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Let's Ruin Thanksgiving

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polis.craigslist.org/community/casual-encounters/w4w

Alone on Thanksgiving? Mad at your family?

I am a 28-year-old felon with no high school degree, and a dirty old van one year younger than me painted like Eddie Van Halen’s guitar.  I can play anywhere between the ages of 20 and 29, and very gay. I’m a line cook and work late nights at a bar. If you’d like to have me as your strictly platonic date for Thanksgiving, but have me pretend to be in a very long or serious relationship with you, to torment your family, I’m game.

I can do these things, at your request: 

-openly hit on other female guests while you act like you don’t notice

-start instigative discussions about politics, gay rights, and/or religion.

-propose to you in front of everyone.

-pretend to be really drunk as the evening goes on (sorry, I don’t drink, but i used to. a lot.  too much in fact. I know the drill.)

-start an actual, physical fight with a family member, either inside or on the front lawn for all the neighbors to see.

I require no pay but the free meal I will receive as a guest!

 

-do NOT contact me with unsolicited services or offers.

 

***

 

“I’d like to just state for the record that this is a bad idea,” Raven declares, peering over Clarke’s shoulder at the message she’s composing to the Craigslist poster. “She’s a felon.”

“Ex-felon. And I Googled her, it was some vandalism charge when she was like 19, not murder.”

“Still. She isn’t the most savory of characters.”

“Yeah, that’s kind of the point. Can you just picture my mom’s face when she meets this girl? Or Uncle Thelonious’s?” the blonde says with an almost vicious glee.

“You know, most normal adults either talk about conflicts with their parents, or just stuff it down and repress it for the holidays,” her friend points out dryly.

“I’ve tried that, Raven. Both of those approaches. They both suck.”

“…You misspelled ‘rendezvous’.”

Clarke squints at her laptop and backspaces.

Raven sighs and gives it one last go. “Look, I’m just worried about you meeting up with this total stranger and driving three hours with her alone to your mom’s house.”

“I’ll be careful. I’ll bring my mace and I’ll text you every time we stop.”

There’s silence for a moment, punctuated by the sounds of typing.

“Done!” Clarke rereads the email, then hits send.

“Okay, now come keep me company while I pack. I gotta look up the weather in Texas…”

They get up from the couch, heading towards Raven’s room, but before they get too far a ding! sounds from the computer on the coffee table.

“She replied? Wow, that was fast,” Clarke says as she picks up the laptop and opens the email.

It’s brief: ok, see you then, followed by a phone number. And there’s an attached image titled so you know it’s me, which she opens.

“Wow,” Raven comments.

“Hnngh,” notes Clarke, less articulately.

“She’s hot.”

“Unghhmm.”

“Like, really hot.”

“Hhhyeah.”

They both stare at the photo of a dark-haired woman in her late twenties, her big, expressive eyes rimmed with a heavy application of eyeliner, pouty lips pursed in a smirk, an industrial piercing in one ear and a ring in one arched eyebrow. Her shoulders are bared by a muscle tank, showing off intricate sleeve tattoos trailing all the way up from her slim but well-muscled forearms. And that jawline…

“She have any siblings?” asks Raven.

Chapter Text

The Craigslist poster—Lexa Woods, according to her emails—wasn’t kidding about the van. The big Chevy is painted a garish red crisscrossed with black and white stripes, windows coated with dust, and it wheezes to a halt outside her apartment building Wednesday afternoon.

The driver’s door squeals open, and out hops the girl from the photo. If anything, she’s even more attractive in person, now clad in a leather jacket and black combat boots. Clarke swallows and offers a smile.

“It’s good to meet you in person, Lexa. Thanks again for doing this.” She holds out a hand to shake.

Lexa takes it in a firm, callused grasp. “My pleasure.” She juts her chin at Clarke’s bag. “I can toss that in the back for you. The trunk door is kinda finicky.”

Within minutes they’ve set off, after Clarke gives her the address for the GPS. She surreptitiously looks around the interior of the van, a little relieved to find that it’s cleaner than the outside.

“It’s not really mine,” Lexa offers, noticing her gaze.

“What?”

“The van. My buddy Lincoln uses it for his catering side-business, weddings and such, and I help him sometimes.” She adjusts the rearview mirror. “He’s a big fan of Van Halen. And bad puns.”

“Well, it certainly adds to the whole…ambiance.” It smells a little of weed, to be honest, and the engine makes some worryingly loud noises when they go up a hill. It’s going to look wonderfully out of place in the staid suburban streets of her mom’s neighborhood.

They lapse back into silence, occasionally punctuated by the directions from the GPS. Lexa doesn’t seem like the most talkative person, but Clarke can’t help being curious about her. And she really should get to know her fake girlfriend a little better.

“So how’d you get into cooking?” she asks finally.

Lexa shrugs. “Not many places’ll hire you if you have a record and no GED. But I got a job doing prep work in a kitchen and went from there.”

“But do you like it?”

Another shrug. “It’s ok. Hours suck, and the pay isn’t great.”

After Lexa falls quiet again, Clarke tries a different tack. “Honestly I’m not much of a cook myself, I don’t really have time. But I love to eat. My roommate Raven claims that some of the delivery places around us would probably go out of business if I moved away.”

Lexa doesn’t even break a smile. Clarke sighs inwardly. She’s about to give up when her companion speaks up, almost hesitant. “The bar I work at doesn’t deliver, but you should stop by sometime. Since you like to eat.” She doesn’t take her eyes off the road as she speaks. “Food’s actually pretty good, the chef we’ve got now knows what she’s doing.”

“I might take you up on that,” Clarke says, and finds that she means it. She tries for a joking tone again. “Can I get a friends and family discount, for being your pretend girlfriend?”

“We don’t do discounts,” Lexa states. Then she glances over at Clark and adds, “But I’d take care of you.”

Clarke’s cheeks feel warm, as she suddenly imagines Lexa taking care of her in a different kind of way. She clears her throat. “Well, I should warn you that the food tomorrow is probably gonna disappoint you. My mom insists on cooking most of it, but she isn’t the best cook. We’re talking mashed potatoes from a box and cranberry sauce from a can.”

Lexa’s nose wrinkles, but she says, “Eh, won’t be the worst I’ve had. Prison food is pretty terrible.”

“Oh, definitely say stuff like that tomorrow. That’s great.”

Finally, Lexa huffs out a small laugh, and Clarke feels a little sense of victory. “Noted. What else should I talk about?”

“Yeah, I guess we should set our gameplan now. Let’s see…”

As the miles roll by, she talks it through: the awkward and taboo subjects to bring up, the family tensions and gossip that nobody’s supposed to mention. It’s weirdly cathartic for Clarke, who’s spent so many years trying to play along and pretend everything’s fine when her uncle says something so homophobic it makes her food turn to ash in her mouth, when her mom’s lips get progressively tighter as Clarke’s step-grandmother pours glass after glass of wine.

Lexa listens without judgment, only contributing her own ideas for how to make the dinner a spectacular fiasco.

“D’you want me to hit on another woman there? On your mom?”

“Eww, no!” Clarke shudders. “It’s bad enough when Raven says my mom’s hot.”

Lexa snorts, amused.

“I don’t think I want you to hit on anyone else. It’ll be scandalous enough if you aggressively flirt with me,” she decides. “Like, crass pickup lines and stuff. Oh, and my mom hates PDA.”

Now the other woman glances at her in surprise. “You want us to kiss?”

“Um.” Now she can’t help but picture it–Lexa leaning in with those plush lips, those capable hands sliding around her waist–and it makes her shiver despite the warmth of the heating vents. “Y–yeah, we probably should. To make it convincing.”

“Anything off limits?”

Her voice dips low, but when Clarke dares to look over, her expression is blank and business-like, not suggestive. “I mean…don’t, like, grab my boobs in front of everyone?”

“I wouldn’t do that without consent anyway. Enthusiastic consent.” Lexa smirks, like in her photo, and Clarke bites her lip. “Okay, so who besides your mom are you really trying to bother?”

“Kind of everybody,” Clarke explains. “My stepdad Marcus is mostly okay, he’ll probably just roll with it, but his mom keeps bringing up my dwindling years of fertility every time I see her. And she’s an anti-vaxxer but she always wants to talk to me about her health problems and the latest essential oils she’s using to treat them.”

“Yikes.”

“Yeah. Uncle Thelonious is the worst of them though. He was married to my mom’s sister before she died but he still comes to all the family stuff. Which would be okay, but he’s conservative, a town councilman but acts like he’s a governor, and I’m pretty sure the church he goes to is actually a cult.”

“He’s the homophobic one?”

“Yep.” They share a look of weariness at cishet shenanigans. “Though I think my mom likes to pretend I’m not bisexual. She only ever asks about boyfriends.”

“You ever brought a girl home for the holidays before?”

Clarke shook her head. “No. My last girlfriend, Niylah…it didn’t really get that serious. And it’s been a while since I’ve gone on any dates.” The last part slips out before she realizes it, and she flushes, grateful for the fact that Lexa’s eyes are focused on the road.

“That’s kinda hard to believe. I mean, I get you probably don’t have much time training to be a doctor, but look at you. Smart, accomplished, beautiful—” Clarke jerks her head to look at the other woman, and sees a hint of pink in her cheeks now. Lexa seems to catch herself, and her voice grows a little gruff. “–not that it’s any of my business. Sorry, I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable or anything.”

Clarke’s too surprised to reply, at first. “N–no, it’s okay.” She doesn’t exactly mind Lexa calling her beautiful and smart…but, she reminds herself, she barely knows this woman.

Eventually the silence grows stale, and Lexa fiddles with the radio—“this van is too old for an aux cord,” she explains—searching through several staticky stations before landing on something hip-hop heavy. Clarke texts Raven to let her know she hasn’t been murdered and then kills time on her phone, fighting sleepiness. She’d just gotten off a long shift and it’s getting dark already…

“You can nap if you want, it’s fine,” Lexa offers. “I’ll probably stop in an hour for gas and I can wake you then.”

Raven would probably warn her not to—“this is how horror movies start, Clarke”–but Lexa has so far seemed nothing but stable, normal, and surprisingly polite. She keeps within 5 miles above the speed limit and uses her turn signal and something just makes Clarke trust her.

Even if she is just a stranger from Craigslist.

Chapter Text

By the time the van is rattling through the quiet suburban streets of Arkadia, Clarke is awake—and a little nervous. What if it all backfires? What if it’s just too awkward, or someone figures out they aren’t actually dating? What if her mom blackens the turkey again, like she did two years earlier while insisting she was following a New York Times recipe and “it’s supposed to smell like that, Clarke,” even as a smoky haze formed beneath the kitchen lights?

“So this is where you grew up?” Lexa asks, peering through the windshield at a street sign. It’s almost as if she could tell Clarke was getting nervous and wanted to take her mind off it.

“For the most part, yeah. We moved here when I was six.” It’s always a little strange, coming home as an adult to a place that’s both familiar and not. Unlike her, Arkadia hasn’t changed much over the years. “That’s where I went to elementary and middle school.” She points out the rambling brick building.

“Lemme guess, you were a model student.”

“…I may have been,” she admits. “Though I did get detention in high school for staging a protest of the sexist dress code.”

Lexa shoots an amused look at her. “Yeah…I got expelled from one high school for beating a guy up,” she says dryly. “But in my defense, he started it.”

“Somehow I can kinda picture that.” Even though Lexa’s pretty small—the same height as Clarke, and slender—she can imagine a teenage version of her fighting a boy double her size, teeth bared and knuckles bloody. It’s the confident, efficient way she moves when she’s driving or pumping gas, the quiet energy that seems coiled in her, the gritty black swoop of her eyeliner.

“So if anyone needs punching this holiday, I’m your girl.”

“Good to know.” Something about Lexa’s last few words makes Clarke’s skin tingle. Oh my god, stop being a cliché, she tells herself sternly. This is platonic. You barely know her. You don’t have anything in common—

A Chris Brown song comes on the radio then, and without thinking about it Clarke grimaces and goes to change the station. But Lexa’s reaching for the dial at the same time, with a similar look of disgust, and their hands bump together.

“Sorry,” Lexa says. “Not a fan of his either, huh?”

“Nope.” Okay, that doesn’t mean anything. It’s just one coincidence. She glances out the window to distract herself. “We’re just a few blocks away now.”

“Here, roll your window down for me,” Lexa says, cranking the window on her side. Clarke’s confused since it’s pretty chilly out, but then Lexa turns the radio up–it’s now on a stoner rock station playing Black Sabbath–and she understands. Grinning, she rolls the window down.

Cold wind whipping their faces, they blast the music jarring and reckless into the quiet, white-picket-fence neighborhood, all the rest of the way to Abby Griffin’s quiet, white-picket-fence house.

Chapter Text

The front door is unlocked, because it’s that kind of suburb, but Clarke feels unusually tentative walking into the house she grew up in. She grabs Lexa’s free hand, the one not holding her bag, and pretends it’s for the look of the thing. Not because Lexa’s calm, stoic presence is comforting.

“Clarke, is that you? I didn’t hear you drive up with all that racket—oh.” Abby stops in the hallway, looking at Lexa, but recovers quickly with a polite smile. Though there’s a subtle arch to her eyebrow that tells Clarke she’s not entirely happy about the surprise.

That bit of familiar judgment spurs her into action. “Mom, this is Lexa,” she says, tugging Lexa a little closer by the hand. “My girlfriend.”

Both eyebrows rise visibly at that, and Abby’s brown eyes—Clarke got the blue from her dad—go round. It reminds Clarke a little of when she came out to her mom, home on winter break from college. She hadn’t had the worst initial reaction, but it was far from the best; they hadn’t talked for weeks afterward.

“Heard a lot about you,” Lexa says in a noncommittal tone, making no move to shake Abby’s hand or smile. She’s playing her role to the hilt. “Hope it’s okay that I’m crashing your Thanksgiving.”

Abby gives her a brittle smile. “Of course, welcome. I wish I could say the same, but Clarke didn’t mention she was dating anyone.”

“It’s pretty new Mom, we’ve only been together three months.” That’s the story they’d agreed on, in the van.

“Yeah, it’s been a whirlwind. Right, baby?” Lexa throws her arm around Clarke’s shoulders, plants an exaggerated, sloppy kiss on her cheek.

Leaning into Lexa’s strong frame, she can practically feel her mom’s spine stiffen at the display. For once, Clarke isn’t the one feeling uncomfortable during the holidays, and it’s the best kind of schadenfreude.

“Right.” She returns the kiss, her nose brushing Lexa’s cheek. Unaccountably a shiver runs through her–and, if she isn’t imagining it, through Lexa as well.

Abby clears her throat, forcefully ignoring the entire exchange. “Dinner will be ready soon. I’m making a roast.”

“Cool, thanks Abby.” The casual tone and address grates on her mother’s nerves, Clarke can tell. Lexa is really good at this. She almost feels bad for her mom.

Then she remembers last year, and the smarmy son of Abby’s co-worker who’d “happened” to drop by for dinner the day before Thanksgiving, and how her mom had made them sit next to each other. Cage Wallace–and who names their kid Cage, honestly–had proceeded to talk only about himself, his real estate development career, and his narrow-minded political opinions. He’d insisted on giving her a hug before he left, too, one clammy hand sliding uncomfortably low on her back.

…Yeah, she doesn’t feel so bad anymore.

“C’mon babe, let’s take our bags up to my room.” She smiles at Lexa, and pulls her towards the stairs. “We’ll be back down in a minute, Mom.”

***

They both stare at the bed. The single bed in Clarke’s bedroom.

She’d completely forgotten about sleeping arrangements, somehow. “Shit, um, I didn’t think–Nana Vera always takes the guest room,” she explains hurriedly. “And Uncle Thelonious sleeps on the pull-out couch in the study downstairs. And I guess, if we want them to believe we’re dating…” She swallows.

The bed is smaller than Clarke remembers. Definitely a full rather than queen-size.

“I’ll take the window seat—”

“I can sleep on the floor—”

They both speak at the same time, then exchange an awkward chuckle.

“No, you’re the guest here. You should have the bed,” Clarke insists. “Or…” she bites her lip, glances sideways at Lexa. “We could share.”

“We could,” Lexa agrees. Her voice is low.

There’s a pregnant pause.

“So that’s…settled, then.” Clarke scratches the back of her neck. “Do you, uh, prefer a side?”

Lexa just shrugs, so Clarke sets her bag down on the left side of the bed. “We have a bit of time if you wanna change or something. She always overcooks the roast.”

“I’m good.” Lexa drops her bag down and shucks off her jacket, showing her sleeve tattoos.

“Great performance, by the way. You’re a good actress.” Clarke sits on the bed, which gives a familiar faint creak.

“Thanks.” Lexa shoots her an impish smile. “It wasn’t too much?”

Clarke can’t help but smile back, feeling something warm flicker in her belly. “Oh, definitely not.”

She’s flirting. She’s flirting with this Craigslist rando with a rap sheet, who’s kinda flirting back if she’s not mistaken, who she’s pretending to date, and they have to share a bed. When did her life turn into a total cliché?

While she’s having this quiet internal meltdown, Lexa is drifting around the room with her hands in her pockets. She looks at books and picture frames on the shelves, the artwork–nearly all of it Clarke’s–up on the walls.

Clarke notices her peering more closely at one of the pieces. “We had to do a portrait of someone in the style of different artists, so I did that one like–”

“Gustav Klimt,” Lexa finishes for her. Clarke tries to hide her surprise, feeling like a bit of a patronizing jackass, but fortunately the other woman is leaning forward to examine the painting more closely and doesn’t notice.

“You like art?” she asks instead. Her eyes are drawn to the silky curtain of Lexa’s hair falling loose over her shoulder.

Lexa nods, still looking at the piece. “I used to go to the Smithsonian museums sometimes,” she says, almost absently. “They’re free, they have AC and heat, so when I needed to get away from foster parents sometimes, or when my mom hadn’t paid the electric bill, I’d go and wander around for hours.”

“Who’s your favorite artist?”

“Shit, that’s like asking me to pick a favorite food.” But then Lexa gives her a mischievous look, and starts to lift her shirt a little. Clarke gulps and stares at what’s revealed, the slightly visible muscles, the soft-looking skin at her waist. Above it, stretching down to her back to–oh god–just above the swell of her ass, is a tattoo.

“Miró, right?” Clarke says. “It’s beautiful.” Impulsively she reaches out and touches it, traces over the ink.

Lexa sucks in an audible breath and glances back over her shoulder.

“Sorry,” Clarke murmurs. But she looks up into gray-green, intense eyes, and doesn’t move her hand.

Lexa starts to turn, about to say or do something when Abby’s voice calls from the hallway. “Dinner’s ready, girls!”

With a rueful half-smile, Lexa drops her shirt back down, and Clarke steps back.

“Ready to go make a terrible first impression?” she asks.

Lexa’s smile widens. “Let’s do it.”

Chapter Text

The roast is dry.  The wine is cloyingly sweet. Though that doesn’t stop Nana Vera, who brought the bottle, from topping off her glass three times before they even have dessert. 

“It has antioxidants,” she proclaims. “The French drink red wine and have such thin figures, you know.”

“Pretty sure they also smoke cigarettes and eat lots of cheese,” Lexa points out with an imperturbable expression. “But hey, so do I.”

She’s leaning back in her seat, legs splayed wide, one arm slung across the back of Clarke’s chair. And she’s so calm under the combined pressure of a table-full of judgey middle-class straight people, she must’ve been a warrior or a queen or something in a previous life. Something brave that carried through in her unflinching, confident demeanor.

“Clarke says you’re a…chef, Lexa?” Abby inquires in that polite but expectant tone parents use on their kids’ significant others, carefully cutting into her slice of pie.

“Oh no, I’m just a line cook.”  Lexa takes a long swig of her soda.  Earlier, she had pretended to pour something into it from a flask, without really trying to hide it.  

“So you went to culinary school?”

Lexa chuckles.  “Not unless you consider working in the prison kitchens culinary education, no.”

Abby’s jaw clenches, and she darts a Look at Clarke.  Who’s having way too much fun with this, even though a part of her surprisingly wants to chime in and defend Lexa.  

Then she realizes that’s what she’d probably do if they were dating, so she sets down her fork and speaks up.  “Lexa worked her way up to where she is now, Mom.  She helps run a catering business on the side, too.”  For good measure she puts a hand on Lexa’s knee, rubs her thumb over the denim.

Both her mom and Lexa look at her now, the latter with a faint flicker of surprise.

Uncle Thelonious decides to chime in, with his usual level of tact.  “Why were you in jail?”

“I set a man’s car on fire, then assaulted the cop who tried to arrest me,” Lexa replies, giving him a long, level look.  

There’s an uncomfortable silence, until Clarke remembers her supportive girlfriend act. “There were, uh, extenuating circumstances.  Right, baby?” 

Echoing Lexa’s words earns her a smirk from the brunette, who places her hand over Clarke’s, entwining their fingers.  

Clarke is wholly unprepared for the spark that rolls up her spine at the mere touch.  It distracts her enough that she doesn’t hear her mother’s attempt to change the subject, at first.

“–haven’t heard you talk about Finn.  How is he doing these days?”

“What?”

“Finn? He’s such a nice boy,” her mom says, because of course she does.  Even though Lexa is right there.

Clarke can practically feel her blood pressure start to rise.  “I don’t know how my EX-boyfriend is doing, Mom.  I stopped keeping in touch with him when we broke up, after he cheated on me.”

“Oh, that’s right,” her mother murmurs half-apologetically, as if she’d forgotten.  And it’s almost convincing enough that Clarke wants to give her the benefit of the doubt, leave it be.  Almost.

But then Abby doubles down.  “What about Bellamy? He still works at the hospital with you, right? In cardiac surgery?”  She says the last part like it’s impressive, even though Clarke has scrubbed in on more procedures than him, and she’s not even in a surgical track. 

“He’s a handsome one,” Nana Vera chimes in, slurring a little, “I remember meeting him at your graduation party…”

“Bellamy and I are just friends.  I’m pretty sure I told you guys that when you asked me about him last year,” Clarke grits out.

“Well you never know, things change.  Feelings develop,” her mom says dismissively.

“They do.  I developed feelings for Lexa.” Clarke is so angry, the words just flow out and it takes a moment for them to sink in.  Her eyes widen.

“Awww, babe.  That’s so fuckin’ cute.”  And then Lexa leans over and kisses Clarke. Right on the lips. In front of everyone.

It’s brief, only a peck really. But it’s enough to send a tingle through Clarke’s whole body, down to her toes.  It’s enough for her to feel how soft Lexa’s lips are, and leave her wanting to feel them some more…but Lexa’s already pulled back, clearing her throat.  “By the way, isn’t your friend Bellamy seeing someone now? That girl who teaches pole dancing classes?”

Still processing the brief moment of contact from Lexa, Clarke sees her mom’s and Thelonious’s eyebrows shoot up practically in sync.  And that helps dissipate her anger and consternation, enough for her to stammer out an agreement with the lie.  “Uh yeah, he is.”

There’s another moment of awkward silence.  

“Think it’s time for a smoke,” Lexa announces, squeezing Clarke’s hand purposefully before standing.  “Don’t worry, it’s just tobacco.  I left the good stuff at home,” she adds with a wink at Abby, who barely hides a grimace.

Clarke stands as well.  “I’ll come keep you company.”

Lexa grins at her.  “Thanks, sweet cheeks.”

Clarke ignores the look her mom shoots at her, biting back her own grin.  They grab their jackets and head outdoors.

Once outside, Lexa walks towards the back of the house, leans against the wall of the garage.  “I don’t actually smoke.  Not anymore,” she explains.  “But it seemed like you needed a break.”

“Thanks, I kinda did.”  It’s oddly touching.  Clarke takes in a breath of cold air and lets it out.  “Plus my mom hates smoking, so bonus points to you there.”

“That’s what I’m here for.”

Clarke leans next to her, almost close enough to brush shoulders.  “Well, you’re doing great.  I almost lost it just now when you made up the pole dancer thing.  The looks on their faces…”

The other woman chuckles darkly.  “I know.”

“I’m kinda glad you’re here, actually.  It’s nice having another person as a buffer.”  Clarke digs her shoes into the gravel and sighs.  “Thanksgiving was a lot easier when my dad was around.  He was good at helping my mom relax and making everyone laugh.”

“He lives in Seattle, you said?”

“Yeah.  Designs jet engines.  I spend Christmas with him, it’s a lot more chill and fun than this.  And he doesn’t try to get me back with my cheating ex–”

The door off the garage opens.  “Clarke?” a voice calls.

“Ugh, that’s Nana Vera,” she mutters.  “She asked me before dinner to look at her foot wart.  I’m not even a dermatologist.”

“You wanna make her go away?” Lexa asks as footsteps crunch nearer in the gravel.

“Yeah I do, but how–” She doesn’t get the question out before Lexa moves swiftly to face her and presses her whole body against Clarke’s, pushing her up against the vinyl siding.  And then, as Nana Vera rounds the corner of the garage, Lexa leans in and *kisses* her, even more intensely than at the dinner table.

Clarke is too stunned for a moment to kiss back, but Lexa just dusts light, open-mouthed kisses over her jaw and down her neck before returning to her lips.  This time she’s ready and returns the embrace, wrapping her arms around the brunette, sliding her mouth against Lexa’s and God, it feels so good…

She forgets herself, forgets that it’s fake, forgets that Vera is nearby, and flickers her tongue against soft lips–

Lexa pulls back, slightly breathless.  Wide grey-green eyes search Clarke’s for a moment, a glint of something–surprise? hope?–in them before she looks around.

“She’s gone.”

“Huh?”

Lexa clears her throat and leans away.  “Vera’s gone.  We scared her off.”

Clarke stays pressed to the wall of the garage, unsure if her legs could hold her up right now.  “Right, yeah.  That’s good.  Good thinking.”  And, heaven help her, she cocks finger guns at Lexa, who raises one pierced eyebrow.

“I hope I didn’t overstep.  But you did say we should kiss…”

“No, it’s fine. Just, um.” Clarke is suddenly aware that Lexa still has one hand resting on her waist. Her sweater had ridden up a bit under her open coat, so there’s a slice of Lexa’s palm in contact with her skin, warm and steady… “You’re pretty good at that.” And she vows to keep her mouth shut after that, to prevent a fourth “good” from escaping.

“So are you,” Lexa murmurs, something deep and intense in her eyes, before she steps back and lifts her chin.  “Wanna head back in? Or you think you’ll still be tempted to flip the table over?”

Clarke lets her head fall back against the wall with a groan.  “I don’t really want to, but we probably should.”

“It’s okay to be frustrated with your mom, Clarke.”  Lexa is incredibly perceptive, or maybe she’s just really good at reading Clarke.

“But I shouldn’t be,” Clarke says, voice rough with guilt.  “She’s fine, you know? Like okay, she might ignore the fact that I’m bi, but lots of people have to deal with really unsupportive or terrible parents, or they lose their parents. I should be grateful…”

“Fuck ‘should’.  You can feel however you feel.”  Lexa looks away, her jaw tightening visibly.  “And I’m speaking as someone who has really unsupportive and terrible family.”  She digs her hands into the pockets of her leather jacket, scuffs a booted toe across the gravel.

Clarke can read between the lines: this is why Lexa put that post on Craigslist, why she isn’t spending Thanksgiving with her own family.  She can see it in the vulnerable but defiant set of her shoulders, the frown tugging at her full lips.  “Well, from what I’ve seen so far, your family are the ones missing out.”

The frown turns into a crooked smile.  “Hell yeah, they are.”

It surprises a laugh out of Clarke, and Lexa’s smile widens.  “C’mon, let’s go scandalize your family some more,” she says, and holds out her hand.

Clarke smiles, and takes it.

Chapter Text

They finally escape upstairs after a few rounds of Rummikub.  And after Thelonious claims that the problems younger generations face--and he directs a very unsubtle look at Lexa--would be solved if they only ‘gave themselves over to spiritual guidance’.  In return, Lexa opines that most of the problems younger generations face wouldn’t exist if older generations hadn’t made education, housing, and healthcare so unaffordable while letting wages stagnate.  

(Abby nearly chokes on her wine.)

“I think we’ll call it a night,” Clarke says after that, if only because her cheeks are sore from biting back her mirth.  “Long day, with work and driving and all.”

Lexa stands with her.  “Good call, babe. I can give you a massage if you want.”  Her tone is innocuous, but she runs a hand low across the small of Clarke’s back, making her shiver.

Abby snaps, finally.  “That--that hardly seems appropriate,” she sputters.

“What?” Lexa turns a wide-eyed look of absolute innocence to her.  “I know how sore she gets on call. She’s so dedicated to her patients, she barely sits down some days.  Why, doesn’t Marcus give you backrubs after you’ve had a long shift in surgery?”

Abby stares at her, while Marcus just drains his wine glass, his ears turning red.

“Good night everyone,” Clarke says sweetly.  And she tugs Lexa towards the stairs, before she cracks up laughing and ruins the whole pretense.

“Holy fuck. That was brilliant,” she whispers after the door shuts. “The massage thing…”

Lexa shrugs. “I mean, I know what it’s like being on your feet for hours. You said you just got off a shift before we drove up here.”

Clarke stares at her, as she goes over to dig through her duffel bag.  She’d only mentioned that in passing early in the drive, had cracked a joke about having a desk somewhere at the hospital with a chair but not having sat at it for weeks.  Yet Lexa had remembered.

“So hypothetically, if we were dating for real…” she can’t help asking, “would you really give me a massage?”

Lexa stands up, slides a long, slow look up and down Clarke’s body, and does that damn smirk again.  Clarke shivers. 

“Definitely,” Lexa murmurs.  She steps towards Clarke, into her personal bubble, until their faces are less than a foot apart.  “Of course, I’d do a whole lot more than just massage you.”

And then she slips past Clarke, out to the hallway and down the hall to the bathroom.

“Well, fuck ,” Clarke concludes.  

She paces across her childhood bedroom, telling herself sternly it’s fake, you don’t even know her, don’t make her uncomfortable, she doesn’t want any ‘unsolicited services or offers’, even if she’s clearly flirting and just, like, super hot, so hot it’s unfair…

She considers texting Raven, begging her to provide a firm reality check.  But she knows Raven will just make fun of her--or tell her to go for it--and besides, knowing how the rollicking Reyes clan spends their holidays, she’ll probably be several whiskey shots in by now.

Instead, Clarke focuses on the thought of tomorrow’s undoubtedly bland turkey, and Nana Vera’s foot warts, to cool her raging horniness.  By the time Lexa gets back, she’s fairly calm...though it doesn’t help when she sees Lexa’s removed her eye makeup and looks beautiful in a wholly different, young, almost delicate kind of way.

She grabs her toiletries and dashes into the hallway.  

When Clarke returns to the room, she finds Lexa sitting up in bed reading a book.  She’s wearing a soft-looking tank top and boxer shorts that show just how long her legs are and oh shit, she’s not wearing a bra.  Of course she’s not wearing a bra, sleeping in one would be uncomfortable, Clarke’s not wearing one either under her loose T-shirt--

She bangs her elbow into the dresser painfully and curses.

“You okay there?” Lexa glances up at her.

“Yeah, fine.”  She gets into the bed, which creaks.  It’s got an old wooden headboard, from Clarke’s grandparents’ house originally, and its joints squeak audibly. 

She learned to tune out the noise years ago, but Lexa notices it.

“Can’t exactly be stealthy with this bed, huh?” she asks, leering a bit.

Clarke blushes.  “I guess not. I wouldn’t really know.”

“Wait, you’re telling me you never snuck a girlfriend or boyfriend over at night as a teenager?”

The blush spreads, her ears and neck growing warm now.  “No, I didn’t date much in high school. Honestly, I was kind of a goodie two-shoes,” she admits.  “And I didn’t realize I liked girls ‘til freshman year of college.”

Lexa’s eyes light up with a mischief Clarke’s starting to recognize, and her tone grows teasing.  “You said you’ve never brought anyone home for the holidays, right?”

“Yeah...”

“So you’ve never had sex in this bed.”

“Oh my god, shut up!” Clarke covers her face, which is burning now. Another part of her, much lower down, is growing warm at the thought of Lexa rocking on top of her, making the headboard squeak rhythmically...  

Lexa chuckles, setting down her book.  “Nah, this is too good. We should take advantage of this.”

“What?!”

“We can totally make your family think we’re having sex in here.  C’mon, you don’t wanna convince them you’re really not interested in that Bellamy guy?”

“I mean yeah, but…” It’s tempting, despite the cheek-burning embarrassment.  Clarke is tired of being good all the time--a good daughter, a good student, a leader in her program.  And okay, maybe she kinda wants to pretend it’s real with Lexa...

“This room is right above the study, right? Where your uncle is sleeping?” Lexa speculates.  She throws Clarke a look of utter mischief. “Your homophobic, holier-than-thou uncle?”

Clarke hesitates.  Lexa grins wickedly at her.  Then she reaches up over her head to press her hands against the wall, scootches her butt down, and pushes her feet into the mattress.  It creates a rocking motion--and shows the strong muscles of her legs flexing and bunching--and the bed starts to creak repetitively. Gently and slowly at first, then faster and louder...

“Shh!” Clarke hisses, flailing half-heartedly at Lexa’s nearest leg.

Lexa just rocks the bed more firmly, grinning, and then she moans.   “ Oooh , baby…”

It makes Clarke’s thighs clench involuntarily, but she also can’t help giggling, it’s just so over the top.  The headboard squeals, thumping slightly into the wall.

Oh, Lexa !” the brunette imitates Clarke’s raspy voice, poorly, and Clarke smacks her arm.

“I do not sound like that during sex,” she whisper-shouts.

Lexa raises her pierced eyebrow. “So what, you’re more of a screamer?” And she starts to make a noise that Clarke could only describe as ‘panting hyena’ mixed with ‘cat whose tail has been stepped on’, until the blonde laughs and slaps a hand over her mouth.

“Wouldn’t you like to know,” she retorts, pitching her voice purposefully low and even raspier.

Pausing her movements, Lexa stares up at her for a moment, eyes wide and breath warm against Clarke’s hand.  Tension pulls taut between them, like before when she’d touched Lexa’s back...

Then a door slams down the hallway, from the direction of Marcus and Abby’s room, and they both just lose it.  The tension dissolves into laughter.  A genuine full-bodied guffaw escapes Lexa’s throat, while Clarke falls back onto her pillow snickering.

“I haven’t laughed this much in a while,” she confesses finally.  “Especially at Thanksgiving.”

“Me neither,” Lexa admits.

“I’m glad you came.”

“Well technically I didn’t…” Clarke snorts, and swats at Lexa without looking.  Lexa rolls away, chuckling.

It’s remarkable how fast she’s become comfortable with Lexa--a total stranger she’d only emailed with, as of ten hours ago.  The only other person that’s ever happened with was Raven, but Raven is...Raven. She tended to crash-land into your life, make herself at home, and start snarking at you pretty quickly, if she liked you.

This feels a little different.

Lexa puts away her book and turns out the bedside lamp, then lays down fully.

The bed really is small.  They’re both lying on their backs in the dark, as close to the respective edges as possible in order to leave a decent gap between.  It’s awkward.

Clarke tries to ignore the awkwardness, and the thrumming awareness of her own skin and Lexa’s, and takes a few slow breaths.

“Can I ask you something?” Lexa asks.  

It makes her suddenly nervous, but she swallows and says, “Sure.”

“Why do you have a life-size cutout of Orlando Bloom in your closet?”

 Clarke groans in embarrassment.  “I was hoping you wouldn’t see that.”

“I was looking for a hanger.”

“Okay, well, in my defense I was actually kind of obsessed with Keira Knightley in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies when I was like, thirteen, but I didn’t realize why.  So of course I assumed I had a crush on Orlando Bloom.”

“That’s pretty gay, Clarke.  Or bi, I guess.”

“Oh, it gets gayer,” Clarke adds.  “The friend who got me the cutout from the movie theater, it later turned out he actually had a massive crush on Orlando Bloom and didn’t realize it.”

Lexa laughs quietly.  

Clarke turns on her side, looking at the other woman.  Her eyes have adjusted enough to see her profile, the rise of high cheekbones illuminated by the faint moonlight coming in around the blinds.  It’s hard to reconcile this soft, funny, seemingly thoughtful person with the tattooed rough-edged felon her mom and others see. “Can I ask you something?”

Lexa’s jaw tightens a little, but she still murmurs, “Go ahead.”

“Whose car did you set on fire?”

Lexa is silent for a long moment, and Clarke thinks she must’ve pushed too far.  “Sorry, you don’t have to--”

“It’s okay.”  The brunette breathes out, tugs the blanket down and away from her neck.  “In high school I lived for a while with my aunt Nia and her husband. They were both pretty terrible.  If I put a toe out of line, they’d make me sleep in the garage without any blankets, hit me on the back and torso so the bruises wouldn’t show, shit like that, and call it discipline.”

Clarke closes her eyes briefly, listening to Lexa’s monotone recital.  She’d had a kid come in to her exam room with suspicious bruises and a numbness broken only by startled responses.  As a mandatory reporter, she’d had to alert social services, but that case still haunted her. She didn’t know if her reporting had helped them, or just made things worse…

“And then one day Nia caught me kissing my girlfriend.  Costia.” Lexa swallows, then continues. “She outed Costia to her parents and banned me from ever seeing her again, threatened to send me to a military school.  But my uncle had this classic Mustang he’d just finished restoring for Nia.  She loved it and wouldn’t let anyone else drive it or ride in it. So I took a can of gasoline and a kitchen lighter and destroyed what she loved.”

“They sent you to jail for that?”

“Mm-hmm.  And for punching the cop who slammed my head into the ground,” Lexa adds dryly, still looking up towards the ceiling. “Charged me as an adult, because I was 17 and had already been expelled for fighting and shit.”

“That sounds rough.  I’m sorry,” is all that Clarke can offer, wincing at the inadequacy.  But she tries to put as much feeling and empathy into her voice as possible.

Lexa turns her head to look at her, eyes round.  “I don’t usually tell people all that,” she confides.  “I don’t want their judgment. Or their pity.”

Clarke shakes her head.  “I’m not my uncle, I don’t judge like that.  Besides, now you’ve seen my family at Thanksgiving and eaten my mom’s food, you must pity me more,” she jokes.  She can sense Lexa might need a little levity right now, in the wake of such vulnerability.

Even though it’s a weak joke, Lexa smiles a little.  “The food is pretty terrible,” she admits.

“Hey, I warned you.”

“Like I actually had better roasts in prison.  It was so dry...”

“I know, right? I don’t know how she does it.  Just wait til tomorrow, her turkey’s even worse.”

Lexa groans.  “Maybe I shouldn’t’ve agreed to this.”

“Too late now, babe.”

Lexa rolls over, muttering something like ‘what did I get myself into’, and before long her breathing starts to slow.  However, Clarke remains all too aware of the warmth seeping from the woman, the weight of her in her bed, and fights the urge to roll over and sink into that warmth.  To seek out Lexa’s lips again, slip her hands under that tank top and over smooth, inked skin...she fights that urge, mentally applauding her own restraint, all the way into sleep.

Sleeping Clarke, it turns out, has no such compunctions and doesn’t care about leaving room for Jesus.  Which is how she finds herself cuddling Lexa, a leg thrown over the brunette’s and one hand up her shirt, when she wakes up on Thanksgiving Day.

***

Chapter Text

What wakes Clarke is a knock at the door, followed by her mother’s voice.  “Are you up yet?”

She panics.  She’s not used to this situation, her mom practically finding her in bed with someone, and she freezes in place.  “Uh, not yet,” she calls back hoarsely.

There’s a disapproving pause.  “Well, you girls should join us downstairs soon. Marcus made breakfast, and you’re missing the Macy’s parade.”

Clarke resists the urge to sigh--”you girls” makes it seem like they’re 12-year-olds having a sleepover, and she doesn’t really care about the Macy’s parade.

Instead: “Yeah Mom, we’re coming.  Down,” she adds hurriedly, wincing.  “We’re coming downstairs soon.”

“Okay.”  It must mollify Abby, whose footsteps retreat across the hall and down the stairs.

Clarke breathes out, and takes stock of the whole...bed situation.

Lexa is somehow, incredibly, still asleep. Wild sleep-mussed brown hair roils over the pillow into Clarke’s face, and her breathing is slow and even.  

Clarke’s breathing is not.  The heat-seeking missile that is her hand had apparently made its way under the brunette’s shirt overnight and rests just below the soft rise of her chest. She’s spooning Lexa, her front pressed up against the brunette’s back, her breasts pushed against warm shoulderblades, her hips curled against Lexa’s ass , and she is way too bi for this.

The pang of pure liquid want that courses through her is a physical thing.  A wave of electricity she can feel in every nerve ending.  She has to fight the urge to grind up against Lexa, to skim that hand a little higher...

She should wake Lexa.  She should disentangle herself, respectably, and then go take an ice-cold shower.

She does neither.

She closes her eyes and lets herself sink into this warmth, this closeness and touch that she’d been missing without realizing it.  Just for a few more minutes.

Then her phone dings and buzzes against the nightstand--loudly, Clarke had forgotten to silence it overnight, and multiple times in a row.  (Which means Raven is probably awake and caffeinated.) Clarke withdraws her wandering hand in order to flail it behind her at the phone until it’s silenced.

That’s when Lexa finally wakes.

She murmurs something that Clarke isn’t completely sure is English, rocks backward a little, and seems to realize how they’re positioned.

“Fuck,” Lexa mutters to herself, stiffening, apparently thinking Clarke is still asleep.  “Good job being a creeper, Woods.”

In that moment Clarke is a coward.  She could, if she were brave, stop pretending to be asleep and tell Lexa she isn’t a creeper, or else they were both mutually creeper-ing the previous night.  Or she could roll Lexa onto her back and lean over and kiss the sleep from her eyelids, her cheeks, her lips…

Instead, she just lays still as Lexa extricates herself from her embrace and from the bed.

Because she’s not sure she could handle it if Lexa turned her down right now.  They still have the whole Thanksgiving Day ahead of them and it’ll be uncomfortable enough as is, without the sting of this improbably hot pretend girlfriend rejecting her advances.

Still, Clarke’s only human.  So when she hears the rustle of Lexa’s clothes, she makes a show of stretching and waking up; her eyes open in time to catch a glimpse of that small but round ass, the muscles of Lexa’s thighs, as she pulls on her jeans.

“Good morning.”  Her voice comes out extra raspy, and Lexa--cool, collected, ex-con Lexa--stumbles a little in her pants legs.

“Morning.”  Lexa grabs a henley at random from her duffel bag, mumbling.  “I’m’na go brush my teeth and stuff…”

Clarke nods, sitting up and uncovering her legs.  With some satisfaction, she notes how Lexa’s gaze immediately darts towards her thighs, lips slightly parted.  The brunette catches herself though and glances away, edging towards the door.

Before she reaches it, Clarke speaks up.  “Hey, before we head downstairs I just wanted to say, it’s totally fine if you need a break from the family stuff now and then today.  You can just come up here or we can go for a drive or something.”

Lexa nods, and appears to recover some of her bravado.  “Same goes for you. I do still owe you a massage, after all.”

With a wink, she leaves Clarke to bite her lip and try to ignore the images that surged into her mind at that comment, intensified by the very physical memory of their bodies intertwined this morning.

She seriously contemplates trying to relieve some of that tension now, while she’s alone...

But any minute now, her mom will probably get impatient and come “remind” her that everyone is downstairs.  Abby Griffin doesn’t really believe in sleeping past 9 am; it must go against her ancestral Puritan loathing of any form of self-indulgence.

They used to have a lot of fights about things like that when Clarke was in high school.

The memories of that help quell her libido, fortunately.  She gets up and readies herself for the day ahead, like a warrior preparing for battle.

***

Breakfast is...awkward.  Thelonious won’t make eye contact with Clarke or Lexa, and speaks to them as little as possible, though that’s kind of a bonus.  Abby’s mouth is tight, and the tone of her voice is chillier than the thawing turkey in the kitchen. Nana Vera, oblivious and way too awake, fills in the gap in conversation by extolling the virtues of homeopathic remedies for digestion, including a couple that Clarke is pretty sure are mildly toxic.

After breakfast Vera, Marcus, and Thelonious head to the living room to watch the Macy’s parade coverage (and later on, football), while Abby heads to the kitchen.

Clarke is about to suggest going on a walk to Lexa, just to get out of the house, when she hears her mom exclaim “Jesus Christ !” in the kitchen.

The woman doesn’t curse much, so this must be serious.

When she gets to the kitchen, her mom is staring in dismay at the turkey that’s sitting in a pan on the counter, pale and entirely unappetizing.

“What’s wrong, Mom?”

Her mother doesn’t look up.  “It’s still partly frozen. I put it in the fridge to thaw yesterday but I guess it was running too cold, with all the food in it…”

“Well, it’s still early…” Clarke ventures, but her mom gives her a dark look.

“It’s fourteen pounds, Clarke.  It needs at least four hours in the oven, after it thaws.”

“Actually if you don’t stuff it you could probably do three, three and a half,” offers Lexa, walking into the room.  She picks up a knife and pokes at the turkey, frowns. “Yeah, that’s definitely not thawed.”

Abby looks like she’s about to say something snippy, but Lexa continues.  “If you put it in a sink full of water, change out the water every so often, that’ll speed up the thawing process without letting it get too warm.  Then you just cook it for a little longer, maybe five hours or so. But there’s still plenty of time for it to heat properly.”

She looks up, realizing both the Griffin women are staring at her.  “What? I’m Food Safety Certified.”

“That’s...helpful,” Abby says after a moment, almost grudgingly.  “But the sink isn’t big enough.”

“You could use a bathtub.”  At the older woman’s look of horror, Lexa grins.  “Or a large cooler, if you have one. I can set it up for you.”

“There’s that blue one with the wheels.  Is it still in the garage, Mom?” Clarke asks.

Her mom is still looking at Lexa, her frosty attitude replaced momentarily by a more thoughtful expression.  “Yes, it should be.”

Lexa seems to realize that she’s accidentally made a good impression, and must decide to do something uncouth to make up for it.  So, as Clarke turns to head for the garage, the brunette slaps her ass right in front of her mom.  “Thanks, babe.”

Clarke jolts to a halt.  Her entire face is probably turning red as a cranberry, but blazing embarrassment aside, it also *does something* for her.

As in, she’d really like for Lexa to do that again.  Maybe several times. Minus her mom in the room...and minus pants.

Without a word, she flees to the garage.

***

The chilliness of the garage helps with the blushing, but she’s still slightly freaking out.  She takes out her phone and calls Raven on video-chat.

“Hey, Griff! I miss your faaaace.”

“I need your help,” Clarke says without preamble.  “Lexa slapped my ass. And also kissed me yesterday.  And I might’ve sleep-cuddled her.”

Raven stares at her, eyebrows raised.  “Why do you need my help? Sounds like you need Lexa.  Or a vibrator. Or both...”

“Raven!” she hisses at the phone. “This is serious, I’m freaking out.”

“What’s the matter? She’s hot, you’re hot, you’re into each other.” Her friend shrugs sloppily. “Just go with it.”

There’s a sound of cheering in the background, and Raven hollers something over her shoulder.  “How much whiskey have you had?”

Raven squints. “Like, three shots? We’re only partway through the taste test.”  Every Thanksgiving her family—or the adults at least—conducts double-blind taste tests of her grandfather’s impressive whiskey collection, while her scientist uncle Luis tallies the results. Control is a cheap bottle of Jack Daniel’s.

Her family is a lot more fun than Clarke’s, to be honest.

Clarke sighs.  “What happened to Lexa being an unsavory character? I still barely know her…”

“But you’re getting to know her, right?” Raven points out.  “Plus she can’t be that sketchy, anyone who puts up with your family sober for two days straight must have some redeeming qualities.”

“She’s really funny,” Clarke admits, fiddling with the handle of the cooler.  “And she picks up on stuff, you know? Like she can tell when I’m starting to get stressed out.”

Her friend stares at her.  “Shit, dude. You’re actually into her.”

And Clarke is about to protest but then hesitates.  Breathes in and out through her nose. “I think I am.”

Raven looks at her for another moment, a little more serious.  “I’m happy for you. I know it’s been hard since Finn, with trusting people and stuff.  Even if this whole--” she waves vaguely, “ridiculous gay-ass romcom thing doesn’t go anywhere, this is a big step.”

“Thanks,” Clarke says, smiling a little.  Then she remembers what’s awaiting her back inside.  “Ugh, but I still have to get through the next twenty-four hours and my mom’s still driving me crazy.”

“Yeah, that sounds tough. Sorry dude.  Want me to sing you the ‘Fuck Columbus’ song?” Raven asks, brightening.  “That always cheers you up.”

“No thanks—”

But one of Raven’s brothers has apparently overheard and appears in the pixelated background. “Oh we’re singing the song? Hey Clarke!”

“Hey Daniel, no you don’t have to sing the song—”

It’s too late. The Reyes siblings have launched into an off-tune rendition of their traditional Thanksgiving song, set inexplicably to the tune of 'Oh Canada'. 

Fuck Colummm-bus, that genocidal fuck…”

“Seriously guys, you realize it’s Thanksgiving and not Columbus Day—”

“True history shows he well and truly sucks…”

She gives up and grabs the cooler.  “I’m hanging up now!” 

***

For the first time in recent memory, Abby Griffin actually winds up accepting the help of someone in making the components of Thanksgiving dinner.  After Lexa sets up the turkey to thaw in its cooler bath, she somehow inveigles herself into helping with the rolls and chopping up vegetables to roast.  

Clarke helps wash some dishes along the way, but otherwise mostly keeps them company from the breakfast bar.

Lexa is scarily good with a knife.  She chops quickly, precisely, with professional competence, though at one point she mutters to Clarke across the counter, “Do your mom and Marcus ever sharpen their knives? I swear, I’ve used sharper steak knives.”

“I doubt it,” Clarke laughs.  “Outside of the holidays, neither of them really cook much.”

“No kidding.  Next Thanksgiving I’m bringing my sharpening kit.” 

She says it teasingly, with a wry look, but for a second Clarke can’t help imagining Lexa coming back with her in a year’s time.  Imagines them being even more comfortable together, having inside jokes, shared memories...It takes her off guard, how much she wants that.

Whatever this is between her and Lexa, this undeniable pull, it’s quickly becoming a little more than just sexual chemistry (although there’s plenty of that as well).

At least, it is for her.

Lexa is harder to read; she seems to show her emotions only through fleeting micro-expressions, quickly blanked out or masked with a smirk.  But she’d opened up a little to Clarke the previous night. And even though Lexa is pretending--quite successfully--to be a louche character, she’s somehow still a surprisingly attentive girlfriend.  She hands Clarke a glass of water without a word at one point and notices when the blonde shivers, later on.

“You cold, baby?”

Clarke is not about to admit it’s because of how skillful Lexa’s hands are as she peels a potato, so she just nods.

She isn’t expecting Lexa to take off her hoodie and drape it over her shoulders.  A whiff of something--a woodsy cologne, along with something like cinnamon sugar--fills her nose and makes her feel surprisingly relaxed.  Comforted, almost.

“Wow, that’s...quite a lot of tattoos,” Abby comments.  She stares at the sleeve tattoos covering Lexa’s bared arms, and the young woman nods happily, as if it’s a compliment.

“Yep.  I got more, but only Clarke gets to see those,” she drawls, winking.

Clarke can feel her mother’s burning disapproval from across the kitchen.  But the sudden memory of Lexa pulling up her shirt to show her back tattoo, of feeling her warm skin under her fingertips--and the thought of finding out where else Lexa might have a tattoo--distracts her from any shred of guilt.

She chugs the glass of water.

***

Later on, Lexa goes to pour the cooler water out in the backyard, leaving Clarke and her mom alone in the kitchen. That’s when Abby finally, predictably, acknowledges the tattooed elephant in the room.

“Lexa is certainly a unique person,” she says.  In WASP-y mom speak, that is not a compliment--practically the opposite, in fact. 

Clarke refuses to rise to the bait, just keeps calmly washing a mixing bowl.  “Yeah, she is.”

“How did you two meet again?”

“On the Internet.”  It’s true, kind of. She rinses the bowl, rests it on the drying rack.

“Hmm.”  Abby is silent for a moment, but Clarke knows there’s more coming.  “Well, I know Internet dating is common these days for people your age, but there are some drawbacks.  It must be harder to make sure someone is...trustworthy.”  

Unseen by her mom, Clarke rolls her eyes.

“To ensure they have the same values,” Abby persists.

“I think that can be hard no matter how you meet someone.  I met Finn through my friends and he wound up being an immature, lying cheater,” Clarke points out evenly.  

She hears her mom sigh and a thump of something set on the counter.  Then Abby drops the bland tone. “Clarke, she’s a cook with a criminal record and no college degree,” she hisses.

“Wow, elitist much?” Clarke retorts.

“It’s not elitism, it’s just being realistic.  Couples who don’t have much in common, who aren’t on the same level socially or economically, they don’t last.”

Clarke snorts and sets down the baking dish and sponge, turns around to face her mom.  “You and Dad met in college, came from the same kind of private schools, both got advanced degrees, and you still split up.  Marcus grew up poor, with only his mom raising him--”

Her mom waves dismissively.  “That’s not the same thing.”

“Why not? Because she’s got tattoos? Newsflash, everyone under the age of 30 has one nowadays.”  She crosses her arms and adds, “Or is it because she’s a woman?”

Dark eyes flash at her.  “I’m not a homophobe, Clarke.  It’s just that--”

“Not a great way to start a statement,” Clarke mutters, but her mom ignores her.

“--people can be cruel, and narrow-minded, and I worry about how they’ll treat you.  Especially as a woman in our field. If you’re attracted to men as well, why not just date someone like Bellamy or Finn?” her mom questions.  “Someone who will make it easier for you, when you’re at hospital fundraisers and things like that. You need to think about your long-term career...”

Clarke bunches her hands in the dishtowel, because it’s either that or start yelling.  She can hear the blood pounding in her ears.

“I don’t want to date someone--some guy--just because they’d be good for my career.  Life should be about more than just work. It should be about happiness, too, and Lexa makes me happy.”

That isn’t even a lie.  But Clarke doesn’t have time to think about it, about the little ball of warmth it leaves in her chest, because her mom replies in that same infuriating, patronizing tone.

“It’s easy to get caught up in all the good feelings when you first start dating someone, dear.  But I’m trying to give you some advice for the long run.”

“I’m not asking for your advice!” Clarke exclaims.  She catches herself, lowers the volume. “I just want you to be happy for me, Mom.”

“I am happy for you.  But—”

“No, see, that’s the thing,” she interrupts, and her voice shakes a little.  “You’re happy, ‘but’. It feels like there’s always a qualifier with you. It’s always conditional, whether you approve of what I’m doing, and you feel the need to tell me that instead of keeping it to yourself.”

Her mom crosses her arms, shifts her feet.  For once she looks...almost lost, vulnerable instead of merely stubborn.  “I’m just trying to look out for you.”

Clarke sets down the towel.  “I’m 28, I can and do look out for myself.  And I’m going to make choices you don’t agree with, sometimes.  But I wish,” she blows out a breath, “I wish you just would be supportive of me anyway.  No if’s or but’s.” 

She pushes away from the counter.  Knows at this point that if she stays, the disappointment and anger in her will twist the conversation and send it barreling in unhelpful directions.  “I’m gonna go take a walk.”

***

She doesn’t get very far, just out to the hallway, when she hears Lexa’s voice.  The other woman must’ve stepped into the kitchen.

“I heard you two talking.  The stove vent goes, uh, straight outside, and you were...loud.”

“Well I’m not going to pretend I didn’t mean it,” Abby shoots back, unapologetic.

“Mm-hmm.” There’s a pause while Lexa sets something down.  When she speaks again, her voice is so quiet Clarke inches back towards the kitchen door to hear better.

“Clarke is special, you know that? Not many medical residents would give up the chance to just sleep for two days, in order to drive seven hours roundtrip and visit people who don’t accept them for who they are.  Who second-guess their choices instead of celebrating them.” She pauses. “She doesn’t have to be here. Hell, if I was her I probably wouldn’t be here. But she loves you, and values your family.”

“We love her too.” Abby sounds stung.  

“Then the least you can do is keep your unsolicited opinions about her and her life to yourselves,” Lexa says.  She bites out each word, quiet but uncompromising. Commanding. “And if you can’t manage to do that, don’t expect her to keep coming back year after year just to get insulted.”

Clarke swallows the lump growing in her throat.  No one has ever stood up for her like this, not even her dad.  It’s everything she’s wanted to say for years.

Abby sputters for a moment, shocked by the blunt words.  

Lexa speaks again, gentler this time.  “Look, it’s not really my place to say all this, and I know you don’t like me.  That’s fine. But I don’t have family to spend the holidays with, the few people left...didn’t treat me well.  I just think--this holiday’s about being thankful, right? Maybe you should be thankful that you have each other, focus on what you have in common instead of what you don’t agree with.”

If her mom says anything in reply, Clarke doesn’t hear it.  Lexa’s footsteps towards the hallway remind her that she’s eavesdropping, and she quickly darts away and out the side door.

A minute later Lexa finds her outside, shivering behind the garage.  “You forgot your coat.”

Clarke takes the garment from her, absently, but doesn’t put it on.  She stares at Lexa, studying her beautiful face, the pierced eyebrow and faint hint of concern in her eyes.

She drops the coat on the ground, steps forward, and kisses Lexa hard.

 

***

Chapter Text

For a heart-thumping second Lexa seems too shocked to move.  

Then she kisses Clarke back with a breathless intensity, arms wrapping around her waist and pulling her close.  Compared to their kiss at the dinner table and the one to fool Vera, this is an entirely different category of experience.  A five dialed up to eleven.  

Lexa’s slightly chapped lips slide against Clarke’s, as her head tilts to find an even better angle.  Her hands are warm and steady on her hips, while Clarke’s are tangled in wild brown hair, cupped against a sharp jawline.

Make that a twelve.

Lexa tugs her even closer, pressing their hips together and making Clarke gasp.  It gives her the opening to explore Clarke’s mouth, skilled and knowing and hungry.

Clarke gives as good as she gets, leaning into the kiss. Until one of them gets off-balance and they stagger a little, breaking apart.

Fuck,” Clarke pants.  It’s kind of the only word she can think right now.

Lexa stares at her with huge, dilated eyes, breathing just as heavy.  Little wisps of vapor condense in front of her, and Clarke is suddenly reminded that it’s nearly freezing out and she still doesn’t have a coat on.

She shivers, though it’s as much from the arousal surging in her as from the cold.  Lexa notices, picks up the jacket she dropped, and wordlessly helps her put it on.

Then she zips it up, without breaking Clarke’s gaze, and pulls Clarke back into her by the zipper tab.  Their lips unerringly find each other.

This one’s a thirteen point five at least.

***

At some point, several hazy eons later, Clarke manages to get a hold on reality and pulls back for a moment, panting. 

“Um, we should talk, probably,” she says.  Her hands are hooked inside Lexa’s jacket pockets and she has no intention of moving them.

“Yeah, we should,” Lexa agrees, a little breathless herself.

“I don’t mean to make you feel uncomfortable or like--like you have to be into me in order to be here.” Clarke wants to make it clear.  “We can totally go back to being just platonic fake-dates if you want…”

Lexa huffs a little laugh.  “Clarke,” she says, “I don’t think any of this between us ever felt just platonic.  Not to me, anyway.”

There’s a hint of vulnerability in her voice, in the way she darts a look at Clarke’s eyes and then her lips.

“Not to me either,” Clarke admits.  “I...may have thought you were hot from that very first photo you sent.”

And Lexa grins at that, a rare, wide and delighted grin.  It makes her look younger and softer than her piercings and leather jacket would suggest.

“I didn’t really know what to say at first, on the drive up here,” she confides.  “You’re just so freakin’ beautiful. And then when I realized you were funny and sweet too, I was kinda tongue-tied.”

“Mmm. Wanna get back to that other kind of tongue-tying?” Clarke wiggles her eyebrows at her.

Lexa’s grin turns wicked.  She leans in and brushes a teasingly light kiss against Clarke’s lips, but instead of deepening it she traces over to her cheek, then down her jawline to her neck. Where she sucks a warm, wet circle that sends an exhilarating shock through the blonde.

A moan tangles in Clarke’s throat. She’s about to pull the other woman closer when the trill of a phone alarm interrupts them, vibrating in Lexa’s pocket.

Lexa silences it without looking, still kissing her neck.  “I gotta go back inside,” she murmurs against the skin there.

“Whaaat?” Clarke whines.

“It’s the roasted veggies, I gotta take them out of the oven.”

“No it’s fine, Mom’ll take them out.”

Lexa pulls back and looks at her, raising an eyebrow.  “I don’t know your mom very well yet, Clarke, but she seems to have a tendency to over-cook things.  I’d prefer not to eat charred carrots.”

“You’re really destroying the whole bad-girl image being so responsible, but you do have a point.”  She steps back and releases Lexa, but lets one hand trail slowly along her waist.  

There’s a flash of something wild in those sea-green eyes. “Bad girl, huh?” Lexa says, her voice low and dark.  “You into that?”

Clarke bites her lip.  “Maybe. A little bit.”  Or maybe she’s just into Lexa , but it seems too soon to say that.

The other woman steps in close again, so close her breath warms Clarke’s ear and her eyebrow piercing brushes cold against her temple.  “Later. After the dinner and everything. We’ll sneak out in the van, go somewhere, and I’ll show you how bad I can be.”

It would sound ridiculously cheesy from anyone else.  On Lexa’s lips, though, it makes Clarke shudder and clench her thighs.

Lexa swaggers around her and heads indoors.

***

Thanksgiving dinner starts with a squabble over saying grace, which isn’t a promising sign.

Vera wants to lead everyone in a “meditation for affirmation” before the meal, while Thelonious insists they should pray properly, even though he’s the only one who regularly goes to church. They go back and forth for a while, as the food cools on the table.

It isn’t as bad as the Thanksgiving fight the previous year--that one had been a doozy--but Clarke fights the urge to roll her eyes.  

“You know,” Lexa drawls, “I had a cellmate who was Muslim, she taught me a couple verses of the Quran.  I could recite some for us, as a kinda compromise.”

Thelonious’s mouth goes tight, while Vera fumbles for an excuse to reject it; her New Age-y beliefs aren’t actually all that inclusive, when it comes right down to it. 

“How about we just all take a moment for silent personal reflection?” Marcus finally intervenes.

Everyone’s head bows.  Everyone except Lexa, who’s sitting back watching everyone else bemusedly, as Clarke finds when she peeks to her right.  The brunette winks at her, and she ducks her head again, fighting a smile and a blush.

In the silence her thoughts keep returning to the moments outside with Lexa.  The way their bodies felt pressed together. How it felt more intense than any other kiss she’d had in a while, blasting right past that usual slight awkwardness of first kisses.

It just felt right

Maybe--if she lets herself be hopeful, if she doesn’t jinx herself--she might have something to actually be thankful for this year.

***

The food isn’t much better than the previous night.  The turkey is cooked the whole way through, at least, thanks to Lexa’s intervention, and the veggies she’d roasted are actually quite delicious.  Clarke loads up on those and dinner rolls, and then pushes the bland turkey and dry mashed potatoes and soggy stuffing around on her plate.

She doesn’t contribute much to the conversation; fortunately for most of dinner it’s Thelonious and Marcus talking about work, and her mom talking about the latest hospital charity gala.

Lexa keeps up her part of the pretense, bringing up the #MeToo movement and marijuana legalization (during which she also offers Abby an edible gummy, which makes Clarke almost choke on a bite of carrot).  She’s infuriatingly chill about it all, too--doesn’t respond to Thelonious’s barbs or the icy looks Abby shoots her, just lets the awkwardness simmer. 

She also gets increasingly handsy, to the detriment of Clarke’s pulse and composure.

As in, she puts her hand on Clarke’s thigh and inches it up just beyond a respectable latitude.  Brushes a loose lock of Clarke’s hair back behind her ear. Leans over to pour some more wine for Clarke and kisses her cheek.

Actually, none of that feels much like pretense anymore.  

Surprisingly, the usually oblivious Nana Vera picks up on it--and perhaps even more surprisingly to Clarke, seems to approve.  “It’s so refreshing to see young love,” she sighs, smiling at them across the table. “I never did hear, how did it all start with you two? What was your first date?”

Clarke freezes, because unbelievably, they hadn’t talked about that.  “Uh...”  

They’d shared their birthdates and favorite colors and other details, come up with a backstory for how they met and how long they’d been together, but somehow they’d never come up with a first date.  And now her mind is totally blanking.

“We went to the contemporary art museum, when they had a new exhibit opening,” Lexa speaks up.  “Then we kept walking through the rest of the museum, just talking. When we finished, neither of us wanted the date to end, so I took Clarke to a tapas restaurant where a friend of mine works.”

Clarke looks over at Lexa, who returns her gaze with a steady heat.  

The story doesn’t seem made up; it’s too smooth and detailed for that.  Unless it’s what Lexa imagines for a first date with her.

It’s perfect, she thinks.

Clarke clears her throat.  “Yeah, well. I don’t think I could tell you a single thing about what we saw in that museum, because I could barely take my eyes off her.”

A small, private smile curls around the edges of Lexa’s mouth and makeup-rimmed eyes. 

Clarke isn’t sure what else to say--and honestly isn’t sure she can keep herself from climbing into Lexa’s lap right then and there--but fortunately, her phone buzzes at that moment. When she sees the number, she gets up immediately.    

“It’s the hospital, sorry.”

It’s a lie, but it’s a good excuse to duck away from the table and into the living room, where the cooler air is welcome on her flushed cheeks.  She answers in a whisper. “Wells! I wasn’t sure I’d hear from you today.”

His warm chuckle is familiar to her as the living room furniture, the pictures on the walls. “Of course! I wouldn’t let you suffer through Thanksgiving without at least a call.”

“Thanks,” she says dryly.  “You picked a good time, I needed an excuse for a breather.”

“Oh lord.  Is it my dad? I’m sorry.”

“It isn’t him right now.  But he did fight with Nana Vera over how to say grace earlier.”

He groans sympathetically. “Sounds like Dad.”

“Yeah...But anyway, how are you? How’s Thanksgiving with Nathan and his family?”

“It’s great.  Our flight was delayed, but now that we’re here…” 

She listens to him for a little while.  Wells is the closest she has to a brother--her step-cousin, technically, after his dad married her aunt Sarah, but they were friends even before that.  Hearing his voice makes her realize how much she misses him, what with him and his husband living all the way out in Portland.

“And I have some good news,” he tells her finally.

She stiffens.  “Oh my god. Is it--did you hear from the adoption agency?!”

“Yep.” She can hear his smile over the phone.  “There’s a little girl, only two months old. She’s legally open for adoption, and we got approved.  We go to pick her up from her temporary placement next week.”

Clarke has to fight the urge to squeal so nobody hears her in the dining room.  “Holy shit, that’s amazing!!” 

She congratulates him and Nathan, demands details, and grins at the joy in her friend’s voice as he talks.  “I’m gonna be an aunt,” she boasts eventually.

“Yes you are.”

“I’m gonna be a cool aunt.  Get her all the fun toys that aren’t ‘educational’ enough for your taste.”

Wells laughs.  She hears him say something away from the phone--to his husband, presumably--before he comes back.  “Okay, we’re gonna go do a pie thing soon but you have to come out here and visit us. As in soon, girl.”

“Of course,” she promises, smiling softly.  “I can’t wait.”

“I miss you.”

“Miss you too.” Clarke feels her eyes prickle a little.  “But it’s probably good you aren’t here anyway. Especially after that blowout with your dad last year.”

Wells chuckles darkly.  “Yeah, that’s an understatement.  You’re taking care of yourself though, right?” he asks in a more serious tone.  “I know it isn’t fun, with Dad and your mom and everything…”

She sighs.  “Yeah, it isn’t.  But this year at least I have some help.”  Then she realizes Lexa's been left all alone with her family for much longer than she’d intended, and starts walking quickly back through the living room.  “Hey, sorry, I’ll explain later but I need to let you go. Let’s talk soon, okay?”

They say their goodbyes and she hangs up.  

The dining room feels palpably tense when she enters.  Lexa’s imperturbable mask has faltered, her jaw is clenched, and she’s staring across the table at Thelonious as if she’d like to tackle him.

“Sorry about that,” Clarke says as she sits back down.  “What’d I miss?”

Her uncle smiles slightly, but it doesn’t reach his eyes.  “Oh, I was just asking Lexa here why she isn’t spending Thanksgiving with her own family.”

She puts a hand on Lexa’s knee, feeling how tense her leg is, and wants to make her feel better.  “Babe, you don’t have to talk about it--”

“No, it’s okay.” Lexa places her own hand over Clarke’s, squeezing it as if in appreciation, and her unfuckwithable attitude returns.  “I don’t have any family to speak of,” she explains with a shrug. “I never knew my dad, my mom’s been in and out of rehab since I was a kid.  I lived with foster parents and then with my aunt and uncle for a while, but they’re pretty terrible people.”

Nobody seems to know what to say to that.  

“I keep in touch with one of my foster siblings, Anya, but she’s deployed overseas right now,” she adds.

“Perhaps you should consider reuniting with your aunt and uncle,” says Thelonious loftily.  “At the City of Light Ministry we have a beautiful reconciliation ceremony for forgiving each others’ wrongdoings--”

“I have no interest in forgiving my aunt and uncle.” Lexa’s tone is flat, and her leg tenses harder under Clarke’s hand. 

“Family is important,” Thelonious lectures.  The dark eyes behind his glasses look kind and intelligent, but Clarke knows it’s a narrow, conditional form of kindness.  Blood pressure rising, she reaches for her wine glass. “Broken families are the underlying cause of so many societal problems.  If we were all a little more willing to forgive, I think we’d all be a lot happier.”

It needles at Clarke, his hypocrisy, the conversation she’d just had with Wells, and she can’t help herself.  “Does that mean you’re willing to reconcile with your son?”

His lips form a thin, tight line.  “I have already reconciled with Wells, in my heart,” he claims.  “I may be saddened by his choice, but my door is always open to him.”

The wine suddenly tastes sour on Clarke’s tongue, and she swallows with an effort, setting down her glass heavily.  “His choice?”

“Clarke…” her mom starts to say, warningly, but Thelonious talks over her.

“I accept that he is a consenting adult.  That’s his business. But trying to adopt a child into an environment without a natural male and female model for relationships, a child who has no say in the matter--” he shakes his head sadly, spreading his hands open,  “--as a person of faith, I can’t condone that.”

“You’re kidding me.  He is--you honestly still think that,” Clarke sputters for words, too angry to articulate, “that Wells, your son, the kindest and most patient person I know, a second-grade teacher, won’t be a good role model just because he’s married to a guy?”

The dining room is so silent, you could hear a pin drop.  

Then her uncle opens his mouth, but Lexa beats him to it.  Her tone is just as flat as before.  

“When I was living with my aunt and uncle, they used to take me to church pretty regularly.  Except once or twice when they weren’t careful enough beating me up and my aunt didn’t want anyone asking why I had a bruised lip.”  

She sits forward in her chair, giving Thelonious a look that could bend steel.  “My favorite foster placement before that, though, that was with this guy Gustus.  Big guy, he used to be a bouncer. He’d been in care himself. Never went to church and dated both guys and girls.  But he was kind and stable and really cared about me. He was a helluva lot better than my aunt and uncle.” Her voice shakes ever so slightly on the last sentence.

Thelonious shakes his head.  “There may be exceptions, I’m sure, but it’s the principle--”

Tuning him out for a moment, Clarke looks instead at her mom. Expecting, hoping maybe, that she’ll speak up, say something to her friend and brother-in-law, or at least change the subject.  But she just keeps looking at her empty plate and sipping silently from her own wine glass. 

Abby knows she wants kids.  Clarke has talked about it to her before, how she’d like to adopt or have a kid herself once she settles down with the right guy or girl.  She knows.

And then Clarke looks at Lexa and sees how tense her shoulders have gone. 

It doesn’t really feel like a funny prank on her family anymore.  It just hurts.

Abruptly, she stands up.  “C’mon, babe,” she says to Lexa tightly, around the lump growing in her throat.  “I think I need to talk a walk, get some fresh air.”

Wordlessly Lexa stands as well, and they head for the door.  At the last second, Clarke turns back and speaks in a low tone directly to her uncle.

“They’re adopting a little girl, did you know that? They just found out.  And he’s so happy.  He should be able to share that with his dad.  He should--” The lump in her throat blocks any other words she could muster.   So she just shakes her head, takes Lexa’s hand, and walks away. 

***

Outside it’s cold, the sun dipping low towards the horizon.  But Clarke keeps holding Lexa’s hand instead of putting it in her pocket, as they walk aimlessly away from the house.

“You shouldn’t’ve had to deal with that, I’m so sorry.”  Clarke shakes her head, lets out a long-held breath.

“Don’t be,” Lexa says calmly.  “It’s not your fault your uncle’s a homophobe.”  

“Still, I shouldn’t have brought you into this.”

“I knew what I was getting into.”  Lexa nudges her shoulder with her own. “I’m sorry you have to deal with him.”

“Me too.”  Clarke huffs out another breath, a cloud of golden steam in the waning sunlight.  “Wells has been my friend since we were four. It’s actually how Uncle Thelonious met my aunt Sarah, she was picking me up from preschool for my mom and he was picking up Wells and they started talking.”

“And Wells is gay, or at least married to a guy.”

“Yep.  He’s the one who had that crush on Orlando Bloom,” Clarke adds with a smile.   “Him and his husband eloped three years ago. His dad still talked to him, kinda, up until Wells told him last year that they were working on adopting.” She sighs.  “You think this Thanksgiving is rough…”

“That sucks,” Lexa says succinctly.

“It really does.  And my mom just lets him say that shit…” Clarke’s throat suddenly clogs again with unbidden tears and she feels exhausted.  

Lexa, perceptive as ever, notices and shifts the conversation.  “My foster sister is queer too, Anya. I guess birds of a gay feather do flock together or whatever.”

It earns a small smile from Clarke.

Lexa continues, sticking their still-entwined hands into her coat pocket for warmth.  “I got my first tattoo with Anya, before she shipped out the first time. Though I think she partly got hers because she was trying to impress a girl.”

“Do you miss her?” Clarke asks quietly.  When Lexa shares these personal things, it feels precious and rare, like something she wants to hold carefully.

Lexa nods.  “She and I were in the same placement for a while, little over a year.  Kind of a long time for foster care. Then my mom managed to get me back, she did the program and the custody visits and the drug tests.” 

Clarke squeezes her hand gently.  “What happened?”

“Eventually she...stopped trying.  That’s how I wound up with Aunt Nia and her husband.”  

Lexa gazes ahead at the empty sidewalk for a moment, then gives a mirthless laugh.  “You know, we’re Facebook friends now, me and my mom. Sometimes she’ll go radio silent for a while, sometimes she’ll send me a birthday message.  I think she’s trying to get her shit together these days, but...” She shrugs. “I try not to expect anything.”

Clarke’s heart squeezes at the resignation in Lexa’s voice.  She doesn’t know what to say. She likes to fix things, fix people; it’s partly why she followed her mom’s footsteps into medicine, despite their disagreements.  

But this is something she can’t fix, just like she can’t fix her uncle.  She can’t make Thelonious more empathetic or open-minded by arguing with him over cranberry sauce year after year.

“Can I give you a hug?” she asks, tentatively.

Lexa nods, and Clarke steps in front of her, pulls the brunette into her arms.

They’re the same height, though somehow it seems like Lexa should be taller.  Lexa’s at the right level to tuck her face against Clarke’s neck, nosing into her hair.  She closes her own eyes and allows herself to soak in Lexa’s warm sturdiness, inhales the woodsy scent of her cologne beneath the cooking smells clinging to her clothes.

This time when she pulls back and Lexa kisses her, it’s less desperate and frantic and more a thing of softness.  Less a culmination of pent-up sexual tension and more a tender unfolding.

Then Lexa’s strong arms curl around her and pull their bodies flush.  The kiss deepens, her tongue swiping rich and heavy into Clarke’s mouth.

And Clarke gets embarrassingly wet, standing on a cold November sidewalk in the suburbs.

Eventually they break for air.  Clarke takes in Lexa’s round, ocean-colored eyes, the pink in her cold cheeks and her well-kissed lips.  

Her own voice is hoarse when she declares, “Let’s just get out of here.  There’s no reason we have to stay and put up with this. Especially you.”

“You sure? I mean don’t get me wrong, I would love some time alone with you that isn’t in a squeaky twin bed,” Lexa says with a suggestive quirk of her eyebrows.  “But it’s still your family. I’m sure your mom would be pissed…”

Clarke sighs hard.  “I know, but I’m tired of putting her feelings ahead of mine.”

Lexa studies her face for a moment, cradling her cheek in her hand, then nods once.  “Okay, let’s do it.”

***

By the time they get back to the house, though, they aren’t alone outside.  Thelonious is stomping between the house and his car, ferrying bags and coat, while Abby and Marcus watch him from the front porch.  Abby has her arms crossed tightly, her jaw clenched even tighter, while Marcus wraps an arm around her shoulders.

Thelonious snaps something angrily at the pair on the porch. Before Clarke and Lexa get close enough to hear what he says, though, he gets into the car and slams the door shut.  Then he peels out of the driveway and down the quiet street.

“Mom…?” Clarke asks, confused, as they walk up the steps to the porch.

Her mom’s eyes flicker towards her, dark and unreadable.  “He’s gone. I told him he needed to keep his opinions about religion and sexuality to himself, or else he needed to leave.  Are you satisfied, Clarke?”

The last part is in such a bitter tone that Clarke physically recoils.  “Hey, I didn’t make him say that stuff in the first place, he chose to be a bigot!”

“Well in any case, now we’ve had our requisite Thanksgiving drama.  Maybe we can actually go have a civilized conversation now, like adults,” Abby says acidly, shifting to head inside.

Clarke doesn’t move, still holding Lexa’s hand.  “It’s not my fault, Mom. You know that. I get that he’s technically family, but he always gets on his high horse, and I just couldn’t take it anymore.”  A pleading tone enters her voice despite herself, as her mother still won’t meet her eyes. “I just don’t understand why you let him come to Thanksgiving every year when he’s always--”

“It’s because I miss Sarah!” Abby snaps finally.  And then, turning around, voice breaking, “I miss my sister, especially this time of year.  He’s the only real link I have to her now that my parents are gone. He’s the only other one who knew her so well.”

It makes Clarke’s heart ache, as she sees her mother’s chin tremble.  “Oh Mom…” she murmurs, taking a step closer.

“I know he can be a bit...pedantic.  But I’ve known Thelonious for so long, he’s like the brother I never had.”

“I get that,” Clarke says with a sigh.  “I feel like that about Wells. But Mom, he’s homophobic.  And there’s no way I can convince him otherwise, and I’m tired of him being able to say whatever he wants while I just have to suck it up and feel shitty and uncomfortable.”

She’s getting somewhere, almost, but the profanity makes her mom frown and her voice hardens again.  “Well I’m sorry, Clarke, but that’s just what family is. You just have to agree to disagree.”

“I can’t ‘agree to disagree’ with someone who thinks me and Lexa and Wells and everyone like us should literally go to hell, just for being ourselves!” Clarke exclaims, losing her last scrap of patience.  “If that’s what family is, that’s messed up.  And I don’t want to deal with it every Thanksgiving while I’m spending what little time off I have driving almost four hours each way and eating your terrible turkey!”

Silence rings in her ears for a long moment.  Somewhere in the distance, a neighbor’s dog barks. 

Clarke braces herself for a tirade, thinking this time, perhaps, she’s gone too far.

But her mom just looks down and sighs.  Then she very quietly says, “The turkey was particularly bland this year, wasn’t it.”

Clarke could lie, to make her mom feel a little better, but she doesn’t.  Not this time. “Yeah, it was.”

“Honestly…” Abby’s shoulders are shaking, but when she looks up again Clarke realizes it’s from a sort of pained almost-laughter as much as from tears.  “...I hate turkey,” she admits.  “I hate cooking it, I don’t like eating it, and there’s always so damn much left over…”

Clarke can’t help it: she starts laughing as well.  And eventually she steps forward and pulls her mom into a teary-eyed hug.  For several minutes mother and daughter just sort of lean against each other, laughing and sniffling together.

Faintly she can hear Marcus talking to Lexa.  “I don’t understand, they were just arguing,” he mutters.

“Beats me,” Lexa retorts, “but I think they’ll be okay now, mostly.” 

“You want some scotch?” he offers after a moment.  “I’ve got a nice 16-year Lagavulin.”

“Oh, I don’t actually drink.  Thanks, though.”

Marcus pauses.  “...So last night, you weren’t actually drunk?”

“Nope.  I just let you all assume that.”

“Huh.”

Clarke pulls back, wipes some tears away from her face as her mom does the same.  “Thank you for standing up to Uncle Thelonious, Mom,” she offers as an olive branch.

“I’m sorry I didn’t do it sooner,” her mom says shakily.  “I think I...still have some things to learn about being supportive to you.”

It’s a huge admission, for her hard-headed mom; Clarke gives her another hug for it.  

“I think you might still have some things to learn about roasting a turkey, too,” she adds, and feels the laughter bubble up from her mom’s chest.  

She looks over Abby’s shoulder and sees Lexa watching her with a faint smile, tender and small but somehow enough to make Clarke feel lighter and stronger inside.

This Thanksgiving hasn’t gone at all like she’d planned, and she’s surprisingly happy about it.

Chapter Text

 

The rest of the evening goes much more smoothly.  Abby breaks out a store-bought pecan pie that’s actually quite good, while Marcus pours some of his best whiskey for himself and Clarke.  

Marcus even interrupts his mom when she starts asking whether Clarke and Lexa are planning to have children, and the perils of attempting artificial insemination at a later age, and her opinion that “you two would make beautiful children, I’m just saying—”

“Hey Mom, how about you tell me which wine to open next?” he asks loudly, and steers the conversation back into safer waters with an apologetic look at Clarke and Lexa.

After Clarke absolutely destroys everyone at a post-dinner game of Pictionary, they all settle in the living room to watch a movie.  She and Lexa claim a spot on the floor with pillows and a blanket.  Eventually Clarke shifts to a more comfortable position, tugging Lexa’s arm around her shoulders and snuggling into her side.

“This okay?” she murmurs.

Lexa answers simply by kissing her forehead and pulling her even closer, so that Clarke’s head is pillowed on her shoulder. 

And it’s a good thing the movie isn’t one Clarke cares about, because after that little move she loses the thread.  She’s enjoying Lexa too much: being this close to her while they’re both awake, basking in her warmth under the blanket and feeling the rise and fall of her breathing; plus the growing awareness that whatever this is between them might go beyond just physical attraction.

Of course, it’s entirely an accident when the hem of Lexa’s henley rises slightly at her hip, enough for a slim hand to slip in and trace the strip of bare skin exposed there.   And it’s entirely coincidental that Lexa’s breath hitches and she suppresses a shiver.

Her skin is so smooth and warm, enticing Clarke to smooth over her hipbone, tease a fingertip just underneath the waistband of her jeans…

A firm hand catches hers.  “You better behave,” Lexa growls under her breath, so low only Clarke can hear.  

“Or what?” she husks back, defiant.

Lexa’s breath tickles her ear.  “Don’t think I didn’t notice how you reacted earlier today, when I slapped your ass.”

This time Clarke is the one who shivers, and bites her lip for good measure.  

But they’re still in her mom’s living room, watching a movie with her family, and it is neither the time nor place to be that turned on.  So she moves her hand and tries to refocus on the movie and calm her hormones.  They’re still spending the night in her narrow, squeaky childhood bed, after all, right down the hall from her mom and stepdad.  There’s no point in letting herself get so worked up…

...which is easier said than done, of course.

***

A stroke of luck arrives after the movie ends.  

“You know Clarke, the pull-out sofa in the study is probably bigger than your old bed,” Abby points out as she stands, stifling a yawn.  “Since your uncle isn’t staying there tonight, maybe you and Lexa should take it.”

Clarke recognizes it as a gesture of good will, somewhere between ‘I’m trying to be supportive of you and your girlfriend as a real couple’ and ‘sorry your uncle was such a dick to you for so long and I allowed it’.  

But immediately her thirsty mind gets stuck on the fact that the study is downstairs.  As in, away from anyone else’s room.  As in, far enough away that nobody upstairs can hear anything.  Plus the pull-out mattress there is indeed roomier than her own bed...and best of all, it doesn’t squeak.  

“Um, yeah, that sounds good,” she says as nonchalantly as possible.  

She tries and fails not to think about it as she gets ready for bed in the study, while Lexa’s in the bathroom. Interrupting her non-PG thoughts, her mom’s voice comes from the door she’d left slightly ajar for Lexa.

“Knock knock, I brought you some fresh sheets.”

“Oh, thanks Mom.”

Abby hands her the linens, then hovers in the doorway, fiddling with the necklace she’s wearing. “You two heading back to Polis tomorrow morning?”

“Yeah. Lexa has to work in the evening tomorrow, and I’ve got a shift the day after.”

Abby nods. “I understand.  Still, I wish we had a little more time with you, dear.”

“Me too.” And for the first time in years, Clarke means it. It had been nice, after Uncle Thelonious left; her mom was clearly on her best behavior, and everyone seemed a little more relaxed.  “Tonight was nice.”

And that’s about as much emotional vulnerability as they can handle yet, apparently, because the silence turns awkward, and Abby hastily wishes her a good night.  Whatever, it’s still progress. 

Lexa returns while she’s battling with the fitted sheet, and Clarke forgets her ruminations about family dynamics because the brunette looks like that.  Her hair is down, silky and wavy, her face glows a little pink from washing, and her long legs stretch from under her boxers into next week. 

“Need some help?” Lexa offers with a quirk of her lips, interrupting her overt ogling.  

They work together smoothly to finish making the fold-out bed, but they’re glancing at each other silently the whole time.  There’s a hint of that damned smirk on Lexa’s face, and Clarke can feel the tension rising palpably. She remembers waking up wrapped around Lexa that morning, how it felt being pressed so close together, the little noises Lexa made when they kissed--

By the time she flicks off the light and they both slide under the covers, she’s wound tight as a drum.  She rolls on her side to face Lexa, reaching out to cup her jaw. It’s visible in the blueish moonlight from the study’s window, through its gauzy, decorative curtains.

“Hey,” she whispers, trying her best to sound even remotely chill, “I know we kissed earlier and everything but if you just wanna go to sleep, that’s totally fi--”

Lexa surges forward and kisses her hard. Pulls Clarke closer by her waist, tangles their legs together.  “I’ve been wanting you all day,” she murmurs hotly. “Been wanting to touch you, god--”

Clarke whimpers into her mouth. Lexa urges her onto her back, leaning up and over her, a smile on her lips soon melting into their kiss. Clarke drags a hand down Lexa’s back to the hem of her sleep shirt and tugs it up insistently.

The brunette sits up just enough to yank the shirt over her head, and runs a hand back through her hair in a fluid move that’s just so, so hot.  Then she lifts her hips and tugs her boxers off in one movement as well, which is impossibly hotter.

“Your turn,” Lexa says with a devilish look, and Clarke tears her attention away from collarbone and shapely breasts and—is that another tattoo, down there just above her—

Impatient, Lexa helps pull her own clothes off and then they’re skin to skin.  A knowing hand smooths over Clarke’s left breast and rolls the nipple between two fingertips; a firm thigh nestles against wet heat. They both suck in air at that, Clarke’s eyes slamming shut.

When she peels them open again, Lexa is staring down at her in the dim light with an awed, hungry look.

“Fuck, you’re beautiful,” she breathes. “…I wanna go down on you.”

Clarke shudders. “God, yeah. I’ve been tested since my last time, I’m good…”

“Me too.”  But Lexa takes her time, still playing idly with her nipples and gazing at her. “Tell me, anything you don’t like? Any places off limits?”

Clarke flushes at the directness, but if anything it makes her even wetter. “No choking or butt stuff.”  She rolls needy hips against Lexa’s thigh. “Just, please, I need—”

In response, Lexa starts kissing and sucking her way down Clarke’s neck and chest. Detours to her breasts for a glorious while before getting back on track, and then her breath is hot on Clarke’s belly, hands sliding up from her knees and spreading her open…

Lexa hums in pleasure.  “So wet, baby. This all for me?”

Clarke can’t contain a moan at the combination of Lexa’s touch and words and the burning look in her eye. Lips brush the insides of her thighs, hot and wet, and then—

F-fuck,” she stutters, too loud, at the first teasing swipe of tongue. 

“Shh, I got you.”  

And then Clarke’s biting her lip to muffle her own cries.  

Lexa is good at this, knows just how to open her up, how much to flick her tongue against her clit before sucking it hard. She’s relentless, tireless, and holy shit, she must not need to breathe very much...

Clarke digs a hand into dark locks and rolls her hips and comes, so fast she’s almost taken by surprise.  Lexa doesn’t falter in her rhythm. She just keeps building her to the next dizzying peak.

“Want your fingers too,” Clarke gasps.

Lexa groans at that, warm against her wet cunt. And then she’s stroking two fingers deep, tongue still circling her clit, the combination of slippery suction and slight stretch driving Clarke higher and higher—

She crooks her fingers just right and Clarke’s head slams back into the pillow, muscles tensing and blood pounding loud in her ears. Her mouth hangs open in a long, breathless gasp.

By the time she can feel her toes again, Lexa is moving back up her body, wiping her mouth. She wears a smug look that is, in Clarke’s currently boneless opinion, entirely well-earned.

They kiss for a while, lazy and slow and messy, while Clarke recovers.  She can taste herself on Lexa’s lips. 

“You are...really good at that,” she pants, resting her forehead against Lexa’s.

The other woman grins. “You’re really responsive. It’s a rush.”

“Mmngh.” Clarke trails her fingertips up and down Lexa’s spine, feels her shiver and rock a little closer. “Wanna make you feel good now.”

With their legs intertwined, she can feel Lexa’s wetness on her thigh. She experimentally bends her knee, flexing her leg, and Lexa inhales sharply.

It only takes a little tugging of Lexa’s hips before Clarke has her straddling her thigh, grinding against it with green eyes wide. Clarke sits up enough to cup her tits, a small but perfect handful each, and roll her tongue over their rosy tips.

When she nibbles one gently, Lexa grinds down harder with a fervently-whispered “fuck”

Panting, she grabs one of Clarke’s hands and guides it downward.  “Don’t go inside. Just—shit, yeah, like that—” she hisses as Clarke rubs a finger on either side of her clit, her thumb pressing against the hardened nub of it. It’s a little awkward for her wrist but well fucking worth it, as Lexa’s mouth falls open and her whole body trembles. 

Clarke works her up quickly, grabs her ass with her other hand to keep her grinding hard and fast. And then she watches in awe as Lexa falls apart. 

Her back arches, her thighs clench hard around Clarke’s, and her breaths come in shorter, sharper huffs, until they peak in a strangled moan. It sounds a lot like Clarke’s name.

Lexa keeps grinding and rocking down shakily as the aftershocks run through her, and Clarke pushes her leg a little higher against her.  Then her foot digs into a crease in the slightly lumpy bed—and suddenly the end of the fold-out bed collapses with a jolt and a sound of protesting metal.

Lexa topples off of her with a squeak of surprise, while Clarke scrabbles backwards to keep from sliding down the suddenly-sloping mattress.

“Are you okay?” She peers over the end of the bed.

Rubbing her hip, Lexa sits up.  “My pride’s a little bruised, but my ass is okay,” she says ruefully.

Clarke starts giggling, covering her mouth, and soon Lexa starts laughing as well.  They broke the fucking bed--or rather, they broke the bed fucking--and there’s no way Clarke can tell Raven about this, she’ll never hear the end of it…

They manage to get the bed back up again, unfolding the hinged support bar that had folded up underneath them.  Lexa props a few old encyclopedias under the end just to be sure before she climbs back under the covers.

“Do you want to…” Clarke starts to say, but Lexa lifts an eyebrow at her. 

“Nope.  Uh-uh. I think the beds in this house are cursed,” she mutters.  “I’m not gonna risk it by going again.”

Clarke laughs again.  Her hand finds Lexa’s and their fingers intertwine.

“So I realize it’s kinda doing things backward,” she says after a moment, “but do you wanna go on an actual date sometime?”

“Yeah. I’d like that,” Lexa breathes, with a small smile.  But then it gives way to a frown. “But...are you sure?”

Clarke’s brow furrows.  “What do you mean?”

She looks away, adjusting her pillow. “Well, I’m not really in your league.  You’re this accomplished, beautiful doctor with an advanced degree and probably several times my yearly income.  I’ve got a criminal record, no diploma, no real family…” Her shoulders hunch a little bit, but her tone remains matter-of-fact.  Like these are incontrovertible truths she’s reciting.

“--Yeah, and you’re smart, curious, incredibly thoughtful, determined, and gorgeous. Not to mention good in bed.  No, listen,” Clarke adds when Lexa starts to interrupt, “I don’t care about that other stuff. Bellamy’s a doctor and he’s kind of an asshole, I wouldn’t want to date him.  I want to date you.”

Lexa gives her this look that’s somehow a mix of shy and smug and hopeful and disbelieving, all at once.

“But it’ll make things awkward and difficult, sometimes,” she insists.  “Yeah, it’s been fun scandalizing your family and hooking up, but what will your friends think about me? And what about when I’m closing two nights in a row and busy with catering gigs all week?”

“What about when I’m on call and have to leave in the middle of a date? Or when I show up smelling like toddler vomit?” Clarke retorts. “We’ll figure it out.  And my friends, they’ll be supportive, especially once they get to know you better.”

Well, Raven will most likely make bizarre threats and sexual innuendoes at Lexa until she either gets flustered or replies in kind; it’s basically her hazing ritual.  But after that she’ll be supportive. Probably.

“We can take it slow, ease into the friend thing.  Go on a few dates and see if we still like each other or if this is just a turkey-induced fling,” Clarke says, reaching out to brush a piece of hair behind Lexa’s ear, careful not to get it tangled in her bar piercing.  

Lexa nods.  “I kinda hope it isn’t just a fling,” she admits quietly.  She takes Clarke’s hand, now stroking over her jaw, and presses a kiss to her palm before clasping their hands again on the bed between them.

“I hope not either.  Especially because I want an excuse for you to cook for me.” Clarke’s voice goes even huskier than usual.  “And because I didn’t get a chance to taste you yet--”

Fuck.” Lexa visibly shudders before gathering herself.  “Yeah, okay, yeah. So when do you wanna go on that date?”

***

The next morning as they prepare to leave, Abby insists on giving them a slice each of the not-homemade pie in a tupperware.  It’s a mom thing.  

“I won’t make you take any leftover turkey,” she says wryly, and chuckles when Clarke pretends to wipe her brow in relief.

“Bye Mom.”  She squeezes her mom in a bigger hug than usual, holds her a couple beats longer.  Then she surprises even herself by adding, “Maybe you should come to visit Polis sometime.  If you and Marcus find some time off this winter or something.”

Abby smiles.  “Maybe, dear. That would be nice.”

When she turns to Lexa, her tone is a bit more formal, but still genuine.  “It was nice to meet you, Lexa. I can see how much you two support each other already.”

Lexa, surprisingly, looks almost bashful.  She toes the pavement, digs her hands into her pockets.  “Well, you raised a pretty amazing daughter. Didn’t take me very long to see that.”

Clarke smiles; she knows Lexa picked her words so they wouldn’t be a lie.

Her mom smiles too--and to Clarke’s surprise, gives Lexa a hug of her own.  Lexa freezes for a moment, shoulders tensing, but then she takes her hands out of her pockets and hugs Abby back tentatively.

Nana Vera insists on hugging them both as well, and this time Lexa is more ready but just as tentative. Clearly unused to all this familial affection, she gives Marcus a gruff nod and then busies herself with hefting their bags into the back of the van while Clarke finishes her goodbyes.  

She is almost positive that Lexa’s eyes are glistening slightly, though, as they both get into the van.

***

The drive back to Polis goes quickly--almost too quickly for Clarke’s taste.  They spend most of it catching up on some ‘getting to know you’ things they’d skipped over and replaying the more hilarious reactions Clarke’s family had had to Lexa’s embellished antics.  

There’s also quite a bit of flirting.  

When the van rattles to a stop outside her building, neither Clarke nor Lexa move for a moment.  Lexa’s fingers tap a nervous rhythm on the steering wheel.

“So...thanks for coming with me to Thanksgiving on a ridiculous whim,” Clarke starts.

“Thanks for replying to my ridiculous post in the first place.  It was actually kinda fun,” Lexa adds, with a soft smile. “Anyway, I’ve never been the girl someone took home to meet her family before.”

“Well, you definitely made an impression.”  

Clarke fiddles with her seatbelt, slowly unbuckling it.  She’s trying to come up with an excuse to spend a little more time with Lexa, but they just spent more than two full days together and she doesn’t want to impose…

“Do you need to--”

“I can bring your bag up--”

They speak at the same time, and laugh nervously.

With a decisive motion, Lexa unbuckles her own seatbelt.  She turns and cups Clarke’s face in her hands. Then leans in and kisses her sweetly.

The kiss turns hungry quickly--they’re both still wound up from the previous night, the banked coals of arousal sparking up again.

“I don’t have to be at work til six,” Lexa breathes against Clarke’s lips, then nibbles on the lower one.

“My roommate Raven isn’t home til tomorrow,” Clarke gasps out, tugging her closer by her collar.

They spill out of the van and up the stairs to Clarke’s apartment, mouths sliding and hands wandering shamelessly.  As Clarke unlocks the door, Lexa crowds against her back and brands her neck with hot kisses. But on the threshold, she hesitates, looking serious.

“You have an actual bed, right? Like a real adult-size bed for two people that doesn’t collapse or anything?”

“Oh my god, yes, shut up,” Clarke groans, claiming her lips again.

“I’m just saying--” the words are muffled between their mouths, “--there are some things I’d like to do to you that we--mmff--definitely can’t do on a pull-out couch…”

Clarke shivers.  “Oh yeah? Like what?”

Smirking her dangerous smirk, Lexa leans in and murmurs in her ear.  Clarke swallows hard, as all of the moisture in her mouth seems to head elsewhere.

Without another word, she takes Lexa by the hand and leads her to the bedroom. 

***

THE END.