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Forged in War

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It is not so much that Clarke is mysterious, for, to Lexa, she is not; to Lexa, Clarke is an amalgamation of characteristics that she has seen before – but never presented in one form. Clarke is not a mystery so much as a puzzle made of pieces that do not quite merge in line. For Lexa, it is the contradiction of Clarke that first captures her interest.

For Clarke is strong, and kind, but she is also pliable; she is willing to do what must be done, but she is smart about doing so only when necessary. She is willing to lead, though she is still learning what that means. Clarke is willing to sacrifice all for the safety of her people, and for peace. Still, Clarke is determined to hold on to the scraps of her humanity, even in the darkest of times, and even when Lexa knows that it can lead only to Clarke's own suffering.

Lexa does not understand why.

Still, Lexa does what she can for her. She offers advice of things that she herself has learned throughout her rule that have saved her the agony that she now watches Clarke suffer through.

It is not enough.

It is not enough, because Clarke hides her anguish from all – Lexa's people; her own people – but Lexa sees. Lexa peers through the jaded cracks of silver in Clarke's blue eyes of steel, and she sees the vulnerability there; she sees Clarke's pain, and, as Commander, there is only so much that Lexa has the power to do in this regard.

Lexa feels angry at Clarke's people – for Clarke will do (and has already done) everything for them, but the Sky People have no desire to see what her actions have wrought. They are content to live on and crucify Clarke for her decisions, believing her a monster, but they make no attempt to see what those decisions have cost her.

They refuse to look, and therefore do not see.

Lexa cannot help but to look.

And Lexa looks too hard, she realizes, because when she summons Clarke to her tent, it is not only to tell her that Octavia is safe from her people. It is because Lexa wishes to see her, and Lexa feels… guilty; guilty for adding to Clarke's already heavy burdens. She feels guilt for having threatened the life of Clarke's friend.

She maintains that far too many people are aware of their foreknowledge of the Mountain Men's missile, but Clarke's fierce loyalty to both members of the Blake clan mollifies her slightly. It is not that Lexa trusts them, because Lexa interacts with few of the Sky People, disregarding Clarke and Kane. Kane is too soft for Lexa's liking, though his wish for peace is comforting in many ways; he is strong-willed, but weak-minded, and such combinations can be dangerous.

Lexa's trust lies solely in Clarke.

Lexa trusts that Clarke only grants such faith to those who have proven themselves worthy of it.

So Lexa tells Clarke of her trust, and she is flattered by Clarke's insistence that she knows how difficult it is for Lexa to bestow trust upon another. For it is, indeed, difficult – but, because it is Clarke, it feels simpler for Lexa.

"You think our ways are harsh," Lexa says softly, "but it's how we survive."

"Maybe life should be about more than just surviving," Clarke says with quiet conviction. But then Clarke drops her head down and slightly to the right, murmuring, "Don't we deserve better than that?"

It is as though Clarke is afraid to ask. It is as though Clarke fears that, no, they do not deserve better. Not anymore. And Lexa thinks that, though she has known only war and strife and suffering throughout most of her life in this body, they must deserve better.

It is a foreign thought, and one that has not previously occurred to her, but she and Clarke are not so different. Lexa believes, with all of her spirit, that Clarke deserves more than a life of survival, and if they are the same in so many ways, then mustn't Lexa deserve more, too?

"Maybe we do," Lexa returns, eyes honed fiercely on the profile of Clarke's bowed face.

Lexa feels her hands grow cold, and the tremor in them is an infuriating indication of her deepest weakness, but Lexa does not cower in the face of fear. She raises that trembling hand to cradle the base of Clarke's neck with her fingers, thumb hooked gently beneath her ear, and without a moment to hesitate, Lexa kisses her.

Lexa kisses Clarke, because Costia was so very long ago, and Lexa loved her dearly, but it is not the same. For Lexa's heart was felled for Costia by charm and reckless bravery and an easy laugh that had encouraged Lexa to echo it, but Lexa could not be fooled by such things again. Costia had been Lexa's relief in a dark, changing world, but Clarke is… not.

Clarke is Lexa's reflection. She is the mirror image of Lexa, except that she is not. She is what Lexa might have been, had she chosen different paths, and could her people have allowed it.

Clarke is better.

Lexa looks into Clarke's eyes and sees herself, but she sees something, too, that is only Clarke's to possess. She sees true strength – the kind of strength that Lexa has always had to fight to keep control of, but which Clarke commands with ease.

And Lexa feels that strength in Clarke's kiss.

It is soft, and tentative, and slow, and Lexa's breath shakes with each pull against Clarke's generously pliant mouth. Tongues do not play, but when Clarke's hand shifts to grasp lightly against the bend of Lexa's arm, Lexa feels, for a moment, that she is free; that Clarke can fall from the heavens just as swiftly as she can lift Lexa to them.

When Clarke sucks in a sharp breath and tips her head slightly away, Lexa's hand falls from her face like it has been filled with the metals of her people, because Lexa knows what she has done.

There is something intangible that she and Clarke share, and Lexa now knows that Clarke can feel it, too – but she is not surprised when Clarke tells her that she is not ready.

"Not yet," Clarke whispers, eyes soft, and apologetic, but promising, still.

It hurts, in Lexa's heart, but she knows what Clarke is not saying. She remembers the startled, horrified look in Clarke's eye when Lexa had demanded the life of the boy Clarke loved. Lexa remembers how Clarke had moved around for days as though her spirit had abandoned her body altogether. Still a competent leader, yes – but hardly human.

That had been difficult for Lexa to bear, though she showed no indication. Clarke's humanity and mercy and compassion are all that makes her different from Lexa. Without those things, Clarke is not Clarke. She is a shell.

It took much time before Lexa could again find Clarke inside of that shell. She had searched for her, beneath the darkness in those shaded blue eyes, and Lexa had been patient. She had waited for Clarke to find her peace – or something like it, for Lexa knows that true peace is gifted only in death, and often not even then.

Lexa tries to keep her features understanding, but it is hard when she wishes only that Clarke will not see the sting of such rejection in her eyes. She does not wish for Clarke to know, because it is clear to Lexa that Clarke feels remorseful enough without it, and her remorse is unnecessary. For Lexa does understand. She understands that Clarke has suffered much, and Lexa can be patient once more.

She has found Clarke again, through the haze of her despair and the consequences of her hard decisions, and if Clarke requires more time, Lexa will allow her that. Much has changed for Clarke in recent months, and change requires adaption. Clarke is still adapting, and Lexa knows that she must adapt on her own.

For Lexa has found Clarke once more, but Clarke is still searching for herself. Lexa not only understands Clarke's need to be alone, she encourages it. It does not make her heart hurt less, but she has no desire to be with Clarke if Clarke is unsure that the person she is can be with the person Lexa is.

But Lexa is given no chance to explain this to Clarke, for her people are begging her attention outside of her tent and this can mean nothing but war.

She spares another glance toward the Sky Princess, but they are both commanders in their own right, and Clarke's expression has turned determined and fearless just as rapidly as Lexa's own.

Lexa nods her approval before they both take off outside, and when they see the flame light the air above, Clarke breathes, relieved, "Bellamy did it."

Lexa stares, too, at the sky. As Clarke's words reach her ears, she says with quiet confidence, "You were right to have faith in him."

When she turns to face Clarke, Clarke has faced her, also. Lexa does not say much in words, but in the look that they share, Lexa offers her heart to this blonde princess of the sky.

"As I was right to have faith in you," her eyes whisper to Clarke's.

When she hears her people's eager cries for vengeance, she looks to Clarke and cannot help a small smile, for now they are finished standing idly by while their people are harvested for blood and marrow. Now, the alliance that she and Clarke had fought against their people to form will be put to use for this joint cause.

"Now, we fight," Lexa says fiercely.

Clarke looks at her as though there is much she wishes to say, but Clarke knows better, so she offers only a slow, resolute nod.

Still, Lexa wishes that she could know. She wishes that she could pry between Clarke's mind and hear the words she desperately desires to speak. But when Clarke shifts her gaze to Lexa's people and steels her eyes once more, Lexa realizes that she could probably have chosen a better time for this.

But now is no time for distractions, and Clarke will have to wait until their war has been won.

Lexa hopes only that they both survive it.