole body shook as her breathing came in gasps and her chest tightened to the point of pain.  She tried to convince herself that it was all in her head, that there was nothing to panic over, but her body was having none of it.  She was spiraling completely out of control and if she didn’t get a handle on her anxiety, she was going to pass out.  Fixating on the shelves in front of her, she pulled the closest box off the shelf and fumbled with it, her fine motor skills all but gone.

Frustrated, she slammed the box on the ground, scattering the contents across the floor in front of her.  Realizing they were gauze pads, she struggled to spread them out and force herself to focus enough to count them out one at a time.  She was praying that a menial task would force her mind to reset and shut down the panic radiating through her body.  Initially, the task was almost impossible, but eventually, Lexa managed to begin counting each individual pad.  After the fifth circuit, her chest loosened a bit, making her breathing easier and the black around her vision recede. 

“C’mon, Lexa.  Get it together already,” she mumbled to herself, the words thick on her cotton-like tongue.  

She shakily pushed to her feet and managed to button her shirt despite her hands still violently shaking.  She wasn’t ready to put her jacket back on, however, and held it so that it would still cover her sidearm while she walked.  Taking a deep breath to steady herself, she opened the door and pushed back into the hallway.  Immediately the cacophony of sounds around her began overwhelming her once more and she spied a stairwell at the end of the hall.  Quickly making her way towards it, she shouldered her way through the door and ascended the stairs until she was all but falling into the late morning sun and heat.

She gulped greedily at the heavy humidity-laden air, not caring that it was almost as solid as she herself.  Anything was fresher than the stale antiseptic stench of the hospital hallways.  Stepping to the side, she leaned behind an air conditioning unit as her breakfast made a sudden and unanticipated reappearance.  After several moments, she was left shuddering as her stomach continued to clench painfully, the organ still spasming as though not satisfied with its efforts but having nothing else left to heave.  Lexa was breathing through her mouth when she was startled by a hand suddenly landing on her back.  Turning, she found Clarke watching her, concern etched across her face.

“Are you alright?” Clarke asked as her hand shifted to rest on Lexa’s forearm as she turned to fully face the doctor.  “Octavia said you ran out of the ward looking sick.”

“I’m fine,” Lexa rasped, the violence of her previous vomiting session scratching her throat raw.  “Must have been something I ate.”

Clarke brought her hand up to lightly rest the back of it on Lexa’s forehead, her frown deepening.  “You’re burning up and diaphoretic,” she stated after a brief moment.  She moved her hand and gently grasped Lexa’s wrist between her fingers and thumb, her other hand coming up to look at her watch.  After a few seconds, and an ever-deepening frown, Clarke glanced up at her.  “Your heart is racing, nearly tachy.  It may be more than just a simple stomach bug.”

Lexa gently pulled her wrist from Clarke’s grasp, letting it drop easily between them and trying not to feel empty at the loss of her touch.  She shifted until she was several feet away from her stomach contents and the odor of bile.  “I feel much better now,” she insisted as she pushed back strands of hair that had come loose minutes before.  “I assure you it is nothing more than a bad breakfast.”  She gathered her jacket, which she had thrown haphazardly away when she’d leaned over the A/C unit.  “Where’s Octavia?”

“Here.”  Lexa turned to see Octavia standing a few yards away in the doorway of the stairs, her eyes sweeping the roof and surrounding buildings.  “Kept my distance in case of further upchucking.  You good, Sarge?”

“Must have been the bear claw,” Lexa deflected as she pulled her jacket back on, intentionally avoiding Octavia’s shrewd eyes. 

She absolutely didn’t need to delve into the complexities of what she knew was PTSD.  Octavia’s gaze narrowed with suspicion but she didn’t call Lexa out on the fact that she’d also had part of the very same bear claw and was feeling fine. 

“Anya said that Raven won’t be awake for a few more hours.  What’s the plan?” Octavia finally asked when she realized Lexa wasn’t likely to speak further on the topic of her “illness”.

“I’d like to stay and wait for her to wake up,” Clarke cut in as she looked between both women.  “I have a bunch of patient charts to get caught up on and regular surgical rounds to attend to.”

“Dr. Griffin, with all due respect, I don’t think that we can accommodate that,” Lexa advised, resignation settling on her features.  “We’ve already been here long enough as it is and this isn’t a secure location.  I don’t even have an adequate team on site.”
Concern quickly flashed over into quiet resistance and Lexa mentally prepared herself for the argument that was about to happen. 

“I’m going to go do something that isn’t this.” Octavia quickly excused herself as she read the shift of tension in the air.  She moved towards the other side of the roof beyond earshot.

“Agent Woods, I assure you this facility is secure, particularly the surgical floors and ICU,” Clarke pointed out, completely unfazed by Octavia’s departure.

“That may very well be…for normal people trying to do bad things,” Lexa argued calmly.  “But these are not normal people.  They’re highly trained, likely more so than they were during the war.  I can not guarantee your safety here and that isn’t something I’m willing to risk over charts and rounds that interns can do.”

“Just because interns can do the rounds, doesn’t mean that I can’t,” Clarke fought back, her arms coming up to cross protectively in front of her chest.  “I like to personally see to the care of each of my patients.”

“While I understand that- and trust me, I do- I still need to ensure that you are safe,” Lexa reiterated.  “That is my job right now and it is the only thing that matters to me.  So if that means that we have to suspend your patient care temporarily, then that is what we need to do.”

“I don’t think you comprehend the repercussions that ‘suspending my patient care’ would have on the well being of those individuals,” Clarke insisted hotly.  “This is my job and I care about each one of these people.  Their lives literally depend on me being able to do my job.”

“You think that after the morning you’ve had, you’d be able to objectively and competently perform your duties?”  Lexa asked incredulously but without a hint of disdain or malice.  “You saw two people you care about murdered in front of you and a third seriously wounded.  Someone tried to kill you.  How could you possibly be in the right state of mind to render the level of care you need to?”

Clarke’s eyes flashed with anger, whether because the statement was true or because she had the audacity to actually voice it, Lexa couldn’t be sure.  “And what makes you think you’re any better off?”

Taken aback, Lexa was struck speechless for a moment.  “Excuse me?”

“I said, what makes you think you’re in any better state of mind to perform your duties than me?” Clarke repeated, her arms still tightly crossed.  “That’s your best friend lying down there, likely paralyzed from the waist down, and you’re telling me you can be objective and reasonable?”  Clarke scoffed when Lexa just stared at her.  “Please, give me a break.  You’re only human.”

“You’re right,” Lexa agreed after a beat.  “I’m only human.  Which is why I want to take you out of this danger area, an area prone to a higher likelihood of attack, and get you somewhere safe.  I’m not perfect and that plus an unsecured environment increases the likelihood that you’ll be hurt or killed.  This threat is serious and I need you to start treating it as such.” 

“Do not presume to tell me how serious this is.  I was there this morning.  I saw firsthand just how intent these people are on killing me.  That being said, I refuse to slink away and hide.  To be told how to conduct myself and my day,” Clarke fumed as she dropped her arms and balled her hands into fists at her sides.  “You have no right.”

“I have every right,” Lexa shot back, her own hands twitching to curl into fists themselves.  Only extreme concentration and practice kept them from doing so.  “I was given that right when Anya put me in charge of this detail.  If you don’t like it, you can take it up with her.  I can guarantee you that with her wife lying half-dead in a hospital bed- a direct result of her deciding your life was more important than hers- that Anya won’t exactly be receptive.”

Lexa knew that utilizing Clarke’s guilt over what had happened to manipulate her into doing what Lexa needed was beyond diabolical.  For the briefest moment, as Clarke’s face fell and grief flashed over her features, Lexa wished she could take it back.  The overwhelming sense of regret at having just alienated Clarke almost knocked Lexa back a step, surprising her with its ferocity.  She swallowed and forced the feeling aside, vowing to analyze that particular issue later.  Before she could fully entertain the notion, however, Clarke was steeling herself and her own walls were slamming back into place to the point where Clarke was glaring at her once more.

“That’s incredibly out of line,” Clarke seethed furiously as her hands shook.  The anger was coming off her in waves so hot that Lexa could almost feel them.  “And completely contradictory to what you said earlier about none of this being my fault.  So you’re a liar as well as a cold-hearted monster?”

“You’re not wrong,” Lexa agreed, her arms coming up to cross lazily in front of her- a purposeful look intended to belay just how affected she was by Clarke’s words.  “I told you I would never lie when it mattered, and I won’t.  That doesn’t make anything I’ve said any less true, however.  The attack wasn’t your fault, but, as I said earlier, if I can’t keep you safe then Raven’s sacrifice was for nothing.” 

That seemed to strike a chord with Clarke and she fell silent.  Lexa watched the internal struggle play out on the other woman’s face, still fighting back the urge to apologize.  Clarke’s eyes had a wounded look to them, one Lexa knew was responsible for and that ate her up inside. 

“So you want me to just abandon my life?”  The question fell quietly between them, considerably less fury in Clarke’s tone all of a sudden.  “I can’t just sit back and give up everything.  If I do that, they’ve won.” 

“I’m not asking you to give up your life,” Lexa clarified, her own tone more gentle as well.  “I just think it would be best for you to take a few days and process everything that has happened here today.  It will also allow me time to organize the appropriate safety measures so that you can continue your work here as normally as possible.”

Clarke looked truly surprised at that, her eyes widening and her brows lifting.  “You’ll allow me to continue on here even with this ‘imminent threat’ to my life?”

“It would be unreasonable to whisk you away and hide you somewhere for an indeterminate amount of time,” Lexa explained as her posture relaxed and her arms fell to her sides.  “Besides that, your schedule is likely very unpredictable and you keep odd hours.  It would make it nearly impossible to carry out a well-planned attack here.”
When Clarke looked hopeful for the first time since Lexa had met her, she felt the regret at her earlier transgressions slowly abating.  “I’m not promising it won’t happen and that you’ll always be happy with what I’m asking of you, but I’m saying that I’ll do my best within reason,” Lexa amended as she held up a placating hand.  “At least to ensure that your days are as normal as they can be.”

Lexa didn’t miss the relief and appreciation that flashed across Clarke’s face at that.  Understanding passed over her features and Lexa gave her a small nod before waving Octavia back over.  The younger woman looked hesitant but relaxed when she drew closer and realized neither Lexa nor Clarke appeared upset any longer.

“Dr. Griffin, Octavia and her husband, Lincoln, are going to be part of your new detail,” Lexa informed her as Octavia stopped in front of them.

“Oh,” Clarke responded, the surprise evident in her tone.  “I just assumed they were here to see Raven.”

“That’s only half true,” Octavia responded with a smirk.  “We’re here for the excitement mostly.”

“Octavia,” Lexa cut in sharply, a curt shake of her head causing the other woman to roll her eyes but fall silent regardless.

“It’s fine,” Clarke responded, a soft smile pulling at her own features.  “If I can’t laugh at this situation, it’ll bury me.”
Lexa glanced at the doctor, understanding immediately crossing her features.

“Besides, Octavia has some pretty great one-liners if I remember correctly,” Clarke mused as her smile spread.  “We’re going to need that in the weeks to come.”
Octavia herself was grinning now as she looked back at Lexa.  “See?  Chill, Commander.  All work and no fun makes you boring.”

Lexa rolled her eyes at the nickname and when she saw the confused look on Clarke’s face she simply shook her head.  “Don’t ask.”

“Yeah, I’ll just tell you,” Octavia quipped as she turned and gestured to the door to the stairs.  “Shall we?”

“One last thing,” Lexa interrupted, her tone serious once more.  When Clarke turned back to face her, Lexa’s lips set in a firm line.  “If anyone on my team, or I, ask you to do something, I need you to trust us and do it without question.  Your safety is paramount and anything we do is to ensure you make it home every day in one piece.”

Clarke seemed to consider her words, clearly weighing them in her mind before she began nodding.  “I understand.”

With that, they turned and Clarke followed Octavia into the stairwell.  Lexa trailed behind them shaking her head at Octavia as the woman launched into the story about why they referred to Lexa as “Commander” even though she’d only risen to the rank of sergeant during her time in the service.  As they descended the stairs, Lexa got lost in her own thoughts, surprised at the somewhat calm feeling she hadn’t realized had settled over her.  Though she was exhausted, as she always was after a panic attack, she could no longer feel the overwhelming urgency of anxiety pulling at her.  Expelling a deep breath, she rolled her shoulders and tuned back just as Octavia was explaining Clarke’s own nickname.

“So you all refer to me as Wanheda?” Clarke asked Octavia, her tone mixed parts of impressed and hesitance.  “And that means ‘Commander of Death’?”

“Yup,” Octavia replied easily as she shouldered her way through the third-floor door.  “Ray actually coined it after you managed to save the Commander here.”

Lexa rolled her eyes and moved to flank Clarke on her left side, her eyes constantly scanning ahead of them.  Being back within the sterile halls of the hospital had a feeling of unease settling back into her bones.  She felt Octavia tense rather than saw it and the younger woman cut herself off mid-sentence.  Before she could say anything, Lexa was pulling Clarke to her as Octavia darted out to her right and tackled a man to the ground who was dressed in scrubs.

“What the-,” Clarke spluttered as she was knocked off balance by Lexa’s movements.  “Agent-”

She was cut off again as Lexa suddenly pushed her to the ground.  Lexa dropped her stance and turned just as a dark-haired woman collided with her and they both flew to the ground.  Lexa winced as something bit into her side but managed to bring an elbow up and connect with the woman’s jaw effectively snapping her head back.  Using the distraction to her advantage, Lexa thrust her hips up and jerked them to the side, tossing the woman off her.  She scrambled to her feet, her eyes desperately searching for Clarke to make sure she was safe.  Finding the doctor still sprawled on the ground but otherwise unharmed, Lexa had a second of momentary relief before she noticed Clarke’s eyes widening.

“No!”  Clarke yelled as she lunged towards Lexa.

The warning was too little too late and Lexa just barely managed to turn her body once more as a scalpel came slicing at her.  It tore into her bicep and she grimaced once more as pain blossomed there.  She managed to strike out and grab her attacker's wrist and push the knife away, the blade now coated in blood.  She knew she couldn’t shoot the woman, the risk to innocent lives too great if she missed.

“Get Anya!” Lexa managed to shout as she struggled to maintain control of the woman’s wrist.  Clarke hesitated, clearly torn about leaving Lexa to fight on her own.  “Now!” Lexa yelled as she found the pressure points she was looking for and dug in, the attacker yelping and immediately dropping the scalpel.

Lexa kicked it down the hall, the weapon skittering under a nearby cart just as the woman’s free elbow came back and nailed her in the side.  The hit was solid and Lexa flinched as her grip on the woman’s wrist loosened enough for her to break free.  Lexa saw her focus on Clarke, who was now running down the hall towards the ICU and yelling for security.  Lexa launched herself at the woman to prevent her from pursuing the doctor.  It had the intended effect as the woman was forced to refocus on Lexa.   

They exchanged several blows, most of them finding their targets and Lexa realized they were pretty evenly matched.  After one particularly accurate hook from Lexa, the woman just smiled maniacally as she licked her bloodied lips and the absolute soullessness in her eyes sent a chill down Lexa’s spine.  They circled each other, each looking for a weak spot in the other person and finding none.  Lexa could feel the blood dripping down her arm and side from the scalpel wounds but ignored it, recognizing just how dangerous the woman in front of her was.

“After this morning, I figured the Secret Service only employed human shields that were unskilled at anything other than dying,” the woman remarked as she spat blood to the floor between them.  “That pretty Latina did put up a decent fight but, in the end, I proved she was just as worthless as the others.”

Lexa felt her rage flare up at the mention of the woman’s involvement in the early morning ambush and had to stop herself from rushing at the woman.  It was clear the woman wanted Lexa off-balance and distracted but Lexa was unwilling to grant that, no matter what she said.

“No worries, though.  I’ll get to the doctor one way or another and make her pay in unimaginable ways when I do,” the woman promised and the statement piqued Lexa’s curiosity though she kept her expression neutral.  

“That ‘pretty Latina’ is ten times a better fighter than you could ever hope to be,” Lexa shot back as she noticed a very well hidden limp on the woman’s left side.  “In fact, I’m fairly certain I’ve fought more skilled monkeys than you.  As for the doctor…good luck.”

The woman’s eyes flashed at that, her own anger rising to the surface.  It had the desired effect and Lexa secretly thanked the gods that the woman clearly wasn’t very emotionally disciplined as she lunged at Lexa.  Taking advantage of the woman’s emotional response, Lexa struck out and caught the woman’s left knee and watched as the woman crumpled under the hit, a grunt leaving her lips.  She managed to twist and kick her feet out, the movement sweeping Lexa’s own legs out from under her and sending her sprawling on the ground.  She kicked out, her foot connecting with the woman’s shoulder just enough to separate them and allow Lexa to regain her footing.

Just as she was about to reach down and grab the attacker, a commotion to her left caught her attention and she looked up to see Clarke running down the hall, a metal bedpan clutched in her hands.  As she watched, Clarke reared back a swung the pan with all her might at the man currently straddling Octavia and trying to shove a rather large knife through her chest.  The clear ring of metal striking flesh reverberated down the hall and even Lexa winced at the sound despite the fact that she was quite impressed and found the whole thing almost comical.

The man instantly crumpled to the ground in a heap, clearly unconscious.  Sensing rather than seeing movement, Lexa returned her attention to her own attacker in time to see her shakily regaining her feet.  The woman looked at her companion, now unmoving as Octavia shoved him off of her, and a look of annoyance crossed her features.  She looked between the three other women, clearly weighing the idea of taking on all of them but seemed to think better of it as several security guards rounded the corner.  Frustration and annoyance crossed her face before she smirked and turned.

Lexa reached to grab her, sensing she was about to flee, but the woman was a step ahead of her and already running down the hall at a dead sprint.  She was torn between chasing after her and protecting Clarke but then she saw Octavia charging after the woman, hot on her heels.  

“Take care of Wanheda!  I’ve got her.” Octavia managed to yell over her shoulder as she bent the corner and disappeared from sight.

Lexa needed no further prompting and immediately turned to grab Clarke by the arm and started leading her down the hall.  “Secure him,” she ordered the security guards as she flashed her badge and pointed at the still unconscious man on the floor.  “I’ll send someone to collect him immediately.”

They nodded their understanding and she started moving at a faster pace.  As they rounded the corner to the ICU, they nearly collided with Lincoln.  Lexa immediately saw angry red nail marks raked across his neck but other than that, he looked no worse for wear.  Seeing the blood on her arm, a silent understanding passed between them and he immediately fell into step beside them.

“The cars are compromised,” he advised Lexa, a flash of annoyance crossing his usually stoic features.  “I went out to grab my wallet and found all the tires slashed.  Found the culprit just inside one of the loading docks.  She’s secure.”

Lexa nodded as her mind raced as she tried to figure out how she was going to safely get Clarke out of the hospital.  “We have one down back there with security on site.  I need you to go secure him.  Octavia is in pursuit of a third.”

Lincoln nodded and turned to head down the hall.  Lexa turned to Clarke as they approached the doors to the ICU wing.  “Can I have your ID, please?”

Clarke handed it over without question, her hands shaking slightly.  Noticing, Lexa glanced at her face but didn’t find the fear she expected there.  Clarke looked positively furious, her brow was scrunched and her other hand was balled into a fist at her side as her eyes burned with rage.  Lexa didn’t comment, merely swiped her ID and led them through the doors and into the ICU.  Anya looked up, startled at their hasty approach.

“I need your car,” Lexa declared without preamble as she drew to a stop in front of the wide-eyed woman.  “Two secure, one free.  Octavia is fluid.  Lincoln handling the baggage.  Threat level high.”

Anya silently took in what Lexa was saying as she simultaneously pulled both her car keys and phone out of her pocket.  She eyed the blood on Lexa’s arm but didn’t comment, knowing Lexa well enough to understand that it would be addressed when appropriate and that the wound wasn’t life-threatening.

“Seken, nout,” Anya stated instead as she dialed a number and began speaking to someone in low tones.  After a moment, she looked up at Lexa and shook her head, a look of frustration passing over both their faces. 

Lexa seemed to consider something for a moment before making a decision and telling Anya, “Ain.  Mebi oso na hit choda op nodotaim.” 

Lexa turned and began pulling Clarke alongside her down the hallway once more, Anya’s keys in hand. 
“Ste yuj,” Anya called down the hall behind them as they disappeared through the doors at the end of the hall.

Clarke appeared more than a little confused at the near-wordless exchange and the foreign language being spoken between the two women but held her tongue as Lexa turned to her.  “I need the fastest route to the parking garage.”

Clarke nodded and just pointed, Lexa picking up their pace to a near run as they moved around corners and navigated the halls.  They only paused once when Clarke stopped at a cart and began pulling things off it.  

“For your shoulder,” she explained when Lexa just quirked a brow.

In seconds, they were moving again and a minute later they were pushing out into the DC heat and humidity of the parking garage.  Lexa’s phone vibrated in her pocket and she saw Octavia’s name flashing on the screen.  Hitting the accept button, she didn’t wait for the other woman to start speaking.

“West side, two minutes.”

She hung up and started moving towards the north corner of the garage, the fob in her left hand as her right hovered over her sidearm in case she needed it.  She pushed Clarke towards an unassuming looking black Jeep Wrangler and opened the rear passenger door as they drew closer. 
“Get in and get down,” Lexa ordered brusquely as her eyes scanned around them.  

Once Clarke got in the car and did as she was told, Lexa climbed into the driver’s seat, started the car, and bumped it into gear.  She sped out of the garage and turned, screeching to a halt on the west side of the building as both Octavia and Lincoln scrambled into the car to sit on either side of Clarke.

“Baggage secure,” Lincoln relayed as he turned his body to block Clarke as best he could.

Octavia sat quietly, anger etched into her features as she moved to mirror his movements on the other side.  A quick glance in the rearview told Lexa everything she needed to know.  She hadn’t caught their mystery woman and she was pissed about it.  The car ride was silent for the duration as they traveled south in the city.  After about ten minutes and several hazardous lane changes and turns to make sure they weren’t being followed, Lexa pulled into a parking garage beneath a massive building.  She parked and shut the car off and everyone exited the vehicle, forming a tight circle around Clarke.  

Lexa led the group to a door at the side of the garage and pulled out a set of keys.  She quickly located the one she needed and the door swung open to what looked like a small storage space.  They all piled in, momentarily uncomfortably close and Lexa tried to focus on finding the light switch rather than how close Clarke suddenly was to her or how the scent of her shampoo wafting off the other woman’s hair was making her stomach flip.  Fumbling for a moment longer, she finally found it and flipped the switch on, the single bare bulb spilling just enough light to see by.  She located another key and turned to a second door behind them and quickly pushed that one open as well.  A dark and dank hallway with pipes crisscrossing along the walls and ceiling greeted them and Lexa watched as rats scurried out to the light spilling through the doorway.

“This way,” she advised as she began moving through the hall. 

Everyone remained quiet, the tension in the group thick enough to cut as they came upon yet another door.  Lexa pushed this one open with ease after moving several different moving pieces into order, almost as though it were a puzzle.  They spilled into what appeared to be a basement, the space open and cavern-like but just as dark and musty as the previous hallway.  

“Stairs are over there,” Lexa told them as she gestured to her right.  She turned to close the door, sliding several of the same moving pieces around until a metallic click was heard.  “Second floor.”

They ascended the stairs, Lexa signaling for them to wait when they reached the door.  Drawing her sidearm and putting it in the tuck position, she eased the door open and quickly cleared the hallway.  Motioning them forward, she led them through the hall until they reached an apartment door, Lexa pulling her keys out once more.  She could hear Jax’s low whine as she put the key in the lock and a smile tugged at her lips.  Swinging the door wide, she ushered everyone in before turning to lock the door and finally allowing herself to breathe.

“Where are we?” Clarke asked curiously as her eyes swept around the spacious apartment, taking in the minimalist but rugged decor.  

“Somewhere safe,” Lexa promised as she rubbed behind Jax’s ears affectionately.  “My place.”

Chapter Text

Chapter Five

There’s nothing that cleanses your soul like getting the hell kicked out of you.”– Woody Hayes


“This is your place?” Clarke asked as she looked everything over again, seeming to pay more attention this time around.

“Yes,” Lexa responded as she knelt down to better run her hands through Jax’s fur.  “There were no safe houses ready and this was the best that we could do given the circumstances.”

“Why not take me to the White House?  Surely it would have been safe there,” Clarke pointed out as she wandered towards the windows and peered out at the street below.  

“We never would have made it,” Lincoln stated plainly as he moved towards the kitchen.  “They already knew your run route and where you worked.  They would have attacked us before we’d made it a few blocks.”

“Would have been more fun for us though,” Octavia grumbled as she threw herself onto the couch and kicked her shoes off, clearly feeling very at home in the space. 

“Fun and safe are not synonymous in this instance,” Lexa shot at her before she stood and moved toward the kitchen herself.  “We will take you there tomorrow.  Anya knows we’re here for the night and that you’re safe.  That’s the priority.” 

Clarke nodded as she continued to stare out the window, her gaze growing distant.  Lexa turned and made her way into the kitchen.  She smirked at Lincoln as he passed her carrying a bag of frozen peas. 

“Shut up,” he growled with an amused smile on his face

“So whipped,” she joked and he lightly punched her good shoulder with a chuckle.

“Happily!” he threw over his shoulder as he handed the bag of peas to Octavia.  

A relieved sigh left her lips as the frozen vegetables came into contact with her bruised cheek.  “Oh, that’s good stuff,” she muttered as Lincoln settled down beside her.  “Everyone always wants to go for the money maker.”

Lexa smirked as she moved around in the kitchen grabbing glasses of water for everyone.  When she returned to the living room, she saw Clarke standing in front of Jax, the two seeming to study each other.  Octavia and Lincoln were watching the two in anticipation, waiting to see what Jax might do.  He sometimes had issues meeting new people, which was the least that could be expected from a dog with his background.  He stared up at Clarke warily and shifted nervously on his paws.  Before Lexa could say anything, Clarke seemed to sense his unease and slowly seated herself in front of him, bringing herself to his level and instantly becoming less imposing.  She placed her hand down on the floor between them, offering it to him to sniff at his leisure.

It took a moment, but Jax was clearly more comfortable with Clarke sitting rather than towering over him and he edged close enough to delicately reach out with his snout and cautiously sniff her.  Almost instantly, he was nuzzling at her hand and crowding closer to her, his tail coming up to wag happily as Clarke gently scratched at his ears.  After a moment, he lowered his entire eighty-pound frame into her lap and rolled on his side, his mouth open and tongue lolling as his tail beat at the floor.  Clarke let out a husky chuckle at his antics and a broad smile spread across her face, the first Lexa had witnessed since meeting her. 

“Well, would you look at that, Sarge,”  Octavia’s breathed in awe.  Her comment drew Lexa’s attention away from Clarke and she glanced up at the other woman.  At the quirk of Octavia’s brow and the surprised look on Lincoln’s face, Lexa realized her lips had unconsciously pulled into a soft smile which she knew was completely uncharacteristic of her.  At the moment, however, she couldn’t find it in her to care.

“How about that,” she replied easily as her gaze slid back to Clarke.  Her lips stretched wider and a warm feeling blossomed in her chest when she saw Jax laid out on his back, eyes closed and clearly in heaven as Clarke used both hands to scratch at his belly.  Gesturing at the pair, she looked at Octavia once more.  “You’re just jealous because he still doesn’t let you do that.”

Octavia harrumphed as she used her free hand to flip Lexa off, just causing her to smile wider.  Lincoln let out a low chuckle and just shook his head, clearly amused at the friendly discourse.  Lexa handed them both their glasses of water and set one down beside Clarke who looked up at her gratefully.

“This big guy is just a big baby who loves attention,” Clarke remarked as she continued to run her hands over his soft coat.  “I’m surprised you two don’t get along better, Octavia.  Considering you’re both pretty similar that way.”

At that, Lincoln let out a full-bodied laugh as Lexa smirked.  Octavia, for her part, looked appropriately miffed and flipped Clarke off as well.

“Everyone’s got jokes,” she muttered indignantly as she shook her head, the bag of peas still firmly affixed to the side of her face.  When Lincoln continued to chuckle lowly, Octavia pulled one of the decorative pillows off the couch beside her and began playfully pummeling him with it. 

Lexa let out a low chuckle but immediately drew up short and barely managed to conceal a grimace as pain lanced through her side.  It seemed the adrenaline of their earlier encounter was finally wearing off and as another wave of pain, this one more powerful than the last, radiated through her she couldn’t quite hide the wince that accompanied it nor the hitch in her breathing.  Sensing his master's sudden distress, Jax was back on his feet and trotting over to her before she could blink.

“I’m good, bud,” she murmured as her hands instantly fell to curl reassuringly in his fur.  He let out a low whine and insistently pushed into her legs, seemingly not believing her.

“Apparently, he can tell when you’re lying.”

Lexa looked up in surprise at Clarke’s unexpected proximity.  The doctor had pushed herself to her feet and closed the distance between them while Lexa had been busy with Jax and now stood next to her with a concerned look in her eyes.  The comment had been delivered in a low tone, soft enough that Octavia and Lincoln hadn’t picked up on it and for that, Lexa was appreciative.

“Why don’t you let me check that arm out?”

Lexa made to argue but thought better of it when she realized she’d never be able to appropriately clean and cover the wound on her arm.  “Very well,” she agreed and gestured down the hall towards a door.  “The bathroom is just down there.  I’m going to get Jax some food quick and I’ll meet you back there.”

Clarke nodded in acknowledgment before gathering up the hospital supplies she’d managed to grab on their way to the parking garage and walked down the hall, disappearing into the bathroom.  Lexa rummaged in the kitchen and dumped some food in Jax’s bowl as he sat and patiently waited for Lexa’s command to eat. 

“Lincoln, can you let him out on the tenth-floor dog walk when he’s done?”  Lexa asked as she turned to find the couple settled on her couch, the impromptu pillow fight seemingly over between them.  Based on the smug smile on Octavia’s face, she assumed she’d won the round.

“Of course,” he answered easily, a concerned look pulling at his features at the out of character request.  He knew Lexa was incredibly protective over Jax, insisting on handling him herself, even for something as simple as a bathroom run.  “Everything ok?”

“Yes.  Dr. Griffin is just going to take a look at my arm and I’m not sure how long it might take,” she informed him as she began walking back towards the bathroom herself.  “He’s been cooped up all morning.  I’m sure he could use it.”

“Sure, we’ll take care of Jax while you and Clarke ‘play doctor’ back there.”  Octavia laughed as her words sank in and she saw Lexa’s face heat up.  “We can stay up there for a while if you want privacy.”

“I don’t think that’ll be necessary,” Lexa ground out as she gave the young woman a scathing look.  “There will be no impropriety between Dr. Griffin and myself.”

With that, she turned and had to stop herself from storming down the hall, Octavia’s words causing an unpredicted storm to rise in her.  The implication that anything other than professional behavior would occur between her and Clarke was preposterous.  Proceeding into the bathroom, she drew up short, realizing for the first time how small the space became with two people inhabiting it.  She was practically pressed into Clarke in the suddenly small space.  Her heart rate tripled in a second as Clarke shifted to try and make room for her and inadvertently pressed her whole body into Lexa.

“Shit, sorry,” Clarke hastily apologized as she backed up and tried to put space between them.  Lexa didn’t miss the waver of her voice or the pink tinge to her cheeks as she reached out to steady the doctor when she lost her balance over the toilet.  

“Why don’t we move to my room,” Lexa suggested, freezing when Clarke’s eyes snapped to hers questioningly.  “More room,” Lexa explained as she fought to keep the blush burning her neck from reaching her face.  “Should give you the space you need to work.”

“Lead the way,” Clarke responded and Lexa swore she saw her lips twitch as though fighting a smile.

Lexa carefully extracted herself from the bathroom, working to avoid unnecessarily brushing against the other woman again.  As she walked into the hall, she caught Octavia watching them from her seat on the couch, a knowing look on her face.  She gestured to the next doorway, falling in behind Clarke and being sure to throw Octavia the middle finger behind her back.  From the cackle that echoed down the hall, she knew she’d been successful.  

“Alright,” Clarke began as she laid her supplies out on the bed.  “That jacket needs to come off.”

Lexa hesitated momentarily, knowing Clarke had no idea about her side and not really looking forward to her finding out.  Seeming to sense her discomfort, Clarke stopped what she was doing and turned to fully face her, her eyes soft.

“Is something wrong?” she asked softly, her eyes flicking to the open door.  Lexa sighed, the action causing her to grimace as her side protested.  Clarke stepped closer to her, concern clouding her features as her eyes swept over Lexa.  “Where else?”

Knowing she couldn’t put it off any longer, Lexa carefully peeled the left side of her jacket away from her body, the fabric slowly coming away to reveal the wound stretching across her side.  The change in Clarke was immediate as fury swept over her features and her hands came up to gently probe at the wound.  It was still sluggishly bleeding but had mostly stopped. 

“Why didn’t you say something earlier?” she demanded her voice low and laced with anger.  When Lexa didn’t answer, Clarke glanced up at her and her eyes softened when she realized the injury was causing Lexa pain.  Lexa forced herself not to flinch away from the doctor’s fingers as they pressed into her side.  “Your blouse needs to come off too.  I can’t clearly see the margins of the wound like this.”

Lexa just nodded as she shrugged out of her jacket.  As she unbuttoned her shirt, Clarke disappeared back into the bathroom.

“Do you have a basin for water?” Clarke called and Lexa could hear her rummaging around.

“Under the sink,” Lexa replied as she finished unbuttoning her shirt and easily shrugged out of it, thankful it hadn’t stuck to her skin. 

She paused as she regarded her tank top, mentally preparing herself to peel the parts of it away that she could see had adhered to the wound on her side.  She could hear water running from the bathroom and curled her right hand into a fist as she gripped her shirt in the left.  Taking a deep breath, she pulled the shirt quickly like a band-aid and had to bite back a groan as it ripped at her battered skin. 

“There’s a washcloth you can use hanging in the shower,” she grit out between waves of pain.

A moment later, Clarke returned, a basin of warm water and washcloth in hand.  She set the bowl down on the floor by the bed and motioned for Lexa to sit down.  Working to maintain a neutral expression on her face and not give away how much pain was still radiating through her side, Lexa stiffly complied.  Clarke knelt down, next to the basin, and dropped the washcloth into the bowl.  Once that was done, she looked up at Lexa and gestured to the tank top.

“Can you pull that up so I can see how bad it is?” she asked as she dried her hands and began fiddling with a tray of medical supplies.  “I need to see which one is worse and should be addressed first.”

Lexa hesitated and the uncertainty must have been clear on her face because Clarke stopped what she was doing to look at her.  Those astute eyes fixed on her face, studying her, and Lexa swallowed as she tried to keep her expression blank.  Something about the way Clarke was quietly gazing at her had an immediate calming effect on her and she was reminded of the first time she’d ever met the doctor. 

“I promise I’ll be an absolute professional,” Clarke smirked, breaking the moment and the tension that had somehow built between them in the time they’d been staring at each other.  “I am a doctor, after all.”

Lexa silently regarded her for another moment before she slowly pulled her tank top up enough to expose the wound across her ribs.  As soon as she had, Clarke’s gaze fixed on her torso and she froze, her eyes widening and lips parting slightly in surprise.  Lexa could see a war of emotions in her eyes as she took in the new wound, mixed with the scars of all her old ones.  She was surprised to see no pity in them as the doctor’s eyes bounced from mark to mark, quietly mapping the damage that marred her tan skin.  They finally settled on the fresh wound on her side, her eyes darkening with the same burning fury Lexa had seen earlier.

“She got lucky,” Lexa muttered as she shifted uncomfortably under the other woman’s gaze.  “I’m rusty.”

Clarke’s expression didn’t change, if anything Lexa thought she saw guilt boiling beneath the anger.  “You’re the one who is lucky,” Clarke clarified as she gestured at Lexa’s side.  “That is going to need stitches.”

“I figured as much.” Lexa sighed in resignation, not thrilled.  “Just another scar to add to the collection.”

“Each one is a chapter in the story of the person who bears them,” Clarke murmured as she stood and examined the smaller wound on Lexa’s bicep.  “There’s no shame in them.”

Lexa stared at her, surprised by the words.  The only person who had ever seen the damage that life had brought upon her body had been Anya and even then, it had only been once.  The pity in the woman’s eyes had left Lexa more than a little hesitant to ever display the marks again.

“I’m going to take care of your arm first,” Clarke told her as she pulled the washcloth out of the basin and wrung it out.  She began cleaning around the wound, her hands gentle against Lexa’s skin.  “This wound isn’t deep and only needs to be cleaned.” 

Lexa just nodded as she watched Clarke work.  She’d been pretty out of it the last time Clarke had needed to tend to her and was happy to be conscious this time.  Even though the wound to her bicep was minor, Clarke’s brow was furrowed in concentration and Lexa knew that she gave each patient 110% every time, no matter the ailment or injury.

“Your tattoo is a work of art,” Clarke admired as her hands moved around it.  “I’ve never seen anything so intricate.”

“Thank-you,” Lexa replied as she looked at the tribal bands.  “Each set represents a completed tour.”

“You did three tours?” Clarke paused and looked up at the other woman, the surprise clear on her face and in her tone.

“Four,” Lexa explained, a dark look clouding her features.  “I didn’t technically complete my last one.  So, no band.”

“You must have been so young when you joined,” Clarke surmised as she went back to work, placing the washrag back in the basin and drying her hands.  

Lexa watched as the blood slowly seeped from the rag into the clear water, darkening it.  As she contemplated the rust-colored tendrils twisting in the water, her gaze went distant and she found herself drawn back into memories she’d long forgotten.  She just nodded, not trusting her voice enough to answer as scenes from her past flipped through her mind.  Sensing she had touched a nerve, Clarke cleared her throat as she began laying butterfly strips across the wound.

“These are just a precaution to make sure it closes with the least amount of damage,” Clarke told her as she gently pressed the last one to her skin.  Her fingers ran across all of them one more time to make sure they were securely in place.

“Thank-you,” Lexa murmured as she rolled her shoulders in an attempt to loosen the ever-present tension.  

“Is it ok if I move to your side now?”  Clarke was looking down at her as she sat on the bed and Lexa had to work not to focus on how well her clothes seemed to fit the other woman. 

In all the chaos of the morning, she’d barely had a second to actually look at Clarke.  From the moment she’d met Clarke, she’d thought she was the most beautiful person she’d ever seen.  Five years hadn’t changed that.  Now that Clarke was standing right in front of her, Lexa couldn’t help but notice that her GWU t-shirt looked damn good on the doctor, just a tad small but clinging to her curves in the best way possible.

“Agent Woods?” Clarke prompted when Lexa just continued to stare.

“That’s fine,” she managed to get out as she tore her eyes from the woman standing over her.  She could feel a flush rising up her neck again at having been caught and silently cursed.  “I apologize.”

Clarke waved her off with a chuckle as she knelt down and retrieved the washcloth once more. “Lift that for me again?” she asked as she pointed at Lexa’s tank top. 

As Clarke knelt down in front of her, Lexa felt the blush on her neck spread as her heart rate picked up.  After wringing the washcloth out, Clarke looked up at her with a frown on her face.  “This might hurt a little but I have to clean this a bit before I can numb it up.”

Lexa nodded at her and tensed as the woman leaned towards her.  When Clarke made contact with her side, she tried to convince herself that her responding flinch was due to pain and not from the bolt of electricity that shot through her as Clarke’s fingers gently brushed across her skin.

“Sorry,” Clarke murmured, her brow furrowed as she concentrated on the task at hand.  

“It’s alright,” Lexa managed, surprised when her voice didn’t waver.

Silence descended over them as Clarke worked, gently wiping away dried blood.  Lexa tried to focus on breathing normally, her heart still pounding in her chest so loud she was certain Clarke could hear it. Once clean, Clarke numbed the area and stood.

“It’s going to take a few minutes for the anesthetic to fully absorb and activate. I’ll be right back,” she told Lexa as she gathered up the basin of water, washcloth, and garbage from the used supplies.

“I can take care of that,” Lexa insisted as she stood.  “It’s the least I could do.”

Clarke paused, almost as though she might argue, but then thought better of it as she handed the items over to Lexa.  “Thank you,” she murmured instead.

Nodding once in return, Lexa left and took care of dumping the water out and throwing the washcloth in the laundry.  She breathed easy as the tension that had built between her and Clarke dissipated with their distance.  She took a moment to compose herself, leaning over the bathroom sink and splashing cool water on her face.  When she returned, she found Clarke staring out her window, a distant and troubled look on her features.

“Is everything alright?” Lexa asked as she sat back on the bed, careful of her side. 

“It’s just been a very trying day,” Clarke responded as she turned to face the other woman.  Her features smoothed like a curtain falling into place.  “Just a lot to process.”

“If you need to talk, I’m willing to listen,” Lexa offered as she watched Clarke pull an alcohol wipe out of her supplies and kneel back in front of her.

“I appreciate that very much,” Clarke replied as she wiped at the wound in Lexa’s side, sanitizing the area.  “I will let you know.”

They fell into a comfortable silence as Clarke worked, her hands skillfully pulling Lexa’s torn skin back together stitch by stitch.  The gash wasn’t incredibly deep, but it was wide and stretched almost the entire length of her side from stomach to back.  Finally, after tying off the last stitch, Clarke stood back up and gathered the supplies from the bed.  

“Thank you for doing this,” Lexa called as Clarke was walking from the room.  When the doctor paused and turned, Lexa gestured at her now recovered side.  “My attempt wouldn’t have been as pretty.”

Clarke’s lips twitched as she looked at the other woman.  “It wasn’t the first time and given your clear knack for trouble, I’m almost certain it won’t be the last.  Just don’t overdo it and pull them out.”

“Scouts honor,” Lexa swore as she held her hand up to complete the oath.  

Clarke smirked and left with a shake of her head.

XXX

A few hours later, Lexa was cleaning the dishes from dinner when she looked over her shoulder at the sound of someone walking into the kitchen.  

“That was delicious,” Clarke complimented as she deposited the last of the dirty dishes onto the counter beside the others.  Taking in the sight of Lexa, sleeves rolled up and hands sunk into dirty dishwater up to her elbows, she smiled.  “She cooks and cleans.”

Lexa smirked as she glanced at the other woman.  She watched as Clarke bent over and scratched behind Jax’s ears, the dog laying loyally behind Lexa, ever vigilant.  Drying her hands, she grabbed the beer she’d been nursing through dinner and sipped at it as she leaned against the counter.  Though she still considered herself “on duty”, she’d needed something to take the edge off the day. 

“I come in handy when it’s necessary,” she defended.

“Mhm,” Clarke hummed as she moved to the fridge and pulled out a beer of her own.  She settled with her back to the counter, letting a comfortable silence fall between them.  After a minute, Clarke turned to face her.  “How is your side feeling?”

“It hurts a bit,” Lexa revealed honestly, sensing the doctor would see right through her if she tried to lie.  “But I’ve had worse.”

Clarke nodded as she sipped on her drink.  “What did Anya say?” she asked referencing the call Lexa had handled prior to dinner.

“They were able to ID the woman and man that attacked us in the hall of the hospital security camera footage,” Lexa began.  “She said that they both have strong ties to the Coalition and Nia.  The outstanding female was Ontari Queen.”

“Nia’s daughter?” Clarke froze as her eyes locked on Lexa.  “Nia’s right-hand woman?”

“The one and only,” Lexa replied.  “Based on what she said to me when we were fighting, she has a personal ax to grind with you specifically.”

“Me?  Why?” Clarke asked, her face screwing up in confusion.  “I’ve never even met the woman before today.”

“Anya wasn’t sure and Ontari certainly didn’t let me in on the secret,” Lexa huffed as she scrubbed at a dish, her frustration clear.  “Anya said she has people looking into it.”

“Will you keep me updated?” An indecipherable look entered Clarke’s eyes and Lexa struggled to understand it but it disappeared too quickly.  

“Of course,” she responded after a moment.  “Also, Raven woke up an hour or so ago.  I could hear her yelling in the background that we better not have all the fun before she’s back on her feet,” Lexa smiled and shook her head.  She saw some of the tension that had been sitting high in Clarke’s shoulders all-day ease at the news. 

“Anya said she’s either taking the news about possibly being paralyzed really well or she’s in denial.”

“Either way, I would bet she’s on her feet faster than anyone expects,” Clarke posited as she picked up a towel and started drying dishes.  “She’s a pretty ambitious person.”

“If by ambitious you mean stubborn, then I’d be inclined to agree,” Lexa muttered as she set her drink down and got back to cleaning dishes.

“That girl is a regular pain in everyone’s asses, but we love her regardless,” Octavia cut in as she breezed into the kitchen and immediately pulled a couple of glasses out of the cabinet.  She moved with a level of ease that told Clarke she’d been there numerous times.  “Lex here most of all,” she continued as she moved to another cabinet and pulled bourbon off the shelf.  “They’ve known each other almost their entire lives.”

With that, she swept back towards the living room.

“Don’t forget we’re still working!” Lexa called behind her as she shook her head.

“Sha, Heda,” Octavia waved over her shoulder.  “Nou get yu daun!”

“What language is that?” Clarke questioned curiously once Octavia had left.  

“Raven and I made it up when we were kids,” Lexa responded.  “We called it trigedasleng, or trig.  It mirrors English but varies enough that if you aren’t taught it, you won’t understand it.”

“You made up a whole language?” Clarke questioned in awe, her brows rising.

“We had to,” Lexa replied, a dark look flashing across her features before it disappeared.  “It came in handy when we joined the military.  We taught it to our unit and used it to communicate because our lines were notorious for not being secure.”

Clarke stared at her, sensing there was more to the story than just two bored kids making up a language.  Having seen the way Lexa had tensed, however, she decided it would be better to leave it alone…for now.

“That’s pretty badass,” she finally settled on saying instead, her tone telling Lexa she was impressed.  

“It actually saved our asses quite a few times,” Lexa mused as memories flashed through her mind.  “Turned out to be the best thing we ever did.”

Again, Clarke could sense there was more than what Lexa was saying on the surface, but she let it go knowing that after the day they’d both had, it wasn’t the time.  They finished the dishes in comfortable silence, the calm in the kitchen soothing to both of them.  As the last dish was dried, Clarke felt overwhelmed by exhaustion despite the fact that it was only 8pm and couldn’t stop a yawn from breaking free.

“Excuse me,” she sighed as she stretched a bit and tried to ease the weariness from her limbs. 

“It’s been a long day,” Lexa countered understandingly.  “We’re all tired.  I’ll get you a change of clothes and you can settle in for the night if you wish.”

“That would be great,” Clarke mumbled, clearly relieved.  “Thank-you.”

Lexa waved her off and retreated to her room to grab the doctor a change of clothes.  She passed them off and while Clarke changed, Lexa shooed Lincoln and Octavia to the bedroom so she could make up the couch.  When Clarke emerged, Lexa’s eyes were immediately drawn to her long legs now clad only in shorts.  Swallowing, she quickly picked up a pillow and tossed it on the couch.

“It isn’t the Ritz but it’s comfortable enough,” Lexa said sheepishly as she gestured at the couch.  “I should know.  I fall asleep out here all the time.”

“It’s perfect, thank-you,” Clarke replied with a small smile as she sat down on the couch.  She sank back into the cushions, her eyes closing almost immediately.  “Wow, I’m exhausted.”

Lexa smirked as she walked over and flipped the lights off before moving over to the recliner that she’d positioned to face Clarke and the front door.  She settled in with a sigh of her own and leaned back as Jax plopped himself between her and Clarke.  The only noise between them was the rustle of sheets as Clarke laid down and got comfortable.  After a few minutes, Lexa assumed she’d fallen asleep so she was surprised when the doctor spoke out into the dark.

“Tell me about this secret passageway and backdoor thing you have going on here.”

“There’s nothing to tell,” Lexa responded honestly after a moment.  “I found it when I was moving some extra things down to the basement for storage.  I modified the doors a bit to make them more secure and cleaned it up for a ‘just in case’ situation.”

“Guess this qualified.” Lexa could hear a shift in the blonde’s voice, as though the dark made her feel more secure to let the emotions of the day overwhelm her. 

“Thank you for everything you did today.”

“It’s my job,” Lexa waved off as she watched the silhouette that was Clarke.  “And even if it wasn’t, I still would have done it.”

“I want all of them dead,” Clarke murmured.  “Every person that hurt and killed my friends, who came after me, that hurt you and Octavia.  All of them.”

“They will pay,” Lexa assured her.  “One way or another.  For now, however, you’re safe so try and get some rest.  Tomorrow will likely be another long day.”

“They’re all long days after this,” Clarke muttered.

Silence fell over them and Lexa stewed in it for awhile, debating whether or not to broach one final subject with the blonde.  Deciding the worst she could do was decline to speak about it, Lexa turned to face the doctor once more.

“Can I ask what you were talking to Anya about?  I’ve never seen her hug anyone,” Lexa explained when she heard Clarke shift in the dark.  It was silent for a long while and Lexa began to think that Clarke wasn’t going to answer.

“I promised her that I would do everything in my power to get the best doctors and physical therapists on Raven’s case,” Clarke told her.  “No matter the cost.”

Lexa sat stunned into silence, the doctor’s generosity surprising her.  She knew instantly that it wasn’t out of guilt that Clarke felt the need to do what she was.  She genuinely cared for Raven, she’d seen that earlier when they were at the hospital.

“Thank-you,” Lexa all but whispered, the gratitude falling into the space between them and for a moment, it seemed to shrink just a bit.

Lexa could tell Clarke had fallen asleep when the sound of her breathing deepened a few minutes later.  She settled more fully into her chair, reaching out to check that her firearm was beside her before she allowed her own eyes to shut.  She knew Jax would let her know if there was any change and she took comfort in that and relaxed.  The last thought on her mind before unconsciousness took her was the memory of Clarke’s hands sweeping gently across her skin.

XXX

“Not bad, Ray!” Clarke cheered as she looked up from her tablet and saw the other woman limping almost unaided by the parallel bars at her sides.  

“Getting there,” the other woman grunted as sweat poured off her.  “Gimme a bite of that sandwich you’ve got there and I’ll do better.”

“I’ve got a whole fresh one waiting for you here if you’d just pick your lazy ass pace up,” Clarke gibed and she didn’t miss the huff of laughter coming from behind her. 

Turning, she smiled at Lexa as the other woman silently observed their back and forth banter.  “Even Agent Woods is laughing at you.”

“The great Commander laughing?  Now that I would pay to see,” Raven quipped as her leg suddenly failed and she scrambled to grab the bar for support before she hit the floor. 

“That’s called ‘Karma’, Ray,” Lexa jested as she watched the woman wave off Maya, her physical therapist, and push herself back to her feet.  “Better watch out now.”

Successfully back on her feet, Raven just shot her the bird before continuing to slowly work her way down the bars.  When she reached the end, she sank down into the waiting wheelchair and let out a heavy sigh. 

“One more lap,” Lincoln demanded as he bit into his sandwich, making a show of chewing in front of the sweaty Latina.  “If you think that last one counted, you’re high.”

“I wish I was high,” Raven shot back but she was never one to back down from a challenge.  “I want cake then.”

“If you get through this lap without stopping, I’ll get you whatever you want,” Lincoln promised.  “Ge smak daun, gyon op nodotaim.”

Having listened to her team’s language almost non-stop the last three months, Clarke didn’t even look to Lexa to translate for her.  After the attack at the hospital, the Coalition had fallen suspiciously quiet and all of them were constantly on edge just waiting for the other shoe to drop.  The only time they ever allowed themselves to relax was during lunch when they walked to the National Rehabilitation Hospital across campus every day.  There, they poked fun at Raven while she completed her therapy session, finding the good-natured insults a more useful motivator than compassion. 

“I’ll raise your cake with a side of ice cream for two more laps,” Clarke called at Raven as the woman glared at her.  “And to sweeten the pot, if you don’t fall once during those two, I’ll buy you lunch from anywhere you want.”  When Raven just stared at her, as though to say ‘thats it?’, Clarke rolled her eyes.  “All week.”

Raven perked up at that, her eyes widening and a smile spreading across her features.  “Outside food?  Not hospital garbage?”

Clarke looked back at Lexa, silently checking with her if it was ok.  At Lexa’s nod, Clarke turned back around and grinned at Raven.  

“Yup.  No hospital muck.  All off-campus.”

“Anything I want?”

“Anything, as long as it won’t set you back.”

“With dessert?”

“…”

“I’ll take that action,” Octavia cut in when Clarke hesitated, the young woman bouncing in having just finished her sweep of the floor.  “Sure you can handle that much action, Ray?  Dessert is a big grab.”

“You sure you can pay when I win?” the feisty woman shot back, a stubborn glint in her eyes.

“Wouldn’t throw down if I wasn’t sure, you know that,” Octavia bragged as she bit into her own food.  “Yum.  Better get to work or I’ll eat yours too.”

“Hey!  No eating my wife’s food,” Anya yelled as she walked in, her phone in her hand but her eyes glaring at Octavia daring the woman to touch the sandwich they’d set aside for Raven.  “She’s working harder than all of you combined.”

“Hey!” Clarke balked as she threw her hands up. “I’ve already done two exploratory laparotomies and handled three gunshot victims with a side of some slice and dice with a kitchen knife.”

“And we stood around for all of those, being very vigilant!” Octavia threw in.

“I’m sure,” Anya replied sarcastically as she walked over and pecked her wife on the lips.  “Why are you just sitting here though?  I hear you have two more laps.”

“Everyone’s a critic!” Raven yelled exasperatedly as she threw her hands up.  Her smile, however, told them she wasn’t taking any of their verbal jabs seriously.  “Just you watch, Sweetcheeks.  I’ve got a whole week of free meals and dessert riding on this.”

“Make it three laps and I’ll add to the pot,” Anya proposed, a secretive smirk playing on her lips.

“Oh yeah?” Raven asked as a single brow rose questioningly.  “What are you throwing in?”

Anya slowly leaned over, her hands coming down on either side of Raven as she moved into her space.  Everyone could see the Latina swallow heavily as Anya’s face hovered less than an inch from hers, the other woman licking her lips as her eyes flicked down to Raven’s lips.  Their little group had fallen silent as they waited to see where the display before them was going to go.  After a moment, in which Raven was definitely holding her breath, Anya smirked.

“Myself,” she breathed just loud enough for them all to hear.

Raven’s eyes widened and her jaw went slack at the promise and before anyone could react, she was pushing herself up and out of her wheelchair at lightning speed.  Octavia and Lincoln began laughing as Clarke hooted and hollered at the borderline inappropriate display between the two women.  Anya sauntered over to them, a smug smile on her face as she settled in beside them to watch her wife work.

That’s how you motivate her,” she told them as she very blatantly watched her wife with unmasked lust in her eyes.

“I’m pretty sure if any of us did that, we’d die by your hand,” Lexa remarked, still smirking at Anya’s antics.  

“You’re not wrong,” she agreed.  “Two more, babe!” she yelled when Raven reached the end of the bars.

Raven just looked up at her and shot her lascivious smile.

“Don’t worry, I’ll do it,” she promised, popping her eyebrows up a few times.

It had been a long three months, for Raven most especially.  It wasn’t always fun and not every day was a good day like today.  Many of them, especially the early days, ended in angry, frustrated tears rather than sass, but she had never given up.  She’d been transferred across to the NRH about a month after she’d been shot.  She was staying on-site during the duration of her PT, the practice unorthodox but ordered by the Commander in Chief herself.

“How’s she doing?” Anya asked Clarke, her tone lowering and her face shifting to serious for a moment.

“Really well, all things considered,” Clarke told her as she leaned in, careful not to let Raven overhear that they were talking about her.  She couldn’t afford to be distracted at that moment.  “Her therapist said she might be good to go home in the next couple of weeks.”

A relieved look crossed Anya’s face.  Having Raven living at the facility had been trying on both of them, Anya having to split her time between work, the hospital, and their house.

“That would be amazing.” Though Anya’s face remained stoic, Clarke had interacted with the woman enough in the past three months to see the smile buried beneath the mask.  The woman was practically beaming despite her best efforts.  “She’s going to be thrilled.”

“One more!” Octavia called out as Raven reached the end of her second lap.  

“I am ordering all the dessert next week!” Raven vowed as she wiped the sweat off her brow.  She was breathing heavily and if Clarke was being honest, she wasn’t sure the woman should do another lap.  She looked exhausted, her tank top was soaked through with sweat, and her left leg was visibly shaking.  “Sweetcheeks, you have no idea what’s in store for you tonight.”

“Prove it,” Anya challenged, gesturing at the bars.  “One more and I’ll do anything you want.”

Raven’s eyes widened again and she slowly started down the parallel bars once more.

“You guys are gross,” Lincoln complained as he threw his sandwich down and sat back.  

“What about restoring functionality to her leg?” Anya queried as though the exchange between her and Raven hadn’t just happened.  “She’s only at 85% and she says she plateaued.”

Clarke nodded, sure that what Raven had told her was true.  “The swelling went down in her spine, as you know, but that doesn’t mean the damage was undone.  The scar tissue in the area is still pressing into her spine and that may never change.”

“So you’re saying she’ll never have restored function to her leg?” Anya questioned, fury lighting behind her eyes as her eyes swept back to her wife.  “She’ll have to fight her own body every day?”

Clarke sighed.  They’d had this conversation almost every week since the incident, Clarke constantly reminding Anya that despite everything, Raven was leaps and bounds beyond where anyone thought she would be.  Regardless, she wasn’t ‘back to normal’ and Anya was having some difficulty reconciling that she may never be.

“I’ll talk to her surgeon again this afternoon if you want.  See if she has any updates,” Clarke offered.  “I can also have my mom look at her files, see if there’s anything she can suggest.”

Bringing her mom into Raven’s care was new and she saw Anya’s eyes widen. 

“I couldn’t ask that of her,” she replied shaking her head.  “She’s already done so much for us, Raven especially.”

“It’s no problem, I’m sure she’d be thrilled to help,” Clarke told her.  “She misses being a surgeon, I can tell.  Any chance she has to jump back in, she’ll do it.”

“Let me make sure it’s ok with Raven,” Anya conceded graciously.  “Thank-you.”

Clarke nodded, glancing at the woman in question and noticing she was paused and her arms were shaking as she struggled to keep herself up.  Before she could say anything, she heard Lexa call out behind her.

“Ste yuj, Reivon,” she ordered.  “One foot in front of the other.”

“Yeah,” Octavia cut in.  “Drag it if you have to.  Your woman’s virtue is on the line.”

“Trust me,” Raven began as she forced herself to take a step, “she isn’t very virtuous.”

Anya smirked at that, just shrugging.

“That’s true.”

“Come on, Ray,” Clarke pushed as she stood.  “Only a few more steps!”

They all began slinging supportive insults at Raven as she slowly moved one step in front of the other.  Clarke was shocked they hadn’t been banned from the hospital with how rowdy they got.  She figured that if her mom ordered them to make a room available for the woman, they didn’t have much choice but to allow her posse to cheer her on during therapy.  The uproar from their small group was nothing but explosive when Raven reached the end of her third lap and collapsed into her chair.

“I get all the food next week!”

“All that and more,” Anya promised her as she wheeled her over to where they were all seated.  “I’m sure you’re starving after that.”

Raven shot her a sly look as she licked her lips.  “I am, but not for this,” she told her as she gestured at the sandwiches.  “How much time do you have for lunch?”

“Enough,” Anya replied with a smirk as she instantly changed course. 

“I’m eating your sandwich then!” Octavia called as they headed for the exit.

“I’m having Anya for lunch today, have at it!” Raven yelled back.

“Gross,” Octavia cringed, pushing her sandwich away.  “There goes my appetite.”

“I have to get back across campus anyways,” Clarke advised them as she stood.  “Maya, she looks great.  You’re doing fantastic work.”

“Appreciate it, Dr. Griffin.” Maya shot her a smile as she moved things around for her next patient.  “You guys were as entertaining as ever.”

“We try,” Octavia replied cheekily.

“Maya, we have extra food if you would like,” Lexa offered as she watched the woman work.  “I know you never get much time for lunch.”

Maya paused, looking up at the agent gratefully.  “That would be much appreciated, Agent Woods, thank-you.”

“It’s nothing,” Lexa replied, waving the thanks off.  Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Clarke watching her, a smile on her lips as she walked towards the young therapist, food in hand.  “You have been a saving grace with Raven.  Your patience is unparalleled.  It’s the least that we can do.”

Maya chuckled at that and took the food Lexa offered her.  

“She really isn’t that bad,” Maya stated as she unwrapped the sandwich.  “I wish half my patients were as motivated as her.  It would make my job a lot easier.”

“Mine too,” Clarke chimed in with a chuckle.

They sat with Maya for a few minutes before the young therapist had to get back to work.  They made their way back to the main hospital, Octavia in the front and Lincoln and Lexa flanking the doctor on either side, their eyes constantly scanning for threats.  

“Has Anya said anything about what’s going on with the Coalition?” Clarke ventured as the sun beat down on them.  Despite the end of summer on the horizon, the heat was not letting up one iota.  “Or where Ontari has been?”

“She said they were working a promising lead when I talked to her last night,” Lexa replied.  She swept her suit jacket open in hopes for a breeze since the sun was causing her to sweat beneath the bulletproof vest she wore.  “As far as anyone can tell, she retreated to her master like a kicked dog when she failed to kill you twice.  And there is still no word on why she was so intent on doing that.”

The same indecipherable look that crossed Clarke’s features whenever Ontari’s promise passed across her face again. Deciding she’d had enough, Lexa turned to more fully face the woman.

“Ok, spill,” she sighed as she fixed the doctor with a stare.  “Why do you always look like that when I bring up what she said about you?”

“Like what?” Clarke replied innocently. 

“I don’t know, there’s just a look,” Lexa pressed.  “One I can’t decipher, but like you have a secret.”

“I have many,” Clarke replied coyly, but Lexa recognized it for the deflection that it was.

“You don’t have to tell me, but if it puts you and this team at risk, I’d like to know,” Lexa implored.

That seemed to shake something in Clarke, Lexa not forcing her to open up but rather giving her the option, and Lexa saw a shift in her.  Her features darkened and Lexa could see the war behind her eyes.  It was a long moment before she finally looked at Lexa again.

“Later,” Clarke murmured, seeming to have made a decision.

Lexa studied her, wondering just exactly what this woman was hiding that could cause a whole terrorist organization to make her their main focus.  Deciding Clarke was right and it was something that could be addressed once her shift was over, Lexa just gave her a nod.  The rest of the walk passed in tense silence as Lexa ruminated over outlandish possibilities, each one making her more and more curious about the suddenly mysterious woman beside her.

Chapter Text

Chapter Six

“There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” — Maya Angelou


Clarke was clearly distracted and distant the rest of the afternoon, the woman practically on auto-pilot.  Lexa knew the culprit was their impending discussion and while she felt bad that Clarke was so clearly disturbed by the subject, she would not regret pushing for a truth that might affect Clarke’s safety.  With about three hours left in her shift, Clarke decided to reassign her final surgery and take herself off the rotation for on-call ER surgeons, something that Lexa had never seen her do in the past three months.

Making excuses that she needed to get caught up on charts and other paperwork, Clarke exiled herself to an on-call room.  Lexa recognized them for the convenient excuses they were, but she allowed them considering Clarke had chosen to hide in the most secure location the hospital had to offer.  She left Lincoln and Octavia posted on the door while she herself decided that taking some time alone wasn’t a bad idea.  It was why, an hour later, she found herself on the hospital roof, watching the bustle of the hospital grounds below.  Despite the fact that they spent six out of seven days and long hours within those days inside the hospital, Lexa was no more comfortable within its walls and only withstood it because of their daily visits to Raven. 

After the attacks, they’d returned Clarke to her home at the White House and shortly thereafter, the blonde had been able to return to work.  They’d fallen into a fairly consistent routine that involved Clarke’s work, training sessions in hand-to-hand combat after shifts, and late evening runs with Jax.  They’d both taken a shine to each other and Clarke insisted that he accompany them whenever she wanted to take a run, much to Lexa’s delight.

Deciding she’d hidden long enough, Lexa forced herself back into the confining space of the hospital.  She stopped by the cafeteria and picked up a few coffees as well as cookies for Clarke, something knew would help lift Clarke’s mood.  If there was one thing Lexa had learned over the last three months with the doctor, it was that she had a hell of a sweet tooth.  Walking back to the on-call rooms, she found Lincoln and Octavia exactly where she’d left them.

“Has she come out yet?” she asked quietly as she glanced at the door Clarke had disappeared behind over an hour ago.

“Afraid not,” Lincoln replied, a deep frown on his features.  “She seems upset today.”

“Indeed,” Lexa agreed as she offered each of them a coffee.  “Take a break.  I’ll stay with her.”

“You sure?” Octavia asked as she sipped at the coffee and hummed in contentment.  “Thanks for this.”

“I’m sure,” Lexa assured her.  “Stay on comms.  If I need anything, I’ll raise you.”

They didn’t need much more prompting than that and they quickly made their way down the hallway and out of sight.  Sighing, Lexa knocked lightly on the door to Clarke’s on-call room.  It took a moment, but eventually, she heard shuffling before Clarke eased the door open, a questioning look on her features.

“Figured you could use this,” she told Clarke as she lifted the now mostly empty coffee carrier.

A relieved look crossed the other woman’s features and she pulled the door open further as she beckoned Lexa in.  Taking the coffee Lexa offered her, she settled back on the bed where Lexa could see paperwork spread around haphazardly.  Clarke sipped on her coffee, an awkward silence falling over them.  

“So,” Lexa began as she tried to break the atmosphere.  “How’s the paperwork going?”

Clarke looked pointedly at the disorganized mess on the bed.

“Not as well as I’d like,” she admitted sheepishly.  

“I brought you something that should help with that,” Lexa revealed as she dug the chocolate chip cookies out of her pocket.  

Clarke’s eyes lit up as they landed on the proffered item and Lexa was pleased to see her smile for the first time that afternoon.

“How did you know this is exactly what I needed?” she asked as she gently took the cookies from Lexa and pulled the wrapping loose.

“Just a hunch,” Lexa replied, her lips twitching in amusement as Clarke bit into the soft-baked dessert.  “I’ll be just outside if you need anything.”

Clarke nodded as she took another bite of the cookie and Lexa gently shut the door behind her.  She shot off a text to Lincoln and when she received his reply, she settled into her watch position.  A few hours later, Lexa finally heard the door open behind her and she turned to find Clarke standing there with her tablet and paperwork in hand.

“I think I’ve read the same sentence for the last hour,” Clarke mumbled as she walked out into the hall.  “Ready to get out of here?”

“If you are,” Lexa answered as she fell into step beside her.  

Clarke stopped at the nurse's station to drop her things off for the night and bid the evening staff farewell before making her way to the hospital exit.  She was quiet and distant, odd behavior for the doctor, but Lexa didn’t question it, choosing to allow Clarke to come to her when she was ready.  Even when Lincoln and Octavia met them at the car, Jax in tow per Lexa’s request, Clarke’s lips barely twitched before she patted him on the head once and moved to get into the car.  Clarke’s self-imposed silence continued for the entire car ride and when they pulled on to the White House grounds, she was the first one out of the vehicle.  Lexa followed quickly after, unwilling to let the woman get too far out of her sight while they were still exposed outside.

“If it’s alright with you, I’d prefer to workout alone today,” Clarke informed her as she moved to head upstairs once they were inside.  

Lexa refused to allow her surprise to show and merely nodded when Clarke glanced back at her.  The doctor disappeared upstairs and Lexa turned when she heard Octavia and Lincoln making their way in behind her with Jax.  Seeing Lexa, Jax broke off and sidled up to her side, sitting down next to her.

“I’m giving you two the night off.  Enjoy,” she told them, smirking when Octavia smiled broadly at her. 

“Sweet!” Octavia exclaimed as she wrapped an arm around Lincoln.  “I know exactly where I want you to take me to dinner!”

Lincoln rolled his eyes but he smiled down at the eager woman nonetheless, excitement at the prospect of a night off visible in his own eyes.  He barely managed to yell his thanks as Octavia all but dragged him out the door.  Shaking her head, Lexa proceeded down to the gym, ready to stand by while Clarke worked out.  The President was away on some diplomatic mission somewhere in the world so the White House was far quieter and emptier than it normally was, only a skeleton crew left on staff at the moment.  Jax followed and sat down next to her, looking at her for his next command.  She rubbed his ears and then gave him the hand signal to lie down.

Before long, Clarke appeared in leggings and a loose shirt, nodding once at Lexa as she moved past her and into the gym, quietly closing the door behind her.  Jax had perked up as she’d approached, his head rising and his tail thumping, but when she’d disappeared behind the door, he dropped his head back down with a heavy sigh and a grumble.

“I know, buddy,” Lexa murmured as she smirked down at him.  “Maybe she’ll say hello once she’s done in there.”

He just peered up at her with sad eyes as he grumbled again, making sure she knew how upset he was.  Lexa just chuckled at his antics before settling back into her watch.  An hour later, Lexa began to worry when Clarke hadn’t reemerged.  She eased the door open, peering in and was surprised to find Clarke seated on one of the benches, her head in her hands.  Lexa’s eyes were immediately drawn to the bloody and bruised knuckles on both hands and she pushed into the gym after giving Jax the hand signal to stay.  As she drew closer to the woman, she could see Clarke breathing heavily as her sweat-soaked shirt clung to her.  Having heard Lexa coming, she looked up and Lexa saw a flash of grief in the blue eyes before it was quickly swept behind her mask. 

“We should take care of these,” Lexa commented as she gestured at Clarke’s hands.  “You need them.”

Clarke huffed out a humorless laugh, as she flexed her hands but she couldn’t hide the wince that came from the movements.  “The bag is harder than it looks,” she admitted as her eyes flicked to the hanging heavy bag that was covered with smears of blood. 

“When you don’t wrap your hands or use the appropriate gloves, yes,” Lexa admonished as she gestured at Clarke’s hands again.  When Clarke held them out, she gently ran her thumbs over the raw knuckles of one hand before doing the same with the other.  Lexa worked to ignore the fact that Clarke’s skin was warm and soft beneath her own as her fingers ran over the cuts and burns.  Sensing no deformities, she flexed each of Clarke’s fingers and watched their movement carefully before letting go of Clarke’s hands once more.  “I don’t think anything is broken, just bruised.”

Clarke looked at her, equal parts impressed and confused.  “I thought I was the doctor.”

“I’ve had some experience with heavy bags and anger in my time,” Lexa told her quietly as she turned back towards the door.  “Come, we should get ice on them if you want to limit the swelling.”

Clarke followed her wordlessly as Lexa led them to the kitchen, Jax falling in line beside them and glancing between both women.  There were only a couple members of the staff in the kitchen when they arrived and with just a nod of Lexa’s head, they quickly left.  Lexa moved to one of the industrial fridges and rifled through a few things before finding what she was looking for.  Turning around, she gestured for Clarke to sit on one of the barstools.  Clarke sat and gently placed her hands, knuckles up, on the island countertop in front of her while Jax sat next to her and placed his head on her lap.  Lexa gently laid a towel followed by a bag of peas on each hand before moving to the first aid kit hanging on the nearby wall. 

“I could do that myself,” Clarke advised as Lexa sat down beside her and began going through the kit.  “I do have a little experience with these kinds of things, remember?”

Lexa smirked as she pulled alcohol wipes and antibiotic ointment out of the kit.  “I think at this point, I owe you.”

“Fair enough,” Clarke murmured as she allowed Lexa to move the peas and towels off her hands.

“This might sting a bit,” Lexa warned her as she tore open the alcohol pads.  

Clarke simply nodded and didn’t flinch when the alcohol hit her open cuts.  Jax let out a low whine as he nudged his head into Clarke and the woman took the free hand not being cared for and curled it into his fur.

“He’s very intuitive,” Clarke observed as she ran her hand through his soft hair.  “Very loyal.”

“He’s been like that since I found him,” Lexa told her as she gently rubbed antibiotic ointment onto the knuckles of the hand she was working on.  “He’s always been sweet and in tune with the people around him.”

“He’s the best boy,” Clarke praised as she affectionately rubbed his ears.  This time when Jax groaned, it was out of contentment and not because he was disgruntled, causing Clarke to chuckle softly.  “Definitely the best.”

Lexa just shook her head as she finished with one hand and Clarke seamlessly swapped her now good hand for her still slightly bleeding one.  Lexa was just as quick with that one while Clarke rained love and affection down on Jax.

“You’re a shameless flirt,” she muttered at him as she finished rubbing the antibiotic ointment into the shallow cuts.  “What a nudge.”

“Someone as irresistibly cute as him doesn’t even need to flirt,” Clarke declared as she leaned down and placed a kiss on Jax’s forehead. 

Lexa had to back up in order to steer clear of the collateral damage his fiercely wagging tail was doing to her legs.  Lexa pushed the peas back towards Clarke as she stood, giving the woman a pointed look.

“Keep these on your hands for at least another fifteen minutes,” Lexa ordered.

“Yes, ma’am,” Clarke replied but Lexa saw one of her hands slowly sneaking back to her lap and heard the telltale thumping of Jax’s tail.

“I’m serious, Dr. Griffin,” Lexa insisted as she cleaned up the trash and first aid kit from the counter.  “You won’t be able to complete your surgeries.”

“How many times do I have to tell you to call me Clarke?” the woman shot back as she instead dropped her other hand to Jax’s head.  “There’s no need to be so formal.  It’s been three months.  You know my coffee order and my bathroom habits.”

Lexa’s lips twitched at the allusion to one of their first conversations but she remained resolute in her usage of Clarke’s formal title.  “You earned the right to be called doctor and I will continue to use it, ma’am.”

Clarke rolled her eyes but she did bring one hand back up and replace the peas on it.  Lexa was happy to see that she seemed a bit lighter than she had earlier, knowing the heavy bag and Jax had worked their magic.  Suddenly struck with an idea, she began rummaging around in the kitchen, looking first for specific pots before pilfering both the fridges and cupboards.

“What are you doing?” Clarke questioned when she saw Lexa drop everything on the island.

“Cooking us dinner,” Lexa replied as though it was obvious.  “You must be hungry.”

“I am, but why?” Clarke asked, perplexed.  “You know there’s staff for that.  You don’t have to.”

“I want to,” Lexa replied easily as she began chopping up various ingredients.  “It’ll take me about half an hour to get it together if you want to shower.”

“You’re really doing this?” Clarke pressed, still clearly surprised.

Lexa just nodded as she continued chopping, tossing a piece of carrot to Jax who caught it easily.  He spit it out on the floor and sniffed at it before deciding he liked it and scooped it back up.  Clarke watched him and chuckled before she slid off the stool and disappeared in the direction of the bedrooms.  Lexa looked at Jax who was sitting and patiently waiting for another scrap. 

“You did good, bud,” she commended him as she tossed him another piece of carrot.  “She needed you.”

Jax munched happily on his treat, licking his lips and tilting his head as he watched her.  Lexa just grinned and continued working, tossing him bits every once in a while.  She knew she was spoiling him but Clarke had been right when she’d called him irresistible and Lexa was a pushover when it came to his soulful eyes. He could be hard to love sometimes and she was beyond thrilled that he and Clarke had taken to each other the way they had.  Dinner came together quickly under her practiced hands and before long the mouthwatering scents of simmering garlic, basil and tomatoes were filling the kitchen.

“Smells incredible,” she heard Clarke remark from behind her. “What are you making?”

“Caprese chicken with angel hair pasta for the main course,” Lexa told her as she spooned the tomatoes over the simmering chicken.  Pointing at the island she turned slightly to speak to Clarke.  “There’s bruschetta and toasted crisps with flavored oil as an app if you’re hungry now.  This will be done in a few more minutes.”

“I can hold out,” Clarke decided as she moved to the cabinets and pulled dishes out to set places for both of them.

Lexa let herself fall into the calming domesticity of it all as Clarke moved around behind her and laid everything out.  She heard the doctor cooing at Jax as he followed her around and she felt her lips twitching towards a smile.  Warmth blossomed in her chest, as it usually did when Clarke doted on Jax, and she worked to push it down.  She couldn’t afford the distraction of anything other than professional feelings towards Clarke.

“Red or white?” Clarke suddenly asked, the question cutting through Lexa’s thoughts.  Lexa blinked and looked at the other woman who was standing at the wine fridge looking expectantly at her.  “What’s going to pair better?”

“White.  A sauvignon blanc if there’s one in there,” Lexa responded as she plated the chicken and pasta.  “It’ll pair well with the acidity of the tomatoes.”

“What are you?  A wine connoisseur?” Clarke inquired, impressed.  “You’re just full of secrets.”

“Everyone has them,” Lexa smirked as she glanced at the other woman again.  She didn’t miss the dark look pass over her face but Clarke managed to wipe it away almost immediately.  Not ready to put a damper on the evening, Lexa kept her own mood light.  “You’re in for a treat because mine happen to be about food and booze.”

“If the smell is anything to go by, I think I’ll be ok with it,” Clarke assured her as she slid into her seat at the island.  “This looks amazing.  Thank you for doing this.”

“It was nothing.”  Lexa waved her off as she slid onto her own stool.  “I hope you like it.”

“I can promise I will,” Clarke told her as she pulled the bruschetta and crisps closer.  “Italian is my favorite.”

“I know,” Lexa remarked as she scooped some of the bruschetta for herself.  “You have pasta at least three times a week,” she explained when Clarke quirked a brow at her.  “Plus half the time you snag pizza at lunch, though I’m not sure hospital pizza counts as Italian.”

“The carbs keep me going,” Clarke defended but the smile tugging at her lips told Lexa she wasn’t offended in the least by her comments.  “Being a world-class surgeon isn’t easy, you know.  Especially when my patients are as stubborn as you.”

“I will have you know that I’m the best patient,” Lexa scoffed.

“You ripped your stitches out after that fight at the hospital,” Clarke pointed out around a mouthful of food.  “Twice.”

“You wanted me to get fat and out of shape?  How would I protect you?” Lexa challenged as she shoveled a bruschetta covered crisp into her mouth.  “I had to keep working out.”

“No, I wanted you to take the time to heal properly,” Clarke sassed back as she snagged more bruschetta herself.  “Or at least wait the two weeks until you had them removed.”

“I don’t think you would have liked me if I’d gone two weeks without working out,” Lexa informed her as she took the first bite of her chicken.  “I get rather cranky.”

“More so than usual?” Clarke teased.  She smirked when Lexa raised a brow at her.  “I noticed you’re not a morning person.”

“That’s an understatement,” Lexa grumbled but opted not to expound further.  She didn’t feel it was necessary to weigh Clarke down with her personal demons. 

“Neither are you if the three cups of coffee it takes to get you out the door are anything to go by.”

“I like what I like,” Clarke quipped with an unapologetic shrug.  She took her first bite of pasta and chicken and let out a moan as the food hit her tongue.  “Oh my god, this is unreal.”

Lexa had been in the middle of swallowing when Clarke had moaned and she’d been so startled by it that the food caught on the way down and she found herself coughing out of reflex.  Grabbing her wine, she took several sips to try and soothe her throat as Clarke continued to eat, a smug smirk on her lips.  

“I’m glad you like it,” Lexa finally managed to croak out as she finished off her wine.  Noticing Clarke’s glass was also empty already, she stood and retrieved the bottle from the fridge.  “Can I top you off?”

Clarke gave her an odd look, as though considering her, but eventually she nodded and grabbed her glass.  Thinking about what she’d said, Lexa realized how it might have sounded and felt a flush burn up her neck. Hoping the blonde wouldn’t notice her sudden embarrassment, she hastily turned and placed her own wine glass in the sink.  Clarke shot her a quizzical look when she replaced it with a glass of water. 

“I’m still technically on duty,” Lexa explained and watched as Clarke rolled her eyes. 

“We’re in the most secure place in the country right now.  I think I’ll be alright,” Clarke argued as she took a sip from her refreshed glass.  “It would be ok for you to loosen up just a little every once in a while.”

“If I loosen up, mistakes happen,” Lexa asserted as she slid back into her seat.  “If I make a mistake, that could cost you your life.  I’m not willing to gamble with that.”

“Fine,” Clarke grumbled as she dug back into her food.  “But I will get you drunk one of these days,” she promised.  “I imagine you’re very fun when you’re intoxicated.”

“You’ve clearly been talking to Raven,” Lexa concluded as she too began eating again.  “Either that or you’re just trying to take advantage of me.”

“You’re not wrong,” Clarke agreed as she nodded.  She didn’t bother clarifying which point Lexa was correct about and judging by the self-satisfied smirk on her face, it was intentional.  “Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”

“I guess so,” Lexa mumbled as she curiously studied the woman seated next to her.  The way Clarke was looking at her had that warm feeling bubbling back up in her chest and Lexa quickly looked back at her plate.  “I’m going to kill Raven the next time I see her.” 

Clarke chuckled at that and they fell into a comfortable silence, each just enjoying the company and food.  Once they’d finished, Clarke helped Lexa clear and sipped on what had to be her fourth glass of wine while she cleaned the dishes and Lexa dried.  Based on the flush in Clarke’s cheeks and the subtle slurred pattern to her speech, Lexa could tell that the wine was taking its hold on the other woman. 

“Who taught you how to cook?” Clarke randomly queried as she finished cleaning the last of the dishes.

Lexa took her time drying the dish she’d just picked up, carefully considering her answer and the questions she knew it would draw.  She forced herself to keep her gaze away from Clarke.  Something about the way the woman looked at her made Lexa feel as though she could trust her implicitly, and that was dangerous for someone with Lexa’s past.  Trusting the wrong people only ended with her being hurt.

“My mother,” she finally replied as she gently placed her dish on the counter and picked up another.  “She was first-generation off the boat Italian and cooked every meal from scratch.  She’d be horrified if she saw me using store-bought pasta.”

“You were lucky to have such a fine example to learn by,” Clarke murmured.  Of course she had immediately picked up on Lexa’s own use of the past tense when referring to her mother.  “When did she pass?”

“When I was very young,” Lexa told her as she dried the last dish and set it down.  The question pulled at memories she’d long fought to suppress and the distant flare of panic bloomed in the back of her mind.  Swallowing, Lexa carefully picked her next sentence in an attempt to minimize any further queries into her personal life.  “I was seven when both my parents died.”

When Lexa finally glanced up at Clarke, she was shocked to see understanding in her blue eyes and not the pity she’d been expecting.  It was more than she deserved and that familiar feeling of safety that Clarke seemed to embody settled over her.  Suddenly, the edges of panic weren’t so threatening and Lexa felt herself relax just a bit.  As though she could sense Lexa’s unease with the topic and unwillingness to share further, Clarke wisely refrained from asking her any additional questions as she dried her hands. 

“I’m sorry you carry that with you,” Clarke whispered as she leaned a hip against the counter and faced Lexa.  “Losing a parent…it leaves a void in you.  To lose both at once…I can’t even imagine how difficult it must have been.”

Lexa just nodded as she laid the dishtowel on the counter and watched Clarke drain the remainder of her wine before rinsing the glass out and setting it aside to dry.  Realizing Lexa wasn’t going to say anything further on the topic, Clarke picked up the bottle she was actively working through and began meandering down the stately home’s long hallways.  Jax fell faithfully into step beside them, eager to explore.  Clarke didn’t seem to have a destination in mind and even though she hadn’t been seriously slurring her words, there was a slight sway to her gait as she walked that had her brushing against Lexa every other few steps.  Lexa told herself she was intentionally staying in the woman’s path in case she suddenly lost her balance and Lexa needed to steady her.  They wandered in silence for twenty minutes, Clarke taking pulls from the bottle in her hand every now and again, her face an unreadable mask.

Lexa nodded in acknowledgment at Carter and Sullivan, Clarke’s midnight detail, when they materialized in front of them as Clarke crossed into the West Wing.  They silently fell into step behind them, picking up on Lexa’s non-verbal cues like the professionals they were.  Lexa patiently shadowed Clarke as she paced the enormous house from end to end three times.  Sensing that Clarke was working up the courage to broach whatever had been bothering her all afternoon, Lexa didn’t push the issue.  Instead of proceeding across the house as she had the last few times, Clarke made an abrupt turn and pushed out on to the South Lawn side of the house.  Without even having to be told, Carter and Sullivan moved ahead of them and spoke lowly in their mics to let the ground security teams know they were outside.  They stayed at a respectable distance, which seemed to put Clarke at ease- as much as she could be, at least, and the blonde took a long pull from her bottle.  Seeming to recognize her anxiety, Jax moved to Clarke’s side.    

“The Coalition killed my father,” Clarke suddenly blurted as they followed the path towards the Children’s Garden’s.  “Blew him up right in front of me.”

The words were spoken so plainly that anyone who didn’t know her would assume Clarke was commenting on the weather.  Lexa, however, could see the pain pulling at her features despite the work Clarke was doing to conceal them.  Sensing that she wasn’t done, Lexa remained silent as Clarke gathered herself.  Clarke smiled suddenly, though it was listless and didn’t reach her eyes. 

“Got him and my boyfriend all in one go.  Brilliant, really,” Clarke joked sarcastically.  “We weren’t close enough to the device to be mist, because, you know, that’s what happens to the fortunate few.  Your whole body is reduced to pink mist…” Clarke paused, her gait all the more unsteady as she tipped the bottle back once more and took a long pull.  “Nope.  Lucky me, I got to see what my father looked like with half a skull, his eyes blown out from the explosive force and his limbs torn to shreds.”

“Dr. Griffin, you don’t need to share this if you don’t wish to,” Lexa murmured as she carefully watched Clarke’s deteriorating balance.  “I understand how difficult you may find it.”

“This?” Clarke scoffed as she gestured between them, wine sloshing out of the bottle at her violent movements.  “This is anything but difficult.  Surviving it, that was difficult.  Waking up every day knowing you’re the reason your father is dead, that’s difficult.  Your own mother being unable to even look at you anymore, that’s difficult.  So, no.  This right here isn’t difficult at all.”

Clarke’s reliance on her bottle of wine suggested otherwise, but Lexa found herself too wrapped up in a sudden onslaught of her own memories to comment.  Lexa swallowed as she felt the panic she’d managed to force back earlier rise up to play on the edges of her mind.  Her chest tightened in response and subconsciously Lexa raised a hand to rub at her sternum in a desperate attempt to loosen the tension there.  Intoxicated beyond noticing Lexa’s sudden shift, Clarke plowed on, the same near maniacal smile spread across her face as she turned into the Children’s Garden.  Jax settled himself between both of them, seemingly unable to decide who needed him more in that moment.

“We weren’t even supposed to be there, you know?  My dad had pulled us from school to play hooky, a ‘mental health day’, he called it.”  This time, Clarke’s humorless laugh caught at the end as she hiccuped.  “We had just stopped for ice cream at my favorite place, at my request.  I was walking to the bathroom and had turned to tell my dad not to forget the sprinkles, something so…trivial.  Next thing I knew, I was pushing debris and body parts off myself.”

“Dr. Griffin…,” Lexa began the concern clear in her tone as she watched Clarke teeter around a bed of flowers. 

“The whole storefront had been blown out,” Clarke continued as though she hadn’t heard Lexa.  She settled herself on a stone bench along the path, her eyes staring ahead of her unseeingly.  Jax settled at her feet, his own concern for the woman reflected in his eyes.  “My father died right there, having been standing the closest to the front.  Finn died later that night.  I didn’t have anything more than a few scratches and temporary hearing loss.”

Clarke lifted the bottle to her lips, swiftly swallowing the remaining liquid.  When she rocked back, Lexa jumped forward and placed a steadying hand on her shoulder.  Jax looked between both of them, a low whine leaving his throat. 

“Thanks,” Clarke mumbled.  “Anyways, The Coalition destroyed my life that day.  So I joined the service to try and help bring them down in any way I could.”

Lexa pulled her hand back, now that Clarke seemed to be sitting up on her own once again.  She carefully folded her hands behind her, a habit she’d picked up to prevent herself from fidgeting when she was anxious.  Clarke fell silent, the occasional hiccup causing her to flinch every once in a while.  Despite them, Clarke continued to stare into the distance.  Lexa’s gaze slipped to the night sky, her eyes immediately landing on several familiar constellations.

“Thank you for sharing that with me,” Lexa began as her eyes remained fixed on the night sky.  “I’m sorry for your losses.  As you said, it leaves a void in you.”  Clarke merely hummed as she stayed focused on the nothingness in front of her.  “None of what happened that day was your fault,” Lexa continued as she looked at Clarke and that seemed to pull her attention as the blonde’s glassy gaze fixed on her.  “The Coalition are the only ones to blame.”

“Easy enough for you to say,” Clarke grumbled as she tried and failed to glare at Lexa.  “Your family isn’t dead because of you.”

Lexa bit back her own response.  Despite the deep, unexplainable knowledge that had Lexa believing she could implicitly trust Clarke, she was not prepared to give away those darkest parts of herself.  Besides that, she was constantly having to remind herself to remain professional, something she’d never had to do before.  She knew that divulging her own life story would threaten her ability to remain objective and sensible and therefore, professional.  

“I’m sorry, that was insensitive,” Clarke hastily apologized.  “I can be an ass when I drink.”

Lexa waved away the apology before returning to her former stance, hands secure behind her back.  Jax was staring at her making sure she was fine and she gave him a nod, something he’d been trained to recognize for what it was: she was ok.

“Forgive me for asking,” Lexa tentatively began, “But what does what you’ve told me have to do with why The Coalition is targeting you now?”

This time, Clarke’s smile was genuine if not still a slight bit unhinged.  Jax shifted, clearly picking up on Clarkes abrupt personality change.

“Because I took what was important to them in return.  I was in the field during the battle of Botafogo,” Clarke started as she turned her wine bottle upside down, a displeased look taking over her features at its emptiness.  Lexa’s eyes widened at the mention of the horrific battle.  It had been the final push by the allied countries against The Coalition, the terrorists dissipating shortly after.  She’d missed it by only a few days but the rest of her team had been present.  To this day, they all refused to speak about it.  None of what Clarke was relaying now was in Clarke’s file.  “It was bad.  Injured, dying, and dead soldiers everywhere.  The Coalition violated the Geneva Convention and utilized chemical warfare.”

“I heard about it,” Lexa acknowledged when Clarke peered up at her to see if she was still listening.

“I was doing my best but we were short.  Somehow, we were overrun and I was taken captive by The Coalition.”  Clarke’s gaze focused far away again, pain flashing through them before she was able to smother it.  “They say I was there for about ten days.  I was kept in a cage like a dog, no way to gauge the passage of time and barely any food during that time.  Even so, I was lucky compared to other people there.”

Lexa remained quiet while Clarke gathered her thoughts.  Her words were beginning to slur more noticeably as the wine took a better hold on her and Lexa had to step forward on a more frequent basis now to steady her. 

“The Coalition was so concerned with the allies advances, they didn’t even realize who I was.  I imagine my treatment would have been worse if they had,” Clarke posited.  “I was able to finagle the lock on my cage and I slipped out in the chaos of the allies attacking Sugarloaf.  I was cornered at one point by Nia’s son, Roan, but I did what I had to in order to survive.”

Lexa couldn’t keep the shock off her face as she finally sat with a heavy plop next to Clarke.

“You killed Nia’s son?” Lexa queried, awe clear in her voice.  “That certainly explains Ontari’s issue with you.”

“I didn’t stop with him,” Clarke revealed quietly, a sudden seriousness in her words and on her face.  Lexa would almost believe she was sober.  Jax sat up and placed his head in Clarke’s lap, nudging at her hands as they fidgeted in her lap.  “Despite the fact that I’d never been armed while in the service and had never killed someone, I pressed on.  I somehow managed to get to the control room for the mountain- couldn’t tell you how.  Sheer luck, I suppose.  Dante Wallace was there.  Cage was in the munitions rooms and threatened to unleash missiles that would kill hundreds of thousands here if I didn’t let his father go.”

Lexa was staring intently at the other woman, hanging on her every word so heavily that she didn’t realize she was actually leaning towards the woman.  Jax had given up trying to earn her attention and had settled back at their feet with a dissatisfied grunt.

“I was stuck.  I had the leader of the most prolific terrorist organization America had ever seen within my sights but the entirety of this nation was in theirs.”  Clarke shifted, the movement knocking her off balance and Lexa reached out to steady her again this time surprised when Clarke leaned her shoulder into her side.  “I think I drank too much.”

“I think that may be true, but sometimes we all need liquid courage,” Lexa reasoned. 

When Clarke flashed her a grateful smile, Lexa found her lips itching to return the gesture.  Instead, she shifted a bit, allowing Clarke to rest more comfortably against her.  Clarke seemed to struggle to get the next words out, her features scrunching as she swallowed heavily.

“I found a way to deactivate the cages and cells that their prisoners were in.  While Cage was busy spouting nonsense, I released their prisoners.  Many died fighting their way out but enough of them survived to compromise Cage’s weapons systems to the point where he couldn’t follow through on his threats.”  Clarke shifted, the warmth of her weight leaving Lexa, the brunette freezing when she realized her body was trying to follow the retreating doctor.  “They were too late, though.  I was seeing red at that point, the continued threats against my home and the memories of my father blown to pieces overwhelmed me.  Without being fully cognizant, I pulled the trigger and killed Dante.”

Lexa sat in stunned silence as Clarke’s confession weighed heavily between them.  Clarke shivered when a sudden fall breeze whipped up around them and Lexa pulled off her suit jacket and placed it gently around her shoulders.  Clarke snuggled into the coat, inhaling deeply as she burrowed into it.  Lexa quirked a brow at her and she could swear Clarke blushed when she saw Lexa staring at her.

“I’m sure this makes me weird, but whatever soap you use smells amazing,” Clarke explained.  “This smells like that.”

Lexa felt the now familiar warmth she’d come to associate with Clarke spreading in her chest, easing some of the tension that still lingered from her anxiety.  Taking a deep breath, Lexa stood once more and began pacing in front of Clarke.

“So I just want to make sure I’m understanding this,” Lexa declared, her brow furrowed in concentration.  “You said you were a POW for about ten days and that you were captured during the battle of Botafogo?”

Clarke simply nodded, her glassy eyes following Lexa’s tight patterns.  

“You do know that about a week and a half after Botafogo, the Coalition officially surrendered?”  Lexa asked.  Again, Clarke nodded.  “Which puts that directly on the timeline you’re describing that you were a POW and killed Wallace…”

Clarke stared at her, her gaze suddenly laser-focused as Lexa puzzled out the last remaining piece.  

“You…,” Lexa stuttered to a stop as realization dawned on her features.  “You are the reason they surrendered.”

“Not the sole reason,” Clarke protested as she pulled Lexa’s jacket tighter around her in a desperate attempt to comfort herself.  “A lot of brave men and women died throwing them over from the inside.  They should not be discounted.”

“Of course, you’re right, but it’s obvious that without you, none of that would have happened,” Lexa pointed out.  “Those men and women would still be prisoners and we’d likely still be fighting a war.”

“They’re dead, I’m not seeing how that is a better option.  I did that,” Clarke argued.  Jax stood and pressed against her, his head falling to her lap.  Almost subconsciously, Clarke’s hands curled into his fur.  “I killed them.”

“You freed them and they died fighting for what they believed in, you allowed them that when they might have died pointlessly otherwise.”  Lexa moved back to sit next to her, her hand grabbing Clarke’s without thinking, careful of the bruises that had formed since Clarke’s earlier gym session.  “You allowed them the option of an honorable death and you protected this country from further devastation.”

Clarke stared at her, confusion passing over her features as though no one had ever posed that theory to her quite like that.  While Lexa knew nothing would ever ease the guilt that Clarke clearly felt, she could only do her best to try and be supportive of the decisions that she’d made.  She knew the weight of taking a life all too well, having to do so numerous times in name of service to her country.  Clarke swayed against her and just as she thought the doctor may say something further, Clarke abruptly turned and began vomiting into the nearest bush.  Lexa quickly gathered her hair and pulled it out of her face as she ran a soothing hand over Clarke’s back.  Once Clarke had finished emptying the contents of her stomach, Lexa pulled her to her feet.

“Super sexy, I know,” Clarke slurred as she swayed.

“Come on,” she ordered softly.  “I think you more than earned a good night’s rest.”

“What a novel concept,” Clarke mumbled as she leaned heavily on the other woman while they walked back towards the house.  It was slow going with Clarke having a lot of trouble putting one foot in front of the other, but eventually, they made it.  “I haven’t had a restful night’s sleep in almost ten years.  It’s exhausting, you know?”

“Unfortunately, I do,” Lexa replied as they carefully navigated the stairs to the residential portion of the house. 

Before long, they were pushing into Clarke’s room, the blonde collapsing heavily onto her bed, unconscious the second her head hit the pillow.  Lexa pulled her shoes off before pulling a blanket up and over her.   Giving Jax the signal to stay, she made her way to the connected bathroom and secured a glass of water as well as a bottle of aspirin.  She placed both on the nightstand beside Clarke before giving Jax a pat on the head.  Walking out of the room, she nodded at Carter and Sullivan when she found them posted outside the bedroom doors.

“She’s out,” she informed them quietly.  “I’ll be in the library should you need me.”

They both nodded, neither commenting on the oddity of her staying overnight.  She appreciated their discretion, it was why she had picked them.  She trudged down the hallway, sighing as she pushed into the packed but comfortable library.  She secretly loved the space, the idea of being surrounded by so much knowledge and talent putting her at ease in a way that few things could.  The musty smell that always accompanied a place packed with books washed over her and she breathed deep as she settled into her favorite chair.  She silently ruminated on the things Clarke had divulged, her mind positively spinning.  In the morning, she’d have more questions, but for now, it was time they both rested.

Chapter Text

Chapter Seven

“If you’re gonna make it hurt, show me no mercy” — No Mercy, PVRIS

Lexa was startled awake by a soft knock at the door, the book of assorted Oscar Wilde works she’d fallen asleep with dropping to the floor.  In an instant, she was on her feet and moving toward the door, even though she wasn’t fully awake and the last vestiges of the nightmare she’d been in slowly abated.  She massaged the back of her neck, trying to work out the kink that had formed as she’d slept.  When she eased the door open, she found Sullivan waiting patiently for her on the other side.

“She’s awake,” she advised Lexa quietly.

“Thanks,” Lexa replied as she glanced at her watch.  She was surprised to see it was a little past six in the morning.  She hadn’t slept that late in a long time.  “How’s she faring?”

“I think she’s hurting if the ungodly groan that emanated from the room a few minutes ago is anything to judge by,” Sullivan remarked with a sympathetic smile.

“Ouch,” Lexa replied with a wince.  “I’m going to go grab coffee.  You want?”

“That would be appreciated, ma’am,” Sullivan replied as she headed towards the stairs that would take her back to Clarke’s room.

Lexa merely nodded as she proceeded down the hall to the kitchen.  She loaded a tray with three cups of coffee, cream, and sugar as well as a plate of pancakes and eggs, her favorite hangover cure.  Heading upstairs, she offered Carter and Sullivan the coffee and then dismissed them to get the car ready for Clarke to go to work.  She only had a to wait a few minutes before Clarke cracked her door and peered out, her hair still wet from a shower.  Her eyes widened in surprise when they landed on Lexa.

Jax slipped out and immediately trotted over to Lexa, his tail waving a mile a minute as he let out a low grumble, voicing his discontent about being left without her.  She reached down to scratch his head as she looked at Clarke.  Lexa immediately noticed the dark circles under her eyes and could tell she hadn’t slept well.  When Clarke’s eyes fell on Lexa and the cup of coffee the woman was currently holding out to her, she merely grunted in thanks.  Inhaling deeply, Clarke took a tentative sip before fully emerging from her room.   

“Did you stay all night?” she croaked out after another sip, her voice still heavy with sleep.  At Lexa’s nod, Clarke failed to keep the shock off her face.  She cleared her throat before speaking again.  “Sorry about last night.  Usually, I know my limit.”

“Don’t worry about it,” Lexa told her as she gestured at the plate of food.  “I grabbed this for you if you’re feeling up for it.”

Clarke glanced at the food, immediately paling and raising a hand to her mouth.

“I could pack it to go,” Lexa offered, noticing Clarke’s pallor.

Clarke nodded weakly as she swallowed and dropped her hand.  She disappeared into her room, returning a moment later with Lexa’s jacket in hand.

“I can have the staff dry clean this if you like,” Clarke offered as she took in the wrinkles.  “I must have fallen asleep with it.  I’m sorry.”

“No problem.  I’ll take care of it,” Lexa replied as she took the jacket from Clarke.  

“Sullivan and Carter are getting your car ready and Octavia and Lincoln should be here shortly,” Lexa advised her as Clarke continued to hesitantly sip at her coffee.  “I left aspirin and water on your nightstand if you need that.”

“That was you?” Lexa nodded and Clarke gave her half a smile.  “Thank you.  It was the first thing I did once I could actually open my eyes.”

“I’ve been there,” Lexa sympathized.  “Glad you’re feeling better.

“Mhm,” Clarke hummed in agreement as she moved towards the stairs.  “Listen, about what I told you last night,” Clarke began but Lexa raised a hand.

“It will stay between us,” Lexa promised as they stopped in the entrance hall.  Clarke flashed her a grateful smile before draining the last of her coffee.  “I respect your desire for privacy and I took none of what you told me lightly.  I understand how difficult it is to bare parts of yourself like that.”

“Thank you,” Clarke murmured as Lexa took her now empty mug and placed it on the tray.

Lexa left her with Carter and Sullivan in the entrance hall as she brought the tray of food back down to the kitchen.  While the staff packaged the food to go, Lexa fed Jax.  She’d put a stash of food for him in the pantry when Clarke had insisted he accompany them on an almost daily basis.  Once he’d finished, she grabbed the now boxed food and a second coffee to go for Clarke before she returned upstairs to the entrance hall.  She found Clarke waiting in the shadows as she rubbed at her temples.

“Here,” Lexa offered quietly as she held out the coffee to Clarke.  The doctor took it with a grateful smile.  “Figured you could use another one.”

“Thanks,” Clarke murmured as she inhaled the aroma.

“How are your hands feeling?” Lexa asked as she eyed the bruised appendages.  

“They’re a little sore, but I don’t think there will be any lasting damage,” Clarke mused as she flexed the hand not holding her coffee.  “I had a good doctor.”

Lexa smirked as she gestured at Clarke’s free hand.  “May I?”

Clarke hesitated for a brief moment before extending her hand to Lexa, the agent grasping it gently between hers.  Lexa ran her fingers over the bruises and scrapes that had scabbed over in the night, inspecting each knuckle in turn.

“I think you’re right,” Lexa agreed as she finished inspecting the last finger, her thumbs absentmindedly rubbing over the backs of Clarke’s knuckles as she glanced up at the other woman.

Her breath hitched when she noticed how close Clarke’s face suddenly was, her lips parted ever so slightly as she watched Lexa’s thumb traveling across her knuckles.  Time seemed to slow as the morning sunlight filtered through the double french doors and painted Clarke in warm, glowing hues.  Lexa swallowed and her tongue darted out quickly, wetting her own lips.  The movement must have caught Clarke’s attention because her gaze instantly shifted from their joined hands to Lexa’s eyes.  Lexa could see something burning in them, something unidentifiable but familiar and as Clarke swallowed, her eyes were drawn to the movement of her throat.  She could see Clarke’s pulse jumping and her grip tightened ever so slightly on the other woman’s hand as her thoughts began to wander. 

“Morning!”  Octavia’s cheery greeting cut through the quiet moment and Lexa dropped Clarke’s hand as she jumped back in surprise.  Lexa didn’t miss Clarke’s wince as she glared at Octavia.  “We ready?”

When Clarke only grunted as she donned her sunglasses, Octavia’s smile broadened.  Her eyes traveled between both women and Lexa shifted minutely under her gaze as she prayed that the woman wouldn’t pick up on the heat currently burning up her neck.  Her fingers still tingled from where she’d held Clarke’s hand in hers.

“Late night?” Octavia inquired, unable to hide the glee in her tone.

Clarke merely turned and moved outside towards the waiting car, not even bothering to acknowledge the question.  She gave Lincoln a wave as she passed him, his lips twitching in amusement as he turned and followed her to the car.

“Did I interrupt something?” Octavia asked with a mischievous smile as she eyed Lexa.  “You’re blushing.”

Lexa silently cursed as she adjusted her collar.  “I am not.  And no, you didn’t interrupt anything because there was nothing to interrupt.”

“Yeah, ok Casanova,”  Octavia replied with a roll of her eyes.  “I see the way you two look at each other.  Everyone does.  It’s gross.”

“There are no looks,” Lexa argued as she turned to walk toward the employee exit, Jax coming to heel as she did.  “Handle her transpo.  I’ll meet you there in an hour or so and stay on comms.”

“You’ve got it, Commander,” Octavia called at her retreating back.  “Take all the time you need to make yourself presentable for Clarke.”

Lexa grit her teeth but refused to acknowledge Octavia’s jab.  She quickly made her way to her car, Jax following her happily, completely oblivious to his owner’s tension.  Once he was loaded into her Jeep, she quickly made her way through the early morning rush hour traffic to her apartment.  She was just stepping out of the shower when her phone went off and she saw Anya’s name flash across her screen.  Opening the text, her eyes widened and she quickly dried off and grabbed her radio.

“Lincoln, you up?”  Static crackled down the line for a moment before Lexa heard it cut out.

“Go ahead,” came Lincoln’s swift response.

“Change of plans, I need to meet Anya at her office,” she advised him as she struggled to pull her clothes on with one hand.  “You guys ok or do you want me to send another?”

“We’ve got it.  We’ll stay on comms and let you know if anything changes,” he replied.  “Everything ok?”

“Anya has a lead on Ontari.” Lexa threw the radio down as she buttoned her slacks and pulled a tank top on.  

“Copy that,” Lincoln responded and Lexa could hear the fresh excitement in his voice.

Lexa pulled a blouse on, quickly buttoning it up and tucking it in before donning her shoulder holster.  Throwing on her jacket, she grabbed her radio and car keys, kissing Jax on the head before practically running out of her apartment.

“Lex, come in,” came the muffled call of her radio as she descended the stairs to the parking garage.

“What is it, Octavia?”

“Raven says ‘dibs’ when you find her.”

Lexa smirked as she got in her car and started it up.  “Deal.”

XXX

The drive to Anya’s office was short, but frustrating, as morning traffic clogged the few blocks between Lexa’s apartment and USSS Headquarters.  When Lexa finally managed to pull into the underground garage and park, she was practically fuming, her anger flaring up out of a lack of sleep the night before.  Her mind wandered back to the nightmare she’d been startled from that morning, just one of several, and she repressed the sudden swell of panic that tightened her chest and shortened her breath.  She was glad Clarke had trusted her enough with her secrets, but her stories had unearthed Lexa’s own repressed memories.  Exhaling, she quickly made her way to the stairs and ascended to the seventh floor.

“Lexa, thanks for getting here so quickly,” Anya greeted as she met her in the hall.

“Well, if we can end this, then I can get back to my normal routine,” Lexa responded as she fell into step with the other woman.  

Anya sighed.  “You’ve been fighting me tooth and nail with this assignment.  Why?  Is it Clarke?”

“No,” Lexa rushed to clarify.  “Admittedly, it was rocky with Dr. Griffin at the start, but we’ve learned to compromise and work together instead of her constantly working to defy me.”

“She is the only person I’ve ever seen give you the slip,” Anya chuckled as she pushed into her office, holding the door open for Lexa to follow.  “Hilarious now when you look back on it.” 

“First of all, you sprang her detail on me and I was rusty,” Lexa defended, that familiar anger flaring up again at the provocation.  “Secondly, that’s the exact reason I don’t think I should be on this detail.  Dr. Griffin needs the best and I’m not it, even after three months of getting back into it.  That’s why I’ve been fighting you.”
Anya sat behind her desk, her hands coming up under her chin as she leaned on them and studied the woman standing in front of her.  Lexa had to work not to shift under her shrewd gaze.  Since they were young, Lexa had trouble hiding anything from Anya and she suspected this time was no different.  She could feel the tension of her panic bubbling in her chest and she fought it back while trying to maintain her mask so Anya wouldn’t see her struggling.

“Sit,” Anya finally ordered as she sat back, her eyes still on Lexa.

Lexa sighed but did as she was told.  

“Now, I know we’ve gone back and forth about this quite a lot but I’m not removing you from the detail.”  When Lexa opened her mouth to protest, Anya held up a hand and effectively silenced her.  “You may not see it or believe it, but you are the best person for this.  I need you to trust me.”

Lexa sat in silence, staring at Anya as she ground her teeth together.  Panic fueled by anger curled in her chest and she took a deep breath in an attempt to relieve some of it.

“Now, are you done so that we can get to the true issues here?”

Lexa considered the merits of arguing with Anya about the subject further.  Knowing it would just put Anya in the position to pull rank, Lexa begrudgingly nodded.

“Great.”  Anya slid a folder across her desk at Lexa and pointed at it.  “The CIA has a lead on Ontari.  They think they had a sighting in Saudi Arabia two days ago.”

“Two days?”  Lexa repeated.  “She could be anywhere by now.”

“She could, which is what I told them when they gave me that,” Anya concurred as the other woman leaned back once more.  “I wouldn’t have brought this to you if I didn’t have more.”

“Well?” Lexa prodded when Anya let the silence stretch between them.

“One of their agents had eyes on her as she got on a plane bound for Aleppo yesterday.”

“Aleppo…” Lexa sat for a moment, various emotions warring for attention at the news.  “She’s in Syria?”

“That’s the latest that we have,” Anya confirmed.  “As you can imagine, it’s been a bit more difficult keeping tabs on her since she boarded that plane.”
Lexa sat back in her seat, her shoulders slumping.

“We’re never going to be able to get boots on the ground there,” she muttered.  “It’s the perfect hiding place.”

“The CIA, as well as agents here, are working on a way to track her in Syria,” Anya informed her. 

“Is there any word if she’s running back to Nia or Cage?” Lexa asked as she allowed a bit of hope to creep into her tone.

“We don’t know yet,” Anya told her as she frowned.  “We haven’t been able to track where she was between the attack at the hospital and now, either.”

“So…Syria.”  Lexa folded her hands in her lap to keep from fidgeting.

“Seems so,” Anya nodded slowly.

“What’s the likelihood that once we actually find her, I can go?  Finish this?”  Lexa leaned forward just the slightest bit as she pinned Anya with her gaze.

Anya sighed as her jaw clenched.  “Lexa, you know that’s just not going to be possible.”

“Why?” Lexa demanded as she pushed herself to her feet.  “Why can’t I be part of the team that gets pulled?”

“For a number of reasons,” Anya pointed out, exasperation clear in her tone.  “First, you’re not even active duty anymore.  You were discharged, remember?”

Lexa shot her a dark look before beginning to pace in tight circles, her irritation clear in each strike of her heel on the ground.

“Second, I need you here.  I’ve given you an assignment and you’ll abide by it,” Anya all but ordered, as though anticipating Lexa might do otherwise.

“Anya, if we confirm the threat is elsewhere- which, by what you’ve just told me, it is- then Dr. Griffin doesn’t need me,” Lexa argued.  “In fact, I’m doing her a favor by going over there and handling the biggest threat to her life.  Also, it’s been three months.  You’re telling me you haven’t found a replacement detail for us yet?”

“Why would I replace you if you three are the best?”

Lexa groaned in frustration.  Anya was the only person that was successful in pressing every one of her buttons and causing her anger to flare up at the drop of a hat.

“Seriously, An?  You know I never wanted to get back into protective work and then you ordered me to do so, against my protests-”

“Loud protests,” Anya muttered as she rolled her eyes.

Lexa shot her a glare as she continued to pace. 

“My point is that you’ve done all of this without regard for what I want, and I have done it.”

“You have,” Anya agreed.  “That doesn’t mean I’m going to allow you to traipse across the globe after ghosts.”

“These people killed Costia.  They almost took Raven from you,” Lexa bit out as she glanced at the woman.  “Now you’re telling me I can’t go after them for it?”

“A lot of people lost loved ones by their hand,” Anya retorted as she stood herself.  “You’re in no way special for that.  I refuse to allow you to put yourself in danger like that.  Not again.”

Anya’s words stopped her in her tracks as she turned on a dime to glare. 

“You don’t get to decide what I do with my life,” she seethed.  “It’s in danger every day with Dr. Griffin so that excuse is bullshit and you know it.  They want her dead probably more than anyone.”

Lexa’s jaw snapped shut when she realized her anger had almost caused her to betray Clarke’s trust.  Anya’s eyes narrowed at the suddenly mute woman across from her.

“What are you talking about?” Anya demanded.

“Nothing,” Lexa muttered as she began pacing again, mentally berating herself for the slip-up.  “Never mind.  I get it, leave Ontari alone.”
Anya studied her for a long moment but her features smoothed out as she nodded.

“Is there anything else you’d like to yell about or argue over with me?” Anya inquired as she quirked an eyebrow at Lexa.

Lexa just shook her head as she pursed her lips, still silently fuming.

“Then I will let you know when we get the next update on Ontari,” Anya told her.  “You’re dismissed.”

Lexa gave her a brisk nod before turning on her heel and leaving.

XXX

By the time Lexa reached MedStar, she knew that Clarke would be on her lunch break.  She made her way towards the NRH campus but opted to wait outside, her thoughts racing between her earlier interactions with Clarke to her conversation with Anya and back again.  By the time her motley crew was pushing out the doors, Lexa had worked herself into a truly stupendous rage fueled by her lack of sleep and repressed anxiety.  She took a deep breath to settle herself as the group made their way toward her.  Like the professional she was, she donned her best mask before turning to fully face them.  The moment Clarke saw her, the doctor’s face lit up with a wide grin.

“Hey stranger,” she called as Lexa began closing the space between them.  “Where have you been?”

“Anya needed to talk to me,” Lexa replied, her own lips twitching as the familiar calm Clarke’s presence brought settled over her.  “Took longer than I anticipated.”

“Anything important?” Clarke asked as Lexa fell into step beside her and they moved towards the main campus.  

“No,” Lexa answered, choosing to look anywhere but the doctor even though she could feel Clarke studying her.

“Ray missed you at PT today,” Clarke told her, seeming to sense that she wouldn’t make any headway in her current line of questions.  “She had a hard day today.  Each step was a fight.”

Lexa frowned as she contemplated Clarke’s words.  It had been a few weeks since Raven had hit a rough patch.  With her so close to being discharged, she hoped it wasn’t too bad a setback.

“Is she still on track for her discharge next week?” Lexa asked.

“Maya seems to think so,” Clarke responded as they walked into the hospital.  “She said there will always be rough days ahead but that Raven needs to learn how to push through them.”

“I’m sure Raven loved that,” Lexa smirked.

“I think no fewer than a string of fifteen swear words spewed out of her mouth at that,” Lincoln told her with a chuckle.

“Wow,” Lexa mused, impressed.  “A personal best, even for her.”

“It was awesome,” Octavia laughed as she cleared the hall ahead of them.  “Half of them were in Spanish.  Saucy.”

Lexa just shook her head but before they could speak any further about it, Clarke’s phone buzzed with a call to the ER.  The rest of the afternoon was busy, Clarke spending almost the entirety of the rest of her shift in the ER consulting on trauma cases and passing them off to various surgeons upstairs.  Finally, after one last non-surgical car accident victim was cleared, Lexa followed her to the locker room. 

Clarke all but collapsed onto the bench in front of her locker once Octavia and Lincoln had cleared the room.  She sat there and stared into space for about five minutes before she seemed to work up the energy to change out of her scrubs.  They made their way back to the White House slowly, rush hour traffic clogging the roadways and making them practically unpassable.  When they finally made it to the house, Octavia and Lincoln moved toward the gym and Lexa stopped at the base of the stairs, watching Clarke ascend the stairs.

“Gym, ten minutes,” Lexa called to her retreating figure.  

Clarke waved behind her, the only acknowledgment she seemed to be able to manage as she disappeared upstairs.  Lexa smirked before heading to the gym herself.  She changed quickly in the attached bathroom next to the gym.  When she emerged, Clarke was stretching off to the side while Lincoln and Octavia warmed up with some light sparring.  Dropping down beside Clarke, Lexa too began stretching.  The pull of old injuries made their presence know as she went through the motions, the familiar routine instantly quelling the anger and anxiety that had been threatening her since the morning.  Once she felt limbered up, she stood and moved onto the mat, circling Octavia and Lincoln as their match became more serious.  

“Watch them closely, Dr. Griffin,” she ordered as she stepped in to adjust Octavia’s stance just a slight bit.  “Sometimes watching helps you absorb technique just as much as practicing it.”

“Whatever you say, Commander,” Clarke responded with a mock salute.

Lexa just rolled her eyes as she continued to focus on the match in front of her.  Octavia and Lincoln were fairly evenly matched and after ten minutes, there was still no clear indication of who might overpower the other.  Lexa allowed them another couple minutes before she called it and sent them off the mat.  She beckoned Clarke over with a wave of her hand.  Once the woman was standing in front of her, she began walking her through different movements, positioning herself behind Clarke to make sure her stance remained correct.

They worked through several new movements, Clarke’s body pliant under her experienced hands.  Lexa worked to ignore the way Clarke’s skin felt against her or the way that her body pressed back into hers whenever they moved forward and back.  She got lost in the movements, one flowing into the next and when she looked up next, she noticed both Octavia and Lincoln watching them, Octavia with a shit-eating grin on her face.  Lexa cleared her throat and stepped back motioning for Clarke to continue.  This time, she circled her as she moved, correcting from the outside.  After she felt Clarke had a comfortable grasp on the new moves, she waved her off to grab some water and walked over to Octavia and Lincoln.

“Which of you will be sparring with her today?” Lexa asked them as she took a sip of her own water.

“I’m actually feeling pretty sore, so I’m going to bow out,” Octavia replied, a glint in her eyes and the same grin still in place.  “Maybe tomorrow.”

Lexa rolled her eyes and bent over to stretch some of the tension out of her hamstrings.

“I don’t mind-” Lincoln began before he spluttered and abruptly stopped speaking.  Octavia was glaring at him when Lexa glanced up and he was rubbing a spot on his ribs.   “On second thought, I’m not feeling so well myself.”

Lexa narrowed her eyes as she straightened up, her eyes traveling between the couple before her.

“Mhm,” she hummed, clearly not buying into their excuses.  “Is Dr. Griffin just supposed to train herself then?”

“Why not fight me yourself?” Clarke suddenly pipped up from the other side of the mat.  When Lexa quirked a brow at her in response, Clarke stood up.  “What’s the matter?  Afraid I’ll kick your ass?”

Lexa’s lips twitched in amusement and she crossed her arms in front of her as she turned to fully face the other woman.  

“I’m more afraid of hurting you,” Lexa replied as she watched Clarke walk towards the center of the mat.  “You’ve been training well these past few months but you’re not ready to face me.”

“Ready for what?  I’m thrown around on these mats daily by those two,” Clarke argued as she waved at Lincoln and Octavia.  “How is being thrown around by you any different?”

Lexa raised her chin a bit, her jaw clenching as she regarded the woman in front of her.  

“Very well,” Lexa finally agreed as she moved toward the center of the mat herself.  “Just remember, I warned you.”

“Noted,” Clarke replied as she dropped into her fighting stance, fists raised.  “Teach me something, Commander.”

Clarke eyed Lexa warily as the other woman dropped into a fighting stance of her own.  She had yet to actually fight with Lexa, usually always going toe-to-toe with Lincoln or Octavia while Lexa observed and yelled instructions.  Both settled on the balls of their feet and bounced lightly as they waited for the other to make a move.  After a minute, Lexa could see the shift when Clarke became impatient and her weight distribution changed to attack.  A moment later, Clarke’s left fist was striking out towards her face.  Lexa had to stop herself from rolling her eyes at the doctor’s restlessness, something they’d discussed ad nauseam in the past.

“Patience, Dr. Griffin,” Lexa growled as she easily ducked the fist meant for her face.

“That was me being patient,” Clarke snapped as an elbow from Lexa glanced off her ribs and sent her stumbling back.

“Let the enemy come to you,” Lexa instructed as another well-placed elbow landed on Clarke’s ribs and she flinched back in pain. 

Clarke morphed in that instant from playful to serious as she shot Lexa a glare.  Lexa used her distraction to her advantage as she crowded into Clarke’s space and caught the other woman off-balance.  It was enough for Lexa to hip-toss her to the mat a moment later.  The air in Clarke’s lungs left in a whoosh as her head smacked the ground behind her.  She laid still for a minute, the world spinning slightly.

“Ouch,” came Lincoln’s voice from off to the side. 

Lexa looked up to see Octavia recording them with her phone, both of them wincing at the doctor who was still laid out on the mat. 

“Enough for today” Lexa asserted as she moved to tower over the doctor.  Peering down at her, she checked her for visible injuries before offering her a hand.  

“I’m fine,” Clarke mumbled as she pushed herself to her feet without Lexa’s help.  “Let’s keep going.”

“You’re clearly tired and as I said, not ready,” Lexa commented while she kept sharp eyes on the doctor as the woman rubbed the back of her head.  “You will not benefit from training today if you end up injured.”

“I’m fine,” Clarke fumed as she eyed Lexa.  “I want to keep going.”

Lexa regarded her silently, trying to read the emotion Clarke was keeping carefully guarded.  Against her better judgment, she nodded and dropped back into a fighting stance.  Clarke relaxed slightly and turned to face her once more, back on the balls of her feet.  This time, they circled each other for nearly two minutes before Clarke threw her hands up in exasperation.

“Are we fighting or what?!” she practically yelled in frustration as she scowled at Lexa. 

“Oh boy.” 

Octavia’s comment drew Clarke’s attention towards the other woman, her hands still at her side.  It was the opening Lexa had been waiting for and she rushed the doctor once more.  Clarke couldn’t recover fast enough when she realized her mistake and before she knew it, Lexa was barreling into her.  The momentum sent both of them sprawling to the mat.

“Pay attention!” Lexa commanded as she rolled and straddled Clarke, her hands going to her throat as her legs trapped Clarke’s and rendered them useless.  “A moment is all it takes a skilled warrior to gain the upper hand and kill you.”

Clarke’s hands scrabbled against Lexa’s wrists as she increased the pressure on her windpipe and limited her air supply.  Rather than yield though, a switch seemed to flip in the blonde and a rage that Lexa had only seen in herself bubbled to the surface of Clarke’s features.

“Control your emotions, do not let them control you,” Lexa warned as she saw the fire rising. 
Clarke suddenly brought her arm up and over Lexa’s, effectively weakening the hold she had on her throat but not enough for Lexa to release.  Lexa’s hands increased their pressure once more and Clarke drove her fist into Lexa’s ribs instead, the side she chose weak from previous injuries.  The tactic worked and Lexa loosened her grip enough that Clarke was able to push her hips off the mat and twist, throwing Lexa off.  Clarke coughed when air rushed back into her starved lungs as she rolled over and popped to her feet. 

Lexa did the same, quickly closing the space between them once more and striking out with her fist.  Clarke managed to block it at the last second, the fist flying far to the left.  Still moving forward, Lexa managed to shove her weight into Clarke and set the other woman off balance.  It was enough that Lexa was able to kick her ankle and dump her on the mat once more.

“Fuck,” she muttered as she laid there.

“Just because your back is on the ground does not mean your fight is over,” Lexa scolded.  “Ge smak daun, gyon op nodotaim.”
Clarke nodded at her as she tiredly raised her hands and looked at Lexa, wincing as she stepped on her now tender ankle.

“Pain is in the mind,” Lexa reminded her, a lesson she’d preached since they started training.  “Push through it.  Let it fuel you.”

Sweat poured off both of them and Lexa could tell she was tired and in pain and yet she was standing, ready to fight again.  Lexa had to admit, she was impressed. 

They exchanged a few more blows until Clarke was once again on her knees on the mat, struggling to catch her breath.

“Focus!” Lexa scolded as she struck out with her foot.  “You’re still distracted!”

“I’m trying,” Clarke grit out as she managed to roll out of the way of Lexa’s foot and pop back on to her feet.

Clarke became increasingly sloppy after that, her form breaking down with each strike she attempted to deliver.  Lexa had to give her credit for continuing to press forward and keep fighting, even if it was poorly.  Finally, they got to the point where she knew that continuing to fight would do Clarke no favors and on Clarke’s next attack, Lexa swept her feet out from under her.  Clarke landed with a smack and a frustrated grunt. 

“I want to keep going,” Clarke argued when the other woman stood up straight, signaling that the fight was over between them.

“You’re exhausted,” Lexa pointed out as Clarke continued to lay there and breathe heavily.  “Besides, you fought well.  You’ve earned your rest.”

Lexa bent down and offered her a hand and this time Clarke took it, her fingers curling gently around Lexa’s wrist.  Once Clarke was standing, she was hesitant to release Lexa’s arm as she stared at the agent, seemingly looking for something.  Finally, she gave Lexa’s forearm a squeeze before uncurling her fingers and dropping her hand with a lingering brush.  Lexa swallowed and turned, finding Octavia still recording.

Rolling her eyes, she walked over to where the woman was waiting.  “Get what you need?”

“Definitely,” Octavia replied smugly and Lexa heard the tell-tail woosh of an outgoing message.  “I can’t wait to see what Raven has to say.”

“You’re impossible,” Lexa grumbled.  “Lincoln, take her home.”

“Really?”  His face lit up at the prospect of ending their tours early.

“Yes, please,” Lexa practically begged as she grabbed her bag.  “I’m going to get her settled and the midnight shift should be here in a few minutes.

“Hmm,” Octavia hummed as she picked up her own bag.  “Right. ‘Get her settled’.  Sure.  Might as well help her with a shower while you’re at it.  Save water.”

“Jesus,” Lexa seethed as she spotted Clarke walking towards them.  “Leave.  Now.  While you still can.”

“Sha, Heda,” Lincoln acknowledged with a smirk as he pushed his girlfriend out the door.  “Mochof!”

“What was that all about?” Clarke asked as she came to a stop in front of her. 

“Just Octavia being an ass,” Lexa muttered as she hitched her bag higher on her shoulder and moved towards the door. 

“So, her usual self then,” Clarke observed with a nod.  “You send them home?”

“Oh, most definitely,” Lexa half smiled as she held the door open for her.  “Told them I could handle you until Sullivan and Carter get here.

“I need an ice bath,” Clarke groaned as she rubbed at the sore spot on her ribs.  “Before you think I’m complaining, I appreciate that you didn’t take it easy on me.”

“Taking it easy on you won’t help you survive in a real fight,” Lexa explained.  “At the very least, I can help you do that.  Though I hope you never have to be in another fight.”

“This is DC,” Clarke deadpanned.  “That’s more likely than you’d think.”

Lexa’s lips twitched as she left Clarke at the steps that would lead her to her room, Clarke stopping a few steps above her.  Carter and Sullivan suddenly appeared from downstairs, nodding at the both of them in greeting.

“Dr. Griffin, until tomorrow.”

“Goodnight, Agent Woods.”

XXX

The next morning brought with it heavy rain and the occasional rumble of thunder.  Lexa hadn’t slept well again and the dark caused by the weather didn’t do her any favors in trying to shake the exhaustion from her bones.  When she finally made it to the White House, she found Clarke in just about the same state.

“Sleep evade you too?” Clarke asked as a way of greeting.

“Seems so,” Lexa nodded.  “How’re you feeling?”

“Like I got tossed around like a sack of potatoes,” Clarke replied with a wry smile.

They made their way downstairs to the kitchens for coffee and while Lexa prepared it for the both of them, Clarke fell into an easy conversation with one of the dishwashers, Harper McIntyre.  The girl was young, probably a few years younger than they were, and very sweet.  She had yet to be sullied by the horrors of the world.  Clarke was currently enthralled as Harper regaled her with the tale of how she had asked her now fiancé, Zoe Monroe, to marry her last week.  After the appropriate amount of socially expected gushing, with coffee, of course, she and Lexa made their way back upstairs to where Octavia and Lincoln were waiting, having taken over the detail from Carter and Sullivan.

“Car’s in the garage,” Lincoln told them as Lexa handed them a coffee each.  “Carter figured we all didn’t want to start the day soaking wet.”

“They were right,” Clarke concurred as she turned and made her way back downstairs, leading them through the halls to the underground garage.

They made their way to the armored Tahoe designated for Clarke’s transports, Lincoln and Octavia clearing it before Lexa opened the back door for Clarke.  A metallic click sounded from behind them that was completely out of place and before she’d actually consciously processed what it was, Lexa was reacting on instinct and shoving Clarke into the car as the entire garage came down around them in a shower of concrete, steel, and rebar.  The distant roar of an explosion filtered to her ears but that too went unprocessed for the moment as she felt herself being simultaneously lifted from her feet and crushed.  The last thing Lexa saw was Clarke’s wide eyes filled with confusion and fear as she fell into the car, her hand pointlessly stretched towards Lexa.

Chapter Text

Chapter Eight

“When you can’t run, you crawl.  And when you can’t crawl, when you can’t do that…you find someone to carry you.” - The Message, Firefly


The first thing Lexa became aware of was a dull and aching pain centered around her left arm and shoulder.  Second, there was a warm liquid running down the side of her face that was confusing but not as concerning as the pain in her arm.  Third, there was an utterly obnoxious ringing noise sounding all around her to the point where it was incredibly difficult for her to string together any coherent thoughts. 

Lexa drifted in that muddled world for an indeterminate amount of time before, suddenly, a muffled and garbled sound filtered its way to her ears.  She couldn’t make out anything specific over the ringing that was still ever-present, but it sounded familiar.  Struggling to open her eyes, she barely managed to crack them before an overwhelming dizziness overtook her and forced them shut again.  She’d glimpsed just enough, however, for her memories to come thundering back.

Garage.

Explosion. 

Clarke.

The doctor’s name was enough to force Lexa’s eyes open and she struggled to sit up only to find herself pinned to the ground on her stomach, her left shoulder completely immobilized by the rubble around her.  She blinked forcefully to clear her vision but found that it barely helped given the lack of light.  Still, she could just barely make out the warped under chassis of a car inches above her.  It seemed as though the majority of her body had landed beneath one of the armored vehicles and prevented her from being completely crushed by rubble and debris.  Despite that, the space was extremely confined and it had her heart pounding in an instant as sweat cropped up on her brow.  She tried to draw in a deep breath to calm herself but it came out broken and stuttered as panic unfurled and clawed at her ribs.

She tried desperately to dig herself out from beneath the bit of rubble that was pinning her down but without the use of both arms, it was futile.  Besides that, as soon as she shifted, the pain in both her head and shoulder ramped up and she barely had time to turn her head as the contents of her stomach made an unexpected appearance.  Thankfully, once she’d finished heaving, the ringing in her ears began to dim and she could hear the sounds of shifting above her.

“Lexa!”

She recognized Lincoln’s voice and her mouth opened to respond but the fear unfurling in her chest combined with the heavy dust in the air allowed nothing more than a coughing fit.  The jerking motion pulled at her still pinned shoulder and she groaned as a fresh round of pain shot through it.  The dust combined with the panic made it harder for her to breathe and stuttered gasps were about the best she could do.  Pain lanced through her head, making her vision hazy and she nearly succumbed to the darkness hovering at the edges of her eyes as she rested her forehead on the cool ground and blew a breath out her nose.

“Lex!  Answer me!”

“M’here,” she slurred.  She swallowed, fighting a wave of dizziness and tried again.  “Linc.”

“Over there!”  His muffled cry sounded relieved and she could hear someone shifting above her still a few feet away.

She focused on slowing her breathing as the movement above her grew closer.  Rubble and rebar shifted to her left and she grit her teeth as the pressure on that side increased.  Stars burst behind her vision as the pain settled deep into her bones instead of ebbing away as it had in the past, causing her nausea to reappear with a vengeance.  Lexa stopped moving as she fought back the urge to vomit and as she stared at the back of her eyelids she begged the world to just stop spinning and her vision to clear.

“Agent Woods?”

Her eyes popped open as she recognized Clarke’s voice and relief flowed through her and instantly quieted some of the pain.

“Here,” she croaked as she used her right hand to shield her head when more dust and dirt fell down on her.

The sound of cement skittering across rubble as someone shuffled through it echoed down to her and then she heard pieces near the top of her head shift. She could hear the sound of grunting and heavy breathing and then all of a sudden, there was a shower of smaller but still sizable pieces of concrete raining on her as a piece was shifted away just the slightest bit.  Bringing her free hand up, she tried her best to protect her head but couldn’t hold back a hiss when a particularly jagged piece fell directly where she could feel blood already running down her temple.

“Agent Woods?”  Clarke’s voice was strained with concern but quite literally above her and Lexa struggled to peer through the falling dust where she’d heard Clarke’s voice.  It turned out to be a bad idea when the movement kicked off another round of dizziness and left her speechless.

“Lexa?  Are you ok?”  Clarke’s voice had gone from concerned to fearful at Lexa’s lack of response.  It didn’t escape Lexa’s notice that Clarke had used her first name, something she hadn’t done since that fateful day in Brazil.  “Say something, please.”

“I’m good,” Lexa murmured more to herself than anyone.

“We’re going to get you out of there, alright?”  Clarke began shifting some of the debris and Lexa just worked on steadying her breathing.  “Lincoln!  Octavia!  Over here!  I found her!”

Clarke began urgently pulling at the rubble around and over Lexa, bits and pieces raining down on her.  It wasn’t until the work inadvertently caused the weight to shift and settle more heavily on her shoulder that there was a problem.  Lexa groaned in response as she tried to desperately pull herself free.  Pain exploded in her shoulder and she bit back another groan as white burst across her vision and sent her head reeling once more.

“Lexa?”

This time Lincoln’s concerned voice filled the small space but Lexa was beyond the point of answering as her vision swam.  The rubble continued to shift above her and dust rained down on her clogging her already laboring airways.

“Lexa, come on.  Answer me.”

Lincoln’s plea was left unanswered as Lexa fought to breathe through the pain and dust.  The darkness beckoned to her and her eyelids fluttered closed just as she felt a hand on her back. 

XXX

Lexa came to with a gasp and her eyes flew open as she struggled to sit up.  Her efforts were immediately rewarded with a sharp pain shooting through her left shoulder and she hissed as she collapsed back. 

“Don’t move too much,” a soft voice ordered and Lexa’s eyes snapped to the person in front of her, realizing for the first time that she wasn’t alone.

“Dr. Griffin?”  Her voice was scratchy from dust and she cleared her throat in an attempt to mend it as she blinked at the woman.  She immediately noticed several small cuts across the right side of Clarke’s face.  “Are you alright?”

“I’m fine,” Clarke quickly reassured her when Lexa began trying to sit up again.  At the other woman’s wince, she gently pressed her hands into Lexa’s good shoulder to keep her put.  “Please stop moving.  You’re pretty banged up.”

“I’m fine,” Lexa protested but she collapsed back as her eyes took in their surroundings.  There was barely any light to speak of but she could just make out that she was in the back seat of what she suspected might be a vehicle.  “Are we in a car?”

“It survived the blast and the body stayed intact enough to wait out the rescuers,” Clarke responded as her hand stayed resting against Lexa’s good shoulder.  “We got really lucky.”

“We?” Lexa was suddenly pushing up against Clarke’s hand as she struggled to sit up.  “Linc? Octavia?”

“We’re good, Sarge,” came a murmured reply from somewhere on her left.

She looked over to see both of them seated in what had been the front of the car.  The low glow of light from someone’s phone bathed the front in just enough light for Lexa to make out their rough shapes.  Both Lincoln and Octavia were sporting their own smattering of cuts across their faces and necks and Octavia was gingerly resting her clearly swollen right foot on the dashboard in front of her but neither looked any worse for wear.

“Are you two ok?”  The concern was clear in Lexa’s voice as her eyes continued to rove over each of them as she tried to assure herself they were all in one piece.  “What the hell happened?”

“You don’t remember?” Clarke asked as she leaned towards Lexa, her brow furrowing in concern.  “Anything?”

“We’re fine, strisis,” Lincoln assured her as he stared at her, the same concern reflected in his own eyes.  “Just a few bumps and bruises.  The car protected us.”

“The car…” Lexa’s brow furrowed in concentration as she tried to sort through her muddled memories.  Her head was pounding and the pain was only overshadowed by the even worse ache currently radiating from her shoulder.  She felt as though she was wading through quicksand trying hopelessly to grasp onto memories that were nothing more than mist.  “Why are we in a car?”

“Because otherwise we’d be buried out there in that rubble,” Octavia replied as she gestured at the cement and rebar resting threateningly on what had been the dashboard.  “Or dead.”

“There was an explosion…” Lexa murmured as a memory slowly materialized in her mind's eye.  “We were leaving for the hospital.”

“You saved me,” Clarke told her.  “You pushed me into the car and made sure I was protected.”

“I don’t remember that,” Lexa mused as she racked her memories.  She glanced at Lincoln and Octavia.  “How is it you two are alright?”

“Lincoln and I were already mostly in the car,” Octavia explained as she shifted to more fully face Lexa.  “Just a few cuts from all the glass blowing in and my foot got caught in the door as it was pushed closed by the blast.  Doc says it’s just a really deep bone bruise.  Nothing broken.”

“It’s you we’re worried about,” Lincoln insisted as he peered at her from the driver’s seat.  “You were fully exposed to the blast.  The only thing that saved you is that you were thrown beneath the car instead of being crushed to death.”

“Lucky me,” Lexa muttered as she shifted to try and find a more comfortable position for her shoulder.  “How long have we been here?”

“A few hours,” Octavia replied as she checked her watch.  “Most of which you were buried.  We only just found you about half an hour ago.”

“Thank you, by the way,” Lexa nodded, blinking when the movement caused a dizzy spell.  She pressed her right hand to her temple in an effort to get the world to stop spinning.  “It was a little cramped under there.”

Lincoln nodded at her.  “No movement from anyone above us.  The debris is too heavy to dig through ourselves.  We were fortunate we could pull enough away to create a hole to get you up here.”

Lexa swallowed as fear rose in her throat at the thought of still being trapped, unsure of when help would get them out. 

“So we’re just waiting it out,” Octavia finished for him as she shifted and raised her foot a little more, sighing at the relief the new position clearly brought her.  “So sit back and try and relax.”

Lexa’s gaze moved from Lincoln and Octavia to Clarke as the doctor reached out a hand to skim over Lexa’s forehead.  Lexa winced when her fingers brushed against a tender spot.  She raised her own hand to cover Clarke’s and gently pulled it away from the cut at her hairline.  As she glanced at Clarke’s fingers, she could see blood coating them and the image pulled at long-repressed memories.  She swallowed as her eyes remained fixed on Clarke’s blood-covered hand in hers and her grip tightened.  Her eyes traveled down to her shirt, realizing for the first time that a significant amount had soaked into it.

“Agent Woods?” Clarke murmured as she gently pulled her hand from Lexa’s grasp.  “Are you alright?”

Lexa managed a nod as she sank back, wincing when a protruding piece of rebar dug into her injured shoulder.  

“May I?”  Clarke asked as she gestured toward Lexa’s shoulder.  At Lexa’s brisk nod, Clarke began carefully removing Lexa’s now tattered suit jacket.  Several minor lacerations from shrapnel became visible as the jacket was shed and Clarke made a mental note to check those later.  Her attention, however, was immediately drawn to the clear deformity at Lexa’s shoulder visible even under her blouse.  “Looks like your shoulder is dislocated.”

“Can you fix it?”  Lexa questioned as her brow furrowed in pain at Clarke’s ministrations.

“I can, but without an X-ray I can’t be sure it will be reset correctly,” Clarke frowned as she pulled Lexa’s collar aside to get a better look.  “It would be risky.” 

The familiar sight of pale battle scars marred Lexa’s otherwise perfect skin and Clarke had to force herself to look past them and pay attention to the injury at hand, her eyes falling instead to the unnatural protrusion at her shoulder joint, the skin stretched where the ball joint was clearly out of place.

“Looks like an anterior dislocation,” Clarke observed as she gently felt around the joint for any additional damage.  “Again, without an X-ray, I can’t be sure.”

Lexa ducked her head, trying to catch Clarke’s eyes as her right hand came up to gently cover the one dancing along the skin of her shoulder.  When Clarke finally looked at her, Lexa’s gaze was earnest.

“I trust you,” Lexa asserted confidently.  “Fix it.  Please.”

Clarke studied her uncertainly for a moment before her eyes narrowed.

“If I don’t do it, you’re just going to do it yourself, aren’t you?” Clarke concluded.

Lexa just gave her a sheepish look as she shrugged, immediately wincing when her shoulder protested the movement.

“Fine,” Clarke conceded with a sigh.  “If only to keep you from injuring yourself further.”

“It would probably be fine,” Lexa grumbled as she shifted under Clarke’s gaze.

“Mhm,” Clarke hummed as she reached out and wordlessly helped Lexa into a more upright position.  She loosely grasped Lexa’s wrist in one hand while gently settling her other on Lexa’s chest, just over her heart.  She carefully pulled Lexa’s arm straight out before settling her gaze back on the agent, apology written in her features. 

“This is going to hurt.”

“More than it already does?”  Lexa inquired, trying to ignore the warmth seeping into her skin where Clarke’s hand gently pressed into her chest.  When Clarke shrugged, Lexa sighed.  “Just do it.”

Before the words had even fully left her lips, Clarke was suddenly pushing against her chest as she simultaneously jerked Lexa’s injured arm up and towards her.  The pain was immediate and sharp and Lexa grunted in surprise as she felt the joint pop into place.  Clarke sandwiched Lexa’s arm between her own and her side to stabilize it as she leaned forward and pulled at Lexa’s collar again.  Her eyes, as well as fingers, roamed over the now normal looking shoulder.  Seemingly content at what she saw and felt, Clarke replaced her collar before releasing Lexa’s arm and carefully bending it to rest against Lexa’s torso.  

“Hold that there,” Clarke ordered as she leaned over the back seat towards what used to be the trunk of the vehicle.  She rummaged around a moment before making a triumphant noise and leaned back holding up a scrub shirt.  Before Lexa could ask any questions, Clarke was tearing it up and knotting it and suddenly a makeshift sling was in her hands.  “I’m going to slip this on you to keep that arm stabilized, alright?”

Lexa nodded, wincing as her shoulder was jostled just the slightest bit to get it into position.  Clarke carefully slid the sling over her head and into place, the doctor gently pulling her hair out from beneath the part of the sling that had covered it and settled it across Lexa’s shoulders.  The movements brought Clarke’s face within inches of hers and Lexa’s breath hitched at their sudden proximity.  The space between them suddenly felt charged and Lexa felt an inexplicable pull towards the other woman.  Hearing Lexa’s breathing change, Clarke stopped momentarily to lean back and peer at the other woman.

“Are you alright?” Clarke asked as concern clouded her features, apparently oblivious to the effect she was having on Lexa.  “How’s the pain?”

“Manageable,” Lexa choked out as her heart nearly pounded out of her chest.  She swallowed as her eyes flicked between Clarke’s eyes and lips.  She was absolutely certain Clarke could hear her heart thundering in her chest and she silently willed it to stop.  “Thank you.”

“Like you gave me much choice,” Clarke muttered with a smile as she reached forward one last time and settled the remainder of Lexa’s hair.  Her fingers absentmindedly played with the ends as her gaze roamed over Lexa’s face.  “Let me know if the pain becomes unmanageable.”

“I’ll be alright now,” Lexa promised as she forced herself to settle back against and place a bit of distance between Clarke and herself.  

Lexa wasn’t sure if she imagined it, but she thought she saw disappointment sweep across Clarke’s features before she too sat back and her features melted into the dark.  She also chose to ignore the smug look Octavia was shooting her and was grateful Clarke wasn’t in a position to see it.  Now that her shoulder was settled just a bit and the pain had lessened, her head was practically splitting in two.  Each beat of her heart sent a new wave of pain pulsing through her head.  She breathed out a frustrated sigh as the ringing ratcheted up once more and her eyes fluttered closed in an attempt to block it out.

“Hey, I need you to stay awake,” Clarke commanded as her hand brushed over the back of Lexa’s.  Lexa’s eyes shot open in response to the touch and her eyes met Clarke’s concerned gaze.  “I’m worried you have a pretty bad concussion.”

“Can’t imagine what would give you that impression,” Lexa replied groggily as her eyelids became heavy once more.  “I’m just going to take a little nap while we wait, m’kay?”

“No, I need you to stay awake,” Clarke insisted, her hand squeezing Lexa’s.  “Agent Woods, I need you to open your eyes.”

“M’tired.”  Lexa blew out a frustrated breath as the culmination of everything from the last few hours settled heavily on her shoulders.  

“I know you’re tired,” Clarke murmured sympathetically as her hand moved to Lexa’s wrist and her pulse point.  “You’re slurring your speech.  I need you to tell me if you’ve had any other symptoms.”

“Like?”  Lexa opened her eyes and found Clarke studying her watch as she continued to hold her wrist.  

“Are you nauseous, do you have a headache?” Clarke began as her brow furrowed.  “Do you feel dizzy or hear ringing?”

Lexa stared at her as she spoke, frowning as Clarke named almost every one of her symptoms.  Before she could answer, however, an intense wave of pain radiated through her skull and caused her breath to hitch in response.  Clarke, who was still holding her wrist, immediately registered the change and her gaze snapped to Lexa’s face.

“Hey, are you alright?” Clarke questioned as she leaned forward.  “What hurts?”

“What’s going on?” Lincoln’s concerned face swam into view.  “Lexa?  Talk to us.”

“Don’t feel great,” Lexa managed to gasp out as the pain radiated through her teeth and had her doubling over afraid she may throw up again. Her good hand moved to her head and pressed against it in an attempt to ease the pressure building in her skull.  “Hurts.” 

“I need you to sit up so I can examine you.”  Clarke’s worried voice filtered through the ringing in her ears but Lexa was past the point of being able to respond. 

Her body was pliant as gentle hands eased her back into an upright position.  Careful fingers palpated her skull and Lexa hissed as they came into contact with the swollen knot at her hairline, directly where she was bleeding.  In the next instant, someone was flashing a light in her eyes and she shrank back as it caused agony to slice through her skull.  Squeezing her eyes shut, Lexa silently begged for any relief.  As she cautiously blinked her eyes open, wary of the bright light, she froze and stopped breathing when her eyes landed on someone she thought she’d never see again.

“Costia?”

“Who?”  Clarke’s confused question fell on deaf ears as Lexa quite suddenly closed the space between them, her good hand stretching out to hesitantly cup her cheek. 

“Agent Woods, can you hear me?”

“My God,” Lexa whispered in awe as her hand found solid purchase on Clarke’s cheek, tears springing to Lexa’s eyes instantly.  “I thought I’d lost you forever, Cos.”

“Lex, snap out of it,” Lincoln ordered as he reached a hand back towards her and squeezed her bicep.  “Costia’s not here.  She’s gone.  That’s Clarke.”

“She’s right here,” Lexa insisted as she shrugged off Lincoln’s touch.  Her eyes were filled with wonder and remained firmly glued to Clarke’s.  Her thumb gently caressed Clarke’s cheek, the gesture uncomfortably intimate.  “I’m so sorry.  Oh God, I am sorrier than I can ever tell you, ai hodnes.”

Despite the severity of the situation, Octavia let out a single burst of laughter at the term of endearment.  She immediately sobered when Lincoln sent a scathing glare her way.

“Come on, that’s gonna be funny later,” Octavia mumbled as she rolled her eyes.  “What’s with her anyway?”

“She’s confused, disoriented,” Clarke told Lincoln as she watched Lexa’s eyes glaze over.  “Her head injury is worse than I thought.”

“You’re here now,” Lexa murmured as she unexpectedly pulled Clarke into a tight hug.  “Everything is going to be ok now.  They won’t take you from me again, Cos.  I swear it.”

Lexa’s words became more slurred as she whispered nonsensical gibberish into Clarke’s shoulder.  Clarke was tense against her but Lexa was beyond processing the reality around her, firmly stuck in her delirious state.

“Help her, please,” Lincoln begged as he watched his sister quite literally fall apart in front of him.  “Do something!”

“There’s nothing I can do,” Clarke told him calmly as she gently worked to extract herself from Lexa’s grip.  “We just have to keep her awake and talking.”

“That’s not good enough!” Lincoln’s uncharacteristic outburst surprised Clarke and she raised a brow at him.

“Babe, that’s Wanheda you’re speaking to,” Octavia scolded.  “If there was something more she could do, she’d be doing it.”

“I know, I’m sorry,” Lincoln apologized sincerely as he sighed.  “I just hate seeing her like this.”

“If you think there’s any weak spot in any of debris that will get us out of here faster, I’d suggest you find it,” Clarke advised as she grabbed Lexa’s wrist once more.  “Her pulse is racing.  She needs an actual hospital.”

“We’ll look if you can manage her,” Octavia stated as she gestured at Lexa.  At Clarke’s nod, Octavia turned and began shifting the debris surrounding them looking for a weak spot.  Lincoln was already hard at work, desperately pulling at anything and everything.  “Just holler if something changes.”

Clarke nodded and her eyes returned to Lexa as the agent continued to babble senseless words to the mystery woman she was hallucinating about.  Before she knew what was happening, Lexa was suddenly shifting and leaning herself into Clarke once more, this time with her back against the doctor’s front.  Still firmly delusional, Lexa didn’t feel Clarke’s own breathing hitch in response nor could she hear her heart stuttering in her chest.  Lexa suddenly fell silent and Clarke realized that her eyes were closed.  

“Agent Woods!  Wake up,” she ordered as she roughly pressed her knuckles into Lexa’s sternum.  “Come on, keep talking to me.”

Lexa’s response was immediate and she groaned as she swatted at Clarke’s hand.

“Stop,” Lexa snapped as her eyes blinked open.  They weren’t as distant as they had been a moment ago and Lexa gently rubbed at her chest.  “I hate when you do that.”

“Then stay awake,” Clarke shot back as relief flooded her features.  It was short-lived, however, when Lexa’s eyes glazed over once more and they fluttered closed. 

“Lexa, stay awake!”

Lexa tried to respond but all she could do was grumble.  Suddenly, the muffled sounds of Lincoln and Octavia shouting excitedly made its way through the fog that had taken hold of her mind.  Distantly, she wondered if they’d found a way out.

“Help is coming, Lexa.”  Clarke’s urgent words broke through the murkiness that was swallowing her whole.  “I just need you to stay awake a little bit longer.”

“I’ll stay with you forever, Cos.  You know that,” Lexa mumbled.

“That’s good, just keep talking,” Clarke praised as she felt Lexa’s body relax against hers.

Lexa wanted to respond, but the appeal of drifting off into a painless sleep was far more enticing.  Added to the fact that she felt immeasurably secure in Costia’s arms, Lexa figured she never really had a choice.  Amidst distant yelling and Clarke’s desperate pleas for her to remain conscious, Lexa drifted into the dark depths of oblivion, still mumbling to her lost love.

XXX

 A steady and rhythmic, yet annoying, beeping was the first thing Lexa was aware of as she gradually drifted towards consciousness.  She blinked slowly, her eyelids feeling as though they had ten-pound weights tied to them.  Her vision was blurry for a long minute and she felt as though her brain was working at quarter speed as she struggled to process where she was.  A dull, aching throb in her skull threatened to become overwhelming in the very near future, but for now, she was grateful it was within manageable limits.

Once her vision focused, she realized almost immediately that she was in a dimly lit hospital room.  A warm and familiar presence was laying across her feet and she smiled when she saw Jax curled up at the end of her bed.  As her eyes swept through the rest of the room, her eyes fell on the vaguely human shape curled impossibly small in an uncomfortable-looking chair at her bedside.  Despite being buried under a hospital blanket, one foot stuck out at an angle and Lexa could see one of Clarke’s custom Dia de Los Muertos themed Crocs hanging out from beneath it.  Shifting slightly, she let out a low groan as her pain shot through her shoulder and she noticed the sling for the first time.  The pain triggered a flood of memories and Lexa struggled to sort through them, her entire timeline off-kilter.  Clarke stirred at the noise and blinked blearily, her eyes widening when she saw Lexa staring back at her.

“You’re awake,” Clarke remarked with relief as she sat up.  “Finally.”

Clarke stretched with a groan and Lexa’s eyes were immediately drawn to the soft expanse of skin that was exposed as the motion caused Clarke’s shirt to ride up.  Lexa quickly ripped her gaze away, feeling the blush creep up her neck regardless.  Quickly, she busied herself with adjusting her arm into a more comfortable position as she leaned back.  Clarke stood and moved towards her, her eyes on the monitor hanging over Lexa’s shoulder.

“How do you feel?” she asked as she grabbed her penlight and began studiously examining Lexa.  “How’s the pain?”

“Fine for now,” Lexa replied, squinting as Clarke shone the light in her eye.  “Are you ok?”

“Just a few scratches, nothing major,” Clarke advised her as she moved to the other eye.  “You definitely took the brunt of it.” 

“How long was I out?”

“About a day,” Clarke replied as she replaced her penlight and pulled aside Lexa’s collar to look at her shoulder.  Her fingers gently pressed on the joint and Lexa grimaced as it ached in response.  Clarke’s contrite gaze flicked to hers for a moment and she murmured and an apology.  “This is healing up well, you’re lucky.”

“So people keep telling me,” Lexa sighed. 

“Do you remember what happened?” Clarke asked as she continued to examine Lexa’s shoulder.

“There was an explosion.  I was thrown under the car and you guys dug me out.  My shoulder was messed up but you fixed it.  Lincoln and Octavia were there,” Lexa recounted.  “I can’t be sure what order that all happened in, though.  I don’t remember anything else or anything more specific.”

Clarke leaned back at that, seemingly studying her face for signs of something.  Lexa shifted uncomfortably under the attention. 

“What?  Is that not what happened?” Lexa was suddenly worried her head injury was worse than anticipated.

“You don’t remember anything after that?” Clarke pressed with an almost hopeful look on her face as her gaze bored into Lexa’s.

Lexa wracked her brain, desperately trying to recall more specific details but she drew a blank.

“I’m sorry, I don’t,” Lexa admitted.  Clarke’s face fell minutely at the confession before she could school her features.  “Did I say or do something?”

“No, not at all,” Clarke responded with a wave as she finally pulled her gaze from Lexa’s.

The air between them suddenly shifted to awkward and Lexa watched Clarke as she seemed to internally debate about something.  

“When can I get out of here?”  Lexa tentatively broached the subject, anticipating a less than favorable reaction from Clarke.

“Slow down, Commander,” Clarke chastised as she pulled herself out of whatever thought she’d been mulling over and leaned Lexa forward to get a better look at the back of her shoulder.  Lexa shivered as the cool hospital air fell across her exposed back, or at least that’s what she told herself as Clarke’s fingers roamed across the back of her shoulder.  “You need time to heal.”

“I can do that somewhere other than this place,” Lexa pointed out.  “Where are we?  This doesn’t look like MedStar.”

“We’re at GW.  It was closer than MedStar,” Clarke explained as she pulled Lexa’s gown back into place and gently pressed on her good shoulder to indicate that she could relax back.  “You have a moderate concussion and your shoulder was dislocated.”

“Am I going to live?” Lexa half-heartedly joked.

“Despite your best efforts, yes,” Clarke replied, clearly unamused.  Lexa couldn’t be sure, but she thought Clarke actually looked a bit angry.  Before she could question it, Clarke’s expression went blank.  “You’re very-”

“Lucky,” Lexa cut in.  “I know.  Where’s your detail?  Where are Lincoln and Octavia?”

“They’re fine.  They’re just outside,” Clarke replied as she rolled her eyes.  “Don’t worry, I’m protected.  Now more than ever.”

“As you should be,” Lexa declared, anger creeping into her tone.  “Someone got to you on the White House grounds.  That’s unheard of in the history of the Secret Service.  I’m so sorry.”

“Please don’t apologize,” Clarke argued softly.  “You saved my life.”

“Which wouldn’t have even been necessary if I’d hadn’t allowed myself to become complacent,” Lexa shot back, the frustration at herself evident in her tone.  “It won’t happen again.”

“Don’t,” Clarke commanded quietly and suddenly her hand was on Lexa’s, her thumb rubbing soothing circles on the back of it.  “Don’t blame yourself for something outside of your control.  I’m fine, thanks to you.  That’s all that matters here, alright?”

Lexa swallowed hard, her attention drawn to their joined hands and the warmth that was emanating from where Clarke was touching her.  As her eyes met Clarke’s, she felt that inexplicable pull she’d felt in the car as warmth blossomed in her chest, the feeling foreign but not all that unfamiliar.  Clarke was looking at her in a way she hadn’t seen in a very long time and before she could fully process it, Clarke was blinking and it was gone.  The doctor gave her hand a gentle squeeze before pulling hers away and standing.

“I’ll let Octavia know you’re awake,” Clarke advised her.  “I think she has some intel to share with you about the bombing.”

“Alright,” Lexa replied as she watched Clarke move towards the door. 

Already, she felt the space grow colder as Clarke retreated.  Before Clarke opened the door, she paused and half turned back to Lexa, refusing to meet her eyes. 

“Thank you for saving my life,” Clarke murmured.  “I’m very glad you’re alright.”

Lexa didn’t have a chance to answer as Clarke opened the door and swiftly disappeared into the hallway.  Lexa felt her lack of presence immediately but didn’t have more than a moment to ponder that particular thought before Octavia was barging in, a slight limp in her gait.

“Sheesh, it’s about time, Sarge,” she jested as she all but threw herself into the chair Clarke had been occupying and propped her foot on the bed.  Jax grumbled as his space was infringed upon and Octavia frowned at him as she massaged her foot.  “I swear he hates me.”

Lexa just rolled her eyes at the other woman’s antics while silently praising Jax for giving Octavia a hard time.  Someone ought to.  

“Dr. Griffin said you have information about the attack?” Lexa asked, desperate to stay on topic.

“Did she now?” Octavia mused as she raised an eyebrow.  “What else did the good doctor say?”

“What do you mean?” Lexa questioned, her own brow furrowing in confusion.  

“She’s been in here since you were brought in,” Octavia informed her, a knowing look taking over her features.  “She refused to leave your side, even when the doctors in the ER ordered it.  She actually banned anyone but a single nurse and herself from taking care of you.”

“She didn’t say anything…” Lexa trailed off as Clarke’s earlier look of anger at her joke suddenly made sense.  “She was that concerned?”

“Watching her chew out the ER doctor for not ordering your MRI fast enough was nothing short of glorious.”  Octavia smirked at the memory as Lexa stared at her wide-eyed.  “All I’m saying is that it was reminiscent of the way Lincoln acted that time I took that bullet in São Paulo.” 

“I’m not sure I understand what you’re implying,” Lexa advised as she silently cursed her still addled mind for not working properly.  “I have a head injury, you know.”

“You’ll figure it out,” Octavia assured her as she rolled her eyes but still managed to look positively giddy.  “Just give it time.  Doc says your memories will likely return over the next few days.  Can’t wait.”

“Whatever,” Lexa muttered, tired of Octavia’s mind games.  “Will you tell me what you’ve got on this bombing now?”

“You’re no fun,” Octavia grumbled as she pulled a small plastic evidence bag from her pocket.  “Anya dropped this off an hour ago on her way home.”

Lexa reached out and took the bag, examining the small and twisted metal piece inside it.  It was hard to tell what it was, it was so warped.

“This is from the site?” She inquired as she looked up at Octavia.

“Yep,” Octavia confirmed as she leaned forward.  “They found it still attached to what was left of one of the weight-bearing supports.  They think it’s part of one of the incendiary devices.”

Lexa looked at the piece again, manipulating it in her hands to try and see all of it.  When she managed to turn it over and her eyes fell on the barely visible markings, she felt the blood drain from her face.

“It can’t be,” Lexa breathed as she scrubbed at the piece to try and make it more clear.  She looked up at Octavia in disbelief.  “This can’t be right.”

“Believe it,” Octavia sighed.  “Anya said they’ve found a few others just like it.”

“These are U.S. Secret Service markings,” Lexa all but spluttered.  “It’s one of the charges we use for explosive entries.”

“That’s what it looks like,” Octavia nodded.  “You know what that means.”

Lexa closed her fingers around the piece, anger rising to the surface instantly and causing said fingers to clench painfully. 

“Get Dr. Griffin back in here now,” Lexa ordered as she sat up and swung her feet over the side of the bed.  

“Whoa, what are you doing?!” Octavia exclaimed, slightly horrified when Lexa ripped the IV out of her wrist.  “Dude!”  

“We’re leaving.  Now.” Lexa stood, her legs wobbling and threatening to give out on her. 

By sheer force of will, she managed to stay upright.  Jax jumped off the bed and pressed into her side, whining worriedly.  She adjusted her gown as it threatened to fall off her shoulders and give Octavia an unanticipated free show as she simultaneously soothed Jax.

“Yeah, I kind of figured as much, what with the dramatic ripping of the massive needle from your arm and all,” Octavia remarked sarcastically as she scrambled out of her seat.  “You’re bleeding everywhere.”

“Call Anya,” Lexa seethed, her rage barely contained as she ignored Octavia.  “Get her here now and tell her we need Raven, and only Raven, in a chopper on the roof in twenty minutes.”

“Consider it done,” Octavia acknowledged as she all but ran towards the door, knowing better than to ask questions.  “Uh…you want me to get you a bandaid?”

“Just go,” Lexa ordered gruffly as she used her gown to staunch the slow trickle of blood sliding down her wrist.  Octavia merely nodded and disappeared through the door.  “And find me some damn pants!”