Clarke is attempting to finish up a lab report on steam distillation when Raven and Octavia burst into her room unannounced.
"I have a door for a reason," Clarke remarks without looking up.
Raven plants herself on Clarke's bed. Octavia leans against Clarke's desk, her foot nudging the wheels of Clarke's chair until it rolls away from the desk, pulling Clarke from her lab report.
Clarke sighs and turns to look at her roommates. "What?"
"So you know that I've been doing Krav Maga at the local rec center for a few months now," Octavia says. "Well, my instructor has taken a shining to me in the past few weeks."
Clarke quirks an eyebrow. "Octavia, you came home last week with a busted lip and a sprained wrist and told us Indra thought you fought like a child."
"Okay, I told you," Octavia huffs, "the lip was an accident. And that's how she shows her love. Can you focus?"
Clarke motions for her to continue.
"I mentioned to her that I play the drums, and she told me that her friend Nyko owns an underground nightclub that's always looking for fresh talent to play some live sets."
"So we're gonna start a band!" Raven cuts in excitedly. "My buddy Wick works at a music store and has been letting me mess around with their keyboard setup. Guess which girl's ten tortured years of piano lessons are finally paying off?" She points her thumbs to herself. "This one."
"He's only letting you play with his toys because he has a massive crush on you," Octavia tells her.
Raven laughs. "So? Like you never use your charm to get what you want. Last week, I cleaned the bathroom even though it was your turn, just because you batted your eyelashes and said you'd had a tough week."
"I had a sprained wrist!" Octavia protests.
Raven rolls her eyes. "I didn't realize spraining your non-dominant wrist meant you couldn't hold a toilet brush, but whatever."
Clarke pinches the bridge of her nose. "Please tell me you two didn't barge in here like a pair of lunatics just to tell me you're going to start a crappy garage band."
"We were hoping you'd be our lead vocalist," Octavia says, glancing at Raven.
"Frontman," Raven supplies. "Or frontwoman, in this case. It'll be fun."
"I'm sorry," Clarke shakes her head. "I don't have time."
"C'mon, Clarke," Raven says, tugging at Clarke's arm. "You got pipes. And you're the only one who still manages to wipe the floor with everyone else at karaoke when you're shitfaced."
"That was one time," Clarke argues with a hint of embarrassment, "and I can't. I just have so much schoolwork, and the astronomy club is starting up soon..."
"I'm captain of the astronomy club," Raven reminds her with an exasperated laugh. "It's really not that big a time commitment."
"You need to relax, Clarke," Octavia pipes up. "College is all about trying new things."
Clarke fixes her with a glare. "Yes, Octavia. College is all about relaxing and not about finishing your degree. I'm so glad we cleared that up. Enlighten me - is medical school about training to be a doctor or is it also for trying new things? Hacky sack, maybe? Knife juggling? Basket weaving?"
Raven and Octavia exchange a look. Octavia rolls her eyes, and the two of them rock-paper-scissors; Raven loses.
"Clarke," Raven starts.
"Sorry," Clarke mutters, preempting Raven's speech. She takes a deep breath. "I'm stressed out and I haven't slept in twenty hours. I shouldn't take it out on you guys."
Raven leans forward to offer her a reassuring pat on the shoulder. "At least come watch the auditions? You get to judge people from afar, your favorite pastime."
Clarke allows a small smile. "I'm there."
Octavia's brother Bellamy - one year out of grad school - lives in a rented house with three friends. He lets Octavia keep her drum set in their garage and shuts his housemates up whenever they complain about her practicing there. That's where they decide to hold their auditions.
Raven pulls up to the house with a synthesizer buckled into the backseat.
"Wick gave it to me in exchange for a favor," Raven says, hooking a mess of wires over her shoulder and grunting as she lifts the synthesizer out of the car. "God, that sounded really bad. I didn't have sex with him."
"No one's judging," Octavia offers generously.
Raven tips her head in Clarke's direction. "That one would a little bit."
"Probably," Clarke concedes, moving over to lend Raven a hand.
"Hey, O," Raven says, "there's a stand in the trunk. Keys are in my pocket. Grab it for me?"
Octavia reaches into Raven's pocket, has to be told "other side" before she manages to retrieve the keys, then pops the trunk and pulls out the stand. She sprints ahead into the garage to set it up. Clarke and Raven carry the synthesizer in after her.
"The store's central AC wasn't working," Raven explains once they've placed it down, "so I fixed it. Saved them a couple hundred bucks."
"This thing looks like it's worth more than a couple hundred bucks," Octavia points out.
"Yeah, I know." Raven flashes a smile. "It was broken. I fixed that, too."
Octavia grins. "Of course you did."
Raven starts unraveling the wires and plugging them in. "Bellamy and his housemates won't mind if I keep this here, right?"
"Nah," Octavia says, "Bell definitely won't. And his housemates have been fighting over you for months."
Surprise colors Raven's cheeks before she squares her shoulders. "Of course they have, I'm hot."
Octavia rolls her eyes. "So modest."
"Am I wrong?" Raven directs this at Clarke.
Clarke holds up her hands defensively. "I'm not getting involved in your little lovers' quarrel."
"Okay, but I'm hot," Raven insists to no one in particular. "Why does no one appreciate how hot I am?"
"Maybe because it's more fun to watch you flip out about it," Clarke suggests.
"You guys are the best, really," Raven says sarcastically. She finishes plugging up the synth, then flicks a couple of switches to test it. "All right, I'm good to go."
Clarke looks around the small garage. "So how does this work?"
"We put up an event on Facebook, stuck up some posters around campus and at the music store," Raven tells her. "It's just a jam session, totally lowkey."
"Anyone we like," Octavia adds, "we keep them around. I set up an extra mic for you, just in case."
Clarke narrows her eyes suspiciously. "So this was a trap."
Octavia looks up at the ceiling in exasperation. "It's not a trap, Clarke, god. You don't have to join the band, just spend a day with your friends playing music and taking it easy. You do remember how to do that, right?"
"I remember that I have two papers to write," Clarke fires back, "and I have to finish my painting by Monday."
Octavia bristles. "You were gonna stay for the entire audition, but the moment we mention that it might be fun to have you belt a couple bars, suddenly you wanna back out?"
"Don't 'we' anything," Raven cuts in distractedly, fiddling again with the wires. "I know better than to pick a fight with someone who hasn't been laid in six months."
"This isn't about not having the time, Clarke," Octavia continues, sounding more sad than angry, "and you know it."
Before Clarke has a chance to argue, a few figures appear in the doorway, casting a wide shadow into the garage.
"Hey, are we at the right place?" one of them, the girl, asks.
They introduce themselves as Monty, Miller, and Harper. Harper plays the ukulele, Miller the saxophone, and Monty pulls out a harmonica.
Clarke glances at Octavia. "You forgot to mention instrument preferences on the poster, didn't you?"
Octavia and Raven look at each other. Raven raises her shoulders in a guilty shrug. "Oops?"
"Should we... go?" Monty asks.
"No, no, stay," Octavia tells them. "It's fine. We can still have a good time."
Just as the three of them are pulling up chairs, a motorbike slides into the driveway. A woman emerges from under the helmet and unhitches a cased instrument from the back. She's wearing a denim vest over a gray tank, and her arms are covered with tattoos. She walks up the driveway, carrying the case in her hand. Her expression remains hardened and serious, even as Monty offers her a little wave.
"Please tell me that's a guitar," Raven says.
The woman looks mildly offended. "A bass," she says, setting her case down.
Clarke, standing closest to the woman, holds out her hand. "I'm Clarke."
"Anya," she replies, ignoring Clarke's extended arm.
Clarke's hand drops back to her side, and she glances at Octavia, who just shrugs.
Despite the frosty reception, Anya can play. They clumsily make their way through a few classics, with Harper abandoning her ukulele after the second song for a guitar that Bellamy had left lying around, and Raven and Miller taking turns singing. Clarke sits off to the side and mostly watches. It's not... good, but everyone's having a blast, so it doesn't really matter.
During a lull in the action, while Monty is fawning over Raven's synthesizer and Octavia is showing Harper how to hit the cymbals properly, Anya sits down next to Clarke and hands her the guitar Harper had been using.
"What's this?" Clarke asks.
"A guitar," Anya says flatly. "Any five-year-old can identify this."
Clarke presses her lips together. "Don't be an asshole. Why are you giving it to me?"
Anya nods toward the others. "Jam with us."
"I don't play," Clarke tells her.
Anya fixes her with a confused look. "Then why are you here?"
Clarke hesitates. "I... sing. Sometimes."
"Then sing," Anya says, sounding annoyed. "Make yourself useful."
Clarke squares her shoulders. "I don't take orders from you."
Anya bares her teeth in an amused smile. "I'm sure you have some tragic and tortured reason why you used to love singing and don't do it anymore, but I don't give a shit. Music is an experience, not a punishment."
Anya walks away to join Miller, who's freestyling on his sax. Clarke clenches her jaw. She hates that Anya had somehow seen right through her without even knowing anything about her. She glances over at Raven and Octavia and realizes that they must, as well. But they're not strangers, and maybe that's what makes it hard for them.
Before the next song starts, Clarke walks up to the mic. Octavia lets out a whoop, and Raven puts two fingers between her lips and releases a sharp whistle. Clarke smiles at them in embarrassment. She even catches a hint of a grin from Anya.
Clarke has never had more fun belting out Misery Business at the top of her lungs.
"How is it possible to not find a single guitarist?" Raven asks after the third jam party. "Isn't every hipster douchebag trying to learn how to play Wonderwall?"
Raven leans back against her headboard, manually positioning her braced left leg into a comfortable position on her bed. Octavia, who shares the bigger bedroom with Raven, is sitting cross-legged on her own bed across the room, headphones hanging around her neck as she taps her pencil eraser rhythmically against the open notebook on her lap. Clarke sits at the end of Raven's bed, trying to finish up some last-minute sketches for her art elective.
"Two of them came to the last session," Clarke reminds her. "You didn't want them because they were, quote, hipster douchebags."
"Fair," Raven concedes, "but the one with floppy hair was kinda cute."
Clarke makes a face. "Stick to girls, because you have literally the worst taste in guys."
"Please," Raven says, "you dated someone who looked exactly like him for like, a year."
"Dated," Clarke emphasizes. "He's an ex for a reason."
"Yeah, because he was a mediocre boyfriend," Raven counters, "not because of his cute floppy hair."
Clarke looks up, horrified. "Wait, did you have a thing for him?"
"No?" Raven replies sheepishly. "Not any more than the thing I had for you when we first met. Went away as soon as soon as you opened your big mouth and said more than three words to me though."
Clarke rolls her eyes. "Love you too, Raven."
"Hey," Octavia cuts in, "if you two are done flirting, can we talk about Anya? We keep her, right?"
"I think she hates me," Clarke says, turning back to her sketches.
"I wouldn't take it personally," Octavia reassures her. "I think she hates everyone. But she's really good."
"She is good," Clarke agrees.
"Let's call her up and ask," Raven suggests. "She might not even be into it."
Anya is, to everyone's surprise, interested in joining the band. When pressed, she gruffly admits that she'd had a good time before hanging up on them.
"Friendly," Clarke comments.
"We don't need friendly," Octavia says. "We need talented. Okay, so one down, one to go. Two if Clarke is still being a stubborn asshole."
"Still a stubborn asshole," Clarke confirms unapologetically. "Maybe you'll get lucky and find someone who does both."
"Camp out at the music store this weekend?" Raven asks Octavia.
"I can't," Octavia says. "Trust me, there's nothing I'd rather do than watch Wick make awkward engineering-themed passes at you, but I've already made plans with Bellamy."
Raven turns to Clarke. "Camp out at the music store this weekend?"
"How do I keep getting dragged into this?" Clarke mutters. Then, with an exaggerated sigh, "Fine, but only because I need to pick up a record for Wells' birthday."
Raven grins. "You're the best."
Mecha Station is a Wick family business. A bell chimes when Raven pushes the door into the store, and they step inside. Rows of instruments line the walls. Shelves propped full of accessories and music books sit haphazardly in the center. It's a bit of a mess, but Clarke recognizes the charm in the place, however disorganized. Wick's head pops up from behind the counter at the sound of them entering.
"Raven! I have something to show you. It's in the back; you'll love it."
"Start of a porno," Clarke sing-songs, just loudly enough for Raven to hear.
Raven punches her on the arm. "I'll be right back."
Clarke makes her way to the store's modest record collection and starts flipping through them. Just as she's finishing up the first stack, the front bell chimes, and a young woman walks in. She looks around for a moment before approaching Clarke. She stops a few feet away, reaching for a box of guitar picks on the opposite shelf.
The woman's sleeveless shirt shows off a tattoo on her right arm that shifts slightly as she scoops her hand into the box. Her brown hair tumbles in loose curls over her shoulders, and she has the nicest cheekbones Clarke has ever seen.
It's embarrassing that Clarke is caught staring when the woman looks up again, but she doesn't seem to mind.
"Do you play?" the woman asks, holding up a handful of picks.
"No," Clarke shakes her head, tries to make moisture happen in her mouth again. "I'm just looking for a birthday gift for a friend."
The woman nods, dropping the picks and walking over to stand next to Clarke. "What are they into?"
"Classic rock, I guess, but he doesn't listen to the records for fear of scratching them up. He's more of a collector."
The woman flips through a few records before pulling out a Blondie album. "This is one of my favorites," she says. "Debbie Harry in her prime, am I right?"
Clarke opens her mouth, closes it again when she realizes she has no idea how to address that comment. The woman glances at her, and she's close enough that Clarke can see the colors in her eyes and how her pupils are blown wide open. It is the most distracting thing Clarke has ever had the pleasure of looking at, and her fingers itch to capture it on paper.
"What about you?" the woman continues, voice low, words deliberate. "What are you into?"
Clarke's cheeks feel warm, but before she has a chance to reply, Raven pops up behind her, startling her. Raven rests her chin casually on Clarke's shoulder and smiles.
"Hey! Who's this?"
"This is," Clarke begins to say before realizing she has no idea.
"Lexa," the woman offers.
"Lexa," Clarke echoes, burning it to her tongue.
"I'm Raven. And this loser who apparently didn't bother asking for your name is Clarke." Raven's eyes flicker over Lexa's body. She lifts herself off Clarke and takes a step forward when she notices the pick hanging off a chain around Lexa's neck. "Hey, do you play guitar?"
"Yeah," Lexa says, reaching up to fiddle with her necklace.
"You any good?" Raven asks.
Lexa glances at Clarke before turning back to Raven. "I'd like to think so."
Raven's eyes light up. "Prove it."
Lexa somehow manage to look affronted without shifting her expression. "Excuse me?"
"Prove it," Raven repeats. "Let's see how good you are." She motions around the music store. "Guitars all around you; Wick won't mind."
"Ignore her," Clarke says, trying to step between them. "She was dropped on her head as a child."
"I wouldn't put that past my mother," Raven says with a short shrug, "and yet I still turned out brilliant."
Lexa is already walking toward the electric guitars. "What song would you like?" she asks over her shoulder.
"Guitar solo from your favorite Muse song," Raven calls out. "You need tabs?"
Lexa scoffs, reaching for a guitar. "I'm not an amateur."
While Lexa sets up, Raven nudges Clarke. "Behave."
"Nice try, Casanova," Raven says, laughing. "If your erection gets any larger, you'd be hitting us all in the face."
Clarke grimaces. "You're disgusting."
"But not wrong," Raven counters.
"It's not a crime to look," Clarke tells her.
"It's not a crime to touch either if you get her permission." Raven waggles her eyebrows. "You know?"
Clarke flushes. "I swear to god, Raven."
"Think about it!" Raven calls out over her shoulder as she approaches Lexa.
Lexa hooks the guitar strap over her shoulder and reaches into the pocket of her jeans, pulling out a bright red pick. She strums a couple notes to get a feel for the instrument before launching straight into Knights of Cydonia. Her fingers are quick over the frets, and she bites her lip as she concentrates. The tattoo on her bicep moves as she strums, and Clarke finds herself drawn to its movement, drawn to Lexa's self-assurance, drawn to how Lexa's entire body seems to relax as she flicks her pick over the strings.
As Lexa plays the final notes of the song, she fixes Raven with a challenging stare. "Satisfied?"
"Damn," Raven breathes out. "Damn. Listen, let's exchange numbers. Are you free this weekend?"
Lexa glances at Clarke before saying, "Raven, that's very flattering, but--"
Raven's laugh cuts her off. "I'm not asking you out. I mean, you're hot, but that's not what this is about."
"Oh," Lexa says. She glances at Clarke again; Clarke really wishes she wouldn't do that.
"We're putting together a band and we need a guitarist," Raven continues. "If you're interested, we'd love to have you hang with us this weekend." She tilts her head toward Clarke. "Clarke'll be there."
"I don't remember agreeing to that," Clarke says, though she recognizes a losing battle when she sees one.
"You can count on my presence," Lexa tells Raven. Her eyes flicker once more to Clarke. "You should come, Clarke."
"Yeah, Clarke," Raven says, laughing like it's the funniest thing she's ever heard. "You should definitely come."
Clarke is going to murder Raven in her sleep.
Clarke's bedroom door creaks opens just enough for Raven to fit her head inside.
"You sure you don't want her number?" Raven asks.
Clarke leans back in her chair and stares up at the ceiling in disbelief. "Why does no one in this apartment respect closed doors?"
"She gave me her number so I could text her the meetup details," Raven continues, "so I literally saved you like five awkward courtship steps. And let's face it, you suck at flirting."
"Worry about yourself, Raven," Clarke argues weakly. "Anyway, she's not into girls. She turned you down, remember?"
Raven laughs and pushes the door open wider, steps inside. "That's the sweetest thing you've ever said to me," she says, bringing her hand over her heart. "But consider this: she was into you and thought your best friend was gonna beat you to the punch so she panicked. Everyone knows an ex's BFF is off limits."
"Consider this," Clarke counters, "she's straight and unavailable. Get out of my room."
Raven scoffs. "Everyone is a little bit bi if you believe in yourself."
Clarke turns back to her laptop. "Raven, I really need to finish this paper."
Raven sighs and steps closer, dropping her hand to Clarke's shoulder and kneading it gently. "I just worry about you, you know? You've been distant. It was better when you actually cried about it."
Clarke stiffens. "Better for you or for me?"
"You know what I mean," Raven says softly, moving to lean against Clarke's desk to take the pressure off her leg. She sighs again. "Your mom's been emailing me."
"Block her," Clarke tells her.
Raven hesitates. "She wants to talk about anniversary plans."
Clarke clenches her jaw, even as her chest starts to ache. "I'm not doing that with her."
"You're not the only one who lost him, Clarke," Raven says. "She's struggling with this, too."
"If you care so much," Clarke bites out, "then you should go."
"Don't you think I would if she cared about me like she cares about you?" Raven asks angrily. "Do you know the last time my mother even remembered my birthday? You know who does remember my birthday? Abby. But I'm not her daughter. You are. She doesn't want me there; she wants you."
Clarke takes Raven's hand, slipping their fingers together. "I'm sorry. I'll call her."
Raven gives her hand a squeeze. "Octavia made soup earlier; you want some?"
"I'll get it myself later," Clarke says. "Thanks, Raven."
Raven leans down and presses a kiss to the top of Clarke's head. "Get some rest, too. You're a pain in the ass when you're sleep-deprived and I don't wanna deal with it."
Raven turns and leaves. At least she remembers to shut the door on her way out, not that that seems to do anything to deter Clarke's roommates from barging in whenever they please. Clarke turns back to her paper, but the words on her screen might as well be in Klingon. She sighs and tries to figure out when she'd last slept and whether another shot of caffeine would put her into a coma.
Right as she's trying to talk herself into a quick nap, her phone vibrates. It's a number she doesn't recognize, but the message gives away the sender: Hello, Clarke. It was nice bumping into you and Raven at Mecha Station today.
Clarke stares at her phone for a moment, trying to get her heart to stop pounding so hard at such an innocuous message. Lexa types like a sixty-year-old grandmother, and yet it's working for her, annoyingly. Clarke adds Lexa's number to her phone book, then moves her thumb over to the text message button. She's either tired or desperate because she manages to bump against the call button instead. Clarke sits up in a panic, trying to figure out whether it's too late to end the call without it leaving a trace on Lexa's log, but then Lexa answers, and Clarke scrambles to bring her phone to her ear.
"Sorry," Clarke says, trying not to sound out of breath. "I actually meant to just send you a text. Clumsy fingers."
"It's fine," Lexa tells her. "I wasn't busy. Just got home from work."
An opening. "Where do you work?"
"At a law firm. I'm a paralegal." Lexa laughs softly; she has a really nice laugh. "I know, very exciting, but I kind of love it. I'm trying to save up for law school." Lexa pauses. "Raven tells me you're a singer. I look forward to playing with you." She pauses again, then needlessly clarifies, "Playing instruments."
Clarke bites back a smile, finally feeling her nerves settle. "I'm not in the band, actually. I just live with Raven and Octavia, and I'm helping out while they search for a vocalist."
"Oh. That's a shame," Lexa says, sounding way more disappointed than Clarke had expected.
"I'm sure we'll see each other around," Clarke rushes to say, running her hand through her hair. "I mean, you'll be my roommates' bandmate, right? So."
"Right." Another pause. "Hey, I have to go."
Clarke hears the sound of a man's voice, then the sound of a dog running too quickly across wooden floors, and finally some muffled noises Clarke can't decipher. Clarke's heart drops unexpectedly, and she manages to mumble out a quick goodbye before hitting end call.
Clarke stares at her phone for several minutes after hanging up. She gets up and finds Raven on the living room couch, hunched over a small electronic device attached to her laptop. Octavia is on the floor doing push-ups, quietly counting to herself.
"Forty," Octavia mutters under her breath.
Without looking up, Raven says, "O, don't cheat."
Octavia groans into her next push-up. "Thirty-one."
Clarke plops down on the couch next to Raven and watches her fiddle with some audio editing software on her laptop.
"Why did you give her my number?" Clarke asks, still feeling heady from the call.
"Don't be a baby," Raven says, still not looking up. "She asked for it."
Before Clarke has a chance to press for evidence, her phone vibrates in her hand. A text from Lexa.
I apologize, Clarke. That was not what it sounded like.
Not that it sounded like anything. Because it wasn't anything.
You probably weren't even thinking it. But just in case you were, it's not like that at all.
"Oh my god," Clarke breathes out.
Raven, reading over Clarke's shoulder, snorts. "Still think she's straight?"
Octavia makes it to sixty before Clarke manages to gather herself enough to send a meticulously-constructed reply: don't worry about it. see you this weekend, lexa.
Raven is the only one between them with a car, so she offers to pick up Lexa and then drive them all to Bellamy's. Clarke has never called shotgun faster in her entire life. Raven laughs at her, but then, when isn't Raven laughing at her these days.
Lexa's apartment complex looks so normal it's almost disappointing. Lexa emerges from the building with her guitar case in tow, her wheeled amp case rolling next to her feet. She's wearing another sleeveless shirt and these ridiculous fingerless gloves that almost go up to her elbow. Her curly hair has been swept to one side.
Raven pops the trunk, and Clarke gets out of the car to help Lexa lift the amp case into the trunk. Lexa slides in her guitar case after it and reaches up to close the trunk. Her eyes flicker to Clarke's; her pupils are dilated again.
"Don't mention it," Clarke tells her, walking back to the front seat and pretending like she doesn't see Raven's amused grin.
Lexa slides into the back next to Octavia, and they exchange pleasantries, then start talking favorite bands. Within minutes, Lexa has Octavia's headphones over her ears, and Octavia is laughing at how Lexa's wild hair gets caught in them.
Raven glances at Clarke once, pointedly, but Clarke emphatically ignores her. Nothing good ever comes out of acknowledging one of Raven's Looks.
Lexa still has Octavia's headphones, now slung around her neck, when Raven pulls into Bellamy's driveway. Clarke tries not to look too over-eager as she exits the car and reaches to pull open Lexa's door. Lexa offers her a small, polite smile as she steps out.
Clarke follows Lexa to the open trunk and once again helps her with the amp case. Octavia grabs Lexa's guitar.
"You know, it's not that heavy," Lexa says, glancing down at the case held between their hands. "And I'm stronger than I look."
"I'm not gonna make you prove that," Clarke says, and she'd meant it innocently enough, but the look Lexa gives her makes her think that it's not being taken that way. Clarke tries not to drop the case and quickly adds, "Because Raven made you prove your guitar skills."
Lexa bites back a smile. "How diplomatic of you, Clarke."
They step into the garage and place the amp case down. Anya is already seated in the corner with her back turned, carefully tuning her bass.
"I don't think Raven ever told me who--"
Lexa stops mid-sentence, her eyes widening as Anya turns around. Anya's lips curl into a small weirdly-affectionate smile.
Lexa bristles. "Don't call me that."
Anya laughs. "Still harboring mommy issues."
Lexa goes bright red, almost shakes from anger. "Shut up, Anya."
"You two know each other?" Octavia asks tentatively, setting Lexa's guitar case down.
"Not in almost four years," Anya replies, keeping her eyes trained on Lexa.
"Anya," Lexa warns, "this isn't your place."
At that, Anya turns back to her bass. "Don't worry, sunshine. Your secret's safe with me."
Clarke glances at Lexa, but her body language is telling her to drop it, so she ushers Raven and Octavia away to start setting up their instruments. Raven looks like she's dying to make a clever quip, but Clarke shakes her head pleadingly, so Raven tamps it down and gives Clarke's arm a light squeeze.
Clarke slides up to Lexa as she's uncasing her amp.
"You okay?" Clarke asks, low enough so Lexa knows the words are for her only.
Lexa stiffens but nods. "I'm fine. I'll explain later, Clarke."
"Okay," Clarke says, reaching out to touch Lexa's forearm over her gloves.
Lexa pulls away slightly, and without further acknowledgment, goes back to setting up her guitar. It stings a little, but Clarke shakes it off and moves away. She certainly doesn't know Lexa enough to be pushing for any more.
Despite the tense introductions and re-introductions, once the music starts flowing, everyone seems to relax, even Lexa, and except one moment when Raven tries to touch Anya's bass without asking and almost gets her hand cut off, everything goes smoothly. And maybe they're facing a fair number of challenges both musically and in terms of interpersonal relationships, but when practice wraps up and Anya actually offers to let Raven check out her bass and Lexa laughs when Octavia tries to untangle her headphones from her hair, Clarke craves it like she's never craved anything else.
Clarke makes good on her promise to Raven and calls her mother, hoping it goes straight to voicemail so she can play another round of passive aggressively ignoring her, but Abby picks up before the third ring.
"Clarke. I've been trying to reach you."
"Stop harassing Raven," is the first thing Clarke says to her mother in a month.
"Raven and I talk about things that have nothing to do with you," Abby replies coolly. "How's school?"
Clarke clenches her jaw. "I didn't call you to make small talk."
"Then I'll get straight to the point," comes her mother's strained response. "We're planning a small service on the anniversary of your father's passing, and we'd really like for you to join us."
"Who's we?" Clarke asks lowly.
"Clarke," Abby warns.
Clarke enunciates her next words carefully, almost threateningly. "Let me be very clear: I will be attending because of Dad, not because plural-you want me to."
Abby sighs. "Clarke, I'd really like us to sit down for some coffee..."
"And I'd really like to have known that my father was dying as soon as you did," Clarke fires back, "not the week before he slipped into a coma. I guess we can't all have what we want."
"We didn't want you to worry," Abby says, sounding drained.
"Now who's we?" Clarke asks angrily. "Dad thought I deserved to know. You made him keep it a secret."
"Sweetheart," Abby starts.
"Don't," Clarke cuts in. "I'm not doing this with you. Are we done here? Because I have a long list of things I'd rather be doing than listening to you make excuses for your poor choices."
"One last thing," Abby says, "and then I'll let you go back to resenting me. I was going through your father's old computer and I found something I thought you'd want to see. I emailed it to you, but I know you filter out my mail, so I thought I'd tell you before you freeze me out for another month."
Clarke swallows down everything she wants to say and asks, very evenly, "Is that all?"
"See you at the service, Clarke."
Clarke hangs up without saying goodbye and reaches for her laptop. She's curious enough to pull up her email and open the tag where she filters all her mother's messages. There are months worth of unread emails, but one of the most recent ones has a video attachment, and Clarke clicks into it. The name of the video is harmless enough, just a few numbers indicating the date that it'd been taken. Clarke does the math in her head while the file downloads; she would've been thirteen.
The first few seconds of the video is blank save for the sounds of some shuffling.
"Abby, your thumb's covering the--"
The screen flashes with overexposure, then gradually adjusts to the new lighting. A younger Clarke is seated atop a wooden box drum, and her father is sitting next to her on the floor of their old living room with a guitar in his lap.
Jake smiles at younger Clarke. "Okay, ready?"
Younger Clarke nods eagerly and starts drumming, and Jake joins in a moment later with his guitar. They play through an acoustic arrangement of Baba O'Riley, Jake's favorite song. Younger Clarke's voice is untrained but strong, uninhibited; she sings like she's got nothing to lose, nothing to hide, nothing to fear. She sings like she's untouched by the burdens of the world. When the song comes to a close, Jake puts his guitar down and grabs younger Clarke around the waist, pulling her off the box drum and onto his lap.
"Daaad," younger Clarke complains, "I'm too old for this."
Jake presses a kiss to the crown of her head. "You'll always be my little girl."
Younger Clarke turns to the camera. "Mom, turn it off!"
Abby's laughter comes across loudly, then the shot moves to the floor for a moment before it cuts off completely. The video ends.
Clarke closes her laptop and leans back in her seat for a moment, taking deep breaths and fighting tears. The anger she'd been silently building gets replaced with the heavy weight of grief. She misses her father, desperately, and she misses who she'd been with him. She misses the feeling of letting go, of relenting to the music and relinquishing control. She wants to remember how it'd felt to care so much about how sounds and words could make her feel.
Clarke leaves her room and finds Raven and Octavia lounging in the living room with a bowl of popcorn between them. They're netflixing some awful horror movie, and Raven keeps making exaggerated commentary that Clarke is pretty sure she does just for Octavia's benefit.
"I'm in," Clarke tells them over the sound of a girl screeching on TV. "The band, I'm in."
Octavia stares at her suspiciously. "Just like that."
Clarke shrugs. "Like you said, you need a vocalist."
"Something's up," Octavia says, hitting pause on the movie.
Raven starts laughing. "Yeah, her raging boner for the new guitarist."
Clarke ignores her. "Nothing's up. You've been looking for a lead vocalist for weeks. I can sing."
"Clarke," Octavia says, "literally twenty-four hours ago, you told me you'd rather, and I quote, sit in pits of burning coal with heat-resistant alligators than join our band."
"I was very obviously being facetious." Clarke wrings her hands together. "Anyway, I changed my mind."
"You never change your mind," Octavia tells her. "About anything."
Raven stops laughing long enough to say, "Octavia, let it go. She has ulterior motives here."
"Even if I did," Clarke counters, "which I don't, you're still short one lead vocalist, so I wouldn't be this aggressively annoying if I were you."
"God, Clarke, you know you don't have to ask," Raven says, placing the bowl of popcorn on her lap before sliding closer to Octavia to make room for Clarke on her other side. "It's just fun watching you be in complete denial about how heavily your life choices are dictated by hot girls who happen to look at you the right way." She taps the empty space on the couch invitingly. "Come on. The movie's just getting to the best part."
"I can't believe you do this for fun," Clarke mutters, but she takes a seat next to Raven.
Octavia hits play on the movie, and Raven resumes her obnoxious commentary. But it's not the worst thing, especially when Octavia's laughter lights up the room.