A 7am photography lab has probably not been her best life choice but it gets her out of the apartment bright and early and that’s all Lexa needs.
She doesn’t hate living there – in fact, it’s rather pleasant. Her roommate, Raven, is decent as far as roommates go. She isn’t too loud and she always makes enough food to feed a small army, the leftovers of which she leaves on Lexa’s side of the fridge. Her only possible complaint is how late she keeps her rowdy friends over on Friday nights but even that, she can live with. All she needs to do is put her headphones on and tune into the sound of…anywhere else. Paris, maybe. Bangladesh, when she’s feeling particularly nostalgic. Peru, sometimes when she craves the smell of unpolluted ocean and the feeling of white sand between her toes. With the right music, the right sounds of nature, Lexa can go anywhere. She has CD’s upon CD’s, labeled with sounds from places she’s been and places she wishes she could go. So she can block out Raven’s annoying friends. It isn’t a big deal.
But she needs to be out of the apartment as much as possible. There’s only so long she can stay in one place. Only so long she can sit in her room and do homework. It’s boring. It’s repetitive. It’s not who she is. They live in a city that’s big enough to get lost in and Lexa often does.
(It’s a good thing she has navigation on her phone otherwise she’d have succumbed to the elements a long time ago.)
So she leaves early and she wanders. She takes back streets and a new route every day. She takes pictures of pretty buildings she’s sure she won’t ever see again and children waiting for the bus and discolored stop signs. She loads her camera with once in a lifetime sights she wouldn’t get to see from her bedroom window.
And then she goes to class and she pretends that the routine of everything doesn’t bore her. That walking the same path from class to class doesn’t make her wish she were anywhere else.
But the semester is nearly finished and she’s set to travel into Siberia with her father over the summer so at least she has that to look forward to. Some actual ice cold might do her good. It doesn’t freeze in San Francisco. Not like it does up there. She’s never been to Siberia. Russia, of course, but only as far north as St. Petersburg. She’s always wanted to see it. The desolation. The emptiness. The people who find the heart in the cold.
She’s always wondered if people with that sort of strength only exist in places like that or if you could find them anywhere.
(She hopes, deep down, though she refuses to even acknowledge it, for the second option.)
She gets back to the apartment well before Raven does, as it usually is, and she goes into her room. She pulls back her drapes and she lets the sunlight in. She keeps her boom box on her bookshelf, next to the stack of CDs, and she loads it up with a special Russia themed CD while she presses dial on her father’s contact. She sits on her bed with her legs crossed and back straight while she listens to the dial tone. Break is still a few days off but she wants to make sure all of her flight plans are in order. She has no time for delays. He picks up after a few moments. “Hello, Lexa.” He speaks in a familiar, rigid tone.
“Hello, Father.” She replies, her tone equally as stiff. “I’m calling to make sure my flight is in order for Saturday. I don’t want to be delayed at the airport.” She continues and there’s a sound coming from the living room and she hopes it isn’t Raven– she hasn’t closed her door yet. She hears a long sigh from the other end of the receiver and her heart nearly stops. Oh no.
“Lexa, my darling, I’m very sorry to have to tell you this over the phone but I’m afraid we won’t be able to make Siberia. Something work related has come up and I can’t fly out.” He says and Lexa’s shoulders fall. Typical. She isn’t sure why she expects anything from him anymore. “Your Mother has graciously offered her home to you for the summer.” Oh no. There is no way.
“I can go on my own. It wouldn’t be my first solo trip.” Lexa suggests and her father’s sigh is heavy.
“I’m afraid that’s not possible. I cancelled both of our tickets, Lexa.” She clenches her teeth.
“That wasn’t your decision to make.” She says, though it’s nearly a growl.
“Of course it was. I was paying. You’re going to stay with your Mother. End of story.” He says, effectively cutting her off, as he always does. It’s nothing that she isn’t used to.
“How am I supposed to get to her? She’s all the way in Maryland. Any flight I purchase now will be wildly expensive and to be honest, I don’t find her worth the money.” She says, frustrated.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to figure that out on your own, darling.” He says and it lacks any kind of empathy. Her nostrils flare.
“Fine.” She says through still clenched teeth. She won’t give him the satisfaction of begging for his help. She is, most certainly, above that.
“Try and have a good break. I’ll call if I get a chance.” He speaks one last time before hanging up, leaving Lexa to listen to a dial tone and for her brain to try and catch up with what just happened. She’s going to have to spend summer with mother. In Maryland. That is, if she could figure out a way to get there. There is nothing about this she’s looking forward to. Especially not booking a last minute bus seat where she’s bound to end up next to some fat man who smells like nachos and can’t hold his flatulence until he gets to the bathroom.
(And she tries not to be upset about losing out on Siberia, on the only thing she’s had to look forward to in months. It works, so long as she shoves it in that back corner where the other skeletons live.)
She hears footsteps in the hall and then a blonde is poking her head into the room. She recognized her. One of Raven’s friends, she thinks, and vaguely she wonders how on earth she got in. “Do you need something…?” She asks, exasperatedly. She really wasn’t looking for company right now. Especially not company from a stranger who’s friends with her (mostly) irritatingly loud roommate but an open door is an invitation, at least as far as she knows.
“Can I come in?” Lexa nods, though it’s barely just a short tick of the head. Her back is stiffened straight and her eyes are hard. She clenches her fist, grabbing some of the blanket beneath her, like she’s on some sort of guard.
The girl, whose name she thinks might be Clarke says, “Okay, so I wasn’t trying to eavesdrop, really, but I overheard you on the phone. You said you’re heading to Maryland. I’m from D.C…” Clarke trails off and her eyes are wide as her words start to fade to make sure that Lexa gets her implication and she does. Boy, she does.
“Are you suggesting that we travel together?” Lexa says and Clarke shrugs.
“I have a car. The person I was supposed to drive with just bailed on me, so I was just going to post something to craigslist about ridesharing and I figure, I sort of already know you. You live with Raven, so, you’re a lot less likely to kill me than a stranger from the internet.” Clarke says and Lexa thinks about the knife collection she has under her bed and she figures now might not be the best time to mention that.
“That’s…likely true.” Lexa replies. And really, it wouldn’t be a bad deal. The girl doesn’t seem to be too difficult. She’s got a sweet face (though Lexa knows a sweet face ought not to be trusted). And sharing a car with one person is leaps and bounds better than sharing a bus with sixty. At least Clarke doesn’t smell. Clarke takes a few steps closer to her.
“We can make a trip out of it!” She says and Lexa is still looking up at her skeptically. Clarke lets out a breath. “Look, I know that we don’t really know each other, like at all, but I need someone to split the gas money with and you need a ride. If you agree, we both get what we want.” And that’s pretty compelling – as if Lexa had really thought about saying no to begin with. She was desperate. Not that she would ever admit it. A solo ride with a virtual stranger was more appealing to her than a bus ride. She nods her head.
“I suppose that would be…acceptable.” She agrees and Clarke swings her arms up to clap her hands once.
“Great! I’ll come by Saturday morning and we can load your stuff up!” She says, giving her another smile, which is brighter and less nervous than the previous ones she’s given, and Lexa, hesitantly, returns it. And truly, Clarke is a pretty girl. There’s no denying that. She’d caught view of her on a few occasions, though none as long as this. She was always Raven’s friend and Lexa knew better than to invade on Raven’s territory.
“Saturday morning it is….Clarke.” She echoes, punctuating her sentence with the girl’s name. She pauses in the doorway, smiling at Lexa softly. She gives her one last not before she turns to leave. Lexa stares after her, the image of Clarke’s smile still imprinted on the forefront of her brain.
She convinces herself the turning in her stomach is hunger.
It’s Bellamy’s turn to host game night and his apartment is a mess. There’s clothes, empty beer bottles, crushed red solo cups, and Clarke is pretty sure the pizza box on his floor is from last game night. She’s on the couch, next to Raven, who has one of her legs thrown up on Clarke’s lap. Clarke taps her fingers on the brace. Bellamy and Jasper are engaged in an intense battle of Call of Duty and Clarke’s already called winner. She hopes it’s Jasper. She knows all of his strategy by now. Bellamy’s always been a bit tougher to crack. A little more unpredictable. She still wins though – it just takes a little while longer. Raven’s playing Animal Crossing on her DS, utterly disinterested in what’s going on on the screen in front of her. She sticks the stylus in her mouth and looks up at Clarke with a raised eyebrow, “So you sure you want to hit the open road with Sabrina the Teenage Witch, sketchy roommate extraordinaire?” Clarke rolls her eyes. She flicks Raven on the ankle.
“I told you not to call her that.” She says, leaning her head back against the couch.
“I’m just saying, take a salt shaker with you in case she pulls out a black flame candle and tries to virgin sacrifice you.” Raven says, looking back down to the screen of her DS.
“She’s not a witch, Raven. She’s just quiet.” Clarke defends, though honestly she knows next to nothing about Lexa so for all Clarke knew, she could be a practicing witch. Hopefully, for the sake of their trip, she only practiced white magic.
“She’s right Clarke – that girl is sketchy. You don’t know anything about her.” Bellamy says though he doesn’t look at Clarke. The fight on the screen is nearing an end and he has his bottom lip pulled between his teeth in concentration. Raven gestures over to him.
“For once, the prince has something smart to say. Clarke, I live with her and I wouldn’t even travel cross-country with her.” She says and Clarke sighs.
“She was my only option, okay? Because someone,” She pauses, looking over at Raven with a faux glare. Raven chuckles. “Had to go and get herself an engineering internship. I need the gas money.” Clarke finishes.
“Sorry my impeccable success is an inconvenience to you, princess.” Raven says, absentmindedly and Clarke tries her best to ignore the pang in her chest at the all too familiar nickname. Raven looks up, sharply after a few moments of silence. “Oh shit, Clarke, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to…” Clarke waves her off. She shakes her head.
“No, don’t worry. It’s fine. I’m fine.” She says and it’s easy to tell that she doesn’t mean it. Her hand drifts up to the necklace hanging from her neck and she twists it between her fingers. She stares down at her lap. Tears are pricking at the back of her eyes before she has the chance to control them. She sniffs. “I need to use the bathroom.” She mumbles, sliding out from underneath Raven’s leg, resting in on the couch. She stands, keeping her head down. The tears start to slip down her cheeks before she has a chance to lock the bathroom door. She doesn’t bother. She leans over the sink, gripping the basin. She tries to count backwards from ten with her eyes clenched closed but that doesn’t do anything besides produce an image of him behind her eyelids that she can’t blink away.
She takes a shaky breath. She turns on the sink and lets out one long sob. That’s all she can afford herself. She wipes her eyes with her sleeve. She opens the cabinet, knowing Bellamy keeps eye drops there for his little…breaks between classes. She searches the rows and her eyes land on a bottle of shaving cream that, from the dried material on the outside, looks like it hasn’t been used in weeks. The cap isn’t on all of the way and the light smattering of dust makes it clear that nobody’s even touched it.
She recognizes it, if only for the sheer amount of times that Bellamy and Miller had teased him for refusing to buy the generic brand.
Bellamy had kept it.
She brings her fingers up to it, dashing a line through the dust across the label. The smile on her face is bittersweet, as she closes her eyes and remembers what the stubble across his jawline had felt like. How smooth it had felt after he’d finally shaved it, making her touch it as often as she could.
If she focuses hard enough she can still smell his aftershave. She’s about to get lost in the memory when there’s a pounding on the bathroom door. “Griffin, you’re up. Goggles out there gave me my ass on a silver platter.” Bellamy calls from the other side. Clarke jumps, quickly shutting the door of the medicine cabinet. She wipes at her eyes and hopes that nobody notices, or comments, on the state of her eyes.
She pushes past Bellamy without looking up. She settles into the tattered old beanbag chair next to Jasper and grabs the remote. He’s looking at her through his shaggy hair. “You alright, Clarke?” He asks and Clarke nods her head. She straightens her back looks over at him with a raised eyebrow.
“Better than you’re about to be. Ready to go?” She asks and his face melds into that familiar floppy grin.
“Bring it on, Griffin. Bring. It. On.”
They finish playing around 11 and everybody has a beer in their hands. Raven is still yelling at her game of Animal Crossing and Bellamy is trying to steal the stylus from her, though she’s doing damn well at keeping it away. Clarke is sitting at the kitchen table, her feet hiked up on one of the free chairs. She watches as with her free hand, Raven knocks Bellamy’s hand away.
“Next time your fingers get that close to my stylus, I will slice them off.” Raven threatens and Bellamy pulls his hand back.
“Fine, fine. Buzzkill.” He grumbles, leaning back in his chair and taking a long swig of beer. He looks over to Clarke.
“So how long’s it going to take you get cross country, kid?” Clarke glares.
“Just under two days if we don’t stop.” She says, though she figures they’ll have to stop to sleep and eat. She doesn’t know what kind of habits Lexa has but she assumes that even if she does spend most of her time holed up in her room, she still does need to eat. And while two days is quite a bit time, it still doesn’t feel like enough. Bellamy leans in across the table.
“I meant what I said earlier, Clarke. Be careful. Just because she’s Raven’s roommate doesn’t mean she’s not some kind of raging psychopath.” He pauses, glancing over at Raven, who is staring intensely down at her game, “Actually, because she’s Raven’s roommate, it’s definitely possible she’s some kind of raging psychopath.” His voice was lowered to a stage whisper but without looking up, Raven says,
“I heard that, jackass.” Clarke laughs and Bellamy looks up at her through his eyelashes. His eyes are soft and it’s clear he’d done that just to cheer her up in some way, which is something she appreciated. She was grateful to have friends as good as the ones she has in her life. Not everybody is so lucky.
She wonders if Lexa has anybody like this. From the little that she knows of her, she can’t imagine that she does. She seems isolated. Guarded. Her straight-backed posture told Clarke as much.
She’s fascinated by Lexa, she has to admit. Someone with as much of a guard as Lexa clearly has (anyone with eyes can see it) agreeing to drive cross country with a stranger? There has to be a reason. And maybe it isn’t Clarke’s business, probably isn’t Clarke’s business, but she wants to find out.
She has at least two days on the road with her to do it.
She packs lightly. She’d already arranged for movers to take the rest of her things from the apartment, seeing as Raven would be staying the summer. She’s only packed enough clothing to last a few days. She’d googled the trip length and it said only forty one hours. So as long they only stopped to eat and maybe rest, they would arrive at their destination in about two days’ time. And while Lexa isn’t looking forward to a summer with her mother, she is looking forward to the Maryland beaches. And watching a sunrise from the spot on her balcony.
There are aspects of home that she doesn’t hate. And truly, it’s the familiarity that makes her feel suffocated. It isn’t anything new. It isn’t anything exciting. That’s what Lexa craves. Excitement. Thrill. She gets none of that in suburban Maryland.
What she does get is an underwhelming Mother who only decides she wants to turn on her maternal instinct once or twice year and even then, she does a pretty shoddy job at it. Not that Lexa is complaining. She’d learned a lot from her Mother. Just none of it was how to be a good person.
She sits on top of her suitcase, back straight and eyes on the corner, waiting for Clarke. She isn’t sure what her car looks like so she only searches for a blonde head. A few cars pass and Lexa glances down at her watch. 8:02. She’s late.
Five minutes later, a bright blue car pulls up in front of Lexa, who is staring sourly at the ground. She looks up. She sees Clarke, sunglasses pushed up on top of her head, in the drivers seat. She stands from her suitcase and looks Clarke straight in the eyes. “You’re late.” She says. Clarke shrugs with an apologetic smile.
“I know, I’m sorry! I had an emergency with my roommate. Hugging the porcelain throne.” She says, giving her a look that Lexa doesn’t acknowledge.
“The trunk, please, Clarke?” Lexa asks, gesturing toward it with one of her hands. Clarke nods, pushing a button above her head to pop open the trunk. Lexa figures she won’t get out to meet her – there’s no reason for her to, but she does. She’s standing on the opposite side of the trunk when Lexa hoists her suitcase up.
“Is that the only bag you have?” Clarke asks and Lexa stares up at her, nodding shortly. Clarke stares and it’s mildly discomforting. She’s leaning against the edge of the trunk and her eyes don’t leave Lexa. Lexa glances over at her, barely holding her gaze for more than a second.
“We should get going. I’d like to be nearly through Utah before sundown.” She says, walking back to the passenger side of the car, leaving Clarke at the other end of the car.
Lexa is already settled into the passenger seat, buckled and everything, when Clarke slides back in. The windows are opened just a crack and the radio is playing softly, though Lexa doesn’t recognize the tune coming from it. Clarke seems to though because she’s humming along to it the moment she settles down into the seat. Her fingers are tapping against the steering wheel and she gets ready to put the car into drive. “I have a full tank, so we should be good to go for a few hours at least. If you get hungry, just let me know and I’ll pull over.” Clarke says, looking over her shoulder for any oncoming cars. Seeing none, she begins to pull out of the parking spot. She looks over at Lexa. “Or if you just want to stop because you see something fun.” She shrugs after her addition, shooting her eyes back to the road. Lexa stares at her for a moment.
“We’re going home, Clarke. This isn’t a vacation.” Lexa responds noncommittally, as if it were the most obvious thing on the planet. Clarke shrugs.
“That doesn’t mean it has to be boring.” She says and that makes Lexa look over to her. She isn’t looking at her and the morning sun is illuminating her profile beautifully. She really is a pretty girl. Her eyes seem to sparkle the way the light is reflecting on to them and Lexa swears she feels her stomach drop. How uncomfortable.
“Don’t you have family to get home to, Clarke?” Lexa asks, not taking her eyes off of her profile. In doing so, she notices the way Clarke’s jaw clenches the moment Lexa says family. A quick glace down at the hands gripping the wheel show that her knuckles have gone white. She’s squeezing the wheel hard. Family is touchy. Something that Lexa notes. Not more than a few moments later, Clarke is smiling again.
“I’ll see them the whole summer. A few extra days out without me won’t kill them.” She says and it’s clear now that she didn’t say that for Lexa’s benefit – she said it for her own. Anything to make this trip last longer. Anything to keep her away from home for just a few more days. And Lexa understands that feeling. Better than she’d like to admit. There’s a glint in Clarke’s eye that’s familiar. It’s one she’s seen in her own mirror reflection often.
And if it were anybody else, Lexa wouldn’t give a damn. She would look out her window and say, ‘Just drive’. But there’s something about Clarke. She can’t place it or put her finger on it – but there’s something. It’s compelling and it’s magnetic and she’s only been in the car with her for five minutes and already, she’s got her feeling fluttering in her fingertips. That has to be some kind of record.
So instead of telling Clarke, as she probably should, to politely shove it, she nods. “Okay.” She says and she convinces herself that if she finds a place to stop, it’s because it looks interesting to her. It’s not for Clarke. Not for this girl she’s only known a few minutes.
But the way Clarke’s shoulders drop in obvious relief makes Lexa feel like she made the right choice.
They’re quiet for the first hour. Clarke has the radio turned up loudly and if the person in the passenger seat was anybody but this weird, brooding stranger, she would be singing along to the songs on the radio.
Lexa hasn’t turned away from the window since they started driving. There’s not much interesting to see – mostly just passing scenery though Lexa can’t seem to tear her eyes away from it. Clarke’s been wracking her brain for anything to say, anything to ask to break the silence.
There’s something unnerving about Lexa – about the dense way her eyes look. How everything about her seems heavy, like a rifle always loaded and ready to fire. And Clarke is curious as to what it might take to get Lexa to pull the trigger.
Traffic begins to slow and then it comes to a complete stop. Clarke takes her hands off the wheel because, if the long line of cars ahead of her is any indication, they’re going to be stuck her awhile. She looks toward Lexa, who is (unsurprisingly) still staring out window. Clarke wants to say something, is about to say something, when Lexa speaks first.
“Staring isn’t very polite, Clarke.” She murmurs, never tearing her eyes away from the window. Clarke looks back toward the road, where none of the cars in front of her have moved.
“I wasn’t-I didn’t mean.” She stumbles and there’s no reason she should feel this unsettled by Lexa calling her out.
“Were you planning on asking me something or simply staring until I was forced to say something to you?” She speaks again, her words more annunciated this time tough her voice is still low. There’s no bite to words, though they themselves are a bit harsh. She suspects that Lexa doesn’t mean them negatively. It’s just how she speaks. She shifts in her seat so she’s facing Lexa.
“I’m sorry – I just can’t do the quiet anymore.” Clarke says and finally, Lexa tears her eyes away from the window. She looks at her with piercing eyes and Clarke feels like she’s being stripped and searched, turned inside out and gutted. It’s remarkable – how powerful a look can be. She tilts her head toward her.
“Alright.” Lexa relents, shifting in her own seat, though her back is still stiff as board. Clarke isn’t sure she’s seen her relax a single time since they’ve been on the road. “What do you want to talk about, Clarke?” She asks, her stare still heavy and intense. She’s so formal. Like everything’s a business negotiation.
“I don’t know. What’s your favorite color?” Clarke asks, waving a head in Lexa’s direction. Lexa furrows her brow.
“Isn’t that a bit…trivial?” Lexa says and Clarke shakes her head.
“Not at all. You can learn a lot about somebody by learning their favorite color.” Clarke says and Lexa’s eyebrows shoot up. Clarke watches as something in Lexa’s eyes soften only momentarily before the guard is back up again.
“Are you interested in getting to know me, Clarke?” Lexa asks, with maybe just the barest hint of a smile on her face. It’s just the smallest upturn of the corner of her mouth but it’s something. Clarke shrugs. She figures that maybe, that’s a loaded question so she looks over Lexa’s shoulder at the scenery behind her.
“I like orange. Like the color of the sunrise on a clear morning when it’s the only thing that you can see.” Clarke says with a smile on her face.
“I’ve never thought much about my favorite color. If I had to choose only one, I’d choose blue.” Lexa says with finality after a moment of silence.
“I have to think in color. I’m an artist. Everything’s about color. Which one’s right for the scenery, which one is right to evoke what feeling.” Clarke says, pressing on the gas as traffic has finally moved a little bit.
“That’s a lot of weight to put on such a trivial concept, Clarke. Color can’t convey emotion.” Lexa says and the heavy, guarded look is back again.
“Then you’ve never seen color in the right way.” Clarke responds, turning back toward the road because the cars are moving again. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees that Lexa is looking down at her knees. She doesn’t respond.
It takes two hours before Clarke starts to sing along to the music on the radio. Lexa doesn’t mind it. Her voice is quite sweet.
She’d been correct in assuming that Clarke would be a good person to travel with. She drives at a good speed and well, she’s not the worst person to look at either. Lexa can’t stop herself from sneaking glances at her out of the corner of her eye. She notices that she moves her head in time with the music, singing the words under her breath. She taps her fingers on the wheel when they’re not moving and the only word that Lexa can think of to describe it is….cute.
But she’s not a dog or a child so cute doesn’t seem like the right word.
Her stomach starts to grumble just before they drive into Sacramento. She’d eaten breakfast, though it had been at 6am. She puts a hand on her stomach and wills it to quiet. Clarke raises an eyebrow.
“Hungry?” She asks. Lexa sighs. Clearly, her stomach had been louder than she’d anticipated.
“Yes.” Lexa replies and Clarke takes the next exit into the city. “Where are you planning on stopping?” She asks and Clarke shrugs.
“There has to be a McDonald’s around here somewhere, right?” She says and Lexa’s nose wrinkles. “What, are you not a fan?” Clarke asks. Lexa shrugs.
“I’ve never been before.” She replies in a soft voice and Clarke very nearly slams on the brakes. She looks over to her.
“You’re joking. There is no way. It’s a college student’s best friend.” Clarke says.
“I have a weekly grocery budget from my Father.” Lexa replies, “There’s no reason for me to get fast food.” Clarke shakes her head.
“We are getting you educated. You need to taste a Big Mac, Lexa.” And her name sounds so wonderfully sweet coming from her mouth it sends a jolt of electricity down her spine. It surprises her. Nearly shocks her so much she jumps in her seat. She stares at Clarke, something inside of her slipping. She doesn’t smile but she feels her eyes go soft. Clarke is talking but Lexa isn’t hearing any of it. She’s just staring at Clarke.
She hasn’t felt that way about someone saying her name in.
Well. Long enough.
That was dangerous.
She’d known the girl for all of two hours. She means nothing. There’s not a damn way in the world that she’s going to make her feel anything. There’s just no way.
That isn’t how this works.
She’s better than that. She’s stronger than that. And maybe, more importantly, she knows better. She’d never be foolish enough to let someone she’d known for such a short period of time break the protection she’d spent so long building. It would be foolish and if there’s anything Lexa isn’t, it’s a fool. She’s much too smart for that.
Clarke pulls into a drive through and speaks into the monitor, ordering a few things off of the menu that Lexa is completely unfamiliar with. She avoids these types of places if she can. She prefers to make her own food. At least then she knows where it’s coming from. But on the road, she understands that certain sacrifices have to be made, including a few to her diet.
Lexa is about to reach into her purse and pull out her wallet when Clarke just shakes her head. “No, don’t worry. I got this.” Clarke says, shooting her hand out to rest on Lexa’s arm and stop it from moving. Lexa looks down at it until Clarke moves it away.
“You’re already driving me across the country, I don’t need you to pay for my meals as well.” Lexa comments and she tries to give it some kind of conviction but she can’t manage. She isn’t sure what it is about this girl that makes it impossible for her to stick to her rules. Clarke looks over at her with a smirk.
“You can pay for dinner.” She jokes.
And Lexa blushes.
The sun is setting on the horizon when her hands start to cramp. She’s been driving all day, they’d only stopped twice for food and frankly, she’s tired of driving. She looks over at Lexa, who is playing Trivia crack on her phone, and says, “I don’t know about you, but I’m just about done sitting in this car for today. Mind splitting the fee for a motel room?” Clarke asks and Lexa looks up.
“My phone is nearly dead. That would be good.” She agrees and Clarke gestures toward her phone.
“You can use mine to look for directions to the closest place.” Clarke says. She keeps her eyes on the road as Lexa picks it up. Her screen is locked.
“The code, Clarke?” She asks and Clarke is grateful for the fact that some of Lexa’s formality seems to be gone. At least she’s no longer speaking in MLA format.
“0714.” She says, tightening her grip on the steering wheel. Lexa punches in the numbers.
“Do they mean something to you?” Lexa asks and Clarke looks over to her momentarily. She’s giving her that heavy stare again. Clarke raises an eyebrow.
“Does what mean something to me?” She asks but she knows what Lexa’s asking. Clarke’s never really been good at hiding what she’s feeling. She wears her heart on her sleeve. Or in this case in her white knuckles and clenched jaw.
“The numbers. You tensed when you told them to me.” She says and there’s a clenching in her stomach and she feels like she’s going to vomit. It’s how she always feels when this is brought up. She sighs.
“Yeah, something like that.” Clarke mumbles and she stares intently at the open road in front of her. She doesn’t want to keep talking about this. “Can you just find us a motel please?” She asks and there’s a bite in the edge of her voice and the split second after she said it, she regrets it. Snapping at her roadtrip companion was probably not the best course of action. Not when they still have a day and a half worth of trip in front of them. But Lexa doesn’t seem to be offended – in fact, she laughs.
“As you wish, Clarke.” She responds and Clarke is stuck on the sound of her laugh. It’s musical – like a songbird singing in the early light of the morning. Nothing like her voice. Nothing like her. It isn’t harsh.
It doesn’t match.
She likes it though. It suits her much better than her harsh demeanor. There’s silence for a few moments as Lexa scrolls through Clarke’s phone. She clears her throat. “There’s a motel right off this next exit. Quite a few vacancies and only three reviews have reports of a rat problem.” Lexa….jokes? At least, Clarke is fairly certain that’s as close to joking as Lexa gets. So she laughs.
“Perfect. My roommate made me pack mouse traps anyway, just in case. We’ll take ‘em down.” Clarke responds and switches on her turn signal to switch lanes.
They pull off the highway and the motel is one of the first things that they see. The ‘vacancy’ sign is flickering on and off and honestly, it looks pretty shady. But it’s a place to sleep for the night. Anything to get her out of the front seat of the car.
They pay for the room in cash, half Lexa’s, half Clarke’s. Clarke gets the key and goes out to Lexa, who is waiting outside by the car. She holds up the key. “Ready to see our royal suite?” Clarke jokes and Lexa raises an eyebrow.
“Don’t be ridiculous, Clarke. We’re in a motel, not the Four Seasons.” Lexa responds and Clarke thinks that maybe her one joke earlier caused her to hit her quota. “We’ll be in peasant quarters. Maybe jester if we’re extremely lucky.” She continues, surprising Clarke and once again, making her laugh.
Clearly, there’s more to Lexa than she’d first thought.
The room is, much as she expected, comparable to the servant’s quarters she’s seen in her history books.
And there’s only one bed.
Lexa stops in the doorway, nearly causing Clarke to bump into her when she sees the single full bed in the middle of the room. Clarke pauses at her shoulder. “What? There a dead body in there?” Clarke jokes and Lexa looks at her over her shoulder with a raised eyebrow.
“There’s one bed in here, Clarke.” She murmurs in response. She watches as Clarke’s face settles into an ‘o’ of surprise. She pushes past Lexa into the room.
“I swear I told her there was two of us.” Clarke says, a bit of a nervous edge to her voice and Lexa just shrugs. “I’ll totally take the floor, this was my bad.” She continues and Lexa furrows her brow. The bed is large. She sees no reason why they can’t just share it.
“Clarke, this bed is huge. We can share.” Lexa says, moving toward it and sitting down. “A bit stiff but it’ll do for the night.” She keeps going, putting her bag on the bed. Clarke is just looking at her with a stare that Lexa can’t read. “What?” She asks, something in her stomach turning.
“Nothing. You sure about sharing? I can take the floor, it really wouldn’t be any trouble. I’ve slept on worse.” She says and Lexa wonders if perhaps Clarke doesn’t want to share a bed with her. Maybe she makes her uncomfortable. Wouldn’t be the first time and really, Lexa doesn’t care all that much. She’s not attached to Clarke. (Though the thought of Clarke being…disgusted by her makes her heart feel heavy and well, that just won’t do).
“If there’s a reason you don’t want to share a bed with me, Clarke, just say it.” Lexa says with an edge. Clarke’s eyes widen and she moves toward Lexa shaking her head.
“No, no. We can share. I was just making sure you were okay with it.” Clarke defends and for some reason that makes Lexa feel better. Maybe it does matter, just a little bit, what Clarke thinks of her.
“I wouldn’t suggest something I wasn’t comfortable with.” Lexa comments, dragging her fingers across the comforter, playing with some of the frayed edges. Lexa looks up at Clarke through her eyelashes only to find that thankfully, she’s smiling. She moves to sit next to Lexa and wow, her heart is suddenly beating quite a bit quicker than it was a moment ago. Maybe she should see if there’s any Urgent Care facilities around here because a heartrate that rapid surely can’t be healthy. Clarke looks over at her with a smile and there goes her stomach again. Lexa thinks she saw a vending machine on her way up the stairs. She could go for some HoHo’s. Clarke’s nose wrinkles.
“It is stiff. But it’s only for the night. We’ll survive.” She says, leaning back so she’s lying flat against the bed, her eyes trained toward the ceiling. Lexa twists so she’s watching Clarke over her shoulder. “God, I’m exhausted. Who knew being on the road for 12 hours would make your ass so numb?” She says and Lexa smiles, just a little, if only at the mental image of Clarke’s butt.
“I find that when you sit for that long, what you sit on generally does fall asleep.” Lexa counters and Clarke props herself on her elbows to give Lexa a glare, which only succeeds in making Lexa’s smile grow.
“Smart ass.” Clarke grumbles and from anybody else, that would make Lexa angry, but for some reason, hearing it from Clarke just makes her want to smile even harder. She looks down and lets her hair fall in front of her face to hide her growing smile from Clarke.
After a few moments of silence, Clarke groans. “I’m starving. What do you think they’ve got by way of food around here? Think we’ll have to shoot our own wild boar?” Clarke comments and Lexa shrugs.
“I saw a vending machine on our way up.” She tucks her hair behind her ear and looks down at Clarke. “I’ll buy.” She continues, bringing up their earlier conversation from the car. Clarke laughs.
“Okay, deal. Get me some Cheetos. And some of those mini cookies.” She says, leaning her head back and exposing her neck, which transfixes Lexa momentarily. And then she clears her throat and she stands, taking her purse with her.
“I’ll be back shortly.” She says to Clarke, who gives her a wave without looking up.
Lexa tries to calm her rapidly beating heart as she makes her way to the vending machine out on the terrace.
Clarke can’t figure Lexa out.
One minute she’s practically a statue in the passenger seat of the car and the next, she’s offering to share a bed with her. It was beyond Clarke’s comprehension but….she can’t altogether say that she hates it.
Lexa’s interesting. Lexa’s a puzzle that’s always one piece short of being put together. She’s beautiful – that’s something Clarke can very easily see for herself, and she carries herself like she rules the goddamn world. It’s confidence Clarke’s not sure she could ever hope to possess.
And maybe that’s the reason Clarke feels…tingly whenever Lexa looks at her.
She’s powerful. She’s got a heavy gaze and a loaded stare – that’d be enough to unhinge anybody. There’s nothing else it could be anyway. She’s just fascinated by her. That’s all.
There are three things she does know for certain. She’s starving, she’s exhausted, and she owes Raven a call. She’d texted her about eight times while they were on the road and Clarke hadn’t answered any of them so she figured she’d make up for that in a phone call. Without moving from the spot where she’s laying on her bed, she pulls her phone from her pocket and hits call on Raven’s contact. She holds it to her ear while she waits her to pick up.
“Finally, I was starting to wonder if Lexa fed you a troll for safe passage across a bridge.” Raven says in lieu of greeting. Clarke laughs.
“No. We’ve yet to run into any trolls though I’m sure if we do, they’ll take jokes or a good anecdote instead of human flesh as toll payment.” Clarke responds.
“I doubt it. I hear trolls in the Midwest are super cannibalistic and really into blonde, white girls so I’d watch it, Griffin. You’re prime troll bait.” Raven deadpans and it sends Clarke into a fit of giggles.
“You’re ridiculous.” Clarke murmurs into the phone arching her back stretch herself out a bit. Sitting in a car for that long really doesn’t make a girl feel good.
“How has traveling with my witchy roommate been?” Raven asks and Clarke rolls her eyes at the pretty blatant insinuation about Lexa…again.
“Good. She’s good. I might even call her fun.” Clarke says. Raven snorts.
“We’re not talking about the same girl. I don’t think Lexa knows the meaning of the word fun.” Raven comments and Clarke bites her tongue. She wonders if it might be worth it to point out that really, Raven never really tried to get know Lexa in any way. She’d never once invited her to hang out with the group so she has no way to know if Lexa’s fun. But she figures that’s an argument for another time and really, she’s too tired to pick a fight with Raven about Lexa.
(And vaguely she wonders when in the past 12 hours, she became willing to argue with her best friend over this girl.)
So Clarke stays quiet and she tries to quell the urge to defend Lexa to Raven. She hears footsteps outside of the room so she says, “I’ve got to go. Lexa’s back with food and I’m starving. I’ll call you later, okay? Have a good first day at your internship! You’re going to kill it.” Clarke says, remembering that Raven starts her internship on Monday and she’s sure she won’t get a chance to talk to her again before. Though, she’s also sure that Raven will call her as soon as she gets out to tell her all about it. She’ll probably be home by then. As long as everything stays on schedule and for some reason, there’s a tug in her stomach at that.
Well. She knows one reason.
She hates being home.
Well that’s not what she wants to be thinking about right now.
She props herself up onto her elbows just as Lexa crosses the threshold of the doorway. Her arms are loaded with food from the vending machine, and a few drinks if Clarke is seeing correctly. She drops everything down on the bed next to Clarke. “I couldn’t choose so I bought one of everything.” She announces and Clarke stares at her for a moment before throwing her head back in laughter. When she rises her head, still giggling, Lexa’s eyebrows are furrowed. “What?” She asks and Clarke’s smile still hasn’t faded. She’s cute.
“Nothing. At least we have snacks for the road now. C’mon. Let’s dig in.” Clarke says, sitting up and moving backwards so there’s room in front of her for Lexa to sit. She sits on the edge and there’s still a pretty large amount of space between them. Clarke shakes her head, “You can move closer. I won’t bite. I promise the only food I’m interested in is on the other side of the bed.” And maybe that wasn’t the best thing to say because Lexa’s cheeks tinge red but she does Clarke says and moves backward, crossing her legs beneath her. Clarke reaches for the bag of Cheetos while Lexa reaches for a package of HoHo’s. “Starting with dessert?” She asks and Lexa smiles, though it’s barely there.
“Why save the best for last?” She says and it’s probably not meant to be profound but it strikes something in Clarke. She drops the bag of Cheetos and reaches for package of cookies instead.
“You’re right.” She replies as she opens the bag, smiling at Lexa the entire time.
They play scrabble on Clarke’s phone – a two player version that took them just about forever to find but it’s worth it because Lexa completely kicks her butt.
Lexa warns Clarke before the even start that she’s minoring in English, she knows a thing or two about words, but Clarke still went in with confidence. Confidence that Lexa, very rightly, took away from her as soon as she hit the first triple word score and ended up with 93 points. Lexa’s fairly certain the smug smirk hasn’t left her face at all since then.
Clarke pouts, for a few minutes after Lexa’s win, before she declares that she’s showering and she hopes that there’s no bugs hiding out in the towels provided by the motel.
Lexa clicks on the TV while she waits for Clarke because she figures she might as well shower as well. She finds Jeopardy and settles back against the pillows, answering the questions as they pop up.
She’d watched Jeopardy with her father all of the time. It was a pastime of theirs. Every so often her mother would join them but she knew it was their thing so she let them be. Lexa can’t quite remember the last time they’d sat down to watch anything together. Or the last time they’d sat down to do anything together. That was, if Lexa was being honest with herself, the real reason she was looking forward to Siberia. She hadn’t had much of a chance to spend any quality time with her father since she’d started college and frankly, she missed spending time with him. But clearly she’d missed him more than he missed her and that’s not entirely too surprising. Since the divorce, nothing was ever quite the same.
Lexa knows it’s because she looks just like her.
She sees it in pictures, because that’s mostly the only way she sees her mother, and at Lexa’s age, they looked identical. You wouldn’t be able to tell them apart and Lexa knows that’s why her father can’t stand to look her in the eyes. And it’s fine it really is, she’s not upset, she’s never been upset but she does hate what it makes her miss out on. Siberia isn’t the first trip he’s canceled. She’s sure it won’t be the last.
So when she watches Jeopardy that night, she pretends that she’s eleven again. Bundled up in her blue footie pajamas and curled up against the side of her father, answering the questions with absurd answers that she knows don’t make any sense just for the chance to hear her father laugh and say, “No pumpkin, this is what the answer is…” and explain exactly why that’s so.
She gets nearly every question correct.
Clarke comes out of the bathroom, in nothing but a towel, just before Final Jeopardy and Lexa nearly misses Trebec read out the question because all she can focus on is the look of the water dripping down the side of Clarke’s neck and disappearing into the top of the towel. Her collar bones, which are much more exquisite when they’re not halfway hidden by a jacket, don’t do much in the way of preventing Lexa’s jaw from dropping straight to the ground. Clarke shoots her a smile. “Sorry, I left all of my stuff out here.” She says and Lexa can’t think of anything to say, she’s not sure she’s even capable of forming words – so she just nods. She watches Clarke retreat back into the bathroom and it hits her then that maybe, just maybe, she’s totally fucking screwed.
Lexa wears silk pajamas and Clarke supposes that she isn’t really all that surprised.
She comes out of the bathroom in a matching peach colored tank top and shorts with her long, wet hair in a nearly finished French braid. Her fingers are neatly finishing up the last of the end. Clarke has the local news on, some story about a bank robbery gone awry, and she’s not all that interested but it’s something to keep her company while she waits for her eyelids to start to get heavy. She’s already underneath the covers, in her oversized t-shirt and flannel pajama pants, and Lexa comes to sit next down next to her. She wrinkles her nose up at the television.
“Why is he robbing a bank with a paper bag over his head?” She murmurs and Clarke is in the middle of chewing when she replies,
“Didn’t have a ski mask, probably.” And Lexa looks at her over her shoulder, blankly for a moment, before she laughs. She pulls her knees up and tucks her feet underneath the covers. She yawns into her elbow and Clarke really can’t help but watch her.
She’s exquisite in the way she moves and Clarke knows there’s something underneath that gruff exterior that she presents. She’s not totally heartless. There’s no way anybody can be totally heartless. Not unless they’re some kind of sociopath and despite a few warnings from her friends, she’s fairly certain that Lexa’s not like that.
But she’s tired now so she figures she’ll have to piece together more pieces of the Lexa puzzle in the morning. Lexa is looking down and the ends of her hair and Clarke stares for a moment, a faint smile on her face. Just as Lexa is turning her head, Clarke’s stomach flips.
They fall asleep on separate sides of the bed. Clarke on the left, Lexa on the right.
When Lexa wakes up, she’s tucked beneath an arm and there’s blonde hair making its way into her mouth. She’s curled into a ball and there’s a body pressed firmly against hers. It takes her a few moments to remember exactly where she is. In a motel. With Clarke. In a bed. With Clarke.
And oh god, Clarke is pressed against her, pulling her in. Lexa holds her breath. For a moment, she revels on how Clarke feels against her. How the contours of their body seem to fit together as if they were two pieces cut from the same mold. And then Clarke pulls her in even closer yet and she realizes that she’s not doing this on purpose. She’d folded against Lexa in her sleep, something subconscious, and Lexa has got to slip out from underneath her hold before she wakes up and realizes and all of this just becomes totally and completely –
Her hand is moving.
Clarke is making noises.
She’s breathing heavily into the side of Lexa’s neck and Lexa thinks she can feel her eyelids fluttering open. Lexa braces herself.
It doesn’t seem to take more than a few moments after that for Clarke to realize exactly what’s happened and her arm is off of Lexa so quickly it’s like she’d just been burned. She shoots up in bed and Lexa, finally, leans up and stretches out her back. She turns toward Clarke, who is a rather unflattering shade of lobster red. “Oh god, I’m so sorry. I didn’t realize that would happen. I know I’m a tactile sleeper but I figured since I fell asleep facing opposite you, nothing would happen.” Clarke rambles out an apology and really it’s kind of cute but Lexa doesn’t really need to hear it so she just gives her a smile.
“It’s fine, Clarke.” She says and she means it. It’s been…too long since she’s been held and while she doesn’t often like to admit to missing it, she does. It felt nice to wake up with someone’s arms around her again. Though she knows it’s not a feeling she should get used to, she does allow herself just this one fleeting moment of enjoyment because she’s not sure when the next time she’ll get it will be.
“Next time, I won’t fondle you in your sleep, I swear.” She replies and Lexa laughs. She tries to ignore the fact that her heart seems to skip a beat at Clarke’s declaration of next time (and really, she should see if there’s an urgent care facility nearby because these things her heart is doing are particularly worrisome).
She looks at the clock on the side table next to the bed. 10:00am. They’d slept in. She lets out a string of swear words in German, which she knows Clarke won’t understand. “We’ve overslept. We need to get on the road or we’ll have no hope of making it back to Maryland by Monday.” Lexa says and somewhere in the back of her mind, she wonders if she really wants to. She turns to Clarke, who is looking out of the window with her hair falling in front of her face. She shrugs.
“Or we could….not?” Clarke suggests. Lexa furrows her brow.
“What do you mean?” She asks and Clarke turns to her with a half sort of smile on her face.
“Look, I don’t have a lot waiting for me back home. This trip is probably the most exciting my summer will get. We can make this a vacation, Lexa. Take as long as want. See a bunch of ridiculous monuments like the world’s largest ball of twine.” She pitches and Lexa takes a moment. There’s nothing really waiting for her back in Maryland. Besides a Mother that she can barely stand to look at for more than a few seconds at a time without wanting to scream at her and a few pretty beaches but those exist everywhere. So slowly, she nods.
“Alright. I don’t see why not.”
And really, the look on Clarke’s face is worth it.
Even when her heart skips another beat.
(And she knows what it means, she does. The rapid beating of her heart, the occasional skipping of beats, the bending of the wills, she knows. She gets it. She just knows how weak she is for feeling it.
So she’ll pretend that she doesn’t.
Because feelings are weakness.
And Lexa is not weak.
Clarke doesn’t know what possess her to ask. Maybe it’s the fact that she woke up with her arms wrapped around this girl and it didn’t feel strange. It didn’t feel out of the ordinary. It felt like she was supposed to be there. And maybe that was something worth exploring. That was certainly something that was going to take more than a day and a half to figure out. And really, Clarke’s always wanted to go on one of those cross country road trips that you see in movies all of the time. She’s just never had the chance.
And now she has the chance and she’s going to take it and run with it because she doesn’t want to let Lexa slip away. Not before she untangles her web and figures out what kind of secrets she keeps tied in between the strings.
And maybe it’s because it’s true, what she told Lexa about there being nothing for her back at home. She was looking forward to a summer of loneliness and spending time with her mother, which frankly is the last thing she wants to do. And there’s nowhere she can go to escape because every inch of that city is haunted by a memory that Clarke never wants to revisit in her life. So staying away as long as possible is the best, most logical solution. Even if she has no idea where they’re going to go or where they might end up.
Anywhere is better than D.C. That much she knows for sure.
She’s waiting by the car for Lexa, who is gathering up the last of her things from the room. Clarke wonders how they’re going to manage, just the two of them on the road for god only knows how long. They still barely know each other and frankly, Clarke’s fairly certain she’s going to run out of money before they hit Michigan. So they can’t stay on the road forever but they can stay for as long as the budget allows and that’s what Clarke fully intends to do.
She wants an adventure. She wants something new. And for some reason, she can’t think of anybody she’d rather be doing something new with than Lexa.
Lexa finally comes down from the room, her bag hitched over her shoulder and her hair still in the French braid from the night before. Clarke wonders what it looks like down and wild. She’s never seen it like that before. It’s always braided in some way. Maybe at some point on this trip she’ll get to see it. She hopes so.
Lexa opens the passenger seat and Clarke moves around to get into the driver’s seat. She puts her foot on the pedal and pulls out of the driveway. Lexa pulls a paper map from her purse and she says, “The gentleman working the front desk told me that we’d find quite a few tourist destinations marked on this map, if we chose to use it.” And it looks messy and complicated and if they follow it, chances are they’re going to get lost but Clarke can’t quite imagine doing a road trip any other way. What’s the fun in using phones? So she nods.
“Alright, sounds good to me.” She replies. Lexa rolls down the window and asks over the sound of blowing wind,
“Where do you want to go?” And she kind of has to yell because Clarke is going kind of fast and the wind is blowing hard through the window but Clarke hears her just fine. She shrugs. She takes one hand off of the wheel. She points to a random spot on the map.
“Anywhere.” She says. “Just give me an adventure.”