It smells like grass, sweat, and feet.
And it’s glorious.
Lexa basks in it as she laces up her boots and adjusts a tight double knot, carefully tucking the aglets beneath the tongues. They haven’t even warmed up yet but she’s already sweating, wisps of hair escaping her neat braid and curling near her temples and at the base of her neck in the humidity. The locker room here is small enough without having twenty five girls crammed inside it, but Lexa closes her eyes and breathes deeply, and briefly touches her fingers to the tattoo on the back of her neck. When her eyes flutter open, she looks up at the posters on the walls near the ceiling of the locker room. Polis FC. Becca Praimheda. Seek higher things. It means a lot to Lexa. This soccer club saved her life, in many ways. Gave her purpose, and direction. Even if lately Becca had been making some...questionable choices.
Becca Praimheda is the owner of Polis FC, and Lexa is certain she spared little thought behind bringing a thirteenth team— and therefore more money— into the club. Skaikru is the most recent addition, coached by Thelonious Jaha and Marcus Kane in Arkadia Heights. Despite a general indifference toward Kane (he seems nice enough, at least in terms of his willingness to respect Polis traditions), there’s a certain distaste harbored by most of the teams toward Jaha and the rest of Skaikru. Perhaps it’s Jaha’s unorthodox recruiting methods— it was almost like his recruits fell out of the sky right into his lap. It didn’t feel earned , whereas with the other Polis teams, people had to work their asses off to earn a spot on the team. Lexa herself beat out countless other girls during try-outs, fiercely proving her worth.
Not to mention Polis FC initially started as a way to help poor communities, and Arkadia was not a poor community, and Skaikru was not comprised of poor kids. Which, fair enough, not all of the teams were— Maunon and Azgeda, for example, but look what that said about the worst teams in the league. Bought talent and rude, entitled players who didn't play with honor, and undoubtedly paid off the referees to get away with their outrageous fouls. This was only the second year since Skaikru joined, but it was evident from the very first game that they weren’t much better in terms of playing without honor. Two years in a row now Tondc’s team, Trikru, has defeated Skaikru. The first year it was in a conference game, the second it was in the first round of playoffs. This year, they face off in the final of the whole tournament itself. This is big. Last year there was literal bloodshed on the field as a result of the game; specifically, Skaikru throwing a fit and claiming Trikru cheated its way through, which was a lie . Even just thinking about it now makes Lexa’s blood boil. This is why Trikru has to annihilate Skaikru now.
Today is the day. Lexa told herself that this morning when she rolled out of bed at the break of dawn, sunlight creeping into her hotel room through the small chink in the heavy curtains drawn over the balcony windows. Told herself it again when she and her teammates marched down the winding cement path leading to the pitch, where hordes of eager fans were already congregating at the gates. Tells herself it again now, as she raps her knuckles to her shinguards— a gesture for luck she’s done since her early middle school days— and takes her place in the huddle of girls gathered in the center of the locker room.
Not a soul speaks, nor have they since they step foot on the premises. Each countenance set like stone, determination burning in every pair of eyes. There is a buzzing in the air, a hunger for the game and the win, but it settles immediately upon the entrance of Coach Indra and her assistant Gustus. Unlike other teams, Indra and Gustus don’t need to make a patronizing peptalk to get them revved up for the game. They just cast their steady gazes over all of them, and deliver two curt nods before stepping in and extending their hands. Each girl follows suit, hands overlapping, until Lexa places her own over the pile held aloft.
“Jus drein jus daun,” they chant, hands rising and falling, until they’re roaring it with a “Trikru!” and releasing. The electricity is back in the air as they file out of the locker room, whooping and crying out, rushing to the pitch, boots thundering on the floor and then the neatly mown grass.
Excitement surges through Lexa as she emerges from the tunnel, as the Trikru soccer team floods onto the field and Lexa’s gaze immediately zeroes in on the team across from them entering at the same time. She catches a glint of familiar gold among the white and blue uniforms and stoutly ignores the flip of her stomach.
Today is the day, she wills to the universe as she spares only a cool deadpan to Clarke Griffin’s burning glare.
Victory comes on the back of sacrifice. Today, Skaikru falls.
“Grounders are going down,” whispers Raven.
Clarke turns to look at her, the sweat gleaming on her brow not quite as noticeable as the bloodlust glinting in her eyes. This year is extra personal for Raven. Clarke glances at the brace on her leg before looking back up at her and nodding.
“Fuck yeah they are,” she mutters, putting a bit of extra oomph into the pass she returns to Octavia across the half pitch.
This isn’t the first time they’ve went head to head with Trikru in the finals. For Clarke, this is far from the first time she’s faced Lexa specifically in the finals of a tournament. She glances at her now; their team has finished stretching and has moved on to the warm-ups. Lexa is with the other forwards near the goal, her figure striking a tall, lean silhouette as she launches powerful shots at their keeper. Clarke loses her trail of thought for a moment, even from a distance noting with narrowed eyes the flex of muscle in Lexa’s thigh, the concentrated focus on her sculpted face, the whip of her braid as she twists and turns so elegantly….
Fuck Lexa Woods.
Clarke tears her gaze away in time to receive the pass Octavia sent to her, anger bubbling in her gut. Everything about Lexa Woods drives her up the wall. She’s so damn arrogant, which makes the fact that she’s undeniably pretty that much more frustrating (and pretty is an understatement, but Clarke resolutely ignores that). She’s been a thorn in her side for almost nineteen years, ever since they were as young as seven years old, when Clarke’s parents signed her up for recreational soccer to get her active and help her make friends. Irony’s a bitch because turns out it landed her a lifelong nemesis instead.
“You have to hit the ball with the side of your foot, you idiot. Or your laces.”
Clarke ignored her, face scrunched up in a frown of concentration as she carefully placed the ball on the line and backed up several paces. She sprinted at it and landed a hard kick that caused the ball to rocket...several feet wide of the goal she was aiming for.
Lexa snorted. “See? Told you. You can’t kick with your toes, it doesn’t give you any accuracy.”
Later, when Lexa wandered down near the goalposts to retrieve spare balls and Clarke deliberately launched a ball at her and hit her in the head hard enough to knock her off her feet, she was furious upon her realization that Lexa was right; hitting it with her laces did give her more accuracy.
Clarke shoots a glower toward Lexa again, just in time to catch her sending a stunning shot in the top right corner of the goal beyond Anya’s outstretched fingertips. She stiffens when Lexa turns and those green eyes catch her gaze from across the field. Lexa’s expression is inscrutable, but Clarke can see the challenge there— the arrogance. Lexa may have been the better player when they were kids, but Clarke has proven before that isn’t the case anymore even if Lexa pretends not to see it.
Today is just another chance for Clarke to make her see it.
Forty minutes later they’re wrapping it up when the captains are called to the center of the field for the coin toss. Clarke tosses her water bottle down at the sideline and jogs toward where the officials have gathered, and when she spots who is standing there, she sighs. There are a thousand things to love about the game, and unfortunately, a thousand things to hate about it too. And about nine hundred and ninety nine of those reasons are contained in the thin man who stands in the center of the field wearing a neon yellow shirt tucked into black shorts that are far too short, and black socks pulled up to his knobby knees.
Titus. The most hated referee in all of Polis FC.
That’s one thing the rival teams can agree on. Trikru has been around long enough they have multiple teams they have bad blood with— Azgeda and Maunon, namely. But after Skaikru’s induction as the thirteenth team in Polis Football Club and the chaos of their playoff game last year, they gained a new rival. Despite the obvious fouls in the game...it can’t be denied that Titus’s poor decisions contributed to the madness. He showed blatant favoritism toward Trikru— yet punished them just as hard if they showed even an ounce of mercy. The mere memories make Clarke boil with anger. Anya shouldn’t have gotten away with shoving Octavia out of the box during a corner. Trikru’s left midfielder— Tris, Clarke thinks her name was— probably shouldn’t have been given a yellow along with Harper when she helped her to her feet after a tackle sent them both sprawling. Those were just two examples. But above all, Lexa should have been given an automatic red card for rushing Raven after she’d already had her hands on the ball in the box— resulting in a win for Trikru and a torn ACL and months of recovery for Raven.
It was bullshit. Clarke hopes Titus can feel the disdain radiating off her in waves as she and Lexa gather at the halfline for the coin toss and lecture by Titus and his linesmen. Clarke tunes out as he drones on about safety and sportsmanship, instead choosing to return Lexa’s unblinking glare. She’s so fucking meticulous about everything, from the perfectly done facepaint to the ironed captains’ arm band on her right bicep (opposite the one on Clarke’s left), right down to her neatly tied cleats. But her hair is too wild to contain, frizzy with chestnut wisps that have escaped the tight braid she tries in vain to keep it tucked in. Lexa’s not as put together as everyone thinks she is. Clarke has always been able to see the cracks no one else seems to notice. And damn right she tries to exploit them as much as she can.
“Shake hands,” Titus tells them after Lexa chooses which half her team is starting on.
Clarke’s face is wiped clean of any animosity as she looks at Lexa blankly, lifting her hand for the shake. The only tell is the slightest narrowing of her eyes as she squeezes Lexa’s hand as hard as she can and Lexa doesn’t betray the slightest hint that it hurts.
Fuck her. And her weird perfect hands and long... long fingers. It just has more fury warming Clarke’s belly.
Head in the game, she tells herself a few minutes later, when she’s gathered with her teammates before their coach. She forces herself to shake off her anger at Lexa and focuses on the game and what her coach is saying.
“I won’t lie to you, ladies, and you already know the truth anyway. This is not going to be an easy game. It’s going to be rough. It’s going to be difficult. It just might be the hardest game you’ve ever played in your lives, and undoubtedly the most important.” Kane clasps his hands behind his back, face solemn and eyes glinting with the thrill of the game. Jaha stands a distance away, arms crossed beneath his chest, watching them calmly. They are all silent and attentive, looking back at Kane with the same fire, nerves buzzing with anticipation. “You can do this. I believe in you, all of you. You all have so much heart. You had to prove your worth to be here, and that’s what you’ll continue to do now. You can do this. ”
They pile their hands together and chant Skaikru , breaking with a roar. As they file out onto the field into their respective positions, Clarke immediately finds Lexa, sees her rapping her knuckles on her shinguards and adjusting her hair, tucking the wisps that have fallen loose behind her tiny ears. Lexa catches her eye, gives her the barest of nods that Clarke doesn’t return.
“Let’s do this,” shouts Raven from directly behind Clarke, clapping her gloved hands together. “Let’s go, ladies!”
Down the pitch, Anya is in the goal and shouting similar encouragements. “Jus drein, jus daun!” she roars, and it is echoed by all of her teammates. Combined with the fierce black paint they have on their faces— a signature of their team— it makes for quite a show of intimidation, but it doesn’t affect Skaikru. Clarke silently agrees with the Trikru tradition— blood must have blood. Today, they’re getting justice.
“Let’s go!” she shouts in encouragement, bolstered when the cries are echoed by her team.
Thirty seven minutes into the first half, Skaikru leads one nil. The fury at their goal is palpable— it was pure luck that had Octavia’s shot slipping through a defender’s legs and right through into the goal. It has Lexa and the others pushing harder. They should be ahead right now; they’ve had more shots on goal, but Lexa isn’t obstinate enough she can’t admit Skaikru is on form today. Trikru knocked them out of the running last year and it seems they’re out for blood because of it.
“Stop pulling on my fucking shirt,” snaps Clarke, causing Lexa to blink down at her in surprise. She hadn’t even realized she was pulling on anything. She was just leaning into Clarke, the two of them constantly shifting as on the other end of the field Echo takes on Skaikru’s right back. Lexa passes a cursory glance over Clarke’s scowl before looking back at the ball, and deliberately grabs the hem of Clarke’s shirt to give it a small tug. She narrowly misses the shove Clarke sends at her when she darts away to fill the space at the center of the field, ignoring whatever Clarke is swearing and muttering under her breath.
“Fuck her, Clarke, come on. Don’t let her mess with you,” Lexa hears Raven call from the goal. She wants to scoff— as if Lexa is the problem.
Lexa anticipates the pass Echo sends flying across the field, and so does Clarke. They back-peddle, bodies bumping, as the ball sails through the air. Lexa leaps up in an attempt to get a head on it, but she finds herself lurching backwards instead, yanked by her shirt. She slams hard to the ground just as the whistle blows, scowling and looking up to see Clarke being chastised by Titus for illegal grabbing, thoroughly unrepentant even with the yellow card he’s flashing at her.
“It was an accident,” argues Clarke, but she backs away with satisfaction gleaming in her eyes. Lexa glowers at her as her teammates helps her to her feet. If only they could have been in the box when Clarke decided to be a twat.
Lexa sends the ball sailing to Niylah, and the attacking mid manages to slip it past Skaikru’s right back and back across toward where Lexa is running, narrowing avoiding both centerbacks as Lexa hits hard and sends it bulleting into the bottom left corner of the goal. The stadium erupts in cheers, Lexa’s team among them. The nearby members of Trikru envelop Lexa in cheers and fierce hugs, and Lexa lifts her head to look at Clarke over Niylah’s shoulder. Clarke looks furious, and even more so when Lexa indulges in a small smirk.
Clarke gets her revenge some fifteen minutes later, skidding in with an admittedly well-done slide tackle that takes away the certain goal Lexa was winding back to send. Lexa blows her hair out of her face and glares at Clarke. Clarke is so focused on the game she doesn’t even pause to gloat, moving on to direct the line of defenders to step up, so Lexa is left offside and scrambling to her feet so she can run back. She ‘accidentally’ half-runs into Clarke, shoulder-checking her as she passes by, and bites back a laugh at the way Clarke snarls at her.
It's already worth it.
Clarke decides that during halftime, about five minutes after watching the rage flicker over Lexa's face in response to the goal Octavia scores. Skaikru is up 2-1, and judging by the dark glowers Trikru is shooting at them from their bench, they're going to fight like hell to change that.
"Play smart," urges Kane, standing before them where they all kneel in a messy circle in the grass behind the benches. "Don't take their bait, don't foul them."
Easier said than done, thinks Clarke as her gaze flickers over to where Trikru is huddled beneath the awning arching over their benches. Lexa looks as cold and determined as the rest of her team, watching their coach speak with rapt attention. It doesn’t matter what their coach says— Trikru is losing today.
The second half begins with Skaikru kicking off. Clarke directs the line, watching as across the field Octavia and Roma tear down the field. Roma’s pass is intercepted eventually, sent across the field from Trikru’s defender, to their mid, then over to another mid, Niylah, across from Clarke. And just like that Lexa is back in Clarke’s space, and they spend the next half hour with few feet between them.
It’s been a rough, dirty game. Each team seems to be trying to foul as discreetly as they can beneath Titus’s watchful eye, but it’s not working because he calls every tiny thing. Trikru has had a worrying amount of shots on goal— most of them lost to some truly spectacular saves by Raven—but Clarke has yet to pull another foul. Not for lack of effort on Lexa’s part.
“Holding again,” says Lexa flatly, only the slightest undercurrent of frustration detectable under her deliberately apathetic tone.
Clarke scoffs. “I didn’t touch you.”
“I’ll have a bruise tomorrow that says otherwise,” says Lexa dryly.
“You have an overactive imagination.” Clarke pinches Lexa’s arm when they both shuffle a few steps over as across the field, Skaikru’s mid battles with a Trikru defender. Lexa subtly elbows her but it doesn’t do much considering it hits the soft padding of her chest.
“That’s my tit, asshole.” Clarke places her hands at the small of Lexa’s back and pushes; the stumble Lexa makes, followed by the glower she shoots at Clarke over her shoulder, gains the attention of the linesman. When he squints suspiciously at them, Clarke shoots him an innocent smile, saying between gritted teeth, “I’d do the same to you, if you had any.”
Lexa rolls her eyes. “Why don’t you concentrate on the game, Clarke? You should enjoy it while you can, before you’re crying into your pillow tonight.”
“You’re on crack if you think Trikru is outplaying us right now.”
Lexa scoffs. “Are you kidding? We’ve had twice the shots on goal.”
“Pure luck, and a crooked ref.”
“Oh, not this again.”
“Fuck you, Lexa.” Lexa maintains the mask of irritation, but she swallows against the little bubble of something hearing Clarke use those words in the same sentence gives her. They’re interrupted for a moment as Niylah sends a pass to Lexa and Lexa blocks Clarke from receiving it, Clarke shuffling back to block her space with Monroe closing in behind, giving Lexa no choice but to pass it on to Echo. It affords her a moment to watch Clarke play with distance between them for once.
Clarke’s a mess. She always has been, in every sense of the word. Her wild blonde hair sits in a messy bun atop her head, already falling into a ponytail instead. Her face is a blur of fierce determination, but even from feet away Lexa can see how blue her eyes are. Lexa’s stomach churns, her heart hammering away as she watches Echo take Clarke on, using blunt strength and sheer force of will to push through Echo’s offense too fast for Echo to recover; Clarke sends the ball sailing up to Skaikru’s mid and jogs backwards to take position.
Even Lexa can grudgingly admit Clarke is a force to be reckoned with. Her technique may be less than refined, but she’s the most relentless defender Lexa has ever come across in all her years playing. And worst still, she seems to improve every time they play— gets stronger, faster, better at anticipating her opponents’ next moves. She may not have been born with the talent, but she has the drive to get there anyway. Lexa watches that drive all over Clarke’s face— studies the way the sunlight glints gold in her hair, the flush on her sweaty face, the way her body moves as she runs— fuck. Not this again. Lexa shakes her head, jolting out of her thoughts; it’s like even sound had been muffled for a moment as she watched Clarke
bouncing running across the pitch, because it returns in a deafening flood of cheering, screaming fans.
And suddenly Lexa is angry with herself. A moment of weakness is all it would take for Skaikru to win this game, and Skaikru cannot win this game. Trikru has had more shots on goal, but Clarke has been there to affect each and every one of them. Clarke is the main threat right now, and Lexa knows what to do with a threat. Knows you have to take what you know about it and use it to dismantle it, and then destroy it.
“So was it you sneaking out of Niylah’s room last night?”
Clarke actually stumbles. She turns around, a crease in her brow and indignation flashing in her eyes. “What?”
“You heard me,” Lexa speaks casually as she jogs to the side, eyes sharp on the ball shifting across the field as Octavia Blake receives a pass and shoots; Anya saves it with one hand, knocking it away. The throw-in results in a botched attempt at driving it toward the goal, and the teams set up for a corner kick.
“I wasn’t anywhere near your side of the hotel,” snaps Clarke, glaring forward, visibly trying to focus again despite the fact that she’s clearly ruffled by Lexa’s words, and Lexa fights to hide the smirk curling a corner of her lips.
“Okay. It’s just, I saw her in the locker room earlier and she was covered in hickeys. Kinda tacky, if you ask me. Looked like your handiwork.”
Clarke spins around, flaring up at once. “Are you fucking kidding me?”
Lexa just looks at her with an indifferent expression. “No. Why would I joke about that?”
“The only joke here is you pretending you know what a hickey even is.” Clarke is sneering again as she looks away, focuses on the ball that is steadily working up the field toward them. Her face is already reddened from exertion and the heat, but Lexa thinks it could be anger now too. Good. “As if Costia would ever let you suck one onto her.”
Lexa knows what Clarke is trying to do. She ignores the irritation simmering in her gut at her words.
“Wouldn’t you like to know. Remember the time you asked Costia out?” asks Lexa conversationally, satisfied with how she can feel Clarke stiffen behind her. “But she was already with me? Awkward.”
From Niylah to Echo, back to Niylah. Lexa runs around into the space farther away from Clarke, shouting for the ball, and Niylah sends a neat little pass through to her; Lexa cuts it back before Clarke can step, slips it through to Echo who takes a shot, but Raven dives for it. The Skaikru fans cheer wildly, and Lexa rushes to Clarke when Raven rolls the ball to her, leaving her side when Clarke sends it up the line.
“I was drunk when I asked her out,” says Clarke breathlessly a few minutes later, when she and Lexa have gravitated back near each other after Trikru defenders won the ball and sent it upfield. “Never would have done it sober. She’s too uptight, I knew she needed someone just as uptight to put up with her.”
“Uh huh.” Lexa jogs forward as Trikru midfields bring the ball closer. “So is that what happened with Collins the other day? You can only score when you’re drunk? Oh, but wait, he used to date Reyes, didn’t he? Are you always after everyone else’s sloppy seconds?”
“Oh, fuck you, Lexa—”
“It’s pathetic how easy it is to get under your skin,” says Lexa, a second before the ball is passed to her and skips wide— she rushes to reach it before it goes out of bounds, Clarke at her heels.
“Back at you,” snaps Clarke, knocking into Lexa hard with her shoulder and causing her to stumble, missing the ball. The linesman’s flag shoots up and Titus blows the whistle.
“Don’t foul, ladies!” bellows Kane, voice rising above all the noise— the cheering and booing of the crowd, the shouts of the girls on the field. Lexa glances over at him and is satisfied to see him red-faced and upset. He looks unnerved. Indra, meanwhile, doesn’t look worried— she looks calm, determined, standing there with her head high, shoulders back and arms behind her back. She looks powerful, and Lexa lets it bolster her.
Lexa shifts back toward the goal as Niylah sets up for the free kick. She ignores the slight pinch on her hip when she bumps into the front of Clarke’s body. There’s a comment Lexa wants to make just hovering on the tip of her tongue, but it’s— she doesn’t usually make those style of comments, because the mere implication of it is enough to have her heart pounding.
But Clarke pinches her again and Lexa loses her patience.
“Any particular reason you can’t keep your hands off me?”
There’s a strange noise between a gasp and scoff that has Lexa glancing over her shoulder; blue eyes flash with outrage and Clarke’s face flushes beet red, and sure it could be the sun or the nearly ninety minutes of play, but Lexa doesn’t think it’s from that alone.
“Oh, don’t fucking flatter yourself. I wouldn’t touch you with a ten-foot pole.”
As if to emphasize her point— and spite Lexa— she pinches her again, hard enough this time it makes Lexa hiss. When she turns to glare at her, Clarke is still blushing and angry but she’s smirking a little too, pink lips curved. Anger churns in the pit of Lexa’s stomach.
Niylah sends the ball sailing into the box, and when Lexa realizes it’s overhead, she grabs Clarke by the back of her jersey, just a quick tug, subtle and hidden by Lexa’s body— and it does exactly what she expected it would. Clarke loses her temper. She whirls around, snarling, and she shoves Lexa back hard— Lexa allows the momentum to take her to the ground just as Echo misses another shot. There’s pandemonium for a moment as Titus calls the foul, the crowd jeers and Skaikru’s coach screams at Clarke, but the damage is done: Clarke’s been given her second yellow and being pulled off the field, and the foul was in the box so now Lexa has a penalty kick. And Clarke is furious .
Lexa can see her glowering in her peripheral vision as she sets up for the kick, but she forces herself to push it out of her mind. Right now all that matters is the ball a foot in front of her; Reyes bouncing on her toes in the goal, gaze zeroed in on Lexa with laser-intensity; the red 2 - 1 on the scoreboard with only four minutes to go.
“Let’s go Heda!” shouts Gaia; it’s echoed by Emori, then Niylah, Anya, everyone on the field and on the bench and then in the stands as well. Trikru chants it over and over, Heda, Heda, Heda. Lexa’s determined expression doesn’t reveal the swell of pride it puts in her chest; her focus doesn’t waver as she takes position, every muscle in her body bunching in anticipation. Titus blows the whistle, arm cutting through the air, sunlight glinting off his bald head. The cheers fade away; the world narrows to two things: the ball, and the goal.
This is what Lexa was made for.
She sprints forward— one, two. Her third step has her left foot landing just beside the ball. She swings her right leg, thigh rippling with muscles, and hits the ball perfectly on her laces. It’s an explosive shot, and Raven’s good, but nothing could have granted her the ability to reach the top right corner of the goal in time. Lexa’s shot hits the net and her team screams, the crowd roars— she’s bombarded by fierce hugs from her teammates and staggers with their weight, grinning. Finds Clarke over the top of Gaia’s head, furious and swearing as she kicks a water bottle on the ground near the bench.
2 - 2.
She fucked it.
Clarke fucked up. She fucked it all up, she fucked her team over, this is it, there’s no coming back from this. Skaikru and Trikru are tied with three minutes to go, and Skaikru’s captain and centerback is out of the game. All because she let Lexa get to her. Fuck .
She feels sick. She watches helplessly from the sidelines as her team struggles to keep up with Trikru’s reinvigorated attacks. Clarke is the only defender able to keep up with Lexa, that’s why Kane had her sticking to her like glue. Now she practically has free reign out there. Clarke’s hands are clenched into fists so tight her knuckles are white and her fingers are numb. Kane hasn’t even looked at her since she was walked off the field.
Octavia’s had to drop back to mid to help; her speed is necessary when Lexa and Echo are tearing down the field like they’re setting fire to it. They’ve had four shots alone in the last minute, and Clarke’s nerves are stretched thin. Fury surges through her veins; at herself, at Lexa. This is all Lexa’s fucking fault with all the cheap shots she’s taken at her. Fuck.
It’s in the last minute that it happens. Trikru’s mids send the ball across the field to Echo, who sends it across again to Lexa, who practically dribbles circles through a mid and a leftback. Even with Monroe and Gina closing in on her, she fights through them and is left with a clear line to Raven, who dives but it doesn’t matter. Lexa sends another powerhouse of a shot, this time sailing into the opposite top corner of the net. In the last fucking minute of the championship game.
Skaikru tries a desperate bid to drive forward for a miracle goal in the last ten seconds, but Anya sends it sailing up the length of the field and Titus calls the match as the extra time runs out. The crowd goes wild. The reigning champs of the annual Polis FC tournament held at Floukru islands have won again. Lexa has won again.
Clarke hates her, oh my God she hates her. She could fucking kill her. God, she hates Lexa Woods.
There’s a buzzing still ringing in Clarke’s ears as the chaos of the end of the game surges around her. Trikru floods onto the field to cheer; the crowd is singing; Clarke’s teammates are dejected, many of them crying, Octavia doubled over with her hands on her hips, Raven on all fours pounding her gloves into the ground. Kane finally meet Clarke’s eyes, but he just shakes his head and looks away and that makes everything worse. Clarke’s eyes sting with unshed tears, fury pulsating in her temples. She can’t tear her gaze off Lexa, who’s untangling herself from fierce hugs from Anya and Niylah. The teams are mixed on the field now, shaking hands. Sportsmanship after the game is important, Clarke recalls dully— she still hasn’t moved from where she stands on the sidelines, shaking with rage. She walks forward automatically, robotically reaching out to touch hands with the Trikru players who walk past her. Until one stands in front of her, cutting off her path, and Clarke looks up to meet green eyes.
“Get out of my way, Lexa,” says Clarke lowly; she’s trembling all over again, balling her hands up once more— it feels safer that way.
“You played well,” says Lexa, and it’s so condescending. She looks content and sincere as she says it, but Clarke knows: it’s so fucking condenscending.
“Wish I could say the same,” Clarke manages to spit out between gritted teeth, “but you did nothing but bring bullshit to the field, as usual.”
Lexa rolls her eyes. “You’re so full of excuses. Why can’t you just admit it, Clarke? We beat you because we’re better than you.”
“You beat us because you’re a cheater,” snarls Clarke. “Desperate enough you know you had to employ cheap theatrics to even have a chance of winning. You’re a piece of shit, Lexa.” And then, because Clarke is petty, and she just wants to wipe that smirk off Lexa’s face, “I can’t believe Costia hasn’t dumped you yet.”
Lexa’s eyes widen for a split second before narrowing; it happens so quickly Clarke’s not sure if she imagined it.
“No one held a gun to your head and forced you to foul,” says Lexa calmly, piercing gaze burning right through Clarke’s skull. “It’s your own fault you can’t control your temper.”
Her temper. Control her temper. Right. Clarke closes her eyes for a minute, takes a breath and tries to reign it in. Girls are walking past her, bumping into her, and Lexa is still standing before her with that insufferable air of superiority about her. It’s hard. It’s really hard. But she has to do it. The game is over and she’s embarrassed her team and her coach enough. She turns on her heel to turn her back on Lexa and start making her way back to the bench.
But of course, Lexa’s not going to let her get away that easily.
“I just hope for your sake your father wasn’t watching the game. I imagine he’d be fairly disappointed. At your behavior more than your team’s result...”
Clarke sees red. She turns, and does the only thing that really makes sense in this situation.
She punches Lexa in the face.
Lexa has Clarke Griffin underneath her, sweaty and writhing and screaming.
Not that Lexa’s ever imagined it before, nope, not at all….but, if she had , it would have been a little different than this.
“You are such a fucking cunt!” bellows Clarke, smacking Lexa hard in the jaw with her elbow as she twists in her grip.
“Get off me, you fucking—” Lexa struggles to get a good grip on Clarke’s wrists to pin her arms down; Clarke’s wriggling too much, wildly swinging her arms to push Lexa back enough to get a good hit on her. Lexa doesn’t plan on letting her do that twice.
It’s chaos for a moment that feels much longer than it actually is. They both fight to get enough space between the two of them to land a hit, there’s thundering footsteps and shouts and screams around them, a whistle blaring nonstop and a buzzer going off, but they tune it all out as they roll around on the ground. Clarke manages to get a fistful of Lexa’s hair and yanks it, dragging Lexa off her so she can hook her legs around Lexa’s waist to straddle her, but Lexa bucks her off. They fight for the upper hand, panting and slipping in one another’s grasps, and Lexa’s heart is already pounding but it about jumps out of her chest when Clarke’s thigh slips between her leg and she knees her so hard Lexa sees stars, howling and doubling up, trying to draw her knees to her chest which just shifts Clarke farther up, forced to let go of Lexa’s hair so she could slap her hands down to prevent herself from faceplanting the ground or Lexa’s head.
“That was— a fucking— cheap shot —” wheezes Lexa. She manages to squint her eyes open enough to see Clarke’s rage faltering, something like guilt and concern in her eyes. Okay, so she didn’t mean to crotch-kick her, but she certainly had no qualms about giving Lexa a busted lip. Lexa wonders why she doesn’t feel a bit more satisfaction seeing the scrape on Clarke’s forehead from where she’d shoved her face into the ground after tackling her. After that initial surprise punch, it was relatively simple to block her next hit and shove her down— though she hadn’t anticipated her seizing her by the hair and dragging her down with her. Like everything else, Clarke’s technique is less than refined but the pure rage driving it more than makes up for that.
It’s hardly a handful of seconds, but it feels longer than that. The world narrows to this, just the two of them, tangled up together. They look at each other for a moment, panting, Lexa’s hands on Clarke’s hips, Clarke’s hands on the ground beside Lexa’s head. Anger sits low and heavy in the pit of Lexa’s stomach— anger has her biting her lip, glaring at Clarke through half-lidded eyes. Anger has Clarke’s eyes dark, her pupils blown, her lips parted as she glowers down at her like she wants to throttle her. Just a half second to catch their breath, before the struggle resumes, that’s what Lexa tells herself. Clarke shifts atop her slightly and Lexa’s fingers splay, grip on her hips tightening, and Clarke shifts again, harder this time—
“ENOUGH,” screams a voice that has Lexa immediately stiffening. All at once, the outside world returns, and Lexa realizes for the past minute she’d seen and heard and felt nothing but Clarke, but now reality returns with sharp clarity. Everyone is fighting. Anya has mounted Raven a few feet over, the two of them exchanging blows with their keeper gloves on. Skaikru mids are teaming up on Sienne, the three of them hollering as they attempt to land hits. Echo is fumbling around with a Skaikru defender, angry red lines cut into their skin from clawing at one another. Octavia Blake has Tris in a headlock. Jesus.
Everything is interrupted by the coaches, trainers, and referees flooding onto the field and pulling people apart. As though it jolts them back into attention, Clarke makes a move as though to land one last good punch on Lexa, but she’s dragged off her by Jaha before she can even swing, and Lexa is hauled up by Gustus, though she struggles to break free so she can smack Clarke one more time because she deserves it, and then Kane stands between them to keep them from lunging at one another again.
“That is ENOUGH,” bellows Indra, and Lexa and Clarke finally still, both automatically looking over at the fierce woman standing in the middle of the crowd. She’s far from the tallest on the field, but the pure rage rolling off her in waves and the steely glint in her eyes that shows how capable she is of destroying anyone who doesn’t obey her is what currently makes her the biggest threat.
“OFF THE FIELD,” roars Kane, red-faced with spittle flying from his lips. He stands between them with his arms outstretched to keep them apart. “This is UNACCEPTABLE. All of you, get to your respective locker rooms.” They remain frozen in place, glaring at one another, so Kane yells, “NOW,” and everyone finally moves.
Grumbling girls make their way off the fields, dirty and scuffled and uniforms worse for wear, some girls bloody and limping. Lexa is numb with anger, her cheekbone throbbing from where Clarke hit her. She barely spares her a glance as the two of them march off the field and blend in with the rest of their teams as they split, making way for their designated locker rooms.
It’s only once they’re all inside the locker room that reality sinks in, and Lexa burns with shame. Anya looks like she has two black eyes, Echo’s arms are covered in scratches, the white numbers of Emori’s top are stained with blood— nearly every girl on the team has been damaged in some way. And all of this happened because Lexa was the instigating factor— she had a fistfight with a girl during the most important soccer game in her life, internationally televised. She lost control. Lexa sits down and runs a shaky hand over her face. She’s so embarrassed, and the guilt over the shame she’s brought her team, her coach, is overwhelming.
Indra is furious with her. When she and Gustus walk in some fifteen minutes later to a silent locker room, they don’t raise their voices and somehow that makes it even worse. Indra is cold and full of rage as she addresses the team and calls them children; she’s disappointed and outraged when she tears into Lexa and tells her without hesitation that she has ruined this moment for everyone. Lexa doesn’t try to argue. She knows what she did.
Afterwards, when the team files out, Lexa lingers. Anya remains behind for a moment, but she doesn’t appear to have anything to say either, she just claps a hand on Lexa’s shoulder and leaves without a word. Lexa remains where she is for another moment, sitting on the bench next to the table littered with water bottles, elbows on her knees and head in her hands, and focuses on her breathing. In, out. In...out. God, how will she ever face anyone? How can she face Becca after this, who presumably watched the entire thing happen from her box atop the stadium. She’s an international embarrassment who has stained the Trikru and Polis FC name. All because she lost her temper. All because of Clarke fucking Griffin.
Speak of the Devil.
She looks up when the door bursts open. Lo and behold, Clarke stands in the doorway. There’s a bloody scrape on her forehead and her hair has long fallen out of its bun, loose and falling to her shoulders, messy and tangled. Her shoulders are stiff and her hands are clenched into fists and Lexa feels only a moment of foreboding and dread before the familiar rage replaces it.
“You,” she manages in her fury, surging to her feet.
“ You ,” repeats Clarke, voice tight with her ire. She’s still wearing her uniform and shinguards. Lexa wonders if she left the Skaikru locker room directly after their team was presumably yelled at by their coach. “ You are a fucking cheat,” snarls Clarke, stalking across the locker room and into Lexa’s space.
The fury on Lexa’s face falters, tightens into something else as she takes one step back and then another, backstepping in the wake of Clarke’s approach. Clarke advances and Lexa backs up until she hits the table, ass bumping against it and hands shooting down to grip it tightly enough her short nails drag against the wooden surface. Clarke stands so closely Lexa can smell the sunscreen on her skin.
“I didn’t cheat,” growls Lexa, swallowing thickly and struggling to maintain her anger, to not reveal the way her heart is thudding irregularly at Clarke’s proximity.
“You did it last year and now again this year,” spits Clarke. “I’m so fucking tired of you.”
“ You’re tired of me ?” demands Lexa, and now she doesn’t have to force the anger returning to her overheated body, clenching her jaw tightly enough they can both hear the grinding of teeth. “ I’m sick of you . Since we were kids, you’re— you’re everywhere I look! Every season, there you are!”
Clarke’s brows draw together, lip curling and eyes narrowing in patronizing disbelief. “Oh, I didn’t realize you’re the only kid allowed to play soccer!”
“You know exactly what I mean,” snaps Lexa. “I warned you, so many years ago. Soccer is not for you. But you’re so— you’re fucking relentless .”
“I’ll take that as a compliment.” Clarke leans in and Lexa’s rage flickers out again, breath caught in her lungs as Clarke’s face grows so near Lexa nearly goes cross-eyed to hold her gaze, desperately determined for her eyes not to drop anywhere lower than furious blue.
“It’s not one,” she manages to say, pleased her voice isn’t as shaky as her hands as she grips the table behind her more tightly to hide it.
She’s so close Lexa can feel the warmth of her body radiating from her. This isn’t good.
“We were winning until you fucked with me,” says Clarke lowly, and the words burn through Lexa. “You and I both know the only reason you won is because you fucked with me.”
“I didn’t fuck with you, Clarke,” murmurs Lexa, lids going half mast at the overwhelming sensation of Clarke pressed against her, of her raspy voice curling into her ears. She hates her. She does. She doesn’t want her anywhere near her.
“You love fucking with me, you always have.” Lexa’s eyes zero in on the way Clarke wets her lips.
“I don’t,” says Lexa automatically. She thinks the lack of hesitation might be counteracted by the lowered pitch of her voice. She thinks it might give her away. She thinks the way she has a deathgrip on the edge of the table might give her away. She thinks the fact that she can’t stop looking at Clarke’s lips might give her away.
She thinks she doesn’t particularly care anymore.
“You ruin everything,” whispers Clarke. “You are literally the worst— ”
Lexa doesn’t think twice about it. She just kisses her.
Moves her head forward hardly an inch to press their lips together. Clarke freezes and for a moment they simply stand there, mouths pressed together, Lexa’s hands still latched onto the table, Clarke still bearing down on her with her fists clenched at her sides. Then, all at once, it’s like they melt together, warm puffs of breath expelled from their noses, lips pressing more firmly together before Clarke parts hers with a quiet, shaky gasp.
God. Lexa had forgotten how soft her lips are. It’s been years since she felt them— for the first and what she’d thought, until now, was the last time, back when they were seventeen years old and their high school teams just played one another. Lexa’s team had won that time, too.
She hadn’t expected Clarke and her parents to be out to dinner at the same restaurant Lexa was at with her friends. She hadn’t expected Clarke to accost her in the bathroom, spewing insults and threats. She certainly hadn’t expected Clarke to kiss her at the height of her rage. She definitely hadn’t expected for herself to drag Clarke into a bathroom stall to keep kissing her, and run her hands all over her body, and nearly dip into her waistband before being interrupted by a knock on the door and the sound of Clarke’s mother asking if everything was okay. Hadn’t expected for Clarke to run without looking back, or for her to pretend like it never happened the next time they saw each other. Hadn’t expected a chance of it ever happening again, but here they are.
It’s been nearly a decade since then and Lexa almost thought she’d imagined it even happening, but kissing Clarke now, she knows she didn’t. No one has the imagination to come up with this, with the taste and texture of Clarke’s lips moving so urgently beneath her own. Clarke’s hands shift up, one cupping the back of Lexa’s neck and the other gripping her jaw, holding her tightly enough it tells Lexa she’s been thinking about this for a long time, craving it, the same way Lexa has been. Desire burns hot and heavy in the pit of her stomach, and she wastes no time in tangling her hands in Clarke’s choppy tresses. She doesn’t understand why she’s doing this, why the urge is so strong and why it’s been here for as long as she can remember— Clarke is a pain in her ass, her rival and her enemy. But Lexa lowers her hands to press her palms to the small of Clarke’s back and pull her closer, and Clarke’s gasp spills into Lexa’s mouth at the sensation of the front of their bodies pressing together, and Lexa never, ever wants this to end.
“Fuck,” Clarke groans, scraping her teeth over Lexa’s bottom lip before soothing it with her tongue and swallowing Lexa’s hiss at the sharp pain of it from where her lip was split in the fight. She arches up into her when Lexa lowers her hands, fingers pressing into the polyester of her uniform shorts as she grips her ass, squeezes. The way she shudders and the way the beginning of a moan rumbles in her throat...fuck. Lexa doesn’t protest when Clarke shifts her hands down, presses them into the back of Lexa’s thighs and urges her up onto the table. Lexa spreads her legs to pull Clarke between them, a whimper caught in her throat at the sensation of Clarke pressed between her split thighs. She’s wet and she’s sure Clarke can feel it, along with the blistering heat seeping through the nylon.
Lexa’s just slipped her hands beneath the hem of Clarke’s shirt, fingertips trailing over warm skin up to hover beneath the edge of her sports bra, when they’re interrupted by a knock on the door. They choke on strangled gasps, shoving away from each other, Lexa lunging off the table. They stand several feet apart, panting and flushed and disheveled, when someone walks in. It’s Gustus. Oh, no.
“What is happening here?” he asks, eyes narrowing suspiciously as he scrutinizes the two of them.
“Nothing,” wheezes Lexa the same time Clarke gasps it.
Gustus is silent. Lexa can tell he’s wondering if they were fighting— prays that’s all he’s wondering. Clarke stares at the ground for a moment, chest visibly heaving, before she suddenly shakes her head like she’s trying to jostle herself back to life.
“I’ll...leave you to it,” she mutters, sidestepping Gustus and swiftly exiting the locker room without so much as a glance Lexa’s way.
The door swings shut, and Lexa and Gustus are left alone in the silence. Lexa remains where she is, standing up against the table, still struggling to catch her breath.
“Are you going to tell me what that was about?” asks Gustus quietly. Lexa can barely meet his eye.
“She, um. Came to apologize,” manages Lexa.
Gustus does not look remotely convinced, so Lexa deflates with an eye-roll. “Or she came to pick another fight. Whatever. I handled it.”
“You handled it,” says Gustus slowly. Lexa blushes and looks away, hoping he doesn’t realize just how accurate that statement is. Gustus shakes his head, clearly happy to move past it. “Look. Indra wants a word with you about your future on this team.”
Lexa’s breath catches in her chest, her heart stopping. Ice floods her veins as she looks up at Gustus with wide eyes. “My future on the team? What do you—”
“Better to talk to her. Come. Finish changing and meet me in the hall.”
Lexa swallows hard and nods distractedly as Gustus promptly leaves the room. Her heart thunders as she undresses and changes, not bothering to shower. She feels sick to her stomach. Is Indra kicking her off the team? God, what has she done? This is their last day here. Tomorrow they fly back home to Tondc. Is she going to have to sit there on a plane with her entire team— and Skaikru’s, considering Arkadia’s not far from Tondc so the two are on the same flight to the same airport— knowing she’s done? She’s been kicked off the team? Is that what Indra’s doing?
Leftover fury bubbles in her stomach, along with resentment and a certain unnamed something else, as her thoughts drift to Clarke once more.
She leaves the locker room with one anxious glance back.
“Hello? Earth to Clarke!”
Clarke blinks, yanked out of her reverie by the hand waving directly in front of her face. She looks up to see Octavia standing there with her bag slung over one shoulder, hair drawn back and sporting a truly spectacular black eye.
“I said your name, like, ten times.”
Clarke clears her throat and hopes the tint to her cheeks isn’t obvious— she’d been absorbed in mentally revisiting her, er, conversation with Lexa in the locker room. Which she really shouldn’t be. As a matter of fact, she should just forget that ever even happened. “Uh, sorry.”
Octavia looks amused as she flops down into the chair next to Clarke’s. There’s a few empty ones around her; most of her teammates have been maintaining a wide berth from her. She can’t exactly blame them. She let an idiot get to her and ruined everything for them, so.
Yesterday was a total shitfest. First had been the game, obviously. The fight. Then a solid fifteen minutes of listening to Kane shout about all the ways Clarke had cost them the game on top of single-handedly giving Skaikru a bad rep right out the gate. Then she’d— uh, confronted Lexa, in...in the Trikru locker room, which had gone...better and also worse than she’d expected… Anyways, then she’d slipped back into her own locker room where everyone was finishing up with their showers, and the majority of the girls wouldn’t even look at her. Including Raven.
Octavia was pissed too, but she at least said it to Clarke’s face and told her off for it and calmed down considerably when Clarke apologized. She said Raven would take time— it just meant more to her, considering what happened to her leg the last time they played Trikru.
“She’s going to hate me forever,” sighs Clarke. She doesn’t need to gesture towards where Raven sits, as far away as possible, to show Octavia, but she does anyway. “I’m never going to be able to make it up to her, O.”
“Sure you can,” says Octavia with the easy determination of a girl who just never quit. “Next year, when we kick Trikru’s ass.”
“If Kane even keeps me around that long,” says Clarke sullenly. He’d already threatened to kick her off when he was ranting in the locker room after the game. She was, according to him, on very thin ice at the moment.
“Ah, he’ll get over it eventually too. Just work your ass off to make it up for him. Remember, get knocked down, get back up.” The smile she gives her is sharp on the edges, so Octavia that Clarke can’t help but echo it faintly, a tiny fissure of hope wiggling into all the guilt and despair swirling within her. “Anyways, we’re going to be boarding soon.”
Octavia is wrong about that, Clarke soon realizes. Octavia is going to be boarding, but Clarke is not.
She realizes this when she’s standing in line until Kane calls out for her, asking her to come to the back of the line to speak to him. Octavia sighs but follows Clarke when she walks to where Kane is waiting for her along with Jaha, the Trikru coaches, and...Lexa. Clarke resists the urge to scowl at her and instead directs her confused frown at Kane.
“What’s going on?”
“There was an issue with the flights,” says Kane, and Clarke doesn’t like the way he’s looking at her.
“What do you mean?”
“The airline overbooked,” says Jaha, “So one girl will have to remain behind.”
“Of course, the buddy system is important,” says Kane. “We’ve decided to use this opportunity to give a second chance. Clarke, you and Lexa are going to catch the next plane together.”
Clarke’s stomach drops along with her jaw. She and Lexa burst into protests at once, and even Octavia looks scandalized.
“Are you kidding me? I’m not flying with her !”
“I don’t want to be stuck here alone with her , what the hell!”
“Uh, Coach, I don’t think that’s the smartest idea…”
“I don’t want to hear it,” says Kane sternly, looking between the two of them with raised brows. “Indra and I discussed this at length this morning, after the airline contacted us with the news. This is your chance to sort out your issues with each other like civilized adults.”
Clarke hates that her eyes are starting to sting with frustration. “Coach, this is not going to fix anything!”
“Then consider it an added punishment,” says Kane coolly.
“Punishment?” hisses Octavia. “They’re going to kill each other!”
“Trust me, they won’t,” Gustus intones solemnly. Octavia gives him a skeptical look, but Gustus doesn’t elaborate.
“Coach, can’t I stay behind with Clarke instead?” Octavia cuts in.
“No,” says Kane shortly.
Clarke and Octavia just look helplessly at one another. Lexa looks helplessly at Indra.
“Coach, please. There’s no way I can put up with her for that long!” she says desperately.
“Oh, like I’m the problem!” interjects Clarke, flaring up at once.
“You see what I mean? I can’t deal with her—”
“You can and you will,” says Indra sharply, and at her tone and her expression, Lexa and Clarke both fall silent. “Your flight leaves in three hours. We’ll see you in Polis.”
With that, they all leave them. Literally, all of them. Octavia offers a sorry and a grimace as she hugs Clarke before leaving to board the plane, and the rest of them— Kane, Jaha, Indra, and Gustus— all gather their things and march away without a single look back, leaving Clarke and Lexa standing there, gaping after them.
“This has got to be a fucking joke,” snarls Clarke minutes later, when she and Lexa take their seats.
“It’s not,” says Lexa wearily, folding her arms beneath her chest and crossing a leg up over her knee. “Trust me, Indra doesn’t joke.”
“I can’t believe they just left us like that,” fumes Clarke. Her arms are crossed too. She looks so severe that when an older man aiming for the free seat next to her ambles over to sit, he turns on his heel and takes another chair after seeing Clarke’s expression.
“I mean, can you really blame them?” asks Lexa dryly. “Considering what we did.”
“Considering what you did,” snaps Clarke. God, how is she going to make it the next three hours sitting next to this insufferable asshole, let alone survive an overnight flight with her. “If you hadn’t decided to play dirty, we wouldn’t be here right now.”
Lexa rolls her eyes. “You were fouling me before I said a single word, so don’t even start.”
“You know what? Just because we’re stuck together doesn’t mean we have to be together. I’m out of here.”
“Clarke. Clarke,” Lexa calls out when Clarke marches several feet away. She doesn’t stop walking. “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to find something to eat,” Clarke throws at her over her shoulder. “I’ll see you in three hours, asshole.”
“Whatever,” she catches Lexa mutter, before Clarke rounds the corner and marches on, leaving Lexa out of sight and hopefully (not that she particularly expects it to work), out of mind.
Lexa jolts up, startled at the hand on her shoulder. She blinks up at Clarke, who is standing before her, watching her with mingled amusement and derision.
“Are they boarding?” mumbles Lexa, body aching as she stretches.
“In a minute.” Clarke arches a brow. “I considered leaving you, but apparently we’re being watched like a hawk.” When Lexa just frowns at her, Clarke tilts her head to the right and Lexa looks over to see Titus sitting in a chair, reading something on his phone. As if it’s not already weird enough seeing him in plain jeans and a linen shirt rather than his uniform, he’s also wearing a hat. A red hat with writing on it. Oh no.
“Yeah, I’m somehow not surprised,” says Clarke under her breath. “He’s also already taken advantage of his presence here to lecture me on my behavior in the game, and what do you know, happened to disagree with me when I said you were the one who started it. Of course he did. Everyone knows you’re his favorite player.”
Lexa rolls her eyes, more to hide her embarrassment than anything. She doesn’t know Titus— never has, beyond seeing him on the field. But he’s reffed her games since she was a child, and somehow took on a weird paternal air whenever he was around her. It was a little weird. Okay, maybe it was really weird.
She chooses to move past it. “I can’t believe I just slept for two hours.”
Clarke sneers. “I can.”
Their flight begins boarding, so they shuffle into line. Lexa yawns, making to rub her eyes before wincing with pain when she nearly knuckles her black eye, courtesy of Clarke. Judging by the small smirk playing on Clarke’s lips, she noticed.
“How’s the forehead?” says Lexa lightly.
“Of average size, unlike yours.”
“If only the same could be said of your brain,” drawls Lexa.
“Because yours is so small?” says Clarke sweetly.
“Not sure anything of yours could be considered small,” retorts Lexa without even thinking, and God— she really hadn’t been thinking. Because now Clarke is staring at her, upper lip curled in reprehension and brow furrowed as if to say what the fuck? and Lexa can feel her flush burning hot all the way up to the tip of her ears.
“What the fuck is that supposed to mean?” Clarke scoffs. “Did you just call me fat?”
“Um, no,” says Lexa, because that’s not at all what she meant. But she also doesn’t want Clarke to realize what she was thinking about when she said it— specifically, her breasts. “Even if— even if you were, um, obese, I’m not one to body-shame.”
“Oh you’re not one to body-shame, but you are perfectly okay with shoving someone’s face into the ground.”
“You punched me!” exclaims Lexa.
“Still fighting I see, ladies?” comes a deep voice from behind them, one that has Clarke immediately sighing and rolling her eyes, and Lexa arranging an impassive expression on her face as she turns to acknowledge him.
The man looks down his rather large nose at her. “Hello, Alexandria.”
Lexa spends the next several minutes offering non committal responses as Titus talks her ear off about various games and calls he’s had to make in his many years refereeing. (He seems to take particular pride in his stories about awarding cards...and somehow manages to translate the conversation over into politics, and how his strict-take on his calls is “making the sport great again”) The only satisfaction in it is that Lexa gets to watch Clarke’s nostrils flare and her hands clench over and over again as she’s forced to hear everything, considering they’re standing right behind her in line. At this point, Lexa doesn’t know what she’s dreading more: sitting next to Clarke on the plane, or Titus. She’s really not sure which would be worse.
As it turns out, she’s forced to sit next to Clarke, because of course she is. And, better yet, Titus is only one row away from them. Fantastic.
It’s a small plane. They usually fly from Floukru to a connecting airport before they make their way back to Polis, and that couldn’t come soon enough. Lexa hates how cramped and small these planes feel, and especially hates the turbulence. Truthfully, she’s just terrified of flying in general, but she’s not going to let Clarke see that. She’d probably figure out some way to use it against her.
Still, she can’t help the way she squeezes her eyes shut and holds onto the armrests with all her strength during takeoff.
“Don’t tell me you have a fear of flying.”
God. Of course. Even unable to see her, Lexa can hear the smirk in Clarke’s voice.
“Oh, this is gold.”
Stop it. Lexa’s mouth is so dry and her stomach is roiling as the plane climbs higher into the air. She forces herself to open her eyes when it levels out, and can’t resist shifting her gaze over to the window on Clarke’s side. Nothing but shrinking city lights breaking up the utter darkness, but it still doesn’t help. Nor does seeing Clarke’s wicked smile.
The plane shudders as it gains altitude and Lexa can’t help the whimper that escapes her. Clarke’s grin fades.
“Hey. Relax, Jesus.” Clarke’s tone sounds rude and unaffected, but her gaze lingers on Lexa, a slight crease appearing between her brows. She clears her throat and gives an airy sigh, looking away. “I read this report once...you know it’s actually incredibly rare to die in a plane crash? The odds are like, one in eleven million.”
“You have more chances of being struck by lightning. Or attacked by a tiger or something.”
“It’s like, a hundred times more likely you’d die in a car crash.”
“ Lexa .” Clarke tips her head back against her headrest and sighs. “You need to distract yourself, okay?”
“Well your distractions are not helping,” says Lexa, voice shaky. She closes her eyes again.
“I’m not trying to distract you. I don’t care if you’re freaking out. I just don’t want you crying beside me. It would be loud and annoying.”
“You’re loud and annoying,” Lexa shoots back weakly.
She hears Clarke give a dry chuckle. “There she is.”
“So what are your plans once you’re home?”
“Why do you care?”
“I don’t. Just wondering if you’re planning on kicking puppies or eating the hearts of small children.”
Lexa huffs out a breath, and her grip on the armrests loosen slightly. “My mom made me a cheesecake for my birthday.”
“It’s your birthday today?” asks Clarke in surprise.
“It’s next week, but she’ll be out of town. She won a free cruise through her work, she’s had it booked for months.”
“Oh.” For a moment, she thinks Clarke might wish her a happy early birthday. She doesn’t. “You should probably try to sleep. Plus I’m sick of listening to you.”
“Funny since you’re the one talking,” mutters Lexa.
To her credit, Clarke ignores that comment beyond a snort. Lexa takes a deep breath and wishes she hadn’t already finished the book in her bag. She did have letters to Costia she’d been working on for weeks now, but there’s no way she’s going to work on those with Clarke right beside her...even if Clarke is curled up against the dark window, apparently fast asleep. Lexa stares at her for a moment, frowning slightly, hating the fluttering in her stomach as her gaze tracks down golden hair, across thick lashes, and pink lips that Lexa knows are as soft as they look…
Okay, nope, not going there.
She tries to get some sleep after the meal, ignoring the grumbling Clarke gives when she wakes her with an elbow to her ribs (though Clarke does eat every bit of the shitty airplane food); after all, they do have a long flight ahead of them. She drifts in and out for a while, in a doze as she vaguely registers the hum of the plane, the low murmurs of the other passengers, and the quiet steady sounds of Clarke breathing. It’s that last one that helps carry her into a deep sleep.
Lexa wakes slowly. The first thing she registers is what woke her— the jostle of the plane as they fly through turbulence, the seatbelt sign dinging and the captain’s voice crackling on the speakers overhead announcing that there’s bad weather ahead— but the second thing is the soft weight on her shoulder. She blinks blearily and pulls back, realizing her face had been resting on the top of Clarke’s head...and Clarke’s head is resting on Lexa’s shoulder. Okay, ignoring that for a minute. Lexa reaches up to pull the strands of Clarke’s hair out of her mouth.
“Did you drool on my fucking head?” slurs Clarke as she wakes and sits up, patting the top of her head. “Ew…”
“Shh, Clarke.” Lexa has gone still, realizing all at once that something isn’t right. The flight attendants are visible through the cracks of the curtains up ahead, and they seem to be speaking urgently...they look concerned. So now, Lexa is concerned.
“You shh,” grumbles Clarke, running her hand over her hair and then wiping her palm on her shirt.
They both gasp when the plane gives a sudden hard jerk. Breathing quicker, Lexa twists her head round to see a stewardess run forward from the back of the plane, staggering when it jostles again.
“What’s happening? What’s going on?”
“I don’t know,” says Lexa, heart in her throat as the plane shudders again.
“Please remain seated,” announces the captain overhead, and it’s painfully obvious that he’s trying to sound calm. “Do not remove your seatbelts. We’re flying through some unexpected weather, sit tight and hopefully we’ll be through it soon.”
“What the fuck,” whispers Lexa under her breath, heart thundering. She feels light-headed. What the fuck. What the fuck .
“It’s going to be okay,” says Clarke automatically, but it’s high pitched and she’s sitting rigid and alert, neck craning as she looks around with wide eyes. She must forget she hates Lexa for a minute, because she softens when she looks at her, and leans forward when she tells her, “Lexa, breathe, it’s going to be okay.”
It is not going to be okay. The plane is jerking nonstop now, harsh enough everyone is careening in their seats and the oxygen masks have fallen and dangle before them. The flight attendants urge them to put them on and Lexa is nearly gasping for breath at this point as she fumbles for hers. Clarke helps her put it on and Lexa’s so freaked out she tells her thank you.
There are screams when a deafening boom sounds. The few other passengers on this plane are losing it; Titus is sobbing loudly, and the harsh jerking of the plane knocked his hat off his head. Lexa’s going to throw up. She is definitely going to throw up when the window lights up. Something is on fire. Something is on fucking fire.
She won’t remember much of the next couple minutes. The pilot announcing malfunctions with the plane, that the storm developed, something about the engine. The only thing Lexa really registers is when he warns them to “Brace for impact,” and the words echo around her head.
Clarke has been as silent and ashen as the dead. She just grabs Lexa’s hand and Lexa intertwines their fingers without a moment’s hesitation.
“Fuck,” Lexa gasps, and she has just enough foresight to realize how fucking ironic all of this is.
Of course, thinks Lexa as the plane judders violently mid-air, plumes of dark smoke clouding the windows. Of course this is how it ends. A bag full of half-finished letters at her feet, a birthday cheesecake waiting for her at home that she’ll never be able to eat, and the most annoying girl in the world at her side. Their plane is crashing toward the open sea and it’s the first time Clarke has shut her mouth the entire trip.
“Hold on,” she shouts as suddenly everything gets really loud, and the plane is moving faster and Lexa thinks, judging by the sight afforded to her from the window, that they’ve started to rapidly descend in a nosedive. “Hold on, Clarke, hold on—”
They’re going to die. They’re going to die.
“Oh my God, no, we’re— fuck, we’re— we’re about to land in the ocean,” chokes Clarke, and there’s a split second where Lexa meets her eyes. They’re wide and blue and glistening with tears and so full of fear it actually makes Lexa ache to look at them. “I can’t swim— I can’t swim—”
“It’s okay,” Lexa’s gasping the words over and over again like they mean something, clutching Clarke’s sweaty hand so tightly her hand is going numb. “It’s okay, Clarke, everything’s gonna be okay—”
“Lexa!” she hears Clarke cry a moment before the impact.