If the death of Commander Lexa ignited the war among the clans, the death of Clarke Griffin ended it. Clarke had never wanted war – after the death of two people she loved, she was more tired and weary than any young girl should be.
Perhaps it was the simply brutal nature of Clarke’s death that so struck the clans. It was a quick fever that devolved into debilitating illness; she would be dead within weeks. Some romantics suggest that her death was so sudden it “could only be that she could no longer live without the love of her life” (Collins, 12).
The revolutionaries took her death as their war cry. In two weeks Pike was dead, and New America was founded.
From the prologue of The Birth of a Nation (2357) by Lexa Blackwood, pg. 1
Clarke is dragged from the womb, screaming and kicking.
They name her after Clarke Griffin, because of something dumb as hell. Her mother had laughed and said, “Desperate not to touch the ground, just like a Sky Person.” Her father had cracked, “Maybe we should name her after Clarke Griffin.” And they were young and probably high at the time, so they did.
Her birth certificate reads Clarke Alexander Lake, cites the time of her birth as 13:09 on the 12th of December, 2326. It’s the same day as Foundation Day, when New America was founded. She finds it when she’s six and looking for her Christmas presents, runs her fingers across the old dry ink like it means something.
We were young and stupid and we named you after one of the most well-known cultural icons in the world, her mother will say when she turns fifteen and bemoans the commonness of her name. We knew you’d be great, darling.
Clarke is 31 and she feels old. The other day she was talking to a first year student about the biological effects of radiation on the new generation and the student accidentally called her “mom”. She’s accidental mom old. That’s pretty fucking old.
There are pluses to being old. For instance, blackout drunk outings are saved for weddings and birthdays and funerals and divorces, and not every weekend. Most of the time she drinks alone, in her study as she edits essays that don’t even use the correct referencing system, get your shit together Jimmy, and even then it’s the sort of shit she always promised herself she’d never non-ironically drink. Like straight whiskey and gin and tonics and red wine.
Sometimes when she’s feeling really fucking old and lonely, she talks to her house. Its name is Dmitri, and it sympathises with her like no man or woman ever could. This is what she is doing on Sunday night, marking essays on the digestive system, drinking red wine and eating pasta.
“Dmitri,” she says, “is it illegal to marry the AI implanted in your house?”
“It’s not illegal, no, ma’am, but I do find the logistics may be a little unsuited.”
“Ah, you’re right.” She sighs. “Would you marry me if you could, though?”
“Ms Lake, I would be honoured.”
“We’d have the best un-logistical sex in the country.”
“I do not doubt it, Ms Lake.”
So yeah, she lives a pretty fucking sad life. She quietens again, reads The liver produces stomach acid, wonders if she should quit her job, and then her phone rings.
“Clarke,” somebody shouts in her ear.
“Jesus Christ, Roan,” she snaps. “What happened to ‘hi, how are you’? Are we no longer civilised?”
“Hi, how are you,” he says, and then, before she can answer, “You’ll never guess what.”
“You’re definitely right, there.”
“I won’t guess.”
“Clarke, you need to get out more.”
“Says the sugar baby.”
“I’m not a sugar baby, I can’t help it if Jasmine wants to go out and make CEOs cry while I look after the baby. Anyway, that’s not what I’m calling to talk to you about. This is about Jasmine’s new colleague, okay, you gotta hear this.”
“I absolutely do,” Clarke agrees, and writes THE LIVER IS NOT THE STOMACH, ANTHONY in red on the paper in front of her.
“Her name is Lexa,” Roan practically shouts. “Okay, it’s Alexandria, but she goes by Lexa and isn’t that fucking precious, oh my God. You have to meet her.”
“Roan,” Clarke says. “No.”
She has spent her whole life running away from her name. She once took a history class in college called the Making of New America 2000-2100 and almost gouged her eyes out when her professor said, ‘You must be excited to be taking this class, huh, Clarke.’
Everybody turned around to look at her, and she had blushed and never gone to another lecture, submitted all her coursework online, and not looked the professor in the eye ever again.
“It’s happening,” says Roan, and hangs up.
“It’s not happening,” Clarke mutters, just as Dmitri says, “Miss Lake, he has pencilled you in for a brunch at 11am this Saturday.”
“I’m gonna fucking kill that boy,” she says, and finishes her red wine in one gulp.
Because she’s too polite and also because she’s avoiding more marking, Saturday finds herself at Reyes’ Restaurant, exactly two minutes before eleven.
As usual, Roan and Jasmine are late as fuck, and typically Alexandria Blackwood is dead on time.
She’s beautiful, of course. She looks fierce, with sharp cheekbones and dark hair that she has cut just below her shoulders. She’s wearing minimal makeup, but it works for her and – damn, those fucking cheekbones.
Clarke is too old to be this dumbstruck by a pretty girl, so instead of blushing and stuttering, she smiles, shakes the woman’s hand and says, “I’m Clarke Lake – it’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Alexandria Blackwood,” says the woman, and her mouth twists in a wry smile. “Lexa. Of course.”
“Of course,” she says, and then blurts, “I honestly was not going to come today, Roan is an asshole, but this is a little bit hilarious.”
“It is.” Lexa sits down and Clarke pours her a glass of water. She inclines her head in thanks. “Just don’t shoot me, okay?”
“Actually, Clarke Griffin didn’t –”
“I know, Clarke,” Lexa says, and her expression softens. “It was a joke.” Clarke actually blushes, like she hasn’t since she was thirteen. Lexa adds, “So what do you do, Clarke?”
“I’m a biomed professor,” Clarke says. “I specialise in the effects of post-war radiation on Generation F.”
“Sounds fascinating,” says Lexa, and she actually sounds like she’s telling the truth. “I imagine Jasmine told you, but I’m working temporarily with her company; they took me on as a researcher. I have a Masters in History, with a specialisation on the end of the Clan Wars.”
“Of course you do.”
Lexa laughs. “I know it sounds terribly boring, and yes, ironic, but I love it.”
“No, I think it’s interesting. Ironic, awfully, but interesting. What did you write your thesis on?”
“The effect of the political and romantic relationship between Clarke Griffin and the Commander Lexa on the end of the Wars. It’s a published book now.”
Clarke takes a swig of water, chokes a little, and tries to play it off as her eyes water. “That’s, um. That’s.”
“Ironic?” Lexa actually grins, and she looks impossibly amused. “I know.”
“I have a feeling irony is your thing.”
“You and I, we have to use irony to our advantage.” She takes a dainty sip of water. “Besides, the work is fascinating.”
“Their relationship was a pretty big thing,” Clarke says, like she hasn’t spent years thinking about it.
“Their relationship was a fucking tragedy,” says Lexa. “All that work for peace, for love, all that sacrifice, and what came of it? Death. A stray bullet. Hardly a death befitting of a Commander.” Lexa talks about it as if it’s a personal offence.
“It’s not pretty, but…” Clarke has forgot all about Jasmine and Roan; she’s fixated on the woman in front of her, mature, glorious, and fierce. “Titus tried to kill Clarke to save the world he knew.”
“And if he had succeeded perhaps we would never have this world we know now.” Lexa motions to the café around them. There are human waiters, but at least half of the staff are synthetic life. They look utterly realistic but for the glowing cables behind their eyes. “We would still be living in that basic society. There’s nothing wrong with the way they lived – it’s the way they survived. If I could go back and change the way the Commander died, I don’t think I would. But it’s not a worthy death.”
“Death is rarely worthy, or glorious,” says Clarke. “It’s ugly and violent. It’s just death.”
“You’re a little poetic for a scientist,” Lexa observes, eyes intent.
“You’re a little invested in the past.”
“I’m a historian,” Lexa says with a wink. “It’s what we do.”
Clarke thinks about this. A waiter wanders past with two trays full of food, and her mouth waters. “Shall we order?”
“Should we not wait for Roan and Jasmine?”
“If we want to die of starvation.”
Lexa’s smile is small. “We better order, then.”
They’re lucky they don’t wait, because an hour and a half later, when Clarke is sated on avocado (a rare delicacy, even in the new world) and fresh bread, she gets a text from Roan. It only reads Work emergency. Jasmine had crisis. Something about eggs. Will have to postpone – R
Got brunch with hot colleague anyway, Clarke replies. Just to be an asshole, she adds a ;) and locks her phone.
Lexa is looking at a message on hers, and she sighs. Clarke snorts. “Let me guess, work emergency?”
“Eggs?” Lexa rolls her eyes. “I better attend to it.”
“That’s okay,” Clarke says. A young woman brings their bill, and Clarke accepts it with a smile and thank you. She slaps Lexa’s hand away when she tries to reach for it. “My treat.” She presses her finger to the scanner (chips in the finger, one of the only currencies now, not enough trees for cash money and not enough room to make it) and it flashes ACCEPTED.
Lexa frowns. Clarke grins and says, “You can get the next one.”
“I just want to hear more about your thesis,” Clarke says innocently. “Can I read the book if I promise to make you dinner?”
“Then I’m hardly getting the next one.”
“You can bring dessert.”
Lexa smiles; it’s small, but it’s there. “You drive a hard bargain, Lake.”
“Food in exchange for knowledge and pie. I know, I’m a real asshole.”
Lexa reaches over and takes Clarke’s phone. She turns it around for Clarke to unlock – which she does, bizarrely, without even thinking about it – and inputs her number. When Clarke gets her phone back, she finds herself looking at a contact that reads The Commander.
She makes a face. “This is not happening.”
Lexa just laughs.
“Okay, but just don’t fall in love with me, okay?” Clarke says, only half-joking. “We would never live Clarke and Lexa down.”
“You gotta promise.”
Lexa’s eyes are dancing as she says, “I promise I won’t fall in love with you.”
The power dynamic between Clarke and Lexa was phenomenal and unprecedented. To her followers, Lexa’s fondness for ‘Wanheda’ was mystical and terrifying. Until Clarke’s death it was still regarded as a mistake; it was only after 2089 that the romance of Heda and Wanheda became so worshipped by the people.
Notes from Raven Reyes’ diary emphasise this best. On September 31st, 2089 (two days after Clarke’s death), she recounts:
“I knew how much Clarke loved Lexa. It was terrifying, for all of us, because a love that big – it doesn’t stop for anything. Clarke and I both survived Finn’s death, but Lexa’s death left ghosts in Clarke’s eyes. You could always see Lexa’s name on her lips, unspoken. She loved Lexa so much it was gonna kill her. And then it did.”
Reyes’ account is more than a little romanticised, but it shows the sheer effect of Lexa’s death on Clarke. In the words of Reyes, “they were, and always would be, soulmates. One day, in another life,” she hoped, “they will meet again.”
The Birth of a Nation (2357) by Lexa Blackwood, pg. 14
Clarke doesn’t see Lexa for an entire month. Finals arrive, and her days are filled with even more marking and revision lectures. Even on her days off, she finds herself busy. On one memorable occasion, she even wastes an entire day helping Olyvia save a baby cow from a ditch as it lays next to its dead mother.
“The thing’s mutated,” Clarke tells her. “It’ll be culled the second they find it.”
“It’s mutated, sure, but it’s still beautiful.” Olyvia runs a hand over the thing’s neck, and it whines. It’s a pitiful little thing; her heart twists at the sound. “We won’t let them find it.”
They load the cow into Olyvia’s truck and take it far out. When they return to TonDC, the guards eye the muddy truck with suspicion. “Been out trekking?”
“Just some joy driving, officer,” says Olyvia with a mean smile. “No harm here.”
They let them go.
Clarke gets home sore and filthy and spends too long in a steaming hot shower. When she steps out, there’s two unread messages on her phone.
I have an evening free if I can take you up on your offer of dinner, says one.
This is Lexa Blackwood, by the way, says the other, as if Clarke doesn’t have her in her phone as ‘Commander Lexa’ already.
Clarke sends her address and says tell Dmitri who you are and he’ll let you in at the gate. 7?
Works for me, comes the reply. Dmitri?
ull see x
She doesn’t get a text back after that, but she doesn’t expect one. She considers a dress, but she’s had the longest day, so she settles for jeans and a low shirt. She elects to cook pasta, and she manages to burn the pasta – just the pasta, not even the sauce – so by the time Lexa arrives, there’s containers of Italian waiting at the table.
“Smells delicious,” says Lexa, passing her a pie. “Make it yourself?”
“Yeah, with some help from my friend Emilio’s Kitchen.”
Lexa snorts. “Should’ve known you were just trying to cheat me out of my life’s work.” Still, she passes Clarke a medium-sized paperback. “Keep it, I have too many copies. It’s signed and everything.”
The cover reads THE BIRTH OF A NATION by Lexa Blackwood. At the bottom modest text reads WON THE POLIS BOOK PRIZE FOR BEST NONFICTION WORK, 2358.
“You’re a little famous, aren’t you,” Clarke says. It’s not really a question.
“Just a little,” Lexa says. “But it’s okay. I won’t blame you if you find it too boring of a read.”
“I am going to read this immediately. Like, right now. I hope you don’t want conversation.”
“Not in the slightest,” says Lexa dryly. “Can we eat now? I’m starving.”
Emilio’s is, as always, delicious. Dinner is comfortably quiet, and Clarke makes sure to keep the book well away from any sauce splatters. She’s going to read a book about her namesake written by a girl with the same name of the girl her namesake was in love with and she’s probably going to fucking love it.
That’s life, she supposes.
“Ms Lake,” says Dmitri, as Clarke is slicing the pie and putting it onto little plates to take into the lounge. “There’s a dust storm incoming. If you wish, you might want to observe it with Ms Blackwood.”
Lexa looks confused. “Observe it? Wouldn’t we be harmed?”
Clarke grins and hands one slice of pie and a glass of wine to Lexa. She takes her on and motions for Lexa to follow her. They ascend the stairs onto the second storey, and then again up through the skylight. Lexa follows her, carefully balancing her food as she pulls herself up, and they find themselves on Clarke’s roof. Roan’s built her a small platform to sit on, and they huddle up on it.
“Storm incoming,” Dmitri rumbles. “Protocol 1.2 initiating.”
With a quiet snick, a glass-like material slides from the gates around Clarke’s house to surround the house in a bubble, sealing them in with a few metres space above their heads. Lexa stares in wonder as they are safely enclosed.
“Roan, Jasmine’s husband, built this for me,” she says. “He’s an – inventor, of sorts. He builds things. I had the money, he had the knowledge, and sometimes I like to watch storms go by. There’s an air circulation system, so we could survive in here for three days without ever needing to go outside of the sphere.”
The storm rolls in quickly, and they soon finish their pies and watch as the dust storm rolls towards them. Clarke takes a sip of wine as it comes over, engulfing them. The world isn’t fixed, not at all, and it probably won’t ever go back to the way it was before. But its flaws are a little beautiful.
“I used to drive out with my dad when I was a kid, when a storm was on its way,” Lexa says quietly. “One day we miscalculated. It wasn’t any normal storm; it was acid fog. Radiation storm. A rare occurrence nowadays, but it got to us both before we made it back inside the city walls and shut ourselves in a neighbour’s bunker.”
“He got sick. It didn’t kill him immediately, but slowly, over the course of a few months. I think he would have rather it killed him straight away. My lungs were the only thing harmed, but that’s okay, because they gave me a new pair.” She taps her chest.
“A new pair of lungs?”
“They’re metal,” Lexa says. “And they’ve served me well.”
“Does that mean you’re half robot?”
“It means I can go for a long time holding my breath,” says Lexa, and she winks. Winks.
Clarke maybe dies a little. Well, she would, if she was a lovestruck teenager. Which she isn’t. She’s an adult.
Clarke’s eyes drop to Lexa’s lips.
“Hey,” Lexa says, watching the movement, “remember our promise.”
“I know,” Clarke says, and she turns her face to the sky. The stars flicker above them as the dust begins to settle. “Yeah, I know.”
A study of the relationship between Clarke Griffin and Commander Lexa is, as with all histories, only available to us from a distant standpoint. There remain some details that will continue to elude us as historians. For example, the first romantic encounter between Lexa and Clarke remains a mystery. How such a political relationship evolved into a romance may be lost to history.
In a note attached to one of her few surviving drawings, in which the two are kissing in what appears to be a hut, Clarke speaks to a presumably unknowing Lexa:
“I said not yet, but I’m beginning to wonder if we’ll ever get our chance in this universe. Maybe this life just isn’t made for you and I. Maybe the next one will grant us more chances, and be a little more forgiving.”
The Birth of a Nation (2357) by Lexa Blackwood, pg. 204
From then on Clarke sees Lexa every few days. They go out together with their friends, and Lexa’s friends soon become Clarke’s, too. There’s a lot of jokes about them being married, about theirs being an ancient love, and they just laugh the jokes off.
Some loves aren’t tragic, exactly. They’re not easy, either.
Clarke’s parents died young. It was a wild animal attack. They were hippies, didn’t condone harming of any form of animal, vicious or not. Knowing them, they probably weren’t even pissed off that they died like that. Probably happy about it. Crazy fuckers.
Sometimes she misses them like it’s tangible, like it’s a part of her missing. She hates her name sometimes, but it’s also one of her own remnants of her parents, of their eccentricity. She wouldn’t change it, not even for the peace of a different name.
Before she got ribbed for it, she used to adore Clarke Griffin. She wanted to grow up to be just like her, and thought it was the coolest thing that they shared the same name. But Clarke Griffin was over two centuries away from her, and she died in the middle of a war and lost everybody she ever loved. Clarke had moved on a little, after that.
She finishes Lexa’s book on a Thursday night, curled up in bed. The last paragraph is what gets her – the last line, in particular. She’s never been a huge reader – always preferred drawing to writing, really – but the words create a feeling inside of her she’s never felt before. It’s something of a realisation.
Where are u lex ? she messages Lexa.
On the wall, Lexa texts back. Come join me.
Clarke pulls on a thick jumper, some jeans and a pair of boots, and pulls her hair back into a ponytail. She looks like a mess, but it’s fine; Lexa’s seen her worse. The wall that protects TonDC is huge, but Clarke knows where Lexa will be. Technically they’re not supposed to be on the wall at all, but Lexa has a small alcove hidden from prying eyes where she can see out over the huge dark forest.
Lexa’s curled up there with a blanket, and Clarke sits down silently. For a few minutes they don’t say anything, enjoying the quiet and the rustling of the trees in the light wind.
“Imagine a world where all of this is yours,” Clarke says. “Could’ve been you, you know.”
“Not me.” Lexa laughs on an exhale. “Somebody with my name, maybe.”
Clarke looks at her. “Maybe.”
There’s something there that neither of them say aloud, but Clarke sees it in Lexa’s eyes. The possibility. Lexa looks away.
“Did you need me for something?” she asks, at the same time Clarke blurts out,
“I finished your book.”
Lexa looks at Clarke and raises an eyebrow. “That was fast.”
“It took me a couple weeks. But I really enjoyed it.” She hesitates. “The last line got to me especially.”
“Yeah? You have no idea how many revisions that took.”
“Don’t take the magic out of it, Lex, seriously.”
Lexa just laughs. Her smile is warm. “I’m glad you like it, Clarke.”
“You were right about it being tragic.”
“Yeah, it was tragic,” she says. “We can only hope that they got their second chance at – love. At everything. Another chance at a happy ending.”
Clarke asks, “You believe in that sort of thing?”
“I believe in hope. And that some people will always find each other.”
Clarke hums. Lexa leans into Clarke, and their foreheads rest against each other.
“Do you think that maybe,” begins Clarke.
Lexa kisses her.
It’s gentle, almost unbearably so – like she can barely let herself have this one thing. It gets more heated, with Lexa pressing Clarke into the hard cobblestone, Lexa’s hand on her hip, pressing her down. Lexa’s lips are soft and warm, and she kind of tastes familiar, a little like home.
“You promised,” says Clarke, a bit breathily.
“Had my fingers crossed,” Lexa says, laughing, and she turns her head into Clarke’s shoulder. Clarke isn’t sure that she’s ever loved one person quite so much.
The words collect in her mouth – I love you – but instead of saying them, she kisses Lexa instead. A single tear escapes as she does, and Lexa pulls back, cups Clarke’s face gently.
“I know,” she whispers. “I know. I’m here now.”
As historians, we document the relationship between Clarke and Lexa because it helps us understand the power dynamics within a society built upon survival. However, to us as human beings, the relationship means something different. It means hope, where there is desolation; salvation, where there is sin.
Lexa’s last and only letter to Clarke, never delivered, reads only this:
“I have lived too long afraid to be honest. Honesty is sometimes not a blade or a death, but a handful of words. My people say it different: ai hod yu in. Yours say it simpler: I love you. I love you, Clarke, until the day we die. And even then, I suspect I will love you still.”
The Birth of a Nation (2357) by Lexa Blackwood, pg. 354