"Well, well, well," Anya said, the corners of her lips twitching up into a smile... or more of a smirk, really. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"
Lexa felt her face twist into something between a grimace and a scowl, despite her efforts to keep her expression neutral. She'd hoped they might skip the part where Anya reminded her how long it had been since they'd spent any quality time together. They saw each other once in a while when Anya came over for dinner with Miss Becca and the rest of the family, and once or twice she'd called Anya to give her a ride when no one else could, but they were both busy – Lexa with school and volunteering and Luna and Clarke, Anya with work and... Lexa didn't actually know what else, because they didn't talk much, and when they did it was mostly about Lexa – and they just hadn't found the time.
"I'm teasing," Anya said more gently. "Clarke away this weekend?"
Lexa shook her head, then shrugged. Clarke was spending the night with some of her other friends, and while Lexa was sure she would have been welcome if she'd decided to tag along, sometimes she didn't feel like being Clarke's plus one. And Luna was at some kind of training camp or retreat with the swim team, which left Lexa with nothing to do and no one to do it with. The idea of spending the weekend at home with Murphy and the littles was more than she could handle.
So she'd called Anya.
"Everything all right?" Anya asked, when it became clear that Lexa wasn't going to elaborate on her shrug.
Lexa shrugged again. Now that she was here, she didn't know what to say. Guilt squeezed her chest and built a dam in her throat, keeping her words trapped, unspoken.
I'm sorry I've been a bad sister.
Do you even still think of me as your sister?
I didn't mean for Luna to replace you.
Luna didn't replace you. She never could.
I don't want to lose you.
Please don't let me go.
Stupid, useless, sentimental words, childish and grasping, and she was old enough to know better.
Don't get attached. Don't let yourself be weak. The only person you can ever truly rely on is yourself.
"Clarke wants to go to prom," she finally blurted, which had nothing to do with anything, and everything all at the same time.
"Okay..." Anya said. "So go to prom."
"I don't want to," Lexa said. Which wasn't exactly true. She didn't see it as some necessary high school rite of passage she would regret missing if she didn't go, but it wasn't like it would hurt her to go, and she might end up having a good time. But every time Clarke brought it up, Lexa smiled and nodded and tried to change the subject as quickly as possible.
"Why not?" Anya asked, then flicked her wrist as if dismissing the question as irrelevant. "If Clarke wants to go, you go," she said. "Happy wife, happy life."
"She's not my wife," Lexa said, her chest tightening further, so it felt like she couldn't fill her lungs completely.
"Happy girlfriend, happy life doesn't rhyme," Anya said. "Anyway, she will be. It's only a matter of time."
Lexa rolled her eyes, mostly to hide that they suddenly stung with tears. "We're sixteen," she said.
"And you've been in love with each other practically since you met," Anya said. "You think that's going to change?"
Yes, Lexa wanted to say. Yes, I do.
Because soon they would go off into a world much bigger than their sheltered suburban existence, and meet dozens, if not hundreds of new people, and as much as she loved Clarke, and as much as Clarke loved her, there was a chance – slim though it might seem when they were safe in their rose-tinted bubble – that Clarke might meet someone else. Someone who suited her better. Someone she liked more. Someone who didn't come with a history of tragedy and years of baggage that she (or he...) still hadn't figured out how to set down.
"I bet you twenty bucks – no, a hundred bucks – that you two are married by the time you're twenty-five," Anya said. "To each other." She leaned back against the arm of the couch, swinging her feet up onto the cushion between them and poking Lexa's hip with her toes. "I can see it now: a backyard wedding at the Griffins', saying your vows under your beloved treehouse. Luna is your Maid of Honor, because I didn't want you to have to choose between us, so I got one of those online certificate thingies that say I'm ordained or whatever to perform weddings, so I get to conduct the ceremony. Even though you got the wedding catered, Mister Jake insists on grilling, because that man can't pass up a chance to incinerate a few burgers. How is he, by the way?"
"Good," Lexa said. "He's good." It had taken him a few weeks to really get back to his usual jocular self, but he was taking his second chance seriously, eating better and exercising more, and he'd taken his dad jokes to another level. Clarke groaned and told him to stop, but Lexa knew she didn't mean it. Bad jokes were part of the Jake Griffin package, and they would gladly risk dislocating an eyeball if it meant he was still with them.
"Glad to hear it," Anya said. "You'll have whatever littles Miss Becca has at that point as your flower kid and ring bearer, and—"
"Stop," Lexa finally managed, because it was so easy to picture it, and she couldn't let herself get attached to something that might never be. Twenty-five was nearly a decade away, and a lot could happen in almost ten years. Look how much had happened in the last six. "Please. Just stop."
For a second Lexa thought she might not, but Anya sat up a little straighter, looking at her again like she could see right through her. "What is it this really about?" she asked. "Because prom is just prom."
"Did you go to your prom?" Lexa asked. She already knew the answer, because she would remember Anya getting dressed up and going to a school dance, and it had never happened.
"No," Anya said. "But I didn't have anyone to go with."
"You had friends," Lexa said, but then she wondered if that was actually true. Anya had never brought anyone over, but none of them really did. If they wanted to spend time with people, they usually went over to their houses instead. It was just easier. But she didn't remember Anya ever doing that, either. She'd never really thought about it at the time; she'd been too wrapped in her own troubles... and Clarke. Maybe she'd assumed that sometimes Anya went out while she was at Clarke's, considering she was there all weekend, every weekend, or close enough to.
"Not really," Anya said. "High school was different for me."
"Different how?" Lexa asked.
Anya shrugged. "I was just trying to survive it. Just trying to get through and get out and get on with my life."
"Have you?" Lexa asked.
Anya gestured around her. "What does it look like?" she asked. "I have a place to live, food to eat, a job..."
"What about people?" Lexa asked. "Do you have friends? Or..."
"We're not talking about me," Anya said, but Lexa caught how her eyes flicked to the door of Raven's room. Anya's roommate wasn't home – she was at a conference for the weekend – but her presence was still felt, mostly because of the bits and pieces of inventions that littered every flat surface in the place.
"Why not?" Lexa asked. "We never talk about you."
"Because you're still just a kid," Anya said.
Lexa snorted. "I was never just a kid," she said.
Anya looked at her for a long time, still and quiet until it made Lexa want to squirm, but she refused to let herself give in to the urge. Anya was the hunter and she was the prey, and even one twitch of a muscle might give away her location and—
Stop, she told herself. Anya isn't a hunter, and you're not prey, and this is just a conversation. There are no life or death stakes. Just stop.
"Are you two... something?" Lexa finally asked. "I've always wondered."
Lexa didn't think Anya was going to answer. Her fingers dug into the back of the couch, and her jaw was set so the angle of it was even more prominent than usual. It was clear she was uncomfortable and maybe annoyed with the question, and as the seconds ticked by Lexa braced herself for a lecture on minding her own business.
Then Anya exhaled and seemed to deflate. "I don't know," she said. "It's complicated."
"Complicated how?" Lexa asked.
Anya just shrugged. "I don't want to talk about it."
Lexa chewed the inside of her cheek. She didn't like how defeated Anya looked, or the pain that etched lines between her brows. Whatever was going on between her and Raven clearly bothered her, but she wasn't going to say anything to Lexa about it, or probably anyone else, including Raven. Especially Raven.
"You deserve to be happy too," Lexa said. "Pretty sure you told me once that I deserved to be happy, no matter what happened to me before. No matter what programming they'd tried to force onto me. Well you deserve to be happy, too."
"I'm fine," Anya said.
"But you're not," Lexa countered. "I'm not stupid, Anya, and I'm pretty damn good at reading people. One of the few tips for surviving the end of the world that is still useful. I'm not the ten-year-old whose hair you braided and who you read Harry Potter to anymore."
"You wouldn't understand," Anya said. "Okay? Your fairy tale happily ever after started the day I sent you over to talk to Clarke Griffin, but some of us don't have it that easy. Some of us—" She stopped. "I thought we were talking about prom."
"Except there's apparently nothing to talk about," Lexa said, "because you already decided I'm going. So let's talk about you and Raven instead."
"Let's not," Anya said. "Like I said, you wouldn't understand."
"Try me," Lexa challenged, tucking one knee up so she could face Anya.
Anya shook her head. "It's nothing. We're just roommates." Lexa raised an eyebrow, because it was obviously a lie, and Anya had barely even tried to sell it. "... who hook up sometimes, when one of us is bored or lonely or whatever."
"Friends with benefits," Lexa said.
"I guess," Anya said. "I don't even know if we're really friends. We don't have much in common."
"You're both good at Jeopardy," Lexa offered. "You like to cook and Raven likes to eat. Um..."
"Exactly," Anya said. "Um."
Lexa sighed. "You don't have to like all the same things to be friends," she said. "Clarke loves art, and I never progressed past my sidewalk chalk days. She could spend all day in a museum; I'm bored after an hour, maybe two. And yes, she knows that. We have different groups of friends we spend time with, and people we hang out with together. She's sunshine and I'm a storm cloud. It's not... you don't have to be like someone to like someone."
When Anya didn't say anything, Lexa pressed on. "Anyway, you've brought her to parties. You've subjected her to family dinners at Miss Becca's. That included Murphy. You can't say she's not at least your friend after that."
That got the hint of a smile. "Do you remember the fight they got into?" Anya asked. "I don't even remember what it was about."
"Do you remember how Miss Becca made Raven do the dishes when she told Murphy to shut up, because we don't say 'shut up' in this house?"
Anya laughed. "Trust me, Raven has never let me forget it." She sighed, but her smile lingered. "Fine," she said. "We're definitely friends. But I wonder about the benefits. Sometimes... it doesn't feel very much like one."
Lexa waited, wondering if she was getting in over her head here. What did she know about love, other than that hers belonged to Clarke and had almost from the moment they met? And no matter how old they got, she was always going to be Anya's little sister. But older didn't always mean wiser, and she had to at least try. After everything Anya had done for her, the very least she could do was listen.
"I don't mind having our own rooms," Anya said. "I like having my own space. But it's like... she'll come into my room when she's frustrated or lonely or whatever, and we'll..." Her cheeks flushed pink as she let Lexa fill in the blank. "And then she'll just get up and leave. Like she got what she wanted and now she's going back to her own world until she decides I'm useful again."
Lexa flinched. She couldn't imagine what that would feel like. Literally couldn't imagine it, because it was so far from her own experience. The last thing either of them wanted to do after... was let go of each other, much less be in different rooms. "Does she always come to you, or...?"
"Mostly," Anya said. "Sometimes she finds other people... but then sometimes she comes to me when other people let her down." She shook her head. "Pretty much guaranteed she'll find someone to hook up with over the weekend. I know I shouldn't care – she can sleep with whoever she wants – but..." She looked at Lexa and her face flushed a deeper shade of rose. "That wasn't what you meant, was it?"
Lexa shook her head slightly, dazed at the thought of being okay, or trying to tell herself she was okay, with Clarke being with other people. She'd had an emotional meltdown when Clarke kissed Wells; what would it do to her if Clarke did more? And then came to her afterward? She felt queasy even thinking about it.
She finally managed to shake her head, and didn't let herself shy away from the conversation she'd insisted on having. "I meant more... does she always come to you, or do you, um, go to her?"
Anya looked up at the ceiling, red to the tips of her ears, and Lexa thought she might decide the conversation was over. But then she answered. "Sometimes I start it, but we still mostly end up in my room. Fewer robots to trip over." She forced a smile, but it didn't reach her eyes. "Not as much anymore, because I just..." She sighed again, her shoulders slumping. "I don't know. It doesn't matter."
"Of course it matters!" Lexa said. "It matters because you matter! Your feelings matter!"
"You sound like a therapist," Anya said, only half-teasing.
"Well they're not always wrong," Lexa said. "Even when they say things you don't want to hear."
Anya's head fell back against the cushions of the couch. "So what do you suggest, Ms. Freud?"
Lexa nudged her with her foot. "Have you actually talked to her?" she asked. "About how you feel?"
Anya snorted. "Ew. No."
Lexa smacked her forehead into her palm. "So you don't like the way things are, but instead of saying something and trying to fix them, you just... suffer in silence?"
"Pretty much," Anya said. "Isn't that the American way?"
"If by 'American' you mean 'emotionally constipated victim of toxic masculinity', then sure, that's the American way," Lexa said.
"Big words, little sister."
"You don't get bonus points for making yourself a martyr," Lexa said. "Just say something to her. Or I will."
"Oh yeah? What are you going to say to her?" Anya asked.
Lexa pulled her phone out of her pocket and pulled up her contacts. Anya had given Lexa Raven's number one night when she'd been in desperate need of help with some math homework. She'd never expected to need it again, but she'd saved it anyway, just in case. She started typing, and hit Send, then showed Anya her screen. "That."
Lexa: Stop fucking with my sister or stop fucking my sister. Your choice.
Anya stared at it, and for a split second it felt like time stopped, and Lexa braced to defend herself, because she was sure Anya was going to try to kill her. But before she had a chance, her phone buzzed, and when she picked it up to check the screen, Raven's face appeared. Anya just stared at it as it continued to buzz. A phone call, not just a text.
"Well?" Lexa said. "Are you going to pick up or not?"
Anya just glared at her, then quickly slid her finger across the screen to answer the call. All Lexa heard was, "I'm sorry about—" before she closed her bedroom door behind her.
Lexa stared at her phone, finally switching over to her conversation with Clarke. She didn't want to interrupt her night, but sending one text wouldn't hurt, would it?
Lexa: Have fun tonight! I love you! 😘
A few seconds later a response popped up.
Clarke: You too! 🥰 😍😚
Lexa smiled down at her screen and forced herself to put it away. She wanted to go to Anya's door and press her ear against it, to hear what they were saying and find out if she'd made things better or worse, but if Anya caught her, she really might kill her. So she stayed put on the couch, pulling up a game to distract herself until her sister finally emerged from her room.
She pointed a finger at Lexa. "Don't you ever, ever pull that kind of shit again," she said.
"You would have done the same if Clarke was the one breaking my heart," Lexa said.
"That's different," Anya said.
"I don't see how."
"I'm your big sister," Anya said. "It's my job to protect you."
"Sisters have each other's backs," Lexa said, "no matter what age they are." She bit her lip. "Did you—
was she mad?"
Anya looked like she was seriously considering whether to answer, or whether to just leave Lexa to wonder and worry. Finally she shook her head. "More confused than angry."
"Did you explain?"
"I explained that my little sister is a pain in the ass and should be ignored. Unfortunately, she didn't listen." Anya tried to scowl at her, but Lexa could see the corners of her lips twitching like she was trying not to smile.
"So what happened?" Lexa asked. "Did you tell her you don't just want to be a friend with benefits anymore?"
Anya flopped down on the couch. "What we talked about is none of your business," she said. "But we're figuring it out, okay?"
Not okay, Lexa wanted to say. It's not okay until I know she's not hurting you anymore. It's not okay until I know you're not letting her hurt you. But she also knew how stubborn her sister could be, and when to give something up as a lost cause... at least for now. Sometimes you had to concede a battle to win the war.
"I wasn't trying to make trouble," Lexa said. "I was trying to help."
"I know," Anya said, reaching out to nudge Lexa's knee. "But now you owe me."
"I don't—" Lexa cut off at Anya's steel-eyed look. "What do I owe you?"
"Next time Clarke mentions the prom, you say, 'Yes, dear. When are we going to look at dresses?'"
Lexa rolled her eyes. "I never call her 'dear,'" she said.
"Whatever you call her. You're going to prom."
Lexa heaved a sigh. Battles and wars. "Fine," she said. "But I'm not going to like it."
"Are we supposed to go dress shopping together?" Lexa asked.
Clarke looked at her and grinned. "Why wouldn't we?" she asked. "It's not like it's our wedding! We're allowed to see each other's dresses beforehand!"
Lexa twitched at the word 'wedding' and the car swerved. She quickly straightened out the wheel, and did not give in to the urge to flip off the driver behind her that honked at the quick course correction. Why did everyone keep saying that? Why did they all assume...?
"Anyway, I'm here too," Luna reminded her from the back seat. "So it's a friend thing."
"Okay," Lexa said, managing to keep the resigned sigh from her voice. She didn't want to upset Clarke by letting on how not into this whole thing she was. It was important to Clarke, and therefore it should be important to her. It was just difficult to muster much enthusiasm when it felt like yet another rite of passage that brought them one step closer to the moment when their lives might, for the first time since they'd met, take them down two different paths that might not converge again... ever.
Lexa found a spot in the mall parking lot, and they trooped inside. Luna nudged her as they walked past the pretzel and smoothie place. "If you don't complain too much, I'll get you some pretzel nuggets," she said, her tone teasing but not completely.
"And a Very Berry Smoothie?" Lexa asked.
"Only if you get through the afternoon without rolling your eyes," Luna replied.
"At all?" Lexa asked.
Lexa blew out a breath. She wasn't sure it was possible to make it through an entire afternoon of dress shopping without rolling her eyes even once, but... "Fine. No complaining, no eye rolling, and I get a large pretzel nuggets and smoothie."
"You drive a hard bargain," Luna said, but she held out her hand and shook on it.
"Come on," Clarke said, stopping several yards ahead of them when she realized they were lagging behind. She held out her hand to Lexa, and Lexa glanced at Luna, then lengthened her stride to catch up to Clarke and take it. "I know you hate shopping," Clarke said, squeezing her hand as their palms slid against each other. "Thank you for doing this."
"I'm sure you'll make it worth my while," Lexa said. A faint flush rose in Clarke's cheeks, and Lexa fought back a smile as she let Clarke tow her into the dress section of the first store.
"I saw that," Luna said, pointing at Lexa. "But I'll give you a freebie."
Because it had been impossible not to roll her eyes at the creampuff confection Clarke had come out in that made her look like an oversized contestant on Toddlers & Tiaras... with boobs. Lots of boobs. Even Clarke had laughed when she looked at herself in the mirror. "I knew it was a no as soon as I put it on," she said, "but I had to show you anyway."
"Definite no," Lexa agreed. "I still like the first one."
"You only like the first one because it would mean we were done," Clarke said.
"No, I like the first one because you look beautiful in it," Lexa said.
"You think I look beautiful in everything," Clarke pointed out.
"Except that," Lexa said.
Clarke laughed. "Except this. Just a few more."
Lexa closed her eyes so Luna couldn't see the way they turned toward the sky, seemingly of their own volition. "A few more," she agreed.
"You still haven't picked out a dress," Clarke pointed out. "You've barely tried any on."
"I'll find one," Lexa said.
"I don't know how, when you won't even look." Clarke's voice was muffled, coming from behind the door of the little changing room she'd ducked into. "Luna, will you please help her find something to at least try?"
Because Luna had found her dress almost right away – an iridescent blue-green number that was very much in keeping with her mermaid-chic aesthetic, as Clarke had dubbed it. It was already bought and paid for and swathed in protective plastic, draped over the arm of the seat where Luna had taken up residence while she waited.
"On it," Luna said, and grabbed Lexa by the arm, her fingers digging into Lexa's bicep as she dragged her into the racks. "What's going on?" she asked. "You're making this so much harder than it needs to be. It's just a dress."
"Fine," Lexa said. There was no point in arguing, and she was already going to have bruises in the shape of the tips of Luna's fingers in her arm later. She began to flip through dresses on the rack, but she wasn't really seeing any of them. Luna was right; it was just a dress. It wasn't a big deal. None of this was a big deal.
So why did it feel like the world was ending?
"Hey," Luna said, an arm snaking around Lexa's waist, pulling her in so her face was almost too close to focus on. "What's really going on?"
Lexa sniffed, and blinked, and sniffed again, swallowing hard. She opened her mouth and no words came. Luna looked at her and sighed softly, pulling her into a hug and not letting go. "It just feels like the beginning of the end," Lexa said, her voice muffled as she spoke the words into Luna's shoulder.
"You sound like them," Luna told her, pushing back a strand of hair and tucking it behind Lexa's ear. "It's not the beginning of the end. It's not even a beginning or an end. It just is. It's a dress, and a dance."
Lexa shook her head, pushing herself back from Luna, just a little. "It's another checkmark on the list."
"What list?" Luna asked.
"The one that at the end is... The End. The end of high school. The end of... everything. Life as we know it."
Luna snorted. "You really do sound like them," she said. "Life as we know it already ended once, and we survived it. If you go, if you don't go... time marches on. The end is going to come whether you check off all the boxes or not. Time doesn't stop for anything, or anyone. It doesn't even slow down. And the end could be any minute. That's one thing they taught us that's actually true. Maybe it won't come in any of the ways they thought they were preparing us for, but it will come. The only choice you get is what you do with the time you have."
Lexa looked down, staring at a stain on the floor that almost looked like it was staring back. She knew Luna was right. She hated it... but she knew it.
"Aren't you scared?" she asked.
Luna shrugged. "I've only ever known endings," she said. "I'm used to them by now."
It made Lexa's heart hurt, the reminder of everything she'd had, and even come to take for granted, that Luna hadn't for so many years. She did now – the court had finally put their seal of approval on Miss Becca's adoption of her a few weeks ago – but was it too little, too late?
"I'm scared," Lexa admitted. "I'm scared I'll lose everything, and I won't be able to get it back."
"You got me back," Luna said. "You got back to Miss Becca and Anya and Clarke." She tipped Lexa's chin up, forcing her to look her in the eye. "You move heaven and earth for the people who matter to you. You're not going to lose anything that's not meant to be lost."
Lexa sucked in a breath and let it out slowly, willing the tension from her body. Shook out her hands and reached for another dress. Because the first step toward not losing was finding: in this case, the perfect dress.
"Thank you for doing this," Clarke said, lacing her fingers through Lexa's as they left the dance floor to go find something to drink. "I know you didn't want to. I hope you're having a good time."
Lexa could feel sweat pooling at the small of her back, and her lungs ached from dancing – and laughing at what some of her (primarily male) classmates considered dancing. She lifted Clarke's hand to her lips, brushing them across her knuckles. "I am," she said, and meant it.
Clarke tugged her out of the line of traffic moving from the dance floor to the tables in the back and leaned in to kiss Lexa properly. Her heels were slightly higher than Lexa's (and how she danced in them without breaking an ankle, Lexa didn't know) so for once they were the same height. Clearly Clarke enjoyed not needing to go up on her toes or pull Lexa down to kiss her, and she was taking advantage every opportunity they got.
"I'm thirsty," Lexa said, when they pulled apart again.
"Me too," Clarke said, wiggling her eyebrows.
Lexa laughed. "Not what I meant!"
"Still true, though," Clarke said.
"You're ridiculous," Lexa said.
"But you love me," Clarke countered.
"More than anything," Lexa said. "More than ever."
Clarke drew her back into the shadows.
"I thought America was a democracy," Luna said, slipping into the seat next to Lexa at their table. "Why do we have a king and queen?"
"A king and queen we voted for," Lexa reminded her.
"I didn't vote for them," Luna countered.
"Listen," Lexa said. "Strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government!"
They dissolved into laughter, and Lexa felt Clarke's shoulder pressing into hers. "And you say I'm ridiculous?" she teased.
One of Clarke's friends, Jasper, came up to the table and grabbed a chair, turning it around and straddling it. "Sorry it didn't work," he said.
"Sorry what didn't work?" Clarke asked.
"We tried to get a write-in campaign to get you two elected prom king and queen – or I guess queen and queen – but it never really gained traction." He shrugged. "I think people were afraid Lexa would kill them."
Lexa tensed, even though Jasper was grinning, and Clarke's fingers found her and twined through them, squeezing gently, and then a little less gently, until Lexa relaxed. She forced a smile. "It's the thought that counts," Lexa said.
"It would have been less boring, anyway," Jasper said. "Can you imagine the looks on people's faces?"
Lexa could, all too easily, and she was glad the plot had failed. She wanted no part of being up on that stage; the last thing she needed was another reason for people to not like her. Not that they disliked her, exactly... but she certainly wasn't going to win Most Popular when it came time to vote for senior superlatives. People's memories could be surprisingly long when they wanted them to be, and she'd never quite been able to shake their initial impression from way back in fifth grade that she was just a little different, a little strange, a little... not right.
Luna's hand rested on her back, the tips of her fingers a hair's breadth away from her scars, which were only partially obscured by her dress. She'd wanted to reject it for that reason, until Luna reminded her that she went out in front of people clad only in a bathing suit on a regular basis, which left her own scars on full display. If Luna could do that, Lexa could risk a few (more) sidelong glances if people noticed she had the same marks on her own skin.
"Thanks for thinking of us," Clarke said, her tone nice enough, but with an edge that was clearly dismissal... which Jasper didn't pick up on until something else distracted him, which thankfully didn't take long. She leaned over and brushed a kiss against Lexa's cheek. "You'll always be my queen," she said.
Lexa forced another smile, but her stomach clenched at the word 'always'. "And you'll always be mine," she replied, hoping it wasn't a lie.
Lexa held out her hand to Clarke. "Last dance," she said.
Clarke took it and stood, and they went to the dance floor, where Clarke slid into Lexa's arms. It wasn't so much dancing as swaying, but it gave them an excuse to be close, and Lexa would take it. Everyone at school knew they were together, obviously, and no one made a big deal about it, but they were still pretty careful about public displays of affection. This was the biggest declaration they'd ever made, without saying a word. But it was their prom, too, and they should get to be like everyone else, and do what everyone else did, and not have to worry about the reactions of other students.
Clarke rested her head on Lexa's shoulder, and Lexa rested her cheek against Clarke's hair. She wanted to say something, the perfect thing to make Clarke understand just how much her friendship and love had meant to Lexa over the years, but she didn't know what those words were, or if they even existed. So she just held her as the music played, and when Clarke lifted her head, she kissed her, soft and sweet, in front of everyone.
Clarke's lips curved against hers, and it could easily have escalated, but they didn't want to be that couple (though Lexa wasn't sure anyone would have noticed because they were surrounded by them) so they kept it short.
"I'm glad I came," Lexa whispered, her lips brushing Clarke's skin. "I'm glad we're here."
"Me too," Clarke said. She looked like she wanted to say more, but the song ended, and just like that, the night was over. The lights came up on the chaperones began shuffling them out the door, to their cars and wherever they wanted to go after. There was an official after party that Luna was attending with some of her swim friends, but Lexa had had enough of people and crowds.
So, apparently, had Clarke, because as they gathered their things from their table she stole another quick kiss and whispered, "Take me home."
"Does this make us a cliché?" Lexa asked, her lips brushing Clarke's neck where it sloped down to her shoulder as she slid the zipper of her dress down her spine.
Clarke laughed, a soft, warm sound that made Lexa's knees go a little wobbly even though they'd done nothing more than hold hands since leaving the prom. "I think it's only a cliché if you have your first time after the prom."
"Well, it's our first time after the prom," Lexa said.
Clarke snorted. "That's not what I mean and you know it."
"I do," Lexa said, unhooking the strapless bra Clarke wore under the dress and tracing her fingertips down to the small of her back, smiling to herself as goosebumps raced over Clarke's skin. Clarke turned in her arms and caught her lips, and for a few moments that kiss was the entire world... until she felt her own zipper sliding down, and Clarke's fingers slipping under the material as it parted.
"I love you," she murmured against Lexa's mouth. "So much."
"I love you too," Lexa said.
"Thank you. Again. For doing this."
"Doing what?" Lexa asked. "I haven't done anything... yet..." But even as she said it, she eased one of Clarke's arms from around her so she could slip the strap down and off, and then the other, and the top of the dress bunched briefly at her waist before slipping down over her hips and pooling on the floor.
Clarke opened her mouth, but all that came out was a sigh, and then a moan as Lexa glided her hand up her side and over her breast, cradling the weight of it in her hand as she brushed over the nipple with the ball of her thumb, feeling it pucker under her touch. Clarke pressed into the touch, and her hands resting on Lexa's hips before slipping lower to cup and squeeze her ass, bringing their bodies together.
Lexa nuzzled into Clarke's neck, kissing along her collarbone and then up to the hollow behind her ear, smiling at the sound she made when the tip of Lexa's tongue grazed the soft, sensitive skin there. Clarke's fingers clenched, bunching the material of her dress.
"You're overdressed," Clarke said when she caught her breath again. "Let me help you with that."
Lexa didn't even consider objecting as her dress joined Clarke's on the floor. They ought to hang them up, she thought, but then Clarke's thumbs hooked in the waistband of her panties, dragging them down her hips, and she decided it could – and would – wait.
They tumbled into bed, pushing back the covers instead of crawling into them, the light on Clarke's nightstand still on because Lexa didn't want to miss a single moment, a single detail, when every moment they had was precious, but some more than others. She knew she would want to remember this, maybe more than anything else from tonight. She'd gone to prom because she loved Clarke, and doing something she might otherwise avoid because it would make her girlfriend happy was one way to show it. This was another, cliché or not.
She rolled to press Clarke onto her back, but Clarke resisted, shaking her head. "Not yet," she said. "Let me..." She didn't need to finish the sentence for Lexa to understand. She let out a breath and relaxed back against the pillows, and let Clarke have her, any and every way she wanted, before finally Clarke allowed her to reciprocate.
Clarke pulled Lexa up into her arms, their bodies overlapping with Lexa half on top of Clarke, and she shivered as Clarke's fingers combed through her hair, pulling it back from her face. The other hand slid up her arm, lingering on the scars on the back of her shoulder as she bumped her nose against Lexa's until she tipped her head to accept the kiss Clarke offered.
Tears beaded in Lexa's lashes, and Clarke kissed them away and didn't ask questions, and that was a gift with a value that was immeasurable, even if this time Lexa would have had an answer if Clarke had asked why she was crying.
Because when I'm with you, I'm not broken. With you, I'm only ever beautiful.
Lexa flopped onto Anya's couch, remembering too late that it really needed to be replaced as a spring dug into her hip. She ignored Anya's smirk at her grimace and rearranged herself into a more comfortable position.
"So how was it?" Anya asked. "Was it as terrible as you thought?"
"Worse," Lexa said, but she was fighting back a smile.
"Liar," Anya said. She shoved Lexa over to make space for herself on the couch. "Did you have a good time?"
"It didn't suck," Lexa said. "I wouldn't want to do it a second time, but I'm glad I went."
"See? I told you—"
"How's Raven?" Lexa asked, before Anya could finish telling her she'd been right all along.
Anya wrinkled her nose. "She's none of your business," she said.
"Her stuff's still here, so clearly you're still friends, at least," Lexa said. "Did you talk?"
Before Anya had a chance to repeat that it was none of Lexa's business, the door opened, and Raven stepped in, setting something down next to the door with a resounding thud. "Honey, I'm home!" she called.
Lexa bit back a smile, and Anya scowled at her. "In here," Anya called back, even though the space was small enough that Raven would only need to take a couple of steps to see that for herself. "With Lexa," she added.
"Oh, cool," Raven said, poking her head around the corner and giving Lexa a wave. "Good thing I got extra." She held up a bag of takeout containers. "If you could—"
Anya was already up, taking the bag from Raven and depositing it on the kitchen counter while Raven heaved whatever she'd been carrying back onto her shoulder and carried it, limping more than usual with the awkward weight, into her room, where it landed on the floor a second time hard enough to rattle one of the pictures on the wall.
She came back out of her room and straight to the kitchen, grabbing plates from the cupboard. "Since we have company, we'll pretend that we're civilized people who don't just eat straight out of the containers," she said, flashing her contagious grin.
Anya looked at her and the corner of her mouth curled up. "I didn't know if you were coming home tonight," she said.
"I convinced them I could work from home," Raven said. "I won't, but I'm so far ahead of where I need to be, they won't know the difference, and it got me out of that sweatshop." Her hand rested briefly on Anya's back as she moved past her to get glasses.
"Why didn't you just tell them that?" Anya asked. "Instead of lugging that thing – whatever it is – home?"
"Nothing that will kill us in our sleep, I promise," Raven said. "But if you're really worried, I'll lock the door to keep it out." This time her smile was accompanied by a wink, and Lexa was sure she didn't imagine the faint blush that colored Anya's cheeks. "As for why I didn't tell them I'm ahead... that's just self-preservation. If they knew I was already done with what I needed to do, they would give me more work, and I'm tired of picking up everyone else's slack. Let them scramble for once without good ol' Raven to bail them out for a little while. It'll build character."
Anya snorted. "Right. Thanks for getting dinner."
"It was my turn to cook," Raven said. She grabbed utensils and began spooning food onto plates. She didn't ask Lexa what she wanted, but apparently she'd paid attention the last time they'd eaten together, because there was nothing on Lexa's plate she didn't like.
"Thanks," she said.
Raven just nodded, having already shoved a piece of General Tso's in her mouth. She pointed her chopsticks at Anya. "I have another convention coming up in two weeks," she said when she'd finally finished chewing. "You should come with me. I would make it worth your while." She waggled her eyebrows.
Anya's cheeks lit up like she'd accidentally bitten into a hot pepper, and she clapped a hand over her mouth as she coughed. "Won't you be busy?" she asked, taking a gulp of water.
"Not the whole time," Raven said. "This one isn't just boring technical stuff; it's more like a toy fair for tech geeks. It'll be fun."
"I don't want to—" Anya started, but Lexa cut her off.
"Yes you do," Lexa said. She looked at Raven. "Yes she does."
Raven grinned. "Awesome. I'll put you on the list for a pass. Be right back." She put her plate down and made her way to the bathroom.
"Lexa, you can't just—"
"You've been making me do things that ended up being good for me for the last six, almost seven years. This time, you're doing what I say. Consider it payback for prom," Lexa said. "And she'll make it worth your while." She did her best impression of Raven and her eyebrows, and had to duck as Anya threw a wadded-up napkin at her head.
"I hate you," Anya said.
"I know," Lexa said smugly. "You can thank me later."
Sorry for the late post! I was visiting family for my birthday this weekend, and got home late this afternoon, and I'm still trying to get myself sorted out. Hopefully it was worth the wait!